Friday, June 25, 2010

Farm City Award Nominations!

Please mark your calendars to join us in celebrating our agricultural heritage! The 55th annual Watauga County Farm City Banquet will be held on Sunday, August 15th, at the Historic Blair Farm in Boone from 1:00-6:00 p.m. Free exhibits, music, and family fun & games will be available all afternoon. An awards ceremony will be held at 4:00 pm, followed by a “local foods” dinner at 5:00. The theme for the 2010 Farm City Celebration is “Growing Youth, Growing Agriculture” as we also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are currently accepting nominations to honor individuals for their contributions to our community and agriculture—and we need your help! Please nominate outstanding people that YOU know have made a positive impact on youth, agriculture, and our community.

Completed applications can be mailed or dropped of to the Extension Center or e-mailed to by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 16, 2010. Please pass along this information to others who may be interested.

Click HERE for a nomination form.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Goodness Grows in Boone Wetland

After a harsh winter, the wetland plants have begun to push their way through the water column to reach the atmosphere where the leaves can spread to absorb the warmth of the sunshine. These plants are essential components in the wetland habitat providing shelter, shade, food, soil stability, places to raise young, filter toxins in the water, and restore our native plant populations.

The native vegetation that was planted in the Boone constructed stormwater wetland in spring of 2009 continues to grow healthy in 2010. Many of the plants are spreading through their water level zones to cover broad areas. This is important because we really want the water traveling through the wetland to have as much contact with the plants as possible. This allows the water to slow down, having interaction among microbes, plant roots, and soils to clean the stormwater before it enters the river.

The purple flowering pickerel-weed (Pontederia cordata) was planted as small plugs a year ago, and just last week Extension Agent and volunteers were able to divide and spread the plants out among vacant areas in the wetland. Other plants that are spreading beautifully include the lizards tail (Saururus cernuus), soft stem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus), and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). The birds and dragonflies are having a hayday out there with all the plants and habitat now available. In fact, the duck potato (Sagittaria latifolia) that was planted last year has been eaten by all the ducks and deer (I guess its called duck potato for a reason!)

Just 10 years ago, there were houses, roads and driveways in this area where the wetland is now. Establishing a wetland in this floodplain is one of the best uses for this area. When it floods the river water can flow into the wetland and not homes. It can take years for an ecosystem to develop into a mature thriving healthy system. The town of Boone working with NCSU BAE, Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and the Cooperative Extension have given this field a jump start with the excavation and pond areas, now its up to nature to develop a mature wetland. I look forward to seeing this area for years to come.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Historic Hydrangea Gardens at Moses Cone Estate

A unique collaborative project began earlier this spring at the Moses Cone Estate on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Members from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation contacted Extension agent Meghan Baker to discuss the historic hydrangea garden plantings around Bass Lake on the Moses H. Cone Estate. What evolved was a community service project between the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the National Park Service, and NC Cooperative Extension and Watauga County Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Over the course of two days in April, over 350 hydrangea shrubs were pruned and fertilized as an effort to bring them back into proper health. Cooperative Extension utilized this as an opportunity to teach Extension Master Gardener interns the art of pruning Hydrangea paniculata. Volunteers pruned in the sun one day and in rain the next, but their pruning persistence was unwavering. It is hoped that this project will become an annual community service project for Extension Master Gardener volunteers and interns.

It is a rare opportunity to be able to contribute to the renewal and preservation of such historical plantings. The hydrangea gardens are thought to be the work of Moses's wife, Bertha. They were planted soon after the turn of the century but were left unattended after Bertha's death around 1950. Through the funding efforts from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the crowding tree canopy was removed to allow these specimens once again to come into grand display. Other Parkway volunteers have contributed to the effort as well in the past.

Look for the Hydrangea paniculatas to bloom in late summer and fall, with their graceful white blooms aging to a rich rose color. They are truly a sight to behold!

There is still time to order your Rain Barrel

People from all over the county picked up the first delivery of rain barrels last week at the Agricultural Conference Center in Boone.

If you haven't ordered yours yet, we will have a second delivery on July 28th. To order your 100% recycled plastic, made in NC rain barrel click to

Top 5 Reasons to Harvest Rainwater!

* Protect our rivers and streams from runoff pollution
* Divert water from the municipal storm drain system
* Conserve this vital natural resource and reduce your water bills
* Use the rain water to grow healthy and lush plants
* Control moisture levels around the foundation of your home

The Rain Barrel Sale is presented to you by: Watauga County Cooperative Extension, Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District and The Town of Boone.

Watauga High School Creek Studies

Around two hundred 9th grade earth science and biology students enjoyed a day at the creek this spring learning about water quality and stream ecology. Courtney Wait of the National Committee for the New River and Wendy Patoprsty of the Watauga County Cooperative Extension teamed up with the science teachers to provide a hands-on learning experience at Winkler’s Creek behind the high school. This is a great location because the students can walk from the school down to the creek for outdoor studies, and there is an impaired tributary (Rusty Creek) that flows into Winkler’s Creek where the students can compare samples. Through Courtney’s guidance, the students test these two creeks for dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and conductivity. The students found that the impaired tributary will not sustain life, while Winkler’s Creek is abundant with aquatic organisms.

Each student also has the opportunity to get in the creek and sample areas for benthic macro invertebrates (stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies, etc.) With the use of some nets, containers, and magnifying lenses, the students were able to rate the streams ecological integrity. Fortunately, they found many crayfish, mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, hellgrammites, craneflies, dragonfly larvae, water pennies, and damselflies. All of these nymphs and larvae need cool, clean, oxygenated water to survive. We are fortunate in the high country to have such outstanding water resources and we all need to continue our vigilance in protecting and conserving what we’ve got.
With the comparison of the two creeks (Rusty creek and Winkler’s creek) the students saw first-hand how life depends on clean water both aquatic and terrestrial including humans.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eastern Apiculture Society of North America coming to Boone!

Have you heard the buzz?

Beekeepers and bee enthusiasts across the region are gearing up for a world-class event to be held in August right here in Boone, the Eastern Apiculture Society’s (EAS) annual conference. The EAS of North America “is an international non-profit educational organization founded in 1955 for the promotion of bee culture, beekeeper education, and excellence in bee research.” The 2010 will be held on the campus of Appalachian State University from August 2 -6. The conference includes a two-day beekeeper shortcourse with both beginner and advanced tracks and specialized microscopy demonstrations to aid beekeepers in identifying bee diseases. The main conference begins on Wednesday, August 4th and includes a variety of workshops and field exercises. Of particular importance are research updates and new developments with bee colony decline across the nation and abroad. Speakers include nationally and internationally renowned leaders in apiculture presenting attendees with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for learning from some of the world’s most experienced beekeepers. More information on the workshop schedule, registration, and the week’s events can be found at the Eastern Apiculture Society’s website:

See you there!

Above Photograph:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

4-H Horse Competitors

Watauga 4-H participants Jazmyne Maxwell and Jacqueline Walczak qualified for the State 4-H Horse Show at district competition. District competitors had over 70 classes to choose from. They practiced horsemanship skills and gained many lifeskills preparing for the competition. Way to go Jazmyne and Jacqueline!