Thursday, September 30, 2010

4-H Horse Show in the Works

Teens plan local horse show

Local 4-H horse show participants missed having a local horse show for youth and decided to get one up and going again.  They have been hard at work to take ideas from the best of shows they have attended to create a plan for one locally.   Having their leadership and input has brought some creative and exciting ideas that adults may have overlooked.  There are many advantages to a local horse show for youth in our community.  Many involved in horse showing must travel long distances for shows, expending a great deal of time and money.  And there is a draw here for people from other areas- the temperatures are more reasonable and people love to visit the high country. 

Involvement with horses provides numerous rewards, from increasing physical activity, mental and social benefits, and stress reduction. 
“Recent (2005-2006) surveys conducted by both the American Youth Horse Council and Penn State University have found that equine activities develop life skills such as decision making, communicating, problem solving, goal setting and empathy. In the AYHC Study, a significant positive relationship was found between total horsemanship skills development and life skills development.”
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The horse show is still in the planning stage and helpers are wanted to make it happen.   Planning meetings are occurring regularly.   If you would like to be involved in making it happen, contact Watauga County 4-H.

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 BigSweep River Clean Up

Dumpsters are full, sneakers are wet, smiles are wide, and the Watauga River is a whole lot cleaner!   Thanks to the 124 volunteers who cleaned up 1,940 pounds of trash on Saturday, September 25, 2010!

This year's clean up could not of happened without the River Captains.  These are the people who shuttle, transport trash to the dumpsters, and provide boats and leadership for the volunteers who show up to their site.  This year's River Captains who led volunteer efforts in the Watauga Watershed include:  Foscoe Fishing Company Clay Benfield, Tyler Almond, and Scott Farfone; Watauga River Anglers' Steve Michel, Matt Michel, and Brody Green; Grant Seldomridge of River and Earth Adventures; Riverkeepers Donna Lisenby and Eric Chance; and Andi Cochran, Dick Hearn, Joan Hearn, and John Whitley.  Thank you all so much!!!

GDS disposal service was a tremendous help, providing four open top dumpsters across the watershed for volunteers to utilize.  Last year our dumpsters were so full they spilled out the tops.  This year GDS provided larger 8x12ft bins!  Thank you so much GDS!!!

Southern Peaks Real Estate Services provided drinks and snacks for volunteers; they also purchased a first aid kit for us to use just in case!  Thankfully we only had a few scrapes and bumps.  Harris Teeter also provided snacks for volunteers. 

Barbara Michels, ASU Freshmen Seminar Professor, had 64 of her students participate, and she provided lunch for all of them at Valle Crucis Park!  Thank you to her students: Matt Aulbert, Carol Holloway, Nick Alvarez, Kellie Reese, Chelsea Gaudette, Joanna Poage, Jordan Elliot, Meredith Reamey, Davis Inman, Jake Dew, Lauren Leftwich, Sarah Tipton, Wyatt Morton, Will Coble, Jackie Chan, Patrick Gitter, Ashley Bramble, Taylor Walker, Stephanie Hodges, Leslie Maxey, Amy Kwaitkowski, Ramsy Marra, Everette Israel, Natalie Sridhar, Adam Wicker, Andy Lipocky, Dylan Turner, Carl McFarland, Derrick Hudson, Andrew Garner, Jon King, David Weiss, Adam Kuchenreuther, Jacob Caldwell, Will Black, Rachel Nave, Alex Souder, Allison Neese, Delana Hutchens, Jonathan Wolfe, Gabriela Celi, Emily Gillespie, Andrew Jarrett, Matt Thomas, Tiffany Davis, Emilee Icenhour, Amanda Sawyer, Josephine Sze, Ansley Putnam, Garrett Bowman, Sean Palmer, Alex Martin, Alex Vasquez, Ben Johnson, Ryan McMillan, Sabrina Stephens, Shineece Sellars, Samantha Bailey, and Adam Vanderpool.  I’d also like to thank Randy Carter, Len Moody, and Will and Glenda Trivette as landowner partners.     

As we made our way to the county line, Andy Hill's Freshmen Seminar cleaned up from Trash Can Falls down to Guy Ford Rd finding a car bumper, refrigerator door, trash can, dilapidated DOT traffic cones and barrels, and old political signs for people who are not even running in the election right now.   Thank you to Ethan Young, Ted LeGrand, Zeb Rambotham, Haley Dantos, Frankie Vierela, Kelli Jo Havenek, Tyler Matthews, Brian Hee, Stephen Coggins, Traci Keith, Bethany Douglass, Daniel Philips, Andrew Hill, Mike Huffman, Kathryn Peverall, Janice Tallman, David Wilson, Grant Huether, Eric Sensenbrenner, Brianna Nichols, Hannah Houff, Zachary Yllanes, Robert Perfetto, Jessica Hutcher, Melissa, Sybert, Kueta Kleven, Charles Sordian, Richard, Awopetu, and Michael Stanton.

After the clean up, Foscoe Fishing Company's Tyler Almond stated that the river is really low right now and very clear; they were able to see lots of trout in the river.  Some large items the volunteers retrieved at this site include a 300 pound I-beam, tires, lots of scrap metal, and bed springs.  ASU’s Circle K Club came out to clean including: Megan Northcote, Jennifer Mann, Zach Anderson, Chris Griffith, and other volunteers include John Murray, James Rogers, Kathryn Trexler, Sai Estep, Matt Rivers, Dottie Farfone, Nick Bennett, Chelsie Mitchell and Lawson Bloom.  

Stewart Skeate's class from Lees McRae also participated in the clean up and retrieved seven tires, assorted pieces of metal, drainage pipes, and a beer keg!  Dr. Skeate said that Elk was actually quite clean compared to years past, possibly due to the dry summer and less runoff into the river. 

A few years ago, my friend Lee J Ball told me he took an oath to pick up three pieces of trash a day.  He inspired me to do the same.  It’s such an easy task, and if everyone picked up three pieces a day we could have a litter free community.  Won’t you please consider taking an oath to pick up three pieces a day!

Thank you to all the folks who contributed to this years Watauga Watershed Clean Up!  I am so grateful to be a part of this caring community!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quarantine to prevent Thousand Cankers Disease

In response to the detection of Thousand Cankers Disease in Tennessee, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has executed an exterior quarantine in order to prevent the movement of this disease and the walnut twig beetle into North Carolina. Thousand Cankers Disease is caused by a pathogen that is transmitted by the walnut twig beetle and is most frequently associated with black walnut trees.

“The detection of this disease in Tennessee greatly increases the risk the disease will move into North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The quarantine prohibits the movement of plant material and other high-risk materials from counties where the disease has been detected in order to protect the black walnut species in our state.”

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Forest Resources, NCDA&CS and federal partners will be working to implement comprehensive field surveys for this pest. These surveys will take place in high-priority counties adjacent to the Tennessee infestations. Survey crews will be searching for symptoms of the disease on trees, along with collecting and analyzing suspect samples.

The detection of Thousand Cankers Disease in Tennessee is the first discovery of this pest east of the Mississippi River. Since its initial detection in Knox County, Tenn., officials have confirmed an infestation in Blount County, which borders Swain County, N.C., along with infestations in Anderson and Union counties, Tenn.

The exterior quarantine issued by NCDA&CS prohibits the movement of identified high-risk materials from areas currently known or found to harbor the walnut twig beetle or the fungal pathogen. Typical materials include firewood of any hardwood species; plant and plant parts of the genus Juglans such as walnut trees, including nursery stock, budwood, scionwood or green lumber; and other material living, dead, cut or fallen, including logs, stumps, roots, branches and composted and un-composted chips; or other articles known to present a risk of spread. Presently, the entire states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Washington have been confirmed as areas known to be infected by the pathogen and are included in the exterior quarantine.
Exemptions to quarantine are nuts, nut meats, hulls, processed lumber (100 percent bark-free, kiln-dried with square edges) and finished wood products without bark, such as walnut furniture, instruments and gun stocks.

Landowners and homeowners in North Carolina are also strongly encouraged to watch for signs of the Thousand Cankers Disease on black walnut trees. Typical symptoms vary depending on the stage of the disease, but commonly include thinning crowns and yellowing or wilted leaves in the crown, leaves that are smaller than normal and relatively recent dead limbs.

Individuals with suspect trees are encouraged to contact the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division for a consult by calling 1-800-206-9333 or by e-mail at

Walnut twig beetle image courtesy of

Choose and Cut Tree Farms

Watauga County is home to nearly 100 family-operated tree farms and while fall has just arrived, it's never too early to start thinking about where to buy the Perfect Christmas tree! Many farms, including wholesale and Choose and Cut, can be contacted directly through the website:

For those of you who enjoy coming to the mountains, consider the family-oriented tradition of Choose and Cut, where you can hand pick the tree of your choice and meet the growers who had tended the tree since it was planted in the field. Choose and Cut farms offer a variety of activities, including hayrides, petting zoos, Christmas shops, and even sledding! Looking for more than just a tree? Choose and Cut farms offer wreaths, roping, and tabletop trees to suit your needs. Many farms also partner with area hotels and B & Bs to offer package deals, so be sure to check out what each farm offers at Also visit and to plant shopping and outdoor activities while you're in the High Country. Click here to see the full list of 2010 Choose and Cut farms!

Friday, September 3, 2010

You can Swat-A-Litterbug

The NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has made it easy for citizens to report someone for littering from their vehicle, including cigarette butts. Click here to find a Swat-A-Litterbug report. All you need to do is turn in the license plate number, and where you saw the littering, and the offender will receive a formal notification letter in the mail. To see a copy of the letter, click here.

There are over 176,000,000 pounds of cigarette butts discarded every year and the numbers that end up on the street are hard to estimate. Blowing Rock Middle School students went out last week and picked up 487 cigarette butts on one block in town. Yuck! Those butts end up in our waterways, in animals stomachs, and even in bird nests which reduce hatching rates.

• One cigarette butt in two gallons of water will leak toxic chemicals within an hour of being exposed to the water.

• Discarding cigarette butts on streets, parking lots, walkways, lawns, and beaches is a violation of litter laws and has been proven to have a severe adverse impact on the environment - the water, air, and land.

•Cigarette filters are not made of cotton and they do not biodegrade. They are made of compressed fibers of cellulose acetate, a plastic, similar to photographic film. Each filter contains a bundle of 12,000 tiny fibers painted white with titanium dioxide, which can be likened to shoe polish.

• Our earth home is being used as an ashtray by over a billion smoking human beings. Silence lends consent.

Please, don't hesitate, help educate. You can also pick up Swat-A-Litterbug report cards in the front foyer of the Watauga County Cooperative Extension Service.