Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Thank you to Thad Taylor from Big Ridge Tree Farms for providing our office with a beautiful Fraser fir. Despite some "engineering issues" with a new stand, the Watauga Center Christmas tree is now up! Thanks to Susanne and Kathy for their decorating.

La Cosecha!

<a href='http://video.latino.msn.com/watch/video/mexicanos-mantienen-la-tradicion-de-los-pinos-de-navidad-en-carolina-del-norte/g932l7do?src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Mexicanos mantienen la tradición de los pinos de Navidad en Carolina del Norte'>Video: Mexicanos mantienen la tradición de los pinos de Navidad en Carolina del Norte</a>

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Geodome Visits Watauga High School: Hands-on learning is what its all about!

As part of the “Mountains to Sea: Water Connects Us All” day at the high school, students participated in interactive stations where they learned about environmental challenges on earth today.  About 25 kids at a time entered the Geodome, a 35ft diameter, inflatable dome with a wraparound screen theatre to view a video, kind of like an IMAX.  The NC Aquariums and NC Museum of Natural Sciences produced the video, and this statewide project was funded through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).   The Geodome gave students an inside look at how scientists learn and collect data about climate change and the effects on mammals that live in the world’s oceans. The presentation includes cold-water animals such as fur seals and polar bears “because although it’s a global phenomenon, the effects of climate change at present are more evident at the poles,” states a producer of the video. 

The Animal Adaptation station provided another connection to our changing world as Meghan Baker, Agricultural Extension Agent, and Jesse Pope, Grandfather Mountain Naturalist shared how adaptations can help or hinder animals survival on earth during changing climates.   For example, the feeding of a baleen whale differs from a toothed whale, as they each have specialized adaptations for their prey.  Students got to touch real baleen from a humpback whale and a tooth from an Orca, and identify how food availability can be a challenge if the whale is adapted to eating a certain kinds of foods and those foods start to diminish.

Students also learned about the “Life Cycle of Plastic” from Watauga Counties Recycling Coordinator Lisa Doty and Appalachian Voices AmeriCorp Volunteer, Erin Savage.  They shared that plastic is derived from fossil fuel energy resources, and that recycling plastic bottles saves 90% of the energy needed to produce plastic.  The kids got to participate in a blind taste test to see if they could tell a difference from tap, bottled, and well water.   The majority of kids could not tell a difference but a few disliked the bottled water from the grocery store shelf.  The whole point was that bottled water most of the time is no better than your tap!  And we could save a lot of money and resources by reusing water bottles.  $100 billion is spent on bottled water per year, and 1,500 plastic bottles end up as trash every second. Plastic bottles were banned from landfills in NC in 2009, and North Carolina residents still only recycles 18% of plastic bottles.   It can take 700 years for plastic to decompose, filling up our landfills and using fossil fuels to produce.    Which is unfortunate because Plastic Recycling = 14,000 jobs in NC!!!   Recycled plastic bottles can make clothing, carpet, plant pots, kayaks, toys, plastic lumber, playground equipment, and much more!

In fall of 2011, the world’s population reached 7 billion people.  As humans continue to populate and consume the earth’s natural resources we must learn to adapt to changing environments and cope with the diminishing limited resources.  We don’t know what the future holds, but we can each do our part by making conscious and mindful decisions when it comes to how we consume!

4-H Camp Registration opens

Trying to come up with a meaningful gift for a child or grandchild?  Why not give the gift of an Experience?  Consider giving a youth a week at camp, something that will create memories for a lifetime.  Now is the time to begin enrolling for 4-H Camp for Summer 2012.  Watauga County 4-H will escort a group of 8-14 year old campers to Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Center.  The center is located above Greensboro in Rockingham County, near Reidsville.   The camping week is June 24-June 29.    To guarantee a spot, register by January 27.  The good news is you can reserve your spot with a $100.00 deposit and have until June to save up for the rest of the fee, which is $330.00 more (total of $430.00).  The fee covers meals, lodging, t-shirt, transportation to camp and more.  Registration will continue beyond January 27, but spaces may not be guaranteed.  Contact the 4-H office at 264-3061 for more information or to register.  Check the website out at http://www.nc4h.org/centers

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

12/15/11 CSA Workshop & Panel at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center

12/15/11 CSA Workshop & Panel at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center

By now, most of you reading this know what a CSA is; a Community Supported Agriculture system usually involves some up-front payment by a buyer followed by multiple (often weekly) deliveries from the grower. But there are many varieties on this theme; what really works for local farms and consumers alike? Join NC Cooperative Extension, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), and a panel of successful local CSA farmers on Thursday, December 15, 2011 to learn more about the basics (in the morning session) and detailed logistics (in the afternoon) of successfully running a CSA.

What - CSA Workshop - Basics, Marketing, Planning, and Recordkeeping

When - December 15th

Where - Watauga Country Extension conference room

Time (both sessions with lunch panel) - 9:30am – 3:00pm


- 9:30am - 11:30am: Area Extension Agent Richard Boylan on CSA 101, aka “What to think about before starting a CSA”

- 11:30am – 1:00pm - lunch with panel discussion by local CSA farmers

- 1:00pm – 3:00pm - Peter Marks of ASAP on marketing, planning, management, and recordkeeping for a successful CSA

Cost - $5 for either morning or afternoon session only

- $15 for whole day including lunch

The Lunch-time Panel members include a diverse range of CSA Farm examples, including:

Creeksong Farm - (Jeff Thomas) – A diversified Vegetable & Meat CSA has become a viable expanded market for one of the longest-running organic farms in the region;

High Country CSA – An effort to expand opportunities for new and small farms in the High Country region, HCCSA coordinates offerings from a multi-farm network to offer a wide diversity of foods year-round via internet ordering ;

North Fork Farm - ( Jimmy and Sheila Greene) – This remarkably successful CSA was part of North Fork Farm’s first direct-marketing efforts for their own pasture-raised beef, plus pork and chicken from neighbor-farms;

Shady Grove Gardens & Nursery - ( Susan Wright) – Shady Grove has brought the CSA concept to cut flowers in an innovative twist on this marketing system;

Goldfinch Gardens - (Ben McMann) – An example of a single-farm successfully using an internet/email ordering system.

Registration will be available through ASAP beginning Tuesday, 11/29, and a link will be placed at the Watauga County Extension blog by then. Meanwhile, inquiries and/or pre-registrations can be directed to richard_boylan@ncsu or by calling the Watauga County Extension Center at 828-264-3061, or e-mail Hollis Wild at hollis@asapconnections.org

Organic Production & Certification Class for New & Transitioning Growers begins in January

Organic Production & Certification Class for New & Transitioning Growers begins in January

A class for farmers wanting to begin or transition to

Commercial-Scale, Certified Organic

Production Of Vegetable and Fruit Crops

Have you heard about expanding sales opportunities for Organic growers? Perhaps you feel that your farm is too small to break into the conventional commercial vegetable market? Do you have some land that has been idle for a few years, and now are looking to put it into potentially profitable production? Do you want to farm more sustainably? Answering yes to any of these questions may mean that the upcoming class series on Organic Production is right for you. Whether you eventually choose to become a Certified Organic producer or not, the classes will be filled with information on proven techniques for successfully growing vegetable, small-fruit, and field crops while building your soils’ health and foregoing the use of synthetic chemicals on your farm.

This class series is geared toward growers who are already set-up for commercial scale production (e.g. - 1-acre of ready-to-be-certified-organic field land or more), and wish to enter the expanding Certified Organic Market, but smaller-scale growers are welcome, and many have found past versions of this class to be helpful as well. Topics covered will include soils & fertility, disease identification & control, insect identification & control, weed management, post-harvest handling, certification & record-keeping, and marketing to wholesale buyers.

The clasess will meet on Wednesdays, from 6:30-8:30 PM, at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center during the winter and early Spring of 2012.

Participating growers will receive books on organic agriculture, weed management, disease identification, and organic pest control, plus resource CD’s with additional information on organic production.

Cost: $50 – Class limited to 20 growers


· January 18 – Introduction to Organics & Certification, and Marketing to Wholesale buyers

· February 25 – Planning Your Organic Crops & Rotations

· February 1 – Soils & Fertility in Organic Systems

· February 8 – Weed Management in Organic Systems

· February 15 – Disease Management in Organic Systems

· February 22 – Tying Together Crop Rotation, Soil Fertility, and Weed & Disease Management Into One Coherent System

· February 29 – Insect Management in Organic Systems

· March 7 – Post-Harvest Handling for Selected Crops & Food Safety Considerations

· March 14 – Marketing Organic Crops & Certification Paperwork Wrap-up

· March 21 – Snow Date

· March 28 – Snow Date

· April 4 – Snow Date

Due to the likelihood that one or more of these classes may have to be cancelled due to snow, ice, or other inclement conditions, farmers enrolling this class should reserve their Wednesday nights through April 4, 2012. With luck, the class will be completed by mid-March, but one has to be cautious in these mountain winters…

For more information, call the Watauga County Cooperative Extension office at (828) 264-3061, or e-mail Richard Boylan at richard_boylan@ncsu.edu

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WCFM Manager Position is Open

Cooperative Extension is listing this job opening as a courtesy for our important partner in the local foods system, the Watauga County Farmers Market. All inquiries should be directed to wataugacofarmersmkt@gmail.com.

The Watauga County Farmers Market (WCFM) Board seeks to hire a manager to lead in making the WCFM a destination for Boone and surrounding areas through high quality farmer and artisan products and with activities of interest to families. The Market Manager will serve as a positive, pro-active, energetic face for the Watauga County Farmers' Market. S/he will interact with the local community by providing information, answering questions, and addressing concerns. S/he must be well organized with respect to marketing, financial recordkeeping, and project management, and will coordinate all market activities, uphold the Market Rules, and implement and enforce market policies. The Market Manager is a part-time position, with primary responsibility being the day-to-day successful operation of the WCFM. This will include an on-site presence at the Market during all Market hours, as well as off-site work during non-Market hours.

Please see the WCFM web site at
for full details and application requirements.

Please also note that a separate, but related, position administering the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) Grant will soon open, with an additional salary of approximately $11,000. Applicants for the WCFM Manager position should indicate in their application letters whether they are interested in and available for this separate but related FMPP position. Qualified WCFM Market Manager candidates will be encouraged to apply.

Closing deadline for applications is Monday, December 5, 2011.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Over 200 Celebrate 56th Annual Farm City Banquet

With a little barbecue and bluegrass, Watauga CES and the Farm City planning committee, hosted the 56th Annual Farm City Banquet at the Boone United Methodist Church. Tickets sold out by Thursday afternoon and over 200 farmers and supporters of agriculture in the county turned out for a local food dinner catered by Bandana's and awards ceremony. Dr. Dan Meyer, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Director, emceed the event. County Commissioner Vince Gable read the formal proclamation of Farm City and eleven awards were presented. 39 door prizes were also given away including gift baskets full of local goodies. Sponsors for Farm City included Watauga Farm Bureau (Gold Sponsor), Hollar & Greene Produce, Critcher Brothers Produce, Allen Wealth Management, the Watauga County Farmers Market, Watauga Cattlemen's and Christmas Tree Associations, PHARMN, Mountain Keepers, Mountain Kubota of Boone, Carolina Farm Credit, Piedmont Federal, Ross-Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge, Watauga Soil and Water, and the Boone-Blowing Rock Lodging Association.

Awards included:

• Christmas Tree Farmer of the Year: Steve Stanley.
• Cattleman of the Year: Jeff Winkler.
• Beekeeper of the Year: Burton Moomaw.
• Beekeeper Association's Presidents Award: James Wilkes and Mark Henson of Hive Tracks
• Mary Boyer was posthumously awarded the Woman in Agriculture Award.
• Agri-tourism Award went to New River Corn Maze
• L.E. Tuckwiller Award, recognizing a town or community for outstanding efforts in community development went to Recycling Consortium.
• Agriculture in Arts Award went to Jane and Mike Campbell.
• Youth in Agriculture award went to Jacqueline Walczak and Jazmyne Maxwell.
• Spirit of Farm City Award went, posthumously, to Angela Church McCoury.
• Farm Family of the Year Award went to David Yates from the Cool Springs Community. He also received a certificate from the Champion Tree Program from NC Division of Forestry for the largest butternut specimen in the state.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Grants for farm diversification, local agriculture groups

WNC Agricultural Options will award a total of $150,000 to approximately 35 farm businesses and farmer-led groups in 2012.  Funded exclusively by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions continues its eight-year history of advancing the mountain region's diverse agriculture system.

"Successful farming in today's environment requires taking on challenges," said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. "New crops, new farming systems and new marketing strategies all increase the potential of a farm's success but also increases risk. The WNC AgOptions program helps this region's farmers balance that risk by providing financial assistance as well as hands-on guidance with a new venture. The goal of this program is to discover farming practices that are innovative and have the potential of helping other farmers in the future."

Grants of $3,000 and $6,000 will be awarded to individual farmers proposing diversification projects that boost economic viability of their businesses. Awards of $10,000 will go to three farmer-led groups working to solve processing, packaging, marketing and other distribution needs of the local agriculture system.

Applications for the two grant opportunities are available at www.wncagoptions.org and at local Cooperative Extension Centers. Interested applicants must contact their local Extension Agents by November 16 to notify them that they intend to apply. The application postmark deadline is December 1.

Recent recipients of WNC AgOptions community grants created systems and undertook promotional campaigns to market produce and products directly to customers. Individual farm businesses responded to the growing demand for healthily raised poultry products, purchased equipment to receive Good Agricultural Practices certification, added crops to their vegetable operations to ensure steady income flow, built grade B inspected goat milk parlors, and expanded their vineyards and wineries. Several recipients used the grants to expand their businesses so they can become full-time farmers.

Eligible farms are in: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural Options: www.wncagoptions.org; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers: www.ces.ncsu.edu; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission: www.tobaccotrustfund.org; WNC Communities: www.wnccommunities.org; Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, RAFI-USA: www.ncfarmgrants.org.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Trash to Art Contest Extension

The MountainKeepers are sponsoring a Trash to Art competition and the deadline has been extended to October 29th to get your art work into the Watauga County Library. The art will be on display throughout the month of October and judging will take place on Oct 31st. There are already 7 entries on display at the library!
Thinking of trash typically makes us think of dirty, smelly items that will end up in the landfills or on the sides of roads as litter. But much of this “trash” is recyclable, reusable, and is a resource we shouldn’t so quickly “throw away”. Where is “away” anyways? It’s still on the planet. Trash doesn’t have to go to a landfill or be a part of a negative environmental impact. It can be recycled, reused and redesigned into beautiful art as well as functional items.

Won’t you please join us in creating “Visions of our Future” trash art! You may be wondering, “What is Trash Art?” As part of the educational campaign for keeping litter out of our environment and waterways, the Mountain Keepers, Watauga County Cooperative Extension, Watauga River Partners, Watauga County Recycling, Town of Boone, Watauga County Library, Elkland Art Center, Stickboy Bread Co., Mast General Store, and Earthfare, are sponsoring a “trash to art” contest where the only rule is that your art must be less than 3ftx3ft in dimension and made out of 90% reused materials (recyclables and trash).
According to Watauga County Recycling Coordinator, Lisa Doty, an average of eight tractor trailer loads a day are sent to a landfill in Lenoir. Last year 39,784 tons of trash were exported out of Watauga County at a cost of $1,330,991. Recycling is not only good for the environment, but also for the County’s budget since we receive revenue from the sale of recycling. Recycling rates for all materials have continued to increase over the past few years with a 61 percent increase in plastic recycling since plastic bottles were banned from landfills in October of 2009, but there is still a lot of recyclable material that is being thrown in the trash. According to Watauga County Extension Agent, Wendy Patoprsty, “during this Falls River Clean Up, about 35% of the litter collected was glass and plastic bottles, and aluminum cans.

We throw away a lot of good trash. It’s amazing how usable our trash is, and we want to see the trash get a second life! Cindy Ball of Elkland Art Center says “trash is a really affordable medium to work with and its totally available, everywhere, literally.” It’s fun to start rethinking trash and how to minimize local and global impacts. Judith Winecoff of Watauga Library makes a good point when she said “we’re doing two things at once, cleaning up as we create art. So many times we don’t realize how much trash and litter is out there until we work with it and then we begin to take notice.” According to Marsha Story “recycling has skyrocketed over the last quarter in the Town of Boone, in fact curbside residential recycling was 81% participation over the last quarter!”

Entries can be brought to the Watauga County Library during open hours the month of Oct. Please turn your artwork in to Judith Winecoff. Rules: The art can be no larger that 3ft x 3ft and must be creations that consist of at least 90% reused or recycled materials, nothing in the art can be purchased! There will be two age divisions, youth 16 and under and adults over 17. Awards will be given in each division to the top three and each participant will receive a gift package and certificate. Art must be picked up the first week of November. You will receive your gifts and awards when art is picked up. Please contact Wendy Patoprsty at 264-3061 or email Wendy_Patoprsty@ncsu.edu with any questions.

Friday, October 7, 2011

4-H Horse Show a Success

The Blue Ridge Equestrian Open Charity Horse Show hosted by 4-H was held September 24-25. The show was initiated by teens Jacqueline Walczak and Jazmyne Maxwell.  Having participated in 4-H horse shows at a local, district and state level in the past, the two wanted the local 4-H horse show to be revived after a couple years of inactivity. Others in the community have expressed the need for us to have a local show as well.

The teens demonstrated excellent leadership skills, responsibility and organization in preparing the class list, creating rules and guidelines, promoting sponsors,  participating in planning sessions and more.  Ashley Oliver volunteered to be the show manager. The event was held at the Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve. Nearly 60 participants competed in the show and nearly that many volunteers assisted.  The ASU Equestrian team was on hand, as well as the Lee’s McRae Equestrian team, to lend their horse show experience to the management of the show. The event was a great success and there were many requests to hold it again!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Watauga High School Goes Local with Apples

With fall in full swing here in the High Country, one of our area specialty crops is in full swing... APPLES. To promote local food awareness at the Watauga High School, Extension FCS Agent, Margie Mansure, helped develop a comprehensive program.

Students from Mountain Alliance, a culinary class, and a travel and tourism class learned a bit more about the importance of supporting local foods. On Monday, Todd Nolte and his Mountain Alliance students picked apples from over 150 varieties at Moretz’s Mountain Orchard in Todd. They delivered 21 bushels to ProStart, a culinary class taught by Family and Consumer Science teacher Tierra Berry. The culinary students prepared 4 different recipes that were judged by teachers on flavor, creativity and appearance. Health promotion professionals judged the healthfulness of the recipes as well. Alison Garrett’s Travel and Tourism class (which includes marketing), spread the word about the apple tasting that was held on Friday, right after school. The class organized an apple trivia contest, designed a t-shirt promoting local food, and encouraged students to attend the recipe tasting by passing out local apples for students to enjoy on Friday morning.

This project was supported with grant funding from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. One of the purposes of the grant is to reach and educate more consumers about the value of locally grown produce. Partner organizations promoting local foods include NC Cooperative Extension, New River Organic Growers, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, and High Country CSA. For more information about what you can do to support our local food economy, visit highcountrygrown.org

Monday, October 3, 2011

Farm City, 2011

The 56th Annual Farm City Banquet will be held on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 6:00PM at the Boone United Methodist Church located on New Market Boulevard in Boone. The theme for this years banquet is “High Country Grown” as we celebrate our High Country grown produce, programs, and people. Following a local food supper, we will recognize individuals for their contributions and support of our local agricultural economy. Local bluegrass musicians, the Blue Ribbon Boys, will provide entertainment. We will also have door prizes that will be given out at the end of the celebration.

This year, awards will be given out to individuals and/or businesses that have made significant contributions to agriculture; organizations, service or civic, that have benefited the community and agricultural economy, and groups that have made significant contributions to volunteerism, local agri-tourism, and socially-sustainable agricultural practices. Commodity groups also will award their respective producers of the year, and Watauga Soil and Water will present the Farm Family of the Year award.

Door prizes will include baskets filled with locally produced foods and other items. In addition, the Watauga Arts Council has arranged for a local artist to finish a piece of art with an agriculture theme to be given away at the event. This year, Watauga County Farm Bureau (Farm City's "Gold Sponsor") is also hosting a canned food drive at the Banquet. Guests are asked to please bring canned food items to be given to area food banks.

Nomination forms for Farm City Awards are available online HERE.

Tickets are $10.00 per person (children 5 and under eat for free; children 6-12, $5) and can be purchased at the NC Cooperative Extension Office, 971 W King St., Boone. No tickets will be sold at the door and ticket sales are limited to 250. For more info, please call 828-264-3061.

Watauga County Farm Bureau and our sponsors are a snapshot of the commodity associations, private businesses, and agencies that form a long list of those who support Agriculture one farm at a time...and WE THANK THEM:

Hollar and Greene Produce, Carolina Farm Credit, Southern AG, PHARMN, the Watauga County Farmers Market, the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association, Mountain Kubota of Boone, Allen Wealth Management, Critcher Brothers Produce, the Watauga Cattlemen’s Association, Watauga County Soil and Water, Goodnight Brothers Hams, Mountain Keepers, the Watauga Beekeepers Association, and Bandana’s. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Organic After Hours

With a little bluegrass music in the background, Cooperative Extension, New River Organic Growers, and Vidalia restaurant teamed up to host the September Boone Area Chamber "After Hours" event to increase awareness of local foods. High Country Local First, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, and High Country CSA were also at the event to raise the business community's awareness of local agriculture. Chef Sam from Vidalia prepared a variety of appetizers from local foods including BLTs made from pork belly, micro-greens, goat cheese, and tomato "caviar", and pumpkin cupcakes. He also provided a cooking demonstration in the Ag Center kitchen that wowed attendees. Boone Area Chamber Director Dan Meyer spoke about the the importance of supporting the local food economy and attendees had an opportunity to meet some of the folks working with local food production and promotion in the High Country. Local farms represented included Zydeco Moon Farm, Watauga River Farm, Heritage Homestead, and Sunshine Cove Farm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Less Rain Down the Drain

Most rain that falls on hard surfaces like roofs, driveways, roads, and parking lots flows directly into our creeks and rivers.  These high flows carry pollutants, cause flooding, erode streambanks and disturb habitat.  In contrast rainfall on natural surfaces like forests and meadows soaks into the ground, replenishing groundwater and streams.  Rainscapes are landscape enhancements that reduce stormwater runoff from properties.   Rainscapes simulate natural drainage to intercept, capture and absorb rain into the ground. 
Protect our headwater streams through Rainscapes.
Rainscaping helps to reduce: stormwater runoff from properties, drainage problems, pollution entering streams, water use during dry spells, water bills, mowing, fertilizer and pesticide use and rainscapes can enhance aesthetics, bird and other wildlife habitat, and property values.   As homeowners and property managers become more aware of the issues of stormwater management many of them are choosing to manage the runoff from their homes and businesses with rainscapes.

Examples of Rainscapes:  
Rain gardens - shallow depressions and serve as landscape features that can effectively collect and treat stormwater and reduce localized flooding.  Rain gardens can be integrated into the existing landscape as a retrofit or be included in the initial landscaping plan.
Dispersing water from downspouts - A downspout is a vertical pipe used to drain rainwater away from buildings to protect foundations. They are usually directed onto a driveway, or into a pipe or ditch that flows to a creek. Disconnecting the downspout flow from this system keeps rainfall on-site to spread over grass, landscaping, or into a wooded area.  How to install? The procedure for disconnecting the downspout will vary depending on where you want to direct the water. If the runoff from your roof flows directly onto pavement, consider using downspout extenders to direct the water to a grassed, wooded, or landscaped area. Runoff collected in a rain barrel or cistern can reduce your water bill. Dispersing from a downspout may involve cutting the downspout; attaching elbows, extensions, and splashblocks to direct the water flow away from the house or into a rainbarrel. There is very little maintenance involved afterwards.
Rainbarrels and Cisterns- A rainwater harvesting system, including small rainbarrels and larger cisterns, captures stormwater runoff from a roof and stores the water for later use. A rainwater harvesting system can be used to wash cars, outdoor furniture, or water gardens—even when water restrictions prevent the use of municipal water for those purposes. The chlorine-free rainwater also contains nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus that can help plants grow when it is used for irrigation. By using rainwater for purposes that don’t require treated drinking water, we reduce the demand on municipal water supplies and increase the sustainability of drinking water supplies.
Conservation Planting - Conservation plantings use native and/or drought tolerant plants that are adapted to local rainfall and soil conditions to replace part of your traditional lawn. When established, conservation plantings need much less maintenance than a lawn, though weeding and mulching will help keep it looking attractive.
Protect streams by planting trees and shrubs on the banks.
Tree Planting - By controlling erosion, reducing runoff through infiltration, and trapping sediment and toxins, trees help communities to save money. Trees lower temperatures through shade and evapotranspiration, which reduces energy needs and costs. Trees raise the value of homes and attract businesses and tourism. Urban trees reduce the “heat island effect,” cooling our cities by as much as 9 degrees. Trees remove harmful gases that contribute to smog, acid rain, and the greenhouse effect.
Info in this article is from the NC State WECO website: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/agecon/WECO/rainscaping.htm

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cove Creek Farm Heritage Day

Turkeys strutted, apple butter was cooked down, corn was milled, 'taters were sold, and hit-n-miss engines sputtered last Saturday at the Cove Creek Farm Heritage Day festival. Despite morning rain, the sky blued up around lunch time and visitors from around the county got to visit an old-timey country fair---Cove Creek Farm Heritage Day. This was the first year that Cooperative Extension played a role in the event. Information and demonstration booths were set up to showcase 4-H and the Watauga Christmas Tree Association. Master Gardeners were on hand to answer plant clinic questions and Richard Boylan organized an on-site seed swap for folks wishing to diversify their landscape and gardens. Extension worked with the Farm Heritage Day organizing committee to offer contacts and exhibitors to help bring even more "Farm" to this annual Farm Heritage event. Ian Snider's draft horses for logging, the Norris family's "Goat Green" goats, and Colleen Moe's turkeys were big hits with the kids.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Modern Health Epidemics Solvable by Community Design

Imagine living in a Boone where every road has been built with the intent of allowing walkers, bicyclists, motor vehicles, and the AppalCART equal access. You may walk or bicycle to work or school without fear of being run over. Children have “play dates” by simply meeting neighborhood friends next to a stream, on a sidewalk, or on bikes. Fresh, healthy, affordable food is accessible to all.
Last week, community leaders had the privilege of spending time with Mark Fenton, a nationally recognized public health and “built environment” expert. Mark is passionate about changing the way we have been building our communities to combat the twin epidemics of inactive lifestyles and poor nutrition in our country.
Our next generation may be the first in recent history to have shorter life-spans than ancestors, thanks to chronic diseases brought on by modern society inflicted epidemics. Included are some cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes and diseases of the heart.
The only way to fix rising health care costs is to look at the root of the problem. Bottom line…it’s very difficult to take care of our basic needs of physical movement and a healthy diet anywhere in the U.S., except in a few communities who have made strong efforts to address the local environment.
Even though we know how good physical activity is for us, less than 25% of adults get the 30 minute per day, 5 day a week minimum that’s recommended for health benefits. The recommendation for children is one hour per day or more, which even fewer achieve. Mark contends that we need to entirely change the way our communities are developed to make a difference in childhood health and quality and length of life for the next generation. Instead of building another ugly big box store that is only accessible by car, communities should think of ways to enrich central areas that are accessible by all modes of transportation.
As a society, we should make it easy to get the recommended 30 minutes a day of movement without planning a stop at the gym. Simply walking or riding a bicycle as a form of transit could add up to 30 minutes and big health and societal benefits. Our entire community has to realize the importance of this idea. 
To begin with, our leaders have to make certain that walkers, bicyclists, AppalCART, and motor vehicles are treated as equals when roads are built or improved. Community leaders also need to be proponents of farmers’ markets by allowing them to utilize public land when available, pro bono or with minimal fees, to make fresh produce more affordable.
As citizens, we have to be vocal about supporting the efforts. When community meetings for Department of Transportation, county, or town improvement projects are happening, be there to voice your opinion about the importance of treating all modes of transport as equals. Let community decision makers and planners know how important local farmers’ are to us, and why they need inexpensive locations to sell healthy food.

With cool weather infiltrating the high country, soup season has returned. This recipe serves 4 – 6, but consider doubling and freezing some for a busy day.

Butternut Harvest Stew
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 ½ pounds lean, boneless pork or chicken, cut in ¾ inch cubes (preferably purchased from a local farmer)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
Heat butter or olive oil over medium low to medium heat in soup pot. Add ingredients and sauté until meat is no longer pink.

3 cups chicken broth
¼ teaspoon crushed rosemary
¼ teaspoon rubbed or ground sage
1 bay leaf
Add, cover and simmer for 20 minutes

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 medium apples, chopped
Add and simmer until squash and apples are tender, around 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and serve.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with NC Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. margie_mansure@ncsu.edu., (828)264-3061