Wednesday, March 30, 2011

4-H Exchange Program

Ready to expand your world? Consider the 4-H International Exchange program. You can start out small with the summer, month-long exchange program. This involves hosting a 12-15 year old Japanese student, if you have a child the same gender and within 2 years of age as the student. Norwegian, Argentina and Costa Rican 15-19 year old matches are available as well.
High-school, year long- matches are also available for families. Host families do not have to have children of the same age or gender as the Exchange student.
If you are really adventurous, try the Outbound program. Opportunities are available for 13-19 year olds to travel to Japan, Finland, Australia, Argentina, and Costa Rica.

Application deadline: April 15
Hosting month-long Japanese students goes from July 14-August 19
Expectations: Families are encouraged to conduct their normal activities but to make sure that the student is introduced to the community and the family; ie, take student to the grocery store, have them visit the grandparents house if appropriate and close proximity, introduce them to neighbors and friends, go to 4-H meetings, take them to church if the family is a church goer etc... It is not required that the family plan special vacations.

Check Here for more information

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lots to Wine About

The High Country Wine Grower's Association held their first general membership meeting of 2011 at the Ag Conference Center this week. Over 20 members, including grape growers, farm managers, wine-makers, and ASU Enology experts discussed grape varieties suitable for mountain growing, marketing prospects, and the ins and outs of forming a cooperative. High Country WGA President Bob Johnson suggested that the group of winemakers should concentrate on around 8 varieties that growers and producers can produce high-quality marketable wines from.

While the Piedmont of NC has had much success with some traditional European grape varieties, there are grape hybrids that may prove to be better for establishing High Country branding. As part of the meeting, wines from several of these varieties were available to allow members to sample. Varieties such as Traminette, Vignoles, Corot Noir, Marquette, Fosch, and Seyval Blanc seem to show promise.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

4-H Fruit Plant Sale

Deadline Approaching: Watauga County 4-H Fruit Plant Sale orders due Monday, March 28. Proceeds help support youth programs in Watauga County. Supplies are available at a first-come first ordered basis.

Plants available include blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, grape and heritage apple trees. The plants are bare root, which means they do not come in potted soil. This allows the plant to be sold at a lower cost. New selections this year include two varieties of blueberries in 1 gallon containers; rhubarb and asparagus (in limited quantities). In addition, for landscaping and feeding wildlife, native plants are being offered (elderberry, Virginia sweetspire, beautyberry).
For an order form, come by the Cooperative Extension office at 971 West King Street, call 264-3061 or download here.

Planting Information:
The plants are bare root plants, which means they do not come potted in soil. This allows the plants to be sold at a lower cost. One possible advantage to bare root plants is that they do not have to transition between soils and may establish more quickly. Since the plants are bare root, it is important to plant them immediately after pick-up. If the plants cannot be put in the ground right away, make sure they stay moist. You can place them in a temporary trench and cover them with moist sand, saw dust or soil.

To help you plan for your plants before they arrive, you may download plant specific information at the following websites, or request a copy at the Extension office:
Information on fruit plants

Care of bare root plants

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2010: A Choose and Cut Success!

Christmas tree farms are a common sight throughout Watauga County.  While the majority of those farms sell to wholesale markets, a third of these farms sell directly to consumers through the Choose and Cut concept.  From mid-November through December locals and visitors alike flock to area Choose and Cut farms to hand-select the perfect Christmas tree for their home.

Choose and Cut is an important part of the tourism industry of the High Country. Taking place during the "shoulder season" between the leaf and ski seasons, Choose and Cut farms help draw visitors to the area that financially support area retail businesses and lodging establishments. Many visitors are attracted to farms that offer agritourism activities such as hayrides, Christmas shops, mountain crafts and music, and petting zoos.

The 2010 Choose and Cut Season faced winter-weather challenges that forced some farms to shut down during the busy pre-Christmas rush. However grower surveys indicated an overall successful season, with county-wide tree totals increasing 10% over the 2010 tree sales.

Choose and Cut farms partner with several local tourism entities including the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, the Boone Chamber of Commerce, the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, High Country Host, and the Watauga County Cooperative Extension. For more information on Watauga County Choose and Cut farms, visit:

Service-Learning at Moses Cone Estate

North Carolina Extension Master Gardener Volunteers recently lended their pruning skills for an afternoon of restorative pruning at the Moses Cone Estate. In 2010, a partnership developed between the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the National Park Service and Watauga County Cooperative Extension to restore the century-old Hydrangea paniculata shrubs located around Bass Lake outside of Blowing Rock. This service-learning project is a valuable tool that not only restores the historical Hydrangea plantings but also teaches hands-on pruning skills to volunteers.

Hydrangea paniculata blooms on new wood, so the pruning time frame is during the dormant season.  Other types of hydrangeas bloom on old-wood, and should be pruned right after blooming.

Pruning cuts were targeted toward dead, diseased or broken branches as well as branches that crossed-over or were rubbing against one another.
 General thinning cuts allowed more sunlight to penetrate the interior leaf canopy, which helps the plant photosynthesize more efficiently and helps the visibility of the blooms once flowering occurs.

The hydrangeas at Moses Cone will bloom in mid-summer with white-colored panicle infloresences that fade to a rosy pink as the summer progresses. This type of hydrangea is a wonderful ornamental addition to any High Country landscape. Be sure and visit Bass Lake in July to enjoy their full blooming glory!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A&T Bedder/Mulcher Helps Improve Local Production

NCA&T State University has a piece of equipment available for local growers to use that can create raised beds, lay drip-irrigation, and cover it all with black-plastic mulch in a single pass.

Farmers are responsible for all field prep (the field must be well-tilled or plowed and disced prior to using the bedder), and of course must have a tractor capable of pulling the implement (40+ HP 4wd for 3' beds, 70+ HP 4wd for 4' beds).

Farmers also purchase their own supplies of drip tape and black plastic.

At right, a model similar to the A&T bedder is used by Upper Mountain Research Station staff to prepare a planting bed for a strawberry crop. In the below photo, Will Thomas of Creeksong Farm pulls some beds for squash in Zionville.

Ashe & Watauga County growers wanting to make use of the A&T Bedder/Mulcher in 2011 should contact Area Agent Richard Boylan at the Watauga County Extension Center.

Holy Shiitake Mushrooms, Batman!

Watauga Extension Agent, Richard Boylan, recently held a shiitake mushroom workshop and distributed spawn to interested producers in the county. Over 65 folks turned out, proving that interest in mushroom production is high. Cooperative Extension and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture are also doing a mushroom production workshop at Springhouse farm in Vilas this weekend.

Watauga ECA Holds Achievement Luncheon

The Extension and Community Association clubs held their annual achievement luncheon on March 17th. Lunch was prepared and provided by club members and included homemade casseroles and desserts. The Town and Country and Happy Hearts clubs recognized club achievements and honored individual members for their leadership and accomplishments in 2010. The Town and Country Club was awarded first place for club achievement. In 2010, clubs held 4 special events: a Barter Theater outing in April to see"Always Patsy Cline", food canning demonstrations with Watauga FCS Agent Margie Mansure, a summer-time picnic at the Horn-in-the-West park, and the annual wreath contest in September.

Tara Stollenmaier, the Community Educator for Earth Fare, was an invited speaker who talked about the "Eat Smart, Move More" program.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Floating Island Plant Nursery

Runoff from nearby roads and ground surfaces flow into the constructed stormwater wetland creating a great place for bioremediation to happen in Boone. As the stormwater runoff flows through the wetland, the plants, soil, and microbes help break down the pollution.

Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are great for plants to grow in your garden, but when they leave the land and enter an aquatic system they are considered pollutants. These nutrients increase the amount of phytoplankton and algae growth, creating a negative affect on water quality and habitat.

Plants are extremely important components of a wetland because they utilize the excess nutrients in the water and provide wonderful habitat for diverse species. Propagating wetland plants can be challenging because the seeds and plants like lots of water and tend to float away if not contained. Bill Lord, NC Extension Specialist, was working with tobacco growers down east and noticed how they start their seedlings in floating systems. He modified the tobacco propagation process to work in a wetland setting. So now we have a floating island with wetland species in the Boone constructed wetlands.

The plants growing on “the island” will mine for nutrients in the water column thereby sequestering even more nutrients. When the plants are ready for harvest we will plant them in other constructed stormwater wetlands.

What you can do at home to reduce nutrients in our environment:

• Purchase Phosphate Free dishwashing detergents! 16 states have banned these type products, but they can still be found on the shelves in North Carolina. Its up to the consumer to be educated!
• Have a soil test done before you add any fertilizer to the lawn and garden! It’s FREE in NC! Stop by the Extension Office to pick up the boxes!
• Have your septic tank pumped. Call Extension with any questions.
• Build a rain garden to capture nutrients from impervious surfaces

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Apple Grafting Workshop

Free Apple Grafting Workshop Wednesday, 3/16
6:00 – 9:00 PM
Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center, Boone

Ron and Suzanne Joyner, of Big Horse Creek Farm in Lansing, will teach a grafting workshop on propagating apple trees on Wednesday, 3/16, from 6:00 – 9:00 PM at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center in Boone. The Joyners are nationally-known for their conservation and propagation of old Southern Apple varieties. The grafting workshop taught by the Joyners will be hands-on, with participants able to learn via lecture and photographs, and then by trying-out the actual tools of the trade. Apple rootstocks will be available for purchase at the workshop, so if participants choose, they can graft several trees to then bring home and plant themselves. Information about collecting scionwood samples for grafting (and much more about apples) can be found at their website:
To reserve a spot at this workshop, call the Watauga County Extension Center at 828-264-3061. However, pre-registration is not necessary, and drop-ins are welcome.

Monday, March 14, 2011

RG 101 - Residential Rain Garden Design for Homeowners Workshop

May 6, 2011 
Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center
252 Poplar Grove Road
Boone, NC 28607
To Register: contact Wendy Patoprsty at 264-3061, or email
Registration Fee is $20

About the workshop:
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 rain gardens. Rain gardens are shallow depressions and serve as landscape features that can effectively collect and treat stormater and reduce localized flooding.
Rain gardens can be integrated into the existing landscape as a retrofit or be included in the initial landscaping plan. To effectively manage stormwater, rain gardens must be accurately sized and properly constructed. This 1-day workshop will present a method for sizing and designing rain gardens and detail proper construction techniques.
Workshop participants will be installing a rain garden. Participants should dress accordingly for the weather (this will take place RAIN or SHINE). Close-toed shoes are highly recommended. Bring sunblock/hats/gloves if preferred.  Lunch will be provided.

As a result of this training you will:
• Understand why stormwater needs to be managed,
• Understand the principles of rain garden location, design, construction and maintenance,
• Be able to select appropriate vegetation, and
• Design, build and plant a small rain garden.
Who Should Attend
• Homeowners
• Property Owners
• Master Gardeners
• Homeowners Association representatives
NOTE: This is a new workshop developed just for homeowners, master gardeners and other non-professionals. This is a one-day workshop and does NOT include a certification.

To Register: contact Wendy Patoprsty at 264-3061, or email
Registration Fee is $20

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Championing Youth

Youth and Adults can advocate for youth issues.

How many of us have concerns for our youth and their lives? Perhaps it is parenting issues with your own child, or even, broader quality of life and child well-being concerns: health, education, safety, economic security, maltreatment, juvenile justice issues, to name a few. People of all ages can be champions for youth. Identify what you feel strongly about and find ways to engage.

Here are 10 tips from Action for Children NC on ways to make a difference in the lives of young people:

1. Study up on the issues
2. Get involved with child-serving groups in your community. Many great groups in our community are serving young people. See the Community Resource Directory for a large selection
or E211
3. Register to vote and participate in elections
4. Encourage others to vote and become child advocates
5. Write, call or visit local or state- elected officials
Here is a list of our county’s officials
6. Get the message out- Write papers, use internet social networks
7. Volunteer your time and expertise; Here is a listing of some volunteer opportunities
8. Contribute to organizations that promote the welfare of children
9. Encourage your workplace, neighborhood groups and faith community to improve the well-being of children and youth
10. Evaluate. What’s the next step?

4-H offers many ways for young people to be involved in citizenship. Click here for a few NC 4-H citizenship events

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Building a Calving Bucket

It’s March and most people are looking for spring. For cattlemen, spring means that calving season is approaching. We turn our thoughts to the expectation of seeing the next calf crop safely on the ground. A major part of having a successful calving season is in the preparation that takes place before the calves hit the ground. Besides the major things that effect your calving season (such as using bulls with appropriate birth weights and a defined calving season), there are several ideas to help prepare you. One of those ideas to help during this time is to organize a calving bucket.
I find having a calving bucket very handy because it helps me to be organized and complete jobs more efficiently. My calving bucket is a tote tray with organized sections which makes for easy access and is easy to carry around or store in my truck or barn. Any kind of bucket, tray, or tool box works well. If your cows have a tendency to be curious and get into things that they shouldn't, a tool box is a simple solution. All items in the calving bucket can be purchased at your local farm supply store.
There are several things that should be included in your calving bucket, these will help with the calving process. One of the first items that should be put into your bucket is OB chains and handles. OB sleeves are also great to include to prevent disease transmission between cows and humans. Be sure to include lube in your bucket, this is used when pulling calves. J-lube or any obstetrical lube will work fine. Do not use dish soap or mineral oils to help protect the fetus. A calf catch or a good sturdy hickory cane works well as an extension of your arm to catch calves. Nylon webbing is also a good item to have in order to make a snare to pull a calf.

Items that are used in the management of your herd should be placed in your calving bucket. Ear taggers, ear tags, and a ear tag marker should be included. Another great thing to include in your bucket might be banders and bands (for bloodless castration) if you like castrating those calves when they hit the ground. Syringes and needles might be good to have, if giving any vaccinations. For permanent identification tattoo pliers and ink may be a good thing to add to your bucket. Disposable gloves are great to include to prevent ink staining. If calves have horns or scurs then having button paste and calf dehorners may be a good idea. These tools should be used in meeting practices recommended through BQA (Beef Quality Assurance).
There are several simple items that can be over looked that are useful at calving time. Disposable gloves, paper towels, and non-irritating antiseptic (iodine) to disinfect things. Scissors are good for trimming the umbilical cord and string for tying off the umbilical cord. Be sure to include a flash light with fresh batteries. A pocket knife is always handy to have around as well. One of the most important items that people forget is your calving record book and vaccination sheets. A good cattlemen needs to be a good manager.
An esophageal tube feeder is good to use when a calf has trouble nursing. The number one cause of calf death loss is starvation. IV sets are great for treating cows that have milk fever. To clean mucus from a calves airway after birth use a bulb aspirator, it works great for draining those calves. If you live near a dairy farm and can get some fresh colostrum, it can be stored frozen to give weak calves, or calves who are not able to nurse. If fresh colostrum is not available then a high quality colostrum mix using real milk ingredients can be substituted.
Organizing a calving bucket is a great way to prepare for calving season. A calving bucket makes the calving process easier in the sense that all the tools needed are all in one place. I encourage each of you to build your own calving bucket.

− Daniel Brown
Extension Intern


____ OB Chains & 2 Handles

____ OB Sleeves

____ J-Lube or Powdered Lube Mix

____ Calf Catch

____ Nylon Webbing

____ Ear Tagging Equipment

____ Banding Equipment

____ Syringes & Needles

____ Tattoo Equipment

____ Dehorning Paste (Button Paste)

____ Paper Towels

____ Non-irritating Antiseptic (Iodine)

____ Scissors

____ String

____ Flashlight & Fresh Batteries

____ IV Sets

____ Esophageal Tube Feeder

____ Fresh Colostrum or Colostrum Mix

____ Pocket Knife

____ Bulb Aspirator

Do BMP’s Work? You decide.

During Monday’s heavy rain, I was out during lunch and decided to grab some runoff samples from various parking lot areas in Boone. Particularly, I was interested in comparing the new pervious parking lot at Casey and Casey Law offices with an impervious surface, such as the mall area. You can see by the two samples that there was a big difference in the two parking areas water quality.

First off, what is a BMP? According to the EPA, a BMP (Best Management Practice) is a vague term, broadly used to describe the most effective, feasible method that does the job. In the context of storm water management, it is often used to mean a structure or technology used to manage or treat the water such as a rain garden, catch basin, stormwater wetland, pervious parking, cistern, or other filtering system.

During the rainstorm on Monday, I was able to capture the dirty water coming off the impervious parking at the mall. Impervious just means that water is unable to penetrate the surface, so all the salts, oil, gas, and other car fluids sitting on the parking lot are picked up by the stormwater and then runs off into the nearby creek. I also collected water from the pervious lot, which allows rainwater to infiltrate at the surface rather than run off.

You can definitely tell which water trout would prefer to live in, people would rather recreate in, and of course which water would be easier to clean for human consumption. Everyone can do his or her part to keep our water clean. To learn more, contact the Watauga County Cooperative Extension at 264-3061 for upcoming workshops related to stormwater BMP’s.

Moles May Be Invading Your Lawn

Moles May Be Invading Your Lawn

The warm weather the past couple of weeks has allowed many people to venture into the yard and check things out. You may have noticed that the yard is lumpy and spongy, with what appears to be tunnels stretching across the lawn. This is the probably the shallow surface tunnels of Eastern Moles (Scalopus aquaticus).
Moles are omnivores, and can be identified by some unique characteristics. Moles have a hairless, pointed snout that can extend up to ½ inch in front of their mouth. Both their small eyes and the openings of the ear canals are concealed in fur. The moles forefeet are long and broad, with palms wider than they are long. The moles forefeet are designed for digging, they are webbed to the base of the claws. The back legs are small and allow the mole to turn around in the small tunnels. The average length of male moles is 4 to 7 in. and the female will be slightly smaller. The moles fur has no direction to allow them to move forward or backward at rapid speeds. The fur is very soft and has been desired for fur coats. Queen Alexandria ordered a coat made of mole fur to start a trend and reduce the mole population in Scotland.

The moles diet is mainly insects, grubs, and worms but also will eat some bulbs, but this is rare. They eat from 70% to 100% of their body weight daily. Many people think they have been hibernating but that is not true they are active all year long. Why do we see more tunnels this time of year? The surface tunnels are only used in spring, summer, and fall. The moles have deep permanent tunnels used year round as travel routes. Nest cavities and home areas, 6 inches in diameter and lined with vegetation, can be found 12 to 18 inches beneath the surface.
Moles are antisocial animals they live alone except to breed, in February and early March. They give birth to 2 to 5 large hairless young 45 days later. The young leave the nest in 5 weeks and reach maturity around one year.
Many people think that with all the tunnels appearing in their lawns that there must be a large number of moles. Moles can burrow as fast as 1 foot per minute. They eat almost constantly to meet their high energy demands. This speed and insatiable appetite makes it possible for one mole to do large areas of damage to lawns. Usually no more than 2 to 3 moles live on an acre.

Management and control is difficult. White grubs are a food source for the moles and controlling white grubs will help to a small degree. Moles also love earthworms and caches of earthworms 2 inches in diameter have been found stored in moles nest cavities. For small areas exclusion is the most effective method. Packing the soil, will decrease the desired habitat. The use of castor beans, placing chewing gum in the tunnels, and electromagnetic devices are unproven control methods. The so- called mole plant or caper spurge (Euphorbia latharis) is advertised to act as a repellent when placed around beds. There is no known research that supports this claim.
Trapping is difficult and labor intensive, but is the most effective way of control. Trap site selection and timing are critical for success. Most trapping is done on surface burrows where the mole is most active. The best time to trap is after a rain. You must set the trap on an active burrow. To find a good trap site tamp down the soil on a burrow, active burrows will be repaired within 12 to 24 hours. Traps do best when set in late afternoon or early evening. There are 2 basic traps that are recommended for moles they are the Harpoon Trap and the Scissor-jaw Trap.
The Harpoon Trap

Before starting to set traps be sure that moles are the culprit and that they are doing damage. Moles play an important part in soil management. Moles eat grubs that destroy lawns and help aerate the soil. They also mix soil and subsoil bringing nutrients closer to the surface and humus further down.
Moles can be very damaging but may also help to improve the soil in your lawn. If you would like more information please contact the extension office at 264-3061.