Thursday, December 20, 2012

Free radon test kits available

Watauga County predicted to have high radon in homes

EPA estimates that about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are radon-related. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. Radon is a form of ionizing radiation and a proven carcinogen. Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air.
Radon is found in outdoor air and in the indoor air of buildings of all kinds. EPA recommends homes be fixed if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more. The average concentration of radon in outdoor air is .4 pCi/L or 1/10th of EPA's 4 pCi/L action level.
Get a free radon test kit for your home at NC Cooperative Extension, 971 West King St. To learn more, go to

Friday, December 14, 2012

Give your Children A Free Gift

In “Make Time for Free Time”, retrieved from, the writer describes research supporting unstructured playtime for children.
Play is described as “equally important as other basic drives of sleep, rest and food”.  The article notes that all young mammals play.  Research is showing the many ways play helps the brain develop.  Benefits also include helping develop skills such as social skills/getting along with others, problem solving, making decisions, and thinking skills.

Some more from the article:
“A clinical report in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cited play as the right of every child, as defined by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The report underlined the importance of play for normal child development….”
…..”Ironically, children have more toys than ever before. But the toys children enjoy today are quite different than in pre-television days. Until the 1950s, toys were simple – balls, baby dolls, teddy bears, chalk. Simpler toys required creative input from the child – imagination. Since toy companies began marketing directly to children in about 1955, toys come fully scripted – dolls with well known “personalities”, hand-held computers that lead the child through mazes developed in a lab, and educational games with right and wrong answers.”

Read more.......

Friday, November 30, 2012

Working with Youth

While I love coming up with creative, fun, educational things for kids to do, sometimes the behavioral side of things can be a challenge.  A nicely planned lesson can be thrown off course by some distractions that were not envisioned in the plan.  

Scanning the research for assistance and tips on how to deal with challenging behaviors, I am reminded of some basics in working with children, and the importance of prevention.   An article on the Teaching Pyramid Model (Fox, Dunlap, Hemmeter, Joseph & Strain, 2003) popped out at me.

The Pyramid Model stresses that prevention is important; the best way to deal with challenging behaviors is to avoid them as much as possible in the first place.  What are some things that help prevent issues?  The article points out that our relationships are critical and we can focus on building a warm rapport with the kids and really show interest in each individual.  Also, how we arrange the program is crucial as well; the flow of the schedule, how the environment is arranged, and how we teach them our routines and expectations are effective tools.  If we spend time on these things, we are building a stable structure.  Another basic they mention, which interests me, is the notion of teaching youth “emotional literacy”. 

Many children need explicit instruction to ensure they develop competence in emotional literacy, anger and impulse control, interpersonal problem solving, and friendship skills”.  Wow.  I could use some explicit instruction myself!  I imagine, what it would have been like in previous scenarios of my life if I or someone else had an instructor who was coaching us on how to identify what we were feeling and constructive ways to interact with others......
(read more......)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fresh, local food available all winter through High Country CSA

High Country foodies are already missing farmers’ markets. Fortunately, with a little planning, fresh, local food may be accessed all winter long through the High Country Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This CSA supports farmers with greenhouses and local food producers with marketing and distribution for year round income.  

The process requires ordering on-line and then marking calendars. No membership or minimum order is required. The online catalog features bread, pasta, goat cheese, fudge, pastured meat, and organic produce. Check it out at There is a specific time period to order, and a date when the food must be picked up. The next on-line catalog opens November 20 and closes the 27th, with the pick up being Saturday, December 1st between 2-4 pm at the Agriculture Conference Center, 252 Poplar Grove Rd. in Boone. Cash and checks are accepted, but no credit or debit cards. In an effort to make this incredibly fresh food available to everyone, EBT, formerly known as food stamps, is also accepted. Bringing a bag, basket, box, or cooler to carry the bounty is encouraged.

High Country CSA's mission is to support and assist in the growth of beginning and small farms. Organic certification is a lengthy and expensive process, so while they do not require certification, they do require that their farmers follow organic standards and practices. 

The program requires everything to be preordered, so there is less risk and loss for the farmers during the difficult winter season. The catalog is open twice a month, November through April, with the schedule posted on the website.

This recipe was submitted by a High Country CSA summer program member on their website, taken from Smitten Kitchen. Eat all the chips you want without feeling guilty!

Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Bake for 17 minutes, or until crisp (keep a watch on them, because they brown quickly). Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mabel school children enjoy greens at harvest party

The majority described bok choy salad and chard sautéed with garlic as “yummy”, with only a couple ranking the recipes as “so-so” or “not my favorite”. That’s because when kids have the opportunity to grow, harvest, and prepare vegetables, they are invested in the entire process, including tasting them.

Mabel elementary first and second graders planted their fall garden on September 10th. Many wanted to plant their favorite vegetables, such as corn, tomatoes and green beans, instead of greens. They learned that a fall garden has to be able to withstand cooler temperatures and be ready to harvest relatively quickly. The cold tolerant vegetables were put to the test during the blizzard last week. While lettuce and Swiss chard were slightly damaged, the bok choy, napa cabbage, and collard greens were unharmed.

After washing hands and vegetables, the children tore the leaves of the greens into bite-sized pieces. The smell of garlic permeated the classroom as the greens were stir-fried. They measured and poured ingredients for making salad dressing, and shook the dressing in a jar.

Cold tolerant greens not only taste great, they work hard to keep you well. People who eat merely three to five cups each week have been found to have a lower incidence of a variety of cancers. What an important taste to cultivate early on!

Greens contain beta-carotene and vitamin C, which are both anti-oxidants that protect cells from damage, reducing our chances of developing cataracts and lowering our risk of skin cancer. Vitamin C is vital for proper function of the immune system, which keeps us healthy.

Here are our child tested recipes for greens:

Chard or kale with garlic
6 large chard leaves or equivalent amount of kale
1 large garlic clove
Olive oil

Cut the stems out of the chard leaves and dice. Coarsely chop the leaves. Mince the garlic. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chard stems and garlic and stir around for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the chopped leaves and continue to stir until tender. Add salt as desired. Makes 4 servings.

Bok choy salad
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 bunches baby bok choy, cleaned and sliced(or around 4 cups of other greens)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/8 cup slivered almonds, toasted
5 ounce package chow mein noodles
In a glass jar with a lid, mix together olive oil, white vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Close the lid, and shake until well mixed.
Combine the bok choy, green onions, almonds, and chow mein noodles in a salad bowl. Toss with dressing, and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Operation Medicine Cabinet - Oct 27, 2012



Watauga County, NC- Do you have outdated or unused prescription drugs, over the counter medications, syringes or other medical supplies? Come drop them off at the sponsored take-back centers on Saturday October 27, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Take-back locations will be available at the Foscoe Fire Department, Beaverdam Fire Department and the three Food Lion stores in Watauga County: the Highway 321 store in Boone, the Highway 421 Deep Gap store, and the Blowing Rock store. It is an amnesty day, so no questions will be asked.

Three years ago, on Oct. 3, 2009, a broad coalition of community partners came together to create the first ever prescription drug take-back day in the High Country. Since that first event two years ago, a total of six “Operation Medicine Cabinet” events have been held every May and October as part of the Watauga County household hazardous waste day.  Here are the number of pills collected since the event began:

Pills collected
October 2009
May 2010
October 2010
May 2011
October 2011
May 2012

Thanks to broad support by community members across the region, the High Country has collected a total of 907,063 pills since 2009.  That makes our group the best in the state. Our community outperformed Raleigh, Charlotte and Asheville even though they are much larger communities. 

In 2010, our local Operation Medicine Cabinet was recognized as a model program and adopted by other community groups across North Carolina. In 2011, more than forty drug take back events were held across the state. This year, the High Country group wants to continue leading the state by being the first group to collect more than million pills.  We need to collect 93, 000 pill on Saturday to reach our goal.

The disposal of prescription drugs has long been a dilemma, and many medicine cabinets contain unused or outdated medications. Among teenagers, the fastest growing illegal drug use is the abuse of prescription drugs. The most common method of obtaining prescription drugs is by raiding the medicine cabinet of a friend or family, then consuming the pills or selling them.

“From a law enforcement perspective, one of our most important jobs is to work diligently and proactively to prevent drug abuse,” said Watauga County Sheriff Len D. Hagaman. “By hosting an amnesty day that allows the public to turn in any kind of unused or unwanted medications, hopefully, we will keep those drugs off the street and out of the hands of children.”

Another problem with outdated or unused prescription drugs is that people dispose of them improperly by flushing them down the toilet.   If their home is connected to a local waste water treatment facility, then the drugs wind up in either the Watauga River or New River where they can negatively affect  aquatic organisms.  If the homes have septic tanks, the drugs leach into the soils and contaminate groundwater that can be taken up by well pumps.

“A recent investigation by the Associated Press found a whole host of pharmaceuticals-including antibiotics, pain medication, anti-depressants, sex hormones, heart and blood pressure medicine-in the drinking water  of more than 40 million Americans,”[1] said Donna Lisenby, Watauga Riverkeeper.

“It has been very rewarding to see how enthusiastically people have united to support Operation Medicine Cabinet,” said Dick and Joan Hearn of the Watauga River Partners. “We have over 30 community partners, including, Helen M. Clabough Charitable Foundation, MountainKeepers, the towns and police departments of Beech Mountain, Boone, Blowing Rock and Seven Devils, the Watauga County Sheriff's Office, the State Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Safe Kids North Carolina, Boone Drug, Watauga County Recycling/Solid Waste Department, Watauga Riverkeeper/Western North Carolina Alliance, Food Lion, Appalachian Voices, Precision Printing, Foscoe and Beaverdam Fire Departments, the Smoky Mountain Center and Appalachian State University just to name a few,” they continued.

One of the strongest community partners that has supported Operation Medicine Cabinet since it began in 2009 has been Boone Drug. They have staffed every event with pharmacy personnel to assist law enforcement officers to properly identify, count and catalog the pills collected in accordance with the Drug Enforcement Agency permit requirements. Carrie Phillips, Marketing Coordinator for the locally owned and operated business said, “Boone Drug is dedicated to making sure prescription drugs are handled safely and disposed of properly.  We are proud to volunteer our time and support this community project. We hope everybody will come see us at the collection events on October 27, 2012 and join us in the community wide effort to be the first county in North Carolina collect more than one million pills and save our rivers and kids from drugs.”

To find out more about the event please visit us online at