Friday, July 27, 2012

The Peak of Mosquito Season

Written by Michael Waldvogel, NCSU Extension Specialist

With many areas of the state experiencing significant rainfall it's expected that there will be a rise in mosquito activity particularly by the Asian tiger mosquito which takes advantage of those small and often inconspicuous sites around your property that fill with storm water and become prime mosquito breeding sites. So, before people start planning a chemical assault on their yards as the solution to their mosquito problems, they need to start with the simpler and more long-term approach of eliminating "collectibles". I don't mean souvenirs; we're talking about all of those objects that collect and retain rainwater for days-weeks. For example:

 - Bird baths - simply flush them out with a garden hose and you flush out the mosquito larvae in the process. Plus, the birds will appreciate the fresh water. For horse owners with water troughs near stalls or out in pastures, one option is to use a product such as "Mosquito Dunks" which contain the bacteria “Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis” which kills the mosquito larvae (not the adults). Although you can use them in outdoor water bowls for pets, it is far simpler (and better for your animals) if you “tip and toss” the water from the bowl and replenish it with fresh water daily.    

- Old cans, tires, etc. - empty them and get rid of them (legally, not simply tossed along the highway to become someone else’s problem).

 - Outdoor flower pots - empty the water from the dishes/trays underneath them. Your plants have plenty of water without the overflow. This also helps reduce fungus gnat problems in the plant soil. - Remove all of that built-up debris from your gutters. The water and decaying material attract mosquitoes.

 - Rain barrels – if you collect water from your gutters or some other system, make sure the barrel is screened to keep out debris and mosquitoes - Tarps that cover your boat, grill, firewood, etc. also collect pockets of water that can remain for 1-2 weeks. - The bed of that '57 Ford pickup that you've been “restoring” for the last 25 years can collect water particularly if the tailgate faces uphill in your yard.

- Kids' pools - if they're not being used by kids, they're probably being used by the mosquitoes (and maybe some toads) – empty them. The same thing applies to pools (in ground or above ground) that aren't maintained (e.g., pools on abandoned or foreclosed properties).

- Drainage ditches - they're meant to collect storm water temporarily. Keep them free of debris so that water flows and has time to filter into the soil.

 - Decorative fish ponds can be a source of mosquitoes if they contain a lot of vegetation that provides hiding places for the mosquito larvae. “Mosquito Dunks” are an option here.

 - Tree holes - when limbs fall off trees, the remaining hole in the trunk can collect water. Flush that out or put a small piece of a mosquito dunk into it.

Many people ask about treating shrubs in their yard. Mosquitoes will rest in these locations, but whether treating them "controls" a mosquito problem is difficult to determine depending on the species of mosquitoes most prominent in your area.. Similarly, people using outdoor foggers will definitely kill mosquitoes, but depending on the time of day/evening that they use it, they may be missing the peak activity of the most common mosquito species found in their area. Two other issues about using outdoor foggers are important. First, safety is critical. Make sure that you are standing upwind from the direction that you are dispersing the fog and wear appropriate protective equipment to prevent the fog from getting into your eyes and lungs or on your skin. Second, know where the fog is going. Some of your neighbors may not actually want chemicals drifting onto their property (particularly if they're outside eating at the time!). The same applies to the automated misting systems that some people have installed on their homes. From time to time, we get reports of companies that offer “mosquito control” whose response to the question of what they are using is simply that it’s something “safe” or “natural” but they won’t actually tell you what the chemical is. Personally, I would steer clear of a company that isn’t willing to tell you what they are spraying (or propose to spray) on your property. You have the right to know the identity of the product and if they won’t reveal it, the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is very willing to “encourage” them to be forthright about their control program.

 One other point to remember - mosquitoes have no concept of property lines. Mosquito management takes a neighborhood effort to be truly effective. We have information on mosquito control on the web at

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Backyard Stream Repair Workshop

October 10, 2012
Watauga County Ag Conference Center

252 Poplar Grove Rd.
Boone, NC 28607
Learn how to stabilize your backyard stream, improve the natural environment, and enhance your property.  Learn about causes of streambank erosion and how to use native plants to create a healthy streamside environment.  Participate "hands-on" in enhancing an eroding streambank using grading, matting, and various natural plants at a local stream. Attendees will have the opportunity to watch, ask questions, and even plant trees and shrubs to stabilize and beautify a streambank. 

Who Should Attend: homeowners, local government personnel, landscapers, utility workers, park managers

9:00 a.m.
Classroom discussion of problems and solutions
12:00 p.m.
Lunch (provided)
Field Demonstrations of Streambank Repair

$45 - includes lunch and materials. 
To register go to -

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Poultry Management

It's the season to start monitoring your flock for external parasites.  It is important to detect infestations early because of the restrictions on treatments available for food-producing birds. Moreover, many of the parasites have an environmental component so treating the environment is also necessary for controlling infestations. Prevention and early detection are the keys to successful treatment and control of external parasites in poultry flocks. The most common external parasites seen in poultry are lice and mites.
Flocks infested with lice or mites show similar general symptoms. Birds will have decreased egg production; decreased weight gain; decreased carcass-grading quality; increased disease susceptibility; and decreased food intake. If any of these generalized symptoms are observed, a visual evaluation is recommended. Inspect birds around the ventral region for signs of lice or mites since infestations usually start in this area of the bird.
Sanitation and cleanliness are the keys to lice and mite control. Sanitation includes cleaning and disinfecting housing facilities and equipment between flocks. Moreover, reducing people traffic through housing facilities is recommended. Eliminating the contact between flocks and wild birds can reduce the potential transfer of external parasites. Treat the walls, floors, roosts, nest boxes, and the birds simultaneously. When dusting an entire house, be careful to avoid feed contamination. One treatment method for small flocks or individual birds is the use of a diatomaceous earth or poultry dust containing pyrethrin. Place the bird into a garbage bag containing the medicated powder with the birds’ head out and rotate/shake the bag to completely cover the bird with powder. Be sure not to inhale the medicated powder during treatments. The use of a facial mask is recommended to prevent inhaling this medicated powder. Because the life cycle of lice and mites is. approximately 2 weeks, treatments should be repeated every 2 weeks as needed. Carefully read all labels prior to treatment to make sure withdrawal times are followed for food-producing poultry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Variety keeps summer squash satisfying

Margie Mansure cooked up pasta with sauce at Italian cooking class, Venice
Winter-time longings often include foods such as tomatoes, peaches, and watermelon, but usually not squash. While squash has a pleasant enough flavor, the more methods you have to prepare it, the better. It’s easy to grow, and most gardeners are very willing to share their abundance.

I recently took a cooking class in northern Italy, the birthplace of the zucchini variety. After being introduced to summer squash from the Americas, it is thought that the Italians developed zucchini in the late 19th century. Our Italian chef taught us how to cook and blend the middle of the zucchini to make a pasta sauce. This turned out to be a healthy, creative way to make a thick sauce for our home-made pasta.

Pasta Sauce with fresh tomatoes and zucchini
300 grams, or around .67 pound zucchini
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon minced parsley
2 ripe tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Boil a pot of water large enough to submerge tomatoes. Submerge tomatoes for 2 minutes into boiling water. Peel the skin off the tomatoes, remove the seeds, and dice them. Set aside.
Cut 1/8” of the skin off the zucchini. Julienne the skin, or cut in 1/8” wide strips. Dice the white part of the zucchini. You will need 2 different small sauté pans to cook the zucchini white separate from the julienned skin. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to each pan and place over medium heat. Add 1 clove minced garlic to each pan and ½ tablespoon minced parsley. Add diced zucchini white to one pan and julienned skin to the other. Add ½ cup or so of water to the white, enough to make it the thickness you want. Stir both pans occasionally and cook until white is soft, and skin is desired texture. Puree the white zucchini in a blender or food processor. Stir cooked zucchini skins and diced tomatoes into the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve this over pasta and top with parmesan cheese as desired.    

After receiving a huge squash that was unsuitable for anything other than baking, my daughter prepared this recipe for a summer gathering. Most people thought it was brownies. A real hit!

Chocolate zucchini cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick spray. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Combine the milk, applesauce, eggs and vanilla in another bowl. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Add the zucchini and stir until just blended.
Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 35 minutes). Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Free Strawberry Field Day

During the afternoon of Thursday, July 26, 2012, NC Cooperative Extension and Ivy Point Farms will lead a field day on producing and managing day-neutral strawberries in the NC High Country. The Strawberry Field Day will take place at Ivy Point Farms, located at 1789 Beaver Creek School Rd. in West Jefferson, NC, from 4:00 PM through 7:00 PM.  This field day is free and open to all area farmers and large-scale gardeners with an interest in growing and harvesting strawberries.  The field day will include the following teachers, specialists, and leaders:

·      Farmers Jim & Kathy Barlow will showcase their recently-planted patch of day-neutral strawberry varieties, including Albion, Seacape, Mara des Bois, and Evie 2.  Unlike traditional strawberry plants that only yield in May or June in the NC High Country, these and other day-neutral varieties will produce berries throughout the summer and fall.
·      Area Extension Agent Richard Boylan will give an overview of producing day-neutral strawberries on black plastic mulch, including field preparation, soil fertility, and disease prevention.
·      Dr. Hannah J. Burrack, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist of Entomology at North Carolina State University, will discuss managing insect pests on strawberries, with a focus on her research into managing the recently-arrived exotic fruit fly pest known as the Spotted Wing Drosophila.
·      Dr. Jeremy A. Pattison, Assistant Professor of Strawberry Breeding and Genetics at North Carolina State University, will discuss the relative merits of various day-neutral strawberry varieties available to growers today.  He will also describe his own efforts to develop varieties specifically adapted to North Carolina growing conditions.

To insure adequate materials for all participants, pre-registration is encouraged.  To register, or for more information, call the NC Cooperative Extension Watauga County Center at 828-264-3061.

New Farmer Bus Visits Four Farms On the High Country Farm Tour

As part of the 2012 High Country Farm Tour, NC Cooperative Extension and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture are organizing a ‘New Farmer Bus’, which will visit four High Country organic vegetable farms on Sunday, August 5.  The ‘New Farmer Bus’ will visit Creeksong Farm and Mountain Works Farm in Ashe County, NC, as well as Maverick Farms and the FIG Farm in Valle Crucis.  The ‘New Farmer Bus’ tour will provide a great opportunity for new farmers to share ideas en-route, as it visits four leading examples of local and sustainable crop production in this region.

Area Extension Agent Richard Boylan, who has worked with organic growers and local food producers in the region for more than eleven years, will lead the ‘New Farmer Bus’ tour.  Recognizing that both time and money are in short supply for new farmers, this tour will make the most of the afternoon and will cost only $5 per participant.

The ‘New Farmer Bus’ tour will meet at the Watauga office of NC Cooperative Extension (971 W. King St., Boone, NC) at 1:00 PM on Sunday, August 5, 2012.  It will return by 7:00 PM.

Space is limited on the ‘New Farmer Bus.’  To gain a place on board, e-mail Courtney Baines at  Please include the following information in your e-mail:

- What type of farming are you interested in?
- How long have you been farming?
- What do you hope to learn at the farms visited by the ‘New Farmer Bus’ and the trip itself?

More information about the farms on this ‘New Farmer Bus’ tour and the whole High Country Farm Tour can be found at

Monday, July 9, 2012

Christmas Tree Pollinator Study

Christmas tree growers might not realize that the diverse mixes of groundcovers growing underneath their trees provide important habitat for pollinators. Pollinators include butterflies, moths, beetles, bees, wasps, and even some small mammals and hummingbirds.
Syrphid fly feeding on False Dandelion
They are responsible for an estimated 75% of the average food products that we eat each and every day. Pollinators worldwide are in decline; habitat loss and degradation, pollution, loss of native plants, diseases, climate change, pesticide misuse and overuse, and genetically modified crops are linked to the ongoing decline of pollinator species.

It’s an often-overlooked fact that tree farmers that encourage native weeds and groundcovers among their tree fields are supporting these critically important creatures. In the tree field, pollinators feed on the nectar and pollen in flowering weeds, and they make their nests, often in the soil but occasionally in dead branches or decaying stumps. All of these are very positive interactions in the tree field. The situation becomes more complicated when growers reach IPM thresholds that determine a need to control insect pests with pesticide applications. Just about any pesticide, organic or otherwise, is toxic to bees. So tree growers have a very difficult situation to deal with: treating for insect pests that damage their trees while also wanting to protect pollinator populations.

To help find solutions to this perplexing problem, Dr. Jill Sidebottom and county agents are working on a pollinator study specifically looking at tree farms in Watauga, Ashe, Allegheny, Avery and Mitchell counties.  The study will follow these farms for an entire year, taking data on the mix of specific plants growing under the trees, what’s flowering and when, and what types of pollinators and other insects are observed. This study is unique in that the majority of the fieldwork is not actually focused on the Christmas trees... but rather what’s growing underneath them! Agents and specialists walk slowly through the field keeping their eyes peeled for flying insects, and whirling a canvas sweep net through the weeds to survey what pollinators are present. The contents of the net are then emptied into a plastic bag where the insects can be identified.

The goal of this study is to develop best management practices specific to the Christmas tree industry on pollinator protection and conservation. It will also help educate tree growers and beekeepers alike on how to best work together to sustain pollinators.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Watauga 4-H'ers Win

Watauga 4-Hers competed at 4-H District Activity Day in Jackson County in June.
The three medalists earned recognition for their speeches along with other 4-H'ers from across the district.  Erica Cornett earned a Gold for her speech "Bunny Business in the Small and Companion Animals category.
Leslie Cornett earned Silver for "The Great Peanut Portrait" in the Expressive Arts category.
Emily Cornett won Gold for the Horse category with her "Happy Trails" demonstration.
Congratulations to the presenters for having the courage to share their interests in front of an audience!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sustainable Equine Management Program

Sustainable Equine Management 
Thursday, July 26, 6-9pm
Location, TBA

                Class will offer:
*Sustainable pasture management tips
*Nutritional management tips
*Natural pest and fly control strategies
*Water management ideas
*Greening your horse: green products, hoof care, water tips 
*Improvement on worming strategies
*And guest Speaker, Ian Snider, on the utilization of horses for profit
Call 264-3061 or email Kristy at to sign up.