Friday, August 24, 2012

Walnut Cove Waste Water Wetland Tour - Sept 27

When:  September 27 from 8:00am - 3:30pm 
Transportation:  Meet at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center at 8:00am (252 Poplar Grove Rd.) to load the 12 passenger van.
WhereWalnut Cove is about 2 hours from Boone, located just northeast of Winston Salem. 
Cost: $25 and includes transportation, lunch, and tour. 
To register: please contact Wendy Patoprsty at (828)264-3061 or email   Space is limited so reserve your spot as soon as possible. 

In 1994, officials in the small North Carolina town of Walnut Cove were considering building a conventional wastewater treatment plant that would use both mechanical and biological processes to clean wastewater. As the original cost estimate of $2 million kept rising, Wayne Smart-- then a member of the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners-- proposed a wastewater wetlands as an inexpensive alternative to a conventional sewage plant. Although many town officials, consulting engineers, and residents were skeptical, the wastewater wetlands system was eventually built, and began operating in 1996. 

The system, which cost less than $1 million to build, is less expensive to run than a conventional wastewater treatment plant because it does not have to be overseen 24 hours a day, since nature and gravity do most of the work, said plant operator Mark Bowman. The process of treating the wastewater is started with the water being sprayed into the air to add oxygen and promote microbial activity. The water works its way through a series of ponds, passing through thick groves of cattails that help to filter out nitrogen phosphorous ammonia and other naturally occurring chemicals. The water is then chemically treated to remove any remaining germs, which leaves the plant cleaner than the creek water it flows into, operators say. Smart says that the system has already exceeded most people's expectations, as it has proven itself to be an economically and environmentally responsible way of dealing with waste.  Here is a link to their website for even more information.....

Wetland Plant Walk at Boone’s Clawson-Burnley Park August 28

Date:  Tuesday, August 28
Time: 6:00pm
Location:  Clawson-Burnley Park, Hunting Hills Lane, Boone
Cost:  Free

It’s been 4 years since the 1.4-acre stormwater wetland was constructed along the greenway trail in Boone.  Within these 4 years volunteers and town employees have planted hundreds of native plants that are now thriving and providing water treatment and habitat for wildlife.  The wetland tour will be led by Wendy Patoprsty of the Watauga County Cooperative Extension and will last one to two hours.  All ages are welcome to join us, as Wendy will provide some hands-on activities to view the flora and fauna of the wetland.  

“A wide variety of wetland, floodplain and upland plants are blooming,” Patoprsty said, “and all those plants play a specific role in the wetlands and for the wildlife in the wetland.”  A constructed stormwater wetland is different from a natural wetland in that it captures runoff from the streets, parking lots and rooftops and cleans it before entering the river.

This “ecosystem service” to clean the water is the first of three primary goals of a constructed stormwater wetland.  “Not only does it help filter the water, it also provides a unique ecosystem for lots of different species of plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and mammals” Patoprsty said.   

Water-fowl and migratory songbirds find a resting place here in Boone in the constructed stormwater wetland on the Greenway Trail.  The Greenway is part of the North Carolina Birding Trail and one can find diverse species along the river, fields and woods that make up the path.  Wetlands are important bird habitats because birds use them for breeding, nesting, rearing young, a source of drinking water, resting, and social interactions. Wetland vegetation also provides shelter from predators and from the weather.

Lastly, this wetland park within the town is an area for the community to enjoy.  The trail around the wetland provides a great view to observe what’s going on in the wetland.  During the tour, participants will walk around the wetland, identify plants and birds and learn about how the wetland contributes to the health of the New River.   The trail is ADA accessible so that all may enjoy the sounds and surroundings of nature.

What to bring:  this is a rain or shine event, either an umbrella or rain gear if the weather looks wet, binoculars if you have them, something to drink, any nature guides that you think would be appropriate.

For more information contact Wendy Patoprsty at (828)264-3061 or email at

A fruit or a vegetable? Tomato season in full swing

Some consider tomatoes a fruit, while others insist it is a vegetable.
Since there is more than one way to classify tomatoes, both perspectives are correct.
Botanically, tomatoes are in the same category as avocadoes, eggplant, cucumbers and squash of all kinds. They are the fruit of a flowering plant that consists of the ovary and seeds. Yet, they are all treated as vegetables in the kitchen.
For culinary use, the tomato is considered a vegetable. It is typically used as an ingredient in main courses and in side-dishes for a meal.
An apple pie sounds more appealing than a tomato pie for dessert, since tomatoes have less natural sugar content than sweet fruit.
This naming debate dates way back in history. In 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits, caused the tomato’s status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court settled this controversy on May 10, 1893, by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable. This was based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, as they are generally served with dinner and not a dessert.
Whatever you want to call them, tomatoes taste great and are extremely nutritious. They are rich in lycopene, which provides the red color and may help prevent heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer. One large tomato provides more than 30 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin C and A, with only 33 calories.
This health promoting, tasty recipe is a great way to add fresh tomatoes to your diet. It’s taken from “Simply in Season” by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, which is a great resource for cooks who want to use seasonal ingredients.

Spicy Tomato Tempeh or Chicken
Brown rice (enough to serve four)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon paprika

Combine in medium bowl.
Turn oven onto 375 degrees F.
8 ounces tempeh or chicken, cut into bite-sized cubes

Add to bowl and toss to coat.
Spread on a baking sheet and roast in oven until tempeh or chicken is browned.
Chicken should take 20 minutes, tempeh 30 minutes.
Check after 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

In a deep skillet, sauté in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft, around 10 minutes.
1 1/2 pound tomatoes
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot chilies, or as desired
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf

Add and cook over medium heat until mixture is bubbling, about 10 minutes.

1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to mixture and stir until thickened. Add tempeh or chicken and serve over brown rice.


The Watauga Cooperative Extension Service is hosting a workshop for area farmers on the laws and highway regulations that apply to farm products that are transported between farms and to markets. An officer with the NC State Highway Patrol will explain the responsibilities of farmers and answer specific questions. Many farmers are unaware of the regulations and guidelines that affect the movement of farm products between states and involving trailers.

The workshop will be held on Tuesday, September 11 at the Watauga Agricultural Conference Center, located at 252 Poplar Grove Road in Boone. A meal sponsored by Watauga County Farm Bureau will be served at 6 p.m. with the program starting at 6:30 p.m. This is a free workshop but registration is required. Contact the Watauga Cooperative Extension office at 828-264-3061 to register by 5 p.m. on Monday, September 10.

What are Mosquito Dunks?

As we know, mosquito larvae live in stagnant puddles of water.  It’s not the larvae that bite us, but the adults that emerge from areas in our yards like water gardens, flower pots, bird baths, rain gutters, rain barrels, old tires, tree holes, pet dishes, decorative ponds or anything else that will hold water for a few days.

Mosquito dunks have been used for over a decade in the US to kill mosquito larvae before they can turn into biting adults.   The dunks are made with Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis which is a naturally occurring soil bacteria used as a microbial insecticide to control the spread of vector-borne diseases.  According to the EPA this type of mosquito control does not harm people, pets, wildlife, or fish. 

The dunks are easy to use, and can be found on line or at local stores.   They can be used in water gardens, flower pots, bird baths, rain gutters, old tires, water troughs rain barrels, decorative ponds, or any area that has standing water.  They may be safely used in animal drinking water troughs and bowls that don't have the water changed frequently.  If the water is changed every few days there is no need for the dunks.   Caution: Avoid contamination of feed and foodstuffs.  Do not use dunks in finished, treated human drinking water sources.
Of course the best way to get rid of mosquitoes is to eliminate the aquatic habitats known to produce them.   Many times even natural places like tree stumps, or holes in trees can produce mosquitoes.  The least preferred method of control, is killing the adult mosquito as this requires the use of broad-spectrum insecticides, which can be harmful to fish, birds and other animals.

Mosquitoes do have natural enemies such as bats, birds, and dragonflies, but they may not be effective control if they don’t have a suitable habitat nearby.   Gambusia, or the mosquito fish, are also known to eat mosquito larvae and could be put in ponds.  But these fish typically cannot survive in small puddles or standing water where the larvae survive.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cucurbit Field Day Draws Farmers from Several Counties

Close to 40 farmers, specialists, and agents participated in a workshop focusing on cucurbits at Fischel Farms in Grassy Creek. Several specialists from Raleigh and the horticultural research station at Mills River were on hand to answer questions and demonstrate scouting practices for squash, melons, and other cucurbits. The field day was organized by Ag Agent Richard Boylan and made possible through funding from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant and project partners: New River Organic Growers, Watauga and Ashe Cooperative Extension, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, and High Country CSA. Issues with downy and powdery mildew have had a big impact on cucurbits this year, and the team of specialists provided their insights and methods to mitigate these diseases. Participants came from Watauga and Ashe Counties in North Carolina and from bordering Virginia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Watauga Extension's New Movie Trailer

Two students from the Appalachian State University Honors Program dropped by the office the other day to learn a little bit about the county and about what we do at Cooperative Extension. They asked if they could record part of the visit...I was pretty impressed with what they did with it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Upcoming Events at Watauga Extension and Beyond......

It always seems that the blooming of the tall Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium sp., aka Eupatorium sp.) heralds the very peak of summer in the High Country of NC. All too soon thereafter, the darker purple of Ironweed (Vernonia sp.) flowers unfurling proclaims the beginnings of cooler nights, shorter days, and a transition toward Autumn. Whether you embrace these plants as medicinal allies, admire them as bee forage and stately late-season color, or cuss them as pasture weeds; there is no denying that we are on the downhill slope of the 2012 growing season. As you pack the kids off to school, or plant the high tunnels to extend the productive season further, sow cover crops or source your seed garlic, consider the following opportunities for learning more about agriculture and gathering with people who share this passion.

More information about any of the following is available by calling the Watauga Cooperative Extension Center at 828-264-3061 or e-mailing

1) Saturday, 8/18 – Canning class at Watauga Extension
2) Monday, 8/20 – Free NCDA Workshop: How to Grow your Durham
3) Tuesday, 8/21- Squash Cucurbit Field Day in Ashe County, 4-7 PM
4) Saturday, 9/15 – Cove Creek Farm Heritage Day, 10 AM – 4 PM
5) 10/26-10/28 - CFSA’s 27th Annual Sustainable Ag Conference, Greenville, SC

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Organic gardens flourish locally

The number of home vegetable gardens in our region is on the rise.
Last week, organic gardening enthusiasts enjoyed tranquil mornings in Valle Crucis, learning from a variety of experts how to successfully grow food.
Class participants picked up helpful tips from incubating farmers, gardening experts from N.C. Cooperative Extension and the community, and from visiting four home gardens in the area.
Organic Gardening 101 was held at the new FIG farm, which is located on the previous site of the ASU sustainable development research and teaching farm, on land owned by the Valle Crucis conference center. FIG is the acronym for Farm Incubator and Grower Project.
Jasmine ShoShanna of Jamine’s Gardens led an inspiring tour of gardens that she and her crew built or assisted middle-class homeowners in developing.
One of the gardens is located in a small Boone backyard and produces an amazing amount of food, including blueberries, leeks, grapes, asparagus and greens. Participants noted creative ways to protect blueberries and extend the growing season.
Other gardens demonstrated how to build arbors for hardy kiwi, inexpensive ideas on how to keep deer and other creatures out without fencing the entire yard and ways to incorporate food into a beautiful existing landscape.
Check out her website,
One commonality of gardens visited was the presence of green beans. Many gardeners produce more than they are able to eat fresh and preserve a good part of the harvest. Pressure canning is a common way to preserve, but I prefer to freeze them. It is much simpler, and the texture is crisper.

Freezing green beans

Wash and remove stem end of beans.
May leave whole, or snap into desired length.
Boil a large pot of water and submerge.
When water begins to boil again, time for three minutes.
Take beans out of boiling water and submerge into an ice water bath for three minutes.
Drain, then pack into a rigid container or a freezer bag and place into freezer.
Label and date.
May keep in freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for eight months.

This recipe is a great way to use green beans for summer picnics.
Dilled Green Beans and New Potatoes
1/2 lb. small new potatoes, quartered
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed, broken into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons dill weed
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

In medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Add potatoes and green beans; return to a boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are done and beans are crisp-tender.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients; blend well.
Drain vegetables; rinse with cold water to cool slightly.
Place in serving bowl.
Add sour cream mixture, toss to coat.
Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time.

If you are interested in learning more about organic gardening, don’t miss the class next year, offered through N.C. Cooperative Extension. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mayor's Garden a Green Thumb Success!

Here at the Extension Office, we get lots of calls from homeowners, gardeners, and farmers about issues, problems, pests, and diseases that are plaguing their crops and garden. Earlier this week, it was refreshing to hear Mayor Loretta Clawson bragging about her beautiful backyard garden. She emailed this picture as proof! Despite a crazy season of erratic weather, Mayor Clawson (who gives much credit to her husband) has had a wonderful summer of production. Cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, corn, and pumpkins are the highlights in their home garden. As a proponent of the local food movement in the region, it's nice to see our government officials doing their part to participate in our growing local food economy. Thanks, Mayor!!