April 2015

Life Outside the City Limits

Nebraska Fence Laws and Responsibility of Landowners
By Steve Tonn, Nebraska Extension Livestock Educator

Image of farm fenceIn 1914, poet Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors." This is still true today in Nebraska, whether we live on an acreage or a large ranch.  Keeping livestock out of fields, gardens, and off other's property is just part of being a good neighbor.  Keeping fences in good repair can help to build good relationships with neighbors.

According to current fence laws in Nebraska, landowners are required to equally split the cost of establishing and maintaining a fence to divide their properties if either of the parties would like to establish the boundary.  Landowners may also work out a mutual agreement on the cost of establishing and maintaining a fence according to their own requirements.  The provisions established between the two parties in the mutual agreement may better align with their unique circumstance and serves as a better solution than other legal recourse.

A general rule of thumb landowners in Nebraska have used to establish or maintain fence lines is to meet in the middle of the boundary and each individual looks to the right to identify their responsible portion.  The part of the fence line to the individual's right is the portion of the fence line the landowner would either establish or maintain throughout the year.

Current fence laws define the types of fences that each party must pay equally to cover if one of the landowners would like to establish the boundary and a mutual agreement could not be reached.  Landowners are encouraged to work with their neighbors when deciding the proper arrangement for establishing or maintaining a proper fence line.  Other legal measures fording the uncompliant party to cooperate may be costly and take a considerable amount of time.  Seeking the services of a lawyer along with filing a court case requiring a judge to settle the dilemma significantly increase the cost of establishing a fence line.

Building good fences and maintaining them is just one of the many responsibilities that come with owning livestock and living in the country.



Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Update - EAB is a serious threat to valuable ash trees found in acreage landscapes. Nebraska Forest Service Forest Health Program Leader Mark Harrell talks about the encroachment of the Emerald Ash Borer in Nebraska.

Reducing Risk of Contamination to Your Drinking Water Well, by the National Groundwater Association. Prevent well and groundwater contamination by recognizing potential sources of contamination and through good well maintenance.  

Tips for Proper Pesticide Application- The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance offers tips on the best practices for applying pesticides to avoid spray drift and damage to the environment. Remember, the pesticide label is the law.

Trees-Planting to Replace
By Eric Berg, Nebraska Forest Service

Image of a new tree planted near a tree that might be removed in the future.
A new tree can be planted near a tree, such as this mature ash tree, that might be removed in the future.

Arbor Day is fast approaching and in communities all around the state elected officials, community leaders and individuals young and old will gather together, typically in a park, and embrace the act of planting a tree. Typically a proclamation is read, some observations are made and quotes are shared, such as "The best time to plan a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." This rings true to the planting needs and opportunities in most Nebraska communities.

Nebraska has seen significant tree loss over the last few years and emerald ash borer (EAB) and other pests, diseases and severe weather will result in even more dramatic loss in coming years. Landowners are accustomed to planting trees in empty spaces but one of the things I recommend is anticipatory planting-planting a tree years, or even decades, before the anticipated removal of an aging or disease-prone specimen.

If you have a large silver maple or linden in your yard, for example, it may well have a foreseeable and limited lifespan. These and other species are not tolerant of extreme weather and they're prone to limb breakage from ice, snow and wind events. Or consider all the ash species in our landscapes. Based on an urban plot analysis completed in 2011 by the United States Forest Service and the Nebraska Forest Service, Lincoln has approximately 1,511,000 trees within the city limits. Of this total tree population, ash represents approximately 7.2 percent, which equates to more than 108,000 trees planted along our streets, parks and landscapes that could be lost to EAB.

So yes, the time to plant is now. But planting close to trees can be challenging. The new tree needs ample root space, has to avoid above and below ground utilities and has to survive with limited sunlight in the shade cast by existing trees. Any new tree may have to tolerate lower levels of light, which will limit species selection and placement and most large-maturing species, including my favorites-the oaks, need six or more hours of direct sunlight daily during the growing season.

The best place to "replacement plant" is at or near the tree canopy edge east, south or west (north placement will probably be too shady) of the tree you are replacing. In my own home landscape, a large mature green ash planted along the street right-of-way created an opportunity to plant a large-maturing bur oak approximately 20 feet south of it. While slightly in the shadow of the ash, the oak still receives plenty of direct sunlight and when the ash tree declines to EAB, as expected, this oak will be well on its way to fill in the gap and provide on-going generational benefits for our family and for those who might enjoy this landscape well after we are gone.

The potential species list for ash alternatives and replacements is a virtual who's who for diversity and dependability. Some of my favorites for eastern Nebraska include: Kentucky coffee tree, ginkgo, northern catalpa, Osage orange, hickory and many of the oaks such as bur, white, shingle, chestnut and Shumard, to name but a few. On a side note, many of these species, and particularly catalpa, ginkgo and Kentucky coffeetree, are not impressive in a nursery setting. But given time and room to grow, they'll reward you in the end.

You can find guidelines for successful planting from ReTree Nebraska and our friends at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum by visiting retreenebraska.unl.edu and arboretum.unl.edu. So consider your landscape, anticipate any trees you might lose and plant accordingly. Happy Arbor Day!

The Nebraska Forest Service strives to enrich lives by protecting, restoring and utilizing Nebraska's tree and forest resources.


Groundcovers: A Fresh Perspective
By Justin Evertson, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

Image of Jacob's Ladder, a great groundcover plant.
Jacob's Ladder, Polemoniun reptans, a great groundcover plant.

As its name implies, a groundcover is just that-a plant that covers the ground. Depending on one's point of view a groundcover could be almost any plant imaginable. When we travel high above the earth's surface in an airplane, for example, large trees become ground covers. They form dense canopies and they certainly cover the ground. But for the purposes of this discussion we'll define a groundcover as primarily low-growing (less than knee-high) plants that tend to spread densely just above the ground and help prevent soil erosion.

Turfgrass is by far the most dominating groundcover in our communities. It's estimated that we're approaching 50 million acres of turfgrass in the United States (an area the size of Alabama). People like having a living carpet of green radiating from their homes, businesses and public places. Turfgrass is important for more than its carpet-like looks as there really is no better surface for sports, kite flying, dog chasing, picnicking, tent camping and numerous other outdoor activities. But turfgrass is also expensive to maintain and requires many inputs, including significant amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides and time, to be kept at the weed-free lushness we've come to expect. A cascade of negative impacts on trees and other landscape plants is often seen where turfgrass is fussed over. And turfgrass is rarely a good choice for shade.

Surely we can move beyond turfgrass and incorporate other groundcovers-with a wider range of uses and benefits-into the landscape. Such groundcovers can have a myriad of uses and benefits. They help crowd out weeds, shade and cool the soil surface, conserve soil moisture and generally require less effort. When carefully selected and planted, they also help build the organic nature of our soils and can greatly improve landscape biodiversity, including serving as food and nectar sources for a variety of important insects and other pollinators. In addition to adding visual appeal, groundcovers don't need regular mowing and can be used on slopes where mowing is impractical.

Under and around trees and other landscape plantings, groundcovers can be thought of as living mulch. Just as mulch helps shade the ground, conserve moisture and prevent weeds, groundcovers can serve the same purpose. And unlike mulch, groundcovers don't need to be frequently reapplied. Good groundcovers for shade or partly shaded areas include lady's mantle (Alchemilla), bergenia, plumbago, barren strawberry, sweet woodruff, cranesbill, deadnettle and vinca, among others. For those who want to use native plants, try wild ginger, various species of sedge (Carex), coralbells, Jacob's ladder, solomon's seal, boneset, celandine poppy, foamflower and meadow anemone.

In sunny areas, we have many turfgrass alternatives to use as groundcovers. A relatively simple solution would be a mix of yarrow and catmint. Such a planting could be occasionally mowed back to reinvigorate it. Other options include salvia, sedum, geranium, lambs' ears, basket-of-gold and many others. For those who want natives (and we think you should!) our prairie plants shine-buffalograss, sideoats grama, blue grama, aster, yarrow, mist flower, rudbeckia, goldenpea, spiderwort, poppy mallow and many others. When possible, combine several species together in a planting to improve biodiversity and to gain some resiliency against diseases and weather events.

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum is a nonprofit that works toward sustainable home and community landscapes through initiatives in education, public gardens and the environment. Plant and landscape resources at http://arboretum.unl.edu.


A Fresh Look at Food Safety for Spring Celebrations
By Lisa Franzen-Castle, Nebraska Extension Nutrition Specialist

It's spring - the season to enjoy the great outdoors and celebrate special occasions, like Easter, Passover, and graduation!  As celebrations and events approach, take a fresh look at food safety habits. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline gets extra busy this time of year with food safety questions. The hotline has lots of advice to keep celebrations safe from foodborne hazards. Check out these spring food safety tips. 

Food safety tips for spring celebrations:

How long can I keep a ham in the refrigerator before cooking it?

  • The answer depends on the type of ham and how it's packaged. The label is the best guide for determining storage time. It gives the product name, whether it's smoked or cured, and whether you must refrigerate it. While USDA doesn't require manufacturers to list the freshness date on products, many do.
  • Look for the instructions on the label that tell you how long you can keep the product. For example: "Best if used by April 15." Leftover cooked ham should be stored in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or below and used within 3-4 days or frozen.
  • Check out the safe food storage website from UNL Extension at http://food.unl.edu/safety/storage.

What is the best way to safely handle eggs used for an Easter egg hunt?

  • Only use eggs that have been refrigerated, and discard eggs that are cracked or dirty. When decorating, use food-grade dyes. It's safe to use commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring, and fruit-drink powders.
  • When handling eggs, be careful not to crack them. Keep eggs refrigerated until hiding time. The "found" Easter eggs must be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within 7 days of cooking.  Hard-cooked eggs that have been lying on the ground should not be used because they can pick up bacteria, especially if the shells are cracked. Then bacteria can contaminate the inside.
  • Eggs should be hidden in places protected from dirt, moisture, pets, and other sources of bacteria. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed 2 hours, or 1 hour if the air temperature outside is above 90 degrees F. If eggs are left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, bacteria could multiply to dangerous levels and cause food poisoning.

I've heard you shouldn't let food sit out.  How can I host and serve a safe meal?

  • Serve cold foods straight from the refrigerator. Keep them cold by nesting dishes in beds of ice or use a series of small serving trays and replace them often.
  • Fully cook and slice the brisket before the celebration begins. Then either reheat it in the microwave while serving the appetizer, or leave the foil-covered brisket, kept moist with gravy, in a warming oven (about 200 degrees F) until serving time.
  • Discard food that has been left out at room temperature more than two hours (one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F).

Remember to keep it clean.

  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after food handling. Beware of cross-contamination.
  • Foodborne illness can occur when kitchen equipment is not thoroughly washed between uses. Always wash food contact surfaces and cooking equipment, including blenders, in hot water and soap.

For more food, nutrition, and health information go to food.unl.edu. If you have other food safety questions contact the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov. Have a safe and happy spring celebration!

Additional Resources & Links


Private Drinking Water Wells: Planning for Water Use
By Sharon Skipton, Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator

Image of drinking water being used for cooking.
A home well's flow rate must be capable of providing the total quantity of water needed every day. 

When planning for a private drinking water supply, it is important to determine if the well capacity will meet water demands. The well capacity - the amount of water that can be produced - must be accurately determined. A Nebraska-licensed water well professional can help determine the well flow rate - a measure of the gallons of water that can be produced per minute. The professional will pump the well continuously for an extended period. During the pumping period, measurements will be taken to determine the water level drop in the well relative to the rate at which water is being pumped out. The balance point will occur when the water level stops dropping as a given amount is pumped, providing the well yield in gallons per minute. Quantities of water produced by marginal aquifers are difficult to estimate by the well professional and sometimes wells do not yield as desired. There are several variables that cannot be easily accounted for when dealing with marginal aquifers. It is important to have realistic expectations when dealing with marginal aquifers.

The flow rate must be capable of providing the total quantity of water needed every day - the total daily demand. The well flow rate multiplied by the number of minutes in a day that the well pump will operate provides an estimate of the total gallons of water that will be produced each day. This amount must be equal to or greater than the total daily demand. The average American uses from 60 to 100 gallons of water per day. You can estimate the total daily demand by multiplying use (100 gallons per day) by the number of people that might reasonably be expected to live in the rural home.

In addition, the flow rate should be sufficient to meet temporary large demands that occur throughout the day - the peak use demand. These times usually occur near mealtimes, during laundry periods, and when occupants are showering or bathing. The water system should be able to produce enough water to meet the peak demand for a period of two hours. If it cannot, intermediate storage can be used to supplement the water. A minimum of 10 gallons per minute (gpm) is recommended for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath home. The minimum flow rate increases with additional bedrooms and/or baths since larger homes will be likely to have more residents using more fixtures and appliances at the same time. Other recommended minimum flow rates include:

3 bedrooms, 2 baths - 12 gpm
4 bedrooms, 3 baths - 16 gpm

In general, add 2 gpm for each additional bedroom and 2 gpm for each additional bath.

Ideally, the yield of the well should exceed the recommended minimum flow rate. This is because the recommended minimum flow rate may not support the operation of multiple water-using devices at the same time, and some devices may require greater flow rates to operate properly.

Additional information available at Private Drinking Water Wells: Planning for Water Use


Be Lightning Aware
By Ashley Mueller, Nebraska Extension Disaster Education Coordinator

Image of tree backlit by lightning. "If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it."

"When you see a flash, it's time to dash."

"When thunder roars, go indoors."

Lightning can be a spectacular show in the sky, but it's also a threat to our safety and well-being. The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times a year. It injures hundreds and kills around 50 people each year. We often associate lightning with spring and summer seasons, but lightning can strike year round. It's important to know how to prevent becoming a lightning strike victim.

Sure, it can be exciting to watch storm clouds darken and grow before our eyes. Sometimes we find ourselves up against a time crunch. It may be we want to finish mowing or weeding the garden before the rain begins to pour. It's important to know that if thunder can be heard, the risk of a lightning strike is already present. Shelter should be sought immediately. Most lightning victims are in open areas or near trees.

There are instances when shelter isn't readily available, especially when fishing, boating, and camping. In these cases, it's important to plan ahead. Check the weather forecast and keep a watchful eye to the sky. According to the NWS, people often wait too long to seek a safe location. An enclosed building or a metal-topped vehicle with the windows closed are safe locations. What aren't safe options? Picnic shelters, dugouts, and open, small buildings won't provide the safety needed.

If lightning strikes nearby and a safe location isn't close, avoid being close to other people by keeping at least a 15-foot distance. Put feet together and crouch down, but do not lay down. NOAA also recommends the following tips:

  • Stay off corded phones; mobile or cordless phones can be used. Don't touch electrical equipment or cords.
  • Avoid plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower, or wash dishes.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
Don't forget about your companion animals. Bring them inside or put them in a safe location. Additionally, all outdoor activities should be suspended for 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder. Be patient; lightning strikes can still occur after the storm has passed.

Injured persons do not carry an electrical charge from a lightning strike and can be handled safely. Call 911 for immediate help, and get to the victim as quickly as possible. Keep the victim from getting chilled until help arrives, and apply First Aid. If a person struck by lightning appears unhurt or only stunned, medical attention should may still be needed.  

Be lightning aware to maintain safety for you and your family.

Sources and For More Information:


Soil and Veggies in Spring
By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of soil prepared for a vegetable garden.
Loose friable soil is ideal for a vegetable garden.

Fight the urge to work the garden soil too soon.  It's wise to prepare veggie growing areas as soon as the soil is dry enough to be worked, but check it out first.  If you squeeze a handful of soil and it forms a muddy ball, it's too wet.  If it crumbles apart when you open your hand, it's dry enough.  If the soil is tilled or forked when wet, the likely result is that a concrete-like soil structure will be created, limiting expansive and vigorous root growth. 

Whether wet or dry, it's wise to test the soil before planting.  After the results return from the soil testing lab, nutrients or organic matter can be incorporated before planting begins.

Soil suitability is the key to success with root crops such as carrots.  A technique worth considering is trench planting.  Carrots need a loose, rich soil in order to grow long and straight.  Concentrate soil modification efforts on a narrow trench.  Dig a V-shaped trench about 3 inches wide and 8 inches deep.  Fill the trench with a loose mix of compost and sand, which can easily be mixed in a wheelbarrow.  Plant the seed along the length of the trench and then lay a soaker hose along one side to keep the soil moist through germination and the first stages of growth.

The narrow trench allows for easy thinning, as the compost/sand mixture allows for easy removal of unwanted seedlings.  If a traditional veggie garden isn't in your plan, consider using an old gutter instead of the trench in the soil.  Drilling a few holes in the bottom of the gutter will facilitate drainage.

Early tomatoes are often a gardener's bragging item...especially when it comes to being the first one in a social group or club that can claim the first one produced.  The trick to earliness is to warm the soil and protect the plants from cold temperatures.  One way is to plant the tomatoes in the center of a tall, wide cage and surround them with gallon jugs of warm water.  Next, wrap plastic sheeting around the cage and weight it to the ground to prevent it from blowing over.  During the day, heat from the sun will collect inside the cage and warm the water in the jugs.  At night the jugs will gradually give up their heat to the air inside the cage.  After the danger of frost has past, the plastic wrap can be removed.  The jugs should remain a week or two longer to help transition the plants to summertime conditions.  A commercial product called a Wall of Water utilizes the same concept.


Tractor Safety Classes Offered Statewide
By Sharry Nielson, Nebraska Extension Educator

Image of child driving a tractor.
Tractor safety is critical when young people work on the farm or acreage.  Image by Steven Saus, flickr.com.

Nebraska Extension Tractor Safety/Hazardous Occupations Courses will be offered at seven locations in Nebraska during May and June.  Any 14 or 15-year-old teen who plans to work on a farm other than his/her parents' should plan to attend.

Federal law prohibits youth under 16 years of age from working on a farm for anyone other than their parents or guardian.   Certification through the course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with mechanized equipment.

The most common cause of death in agriculture accidents in Nebraska is overturn from tractors and all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs), said Sharry Nielsen, Nebraska Extension Educator.  Tractor and ATV overturn prevention are featured in the class work.

"Instilling an attitude of 'safety first' is a primary goal of the course," Nielsen said. "where youth have the chance to learn respect for agricultural jobs and the tools involved."

Classes consist of two days of instruction plus homework assignments. Classes are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. each day. Dates and locations include:

  • May 27-28, Fairgrounds, Kearney
  • June 1-2, Fairgrounds, Valentine
  • June 5-6, Event Center, Lincoln
  • June 8-9, Farm and Ranch Museum, Gering
  • June 11-12, West Central Research and Extension Center, North Platte
  • June 15-16, Fairgrounds, Wayne
  • June 17-18, College Park, Grand Island

Pre-registration is strongly encouraged at least one week before a location's start date to the Extension Office at the course site. Cost is $60, which includes educational materials, testing, supplies, lunches and breaks.  For more information, contact the Extension Office or Sharry Nielsen at (308) 832-0645, snielsen1@unl.edu.

The first day of class will consist of intensive classroom instruction with hands-on demonstrations, concluding with a written test that must be completed satisfactorily before students may continue driving tests the next day.   Classroom instruction will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program.  Homework will be assigned to turn in the next day.