Dec 2016

4 Fall Season Tips for Living with Wildlife

4 Fall Season Tips for Living with Wildlife, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Winter wildlife damage to thin-barked trees and shrubs can be severe, like the damage caused by rabbits stripping bark from this burning bush. 

By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator

Fall season in Nebraska is usually a beautiful time to wander outdoors enjoying the wildlife, birds, and fall colors in our trees and prairies. It’s also a time of transition and a good time to think about the coming seasons and how to best prepare. Below are some tips to help make the transition smoother for both wildlife and us. 

Protect Me – Winter rodent damage to thin-barked trees and shrubs can be severe, but taking steps in the fall can help eliminate the problem.  In most home landscapes, the principle culprits are rabbits and voles.  Most homeowners are familiar with cottontail rabbits but are not as well acquainted with voles, a short-tailed relative of the common mouse.  Voles have compact, stocky bodies with small eyes and ears that are partially hidden by their gray or brown fur. 

Rabbits most often damage landscape plantings by clipping off small twigs, branches or buds, but they will resort to stripping the bark from young trees in winter if limited food sources are available.  Voles, unable to find seeds to feed on in winter, may turn to trees or shrubs less than 2 years old because the bark is still thin and easy to chew through.  This feeding may be confined to one side of the tree or occur in patches around the tree.  When the bark is chewed off around the entire trunk, the tree’s vascular system (the tissues that move water and carbohydrates up and down the plant) is destroyed and the tree is killed.  This type of injury is called ‘girdling”. 

In some cases, particularly with rabbit feeding, the top of the plant may be completely detached from the trunk.  This type of injury can be disastrous to a young tree. An evergreen chewed off below its lowest branch will never grow back. A deciduous tree that is chewed off will usually send forth a new shoot the next season, and a new leader may be established. 

Prevention is the only way to protect trees and shrubs from rodent injury since very little can be done to salvage plants once the damage has occurred.  Constructing a physical barrier around new plants is the most effective control, but it can be expensive and time consuming.  Make a cyclinder of hardware cloth, ¼ inch mesh or less in size.  Bury the wire 6 inches in the soil to prevent voles from tunneling under it, and make it tall enough to stand at least two feet above the anticipated snowline so that rabbits will not jump over it.  PVC pipe or black plastic draintile can also be slit to fit around tree trunks, and applied in the same manner as the hardware cloth.

The most economically effective technique for large plantings of windbreak seedlings is to mow grass and weeds near the tree so the growth doesn't become a winter cover for rodents.  Also pull mulches back from the trunk of new plants, to eliminate this source of winter protection for foraging voles.

Close and frequent inspections are recommended during the late fall and winter to discover and solve any rodent problems as soon as possible.

4 Fall Season Tips for Living with Wildlife, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
In winter, squirrels can become a nuisance at bird feeders. 

Close Me Out – As fall weather turns colder, close out unwanted guests such as mice, spiders, insects, wayward snakes, and assertive squirrels. Give your home a walk around inspection. Check for loose or damaged louvers or screens. Check the caulking around pipes where the air conditioner, outside faucets, or other services enter through the foundation. A few minutes spent checking can prevent an open-door invitation to unwanted guests. 

Seeds for Bird Feeding – Bird feeding usually takes an upswing as many people initiate fall bird feeding. Think about the seeds that you offer. One good mix to try is 50% sunflower (small black oil variety preferred), 35% white proso millet, and 15% finely cracked corn. Choosing the right seeds generally attracts more of the right birds and avoids excessive scattering from the feeder. Top it off with a bird bath – a large flower-pot saucer will work. Then find the fascination of feeder birds such as Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, raucous Blue Jays and, by about October, Dark-eyed Juncos. 

Squirrels at Feeders – Squirrels can become a nuisance on bird feeders. To deter squirrels, place feeders at least 7 to 8 feet away from solid tree limbs, fences, or railings, and try to situate feeders so squirrels can’t jump onto them from above. To prevent access from below, erect feeders about 5 feet above the ground so squirrels can’t leap up to them, and add a guard over the feeder pole. One simple but effective guard can be made from aluminum duct pipe, about six inches in diameter and 24 inches long, installed over the feeder pole directly under the feeder. And consider foods squirrels that don’t like, for example safflower seed.


I Am a Christmas Tree, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.

I Am a Christmas Tree

By John Erixson, Nebraska Forest Service

The winter of 2011 was a hard winter, everyone told me, enough snow on the ground to reach the bottom limbs of the 120 foot tall Douglas-fir trees around me. Temperatures near zero most of December and January. Winds were blowing out of the west, coming up the St. Joe River Valley, “it seemed like spring would never come” as the old-timers said.

I sprouted the following April in a place called Spring Creek, Idaho. Spring Creek is a pretty place, mountains on three sides, a crystal clear stream in the bottom of the valley. The mountain peaks in the spring are covered with snow, framed nicely by the rays of the early spring sun. The temperatures began to rise and the spring rains came forth to bring new life to the woods as the grass greened up and the wildflowers began to bloom. Spring Creek is a great place to grow up for a young Christmas tree.

The summer of my first year was warm, in the 50s at night and 80s during the day, with plenty of rain to keep the soil moist. This allowed me to establish my roots in the rich dark loess soils found in Spring Creek and grow more than a foot and a half my first year. I had many friends near me but none too close, so I was able to spread my branches and enjoy the sunlight.

In October winter returned with 2 inches of fresh snow and colder temperatures. Preparing for the long winter ahead, I go dormant, looking forward to the spring ahead. In March the snow began to melt, allowing my leader to poke through the snow for the first time in five months. I am told it was a cold winter by the old-timers, but I was comfortable, insulated from the cold and wind by the many feet of snow above me.  

The sun warms the soil and provides me with energy. As the days grow longer, it is time to open my buds and grow taller. The summer is a little drier than last year, so I only grow another foot. My whorls are a little closer together than most Douglas-fir trees found in the area, but I am okay with that, for I am a Christmas tree.

As the days grew shorter, the winter returned with the first snow in September. Having stored many carbohydrates in my roots, I am ready for the winter ahead as I go dormant. The winter was not as cold and there was less snow, so in February my leader begins to show above the snow. Though the sun was warm, the wind and rains remained cold in the spring of that year. I was slow to want to break bud due to the freezing temperatures at night.

It is June before the temperatures are warm enough for me to start growing. The summer is hot and dry, so I don’t grow a lot. I can see smoke from a wildfire in the next drainage over and hope it does not come this way. Fortunately, it began to rain in early September as winter approached. I am almost 4 feet tall as the snow returns.

As spring returns again in April, my buds break and enjoy the warm sun. I enjoy the ample nutrients and water found in the soil near my roots. I photosynthesize to grow taller and maintain the dark green color of my needles. In July, a man comes along and trims my boughs to keep me nice and neat.

As winter arrives, I again go dormant, knowing this will be an important winter for me.

In November, I get on a truck in St. Maries, Idaho, bound for Lincoln, Neb. I arrive on the lot with many of my friends, knowing we will soon be in warm homes, helping people celebrate the holidays. This is where you find me. Standing before you at 6 feet tall, you select me for my deep green color, firm branches and beautiful shape. I get to come home with you. You decorate me with many multi-colored lights, colorful glass ornaments and silver tinsel. You turn off the overhead lights and plug in my colored lights and admire the sight as I stand proudly in your home, for I am a Christmas tree.  

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


December Landscape Q&A, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Poinsettias can be grown as a houseplant following the holidays, but reblooming a poinsettia requires providing your plant with short days and long nights starting in September. 

December Landscape Q&A

By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

Q. What should I do for my newly planted trees this winter?
A. Make sure they enter the winter well-watered.  Also, lean a light colored board against the southwest side of the tree trunk to prevent sunscald.

Q. I saw some of my newly planted coral bells heave out of the ground already.  Should I worry?
A. I wouldn't worry, but it would be wise to loosen the soil and replant it.  Then, dump about a bushel basket full of wood chips or pine needles over it to lessen the likelihood of this happening again.

Q. How can I prevent my holly and boxwood from browning out this winter?
A.  Apply an anti-transpirant such as Wilt-Pruf or Dwax or Foliocote monthly now through April.  Apply it on warm days above freezing, so that it can dry on the leaves without freezing.

Q. Can I re-bloom my poinsettia or should I just toss it out?
A.  Sure, re-bloom it.  After Christmas, simply grow it as a houseplant.  In September, start limiting the amount of light the plant receives - no more than 12 hours each day.  It should start turning color in mid November.

Q. Why do my houseplants get so long and spindly in winter?
A. Lack of light.  Install grow lights, or if you don't want to spend the money, ordinary shop lights.  Place the bulbs about 12 inches away from the leaves.

Dates Landscape To Dos
December 3-4 Cover carrots and parsnips with thick leaf mold for winter harvesting
December  7-8 Prune aberrant evergreen growth for holiday decorating
December 10-12 Insist on protective wrapping when bringing holiday plants home
December 14-15 Be sure to keep the Christmas tree reservoir filled with fresh water
December  18-19 Inventory leftover garden supplies Inventory leftover garden supplies
December  21-22 Give your friends gardening gifts
December  25-26 Install additional lighting for your houseplants
December  28-29 Inspect potatoes, cannas, geraniums, and dahlias in storage


Natural Decorating with Plants Grown or Gathered, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
For seasonal decorating, the best materials are often nature's own. Many of the plants that are appealling outdoors can be cut and arranged for indoor use as well. 

Natural Decorating with Plants Grown or Gathered

By Karma Larson, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

For seasonal decorating, the best decorations are nature’s own. Many of the plants that are appealing outdoors can be cut and arranged for indoor use as well. If you plan your landscape well, you can walk out your own backdoor to decorate rather than taking a trip to the store. Almost anything that is beautiful to you can qualify. You can also start making a list of things to plant that will find their way indoors in years to come. The possibilities are endless, but below is a list of good plants to grow or gather for natural decorating indoors.

Evergreens of any sort provide a strong basis or structure for indoor arrangements. The bark, branches or twigs from deciduous woody plants like river or paper birch, red or yellow-stemmed dogwood, witchhazel and willows are particularly decorative. For wreathes or swags to tie groupings together or interweave among other plants, use vines from bittersweet, clematis, grape, honeysuckle, Virginia creeper or winter creeper.

How to use these natural elements? They can be gathered in baskets or bowls; grouped with potted indoor plants; placed in ice luminaries; nativity scenes; strung from ribbons and hung from cabinets or doors; table centerpieces or arrangements; tied or attached in the form of swags or wreaths; as tree ornaments; or made into candle holders by cutting branches in varying heights and drilling holes for upright candles or votives.

Plants with berries: coralberry or snowberry; cotoneaster; eastern wahoo; euonymus atropurpurea; redcedar or other junipers; viburnums with the most persistent fruits include blackhaw, cranberrybush, linden and sargent viburnum; wax myrtle (also has semi-evergreen fragrant foliage); and winterberry holly.

Nuts, fruits or seeds: acorns; bayberry has fruit clusters and also fragrant, semi-evergreen foliage; bittersweet; black walnuts; black walnuts; cones from pine, spruce, fir or even baldcypress; crabapples; hazelnuts; osage orange; quince fruit; rose hips—rugosa and redleaf roses are some of the best for hip production; sumac heads; sweetgum seeds.

Dried seedheads: artemisia; beebalm; black-eyed Susan; chinese lantern; dried rose buds; goldenrod; gomphrena; grasses; hydrangea; love-in-a-mist; milkweed pods; money plant; okra pods; penstemon; pine cones; poppies; siberian iris; statice; strawflowers; and yucca.

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


Nebraska Extension Says Farewell to Water Quality Educator Sharon Skipton and Welcomes Meghan Sittler

Farewell to Sharon Skipton, Acreage Insights December 2016.
Sharon and her husband David hiking in Glacier National Park.

By Sharon Skipton, Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator Emeritus and Meghan Sittler, Nebraska Extension Domestic Water & Wastewater Educator

From Sharon...
It has been a joy to work for Nebraska Extension over the past 37-plus years, and I’ve enjoyed being part of the Nebraska Extension Acreage Team that produces this e-newsletter and the web site.  I hope my drinking water and onsite wastewater articles and Q/A entries have helped some of you with your drinking water or wastewater questions or problems. 

I am retired now and am enjoying acreage living with my husband. Like you, we enjoy life outside the city limits. And, like you, we manage our own well, water delivery and treatment infrastructure, and our onsite wastewater treatment system.  We are settling in to retirement and are enthusiastically pursuing this chapter in our life adventure.

Farewell to Sharon Skipton, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Meghan Sittler, new Nebraska Extension Domestic Water and Wastewater Educator. 

It is a great pleasure to announce that a new Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator – Meghan Sittler - is on board. Meghan is superbly qualified for the job.  In addition, she is eager to get started and is ready to work with you on your drinking water and onsite wastewater issues. Please join me in welcoming Meghan. 

Signing Off,
Sharon Skipton.

From Meghan...
I am extremely excited to join Nebraska Extension as the new Domestic Water and Wastewater Educator!  I am thrilled to be able to continue the tremendous work of Sharon Skipton and to be part of the Nebraska Extension Acreage Team.  I look forward to being an unbiased, science-based resource for your questions related to your well, wastewater system and other water-related questions or concerns.  I also will be working closely with well drillers and on-site wastewater service providers that you may interact with for operation and maintenance of your water and wastewater systems. I am based in Lancaster County but will be a resource across the state.

Now to let you know a little bit about me. Water and natural resource management has been central to my education, my career and my personal passion. I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln - both for my undergraduate and graduate degrees.  My previous career stops have included the National Park Service, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, the National Drought Mitigation Center, and most recently the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance. 

I grew up on a farm in southwestern Lancaster County and I later spent several years living on an acreage outside of Lincoln. I’ve moved back into Lincoln but the joys and challenges of living the rural or acreage life are things I have experienced personally throughout my life.  I look forward to sharing my experiences, my knowledge and my passion with all of you!


Winter Care for Horses

Winter Care of Horses, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Winter can be hard on animals, especially horses if they are not cared for properly. 

By Monte Stauffer, Nebraska Extension Educator - Livestock

Cold winter weather can be hard on animals especially horses if they are not cared for properly.  Here are some tips to help your horse handle the cold conditions:

Provide easy access to a clean, fresh water source.  Horses can’t survive very well on snow and ice.  Switching the ration from pasture grass to hay increases the amount of water a horse must drink to maintain a healthy digestive system.

The energy requirements of a horse increases as the air temperature decreases.  Plenty of good quality hay should be fed.  Alfalfa hay usually has more energy than grass hay.  If a horse can’t maintain the proper body condition on hay, grain can be added to increase the energy level of the ration.  Many horses don’t require grain to meet their energy requirements.

Some shelter from the wind should be provided.  Blankets and stalls are not usually necessary if the horse has developed a dense hair coat.  This hair coat protects them from cold temperatures as long as it stays dry.  A wet hair coat provides less insulation.  Poorly ventilated stalls can cause respiratory problems if moisture and ammonia levels are high.

Allow horses to have some exercise.  This increases their appetite and reduces boredom, which causes chewing, biting, and kicking of facilities.

More information on winter horse care can be found in a UNL Extension NebGuide G1873, Winter Care of Horses.


Handling Compromised Animals

Handling Compromised Animals, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.

Ensuring animal welfare is a human responsibility that includes consideration for all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.

By Steve Tonn, Nebraska Extension Educator - Livestock

Even when livestock owners work hard to ensure that their animals are properly cared for through all stages of production, seasonal changes, and economical environment, some animals will become injured, sick or non-ambulatory to the extent that treatment is no longer effective and euthanasia may be necessary.  These animals are considered “compromised animals”.

The percentage of these animals is low but every livestock owner should implement a decision- making process to prevent or minimize pain, discomfort and further deterioration when caring for these animals.
Livestock Quality Assurance programs have developed the following decision-making steps to assist in the early detection of problems and allow caretakers to properly address them in a timely manner.

  • Prevention – Biosecurity plans, herd or flock health programs, facility designs and effective low-stress handling practices, as well as early identification of herd/flock or facility-related problems will help prevent many animal health concerns or issues.
  • Observation – Animals should be observed several times daily, especially during feeding.  Early detection of illness or injury and appropriate treatment are key elements in minimizing disease or discomfort and speed of recovery.
  • Treatment – Treatment should be determined and administered as soon as possible to prevent the animal’s condition from deteriorating.  Consult with your veterinarian to develop treatment strategies for common ailments and herd/flock health vaccination protocols.
  • Separation – Separate compromised animals into a designated “hospital or sick” pen or stall to permit close observation, treatment and easy access to feed and water without competition.  Provide feed and water to non-ambulatory animals at least once daily.  When moving non-ambulatory animals to a “hospital or sick” pen be very careful to avoid compromising their well-being.  Dragging non-ambulatory animals is unacceptable.  Acceptable methods of moving animals include a sled, low-boy trailer, or in the bucket of a loader.  Animals should be gently and humanely moved.
  • Euthanize – All animals unfit for transport, non-ambulatory or unfit for human consumption must be euthanized on-farm.  Do not send these animals to auction markets or processing facilities.  Animals must be able to walk on their own to be taken to a livestock market or any processing facility.  Euthanasia is humane death occurring without pain and suffering.  The decision to euthanize an animal should consider the animal’s well-being.  The owner will most likely need to perform on-farm euthanasia because a veterinarian may not be immediately available to perform the service.  Check with your veterinarian about proper euthanasia methods so you are prepared when and if the time comes.

Reasons for euthanizing animals include:

  • severe emaciation,
  • weak animals that are non-ambulatory or at risk of becoming downers,
  • non-ambulatory animals that will not sit up, refuse to eat or drink, have not responded to therapy,
  • rapid deterioration of a medical condition for which therapies have been unsuccessful,
  • severe, debilitating pain,
  • compound (open) fracture,
  • spinal injury,
  • central nervous system disease,
  • and multiple joint infections with chronic weight loss. 

When treatment is attempted, an animal that is unable to sit up unaided (i.e. lie flat on their side) and refuses to eat or drink should be humanely euthanized within 24-36 hours of initial onset.

Ensuring animal welfare is a human responsibility that includes consideration for all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.


Think Like the House Mouse for Best Control

Think Like the House Moue for Best Control, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Avoid using poisons for mouse control and use traps instead, says Dennis Ferraro, Nebraska Extension Wildlife Specialist. 

By Cheryl Alberts, Pesticide Safety Education Program Project Coordinator

How do you rid your residence of rodents? First, you have to know about their habits.

“If you know how rodents think about the environment, the better you can control them,” said Dennis Ferraro, Nebraska Extension wildlife specialist. The best control is to prevent their entry indoors.

An adult mouse, for example, can squeeze through an opening as small as 3/8 inch; their whiskers tell them whether the opening is large enough. Mice can run up to 6 miles per hour, jump straight up 2.5 feet, jump across 3 feet, and drop 8 feet and keep running. They can vertically climb brick and stucco, and walk the tight rope on 10-gauge wire, about one-tenth inch in diameter.

Within a year, all offspring and subsequent generations from a single pair of mice could add up to 10,000 mice in one year. They urinate and defecate on the go, as many as 80 droppings a day. The black, quarter-inch droppings are pointed on both ends and carry disease-causing organisms. Fleas and bacteria can spread from the mouse even if it is trapped or dead.

The home range of a house mouse is usually a 20-foot radius, though their curiosity can lead them to explore up to 200 feet from their home base. Their preferred path is along walls, whiskers guiding the way.

All this is helpful in trapping and controlling them, Ferraro said. In the science-based, decision-making Integrated Pest Management, sanitation and entry prevention top the list, especially as outdoor temperatures cool.

Those 3/8-inch spaces a mouse can squeeze through to get inside? Pack them with copper wool or stainless steel wool (make sure it is without iron, which will rust), then caulk over. That way, mice can’t chew through or pull out the material.

Think Like the House Mouse for Best Control, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Many different types of traps are available for eliminating mice. 

“Eliminate whatever it is they’re after, whether it’s food, water or nesting products,” Ferraro said. Clean up food and crumbs, and fix water leaks. Even simple things like storing a damp mop on the tip of its handle with its damp head in the air, can prevent mice from obtaining moisture or nest material.

Avoid using mouse poisons and trap them instead, Ferraro said.

“Using baits indoors should be avoided at all costs,” Ferraro said. One reason is because children and pets often are unintentional victims. Plus, mice won’t go outside to die – they’re more apt to crawl into a wall where they can decompose for a month while shedding bacteria and attracting maggots.

When cleaning where mice have been or droppings are found, avoid sweeping and vacuuming. Disease-causing organisms in their droppings spread when airborne. Ensure the area being cleaned is well-ventilated. Wear a respirator or quality dust mask, and spray the area with a disinfectant before cleanup. The moisture in diluted bleach or disinfectant product prevents disease-causing organisms from becoming airborne and inhaled.

Trap Mice with Safety and Sanitation in Mind

In trapping mice, Dennis Ferraro, Nebraska Extension wildlife specialist, recommends following these tips:

  1. Prebait. Put out food the mouse is accustomed to eating, such as peanut butter or chocolate. After the mouse eats the prebait, put the same food firmly on the trap. If the mouse already has access to plenty of food, nesting material such as cotton or twine could be used as bait.
  2. Gloves. Wear gloves when setting the trap.
  3. Travel. Set traps along walls where mice travel. In a snap trap, set the snapping mechanism toward the wall. The mouse is less likely to drag the trap away, or escape. In corners, set two traps, one perpendicular to each wall. Set all traps inaccessible to children and pets.
  4. Glue traps. If using glue traps, place any bait inside a small container such as a bottle cap. This prevents oils from the bait creating a ‘slick’ on top of the glue so mice can get away.
  5. Multi-catch. Multi-catch mouse traps catch several mice at one time without being reset. Mice are contained, as are any bacteria, lice and fleas.
  6. Check. Wearing gloves, check traps twice a day. Bacteria in and around a dead mouse will multiply. Gloves help prevent direct contact with bacteria, lice and fleas.
  7. Sanitation. When disposing a dead mouse, wear latex gloves, spray the corpse with a disinfectant, double bag the corpse and dispose in the trash. Wash and disinfect traps to prevent bacteria from spreading. Wash gloved hands before removing.

For more information about trapping mice, see Controlling House Mice. For information about control and diseases of other pests, see A Nebraskan's Guide to Wildlife.


Healthy(er) Baking, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.

Don't skip the holiday baking. There are ways to increase the healthiness of your baked goods so you can feel good about enjoying them. 

Healthy(er) Baking

By Marni Shoemaker, UNL Dietetic Intern

With the start of fall, it’s a great time to enjoy your warm, freshly baked goods!  Baking is fun to do once chilly weather hits, however, many of those warm comfort foods can be detrimental to your healthy diet.  Most baked goods are full of added sugars and trans fats and should be consumed sparingly.  But I’m here to tell you that there are ways to increase the healthiness of your baked goods so you can feel good about your choice of dessert!

Many substitutions can be made in baked goods to cut down on the calorie, sugar, and fat content while still being delicious.  Follow this chart for easy substitutions to try next time you get out your baking pans!

Instead of This… Use This!
Butter, margarine, shortening Unsweetened applesauce or prune puree
Cream Fat-free half and half or evaporated skim milk
Full Fat Cream Cheese Fat-free cream cheese, low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth, or Greek yogurt
Eggs Two egg whites or ¼ c. egg substitute per 1 whole egg
All-Purpose Flour Whole-wheat flour for half of called for flour
Evaporated Milk Evaporated Skim milk
Whole Milk Reduced-fat or fat-free milk
Sugar Use half the sugar called for and add vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon to add sweetness. Or use an artificial, no or low calorie sweetener, or mashed ripened banana.
Syrup Pureed fruit such as applesauce or low-calorie, sugar-free syrup
Sour Cream Low-fat Greek yogurt
Baking Chocolate (1 oz) 3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 T. polyunsaturated oil
Healthy(er) Baking, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.

Pumpkin Bread


  • 2 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 c. coconut (melt) or vegetable oil 
  • 1 egg + 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. oat flour or 1 c. old fashioned oats, blended
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  • 1/4 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c. walnuts or pecans
  • Can substitute 1/2 cup protein powder for 1/2 a cup of the oat flour


  • Preheat oven to 350° F degrees.
  • Mix all wet ingredients together (mashed banana, pumpkin, oil, eggs and egg whites, and vanilla extract) in a large bowl.
  • Mix all dry ingredients together (all flours, baking powder, cinnamon) in a separate bowl.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring thoroughly.
  • Spray bread loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  • Pour batter into loaf pan.
  • Bake about 45 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Holiday Herbs – Cinnamon, Rosemary and Parsley

By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator

Holiday cooking, and it's wonderful aromas, are often due to the addition of culinary herbs such as cinnamon, rosemary and parsley. Two of these herbs, rosemary and parsley, are easy to grow in the home garden or indoors throughout the winter, providing a source of fresh herbs for cooking.

Holiday Herbs - Cinnamon, Rosemary and Parsley, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Cinnamon is a spice synonymous with the holiday season for many. 

Cinnamon is a spice synonymous with the holiday season for me. The Cinnamonum genus is large, with about 250 species of small trees or shrubs native to east and southeast Asia and Australia. It’s harvested from the inner bark of several species in this family. Different species of cinnamon can be distinguished by the bark color and roll (quill) shape.

  • C. cassia – Cassia or Chinese cinnamon, is the most common type. When purchased, the spice is medium to light reddish brown. The bark is hard and woody in texture, with all bark layers used. Chinese cinnamon is sold as broken pieces of thick bark, since it is not supple enough to roll into quills.
  • C. burmannii – Indonesian cinnamon
  • C. loureiroi – Vietnamese cinnamon. Always sold as broken pieces of thick bark, since the bark is not supple enough to roll into quills.
  • C. verum – Sri Lanka or Ceylon cinnamon is a lighter brown color than C. cassia. Rolls of many thin layers of inner bark are easily ground in a spice or coffee grinder.
  • C. citriodorum – Malabar cinnamon
  • C. tamale – Indian cinnamon

Unfortunately we can’t grow cinnamon in Nebraska, but there are plenty of other herbs we can grow.

Holiday Herbs - Cinnamon, Rosemary and Parsley, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Rosemary is a tender herb in Nebraska that can be grown indoors during winter as a houseplant. 

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a very tender perennial herb, hardy to zone 8-10, that is normally grown as an annual in Nebraska. Rosemary is popular during the holidays as a small Christmas-tree shaped topiary. The plants are very beautiful and aromatic with dark green or gray green leaves and light blue flowers.

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean so prefers hot, sunny climates with high humidity and dry soil. Indoors choose a bright sunny window. Average room temperature, or cool temperatures to 50 ° F, are recommended. If the plant is moved outdoors next summer, in a garden or container, rosemary prefers a sunny location with well-drained soil. But be sure to bring it back inside next fall.

Harvest young stem sections and remove the leaves for use in cooking.

Holiday Herbs - Cinnamon, Rosemary and Parsley, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.
Parsley, an easy-to-grown biennial herb, can also be grown indoors for winter cooking. 

Parsley, Petroselinum crispum, is an easy-to-grow biennial herb usually grown as an annual. Plants are most commonly grown from seed, but are slow to germinate. Be patient, it may take anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks for your seeds to emerge.  Rate of germination is directly related to seed freshness, with newer seed germinating faster. Speed germination by soaking seeds for up to 24 hours in warm water before seeding.

Parsley prefers a sunny window with 6-8 hours of sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Indoors use a well-drained soil-less potting mixture.   

Harvest bunches of leaves for use in cooking or as a garnish.

Growing Herbs Indoors
Herbs grown indoors should be placed in the sunniest window available and may still require supplemental light to do their best especially during winter's short, dark days.  Any fluorescent light fixture will provide a good quality light spectrum for your plants.  Use a timer to provide a minimum of 10 hours of light per day.  Place the herbs as close to the light as possible, 8-10 inches is ideal, since light intensity drops dramatically at greater distances.  Follow the growing guidelines above.

Using Fresh Herbs
Harvest young, tender stems that have not bloomed for the best flavor.  After cutting several stems from your plant, it will regenerate new growth so allow it to keep growing throughout the winter.  Be sure to wash stems well before using, even when growing them inside as houseplants.

Fresh herbs are usually added to recipes toward the end of the cooking time to preserve their flavor.  Less delicate herbs, such as thyme, oregano and sage, should be added during the last 20 minutes of cooking. When using fresh herbs in a recipe that calls for dried herbs, the general guideline is to use 3 times the amount of dried herbs indicated.

For more information on cooking with herbs, take a look at the following publications.


Landscape Workshops Travel the State, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.

Landscape Workshops Travel the State

By Karma Larson, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

The Great Plains is a difficult place to manage landscapes. Free workshops from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum address some of those challenges with presentations in December.

Afternoon sessions from 1-4 p.m. are aimed at professionals, public land managers and grant recipients. They will emphasize resource conservation, biodiversity, native plants, pollinator health, stormwater management, water conservation and community vitality. Workshop leader Justin Evertson said communities will learn about grant funding and other resources to improve and better manage local landscapes.

Evening sessions from 5-7 p.m. are aimed at homeowners and the general public, with ideas to improve home landscapes and the benefits they offer both personally and environmentally. Evertson encourages people to bring photos and questions for roundtable discussions and some “stump the experts” problems.

Workshops are scheduled for the following dates and locations.

  • Dec. 1, Grand Island Public Library
  • Dec. 7, Columbus at Central Community College
  • Dec. 8, Lincoln at the Jane Snyder Trail Center
  • Dec. 9, Omaha at Nebraska Extension- Douglas-Sarpy County, 8015 W. Center Road

For more information or to RSVP, go to or email Justin Evertson.


Farm Beginnings, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2016.

Farm Beginnings Program to Begin January 7th in Nebraska City

By Gary Lesoing, Nebraska Extension Educator

The Farm Beginnings® Program is an educational training and support program designed to help people who want to evaluate and plan their farm enterprise.  Farm Beginnings® participants engage in a mentorship experience and network with a variety of successful, innovative farmers; attend practical, high quality seminars, field days and conferences.  The program is unique in that several successful farmers participate in the program as presenters, explaining firsthand the nuts and bolts of their farming operation. 

Who Should Attend
While this isn’t a program for someone wanting to get into conventional farming, it is a program that has attracted several people interested in farming on a smaller scale, some who have migrated out from urban to rural areas. Participants may be interested in growing alternative crops, producing fruits and vegetables for direct sale to consumers, grocery stores or restaurants.  Others may be interested in growing livestock for direct marketing.  This is an opportunity for people interested in learning about this type of farming from farmers that are doing it and making a living at it. 

The Farm Beginnings® Program consists of a series of 11 sessions from January through April that cover a variety of topics including: building networks, goal setting, whole farm planning, building your business plan, marketing, business and farm management and financial management.  While the class participants will learn firsthand from the farmers, they will also work on developing their own business plan as they progress through the course.

We also schedule a farm tour early in the course and tour several farms in the summer to see how the farmers are operating.  If interested, participants also have the opportunity to have a farmer mentor.

One past participant in the class said, “This program had a huge impact.  I have improved my business plan, my overall efficiency and continue to try new ideas I thought to not be possible.”  Any beginning farmer would benefit from attending these training sessions.  Most of the farmers that present come from small to medium sized farming operations that produce and market many different diversified and value-added products.  Many of these farmers direct market their products.

Healthy Farms Conference
As part of the class tuition, participants will also have the opportunity to attend the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society’s Healthy Farms Conference at Columbus on January 27th and 28th.  This is a conference that has been held annually for a number of years and has sessions that focus on topics in sustainable agriculture, such as vegetable production, grass-fed beef, pasture poultry, meat and dairy goat production, composting, cover crops, organic farming, growing crops in high-tunnels, bee keeping, farm transitioning and agri-tourism. 

Cost of the total program is $500, but you may qualify for a partial scholarship. For more information about the program contact Gary Lesoing, Extension Educator at or at (402) 274-4755, Nebraska Extension in Nemaha County.

Farm Beginnings 2017 Program Brochure (pdf)
Farm Beginnings Application

Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society are facilitating the Farm Beginnings® Program to be held in Nebraska City at the Kimmel Education and Research Center at 5985 G Road Nebraska City, NE  68410.