Life Outside the City Limits
- New NebGuides Will Help Rural Nebraskans Protect Private Drinking Water Supplies
- Parturition In Livestock
- Brooding and Rearing Ducks & Goslings
- Stand By Your Stream
- Ultrasonic Devices and Deer Whistles: Do They Work?
- Leaves Get In The Way
- Three Things Not To Do When Pruning Trees
- 10 Garden Rules
- Marestail- aka Horseweed
- Phragmites- Winter Is The Best Time To Spot
- February Is American Heart Month
New NebGuides Will Help Rural Nebraskan's Protect Private Drinking Water Supplies
By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Educator
A series of six new University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension NebGuides will help rural families protect their private drinking water supplies. The NebGuides, developed by UNL Extension faculty Sharon Skipton, Jan Hygnstrom, and Wayne Woldt, are available at water.unl.edu/drinkingwater/publications, and can be downloaded free of charge.
Groundwater provides nearly all the drinking water in rural Nebraska. The layers of soil, sand, and gravel above groundwater aquifers provide some, but not complete protection from contamination. Groundwater can be contaminated when pollution sources are not managed carefully. By increasing knowledge and using careful management, rural families can greatly reduce the risk of contamination to their private drinking water supply, often with little or no cost or effort.
The six new NebGuides are designed to help rural families evaluate the activities around their acreage or farmstead that can present a risk to their water supply. The NebGuides also provide information on how to reduce risks and better protect the health of family members. Some of the information will be reassuring, while some may encourage people to modify certain practices. Either way, people with private drinking water wells will have the information they need to do the best possible job of protecting their family's drinking water.
If a well is poorly located, constructed, or maintained, pollutants such as bacteria or nitrate may contaminate the groundwater serving as the drinking water source. A contaminated well can pose a serious health threat to water users. The NebGuide "Protecting Private Drinking Water Supplies: Water Well Location, Construction, Condition, and Management" will help people evaluate possible risks associated with their well.
Most rural families use a septic system or lagoon to treat wastewater and return it to the environment. A poorly designed, located, constructed, or maintained wastewater treatment system can contribute to groundwater contamination. Potential contaminants in household wastewater include disease-causing bacteria, infectious viruses, household chemicals, and excess nutrients, such as nitrate. The NebGuide "Protecting Private Drinking Water Supplies: Wastewater (Sewage) Treatment System Management" will help people evaluate the type of onsite wastewater treatment system in use, the return of treated wastewater to the environment, and potential threats to the well.
Watch next month for information on the four remaining topics covered by this series of publications.
The series of publications is the result of a collaborative effort between the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the Nebraska Well Drillers Association, and the Nebraska Onsite Waste Water Association, all of whom place a high priority on protecting Nebraska's drinking water resources. Partial funding was provided by the Nebraska Well Drillers Association, the Nebraska Onsite Waste Water Association, and the Water Well Standards and Contractors' Licensing Board.
We're having another typical Nebraska winter - January saw temperatures from 60 degrees to windchills of -11! During those cold days we're sure to experience in February, you may want to think about food for good health, good agricultural practices, and soil moisture in your yard.
Sarah Browning, University of Nebraska Extension, describes GAPs - good agricultural practices for commercial vegetable growers and home gardeners. Understand the practices recommended for your farm to keep your produce safe.
Parturition in Livestock
By Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Educator
Late winter and early spring are common times for domesticated livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats to have their young. Parturition is defined as the process of giving birth. Ensuring that parturition goes smoothly is the key to avoiding newborn losses as well as maintaining the well-being of the mother.
A majority of births occur without any incidents or problems; however, things can go wrong during parturition that livestock owners must be prepared to deal with when they occur. In general the process for parturition is similar for all mammals, but it does vary from species to species. Every livestock owner should know the process that is specific to the animals they raise.
Parturition is the defining moment of the entire pregnancy that determines whether or not live offspring are produced. Generally speaking, there are three stages of parturition. It is very important that during parturition the animal moves smoothly through the three stages in a reasonable amount of time to ensure a safe and normal birth.
The first stage of parturition is known as the Preparatory Stage. It is during this stage that the female prepares to give birth. Some signs that parturition is near include, the female becomes restless and may be seen raising her tail and separating herself from the herd. In addition, there may be mucus discharge from the vulva, decreased body temperature, filling of the mammary glands with milk, and mild straining. Behavioral signs include nesting behavior and possibly stealing other newborns in the herd.
During the preparatory phase, the fetus rotates itself from the position that it has maintained throughout the pregnancy into the position required for parturition. Fetal membranes may be visible as they protrude out through the vulva at this time.
The second stage of parturition is the Expulsion Stage. It is at this point that the walls of the uterus begin to contract more frequently and with increased force, thus pushing the fetus into the birth canal. When the contractions become strong enough, the fetus is actually forced out of the female's body, hence the name Expulsion Stage. Once an animal has entered this stage, delivery should occur fairly soon; otherwise, there may be difficulties preventing normal delivery. The proper position for a calf, lamb or kid exiting the birth canal is facing forward with its back up and its head resting between its front legs. Any other presentation is considered malpresentation, and more than likely will lead to difficulties in giving birth.
The final stage of partition is the Cleaning Stage. It is at this point in the process that the afterbirth, or the placenta, is expelled from the body. In order for the animal to make a normal, healthy recovery from parturition, the afterbirth must be expelled. If the fetal membranes and fluid remain in the animal, they can become infected and lead to serious illness and possible death of the mother.
Giving birth is a miracle that livestock owners get to see often first hand. Knowing the stages of parturition and knowing how and when to assist the mother, adds to this wonderful experience.
Source: Parturition in Livestock ; Neary and Hepworth. Purdue Extension AS-561-W.
Ducks and goslings can be raised in much the same way as baby chicks. In fact, broody hens can be used to care for young ducks and goslings, just as they would their own chicks. Ducks and geese are hardy and are not susceptible to many of the common poultry diseases. This makes them easy to raise.
Learn more with Brooding and Rearing Ducks & Gooslings.
If a stream runs through your acreage, actions taken on your property will affect water quality and quantity in the stream, as well as health and ecology of fish and other aquatic life.
For more information on how to maintain a healthy streamside buffer, review Cornell University listing Do's and Don'ts to help protect streams. "Stand By Your Stream: Streamside Management Do's and Don'ts".
Ultrasonic Devices and Deer Whistles: Do They Work?
By Barb Ogg, UNL Extension Educator
People contemplating a move to rural living often don't realize how extensive the pest load is likely to be. These folks often call the extension office for help dealing with the hoards of home invaders. Home invaders include mice and a wide variety of insects and spiders.
It is ingrained in the human condition to find easier ways to do things. It is the reason why people buy ultrasonic devices. These devices have existed for many years and are marketed through mail-order companies, home shopping cable channels and gardening magazines. They are readily being sold on the Internet and at hardware and other stores.
Manufacturers claim these devices use ultra-high frequency sound waves to chase away pests from rodents to spiders. But, do they work?
I decided to check out credible sources of information on the internet to see if I could find recent information about the effectiveness of ultrasonic devices. For me, credible sources include university websites (with the .edu suffix) or research articles by scientists.
Insect pests. I found a nicely written fact sheet from Dini Miller and Phil Koehler (2009), called Least Toxic Cockroach Control. In this fact sheet they note, "Ultrasonic devices are frequently advertised as a non-toxic method of cockroach control. However, extensive research has shown that these devices neither kill nor repel cockroaches ..."
Other research has shown ultrasonic collars do not drive fleas off cats and dogs or change flea activity patterns. And, ultrasonic bracelets do not repel mosquitoes or change mosquito behavior.
Wildlife. I found a number of research publications whose authors looked at the effectiveness of these devices on wildlife. None of these research articles concluded ultrasonic devices were effective at repelling or deterring wildlife pests.
Researchers found they did not repel wildlife, including rats and mice, white-tailed deer, bats, cats, starlings, pigeons and other bird species.
Why don't these devices work? Many animals hear in the same range humans do. Others may hear higher frequencies, but may not be highly irritated by the sound. Even if they can hear the ultrasound frequency, animals readily become habituated to repeated sounds. They quickly learn the ultrasound isn't dangerous and return to their normal activities.
Another reason ultrasonic frequencies don't work is they are very weak and drop off rapidly with distance from the source. Half the energy of ultrasound produced is gone at 15 feet, and no energy remains at 30 feet. Ultrasound is blocked by objects like walls and furniture and it can't travel through walls and around corners.
It is possible for ultrasound to cause convulsions and permanent damage, but the sound intensity must be so great it would also damage humans and domestic animals. Commercial ultrasonic pest control devices do not produce sounds of this intensity.
Why are these devices still being marketed? The FTC has repeatedly tried gone after the companies that manufacture these devices. The companies are shut down, but the company changes the ultrasonic frequency and begins selling them again. If only people stopped buying these devices, companies would stop selling them.
There are plenty of non-toxic or low-toxic methods to keep pests outside, but admittedly, they take more work. For mouse and invading insects, seal cracks and crevices.
Eliminate weedy growth or vegetation near the house.
For controlling mice indoors, check out Moue Trapping 101, on the December 2011 acreage newsletter.
Deer whistles? While on the same internet search, I found information about another type of "sound" repeller: the deer whistle. I have relatives who have purchased these devices, which are mounted on the front of the car or truck. Air rushing through the whistle is supposed to make a sound which alerts animals and keep them from crossing the road, hence preventing deer-car accidents.
Do these work? Very unlikely.
A University of Connecticut researcher found the whistles produce a signal either at a frequency of 3 kilohertz (kHz) or 12 kHz. Because white-tailed deer has a hearing range of 2 kHz -6 kHz, it cannot even hear the 12 kHz signal.
It is possible for a deer to hear the 3 kHz signal, but the sound is drowned out by the road noise created by the car. Some whistle manufacturers claim deer can hear the sound a quarter mile away, but this has not been verified by research.
The Ohio State police installed deer whistled on patrol cars and found no significant subsequent decrease in deer accidents.
So, if you've got a deer whistle on your car or truck, don't count on it very much to keep the deer on the side of the road. Your best protection is to drive carefully, especially at sunrise and sunset when deer are hard to see. And, if you see one deer, slow down....there will often be another deer behind it.
By Nicole Haxton, UNL Extension Educator
A word that no one wants to hear, but everyone should be aware of is cockroach. Cockroaches can be found in homes any time of the year, but hopefully never. These insects can cause a real bad infestation problem in your home. We all need to be aware of the problems, how to identify cockroaches, and how to control them if they get into our homes.
There are four main types of cockroaches that we may sometimes find in our homes; German cockroaches, oriental cockroaches, brown-banded cockroaches, and American cockroaches. These are the four species that can become quite numerous and be very invasive in our homes, if they find their way in initially.
German cockroaches are small, light brown roaches with two black stripes that run length-wise down their pronotum, or the area behind their head. These cockroaches are most commonly found in the kitchen or in the bathroom. German cockroaches are one of the two most common cockroaches found in the home and they can multiply very quickly.
The second most common is the oriental cockroach. Oriental cockroaches are a slightly larger cockroach than the German roach, typically. Oriental cockroaches are also a shiny black color. Oriental cockroaches are typically found in basements of homes because they prefer to live in an environment that is cool and damp.
Another, less commonly found, cockroach is the Brownbanded cockroach. Brownbanded cockroaches are so named because they are dark brown in color with two lighter brown bands across their abdomen. These cockroaches are commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms, but can also be found in living rooms and bedrooms.
The fourth kind of cockroach that you may find in your home is the American cockroach. These are more often found in restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels. This cockroach is also the largest of the common cockroaches to be found in Nebraska. American cockroaches are a reddish-brown color and will fly readily, unlike the other cockroaches that do not typically fly around your home.
It is important to control cockroaches if they get into your home because they reproduce often and tend to grow in population size quickly. They also can spread germs to humans that cause diseases. When a cockroach is in your home, it will dig through your trash looking for things it can eat such as food scraps and other garbage. They will then travel around your kitchen possibly walking on your counters, dishes, and silverware, depositing these germs like e coli and salmonella onto your clean dishes that you may eat off of.
Control of cockroaches can be very difficult. There are methods you can try on your own to control them, but you still may want to work with a pest control operator to ensure that the infestation is managed adequately. You should start your control efforts with sticky traps to determine the species of cockroach as well as an approximate population size. After that you should make sure to eliminate their food source and their hiding places. Keep your home clean and free of clutter. Finally, you can use baits and dusts that you can get from the box stores or the hardware stores to kill the population. Be sure to always read and follow the label when using any kind of pesticide. The dusts can be beneficial to get into the cracks where the cockroaches are. The baits are effective and easier to apply but they make take longer to start working.
Leaves Get in the Way
By John Fech, UNL Extension Educator
February is a good time of year to evaluate tree health, especially for trees that you may have been wondering about for a while. Why? Sometimes leaves get in the way of being able to observe defects and make an accurate determination of the current status. Without leaves, the job of detecting cracks, co-dominant leaders, root plate defects, leaning and decay is much easier.
When it comes to tree evaluation, it's best to leave it to the pros. Perhaps the best approach is one that utilizes a checklist format, so that comparison of several firms can be made. These are the factors for your checklist:
- Certification. This is very important. Ask the firm if they employ workers that have been certified by the Nebraska Arborists Association or the International Society of Arboriculture. Certification is not required by any city or the State of Nebraska, but is a good measure of competence. Some municipalities require that arborists be licensed, which is a minimum qualification.
- References. Ask the potential company for addresses of properties with trees that were damaged similarly to yours. Drive by and take a look at the finished work. If possible, chat with clients of the company.
- Insurance. Ask the company for a certificate of insurance. Check the policy to make sure that it is in force currently. Workers compensation, and proof of liability for personal and property damage is important. If the worker makes a mistake and drops a limb through the roof and into your living room, you need protection.
- Claims and Practices. Beware of a tree service that advertises "tree topping" as one of its services. This is not an approved practice, rather is a harmful one. Avoid a tree service whose workers use tree spikes to climb a tree. Climbing spikes open unnecessary wounds and are only acceptable when removing a tree.
- Expense. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Good tree work is not inexpensive. A professional service must pay workers a reasonable wage, purchase good equipment, purchase insurance, etc. Beware of an estimate that falls well below the average.
Three Things Not To Do When Pruning Trees
By Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator
February through March is one of the best times to prune shade trees; if and when they need pruning. Here are three things not to do when pruning shade trees.
- Do not be in too big of a hurry to remove the lowest branches on young trees.
- Do not thin out large branches in shade trees to try and reduce the crowns weight.
- Do not top trees.
When pruning young shade trees, the lower branches are typically removed to raise the height of the lowest branch for head and mowing clearance. Unless you want a tree whose branches drape close to the ground, which is fine to do, this is a good pruning practice. However, do not be in too big of a hurry remove the lowest branches on newly planted trees.
Research shows the extra leaves and green tissue on these branches produce food, through photosynthesis, that young tree needs for establishment and to fight off attacks by diseases and insects due to transplanting stress. Trunk diameter also becomes larger more quickly when lower branches are left on for a while.
Unless a lower branch is a major nuisance, wait about two to three years after planting to begin removing lower branches. Then gradually remove them by pruning one or two off each year until the lowest branch is at the desired height, usually six to eight feet above ground.
Do try to remove lower branches before they reach two inches in diameter as smaller wounds close over quicker. Make the correct pruning cut just outside the branch bark ridge and branch collar. Do not make flush cuts and do not use pruning paints or wound dressings on pruning cuts after pruning.
Tree care professionals are sometimes asked to prune large branches from shade trees to decrease the weight of the trees crown. It is believed this will make the tree less likely to blow or fall over in wind storms; however, this is incorrect thinking. By doing this, a tree may become more susceptible to branch breakage in wind and ice storms.
The majority of a trees weight is in the trunk, not in the branches. Removing large branches from the crown of a tree will not have much affect on the trees weight. Trees do not fall or blow over because they become top heavy. Trees fail because of root problems, trunk decay, or severe winds.
Removing large branches that do not need to be removed creates large wounds for decay organisms to invade trees; and promotes sucker growth. Suckers are a trees response to stress, such as the loss of one or more large branches. Suckers grow from latent buds found just beneath the bark of trees.
A number of suckers can develop from one pruning cut and each sucker can eventually become quite large and heavy. Because they have weak attachments to the main branch they are growing from, suckers are more likely to break during wind and ice storms than regular branches. This is the also reason trees should not be topped.
If you think a large tree or large branches of a shade tree need pruning, ask for the opinion of a respected Arborist. If pruning is needed, use the services of a certified Arborist to prune large trees for safety reasons.
10 Garden Catalog Rules
By John Fech, UNL Extension Educator
Garden catalogs are being delivered to the mailboxes of Midwest gardeners, acreage owners and other property owners throughout January. These colorful guides can be an asset if used with these 10 rules in mind.
- Start off with a landscape sketch and a list of current needs for the property. Hey, you don't go to the grocery store without a list for fear stuffing everything that looks good at the time into your grocery cart, so why would you start looking at a garden catalog without a list?
- Find the "holes" in your landscape and fill them with plants from the catalog. In this context, holes are places where plants have died due to disease or need to be replaced because they were annuals.
- Choose plants that are hardy to zones 2-5 only....unless you're a riverboat gambler and are willing to risk the entire investment of time and money.
- Choose plants with built-in disease resistance and drought tolerance. You can save big bucks on preventing diseases through resistance rather than spraying fungicides. Likewise, if a plant that is touted to be drought tolerant and provide the same color and other features, it just makes good sense to give it a try.
- Keep size and shape in mind as you peruse the plethora of options. After all, plants grow, and if you treat them well, they'll probably grow to be larger than you expect. Strive for a balance between immediate impact and eventual crowding or need for shearing and pruning.
- Location, location, location. Evaluate the location of the planting site and consider whether the spot is sunny, semi-shady, filtered or dappled shady or really shady. Soil and slope are important location aspects as well, as it's important to hold sufficient water near the roots to supply their needs, but not so much that they rot off from excess.
- Consider views. As you sit inside your cozy house with a cup of hot cocoa this winter, gaze outside towards the areas that you want to brighten up with garden catalog plants. If one side of your house doesn't have any windows and you don't spend much time there during the summer, that's probably not the part of the landscape to enhance.
- Strive for color in all seasons. Whether it's spring blooms, summer leaves, fall color or winter fruit, choose plants based on what they provide at various times of the year.
- Both accent plants and neutral plants are needed in a landscape. This embodies the key concept of mass/void. Too many accent plants are distracting, while too many neutrals can be boring or monotonous. If you need help with this, hire a landscape designer from a full service garden center; their assistance is usually well worth the expense.
- Try at least one new plant in 2012 - maybe an ornamental that is also edible....maybe a favorite that Grandma grew that you just recently discovered or possibly a plant that was featured on Backyard Farmer.
Marestail- aka Horseweed
By Mary Anna Anderson, UNL Extension Assistant
Marestail, Conyza canadensis, is an annual weed found throughout all of the United States including Alaska, Hawaii, and even Canada. This is one weed native to the U.S. that has invaded Europe. It is in the aster family.
This weed starts out as a rosette that lays close to the ground. At this point it can be confused with shepherd's purse or Virginia pepper weed. Marestail will grow in almost any soil, whether moist or dry, but prefers disturbed sites. While this weed can form colonies in ideal sites, it rarely becomes a serious problem.
The plant grows into large, roughly hairy stalks that can reach over 6.5 feet tall. Marestail is readily identifiable by the narrow alternate leaves that attach directly to the stem without a petiole. The edges of the leaves may be hairy. Some people mistake this plant for goldenrod while marestail is young. But goldenrod has shiny smooth leaves, whereas marestail is dull with hairs on the edges.
The plant branches at the top where flower stalks emerge at the base of the leaves. The flowers are small, white, sometimes pink. Flowers start out looking like small green vases with petals coming from the top. When they go to seed they look like tiny dandelions. The seed is an achene, which is readily dispersed by the wind. In Missouri the plant is considered one of the top problem plants for fall allergy sufferers.
Marestail has no known forage value for domestic livestock, and contains volatile oils, tannic acid and gallic acid that my cause irritation to mucous membranes of animals, especially horses. The plant is beneficial for a number of small wasps and flies who seek the nectar from the flowers.
Phragmites - Winter Is The Best Time To Spot
By Brent Meyer, Lancaster County Weed Control Superintendent
Most of us have gladly forgotten about noxious weeds during the winter months. However, the winter months are the easiest time of year to spot phragmites infestations that might be invading your property.
What to look for?
Check out the publication "Phragmites vs. Ornamental Grass Identification" for images of common ornamental grass compared to Phragmites.
Winter Stand of Phragmites
When and How to Control?
Three Ways To Spread
Why should I be concerned?
How can I learn more about Phragmites?
February Is American Heart Month
By Lisa Franzen-Castle, UNL Extension Nutrition Specialist
In Nebraska, heart disease is the leading cause of death. About 1 in every 10 Nebraska adults has been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, or have had a heart attack or stroke; placing them at extremely high risk for future heart attacks and strokes.
Did you know that February is American Heart Month, and not because of Valentine's Day? Since 1963 Congress has required the president to proclaim February "American Heart Month" to raise public awareness about heart disease.
Although many associate heart disease with men, it's also the leading cause of death among women. Check out the following tips on how to be heart smart this February.
Tips for Being Heart Smart
- Know your Risks: Learn about your health risks at hearthub.org by taking risk assessments on diabetes, heart attack, and high blood pressure. Remember, knowledge is power, and knowing your risk is the key to keeping yourself healthy. Go to hearthub.org, scroll down the page and click on "What's Your Risk?"
- Warning Signs: Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, whereas most start slow, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Heart attack warning signs can include chest discomfort, discomfort in the upper body, shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness. The most common heart attack symptom for men and women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are somewhat more likely than men to have other common symptoms, especially shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Remember minutes matter and fast action can save lives.
- Lifestyle Changes: A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. Remember it's the overall pattern of your choices that counts. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories. Choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often. Research shows exercise helps prevent heart disease and obesity, and lowers blood pressure. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes on most days. You can even spread it out over the course of your day.
- Quit Smoking: Did you know that cigarette smokers are two-to-three times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than nonsmokers? Don't waste time when it comes to quitting smoking. Within a few years of quitting, your risk of stroke and coronary artery disease are similar to non-smokers. Visit americanheart.org and smokefree.gov for more information and resources on quitting.
Being more aware of your health risks and what the warning signs are for cardiovascular problems is the first step to becoming more heart smart. Making small, manageable, and lasting lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and being more active, is the key to reaching and maintaining your health goals. For more food, nutrition, and health information check out food.unl.edu.