Adapting Your Garden As You Age

Tips For The Aging Gardener

Love gardening but afraid your body can no longer physically handle the work? A few simple adjustments can help make the work easier, allowing you to continue enjoying your hobby.

Like an athlete, the gardener develops gardening skills through repeated activities like digging, weeding, mulching, etc. We learn how to use tools to get the job done with the least amount of efforts and the best results.

gardening tips

Through my wife, an occupational therapist, I have learned a lot about adapting physical activities to fit a person’s ability. Her background includes work with children and seniors.

I have been gardening and landscaping since the late 1970s. Following my back surgery in 1995, I discovered the importance of proper lifting, carrying, and digging techniques for gardening. Recommended habits can be modified. Don’t wait for back surgery to take a look at your gardening habits. I still garden and do strenuous work, but I listen to my body and take a break, change my position, or stop when needed. Well, sometimes I go past my limit — but not far — and when I do, I pay more attention to my posture. Staying active is important to maintain endurance, flexibility, and energy.

The Aging Gardener

When we age, endurance is often the first thing to go. We can’t work as long. We feel weak, unable to lift and move plants like we used to, and familiar tasks take longer to complete. If you’re having these experiences, it might be necessary to reevaluate the size of the garden or change its maintenance requirements. Reduce the overall maintenance of deep perennial beds, for example, by making them narrowing and backing them with shrubs.

The loss of flexibility is also one of the first signs of aging. An injury or development of arthritis are among several things that can cause reduced flexibility. This limits our ability to maneuver in the garden: getting up and down, twisting or changing position while pulling weeds or picking flowers, and cleaning up dead leaves. Of course, gardening does help us maintain flexibility. Reduced flexibility needs to be considered when we decide what needs to be changed to make it easier to maneuver in the garden.

Additional limiting changes include poor balance and persistent back and joint pain. Once these changes start, gardening becomes more of a challenge, so modifying your garden as you develop it could help in the long run.

Adapting Your Garden As You Age

Let’s look at the garden. What is the size and layout of your garden? Is your garden large with numerous perennial plantings and border gardens, or is it smaller, including just the area surrounding your house with maybe a small vegetable garden? The style, size, and area of your garden will determine the approach needed when making modifications so that you can enjoy gardening again.

Note that annual and perennial plantings need a lot of maintenance because of their constant change and growth rate. Lawns, trees, and shrubs also require maintenance but not as often as flower beds.

We don’t want to limit our garden, build expensive raised beds, and, most of all, reduce the size of our garden once it is established because there are always new plants to try. We should look ahead. Look at what has recently changed in your ability to maintain your garden. What are your immediate limitations? Decide what you will be able to handle and still enjoy gardening. Will you be able to have someone available to help (maybe a family member or young gardening enthusiast) to keep your garden as it is?

gardening as you age

Gardens are a collective of plants that we desired to grow at one point or another. Some, though attractive, are not your favorite. Select those plants that are your favorites and reconsider how to handle the rest. Changes based on a landscape plan can be made all at once or over a period of years. If you decide to do the work yourself, start with your most labor-intensive space. Look for plants that need less attention. Reduce the overall maintenance of deep perennial beds by making them narrower then backing them with shrubs. Another solution might be creating a pollinator garden that requires minimum upkeep and can be mown off once a year.

Reduce reaching distance and amount of leaning forward to pull weeds or spread mulch. If you can only access a bed from one side, ensure it is no wider than two feet. Beds accessible from both sides can be four feet in width.

To make the work easier, use quality tools and keep them clean and sharp. A rusty shovel is more difficult to dig with because the soil will stick to it more. A sharp hoe will cut through weeds easier than a dull one. Consider automatic watering and semi-automatic watering systems for gardening to reduce the amount of hand watering. Soaker hoses and single drip emitters are two options.

Making Your Garden More Accessible

Once you have decided what changes to make to your garden, you can make them yourself with family help or hire a landscaper to install them for you.

The design of large gardens will need to provide easy access to all the plants with wide, level walkways on both sides of four-foot-wide beds. Create shaded areas in the garden using trellises, gazebos, and small trees so you can get out of the sun a while. Benches provide a comfortable place to sit and rest.

Walkways should be wide and level enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Turf, smooth recessed stepping stones, or paving stones make a good surface for wheelchair access. Mulch and loose gravel are often hard to push through and can also become a slipping hazard.

Smaller garden areas can be created using a number of large containers grouped together or as single planters.

Container Gardening

container gardening

Container gardening can reducing your gardening stress, and the many different and attractive containers available add interesting focal points to your garden.

You can also turn just about anything into a container garden. From teapots to milk jugs, wooden dressers to wine barrels, let your creativity run wild!

Raised Bed Gardening

Consider installing raised beds that reduce bending over by allowing you to work in a standing or seated position. Standing, you may be able to maintain a three-foot-deep bed, while two feet is manageable if seated.

raised bed gardening

Raised beds can be a very attractive part of a landscape, defining walkways and providing a more formal appearance. Height often varies from six inches to three feet tall. Raised beds can be constructed in many styles using a wide variety of materials, including treated wood, concrete blocks, stone, and more. Various shapes and curves can be included to help blend the raised garden into your existing landscape, making it both attractive and functional.

Vertical Gardening

Unique garden features like vertical gardening with wall planters and trellises allow you to work while standing up. You can buy a premade trellis or build one yourself. Pots can be stacked or arranged on a riser. Like container gardening, vertical gardening is an opportunity to get creative in the garden.

vertical gardening ideas

Growing vegetables using vertical trellises reduces bending and picking. Many vegetables grow well when trellised. Cucumbers, beans, squash, and melons can all climb the traditional store-bought garden trellis.

Straw Bale Gardening

Another simplified gardening method that lifts your garden, making it more accessible, is straw bale gardening. This gardening method can be incredibly productive. It also cuts out all of the digging and cultivating that can be hard on the body. Straw bale gardening does, however, require several weeks of setup. A good guidebook is Straw Bale Gardens – The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and With No Weeding by Joel Karsten.

Reduce Your Garden Stress

Every garden and every gardener is unique. Consider your body type and abilities when adapting your garden as you age. Understand that your garden is limited by your physical abilities and personal interests as well as the location of the garden itself.

  • Reduce the overall size of the garden
  • Trade out high maintenance annuals and perennials for lower maintenance shrubs and trees
  • Reduce the amount of reaching, leaning, and bending with raised bed and vertical gardens
  • Garden small with container gardening
  • Keep your tools in good shape so they’re easier to work with

With these tips in mind, make changes that allow you to continue enjoying your gardening hobby without the stress of a high-maintenance landscape.

Written by Michael Boice, Oldham County Extension Horticulture Assistant. Edited by Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant.

Reference: National AgrAbility Project, ‘Arthritis and Gardening: A Guide for Home Gardeners and Small-Scale Producers.’ Purdue University, 2016.

Kentucky Native Fruit Trees

Fruit Trees Native to Kentucky

Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, peaches, and grapes ─ we eat these common fruits every day. Local sources for these fruits, however, can be difficult to find due to their preference for a longer, warmer growing season. Kentucky native fruit trees are adapted to grow in our varying soil types and withstand our unpredictable weather.

KY Native Fruit Trees

KY native plum

American Plum (Prunus americana)

The winter-hardy American Plum is a small tree, reaching a mature height of only fifteen feet. It grows wild across the eastern two-thirds of North America, forming thorny thickets that provide habitats for birds and other wildlife. The red to yellow fruit is popular with deer as well as humans. Kentucky plums can be eaten fresh or using in baking and canning. Due to unreliability of fruit production in Kentucky, plums are usually only commercially grown as a secondary crop.

Other names for the American Plum include American wild plum, Osage plum, river plum, thorn plum, wild yellow plum, red plum, August plum, and goose plum.

KY black cherry tree

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

The Black Cherry Tree produces Kentucky’s largest cherries which ripen in August and September. The bitter-sweet fruit is popular for jelly and wine making. Birds help spread Black Cherry seeds, but it also readily self-seeds. It can tolerant a wide variety of soils and conditions, the exception being full shade. Mature trees often reach a height of fifty to sixty feet. Black Cherry wood is hard, close-grained, and strong, making it popular in woodworking.

Farmers should note that this tree’s bark, leaves, and twigs are poisonous to livestock. Deer, however, can eat the leaves without problem.

KY native pawpaw fruit

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

Found in wooded areas, the Kentucky native Pawpaw is the largest native fruit in North America. Pawpaws are commonly described as tasting like a mix of banana and mango or pineapple. The fruit has high nutritional value, being an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and protein. Pawpaw fruit surpass apples, grapes, and peaches in magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur. Wildlife such as birds, raccoons, and opossums enjoy the fruit, and zebra swallowtail butterfly larva feed on young pawpaw foliage. With some effort, you can grow pawpaws from seed.

Most pawpaw trees grow fifteen to twenty feet in height but can reach up to forty feet if conditions are optimal. The champion Kentucky pawpaw is in Letcher County.

Kentucky State University, one of Kentucky’s land-grant universities, is home to the world’s only full-time pawpaw research program. In 2009, the horticulture program released ‘KSU-Atwood,’ a new pawpaw variety named after Rufus B. Atwood who served as college presdent from 1929 to 1962. This variety is a heavy producer ─ more than 150 fruits from a single tree!

KY native persimmon

Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)

Native Persimmon trees grow in Kentucky’s woodlands. Tolerating a range of pH levels, persimmons prefer moist, well-drained soil but can flourish in dry areas as well. Its interesting bark is thick, grey to black in color, and broken up in scaly, square blocks. The wood is very hard and has found use as golf clubs and flooring. When the berry ripens in the fall, the skin turns wrinkly, and persimmons become edible to humans. Persimmons taste similar to dates and can be used in breads, cakes, puddings, and beverages. You can also eat persimmons fresh or dried.

Cooking oil can be extracted from persimmon seeds. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers boiled the seeds in substitution for coffee.

Winter-hardy and adaptable, Kentucky persimmon trees suffer few pests and diseases. Some trees further south may be susceptible to vascular wilt. It can develop black leaf spot, and tent caterpillars can be problematic.

KY native sassafras

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Common across Kentucky, Native Sassafras is readily seeded by birds which love its fruit. The dark blue berries contrast beautifully to the bright red stems on which they grow. Sassafras trees thrive in moist, well-drained, acidic soil with full sun to partial shade but can also tolerate drier, rockier soil. Filé, a Creole spice used in gumbo, is made by grinding dried sassafras leaves. The fragrant bark and roots have been used to make tea and root beer but contain an oil called safrole, a proven carcinogen in mice and rats. In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration banned direct use of safrole in food although spices are still permissible.

Most sassafras trees mature to a height of thirty to sixty feet with a spread of twenty-five to forty feet. The national champion sassafras ─ located in Owensboro, Kentucky ─ is seventy-eight feet tall with a sixty-nine-foot spread.

KY Native Berry Fruits

KY native elderberry

American Black Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

Only four to twelve feet in height, the American Black Elderberry forms thickets that provide habitat to more than fifty species of birds and small mammals. White-tailed deer feed on the twigs, foliage, and fruit. Purple-black American elderberries taste slightly bitter and make a crimson juice, finding use in wine, jellies, and pies. The shrub grows best in full sun but can also be found along streams and on forest floors. Its hard wood can be crafted into combs, spindles, and pegs. The twigs can fruit are also used as dyes in basket-making.

Elderberry trees grow best from seed which must be scarified prior to planting due to the hard seed coat. Without scarification, the seed may not germinate for two to five years after planting. The hard coat protects the seed when wildlife ingest the fruit. If properly stored, elderberry seeds may remain viable for up to sixteen years.

KY native mulberry tree

Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)

Hardy Red Mulberry trees prefer full sun but will tolerate shade as well as a variety of soil and weather conditions. They thrive in moist, deep, rich soil. Birds love the sweet fruit which resemble thin blackberries. Red mulberries can be eaten fresh or used in jellies, wines, and desserts. These native trees can grow over sixty feet tall and require heavy pruning to maintain a suitable height for fruit harvest, so red mulberry trees are not commercially grown for fruit production. Some varieties, however, are grown for their ornamental value.

The mulberry, once known as the “King of the Tree Crops,” is now considered a messy, weedy tree unsuitable for the well-manicured landscape.

KY Native Serviceberry

Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

Of the three Kentucky native serviceberries, Downy Serviceberry is mainly planted as an ornamental. Its wood is both heavy (the heaviest in the U.S.) and hard, making excellent tool handles. Serviceberry trees grow in full sun or partial shade and prefer moist but well-drained soil. The red-purple fruit tastes somewhat like blueberries. Serviceberries can be eaten fresh, baked in pies, or dried like raisins. Forty or more bird species favor serviceberries as well as mammals big and small. It is a common understory tree.

The serviceberry gets its name from funeral/memorial services. Kentucky serviceberries flower in early spring (two weeks before the dogwood) and has been used as an indicator, legend has it, that it is warm enough outside to dig a grave for a funeral service. The nickname “sarvisberry” comes from the Appalachian pronunciation of the word “service” as “sarvis.”

Photographs used under the Creative Commons Attribution License. Photographers: Julie Makin, Homer Edward Price, Rasbak, Phyzome, Scott Bauer, MONGO, Asit K. Ghosh, VasiDgallery, sbmdstock, Franz Eugen Köhler, James Steakley, H. Zell, and Аимаина хикари.

Written by Lauren State, Oldham County Master Gardener. Reviewed by Michael Boice, Oldham County Horticulture Assistant.

Financial Tips for Single Parents

single parent finance tips

Tips for Financial Success

Managing finances as a single parent can be difficult. Single parents are faced all at once with the tasks of adjusting to one income, creating and maintaining a budget, and planning for their financial future. As a result, single parents may often feel overwhelmed when it comes to managing their finances. The following tips can help you create a financial plan to help you and your family be financially successful.

Create a Budget that Works for You

Developing a monthly plan for your money is important. Make a list of all sources of income as well as your monthly expenses. Be certain to include an expense category for emergencies to work toward building an emergency fund.

Elizabeth makes enough money each month to cover her bills and spend a little extra on herself and her kids. When her car needed new tires, however, the expense was a little higher than expected, so she paid with credit. To help with future emergencies, Elizabeth setup an automatic withdrawal from her checking account into her savings account every two weeks.

Ask for Help

Asking for help can be hard. Sometimes, however, it is the best thing that you can do for you and your family. Many communities offer resources geared toward single parents that can help you figure out how you may best manage your finances and time. Friends and family are also great resources.

A single mother of two, Jessica asks her stepmother to help watch the girls on occasion. Time to herself helps Jessica catch up on housework and errands, and her stepmother enjoys time with the granddaughters.

Pay Your Bills On Time

While this may seem like common sense, being on top of everything can be overwhelming for someone becoming a single parent, and deadlines can get lost in the chaos. Paying your bills on time will guarantee that you keep your credit score in good standing and avoid late fees. Automatic payments set up through your banking institution are a great option for single parents.

Overwhelmed by staggered deadlines, Scott missed several credit card payments in a row, causing his credit score to drop. A friend suggested setting up automatic payments online and using the notifications feature on his phone to help him remember to check that he had enough money in his bank account before a payment was due to go out.

single mom finances

Keep Extra Costs Under Control

One of the hardest changes for single parents to make is cutting back on extra costs. It is important that you explain to your children that the new family budget may mean that you are unable to participate in some activities that you were once able to. A weekly family night at the movie theater may not be possible, but you can be creative and bring family movie night to your house.

To make entertainment costs more manageable, Alex cancelled cable and opted for Netflix instead. The online streaming service is cheaper and still allows his family to enjoy Friday movie nights.

Protect Your Children

Making sure that you and your family are insured can have a huge impact on your financial security. Health insurance helps insure that an unexpected injury or illness will not ruin your finances while life insurance will help financially protect your children in the event of your death.

Protect Yourself

Parents often focus on saving for their children’s future. It is just as important to save for your future financial goals and retirement. A financial adviser can guide you in the right direction, explaining the many different options with you.

financial savings

Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

Written by Jennifer L. Hunter, Kentucky Extension Specialist for Family Financial Management; Kristyn Jackson, LMFT, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Family Sciences; and Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant.

KY Native Plants in Bloom

Home to over twenty-five hundred plant species, Kentucky is a veritable wildflower garden. Kentucky native fall flowers include aster, goldenrod, and ironweed.

KY native aster

Aster

Fall Kentucky Native Flower

Several species of aster grow in Kentucky, including smooth blue aster, aromatic aster, New England aster, and white panicle aster.

Kentucky asters bloom from summer to fall in multiple colors: violet, white, blue, and pink. Depending on species and variety, they can grow from eighteen inches to five feet tall. Height can be controlled by pruning during summer, before buds develop. Be careful to remove no more than one-fourth of the total height at a time so as not to overstress the plants.

Asters are prone to powdery mildew and verticillium wilt, especially when overcrowded. Prevent these diseases by providing the plants with good air movement. Asters grow best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

KY native goldenrod

Goldenrod (Solidago)

Kentucky Native Flower in Bloom

Goldenrod, Kentucky’s state flower, blooms in the late summer and early fall. Thirty-one species of goldenrod are native to Kentucky, including two endangered species: White-Haired Goldenrod and Short’s Goldenrod.

It is a common misconception that goldenrod is responsible for fall allergies. In truth, it is the inconspicuous ragweed, blooming at the same time, that causes hay fever. Green and weedy in appearance, ragweed blends right into its surroundings. Its tiny, green flowers release waves of pollen into the air, contributing largely to fall allergies. Goldenrod, on the other hand, is insect-pollinated and therefore not the culprit of your allergic reaction.

Goldenrod blooms in full sun from late summer to early fall. Species vary from two to five feet in height. Some varieties will aggressively take over a garden, so goldenrod is not a common landscape plant. They are susceptible to several diseases, but most are easily avoidable if proper air circulation is provided and good watering practices are used.

KY native ironweed

Ironweed (Vernonia)

Kentucky Native Wildflower

From late summer through early fall, ironweed blooms in fields and along roads all across Kentucky. The most common species in the state is Tall Ironweed, but Missouri Ironweed and New York Ironweed also grow in some regions.

Ironweed can grow between four and six feet tall, but pruning in June can help keep the size manageable. It prefers growing in full sun and well-drained, moist soil. Few pests and diseases affect this Kentucky native wildflower. With an aggressively spreading root system, ironweed is perhaps the most troublesome pasture weed in Kentucky. Livestock avoid it due to its bitter taste.

Kentucky Wildflowers

Native Plants Attract Butterflies and Bees

Interested in planting wildflowers for pollinators? Aster, goldenrod, and ironweed all attract butterflies and bees.

For more information on using native plants to attract butterflies, check out the following resources:

Photographs by Greg Hume and SteampunkGypsy. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Written by Lauren State, Oldham County Master Gardener. Reviewed by Traci Missun, Oldham County Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent.

Pack A Healthy Lunch

Pep Up Lunch

snack apples

Healthy Lunches for Healthy Kids

A new school year is upon us. One of the most challenging daily tasks that goes with back to school is finding something interesting, healthy, and tasty for your child to eat if they take their lunch instead of participating in a school lunch program. Here are some tips to simplify the process.

Planning is essential to the success of packing a healthy lunch. It allows you to prepare well-balanced meals and reduces the amount of rushing to find something to take in the morning. It can also help you make your grocery list so you don’t have the added expenses of purchasing items you already have or foods your child won’t eat. Encourage your child to be involved in the planning phase. Children are more likely to eat foods that they had an active part in planning or preparing.

Think of ways you can mix up traditional lunch items. Most people like a peanut butter sandwich or a sandwich with deli meat, but eating that every single day can get old. Substitute pita bread or a tortilla for regular bread, using whole grains when possible. If your child eats peanut butter and jelly, swap out the jelly flavors. Cookie cutters are a great way to turn sandwiches, meats, and cheeses into fun shapes.

Lunch is a great time for you to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. Dress up sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles. Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place them in individual containers. Include some type of dip. Some great options are hummus, yogurt dip, peanut butter, low-fat dressing, or salsa. If your child is a picky eater, you may have some luck sneaking some nutrition into a muffin. Below is a Plate It Up, Kentucky Proud recipe for Pumpkin Apple Muffins.

Remember snacks should be simple, reasonable portions, healthy, and desirable for your child. Good options include graham crackers, trail mix, low-fat granola bars, air-popped popcorn, 100-calorie packs, or a fun-size candy bar.

For more information on healthy eating, contact the Oldham County Extension Office.

Parents can also watch Renee Fox, Extension Nutrition Specialist, who talks about packing healthy school lunches that their children will actually eat.

healthy pumpkins

Pumpkin Apple Muffin Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ¼ cups honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups fresh pureed pumpkin
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, finely chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 °F. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a small bowl, combine honey, eggs, pumpkin, and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups, two-thirds full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Note: To substitute honey with two cups granulated sugar, decrease baking soda by ¼ teaspoon and increase oven temperature to 350 °F.

Yield: 18 muffins

Nutritional analysis: 200 calories, 7 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 3 g protein.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

Written by Janet Mullins, University of Kentucky Extension Professor. Edited by Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant.

KY Dairy Cattle News

ky dairy cattle

Kentucky Dairy Notes

The University of Kentucky Dairy Extension team circulates a monthly e-newsletter called Kentucky Dairy Notes. The following article “Heat Stress is a Hot Topic” comes from the May 2016 issue of Kentucky Dairy Notes.

Heat Stress is a Hot Topic

Written by Barbara Wadsworth, University of Kentucky Dairy Graduate Research Student, and Dr. Jeffrey Bewley, University of Kentucky Dairy Assistant Professor.

Heat stress negatively affects many cattle around the world. In the United States, heat stress is particularly bad in the southeast. Heat stress decreases dry matter intake, production, and reproductive performance. Below are reviews of new and interesting research conducted at various research institutes.

University of California, Davis researchers conducted a study where the objective was to determine the relationship between signs of panting and respiration rates, both of which may be indicators of cow’s heat load. Respiration rates and panting signs (drooling, mouth open, or tongue out) were measured every five minutes for thirty-two cows. The researchers determined that all signs of panting were accompanied by a higher respiration rate. Take home message: When cows are panting and breathing heavily, they may be trying to dissipate their heat load. This study reaffirms that if a cow exhibits these signs, a producer will want to provide cows with more heat abatement resources (fans, shade, and sprinklers).

Cornell University researchers studied the relationship between milk yield with rectal temperature, respiration rate, udder skin temperature, and body surface temperature on eight cows. Four cows were housed in a cooled environment and four cows were housed in an environment with a temperature humidity index of 79.5. The researchers discovered that udder skin temperatures and respiration rates were equally related with rectal temperatures. They also discovered that rectal temperatures had the highest correlation with milk yield. Udder skin temperature was a better indicator of milk yield then respiration rates. Udder skin temperature may be a useful indicator of heat stress as udder skin temperature is fast to measure and non-invasive. Take home message: Udder skin temperatures are comparable to respiration rates as a heat stress indicator.

California Polytechnic State University researchers studied differences in the degree of heat stress based on cow cooling methods. Fifteen cows were housed in two different barns. One barn had fans and soakers and the other barn had soakers only. Rectal temperatures were measured three times per day to assess cow heat stress. No difference in the rectal temperatures of the cows housed in the two barns was shown. However, differences in rectal temperatures of the cows that were housed in the barn with soakers only (101.5º F) occurred when they were moved to the holding pen which had fans and soakers (100.8º F). This result highlights that having fans and soakers may be effective in decreasing heat stress. Take home message: This study reiterates that housing cows in barns with fans and soakers may help alleviate heat stress.

University of Florida scientists examined the cellular structure of calves’ intestines after being in utero in heat stressed cows. Thirty bull calves were sacrificed either at birth, or 1 and 2 days after birth. Their intestines were removed and tissues sampled. The researchers discovered that calves in utero of cows exposed to heat stress had limited passive immunity capability. Take home message: Cooling dry cows may help calves born to these dams increase their IgG uptake and increase their passive immunity capability.

Cornell University researchers conducted a study where they used temperature humidity index to evaluate its impact on pregnancies per AI and postpartum disease. The researchers determined that when cows were inseminated in times of heat stress compared to non-heat stress they had reduced pregnancies per AI from 38.7% to 32.5%, respectively. Cows that calved during a period of heat stress had an increased risk (30.2%) of having a postpartum disease than cows calving during a period of non-heat stress (26.3%). Take home message: Inseminating cows during heat stress may decrease the rate of pregnancies per AI. Calving during heat stress may increase the cow’s risk for disease.

In conclusion, heat stress can negatively affect cows. Heat stress increases cow’s panting and respiration rate, rectal temperature rate, postpartum disease rate, and decreases their pregnancies per AI rate. Heat stress on the dam can also negatively affect calves by decreasing their passive immunity capability. This new research was presented at the 2015 Joint Annual Meeting of American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Association in Orlando, FL. What a great environment Orlando made to discuss heat stress!

Groundwater Protection

livestock waterer conserves water

Livestock waterer at Hemmer Hill Farm

What is Groundwater?

Groundwater is the water that soaks into the soil from rain or other precipitation and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand. It is, therefore, a renewable resource, although renewal rates vary greatly according to environmental conditions.

It also is an abundant natural resource.

Of all the freshwater in the world (excluding polar ice caps), 95 percent is groundwater. Surface water (lakes and rivers) only make up three percent of our freshwater.

National Groundwater Association

Why is Groundwater Important?

500 billion gallons of groundwater flows into our streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and creeks each day. Kevin McCray, Executive director of the National Groundwater Association, explains that 80 billion gallons of groundwater is used every day in the U.S. for public and private supply; agriculture, irrigation, and livestock; manufacturing; mining; thermoelectric power; and other purposes. As the most common groundwater use, irrigation makes up more than 65% of daily groundwater usage, helping provide plenty of fruits and vegetables to feed our families.

According to the Kentucky Division of Water, roughly two million Kentuckians rely on groundwater. Their drinking water comes from private wells and underground springs.

KY groundwater map

Kentucky is covered in springs and wells that provide clean drinking water.

Groundwater becomes drinking water, therefore polluted groundwater equals polluted drinking water.

The costs to clean up groundwater, once contaminated, are great. Many contaminated sites costs tens of thousands to millions of dollar to clean up. The cost to replace drinking water sources is also very expensive. So protecting groundwater from contamination is not only environmentally sound, it is also economically sound.

Kentucky Division of Water

What Can I Do To Protect Groundwater?

Help protect our groundwater from contaminants! Common groundwater pollutants include:

The easiest way to help protect groundwater is to simply pay attention to your environment.

Do you pick up after your dog? Is there any litter in your yard? Does your car leak oil or other fluids? If you apply fertilizer or pesticides, are you following all of the directions printed on the packaging? Those with septic systems or private wells should also have these underground systems checked periodically.

Oldham County Groundwater Conservation

Oldham Countians are helping conserve and protect groundwater in a variety of ways.

auto-waterer for conservation

“At Hemmer Hill Farm, we protect groundwater by providing automatic waterers for our livestock as well as crushed rock feeding pads. We also use rain water collected in a cistern and pumped to the waterers and to our vegetable garden in order to conserve.” – Gary Keibler

The automatic waterer depicted above provides the sheep with clean, fresh water. Livestock watered by ponds or streams pollute their water source with fecal matter and reduce the amount of vegetation along the banks, increasing erosion. Limited access points may be constructed, allowing livestock to drink from ponds and streams without polluting or damaging these waterways. Contact the Oldham County Soil & Water Conservation District for more information.

Oldham County is also home to many rain gardens. Comprised of drought-resistant, Kentucky native plants, rain gardens slow the movement of water and reduce contaminants. The Extension rain garden, installed and maintained by Oldham County Master Gardeners, is a demonstrative rain garden that includes native plants such as great blue lobelia, purple coneflower, black chokeberry, and red columbine.

The rain barrel is another popular groundwater conservation tool. Rain barrels collect runoff from roofs and divert it into gardens. The plants benefit from the extra watering while also helping reduce stormwater pollution.

For more information on groundwater and other Kentucky natural resources, contact the Oldham County Extension Office at (502) 222-9453.

Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Written by Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant. Edited by Traci Missun, Oldham County Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent.

Worm Composting

compost pile

Vermicomposting

Using Worms to Compost Kitchen Scraps

For those turned off by the higher level of maintenance of a traditional compost pile, there is another option: worms. Vermicomposting is another kind of composting in which the worms do all (or nearly all) of the work. Little setup is required. Vermicomposting is an ideal method for those interested in composting only food scraps.

Where to Vermicompost

Worm bins can be small enough to be used in an apartment or office setting, indoors or out. You can build a worm bin out of wood or simply use a plastic container. Worms thrive in the dark, so make sure your worm bin has a lid and its walls are opaque. The container will also require drainage and a few air holes. The worm composter should be between six and sixteen inches deep. Width is more important than height. The more surface area you offer your worms, the better your food scraps will decompose.

Your worm bin can go anywhere, so long as the temperature is between 50°F and 80°F. Choose an accessible location as you may be adding food waste daily. If placed outdoors, monitor the weather. Hot weather may overheat and kill the worms.

Preparing Worm Bin Bedding

Before adding food and worms, you must prepare bedding. Suitable bedding materials include peat moss, shredded newspaper, shredded corrugated cardboard, and even machine-shredded computer paper. Avoid glossy paper such as the ads section of the newspaper. Worms require moist – NOT wet – bedding. Prepare worm bin bedding by soaking the materials for ten to twenty minutes then wringing it out. The bedding should be very damp but not dripping wet.

How to Compost with Worms

Red wigglers, not earthworms, are used in vermicomposting. One pound of worms consumes two to three pounds of food each week. After you add food waste, cover the scraps with bedding. You can feed your worms fruit and vegetable scraps, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags. Do not give worms onions, citrus, or meat.

Scraps may be added as often as once a day, but if you add more waste than your worms are able to consume, then the excess will begin to rot and develop an odor. Extra food waste can be stored in a freezer. Scraps should be added at least every three days.

Maintain the moisture level of your worm bin by spraying bedding with water every few days. Be careful not to over-water your worms. Never pour water directly into the worm bin.

Your worms will develop vermicompost after about four months. The soil-like mixture of worm castings and decomposed food scraps contains nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium, and potassium that are important for plant growth. After harvesting the finished compost, add new bedding to your worm bin.

For more information on vermicomposting, contact the Oldham County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 222-9453.

Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Sources: Ashley Osborne, Extension Associate for Environmental and Natural Resource Issues, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, “Constructing a Worm Compost Bin;” Rhonda Sherman, Extension Solid Waste Specialist, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, “Worms Can Recycle Your Garbage.”

Written by Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant. Reviewed by Michael Boice, Oldham County Extension Horticulture Assistant.

Letter from the IRS

The IRS shared the following tax information to reassure taxpayers about receiving letters from the IRS.

A Message From the IRS

What You Need to Know if You Get a Letter in the Mail from the IRS

Each year, the IRS mails millions of notices and letters to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. If you receive correspondence from us:

  1. Don’t panic. You can usually deal with a notice simply by responding to it.
  2. Most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice has specific instructions, so read your notice carefully because it will tell you what you need to do.
  3. Your notice will likely be about changes to your account, taxes you owe or a payment request. However, your notice may ask you for more information about a specific issue.
  4. If your notice says that the IRS changed or corrected your tax return, review the information and compare it with your original return.
  5. If you agree with the notice, you usually don’t need to reply unless it gives you other instructions or you need to make a payment.
  6. If you don’t agree with the notice, you need to respond. Write a letter that explains why you disagree, and include information and documents you want the IRS to consider. Mail your response with the contact stub at the bottom of the notice to the address on the contact stub. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
  7. For most notices, you won’t need to call or visit a walk-in center. If you have questions, call the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Be sure to have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call.
  8. Always keep copies of any notices you receive with your tax records.
  9. Be alert for tax scams. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail. We don’t contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information. If you owe tax, you have several payment options. The IRS won’t demand that you pay a certain way, such as prepaid debit or credit card.
  10. For more on this topic, visit IRS.gov. Click on the link ‘Responding to a Notice‘ at the bottom center of the home page. Also, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

If you need to make a payment visit IRS.gov/payments or use the IRS2Go app to make payment with Direct Pay for free, or by debit or credit card through an approved payment processor for a fee.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:

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To subscribe to IRS Tax Tips, an IRS e-mail service, visit IRS.gov.

Consumer Awareness

Consumer Alert

Be an Aware Buyer

We’ve all heard the old saying, “If something is too good to be true, it probably is.” This saying continues to hold true for consumers who are constantly bombarded with products claiming to be cure-alls in areas ranging from germ protection to quick and extreme weight loss.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission sent partial refund checks to more than 2,000 Americans who purchased Zadro’s Nano-UV devices, as a result of the commission’s settlement with the company. According to the FTC, Zadro falsely claimed that its Nano-UV devices safely killed 99.99 percent of targeted bacteria including E. coli, Salmonella and the H1N1 swine flu virus in 10 seconds. The device costs around $159.99, but the refund checks only averaged $96.50.

As with any purchase, it’s important for consumers to do their research on a product before purchasing. As in this case, not only do some products not work, they also can be financially draining.

While it can be tricky to sort through marketing ploys, certain phrases or schemes tend to send off warning signals. These include personal testimonies, quick fixes, hard-to-find and miracle cures as a result of a scientific breakthrough. If these breakthroughs were legitimate, they would be widely and freely reported in the media and not in a paid advertisement.

More information is available on the Kentucky Consumer Protection website or by contacting the Oldham County Cooperative Extension office.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

Source: Dr. Bob Flashman, Extension Professor