Monthly Archives: September 2011

Water Jamboree & Removing Irrigation Scheduling Equipment

Last week was fun and somewhat exhausting teaching with my colleagues in Extension and several area Agencies at the Water Jamboree at Liberty Cove in Lawrence.  Water Jamboree started over 15 years ago to teach 5th and 6th graders about the importance of water and water-related subjects.  Nearly 800 youth learned about where water goes when it goes down the storm drain, about irrigation and siphon tubes, the aquifer, life inside and outside of the lake, mosquitoes, water movement, and much more.  Holli Weber and I utilized the nature trails through the tallgrass prairie to teach a session on life outside the lake focusing on the importance of plants as buffers to filter chemicals and allowing youth to run through the trails doing a photo ID scavenger hunt of the area plants (also to burn off energy!).  While I’ve done this session the past 5 years, this year I took time to show the youth specific characteristics to ID grasses.  God created each plant unique and I was showing them how Indiangrass has rabbit ears when you pull the leaves back from the stem…or the M/W on the smooth brome leaves.  It was fun watching the youths’ faces light up and then try to find these and other characteristics for themselves while on the trails.  It was a great day, although I really don’t know how teachers do it day in and out!  I wish I could’ve attended something like this when I was young!  A special thanks goes to Marlene Faimon at the Little Blue NRD for coordinating this each year.

After Water Jamboree, I headed to my research plot at Lawrence.  It’s been a trying year of coon damage and most recently a skunk inside our traps instead of the coons (and it still smelled like skunk out there!).  Anyway, I was pulling watermark sensors and the 1st and 2nd foot ones were really rough but the 3rd and 4th feet came out easily.  So just a reminder, when pulling watermark sensors, clamp a vice grip below the cap, twist and pull up.  I’ve taken out hundreds of these and have only pulled apart four.  If your sensor won’t pull up, simply take a spade and dig around the sensor and also bring a jug of water with you.  This is the first time I’ve had to dig sensors out but the water really helped as I got it to run down the tube, it eventually loosened at the base to pull out easily without removing the sensor from the pvc pipe.  Sensors can be gently washed with a hose or in a bucket of water using your fingers to gently clean them-don’t use a brush.  Allow to dry and store in your shed, garage, basement, etc.  Also a reminder (although I should’ve done this during the cold of Husker Harvest Days), to get your ET gages inside.  Pour out the water and empty the ceramic top by pulling out the tube and then store that inside where it won’t freeze during the winter.  

Farm Safety During Harvest

Combines have been rolling in the area soybeans and dryland corn.  This is a busy time for farm families, but don’t let the rush to get the crop in compromise safety.  Farming is one of the most hazardous occupations in the U.S.  Here is a quick list of reminders for a safe harvest season. 

It’s important to teach children these safety tips so they learn safety by habit as they live and work on the farm.  Keep children and grandchildren away from equipment and machinery.  Children who are involved in operating machinery and equipment should be properly trained by an adult on each piece they operate.  It is always fun for kids to ride in the combines, or on the tractor fenders, but if there is not an extra seat and a seatbelt, it’s not a good idea.  Tractor operators can be distracted by these extra riders and not keep their full attention on operating the equipment.  All it takes is a sudden stop or swerve for the extra passengers to be thrown off or more serious injuries to occur.  Keep kids out of grain wagons and bins and always be watchful for children and adults when moving machinery. 

Double check to make sure all machinery is working properly and that safety shields are in place.  When moving equipment, especially grain augers, watch for power lines, keeping equipment at least ten feet from them.  Don’t get into grain wagons or bins while the grain is moving.  Many people have seen the demonstrations of how quickly a person can be sucked under the grain and suffocated.  Probably the hardest one to follow, yet easiest safety tip to do is to shut down moving equipment when it gets plugged.  It only takes a few extra seconds and is well worth it to save a limb.  People who think “nothing will happen to me” are those at the greatest risk for something to happen because they do not practice safety as they should.  Farm accidents happen so quickly; don’t let them happen to you or your family! 

Try to move equipment during the daylight hours.  If you must move equipment at night, make sure tractor lights are working properly and slow moving vehicle signs are visible.  It may even be helpful to put lights on grain wagons or on equipment you are pulling for other drivers to see them in time.  You may have someone follow you in a vehicle with flashers to warn others of a slow moving vehicle ahead.  Be cautious of other drivers as they get anxious to pass, especially if they try to pass while you intend on turning.  For all of us on the road, it’s important to slow down and stay alert when we encounter harvest equipment on the road.  During this Farm Safety Week, I’m wishing everyone a safe and bountiful harvest! 

Inspiring Young Nebraskans-HHD 2011

Last week was busy with Husker Harvest Days-the coldest one I can remember!  It’s always fun for me to see many familiar faces-like a big reunion!  The theme at the IANR booth this year was “Inspiring Young Nebraskans”.  This theme was important  to showcase how IANR is influencing our youth from early childhood development to entrepreneurship activities and future careers.  A statistic that may surprise you is that over 144,000 Nebraska youth (nearly every 1 in 3 youth in the State) is involved with 4-H.  That’s something we would like to continue to grow as I think any of you who have been involved with youth programs whether 4-H, FFA, or scouts can attest they build life skills!  The goal of this year’s exhibit was to show how IANR is impacting youth to hopefully keep more local youth here in Nebraska.  

The first exhibit dealt with UNL Extension’s focus on Early Childhood Development which focuses on youth ages 5 and under by helping childcare providers, babysitters, and parents understand brain development and UNL’s research in this area.  An alarming statistic is that up to 25% of children are not ready to begin school.  The second exhibit was Teaching Science through Soybeans in which an iPad app was created for youth to drag and drop items into grocery carts to learn from where their food comes.  There are many additional activities involved in the partnership between the College of Ag Sciences and Natural Resources, UNL teacher education, and local schools.

The third exhibit showcased the Unique Role of Teachers in Rural Communities and a research grant obtained by UNL to study the best strategies for supporting rural teachers in reading (K-3) and science education (6-12).  Robotics is a curricula exploding with interest amongst youth in the State and was the fourth exhibit.  “Bots are Hot” but they’re not only toys, they’re teaching technology to our youth with Nebraska being the leader in this National Science Foundation initiative.  The fifth display showcased Youth-Adult Partnerships in which youth are encouraged to define and address community issues in addition to helping provide youth a voice and responsibility in their communities by working with adults.  Connecting the Dots for Nebraska Youth was the sixth display in which an iPad app was developed for youth to link actions and personal choice to his/her future success in a college or career.  So often we showcase projects in 4-H, but we’re striving consciously link them with future careers-to show youth how their 4-H projects truly are their first class at the University of Nebraska!

The seventh exhibit showcased Public/Private partnerships in which UNL Extension is working with Nebraska businesses to create opportunities for young Nebraskans across the State.  Entrepreneurship was the focus of the eighth display with the goal of building a strong root system for homegrown Nebraska businesses.   Reid Ely was front and center on that display banner with his asparagus and Ashley Nunnenkamp helped in the booth as part of the Paul Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at UNL.  Market Journal taped their latest show there and the Mobile Diagnostic Lab had interactive displays this year on Soybean Cyst Nematode kits for FFA youth, Pine Wilt Nematode, Biological Invaders, and Crop Science Investigation (CSI) for youth.  I was thankful for the Clay and Fillmore County youth who helped us in our CSI display as youth can better inspire their peers to be involved! 

Like in the past, a Web site was developed and rolled out at Husker Harvest Days.  To find out more about what UNL Extension is doing in the child and youth area, please check out our latest Web site at   

Nebraska State Fair Reflections

Every year I look forward to the Nebraska State Fair.  As a youth, that was often our family vacation.  We would participate in the State 4-H Weed, Tree, and Horticulture ID contests; present 4-H presentations; model our sewn garments; and view all the exhibits that made it to the fair in addition to getting ideas for the following year.  State Fair was always a memorable family experience for me!

This year, I was so excited for the State Fair to begin!  It was exciting seeing so many entries moving into the 4-H/FFA building to be judged and then seeing them displayed!  Walking across the Fairgrounds in Grand Island, one can’t help but feel a sense of agriculture and pride in Nebraska’s agricultural roots.  The facilities are absolutely amazing and our livestock numbers continue to climb.  

The first weekend I enjoyed watching 4-H youth compete in the same plant ID contests when I was in 4-H…contests which provided me a love for plants and ability to identify them which helps me in my Extension career.  These plant ID contests build life skills that these youth can use for numerous jobs but also as future home-owners.  I was so proud of our area youth who placed so high in these contests-all the practicing paid off and they did very well.  But in spite of ribbon placing, the most important fact is that they’re building life skills and learning!

The second weekend started off by catching the end of the Quilts of Valor presentation.  The Quilts of Valor project is one in which Nebraska 4-Hers made and donated quilts to wounded soldiers.  Over 40 quilts were made by Nebraska 4-Hers and it was touching seeing them displayed.  It is neat seeing our youth develop life skills in quilting and giving back in such a special way!

I also enjoyed working with the swine show again and was also superintendent of the livestock premier exhibitor contest.  We were anticipating 60 4-H and FFA youth competing in the 4 large animal species but around half of them actually competed due to so many shows at the same time.  Premier Exhibitor allows youth to showcase their skills and knowledge in areas besides showing their animal.  For instance, the majority of their score comes from an interview in which they share their knowledge of their livestock project and are asked questions about the livestock industry.  They also take a written exam and participate in a skillathon in which they ID livestock breeds, feeds, equipment, and conduct other related activities.  I was so proud of these youth for working so hard and participating in these events.  Again, these are life skills that they are building-the essence of what 4-H and FFA programs are about.  

While many long days and late nights were involved and much walking which was great exercise, the 2011 Nebraska State Fair was a great experience and huge hit with attendance numbers projected to be up 8%!  Our 4-H and FFA youth overall did an excellent job representing 4-H, FFA, their families, their knowledge and skills learned, and Nebraska in general.  Regardless of ribbon placing, they made us proud and while I’m glad this year’s Fair is over, I will be ready for next year’s Fair when it rolls around!

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