Extension Information

Clayton County ISU Extension & Outreach Media Packet for 12/5/19    

Saturday, December 14, 2019

10:00 AM - 3:00 PM   Dairy Goat Management Seminar   Keystone AEA Elkader

Sunday, December 15, 2019

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM   4-H County Council Meeting   Clayton County Extension Office

Saturday, December 21, 2019

10:00 AM - 1:00 PM   4-H & FFA Market Beef Weigh-In   Edgewood Livestock Commission

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM   Clayton Extension Office CLOSED   Clayton County Extension Office

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM   Clayton Extension Office CLOSED   Clayton County Extension Office

Monday, December 30, 2019

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM   4-H Club Officer Training   Freedom Bank Community Room, Elkader

STEM-Lit to Go Day Camp held in Strawberry Point

On November 22, 13 youth participated in STEM-Lit to Go camp in Strawberry Point.  Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Clayton County provided the instructor, Peggy Schilling, and the materials for the youth to participate in the School Day Out Camp.  The day was full of many activities base on books read throughout the day. Youth participated in making scratch art, a device to retrieve apples from water, and a bird feeder. They graphed information, took a chance rolling dice, and finding the probability of getting a certain color of M&M out of a paper bag.  Each participant got to choose a book to take home with them.  

The next School Day Out Camp, Passport to Adventure, has space available. The locations and dates for camp are: December 23 in Monona, December 27 in Guttenberg, and December 30 in Edgewood. Contact the Clayton County Extension office to register for this fun and educational camp, 563-245-1451. 

Yard and Garden: How to Select and Care for Fresh Christmas Trees

November 20, 2019, 2:45 pm | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

AMES, Iowa – The weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally when most Christmas tree buying occurs. Whether you cut your own tree or buy a pre-cut tree there are several things to consider before buying and when selecting a fresh tree. Horticulture specialists with Iowa State University offer tips to make the most of your fresh tree. To have additional questions answered contact Hortline at hortline@iastate.edu or call 515-294-3108.

What factors should be considered when purchasing a Christmas tree for the holidays?  Man Buying Christmas Tree by pikselstock/stock.adobe.com.

A few decisions should be made before going out to buy a Christmas tree. Decide where you will be placing the tree in the home. Be sure to choose a location away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or furnace vents. Also, decide on the size (height and width) of the tree you want.  

Christmas trees may be purchased from cut-your-own tree farms or as cut trees in commercial lots. A list of tree farms in your area can be found at the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association website at http://www.iowachristmastrees.com. Carefully check trees at commercial tree lots to ensure the freshness of previously cut trees.  

When looking for a tree, select one that has a straight trunk. A tree with a straight trunk will be easier to set upright in the stand. Check the diameter of the trunk to make sure it will fit in your stand. A tree with a bare side may be fine if you intend to place it in a corner or against a wall.  

What types of Christmas trees are available?  

Tree species commonly available at tree farms and commercial tree lots in Iowa include Scotch pine, white pine, Fraser fir, balsam fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, white spruce and Colorado spruce. 

How can I determine the freshness of a cut Christmas tree?  

The freshness of cut Christmas trees can be determined with simple tests. Gently run your hand over a branch. The needles on a fresh tree will be pliable. Those on a dry tree will be brittle. Another test is to lift the tree by the trunk and lightly bounce the butt on the ground. Heavy needle drop indicates a dry tree. A fresh tree will drop only a few needles.  

What is the best way to store a cut Christmas tree?  

If you don’t intend to set up the Christmas tree immediately, place the tree in a cool, sheltered location. An unheated garage or shed is usually a good storage site. (The sun and wind dry out trees stored outdoors.) Place the butt of the tree in a bucket of water to help it stay fresh.  

Should I make a fresh cut at the base of the Christmas tree before placing the tree in the stand?  

Make a fresh cut at the base of the trunk if more than 8 hours have passed since the tree was cut.  Remove the bottom .5 inch or more of the trunk just prior to placing the tree in the stand. After a tree is cut, resin begins to collect in the water-conducting tissue, impeding the absorption of water. Making a fresh cut removes the resin-blocked tissue at the base of the trunk, allowing for greater water uptake.  

Should I add any material to the water to prolong the freshness of my Christmas tree?  

Do not add molasses, sugar, soft drinks, aspirin or commercial products to the water. Additives provide no real benefit. The keys to keeping a Christmas tree fresh are to place the tree away from any heat source (fireplace, heater, radiator, etc.) and keep the tree reservoir full of water.  Check the tree reservoir at least once or twice a day. Fresh trees absorb large quantities of water, especially in the first 7 to 10 days. (In the first week, a fresh tree with a 4-inch-diameter trunk may absorb up to one gallon of water in 24 hours.) Do not allow the water level to drop below the bottom of the trunk as the tree will absorb little water thereafter.      

How long can a cut Christmas tree remain in the house?  

The length of time a cut Christmas tree can remain in the home is determined by the tree species, the freshness of the tree at purchase, and its placement and care in the home. In general, a fresh, well-cared-for Christmas tree should be able to remain in the home for three to four weeks. Remove the tree from the house when its needles become dry and brittle.  

December 6, 2019


Denise Schwab

Beef Specialist
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach



Driftless Region Beef Conference to Feature Place & Alexander

Dubuque meeting will feature Place & Alexander

DUBUQUE, Iowa – The upcoming Driftless Region Beef Conference will showcase two nationally-known keynote speakers.  Sara Place, currently Director of Sustainability for Elanco, and formerly Senior Director for Sustainable Beef Production Research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, will discuss how cattle can help protect our environment and be sustainable. Following Place, Lacey Alexander, animal welfare lead for beef, Cargill Protein North America, will discuss Beef Quality Assurance and the role of animal welfare and handling in the beef industry. The conference will be held Jan. 30-31, 2020, at the Grand River Conference Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

“This year our conference is looking at the beef industry from the national, big-picture view down to the day-to-day production level,” Schwab said. “While our keynote speakers are presenting on the big-picture level, both are well grounded in both production and basic research. I know they will do a great job getting us thinking about the industry as a whole, but also the role and importance of the producer to the industry also.”

Other speakers include Grant Dewell, Terry Engelken, Katy Lippolis, and Lee Schulz, Iowa State University; Wayne Coblentz, University of Wisconsin; Josh McCann, University of Illinois; Eldon Cole, and Allison Meyer, University of Missouri; Darrell Peel, Oklahoma State University, and Galen Erickson, University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Schwab says, “We are putting different spin on the evening bull pen session by featuring a panel of practicing veterinarians. We hope it will be a local version of Baxter Black – a lot of education with a little philosophy and fun!” 

The early registration fee is $85 per person and must be received prior to midnight, Jan 17. The price increases to $115 after that date. More information on topics, speakers and lodging is available at www.aep.iastate.edu/beef. Registration with links for online and mail forms are available on the conference website.

The Driftless Region Beef Conference is sponsored by ISU Extension and Outreach, University of Illinois Extension and University of Wisconsin Extension. For more information or to receive a brochure, contact Schwab at 319-472-4739.

Growing Together Mini Grantees Donate More Than 100,000 Pounds of Produce in 2019

Now in its fourth year, this mini-grant program continues to make a big difference

November 14, 2019, 10:21 am | Susan DeBlieck, Christine Hradek, Caitlin Szymanskithree master gardeners.

AMES, Iowa – Master Gardener volunteers with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach continue to improve the lives and communities of Iowans, with more than $50,000 awarded in Growing Together Mini-Grants this past year.

Twenty-two counties across the state received grants in 2019, which resulted in about 115,000 pounds of produce being donated to nearby pantries.

The funds are supplied by the federal SNAP-Education program, and are focused on increasing food security and promoting healthy food access.

Often, a community has already begun a food security project, but is in need of some extra support, said Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener state coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach.

“The mini-grants are really meeting a need,” DeBlieck said. “Putting just a little bit of money into donation gardens, to harvest produce that ends up in someone’s home goes a long way toward improving their day.”

Making a difference

Success stories are popping up across the state. This last round of funding helped single parents in Clayton County provide their children with fresh, nutritious vegetables.

“Through this connection with the food shelf, our project volunteers continue to see how large of an issue food security is in the community,” said Holly Loan, executive coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach Clayton County.

In Monona County, volunteers reported that their donation gardens are making fresh produce available in communities that are struggling economically, and where grocery stores are a distant commute.

Participants are also learning how to grow their own food.

“This garden project has gotten folks excited to help donate food locally, and to grow a few more plants at home to then donate produce,” said Melissa Beermann, county director for ISU Extension and Outreach Monona County.

In Osceola County, Master Gardeners have partnered with churches and other nonprofits, including ATLAS – an inter-denominational ministry – which provides meals to low-income and homebound residents.

“The fresh produce we provided (through ATLAS), especially the tomatoes, were so well received that the volunteers could hardly wait for the next round of harvest to be delivered,” said Dawn Henderson, horticulture program coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach Osceola County.

Master Gardeners in Osceola County also provided recipe handouts and cooking guides from the ISU Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website.

New grants

ISU Extension and Outreach county offices can now apply for the 2020 Growing Together Grants, with a deadline of Jan. 10. Grants are available up to $4,000. The mini grant guidelines are provided online, and a sample mini grant application is also available.

For more information about the Master Gardener Growing Together project, contact Susan DeBlieck at 515-294-6764, or deblieck@iastate.edu.

Additional Stories Published Online

The following news releases have been published on the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach website.

12/4/19 InventSTEM Challenges Youth to Develop Renewable Energy Solutions


To meet a rising demand for future professionals in science, technology, engineering and math, Iowa 4-H Youth Development offers InventSTEM. This program helps young people develop skills and innovate as they explore the importance of STEM in everyday life. 

12/4/19 Yard and Garden: Enjoy a Holiday Poinsettia


Add brilliant color to your home decor with a live poinsettia this holiday season. Follow the recommendations of Iowa State University horticulture specialists for easy caregiving and enjoyment. 

12/4/19 Janke to Share How to Restore Farmland Wildlife Habitat 


Farmland wildlife were once considered by-products of Iowa’s diversified agricultural production practices. Today, fewer wildlife thrive in row cropped landscapes, but coupling wildlife habitat conservation with efforts to improve water and soil health offers promise for restoring farmland wildlife to rural Iowa. Join Iowa Learning Farms' Dec. 18 webinar Dec. 18 to learn more. 

12/4/19 Women Landowners Improve Knowledge at Agronomy in the Field


Women landowners, farmers and ag retailers will have the opportunity to meet again this fall and winter to learn more about agronomy and related agricultural topics through distance-learning sessions of Agronomy in the Field. 

12/4/19 Miscanthus and Biomass Project Are Focus of Upcoming Meeting


Those interested in bioenergy and biomass production will have an opportunity to learn about the latest developments with the University of Iowa Biomass Fuel Project, Dec. 13 in Cedar Rapids. 

12/3/19 Franklin County 4-H Members Named Reserve National 4-H Livestock Quiz Bowl Champions 


Five Franklin County 4-H members represented Iowa at the National 4-H Livestock Quiz Bowl held during the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 18. They were named reserve national champions. 

12/3/19 Winter Cow Webinar Series Offers Convenient Viewing Options


Beef cow-calf producers recognize the importance of staying informed on all aspects of their operation, and a new four-part webinar series from Iowa Beef Center will help them do that. 

12/3/19 Feedlot Forum 2020 Explores Cattle Marketing Challenges and Expectations


The Feedlot Forum 2020, Jan. 14, 2020, in Sioux Center is an opportunity for feedlot producers and allied agribusiness professionals to hear current beef production and marketing information. 

12/2/19 I-29 Moo University Winter Workshop Series Focus Is Dairy Calves


Dairy producers are encouraged to register for the I-29 Moo University Winter Workshop series, “Prosperity of Dairy Calves,” to be held in five locations across the region beginning Jan. 6, 2020. 

12/2/19 New Loan Resources for Organic Transition and Expansion


A webinar about new loan resources for farmers interested in organic transition or expansion is planned for Dec. 11 at noon. 

12/2/19 Youth Showcase Agricultural Innovations at AgOvation Competition


Iowa's first AgOvation competition concluded with the presentation of innovative solutions to local agricultural problems designed and demonstrated by youth teams. Collegiate scholarships were awarded to top place teams. 

12/2/19 Caregivers Can Help Loved Ones Have a Safe Holiday Season


The holidays can be stressful for caregivers, other family members and loved ones who need care. Barbara Dunn Swanson, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, offers tips to help families navigate caregiving concerns during the holiday season.