Extension Information


Yellow River Forest Field Day Set for October 9

Refreshments will be served at 8:30 a.m. with the program running from 9:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m. at the Yellow River State Forest Headquarters complex, 729 State Forest Road (County Hwy B25). Five miles SE of Rossville on Hwy 76 to B25; 4 miles NE on B25 to the Headquarters.  Look for forestry field day signs at the entrance to the headquarters.   
Registration is required by calling the ISU Extension and Outreach office in Allamakee County at
563-568-6345 by Tuesday, October 3rd  to guarantee your meal. The cost of the field day is $10. Participants should dress for outdoor conditions. More information and the full agenda can be found at www.forestry.iastate.edu.


Newsletter to Cover All Things Related to Small Farm Living

Many Iowans are choosing to live on small farms or acreages and they have a variety of reasons. According to the Census of Agriculture, one-third of Iowa farms are small farms with 50 acres or less. Iowans say small farms offer a quiet place to retire and open spaces to raise young families. Some are drawn to the rural lifestyle by memories of growing up on a farm or visiting a grandparent’s farm. Others want to raise their own food, make a positive contribution to the environment or contribute to the local food system.

Christa Hartsook knows about the opportunities and the challenges of small farm living. She and her husband Greg are raising three children on a small farm in Story County. She also has been involved with small farm sustainability the past 12 years as a value added agriculture program specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She is a natural fit as the small farm sustainability program coordinator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the position she began in June.

She has her sights set on making sure other Iowans know of the opportunities and available resources for managing challenges of small farm living. “Living on an acreage or small farm definitely has its opportunities,” she said. “There are many things Iowans can do to earn additional income, sustainably take care of the land and the resources, and provide a rural lifestyle for their family.”

Acreage Living subscribers have a chance for Iowa State football tickets

Hartsook and the small farm sustainability program are re-introducing the ISU Extension and Outreach Acreage Living newsletter in an online format. Iowans living on small farms recently received introductory postcards encouraging them to subscribe. Hartsook even added an incentive for those that subscribe before Oct. 5 – their names will be entered into a drawing for tickets to the Iowa State vs. Texas Tech game Nov. 22.

We want people to be excited about the newsletter and the information that will come to them every three months, so we are building on the excitement around the Cyclone football team,” she said. “Readers will find valuable information in the Acreage Living e-newsletter, regardless of why they are choosing a rural lifestyle.”

The first issue includes information about backyard poultry, fall turf grass management, well maintenance and inspection, promoting pollinators and vermin management. The newsletter will be emailed directly to subscribers and county extension offices across the state, and be available on the ISU Extension and Outreach small farm website.

For those that didn’t receive a postcard or have misplaced it, they can read the newsletter and easily subscribe by going to the small farm sustainability website,” Hartsook said. The website address is http://www.extension.iastate.edu/smallfarms.

The small farm sustainability website organizes resources under the headings of planning and management, marketing and food systems, alternative and specialty crops, and niche livestock. It also encourages visitors to send a note if they have a question about small farming. A team of trained ISU Extension and Outreach specialists are ready to respond to small farmers and those living on acreages, and connect Iowans with the Iowa State resources.

Hartsook said the small farm sustainability program brings resources from across the university and the extension system to Iowans. Publications, people and agencies that serve as resources will be highlighted on the website, in the e-newsletter and through online learning opportunities that will be available early in 2015.

We want to make learning and knowledge exchange readily available so Iowans can learn when they have time in their schedules and a need to know,” she said.

Yard and Garden: Enjoying Fall Pumpkin and Squash

One of the best aspects of fall gardening is the harvesting of pumpkins and squash. The closely related members of the squash family are popular parts of the fall calendar, from Halloween through the making of favorite fall and holiday recipes. Tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists help gardeners enjoy these fall favorites. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

When should I harvest my pumpkins?

Pumpkins can be harvested when they have developed a deep, uniform orange color and the rind is hard. Mature pumpkins can also be left in the garden or field until the vines are killed by a light frost or freeze.

When harvesting pumpkins, handle them carefully to avoid cuts and bruises. Cut the pumpkins off the vine with a sharp knife or pair of lopping shears. Leave several inches of stem attached to each fruit. A pumpkin with a three to five inch stem or handle is more attractive. Also, pumpkins with stems are less likely to rot. Do not carry pumpkins by their stems. The stems may not be able to support the weight of the pumpkins and may break off.

What is the proper way to store pumpkins?

After harvesting the pumpkins, cure them at a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 percent relative humidity for 10 days. Curing helps to harden their skins and heal any cuts and scratches.  

After curing, store pumpkins in a cool, dry location. Storage temperatures should be 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. When storing pumpkins, place them in a single layer where they don’t touch one another. Good air circulation helps to prevent moisture from forming on the surfaces of the fruit and retards the growth of decay fungi and bacteria. Placing the pumpkins in piles generates unwanted heat which may result in the rotting of some fruit. Promptly remove and discard any pumpkins that show signs of decay.

When do you harvest winter squash?

Harvest winter squash when the fruit are fully mature. Mature winter squash have very hard skins that can’t be punctured with the thumbnail. Additionally, mature winter squash have dull-looking surfaces.  

When harvesting winter squash, handle them carefully to avoid cuts and bruises. These injuries are not only unsightly, they provide entrances for various rot-producing organisms. Cut the fruit off the vine with a pruning shears. Leave a one-inch stem on each fruit.

What is the proper way to store winter squash?

After harvesting, cure winter squash (except for the acorn types) at a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 80 to 85 percent. Curing helps to harden the squash skins and heal any cuts and scratches. Do not cure acorn squash. The high temperature and relative humidity during the curing process actually reduce the quality and storage life of acorn squash.  

After curing, store winter squash in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not store squash near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. Ripening fruit release ethylene gas which shortens the storage life of squash.  

When properly cured and stored, the storage lives of acorn, butternut, and hubbard squash are approximately five to eight weeks, two to three months, and five to six months, respectively.  

Study Results Tell How to Cut Tractor Fuel Expenses

Tractor fuel expenses can add up quickly during fall and spring field work. According to a case study conducted at the Iowa State University Armstrong Research and Demonstration Farm near Atlantic, Iowa, fuel savings of 20 percent or more can be achieved by using the "shift up, throttle back" technique.

Using an auxiliary 12-gallon tractor fuel tank, the study measured diesel fuel consumption for different gear and throttle combinations during disking, plowing and planting with a John Deere 7420 tractor.

Improving tractor fuel efficiency is one of many ways to reduce energy expenses on the farm,” said Mark Hanna, ag engineer with ISU Extension and Outreach. “For example, using the ‘shift up, throttle back’ technique during planting shows a fuel savings of 21 percent when comparing the lower versus higher gear settings.”

The study also examined the effects of tillage depth on fuel consumption during tandem disking.

As expected, deeper tillage generally requires more fuel,” Hanna said. “In this case, increasing the disking depth from 3 inches to 5 inches increased fuel use by 9 percent.”

A new publication from ISU Extension and Outreach illustrates the results of the tractor fuel case study from southwest Iowa. Tractor Fuel Consumption at Armstrong (PM 3063B) is available to download from the Extension Online Store, www.extension.iastate.edu/store. The study summarizes tractor fuel measurements for field work including disking, plowing and planting.

This case study illustrates a key point about on-farm energy management,” Hanna said. “Many opportunities to improve energy efficiency are tied directly to day-to-day activities such as driving a tractor. Reducing tillage depth and remembering the ‘shift up, throttle back’ technique when you’re in the driver’s seat will reduce fuel consumption.”

For more tips on energy efficiency all around the farmstead, visit http://farmenergy.exnet.iastate.edu or follow @ISU_Farm_Energy on Twitter.

The Farm Energy publications are part of a series of farm energy efficiency resources developed by ISU Farm Energy. This outreach effort aims to help farmers and utility providers to improve on-farm energy management and to increase profitability in a rapidly changing energy environment.