Finney County Extension agents

Much-anticipated snow this winter will bring many benefits to the struggling wheat crop, said Jim Shroyer, Kansas State Research and Extension crop production specialist. In many ways, snow will be even more beneficial than rain.

The benefits he outlined include:

* Moisture. Obviously, snow brings much-needed moisture to wheat fields. The general rule is 10 inches of snow equals one inch of rain, although this varies, depending on how fluffy or heavy the snow is. One of the benefits of getting moisture in the form of snow is that nearly all the moisture will move down into the soil and remain there for quite some time. Since the weather is cold, or at least cool, after a snow, very little of it will evaporate immediately.

* Root development. Moisture from snow will help increase root growth of wheat. Even if the top growth is dormant and isn't growing during periods of cold weather, roots will continue to grow if there is moisture.

* Soil protection. Snow cover does a great job in keeping the soil from blowing. As long as the ground is protected by snow, soil particles on the surface can't be picked up by high winds, thus preventing wind erosion for a time.

* Soil temperatures. Snow has an insulating effect on the soil, keeping very cold air temperatures from reducing soil temperatures and protecting the crown of the wheat plant from cold injury. Snow also keeps soils warmer during the winter by adding moisture to the soil. It takes much longer for wet soils to get cold than dry soils.

The best way for a grower to improve the chances of having snow cover is to maintain standing residue on the field, Shroyer added.

"Standing residue is especially effective in capturing and keeping snow, especially when it's windy. That's another reason that keeping residue on the soil is important," he said.

Let's party

When your child attends:

* Contact the hosting parents. Verify that the parents are aware of the party and that it will be properly chaperoned. Confirm that there will be no alcohol or other drugs permitted at the party. Offer your assistance.

* Know where your child will be. Have the address and phone number of the party giver. Let your child know that you expect a phone call if the location of the party is changed.

* Know how your child will get to and from the party. If you are unable to provide transportation for your child, make certain that you know which parent will be driving him to and from the party.

* Be sure your child understands what time he/she is to be home.

* Be awake, or have your child awaken you, when he/she arrives home. This is also a good time for children to share the excitement of the party with you.

* Let your child know they can call you for a ride home. If your child feels uncomfortable with anything happening at the party, make sure they know that they can call for a ride home at any time. The child may need a phone card or make sure they understand that they can call collect.

* Discuss with your child the possible situations that might necessitate such a phone call: drugs or alcohol being present at the party; other illegal activity; not feeling comfortable with the situation; just wanting a way out; the party not being properly supervised; or fighting or aggressive behavior.

* If you are not going to be home, let your child know where you can be reached or whom they can call to get a ride. Make certain that your back-up driver is aware that you are not going to be available and that they know the phone number and address of the party host.

* If your child is staying overnight with a friend following a party, check with the parents of the friend beforehand to verify that it is acceptable for your child to spend the night, that they will be home and that you agree on a curfew.

* Your child may want to send a thank-you note or phone the party-giver the next day.

* If your child does use drugs or alcohol at the party, your child needs to know in advance that it is OK to come home. They need to know that there will be strong consequences, but that you will discuss the consequences in the morning. This will give you both an opportunity to calm down. Home needs to remain a safe place.

Resource: Illinois Extension

Holiday food safety

'Tis the season for family, friends ... and food! To prevent your food-centered gatherings from becoming chances to "share" a food-borne illness, check out these tips. I wish you and your family a happy and harmless holiday!

* Buffets. Holiday buffets can be a bacterial breeding ground if foods are left in the temperature danger zone too long. To avoid this, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. How? Hold hot foods at an internal temperature of 140 degrees F or warmer, as measured with a food thermometer. Keep them hot by serving them in slow cookers or electric warming trays. Prepare cold foods ahead of time so you can chill them to 40 degrees F or cooler. Keep them cold by serving them in small dishes nested in bowls of ice. Replenish the cold foods at least every hour, using clean dishes for each batch. Do not mix them with perishable foods that have been sitting at room temperature.

* Holiday meats. Use safe handling practices when preparing and cooking holiday meats. Once your purchase is at home, cook or refrigerate it immediately. Cook or freeze fresh poultry within two days, and fresh meats within five days. To keep meats tender and to minimize shrinkage, use an oven temperature of 325 degrees F. The following chart shows how hot the internal temperature of meat should be, as measured with a food thermometer.

Type of meat and internal temperature:

Poultry (all kinds), 165 degrees F

Beef and veal, 145 degrees F

Pork and lamb, 145 degrees F

Pre-cooked ham, 140 degrees F

Venison, 160 degrees F

Before eating, let the meat "rest" for at least three minutes after removing it from the oven. For more information, visit

Remember these simple food safety tips during the holidays:

* Wash hands Proper hand washing is the most effective way to keep food and guests safe. Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water following restroom use, after handling raw meat products or before eating. Clean hands help prevent the spread of potential illness-causing microorganisms.

* Watch the clock Remember the "Two-Hour Rule": Don't leave perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Food safety tip of the day

Cutting boards are one of the most common kitchen items that causes cross contamination. A different cutting board should be used for raw meat, poultry and seafood than is used for preparing ready-to-eat foods like salads and fruits. The produce often is not cooked before being served, so any contaminants will not have a "kill step" prior to consumption.

K-State Research Extension Finney County is the front-door source to your everyday questions for information and knowledge. Every question is of value to you and us. Give us a call at 272-3670, or better, walk in our front door at 501 S. Ninth St., for information to help you make a better decision.