Finney County Extension agents

"I promise, cross my heart..." Remember these familiar words each of us have spoken at one time or another? The 4-H pledge represents commitment. "I pledge My Head to clear thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service and My Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world."

How do these words fit into the plan of things for our current lives? We are into a new school year, a new 4-H year and a new season. Setting goals and making a commitment is part of the process that sets us up for equal success.

When thinking of commitments or pledges, I am reminded of the story of the chicken and the pig and a ham and egg breakfast. In that scenario, the chicken is certainly a contributor to the meal, but the pig is truly committed. That species went "whole hog" and put its entire self into it! Can you?

A good question for youth and adults to ask themselves is, "Am I truly putting my whole self into achieving my goals?" If not, we may be more like the chicken, which is an example of a leader who states they were "partially committed." This would be a good example of an oxymoron since a person is either committed or not.

When I asked some young people to give me examples of commitment, they came up with several that represent their world.

"Commitment is getting up in the morning and getting to school on time with all your homework done," replied one young lady.

Commitment can be summed up this way, "being committed means you are a major player in the game, not just standing on the sidelines."

As a 4-H agent, I have the opportunity to see commitment in action with youth. One example is a young person who rises early each morning to walk her lambs several miles each day in addition to feeding and caring for them properly. Another is the person what spends hours working on 4-H records each year, which eventually will benefit them in keeping records and having a record of what they do in 4-H, school, church and community. This really comes in handy when filling out scholarship and college applications. Record book stories reveal the number of youth who learn while doing over and over again. The greatest evidence of progress is observed when youth make a pledge to share this knowledge with other youth.

Youth who have demonstrated leadership skills, like being a part of the plan from the beginning and feel good to know they have contributed. They feel needed and important. It is right on target with observations of Dr. Stephen Glenn, who quotes, "Youth need to be needed." He urges us to see youth as high-energy resources and to cease treating them as objects.

Most people pick things to do that they really like. That makes it fun for them to keep sharing what they know with others. A person that has a plan and sticks to it is more likely to succeed. I have watched people cut out pictures of their goal or encouraging posters and put them by their desk, on their car visor or near a mirror, anywhere they looked often. That seems to give them energy to keep going. It also keeps them focused.

When you stand behind your promise to see a project or goal through to the finish, even though you may not like everything or everyone you are working with, you know the goal is worth it!

For further information, contact Barbara Addison, 4-H agent, at 272-3670 or email

Medicare open enrollment

It's here! Medicare open enrollment continues through Dec. 7. Call today to schedule your appointment!

Medicare offers prescription drug coverage to everyone with Medicare. Even if you don't take a lot of prescriptions now, it's very important for you to consider joining a Medicare drug plan. If you decide not to join a Medicare drug plan when you're first eligible, and you don't have other creditable prescription drug coverage, or you don't get Extra Help, you likely will pay a late enrollment penalty. The cost of the late enrollment penalty depends on how long you didn't have creditable prescription drug coverage. To get Medicare prescription drug coverage, you must join a plan run by an insurance company or other private company approved by Medicare. Each plan can vary in cost and specific drugs covered.

There are two ways to get Medicare prescription drug coverage:

* Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. PDPs are stand-alone plans that offer only prescription drug benefits under Medicare. Generally, beneficiaries remain in original (traditional, fee-for service) Medicare for their Part A and Part B coverage.

* Medicare Advantage Plans with Part D. MA-PDs offer a Part D prescription drug benefit along with other Medicare-covered benefits, including physician, hospital, diagnostic, home health care and durable medical equipment services, through contracted provider networks. Beneficiaries still must pay their Part B premiums, and they do have Medicare. Enrolling in Medicare Advantage essentially is an opt-out of Original Medicare. The MA-PD delivers Medicare benefits and serves as a primary insurer.

Beneficiaries who already are enrolled in Medicare drug plans may change plans or dis-enroll from their plans during the open enrollment period. Open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year. A decision to enroll or dis-enroll during open enrollment is effective usually for the entire calendar year, starting on Jan. 1.

As a SHICK (Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas) volunteer, I offer free unbiased Medicare counseling to Medicare beneficiaries, families and caregivers. The best way to choose a Medicare Part D plan is through the plan finder on the Medicare website. Individuals may schedule an appointment with me, Alli Burns, family and consumer sciences agent. At this appointment, I will sit down with you and your drug list to find the best Medicare drug plan for you. It is important to re-evaluate your prescription drug costs each plan year. I will help you consider the three C's:

* Coverage Does this plan cover all of my drugs? Does it have quantity limits, prior authorization, step therapy?

* Cost How much does the plan cost? What are my copays?

* Convenience Can I go to the pharmacy I want?

If you have any Medicare questions or would like to schedule an appointment to review your prescription drug coverage during the open enrollment period, call Alli Burns at 272-3670.

Resources: & SHICK Reference Handbook

Squash and pumpkin harvest

Summer and winter squash differ in how they grow and in what stage they are harvested. Summer squash tends to grow on compact, bushy plants and produces fruit that is harvested while immature. Zucchini, yellow straightneck or crookneck squash and bush scallop are examples of summer squash. Winter squash such as Butternut, Turban, Acorn and Hubbard, are produced on large, trailing vines. Pumpkins also are classified as winter squash and share the same basic characteristics. Winter squash are harvested when mature, and those that are eaten are peeled. You can tell that a winter squash (including pumpkins) is mature by using the thumbnail test. Mature fruit will have a hardened rind and will not be easily punctured with a thumbnail.

Pumpkins should be cured by placing them in a warm, dry location for about 10 days. Choose an area where the temperature will not drop below 50 degrees as cold temperatures can shorten storage life. Actually, best curing is achieved at 80 to 85 degrees F and 80 to 85 percent relative humidity without liquid water touching the pumpkins. However, such conditions are difficult for a homeowner to produce, so do the best you can. Butternut, Acorn, Turban, Hubbard and other squash types should be moved directly into storage without curing.

Acorn squash stores best at a temperature of 50 degrees F and 50 to 75 percent relative humidity. However, it has the shortest storage time of five to eight weeks even if these recommendations are followed. These conditions are also best for Butternut and Turban squash, as well as pumpkins, but these are more stable and will last from two to three months. Hubbards are the storage kings (five to six months) but prefer a range that is a bit warmer (50 to 55 degrees F) and more humid (70 to 75 percent) than other types.

Resource: Ward Upham, Kansas State Extension horticulture specialist

K-State Research & Extension Finney County is the front door source to your everyday questions. 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.