Finney County Extension agents

In order to help youth become useful and responsible citizens, one must understand their needs and interests. All youth have needs, desires, interests, values, strengths and weaknesses that affect their behavior. All youth have different personalities, but they are alike in many ways. Certain needs and interests are shared by all youth. One special service need that attracts youth is the need to serve the community.

During the holiday season, many individual youth and groups take the time to give back to the community. Groups entertain at adult care facilities, collect gifts for the needy, collect for the local food pantries, help out at homeless shelters, distribute gifts and food for the disadvantaged.

So, do you have a group of kids interested in doing community projects? Community service is an activity conducted by youth to make the community a better place in which to live. Community service is a year-round activity, not just during the holidays. Every youth group and member should strive to make worthy contributions to the community by working as a group or in cooperation with other organizations or groups.

Why form a community service learning group?

* Kids see community needs differently and they prioritize them differently than adults.

* Kids have ideas for solving problems. Think of kids as assets, not problems!

* Youth have the energy and motivation to tackle problems and find solutions.

* They need to know/learn that they can do things, as a group or individual, that make a difference.

* They learn while they serve. Service learning gives kids the chance to see that what they are learning, in school, in groups, or in 4-H, does relate to the real world.

* Our communities can use their help in meeting real needs.

* Kids and adults can have fun working together!

What is community service learning? It is a combination of two long established parts of 4-H youth development. Community service is learning by doing it's citizenship, it's leadership, it's decision making, and it can be directly related to 4-H projects, school lessons, and overall youth development.

For 4-H inquiries and questions, contact Barbara Addison, 4-H Youth Development agent, at (620) 272-3670, or

Happy Holidays to the 4-H Extension readers.

Choosing a Christmas tree

Here are some guidelines that you can use to select a quality tree this season:

* Select a tree with a healthy green appearance and good fragrance. A fresh tree has few brown needles, and the needles should be flexible, not brittle.

Watch for these signs that a tree has been cut too long and should not be selected:

* Needles are a dull, grayish-green color.

* Needles fail to ooze pitch when broken apart and squeezed.

* Needles feel stiff and brittle.

* Needles pull easily off tree.

Next, run a branch through your hand. The needles should stay on. If needles are easily knocked off, the tree may be drying out. Very few green needles should be shed when the tree is shaken lightly or the stump is gently bumped on the ground.

If you are not setting the tree up right away, store it in a cool area away from wind and sun. Make a fresh cut on the base of the trunk, removing a one-inch thick slice. Place the cut end in a bucket of water.

When you are ready to place the tree indoors, recut the trunk about one inch above the original cut or the cut you made while storing the tree. This will open up clogged water conducting tissues. Immediately place the trunk in warm water. Place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least a gallon of water. The tree may absorb as much as a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, and one or more quarts per day after that. A fresh tree, with proper care, may last as long as five weeks.

Locate the tree in as cool a spot as possible in the house. Avoid areas near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, heat ducts and television sets as the heat will result in excess water loss. Make sure the reservoir stays filled. If the reservoir loses enough water that the bottom of the trunk is exposed, the trunk will need to be recut, as sap may seal the cut in four to six hours. Adding aspirins, copper pennies, soda pop, sugar and bleach to the water reservoir have not been shown to prolong the life of a tree.

If you have any questions about Christmas trees or any other concerns, contact David Coltrain, Finney County Extension agent, by phone at 272-3670 or email

Back pain after the holidays

If you made the effort to hang holiday lights around the house this weekend, you probably now have an aching back. Follow some of these ideas of home remedies to ease the soreness and relieve the pain:

* Rest when needed. A sudden attack of pain sends the muscles into a debilitating spasm (persistent uncontrollable muscle contractions), which is actually a protective defense mechanism to prevent further damage from continued use. When immobilized by muscle spasms, the obvious course of action is to lie down and rest for a while, which reduces pressure on the affected areas and permits inflamed tissue to settle down. Some people find that lying on one side with legs bent and a pillow between the knees provides optimal relief.

* Try heat or ice. Either or both may provide temporary relief, although the evidence is better for heat than for ice. You should wait at least 48 hours after an acute injury before applying heat, but otherwise, hot packs, hot water bottles or heating pads are advisable. Likewise, sitting in a whirlpool or hot tub (hydrotherapy) can be soothing and therapeutic. Heat dilates the blood vessels, improving the flow of nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the affected tissues. Heat also alters the sensation of pain and can ease muscle spasms. Cold is known to reduce inflammation. Although cold may feel painful against the skin, it numbs deep tissue pain.

* Consider over-the-counter pain relievers. These medications help you get through the worst of the back attack, until you can return to your normal activities.

* Start moving. Short-term bed rest is fine (and often unavoidable), but numerous studies have shown that too much bed rest actually makes matters worse. If your pain keeps you from moving, it's all right to stay in bed, but it's important to get up and start moving around as soon as possible. Adjust what you do and how much, but be as active as you can. Resume walking and other activities as soon as possible, usually after a day or two, at least to some degree.

* Choose exercise wisely. Walking, swimming, stretching and gentle yoga may help to ease your pain and once pain is in check, a regular exercise program can help prevent back pain. There is evidence that exercises that focus on the core muscles in the abdomen and lower back can be helpful.

* Get in the water. Aquatic therapy essentially physical therapy conducted in the water is used to manage various musculoskeletal conditions, including low back pain. Water provides natural resistance when you move. Exercising against this resistance, with the correct pushing or pulling motions, gently develops muscle strength in your back, abdomen and hips. When you target these core muscles, you help stabilize your posture and support your lower back. Water's buoyancy also minimizes pressure on your spine. Warm water particularly relaxes your back muscles and eases pain.

* Know when to dial up the doctor. The intensity of back pain is not a reliable indicator of the seriousness of the underlying problem. Some serious diseases may produce only dull pain, whereas a simple muscle spasm can be excruciating. In any case, you should see a doctor right away if back pain is accompanied by changes in bowel or bladder control, diminished sexual function or numbness in the genital region, or pain, numbness or tingling that radiates into the limbs. Likewise, sudden back pain accompanied by fever or vomiting merits prompt medical attention.

Source: University of California