Finney County Extension agents

Now it's true that cooking with children will take time, patience, and often a little extra clean up, but the rewards will greatly outweigh the effort. Along with having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen, kids can learn at an early age how to prepare nutritious meals using items in their own pantry.

A report by the American Heart Association on obesity in children and teens claimed cooking with your kids may reduce the number of meals eaten outside the home, allow more structured time for family meals, offer healthier and low-calorie foods, as well as encouraging more involvement from children in meal planning, shopping and food preparation.

Experts agree that teaching your children to cook at a young age will help them develop better eating habits as adults, increase their self-confidence; all the while teaching them skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

What are the best ways to get started? Most likely, dinner will be the best meal to begin with, since it is one of the few times that the whole family is together. It may be a good idea to have your kids gain confidence in the kitchen with a few simple meals before they dive in and start cooking the Holiday ham.

Start them with something easy. Spaghetti with bread and salad, sandwiches with carrots and celery sticks, or English muffin pizzas are a few meals that can get you and your child started. For most kids, it will be the first time in a kitchen, so go over food preparation step by step. Start with stressing the basics like cleaning the prep area, hand washing, safe usage of knives, utensils, and appliances, and proper serving methods.

To begin with, start kids off with simple skills like peeling, rolling, juicing, mashing, removing husks from corn, washing vegetables in a colander, measuring and pouring ingredients, and basic hand mixing. Once they master these proficiencies, you can move on to more advanced culinary skills. Always remember to make sure you provide proper supervision, especially when using potentially dangerous equipment or utensils. (Resource North Carolina Extension)

For 4-H Foods and Kids a Cookin inquiries and questions, contact Barbara Addison, 4-H Youth Development Agent, (620) 272-3670, or

4-H Team, 4-H Achievement Award Program

"Join the 4-H Team," is the theme for the 2013 4-H Achievement program being help at 5:30 p.m., Sunday. The program will be held at the Fairgrounds 4-H Building.

4-H members who have achieved in various areas of 4-H will be recognized for record book completion, county project winners, achievement awards, judging teams, and 4-H Foundation award and many more.

Also recognized will be the Kansas 4-H Key Award, Leaders, Friends of 4-H and 4-H Alumni. Invited 4-H families and guests are asked to RSVP by Wednesday. Call (620) 272-3670 or email

Check your trees for defects

This time of year, with short daylight hours, it's annoying to people that like to work outside on landscape projects. One thing you can do now is take an inventory of your trees and see what defects your trees have and what you can do to help them and prevent future problems. Most tree defects can be prevented, but you need to know what you are doing.

The first 15 to 20 years of a tree are the most important. It is a lot like raising children. Do a good job early, and it makes it a lot easier later on. You also should realize that every day all trees are getting closer to the time when they will return to elements that will be used by future plants. Sometimes, the only solution is to cut a tree down before it becomes a hazard.

Tree defects fall into seven groups. 1) Decay that originally started with a wound. 2) Vertical or horizontal cracks. Vertical cracks normally are not serious, but horizontal cracks usually signify the tree can fail at any time. 3) Root problems occurring from mechanical mishaps, improper fill, and/or soil compaction. 4) Weak branch unions. 5) Cankers refer to areas in a tree where no new wood is growing. 6) Poor architecture. 7) Dead portion of the tree, for instance, the top or a branch.

Preventing tree defects falls into five categories: 1) Fix problems when trees are small. 2) Get the right tree in the right place. 3) Improper mulching and planting trees too deep. 4) Proper maintenance is a key component. 5) Defects are visible signs that trees have the potential to fail.

Natural needle drop on pines

I have had a number of calls and noticed many pine trees in Finney County with yellow needles. Most of these yellow needles are a result of natural needle drop. This is a process where 2- to 4-year-old interior needles turn yellow, then brown, and eventually drop off. Those who aren't familiar with this process often are concerned about the health of the tree. This is a natural phenomenon that occurs every year and does not hurt the tree.

However, some years it is much more noticeable than others. Be sure to check that only the older needles are affected — the needles on the tips of the branches should look fine — and that there is no spotting or banding on the needles that are turning yellow. If spotting or banding is noted, the pine tree is probably exhibiting signs of Dothistroma needle blight.

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

National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

I am pretty sure many of us have not even thought that there is a "National Day to clean our refrigerator," but if you think about the different upcoming celebrations, this one is very important. It is part of our preparation before the holidays, and here are some recommendations:

Unplug the refrigerator. Empty the contents. Take everything out of the fridge. Place it on the table. It's recommended that you clean one shelf at a time to avoid spoilage. Throw out aged, moldy or inedible food, bagging securely. Recycle glass and plastic containers.

Remove the drawers and place them in the sink. Scrub the drawers with a sponge, warm water, and liquid dish soap. Leave them out to air-dry.

Wipe the interior with a multi surface spray. Wipe the refrigerator inside and outside with a cloth and vinegar and water, baking soda and water solution, or a water and cleaner solution, rinsing well with a washcloth rinsed clear with water. Soapy water works, too. Clean the rubber door closure area too.

Wipe down the walls, then each shelf. Don't forget the shelf seams and the rubber door seal. Use an old toothbrush and a spray of cleaner to remove grime.

Plug in the refrigerator. Return the drawers. Put the food back in, wiping down jars and bottles.

Keep your refrigerator organized, with meats and cheese and butter in one shelf box, and vegetables in the crisper. Meats should be stored on the bottom shelf to avoid meat juices dripping onto the shelves below.

Buy a deodorizer or just plain old-fashion baking soda to keep out old smells. Attach the baking-soda pod's suction cups to an interior wall to prevent odor.

Clean the exterior. For enameled steel, use a multi-surface solution and paper towels.

For stainless steel, dampen a microfiber cloth with distilled white vinegar and rub in the direction of the grain. All done!

Tips: Keep a small jar (with the lid off) of baking soda in the fridge to absorb excess moisture. Please note that it has to be a jar and not a box.

Organize to make things easier to find. Put milk, juices and other drinks on one shelf, and your dressings, sauces, and similar items in another place.

Clean your fridge out approximately once every month.

Once your fridge is clean, one easy way to keep it clean is to empty and clean just one or two shelves or drawers at a time. The entire fridge is never spotless all at once, but it can stay reasonably clean without being an all-day project. Just make sure to cycle through all the shelves. Check weekly for bad products to help keep out odors.

Any questions or concerns, contact LĂ©hisa de Fornoza, Finney County Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, (620) 272-3670, or

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, email at,, or better, walk in our front door at 501 S. Ninth St., for information to help you make a better decision.