Thursday, February 25, 2016

Smart Uses for Your Tax Refund...

A tax refund is always a welcome bonus. Whether it’s $300 or $3,000, the way you use that money can have a real impact on your personal and financial well-being. Before you spend your refund, try to think through all the options – even ones that aren’t especially glamorous. Joyce Cavanaugh, Extension Family Economics Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offers some great tips that can be a helpful guide as you make those decisions.
Follow Three General Rules
1.         DO plan ahead before spending your refund. Without a plan, you may use the money on the first important thing that comes to mind and then later realize something else was more important. Planning ahead and involving the family increases the chances you will identify all the possibilities and think about which ones are most important.
2.         DO devote a portion of your tax refund to build long-term financial security.
3.         DON’T throw away part of your refund on preparation fees and/or loan fees. Did you know that those companies that offer “quick refunds” are just giving you a loan?  It’s a high-cost, high-risk loan.  Look for FREE tax preparation programs like VITA ( and AARP’s TaxAide (  Trained volunteers can assist in preparing your return and file it electronically for FREE.  Or, use the FREE File program on to do it yourself.   By using one of these free programs and having your refund direct deposited into a checking or savings account, you can get your refund in 7-10 days.

Five Smart Uses for Your Tax Refund
1.         Pay off bills.
· Your first priority is to pay your regular monthly bills if you have fallen behind (utilities, phone).
· Most other debts should be prioritized, with highest interest rate debts being paid off first.
2.         Save for needs in the coming year.
Having money saved for emergencies can get you through small emergencies, like car repairs or medical bills, without breaking a sweat.  In the ultimate emergency (loss of income), an emergency fund can keep you afloat until you find another income source.  Those big bills that come once a year or every few months (car insurance) can cause huge problems for families. Avoid those problems by being ready for the bills!  Use your tax refund to start a special savings fund. Then, keep adding to it throughout the year.
3.         Long-term savings!
You can make progress toward long-term goals, and your tax refund can help make that happen. Even small amounts add up. Adding just $500 a year into a retirement account, such as an IRA, can make a difference over a period of decades.
4.         Special purchases.
What about that new refrigerator or washer and dryer? Those purchases are valuable, too. Some may even be essential, while others simply add enjoyment to life.
5.         Invest in yourself.
Take a course or workshop that will improve your job skills!  If you’ve been looking for a way to get a better job and increase your salary, money from your tax refund may be the answer. Check out program offerings at Weatherford College Wise County Campus!
Your best bet is to first put some of your tax refund toward financial security, then use part of your tax refund to make your day-to-day life better. Amount all the items on your “wish list,” choose the most important, and shop wisely for it!
For additional information on making wise choices for your tax refund, contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Pasture Management Workshop

            Pasture management through fertilization and weed control proves to be economical when trying to produce forage.  I know the costs of fertilizer continues to stay extremely high; but, without proper nutrition and management, forage production and hay yields will continue to go down. Effective and affordable weed control is the key to realizing the full potential of today’s pastures and rangeland. Managing weeds maximizes grass yield and quality, which ultimately leads to more cattle weight gain per acre.  With the price of cattle declining us as producers need to be efficient in managing forage production.  While cost inputs may need to be restructured, quality feed is still imperative to produce beef.

            The Wise County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Livestock & Forage Committee will host a Pasture Management Workshop in Boyd, Texas on Wednesday, March 9th at the Boyd Community Center starting with registration at 10:30 a.m. and will conclude at 2:00 p.m.  Registration fee for the workshop will be $15 ($20 late registration at the door) which includes 2 hours of General CEU’s for pesticide applicator license holders.  The meeting will include lunch which is sponsored by Boyd Feed Store and DOW AgroSciences.

            The workshop will cover topics such as: soil testing, fertilizer practices and weed management in pastures.  Speakers for the workshop will be Ethan Westfall, Range, Pasture & Crop Protection Specialist with DOW AgroSciences and Dr. Dennis Coker, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program Specialist - Soil Fertility.

            For more information about the pasture management workshop you can go to the Wise County Extension office website  or call the office at 940-627-3341. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

18th Annual Wise County Walk Across Texas

Through a modest increase in daily activity, most Americans can improve their health.  WALK ACROSS TEXAS is a program that persuades and motivates people of all ages to make the most important get started.  It is a fun and flexible way to exercise.  The program is simple, free and safe.  All you need is a team of eight people to get moving, with one person being designated as the “team captain.”  The team who walks farthest “across Texas” will win, but everyone who participates will take home a healthy habit - walking for fitness.
            Team members report their daily mileage to the team captain, and the team captain reports the individual and team total miles on the following web address:  or  to the Extension office at the end of each week by: telephone (940.627.3341), fax (940.627.8070) or e-mail
            Teams are not required to walk or ride together, although they may if they desire.  Teams simply pool their mileage each week to work toward “walking across Texas”. Members may walk, jog, ride a bike, skateboard, roller blade, tread mill, swim, spin and/or run.  A large Texas map showing the progress of teams will be in Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Wise County office, and at other various locations.
            So dust off your walking shoes and prepare to join us in this 8 week journey beginning on March 21, and continuing through May 15.    
            Walk Across Texas is sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. We are looking for captains and team members.  Please encourage organizations in which you are involved to participate in this endeavor.

            Remember prevention works! Individuals can save a lot of pain, worry and money by avoiding health problems. I encourage you to join the Walk Across Texas Program today.
            Call or come by Texas AgriLife  Extension Service, Wise County office, located at 206 South State, in Decatur or call 940-627-3341 to pick up your Walk Across Texas Team Captain Packet. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Food Handler’s Course

Foodborne illnesses can be prevented by following simple food safety practices. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension-Wise County provides a Food Protection Management Training Program that seeks to reduce the risk of food borne illness. 
The “Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER)” was revised and updated and became effective October 11, 2015.  A major change in the revision now requires all food employees to complete an accredited food handlers training program within 60 days of employment, effective September 16, 2016.  The Texas Cottage Food Law also requires that anyone who operates a cottage food business have a food handler card. 
Food service employees and those who operate a cottage food business can attend a two hour food handler’s class, accredited by the Texas Department of State Health Services, on Wednesday, February 17 from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Wise County office located at 206 S. State Street in Decatur.  This 2 hour course will now be required for all food service employees to help promote the service of safe food. The certificate is good for 2 years and is valid anywhere in the State of Texas. Participants will learn about good personal hygiene, cross contamination and time and temperature abuse.

 Contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341 to sign up. The registration fee is $20.00 and covers course materials and an official food handler card.  Registration deadline for the Food Handler certification course is Friday, February 12.  Space is limited. 
Individuals with disabilities who require auxiliary aide service or accommodation in order to participate in the event are encouraged to contact our office within 5 working days prior to the program.  Educational programs of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, national origin or genetic information or veteran status.
The class is taught in English, but Spanish handouts are available if requested in advance.

The Food Protection Management (FPM) Training Program is brought to you by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in cooperation with the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the County Commissioners Court Cooperating.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Solving the Mystery of Pruning Roses

February is the month when most modern roses need to be pruned.  Even if your roses have already begun growth, the time has come to prune.  Annual heavy pruning is essential to insure the prolific bloom and long-life of a rose bush.

Explaining the concept of rose pruning without a live bush to demonstrate on is difficult, so let your mind loose to help visualize the following steps in rose pruning:

  • Pruning of roses is actually done year round.  Every time you cut off old blooms and remove twiggy growth, you are actually promoting new growth.  There are two times a year when you prune more seriously, spring and fall.
  • You will need the following items: a good pair of hand pruners (preferably the scissor type, not anvil type), a sharp keyhole saw and large loppers, a heavy pair of leather gloves, a pruning compound and a dull knife.
  • The first step in spring pruning of Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas and Climbing roses is to remove any canes that are dead or just old and non-productive.  These canes are usually gray in color and scaly.
  • This pruning will encourage future “basal” breaks which are the life blood of any rose bush.  Basal breaks refer to new shoots, soon to be producing canes, which arise from the graft union.  These should not be confused with “suckers” which arise from the rootstock below the graft union.  Remove all suckers.
  • Beginning to fine tune the pruning, remove all twiggy growth on the remaining canes (note: the fine tune pruning on climbing roses should be done after they bloom in the spring).  Try to clean out the middle of the bush as much as possible.  This allows for good air circulation to prevent insects and disease.
  • Now you are ready to prune on the good healthy canes.  If your roses have already flushed growth, it is important to prune each cane back to a dormant bud.  A bud that has already begun growth and is then pruned will simply continue to grow vigorously and bloom very little.  A dormant, non-growing bud will initiate growth after pruning and will produce an abundance of blooms.
  • One comment used to describe pruning is to “prune to an outside bud.”  This means when picking the point on a given cane to cut back to, make sure there is a good bud on the cane facing toward the outside of the plant.  This will insure the growth of the new bud is to the outside, therefore keeping the center of the rose bush clear and open for air circulation.
  • Another guideline in pruning back an individual cane is to cut the cane at the point when the diameter of the cane is the size of a pencil or slightly larger.  This is normally at a height of 18 to 14 inches.  If there is the need to prune back to a dormant bud, the size of the cane may be larger and the cane length may be shorter.

The final product of your pruning should be a rose bush about 18 to 24 inches tall with 4 to 8 canes.  Add some mulch, water and tender-loving-care, and that pitiful looking rose bush will soon give you a shower of flowers.