Friday, May 19, 2017

Summer Canning Safety

Reports across Wise County indicate that green beans are currently being harvested in abundance. If your plans include canning your green beans and other home grown vegetables, I hope you also find time to test your pressure canner dial gauge.
The pressure canner is used to process foods under pressure at temperatures higher than boiling.  A pressure canner is the only safe method for processing low acid foods such as vegetables, meat, poultry and fish.  The pressure canner can supply enough heat to destroy spores of bacteria that causes botulism as well as other types of spoilage.
To have your pressure canner tested, bring the canner lid to the Extension office located at 206 S. State Street in Decatur.  The canner tester can test most (but not all) brands.  Presto Canners are the most compatible. The test will help you determine the accuracy of your pressure canner and therefore be confident in your ability to properly can food. 
Pressure canners with a dial gauge, should be checked once a year before the canning season. Also, check it during the season if you use the canner frequently. If you do not have an instruction book for your canner, write for one.
The weighted pressure control on canners does not need to be checked.  Keep it clean and rust free.  In most canners there is a gasket. These gaskets are made of rubber or rubber-like compounds to keep steam from leaking out around the cover. You can remove and replace most gaskets as needed. Some only need to be turned to ensure a tight seal. Replace a worn, stretched or hardened gasket with a new one. Refer to the canner instructions for directions.
For more information on testing your pressure canner or for tips on canning your summer produce, call the Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Cinch RSNC Ranch Sorting School and Competition

On May 27th and 28th, the-first-in Texas, Cinch Ranch Sorting National Championship School and Fun Beginner Sorting Event will be hosted at the National Roper’s Supply Arena in Decatur, Texas. This event is being sponsored by Cinch RSNC, Total Equine Feeds, in conjunction with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County.

Saturday night at 6 pm, Dr. Ron Gill, TAMU Professor and Extension Livestock Specialist, and internationally recognized beef cattle behaviorist, will give a revealing live demonstration on How to Read Cattle. Then B.F. Yeates, former TAMU Horse Specialist, AQHA Hall of Famer and industry legend, will show and narrate a documentary film, The Quarter Horse Industry in Texas in 1938. See the King Ranch, Sixes, Waggoners, Hudgins Ranches, etc. plus Old Sorrel, Peppy, Hollywood Gold, Chicaro Bill and other legendary horses. See also some of the first stock horse shows, races and events in Texas; before formation of the American Quarter Horse Assn. The cost of the Saturday night program is $10 at the door with no pre-registration required.

Sunday at 8 am begins with a Cowboy Church Service led by Cowboy Pastor Todd Keller and his family.  Hear “Cool Cool Water” in a very unique way.  The school begins at 9 am, with hands-on skills teaching classes for both adults and youth.  The classes, ongoing concurrently all day, are: Working Cattle Horseback (Dave Wolfe, Cinch RSNC), Riding and Training Skills Needed by Persons Working Cattle (Morgan Moreno, TAMU Ranch Horse Team Coach), Strategies Used by Top Ranch Sorting Competitors (Dean Allred, top Cinch RSNC competitor) and How to Know If Your Horse is 100% OK for Practicing and Competition (Dr. Doug Householder and Dr. Jennifer Zoller, former and current TAMU Extension Horse Specialists, respectively). Non-registered persons are welcomed and encouraged to audit any or all classes all day.

A special demonstration, How to Improve Balance, Softness and Suppleness in Your Horse, Through Body Pressure Point Manipulation, will be given by Australian horseman Gary Wells. Selected registrant’s horses will be used in the live demonstration.

Each school graduate will be awarded with a Cinch RSNC graduation certificate, a complimentary one-year Cinch RSNC membership and a monogrammed Cinch RSNC trophy shirt (total package worth $100).

The highlight of the event will be the 6 pm Beginners (Novice Horse and Novice Rider) Sorting Class; open to any beginner, even if not in the school classes all day. Eight (8) buckles will be awarded to the top sorting teams in 4 divisions (Overall, Cowboy Churches, 4-H Members and Over 40 Something Cowgirls). The entry fee is $15 per person per run with a 50% payback in the overall.

To preview this Decatur event, see a 4 min. video “Ranch Sorting Kids Camps” at Print out the full Decatur program there also. Interested persons can also contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County office at 940.627.3341, for local information.

Preregister online at before 4 pm on May 26th. The event cost is $60. Stalls and housing at NRS are an additional charge.  After that time, persons can register for $75 at the door at NRS.

We are excited Cinch RSNC has chosen Decatur as the site for their first educational school and companion beginner sorting in Texas and to partner with us.  The NRS facility, numbers of serious education-minded adult horsemen, size of the Texas 4-H horse program, our local/area horse community, and the availability of top professional resource persons from TAMU and the area, were the reasons for the Decatur site selection.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Grilling Outdoors Safely

With Graduation, Father’s Day, and many other summer activities approaching many of you are sure to fire up the outdoor grill to help with food preparation for the celebrations.

Outdoor grilling is a popular way to prepare food during warmer weather while enjoying the company of family and friends.  However, grilling does “open the door” to food borne illness if proper cleanliness and preparation measures are not followed. 

To make your cookout a fond memory rather than a regretful experience, follow these simple steps:

Food Preparation:
           Select fresh meat, poultry, or seafood that is high quality for best cooking results.
           Keep these perishable products at 40° F or colder, until immediately before grilling.
           Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator and discard leftover marinade.
           Wash your hands before and after working with raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
           Wash your work surfaces and cutting boards with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food.  To sanitize, use 1 tsp. bleach per quart of warm water.  If possible, use a separate cutting board for fresh produce and raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
          When away from home, keep your meat and poultry away from other food in a separate cooler with ice.  This prevents cross contamination.
         After placing raw meat on the grill, wash utensils and platters with hot, soapy water before using them to serve cooked food.
          Cook foods to an internal temperature that destroys harmful bacteria.  Check the temperature by placing a thermometer in the center-most part of the meat, not touching the bone.

Internal temperature for thorough cooking to prevent food borne illness are:
           Whole poultry - 165° F
           Poultry breasts - 165° F
           Ground beef patties - 160° F
           Ground poultry - 165° F
           Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts, or chops - 145° F (yields medium rare doneness)
           All cuts of pork - 160° F (yields medium doneness)

Safe handling of cooked food:
           Serve food immediately after grilling, or keep at 135° F or above until served.
           Place on a clean platter.
           Refrigerate on a clean platter.
           Refrigerate all leftovers immediately at 40° F or below.

Discard any food left out longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour if temperature is above 90° F.  Note: These temperatures are recommended for consumer cooking. They are not intended for processing, institutional, or food service preparation. Food Service Workers should consult their state or local food code, or health department.

And finally, if you are looking for a recipe to ensure that your chicken is moist and tender, try this marinade recipe featured at our Path to the Plate Grilling Workshop last month. 

Grilled Chicken Marinade

¼ cup red wine vinegar                                  ½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce                   ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup olive oil                                                ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes                     5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
½ teaspoon dried basil


Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper together in a bowl and pour into a resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, coat with the marinade, squeeze out excess air and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator, at least 4 hours.

Preheat grill for medium-low heat and lightly oil the grate. Drain and discard marinade.

Grill chicken on the preheated grill until no long pink in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 ° F.

 1 Serving
Servings Per Recipe: 5
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 233
Calories from Fat: 122
% Daily Value *
  • Total Fat: 13.6
  • Saturated Fat: 2.3
  • Cholesterol: 65
  • Sodium: 482
  • Total Carbohydrates: 2.4
  • Sugars: 0.3
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.3
  • Protein: 24.3
  • Potassium: 246
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

 For more information about safe outdoor grilling or food safety call Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Wise County office at 940.627.3341.


It is that time of year that I encounter a number of individuals who either call or come to the office who have questions regarding their lawn.  One of those questions has to do with timing of fertilizer application. The rule of thumb that seems to work is that when you have mowed 2-3 times it is time to fertilize.  Due to a cooler or milder spring and irregular weather we experienced this spring the growth of most of our turf grasses has been slowed considerably.  Understand, that I mean turf grasses not the winter rye grass and rescue grass we see growing like wild.  Unfortunately, we can’t do anything for those now; but, the good news is the heat is here and they will soon go away. If you are having to mow, that indicates the turf is actively growing and is therefore ready for that first application, preferably I would encourage you to take a soil sample to see exactly what your lawn needs, if not, products with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio would most likely to a good job.  Apply at a rate of 1 pound per 1000 square feet of turf.  The weed and feed products that are so popular are not a good idea since your weed control should have been applied weeks ago.  If you are having major weed problems give me a call or bring in a sample and we’ll come up with a plan for your yard. 

Another question that comes up regularly is concerning dead areas in the turf.  There can be many causes of dead spots.  One question you need to answer is, can these dead spots be lifted by hand and or rolled up like carpet.  If so, your lawn may have been damaged by white grubs.  White grubs are simply the larval stage of the May or June beetle.  These root-feeding grubs are creamy-white and c-shaped with three pairs of legs, and their damage normally occurs during the summer and early fall.  They feed on grass roots and the damaged areas begin to show up as weakened or dying grass in irregular shapes.  Eventually, if the population and damage is severe, these areas will die.  To locate grubs, dig with a spade or shovel to a depth of at least 4 inches.  Finding 3-5 grubs per square spot suggests an insecticide treatment is needed.  Apply control in June or July and use a product that contains imidacloprid, halofenozide, trichlorfon or carbaryl.  Be sure to read and follow label directions.  For those interested in non-chemical control, beneficial nematodes can be purchased in garden centers or through garden supply catalogs.  Research shows that under good conditions, commercially-available nematodes can reduce white grub populations by up to 50 per cent.  There are several good products available locally.  If you would like a list of grub control products call or come by the Extension office or visit the Aggie-Turf website at