Friday, May 27, 2011

Teresa's Newest Friend

I am convinced that some of Cherokee County’s greatest resources are the people living here. I continue to meet the most interesting people. I recently received a call from Cliff Wilbur after he read one of my articles. He invited me to come out and visit for a while, that it would definitely be worth my time. He was so right! Cliff has carved out an amazing organic garden on the top of his multi acre mountain top farm. We strolled down the gravel roads that he has created as he pointed out the various plants. He has his own method of selective propagation. He simply selects the hardiest, best tasting of his fruits and vegetables and saves the seed for next year’s planting. While this method is not extremely complicated, it seems to be a proven method that is working very well for him. It proves to me that a PhD in agriculture is not needed to be successful gardener. As a retired high school principal, Mr. Wilbur moved into the area with a keen interest in organic gardening and a sincere love and respect for the land. He could inspire anyone to be better stewards of the land. This directly relates to his additional concern for healthy living and assisting his fellow man. He told me that he gives away baskets of fresh organic fruits and vegetables every year. He is more than willing to help anyone who is willing to help themselves. As for healthy living, he appears to be a specimen of good health at 80 years of age. Clear skin, a light step and clear blue eyes tell me that he pays attention to his diet and exercise. Just walking the steep roads on a daily basis gives him plenty of aerobic exercise. He filters all of his water for purity. Combine this with his organic food and you have the perfect combination for good health. His daughter, Vickie, lives with him and assists him with the daily chores of maintaining the property. She graciously treated me to strawberry shortcake with home made whipped cream that she has just made. The strawberries had been harvested on the morning of my visit. It just doesn’t get any better! In keeping with my love of receiving plants from friends, Cliff gave me my very own little peach tree. He showed me how he tenderly plants the new trees beside a bamboo stalk and prunes away the excess leaves as the new little tree grows straight, tied along side the bamboo stalk. You have probably already guessed the name of my new little peach tree- yep, Cliff it is!

Teresa Wiley
FCS Agent

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Everyone Needs Sewing Skills

It seems that sewing skills are becoming a thing of the past. At one time, most of the schools taught basic sewing skills. Once you mastered your project, usually an apron, most students retained at least enough knowledge to make clothing repairs. Many students went a step further and attempted sewing clothing for themselves and their children. I think that it is a great loss that sewing has been removed from many schools. I have had several requests from adults who wish to learn how to sew. They either missed their chance while in school or simply want to become more proficient. At the extension office I offer Thursday afternoon sewing for adults and for students after school. These sessions are informal with the participants working on individual projects. I am present to answer questions and offer guidance. During the summer I plan to offer an 8 to 10 week sewing program that will cover specific skills. We will discuss sewing machine operation and minor maintenance. Included in this portion will be operating the serger or overlock machine. Other topics include zipper application, pockets, sleeves, casings, collars, and facings. These skills can also be used when sewing items other than clothing. Many dollars can be saved sewing items such as curtains, decorative pillows, pillow shams, and bed-skirts. I have found that I thoroughly enjoy finding a spread or comforter that I like and then coordinate other fabrics with it to make the accessories. I can create my own interior designer look for a lot less money. I can never seem to find bed skirts that are long enough. I have bought a bed skirt and added a contrasting layer to make it longer. Of course if I make the entire bed skirt I do not have a problem getting it long enough. Curtains are fairly easy and quick. Draperies, on the other hand, are another story. I really need to be in the mood to tackle draperies! Pinch pleats must be accurately measured for the pleats to be even. It is really a mathematical challenge because the return must be calculated for each panel also. Thus, I submit to purchasing if I want draperies. I have assisted many mommies decorating their baby’s nursery. This is so much fun and the possibilities are endless with all of the cute fabric prints on the market today. The main problem with sewing is finding a good fabric source. Many of the fabric stores are out of business. I am sure that this is partly because the number of people sewing has dropped dramatically in the past twenty years. There are still good fabric stores available if you are willing to make the drive!

Keeping Food Safe After the Storm

North Carolina has not been traditionally known as another tornado alley. However, some would wonder as we witness our recent turbulent weather. With any severe weather power outages are sure to follow. As food prices escalate every day, we all need to know how to keep our food safe in the event of loss of power. If you keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed, your food will be safe for a while. If food is kept at 41 degrees or cooler, it should last for several days. If food in the freezer does begin to thaw, it can be refrozen if ice crystals are still present. According to the Cooperative Extension specialist at Clemson University, “Leave the freezer door closed. A full freezer should keep food safe about two days, a half-full freezer, about a day. If freezer is not full, group packages together quickly. Group meat and poultry to one side or on separate trays so their juices will not contaminate each other or other foods if the meat and poultry thaw. Then avoid opening the freezer door to prevent the cold air from escaping.” The food specialist with the NC Cooperative Extension Service provides helpful info sheets that can be accessed using the following link: WWW.FOODSAFETYINFOSHEETS.COM
If food has been thawed and not refrigerated for two hours or more, do not taste the food to determine if it is safe. Some food may look and smell fine but still contain dangerous pathogens. The extension service also provides other helpful tips regarding food. For example, did you know that you could hasten the ripening of fruit such as tomatoes, peaches, and pears if you place them in a closed brown paper bag with an apple or banana? Good to know since much of our produce comes from distant farms and is often under ripe at the time of purchase. As the fresh produce season arrives, it is also important to remember that safety precautions are needed with cloth shopping bags. They need to be washed weekly since harmful bacteria can cling to the fibers of these bags. We are definitely helping our environment by using these bags instead of plastic bags. However, we need to pay attention and probably just get in the habit of tossing the fabric bags in the washing machine after each shopping trip. I even have one fabric bag that is insulated for transporting

Miss Jessie Cox

May is upon us and everything has never looked greener! Many of us who have children are secretly hoping that our mother’s day gift might include some beautiful plants for our yards. I enjoy receiving perennials. Then as the plant comes back each year I am reminded of the person that gave me the plant. I also enjoy receiving plants that friends dig up for me from their yards. I always name the plant after the person. I suppose this custom started with me when I was in the fifth grade. My teacher at the time, Miss Jessie Cox gave me a little Dixie cup with a very small chrysanthemum that I was to give my mother for mother’s day. I placed the little cup under my bed so that it would be a surprise for my mother. Now my mom was not an avid gardener and seemed to have very little interest in plants of any sort. So here I go. I plant the little flower beside the front porch. Soon it was infested with little varmints; aphids I later determined. All that I knew at the time was that some sort of bug was on my beloved little plant that Miss Cox entrusted to my care. I devised my own pesticide. I had a bottle of strong perfume that I considered unsuitable but could not bring myself to throw away. My little plant was doused with the “smelly” perfume. Guess what – the bugs didn’t like the scent either. The little plant somehow survived my dad’s lawn mower and multiplied each year. The plant, now known as Miss Jessie Cox has accompanied me on all of my moves since college. Miss Jessie Cox has now been faithfully planted from coast to coast. Since this little plant, I have added more personalities to my flower garden. There was the Ginger Iris bed, the Cathy hostas, and now I even have the Barbara Forsythia. When I moved to my house in Murphy, the one endearing thing that probably sold me on the house was the yard and all the plants. Bill and Charlene Brackett gave me a tour of the yard pointing out different plants and their origins. There were many rose bushes and rhododendrons that were mother’s day gifts from Charlene’s children. Charlene loves purple so most of these plants are shades of purple and lavender. There were also bushes from Charlene’s mother’s yard. The yard is a cacophony of colors and varieties. I knew a lady from my previous home that had an interesting comment about different colors in one’s yard. She said, “What God sends, blends.” I like this philosophy. I never did like things too “matchy, matchy!”

Poor Nutrition Results in Overweight Children

I am especially concerned for our youth who are dependent on their caretakers for general health needs. Children must be given nutritious food to meet their growing needs. Fast food and convenience foods that are consumed on a regular basis do not provide all of the essential vitamins and minerals that growing bodies need. When poor nutrition is combined with low physical activity levels, the result is overweight children. Not only are these children overweight, they are showing symptoms of chronic disease once seen primarily in adults. More and more children are being diagnosed with type II diabetes. Our children are also showing symptoms of brittle bones. This is mainly because children are drinking less milk and participating in very few exercises that are weight bearing. Weight bearing exercises would be jumping rope, climbing trees, doing pull-ups, and simply chasing each other. Many statisticians feel that the current generation may be the first in a very long time to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. As a result of these staggering statistics we are being bombarded with news articles, specials on television and books addressing the problem of being overweight. It seems that children are not the only overweight segment of our population. Over 60% of North Carolinians are either overweight or obese. This is the popular buzzword –obesity. Most of us tend to associate obesity with morbid obesity, extreme overweight. Television reality shows are exploiting our concern with obesity. We can see everything from the Biggest Losers to a sitcom featuring an overweight policeman and his wife. This is not a totally new trend. Rose Ann and her husband were the average overweight American middle class couple years ago. It is about time that we wake up and face the dangers of being overweight. Health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes are known to be associated with excessive weight. Add to that the fact that many insurance companies are now increasing premiums to the health insurance policy if the policyholder is overweight.
Another health risk that may make your premium increase is if you use tobacco products. It is a shame that our general population needs the insurance companies to force us to take responsibility for our own health.
Take a long hard look at yourself and your family. Answer these few questions to determine whether your family needs to make some changes!
1. Are all family members in the healthy weight range according to reliable weight charts?
2. Do all family members get regular physical exercise appropriate for their age? (Children need at least an hour each day)
3. Does the family eat meals at home at least five out of the seven days?

Teresa Really Does Practice What She Preaches!!!!

Hooray! We are officially in season for fresh fruits and vegetables! Shannon Coleman, the Cherokee County 4-H agent surprised me on my birthday with a fruit medley instead of the traditional birthday cake! Since I have been lovingly dubbed the food police around our office, the fruit was greatly appreciated! I will be able to indulge on my “cake” all day long and will not have the remorse of falling off my healthy eating wagon! I am nibbling on grapes, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, and watermelon. Just this morning I was reading an article about the health benefits of strawberries.
The following strawberry smoothie recipe has about 174 calories and is packed with the health benefits of strawberries.

Strawberry Smoothie

Prep and Cook Time: 5 minutes
• 4 large strawberries
• ¼ cup low-fat plain yogurt
• 1 cup fresh orange juice
• 1 TBS tahini
• 1 medium size banana
• ½ tsp vanilla
• 1 TBS honey

1. Remove stems from strawberries and wash.
2. Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth.
Serve 2 (8 oz glass servings)

According to the George Mateljan Foundation, “researchers have recently ranked the 50 best antioxidant sources among commonly eaten foods and found strawberries to be quite exceptional. When total antioxidant capacity was measured against a uniform amount of food (100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces), strawberries ranked 27th best among U.S. foods. In addition, when only fruits were considered, strawberries came out 4th among all fruits (behind blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries.)” Strawberries are a popular fruit for many desserts. While the strawberries provide that exceptional color and flavor, the added sugar probably negates the health benefits of strawberries. The same would hold true for strawberry jams and jellies. Enjoy the season of strawberries! They are in peak season right now and best enjoyed just as they are when picked! Simply rinse and enjoy. Remember, strawberries should not be soaked in water. They tend to absorb too much water.

Helen Dockery Inducted into ECA Hall of Fame

We have Hall of Fame awards for many of life’s accomplishments. There are Hall of Fame awards for sports, writers, actors, and the list goes on. I am proud to add one more Hall of Fame to the list- ECA Hall of Fame. ECA stands for Extension and Community Association. There are two ECA groups in Cherokee county. There are the Bizzy Bees ECA and the Grape Creek ECA. Helen Dockery, long standing member of the Grape Creek ECA has been a member for over forty years. She has recently received notification that she will be inducted into the North Carolina ECA Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Helen! Helen will receive her honor at the North Carolina state ECA meeting on May 25th in Raleigh. Helen has many fond memories of her years as an ECA member. She remembers the day when the Family and Consumer Science agent, then called the Home Agent, would travel throughout the county delivering programs to the ECA members. During the peak of ECA clubs in the county, there have been nine organizations. Gone but not forgotten are the clubs that have since disbanded:
Texana, Martin’s Creek, Sunrisers, Grape Creek Lady Volunteers, Peachtree, Ranger, and Valley Town. Programs from the home agent often covered life skills that could help improve conditions for the rural family. Everything from parenting skills to canning programs was delivered in local homes. Some of the programs were just for fun- such as making candles and mattresses and hat decorating. I imagine there were some fancy bonnets in the Easter Parade in Cherokee County some years back! Helen values the education that she received from the home agent and the ECA programs. Helen states that she is very proud and appreciative of the education that she received from Cooperative Extension. She attributes her knowledge and love of ECA to the county home agent, Miss Thelma Wheeler. “She made us want to do better,” states Helen as she fondly recalls the stern home agent. Her no nonsense approach to rural living helped the local families strive to improve their homes. Today we tend to take advantage of our indoor plumbing and screened windows and doors. Miss Wheeler, who had previously worked in Kentucky, pushed the local residents to strive for these two household amenities, if nothing else. Helen says that she remembers when most people did not have grass in their yards. I also remember my own mother talking about sweeping the front yard since there was no grass. Helen also recalls a conversation with Miss Wheeler. She warned Miss Wheeler that the rural residents of Cherokee County might not be quite as behind as Kentucky but our folks are mighty prideful!

Teachers at Ranger are Getting Healthy

Teachers at Ranger and Murphy schools are on board for Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less! I believe in this program and am very excited to have so many participants involved for the next fifteen weeks. Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less is dedicated to encouraging people to eat better and move more! Participants decide on their own personal goal, weigh in each week, and participate in class discussions about strategies to achieve their goal. We discuss the importance of realizing that involvement in this program is a life-long commitment. With all the demands that families must juggle on a daily basis, it is often difficult to carve out the time to take care of yourself. For optimum health benefits, it is recommended that we try to be physically active for about 300 minutes a week. This could be interpreted as working out an hour a day for five days. Making time to exercise for an hour each day, Monday through Friday would leave the weekends free! Of course, we still need to be diligent with our food intake. I also think that it is important to practice moderation. Depriving yourself completely of any one food will make that particular food become almost obsessive. However, if you really are craving chocolate, permit yourself to eat a very small amount, just enough to curb the craving. Now, don ‘t tell me that your craving for chocolate can only be satisfied with a pound of chocolate! Discipline, discipline, discipline is the name of the game. It may take a week or so for your metabolism to get on board with your new daily routine. If you have not been exercising for a while, your muscles will probably be a little sore at first. This will pass. Your digestive system might also be a little upset if you suddenly change your eating habits. An increase in fiber may upset your system a little. Soluble fiber is found in your fresh fruits and vegetables and is a great way to insure that you feel full. Insoluble fiber is found in many of the peelings and in some of the fiber cereals. While your system does not directly absorb insoluble fiber, this fiber does help remove your body’s waste efficiently. I am very proud of the Ranger teachers who have completed several weeks of ESMMWl. After their first week the seventeen participants lost a total of 44 pounds. This was a fantastic achievement since the recommended safe amount of weight to lose per week is 2 pounds. The group seems to be dedicated and having a fun time so far. Good luck teachers!