by John Porter, WVU Extension Agent Agriculture & Natural Resources, Kanawha CountyFresh herbs can be a tasty and healthy way to boost the flavor of foods while reducing the salt in your recipes.
While fresh herbs can be costly and hard to come by at the grocery store, growing them at home can be an effective way to save money and ensure a fresh sprig is always at your fingertips.
Beyond adding flair to your food, herbs can also be a way to add flair to your deck or windowsill. If you’re a beginner gardener or working with limited outdoor gardening space, container herbs can be year-round solution to growing fresh herbs indoors or out.
Beginning herb gardeners may have a problem deciding which herbs to grow due to the large variety of options. A quick stroll through your supermarket’s produce aisle may help give you some ideas. Browsing through one of your favorite cookbooks may also serve you with some flavor and recipe inspiration.
Basil, cilantro and chives are among the most popular herbs for the beginning gardener, as they are common ingredients in summertime fare and considered relatively easy to grow.
Keep in mind that herbs can be annuals, biennials or perennials when selecting varieties to grow for the first time.
Annual herbs common to West Virginia include basil, chamomile, cilantro, dill, anise and chervil. These usually have to be replanted every year, unless they reseed themselves. Perennial herbs include chives, lavender, sage, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme and tarragon. Parsley is a biennial, meaning it flowers in its second year.
Make a creative container
When beginning your herbal endeavor, don’t feel confined to only planting in standard clay pots. The sky is the limit when it comes to finding creative containers to grow herbs in.
Container or indoor herbs require essentially the same conditions as herbs grown outdoors well-draining soil and an abundance of sunshine. For that reason, anything that can hold soil and allow for proper drainage can double as an adequate plant container.
Potential herb containers can be found in every room of your house. In the kitchen, items like cups, bowls, cans, milk jugs, 2-liter bottles or colanders can be utilized to hold herbs.
From the bathroom, repurpose an old sink or bathtub. Recycle an old tire, wagon, wheelbarrow or wooden pallet from the garage, or round up a few buckets, barrels or baskets from the basement.
Different herbs have different light requirements, but most need a sunny location. Inside, herbs grow best if located in or near a south- or west-facing window.
When planting, ensuring that your container has proper drainage is key. If your selected container doesn’t have holes on the bottom, simply add an inch of gravel to the container base.Because many of them come from dry regions of the earth, herbs don’t thrive well in rich, heavy or wet soil, so special care should be taken to achieve the proper potting mix. Mixing two parts standard potting soil with one part sand, pearlite, vermiculite, or peat can help provide a light, well-draining soil. If you add peat, at a tablespoon of common agricultural lime to the mix to balance the pH.
While herbs need routine watering, be sure not to over-water or let the container sit in water, which can disease the roots. Instead, consider the watering needs of each herb.
Growing plants need more water, as do plants in clay pots or hanging baskets. Woody herbs, such as oregano, sage and thyme have low water requirements. If necessary, use several planters or a divided one to accommodate the different moisture needs of each plant.
While annual herbs can spend their full life cycle in a pot indoors, perennial herbs will do better if placed outdoors during the summer. Simply move the containers to the porch or patio after the last frost, or submerge the pots in soil to incorporate them into your garden landscape.
When the season begins to change, bring herbs indoors before the first frost to avoid plant damage.
Remember, the herbs are for your enjoyment. You must trim and use them regularly to keep the plant growing and healthy, but don’t over harvest and take too much of the plant at one time.
Activity: Plant an herb garden using recycled materials
Turn a small dollar store laundry baskets into an herb garden by following these simple steps:
- Line the basket with newspaper and fill it with soil.
- If you have any trailing herbs, like thyme or oregano, make holes in the newspaper and position the plants so they will grow out one of the side holes.
- Plant upright herbs, like sage and basil, in the top of the laundry basket.
For more information on indoor or outdoor herb gardening, visit www.anr.ext.wvu.edu/lawn_garden/herbs.
Entering the workforce can be an intimidating task, especially for those looking for their first “real gig” after graduation.
For others, climbing the career ladder and working to achieve professional goals can require a career switch, which may take one outside of their comfort zone.
West Virginia Extension Service Director of Human Resources Kim Suder knows first-hand how challenging the job search can be, but assures career hopefuls that the right job for them is out there; they just have to know how to get it.
Building a strong resume
“It may seem like only a piece or two of paper, but your resume also serves as your communicator and first impression,” said Suder. “It’s up to you to see that that paper gives an accurate depiction of what you can offer a potential employer.”
Whether a high-school graduate looking for full-time employment or a stay-at-home parent looking to return to work, Suder said that a resume should include all skills and professional experiences an individual possesses.
Regardless of work experience, drawing on volunteer and organizational experience can speak volumes on a resume, Suder said.
“If you haven’t had a ‘real’ job, but have spent summers doing community service work with an organization or club, include that,” Suder said. “Any experience or individual skills you can list that can give an employer an idea of what your strengths or interests are will be beneficial to your cause.”
If you’re unsure how to organize the information, many resume templates can be accessed online. The key is finding a style that works best for you.
Suder suggests including your educational background at the top, directly beneath your name and contact information, as it tends to be the preferred style for employers.
“Tell your story, but don’t fabricate anything to appear more qualified for the role than you actually are,” said Suder.
Keep your resume concise, but don’t feel limited to only having one page. In many cases, including all of your relevant education, skills and work experience will exceed one page, which Suder said is completely acceptable.
Ensuring that your resume is free of typos or grammatical errors is essential. She suggests having a teacher or relative review the resume before submitting it, just in case an error slipped by when you proofread it yourself.
“Typos will hurt you at every level,” said Suder. “The market is competitive, and even the best writers can make errors that spell check may miss.”
Applying for the job
Employment-related search engines such as Indeed.com or Monster.com, the local newspaper or even community bulletin boards can be great resources when initiating the job hunt, Suder said.
If you know of a specific business or organization you would like to work for, current job openings are oftentimes posted on their website. When searching the site, look under the “careers” or “employment” sections.
When considering jobs to apply for, Suder recommends applicants first consider several things:
- What is your “end goal?”
- What attributes are you looking for in a job (experience-builder, benefits, flexible schedule, family friendly)?
- What income must you earn to live comfortably?
After zoning in on a job to apply for, review all the provided job criteria to make sure the position matches your interests and qualifications.
If all pertinent information is not included in the job posting, call to request more information about the job before applying.
While some jobs may require more education or experience than you personally possess, Suder said that you don’t have to automatically rule those jobs out.
“You may not have everything required of the job qualifications, but sometimes, there can be elements of your work experience or training that can be counted as equivalents,” said Suder. “For that reason, I recommend being reasonable and applying for a job if you feel that your experience comes very close to satisfying the employer’s requirements.”
In order to submit the best application possible, Suder recommends tailoring your resume to highlight skills you possess relevant to that specific job.
Writing a strong cover letter can also serve well to make a strong first impression.
Compose a cover letter to the hiring supervisor that introduces yourself, explains your reasons of interest in the job, and describes your unique qualifications. Cover letter templates are also readily available on the Web.
She also recommends auditing your social media presence before beginning the job search, as many employers search for social media profiles to learn more about a person before extending an interview.
The common rule is, if you wouldn’t want your mom to see it, you probably wouldn’t want an employer to see it either.
Preparing for the interview
While preparing for a job interview can be a nerve-wracking event, Suder said that a bit of research and preparation can help an applicant put their best foot forward.
Suder first suggests exploring the organization’s website to find its mission statement, background and major initiatives.
“Be prepared to answer questions about what interests you about the company and why you would like to work there,” Suder said. “Showing that you’ve educated yourself on the job, the organization and the mission can leave a big impression on a potential employer.”
In advance of the interview, ascertain how many people you’ll be interviewing with and print hard copies of your resume for each, including a few extras. If the job is specialized and requires any work samples, such as a portfolio, send those materials in advance, as well as providing hard copies in person that can be left behind.
Rehearsing with a friend can also be a great way to alleviate pre-interview jitters.
“Let your friend quiz you on the company, your experience and other common job-interview questions,” said Suder. “It allows you to practice hypothetical answers in advance and get feedback from someone who has your best interests at heart.”
Always give an example of your work or life experience when answering an interview question, rather than a short “yes or no” response.
“Take time when answering questions,” said Suder. “Be concise but thorough in your responses, and remember, you are selling yourself now.”
When it comes to wardrobe, dress the part for the position that you want.
“Some job interviews may not merit a suit and tie, but dressing in business attire is always a safe practice,” said Suder. “It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.”
Be conscious of your body language during the interview process. Don’t exhibit nervous energy, like pen tapping, foot jiggling or gum chewing.
“Sitting up straight, maintaining eye contact during your answers and shifting your body in the direction of with whom you’re speaking are simple yet effective ways to exude confidence during an interview,” Suder said.
If the employer asks you if you have any questions, Suder said it is always good to have a few questions prepared in advance to ask about the company or job responsibilities.
“It shows you care and are genuinely interested in the job, which means a lot to an employer,” said Suder.
The same initiative should be taken following the interview by sending a follow-up thank you note or email.
“In the note, mention something you may have forgotten to share or ask during the interview,” said Suder. “In many cases, just thanking an employer can go a long way.”
“The job search can be a frustrating and discouraging at times, but remember that it only takes one ‘Yes’ to offset dozens of ‘No’s,’” said Suder. “You won’t know until you try, and you absolutely cannot let rejection discourage you.”
After facing rejection, Suder suggested taking a step back and again assessing what route you need to take to achieve your “end goal.” If you need more experience, find opportunities to supplement your resume.
If you feel like your interview skills need improvement, register for a public speaking class or practice more with friends or relatives.
Suder said that each and every job someone has is a stepping stone toward the next thing. For that reason, nothing should be considered “time wasted,” as each job or volunteer opportunity helps you gain experience and connections that could be the key to opening the next door.
The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.
To learn more about WVU Extension programs, visit www.ext.wvu.edu.
For many, spring’s arrival signals it’s time to garden. For gardeners suffering with joint pain or mobility issues, it can also mean new challenges.
Finding ways to make gardening accessible for all is one mission of West Virginia AgrAbility, a partner program of West Virginia University Extension Service.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five American adults is plagued by arthritis, making them more likely to experience joint pain and discomfort. While this could hinder the gardening experience for some, West Virginia AgrAbility Program Coordinator Inetta Fluharty says that doesn’t have to be the case.
There are many ways to stay active in the garden despite arthritis and limited mobility, Fluharty said. While people who suffer from arthritis issues are often put off by the thought of gardening, worrying that it might be too difficult or painful, Fluharty says gardening is a great activity for keeping joints flexible and maintaining range of motion.
Something as simple as digging in the warm soil with your hands can offer pain relief in your hands and wrists. When soil is warm, it helps to warm the joints in your hands, letting more blood flow through and lessening soreness, Fluharty said. The digging motion also helps increase hand, arm and shoulder mobility.
Gardening with arthritis and joint stiffness can be more manageable by following these AgrAbility tips:
- If the soil is not warm, be certain to wear gardening gloves to protect joints from cold temperatures. Buy a larger size and line inside with foam padding to cushion joints.
- Break your gardening chores up into smaller jobs to do throughout the day or over several days. Take frequent breaks, changing position and tasks often to prevent fatigue.
- Gently stretch before getting in the garden to help loosen joints and prevent injury.
- Use long-handled tools so you can stand instead of stooping while gardening. Easy-to-grip hand tools and large handles make using tools much more comfortable.
- Use your larger joints to do the work. Instead of using your fingers to lift an object, try using the palm of your hand, forearm or elbow.
Assistive technologies offer options to help the gardener from the first planting through the last harvest. Forms of assistive technology exist for numerous handicaps, from struggling to bend or stoop to difficulty using hand tools. Examples of assistive technology that can be useful in the garden are:
- Different types of handles on tools make gripping easier and relieve stress on joints.
- Find tools offering additional grips in an upright position, which takes the stress off of your back and legs.
- Large knobs added to spigots make it easier to turn the water on and off.
- Garden kneelers, seats and knee pads reduce the overuse of the back, hips, knees and legs. The added knee protection can also prevent “gardener’s knee,” a painful inflammation caused by overuse.
- A seed planter makes work go more quickly at sowing season, reducing time spent stooping.
- Long handled tools, as well as tools to pick fruits from the ground or trees can be helpful during harvesting.
Additional tips to age-proof your garden
Another helpful garden modification is the use of raised beds, which raise the garden up to a comfortable height for the gardener.
The bed can range from six-inches high to waist height, and should not be any wider than what the gardener can reach from the side to the center (if able to access from both sides). Benches or seats can be constructed to allow for resting.
If planning to construct a raised garden bed, first consider the proposed location and decide if a walkway from the house to the bed needs to be constructed. If so, make sure paths and surfaces are level and safe.
Keep in mind that water must be easily accessed, as raised beds tend to dry out quickly. Plan to install irrigation lines or a water hose on a timer.
Find positive solutions
Fluharty said that the most important thing when managing a garden is to be honest with yourself. Know your strengths and admit your limitations.
Make decisions about which tasks could be carried out by others. Consider sharing part of your garden in return for the additional help.
Lastly, pace yourself. If issues arise, stay positive and research assistive technologies available to help you persevere.
West Virginia AgrAbility is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture grant and is a partnership between West Virginia University Extension Service and other local and state agencies.
The program assists individuals who have physical disabilities or cognitive limitations find ways to overcome barriers and continue in their chosen agriculture endeavor.
If you or someone you know has limitations making gardening difficult, West Virginia AgrAbility can help in finding assistive technology solutions. For more information, call Inetta Fluharty at 304-771-8747 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of AgrAbility.
West Virginia University Extension Service offers affordable gift ideas for moms that they can enjoy well beyond Mother’s Day. From brunch recipes to selecting the best flower baskets, these ideas allow the entire family to participate in making the day special for Mom.
Consider preparing a breakfast or brunch for Mom, suggests Amy Gannon, registered dietician with WVU Extension Service’s Family Nutrition Programs.
“Cooking teaches children to develop new skills, and calls upon reading and math to help measure ingredients and follow recipes,” Gannon said.
Pre-school children are able to stir and mix foods like batter or eggs. Older children can help peel and chop vegetables and fruit with assistance from an adult.
“Even teenagers can pitch in for this easy gift idea,” she said. “Have them plan the menu, shop for the food and help prepare the meal.”
Gannon offers up suggestions and recipes for brunch, including omelets and yogurt parfaits topped with fresh fruit.
“For the best flavor and West Virginia flair, shop your local farmers markets and prepare a meal with locally grown jams, honeys and vegetables,” Gannon said.
If Mom prefers flowers over flours, consider purchasing or creating a hanging basket for her to enjoy all season long.
When selecting a basket it’s important to consider where it will hang and how much light it will receive, suggests Larry Campbell, agricultural and natural resources agent with the WVU Extension Harrison County office.
Plants like petunias and geraniums do well in sunny spots, whereas impatiens and pansies prefer partial shade.
For a more dramatic look, Campbell suggests selecting “spiller” baskets where plants drape over the pot and create a trailing effect.
“You want a basket that offers a blend of color, shape and size,” he said. “Sweet potato vines, wave petunias and fuchsia are excellent choices.”
When purchasing a basket, Campbell suggests looking for more underdeveloped baskets with fewer blooms rather than purchasing the fullest basket.
“Smaller blooms might not be as pretty initially, but Mom will enjoy watching the basket bloom and get bigger as the season continues,” he said.
Families are encouraged to share photos of their Mother’s Day meals or flowers by tagging their Instagram or Twitter photos with #WVUext and #Meal4Mom. Groups can also share their photos on the WVU Extension Service Facebook page.
by Sheldon Owen, WVU Extension Service Wildlife specialist
Strange sounds keeping you up at night? How about waking you up early in the morning? The strange noises you could be attributing to insects or birds may actually be from frogs and toads. Spring has sprung and the male frogs are in full calling mode.
Get out and explore the sounds of West Virginia’s frogs and toads
On warmer evenings you may hear the ‘peeping” call of the Spring Peeper ( listen ) or maybe the high pitched “trill” of the American Toad ( listen ). What about the low “banjo” call of a Green Frog ( listen ) or the low “groan” of the Bullfrog ( listen )?
Spring is the time for male frogs to begin the annual cycle of calling for a mate. Wet areas are perfect spots to hear the cacophony of frogs calling. Or get outside after a spring rain and listen for the calls of West Virginia’s tree frogs (Spring Peeper included) in wooded areas around our state. So go on an evening adventure and see how many different frog species you can hear. Test yourself and your family.
Where do you want to start your adventure? Start in your very own backyard. Then visit a local park or natural area. West Virginia has numerous State Parks, State Forests and natural areas that you can visit. Not to mention the National Parks and Refuges. Get out and enjoy Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
Check out these links for places to explore.
Learn about and listen to the frog calls of West Virginia
Try these activities
- Take a walk in the woods.
- Visit a natural wetland, stream, or pond.
- Visit your local botanical gardens or arboretum.
- Go for a walk and see how many frog calls you can identify.
- Go for a walk and see how many bird songs you can identify.
Frog and Toad facts
- There are 15 different species of frogs and toads in WV.
- Frogs and toads are amphibians.
- Amphibians spend part of their life in water (larval or tadpole stage) and part on land (adult frogs and toads).
- Frogs generally have long-lean bodies, smooth-wet skin, and longer back legs for jumping or leaping.
- Toads have short-stout bodies, dry warty skin and have shorter back legs than frogs and generally hop or crawl.
- Each frog and toad has a distinct call that can be used for identification.
Starting on April 1, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) will switch to an electronic game checking system. The system has been designed with convenience in mind for hunters, anglers, trappers and WVDNR officials alike. Checking game is easier for sportspeople and officials have immediate access to more accurate and complete harvest numbers.
The system works by assigning a unique identification number that will stay with that sportsperson for their lifetime. Then the identification number is then used to check harvested game by logging onto wvhunt.com, calling 1-844-WVCHECK, or visiting a licensing agent without having to bring the game.
The benefits for sportspeople are numerous. Hunters can hunt later in the day without worrying about finding an open game checking station. Without having to bring the animal in to a checking station, it can be immediately quartered and chilled, helping to preserve the freshness of the meat. Additional benefits include ease of purchasing endorsements and registering for special hunting seasons.
Those who buy yearly licenses online or at any of the licensing agents around the state will automatically be assigned their unique WVDNR identification number when their license is purchased.
Life-time license holders can log onto the website above, enter their information and acquire their identification number.
For questions regarding the new system visit wvhunt.com.
To learn more about WVU Extension Service’s wildlife program and resources, contact WVU Extension Wildlife Specialist Sheldon Owen at 304-293-2990 or Sheldon.Owen@mail.wvu.edu.
Winter weather can make for hazardous driving conditions during commutes to work, school and while traveling across the state and beyond during the chilliest months of the year.
A West Virginia University Extension Service expert offers advice to help motorists prepare their vehicles for cold weather travel by providing safety tips when winter-weather driving.
WVU Safety and Health Extension Specialist Dan Whiteman recommends following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “three P’s” of safe winter drivingprepare for the trip, protect yourself and prevent accidents on the road.
The three P’s can help reduce the risk of being in a wreck, or assist when you’ve become immobilized in a stopped or stalled vehicle.
“Take steps now to maintain your vehicle and keep necessary emergency items on-hand,” said Whiteman. “Doing so can reduce worry and distress if you are involved in an automobile accident, or if your vehicle breaks down while traveling.”
Before setting out on a trip through town or across the state, you can utilize your computer or mobile device to get a look at traffic reports and detailed road conditions in your area.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation’s 511 website offers a quick glance at the traffic and road conditions on major roadways throughout the state of West Virginia. If you’re on the go, you can download the free “WV511” application for any iOS or Android phone.
Prepare for winter driving and follow these OSHA guidelines to help ensure that your vehicle transports you safely from point A to point B:
- Check your car’s battery. A normal battery lasts approximately four years before it needs to be replaced; a battery close to the end of its life may fail during cold temperatures.
- Be sure windshield wiper blades work properly and replace them if they cause a streaking effect when wet. Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with no-freeze fluid and keep vehicle windows clear.
- Check the vehicle’s antifreeze levels.
- For long trips, or if you’re unsure of your vehicle’s reliability, consider having a professional garage or dealership perform an inspection of the vehicle.
- Use the coin test. Insert a penny into your tire treadhead-side downand make sure that part of the tread covers the head of President Lincoln. If none of the president’s head disappears below your tire tread, it is less than 2/32” and should be inspected by a qualified mechanic.
“Tires have wear bars molded into the rubber. When these wear bars start touching the pavement the tire should be replaced,” added Whiteman.
Whiteman suggests keeping an emergency kit in each vehicle you own. The contents of the kit may vary by season and length of travel. Food and water should be kept for long distance travel, while a flashlight, blankets, jumper cables and a shovel are important when driving all distances.
Special considerations should be made for winter travel, including some items that may seem unconventional on first glance.
“Keeping an abrasive material in your vehiclesuch as sand or kitty litteradds weight to your vehicle which can help with traction in the snow. It can also be spread in snow surrounding tires to help them grip the ground,” remarked Whiteman.
If you become stalled or stranded during winter travel, stay in your car and don’t overexert yourself. Only run your car long enough to stay warm.
“Run your vehicle for 10 minutes each hour to keep warm and conserve fuel,” said Whiteman.
Before setting out, it’s important that you plan the route you anticipate to reach your destination. Allow for extra travel time if the forecast is calling for wintry weather conditions.
“Familiarize yourself with the trip’s directions; let someone know when you are leaving and an approximate expected arrival time,” added Whiteman.
“Take your time when driving in hazardous conditions to ensure the control of your vehicle, and be sure that visibility through the windshield and windows is good.”
When driving during any season, it’s important that you always wear a seatbeltprotect yourself and children by wearing it properly. If an infant, rear-facing car seat is being used, never place it in front of an air bag. Children under 12 years old should always sit in the backseat where it is safer for them. Air bags can seriously injure or result in death to younger children.
Finally, be responsible when taking the wheel. Alcohol, mixed with driving and unsafe winter road conditions can result in accidents or death. It’s important to designate a sober driver to ensure you make it to your destination safely.
Learn more about how to stay safe this winter season from WVU Extension experts, visit http://ext.wvu.edu/disasters/snowstorms.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.
“I want to extend my sincerest thanks to all who have made 2014 a record fundraising year for WVU Extension Service and West Virginia 4-H,” said Steve Bonanno, interim director of WVU Extension Service.
Over the last year, the WVU Extension Service Development Office was able to secure five new endowments, four new bequests and several five-year pledges that will support county and state programs.
But to understand what a good fund raising year means to the things we care about most, let’s put this into “people perspective.”
Thanks to those who have made contributions since January 1, 2014, we raised more than $50,000 to send hundreds of youths to state summer 4-H camps, Older Members Conference, Alpha I, and Alpha II for a reduced rate or for free. Thirteen students were able to attend WVU, ranging from partial to full ride scholarships.
More than 18,000 youths throughout the state benefited from gifts made to the 4-H Health Initiative, which teaches 4-H’ers through a peer mentorship program how to eat healthier and make healthy lifestyle choices.
We will have the funding to help business and government leaders from throughout the state and region to attend the Community Leadership Academy, a capacity building training program designed to help communities with creating economic development strategies, developing best practices, and sustaining growth. Without the support of companies and nonprofits, the program would not exist.
And at WVU Jackson’s Mill, private support from more than 350 individuals, families, corporations and groups will ensure a new Council Circle will be in place for the summer of 2015.
“Every dollar given to support WVU Extension Service and the WV 4-H program makes a difference in the lives of youths and adults throughout the state,” said WVU Extension Service Development Director Brent Clark. “Our fund raising efforts are about the people the funds will impact and transforming lives.”
We hope that you will continue your support in 2015. Help send a youth to 4-H camp this summer or provide support to our Jackson’s Mill Council Circle campaign. You can make even more of a difference, and we appreciate it greatly.
Please don’t hesitate to contact Brent Clark at 304-293-8622 if you would like to make a contribution or to learn more about the opportunities to make impact the lives of people throughout our state.
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