Home Insteading With Cooperative Extension (Week 35)

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4-H at Home

Neighborhood Hunt for Signs of Wildlife

Written by: Purdue University and Indiana Extension 
Submitted by: Camaryn Byrum, 4-H Agent 

You can make observations of wildlife without actually seeing live animals. Many wildlife animals in nearby habitats avoid humans, and some are nocturnal. But you can often find evidence of them if you look carefully. You may find tracks, scat, pellets, rubs, skeletons, feathers, snakeskins, eggshells, browse lines, nests, or dens. In this activity you will search for signs of wildlife in places you would expect to find it or create an area that encourages wildlife to visit.

Signs of wildlife: animal tracks, scat, pellets, rubs, skeletons, feathers, snakeskins, eggshells, browse lines, nests, or holes for underground tunnels.

  • Pay particular attention in mud near a stream or pond where you might see footprints.
  • Watch for nests in trees or on the ground.
  • Look for animal damage on trees and vegetation:
    • Deer rubs from antlers scrapping trees
    • Trees that beavers have cut
    • Plants that deer or rabbits have eaten
  • Watch for snakeskins, broken eggs, feathers, and skeletons.

Activity 1 – Wildlife Observation Hike; Supplies: Animal field guide or internet, Camera (optional), Binoculars (optional)

Steps: 1) Take a one-hour hike looking for signs of wildlife. Possible places include home, a park, nature preserve, woods, or other location where you would expect wildlife to live. 2) Walk quietly. Try to observe all signs of wildlife. Birds are most commonly seen but if you watch carefully, you might also see squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, or deer. 3) Listen for wildlife sounds—noises or calls that wildlife might make. 4) Record what you see and hear in your journal. Include the date, time, and weather conditions. Sketch or take pictures of what you observe. 5) Use identification guides as needed. You can carry small printed guides in a backpack, or use apps on a mobile device during your hike. When you get home or to a library, you can use the internet to learn more about your sketches or pictures.


Family and Consumer Sciences at Home

Does Pumpkin Pie Need to be Refrigerated?

Mary Morris, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

One question I get every year around the Holidays is “Do I need to refrigerate Pumpkin Pie”? People have typically left pies out at room temperature for the after-meal dessert time. The best practice is to refrigerate any pies that are custard-based and that does include Pumpkin Pie. Due to the higher moisture content and acidity levels falling into a gray area it best to go ahead and refrigerate those pies after you have baked and cooled them.

Beth Waitrovich at Michigan State University says after baking your pumpkin pie, refrigerate it to keep it safe to eat.

Thanksgiving dinner desserts traditionally include pumpkin pie. There’s nothing like the smell of pumpkin pie baking or the taste of the pie with whipped topping to make the turkey dinner complete. But why should you refrigerate the pie after baking it?

The reason MSU recommends refrigerating the pumpkin pie is because of the ingredients. Pumpkin pie is made with eggs and milk; it must first be safely baked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Other pies made with milk and eggs such as custard pie or cheesecake should be treated similarly. Then, they must be refrigerated after baking. Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content and when these baked products are left at room temperature, conditions are ripe for bacteria to multiply. It’s not necessary to refrigerate most other cakes, cookies or bread unless they have a perishable filling or frosting.

What if you don’t like your pumpkin pie cold? The safest way to warm your pumpkin pie is to reheat it in the microwave for 10 to 30 seconds right before you are ready to eat it. Only heat the slices of pie which will immediately be eaten in order to keep the rest of the pie safe to heat for the next meal.

If you are wondering why grocery stores can store pies safely on the shelf, it’s because these pies include shelf-stable ingredients such as preservatives.

The good news is that you can leave Fruit Pies out at room temperature. Ben Chapman with North Carolina State University says that due to the high sugar content, lower moisture levels, and the higher acidity level of fruit pies bacteria is less likely to grow.

Remember to keep your entire Thanksgiving dinner safe by keeping hot food hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods should be held at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. On a buffet table, you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them. For food safety questions you can contact Mary Morris at 252-482-6585 or email mary_morris@ncsu.edu.

More information


Horticulture at Home

Organic Gardening Pro Tip: Crop Rotation

NC Extension Gardener Handbook
Submitted by: Katy Shook, Area Horticulture Agent

Growing the same crop in the same location year after year not only decreases yields. It sets a gardener up for weed, insect, and disease problems. By establishing a three-year or four-year rotation sequence and diversifying the crop (and the crop family), gardeners can avoid many problems with soil fertility, weeds, insects, and diseases. Rotate crops by the type of food that is produced (such as fruit, root, stem, or leaves). For example, a gardener may choose to rotate a garden bed for four years beginning with tomato (fruit), followed by beets (root), followed by celery (stem), followed by spinach (leaf). Planting cucumbers followed by cantaloupes and then corn would not be a good option because cantaloupes and cucumbers are both in the cucurbit family, and they are also fruit crops. Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes are all in the nightshade family. Rotating beans, or legumes, through a plot naturally adds nitrogen to the soil through nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the legume roots. Keeping a plot fallow for a year can break an insect or disease cycle. Sowing a cover crop is one way to add nutrients to the soil. If cucumber beetles have been a problem in the past year, then select another crop family to plant in that spot and plant cucumbers as far away from the original plot as possible. This prevents the adult beetles that overwinter nearby from spreading to the new crop of cucumbers.

For more information on crop rotation and other organic gardening methods, visit the NC Extension Gardener Handbook online or call (252) 482-6585.

tomato early blight

Tomato early blight is caused by a fungus, Alternaria solani, that overwinters in the soil.