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August 2007 -- From Jack Payne

The other afternoon I was musing on the term “dog days of summer” while watching my dogs take a dip in their swimming pool. (OK, it’s really a 100-gallon stock tank.) It occurred to me that although we attribute August as the dog days and as the hottest and muggiest part of the season, there is probably some other historically significant reason. And there is.

A quick Google of “dog days” gleaned this from Wikipedia:
“The term ‘Dog Days’ was coined by the ancient Romans, who called these days caniculares dies (days of the dogs) after Sirius (the ‘Dog Star’), the brightest star in the heavens besides the Sun. Popularly believed to be an evil time ‘when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies.’” (from Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, 1813)

It also seems that they even had their very own global warming theory: “The ancients sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that that star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.”

Well so much for historical significance. I much prefer the way Iowans ease the discomforts of our Dog Days: We go to the Fair, sacrifice a few corndogs and wash them down with a cold one.

Stay cool,

STEM gets to ‘root’ of improving student learning

Gov. Culver with Extension staff

Southeast Iowa is using STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- to get to the “root” of improving student learning. And it’s working. More than 200 students participated in this summer’s STEM program that ISU Extension implemented in Iowa, Johnson and Linn counties. Gov. Chet Culver observed their learning and their fun at a wrap-up event Aug. 1, when he announced a $200,000 one-year grant from the Iowa Department of Education that will help develop a model for improving student learning through STEM programs and activities.

The six-week summer session for youth ages 6 to 12 aimed to increase kids’ understanding of technology in everyday life, enhance and apply their knowledge in engineering and technology through hands-on experiments and increase awareness about career opportunities in these fields. ISU Extension implemented the session with program support from local businesses, Grant Wood Area Education Agency, school districts, University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College. Financial support came from the Carver Foundation and the Grow Iowa Fund.

Pictured from left to right are Lois Hunt, ISU Extension education director for Southeast Iowa, Gov. Culver and ISU Extension staff Janet Martin, Linda Bigley and Gene Mohling. For more information contact Lois Hunt,

Horizons communities are taking action for rural prosperity

kids fill food bags for families in need

Twenty-three rural Iowa communities are taking action: cleaning up the neighborhood, distributing business directories, creating youth mentoring programs and filling food bags for families in need. These are but a few of the steps Iowa communities are taking through Horizons. Thanks to this ISU Extension-run leadership program, these communities are taking charge and building stronger leaders to address poverty, economic decline and the exodus of young adults from rural Iowa.

For example, Bedford has developed a business and services directory and other community information pieces. According to committee member Deann Hensley, “The people involved in Bedford Horizons are a breath of fresh air for the community. Coming from all sectors of the community, they are breathing hope into Bedford’s future.”

Rockford native and ISU student Steve Moser said, “The Horizons experience helped me realize that small solutions, individual efforts, can improve conditions in a community when it comes to dealing with the huge issue of poverty.”

For more information, see the related story in the Extension Connection newsletter.

It’s a farmers’ market online: Iowa MarketMaker

farmers' market

Can’t make it to the farmers’ market, but want to purchase locally grown produce for your family, restaurant or store? Then try the Iowa MarketMaker Web site. Iowa State University Extension is a partner in this interactive mapping system that links producers and consumers of Iowa agricultural products. Ray Hansen, director of ISU Extension Value Added Agriculture, calls it “a wonderful tool for Iowa producers.” That’s why ISU Extension secured funds for implementing an Iowa MarketMaker site and simultaneously began assisting University of Illinois Extension to promote MarketMaker nationally.

An increasing number of Iowa farmers, producers, wholesalers, restaurants, processors and farmers’ markets are posting their information on Iowa MarketMaker. In Jefferson County, ISU Extension is working with Pathfinders Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) and Fairfield Buy Fresh, Buy Local to get producer and retailer information posted, and to provide education supporting locally produced food.

Detra Dettmann, Pathfinders RC&D coordinator, said, “Iowa MarketMaker has the potential to really benefit the locally raised food market by connecting growers to growers and growers to buyers.”

For more information, see the related story in the Extension Connection newsletter.

It’s about parts -- and increasing competitiveness of Iowa manufacturers

Jim Black

What do Deere & Company, Harley Davidson and Oshkosh Trucks have in common? They’re original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and they need parts -- parts that often are made by small and medium sized companies. Iowa State University Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) works with many companies that provide parts and equipment used by Iowa OEMs. Thanks to this program, suppliers of parts for some of Iowa’s major industries are getting a boost in their global competitiveness, according to Jim Black, CIRAS industrial specialist.

The process benefits both the suppliers and the OEMs by increasing productivity, decreasing the time from customer order receipt to order delivery on customer premises and building trust -- all key elements in keeping U.S. products competitive, Black said.

Deere & Company, an Iowa OEM, has been a primary user of the service; CIRAS has worked with several of its suppliers. Bob Smola, Deere & Company supplier development lead engineer, said, “The value to Deere is the development of globally competitive suppliers in Iowa that allows us to support our build-to-demand strategies. We’ve used CIRAS for supply chain improvement projects since 2005 and plan to target additional work in 2008.”

For more information, see the related story in the Extension Connection newsletter.

Design comes to the urban frontier

new ISU design outreach centers

An old boiler plant in a Sioux City back alley is now the Iowa State University Design West Studio. A renovated historical building in downtown Perry with decor made from old corncribs is the Town/Craft Center. With these new outreach centers ISU Extension is taking design to the urban frontier. No textbook example or experiment in a locked-up laboratory, rather, both centers allow Iowa State students to gain real-world design experience in partnership with Iowa communities.

The projects bring together local partners, College of Design student outreach and ISU Extension Community and Economic Development programming -- uniting state-of-the-art design, out-of-the-box thinking and a vision for Iowa’s future. ISU Design West is an outreach center for urban design, historic preservation and community development. Town/Craft focuses on generating and testing new ideas and concepts for small town and neighborhood development and economic renewal.

To learn more about ISU Design West, contact Susan Fey, For more information about Town/Craft, contact Alan Vandehaar,

No horse? No problem in 4-H Horseless Horse project

4-H'er riding a horse

Keeping a horse can be a pricey undertaking. Many kids who are hooked on horses just don’t have the opportunity to ride, let alone own a horse. Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development fills this void with the Horseless Horse project. 4-H’ers enrolled in the project can work with horses and develop sportsmanship, responsibility, cooperation and decision-making and public speaking skills. The project continues to grow in Iowa as the 4-H program moves into urban areas.

Many Iowa horse club leaders use ISU Extension’s Horseless Horse project guide, including Vicki Wade, co-leader of Jasper County Equine Experience. “I love working with the kids to watch them develop as informed, caring horse people. It’s a commitment, but so worth the time.”

Many county 4-H leaders find ways to pull together a group of people who are willing to donate, lease and transport horses so that youth have an opportunity to be around live animals, get acquainted with them and learn to ride. Contact your local ISU Extension county office for ways to become involved.

Final issue of Extension Connection available online

The Extension Connection

The final issue (summer 2007) of the Extension Connection newsletter is available online in pdf and html format.

“Increased printing and postage costs were part of the decision to end the Extension Connection,” said Mark Settle, director of ISU Extension Communications and External Relations. “However, more importantly, we now have other direct, online communication options, such as Jack Payne’s monthly newsletter and blog, and our RSS news feeds.”