October - November 2004 issue:
(download in pdf format)
Consider home safety on your next
trip to the local hardware store
Planning safe holiday meals
Understand liability issues
before raising livestock
Barn owls: Nature’s most
efficient varmint control
Get the most value from your
home safety on your next trip to the local hardware
By Kapil Arora, ISU Extension Agricultural Engineering
Improperly placed smoke alarms and detectors provide
a false sense of security.
Three precautions should be taken when installing
- have at least one smoke detector on each floor;
- make sure air flow to detectors is not blocked;
- keep detectors away from air registers, doors and
windows as drafts can affect detector sensitivity.
When deciding where to locate smoke alarms, check
the manufacturer’s recommendations. All smoke
alarms should be placed on the ceiling or a wall near
the ceiling in central locations. Select an alarm that
displays the seal of a testing organization, which shows
that it has been tested.
In addition to smoke detectors, consider installing
a fully charged fire extinguisher in your home. Where
wood-burning fireplaces or stoves are used, carbon monoxide
detectors are recommended for added safety. For devices
already installed in your home, be sure to test them
for proper functioning on a routine basis as per manufacturer’s
instructions. Do not forget to develop and practice
a fire escape plan in case you are faced with an emergency.
For more details on smoke detectors, see this University
of Arkansas Extension publication: www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FSA-1008.pdf.
For information on electrical safety, see this Iowa
State University Extension Safe Farm publication: www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1265A.pdf.
By Karla Host, Dallas County Master Gardener
are easy-to-grow perennials that can be overwintered
to provide color for the next growing season. There
are three ways to do so: dormant storage, potted plants,
Dormant storage Dig the plant before a killing frost.
Cut branches and leaves back about halfway up the stem.
Carefully tap off as much dirt as possible from the
root. Tie some string on the plant and hang it upside
down in an out-of-the-way spot in the basement. Or you
may place the plant in an open paper bag in the basement.
Check every month for shriveled stems. If they are shriveled,
either spray them with water or soak them an hour or
two in tepid water.
Plants overwintered in this manner may take several
weeks to get going in the spring. To get them jump-started,
soak the plants in water overnight and plant them in
pots indoors several weeks before the last frost. If
you don’t have time to get them potted, these
geraniums can be planted directly outdoors after the
danger of frost has passed. Just be sure to soak them
Potted plants Geraniums in good condition do well
as house plants where temperatures are cool and there
is plenty of light. Select those that are free of insects
and diseases. Dig them before frost and put them in
an appropriately sized pot. Cut them back and remove
any old blooms or dead leaves. Water them well when
they first come in, but during the remainder of the
winter geraniums prefer to stay relatively dry compared
to most plants.
Cuttings Cut off the last 3 to 5 inches of a healthy,
non-blooming branch. Remove leaves from the lower half
and dip the cut end into a rooting hormone. Place cuttings
in loose potting soil or vermiculite. Keep moist and
in good light, but not direct sun for the first three
to four weeks. After they have begun to root, they can
be transplanted into individual pots. Feed once a month
and place in a cool, sunny location.
Next spring Wait to plant geraniums outdoors until
after the last frost. Those geraniums that have been
overwintered as houseplants will have larger and heavier
stems the next season. They will bloom almost as much
as new plants started using the cutting method. Those
that were overwintered in the dormant method will take
several weeks to recover, and often need to be cut back
to improve their shape and productivity.
For more information on overwintering geraniums, go
to Iowa State University’s Horticulture and Home
Pest News, www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/1999/9-17-1999/geroverw.html.
safe holiday meals
By Susan Klein, ISU Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist
Food safety is important year round. During the holidays,
it becomes increasingly important because we prepare
larger meals, leave food out for longer periods, and
overload our refrigerators.
When planning a holiday meal, choose foods that can
be served safely. Temperature abuse is a common cause
of illness. Hot foods need to be kept above 140 degrees
F; cold foods below 40 degrees F. On the buffet table,
keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, crock pots,
and warming trays. Keep foods cold by nesting serving
dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving dishes,
replacing them often. Never leave food on the table
for more than two hours because harmful bacteria can
multiply to unsafe levels on perishable foods left at
room temperature for longer periods.
Cross-contamination is another major cause of illness.
Cooking utensils, dishes and cutting boards exposed
to raw meat and/or poultry products should be thoroughly
washed prior to use for any other cooked or uncooked
Remember that it takes several days to safely thaw
large pieces of frozen meat such as turkey. The best
way to thaw a frozen food is in its original wrapping,
set on a tray in the refrigerator. To thaw large amounts
of food, allow 24 hours per five pounds.
Storing food for holiday meals can be a real challenge.
We typically buy more food and different types of food
than normal. Be careful to not overload your refrigerator.
Putting large amounts of hot food in your refrigerator
at one time can cause your refrigerator temperature
to become unsafe. Preparing turkey for the holidays.
When preparing a turkey, remove the giblet package
in the cavity before cooking. Cook the turkey without
stuffing. If the turkey is stuffed before cooking, the
stuffing may not get hot enough to kill bacteria.
Roast your turkey at 325 degrees F or hotter. The
best way to check turkey temperatures is to insert a
meat thermometer into the large, meaty muscle on the
inside of the thigh without touching the bone. Dark
meat turkey pieces are done when the thermometer reaches
180 degrees F or above. A 12-14 pound bird will take
three to four hours to cook. Allow whole turkeys to
stand 10-20 minutes before carving.
Put leftovers in small containers so they cool quickly
when placed in the refrigerator. Large containers of
food not only cool slowly, they also keep the refrigerator
at an unsafe temperature.
If you cannot quickly use up leftovers, freeze them.
Frozen turkey, stuffing and gravy should be used within
one month. Leftover turkey kept in the refrigerator
should be used within three to four days; stuffing and
gravy within one to two days. Bring leftover gravy to
a rolling boil before serving.
liability issues before raising livestock
By John Baker, Staff Attorney, Iowa Concern
You’ve finally managed to buy the acreage you
always dreamed of owning. Not a real farm perhaps, but
large enough to raise a few chickens, a goat or two,
and the horse the kids always wanted.
Sounds like the dream of a lot of new country residents.
As with most things, however, there are potential downfalls
to animal ownership, not the least of which is the liability
an owner has if an animal strays and/or trespasses on
Chapter 169C of the Code of Iowa deals with stray and
trespassing livestock. Livestock is defined as any animal
belonging to the bovine (cows), caprine (goats), equine
(horses), ovine (sheep), or porcine (pigs) families;
poultry; ostriches; rheas; emus; and farm-raised deer.
This part of the Iowa Code also sets forth the liability
to owners if an animal strays or trespasses on another’s
Livestock owners are liable for expenses incurred by
the landowner if the animal causes property damage.
If the landowner takes custody of the stray animal,
the livestock owner is responsible for any costs incurred,
including any maintenance costs.
If you are the landowner and someone’s livestock
trespasses upon your property, you may take custody
of that livestock. If you do, you are required to notify
the owner within 48 hours that you have custody of the
animal. If you do not know who owns the livestock, you
must make a reasonable effort to determine the owner’s
identity. If it cannot be determined, you must publish
a notice in a county newspaper of general circulation.
The notice must contain your name, a description of
the livestock, and an estimate of your damages. If your
livestock strays upon a road or highway and is the cause
of an accident, you are liable for damages, including
For further information about livestock and liability,
talk to your insurance provider.
owls: Nature’s most efficient varmint control
By Laura Zaugg, Environmental Educator, Dallas
County Extension and Dallas County Conservation Board
Barn owls are an endangered species in Iowa and other
Midwestern states. Fewer than 20 sightings are reported
annually in Iowa.
Barn owls belong to the Tytonidae owl family and are
different than great horned owls and barred owls, which
are members of the Strigiformes family. Barn owls have
monkey-like, heart-shaped faces and distinctly long
legs, each with four toes tipped with razor-sharp talons,
perfect for snatching a meal from tall grass. Their
orange, tawny-colored backs blend well with barn wood
and tree bark.
owls have many of the traits that make owls amazing
creatures. Like humans, they have forward facing eyes
that give them three-dimensional vision. But unlike
humans, they can’t move their eyes in their sockets.
Thanks to extra vertebrae in its neck, an owl can turn
its head three-quarters of the way around. Most birds’
flight feathers are stiff edged, but an owl’s
are soft and fringed, allowing noiseless, deadly flight.
Owls have notoriously good night vision, thanks to
large eyes packed with dim light gathering cells. Owls
use their extraordinary vision to locate prey. But scientists
have found that for most owls hearing is an even keener,
more crucial sense for finding food at night. Certainly
that’s the case with the barn owl. Its eyes are
comparatively small for a night hunting bird, but its
hearing is unsurpassed.
Only its appetite matches the barn owl’s impressive
hunting efficiency. Barn owls love to eat rodents. In
just one season, two adults with a nest full of nestlings
can consume more than 1,500 rodents. It’s easy
to see why a family of barn owls is about as good as
it gets when it comes to natural rodent control.
Unfortunately, the owl’s habitat – open,
grassy pasture and hedgerows with healthy rodent populations
– faces the devouring appetite of a different
Barn owls are nature’s most efficient varmint
control, and they could use our help in finding nesting
sites. You can build or buy simple and efficient nest
boxes that can be placed on old buildings or mounted
on poles. Old buildings and old hollow trees on acreages
could be great nesting sites for these amazing owls.
Injured raptors should be reported to the nearest
wildlife rehabilitator or conservation officer.
For information on building a house or nest box for
barn owls, stop by your local Extension office and ask
for NCR 338, Shelves, Houses and Feeders for Birds and
the most value from your firewood choices
By Greg Brenneman, ISU Extension Agricultural
people burn wood to save money and for the enjoyment
of a wood fire.
Whether you cut your own wood or buy it, there is always
a cost involved. Different types of wood have different
heat values and burning qualities, so it pays to know
what you are getting before selecting firewood.
While all wood species have nearly the same heat content
on a weight basis, firewood is usually measured and
sold on a volume basis. A given volume of oak, hickory
or locust has nearly twice the weight and heat value
as the same volume of basswood, willow or cottonwood.
An excellent publication from the ISU Extension Forestry
Department lists the heat content of many Iowa tree
species. You can find F- 370, Firewood Production and
Use, at www.ag.iastate.edu/departments/forestry/ext/pubs/F-370.pdf.
This publication also has a table on other properties
of firewood such as ease of splitting, ease of starting,
burn rate, and amount of sparks produced.
To compare the cost of heating with wood to heating
with other fuels, both the energy content of the fuel
and the burning efficiency must be considered. For example,
one cord of oak firewood burned in a 60 percent efficiency
wood stove would provide the same heat as 200 gallons
of LP burned in an 80 percent efficiency furnace. With
current LP prices of about 90 cents per gallon, this
would make the cord of oak firewood worth about $180.
To make accurate comparisons for your own situation,
ISU Extension publication PM 1068, Heating Fuel Cost
Comparison, is available from all county Extension offices.
An online Fuel Cost Comparison Chart can be found at
If you are cutting your own firewood, you can estimate
the cost of the firewood by using an ISU Extension Forestry
publication, Cost of Cutting Your Own Firewood (F-335),
available at www.ag.iastate.edu/departments/forestry/ext/pubs/F-335.pdf.
Keep in mind that firewood needs to be “seasoned”
or dried before use. Freshly cut wood can have up to
45 percent water, while the amount of water in well
seasoned firewood generally is only 20 to 25 percent.
Well seasoned firewood is easier to start, produces
more heat, and burns cleaner.
The important thing to remember is that the water
must be gone before the wood will burn. If your wood
is cut six months to a year in advance and is properly
stored, the sun and wind will do the job for free.
If you try to burn green wood, the heat produced by
burning must dry the wood before it will burn, using
up a large percentage of the available heat energy in
the process. This results in less heat delivered to
your home and literally gallons of acidic water in the
form of creosote deposited in your chimney.
Extension Week - November 14-20, 2004
ISU Extension: Your partner for a better
Join us during this year’s Extension Week
as we celebrate our many partnerships. Stop by
Extension office to learn more about how Extension
partnerships are helping Iowans become their
best. Look for local celebrations occurring in