Tag: Water

What is "Raw" Water?
The Lifestyle

What is “Raw” Water?

What is "Raw" Water?One of the most recent trends in health is “raw” water.

Simply put, raw water is water that has not been filtered or treated in any way. It may come from a well, a spring, a pond, or directly from the sky, but the point is that raw water is water in an unprocessed state.

Some companies have decided to cash in on the raw water philosophy, bottling unfiltered spring water to sell at amazing prices at health food stores, especially on the West Coast. While this product has proven so commercially successful as to be frequently out of stock in stores that carry it, some customers opt for the less-expensive-in-the-long-term alternative of harvesting raw water themselves. This latter solution has particular appeal to the off-the-grid set.


Health Claims

Raw food has long been advocated by health food proponents. Raw water was a natural next step, and the suggested benefits are quite similar. Just as cooking vegetables, for instance, has the potential to destroy beneficial nutrients, filtering and treating water has the potential to eliminate everything from essential minerals to helpful probiotics—substances that not only promote overall health, but that keep the body hydrated.

Furthermore, raw water advocates observe that regular bottled water is by no means contaminant-free. While there are regulatory limits on the amount of contaminants permitted in bottled water or city tap water, the regulations do tend to lag behind the science, resulting in perpetually outdated monitoring. Furthermore, some contaminants may actually be added during treatment, ranging from fluoride to chlorine to lead leached from pipes. Raw water avoids many of these problems.


Health Risks

Of course, if the good substances, like probiotics, can remain in raw water, contaminants can, as well. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can all lurk in unfiltered water, depending on its source.

In fact, scientists observe that many diseases and infections in underdeveloped countries come from what health-food buffs are now hailing as raw water:

  • Cholera.
  • Giardia.
  • Dysentery.
  • Samonella.
  • E. coli.

Furthermore, some of the claims made by those selling raw water can be alarming. One company cautions not to leave the water sitting on the shelf too long or it will turn green. Some regard this as evidence that the water is still “alive,” unlike “dead” filtered water. Others feel that the disturbing green color suggests that harmful organisms may be present, while the CDC warns that even water that looks sparkling clear may contain invisible pathogens.


A Final Note

Whatever one may think of the hefty price tag accompanying raw water products sold at health food stores, it is only fair to note that the providers have obtained laboratory analyses of their products. So does that make their water safe? A great deal depends on the integrity of the company—but that’s true with all food and water products.

Those who are interested in harvesting their own raw water should exercise caution. Unfortunately, relatively few homesteaders are likely to have access to a truly clean source of raw water on their property. The fortunate few are encouraged to thoroughly read up on water safety and to test the quality of their water on a frequent, regular basis.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2
The Sunflower State

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2Adjusting Livestock Production

In an effort to reduce hog numbers, payments were also distributed to farmers who would destroy their piglets and pregnant sows. About 6 million piglets were slaughtered under the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA).

A cattle-purchasing program was similarly implemented under the Drought Relief Service in areas where the Dust Bowl had hit the hardest. The federal government purchased approximately 7 million cattle, most which had been in imminent danger of starvation.

At first, surplus livestock was typically shot and buried. However, a tremendous public outcry arose over the waste at a time when many people were starving. In October 1933, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation was established to placate Americans and put the livestock to better use. From then on, most salvageable meat was purchased by the government and distributed through various relief programs. Because many slaughterhouses were not equipped to process the massive numbers of small pigs sent through their doors, however, they often took the easier route of processing young pigs for grease and fertilizer. Meanwhile, enough cattle hides entered the market that newspapers reported a price crisis among tanners.


The Economic Results

Many Great Plains farmers welcomed the subsidies. In some areas, as many as 90% of the local farmers came to rely on the AAA. By the end of 1935, the AAA had shelled out about $1.1 billion, about half of which went to farmers in the Great Plains. According to the USDA, farm income increased by 50% between 1932 and 1935, 25% of the increase coming from federal payments.

Commodity prices did indeed rise between 1932 and 1935. In fact, the prices for corn, wheat, and cotton doubled. However, prices remained well below 1929 levels and the parity goal set by the New Deal. Of course, higher prices only benefited farmers who had crops to harvest in spite of the drought.

The AAA payments were rarely enough to help small-scale farmers subsist. Families with small acreages generally failed, abandoned their farms, and left agricultural to the major players. An estimated 2.5 million people had evacuated the Great Plains by 1940. A large number of these former farmers moved to California to seek jobs picking seasonal produce for low wages.

The situation was particularly bad for tenant farmers. While tenant farmers were not as conspicuous in the Great Plains as in the South, they did exist, and they, too, suffered. Under the initial provisions of the AAA, the landowner was to share the money with any tenant farmers he had working for him. Unfortunately, this part of the contract was poorly enforced, and some landlords resorted to fraud to keep the money for themselves. More honest landlords often used their rightful share of the subsidy to purchase modern machinery to reduce their labor needs, setting their tenant farmers adrift. In Oklahoma alone, the number of tenant farmers was nearly cut in half between 1935 and 1945.

The end result was a decided trend toward the consolidation of agriculture. Farm numbers declined in droughty areas, while farm sizes increased. In southwestern Kansas, for instance, the average farm had more than doubled in acreage by 1950.


A New Act

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

Former Oklahoma farm family in California to pick lettuce

In the 1936 case United States v. Butler, the Supreme Court declared the Agricultural Adjustment Act to be unconstitutional:

The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government.…

From the accepted doctrine that the United States is a government of delegated powers, it follows that those not expressly granted, or reasonably to be implied from such as are conferred, are reserved to the states, or to the people. To forestall any suggestion to the contrary, the Tenth Amendment was adopted. The same proposition, otherwise stated, is that powers not granted are prohibited. None to regulate agricultural production is given, and therefore legislation by Congress for that purpose is forbidden.…

The Congress cannot invade state jurisdiction to compel individual action; no more can it purchase such action.

However, the AAA was replaced by a new farm relief act. This act did not overtly pay farmers to reduce agricultural production, but instead set up a soil conservation program. Landowners were now paid to implement cover-cropping and similar practices. The money came out of the federal treasury, instead of the tax on food processing. The new program was popular while the drought continued, but most farmers resumed their former cropping practices as soon as the rainfall returned.

But the original AAA had left a lasting legacy. By 1940, 6 million farmers were receiving subsidies. Farm commodities have been subsidized ever since.

Growth Cracks
The Garden

Growth Cracks

Growth CracksGrowth cracks are a problem most gardeners will have to contend with sooner or later.  Fortunately, the problem is structural in nature, and therefore will not cause an epidemic.

Commonly affected plants include:

Jalapeño peppers frequently crack, as well, but this is normal and not likely to cause a storage problem.

Growth cracks appear when the skin of the fruit in question cannot expand fast enough to keep pace with a rapid increase in pressure inside the fruit.  This can be caused by a number of conditions:

  • Irregular or excessive rainfall.
  • Irregular temperatures.
  • Excess nitrogen.



  • Concentric circles around stem end of fruit.
  • Starlike cracks spreading from stem end of fruit.


Growth CracksTreatment

Growth cracks will usually correct themselves given time and the proper growing conditions.



A good starting point is to look for fruit and vegetable varieties that are resistant to cracking.

Your next best bet is to promote even growth:

  • Choose a garden site with good soil drainage.
  • Water deeply but regularly.
  • Mulch to keep the soil moisture steady.
  • Use compost, not chemical fertilizer, to keep nitrogen levels even.

Of course, we can’t control the weather.  If a heavy rain is in the forecast, take a walk through the garden and harvest any vegetables that might suffer from the effects.  If the fruits are almost ready, you can pick them a little early and ripen them on a sunny windowsill.


Complete Series

Garden & Orchard DiseasesGarden & Orchard Diseases


30-Year Normals
The Farm

30-Year Normals

30-Year NormalsAgriculture is very much a weather-dependent pursuit. The success or failure of both garden and field crops in any given year depends primarily on the rainfall and temperatures. Even pastures should be managed with an eye to the sky.

With this in mind, it is a good idea to know roughly what type of weather you can expect in an average year. Oregon State University has a series of 30-Year Normals maps of the United States that will be very useful to you as you pursue your country living adventure. This information can be critical in determining which practices make the most sense for your local climate.

Information displayed by the map includes:

  • Precipitation.
  • Mean temperature.
  • Minimum temperature.
  • Maximum temperature.
  • Mean dewpoint temperature.
  • Minimum vapor pressure deficit (a measure of the moisture saturation of the air).
  • Maximum vapor pressure deficit.
  • Elevation.

Data can be viewed by month or as an annual average.

Great way to get a handle on your local climate!

The Changing Face of American Agriculture: Part 2
The Farm

The Changing Face of American Agriculture: Part 2

The Changing Face of American Agriculture: Part 2Agripreneurship

Young people continue to enter agriculture, according to the last USDA census.

Most young farmers have limited capital to work with, and they frequently find outside financing difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. With land prices remaining high, they typically buy small properties when they first start out and purchase additional land as they save money. This paradigm leads naturally to the rise of intensive farming methods and profitable agripreneurship.

Many millennials find the standard commute-work-commute routine to be unfulfilling and unappealing. They are actively seeking meaningful opportunities to make their living, work that will enrich them more than just monetarily. Not surprisingly, these young farmers are also bucking the commodity system. Their goal is not just to get by financially—their goal is to make a difference. These agripreneurs are raising value-added food that they can believe in. They seek quality every step of the way, even if they do not obtain USDA organic certification. Most agripreneurs meet customer needs through direct marketing, and they actively take part in building their communities.

One common characteristic of agripreneurial businesses is a reliance on streams of income. Instead of focusing on a small handful of commodities, agripreneurs frequently raise a wide variety of plants and animals on the same farm, often including specialty crops such as vegetables and exotic livestock such as llamas. Furthermore, they often incorporate other types of businesses into their operation, dipping into agritourism or supplementing their farm income with book sales, for instance. Some agripreneurs, particularly women, augment their income with an off-farm day job. Surveys suggest, however, that most prefer to avoid taking government subsidies whenever possible.


Nature’s Way

Environmental issues have dogged agriculture ever since the advent of industrialization. Some issues have attracted the attention of the average American, not just the environmentalist watchdog.

In response to public demand, many commercial pork producers predict that more attention will be given to animal welfare over the next few years. Scientists will continue to improve the humane livestock handling facilities that they have developed so far. Steps will be taken to eliminate the buildup of odor-producing wastes. Livestock may even be slaughtered on-site to avoid the welfare issues associated with trucking live animals to distant packing plants.

In the field, integrated pest management (IPM) already has a steady following among producers of all stripes. However, its focus continues to shift with time. Growers of field crops are using IPM to reduce their pesticide inputs, resorting to chemicals only when crop damage approaches the economic injury level. More producers may start using IPM in the near future to tackle chemical-resistant pests.

Even in conventional circles there is excitement over the potential of naturally derived biologics. For example, natural bacteria can be used to protect roots from nematodes. Major chemical companies are expected to continue developing their lines of biological products for battling a host of pests, weeds, and diseases.

Meanwhile, water usage for irrigated crops continues to increase. Researchers are scrambling to find solutions that will protect the long-term viability of critical aquifers such as the Ogallala Aquifer in the Kansas High Plains. New highly efficient irrigation systems are already in the field. However, it remains to be seen if improved irrigation systems can counteract the increase in water usage due to an expansion of irrigated acres.

The last USDA census also shows that more farms are producing their own renewable energy. In fact, on-farm renewable energy production more than doubled between 2007 and 2012.


Part 3: High Tech, Research and Development

Get Ready for July 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for July 2016

Get Ready for July 2016Summer can be very busy, but don’t forget to learn and brainstorm.  Spend some time enjoying nature, researching animals, and growing healthy plants.

  1. Brush up on your birdwatching vocabulary.
  2. Discover how wood type affects the sound of your guitar.
  3. Explore the 11 physiographic regions of Kansas.
  4. Learn about rare and popular breeds of livestock.
  5. Consider growing beans as a field crop in Kansas.
  6. Find out why healthy plants are bug-resistant.
  7. Decide if a raw diet is right for your pet.
  8. Weigh the pros and cons of soaker hoses.
  9. Identify Kansas wildflowers and grasses.
  10. Live the cross-centered life.
Prairie Strips in Field Crops
The Farm

Prairie Strips in Field Crops

Prairie Strips in Field Crops

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

There’s a new farming technique on the Midwestern prairie. It’s innovative, it’s sustainable, but it’s also readily available to farmers of all stripes.

This tool is the prairie strip, a strip of native prairie plants grown right in the middle of a grain field.



The idea behind prairie strips is to create a buffer zone between the field and the land downhill, holding soil and nutrients in place. A prairie strip blocks soil from flowing away with the rain and thus preventing erosion. It also traps pollutants before they can contaminate a stream.

Preliminary research suggests that prairie strips can accomplish these goals and more:

  • Reducing soil erosion by about 90%.
  • Reducing water runoff by about 40%.
  • Reducing nitrogen loss through runoff by about 85%.
  • Reducing phosphorus loss through runoff by about 90%.
  • Improving water quality downstream from the field.
  • Providing habitat for beneficial insects that pollinate crops and defend them from pests.


How Prairie Strips are Planted

Prairie strips are planted on the contour of the land. Some cut across the field, while others create buffer zones at the edges.

However, prairie strips are different from standard contour buffer strips in that they are planted with strategy in mind. The width of the strip is not fixed, but varies with the runoff situation of each individual field. Also, prairie strips use native plants that are tough enough to stand up to the job of battling erosion, thanks to their sturdy stems and their ability to survive both drought and flooding.

A prairie strip does not have to take up most of the field to be effective. Converting about 10% of the farmed acreage to strategically placed prairie strips is sufficient to reap the benefits listed above.

It takes about three years to establish a prairie strip. Mowing is required the first year to keep weeds in check. Afterward, mowing can be used to kill invasive weeds. Herbicide is also an option after the first year, although it must be applied with precision to avoid harming the desired prairie plants. An established prairie strip can be baled for hay after dormancy, or it can be managed through controlled burning. Grazing prairie strips is a practice that is still being researched, but may be feasible if overgrazing can be prevented.

Prairie strips should be combined with other soil-conserving farming techniques to avoid a rapid sediment buildup at the edge of the strip. Establishment will progress more smoothly where no-till farming is practiced, as tillage damages young root structures.


Making the Transition

Prairie Strips in Field Crops

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Planting prairie strips is not a widespread practice yet, since it is still in the research stage. The number of farmers using this new technique is small, but growing rapidly.

The project began under the auspices of Iowa State University in 2004, and continues to grow with the university’s guidance. By 2013, one farmer was ready to experiment with prairie strips. Last year, over 30 farmers were involved, primarily in Iowa, but also in Missouri.

Of course, prairie strips cost money to establish and maintain. The estimated cost is about $24 to $35 per acre.

Also, prairie strips do take about 10% of the farmed land out of production, reducing total yield. Fortunately, ideal strategic locations for prairie strips typically coincide with the toughest places for corn and soybean plants to grow. Some farmers claim that they have increased their total profits by taking these fragile areas out of production.

It’s rare to see both environmental groups and commodity organizations supporting a common cause, but the new technique has united the Iowa Environmental Council with the Iowa Corn Growers Association, for instance. Despite the drawbacks, prairie strips are promising enough to have both farmers and researchers excited.


Helpful Resources

Iowa State’s website dedicated to prairie strip information.

A Landowner’s Guide to Prairie Conservation Strips
Free PDF download answering common questions about prairie strips.

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb
The Garden

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb

The Dirt-Cheap Green ThumbGardening on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice looks or taste!

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb: 400 Thrifty Tips for Saving Money, Time & Resources In and Around the Garden by Rhonda Massingham Hart will show you how to make the most of your gardening dollars, while still enjoying a beautiful and productive garden. These tips will improve your efficiency every step of the way, from choosing your garden site to using the harvest.

Learn how to:

  • Improve your soil without needless expense.
  • Buy tools—not toys.
  • Select plants that will thrive in your unique circumstances.
  • Keep your plants in peak health.
  • Create an attractive landscape without breaking the bank.
  • Store rainwater for when you need it most.
  • Save seeds for next year.
  • Prevent waste at harvest time.
  • And much more!

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb is not a comprehensive how-to book on gardening—it’s more of a tool to spark your creativity. If you are struggling with ways to save either time or money around your garden, give it a try.

K-State Horticulture Newsletter
The Garden

K-State Horticulture Newsletter

K-State Horticulture NewsletterGardening in Kansas can be a very unique experience. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find information tailored to our somewhat unpredictable climate and growing conditions.

Fortunately, K-State has filled the gap with a weekly newsletter packed with useful and timely information that gardeners of all stripes will appreciate. Whether you have a kitchen garden, a large orchard, or just a few flowers in pots, you will find a wealth of tips to keep your plants thriving.

Just to give you a very small sampling of previous topics:

  • Conservation trees from the Kansas Forest Service.
  • Bird feeding.
  • Plants recommended for Kansas.
  • Pruning fruit trees.
  • Fertilizing perennial flowers.
  • Managing turf in shade.
  • Organic sources of nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Butterfly gardening.
  • Helps for new vegetable gardeners.
  • Field bindweed control.
  • Rabbits in the garden.
  • Strawberry bed renewal.
  • Harvesting potatoes.
  • Inexpensive method of watering trees.
  • Storing apples.
  • Harvesting and roasting sunflower seeds.
  • Tucking in your lawnmower for the winter.
  • Dormant seeding of turfgrass.
  • Poinsettia care.
  • Firewood.

Not only will you read a diverse array of useful information, but you will learn what you need to know right on time, with a bit of wiggle room for planning. A new issue is archived online every week. You can also subscribe electronically—check the latest issue for instructions.

What a useful resource! A must for every Kansas gardener.

Get Ready for March 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for March 2016

Get Ready for March 2016Get ready for spring!  It’s time to plan new projects, start a garden, and get outside to enjoy nature.

  1. Start a new garden or orchard.
  2. Plan your farm water system.
  3. Take on the 5-minute brainstorming challenge.
  4. Learn more about growing your favorite vegetables.
  5. Learn about the breeding birds of Kansas.
  6. Start a farm journal.
  7. Find creative uses for all those extra eggs.
  8. Discover the power of humus.
  9. Become a weather wizard.
  10. Revisit your favorite gardening resources.