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Celebrating Ohio Wildlife: Beaver & Fox

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

It goes without saying that we have some amazing wildlife that call Ohio home. With bears, turkeys, beavers, coyotes, foxes and so much more, Ohio is truly the heart of it all when it comes to wildlife! In my previous installment, we looked at the deer and the wild turkey learning about their habitats, diet, and behavior. For this article, we look at yet two more of nature’s creatures, the beaver and the fox.

            Let’s first look at the fox. In Ohio, there are two species of fox that call our state home which are the gray fox and the red fox. As you can imagine, they both are named based on their color. The red fox is more of a reddish-orange with white from its below to its underside. The gray fox has an overall gray color but has a lot of black and white mixed in giving it a salt and pepper-like appearance. Besides the color differences, one notable difference between the two-fox species comes to looking at the tail. The red fox will have a white tip to its bushy tail while the gray fox will have a skinnier tail with a black tip.

            Foxes are nocturnal animals which means that they are primarily active during the nighttime hours when they hunt for their food and generally sleep during the day. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Red Fox is a solitary creature during the fall and early winter months and generally only will roam a one to two-mile range in search for food. Some primary staples in the Red Fox diet would be mice, rats, rabbits, birds, insects, eggs, fruits, and acorns. The red fox generally is the one people tend to think of when they hear the word fox due to is rusty colored fur.

            The gray fox and the red fox have a lot of similarities between them. One of the main things comes to reproduction with foxes being monogamous breeders. What does this mean exactly? According to ODNR, this means that the fox will only have one mate through their entire life time with peak breeding taking place from February to March for the gray fox and January to February for the red fox. Foxes will only have one litter per year and can have anywhere from 4-6 kits in every litter.

Female red foxes sometimes must make their own dens from scratch. ODNR writes that females that must do this will pick out a location that has a loose, sandy soil that has a southern exposure for warmth. Dens will be dug to depths of about four feet deep. Did you know that foxes are related to your pet dog? Foxes, just like your dog, are members of the “Canidae” or Canine family. Another interesting fact with the fox is that they do not hibernate through the winter months compared to other animals.

To say the least, the beaver is quite an amazing animal primarily due to all the adaptations that it has to best live in its environment. The beaver is the largest rodent found in North American weighing an average of 60 lbs. and measuring a length of 25 to 30 inches long. One thing is for sure with the beaver, they sure love the water! They love it so much that within just 24 hours of being born, the young called kits are already actively swimming! Kits are generally born between April to July with 1 to 4 kits being born with every litter.

Beavers generally prefer ponds that are surrounded by forests to build their homes known as dams. Among some of their favorite woods to eat are poplar, birch, and maple trees. Let’s talk a little bit more about their homes which can have some differences depending on where they are built. For the most part, beavers are quite crafty when it comes to the construction of their dam such as building the entrances underneath the water. Why an underwater entrance you ask? Well for one, they love the water and two it is one of the mechanisms they use to protect themselves from predators who are left wondering how to get into the dam.

According to National Geographic, the inside of their homes features a living quarter built above the water with wood chips on the floor to absorb excess moisture along with a vent at the top to allow for air circulation. Beaver dams are built using the wood that they have chopped up with their large teeth along with mud to hold everything together.

So, let’s now talk about the many amazing adaptations of the beaver. What is an adaptation? An adaptation is a modification of an organism or its parts which allow it to better survive its environment. Among their adaptations, beavers have webbed feet, waterproof fur, adapted lungs, ear adaptations, clear eye lids, rudder-like tails, and their large teeth. The waterproof fur makes sense given that the beaver loves to swim in the water. According to National Geographic, beavers use oil glands to keep their fur wet and slippery and rub this on their fur. This is reapplied on a regular basis to ensure the fur stays wet. The fur also is good at trapping body heat to keep the beavers warm.

If a beaver is underwater all the time, how do they see? Beavers have clear eyelids that allows them to see through, so they have their own built in goggles! National Geographic writes that beavers also can stay underneath the water for as long as 15 minutes due to their specially adapted lungs. Do you like getting water in your ears or nose when you swim? Beavers don’t either! They have small flaps of skin in their ears and nose that close when they are underneath the water!

Now to those beaver teeth! According to National Geographic, beavers have long sharp teeth known as incisors which are great for gnawing wood. The teeth are continually growing, which makes it important for beavers to keep their teeth sharpened by chewing on wood. Another adaptation of the beaver is their webbed feet. The webbed feet are like flippers that divers will wear when deep see diving. Their webbed feet between their toes come in handy when they are swimming through the water.


Lastly, is the beaver’s tail. They have a large tail shaped like an oar that comes in handy as a steering mechanism and to defend themselves from predators. They will slap their large tail on the water to scare off predators! Hopefully now you have a good understanding of the beaver and foxes found in Ohio. Stay tuned for the next installment which will feature more great Ohio animals!



Conserving Resources during the Holidays

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

I don’t have to tell you that Christmas is quickly approaching! Do you have your shopping done and gifts wrapped? If not, better hurry! The Christmas season is upon us with Christmas music playing in all the stores, gifts being wrapped, Christmas trees lit up across the land. As we enjoy the holiday season, let us keep the environment in mind as we are doing so with some simple ways to enjoy the holidays while preserving our natural resources. The holiday season does not have to put a burden on our natural resources, but with a little effort put forward along with some creativity, the holiday season will have minimal impact on the environment.

            One simple way we can think green during the Christmas season is to buy smart. There are several ways that we can keep then environment in mind as we finish our Christmas shopping. One of the most common things that you can do is look for locally-made gifts. Think about how goods you buy at larger chain store impact the environment during their transportation. The transportation of these items to the larger stores burns up a non-renewable resource, fossil fuels, such as gasoline or diesel fuel. Battery free gifts are another option to consider. According the US EPA, about 40% of battery sales throughout the United States take place during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Dead batteries that are discarded pose a hazard to the environment as the acid in the batteries can be toxic to many wildlife who may encounter them according to Earth Easy. To help out that situation, try a battery-free gift this holiday season.

            Now it’s time to talk about the holiday light displays that decorate the yards of many people throughout the area. Many of us know by watching many familiar holiday comedies that the house with the most decorations in the neighborhood wins the competition among the neighbors. It is all fun and games until we receive our electric bills the following month. Excess use of electricity puts a strain on our natural resources considering where electricity comes from such as coal-fired power plants. Although it may not be a fun, consider downsizing the holiday light display which will help conserve electricity and thus the natural resources used to generate that electricity.

            Another option you may consider is using LED Christmas lights. According to Earth Easy, LED lights will use up to 95% less energy than the larger, traditional bulbs commonly used. Another awesome thing about the LED bulbs is that even though one bulb goes out, the rest of the string will remain lit! One last tip is to shut down the light display during the nighttime hours. Let your light display shine while everyone is awake.

Would you believe that choosing a live tree is a sustainable choice during the holiday? Yes, you might be able to reuse that artificial Christmas tree from one year to the next, but consider what it is made of. According to Earth Easy, artificial Christmas trees are made from petroleum products (a nonrenewable resource), while also using up manufacturing and shipping resources and it seems they are thrown out after a few years when repeated use causes a decline in quality. The artificial trees end up in the landfill where they will not degrade due to their plastic makeup.

            Believe it or not live trees, although messy, can be quite the sustainable alternative. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are about 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold in the United States on any given year with about 350 million real Christmas trees actively growing on tree farms throughout the U.S. Live Christmas trees are planted on a regular basis making them a renewable resource. The trees help improve air quality while they are actively growing with nearly 90% of trees recycled into mulch, according to Earth Easy. There are Christmas tree farms around the area with locally grown trees that help save costs and air emissions from transportation.  

Recycling is a good practice to do at any time of the year and the holiday season is no exception. Have you ever considered that many of your packing materials included in your holiday presents can be reused or recycled? According to Earth Easy, items such as bubble wrap, foam packing materials, and cardboard boxes are easily able to be recycled. Get a new TV or other electronic device as a gift? Electronic devices contain hazardous materials that can prove to be toxic to the environment so let us do our part and recycle these items rather than sending them to the landfill. Not sure where to take your electronic devices to recycle? Visit and search a recycling center near you.


Consideration towards the environment is something to keep in mind not only during the holiday season but all throughout the year. The Paulding Soil & Water Conservation District Staff and Board of Supervisors wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season!



Preventing Deer Damage

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

One fact that everyone knows is that there are plenty of deer roaming around Ohio. We most often meet these creatures of nature on the roadways with our cars, but that is certainly not the only place they are seen. Anybody that has a yard bordering a woodland knows all too well that deer are a common visitor to these areas as well. You might think they are just lurking around, but they are actually doing some damage especially in your garden and landscaping.

            Have you ever looked out and seen the plants in your garden nibbled away but cannot seem to figure out who is to blame? There is a rather good chance it was a deer who is at fault. Deer damage is certainly not a new phenomenon plaguing gardeners and landscapers but it seems we are hearing more and more about it nowadays, but why? At every turn, you see new roads and homes popping up which is replacing what was once a natural habitat for the deer. With these expansions, we are seeing more deer show up in areas that humans are relocating to.  

            According to Michigan State University (MSU) deer find just as much enjoyment foraging for food in your yard as they do in their natural woodland habitat and may even like the plants you have even better than their normal diet! Normally, deer prefer corn, alfalfa, grass, twigs, and leaves as part of their natural diet. What is it that we plant that they like better? How do we prevent them from eating our plants? Let’s take a look at the deer’s behavior to get a better understanding of the plants they love and ways we can prevent damage from them.

            So let’s first take a look at some of the plants that are attracting the deer to your backyard. Michigan State University writes that feeding on plants will generally take place during the nighttime hours but it can also can also occur at any point on a host of plants when they are hungry. While many are apt to think that there are well defined plants which deer dislike, it is important to know that there is not one plant which is completely “deer proof”. Geography also plays a part in the plants that deer prefer, so that is another consideration to make. Lastly, one factor to take into account is that each plant species has different levels of damage which they can tolerate that will not outright kill the plant.  

            Michigan State University notes that many native cedars such as American Arborvitae, ornamental shrubs such as roses, as well as herbaceous plants who don’t lose leaves during the winter such as coral bells are favorites of deer while they are feeding during the winter months. As spring comes along, tulips, daylilies, and newly planted annuals are fair game for the deer. MSU writes that when summer rolls along the males (bucks) will move to woody plants, not necessarily for eating, but when they are in “velvet” to rub off the dried blood as their antlers are developing. It is not uncommon to see spots on trunks with scars that are two inches or more wide, which can damage the strength of the woody plant structure.

            Repellents are available that can help to deter the deer from damaging your gardens and landscaping. There are a host of repellants available either via homemade or commercially available remedies. Most repellents are sold either as a smell deterrent or a bad taste for the deer. According to Michigan State University, most repellents contain capsicum pepper, putrid egg shells, and with garlic which can be grouped with motion-sensing noise-makers that give the message that your landscaping or garden is not a welcome location.

            It is important to know that with any repellants used with any animal species that there is not going to be guaranteed effectiveness. Things like lawn irrigation or rainfall can dilute the repellants. Animals can get used to the repellent to the extent that it may not have an effect on them which is why Michigan State says it is a good idea to rotate your repellants between a bad taste, noise, or scent options. It is important to also keep the repellant freshly stocked in order for it to be effective. Once deer encounter these repellants enough times, it is common to see their traffic patterns change.

One additional option to help with deer damage is choosing the right plant species. According to Michigan State, deer will defer from plants that are fuzzy, coarse foliage like ferns, and also leaves or stems with foul odors or spines. Also of dislike to the deer are many ornamental grasses, ferns, and lavender. When it comes to trees and shrubs, Michigan State says that deer will steer away from pines, spruces, cypresses, and boxwood trees.

Another option to consider is possibly physical barriers such as wraps, netting, or perhaps some small fencing. This may be something to consider especially if there are newly planted trees in your landscaping. As more people start living in areas where animals are found, encounters are simply bound to happen. The key is understanding that animals are simply trying to find food and survive just like humans are also doing.




WLEB Nutrient Management Specialist joins Paulding SWCD

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

The Paulding Soil & Water Conservation District is pleased to welcome Manuel Lay as our newest addition to the office as the Western Lake Erie Basin Nutrient Management Specialist. Manuel covers the following three counties in his position: Paulding, Defiance, and Williams County. Working in multiple counties gives Lay the opportunity to experience how each county office operates and experience different areas.

First, let’s learn a little bit about Manuel’s background. Manny is 28yrs old and was raised near Wooster, OH. While growing up he says he loved being outside roaming thru the woods which is probably where his passion for conservation began. After graduating high school in 2007, he decided that he wanted to work in a natural resource field. His goal was to conserve and maintain the environment and wildlife that he grew up loving. Manny then decided to attend Hocking College to obtain an associate’s degree in Wildlife Management and taking Wildlife/ Aquatic Conservation courses thru The University of Rio Grande.

Once finishing school, Manny bounced around doing a few seasonal positions such as a Fisheries Natural Resource Specialist for ODNR District 3, and a Wildlife Technician position at a wildlife management area for the Michigan DNR. Most recently, he was doing construction work. Manny says “I am ecstatic to be back in the conservation field and looking forward to where this opportunity might lead in the future”.

Manuel’s main responsibility is to respond to manure complaints and work with the grower as well as the public to see what the issue may be. He is one of the first guys you may see on the scene when a complaint is made. A rather routine process is involved each time a manure complaint is made. The originating source of the manure must be located which may be somebody trucking it, spreading it on the ground, or piling it on the ground. Manuel needs to find the owner of the manure and see if they are within the bounds of the law. One of the main things he checks for is that a 300-foot buffer zone exists between where the manure is stockpiled and the nearest water source, whether it be a small ditch or a river.

The amount of manure complaints that come in for Manuel can vary greatly from week to week. For the most part, many of the calls he had received thus far are for simple smell complaints.

Manuel obtains much of his resources and backing from Senate Bill 1 passed by the 131st Ohio General Assembly which became effective in July 2015. This bill is now part of the Ohio Revised Code and is known as Revised Code 939. Senate Bill 1 (Revised Code 939) was enacted to aid in the control of algal blooms in Lake Erie and the Western Basin which includes the City of Toledo. Provisions exist in this legislation that prevent fertilizer application (phosphorus & nitrogen) on frozen ground, when two inches of topsoil are saturated or if there is a greater than 50% chain of one inch or more of rain in a 12-hr. period for fertilizer and 24 hr. for manure.

Manure complaints are not the only thing that Manuel does on a daily basis. He is also available to aid growers in implementing Best Management Practices (BMP’s) which can consist of things such as grassed waterways or filter strips along streams. Farmers who want to make use of their manure and those who do not farm but like to be informed on the laws can benefit from the resources provided by Lay.

Are you unsure of regulations regarding applying and stockpiling manure? Lay has created a brochure containing frequently asked questions that can be found on our website under the “SWCD Programs” tab or stop in the office to receive a copy.


Manuel looks forward to interacting with the residents of Paulding County as well as Defiance & Williams County and educating them on the laws surrounding manure and nutrient management. He wants to serve as another voice for farmers who face a concerned public. Those wishing to contact Manuel may do so by calling the Paulding Soil & Water Conservation District at 419-399-4771 or via email  



Celebrating Ohio WIldlife: Part I

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

Without a doubt, there are some quite amazing animals that call Ohio home but do you know the native animals of Ohio? There are the obvious species that come to mind, but I am sure there will be some that surprise you. Over a series of articles, I hope to introduce you to some of nature’s most magnificent and not so magnificent creatures that call Ohio home. Perhaps you will learn a new fact about an animal you already know or learn about one you didn’t even know lived around here.

With each article, there will be two or three animals featured. The first installment will feature the wild turkey with Thanksgiving quickly approaching along with the white-tailed deer.

First, we will feature the wild turkey. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the wild turkey is the largest upland game bird in the state of Ohio standing at four feet tall and weighing up to twenty-four pounds. At the turn of the 20th century, the wild turkey was nearly extinct in the state. ODNR writes that this is attributed to the expansion of settlement and destruction of their habitat. The wild turkey served as a main food and sport creature for the early Native Americans that settled in Ohio.

Overall, wild turkeys can be identified with an overall dark tint to their feathers with a bronze or green color mixed into their feathers. Adult male turkeys are known as gobblers and can be identified by a reddish head, a tasseled “beard” that hangs from the breast, black tipped feathers, and spurs on the legs according to ODNR. Males will have big and flashy feathers while the females will not. Females are known as hens and can be identified by a blue head, no beard, no spurs, and buff-tipped breasts according to ODNR. During the mating season, the courting male will puff himself into a big feathery ball fill the air with their quite loud gobbling along with their showy feathers to attract a female mate.

The wild turkey is an animal that tends to travel in groups. According to Cornell University, a flock, or group of turkeys, will travel together to search the surface for nuts, berries, insects, and snails. Their strong feet are used to scratch the ground surface to move leaves out of the way as they are searching for food. During the night, turkeys will fly up in their flocks and roost in trees.

That is one fact unique to the wild turkey that it can fly while the domesticated turkey cannot. Another distinguishing characteristic between the wild turkey and the domesticated turkey is the feather color. Unlike wild turkeys, domesticated turkeys that you find on your Thanksgiving table are a pure white color.

Generally, wild turkeys are found in forested areas but it is not uncommon to find them in fence rows and along the edges of fields. According to Cornell University, it is also not uncommon to find them along roads or in backyards that border a wooded area.

White Tailed Deer

            Certainly, many of us have encountered a white-tailed deer sometime when driving on area roadways. They have two colors to their fur, it is a reddish-brown color with short hairs in the summer which fades to a grayish-brown color in the winter with heavy and long hairs, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The deer will generally be found in the forest but can also be found near most farmland and in swamps. If you have a yard that borders a woodland, chances are they frequent your backyard!

            The White-Tailed Deer is known as Ohio’s only big game animal. It was an important animal for the Native Americans who used the antlers for tools/weapons, the meat for food, and the fur for clothing. Some terminology to know with the deer is that the male is known as a buck, the female is a doe, and the baby deer is known as a fawn. The male is the only member of the white-tailed deer species that will have antlers, which will regrow every year.

            Deer commonly will eat mainly plants and plant parts such as twigs, leaves, and branches but also things such as corn, grass, and alfalfa. According to ODNR, white-tailed deer are commonly active at dawn or dusk which proves to be a hazard for us as humans during their breeding season which takes place in the fall. Mating activities start in mid-October with the bucks on the hunt for does. ODNR reminds us to be on alert from October through December when traveling through areas marked with deer crossing signs.

            The deer and the wild turkey are just some of the many amazing animals that we have living around Ohio, but there are so many more! Stay tuned for part two of this series in a few weeks where we will feature the beaver and the fox!



What's that Sound?

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

Have you ever been sitting outside on a late summer evening and hear a droning sound coming from a nearby woods? What could it be? What is making that sound? Is it the power lines buzzing and making that sound? Why is it making that sound? Does it mean anything? That sound you hear later in the summer would be the cicada, a small insect with a small and stout body. The cicada is an interesting insect and one that is always able to be heard in the late summer months.

 How much do you know about the cicada in general? According to National Geographic, Cicadas are recognized by their firm bodies, broad head, see through wings with visible membranes, and rather large eyes. In total, there are over 3,000 different species of cicadas that are found throughout the world. The cicada is an interesting species of insects that have a wide variety of different life cycles that can vary quite a lot. Some cicadas have been known to disappear altogether for multiple years at a time only to make a comeback at regular points over the course of time such as the 17-year cicada which is known to come back in 17-year cycles.

  National Geographic writes that commonly cicadas follow an annual life cycle because there are at least some adults which come back every year. This cicada is known as the annual cicada. The cicada starts out as an egg which develops into a nymph that enjoys the liquids of plant roots to obtain their nutrition. At this stage, they will spend their time under the ground surface which can last most of their young life before they come above surface upon reaching the adult stage.

  Some cicadas follow the periodical cycle which they will reappear and disappear in a given amount of time. A cicada that follows this life cycle is the 17-year cicada. There are many similarities that exist between the periodical and annual cicada life cycle with a few exceptions. The nymphs will live under the ground for a period of 17 years and consume sap from trees. Once they reach 17 years, the nymphs will tunnel their way to the surface using their front legs which will create a small mound of mud on the ground surface.

According to Patterson Clark of The Washington Post, the cicada nymphs will come out from their tunnels and into any trees that are nearby once an air temperature of 64 degrees is reached. It is also at this point when they will shed their skins. The adult cicada will have orange-ribbed wings along with red eyes which can be quite large. Once these cicadas come out of the ground, the longest you will see them is a span of four to six weeks. Patterson Clark writes that the main goal of the cicadas is to mate and lay their eggs for the next cycle to take place.

The female cicada will put her eggs in tree twigs that she will slice open inserting around a dozen eggs in just one twig. Patterson Clark writes that the eggs will take about six to ten weeks to hatch at which point the nymphs will fall to the ground, dig their hole in the ground, and feed on the plant root liquids for another 17 years.

After reading all of that you are certainly now wanting to know how that sound comes about that they make. The loud buzzing that you hear sitting out in the afternoon or evening is coming from the male cicada. The male will make the buzzing sound to attract a female for mating. In response, the female will flick her wings as a signal to the male.

How is this sound made you ask? According to National Geographic, the sound made by the males comes from them vibrating the membranes on their abdomens. Not all cicadas will have the same sound to their song and some will have a more pleasing sound that others might. One thing to note is that cicadas will make different sounds for distress than they might for mating although to our ears they might sound the same, according to National Geographic. The sound of the cicada is always heard, but the cicada is rarely seen because most of its time is spent in the canopy of the tree.

So, next time you are sitting on your front porch enjoying nature, take some time to enjoy the sights and sounds around you. You never truly know the hidden secret that can be found outdoors!


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Soil Your Undies!

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

Alright, so I know many of you are likely raising some eyebrows after reading the headline for this week’s article and wondering where this might be headed. I assure you that there is some meaning to the title and one that could be highlighted a bit more. Soil health is a serious matter and what better way to determine how active and healthy your soil is than using underwear!

  Knowing how much biological activity is in your soil is an important step to understanding you soil health. One of the latest trends to test for soil biological activity is to use 100% cotton briefs. The briefs are buried in the ground and basically the higher the biological activity in your soil, the less cotton that will remain. Typically, the cotton briefs are buried for a time frame of about two months with the level of decomposition checked after that time. The same organisms that have been discussed in this article are the same ones that break down plant materials in the same manner.

 Still scratching your head wondering why you would bury briefs in the soil? If there is one main thing that this exercise seeks to do that would be to bring awareness to soil conservation and maintaining good soil health. According to Kier Miller of the Soil Conservation Society of Canada, if your soil seems to be on the low side of biological life, there is a good chance it is due to overuse of your soil.

How does a soil get overused? Frequent tillage, nutrient loss, and erosion are a few simple ways a soil becomes degraded. So how can you increase your organic matter? Cover crops is certainly a good place to start as they provide more benefits that you can possibly imagine. Not only do cover crops provide protection for your soil form acts of erosion and runoff, but they greatly enrich your soil with organic matter primarily in the roots which gives a food source for the worms and bacteria living in your soil.  

What benefits do you see from an active soil biology? According to the Soil & Water Conservation Society, bacteria help to feed other members of the food web, decompose organic matter, keep nutrients near plant roots and out of groundwater, improve the water flow in your soil, and compete with undesirable organisms which may cause crop disease. Earthworms also help to enhance soil structure to improve flow of water and moisture holding capacity of your soil. They also are good mixers of the soil and stimulate decomposition of organic matter. The Soil & Water Conservation Society writes they also help to enhance root growth by creating channels in the soil which are surrounded by nutrients.

Doing your own Soil Your Undies experiment is quick and easy to prepare. You will first need a new pair of 100% cotton briefs, a shovel, and a marker flag. Dig yourself a narrow trench and bury your underwear in the top six inches of soil. Allow the waistband to show a little above the ground and mark it with a flag so you can come back and find your briefs. Leave the underwear buried for at least two months and then dig it up carefully once time has passed.

Be sure to wash it in a bucket of water to remove any soil.  If your soil has an adequate amount of organic matter contained within it, all that should be left of your underwear is the waistband. Should your soil be lacking any biological activity, you will notice the briefs will be mostly intact. Some are going to ask how cotton undies will degrade in the soil? Organisms such as bacteria and earthworms are helping to break down organic matter in the soil. If you think about it, cotton is an organic material that is broken down by these organisms. Placing the cotton undies in the ground is like feeding them a nice juicy steak!

  Want to make sure you get good results? The Soil Conservation Council of Canada provides several ways to make sure you get results. Test similar soil types under different cropping rotations and tillage rotations such as no till or minimum tillage. Be sure to keep track of each par by identifying it in some way with a number or letter on the waistband. Lastly, be sure to place each pair of underwear in the ground on the same day or within a day or two.

 Don’t have a field to test you soil health with this experiment? No problem! You can try this in your garden, landscaping, or your lawn and see just how active your soil really is or isn’t. So, what are you waiting for? Go out and buy your undies today and get started on the path to understanding more about your soil’s health!

Understanding Invasive Species

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


Simply hearing the term invasive species is enough to make just about anyone cringe. They are found on both land and in water, not necessarily welcome in either place. What is an invasive species, how do they get here, and how can you control them? This article will help you to understand the basics of invasive species and how they are devastating to the environment.

 Your first question is likely what in the world is an invasive species? Invasive species are defined by the National Invasive Species Council as species that are “both non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health." In the United States alone, there are about 5,000 species both on land and in water which are recognized as invasive. Any species can be invasive if it is not native to the particular ecosystem.

A species is invasive because it has no natural competition with another species which means that it can spread and reproduce at a rapid pace because they have no natural enemies in the new area that they have invaded. How do invasive species get in areas they are not normally found in? Most often, invasive species have become even more mobile due to human activity whether it be intended or unintended.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, invasive species can be spread through ships, wood products, ornamental plants, and pet trades. Aquatic invasive species can be brought in via the ballast water of ships as they come into and out of shipping ports. With wood products, insects will burrow their way into wood, pallets, or crates moved around the world. With your ornamental plants, many of those can also become invasive if they were to escape into the wild. How are pets invasive you ask? Think about folks who have exotic pets and can’t care for them anymore. The first thing they do is to release them into the wild, even though it may not be the normal environment for that species.

  What does native mean? A native plant species is one that occurs naturally in a habitat or ecosystem without direct or indirect human actions. A native species has developed in that specific region over an extended period and it acclimated to the climate, hydrology, and geology of the region. They are often found in groups that have also developed with other species of the area and have an overall positive impact on the local environment.

  What are some examples of invasive species? Let’s look at some land based and aquatic invasive species. Brown marmorated stink bugs are species that may local farmers are generally familiar with in the area. They are a species which are increasing in population quicker than any of their natural predators can. According to Rutgers University, this insect had a body shaped like a shield with a mottled brownish/gray color. Emerald Ash Borer is another invasive that many should be familiar with that has led to the destruction of many ash trees in the area.

  A good example of an aquatic invasive species is the Asian carp which many are desperately trying to keep from taking over the Great Lakes. The Asian carp is a fast-growing fish which are very aggressive once they move into an area and that reproduce at rapid rates as well. With as fast as they multiply, it is easy to see how they can out-compete native fish for both food and habitat.

  Zebra mussels are also an aquatic invasive species that have appeared in recent years. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the zebra mussel made its journey to the United States in the ballast water of ships coming into the great lakes. They can hold on tight to any hard surface and are notorious for clogging water intake as well as discharge pipes, which makes it public enemy number one for many cities.

 Invasive species whether they are on land or in the water can have devastating effects on any ecosystem. According to the National Wildlife Federation, invasive species have many direct threats on an ecosystem such as: preying on native species, outdoing native species for limited food and other resources, and introducing new diseases. As aggressive as many of the invasive species are, they have no trouble taking an area over making it very hard to native species who have always been in the area to survive.

 The key to controlling an invasive species first starts with prevention. This is one of the most cost-effective methods available compared to removal or eradication. The National Wildlife Federation offers a multitude of tips on preventing spread of invasive species. First, we start in the garden where you can plant native plants for your area and remove any invasive plants. If you are unsure of native/invasive species, our office can assist as well as the local Master Gardeners. Be sure to regularly clean equipment such as your boots, boat, tires, and any other equipment used outdoors which will help to get rid of any insects or seeds that may have hitched a ride.

 Awareness and education are going to be our best friends in preventing the spread of unwelcome invasive species. We are all entrusted to be stewards of the land and it will be a team effort to ensure it stays as beautiful as it possibly can be for many years to come!

Image result for zebra mussel
Zebra Mussel is one of the many invasive species that troubles Ohio. 


Remembering the Great Black Swamp

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


         “The soils were as black as midnight”, the saying goes. As we certainly all know, the area we now live and work in was once part of the Great Black Swamp where the woodland and wildlife were plentiful and plenty of swampland was to be found. It is said that this swamp covered nearly 1,500 miles or 960,000 acres across northwest Ohio in what is now the counties of Paulding, Defiance, Van Wert, Henry, Putnam, Wood, Sandusky, Hancock and Seneca. How did this wetland form? What lived in the wetland? What happened to it? Are there any parts of it left? Read on to find the answer to these questions and so much more!

            Before we get too far, do you know what a swamp is? By definition, a swamp is a wet, spongy land saturated and sometimes partially or intermittently covered with water. It contains what is called hydric soils which are soils that formed under flooded conditions long enough during the season to develop anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions in the upper layers.  According to Historians at Sauder Village, the Great Black Swamp formed thanks to the Wisconsin Glacier which blanketed the area some 20,000 years ago. The enormous power and force associated with the glacier took what was once rugged terrain and flattened it out while also leaving a thick layer of clay in its aftermath. This clay left behind would prove to be a great base for the wetland that would follow behind as clay is the best soil particle to hold in water.

Clay was not the only thing left behind as there were some ridges of sand also deposited which distinguished one section of the swamp from the other.  Sauder Village writes that most of the swamp was uniform in appearance and had a multitude of slow moving streams that helped drain it. Prairies were also a feature of the swamp and could be found in Wood and Sandusky Counties.

            Soils of the Great Black Swamp were quite unique to say the least. As stated above, clay was a common soil particle found in the swamp that was great at containing the water. The Great Black Swamp Exhibit at Sauder Village does a great job explaining the layers of the soil making up the swamp. The surface layer was a dark black loam formed from plant material which had decayed. The middle layer had a yellowish color and was a clay type soil with some small pebbles mixed in. Below the middle layer, the lower soil layer was a clay that was blue in color while the bedrock layer was composed of limestone.

            It was the well put together soil which drew in the settlers and made the area appealing to farmers who saw the rich, dark soil as an opportunity to be successful. At first, it was a great idea to drain the swamp which left behind that rich soil, but as time goes on, we have learned the richness is not found in as great of quantities.  

            Dense forests were a staple of the Great Black Swamp. It is said that once the tree leaves and other various plant parts fell to the ground and decomposed, the water would turn black thus giving the name Great Black Swamp, according to Sauder Village. Common in the swamp was a variety of walnut, maple, cottonwood, ash, elm, and giant oak trees which grew to great heights and created quite a dense forest according to Historic Perrysburg.

            Historic Perrysburg notes accounts that water in the swamp was so deep that if could touch the belly of a horse and would stay at such a level until the hot weather of the summer months took hold. When the ice thawed in the spring or the rains came, there was plenty of muck to be left behind. With the constant standing water, you can certainly imagine that disease was certain to follow as well. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and malaria carried by pesky mosquitoes. Historic Perrysburg writes that many of these fevers and diseases which took a range of three to five years to get rid of and brought on chills and shakes as some of the many symptoms.

            With the rich soils found in the area, pioneers and farmers saw a great opportunity in the swamp. It was in the 1840s that the swamp was first drained to clear it for farmland but also to rid of the fevers which plagued many. Some water drained from the swamp and trees cleared away were use on the canal systems that traversed through the area during this time. During the drainage of the swamp, we begin to see farmers first putting field drainage to use when they would dig ditches to move the swampy water to the nearest stream.

            By the time 1850 came around, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation signaling their support for drainage systems to clear the swamp which caused people to take advantage of this opportunity and settle the area. The job of draining the swamp was certainly not easy. By the time 1900 rolled around, very few areas of the Great Black Swamp remained.

            Where can you find a good idea of what the Black Swamp may have been like? First, the Black Swamp Nature Center in Paulding is a great start to see wetlands right here in Paulding County. Another place to check out would be Goll Woods State Nature Preserve located near Archbold in Fulton County. According to their website, Goll Woods shows what a Black Swamp forest looked like as it features a multitude of giant bur oaks, white oaks, cottonwoods, and much more which are two hundred plus years old! Visit for more information on this great nature preserve.

            If you wish to know more about the Great Black Swamp, WBGU-PBS out of Bowling Green has a great documentary titled “The Story of the Great Black Swamp” that is available for purchase on DVD or you can view it on their website. It is definitely a must see! Hopefully you have come to now enjoy learning about such a great feature of nature right in our own backyards! 



Managing those pesky Mosquitoes

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


            How many times have you been sitting outside and always seem to be swatting at mosquitoes constantly? As much as many of us enjoy the outdoors, we certainly do not enjoy anything biting us. We all know that with the warm weather of spring and summer also comes the insects. Sure, it might help to spray some repellant on you but don’t you think there must be a simpler way to get rid of them isn’t there?  There sure is, but before we do that let’s learn a little bit about the mosquito first. Did you know that there are over 170 different species of mosquitoes just North America alone? That is quite a lot for just North America! According to Pest World, mosquitoes are best known as a pest of the summer that breeds very rapidly going from an egg to an adult in a matter of ten to fourteen days. Even though you may not be able to see it, but the mosquito has six legs, wings, antenna, and appear as a pale brown with a whitish strip across their abdomen. They are about ¼” to 3/8” in size as well.

            So, do mosquitoes bite you? Not necessarily according to Pest World. Mosquitoes do not bite and its usually the females who pester us as they feed on plant nectar and blood from animals or humans. When the female mosquito feeds on blood, their goal is the protein found in blood which is very important when it comes to reproduction. The female uses her proboscis, which is a tube-shaped organ used by many insects as they are feeding, to pierce our skin enough that they can obtain the blood they desire. The males, on the other hand, have a diet that consists only of the sweet nectar produce by flowering plants. Commonly, you will see mosquitoes most active at night when the temperatures are cool. Pest World writes that mosquitoes will fly up to 14 miles at a time to get a meal consisting of blood and that they find their food by sensing body heat and carbon dioxide given off when we exhale. We all know that mosquitoes need either a soft/moist soil or standing water for them to breed. Many of us have a wading pool for our children or a birdbath around which provides the prime environment for the mosquito.

                 The Placer Mosquito & Vector Control District writes that mosquitoes will be found in areas of tall grass, weeds, or brush near many of our dwellings. Several other areas around our home can provide optimum habitat for mosquitoes such as a clogged rain gutter, neglected swimming pool, ornamental ponds, and just about anything that water stay in for more than a few days.According to Michigan State Extension, mosquitoes will commonly be seen during the spring months when rainfall and standing water are a commonality. There are some mosquito species which require a large amount of water to breed or some that can simply have enough water or moisture in a storm drain or old tire. Climate Change can influence mosquitoes as we see earlier springs and longer summer allowing them to be around for longer periods of time and give them more of a chance to bring disease along with them as well as more time for us to be exposed to them.

                 So now that you know a little bit about the mosquito, how can we help to control this pest? The Placer Mosquito & Vector Control District offers a variety of tips to control mosquitoes around your home. The goal with any of these tips I mainly to get rid of anything that holds water and provides the prime environment for mosquitoes to breed. First is to properly get rid of any empty cans, buckets, flower pots, old tire, or trash cans which can all hold water for an extended period of time.  Be sure to also clean out your gutters on a regular basis so water drains properly and to also change the water in your bird feeders on a regular basis, once a week at minimum is best.

                 Look at your swimming pool cover as well. Be sure to regularly drain the water off your pool cover and to even regularly clean any outdoor swimming pool or hot tub. It also is not a bad idea to utilize landscaping to limit the standing water that is present around your home. How can you also avoid being bothered by mosquitoes? Be sure to inspect your screen doors to make sure there are no holes in them as well as limiting your outdoor time between sunset and sunrise during which mosquitoes are most likely to be found according to The Placer Mosquito & Vector Control District. While mosquitoes are not something we all want to be bothered by, if you follow these simple tips on controlling them, you can enjoy the outdoors as much as possible! 



Dandelions: Not always your Enemy!

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

          Certainly many of us can recall being a kid and finding enjoyment of closing our eyes, taking in a big breath, and blowing with every fiber of our beings at a dandelion puffball and watching all the little puffs (seeds) scatter all over the place. As a kid, you thought it was the coolest thing ever seeing the puffs scatter, but if you are a homeowner or a farmer, you likely cringed at such a sight. For many farmers and landowners, dandelions are a nuisance that is certainly not desired. Those pesky little menaces dot our yards with a sea of yellow each spring but are they really all that bad? The answer to that question may actually surprise many farmers and landowners. Some may see the dandelion as a weed while others see it as a valuable plant full of many great uses.According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, dandelion is native to Europe & Asia and a member of the aster family. For many early cultures, it was viewed as a highly valuable plant in which just about every part of the dandelion from the roots to the flower was utilized either as a nutritious food or a natural and rather effective natural medicine. Fast forward to today, and the value placed on dandelion is rather low.

Dandelion is not too hard of a plant to spot in your yard. It has the characteristic golden yellow flower that appears at the end of a long, narrow stalk later in the spring or also in early autumn. The flower is filled with a sweet tasting and scented nectar which is quite popular among pollinators such as bees. The dandelion is anchored by a solid and rather fleshy taproot that will project a white, milky sap when you cut into it.  Believe it or not, dandelions have a multitude of uses, many of which you may not even realize they could be used for. Did you know that dandelions can be made into salads, teas, syrups, wines, skin healing salves, and so much more? That is a proven fact says Rosalee de la Foret, author of Alchemy of Herbs. Foret says that the dandelion is a rather generous plant with just about each part of it able to be used as food or medicine. In the world of herbs, dandelion is a rather hot commodity to have around.

            Foret writes that dandelion is a great way to show kids the power of herbs right in your own backyard. Just what are some herbal benefits of dandelions? Dandelions benefit us by providing a source for detoxification, hormone balance, aiding in digestion (keeping things moving), blood sugar balance, and skin health. Foret says in her book that dandelion, known by its scientific name as Taraxacum officinale, also benefit the good bacteria living in our digestive system which aids in digestion. Who knew!Dandelion is quite nutritious if you think about it. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, dandelion herb greens rank as follows nutritionally per 100 grams: Protein: 2.7 grams, Fat: 0.70 grams, Dietary Fiber: 3.5 grams, Carbohydrates: 9.2 grams, and Sodium: 76 milligrams. According to Rosalee de la Foret, you will obtain the most benefit from the dandelion if you use to roots, leaves, stems, and flowers; selecting the parts to use to obtain your goals.

            Leaves help if you are looking to aid in remedying digestive issues using herbal means. Foret writes that the leaves are also a great source of Vitamin C & B, magnesium, iron and also calcium. Nutrition and writes that dandelion leaves also have Vitamin A and flavonoids which help protect our bodies from lung and oral cancers. Roots also provide some benefits to your health when you use dried or fresh roots. Roots are high in minerals such as iron, manganese, calcium, and potassium while also helping to support hormone balance. When is the best time to pick dandelion and enjoy its benefits? One thing for sure is that you will not have a hard time finding dandelion to pick! Of course, before you pick any you should make sure the area you are picking your dandelions in have not been sprayed with any harmful chemicals. Look for the following features on the plant when it is best to pick: leaves without hairs or spines, stems without leaves, and one flower per stem. Rosalee de la Foret, author of Alchemy of Herbs writes that it is best to harvest roots early in the year if you desire a bitter taste or after fall freeze if a starchy taste more suits your palate. Flowers should be harvested in the morning or early afternoon before they close in the afternoon. Of course, don’t forget about the pollinators who need flowers so leave some behind for them!

            Hopefully not you may give a second thought to dandelion and see that it can be quite useful beyond its viewed role as a pesky weed that must be terminated. The dandelion is a good example of how nature has many treasures hidden within it that are just waiting to be discovered. 



Black Swamp Nature Center: A Gem to Be Proud Of

By Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

            Did you know that the Black Swamp Nature Center has not always been a Nature Center? The area now known as the Black Swamp Nature Center was once part of the old Sugar Beet Factory that once stood across the road from the Nature Center on Fairground Drive in Paulding. The German-American Beet Factory was constructed in 1910 and ran 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week from October through Christmas. This factory came about due to the efforts of Charley Allen who was president of the Paulding National Bank and who was a great believer in the future of the sugar beet as a diversified crop for farmers.

            Do you know how the ponds at the Black Swamp Nature Center appeared? When the Sugar Beet Factory was in operation from 1910-1948, four ponds were constructed for the factory across the road along Flatrock Creek. Water in the pond was not used for drinking but rather pumped to the factory on the north side of Fairground Drive to move the sugar beets to production. The water helped to clean dirt and debris from the sugar beets as they moved to production. Of the four ponds originally constructed, three of them are still part of the Black Swamp Nature Center today.If you are traveling the trails at the Black Swamp Nature Center, you will notice a dam located along Flatrock Creek. This dam was constructed as means of water retention during the summer months when the creek normally saw reduced water levels. The dam ensured the factory would have enough water to pump and fill the ponds during the production periods. Travelers along the trail which runs along Fairground Drive will notice a concrete structure which was once a pump house which pumped water from the ponds to the factory part of the system of beet transportation for the factory.

            The area where the Black Swamp Nature Center is currently located sat idle from 1948 when the Paulding Sugar Company closed to 1958 when a wildlife area was established. In between 1948-1958, the land was owned by Luntz Iron & Steel Company and then Luntz Reality Inc. until the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) purchased the property in 1958 using Federal Excise monies from Luntz Reality Company for $15,500. ODNR owned the property from 1958-1990 at which time they used money to transform the extensive wetlands, wooded areas, and ponds into an area stocked with fish, and a wildlife refuge park. Unfortunately, the ponds were not constructed for deep water retention so the fish stocking idea did not work. The Paulding County Commissioners took possession of the area with the final date of sale in 1994. Paulding County Commisioners leased the grounds to the Paulding County Area Foundation who worked with several county organizations including the Paulding Soil & Water Conservation District who envisioned an area where residents could come and enjoy wildlife, nature, and one of the few renewable resources we have in Paulding County.

            Today, the Black Swamp Nature Center after the hard work put in by many individuals, is a gem residents of Paulding County and beyond can truly admire and be proud of. The Black Swamp Nature Center (BSNC) consists of 51 acres in total with 24 acres of woodland, 14 acres of wetlands, and 6 acres of meadow. Avid fishermen certainly enjoy the boat launch located in the BSNC which allows easy access to Flat Rock Creek while walkers and joggers find enjoyment from walking trails circling around the banks of the former beet factory ponds. Each trail offers a nice and relaxing trek through nature where you will see many beautiful plants along with many species of wildlife enjoying the area just as much as you are.

            The Paulding County Fairgrounds border the BSNC on the north side with two entrances to the trail system with one being behind the 4-H Horse Arena and the second being located behind the Sr. Fairboard Office. Visitors will notice a wide variety of birds for local birdwatchers to enjoy and plants in the meadow and wetland areas. Wildlife are sure to be found in all seasons of the year, particularly in the spring and fall months. Common sights visitors might see would be include geese, rabbits, ducks, cranes, frogs, toads and so much more! Birds are plentiful around the BSNC as 175 different species have been documented!

            The Black Swamp Nature is perfectly safe for all to enjoy and is perfect for your own personal enjoyment or for the enjoyment of your nature group. Be sure to encourage your wellness group to also come out and enjoy the trails with a relaxing walk. You may also notice some new duck nesting boxes around the ponds as well as butterfly boxes for our duck and butterfly friends to enjoy. There are also new picnic benches around the park as well as two fishing pole holders by Flatrock Creek that were made by Travis Couts in his pursuit of becoming an Eagle Scout. Other new benches you see around were assembled by Paulding Putnam Electric during their community service day last year. Paulding Putnam also replaced two of the docks at the BSNC for you to enjoy the abundance of wildlife living in the wetlands.Also on site is the Black Swamp Nature Center Building constructed in 2002 which serves as a venue for workshops, trainings, meetings, youth groups, educational programs, and personal rentals. Contact the Paulding SWCD at 419-399-4771 on how you can utilize this great facility!






Cleaning Up After A Windstorm          

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


            So you have a gorgeous array of trees that make up your yard or woods. All of the sudden, a windstorm comes along that knocks a majority of those trees down. What are you to do to clean up? Are there any precautions you should be aware of during the cleanup process? How do you know which trees are worth keeping? There are quite a few things to consider when it comes to cleaning up your woods and effectively managing them. A windstorm is something that any forest owner dreads coming along. It does not take long for 60mph winds to topple multiple trees or even uproot them in the most severe cases. The result is a lengthy cleanup process that that follows and can vary in difficulty, but don’t panic! Let this article help you out!

            So, a thunderstorm with heavy winds has just passed and your woods took a heavy hit. What are your first steps? First and foremost, do not panic! You will then want to take on the task of evaluating your trees to determine the trees which may have a second chance or those which may have to be cut down. The Alabama Cooperative Extension service writes that it is important to understand the type and severity of your tree damage by looking at the roots, trunk, limbs, and the crown. Each of these areas have varying degrees on impact on the tree and can determine whether the tree will survive or not.

            In some cases, damage can be repaired. The National Arbor Day Foundation writes that if the damage is minimal on your tree such as a broken branch, you can simply prune the broken branches and repair any torn bark around the wounds. Smoothing out the wounds that appear on branches will speed up the healing process for the tree and allow new bark to grow over the wound in a shorter time frame. Once you take these steps, trees will naturally begin the process of repairing its wounds. Montana State University Extension writes that if the break occurs near one of the main branches, the broken branch needs to be removed in an effort to reduce the strain on remaining healthy tree parts. This branch will need to be trimmed as close as you get to the main support branch and as close to healthy tissue as possible to allow the wound repairing process to take place much in a quicker fashion.

            One thing you never want to do with a damaged tree is to top off your tree. The Arbor Day Foundation writes that topping or severely pruning a tree could make it prone to more damage in a future storm. Of course, your tree may not look perfect when you are done pruning but we must let the tree recover and you will have a good-looking tree back in no time. It may even surprise you how fast your tree can bounce back in most cases! In most cases, trees just simply cannot be save after suffering from extensive storm damage. If you tree has already suffered from extensive insect or disease pressure it will be more prone to storm damage. The Arbor Day Foundation also says that if you experience a split trunk or if over half of the crown (upper part of tree where leaves and branches are found) is gone, it is recommended that the tree be removed. It is no doubt that the heavy rain and wind that comes along with severe storms places increased stress on the tree, especially the trunk and roots.

            The Arbor Day Foundation writes that if you have a tree which tipped over in a storm, there is a very good chance that the tree’s roots were not well established or suffered previous damage in another event. Should you see severe leaning of your tree, you will want to remove such trees since their chance of survival is rather minimal. If a leaning tree does survive, you still run a risk of it toppling soon. Roots one of the most important parts of any plant species and if the roots do not have a solid establishment, it will not take much to blow a tree down. The National Arbor Day Foundation notes that if you have a very young tree that has been blown over, there is a chance for it to survive if you very carefully pull it back into an upright position.

            How can you ensure your trees don’t become damaged in a storm? Species plays a big part in it. According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, species such as silver maple, box elder, and poplar trees are composed of brittle wood which does not stand up well in a storm. Another recommendation is to be one step ahead of nature and regularly prune back any dead or weak branches. It is recommended to keep on pruning around the tree’s crown, particularly when it is young so your tree develops a well-rounded shape with a center of gravity directly over the trunk which allows wind to easily pass through trees, according to the National Arbor Day Foundation.

            As always, be aware of your surroundings when you are pruning your tree. Be aware of any overhead power lines that may be in your view. If you have a damaged tree, experts recommend staying at least 25 feet away from any downed lines and to contact your electric company to report down lines. If it looks like trimming or removing branches may be more than you can handle, don’t hesitate to call a tree service company as they will have the equipment and manpower to get you taken care of in no time. Finally, should you find yourself planting new trees, be sure you “Call before you dig” to make sure there are no underground lines passing through that may need marked.  




Watch for Increased Ticks this Year!
By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist



            Have you ever taken a stroll through the woods or grassland only to have a small insect attached to your body or maybe even to your pets? If you have been so lucky, there is a good chance that you made friends with a tick. What are these creatures, where are they found, what do they feed on, and how do I get rid of them? Let me answer all those questions for you so you may be informed on your next nature walk. With the warmth that we have experienced this winter, there is no doubt that ticks and other irritants will be found in increased numbers this season.

Ticks that you may be familiar with are most likely the Blacklegged Tick and the Dog Tick. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most ticks will experience four life stages which consist of an egg, six legged larvae, eight-legged nymph, with the final stage being the adult. Once the eggs hatch, the tick will need blood with every succeeding stage for it to survive. The CDC writes that some tick species require a large number of hosts to get their blood and that it can take three years in some cases to complete a lifecycle. Most ticks will die because they are unable to find enough hosts to supply them with their blood needs for each feeding.

            What do ticks like to feed on? Commonly, ticks will feed on a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians preferring a new host with each stage of their life cycle. According to the CDC, the larva will feed on birds and mice; nymphs will feed on deer, humans, squirrels, dogs, and cats; adults will feed on humans, deer, dogs, and cats. Humans face the greatest risk of encountering a tick during the late spring and summer so this is the time you want to be vigilant with ticks. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources writes that blacklegged ticks are active throughout the year in Ohio as the adults will be found in spring, fall, and winter; nymphs will be in the spring and summer, and larvae in the late summer. Skin where ticks attach to your skin will become red and irritated.

            According to the US National Library of Medicine, you are most likely to encounter ticks in areas with tall grass, leaf litter, and event shrubs. If you must go into these areas outdoors, be sure that you wear clothing which covers exposed skin and that is lightly colored so a tick does not attach to you, tuck your pant legs into your socks, and check pets as well as children regularly for ticks removing any found. Additionally, the CDC notes that keeping the lawn frequently mowed, stacking wood neatly in a dry area, and even putting any play equipment for your kids in sunny locations and away from the edges of your yard are all great tips to decrease your chance of finding a tick on you or your children. You might wonder how ticks find you and their other hosts. Ticks identify their hosts by detecting the breath of the host, body odors, body heat, moisture, and even vibrations; picking a place to wait by frequently used paths. The CDC writes that ticks may also use the “questing method” in which they hold onto grass with their third and fourth legs with their first pair of legs ready to climb on the host and once the host encounters the area where the tick is waiting, the ticks make their move onto the host’s body.

            With ticks, we are not only concerned with them feeding on our blood but also with the disease they can carry known as Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease can pop up at any given time in Ohio but we will see it show up when the nymphs become active in the spring and summer. According to the Ohio Department of Health, Lyme Disease comes from a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and is passed to humans through a bite from the blacklegged tick. With this disease, some symptoms you may notice include: fever, headache, fatigue, and skin rash. This disease has popped up more frequently as we see an increased blacklegged tick population in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health notes that we had 112 confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in 2015 compared to just 58 in 2005.

            Matt Mongin, a Christmas tree grower in Greene County, was quoted in a recent article in the Ohio Country Journal in which he says if you notice the tick right away and remove it, then your chances of encountering Lyme Disease will be rather low. It is when the ticks have been on your skin for a couple days that your chances increase, Mongin says The best way to get rid of a tick that attaches itself to your body is to use a pair of tweezers to pull the ticks head off your skin then wash very good with alcohol, or soap and water. Using any form of heat or matches is not a practice that is recommended, according to Matt Mongin. The next time you are outdoors with your children or pets, don’t forget to be vigilant once you come back inside for ticks. It is always nice to enjoy the outdoors and the beauty it has to offer, but there are always a few things that we need to be aware of when venturing outdoors.  



Cover Crops can do what?

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


  A few weeks ago, you may have notice that we received just a little bit of rain. With that rain came some flooding visible in fields and some streams reaching the limits of their banks. You might ask what would we do if more rain falls and the water has no place else to go? Is there anything to improve my soil structure to help too? This would be a great time to make a case for cover crops of course!

  As you may have heard many times before, cover crops provide more benefits than you can imagine. How do cover crops assist with flooding and holding water in place? For that answer, we travel down to the roots of our cover crops. Cover crop roots help to hold the soil in place as water is making its way across the field which greatly helps reduce erosion and any runoff that may find its way into the water. The water on the surface or in the soil profile is utilized by the cover crops as they are actively growing which leaves less water available for runoff or slows the flow of water down at the very least.

 If we can make sure the water resulting from a rain event is slowed down or at least utilized, we are already making great strides to reduce soil erosion. Many of you have seen how severe that soil erosion can get when we start to see deep gullies forming in fields that only get worse as time goes on. Erosion is a bit more devastating than that. With erosion, we are losing the valuable topsoil which holds the nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium which plants rely on to grow. Erosion takes that topsoil layer away leaving us with the subsoil layer where nutrients are found, but in very small amounts that are unable to support plant life.

 Once this topsoil layer is gone, can we get it back? Yes, we can, but it will take a few years for that to happen or more like 1,000 years to build just one inch of topsoil, given that the climate and many other factors are favorable to form soil. If it takes this long to build soil back to its proper health and there are simple ways to prevent this issue, then why aren’t we doing something about it? Time and money are two common answers that come when this question gets asked. There are several programs available through Soil & Water Conservation Districts that can help out in the money aspect, be sure to pay attention to when these programs become available.

With large rain events, we also see issues come about with runoff from farm fields or home landscapes. Runoff is water that results from any precipitation event whether it be rain, sleet, hail, or snow. This is an issue because as water is rushing off the landscapes, nutrients as well as soil attach to the water and exit the landscape into nearby streams and creeks. With no plants to hold the soil or nutrients in place, there is not much left to stop these things from leaving the landscape. Nutrients runoff easier when they are left on the soil surface and not incorporated into the soil. With nutrients, don’t forget to soil test to see what your field needs so there are not excess nutrients in your field.

 Cover crops will help you retain those nutrients in the field so they are available to crops and not escaping into streams every time a rain event comes along. The more nutrients that we can retain in the field and keep out of local waterways, the better our water quality will be in the long run as the algae will not have the ingredients they need to grow and thus pollute our waterways. Every little bit counts! Cover crops also increase your organic matter, which is made up of a variety of decaying plants and other organisms. Organic matter is a great thing to have in soil as it helps with regards to fungi and other microbes who are working in the soil as well as those all-important earthworms! With more organic matter in your soil, which can easily be increased with the presence of cover crops once they are properly terminated.

Earthworms love the organic matter that you leave on the soil as they will actively work to decompose it a d transport nutrients throughout the soil profile according to National Geographic. Earthworms are beneficial when it comes to improving water infiltration, soil aeration, and compaction. There are some earthworm species which will create tiny burrows in the soil to the surface which allows water to easily enter the soil profile once a rain event comes, according to Penn State Extension.
With soil aeration, earthworms allow gases to be exchanged between the air and the soil and do this through their creation of burrows and improving soil aggregation. Penn State Extension writes that aggregation is improved when earthworms mix soil and organic matter which improves the soil’s overall structure. Soil compaction is improved as earthworms help to increase porosity of the soil which allows it to withstand compaction
So, next time you want a way to control flooding or improve your soil structure, why not give cover crops a try?


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4R Nutrient Stewardship Principles

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


  Let’s travel back to August 2014 in Toledo, Ohio. An algae bloom on Lake Erie has just caused the City of Toledo to warn residents not to drink the water and remained in place for a total of three days thus leaving 500,000 residents without drinking water. Public discussion circled around the reasoning behind this problem and what could be done to make sure that something like this does not happen again. So, what is being done?

 Prior to the Toledo Water Crisis in August 2014, steps to control nutrient runoff did not receive much press. However, the agricultural community had already come together to launch the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program in March of 2014 in attempts to get ahead of the nutrient runoff problem. According to the 4R Certified website, the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program encourages all in the agricultural industry such as retailers, nutrient service providers, and other certified professionals to adopt best management practices (BMP’s) to combat nutrient runoff. Why are we concerned with nutrient runoff in Lake Erie and water in general? Lake Erie serves a drinking water source for millions as well as a popular fishing destination. With actions that many have taken to help improve soil health while at the same time reducing runoff of nutrients from farm fields, we are still seeing runoff occur and algal blooms become a problem each summer with water quality suffering.

 So now you might be wondering, what in the world do the 4R’s stand for? The 4R’s stand for applying fertilizer at the Right Rate, Right Place, Right Source of Nutrients, and at the Right Time. With the right source, you wish you make sure that all sources of fertilizer are accounted for in the nutrient recommendation. Along with the right source, you wish to make sure nutrients are applied in plant available forms or a form that converts to a plant available form in a timely manner. According to the 4R Pocket Guide, soil conditions are an important consideration as it is not advisable to apply a nitrate fertilizer to flooded soils or urea on soils with high pH.

Using the right rate of fertilizer is also important to ensure the exact rate called for by the soil test is what is actually being applied on the field. The 4R Pocket Guide notes that crop yield is directly related to the amount of nutrients taken up by the crop through maturity. Utilize the resources available such as soil tests or plant tissue analysis which both will provide great information on what is already in your field and then what you will need to achieve your yield goals.

 This program is voluntary and verified by a third-party auditor while providing some commonality with management practices for those who have land that drains into Lake Erie. According to 4R Certified, the stewardship certification program points out 41 cumulative criteria to be implemented over a three-year time frame with each criterion verified by a third-party auditor. 4R Certified stresses timing fertilizer applications to ensure that it is not being spread on frozen or snow covered ground as well as prior to a heavy rainfall. Right place is a factor that needs considered to make sure nutrients such as phosphorus are applied below the soil surface if possible and that setbacks are being followed such as from waterways, 4R Certified writes. 
4R Certified has several goals that are desired to be achieved such as maximizing crop nutrient uptake and minimizing losses, positively impact local bodies of water, provide up to date information on nutrient stewardship, and helping the agricultural industry adapt to new technology/research.

What are some benefits involved in the 4R Program? The first benefit goes along with the fact that agriculture must respond to a growing population with less land available. According to Nutrient Stewardship, getting the most out of your nutrients is the foundation of good business as fertilizer prices as well as other inputs required in crop production can change prices on a regular basis. It has also been documented that higher crop yields have been observed with better crop and soil management. Most importantly, utilizing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program can benefit the producer without major impacts on the environment. When there are more nutrients in a field than a plant can actively utilize, the excess nutrients are not going to be held in the field but will become runoff with the next rain event. Soil testing becomes an important key component when actively managing the amount of nutrients applied on your fiel

Want to know more information about the 4R Principles? Visit for all you need to know about the 4R’s and access to the Pocket Guide for 4R Nutrient Stewardship referenced in this article. Together, we can ensure we are using our fertilizers at the Right Rate, Right Time, from the Right Source, and in the Right Place to make sure nutrients are utilized by plants and not flowing into our waterways.


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How much do you know about Earth Day & Arbor Day?

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


Do you know what significance April 22nd and April 29th have this year? No guesses, let me help you out! April 22nd is Earth Day and April 29th is National Arbor Day of course! Do you know the importance of each of these days or how they even got started? Let me give you some background and also some ways you can do your part to protect our environment on these days and every day of the year.

Let’s start with Earth day coming up later this week. According to, Earth Day was first observed and celebrated in 1970 thanks to the efforts of US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin who was a heavy advocate of protecting the environment and bringing about awareness of environmental issues. Prior to 1970, it was very hard to find any legislation concerning environmental protection nor was there much in the way of conservation practices. In the 1960s, Americans were driving cars which had low fuel efficiency, industry used coal to power their factories which polluted the air, and it seemed that air pollution was the “smell of prosperity” according to

The publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, which highlighted the impact of pollution & pesticides among other things on the environment, was one of the launch pads for environmental conservation. When Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970, nearly 20 million Americans joined in to demonstrate their support for the cause in cities and on university campuses nationwide according to By the end of 1970, Americans saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, as well as the Endangered Species Acts by Congress. For his efforts towards organizing Earth Day and pushing environmental legislation through Congress, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.

Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our daily lives while also promoting planting and care of trees. The Arbor Day Foundation writes that it was first observed in 1872 in Nebraska but that festivals celebrating trees are nothing new as it has represented a symbol of life all throughout history. J. Sterling Morton is credited with getting the Arbor Day tradition started as pioneers were moving into the Nebraska Territory. Morton and his wife Caroline were true nature enthusiasts and worked to plant trees, shrubs, and flowers in their new home in the Nebraska Territory and could spread his enthusiasm given that he was an avid journalist according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

The State Board of Agriculture passed a resolution in 1872 to “set aside one day to plant trees, forest and fruit,” declaring April 10th as Arbor Day while also offering prizes to individuals and counties who planted the largest number of trees writes the Arbor Day Foundation. It was not long after the initial celebration that other states around the country decided to follow suit and passed their own legislation to observe Arbor Day each year and by 1920, nearly 45 states and territories had passed legislation to celebrate Arbor Day. The Arbor Day Foundation says it best in that this day is about looking towards a bright future and planting trees to provide resources for future generations to enjoy. Arbor Day is celebrated on April 22 as this is J. Sterling Morton’s birthday.

So now you might be thinking, what can I do to celebrate these two important days? There are numerous answers which could come from this question. The Arbor Day Foundation offers a few tips to get started.

  • First, an obvious answer might be to plant a tree. Most important is to remember to correctly place the tree as well as care for it properly after planting. Why stop at one tree? It never hurts to plant more!
  • Choose a park or other public place to clean up. Be sure to recycle of what you can and properly dispose of the rest. Don’t do this by yourself! Get your friends, family, and neighbors together and do some spring cleaning! You will feel good and so will nature!
  • Ride your bike or walk to work/school! Do mother nature a favor, leave the car parked at home and enjoy a nice walk or bike ride to work if that is an option for you. If that is not an option, why not try carpooling with a friend or neighbor who may be heading in the same direction as you?
  • Volunteer with a local tree planting organization. This will give you a great opportunity to meet some new people while making a difference.

These are just a few ways you can help our planet today and every day and ensure our natural resources are here for future generations to utilize. Happy Earth Day and Arbor Day!                


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Attracting Pollinators to your Garden

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist


  Spring is officially here and the gardening season is not far behind. While you are actively planning your gardens this season, have you thought about pollinators? You rely on these creatures more than you realize for a successful garden! Let’s put things in perspective. Did you know that 75% of the food crops we raise are reliant on pollinators? Did you also know that these pollinators such as monarch butterflies that we rely on are experiencing population declines? Fear not, as there is much that can still be done to save these important creatures we so greatly rely upon to help us grow the vegetables we have in our gardens.

            Bees and other insect pollinators are facing some environmental challenges that are providing some difficulty to their survival. Issues such as habitat loss, fragmentation, pollution, pesticides, and climate change are becoming a common issue. Air pollution is a problem due to the fact that bees and other pollinators rely on scent to find their flowers and when air pollution is present, relying on scent is even more difficult. According to Peter Berthelsen of Pheasants Forever, if we do not address the environmental issues that pollinators face, there is a 60% chance of them becoming extinct in the next 20 years. If we lose pollinators, many of the foods we have come to enjoy will become much harder to find and thus become more expensive.

            There is some good news in the midst of all this. There are efforts nationwide and here in Ohio that are currently being undertaken in hopes to revitalize habitats for pollinators. With these efforts, you too can contribute to the cause right in your very own garden. Gardeners can help by adding more flowers including milkweed plants to their gardens, landscape beds, or container plantings. Why milkweed you ask? Milkweed is one of the most important plants in the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly, especially as it is laying eggs. Common milkweed and swamp milkweeds are both suitable for this purpose.

            Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on the leaf of the milkweed plant, which makes it an important species to have in your garden if you want to have butterflies come to your garden. Once the caterpillar has transformed into a butterfly, it then becomes important to provide a source of nectar. Nectar is basically sugar water that pollinators are after when they visit a flower. The pollen attaches to the pollinator such as the butterfly and is transferred once the pollinator reaches its next destination.

            You might have noticed my focus on monarchs more than other species, so what is the importance? The monarch butterfly is the only butterfly in the United States with a long migration which totals 1,000 miles to Mexico each fall. It is very important that they have food (nectar) in flowering plants as they make their journey to Mexico or to the United States to provide them with energy that is desperately needed for flight, according to Michigan State Extension. Nonetheless, other pollinators such a birds, bees, and other animals are a very important link in the process that provides us with many of the foods we have come to enjoy.Michigan State Extension writes that the following are great plants to include in your garden or landscaping to attract pollinators: wild cherry, lilac, red clover, goldenrod, marigolds, asters, sunflowers, and of course milkweed. The key concept to keep in mind is planting a wide variety of species which will offer blooms throughout the season from May through October so pollinators will have a steady food source during this time.

            Whether you believe it or not, the efforts you put forth to help establish habitat for pollinators will most certainly help once we look at the bigger picture. Our efforts will surely be appreciated by the pollinators who rely on these plants for their habitat. Next time you are enjoying a pizza (tomato sauce, veggie toppings) or any other vegetable, be sure to thank a pollinator!                          


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