Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Take a pie in the eye for conservation

Cambridge Mayor Tom Orr

Guernsey County Commissioner Steve Douglass

Meadowbrook teacher Laura Kackley

Meadowbrook FFA teacher Matt Wenworth

Buckeye Trail FFA teacher Ginny Barker

This year at the Guernsey county fair an old fashioned pie throwing contest will take place. The Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District is sponsoring the contest, with proceeds slated for conservation education. People from around the community have volunteered to "take a pie in the eye." Now is your chance to help too. Whether it’s a vendetta you have for them or just for fun, come wing a pie at our contestants. The contest will be held on Wednesday evening during the fair at the Guernsey Soil and Water booth, located behind the grandstand. One chance to throw is only a dollar. Where else can you get this type of satisfaction for a buck?!? The event runs from 5:00 to 6:30 with different targets every 15 minutes, so check the above line up to select your victim.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What is your soil IQ?

1. Name some organisms that live in the soil?
2. Guess: How many tons of organic matter can an earthworm digest in one year?
3. What is organic matter?
4. How many years does it take to form one inch of topsoil?
5. What is the most productive soil layer?
6. What are the two causes of soil erosion?
7. Each distinctive layer in soil is called what
8. True or False: Soil texture is the percentage of sand, silt, and clay.
9. True or False: No-till is a farming practice that leaves the soil
undisturbed prior to planting.
10. What is soil called that is deposited by wind or water?

Click to enlarge answer key

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has collected and studied soil samples, minerals, and other Earth material for criminal investigations since 1935 and thousands of cases involving Earth materials are studied in the United States each year. Throughout the world soil is usually collected at crime scenes, is routinely studied at crime labs, and is often used as physical evidence during crime trials.
Following are some real-life stories of crimes that were solved using Earth materials, thorough investigative work, and dedicated, professional scientists who studied soils and geology to become knowledgeable in their field. So you see, there really is more to soil than what's under foot!

A crime had been committed in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, near Denver, Colorado. One month later a burning vehicle was found at a dump in New Jersey (on the East Coast of the United States). Soil samples were taken from the fender of the burning car and were studied by Forensic Geologists. Analyses of the soil samples showed there were four layers of soil that had built up under the burning car's fender. The outer, most recently deposited layer of soil was from the New Jersey dumpsite. The three inner layers of soil contained minerals from the Rocky Mountain Front area near Denver, Colorado

Forensic geologists obtained 360 soil samples from the Rocky Mountain Front area to compare them with those found under the fender of the burning car in New Jersey. Soil samples were also taken from the victims ranch. One of the three inner layers of soil under the suspect's car's fender matched the soil sample Forensic Geologists obtained at the crime scene. The second inner layer of soil under the suspect's car fender matched the soil sample Forensic Geologists obtained at the victim's ranch. The first inner layer of soil did not match any of the 360 soil samples taken by the Forensic Geologists but was determined to have originated from the Denver area. The suspect was convicted and jailed based upon the results using soil sample comparisons.

In the case of stolen potatoes on the east coast of the United States, a suspect who possessed the questionable potatoes was convicted of stealing them once analysis of the soil on the potatoes determined that the superphosphate in the soil that was clinging to the potatoes matched the soil from the farm where the potatoes were grown. The farm's soil contained a significant build up of phosphate because the farm was heavily fertilized with nitrogen, potash, and phosphate (phosphate doesn't leach out of the soil as readily as potash and nitrogen).

In another case, tobacco was reported stolen from a farm. Soil samples were taken from the farm where the tobacco had been stolen, and samples were also taken from the leaves of the stolen tobacco and from the suspect's farm. Soil comparison studies indicated that the soil on the stolen tobacco leaves did not match the soil samples taken from the suspect's farm, but matched soil samples taken from the farm where the tobacco was reported stolen. The suspect was arrested based upon the resulting soil sample comparisons.

Microscopic fossils called diatoms were once very prominent on Earth, and collectively deposited to form a sedimentary rock called diatomaceous earth. Some manufaturers use diatomaceous earth for insulating safes, that are used to store valuables. Burglary crimes have been solved by examining white specks from suspects' hair and clothing to determine that the specks were actually diatoms that came from broken safes at crime scenes, and not dandruff as the suspects had claimed.

If you would like to learn more about the interesting and exciting world of soil, check with your local library or on the World Wide Web. You just might learn something you'd never thought about before!

Information contained in"Secrets Hidden in Soil" was derived from "Forensic Geology" by R. Murray and J. Tedrow, Rutgers University Press, 1975. ISBN 0-8135-0794-4. Also, special thanks to Dr. Richard Arnold, USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service/Soil Survey Division, Washington, D.C.

Monday, August 15, 2011

History of SWCD formation

Fall 1939:
Rain comes, finally bringing an end to the drought that spawned the Dust Bowl. During the next few years, with the coming of World War II, the country is pulled out of the Depression and the Plains once again become golden with wheat.

Ohio's attempt to secure enactment of the soil conservation district law in 1939 failed because of reluctant support of agricultural leadership in the state.

World conflicts were bringing our nation closer to war each passing month and intense pressures were developing on farmers to increase food production on the land they managed. The 94th General Assembly retained soil conservation on its agenda.

May 16: House Bill 646, which became the Ohio Soil Conservation District Enabling Act when it was signed by Governor John W. Bricker on June 5, 1941.

October 22: Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District was organized and was the 8th district to form in the state of Ohio.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Check trees for insect invaders

It's perfectly normal for trees to have a few insects munching on their leaves or burrowing into their bark. Usually they coexist naturally as part of the same ecosystem. Unfortunately, when insects are introduced into new areas, they don't always have natural predators or environmental conditions to keep populations balanced. That's why it's important to avoid bringing non-native tree pests into Ohio and to act quickly to control them if they're found.

To protect your woodlands and ornamental trees, watch for unusual insect infestations. Over the last few years, Ohio has seen increasing damage from non-native pests, including the following:

Gypsy Moth The gypsy moth caterpillar eats leaves of many species of trees and shrubs, but its favorite is oak. After a couple years of defoliation, even a healthy tree can be killed. Populations are already established in 43 Ohio counties.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture uses aerial spraying to suppress the pest in some wooded areas and also treats isolated populations in areas where the pest isn't yet established.

Emerald Ash Borer Most infestations have been traced to ash firewood or trees brought to Ohio from Michigan. Since Emerald Ash Borer infestations are fatal, infested trees must be destroyed to keep the pest from spreading. Although the EAB has not yet been found in Guernsey County, the ODA has recently quarantined the entire state of Ohio. We recommend that residents avoid movement of firewood and other wood products into and from the county to help slow the spread of this insect pest.

Beech Bark Disease This disease is caused by both beech scale insects and fungi that infect wounds left by the feeding insects. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry is watching beech trees in northeast Ohio closely for this problem because the scale insects have been found in a few counties and the disease is killing many trees in Michigan. Individual trees can be saved with insecticide, but widespread treatment of wooded areas isn't financially feasible.

For more information on these and other pests causing concern in Ohio, contact www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/Health/Health.htm and www.ohioagriculture.gov/
or our local OSU extension office.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Golden rules for great food plots for wildlife

If you want to help wildlife through harsh winters, food plots can help. But there are a few key rules you should follow in planning and planting the plots to attract and aid your favorite wildlife species.
Food plots near escape cover.Food plots will tend to concentrate wildlife--both the species you want and the species you don’t. If you’re planting the plot so you can find a covey of quail or pheasants, you can bet that fox and other predators will also be looking in the prime feeding area for them. So escape cover needs to be close so that the food plot isn’t a cruel trap for your favorite species.
Several small food plots are better than one larger one.You’ll get more diversity of species with more locations, and the escape cover will be closer to feeding wildlife. But larger food plots may be needed if you have
heavy deer populations that wipe out the food supply before the winter is over. You want your food supply to be available to your favorite species all winter.
Guard against soil erosion.Steeply sloping soils plowed or disced for planting are exposed to water and wind, and will erode if precautions aren’t taken. See the Guernsey SWCD to be sure the land is protected against erosion. The District has a no till drill for rent that can be used to establish these food plots without plowing under existing sod.
Plant food to attract and support the wildlife species you want.Along with other recommendations, the SWCD office has information on the best foods to offer various wildlife species. The three common types of food plots are annual grain plots; green browse plots, and fallow
areas. Corn, grain sorghum and forage sorghum are favorite grain plots for pheasants and quail. Green browse plots with pure stands of high-protein legumes and grasses are used by quail, pheasants, turkeys, songbirds and
others. Winter wheat, rye, millets and buckwheat are favorites of migrating waterfowl. Fallow plots are disced or otherwise disturbed croplands that are tilled
but not planted, that encourage new annuals and weeds to grow that are essential to young quail, turkey and many songbirds.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome wildlife with enhanced habitat

All species of wildlife have the same basic need for food, water, and shelter, but it's impossible to create a habitat that will provide all those things for all species. That's why it's helpful to assess your resources and focus on a few species when you're trying to attract wildlife to your property.

Also consider the land uses surrounding your planned habitat area so you can choose compatible wildlife species. That way you'll have a better chance of attracting wildlife and less chance that the wildlife you attract will become a nuisance to you or neighboring landowners.

Something as simple as putting out a bird feeder or building a brush pile along the edge of a field can help attract wildlife, but you can make your property even more inviting by considering all the needs of a species throughout its life cycle. In the long term, providing food will only attract wildlife if the need for shelter is also being met. On the other hand, if food supplies are unreliable, wildlife won't thrive even if they have plenty of cover.

While it might be possible to create a prairie grassland habitat on land that was originally wetland or vise versa, the habitat is likely to be easier to create and maintain if you restore the site's historic vegetation. In some cases, however, the land uses over the years might have significantly changed a site's terrain and drainage patterns. Keep those changes in mind as you plan a habitat area.

Also consider how much time you can commit to the project. Besides the initial time required for installing nesting structures, building brush piles, or planting food plots or cover plants, the site may need ongoing maintenance in coming years. In general, native plant species require less ongoing maintenance than non-native plants do, but nonnative plants often work well for small sites such as backyard habitats that will be maintained as part of the yard.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Trees that work

Picking the right trees for a windbreak is a little like hiring the right person for a specific job: you'll get the best performance by matching qualifications with the job requirements. First, look for tree species that can handle the growing conditions where you plan to plant them. Soil type is really key.

For instance, if you're planting in heavy clay soils, Baldcypress would grow better than White Pine. However, the White Pine would do better on sandy soils because it is more tolerant of droughty conditions.

Also consider whether you want the windbreak to just control wind erosion or provide wildlife habitat as well. Trees with narrow crowns such as the Arborvitae and Northern White Cedar can make a good single row windbreak if wind protection is the main objective and space is tight. Adding a second row with staggered spacing will make the windbreak more effective. And if you use a variety of species, you'll have a planting that's more resistant against insects and diseases.

To provide year-around wind protection, windbreaks need at least one row of evergreens. Many landowners also choose to include rows of small trees and shrubs in their windbreaks to add visual appeal or provide wildlife habitat. For instance, American Plum has showy white flowers in the spring and also produces fruit eaten by many different birds and animals. Red Osier Dogwood is another popular choice because of its distinctive red stems. It also provides food and cover for birds.

For the best wind protection, shorter trees and shrubs should be planted upwind of the taller evergreens so the wind will stair-step up over the windbreak rather than hitting a wall of trees. However, some people choose to put shrubs on the inside of their windbreaks so they can see them and the wildlife they attract.

For more information on choosing trees and designing a windbreak, refer to the Ohio Windbreak Guide, available online at www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tree ID Walk scheduled for September 23rd in AM

If you enjoyed the Wildflower Hike this spring, the tree ID walk is for you! We'll show you the easy ways to identify common woodland trees by using leaves, bark, and twigs.
If you are unsure of where Moore Woods is located, click on the page above for directions.
Come dressed for hiking in the woods - some of the trails are fairly steep. We guarantee you'll be hungry for lunch!

Monday, August 1, 2011

2011 Conservation Daycamp a Success!

40 students attended, along with 4 teenaged counselors. The kids broke up into groups of 10 each and were escorted through a series of classes throughout the day. Couselors were Katie Hodges, Emily Barnhouse, Elias Vaughn, and Hannah Vaughn. Our camp nurse was Sandy Mahaffy.

Below, naturalist Myron Dellinger talks to the students about some of the more unusual pollinators they may have never thought of; like bats, mammals, hummingbirds, and flies.

Tie-dyed T-shirts dry in the warm air. Cambridge Art Guild member Anna Hodges and her daughter Karen taught this class.

SWCD technician Van Slack taught a class on native bees and their major role in pollination.
Wildlife specialist Joe Lehman led the kids on a hike to discuss habitat issues.

Retired Meadowbrook science teacher Dee Carter gives hands on instruction on how plants reproduce. Here, the students are disecting flowers from her garden to see how pollen and eggs get together to form the seeds. In this way, they learn first hand how important insects are in the process of reproduction.

Here, Dee and the kids are playing a game "Fruit or Not" to help the students understand how much of their food comes from plants and their seeds.

On the second day of the camp, all the kids, counselors, and volunteers got a bus tour of 'The Wilds". After the tour and lunch, we all came back to the district conference room and naturalist Judy Levicoff "the Butterfly Lady" told the kids all about the Monarch butterfly - the only butterfly that migrates. She had caterpillars and chrysalis for the kids to hold and examine, along with lots of pictures to show the process of metamorphosis.