Start the Year Safe

Many of us made resolutions to start the New Year. While eating more fruits and vegetables and parking as far away from the supermarket as possible will help improve your health in 2019, here’s a resolution that can impact the lives of others — as well as your own life. Make a resolution in 2019 to focus on your driving and drive like you would want the person in front of you, behind you, and beside you to drive. Driving is one area where your actions can not only affect yourself, but other drivers and passengers on the road, too. Motor vehicle crashes continue to take their toll in our state as not one day has passed since November 2000 without a fatal motor vehicle crash on Texas roadways. Avoiding distractions, driving within the speed limit, driving alert and sober, and making sure that you and all your passengers are always buckled up can help make 2019 a better year on Texas roads.

Put down the phone when you are driving and do not drive distracted! Research shows that texting is among the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. Sending or reading an average text message takes drivers’ eyes off the road for 4 to 5 seconds, which means at 55 miles per hour, a texting driver would travel the length of a football field without looking at the road — as if being blindfolded. Any time you take your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, and especially your mind off of your driving, you put yourself, your passengers and others on the road at risk. Resolve to not use your phone this year while driving. Cell phones are a major distraction, but not the only one: adjusting radios and GPS devices, loose pets, eating, and applying makeup while driving are other major distractions that can affect your driving.

Here are a few more driving resolutions for 2019:

Drive the posted speed limit, slow down for construction and emergency vehicles, and always drive slower and more cautiously when weather conditions, road conditions, or visibility are poor. Keep the proper distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you, leaving enough room to stop in an emergency.

Make sure you are prepared to drive. Always arrange for a sober driver or ride home if alcohol is consumed. Make sure to not drive while drowsy. By being well-rested and sober before getting behind the wheel, motorists will be better prepared to arrive at their destination safely.

Take the few seconds to put on your seatbelt and make sure that all passengers are also buckled up. Take time to be sure that all children are riding in the correct car seat for their age, weight, and developmental stage. Also, get a car seat inspection by a certified child passenger safety technician to make sure the car seats are being used and installed correctly.

Last but not least, be a role model for the teen drivers in your family and for their friends. Show them what it means to focus on your driving.  Respect yourself and others and show what is expected to be safe while focusing on the single important job of driving.

Moving Beyond the Salt Shaker

Do you ever find yourself asking whether you should focus on reducing sodium or salt?  We hear many different messages about reducing the amount of sodium, salt, and sodium containing ingredients in the foods we eat.  Surprisingly, 70 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from packaged and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015) recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams – or approximately 1 teaspoon.  Eating too much sodium may lead to high blood pressure, which may increase the risk for a heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.  Reducing sodium is beneficial in reducing risks for these health-related conditions.  Follow these tips to reduce daily sodium intake.

Read the nutrition label.  The nutrition facts label is one way to identify foods low or high in sodium.  The percent daily value listed on the nutrition facts label can help you quickly determine if a food is low or high in sodium.  Remember this rule for sodium, if the percent daily value is five or less this is a good option!  If the percent daily value is twenty percent or more leave it at the store!  Be sure to choose foods with five percent or less of sodium more often.

Know foods with sodium.  Knowing common foods high in sodium can help to make choosing lower sodium options easier.  Major sources of sodium include processed foods like canned products, breads, deli meats, snack foods, and mixed dishes.  Look for foods labeled as “low sodium” (140 milligrams or less per serving) or “reduced sodium” (at least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the standard product) and choose these foods.  If there is not a low or reduced sodium variety for a canned product, you can always wash the product well with cold water prior to cooking.

Choose lower sodium foods at the store.  Choosing foods lower in sodium can help reduce your daily sodium intake. When you are at the store, compare different brands for condiments, canned foods, breads, and other sodium containing foods.  Different brands of foods can have different sodium levels. Choose the lowest sodium between the foods you compare.  Reducing sodium in the foods we eat can take a little practice.

The tips listed are just a few of the many ways to begin reducing sodium. If you would like to know more about sodium and health, tips on reducing sodium, or how to identify sodium in foods, contact Chris Coon, County Extension Agent – Family & Community Health at or 254-435-2331.

Thistle Control

Thistles can be a real problem in pastures and the wet weather much of the state has experienced lately could be setting you up for a bumper crop next spring, especially if you’ve had them in the past.  So, start looking now in areas where you’ve had thistles before.

Below are several examples of different thistle species in the rosette‐stage. Late January or early February is typically a good time to apply herbicide. Treating during this time gives more of the seeds a chance to germinate and you can still treat them before bolting occurs.

Thistles are easily controlled with just about any herbicide if they are treated in the rosette stage before the stems start to “bolt” or elongate.  A rosette is a circular arrangement of leaves, with all the leaves at a similar height.  At this stage, lower herbicide rates can be used. Individual plant treatments (IPT) are very effective for spot-spraying.  Make sure to use a good commercial surfactant which is nonionic and has 80 or 90% or more active ingredients.  Methylated seed oils (MSO) can also be used as a surfactant.  Check MSO labels for the correct per concentration.

For more information on specific chemicals labeled for high thistle kill contact Chelsea Dorward at the Bosque County Extension Office, 254-435-2331 or

A New Outlook on a New Year

As 2018 wraps up its final weeks and we start to look forward to 2019, many of us will begin thinking of our New Year’s Resolutions.  Some of us will look to break bad habits, make positive changes, or even lose some of that seasonal weight gain. These are all wonderful plans; however, how many of us stick to these plans after a few weeks?   How many of us give up after we make a mistake when trying to achieve our goals?

I encourage you all, when making your goals, to make them S.M.A.R.T.  This means goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  For example, a common New Year’s Resolution is to, “lose weight.”  This vague goal is difficult to pursue because it does not lend itself to acting.  Be Specific:  how much do I want to lose?  How do I want to lose it, through exercise and diet changes?  Have the goal be Measurable:  how much do I want to lose on a monthly basis?  How often will I weigh in?  Make sure the goal is Attainable: losing 10 pounds in one week is not only difficult but also not recommended.  Losing 1 pound or less a week is a much more reasonable and achievable goal.  Think about a goal that will not only keep you interested, but also keep you on track.  Setting a goal too high can be discouraging when it can’t be reached.  A Relevant goal is one that relates to you and your life, one that has an objective behind it and that will lead to that objective.  A Timely goal is a goal that has strict time parameters.  Put yourself on a realistic deadline.  Make a schedule that fits your lifestyle and fits the goal.  By having a set schedule, you will be more inclined to pursue that goal.

Another way to increase your chances of success is to partner up with other people on a goal.  Whether it be a family member, co-worker or neighbor with similar goals, by making goals together you can create a support system.  When one of you falls or feels discouraged, the others can help you get back on track.  Falling off the horse is just a part of learning how to ride, but so many of us fall off once and think we can’t get back up.  A support system helps overcome and encourage us to get back up and keep trying.

With 2019 on our doorstep I encourage you all to make changes for yourselves, your family, and your community.  Find encouragement and support from the people around you and remember that failure is not the opposite of success; it is a part of it.

Happy New Year to you all from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

For information related to health and nutrition, please contact Family and Community Health Agent Chris Coon at

Blackland Income Growth Conference

An update on cattle ticks, new technologies in cotton and new horticultural practices will highlight the 57th annual Blackland Income Growth Conference Jan. 15 at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave. in Waco.

The conference, which attracts hundreds of producers from 23 counties covering more than 12 million acres, is sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Waco Chamber of Commerce.

“The BIG Conference features a number of commodity sessions including beef, horticulture, cotton grain, rural land
management, forage and wildlife designed to help producers improve profitability and enhance stewardship practices,” said Brent Batchelor, AgriLife Extension regional program leader, Stephenville.

Bill Foshea, Blackland Income Growth Conference chairman from, said several emerging issues affecting both farmers and ranchers will be covered at this conference.

“Many take home what they learn at the conference and apply directly into their farming and ranching operations,” he said.

The keynote lunch speaker will be Dr. Dan Hale, AgriLife Extension meat specialist in College Station, who will discuss connecting food and agriculture. Hale interprets and extends information on diet, health, food safety, livestock growth and meat science to consumers, youth, health professionals, retailers, packers, processors and livestock producers. He has
worked on several national studies on consumer retail and beef tenderness.

A full program agenda can be found at

Registration to attend all Jan. 15 commodity sessions is $25 and includes lunch.

A program called “From the Ground Up:  Connecting Agriculture and Health” will also be held in conjunction with the Jan.
15 conference. A program agenda and registration is available at . On Jan. 15, a BIG recertification will be held.  The cost is $60 and includes lunch.  Registration at the door is $70.  Call 254-757-5180 to preregister or pay $70 at the door.

A private applicator training will also be held. Cost is $75 with lunch included. To preregister, call 254-582-4022.

Food Handlers Course Offered

Statistics indicate that foodborne illness continues to be a health issue in the United States.  Each year, 1 in 6 Americans will become sick, 128,000 will become hospitalized, and 3,000 will die due to a foodborne illness.  Lost wages do to illness coupled with the loss of business, reputation, employees and the potential for litigation against the business that originated the foodborne illness can become a problem for our local economy.  Fortunately, there are ways we can prevent foodborne illness that originate at the restaurant and at home.

Per the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Texas Food Establishment Rules, all food establishment employees who handle food must complete an accredited food handler training course within 60 days of employment.  This course is intended to provide a valuable education regarding the safe handling of food and provide a certification that lasts for two years.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Bosque County provides such an accreditation course in-person and online.  Family and Community Health agent Chris Coon will be hosting an in-person Food Handler’s Certification course on Saturday, January 26th at the Bosque County Law Enforcement Center.  The 3-hour course will begin at 9am and cost $20 per participant.

For questions, more information, or to RSVP, please complete the form below or contact the Family & Community Health Extension agent, Chris Coon, at 254-435-2331 or at


Poinsettias are a prominent plant of the season; everyone is familiar with the vibrant red or white colors. But did you know that nearly 70 million plants are sold nationwide each year, making this Mexican native plant the number one flowering potted plant sold in the USA.

So if you have one or more of these plants in your house this holiday season a few tips for proper care of these delicate plants includes: indoors, poinsettias thrive on indirect, natural daylight, and exposure to at least six hours of daylight. If direct sunlight cannot be avoided, diffuse with a light shade or sheer curtain. To prolong the bright color of the poinsettia bracts daytime temperatures should not exceed 70 degrees F. Also, poinsettias should not be placed near drafts, excess heat, or the dry air from appliances, fireplaces, or ventilating ducts.

Proper watering is essential too. Too much water can lead to root rot, they like moist soils. It is best to remove the plant from the decorative pots or covers, and water enough to completely saturate the soil. It is not necessary to fertilize the poinsettia when it is in bloom.

If you are considering placing your poinsettias outside, keep in mind that poinsettias are sensitive to cold weather, frost and rain. With our winters, outside placement during the winter should be avoided.

So come January, what do you do with your holiday plant? Unlike the ones I usually own, they can stay alive. Keep the plants in indirect sun and water regularly. Once the nightly temperatures stop dropping below 55 degrees F, your plants maybe moved outdoors. Come late March or early April, your plant will lose its aesthetic appeal, at this time cut it back to about 8 inches in height. By the end of May, you should see vigorous new growth. Continue regular watering during the growth period. Fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks throughout the spring, summer and fall months with a well-balanced, complete fertilizer.

Around the first of June, you can transplant your poinsettias into larger pots using a soil mix with considerable amount of organic matter. Pruning may also be required during the summer months to keep the plants busy and compact. Do Not Prune after September 1.

So jumping ahead to next fall, if your plant is still alive, kudos to you! You must have a green thumb! Now it is the re-flowering stage. Poinsettias are photoperiodic plants, meaning that it sets bud and produces flowers as the autumn nights lengthen. Starting the first of October, plants should be kept in complete darkness for 14 continuous hours each night. During October, November and early December, the plants require 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight daily, with nighttime temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F. Temperatures outside this range may delay flowering. Continue the normal watering and fertilizer program. Following this regime for 8 – 10 weeks should result in a colorful display of blooms for the holiday season.

Again, these plants are very sensitive – stray light of any kind, such as from street lights or house lamps could delay or entirely halt the re-flowering process.

For more information, please contact Chelsea Dorward at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Bosque County Office at 254-435-2331

Water Conservation and You

The 40 Gallon Challenge is a nationwide call for residents and business to reduce water use by 40 gallons per person, per day.  Drought conditions, increased water demands, and water wasting habits put strains on our region’s water supply and this can have negative impacts on our energy consumption, the local environment, and our wallets.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, water delivery and treatment consumes a considerable amount of energy, about 56 billion kilowatt-hours per year or roughly enough energy to power 5 million homes for a full year.  Running a faucet for five minutes uses roughly the same amount of energy as letting a 60-watt light-bulb run for 14 hours.

As our water resources become strained, water levels can lower, therefore increasing the concentration of water pollutants.  Higher pollutant concentrations can affect the safety of animals and the safety of the community if these pollutants are passed on during consumption of polluted animals.

The economic strain may not be so apparent when you look at the monthly water bill, but if you take a moment to add up how much you are spending across the year, you might be surprised.  The EPA states that, on average, a household will spend $500 a year on water services.  However, using water saving habits at home can affect your wallet and the community at large.

Run the dishwasher only when it’s full, take shorter showers, fix leaky faucets and toilets, or even install low-flow toilets and shower heads.  We can all help conserve a very precious resource just by taking a few small steps to reduce our consumption.

For more information on water conservation or to make a pledge to reduce your water usage, visit today – click on Texas on the map, then Bosque County, and pledge to save water, save energy, save the environment, and save some money today.  Small steps can have big effects.

Annual Fall 8 hour CEU Program

On December 13th the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Offices of Bosque, Somervell and Johnson Counties will be hosting the annual Fall 8 hour CEU Program at the Cleburne Senior Center located at 1212 Glenwood Drive in Cleburne, Texas.  Registration will begin at 7 am with the program beginning at 7:30 am.  Topics include Laws and Regulations, Turfgrass Disease and Management, Worker Protection Standard, Basics of Weed Control and Managing Herbicide Resistance, Spray Equipment Calibration and Drift Minimization, Controlling Weeds in Pastures and Hay Meadows, Managing Insect Pest in Pastures and Hay, and Wild Hog Control.

We will be offering 8 total hours with the breakdown of 3 Laws & Regulations, 3 Integrated Pest Management, 1 Drift and 1 General hour.  All interested persons should contact the Bosque County Extension Office at 254-435-2331 or complete the form below before December 10th to register.  The cost of the program is $50 and includes breakfast and lunch.

Complete the form below to Pre-Register for this course:

Impaired Driving: A Deadly Danger at Thanksgiving

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have joined forces this Thanksgiving holiday to remind drivers that whether under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol, any form of impaired driving is deadly and dangerous — and illegal.  Their message is clear:  If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive Sober During Thanksgiving.

Drunk driving-related crashes spike during the Thanksgiving holiday.  According to the NHTSA, from 2013 to 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday week — Wednesday, 6 p.m., to Monday, 5:59 a.m. — making it the deadliest holiday on not only Texas roadways, but across the U.S.  In fact, during 2017, more than one out of every three traffic fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday week involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Also, a new threat is emerging:  Drug-impaired driving.  From 2007 to 2016, marijuana usage doubled among drivers killed in crashes, and in 2016, 42 percent of the drivers killed in fatal crashes who were tested revealed to test positive for drug-use while driving.

Excessive alcohol and drug intoxication are also prevalent over Thanksgiving, due in part to cultural phenomenon’s like “Blackout Wednesday” which highlight and even encourage the heavy consumption of alcohol and marijuana throughout the holiday weekend.

That is why this Thanksgiving holiday, the NHTSA and its partners are doing even more to save lives on the road.  A nationwide social media blitz, featuring the hashtags  #BoycottBlackoutWednesday and #DitchDanksgiving, will help deliver some new life-saving messages into the public conversation and encourage positive actions that can help reduce the danger of impaired driving on the roadways.

Impaired driving, in any form, is illegal in all 50 U.S. states. Whether a person is feeling a little high, buzzed, stoned, wasted, or drunk, he or she is impaired and should never get behind the wheel.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Watch UR BAC program recommends these simple tips to stay safe on the road while celebrating this Thanksgiving:

  • Plan a way to safely get home before the Thanksgiving festivities begin.
  • Always designate a sober driver.
  • If you are impaired, call a sober friend or family member, use public transportation, or utilize a ride sharing service.
  • Download the NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which helps identify a sober ride home and a location for pickup.
  • If a driver on the road appears impaired, contact local law enforcement.
  • If someone you know is about to drive while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe, sober travel arrangements to where they are going.

By working together, everyone involved can save lives and help keep America’s roadways safe.

For more information, please visit: or