Feature Contributors


Education is frustrating. This past week I took 5th-grade students to Prairie Edge Nature Park to experience …nature. As we sat down on the platform built especially to educate students there was a bee flying around and the hands began to flail.

As an Extension Educator for the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service, I advise people on the treatment of many insect problems. Regularly during the summer, I explain to a concerned person that bees are categorized as either solitary or social. Solitary bees live all around us. They do not livein colonies and consequently, they don’t have the instinct to defend their nest and they rarely sting.

They come in all sizes, and the bigger ones garner the most attention. In August, a monster two-inch wasp called the cicada killer can be found hovering over and burrowing into the sandy ground. Those holes serve as the repository where the female wasp has repeatedly stung and stuffed a single cicada. Here she will carefully place an egg that will hatch into a larva that gradually consumes the paralyzed cicada. A horror movie in real life.

 The sheer size of these wasps alarms people and triggers the killer instinct. I assure them that the males cannot sting and the females only do when they are in physical danger. But many are eventually destroyed out of human fear.

The bumble bee is a social wasp. They, like the hornets, yellow jackets, paper wasps and honey bees, will fiercely defend their nest with a stinging frenzy when provoked. Several years ago, my father was stung multiple times while using a farm tractor and mower in a hay field. He was stung enough that he had to seek medical attention. He had disturbed their nest and they were out for revenge.

Most of the time when people get stung, they do not see it coming. It is not just a lazy bee flying around that decides to sting people, they need a reason and it generally involves the social bee's nest. Those students waving their hands and threatening a bee can be a target if it is the right kind of insect. I like to point out the fact that if someone comes up to you and starts waving a hand in your face you may wish to fight back.

Pollinators have become a major buzzword in agriculture. The United States Department of Agriculture has several programs that encourage farmers to plant pollinators. According to them, “More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields.” This week I will spend time with a Purdue University Graduate student who is studying native bee pollination of tomatoes. This is the type of person who knows the value and respects bees instead of going crazy when one approach.

I believe the bee on the field trip was a carpenter bee. They look like bumble bees but are a solitary species, not social like the bumble bee. In this species, the male will threaten but cannot sting and the female can sting but rarely does.

If you want to pick on another subject that I have graduated way from and that is killing snakes. Unless they are in my house, I will not do that anymore. One of the students told me he killed five water moccasins lately. Water moccasins are also called copper mouths and they are only found in a few Indiana counties down close to the Ohio River. Those poor water snakes were killed out of ignorance as are most snakes slain.

One summer day my South Dakota sister-in-law had us help her pick up small hay bales she put on the ground two weeks prior near her ranch home. As we lifted one of the bales onto the wagon, a distinctive rattle sound could be heard. It seems that under those bales was a cool moist place for their native prairie rattlesnakes. After that, all the bales were tuned over before grasping.

I never did find myself in a confrontation with a rattler. But if I would have, I don’t think I would have been waving my hand in front of his face.


Sidewalks are for more than just humans or people walking their dogs.

One member of the mite family enjoys going for a stroll on concrete surfaces. So much its determination to spend a warm spring day on the hard surface we even call them concrete mites.

These bright red mites are very noticeable scurrying over the light-colored pavement and they arose suspicion in people's minds that they are up to no good. They are often seen in large numbers hurrying around on patios, masonry foundations, outside walls of homes and buildings, stonework, and other outdoor objects such as trash bins and picnic tables for a brief period.

Concrete mites are often mistaken for clover mites. In fact, clover mites were the name I was given for these insects 30 years ago. But like many things in science, as we know more the name changes. Clover mites are reddish brown in color, and the two front legs are about two times the length of the other legs. Additionally, clover mites are found on clover or surrounding plants whereas concrete mites are bright red and often seen on the surface of concrete and masonry. Fast moving for their size, and sunshine loving, they are most active on nice sunny days.

Concrete mites are eight-legged, just like spiders, so they are not technically insects. They have a life cycle of four stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. During all their active stages they are predators with piercing mouths. They eat other soft-bodied arthropods, including mites, small insects or insect eggs. They also are capable of supplementing their meat diet with pollen, especially in their larval stage. Research has revealed that the mites often start the season as pollen-feeders and switch to a meat diet later in the season as more prey becomes available. This explains why the mites can be found on nearly any outdoor surface and in flowers because pollen is everywhere and they are in search of food.

Technically they are actually beneficial mites. They do not cause damage to household products or homes. They can be a nuisance pest when a large number of them invade homes or congregate on surfaces where people may sit. When squashed or sat upon, they leave red stains. The stain is not blood; it is just their natural color.

Rarely do you need control as these beneficial mites' mass gatherings are short-lived. Should these mites threaten to spoil an outdoor event or invade the interior of your home, they can be controlled with a surface spray of a pyrethroid insecticide such as products containing bifenthrin.

They do like white clothing and events that feature a lot of white. I could see them being an uninvited guest at an outdoor wedding ceremony. Being the selfish type, only just thinking of their next meal, and lacking in social graces, they wouldn’t bring any gifts.


It is the time of year I like to talk about flies.

They are frustrating and I am not the animal getting bit most of the time. I take the extra effort to kill flies this time of year. Each time I kill a fly it reminds me of the statistic, the descendants of one pair of flies, if all lived and reproduced normally, would cover the entire land area of the world to a depth of 18 feet in one summer. Swatting a fly makes me think I am saving the animal world a lot of frustration.One of the most recent numbers I have seen was that flies cost the cattle industry $1 billion yearly.

There are many methods for fly control and they all have their issues. On my farm, we would start around Memorial Day with a pour-on from the family of Avermectins. By this time fly numbers are substantially increasing and an application to the back of cows would control flies for about one month. Technically the control will last longer but for us, around the 4th of July, we would bring the cows and calves through for vaccinations. At this point, animals would have insecticidal fly tags applied.

My wife’s ranch family used to talk about insecticidal fly tags. They were introduced in the early 1980s containing permethrin and fenvalerate and they were extremely effective in keeping flies off of cattle. The tags were convenient, required minimal labor, and provided control for an entire season. Within a few years, pyrethroid resistance was reported and these tags were no longer effective.

When a product is so good only a few flies live through their use, those limited flies find each other, mate, and rapidly build up resistance. So, it is essential that the type of insecticide in these ear tags get rotated. There are generally three types, organophosphate, synthetic pyrethroids, or macrocyclic lactone. Most currently available fly tags offer protection for 12 to 15 weeks but are most effective during the first 45 to 60 days following application. Fly tags applied too early in the grazing season may be largely expended and not offer enough protection during peak fly season. This is why I use the avermectins pour on first plus they give me parasitic worm control. This allows the use of fly tags later in the season so they still have some effectiveness into the fall.

The other type of fly control that I have used is the feed-through control as part of the mineral program. These use insect growth regulators that are effective on the fly larva developing in the manure. With this type of control, you are not going to see dead flies and the process has to start well before the flies come out in the spring. Probably around April 10 in our area, it should be put out and then around November 1, we could cease feeding this product.

I use all of the above as my goal is to reduce flies both on the animal and in and around my house. Then I add another. In my chicken house and goat buildings where animals get none of the above treatments, I put out the quarter-inch white sticky tape that comes in 600 hundred-foot wind-up rolls. I stretch out about 20 feet at a time. Flies accumulate on them to the point I have to roll out new tape sections about every other day. I appreciate their effectiveness.

There are other types of fly controls including sprays, pour-on, back rubbers, and dust bags. We have to be careful and make sure we are not using the same class of insecticides in all these methods. The chemicals have to be rotated. And the manurer breeding sites need to be cleaned

Horn flies and face flies are the major issues with cattle. There can be hundreds of these on an animal just biting away.On our farm, as we transitioned out of cattle into goats our flies also changed. With goats, the major flies are stable flies and house flies. The stable fly has piercing mouth parts and feeds on blood several times a day, normally attacking the legs and belly. They are a lot less visible on the animal compared to the flies of cattle. Stable flies take about three weeks to develop. Adult female flies can live 30 days and lay up to 400 eggs. Stable flies breed on organic debris such as wet straw, manure, and spilled feed.The house fly is non-biting. House flies also breed in organic matter including bedding, manure, decaying silage, and spilled feed.

Out in the pasture or around the buildings, this summer will bring a plethora of flies. I will do my part to save the world from fly overload. Even in the house sometimes the vacuum is my weapon for control. Whoosh, and they are gone! Yes!

Eastern Red Cedar

A few weeks ago, while visiting a rural homeowner, I was looking at some eastern red cedars and there were some brown balls hanging from the branches.

Now I am not a fan of eastern red cedars. They may be native to America but not here in our neck of the woods. The pioneers coming into this deciduous hardwood forest for the first time in the early 1800s would have found this tree confined principally to the bluffs of streams and rocky ravines according to Charles Deam who wrote “Trees of Indiana” in 1921. By the time Deam wrote the book, Indiana land coverage had gone from 87% trees to 8%. This opening up of the forest allowed the cedar more area to grow.

Today I see this tree growing everywhere including outside my office window. On my place, I cut them down. Out in the prairies of Nebraska, the native eastern red cedar has taken over rangeland, reducing grasses and the wildlife associated with grass plants. Without the massive prairie fires, this tree is expanding in numbers and has covered around 75% of the landscape in some areas. One article I read on this plant ended with “….cedar trees are awful. They take resources away from the native species of the Plains, displace native wildlife.”

I do not like them, but here in Indiana I would not call them awful yet. I do see it coming up along the highways here in our community and its numbers are sprouting especially around interchanges. I do have farmers that have concerns about their spreading. Just this week I saw a thin stand of woods starting to experience cedar tree growth. It is a tough tree and looking to get a hold in open areas.

One other bad characteristic of these trees goes back to those brown balls. They are actually a mass packed with fungal spores. Spring rains cause the ball to swell and turn into a gelatinous orange mass with structures known as telial horns protruding from it. Those spores find their way to newly emerging apple leaves and infect the plant so that leaves have an orangish spot that grows through the leaf bottom with little tubes attached.

This is called cedar apple rust. There are also conditions caused by similar organisms called Cedar-Quince rust and Cedar-Hawthorn Rust.They can affect the apple tree production but they do no harm to the cedar. Picking those balls off the cedar in the spring can reduce the disease on apples but it’s hard to get them all.

There are fungicides for apple trees that will prevent the disease but there is no use trying to protect the cedar. Any serious apple orchardist will remove any cedars within view and further as the spores could travel several miles if the wind is right. But in that situation, a few spores may show up versus having an infected cedar tree in the same yard.

I marvel at this disease as it has found a way to use two hosts to survive. There are so many amazing wonders of this world. Even though cedar apple sure is really kind of pretty, it's not healthy. In general, having cedar trees around is not a good idea.


It always is amazing how stores change their inventory based on the holidays and seasons. Spring is near and you can tell based on all the lawn and garden materials that are being displayed. A big part of those are the chemicals that can be used. Safe use of these pesticides starts with understanding what a pesticide is. It starts out with understanding the word 'pesticide' and knowing its job is to "kill or alter a pest behavior".

Pesticides are then divided into specific types. For example, a fungicide controls fungal disease, an insecticide controls insects, and an herbicide controls herbaceous plants, usually considered weeds. Mouse and rat poisons are called rodenticides.

Pesticides can be purchased as bags of dust, soluble powders, and emulsifiable concentrates, as well as many other formulations. Each formulation has advantages and disadvantages. Rarely do I ever recommend a dust but there are a few cases where this is the proper product formulation to use.

There are pesticides that are classified as "Restricted use". These are available to licensed applicators. General-use pesticides are usually what is available to the homeowner. Clearly stated on the label, under "ingredients," one will find active ingredients and inert ingredients. When I talk to people about the use of a pesticide, I refer to the active ingredient because brand names can change.

The active ingredient is the pesticide, and the inert ingredient is the carrier or what the pesticide is put on or in. An example is very finely ground clay that may be used as a carrier for a pesticide sold as dust. In addition, the percentages of the active inert ingredients will be listed.

The label on this product is how this product has made it to market. The EPA regulates pesticides and they have deemed that if you follow the label, the benefits of the product outweighthe risk. The label is the law. You are to follow its instructions.

On the label are signal words that provide a general indication of the acute toxicity of the product. 'DANGER-POISON' with skull and crossbones denotes the most toxic products, and these generally require a license to purchase and use. 'WARNING' is the next category. The pesticides that come with the signal word 'CAUTION' are safer than the previous two groups.

It is important to read the precautionary statement found on the label. It has information on human and animal hazards, environmental hazards, and physical and chemical hazards. First-aid information is also included.

The directions-for-use section is essential to be read thoroughly before a pesticide is used. The directions area covers mixing rates, re-entry information, and how to store, dispose of, and apply the product.

Read the entire label before buying, mixing, using, storing, and disposing of pesticides so no harm is done to humans, animals, or the environment.

Only use pesticides when necessary and only at the least recommended label amount to control the pest. These are the recommendations for the safe and responsible use of a pesticide.

What is in your water

I remember at a field day some years ago when Jerry Perkins, one of my fellow grazing columnists, talked about how much his dairy milk production went up once he made some watering changes that increase the volume.


So much of our production depends on water. Every nutrition book lists water first as essential but we seem to take it for granted. Water is the most abundant nutrient in beef cattle accounting for approximately 98% of all molecules in the animal. Without water, they are all just jerky.


We are fortunate to have a lot water in our area and not have the issue of the western states. Water comes in different ways. Most of ours come from a well, some from a spring, pond, or creek. On my in-law's South Dakota ranch, it is all from ponds, and that can lead to water quality issues.


An experiment that Purdue did several years ago compare cattle production utilizing three water sources,   a well, a pond, and piped from a pond. Where cattle had access to pond water that they stood in, production was reduced. Cattle production with water pumped from a fenced pond was similar, but not as good, as a well.


The highest quality water in a pond is down about 1.5 to 2 feet from the surface. Cattle standing in a pond causes the water to be murky plus they add fecal and urine contamination. This not only is bad for the animals from a contamination standpoint but the excessive fecal phosphorus also leads to algae blooms.


The one of concern is called blue-green algae which is the more-properly called “cyanobacteria” as it is not an alga. Cyanobacteria produces a toxin called microcystin that causes rashes and makes people (and particularly pets) sick. There are over 2000 species of cyanobacteria and only 80 produce toxins and then they only produce them at certain times. So, you can test the water and the results are only at that point in time and could change the next day. Plus, when testing, is hard to find someone that is an expert in the area.


The toxin is generally near the surface along with the plant. This is another reason why drawing water from 2 feet down gives you better water. If you are watering from a pond, put in a structure, such as a solar panel to pull the water from the pond into a tank. They will drink from the tank before they will the pond.


For all water, the closer to the water source the cattle remain, the more often they will visit and each visit would be of shorter duration. According to a Missouri study, cows with water available within 800 ft at all times, drank 15% more water daily than cows that traveled over 800 ft to water.


On my farm, I did not follow that rule and cattle would come up as a group from over a thousand feet away. The boss cows would stand at the tank and chase the others away even though they were done. Eventually, after several fights, the cows would water and turn to go back to the pasture leaving the calves behind where they would get a short drink and then scurry back to their moms. Without adequate water, they would be trying to reach what little is left in the bottom of the tank, they could hardly reach. Calves are the money part of the cow/calf business and the part that should be getting adequately watered.


Adding extra tanks with free-flowing valves or putting in a creep gate that allows calves their own water is what was needed. I added more tanks.The real key is to get the water closer to the grazing cattle. Several USDA programs will help you achieve that goal.


Even well water has its issues with livestock. Sulfur can be of concern. Looking for a source of water,my South Dakota in-laws drilled a well 4,000 feet deep only to come up with stinking sulfur water. Lots of volumes but useless water. Sulfur is even more of a concern as cattle feed that includes distiller’s grains is higher in sulfur.


My well has a slight smell due to manganese. If the water is allowed to set for a day, brown coloring develops and precipitates out. It also forms a black slime almost like crude oil in water troughs. I do have to clean my water often. Livestock seems to drink this water with no problems.


The other well pollutant is nitrates. Many years ago, we had nitrate test strips at a farm show and we invited people to bring a water sample. Although not an official experiment, people with well depths of less than 25 feet tended to have nitrate issues. A lot of those are the old 2-inch wells. Knowing about this issue, I rented a house that had a shallow well. When our first child was born, I had the water tested for nitrates and found it to be over two times the acceptable limit for nitrates. We made sure his formula came from bottled water as well as our drinking water. Babies are the ones really susceptible to nitrate problems.


Livestock can also have nitrate issues. There are two scales used to indicate levels. In humans, drinking water tests can be expressed as a 10 mg/L standard expressed as nitrate-nitrogen (N) or its equivalent of 45 mg/L expressed as nitrate. Know which way they are expressing the number. Water nitrate-nitrogen (10 scales) levels of 100 ppm or less are generally considered safe, while levels between 100 and 300 ppm are questionable for livestock consumption. Nitrate-nitrogen levels in cattle drinking water of more than 300 ppm are generally considered unsafe. What can be affected first are pregnancy rates. Thinking back my landlady told me they use to have issues when they had cattle with low conceptions. Cattle also get nitrogen from feed sources. You have to look at the total picture. 

Pond weeds

Pond scum; now those are some words that can have many different meanings.


I have people describe what is floating on their farm ponds in many different terms. That may be due to the fact that there are many different plant species found in a pond.


When we talk about controlling pond weeds, we need to break them down according to where you find them; things floating on top, ones that are rooted on the bottom and still seen on top of the pond, and others that stay below the surface and those, like cattails, that grow along the edges.


The scum at the top is generally algae. It is also known as phytoplankton. A phytoplankton population that colors the water is called a “bloom.” In quiet water, blooms can produce surface scum as well as green, red, black, or oily streaks. When these algae die off, they can cause fish kills as they use up the oxygen in the decomposition process.


Blooms occur in waters that have abundant nutrients. These nutrients often come from nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers that reach the water. The best practice for managing blooms of microscopic algae is to prevent these nutrients from entering the water. Many lawn fertilizers have no phosphorus and that is fine as there is generally enough phosphorus in the soil for an established lawn.


Every year we hear about poisonous blue-green algae. It is really not technically an alga but a group of organisms called cyanobacteria. These have the ability to produce toxins, but it gets very complex as they can turn on and off production. Even though cyanobacteria are present that does not mean the toxins are being produced. You cannot tell if a bloom has toxins by looking at it. Even an analysis of the water is only good for a short period of time, because these plants are floating on the surface that is where the toxins can be found. This is why animals drinking from scummy surface waters can be exposed to toxins.


One plant that is often confused for algae is duckweed. These are referred to as free-floating plants. It is good to know the difference because the type of chemical control varies for each plant type. Duckweed can be distinguished by two very small leaves whereas algae is a type of mat where no one plant can be distinguished.


Algae are best controlled by copper products such as copper sulfate and copper chelate. They need to be applied just as the waters are too warm in the spring for best control. During this spring warm-up algae that have dropped to the bottom floats to the top. These products do no good on other pond weeds like duckweed.


There is a wide variety of pond weeds and chemicals that can be used for their control. Some of these chemicals are very expensive and also very good. Identifying the plants, you are dealing with is essential for control. It is important to use the right herbicides as some of the non-active ingredients in these products can be toxic to fish. Just because you can use a product on your lawn or farm does not mean it can be used around ponds.


Purdue has put together a very good publication on pond weeds. If you are interested in this area, give the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service office at the fairgrounds a call at 574-223-3397. We can help you out

Too much of a good thing

This past month I was at one of the rural schools in our community doing a program on trees. In the end, we checked on a couple of trees in the yard. Students arrive at this school by bicycle or horse-drawn buggy. Consequently, this is a lot of horse manure and they were mulching the trees with ample amounts.In life, we learn that too much of a good thing is not necessarily good.

A great example is too much sugar. A little bit of candy or pop is great tasting. A little more and we are now overweight and our teeth are beginning to deteriorate. I once read about a person that exhumed centuries after their death and could identify them as nobility due to their rotten teeth. They were one of the few that could afford sugar.

Horse manure is a great source of organic matter and fertilizer that can be added to the soil. Horses are fiber consumers but their digestive systems do not allow them to be as efficient digesters as cattle, sheep, and goats. Rather than have a big rumen fermentation vat at the front of the digestive process like in cattle, they do their fiber utilization in another smaller structure called a cecum between the small and large intestines. That hay that passes through a cow is a lot less digested coming out of a horse. It has a lot more form when it hits the ground, hence the term road apples.

Because of all that fiber, there is a lot more decomposition to be done. Placed in any type of pile, the manure will further decompose and part of that process is heat production. That heat can be detrimental to plants it is allowed to touch. If the manure is placed in a pile and allowed to compost for 6 months, a lot of decomposition takes place and it becomes an excellent soil amendment.

The yard tree had an additional problem with the manure, it was touching the bark. That moisture directly against the bark will eventually cause the tree to rot. Bark tissues are different than roots and cannot handle as much moisture. The bark is dead, dry tissue that protects trees from a wide range of challenges such as dehydration, oxidation, and direct access to the living tissue beneath plant pests and pathogens.

Organic mulch may be the most important component in a healthy landscape but if not properly done, it can be detrimental. Some people pile mulch against a tree in a form we call volcano mulching. The damage is irreversible if not recognized and corrected early. It can start changes to a tree’s root system that can remain throughout life.The tree would like for you to spread the mulch out from a few inches to several yards from the trunk.

A tree can use no more than 4 inches of loose mulch. Tree roots need air to survive and too deep of mulch will stop air from getting to the roots. Also, the tree will send roots up into the airy mulch, then if we do not keep the moisture adequate, they will dry out. There is more of an art behind mulching than most people think.

Horse manure mulch fails several tests, but I do enjoy writing a column that compares it to sugar. I think some dentists might agree.

Spring Farm Challenges

The month of March was cold and wet.


From an agricultural perspective, the cold is fine as it has slowed the growth of fruit trees and other overwintering plants. Otherwise, they may have a tendency on a warm day to start their biological process toward blooming only to have that bloom killed in a late spring cold weather snap. Several years back, we had three 80-degree days in March and no fruit crop that year because of the late cold.


The wet part has its good and bad issues. We needed the moisture recharge after a dry fall, but our livestock producers would rather forego the muddy lots and they would also like to do some field applications of manure.


Manure has become a more valuable asset as fertilizer prices have increased over the past few years. Many farmers in our area purchase chicken manure to be spread on fields.It has become a hot commodity in some areas, there are even chicken manure auctions. Besides its organic and nutritive values, it also contains trace minerals and is considered organic fertilizer by certifying agencies. This not only includes the conventional farmer but the organic ones into the auction. One auction in Pennsylvania had 40 bidders this past year.


Input prices are now the main concern of farmers. Leading this list are fertilizer prices. The index Purdue Economist uses for inflation shows general economic inflation at 5.5%, while agriculture production costs increased at 12.5% this past year. The University of Illinois reported: Fertilizer costs for corn were $175 per acre using September 23, 2021 price and increased by $72 per acre to $247 per acre (a 41% increase) using September 22, 2022, prices. Soybean costs increased from $85 per acre to $110 per acre, an increase of $25 per acre. Prices have decreased over the past several months but still are sustainably higher than in the past. Around 21% of the cost of growing corn is the fertilizer charge.


Around 40% of production cost is in the machinery that is needed to produce a crop. With the Covid shutdowns of many manufacturing plants in 2020, coupled with the lack of steel and computer chips, used equipment soared in price. This market is still red hot. Manufacturers have ramped up production but are still years behind as demand far exceeds supply. Today’s higher interest rates are having little effect on demand with some farmers having cash and nowhere to invest. That means taxes are being paid on income that normally would have been reinvested in the same tax year.


The increase in interest rates is having some effect on the farm economy. As we come back to what economists call a more normal historical rate, those farmers needing an operating loan to put in a crop will feel those higher interest rates.


These interest rates are also negative for land value. However, there are so many other positive factors such as cash rent returns, buying land as an inflation hedge, and outside investors, diversification have been supporting increasing land values.

Farming is a risk and along with that risk we are in an uncertain environment. There are many outside worldly factors entering into agriculture that affect the cost and the prices of our grains and livestock. One of those is the Ukraine situation and in general, our relationships with other countries. On any given day our trading with another country could be disrupted by some international event.


On one side we may be badmouthing China while they are our second largest import market. Soybeans accounted for nearly one-half of U.S. agricultural exports to China. They also purchase corn, beef, chicken meat, tree nuts, and sorghum. Just under 20% of our agriculture exports go to China.


Let's just hope that, unlike the Russians, cooler heads prevail in international relations.

Got Your Scales On

The world is beginning to come alive. Each spring we have a front row seat to a rebirth of our landscape as it comes back into life.

All winter long the tree has packed up itself into a dormant shell to protect itself from insects, diseases, and the environment. As we start the spring growth process, the plant is now making itself more vulnerable to the world. Right now, buds of trees and shrubs are beginning to swell as hormones within the plant start the process.

The bud scale is a hard structure that has been protecting the leaf buds through the winter. They will be the first to fall and, in some cases, they can be large and easily seen. While other smaller one’s float to the ground and are less visible. With these protective coverings gone, the potential leaves become more susceptible to cold damage, insects, and diseases.

One of the issues I see in our area is a disease called Peach Leaf Curl. Later on, in the late spring, you can find leaves that have puckered with an assortment of colors including reds, yellows, and a light gray. This is a bacterial disease that infects the plant just as bud swelling starts. Fungicide applications must take place before plants break dormancy.

There are many insects that take advantage of trees that have just lost their bud scales. There are over 1500 species of galls on a variety of plants. That newly expanding leaf tissue is an invitation for gall makers. These are certain species of aphids, midges, mites, psyllids, or wasps. Galls result from an intricate interaction between the highly specialized gall maker and a specific part of the host plant. It results in a distortion that is distinctive to that insect. That benefits the life cycle of the bug. Galls form at the time of plant cell multiplication in growing tissue. Normal plant growth is abruptly changed and the unique, identifiable gall replaces the ordinary growth.

If you ever marvel at how a caterpillar turns into a moth then this is another awe-inspiring insect process. They inject a chemical that causes deformities at the right time and the plant tissues actually form a structure that protects a developing insect.

The oak apple gall is a large ball about 2 inches in diameter that looks like a green apple on an oak tree. If you cut one open there is a small single wasp larva at the center surrounded by stringy foam.

Why all this protection for a single larva? This insect has a predator wasp that will feed upon the larva with a long egg-laying ovipositor. The apple-like structure has to be big enough that the ovipositor will not reach the larva inside.It is amazing how the structure is formed, to begin with then add to this, its defense mechanism.

With spring here, the tree armor comes off and another issue will be potential cold damage. As the leaves start to emerge cold damage is a possibility. Should that occur, many trees will just send out new leaves, but flower buds that have reached advanced stages can be thinned. This is especially true on all fruit trees and berries. Reports from Purdue this spring have pointed already to a reduction of grape buds stemming from the December 2022 cold spell. Even with their scales intact, grapes are more susceptible to cold injury than other fruits.

It is similar to humans curling up under the blankets in bed. You may feel protected from life’s issues but someday you will have to get out and go meet the cold cruel world. There are a lot of challenges and I would like to say there is nothing wanting to sting and deform you to carry their egg. Unfortunately, we humans also have several parasites. That is a topic for another day.

Cognitive decline

Recent studies have revealed a strong link between hearing loss and cognitive decline.
This link has been found in both older and younger adults, suggesting that hearing loss
may be an important risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.
One study found that older adults with hearing loss were more likely to have cognitive
decline, including a decline in memory and thinking skills. The study followed over 1,200
adults aged 60 and older for an average of 12 years and found that those with hearing
loss were more likely to have cognitive decline than those with normal hearing. The
study also found that the risk of cognitive decline increased with the severity of hearing
Another study found that older adults with hearing loss were more likely to develop
dementia. The study followed over 2,000 adults aged 70 and older for an average of 12
years and found that those with hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia than
those with normal hearing. The risk of dementia increased with the severity of hearing
A recent study also found that hearing loss could be linked with cognitive decline in
younger adults. The study found that adults aged 18 to 35 with hearing loss were more
likely to have cognitive decline than those with normal hearing. This suggests that
hearing loss may be an early indicator of cognitive decline, even in younger adults.
“I have spoke to many younger adults, within the age similar to the study, who have
complained of trouble hearing in certain situations,” said Chuck Smith, owner of
Affordable Hearing. “The fact that there is now a study that has concluded that
untreated hearing loss is definitively linked to early cognitive decline is alarming.
Unfortunately, many people with hearing loss wait to seek treatment ‘until it gets bad’ by
that time, though, the damage is done when it comes to their cognition,” he noted.
“The age of the patients we see at our Rochester and Logansport offices are
significantly younger than when I started in the hearing healthcare industry over 23
years ago,” Smith added. “Folks see how their parents waited too long to address their
hearing needs and have learned from their mistakes and are more willing to invest in
their own hearing needs sooner.”
The exact mechanism by which hearing loss leads to cognitive decline is not yet fully
understood. However, it is believed that the brain has to work harder to process sounds
when there is hearing loss, which can lead to cognitive decline. The brain has to use
more resources to process.

Why Does my Hearing Aid Whistle?

Why Does my Hearing Aid Whistle?


Have you heard someone’s hearing aid make an embarrassing, high-pitched noise? A blockage or leak in the transmission of sound results in an annoying, squealing sound called “feedback.”

Below are a few reasons for feedback along with some simple solutions.


Excessive ear wax is one common cause of feedback.

Hearing aid microphones have the job of picking up sound, which gets funneled through the ear canal. When the ear canal is filled with wax, the amplified sounds make their way back to the microphone. Removing earwax should remedy the problem.


Check the plastic tube if your ear mold is designed that way.

A small tear in the tube can be the culprit. Wear and tear of an old tube can result in shrinkage, leaving a gap between the mold and tubing. A new tubing can easily solve the feedback issue.


Misaligned hearing aid microphones can create feedback.

Your Hearing Care Practitioner can troubleshoot to determine if the problem requires a repair. This malfunction is typically covered under the manufacturer’s original warranty.


A poorly fit hearing aid or earpiece can be the root of feedback issues.

A too small, too open, or ill-fitting earpiece can create feedback. Designing a custom earpiece can easily correct this or changing the style of disposable dome may help.


When a hearing aid is set too loud, feedback can result.

This problem can be resolved by visiting an Hearing Care Practitioner . There are tricks to remedy this, or it is possible that you may need a different solution with more power.


Don’t accept feedback as normal. There are solutions. Ask an Audiologist. We’d love to help.

How to know if our loved ones have a hearing loss

Our loved ones mean the world to us, and it can be difficult when they start to pull away from social situations. As we watch them age, we may notice changes in their behavior that could indicate a hearing loss. Hearing loss is a progressive condition that can go unnoticed for years, making it essential to identify the signs of hearing loss as early as possible. Here are some signs to look out for:

  1. The "Huh's" or "What's"? One of the most common signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing conversations. You may notice that your loved one is always asking people to repeat themselves, or they may complain that others are speaking too softly. They may also turn up the volume on the television or radio to levels that others find uncomfortable.
  2. Avoiding Group Situations If your loved one starts to avoid social gatherings or group settings, it could be a sign of hearing loss. This is because it becomes increasingly difficult to follow conversations when there is background noise or when multiple people are talking at once. You might notice that they nod along to conversations without engaging, or they may not participate in discussions as actively as they once did.
  3. Forgetting Things Hearing loss can also impact memory retention. If your loved one starts to forget things more often, it could be because they did not hear the information in the first place. This can lead to feelings of frustration and may also cause them to withdraw from social situations.
  4. Asking for Repetitions If your loved one often asks people to repeat themselves or complains that they are mumbling, it could be a sign of hearing loss. People with hearing loss often rely on lip reading and facial cues to understand what others are saying, and if they cannot see your face when you're talking, they may not hear you well.

If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, it's important to approach the issue with empathy and understanding. Start by asking them how they feel about their hearing and be open and honest about what you've noticed. Encourage them to have a hearing test to understand their hearing ability and what they can do about it.

In Australia, it is recommended that adults aged over 50 should have an annual hearing check. Having a supportive person by their side can make all the difference in their health and wellbeing. Help them take the first step to better hearing and better relationships. Book a hearing test appointment with your local ihear clinic.

Remember, hearing loss can be managed effectively with the right treatment, and by addressing it early, you can help reduce frustrations and improve your loved one's quality of life.

Cerumen management

Cerumen, also known as ear wax, is a natural substance produced by the glands in the ear canal. While it serves a protective role in the ear, excessive or impacted ear wax can lead to hearing difficulties, discomfort, and even infection. In such cases, cerumen management, including ear irrigation, may be necessary.

Ear irrigation is a safe and effective method for removing excess ear wax. It involves flushing the ear canal with a gentle stream of water to loosen and flush out the wax. You can schedule and appointment with your physician an ENT or other hearing healthcare professional, like myself, to assist you if needed. At Affordable Hearing, we utilize the first ever automated and FDA-cleared ear cleaning device to help get the job done quickly and painlessly.

If you are going to attempt to perform an ear irrigation at home, you can simply follow these steps.

Before irrigating, it is important to soften the wax for several days by using over-the-counter ear drops, such as mineral oil or a brand like Debrox. This will help to make the irrigation process more comfortable and effective. We ask our patients to make sure to do this 3 to 5 days prior to their appointment.

Here is a step-by-step guide to properly irrigating your ears at home:

  1. Fill a bulb syringe with warm water (not hot) and add a pinch of salt to help break up the ear wax.
  2. Lean your head to the side with the affected ear facing upwards.
  3. Hold the bulb syringe with the tip pointed toward the ear and gently squeeze the bulb to release the water into the ear canal.
  4. Keep the head tilted for several minutes to allow the water to penetrate the ear canal and loosen the wax.
  5. Tilt your head to the opposite side to allow the water and wax to drain out of the ear.
  6. Repeat the process for the other ear, if necessary.

It is important to avoid using cotton swabs, paper clips, or any other foreign objects to try to remove ear wax, as this can push the wax further into the ear canal and potentially cause damage.

Additionally, it is essential to avoid using irrigation if you have any of the following conditions:

  1. A perforated eardrum
  2. A history of eardrum surgery
  3. An ear infection
  4. A foreign object in the ear canal

If you have any of these conditions, it is best to seek professional assistance from a hearing healthcare professional. They can safely remove the wax and determine if there are any underlying issues that need to be addressed.

In conclusion, ear wax build-up can be a common and frustrating problem, but it can easily be managed through proper cerumen management techniques, such as ear irrigation. By following the steps outlined above, you can help keep your ears healthy and free of excess wax. However, if you experience any discomfort, pain, or hearing difficulties, it is essential to seek professional help from a hearing healthcare professional. They can evaluate your ear health, provide safe and effective treatment options, and help you maintain good hearing health.

When should we get our hearing tested?

Hearing is an important sense that plays a crucial role in communication, balance, and overall quality of life.


As we age, our hearing abilities can decline, which can contribute to cognitive decline and even increase the risk of developing conditions such as dementia. That is why it is essential to get your hearing tested regularly and address any hearing issues as soon as possible.


According to recent research, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to when and how often someone should get their hearing tested. The frequency of hearing tests will depend on several factors, including age, lifestyle, and overall health.


Here are some general guidelines to help you determine when and how often you should get your hearing tested:

  1. Age: As you get older, your risk of developing hearing loss increases. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) recommends that adults over the age of 50 get their hearing tested at least once every decade. If you have a family history of hearing loss, it is recommended to get your hearing tested more frequently.
  2. Lifestyle: If you are regularly exposed to loud noise, such as music or machinery, you may be at an increased risk of developing hearing loss. In such cases, it is recommended to get your hearing tested at least once every three to five years.
  3. Overall health: If you have any medical conditions that can affect your hearing, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, it is recommended to get your hearing tested more frequently. Your healthcare provider can help determine the appropriate frequency of hearing tests for your specific needs.

In addition to these guidelines, it is important to get a hearing test if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  1. Difficulty hearing conversation or sounds around you
  2. Trouble understanding speech, especially in noisy environments
  3. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  4. Dizziness or balance problems

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek professional assistance from a hearing healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough hearing assessment and determine if you have a hearing loss and if so, what type and to what degree.


When it comes to getting your hearing tested, there are several types of hearing tests available, including:

  1. Pure-tone audiometry test: This test measures your ability to hear different frequencies and is typically conducted in a soundproof room using headphones.
  2. Speech audiometry test: This test measures your ability to understand speech and is conducted in a quiet room.
  3. Tympanometry: This test measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure and can help identify problems with the middle ear, such as fluid buildup.

Hearing tests are quick, painless, and non-invasive, and they provide valuable information about your hearing health. By getting your hearing tested regularly and addressing any hearing issues as soon as possible, you can help maintain good hearing health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.


In conclusion, getting your hearing tested regularly is an essential component of maintaining good hearing health. The frequency of hearing tests will depend on several factors, including age, lifestyle, and overall health. If you are experiencing any hearing symptoms, it is important to seek professional assistance from a licensed hearing healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough hearing assessment and provide you with the information and treatment options you need to maintain good hearing health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Keeping Active During Winter Months

If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It…Keeping Active During Winter Months


Editors Note: Amy is Physical Therapist at Woodlawn Hospital. If you would like to schedule an appointment with her or one of her colleagues, please call 574-224-1160.


Indiana winters seem to drag on forever during the early months of the year, and those few warm days send everyone outside to get some much-needed Vitamin D and fresh air. These brief periods of high activity during an otherwise sedentary time of the year can put you at increased risk of injury. Staying active during the colder months will allow you to safely jump right back into those spring activities, like golfing, hiking, pickleball, or gardening.


Here are three tips to keep you moving this winter.

1. Try indoor workouts. There are thousands of free online exercise programs available to meet all levels of physical activity.

2. Park far away from the supermarket entrance and walk briskly through the parking lot when weather conditions allow. Avoid icy areas and watch for traffic.

3. Set ‘activity reminders’ on your phone or smartwatch to encourage walking throughout the day. It’s easy to get cozy on the couch and without realizing it, be inactive for hours at a time! Little reminders throughout the day can be super beneficial to increasing your activity.


You don’t have to hibernate during winter months. Stay active and spring will arrive before you know it!

Orthopedic Update

In my practice, I occasionally get asked to explain the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as osteoporosis. It is a good question and it is important to understand the difference, as these diseases are diagnosed and treated differently.

Osteoarthritis (OA): The most common form of arthritis and often referred to as the "wear and tear" arthritis. The smooth, protective cushion of cartilage on the bones gradually wears away and this leads to stiffness and pain and eventually, difficulty with activities. It is commonly found in the middle to older age groups. Other causes include obesity, prior injury, and family history.

Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed with an x-ray.

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are treatment options that can offer benefits for pain relief, and to help with strength and mobility. These treatments may include over-the-counter or prescriptive anti-inflammatories; such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, Celebrex, or Mobic, etc. Other treatments include physical therapy, weight loss, steroid and lubricant injections in the arthritic joint, bracing, ice and elevation, and vitamin supplements. Finally, when nonsurgical medical management of the osteoarthritis is no longer effective, total joint replacements are considered. Treatment is provided by primary care and orthopedic specialty

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): The lining of the joints and surrounding tissue swell and eventually attacks and destroys the joint surface. This has an erosive effect on the cartilage and leads to deformity and pain. While it is not believed to be hereditary, there may be a gene that makes some people more susceptible to RA. Joint stiffness, pain, and swelling, including ultimate deformity are common symptoms. Triggers may include infection or environmental factors, and susceptible genes. The immune system then, designed to protect, begins to attack the joint instead.

RA is diagnosed with physical examination, medical history, x-rays, and labs including Rheumatoid Factor.

Again, there is no cure for RA, but treatment options include: physical and occupational therapy and medications. Surgical joint replacement can also be considered. Treatment is provided by a primary care provider and/or a rheumatologist.

Osteoporosis: Condition where the bones become thin and weak, and more prone to fracture. The bones decrease in strength and quality as we age and the bone remodeling process is slowed down. More common in women, than in men. Loss of estrogen in women at menopause causes rapid bone loss. Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle can cause adverse changes in the bone mass at earlier ages.

Osteopenia (Low Bone Mass): This is a "pre-osteoporosis" condition. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are sometimes diagnosed when a person experiences a bone fracture with a minor injury, that would otherwise not cause a fracture in a healthy person. Causes include aging, hormonal changes, and a genetic disposition. Certain medications can increase your risk for osteoporosis, so this should be discussed with your primary care physician when starting a new medication. Health conditions and lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol use, smoking, and inactivity can also increase risk of osteoporosis.

Diagnosis includes a physical examination, medical history, family history; specialized x-ray called a bone densitometry or DXA scan.

All information was gathered from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) website. Free patient teaching guides on these diseases and more are available at orthoinfo.aaos.org


What goes on back there, anyway?

Editors Note: Emily Schouten is the Laboratory Director at Woodlawn Hospital.


Did you ever wonder what happens to your blood sample after you leave the lab? I recently asked my teenagers what they thought happened to samples in a lab and my daughter asked, “Do you have vampires in the lab?” Fortunately, we do not have any vampires in the lab. We do have staff who want to give the best possible care to our patients.

What happens to a blood sample in the lab after a phlebotomist draws your blood?

At Woodlawn Hospital, a blood sample’s first stop is in the Chemistry department. A lab technologist, who has extensive training, reviews the doctor’s order to make sure the correct samples are collected by the phlebotomist. Next, the sample is processed so that it is ready to be tested on one of the many machines in the lab, called an analyzer. There are many analyzers with cutting edge technology in the lab and each analyzer tests for very specific items in your blood. Some analyzers measure material in your blood such as glucose or cholesterol. Other analyzers count the red blood cells that carry oxygen and the white blood cells that fight infections.

Not every blood sample is tested on an analyzer. Many samples are handled by the lab technologists, stained with special dyes, and looked at under a microscope to help identify unusual cells in the blood or bacteria growing inside the body. A lab technologist is trained to identify common problems such as bacteria from a person with a urinary tract infection to unusual parasites like malaria.

Woodlawn Hospital has a microbiology department on site inside the lab. Microbiology is a specialized department where samples from the human body are placed in petri dishes to grow the bacteria that are causing infections. Once the bacteria grow, the lab technologist places the bacteria in an analyzer that can determine which antibiotic is best to treat the infection.

Most lab tests are completed on the same day they are collected. All results are reviewed by the lab technologists before the report is sent to your doctor. Sometimes there are tests that are not finished at Woodlawn Hospital. These tests are sent to a reference lab for more testing.

The next time you are in the lab at Woodlawn Hospital ask the phlebotomist about what happens to your blood sample, but please do not expect to find any vampires.

Over the counter vs prescription hearing aids

Today, I want to talk about hearing aids. Have you ever heard of someone wearing a little device in their ear to help them hear better? That's a hearing aid! But did you know there are two different types of hearing aids? Yes, that's right! There are Over The Counter (OTC) hearing aids and Prescription hearing aids.

But what’s the differences???

Let's start with OTC hearing aids. OTC hearing aids are the type of hearing aids you can buy without a prescription from a doctor or a hearing specialist. They are usually a little less expensive and easier to get because you don't need to go to the doctor first. Just like you can buy glasses without a prescription, you can buy OTC hearing aids without one too.

Now, let's talk about Prescription hearing aids. These are the type of hearing aids that you need a prescription from a doctor or a hearing specialist to buy. This is because prescription hearing aids are more powerful and can help with more serious hearing problems. They are also custom-fit and programmed to your ear and your specific prescription of hearing loss, so they are more comfortable and work better for you.

So, what are the differences between OTC and Prescription hearing aids? Well, for starters, OTC hearing aids are designed for someone with a ‘perceived’ mild to moderate hearing loss and are less powerful than prescription hearing aids. They are also a little less expensive and don't need a prescription, which is why some people choose them. But, if you have a more serious hearing problem, struggle to understand in group settings and in background noise, than an OTC hearing aid might not be strong enough to help you hear properly. That's why prescription hearing aids are a better choice in that case.

Another difference is the level of customization. OTC hearing aids are not customized to your ear or your specific type and degree of hearing loss. They come in different sizes, but they might not fit your ear perfectly. This can make them uncomfortable to wear, and they might not work as well as they should. There is also no state mandated return period and you have no one to help you when you have trouble. On the other hand, prescription hearing aids are custom-fit to your ear and custom programmed to your individual needs. This means they are made to fit your ear perfectly and are much more comfortable to wear.

Prescription hearing aids also have more features and settings than OTC hearing aids. This allows you to adjust the hearing aid to your specific needs. For example, if you have trouble hearing in noisy places, a prescription hearing aid can be set to help you hear better in those situations. OTC hearing aids don't have these extra features and settings.

Another important difference is the level of support you receive. When you buy an OTC hearing aid, you are basically on your own. If you have trouble using it or if it's not working properly, you may not be able to get the help you need. On the other hand, if you buy a prescription hearing aid, you will have the support of a hearing specialist. They can help you adjust the hearing aid and make sure it's working properly. They can also help you if you have any questions or concerns. Many people are unaware that hearing aids need to be maintained since they are exposed to the elements and to heat, perspiration, dirt, dust and cold. Having your hearing aids cleaned and professionally serviced on a regular basis ensures not only that they are working properly but also helps to extend the longevity and life of the hearing aids. The average life of a hearing aid ranges between 5-7 years, when properly cared for and maintained.

So, which one is better? It really depends on your specific needs. If you have a mild hearing problem and just need a little extra help, an OTC hearing aid might be a good choice. But, if you have a more serious hearing problem, a prescription hearing aid is probably a better choice. It's more powerful, custom-fit to your ear, and comes with the support of a hearing specialist.

In conclusion, there are two types of hearing aids: OTC hearing aids and Prescription hearing aids. OTC hearing aids may be a little less expensive and easier to get, but they are less powerful and not custom-fit to your ear. Prescription hearing aids are more powerful, custom-fit to your ear, and come with the support of a hearing specialist. Which one is better for you depends on your specific needs, so it's important to talk to a doctor or hearing specialist to determine what type of hearing aid would be best for you.

Remember, taking care of your hearing is important. If you have trouble hearing, don't ignore it! Talk to a doctor or hearing specialist to find out if a hearing aid could help you. With the right hearing aid, you can enjoy all the sounds of the world again!

In summary, the differences between OTC and Prescription hearing aids are:

1.    Power: Prescription hearing aids are more powerful than OTC hearing aids.

2.    Customization: Prescription hearing aids are custom-fit to your ear, while OTC hearing aids are not.

3.    Features: Prescription hearing aids have more features and settings than OTC hearing aids.

4.    Support: When you buy a prescription hearing aid, you have the support of a hearing specialist.

If you or someone you know has trouble hearing, don't hesitate to talk to a doctor or hearing specialist. With the right hearing aid, you can enjoy all the sounds of the world again!

Depression-You are Not Alone

Editor’s Note: Ginger Richard is a Nurse Practitioner for Woodlawn Hospital at the Shafer Medical Clinic. She is accepting new patients and you can schedule an appointment with her at 574-223-9525.


Depression is a common emotion that, at one time or another, we have all felt. Sometimes the stigma of admitting one's concerns or feelings keeps us from speaking up. Rest assured that depression is the most common mood disorder causing disability in the United States and throughout the world. When depression is left untreated, an individual is at risk of developing other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, thyroid disease, and diabetes. Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of despair and sadness, and it can lead to a loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities as well as a loss of interest in relationships.


The following are some signs and symptoms of depression:

• Feeling sad or anxious frequently or all of the time

• Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun

• feeling irritable, easily frustrated, or restless

• Having difficulty falling or staying asleep?

• Waking up too early or sleeping too much

• Eating more or less than usual, or having no appetite

• Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment

• Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions • feeling tired, even after sleeping well.

• Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless • Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself


When any of these symptoms last over a period of time, one needs to seek help from a medical provider as they can interfere with one’s quality of life. Depression can be caused by a variety of factors, including a life stressor, trauma, the death of a loved one, suffering relatives, or financial stress. While no one person handles depression alike, there are different therapies to help cope with it. The first step is to seek help in dealing with the issue at hand. Therapy or counseling can often help sort through the thoughts and feelings one is experiencing in their life. Counseling helps with behavioral change and finding solutions to the issues at hand.


To help improve coping skills and mood, antidepressants and other medications can be started. There are many different drug classes available for your provider to try in treatment. While taking these medications, it’s important for the patient to know they may not feel the benefit in a few days and that it takes up to four weeks for the full effects.


The most important thing is to realize you are not alone, and resources are available to help. Contact your primary care provider, as they can perform a depression screening to determine if you fit the diagnosis of depression.

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Thousand miles of whole lot of Differences


With my 44-year association with South Dakota, I have gotten to observe the many differences in species from that part of the country to ours. The Dakotas are part of the Great Plains, an area once covered by prairie grasses and not trees. That is by far the most noticeable difference, but when you start to dig a little deeper the less conspicuous non-Indiana plants such as crested wheatgrass, lead plant, buck brush, and sage fill the prairie.


The wildlife variations are even more unique. Yes, they do have cotton-tail rabbits but they also have jackrabbits. In fact, the South Dakota State University mascot is a jackrabbit. Their main rival South Dakota University has a coyote as their mascot. An animal that I can hear announcing their presence, nightly, around my Indiana house.


That area of the country is well known for its rattlesnakes. Back when I was in college in South Dakota, I had just finished watching a parade when I was invited into a downstairs apartment by some guys I knew. They were talking about their rattlesnake adventures and said they had some snakes. Fully expecting something fake to jump out at me, they dumped a burlap sack with five rattlesnakes into a big garbage can. They were not fake. Consequently, I didn’t stay long.


One animal I guess I can't say I have run into is the porcupine. I never recall seeing one but the tire sidewalls of a relative's car were filled with quills. I always wondered if that was a near miss or the animal's last desperate act. 


Desperate would describe my wife’s sister's dog that had 5 quills stuck in its nose. It had gotten too close to a porcupine and suffered the consequences. This dog was very people shy so it took a while to catch it. After suffering for the better part of a day, it was finally caught and I had to use a pair of plyers for plucking the quills from its nose. The dog did not like the process but was greatly relieved in the end.


Wild turkeys are now a part of our agriculture landscape in Indiana after being missing since around the year 1900. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, between 1956 and 2004, wild trapped birds were released around the state. Wild turkeys are now found in all 92 counties. Spring density over most of Indiana ranges from 1 to 14 birds per square mile, with an average of 4 birds per square mile in recent years.


Walking one cold frosty winter morning near the Dakota cattle feed yard, I spied several turkeys roosting in a tree. I took their picture and years later in a conversation with a wildlife specialist, I mentioned seeing these turkeys. After looking at the picture, I was told they were not the eastern wild turkey historically found in Indiana but another closely related species, the Merriam turkey.


Probably the most despised species by ranchers is the prairie dog. Prairie dogs are stocky burrowing rodents that live in colonies called “towns.” French explorers called them “little dogs” because of the barking noise they make.


Prairie dogs are social animals that live in towns of up to 1,000 acres with 30 to 50 burrow entrances per acre. They primarily eat grass and can lay the ground bare within their towns.

Because of their unwantedness, most ranchers are receptive to out-of-state prairie dog hunters that frequent the area. One of the reasons for their disdain comes from the potential of a horse stepping in a hole and breaking a leg.


Prairie dogs have flea problems. Last summer I lay down on the grass in an area of prairie dogs. Several days later I came up with multiple flea bites on my torso.

Prairie dogs are susceptible to a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. You may know it better by the name, Black Plague. I can say that I am lucky that the town did not have disease issues, but their fleas knew how to bite. Luckily, my grave marker will not say “Done in by the bubonic plaque.”


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County



The Merriam turkeys roosting in trees overlooking a feedlot in South Dakota.

Photo provided by Mark Kepler


Tinnitus is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, characterized by a ringing, buzzing, or other noise in the ears. While the exact cause of tinnitus is not always clear, recent research suggests that undiagnosed hearing loss could be a significant contributing factor.

Hearing loss is a gradual process that occurs over time, and many people may not even realize they have it. As the ear becomes less sensitive to sound, it compensates by sending stronger signals to the brain. This can cause the brain to perceive phantom noises, such as ringing or buzzing, which is known as tinnitus.

One study found that nearly 80% of people with tinnitus also had hearing loss. In addition, people with severe hearing loss were more likely to have severe tinnitus symptoms. This suggests that hearing loss and tinnitus may be closely linked, and that treating hearing loss could lead to a reduction in tinnitus symptoms.

“Many of my patients, myself included, have complained about suffering with tinnitus,” said Chuck Smith, owner of Affordable Hearing of Rochester and Logansport. “Most of them have stated that they don’t notice or ‘hear’ the tinnitus when wearing their hearing aids.”

Another study found that older adults with tinnitus were more likely to have age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. This type of hearing loss is caused by the natural deterioration of the ear as we age and is characterized by difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. The study suggests that as the ear's ability to hear high-pitched sounds deteriorates, the brain may compensate by creating phantom noises, leading to tinnitus.

It's not just age-related hearing loss that can cause tinnitus. Exposure to loud noise is another common cause of hearing loss and tinnitus. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the delicate hair cells in the ear are damaged by loud noise. These hair cells play a crucial role in transmitting sound to the brain, and when they are damaged, the brain may create phantom noises as a compensation.

Many people who experience tinnitus due to noise exposure may have been exposed to loud noise in their workplace, such as construction workers, farmers, and musicians. However, exposure to loud noise can also occur in everyday life, such as attending concerts, using power tools, or even listening to music at a high volume.

There is a good news for people with tinnitus and hearing loss, treatment options are available. If a person's tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, treating the hearing loss can lead to a reduction in tinnitus symptoms. This can be done through the use of hearing aids, which amplify sound and make it easier for the ear to hear. In some cases, a cochlear implant may be recommended, which is a small electronic device that is surgically implanted into the ear to help improve hearing.

Another approach is tinnitus masking therapy that can help people with tinnitus learn to manage their symptoms. Tinnitus masking therapy is a treatment that involves the use of external sounds to mask or "cover up" the phantom noises associated with tinnitus. The goal of tinnitus masking therapy is to reduce the perceived loudness of tinnitus and make it less noticeable. This can be done through the use of various sound therapy devices, such as white noise machines, tinnitus maskers, and hearing aids with tinnitus masking features.

White noise machines produce a constant, neutral sound, such as the sound of a fan or a waterfall, that can be used to mask tinnitus. Tinnitus maskers are similar to white noise machines, but they are specifically designed for tinnitus and can be worn in the ear like a hearing aid. They produce a sound that is specifically tailored to the individual's tinnitus, and can be adjusted to match the pitch and loudness of the tinnitus.

Hearing aids with tinnitus masking features can also be used to reduce the effects of tinnitus. These hearing aids are designed to amplify external sounds, making them easier to hear, while also producing a masking sound to cover up tinnitus. The masking sound is typically a low-level noise that is specifically tailored to the individual's tinnitus.

Tinnitus masking therapy can be effective in reducing the perceived loudness of tinnitus and making it less noticeable. This can help improve the quality of life for people with tinnitus by reducing the impact of the condition on their daily lives. However, it's important to note that tinnitus masking therapy is not a cure for tinnitus, it can help to alleviate the symptoms, it's important to consult with an audiologist or a hearing professional to evaluate the best treatment options for you.

“As a trained Tinnitus Therapy professional, I have helped hundreds of people address their needs through the use of hearing aids and tinnitus masking devices.” Smith added. “Hopefully we are going to be able to help even more people once our Logansport office is up and running,”

In conclusion, undiagnosed hearing loss could be a significant contributing factor to tinnitus. If you are experiencing tinnitus, it is important to have your hearing evaluated by a Licensed Hearing Healthcare provider. If hearing loss is identified, treatment options such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can be considered to help reduce tinnitus symptoms and improve your quality of life. Additionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy can also be helpful in managing tinnitus symptoms. By addressing hearing loss, we can improve the lives of millions of people who are struggling with the debilitating effects of tinnitus.

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Where's the Beef Cows


Where’s the Beef Cows


The big news in the cattle production world is that cow numbers are at the lowest in this country since 1962. At first glance, that sure is amazing since the United States human population was 184 million in that year and today it is 334 million.

One would expect that with those huge increases in the human population and a cut in the number of cows that beef consumption would also be drastically cut. In 1962 the average consumption of beef per person/year was 62 pounds. In 2022, the average beef consumption was 55 pounds. A definite drop but nothing like the number of cows.

How could that be true?

For me, 1962 is only a few memories away. It would have been in 1965 that I would have shown at my first county fair. I remember those beef steers of that era. Even though I was small and they were big, they were nothing like the steers of today. Steer carcass weights increased from 656 pounds in 1960 to 907 pounds in 2020, an average increase of 4.2 pounds per year. Today’s cow produces much more beef.

Our cows have also gotten better reproductive efficacy. I read in a journal article that comparing numbers from 1977 to 2007, the same amount of beef is produced with 69.9% of the animals, 81.4% of the feed, 87.9% of water, and 67.0% of land in the US. These numbers tout that today’s beef producers are utilizing our environmental resources better.

Even though we have become more efficient, one of the big reasons for the reduced number of cows is the western drought. The persistence of this dry weather will carry even more cows to the market next year and will also result in a few heifers retained for reproduction.

All this has led to some of the highest beef prices in the past few years. It is ironic that these western cattle producers have an opportunity to make more money but the weather is just not cooperating. Welcome to agriculture.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County

Heather Bartrum happy she answered call to become 'surg tech'

When Heather Bartrum was a student at Ivy Tech Kokomo, the professor leading the Surgical Technology program knew she had a lot of potential.

“Heather was a great student,” says program chair Jia Hardimon-Eddington. “She jumped right in. She worked hard. She helped other students and she contributed to everyone’s success. I knew she would be a great ‘surg tech’ and I’m so proud of all she is doing.”

Today, nearly 11 years after graduation and certification, Bartrum does work full-time as a surgical technologist, serving as “private scrub” for Dr. Thomas Reilly, an orthopedic surgeon in Kokomo who specializes in the care of patients with spinal and nerve disorders of the neck and back, and working at the Indiana Spine Group in Carmel. It’s a job she loves … but not one she ever thought about before a life-changing mid-life accident and a spiritual “battle” that led her to Ivy Tech Community College.

Bartrum was born and raised in Howard County. After graduating from Western High School in 1992, she attended Indiana University Kokomo for a year before going to work, first as an “eye tech” at New Vision Optical and then as a teller at First National Bank. Marriage came in 1996; a daughter arrived in 1997 and a son followed in 2000. She was a full-time mom, later working part-time at Northwestern Schools when the youngest went to kindergarten.

Then, in 2008, came that life-changing accident. While washing her dad’s pick-up truck, she fell from the back and shattered her leg. “Surgery … and three months, no weight bearing. It was a humbling experience,” Heather remembers. “That’s when God first spoke to me. He told me to go into surgery. I was called to help other people going into surgery.”

Bartrum says she fought the idea for months, but, she adds with a smile, God eventually won and her faith took her forward. She had been out of high school for more than 15 years; she says she didn’t think she was smart enough. She knew nothing about surgical technology or what it entailed, but she came to Ivy Tech to see what was available and was soon enrolled in the pre-requisite courses for the program.

“The professors were all phenomenal,” she said, remembering among others a great math teacher and her English professor, Ethan Heicher, who is now Ivy Tech Kokomo’s chancellor. “I wasn’t just a number in the class. The professors helped me. I got into some great study groups.”

With her pre-reqs achieved, Bartrum was admitted into the surg tech program, then located in one room in the Inventrek building on East Firmin Street. She recently visited Ivy Tech’s new Surgical Technology laboratory in the Health Professions Center on the transformed campus at 1815 E. Morgan St. and talked about her very different experience.

“Oh, my gosh, it would be awesome to go through the program as a student in this new facility,” Bartrum said. “They get so much more hands-on experience. We had a big classroom but the lab was very small, just one bed to practice on …” The new Surg Tech lab includes four surgical suites fully outfitted in current technology that offer training opportunities to the same number of students that were in Heather’s class.

“Jia helped me a lot,” Bartrum said. “When I started, I didn’t do very well testing. Jia would go over the tests with me afterwards. I could answer the questions when talking to her and she helped me figure out what I needed to do to capture the correct answers on the tests.” She also credits the partnerships Ivy Tech has with local medical facilities to offer clinical rotations and internships, particularly citing Joyce Hughes, now retired, who, as Heather’s preceptor at Dukes Memorial Hospital, provided great experience.

Bartrum graduated from the program in 2012, 20 years after graduating from high school, earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology and passing her certification exam on the first try. She was hired as a certified surgical technologist at St. Joseph Hospital and within six weeks was working with Dr. Reilly.

Bartrum offers two pieces of advice to those who follow her. First, always verify the sizes and dates of equipment and material used in the operating room; don’t rely on others. Second, “if you ever mess up, don’t beat yourself up. Write it up, think about how you can do it better and then don’t ever do that again.”

She encourages others to follow their dreams. “By the grace of God, a lot of studying and determination, and pushing yourself, you can do it,” she says. In addition to her “day job,” Bartrum works with her father raising cattle and has been involved with 4-H in Howard and Carroll counties.

“I just love my job. I feel like I’m doing something not just for the person going into surgery but also for my community,” Bartrum adds.  “As I’ve told my kids, a job is something you get and have to go to. A career is something you don’t mind getting up and going to every day, something you enjoy and that is fulfilling to you. I love my job and I don’t regret anything. There are days that are hard, that you’re tired and worn out and your body hurts. But I am blessed.”


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns to the needs of the community. The College provides seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor’s degree. Follow Ivy Tech on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for the most up-to-date information.


Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Area serves Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, Pulaski and Tipton counties, including the communities of Kokomo, Logansport, Peru, Rochester, Tipton and Winamac.



Heather Bartrum couldn’t help being a little jealous of current students during recent visit to Ivy Tech Kokomo’s new Surg Tech classroom and lab


Surg Tech program chair Jia Hardimon-Eddington shows off new surgical suite to alumna Heather Bartrum



Jia Hardimon-Eddington and Heather Bartrum shared memories and perspectives during Heather’s recent visit to the new home of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Surgical Technology Program

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Winter with Cattle

Winter with Cattle


On Saturday, February 4th,2023, the record for the lowest recorded wind chill in the United States was set at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire at minus 108° F. I do not know what my personal record is for the lowest wind chill I have experienced but I do remember December 23, 1983, in Little Eagle South Dakota.

That day it was 20 below and winds up to 40 MPH and I found myself helping unroll large round hay bales for cattle on the prairies of South Dakota. We were in and out of warm trucks while those cows did not have that luxury.

A healthy beef animal in winter with a full coat of hair and no wind, rain, or mud on them is comfortable down to around 18 degrees. If they are being fed an adequate diet with hay and other fiber sources, their big old stomach, called a rumen, will be producing a lot of body-warming fermented heat.

When brutal cold conditions happen, cattle will escape the wind by standing in the draw between hills. When arriving with a large round bale of feed on a sunny day, it was difficult to lure those sunning black-haired animals out to the feed.

The Dakotas are no strangers to the cold. Back in the harsh winter of 1886-87, the great cattle barons including Teddy Roosevelt suffered pronounced losses that ended their investment in the Dakotas. Teddy did not know of the loss until he showed up the following spring to find half of his herd dead.

The turn them out and let them roam way of ranching is long gone. When winter comes the ranchers pick specific pastures for their cattle, with adequate areas to escape the wind. Teddy’s method is replaced by winter feeding and moving cattle to areas where they can be better sheltered from the elements. In those temperatures, more hay bales need to be fed to meet the energy needs of the animals.

With the current drought situation in much of the west, large amounts of money were spent purchasing hay this year in anticipation of the cows' winter energy needs.

What I find amazing is the insulating ability of the cow. Many times, cattle will have snow on their backs. The thicker the hair coat and variations in, age, size, wind speed, and numerous other factors will affect their ability to insulate. Cattle with a wet hair coat, regardless of how heavy it is, will have a lower critical temperature of around 59 degrees because the hair coats lose their insulation ability when wet.

Chopping ice is a daily ritual. Cattle in that area are watered out of dams. Cutting through a foot of ice with an axe in multiple locations allows the cattle a chance to have a good long drink before the ice freezes over again. From one day to the next, 10-12 inches of ice can refreeze in the previous day's ice hole. Wheeling an axe in those temperatures can help to warm a person up but at the same time, breathing in that cold air will frost the nose hairs.

I was better equipped to perform that task 39 years ago than I am today. But there are cattle still there and I am sure that this morning my brother-in-law could still be found chopping away. A memory for me, daily winter life for him.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County





****photo provided by Mark Kepler****

Caption for photo:


Hay bales purchased to maintain cow health through the potentially cold South Dakota Winter.