Ask Extension

Recent Articles


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Join Us at the Expo!

For more information click here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Off the Beaten Path

Join the

for a special four-hike series that kicks off this Sunday March 27. Hikers will explore a beautiful sandhill community in an area that is closed to the public. The site is blooming with spring wildflowers and is home to numerous gopher tortoises.

The hikes are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and costs $25 per hike or $80 for the series with a 10% discount to Friends members.

Email the Friends of Brooker Creek to register.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Herbs- Adding Flavor and More to Food

By: Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Science Agent

Herbs have long been used by humans for culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic purposes. Herbs often are used in cooking to enhance the flavor of foods without the addition of extra fat, sugar, or sodium. Culinary herbs are known for taking ordinary foods and turning them into mouthwatering delicacies. They are sold as fresh, dried and as live plants. Some of the more popular are basil, cilantro, chives, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

When using herbs in cooking, let your taste buds guide you. Since dried herbs are stronger than fresh herbs you will need to use more of the fresh herbs. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried or crushed herbs or ¼ teaspoon of powdered herbs, use 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of fresh.

Powerful phytochemical compounds found in these plants may even help in the prevention of serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and infection. Basil, one of the most popular herbs, is used in several countries to reduce plasma cholesterol. Fresh herbs (the leaf of a plant used in cooking and spices, any other part of the plant, such as the buds, bark, roots, berries, and seeds) contain higher levels of antioxidants than dried or processed products. For example, fresh garlic is one and a half times more powerful than dry garlic powder.

The University of Michigan Integrative Medicine website lists the many benefits of herbs and other seasonings. The University of Florida IFAS Extension also has a wealth of information about herbs. Here is just a sampling of publications available on their website: growing herbs, cooking with herbs, and safe handling of herbs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Conserving Biodiversity in Subdivision Development

Please join us this free webinar on Tuesday March 22, 2011 beginning at 2 pm. The presentation will last about 1 hour followed by 15 minutes of Questions and Answers.

Many residential developments and rural properties are situated near or in habitats that sustain native plant and animal communities. Conserving or restoring the unique natural features inherent on every parcel of land benefits the local environment, property owners, and the region’s heritage. When land is subdivided, how does one conserve local biodiversity and minimize impacts on surrounding landscapes? Design, construction, and post-construction phases are often not discussed holistically when green developments are built.

This webinar introduces participants to the key principles and practices required to create conservation subdivisions. The webinar is part of a four module continuing education course developed by the Program for Resource Efficient Communities at the University of Florida. This continuing education course is devoted to defining, recognizing, restoring, and managing residential communities for biodiversity within the urban and rural matrix. The course is being offered in May in association with American Citizen Planner and Michigan State University. It is relevant to county and city planners, landscape architects, architects, civil engineers, environmental consultants, developers, private landowners, and interested citizens. More information will be presented during the webinar.

No pre-registration is required for this webinar. On Tuesday March 22nd at 1:45 pm just click:

Then select enter as guest.

Speaker Bio:
Dr. Mark Hostetler is an Associate Professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, University of Florida. With over twenty years of experience in urban wildlife issues and natural resource management, Dr. Hostetler conducts research and outreach on how urban landscapes could be designed and managed, from small to large scales, to conserve biodiversity. He has extensive experience in working with homeowners, developers, and policymakers on ways to manage and design residential developments for biodiversity. Dr. Hostetler co-founded UF’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities (PREC) and collaborates with an interdisciplinary team of scientists and graduate students. In conjunction with PREC, Mark is working with policymakers and developers to establish natural resource conservation strategies in communities that are billed as “green” developments. In particular, he works with planners and built environment professionals to establish management programs for conservation subdivisions. Dr. Hostetler has a bachelor’s in biology from Purdue University (1987) and his master’s (1992) and doctorate in zoology (1997) are both from University of Florida.

Please attend this timely and informative webinar and to learn more about the Land Use Planning Community of Practice through “eXtension.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Green Driving

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban sustainability Agent

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the price of gasoline has risen in the past few weeks and you’re wondering if this will continue as we head towards the summer months. Though we cannot predict the price, we can certainly surmise that the start of daylight savings time, the promise of warmer temperatures, and the allure of spring and summer vacations will encourage us to take road trips! In this article, we will explore some conservation techniques for maximizing your return from your gas guzzling mobile transporter.

Avoid Speed Traps – Many of us assume that driving faster will get us there faster and indeed with posted speed limits, we operate under the assumption that we should be driving at the maximum recommended speed. But did you know that driving faster consumes more fuel? A constant speed reduces aerodynamic drag and maximizes fuel efficiency. The trip to grandma’s house might take longer but the 5 to 10 miles per gallon that is saved when you drive at 55 mph or 65 mph instead of 75 mph increases fuel economy and saves money! And, at $3.50 a gallon, that could easily translate into a $20+ savings!

Reduce Rapid Acceleration – It’s easy to give into temptation to overtake the “tourist” that’s driving in front of you but rapid acceleration will reduce gas mileage. Rapid acceleration and deceleration reduces your fuel economy both in town and on the highways. Take advantage of inertia and cruise controls – these will allow you to plan ahead for exits, ramps, and traffic signals. Be an involved driver!

Combine Errands – This is one of the most important things that you can do to get the most out of your gas tank! A warm engine is at its optimum for burning fuel so combining errands and making multiple trips keeps your engine from cooling down and provides the best fuel economy. Plus, it saves you from having to drive the same route more than once!

Stop Idling – Warming up your engine before you leave the house, sitting in traffic, and zipping through the drive-thru all involve idling. Idling decreases fuel economy and creates pollution. Plan ahead!

Promote Car Maintenance – Proper maintenance of your car is important to your bottom-line! A well tuned car is more fuel efficient and produces less greenhouse gas emissions.

Other green driving tips include car pooling, biking or walking; using mass transit; buying a hybrid or green vehicle; and using renewable energies. Together, these strategies will allow you to maximize your fuel economy, save money, and protect the planet.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do Your Pets Impact the Environment?

By: Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

As we all look for more ways to reduce our environmental impacts, there are many ways to be “greener” with your pets. Some great “green” practices include adopting a pet from a shelter, making sure your animals are neutered/spayed, cleaning up your pet’s waste and purchasing organic pet foods, natural pet care and cleaning products. Also, look for non-toxic products and chemicals for use around your pets, as well as your family. These are all environmentally friendly practices, but there is another way that pets can have a big impact on the natural environment – pets that are free to roam outdoors.

There are tremendous impacts of free-ranging pets on wildlife. Cats and dogs have the potential to severely impact local wildlife populations. The instinctive hunting and killing behavior of cats is extensively documented. Unlike wild predators that kill to eat, cats kill impulsively even when they are not hungry. Animals that nest or feed on or close to the ground such as cardinals, bobwhites, towhees, wrens, rabbits, and lizards are most susceptible. At least part of the population declines experienced by Florida's endangered beach mice are due to domestic cat predation. A Michigan study provided some insight into the impact of a single cat on local prey. During an 18-month period, one well-fed, domestic farm cat killed at least 60 birds and 1,600 small mammals. A study in England estimated that over a million birds are killed each year there by free-ranging cats.

Dr. H.W. Kale, II and David Maehr recommend actions in their book, Florida's Birds, which you can take to reduce the chances of cats' sneaking up undetected on wildlife on your property:

  • Do not place a bird feeder or bath immediately next to dense shrubbery or other cat hiding places.

  • If you own an outside cat, place two bells on its collar--some cats can learn to adjust their moves to silence a single bell.

  • Do not let your cat roam at night when they can be much more effective predators on sleeping prey.

  • If you are having problems with a neighbor's cat, speak to the neighbor about the problem and see what can be worked out.

If the cat is an untagged stray or feral, trap it with a live trap (the raccoon-type trap) then turn it over to the local animal control office or Humane Society.

Impacts of Free-ranging Pets on Wildlife

Kale, II, H.W. and D.S. Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. P. 250. Pineapple Press, Inc. Sarasota, FL 288 pp.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What’s Fresh Near You- Florida Strawberries

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Eating local foods in season provides fresh products with exceptional flavor and nutritional value, helps protect the environment by minimizing the amount of miles food has to travel, and supports our local economy.

Here in Florida, we have lots of choices from avocados and greens in the fall to watermelon and blueberries in the summer. While it may feel like spring, it is still winter here in Florida and with winter comes strawberry season. Our state is known for being the largest producer of strawberries during the winter, with peak months of production in February and March.

Strawberries are good to eat and good for us. They are low in calories, about 55 in a cup and loaded with vitamin C. When buying berries, look for bright red berries with fresh green caps on, once the caps are removed, an enzyme that destroys the vitamin C is activated. Also, visually check each package, making sure there are no signs of mold growth. If one berry is molded, those spores will have traveled throughout the entire package. Buying a quart of berries will yield about four cups of sliced strawberries.

Most people buy berries from the local grocery store, a farmer’s market or roadside stand, but more adventuresome folks may want to try to pick their own. While many of those farms have disappeared over the years, there a few still opening their fields. To help you find a u-pick field and recipes for your berries visit the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Date: Monday, March 7, 2011

Time: 10:00 am to noon

Location: Seminole Community Library Program Room
9200 113th St. N.
Seminole, Florida 33722

Topic: Recycling Styrofoam

Speaker: Bryan Andersen, Pres., EPS Partners

Bryan will discuss how communities can establish a reliable method to recycle or reuse styrofoam products, reduce solid waste, and help green the earth. We will hear about the Louise Graham Regeneration Center, St. Petersburg, Florida and its employment of developmentally disabled adults in the work of styrofoam recycling.

Come join us and bring along a friend!

For information: call Mary, 631-838-2272