Tag Archive: Life

Life Lessons Learned at Camp

4-H Camping Season is open! Photo credit: Heather Kent, UF IFAS

4-H camping season is open! Photo credit: Heather Kent, UF IFAS

Its official- summer camp season has started, which inspired me to ponder my own childhood camp experiences and how different they were from what 4-H offers.  My first youth camping experience was not fun, but it also was not through a positive youth development program (gasp!).  That’s right- although I have been a 4-H professional for more than 17 years, I did not grow up in the 4-H program.  In fact, I had never even heard of 4-H until I attended graduate school at a USDA land-grant University.

One of the explanations for my “4-H vacuum” can be attributed to the fact that I was born into a military family.  Much of my childhood was spent overseas and at that time, 4-H was not widely offered on military bases the way it is now.  Today University of Florida 4-H faculty serve as liaisons to 4-H clubs on military bases in England, Germany, Italy and Cuba.  UF even offers a week of camp specifically for military youth called Camp Corral.  Because of my limited 4-H experience, it was not until I had a couple of summers “under my belt” as a 4-H faculty member that I really understood the value of our camping program and why it is one of the most significant ways we impact youth.

I could spout out all of the data that supports how youth benefit from camp, but I am going to lead with the “why.”  It really hit home for me my second year as a 4-H agent when I found one of my 4-Hers sobbing on the last day of camp.  I asked her what was wrong and she shared:

“I am crying because I don’t want to leave.  This is my second year at camp and I look forward to it all year because it is the only place I feel like I belong.  Camp is the only place I can be myself.  At school I am bullied and made fun of, but here I am accepted for who I am and I am included in everything.  This is where I feel ‘normal’ and where I feel like I matter.  I wish it could be like this all year long.”

Photo credit: Heather Kent, University of Florida IFAS

Photo credit: Heather Kent, University of Florida IFAS

From that point forward, I never dreaded all the work that went into making camp happen.   I realized the true impact of what we do, and I have heard countless youth express similar sentiments over the years.  It gives youth a break from the cliques or labels at school.  They can explore new interests and cultivate an appreciation of the outdoors.  They learn how to be responsible for their belongings; how to get along with others in cramped cabin spaces; they observe adults and teens working together and respecting people who might look or act differently from themselves.

When I wear my 4-H shirt , I am almost always stopped by strangers telling me that they were in 4-H and that 4-H camp is where they met their best friend, spouse, where they learned to swim, or how they learned to lead.  4-H camp matters.  4-H camp is different and 4-H camp works because faculty, staff and volunteers are intentional about incorporating the essential elements of positive youth development into every aspect of camp.  We painstakingly plan to create an inclusive environment where it is safe to try new things like tying a clinch knot to rig your fishing pole, performing a skit on stage or kayaking with dolphins.  We purposefully plan to build a sense of community at camp.  In a very measured way we develop leaders and youth adult partnerships.  4-H camp is in and of itself a teen-adult youth partnership.  4-H teens are trained as counselors and have quite a bit of input on how the camp week is structured.  In addition, these teens demonstrate their 4-H skills by teaching classes at camp, leading activities, and mentoring younger youth.  These elements are not present at most other camps- even the really expensive or exclusive ones.  However, 4-H camps are reasonably priced and open to all youth between the ages of 8 and 18 (as of Sept. 1st).

Camp is a safe place to try new things like archery. Photo credit: UF IFAS Florida 4-H.

Camp is a safe place to try new things like archery. Photo credit: UF IFAS.

I have had the privilege of witnessing first-hand how camp can ignite a spark in a young person to set them up for success later in life.  I saw my first-time campers grow to become counselors in training.  After a couple more years I watched them blossom into leaders- not just at camp, but in our community back home and at their schools.  I watched them mentor other youth and influence their peers in positive ways.  I had the honor of watching them win scholarships and internships based on their service and leadership through 4-H.  I saw them return to camp as 4-H alumni, summer staff and volunteers.  Now, many of them are successful business owners, teachers, engineers and civic leaders.  Soon, my “campers” will have children of their own old enough to attend 4-H camp.  As I reflect, I can’t help but hear the faint tune of “Circle of Life” playing in my head. . .

But seriously, I wish that I had had the opportunity to experience 4-H camp as a young person. My first (non-4-H) camping experience had none of these elements of positive youth development.  I remember being incredibly grateful when the experience was over and thankful to have survived it (it involved an earthquake while traveling by train through the mountains of Italy to reach our campsite- a compelling story for a different type of blog-post).  The 4-H camp formula is not only fun (and safe) for kids, it has a well-documented history of teaching them lifelong lessons to help them be productive citizens and members of the workforce.  As a Gen X mom myself, I have to ask “What parent wouldn’t want that for their child?”  To find out more about the Florida 4-H Camping Program, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

2016 Florida 4-H Camp Schedule– it’s not too late to sign up, but camp slots are going quickly!



Author: Heather Kent – hckent@ufl.edu

Heather Kent is the Regional Specialized 4-H Agent in the Northwest Extension District.

Heather Kent

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/17/life-lessons-learned-at-camp/

De-Clutter Your Financial Life

De-Clutter Your Financial Life

Photo credit: pixabay.com

Photo credit: pixabay.com

In spring cleaning mode? If so, now is the perfect time to de-clutter your financial life. Organizing important papers as well as purging unnecessary ones will reduce paper clutter and stress and help you to locate what you need when you need it. Let’s get started!

Store home files as follows:

  • Current files – day-to-day records. These include bank account information, bills and receipts, loan agreements, and certain medical information. For a list of suggested categories, check out Financial Recordkeeping: Organizing Your Financial Life.
  • Permanent files – on-going records used infrequently, such as employment and education records and health benefit information.
  • Dead storage – anything you feel uncomfortable discarding, such as old tax records or real estate you’ve sold. These can be stored in less accessible drawers or boxes.

Discard the following monthly: Credit card, grocery, ATM, and debit card receipts after they appear on the statement unless they are needed for taxes, business, or proof of purchase.

Keep these items for one year:

  • Paycheck stubs – save until you compare with your W-2 and Social Security earnings statements then shred.
  • Canceled checks and bank statements – shred unless needed for tax purposes or can be retrieved online.
  • Quarterly investment statements – double-check with year-end statements then shred.

How Long to Keep Tax Records
The IRS recommends 3-6 years for income tax records, worksheets, and documentation of deductions. Keep records for as long as needed for administration of the IRS code. Tax records often are useful in situations where financial history is relevant.

Do Not Toss:

  • Birth and death certificates, adoption decrees
  • Marriage licenses and divorce decrees
  • Social Security cards
  • Military discharge papers, including spouse, even if deceased
  • Immigration documents
  • Pension plan information from current and former employers
  • Estate planning documents
  • Life insurance policies
  • Titles for property still owned

De-clutter a section at a time – if the task seems overwhelming, work at it 15 minutes a day until you’re finished. Then, enjoy less stress with organized files!

Adapted from De-Clutter Your Financial Life, Julie England, UF/IFAS Extension Lake County, and Lisa Leslie, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 02/16.



Author: Judy Corbus – jlcorbus@ufl.edu

Judy Corbus is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Washington and Holmes Counties.

Judy Corbus

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/15/de-clutter-your-financial-life/

The Secret Life of Plants

The Secret Life of Plants

As winter approaches, short days and cool temperatures cause many plants to slow down and enter a suspended growth phase known as dormancy. Dormancy in plants is similar to the way bears hibernate during the winter. You may be asking yourself what is dormancy? And how can I get in on that? Well, to be honest, there isn’t an all-encompassing answer. It seems that plants (and bears) are keeping that secret all to themselves.

Fall foliage of Florida maple. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

Fall foliage of Florida maple. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

Now that winter is indeed coming, deciduous plants start to breakdown proteins and other chemicals in their leaves and store them in the buds, bark and wood for growth next spring. Many deciduous plants lose their leaves as they become dormant, such as maples and dogwoods. Evergreen plants such as pine trees and camellias keep their leaves all winter.

There are actually two types of dormancy during the winter. One is called endo-dormancy. In endo-dormancy, the plant refuses to grow even under hospitable conditions. In endo-dormancy, something inside the plants is inhibiting growth. The other form is eco-dormancy and occurs when the plant is ready to grow, but the environmental conditions are not favorable (usually too cold). Short days and freezing temperatures in the fall induce endo-dormancy in the plant, which occurs first.

Shumard oak showing off its fall colors. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

Shumard oak showing off its fall colors. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

As the plant enters endo-dormancy, it tracks chilling hours to chart the passage of the winter. Chilling hours are the time when temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The number of hours required for chilling varies for different plants. Many people think the plant is tracking hours below freezing. However, hours below freezing have no effect on chilling, but will increase cold hardiness. If warm weather occurs before the plant completes its chilling requirement, no growth occurs. Chilling and endo-dormancy normally prevent plants from beginning growth during warm spells in the middle of the winter. Not all hours above freezing are equal. Temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit seem to be most effective. Temperatures just above freezing and above 50 F are less effective and temperatures above 60 F often have a negative effect on chilling.

After a plant has checked off its chilling hours it is no longer in a state of endo-dormancy. It is now in eco-dormancy. The plants are dormant only because of cold temperatures. Warmer weather will cause plants to yawn, make that final stretch, and begin to grow. Growth first becomes apparent when buds swell and then green tissue emerges from the bud. However, plants actually begin growing before we notice their swelling buds. So this winter when your plants start to shed their leaves don’t be frightened, they may just be taking a much deserved rest in preparation for a brilliant show come spring.

Please contact your local extension office for more information.


Author: Taylor Vandiver – tavandiver@ufl.edu

Taylor Vandiver

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/11/11/the-secret-life-of-plants/

Life Happens: Emergency Funds Allow You to Adapt

coinsAre you “liquid asset poor?”  If a household experiences an unexpected financial strain, such as a job loss, illness, or other large expense, and does not have enough liquid assets to cover basic expenses for three months, they are considered liquid asset poor.  Liquid assets consist of money held in checking or savings accounts.  According to recent research conducted by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, approximately 49% of Floridians are considered liquid asset poor.

Emergency funds focus on increasing liquid assets though savings.  An emergency fund can allow households to adapt when unexpected financial strains occur.  In the past, three to six months of income was considered to be a good emergency fund.  In more recent times, the economy and unemployment have caused households to need much larger emergency funds. University of Florida professor, Dr. Michael Gutter, in “Money and Marriage: Saving for Future Use,” encourages families to consider the following factors:


  • How much protection is provided by insurance
  • Number of household incomes
  • Household needs and fixed obligations
  • Family financial support
  • Retirement proximity
  • Age of children
  • Available credit


You can get an estimate of your household’s liquidity by completing the following steps:

 1)     Calculate the total amount of cash you have on hand and in your checking/savings accounts.

 2)      Develop a spending plan to allow you to estimate your monthly expenses.

 (For help with developing a spending plan, check out Building a Spending Plan)

3)      Enter your total cash and monthly expenses into the household liquidity formula:

Total Cash ÷ Monthly Expenses= Household Basic Liquidity

If the household basic liquidity is equal to or less than 1, this would be interpreted as having enough liquid resources to sustain your household’s current spending for only a month or less. If the household basic liquidity ratio is greater than one, that number is the number of months you would be able to live on your liquid assets based on your current spending.  If you are not at your desired or expected number, take the pledge to start saving today at America Save$ !


Corporation for Enterprise Development. (2014). “Liquid Asset Poverty Rate”

Gutter, M. (2011). “Money and Marriage: Saving for Future Use”

Turner, J. (2001). “Show Me The Money: Lesson 5: Savings and Investments”



Author: Kristin Jackson – kris88@UFL.EDU

Jefferson County Family Consumer Science/4H Agent

Kristin Jackson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/02/28/life-happens-emergency-funds-allow-you-to-adapt/

Evaluate Your Need for Life Insurance

Evaluate your life insurance needs if you have children.

Evaluate your life insurance needs if you have children.

Life insurance is protection against the loss of income that would result if the insured passed away. According to Life Insurance and Market Research Association International (LIMRA), approximately 35 million households are uninsured and 50 million American have inadequate life insurance. September is national life insurance awareness month, but the time to start preparing is now. Take the first step and consider whether you need life insurance.

“The top two reasons people don’t buy life insurance are: competing financial priorities or because they think they cannot afford it,” (LIMRA, 2012). How do you know if you should give life insurance serious consideration  or rethink whether you have enough? If one or more of the following situations apply to you or your family you may want to evaluate your need for life insurance:

  •         If you have children and both parents work
  •         If you have children and one parent works
  •         If you have children and you cannot afford to pay for their final expenses
  •         If you are a single parent
  •         If you have an outstanding shared debt
  •         If you are married and your spouse could not support your current lifestyle without your help
  •         If you are married and your spouse may have to care for one or more elderly parents

The above list is not exhaustive, but is meant to get you started thinking about the kinds of family or lifestyle situations when life insurance could benefit you in providing for your love one(s).  For more research based information on life insurance you may want to read Understanding Life Insurance (http://web.aces.uiuc.edu/vista/pdf_pubs/LIFEINS.PDF) by University of Illinois Extension. Remember, family conversations about money can be difficult.  “Can We Talk? Improving Couples’ Communications” (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy044) is a great refresher on effective communication before tackling a delicate topic like money.


Author: Kristin Jackson – kris88@UFL.EDU

Jefferson County Family Consumer Science/4H Agent

Kristin Jackson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/07/30/evaluate-your-need-for-life-insurance/

Proper Watering Means Difference Between Life, Death For New Plants During Summer

Proper watering can make the difference between life and death to newly planted lawns, trees, shrubs, bedding plants, vegetable transplants and ground covers during the summer.

Because their roots have not had time to grow out into the surrounding soil, these plants do not yet have well-established root systems. With their root systems still limited to a relatively small area of soil, they are especially vulnerable to drought stress.


rootgrowthsetsixlgThe first summer after planting is the most critical time for newly planted trees, and proper watering plays a major role in whether or not they survive – or how well they survive. Here are some effective watering techniques for trees.

One good method is to turn a hose on trickle, lay the end on top of the ground within 6 inches of the trunk of the tree and let the water trickle for about 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Or build a 4-inch high levee out of soil around the edge of the area dug up to plant the tree. Fill this area with water and let it slowly seep into the root zone.

I’ve found one of the best methods is to use a heated metal skewer or ice pick to pierce five to 10 holes through the bottom of a 5-gallon paint bucket or similar container. Make all the holes on one side. Place the bucket next to the tree trunk with the holes closest to the trunk. Fill up the container, and the water will slowly seep through the holes, providing excellent irrigation. If you want, you can spray paint the outside of the bucket dark green to make it less noticeable.

Use any of these techniques during hot weather whenever seven to 10 days pass without substantial rainfall. Continue to water twice a week until a good rain occurs. Drought-stressed trees may experience wilting, leaf drop, yellow or brown leaves, scorched leaf edges or even death.


Newly planted shrubs will need to be monitored more carefully and watered more frequently than established shrubs. Water with soaker hoses or sprinklers left on long enough for the water to penetrate at least 4 to 6 inches into the soil.

Keep in mind that all of a newly planted shrub’s roots are in a small area – about the size of the pot the shrub was growing in before planting. This is especially true for shrubs planted after March, since they have had little time to grow roots into the surrounding soil. A shrub can use up all the water in its root ball and become drought stressed even though the soil in the bed outside of the root ball is moist. So when checking the soil moisture in the bed, always be sure to stick your fingers right around the shrubs themselves.


watering_new_sod_01Now is a great time to lay sod to install a new lawn or repair an established one. But keep in mind that newly laid sod needs special attention to watering.

Water newly laid sod for about 15 to 20 minutes every day for the first seven to 10 days. Then water for about 30 minutes every other day for another seven to 10 days. After that, irrigate the lawn thoroughly once or twice a week, as needed, to encourage the roots to grow deep into the soil.

Do not water every day for more than 10 days or you may encourage fungus diseases. And, of course, there is no need to water if adequate rainfall occurs.


Water seeded areas (vegetable seeds, flower seeds or lawn seeds) lightly by hand or with sprinklers every day until the seeds germinate and start to grow. It is critical for the soil to stay moist during germination.

Once the seeds come up, water more thoroughly less often to encourage the roots to grow deep into the soil. As the seedlings become established, water normally as needed.


watering-plantsWatering plants in containers outside is a constant job during the summer. It is typical to water every day, even twice a day, when weather is hot and dry. Keep this in mind when considering how many outside container plants you can maintain.

How often you have to water container plants is influenced by temperature, pot size, the type of potting mix, the drought tolerance of a plant, whether a plant is in sun or shade and how pot bound a plant is. Plants need to be watered more frequently when it is hot, if the containers are small, if a light potting mix is used, when plants are in a sunny location and when plants are pot-bound. In addition, clay pots tend to dry out faster than plastic or glazed ceramic pots.

To reduce the amount of watering you have to do, use larger rather than smaller pots, choose a potting mix that retains more water (it must still be fast draining, however), repot pot-bound plants into larger containers, use plastic pots and, if practical, move the plants into somewhat shadier conditions.

Potting mixes will retain more water with the addition of hydrophilic polymers. These gelatin-like particles hold large amounts of water without creating a waterlogged soil condition. Look for these polymer products or potting mixes that contain them where garden supplies are sold.


Author: Robert Trawick – rob.trawick@ufl.edu

I’m the horticulture extension agent in Jackson County, Florida. I received my B.S. and M.S. degrees at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. Previously I was the residential horticulture extension agent for Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA and Lafayette, LA.

Robert Trawick

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/06/04/proper-watering-means-difference-between-life-death-for-new-plants-during-summer/