Our topic at this year’s “Farm Forum” will be “The Impact of Homeland Security on Local Agriculture.” This annual McPherson Chamber of Commerce event will be held Thursday, Jan. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the 4-H Building.
Panel members discussing this most timely topic will include Sen. Jay Emler, Dan Hay, Kansas Homeland Security Department, and Dillard Webster, our county’s emergency management director. It is something most of us do not like to think about. Yet, during these current times of heightened alert here in the United States, the ag community needs to be aware of various situations, and take precautions to protect our food and water supply best we can.
Resident  story-teller, Jim Stucky, will also regale the audience with his most recent observations and wisdom.
We will also recognize the Farm Family of the Year and the Friend of Agriculture. McPherson’s FFA chapter will be serving a nice dinner.
Reservations need to be made at the Chamber office by Tuesday, Jan. 6. Cost is only $5 plus a food item, which will be donated to the McPherson Food Bank. 
  Tree Orders Being Accepted
The Kansas Forest Service is once again offering low-cost seedling trees and shrubs for sale – which will be used for windbreaks or wildlife plantings. Order forms are available at the Extension office, the Conservation District office or on-line at www.kan-sasforests.org.
 Cost this year is $17 for 25 bare-root seedlings or $45 for 25 containerized seedlings. Trees are shipped to your address by UPS.
The Kansas Forest Service is offering nine different shrubs, 21 bare-root deciduous trees, six bare-root evergreen trees and four containerized evergreen trees. They are no longer offering Scotch pines, for obvious reasons.
Also being offered are songbird bundles, quail bundles, pheasant bundles, wildlife mast bundles, rabbit protection tubes and weed barrier fabric.
For more information, stop by the Extension or Conservation District office.
Be Careful With
Firewood Choices
For those planning to supplement winter’s furnace heat with a wood-burning stove or fireplace, be careful.  Gathering or buying good firewood requires some savvy.  You rarely can get into cutting your own firewood quickly. You don’t want to burn wood that has aged for less than six months since being cut A full year of aging is even better.
Relatively speaking, fresh or green wood is ‘ juicy.’ It’s more likely to pop out burning sparks, a definite hazard. When you add green wood to a fire, the heat has to dry it out before the wood will burn, and that leads to a smoky fire and creosote buildup. Plus, green wood doesn’t produce as much heat. Surface cracks on the ends of the log is not a good indicator. Those cracks can show up just a few weeks after the logs have been cut.
If you whack pieces of firewood together, the dry logs will have a ringing sound.
Moisture-laden green wood makes a dull thud. Finding out about wood species is an important step for buyers planning to help heat their home with wood, rather than just build an occasional fire for a cozy Saturday evening.
Many evergreens, including low-cost and widely available pine, contain a sticky sap called pitch. This sap is why the evergreens’ wood is likely to spark, crackle and pop dangerously. Pitch also vaporizes in the fire’s heat and rises with the smoke. As it cools, however, the vapor condenses on chimney walls or on older pitch deposits and becomes an increasing fire hazard. Pine can be great, easy-to-start kindling. But you’re asking for trouble if you feed your wood stove a steady pine diet.
“Mixed hardwoods” can mean almost anything except pine and cedar. Oak is known as the premium fuel wood. But, other species can have higher or equal heat values.  Listing from best to worst on the heat-output scale, our recommendations for the hardwoods typically available in the central High Plains are: Osage orange, black locust, hickory, pecan, oak, honey locust, mulberry, sugar maple, green ash, black walnut, hackberry, sycamore, silver maple, cottonwood and willow.
What you want for a heat source are some seasoned hardwoods such as these.
You should store them neatly stacked outdoors on supports that are at least four inches off the ground to discourage rodents and insects. Stack the logs bark side up, too, and preferably cover them with a tarp. The drier the wood stays, the longer seasoned logs will remain viable firewood.