Feature Story from 1998
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The success of the 1998 pumpkin crop depended on the availability of August rains or irrigation. For most growers, this wasn't their year.
Pumpkins grow best in dry and warm (but not hot) conditions, said Dr. David Nagel, Extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University.
"They are drought tolerant, but not that tolerant. They aren't desert plants," Nagel said. "Two of the state's pumpkin growers who irrigate had a great year, but the rest of the growers were lucky if they had an average year."
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Clay County hospitals will have some friendly yet unusual guests when 4-H'ers and their pets show up for therapy.
PAWS, Pets Are Worth Sharing, is a new program teaching Clay County 4-H'ers responsibility. PAWS trains youth and their pets for visits to nursing homes, schools and children's homes to offer a unique type of therapy.
Mary Ann Holloway, president of the PAWS program and owner of Paws-itive Attitudes Training Service, said PAWS offers a break in routine for people in nursing homes and children's homes.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many people don't worry about cholesterol until they have a heart attack, but a little concern beforehand often can prevent many problems.
Dietary cholesterol is necessary for the body to function normally, but too high levels of these fats in the blood can be deadly.
Linda Patterson, health education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the imbalance of blood lipids -- fats -- raises the risk of heart disease. Things such as stress, genetics and exercise all affect the amount of blood fat.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When livestock are missing, a little-known Mississippi police agency moves into action with local law enforcement officials to recover the animals.
The Mississippi Agricultural and Livestock Theft Bureau within the Department of Agriculture is responsible for working all agriculture-related crimes. Joey Gonce, center director, said cattle are most frequently reported stolen, but horses, swine, poultry, fish, chemicals, equipment and timber are also stolen.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The state has an abundance of creepy, crawly critters, but exactly which ones and in what numbers are questions the Mississippi Herpetological Atlas wants to answer.
This atlas is seeking to document where reptiles and amphibians are distributed throughout the state. Bird surveys are common, while atlases of reptiles and amphibians -- known as herps -- were not until recently when biologists documented the decline of amphibian numbers.
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Increased production and a new all-time record production value have given the Mississippi forestry industry a reason to celebrate.
As values and production increase, the economic importance of the forestry industry in the state continues to grow.
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Landscapes never look the same after a natural disaster, but steps can be taken to minimize the damages, and some relief may be available at tax time.
Damage to trees includes broken and torn limbs, wounds, split branches, exposed roots and fallen trees. The care given to injured trees depends on the extent of the damage, age of the tree and the time needed for the surrounding soil to reach normal moisture levels.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Holiday cooks may want to shop early while prices and supplies last for locally grown pecans.
"The 1998 crop could be the lowest crop in growers' memories," said Dr. Freddie Rasberry, horticulturist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "The few pecans that were set early on were lost to drought stress and the hurricane."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cattle prices are rebounding after numbers of animals dumped on the market peaked in drought-stricken areas and with the anticipation of another year of fewer calves.
"Early in the year, we had an optimistic outlook for the fed cattle market, which led to feedlots keeping cattle longer than normal waiting for better prices," said Dr. Charlie Forrest, marketing specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Longer-than-normal days on feed led to record-high slaughter weights."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Short of bagging the perfect 10-point buck, hunters can get what they really want for Christmas if gift-buyers follow a few guidelines.
Stores are full of hunting and fishing equipment, clothes, gadgets and games. Some are needed, others useful and fun, but there are some that hunters and fishers sincerely hope don't end up under their Christmas tree.
Dean Stewart, an avid hunter and wildlife specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said hunters and fishers are real particular about the gifts they get.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A large number of Mississippians have hunting on their minds when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, making safety in the woods a major consideration.
Each year, about 301,000 Mississippians over age 16 go hunting, spending a yearly average 22 days in the woods. With a state population of 2.6 million people in 1990 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that means nearly 11.6 percent of Mississippians have hunting licenses.
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With proper selection and care, a beautiful, traditional holiday plant may last long past the holidays.
"Poinsettias have become a tradition, and some new gorgeous varieties will be showing up this year," said Norman Winter, horticulturist at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center.
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Bring nature into the home to create a new look for both traditional and non-traditional decorations this holiday season.
"There are a lot of things that you can do with materials around your home to decorate for the holidays," said Jim DelPrince, assistant professor of floral design at Mississippi State University.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Traditions are a big part of what makes the holidays special, and being thankful and giving back to others less fortunate are holiday traditions many parents want to instill in their children.
Dr. Tom Carskadon, psychology professor at Mississippi State University, said parents can use traditions to help children realize Christmas is a time of giving, removing the emphasis on getting.
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Smiles and shrieks of joy fill the holiday season as gifts are given, but many of those smiles turn upside down when the holiday bills start rolling in.
Dr. Beverly Howell, family economics and management specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said holiday shoppers often get so caught up in buying gifts for the people they care about that they overspend and end up with holiday debts.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Holiday celebrations with the whole family present often become memorable for their conflicts as hosts and guests tangle under the stress of empty time and close quarters.
Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the change in living patterns can place a burden on both hosts and guests. Planning ahead and communicating well are keys to a happy stay.
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When it comes time to pack up the kids, the luggage and the gifts for that trip to Grandma's house, do not forget about family pets and their special needs.
Dr. Richard Hopper, veterinarian with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said that while most pets travel well, there are several things pet owners need to think about before leaving home.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Managing the holiday tug of war between family homes can add enormous stress to a season intended to provide pleasant memories for years to come.
"Deciding where to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the toughest choices many families face during the holiday season," said Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Healthy compromises require honest and considerate communication."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dairyman John McReynolds solemnly watched his Oktibbeha County neighbor's dairy operation go up for auction as what was once called the "Dairy Center of the South" lost another family business.
"What is sadder still is when you've got two sons, and you don't want them to stay on the farm," McReynolds said. "Agriculture used to be a way of life, but it never turned into a way to make a living."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The success of this year's peanut crop depended at harvest on how far away it was from Hurricane Georges, but all areas suffered from drought in the growing season.
Joe Morgan, owner of M&M Farms in Forrest County, said overall yields on his 1,090 acres of peanuts were about the lowest he has ever gotten. His 8-year average yield is 3,334 pounds an acre. This year he averaged 3,013 on irrigated land and less than 2,000 pounds on non-irrigated land.