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Sad pumpkin looking at smashed pumpkin

What can you do with pumpkins after Halloween?

On November 4 several Illinois Extension offices will be offering pumpkin smashes with local partners in communities across the state. A pumpkin smash gives a community an option to turn their spooky Jack-o’-lanterns into compost. In western Illinois, the nearest pumpkin smash will be in Macomb at...
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Bison and America's prairie ecosystem photo of bison eating on shortgrass prairie blue sky in above horizon

Bison and America's prairie ecosystem

This week marks the official beginning of autumn as far as our calendar is concerned but the natural world began the transition toward fall weeks ago. I recently had the pleasure of sharing a part of this transition with my son when I was able to join him on a prairie seed collection activity with...
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bunch of daffodils

Springtime gardening trivia

It seems like everyone is doing trivia these days. To celebrate the coming spring, I am trying my hand at writing some gardening trivia questions. Good luck! Trivia Questions When admiring spring bulbs, a horticulturist exclaims “Look at that Narcissus”, what are they referring to?...
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a thirteen-lined ground squirrel eating a seed

Managing thirteen-lined ground squirrel

Gnawing Rodents and Landscape Shrubs This past spring, I found myself at a friend’s house enjoying some barbeque on the back deck. He remarked on the issue they had with ground squirrels, burrowing all over their yard and landscape beds. Later in the year, a phone call came into the office of a...
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blackcapped chickadee with a caterpillar in it's mouth

Attracting wildlife with native plants

Invite nature into your backyard A parent fed up with their child’s persistent use of technology (internet, video games, tablet, you name it!) has decided to pull the plug on their sedentary habits. They strip the devices from their child’s hands and throw them outside and say “Go play!” The child...
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ruby throat hummingbird feeding from flower

5 ways to attract Hummingbirds to your yard

Every year, hummingbirds travel from their winter homes in Central America and Mexico to North America. Hummingbirds are currently making their trip north with an expected arrival to west-central Illinois around April 10 to 20. Knowing when these birds will arrive can help us prepare for their much...
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Jumping worm

Invasive jumping worm confirmed in west-central Illinois

How full is your invasive species radar? All I can say is my view is overwhelmed. Dealing with the current group of Japanese beetles, emerald ash borer, bush honeysuckle, and so many more. Plus, in Illinois, we are girding for the impending arrival of the very destructive spotted lanternfly. Then a...
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chickadee at a feeder

What’s the best thing to feed the birds?

People love to feed birds. Aside from gardening, it is considered one of the most popular hobbies around the globe. And even some would argue, feeding the birds is a part of gardening. In the winter months, many find joy in watching a flurry of feathered friends, feeding at the feeder. The bird...
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herd of reindeer

Raising Reindeer

You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixon, and of course Rudolph from being a part of Santa’s trusty reindeer herd, but did you know that Santa isn’t the only one that is raising reindeer? It is thought that reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, were first domesticated around 5,000 to 7,...
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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles: Noble bird or thieving scavenger?

As a kid, I remember the bald eagle being rare and revered. At school and on TV we learned the bald eagle was an endangered species. The resounding theme when I was young was that bald eagles were noble hunters, flying skyward and swooping down to grasp fish from an icy lake. In movies bald eagles...
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orange and black monarch butterfly perched on milkweed plant

Mowing for Monarchs

There is something about mowing that is so satisfying. What is it? The smell of cut grass? Taming an unruly landscape? To me, it is measurable progress. It seems so often that modern jobs give few tangible results. So much of our work is in the digital ether. After a full day's work, I leave the...
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The American Robin: Living up to its superhero image

After an exceptionally mild winter, I noted my first robin sighting about three weeks ago, a sure sign of spring. Sipping on my coffee, I watched as wave after wave of robins hopped through the yard, stopping to cock their head, as if listening for worms in the soil below. Scratching and digging...
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Snake Prevention and Management

Ophiophobia: the fear of snakes.  Seeing a snake stops me in my tracks, leaves my heart pounding and scarcely breathing while my eyes are fixed on the reptile. Being someone who has made a living working outside much of my life, snakes are not a rare thing in my day-to-day...
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