April 26, 2012

Residents’ online values survey

Pinellas County residents are invited to help set the strategic direction for Pinellas County by taking an online survey. Posted on the county’s website for five days, the survey offers an opportunity for residents to share their views about Pinellas County, the values that they want reflected in their community and their vision for the future.

The brief survey can be taken from 8 a.m. on Monday, April 23, to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 27. Click on the Your Voice Our Future button (top of Pinellas County web page ). 

While the survey is part of this year’s budget outreach, it goes beyond the development of the budget of this fiscal year and builds on the strategic direction sessions in which the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners participated.

"This online survey is about setting a direction for all of us as we continue to redefine the services provided by county government," said County Administrator Bob LaSala, county administrator. "We are encouraging everyone to take a couple of minutes to fill out the survey so that they can be a part of this very important process."

April 25, 2012

Chickens 101

Mary Campbell,
Extension Director
and Urban Sustainability Agent

Don’t miss the new program Chickens 101 
on Saturday, May 19, 
1 pm to 4 pm 
at Pinellas County Extension 
(12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo). Sign up today.

City dwellers are embracing the joys of raising chickens for food and fun. A new program offered at Pinellas County Extension will provide expert information on raising and caring for your backyard chickens. The interest in local food production has blossomed over the last few years with more communities passing local ordinances that allow for backyard chickens. Unincorporated Pinellas County recently passed the ordinance to allow four chickens per resident. As part of the local food movement, raising chickens has many benefits, from fresh eggs to the activity around caring for your mini flock. Chickens are easy to care for and a great learning opportunity for kids. Chickens are friendly and believe it or not, have personality.

A chicken coop in Florida does not need to be expensive or elaborate. An area that is covered by a roof and enclosed with a minimum of two sides for protection from prevailing rain and wind is sufficient. The size of the house should be based on a minimum of three square feet of floor space per bird. The use of fencin helps in confining the birds and provides protection from predators. The top of the enclosure also needs to be covered to prevent flying and climbing predators from entering. Using an enclosed run during the day provides an open area that reduces stress, pecking, and will allow the birds to supplement their diets with a variety of greens and insects.

A chicken tractor is a movable chicken coop lacking a floor which one person can drag about the yard. It may have wheels on one end to make this easier. Chicken tractors allow chickens to find fresh forage such as grass, weeds and bugs as the tractor is moved around the yard. Unlike fixed coops, chicken tractors do not have floors so there is no need to clean them out. The term chicken tractor comes from the chickens performing functions like a tractor: digging and weeding the soil or fertilizing and weeding for crops. Birds have access to fresh air, sunlight, forage and exercise. A chicken tractor also gives some shelter from predators and weather. Hens lay eggs in nest boxes rather than hiding them in foliage. See a demonstration of a chicken tractor at Chickens 101.

Find out how easy and fun backyard chickens can be and sign up for Chickens 101

Basic Guide for the Backyard Chicken Flock: 

Pinellas County Ordinance:

April 20, 2012

April Is Water Conservation Month

Dale Armstrong
Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Coordinator

It may be hard to believe, but the spring dry season is here! And given that central Florida experienced a very warm and dry winter, many of our landscape plants and grasses are already suffering from the reduced rainfall and higher than normal temperatures.

By incorporating some Florida-Friendly Landscaping strategies, you can not only beat the heat and drought, but also help shrink your water bill. April Water Conservation Month brings awareness that by using these strategies in your landscape you'll also do your part to help protect the environment.

Did you know?
  • Landscape sprinkler systems can account for up to 50 to 75 percent of many homes’ water usage during the spring dry season.
  • There are nearly 380 plants, trees, shrubs, flowers and more that are recognized as Florida-friendly. To access the database, and even build an online list for your landscape, visit .
  • You don’t have to do it alone! To get more information about landscaping in central Florida visit:
    AskExtension.Org - to review Frequently Asked Questions or ask your own question of Pinellas County Extension’s horticulture staff.
    Florida-Friendly Landscaping's page and click on ‘Ask an Expert’ in the top-right corner to have your questions answered by Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ staff. 

Community Water-Wise Awards

Tampa Bay Water, its Member Governments and the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program are sponsoring the 14th annual Community Water-Wise Awards. These awards recognize individuals and businesses with water-efficient, aesthetically pleasing landscapes.

If you are interested in learning more about the awards program or would like assistance and information in creating a water-wise landscape, visit, or contact Pinellas County Extension: 
Dale Armstrong
(727) 582-2108

Do you think your landscape is water-wise? Fill out your free application at by June 30, 2012 to find out!

April 16, 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere…

Lara Miller
Natural Resource Agent

If you were to look at a globe, you would see that a large portion of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, more specifically, oceans (Figure 1). Only 3% of all of the Earth’s water is fresh water, of which about 2% is locked up in glaciers and icecaps. The tiny fraction of remaining fresh water sits below our feet as groundwater or flows in and through our rivers and lakes. To make a long and complex story simple, of all the water on Earth, only 1% is usable by humans (Figure 2). If we use water faster than it can be recharged through rainfall, our water resources become depleted.

(Click to enlarge)

What does this mean for us?
We must help to conserve the fresh water resources we’ve got. Humans, plants, and animals need water to survive. As the human population continues to grow, water use will also continue to increase, making water conservation critical.

What can I do to help?There are many ways to conserve water in and around your home. Many of the following tips will not only help conserve water, but will also save money on your water bill.

Outside the Home

Repair and calibrate your irrigation system to reduce water loss.

  • Using and grouping the right plants in the right place can help to reduce the amount of watering required
  • Be a weather watcher-don’t irrigate if it’s going to rain
  • Water early in the morning to prevent rapid evaporation
  • Hand-water when possible to increase water efficiency
  • Mulch to help retain soil moisture
  • Capture rain water with a rain barrel to save water and money!
Connect a shut-off nozzle to your hose to stop the flow of water when needed.

Use a broom and dustpan instead of a hose to clean debris off the patio, sidewalk, and driveway.

Inside the Home

Repair leaky faucets, pipes, and toilet tanks.
  • One easy way to find out if there is a leak somewhere in your home is to read your water meter before and after a one-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak somewhere.
  • To determine if your toilet is leaking, add a few drops of food coloring into the tank of your toilet. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes.
Only run the dishwasher and washer with a full load.

Install a toilet-tank displacement device (Can cut water use by 40%)

Install faucet aerators (Can reduce faucet water use by 50%)

Install low-flow showerheads (Can reduce shower water use by 50%)

Still have questions? Visit to see frequently asked questions from Pinellas County residents.


April 10, 2012

For the Love of Weedon

Mary Campbell,  
Extension Director  
UF/IFAS Pinellas County  

This spring take time to visit beautiful Weedon Island Preserve located in St. Petersburg along Tampa Bay. It has a rich cultural history and over 3,700 acres of natural areas and coastal ecosystems. Almost a quarter million people visit the preserve each year and walk the boardwalks to discover the natural treasures. Several years ago a historical treasure of an ancient canoe was unearthed within the preserve. It will be preserved as a display at the Weedon Island Education Center.

Weedon Island Preserve's rich human history began with prehistoric peoples who thrived on the abundant fish, shellfish, plants, and mammals of the wetlands, islands, and estuaries of Tampa Bay. These people evolved into the Weeden (alternate spelling) Island culture that lasted some 800 years. Their social structure included ceremonial and artistic pottery and modes of burial with associated goods. The colorful history of Weedon Island continued with the arrival of homesteaders, speakeasies, a Hollywood movie studio, and a 1930s airport. Come explore " A Place to Remember" through the publication entitled The Weedon Island Story (2.8M).

What was once a true island during high tides is now a low-lying peninsula surrounded by several small islands. Most of the Preserve is dominated by aquatic and wetland ecosystems that include miles of mosquito ditches dug in the late 1950s. The upland ecosystems comprise the remaining 1,100 acres of relatively flat, dry lands.

Memories abound about the colorful history at Weedon Island. On Saturday, February 11th , many people who have connected with this land attended the event, “For the Love of Weedon,” at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center. You can enjoy the event through videos on YouTube:

Part 1

Part 2

April 2, 2012

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry for Siblings and their Parents

Keri Hannukainen, 4-H Youth Mentor
Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent

Although many siblings end up best friends, that road can be a rocky one with sibling rivalries. Sibling rivalry offers opportunities in youth development by helping children learn to share, be competitive, and manage anger issues. Instances of conflict are an opportunity for parents to express their equal and unconditional love to their children.

Parents should realize that children need to be loved for themselves and their own individual talents. If children feel they are receiving positive attention from their parents, they are less apt to start a conflict. Also remember that children are learning social and communication skills. A child may pick a fight to get attention.

Parents need to step back and let the children resolve their issues. Establishing rules that include no hitting or biting. Teach children to express anger with words. Introduce techniques of problem solving, such as walking away or counting. If you need to step in, ask the children to define the problem and come up with a list of solutions. If you think the children are capable of solving the issue, then don’t intervene. Lastly, don’t let your children fight in front of you. Show confidence they can solve the problem without you involved.

The suggestions below are for the children in the family written by Keri Hannukainen (who has a sister):

If you have brothers or sisters, you know what sibling rivalry is. But do you know why you fight? While some 4-H’ers may be lucky enough to be best friends with their siblings, others are not as fortunate. Sibling rivalry stems from a variety of factors, but in most cases, jealousy is the main cause. So, how can you end all arguments with your siblings and have a happier and less stressful life? Try out the following suggestions and find out!

First, identify why you are fighting. Is it because you are jealous of the amount of attention that a younger sibling receives from your parents? Is it because you feel neglected when your sibling is praised for his or her success in 4-H or sporting competitions? Or is because you are simply bored and wish for your sibling to interact with you?

If you fight because you feel neglected, tell your parents. They should comfort and reassure you that they love you all equally. If you feel unloved because your parents compare you to your siblings, explain to your parents how this makes you feel and ask them to stop. Comparisons between siblings only damage relationships and make someone feel hurt.

If you fight with your siblings because you are bored and want them to play with you, consider another approach. There are healthier ways to engage your siblings. Simply ask them to play with you. You should also consider a hobby if you find yourself bored enough to pick a fight with your siblings.

The desire to fight might also stem from your developing needs. As a child, you have a strong sense of fairness and equality. When you see that your younger sibling is getting more attention or is being treated differently, you may resent your sibling for this. As a teenager, your growing sense of individuality and independence may cause you to resent having to spend time with family members. These different needs may cause you to fight with your siblings.

When you fight with your siblings, do not involve your parents unless the fight is becoming physical. If you involve your parents, you will not learn how to resolve conflicts on your own. In addition, when a parent solves a conflict, they may inadvertently make it appear that one child is always being “protected.” This may further breed resentment among you and your siblings. Furthermore, the “rescued” child may feel like they can get away with more as a result of this intervention.

To resolve your conflict, understand that it takes two people to have an argument. You cannot blame your sibling as the cause for starting the argument. Since you are both responsible, you should both be involved in the process of resolving it. In order to resolve a conflict, you must first identify why you are fighting. Then, list all of the possible solutions and agree on the best option; the best solutions have positive results for both parties. If you cannot resolve your conflict due to your anger, walk away so that you can cool down. Arguments are much more easily solved when neither party is blinded by their anger.

If territorial problems are the source of your arguments, you should create times and places where you can do your own thing without having to share with your siblings. Ask your parents to help you create a schedule where you can play with toys, hang with friends, or even just relax without interference from your siblings. In addition, if you and your siblings have separate rooms, avoid going into each other’s rooms. Your rooms are your zones where you can relax without your siblings and should be kept this way.

If the fight becomes physical, get help from your parents immediately. If you are being hit, bit, scratched, shoved, or even tickled excessively, these are signs of sibling abuse. You must tell your parent about the abuse so that your parent can properly deal with the situation.

Sibling rivalry, while a common occurrence in most households, does not have to damage relationships or create stress. Using these suggestions, you should be able to build your relationships with your siblings, have a more relaxed life, and develop social and anger management skills.

For more information for 4-H’ers or other youth, please click on the link:

For more information for parents, please click on the link: