Q. I have these little beetles in my house that someone told me were carpet beetles. How do I get rid of them?
A. Carpet beetles are only about 0.1 inch long and are generally black with a few stripes in varying pattern and colors. Food products like grains and flour are a food source for carpet beetles, and should be stored in sealed containers or in the freezer. Vacuuming is the easiest way to eliminate adults or larvae if found.
Q. Last year, I tried to ferment sauerkraut and it didn’t work. Do you have any suggestions for trying again this year?
A. There are two critical factors for successful fermentation: salt concentration and temperature. The salt concentration controls which bacteria will grow and which will not. Getting the level right is critical for a nicely fermented, safe product. Follow a tested recipe, such as from the United States Department of Agriculture, for the salt to cabbage ratio.
The second critical factor in all fermentation is temperature. The ideal temperature is a consistent 70 to 75 degrees during the entire fermentation process. At temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees, kraut will be fully fermented in about three to four weeks; at 60 to 65 degrees, fermentation may take five to six weeks. At temperatures lower than 60 degrees, kraut may not ferment and may rot instead. Above 75 degrees, kraut may become soft. It’s a good idea to use a thermometer to find the ideal spot in your house for the fermentation to take place.
Q. My horses have access to an area where straw was used as a ground cover, but now there are a lot of volunteer plants growing there. Is it safe for my horses to eat these?
A. Most straw is a by-product of cereal grain production. The majority of straw that is baled in the Northwest is wheat straw. However, straw could also be a product of several other grains such as barley, oats, or rye.
Volunteer grain is generally safe for horses to graze on a limited basis while the plants are in the vegetative to early bloom stage. The plants become less palatable as they mature and begin to develop a seed head. Some varieties of cereal grains have beards or long awns on the seed head, making them unpalatable as a forage plant. In drought conditions, many cereal grains may accumulate nitrates, which can be a health threat to horses.
To submit questions, call the WSU Extension office in Kennewick at 509-735-3551.