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Consumer Corner: Watch out for utility scams

Events of the past several months have been challenging for Americans as the world navigates the perils of a global COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, there is an element of society that is preying on those fears, seeking to add another level of pain and suffering to consumers.

Scammers are calling residents or going door-to-door impersonating your utility company, threatening to shut off services, often within the hour or mere days, if they do not receive payment. The scammer insists that they must receive payment and have access to your financial information to keep the lights on, or more importantly, the air conditioner running. We have heard this complaint frequently in recent weeks. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has as well and issued guidance on how to prevent becoming another victim.

Many small businesses have also been suffering due to the effects of COVID. Unfortunately, this also makes them targets for scammers. The scammers know a business owner would rather pay than risk having their utilities turned off and have to close the business. As always, when it comes to folks you do not recognize calling you and asking for money, your best solution is to hang up. If you have questions about the status of your utility bill payments, call the company directly at the phone number printed on your bill.

Furthermore, scammers may claim the COVID-19 crisis has affected the company in addition to customers, and that they cannot currently process check or card payments. Rest assured, this is not how legitimate companies will operate. Don’t pay cash to anyone on the spot without any prior notice from your utility company, even if the person has a uniform or an ID that looks real. Even if the individual seems legitimate, call your utility company to confirm they are authorized to visit your home before making any payment.

You can help stop such scams by alerting your friends, neighbors and family so they can protect themselves. Remember, if you receive a call from a scammer just hang up. Better yet, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer the phone.

More information on how to protect yourself from these and other scams is available on our consumer protection website at or by calling our consumer protection hotline at (800) 432-2310.

Family life - 4-H'er shares winning recipe

Faith Bloom’s chocolate chiffon cake entry was designated the Champion Cake at the 2020 Jackson County Fair. Faith is a Soldier Boosters 4-H Club member and the daughter of Corey and Anissa Bloom. Her other interests include beef, goats, clothing buymanship, modeling, buymanship display, photography, and cooking. Faith enjoys volunteering and hanging out with the other kids during the fair and yearly activities.

A sophomore at Wetmore High School, Faith’s hobbies include volleyball, cheerleading, track, reading, talking on her phone, and hanging out with friends. When preparing this recipe, make sure to use only cake flour and that your eggs are at room temperature.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

7 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup baking cocoa

3/4 cup boiling water

1-3/4 cups cake flour

1-3/4 cups sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar


1/3 cup butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 to 4 tablespoons hot water

Chopped nuts, optional

Let eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a bowl, combine cocoa and water until smooth: cool for 20 minutes. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, oil, and vanilla; add to dry ingredients along with the cocoa mixture. Beat until well blended. In another large bowl and with clean beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold into egg yolk mixture.

Gently spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake on lowest rack at 325°F for 60-65 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert cake onto a serving plate.

For icing, melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat: stir in the confectioners’ sugar, chocolate, vanilla, and water. Drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Yield: 16-20 servings

Crops and soils/horticulture - coming down to the end

Most weather models six to eight weeks ago suggested a warmer than normal summer with below-normal precipitation. For much of northeast Kansas, the temperature part may have been true, but precipitation has come at just the right time. We dodged a disaster if you will.

Still, moisture stress isn’t out of the question. Much of our corn crop is in the blister to dough stage, with 40 plus days to maturity – or a point when moisture is no longer needed by the crop. The requirement for the crop at this point? Seven to ten inches of water is still needed.

Soybeans see a similar requirement. Much of the crop is more than 40 days away from maturity, requiring nine-plus inches of water to finish. Interestingly enough, soybeans, even at the full seed stage (pods contain a green seed filling the cavity in one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem), require three and a half inches of rain to get to maturity. It’s one of the most critical stages of the soybean life cycle and can have huge impacts on yield.

What’s the forecast for the next 45 days? Most models show neutral moisture possibilities (equal chances of above or below normal). What actually happens is anyone’s guess, but few will argue with a good moisture profile in late July. For a more in-depth outlook, check out this article in the last KSU eUpdate at

Iris Division Window Now Open

As one growing season winds down, it’s time to start planning for another. If maintaining a healthy iris crop for 2021 is of interest to you, some work now is in order.

Iris grow quite well here and multiply quickly, requiring division (every three to five years) to help rejuvenate plantings. Failure to do so can result in loss of vigor in the centers of flower clumps and even reduced flowering. Late July through August is the window to do so.

Divide clumps by digging up the entire clump consisting of system of thick rhizomes and smaller feeder roots. Cut the rhizomes apart, leaving each division with a fan of leaves plus a section of the rhizome. The best divisions are made from a double fan consisting of two small rhizomes attached to a larger one, which forms a Y-shaped division. This leaves each of the small rhizome with a fan of leaves and tends to result in more flowers in the first year after planting (single fans take a year to build up strength).

Before replanting, inspect the root system for disease/insects. Some soft rot damage can be physically removed if not severe. The same is true for iris borers. Discard excessively affected root material.

Cut leaves back by two thirds before replanting in to a weed free area. Fertilize according to soil test recommendations or by applying a balanced fertilizer at the rate of one pound of nitrogen plus phosphorous plus potassium per 100 square feet. Fertilizer should be mixed into the soil to a depth of six inches. Avoid over-fertilization of areas previously fertilized.