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November 2018

4-H Extension Corner: Making a Positive Difference

Danny Park found another talent when he tried public speaking. In 2017, he spoke on a topic that he not only loves, but knows quite a bit about: hunting. He was rewarded with first place for his speech on “Responsible Stewardship while Hunting.” In 2018, he won second place with the topic, “Safety in the Woods.” 

by Carolyn Drinkard

Danny Park lives on a hobby farm in Guntersville with his mother, two brothers, horses, dogs and cats. Park’s older and younger brothers enjoy sports, while Danny is an avid outdoorsman, who prefers to fish and hunt. He also loves animals and spends hours training and taking care of his pets, especially Sage, his German shorthair pointer.

Since Danny was home-schooled, his mother, Laura Park, searched for a positive environment where Danny could channel his interests. She checked into 4-H, which had a club just for youth who did not have a club at their school or were home- schooled. It was here that Danny not only found activities that kindled his enthusiasm, but he also uncovered talents and strengths that he never knew he had.

The 4-H agricultural projects involving animals immediately piqued Danny’s interest, because this meant he would be outdoors. His first 4-H activity was the Market Lamb project. After working and training a Suffolk lamb named Bandit, he took fourth place for his efforts.

Next, he participated in the 4-H Chicken Barbeque contest, earning first place honors at the county competition in 2017.

Then came the 4-H Chick Chain. He named his hens Peanut and Butter, and he took first place in the County Round Up 4-H Chicken Que Contest and third and fourth in the Marshall 4-H Chick Chain Show. His hens still live on the Park farm, happily laying eggs each day.

Danny’s favorite activity, however, was the Market Steer project. He explained that he liked larger animals best, especially cows. Walter, one of his cows, was named the Reserve Champion-Alabama 4-H Market Steer. He also won first place in the Marshall County Roundup 4-H Freestyle Showcase for Animal Science.

"I like farm life with the animals," he explained. "It took a lot of my time, but I enjoyed feeding my steers. It’s a lot of responsibility, too, because my animals depend on me."

From the time Danny entered 4-H until now, his mother has noticed a big change in him. He has more direction and focus, because he has found the things that interest him, and he is doing what he loves.

"It’s turned Danny around," stated Laura Park. "4-H has given him a more structured and positive experience with a good group of children and parents. Our 4-H leaders have helped and guided him tremendously."

At first, only the agricultural and animal activities captured Danny’s attention, but after awhile, another 4-H activity challenged him to extend himself even farther. The public speaking project helped Danny uncover a talent that he did not know he had. Along the way, he found the confidence to believe in himself. With hard work and guidance, he found his voice, standing before an audience and speaking with ease and confidence. In 2017, he spoke on a topic that he not only loves, but also knows quite a bit about: hunting. He was rewarded with first place for his speech on "Responsible Stewardship while Hunting." In 2018, he won second place with the topic, "Safety in the Woods."

Kristen Roberson, the Marshall County 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent, stated that Danny is the kind of 4-H member that all agents hope to have at least once in their career.

"Danny has had a tremendous effect on all the members of our staff, along with his peers," stated Roberson. "He makes a positive difference to all those around him, adults and youth alike. I am confident that because of the hard work and dedication Danny has put forth to each and every one of his 4-H projects, he will no doubt make a large impact on the world around him, as he is already doing. We are extremely proud to call Danny a Marshall County 4-H’er."

In a positive, caring 4-H environment, Danny Park received the encouragement and the support to find himself. Now, he plans to go even farther. He is excited about his future and talks about going to Auburn University to study some area of agriculture, something he was not interested in until about two years ago when he found 4-H. Oh, and one more thing: Danny Park has even thought about becoming a 4-H leader, to make a positive difference in someone else’s life!

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

A Mammoth of a Melon

Daniel White sets an Alabama record with his 288-pound giant at the 2018 Pumpkin and Watermelon Weigh-Off.

Originally published by WHNT-TV, Huntsville
A whopper of a watermelon weighed in as the new state champ during a growing competition.

Daniel White set an Alabama record with his 288-pound watermelon that he weighed in at the 2018 Pumpkin and Watermelon Weigh-Off at Bear Wallow Farm in Nancy, Ky.

White grows the melons on his 30-acre farm in Battleground, Ala., near the Cullman-Morgan county line. His record-breaker, named Don, was one of four giant melons he has been working on since April. He also has Harold, which weighed 255 pounds and came in fifth at the weigh-off. Phil is still on the vine and will probably weigh about 230 pounds when he’s done, and Jimmy is still growing.

He named them after the country group, the Statler Brothers. Instead of playing solitaire with a deck of fifty-one, White spends his free time tracking their progress on a size and weight chart.

"It’s easier to keep up with the melons’ daily statistics if they’re named," he said. "Plus, it adds a little fun to it."

White, who also raises cattle on his farm, became fascinated with giant produce as a kid, when his great-aunt and uncle would grow big watermelons for county fairs.

"When you’re a kid, a 100-pound watermelon looks like a pickup truck," he said.

He became curious about what it took to grow them in 2013. He ordered some seeds online from Arkansas and got started growing. As he traveled to different competitions, he would trade seeds with other growers. This season, most of the seeds he planted were his own.
But as you might imagine, there’s more to growing a 288-pound watermelon than planting a seed in the ground and watering it.

"You’re not really competing against each other," White said of the competitions he enters. "You’re competing against Mother Nature more than anything."

The soil is the key to getting started. White prepares the ground by planting something hardy during cold weather season, like mustard greens. In the spring he will till it into the soil, and he’ll get some compost to add to the mix.

White says he starts the seeds in his house in April and then transfers them outside. He pollinates them by hand. Once the vine bears fruit, he looks for the melon that has the size and shape he’s going for.

"You kind of look at certain areas on the plant where you might want it to be," White said. "The shape of the melon – you can kind of tell when they’re small."

Once one is chosen, the other melons get culled from the vine, so all of the vine’s resources are dedicated to one. White may check the vines multiple times a day, walking on boards raised above the vines so nothing gets damaged.

Eventually the bigger watermelons get moved to a rack to prevent them from rotting on the bottom, and they’ll get their own little shade to keep them out of direct sunlight.

White says he spends about two hours a day in the garden during the growing season, which runs through mid-October. It’s a lot of work on top of a full-time job and raising his cattle, and the prize money usually isn’t much. But for him, it’s watching something grow from the size of a pea to a pro wrestler that keeps him going. He’s even started branching out into growing giant cabbages.

"It’s just fascinating to watch the progression of it," he said.

And in case you’re wondering how they taste, White doesn’t eat his because some of the chemicals he uses are approved for shrubs or other crops, but not specifically for watermelons. He says they smell good, but he usually just takes the seeds and leaves the rest for the livestock.

"They’re typically overripe by the time I cut them," he said. "But the cows enjoy them."

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

USDA Considering Relocation Proposals for ERS, NIFA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering proposals from locations around the nation interested in becoming the new home for the agency’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

An initial mid-September deadline was extended to mid-October to give interested parties more time to submit proposals after USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced plans in August to move the ERS and NIFA headquarters outside the Washington area by the end of 2019.

It is possible that ERS and NIFA will be co-located when their new homes are found and a contingent of the agencies will remain in the Washington area, USDA has said. As part of the change, ERS will again be aligned with the Office of the Chief Economist under the Office of the Secretary.

USDA has cited three main reasons for the relocations:

  • Under the plan, no ERS or NIFA employees will be involuntarily separated. Every employee who wants to continue working will have an opportunity to do so, although for most that will mean moving to a new location. Employees will be offered relocation assistance.
  • For those who are interested, USDA is seeking approval from the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget for both voluntary early retirement authority and voluntary separation incentive payments.
  • Perdue also noted that 91 percent of USDA’s approximately 108,000 employees already work outside of the Washington, D.C. region.

Drop Expectedin 2018 Net Farm Income

Net farm income, a broad measure of profits, is forecast to decrease $9.8 billion, or 13 percent, from 2017 to $65.7 billion in 2018, after increasing $13.9 billion (22.5 percent) in 2017.

Net cash farm income is forecast to decrease $12.4 billion (12 percent) to $91.5 billion.
In inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars, net farm income is forecast to decline $11.4 billion (14.8 percent) from 2017 after increasing $13.0 billion (20.3 percent) in 2017. If realized, inflation-adjusted net farm income would be just slightly above its level in 2016, which was its lowest level since 2002.

Inflation-adjusted net cash farm income is forecast to decline $14.6 billion (13.8 percent) from 2017 to $91.5 billion, which would be the lowest real-dollar level since 2009.

Net cash farm income encompasses cash receipts from farming as well as farm-related income, including government payments, minus cash expenses. Net farm income is a more comprehensive measure that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income of operator dwellings.

The 2018 forecasts for U.S. farm sector income and finances – including government payments, net farm income and net cash farm income – do not include payments under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), announced in July, to mitigate the impact of the nation’s trade disputes. (See following report.)

When the income forecast was released, it was too early to tell how many producers would complete the MFP enrollment process and receive a payment in 2018 versus 2019, or how the eligibility criteria would impact the total level of payments issued, which would change calendar-year 2018 farm income totals.

Details Announced on Farm Aid Package

The sign-up period for the federal program aimed at assisting farmers affected by retaliation by foreign nations in ongoing trade disputes will run through Jan. 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at

USDA officially launched a package of programs in September, authorizing up to $12 billion for the effort. Officials said the steps will be consistent with World Trade Organization obligations.

As part of the program, producers of certain commodities can sign up for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), designed to help them meet some of the costs of disrupted markets.

USDA also said it will buy identified commodities under a food purchase and distribution program. Additionally, USDA has begun accepting proposals for the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), designed to help American farmers find and access new markets for their products.

The overall package is considered a short-term relief strategy to protect producers while trade agreements are negotiated, deals that the Trump Administration insists be "free, fair and reciprocal."

"These programs will allow President Trump time to strike long-term trade deals to benefit our entire economy, including the agricultural sector, in the long run," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.

"Farmers will tell you that they would always prefer to sell a good crop at a fair price, rather than receive government aid, and that’s what long-term trade deals will accomplish. But in the meantime, President Trump has promised that he will not allow American agriculture to bear the brunt of the unjustified retaliation from foreign nations," Perdue stated.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will administer the MFP to provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean and wheat producers.

Eligible producers should apply after harvest is complete, as payments will only be issued once production is reported. A payment will be issued on 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for a specific commodity.

A second payment, if warranted, will be determined by the USDA and announced in coming months.

MFP payments are limited to a combined $125,000 for corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat capped per person or legal entity. MFP payments are also limited to a combined $125,000 for dairy and hog producers.

Applicants must have an average adjusted gross income for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016 of less than $900,000 and must comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will administer a food purchase and distribution program to buy up to $1.2 billion in commodities targeted by other nations’ retaliatory actions.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will distribute these commodities through nutrition assistance programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs.

Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), $200 million will be made available to develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products.

USDA says it also is working on how to address market disruptions for producers of almonds and sweet cherries.

Implementing the Produce Rule in Alabama

The cost of complying with the produce rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will add up to a higher percentage of farm sales in Alabama than in most other states, according to a study by USDA’s Economic Research Service.

In an effort to improve food safety by reducing foodborne illnesses, the FSMA empowered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to impose new regulatory requirements on food producers and handlers, to expand requirements for and inspections of food imports, and to issue mandatory recalls of food.

As a result, FDA gained expanded authority to regulate fresh-produce production practices at the farm level. The FSMA produce rule is being implemented in phases beginning this year and will affect farms supplying almost all fresh produce sold in the United States.

The ERS study says Alabama’s projected high cost – 3.67 percent of sales – is because most produce is grown on relatively small farms. Only South Dakota at 3.73 percent and Alaska at 3.82 percent have higher costs as a percentage of sales.

Conversely, states where fresh-produce production is dominated by large farms have relatively low costs of compliance as a share of sales. Examples include Arizona (0.61 percent), Florida (1.31 percent), California (1.32 percent), and Washington (1.38 percent).

Anger Is A Form Of Anger

This vintage meat grinder is my workhorse for prepping burger meat and sausage. Makes a fine ground chicken for stir fry too! I bought this about 40 years ago, and it was old then. I have only had to replace the cutter, and I did that before I mastered sharpening it. 
by Herb T. Farmer

Oh, don’t get upset over the title of the column!

Am I not allowed to be angry just because I write for one of the top magazines in the state? Farmers have feelings too, you know?

Try as I may to be happy, bubbly and pleasant all the time, there are things that go on in the world that make me somewhat angry! And then there are things that go on here on the farm that really get me going! Things that I cause!

I’m not just talking about a broken teacup or dropping a quart Mason jar of canned potatoes.
I am talking about nearly causing a potentially massive wildfire, simply because I did a bone-headed thing that I knew better than to attempt.

Several years ago, I bought a little propane torch that hooks up to a simple twenty-pound grill tank. I bought a "Hot Max 500G Big Max 500,000 BTU Propane Torch" through Amazon. (Respectful nod to Bezos.) That thing sounds like an F4 jet aircraft with afterburners blazing on takeoff! I bought it to control weeds on my parking pads and driveways. It works tremendously, but you have to pay close attention to where the heat and flame are traveling.

A few weeks ago, I used the organic weed cooker on some spots that got out of hand on the parking pad. It was a lovely, warm, 95° afternoon with calm winds. Everything was going so smoothly, I decided to torch back some of the Mondo grass (Ophiopogon sp.) edging the driveway. All was well at that point, so I decided to cook some more weeds that didn’t have a hard surface separating them from the wild-blue-yonder. Still, no problem.

Then, suddenly, the sun began to set; the wind began to pick up and swirl across the pleasantly performed efforts of my late afternoon and before I knew it … I had little brush fires everywhere! Thank goodness for my ample supply of garden hoses, I was able to extinguish every little fire … but one.

Later that evening, when it was cocktail time on the porch, I smelled something like plastic burning. I went back around the areas and made sure that all the fires were out-out! I mean, out!

Still, after an hour or so, I smelled it again. By that time, it was getting on up around 10 p.m. I went back around again to the areas that I torched. And, although I didn’t see any smoke or flames, I felt a 10-gallon nursery pot and it was hot. So, I dumped out the pot onto the concrete pad. The pot was deformed from the heat and the soil mix was smoldering from the bottom of the pot.

Apparently, as I was torching weeds, I mistook my cleverly disguised, painted nursery container for what I intended it to look like: a terra cotta pot.

So, be careful using a torch on your weeding chores. Use common sense and please, please be smart and extra careful.

Please do not be like me. I made a scary mistake that could have been catastrophic.

Thank you, dear readers. I truly appreciate your indulgence with my ramblings/musings.

I am thankful for you.

Let’s eat!

A few weeks ago, I bought some boneless pork shoulders at a great price. The cut of meat is aka Boston Butt. I’ll figure that one out in my afterlife.

Meat doesn’t freeze as well as packagers would like you to think, so I started to look for alternative ways to use cheap pork meat.

Guess what? I found a recipe for sausage! Not only did I find a recipe for country sausage, but also for Italian sausage and sage sausage.

I tested these, and they are not bunk! Like all my culinary creations, these absolutely work! I tweaked the recipes according to my personal taste. Basically, though, these are tasty.
After I made this Italian sausage, I realized that I didn’t have any casings. So, I made some link shapes, weighed each one (4 ounces), and put them in the freezer overnight. The next day they were sealed in zipper freezer bags. Now they can be taken out individually and cooked. 

Italian Sausage

  • 3 lbs ground pork shoulder
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Italian seasoning (I used Tones brand)
For HOT Italian:
Add 4 Tablespoons crushed red pepper

Plain Country or Sage Sausage

  • 4 lbs ground pork shoulder
  • 1 lb ground picnic ham
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
Mix them up and freeze patties or make chubs in 2# bags.
My homemade country sausage passed the skillet test and taste test. It will be extra tasty after the herbs and spices have permeated the ground goodness. I think I’ll have some of that for breakfast tomorrow. 
Enjoy, y’all!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time, remember to watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

Be sure to find me on Facebook at: "Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm"

As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy, or your local ACES office before using any potentially dangerous farm or garden equipment, especially on dry, windy days.

Atop the World

From the bottom of the fire tower looking up, photo from Park Director Jeffrey Todd. 
Climbing the 133 rickety-ladder-like steps to the top, 99 feet and 9 inches away was not the main challenge for me when a classmate and I climbed Blount County’s only fire tower almost 48 years ago, during our senior year in high school.

Even though I’ve always been afraid of heights, I managed to get safely to the top, climb in the small cabin atop, and chat with the man on duty watching for forest fires in our area.

The challenge then (and likely now when I get the courage and the energy to brave it once again) is when I exited the trapdoor from the lookout cabin to the ladder below, it felt at first as if my feet were just dropping into eternity before they reached that first narrow ladder-step!
The "rickety" and the other safety issues have now been addressed with the 2016 to 2018 $76,000 revitalization of Blount’s Sand Mountain Lookout Tower atop Ebell Mountain (but that bravery problem must still be addressed!)

Now visitors to Palisades Park can get a free permit and climb to their hearts’ content any time the park is open (which is any day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day).

"We have just been tickled to death since it opened in July," Park Manager Jefferey Todd explains. "That first month we issued 451 permits for folks to climb it.

"We’ve had folks of all ages climb it. And you can’t beat the view. Palisades Park featured the best view in all of Blount County and now we’ve even topped that with the opening to the public of this fire tower.

"We have one couple who come and climb it every day as part of their exercise routine and just for the pleasure of it!"

Once in the 7 x 7-foot metal cab atop the tower, on clear days you can see some of the tallest of Birmingham’s skyscrapers nearly 40 miles away!

There are plaques inside as well, identifying the other areas that can be seen, including landmarks as well as water towers or tanks in towns such as Snead, Cullman, Holly Pond and Douglas.

Chris Green, Blount County Commission Chairman, said the revitalization and reopening of the tower was a longtime dream of his especially, as well as other county officials, not only as a way of preserving history but as a unique tourism destination.

"We have the prettiest county around and this is just another way of proving it," Green explains. "And this was just another example of our folks working together to bring forward a project that is good for us all."
The info sign at the base of the fire tower. 
A plaque at the base of the tower notes the Blount County Commission; Blount County Economic and Development Council; DAVANNA, LLC; Hornsby Steel, Alabama; Wholesale Stone; the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham; CAWACO RC & D; the Palisades Park Board; and Park Manager Todd all worked together.

Built in 1949, the tower was manned full time until around 1972, and was then manned sporadically until about 1985, according to the Blount Forestry Commission.

Former Oneonta resident Dewey Underwood was full-time tower man from 1959 until his retirement, about the time the tower was retired from full-time service as well.

The base plaque also notes that the tower is an "Aermoter MC-30 heavily galvanized free-standing barter-legged hurricane-proof structure with nine flights, 133 steps, and stands 99 feet, 9 inches tall with a 7 x 7-feet metal cab at the top."

According to the former fire-lookout sites registry on the internet, at one time more than 8000 fire towers were in use in the continental 49 states. They estimate that today fewer than 2000 remain.

The tallest tower in the United States is believed to be the 175-foot one in Alexandria, Louisiana, with the "highest" believed to be the Fairview Peak in Gunnison, Colorado, that sits atop a mountain totaling 13,214 feet, mountain and all!

While the towers and their faithful watchers were once a mainstay against forest and wildfires, especially in our nation’s rural areas, more powerful radios, aircraft, radar and even satellites eventually made many of the towers obsolete.

Some of the wonderful old landmarks have even been sold for scrap, but many, like those forward-thinking officials in Blount, are restoring these integral parts of their communities. In Dunmore, West Virginia, the 55-foot-tall Old Thorny Mountain fire tower in Seneca State Forest has been restored, with the cabin atop now available for rustic overnight stays for $75 per night!
Jan and Deanna Johnson recently enjoyed the climb to the top of Blount’s newly revitalized fire tower. Jan and Deanna have both retired after many years’ service to the city of Oneonta. 
Blount’s 911 Director Caleb Branch noted for this phone interview that he was sitting at his desk in the 911 office in Oneonta, looking directly at the Blount fire tower via fixed cameras on an adjacent communications tower.

"There’s constant security and constant camera attention," Branch explained.

Palisades Park has always been considered Blount County’s often-hidden gem. It grew from dreams of basically four civic- and history-minded residents – Amiliea Porter, Dalton Moss, Mrs. W.R. Sutton, and D.S. Loyd – in the early 1970s to provide a scenic area for hiking and picnicking along the mountain’s 60-70-foot sandstone bluffs.

The park has now grown to include a roofed pavilion, several rustic picnic areas, and three modern lodges for family and club gatherings complete with full kitchens and restrooms, the Quilter’s Cottage, a recently rebuilt playground, a small chapel, and historic buildings such as the Daniel Murphree log cabin, the Blackwood log cabin, and the Old Compton School – and now including the adjacent fire tower!

To reach Palisades Park and the fire tower, traveling U.S. 231 north from Oneonta for about 3 miles (or south from Cleveland about 7.5 miles), turn onto Elbell Road at the Rosa Town Limits, go about 1.5 miles, and turn onto Palisades Parkway and travel about a mile.

From Birmingham, take I-59 north to Tallapoosa Street East (Hwy 79). Take 79 north to Ala 75 in Pinson. Take 75 to Oneonta to its intersection with U.S. 231 and then follow the directions from Oneonta.

For more info and for more directions phone the park at (205)274-0017 or check out the website at

All through December will be the Christmas Lights Extravaganza and there’s just always something to see or simply a swing to relax in.

And the best part?

The park and the fire tower visits are free (with fees only charged if you rent a pavilion or a lodge!).

You may not find this simple woman climbing that tower any time some, but she may be sitting in a nearby swing watching you soar to the top!

Suzy McCray is a freelance writer living on a simple homestead in Blount County. You can reach her on Facebook or by email at

Black Belt Treasures

Alabama artisans find a perfect place in Camden to promote their creations.

Billie Gibbs wears a big smile as she holds a large plate with falling leaves on it at Black Belt Treasures 
The holiday season is underway and artists from throughout Alabama are taking advantage of the timing as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas blend together to attract customers from across the state.

Black Belt Treasures was born on Sept. 23, 2005, and the 13th anniversary has been, believe it or not, a lucky start for artisans who bring their wares to a building near the Wilcox County Courthouse.

Jamie Wallace has watched with pride as artists arrive with their specialty items and sit back to wait for what usually are rave reviews.

Anything new can often be a gamble, but that’s never been the case because it’s been a hit from opening day.

Wallace never considered Black Belt Treasures to be a gamble because he’s been one of Alabama’s leading industrial promoters, especially when it comes to something that can benefit the state.

Located in a former car dealership in downtown Camden, Black Belt Treasures’ main service area lies within a 50-mile radius. Customers often extend it beyond that area.

Wallace points to the uniqueness of what is available inside the building, a nondescript facility that won’t win any architectural prizes. Once visitors begin to look for bargains, however, shoppers realize they are in a special place.

"What’s been accomplished is a business that brings together talented artists from near and far, but not necessarily within the primary coverage area," said Wallace.

Unlike many blue-ribbon businesses, Black Belt Treasures does not focus on clothes.

Everything else seems to be on the plate – from paintings to specialty soap to jugs that can be somewhat frightening to examine at times.

The business is located at 209 Claiborne Street, just around the corner from the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission that covers a 10-county area, one of the poorest in the state.
Betty Anderson holds two small blocks of Gees’s Bend Soap at Black Belt Treasures 
It didn’t just pop up out of a desire to create something new and enticing. Too many of those businesses often go belly up because they lack concentrated studies to make sure success is a given.

John Clyde Riggs directs the regional planning commission and knew that previous studies paid off when patience was an important business ingredient.

"We sent several people into our region and asked them to take an inventory, of sorts, of artistic people," Riggs recalled. "We were thinking of ways to increase tourism capabilities and our plan was a good way to do it."

Those who ventured into states throughout the country had become "talent scouts" who were happy to find unique items to suggest for Black Belt Treasures.

Wallace said it didn’t take long to "discard" ideas that failed to meet specific criteria, especially when "artists" were happy to get anything for their products.

"They had been selling at weekend shows and festivals," he said. "There was no method for them to establish value and, as a result, what they made was greatly undervalued in many cases."

As a result, rules were set down and followed. Wallace demanded that no "junk" be accepted by potential vendors at Black Belt Treasures.

"There was no way that ‘Made in China’ would be accepted on our products," Wallace said. "We had talented people creating works of art and that fact helped make Black Belt Treasures successful."

The result was a place to allow people in nearly 20 central and south Alabama counties to display their artistic wares. "Treasures," of course, was an important part of the name.

New ideas usually need a sponsor, somebody to step in and give it a gentle push to make it successful. Such was the case of Black Belt Treasures.

Her name was Kathryn Tucker Windham, who was born in Selma and became famous as a nationally-known storyteller, author, radio personality and photographer.

Tucker, who died several years ago at the age of 93, knew a good thing when she heard about one and Black Belt Treasures was certainly to her liking. She knew it was a winner and wanted to promote it as much as possible.

She said the quality of crafts at the business was "outstanding," and pointed out that it was much more than just paintings.

"There is everything from wood carvings to handmade soap, from hobby horses to kudzu baskets," said Windham, who was also known to be a gourd fancier.

She made it a point to promote gifted artists and was quickly drawn to the works of Allen Ham, whose handmade stoneware emanated from Alabama’s oldest family folk pottery background.
Artist Allen Ham holds this “ferocious” Face Jug at Black Belt Treasures in Camden 
Credit went to Francis Lacoste, who arrived in Mobile Bay in the early 1800s. His family grew from that point and Ham boasts of being part of six generations of craftsmen.

The history of his family has been documented on film, in books, magazines and newspapers. Ham’s stone creatures can be seen neatly displayed on a table at Black Belt Treasures.

If there is a superstar at the business it’s got to be retired Army colonel John Sheffey, who is considered to be one of the best wood carvers in Alabama.

What Sheffey may have lacked in skills from the start was made up by reading books on wood carving and buying tools needed to create what have become knockout wildlife creations.

His birds are amazing, so detailed and lifelike that customers at Black Belt Treasures think they must have been stuffed and mounted. They are astonished to learn they are Sheffey’s personal creations.

He uses Tupelo gum that he collects from nearby swamps. The texture of the wood he uses accepts a burning process that allows him to carve in both directions.

That’s when he really gets busy, using small hand tools to create the birds. Then he burns in meticulous details of the feathers while working under a magnifying glass.

Once all of that is done, Sheffey applies up to six thin coats of oil paints to slowly build realistic depths of color.

"Phenomenal" is the word often used by visitors who have a hard time realizing the birds aren’t real. They quickly find out the price tags can be just as stunning.

Sheffey’s ducks, owls, cardinals and other feathery friends can cost up to $1,000 or more. Needless to say, most are carefully protected when he sends them off to new homes.

Black Belt Treasures is located at 209 Claiborne St., Camden, Ala. and can be reached at: (334)682-9878.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Cooking on the Wild Side

Corn Time


Defending the Safety of our Meat Supply

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I have always thought Consumer Reports was a pretty good reference if a person was going to buy a new vacuum cleaner, mattress or refrigerator. But then there is the occasional article that makes it to print that I just must roll my eyes and think, "Really?" That is the case that I had with an article that came out Aug. 29, 2018, that appears in the October 2018 issue. The title of the article is, "What’s in Your Meat?" and asks, "Are Banned Drugs in Your Meat?"

If you ask me what the main responsibilities of my job are, I would probably tell you that they are to work from a regulatory standpoint to reduce disease in the animal agriculture community and, to a lesser extent, to make sure that meat from animals produced in Alabama is safe to eat. So, when an article, even though it does not come out and say our meat is unsafe, puts doubt in the mind of the consumer, I get this feeling I need to respond. I do want to emphasize that I do not have my head in the sand and think nothing ever gets into our food supply that is not supposed to be there, but when it comes to a question of safety, I believe our food is the safest ever in the history of mankind.

The Consumer Reports article began by listing some of the drugs found in meat that could potentially have adverse effects on the person consuming them. However, I wish they had said the adverse effects were related to how much is consumed. Our ability to detect violative drugs and chemicals is reported in parts per million – sometimes even parts per billion. I am going to attempt to help you understand what a part per million is. That will be helpful for you to understand as we continue through this article and if you’re ever on "Jeopardy." Take a liter of fluid (a liter is a little less than a quart) and take out a drop, then divide that drop into 200 equal parts. Then take one of those 200 equal parts of the drop and replace it with something else like pure antibiotic. Then, if you put all the parts along with the antibiotic back into the liter of fluid, the antibiotic would be one part per million. That is a little bit of a crude way to look at it, but that gives you the picture of how this stuff is measured.

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), as well as state meat inspection programs, are responsible for testing for violative substances in meat. As I did a little research for this column I went back and looked at the FSIS Directive for testing for violative substances. The Consumer Reports article states that most meat is never tested and when it is, it is only randomly tested. I beg to differ. If you read the 43-page directive that lists all the conditions that automatically trigger residue testing at the slaughterhouse, you will find that they have their bases covered more than adequately.

Also, FSIS publishes a list of drug residue violations on their website so that anyone can see what they are finding. I looked at some of the results for recent months. Almost all violations were from drugs approved for use in food animals and most of the time the violations were levels not much more than the allowable level. The first one listed for the week of Sept. 6, 2018, was the drug ceftiofur. You may know it as Naxcel. The allowable limit for this antibiotic is 0.4 parts per million, less than our 1/200 of a drop in the liter of fluid. The level of the drug found in the kidney was 0.425. I can’t even imagine things that small. The kidney is the organ in the body that would probably have the highest concentration since that is how the body gets rid of that antibiotic. Anyway, when the residue level exceeds the tolerance level, the whole carcass is condemned.

The article also implied that many producers do whatever they can get away with just to make an extra dollar. That sort of aggravated me because I make my living working with producers and poultry companies. I know that cutting expenses and increasing profits are constantly on the minds of those who are trying to feed an ever-increasing population while commodity prices have not kept up with the cost of production. But I have NEVER known producers or companies to make cost-cutting decisions that put public health at risk.

The thing that gets lost in some of this information that is put out for human consumption that would pit animal agriculture against the consumer is that we in animal agriculture are consumers, too. I may not know much about how to repair a computer, but I do know a little about food animal production. I promise you that if I am not afraid to feed my family meat that comes out of the grocery store cooler, it is safe. Maybe I should ignore it, but that kind of stuff sometimes gets my blood pressure up. I am the government and I work with both state and federal government people. We make our living doing everything we can to make sure the food supply is safe and abundant for everyone.

The article did draw an immediate response from USDA-FSIS that severely criticized the "sensational and fear-based infotainment aimed at confusing shoppers with pseudoscience and scare tactics." USDA’s response went on to say, "Consumer Reports admits in their closing paragraph that the real agenda behind this piece is to convince Americans to eat less meat." Some of the information used in the article came from preliminary, unconfirmed reports the FSIS made available through a Freedom of Information Act request. The test results were inaccurate and when they forwarded the correct results, the Consumer Reports author chose to pass around the unconfirmed results as truthful and accurate, but they are not.

For years I have read Consumer Reports in the barber shop while I waited my turn to get my haircut. I always thought of them as a great resource when I needed know the best microwave oven, flat-screen TV or vehicle to buy. One thing is certain. That is not the resource I want informing consumers about meat and food safety. If you want to read the FSIS response, just Google "Food Safety Professionals Ensure that ‘What’s in Your Meat’ is Safe and Wholesome." If you don’t Google, ask a third-grader to help you or give me a call. Now I think I am going to have a bacon cheeseburger with some chicken fingers for dessert.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253

Ear Tag Identification

by Baxter Black, DVM

Good ranch managers often use numbered ear tags to monitor their herd more closely. Clem thought Reg ought to give up and start all over again. They had moved the pairs that were mothered up to the east pasture down the road. Accidentally, calf number R31 had gone with that bunch. His mama had been left behind. In his I.D. number the R stood for red. His mama’s number was also R31 but her tag was yellow. In the record book she was listed as YR31. Her calf was listed as BYR31. There was also a cow in the herd with a red tag numbered 31 (R31 in the book).

Mama YR31 was bawlin’ and missin’ her calf. Reg asked Clem to haul her to the pasture and find her calf. On the way he asked him to pick up a dry cow they’d left in a trap.

When Clem reached the pasture, he had two cows loaded in the 16-foot stock trailer. They were separated by the inside gate. Sure enough a calf came runnin’ toward the trailer. He was black brockle just like the cow. She went to bellerin’. Unfortunately, she was in the front. Clem couldn’t coax her out the side escape hatch. So, somehow he smashed the dry cow between the inside gate and the side of the trailer with a piece of cotton rope. And using one foot and one hand managed to lift the wooden door panel out of the tail gate. Mama YR31 squeezed by and leaped out. She raced to the herd and never even looked at the calf!

Clem closed the trailer up, leaving the dry cow in the rear section. Reg drove up. After finding out that Clem never actually saw the calf suck the cow, he thought they ought to check her to be sure. Out across the pasture they drove to find the cows. Reg was drivin’ and lookin’ for a place to cross the creek.

"Reg," said Clem. "We don’t wanna cross here. I see cattails."

They stuck it when the front bumper hit the opposite bank! Clem escaped out the window and they walked the mile back to his pickup and trailer. Reg got the handy man jack and set it under the tongue.

"Reg," we’re not gonna need the jack. We’ve got a thousand-pound cow in the back section.

Reg jacked it up anyway. When Clem slid the sleeve back on the hitch it came off the ball like a monkey touchin’ a hot plate. The nose of the trailer shot four feet in the air, rolled forward and creased the pickup’s tailgate ... permanently. It still won’t open.

By the time they’d pulled Reg’s truck outta the creek, the cows had circled the pasture, gone out the gate Reg had left open and were headed down the road. It took ‘em an hour to get the cows gathered back in the east pasture. As they were closing the gate they saw a calf with a blue tag that read R31 suckin’ a cow with a red tag 31. And next to her was a cow R31 with a yellow tag nursin’ a big Charolais-cross calf.

They never did get the calf’s number but as Reg said, "That’s alright. We’ll catch’ er in the fall!"

Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television, and also through his books, cds, videos and website,


Farming Basics for Beginners

Alabama Extension offers a variety of resources to help budding farmers.

by Tony Glover

More people than ever are interested in giving farming a try. In the past, people turned to farming family members for help. Today, many interested would-be farmers don’t have that luxury.

To help budding farmers get started, Alabama Extension has stepped up to the plate to help in several ways. Several years ago, I offered a Farmer 101 class that was very well received and now these classes are offered across the state. For instance, Cullman and Morgan County are teaming up after the new year to offer a Beginning Fruit and Vegetable Short Course that will alternate between those two counties. Other locations across the state are also offering various versions of beginning farmer courses. To find out about this and other classes visit:

You will also find many other resources at that website and among them is a new free online course, Farming Basics. This course addresses critical topics in agriculture that beginning farmers need to understand. If you plan to take one of the short courses offered around the state this will be good supplemental material.
Alabama Extension Director Gary Lemme calls the course a groundbreaking digital effort. "Anyone who is considering farming but has little to no experience will reap rewards by completing the course," says Lemme.

Farming Basics’ five chapters feature video presentations and additional resources, which enhance the course’s content depth. A short quiz at the end of each chapter offers participants the opportunity to review and reinforce content concepts. The course takes about two hours to complete. Upon completion, participants receive a certificate.

Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, Farming Basics project leader, says more than 200 people pre-registered for the course before it was even out.

"Farming is challenging for experienced farmers, and it can be overwhelming to people new to it," says Majumdar. "Our goal with Farming Basics is to help new producers develop knowledge and critical skills, enabling them to reduce mistakes and achieve profitability more rapidly."

The course covers farm management and marketing, pesticide safety, food safety, basic crop production and pest management. You can find the course at the link above or go directly to it at:

This course is part of Alabama Extension’s overarching Beginning Farmer program, a collaborative effort of a wide range of institutions, producer organizations and nonprofit agencies. The Alabama Beginning Farmer Program is funded by a grant from the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.

If you are interested in details about the Beginning Fruit and Vegetable Short Course being offered jointly by the Cullman and Morgan County Extension offices, you may contact me at (256)737-9386 or

Tony A. Glover is a County Extension Coordinator in Cullman County.

FFA Sentinel: Creating Student Success Through Community, Chapter and Student Involvement

Cherokee FFA members are committed to making a difference and leaving their mark.

by Sara Vance
Cherokee FFA members and Advisor pictured at the Cherokee Lions Club after members of Different Leadership Events delivered speeches to the Cherokee Lions. 
The FFA Chapter and agriculture classes at Cherokee High School are used to helping their local community with a variety of projects. Whether it be constructing some heavy equipment or landscaping around the school, FFA members are there to serve. They’ve built duck blinds for disabled hunters, constructed playground equipment and even built a life-size Christmas village. Just about anywhere you go in the small town of Cherokee, FFA has probably left their mark there.

The Cherokee FFA Chapter tries to do something for our community each year. So, when Chapter adviser and Ag teacher Mr. Daryl Behel was approached by Colbert County commissioner Charles Hovater with a request, the FFA Chapter of course agreed to help. Hovater asked if the students could build some picnic tables for the county’s Rose Trail Park, located in extreme western Colbert County. The tables previously in the park had deteriorated over the years and were in desperate need of replacing. The FFA and agriculture programs at Cherokee High School were happy to help. The County Commission provided the materials for the project, which was completed by students from ninth through twelfth grade. The students built six picnic tables to be delivered to the park. The first of the tables took a little time to design and construct but after that the students were able to complete a table within a couple of hours. There were 16 students involved in the project. Everyone had a hand in it.
Cherokee FFA members competing in the construction CDE at the Colbert County Ag Day. 
Other than just working on different projects around the community in Cherokee, Alabama, the FFA Chapter also participates in Leadership and Career Development Events throughout the year. Leadership Events consist of prepared public speaking, parliamentary procedure, creed speaking and many more. They also have an event at the Cherokee Lions Club where they can demonstrate what they’ve learned for their competitions to all the Lions Club members, providing another area of community involvement. The Cherokee FFA Chapter has teams that compete at all levels of competition within the LDEs and CDEs. All FFA members at Cherokee are very involved and are passionate about what they do, whether it be a hands-on activity in the Ag shop or at an FFA competition. Chapter adviser and agriculture teacher Daryl Behel says, no matter what activity or events the students are participating in, we are creating student success.

The Cherokee High School FFA Chapter holds its FFA Banquet at the end of every school year. The purpose of having this banquet is to celebrate the accomplishments everyone in the chapter has made that school year. Whether it’s top fruit sales, first place plaque for a county or district competition, or an Ag Class recognition, we celebrate every hard-working member’s achievements. It means so much to the students and their parents to get rewarded for all their dedication to this chapter. The parents, community, and administration get to see that Cherokee’s FFA chapter is full of students that have a bright and promising future. This banquet demonstrates what FFA is all about: leadership, personal growth and career success. Our banquet is a fun time for every member involved and something our members look forward to each year.
Picnic table at Rose Trail Park showing the Cherokee FFA donation plaque 
Daryl Behel and his FFA chapter are an embodiment of everything FFA stands for. FFA helps students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. It stands for leadership, future careers, friendship and so much more. In the Cherokee High School FFA chapter and Ag Programs we are helping the students figure out their career paths by teaching them a range of skills, whether it be the skills they need to build a picnic table, compete in a career-development event, or stand before a crowd and display their speaking skills. They are the largest and most active club at Cherokee High School. Cherokee FFA members are truly dedicated to serving not only their school, but their community. Mr. Behel and his FFA are committed to making a difference and are truly "Living to Serve."

Sara Vance is chapter reporter for Cherokee FFA.

Hay Economics

by Ken Kelley

Just to cover myself, I will say from the beginning to the end of this article that grazing animals make more money than animals eating from a hay ring or feed trough. There is no doubt as to the truth of that statement. The same animals in a knee-deep pasture of healthy forages will look better, breed back better, and cost you less to maintain than the same animals in a pen with range pellets (or a molasses lick or whatever your preference may be) and umpteen bales of hay. I know the arguments about not wanting to plant winter annuals. It’s too expensive. It’s too weather dependent. There are always weeds (particularly turnips) in the seed. There are several reasons for not planting good forages. Unfortunately, none of them (except for the weather issue periodically) will "float" when you look at the research and economics associated with the comparison. But that being said – most folks will need to feed for a couple of months each year, and hay will be their choice of roughage. So, what can we do to reduce the cost of feeding hay?

To start with, really analyze whether you need to grow or buy hay. Most folks have fewer than 50 cows, and with that size operation, if you aren’t providing your own hay AND selling quite a few bales of hay, the fixed cost of owning hay equipment and maintaining a hayfield is very costly. Economy of scale refers to the fact that with all things equal, as you produce more, in this case hay, your fixed costs are lower per unit. There is just a certain amount of production that is needed to spread the cost of equipment over each unit to the point it makes financial sense. If you own $150,000 worth of hay equipment, the fixed costs per ton to bale 100 tons would be somewhere around $108/ton and the fixed cost per ton to bale 600 tons would be somewhere around $18 per ton. That is $54 per bale in fixed costs for the small guy and $9 per bale in fixed cost for the big guy. Those costs DO NOT include fertilizer and other variable costs. So, you can see there is a very real economy of scale that should be considered in the decision to bale or buy. Have I mentioned that grazing animals make more money than animals around a hay ring or feed trough?

The next thing to consider is storing your hay. The ideal situation for most folks would be to buy their hay, and have the supplier hold it in a barn for them until they are ready to feed it. Unfortunately, most suppliers have limited storage space, too, and tend to charge a premium for hay they store for you and deliver when you want it (as they should). So, most folks who buy hay and all folks who bale their own hay end up needing a place to store it. The best-case scenario would be to have a barn or some other type of shelter to protect your hay. The losses will be minimal in that situation … somewhere in that 0-5 percent category. However, what about if you don’t have a barn? Then you must explore your options and look for the best scenario for your situation. Hay doesn’t need to stand in water and it needs to be where it can get air circulation and some sun to dry out after getting wet. Unfortunately, most folks tend to store hay close to their hayfield (around the edges usually) in the places where they aren’t going to cut and bale the next time it’s ready. A lot of times those places are damp or even downright wet and have limited air circulation (pecan tree anyone?). Hay storage waste becomes significant in those situations. Losses of 20-40 percent are not unusual. So, what does that mean? That means that if you are storing your hay in the bottom alongside the hayfield under the pecan trees you will need anywhere from 15-35 percent more hay because you will lose that much. If you need 200 bales of barn-stored hay to feed your momma cows for the winter, you will need around 270 bales of hay when you factor in the waste of storing it outside on the ground. Have I mentioned that grazing animals make more money than animals around a hay ring or feed trough?

The last part of the process is feeding the hay itself. There can be significant loss associated with this part of the process, too. The variation in loss for feeding methods is just as significant as the variation in loss for storage methods as far as waste is concerned. Feeding hay in an enclosed cone feeder usually results in hay losses of 2-5 percent, whereas feeding on the ground with unlimited access over multiple days can result in up to 40 percent waste of hay. So, if you figure somewhere in the middle of that you can assume that by NOT feeding in a hay cone or ring you are costing yourself somewhere close to 22 percent of your hay. Which means, just like in the above example of loss in storage, you will need 22 percent more hay to accomplish the feeding of the herd. Have I mentioned that grazing animals make more money than animals around a hay ring or feed trough?

If you carefully evaluate your hay feeding operation, you might find that some small investments pay large dividends. It has been said that you pay for a hay barn whether you build it or not. I tend to think there is a lot of truth in that statement, because if you stay in the cow business for very long, the losses you accumulate from storing your hay outside on the ground would have more than paid for a nice hay barn. However, I think that if I could take the liberty to tweak that saying just a little, I would say that you are going to pay for a hay barn AND some cone/ring feeders whether you buy them or not. Sometimes doing your homework ahead of time, making smart purchases, and preparing for cattle feeding before you run out of grass will make you money. And finally, have I mentioned that grazing animals make more money than animals around a hay ring or feed trough?

Ken Kelley is a regional farm and agribusiness management agent for Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

How's Your Garden?

Southern sugar maple is a native fall beauty. 
by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Try This Sugar Maple

Vermonters love their sugar maples, and rightly so, but did you know there is a sugar maple native to our area, too? It’s not typically tapped for maple syrup, but it does make a beautiful landscape tree with glorious fall color. In gardens, trees are typically about 30-50 feet tall, but one in Southhampton, Virginia, was just crowned the American Forests Champion at a whopping 126 feet tall! The Southern sugar maple (Acer barbatum) is also called Florida maple, and is one of the few trees that provides fairly decent fall color even in South Alabama. Trees turn yellow to orange before they drop, often with color variation in the same tree, which makes it all the more interesting. It is a nice tree for moist, open lawn areas where there is adequate room for the roots, but it is not a good tree for constricted areas or as a street tree. One place to spot it in the wild is on the banks of Lake Martin. This is a much better choice for our landscapes than a northern sugar maple (Acer sacchrum). Look for it at a nursery that carries or can order native plants.
Pansies and violas continually top the list of good winter flowers. 

Pansies and Violas Differ

When shopping for winter garden color, do you distinguish between a pansy and viola? These close relatives are displayed interchangeably at garden centers, but in the garden each has special strengths. Pansies have larger leaves and flowers, so it takes fewer plants to cover the same space in a flowerbed. Majestic Giants is an old, large variety with a history as a cut flower in little vases that work for short stems. Violas have smaller leaves and more but smaller flowers, making them perfectly suited for containers. A little bit tougher – they often do better through on-and-off cold spells and also last a little longer into the heat next spring. The tiny Johnny Jump Up (aka Good King Henry) is sometimes called a wild pansy because it can reseed and pop up unexpectedly. A charming little plant, it has extremely small flowers often creating a blanket of fall and winter blossoms. Getting this to reseed between stepping stones is a real treat.
Shop clay pots carefully if you are looking for some that will last a long time. 

Clay Pots

This is the time of year when some clay pots meet the end of their life. Water gets into the clay and the pot cracks or flakes as the water freezes. However, pots that are well fired usually last much longer. I have some terra cotta containers stamped "made in Italy" that have served outdoors for more than 10 years. In general, pots imported from Mexico are less resistant to cold. Sometimes you can tell the better-fired pots by their darker color, smoother surface and higher price. However, you can help extend the life of the less expensive containers by waterproofing the inside and outside with several coats of the same type of stone sealer used on floors and countertops.

Strawberry Planting

Strawberries planted in the fall will produce better in spring because they have several months to get established. Now is the best time to get them started. Earliglow, Chandler and Camerosa are popular "June bearers," which is actually a misnomer for us because they usually start bearing long before June.

Ozark Beauty and Quinalt are everbearers, which typically fruit on and off through spring, midsummer and fall. However, they are not as well adapted to our area as the June bearers. June bearing types set their bloom during the cool weather of fall and late winter, so take good care of them after planting! Plant in raised rows to help with drainage; mulch with pine straw, plastic sheeting, or landscape fabric to keep the fruit clean. If slugs are present in the garden, they will find the strawberries. In this case, plastic or fabric is the best choice as it is not quite as attractive to them as organic mulch such as pine straw.

Winter Blooms That Smell Good

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that the garden has to go without fragrance. Several great landscape plants bloom on and off during warm spells in the winter with a wonderful fragrance that will cause you to take notice. Look for Osmanthus types such as tea olive and hybrids types, along with old-fashioned winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima); both of these are large evergreen shrubs. Armand clematis (Clematis armandii) is a vigorous evergreen vine. In South Alabama loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a small tree that might also produce some fruit if the blooms don’t get frosted.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of “The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists” and former garden editor of Southern Living Magazine.

November Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • An inexpensive way to add more organic matter and nutrients to the soil is by planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops on beds that are fallow for the winter. Some varieties offered at most CO-OP stores include Austrian field peas, crimson clover and hairy vetch. They will also slow down the leaching of nutrients caused by winter rains.
  • Plant out spring bedding displays of pansies, violas and primulas.
  • Plant out winter onion sets and garlic cloves.
  • Plant up a terracotta pot of hyacinth bulbs for a simple but stunning display next spring.
  • Sweet peas can be sown outside but they do need some winter protection either under cloches or in a cold greenhouse.
  • This is the absolute last chance to plant most spring bulbs but the best time to plant tulips. If there’s no room in the garden try putting some in containers.
  • This is a good time to move landscape plants that need to be relocated. Get as large a root ball as possible and replant immediately at the same depth.
  • In very sunny windows (six hours of sun a day) grow herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, parsley, thyme and chives.
  • Plant Amaryllis bulbs to bloom for Christmas. Choose a pot that is an inch or two larger than the diameter of the bulb and leave the top half of the bulb exposed above the soil line.
  • Plant paper-white narcissus in at two-week intervals. Grow at least 6 to a pot for maximum bloom effect.
  • This is an excellent time to plant most trees and shrubs. Water well and apply a 3-inch layer of mulch, being careful to pull the mulch a few inches away from the stem.
  • When buying shrubs, don’t forget the interest plants with berries can add to the landscape. Pyracantha, all kinds of hollies, nandina and beautyberry are just a few of the choices available for bright, winter interest.


  • Now is a good time to collect soil samples to test for pH and nutritional levels.
  • Reduce or eliminate fertilizing of houseplants until spring.
  • Dig in a little cottonseed meal around your hellebore (ex. Lenten rose) plants. Also, give them a top dressing of compost or shredded leaves.


  • Cut back the yellowing foliage of herbaceous perennials, and lift and divide overcrowded clumps to maintain their vigor.
  • Make time to give evergreen hedges a final trim before the bad weather sets in, so they look neat and tidy for the winter.
  • Now is the time to prune your apple and pear trees
  • Try taking hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs and fruit.
  • When foliage turns yellow or translucent, cut back hostas to the ground. Refrain, however, from dividing or transplanting at this time; you’ll have better success if you wait until spring.
  • Broken limbs or branches may be pruned now for esthetic purposes, but leave the major pruning of your fruit trees until late winter or very early spring.
  • Cutting back peonies will prevent next spring’s flowers from getting gray mold.
  • Leave the chore of cutting ornamental grasses back until late winter or early spring which will provide extra habitat for birds as well as an extra food source in their seed heads.
  • Cut Chrysanthemum stems to 2-3 inches from the soil once they have begun to die back.


  • Be sure to shut off and drain any outdoor water pipes or irrigation systems that may freeze during cold weather.
  • Disconnect and store rain barrels.
  • Roll up and store garden hoses on a warm, sunny day. It’s hard to get a cold hose to coil into a tight loop.
  • As the winter approaches, take special care to not to over water house plants that remain in active growth. Little and often is the key.
  • Be sure that your lawn and all of your permanent plantings get a good last watering. This will help your plants to be hydrated and healthy as they prepare for the cold and become dormant.


  • Fall tilling the vegetable garden exposes many insect pests to winter cold, reducing their numbers in next year’s garden.
  • Gather up fallen leaves from around the base of rose bushes which suffered from blackspot or rust this summer, to reduce the chance of infection next year.
  • Invest in bird baths and bird feeders this autumn. Birds are gardeners’ friends and will keep pest numbers down.
  • Keep mulches pulled back several inches from the base of fruit trees to help prevent bark injury from hungry mice. In addition, commercial tree guards or protective collars made of hardware cloth will prevent trunk injury.
  • Remove any dried-up fruit from the orchard as well as fruit and leaves from the ground. Taking the time to practice good sanitation will pay off next year in reduced disease and insect problems.
  • It is also a good time to apply the first application of dormant spray to fruit trees (the first of three applications needed between now and about Valentine’s Day, to get the job done while trees are dormant).
  • This is a good time to put out a suet feeder. This will keep birds active in your garden where they will continue patrolling for insects that may be overwintering somewhere in your garden.
  • Check camellias and azaleas for spider mites and treat with insecticidal soap if mites are found.
  • Plants you brought in from outside need to be inspected. Perhaps you missed something in your first inspection. Take quick action if you spot insects to protect all of your other indoor plants.
  • If squirrels are inclined to dig up your tulip bulbs, sprinkle the area with red pepper flakes or just focus on daffodils, which are generally not bothered by pests.
  • If the weather allows, hoe weeds before they take hold. Remember, every weed you eliminate now will be many less to have to deal with in spring.


  • Keep a journal! Fill it with a list of your daily activities, comments and observations along with empty seed packets, plant tags, photographs, magazine articles, scale garden plans on graph paper, wish list, dried blooms, inspiration thoughts, websites you like, recipes, supplier notes, etc.
  • A dilute whitewash made from equal parts interior white latex paint and water applied to the southwest side of young fruit trees will prevent winter sun scald injury.
  • A very easy way to make leaf mold (compost) is to rake up damp leaves, put them in a bin bag with a few air holes and tie the top. By next autumn you should have magically produced a perfect bag of mulch.
  • Before the birds eat them all, cut a few stems of holly with berries for making Christmas garlands. Stand them in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot where our feathered friends can’t take them.
  • Build a cold frame to protect plants from the winter weather.
  • Build a raised bed to take the bending out of vegetable growing.
  • Check fruits and vegetables in storage and promptly remove any showing signs of disease or rotting.
  • Create compost bins for collecting fallen leaves and dead plant material.
  • Crisp edges make a lawn seem tidier and fresher, even on dull winter days.
  • When nighttime temperatures fall to near freezing and below, the lawn will stop growing so it’s worth cutting the edges now as they should stay trim until the end of winter.
  • Clean out the greenhouse thoroughly. Wash the walls, the floor and the staging with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.
  • Install solar lights in the greenhouse so that you can still get out there on dark winter evenings to check your plants.
  • Mulch strawberries for winter with straw. Apply straw loosely, but thick enough to hide plants from view.
  • Kale, collards and turnip greens are even tastier after being exposed to a little frost.
  • Remember to use the herbs still in the garden – parsley, rosemary, sage and chives should still be green.
  • If you’ve purchased gourds this year as decorations, plan to grow them yourself next year. They make great garden projects for children!
  • Before burying beds with mulch, use small bamboo stakes or markers where you’ve planted bulbs or late-starting spring plants in the perennial garden, to avoid disturbing them when you begin spring soil preparation.
  • Cover your compost heap or bin with plastic to keep the heating process being squelched and/or nutrients from being leached out from winter rain.
  • Camellias will soon be coming into bloom. First the sasanqua and later the popular camellia japonica. Select new varieties for a winter planting while in flower.
  • Lightly mulch first-year plantings of irises after a hard freeze. Mature plantings don’t require protection.
  • Mound soil or leaves around the base of hybrid teas and other grafted roses to protect the graft union from freezing.
  • Consider the CO-OP when buying holiday gifts for your favorite gardeners!
  • If soil has settled in raised beds, replenish now with compost, shredded leaves, or a mixture of equal parts aged manure, top soil and compost. Don’t dig the new material in; just leave it on top for further composting over winter.
  • If your annual pots are made of terra cotta (or other material that may freeze and break) it is a good time to clean them out and put them away for winter. Wash the pots out and dip them in a 9-1 bleach solution to kill any hitchhiking critters or diseases.
  • Proper care of hand tools prolongs their lifetime, prevents costly repairs and improves their performance. In fall, remove caked-on soil from shovels, spades, hoes, and rakes with a wire brush or a stiff putty knife. Wash the tools with a strong stream of water, then dry. Sharpen the blades of hoes, shovels and spades. Wipe the metal surfaces with an oily rag or spray with WD-40. Sand rough wooden handles, then wipe with furniture polish or linseed oil to prevent drying and cracking. Hang or store the tools in a dry location.
  • For only a few dollars you can feed an enormous number of birds. Their natural food sources have pretty much dried up by this time of the year. You don’t have to be a bird watcher to enjoy the feeling that you get when you’ve helped out one of God’s creatures.

November to Remember?

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal
sharing of misery.”
~Winston Churchill

by John Howle

What’s going down in the land of the free? NFL players are taking a knee. Socialists are being elected to public office, antifa groups dressed in black wearing masks are destroying public and private property with baseball bats and being praised by some in the media. New York’s unhinged governor, Andrew Cuomo, stated at a gathering of like-minded America-bashers, "America was never that great." This November, I think we should take time to realize just how blessed we are to live in this great country. Even when we hear detached, elected officials in other states and the media talking about the glowing wonders of socialism, communism and a borderless America, the rest of us are left to sift through the "fake news" to get to the truth.

In a nutshell, here’s the truth. The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Harbor in 1620 carrying pilgrims searching for religious freedom. They referred to this land as the "New Jerusalem," full of God’s promises and bountiful blessings. In 1621, the Plymouth Colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is widely accepted to be the first Thanksgiving. In 1863 during the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called for a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. This Thanksgiving, let us truly be thankful for this great land and those who sacrificed so greatly for it, let us pray for our elected officials, and let the wisdom of God intervene across our great land.
Determine your dominant eye so you can shoot with both eyes open. 

Train Your Brain to Keep Both Eyes Open

November is a great time to brush up your shooting skills for the farm. Often, when you are feeding cattle, you might get a shot at a running coyote or get a quick shot at a deer. In either scenario, it’s important to keep both eyes open to get the shot. You can train your brain to shoot with both eyes open by convincing your brain to focus the dominant eye into the sight or scope.

Each of us has a dominant eye. This is known as ocular dominance. Here’s a trick for determining which eye is your dominant eye. Hold your arm extended while making a circular "ok" sign with your thumb and forefinger. With both eyes open, center this circle on a distant object such as a clock on the wall. Close your left eye. If the object stays centered, the right eye is the dominant eye. If the clock is no longer in the center of your circle, your left eye is dominant.

Now that you know which eye is dominant, you can practice shooting with both eyes open by focusing the target with the dominant eye. Why is this important? Three reasons: 1) Keeping both eyes open allows the shooter a much greater field of vision. This is especially helpful if a deer is walking through thick forests and you have to keep the animal in your sights. 2) The second benefit of shooting with both eyes open is getting a shot at moving game. If a coyote is trotting across an open field below your location, two eyes allow you the chance to track the animal through the scope and take the shot with an appropriate lead. If you are taking this shot, follow-through is important so you don’t shoot behind the animal. 3) The final and most important reason to shoot with both eyes open is safety. With a greater field of vision, you are much less likely to unintentionally shoot something outside of your aiming zone. If you are taking a shot at a running coyote with only one eye open in the sight, you might accidentally hit one of your prized heifers or worse.
Exclusion cages allow you to see how much forage is being eaten. 

Exclusion Cages

Exclusion cages are the best way to determine if wildlife is eating your planted forage, and they give you an idea of how much is being eaten. You can simply make a hoop out of dog wire or goat wire and secure it in place with a couple of metal T-posts. You do need to use wire with small-diameter openings so small game such as rabbits can’t get in.

Small exclusion cages are great to use in planted food plots, but if you want to determine the amount of forage larger livestock such as cattle are eating you can make a large exclusion cage with a round bale feeder cage. Simply wrap small diameter wire around the perimeter of the round bale cage and secure it with any small wire.

Silent Stalking

Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk through the woods in complete silence as you stalk your prey? If you walk through the woods in winter, the dry leaves sound like someone crunching bags of Doritos. Use this time of year to hook to the scrape blade and clear your firebreaks of dry leaves and debris. Not only will you prevent out-of-control wildfires, you can create paths for silent stalking down these firebreaks.

Fluid Check

Now’s the time to make sure all fluids are checked or replaced before the chilling winds of winter take place. Add gas stabilizer to your small engines and let them run for a few minutes to bathe the pistons and moving parts with oil before you store for the winter. This is especially important for gas-powered generators. Also, make sure the fluid levels in your farm’s implements are up to the proper level, and make sure the tractor tires have the proper ballast to prevent freezing. Finally, put some antifreeze in your spray tanks and run the antifreeze through the spray handles to prevent freezing and bursting of the components.

This November be thankful to live in this country and even be thankful that we have freedom of speech-no matter how ignorant some of it may sound.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

PALS:Vincent Middle School JROTC Joins PALS

by Jamie Mitchell

Vincent Middle School’s Army JROTC has decided to become a part of the Clean Campus movement! We are so excited to have them onboard with us! Sergeant Major Mary Kyser runs the Army JROTC at Vincent and has encouraged her students to become actively involved in making sure their community and our state is litter-free.

These students also have the support of many community leaders. Shelby County resident Kathy Copeland is working with local businesses to help with their recycling efforts at the school. With strong community support as well as a high level of commitment from the JROTC members, we believe this is going to be one hugely successful Clean Campus group!

I had the opportunity to meet with the group recently and was very impressed with their vision for the program. The student leaders take their jobs very seriously and want to do their part to bring awareness to the general population of the school, too. They plan to make posters and signs to put up around campus encouraging others to be mindful of litter and to recycle when they can. Way to go, Vincent Middle School Army JROTC!!

If your local school is not already a part of the Clean Campus Program, have them check us out online at or give me a call at (334)263-7737 to get connected. The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama Public and Private Schools and strives to create lifelong stewards of our environment through education.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Precious Moments in the Calving Pasture

by Glenn Crumpler

It is 1 o’clock in the morning. There is no man-made sound to be heard, only an occasional lowing or a cough of a heifer somewhere in the calving pasture. In the distant south pasture, I hear a calf bawling and its mama calling out to it to let it know where she is and that she is on her way. I cannot see them, but I hear other heifers close to me stand up from their rest and moan as they stretch to get the blood flowing again. The chill of fall is in the air and there is a gentle breeze, just cool enough to be comfortable in my sweatshirt. There is complete darkness, just enough moonlight to help me see the shape of the heifer that is giving birth to her first calf. We bred her nine months ago, and if all goes well, the calf we have been waiting for is just moments from taking its first breath.

It has been over an hour and a half now, and I am getting anxious, restless and a little sleepy after a long day and now into the second day without sleep. What will it be, a bull or a heifer? Will it be twins again like the cow that calved yesterday? Is it positioned correctly and is she making progress in the delivery? Occasionally, I turn on my flashlight and give her a quick look to see if I can get a glimpse of the front hoofs, letting me know that a leg is not turned back and that the calf is not breech.

As I impatiently wait, I look upward and am completely awestruck by the beauty of thousands of stars that fill the sky. Some large, some small, some bright, some dim, some that are in obvious formations and others that just seem to be there just to be beautiful. I live out in the country where the stars are almost always visible, but I seldom take time to be still, to get away from the artificial lights and other distractions, and just gaze at them. The stars are visible in all their beauty most every night, but most of the time I forget that they are there.

As I gaze at the magnificence of the heavens, enjoy the coolness of the coming fall season, and anticipate the birth of the new calf, I am reminded of how great our creator God must be. Psalm 19 says: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into the earth, their words into the ends of the world." Every person in the world has just to look at creation to know that God exists. Creation itself speaks to our being and tells us that God exists. Perhaps that is why there has never been a culture or a tribe recorded in history that did not worship some god or know that there is a power greater than themselves that is worthy of their worship and praise! Our responsibility as Christians is to tell them who this Higher Power is and how they can know Him through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.

As I continue to wait, I think about how miraculous the conception, development, calving process and maternal instincts really are. What a magnificent God He must be to just speak all this into existence and it all work just as He decided. The Angus heifer will give birth to an Angus calf. It will be black just like its parents, and it will have all the characteristics that make a cow distinct from all the other species. Within minutes it will have the desire and the instinct to stand up on its own clumsy legs and will begin rooting and hunching on the underside of its dam. In just a few more minutes, it will find the teat and feed on the valuable colostrum that will satisfy its hunger and provide it with the required antibodies, minerals and immunities that it needs to survive. Somehow the calf knows that to find the teat, the top side of its nose has to be touching the underside of its mother.

The heifer, having never been a mother before, will immediately get up after giving birth, spin around to where the new calf lies trying to take its first breath. She will vigorously lick the calf to clean it up, to encourage it to breathe and to get the blood circulating to all the limbs and organs. She will lick in an upward motion as if to encourage the calf to stand. She will softly moo to the calf, showing her affection and bonding with the calf with her voice, just as we talk, sing or hum to our own babies. As a result, the calf will always know her voice from all the other mamas in the herd. As she tends to the needs of her new baby, she automatically becomes its protector. She will not run away when threats approach her baby but will stand her ground and risk her own life to protect it.

As the calf begins to try to nurse, it will almost inevitably try to find dinner between its mama’s front legs. The cow will position herself or position the calf to the proper location to her rear. As soon as the calf gets its mouth near the teats, the mama will begin to lick the calf’s backside, somehow signaling that the calf needs to stay where it is. It is indeed a miraculous process that could only be designed by an all-knowing Creator.
As I marvel at God’s creation in the birth of a calf and the heavens, I see His love, His goodness, His power and His greatness. I feel complete peace, joy and hope in knowing that the same God who created and set all these stars in place, also created me, cares for me, has a specific plan for my life, knows everything about me – even the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30). "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor." (Psalm 8:3-5)

As insignificant as we may feel in light of all His creation, He chooses to love us and have an intimate relationship with us. His love is not a casual love, but is unconditional, undeserved and unending. God loves us so much that He gave His life for us through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. How can we not love Him?

Take time to look up and look around. As you see God’s handiwork, worship Him, thank Him and allow Him to be the Lord of your life. He made it all for your benefit and to point you and draw you to Himself.

Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 334-333-4400 (mobile) or

Preparing a Safe Thanksgiving Meal

As families gather for Thanksgiving, it is also especially important not to forget food safety basics when preparing the holiday meal, reminds Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. "Whether the Thanksgiving meal centers around a turkey, ham, roast or some other dish, I want Americans to make sure that foodborne illness is not an invited guest."

"By following four basic food safety practices, everyone can reduce the risk of foodborne illness," advises Bessie Berry, director of USDA’s Meat and Poultry hotline. "Keep hands and all food preparation surfaces clean, don’t cross-contaminate foodborne bacteria from one food to another, cook to proper temperatures, and refrigerate perishable foods quickly after eating." These tips are part of the "Fight BAC!™" food safety education program to help reduce the incidence of foodborne illness.

USDA offers the following "turkey basics" to help reduce foodborne illness.

Storing the turkey ... Avoid cross-contamination

Whether you purchase a fresh or frozen turkey is a matter of personal preference. Buy a fresh turkey no more than two days ahead of the big meal and make sure you have adequate storage space in the refrigerator. If a frozen turkey is the choice, you can safely defrost it in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for every 5 pounds. Check that the original bag is not broken, to prevent raw juices from coming in contact with other foods. Also, the turkey can be thawed in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook immediately. Never defrost on the kitchen counter.

Safe cooking

For safety and doneness, the internal temperature of the turkey must reach 180° in the thigh. Set the oven temperature to 325°. Use a meat thermometer to be sure the correct internal temperature is reached and to prevent overcooking. A meat thermometer should be used even in turkeys that have "pop-up" temperature indicators to ensure a safe temperature of 180°.

To stuff or not to stuff

The safest way to cook the stuffing is separate from the turkey. But whether the stuffing is cooked inside or outside of the turkey, it must reach an internal temperature of 165°. If the turkey is stuffed, mix ingredients just before filling the cavity. Stuff loosely to help ensure safe, even cooking. Remember, the turkey must reach 180°, while the stuffing must cook to at least 165°.

Safe handling of leftovers

Cut leftover turkey into small pieces, or slice. Refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers within two hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within three to four days, and gravy within 1 to two days. Gravy should be reheated to a boil and leftovers, if heated, should be thoroughly reheated to 165°.

For more information

For more information, you can reach USDA’s Meat and Poultry hotline toll-free at: 1-800-535-4555, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time. It also will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day. Timely recorded food safety information can also be heard at the same toll-free number 24 hours a day. The toll-free TTY number is 1-800-256-7072. Additional food safety information is available on the web at For other Food Safety questions please contact your local County Extension Office or call Angela Treadaway, Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation/Preparation, at 205-410-3696.

Pulling the Wool Over a Whitetail’s Nose

Three Sensible Scent Setups

by Todd Amenrud
Whitetails all have different personalities (for lack of a better word). One buck may do a back-flip and bolt away from a smell and the next buck might come in a few minutes later and do a lip-curl for five minutes, relishing the aroma. (Photo credit: Paul Tessier) 
As many of you know, I love the challenge of using scent to try and fool a whitetail’s sense of smell … especially if they’re mature bucks. I’ve had phenomenal luck using scent for whitetails, and following are three proven tactics that are my favorites.

Train the Buck to Show up When You Are There

"Mock Scrapes" could be an entire article series itself. There are so many variables, but timing and location are two of the most important. While mock scrapes can draw a response as soon as bucks lose their velvet in early September, I see better results from late September through the first week in November, and then again after the main surge of breeding has finished and through the end of the season. When the bucks are actively chasing and breeding, mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic.

Location is also a key. You can’t just use any tree with an overhanging branch and expect success. Concentrate on areas closer to bedding areas where you would naturally have a better chance at seeing a buck during legal light.

You want to target an area that a buck is claiming as his; then move in and make it look and smell like there’s a rival buck invading his turf. Look for areas with the largest scrapes, spots that contain numerous scrapes or clusters of scrapes, and scrapes that you know have been freshened again and again. Once you locate an area with activity, try to duplicate the variables the local bucks prefer.

While bucks can make a scrape without one, 99.9 percent of the time an overhanging branch, most often referred to as a "licking branch," is necessary to induce scrape activity. They interact with the licking branch by chewing on and/or licking it and scent marking it with their forehead and preorbital glands. Most scrapes are made underneath these licking branches, which are usually about five and a half feet off the ground.

The actual ground scrape is made by the buck pawing the ground and whisking the leaves and dirt away. Then, the majority of the time he will urinate down his hocks and over his tarsal glands into it. The order of these steps may vary from one buck to another, but most often they will occur in exactly this order.

Remember, the purpose of the mock scrape(s) isn’t necessarily to get the bucks to interact directly with the set; it’s to get them to show up during legal light and spend more time in the area. The best results I’ve had come from making a series of mock scrapes and using Magnum Scrape Drippers over them – my own fake "scrape line," so to say. Magnum Scrape Drippers are heat-activated so they drip during daylight hours, conditioning bucks to show up during legal shooting light and stay in the area longer.

The new Super Charged Scrape Dripper has a higher output than the Magnum Dripper to replicate more deer traffic. The Super Charged Dripper will operate for about seven to 12 days on four ounces of scent, where a regular Magnum Dripper will put out that same four ounces in about two to three weeks. In my view, both have their place.

You can use a buck’s existing scrape(s) – in the whitetails’ world the same scrape may be utilized by many different bucks. However, more often than not I’ll make my own, trying to copy the specifics found with existing scrapes in the area.

The actual mock scrape is best created with a sturdy stick found in the area. Try to make the scrape on flat ground (if possible) and make sure it is free from all debris.

I prefer to use several drippers, each on their own scrape, and possibly vary the scent in each. I believe with more than one mock scrape you’re increasing the chances that something’s going to be right with at least one of them that will draw a response. I’ve used as many as six drippers and created over a dozen mock scrapes in an area about the size of an acre. My three favorite scents are Active Scrape, Golden Scrape or Trail’s End #307 used in the dripper.
The easiest scent setup to create is likely a simple wick, where you place the lure crosswind from you in an effort to lure in whitetails from downwind of it. This buck seems to love the smell emanating from the Key-Wick above. (Photo credit: Wildlife Research Center) 

The Path to Success

While I enjoy making all kinds of scent setups, I would have to say that "a simple scent trail" has proven to be the most successful over the years. A Pro-Drag is the best tool that I have found to create a scent trail with, because it holds a lot of scent and it’s easy to control. You can use any type of liquid scent when making a trail; it doesn’t have to be a "deer smell," you are all right to use food lures or curiosity scents, too. The Pro-Drag makes it easy to attach the drag line to a branch and drag the trail off the exact path my feet are taking. Obviously in thick brush this will be difficult, but wherever possible I believe it leaves the most faultless trail possible for a buck to follow.

This type of drag also leaves the scent in contact with the ground almost continuously. It leaves a much easier trail for the buck to follow than boot pads. Boot pads are still a good way to leave a trail, but with each step you take the scent away from ground contact. With the Pro-Drag the scent is in contact with the ground most of the time so the buck can put his nose to the ground and "go to town." It’s also easy to control over fences or through wet areas.

The type of scent you use may have an influence over the type of trail, the distance you leave it and the tools you use. When using "deer smells" like an estrus lure or buck urine, I will often leave long trails – sometimes close to ¾ of a mile or more. In fact, I’ve been known to drag trails right off my all-terrain vehicle down a logging road – with success. Whitetails travel and/or cross these roads all the time, so it would be a natural route and bucks will often put on 10 miles or more during a day in search of hot does. I’ve had long estrus trails work well during the rut. They can also work well for curiosity-type lures and even food smells, but those scent trails I tend to make shorter – I guess they could be just as long, I just have never needed to. When making long trails, stop to reapply the scent from time to time to create an easy-to-follow trail for your buck.
This buck was drawn into a simple scent wick placed out crosswind of the author, and literally had his nose within a few inches of the lure-soaked wick when his arrow was loosed.


Keep it Simple

A simple wick setup is designed to lure in deer from downwind. This is the easiest scent tactic that I know. Place out lure-soaked wicks crosswind from your position at your maximum confident shooting range. Maximum range is important because we want the smell to draw in the deer before they get directly downwind of you.

This setup can be created by using felt wicks like Pro-Wick, Quik-Wiks, Key-Wick or even one of the heated scent dispensers on the market. This is also a great tactic to get your buck to stop in a shooting lane. I’ve arrowed mature bucks that have literally had their nose touching a lure-soaked wick.

I’ve heard naysayers comment that scent only works on younger bucks or does and fawns. I couldn’t disagree more. Every animal is unique and has a different personality. One buck may do a back-flip and bolt away from a smell, where the next buck may sit there for five minutes doing a lip-curl, relishing the same set.

It doesn’t matter what type of scent you use or how you set it up, if there are unnatural odors, or more so, "danger smells" present, all your work will go for naught. Keep your set-up free of foreign scent (the use of rubber gloves and Scent Killer Gold help dearly).

A hunter should use all other information in conjunction with your scent setups. Know where the does are bedding, what the preferred food sources are, where your target buck is bedding, and where he may have other scrape areas. Consider it all collectively before making your setup.

Todd Amenrud is the director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.

Service With a Smile

Jesse Hood loves his work and is a customer favorite at Central Farmers Cooperative in Faunsdale.

by Carolyn Drinkard
Jesse Hood went to work here in 1985 when this business was Tri-County Farm Center. After a while, the business merged with the Central Alabama Cooperative. Hood has been here through all these years. 
In 1985, Jesse Hood started working at the Tri-County Farm Center in Faunsdale, Alabama. Hood would later see the business change two more times: first to Big B and then to the Central Farmers Cooperative. Through it all, Hood remained. Now after 33 years, he’s still there, helping his customers in any way he can.

The Central Farmers CO-OP in Faunsdale is known for its customer-friendly service, and longtime customers will quickly tell you that Jesse Hood is one of the main reasons. For Hood, customer service means just what it says: service! However, Hood adds two more important ingredients: a big heart and an even bigger smile!

Jesse Hood takes great pleasure in his loyal service with a smile. Another thing he prides himself on is the clean, neat warehouse he keeps. Here, bags of feed, fertilizer and seed are neatly stacked and organized, something that his customers appreciate. Many say finding what they need is much easier, because Hood works to keep everything customer-ready. Hood leaves floor space, so visitors can move easily among the stacks. He also keeps the floor area free of spills, dirt or debris.

Many times, customers come into the warehouse just to sit and talk. "My customers come to my warehouse a lot," he said. "I don’t want them coming into a dirty place. It’s like they’re coming to my house. It doesn’t matter what I have to do in the yard, I make sure my warehouse is clean."

Hood’s yard is just as neat and clean as his warehouse, with stacks of posts, fencing, animal feeding equipment, scales and much more. Every area is well organized and accessible. This helps Hood, as well as his customers, find things easily.

"My parents were always clean people," he explained. "They taught me the same way. I was always a neat person, because they expected that of me."
Hood takes on many duties at the CO-OP. If he sees that something needs to be done, he steps up to do it. When customers back up to the dock, Hood knows that they want their bags placed neatly in their trucks, so that they can unload them easily at home. Most important, they do not want the bags damaged in any way. Often, Hood loads an order and then drives the truck around to the front of the business, so that it’s ready for the customers when they finish their indoor business. One customer called this "valet parking with a smile at the CO-OP"!

Mike Eubanks is a longtime CO-OP customer, who runs a cattle farm southeast of Faunsdale. Eubanks has been coming to this CO-OP since it opened.

"Jesse gives you service you don’t expect," said Eubanks. "It’s a pleasure to go there. He’s always cheerful and in a good mood. He’s a hard worker and a good guy!"

Fleet Monroe, another customer who also owns a cattle business outside of Faunsdale, traded here before the business became a CO-OP.

"I’ve known Jesse for a long time. He’s honest; he works hard; and he knows that CO-OP backward and forward. I tell everybody that if Jesse left that CO-OP would close!"

Hood laughed and explained it this way:" If you love what you do, you’ll be happy!"

Since the CO-OP sells both bulk and bag feed, farmers and ranchers come with larger trailers and purchase tons of feed at one time. This is when Hood relies on his trusty tow motor to pick up the heavy pallets. All during the day, Hood can be seen moving feed pallets around and checking to make sure he has what his customers need.
Jesse loads fertilizer for Mark Clemmer of Laneville. Clemmer builds ponds and often gets his supplies at the CO-OP. 
The Central Alabama CO-OP also sells all kinds of fertilizers. Traditional bag fertilizers are available, as well as bulk orders.

"I blend all the bulk fertilizer," he stated. "I try to make sure all my customers are happy and satisfied. I always talk to them to be sure I’ve done what they needed. I try to treat all my customers nice, and they are always nice to me and tell me I do a good job. "

Hood is accustomed to working in the heat and cold because he has been doing it most of his life. He said he likes to be outdoors. He hopes to keep working as long as he is in good health.
"I love to work," he said. "It’s all I ever did."

Hood came from a family of hard workers. He had 12 brothers and sisters who were all very close. "My parents took care of all of us. They worked hard, and when I saw how hard they worked, I wanted to work hard for my family."

Hood said another reason he loves his job is that he works with such good people. He praised Tim Woods, who is the general manager of the CO-OPs in Selma, Demopolis and Faunsdale. Hood said Woods was a good person to work with. Bryan Monk has been the location manager of the Faunsdale CO-OP for the past five years. Hood said Monk had been like a brother to him, helping him in any way he could. He also praised Priscilla Johnson, who has been with the Faunsdale CO-OP for 14 years. Hood said it was a pleasure to work here because the three are like family.
Jesse and Cynthia Hood lived in Faunsdale and raised their children there. Three years ago, they moved to Demopolis. Jesse drives back to the CO-OP each day. 
Jesse Hood has seen many changes through the years, both in the business and in the kinds of customers that now trade at the CO-OP.

"We have more farmers now," he stated. "Over the years, I have seen different kinds of farmers coming in, and our business has really picked up."

Hood quickly explained that "farmers" once meant just those who planted row crops. Today, farming is much more specialized. For example, catfish farming is huge in this area, and many of these farmers are customers at the CO-OP. Hood also sees more corn, wheat, cotton and soybean farmers, all planting on a larger scale than in the ‘80s. In addition, the CO-OP serves more cattle, horse, sheep and goat farmers, who come for feed and other supplies.

"I help farmers get what they need to grow food for everybody," he said proudly. "Without a farmer, we wouldn’t have food. "

Hood lived in Faunsdale, and raised his four children there, until three years ago, when he and his wife, Cynthia, moved to Demopolis. He graduated from A.L. Johnson High School in Thomaston. He drives from Demopolis each day, but he said he doesn’t mind the distance. He could not imagine working anywhere else.

Jesse Hood’s entire life has been steeped in faith. He is a member of the Praise and Worship Church, in Greensboro, where he plays the keyboard and serves as the church treasurer. He is often asked to speak at different churches, and many tell him his words are anointed.

For Jesse Hood, living a simple life is living a happy life. Faith, family and friendships, cradled by hard work and humility, are the guiding principles of his life. Not only does he help everyone, but he also makes each customer feel special.

In fact, Jesse Hood’s big smile has become the signature for good service at the Central Alabama CO-OP in Faunsdale, something every customer appreciates.

"I’ve seen ‘em come and I’ve seen ‘em go," he laughed, "but I’m still here."

And most important, he’s still smiling!

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

Seven Easy Tips for Cooking With Pumpkin

by Shirley Camp

Right now, the pumpkins and winter squash are ripe and ready. Pumpkin and winter squash are a rich source of vitamin A as well as fiber. Other nutrients you get from pumpkin include potassium, folic acid, copper, iron and riboflavin. One cup of cooked solidly packed pumpkin/squash has only about 80 calories!

While it is much easier to use canned pumpkin, you can use fresh pumpkin and squash that you have cooked and pureed for your favorite recipes. There are several varieties of winter squash available, including butternut, Hubbard, turban, buttercup, acorn, banana, mammoth, sweet dumpling and pumpkin.

Follow these tips for easy and safe pumpkin cooking:

  • Choose pumpkin or squash that has a bright-colored skin, is firm and heavy for its size, with no damaged areas. Smaller pumpkins/squash may produce better products.
  • To use, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place it cut side down in a baking dish and bake in a moderate (350 degree) oven until the pulp is soft. Let it cool slightly and then scoop the flesh out of the shell. You can puree it in a blender or food processor to make a smoother product and it is ready for pies, pumpkin bread, cookies or other products made with pumpkin puree.
  • To freeze pumpkin, first rinse the outer rind with cold water. Then cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker or in an oven. Remove pulp from rind and mash. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, label container and freeze. Freeze in quantities that can be used at one time, for example, enough for one or two pumpkin pies.
  • Thaw pumpkin and squash in the refrigerator - not on the counter - before using.
  • To can pumpkin, you must can the pumpkin in chunks. Wash the pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch slices and peel, then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Add the cubes to a saucepan of boiling water and boil for two minutes; do not mash or puree. Pack the hot cubes into hot jars leaving 1-inch of headspace. Fill the jar to within 1-inch of the top with boiling hot cooking liquid. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure – 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
  • When you are ready to use the pumpkin, drain off most of the liquid and mash or puree and use as you would commercially canned pumpkin.
  • Check stored pumpkins occasionally and discard any that become soft or moldy.

Shirley Camp is a retired University of Illinois Extension educator.

Southern Translation

: "Ole Burl had been waiting for the first hard freeze to go coon huntin' but got to feelin' under the weather just before the other fellars fetched him to head to the woods. "

How can a person be "under the weather"?

Under the weather means feeling sick; ill. It can also mean that a person is feeling sad or depressed.

This phrase possibly has nautical or seafaring origins. In the old days, when a sailor was feeling seasick, "he was sent down below to help his recovery, under the deck and away from the weather."

According to another source, a book called Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions, by Bill Beavis (Author) and Micahel Howorth (Author), it says the following regarding this phrase: "To feel ill. Originally it meant to feel seasick or to be adversely affected by bad weather." It goes on to say: "The term is correctly ‘under the weather bow’ which is a gloomy prospect; the weather bow is the side upon which all the rotten weather is blowing."

Spanish Moss

by Nadine Johnson

Montrose is a lovely area on Mobile Bay. This very old "community" was established long ago. Before a four-lane route was established, Montrose was on the main route from Spanish Fort to Fairhope. Today it is considered "The Scenic Route." I often travel this route. In so doing, I’m traveling under a canopy of old live oaks, many of which are adorned with Spanish moss.

On a recent trip through the area I took special notice of the well-maintained natural growth. Some of the growth which caught my eye was yellow dock, smilax, goldenrod, broom sage, wild scuppernongs (I call these "bullaces"), ragweed and others.

Many stories to be told there, but this story is about Spanish moss. This truly southern plant is draping from many trees like icicles on a Christmas tree. It seems to be partial to some host trees. It does no harm to the tree. Since this plant grows in Pike County, I have seen it all my life and enjoyed its beauty. When people visit in its growing area they are usually curious about the unusual plant. A young relative of my husband, who lives in a northern state, once made a trip to the south. He later called and asked, "What is that pretty gray stuff which is hanging from so many trees?"

Spanish moss must have proper humidity to exist. Once on a tour I was told that it grows no farther north than Wetumpka, Alabama. According to the graph provided by "North American Wildlife" (a Readers Digest publication), it grows a good bit farther north and inland to the Mississippi river.

It’s very interesting to see a tree in a wooded area which is literally covered with moss. That’s one tree covered and others completely bare of moss. Moss seems to pick its host tree. It does no harm to the host tree since it has no roots. It gains all nutrients as well as moisture from the atmosphere. Dust is a very good example.

There was a time when Spanish moss was gathered for use as stuffing in automobiles. (I think my Uncle Dallas’ old Model A Ford’s seats were stuffed with moss.) Also, for furniture and mattresses. Sometimes today it is still used as packing or stuffing. I have seen it used as mulch in flower beds.

Today its primary use is for crafts and flower arrangements.

If you are ever in the area, take the scenic route through the lovely area called Montrose.

While moss is using trees as a host, red bugs (chiggers) are using Spanish moss as a host. As a country child of the Depression era I am very familiar with these tiny pests. When berry picking etc. I would become covered with the little imps. Following a good Octagon Soap bath Mother would touch each itchy, red whelp with kerosene. This would kill the red bugs and heal its sting. This treatment never hurt me but today it would be considered a big NO-NO. Before electricity was available to homes kerosene was always on hand for lamp lights. That’s a thing of the past also.

Once I met a lady who told me she placed Spanish moss in a bottle of rubbing alcohol to for a very good liniment.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 251-644-5473, or by email at

Stimu-lyx® High Mag Fescue Relief With TASCO®

by John Sims

Stimu-lyx® High Mag Fescue Relief with TASCO® has many benefits greater than other cooked tubs.

  • Contains TASCO® -Derived from Ascophyllum nodosum marine plants
  • Helps cattle cope with heat stress and fescue toxicity by lowering core body temperature and respiration rate.
  • Supports conception rates in summer heat and fescue areas
  • Maintains organic matter digestibility for body condition
  • Aids in healthy hair coats
  • Potent prebiotic activity helps improve gastro-intestinal health and improves immune function
  • Extreme levels of minerals and vitamins for amazing reproductive efficiency
  • High magnesium formula to combat grass tetany – more consistent mineral delivery than dry minerals.
  • High energy and protein to supplement your forage
  • Encapsulated urea for greater fiber digestibility and safety
  • Weatherproof nutrition available 24/7
  • Lower cost per head per day!
So, whether you are grazing winter annuals, grazing fescue pastures or feeding fescue hay, Stimu-lyx® High Mag Fescue Relief W/ TASCO® is the best winter supplement for your cattle.

Pick some up at your local Quality Co-Op store. Locate a store near you by visiting

John Sims is a products specialist for AFC’s Feed, Farm & Home department. He can be contacted at 256-260-3433 or

The Co-op Pantry

Autumn is here, frost is on the way. Summer veggies are gone. I have packed away the shorts and flip flops until next year. The picnic basket has been stored. However, the delicious foods for November are here to cheer us and feed us. I hope you enjoy the recipes for this month. I am not doing traditional Thanksgiving fare this year. I am featuring the some of the national foods for the month of November instead. Happy November!

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News. You may email her at

Stuffed Peppers With Rice

  • 1-pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 green bell peppers
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 350o. Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook 20 minutes. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned. Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers. Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward. (Slice the bottoms of the peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright.)

In a bowl, mix the browned beef, cooked rice, 1 can tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper. Mix the remaining tomato sauce and Italian seasoning in a bowl, and pour over the stuffed peppers. Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, basting with sauce every 15 minutes, until the peppers are tender.

Peanut Butter Veggie Chicken Soup

  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken meat
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed potatoes
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup canned whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
In a large stockpot, combine the broth, chicken, potatoes and carrots. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Add zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, onion, green pepper and garlic. Simmer for about 8 minutes.

Add peanut butter, parsley, salt and pepper; stir until peanut butter is fully blended. Simmer for 3 minutes longer.

Sweet Potato Casserole
With Georgia Pecans

  • 6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 1/4 cup fat free milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup Alabama Pecans, chopped
Place sweet potatoes in large saucepot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer 20-25 minutes, or until tender; drain.

Place potatoes, milk, butter and pumpkin pie spice in large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth.

Add sweet potato mixture to shallow baking dish, top with Georgia Pecans and marshmallows. Place under preheated broiler 5 inches from heat; broil 2-3 minutes, or until marshmallows are lightly browned.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Kosher salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend 2 minutes.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup warm water (110o)
  • 2 (0.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water, and set aside until yeast is frothy. Mix in eggs, sugar, butter or margarine, salt and raisins. Stir in cooled milk. Add the flour gradually to make a stiff dough.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Place in a large, greased, mixing bowl, and turn to grease the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Moisten dough with 2 tablespoons milk. Mix together 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon, and sprinkle mixture on top of the moistened dough. Roll up tightly; the roll should be about 3 inches in diameter. Cut into thirds, and tuck under ends. Place loaves into well-greased 9 x 5 inch pans. Lightly grease tops of loaves. Let rise again for 1 hour.

Bake at 350o for 45 minutes, or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when knocked. Remove loaves from pans, and brush with melted butter or margarine. Let cool before slicing.

Cheese Fondue

  • 7 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 7 ounces Gruyere cheese, cubed
  • 7 ounces Emmental cheese, cubed
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Assorted dippers
In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard. Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, mustard and nutmeg.

Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French and pumpernickel breads. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy!

The Root of All Things Feed Part 5: Minerals

by Jimmy Parker

We have talked about protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins. The first three are simple when it comes to how they work. Vitamins are a bit more complicated. Minerals, which we will discuss now, are by far the most complex of the nutrients in many ways. Too little or too much of any one of them can affect how the others react and perform within an animal. That clouds the picture in many cases. The form that they are in when ingested also has a great deal of influence on how they are absorbed and used by the animal. It gets complicated quickly, but since they are very important to livestock on all levels and in all situations, then we need to delve into the murky waters.

Minerals generally are divided into two categories, Macro and Micro, based on the amount that is needed for day-to-day activities. Macro minerals include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, potassium and sulfur. Micro minerals include cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc. These minerals combine to make up from 3 to 5 percent of an animal’s body weight in dry matter and in most animals, calcium is approximately half of the total mineral and phosphorus comprises one-fourth.

With 15 or so minerals involved, there is not space to go into the function and signs of deficiency or toxicity for each one. Frankly, that would make for boring reading unless you have animals with issues. I will, however, hit the high spots and list some general functions. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and manganese are important for skeletal formation and maintenance. Phosphorus, sulfur and zinc are important in protein synthesis. Iron and copper are needed for oxygen transport in the blood. Sodium, potassium and chlorine all play a role in fluid balance and regulating the pH of the entire system, and the list goes on and on.

Deficiencies are easily seen with several of the minerals and include things like rickets, blindness, anemia, loss of hair, perosis, white muscle disease, goiter and many more. While deficiencies can cause so many issues, toxicity is also as bad or maybe worse, and more common than deficiencies. Some toxicity symptoms mirror deficiency symptoms and complicates things greatly. Toxicity with many minerals inhibits the use of some other minerals and vitamins and really makes for a complex problem to solve.

Forage plants are usually a good source of several of the minerals, and grains tend to have a little. That is all dependent on the mineral levels in the soil on which they were grown. Since many soils are deficient in one or more minerals and some animals spend little to no time grazing, we tend to supply minerals either as a free choice mineral or incorporated into the feed that is being given. Generally, grazing livestock will be offered a loose mineral and confined livestock (pigs and chickens predominantly) will have a feed that has minerals balanced to meet their needs without getting into toxicity or deficiency situations.

Heavy applications of manure to soils and heavy feeding of grain byproducts are two of the most common ways to get an imbalance in mineral nutrition. Manures tend to be heavy in phosphorus, which will build up in the soil and, at some point, cause issues with calcium metabolism. Byproduct feeds are made by removing some portion of a grain while leaving all the other nutrients intact. Corn gluten is made by removing the starchy portion of the corn kernel, while leaving the protein, vitamins and minerals behind. Those ingredients are now more concentrated and can lead to toxicities if that is not accounted for. The same factors can cause problems in any of the byproducts.

When considering minerals, you must also look at the actual source of the mineral. They come in many forms. Chelated is a word that you often hear and for good reason. Chelate means that the object (mineral in this case) is bound to (connected to) something else. In mineral nutrition that is almost always an amino acid. If you remember from our article on protein, amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins and by binding a mineral to an amino acid, we basically trick our intestine into absorbing the mineral more efficiently. So, with that said, generally chelated minerals are absorbed more efficiently than other forms.

There are several other forms that minerals come in. There are oxides, dioxides, carbonates, sulfates, chlorides, gluconates, citrates, fumarates and probably a few more. The most common two that you will see on a feed tag are oxides and sulfates. Generally, but not with every mineral, the sulfates will be a bit more absorbable and have the added benefit of providing a little sulfur. That is not true in every case but is a general thing to keep in mind. Feed tags themselves only must guarantee protein, fat and fiber for feeds, but mineral supplements do have to list some of the macro minerals in most cases. The place to really find out more about the mineral quality from the feed tag is in the list of ingredients where it will be spelled out if it is a chelate, sulfate or oxide.

As you look to buy minerals, keep in mind the source and the fact that source influences how much is available to the animal. Tags that show high levels may not be as good as a tag with a lower percentage if it is more available to the animal. There is new research out there with some chelated minerals that may, in time, change what we think we know about what the animals need.

So, feed good minerals from a reputable source and ask lots of questions. Minerals are generally not cheap but more than pay for themselves in growth, reproduction and overall animal health. Feeding a good standard mineral mix is the best option, unless you rely heavily on byproduct feeds or have other mitigating circumstances.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

The Vocal Minority ... I Hope

I certainly hope the happy people just don’t take the time to comment.

by Chuck Sykes

I’m quite sure that it’s always been the case that complainers are much more vocal than satisfied people. I don’t know if it’s getting worse or if I’m just noticing it more after almost six years of sitting behind this desk, but it seems like everyone is unhappy about something these days. At least in years past, if you wanted to voice your concern you either had to take the time to write a letter and put it in the mailbox or communicate personally with someone on the phone. Both required time and planning. Typically, those two factors caused the upset individual to sit down, think about the issue, and prepare a proper response. In many cases, this diffused the issue.

Fast-forward to today. Everything is easy and instantaneous. Facebook biologists and email philosophers are everywhere. In many cases their unsolicited wisdom or temper tantrum is shared anonymously. And they all have something in common: "WHAT ABOUT ME AND MY NEEDS?" They may attempt to blow smoke up our skirt that it’s all about the resource, but when it boils down to the truth, it’s all about "ME." I’ll be your best friend and support the Department’s stance on an issue or a new program if it doesn’t negatively impact me.

A perfect example of this was presented at a recent Forever Wild Land Trust Board meeting. During the public comment portion of the meeting, a concerned citizen stepped up to the microphone to address the board. In an extensive and eloquent monolog, the Forever Wild program was praised for all that it does to provide public access to great hunting lands and preservation of many ecologically significant areas throughout the state. Then came the real reason for addressing the board: "But, please don’t buy the so-and-so property because it joins my land." And, there you go, I’ll support your program if it doesn’t impact me.

While working the WFF booth at a deer show this year, I overheard this quote concerning the carcass regulation, "I wish y’all were more interested in protecting the deer herd than trying to write hunters tickets!" Do you think that guy hadn’t put two and two together and understood that prohibiting unprocessed carcasses from being brought back into the state to lessen the probabilities of CWD being introduced into Alabama’s deer herd was looking after the herd? I can assure you, the thought of making money by issuing citations to hunters wasn’t even a remote consideration in drafting this regulation. Just an FYI for everyone, less than 3 percent of the annual WFF budget is derived from fines levied for hunting violations. Protecting the number-one game animal in Alabama was the sole reason behind this regulation. Deer hunting is not only a time-honored tradition in Alabama, but it also provides a food source for many in our state and a $1.3 billion stimulus to the Alabama economy.

In a recent email, sent to everyone with a ".gov" behind their address, one Alabama resident was extremely upset that opening day of turkey season had been moved from March 15 to the third Saturday in March. Here is a quote from the email: "I’m personally not concerned about the hunter who isn’t off work until Saturday, when the season opens up during the week. If it mattered to that guy, he could schedule his vacation time accordingly like the rest of us do that enjoy weekday hunting. My children’s spring break normally coincides with the 15th opener. I know that all school district calendars are not the same, but it matters to us. Children’s competitive spring sports; baseball, softball, soccer, dance and cheer almost all involve weekend travel these days."

At least this guy had the guts to admit he wasn’t worried about anything or anyone other than himself and his family. He didn’t try to sugarcoat it by pretending he was worried about how the change would impact our state turkey population. I wish all complaints were this transparent and straightforward. It really makes the responses we provide simpler to craft.

Another criticism in an email concerning the move of opening day of turkey season stated, "We should be able to trust the DCNR to make decisions on behalf of our hunters which help ... not hurt them. Yet, in making these types of decisions it seems very few (if any) hunters are consulted before making many decisions which affect them and feedback from these kinds of decisions seem to be ‘swept under the rug.’" Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Our job is to be the responsible steward and manage, protect, conserve, and enhance the wildlife and aquatic resources of Alabama for the sustained benefit of the people of Alabama; that, in fact, is our mission statement. The key word is sustainable. That means now and for future generations, not just for me and my wants and needs and to heck with everyone else! While we certainly value our constituents, we cannot manage resources based simply on their desires, especially as satisfying them all is an impossible task. In today’s instant-gratification society, it is imperative that we, WFF, look out for the resource because many hunters are only looking out for themselves. Not what is best for the game they pursue, but only what is best for themselves.

Thankfully, our founding fathers thought more about the good of the people than themselves. Our brave men and women in our military have sacrificed for the good of the country and not just for themselves. I’m sincerely hoping that there are many more hunters who are genuinely interested in the health of our natural resources than we hear from. If there aren’t, the natural resources we hold so dear are all headed in the direction of the dodo bird.

Chuck Sykes is director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

The Wellness Coalition

Healthy Corner Store Program Addresses the Problem of “Food Deserts” in Alabama Counties

Alabama the beautiful. That’s what we say. Our state is chock full of green countryside and expansive rural realms. While beautiful, there is a downside to the countryside. Many people living in these rural areas are suffering from a lack of access to fresh and healthy foods.

According to the American Heart Association, there are as many as 1.8 million people in Alabama who have limited access to fresh foods. In Montgomery, Macon and Lowndes counties, many residents living below the poverty line do not have a way to travel great distances to a grocery store or farmers market, no matter whether they live in either urban or rural areas.

We call these areas "food deserts" – areas with limited access to fresh, healthy food. Unless they grow their own food, many people living in these areas rely on convenience stores for daily food purchases. Because of this, their intake of processed foods far outweighs their consumption of fruits and vegetables, a result of which can be increased incidences of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 28 percent of the population in Montgomery County has limited access to nutritious foods. That number rises to 35 percent in Macon County. In Lowndes County, almost half (49 percent) of the population has limited access.

To combat the effects of these food deserts and the chronic diseases that abound in these areas, The Wellness Coalition, located in Montgomery, Alabama, initiated a "Healthy Corner Store" program in Montgomery, Macon and Lowndes counties. The Wellness Coalition enlisted the Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission (CARPDC) to locate and manage the store program as part of a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"It works," said Sanjay N., cashier at Variety Shopping Mart in Montgomery, Alabama. "We didn’t sell produce before, but when this program came along we could sell fruits and vegetables and we continue to do so. This is a positive thing."

In 2015, five stores in Montgomery, Macon, and Lowndes counties were chosen to launch the Healthy Corner Store program. The stores reported an average gross profit of 30 percent on the produce they carried. Additionally, the Notasulga store owner who was part of this program expanded it to six of his other stores, bringing the first-year total to 11 stores.

In 2016, five more stores were brought into the Healthy Corner Store program. From February-October 2016, these stores sold a total of 5,817 units of fresh produce and reported an average gross profit of 38 percent.

Before a store began selling produce, CARPDC conducted intercept surveys to help determine what produce items the store’s customers would like available for purchase. After the store had been selling produce for six months, surveys were conducted again to help measure the impact Healthy Corner Stores had on consumers. At six-month follow-up, the 2016 report detailed:

  • More than half of patrons surveyed stated they were aware the stores were selling fresh produce.
  • 12 percent of patrons indicated they had purchased either fresh fruits or vegetables from the stores on the day of the survey.
  • 84 percent of patrons said they wanted the store where they shop to continue selling fresh produce.
  • 35 percent of patrons said they were eating more fruits and vegetables since they became available in the stores.
"Stores in the Healthy Corner Store program offer a limited but quality selection of fresh produce," said Latrice Lewis, REACH program coordinator for The Wellness Coalition. "In 2016, 20 varieties of fruits and vegetables were sold throughout the stores."

In 2016, the highest-selling items included:

  • Bananas (34 percent of total units sold)
  • Plums (33 percent)
  • Apples (11 percent)
  • Oranges (8 percent)
  • Lemons/limes and tomatoes (3 percent each)
In 2017, five more stores were added. Surveys conducted before this year’s program implementation showed:

  • 21 percent of the respondents lived 10 minutes or more (drive time) from where they were presently buying most of their fruits and vegetables, suggesting a need for increased access to fresh produce in these neighborhoods.
  • Nearly 90 percent of the respondents indicated that they would "definitely/probably" buy fresh fruits and vegetables from these stores when they became available.
  • Approximately half of the respondents said that they would be more likely to shop at these stores once fresh fruits and vegetables become available.
At the close of the 2017 evaluation period, about one-fifth (or 22 percent) of customers surveyed stated they were eating more fresh fruits and vegetables since they had become available at these stores, while 81 percent of the respondents at post-implementation said that they wanted the corner stores to continue selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

The highest selling items in stores in 2017 included:

  • Apples (52 percent)
  • Oranges (30 percent)
  • Sweet Potatoes (26 percent)
  • Onions (22 percent)
With the third year of the program now complete, The Wellness Coalition continued its evaluation process to inform future programs.

"Now that we have completed three years of the Healthy Corner Store program, we can see just how much both consumers and businesses benefit," said Lewis. "We are breaking down barriers to access healthy foods for those in areas without grocery stores or who cannot travel to one. Simultaneously, small businesses are becoming more profitable by expanding the products they sell."

Those small-business owners have been enthusiastic about the program. Many owners increased the volume of their orders due to the high amount of sales they were seeing.

"All of the stores were fitted with promotional signage," said Lewis. "We are provided technical assistance to these stores to help them continue to succeed."

Technical assistance helped each store continue meeting their goals and ensured that sustainable practices were in place. Additionally, new signage and fixtures were provided. Finally, The Wellness Coalition continued working with the stores through Aug. 1, 2018, to help them overcome any challenges or barriers.

A full list of participating Healthy Corner Stores can be found at

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