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April 2015

4-H Extension Corner: Training for Leadership

The 2015 Operation Military Kids Teen Leadership Group was visited by Aubie the Tiger during their stay! He welcomed the youth to Auburn, and took photos with them for a fun and memorable day.

2015 National Guard Teen Leadership Summit brings military youth together in Auburn.

by Rachel Simpson

The Operation Military Kids program provides support for Alabama’s military youth. Part of a national emphasis supported by the land grant universities across the nation, the OMK program recognizes that military youth "are heroes, too." In Alabama, the program is based at Auburn University and implemented through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama 4-H.

Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or more in a series of multiple deployments, OMK’s goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being.

Alabama OMK and the 4-H Military Partnership give the youth opportunities to attend camps and events, including an annual teen event in Auburn. Each winter, Alabama OMK offers a Youth Leadership Summit for National Guard teens across the state to participate in a weekend of teambuilding activities, learning and fun.

This year, 20 military youth came from all over Alabama. The National Guard youth were from Etowah, Talladega, Montgomery, Jefferson, Elmore, Cullman, Lee, Clay and Russell counties. National Guard youth are often geographically dispersed, meaning they do not live in close proximity to a military installation, and do not have access to the resources found there. This is one of the many reasons the OMK program works to bring them together and helps provide community support.

The teens who participated in the leadership summit focused on their role as military citizens in their local communities and how they can make a difference where they live.

Mrs. Hust, a military parent, said, "It makes me sad that this will be Nate’s last year with OMK. The program has had a great impact on Nate when it comes to leadership. He’s looking to join the Army Reserves and wants to be an officer."

Nate, 17, from Elmore County, is graduating high school this year. He joined the ROTC program Feb. 12, and will be attending college at Troy University while he is working to become an officer in the Army Reserves.

"So many of our youth are like Nate. They want to make a difference in their communities and be a leader," said Rachel Simpson, coordinator for the 4-H Operation: Military Kids. "4-H provides positive youth development experiences, so youth can develop the qualities needed to be a leader in their communities."

As a part of the weekend event, the youth participated in an open forum where they were able to identify a project that would address challenges youth in the military community face. Each group shared their ideas and received feedback on how they could make a difference by moving forward with their projects. They were also trained in resiliency and skills to help them make good choices when faced with everyday military challenges. The teens enjoyed their time by discussing civic leadership, participating in evening games on Samford lawn, visiting with Aubie the Tiger and ended their weekend by creating pet beds for a local animal shelter. The youth left energized and ready to make a difference in their communities.

Alabama OMK partners with the National Guard Child and Youth, School Services Program, and David Matthews Center for Civic Life to provide the summit each year.

Alabama 4-H’s OMK program encourages military youth to join or create new military 4-H clubs, and take advantage of all the fun and learning found with 4-H membership.

Alabama 4-H has grant funding available to support these military 4-H clubs for youth on and off installations. This is possible through support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; National Institute of Food and Agriculture; 4-H National Headquarters; U.S. Army Child, Youth and School Services; U.S. Air Force Child and Youth Programs; U.S. Navy Child and Youth Programs; and Auburn University’s Alabama Cooperation Extension 4-H Program through grant funding at Kansas State University.

The Alabama Operation: Military Kids partnership is a shared initiative of the U.S. Army Child, Youth & School Services and is funded by the Army National Guard and Army Reserve in collaboration with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

If you are interested in more information about Alabama 4-H/OMK, contact Rachel Simpson, OMK Coordinator for Alabama 4-H at 334-844-2294 or Bradfra@aces.edu.

Rachel Simpson is the OMK Coordinator for Alabama 4-H.



AFC ... At the Top of Its Game


AFC President Rivers Myres addressed the organization’s annual meeting in Montogmery.

CEO Myres presents his address at the 2015 Annual Meeting.

by Alvin Benn

Bad weather has a way of ruining agricultural projections and that’s what happened during the first four months of 2014.

Continuous downpours kept growers from gaining a headstart on the year and, by the end of April, Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s projected numbers were 65 percent behind expectations.

"All that was needed was a few weeks of dry weather and all our divisions proved they were prepared," AFC President Rivers Myres said in his address at the organization’s annual meeting in Montgomery Feb. 25.

That preparation clicked in as dry weather arrived in May and it all came together to present a "window of opportunity," Myres said.

Alabama farmers took advantage of better growing conditions and, by midsummer, it was evident that those early projections were about to come true, he said.

"The momentum produced in May carried through July and allowed us to generate the second highest sales since 1936 at $583 million," he continued.

He followed with a report that 2014 was AFC’s second best year for profits as well as the second consecutive year for all divisions to record a profit. It all added up to a financial position for AFC to pay $10.7 million in patronage.

Those in attendance at the Renaissance Hotel got more good news when Myres mentioned that more than 70 percent of AFC members had a profit during the previous 5 years.

In 2010, members were $8.2 million over 90 days past due to AFC – a negative that became a positive by 2014 when "zero members" had past due reminders for 30 consecutive months.

More good news followed when a 5 year report showed net profits from operations had increased by fourfold between 2010 and 2014 – from $2.5 million to $10 million.

"The easy answer to explain our members’ success would be that the past several years have been good to our farmers and that has trickled down to our members," Myres said.

He said the "nice run" might be true, "but I’m here to tell you that it is much more than that. It is because our members – YOU – had the courage to make the difficult decisions to help you be successful in the future."

Myres listed several examples to support his report, saying locations that did not add business value were closed along with merger decisions "when it made economic sense."

He also said employee changes were made "even when it was not popular politically" while focus was directed on income from operations instead of relying on patronage to determine "whether you would be profitable."

While past performances and "bold decisions" have been made to keep AFC at the top of its game, Myres stressed the importance of encouraging "young people to join us at this wonderful company.

"We need the best young people," he said. "You hear every day that the new generation will not work. They will work. We need to instill in our young people that the ones who are dedicated and make the early sacrifices will be the people who manage the ones who do not."

Myres mentioned the completion of his first year at the helm of AFC operations as "our journey together," adding: "It has been rewarding in so many ways."

He also said this year’s theme of "Many Voices, One Vision" emphasized the fact that associates from bottom to top "have voices that define the success of AFC and, at the same time, maintain our unified vision – to be a relationship-driven partner integrating vital resources to insure our member/farmer’s success."

AFC Board Chairman Jimmy Newby praised the organization’s past year highlights as well as how it has faced "several difficult challenges" and responded to them.

"I want to thank all of our operations, management and employees for their good work this past year – all of our operations were profitable in 2014," Newby said.

He was particularly pleased with the effectiveness of the local Co-ops, saying they were in the best financial health "in my memory."

"That speaks volumes about the strength of our entire cooperative system," he added.

Newby mentioned the passing of two well-known AFC members – Jo John Williams of the Jackson Farmers Co-op and H.L. King of the Limestone Farmers Co-op.

"These men were devoted servants to agriculture and the cooperative model," Newby said. "Mr. Williams and Mr. King each served on the board of their local Co-op for over 50 years as well as having served as a director and honorary director for the Alabama Farmers Cooperative."

Newby ended his report by thanking the staff and employees "for their hard work and dedication to AFC – they are our most valuable asset."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Ag in the Big Easy


Emma Williams, food science major, teaches students about germs through the use of GloGerm.

Auburn’s Ag Ambassadors visited New Orleans to get a feel for the differences in agriculture between Alabama and Louisiana and found the experience eye-opening.

by Michelle Bufkin

Not many people think of New Orleans as a place to visit and learn about agriculture, but a group of students from Auburn University did just that. The Auburn University Ag Ambassadors planned their first-ever service and professional development trip to New Orleans.

Sonja Cox, president of Ag Ambassadors, explained that New Orleans was chosen because the agriculture would look very different than in Alabama. While the trip was primarily a service trip, the group still wanted to learn; and New Orleans provided a unique conglomeration of both. The group participated in various service activities, visited area schools, toured museums and agricultural venues, and networked with alumni and agricultural leaders from Louisiana.

The first night of the trip the Ag Ambassadors visited the Zatarains plant to discuss daily operations and how to succeed in future endeavors.

"We saw actual Zatarains products being made – massive machines full of crab boil, rice mix and other yummy New Orleans-type food. It was a great reminder that not only do we have to thank the farmers for producing the food we eat but we have to thank the plant workers, too. They keep those products we love coming to the grocery stores, and seeing their hard work reminded me of that," Marlee Moore said.

While the group was there the plant manager and a food scientist shared their background and then explained that finding a company you love that shares your passion and values is extremely important.

The following day the Ag Ambassador team divided into groups and spent time in local schools around New Orleans spreading their love for Auburn and agriculture. One group of students led an Ag in the Classroom program at Folsom Elementary School. This program educated 130 elementary students about the different breeds, sizes and colorations of horses; food safety; and the anatomy of a lima bean. Ellen Rankins, education chair for Ag Ambassadors, planned the curriculum and all of the activities for the elementary school trip.

"My favorite part of our trip to New Orleans was getting to work with the elementary school students. It was a great experience to share what I am passionate about with the students in a way that was fun and engaging to them," Rankins said.

Another group went to a local high school and taught more than 230 students about the opportunities available at Auburn University and the College of Agriculture through recruitment presentations. The high school they visited had the largest FFA program in the state, so it was a unique experience.

"This year we did high school presentations at the top feeder schools into Auburn, and most of them did not have an agriculture program. This school was unique because it allowed us to talk to students who either had a background in agriculture or were currently learning about it," John Allen Nichols explained.

A third group spent their morning at the Second Harvest Food Bank giving back to the community. The group agreed that the food bank was by far the best experience in New Orleans.

"The impact they’re having in the community is astounding to me. The number of children they feed every summer with their Summer Feeding Program is growing exponentially. After seeing some of the city’s needier places, I was uplifted to see how much good the food bank is doing," Cox said.

This group spent the morning sorting 5,000 cans of food to be distributed to people in the city.

GrowDat Youth Farm was another location the group had the chance to visit. GrowDat is an urban farm that helps students by providing a steady positive influence in their lives.

"I loved seeing agriculture being incorporated into the lives of inner-city students who wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to it. What was even better was GrowDat building leadership and business skills with these kids, while providing accessible produce for the community!" Libby Knizely said.

GrowDat uses agriculture to teach hard work, dedication and strength that can help give students a sense of purpose and hope for the future they had not felt before.

The group ended their trip at Kent Farms, where Amelia and Russell Kent raise Braford cattle while advocating for the future of the agriculture industry. Amelia said any spare time not spent on one of the 12 farm locations where they keep their cattle is spent at local Farm Bureau and Young Farmers meetings. She never misses a chance to advocate for agriculture - whether through social media, at the hair salon or to legislators, every part is extremely important. She has traveled to Washington numerous times to meet with legislators to teach them about how bills will affect her and her farm. The ambassadors enjoyed this visit because it helped them realize they could have the best of both worlds: they could run a farm while still positively affecting change in the agriculture industry. Her biggest piece of advice for the group was to get involved in groups at the local and state level, and do not be scared to speak the truth about what you do for a living!

The trip the Auburn Ag Ambassadors took to New Orleans was eye opening in many aspects for all of the students involved. They learned what was important when choosing a job and company, how to relate to students of all ages and get them engaged in the agriculture industry, along with completing multiple service projects at different locations throughout the trip. The trip for next year, to a different location, is already being planned and the team says they cannot wait.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

U.S. sorghum exports on the rise

U.S. exports of sorghum have surged in the past 2 years, growing from less than 65 million bushels during the 2011/12 marketing year to 270 million forecast for 2014/15.

Sorghum is a common substitute for corn in feed rations and is also used for ethanol production in the United States. Since in most countries corn tends to be preferred over sorghum for livestock feed, U.S. sorghum exports have been trending lower for several decades.

But, in recent years, China has emerged as a leading destination for U.S. sorghum since sorghum does not face import quotas and other constraints that often delay or restrict shipments of corn and distillers dried grains from entering the country. For the current marketing year (2014/15), exports are forecast to account for 62 percent of total use, the highest proportion since 1975.

The strength of the export market has also helped raise the price of sorghum that is currently forecast to average 4 percent higher than the price of corn for the current marketing year compared to the more common tendency for sorghum to sell at a 5-10 percent discount to corn.

Half of all U.S. cropland now on farms of 1,200 acres or more

The average (mean) number of acres on crop farms has changed little over three decades, with a slight increase from 241 acres in 2007 to 251 in 2012.

However, the mean misses an important element of changing farm structure; it has remained stable because while the number of mid-size crop farms has declined over several decades, farm numbers at the extremes (large and small) have grown.

With only modest changes in total cropland and the total number of crop farms, the size of the average (mean) farm has changed little. However, commercial crop farms, which account for most U.S. cropland, have gotten larger, aided by technologies that allow a single farmer or farm family to farm more acres. The midpoint acreage (at which half of all cropland acres are on farms with more cropland than the midpoint, and half are on farms with less) effectively tracks cropland consolidation over time. The midpoint acreage of total and harvested cropland has increased over the last three decades, from roughly 500-600 acres in 1982 to about 1,200 acres in the most recent census of agriculture data.

Returns to cow-calf operators to remain strong in 2015

Strong feeder cattle prices and declining feed costs are supporting high returns for cow-calf producers.

The price of 750-800-pound feeder steers at the Oklahoma National Stockyards exceeded $220 per hundredweight at the end of 2014, up $65 since January and over $100 since May 2013. At the same time, the price of corn, a major component of cattle feed, fell from above $7 per bushel in mid-2013 to under $4 per bushel by December 2014, reflecting a record 2014 crop projected at 14.4 billion bushels.

Despite weaker demand, beef prices are at record high levels due to tight supplies and historically low cattle inventories. Expanding the cattle herd is a long-term process due to the time it takes cattle to mature, and requires holding some heifers off market for breeding purposes.

Recently released data from USDA’s cattle report suggests inventories are beginning to grow, and cattle prices have begun to retreat. With corn prices forecast by USDA to average around $3.50 per bushel for the 2014/15 marketing year, returns to cow-calf operators should remain favorable well into this year.

Indirect energy expenditures exceed those for direct

Data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey shows, on average, the share of operator expenses for indirect energy (about 17.1 percent) exceeds the share of expenses for direct energy (about 8.5 percent) among U.S. farm businesses across all farm sizes.

Direct energy includes fuel and electricity while indirect forms include fertilizers and pesticides.

Small farm businesses have the highest share of direct energy expenditures – about 12 percent of all small farm production expenses, while medium-sized farm businesses have the highest share of indirect energy expenditures – about 22 percent of expenses.

Large farm businesses have the lowest share of energy-based expenses, since large farms typically have higher expenses for labor than smaller farms, reducing energy’s share of total expenses.

Oil price declines should ease food cost inflation

Through their impact on transportation costs and the cost of operating farm machinery, recent declining oil prices could ease grocery store inflation.

Oil prices began to drop in the last quarter of 2014, continuing their descent to just above $45 a barrel in January 2015 from $105 in July 2014. Barrel prices have not dipped this low since the end of the Great Recession in 2009.

The effect is likely to be modest because processing costs and retailing overhead are larger cost components of retail food prices. Prices of foods requiring little processing such as fresh fruits and vegetables are more likely to be affected by lower oil prices than processed foods such as cereals and bakery products.

As oil prices fell in 2009, fresh produce prices decreased 4.8 percent, while prices for cereals and bakery products rose 3.2 percent. Despite lower oil prices, ERS currently predicts overall food prices to rise 2-3 percent in 2015, closely in line with 2014 food price inflation.

China’s demand for meat, dairy products growing rapidly

As China enters a new phase of its economic development, its demand for higher-valued products like meat and dairy products is growing rapidly.

China’s imports of meats during 2013-14 were more than double the volume imported during the early 2000s. Growing demand and higher prices of domestic meat products have driven the growth in China’s meat imports over the past few years.

China’s meat imports also have shifted from items like chicken feet and animal offal to muscle meat, as living standards rose and China opened its market to more beef and mutton imports.

The United States is currently the top supplier of China’s poultry and pork imports. U.S. exports of meat, dairy products and other consumer-oriented products such as fruits, nuts and wine to China rose from $234 million in 2000 to $3 billion in 2013, comprising nearly 12 percent of the value of total U.S. agricultural exports to China that year.

NAFTA spurs fruit, vegetable trade

U.S. fruit and vegetable trade with Canada and Mexico has increased more than 380 percent since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canada and Mexico now account for over half of all U.S. trade in fruits and vegetables, up from 37 percent in 1994. Over the same period, the share of U.S. fruit and vegetable trade with South America and Central America has remained relatively steady, while the share accounted by Asia and the EU declined considerably.

Mexico’s annual exports of fruit and vegetables to the United States (including juice) have more than tripled during the NAFTA period, approaching $9.4 billion in 2013. These exports have their roots in the development and growth over the past half century of a Mexican fruit and vegetable sector oriented toward the U.S. market.

Annual U.S. fruit and vegetable exports to Mexico have more than tripled under NAFTA, reaching about $1.4 billion in 2013 and benefitting from the rapid expansion of Mexico’s supermarket sector, including several U.S. supermarket chains operating there.

At the same time, trade liberalization and broader use of greenhouse technology in Canada has allowed U.S. imports of fruit and vegetables from Canada to grow from $213 million in 1988 to $3.1 billion in 2013.

Canada has long been a large market for the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry. During the NAFTA period, U.S. fruit and vegetable exports to Canada have grown from less than $2 billion in 1993 to $5.8 billion in 2013.




Animal Husbandry 101

by Stephen Donaldson

Recently, I had the opportunity to judge the Tri-State Junior Beef Expo held in Dothan. It is very encouraging to work with young people who have a keen interest in and knowledge about the livestock industry. It is with these youth that true learning takes place. Learning that can be applied later in life to a plethora of situations. At this time in their lives, young people can’t grasp that the simplest of chores they perform will be repeated over and over throughout their lives whether they are working a ranch or living in the suburbs.

One of the most important lessons young people learn with a livestock project is responsibility. They will one day grasp that, whether they like it or not, they must be responsible on multiple levels from getting out of bed in the morning to do chores no matter the weather to simply making sure your animal has clean water. Responsibility is ever present. Let’s take responsibility a step further. If your animal doesn’t perform as you expect, the root cause most likely can be traced to your lack of responsibility at some time during the progression of your animal project. Ultimate success comes to those who pay attention to the smallest of details, responsibly.

Being responsible begins with paying attention to the most basic needs of your animal, including proper nutrition, water and shelter. The least appreciated of these is water. Clean, fresh water is essential for most all body functions. Hydration is imperative for the chemical pathways that involve important function such as muscle synthesis, nutrient metabolism and reproduction. Lack of a constant supply of good water puts an animal’s performance in jeopardy. In the case of performance, an animal’s lack of water will affect performance negatively. In true production scenarios, lack of clean, fresh water will be most noted in slower growth or poorer milk production. In beef operations, lower weaning weights and poor conception are also seen.

Since we have determined that water is one of the most crucial elements of animal production, nutrition isn’t far behind. The type of feed, how much you feed and when you feed all become factors to consider. The first question that you must answer is: "What performance goals am I trying to achieve with my animal?" In nearly every instance, a barrel horse will require a higher level of nutrition than a Western pleasure horse. Finishing a steer will certainly require more energy than feeding a heifer to the proper body condition. If you and your family are new to exhibiting animal projects, this is the perfect time to befriend someone with years of experience with the type of animal you are working. You must be able to evaluate the point where you are at, at all times, and be able to adjust nutrition to be the most successful. Experience and time feeding animals are the only ways to properly evaluate where you are. In the real world, these skills can play an important role in daily livestock production. A perfect example would be feeding heifers to the proper body condition before breeding in order to make them the most productive cows.

Livestock projects require you provide shelter with clean, fresh bedding. Air flow is also important and is easily overlooked. Urine is one of the hardest issues to manage when animals are confined. Urine contributes to ammonia and, if air flow isn’t sufficient, ammonia levels can affect animal performance. In most cases, when cattle are housed to get ready for a show, fans to keep them cool provide adequate air flow; in situations where horses are being kept warm to minimize cooling and excessive hair growth, air flow can be a problem.

Fortunately, for everyone with a livestock project, your local Quality Co-op offers a feed to fit nearly any feeding situation. Just match the appropriate Co-op feed with the type of animal you are feeding and the basics will be covered. All feeds are appropriately fortified with mineral and vitamins. As you advance with these livestock projects, you may want to experiment with some supplements that will further advance your animal to a higher level of performance, but remember the basics.

The youth livestock and horse projects are very competitive and usually require several years for you to become competitive. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions and certainly seek help from those with experience. Many lessons are learned over time and passed on from generation to generation. Most importantly, be responsible with your project and learn from year to year. Lessons learned from these projects will help you throughout your life. Finally, if you one day earn a living with livestock or horses, this will be the first course of success and you will have passed Animal Husbandry 101.

If we can help, give us a call.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If I can help any of you, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 or Stephd@alafarm.com.



Applications Being Accepted for USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Press Release from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is accepting grant applications for projects enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops in foreign and domestic markets. The application deadline for these specialty crop block grants through the United States Department of Agriculture is May 22, 2015, 5 p.m. CST.

Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture (including maple syrup and honey) and nursery crops (including floriculture).

Commodity groups, agricultural organizations, colleges and universities, municipalities, state agencies and agricultural nonprofits are all eligible for this grant program, provided their proposals meet all the specifications. The USDA-AMS has final approval for projects submitted. The ADAI and a review committee of industry representatives will make the application evaluation review and award recommendations.

The specialty crops block grant is a competitive grant process. The maximum award to any applicant is $25,000; the minimum, $5,000.

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan stated, "The department looks forward to implementing the 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program under supervision of USDA. We are fortunate to be a part of this successful program that provides an opportunity to expand the specialty crop industry in Alabama to eligible and deserving recipients."

Projects cannot begin until the USDA-AMS has made its official award announcement, expected by October 2015.

For more detailed information, please visit www.agi.alabama.gov/blockgrant or contact Hassey Brooks at 334-240-3877. All applicants must complete and submit documentation as related to the newly enacted Alabama Immigration Law. Please visit www.agi.alabama.gov/blockgrant for details.



April Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Begin "hardening off" warm-season transplants a week or two before planting. Beware of late frosts and keep vulnerable plants and new shoots protected at night if frost is forecast. Don’t be tempted to put out tender bedding plants until late in the month and even then be prepared to cover if necessary.
  • To enjoy harvests before hot weather arrives, sow peas, lettuce and spinach early this month.
  • Wait to plant seeds for corn, green beans, squash, cucumbers, okra, sweet potatoes and other heat lovers until the soil has warmed to 60 degrees.
  • If your space is limited, consider growing vegetables in containers. Containers also require less time, water and effort than a larger garden.
  • Plant strawberries, blackberries and other small fruit.
  • Begin planting out summer bulbs such as caladiums, gladioli and acidanthera at two-week intervals.
  • Divide most perennials once they’ve sent up significant foliage - at least a couple of inches tall. Divide them if they are getting crowded (floppy stems, reduced blooms, a dead spot in the middle) or you simply want more plants.
  • Try planting those spent Easter lilies in the garden. Set them about 5 inches deep in a sunny location. They probably will not bloom again this year, but should be back next summer.
  • Seeds of amaranthus, celosia, cosmos, marigold, portulaca, zinnia and other warm-season flowering annuals can be sown directly in the beds where they will grow late this month.
  • Move stored summer flowering bulbs such as dahlia, lilies and gladiolus outside to their summer locations after all danger of frost has past.
  • If you want to relocate daffodils, it is okay to dig them after they have bloomed. Do not remove leaves. Replant them as you would any other transplant and leave the leaves to die down on their own.

FERTILIZE

  • When your garden is not too wet to work, till or turn over the soil for May planting, incorporate lime and phosphate according to soil test recommendations.
  • Fertilize garlic planted last fall as greens get up and growing.
  • Fertilize fruit trees, blueberries, grape vines and brambles.
  • Fertilize woody plants before new growth begins.
  • Test lawn soil and apply lime if warranted.
  • A good schedule to follow for fertilizing Bermuda grass, zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass is the "Major Holidays Rule." Divide your total nitrogen requirement for the year by four. Put down the rate of nitrogen on or near each of the four holidays: Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.
  • Around your individual peony plants, apply a trowel-full of wood ashes and one of rotted manure or compost (triple these amounts for larger plants). Also, set ringed supports around plants before heavy growth makes the job impossible.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs as they finish blooming.
  • Feed perennials when you see 2-3 inches of new growth.
  • To avoid damaging perennials’ emerging shoots, clean up beds by hand. Then apply a balanced fertilizer over the old mulch. Place fresh mulch over the fertilizer.
  • Roses have high fertilizer requirements. For most soils, use a complete fertilizer for the first application just as new growth starts, then use ammonium sulfate, or other high nitrogen source, every 4 to 6 weeks, usually just as the new growth starts following a flowering cycle. For organic sources use cottonseed, rotted manures or alfalfa meal.
  • As soon as azaleas and camellias have finished flowering, apply an acid fertilizer at the rate recommended. Don’t over-fertilize as azalea roots are near the surface and damage can occur. Water thoroughly after fertilizing.
  • Fertilize houseplants as new growth appears. Follow label directions.

PRUNE

  • As soon as spring-blooming shrubs have finished blooming, it’s time to prune if they have gotten too large.
  • Cut buddleia (butterfly bushes) back to 8-12 inches from the ground. It doesn’t take them long to fill out with fresh new growth and cutting them back like this will give you bigger and more abundant flowers through the season.
  • Examine shrubs for winter injury. Prune all dead and weakened wood.
  • Prune paniculata hydrangeas and Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ (not mophead blue hydrangeas).
  • Prune grape vines to remove dead or weakened limbs. Repair trellises as needed.
  • Climbing hybrid tea roses may be pruned as soon as they complete flowering.
  • Take cuttings for new plants from azaleas, carnations, chrysanthemums, fuchsias, geraniums and succulents.
  • Prune, repot and clean houseplants as needed.

WATER

  • Take a little time to check the plants in containers, those under the eaves of the house and under tall evergreens to insure they are getting enough water.
  • Keep transplanted flowers well watered during dry spells.
  • Mount a rain gauge on a post near the garden to keep track of precipitation so you can tell when to water. Gauges should be at least 10 feet from any building. Most gardens need about 1 inch of rain per week between April and September.
  • Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems help you save water and money.
  • As you do your spring planting, be sure to plan how to water this summer. Place those plants requiring the most water closer to the house.
  • Remember the pots planted this spring will need to be watered daily this summer. Consider how much time you will have for watering each day before you plant. Hanging baskets may need to be watered as often as daily or even twice a day in the heat of summer.

PEST CONTROL

  • Always read and follow the label directions when applying any chemicals.
  • Protect bees and other pollinating insects. Do not spray insecticides on blooming plants.
  • Weed, weed, weed! Now is the time to dig or hoe weeds from your gardens and yard. Every weed pulled now is a thousand you won’t have to confront later.
  • After removing winter weeds, apply a fresh layer of mulch to landscape beds before summer weeds germinate. Only add enough mulch so that the total depth of mulch is no more than 4 inches.
  • When planning the vegetable garden, remember to rotate the location of plant families from year to year, if possible, to avoid disease and insect infestations.
  • Begin spraying fire blight-susceptible apples and pears using an agricultural streptomycin.
  • It’s time to begin a regular spray schedule for your fruit trees. Follow the schedule recommended on the label for your specific type of fruit trees. Never spray an insecticide when the trees are in bloom!
  • Now is the time to wage war on slugs and snails.
  • Get your mower blade sharpened. Mowing with a dull blade tears the ends of grass blades, leaving ragged ends that encourage the spread of fungus disease.
  • This is a good time to hit broadleaf weeds such as clover and dandelions with a spot spray of a selective herbicide. Check with your local Co-op store for suggestions.
  • White grubs are one of the most common lawn pests in the United States and one of the most damaging to your lawn. They are the larval form of beetles, including the Japanese Beetle - another well-known pest! The best time to control these grubs is in the spring and fall when they are actively feeding close to the surface.
  • Botrytis is a fungal disease that causes blackened spots on buds, leaves and stems of many perennials including peonies. If you noticed this disease on your peonies last year, spray with a fungicide like Bonide Mancozeb, Bonide Liquid Copper or Daconil.
  • If you had black spot on your rose foliage last year, begin spraying with a fungicide such as Bayer Advanced All-In-One Rose & Flower Care, Mancozeb, Liquid Copper, Daconil or Bonide Sulfur Fungicide.
  • Remove and destroy old iris leaves. Also, remove any surrounding debris in which the eggs of the dreaded iris borer may lie.
  • When you first see tent caterpillars (when they are small) is the best time to control them.
  • Check new tender growth for aphids. A few can be tolerated, but large numbers should be controlled. Washing them off with a strong spray of water may be all that is necessary for adequate control.
  • Soil purchased for use in beds, low areas and containers should be examined closely. Often, nutgrass and other weeds, nematodes and soil-borne disease are brought into the yard through contaminated soil sources.

ODD JOBS

  • Review plans in your garden journal. If you don’t have one, start one now. Sketching garden plans, taking photos, and marking the date and weather conditions of gardening tasks in a simple notebook this season will help you decide when to tackle some of your gardening chores next year.
  • Make sure your garden beds are not too wet before you work them. Soil should crumble instead of forming a ball when squeezed. If it’s been raining and the soil is saturated, you’ll have to postpone your gardening for a bit longer.
  • Driving around the neighborhood or visiting a local public garden may give you some great ideas of what you’d like to have blooming in your yard at this time next year.
  • If you haven’t already, clean and repair your garden tools.
  • Turn the compost pile as often as you can for a wonderful amendment to your garden soil!
  • Let the foliage of the spring bulbs die most of the way down before cutting the leaves. The bulb needs to absorb that energy for next spring.
  • A good lawn-care program of aerating, dethatching, fertilizing and proper irrigation will keep your lawn healthy and better able to tolerate summer heat, pests and disease.
  • Continue to remove winter mulches and debris.
  • Mulch ornamental shrubs to conserve moisture, to keep cool in summer heat, to control weeds, maintain soil moisture and to give a neat appearance. Pine straw is ideal mulch.
  • Clear out debris and muck from the bottom of the water garden and add it to your compost heap. Start feeding fish again when water temperatures hit 50 degrees or they’re active and eagerly eat the food.
  • Honeybees may swarm on your property. Notify a local beekeeper to find a new home for these beneficial insects.
  • Remove tree wraps from fruit trees now.
  • Break off rims from peat pots when transplanting seedlings, otherwise they can act as a wick to draw moisture away from the roots.
  • Complete adding finished compost to planting bed soil.
  • Cultivate garden beds as soon as soil is dry enough to work. Plant roots need loose soil 12 inches deep. Mix in a few inches of peat moss or organic material such as finished compost or well-rotted manure.
  • Have row cover fabric handy if frost-sensitive crops are planted before May.
  • Pull weeds in the strawberry bed and put straw mulch between the rows.
  • The first hummingbirds arrive soon. Get your hummingbird feeders cleaned and ready to go out.
  • Spring can be a crucial point in time for songbirds. They have just flown from who-knows-where during migration and now they have to lay claim to breeding territory, mate, build a nest, then care for their babies. Natural sources of food may not yet be available or easily accessible. Keep the feeder full!


Bird Flu Update

by Dr. Tony Frazier

As State Veterinarian, with disease surveillance as one of my main responsibilities, I am always on the lookout for several different diseases. I believe the two most potentially devastating diseases are foot and mouth disease and avian influenza. Foot and mouth disease affects cloven-hooved animals such as cattle and swine. Avian influenza affects birds, including poultry. If either of those diseases ever got established in the United States, they could have a devastating effect – not only on animal agriculture but also on our economy as a whole. And while we have many firewalls in place to protect against these viruses and minimize the risk of an outbreak, viruses still do not respond to "NO TRESPASSING" signs, locked gates or other measures of that kind. Even with good biosecurity plans in place, there is still some risk of breaks that allow various viruses and bacteria to cause disease. At that point, our best weapons are rapid recognition and response. That is the case with several recent findings of highly infectious avian influenza in the Northwest region of our country.

Beginning back in December 2014 until the time I am writing this article, there have been 10 confirmed cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in the states of Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho. Of the 10 cases, one was commercial chickens, one was commercial turkeys and the rest were mostly mixed backyard poultry and pheasants. It is likely the virus originated in Asia as has spread over the migratory pathways of waterfowl. One of those pathways is the Pacific flyway that includes the states that have recently had to deal with HPAI. The states involved, along with USDA animal health officials, have depopulated the positive flocks and stepped up surveillance. The United States already has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world. As I mentioned earlier, once the disease has arrived, the way to halt the rapid spread of the disease and the potential devastation that would accompany it is rapid recognition and response. Surveillance is the cornerstone of that process.

If you are reading this article, you likely know enough about Alabama agriculture to know that the poultry industry plays a major role in our economy. For that reason, we have a fairly robust surveillance program here in Alabama. We participate in the NPIP program that originally was to help non-commercial or backyard poultry growers discover Salmonellapullorem, a disease that could quickly put those growers out of business. Alabama is one of the leading states in the country when it comes to NPIP participants. We now include avian influenza testing when we test flocks each year. We test for avian influenza twice yearly at all trade days, auctions and other venues where poultry congregate. Every case or group of chickens brought to our diagnostic laboratories is tested for avian influenza. In addition, every flock of chickens, prior to being processed, is tested for avian influenza.

It is often said that if you don’t want to find something, you shouldn’t look for it. Maybe so, but I would say the only thing worse than finding avian influenza with our surveillance program would be to have the disease out there and not find it early enough to contain it. That could certainly adversely affect our economy. Eighty-six thousand people are employed either directly or indirectly by the poultry industry that accounts for $15 billion annually. In addition to all of that, the 20 million chickens we process each week help feed the world. Americans on average consume over 83 pounds of chicken per person annually. Even with the cases of HPAI we are presently dealing with in the Northwestern United States, we have lost some of our export markets.

Our surveillance for the virus has been intensified since somewhere around 2005 when people were predicting the end of civilization as we know it because of some people becoming ill with the influenza virus found in Southeast Asia at the time. It is not a good thing when a virus normally found in one species becomes capable of causing disease in another species. That was the case with the H5N1 subtype of the avian flu virus that was circulating. The World Health Organization has reported that 630 humans became sick and 375 people have died since 2003 as a result of being infected with the H5N1 virus. Fortunately, the virus has never been capable of being transmitted from person to person. The people who became ill and died from the avian influenza lived or worked in close proximity to chickens. In fact, many of them were from areas where people often kept their chickens in the house or hut with them. Also, if a chicken became sick or died, the owners often would try to salvage the meat by using the dead or dying bird for food. Even though cooking to a temperature of 165 degrees should kill any bacteria, virus or parasite, it is never recommended to consume anything that is obviously sick.

If you or even someone you know raises poultry – chickens, ducks, turkeys, pheasants or other birds, it is important to make every effort to keep those animals separate from wild birds, especially waterfowl. It is also important to report sick birds to state or federal animal health officials. This is also true when it comes to unexplained deaths. While Alabama is not near the Pacific flyway, we need to keep our guard up more than ever because the virus is in the continental United States. With travel as it is today, good biosecurity is an absolute necessity.

I suppose the global scare of a bird flu pandemic that could be the apocalypse caused us to become more vigilant toward the virus. We have an Avian Influenza Response Plan in place here in Alabama that will be activated the moment we suspect the disease is present in our state. Commercial poultry companies have their own response plans. We also have a poultry health committee who works to bring all components of the poultry industry to be on the same page when combatting diseases such as avian influenza.

The best part of my job is knowing that I get to play some role in helping those who produce our food to do it with as few obstacles as possible. We will continue to be on the lookout for HPAI, as well as other diseases that could cause serious problems for our animal agriculture community. If you have questions or suspect you have an unusual animal disease, please contact my office at 334-240-7253.

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



Corn Time




Cowpokes




Earl




Egging It On at Home

Handling the Backyard Flock and Egg Safety

by Angela Treadaway

With more and more municipalities allowing individuals to have a backyard chicken coop, consumers are asking questions about the care and safety of eggs gathered from their own flock or from a local farmer.

Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on earth and can be part of a healthy diet. However, they are perishable just like raw meat, poultry and fish. Poultry may carry bacteria such as Campylobacterand Salmonella that can cause illness to you and your family. Infected birds do not usually appear sick and even unbroken, clean, fresh shell eggs may contain harmful bacteria.

Because of nationwide recalls of shell eggs due to Salmonella contamination, we now understand the ways in which shell eggs can become contaminated vary widely. Salmonella can be introduced to shell eggs not only through the laying process but also via contaminated poultry feed or bedding and from baby chicks (pullets) that may have become contaminated in a hatchery. None of these routes of contamination are unique to large animal husbandry operations.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help ensure safe, home-produced chicken eggs.

Caring for the Flock

Maintaining the flock in an enclosed shed is often a local requirement and will help protect the flock from predators and make egg collecting easier.

Eggs will stay cleaner if the shed area is kept clean and dry. Maintain floor litter in good condition. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the shed at least once a year. Obtain an approved disinfectant from your feed store and apply according to directions.

Allow one nest for every three to four chickens and make sure nests are large enough for your hens. To protect eggs, pad nests with straw or wood chips. Clean out nest boxes once a week to remove dirty litter and manure and replace with clean nesting material.

Provide a perch above the floor over a dropping box away from the nests. Chickens will roost on the perch to sleep and defecate into the wire-mesh-covered dropping box. Do not let hens roost in the nest boxes.

Caring for the Eggs

Collect the eggs often. Eggs that spend more time in the nest have an increased chance of becoming dirty, broken or lower in quality. Collecting eggs at least twice daily is recommended, preferably before noon. Consider a third collection in late afternoon or early evening, especially in hot or cold weather. Coated wire baskets or plastic egg flats are good containers for collecting eggs. Discard eggs with broken or cracked shells.

Cleaning. Dirty eggs can be a health hazard. Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush or emery cloth. If eggs need to be washed, the temperature of the water should be at least 20 degrees warmer than the egg. This will prevent the egg contents from contracting and producing a vacuum. It will also prevent microscopic bacteria from being pulled by vacuum through the pores of the egg. A dishwashing liquid that is free of scents and dyes is acceptable. Eggs can be sanitized by dipping in a solution of 1 tablespoon household bleach to 1 gallon of water before storage. Dry eggs before storing because moisture may enter the shell pores as eggs cool on refrigeration.

Storage. Store eggs in the main section of the refrigerator at 35-40 degrees; the shelves in the door tend to be warmer than interior shelves. If collected properly and stored in the refrigerator, eggs should have a shelf life of six to eight weeks. Date the storage carton or container and use older eggs first. If you have more eggs than you can use, you can break them out of their shells and freeze them. Only freeze fresh eggs. Beat until just blended, pour into freezer containers, seal tightly, and label with the number of eggs and the date. Add a small amount of salt, sugar or corn syrup to prevent gelling and improve the keeping quality of the eggs. It’s a good idea to note any additional ingredients on the freezer container. The whites and yolks may also be frozen separately.

Preparation. Never eat eggs raw or undercooked. Undercooked egg whites and yolks have been associated with outbreaks of Salmonellainfections. To prevent illness from bacteria, cook eggs until yolks are firm and whites are set, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Do not keep cooked or raw eggs at room temperature for more than two hours.

Caring for Manure

Compost chicken manure to proper temperatures to kill harmful bacteria before using it to fertilize garden plots used for growing fruits and vegetables. Un-composted manure can be a source of bacterial contamination for produce grown in the garden. Chicken manure can also be high in nitrates and may damage plants if applied directly. The best option often is to use chicken manure in flower gardens, shrub borders and other nonfood gardens.

Caring for Yourself

Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling eggs, chickens or anything in their environment.

Do not wash feed and water dishes from the chicken shed in the kitchen sink.

Sharing or Selling Eggs Collected on Your Farm

If you choose to share eggs from your flock with friends and neighbors it is important to follow the safety recommendations outlined in this article. Use generic egg cartons that do not display a store or brand name and provide the date eggs were collected. Plastic egg holders sold for camping or plastic egg trays available from farm supply stores are good options for distributing eggs because they can be washed and reused.

According to the Department of Agriculture in Alabama, "If the producer wishes to sell eggs from his/her home/farm, they are not required to do anything. However, if the producer wishes to take the eggs to a farmers market to sale, they must follow the guidelines set out in the Alabama Shell Egg Law.

"In summation, they would have to clearly imprint thereon or securely attach thereto a label on which there shall be plainly and legibly printed the name and the address of the packer of said eggs, the grade and weight class to which the eggs contained therein conform, and the date on which the eggs were graded."

Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.



Finding Peace of Mind


Midas is the 2014 Military Pet of the Year and Dogs on Deployment’s mascot. He is pictured with his owners Sgt. Juan Valdez and fiancé Christen McGrath.

National non-profit provides military service members an option to leaving their cherished pets at an animal shelter when deployed.

by Corynn Myers

Husband and wife, Alisa and Shawn Johnson, were faced with a hard decision when they were both given military orders and had no options for their beloved dog, JD. Thankfully, for the Johnsons, a relative offered to take care of JD during their time of need. Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out so well for military families and their pets. Across the nation, military service members face the re-homing or surrendering of their pets due to the demands of military careers and often cite military obligations as the reason for taking their pet to a local shelter. Through their own experiences, the Johnsons recognized the need for a national network of volunteers willing to board military pets and Dogs on Deployment was created.

Dogs on Deployment is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit providing a central network for military members to find volunteers willing to board their pets while they are deployed, or have other service commitments, making them unable to temporarily care for their pets. Dogs on Deployment was created based on the idea that no pet should ever be surrendered to a shelter due to a military commitment. DoD exists to help military members keep their pets by alleviating the need for pet relinquishment from military members due to the hardships of deployments.

To date 665 pets in need have found temporary care in the homes of DoD boarders during their owner’s military commitments. Through deployments, Wounded Warrior help and veterans assistance, pets, part of the Dogs on Deployment network, find refuge in the loving care of foster homes so their owners can stay focused on their mission. DoD is completely made up of volunteers who span every state and assist DoD with everything from boarding pets to holding events in local areas. For more information on how you can help Dogs on Deployment, please visit our website at www.dogsondeployment.org.

Corynn Myers is the National Public Relations Director for Dogs on Deployment.



Fly Control ... NOW!

Both Rabon and Altosid act to disrupt the fly life cycle by preventing larvae from developing into adults.

Introducing fly control products to your cows before flies appear will not only keep the pests under control but can increase your profits.

by Jackie Nix

Those of you who have been reading my articles for the past 15 years have heard me talk over and over about how uncontrolled fly populations cut into your profits. However, if I can’t convince you this year with calves in the $300/CWT range, I never will! Research has documented an estimated 10-30 pounds in decreased weight gain per calf JUST FROM HORN FLIES. Assuming a price of $2.50/lb., this translates into a LOSS of $25-$75 PER CALF! Do I have your attention now?

Adult horn flies are dark gray and about half the size of the housefly. The life cycle is completed in 8-45 days depending on temperature and humidity. Horn flies tend to rest quietly on the back and shoulders of cattle until disturbed. Horn flies rarely leave their host except to lay eggs, to move to other cattle in the herd or when cattle enter buildings. Most feeding occurs along the underline of the animal and results in scabby, often bleeding, sores. Each fly may feed from 10-38 times each day! The irritation and blood loss causes reduced calf weight gain, decreased milk production and lowered sexual libido in bulls.

SWEETLIX and VMS feed-through fly control products containing Rabon Oral Larvicide or Altosid IGR are by far the easiest way to keep fly populations in check. These self-fed minerals, blocks or tubs are stress-free and require no additional labor and no cattle handling, unlike fly tags, sprays, pour-ons and backrubs. Blocks and tubs provide the additional advantage of not needing a special feeder and being able to monitor supplement levels from the comfort of your truck. An added bonus is that cattle (or horses*) receive complete mineral and vitamin supplementation in addition to fly control. No need to buy or maintain separate salt or minerals.

Both active ingredients, RabonandAltosid, pass harmlessly through the gut of the animal into the manure where it comes in contact with the fly larvae. (The fecal flies targeted* lay their eggs and go through their larval stages in the manure pat.) Both RabonandAltosidinterrupt fly life cycles by preventing the larvae present in the manure from maturing into adult flies each in their own unique way. Rabonkills fly larvae on contact while Altosidmimics the juvenile hormone, essentially never allowing them to mature into adults. Either method safely and significantly reduces the number of adult flies when used as directed. Neither Rabon nor Altosidhave slaughter withdrawal times and can be fed to all classes of cattle including lactating brood cows and calves. Additionally, Rabon is labeled for fly control in horses.*

For best results, start feeding the SWEETLIX or VMS fly-control product of your choice at least 30 days before the projected last frost (NOW) and continue feeding until 30 days after the first killing frost in the winter. In some areas, these dates will overlap. Horn flies emerge when average daily temperatures reach 65 degrees for a period of at least two weeks. Be sure to provide at least one mineral feeder or block per 10-20 head. Locate mineral feeders or blocks where cattle or horses congregate (near watering, loafing, shade areas, etc.). Increase or decrease the number of mineral feeders or change locations if necessary to adjust for proper consumption. Remember that neither Rabon nor Altosidwill kill adult flies so you need to place supplements out BEFORE you see flies for best control. If adult flies are already present when introducing SWEETLIX or VMS fly-control products, use an approved adulticide for at least one month to eliminate existing adult fly populations.

There are a wide variety of SWEETLIX or VMS self-fed fly-control supplements available through your local Quality Co-op. All are designed to meet a wide variety of nutritional and pricing needs. Visit www.sweetlix.com for more in-depth information on the various options available. You can also call 1-87SWEETLIX to speak with a nutritionist who can help you determine the best product for your specific situation.

In summary, NOW is the time to offer feed-through fly-control supplements for maximum effectiveness. A wide variety of self-fed SWEETLIX or VMS fly-control blocks and minerals are available through your local Quality Co-op location. Go by today and ask for them by name!

* Please see specific product labels for a complete list of flies targeted for control and the species of livestock the product is designed to supplement.

Rabon is a registered trademark of Bayer Animal Health

Altosid is a registered trademark of Welmark International

SWEETLIX and VMS are registered trademarks of Ridley Block Operations

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at jackie.nix@ridleyinc.com or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife. References available upon request.



From Gravel Pit to Geo-Tourism Site


Magnolia Branch General Manager Billy Smith stands before the entrance to the park. Opposite, Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve has over 600 acres of camping area, surrounded by pristine timberland and a spectacular waterfront along Big Escambia Creek. Wildlife and thousands of birds call this area home.

Family-oriented camping and recreation can be found at Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve, owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Winter’s grip has been broken, and spring has finally arrived. If your "wanderlust" is calling you to the great outdoors, then head south to the beautiful, bucolic region known as the Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve. Located off Highway 113, south of I-65 in Atmore, Magnolia Branch has over 6,000 acres of pristine timberland and 50 lakes that have been sustained, protected and enhanced by the efforts of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the only federally recognized Indian Tribe in the State of Alabama.

General Manager Billy Smith explained that when the land was originally purchased it had been an old gravel pit.

"We started with 200 acres that were under water because it had been mined for gravel," Smith stated. "The land wasn’t fit for much, so the Tribe developed it into a recreational area. Then we added more land, and every time we cut trees, we planted long-leaf pines. We have planted over a million long-leaf seedlings. We also have sections for native grasses and petal pollinators to attract bees and butterflies. We are getting back to our native plants such as yellow Indian grass, ironweed and ferns. This means the native animals such as the box turtle and gopher tortoise are also returning."

Campers can enjoy the white sands of the beach along Big Escambia Creek. Whether sunning, relaxing with a good book or watching the kids, visitors will delight in the sights and sounds along the Creek.

In 2014, MBWR was divided into two separate entities to accommodate the growth. The camping area now has over 600 acres, surrounded by pristine timberland and a spectacular waterfront along Big Escambia Creek.

Big Escambia Creek is a clear, freshwater stream that runs along the property for 12 miles. The Creek’s gently rippling waters are kept clean by park employees and tested regularly by the EPA. It is an excellent place to swim, tube, canoe or kayak. The white, sandy beach area is a popular place to sun, relax and refresh. A trip on big yellow tubes usually lasts about three hours, depending on the number of stops the tuber wishes to make. For those wanting to canoe or kayak, Magnolia Branch offers rentals that can be launched from the park’s boat ramp. Floating down the clear stream is an excellent way to relax, unwind and enjoy the beauty of this serene area.

MBWR prides itself on being a family-friendly destination offering some of the best camping and outdoor recreation in Alabama. The campground offers both RV and tent campsites. There are 82 RV sites with water and electricity, 49 with full hook-up and 10 large pull-thru sites. Those who love traditional camping, with a few conveniences, will find 82 sites with both water and electricity. The traditionalist, who enjoys "roughing it," will find unlimited primitive campsites. Campsites are available at daily, weekly or monthly rates.

The blob is one of the most popular attractions at the park, especially with teenagers. One person jumps from the tower, sending the person on the other end of the blob into the air and into the water.

Campers will also find other amenities such as a dump station, three bathhouses with hot showers and a laundry room. Onsite, four group pavilions equipped with tables can be rented for one-day or extended days.

Visitors can also bring their horses and house them in the 10 stables on the grounds. The backwoods riding trails offer water crossings and plenty of rugged, challenging terrain. Day trips are also available for horse lovers.

With over 50 lakes on the Reserve, it is a fisherman’s paradise. Currently, MBWR is working on a 50-acre lake that will expand all the lakes into one system. When finished, the lakes will be well stocked. Visitors will also be able to rent paddleboats and jon boats.

Both hikers and bikers will find hundreds of trails to explore. Some trails are more challenging than others, but they are marked and well kept.

A large array of wildlife can be found in this area. In fact, the park is a bird watcher’s delight, with thousands of birds calling this pristine area home. The park’s proximity to water, to adjoining farmlands and to protective cover makes this an attractive migration point for all kinds of feathered creatures.

The park has many other attractions to entertain visitors. The large playground offers hours of entertainment for the youngsters, while a large volleyball court and horseshoe pit are popular with teenagers. The zip line and blob are very popular attractions for all age groups.

Once families visit MBWR, they usually return. Jeff and Cheryl Luker, who live in Fulton, have enjoyed camping in the park many times.

"Our kids love it," Cheryl said. "We meet other family members here and spend the week. All of us enjoy the outdoors. We look forward to grilling or frying fish, and just visiting with other families. Of course, our kids like to swim or tube. It’s just a great place to bring a family."

The Lukers have also brought the youth from Bassett Creek Baptist Church on day-trips to the park.

"The teens love the blob and the zip line," Cheryl explained. "They tube and swim, and then come back to the pavilion for a picnic. It’s just an ideal trip for the group. Everything we could ask for is right here."

This family-oriented park allows no drugs or alcohol, and tribal police regularly patrol the park area. The park is pet-friendly for leashed, friendly, well-behaved pets.

Park Coordinator Tracey Sells said over 35,000 people come through the gates during the peak months.

"People start calling me for reservations on January 1," she explained. "We are always full during the summer. It’s hard to get reservations on holidays, if you don’t plan ahead."

During the winter months, the "Snowbirds" arrive from as far away as Canada and Australia. The park caters to both short-term and long-term residents. They offer two buses to take guests to the popular Wind Creek Casino and other nearby attractions.

MBWR has five full-time employees and 21 seasonal workers. They host both weddings and family reunions. They cater to church groups, Scout troops and father/son ventures. In addition, many companies hold events for their employees here because of the excellent accommodations available.

If the call to get outdoors is beckoning you, then head to Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve. Discover and explore the wonders of this rustic delight!

For more information, contact Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve by mail at 24 Big Creek Road; Atmore, AL 36502; or by phone at 251-446-3423 or fax at 251-368-0824. They can also be found online at Magnoliabranch.com.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.



Get Tough on Grass Tetany


Spring quick growth and high nitrogen levels can increase chances of grass tetany making it vital to keep cattle supplied with magnesium and calcium levels.

by John Howle

It’s April, and you’re watching the cattle graze all that lush, new growth. All the applied nitrogen and quick growth are paying off as you listen to the herd ripping off and chewing grass in unison. Beneath that peaceful, pastoral scene, there may be a problem waiting to explode.

When grass is growing fast early in the growing season, cattle may not be willing to eat enough dry matter to meet all their nutritional needs. Cattle may love eating all the fast-growing forage, but they can be left with a magnesium and calcium deficiency.

Grass Tetany

According to the Department of Animal Sciences at Purdue University, grass tetany is a metabolic disorder of cattle related to a deficiency of magnesium. Also known as grass staggers or hypomagnesaemia, grass tetany can occur in fall and winter, but it’s most common in spring when cattle are grazing thick, quick-growth pastures made up of orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, timothy, tall fescue, wheat, Kentucky Bluegrass, annual ryegrass and small grain grasses.

You may be thinking, "That’s all the grass I have growing in my pasture." Well, this time of year, the majority of beef producers are growing these grasses as well. The key is finding out if there is a magnesium deficiency in your grasses. Purdue recommends doing soil tests to determine any magnesium and calcium deficiencies and completing a forage analysis.

Southland Veterinary Services owner Phillip H. Wilson has successfully treated many cases of grass tetany, but says preventing the disease is cheaper than treating it.

Purdue University completed studies showing that the risk of grass tetany decreases on pastures containing over 30 percent legumes. This would include clovers, alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil or animals that have wintered on grass-legume hay. Not only will legumes add natural forms of nitrogen to the soil, they can also help prevent grass tetany if they are growing in conjunction with pasture grass.

Symptoms

Phillip H. Wilson, DVM, owner of Southland Veterinary Services and veterinarian for over 20 years, says cool, damp weather increases the risk of grass tetany in cattle.

"When a cow gets grass tetany, you will see her show various symptoms such as goose stepping, running, agitation, or the cow may be completely down and you will see where the animal has been paddling around trying to get up," Wilson said. "Unfortunately, when most producers realize a cow has grass tetany, she may already be dead, but you want to take steps to make sure the rest of the herd is protected."

Even though the culprit is a lack of magnesium, Wilson says calcium is just as important.

"When the magnesium level in the cow goes down, it will drive the calcium level down as well," Wilson explained. "The calcium drives all muscle function including skeletal, smooth and cardiovascular muscles."

Any cattleman can administer the gel, foreground, to the cow orally if she is down. The gel is available at most livestock supply stores. However, a vet should administer the IV to an infected cow because it is necessary to continually monitor the cow for signs of heart failure if the calcium levels have dropped too low.

Treatment

Wilson said a cow that is down can be given a calcium paste orally.

"Once I squirt the paste into the mouth, I will then administer an intravenous calcium and magnesium solution," Wilson said. "When I treat a cow, I give the first treatment by mouth, then an IV with a mixture of calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous. If she can handle the IV, I then administer more solution by injecting it into the stomach."

The paste can be administered by any cattle producer and is available through most livestock supply stores.

"A veterinarian needs to administer the intravenous injections since there can be a danger of heart failure if this solution is given too rapidly," Wilson warned.

Wilson said the cow should be getting two ounces of magnesium per day to help prevent grass tetany.

If grass tetany is becoming a problem for the whole herd, Wilson gives advice.

"You should remove the cows from the feed source, feed them with hay supplemented with grain and provide the trace mineral mix until all threat of grass tetany is gone," Wilson stated. "It usually takes around two weeks to get the herd back to a healthy situation."

Prevention

Many pastures are fertilized with poultry litter or commercial fertilizer, and this can result in grasses having higher nitrogen and potassium levels. Keeping a free-choice mineral containing 8-12 percent magnesium and 16 percent calcium throughout the year helps prevent grass tetany. Providing the herd with magnesium and calcium through a high-quality trace mineral mix from your local Quality Co-op can give that extra insurance that your cows are safe from grass tetany.

"The good thing about magnesium and calcium when mixed with trace mineral salt is salt is an intake limiter, and cows won’t overdose on the important nutrients," Wilson said. "It provides an ongoing supply of the important minerals they need."

This April, before you enjoy the fun watching your cattle graze on lush, spring forages, first, take a look to see if your mineral tub is full of quality Co-op mineral supplement. The qualified professional at your Co-op will be able to provide a mix right for your cattle.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Gopher Purge

by Nadine Johnson

The following column was written in 1987 for another publication. After reading Carolyn Drinkard’s article, "Attack of the Voles,"in the July issue of AFC Cooperative Farming News, I decided it should be printed again. I also decided to present it exactly as I did originally.

Gopher purge (Euphorbia lathyris) – also known as caper purge or mole plant.

Jeanine called me all excited and said, "Nadine, please tell me more about gopher purge. Usually my garden is covered with mole runs. This year I had one of these wonderful plants. There was practically no sign of moles in the area near it. It works! It works!"

Here is your information, Jeanine.

Gopher purge (Euphorbia lathyris)

Gopher purge is a biennial plant that is easily propagated by seed. It can reach a height of three feet. Spike-like leaves grow closely on the stalk-like stems. Small branches sometimes form. DO NOT EAT THIS PLANT. It is poisonous to humans as well to our underground pests.

I, too, have had less mole damage this year. Possibly due to the fact that there were several gopher purge plants in my garden. Only one survived the entire summer. None have bloomed. Maybe my one survivor will do so in its second year.

A gopher purge plant is in the Mobile Botanical Gardens. Tom Daughtery tells me tells me it has performed its task there. It has also created much discussion among visitors to the gardens.

There are many mole remedies to be found. I doubt if any work as well as we would like. Miss Kitty, an adorable foundling kitten, took up residence in my greenhouse and garden. She showed signs of being a good mole exterminator. The poor dear tempted fate one time too many, though. She’s no longer of this world.

Another remedy that sounds great comes from Cousin Albert Pugh. Potash – Red Devil Lye. He said to punch a hole into the mole run. Pour a little lye in the hole. Then replace the soil in the hole. Moles will get potash on their feet, lick it off and commit a form of suicide.

(2014 note: I lost contact with Tom Daughtery long ago. The late Albert Pugh was a long time employee of Bonnie Plants. I do not believe potash is available on today’s market. Gopher purge plants and/or seed can possibly be obtained from Companion Plants, 740-592-4643 or www.companionplants.com.)

(Editor’s note: You can also check with your local Quality Co-op for Motomco’s Mole Killer. They are designed and manufactured to mimic mole’s natural food source – worms.)

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 866-570-7302, or by email at njherbal@gmail.com.




Hello, My Name is Mud

by Baxter Black, DVM

January 1980 is a month I’ll never forget. It all started out about January 7. The previous spring, I had a big hand in selecting the bulls we were gonna use on Albert and Louie’s heifers. Albert had 400 head and we decided to artificially inseminate them in one cycle, then use clean-up bulls. After much discussion with the local A.I. man, I chose a Brangus bull; an easy calver, the book said. For Louie’s 125 heifers, I bought him six brown Swiss bulls.

That fateful morning I called Albert on the phone:

"Mornin’, Albert! How’s it going?"

"(silence)"

"Albert? Are you there?"

"Ten calved so far ... three live calves ... had to pull all ten...."

"Oh."

"Maybe you better come out to the ranch."

"Sure, sure, I’ll be right out."

"Uh, maybe you better bring a bedroll."

I called Louie before I left for Albert’s:

"Louie, how’s the calving going?"

"What are you doing for the next six weeks?"

"What do you mean?"

"Four have calved. We pulled ‘em all. One’s still alive. Oh, by the way, three of the heifers are down. On second thought, the way the boys are cussin’ you, you better wait a day or two ... ’til they’ve cooled off. You’d stand a better chance of leavin’ in one piece!"

I spent the next weeks in a daze drivin’ the 100 or so miles back and forth between Louie and Albert. Sleepin’ in the straw every chance I got, eatin’ when they took pity on me and calvin’ heifers. They made me tie a white flag on my antenna and wear one of those convention name tags that said, "Hello, my name is MUD."

I got run over, stepped on, kicked, mashed, mauled, horned, hammered and cussed, and the heifers did a lot of damage, too! I learned how to do a Cesarean section in my sleep, sutured my surgical glove to a uterus twice and lost 25 pounds! The boys stayed by me every step of the way, but they never once put their arm around me and said, "Don’t worry, Doc, it could have happened to anybody."

I hit bottom the day I went out and looked at two downer heifers I’d been feeding and watering for three weeks. One of ‘em, number 258, I’d been getting up every day and she’d try a little. I thought she had a chance. The other one hadn’t gotten up for 10 days in spite of all my magic medicine and physical therapy. She was failing fast. Both were thin-horned Herefords. I examined them that morning and decided to euthanize the worst one. I was just puttin’ my rifle back in the pickup when Albert walked up and said, "Why’d ya shoot that one?"

Yup, you guessed it ...... I shot the wrong cow!

They didn’t ask me to help select sires the next year. The last I heard they were looking for 500 A.I. ampules from a small Suffolk buck!

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, www.baxterblack.com.




Hi-Yield Herbicide Granules Weed and Grass Preventer

by John Sims

Weed-free flowerbeds and gardens can be yours! Here is an easy way to prevent weed growth around ornamental trees, shrubs, flowers listed on package, vegetable gardens and other areas where undesired weed growth may occur. It contains Treflan to control annual bluegrass, barnyard grass, crabgrass, Johnson grass and many other grasses and flowers listed on label.

Just sprinkle it and forget it for control of grasses and weeds before they germinate.

Hi-Yield Herbicide Granules are available in a 4-pound container, left, or 15-pound bag.

Application Rate:

Apply as early as possible in the growing season for season-long weed control.

Can be applied anytime around trees, shrubs and established plants.

For established plants at least 2"-3" tall, sprinkle on soil surface at the rate of 1 oz. per 10 sq. ft.

Available in 4# container or 15# bag.

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



How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Down With Pests!

Volume 2 of the Gardening in the South series focuses on pest management.

Gardening is sure to introduce us to any number of insects, weeds and diseases that can threaten our plants. Last month I mentioned an ebook by the Alabama Extension Service called "Gardening in the South Volume 1: Getting Started." A second volume, "Pest Management," explains much of the biology and ecology of garden pests, providing insight to how they grow and multiply so that you can better control them or the conditions that encourage them. It is not a picture ID book; you can look up specific insects in books, online or with an app. Instead, the information in this book provides understanding, so you can figure things out on your own or know how to look up more answers. "Gardening in the South Volume 2: Pest Management" is available for $9.99 from iBooks or iTunes for your Apple devices.

Don’t Mow Bulb Foliage

At P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm in Roland, Ark., daffodils grow by the thousands and are encouraged to multiply in the field grasses near the house. This is an idea that can be applied to lawns and open spaces anywhere there is some sun. After they bloom, patches of bulbs are carefully left to grow until their foliage naturally dies back. This is necessary for all bulbs, including those in flowerbeds. Like all bulbs, daffodils depend on the leaves that come up for just a few months of the year to recharge so they bloom, grow and multiply. All daffodils and other bulbs need is a little bulb booster fertilizer after they bloom.

Tomato Timing

Some folks like for all their tomatoes to ripen within a short time for canning and cooking, then they take August off! However, if you are the type who likes to stretch out the season among snacking tomatoes, sandwich tomatoes and cooking types, now is the time to make your selections. Early Girl is a great performer. It is the first tomato of the season and often also the last. It will go through fall if properly maintained in the summer heat. Cherry tomatoes provide a steady yield for snacks and salads as they seem to outgrow most leaf problems and also keep bearing in heat and into fall with good care. Sungold, Yellow Cherry, Sweet 100 and Black Cherry are four tasty ones. All tomato gardeners have a favorite sandwich tomato. Mine is Cherokee Purple, but it’s not the only one we grow because there are others that are more productive. It’s always fun to try a new one each season, too. Because we like to make spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce for winter soups, we grow roma types that are meatier and less juicy. Remember to plant tomatoes deeply (bury 2/3 of the plant) so that the buried stem will also grow roots to make the plants stronger and more resistant to drought.

This paddle plant shares a container with yellow portulaca, another drought-tolerant succulent.

Paddle Plant

Have you noticed how plants become fashionable? Right now, one of the most popular ones is a big-leafed succulent called paddle plant, named for the shape of its leaves. Paddle plant (Kalanchoe thrysiflora) grows a rosette of thick, gray-green leaves that turn beautiful shades of orange and red in sun and cooler weather. This is an excellent patio container plant that doesn’t need much watering. Water weekly and feed it once a month or so with a liquid plant food to encourage new growth. Although the plant is usually a low-growing rosette, it will grow to about two feet tall in a tropical climate. You can carry it over year to year by bringing it indoors to a sunny window for the winter. Pot it in a cactus mix to ensure the soil drains well.

Solar Fence Charger

If deer are keeping you from planting a vegetable garden, a simple electric fence may be the deterrent you need. Instead of running electricity to the garden, try a solar charger to supply the needed power to keep the wire hot enough to deter the deer. We have one of these in use around a garden at Bonnie Plants that stays charged and provides the needed charge. Check out your local Quality Co-op for specs and prices. It may be just what you need to finally let you have a garden.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.



Like Buttered Cornbread and Buttermilk

This is butter and buttermilk. Refrigerate it now in order to make separating them easier.

by Herb T. Farmer

We’re going to get around to all of the fermentables I create here at the Herb Farm, and I know I promised a fermented drink for this month. Instead of fermenting a drink, let’s culture one and get a byproduct to boot!

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Rita phoned me and asked if I wanted to place a dairy order. She belongs to a co-op that makes regular trips to Wright Dairy Farm in Alexandria, a town just north of Anniston.

Rita doesn’t live anywhere close to the farm, but there are so many folks in the co-op that each member only has to make the buying trek about once per year and there’s a fresh dairy delivery to the co-op headquarters about once every two weeks. The co-op is operated by a family who just wants good, quality dairy products for her family and to operate a co-op in their home is a small price to pay for their good health.

Since I was due for a trip up to the big city anyway, and I hadn’t seen my friend in what seemed like a coon’s age, I ordered some heavy cream, whole milk and cheddar cheese.

She picked up my order from her friend who operates the co-op and brought it to her house. I made my journey into the big city, took care of appointments, visited with friends at their small businesses and then headed for Rita’s house to get my goods.

When I arrived, she said she was getting ready to make some cultured butter that she started the day before and asked if I had ever made any.

"No," I said, "but I would like to try it."

She explained her process thus far and brought me up to speed on what she was doing.

The only butter I had ever made was sweet cream butter, where I took some heavy cream and churned it to separate the butter from the milk. The end result was butter and the byproduct was skim milk.

Cultured butter is quite different in that you end up with butter and buttermilk.

You begin by combining 1/3 cup of buttermilk (fresh yogurt will work as well for the bacterial culture) with 2 cups of heavy cream. Fold together in a mixing bowl, cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and keep at room temperature for at least 24 hours for the culture to do its thing.

This is where I entered the process. Actually we started another batch so I could photograph the beginning as well.

The result of the culture at this point is crème fraîche.

Crème fraîche is a soured cream simply made by adding a bacterial culture to heavy cream and allowing it to stand covered for a certain period of time at a temperature warm enough for the live cultures to work that converts the whole culture to a slightly thinner product than sour cream.

Save a little of the crème fraîche for later.

Pour the crème fraîche into your blender or food processor and turn it on. The butter will start to appear as small bits. As the yellow bits begin to separate from the white liquid, the butter will start to lump-up and ball.

Place the entire batch into the refrigerator to chill. Chilling the batch makes it easier to separate the buttermilk from the butter.

At this point you can place the whole content into a sieve to drain off the buttermilk. Then place the butter into a butter bag. If you don’t have a butter bag, use what we used – a clean cotton pillow case dedicated to kitchen use only. (Washed with mild, unscented detergent and borax, then line dried.)

Place the butter into the bag and squeeze it like a stiff piping bag. The buttermilk will start to seep from the bag.

After extracting as much of the buttermilk as you can, it’s time to knead the butter to remove all traces of the liquid. Adding ice water to the butter as you knead it helps dilute the buttermilk and remove it. Do this several times.

Your butter is now ready to put in your butter mold or butter crock.

Use the buttermilk for making cornbread or biscuits, or for just drinking. I could make a meal out of buttered cornbread soaked in a cup of fresh buttermilk.

As for that crème fraîche; it’s delicious on fruits and vegetables. Rita gave me a recipe for buckwheat pancakes that I’ll share with you.

Buckwheat Pancakes

1½ cups buckwheat flour

1 Tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 Tablespoons crème fraîche or melted butter

2 cups buttermilk

1 egg

Mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and whisk together. Cook on hot greased griddle.

Serve the pancakes with fresh seasonal berries, a dollop of crème fraîche and Dean’s Country Sausage made in Attalla. Yum!

Coming up, we’ll make some sauerkraut and I’ll tell you all about the benefits of kombucha.

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 farmerherb@gmail.com. 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.



Manager of the Year

Wayne Gilliam’s family are all smiles with his receiving the E. P. Garratt Manager of the Year award at AFC’s 78th annual meeting in Montgomery; from left, Tim, Anabel, Wayne and Cole Gilliam.

Wayne Gilliam, a three time recipient of the E. P. Garrett Award, has produced impressive results at Tuscaloosa Farmers Co-op in Newport.

by Alvin Benn

Adjusting to changing times can make or break a business, but Wayne Gilliam has mastered it with ease during his more than four decades as manager of Tuscaloosa Farmers Co-op in Northport.

"It’s all about accepting the fact that change will happen and being ready for it when it does happen," he said after being named the E. P. Garrett Manager of the Year at AFC’s 78th annual meeting in Montgomery.

He also wanted to dedicate the award to the memory of Roger Pangle, AFC’s late president who passed in 2013.

Wayne Gilliam, left, and Tommy Paulk, retired president of AFC, share a moment. Paulk was not surprised for Gilliam to have received his third Manager of the Year recognition.

A standing ovation greeted Gilliam as his name was announced at the meeting held on Feb. 25 at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery. He became only the second manager to be so honored a third time.

More than 200 managers, spouses and friends turned out for an event that had a lower than usual attendance due to snow and icy roads in north Alabama.

When AFC President Rivers Myres began reading background details about the recipient of the coveted annual award, it didn’t take long for most in the huge meeting room to begin looking in Gilliam’s direction.

Myres mentioned "impressive results" at Gilliam’s business during the past decade in which sales increased by 225 percent. Patronage equity also increased 116 percent during the same period. They were key factors leading to Gilliam’s selection.

His major accomplishments also included 2 years of consecutive profitability – something that didn’t surprise those who have known Gilliam during his nearly 45 years as a successful manager at the Tuscaloosa Co-op.

Former AFC President Tommy Paulk, who is one of Gilliam’s best friends, also cited several other accomplishments highlighted by a "resuscitation" effort that turned the Tuscaloosa business from a loser to a winner.

"When Wayne took over as manager, it wasn’t doing well," Paulk recalled. "One of the first things he did was focus on his changing clientele. He only has about a dozen farmers as customers in his area, so he’s concentrated on those who live in urban areas."

As a result, Paulk said, Gilliam’s management efforts have zeroed in on helping homeowners, gardeners and other Tuscaloosa County residents who live far from farms.

What means the most to Paulk, however, is Gilliam’s "integrity and honesty," traits that have won him lots of loyal customers through the years.

"Wayne never meets a stranger and is always gonna tell you the truth," Paulk said. "When he tells you he’s going to do something, he does it. He’s one in a million."

Gilliam, 66, grew up on a farm managed by his Baptist preacher father who expected his son to get his chores done as soon as he got up early in the morning to milk the cows before he went to school.

"I never had any intention of being a farmer," Gilliam said. "It was a hard life and I knew it, but I was able to do my job. As it turned out, agriculture has been my life."

Uncle Sam called during the Vietnam War and Gilliam wound up in an Army mechanized infantry unit.

Back home in Alabama, he put his military service far behind him as he become a clerk and truck driver before he was hired at the Co-op in Tuscaloosa. It wasn’t long before he was running the operation.

Tim Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, has known Gilliam for the past 30 years and continues to admire his administrative skills.

"Wayne is a taskmaster," Wood stated. "He’s a guy who is up early in the morning and often works late into the night to make sure the job gets done right."

Wood also said Gilliam is demanding when it comes to his employees, but does it to set a personal example.

"Wayne lets those who work for him know he’s ready to do the same things they do if need be," said Wood. "He may have an aggressive personality, but he is really just a big old teddy bear."

Gilliam, whose hair has turned snow white through the years, continues to work long, hard hours. His wife Anabel has said his only hobby is "work."

The two will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year. They have two sons Tim, 36, and Cole, 31. Cole holds his dad as his mentor and may, one day, take over management of the Co-op.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Memories of “Best Ever” Meals

Rolley Len helps start training their new squirrel dog puppy Suzy by getting her interested in a squirrel tail on a string.

by Christy Kirk

Most people my age have heard their parents talk about how hard life was when they were growing up without all of the modern conveniences we have today. Stories about walking through snow to school uphill both ways are always popular. My dad added his own personal touch: on his long walk to school, he carried a little metal pail that contained his sad lunch of a cold potato. We knew the stories were either made up or at least exaggerated, but they still told them and we got the point.

My parents have always shared many stories about their lives with my sister, me and the grandchildren. Sometimes tidbits from the past even show up in conversations between family members on social networks like Facebook. Not long ago, I came across a photograph of an old wooden house posted by my mom’s brother Uncle Pat. The photo sparked this exchange between my mother and her brother:

"Thinking about the fireplaces my grandparents used for heat, no indoor plumbing to speak of, lights or electricity. The main idea was to have a place to cook, then maybe another for the bedroom on the other side, both with ‘ways out’ ...."

"I think about how they lived a lot. One time Mother told me that ‘Granddaddy didn’t eat chicken when he had visitors, so they could have the meat …."

"We drew water from the well for cooking and drinking, washed clothes in a wringer washer and cooked on a wood stove. The outhouse was past the pig pens and garden next to the chicken coops."

"Got new pair of shoes in Sept. when school started …. It was a wonderful childhood."

"I liked mine too, and, to be honest, the food was a whole lot better back then ...."

Mom and Pat are 12 years apart in age, so sometimes their age difference means they may have different perspectives and memories from childhood. But, no matter what generation they are from, all of my family members remember certain meals as being the best ever.

Memories of "the best" lunches and dinners in years past are not just memories of trips to the grocery store and popping bowls in the microwave. The best lunches or dinners were the culmination of the process of growing, gathering, hunting and preparing the meal. The journey of the food to the table was a special part of the experience of dining with family. Having the preparers share hunting stories directly related to the food on your plate can only enhance the meal.

Squirrels, in particular, come up quite often in discussions about favorite dishes whether they are on social media or in the family living room. Another recent post by Uncle Pat mentioned former family neighbors Vernice and Lucille Cline who lived in Steele. Pat said Mr. Cline worked for the railroad and had taught him how to squirrel hunt. Recipes for squirrel may not be that popular in modern cookbooks, but, through word of mouth, such recipes will never disappear. After seeing his post, I quickly messaged Pat to see if he had any new recipes I could use, and, of course, he quickly responded with one.

For Rolley Len and Cason’s birthdays in February, Jason got them a squirrel dog puppy. She is a feist-cur and the kids quickly named her Suzy, although sometimes they call her Suzy-Q or Suess. She is definitely a pet, but she is being trained as a squirrel dog and the kids have been getting her interested in a squirrel tail on a string.

Jason has already been teaching Rolley Len and Cason about hunting squirrels, so soon they will take Suzy to the woods with them in search of squirrels. With any luck, it will not be long before they are bringing home a sack for their next meal of squirrel dumplings.

Maybe one day Rolley Len and Cason will be telling their own children about how they brought home their own dinner and how it was the best meal ever.

Brunswick Stew

2 grey squirrels

8 cups water

1 Tablespoon salt

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup whole corn, canned or frozen

2 onions, diced

1 cup lima beans

2 cups canned or strained stewed tomatoes

¼ pound salt pork, diced

1 Tablespoon flour

1 Tablespoon butter

Pepper, to taste

Skin, dress and clean squirrels. Disjoint the squirrel. Put water and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add squirrels, potatoes, corn, onion, beans, tomatoes and pork. Cover and simmer 2.5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Mix flour with butter into a smooth paste. Add this to pot and mix well. Cover and cook 15 more minutes. Season with pepper and stir until slightly thickened.

Squirrel Pot Pie

3 grey or fox squirrels

½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon flour, divided

3 Tablespoons butter, divided

1 quart water, boiling

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Rounds of biscuit dough

Skin, dress and clean squirrels. Disjoint the squirrels. Roll in ½ cup flour. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Add squirrels. Sauté until brown. Add water, onion, salt and pepper. Cover closely and simmer for 1 hour. Cook biscuits while squirrel simmers. Lay crusts of biscuits on squirrels, cover and let boil for 15 minutes. Remove squirrel with crusts and place on a platter. Blend 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter. Add to squirrel liquor in the saucepan, mixing well. Pour over squirrels and crusts.

Note: For variations, add lemon juice, sherry or Worcestershire sauce to gravy before serving.

To make this more like a modern-day pot pie, add vegetables like diced potatoes, peas and whole corn and use the biscuit dough to make a double crust.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.



Mister Billy - Requiem to a Turkey Hunter at 9 and 94

Billy Stimpson, when he was 9, with a turkey he harvested slung over his shoulder at the Bullpen Hunting Club.

by Corky Pugh

Born into a hunting-camp culture where males of any age older than the one addressing them were reverently referred to as "Mister" followed by their first name, Billy Stimpson lived life as fully as anybody I have ever known.

Exactly when Billy made the transition from referring to others as Mister Whoever to being referred to as Mister Billy remains a mystery. Billy’s father Mist’ Fred was one of the original wildlife conservationists in Alabama, and a national leader in conservation circles. He was my mentor Charles Kelley’s mentor, so there was a natural connection of sorts in the way we all thought.

The connection was a deeply humbling one for me. To walk in the company of giants helps you to understand how relatively small you really are. I never put myself in their league.

Billy’s brother Mister Ben, who I also had the privilege of knowing, was also among the giants. Although Ben and Billy were different in many ways, they shared an uncommon degree of shrewdness. This keen-witted, clever sharpness in practical affairs permeated their thinking, whether in the corporate boardroom or the turkey woods or anywhere in between.

Ben was quieter and more deliberate; Billy was more spontaneous and could sometimes be boisterous. They both had steel-trap minds.

April is a fitting month to pay tribute to Billy, who passed away in January at the age of 94. He literally lived to hunt turkeys in the spring. Knowing what I know, I firmly believe that the promise of yet another spring turkey season helped keep Billy alive and kicking.

Once, while being interviewed for a magazine article, Billy said, "I work so I can afford to hunt and fish." As pointed out in a January memorial article, the reality was that, through hunting and fishing, he spent untold hours with his wife Margaret, children and grandchildren creating memories while teaching them about leadership, stewardship, conservation and responsibility.

Tough, but nurturing; old and wise, but ever youthful; Billy was both predictable and unpredictable. When it came to matters of principle, he was always consistently unwavering. A champion for private property rights, he fought hard to defend private landowners’ interests through active involvement at the state and national level.

Although privileged in many ways, including hunting opportunities, Billy never lost sight of the common man. He was introspective enough to recognize that most people did not share his good fortune, and that maintaining the broad base of hunters required looking beyond his own circumstances. He brought this mindset to a decade of service on the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board where he was a voice of reason and advocate for the masses of rank and file hunters.

Many people with a lifetime of accomplishments like Billy’s – distinguished military service, successful businesses, leadership in corporate circles, and a pile of awards and honors – begin to take themselves too seriously. Not Billy. No, sir.

The last time I had the opportunity to visit with Billy, he was the same as he was the first time I met him, some 30 years previously.

The place of that original introduction was Bullpen Hunting Club. Billy was obviously in charge of what was going on. This was the same place that Billy had his picture taken with a turkey gobbler slung over his back at the age of 9.

There was the spirit of a 9-year-old behind Billy’s eyes on every occasion I saw him. This playful part of his character was part of what kept him from taking himself too seriously.

In addition to his ever-present young-at-heart outlook, Billy had the remarkable ability to accurately sort out the way things used to be from the present state of affairs. Many people lose their ability to keep things in perspective as they age. Billy clearly knew that the relative abundance of turkeys when he was 9 was less than when he was 90. And he knew why.

The wildlife conservation success story that he witnessed in his almost-century-long existence was a marvel to him. He clearly saw the role hunters played in paying for management and protection of wildlife resources. He clearly saw the role private landholders played as stewards of the land and its creatures.

When Billy was well into his eighties, Sandy, one of his sons, called my office at the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and told me, "Daddy accidentally killed three gobblers with one shot and wants to turn himself in. What does he need to do?"

"He needs to go to the District Court at the county courthouse and put himself on the docket and pay the fine," I replied.

Billy followed my advice and went down and paid the fine.

The following day, another phone call came, with the inquiry, "Daddy wants to know if all three turkeys count toward his season limit?"

My affirmative response was no surprise.

Corky Pugh is theexecutive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for, go to the website at huntingheritagefoundation.com. You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email corkypugh@mindspring.com.




Operation Grow


Building Opportunities for Veterans

Press Release from Alabama Extension

For many veterans, reentering civilian life after a military career is stressful. It’s a feeling David Koon can relate to. While Koon is a regional home horticulture agent for Alabama Extension, he is also a member of the Alabama National Guard who has served multiple tours in the Middle East.

"They come out of the military and they may not be able to find a job offering the same salary or benefits," Koon said.

Koon’s colleague Chris Becker thinks a new Extension program, Operation Grow, will highlight career options for veterans looking to settle into civilian life and for options to boost their incomes.

"During the last year, I talked with a number of veterans and veterans’ groups like the Wounded Warrior Project," said Becker, who is also an Alabama Extension regional home horticulture agent. "I kept hearing that lots of recent veterans are interested in agriculture."

Becker said that is how the idea for Operation Grow began.

"My idea was to show veterans how they could become involved in small-scale agriculture," he said. "We want to provide them with good basic knowledge that can help them make sound decisions and to avoid making costly mistakes."

He added that more than 65 percent of the Alabama farms producing vegetables grow crops on less than 5 acres.

Now, he and his colleagues are ready to launch the first Operation Grow class series targeting veterans in five northwest Alabama counties: Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Marion and Winston.

Classes will be taught by Alabama Extension professionals and local growers. Becker said that space is limited for the free program, but veterans will be given priority. People interested in Operation Grow should contact the Lauderdale County Extension office at 256-766-6223 to register and for more information.

The Operation Grow series includes sessions covering a wide range of agriculture topics. Each session will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.. Lunch will be provided to registered participants.

March 19: Cattle Production 101, Tuscumbia Rail Road Depot, Tuscumbia

April 9: Soils, Plant Nutrition and Irrigation, Lauderdale County Extension Office, Florence

April 23: Small Ruminant Production 101, Camp McDowell, Nauvoo

May 7: Commercial Vegetable Production, Cullman Electrical Cooperative

May 21: Commercial Fruit Production, Franklin County Extension Office, Russellville

June 11: Integrated Pest Management, Tuscumbia Rail Road Depot, Tuscumbia

June 25: Fruit & Vegetable Field Day, North Alabama Horticulture Research Center, Cullman

July 9: Resources, Product Marketing, Funding & Opportunities, Lauderdale County Extension Office, Florence

Becker said grant funding from the Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development Council allowed Extension to offer the classes for free as well as to provide meals.

Becker acknowledges that veterans are not a typical audience for Extension agriculture programming.

"Why are we targeting veterans? That’s easy. We want to give back to them as a way of saying thank you for all that they have done for us," he explained.

If the first Operation Grow series is successful, Becker and Koon believe it can be duplicated across Alabama and by Extension professionals in other states.




Outdoor Traditions

Chuck Sykes and his father Willie have harvested a deer together each year for the past 38 years on their Choctaw County family farm. Bes, the red merle miniature Australian Shepherd, has participated in the last 10 years and Syd, the blue merle, has participated in the last 2 years.

Enjoying the outdoors with friends and family is what shaped me into what I am today.

by Chuck Sykes

Spending time with friends and family in the great outdoors is what helped shape me into the man I am today. Appreciation of the outdoors and the outdoor lifestyle has always been something that is near and dear to my heart.

Thankfully, I had a father who spent time with me in the outdoors. He instilled in me the passion and love for wildlife and management, and also the realization that hard work and persistence pay big dividends in both your personal and professional life. For that, I will be forever grateful.

We started hunting together when I was 6 and we have seen a lot of changes since then. I can remember the early years when we would see one deer per week, if we were lucky, and through the 1980s when we would see 50 per day. We have spent a lot of quality time together in a deer stand.

Friday, February 6, was a historic milestone in my life. That day marked the 38th year my father or I harvested a deer sitting together in the same stand on the same food plot on our family farm. I certainly hope I can keep adding years to that outdoor tradition.

As someone who has dedicated his life to management of land and wildlife, it has always been extremely difficult for me to understand how anyone could not enjoy the outdoors and especially hunting.

I have been learning more and more about the typical hunting public over the past 2 years since I joined the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. Unfortunately, many who hunt are not like the friends I’ve hunted with over my career. It seems that most hunters only purchase a license once during a 5-year period. Times are changing and license sales are on the decline. It is a slight decline, but still a decline. How could this be happening in Alabama of all places?

Alabama ranked seventh in the nation for retail sales associated with hunting according the 2011 National Survey. Surely, Alabama hunters would continue to buy licenses and enjoy the outdoors and the incredible natural resources we have. Although for the past several years license sales have either slightly increased or stayed the same, the fact is license sales by Alabama residents are down approximately 4,000 as compared to the same time last year. Are there really fewer Alabama residents hunting or are they just not purchasing a license?

Do people simply not understand how important purchasing a hunting license is to the way of life I love? Remember, WFF doesn’t receive any money from the State of Alabama General Fund; the majority of the budget comes from license sales and the matching federal funds (Pittman/Robertson). Also, remember those matching federal funds can’t be used for law enforcement, meaning that 66 percent of every state license dollar goes to pay for law enforcement activities. So, reduced state license dollars means unfilled vacancies within the law enforcement division, which yields reduced services to landowners.

I was naïve to think that loss of interest and lack of understanding would ever impact my circle of friends. Boy, was I mistaken. While sitting at a hunting camp the first week of February, I was shocked by the lack of understanding some of my friends had about my concerns on the future of hunting and wildlife management in our state. This was mainly due to their lack of knowledge about how WFF is funded and how important license sales are to the management of wildlife throughout the state.

Meanwhile, they also had a tough time tearing themselves away from their cell phones to carry on a face-to-face conversation; this was disappointing to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, I spend too much time on the cell phone, too, not relaxing like I once did. I can vividly remember the days of climbing a tree and just hunting. I used to enjoy walking in the woods, scouting for deer signs, picking the right tree to hang a stand, waiting on the right wind to hunt it and harvesting a deer. It was a great feeling of satisfaction. Whether it was a doe, yearling buck or trophy buck didn’t matter.

Modern advancements like cell phones have provided many benefits to hunters. But, they also provide tremendous distractions as well. I actually heard someone say, "I was sitting in the stand playing Deer Hunter on my phone." Enjoying the sights and sounds of the outdoors used to be enough. But, it doesn’t seem to be that way now. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to taking work to the field. Answering emails and texts while in the deer stand is a common occurrence now. I have to do better. The woods used to be a place of solitude and comfort for me, and a place to relax and gather my thoughts. Now, it’s just an outdoor office. I’ve got to get back to that place. I think we all need to get back to that place.

I think we’ve got to get back to the place where harvesting a deer is more than just an excuse to post a picture on Facebook. As a culture, we have changed so much in the past 20-30 years that I don’t know if we can get back to just enjoying being in the outdoors. This weekend’s deer hunt was a wake-up call for me on several levels. First, I was extremely proud and humbled to be able to continue a tradition with my Dad. Secondly, I was a bit embarrassed to realize what the past few years have turned me into. I’ve turned into a sitter not a hunter – and there is a HUGE difference.

So, I guess this article is a challenge to myself and other hunters in the state. Please take time to just enjoy the outdoors. Try to go back to the way it used to be when friends and family would gather at the hunting camp to tell stories of past hunts and to create new memories and new traditions that could be carried on. Look up from the phone or the iPad before what we have is gone!

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



Pals: Partnering With Pals


Hayden Primary students are excited about making a difference in their school and community.

by Jamie Mitchell

Hayden Primary School in Blount County recently decided to partner with Alabama PALS to become a Clean Campus School. Hayden Primary houses kindergarten through second grades at their campus. The first and second grades heard my 30-minute presentation about littering, recycling and reusing our resources.

The students were very excited to hear all about how they could make a difference in their school and community. Several students shared their personal stories of helping clean up in their neighborhoods and in other parts of town. The school will be receiving bags from PALS so the children can participate in the Annual "Don’t Drop It on Alabama" Statewide Spring Cleanup.

Since there is not a recycling facility near the school, the teachers are going to be working on a plan to get creative with recycling lessons. I left them two boxes, one for paper and one for plastics, so they can begin doing some basic recycling practice. We discussed doing a "recycling drive" once or twice a semester and delivering the recyclable items to the closest town with a recycling facility.

The students at Hayden were very enthusiastic about plans to keep their school and town litter-free! If a school near you would like to hear more about keeping their school more beautiful, just have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at Jamie@alpals.org.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.



Plan for Nature’s Bounty

by John Howle

"Real Patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when it’s wrong." --- Ron Paul

A patriot is defined as a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. Patriotism is defined as devotion to one’s own country and concern for its defense. The key words in both definitions include the idea of defending the country.

The defense of the country idea in America has many different points of view. What shall we defend? Should we defend our borders, our Israeli allies, our ideas of freedom, our currency, our standing in the world as a powerful nation, our right to free speech, our right to keep and bear arms, our right to privacy, our right to the free exercise of religion or our right to an unbiased education free from indoctrination?

As April’s rebirth of forage brings fruit to farms and forests, let’s consider making it popular once again for being a patriot who defends the important things in this country. Future generations will certainly benefit from fruits of what we defend today.

Speaking of the fruits we produce, April is a time to make sure you have all your supplies for a bountiful garden. Get the kids involved and teach them when they get hungry, they should run to the garden instead of the government. For a successful garden, you will need some pre-planning.

Hard, plastic bottles such as juice or Gatorade bottles made ideal seed dispensers and long-term freezer storage vessels.

Soil Test, Seeds and Fertilizer

Assuming you completed a soil test of your garden during the winter and applied the necessary lime, you can plan your spring planting. The garden site should only be plowed when the ground is dry to avoid hard clods in the soil. A well-plowed site will end up with soil that is moist, clod-free and has a smooth tilth. When you walk through the plowed soil, it should leave a smooth-packed boot print behind.

Lay off your rows, plow furrows and plant the seeds at the depth indicated on the seed package. Your local Co-op store can walk you through the entire process, help you select the best seed varieties for your area, and give helpful advice for planting dates of seed varieties in your county.

You can store your seeds in clean, dry, heavy plastic bottles for long-term storage in the freezer by marking the bottles with a sharpie. Juice bottles and Gatorade bottles are made of thicker plastic and make ideal storage containers for storing your seeds. When planting, the seed bottles make it easier for planting because you can easily pour out the right amount of seeds in your hand as opposed to digging them out of a paper sack and risk tearing the bag and spilling seeds in the dirt.

Growing plants require fertilizer, and your Co-op can tell you precisely what type and amount of fertilizer you need based on what you are growing in your garden. Corn requires lots of nitrogen. Green beans and peas, on the other hand, require little nitrogen because they are legumes, which fix Nitrogen in the soil with their root nodules.

Canning Supplies from the Co-op

You can also order all your canning supplies from your local Co-op. Glass jars, rings, lids, pressure cooker and equipment for long-term storage of your summer harvest should be itemized, and now is the time to order any replacement parts. Make sure the inside rubber ring of your pressure canner is lubricated with cooking oil to prevent the ring from dry rot or cracking.

April Showers Bring Outdoor Hours

The old saying is when the dogwoods are blooming, the crappie will be biting and the gobblers will be gobbling. Certainly the weather begins warming, and fish will bite more readily and gobblers are becoming more vocal.

I’m not an avid crappie fisherman, but I do itch to go bass fishing when April arrives. Whether you are on a public lake or a farm pond, this time of year, a Texas or Carolina-rigged rubber worm retrieved slowly along the bottom can encourage a strike from a hungry bass. If you are fishing from a boat, cast toward the edge of the bank, allow the worm to drop into the water, and retrieve slowly towards your boat allowing the weighted worm to bounce along the bottom.

If you hear a gobbler sound off on an early April morning, quickly look for a spot to set up your blind on an elevation higher than the gobbler. Even if you have to travel a considerable distance, the bird is much more likely to travel uphill to your calling than downhill. I have a "go-to" ridge at our farm that is the highest elevation of woods where turkeys pass through. I can always go to this ridge to listen for birds flying to roost, or setting up to calling a gobbler in.

While you are calling a gobbler, use a stick to scratch in the leaves to replicate the sound of turkeys scratching around for acorns. Be sure the turkey is not in sight and can only hear you. Sometimes adding the leaf scratching sound makes turkeys feel more at ease coming to your position.

This April, don’t be afraid to be a patriot and defend those things you hold dear. If we run out of patriots, we will have no defenders left.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Seeking the Crown

Training your dog to find sheds is becoming more popular every year. If you do, make sure to start them out early getting used to sheds.

The Hunt for Shed Antlers

by Todd Amenrud

I have been training my yellow lab, Annabell, to find and retrieve shed antlers for almost a year. I had a great laugh a couple days ago when I let her go outside for a "potty time" and she came back to the house with an antler in her mouth. I was SO PROUD! - her first real antler on her own. I praised her, "Good girl, bring it here!" I was so pleased … until she got closer and I saw it was the antler off of my 3-D target! At least she has learned to recognize antlers by sight; I hope she does as well with the real thing.

There are various reasons why we search for these cast-off crowns. I started about 20 years ago, and every year it seems I become a more avid shed hunter. I’m not the only one, shed hunting has become so popular that guided, week-long shed-hunting vacations that include food and lodging can cost $2,500 or more. Don’t let that scare you because sheds can be found in your own hunting area - for free.

One hot spot to search for sheds is a fence crossing. An antler is often jarred loose when the buck lands after jumping the fence. (Credit: Austin Delano)

There are numerous reasons why searching for shed antlers has become so popular: it’s the perfect way to expand your interest in whitetails, it’s good exercise and it’s a perfect time to take a jab at "cabin fever." It’s a great family participation sport and can be a great way to learn something that may help you get closer to a mature buck the following hunting season. Not to mention that big sheds can bring in big bucks ($) ... pun intended.

Shed hunting is also valuable for helping formulate management decisions like which bucks should go on your hit list. It also helps in estimating the buck population and age of the animals that made it through the hunting season.

It’s a challenge to understand the life and movements of a specific buck, and when I find a shed I feel like I’m one step closer. I get more excited, however, to know that his rack will be more impressive next year, with greater mass, longer beams and maybe extra tines.

My main reason for going on these searches is to learn more about my hunting area and the patterns of the animals. Finding shed antlers can make you a better hunter by showing you which areas mature animals utilize. Late winter through spring is a valuable time for seeking out the travel patterns of mature bucks. With the foliage off of the trees, signs you never saw last fall can seem blatantly obvious.

When should you begin the search? On a lease I used to have in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota, I’ve seen bucks drop their antlers as early as late December, but that’s early. Most deer hold their racks through January and begin to drop during February and March. Around my home, it’s usually the second week in March when most bucks "go bald." If you wait too long, newly growing weeds and grasses will make the search more difficult, and mice and chipmunks will have a chance to gnaw on them for the calcium and phosphorous.

While deer may shed both of their antlers within seconds of one another in the same spot, don’t expect that to happen often. Once, while walking a tract I used to hunt in Manitoba, I found a matching pair of 5x5 sheds stuck upside-down, side by side in the snow. It was like the buck placed them there for safe keeping. Sometimes you’ll discover just one and sometimes you’ll find both, and sometimes you’ll find them close by one another and other times the matching half might be a half mile or more from the first.

You might get lucky by just taking an aimless stroll, but you’re better off to have a plan. Begin searching areas where you’ve seen deer during the winter. Prime locations will be winter food sources, swamps with conifer trees for thermal cover and heavy cover adjacent to leftover agricultural crops. Thick stands of conifers, south-facing hillsides, freshly logged areas, ravines and stream bottoms offering some protection from cold winter winds are all good bets for shed hunting. Make sure to check fence crossings where an animal might jump across and jar the antler loose as it lands on the other side.

Always bring binoculars - they can save a lot of legwork. If you see something that looks like an antler far away, you can often cut down excess walking by examining it through your optics. Most youngsters love to hunt for sheds if given the opportunity, so bring your kids or a neighborhood youngster – the more "eyes" the better for this task.

While searching for these "discarded bones," make sure to always be on the lookout for rub lines, scrapes, trails and other signs as you walk through their territory. These key pieces of information can make you a more knowledgeable hunter and help you bag the buck that carried the antler the following fall.

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.



Shielded by Rock and Prayer

Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church was constituted on August 27, 1842. The log church was constructed on land donated by Moses Rushton and built by master carpenter Jesse Yon.

Historic Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church is a stately testament to those who “labored in the fields and toiled in the work of the Lord.”

by Jaine Treadwell

Folks who are traveling unfamiliar territory in the piney woods of South Montgomery County and find themselves on Gardner Road will be fortunate indeed.

Somewhere in the neighborhoods of Briar Hill and Pine Level is Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church. The stately Colonial Revival church is reason enough to attract attention. But, just as amazing is the rock wall that borders the church and cemetery.

Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church is situated on more than two acres in the rural countryside. The freestanding rock stands like a sprawling sentry guarding those who rest in peace in the serene surroundings.

The fence was not built in short time. It must have taken hundreds of wagonloads of rocks and several years of stacking to complete the fence around the 2-plus acre site.

Sonny Mills lives just across the creek from the historic church. His grandfather James A. Mills preached at Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church back in the early 1900s. He is a member of a group who oversees the upkeep of the church. So, Mills has a long and strong connection to the church.

"There aren’t many Primitive Baptist churches around anymore," Mills said. "Services are held at Pisgah every fourth Sunday. It used to be that services would be held here one Sunday each month and at other Primitive Baptist churches in the area the other Sundays. But times have changed."

Sonny Mills reads the typed record of the history of the church. That record is framed and hangs next to the handwritten record from which it was taken.

Times have changed, but Pisgah has remained much as it was when it was built in 1931.

Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church was constituted on August 27, 1842. The log church was constructed on land donated by Moses Rushton and built by master carpenter Jesse Yon.

"The Rushton family was a prominent family in the area and strong supporters of Pisgah," Mills explained. "When the present church was built, the Rushton family was acknowledged with a marker on the front of the church."

The church is a one-room meeting house with wooden pews that were designed so people of all ages were "required" to sit up straight and tall and feed on the word.

The only ornamentation in the church is a stained glass window behind the pulpit. The church is simple with walls made from knotty pine, but there’s not one single knot anywhere to be found.

"The pews weren’t built for comfort," Mills said, laughing. "The church is as simple as, perhaps, the people who first worshiped there. The walls were made from knotty pine, but there’s not one single knot anywhere to be found. The coat racks were made from tree limbs and are used today. The only ornamentation is a stained glass window behind the pulpit."

Mills said the window is thought to be original to the church.

Carpet has been added in "modern" times and conceals the trap door behind the pulpit. The door opened to a special place where the pans used in foot washings were kept.

At the front of the church, a set of pews is located on each side of the church perpendicular to the pews facing the pulpit area. Those pews were used during foot washings.

"The men sat on the pews on one side of the church and the women sat on the other side," Mills said. "The men washed the men’s feet and the women washed the women’s feet."

Foot washings continue to be a part of the August services at Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church. The service also includes communion. Following the service, there’s a big dinner on the ground, Mills said.

Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church is a prime example of the more stately rural churches of the early 1900s and it is recognized as such. But, it is the rock wall that surrounds the historic church cemetery that attracts the most attention.

Graves in the church cemetery date back to 1800s. Several of the graves are marked with rocks from nearby fields.

The fence stands from 3-4 feet high and is made from tons - scores of tons - of field rocks gathered by farmers in the old fire tower area of Pike County.

"The story is that, when the farmers’ crops were laid by in July, they would load up the rocks on wagons and the mules would pull the wagons to the church. The men would unload the rocks and stack and build the fence," Mills said.

The fence is built of rocks of many different sizes. Some of the rocks are so large and heavy it’s hard to understand how a man could lift them onto the wagon.

"It would have been a heavy load for a mule to pull, but they did it," Mills said. "It must have taken several men to place some of the big rocks on the fence."

The fence was not built in short time. Mills said it must have taken hundreds of wagonloads of rocks and several years of stacking to complete the fence around the two-plus acre site.

There’s no mortar to hold the rocks in place, so it must have taken trial and error and a great amount of patience to get the rocks placed just right.

"Rocks were also used on many of the graves," Mills said. "There are a lot of graves that date back to the 1800s and people used what they had and they had rocks."

Rock-marked graves can be seen throughout the cemetery. Some of those graves are isolated together in different areas and others are mingled among the more modern grave markers.

Mills’ grandfather, his parents and his wife are buried at Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery and there’s a place there for him.

And what better place to be buried than in a cemetery that is bordered and protected by a rock wall built by those who "labored in the fields and toiled in the work of the Lord."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



Southern Racks


Sisters Katie Hall, left, and Jessica McQueen are cosmetologists who enjoy hunting and spend as much time as they can in the woods where Katie uses her rifle and Jessica uses her bow and arrow.

Sisters apply their knowledge of cosmetology to create skin and hair care products which make female hunters almost “invisible” to deer.

by Alvin Benn

Sisters Katie Hall and Jessica McQueen are busy cosmetologists who are using their knowledge of chemicals and the great outdoors to launch a business catering to the distaff side of hunting.

They’ve already invested thousands of dollars in Southern Racks and are prepared to spend more if needed to make it a success.

When they’re not cutting hair, they’re often conferring on how to improve on a venture they hope will gain support among female hunters in Alabama.

Deer hunting has been increasing in popularity among women in recent years and the sisters are well aware that scent, or the lack thereof, is vital to success in the woods.

So, what they’ve come up with is a product that, while not making women "invisible," is designed to lessen scent when a deer nears their stand or shooting house.

Sisters Katie Hall, left, and Jessica McQueen hold up Southern Racks apparel at their business location in Selma.

Southern Racks offers an assortment of shampoos, conditioners, body washes and lotions all designed to limit "human smell" that can tip off a deer that their days could be numbered.

Hall, 34, was never that interested at first in deer hunting, but, the more she went into the woods and her successes increased, she became an avid hunter.

In late January, she hit the jackpot, thanks in part, she says, to her pre-hunt use of Southern Racks cosmetics and their scent-free ingredients.

She saw the big buck just as the sun was beginning its descent and she had been in her shooting house for more than two hours.

"He just walked out into the field and began eating grass a few feet from where I was," she said. "My heart began racing and it was all I could do to calm down."

Her goal was to land her first big buck to mount and what she saw was made to order for a wall at her house.

"It was a perfect shot, just behind his right shoulder and through his heart," she recalled. "He ran a few feet before dropping. I called my husband to come get him for me."

The buck was a 9-pointer and weighed just under 200 pounds. It’s a moment she’s unlikely to ever forget.

Hall had been in the right position in the past when a deer would approach, lift its head, stick its nose high and then race out of range when he didn’t like what he had just smelled.

"When I got that big buck, I didn’t give him a chance to run," said Hall who used a Savage 110 .270 rifle. "I believe it was due to the scent-free lotion I was using. It’s a way to mask yourself so you won’t be detected. If the wind is blowing just right toward them, there isn’t much you can do, though."

The sisters do not believe that using a product such as the one they’re marketing provides an unfair advantage for a hunter.

"Luck has a lot to do when you‘re talking about deer hunting," she said. "It’s still a sport as far as I’m concerned. Many factors are involved and there is no guarantee of success. Just look at golf for example."

Millions of men and women grab their golf clubs each year, but the best equipment in the world won’t guarantee sub-par rounds without the right grip, stance or follow-through.

The sisters both attended Lowndes Academy and went to Wallace Community College in Selma for their cosmetology training before beginning their careers.

Hall rents space at a Selma salon while McQueen, 31, manages a salon in Auburn and supervises several other cosmetologists.

When they decided to go into business together, they focused on their clientele and the challenges facing them.

They wanted a product that was natural and without sulfates, which is a harsh chemical. A problem at first was formulation and, to take care of that, they both went to Dallas and met with experts at a cosmetic laboratory.

It was a long round trip, but they came away with an optimistic vision of what could become a successful, profitable business.

"We were given a tour of the plant in Dallas and let them know what we had in mind," Hall explained. "We wanted our product to be very moisturizing and especially color safe. They took it from there and provided us with what we have today."

Shampoo was the first of four product lines and each has "Scent Free" at the bottom of a colorful pink tube container. The back maintains that it "controls body odor."

The sisters have also made their products available for men; however, instead of pink, the tube will be a woodsy brown.

They’ve been to several Expos, spending time at their booths to explain their product to hunters unfamiliar with it.

"We’re going to the World Deer Expo in Birmingham this summer," Hall said. "We realize it will take time to build our business, but are confident it will happen."

She and her sister have used other "scent-free" items after finding them online "and didn’t like them because we feel we’ve made something better."

The tubes cost $10 each and there also is an attractive brown bag containing all four of the tubes for $35.

The sisters have ordered 1,000 tubes of each product so they know, in addition to their "day jobs," they’ll have to step up their marketing and promotional efforts to sell their scent-free products.

For details about their products check www.southernracksllc.com, southernracks1@gmail.com or call 334-349-5199.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "You’d have never known it by looking at him, but ol’ Clem left his wife and kids well-heeled when he left this earth."

What does a heel have to do with an inheritance?

There are several meanings of the word "heeled." Three of these can lay some claim to being the source of this phrase:

Provided with money.

Equipped with a weapon, especially a revolver.

Having a heel, or spur.

Of course, "well provided with money" is our contemporary understanding, so that has to be a good place to start. In Eva Wilder Brodhead’s "Bound in Shallows," 1897, there’s the line:

"I ain’t so well-heeled right now."

The context of the story makes it clear that this "not so well-heeled" refers to poverty. Good-quality shoes have never been available to the poor and, consequently, have been seen as an indication of prosperity. It’s reasonable to assume that the heel being referred to here is the heel of a shoe or boot, as in the converse of the phrase, "down at heel."

The "equipped with a revolver" meaning is given in J. H. Beadle’s "Undeveloped West," 1873:

"To travel long out West a man must be, in the local phrase, ‘well-heeled.’"

Again, the context the line is in makes the meaning clear − in this case the possession of a gun.

The "having a heel" version is cited in the Iowa newspaper, Dubuque Daily Herald, April 1866:

"... they resembled dung hill chickens thrown into the pit with their natural spurs, to meet and contend with game cocks well heeled. One stoke puts them to flight, squawking as they go; they cannot stand steel."

Here, the heel is clearly an applied spur cocks were equipped with during cockfights.

The above citations, as well as the large majority of other early references, are American and it’s reasonable to suggest the term originated in the United States. The cockfighting citation is the earliest, but not so much earlier than the others to make it the obvious source.

If we take a broad view and say the phrase meant "well equipped" (with something), we could accept any of the above as plausible origins. Unless more evidence is found linking any one of them to the phrase as we now understand it, we have to say that, apart from locating the origin in the United States, the jury is still out on this one.




Tapeworms in Goats and Sheep


Tapeworms can reach lengths of 6 feet and grow by developing new segments that are packed full of tapeworm eggs, waiting to be released. (Credit: The ManicaPost)

by Robert Spencer

During the past 2 years I have had more conversations about problems with tapeworms (Moniezia expansa) in the Southeast United States. Up until 2 years ago, they had not been an issue among small ruminant producers. What has caused an increase in their presence is unknown at this time. Based on references listed, there seem to be varying opinions whether there is a concern about the impact of tapeworms. Whether they are having a negative impact or not on livestock may be up for debate, but, one thing is for sure, it is startling to see evidence of them! With this article, I hope to give you a better understanding of these creatures, potential management and possible treatment. I am not a parasitologist, so I have very limited knowledge in this area, just sharing information.

Biology

There are other gastro-intestinal parasites that are a worse threat to livestock, but the lifecycle of tapeworms is interesting. Tapeworm eggs must be consumed by an Oribatid, grass or pasture mite that lives in the soil or on vegetation. These mites are very prevalent and prolific, especially during summer and early fall. The problem begins when goats and sheep are grazing and ingest these mites with tapeworm eggs or larvae. Once the mites are ingested, they move into the animal’s gut and the mites expel the eggs or larvae, which develop into worms. The larva can take six to seven weeks to mature, and then use the muscular suckers on the top of its head to attach itself to the surface of the small intestine. These worms can easily live for 18 months. Tapeworms are part of the Cestode class of stomach worms that are unique because they absorb nutrients through the skin of their body and not their mouths. Tapeworms can reach lengths of 6 feet and grow by developing new segments that are packed full of tapeworm eggs, waiting to be released. So you can see goats and sheep are merely intermediate hosts for these worms. It is when the egg-filled segments of the tapeworms containing thousands of eggs are released and passed by the intermediate host, that we see evidence of white, rice-like creatures in fecal matter of animals as it lays on the ground.

Management

It takes 40 days or more from the time an animal ingests an infected grass mite until tapeworm segments appear in feces. Animals infested with tapeworms may appear to have a rough coat (same as with lice), reduced weight gain and a potbelly appearance. Tapeworms are more prevalent when animal stocking rates are excessive. Cold temperatures do not necessarily kill them or their eggs. Young animals are most vulnerable to tapeworm infestation. Although there may not be any external evidence of tapeworms during the cold of winter and no eggs are found in fecal-egg analysis, it is possible for adult tapeworms to thrive in livestock. Like with all wormer applications, the goal of treatments should be to significantly reduce (less than 80 percent) worm populations, not eliminate them; animals should be capable of building a tolerance. Tapeworms seldom kill small ruminants. Only select wormers are effective in eliminating tapeworms. Tapeworm eggs are not always present in fecal-egg analysis; it is more common to find larvae in feces samples.

Treatment

Reducing tapeworm populations will likely require a combined management strategy. Commercial wormers may have limited effectiveness in reducing tapeworm populations. And copper has not proven to be effective in reducing tapeworm populations. The most practical strategy for dealing with tapeworms is similar to dealing with barber pole worms.

Pasture rotation – move animals as forages are grazed 6 inches or less.

Allowing grazed pasture to remain dormant as long as possible.

Treat animals in spring or early summer at first evidence of tapeworm larvae.

Repeat treatment may be necessary in late summer or fall if evidence reappears.

Cull adult animals that repeatedly become infested with tapeworms.

References listed at the end of this article tell that there are four of the white wormers that can reduce tapeworm populations: praziquantel, albendazole, oxyfendazole and fenbendazole. Albendazole is said to be most effective, but not suitable to use on pregnant animals. The University of Kentucky recently did a study where they used copper sulfate (CuSo4) with acceptable results, and a mixture of copper sulfate and nicotine sulfate has even better results in reducing tapeworms. There are plenty of rumored remedies, but require evidence such as pre- and post-treatment evaluations.

Tapeworms and livestock have something in common: both have been around for a long time. Hopefully, a better understanding of their biology, host, lifecycle, management and possible treatment will put farmers in a better situation to control encounters. Experts may eventually explain this increased presence of tapeworms; it may be a short-term situation. Talk with your veterinarian and search the Internet for more information. n

References:

Ely, D. "News to Ewes: Can Copper Sulfate Control Stomach Worm Infestations?" Hoofprint, Spring 2014.

Hart, S. "Meet the Enemy." Langston University. http://www.acsrpc.org/Resources/meettheenemy.html.

Junquera, P. "Moniezia Expansa and Moniezia Benedeni, parasitic tapeworms of Sheep, Goats, Cattle and other Livestock: Biology, prevention and control." PARASITIPEDIA.net. http://parasitipedia.net/index.php?option=com_cont....

Schoenian, S. "Tapeworms: Problem or Not? Small Ruminant Info Sheet."Sheepandgoat.com. http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/tapeworms.htm....

Zajac, A. "Disgusting Tapeworms!" Timely Topics: September 2014. College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech.http://www.wormx.info/Resources/Topics/Zajac-Tapeworms.html

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.




Thanks For Your Service

Jimmy Newby, Chairman of AFC’s Board, left, and Rivers Myres, AFC’s President, right, presented Service Awards to Alabama Farmers Cooperative employees at the annual meeting in Montgomery.

60 YEARS – Frances Dahlke, Alabama Farmers Member Stores: Walker, Cullman and Marshall Co-ops. 35 YEARS – Reggie Shook, General Manager of Lauderdale County Co-op; John Holley, General Manager of Lawrence County Exchange (not pictured)
30 YEARS – Jamie Denard, AFC Cooperative Accounting Services 30 YEARS – Jay Jones, manager of Headland Peanut Warehouse Co-op
30 YEARS – Tim Wood, General Manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op. 25 YEARS – Tim Hazle, AFC Corporate Systems (not pictured) 20 YEARS – Jeff Houston, manager of Farmers Cooperative Market, Leroy; Danny “Bud” Murdock, manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op, Rainsville (not pictured)
20 YEARS – Jody Enfinger, AFC Management Services; Scott Hartley, General Manager of Taleecon Farmers Co-op (not pictured) 15 YEARS – Tommy Dailey, AFC Property
15 YEARS – Andrew Dempsey, Manager of Calhoun Farmers Co-op, Piedmont 15 YEARS – David Tierce, Manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op, Crossville
10 YEARS – Doug Akers, AFC Corporate IT 10 YEARS – Terri Byars, AFC Cooperative Accounting Services

The Co-op Pantry

This will be a first for the Pantry! Our cook of the month is actually someone I watched grow up! Markus Solomon is now an adult and married with three children.

Markus Solomon was born in Killeen, Texas, but moved to Lawrence County when he was an infant and has spent most of his life here. After graduating from high school, Markus decided to make a career of the U.S. Navy, where part of his training was as a culinary specialist! There Markus learned to cook for a large number of people at a time.

For most of us, be it a wedding reception, family reunion or company party, we will have to make at least one dish in quantity. Markus has been kind enough this month to share several of the easier dishes to cook in quantity that won’t make you pull your hair out!

Let it be said, I remember when Markus’ mom Donna was trying to teach him to cook while he was still at home. The burned macaroni and cheese, straight out of the box, will live in all the neighbors’ memories forever. Fortunately, that situation changed after Markus grew up and got busy with his career.

Markus explained, for an event to succeed, the first thing you needed was the most accurate headcount that you could get so you have enough of everything to follow the recipe to the letter.

Then, you go into the prep phase where you get all your ingredients out including the pots and pans, and cooking utensils. It helps to have a large island or table where you can do your prep work. Next, Markus said to line everything up in sequence of usage. If you have more than the 100 people these recipes will feed, there are several good online calculators where you type in all your ingredients, the number of people the recipe is supposed to feed, and then type in the extra number of people and it will recalculate the quantities of all your ingredients. This is a handy thing to keep in your online Favorites.

Re-read your recipe! Begin cooking, following that recipe and, if you find yourself getting a little overwhelmed, read the recipe again. Then, you just cook, paying close attention to the time and temperature found in the recipe.

Markus served in the Navy from 2008-2013 until he developed a serious medical condition requiring him to have to find another career. At present, he is doing security work and pursuing a degree as a Medical Assistant which he should complete this summer.

Markus has a lovely wife Tracie, a daughter Hayley, and two sons, Christopher and Mason. If his life isn’t busy enough with work, family and college, he also coaches baseball, football and softball with his kids.

Now, all you need is a trip to the bakery for a cake, cookies or cupcakes, and bring on the guests!

I would suggest finding a civic group or church that is set up for cooking in large batches and seeing if you couldn’t cook there, since most of us aren’t going to have large enough pots and ovens to prepare these recipes as swiftly as they need to be. Many fellowship halls have everything you need and most would be happy to let you use their facilities for a nominal fee, if any!

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

BARBECUED BEEF CUBES

1 gallon + 1 quart water
30 pounds lean, raw beef, cubed
3 gallons +1 quart barbecue sauce (prepared sauce is just fine)

In a large pot, pour in water. Put in cubed beef and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring constantly. Cover and cook for 15 more minutes. Add sauce and cover; simmer for 1 hour or until tender.

PEPPER STEAK

30 pounds raw Swiss beef steak, thawed
2 ounces non-sick cooking spray
1 gallon water
2 pounds canned tomato paste
2 cups soy sauce
1¾ ounces granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup cornstarch
1 quart cold water
8 pounds fresh green peppers, chopped
2¾ pounds fresh onion, chopped

Lightly spray a griddle with non-stick cooking spray. Cut steaks into ½-inch strips; brown at 350° for 5 minutes, turning frequently. Place strips in roasting pans.

In a large pot, combine water, tomato paste, soy sauce, sugar, pepper and garlic power. Blend well and bring to a boil. Dissolve cornstarch in cold water and stir until smooth; add to sauce mixture. Cook until thickened, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour sauce evenly over beef strips in each pan. Cover and bake in a convection oven at 325° for 1½ hours with fan on high and vent closed.

Add 4 pounds peppers and 1 quart onion to each pan. Stir to distribute. Cover and bake 20 minutes or until beef is tender. Hold at 140° until served.

CHICKEN FAJITAS

2½ cups lime juice
¼ cup salt
¼ cup + 1/3 Tablespoon garlic powder
¼ cup onion powder
¼ cup ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
3/8 Tablespoon ground red pepper
23 pounds chicken fajita strips
200 flour tortillas, 8 inches
2 ounces non-stick cooking spray
5-1/8 pounds fresh onions, sliced into
¼ inch strips
5 pounds fresh green pepper, julienned
2 ounces non-stick cooking spray
3 quarts + 2 cups of salsa

Combine lime juice, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cumin and red pepper. Stir until everything is well blended. Pour mixture over chicken strips, mixing thoroughly to coat all the strips. Marinate in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Wrap tortillas in foil and place in a 150° oven for 15 minutes or until the tortillas are soft.

Lightly spray a griddle with non-stick cooking spray. Grill onions and peppers 6-8 minutes while tossing periodically. Re-spray griddle as needed. Remove from griddle and keep warm.

Re-spray griddle with non-stick cooking spray. Grill chicken strips 5-7 minutes until lightly brown, tossing periodically. Re-spray griddle as needed. When finished cooking, hold the strips at 140° or higher until ready to make fajitas.

Place 6-7 cooked fajita strips and 3 Tablespoons of the onion/sweet pepper mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll tortilla tightly around the mixture and secure the tortilla with a toothpick.

Serve with 2 tablespoons of salsa per fajita. If these can’t be served immediately, keep them at 140° until time to serve.

STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS

17¼ pounds fresh green peppers
1 gallon boiling water
1 gallon + 2 quarts steamed rice
24 pounds ground beef
2 quarts + ¼ cup fresh onion, chopped
½ cup salt
1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ cups Worcestershire sauce
2 quarts water, divided
1 gallon + 2 ½ quarts tomato sauce (canned is fine), divided

Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove core. Place peppers in boiling water. Return to a boil and cook 1 minute. Drain well and set aside.

Prepare rice according to package directions. Combine rice with beef, onions, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, 1 quart water and 2 quarts of tomato sauce. Don’t over mix.

Fill each pepper with ¾ cup of beef mixture. Place filled peppers in roasting pans. Pour 1 cup of water around peppers in each pan. Pour remaining sauce over peppers. Cover pan. Bake at 350° for about 1½ hours or until tender. The internal temperature of the peppers must reach 155° for at least 15 seconds. Hold at 140° until time to service.

CREOLE MACARONI

1 gallon + 2 quarts cold water
3 quarts + 1½ cups tomato paste
3 quarts canned diced tomatoes, drained
1 quart + ½ cup fresh green pepper, chopped
3½ cups fresh onion, chopped
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup + 1-2/3 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2-2/3 Tablespoons whole sweet basil, Crushed
1 Tablespoon ground red pepper
1 Tablespoon ground thyme
1 Tablespoon salt
6 pounds dry elbow macaroni noodles
4 gallons boiling water
11 pounds raw ground beef
1 pound American cheese, shredded
Large aluminum pans, about 18x12x7½ (commercial sized)

Combine cold water, tomato paste, tomatoes, peppers, onions, sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, basil, red pepper and thyme in a stock pot. Mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10-15 minutes or until thickened.

Add salt to boiling water. Stir in macaroni and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. After boil is reached, cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Make sure you don’t overcook or scorch the pasta.

In a large pot or skillet, brown beef until it loses its pink color. Drain off excess fat. Add tomato sauce mixture and macaroni to the beef. Mix well.

Pour about 8¼ quarts macaroni mixture in each pan.

Sprinkle 1-1/3 cups cheese over the macaroni mixture in each pan.

Using a convection oven, bake at 325° for 20 minutes. Turn your fan on high and close the vent until the mixture is bubbling and cheese is melted. Hold for service at 140° or higher.

CHILI MACARONI

14 pounds ground beef
2 cups ground dark chili powder
½ cup ground cumin
½ cup ground paprika
3 Tablespoons salt
3 Tablespoons garlic powder
2 Tablespoons ground red pepper
11 gallons water, divided
9 pounds dry elbow macaroni noodles
1 gallon + 1-7/8 quarts diced canned tomatoes, drained
4 pounds tomato paste, canned
3-1/8 pounds fresh onions, chopped

Place beef in a steam-jacketed kettle and cook until it loses its pink color, stirring to break apart. Drain excess fat. Combine chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Stir into beef. In a separate large cooker, use 9 gallons of water to prepare macaroni according to package directions. Combine tomatoes, tomato paste, onions and 2 gallons water to meat mixture. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Watch carefully as this must not come to a boil! Stir occasionally. Add cooked macaroni and combine thoroughly. Internal temperature must reach 155° for at least 15 seconds. Hold for service at 140°.

TACOS

22 pounds ground beef
¼ cup salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
½ cup light chili powder
2-3/8 cups all-purpose wheat powder
200 corn taco shells
6 pounds cheddar cheese, grated and divided
5-7/8 pounds fresh iceberg lettuce, chopped and divided
3-1/8 pounds fresh onion, chopped and divided
3 quarts + 2 cups taco sauce, divided

Cook beef until it loses its pink color, stirring to break apart. Drain excess fat. Combine salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, chili powder and flour. Add to beef and fry for 5 minutes. Internal temperature must reach 155° for 15 second. Hold at 140°. Arrange taco shells on sheet pans. Using a convection oven, bake at 325° for 2-3 minutes with fan on high and vent open until just heated. Place ¼ cup meat filling in each taco. Line up to each other in a steam table pan. Hold at 140° for service. Just before serving, top each taco with 2 tablespoons cheese, 2-1/3 tablespoons lettuce, 2 teaspoons onions and 1 tablespoon taco sauce.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2015 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. --Mary



The FFA Sentinel: Attending the Inaugural

FFA officers celebrate Alabama agriculture as they march in the Inaugural Day Parade with Commissioner McMillan.

State and District FFA officers were present for the 2015 Alabama Inauguration and Parade in Montgomery.

by Danielle Walker

Agriculture is a huge part of our great state’s economy and our future. What better way to honor that future than to include those who will be our future? As FFA members, students are taught many lessons. Some of those are directly related to our state’s agriculture and some are opportunities to practice networking, public speaking, motivation and exerting a positive influence on their communities. As the future leaders of our state, it was truly an honor to be invited to attend the 2015 Alabama Inauguration and Parade.

FFA members are present at the inauguration of Governor Robert Bentley.

The Alabama FFA State Officer Team as well as the Alabama FFA Central District Officer Team was invited to participate in the Alabama Inaugural Parade and Celebration held in our state’s capital of Montgomery on Jan. 19. Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan invited the officers to join him and take part in the festivities. As part of Commissioner McMillan’s tribute to agriculture, the two FFA Teams graciously accepted the invitation to represent agriculture in our great state on inauguration day.

The officers spent the night in Montgomery to ensure they would not miss any activities the following day. Some travelled from as far away as G.W. Long and White Plains High Schools. All officers were invited to "Coffee with the Commissioner" Monday morning before the parade. At the morning gathering, the FFA officers met many important people, including McMillan himself. McMillan was happy to meet and shake hands with every officer and was delighted to take a picture with the officers. This was an opportunity to showcase the caliber of young people involved in the FFA here in Alabama as well as a chance for those FFA members to network with those individuals who represent agriculture’s interest in Montgomery. During his speech, McMillan recognized the FFA officers and thanked them for attending the day’s event. After the gathering, all officers made their way to the Capitol to watch the swearing in of the statewide officeholders, including John McMillan and Governor Robert Bentley.

FFA members are present at the inauguration of Commissioner John McMillan.

Once the inauguration was complete, the FFA Officers walked to their spots in front of McMillan’s float. McMillan’s float was an absolute masterpiece. He stood in front of a red hay barn with bales of hay around the perimeter of his float. He shared his elaborate float with an amazing windmill and lifelike baskets of fresh produce at his feet. McMillan’s float was pulled by a brand-new John Deere 6150 M tractor courtesy of SunSouth of Montgomery. McMillan’s float was accompanied by the Catfish Car, proudly representing Alabama’s catfish industry.

The inaugural parade also included many bands representing both high schools and universities in Alabama. The State and Central District Officers were very grateful for the opportunity to take part in the march down Dexter Avenue and would like to take this opportunity to thank Commissioner McMillan and his staff along with all the other individuals and organizations who made this event possible, and for extending such a generous invitation and allowing them to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Danielle Walker is Alabama FFA Central District Reporter.



The Spouses’ Program at the Annual Meeting

Michael Seal, owner and operator of The Funny Farm, in Poplarville, Miss., gave a demonstration on growing, propagating and mounting/attaching bromeliads at the Spouse’s Program at AFC’s annual meeting. Bromeliads compose a large, diverse family of plants including pineapples, Spanish moss, and tillandsias that are commonly known as air plants. Michael has specialized in these plants since 1984 and is a sought-after authority by garden clubs and Master Gardener associations throughout the South.



The Tricks of Good Lawn Care

by Tony Glover

This is the time of year we usually start getting questions about lawn care, particularly about weed control and fertilizing. The most frequent question usually centers around "weed and feed"-type products. There is a lot of confusion about these products and there is a mind-numbing number of them on the market. For instance, the so-called "crabgrass/weed preventer with fertilizer" products are marketed as convenient to use, but that convenience may come at a price. The first cost is the product itself, which can be quite expensive. Another cost may be the decreased health of your turf from using an ill-timed and inappropriate product.

In order to effectively kill weeds, those products containing fertilizer plus pre-emergent weed killers must be applied before warm-season weeds (like crabgrass) germinate; that may be in mid-February to March depending on soil temperatures where you live. Unfortunately, that is much too early to apply fertilizer for all grasses except fescue or bluegrass. When fertilizer is applied that early, the grass may start to grow much too soon if we have a couple of weeks of warm weather. Past experience has taught us that a late freeze or even a frost can do a lot of damage to warm-season turf grasses. Bermuda, zoysia, centipede and St. Augustine grasses are all tropical grasses that are much better adapted to heat than to cold. These grasses can be easily "tricked" into growing too early in the spring. This can be true for any warm-season grass, but, according to Jim Jacobi, Extension pathologist, it is especially damaging to centipede grass. Plus it’s wasted nitrogen that will just feed the early-germinating weeds.

The more prevalent "weed and feed" products contain a fertilizer plus a post-emergent weed killer. These products are normally applied to young developing weeds. In most years, these weeds are most susceptible to herbicides during the same time the grass is in the "green up" stage. This is the correct time to fertilize, but it can be a very bad time to apply herbicides. The reason it can be bad is because warm-season grasses are most easily damaged or stressed at this stage of their growth and many herbicides cause some stress to grass.

You may be wondering if there is a correct time at all to use "weed and feed" products and that is a very good question. Those products containing a post-emergent weed killer and fertilizer blends may have a window of usefulness after spring green up when late-germinating summer weeds are small. For instance, if you use a pre-emergent weed killer (without fertilizer) in February, it may wear off enough that some later weeds emerge. These weeds could be controlled with a "weed and feed" in late May or early June, after the grass has passed the stressful green-up phase.

There is a correct way to approach weed control and proper fertilization, but it involves an extra bit of effort. Pre-emergent weed killers may be used by themselves at the time just mentioned. Fertilizer should then be applied by itself in late April to early May. Fertilization type and amounts should be based on soil test results, not guesswork, so this is a good time to test the soil to see if additional lime is needed and to find the correct fertilizer for your lawn. You can learn more about soil testing at www.aces.edu/soiltest.

I have had people tell me they have done it the "wrong" way for many years without a problem. My response has always been that I know people who live very unhealthy lifestyles and live to a ripe old age, but this is the exception, not the rule. We regularly see soil test reports indicating excessively high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. These lawns may go for a long time with no problem, but problems may arise at some point down the road.

Even if you never see severe problems, you are at the very least wasting fertilizer and possibly polluting ground water, streams and rivers. We also regularly see lawns that are fertilized too early get hammered by a late frost. If you fertilize too early, the law of averages will eventually catch up with the luckiest gardener.

Lastly, we see turf with unexplained lack of vigor and poor health problems that may indicate severe weakening by a poorly timed herbicide application.

For information on proper care of your turf grass, visit www.aces.edu and search our publications area.

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



What Are We Thinking?

by Glenn Crumpler

As I write this, my fourth and newest grandson Daxton "Dax" Tyler Crumpler is celebrating his one week old birthday (almost to the hour). He is a beautiful and perfect-looking baby if there ever was one. Also, my daughter is just two weeks from delivering my second granddaughter, who will be named Brooke Olivia Meredith. In fact, she was just released from the hospital last night where the doctor was monitoring my daughter’s blood pressure and the heartbeat of little Brooke – trying to get her to stay in mama for a couple more weeks.

It is amazing how technology has progressed since my children were born. We know more about conception, the beginning of life and the development of the human body than ever before. Now you can get both the 3D and 4D ultrasound pictures at just weeks of gestation that are almost like a studio photo of the baby. The baby’s heartbeat can be detected and monitored starting at about 18 days from conception and at 22 days it is pumping blood through its very own closed circulatory system. By six weeks from conception, brainwaves of the baby can be detected. By nine weeks, the baby is able to feel pain. By 14 weeks after conception, the baby has its own unique fingerprints – different from anyone else’s ever created.

The following was taken from the Pro-Life Action League website: "Four weeks from conception, a baby’s eye, ear and respiratory systems begin to form. Thumb sucking has been documented at seven weeks from conception. At eight weeks from conception, a baby’s heartbeat can be detected by ultrasonic stethoscope. By nine weeks from conception, a baby is able to bend her fingers around an object in her hand. By 11-12 weeks from conception, the baby is breathing fluid steadily and continues to do so until birth. By 11 weeks from conception, a baby can swallow. Between 13 and 15 weeks from conception, a baby’s taste buds are present and functioning. At 20 weeks, and perhaps as early as 16 weeks from conception, a baby is capable of hearing his mother’s heartbeat and external noises like music. At 23 weeks from conception, babies have been shown to demonstrate rapid eye movements, which are characteristic of active dream states. At six months from conception, a baby’s oil and sweat glands are functioning. At seven months from conception, a baby frequently ‘exercises’ in preparation for birth by stretching and kicking. At eight months from conception, a baby’s skin begins to thicken, and swallows a gallon of amniotic fluid each day and often hiccups. During the ninth month from conception, a baby gains half a pound per week. Of the 45 generations of cell divisions before adulthood, 41 have already taken place."

All this information is proven and documented. The advanced technology makes these issues indisputable, but somehow, many scientists, medical doctors and a majority of people in our culture – even in the Church – are ignoring to address this one question in this picture:

What are we thinking? Why are we ignoring the obvious? How is it that with all this advanced technology and scientific knowledge (even if we disregard Biblical teachings for the moment), is no one willing to answer this one seemingly rhetorical question? How can we realistically have it both ways? Science proves that one is dead when the heart stops beating for an extended period of time. Science also proves that one is indeed alive when the heart begins beating on its own.

If you consider the Biblical teachings, and there are a lot of them that speak to the issue of the physical heart and the shedding of blood, then there is no way to Biblically argue against the point made in the pictured question that a unique, personal, individual, human life begins and exists within the womb!

In Jeremiah 1:5, God told us that He himself formed us in our mother’s womb and before we were born He already had a plan for our lives. In Psalms 139:13-16 (NIV), King David prayed to the Father: "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."

In Genesis 25:23, God told Isaac and Rebekah about the twin boys (Jacob and Esau) who were still in her womb: "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." History shows us that this indisputable evidence that this was indeed the case: Jacob was the founder of the Nation of Israel and Esau the nation of Edom.

The Bible makes it clear that God Himself was the creator of each of these individuals and that He had a plan for them before He created them in their mother’s womb. If you bring in the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, the point is even more indisputable. Matthew 1:23 says, "The virgin will be with ‘child’ and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel – which means God with us."

The Gospel of Luke (and Luke was himself a medical doctor), recorded that the angel Gabriel said to Mary: "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with ‘child’ and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus." Notice that the prophecy and the revelation by Gabriel did not say the virgin shall be with "tissue" or "cellular matter" but that she would be with "child" in the womb – who would be born a son. The living being in the womb was a living child, a human being, created by God for a purpose!

What if either of these women referenced (or their men) had made the decision to destroy the lives within them before they were born? What would history and the future look like for us if these lives had been terminated before they fulfilled God’s purposes?

Science has proven and continues to prove in new ways every day that a heartbeat in the womb is indeed a living being. God created each one uniquely and for a purpose. So if a person is pronounced dead when their heart stops beating, then why are they not pronounced alive when their heart starts beating? What are we thinking?

Father forgive us and help us to turn from our sinful ways. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord …." (Palms 33:12)

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



“Happy, YOU Happy”

by Suzy Lowry Geno

"Happy. You happy," she said as she reached out and touched my arm.

I can only understand some words in Spanish and she is struggling to learn English, but we did not need her teenage daughter to translate for us as we shared that goodbye phrase and smiles.

The beautiful young mother with three children traveled here to Old Field Farm from another county to buy "farm fresh eggs from happy chickens" from my tiny general store.

Her 4-year-old son’s bright smile would have powered a solar system as he wandered amongst the free-range chickens, ducks, guineas and turkeys. The funny "nom nom noms" coming from the goats as he and his little sister fed them peanuts was likely the highlight of the afternoon.

They all peppered me with questions.

When the mother learned I managed the farm and do all the farm work myself, she fired off questions to me almost faster than her teenager could relay them to me! And she understood most of my answers, laughing and enjoying one of the sunshiny days of winter.

It was one of those visits that make me appreciate my little homestead and thank God for my many blessings here. And it also set me to thinking ....

I am likely the happiest I have ever been in my life. Not a ha-ha-ha type of happiness, but a feeling of true contentment.

That may seem odd to some people.

In the last few years, I tended my mama and my husband, and then sat at each of their bedsides as they passed from this life to the next. I lost my mother-in-law in between the time of my mama’s and my husband’s deaths. And I can guarantee to you that those kinds of losses will change your perspective on life forever.

My finances seem to be an ever-present uphill battle (which I am conquering one paid-off bill at a time!)

But, oh, my goodness! I am a woman who made her living most of her life through words. But there aren’t adequate words to explain what I mean by all of this. But I’ll try.

One of the simple living magazines that make their way to the used rack in my little store had a whole section in January 2011 about how to make that year one’s happiest ever.

That author began by talking about how Thomas Jefferson’s penning of the Declaration of Independence began by noting that "all men" have a right to "the pursuit of happiness." And they further explained how many folks erroneously equate that kind of happiness with "success."

But then several different authors on multiple pages noted one could achieve more happiness by "chilling out," taking naps every day, remembering "whence you came" and more, including making your bed every day! (Oops, I’d likely really fail that last one!)

Then one began talking about looking out over a European city at a huge cathedral and how that made her feel, even though she admitted she was not Catholic and "not even a Christian."

Well, everything in that article just went downhill from there.

There’s an old saying that goes something like: "You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been."

Well, I can paraphrase that saying to note that "you can’t have true happiness and contentment if you don’t know where you’re going!"

Folks that know me know I’ve made some humongous mistakes in my life, many many many times. And if my future depended solely on my own thoughts, my own actions and my own feelings, then I would be in pretty bad shape. But I’m in pretty good company.

Paul (then known as Saul) not only persecuted Christians in New Testament times but evidently he was in charge of some of them being put to death by stoning and worse. But then he had an encounter on a rural road and his life changed forever.

And I love what he talks about in Philippians 4:10-13.

He talks about being content in whatever situation he found himself. The Greek word for "content" can be translated as either "to be self-sufficient" or "to be satisfied."

So I guess that’s what I mean when I say I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I am "satisfied."

This morning on the computer I was texting back and forth with one of the young mothers from my church. She, her husband and her four children are getting baby chicks for the first time and I have been helping by explaining what they will need to care for them, what to expect and "heavy" topics such as the pros and cons of having a rooster!

(Remember you can get everything from the chick starter feed you need to the pine shavings for your new chicks at your local Co-op store!)

It makes me feel good to not just give advice but to SHARE what I have learned on my homestead journey during these past years. Often what I am sharing is from making mistakes and then knowing what NOT to do next time!

That is part of my happiness, my contentment.

But my true contentment really has nothing to do with this little homestead; nothing to do with these animals I cherish so much; nothing to do with my kids, grandkids or great-grandson; nothing to do with my bank account (or lack thereof!); nothing to do with how many jars of jelly I sell or how many hours I rock on my tiny store’s front porch.

That happy message was simple more than 2,000 years ago and its simplicity now may be what confuses folks so much.

True simple happiness, true simple contentment, comes only by Grace ....

So yes, you can truly say that I am "happy, happy, happy."

Suzy Lowry Geno lives a simple life at Old Field Farm in Blount County. She can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.




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