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August 2009

2009 State FFA Convention a Success!

The State Officers from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico gathered at the Mississippi FFA Center for the National Leadership Conference for State Officers. The officers received training on workshop development, leadership development, and agricultural issues.

By Jacob Davis

The 80th Annual Alabama FFA Convention was held June 3-5, 2009, on the campus of Auburn University (AU). The opening session began at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3. Mr. James Paul Bailey, 07-08 State President, delivered the invocation. Mickey Humphries, State FFA Advisor, delivered a challenge to the members and advisors of the Alabama FFA Association. The Federal Land Bank Associations of Alabama, 2009 Corporate Sponsors of the Alabama FFA State Convention, brought greetings to the members, advisors and guests. The 08-09 District Officers and the 09-10 State Officer Candidates were introduced. Justin Posey from Montevallo was introduced as Alabama’s National Officer Candidate. The Past State Officers Alumni recognized the 2009 Wall of Honor recipients. Josh Sundquist was the keynote speaker for this session. He entertained the crowd with his inspiring and energetic presentation.

The 2009-2010 Alabama FFA State Officers are (back from left) Joey Stabler, State Sentinel, Daphne; and Wiley Bailey, State Secretary, Sand Rock; (front from left) Kacey Colquitt, State Treasurer, Marbury; Mary Helen Jones, State Vice President, Wetumpka; Hunter Garnett, State President, Danville; and Patrick Howard, State Reporter, McAdory.

The second session began at 7:30 p.m. on June 3. National Chapter Award recipients were recognized along with the top five chapters in the state. The State FFA Officers honored their parents and advisors. Andy Revels from the Samson Chapter was named the State Star Farmer. Numerous teachers and supporters were recognized by receiving the highest honor the Alabama FFA can bestow upon someone, the Honorary State FFA Degree. Brittany Kendall Oliver from the Horseshoe Bend Chapter was named as the Future Farmer/Agribusinessman of the Year. Michelle Vasbinder from the Enterprise Chapter was named the recipient of the Mindy Stringer Memorial Scholarship worth $1,000. The Keel family presented the Hunter Keel Memorial Scholarship and Raven Buchanan gave her retiring address.

June 4, at 8:30 a.m., marked the opening of the third session. The Crime Prevention Awards were distributed recognizing the top chapters in the state with crime prevention activities included in their program. Chapters which had 100 percent chapter membership were also recognized. The M.K. Heath Animal Health Award winner was recognized and Anna Leigh Peek delivered her retiring address. CDE awards were given for the following areas: Agricultural Construction & Maintenance, Agricultural Mechanics, Creed Speaking, Dairy Cattle Evaluation, Extemporaneous Speaking, Floriculture, Forestry, Horse Evaluation, Land, Livestock, Nursery & Landscape, Parliamentary Procedure, Prepared Public Speaking, Poultry, Quiz Bowl, Safe Tractor Driving and Small Engines. Proficiency Awards were given for Agricultural Mechanics, Agricultural Sales and/or Service, Beef Production, Dairy Production, Diversified Crop Production, Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management, Equine Science, Floriculture, Forest Management, Fruit/Vegetable Production, Home and/or Community Development, Landscape Management, Nursery Operations, Poultry Production, Sheep Production, Specialty Animal Production, Swine Production, Turf Grass Management and Wildlife Management. Proficiency awards were also given out in the following specialty proficiency areas: Agricultural Communications, Agricultural Education and Forage Production. To close out the session the top six quartets vied for top honors in the quartet competition.

On Thursday afternoon, students also had an opportunity to attend the FFA Social sponsored by the AU College of Agriculture and the AU Horticulture Department. The event was held at the Alfa Pavilion. A meal was provided for the attendees which included donated potato chips from Golden Flake and ice cream from Blue Bell. At the close of the social, the Alabama FFA Alumni had an organizational meeting to renew the State Charter.

The fourth general session began promptly at 7 p.m. on Thursday. This session was changed from previous years to be a more fun and interactive session for the attendees. Awards were presented for the String Band Contest and the 1st Place String Band from Sand Rock performed for the crowd. Brandy Feltman and Michelle Vasbinder gave their retiring addresses and Laila Hajji, National FFA Central Region Vice President from the Guthrie, Oklahoma, FFA Chapter delivered her keynote address. Awards were given out to the top four quartets in the quartet competition. The convention was also privileged to hear the harmony of the state winning quartet from the Tallassee FFA Chapter.

The fifth general session began at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. Zachary Jones, 2008-2009 State FFA President, delivered his retiring address. Then the state officers gave their end-of-the-year reports. About 175 FFA members received their State FFA Degrees during the State FFA Degree Ceremony. The convention closed with the installation of the 2009-2010 State FFA Officers. The state officers were assisted with the announcement of the new slate of officers by the chair of the Nominating Committee, Heath Golden, an advisor from the Albertville FFA Chapter. The new State FFA Officers for the 2009-2010 school year are: President – Hunter Garnett from the Danville Chapter; Vice President – Mary Helen Jones from the Wetumpka Chapter; Secretary – Wiley Bailey from the Sand Rock Chapter; Treasurer – Kacey Colquitt from the Marbury Chapter; Reporter – Patrick Howard from the McAdory Chapter and Sentinel – Joey Stabler from the Daphne Chapter.

The new State Officer Team participated this summer in two training workshops. The first was Blast Off. This was a leadership workshop held in Montgomery, June 10–12, 2009, at the Drury Inn and Suites. This is a FFA-sanctioned training workshop, but Alabama includes all Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) in the training: FFA, FCCLA, HOSA, TSA, SkillsUSA, FBLA and DECA. During the Blast Off conference, the officers learned items like dinner etiquette, speech development and delivery, how to address a group, and various other leadership activities. The State FFA Officers then traveled to Raymond, Mississippi to attend the National Leadership Conference for State Officers (NLCSO) on June 16-19. They were involved with a four-day training program conducted by two of the National FFA Officers. Next they will be trained and learn to conduct and assist with the District Officers’ Leadership Conference and the Chapter Officer Leadership Workshops held in the three districts across this state. They will also have opportunities to meet with various public officials and become spokespersons for FFA and agriculture in Alabama.

For a listing of the CDE results from our State Convention, please visit our website:

Jacob Davis is Alabama FFA Executive Secretary.

4-H Coordinator has influenced Thousands

Alabama’s 4-H program has played an important role in Betty Gottler’s life. The colorful ribbons are from her winning 4-H efforts as a girl.

Principal Planner of Centennial Celebration

By Alvin Benn

Participants in Alabama’s 4-H programs have always been part of one big family—something Betty Gottler has known all her life.

Other than teaching home economics for a few years after college, 4-H is just about all she’s known. Each day makes her appreciate her good fortune.

Last year and this year is even more special than the others because, as Alabama’s 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator, she’s had the responsibility of planning events commemorating the organization’s 100th birthday which continues into late summer.

Alabama Wildlife Federation To Hold Wild Game Cook-Off State Finals In Millbrook

A cook team serves up their dish to hungry guests at the AWF Wild Game Cook-Off State Championship.

When Alabama’s regional winners compete on August 8 for the AWF Wild Game Cook-Off State Finals, their recipes will give new meaning to the term “Finger-lickin’ Good”

By Ben Norman

When the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) began the wild game cook-off contests over a decade ago, the primary purpose of the event was to recruit new members into the AWF. Today, the wild game cook-off is still used to recruit new members, but it has also become a fundraiser for the various AWF programs.

Regional cook-offs are usually held in locations where the AWF has strong support. According to Tommy Tidwell, AWF wild game cook-off coordinator, the cook-offs have various functions; one of the primary ones is to promote harvesting and eating wild game.

Quail three ways. Gourmet dishes are served up at the AWF Wild Game Cook-Offs.

"We want to educate non-hunters to wild game and to educate the public on how good wild game tastes, and how the harvesting of wild game is an ethical and necessary part of our conservation process. It also offers a social vehicle for people to get together in a fun-filled, festive event where they compete to find out who is the best wild game cook," Tidwell said.

Tidwell said a lot of people don’t realize how healthy wild game is. "For instance, venison, one of our most popular entrees, is very lean with a lower fat content than you find in other meats. It is so lean and fat-free that if you are cooking burgers you may have to add just enough beef or pork fat to them to make them stick together. We have three categories: fish, fowl and game, but there is probably more venison dishes cooked than any other meat. Our members who really know how to cook venison try to educate others that one of the most common mistakes made when cooking venison is overcooking it. Since it does not have as much fat as other meats, it does not hold the heat as long, plus over-cooking dries venison out and it does not taste as good. It is also important to eat it as soon as you take it off the grill because it will cool off faster than beef or pork because it doesn’t have the fat content to hold the heat."

Sample the best wild game in the state at the AWF Wild Game Cook-Off.

Venison cooking has slowly evolved into a culinary art here in Alabama, in part the result of the expertise acquired by trial-and-error through cooking competitions sponsored by the AWF. Tidwell said he and many other accomplished venison cookers don’t put much credence in many of the of the old wives tales relating to soaking the meat in certain solutions and other unproven methods of meat preparation.

"I treat venison much like I would when cooking beef. I like marinades as simple as just adding salt and pepper to using a good port wine. The most important thing is how soon the animal is field dressed after harvest and then aged with the hide on for seven to ten days before cooking. When you hear someone say venison tastes ‘gamey’ it is usually because the deer carcass wasn’t cared for fast enough or the meat was over-cooked," Tidwell explained.

Silent Auction at the AWF Wild Game Cook-Off.

The annual AWF cook-offs were the brainchild of former AWF executive director, Dan Dumont. Dumont later recruited Dr. Bud Cardinal, DVM, to run and promote the cook-off project. From a meager beginning to a very popular statewide event, the AWF cook-offs are held statewide and the interest is still growing.

"It’s not just the cooking, but the camaraderie that goes along with the cooking of wild game. Most contestants are hunters and fishermen and they just enjoy each other’s company," Tidwell said.

Cook teams can enter up to three dishes in the fish, fowl or game categories. There are approximately 15 regional cook-offs across the state. Tidwell said there is a cook-off within a relatively short driving distance from anywhere in the state. Local winners then compete in the state cook-off finals. Competition is keen in the regional cook-offs, but it really gets intense at the state final cook-off. Judges are selected from local citizens.

"We don’t necessarily recruit professionals to judge the contests. We just want people who know when something is very tasty when they sample it," Tidwell stated.

The 2008 AWF Wild Game State Champions were the River City Grillers.

Venison may be among the most popular dishes entered, but a few unique dishes find their way into the competition also. One of the regional winners from Barbour County this year will be competing in the state final with a raccoon hash spring roll dish.

"We have had rattlesnake, nutria, opossum and others, but venison, wild turkey and quail are among the most popular. All kinds of fish are also entered and prepared in a variety of ways," Tidwell explained.

One of this year’s regional winners who will be competing in the state cook-off on August 8, 2009, in Millbrook is Tim Wood, general manager of the Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma, and some of his employees. Wood said his group will be entering a smoked specked trout dish covered with shrimp and topped off with a good Cajun seasoning.

"We’ve cooked every thing from venison to wood duck wrapped in bacon in previous cook-offs. This year Russell Gibbs, Jeff Cogle and my daughter, Blaire Wood, will be helping me with our trout entry. Alabama Farmers Cooperative enjoys their close relationship with the AWF. It is a wonderful organization and I encourage anyone who is not a member to join," Wood said.

Tim Gothard, executive director of the AWF and Maria Sloane, AWF membership coordinator encourages wildlife lovers to join the AWF. Maria said the AWF has a wildlife biologist, Claude Jenkins, who assists members with their wildlife program.

"We also partner with the Alabama Black Bear Alliance to promote conservation of the black bear in Alabama and promote women getting active in Alabama’s great outdoors. We have a lot of programs anyone interested in the outdoors will appreciate," Sloane said.

Over 8,000AWF members can’t be wrong. After all, where else can one taste a sample of succulent raccoon hash fresh from the treetops of Barbour County or enjoy delicious speckled trout from Mobile Bay? Members also receive an AWF front license plate, AWF decal and a quarterly magazine for a mere $25 annual membership fee. The magazine alone is worth much more than that. To join the Alabama Wildlife Federation, give them a call at 1-800-822-9453.

Ben Norman is a writer from Highland Home.

Applications for 2009 Century & Heritage Farm Program Being Accepted

The Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is now accepting applications for the 2009 Century and Heritage Farm program. All applicants must complete an Ownership Registration Form supplied by the department. This program is designed to recognize and honor those farms that have been in operation as a family farm over a long period of time and have played a significant role in Alabama’s history.

A Century Farm is one that has been in the same family continuously for at least 100 years and currently has some agricultural activities on the farm. The farm must include at least 40 acres of land and be owned by the applicant or nominee.

A Heritage Farm is one that has been operated continuously as a family farm for at least 100 years. The farm must possess interesting and important historical and agricultural aspects, including one or more structures at least 40 years old. The farm must be at least 40 acres of land owned and operated by the applicant, who must reside in Alabama.

This program got its start in 1976 when the director of the Alabama Historical Commission and a representative from the ADAI met to discuss some way to recognize small family farms that had been in operation over a long period of time. Out of this original meeting, the idea for the Century and Heritage Farm program was born. They decided recognition should be given to these farms because they had played such a significant role in Alabama’s history.

The population in rural Alabama at that time was rapidly changing as people were moving to urban areas. The number of family farms was diminishing rapidly at the time, as it still is today. It was decided farms with over 100 years of ownership should be awarded a certificate to recognize this significant achievement.

It was agreed the ADAI would administer this program. The first certificates of recognition were presented at an Alabama Farm Bureau meeting in Birmingham during the month of December 1977. To date, more than 450 farms have been recognized from all across the state.

All applicants must complete an Ownership Registration Form supplied by the ADAI. If you feel your farm meets the above qualifications and you would like an application or if you have any questions about the program, please contact Amy Belcher at (334) 240-7126 or by e-mail The application deadline for the 2009 Century and Heritage Farm program is August 28. Applications are also available on the department’s website under the "Forms" icon. A complete list of all farms that have previously received a Century and Heritage Farm designation is also available on the website.

Beat the Heat with Natural Sunscreen

Nothing is better on a hot July day than a garden-fresh tomato sandwich or a sweet refreshing slice of watermelon. Now, researchers are promoting the consumption of these foods as a means to protect ourselves from sun damage. Studies in the United States and Britain conducted on both animals and humans have reached the same conclusion —- there is a secret ingredient in certain foods that can reduce skin damage and the aging effects of harmful sun rays. That ingredient is a super antioxidant known as lycopene. It is the red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, red oranges and paprika.

Tomatoes are very high in lycopene, but watermelons have 40 percent more of the age-defying chemical. Other foods, like broccoli, green leafy vegetables, bran, legumes, orange zest, green tea, pomegranate and omega-3 fish, contain other antioxidants that help protect the body against the sun’s radiation and reduce inflammation caused by the sun. However, watermelon and tomatoes are the stand-outs.

On the flip-side, there are foods that can make your system more susceptible to sun sensitivity. Foods not to take on a picnic include carrots, celery, parsley and limes. Drinking margaritas beside the pool while munching on celery and carrot sticks would definitely be a bad idea.

As a precautionary note, please don’t think antioxidant foods can replace your sunscreen. Sun damage should not be taken lightly because it can lead to skin cancers. Lycopene foods should be thought of as added protection, not as a cure-all.

Begonias 101

Male and female begonia flowers.

By Kenn Alan

As I promised last month, we will take a closer look at begonias and I will try to help you understand why these beauties are favorites of mine.

Begonias are flowering plants that grow in sub-tropical to tropical moist environments, typically between 15° north and 15° south of the Equator. There are more than 1,300 species of the genus Begonia.

The begonia societies recognize seven basic categories:

Baby begonias.

Cane-stemmed: Begonias with long stems with swollen nodes, much like bamboo. They are grown for their foliage as well as their cascading clusters of flowers. Plant these in a rich, heavy mix to support the height of the stalks. Fertilize with Jack’s Classic® 20·20·20 twice as often at half the rate as recommended on the label during the spring and summer. Back off to one-forth as often in the winter.

Tuberous: Tuberous begonias, or hardy begonias, are fairly easily identified by their swollen bulb at the base of the plant. Some tuberous varieties are somewhat hardy, even in Central Alabama. These begonias like a slightly acidy soil that quickly drains. They are likely to contract root rot if the soil is too heavy. These should be planted in dappled sunlight to shade and fertilized with a fish emulsion 5·1·1 or vermi-fertilizer 1.5·.5·.5 during the growing season and increase the P and K to 0·10·5 during bloom cycles. Some of these begonias have a dormant period. The tubers, or bulbs, should be removed from their growing beds and stored in a cool, dark container of dry, milled peat moss during dormancy, much like one would treat caladium bulbs.

Rex-cultorum: Though these begonias generally grow from a rhizome, they are not classed with other rhizomatous species. Rex begonias are prized for their foliage and mostly cultivated as houseplants, patio container plants or accent hanging basket plants. Their blooms are not nearly as showy as their bold-colored and shaped leaves. A good fertilizer to use is 19·6·12 Osmocote® 3-4 month control release.

Rhizomatous: Rhizomatous begonias grow from a modified stem or rhizome. Leaves come up from a central rhizome to form a mound or ball of foliage. The rhizome stores food and water thereby making this type of begonia a little more resilient than other types. Use a well-draining potting medium in a shallow clay container. Don’t over-pot. If you remove your begonia from a 4-inch bulb pan, then pot it in a container no bigger than five-inches in diameter. Use Jack’s Classic® 20·20·20 fertilizer during the spring and summer, but don’t fertilize during the fall and winter.

Winter-flowering: These are usually fibrous-rooted, bushy, compact plants that bloom during cooler temperatures, 59-68°F. Winter-flowering begonias like bright, filtered light, relatively low humidity and good ventilation. Use a complete fertilizer on these begonias.

Shrub-like: Shrub-like begonias are usually grown for their leaf patterns and colors, but the blooms can be quite showy as well. They are mostly bushy with erect or semi-erect stems that sometimes grow horizontally as they mature due to the weight of the branches. Shade from direct sun during hot months.

Semperflorens: Semperflorens, wax, annual begonia: All these names apply to this group. These begonias are most often found in the springtime in flats as bedding plants. Semperflorens begonias tolerate more direct sunlight than other types. Plant in well-drained soil. Do not over-water. During the growing season, I recommend a control release fertilizer supplemented by a balanced liquid feed. When the growing season is done, be sure to pot some in clay containers and bring them in to enjoy for the winter.

Do you want to know more about begonias? For propagation techniques and other growing information, logon to the newly redesigned Home Grown Tomatoes website at

E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> if you need further information on begonias. Friend me at and go to to listen live and access the new podcasts coming soon!

Biduino Goes to College

Stallion with a $13 Million Pedigree Stands at Stud at Auburn University

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Biduino, a Blount County stallion, is standing at stud at Auburn University to financially benefit the Equine Reproduction Center (ERC) there. For the 2010 breeding season, Biduino’s stud fee of $450 will be donated to the ERC. This is a great deal for horse owners as Biduino’s advertised fee for 2009 was $850 and he received $1,000 while he stood at stud in Texas. He is one of only a few non-University-owned stallions and the first non-University-owned Quarter Horse to stand at the Equine Reproduction Center.

Blount County resident David Clyde originally took Biduino to Auburn in February 2009 to have semen collected and frozen for storage and shipment throughout the U.S. to horse lovers who wanted foals from his prestigious line. But David was so impressed with the program there—including not only the new ERC, but the vet school and the entire facility-—he said he was "extremely honored" when he was asked to let Biduino stay on for a time.

Above, Biduino’s colt, Bid It To Win It, was the 2004 2D Average Champion in the Kindergarten Barrel Futurity. Bid is held by owner Stacy Spruill of Williamson, GA. Above right, one of Biduino’s fillies, Bunkin Stunkin, won the 2002 Illinois Quarter Horse Stakes.

Dr. Aime K. Johnson, DVM, and Dr. Robyn R. Wilborn, DVM, MS, both direct the James W. Goodwin and Joy Goodwin Adams Equine Reproduction Center and are assisted by Dr. Ghisiaine Dujovne, a theriogenology resident.

Sandra Hackneyk, Lincoln, with DC Royal Bid at the 2000 Alabama Stallion Owners Futurity in the Weanling Halter class.

According to Dr. Wilborn, Biduino, born in 1990, is one of the last living sons of the "legendary" racehorse, Beduino. Beduino’s offsprings have earned $13,099,594 in Quarter Horse racing.

So how did a horse breeder who grew up on a Pennsylvania dairy farm wind up living in the rural Blount County community of Straight Mountain and training and raising award-winning Quarter Horses on his St. Clair County ranch?

David gives all the credit for his lifetime achievements to God and the wondrous animals God creates.

"Great trainers say you can’t really make a horse any better but you can make them a lot worse if you don’t train them right," David explained.

"Quarter Horses are true athletes. What they have are God-given talents. I’ve been blessed to be able to obtain some of the best of these horses."

One of David Clyde’s Quarter Horses working cattle at the annual Debter Cattle Sale near Susan Moore in Blount County.

"They are like human athletes. The ones that are natural athletes are true gifts from God. I was so impressed with Beduino I bought one of his sons, Biduino. Joe Fricks and I were impressed with his athletic ability and his disposition and we bought him as an eight-year-old."

David later bought out Fricks’ half of the partnership and is now sole-owner.

"He has such a great mind. You like that in Quarter Horses—the great minds, easy training, and their willingness to please and do their jobs."

Growing up on a Pennsylvania dairy farm, David laughingly said the "only way you could get out of work was if you were out riding horses."

But he seriously noted his great love for horses was truly inherited from and inspired by his dad, Bill Clyde, who still rides, and his late-grandfather, Clarence Bellian.

By the time the fourth-generation dairy was disbanded in 1976 and the cattle sold, David knew that while he would work in industry (he now serves as Project Manager for Art Iron Works in Oneonta, owned by his father-in-law, Mike Carter), he knows horses would be and are his true avocation.

Especially in the 1980s, he trained and rode barrel horses, winning more than a quarter million dollars in top competitions in Fort Smith, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth and other venues.

By 1990, he was ranked in the top 50 barrel horse trainers in American, training three horses that won their classes at the Quarter Horse Congress and with one of his horses making it to the Dodge National Circuit Finals.

But by the mid-1990s, he wanted to move his entire operation south. He built his Quarter Horse operation at the top of Whitney Mountain just inside St. Clair County from Blount where he has "started at least 300 horses."

For the last four years, he’s done little training, instead concentrating on raising and selling foals…why stop such a lucrative training schedule? One word: family.

He and his wife, Teri, have a three year old daughter, Sydney (already an amazing singer with a strong voice) and 19-month-old TWINS Carter and Catherine.

"We’ve been concentrating on them for the past few years," he explained.

That’s why he’s planning to soon begin a new training facility beside his home which is three or four miles from the current set-up where he has 25 acres with another 40 leased.

"I need something right here at home," he explained.

David also has a son, Joshua, who graduated from Pitt University in 2009, and daughter Shannon, who is graduating in 2010 from Slippery Rock University with a degree in elementary education.

But he hasn’t ignored his love of horses during the past four years. Anything but.

A yearling filly, out of Biduino, recently brought $6,000 at the Heritage Place Yearling Sale in Oklahoma City. Royally Streaking Bird went to a race horse trainer in Arizona.

Last year, MS Strike Me Happy won all her time trials and was favored to win the Alabama Futurity at Delta Downs, led the race and then lost by a nose!

Some of Biduino’s foals are running in "open races," David explained. Bidz Flying Dash ran at Remington Park and Arapahoe Downs.

"He’s outrunning horses who are getting $8,000 to $10,000 in stud fees," David stated.

Biduino’s offspring have won close to $150,000 at the track thus far. His offspring includes 137 registered foals, 27 starters at the track and 22 wins.

"But they are just such versatile horses," David explained. "They’ve done everything from racing, to barrel racing, to working cattle—and we’ve even had one we know of in eventing."

David knows nutrition is one of the keys to smart, healthy horses. Situated "on the mountain" he can easily shop at the Co-op stores in Ashville or Oneonta. He praises Blount County Farmers Co-op Manager Paul Thompson "as just a great young man —- always knowledgeable and ready to help."

David also praised the entire Co-op line of horse feed and other products.

"They’re specifically designed for this area. The forage here is different than in other areas of the country and Horizon Equine Feeds are designed to make sure the horses are getting everything they need."

David and his family attend Union Hill Baptist Church. At this point in his life he can see God’s hands in everything, and how experiences throughout his life melded him to the achievements he’s made.

He’s even found an Alabama connection from way back! He’s learned recently a horse he bought as a 15-year-old in Pennsylvania originated at Pete Reynold’s ranch in Forkland.

"Having Biduino at Auburn is a great honor for us," David explained. "This shouldn’t be about me, but about how blessed we are to have one of the top vet schools in the nation at Auburn in our state.

"More importantly, this is about how great and wonderful God is and how He will use each of us and put us in the right place at the right time if we will only let him."

Of the great horses he has raised, David believes "only God can make them that great. You are truly lucky if you have ever owned one great horse. I’ve been fortunate and blessed enough to have owned several."

Those wishing more information about Biduino, stud fees, etc. can contact Dr. Robyn Wilborn or Dr. Aime Johnson at the ERC at (334) 844-4490. All shipping arrangements are to be handled by the Center. According to Dr. Wilborn, special discounts are available for Auburn alumni and faculty who wish to take advantage of this horse’s unique standing.

For information on training or his other horses, contact David Clyde at (205) 296-6900 or visit his website:

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.

Cassebaum Family Has Been Committed to Fertile Baldwin County Soil for 80 Years

Three generations of the Cassebaum family take a break after a long day at their produce stand. Front row, from left: August, Hope and Todd. Back row, from left: Kelsey and Gerda.

By Grace Smith

"If you don’t have the commitment to do something, then you might as well not be doing it."

-Todd Cassebaum

Todd Cassebaum of the Lillian Community knows the importance of commitment. That’s why he’s spent his entire life farming the fertile soil of Baldwin County. But this commitment to the land didn’t start with Todd, and it probably won’t end with him either.

Cassebaum Farm, Inc. is located near the town of Elberta which is known for its German settlers. Todd’s grandfather, August Cassebaum, a native of Germany, relocated to Lillian from Chicago at the coaxing of his brother, Gerhard. Gerhard began working for Bartel’s Vineyard, located just across the highway from what is now the Cassebaum place. After learning the property across the road from the vineyard was for sale, he contacted August and encouraged him to purchase the property.

August Cassebaum harvests the sweet corn, a product Todd and his family grow so well. In fact, they caused so many traffic jams on Highway 98 from customers waiting to purchase the delicious produce they had to move their roadside stand.

In 1929, August bought the land, packed his belongings and left the Windy City for the fertile soil of South Alabama. Ten years later, August and his wife, Elizabeth, were the proud parents of a new baby boy, Curtis. Following in the steps of his father, Curtis joined the family farming operation and formed a partnership with his father. The two worked together farming corn, potatoes, soybeans and chickens, but in the mid-70s, August retired. He left the operation to his son and one anxious little boy who didn’t waste any time helping out with the farm duties.

Todd was born to Curtis and his wife, Gerda, shortly before his grandfather retired, but even as a child, his attitude of commitment and his passion for farming were well-served. Before he even graduated from high school, Todd had already gone into business for himself raising sweet corn and selling it from a produce stand on nearby Highway 98.

Todd and his father decided not to form a partnership and, instead, chose to operate as separate entities, but neither hesitated to help the other if a need arose. Todd said this leeway in decision-making allowed him to take over the sweet corn portion of the farm and operate it independently of his father’s business. Even as a high school student, Todd was already successful in his sweet corn production and he eventually expanded his row crop operation to include field corn, soybeans and wheat. After a local FFA chapter expressed a need for pigs to start a pig chain, Todd purchased a bred sow and went into the swine business. He said before long he had pigs everywhere and he and the FFA members showed them in local shows.

Todd Cassebaum’s brother-in-law, Dale Kinard, and a community friend, Tony Capps, pick butterbeans to carry back to the family’s produce stand located in front of Todd’s parents’ homeplace, just off of Highway 98 in the Lillian community.

But the Casse-baums’ democratic-style farming only went so far when his father told him he "didn’t want any stinky pigs around here," and consequently he sold all of his pigs. However, when Todd graduated from high school, he was anxious to expand his operation and he convinced his father to go back into the swine business. Within three years of his graduation, he built a hog facility and had almost 60 sows and more than 300 finishing pigs, finishing out more than 900 hogs a year. Todd soon got into the grain business so he increased his corn-production acreage to meet his swine-feeding demands.

He continued to open his produce stand each summer and he experienced much success with it; so much success he had to run a number system to meet the demands of his customers. He said he’d post numbers 1 through 200 on a nail at 6 a.m. when he’d head out to harvest the corn and by 8, when he returned to open the stand, there would be no numbers left. Todd had so much success with his stand, it created traffic jams on the highway, and he eventually decided to move the stand across the road, in front of his parent’s home. Although the move was a bit off the beaten path, he’s had loyal customers who recognize the quality of Todd’s produce. One man, Todd noted, has faithfully bought corn at his stand for 30 years.

Todd Cassebaum, left, discusses crop nutrient application with Elberta Farmers Co-op Assistant Manager Robert Hardy. The Cassebaum family has done business with the Co-op ever since the 1930s when Todd’s grandfather, August, moved to the Lillian community.

While Todd was busy raising corn and pigs, two new additions were introduced to the Cassebaum operation. In 1995, he and his wife, Hope, welcomed a baby girl, Kelsey, and just one year later, a baby boy, August, was born. The same year Kelsey was born, Todd and Hope bought a new homeplace which included a pecan orchard, so before long he began selling pecans as well. Todd noted that his mother was already selling pecans, but his new orchard allowed him to help her meet the demands of her customers.

After his children were born, Todd said he discontinued his sweet corn production in an attempt to make more time for his family. Concentrating primarily on his hog operation, Todd soon realized raising swine included year-round responsibilities while corn production was more seasonal and therefore a bit less demanding of his time. With this in mind and with a drop in swine market prices, Todd again decided to discontinue swine production, this time after about 12 years in the business, and to go back into the sweet corn-production business. This gave him more time with his family.

But before long, farming meant family-time because just as Todd began helping his father when he was a child, his children followed suit and began working on the farm as soon as they were old enough to help. Todd’s wife and children are much needed help around the farm, especially during the summer time which is the height of sweet corn season. Hope, Kelsey and August, along with several local children, help run the produce stand, which has grown to include peas, butterbeans, cantaloupes, watermelons, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.

In the winter time, the children help with the farm’s controlled-grazing program. Todd said this is one of Kelsey’s favorite responsibilities because she loves working with the animals. And if there’s any doubt about the children’s work ethic, Todd said Kelsey even fusses at him because he hasn’t finished teaching her how to drive the tractor for field work, a skill Todd said has come naturally for August since he’s been riding with him since he was a toddler. Todd has already given August a piece of land to farm whatever he would like and he said he’s chosen to grown soybeans on it and operate it independently of his father’s business.

Todd said August will make all necessary purchases at the Elberta Farmers Cooperative, a habit he’s learned from his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Todd said he buys every product he can from the Co-op. In fact, he said about 99 percent of the products he grows come from the local store. Todd and his family have been faithful Co-op customers since his grandfather first started the operation. His father was elected to the Board of Directors at the store and even served as president of the Board. In true Cassebaum fashion, Todd followed in his father’s footsteps, accepting a position on the Board six years ago.

This year Todd has planted 260 acres of peanuts, 550 acres of soybeans, 180 acres of wheat and 120 acres of brown top millet, and he has over 200 head of cattle to graze. But Todd doesn’t see farm work as a hassle. Instead he said he works because he loves it and that sometimes it’s as much fun as fishing. The farm has seen many changes over the past 90 years, but there’s one thing that has remained the same—a commitment to family, hard work and the success of Cassebaum Farm, Inc.

"We are committed," he said. "If we’ve got something to do today, we’ll get it done today. We try to never get behind."

Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.

Cattleman Manages His Charolais Herd with Constant Care and Detailed Knowledge

Charolais producer Willie Sykes instituted a veterinarian-certified complete vaccination schedule in his herd 20 years ago.

By Susie Sims

Butler resident Willie Sykes is what you would call "familiar" with his herd. He knows the cows by sight and can rattle off statistics about each one as if it were a Major League ball player.

That kind of familiarity comes only one way—from spending time with the herd.

Sykes spends his days with his herd, feeding and tending to them. He waits by the shed until the parade begins and the entire herd moves through the area on its way to the pond at the bottom of the hill.

As Sykes is pointing out different cows and recalling their genealogy, he is overtaken by a motherless calf that he has bottle-fed since birth.

Willie Sykes puts out feed for his Charolais herd near Butler.

The calf, Sykes explained, had been taken off the bottle only a couple of days before and was not happy about it. She acts more like a pet than a calf.

He had to pen her up in the shed just so he could walk around the pasture.

Sykes isn’t exactly sure how long he’s been in the cattle business. The best he can reckon it’s been at least 35 to 40 years.

"I started off with just commercial cows, then I went to Charolais bulls and for some reason I got it in my mind I wanted to go all Charolais," Sykes said. "I’ve always liked a big cow that had some length—some build—to them."

Choctaw Farmers Co-op Manager Ronnie Gibson (left) and producer Willie Sykes are shown with a calf Sykes has bottle-fed since it was born.

Many years ago, Sykes had a bull that went sterile about half-way through the breeding season. He promptly began a controlled breeding program to prevent such a mishap from happening again.

After much study and experience, Sykes settled on a calving season starting in the fall.

"I start calving the last part of September," Sykes explained. "I don’t like to calve in the summertime. There’s too much stress on the cows."

Sykes added that by having his calving season in the fall his calves are ready to eat when spring arrives.

"When the grass starts putting out, these calves are ready to eat grass," Sykes said. "That and the feed help take some of the stress off the mamas."

Producer Willie Sykes aims for uniformity with his calves. He puts a lot of effort into turning out quality bulls and heifers.

In order to time his calving season, Sykes will usually put bulls in the herd around the first to middle of December and allow them to breed about four months, noting he would like to get it down to three months.

Sykes places a creep feeder in with his calves. He said having the calves eating feed and grass takes a huge strain off the mamas trying to carry the calves through the following summer.

His 40 calves eat about 300 pounds of feed per day from the creep feeder.

"I won’t have any trouble with these calves when I pull them off the mamas and take them to the other pasture," Sykes said. "When I put the feed in the trough, they’ll keep right on eating."

Taking the stress off the mamas and the calves really boosts the uniformity of the herd, Sykes believes.

He depends on his local Co-op store in Butler for soyhull pellets, cattle minerals and STIMU-LYX® fly relief IGR tubs.

Sykes believes in preventing problems whenever possible. Besides checking on his herd daily, he incorporated a vaccination plan into his program about 20 years ago.

He has a veterinarian-certified complete vaccination schedule which targets blackleg, respiratory viruses and other common diseases.

Seeing Double

Even though twins are more common than they used to be, Sykes seems to have a corner on the market. He has had several sets of twins. And over the past several years, he has had a set of twins nearly every year.

"A few years ago, I had three sets of twins in one year," Sykes recalled. "I raised all three sets."

He has a twin heifer from last year that will soon make the trip to the sale barn.

Sykes explained the way he understood it was that twins of the same sex would be productive animals but when a male and female were born as twins the female would not reproduce well.

Marketing Program

Sykes mostly markets his cattle locally through a producer who holds regular bull and heifer sales. Some heifers and cows are sent to a sale barn in Livingston.

Everything he does with his herd is aimed toward producing better cattle. Sykes doesn’t see the point in being in the cattle business unless he produces the best cattle he can.

Sykes mostly does the work by himself, although he usually gets help during calving season to weigh and tag the calves.

When he’s available, his son, Chuck, helps out. Chuck is usually on television, though, teaching folks about wildlife.

Contact Information

Persons interested in contacting Sykes about his cattle may call him at (205) 459-3161. His farm is located near Butler in Choctaw County.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Citizenship in Action Through 4-H

The Alabama 4-H CWF delegation standing in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Participants included (front row, left to right) Haley Hall, Anna Montgomery, Katie Tinney, Emily Melton, Tiffany Smith, Marissa Miller, Brooke Nelson, Megan Davis, Kat Johns, and Michondria Land. In the middle row, left to right, are Howard Ivey, Corey Robinson, Alaron Hubbert, Hannah Richardson, Andrew Hornbuckle, Candace Pardue, Wesley Balch, Hannah Wilson, and Ryan Moran. The back row, left to right, included Sherri Tinney, Amy Burgess, David Perry, and Zilpha Balch.

By Amy Payne Burgess

"I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world." For those of us who are 4-H alumni, this is a pledge we will never forget and, hopefully, we never stop trying to implement.

Young people in the Alabama 4-H program spent the last week in June learning how to implement the pledge they love so much.

Nineteen 4-H members from across the state and four adults traveled to our nation’s capital, to experience Citizenship Washington Focus, or what is frequently called CWF.

CWF is a citizenship program conducted by the National 4-H Council for high school youth. For seven weeks during the summer, delegations of 14 to19-year-olds from across the country attend this six-day program at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, just outside Washington, D.C. This program gives participants hands-on opportunities to learn and practice skills promoting "Better Citizens Today, Better Leaders Tomorrow." Participants learn by attending workshops, committees, field trips and social events.

Program objectives of CWF include:

1. Strengthening your communication, leadership and other citizenship skills on a national level.

2. Understanding the importance of civic and social responsibilities as they relate to the development of better citizens and leaders.

3. Exchanging of ideas, practicing respect and forming friendships with other youth from diverse backgrounds across the country.

4. Experiencing hands-on learning using the historical backdrop of our nation’s Capital City, Washington, D.C.

The CWF group in front of the White House on a wet and dreary day.

The delegation got to experience some sightseeing as well. They traveled to Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon; the home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello; had a night view of Washington, D.C.; visited Capital Hill where they interacted with Alabama senators and representatives; toured the National Zoo; visited the Iwo Jima memorial where they had the pleasure of meeting a veteran who was at Iwo Jima and who was also a former 4-H’er himself; they toured Arlington National Cemetery and also the World War II memorial.

The CWF delegation met with Senator Richard Shelby to discuss issues important to the youth of Alabama.

The young people also had to come up with action plans to take back to their individual communities to impact them in a meaningful way. Some of the important issues the Alabama youth focused on included substance abuse, unemployment and littering. When asked to describe her action plan for her community, Katie Tinney of Blount County stated: "My action plan was to lower the rate of unemployment in Alabama. We decided one way to lower unemployment was to encourage people to buy products produced in Alabama. As part of this action plan, I will be placing posters around the county." She urged Blount County residents to "support this effort by buying products made in Alabama" and asked them to learn more about Alabama-grown products at

Katie was not the only young person who had something positive to say about the experience.

Andrew Hornbuckle of Marshall County said, "It was like watching history happening before my eyes!"

Anna Montgomery, also of Marshall County, said, "CWF was a life-changing experience where we learned about history, made plans to better the future and grow closer to 4-H members in other states."

"I really enjoyed the experience," commented Candace Pardue of Choctaw County. "My favorite part was seeing the monuments. We got an amazing opportunity at the Iwo Jima Memorial. We met an older man who started to tell us about the battle of Iwo Jima. He was there when the flags went up, and he told us he fought at Iwo Jima and was a guard at Pearl Harbor. Hearing him tell about this really made history come alive for us. I’m so glad I got to go on this trip and learn about this great country. I hope we, as young people, will take what we learn about this country, past and present, and apply it to our lives to make a better future."

Other 4-H’ers in attendance included Howard Ivey of Bullock County, Michondria Land of Choctaw County, Brooke Nelson of Clarke County, Kat Johns of Cullman County, Hannah Richardson of Fayette County, Wesley Balch of Lawrence County, Hannah Wilson of Marengo County, Haley Hall of Marengo County, Alaron Hubbert of Montgomery County, Emily Melton of Pike County, Megan Davis of Pike County, Tiffany Smith of Shelby County, Ryan Moran of Tallapoosa County, Corey Robinson of Winston County and Marissa Miller of Elmore County. The delegation was chaperoned by 4-H Volunteers Zilpha Balch of Lawrence County, Sherri Tinney of Blount County and 4-H Regional Extension Agents, David Perry and Amy Burgess. The trip was sponsored by the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation.

These young people were able to see firsthand what a good citizen can do and were urged to find ways to make a difference in their own communities. I am certain they will all strive "To Make the Best Better" in their hometowns! Why not find ways to help them out?

For any information on this or any other 4-H program you might be interested in, please contact your local county Extension office or visit or

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent for DeKalb, Marshall and Cherokee Counties.

Cody Prescott Wins National College Rodeo Roping Title

Cody Prescott, a junior at Southern Arkansas University (ASU) in Magnolia, competed in the National College Finals in Casper, Wyoming, June 14-21, 2009. He was competing with the top ropers from the 11 college regions across the United States. After two rounds of roping, Cody was second in the standings. After three rounds, he had moved into first. The top 12 ropers roped for the title on Saturday night. Cody was able to hold onto his first place position and finished as the National College Champion.

This had been one of Cody’s dreams since he started roping. He has won many buckles and many saddles, but to have the WORLD CHAMPION of college rodeo buckle on his belt is an awesome experience.
Cody was joined in Wyoming by his parents, Marsha and Jeff Prescott of Jay, FL, (formerly of Selma, AL) and his grandparents, Sandra and Billy Reed of Selma. His grandmother, Pat Prescott was able to join him for the Monday performance.

Cody will be competing in pro rodeos across the Southwest before returning to SAU in the fall for his senior year.
For more information, go to and view the video of his roping. Also Cody will be on national television (ESPNU, channel 148 on dish network and channel 614 on DirecTV) on August 14 at 6 p.m.
Before entering college, Cody roped with the Alabama Junior Rodeo and the Alabama High School Rodeo where he also competed at the national level all four years.

Cow Pokes

Double P Farms Keeps On Trucking

Benny Pyron of Henderson in Pike County is the patriarch of the Double P Farms. He and his family own and operate the farm as a means of putting pennies in their pockets and as a way to have “peace of mind” during difficult economic times.

By Jaine Treadwell

Funny, how a seemingly insignificant incident can set a course of direction for generations yet to come.

A nutty little squirrel set a course for Benny Pyron’s family. However, it was some years down the road before Pyron went "trucking" along that path.

"A way back," his grandfather’s brother-in-law shot a squirrel —- a common and rather insignificant event. But rather than falling from the tree on his death march, the squirrel got lodged in the tree. Mr. Bud Warrick climbed the tree to get his supper, fell and broke his back.

Farming is back-breaking work and "Mr. Bud" had already done that so "that ended his farming."

"But he had an old man who drove him around the farm on a wagon so he could see to things, but he couldn’t physically farm anymore," Pyron said. "So, my granddaddy and grandmother took over the place he had homesteaded.

"There was about 120 acres down on the county line around Henderson. The old man who drove Bud around the place got 20 acres of it and my granddaddy got the rest. He was a regular kind of farmer. He planted cotton and corn and tried peanuts but he couldn’t make anything off them."

The Pioneer Farmers Market in Troy is “the market place” for Double P Farms. The Pyron family harvests the produce in the mornings for the afternoon Tuesday and Thursday markets, and late on Friday for the early morning Saturday market so their produce is always farm fresh. The shelled peas and butterbeans, however, are picked earlier to give time for shelling and bagging.

Somewhere along the "hard row," farming got in the blood of Grandpa Ben Mosley. And, when farming gets in the blood, there’s no known antidote; even Mother Nature can’t cure it with too little rain when a lot is needed or a lot when none is needed. Even a banker waving a mortgage note in the air won’t purify the blood when farming’s in it.

"Nah, my daddy didn’t go into the farming business, but he stayed close to the land," Pyron said. "He was a logger, a saw miller. I was in the same kind of business for a while in the wood industry. Then I went to work for National Equipment Company in Elba and that was how I made my living."

But Pyron had been raised "all around the farm." He knew about growing things and how hard farming could be on a man, a mule and on the land. So, when his son and grandsons approached him about doing a little truck farming, he had to really scratch his head and "study on that thing."

"They came to me with the idea of doing a little truck farming," Pyron said. "They had the idea that pretty soon, if folks can’t raise what they eat, they’ll go hungry. They’re right. If you can plant a garden and eat off if it, you¹ll be all right. Knowing you can do that will relieve some of the pressure and stress of trying to make it in the world today. Times may get better soon, but then they may get worse before they get better. Those who can live off the land are going to be in a whole lot better shape than those who can’t."

Pyron pledged his support, his knowledge and a few calluses to the truck farming idea, and the idea became a reality with a tag — Double P Farms of Henderson, Alabama.

Sue Pyron’s relishes are popular products at the Pioneer Farms Market in Troy. Her squash relish is especially good on salads.

"We’re not a big truck farm and we just do this on the side, but we all think that it’s important and, too, we’re having a good time," said Keith Jeffcoat, Pyron’s grandson. "We’re all in this together."

"All" includes Benny Pyron and his son, Ben; his grandsons, Jeffcoat and James McLendon; his son-in-law, Bodie McLendon, and last, but certainly not least, his wife, Sue.

"We’ve been truck farming for about three years now and we really don’t do much trucking except to the Pioneer Farmers Market in Troy on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays," Jeffcoat said. "We’ve got peppers — all kinds, squash, tomatoes, peas, butterbeans and corn meal — which is a big deal.

"We grow the corn, pull it and shuck it, but we’ve got a miller who grinds it for us. It’s mighty good corn meal."

Logan Boyce’s great, great, great-grandfather “inherited” a “hard row to hoe” farm when a squirrel lodged in a tree. Today, Logan has “his toes stuck in the dirt” of a truck farm in Henderson set on course by the nutty squirrel.

Relishes are another "big deal" at Double P Farms and that’s where Sue Pyron "comes in the kitchen."

"My grandmother makes the best relishes that you’ve ever tasted," Jeffcoat said. "She makes salsa, and tomato and squash relishes that are great with peas. For a while, the relishes didn’t catch on at the farmer’s market but now they have and people who try them always come back."

Now that the Benny Pyron family have "stuck our toes in the dirt," they’ve found there are more rewards to farming than the "few" extra dollars it puts in their pockets.

"We get to spend a lot of time together — like people used to do when they worked on the farm," Jeffcoat said. "We really enjoy that and I do believe it’s important for us to know how to grow our own food. A lot of young people don’t have any idea how to grow what they eat and wouldn’t even know how to start. One day, being able to plant a garden and see it through could be something we all need to know."

Double P Farms offers a variety of salsas and relishes made from produce grown on the Pyron truck farm at Henderson. The farm is a family business that four generations work and enjoy together.

Pyron agreed with his grandson that "peace of mind" comes with being self-sufficient in living-off-the-land.

"That’s important to me. Owning what we live on and being able to pass on what we’ve worked so hard to have is important, too," he said. "We also need to pass on what we’ve learned. What we’ve learned from our parents and grandparents will be taking on more meaning in these difficult economic times. So, we’d better pay attention."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.


Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

August is here. We are experiencing what is so great about the Southeast—hot and humid weather. These days will not last much longer and thoughts will again turn to winter feeding at the most economical cost.

At this time of the year, a lot of producers will start making decisions on their weaning and winter feed products. Several of these producers will take a long look at commodities due to the cost and, to a degree, the nutrition of these by-products. As you consider these alternative feed sources, this is a very good time to remember some rules of thumb in purchasing and managing by-product feed ingredients.

The first consideration when selecting a by-product is there is a lot of variation among the same ingredient. A by-product, as the name implies, is what is left over after further manufacturing has removed the product desired. The product removed could be sugar, fat, protein or starch, and what you have left over is the commodity you purchase for your winter feeding. The concern is that different manufacturing plants standards and procedures might leave a product inconsistent in nutrient value.

Also remember their number one goal is to remove the desired product from the ingredient. This could leave you with a left over product that is inconsistent in quality as well. I see several loads of by-products each year that have been burned or scorched leaving an undesirable product for the animal.

With this being said, my first suggestion when considering a by-product is to purchase all your commodity needs at the same time from the same plant. This should allow reduction in some of the inconsistencies in the product occurring over a period of time at a given plant. I would also encourage you to inspect the product when it arrives at your farm. If it smells scorched, has an off-color or does not look consistent, I would not purchase the product. Each winter, I receive calls from producers who have ingredients the cattle will not eat. The problem is, the plant does not have to guarantee the quality of the product only the nutritional value on the tag. In general this means you have no recourse if you purchase a load of ingredients that cattle will not eat.

Another consideration when purchasing by-products is the process by which the manufacturer removes the desired ingredient. This could leave high levels of certain products or minerals that could cause problems when fed free-choice. For example, corn gluten has a high level of sulfur, and when fed free-choice, the possibility exists that sulfur could tie up vitamin B production and a producer could have calves showing signs of vitamin B deficiency.

Soyhulls have a very high level of calcium and, when fed at heavy rates to cows, can cause milk fever, especially at calving time on fields fertilized with chicken litter. Distiller grains is another example of a product that can be inconsistent from plant to plant. Distillers come from either the whiskey industry or ethanol industry. The product from the whisky industry seems to be more consistent and of a higher quality than that coming from the ethanol industry.

As you can see, there are several considerations before you even look at the nutritional value of the feed. After giving consideration to quality and consistency issues, next consider the nutritional value of the product. There is a wide variation in protein, starch, fat, sugar, minerals, vitamins and fiber levels across ingredients.

Depending on what you are using the product for, this could be a very big consideration for your operation. If you are using the by-product as your sole feed-source, knowing and understanding these differences can be huge for performance and cost per pound of gain of your animals. The decision is not as big if you are mixing ingredients, but when feeding alone, it can make a big difference in the profitability of your operation. The wide range in protein percent and quality can cause growth deficiency. Feeding a product low in sugar and starch can starve the microbes, decrease feed efficiency, reduce growth and reduce performance. Feeding a product without knowing the mineral and vitamin levels can lead to another set of problems like mineral toxicities, poor reproductive performance, poor immune response, milk fever and reduced milk performance.

A final consideration when feeding a commodity, especially free-choice, is the manufacturer cannot guarantee the cattle will not experience problems like bloat, founder and acidosis. When offered free-choice, cattle can consume large amounts of these products at a given time and this can lead to such disorders. While founder and acidosis usually come from an overload of starch, bloat comes from a lack of effective fiber in the calf’s diet. Remember, just because the ingredient may be high in fiber, it does not eliminate the possibility of bloat. Most of the fiber in commodities is finely-ground and is not effective in preventing bloat. Also, while recommended by some, Bovatec® in a feed or as a mineral source is not labeled as a bloat preventative and cannot be sold or guaranteed as a product to prevent bloat.

I realize why the thought of feeding commodities is so attractive—-the cost of these ingredients versus that of a complete feed can be very different. At the same time, remember a complete feed is a group of ingredients, minerals and vitamins formulated to give the very best performance at a very competitive price. With the use of a complete feed, comes the advantage of a manufacturer who will stand behind that product if there is a problem with that feed. Also remember with each commodity comes a new set of management practices to implement for the very best performance in your herd as well as the lack of support from the companies making the product.

I am saying all this as a reminder; as we make considerations for the fall feeding season, choose a product best fitted to your needs at an effective cost. Consider all advantages and shortcomings of by-products before deciding the direction to go. When fed properly, by-products can be an excellent product offering numerous advantages.

If you have any questions about the nutritional value of ingredients or if you would like any assistance in selecting the very best product for your situation, please contact me.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If you would like to contact him, please feel free to call at (256) 947-7886 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> He looks forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.

Figure-8 Scent Trails Fool Buck’s Unbelievable Sense of Smell

A cool tool called a Pro-Drag is probably the easiest and best device to create a scent trail. It is designed to dip the two absorbent tails directly into a bottle of scent. It comes with a string to be attached to a stick. This way the scent trail can be laid off of the exact path. This will leave the cleanest, easiest-to-follow trail.

By Todd Amenrud

With his nose to the ground the buck followed my scent trail heading away from my stand. My binoculars told me this was one of the bucks in the area I was after, a very respectable 4x4 with massive antler bases. I didn’t like to see him head off the wrong way, but I wasn’t too worried because I had planned accordingly. About a half hour later the buck reappeared following the same scent trail but now in my direction. When he reached 22 yards out, I drove a Hoyt-propelled CX shaft through both lungs and the buck toppled over after a short dash.

Some bowhunters complain of not having a lot of shot opportunities at bucks. Many see plenty of deer but just can’t get them "on their doorstep." One of my favorite tactics to lure in bucks close is by leading them with a scent trail. If you can fool their unbelievable sense of smell, you’ve got it made.

To begin, when using scent in any way for whitetail, you must keep foreign odors out of the picture. Scent Killer, rubber boots and rubber gloves will help you to reduce scent transfer. You want to leave the good smell, not a danger smell. To a nose as powerful as a whitetails’ I don’t think there is such a thing as "totally scent free," but I am positive by using the Scent Killer system and paying attention to details I can reduce odors to only trace levels even a mature buck will tolerate in close proximity.

We have many different tools to create scent trails; hunters might use boot-pads, drag-rags or atomizers. My preferred way of leaving a trail is with a device called a Pro-Drag. It is a super absorbent piece of felt tied to a string. I can tie the string to a stick found in the area. This way I’m able to drag the scent trail off of the exact path my feet are leaving. Obviously, in thick brush or heavy timber you can’t drag the trail off to one side, but wherever possible, this method will leave the cleanest, most pristine scent trail possible.

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

When leaving a scent trail in a straight line, you’ve only got a 50-50 chance the buck will follow your trail in your direction. Half of the time they follow it in the wrong direction. Since they’re looking for the "goodies" at the end of the trail, even if they do follow it in the wrong direction, when they get to where you started the trail and they don’t find what they’re looking for, sometimes they’ll follow it back in your direction. It might not be that they immediately turn around and go back in the other direction. I’ve seen a buck come back several hours later and follow the trail the opposite way. In fact, I’ve watched bucks go back and forth several times on a scent trail. If a buck crosses your trail and heads the wrong way…don’t give up hope.

A cure-all for this problem is a figure 8 scent trail. Create your scent trail in a figure 8 and place yourself downwind of the intersection of the 8. This way regardless of where the buck cuts the trail or which way he follows it, eventually he’ll wind up in front of you.

Remember when you get to the end of your trail to take off the pad or drag and hang it on a branch upwind or crosswind from your position. You want the buck to smell the “good stuff” and not you.

This may or may not be the best way for you to leave a trail; you have to use your judgment. Maybe you would be making too much commotion or contaminating the area too much with human scent to make this tactic work like it should. But I’ve seen this method fool even mature Pope & Young candidates time and time again.

During early season my favorite scent to use is Trail’s End #307 or Hot Musk. Closer to the rut I like to use Special Golden Estrus. Just think about what that specific buck wants at that specific time of the season. You need to give them a reason to follow your trail.

Obviously, every situation is different. As I said, sometimes this tactic may require more commotion or scent transfer than is wise to perform. However, this can also be a great way to bring bucks in close enough for an easy archery shot.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.

Gathering Promotes Common Interest: Homemade Soap

Soap maker Theda Gatlin presents a demonstration on liquid soap making at the 11th Annual Alabama Soap and Candle Meeting as members watch.

By Mary-Glenn Smith

In 1998, four women, brought together by a common interest, gathered in a dining room in Deatsville.

Today, 11 years later, the group has grown from four to almost 100 members. The meeting area has been moved from a small household dining room to a large auditorium at Doster Community Center in Prattville, but the interest is still the same: homemade soap.

"We were on these different little groups before Yahoo was even thought of," Jennifer "Jen" Merk recalled about the beginning of the Alabama Soap and Candle Association (ASCA), which took place in her dining room. "As we went along, we kept picking up people who lived in parts of Alabama."

"So the next year, we had maybe 15 people and met at a church in Clanton; the following year, same place with maybe 22," Merk said about the first years of ASCA’s annual meetings. "The year after, we had so many we had to find a larger place.

"This year we have 98 registered, all women and men who make soap-related articles — candles, lotions, lip balms, any kind of toiletries you can think of," remarked Merk about the 11th annual meeting held June 12 and 13. "Some of them are hobbyists, some do it full-time and then anything that falls in-between."

Members of the Alabama Soap and Candle Association browse vendors’ booths at the 11th annual meeting held at the Doster Center in Prattville.

Merk, who ran the ASCA single-handily for ten years and now serves as the group’s treasurer, started making soap in 1997.

"I have dairy goats and I needed something to do with all the milk they produced; you cannot drink enough of the milk," Merk recalled how her interest in soap making first began.

"I looked into making cheese and decided I didn’t want to do that, so the other option was making soap," Merk continued. "I tried making my first batch and used my own soap for the first time. I was totally hooked."

Today, Merk sells her homemade products at farmer’s markets during the summer and at various craft shows throughout the fall.

What began with only four members has now grown into one of the largest regional groups of soap and candle makers in the United States with over 50 percent growth in the last two years.

The 11th Annual ASCA Meeting featured several speakers discussing different issues involved in soap making. Demonstrations were held to provide step-by-step instructions on ways to make soap that people attending the meeting may not be aware of. Vendors lined one wall inside the auditorium selling their products to the soap makers – everything from oils and other scents for the soap, to wooden soap holders.

"Vendors are here for us to buy from directly," said soap maker, Sydne Spencer. "These are the people we are probably buying stuff from on the Internet. So they are here to sell to us in person."

On the other wall of the auditorium, members of ASCA brought their excess products to sell.

"It’s like our yard sale," Spencer laughed. "This is an addictive hobby; once you start doing it you can’t stop buying stuff."

Spencer, who makes soaps, lotions and other body products, began her soap making venture ten years ago. With some help from her husband, Spencer produces her products on their farm, Spencer Farms, in Taft, TN.

"When we moved to Tennessee from Huntsville, my husband, Robert, was working with the small farm outreach and he was trying to help the goat farmers with their sustainable farming projects," Spencer explained. "We decided we had to have a goat. We got a goat, then we got a couple of goats and one was a milk goat. I didn’t realize how much milk a goat would give, I had to learn to do something with the milk.

"Through my research, I found out there aren’t any big legal regulations you have to ‘jump through hoops’ for to make soap. So, I decided to start making soap."

Every one of the products manufactured by Spencer is made from goat’s milk.

"I specialize just in goat’s milk," Spencer added. "A lot of people do soaps made with other things like water. Goats milk soap is different than other soaps; it’s like lotion, it’s real moisturizing."

Spencer sells her products on the Internet and through word-of-mouth.

"Once people try it they come back and they bring their friends," Spencer said.

Like many of the members of the ASCA, Spencer is not a full-time soap maker. She is an engineer by profession.

"If I did this full-time, I think I would make a good living at it, but not as good as being an engineer," Spencer said. "It feeds my goats. It definitely feeds my goats and pays for itself."

The 11th Annual ASCA Meeting brought people from all over Alabama and surrounding states.

"The meeting is attended for many different reasons," said Sandi Garrett, President of ASCA.

"Attendees come to gain education about products and how to grow business as well as meet new people, catch up with old friends and just have fun sharing our passion with others," Garrett stated.

Garrett is from Birmingham and she began making soap six years ago.

"Several years ago I started researching the effects of environment on our lives and bodies which has led to the creation of products that are natural, luxurious and pampering," Garrett explained. I felt people needed this to offset the stress and busyness of our daily lives. We all need to stop and do something that’s just for us sometimes."

"This industry is growing," said Garrett, who is proud of the large turnout at the meeting. "We want to grow along with it."

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.

Getting Rid of the Body -

Carcass Disposal Considerations

By Dr. Tony Frazier

Have you ever watched one of those crime drama shows where someone gets murdered? The actual murder itself seems to go off without a hitch. Then it gets a little dicey when the murderer tries to get rid of the body. However, if the perpetrator does a good job of disposing of the evidence, they are pretty much home free. No body….no crime. There are few livestock producers or poultry producers who have not had to deal with the issue of "getting rid of the body." This article is intended to help you producers become aware of many of the considerations involved with carcass disposal. Since poultry producers operate under a specific law governing disposal of mortality, we will direct most of our attention to livestock.

There is an agricultural law in the Code of Alabama dealing with burial or burning of dead animals. The law begins like this: All owners or custodians of animals which die or are killed in their possession or custody, other than such as are slaughtered for food, within 24 hours shall cause the bodies of such animal to be burned or buried at least two feet below the surface of the ground……. The law goes on to state anyone who fails to comply or even buries or burns in such proximity to a dwelling as to cause a nuisance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Many producers are unaware of this law. But as we all know, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Our department usually becomes involved on a "for cause" basis. Generally speaking, that means we are responding to complaints.

We have over the last few years become involved in several improper disposal issues. Most of the time, an animal dies in the pasture and is not removed. A neighbor or by-passer sees the carcass and reports it to us. There have been other occasions involving several animals dying over a period of time and being placed into an open pit. From our perspective, most producers want to do what is right, if they have proper information. Unfortunately, there is no prescribed method of disposal fitting all producers and all situations. Hopefully, we can shed some light on things to consider when disposing of carcasses.

While there is no easy way to dispose of the carcass of a 2,000 pound bull, taking it to an approved landfill is certainly worth considering. Not all landfills will take these carcasses, but there are enough around that this method of disposal is worth checking into. This method is also in harmony with the disposal law because these dead animals are usually covered or buried daily. My advice is you call before you haul. Don’t just show up at a landfill with a carcass or you may end up bringing it back home.

Renderers are another option for so producers. However, because of a new FDA regulation put into place to address BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) issues, it is no longer practical for a producer to take a bovine over 30 months of age to a renderer. The regulation allows no brain or spinal cord material from cattle over 30 months to be rendered. This has not only caused a problem for producers who might have taken a carcass to the renderer, but also for slaughter facilities that process cattle over 30 months. If you have a cow die that is under 30 months and an establishment is close by that renders cattle, that could be a good option.

Some areas of the state are fortunate to have someone who is in the business of picking up fallen livestock. Ultimately, the carcasses usually end up at the landfill or renderer. People who haul dead livestock for the public must be registered with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. If you have questions about this, call me at (334) 240-7253.

Finally, there is on-farm disposal. For most producers who occasionally lose an animal, burial is an acceptable choice. If you lose several animals at one time, we recommend you contact your local NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) Office. NRCS is not a regulatory agency, but they have helpful printed material that will help you bury in the most suitable area on your farm. One of the main considerations NRCS can help you address is to bury in an area that will not contaminate the ground water and surface water like ponds, streams and lakes. Some of the considerations in burying include soil type, drainage and elevation. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has some regulation concerning putting putrifying material in the ground. If you have any doubts, you should contact that department.

As the dynamics of our society change and urban sprawl continues, we realize we must use Best Management Practices (BMP) in disposal of livestock and poultry. I suppose, if you have a 500,000 acre ranch in Nevada and wish to leave the dead animals around to feed the buzzards and coyotes, that might be okay. But here in Alabama, we want to be good citizens and good neighbors. We especially want to take care of our natural resources like water.

It is also worth mentioning USDA is still paying $100 to help with the proper disposal of cattle over 30 months of age that die of unknown causes. To qualify for the $100, you must allow the carcass to be sampled for BSE. If you need information on this give me a call.

Finally, there is one method of carcass disposal I haven’t mentioned because it isn’t exactly disposal. That is taxidermy. I realize it’s not for everyone. But I have seen some very impressive "stuffed cattle" and I understand Roy Rogers had his horse, Trigger, preserved that way. Properly placed, a stuffed cow, bull or horse could certainly be a unique decoration around the place. If you do choose this method, don’t call me. That’s not my field of expertise. Otherwise, call us if you have questions. We are from the government and we’re here to help.

Happy Hunting Ground

By Ralph Ricks

In case you are not from the South, I need to warn you that even though it’s been as hot as a coal furnace here in South Alabama, Dog Days are here. When I used to live in Baldwin County, we had to watch out for our Northern brothers and sisters because, although they can and will walk around in December in short pants and t-shirts when they first move down here and retire, they have no concept of Dog Days and how durn hot it can get. They walk around in the winter and make fun of us Southerners about our fear of the cold and we just tell them Dog Days are coming and to check with us then. I’d like to see the statistics on Northern transplants to the South who die of heat-related stress in August in our fair state.

We’ve tried to tell them not to mow the grass in the afternoon during Dog Days. We’ve tried to tell them that between diseases and bugs, a late-summer garden doesn’t have much of a chance. We’ve tried to tell them fleas, mosquitoes and biting files are going to be worse during Dog Days.

Just to set the record straight, officially, many almanacs say Dog Days run from July 3rd to August 11th and they coincide with the star named Sirius as its doing something "astronomical" I don’t quite understand. And I found out that in the Southern hemisphere they don’t have an official Dog Days (I’d like to talk to someone from upper South America in say January, summertime down there, and see what they have to say about it).

My dad made it clear to us as children that during Dog Days a sore wouldn’t heal unless a dog licked it. We knew snakes were blind in Dog Days and would strike anything that came near. We knew to be nice to our pet dogs and not to antagonize other folks’ dogs because during Dog Days you never knew when they might "turn."

I have been doing some research on Dog Days and to me it looks like our Northern brothers and sisters think Dog Days are a fun time. I have seen websites for all sorts of festivals, picnics and activities they have up north. For us down here in the South, we know folks can die in this heat.

One summer, my dad made us paint the trim on our house during Dog Days. Living on the Bon Secour River, we had a healthy population of deer flies. For those who don’t know of these, picture a yellow fly, a little bigger than a house fly, that bites like a horse fly. As we were standing on dad’s questionable scaffolding, these flies must have thought we were manna from heaven. I’m not sure if they drink blood or what, but they bite so hard it must be tough making a living drinking blood for one of them. I must assume they get most of their food from critters that cannot reach them to swat at them. I say "swat at them" because I have swung at zillions of them but actually killed only a few. Anyway, as we were painting, they descended on us like a plague from Egypt. They were so bad we were looking for someone, like Pharaoh, to set us free so they would leave us alone. The drill went something like this: you are standing there painting and one lands on your leg/arm/shoulder/head and you set down your paintbrush and slap at him/her and he/she flies away unharmed. After a while, you just start slapping at them with the paintbrush. When it was all over, the majority of the paint was on us, the bushes and the brick, and very little on the trim. We had welts on our skin the size of quarters that would itch until we had scratched them hard enough to draw blood, at which time the gnats arrived. Dad never seemed to realize why we were covered with paint when he got home each day but the house was unpainted.

Dog Days always make me think of that summer and I dread its arrival.

When you grew up south of Interstate 10, Dog Days are a constant reminder of the most active period of hurricane season and that really makes you dread the month of August.

I would love to write more, but it’s just too durn hot.

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.

Here’s Eight Reasons To Keep Gardening

Myrtle and Chester Chenault, of Decatur, still grow a garden each year. Among the benefits are good food, exercise, and sharing knowledge and produce with others.

By Jerry A. Chenault

"We’re gonna’ cut back next year, Son . . . we’re just not gonna’ grow so much. We don’t even need it anymore." How many times have I heard my Dad say those words? And yet each year sees basically the same size garden. Even at age 82, my parents keep gardening with fervor. But why? Why do they do it? Here’s why:

1) Gardening for safe, fresh, tasty food. Other than your local farmer’s market, it’s tough to get fresh, vine-ripened, safe and really tasty vegetables unless you grow them yourself. Growing your own lets you have the choice of the particular varieties, colors and even the harvest stage of the vegetables you want. And, if you’re careful, you can save money in the process. It’s estimated that during World War II over 20 million homeowners had Victory Gardens which produced approximately 40 percent of the fresh vegetables in the U.S. Many are returning to those roots in 2009.

2) Garden for exercise. Gardening gets people off the couch and doing at least moderately physically active. Did you know senior citizens watch more hours of television each week than any other age group? They are the most sedentary sector of the population. That’s not good. Gardening has been shown to burn up to 300 calories per hour for women and almost 400 for men. While not nearly as effective as a consistent structured exercise program, gardening does provide some true health benefits.

3) Gardening for stress relief. High stress is a fact of life in our fast-paced world. Gardens give people an outlet . . . a way to relax and unwind . . . or as Baloo the Bear said in The Jungle Book, to "fall apart in my backyard!" Gardening gives the mind a real break from the rat race, and even sometimes a break from the air conditioner!

4) Gardening lets you be creative. Plant what you want. Use the colors you like with your flowers. Design a garden that reflects your personality! Grow things in containers no one else ever dreamed of using. It’s your chance to dance.

5) Garden to help others. Gardening is a great way to share with friends and family. It’s a great source for gifts to give, and it even stimulates opportunities to meet new friends and to converse with others. Besides all that, there are social groups based upon gardening like Master Gardeners, garden clubs, plant organizations and even Internet blogs and websites you can share in.

6) Garden to compete. Some people enjoy having the first tomatoes in town. Others like to compete in flower shows or even at the county fair. Gardening opens the door for competition with other growers.

7) Garden to pass along knowledge and joy. Most gardeners don’t sit around pondering all of the reasons they choose to garden. They just garden. But if they did, they’d realize gardening gives them the opportunity to do something that lifts them up spiritually and emotionally. It allows them to see miracles unfold in nature. Gardening lets us nurture, gives us achievement, and promotes inner peace and personal serenity. Gardening also allows us to pass these things on to our friends and family, and to introduce these wonders to the youngsters we love.

8) Gardening for a plethora of reasons! I think we could go on and on about how gardening gets us fresh air, vitamin D from the sun, a chance to wear our favorite hat, etc.

Surely we’ve realized by now that gardening deserves its place no matter how smart, how cute, how modern, how busy or how rich we become. Wouldn’t you agree? I sure do.

Jerry A. Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent.

How's Your Garden

Marigolds love the cooler evenings of late summer and fall.

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Unlikely Fall Flowers

We typically think of marigolds, geraniums and petunias as spring flowers, but these also love the cooler evenings of late summer and fall. In fact, petunias can take a little frost. So, if you have any of these in your garden that barely hung on through summer, trim back the tips of the branches and feed them with a little liquid fertilizer. They may surprise you. Look for marigolds for sale in garden centers now, too, with their great orange shades for autumn. They won’t endure cold weather, but will be glorious from now until frost.

White flowers in the garden seem to light up at dusk.

An Evening Garden Glows

Have you ever noticed how white flowers, silver foliage and pale pastel flowers seem to light up at dusk? When it gets just dark enough for the other flower colors to disappear, the lighter ones are reflecting what little light is left in the sky or perhaps from your outdoor lights. Take a look at your garden to see where you might add some white. Good permanent choices for fall planting (will bloom next year) include white lilies, any shrub with a big white bloom (like gardenia, Annabelle, Oakleaf or Pegee hydrangeas) snowball viburnum, white althea, white azalea and white perennial hibiscus. For immediate effect this fall, try white pansies.

Rainwater Harvesting

Just having returned from parched and water-rationed Southern California makes me grateful for all the rainfall we’ve had this year. Nevertheless, fall is our driest time and it may also be a good time to consider a way to collect rainwater for the garden. Systems range from inexpensive, do-it-yourself rain barrel kits to professionally-installed tanks holding thousands of gallons. Serious gardeners might want to start dropping hints to the family about these being the perfect Christmas gift! One inch of rainfall on a 1,000-square-foot roof generates about 600 gallons of water. So, you can see how typical 50-gallon rain barrels are a good start, but literally just a drop-in-the-bucket compared to what actually comes off your roof. You can connect several barrels in a relay to increase your total capacity. One very interesting collection system re-circulates water stored in underground cisterns through fountains or waterfalls to create a landscape feature that hides the whole system. Read more about it at

Time for a Second Spring

Arugula is a hardy green that may grow even through the winter in warmer regions of the state.

Fall is like a second spring for planting. In fact, it’s better than spring for landscaping. By setting out landscape plants and perennials in the fall, you give them months in the ground to grow roots before their tops start growing in the spring. In autumn, the ground is still warm and the air is cooling down so there is little stress as long as you keep plants watered. The roots can grow while the top is quiet, leaving the plant to do its underground work. About the only ones you don’t plant now are tropicals and half-hardy plants like palms and hibiscus that are damaged by winter.

Lively Arugula

This sharply-flavored green has become a common item in the produce section of grocery stores. It adds a wonderful piquant bite to a salad; some fans just do entire salads of arugula alone topped with a contrasting sweetness of raspberry dressing and goat cheese. Now is a good time to plant the hardy green for harvests in fall and even winter in warmer regions of the state or under cover in North Alabama. The leaves are low in calories but high in nutrients, especially vitamins A, C and K, and calcium. Arugula sold at the stores as baby arugula are young leaves, while those you grow at home will grow large enough to tear into pieces for your salad if you prefer.

Late Summer and Fall Border

A border of red fountain grass and fall flowers creates a grand finale of color before winter.

I love a flower border especially designed to hit its peak in late summer and fall. There is something magical about this grand finale of flowers and color before winter, especially as butterflies and hummingbirds visit during their southern migrations. If you have room to spare, consider planting a bed of late-blooming color. Now is the time to shop around for some of the perennial items to go in such a bed and to make note of any annuals and tropicals you would pick up next spring. Some good plants to consider are: Cherokee rose (Hibiscus mutabilis), Firebush (Hamelia patens), Turks cap (Malvaviscus penduliflorus), late blooming ornamental grasses, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), Mexican sage (Salvia mexicana), chrysanthemums, asters, swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), stonecrop (Sedum spectabile) Autumn Joy and others, Joe Pye weed and goldenrod (there are improved cultivated varieties of these roadside "weeds").

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

Master Gardener Intern Project Brightens Nursing Facility

Montgomery/Autauga County Class of 2009 Brings Cheer to Residents

Colorful Knockout roses, gerber daisies, hibiscus, mandevilla, lantanas, azaleas, and more perennial and annual plants now beautify the grounds of the Resurrection Life Center, a skilled nursing and assisted-living facility located on County Line Road in Autauga County.

From a casual conversation between Jane Martin, one of five Master Gardener interns from the Montgomery/Autauga County Class of 2009, and Ms. Wynn Wallace, Assisted Living Director of the residence, grew a project of deep satisfaction for the interns and a delight for residents and staff of the facility.

Three courtyard areas, which can be viewed by residents of the assisted-living portion of the facility and patients in the nursing home area, were in need of cheerful blooms. The plan was that plants were to be purchased by the staff of the facility and installed by the interns. In addition, a parent of one of the residents donated seven Encore Azaleas to be planted in one of the courtyards. Plants were chosen based on intern recommendations and the effect desired by staff members.

By the morning of May 11, the plants had arrived. Interns Jane Martin, Anthony Yarbrough, Millie Ledford, Mark Carmichael and Nancy Waggoner began work. Weeds were removed, holes were dug, compacted soil was amended with organic material, plants were set in place, timed-release fertilizer was broadcast and landscape cloth was installed over the major planted areas. Some plants were placed in containers and hanging baskets. Ten hours later, things were looking very different!

On May 16, the azaleas were planted. Residents and staff members enjoyed watching the work in progress. On June 15, a layer of pine straw mulch was laid over all the major planted areas. Recommendations for plant care were provided to the staff so the plants may be maintained and remain beautiful throughout the season.

Peanut People

Pearsall, Texas, Hometown of George Strait and Eddie Casas

Eddie Casas loves his chosen profession.

By Don Linker

Russellville resident Eddie Casas can’t say he knew George Strait, but they grew up a block apart in Pearsall, Texas. Eddie was younger so he never knew Strait; George was already pursuing his dream and we all know how that turned out. Eddie’s dream, as it turned out, would take him a few years to realize and require some hard work, support from friends and family, and tenacity. Growing up in town, Eddie’s only exposure to horses was through relatives who had ranching interests around Pearsall. This limited contact sparked a love of horses that would take years to grow and blossom.

How did you come to live in Alabama?

"After high school, I moved to Chicago where I worked for Osco Drugs in the distribution department and was doing videotaping part-time for a church and also some weddings. My best friend in Chicago was marrying a girl from Aberdeen, Mississippi, in her home town, so I traveled there to the wedding. Teresa Cooper, the bride’s cousin, was introduced to me and we talked some after the ceremony. Back in Chicago, I began to think about the connection she and I seemed to have, so I called her. We talked on the phone, wrote letters and I eventually talked Teresa into moving to Chicago where we were married in Arlington Heights in 1991. My exposure to horses was minimal, but Teresa had shown Walking Horses, barrel raced and had a lot of experience with horses. Our goal was to own land and have horses to ride and love, but in Illinois that was not going to be possible. So in 1992, we moved to Haleyville, Alabama. I secured a job with Cusata Wood Products and we bought our first horse, an Appaloosa gelding. Then in 1994, we bought a small house with some land in the east Franklin County area and added more horses."

How did you get into shoeing horses?

Eddie Casas prepares a horse’s hoof for a shoe.

"When you have several horses, shoeing and trimming becomes expensive. Teresa suggested I learn to shoe our horses. Teresa’s dad, Razzie, showed me the basics. I bought some tools and began. Craig Thomas, a local farrier, was shoeing most of our horses and I would attempt a couple with his help. Craig would look at my work and tell me what I had done wrong or right. I watched him and others, asked a lot of questions and read every book I could find on horseshoeing. In 1996, I left Cussata to go to Jemson Manufacturing, where Mr. Teddy Dollar was the plant manager. By this time, I was shoeing all of our horses and beginning to shoe four to six horses for the public on weekends. In 1998, I moved from Jemson to Winston Furniture and my horseshoeing on the weekends increased. I also began to shoe for my old boss, Teddy Dollar, who had several horses."

Then in 2000, a horse Eddie was riding fell on him breaking his leg severely. He was out of work for several months and was overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion of his friends, neighbors and customers in his time of need. Teddy Dollar donated a registered Quarter Horse colt to be raffled off and the proceeds given to the Casas family.

While off work, Casas toyed with the idea of making horseshoeing a full-time career, but he just wasn’t sure he could make a living for his family, which now included Teresa and four boys, Cory, Justin, Austin and Bailey. He lost his job at Winston Furniture while injured, but was able to secure employment with Harden’s Manufacturing in Bear Creek and began shoeing up to 12 horses on the weekends. After about four years at Harden’s, Eddie left to work for James Glenn at Country Expressions in Double Springs, also a furniture manufacturer. During this time, he began to shoe horses at KC Horse Camp, also in Double Springs, and he broadened his customer base by meeting people from Birmingham and Tuscaloosa as well as gaining more from the local area. Late in 2005, Eddie developed severe allergies to the lumber and dust involved in furniture manufacturing, so the search began for a job outside the furniture business. The dream to start his own farrier business was still there, but so was the uncertainty.

Securing a job with Running P Ropes in Muscle Shoals, Casas thought he would enjoy making lariat ropes and this would fit well with his horseshoeing on the weekends. Then his phone began to ring constantly and before he knew it, he was booked for a week and then another, so he called Mr. Bigbee at Running P and thanked him for the job offer, but he had to try to make his dream a reality. Four years later, with a larger customer base reaching from the Shoals to Birmingham and Hamilton to Moulton, the dream is alive and growing. This year, he had his first Customer Appreciation Day at the Union Community Center with a live band, plenty of food and much good fellowship. The Casas family plan to make this an annual affair to show how much they value their customers.

How many horses do you typically do in a year’s time?

"In a year, I will do around 22 hundred horses which is basically 45 a week. The most full shoeings I have done in a day is 13 and the most trims is 17."

What do you like most about your career choice?

"Being able to spend time with Teresa and the boys. Teresa goes with me when she can and the boys have all spent time with me shoeing horses. The other thing I like is all the good friends and quality relationships I have made in my travels. Horseshoeing has enabled me to do something I love, be my own boss and make a good living, which is something few people can say."

Eddie, who is basically a self-taught farrier credits other farriers like Craig Thomas, Jeff Landers and Robert at Blackwater Forge among others for answering his questions and giving him advice in his quest of fulfilling his dream.

For those of you who need a horse shod, Eddie offers a good rate and also customer service. You can reach him at (256) 460-0147. For those of you who just have to shoe your own horse, your local Quality Co-op has a full line of shoeing tools as well as shoes and nails. And as always, your local Co-op strives to earn and keep your business.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.

Proper Freezing of Summer’s Garden Produce Provides Best Case for Preserving Nutrients

By Angela Treadaway

Freezing is a quick and convenient way to preserve fruits and vegetables at home. It is the method of food preservation preserving the greatest quantity of nutrients. To maintain top nutritional quality in frozen fruits and vegetables, it is essential to:

· Select fresh, firm-ripe produce.

· Blanch vegetables as directed. All vegetables need to be blanched for longer storage life. If you do not blanch, foods will need to be eaten in a couple of months.

· Store the frozen product at 0°F.

· Use within suggested storage times.

Chemical Changes

Harvested fresh, fruits and vegetables continue to undergo chemical changes that can cause spoilage and deterioration of the product. This is why these products should be frozen as soon after harvest as possible and at their peak degree of ripeness. Enzymes in the fruits and vegetables must be inactivated to prevent the loss of nutrients, and color and flavor changes that will occur.

Enzymes in Vegetables: Enzymes are inactivated by the blanching process, which is the exposure of the vegetables to boiling water or steam for a brief period of time. The vegetable must then be cooled rapidly in ice water to prevent it from cooking. Contrary to statements in some publications on home freezing, in most cases, blanching is absolutely essential for producing top-quality frozen vegetables. Blanching also helps to destroy microorganisms on the surface of the vegetable, brightens the color, helps retard loss of vitamins and helps make some vegetables, like broccoli and spinach, more compact.

Enzymes in Fruits: The major problems associated with enzymes in fruits are the development of brown colors and loss of vitamin C. Because fruits are usually served raw, they are not blanched like vegetables. Instead, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is used either in its pure form or in commercial mixtures, like Fruit Fresh™, to control the activity of the enzymes.

Other methods to control browning include soaking the fruit in dilute vinegar solutions or coating the fruit with sugar and lemon juice. However, these methods do not prevent browning as effectively as treatment with ascorbic acid.

Preventing Rancid Flavors: Rancid oxidative flavors may develop through contact of the frozen product with air. This problem can be prevented by using a wrapping material that does not permit air to pass into the product and by removing as much air as possible from the freezer bag or container before freezing.

Textural Changes

Cause of Textural Changes: Water makes up over 90 percent of the weight of most produce and is held within the fairly rigid cell walls giving support, structure and texture to the fruit or vegetable. Freezing fruits and vegetables actually consists of freezing the water contained in the plant cell. When the water freezes, it expands and the ice crystals cause the cell walls to rupture. The texture of the thawed produce will be much softer than it was when raw.

For example, when a frozen tomato is thawed, it turns into a pile of mush and liquid. This explains why celery, lettuce and tomatoes are not usually frozen, and why it is recommended raw frozen fruits be eaten before they have completely thawed. Textural changes due to freezing are not as apparent in products cooked before eating because cooking also softens cell walls. These changes are also less noticeable in high-starch vegetables, like peas, corn and lima beans.

Prevention: When produce is frozen quickly, it forms a large number of small ice crystals. These small ice crystals produce less cell wall rupture than slow freezing, which produces only a few large ice crystals. This is why it is sometimes recommended the temperature of a freezer be set at the coldest setting several hours before foods will be placed in it. The maximum amount of unfrozen product that can be frozen at one time is two to three pounds to each cubic foot of freezer space per 24 hours.

Moisture Loss

Moisture loss, or ice crystals evaporating from the surface area of a product, produces freezer burn — a grainy, brownish spot where the tissues become dry and tough. This surface freeze-dried area is very likely to develop "off" flavors. Packaging in heavy-weight, moisture-proof wrap will prevent freezer burn.

Microbial Growth In The Freezer

The freezing process does not actually destroy the microorganisms that may be present on fruits and vegetables. While blanching destroys some microorganisms and there is a gradual decline in the number during freezer storage, sufficient populations are still present to multiply and cause spoilage of the product when it thaws. For this reason it is necessary to inspect carefully any frozen products that have accidentally thawed if the power goes off or the freezer door is left open.

Recommended Storage Times

Longer storage of fruits and vegetables than those recommended will not make the food unsafe for use but will decrease its quality.

Fruits: Most frozen fruits maintain high quality for eight to 12 months. Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than fruits packed in sugar or sugar syrups.

Vegetables: Most vegetables will maintain high quality for 12 to 18 months at 0°F or lower. However, it is a good idea to use your home-frozen vegetables before the next year’s crop is ready for freezing.

Selecting Freezer Containers

Use good-quality freezer containers that are both moisture and vapor-proof so moisture can be kept in the product and air kept away from it.

Moisture and Vapor-Resistant Wraps: Heavy-weight aluminum foil, plastic-coated freezer paper and plastic wrap are effective at excluding oxygen. They should be strong, pliable and adhere to the shape of the food item. Seal these only with tape designed for the freezer because other household tapes lose adhesive quality in the extremely cold freezer temperatures. Wraps are not as convenient for fruits and vegetables as plastic bags or rigid freezer containers.

Plastic Film Bags: These seal with twist-and-tie tops. Collapsible cardboard freezer boxes are frequently used as an outer covering for plastic bags to protect them against tearing and for easy stacking in the freezer. Plastic sandwiches bags and bread wrappers are not suitable for freezing.

"Freeze-and-Cook" Bags: These bags withstand temperatures from below 0°F to above the boiling point and are suitable for both freezing and cooking the product. They come in 1½ pint and quart sizes and also as large rolls of plastic so they can be made the size desired. A heat sealer is necessary for closing these bags. These products are more expensive, but convenient since you can cook in them.

Freezer Temperature

To maintain top quality, frozen fruits and vegetables should be stored at 0°F or lower. Higher temperatures increase the rate at which deterioration can take place and can shorten the shelf-life of frozen foods. Do not attempt to save energy by raising the temperature of frozen food storage above 0°F. A freezer thermometer can help determine the actual temperature of the freezer. If the freezer has number temperature settings, like from one to nine, check the manual to see what settings are recommended for different uses. Changing temperatures in the freezer can cause the migration of water vapors from the product to the surface of the container as may be seen in improperly-handled commercially frozen foods.

Methods of Packing Vegetables

There are two basic methods for packing vegetables for freezing: the tray pack and the dry pack.

Dry Pack: This is the term used to describe the packing of blanched and drained vegetables into containers or freezer bags. Pack the vegetables tightly to cut down on the amount of air in the container. If the vegetables are packed in freezer bags, press air out of the unfilled part of the bag to prevent freezer burn. When packing broccoli, alternate the heads and stems.

Tray Pack: This is the method of freezing individual pieces of blanched and drained vegetables on a tray or shallow pan, then packing the frozen pieces into a freezer bag or container. This method produces a product similar to commercially frozen plastic bags of individual vegetable pieces and is particularly good for peas, corn and beans. Pack the frozen pieces into a freezer bag or container as soon as they are frozen. Long exposure will result in loss of moisture.

For more questions on preserving fruits and vegetables, contact your local County Extension Agent or call Regional Extension Agent Angela Treadaway at (205) 410-3696.

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.

Sand Mtn. Meat Goat Demonstration Project: One Year Later

By Robert Spencer

The Sand Mountain Meat Goat Demonstration Project at the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center in Crossville has been in existence for slightly more than a year and results are impressive. Based on one year of tracking operating expenses, this project shows potential for being sustainable through utilization of simple forage utilization and fundamental management practices. It has utilized a variety of quality forages and forage management that appear to facilitate sustainable meat goat production at a practical level, and offer concepts producers can readily adapt.

For goat producers, the biggest inhibitor in goat production is costs associated with supplemental feed, hay and healthcare for animals. Knowing this, project organizers designed the project to utilize rotational grazing and desirable forages in a combination to minimize the need for supplemental feeding, reducing excessive healthcare costs and showing management strategies that would increase likelihood for profitability.

Did someone say something about food? These goats are enjoying a meal of lush red clover.

This project involves animals at various stages of development and with varying nutritional needs, therefore it is important to have the ability to utilize paddocks, forages with various nutritional values and the ability to separate animals based on nutritional needs. Test plot forages include varieties of alfalfa, clover (red and white), sericea lespedeza, rape, chicory and fescue; alfalfa, lespedeza, rape and chicory are known to be high in tannins. A strategy of rotational grazing, forages with high nutritional value and also high in tannins for parasite management should enhance the health of goats. Based on research from other universities, it has been established that plants high in tannins tend to inhibit the impact of intestinal worms. Worm overloads in goats tend to impact health and result in related problems like anemia and mortality; this situation often necessitates major health care expenditures which impact producers. Problems with parasites impacts potential profit margins; a situation readily avoided through proper management practices.

Goats in the Sand Mountain Meat Goat Demonstration Project have become well-conditioned due to a combination of quality forages, rotational grazing and supplemental hay with minimal grain feed.

The goats were strategically wormed four times in the past year: when placed on site, after kidding, mid-spring and late-spring prior to breeding season. From here on out, worming will be done only when deemed necessary, utilizing strategic parasite management. Lice were a temporary problem in late spring (which is typical), but the problem was easily eliminated with two strategic dustings.

The utilization of quality forages, some of which are high in tannins, and rotational grazing have shown impressive potential for sustainable meat goat production. The goats originally brought on-site were in poor body condition, but have since become well-conditioned due to a combination of quality forages, rotational grazing and supplemental hay with minimal grain feed (soybean hull pellets). The utilization of rotational grazing and strategically placed gates have minimized use of grain feed and readily facilitated the movement of animals.

Sericea lespedeza hay has been heavily utilized for several reasons; its high nutritional value, high tannin content and it has been utilized to prevent scours when the goats were heavily-grazing red clover. Each time the goats were introduced into the red clover, scours became a concern.

Guardian dogs were initially brought into the project but discontinued for several reasons. (1) They kept escaping the fenced area despite the combination of woven wire and electric fencing. (2) So far predators have not been a problem. (3) Their cost of maintenance and upkeep (spaying and feed) was almost one-fourth the cost of the first six months of the project. They basically were not cost effective and their services were not needed at this time. The dogs were removed from the project at the end of the first six months. If predators become a problem, guardian dogs may be reinstated.

One of the most impressive aspects for the first year of this project is the minimal expenditures for operating costs (see table below). The numbers are broken down into two six-month time frames. Expenses for dog food during the first six months was almost one fourth of the entire budget; had dogs been retained this trend would have continued. Note expenses for hay and wormer are the most significant portion of entire budget. Hay was used for supplemental purposes only.

Initial impression showed this project to serve its purpose. This is based on utilization of rotational grazing and forage performance, improved body condition and performance of goats, minimal occurrence of health issues, and minimal use of grain feed and supplemental use of hay. Based on observation of forage performance and preference by goats, ideal body condition and productivity of the herd, and the spread sheet showcasing modest operational cost, this project appears to showcase a desirable blend of production and management practices. The Sand Mountain Meat Goat Demonstration Project offers Alabama meat goat producers strategic options for effective and efficient meat goat production.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Granddaddy was in France after the Second World War. Said if he never went back it would be too soon. He said the streets were lined with nothing but harlots, pickpockets and panhandlers."

I know what the other low-lifes mentioned are, but what is a panhandler?

A panhandler is one who begs for a living by accosting people in the street and asking for money.

The origin of "panhandler" is not certain, but the term probably originated in reference to beggars holding out kitchen pans or cups, shaking the vessel so the coins in it jangled to attract the attention of passers-by and encourage them to drop coins in. It is suspected that donors would be more willing to drop coins into a pan or cup than to touch the beggar’s hand.

Stockpiling Warm-Season Grasses

By Dr. Don Ball

Less-than-optimum prices for livestock products, along with increased costs of fertilizer, fuel and other production inputs, has made it increasingly difficult for livestock producers to make a profit. Providing stored feed during times when pasture is not available is one of the most costly aspects of producing livestock, so it makes sense for producers to investigate every option for minimizing the need for hay or other stored feed.

Stockpiling forage is the technique of allowing pasture growth to accumulate so it can be grazed at a later time. This helps "even out" the availability of pasture forage, thus extending the grazing season while avoiding the use of expensive haymaking machinery. Tall fescue is the forage species best suited to being stockpiled, mainly because it holds its forage quality well over a long period of time. However, forage of warm- season grasses (WSG) like Bermudagrass and bahiagrass can also be stockpiled; which is worth considering by many livestock producers who have enough pasture land to allow them to do so.

Stockpiling WSG is not simply the practice of grazing excess late- season growth; it requires planning and good management for optimum results. The first step is to reduce the stubble height to around two to three inches about eight weeks before the expected date of the first killing frost. It is best to do this by grazing or by taking a late-season cutting of hay because clipping may leave an excessive amount of plant residue. Next, 50 to 75 pounds (units) of nitrogen should be applied per acre, along with any other nutrients recommended by a soil test report. Then animals need to be excluded until a killing frost occurs or the forage is needed.

Strip grazing is the most efficient means of utilizing stockpiled forage. A good approach is to use an electric fence to allocate enough forage for about three days. Forage quality will decline over time, but initially should be on the order of eight to 14 percent crude protein and at least 50 percent total digestible nutrients. It is important to not graze the stockpiled forage too closely, because the forage closest to the ground will be stemmy and low in quality, thus providing poor nutrition. A rule of thumb is to graze about two- thirds of the height of the forage in a given allocation before providing additional pasture.

The amount of forage produced will be highly dependant on rainfall, but in a year with decent precipitation it could be 2,000 pounds or more of dry matter (DM) per acre. A 1,000 pound beef cow will consume about 26 pounds of DM per day. Thus, if 2,000 pounds of forage accumulate per acre and 65 percent is actually consumed, an acre would provide about 50 days of grazing for one 1,000 pound cow.

Stockpiling of WSG offers promise for some producers. It can work well for dry, mature beef cattle in a spring-calving herd, but supplementation may be needed for other cattle classes or other species of animals. Producers who have some fescue can graze stockpiled WSG before grazing fescue. In areas where cool-season perennials are not adapted, stockpiled forage of WSG can provide late autumn/early winter nutrition that complements late winter-spring forage growth from other WSG pastures that have been over-seeded with winter annuals.

Bahiagrass can also be stockpiled, but in work done in Texas, stockpiled Bermudagrass forage held its quality better than bahiagrass. Also, the variety ‘Tifton 85’ was the best of several Bermudagrasses evaluated due to better autumn production.

Don Ball is an Extension Forage Crop Agronomist with Auburn University.

The Co-op Pantry

From boiled and roasted peanuts at a favorite sporting event to a midnight snack of peanut butter and crackers, peanuts are a mainstay in the hearts of Alabamians of all ages. And nowhere do those hearts beat stronger or faster than at the National Peanut Festival held each year in Dothan.

From a distance, the Peanut Festival may appear to be just another fair, with daily agricultural and educational events giving way at sundown to the lights and excitement of the midway, but the ten-day event attracts about 150,000 people and includes a parade, beauty pageants, food and displays of all varieties of peanuts used for just about anything imaginable. One of the festival’s most delicious events continues to be the annual Recipe Contest with dishes ranging from the simple pleasure of a traditional peanut butter cookie to appetizing main dishes with tempting, "peanutty" twists.

The contest features numerous categories with winners named in each group and a grand prize winner selected in both the adult and student divisions. And this is no small contest. Last year it brought nearly 200 competitors to the National Peanut Festival grounds, all carrying carefully-made dishes containing peanuts or peanut products.

This year’s competition is slated to begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 28, with the National Peanut Festival running from October 30 to November 8. Entries are judged on the basis of texture, excellence in flavor, appearance, originality and effective use of peanut products. Anyone interested in entering can find out more by calling the National Peanut Festival office at (334)793-4323.

In preparation for the National Peanut Festival, this month’s Pantry is stocked full of prize-winning recipes from previous festival recipe contests, highlighting the versatility of peanuts with main dishes, cakes and snacks all featuring the flavor of peanuts. And as the harvest season approaches for Alabama peanuts, anyone looking for more ways to enjoy them fresh from the field can find ideas online at

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Peanut-Chicken Quiche

2008 National Peanut Festival
Adult Grand Prize Winner
Ann Fennell – Dothan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup cocktail peanuts, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup peanut oil

1 cup sour cream
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh onion, minced
¼ teaspoon dried dill weed
3 drops hot sauce
¼ cup cocktail peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350o. Combine flour, 1 cup cheddar cheese, ½ cup cocktail peanuts, salt and paprika. Stir well and add peanut oil. Press on bottom and along sides of a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool completely (about 15 minutes).

Mix sour cream, broth, mayonnaise and eggs. Stir with whisk until smooth. Stir in chicken, ½ cup cheese, onion, dill and hot sauce. Pour into cooled crust and put peanuts on top. Bake for 55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Paxton’s PB Cheesecake

2008 National Peanut Festival
Student Grand Prize Winner
Paxton Peacock – Wicksburg

1 ½ cups peanut butter Oreo cookies, crushed
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
4 Tablespoons sugar

4 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs, add slowly to mix

PB Mix:
2 cups peanut butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup light brown sugar

Mix crust ingredients together and place in a spring-form pan (a two-piece round pan with sides that can be removed through an interlocking band). Cool. Combine ingredients for filling and mix with a mixer. Pour filling over crust. Combine PB Mix ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil on the stove. Drop PB Mix in several places on top of filling and swirl with knife tip.

Bake at 325o for 50 minutes. Cool to room temperature, sprinkle with crushed peanuts and freeze. Once frozen, remove from freezer and remove from pan. Take left over PB Mix and smooth around edges. Thaw and serve.

Festive Beef Bites with Peanut-Bourbon Sauce

Brittney Kirkland - Newton

1 ½ pounds boneless beef top sirloin or shoulder center steak (cut ¾-inch thick)
1 medium red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1- inch pieces
½ to ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can chunky pineapple
Parsley, chopped

¾ cup whipping cream
½ cup chunky peanut butter
½ cup water
¼ cup bourbon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
24 6” bamboo skewers

Soak skewers in water 10 minutes. Drain. Cut beef steak into 1-inch pieces. Alternately thread 2 beef pieces, 1 bell pepper and 1 pineapple evenly onto each skewer. Season with black pepper. Combine sauce ingredients in medium saucepan, stirring until smooth. Bring just to boil. Reduce heat, simmer 12 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Keep warm. Meanwhile, place ½ of skewers on rack in broiler pan – beef should be 3 to 4 inches from heat. Broil about 6 to 9 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, turning once. Repeat with remaining skewers. Serve with peanut sauce.

Rockin and Rollin Cherry Candies

Wanda Williams – Dothan

2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1/3 cup white Karo syrup
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, beaten
1 cup cherries, chopped
½ cup peanuts, chopped
½ cup vanilla almond bark
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Mix sugar, water, syrup and salt. Bring to a boil. Cook until hard boil stage. Pour slowly into egg whites – while beating. Add vanilla, cherries and peanuts. Let cool until set. Microwave bark, dip candy, cool and drizzle with chocolate. Yields 2 doz.

Ultimate Peanut Butter Carrot Cake

Joanne McGhee – Dothan

1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix
½ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
½ cup Sun-Maid raisins
½ cup pecans, chopped

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Spice Barn Peanut Butter Flavoring, optional
2 pounds powdered sugar
½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 jar Planters peanuts, chopped and divided

Prepare cake as directed on box and add mayo, mix well. Fold in raisins and pecans. Place batter in 2 round, 8-inch cake pans and bake as directed. Allow to cool.

For frosting: Mix cream cheese, butter and flavoring well. Gradually add sugar then peanut butter, mix well.

Assemble cake: Place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread with frosting; repeat procedure with second layer. Sprinkle ¼ cup peanuts on top of cake. Gently press remaining peanuts into frosting on side of cake.

Nutter Butter Bon Bons

Donna Turner – Ozark

1 (18 oz) jar creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups Golden Grahams cereal, crumbed
4 cups powdered sugar
1 (6 oz) package butterscotch morsels
Beat peanut butter and butter at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy. Add crumbs, beating until well blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Using a melon scoop, shape into one-inch balls. Cover and chill one hour. Melt butterscotch morsels in microwave safe dish. Pour into small Ziploc bag with a tiny corner snipped off. Drizzle over 1-inch bon bons.

Nutter Butter Cheesecake Truffles

Traci Mitchell – Dothan

1 package Nutter Butter Cookies, divided
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 package white chocolate candy coating, melted
*1 teaspoon LorAnn Cheesecake Flavoring (optional)

Crush 5 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. Crush remaining cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into
1-inch balls. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Melt white chocolate candy coating and cheesecake flavoring according to package directions. Dip balls into chocolate; place on baking sheet lined with wax paper. Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs. Store covered in refrigerator. Makes about 42 truffles.

*Note: LorAnn flavorings can be found in most cake and candy supply stores.

Peanut Crackers

Charlotte Fulgham – Ariton

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups roasted peanuts, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla flavoring
40 saltine crackers (or graham crackers)
Arrange crackers in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bring to a boil first 3 ingredients for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add vanilla. Mix well. Spoon peanuts in center of each cracker.

Pour remaining sauce over each cracker being sure to cover top of each one. Bake in 350ooven for 12 minutes. Remove with spatula immediately to a wire rack to cool. Store in air tight container.

The First Lady’s Garden

By Baxter Black, DVM

Mrs. First Lady Obama’s organic gardening is good for all of us involved in agriculture. So few citizens have the time or interest or space to grow anything they eat, that they have no way to relate to the land and what it takes to make it fruitful. Even fewer know how to can or preserve their home-grown produce for the winter’s larder.

She, the First Lady, is a modern suburban dweller and has adopted the banner of ‘organic,’ which has now morphed into a brand name like NAVY or Danish Ham. I doubt she could explain the difference except to say ‘no hormones or chemicals’ but it doesn’t make any difference. Organic has become a great niche market for ‘real’ farmers, too. It is a high-end product like prime beef, wild salmon or Roquefort cheese.

However, home gardening may be making a comeback, whether you choose to use chemical fertilizer or fresh chicken manure, Sevin or to hoe your own weeds. People out of work have more time on their hands and are on a budget.

As Steve said, "When you’ve got enough to eat, you’ve got lots of problems. When you don’t have enough to eat, you have one problem."

This spring a group of my church members planted a community garden. It’s the size of a good Iowa farmer’s front lawn! I don’t know if it’s organic but it takes a lot of work; weeding, watering, fighting bugs, birds, rabbits, and all manner of vermin and varmints. It probably won’t produce enough food to sustain a family, but it will offer a few weeks of fresh corn on the cob, squash, onions and tomatoes to spice up a meal. And it didn’t cost much, just seeds and chicken wire. That’s if you don’t count the cost of labor, which, of course, farmers never do!

And yes, I do have a garden. It looks like the solitary confinement cell in Cool Hand Luke! It is javalina, jack rabbit, locust, bird, rattlesnake, rat, cottontail and cowdog proof! Good enough for six rows of jalapeños and tomatoes. You’d think I’d have an abundant crop, alas, this morning I called the extension service Master Gardner. DIAGNOSIS: Blossom end rot. ETIOLOGY: Too much water. TREATMENT: Stop it!

So Mrs. First Lady, you are setting a good example, as am I. But obviously even with our own gardens, we can’t hardly feed ourselves, much less our neighbors. I mean, you must have lots of company! And that is why we continue to place the burden of feeding the world on the backs of our country’s farmers and ranchers who, by using modern agricultural practices, are able to keep up with the globe’s ever increasing appetite.

And we as a grateful nation thank them for giving us the time to worry about politics, what to wear, energy, global cooling, writing a column, Supreme Court appointments, bank foreclosures and media critics, because, thanks to them, we don’t have to worry that our children are going to bed hungry tonight.

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,

The Flat Rock General Store’s “August Holiday”

National Niceness Day… The Gettin’ And Givin’ T’ward Treatin’ All People Proper…

By Joe Potter

It was Wednesday of half-past two in the mid-afternoon when I walked through the flung-total-wide-open old double-front doors of The Flat Rock General Store. The Store windows were all pushed full-high open, septin’ for the one that carried the rattlie old box fan pullin’ cool wind at high throttle. There was a crowd of folk a gatherin’ seekin’ mid-evenin’ shade and for coolin’ purposes. Most near all The Store regulars was acumilatin’ includin’ Slim, Essex, Ms. Ida, the widow Cora, my Daddy "Pop" C.C., Farlow, Willerdean, "Truth," Estelle, Bro., S.R., J.R., "Hatch," Heath, Dustin and the night owl, Mr. Music Man himself, Harley Hood. Several other community and area Flat Rock folk had landed and was a nestin’ ‘bout The Store also.

Farlow had the floor and was a carryin’ on some heavy discussion t’ward all those gathered ‘bout the ought ten Alabama Governor’s race candidates, and so noted he was a optin’ on a enterin’ the race himself—a offerin’ his enterin’ would be for the normal, everday, average "Joe." Willerdean held a full-mouth grin and was a shakin’ her head as looks of wonderment were passed ‘twix all the gathered folk.

Here Estelle darted front and center as she said a "goodbye-howdy" and offered she had one of them Wednesday evenin’ four-hour cut-and-perm sessions penciled in for her hair factory.

Ms. Ida took the floor at this point. She offered that she’d carry hope t’ward all runnin’ candidates both elephant and donkey alike. Her hope bein’ they’d concentrate on proper personal individual vote-gettin’ other than spendin’ three to five million dollars each t’ward P.R. media vote gettin’ in these here hard-core troublin’ economical times.

At this point, the gathered folk come on discussin’ the passin’ of the Independence Day celebratin’ and the soon comin’ of September’s Labor Day holiday celebratin’.

Here Slim stood straight up from his place in his old recliner b’hind the counter. He noted on the back wall behind the old potbellied heater, on white butcher paper in red marker, there was the title "August Holiday." His point was all months exceptin’ August carried one or more recognizable, useable holidays. He here was a prescribin’ and declarin’ August be called "National Niceness Day," directed at changin’ all USA-folks’ attitude ‘bout bein’, gettin’, givin’ and treatin’ all folk with niceness. Course spannin’ two weeks of Flat Rock folk a offerin’ their thinkin’ ‘bout possible "August Holiday" names, the wall carried several offerins’ to many to pencil down full at this writin’. A few thinkins’ for the "August Holiday" were: food day, homemade ice cream day, music day, restin’ day, lemonade day, happy day, church day, etc., etc., and so on. Course there were other all-in-fun offerins’ like — summer huntin’ day, free gas day, payday, "Truth" and Estelle day, mow a friend’s yard day, hay haulin’ day and, final, "vote out a politician day."

Havin’ "National Niceness Day" declared the "August Holiday" by Slim, himself, Ms. Ida declared to Farlow and all those gathered that they should head out and proper promote The Flat Rock General Store’s "National Niceness Day" ‘bout Flat Rock, Lawrence County, Alabama and the total area of U.S.A., futher notin’ to Farlow, if he took on this duty, she just might vote for him as our new Alabama Governor!


Joe Potter is a former vocational agriculture teacher, FFA advisor and retired county agent (Colbert County).

Understanding Wildcrafting

Wild ginger

By H. T. Farmer

Wildcrafting is stewardship, to put it in a word. Harvesting plants for your use, from either a wilderness or a managed area, should be done with care and respect for the land and the plants. The methods of harvesting should be done in a sustainable manner, where the area is never stripped completely of the species being collected and care is taken to leave the land as it was before taking the plants.

The first thing to consider when wildcrafting is your knowledge of the area you are hunting in. Knowing how to identify the plants you want to collect, the poisonous plants you don’t want to collect and the dangerous animals (bears, bees, Burmese pythons, etc.) you’d rather not encounter in the area.

What are you looking for and what kind of area are you hunting in?

When wildcrafting, always harvest from areas devoid of all insecticides and pesticides. Avoid wildcrafting in polluted areas. Always know which plants you wish to gather and how to identify them.

What conservation issues should you consider?

Take only branches, leaves, flowers, etc. If it is at all possible, leave the plant and only take the necessary parts. If you must remove the plant, be sure there are more of the same plant in the growing area to sustain the population. Whenever possible, leave seeds in the holes where the plants were removed.

Now, here’s a short list of tools I always carry with me when I go wildcrafting:

1. E-tool. No. It’s not a computer device, but a military-type folding shovel, aka an entrenching tool. Some of these come with a pick feature as well.

2. Pocket knife.

3. Long-sheathed knife.

4. Pruning shears.

5. Hand trowel

6. Collection bags, containers for wet items like watercress.

7. Folding handsaw.

8. Cooler with ice for preventing plants from wilting while collecting.

9. Twine for tying grouped plants together.

10. Field guides for quick reference.

11. Waterproof marker and labels.

12. Walking stick or staff.

Wildcrafting isn’t just for medicinal and culinary herbs. When you consider transplanting plants for your landscape, remember to be a good steward of the land. Leave the land better than you found it.

E-mail me if you have any questions about wildcrafting. Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions about uses for herbs, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">farmerherb@gmail.comand I’ll tell you all I know. As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using this or any other herbal remedy.

Young Farmer Loves to See Things Grow

Todd Mayes, Grove Oak, is a young farmer who loves working with the land. He owns 150 acres and rents an additional 180 acres for his beef cattle and hay enterprises.

By Cecil Gant

He’s raising tomorrow’s breakfast with a grin on his face...sometimes tending to his chickens...sometimes riding the tractor in his hay fields.

He’s Todd Mayes, 25, and a young farmer who says he is ready for the challenges of weather, insects and diseases, and tight price margins between farm income and expenses.

Full-time farmers—particularly young farmers—are a rarity. In fact, less than one percent of Alabama’s population is currently engaging in full-time production agriculture, and the average age of the state’s farmers is 55.4 years.

Todd Mayes, who farms in DeKalb County, includes broiler production in his two-arm farming program. His three broiler houses give him a capacity for 73,000 birds per grow-out. In addition to broilers, Todd specializes in beef cattle production.

But Todd said he’s found his special place in the world, and it’s in rural Grove Oak, an area not blessed with a lot of people, but one with the acreage and open space to allow him to do what he wants to do.

Todd said he’s farmed all his life, mostly with his father, but more recently with his bride, Jessica, of approximately one year. He tried carpentry with his uncle for a while. Thinking he might want to become an agriscience teacher, Todd completed two years of college. But the more he considered a professional career in education, the greater became the magnetism of the farm and his heritage, which led young Mayes to become a sixth-generation farmer.

"I’m building a two-arm operation which blends poultry farming with growing beef cattle. Right now, I have three broiler houses with a 73,000 bird capacity per grow-out, and I have 35 brood cows," Todd explained.

He owns 130 acres and rents an additional 150 acres with approximately half of the total acreage devoted to pastures and half to haying operations. He and his dad bale about 800 rolls and 400-500 square bales of hay each year.

"I’m not getting rich with my farming, but I am making a modest living," Todd noted.

He said he’s fortunate in having "helping" relatives, including his wife, his mother, his dad and his in-laws.

"You just couldn’t believe what a ‘go-getter’ my wife is," Todd said. She works for the DeKalb Board of Education and hopes soon to get a teaching job, but she helps me on the farm, too.

"I’ve had a lot of boys to help me at busy times in the broiler houses, but Jessica outdoes them all; she’s always my best worker," Todd boasted.

Todd’s dad has allowed him to use his tractor and equipment, but the younger Mayes purchased a truck, two trailers and a mower, and is anxious to buy a tractor with a front-end loader which will be utilized in moving chicken litter from the broiler houses to the fields where it is used as fertilizer, thus linking the poultry to the beef cattle operation.

When asked why he went into farming, Todd noted it’s the field he knows the most about.

"More than that, I love it!" Todd admitted. "I love to work the soil and see things grow, and I love being able to work with my family, especially my dad and my wife."

Some of the problems Todd has experienced with his farming operations include poor markets for his produce and high costs for production inputs, like fencing supplies for his pastures, propane and utilities for his broiler houses, and even sawdust.

In cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Todd participates in initiatives to help the land. He is establishing two separate Bermuda grass fields and will install concrete troughs to provide his cattle with clean drinking water.

While in high school, the budding farmer used a Farm Service Agency loan to purchase beef cattle. He credits Fyffe’s agriscience teacher, Marty Myers, for giving him a good background in agriculture.

Todd’s plans for the future include expanding his cattle numbers, buying more land when it becomes available and, when it gets more profitable, building two more broiler houses.

As a Fyffe Red Devil, Todd was known for his football feats, like holding the record for the most career game starts.

Todd fits a popular TV advertisement. Paraphrased and tailored for Todd, it says, "He could have been a soil scientist, a teacher, a carpenter, a welder, but he gave up all of these, so he could be them all—a farmer!"

Cecil Gant is with Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed.

“Fitting Anybody’s Fanny!”

Jeff Thompson showing how he wraps and hand stitches the horn.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

"I can make the seat fit anybody’s fanny," Jeff Thompson said.

And he can!

But not only that, his custom-made, one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn saddles can also be made to fit any particular horse and the main activity it will be used for AND he can custom engrave the leather with anything you choose.

The former Vietnam fighter pilot, who flew 1,256 combat missions during three tours of duty there, began working with leather as a child, like so many other folks do. Utilizing Tandy Leather kits he made billfolds, belts, purses and more.

But it was while he was serving his 28 years in the military (the first eight in the Army and the following 20 in the Air Force), that he learned the intricate details of making saddles.

"I was stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana when I made friends with some real cowboys," he explained. "One operated a shoe shop whose other half contained a saddle shop. That was more than 30 years ago, but it all stuck with me."

A roping saddle.

Jeff was attending the University of Alabama on a special program through the U.S. Army in the early 1960s. He was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, but his meeting and marrying Blount County-raised Joyce at the University meant he’d found a new home as well.

After his retirement from the military, they had eight horses and more than 200 head of cattle on their 240-acre farm, known as Grey Coat in honor of Joyce and Jeff’s work with the Blountsville Historical Society in sponsoring many reenactments and the resettlement of historic buildings in a pioneer village along U.S. 231 in Blountsville. (Joyce is known throughout the Southeast as a Civil War expert as she writes and promotes preserving history.) They also trained working and hunting dogs for years.

"There was a time I could saddle a horse at daybreak and my bird dogs and I would hunt all morning," Jeff explained. "Then we’d come in and I’d change horses and change dogs and go out again all afternoon, down by the river and all along and never cross a fence."

"But our daughter married a lawyer so there’s not a lot of those big burly boyfriends to come and help us with haying and fixing fences now," Jeff joked.

They downsized, selling off about 200 acres of the gently rolling hills of the farm situated in Blount but near Cullman County.

Jeff’s parents both died while living on the farm and only Joyce’s mother is left living on the adjacent farm, still gardening and loving her country life.

So Jeff has outfitted the workshop he shared in later years with his father into a complete saddle-making home. Although he has made numerous saddles through the years (he can’t adequately count how many!), he’ll make them for the public now. IF they are willing to be patient enough to wait at least six weeks for the perfection he prizes.

"All stitching is hand-done," he said. "It’s very labor intensive."

He begins by ordering the "tree" from a Louisiana company. Their carved wood is covered with rawhide. Even the trees can be custom-fitted to a particular horse by measuring the wethers and other crucial points.

"I can change the measurement including the width of the bar and the height of the gullet," Thompson said.

Specialized screws are utilized along with ring shank nails which are threaded to never pull out during the life of the saddle.

"I use flat-plate rigging. 7/8 position instead of full position. It’s much more comfortable for the rider and there’s less bulk underneath the rider’s knees."

Displaying a roping saddle, Jeff explained, "I use a rawhide wrap on the cantle. It prevents the rope from rubbing the leather."

It takes "both sides of the cow" to make a saddle, with his leather ordered from a company in Ohio which is primarily Amish-based. All is cowhide except for small distinctions like where a mule skin wrap is used on the horn for better gripping on the roping saddle.

An entire sheep skin is used underneath each saddle. "I don’t use anything man-made there," he explained.

If the leather is dyed, he does it in stages, using a special oil-based dye that penetrates completely through the leather. He recommends a saddle be thoroughly cleaned with saddle soap and oiled at least once each year, more so if the saddle has gotten wet in rain or by riding through creeks or lakes.

While dampness is the finished saddle’s biggest downfall, when crafting a saddle, Jeff soaks the leather to reset it for each position.

"Pulling the seat to make it conform to the tree takes a lot of elbow grease," he noted.

Carefully wrapping the horn with leather and hand-sewing it can take up to two days.

A huge variety of hand tools line the workshop’s walls and tables. A six-inch hand-edge beveller cost $65 while a stitch groove tool cost $85. That tool leaves a tiny groove so Jeff’s hand stitches aren’t level with the leather so they are more protected from use and wear.

Jeff can make a "plain" saddle or intricately engrave it with designs and/or the rider’s name.

"If they can come up here for at least one fitting, we can make sure it is really special," he noted, pointing out a saddle on a stand he is now "shaving" the leather to perfection.

"These saddles should last generations. Leather lasts lifetimes if it’s treated right, and I build these saddles to last," he said proudly.

Those wanting more information on Jeff’s saddles may phone him at (205) 429-2828. If he doesn’t answer the workshop phone, please leave a message.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. You can reach her at

“Old Man River”

(From left) Taking a break on a gravel bar is Leonard Brogdon, Benji Cole and Keith Holloway.

By John Howle

"Ol’ Man River, that Ol’ Man River
He must know somepin’,
but he don’t say nothin’
He just keeps rollin’,
he keeps on rollin’"
Music by Jerome Kern,
lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

"Ol’ Man River" was the most popular song in the 1927 musical Show Boat. Even though I’m not a big fan of musicals, I sing this song, much to the dismay of my fellow canoeists, every time I float the Tallapoosa River that dissects my area of Cleburne County. As the hot temperatures of August roll slowly along, take the time before summer’s over to enjoy some of Alabama’s scenic small rivers.

One of many bridges to pass under along the route.

The Tallapoosa River begins in Paulding County, Georgia, and runs southward and westward into Alabama. It joins the Coosa River near Wetumpka to form the Alabama River. On the more narrow, northern sections of the river in Cleburne County, you’ll find historic bridges, dizzying rock outcroppings and gently rolling farmland. As far as living creatures, you are likely to see deer, turkey, beaver, duck and a multitude of freshwater fish species.

What To Bring

What to bring to the river depends upon what you plan to do while on the river. I usually go for two purposes. First, if I’m taking children down the river, the objective is to simply float, swim and see the natural sights of the river. If I’m fishing, the gear amount is increased. For simple floating and sightseeing, you’ll want a stable watercraft like a wide-bodied canoe or a flat-bottom jon boat. Be sure to make each passenger wears a life preserver, and brings comfortable paddles and seats.

Since you’ll be within the elements of nature, bring insect repellent, sunscreen, rain gear, hand sanitizer or hand wipes, and a simple first aid kit. If children will be along, be sure to bring twice as many drinks as you think you will need and plenty of snacks or sandwiches. Finally, for sightseeing, bring an extra garbage bag to hold empty cans and snack wrappers.

On sightseeing trips, you’ll see the remains of rocks where grist mills once stood, the remains of hanging bridges and you might find an arrowhead or two from the many tribes of Indians who once inhabited villages centered around the river.

John Howle caught these bass using Texas-rigged black, rubber worms along the banks of the Tallapoosa.

River Fishing

If you plan to fish during your river float, make plans to care for the fish you catch. If you don’t have a live well, a long stringer with wire clips is the most convenient way to keep you catch. Simply secure the stringer to the rear of the boat. In the rear, the fish are less likely to become snagged underneath the vessel.

You don’t need a lot of gear to fish successfully on the Tallapoosa. A small tackle box with a minimum amount of lures will work fine. On large bodies of water, I prefer a baitcaster, but on small rivers, a rod and reel combo like a Zebco 33 outfitted with 12-pound test line is sufficient.

A Texas-rigged rubber worm is ideal for catching larger bass. Two of my favorite color choices are black and watermelon. The best places for fishing with plastics are areas in the river where the swirls follow shoals and rapids. Submerged logs and grass growing along the bank serve as productive cover for a variety of bass along the river.

Leonard Brogdon fishes underneath a 100-foot rock formation.

Simply cast toward these structures and retrieve towards the boat. The 12-pound test line will allow you the ability to keep tight tension on the line preventing the bass from snagging around an underwater log or limb.

If you prefer crank baits, one of the most productive I’ve used on this river is simply a broken-back minnow. They can be retrieved at a shallow level preventing snagging and the realistic movement of the jointed minnow entices many bites.

Finally, live bait like minnows and crickets work well for panfish. Simply place a small, number 2 size hook on the line, bait the hook, attach a bobber and wait. Using nothing but these three methods of fishing should give you enough to fill a couple of frying pans.

Getting In and Out

Lex and Robin Brown run Tallapoosa River Outfitters and can outfit any group with canoes, vests, paddles and river transportation.

Once you’ve planned your outing, and the gear and guests are ready to go, make sure you have easy entry and exit points from the river. In my county, many boat ramps and campgrounds have been established through a local effort know as the Lloyd Owen’s Canoe Trail. Many of these landings consist of concrete ramps going to the river’s edge making entry and exit a breeze. In addition, many of these areas have campgrounds located along the river.

Getting Outfitted

If you would like to try your hand on the Tallapoosa River at its northern portion and you don’t have canoes or gear, Lex Brown and his wife, Robin, can outfit your church, Boy or Girl Scout groups with canoes, paddles and life preservers, as well as drop you off and pick you up at your desired destination. On the Browns’ website, www.tallapoosariveroutfitters. com, you can find directions, water level and weather reports, and plenty of information to plan an August trip for your family or group.

This August, as the heat reaches its peak, take a weekend off from the hayfields and visit one of Alabama’s many small rivers. On the Tallapoosa, the fishing is great and the scenery is breathtaking, and you might even meet a friendly face or two along the trip.

"Ol’ man river knows something, he says nothing, he just keeps rollin’, he just keeps rollin."

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

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