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August 2013

Outdoor Life

15 Years of Scientifically Proven Wild Game Products

Press Release from Mossy Oak BioLogic

With a burning desire to manage and improve hunting properties and provide the animals dwelling on those properties with the best forages possible, Mossy Oak founder Toxey Haas launched Mossy Oak BioLogic in 1998.

From the beginning, Mossy Oak BioLogic has strictly adhered to producing scientifically proven wild game products. Today, BioLogic has over 25 blends for deer, turkey, ducks and upland birds. In addition, BioLogic also provides land managers with seeders, sprayers, and food plot and fish pond fertilizers. Indeed, Mossy Oak BioLogic is a trusted one-stop for land managers.

BioLogic is excited about its new-for-2013 Deer-Radish, a late-summer/early fall seed. Already receiving accolades, Mark Drury of Drury Outdoors had this to say about the product, "Biologic’s new Deer-Radishes are absolutely phenomenal! I really believe they will quickly become my field of choice to hunt here in the Midwest. We have planted and tested them over the last two seasons and had extraordinary results. They seemed especially attractive to mature bucks in the early season. Plant them with confidence."

Another new offering is Blind Spot. This blend grows tall and thick, providing lots of natural concealment.

Also hot for 2013 is BioLogic’s new Full Potential. An impressive mineral supplement utilizing yeast to improve rumen function in deer as well as providing necessary vitamins and micro-nutrients, Full Potential keeps deer visiting mineral sites on a regular basis.

New M.E.E.N. Green is a water-soluble fertilizer with 15-40-5 analysis. Designed to boost plot growth, enhance attractiveness and provide micro-nutrients missing in traditional fertilizer blends, M.E.E.N. Green is creating a serious buzz.

Mossy Oak BioLogic President Bobby Cole had plenty to say about the brand he loves so much.

"There are three things I’m really proud of - the BioLogic product line, our team and the trust end users place in our products," Cole said. "Our main focus is whitetail deer, but, as gamekeepers ourselves, we’ve also created products for turkeys, upland birds and waterfowl. Simply put, BioLogic products perform, and they can significantly improve a property. We see this happen all the time.

"Our team is very knowledgeable about our products and they believe in them. It’s exciting to see the passion these young guys exude, and that passion extends to our reps the Hudalla Group. Finally, and maybe most importantly, is how humbling it is to see the amount of trust other gamekeepers place in our products. We take that very seriously. We may run out of product from time to time, but we never skimp on quality. You can trust BioLogic and will be able to for years to come."

If you would like more information on Mossy Oak BioLogic’s product line, call 662-495-9292 or visit www.plantbiologic.com.

Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: New 4-H iPad App Takes Alabama Young People into the Wild

District 11 is an exciting adventure game designed to teach young people ages 9-12 about some of the fundamentals of life in the outdoors. It is a free resource available from the Apple app store and can be played on the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.

by Chuck Hill

Alabama young people have been given a dangerous and exciting challenge. They must go deep into the woods – and survive. They must use their wits and their training. They must be ready to face wild animals – eat or be eaten. They must be prepared with wisdom and creativity so they can obtain warmth and water. There is always the risk of life-threatening wounds and hunger.

Can they do it? Could YOU?

Okay, so the wilderness is a virtual wilderness that must be reached through an iPad or iPhone – with dramatic music playing in the background. However, the training and the knowledge acquired are designed to be authentic. They are all part of the world of District 11, the latest high-tech educational resource developed by Alabama 4-H. Every aspect of the wilderness experience is drawn straight out of 4-H’s university-based learning. It matches what a young person might learn through the hands-on experiences of a 4-H club.

Obviously, a true backwoods experience is not available to most Alabama children. However, the knowledge of mammals, firearms safety, first aid and wilderness survival has value far beyond the Sipsey Wilderness or Yellowstone. A child’s fundamental instruction in how to respond to a medical emergency can be useful anytime and anywhere. And any young person can benefit from the lessons of problem-solving and planning – especially when they are having fun while learning.

According to Kimberly Graham, Alabama 4-H technical specialist, the District 11 app grew out of a very special need.

"We wanted to have a means of reaching young people who might not be familiar with 4-H. Like our oldest traditions, we are taking 4-H and the university to young people and educating them in a way they can understand and appreciate," Graham explained.

Obviously, technology is the resource of choice.

"An iPad or iPad app represents something kids use every day," Graham said. "It’s part of their lives – and they pick it up almost intuitively, without a second thought. We started looking at popular culture to find a story line and characters who would appeal to real kids."

Inspired by the popular Hunger Games books and movies, the staff of Alabama 4-H developed District 11 with a plot matching what 4-H values and teaches. There is a deadly disease striking down many of the district’s citizens. Youth are charged with venturing into wild places to seek the cure. However, they must first be fully trained and prepared to face the dangers of the wilderness. Gideon, the mentor, teaches them the ways of the back country. They are frequently tested on what they have learned.

Skills which the app teaches are some of the same skills required by any real-world explorer and adventurer: Weapons, Beasts, Caring for Wounds and the Skills of Survival. Many of these are drawn directly from popular hands-on 4-H programs such as the Skins ’n Skulls program that teach youth about mammals as quarry and predators.

To shore up the reality of the app, each section of District 11 is built around video footage of real Alabama 4-H club members who speak knowledgably on such topics as effective archery and shotgun safety. These young people serve as de facto mentors for younger kids. As with all of 4-H, their age-appropriate instruction is based on university knowledge and good science.

The free District 11 app is designed for kids ages 9-12. It can be played on an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. You can find it by going to the Apple app store and searching for District 11. The app was produced and funded by the Alabama 4-H Foundation, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama 4-H.

So, are you ready to take the challenge? Pick up your iPhone and head into the wilderness of District 11!

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

The Herb Farm

A Few Herbs For Teas

Dried blackberry leaves steeped with stevia and dried lime peel make a relaxing evening tea.

by Herb T. Farmer

Experimentation is how discoveries are made and experimentation is how I have discovered what tastes good to me and what does not. Some things I truly enjoy in the hot summertime are iced tea in the afternoons and hot tea before bedtime.

Among my herbal tea leaf stock are many I grow right here on the farm.

Harvest while they are in season and be sure to get enough to offer friends when they come to visit.

Blackberry leaves are best harvested in late July to early September. Pick the leaf clusters from the primocanes as the floricane leaves tend to be a little too bitter for my taste. Immediately wash the leaves to remove any creatures or eggs and such. Pat the leaves dry with a lint-free cloth then place them in paper bags to dry. It is best to use large grocery-type paper bags. Don’t fill the bags completely and certainly don’t pack the leaves tightly -- about one-forth full is enough. Close the bag by folding the open end two or three times, leaving airspace above the leaves. Place in a cool, dry space to dry. Every few days, pick up the bag and shake it to tumble the leaves. After the leaves are dry, lightly crush them by hand and place them into an opaque container with a tight seal to keep out moisture.

I use pineapple sage in teas, ice cream and baking cookies. The added benefit to growing this is the clusters of tubular red blooms that attract hummingbirds.

Sassafras tea is usually made from bark and roots, which I do from time to time, but sassafras leaves are also very tasty when dried and steeped as a tea. Harvest your sassafras leaves (for tea and file’) right now. Harvest the roots and bark in January. Take only the leaves that are whole and not rolled up by butterfly larvae. The Spicebush swallowtail, one of nature’s beauties, uses sassafras as its host plant.

After harvesting the sassafras leaves, wash them promptly, pat them dry then remove the leaf stems. Place them into paper bags and dry them the same as you did your blackberry leaves.

Bee balm or Bergamot (Monardadidyma) makes a tasty aromatic tea and is so easy to grow in the South. Harvest plenty of leaves now while the plants are actively growing and use the same drying and storage methods as previously mentioned. Fresh leaves can also be used, so use them while available, but dry some for later.

Pineapple sage (Salviaelegans) is a favorite of mine and it is harvested for recipes other than teas. But the harvesting method is slightly different than the other herbs that I have mentioned. The leaves of this salvia are more fleshy and might tend to spoil during the drying process. Air circulation is important to keep fungi from attacking your drying leaves. Harvest pineapple sage in stalks. Avoid the blooming stalks. Wash your harvest and tie the stalks together. Hang them in a warm, dust-free environment with good air circulation. Crush the dried leaves and store them in airtight containers.

Add Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) holly leaves for a caffeine kick to any tea.

Pineapple mint, chocolate mint, spearmint, peppermint, catnip, Kentucky Colonel mint and many other mints are great dried, but much better when they are used fresh. They are popular for mixing with other teas or alone. They make great flavored waters, too.

Lemons? I’ve got some lemon herbs that make tasty teas!

I harvest lemon balm, lemon grass and lemon verbena, and dry them to keep a good supply; but I also use them fresh while they are in season.

Dried citrus peel teas are tasty, too. Save your lime, orange, lemon, satsuma and grapefruit peels. Remove as much of the pith as you can and cut into strips. Dry the strips in a food dehydrator or in a low temperature oven. When they are completely dry, chop or mince the peels and store for use in teas, baked goods or countless other culinary delights.

Sweeten it with stevia! Harvest the leaves to use fresh for infused sweetening. Stevia leaves are also sweet after drying. Treat them the same as the pineapple sage and hang the stalks in a warm, well-ventilated area to dry. Pulverize the leaves after drying then store in an airtight container.

To keep the powdered stevia completely dry, place a food-safe desiccant pouch in the container and place it in the refrigerator. If you don’t have a food-safe desiccant pouch, make one. Place a tablespoon of plain white rice on a 2 x 3-inch section of coffee filter paper, fold in half and stitch it closed. Place that in the container of stevia powder.

Sometimes a herbal tea needs a little kick! Your tea cabinet isn’t complete without leaves containing caffeine. Yaupon holly (Ilexvomitoria) leaves make a delicious black tea or additive to other teas for a caffeine boost.

Simply harvest the Yaupon leaves from bushes that have not been treated with pesticides that are not food safe. Wash the leaves and parch them in a low temperature oven then store them in an airtight container. Summer or winter, Yaupon tea really gets me going!

Gotta run, folks. It’s tea time!

We’ll see you next month.

Until then watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading! For more information, email me at farmerherb@gmail.com.

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

As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.

In the News

AFC Directors Visit with U.S. Rep. Martha Roby

As part of the June National Council of Farmer Cooperatives Washington Conference, Alabama Farmers Cooperative board members had the opportunity to interact directly with federal policy makers whose decisions will shape agricultural and environmental policy in the year to come. Pictured are Bill Sanders, Ted Tindal, Lawrence Smith, House Representative Martha Roby, Kenneth Walls and Sam Givhan.
For What It's Worth

After it got sick, the animal never did do right.

by Robert Spencer

Some of you with livestock may have occasionally experienced certain animals within your herd that became severely infested with gastrointestinal parasites and never seemed to fully recover. While you feel every effort was made to identify the problem and treat accordingly, endurance and severity of parasite infestation may have damaged certain parts of the digestive system, causing inefficient nutrient absorption and processing, and causing lackluster growth and development. Such situations hold potential for slow growth rates when compared to other animals the same age, ongoing health problems and relevant expense and possibly diminished economic returns or even mortality.

There is a logical explanation for all this, which can be better understood by gaining knowledge of a ruminant’s digestive system. The following information applies to ruminants of all sizes. A ruminant is a mammal that digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal’s first compartment of the stomach principally through bacterial actions, then regurgitates semi-digested mass (cud) and chews it again. The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called ruminating. There are about 150 species of ruminants including cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, yaks, deer, camels, llamas and antelope.

The rumination process is defined as regurgitation, rechewing and reswallowing of rumen ingesta. During times of resting, animals frequently repeat this process with forages and feeds. Animals may spend up to eight hours per day ruminating. The more often the process is repeated, the further forages and feeds are broken down allowing nutrients and micronutrients to become more readily accessible.

The internal parts of the digestive system include the mouth, esophagus, four stomach chambers, small intestine, cecum, large intestine and accessory glands. Each part has a function which is briefly described below:

– Mouth – Chew and swallow

– Esophagus – Passage from mouth to stomach

– Four stomach chambers:

– Rumen – Micro-organisms (bacteria, protozoa and enzymes) break down fiber and feed

– Reticulum – Smaller overflow from rumen

– Omasum – Grinds feed & removes some water

– Abomasum – True stomach, breaks down feed proteins

– Small Intestine – Two parts further breaking down nutrients and absorbing compounds

– Cecum – Further digestion by micro-organisms

– Large Intestine – Two parts (colon and rectum) further digestion by micro-organisms and removes water

– Accessory Glands – Salivary glands, liver and pancreas contributing saliva, bile and enzymes that aid with digestion

To summarize the digestive process let’s review the following occurrences:

– Digestion in ruminant animals accomplished via microbial breakdown of feed and forages in rumen and reticulum

– Enzymatic activity takes place in abomasum and small intestine

– Microbial breakdown in cecum and large intestine

– Simple compounds derived from digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats absorbed mainly in fore stomach and small intestine

Now that you know more about the function and process within each organ of the digestive system, you can better understand how the four stomach chambers, small and large intestine, and cecum are affected during infestation of gastrointestinal parasites, specifically stomach worms and coccidian. To better comprehend all this helps relate how health and productivity are compromised as the result of extreme and lengthy worm and coccidian infestation.

Barberpole Worm Infestation

What occurs:

– Worm borrows into internal layer of stomach

– Ingests red blood cells

– Leaves scar tissue which does not facilitate ideal processing or absorption of nutrients

Resulting In:

– Lowered growth rates, vigor and reproductive performance

– More vulnerable to illness and mortality

– Potential reduction in profits

Coccidia

What occurs:

– Pathogens ingested via grazing or dirty water and feed vessels

– Oocysts penetrate cells lining the intestines

– Inflammation & destruction of cell lining

– Inner layer of intestine may reveal hemorrhaging or ulceration of intestinal wall

Resulting In:

– Lowered growth rates, vigor and reproductive performance

– More vulnerable to illness and mortality

– Potential reduction in profits

By now you see the potential for damage to the digestive system of ruminants resulting from lengthy and severe infestation of gastrointestinal parasites. You can probably better understand why young, developing animals are more susceptible than fully developed, adult animals. Damage to any parts via internal parasites negatively affects nutrient processing and absorption, and development, which has more significant consequences.

In the future when you suspect internal parasite problems with you animals, try to make quick and thorough diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Take action when you first notice the following: an animal appearing lethargic, head and tail are hanging down, and they have diarrhea, rough coats and poor body-condition. Learn to use: observation, experiences, fecal-egg counts, FAMCHA and a congenial vet-client relationship to ensure accurate and efficient treatment for animals exhibiting symptoms of gastrointestinal parasite infestation. This strategy will decrease the likelihood for substandard development, diminished health and expensive health treatment, and potential for mortality and/or economic losses.

Resources:

– Coccidiosis in Goats and Prevention, UNP-109

– Digestive Anatomy in Ruminants: http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/dige...

– Digestive System of Goats, UNP-60

– Haemonchus contortus(Barber Pole Worm) Infestation in Goats, UNP-78

– Ruminant, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruminant

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

Outdoor Life

Angling for Smiles at Catfish Roundup

Participants fished the afternoon away with help from volunteers.

by Emily McLaughlin

Ironmen Outdoor Ministries hosted the 4th Annual Charles Wendell Memorial Catfish Roundup May 25, 2013. It was open to all disabled adults and children looking for a fun Saturday afternoon of fishing at Little River Park. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a free lunch. Fishing poles and bait were provided for all who registered, but they were more than welcome to bring their own.

Participants traveled from all over southern Alabama including Mulheren Home out of Mobile, Abiding Love in Foley, The Wounded Warriors Project and Wheeling Outdoor Adventures. Volunteering at the registration table, I was able to meet so many fishers who were excited to be spending the day at the park! Busload after busload pulled up with volunteers off to the side to pick a partner and get them ready to fish. The park had purchased catfish and closed off a large part of the water with a net to contain the fish in a concentrated area. Participants gathered in a large circle around the designated section, and volunteers assisted them with any and all needs. Catfish food was tossed out to attract the fish up closer to the shore. Smiles abounded while fishers tried their luck at landing a catfish.

Volunteers and participants arrived at Little River State Park by the busloads.

During lunch, hungry participants gathered under a tent out of the hot sun and were able to feast on hamburgers and hotdogs grilled and served by volunteers. As a volunteer helping pass out lunch, I couldn’t help but notice how happy all the fishing participants were - having caught a fish or not. The day’s entertainment was Mr. Bibby Simmons, "The Black Elvis," who has performed all over the world including for Queen Elizabeth. While in Las Vegas, he won the 2003 Entertainer of the Year. In England, he won the World Trophy. He did an outstanding job performing during lunch, and even had tables of fishers stand up and dance! He sang some of Elvis’s greatest hits including "Burning Love," "Hound Dog" and "Suspicious Minds." There was prayer, singing and preaching enjoyed by everyone in attendance.

Left, Rick Murphy, one of Ironmen Ministries Southern Region directors, helps with the day’s activities. Above, Veronica Versailles and Lisa McLaughlin volunteer at the registration table.

This event would not have been possible without volunteers. I urge you, especially if you are in the area close to Little River Park, to find out more about this wonderful annual event and volunteer next year! There is always room for one more person willing to help. If you or someone you know is disabled and would like to come to next year’s event, keep your calendar handy and find out more information! There were just enough volunteers this year, but, next year, let’s make it more than enough. This is such a wonderful outreach by Ironmen Outdoor Ministries and they deserve our continued support.

Ironmen Outdoor Ministries is a nonprofit organization funded by their annual wild game supper, memberships, contributions and memorial contributions. Money donated to them is used to sponsor activities taking place at Little River Park such as this handicapped fishing event, the special needs rodeo, passing out food to impoverished families and donating to orphanages.

Mr. Bibby Simmons, “The Black Elvis,” provided the day’s entertainment.

Little River Park consists of approximately 2,100 acres of longleaf pine forest, and provides a unique setting for many outdoor activities. Although hunting is not allowed on a large scale at Little River Park, it has the unique identity of being one of the few "handicap" hunting locations within the state of Alabama. The rules and regulations for this hunting privilege are controlled and monitored by the Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Fishing, hiking, zip-lining and swimming are all offered at Little River. These activities are available for a moderate entry fee. Boats are available for rent by the day while paddle boats are available for rent by the hour. There are six pavilions that are rented out for the day, in varying dimensions to accommodate different group sizes. Hiking can be enjoyed on the primitive roads covering all of Little River, while on these trails there are plenty of chances to view the ample wildlife the park contains. Cabin reservations can be made at the park office as well as reservations for the pavilions. If you have your own trailer, the park provides electricity and water hookups, and, if necessary, there are sewage hookups. There is also unlimited space for the person who likes to rough it. It’s a spectacular place for wholesome family entertainment!

For more information about this event, contact the Ironmen Ministries Southern Region Directors: Rick Murphy, 334-207-6068; Scott Hawk, 205-283-5501; or Greg Godwin, 251-510-7649.

Little River State Park is managed by Ironmen Outdoor Ministries. The park is located at 580 H. Kyle Road, Atmore, AL 36502 (US Highway 21 N., mile marker 19). For more information, please call 1-251-862-2511 or email contact@ironmen.info.

Emily McLaughlin is a freelance writer from Uriah.

Home Grown Tomatoes

August in the Tomato Tower Garden

Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is a hardy perennial from zones 3a to 9b.

by Kenn Alan

HOT!

It’s plant review time, so get ready to take notes. Each year, Home Grown Tomatoes receives plants and seeds to try here in the central part of Alabama. Some plants are reviewed for more than one year before a success/fail report is made or a product is listed in a public article.

The reason for this is to give the plants a fair chance. Sometimes, even I plant the wrong plants in the wrong place. If I notice that, it is my error and the following year they are planted in a different location and the results are compared to the previous year.

Around February 2, Groundhog Day, seeds are started in the cold frames. These temporary structures are constructed from up-cycled doors and windows, and bottom heat is provided by placing indoor/outdoor holiday lights under the base of the cold frames. The lights are plugged into an 110v GFCI receptacle.

Surefire Rose Begonia stands up to direct sunlight and heat indices of over 115 degrees.

Daily notes are kept on the progress of all seedlings. When they are ready to be transplanted, the seedlings are moved into three- to six-inch containers to finish maturing and hardening off for garden transplanting.

Renee’s Garden French Red Leaf lettuce produced large, sweet heads that made a great early season border plant. However, their Farmers Market Lettuce Blend, Cut and Come Again mustard and Pot of Gold container chard bolted too early and little was harvested. I will try them again in the fall and report my findings.

The best basil and cilantro so far this year are Profumo di Genova basil and slow-bolt cilantro from Renee’s Garden. The basil is still producing large sweet leaves on compact plants. The cilantro produced very large tasty leaves and we harvested them for about 50 days until they finally bolted. (I’m waiting on the second crop now.)

Petunia seeds. I haven’t ever mentioned these, but someone sent me a pack of Dwarf Bedding Mixed Colors seed from Ferry-Morse Seeds. So I planted them in a pot never expecting to get any results from this $1.25 pack of seeds. Much to my surprise, I have petunias! Thousands of petunias are interplanted with everything else throughout the gardens. You see, I got these seed over 4 years ago and they produced several pots of beautiful petunias. The next year, they self seeded and I had even more plants! Last year, I collected seeds to save for this spring. Additionally, the potted petunias re-seeded in the pots and, get this, our winter was so mild I had last year’s petunias blooming in January of this year! The plants survived the winter in containers and are now in the garden.

The Supertunia petunia requires little deadheading. A $1.25 packet of petunia seeds planted 3 years ago have kept coming back!

I received some Proven Winners petunia plants to try here. They are the Supertunia Flamingo. The plants arrived beautiful and blooming, and were promptly potted into 10-inch pots; however, one plant was saved out to test its durability for merchandising. There was another plant saved for the same purpose and that one is the Superbells Pomegranate Punch calibrachoa by Proven Winners. Both plants started looking poorly in their original pot (like you would find them at the retailer) after about seven days even with proper care. On a good note, the repotted plants are beautiful and blooming like crazy, as are the Superbena Violet Ice verbenas by Proven Winners.

The Stokes’ Aster (Stokesialaevis) I planted 2 years ago is producing magnificent blue flowers and is the showiest plant in that garden bed. The plant was produced by Alabama Grown (wrightgardens.com).

The zinnias are blooming like gangbusters and will continue until frost. If you didn’t plant any this year, put them on your list for next year. You won’t regret it.

This Superbells calibrachoa is a showy container planting that keeps flowering throughout the hot summer.

Each month, I will feature a cool tool, gadget or other product I like, and, next month, I will give you some shopping tips.

For now, the cool tool for August is the Dramm One Touch Rain Wand. I have used Dramm water breakers and watering wands for years in the nursery and at home. The One Touch Rain Wand offers ease of control, whether you are watering a 100-foot greenhouse or a patio full of container flowers. For professionals and home gardeners alike, the Dramm One Touch Rain Wand rocks!

If you have any questions or comments regarding the plants or garden gadgets discussed in this column, email me at kennalan5049@gmail.com.

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook and keep up with the latest news. Tell all your friends, too!

Lawn and Garden Checklist

August Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • In order to calculate planting dates, determine the frost date and count back the number of days to maturity plus 18 days for harvest of the crop. For example, if snap beans mature in 55 days and your frost date is October 31, you should plant on or before August 19.
  • Begin direct sowing turnips, rutabagas and mustard the last week of August and again at two-three week intervals until the middle of October.
  • Toward the end of the month, plant cucumbers and squash varieties that are resistant to downy mildew.
  • As areas of the vegetable garden are harvested, seed a cover crop that can be turned under in spring to boost the strength of your soil.
  • Basil gets woody this time of year and loses some of its flavor. Freshen it by sowing seeds or planting new seedlings.
  • Harvest garlic, but save the best bulbs for replanting in the fall so you don’t have to purchase more.
  • Extend the flower season by planting more summer and fall bloomers such as petunias, zinnias and marigolds.

FERTILIZE

  • Bermudagrass lawns are growing actively and would benefit from an application of fertilizer. Be sure to water the lawn thoroughly after feeding to prevent grass burn.
  • Do not apply nitrogen fertilizer of any kind including manure, straw or sawdust to shrubs.
  • To increase the blooms of marigolds, celosia, cosmos, zinnias, petunias and impatiens, apply a fertilizer with more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen, perhaps a formulation such as 5-10-10.
  • Apply fertilizer around peonies and scratch it into the soil.
  • Your container plants have been roaring through the nutrients in their soil. It’s time to give them a trim and a good feeding to help them continue to flourish.
  • Fertilize houseplants with a balanced fertilizer. Take them outside for a shower. It’s also a good time to transplant pot-bound houseplants into a little bigger container.

PRUNE

  • Pinch off onion flower buds from the top of the plants to direct all of the plant’s energy into the developing bulb instead of seed production.
  • Prune blackberries if you haven’t already.
  • Deadhead your perennials and bulbs. This can be a daunting chore so break it down a little each day. Trim off any parts of your annuals that need it as well. You’ll be rewarded with a new flush of blooms!
  • For larger chrysanthemum blooms this fall, disbud them now. Stake and tie the plants to prevent drooping and breaking.
  • Prune summer-flowering shrubs as the flowers fade.
  • This is not a good time for general pruning of shrubs. Restrict trimming to removing a few stray shoots.
  • Trim hanging baskets to prolong their beauty.

WATER

  • Make sure your garden has enough water in August. You know your flowers’ and vegetables’ watering needs, so make sure they are getting what they require by not skipping this chore. Irrigate early in the morning or at dusk to keep the water from evaporating.
  • When watering your vegetables, the golden rule is "soak not splash." Give plants an occasional thorough soaking rather than watering little and often.
  • If you’re thinking about growing a fall garden, remember you may have to water every single day, maybe even twice a day, to get the vegetable crops germinated and out of the ground. Straw mulch can be a good help with the water management - just remember not to get the mulch so deep the young seedlings smother. For all this effort, you will find, for most of our cool-weather-loving crops, fall can provide a better quantity and quality crop.
  • Do you have a problem with shoulder cracks on your tomatoes? This is when the shoulder of the fruit nearest the stem cracks either longitudinally or sometimes circumferentially as the fruit is getting close to being ripe. Shoulder cracks are caused by a sudden growth spurt most frequently caused by heavy rainfall or irrigation following even a short-term dry period. It is very important to maintain fairly constant soil moisture around your tomato plants. Use lots of straw or hay mulch and then water, preferably at ground level every other day if not every day during August heat. If the soil surface is dry for more than six hours under these high temperature conditions, then you probably need to water again. Tomatoes can handle high temperatures with proper irrigation.
  • Brown spots in your lawn? Check your sprinkler coverage of that area. It may be getting substantially less water than other parts of the lawn.
  • Water any newly planted shrubs and trees, but cut back water on established trees and shrubs by mid-August. They need to start drying out and hardening up for winter. A little drought stress won’t hurt them a bit. If you’re watering thoroughly once a week, cut back to once every 10-14 days.
  • Since container-grown plants have a limited area from which to absorb water, plants in a sunny and/or windy location may require watering several times a week. Check plants often to avoid water stress.

PEST CONTROL

  • Look for cinch bugs, mealybugs, slugs and other August pests in your garden. Treat as required. Pests can really thrive and destroy your garden in August while you are hiding from the heat.
  • With your tomatoes, do you have a problem with little white specks just under the skin of mature fruit? If you dig down to these things, they are often the size of a pinhead and kind of hard. They are caused by the feeding damage of stinkbugs. Usually, way before the tomato ripened, the stink bug stuck his mouthpart into the tomato and took a drink of sap. Then it left and the plant responded with this callous tissue development to seal the location where the skin was pierced. There’s no way to stop stink bugs from doing this, but don’t fret, it does nothing but slightly alter the appearance, not the taste, of the tomato and you can still eat them with no problem.
  • Regular applications of Bacillus thuringiensis will prevent caterpillars from devouring everything in the cabbage family.
  • White flies are attracted to yellow, so use yellow sticky boards to reduce their populations.
  • To reduce the number of pests on your fruit tree for the coming year, pick up and destroy all fallen fruit.
  • Have you got hostas? Are there slugs chewing them? Try this solution, if you haven’t already. Combine nine parts water to one part common household ammonia and spray it on the hosta just before dark. When the slugs hit this, they will dissolve!
  • Silvery Mylar balloons like those sold at flower shops filled with helium will move erratically in the wind and can help scare birds from your vegetables or fruit … at least until they get used to them being there. Scarecrows, whirligigs, aluminum pie pans on strings, inflatable snakes and plastic owls work in the same fashion. If you keep switching these deterrents up on a weekly basis to where the birds don’t get accustomed to seeing any one object, you can be successful at keeping them out. Persistence will pay off … you ARE smarter than a bird!
  • Electric fences can be used to thwart the efforts of nocturnal critters like raccoons and deer … at least until the deer figure out they can jump them. Bright motion lights may also help keep four-legged critters away at night and a radio tuned to a talk radio station can also help. Human voices seem to be better at frightening away wildlife than music.
  • Don’t give your hoe a moment’s rest! Every weed producing seed means more trouble next year. Although it is easier to hand weed after a rainy day, when it is hot and dry, hoeing is just the thing. Hot weather will dry up hoed weeds and destroy them before they get a chance to re-root.
  • Don’t add weeds with mature seed heads to the compost pile. Many weed seeds can remain viable and germinate next year when the compost is used.
  • Practice good sanitation. Remove spent plants from the garden as soon as harvest is complete. Also remove and discard any diseased foliage now, so it doesn’t get lost in the fall leaves and get used for compost or mulch.
  • Treat for powdery mildew. Try this recipe: 1½ tablespoons of baking soda, 1 gallon of water and 2-3 tablespoons of horticultural oil. Shake really well and spray it on all the susceptible plants every other week or so.

ODD JOBS

  • Make some notes in your garden journal.
  • Take pictures of your garden at its peak. Take pictures of container combinations you’d like to repeat.
  • What a great season to have fresh, home-grown fruits and vegetables! Even if you don’t grow it yourself, you can buy produce grown locally from the farmers market.
  • Start planning your fall vegetable garden. This is an important August chore, as autumn will be upon us before you can say "heat stroke."
  • Don’t let red tomatoes become overripe on the vine. Pick them when they’re fully firm, not squishy.
  • Bunching onions is a sort of catch-all term used for several types of onion. The common factor is the market niche is for small green onions (scallions). On a commercial basis, "bunching" onions are non-bulbing varieties of regular onion (Allium cepa) developed for thick stalks. Examples are Santa Claus and White Lisbon. The other dominant type (Allium fistulosum) Welsh onion is a multiplier type. Also normally used as a green onion, but is more or less a perennial. The base keeps dividing into a cluster of plants. Popular among home gardeners who can keep them in dedicated beds.
  • Early apples will be appearing at farmers markets.
  • If you see mushrooms growing up around an existing tree, it shows there are dead roots and the tree is probably dying.
  • Are you remembering the lawn mower should be set at 2½-3 inches to help the grass stay hydrated? Cutting the grass lower will be very stressful!
  • Buy fall mums.
  • Cut strawflowers intended for dried flower arrangements when the blooms are only half open. Tie small bundles of the flowers together and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated place to dry.
  • Check that your mulch hasn’t decomposed and add more as needed.
  • Colorful plastic golf tees can be stuck in the ground to mark the location of dormant plants such as spring bulbs or perennials.
  • Order your spring-blooming bulbs if you haven’t already!
  • Make sure the compost heap is getting enough water. It won’t "cook" if it is dried out.
  • Many herbs self-sow if the flowers are not removed. Dill produces seeds that fall around the parent plant and come up as volunteers the following spring.
  • Re-edge your garden beds to keep them neat looking. If it’s too hot, save this chore for fall.
  • Start saving seeds and taking cuttings.
  • Hummingbirds will be migrating back in full force through August. Get more feeders ready!
On the Edge of Common Sense

Boneless Chicken

by Baxter Black, DVM

KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, is one of a handful of fast food pioneers that changed the world’s eating habits. For over 60 years, they have staked a claim on the cheapest meat commodity you can buy.

The chicken my children grew up on is vastly different from the chicken I ate as a boy. Both are equally nutritious, yet the new chicken is so much more convenient. I can remember cutting up the whole chicken and fighting over the parts! Nowadays, eating a box of chicken nuggets is as simple as sticking coins in a soda pop machine.

KFC has now announced a new plan to make all their chicken boneless! I guess I assumed it was going to anyway. Their surveys show 60 percent prefer it that way. The holdout is the popular "Big Bucket" with real pieces of the carcass, bone-in.

There’s a mind switch when I hear "boneless chicken." I’m reminded of the cartoonist Gary Larson’s drawings of limp chickens lying about the barnyard. But if the market goes completely boneless, I can see poultry breeders embarking on a course of eliminating as many bones as possible from the live chicken. For instance, why do chickens have wings? They are as useless as arms on a Tyrannosaurus Rex!

Another tack would be inventing an invertebrate chicken. It could have an exoskeleton such as lobsters or big beetles. Or they could be planted like oysters in a shell or barnacles on a pier. How ‘bout chicken meat in a shell like a five-pound egg? Basically an egg with a head. Easy to feed, easy to gather, easy to entertain. Or possibly a genetic combination of hen and fruit … all natural. Imagine boneless chicken you could peel like a banana! We already have chick peas, Chiclets chewing gum, chicken fried steak, Chicken of the Sea and Rooster Cogburn … why not chickmelon? The possibilities are endless.

It’s been a long time since I had fried chicken like Aunt Effie used to make. She used Crisco. I liked the heart and "second joint," as Mother called it. It had a flavor of its own. Now it seems chicken tastes like whatever you put on it such as feathered tofu.

Well, good luck KFC. As I’ve always said, "I eat all the eggs I can, it’s one less chicken I have to contend with!"

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

Youth Matters

Collins Elementary School Certified as Outdoor Classroom

Dr. Judy Berry, superintendent of Scottsboro City Schools, assists students in developing the frog ponds in the Collins Elementary Outdoor Classroom.

by Luci Davis

James Ray Collins Elementary School is the first school in the Scottsboro school system, the first school in all of Jackson County and the 41st school in Alabama to become certified as an official Outdoor Classroom through the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program. They will provide a model for other schools in Jackson County and across the state who would like to develop an outdoor classroom and schoolyard wildlife habitat on their school grounds for hands-on learning opportunities for their students.

Collins Elementary’s Outdoor Classroom Certification Ceremony was held on May 16 at 1:30 p.m. to celebrate the school’s accomplishments. At the end of the ceremony, April Waltz with the Alabama Wildlife Federation presented the school with an official Alabama Outdoor Classroom certification sign and an Outdoor Classroom Activity Kit full of activity materials and resources including magnifying glasses and field identification guides for students to use in exploring their outdoor classroom habitats. In addition, Dr. Doug Phillips with the Alabama Public Television show Discovering Alabama donated the DVD series including 70 DVDs exploring Alabama’s wild places and natural resources helping make learning locally relevant.


Kyle Dobbs plants vegetables in a raised bed.

The Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program is a partnership between the Alabama Wildlife Federation, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. The AOC program provides technical assistance for schools who want to develop sustainable outdoor "learning stations." Furthermore, these outdoor classroom sites provide hands-on, outdoor-learning opportunities allowing students of all ages to utilize multiple-disciplinary skills (math, science, history, geography and language arts) in a fun and exciting environment.

The "Collins Outstanding Outdoor Laboratory, the COOL place to be" includes an assortment of "learning stations" where students can participate in a variety of real-world studies including:

– A songbird habitat providing observation and research opportunities as students monitor bluebirds using nesting boxes to raise their young, the ruby-throated hummingbirds using the bird feeders and other birds using the natural habitat;

– A butterfly garden where students can study the lifecycle of a butterfly and the migration patterns of butterflies such as the Monarch butterfly that migrates to Mexico each winter;

– A fish pond providing opportunities to study aquatic plants and macro-aquatic ecosystem;

– A frog pond where students can study the metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs;

– A bog garden where students learn about the importance of wetland ecosystems including the wildlife and plants utilizing these specific ecosystems;

– Raised bed gardens where students learn to grow, harvest and eat vegetables providing healthy eating options;

– A weather station and cardinal direction signs allowing students to monitor weather patterns and witness how different weather patterns cause changes in the environment and impact local crop production; and

– An outdoor pavilion where students can record their observations and discuss the data they have collected in the outdoor classroom.

Collins Elementary School’s Outdoor Classroom was the dream of some of the school’s teachers Cindy Wood, Barbara Harris and Lisa Williams. The Junior Master Gardener student group is a big part of the Outdoor Classroom. They are responsible for the routine maintenance and upkeep of the outdoor learning space. The group meets once a week and works through the Junior Master Gardener Curriculum. The teachers/leaders of the group work hard so each of the children participating will become certified Junior Master Gardeners.

The development of the project was a community effort with financial, technical and volunteer support being provided by the Bynum Foundation, Bellefonte Partners in Education, Master Gardeners including Jerry and Mary Ann Akin and April Lupardus-Waltz with the Alabama Wildlife Federation, Scottsboro Garden Club, Scottsboro Electric Power Board, Collins Elementary students and parents, and a wide variety of generous local businesses.

Luci Davis is the State Junior Master Gardener Coordinator. For more information on the program, phone 334-703-7509.

Homeplace & Community

Community Group Stitches Quilts and Fosters Friendships

Mount Vernon PFC members are (front row) Nellie Faye Parker, Lucille Oliver, Margaret Clanton, Louise Norris, Betty McCullough, (back row) Verna Noah, Marilyn Lumsden, Brownie Richardson, Sarah Tinsley and Agnes Parker. Not pictured are Hazel Parker, Dot Gipson and Janet Messer.

by Anna Wright

In the basement of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, in the DeKalb County community of Mount Vernon, up to 14 women gather around a quilting frame each Monday for laughter, encouragement, a devotional and friendship. The community group of Mount Vernon PFC (Prayer, Fellowship and Craft) has been meeting for almost 20 years, every Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ages of members range from their mid-60s to early-80s.

In 1996, Sarah Tinsley and Edith Clanton saw the opportunity for women in their community to gather together each week to sew and work on their respective crafts. The idea took off and this weekly meeting became an appointment around which the rest of their lives revolved. Quilting was soon the common mission. Each member would bring her own quilting project and the ladies would assemble around the quilting frame and help quilt it together.

Lucille Oliver works on the Mount Vernon PFC’s current quilt project.

As the group grew in membership and regard, people began making requests for quilts and baby blankets, and even asked them to help finish family quilt tops that were pieced together decades ago. The group takes orders and a full project list is posted on their bulletin board. They average completing one large quilt a month.

Several years after the group was formed, the responsibilities and requests for sewing projects became too much for Tinsley to do alone.

"One week we met and I told everyone I had prayed about us becoming more organized and sharing the responsibilities," Tinsley said. "Everyone was in agreement and we set out to divide our demands into manageable positions."

When Brownie Richardson began meeting with the PFC, it was her sewing and creative skills the group welcomed, but her expertise as a certified public accountant also aided the group. She serves as the secretary-treasurer and makes sure prices are set fairly for their work, how much can be donated and what money is spent on. The funds taken for completed projects are often used for donating quilts and donations to charity groups like the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home.

Nellie Faye Parker has been quilting since she was 7 years old. Here is one of the quilts she recently completed.

"Sharing, fellowshipping and having a devotional give us our strength for each week - not quilting," Tinsley explained. "We bond over quilting, but our time together has become a vital support for all of us."

Each woman brought her different talent, which added to the success of the group. They also all have a different path leading them to sewing, quilting and this fellowship.

Eloise Norris, a former librarian, picked up quilting soon after retiring.

"I began sewing by threading my mother’s needles as a child," she recalled.

Norris started her first quilt top when she was a teenager, but didn’t finish it until she was an adult. Once completed, she realized quilting would be a large part of her retirement.

Verna Noah travels about an hour each Monday morning from Piedmont. She completed her first quilt after taking a quilting class at the Centre location of Gadsden State Community College 3 years ago. Since then, she rarely misses a Monday meeting.

"What I like the most about quilting is designing each quilt block," she explained. "I like when the individual pieces begin to form each block and the design comes together."

Agnes Parker puts finishing touches to a quilt the PFC is currently quilting.

Embroidering is a part of quilting bringing the final details to each piece. Betty McCullough is one of the group’s talented embroiderers who has only been quilting since her late 60s, but has sewn since she was a little girl.

"My mother was busy raising eight children, so I learned how to sew in 4-H," she said.

At each meeting members work diligently, but they always break for a covered lunch.

One day, Nellie Faye Parker, 83, was visiting the church’s cemetery where her husband was buried, and a friend suggested she stop in to meet with the PFC. This group had been a source of encouragement after the death of her late husband. Parker began sewing when she was 7 and her mother bought her a thimble.

"Mother quilted for us to keep warm," Parker said.

Verna Noah has been quilting for only 3 years. This is a picture of one of her first quilts. Right, a covered lunch is one of the highlights of each Monday meeting at the PFC.

She has maintained her sharp mind by quilting for 75 years for her 10 children, grandchildren and friends.

Agnes Parker, 81, looks forward to quilting with these women every week. She is also a talented embroiderer who has made many of the ordered baby blankets.

"If I didn’t come up here each Monday, my week just wouldn’t be right," she remarked.

Margaret Clanton began coming to PFC when she wanted help finishing a quilt top her mother had made. The ladies helped her with the quilt top, but also helped by encouraging and teaching her how to help them complete the project.

"I was hooked," she said. "These women helped me get through the loss of my mother 2 years ago."

For Lucille Oliver, the best part of coming each week is laughing with Clanton. Her late husband built the Amish-style quilt frame the group uses each week. She and Marilyn Lumsden, another member, have been quilting together for many years.

Oliver and Lumsden have traveled together with their husbands to the Amish country in the New England area. They retold a story of one of those trips when they befriended an Amish family. They told the Amish women how they enjoyed quilting and there was an instant connection. Inspired by the mutual love of handcrafts and with great enthusiasm, they and their new friends completed two quilts (from start to finish) in one day.

This small group of women have decades of wisdom and life experiences. Combined, they each bring their pieces of life to form a beautiful friendship that warms their hearts and encourages their souls.

If anyone would like to join the PFC or order something from them, call Sarah Tinsley at 256-524-2346.

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

The Business of Farming

Estate Planning Before Age 30

by Robert Page

Are you one of those people who think estate planning is something you’ll think about after age 50 or 60? If you are, let’s consider a few points to ponder.

– If you were in a serious accident and were unable to make medical decisions for yourself, who would be authorized to make those decisions for you?

– If you and your spouse died in an accident, who would take care of your minor children, aging parents and/or other dependents?

– If you and your spouse died in an accident, would your minor children and other dependents be financially supported?

– If you and your spouse died in an accident, what would happen to your farm or business?

– After your unexpected death, would your church, school or other charities receive intended funds from your estate?

– Would estate taxes, probate fees and other legal costs be held to a minimum?

The basic objectives of an estate plan for most people are to distribute the estate per your wishes and to keep the costs of doing so to a minimum. Given these objectives, the estate plan should indicate to whom you want to leave your estate, how much they are to receive and when they will acquire it. If an estate plan does not answer the basic questions of "who," "how much" and "when," it is not doing what is intended to do.

Looking at the six questions above, consider your own situation. If you and your spouse are a young couple with a farm and home mortgage, two minor children and a life insurance policy, have you planned enough? If you and your spouse do not have a will, the answer is no. A will is a legal expression of your desired disposition of property. In addition to the will, other legal instruments available for your use in estate planning are trusts, gifts, contracts and insurance. These tools are available and may be useful depending on your individual situation.

If you die without a will or have not otherwise disposed of your property through contracts, trusts, gifts, spending it all, etc., the State of Alabama will distribute your assets for you under an intestate plan prescribed by state law.

If you are injured and unable to make decisions for yourself, you should complete an Advance Directive for Health Care which designates who is authorized to make medical decisions for you in an emergency.

If you are 25 or 65, all of us need some estate planning. Identify and choose trusted advisors for your personal situation. You may need an attorney, accountant/CPA, insurance representative, banker, certified financial advisor and others such as a long-term care advisor to help you and your spouse make good decisions.

These may be the hardest decisions of all, planning for life after your death. But that time will come to all of us, sometimes when we least expect it. Plan now for the unexpected. Your family will thank you for your foresight. n

Note: This article is based on ACES Timely Information Sheet – DAERS 07-6, that can be found on the Alabama Cooperative Extension System website at www.aces.edu. 

For more information about farm management and financial analysis, please contact your County Extension Coordinator or an Extension Specialist: North Alabama: Holt Hardin, 256-574-2143 or Robert Page, 256-528-7133; Central Alabama: Jamie Yeager, 334-624-4016; Southwest Alabama: Steve Brown, 251-867-7760.

The Magic of Gardening

Farm Y’all – Farm to Fork Festival

The Cullman Festhalle Farmers Market will be the site of the first annual Farm Y’all – Farm to Fork Festival event on August 24.

By Tony Glover

The agriculture statistics are out in a new study called, "Economic Impacts of Alabama’s Agricultural, Forestry and Related Industries." The total output and employment impacts are a whopping $70.4 billion and 580,295 jobs. These numbers are no small potatoes – pun intended. My home county of Cullman is still the number one agriculture county in Alabama, and we think it is high time we celebrated that fact and invited the rest of the state to celebrate along with us.

The first annual Farm Y’all – Farm to Fork Festivalwill be heldat the Festhalle Market Platz – Farmers Market in the warehouse district of downtown Cullman. If you have never visited this beautiful, European-style, timber-frame market, it is worth the trip just to see the magnificent 7,000-square-foot facility. However, August 24 there will be lots more to see and do at this free event. The festival will begin at 8 a.m. and last until 3 p.m.

The Farm Y’all – Farm to Fork Festival will feature a giant pumpkin and watermelon competition with growers coming from several Southern states to show off their mammoth fruit. Last year, local farmer Trent Boyd shattered the Alabama state giant pumpkin record with his 885-pound monster. We could see a half-ton pumpkin this year.

If you have a giant pumpkin or watermelon to enter, plan to arrive between 7 and 7:45 a.m. to get it weighed and unloaded. There will be a youth division with prizes of $100, $50 and $25 for the largest pumpkin and watermelon. If you want to weigh in with the big boys – adult division, the prizes are $1,000, $500 and $250 for pumpkins and $500, $250 and $100 for watermelons.

Local farmers will be on hand with a good supply of local fruits and vegetables, and vendors will have BBQ chicken, corn on the cob and homemade ice cream.

Several regional and nationally celebrated chefs including Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill, Cliff Holt of Little Savannah, Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, Dyron Powell of Dyron’s Low Country and other local chefs will be preparing dishes featuring local foods for people to sample. The chefs will hang around and autograph books and answer questions.

Come enjoy great bluegrass and country music, cow pie bingo and old-timey games for the kids. The awards for the giant pumpkins and watermelons will take place at 10 a.m. and toward the end of the festival a giant pumpkin will be dropped from a large crane.

The Cullman County Museum will be open, and the Cullman County Extension Office will be conducting several seminars on everything from making baby food from the garden to cooking local and starting your own fall garden.

Several sponsors will be exhibiting their products including our title sponsor Tri-Green Equipment who will bring some beautiful John Deere equipment.

For a full lineup of all the day’s activities and a timeline of the chefs’ demonstration and many other events taking place throughout the day, visit the website www.farmyall.com or email me at cullmancounty@auburn.edu.

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

From the State Vet's Office

Going Hog Wild

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I suppose I should place some sort of disclaimer at the beginning of this article or you could get the idea that I am anti-pork. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a huge supporter of the swine industry in Alabama and anywhere else in the country with legitimate swine production operations. I very often show my support by purchasing and consuming pork barbeque. Being able to eat pork barbeque is a special privilege that we in Alabama sometimes take for granted. I do appreciate the swine industry.

Swine were domesticated centuries ago. I believe that when we read in the New Testament about the Prodigal Son feeding pigs for a living, it is referring to some type of swine farming operation. Swine were very prolific in Europe back through history. DeSoto is given credit for introducing swine to Alabama back around the 15th century. I am sure he and fellow explorers understood that life with bacon, sausage, sweet and sour pork, and fried pork chops was much better than in the absence of those products. I understand all of that and am very appreciative DeSoto brought the pork industry to our state.

Husbandry practices as well as the type of hogs produced in the pork industry over the years have greatly improved. However, it was early husbandry practices that led to some of the early feral swine populations becoming established along coastal areas of the United States. That along with the importation and movement of wild hogs for the purpose of hunting have led to the huge problems we are now experiencing with feral swine. An NBC news report in April 2013 stated that feral swine are a growing problem in about three-fourths of the states in our country with a population exceeding 5 million. The hogs cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.

Feral hogs are not to be confused with their close relatives the Yorkshires, Durocs, Spots and so forth, but there has been some intermarrying between wild and domestic hogs resulting in a hybrid that brings some of the good traits such as large litter size and larger hams and loins. That also makes the feral swine (I switch the terms feral swine and wild hog out regularly to break the monotony of using one term all the time) more desirable to hunt for the meat. Wild hogs can reach sexual maturity by four months and have a gestation period of less than four months. Their litters are often up to 12 piglets and some sows produce two litters a year. If you get to figuring the math out on paper, it becomes pretty impressive how a population can grow even if you figure in a loss to predators and hunters.

Recently, the television show "American Hoggers" came out and had a fair amount of popularity. Another show about wild hogs, "Hogs Gone Wild," was on the Discovery Channel. Both of these shows were sort-of reality TV shows with feral swine being some of the main characters. I enjoy hunting, but have not joined the ranks of those who hunt wild hogs; although I would not say I never will.

There are some public health concerns that should be considered when a hunter does harvest a wild hog. It is not uncommon for feral pigs to carry brucellosis and trichinosis, as well as toxoplasmosis, a parasite sometimes associated with the reason pregnant women are not supposed to change cat litter.

Trichinosis is a parasitic disease that has mostly disappeared from the pork industry because of modern husbandry practices. Additionally, there are regulations in the meat industry dealing with any possibility of trichinosis in inspected pork. Recent reports indicate nine people from two families in Illinois acquired trichinosis from eating undercooked sausages made from feral swine taken in Missouri. There are typically about 19 human cases of trichinosis reported annually. If untreated, trichinosis in humans can be fatal.

While there has been no brucellosis in domestic swine since 1996, studies on trapped feral swine reveal the disease is not uncommon in the wild population. There are documented reports of hunters who have contracted brucellosis while field dressing these feral swine. It is strongly suggested that hunters and processors wear protective gloves while field dressing or processing wild hogs, especially when coming in contact with the uterus or other reproductive organs. Brucellosis, also known as undulant fever in humans, causes fever and night sweats; the swine species of the organism Brucella suis may cause an even more severe arthritis than other species of the disease.

Feral swine also carry the swine-specific virus pseudorabies, or "‘the mad itch." This is a disease, like brucellosis, that is not presently found in domestic swine in Alabama. Pseudorabies has no human health implications, but could cause significant problems if introduced into any of our domestic swine herds. It is highly recommended farmers who keep domestic hogs in a fence make certain feral hogs cannot come in contact with their animals.

Then, there are environmental issues. I have spoken with people who spend a fair amount of time in our state’s national forests. They tell me the negative environmental impact left in the wake of these wild hogs is astounding. I have seen hay fields almost completely destroyed by a sounder (herd) of wild hogs. Again, the damage to farm and timber land is in the BILLIONS of dollars.

So what can be done? Eradication may be impossible and control difficult. Hunting is one way and very popular, but the folks from wildlife conservation tell me when one wild hog is taken out of an area by hunters it will be replaced by several others. Trapping is a good method of control, but requires some equipment. Always check with the state wildlife agency for their regulations in these areas.

Finally, in an effort to address some of these issues, our Commissioner John McMillan has formed a feral pig task force. This is a working group made up of our folks at the Department of Agriculture and representatives from state and federal wildlife agencies, the Wildlife Federation, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, ALFA, Auburn University Department of Wildlife and College of Veterinary Medicine, and probably others to be added. With many issues to debate, one area of interest to this group is a developing project at Auburn University that is researching a population control product. When it comes to trying to control these critters, we need our toolbox full.

Stay tuned for more developments in upcoming issues.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Farm & Field

Grazing Gurus Fascinate at Forage Field Day

Teddy Gentry talks grass.

by Keith Johnson

Note to my friends who work in the ag services: Next time you put on a forage conference, call the folks at the South Poll Cattle Association and ask them how it is done. At Randy Whisonant’s Merritt Farm in Warrior, the South Poll Cattle Association put on a forage field day (actually two days) that was the most information-dense ag education meeting I have ever attended, and I have been to a lot of these things.

At an event put on by a cattle breed association, one would expect the main emphasis to be on the cattle breed itself, but these folks seem to feel that the grass comes first and the cattle are the tool for harvesting it. I guess this really should not be surprising since South Poll cattle were developed to do just that. Their goal was to create cattle that can produce beef on grass as efficiently as biologically possible.

Teddy Gentry talks about what to look for in a herd bull.

At the event, grazing guru Greg Judy gave a fascinating talk about how he has turned around several farms he owns or rents from being very low producers into highly profitable grass farms using only inputs such as portable water systems and portable electric fencing.

Judy warned that cattlemen should make it their goal to never have to feed hay, but, if they do, it is far cheaper to purchase it than to cut it off your own farm even if you own the equipment. When he feeds hay, it is an indication that he has made a mistake (and he readily admits to making them), but cutting the hay off your own farm just compounds the mistake.

Judy said the cattle and the grass have a symbiotic relationship benefiting both parties as long as the cattle are harvesting the grass themselves. He believes that by using mob grazing techniques the grass benefits from the kinetic action of the hooves pushing the ungrazed grass into the soil to feed the insects and microbes that enrich the soil for the next pass of the cattle over that area. The action of the pull of the cow as she grazes gives the plant a little stress causing it to react somewhat like a muscle to exercise. It will be a little stronger the next time.

Of course, the manure and urine return very valuable groceries to be consumed by the soil’s fauna. The cow’s nose has microbes that, when placed on the grass, stimulate the fauna’s production.

Kathy Richburg demonstrates how to use ultrasound to determine rib-eye size and tenderness.

We have all seen what happens to land used as nothing but a hayfield. Over the years its decline is noticeable even to the casual observer. The nutrients have all been hauled off. Judy said, if someone is willing to sell their farm’s most valuable commodity then you should buy theirs if you need to feed hay, but it is still better to use the power of your farm as a giant solar collector to turn it into a profitable enterprise.

Judy once focused way too much on getting all the grass before moving his cattle. He now realizes the grass left behind is "money in the bank" because the litter stomped into the dirt is as important as the grass the cows ate.

Another mistake he once made was keeping the grass too young and vegetative. This was not good for the cattle, the grass or the soil. Grass that is very young is too high in protein for brood cows and more mature grasses have more carbs that these cattle also need.

His mentor is world-renowned grazing expert Ian Mitchell-Innes. Judy visited Mitchell-Innes on his farm in South Africa and came back determined to copy what he saw there. He said there was so much soil life there that in the morning they passed a fresh, 30-pound elephant manure pat that was all but gone by the time they passed back by just 4 hours later. It had been eaten and buried by the dung beetles and other insects thriving under the farm’s management. He noted he has often seen cow pats on farms as old as two years because the farmers have chemically destroyed the workers of the soil by over-using wormers. Mitchell-Innes learned how to graze cattle by observing the wild herds in South Africa and came to realize there was a good reason for their patterns of movement.

Many conventional cattlemen will doubt whether these results are achievable with so few inputs, but everyone I have met who has seen Judy’s farm tells me all you have to do is look at the neighbors’ farms to see what he has accomplished. "Astonishing" is the adjective most often used.

I also had the great pleasure to meet with Ralph Voss, whose articles I have been enjoying for many years. Voss said we are on the verge of a revolution in industry and agriculture because of the rising cost of inputs. "Amen," I thought as I remembered the cost of my last tank of diesel. He said we must cut inputs or just get out of business because what we’ve been doing since World War II just won’t work anymore. He also discussed an interesting practice increasingly being used of spraying small amounts of raw milk over pastures in order to stimulate the soil microbes and the grass. According to him, it is very cheap and it works.

John Lyons, on whom this magazine earlier published an excellent article, gave a good talk about what he was doing on his farm. He wanted to also mention that Calhoun Farmers Co-op in Jacksonville was especially helpful to him. Tommy Thomas, the manager, always helps him to get good prices on anything he needs.

Dr. R. P. Cooke, the Jerry Clower of the grazing world, is a vet who entertained the audience as well as informed them of the science backing what they were hearing.

The most well-known speaker was Teddy Gentry of the mega-successful band Alabama. It was Gentry’s efforts that began the development of the South Poll cattle to start with. I asked him why he had invested so much of his time and money into this project. He said he wanted to create a breed of cattle the small farmer could use profitably to produce food that was reasonable in price and healthy for the consumer. He obviously has a heart for the small farmer.

"I had a pretty good night job that allowed me to turn my farm into what is basically a research station," he said.

Gentry also said this project was the most important work of his life, and that was why he was so committed to it.

Gentry emphasized that cattlemen need to focus on the traits of fertility and longevity, and, if they did that, many of their other problems would be solved. He has cows in his herd that are over 20 years old and are still producing calves. He also said that producers in the Southeast need to be focusing on cattle that will produce on grass without the crutch of grain. The cattle the South Poll people are developing are not only far more economical but also much healthier for the consumer. For information on the benefits of grass-fed meats, visit eatwild.com and westonaprice.org.

Most cattle today must be finished on grain or the eating experience is awful. Finishing cattle on grass alone is an art and a science, but the right kind of cattle is a must.

The consensus of the speakers at the field day was that Southeastern cattlemen have a huge advantage in their ability to produce grass, and, by sending their cattle to the feedlots in the Midwest, they are shipping out their profits with their cattle. Why not utilize all that grass to produce a more economical, healthier and profitable product? Why not, indeed!

Keith Johnson is a freelance writer from Morgan County.

Through the Fence

Horse Trader Reneges

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Food preferences vary wildly amongst the world’s cultures. In some Far East countries, it is a rare treat to eat monkey brains - live. Africans love chocolate covered grasshoppers and ants. Koreans eat live octopus. The French eat snails. Chinese eat fried chicken feet, seahorses, rats, scorpions and starfish. Mexicans eat intestines in a clear soup called menudo. I tried it once - yuck! It tasted like guts.

There’s even a new reality show highlighting the weirdest culinary treats from around the globe, aptly titled "Bizarre Foods." I got stuck watching it one time when I was having my nails done at an Oriental salon. It showed some pretty disgusting things. I was so sickened by it all that I ate only saltine crackers and water for the next two days.

My cousin, who has hardly ever ventured outside of Texas, made an epic journey halfway around the world to visit a friend in Indonesia. Besides the shock of having to use a primitive, hole-in-the-floor type toilet in the modern airport in Jakarta, the biggest adjustment she had to make was getting used to the food selections. She was trying to squelch the desire to throw up at a fancy dinner party one night when her table mates were eating the chicken entrails cooked inside the bird. She picked at her rice and vegetables waiting for the moment when she could finally snag a drumstick. When she tried, her host was mortified. "Oh no!" he said through a translator, "we don’t eat the meat. That’s for the servants!"

There are some pretty weird dishes here in the United States, too, like sweetbreads, frog legs, raw oysters and caviar. But the one I’d rather not eat is testicles. Some genius came up with a romantic euphemism for those things - "mountain oysters." I got tricked into eating some goat "fries" one time by my prankster husband. When I found out what I had just eaten, I was horrified. I just knew I would wake up making billy goat noises the next morning.

We used to have an Italian friend in Dallas who swore the best tasting meat was horse meat. It is one of the most popular meats in the world, outside the States. It is very lean and supposedly tastes like a cross between beef and venison. He told us a story about a couple of his Italian buddies who were living in Canada. They were driving through the countryside when they came upon a small farm with a handwritten sign scrawled on a piece of plywood that advertised a horse for sale. They decided to stop and take a look.

The farmer showed them the horse, a sorrel gelding that he and his children no longer rode. It was getting older, but still had a few good years left on him. The men inspected the animal, looking at his hooves and in his mouth, but mostly checking the condition of his muscle tone. They negotiated a price with the farmer and shelled out the money. When he asked what they were going to do with the horse, they told him they planned to butcher him and feed their families.

The farmer managed to conceal his outrage. "Can you wait here one moment?" he asked quietly. The men waited and wondered what the farmer was up to. They found out in a few minutes when he bolted out the door with a loaded shotgun. "Get the h___ off my property!" he yelled. When they asked what was wrong, he told them how sick and demented it was to eat a horse and how that just wasn’t right. They tried to remind him they’d made a deal, but somehow, looking down the barrel of a loaded gun was a more convincing argument. The farmer tossed their wad of cash back at them, and they barely managed to scrape it all up before they scampered back to their truck and took off.

Next time they found a horse to buy, they kept that vital piece of information to themselves - especially if they were west of the Atlantic.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at lisa25@centex.net.

How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Muhly grasses are one of several ornamental grasses with a good reputation for use in your garden.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

A Cilantro Substitute for Summer

A few weeks ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about unusual plants and seeds gardeners are sourcing online. One that caught my attention is an herb called papalo (Porophyllum ruderale) that is supposed to have a cilantro-like taste. Unlike cilantro, it thrives in the summer heat, which is what lured me in. Native to Mexico, the upright plants grow about three feet tall and about 18 inches wide. The seed I ordered sprouted in a week, although thinly. The plants thrive in warm weather, so even though I can’t yet say how mine will turn out, I thought I’d share with folks who are missing their garden cilantro enough to spend a few dollars on a packet of seeds with shipping. If you search "papalo seeds," you will bring up several seed sources including some well-known ones such as Johnny’s Selected Seed and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They say germination is naturally low and variable, so sow some extra.

Fall Vegetable Garden

The heat of August isn’t inviting, but it is the best time to start your fall garden from seed for crops such as mustard, carrots, radish, beets and even potatoes. Wait until the end of the month or early September to set out transplants of cauliflower and broccoli. If the weather stays hot, shade your leaf lettuce to keep it cool and prevent bolting in the heat. You can cover seeds with a board to keep them cool, just check under it daily and remove as soon as you see sprouts.

This bench graces a garden in the Philadelphia area, but with some woodworking skill and a few fallen limbs or cut trees, a similar piece might be found in your garden.

Ornamental Grasses

Late summer and fall are prime times to enjoy ornamental grasses and shopping for them for your garden because now is when so many of them are in bloom. Although the grasses are graceful and beautiful for many months, it’s when they are in bloom that they catch the light of early morning or late afternoon to sell themselves to you even in a nursery pot. The good grasses are drought-tolerant, low-maintenance items easy to plant and forget about except for a once-yearly trim in the spring to remove old growth and clear the way for the new. However, beware that some such as river oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and Pennisetum "Moudry" can reseed and become pests in your garden. Worse yet, they can spread into the wild. Miscanthus sinensis is also on the watch list of invasive plants in Alabama because it has become invasive in adjacent states. Others on the invasive list include Giant reed (Arundo donax) and Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica). Also known as cogongrass, Japanese Blood Grass is on the Alabama Invasive Plant Council’s list of worst offenders. On the other hand, you can enjoy the good grasses in your garden for their beauty and ease. Some that have a good reputation thus far are Pennisetum "Hameln," various cultivars of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia sp.) and needle grass (Stipa sp.). When in doubt, check with your local Extension office before committing and choose a good grass to enjoy worry-free.

Onions and Garlic

Now is the time to think about onions and garlic for fall planting. You can find onion sets and Bonnie bunch plants at your local Co-op or garden center in the fall. Fall and winter are excellent times to grow garlic in our area, too. You can start plants from garlic bought at the grocery store if sets aren’t available for sale locally.

A Simple Rain Gauge

Remember this simple little tool to help you know how much rain really fell in your garden. Do you need to water? I look at my rain gauge to see if we got the one to two inches my flowers and vegetables need to thrive in this heat. It’s also handy when I turn on the sprinkler!

Alabama Gardener

If you’re a gardener who enjoys classes, tours and get-togethers around garden or food topics, check out the Alabama Gardener magazine’s calendar of events at http://statebystategardening.com/al/calendar/. Listed events from around the state for August include items such as workshops on pollinators, moths or plant-animal interactions; a birthday party for Eddie Aldridge (of Snowflake Hydrangea fame) and a wine tasting. Folks are also invited to submit events for consideration using the online contact form.

Artful Bench

How’s this for a beautiful woodworking project to keep you in the shade this month? This bench I saw on a garden tour in the Philadelphia area is a great inspiration for repurposing some limbs from fallen or cut trees. I’m envisioning crape myrtle with its beautiful smooth bark, but many wood types will work. The great thing about a piece like this is that no two will be just alike.

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

In the News

John Wallace Passes

John Murray Wallace Jr. died among family at his home in Marion June 25, five days short of his 86th birthday. Services were held June 28 at Marion Presbyterian Church in Marion.

He was preceded in death by his sister Jane Palmer. Survivors include his wife Betty Wallace; sons Stephen and William and their mother Nell Wallace; Stephen’s wife Anna; stepchildren Robert, Hubert and Scott Raley, and Regina Stradley; and siblings Marievelyn Hughey, Lavonia Smith, David Wallace and Zoe Langner.

John Murray was born June 30, 1927, in Sprott, the oldest son of John Murray Wallace Sr. and Katherine Eiland Wallace. He grew up on the family farm and attended Suttle Elementary, Marion High School and Marion Military Institute. He served in the U.S. Navy during the final months of World War II and again during the Korean conflict.

After receiving a degree in Business Administration from Auburn University, John pursued a career in agribusiness, becoming head of AFC’s fertilizer department.

John was a member of Marion Presbyterian Church as well as Westminister and Bethany Presbyterian Churches in Decatur. He was an avid golfer and assisted with the junior golf program after returning to Perry County in retirement.

Simple Times

Knives and guitar music ...If you ain’t living for God, you ain’t living.

Mike Naylor playing one of his guitars.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

When Mike Naylor was a youngster, knives were a symbol of manhood.

But his dad wouldn’t let 12-year-old Mike have a knife, fearing he’d cut himself.

Not one to be deterred, Mike crafted a knife from the metal of a sardine can with a handle carefully carved from pine bark, not knowing that small tool, which he still has, was a forecast of things to come.

In his square 12x12-foot workshop adjacent to his two-story, hand-built Sugarland Lake log cabin, Mike has honed steel into knives for the likes of movie and TV stars Tommy Lee Jones and Sam Elliott while also making more utilitarian implements for everybody from south Alabama hog hunters to African guides and outfitters.

But it wasn’t a simple journey. At least not at first.

The Naylors’ log house built by Mike.

While a talented artisan in making knives, Mike is also an extremely talented guitarist, touring the country with both Mel Tillis’ and Marty Robbins’ bands as well as his own band Southern Sounds of Alabama.

While Mike clearly is naturally musically inclined, he doesn’t solely "play by ear" but is also a trained musician who can read music.

"I can read music, but I just never let it get in the way of my playing," he laughed.

"Mel and I never got really close, but I toured with his band about 4 years," Mike explained.

Mike Naylor displaying a knife he designed especially for hog hunters.

But Marty Robbins was a different story. Marty gave Mike a special guitar he still treasures. The pair became close friends. So close that, when Marty died from heart disease in late 1982, Mike began to re-examine his own life.

"I wanted to get off the road. I wanted to come back home where people knew me and cared about me. I was coming home to my roots," he explained.

"The lifestyle of the highway is not made for a country boy. Being on the road with a band is too reckless, too involved, too much temptation, too much alcohol. It’s a hard life to follow."

Mike eventually quit both smoking and drinking on the same day.

"I’m still the same old me," Mike said. "I just don’t have some of the habits I used to have.

"I’ve just got back to the simpler, country ways of living. It’s really simple. I’ve learned that if you’re not living for God you’re not living. In a way, I guess you could say I am a different man than I was back then."

Mike’s wife of 23 years, Linda, had always wanted to live in a log home; so about a decade ago, Mike decided to make that happen for the love of his life.

He cut all the timber for the house – mostly hickory – in south Alabama. And from beginning to the finished home took about 3 years.

"I don’t know exactly how many logs it took, but it’s a two story. I used a lift, a tractor and even a boom truck to get those top logs on. I built it to Linda’s specifications."

While the log house has a rustic feel and is filled with antiques, old tools and even a huge antique cook stove, it also features modern amenities like central heat and air.

The workshop was a work in progress growing as the house grew.

"I’m glad I was able to get all that done before my two heart attacks," Mike stated.

Now Mike plays the guitar primarily in church and makes knives whenever somebody has a special request or whenever he gets a new idea.

He primarily uses Damascus hammered steel for the blades and crafts the handles from everything from deer antlers to ivory. The steel presents its own set of problems because it is so hard it can’t be cut with a torch and must be meticulously cut with a variety of grinders.

The knife for Jones was probably one of the most expensive he’s crafted: the blade was of Damascus steel with silver guards, a silver end piece, an ivory handle and had Jones’ name inlaid in gold.

Jones picked up the knife himself on a quick trip through the Birmingham airport.

Elliott’s knife was a more traditional bone-handled Bowie knife which is seen in its sheath on Elliott’s hip during one of his many Western movies.

While Elliott initially sent some of his "associates" to pick up his knife, he and Mike eventually became friends ,now having hunted turkey together in DeKalb County a couple of years ago.

Many of the sheaths for the knives Mike makes are carefully sewn by artisan Richard Davies. Richard was introduced to leather-craft as a young Boy Scout.

He’d grown up on a cattle farm and thought the leather smells were "intoxicating" in the tack room when he traveled to a store near Birmingham with his dad to buy feed.

Now he makes the sheaths from everything from traditional leather to hand-tanned deer, preferring to use vegetable-tanned leathers to help keep the knives they protect from rusting.

While Richard once took a basic leather-crafting class, much of his work comes from the heart as does Mike’s.

"I’ve never taken any kind of class in this," Mike explained. "God has just blessed me with this gift and I work by trial and error. A lot of times I get an idea and just make a knife from that. But many, many, many other times I do custom work. And ‘custom’ covers a lot."

The hilts or the guards that keep your fingers from hitting the blades are machined carefully from brass in the more detailed knives Mike crafts.

"It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want," Mike said.

Holding a knife with a long curved blade, Mike noted it is used by hog hunters who require a blade "that goes all the way through the hog."

Other knives have been made for Native Americans, some for actual use and some for more decorative or ceremonial reasons.

Mike has never really advertised his knife-making, although he’s been featured in magazines, newspaper articles and on TV and radio shows.

"I guess it’s just mainly word-of-mouth," he stated.

"I’ve been blessed to have a good church, a good wife, a good community, a good home." Mike emphasized. "I can play my guitar. I can make knives. I can be content."

You can contact Mike Naylor at 205-237-0907.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.

Youth Matters

Lakewood Primary Pledges to Reuse, Renew and Recycle

by Mary Mitchell Stanford

Teaching young students the skills and values of active environmental citizenship is a very important component of education. Mrs. Sparks, principal of Lakewood Primary School, and Mrs. Hall, kindergarten teacher, invited me to speak with their students about People Against A Littered State. PALS partnered with Lakewood Primary School, which includes kindergarten and first grade.

The students were ready to learn about being good stewards of their school and community environment. They were enthusiastic as I engaged them in several skits about littering and their environment.

The students took on the challenge and submitted beautiful posters. In addition to that they took a pledge to take care of their school and their environment by promising to use the 3Rs: Reuse ... Renew ... Recycle.

Mary Mitchell Stanford is the PALS State Clean Campus coordinator.

Our Outdoor Heritage

Licenses

by Corky Pugh

The old, hand-painted, wooden sign reading "HUNTING LICENSE" bears testimony to a by-gone era. The 24-inch-high, 40-inch-wide, double-sided sign came from the front of Alvin G. Stone’s small store near Pine Apple in rural Wilcox County. Suspended from a bracket over the front door of the store, the sign was visible no matter which way you were traveling on Highway 10.

Traded for a professionally-lettered sign reading "HUNTING & FISHING LICENSES SOLD HERE," the old sign is now in the guest bedroom at the hunting camp. Thumb-tacked to the bottom right-hand corner is a notecard that reads, "A gentle reminder…" - a reminder to guests that they need to buy a license.

In 1924, a Resident State Hunting License was priced at $3. A non-resident or "alien" license was $25. Licenses of any type were only available at the probate judge’s office in the county courthouse.

Fairly early on, it became apparent to folks that having licenses available more places than the county courthouse worked to everyone’s best interest. So, approved and bonded license agents were given authority to sell hunting and fishing licenses at retail establishments widely distributed across the landscape. Many small store owners came to appreciate the increased traffic associated with license sales. The small issuance fee was never going to make anybody rich, but, if customers who came to the store to buy a license bought other items, it added to the bottom line and customer goodwill.

Convenient and easy access to licenses was critical to adequately fund the arm of state government charged with management and protection of wildlife and fisheries resources. The cumulative effect of hunter- and angler-funded work through the years is manifested in the relative abundance of furred, feathered and finned creatures now enjoyed by all of society. For an interesting comparison of this abundance, go to www.huntingheritagefoundation.com and click on Tom Kelly’s "The Bad Old Days." It’s under Promoting Public Understanding of the Profound Benefits of Hunting/75 Years of Wildlife Restoration.

In Tom’s words, "The good old days are right this very minute." And it didn’t happen by chance. You and I, and the license-buying hunters and fishermen who came before us, paid for it all. In like fashion, we are now paying for the work of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division to ensure a bright future for abundant wildlife and fisheries resources for generations to come.

Serving in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources under six different commissioners, I saw them all make hard business decisions related to license sales. With the ever-increasing high cost of printing sequentially numbered, carbon-copy license books and public expectations of more readily-available licenses, many changes were made through the years. Antiquated and costly hard-copy license books gave way to electronic license sales. Now, you can purchase hunting and fishing licenses over the telephone, on the Internet, at probate offices/license commissioners or at retail businesses with electronic license sales capabilities. However, unfortunately, many of the small retail establishments are no longer license agents due to lack of Internet access.

In addition to being far more cost-effective, one of the primary advantages of electronic license sales is the ability to capture legible, useful data about license-buyers. Several years ago, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation paid for extensive demographic analysis of licensed anglers. The Alabama Wildlife Federation was requested to pay for the same type of analysis of licensed hunters and very graciously agreed. The results were clear: Most hunting and fishing license buyers in Alabama are hard-working middle-class people. Most are not advantaged economically or otherwise. Comparisons of year-to-year license databases revealed there is a huge turn-over among license buyers on an ongoing basis as high as a third every year. Unlike those of us who are avid, committed and maybe even advantaged, as many as two-thirds of Alabama’s hunters and anglers do not participate as frequently as every year. Other states across the country are experiencing the exact same kinds of revelations.

Some folks find that hard to believe, but the facts do not lie. Those in denial, bless their hearts, come up with all kinds of "explanations" such as "lifetime licenses are making up the difference." WRONG. Lifetime license holders are an integrated part of the statistical analysis. The more self-absorbed people tend to be, the harder it is for them to get their heads wrapped around the concept that everybody is not like them. Some elitists very shortsightedly are of the sentiment that we should not be concerned with the masses. Some extreme elitists think the masses are the enemy.

Hard-working, middle-class people are the backbone of hunting and fishing in Alabama. And we had best all be concerned with keeping as many people hunting and fishing as we can. Remember, every person’s license counts exactly the same in paying to put conservation enforcement officers and wildlife biologists on the ground and to carrying out the programs ensuring abundant and healthy wildlife populations. Every license counts the same in determining Alabama’s apportionment of three-to-one Sportfish and Wildlife Restoration dollars. And it works the same at the polling place - every person gets one vote, regardless of socio-economic status. It’s the American way.

A comparison of license certification numbers for Alabama hunters from 1985 through 2010 shows a loss of 35,760 licensed hunters, from 293,907 to 258,148. There was an upturn in the early-to-mid-90s, but an overall general decline of over 12 percent. Alabama fared better than many states during the same time frame. Recent reports on hunter participation give reason to optimistically hope for an increase.

The hunters we have been losing first are the less-than-advantaged, less-avid or less-committed hunters. In many cases, these hunters are the very people who are in and out of the small, independent stores that are no longer license agents. Because these stores are no longer license agents, most no longer even get the "Official Alabama Hunting & Fishing Digest." This is why the Hunting Heritage Foundation, in partnership with the Alabama state chapter of NWTF and H. T. Hackney Co., a large grocery wholesaler, published and distributed 10,000 copies of the "Alabama Hunting & Fishing Almanac" last year. Our hope is that this targeted approach, aimed at the segment of hunters we are losing first, will help change the direction of hunter participation in Alabama. The "Almanac" very simply sets out the seasons and limits, and, most important, rules and regulations, and proved to be quite popular with hunters of all sorts. The "Almanac" will be published again this year. Look for it free at your favorite small grocer.

Corky Pugh is the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

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

The Herb Lady

Marshmallows

by Nadine Johnson

Marshmallows were the topic of discussion at my Senior Center lunch table recently.

I casually remarked, "I guess you girls know marshmallows are no longer made from the plant. Instead they are cloned. I guess you could say they are generic."

My friends looked at me like I was crazy.

They all exclaimed, "Marshmallow plant!!??"

They had no idea that a marshmallow plant exists. Of course, this gave me an opportunity to share a little herbal knowledge, which I dearly love to do.

Marshmallow is a hardy perennial. It is a coarse plant with fuzzy, ovate, toothed leaves. The young tops and leaves can be chopped into soups and stews. The roots can be added to other herbs for a demulcent tea. A poultice made from the root may be used in the treatment of boils. According to lore, it is one of the most widely used plants in herbal medicine.

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) shares a kinship with many common plants. Listed among them are cotton, okra, hibiscus, hollyhock and althaea. I have grown this plant and enjoyed its small, but beautiful, flowers that looked like miniature hibiscus.

Marshmallow has its origins in Africa. A confection made from the root since early Egyptian time has evolved into today’s marshmallow treats. The sap from the marshmallow root was the basis for this delicious morsel.

Somewhere along the line, some "smart" person decided to change the recipe. Today, gelatin is used instead of the root sap; therefore, in my opinion, we have a generic product.

Marshmallow root is a healing herb. It is very soothing and healing to soft tissues. It has been used for bronchitis, whooping cough, dysentery, cystitis, incontinence, inflamed digestive tract, lungs and swollen joints. It even enriches mother’s milk. It is high in minerals, especially calcium and oxygen. This information comes from my herbal library.

About 15 years ago, I woke one morning with extreme pain and urinary frequency. I suspected, and still feel, this was caused by a kidney stone. (As a nurse I had encountered this problem in others.) I immediately started taking two marshmallow capsules ever hour. (It is not harmful.) My pain continued. Toward the end of the day, I went to an emergency room. I wondered how I could make this 40-mile trip without stopping to urinate. The pain and frequency strangely subsided as I left home. Evidently I had passed the stone.

The physician who saw me said, "You have not passed a stone because there is no blood in your urine."

There was no need to disagree with her. However, I’ll always feel the mucilage formed by the marshmallow coated the stone allowing the stone to pass through the urethra without causing irritation. Thankfully, I have had no more symptoms of stones.

My friends and I are sad that today’s marshmallow treat is not a marshmallow after all.

(As always, I advise you to check with your doctor before taking herbal products.)

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

Feeding Facts

Now is Good Time to Consider Culling

by Jimmy Hughes

As summer gets into full gear, I hope each of you are experiencing a good year in forage production and will able to put up enough hay for the coming winter months. One advantage of living in Alabama is our ability to produce hay to help reduce winter feed costs. Also, this time of the year, you should start planning on how you will supplement that hay to keep your cattle or horses in their very best body condition during the upcoming winter months.

As always, I encourage you to pull a forage sample and have it analyzed at this time. Geared with this information, you can make the best and most economical decision for your winter supplementation program. With nutrition being your greatest expense, knowing the quality of your hay will allow you to manage this cost to the very best of your ability.

A large number of producers miss an opportunity to help their cattle economically by not knowing the best product to supplement their forage. With a forage sample, you can match the supplement with your forage status and cow status to best meet the nutritional needs of your cattle at the lowest cost. The local county Extension agent or your local Quality Co-op employees can assist you in pulling samples as well as having them analyzed. When you receive the results, I will be more than happy to discuss them with you and help you develop a good, sound, economically priced nutritional program for the winter. Always remember, because a feed is the lowest cost on a ton basis does not make it the most economical product to feed.

I would also like to take this time to encourage you to attend a producer meeting this fall. Each fall, several of our Co-op stores hold producer meetings to provide farmers help in gaining valuable information and also giving them the opportunity to purchase products for the fall and winter at a discounted price. Presentations concerning products, nutrition, animal health and animal performance will benefit even the most seasoned producer. We also present research on performances that have been collected from producers in your area that is very valuable in the decision-making process. Producers will also have the opportunity to ask questions and talk to other producers concerning these areas. On this night, most stores will give you the opportunity to purchase products at their lowest cost of the year.

Whether it’s animal health supplies, blocks, minerals or feed, you can be assured of the quality of the product and the service of the company who is promoting the product. If you are unsure whether your local Co-op will be holding a producer meeting, contact it and inquire. I attend several of the meetings each year and look forward to the opportunity of seeing you there.

I would also encourage you to spend this time of the year and evaluate your cattle herd. To reduce winter feed costs, this is a very good time to consider culling cows that under perform and cost you additional money to keep. This is a very good time to evaluate older cows; cows with bad feet, udders or eyes; slow breeding cows; and cows with bad dispositions. While cull cattle prices remain strong, this is an excellent time to cull these cows while they are in better body condition. I would also consider culling any cattle that lose considerable body condition each winter. Cattle that get thin in the winter stand a greater chance of raising smaller calves, rebreeding at a slower rate and getting down during the cold rainy nights of winter. It is much better to cull those cows now while they are in better body condition and the market is strong.

The only issue with selling marginal cows is if you can replace them to keep your herd numbers where you would like. With a tight replacement cow market, I have talked with several producers who are considering moving out older cows and keeping replacement heifers from their herd. There are several advantages as well as some disadvantages from this practice. The biggest advantage to this practice is that you are adding known genetics into your herd. If you have quality heifers with quality genetics, then you can produce a cow with a long future ahead of her in your operation. Another advantage to this practice is you don’t have to go out and try to buy quality cattle. The number of quality cattle being offered is shrinking and putting available cattle costs at a premium.

There are also a few disadvantages to retaining heifers. The biggest two of these are nutrition and pasture separation. To be successful, a producer must feed heifers to meet their genetic potential. Heifers need to be provided a complete nutritional diet to promote frame, muscle and growth without promoting fat development.

A big problem in heifer development is when a producer offers a commodity-feed ingredient to the heifer and gets it fattened up. The results are heifers that will not breed or will not milk as heavy as you desire due to fat being stored in reproductive and mammary glands. A very strong mineral and vitamin program is also recommended to keep heifers healthy and to promote reproductive performance to get them bred in a timely manner.

The next biggest disadvantage is the need to have a separate pasture to keep the heifers. Heifers kept in the same pasture as mature cows tend to be smaller, get bred earlier and have a bigger problem rebreeding due to poor body condition.

With all this said, if you develop a successful heifer program, you will be very pleased with the overall improvement and consistency of your cattle herd. Also remember, when keeping heifers, it’s good to have a bull with performance data as a low birth-rate bull to reduce issues with calving difficulty. A final note on keeping heifers is that you only select the top of your heifers - don’t select heifers from cows with a known problem, whether it be milk production, maintaining body condition, disposition or bad udders.

If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886 or jimmyh@alafarm.com. I look forward to talking to you and seeing you soon.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Farm & Field

Now’s the Time to Buy Fresh, Buy Local

The number of Alabama farmers markets grew from 1999-2010 by 635 percent due to the demand for local produce.

by Anna Leigh Peek

It is that time of the year. Farmers markets across the state are busting with fresh local produce. Over the past few years farmers markets across the nation have gained popularity as more people have become interested in "buying fresh and buying local." In 1999, Alabama only had 17 farmers markets and today our state boasts around 130 markets across our 67 counties.

What draws people to farmers markets? Reasons vary depending on the person, but Robert Herring of Athens said the main reason he goes is because he likes buying local produce rather than what they sell in the stores.

"I have heard with fruits they have to pick them green and let them ripen while they are being transported. I had rather buy local ripe produce and, most of the time, the cost is lower than the grocery store, plus it just has a better taste," Herring explained.

Local produce is being brought to markets across the state. Find your local farmers market by visiting www.buylocalalabama.com.

According to Mike Reeves, commercial horticulturalist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, "Typically, fresh market produce is picked the day before it goes to market; grocery store produce is picked at least three to four days before going to shelf and could be longer than that depending upon if it comes from faraway states or even from other countries."

By buying local, according to Reeves, "The produce is left on the vine longer and you get typically a better tasting product."

Farmers get a better price for the product by selling straight to the consumer; however, "Alabama farmers have a limited volume unlike large wholesale producers in places like California."

Jennie Hargrove of Anniston patronizes her local market because "I like to support local farmers and learn about their operations. The food is fresher and better than grocery store produce. Plus, there is a fun, friendly atmosphere. It benefits the farmers as the profit goes straight to them, eliminating the middle man."

Currently, out of every dollar spent on food only 19 cents goes to the farmer. Packaging, transportation, marketing, etc. takes away profit from the grower and, when buying directly from the producer, farmers are able to keep most of - if not all - the funds they take in from their products. If you are buying from local farmers, that money will go right back into your local economy, which is great for your community.

Local musicians can certainly have an audience at the markets. They just add to the atmosphere.

Many markets across the state appeal to the community-like atmosphere by having entertainment from local musicians and singing artists. Activities for kids can be found at some markets involving the children at an early age and give them fun things to do at the market. In turn, hopefully as they grow up, they will continue to visit their local farmers market.

Lizzie Russell, when asked about why she is drawn to farmers markets, said, "Tuscaloosa River Market is located next to the scenic Black Warrior River. I have two times a week to potentially visit as it opens at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays. You can feel the invigorating river breeze as you shop for yummy, locally grown veggies and fruits or browse the beautifully handmade craft items sold by other vendors. It’s a great place to shop!"

You can buy many different products at farmers markets as any kind of whole fruit or vegetable can be sold. Other foods that do not have to be kept at a controlled temperature such as jams, jellies, breads and pickles are often market shoppers’ favorites. Eggs, kettle corn, boiled peanuts and honey are other examples of local commodities that can be sold. With these local products, you are also able to put a face with your food. In today’s supermarket culture, most people do not think about who produced their food much less put a face with it. Most vendors at farmers markets are more than happy to tell you about how they produced the fruit/vegetable, their farm, etc. They are proud of their product and want you to understand where it comes from.

Clara Fisher, a poultry science student at Auburn University, sells fresh eggs from Auburn University’s poultry farm at the Market at Ag Heritage Park on campus. This particular market was started in 2005 and has become a very popular Thursday tradition in Auburn for students, tailgaters and members of the community.

"I not only had the chance to sample agricultural products from around our state but I also had the chance to learn and teach. For me, this is the best part of a farmers market … the exchange of knowledge. The farmers market gives producers a chance to educate consumers one-on-one. While selling eggs, it was surprising how many people were misinformed about the differences in cage-free, free-range, organic and brown vs. white eggs. It was nice to know, when people walked away with our eggs, they also walked away with a better understanding of the process the eggs went through to get to them," Fisher said.

It is a prime time to visit your local farmers market to pick up freshly picked peaches, okra, tomatoes, etc. Find your local market and enjoy all the things it has to offer. In our climate, we do not have fresh produce all year, so take advantage of it while you can. You can find a local farmers market, u-pick operation or roadside stand in your county by visiting www.BuyLocalAlabama.com. Farmers market times and days are often staggered so producers and buyers can visit different markets on different days of the week. Also, if you are interested in selling some of your excess produce, you can find information on how to do so on the same website. This summer, take a trip to your farmers market, meet the people who grow the food and get some tasty produce or homemade goods in the process.

Anna Leigh Peek is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Talkin' Huntin'

Out of the Gate

You may see bucks and does feeding together in an agricultural field or food plot, but, for the most part, they are only social within their own sex groups during early season.

Early Season Whitetail Strategies

by Todd Amenrud

Understanding the social structure of the herd during the time you intend to hunt is a key to getting various hunting tactics to work for you. In the "whitetail’s world," the time during early season is all about being social with other deer; however, they may not be communal with the specific deer that you might think. Some hunters feel they shouldn’t use certain calls or scent until just before the rut. Actually, early season can be the easiest time to draw a response. You just need to know which smells, sounds or decoy postures they favor during that time and how to set them up so the encounter ends in your favor.

During late summer and early fall, whitetails can be very social; however, they are primarily social only within their own sex groups. You may see them feeding together in an agricultural field, but for the most part the bucks are sociable with other bucks, possibly in their bachelor groups, and the doe/fawn family groups are social with other does and fawns. Testosterone will change things soon, but for a short while during early season this is the case.

A Pro-Drag is a great tool to use for making scent trails. It comes with a string you can attach to a stick so you can drag the trail off the exact path your feet are taking. The absorbent felt also comes with two tails that makes it easy to dip into a bottle of scent.

Knowing this to be true, it makes the best sense to use "buck smells, buck sounds or buck decoys" to attract bucks and "doe smells, doe/fawn sounds or doe and fawn decoys" to attract does or fawns. For scent utilization, this obviously is applicable only to "deer smells" (scents that actually come from deer such as urine, glandular lures or musk-type smells); this is not the case for curiosity smells or food lures.

When it comes to more mature bucks, they may, or may not, be social with other bucks. Sometimes older bucks can become very isolated animals. They really don’t need this communal contact like younger bucks seem to want.

During September dramatically increased amounts of testosterone start flowing through the buck’s body. Contrary to what some believe, from this point on he is ready to breed. The further south you go, the later this seems to happen and it will be spread out over a longer period; so here in the South, there is a bit more of a margin for error. Differing to what some may say, it’s the does that actually dictate when breeding will take place. Bucks will typically remain social with the other bucks until the does exhibit the first signs of coming into estrus.

Although I’ve had a positive reaction to breeding tactics during early season, it’s probably not a good idea to go out opening day and "smack them in the nose" with breeding or competition scenarios.

Typically, when it comes to "deer smells," you want to use the smells/scents when they would naturally occur anyhow. As I said, I’ve had estrus lures work well on mature bucks early in the season. And, if you are specifically after a mature buck, it may be a tactic you wish to try, but for most early season instances you are probably better off with plain urine or a curiosity scent like Trail’s End #307.

There are many ways you can dispense scent during this period, but two of my favorite tools are a Pro-Drag and Magnum Scrape Dripper. The Pro-Drag is the best tool I have found to create a scent trail because it holds a lot of scent and it’s easy to control. You can use any type of liquid scent when making a trail, it doesn’t have to be a "deer smell," you are alright to use food lures or curiosity scents, too.

When testosterone enters the picture, mock scrapes can be a very effective tactic, even as early as the last part of September. Where sometimes using mock scrapes too early in the year can be intimidating to young bucks, it may be "just the ticket" for those "breeding class" bucks. Mature bucks will feel the urge to claim, mark and defend breeding territory earlier in the season than the younger bucks.

The Magnum Scrape Drippers associated with making mock scrapes are great tools for dispensing any type of liquid scent, not just those associated with mock scrapes. This device is heat activated and will drip only during daytime hours, conditioning deer to show up during legal hunting hours. It doesn’t have to be used just at mock scrapes.

You can operate for two to three weeks on one fill-up with the Magnum Scrape Dripper. Actually, you don’t want to fill it up. It works because of the air pocket you leave inside, but you can use a full four ounces of scent. This unit freshens your scent set-up during legal shooting hours so you don’t have to. This way, when you’re ready to hunt, the site is pristine and void of human scent.

Around opening, and for the following couple weeks, a scent trail of Trail’s End #307 can be "killer." One reason why this lure is so effective is because it appeals not only to a whitetail’s curiosity but also to their sense of hunger and desire to repopulate - you really can’t go wrong.

Calling whitetails can sometimes be easy during early season. Whitetails are social animals and the bucks want to socialize with other bucks to see where they will eventually end up in the breeding hierarchy, and doe/fawn family groups want to get to know the other doe/fawn family groups after the solitude they experienced during birth and shortly after. Soft, social calls typically will work best.

Rattling will work during early season. As soon as bucks lose their velvet, they start sparring with one another. When rattling, "this light social situation" is what you want to reproduce. You don’t want to imitate two bucks in a knock-down, drag-out fight, rather "you’re two brothers in a friendly arm-wrestling match." Just "tickle" your antlers together. And rather than aggressive vocalizations, you would use soft, social buck calls.

If you do catch them in their dependable summer patterns, move fast! With testosterone entering the picture and the does soon to show signs of coming into estrus, things will change very fast.

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

In the News

Raffle Winner Helps Support Scholarship

Jamie Denard, accounting manager Cooperative Accounting Service department, was presented with five $100 bills by John Gamble, vice-president of AFC’s Grain Division. Each year the Alabama Feed & Grain Association sells raffle tickets with the proceeds funding scholarships awarded to young men and women going to school to enter the field of agriculture. The raffle prizes are three $500 cash awards. Jamie won one of the $500 prizes. This is Jamie’s second time to win in 4 years! She encourages each of you to participate in coming years. Her name was drawn during the Alabama Feed & Grain Association Annual Meeting in Destin.
Outdoor Life

Rugged Rifles

Henry .30-30, right, and Speedmaster side-by-side with ammo.

Versatile Fireams for Farm, Ranch or Field

by John Howle

It would be a difficult proposition to pick just one firearm that would meet all the needs of farmers, ranchers and hunters, so I picked two. The two rifles are a Remington Speedmaster 552 in .22 caliber and a Henry Rifle lever action .30-30. If you are looking for truly versatile firearms, both these rifles offer a wide range of possibilities for hunting, self-defense, pest control and fun shooting.

The Rugged Remington

When I was growing up on the farm in Alabama, the Remington Speedmaster .22 caliber was the rifle I cut my teeth on once my Dad felt like he could trust me with something other than a single-shot bolt action .22.

My Dad bought this rifle used in 1963. The rifle was manufactured from 1957 to 1988 in a standard model and is currently available in an upgraded BDL model. The ammunition is fed from a tubular magazine under the barrel, and I like the slender profile. This rifle has a design that has remained relatively unchanged since 1957, and, if you visit the Remington websitewww.remington.com, the current model of the Speedmaster 552 looks just like the one my Dad bought in 1963 except there’s more beauty in the finish and checkering on the stock and forearm.

From a hunting perspective, the rifle consistently delivers a clean head shot to squirrels, rabbits and plinking bulls-eyes. I sometimes find it humorous to hear hunters talking about the fact that you have to have huge calibers to take down game over 200 pounds, but plenty of times growing up I watched my Dad and Grandfather deliver a clean shot to the head on a 400 pound hog or 600 pound steer we were going to butcher with nothing more than a .22 caliber.

Tube-fed magazine makes loading easy and safe.

When self-defense is a concern, the Speedmaster would obviously have a low knockdown energy level because of the smaller diameter projectile. However, the fact the rifle is a semi-automatic makes the ability to fire multiple rounds in a short period of time possible.

If you live on a farm, pest control is a must if you are going to raise chickens, sheep, goats or even cattle. The Speedmaster keeps these varmints under control, especially if you have fowl or small livestock to protect. If your farm pond is being taken over by turtles eating your fish or beavers making dams upstream, the .22 does an adequate job of keeping the population of pests under control.

As far as shooting for fun, the rifle would be at the top of the list. No recoil, inexpensive ammunition (when you can get it) and the ability to shoot multiple rounds without reloading make this rifle just plain fun to shoot. My Dad’s older Speedmaster has been carried in the truck, the finish is worn and the bluing has worn off with wear, tear and age.

When I brought this fact up to my Dad, he said, "I keep the gun handy for function instead of fashion."

The Model 552 BDL Speedmaster is the only American-made .22 autoloader that handles .22 short, .22 long and .22 long-rifle cartridges interchangeably. The rifle’s MSRP is $650. The high-gloss, American walnut stock and fore-end with cut checkering make this a beautiful gun sitting in the cabinet. With a weight of only 5.8 pounds, it is a quick shouldering, quick shooting machine.

Hard Hitting Henry

"Made in America or not made at all." With a slogan like this, who could overlook the Henry Rifle as one of the most versatile ranch rifles on the market? The Henry .30-30 also has a tubular fed magazine. This gun, model H009, has a five round magazine, and you can squeeze off multiple rounds accurately with the smooth lever action. This is an ideal rifle for larger game ranging from coyotes to whitetail deer.

The round barrel of this steel-frame Henry .30-30 is 20 inches long, and the gun weighs seven pounds. Even though some might like a lighter weight rifle, the good balance of the firearm makes it easy to carry through the woods all day, and an extra pound helps absorb recoil and makes your shots more accurate.

What sets this lever action apart is the tubular fed magazine. It is a simple loading process and, like the Remington .22, follow-up shots are smooth and quick. The rear sight makes use of a ghost ring (XS Ghost Ring Sights), a circle you look through. Once you get the hang of it, I find it to be more accurate than the traditional iron sights on the rear because your eye naturally centers an object in the middle of a circle. Henry Rifles can be found at www.henryrepeating.com. MSRP is $749.

With the Leverevolution bullets by Hornady (www.hornady.com), the Henry .30-30 becomes an ideal longer-range rifle with ample knockdown power. The Leverevolution bullets have soft, rubber tips that create a pointed projectile creating much flatter shooting and long-range accuracy.

Rifle Wrap Up

Both these rifles make ideal choices for those who live off the land and want to protect that land from varmints or those who just enjoy hunting and shooting. Even though they represent opposite ends of the caliber spectrum, both are well-balanced, handsomely crafted firearms that make ideal, American-made heirlooms.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

In the News

Rural Crime Fighter Has a Never Give Up Attitude

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, left, chats with Gene Wiggins, director of the new Agriculture Rural Crimes Unit at the organization’s headquarters in Montgomery.

Part of new Agriculture Rural Crimes Unit

by Alvin Benn

Gene Wiggins is a criminal investigator who never gives up on a case and, just to make sure, he keeps a famous football photograph in his office for inspiration.

It’s a picture showing Auburn University’s Bill Newton and David Langner combining on two blocked punts in the closing minutes to score touchdowns in one of the most dramatic, improbable finishes in college football history.

Few gave Auburn a chance to even come close in that game because the clock was rapidly running out against a powerhouse opponent coached by the legendary Paul (Bear) Bryant.

Alabama Rural Crime Unit Director Gene Wiggins, foreground, stands with Scott Lee, left, and Slaton Jemison at the new organization’s headquarters near Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery.

More than 40 years after that amazing football turnaround, "Punt, Bama, Punt" posters and bumper stickers still abound in Tiger Auburn Country.

"I keep that picture up there for a reason whenever I’m involved in a particularly tough investigation because it tells me that no case or cause is lost if you work hard," said Wiggins, director of the newly created Agriculture Rural Crimes Unit. "You just might win, too."

Organized to intensify criminal investigations in rural regions of Alabama, it will employ the latest crime-fighting techniques to nail thieves who steal cattle, farm equipment and other items of value in homes and businesses.

The unit was recently announced by Gov. Robert Bentley and Spencer Collier who was named secretary of the newly created Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency.

Gene Wiggins relies on computers as well as law books when he’s not out in the field directing the newly formed Agriculture Rural Crime Unit.

"Theft creates a huge burden for our hard-working farmers," Bentley said. "Every day, they live at the mercy of the land and the weather. They have little room for financial loss. Farmers are small business owners, and theft is a major setback to their businesses. We put this (unit) together to make sure our farmers are protected."

The Legislature approved the agency, anticipating it to become a large umbrella organization utilizing the expertise of several law enforcement departments. It is to be officially funded by the state in 2015.

For that reason, those who are assigned as investigators will continue to be paid by their parent agencies that now employ them, eliminating the need to hire new officers. Once the new group is official, it will have its own budget.

Collier emphasized that ARCU investigators won’t supplant local sheriffs or other authorities. Instead, they will be available to help supplement those activities if called on to help.

Rural Crime Unit Created

Gov. Robert Bentley officially announced creation of the Agricultural and Rural Crimes Unit July 11 at Trotman Cattle Co. in Montgomery County. The unit specializes in rural crime investigations including equipment and livestock theft, fraud and agroterrorism. In the first six weeks after the unit had been formed on June 4, they were responsible for 14 felony arrests with recovery of $500,000 in stolen equipment, much of which had been returned to the rightful owners.
From left are Alabama Poultry and Egg Association Executive Director Johnny Adams, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Dr. Billy Powell, Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell, Bentley, Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier and Alabama Agribusiness Council Executive Director Leigha Cauthen. Also gathered for the announcement were other state agricultural leaders from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Farmers Cooperative, First South Farm Credit, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama Rural Electric Association.

A key to the new unit has been the naming of experienced law-enforcement investigators to track down the guilty parties.

That’s why those in charge of the fledgling unit picked the best, starting at the top and adding more experienced law enforcement officers to assist Wiggins.

A State Trooper lieutenant born and raised in Monroe County, Wiggins was one of the first to be considered as ARCU director and he didn’t back away from his latest challenge. In fact, he’s looking forward to it.

"I’m confident this new organization will succeed," he said, during an interview with AFC Cooperative Farming News at his office near Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery. "We have a fine group of experienced investigators and I don’t have any doubts that we’ll do the job."

Someone who has no doubts about that is John McMillan, Alabama’s commissioner of agriculture and a man who has known and admired Wiggins for many years.

"Gene will be outstanding in his new job because of his diverse background in law enforcement and personal commitment to make this new organization work," McMillan said. "I was thrilled when he was chosen to head up this division."

A former Marine who worked for sheriff’s departments in Monroe and Clarke counties before becoming a trooper, Wiggins is relentless when it comes to criminal investigations.

Growing up in a rural setting where his dad was a hard-working logger, he learned the importance of responsibility at a young age, especially when it involved personal property.

"To lose what you’ve worked so hard to obtain can be devastating and recovering what’s been stolen is something I’ve always enjoyed," he said.

Other investigators transferred to the rural crime fighting unit were assured they would have the full support of their superiors.

That was welcome news not only for the investigators but farm families as well, especially those involved in the cattle industry, according to Wiggins.

"Today’s beef prices are pretty high," he said. "Just take a look at the price of ground round and it’s easy to see why some people are stealing cattle. And, it’s our job to catch ’em."

Lauderdale County appears to be a favorite target of cattle rustlers. Wiggins said thieves stole cows and other property four times in a brief period in May.

"It appeared they did it late at night," he said. "One time they even used the victim’s catch pen to round up the cattle they stole."

According to the Times Daily in Florence, 30 Angus cattle were stolen from a pasture in the Murphy’s Chapel community of Lauderdale County.

Local law enforcement agencies such as sheriff’s and police departments have had their hands full trying to round up cattle rustlers and those who steal tractors and other expensive pieces of equipment.

The latest rural crime fighting incarnation follows one that had been active under the aegis of the state Department of Agriculture.

It only lasted a couple of years before it had to be curtailed because of statewide funding shortages, according to Brett Hall, deputy commissioner of the agriculture department.

"It was doing well, but we had to lay off everybody except the chief because we didn’t have the money to pay them," Hall said. "Proration didn’t help either and we were sorry to see the investigative unit being disbanded."

As the new organization was being announced, another group of rural investigators completed a probe leading to the arrests of five men in a multi-county burglary ring.

U.S. Attorney Kenyon Brown of Mobile announced in June at the Clarke County Courthouse that five men had been arrested and charged with a string of burglaries.

The federal official said an investigation into the thefts started nearly 2 years ago. Those charged were accused of stealing farm machinery, cars, trucks and other items.

Clarke County Sheriff Ray Norris said a task force composed of federal, state and local investigators was organized to deal with the burglaries. Wiggins was among that group of investigators.

A self-described "good ol’ boy," Wiggins, 47, once was a third-shift patrol officer with the Montgomery Police Department.

"We worked a lot of domestic violence cases," he said, adding he’d rather work rural crime cases because it reminds him of home. "I was raised in the country and I know the people who live there."

Since being named director of the new investigative unit, Wiggins has been busy juggling one development after another during long days at work.

His cell phone informs him of incoming calls with a cow’s loud mooing sound - alerting him that something needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

"When it rings, I know who it is right away," said Wiggins. "I know it’s something really important and that’s why I don’t wait for more than a couple of rings."

He said his investigative unit is using "good, old-fashioned" methods of detection along with modern electronic equipment to help track down thieves including helicopters that can spot stolen farm equipment from the air.

Now, about that "Punt, Bama, Punt" photo on Wiggins’ office wall, it’s a daily reminder that the impossible may not be so impossible after all … if you just refuse to give up.

That’s the way it was for the Auburn Tigers at Legion Field in Birmingham Dec. 2, 1972, when the Crimson Tide led 16-0 with the clock about to run out at the annual Iron Bowl game.

Within a few minutes, it all changed. Newton - who is one of Wiggins’ friends - blocked two punts and Langer ran both back for touchdowns - an instant replay of sorts that sealed the Tide’s bid for an unbeaten season.

Auburn’s sensational comeback is, in Wiggins’ mind, a good example and an inspiration for anyone facing a dilemma - whether it involves sports or challenges of daily life.

If he’s tackling a particularly tough case in the coming months, he might just take a look at that picture on his wall and use it for inspiration as he leads Alabama’s brand new rural crime fighting unit - a team of which he is the head coach.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Howle's Hints

Smart Phones and Social Media Can’t Replace Benefits of Hands-On Learning

Taylor Morgan plays the guitar every day to challenge herself. (And yes, her hair is the same color as her guitar.)

by John Howle

“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” -- 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Anyone who has learned to be quiet, mind their own business and work with their own hands has learned a good thing. Most of the readership was probably taught at a young age to do things with their hands whether it was stringing beans, stringing a new fence, or stringing a guitar or banjo to play during spare time. There is a dilemma today, however.

Now we have smart phones that can do a lot of our work. I’ve often said the smart phone is making us dumb, and social media is taking the place of meeting with someone face-to-face. I’ve noticed after being a high school teacher for 21 years that more youth are now mumbling and not speaking clearly. I think the reason for this is that texting and emailing require no verbal communications skills, and those skills are also becoming a thing of the past.

Hunter Wilson, left, and George McClain made a cross out of metal scrap.

I have nothing against the latest technology. It does make our jobs easier whether you are sending an article and photos through the Internet, remotely checking on the status of your chicken houses, or checking the weather and latest cattle prices right off your cell phone. However, most people who are reading this article and use the latest technology were already taught many of the hands-on skills before the technology was here. The new technology works in addition to your already acquired skills.

The difference is, when youngsters grow up with smart phones in their hands and computer tablets at their disposal 24/7, their critical thinking and communicative skills decrease. In the old days, you had to track down information by actually asking people questions face-to-face. When younger people are continually plugged into technology, they might be able to tell you about Justin Bieber’s latest skirmish with fans, but have no idea about scandals in the federal government, the latest jobs figures or what the country now owes in debt. To find out the latter, people generally had to read it out of newspapers or wait out a 30-minute news broadcast on TV and that, according to today’s tech climate, just takes too much time.

Chris Owens with trees he raised from acorns.

I was hit hard by this a few years ago when a teenager told me he could play the guitar. I thought, now there’s a great hands-on skill that takes time and effort to learn. After further discussion, I realized he was talking about playing a game called "Guitar Hero" in which the gamer only interacts with music on the computer screen and presses buttons up the plastic guitar neck to simulate actually playing a guitar. I told him he knew how to play a video game and, unfortunately, did not know how to play the guitar.

This past school year, I put a challenge to some students to unplug from the technology, speak loudly and clearly, and demonstrate that they know how to do something with their hands. I was pleased with the results. The first student Taylor Morgan is a guitar hero, but she actually "plays" the guitar.

"I started playing in the 9th grade, and now I both sing and play the guitar," Morgan said. "I like to challenge myself daily, and playing the guitar is a great way to do it."

From Function to Fashion

One such student who demonstrated hands-on skills was Hunter Wilson. He built a post driver with a weight on it for extra driving power. Once he completed the project, I told him the post driver looked a lot like a cross. I asked him, "How much trouble would it be to make a cross?" Hunter and his classmate George McClain then built a cross with square tubing mounted on a piece of quarter-inch steel. The final product looked great.

Jeremiah Yates, a teacher in Bowdon, Ga.,uses a stick and fire board to create friction for the tinder.

Chris Owens spends a lot of time in the greenhouse; he says it helps clear his mind. He works after school with a wiring company, but he likes to plant and watch things grow. Here, he is shown transplanting a sawtooth oak seedling he germinated from an acorn. He will later transplant the trees for deer, turkeys and other wildlife.

There’s hope for the next generation even in an age of the technology takeover. Those who realize technological innovations shouldn’t take the place of talent and hands-on learning are the ones who find true satisfaction with their callings in life. Find the balance between Facebook and the backside of the farm, or smart phones and the small, farm ponds. The best things we can experience aren’t found in virtual space, but in real life.

Show the Skills

One teacher in Bowdon, Ga., just across the Alabama state line, shows students more than just the state mandated curriculum. Jeremiah Yates shows his science classes how to make fire with only sticks and tinder.

"I love teaching survival skills," Yates explained. "It took me two weeks working every day to learn how to start a fire the primitive way without matches."

Yates is a natural student of the outdoors and spends countless hours tanning deer hides, canoeing down remote rivers and hunting with a handmade primitive bow.

"It’s important to show students how to do things with their hands instead of their cell phones," Yates added. "You can start a fire with your hands, but you can’t do it with a computer or smart phone."

This August, take time out during haying and gardening season to show youth how to do things with their hands. It’s biblical and you can’t argue with that.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Titus always was the black sheep of the family totin’ them books around all the time an’ keepin’ to hisself. Now look: half his family is either hidin’ from the law, in jail or dead while he done become a doctor!"

Why was this man a black sheep for becoming a doctor?

"Black sheep" is an idiom typically used to describe a person who doesn’t fit in with a specific group because of his or her behavior or appearance. It can also be used to refer to someone who is rebellious and doesn’t conform to ethics, morals or beliefs of a particular group.

Although the term is not usually meant in a literal fashion, it does originate from a reference to the color of actual sheep. Due to a dominant gene trait, sheep generally have white wool. Occasionally, however, a recessive gene surfaces and a sheep is born with black or dark-colored wool. The dark-colored sheep not only stands out from the crowd because of its appearance but can be considered as undesirable because black wool cannot be dyed like white wool.

Considering the origins of the phrase, when taken to the extreme, it can be used as a term of extreme disgrace. In other words, in some instances, if a person is referred to as a black sheep, it means he or she has dishonored a particular group such as his or her family. In that instance, the person is treated as undesirable and is looked upon as an outcast. More commonly, though, the term has softer connotations.

A person might be considered as a black sheep because of his or her physical appearance. For instance, if all members of a family are thin and athletic, but one member is overweight and sluggish, that person might be labeled as the "black sheep." The term might also refer to an individual’s behavior. As an example, if a group of employees on a job are all hardworking and dedicated, but one member of the group is lazy and uninspired, he or she might be considered the black sheep of the group.

The term can also be used to refer to someone who is rebellious or defiant. That individual is typically labeled as the troublemaker within a group. For instance, a teacher might refer to a particular student in his or her class as a "black sheep" because of that student’s insubordinate or disruptive behavior.

Over time, the phrase has been adopted by organizations and groups to mark themselves as radical or extreme. For example, a particular Marine fighter squadron during World War II, known as Marine Attack Squadron 214, was nicknamed the Black Sheep Squadron because of their radical exploits during the war. The term has also been utilized in the area of psychology to describe how a group will judge their own non-conforming member more harshly than the non-conforming members of a rival group. This is known as the Black Sheep Effect.

wisegeek.com

Homeplace & Community

The Co-op Pantry

I was given the opportunity to join the team at Alabama Farmers Cooperative in November of 1984, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree with a major in accounting from the University of South Alabama in May 1983. My adventure at AFC began in the Cooperative Accounting Services Department, followed by opportunities to work in other departments including Payroll, AFC Grain Department, and AFC Accounting Department. In October 1995, I returned to the Cooperative Accounting Services providing accounting service to AFC member stores.

My husband Bill and I will have celebrated our 23rd anniversary by the time you all read this article. We have one daughter Abigail Katherine, who attends the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Chloe, 100 pounds of puppy, is part lab and part bull mastiff and she loves to eat as well.

My love for food began at a very early age. Big Ed, my father, loves to eat good home cooked food. His words to my mother were "all my girls will know how to cook." So my mother, Barbara, always enjoyed having me and my two sisters Bonnie Leigh and Tammy Jane in the kitchen working by her side at a very early age. My mother has always been an amazing cook, learning from her mother and grandmothers. Teaching us to keep it simple, try new recipes, and always keep your hands washed! Mother was very adamant about cooking with clean hands and cleaning up as you cook. My most valuable tip from mother – "always put a sheet of wax paper on the table when measuring ingredients, cleaning will be much easier."

Both of my grandmothers, Annie Pearl and Mary Pearl, had a passion for cooking. Every visit included working around the kitchen table. My sisters and I were truly blessed to have the opportunity to learn their techniques and adopt their passion to provide a good meal for family and friends. There were very few recipes; most meals were prepared completely from scratch. Fried Chicken, coconut cakes, chocolate rolls, buttermilk rolls, chocolate pudding just to name a few. Many recipes we have been unable to duplicate.

Following in the family tradition, my daughter Abbie was in the kitchen by my side cooking at a very young age. Of course she has a passion for cooking. My instructions to my daughter- keep it simple, try new recipes, and always keep your hands washed! Make sure you clean up as you cook and please -"always put a sheet of wax paper when measuring dry ingredients," or you will be cleaning up for hours.

A big THANK YOU to my mother for her patience and dedication in every cooking lesson she provided in the kitchen, as well as lessons in life. THANK YOU to every farmer and their families who have dedicated their lives to making it possible for all of us to put food on our tables.

For best results in all your cooking adventures stock up on CARL’S Seasoning Salt and Bonnie’s vegetables and herbs, available at most Co-ops. Also Weaver Cane Syrup, available at Atmore Truckers, is amazing in baked beans and on biscuits. These items are used often in preparing our meals.

Jamie Denard works in AFC’s Cooperative Accounting Services department.

CROCKPOT BARBEQUE PORK

1 pork roast (to fit in your crockpot)
1 can cola
1 cup cold water
Garlic salt
Carl’s Seasoning Salt
Black pepper

Plug in your crockpot and set at high temp. Rinse your meat off with water and place in crockpot. Place pork with fat side up top. Pour water and cola over pork. Now sprinkle garlic salt, Carl’s Seasoning Salt, and black pepper to cover top of roast. You should see a nice layer of spices on top. Cook on high for 30 minutes and turn to low for 4 hours.
Shred pork. Put on buns and top with your favorite coleslaw. Add chips and a drink. A family favorite.

Note: I have used various cuts of pork-best results with some fat on the piece of pork.

Note 2: I would use a minimum of 1 Tbsp. of Garlic Salt and Carl’s Seasoning Salt. Then for Black pepper use a minimum of ¼ Tbsp. We like it spicy so I just cover the top.

WILD RICE SALAD

2 packs Mahatma Wild Rice
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
4 ounces red bell pepper, chopped
4 ounces raisins
4 ounces toasted pecans, chopped
2 ounces red onion, diced
2 ounces dried apricots
2 ounces dried cranberries
Dressing: 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the wild rice per package instructions. Add apple, red pepper, onions, pecans and dried fruits to rice. In separate bowl, combine vinegars and oil. Whisk as pouring over salad. Chill for 1 hour.

Note: You can substitute English walnuts for pecans as well.

ZUCCHINI BOATS

1½-2 pounds ground beef
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
Dash of marjoram
Dash of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ stick butter
8-10 Roma tomatoes, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup bell peppers, diced
2 medium to large zucchini
Olive oil
2-3 cups white rice
Sargento’s Shredded 6 Italian Cheeses

Brown ground beef and drain fat, add garlic salt, marjoram, cinnamon and white pepper.

Melt butter and sauté tomatoes, onions and bell peppers until tender. Prepare your zucchini “boats”: remove the stem; cut zucchini in half and slice down middle giving four portions. With ice cream scoop hollow out each zucchini reserving the zucchini in a separate bowl. Take about ¼ teaspoon of olive oil and drizzle on inside of boat. Pour excess oil out of boat.

Combine ground beef, rice and vegetables. Spoon this mixture into prepared zucchini boats. Bake at 385° for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and top boats with generous amount of cheese. Bake additional 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serves 4.

CREAM OF ZUCCHINI SAUCE OR SOUP

2 medium to large zucchini, peeled
1 Tablespoon butter
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
6 ounces heavy cream
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Boil zucchini in large sauce pan or small soup pot with butter. Boil until very little liquid remains. Add cream cheese, sour cream and heavy cream; stirring continuously. Reduce heat and continue to stir. This should be a creamy consistency.

Note: This can be served as appetizer or can be used as topping for the Zucchini Boats; or add a little more sour cream and chilll overnight for a dip for fresh veggies.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Email me at maryd@alafarm.com. --Mary

SHRIMP WITH PASTA

1 pound shrimp
½ cup butter
3 large garlic cloves
½ cup Chardonnay
Linguine, cooked accorded to package directions
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Peel and de-vein shrimp. Sauté garlic in butter in large skillet over medium to low heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir in olive oil and wine, add shrimp. Reduce heat and simmer 1-2 minutes or until shrimp turns pink. Serve over linguine. Serves 4.

MURPHY IN A COLOGHER VALLEY MIST

2-3 pounds red “new” potatoes
1 stick butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
2-3 cups heavy cream
10 ounces smoked cheddar cheese
1 cup bacon bits
4-6 spring onions

Boil potatoes whole in salt water for 20 mintues. Quarter potatoes and put skin down in large baking dish. Melt butter and pour over potatoes. Add salt and pepper. Pour heavy cream over potatoes. Top with the cheese and bacon bits. Bake for 25 minutes at 400° or until creamy and cheese has melted. Remove from oven and top it with spring onions.

WHITE CHOCOLATE PECAN
BREAD PUDDING

1 package croissants
6 ounces pecans, chopped
6 ounces white chocolate pieces
10 ounces milk
8 ounces heavy cream
8 eggs
8 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Butter and line with parchment a 9x5x3 loaf pan. Cube croissants and place in prepared pan. Add nuts and white chocolate. Combine milk, cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour mixture over bread. Push it down with your fingers to release air. Let it stand for 60 minutes or longer to absorb the liquid. Cover with parchment and foil. Bake in a larger roasting pan with water half way up the sides for 1-1½ hours. During last 15 minutes, remove covering to allow top to brown. Top with Rum Sauce.

RUM SAUCE

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
½ stick butter
½ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2-3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup (or more) rum

Combine cream, milk, butter and sugar in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Stir constantly. Mix a roux for thickening your sauce - combine cornstarch and water. Add small amounts until you have the consistency of your choice. Remove from heat. Add nutmeg, vanilla extract and rum. Serve over White Chocolate Bread Pudding.

STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

6 bell peppers
2 packs Mahatma Spanish Rice
1½ pounds ground beef
¼ teaspoon Carl’s Seasoning Salt
¼ teaspoon of cumin
Dash of garlic salt
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tablespoons butter
½ can (large) Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
Sargento’s Shredded 8 Italian Cheeses

Prepare bell peppers - remove tops and core out the seeds. Put in Dutch oven and boil until green color begins to turn olive. Do not over boil; peppers should be firm enough to stuff. Place peppers in baking dish sprayed with cooking oil. Set aside and prepare stuffing.
Prepare rice per instructions on package. Brown ground beef and season with Carl’s Seasoning Salt, cumin and garlic salt. Drain fat. Sauté onion in butter over medium to low heat until tender. Add ground beef, rice and tomato sauce to onion. Add hot sauce. Mix well. Stuff peppers and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Generously sprinkle cheese mix over your stuffed peppers; return to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted and lightly toasted.

Note: Use Bonnie Bell Peppers for best results.

Youth Matters

The FFA Sentinel: 2013 State Convention in Review!

The 2013-2014 Alabama FFA State Officers are (from right) President William Norris, Wetumpka FFA Chapter; Vice President Bailey Sims, Marbury FFA Chapter; Secretary Hayden Whittle, Geneva FFA Chapter; Treasurer Shelby Windham, Ariton FFA Chapter; Reporter Kelsey Faulkner, Ardmore FFA Chapter; and Sentinel Alyssa Hutcheson, Red Bay FFA Chapter.

by Brittany Taylor

The 85th Annual Alabama FFA Convention was held June 5-7, at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery. There were more than 1,700 members, advisors and guests in attendance. I consider myself very fortunate to have been one of them.

Wednesday, many FFA members, including myself, were able to participate in the FFA’s nationwide service project "The Rally to Fight Hunger," where FFA partnered with "Kids Against Hunger"to package meals to be sent to food banks across Alabama. The Alabama FFA surpassed its goal of packaging 40,000 meals. This was a great way for FFA members to live the last line of the FFA motto: "Living to Serve."

Opening session began at 2 p.m. on Wednesday with Alabama FFA President Josh Williams calling the convention to order followed by opening ceremonies by the 2012-2013 Alabama FFA Officers. Jacob Davis gave the State Advisors Challenge by challenging members to become interested in Agriculture Education with the video "Tagged to Teach Ag." Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit, both sponsors of this year’s convention, brought greetings to the members, advisors and guests present. Dr. Craig Pouncey, Alabama Department of Education, and Wiley Bailey, National FFA vice president, also brought greetings. The 2012-2013 District Officers and the 2013-2014 State Officer Candidates were introduced. Jackson Harris was introduced as Alabama’s National FFA Officer Candidate for this year. The 2013 Wall of Honor recipients were inducted. Comedian Derrick Tennant was the keynote speaker for this session and he inspired members to "Look on the ‘Right’ Side."

The second session began at 7:30 p.m. Shelby Windham from the Ariton Chapter was named as the 2013 State Star Farmer. Retiring addresses were given by Alabama FFA Sentinel Nikki Giba and Alabama FFA Vice-President Dawn Turner. Numerous teachers and supporters of Alabama FFA were recognized by receiving the highest honor Alabama FFA can give someone - the Honorary State FFA Degree. Agricultural Proficiency Awards were given for Animal Systems, Dairy Production, Diverse Agriculture Production, Diverse Crop Production, Forest and Management Production, Goat Production, Sheep Production and Swine Production. The Fyffe Chapter was announced as the winner for the 2013 String Band Contest and provided entertainment for members and guests.

Thursday at 8:30 a.m., the third session of the Alabama FFA Convention began. Crime Prevention awards were presented to the top chapters in the state that conducted crime prevention activities. Chapters with 100 percent membership were also recognized with awards. Alabama FFA Treasurer Abby Himburg and Alabama FFA Secretary Lucinda Daughtry gave their retiring addresses. The Agriscience Fair Awards were also distributed during this session. CDE awards were presented in Ag Construction and Maintenance, Ag Mechanics, Creed Speaking, Dairy Cattle Evaluation, Extemporaneous Speaking, Floriculture, Forestry, Horse Evaluation, Land Evaluation, Livestock Evaluation, Meat Evaluation, Nursery and Landscape, Parliamentary Procedure, Prepared Public Speaking, Quiz Bowl, Safe Tractor Driving and Small Engines. Proficiency Awards were given out for Ag Mechanics, Beef Production, Equine Science and Poultry Production. The top four Alabama FFA Quartet teams competed for top honors. That afternoon, members had the opportunity to attend various workshops in which they could learn many things such as leadership, how agriculture affects us, etc.

At 7:30 p.m., the fourth session of the convention was held. National Chapter Awards recipients were recognized. Dwight Armstrong, CEO of the National FFA Organization, came with greetings for members, advisors and guests. Alabama’s very own Wiley Bailey, National FFA vice president, gave an inspiring keynote address. Proficiency Awards were given out for Ag Communications, Ag Education, Ag Processing, Ag Sales, Ag Services, Diversified Horticulture, Diversified Livestock Production, Environmental Science and Natural Resource Management, Fiber and/or Oil Crop Production, Forage Production, Fruit Production, Grain Production, Home and Community Development, Landscape Management, Nursery Operations, Outdoor Recreation, Plant Systems, Small Animal Production and Care, Specialty Animal Production, Specialty Crop Production, Turf Grass Management, Vegetable Production, and Wildlife Production and Management. I was excited to be one of the recipients of the Ag Communications Proficiency Awards. I received fourth place for my agriculture blog "The AG Princess." Proficiency awards along with Career Development Events teach FFA members skills they can use when they go into the workforce and even skills they can use in their lives now. Alabama FFA Reporter Luke Knight gave his retiring address and the quartet from the East Lawrence Chapter was announced as the winner for the Quartet Contest and provided entertainment during the session.

The final session of the convention took place Friday at 8:30 a.m. Alabama FFA President Josh Williams gave his retiring address. The "Rally to Fight Hunger" report was also given and the Chapter Challenge Award recipients were recognized. Over 200 FFA members from across the state received their State FFA Degrees. The convention closed with the installation of the 2013-2014 State FFA Officers. The new State FFA Officers are President - William Norris, Wetumpka FFA Chapter; Vice President - Bailey Sims, Marbury FFA Chapter; Secretary - Hayden Whittle, Geneva FFA Chapter; Treasurer - Shelby Windham, Ariton FFA Chapter; Reporter - Kelsey Faulkner, Ardmore FFA Chapter; Sentinel - Alyssa Hutcheson, Red Bay FFA Chapter.

Brittany Taylor is the Central District FFA president from the Wadley Chapter and author of "The Ag Princess" blog, www.theagprincess.weebly.com.

Homeplace & Community

The Man Who Draws Trees


Stephen Malkoff’s career as “The Tree Man” began when he drew the Ole Oak at Geneva for his wife Lori. He was offered $10,000 for the original drawing. Lori said, “No sale.”

Love of Drawing Branches into a Calling for Once Starving Artist

by Jaine Treadwell

The first thing the eye sees when one walks into the Enterprise home of Stephen and Lori Malkoff is a priceless work of art.

One hundred million dollars would not be enough to purchase the pencil drawing of The Ole Oak in Geneva.

Here’s the story.

It was the year 1990 and Stephen Malkoff was a starving artist. He was trained in architecture at Auburn University, but his dream was to be an artist. Drawings of the Boll Weevil Monument and other downtown Enterprise landmarks weren’t putting much more than a jingle in his pockets.

Stephen Malkoff has received national acclaim for his pencil drawings of historic trees. He has drawn historic trees from Hawaii to Alabama. Visit his websites at www.malkoffgallery.com or www.arboresque.com or call 888-410-3559.

A bag of groceries from Malkoff’s mom was sometimes all the food in the house.

"Our anniversary was coming up and I didn’t have any money to buy Lori a gift," Malkoff said. "I got the idea to draw the Ole Oak at Geneva – it’s ‘ole’ the folks in Geneva will tell you, ‘it ain’t old.’ We loved to picnic and that tree at the junction of the Choctawhatchee and Pea rivers was our favorite place."

For Lori her husband’s pencil drawing of the Ole Oak was a gift of love. It was priceless.

In the spring of that year, Malkoff exhibited at the Festival on the Rivers in Geneva and had The Ole Oak drawing on display.

"A man came up and asked the price," Malkoff said. "It wasn’t for sale, but I said, ‘$10,000’ and the man got out his checkbook. Lori came up out of her lawn chair and said, ‘We’ve got to talk.’ We had a conference back in the pine trees. She said she would keep eating hotdogs, but I was not going to sell her ole oak."

Stephen Malkoff’s pencil drawing of “The Historic Trees of Toomer’s Corner” is among his most popular prints. All of Malkoff’s prints are offered as limited editions. Once they are gone, there will be no more.

His family could have eaten a year on $10,000, but he is thankful he has a wife with the wisdom to know the value of the drawing.

"We wouldn’t take a hundred million dollars for it because it signifies our love for each other," he stated.

Malkoff’s heart’s desire was to draw, but it was not reality. He continued to do odd jobs such as patching roofs and mowing lawns until he got a job as a firefighter.

"It was perfect for me because I worked three days and got off two days to chase my dream," he said.

With the Ole Oak at Geneva drawing, Malkoff had found his niche. He began to draw historic trees.

"I had been drawing monuments of man," he said. "But how do you compete with God? Trees are handcrafted by God and I was good at drawing them. Trees were my calling."

As he went around the country drawing historic trees, Southern Living took notice and featured "The Tree Man" in 2000. That article catapulted Malkoff into a place of prominence and his dream became reality.

Stephen Malkoff was commissioned to draw “Tiger the Eagle” for Auburn, unveiled on Homecoming Day in 2010.

Malkoff used a sharp pencil to capture the beauty and the significance of historic trees from the Great Maui Maui Banyan in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, "a forest of one tree," to "Sweet Home Alabama."

He drew the Arlington Oak shading late President JFK’s grave, Savannah’s Majestic Oak, George Washington’s Tulip Poplar at Mt. Vernon, and the General Sherman, a redwood in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park that is the largest living organism, and the remaining Dueling Oak.

"I drew The Senator at Longwood, Fla., the 3,500-year-old bald cypress," Malkoff said. "It was on Earth before Christ. It was old and gnarled, but I gave it a shave and a haircut, and it stood proud."

Malkoff’s trees stand alone. There is nothing else in his drawings to take the focus away from the trees.

"Trees are majestic. There’s nothing to compare to them," he stated.

Malkoff is honored to draw many of the historic trees at the end of their lives.

"I do involved studies of the trees I draw," he said. "I take photographs, but trees are like umbrellas and the limbs and leaves underneath are hidden from the camera’s view. So, I walk and look at the tree from every angle. I study and sketch the limbs and the leaves so I can draw the tree in detail. I want to capture the character of the tree. I want to draw each tree as it is most handsome."

Even though many of the trees Malkoff had drawn were hundreds of years old, he had not worked with a sense of urgency … until ....

"When I heard the Toomer’s Oaks in Auburn had been poisoned, I was in a state of disbelief that anyone would do such a thing," Malkoff said. "People were calling, saying ‘You’ve gotta draw those trees.’ There was a sense of urgency. I began photographing and studying the trees while they were still green."

The Toomer’s Oaks had special meaning for Malkoff, who is an Auburn man. He played linebacker for the Tigers and has a 1988 SEC Championship ring and played in the Sugar Bowl. His drawing would be an artistic epitaph that would stir emotions from The Plains to The Capstone, and in all who love the game of college football.

"The Toomer’s Oaks were part of the history of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry," Malkoff said. "Bama fans have purchased the prints and had them matted in crimson and white. The trees were part of the football history in Alabama."

Malkoff, laughingly, said his mama didn’t raise a dummy. His drawing of the University of Alabama elephant is titled "Walk of a Champion." And, as all of Malkoff’s drawings, the Toomer’s trees and the Bama elephant are limited edition prints.

Malkoff’s heart’s desire was to make his way in the world as an artist. He is living that dream. But his heart has never been as full as it was on Homecoming Day at Auburn University in 2010.

Malkoff had been commissioned to put his pencil to the "paper" and draw "Tiger the Eagle," the first to fly for Auburn. On that Homecoming day, Malkoff stood on the field with his family and unveiled "Tiger: Celebrating 30 Years" before 87,000 cheering fans.

"The War Eagle is the greatest tradition in college football," Malkoff said. "When the Eagle soars through the stadium, it brings out the American spirit. It’s special. It’s about more than football. It’s about America. America first. The flight of the Eagle reminds us of that."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Farm & Field

U-Pick It at Mountain View Orchards

Steve Wilson and granddaughter Mabry Millard prepare baskets of peaches at Mountain View Orchards’ welcome center.

by Anna Wright

Picking your own peaches makes the satisfying sweetness of a just-ripe peach that much more delicious. And one of the best places to pick and eat peaches is at Chilton County’s newest u-pick operation - Mountain View Orchards just outside of Jemison. Peaches and apples are both available for u-pick and the orchards are conveniently located just two miles from I-65.

MVO is located just off I-65 at the Jemison/Thorsby Exit 119, across from Petals from the Past, a popular ornamental shrub and fruit nursery. MVO has been in operation for 4 years. It is owned and managed by a local farming family Steve Wilson and Andy Millard, a father and son-in-law partnership. Wilson is a well-known produce farmer in Chilton County and the state since the 1980s and Millard has been involved with growing or selling peaches since the mid-1990s. The pair saw MVO as a new business opportunity to provide consumers with fresh peaches and apples while still working with their family.

"Visiting a u-pick operation is an experience," Millard said. "Customers will receive tree-ripened, quality fruit picked the day of their visit along with an inexpensive outing for the entire family."

Clockwise from left, just a sampling of what to expect at Mountain View Orchards. Andy Millard of Mountain View Orchards in Chilton County talks to visitors who are ready to pick peaches. The covered wagon takes guests to the best picking spot in the orchards. Andy Millard checks ripening apples at Mountain View Orchards. The apples are grown on a trellis system.

Guests enter the orchard through an iron gate and are greeted by one of the many, purposeful scarecrows. The curved, gravel drive leads to the middle of the orchard where parking is available at the welcome area. Baskets are handed out, customers catch a ride on the covered wagon and are taken to the best location for picking. Already this summer, MVO has had the largest crowds since its opening.

Customers are met by Mabry, Millard’s oldest of three daughters, at the welcome center.

"This is Mabry’s first real job and she has a great personality for greeting customers and explaining how the operation works," Millard said. "She helps guests get their baskets and grab a seat on the wagon where they are quickly taken to a prime location for picking."

Clockwise from top left, whimsical scarecrows are a conversation piece at Mountain View Orchards. They also serve the purpose of keeping birds away from the ripening produce. Middle, fresh peaches from Mountain View Orchards in Chilton County. Bottom, the trellis system at Mountain View Orchards grows apples in abundance. This system makes for easier harvesting and produces more fruit per acre than the traditional system.

Thirteen different varieties of peaches are grown on 25 acres providing the orchard with ripe peaches from May until the end of August. The selection of peaches grown includes Gold Prince, Juneprince, Gala, Harvester, Fire Prince, Blazeprince, Loring, July Prince, Early August Prince, August Prince, Big Red, Flame Prince and Autumn Prince.

MVO is located on the highest elevation in the county providing good water drainage and general wind movement necessary for protection against spring freezes and fruit diseases. The area has a dependable history for growing consistently good peaches each year. The first peaches were harvested on this farm in 1930 by Marvin Durbin, a pioneer in the Chilton County peach industry. Since then, peaches, apples and other produce have been grown, harvested, boxed in the packing shed and shipped all across the state.

MVO is the county’s only u-pick offering apples. There are seven apple varieties grown on five acres with the popular Gala variety beginning in July and other types bearing through September. The assortments of apple varieties are Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Fuji, Pink Lady, Granny Smith and Arkansas Black.

The apples are grown on a three-wire trellis, which makes the fruit more easily accessible.

"This growing system allows trees to be grown closer together to provide maximum yields per acre," Wilson explained. "This system requires more detailed management than older systems of apple production, but, once the program is understood, the advantages are quickly seen."

The system has wires which are spaced approximately 3, 4½ and 6 feet off the ground, and the apple limbs are trained onto the wires perpendicular to the trunk. The spreading limbs will create vigorous growth and are pruned to allow more sunlight to the growing fruit. The increased sunlight exposure results in better color and sugar, making the perfect tree for eager customers to harvest the fruit.

The family’s straightforward, but successful, plan is to offer the public a clean, reliable place to find local peaches and apples. Visitors can spend $12 on a memorable outing and get a basket of fresh fruit when visiting MVO. Operation hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit their Facebook page of Mountain View Orchards, their website www.mountainvieworchards.com, or call them at 205-351-1931 or 217-5990.

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Volunteer Fire Dept. Finds Recipe for Fund Raising

Cason has become addicted to sweet potato pie.

by Christy Kirk

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s June data: "Although still very dry, Alabama is now drought free." Years of prolonged drought across the Southeast have made those of us who live in rural areas hyperaware of the dangers of dry weather. Dry grass, pine needles and fallen trees can catch fire quickly, and lead to serious trouble for property owners and their neighbors. In our community, we rely on the Little Texas Volunteer Fire Department to help keep fires from spreading, destroying homes and property, and taking lives.

It takes more than $30,000 a year to maintain the fire department in Little Texas. Expenses include the maintenance of the building and equipment, utility costs for water and electricity, and uniforms and training for the firemen and women. Insurance costs are the predominant expense in most volunteer department budgets. A year of coverage depends on the size of your department, number of firefighters, number of pieces of equipment and depreciation of the equipment.

Volunteer fire departments like ours are not fully funded through city, county or state taxes, so members must find ways to be resourceful and raise the funds they need to operate. The Little Texas Fire Department has received matching grants in the past for large expenses such as trucks, but typically the members rely directly on the local community through fundraising at annual or semi-annual events.

Of course, all of these events include lots of food. One of the LTVFD’s longstanding fundraisers is during the summer when they make and sell camp stew, smoked chickens and smoked Boston butts for the Fourth of July. Members work long hours and through the night to prepare more than 180 gallons of stew, 150 chickens and 150 Boston butts.

There are many different recipes for camp stew, but the LTVFD uses a recipe from Jason’s Papa Kirk that he created in the 1950s. Papa’s camp stew recipe is different from Brunswick stew and some other camp stews because it has chicken, Boston butt, ground beef and a tomato vinegar base, which creates a delicious combination. The stew freezes well, so many people buy several quarts or even gallons to have enough to last through the winter months.

During the last year, two new traditions were started. In the fall of 2012, the fire department made 300 sweet potato pies to sell for Thanksgiving. They adapted an old recipe from family friend Tumpsie Trionne. Our son, Cason, became so addicted to sweet potato pie during this time that Jason must now make five or six at a time to keep in the freezer for him.

The second new tradition was a turkey shoot held in June this year. Local community members and out-of-town visitors came to the department to try their luck at target shooting and a chance to take home a turkey. Alabama Agricultural Commissioner John McMillan is a big supporter of volunteer fire departments and donated many turkeys and hams for the first annual turkey shoot.

Both events helped the LTVFD raise enough for their annual budget.

If considering whether or not to support your local volunteer fire department, it is important you remember they are truly volunteer associations. When a person buys a chicken or a quart of stew, the money does not go to salaries of firefighters or other staff, rather it goes directly toward the operational costs of the department to protect and serve the community. Smaller donations given by many people provide the majority of a department’s budget. To show your support, contact your local fire department to see what kinds of fundraisers they have planned. By getting your next meal of Boston butt or camp stew from your local firefighters, you may help a neighbor or even an entire community.

Most volunteer fire departments are located in rural areas just like Quality Co-ops are. If you live in one of these locations and like supporting your local community, you can help your neighbors and protect your own property by supporting your local volunteer fire departments. Showing support doesn’t mean just donating money or becoming a firefighter. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to manage and operate a fire station. In Little Texas, men, women and children of all ages and abilities volunteer at the department. For information about how you can help your local volunteer fire department, check your local directories.

Sweet Potato Pie

¼ cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

1½ cups mashed sweet potatoes

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/3 cup milk

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Plain pastry/pie shell

Cream together butter and sugar. Add mashed potatoes and eggs. Mix well. Combine with syrup, milk, salt and vanilla. Turn mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325° and bake for 35-45 minutes.

Note: Corn syrup may be exchanged with brown sugar. Check a measurement exchange chart to ensure proper measurements.

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

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