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August 2014

4-H Extension Corner: 4-H Career Fair

Delana Spencer, MAX, discussing getting a CDL license.

A.H. Parker High School
Presents Students With Career Options

by Izette McNealy

4-H Health Rocks is a healthy-living program helping youth develop life skills in the areas of critical thinking, decision making, communication, managing feelings, stress management and goal setting.

Sponsored by the National 4-H Council, Health Rocks also includes components that bring youth and adults together as partners in developing community strategies preparing young people to make healthy lifestyle choices and positive workforce development.

The 4-H Health Rocks program at A.H. Parker High School tapped into a conversation about the career interests of the participants. The conversation inspired the students to research jobs.

Jermaine Johnson, Regions, discussing saving money with the students.

One student, Tamara Austin, 16 years old, said, "I wish the job market could tell us about careers."

The students made suggestions of areas they were interested in, and we invited corporations to attend. Two months later, the A.H. Parker 4-H Career Fair came into fruition.

Students in the 4-H Health Rocks program and juniors and seniors at the school visited the different vendors. As the students visited, they filled out a questionnaire about the different jobs in today’s society.

For those students interested in commercial bus driving, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority Human Resources Assistant Delana Spencer with MAX (metro area express) encouraged them to go ahead and get their driver’s license so they will be well trained in the art of driving when they have to prepare to get their CDL licenses to drive a bus.

Alabama’s Career Center System Unit Supervisor Cheryl Oliver Williams encouraged the seniors to visit her at her office to discuss summer employment. Regions Bank, private business owners, Alabama Power, McDonalds, the Navy and the Forestry Commission were just a few of the career tracks that were invited.

Donald Taylor, enlisted programs recruiter, giving information about joining the Navy.

Lashelle Webb, U.S. Army recruiter, talked to the students about joining the Army and completing basic training the summer of their senior year so they could get a jump start on their military career.

Cosmetology students also joined in on the fun. The students set up a booth in the gym with the other vendors, styled each other’s hair and talked to their fellow classmates about the cosmetology track they were on. After the career fair, Principal Darryl Hudson allowed the cosmetology students to have a hair show for the student body to showcase the styling methods they had learned in class.

The 4-H career fair was the first career fair the majority of the students had ever attended. They were excited to be able to meet people in the community who make a difference. Several students commented that they were happy to see the numerous vendors at their school, some of whom were graduates of the school. Careers such as horticulture and working from home that the students had not imagined and they were very interested in conversing with those vendors.

Audrea Henson, owner of Danno’s Deli, was so inspired that she stayed after the career fair to help write a basic business plan for several students who were interested in starting their own business.

The fair was such a success that School Counselors Rhonda Fowlkes and Celeste Rodgers want to make it an annual event. Tentative dates for the next school year have been set.

The 4-H Health Rocks program met six times at the school. Students discussed the importance of being a positive role model. They took turns being a negative role model and a positive role model in their communities. Students also participated in decision-making activities and discussed the importance of managing stress. Stress busters such as listening to music and laughing were some of their favorites.

Izette McNealy is a regional 4-H agent for Jefferson and Walker counties.



A Great Match

SouthFresh Feeds, Tiger Wranglers Partner Up

by Kent Partridge

The University of West Alabama Rodeo Team has become a regular participant in the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., and now they will compete for national titles with the assistance of a new partner.

UWA Rodeo and SouthFresh Feeds of Demopolis have entered into a partnership that will help provide livestock feed for the Tiger Wranglers at this year’s CNFR and for years to come. SouthFresh Feeds is a division of Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Inc.

"SouthFresh believes in the benefits of a quality college education and we always strive to find ways to play a role in this process," SouthFresh Vice-President for Feed Operations Jimmy Hughes said. "We are also heavily involved in agriculture and understand the long-term benefits of those who are a part of this very important industry in our state.

"We see sponsorship of the rodeo team at the University of West Alabama as a way to not only be a part of furthering the education process of these student athletes but also as a way to foster long-term appreciation for agriculture and the important role it plays in the overall economic success of the state of Alabama. We hope through this sponsorship we are able to help to build upon the great success and reputation of not only the rodeo team but of the university as well."

The 66th Annual CNFR took place June 15-21 at the Casper Events Center. The top three finishers in each event in the 11 regions, plus the top two teams from each region, earned the right to compete at the CNFR.

"Words can’t express how much our rodeo team appreciates SouthFresh Feeds’ partnership with our team," UWA Wranglers Head Coach Alex Caudle said. "The quality of their feed is the best in the business, and we are fortunate to have their help."

A pair of UWA cowboys competed in the 2014 CNFR. Bareback rider Blade Elliott won the Ozark Region, and saddle bronc rider Andy Phillips went to Casper after finishing second in the region. Elliott is a senior from Centreville and Phillips a junior from Maplesville.

"SouthFresh Feeds is an Alabama company committed to quality products and we are thrilled to partner with such a fine company," UWA Director of Athletics Stan Williamson said. "Our UWA student-athletes deserve the best and SouthFresh Feeds is all about providing the best products on the market. This is certainly a great match with SouthFresh Feeds and UWA Rodeo."

Elliott and Phillips began competition at the Casper Events Center on Sunday. Over 400 cowboys and cowgirls from over 100 universities and colleges compete in Casper each year.

After being thrown from his first ride, Elliott came back to score a 68 and a 72 in the second and third go-arounds, taking 19th and 18th, respectively, but failed to advance to the short go.

Phillips suffered a broken collarbone in the first go of saddle bronc riding and was not able to compete the rest of the way.

"We want to say thanks to Waste Management of Emelle and SouthFresh Feeds of Demopolis for sponsoring our program and helping make the trip to the 2014 CNFR possible," Caudle said.

Kent Partridge is the associate athletic director for Athletic Communications at the University of West Alabama Station 5 in Livingston.



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Asia and Western Hemisphere propel growth in U.S. agricultural exports

United States agricultural exports are forecast at a record $149.5 billion in fiscal 2014 (year ending September 30), $8.6 billion above 2013, with exports to Asian and Western Hemisphere countries accounting for most of the growth.

China is forecast to remain the largest U.S. market with sales expected to rise from $23.5 billion in fiscal 2013 to $28 billion in fiscal 2014. Other Asian markets forecast to show significant growth include Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

In the Western Hemisphere, exports to Canada (the second largest U.S. market) are expected to rise marginally to $21.6 billion while exports to Mexico (the third largest) are forecast to rise to $18.6 billion.

U.S. export growth is also forecast for South America, including Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

Higher income growth and a lower U.S. exchange rate are expected to support continued growth in U.S. exports, especially within the Western Hemisphere. Although slower income growth is anticipated for China in 2014, demand for agricultural goods is expected to remain robust.

USDA Announces Farm Bill Provisions on risk management, beginning farmer benefits

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced 2014 farm bill implementation provisions providing new risk management options for farmers and ranchers. The department also announced new support for beginning farmers that will make crop insurance more affordable and provide greater support when new farmers experience substantial losses.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency has filed an interim rule with the Federal Register allowing USDA to move forward with changes to crop insurance provisions. The new measures provide options for beginning farmers, allow producers to have enterprise units for irrigated and non-irrigated crops, give farmers and ranchers the ability to purchase different levels of coverage for a variety of irrigation practices, provide guidance on conservation compliance, implement protections for native sod, and provide adjustments to historical yields following significant disasters.

The farm bill authorizes specific coverage benefits for beginning farmers and ranchers starting with the 2015 crop year. Changes exempt new farmers from paying the $300 administrative fee for catastrophic policies. New farmers’ premium support rates will also increase 10 percentage points during their first 5 years of farming.

In addition, beginning farmers receive a greater yield adjustment when yields are below 60 percent of the applicable transitional yield. These incentives will be available for most insurance plans in the 2015 crop year and all plans by 2016.

Starting in the fall of 2014, producers who till native sod and plant an annual crop on that land will see reductions in their crop insurance benefits during the first 4 years. Native sod is acreage that has never been tilled, or land which a producer cannot substantiate has ever been tilled for the production of a crop.

Additional flexibility for irrigated and non-irrigated enterprise units and coverage levels will be available in the spring of 2015. More information on implementation of these changes is available at the RMA website www.rma.usda.gov.

Since the signing of the farm bill, RMA has been working to implement its various provisions as quickly as possible. The Federal Crop Insurance Board approved RMA’s Whole-Farm Revenue insurance policy in May. RMA will finalize the policy materials and expects to release the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection product to the public in late fall.

Mixed Picture for Recent Returns to production of U.S. field crops

Estimates of U.S. crop returns per acre reveal large differences in crop profitability across commodities and over time during 2010-13.

Returns to crop production are defined as the gross value of production less total economic costs. Total economic costs include operating costs such as seeds, fertilizer and pesticides; the capital recovery cost for machinery and equipment; and the costs - known as opportunity costs - of employing land, labor, capital and other owned resources with alternative uses.

While returns to total economic costs for corn, soybeans, rice and peanuts were positive, on average, for the 2010-13 period, average returns for other major crops were negative. For most crops, changes in farm prices and the gross value of production per acre, rather than changes in production costs, have driven returns to total economic costs.

Lower prices contributed to reduced returns for corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum and peanuts in 2013, while price and yield increases improved returns for oats and rice.

Hong Kong Market reopens for U.S. beef

The United States and Hong Kong have agreed on new terms and conditions that pave the way for expanded exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Hong Kong.

Under the new agreement, Hong Kong will permit the import of the full range of U.S. beef and beef products, consistent with access prior to December 2003. The new terms went into effect in mid-June. Previously, only deboned beef from all cattle and certain bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months of age could be shipped from the United States to Hong Kong.

Earlier this year, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and Sri Lanka also lifted their longstanding restrictions to provide full access for U.S. beef and beef products.

In December 2003, Hong Kong banned U.S. beef and beef products after a bovine spongiform encephalopathy-positive animal was detected in the United States (one of only four cases ever discovered here). In December 2005, Hong Kong partially reopened its market to allow imports of deboned U.S. beef from cattle aged 30 months or younger produced under a special program, and in February 2013 expanded access to include certain bone-in cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age.

Experts in the United States and countries around the world have confirmed that U.S. beef is safe, with extremely low risk of BSE. There has never been a recorded case of BSE transmission to a human through American beef.

While Hong Kong is officially part of China, it serves as its own customs and quarantine administration zone and maintains its own rules and regulations.

Import Restrictions begin to curtail growth in U.S. feed exports to China

Record sales of feed grains to China so far in 2013/14 (September/August marketing year) now are being disrupted by China’s rejection of U.S. shipments containing unapproved genetically modified material.

U.S. corn exports to China have reached 4 million tons so far in 2013/14 and China has also, for the first time, initiated large-scale imports of U.S. sorghum with imports of 2.3 million tons in the first seven months of the marketing year.

In addition, China has become the largest U.S. export market for distillers dry grains with solubles (DDGS, a byproduct from production of corn-based ethanol). Sales to China reached 2.8 million tons in 2012/13 and 4 million tons so far in 2013/14.

The continued expansion of meat and feed consumption, high Chinese corn prices and demand by animal-product producers for cost-efficient feed ingredients are driving the higher feed sales.

Until recently, China’s trade policies have helped channel demand toward DDGS and sorghum, which face relatively low tariffs and - unlike corn - are not subject to import quotas. But, so far in 2013/14, China has rejected about 1.1 million tons of U.S. corn and DDGS containing unapproved-GM material, specifically the MIR 162 strain, and other shipments have been cancelled or diverted to other destinations.

More recently, China has halted issuance of licenses for imports of any U.S. DDGS. These developments place prospects for U.S feed grain exports to China in 2013/14 and beyond in question.

U.S. Broiler Production has leveled off after decades of rapid growth

The rapid growth in U.S. broiler production has leveled off, posing challenges to producers and the industry.

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, annual broiler slaughter in the United States grew from 1.5 to 7.4 billion birds – a 4.6 percent average yearly increase from 1960-95. With birds also getting larger – from an average of 3.35 pounds to 4.66, total live-weight production grew at an average rate of 5.6 percent per year.

While average weights continued to grow steadily after 1995, growth in annual slaughter slowed sharply and then fell in 2009 and again in 2012.

Total live-weight production reached 49.8 billion pounds in 2008, but did not exceed that figure until 2013. In all, live-weight production grew by just 1.3 percent per year between 2003 and 2013, one-fourth of the 1960-1995 growth rate.




August Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Bearded irises are planted as rhizomes in August and their tops should be exposed when planted. Planting the rhizomes in August will let the iris become established before the winter and bloom next spring.
  • In order to calculate your fall garden planting date, determine the frost date and count back the number of days to maturity plus 18 days for harvest of the crop. If snap beans mature in 55 days and your frost date is November 15, you should plant on or before September 3.
  • Order fall bulbs for planting.
  • Sow seeds of poppies and bachelor’s buttons where you want their blooms next spring.
  • Order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting. Store in a cool, dry place. Plant in late fall and early winter.
  • Plant a fall crop of peas. The roots of peas "fix" nitrogen into the soil for next spring planting. Remember, when planting peas for fall, plant them almost twice as deep as spring-planted peas. This will help keep the seeds cool and also from drying out before they germinate.
  • Plant annual flower/ornamental plants such as blue daze, celosias and zinnia.
  • Prepare soil for September through October plantings of Bonnie cool-season crops. Apply fertilizer and compost so rains will settle the rows and make it easier to get plants started when they are planted.
  • Sow seeds for biennials such as hollyhocks or foxgloves or transplant seedlings for blooms next year.
  • Plant spring wildflowers. They must germinate in late summer or early fall, develop good root systems and be ready to grow in spring when the weather warms. Plant seed in well-prepared soil, one-half inch deep and water thoroughly.

FERTILIZE

  • Don’t fertilize woody plants now. It stimulates green growth that may not have time to harden off before winter.
  • Have soil tested for fall fertilization requirements if it has been 3 years or more since the last analysis.
  • Apply a complete fertilizer to all species of warm-season turf grasses. For average lawns, this should have a ratio of high nitrogen (first number of the analysis), low phosphorus (second number) and medium-to-high potassium (third number). If you can’t find this, apply a 13-13-13 or triple 8 fertilizers so that some N, P and K nutrients are all included. Controlled release formulations are best at this time.

PRUNE

  • Cut back lavender once it has finished flowering.
  • Keep deadheading flowers as they fade; not only will the plants look better but, if they’re allowed to produce and shed their seeds, they’re more likely to stop producing new blooms.
  • Pinch back tomato plants for a higher yield.
  • Prune hybrid roses late in the month.
  • Prune out and destroy blackberry canes that bore fruit this year. They will not produce fruit again and could harbor insects or disease.
  • Take cuttings of geraniums.
  • For prize-winning winter squash and pumpkins, pinch off any female flowers and young fruit that develop from now on.
  • Now’s the time to do one last shearing of the evergreen hedges. Growth will be tapering off soon, and they probably won’t need attention again until next spring.

WATER

  • Water perennials weekly and deeply.
  • Anytime we go for four to six weeks without at least an inch of rain, established trees need water. Trees less than 2 years in the ground need water every one to two weeks, depending on the soil, weather and species of tree. Place a bubbler, a small sprinkler or a soaker hose at the dripline of the tree (the area on the ground - a circle - corresponding to the furthest reaches of the branches above), and water for 30-60 minutes or more with a low flow of water.
  • Because August is usually the hottest month of the year, watering is a top priority in lawn care.
  • If your grass is dry, do not mow until you have watered or until it rains. Mowing a dry lawn will further stress the turf and expose it to the drying effects of the wind and sun.
  • Check water in hanging baskets and container plants every day in hot weather.
  • Conserve water. Water early in the morning. In addition, the more water on the leaves, the greater the chances of fungal problems on the leaves. Water on the leaves while the sun is out can cause burning of the foliage.
  • Consider investing in soaker hoses and/or a drip system. These watering systems put the water right where it’s needed (in the soil and next to the plant) rather than wasting the water into the air. Of course, this also saves on the water bill and, again, reduces the chances of diseases on the plants. While soaker hoses are easier to install in the garden or landscape, a well-designed drip system can last much longer.
  • Houseplants will need to be watered more often this month, especially if they’re in a sunny window.
  • If water is scarce, consider letting your lawn go dormant, and reduce watering to once a month. It may look a little scrappy, but that glowing green hue will return with fall rains.
  • If you’re keeping a green lawn, give it an inch of water once a week or slightly more often.
  • Make a frequent check of flowers and vegetables for their watering needs. Generally, you’ll want to give them about an inch of water each week; deep, less frequent watering is better for them than frequent surface watering.
  • Stop watering potted amaryllis bulbs; store them in a dark, dry spot for several weeks, then bring them out again to initiate winter bloom.
  • To check on water levels, trowel into the soil and look for moisture to a depth of three or four inches, or deep enough to ensure that water is reaching roots.

PEST CONTROL

  • Always read the label before using chemical pest controls.
  • Kill or remove poison ivy from your property before it goes to seed.
  • At first notice of aphids, hose-blast them off of leaves or spray them with an insecticidal soap.
  • Extra watering and hot weather make August a red-letter month for weeds. Expect weeds to germinate and drop their seeds faster; pull them out as soon as they pop up.
  • Scout for pest problems and treat as needed. August is prime time for bagworms on evergreens, budworms on annual flowers, a second generation of scale on euonymus, webworms on fruit trees, spider mites on evergreens, scale on magnolia and lace bugs on azaleas.
  • Slugs will tend to be more abundant now due to extra watering; plant saucers of stale beer or yeast water around the garden, especially around mulched areas (a favorite slug hiding place) and near tender greens.
  • Solarize empty beds to kill weed seeds and disease pathogens: Water the soil thoroughly, then seal it with clear plastic for 6-8 weeks. Weigh the edges of the plastic down with soil, bricks or landscape timbers.
  • Spray water on the top and undersides of zucchini foliage, early in the mornings, to control spider mites and aphids.
  • To avoid giving pests a free lunch, pick fruits and vegetables as soon as they’re ripe.

ODD JOBS

  • Over 3,000 children, 14 or under, are among approximately 80,000 people treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments every year for lawn mower injuries. Here are some safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
  • Don’t allow children under age 12 to operate a push mower or those under 16 to drive a riding mower.
  • When children and adolescents are old enough to use mowers, teach them safety steps such as wearing goggles and sturdy shoes.
  • Do not allow children to ride on mowers as passengers.
  • Keep children off the lawn while mowing.
  • Pick up potential flying objects such as stones and toys before you start mowing.
  • Do not pull a mower backward or ride it in reverse unless absolutely necessary. If you do mow backwards, carefully look for children behind you.
  • Raise the cutting height on your mower to keep grass longer, conserving water and helping roots stay cool.
  • Gather herbs and flowers for drying and preserving. The best time to gather herbs for drying is during the mid-morning hours, just after the dew has dried off the herbs, but before the sun causes them to wilt. Cut the herbs in clusters with the stems attached.
  • Add a light layer of mulch around young plants to help their roots retain moisture.
  • Be especially vigilant about ventilation and watering needs in the greenhouse this month.
  • Harvest watermelon when the underside ground spot turns from whitish to creamy yellow; the tendril closest to the melon turns brown and shrivels; the rind loses its gloss and looks dull; and the melon produces a dull thud rather than a ringing sound when thumped.
  • Spade or till soil for fall bulb planting; add a moderate amount of fertilizer.
  • Keep your cutting tools sharpened and in good repair.
  • Establish a new compost pile to accommodate the fall leaf accumulation.
  • Wear safety goggles when using all portable power tools such as trimmers, blowers, chain saws, etc.
  • Before you head out for vacation, move houseplants out of direct sunlight, especially those in south-facing windows.
  • It’s apple-pickin’ time! Early apples should be ready to pick this month.
  • Homegrown dill is delicious, easy to grow and harvest. You want to harvest almost mature dill seeds, not the green ones or the completely dry ones. The green ones won’t have the flavor you are looking for and the dry ones will have already dropped most of their seeds.
  • If any patches of annual flowers have petered out in the heat or been eaten by bugs or animals, hide the bare spot by moving a flower pot over the space.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! If you haven’t done so already, be sure all bare soil is covered with mulch, or compost with mulch on top. Avoid putting mulch or compost onto plant stems. Use about three inches total wherever possible.
  • Pick beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash often to encourage more production.
  • Take photos and make notes for next year’s landscape.
  • Keep fresh water in your bird baths and feed in your bird feeders.


Bird Jam


Swarming cattle egrets have located a nesting place on the backwater of the Pea River.

Cattle Egrets have been the major attraction on the Pea River since May causing traffic backups in the area as people stop to watch the swarming birds.

by Jaine Treadwell

Motorists might expect bear jams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or buffalo blockades in Yellowstone National Park, but no one would expect birds to cause a traffic backup on Highway 10 in rural Southeast Alabama.

But for more than two months – May to July, cattle egrets were the main attraction on the mighty Pea River that runs beneath the highway joining Brundidge in Pike County and Clio in Barbour County.

Exactly why the cattle egrets chose the Pea River backwater as a nesting rookery, no one is sure.

Ty Tyson travels Highway 10 to and from work, and was one of the first to notice the birds.

"On day, out of the blue, they were swarming across Highway 10 like bees," Tyson said. "They were everywhere and it was like that for several days – back and forth across the highway like bees. I’d never seen anything like it."

The swarming cattle egrets had located a nesting place and were going about the business of building nests on the backwater of the Pea River.

"The beaver dam has the water backed up and I guess that was the kind of place the birds were looking for to build their nests," Tyson said. "I guess that’s why they came to the Pea River."

The nesting place of cattle egrets is generally in association with wetlands along the edge of a lake or somewhere near water, which makes the Pea River perfect for them.

Jim Armstrong, Extension specialist professor with the Auburn University Forestry and Wildlife faculty and staff, said, too, that the backwater made a perfect place for a nesting rookery.

"Cattle egrets usually come back to the same nesting place year after year," he said. "The nesting place is generally in association with wetlands along the edge of a lake or near water somewhere. However, if their nesting area is altered or destroyed, the birds have to find a new nesting place. Or, sometimes the bird population increases to a point they have to disburse and find new areas."

Armstrong said cattle egrets are originally from Africa and came to North America in 1953 and quickly spread across the continent. They are called cattle egrets in reference to the grazing animals they team up with to forage, mostly on insects disturbed by grazing cattle or other livestock.

Although grasshoppers and crickets are the cattle egrets’ insects of choice, they also dine on horse flies, owlet moths, cicadas, ticks, earthworms and crayfish, fish and frogs.

The cattle egrets are constantly flying back and forth from the nesting area to get food. They fly off into the woods and to the fields. The egrets’ nesting rookery was so amazing that it became a tourist attraction. (Credits: Joey Meredith)

However, Tyson said he has not observed the cattle egrets dining on anything from the backwater.

"They are constantly flying back and forth from the nesting area to get food," he said. "They fly off into the woods and to the fields."

Chris Rich and his wife Sara ride their bikes in the Richland area and observed the cattle egrets foraging in the fields.

"The birds were on the ground everywhere," Chris said. "We would go over and watch them return to the nests. It was an amazing thing to see."

So amazing that the cattle egrets’ nesting rookery became a tourist attraction.

Sara Bowden, a Brundidge resident, said she first noticed the birds on Memorial Day weekend.

"We were going to a Memorial Day service at Elamville and I was surprised to see the trees at Pea River bridge coved with white flowers," she said. "I told my husband that I’d never seen that many flowers on trees. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. It was a beautiful sight."

To Bowden’s even greater surprise, when the couple returned along Highway 10, the "flowers" were flying back and forth across the highway.

"I was intrigued by those birds and tried to learn as much as I could about them and why they were on the Pea River," Bowden said.

"That area is surrounded by fields and cow pastures so there was plenty for them to eat. The males and females work together to build the nests. The male brings most of the sticks and twigs, and the female builds the nest. Woods are on both sides of the river so there were plenty of available building materials."

Bowden said the trees and shrubs in the backwater were ideal nesting places.

"So the cattle egrets were smart to choose the Pea River for their nesting place," she said.

But perhaps the cattle egrets didn’t realize that Highway 10 would be an observation deck for bird watchers.

"We would go over every day and watch the birds," Bowden said. "My daughter came from Columbus, Georgia, and said we should make it a tourist attraction. She had never seen anything like it."

Tyson said he was amazed at the amount of interest the cattle egrets attracted.

"One man said in all his 60-something years, he had never seen anything like those birds," Tyson said. "There were thousands of them. Specks of white everywhere. People would come and sit on the roadside in chairs and watch the birds. Some set up tripods with cameras with two-foot-long lenses to take pictures."

Those who have never experienced a nesting rookery of a thousand chattering cattle egrets have missed one of nature’s amazing shows.

Whether the cattle egrets will return to the backwater of Pea River next spring is unknown. The swallows return to Capistrano and the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, so there’s a good chance.

And, if the cattle egrets do return to the Pea River, Tyson, laughingly, said he’s going to set up a stand and sell hotdogs and soft drinks.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



Buying Local

Buying produce grown locally saves money, the environment and the farm family.

by Angela Treadaway

You’ve probably been told a million and one times that you should buy locally grown produce. And, you’ve also probably seen local farmers’ markets sprout up around your neighborhood everywhere. But why should you buy local? What’s the benefit to you, your community and the environment?

Local food tastes better. By buying local, you are receiving the freshest possible produce – picked just hours before delivery to your local store. Produce that travels long distances is days older. Sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality and flavor.

Local food is more nutritious. Once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients. Since local produce is sold right after it’s picked, it retains more nutrients.

Local food uses less packaging. Buying produce from a farmers’ market or from a farm itself is a no-frills process involving less packaging.

Local food supports local farmers. The American family farmer is a vanishing breed - fewer than 1,000,000 people (less than 1 percent) of Americans claim farming as a primary occupation. It’s no wonder; it’s hard to make a living when you get less than 10 cents of every retail food dollar. By buying locally, the middleman disappears and the farmer gets full retail price - in turn helping farmers continue to farm.

Local food builds community. By getting to know the farmers who grow your food, you build understanding, trust and a connection to your neighbors and your environment. The weather, the seasons and the science of growing food offer great lessons in nature and agriculture. Visiting local farms with your friends and your family brings that education and appreciation to the next generation.

Local food preserves open space. Do you enjoy visiting the countryside where you see lush fields of crops, meadows of wildflowers, picturesque barns and rolling pastures? Well, this should also serve as a reminder that our treasured agricultural landscape survives only when farms are financially viable. By spending your money on locally grown food, you’re increasing the value of the land to the farmer and making development less likely.

Local food keeps taxes in check. For every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments spend $1.17 on services, which increases taxes. For every $1 in revenue raised by a farm, a forest or open space, governments spend $0.34 on services. You do the math.

Local food supports the environment and benefits wildlife. Family farmers tend to be good stewards of the land – they respect and value fertile soil and clean water. And their farms provide the fields, meadows, forests, ponds and buildings that are the habitat for many beloved and important species of wildlife. In addition, buying local also reduces the use of fossil fuels and helps to protect the environment from harmful exhaust fumes.

Local food is about the future. Supporting local farms today helps keep those farms in your community, ensuring your children and grandchildren have access to nourishing, flavorful and abundant food. When you choose to buy locally and make your choices known, you raise the consciousness of your family, friends and neighbors.

Hopefully this gives you some food for thought when you consider buying fruits and vegetables in the coming summer months. Let’s support our local farmers.

Sources: LocalHarvest.org, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and SustainableTable.org

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



Chillin’ Herbs


“What am I?” Last month the WAI was Red, White and Blue flowers: Red Dragon Wing Begonia, White Baby Wing Begonia and Blue (Salvia nemorosa) Meadow sage.

by Herb T. Farmer

After surviving the hot month of July, it’s August and the temperature is even hotter. I think I’ll just spend the next little while making up hot weather recipes to cool us down.

Let’s start with finding something to do with all those tomatoes we are harvesting. This year has presented itself a perfect growing opportunity for my garden here on the Herb Farm. I spent the last two weeks processing, I don’t know how many, tomatoes. Making sauce, tomato paste, tomato powder, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato juice and even tomato wine occupied most of my time for the last several weeks.

Every day, I walked out to the garden and knew I would need to carry a couple of baskets with me because surely there will be at least that much produce to fill them up.

The other day, a friend of mine stopped by just as I was getting ready to go out in the garden and get more tomatoes. I gave him a couple of empty baskets and asked him if he wanted some tomatoes. He said sure, but not that many. We walked out into the kitchen garden patch that is not the main garden. I picked two large baskets full of tomatoes and my friend picked one large basket full, along with a mixed basket of Ichiban eggplants, green and yellow zucchini, yellow summer squash and a mess of okra.

It has been like that all summer long. This is the best growing season I have seen in a long time.

Every time I brought in a lot of tomatoes and processed them, I had to look in the pantry to make certain there was room for more of this season’s products. I can’t remember when the shelves filled up so fast!

There is a batch of tomato wine that has been sitting on lees since last October. It is crystal clear and in need of bottling. (Note: Lees are dead yeast and/or other particles that have settled to the bottom of your must. Must is young wine or fresh squeezin’s.)

Chilled tomato wine with a leafy-greens salad makes a delicious after-five appetizer when you just come in from the garden and need to eat something quick, healthy and tasty to hold you over until you cook your supper. That usually gets me going and then I can concentrate on preparing my meal.

People ask me all the time what tomato wine tastes like, and I tell them to just try it. For folks who don’t have easy access to fine wines in their grocers, I simply describe it as: "light in body, but with as much tomato flavor as tomato soup." It is a perfect complement to a green salad. It’s as much like drinking your tomatoes with the salad as it is eating a tomato on a burger instead of ketchup. Just try it! I’ll give you a recipe next month.

Three-gallon carboy of 10-month-old tomato mead waiting on the bottling process.

Tomato-jalapeño wine sounds good to me and since there is also a huge harvest of chilis, I think I’ll make some.

There’s a number of one-gallon-sized jugs I use to make mead and other small-batch fermented drinkables. The other day, I got to thinking about some hard cider I made from apples a few years ago and decided to try a new version of that with a different fruit. You guessed it - tomatoes. I’m going to tell you what I did, but, keep in mind, this is an untested recipe that has not progressed enough through the proposed process to recommend it. I’ll tell you how it turns out when it’s ready. If you want to try it, you are on your own. Just let me know what your results are and we’ll trade notes.

Tomato Mead

Start with about five pounds of prime ripe tomatoes from the garden (assorted varieties) and cut them into chunks. Process the chunks through a Squeezo, or other juicer, to remove the skins and seeds. There should be nothing left except pure tomato juice.

Strain the juice through a yogurt strainer to remove most of the red tomato pulp.

Put the liquid into a six-quart stainless steel pot and bring it to a temperature of about 190 degrees over medium heat. Do not boil the juice. That could change the flavor. Bring the heat up to kill off any natural strains of yeast that may be in the air or in the tomato juice. (I did not sulfite the cider must as I do wine.) Reduce the heat immediately and add one cup of granulated sugar. Stir it to dissolve the sugar; then cool the liquid to 120 degrees. Add 1 to 2 pounds of fresh honey and dissolve it. Pour the mixture into a sanitized, food-grade, plastic bucket big enough to hold the liquid, but not so big the mix is just sitting on the bottom of a big plastic container. A local bakery or supermarket may have some four- to eight-quart buckets with lids they will gladly give to you for the asking. Cake icing containers make great primary fermenters. Fit the lid with a grommet and airlock. Scrub and sanitize the bucket, lid and airlock.

Once the mixture is in the bucket, add another half-pound or so of honey; then pitch in the yeast. One packet of Montrachet yeast should do the trick.

Cover the bucket with the lid fitted with airlock.

My mixture is now in the primary fermenter and bubbling away in a 75-degree room area of my basement. It will stay there for at least three weeks. Then it gets racked into a one-gallon glass carboy and sits for another three weeks. At that point, it will be time to bottle it. I think I’ll have to put it into another gallon-size glass bottle instead of half-liter crown-cap bottles. It’s only one gallon and, if it turns out as good as I think it will, that gallon won’t last long.

Here’s another recipe for a cool-down drink.

There is a malfunctioning spare refrigerator in the basement that freezes certain things if they are left in there too long. The other day I realized I had forgotten a watermelon that was put in the fridge to chill overnight. Well, it froze and that was the first harvest this season from some volunteer Sugarbabies that made fruits.

So, I halved the melon and dug out the frozen red goodness, put it into the Vita-Mix with a little honey and some almond milk and made a fine-tasting smoothie.

Speaking of smoothies, One day last week, I came in from the garden, and it was over 90 degrees outside that day! I needed some ice cream, but found the bananas first. I had forgotten that there were some frozen, over-ripe bananas in the freezer. Back to the Vita-Mix I went. I loaded it with the bananas and added a little sugar and almond milk and made another version of a cool-down drink. Oh, and I also added a dash of mace on top just for looks.

Try some of these chillin’ summer specialties while you have access to them fresh.

I’ll see y’all next month!

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at farmerherb@gmail.com.

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.



Corn Time




Cow Pokes




Earl




Farm Y’all: Farm to Fork Festival


Trent Boyd and family with the new Alabama largest pumpkin record at 903 pounds.

by Tony Glover

The first Farm Y’all – Farm to Fork Festival was held last August at the Festhalle Market Platz – Farmer’s Market in the warehouse district of downtown Cullman. The highlight of the day’s event was a new Alabama giant pumpkin record weighing in at 903 pounds grown by Trent Boyd of Cullman County. Competitors came from several southeastern states to enter the Giant Pumpkin and Melon Contest. This year’s event will be on August 23 and we are expecting a bigger event with even more entries. The festival will begin at 8 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. If you have a giant pumpkin or watermelon to enter, plan to arrive between 7-7:45 a.m. to get them unloaded. The prizes are $1,000, $500 and $250 for pumpkins and $500, $250 and $100 for watermelons. We have also added a Youth Gourd Contest for the greatest circumference, longest and most unusual gourds. There will be $50, $25 and $10 prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each youth gourd category.

This free event will have all kinds of games and activities for kids, and local bands will provide musical entertainment for everyone. Last year, the mechanical bull ride was a big hit and it will be there again this year. The bull ride, Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest, and all the other games and kids’ activities are free. Local farmers will be on hand with a good supply of fruits and vegetables for sale, and local food vendors will be selling their most popular foods. The Cullman 4-H clubs will be selling homemade ice cream made using a bicycle-powered, five-gallon freezer.

Several local, regional and nationally celebrated chefs will be preparing dishes featuring local foods for people to sample. Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill is a world-renowned chef who has roots in Cullman County and he will be honored at this event for his contribution and support of our farmers and local foods movement. Chefs who will be demonstrating and serving samples that day include Cliff Holt of Little Savanna, Dyron Powelll of Dyron’s Low Country and Mauricio Pappapietro of Brick and Tin restaurant. In addition to these headliners, several local chefs will be preparing dishes featuring local foods for folks to sample.

Frank Mudd with a new Kentucky State Record and our largest watermelon entered at 276 pounds.

The adjoining Depot Park will be home to several sponsors that will be exhibiting their products. Our title sponsor Tri-Green Equipment will be displaying a good assortment of Gators and other John Deere equipment.

At the end of the day’s festivities, a giant pumpkin will be dropped from a large crane. This activity was a big hit last year (pun intended) when an 850-pound pumpkin exploded making a cannon-like sound as it broke into a thousand pieces. Giant-pumpkin-grower wannabes scrambled to get a few seeds to try their own hand at growing one of these monsters. We are hopeful some of the seed collected last year will come back as entries in the giant pumpkin youth division this year.

There will be an all-local meal prepared by Chef Pappapietro the Saturday prior to the festival at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. For dinner reservations and a full lineup of all the day’s activities including a timeline of the chefs’ demonstrations 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.



Forestry and Wildlife School for Landowners

The Forestry and Wildlife School for Landowners will be held August 21-22, 2014 in Brent. Topics will be Wildlife Management Concepts and Terms, Introduction to Timber Management, Planting Trees & Creating Wildlife Openings, Trapping Pest Species, Growing for Poles, Wild Pig Damage & Control. There will also be tours of the Cahaba Timber Company Pole Plant and of the James TREASURE Forest & Tree Farm.

CFE units will be available to Registered Foresters who attend the workshop. Early registration fee by August 8 is $75; late registration fee is $95; spouse registration fee is $25.

For additional information contact Katherine Patton with the Walker County Soil and Water Conservation District at 205-384-0606 ext. 1.




From Pond Scum to Plastics


This specially designed harvester is being used to collect algae from catfish ponds in Dallas County.

A new process for utilizing algae from catfish ponds may have far-reaching benefits for both the catfish industry and our dependence on oil.

by Alvin Benn

Catfish farmers in Alabama’s Black Belt region suddenly find themselves with a potentially profitable use for what once was deemed a pain in the ponds.

"They" are algae, organisms that have been gathering and growing forever just beneath the surface of the water.

Now, instead of being derided, algae are being promoted as aquatic gold mines and supporters are doing their best to spread the word to others within the profession.

Dallas County catfish grower Butch Wilson holds two bottles containing algae retrieved from his ponds.

In the past, it’s been called pond scum, useless plants and other negative names, but science may have unlocked a brighter future with a productive use for algae.

Catfish farmers in Alabama and Mississippi are being contacted about a budding industry linked to plastics – the biodegradable type that doesn’t last forever in landfills and aren’t totally dependent on petroleum, especially the foreign kind.

Converting pond organisms into plastic products may seem a bit farfetched, but not to Black Belt entrepreneurs who are convinced it’s the wave of the future for the catfish industry.

"We estimate that utilizing algae from catfish ponds can produce billions of pounds of plastic," John Dekker, director of business development for Algix and one of the promoters of the algae conversion process, told AFC Cooperative Farming News.

Butch Wilson, one of America’s leading catfish farmers, considers Algix a "win-win" proposition with a bright future thanks to something that touches parts of four states.

ALGIX official John Dekker holds a plastic mold created from processed algae.

Dekker’s business is headquartered in Georgia while a corporate office is in Ohio. The conversion plant is in the little crossroads community of Browns, located 20 miles west of Selma just off U.S. 80 in the heart of Alabama’s catfish industry.

The fourth link is Meridian, Miss., where bioplastic resins are to be used to transform that pond-collected algae into useful creations ranging from personal-care products to electronics, construction needs and even toys.

Algix officials unveiled their unique operation last year in Selma and, in a company statement, said they looked forward to an "opportunity of growing sustainable, non-food-based feed stocks for the rapidly expanding bioplastic market and beyond."

They also cited their special technology, saying it would provide "additional benefits in the form of protecting and restoring the environment and increasing jobs."

Dekker said investor support for Algix is solid with backers willing to put their money on the line to make it successful.

"Anything like what we’ve got takes longer to develop, but we’re committed to its potential," he said. "It’s going to happen because it can be done. Of that, we’re convinced," he added.

So are catfish-country business executives such as Wayne Vardaman, president of the Selma-Dallas County Centre for Commerce.

"I have great hopes for them," Vardaman said of Algix. "Algae is something we have plenty of in our part of the country and what (Algix) is doing is one of those green projects that has become so important in the past few years."

Dependency on foreign oil has been a lingering concern in the United States and Dekker says a project such as Algix can help displace foreign petroleum by using domestically produced, aquatic feed stocks.

At the moment, Algix finds itself on the ground floor of a process that, in the near future, could be taken for granted within the catfish industry.

Right to left, algae harvested from catfish ponds in the Black Belt are collected to be transformed into pellets for plastic products. After algae processing is complete, what’s left will become plastic products used around the country.

"Nobody’s using it right now, but I’m excited by the prospects of what it can be down the road," said Wilson, who is using his Dallas County catfish farm as a prototype to demonstrate its potential. "I think it’s like discovering oil."

The Wright brothers were told their odd-looking creation would never fly in 1903, but they proved detractors wrong at Kitty Hawk, N.C., and, as a result, came up with something that changed history.

"When oil was first discovered, we tried to discard it as a nuisance, but that‘s no longer the case, of course," said Wilson. "Now, we’ve got algae and we’re just now beginning to understand how it can be used in beneficial ways."

Catfish farming may never come close to equaling the benefits of aviation, but it does impact millions in the form of production and consumption.

At the moment, Algix officials are putting into practical use a new technology created and patented by Kimberly-Clark and the University of Georgia.

Steps used in the conversion process involve harvesting of the microscopic organism from catfish ponds, drying it, then sending it on to Meridian and processing it into plastic resin pellets.

Dekker said catfish farmers who join the project as algae suppliers will be paid on a dry-weight basis for the algae taken from the ponds.

Innovations and recycling have had positive impacts on society in recent years, often transforming what once was considered useless into sought-after items.

"Today, waste streams are becoming another man’s treasure," Dekker said. "Right now it’s a matter of getting production going in an efficient manner."

Wilson says the algae conversion project is, in many ways, similar to the crude oil industry in that "it’s separated and then changed into something else from toothbrush handles to bigger products."

Algae are considered to be among the fastest growing plants in the world, not unlike kudzu that came to America from Japan to control soil erosion but slowly began to cover the landscape of Dixie.

Collecting something that isn’t visible to the naked eye might seem quite a challenge, but specially designed harvesters have been handling that requirement at the Browns facility.

Wilson describes the collection area as a "giant water oil field" and says "it’s just a matter of getting it."

"If it was easy everybody would be doing it, but the potential is out there," he said, pointing out that there are thousands of acres of catfish ponds in the Southeast.

Wilson said the harvesters have gone through several development stages since Algix had its grand opening last year and are being put to good use at his catfish ponds.

"We learn something every day, but, as far as profits are concerned, we haven’t gotten there yet," said Wilson. "A lot of money has been invested in this process and we’re convinced it’s going to work."

Wilson still enjoys linking the discovery of oil to Algix’s focus on a microscopic organism that, in the past, has been dismissed as inconsequential.

"We’ve got something today that we once tried to throw away and now we cherish it," he said of oil as he broke into a big smile. "No reason we can’t do the same thing with algae."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.




Getting Familiar with Farming

A member of the Randolph County Young Farmers Committee explains bovine treatment and health as a part of the Ninth Annual Randolph County Farm Day.

Outdoor Learning a Big Hit at Randolph County Farm Day

by A. J. Watson

Wisdom is easy to carry, but difficult to gather, and, according to the fourth-graders in Randolph County, so is cornmeal.

The students rotated through 17 stations set up by the Randolph County Young Farmers Committee during their ninth annual Farm Day at Kiwanis Park April 25 in Wedowee. FFA students from the county assisted with the event.

Ben Johnson, chairman of the young farmers committee in Randolph County, said 160 students from three middle schools attended the event.

"A lot of kids have never touched a horse or seen pigs," Johnson said. "They hear about (our event) and think ‘Yeah, we’re going to get to go to Farm Day when we get in fourth grade.’"

For Wedowee Middle School student Mick Bailey, Johnson was exactly right.

Breann Noles stands with her horse as she explains how to keep a horse healthy and the equipment required to ride a horse.

Bailey was among students who enjoyed exhibits ranging from volunteer firefighters to equine management.

"I’ve been looking forward to this all year," said Bailey, whose friend Caleb Dempsey chimed in behind him.

"If you want to get rid of a fire you make a smaller fire to make a pathway. That way when the big fire gets there, it doesn’t have anything left to burn," Dempsey said after attending a controlled-burn demonstration.

Sherry Sprayberry, a fourth-grade teacher at Wadley Middle School, said outside learning seems to be a hit with her students.

"I love bringing these kids here every year – this is our favorite field trip," Sprayberry said. "The kids don’t have to pay anything to come, and they learn something at every station they go to. They come back, and we ask them what their favorite thing was. No two answers are the same, but they love the hands-on stuff."

Something as primitive as grinding corn into cornmeal allows students to stare history in the face, said Dennis Delaney, a soybean Extension specialist at Auburn University and member of the East Alabama Farm Equipment Association.

"We try to teach them about corn and what it meant in the old days," he said. "We just want them to have an appreciation of where corn comes from, and that it’s not as easy as buying a bag of cornmeal from the store; they had to shell it and grind it."

Fayette County residents and Master Gardeners Jack and Sheila Bolen said it’s a joy to educate and provide entertainment.

"It’s always fun to see the kids pick seeds for what they think a plant grows into," Sheila said. "We let them see the results of the seed and what it grows into, then we familiarize them with what it is. They can relate it to what they eat at home."

A. J. Watson is an ag communications specialist with Alfa.




Goat & Sheep Production on the Other Side of the World

by Robert Spencer

Mid-April through mid-May 2014, I spent three weeks in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) learning about their small ruminant industry and opportunities to advance the industry. I volunteered my expertise through Winrock International Farmer to Farmer Program, funded by USAID. Winrock is a registered nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunities and sustain natural resources. Much of their programmatic outreach is based on improving agricultural situations or opportunities for those with limited job skills in developing countries. I titled my work on this particular trip as "Exploring Opportunities for Advancement of Nucleus Meat Goat & Sheep Production, Marketing and Quality for Myanmar." My scope of work provided by Winrock was twofold: 1) "Nucleus Goat Farming Practices in Myanmar" and 2) "Developing a Procurement System for Goat and Sheep and Meat Quality." The trip would require becoming familiar with the small ruminant industry in Myanmar through initial orientation documents, and meetings with industry leaders, farm visits and market visits. From there, I would work with in-country specialists to conduct relevant trainings for farmer groups, assess opportunities for improvement, and report back to hosts and industry leaders.

Animals and people need lots of water in semi-arid climates.

After reading the orientation information, meeting with industry leaders and conducting farm visits, I quickly learned goat producers in Myanmar and the United States have similar challenges. Producers in both countries have hopes for high market prices, shortcomings with production quality, relative concerns with cost of production and opportunities for improvement. I learned farmers in Myanmar have specific advantages over their counterparts in the United States. Myanmar goat farmers have relatively low cost of production including labor, strong year-round demand for goat and sheep meat, export opportunities to China and Thailand, and affordable cost of living compared to many countries. In a country where $3-$6 per day is suggested minimum wage, and a farmer can earn $2,600 per year raising goats with little or no overhead, labor or inputs, meat goat production is profitable.

During the first week of my visit, I had to quickly assess the situation and determine what type of outreach activities would be most effective, and what topics were most essential to benefiting the farmers I would be working with during the second week. My trainings had to have relevant impact with foreseeable outcomes. I decided a combination of lecture, hands-on training and group farm visits would provide quick benefit to the farmers, and posting event questions and answers would determine if they accepted the concepts, would implement them and share the information with other producers. Based on the fact there seemed to be an overall lack of understanding on the importance of nutrition (including water) and how it correlates to animal quality, I decided this would be relevant subject matter, with hands-on demonstrations regarding body-condition scoring to assist with understanding the correlation between adequate nutrition (relevant components) and ideal body condition (3-5). Despite the language barrier, the translation of a Winrock Field Specialist facilitated effective communications. The training sessions turned out to be dynamic interaction with lots of post-event questions and discussion. At the completion of each training, I would ask three questions: 1) "Did this training improve your knowledge of nutrition and body-condition scoring?" 2) "Will you return to your farms and apply this information?" 3) "Will you share this information with other farmers who could not attend?" With each workshop and questions, respondents replied with an enthusiastic "Yes" 100 percent every time.

So what did I accomplish during my three weeks? In addition to farm visits and meetings with industry representatives, I conducted four to six relevant educational workshops, hands-on trainings and individual farmer trainings; trained 111 farmers including two females and two youth; and reported back to hosts at a formal meeting in Yangon.

So what did I learn from all this? Farmers of all commodities face the challenge of being price takers with limited opportunities for influencing market prices; they all believe in what they do and often rely on the help of family members to maintain their operations; and all appreciate any help provided and will gladly acknowledge the assistance.

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



Grapes in the Ground


The completed product after eight weeks in the hole.

Remembering Friendship Cakes and Muscadine Wine

by John Howle

It was one of those hot, muggy, Alabama days in August, and there were a few hundred square bales in the field that had to be loaded, hauled and stacked in the barn. It was my grandparents’ farm, and typically my two cousins, Edward and David, and I had the job of hauling the hay. We would take turns. One would drive the flatbed truck, one would throw on and the other would stack. Each load, we would rotate so every third time you could drive the truck and get a break. This worked fine for the first three loads, but soon we were overcome with thirst. We took a detour from the field to the barn and turned into the dirt drive at my grandparents’ house for a cool drink of anything that happened to be wet ranging from ice water to sweet tea.

My grandmother was not in the house. I thought, "Oh yeah, it’s Friday." Every Friday, my grandmother would go into town driving a green Caprice Classic Chevrolet, which was about as big as a typical farm pond. With the Piggly Wiggly sale paper in hand, she would stock up on enough groceries to last six months even though she would go again next week (she had lived through the Great Depression and dared not run out of canned vegetables and fruit even though they grew everything the grocery store had except bananas).

After eight weeks, remove the jar from the hole.

Well, we were thirsty, and I was the first to open the fridge. I told Edward, "Hey Mama Howle’s got a big pitcher of fruit juice with fruit floating in it." We poured a tall glass each and began gulping down the concoction. Edward said, "This juice is rurnt." (That meant that the juice had ruined.) After drinking half my glass, I agreed, and we poured the rest down the drain and drank water out of the faucet. On the next load while stacking hay, I began to feel light headed and told Edward to take my place. He said he also felt a little queasy. We told the youngest, David, to stack since that was the job that had the most elevation on the truck.

That afternoon Mama Howle came wheeling that Caprice into the drive with a tornado of dust following behind. Shortly, she came back out of the house wanting to know who drank her friendship cake starter. I said I didn’t know. "All we drank was that rurnt fruit juice in the fridge."

This was the day I found out that friendship cake was made by first starting with a pile of fruit dumped in a pitcher and allowed to ferment. Well, that explained the light-headedness on the hay truck, and I deduced it was called friendship cake because everyone partaking probably felt friendly after eating and shouldn’t be allowed to stack hay on the top of the truck.

Over the years, I’ve heard of people doing creative things that allowed fruit to be fermented. One of the most original I’ve heard was making wine in a one-gallon pickle jar buried in the ground. After talking to a few elderly folks who said the method actually worked, I decided to try it.

One gallon of muscadines resulted in 1.5 quarts of wine.

According to the word-of-mouth instructions, you take a clean, one-gallon pickle jar, and fill it to the top with freshly picked muscadines leaving enough head room to add sugar. Then, pour in one to two cups of sugar depending how sweet you want it. Next, screw the lid on tight and shake the jar vigorously to spread the sugar amongst the muscadines. You add no water. Simply add the grapes and sugar.

Next, take post hole diggers and dig a hole in the garden deep enough to completely bury the pickle jar at a depth where the jar lid will be about six to eight inches below the surface of the soil. Mark the spot where you buried the jar, and wait eight weeks. When eight weeks have passed, carefully remove the dirt with a hand trowel to avoid breaking the glass, and pull the jar out of the soil.

With a one-gallon jar filled with muscadines, about 1.5 quarts of wine is produced. During the fermentation and breakdown process of the grapes, the juice separates from the grapes and the sugar causes the fruit juice to ferment. I’m assuming being buried in the darkness of the soil keeps the concoction from turning to vinegar.

Pouring the mixture through cheesecloth will remove any tiny bits of debris that were floating during the fermentation process. The older gentleman who shared the recipe with me said he had been making muscadine wine this way for years and said his 93-year-old mother truly enjoys it.

I tried a small sample of the completed product, but we poured in three cups of sugar, but that made it so sweet it tasted more like something you would spread on a hot, buttered biscuit. I would think one cup of sugar would be sufficient.

Who knows, since that small batch of muscadine wine was so sweet, it might have made a great starter for friendship cakes.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chapman

Master Gardening

If you want to make your lawn and garden more beautiful, grow lots of your own fruits and vegetables, or otherwise just learn more about gardening and how to garden smartly, there is a way to do just that. The Alabama Master Gardener program provides several weeks of classroom training by experts, usually from Auburn University, and then the chance to practice what you learned through volunteering (and at home, of course). The state Master Gardeners group is a great community of local garden enthusiasts who meet regularly for projects, to share information and just plant camaraderie. There is also a national group that meets every 2 years; last year the annual meeting with educational sessions was on a cruise to Alaska! To learn more about the program, contact your regional Extension office.

Even if you aren’t a birdwatcher, this app is an education on the feathered friends found in our state.

App for Alabama Birding

Are you aware of the app for birdwatchers in Alabama? Available for both iPhone and Droid at www.alabamabirdingtrails.com and choose Smartphone Apps, the Alabama Birding Trail app is a guide to the multiple birding trails in different regions of our state along with bird information, trail directions and more. A project of the state tourism department, the system of eight trails highlights the best public locations available to watch birds year-round. There are 270 birding sites in the state with hundreds of species of birds to discover throughout the state. It’s a big app, so be sure you’re connected to WiFi and that you have room on your mobile device.

Houseplants for the Outdoors

This time of year it can be hard to find just the right plant to dress up a container or spot in the garden because summer plants are about gone, but it’s too early for fall items. However, there are always tropical houseplants with beautiful foliage colors and textures. These are generally in the greenhouse of your favorite garden center. Most of these plants prefer shade, so don’t burn them up in the full August sun. If you need something for full sun, stick to succulents, cacti and outdoor palms.

Turn kids loose with old boards and leftover paint and you might get a precious picture like this.

Plywood Painting

Are the children restless during the last week or two of summer vacation? Give them some large pieces of scrap plywood or other boards and turn them loose making paintings and murals for your backyard or garden. You can lean these against the fence, as pictured here, or just about anywhere. It’s also a good way to use up some partial cans of paint that need to be empty before going to the landfill.

Remember Bulb Orders

Now is the time to start thinking about daffodils or other spring-flowering bulbs. They will begin appearing in garden centers next month, or you can pre-order from mail order sources now. One of the perils of mail order is that you must know which bulbs do well in our low-chill climate. Many of the bulbs sold are better adapted to places where winters are longer and deeper. Among the very best narcissus for Alabama are Ice Follies, Thalia, February Gold and King Alfred. Not many tulips are perennial here but, if you must try some, choose early-flowering single types for the best chance at having them come back for several years.

AmpleHarvest.org

Looking for takers for your extra harvest? Local food pantries are often happy to take produce. AmpleHarvest.orgkeeps a database of nearly 7,000 food pantries and other organizations that can use the extra harvest to enable local gardeners to help provide for needs in the community. To find out if there is a food pantry or community kitchen near you, go to ampleharvest.org and enter your zip code under Find a Pantry.

Vegetable Garden

Start removing browned and diseased tomato, squash and other plants that are at the end of their life to make way for the fall garden. Although it is hot, late this month is the time to start seeds of root crops and set out many cole crops for the fall garden. Hold off on planting lettuce and arugula, though; they will just try to flower in the heat, making tall, lanky plants with off-flavor leaves. The fall garden is my personal favorite. It is easy to manage, has fewer pests because it’s at its peak during the cool weather, and provides months of harvest. Great cut-and-come-again hardy items for winter include lettuce, endive, arugula, mizuna, parsley, kale, collards, mustard and other greens. Root crops include radishes, carrots, turnips and beets. If you cover these with a frost cloth during the coldest parts of winter, they will reward you with a harvest until warm weather and long days cause them to bolt (bloom) next spring.

Collecting Seeds

Gather seeds of flowers that are easy to reseed. These include cleome, moonvine, melampodium, gomphrena, zinnia, portulaca, moon vine and marigolds. Look for seed heads that are fully mature (usually dry and brown) and harvest when the weather is dry. These flowers often reseed themselves, which is nice, but sometimes seeds are washed away in winter rains or eaten by critters, so it’s a good idea to gather some for insurance. Keep the harvested seeds in a cool, dry and dark place.

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



I Wish I Had Been There! I Wish I Had Not Forgotten!

by Glenn Crumpler

I planted the plum tree 3 years ago with great anticipation of one day partaking of its delicious, large, sweet fruit. I remember when I planted it how small it was and how long I would have to wait to reap a harvest. Even so, I made sure it had plenty of water and everything it needed to grow and be healthy. I even cut back some pine limbs to make sure it received enough sunlight to make it as productive as possible.

The first year, there were very few blooms and no fruit. I did not expect much since it was still small and so young. The second year, there were a lot of blooms and even some small fruit and my expectations increased. Perhaps this would be the year. But, when the weather turned dry, I was either gone or busy, and did not think about watering the tree until the immature fruit had already fallen off.

This year, I was determined to do my part to make sure the tree produced a bumper crop. I fertilized it with chicken litter, made sure it had plenty of water and I even pruned it to get rid of the old growth so I would finally get to enjoy the fruit for which I planted the tree. This year the tree was mature and large enough to make good fruit. Man, oh man, did it produce! Blooms covered the tree in the spring. There were so many young plums!

Much of the fruit fell off in the very small stages before it matured – probably half of the crop, but the tree was still loaded. The weather was good; the rainfall came at the right times and in sufficient amounts. The fruit grew larger and larger, so large that many of the limbs were leaning over touching the ground. My mouth watered every time I passed that tree, but the fruit was not ripe and the harvest was not yet ready, but my anticipation grew.

About the time the plums were getting near their mature size, my schedule started to get even more busy than usual. I was traveling out of country, my daughter was getting married, I was busy getting ready for speaking engagements, we were negotiating the details of some new and exciting ministry opportunities, Board Meeting was approaching – so many other things were demanding my time and attention.

Then just yesterday, after many of the deadlines were behind me, and my Board Meeting was over and everyone had gone home, I decided to take a much needed walk around the yard just to unwind and clear my mind for a few minutes. When I rounded the corner into the back yard and saw the tree, my heart sank.

I had waited 3 years, had done all the work to insure the tree was healthy and had all it needed to produce a bumper crop. Just three weeks ago, it looked as if I would have more plums than I could give away – much less eat. But now, the sight was not what I had been expecting or looking forward to. The soil, the rain, the sunshine and the tree had done all God created them to do. They all worked in harmony and the crop was plentiful. I had even done my part for almost 3 years, up to the point just weeks before the fruit was actually ready for harvest.

How could I have forgotten? From the winter pruning through the spring blooming, even until the fruit was bearing down the limbs of the tree, I had been attentive and expecting to reap a bountiful harvest of delicious, red, juicy plums. As you can see from the picture, everything worked but one thing. I was so busy with other things, I forgot about the harvest. I did not intend to neglect the fruit or forfeit the harvest, but it was lost anyway. I was too late. The fruit was plentiful, had grown to maturity and was ripe for eating, but somehow, in the midst of life’s worries and busyness, I had gotten so preoccupied with other things, that I had unintentionally forgotten the harvest and now the once beautiful and abundant crop was lost. Rotten fruit now covered the ground.

Perhaps this is a good reminder of a more important harvest that is now ready and is near the point of being forever lost. The harvest of a crop that is much more valuable than a few plums, and the consequences of which the loss far exceeds anything else we can compare it to – the souls of men, women and children all created in God’s image.

For centuries, faithful Christians have followed the Holy Spirit and have broken new ground, have sown the seed of the Gospel, nurtured the souls of people, discipled and taught them the Word and ways of God, but all of this would have been for naught if there were not those who were paying careful attention and who were willing to go out and gather the harvest. Only the Holy Spirit can draw men to Christ, but it has always been God’s plan that He would use people like you and me to lead others to Him so they could accept Christ as their own personal Lord and Savior.

Each of us, if we are truly following and walking with God, are always somehow actively involved in each step of this process. There is new ground each of us has been called to break among the unreached. There are lives into which we need to be intentionally sowing the seeds of the Gospel. There are people all around us who need to see the Gospel lived out and who need to see Jesus living in and through our lives. And, there are times when God will use us to reap the harvest of souls by helping people take that final step of accepting Christ as their own and helping them to grow in their faith.

Just like the plums, we cannot do anything about the harvest that has already been lost, but we can make sure we do all within our power to be there for those for which hope remains. Jesus said, "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps, receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." (John 4:35-36 NKJV)

Again in Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus said, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

God has commanded us all to go. Part of going is sending others to the far places. Don’t wait until it is too late and have to say, "I wish I had been there. I wish I had not forgotten the harvest." The souls of those you love and of billions more who Christ loves hang in the balance. The results are eternal. Don’t wait.

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



Its Time Has Come

Huntsville’s Popular Greene Street Market is part farmers’ market, part festival.

by Maureen Drost

Moms and Dads with babies and toddlers in strollers or Radio Flyer wagons, teens, seniors, singles and families all ages in between made up a walking-room-only crowd on this bright day in downtown Huntsville. Family dogs from toy poodles to Great Danes joined in the fun, too.

It was Thursday evening and Greene Street Market day once more. The threat of downpours wouldn’t be the spoiler this week like it was the previous Thursday.

Left to right, Steve Carpenter of Jack O’Lantern Farms in Muscle Shoals feels that the Greene Street Market is “the best-run” in Alabama. He’s already begun planting pumpkins for early September harvest. Jimmy Sparks, who farms in the Big Cove community in Madison County, uses hydroponics like Steve Carpenter does. Greens such as lettuces are Sparks’ major focus.

Part market and part festival, the weekly market features farmers and other vendors from Morgan, Lauderdale, Madison, Limestone and Marshall counties, and even southern Tennessee selling their products to eager customers.

Strains of music could be heard in the background on this mid-June day as popular guitarist Phil Weaver played guitar accompanied by Rosa Vidra Richardson on the flute. They chose the whimsical name Toot N’ Twang to characterize themselves and the diverse music they played – everything from tangos and bossa novas to Mason Williams and Radiohead.

The wildly popular Microwave Dave takes a break from playing the blues at the Greene Street Market. Each Thursday, customers get a chance to hear musical entertainment from one or more artists.

Steve Carpenter of Jack O’Lantern Farms in Muscle Shoals was there. So was Jimmy Sparks, of the Big Cove community in Madison County, who specializes in lettuces and green vegetables such as kale. Both count themselves among the original vendors, and both use hydroponics to raise their produce.

This year, for the first time, Lowe Mill and its artists are represented every week. Brosemer Farms sells flowers while farms such as Champion, Spradlin and Harbin offer veggies.

Under other tents, a craftsman featured chopping boards he had made by hand, a vendor from Lowe Mill carried various flavors of specialty tea. For those with food allergies, there was a baker who sold homemade, sugar-free and gluten-free products. Suzie’s Gourmet Ice Pops delight children and adults alike every Thursday.

Carpenter was one of six sellers at the market when it began 3 years ago. Customers routinely like to open their wallets and purses to buy his juicy ripe tomatoes. On June 12, Carpenter sold 700 pounds of the produce "easy," he said.

"I used to be on the State Farmers’ Market Board," Carpenter said. "Marilyn (Evans of Greene Street Market) called and looked over my farm … I’ve been in the same spot" since the beginning.

This year, the vendors number in the mid-40s with about 100 on the waiting list, according to Evans, head of the working board. Twenty-four members of Church of the Nativity and First Presbyterian Church serve on the board of what was the first such non-profit market in Huntsville.

"Farmers get all of what they sell," Evans said. "They pay (a fee) for the space, and that money goes to outreach to our community" chosen by the board.

The market accepts SNAP and EBT benefits as do some other markets in the area, enabling those on low incomes to buy fresh, locally grown produce.

Carpenter spoke highly of the Greene Street Market. Other than having a small stand at his farm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, this is the only market he participates in.

"They advertise and draw a crowd," he said. Besides word-of-mouth, Greene Street commands a big presence on Facebook and a website revised frequently by vendor Walter Thames with photos shot by Evans. Thames’ booth features his own small-food business called What’s for Supper?

Carpenter farms 25 acres of vegetables in addition to raising laying hens, broilers, and herds of beef cattle and pigs.

Farmer Jimmy Sparks always participates in Greene Street and two other non-profits – Latham United Methodist market on Tuesdays and the Bailey Cove Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

Echoing Carpenter’s observations, Sparks called the June 12 market "huge," enabling him to "sell out in an hour and a half." Greene Street runs 4-8 p.m. Many other farmers and vendors did quite well, too.

Besides lettuces and other green vegetables that Sparks grows using hydroponics, the Madison County farmer raises Silver Queen corn and okra using conventional methods.

Hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil using nutrient-filled water instead. With 65,000 plants, Sparks grows the equivalent of two conventional acres, using significantly less water.

He said he has "the satisfaction of knowing he’s giving (customers) a product picked the same day" filled with nutrition. He enjoys hearing from those "who call and say thanks …. It gets in your blood."

Evans observed markets like this one provide "a good way to support someone who’s lost a job, entrepreneurs and (new) marketers" trying to get their name out to the public.

"Greene Street Market builds connections between rural and urban residents …," she said. "It’s an idea whose time has come."

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville.



Obituary: John W. Anderson, Retired AFC President

John W. Anderson passed away on July 4, 2014, at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Born in Greenwood, Fla., on Dec. 15, 1934, Anderson was still an infant when his family moved to Andalusia where they had just opened a new peanut shelling plant. Anderson grew up in the peanut business and returned to it in 1958 after earning a degree in Industrial Management from Auburn (then the Alabama Polytechnic Institute) in 1956 and then finishing a 2-year enlistment in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant.

As soon as he arrived back at the home business, Anderson began establishing a reputation for his honesty, integrity and vision. He worked diligently to improve not only the market for Alabama-grown peanuts but also the quality of peanuts. In addition, he helped draft peanut legislation, working closely with Congress on policy issues.

In 1969, Alabama Farmers Cooperative acquired Anderson’s Peanuts and Anderson became an integral part of AFC. He was named president and CEO of AFC in 1989, a position he held until 1995. Taking over AFC leadership during a difficult time in agriculture, Anderson’s ethical and energetic leadership helped grow AFC to one of the powerhouses of agriculture it is today.

Anderson was former president of the Alabama Crop Improvement Association and was named their man of the year in 1988. He was named the Alabama Council of Cooperatives 1996 Distinguished Cooperator. He is a former president of the Southeastern Peanut Shellers’ Association and served on numerous committees with the National Peanut Council. He was also a director for Commercial Bank and Andalusia Hospital. In 2002, Anderson was elected to the Alabama Agricultural Hall of Honor. He was a Rotarian and served as club president, and on many committees in the Andalusia Rotary Club. Anderson was very involved with the First Baptist Church of Andalusia where he served as a deacon and finance chairman and later at the First Baptist Church of Destin.

Anderson retired in 1995 and moved to Destin, where he enjoyed many years of fishing and boating, and being near his children and grandchildren.

Anderson is survived by his wife of 58 years, Evelyn Wilder Anderson, their three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He is also survived by a sister and many loving nieces and nephews.

The family requests that memorials be made to The First Baptist Church of Destin, 201 Beach Drive, Destin, FL 32541 or to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes, PO Box 361767, Birmingham, AL 35236-1767. An online registry can be found at www.foremanfuneralhome.com.




Pals: Don’t Drop It on Alabama


Students of Hidden Lakes Elementary School mapped out some litter “hotspots” and went outside to clean up these areas.

Hidden Lakes Elementary School Students Clean Up Litter Hotspots

by Mary Stanford

Hidden Lakes Elementary School wants to keep their school litter free and beautiful. Alabama People Against A Littered State wants to help. Partnering with PALS was a good step toward achieving their goals. Dr. Senn asked PALS to come and speak with the students at Hidden Lake and implement a litter education program. The PALS program will be used as a "springboard" for implementing litter education. The Alabama PALS presents an opportunity for students and faculty members to be part of having their schools recognized for their efforts.

Students mapped out the litter "hotspots" and went outside to clean up these areas. PALS is encouraged that these actions will create an awareness of this problem and also affect long-term behavior change. Hidden Lakes is doing all they can to foster and instill good environmental awareness in their students.

Litter Fact:

Schools spend approximately $241 million annually for litter clean up.

PALS provides bags and teacher educational resources to all schools in Alabama. PALS’ motto, "Don’t Drop It On Alabama," is a clear message that Alabama can be a cleaner and more beautiful state for future generations. If you would like to have the PALS Clean Campus program at your school, please contact me at mary@alpals.org.

Mary Mitchell Stanford is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.




Peanut People




Phil Phillips Retires


After 32 years as general manager of Morgan Farmers Co-op, Phil Phillips (left in photo) has retired. He was presented with an Appreciation Award at Morgan Farmers Co-op’s June Board Meeting by Larry Bennich, member of Morgan Farmers Co-op’s and AFC’s Boards of Directors.

Before coming to Morgan County in 1982, he worked for Pike Farmers Co-op, Mid-State Farmers Co-op and Cherokee Farmers Co-op.

Phil and his wife will be moving to Tannehill to be closer to family.

We at AFC wish for you the best that retirement has to offer!




Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus

Any New Diarrhea Virus Is Not Good News

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Just to be honest with you, it is a little bit of a challenge to write an article with diarrhea as the main topic. It’s not that I couldn’t write about dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. The challenge is to make it interesting enough to hold your attention at least this far into the column. Then when you add porcine, which most of you probably know means pigs or swine, there is a little more added to the challenge. The 2012 United States Department of Agriculture Census tells us there were less than 700 farms in Alabama with at least one pig. I do believe this disease, relatively new to the United States, is important enough to animal agriculture that it has a story that needs to be told. Actually, as I write this column, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus is continuing to write its story about how it will affect the U.S. pork industry. And, as the virus causes the loss of baby pigs, it will indirectly affect the other two animal proteins, poultry and beef.

Back in the late 1970s, I was working on my pre-vet studies and working part time at a veterinary clinic back home. It was along about that time a new virus was establishing itself as the new bad guy on the block when it came to dogs. That virus was the canine parvovirus. There were lots of parvoviruses out there before one mutated or changed so it could infect and cause disease in dogs. It was actually pretty devastating to the canine world and, consequently, to dog owners, especially early on. Two of the reasons for the catastrophic nature of the new disease were that there had not been time enough to develop a vaccine against the virus and the dog population had no natural immunity simply from casual exposure to the virus. Anytime you put those two factors together I sort of equate it to putting a match and gasoline together. That is pretty much the same situation we have been facing with PED virus. It has and continues to hit the swine industry pretty hard. The virus has been around for some time in Europe and Asia, but was first reported in the United States on May 17, 2013. For the past year or so, the virus has spread with extremely negative results because there was no vaccine and no natural immunity.

It was reported back in March that during the past nine months the virus has been responsible for the loss of an estimated 4-5 million baby pigs. Now I realize there is a huge difference between 4 and 5 million, but, any way you look at it, that is a significant loss. By early April of this year, there had been over 5,000 cases of the disease in the United States, with at least one case reported in 28 states. Eighty-five percent of the cases had been reported from the top ten pork producing states.

I realize Alabama is not known to be a pork-producing state. However, the 2012 USDA Census said that Alabama had 689 swine farms with a population of close to 150,000 hogs and pigs. The census said we had 18 farms with over 1,000 hogs and pigs, but the majority, 525 farms, had less than 25 hogs and pigs. Obviously, the pork industry in our state does provide jobs and puts money into the state economy. Beyond that, I believe most of us support the pork industry by varying degrees when we go the table to eat. Having said that, PED virus affects most of us. I just read an article that said we could expect pork prices to continue to rise in part because of the PED virus.

I have found it to be encouraging that there is a growing interest in our state in the showing and exhibiting of swine. I believe any time we help to inspire interest in raising livestock in the younger generation it is a big plus. It helps me feel better that when another 3 billion people start showing up for breakfast in the next 30 years, someone will be there overseeing the production of the bacon and eggs. The PED virus gives the young folks showing these hogs an opportunity to learn first-hand the importance of biosecurity and how to practice procedures limiting the spread of this disease. And, although we have not had a reported case of PED virus in Alabama, several of those hogs that are exhibited are purchased from states where the virus has been diagnosed and caused problems. Just be careful not to bring the disease back with you.

PED virus is common enough in many countries that there are no trade restrictions associated with it. It is, however, a bad disease. It can and often does cause 100 percent mortality in pre-weaned pigs. The PED virus is from the same family of a virus that people who have been in the swine industry have dealt with for a long time. That is the transmissible gastroenteritis virus, which not surprisingly could result in the same high mortality in baby pigs. TGE and PED viruses are like first cousins or something like that. I am really not sure how viruses figure their kin folks. I do know they are both from the coronavirus family. Unfortunately, the vaccine against TGE virus does not provide any cross-immunity for the PED virus.

The Secretary of Agriculture has declared this a reportable disease to the state and federal animal health officials. In Alabama that would be me or my federal colleague. It is important that veterinarians, the pork industry and producers know where the disease is and its prevalence. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries website, agi.alabama.gov, has a statement about the disease that is fairly easy to find. Inside our statement is a link to a website provided by the pork check off that will tell you pretty much anything you want to know about PED virus. Just be aware that when you see the price of that sausage biscuit, barbeque sandwich or pound of bacon going up, the PED virus is partly to blame. Hopefully, we can deal with it so that the damages can be contained soon.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.



Private Sector Stewardship Key to Wildlife Conservation

by Corky Pugh

Most of the forestland in Alabama is owned by private, non-industry landowners – 67 percent to be exact. Government owns only 6 percent. Over 432,000 family forest landowners own and control the vast majority of the wildlife habitat in our state.

Thankfully, most landowners are good stewards of natural resources. In fact, the individual initiative and commitment of private landowners are key to wildlife conservation efforts. History has borne out the fact that private landowners, given the incentive to enhance habitats and wild game populations for better hunting opportunity, will practice good stewardship.

The overwhelmingly successful re-establishment of deer and turkey populations in Alabama relied heavily on willing private landowners in partnership with hunters and Game and Fish Division professionals. In 1940, deer population estimates placed the statewide total at 16,000. Today, Alabama’s deer population stands at an estimated 1.5 million. Turkey numbers had dwindled to some 11,000 in 1940. Population estimates now exceed 550,000. Without the commitment of private landowners, this great conservation success story would not have been possible.

Active forest management is good for wildlife. Timber harvest opens the forest canopy, allowing sunlight to strike the soil, creating the early, successional growth so necessary for deer and turkey populations to thrive.

Aldo Leopold, the father of modern wildlife management, wrote extensively about how disturbances in the forest – whether timber harvest, fire or tornadoes – benefit wildlife habitats and populations. Some folks, bless their hearts, have chosen to try to ignore old Aldo’s wise words and to cherry-pick from what he offered. There have been costly lessons such as the Yellowstone fires where decades worth of accumulated forest litter fueled devastating wildfires. By contrast, prescribed fires, under controlled conditions, reduce fuel loads while promoting overall forest health including numerous benefits to wildlife. Prescribed fire is the single most cost-effective wildlife management tool at our disposal.

The average forest landholding in Alabama is 80 acres. Consequently, there is a patchwork of diversity and edge across the landscape. Given this pattern of land ownership and active forest management, it’s no surprise Alabama boasts deer and turkey populations the envy of the nation.

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.



Quality Golf

Quality Cooperative, Inc. employees and customers formed a team to participate in and WIN the 10th Annual Alabama 4-H Golf Classic held June 12, 2014, at Farmlinks at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga. Team members are, from right, Jason Boothe, Todd Watson, J. Ryan Williams (manager) and Bo Olsen.

Resurrecting Alabama’s Deer Management Assistance Program

by Chuck Sykes

The rapid growth of the deer population in the Cotton State during the 1970s brought about all new challenges in deer management. Biologists and hunters began to look for ways to increase opportunities for antlerless deer harvest as the deer population approached nearly 1 million animals by the mid-70s. Even though the annual deer harvest exceeded 150,000 by 1978, either-sex harvest opportunities were still limited. Either-sex opportunities began expanding as concern lessened that either-sex seasons would decimate the deer population. Either-sex seasons were wide ranging by 1983 with 42 counties having either-sex harvest opportunities ranging from 3-24 days during the general gun season. Still, with the ever increasing deer population, more needed to be done. As the deer population reached an estimated 1.5 million animals in 1984, the Game and Fish Division launched a pilot program called the Deer Management Assistance Program. Ten properties distributed across the state were used to test the new program.

The primary reason for the implementation of DMP was to increase doe harvest on a property-by-property basis. The initial development of the DMP was driven by large landowners and hunting clubs who were unable to meet their management objectives due to the current constraints of the either-sex season. Biologists from the Game and Fish Division provided buck and doe harvest recommendations based on prior harvest data, knowledge of the local deer population and current deer habitat quality. Antlerless-deer tags were issued to the program participants to increase their antlerless-deer harvest opportunities which would help them reach their management objectives. The program was opened to all landowners and hunting clubs across the state prior to the 1985-86 hunting season and the DMP took off. At the program’s height during the 1997-98 season, DMP participation included more than 2,100 cooperators and more than 12 percent of Alabama’s total land-base.

Though strides had been made in meeting the demand for either-sex harvest opportunities utilizing DMP, the ever increasing deer population and the necessity for more doe harvest opportunities forced more changes to the either-sex season structure. Due to these pressures, either-sex gun season was extended to 30 days in all or portions of 23 counties for the 1998-99 season. The either-sex season was expanded to three or 15 days in other counties. Over the next 12 years, either-sex opportunities continued to expand until all 67 counties had an either-sex season extending through the entire 2011-12 gun deer season. The bag limit also was expanded to include two antlerless deer per day with no season bag limit on antlerless deer.

These lengthy seasons and liberal bag limits gave Alabama landowners, hunting clubs and deer managers greater flexibility to manage their deer population, but inevitably led to a drastic decline in participation in the DMP. Only 65 cooperators remained in the program during the 2013-14 season.

Today, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries biologists face the challenge of balancing the public’s desire for greater freedom in hunting and managing deer with the need to continuously assess and ensure resource sustainability. While it’s not a new idea nor is it an easy subject to tackle, WFF is in the infancy of resurrecting its DMP.

The retooling of Alabama’s DMP has begun. A team of WFF biologists will be working with biologists from other states who currently have programs similar to the DMP to build the best possible program for our wildlife and hunters. Our DMP will address deer-herd health, habitat quality, hunter satisfaction and harvest options. Revamping Alabama’s DMP may be one of the biggest improvements to deer management we’ve seen in the Cotton State since the reintroduction of whitetail deer. The program will provide cooperators access to detailed scientific information about their local herd, greater deer harvest options and flexibility, and assistance from a wildlife biologist familiar with their area to help guide them in their deer and habitat management decisions.

With the all-new DMP, we hope to offer many more freedoms to the properties enrolled in the program by providing multiple levels of the DMP. As before, there will be requirements to be enrolled in DMP and a WFF biologist will make sure each landowner, manager or club meets those requirements. DMP clubs will be evaluated and managed on a property-by-property basis. Requirements for participation (e.g., data collection, management practices, etc.) will depend on what level of DMP cooperators choose when they enroll, with some levels having much more rigorous requirements.

The resurrection of the Alabama DMP is a huge step in providing maximum flexibility when it comes to deer management on private lands, but it also gives WFF the ability to gain much needed harvest data from across the state. Site-specific data from DMP cooperators will be compiled by state biologists to track progress of the deer management activities on the property. The site-specific data also will be provided to each DMP cooperator annually so they can follow their own progression in the program. The data collected from DMP properties are vital for WFF when assessing the current status and monitoring trends regarding the overall health of the state’s deer population. They will also give hunters and deer managers the ability to make the most appropriate management decisions for their specific property and management objectives.

In the upcoming 2014-2015 season, hunters will see the first state-wide reduction in antlerless bag limits since the "two per day" limits began in the 2000-01 season. WFF biologists made this recommendation after years of analyzing deer harvests, reproductive health surveys, fawn recruitment surveys and hunter observations revealed stable-to-slightly-declining deer numbers.

How does the change in daily bag limit tie into the DMP? Under permit, DMP cooperators are allowed to harvest more than one antlerless deer per day regardless of the daily limits for the counties where their properties are located. This helps them more easily achieve their deer harvest goals and management objectives. Potential flexibility in buck harvest regulations and season dates may be possible once supporting data is collected on site by the DMP cooperator and WFF staff.

It is important to understand that the new program is in its infancy and all questions are not yet answered, but WFF is excited about where this program is headed. Allowing properties to be managed on a site-by-site basis has been a goal of WFF for quite some time, and a new DMP is the most logical route to reaching that goal.

It is noteworthy to remember that the current DMP is still available and landowners, hunting clubs and deer managers can sign up by contacting a WFF biologist or one of the district WFF offices. By signing up for the DMP, cooperators will be asked to provide some background information on their property to include maps, deer harvests and hunter observation data. This data will be used to provide a detailed report evaluating the current condition of the property’s deer herd. Cooperators also will receive harvest recommendations to assist them in achieving their desired management objectives. Over the course of several years, the data will show the effects of their management program and what has been accomplished on their property. Needed adjustments and fine tuning can be implemented based on sound data and not perception. This is the cornerstone of a successful DMP partnership.

There are several goals for retooling the DMP, but the main focus will be providing Alabama’s hunters a comprehensive deer management program while providing more flexibility in harvest opportunities. Providing hunters and managers an avenue to better reach their management objectives has long been a goal of WFF and the "new" DMP should be the program to do just that.

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



Sharing Joy in the Garden

Owners Dianne and Larry Crenshaw find their joy in sharing God’s beauty with others.

Stockton daylily garden has unique, easy-to-grow plants that will reward gardeners for years to come.

by Carolyn Drinkard

At Exit 31, just off I-65 in Baldwin County, there is a little-known piece of heaven on earth! It’s the Crenshaw Daylily Garden, just outside Stockton. As you drive down Scarborough Lane, you will be awed by the image before you. Massive old live oaks spread their arms to embrace thousands of smiling daylilies, swaying happily in the gentle breeze, cheerfully welcoming everyone who comes to revel in this breathtaking delight. One guest commented that it looked like a "scene from a movie," but that might not even come close to describing the garden’s splendor.

The daylily garden is located on a farm owned by Dianne and Larry Crenshaw. Seven years ago, Dianne’s aunt and uncle, Jacob and Roberta Hadley, decided to retire from their daylily business in Perdito, one they had run for 40 years. Even though Dianne had worked there as a young girl, she had never considered having her own daylily business. In fact, before retiring, she had spent her career in the post office and later in the insurance business.

When the Crenshaws purchased some of the plants, however, they were hooked. Even though they knew very little about daylilies, they were eager to learn. They quickly found there are over 60,000 varieties, and the popular plants have developed a "language" all their own. The couple had been told it would take 5 years to make a "go of this business."

Spread among the thousands of daylilies are interesting garden art and water features. Many of the metal pieces were made by Larry Crenshaw.

Dianne laughed and explained, "Not at our age. We only got one year!"

So the Crenshaws dedicated that year to learning all they could about daylilies. They traveled to Central Florida, Mississippi and other places; joined daylily clubs; and networked with growers and enthusiasts all over the South. They spent almost three Saturdays out of each month going to shows to soak in all the information they could. Finally, they were able to open their own garden in 2007. Since then, they have expanded each year until last year.

Dianne laughed and said, "I think we finally got it the size we want now."

Open April 15-June 30, the garden offers thousands of daylilies, in brilliant colors and incredible shapes and textures. The garden is divided into different areas containing from one- to three-gallon containers, starting at $5 and moving upward to over $100. Registered plants are also available.

In their 7 years of operating, Crenshaw Daylily Garden has welcomed thousands of guests. With their close proximity to the beaches, many out-of-state vacationers often choose to spend a lazy day in the garden. Both large and small groups arrive and spend hours meandering through the paths. Benches and tables rest in each area, so visitors can picnic on the premises or just sit and bask in the ambience. Often, artists set up their canvases under the stately oaks, seeking inspiration from the striking spectacle. Guests can also walk through the air-conditioned antique and gift shop or relax on the front porch, enjoying cold water and lounging in the serene atmosphere.

Visitors pull wagons through the manicured pathways or simply place their selections on the main path for employees to move to the checkout area. Once guests have made their selections, Diane, Larry and their two helpers lovingly tie each bag with a colored tape that matches the buyers’ clothing. Their two helpers, Laura Arnette and Patsy Hadley, work only part time, but "put in full-time effort," according to Dianne. It’s evident that all four love daylilies, as they enthusiastically offer advice and assistance to each customer.

Patsy Hadley, left, who works in the garden, explains how to hybridize a daylily to customers Jean McCall and Voncille Newsome.

Dianne and Larry find many of their guests are "returning customers," anxious to share their success stories or show their beautiful pictures. The name "daylily" comes from a Greek word that means "beauty for a day." Even though a flower may last only one day, the scapes usually have many buds, causing the blooms to last for weeks.

"You won’t find a more rewarding plant than a daylily," Dianne added.

Though semi-retired now, Larry still operates his machine shop, which he started in 1976 in Bay Minette. He also raises Paso Fino horses. Larry has made many of the unusual garden art pieces, accenting the flowers. During the three months when the garden is open, he spends many hours pollinating the plants.

"Larry loves to see what he can get by crossing the plants," Dianne explained.

Larry’s love of hybridizing and his patience in working with the cultivars have created some of the most diverse colors and shapes found in South Alabama. Some of his blooms span 5-10 inches. The Crenshaws have worked hard to produce adaptable, affordable plants that are easy to care for.

Charlotte Luker from Thomasville visited the garden recently with her Circle of Friends group. She plans to use the daylilies around her pool area.

"Each spring, we just can’t wait to see what’s new!" Dianne added.

Many gardeners and landscapers believe daylilies are the perfect plant for the novice or the professional. Diane and Larry couldn’t agree more.

"We’ve learned a lot these past 7 years," Dianne said. "We believe every garden has a place for a daylily. That’s why we strive hard to have beautiful daylilies at reasonable prices so our customers can share the joy that these beauties bring to us. This is what makes our garden so interesting!"

Crenshaw Farms Daylily Garden and Antiques is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Check them out on Facebook at Crenshaw Farms Daylily Garden or call 251-577-1235.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.



Shoo-fly

by Nadine Johnson

I’ll bet every single person who reads this column is familiar with white flies. I also suspect that not more than a dozen of these readers have ever heard of the herb called "Shoo-fly." Back in my growing days I was constantly plagued with these little white pests – and then I discovered a miracle worker.

Shoo-fly (Nicandra physalodes) is an annual plant. It easily grows to a height of six feet. It prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. It produces pretty, one-inch blue flowers followed by ornamental, papery husks. It will reseed.

I accidentally found this herb advertised in my favorite catalogue. Actually, I didn’t think it would repel flies. I was to be surprised. At the time my interest in herbs developed, I was living near Bay Minette in Baldwin County. I had a greenhouse. Late in the afternoon, the little white flies came in and covered everything. In fact, they covered everything both outside and inside.

In 1987, I ordered Shoo-fly seeds. During that summer, I had six or eight Shoo-fly plants scattered around the greenhouse and garden. White flies were still around, but I can’t recall fighting quite so fiercely. Evidently, I had done something to lessen their population. That fall, I saved a good supply of seed from my plants.

During the summer of 1988, I had approximately 50 of these plants which I had easily produced from my saved seeds. My white fly population was reduced drastically! In fact, I would not believe the reduction if I had not witnessed it myself. Really, I hunted white flies. I didn’t exactly count them, but I feel positive I saw no more than a dozen.

The advertisement for Shoo-fly states that it will help to control or repel all flies. I assume that would include the common housefly. Now won’t that be a bonus!!

As long as my husband and I continued to grow herbs and vegetables, I grew Shoo-fly. Those days are in my past, but well remembered.

If you cannot find these seed locally or from your favorite mail order source, try the following supplier: Companion Plants; 7247 North Coolville Road; Athens, Ohio 45701; telephone, 1-740-592-4643; or website www.companionplants.com.

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.



Silvopasture Agroforestry

Sustainable Forage, Meat Goat, and Timber Production Workshop Scheduled for Sept. 5-6

by Maria Lenira Leite-Browning, Ermson Z. Nyakatawa, James O. Bukenya, David A. Mays and Kozma Naka

Silvopasture is the integration of forage, livestock and timber production on one section of land. Silvopasture presents opportunities to increase the diversity of plants and animals, to sustainably increase land productivity, and improve cash flow by combining annual income from grazing and forage crops and later income from timber. Development of this opportunity is especially needed in the Black Belt region of central Alabama and northeast Mississippi where limited-resource and forest landowners on small- and medium-sized farms are facing viability problems and struggling to make a profit from conventional agriculture and traditional forestry practices. Silvopasture takes advantage of the fact that many forage plant species produce similar biomass and often have higher protein content when grown under partial shade. This allows landowners to continue to earn an annual income from livestock and hay while growing trees such as loblolly pines and hybrid poplar for timber.

Tree Establishment & Management

A silvopasture enterprise can be established in an existing pasture by planting trees or in an existing tree plantation by thinning the trees to reduce shading for understory forage planting. The thinning process leaves only the trees that will eventually produce quality sawtimber. About 150-200 trees per acre should be left standing. Trees specifically planted for silvopasture systems are generally planted in double set rows about 10 feet apart with 10 feet between the trees in a row. The spacing between each double set of trees is usually 40 feet. This 40-foot interspace area is then planted with a forage grass or mixtures if no desirable cover is present. For the production of high-quality sawtimber, the trees should be pruned to a height of up to 20 feet. Soil fertility of the trees should not be necessary since the understory forage crops are fertilized for good forage production. In recent times, hybrid poplar, a fast growing timber species that is a cross between an Eastern cottonwood and a European black poplar, is getting increased interest as an alternative to loblolly pine. Two systems are being used in Epes’s project: loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantation and establishing new "systems" by planting hybrid poplar (Populus deltoides x Populus nigra) trees followed by forage establishment.

Meat Goat Herd Management

A 25 breeding doe herd plus one herd sire on 6 acres can be applied. The herd should be kept on a semi-intensive management system with rotational grazing and access to browse pastures. When forages are deficient in quality or quantity, does should be supplemented with high quality hay and/or a byproduct feed such as whole cottonseed. Post-weaned kids need to be kept under forage management and supplemented with cottonseed 0.25 lb./head/day for 90-120 days, to be sold in the fall at a market.

Does should be bred once a year in the fall by natural service in a 30-45-day breeding season. Kids will then be born in the spring. Does should kid on pasture with access to shelters. Post-weaned bucklings are managed on forages and supplemented if needed to be sold at a weight of 50-60 pounds. Herd diseases prevention is based on vaccination against clostridium types C and D, tetanus and pneumonia. The herd sire should also be vaccinated once a year and kids should be vaccinated at weaning and booster shots given three weeks later. The FAMACHA system should be applied as a method to identify and manage animals with high Haemonchus contortus (barber pole worm) loads.

Economics

Economic analyses of a research study conducted at the Alabama Federation of Southern Cooperatives showed the technology of producing meat goats in a sustainable loblolly pine silvopasture system is profitable and financially feasible. A total operating cost per acre was estimated at $313 while total revenue was $512. Therefore, at these levels of revenue and cost, meat goat production enterprise would generate a profit of $198 per acre on average or $24.75 per goat. The total revenue from timber products (pulpwood, chip-n-saw and sawtimber) was estimated at $6,110 while total operating costs were $4,467 per acre. At these levels of revenue and cost, loblolly pine plantation enterprise is shown to generate a profit of $1,643 per acre on average. Overall, the results indicate this technology is profitable and financially feasible for limited-resource farmers. Revenue generated from meat goat production may vary with operational cost including nutrition, health and genetic management costs.

For more information on sustainable silvopasture systems for small farmers, a field day and training workshop is scheduled for September 5-6, 2014, at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund Rural Training and Research Center located at 575 Federation Road, Gainesville, AL 35464 (near Epes in Sumter County). Presentations will include economic benefits of silvopasture systems, as well as on-site demonstrations at FCS/LAF, Tree Establishment and Management, Forage Establishment and Management, Meat Goat Breeds, Goat Herd Management, Animal Nutrition and Economics of Silvopasture Systems.

The event is FREE, but you MUST pre-register by August 15, 2014. On Saturday, September 6, breakfast and registration will be held in the Epes Conference Room from 7:30-9 a.m. For additional information and registration contact:

Maria Leite-Browning at mll0002@aces.edu or 256-372-4954

Tommy Teacher, urban regional Extension agent, ACES, atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. '; document.getElementById('cloak61171').innerHTML += ''+addy_text61171+'<\/a>'; //--> or 334-624-8710

Willie H. Lampley, county Extension coordinator, Economic and Community Development, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. '; document.getElementById('cloak61636').innerHTML += ''+addy_text61636+'<\/a>'; //--> or 205-652-9501

For hotel (room) accommodations: Please contact Randy Gibbs, FSC/LAF at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. '; document.getElementById('cloak13598').innerHTML += ''+addy_text13598+'<\/a>'; //--> or 205-652-9676.

Maria Lenira Leite-Browning, DVM, is an animal scientist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama A&M University; Ermson Z. Nyakatawa, PhD, is a research scientist/professor at College of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University; James O. Bukenya, PhD, is professor of Resource Economics, College of Business and Public Affairs, Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University; David A. Mays, PhD, is an adjunct professor of Agronomy, College of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University; and Kozma Naka, PhD, is an associate professor of Forestry, College of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University.



Sometimes I Wonder ....

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Did you realize that for JUST $40 (plus the obligatory shipping and handling) you can order a scented candle that will make your house smell like you have been burning wood in a fireplace .... "That sweet smell of wood smoke wafting from a chimney can make any dwelling seem homey and cozy."

That was just one of the ads I noticed in one of the sleek "country-style living" magazines the other day. And I think it said it was a teeny-tiny, eight-ounce candle! I could buy a small TRUCKLOAD of firewood for that price!

(Don’t worry. I didn’t buy the magazine. It was in the used magazine bin in my little store.)

And all this time I’ve been worried during the winter months on the few times I actually go anywhere off the farm because I feared my clothes, my hair and ME always smelled of wood smoke since that’s the only heat I have.

Now I discover that wherever I go I’m just adding to the "cozy ambiance."

But now it’s summer. It’s HOT outside. The humidity has been awful so far, at least it seems so to me.

And, of course, I’m living without air conditioning.

The windows are thrown open wide. The ceiling fans are twirling. And I’m enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of my little homestead.

Once again, you can walk into any big store or grocery store and find shelves of deodorizers and room fresheners (most containing chemicals that you can’t pronounce and probably, at least in my opinion, don’t need to be breathing).

One is advertised to completely dispel the "mustiness" of your home ....

I read books from years gone by and see how the old timers dispelled that mustiness when spring time approached. They opened all their doors and windows, gave everything a good scrubbing, and left those doors and windows open until frost approached!

Yes. It can get hot. But I grew up in the rural South where nobody had air conditioning.

When we visited my Granny and Grandpa Inmon in Oneonta during the summer, if it was a morning visit, we sat on the squeaky glider or wobbly rockers on their front porch. If it was afternoon, we sat out back (near Grandpa’s worm bed, the vegetable plot and Granny’s flowers) under a huge shade tree that also shielded their coal pile in the winter.

Later, I lived in Florida for 3 years with two little girls of my own. There was no air conditioning in the newly constructed house we bought there ... even my car didn’t have air conditioning! And evidently we didn’t melt.

We weren’t used to air conditioning so we didn’t miss it.

My kids played outside so much that when my parents came down for their first visit and my oldest daughter was outside with a group of neighborhood kids, they didn’t recognize her because her hair had been bleached by the sun and she was tan and healthy.

And there are so many added benefits of having open windows at home.

Some of you may have heard the story of my hen who laid her first egg many years ago when I was first starting with chickens.

My husband told me there would be a special cackling-song a hen would sing when she laid her egg. With windows wide I was writing inside the house that August morning when I heard it! That special song!

I raced outside to the chickens and sure enough, a big brown hen had laid her first egg and was letting the world know all about it! If my windows had been closed, I would have missed that joy!

Sure, it gets hot in my house sometimes … especially in my kitchen when I’m making jelly to sell in my little store. In my perfect homestead, I would have a "summer kitchen" out back where it would be cooler for such activities. BUT, for now, I just do those type things early in the morning or late at night when it’s cooler. Very simple.

And then there’s that other thing that keeps me wondering ... and if you read my columns you probably know this as well.

I don’t have a clothes dryer except the solar one stretched out in my backyard!

Who hasn’t seen the TV commercial advertising the fabric softener that makes your clothes and bedding smell like it’s been hanging on the clothesline!

I just hang my sheets on the line, put them back on the bed that night, and voilà! I have that fresh smell and it hasn’t cost me a penny!

I know everybody doesn’t want to live the way I do. I know there are lots of conveniences I enjoy.

But to me it seems so contradictory to work at a job away from home so you can afford all the high-costing conveniences in your home that you are SELDOM home to enjoy.

So many kids have extravagant play sets in the backyards (and even wonderful swimming pools!), but they’re not around to enjoy them much because they’re in after-school activities or day care because both parents are having to work to pay for all those goodies.

Sometimes I wonder if the kids wouldn’t be just as happy with a tire swing hanging from a tree limb and a homemade dam made at the creek at the bottom of the hill and maybe a parent or two around a little more to play WITH them ....

Don’t get me wrong. This is America. We can work and have just about anything we want or dream of. And it’s everybody’s right to do just that. Not many of us would want to go back to using outhouses and hauling water ....

But sometimes I wonder ... if we have lost our moral compass as we march toward more elaborate play groups, vehicles that are computerized wonders and neatly manicured lawns around those climate-controlled houses.

Think back to your best memories as a child ... I bet they involve PEOPLE and not THINGS ....

Lately I’ve had so many people tell me they wish they could live my lifestyle or they are "envious" of my life here on this small farm. But they are busy counting their years until retirement. Or their health may be deteriorating. Or they just need to get more bills paid off first.

It’s wonderful to plan and to dream and to have hope! But this is the only life you will have so you need to do what you really want to do NOW! You may not want to live a simple life like me, but DON’T WAIT to do whatever you want ....

You can figure out how to meet your responsibilities and how to make your life the peace-filled rewarding life you want if you just try.

There’s NOTHING stopping you from doing what you want to do except YOURSELF!

Have family responsibilities? Great! Nothing is better for kids than to be raised on a simple family farm. Have older parents? They’d probably enjoy that change of lifestyle, too!

Have health problems? You are going to have them wherever you are so you might as well be living and enjoying where you want to be. And who knows, a less stressful lifestyle might actually improve your health!

Have a lot of debt? Pay it down as quickly as you can by doing without some of the extravagances you don’t REALLY have to have … and then don’t have any debt except your house payment and, once you pay off your home and farm, NEVER EVER put another mortgage on it .... I am speaking from experience!

(And just try opening those windows and shutting down that thermostat ... isn’t there something you want MORE that you could use that power bill money for???)

So don’t live your life dreaming of when you’ll retire, or how things will be different when you get that raise or when you get that promotion. Begin LIVING YOUR LIFE NOW!

Those tomorrows are not guaranteed.

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



Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: Since Bewley started working down at the mill, he’s gotten a pickup that doesn’t break down every other day, built him a porch on the front of his dogtrot and even got indoor plumbing! Compared to a year ago, he’s really living high on the hog.

What does a hog have to do with a man bettering himself?

"High on the hog" designates living in great comfort with a lot of money … to live affluently and luxuriously.

The source of this phrase is often said to be the fact that the best cuts of meat on a pig come from the back and upper leg and the wealthy ate cuts from "high on the hog," while the paupers ate belly pork and trotters. The imagery of lords and ladies feasting on fine meats, done to a turn, at Olde Englyshe banquets is easy to bring to mind and this seems to be the right context for the phrase to have been coined in. However, as far as the source of this expression goes, our imagination needs to leap forward a few centuries.

None of the variants of the phrase "living (or eating) high on (or off) the hog" is to be found in any of the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare or the like. In fact, they aren’t found in print in any form until the 20th century, and then in the United States rather than England.

"High" has been used in the United Kingdom with the meaning "impressive; superlative; exalted" since the 17th century and in the United States since the early 19th century; for example, this from Samuel Pepys’ Diary or, as he liked to call it, Samuel Pepys’ Memoirs - Comprising his Diary, in the entry for 29th July 1667:

"Where it seems people do drink high."

The word alluded to people’s status and is the source of the terms "high-life" (18th century), "high-table" (15th century) and even "high-heaven" (9th century).

The idea that "living high on the hog" initially meant "living the high life" and eating pork, rather than literally "eating meat from high on the pig," seems plausible, but is dealt a blow by the following citation. This is the earliest printed form of the phrase I have come across - from the New York Times, March 1920:

"Southern laborers who are ‘eating too high up on the hog’ (pork chops and ham) and American housewives who ‘eat too far back on the beef’ (porterhouse and round steak) are to blame for the continued high cost of living, the American Institute of Meat Packers announced today."

"High off the hog" has a similar pedigree, that is, mid-20th century United States; for example, the San Francisco paper the Call-Bulletin, May 1946:

"I have to do my shopping in the black market because we can’t eat as high off the hog as Roosevelt and Ickes and Joe Davis and all those millionaire friends of the common man."

An alternative suggestion, also originating in America, is piglets that get suckled from the top row of teats of the prone mother sow tend to fare better. There are various explanations as to why the top row is considered more advantageous – either that the teats are easier to access there and so the "top" piglets get more milk or the top row of teats express milk more easily. Either way, it seems that this explanation is what etymologists call a "back-formation"; that is, it is a plausible story that is back fitted to provide a supposed derivation of an existing phrase. The explanation is only found in the late 20th century and, as it post-dates the phrase, appears to be spurious.

There is also a phrase of Irish descent, "on the pig’s back." The imagery there is with happy children riding on pigs and generally having a good time. The phrase certainly predates the American "cuts from high on the pig" meaning, but the connection with "high on the hog" may be no more than coincidental. The expression took many years to travel outside Ireland and the Irish expatriate communities in Australia/New Zealand, and it is quite reasonable to accept that the two phrases developed independently.

Why, when people had eaten pork for millennia, did the phrase not originate before the 20th century, is a difficult question to answer. Nevertheless, "high on the hog" appears to have been derived, in the United States, as a reference to the cuts of meat on pigs. The question of why the clunky idiom "eating too far back on the beef" didn’t quite catch on with the public is a little easier to resolve.

phrases.org




Summer Dinner Challenges

Rolley Len Kirk helps her mother Christy prepare Cheeseburger Casserole.

by Christy Kirk

During the summer months as the days get longer, Rolley Len and Cason end up playing outside later and later as the heat of the day wears off in the afternoons. That means getting the timing right for when to actually serve dinner can be tricky. We try to stick to a schedule during the summer, but, if our kids are busy late in the day helping daddy pull up lily pads in the pond or feeding the cows and sheep, flexibility is the key to success. I usually watch out the window as I cook to gauge how far out they may be from coming inside. Even when I time the plating of food with their arrival just right, that doesn’t mean they are ready to eat.

Anyone who has raised a child knows that appetites can grow or disappear quickly and without warning. One of the hardest aspects of planning dinner for my family is that sometimes I cannot determine how hungry the three of them will be by dinnertime. In the summer, it is easier because I see what Rolley Len and Cason eat for lunch, and I know what time they ate it because usually I am the one who prepared it for them.

For dinner, I consider what was on their daily menu and then make something that balances their diet. Rolley Len and Cason eat pretty much anything I or Jason make. They try a lot of new foods – which is great, too. But once we all get to the table, we find out how hungry they actually are. Sometimes they will try something new, love it, ask for seconds and gobble up the second helping. Other times, we will have an old favorite and one or both of the kids will just pick at it and not eat. The appetites of small children can be very unpredictable, so Jason and I stick to our motto: If the kids are hungry, they will eat.

With school starting this month, Jason and I have to start planning ahead. Throughout the year, our family needs meals that are not only inexpensive and easy to prepare but also meals that will keep well for another dinner on another day. I started thinking about what we already eat regularly, and then about what new and different meals we can add to our menu.

My friend and former coworker Mary Isbell had a baby during the past school year. Before Mary gave birth, she prepared and froze many dinners for her family. Jason freezes a lot of meat and fish, but, except for camp stew, we usually don’t freeze prepared dinners. Mary’s efficiency was just the spark to motivate me into thinking about prepping frozen casseroles and dishes for the next school year. I scouted some websites and found a couple of recipes for ground beef casseroles that I can easily substitute with ground deer meat. I think Rolley Len and Cason will really like the ones I chose, and they are also simple enough they can help me prepare them.

We don’t usually eat a lot of chicken at home, but recently I saw a recipe posted by one of my friends from high school, Traci Titus Boyd, and I knew I had to make it for us. Traci is my age, but has 10 children from age four months to almost 19 years old. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed with work, housework, errands and schedule juggling, I just take a look at what all Traci does in a day. (Did I mention she home schools all the children, too?) Most of us parents ponder what to fix for dinner that will please just a few people, but Traci is cooking for 12 appetites! The recipe Traci posted was for Firecracker Chicken, and I figured if it satisfied the entire Boyd family, then my family would love it. The night I made it, Cason wasn’t hungry at all, but Rolley Len ate two huge servings with brown rice.

On our busiest days, takeout pizza or chicken fingers can be awesomely easy, but as a parent I know we really have to do better for our children’s next meal. Whether you have one tiny baby or 10 (or more!) grown children, parents have to make sure they are doing their best to nourish their family. As Rolley Len and Cason get older and hit all their growth spurts, they are just going to eat more and more. So I am training myself now while they are small in preparation for the future when they will "eat us out of house and home."

Cheeseburger Casserole
(makes 3 casseroles)

Topping:

2 pounds ground deer meat

1 onion, diced

6 cups cheddar cheese, grated, divided

Crust:

5 cups self-rising flour

3/4 cup sour cream

1 egg

1 cup water

In a large skillet, cook meat and onion over medium high heat until onion is soft and meat is browned. Drain and set aside to cool.

Make crust by combining the flour, sour cream, egg and enough water to make it into a thick, but spreadable consistency. Divide into three parts.

Spray three baking pans and spread a layer of dough into each one. Sprinkle the cooled meat mixture over the dough. Top each with cheddar.

Cover with a lid and freeze for later, or bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

Tex Mex Deer Casserole
(makes 4 casseroles)

2 pounds ground deer meat, browned and drained

8 cups cooked rice

2 cans Rotel tomatoes

2 packs taco seasoning

2 cans whole kernel corn, drained

2 cans black beans, not drained

1 small can black olives, drained (optional)

6 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Mix all ingredients, except the cheese, in a bowl. Divide the mixture into four pans, Top each with cheese.

Cover with a lid and freeze for later, or bake at 350° until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa on top, and tortilla chips.

Firecracker Chicken

Firecracker Chicken

Salt and pepper, to taste

3-4 uncooked chicken breasts, cut into chunks

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup oil

2 large eggs, beaten

Sauce:
3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark)

1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 325° and prepare an 8x11 casserole dish with cooking spray.

Whisk sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Put salt and pepper in a large bowl and add chicken. Toss chicken to season. Add cornstarch to bowl and stir/toss again until chicken is coated.

Heat oil in large skillet. Dip chicken in the eggs and place in skillet. Stir consistently to cook the chicken evenly and break up the egg mixture.

Once the chicken is cooked through, place in prepared baking dish. Cover with the sauce and bake for about 45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes so the sauce coats the chicken thoroughly.

Optional: Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

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



Sundays Headed Home

by Baxter Black

I have been a travelin’ man a good part of my life. Most of my speakin’ jobs are Friday and Saturday nights, so Sunday means I’m usually on the road and headed home.

For me, Sunday morning on the road is a good part of bein’ me. Nine times out of ten, I’m in a rental car drivin’ to an airport where I board a flight to a major hub where I connect to another flight that gets me within an hour of bein’ home.

Since my territory covers the United States and Canada, I get to see fresh country every week. In different seasons, in all kinds of weather, day or night … it’s like a travel movie. I stop and take pictures for the office Facebook page. I always try to include photos of cows on green pasture, high desert, corn stubble, palmetto, cactus, forests, woods, swamps, the frozen north and mesquite higher than your horse. A picture that I think might interest any farmer watchin’ from another part of the country.

I’m a good traveler, but a poor tourist; though sometimes I can’t resist taking pictures! Like ice on the Mississippi River, a bridge in Duluth, the peaks and rock formations on the road from Reno to Bishop, the state house in Albany, Cullman to Nashville, Thibodaux to Baton Rouge, Livingston to Billings, Van Horn to Alpine, Audubon to Omaha, Stockville to North Platte, the Wal-Mart in Silver City, Moab, London, OH, Portland (both of them), Springfield (both of them), Emporia to Eldorado, Denver to Lamar, Pittsburg to Elkins, the Appalachians, at least three Greenfields, Miami to Brandon, Miami to Tulsa, Miami to Wauchula and, finally, Tucson to Benson.

On the road most Sunday mornings my spirits are high. The folks who come to my programs are my folks; rural … country people who are involved in agriculture, its land and its animals. They invite me to their town, they make me welcome and I do my best to give them their money’s worth.

So when I head out the next morning with a cup of convenience store coffee in the cup holder of my rental car, I am uplifted, the world is good, I don’t have to worry about next week yet. I have time to let the camaraderie of last night sink in and I inevitably talk to God and thank Him for another good time, for the wonderful people whose world I get to be a part of, and the fortuitous blessing that I was born in America.

I usually have a big ol’ grin on my face. He travels with me. He’s always there, regardless of my behavior. I guess on those "coming home" Sundays I get to spend a little private time with Him - which is pretty generous considering all the church services He’s committed to on Sunday mornings. I mean, ya know He’s got to be busy. But it doesn’t stop me from rattlin’ on and, somehow, He always seems to have time to listen to me and I don’t take it for granted.

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.



Syrup Tubs, Escape Routes and Access Roads

by John Howle

"If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough." Albert Einstein

I’ve noticed in many areas of life, whether it be in government, education or business, some people use big words to share ideas that could be expressed more simply. Why do they do this? Some reasons people give are: Keep my job because I throw out words that make me sound smarter than anyone else at the table; impress my boss; divert everyone’s attention from the fact I don’t know what I’m talking about while the audience focuses on the big words I just used; so I can rise in politics; and so I can write curriculum for new educational standards.

Here’s a sentence in educational academia followed by the translation: "Let us focus on performance-based, data-driven methodologies for scaffolding acceptable paradigm shifts and technology-infused educational benchmarks for all stakeholders." Translation: "I hope all the kids pass this year." I’ve been a teacher for 21 years, and I’ve witnessed the size of words grow like patches of unsprayed thistle in the pasture.

In recent years, politics has seen its share of jargon increase as well. Instead of agreeing to negotiate with Republicans over cutting social safety-net programs such as welfare and food stamps, the White House issued a statement that said, "We will be willing to create a ‘permission structure’ to allow us to do what’s best for the country." I guess a "permission structure" means, "OK, we will allow you to talk with us."

Used syrup tubs make great storage bins. Make sure to thoroughly clean with soap and a brush before bringing into the house.

Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the greatest writers in American literature. He understood how important it is to express ideas in a simple manner. As a matter of fact, he won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 for his novel, "The Old Man and the Sea." Here’s the first sentence of the book: "He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish." Hemingway proved that simplicity was better than complexity

Syrup Tubs to Storage Bins

Your local Co-op is the best source for supplemental minerals and supplements for livestock, but what do you do when containers such as syrup tubs are empty? Sure, the cows will have a good time knocking the empty tubs around until they wedge into the corner of the fence, but there are better uses for the empty tubs.

When cleaned out, they make ideal storage bins for items such as children’s toys. Drill a couple of holes in the bottom, and you have a convenient planter for tomato plants or flowers. The lightweight design of the tubs makes them easy to move, and having a secondary use for the tubs keeps them out of the pasture.

Livestock Escape Route

When it’s time to round up the cattle into the catch pen, it’s important to have an escape route. It’s very likely you’ve never had any trouble putting your cattle in containment areas, but there’s always the chance of getting that one agitated cow hemmed up with nowhere to go.

Plenty of times, the cattle seem docile when grazing or when you are driving them into the pen, but, once enclosed, some may become agitated and, therefore, they can become quite dangerous. If you have a well-constructed livestock pen, make sure you have openings where you can get a leg up and over the corral if a cow does go crazy.

We recently had this experience on our farm when a veteran cow went nuts. Fortunately, my Dad and I were able to get a leg up and into the one-foot spacing between the 2-by-6 planks around the perimeter of the pen and get out of danger.

Prepare Your Access Roads Now for Winter Feeding

When it’s in the heat of August, we don’t think about winter feeding and the muddy mess that can accumulate around gate entrances. However, this is the ideal time to apply gravel to access roads. If you have gravel bars in the edge of the creek, this time of year, the creek will be low making it easier to access creek gravel, which packs well and holds up under constant traffic from tractors and trucks.

August Fishing

If you are ready to take a break from the garden and the hay fields, try some bass fishing at a local lake or farm pond. In August, bass will bite readily at lures made to resemble their natural food sources. Crank baits, spinner baits and plastics are the most common lures to use. Crank baits move through the water with treble hooks, spinner baits can range from rooster tails to top water spinner baits, and plastics are typically rubber worms, lizards or crayfish.

When you retrieve crank baits and spinner baits, you are continually moving the bait across the top of the water or underneath the surface by cranking.

Plastics are usually retrieved with slow, jerky movements along the lake bottom. Be sure to take time this August to show the younger ones how to fish, and remember the old Chinese proverb (fortunately it is easy to remember because it was written in a simple manner), "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Whether you are taking a child fishing, writing an educational standard, or showing a new product to business investors, follow Einstein’s advice and understand your subject well enough to explain it in simple terms.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Tell Your Story


Troy and Stacy Hadrick at Auburn University’s 2014 Beef Cattle Conference

Before Someone Else Does

by Michelle Bufkin

Troy and Stacy Hadrick are cattle farmers living in South Dakota. They are a fifth-generation farming family and hope to pass their farm down to their children one day, but realize some people would prefer that not happen.

The Hadricks viewed themselves as normal, everyday cattle farmers in 2002 when Michael Pollan from The New York Times asked to write a story about one of their steers from birth to death. The Hadricks thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to spread the knowledge of agriculture with people who normally do not hear it.

After agreeing to provide Pollan with the hands-on experience necessary for the article, they welcomed him into their home and allowed him to submerge into their world. They thought, since Pollan was seeing the agriculture world firsthand, he would write about it and allow the world to see that production agriculture is not as bad as the media portrays.

That is not what occurred. The day the article "Power Steer" was released was the first time the Hadricks read it, and they were aghast. The article was nothing like what Pollan experienced while at their farm, and did not tell the truth about them as farmers or the truth about the agricultural industry, like he said it would.

The article includes these quotes from Pollan: "Most of the efforts are reactive: it’s accepted that the animals will enter the kill floor caked with feedlot manure that has been rendered lethal by the feedlot diet. Rather than try to alter that diet or keep the animals from living in their waste or slow the line speed – all changes regarded as impractical – the industry focuses on disinfecting the manure that will inevitably find its way into the meat.

"Eating beef every day might not be such a smart idea anyway – for our health, for the environment. And how cheap, really, is cheap feedlot beef? Not cheap at all, when you add in the invisible costs of antibiotic resistance, environmental degradation, heart disease, E. coli poisoning, corn subsidies, imported oil and so on.

"Meat eating may have become an act riddled with moral and ethical ambiguities …."

These quotes were not what Troy and Stacy Hadrick had in mind when they agreed to the article, and it was not the message Troy wanted to share about the agriculture industry; so he and his family decided to begin telling their own story, because they know it best. They are now prominent advocates for agriculture, travelling around the country and telling their story along with the true story of agriculture.

This is an extreme case. It is highly unlikely that a New York Times journalist will try to pull one over on you, but there are regular people spreading these same lies about our industry, and people believe them because they sound intelligent. People are desperate for knowledge about where their food comes from.

"Once people realize you are in the production agriculture industry, they will ask questions. Be prepared," Stacy said.

But you do not have to travel somewhere else to tell your story, you can do it wherever you are - at the gas station, at work, at the grocery store.

The Hadricks have a simple way to help you begin telling your story, the three Ts: Talk, Teach and Touch. Begin by talking to people, prepare your 30-second elevator speech about what you do and deliver it. Then, if they ask questions, teach them the correct and true things about agriculture. Lastly, touch, give a firm handshake, thank them for talking to you and invite them to your farm; open up and try to have an actual relationship with them. When people see you care about them, they are more likely to actually listen to what you say.

Troy’s biggest piece of advice is to be passionate.

"If you are not passionate about what you do, then no one else will be," Troy explained.

People are more willing to listen and believe what you say if you show that you love agriculture, you care about the animals you are raising and you raise crops because you want to help feed people.

You may wonder, what good does one person telling their story do? If everyone in the agriculture industry began telling his or her one story, it would make a large difference.

The Hadricks proved how much influence voicing our opinion can have when they stopped The Humane Society of the United States from receiving $200,000 (used for lobbying against agriculture) from Yellowtail in Australia. After seeing that Yellowtail donated $100,000 to HSUS, Troy posted on Yellowtail’s Facebook page telling his story of how this donation will hurt his family and friends who are farmers. He told all of his friends to do the same; Yellowtail saw these posts and decided to cancel their future donations to HSUS.

Telling your story might not be done in the New York Times or stop HSUS from receiving money, but it might change one person’s perception of the industry that you dedicate your whole life to. Only you know your personal story, so only you can tell it correctly. Your story has the potential to help people understand your industry, but only if you get out and talk to people.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.



The Co-op Pantry

We are honored to have Susan Smith as our cook of the month! Susan began working at Alabama Farmers Cooperative in 1999 in the Cooperative Accounting Service department. She then changed departments (and buildings, sigh) and now is the right-hand woman for Steve Moore, vice president of our Feed Farm and Home Department and Animal Health guru.

Susan told me, "I was born and raised in Morgan County. I still live on the family farm I was raised on in the southern part of the county. My brother and I raise beef cattle and sorghum silage for feed. About a week or so of my vacation time from AFC is used cutting silage each summer."

Susan is the proud mom of two lovely daughters, Beth and Katie, and has three grandchildren, Hunter, Dillon, Flint and one on the way.

"Besides working on the farm, I enjoy working with plants. Each spring, I repot many of my plants and move them out of the greenhouse that Jim Allen (AFC Cooperative Farming News’ editor-in-chief and gardening enthusiast) and I built behind my house. When repotting each spring, I pot the new shoots that a plant has propagated. By doing this, I have plenty of plants to share and one of the things I enjoy about growing plants is sharing them with friends and family. Since the greenhouse gets too hot for most plants, it is an annual migration - out in the spring and back in just before the first danger of frost in late fall. Besides wintering my plants, I usually take in the plants of a few family members and friends as well.

"I have been an employee of AFC for 14 years. I currently work at Feed Farm and Home in the Animal Health division. I assist Steve Moore in placing some orders with vendors. I receive products into the warehouse, enter customer orders, bill customers and enter invoices for payment.

"I work with the youth at the Falkville First United Methodist Church. I just recently returned from my second mission trip to Honduras. I head up the drive to fill the Christmas boxes for the children in Honduras at our church each year."

I would like to add that Susan also sold some of the most beautiful handmade bracelets I have ever had the pleasure of wearing. The bracelets were made in Nepal by girls and women who had been rescued from extreme poverty or outright slavery.

Susan related, "I was the first female to enroll in Ag at my high school and took it all four years. However, I am a home economics drop out. I wanted to be in cooking the first semester, but they put me in sewing so I dropped the class. I learned my cooking skills from my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and friends, and continue to learn new things today."

She has an incredible sense of humor; at one point she raised donkeys and was kind enough to name some of them in honor of her co-workers. In addition to her wonderful sense of humor, she is also an incredibly kind person who would literally give you her last penny if you needed it. Susan was trying to get ready to go to our biannual booking show while we were getting this together and I appreciate the effort she made to get us the article and some delicious recipes and fulfill her job duties at the same time.

EARTHQUAKE CAKE

2/3 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup chocolate chips
½ cup pecans, chopped
1 box German chocolate cake mix (do not use directions on box)
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups water
½ cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 pound powdered sugar (3¾ cups)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle coconut, chocolate chips and pecans on bottom of pan. Mix German chocolate cake mix with oil, eggs and water. Pour cake mix on top of coconut/chocolate chip/pecan layer. In a saucepan, melt butter and cream cheese. Beat powdered sugar into butter/cream cheese until smooth. Spread this mixture on top of the uncooked cake mix. Swirl into cake mix using a knife. Bake for 35-45 minutes. It is done when it doesn’t wobble in the pan if you shake it. (Toothpick test won’t work because the cake will be gooey in nature.)

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE

Softened butter, for the casserole dish
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (one 29-ounce can, drained or 2 pounds fresh sweet potatoes, baked or peeled and boiled, then mashed)
1 cup granulated sugar (or Splenda)
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter, melted
2 large eggs
½ cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping
1½ cups packed brown sugar (I used Splenda Brown Sugar)
2/3 cup self-rising flour
1½ sticks (12 Tablespoons) cold butter, cut into bits
1½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter casserole dish. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, granulated sugar or Splenda, butter, eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Spoon mixture into buttered casserole dish. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and flour. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter and pecans. Scatter the topping over sweet potatoes. Bake until topping is crisp and potatoes are piping hot, about 1 hour.

BROCCOLI RAISIN SALAD

Heads from 4 stalks of broccoli, broken into small florets
1 medium purple onion, chopped
1 cup light raisins
1 cup pecans
1 cup mayonnaise
1-1½ cups sugar
4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Crumbled bacon (or jar of real bacon pieces)

Combine broccoli, onion, raisins and pecans in a large salad bowl. Mix mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar in small bowl. Add to salad, mix well. Chill overnight. Add crumbled bacon about 20 minutes before you serve.

TRULY DIFFERENT CUPCAKES

4 (1-ounce) squares of semisweet chocolate
2 sticks margarine
2 cups pecans, chopped
¼ teaspoon butter flavoring
1¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup unsifted plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°. Melt chocolate and margarine together in a saucepan over low heat. Add pecans and stir until nuts are coated. Stir in butter flavoring. In a mixing bowl, blend together sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla. Do not beat. Stir in chocolate mixture, but do not beat. Spoon batter into regular paper-lined muffin tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, or spoon one tablespoon batter into miniature paper-lined muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes. Makes 24 regular or 48 miniature cupcakes.

CHOCOLATE LAYERED DESSERT

½ cup butter
1½ cups graham crackers, crushed
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup dark baking chips
1 cup butterscotch baking chips
1 cup Heath Milk Chocolate English
Tof fee baking chips
1 cup miniature marshmallows
7 ounces angel-flake coconut
2 cups walnuts, chopped
1 (7-ounce) can Dulce de Leche
1 (7-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a saucepan and mix in graham crackers. Press mixture into bottom of a lightly greased 13x9 pan. Layer in order semisweet chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch, English Toffee, marshmallows, coconut and walnuts. In a small bowl, mix Dulce de Leche and sweetened condensed milk (warm in the microwave for a few seconds if necessary to blend and make pourable). Pour mixture evenly over layered ingredients. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan and cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.

SOUTHERN BAKE MACARONI AND CHEESE

8 ounces elbow macaroni
1 stick butter, sliced into pats
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
5 eggs
2 cups milk
Salt, about ¾ teaspoon
Pepper, to taste

Boil macaroni as directed on package. Strain and pour into large bowl. Add butter and cheese. Stir until melted and coated. In separate bowl, mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Stir egg mixture into macaroni mixture. Pour into a greased 2½ quart casserole dish. Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes; sides should be firm, but jiggly in the center

BETTER SAUSAGE BALLS

1 pound hot pork sausage (raw)
2 cups Bisquick
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine sausage, Bisquick and cheese. Form into walnut size balls and place on baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and sausage is cooked through.

SAUSAGE BISCUIT BITES

1 pound sausage (Tennessee Pride), I use hot
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 (10 count) cans flaky biscuits (Grands! Jrs)

Preheat oven to 400°. Mix uncooked sausage and cheese until well blended. Shape into 40 balls of equal size. Remove biscuits from cans and separate each biscuit into two layers, making 40 total biscuit layers. Press one layer of biscuit into each cup of a lightly greased mini-muffin pan. Place sausage-cheese ball in each biscuit cup. Bake for 11 minutes or until biscuits are browned and sausage balls are bubbly.

JALAPEÑO POPPER DIP

6-8 slices of bacon, sliced and cooked crispy
2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
4-6 jalapeños, chopped and deseeded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup green onion, diced

Topping
1 cup crushed crackers (I use Ritz)
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients into a medium bowl. Stir well. Transfer to an oven-proof dish (the size of the dish depends on how thick the dip will be. The thicker the dip, the longer it may need to warm it up. I use a stoneware dish that measured about 12” across so my dip is usually about an inch thick.) Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle all over the top of dip. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly.

HOT PEPPER JELLY

2/3 cup hot peppers (can vary according to what type peppers used and how hot you want your jelly)
1 bell pepper
1½ cups white vinegar
6 cups sugar
2 (4-ounce) packages liquid Certo
1 teaspoon food coloring (red or green - use red for hotter and green for milder jelly)

Chop peppers and combine with vinegar. Blend well and pour into large boiler. Add sugar and mix well. Bring mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, strain through sieve and return liquid back to boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add Certo and food coloring quickly. Put into jars and seal. (I use heated seal method, where I heat the lids in boiling water, place on jar and secure ring tightly. Listen for lids to ding or pop, which tells you they have sealed.)

TACO BAKE

1½ pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
Water
½ cup Salsa Con Queso
3 large flour tortillas (8-inch size)
1½ -2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350°. Brown and crumble ground beef. Drain excess grease. Add taco seasoning and water (following directions on back of seasoning packet). Once the taco meat is ready, turn off heat and add con queso. Stir until thoroughly combined. Spray an 8-inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Layer the bottom of pan with tortilla. Add 1/3 of the ground beef taco filling. Add 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Continue layering until ingredients are used up. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and edges are slightly golden brown. Allow to cool for a couple of minute. Then slice and serve.

Note: You may serve with sour cream and diced tomatoes on top and Spanish rice on the side. Good either way!

PINEAPPLE CASSEROLE

1 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 (20-ounce) cans pineapple chunks, drained, but reserve 6 tablespoons of juice
1 cup cracker crumbs (recommend Ritz)
8 Tablespoon (1 stick) butter, melted, plus extra for greasing pan

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, stir together sugar and flour. Gradually stir in cheese. Add pineapple chunks. Stir until ingredients are well combined. Pour mixture into greased casserole dish. In another medium bowl, combine cracker crumbs, butter and reserved pineapple juice. Stir with a rubber spatula until evenly blended. Spread crumb mixture on top of pineapple mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

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

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2014 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook when it is published.
-- Mary




The Farm Side of Life

Students stop to pick onions at Reeves Peach Farm.

Farm Tour for Kids introduces Morgan Co. children to agriculture.

by Summer Stidham

Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District and Morgan County Environmental Education Foundation presented a Farm Tour for Kids on June 3, 2014. The farm tour was made possible by a grant through Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valley’s RC&D Council.

The field trip was open to children ages 7-13 from all over Morgan County. Fifty-one students and seven parents were able to attend. Students were taken on a charter bus to Gullion Farms in Somerville. Gullion Farms is owned by Steve and Tammy Gullion. It is a working farm that has been in production for over 30 years. They provide field trips to students to be able to experience the farm side of life. The children picked up eggs from a hen house, milked a cow, experienced various types of farm animals, rode ponies, fished in a pond and enjoyed a hay ride. During all of these fun activities, the students were learning very important lessons about agriculture in the state of Alabama.

Mike Reeves, right, lets the students in on his firsthand knowledge of peach farming.

The second leg of the field trip was to Reeves Peach Farm in Hartselle. At the peach farm Alabama Cooperative Extension Agent Mike Reeves taught the students about fruit and vegetable production. Reeves Peach Farm has been in the Reeves family since 1835 and has been in peach production since 1959. Reeves also grows a variety of other types of fruits and vegetables they sell at a roadside stand located at 447 Hwy 36 E.

At the peach farm, the students were able to learn about peach farming, corn and squash production, and pick onions and strawberries. The students spent about 1.5 hours picking fresh strawberries right off the plant. It is not known how many were eaten in the field, but each child got to take home a fresh basket to share with their families.

Due to the overwhelming response to this program, MCSWCD and MCEEF would like to be able to offer this program again. If you are interested in sponsoring this field trip or having students to your farm, please contact us at 256-773-6541 ext. 102.

Summer Stidham is an education coordinator with Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District.




The FFA Sentinel: Leadership Opportunities Allow Alabama FFA Members to Meet Our State’s Leaders


2014 Alabama FFA State Officer Team, on the steps of Alabama’s Capitol building, are ready to participate in the annual Goat Hill Gathering. The event was a chance for career and technical students to meet with their legislators and explore how state government functions.

by Kelsey Faulkner

Two exciting events occurred during the early months of 2014 directly related to Alabama FFA and Career Technical Education in Alabama. These events allowed FFA members to become a part of our state government and get a glimpse into the roles and duties of our state’s elected officials. Through this opportunity, FFA members can build relationships with their local electorate and ask tough agriculture-related questions of State Senators or Representatives. This experience allowed students to explore the Alabama State Capitol, State House and the many hidden treasures of the History and Archives Building as well as mingle with other FFA members from across Alabama before experiencing the House and Senate in session. What a phenomenal leadership opportunity for those FFA members who were present at the Governor’s Proclamation Signing and the 2014 Goat Hill Gathering. Leadership opportunities such as these build and shape the state leaders of tomorrow. What better way to gain the qualities of leadership which an FFA member should possess than to meet and observe our state leaders.

Alabama FFA members attend Goat Hill Gathering and have an opportunity to meet with Governor Robert Bentley.

On February 26, the Career and Technical Student Organizations of Alabama attended a special ceremony at the capitol in Montgomery. Governor Bentley signed a special proclamation dedicating February as Career and Technical Education Month. The state officers of the different organizations had an opportunity to mingle and interact with each other prior to the photo taken on the capitol steps. Sawyer, a state officer on the FCCLA officer team, even asked the Governor for a "selfie." Governor Bentley happily obliged.

On March 4, Alabama FFA members had the opportunity to attend the annual Goat Hill Gathering. There, FFA members had the opportunity to take a photo with the governor, interact with their local legislators, and learn the roles that agriculture and FFA play in state government. In the opening program, we heard from FFA State President William Norris. We also heard remarks from Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture John McMillan, Senator Tom Whatley and Representative Alan Boothe. Jennifer Himburg of the Alabama Farmers Federation shared with members the proper way to interact with legislators. We also learned about the Federation’s involvement in the legislative process from remarks by Matthew Durdin.

Governor Bentley with Alabama’s Career Technical Student Organizations State Officer Teams.

After lunch, chapter delegates had the chance to view the House Session. The members present were recognized as guests of their local legislators. Bailey Sims, FFA state vice-president, led the pledge at the opening of the House Session. Delegates then had the opportunity to view the opening of the Senate. Members were again recognized as guests of their local legislators. Norris led the pledge at the opening of the Senate.

The remaining four state officers had a different schedule for the afternoon. Sims; Shelby Windham, FFA State Treasurer; and Alyssa Hutcheson, FFA State Sentinel, had the opportunity to enjoy a private meeting with Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. In this meeting, the Alabama FFA State Officer team members discussed various items and concluded the meeting by pausing for a photo with Hubbard. The other state officers, Norris; Hayden Whittle, FFA State Secretary; and myself, had a private meeting with Lt. Governor Kay Ivey. We had the opportunity to discuss her role in the capitol and we received an Alabama state pin from Ivey. A special thanks to David Cole, David Farnsworth, Matthew Durdin and Jennifer Himburg for getting us from place to place.

Later in the afternoon, the state officers and I had the chance to hear from two of the constitutional officers. First, we heard from Young Boozer, Alabama State Treasurer. He told us the story of how his name has impacted his career and we even learned that he made headlines on Jay Leno. Next, we had the opportunity to hear from Sam Shaw, Alabama State Auditor. She told us about her unexpected journey into government. We also learned that her other hobbies include farming. She owns dogs, horses, cows and honeybees. It was a great experience to meet with this fantastic, energetic and interesting member of our state government on a more personal level.

Overall, the Goat Hill Gathering was a huge success. FFA members learned the importance of government and citizenship as well as the role of agriculture in the state’s economy. The day was full of learning, smiles and laughter. Thanks to all who support our great association and made this day possible.

Kelsey Faulkner is Alabama’s FFA Reporter.



The Perfect Perennial


Marie Terry shows off her new daylilies while Waymon Appleton looks on. Appleton hosted the June daylily dig at his farm in Hartselle.

Daylily dig draws a crowd.

by Maureen Drost

You’ve spotted sunny yellow and melon orange daylilies thriving on old homesteads despite years of neglect, but you may not know the very latest hybrids can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 each.

The hues now come in not only the "old-fashioned" shades but in a rainbow of reds, purples, pinks and even cream. Those are the daylily colors you’ll find at Waymon Appleton’s farm tucked away beside his home in Hartselle. Appleton’s personal motto appears on a shed and it reads, "Our garden is a gift to share with our friends."

He and his wife Dianna hosted a daylily dig at their place on June 20. Though his invitation on Facebook mentioned a starting time of 9 a.m., enthusiastic gardeners began arriving at 8:30 eager to hunt for the abundance of treasure. Appleton estimated the number of daylilies on his property at more than 100.

Ron Britnell, Ken Creel and Christopher "Chip" Becker, three county agents from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, were available to assist and several Master Gardeners joined the group.

“Chip” Becker, a county Extension agent, gave an informal hydrangea propagation workshop after the daylily dig. At left is a gardener from Decatur. Becker recommended “The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation” by Michael Dirr and Charles Heuser Jr. as a good guide.

"Sport" and Susan Bennich of Hartselle filled the back of their SUV with daylilies for a friend. Marie Terry drove over about 10:30, and Becker showed her how to dig out the first flower she chose. Becker knew from experience to lift the whole clump of daylilies from the earth using a garden fork. Trying to accomplish this with a shovel can cut some of the roots.

Appleton buys fertilizer and additional supplies for his daylilies and other plants from the Lawrence County Exchange in Moulton where his son John works.

After most of the flowers were dug, Becker gave an informal hydrangea propagation class under a shade tree. Using "The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation" as a guide, he gave the gathering of 10 onlookers advice on the oak leaf and big leaf varieties and the hydrangea paniculata.

Some of his tips included:

  • Always use new or disinfected containers. A bleach/water solution with a maximum of 10 percent bleach is recommended.
  • Make the soil a mixture of peat moss and perlite.
  • Make terminal cuts (on the ends) of stems for flowers being propagated.
  • Use rooting hormone to coat the bottom of stems before placing them into the soil.
  • Pack down the earth in the pots around the stems.

For the jovial Appleton, mornings like these reflect his passion for the nine-acre farm. Several years ago, because of poor health, he had to sell Apple’s Florist and Garden Center which he owned in Falkville. He has a mechanical heart and participates in a research study at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Don’t underestimate Appleton though. While he can no longer drive, he works long hours on his garden in the heat and mows the grass, too. Dianna tends the vegetable garden behind their family home.

"This is my getaway from out of the house," he said.

He loves to talk about his garden and give what he calls "nickel tours."

Carolina jasmine covering an entryway "greets" guests as they enter his eclectic garden. The trail designed by Appleton features a river birch, a Kwanzan flowering cherry tree, ferns, a blackberry patch, hydrangeas, the daylilies, and even more.

When he still led the day-to-day operations at the florist and garden center, he often brought flowers and plants home that he didn’t sell. That’s one of the major ways he came to have what people see today when they visit Appleton Farms including the more than 90 different varieties of hydrangeas on display.

Others of his hybrids come from the Huntsville Botanical Garden, Hannah’s Lawn and Landscape Service in Hartselle, Bennett Nurseries and Earth Touch in Huntsville, and Petals From the Past in Jemison among others.

The hardy daylily is sometimes referred to as "the perfect perennial," according to www.daylilies.org. Needing little attention, it survives in diverse climates with few insect and disease problems and is drought tolerant when necessary. Daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallisthat comes from the Greek words meaning "beautiful for a day."

Looking at all the flora he’s nurtured, Appleton’s years of devotion and hard work have clearly paid off. Like his tenacious daylilies, it won’t be surprising if his garden shows off its beauty and hardiness for many years to come.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.



Triple Crown Horse Feed

by John Sims

This month’s spotlight is on Triple Crown premium equine feeds. A horse’s feed program is only as good as the raw materials consumed. This includes pasture, hay or the ingredients in the feed. We can’t control your pasture, but your local Quality Co-op store now offers a super premium line of equine feed to help supplement your forage program.

Premier ingredients: Triple Crown feeds, like our Horizon feeds, use only quality oats and digestible fiber sources, and never use cheap fillers like peanut hulls or oat hulls. The end result is a more digestible energy source for your horse. Triple Crown also uses rice bran and flaxseed to supplement fat levels along with soybean oil. The addition of these fat sources is to help balance Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid levels. These fat sources, along with a low grain inclusion and high fiber ingredients, provide a feed line that is low to moderate in starch and sugar. This type of diet is healthier, tends to have a calming effect and helps reduce the potential for grain-based colic or laminitis. There are no animal-based fats or by-products in any Triple Crown product. Triple Crown also utilizes shredded beet pulp, alfalfa meal and other superior fiber ingredients.

Equimix technology: Your horse’s health and performance is directly linked to its intestinal system that is limited by fermentation in the hindgut. Equimix is a unique blend of yeast cultures, organic minerals, prebiotics, probiotic, and digestive enzymes designed to optimize intestinal function by aiding digestion and fermentation. Equimix also contains two supplements designed to help defend the digestive system from damage caused by mycotoxins and pathogenic bacteria.

Minerals/Vitamins: Triple Crown includes lysine, threonine and methionine essential amino acids that must be added to quality feed diets. These amino acids, along with added vitamins such as A, D, E, C and biotin, help improve muscle growth as well as hoof and hair quality. They provide five different organic minerals used by the body to improve stress resistance, bone development, reproductive performance and energy utilization during intense exercise. The addition of selenium yeast enhances tissue retention for dramatically improved immune response.

Senior: Developed specifically for older horses, this beet-pulp based formula features a higher nutrient content to compensate for a less efficient digestive system. A higher fat content provides extra energy, and it’s softer and can be mixed with water to form a mash for dental impaired animals.

Complete: Designed for mature horses to provide a complete diet, including fiber. Especially good for horses that have trouble consuming hay or are challenged with COPD.

Growth: Designed for foals up to 2 years old and for late gestation and lactating broodmares. It provides more calories through quality fiber and fat, thus reducing the need for elevated levels of carbohydrates.

Low Starch: Designed to provide a pelleted, low-starch and sugar diet for horses requiring a lower diet for metabolic reasons or for anyone who wants a low-carb/sugar diet to keep horses calmer. This feed can be used as a complete diet to help substitute for hay and pasture.

Lite: A pelleted diet feed intended for mature horses with a tendency to become over-conditioned, including many horses diagnosed with Cushing’s. Two pounds of this feed provides the same amount of vitamins and minerals in five to eight pounds of other feeds. It is also a good choice for miniature horses.

Triple Crown Feeds are available at your local Quality Co-op store. For a location near you, check out our website at www.alafarm.com. If we do not have the feed you desire, we will gladly order it for you. If you would like more information about Triple Crown feeds, visit www.triplecrownfeed.com.

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



Water Watch


Chip Blanton, Fort Payne, was the lead trainer of the Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed’s Water Monitoring Workshop this summer. A total of 19 community lay people, teachers and students completed the training.

Watershed Chalks Up Successful Water Monitoring Training

Press Release from Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed

The Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed completed a highly effective Water Monitoring Workshop June, 17, 2014, at the United States Department of Agriculture Building in Rainsville.

Coordinated by Cecil Gant of the watershed staff, the event was conducted by Chip Blanton of Fort Payne, a veteran water monitor and trainer, working under the auspices of Alabama Water Watch, headquartered at Auburn University.

Alabama Water Watch is a citizen volunteer, water-quality monitoring program covering all the major river basins in Alabama. Successful since 1992, the mission of Alabama Water Watch is to improve both water quality and water policy through citizen monitoring action.

Some 19 participants completed the training including coverage of the procedures needed to do water chemistry monitoring as well as bio-monitoring for assessing macro-invertebrate communities in streams (aquatic insects, snails, worms, etc.) as water pollution indicators. The presence of water insects in a stream indicates that a stream is healthy; if pollution is rampant, the insects could not live and survive in a respective stream.

Determinations made on a sample of water included water and atmospheric temperatures, pH, hardness, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen content and turbidity. While trainees consistently ranked dissolved oxygen as the most difficult and time-consuming part of the chemistry monitoring process, they breezed through the temperature determinations.

A complimentary pizza meal rewarded participants for their diligence and community service goals, thanks to the Jackson and DeKalb counties’ units of the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Rainsville Pizza Hut.

The June training event included 19 area teachers, community lay people and high school students. Of this number, seven of the participants re-certified with Alabama Water Watch. They included Gary Bell and Dan Groghan, Fort Payne agriscience teachers; regular teachers Sonya Ott, North Sand Mountain School and Angela Camp, Valley Head School; Joey Haymon, Sylvania; Terry Johnson, Geraldine; and Rod Hall, Plainview - all agriscience teachers.

A group of 12 participants earned first-time certification credentials. They were Xavier Williams, Rainsville; Travis Johnson, Fort Payne; Mary Butte, Fort Payne; Cody Maynard, Crossville; Logan Roden, Fort Payne; Dawson Kinser, Mentone; Gracie Smith, Fort Payne; Sherri Groghan, Gadsden; Alana Fabbus, Fort Payne; Cheyenne Couch, Fort Payne; Payton Dupree, Rainsville; and Lukus Johnson, Fort Payne.




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