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August 2016

2016 Young Cattlemen’s Conference

Pickens County’s Jeff Reznicek represents Alabama at elite National Cattlemen’s Beef Association event.

Representing Alabama, Pickens County cattleman Jeff Reznicek participated in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s 2016 Young Cattlemen’s Conference. Over 50 cattle producers from across the country and across the industry attended the conference. Reznicek was selected by his fellow producers to participate in the 2016 class.

An Aliceville native, Reznicek is the manager of Cow Creek Ranch, a commercial/registered Brangus cow-calf operation, specializing in Brangus bulls and commercial females, along with conditioning heifers for other ranchers in the Southeast.

Born and raised on a family farm in Hettick, Illinois, Reznicek is a graduate of Southern Illinois University. After college, he spent two years as a land surveyor and helping on the family farm until moving to Alabama to work his uncle’s ranch. He and his wife Erin have a 2-year-old son, Cade, and a baby girl expected in August.

Reznicek currently serves as president of Pickens County Cattlemen’s Association and is an alumni of the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program Class II. He was also named one of America’s Best Young Farmers and Ranchers of 2015 by The Progressive Farmer magazine.

NCBA’s YCC program is an opportunity for these young leaders to gain an understanding of all aspects of the beef industry from pasture to plate, and showcase the industry’s involvement in policy making, issues management, research, education and marketing.

Beginning at the NCBA headquarters in Denver, Colorado, the group got an inside look at many of the issues affecting the beef industry and the work being done at both the state and national level to address these issues on behalf of the NCBA membership. While in Denver, participants were given an organizational overview of NCBA and the Beef Checkoff Program, and CattleFax provided a comprehensive overview of the current cattle market and emerging trends. The participants received a first-hand account of the retail perspective of the beef business; toured the JBS Five Rivers’ Kuner feedyard, one of the largest in the nation; as well as the JBS Greeley packing and processing plant.

From Denver, the group traveled to Chicago where they visited McDonald’s Campus and OSI, one of the nation’s premiere beef patty producers.

After the brief stop in Chicago, the group concluded their trip in Washington for an in-depth issues briefing on current policy issues including international trade and increasing environmental regulations. Following the issues update, the participants were given the opportunity to visit one-on-one with members of their state’s congressional delegation, expressing their viewpoints regarding the beef industry and their cattle operations. John Deere then hosted a reception in the evening at their office.

The following morning, the group then traveled to Aldie, Virginia, for a tour and barbeque at Whitestone Farms, one of the nation’s elite purebred Angus operations.

"The opportunity to travel to three major cities with cattlemen from across the nation to learn about the beef industry was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Reznicek said.

With the beef industry changing rapidly, identifying and educating leaders has never been so important. As a grassroots trade association representing the beef industry, the NCBA is proud to play a role in that process and its future success. Over 1,000 cattlemen and women have graduated from the YCC program since its inception in 1980. Many of these alumni have gone to serve in state and national committees, councils and boards. YCC is the cornerstone of leadership training in the cattle industry.



4-H Extension Corner: Pike County 4-H’er Chelsey H


Chelsey Holland

A Philanthropist Since Age 14

by Donna Reynolds

When Pike County 4-H’er Chelsey Holland was 14 years old, she became a philanthropist. She started Runway of Hope to raise awareness of children suffering from disabilities, chronic or life-threatening illnesses, and for those who may have lost an individual due to illness.

"Generosity is important because first and foremost it tells others who you are inside and out. You are plentiful for a purpose," Holland said.

As a child, Holland’s mom, Crystal, was injured in a fiery car accident that caused third degree burns over 75 percent of her body. Crystal’s mother and grandmother died in the accident. Crystal was flown to the burn center at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham to start a long road of recovery.

Many years later, after hearing the tragic story from her mom, Holland wanted to give back and do something to help children at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham (now Children’s of Alabama).

"I thought a lot about all the pain and suffering my mom went through from being burned, and I wanted to do something for children who are going through what she went through," Holland said.

She and her mom agreed that doing an annual fashion show as a fundraiser was a good idea and it was approved by Children’s of Alabama. Thus was born Runway of Hope.

Chelsey Holland and her mother, Crystal Holland

The fourth annual Runway of Hope was held recently in Pike County and raised $4,000. The event has raised over $15,000 in the past four years.

A recent graduate of Pike County High School in Brundidge, Holland was not only an active 4-H member and served as a state 4-H Ambassador but she was also involved in various volunteer and service projects in her community. In high school, she was varsity cheerleader captain and a member of the Business and Finance Academy. She plans to attend Auburn University this fall. She wants to become a dentist or optometrist.

Holland has been in 4-H since the fourth grade. Some of the many projects she was involved with through the years include public speaking, extreme birdhouse, healthy living, beef cook-off, project green thumb and $15 challenge.

Holland’s involvement in Alabama 4-H helped her put the pieces of her life puzzle together.

"Through my projects and public speaking, I learned more about myself – what I like and dislike. It gave me a chance to figure it out, and for that I am so grateful to 4-H," she related.

Learn what Holland has to say about how 4-H has helped her grow generosity and help young people through 4-H by visiting news.aces.edu/blog/2016/05/13/give-grow-generosity-chelsea-holland/?preview_id=11267&preview_nonce=88bd252951&preview=true.

Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with ACES in Auburn.



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Consumers shift food purchases

Americans spent $1.46 trillion on food in 2014, the most recent year for which complete data is available. Of this total, 49.9 percent was spent in supermarkets, supercenters, farmers markets, convenience stores and other retailers.

The relative importance of the various outlets comprising the U.S. at-home food market has shifted somewhat during the last 25 years. Supermarkets had a 64.9-percent share of at-home spending in 2014, down from a peak of 76.3 percent in 1993. In 1990, food expenditures in convenience stores were higher than those for warehouse club stores and supercenters. By 1993, the reverse was true; and, by 2014, warehouse club stores and supercenters accounted for 16.8 percent of at-home spending.

The combined share of direct purchases from food processors and farmers has averaged 8.4 percent over the last decade. Other stores – for example, discount dollar stores and drug stores – accounted for 4.9 percent of the at-home food market in 2014.

Highly leveraged farm businesses on upward trend

Farm businesses – those with at least $350,000 in annual sales or farms with lower revenues where the operator’s primary occupation is farming – account for over 90 percent of U.S. farm sector production, and hold 71 percent of all farm assets and 80 percent of farm debt, according to USDA’s 2014 Agricultural Resource Management Survey.

Debt-to-asset ratios, a measurement of the amount of assets financed by debt and an indicator of the level of a farm’s solvency, are showing an upward trend. The share of farm businesses that are highly leveraged (defined as having debt-to-asset ratios over 0.40) has trended upward since 2012 and is forecast to increase slightly in both 2015 and 2016.

Farm businesses specializing in crops are expected to have higher shares of both highly and very highly leveraged operations (with over 0.70 D/A ratios) than those specializing in animals/animal products. In 2016, the share of very highly leveraged crop farms is expected to reach the highest level since 2002.

Because lending institutions consider D/A (along with other measures reflecting the chance of default) to assess creditworthiness of farms, some of these highly and very highly leveraged farm businesses may have difficulty securing a loan.

World cotton consumption expected to rise

World cotton consumption is expected to grow modestly during the 2016/17 marketing year (August-July), reaching 110.8 million bales. That is similar to 2014/15 levels, which dipped slightly in 2015/16.

Modest growth in the global economy and relatively low cotton prices likely will support mill use in most countries. China, India and Pakistan are expected to lead world cotton mill use and account for a combined 62 percent of the total, similar to 2015/16.

On the production side, global cotton output is forecast at 104.4 million bales in 2016/17, a modest increase after the 16-percent reduction in production in 2015/16 due to inclement weather and pest damage in a number of producing countries. While cotton areas are expected to decline, a rebound in yields would support the increase in production.

With global cotton consumption forecast to exceed production for a second consecutive season, 2016/17 ending stocks worldwide are projected to decline 6 percent from 2015/16. But at over 96 million bales, ending stocks remain historically high and will continue to weigh on prices and production.

FY 2016 ag exports forecast at $124.5 billion; imports to set record

Agricultural exports in fiscal year 2016 are forecast at $124.5 billion, some $500 million below the February projection and $15.2 billion below FY 2015 exports. At the same time, U.S. agricultural imports are forecast at a record $114.8 billion, down $3.7 billion from February, mostly from a decline in tropical products.

The projections show an estimated U.S. agricultural trade surplus of $9.7 billion, down from $25.7 billion in FY 2015.

Grain and feed exports are forecast at $27.7 billion, up $500 million from the February forecast, primarily due to larger wheat and corn volumes and higher unit values for corn and sorghum.

Oilseed and product exports are forecast at $26.1 billion, up $700 million in response to stronger soybean and soybean meal export volumes and higher soybean unit values.

Cotton exports are estimated at $3.1 billion, down $100 million from the February outlook.

The forecast for livestock, poultry and dairy is lowered $300 million to $25.4 billion as lower dairy, poultry product and beef exports are not offset by gains in other livestock products.

Export sales of horticultural products are lowered $1.2 billion to $33.5 billion. This is the second consecutive quarter-to-quarter downward revision and the total would be the first year-over-year decline since FY 2009. This reduction is mainly due to sharply lower unit prices of pistachios and walnuts, as well as reduced almond shipments to the EU and China.

SNAP participation shows decline

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program served an average of 45.8 million people per month in fiscal 2015 as the percent of Americans participating in the program declined from 15 percent in 2013 to 14.2 percent in 2015. It was the second consecutive year with a decline in the percent of the population receiving SNAP.

Between 2014 and 2015, 39 states and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the percentage of residents receiving SNAP benefits, while 11 states experienced no change or small increases. The percentage of state populations receiving SNAP benefits ranged from a low of 5.6 in Wyoming to a high of 21.7 in New Mexico, reflecting differences in need and in program policies.

Southeastern states have a particularly high share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, with participation rates of 16.4 to 21.3 percent.

Maine had the largest decline from 2014 to 2015, with the percentage of residents receiving SNAP decreasing from 17.3 to 15.2.

India rises to top in world beef sales

The world’s beef-sales picture has changed dramatically in recent years and the nation now with the largest volume of export sales may be a surprise: India.

Since the late 2000s, India’s exports of beef – specifically water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef – have expanded rapidly, with India moving just ahead of Brazil to become the world’s largest exporter in 2014.

India’s beef exports during the period have grown at an annual rate of about 12 percent, rising from an average volume of 0.31 million metric tons during 1999-2001 to an estimated 1.95 million during 2013-15. India’s robust export growth contributed to the expansion of world beef trade during this period and also increased the country’s share of the volume of shipments by major world beef exporters from just 5 percent during 1999-2001 to about 20 percent during 2013-15.

The U.S. market share fluctuated during this period, but declined from an average of 18 percent during 1999-2001 to 12 percent during 2013-15.

Brazil corn output has doubled since 2000/01

Since 2000/01, corn production in Brazil has doubled, reaching a record 85 million metric tons in 2014/15, equivalent to 8.4 percent of global corn production.

Corn is now Brazil’s second largest crop (after soybeans), accounting for 20 percent of planted area, and Brazil is the world’s second largest corn exporter, behind the United States.

Due to a favorable climate and long growing season, double-cropping is possible in much of the country, and the majority of corn in Brazil is harvested as a second crop planted after soybeans. Technological advances in soil management and improvements in hybrid corn varieties have supported this expansion.

The second-crop corn harvest largely serves the export market, putting it in direct competition with the timing of the U.S. corn harvest.




Altha Farmers Co-ops Achieve Responsible AG Certification


A big congratulation goes out to two of our Florida stores! They were the next to complete the Responsible Ag audit and receive their certification.

James Lynn of Altha Farmers Co-op in Blountstown gave Roger Waller a good laugh. That must be a key because he was able to pass his audit with flying colors in record time.

Teresa Bodiford at the Marianna branch is new as a manager, but has been around the Co-op system for a while. She’s done great because her first introduction to RA was the audit.



August Lawn & Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Check with your local Quality Co-op for seed and/or Bonnie transplants for your fall garden.
  • As soon as plants have passed their prime, pull them out and replant. Put the old plants into your compost pile, then aerate the soil and replenish nutrients by forking in some compost and a little balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8.
  • Hold off on planting shrubs and trees. The best time to plant woodies and perennials in Southeast Zones 7 and 8 is later in the fall or early winter.
  • During August, you can plant most cole crops, kale, lettuce, summer and winter squash, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, cucumbers and bush/pole beans, for fall harvest. Keep in mind, summer squash and cucumbers are very insect- and disease-prone during late summer and fall.
  • It is not too late to set out another planting of many warm-season annuals such as marigolds, zinnias and periwinkles. They will require extra attention for the first few weeks, but should provide you with color during late September, October and even November.
  • By the end of August, select potted plants of perennials such as Autumn Asters (Aster oblongifolius) or ornamental salvias for excellent fall color. These will become permanent occupants of the flower bed, capable of extended color for several years.
  • Begin seeding new lawns or bare spots in established lawns in late August or, preferably, September. Fall is the best time to repair or start a new lawn.
  • Sow seeds of snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, calendulas and other cool-season flowers in flats or in well-prepared areas of the garden for planting outside during mid-to-late fall.
  • Gloxinia seeds planted now will begin to bloom by Christmas, and they will come into full bloom during February, March and April. Try a packet of hybrid seeds from a gloxinia specialist. Directions for their care will be on the packet.
  • Plant spring wildflowers designated for southeastern United States. 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, half-inch deep and water thoroughly.

FERTILIZE

  • Have soil tested for fall fertilization requirements if it has been three years or more since the last analysis.
  • Don’t fertilize or heavily prune trees or shrubs until late fall or winter. Both of these stimulate growth, setting your plants up for stress and possible death when temperatures drop.
  • Feed strawberries with a fertilizer rich in nitrogen.
  • Sidedress peppers and eggplants.

PRUNE

  • Lightly prune summer-blooming shrubs.
  • You can still root hardwood cuttings of your favorite shrubs and trees.
  • 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. Don’t prune them in fall so you don’t risk encouraging new tip growth that’s susceptible to browning when the temperatures dip below freezing.
  • Prune dead or diseased wood from trees and shrubs.
  • Prune and destroy blackberry canes that bore fruit this year. They will not produce fruit again and could harbor insects or disease.
  • Trim faded flowers on crape myrtles to encourage later rebloom.
  • A late-summer pruning of rosebushes can be beneficial. Prune dead canes and any weak, brushy growth. Cut back tall, vigorous bushes to about 30 inches. After pruning, apply fertilizer and water thoroughly. If a preventive disease-control program has been maintained, your rose bushes should be ready to provide an excellent crop of flowers this fall.

WATER

  • The first part of this month may be the hottest of the year and that is when your lawn and garden may show the most stress. Water in the early morning to minimize water loss from evaporation and to allow the sun to dry leaves before disease can set in.
  • Wet the soil to a minimum depth of 4-6 inches or about 1 inch of water per week. Frequent, inadequate irrigation encourages shallow rooting and may predispose plants to increased disease and greater susceptibility to stress injury. Watering deeply and less frequently improves growth and increases water conservation.
  • To help monitor irrigation, install timers and place a rain gauge or empty cans (tuna or cat food cans work well) under the sprinkler.
  • Successful germination of newly seeded lawns depends on ample moisture at the soil surface. Keep the seeded area moist until the seed emerges. The seedlings need frequent, gentle watering until they are one-half to 1-inch tall. When climatic conditions allow, reduce watering to several times a week at a depth of 1-2 inches. Decrease frequency and increase depth of watering as seedlings mature.
  • 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.
  • Tropical plants such as various elephant ears/caladiums, bananas and gingers require plenty of water at this time of year if they are to remain lush and active until fall. Fertilize with 21-0-0 at the rate of one-third to one-half pound per 100 square feet of bed area, and water thoroughly.
  • Don’t allow plants with green fruit or berries to suffer from lack of moisture.
  • Going on vacation? Get a neighbor or hire someone to water or rig up a timer and sprinkler (or drip-irrigation system) for while you’re away. In-ground plants usually can tolerate a week without water, but your baskets and pots can die with just a few days without water in summer.

PEST CONTROL

  • Always read the label before using chemicals.
  • Luscious little seedlings in your fall garden will attract a long list of aggressive pests, including slugs, cabbageworms, army worms and ever-voracious grasshoppers. Damage from all of these pests (and more) can be prevented by using slug and snail bait approved for use around edibles and covering seedlings with row covers the day they go into the garden. Use a summer-weight insect barrier row cover that retains little heat, or make your own by sewing or pinning two pieces of wedding net (tulle) into a long, wide shroud. Hold the row cover above the plants with stakes or hoops, and be prepared to raise its height as the plants grow.
  • Squash vine borers are very active this month. Remove affected plants to avoid the larvae pupating in the soil.
  • Watch for wasps’ nests in the eaves of buildings, shrubs, trees and in the ground.
  • Kill or remove poison ivy from your property before it goes to seed.
  • Hand prune and destroy bagworms, fall webworms and tent caterpillars.
  • Scout for budworms on annual flowers, scale on euonymus and magnolia, spider mites on evergreens and lace bugs on azaleas. Check with your local Co-op for remedies.
  • Pull any straggler weeds that pop up in beds and lawns to ensure a weed-free autumn.

ODD JOBS

  • Picking flowers frequently encourages most annuals and perennials to flower even more abundantly.
  • Pick beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash often to encourage more production.
  • It is time to divide spring-flowering perennials such as iris, cannas, day lilies, violets, liriope and ajuga.
  • Underwriters Laboratories Inc. reports that each year lawn mower accidents send over 80,000 people to the emergency room. Let your mower cool off before putting fuel in it, don’t wear sandals or short pants when you mow, don’t allow children to ride on a mower while you mow, and keep children and pets away while you’re mowing.
  • Wear safety goggles when using all portable power tools such as trimmers, blowers, chain saws, etc.
  • Stake tall plants that might blow over during a storm.
  • Summer-planted crops typically require longer to mature than spring-planted crops (shorter days and cooler air temperatures slow plant growth). Using the days-to-maturity figure on the seed packet, add an extra 14 days as a low-light factor. This will give the summer-planting date. On average, August has 14 hours of daylight, September has 12 and October has only 11 (www.timeanddate.com).
  • When planting in the heat of summer, it’s important to keep the soil surface consistently moist. If it dries out, newly sprouted seeds may die and you will need to start over. As a general rule, seeds planted outdoors in late summer should be sown twice as deep as in the spring. Also, most cool-weather plants will not germinate well if soil temperatures rise over 80 degrees. Shade netting or the natural shade from a trellis or tall plant can be used to create a relatively cool location for seeding a second crop.
  • Turn established compost piles. If you made piles last fall or in the early spring, check to see if they are ready to spread for fall planting. Compost is ready when the composted materials have broken down enough that you can’t readily recognize what they are made from.
  • Make your selections and place orders for spring-flowering bulbs now so they will arrive in time for planting in October and November.
  • Spade or till soil for fall bulb planting; add a moderate amount of fertilizer.
  • Keep your cutting tools sharpened and in good repair.
  • Begin stocking up gardening supplies before they are removed for the season from retailers’ shelves. Pots, potting mixes, hoses, fertilizers and other products may be harder to find later in the season.
  • 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. This also works in spots where plants such as bleeding hearts, Virginia bluebells and spring bulbs go dormant in summer.
  • Continue to mow the lawn at the 3-inch level until the first of September.
  • Start harvesting onions for winter keeping after the tops have turned brown.
  • 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.
  • Pears are best ripened off the tree. Harvest pears as soon as color changes, usually from a dark green to a lighter green, and when the fruit is easily twisted and removed from the spur.
  • Keep fresh water in your bird baths and feed in your birdfeeders.


Come See the County Fair

A remnant of our agricultural past remains, alongside modern family fun.

by John Howle

“If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world,
all you have to do is go to a county fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you’ll be going, ‘You know,
we’re all right. We are dang near royalty.’” ~ Jeff Foxworthy

An an episode of Andy Griffith, Aunt Bee and Clara Johnson canned homemade pickles both thinking their pickles were good enough to win a blue ribbon at the county fair. Clara’s pickles were actually good enough to win the blue ribbon for the last 11 years. Andy, Barney and, later in the story, the county fair judges, all agree that Aunt Bee’s pickles tasted like they had been floating in kerosene.

The mechanical bull offers a safe alternative to the real thing.

Clara goes on to win her 12th blue ribbon at the county fair, and Andy and Barney are faced with having to eat 16 more jars of Aunt Bee’s kerosene pickles. In one of my favorite Andy Griffith scenes, Aunt Bee pressures Andy and Barney to try her pickles when she brings them lunch. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, Andy and Barney simply look at the pickles in an admiring way.

Finally, Aunt Bee tells Andy and Barney to go ahead and taste the pickles. After staring and commenting on the pickles, Barney said, "Well, I don’t want to waste it when I’m so full up like this. I think I’ll just wait and smoke it … um … eat it after supper."

This August is a great time to get out and visit a county fair near you. It’s a great way to build community involvement, get youth involved in agriculture and socialize in person instead of on Facebook.

A Fair History

According to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, the father of U.S. agricultural fairs, Elkanah Watson, a New England patriot and farmer, earned this title by organizing the Berkshire Agricultural Society and creating an event known then as a cattle show. The first one took place in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in September 1811. According to IAFE, this was more than just an exhibit of animals. It was a competition with prize money in the amount of $70 paid for the best exhibits of oxen, cattle, swine and sheep.

Many of the rodeo events are centered on activities for children as well as the bull and bronco riding.

Early county fairs were used to promote modern farming techniques and there would be events such as plowing contests, livestock judging and the unveiling of new agricultural implements. By the 1900s, according to Ross Earle’s book, "The Evolution of the Agricultural Fair in the Northwest," "Bicycle races, balloon ascension, and eventually automobile races and airplane demonstrations were common features, while plowing matches and evening lectures were replaced with fireworks."

Also, during the early part of the 1900s, boys and girls were encouraged to exhibit their fair entries. The local fair would showcase youth involvement in agriculture through a new national movement for youth known as 4-H. This helped revitalize youth interest in agricultural competitions.

County fairs are different today in that you might find a few inflatable jumping houses for kids or cell phone charging stations, but there is still a remnant of our agricultural past at these gatherings. Today, you can check out your nearest county fair and enjoy some of the classic entertainment of the past. You can attempt to catch a greased pig, show off your best canning in a contest and exhibit your best chickens. Or you can go modern and hang out at the snow cone machine or ride a mechanical bull.

Cleburne County Fair

Many live-stock including lambs are shown and prizes are awarded to youth.

If you want to make a quick summer road trip to Cleburne County, you can visit a truly action-packed fair just south of I-20 at the Heflin exit. Just travel about 3 miles down Highway 9 and you’ll see acres of fairground activities at the foot of Ross Mountain. This year, the county fair will be Aug. 13.

This year’s fair will host a two-night rodeo beginning Friday at 7. The fair’s activities start at 10 a.m. and end at 7 p.m., when the rodeo begins. There will be a lamb show, zip line, Capture Cleburne County Photo Contest, canning competitions, musical acts, antique tractor shows, and the usual good, old-fashioned fair food and fun.

As you take part in the viewing of the canning competitions, there is a good chance you will find canned pickles. To this day, no one has bested Aunt Bee’s record for the worst-tasting pickle as confirmed by Andy, Barney and a panel of judges. If you would like more information about the Cleburne County Fair, call 256-463-2222 or email executive director of the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce, Abby Minter, at abby@cleburnecountychamber.com.

This August, take time to visit your nearest county fair. Just make sure you avoid the kerosene cucumbers like the ones Aunt Bee pickled for the Mayberry County Fair.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.




Conducting Your Own On-Farm Trials

DO try this at home!

by Jonathan Rupert

I have tremendous respect for our universities, Extension, NCRC and other public servants. Many of these folks work tirelessly to help farmers and the industry. Working in the seed industry for over 25 years, I have had the fortune to learn and work with many such folks when it comes to evaluating forage grasses and legumes. We utilize data from their work extensively.

However, their contribution has limitations – limitations that seem to be increasing, not decreasing. Shrinking budgets are killing many research programs.

While I want to support those programs as much as possible, I also want to invite you to become your own researcher and start a life-long practice of conducting on-farm trials. My hope is that this article will both inspire you and give you some guidance in this practice.

On-Farm Trials – What Are They?

Simply put, on-farm trials are intentionally planted plots of different plants or practices that you establish and manage on your own farm for the purpose of helping you make better decisions about new products and/or practices. While my examples and focus are comparing forage species and varieties, you can apply these same principles to fertilization and chemical use, as well as general management practices. On-farm trials can be as simple or as complex as you choose. The object of your trials will be to help you answer questions with minimal risk. Questions like:

  • "Is there something I can plant to give me better yields than what I am getting?"
  • "I hear a lot of talk about this new variety of clover. I wonder if it will survive on my farm?"
  • "How well do those new tall fescues do through summer?"
  • "All this talk about soil health. Should I be doing something different?"
  • "What would happen if I planted two weeks earlier, or even three?"
  • "If I use legumes instead of nitrogen, would I get the same yield?"

My First On-Farm Trial

With this in mind, let’s consider some real, practical and inexpensive ways to become our own evaluators. A couple of decades ago, I had a small hobby farm. One fall, I wanted to learn more about the differences and benefits of annual and perennial tetraploid ryegrasses. In this trial, I divided an acre into six strips and overseeded (Diagram 1). I planted each variety and a combination of the two separately, as well as a strip left untouched.

Cost? Three bags of seed and a couple hours on a Saturday.

Benefit? First, I added grass seeds that improved my pasture stand. This was of utmost, nonresearch importance, because my two young daughters had almost persuaded me to buy a horse and you know what they do to pastures!

Second, I was able to learn important answers (or at least partial answers) to questions like:

  • How much faster will annuals grow than perennials?
  • Will the combination of the two be better than either individually?
  • Will the animals prefer one over the other?
  • Does overseeding pay for itself or should I have done nothing at all?

Look at that last point again. It is a very important question. ALWAYS, if possible, keep some of your old pasture around to compare with the new. By evaluating the old against the new, you will be able to determine a great deal more than if you completely revamp the old.

Third, I committed myself mentally to checking my pasture frequently. Over and over again, I hear profitable farmers reminding one another to get out and walk their fields.

Well, in addition to the great direct value of seeing how your pastures are performing, I have discovered there are also what I call hidden benefits. For instance, one memory that sticks in my mind to this day happened when I went out one afternoon to examine my plots. While staring at my grass, one of my momma goats stole my attention. Soon, I found myself on all fours watching her vigorously graze on spring grass. Know what I discovered? I discovered she can really chomp up a storm! Of course, while I was down on all fours, her 10-day old kid kept trying to jump on my back! But then came another distraction and the greatest discovery of the day! I found a new place to hang a tree swing for my girls.

Back to my trials ... my curiosity on clovers and legumes gave me the incentive to add a twist to the test plots. You see, I wanted to evaluate particular varieties of ladino and red clover as well as birdsfoot trefoil. So around the first of March, I took the same area and cross-seeded as shown in Diagram 2, with a grand finale of a diagonal strip of fertilizer to cross all plots.

Cost? Oh, a few more small bags of seed.

Benefits? Same as the aforementioned with additional answers to these questions:

  • Which will come up fastest?
  • Will the mixtures be complementary?
  • Animal preference?
  • Seasonal difference?
  • Nitrogen benefit difference?

On-Farm Trial Fundamentals

I hope this example has whetted your appetite for on-farm trials. With that in mind, let’s go over some fundamentals.

1. Every year. The success of conducting your own trial will come over time. After your first year, you will be full of should-, could- and might-have conclusions. You will also probably have more questions than answers. But one of the most compelling reasons to conduct trials every year has to do with the term "validation." One dot on a page doesn’t make a line; and while you can draw a line between two dots, it takes three to make a trend. It’s the same with one year’s results – it’s just one year’s results. Repetition is necessary for validation. So start with a basic trial. The next year, if you want to confirm your results, plant them again. By doing so, you will learn a bit more about how temperature, moisture and seasonal patterns affect what you are evaluating. You will also be able to see if certain characteristics hold true from year to year.

The other reason is that it puts you in the mode of doing your own evaluation. It becomes a habit. You’ve allocated space on your farm and included it as part of the cost of doing business. This mindset and commitment puts you at the head of the line to be able to look at many other new varieties and practices.

2. Try again. This is similar to point #1, but a bit different. If something succeeds or if it fails, specifically repeat that planting, taking note of anything that may have been a factor that needs adjustment or could have contributed to its performance. Many times, we reach the wrong conclusions based on insufficient information. We see this as it relates to winter hardiness quite a bit, as one year’s winter weather can vary significantly to the next.

3. Multiple replications and locations. In the example, you will notice I had multiple replications of each entry. This is an important part of trialing. It helps take away some of the chances that one plot had more success or failure due to where it was situated in the plot. Maybe that plot received more or less water, or maybe there were residual chemical issues on that spot.

Furthermore, as you venture out into this new world of on-farm testing, you will likely want to look for multiple locations on your land where you can duplicate your trials ... high ground, low ground, dry area, wet areas, traffic, no traffic, high fertility, low fertility, etc. You might find, before doing your own testing, you made some conclusions about a certain species or variety based on a particular microclimate that doesn’t fully represent the potential of other parts of your farm. Share the journey with your neighbors. After your first trial or two, invite some fellow farmers to collaborate together.

4. Documentation. Make a map of what you planted. Include the date, pH, seeding rate, fertility and other information that will be important once the details fade from your memory. For me, that can be the next day! Then, over the course of time, take notes and photographs, especially as it relates to important times and events. With today’s smartphones, photos are already stamped with the time. I like to carry a small memo book around and note what I have taken photos of, and then edit the photo file names from my notes. You can also make photocopies of your map and scribble notes on the front or back of it. You won’t regret spending the time not only taking the notes but actually the time that you stop and make the observations for the notes. Mark the edges of each plot or strip containing a different treatment or crop with flags or stakes, along with measuring and recording the width of each.

5. Compare to the known. It is very likely you have certain varieties/species you’ve used for a number of years on your farm. You know how they perform. They are what we call a known variable or a check variety. You’ll want to plant this check variety as part of your trials. In a perennial application where most of your farm is already in the check variety, it is best to plant the check anew in the trial area. This way you will be able to evaluate their establishment rates side by side, how they go through the first summer and winter, take the first grazing/cutting, etc.

6. Maximize your trial space. On-farm trials can be as simple as planting one or two separate strips down the side of a field, or broadcasting a few square areas in multiple locations. They can also be maximized without much difficulty. In the example used, I started out with only three variables. Then by cross-seeding I ended up with a whole host of different plots. In that trial, I was able to see how each of the grasses performed compared to one another, how the legumes compared to one another, and how the combinations compared to each other.

Final thoughts

In this article, we didn’t address the methodology for collecting and analyzing your results. For starters, your first on-farm trial may be no more than an observation trial. From there, you may find the need to learn how to submit forage samples and accurately determine yield. Those are topics for another day. In the meantime, don’t delay in starting your new journey. Pick a spot. Choose some questions you want to find answers to, and go for it! Also, see if anyone wants to join you. Ask your local seed dealer if they’d be willing to help you. Maybe your Extension office wants a place for a field day next year. Regardless, I hope you join me in this very fun and profitable way to learn.

Jonathan Rupert is with Smith Seed Services.




Corn Time



CowPokes




Developing Replacement Heifers on Forages in Northeast Alabama

A New Study with Some Promising Results

by Lisa Kreise-Anderson

In Alabama, properly developing beef replacement heifers is key to herd profitability. Getting heifers bred at 15-16 months and getting them rebred for their second calf should be a goal for every cow/calf producer.

Kent Stanford and Landon Marks, both Alabama Cooperative Extension System employees, wanted to demonstrate proper heifer development.

First, they needed a place to demonstrate heifer development and approached the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Station personnel. The Sand Mountain Station was a perfect place because both Stanford and Marks wanted to develop the heifers on grass and the Station had 55 acres of land that could produce stockpiled fescue and support planting rye and ryegrass cool-season annuals.

With Sand Mountain on board, Stanford and Marks then worked on finding area producers to consign heifers. By Dec. 1, 2015, they had found six area producers willing to send their best replacement prospects to Sand Mountain for 167 days.

In early January 2016, 48 heifers were delivered to SMREC. The goals were simple: have these heifers gain 1.75-2.25 lbs./day on winter grazing and be returned to their owners bred AI to a calving-ease, growth bull in June.

By the time the heifers arrived, there were 8 acres of stockpiled fescue, Texoma variety; 8 acres of rye, Abruzzi; and 39 acres ryegrass, Marshall, ready to graze. Texoma fescue is an endophyte-friendly variety of improved fescue.

The fescue stockpiling process began in August 2015 when the 8 acres was mowed and 60 pounds of nitrogen applied per acre.

In October 2015, the rye and ryegrass was drilled into sod and 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre was applied. These pastures received an additional 30 lbs. of nitrogen per acre in early March. Different forage types were made available to ensure forage was available from January through June. It was expected the stockpiled fescue and rye would provide adequate forage early, and that ryegrass would persist longer into June.

Heifers were rotationally grazed on these pastures. When heifers were put on each pasture, forage height was taken using a forage grazing stick. Heifers were left on the pasture until they grazed half the forage. They were then rotated to a different pasture. Table 1 provides the total amount of forage produced and consumed of each of the three types of forage.

Because the winter was mild, the rye and ryegrass pastures were actively growing throughout the development period. Heifers were rotated through each pasture several times ensuring the heifers ate half and left half of the available forage. It is also important to note that only 25 of the available 39 acres of ryegrass were grazed. Forage growth was such that 15 acres of ryegrass was not needed to support growth of these heifers. When heifers were on ryegrass pastures, they ate significantly more per day than on either fescue or rye pastures. It is known that cattle prefer the palatability of ryegrass more than fescue or rye.

Overall, heifers gained 1.88 lbs./day from January to June. Heifers, on average, weighed 618 pounds on delivery to SMREC and left weighing, on average, 907 pounds. The average weight per day of age was 1.82 lbs./day. WDA is calculated by dividing body weight by the age of the heifer, in days. The goal is to have ADG and WDA values close. WDA does include birth weight of the heifers. When ADG and WDA are similar, it indicates heifers have been on a steady growth plane since birth. Table 2 shows how forage intake increased as they got heavier throughout the demonstration.

Heifers were also measured for hip height in order to determine frame score. Frame score can then be used to predict mature weight of the heifer. On average, heifers were a frame score 5.6, equating to a 1,260-pound mature weight at 4-5 years of age. Additionally, carcass trait ultrasound measurements, reproductive tract scores and pelvic area measurements were taken. RTS values can help predict reproductive performance of yearling heifers, especially for pregnancy rates in synchronized breeding and pregnancy rates at the end of the breeding season. Scores are ranked from 1 (immature) through 5 (cycling). Pelvic area can provide an estimate of the maximum calf birth weight the heifer can deliver without assistance. In general, producers can take the pelvic area and divide by 2 to arrive at the birth weight that will not cause calving difficulty.

In early April, estrous in heifers was synchronized using a Select-Synch plus CIDR protocol. When the CIDR was removed after seven days, heifers were visually observed for standing heat. Those heifers in standing heat were AI bred 12 hours later. Heifers not observed in standing heat were bred AI 72 hours after removal of the CIDR. There were 34 heifers observed in standing heat and 14 heifers bred later. At the time of breeding, heifers were estimated to weigh 63.5 percent of their mature body weight, with a range of 52-75 percent. Heifers should weigh 65 percent of their estimated mature body weight at breeding. Ten days after heifers were bred AI, a cleanup bull was turned out. He remained with the heifers for 57 days.

A licensed veterinarian palpated the heifers to determine pregnancy. At the time of palpation, the veterinarian could only determine whether heifers were bred AI or had been bred in late April by the bull. It was determined 35 percent (17 heifers) were bred AI and another 35 percent were bred by the bull. Called open heifers will be rechecked for pregnancy in early August.

The goal was to have 68 percent of the heifers bred to the AI bull and an overall pregnancy rate of 90 percent. It is not entirely clear as to why more heifers did not become pregnant to the AI bull and only time will tell how many of the called open heifers are bred.

There were many successes in this inaugural year of the Sand Mountain Heifer Development Program. Heifers were developed only on forage and minerals from January through June. Cost of grazing (seed, herbicide, lime and fertilizer) was $99.50/heifer or $86.84/acre. Heifers remained healthy throughout the program with only routine vaccinations, deworming and fly control needed. Most importantly, according to Marks and Stanford, management practices were performed that could be performed by any cow/calf producer in northeast Alabama on their own farm.

If you are interested in learning more about this program, contact Landon Marks, regional animal science and forage Extension agent, at 256-706-0032 or mlm0013@aces.edu.

The Time to Stockpile Forages in Alabama is August

To have stockpiled forages for winter months, August is the time to start stockpiling. Both fescue and Bermudagrass can be stockpiled successfully to be used in late November through February. To effectively stockpile forage:

  1. Remove all animals from the pasture in August.
  2. Mow the pasture to 2-3 inches in height.
  3. Apply 60 lbs./acre of nitrogen to the pasture close to a rainfall event in August. This is especially critical if in a drought situation. Applying nitrogen without adequate rainfall can cause nitrate toxicity. If it looks like continued drought will persist, apply less than 60 pounds of nitrogen/acre.
  4. Allow the forage to grow until needed in late November to January.
  5. For maximum utilization of stockpiled forages, utilize either rotational grazing or strip grazing.

For fescue stockpiling, it is best to use an endophyte-free or endophyte-friendly variety. KY-31 fescue that contains the harmful endophyte will contain high concentrations of the harmful endophyte when stockpiled.

Lisa Kriese-Anderson is an associate professor at Auburn University and an Extension animal scientist.



Discover Some New Ideas for the Grill!

by Christy Kirk

The smell of meat cooking on the grill whets the appetites and stirs the memories of anyone who has ever been to an outdoor barbecue. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, families and friends gather together for traditional American summer food and fun. Barbecuing is a ritual that shouldn’t be limited to holidays, and it doesn’t always have to be the same typical menu.

Pretty much anything you can eat can be grilled; so your options could be boundless. By the end of summer, every meat, fruit and vegetable imaginable has probably been thrown onto a grill. When cooking out, you may have found yourself grilling a few proven, family favorites everyone expects such as ribs, hot dogs and burgers. But grilling out doesn’t have to be predictable.

When the signs of autumn signal the end of summer fun, it is the perfect time to try some new recipes for some of your favorite game. Hunting seasons are just around the corner, so you can either use meat you have frozen through the year or wait for each season to grill fresh rabbit, turkey and deer.

Gas grilling can be extremely convenient, but some people will always prefer charcoal. Whether you use a gas or charcoal grill, you want to be sure you don’t overcook or undercook the meat. Cooks with little grilling experience will definitely want to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. This will guarantee the food is safe to eat without unintentionally cooking it too long.

Brining for several hours and basting regularly will help keep your meats moist. Marinades and sauces can be made ahead, which will save time the day of the barbecue. However, brining can take anywhere from two hours to overnight, so be sure to plan ahead.

Of course, hanging out and socializing with friends and family while the grill heats and the meat cooks is a key element of the cooking out experience. Because it is usually part of a larger social activity, barbecuing is a great way to get your children involved in cooking by sharing your love of the grill in a fun and friendly setting.

Teens can learn about different cuts of meat and food safety issues as they prepare to grill and then progress to turning and basting the meat. Younger children like Rolley Len and Cason can assist in many other ways from preparation to side dishes. Buttering bread for toasting is one of the simplest tasks that even very young children can do. As they get older, more challenging skills such as chopping cabbage and mixing the coleslaw dressing or creating marinades can be added to their repertoire.

Blending cooking with fellowship can help children build a sense of community while also teaching life skills. Included are a few recipes that add a variety of flavors to try cooking at your next barbecue. Grilling more traditional foods is always a safe bet, but adding rabbit, turkey and deer to the menu can offer other healthy choices for you and your friends and family. You might even discover you have some new family barbecue favorites.

Fresh picked wild mulberries can be used to make a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. Rolley Len likes them just freshly picked!

MULBERRY BARBECUE MARINADE

¼ cup molasses
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
8 ounces tomato paste
¼ cup mulberries, pureed
2 Tablespoons honey
Up to 1 Tablespoon chili powder
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer for 30 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half, stirring frequently.

LEMON HERB RABBIT

1 rabbit, dressed and quartered (about 2½ pounds)
1 lemon, halved
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sugar
Herbs, to taste (1 Tablespoon minced fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) tarragon, rosemary, thyme, basil or dill)
3 Tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Rub rabbit pieces with lemon and lightly season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine mustard, sugar and herbs; mix well. Whisk in oil and lemon juice.

For a gas grill, use high heat; for a charcoal grill, place meat 5-6 inches from the hot coals. Place the rabbit meaty side down on the grill. Lightly brush with the mustard mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until browned.

Turn and baste again. Let it cook for 45 minutes, turning and basting regularly. To check for doneness, cut deeply into a joint. If the juice runs pink, grill 10-15 more minutes, or until juice runs clear.

HUNTER'S KEBABS

1 pound boneless venison tenderloin or backstrap
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Trim fat and tissue from the meat. Cut into long thin strips or 1-inch cubes. Put meat in a resealable gallon bag and set aside.

In a bowl, combine rest of ingredients. Mix well. Pour over meat in the bag. Seal bag and shake to coat meat with marinade. Let soak least 4-6 hours in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.

Remove meat from marinade. In a saucepan, place remaining marinade and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and let simmer.

For a gas grill, use medium heat; for a charcoal grill, place meat 4-6 inches from medium coals. Put meat on skewers and place on the grill. Cook 5-8 minutes, baste with marinade and turn. Cook for 5-8 minutes more or until cooked. Baste with marinade as needed.

CARIBBEAN GRILLED TURKEY

1 turkey breast, boned with skin on
¾ cup chunky peanut butter
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
3 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons dried basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Rinse turkey, pat dry with paper towels and place in a shallow dish. In a blender or with a food processor, combine rest of ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour half the mixture over the turkey coating it well. Let marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours. Refrigerate remaining peanut sauce separately for basting later.

For a gas grill, use medium heat; for a charcoal grill, place meat over medium-hot coals. Remove turkey from dish, discarding the marinade. Place turkey on the grill. Cook covered, basting frequently until the turkey reaches 170° internally. It should take 11-15 minutes per pound. Let stand for 10 minutes before carving.

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




Doubly Blessed to Serve

State Rep. Steve McMillan, left, and his twin brother, Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, are cheerleaders for their state.

Brothers John and Steve McMillan carry on a family tradition in Alabama state government.

by Alvin Benn

Alabama has produced many political leaders during its nearly 200 year existence, but two brothers have achieved something extra special.

Republicans John and Steve McMillan are glittering examples of a family who continue to put our state before themselves.

It should also be noted that they’re twins.

John currently is halfway through his second term as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries while Steve continues to rock along as a member of the Legislature, a position he’s held since 1980.

The brothers trace their political ancestry back to 1820 – one year after statehood – when John Murphy was elected to the Legislature.

Murphy, who was their great-great-grandfather, topped that achievement when he became Alabama’s fourth governor in 1825 and served a second term two years later.

The thread running through the politically aggressive McMillan family may seem old-fashioned to some, but John and Steve are proud of their ancestors and how they’ve provided them with important lessons in responsibility.

They were raised with the Golden Rule as their familial guide with rules and principles based on doing the right things in life.

"We’re from a big family down in south Alabama," John said. "We were taught family values based on honesty and integrity from the time we could understand what they were."

Steve said he and John learned, "If we misbehaved in school, our daddy would let us have it when we got home. It wasn’t abuse or anything like that at all. Just a look of disappointment on his face was enough to set us straight."

Cousin George McMillan continued the family’s political winning ways when he was elected lieutenant governor and then nearly defeated George Wallace in the 1982 gubernatorial election.

Wallace led by a wide margin during the party’s primary election, but McMillan almost took the runoff. He lost by only 23,759 votes during an election in which over a million votes were cast.

"The McMillans are great people down in Baldwin County where they live in the Stockton community," said the lawyer from Birmingham. "The special values they possess have taken them a long way in our state."

As the twins climbed Alabama’s political ladder, they could look back to ancestors such as Gov. Murphy and contemporary relatives such as George McMillan as two examples of political leadership.

It’s been that way for generations of McMillans. The family’s most recent success story has been the brothers who have served in various leadership positions in and out of politics.

John McMillan is the elder statesman of the pair who celebrated their 75th birthdays on July 6. He arrived about 30 minutes before his kid brother.

Their mother, Madie McMillan, took her last breath in the same house where she nurtured her family. She was 103 when she passed away.

Political experts in Alabama have watched in amazement as John and Steve continue their winning ways during each election cycle.

"The two were among pioneer leaders of early Republican gains in Alabama Legislature," said Ed Bridges, director emeritus of the Department of Archives and History.

Bridges said Alabama has never had twins to rise to such political prominence in the state.

What impresses Bridges the most about the McMillan twins is the way John and Steve have conducted themselves during their amazing victory string in the political arena.

"Neither one of them is a showboat politician," Bridges said. "Both are hard workers who answer calls for help as soon as they are made."

John worked at his uncle’s farm and his father’s sawmill during his formative years. He continued at the mill after college while also focusing on forestry, wildlife protection and natural resource management.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan is surrounded by hunting prizes that adorn the walls of his Montgomery office.

Public service beckoned in 1969 when Gov. Albert Brewer named him to a vacancy on the Baldwin County Commission. Five years later, he was elected to the Legislature and then re-elected to another term. During the time, he was chosen Legislator of the Year on two occasions.

In 1980, Gov. Fob James named him commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

That appointment opened the way for Steve to toss his hat in the ring to succeed his brother in the House of Representatives. He won in a breeze and continues to be reelected every four years.

One of John’s most important accomplishments was playing a major role in rebuilding Gulf State Park after the devastation of Hurricane Frederic in 1979.

Steve’s 36-year tenure in the House of Representatives is the fifth longest in Alabama history.

Steve McMillan gives a legislative update for state and local issues at the Gulf United Metro Business Origination in Baldwin County.

After graduating from Auburn University, Steve pondered his future with teaching first and real estate second. He chose real estate and, today, operates a successful business.

"Actually, I did teach real estate at Faulkner State Community College and that helped me politically," he recalled. "With 30 students in each class, it added up in numbers – especially when I started campaigning."

A conservative Republican whose repeated victories at the polls infuriated Democratic leaders so much that Steve found himself moved from political pillar to post during reapportionments.

In 2000, Democrats apparently thought they could get even by cutting Steve’s house out of his district, forcing him to move into another Baldwin County political district. It was a decision that would become laughable.

The couple didn’t blink a second, moving to Orange Beach, a community where the twins’ family had lived since 1920.

"The Democrats wanted to punish him for helping to elect Republicans," recalled Gayle McMillan, who could have been her husband’s campaign manager the way she pushed his candidacy. "Steve said that only a Democrat would think it was punishment to force someone to move to the beach."

John gets a chuckle out of that development involving his brother.

"His district has been redrawn five times and he continues to be re-elected," John said.

It’s been a classic case of having the last laugh and is likely to be repeated two years from now when Steve once more is up for re-election. He says he has every intention of running again.

Steve put his successful real estate career on a back burner when he ran the first time and it would prove to be a costly decision – but not one that he’s ever regretted.

"There’s no telling how much it’s cost me in the real estate business," said Steve of his three decade-plus career in the Legislature. "It’s a huge sacrifice for elected officials and their families because we are expected to be available at all times."

Brother John is his twin’s biggest fan, but he isn’t surprised because it all goes back to family values and the good lessons in that area as they grew up.

"I’m not complaining because I enjoy what I do," Steve said. "Not everybody can say that."

Although the twin politicians bear a striking resemblance neither feels they are identical. Such is not the case when they are seen together by someone unfamiliar with them. Double takes are not unusual.

"I’ve had to pull my driver’s license out to prove I am who I am," Steve said. "We never dressed alike when we were kids and haven’t done it as adults."

The rumor mill is being churned by political junkies who enjoy guessing who might run for governor in 2018.

John McMillan’s career as Alabama’s top agricultural official will be ending that year and political speculation making the rounds indicates he might just run for the state’s top spot.

"Right now I’m very happy in the position I have, but I’m not ruling out a possible run for governor," he said. "We’ll just have to wait and see what might happen."

If there is one thing that keeps the twins on their toes, it’s correcting those who write their surname with a second "i" – as in McMillian.

It happens now and then in newspapers and magazines so they’re happy to set the record straight. It’s the least they can do to perpetuate the memory of a remarkable family.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.




Earl




FFA Sentinel: Farm Day Fun

Guntersville FFA conducts thrilling inaugural event.

by Cecil Gant

Kids these days – especially city kids, but even some kids from the country, too – don’t know much about the farm, according to Casey Smith, agriscience teacher at Guntersville High School.

"That’s why my FFA members; my wife, Natalie, and I; and the teachers at Guntersville Elementary School planned and conducted a Farm Day for students at the school," Smith said. "It was the Guntersville school system’s first ever Farm Day, and, boy, did it ever go over big!"


Left, baby chicks were a favorite exhibit of the participants, but chickens are much more than soft, cuddly playthings. Poultry is a leading agricultural commodity in Alabama, particularly in North Alabama, and is responsible for a whopping $3.6 billion of the state’s economy.

The school system’s agriscience students furnished many of the animals and exhibited them, built special props needed, set up and manned the various exhibits, and volunteered many hours of labor to the project. In addition, the agriscience students helped the kids to identify the different animals. In many instances, the kids added a dimension of touching or petting some of the animals such as the fuzzy baby chicks and the furry rabbits. Other exhibits included baby goats, ducks and dogs.

The Alabama Beekeepers Association had a special display depicting the fascinating work honey bees do as they gather nectar from plants and convert it to honey, and the plants’ flowers are pollinated, as well.

Besides the petting zoo feature of the Farm Day, the kids were fascinated by a display on honey bees that depicted how the tiny insects gather pollen from plants such as clover growing in the environment and do their magic of making honey.

The kids were also thrilled in learning how to milk a cow, thanks to a mechanical simulation of a cow that allowed the students to have actual hands-on experiences in the manual art of milking.

Students also learned how farmers of yesteryear shelled corn for their livestock by using a hand-driven sheller. The kids were amazed at how an ear of corn covered with kernels of corn could be reduced to a mere cob rather quickly by the sheller.

Guntersville Elementary Principal Julie Ann McCulley related that some 28 classes of at least 475 students loved the Farm Day.

"We are especially grateful to the Smiths, Casey and Natalie, for making the event happen!" she said.

Second-grade teacher Shelia Buckelew gave her full endorsement to the project, noting that the kids’ attachment to the animals was immediate.

The furry rabbits were somewhat familiar to the kids – probably due to Easter. This familiarity enhanced the kids’ eagerness to hold, pet and ask to take their rabbit friends home with them.

"They wanted to take their newly discovered friends home with them!" she said.

To make the outside activity even more appealing, a sack lunch with pizza was an added bonus for the kids.

Smith was quick to credit community supporters such as tractor and implement dealers, the Alabama Beekeepers Association, the Alabama Farmers Federation represented by Kyle Hays and Brad Cox, parents and a host of community patrons who furnished items needed for the Farm Day.

"The event garnered all kinds of interest and support," Smith said. "I’m sure we’ll be asked to do it again!"

Cecil Gant is the coordinator for Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed.




From Wood to Wonder

Greg Cox carries forward a family tradition of craftsmanship.

Greg Cox enjoys making big trucks, especially Kenworths. He does not paint the trucks, leaving that to his customers. The toys are bought as soon as he finishes each one.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Greg Cox has never found a piece of wood he didn’t like! The beauty of intricate wood grains and the sounds of saws, splitting, spinning and smoothing have delighted Cox since early childhood. Holding a piece of wood and giving it new life brings Cox a gratification that defies explanation.

Cox inherited his love of woodworking from his dad, Fletcher Cox, a master craftsman who lives in Coffeeville. As Cox grew up, he worked with his father, who encouraged his son to try things on his own.

Fletcher’s favorite saying was, "You won’t learn it until you do it!"

Cox watched and listened, and, at age 15, he really got serious about his craft. Now, it seems, he can’t stop. For a while, he sold his work at craft shows all around southwest Alabama. However, after he married and started his own family, he had little time for weekly shows. By this time, customers were familiar with his personal signature, so he was able to craft only upon request. His business plan worked, as he has been busy for the last 25 years, and his pieces are still in high demand.

The quiet-spoken Cox has a unique gift: he can look at something and build it. Even though he does sometimes use patterns for the basic framework of a few of his pieces, he mostly works from an inner vision that only he can see. Cox is blessed with an artist’s keen eye that gives him a grasp of what to look for. He also possesses the mechanic’s understanding of how engines really work. This helps him create the intricately detailed parts he fashions in many of his big toys.

"I’ll try anything," he laughed. "It may take me awhile, but I’ll figure it out and make it."

And make it, he does! Even though Cox does build traditional wooden pieces such as rocking chairs, swings and furniture, his greatest love is making wooden toys.

The larger-scaled models sell as fast as he can make them. He likes to make big rigs that are as detailed as possible, even down to the wiring. His favorites are Kenworth trucks.

Greg says his greatest joy is spending time with his family. From left are Kaley McManus and Tanya, Greg and Kelsey Cox.

He prefers building working models, because the intricate parts in each one fascinate him. In fact, he has made hundreds of these and sold them at craft shows and flea markets through the years.

He chooses not to refinish the trucks for two reasons. First, he personally likes the look of the raw wood. Second, the costs for refinishing would be too expensive for most buyers.

He has discovered that many of his customers prefer to personalize the toys with their own business logos and colors. Some customers even display Cox’s work in their businesses.

In each piece, it is evident that Cox has put something of himself into the creation. In fact, he jokingly says he has a hard time giving up his pieces as they seem like one of his children. He recently made a 4-foot long log truck that he was reluctant to sell. When his daughter asked about donating it to her school for a fundraiser, however, he willingly let it go, because he realized the money would be used to help children.

Cox has always loved the logging, hauling and heavy equipment businesses. That’s why he enjoys making track hoes, lowboys, road graders and all kinds of log trucks, some even with folding trailers. The next project he plans to build will be a front-end loader.

"People in these businesses buy these toys as decorative pieces for their homes, offices and camp houses," he explained. "They want the stuff that looks real because they work with this equipment every day."

Once, a friend asked Cox to replicate his beloved tractor.

"I went to his house and looked at his tractor," he explained. "I built it for him. I even put the wiring in the motor, the fly wheel, starter … everything. He couldn’t believe it when he saw it!"

Cox owns Greg’s Woodworking, located on London Road in Sandflat. He tore down a friend’s old house and used the repurposed wood to construct his own workshop behind his home. The shop houses numerous pieces of woodworking equipment, as well as Cox’s three cats that he playfully calls his supervisors.

"I collected equipment through the years," he added," and then I would sometimes come up on some good used values. I’d pick them up and add them to my collection."

He has managed to stock the shop so well that now he needs more room.

A master electrician, Cox works in maintenance at Gulf Scotch in Fulton.

Greg finished his daughter’s bedroom suite just in time for her birthday.

The most unusual thing Cox has made recently has been a trundle bed for his younger daughter Kelsey. He started after Christmas and finished it months later. He used cypress to make the frame and the storage bins beneath the bed.

When he could not locate factory slides for a bed this size, he built his own.

He has also built a tall headboard with matching sidelights and added ornate, decorative details to the bedroom pieces.

Cox has also made specialty pieces for his wife Tanya and his stepdaughter Kaley McManus. Whatever the girls have asked for, he has managed to make, especially playhouses and toy boxes. He has also made computer tables, end tables, picture frames and a very ornate bench that Tanya has placed in their entry.

Tanya said she is amazed at his work.

"Greg has a lot of patience," she said. "This work is very tedious. Small parts break easily, and he has to rebuild them. It amazes me how much detail he puts into his work."

And it’s in the details that an observer can see the heart and passion of Greg Cox. He may spend countless hours fashioning a miniature part to look just like the real thing. He chuckled and admitted the woodworking process was probably as gratifying to him as the finished product.

Cox stated that using his hands to build something beautiful and useful is one of the most satisfying things that he could ever do.

"The work relaxes me," he smiled. "It makes me feel good to do something that somebody else can enjoy."

Kelsey Cox, left, seems to have inherited the family’s love of woodworking. She has built many wooden toys such as a log truck and train. She enjoys working in the shop with her father, who has taught her how to use his many different saws.

Cox is especially thrilled that Kelsey seems to have inherited the Cox family’s love of woodworking. She has already made a log truck and a train with several cars that attach to one another. She enjoys working with her dad, and has become very proficient on the saws. Cox hopes she will be inspired to carry on their family tradition of fine woodworking.

Kelsey also plays sports, so this means her dad spends many hours on the sidelines, supporting and encouraging her. Cox still manages to get into his shop, however, but mostly at night. He admitted, when his machines start singing and he is actively creating a wooden art piece, he is transfixed and forgets about time.

Cox takes great pride in his family’s time-honored tradition of woodworking. His pieces are much more than usable objects; they are living pieces of art, made from his heart. With Cox’s gentle touch, wood comes to life to express the joy of his labor and transform the human spirit.

Check out Greg’s Woodworking on Facebook or call him at 334-830-6466.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at drinkardcarolyn@gmail.com.




Get Connected with Game Check

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries introduces hunters to a new harvest reporting tool.

by David Rainer

Chuck Sykes is on a quest. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries director is touring the state to educate hunters about the Game Check program and how it can benefit both hunters and wildlife resources in the short term and for many years to come.

The Game Check program, used on a voluntary basis for the past three years, will be mandatory for the 2016-2017 hunting seasons for reporting the harvest of deer and turkeys.

The goal of Sykes’ tour is to make that transition as easy as possible. Over 20 public seminars are planned across the state, and Sykes urges all hunters to visit one of the meetings that will be held through the summer and early fall. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/game-check-seminar-series for the current schedule.

"We need people to come out and understand what Game Check is and why we’re doing it," Sykes said. "The Conservation Advisory Board passed Game Check unanimously. The Department (Conservation and Natural Resources) understands there is going to be a learning curve. That is why we’re doing these seminars all over the state. There will be at least three seminars a week throughout the summer somewhere in the state.

"My goal is to let our hunters know why we need Game Check. But just as important, I’m showing them the way to do it. I’m walking through, step-by-step, the quickest and easiest way to use Game Check to report their harvest. I’m also talking about other rules and regulations and answering any questions people have."

When Game Check was first introduced three years ago, WFF decided to try the voluntary route to see if enough Alabama hunters would report their harvests. Alabama is one of only three states without mandatory harvest reporting. Unfortunately, the number of hunters who reported their harvest via Game Check was less than 5 percent during that span.

"We tried voluntary reporting for three years and it didn’t work," Sykes said. "There were 19,000 deer reported in 2013 and only 15,000 last year."

Estimates from sampling and mail surveys indicate about 300,000 deer are harvested annually in Alabama.

"That’s our guess," Sykes said of the harvest estimate. "We need to know. It’s too important an industry to the state ($1.8 billion economic impact), and it’s too important to the way of life to many people, including me, for us to base everything on a guess."

Sykes said WFF surveys indicated that 77 percent of the respondents did not oppose a mandatory Game Check system, but he continues to have to debunk some of the rumors that were previously spread about the program.

"At the meetings we’ve had so far, people want to know how to do it and what we’re going to use the information for," he said. "Some people are under the impression that, if they give us the data, we’re going to take something away from them. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. If we find we have more deer than we think or if we’re not killing as many as we think, we possibly can give them more hunting opportunities.

"We don’t know. I don’t have enough data to argue pro or con right now. It’s easy to stick your head in the sand when things are going well, but the fingers are going to be pointed at Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries if it’s not. This is too important to guess. We need to know," he added.

Compliance with the Game Check system is available in three ways. Hunters can use the Outdoor Alabama app, go online at www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck or call 1-800-888-7690.

"The phone system is the least reliable and the phone line costs us money," Sykes said. "From the three years of the voluntary Game Check, the phone reporting was about 50-percent unreliable because it allows for more room to import faulty data like missing counties, wrong sex and incorrect license numbers. We offer it for the people who don’t have internet access. The app and online reporting don’t cost us money. For everybody who has internet, we are strongly encouraging them to get the app or go online."

There is an incentive for hunters to use the Outdoor Alabama app.

"If they do it that way, they don’t have to carry their harvest records anymore," Sykes said. "We’re trying to make it as easy as possible. We just want people to understand how to do it.

"This is one of the largest efforts the department has done in a decade that’s going to impact everybody who deer and turkey hunt in the state – not negatively, but it will impact them. We need to educate people on why we’re doing it and how to accomplish it. It’s that simple."

While Game Check will allow WFF biologists and the public to monitor harvests on a near real-time basis, Sykes said the best information will come a few years down the road.

"We can look at it week-by-week, but we’re not expecting anything significant for two to three years, preferably five years," he said. "We don’t want one bad season to impact any decisions. You may have bad weather or have gas at $4 a gallon again and people aren’t traveling as much to hunt. So I would love to have five years of data where we can look at that trend and see what the harvest number is doing and see what participation is doing; so we can make sound management decisions.

"We’re not going to make decisions on what people report this year. We’ve got to crawl before we can run. But it will alert us to any situation. More importantly, it will alert the hunters. They can go online and see if the February season is having an impact on buck harvest. They will be able to tell what bucks are being killed in every county. You can look county by county, day by day and see what’s going on."

Sykes doesn’t know how many hunters will embrace participation in the Game Check program but he is optimistic.

"I would love to have 100-percent compliance, but that’s unrealistic," he said. "Georgia instituted mandatory reporting during turkey season, and they’re estimating they got about 45-percent compliance this year. That’s huge. Right now, we’re only sampling hunters who have a license, which isn’t that many, unfortunately. With Game Check, everybody who hunts will be sampled. It should blow the database through the roof.

"I just want people to come to these seminars to ask questions and form an opinion based on facts, not what they hear from a friend or read on social media. Come listen. Come ask questions. See what it’s all about. Then form their opinion. So far, even the people who have not been jumping up and down in support of Game Check, once they hear the presentation, ask questions, have those questions answered, they understand why we’re doing it and it’s OK."

David Rainer is with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.




How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Shear the Lamb’s Ears

Lamb’s ears respond to late summer grooming with fresh new growth.

Perennial lamb’s ears offer a year-round touch of gray that can carry a bed through the seasons, but it can grow ragged-looking by the end of summer as the fuzzy foliage piles up in layers. In our humid climate, the lower and inside leaves often turn brown, but the good news is that plants respond well to grooming. You can freshen the planting by removing all the older browned leaves from under the plant and trimming overgrown stems. Remove the oldest woody stems, leaving some young pieces to grow. Old-fashioned lamb’s ears may be stretched tall with blooms; you can trim these off. Varieties such as the large-leafed Helen Von Stein don’t bloom. All varieties will grow another flush of pretty, fuzzy new leaves for the fall and winter.

Young and adult boxelder bugs can gather in large numbers and become a nuisance. (Credit: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org)

Boxelder Bugs

These colorful insects you may see in large numbers in your garden in late summer and fall are usually harmless to plants, but can be a nuisance if they gather in large numbers in the garden or on buildings. Called boxelder bugs because they like to gather on boxelder trees, a type of maple (Acer negundo). However, you will find them resting and feeding on many garden flowers and sometimes fruit that they can damage by piercing the skin. Otherwise, they are usually harmless.
They are most abundant during hot, dry summers and, like pine beetles and other insects that appear in cycles, some years they are more abundant than others.

Try Fall Snap Peas

One of the great things about gardening is creating your own challenge. Once you master the basics, you can attempt to stretch the limits. One quick and inexpensive ($4 for 200-300 pea seeds) stretch to try is sugar snap peas in the fall. While most folks plant them in February for an early spring harvest, it is possible to plant them for a fall harvest; but you have to nurse them through the heat first. Seeds don’t like the hot ground, so it is best to plant them indoors and transplant to the garden shortly after they sprout, or find a way to keep the soil cool if seeding directly into the ground. Then watch for mites that easily appear on the tender leaves during the dry weather in later summer and fall. The reward is a great crop of peas in October that will continue yielding until a hard freeze. The original 1979 All-America winner, Sugar Snap, is always delicious, but there are also newer and slightly more expensive varieties that mature about a week sooner and are a little more cold hardy. Sugar Ann is a much shorter vine (2-3 feet) that matures about a week earlier than Sugar Snap. Sugar Snap grows 5-6 feet tall and will need the same kind of vertical support you use for pole beans.

Trim Back Mint Plants

By clipping mint in containers regularly, it is easy to keep new, fresh leaves appearing all summer. However, if you don’t trim regularly, the stems can get woody and the plant produces just a few fresh leaves only at the very tips of the stems. If this has happened to your mint, trim the plant back and feed with a liquid food such as Bonnie’s Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. It will bounce back for fall.

Sensible Mosquito Control

To reduce mosquitoes in your yard, be sure there are no places where water can pool such as old buckets, toys, tarps, clogged gutters, and the obvious places such as birdbaths and plant saucers that stay full. If you have a still water feature, add a pump to keep water moving to prevent breeding. Or use an organic mosquito control such as Mosquito Dunks that kill mosquito larvae, but not other insects. Mosquito Dunks are safe for pets, too. Finally, try a fan blowing across the area where you sit. Mosquitoes are weak flyers and are easily blown away. They also prefer dark clothing; wear lighter colors when possible. If you need a personal repellent, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends products containing DEET, picaridin or the synthetic oil of lemon and eucalyptus are the most effective. Beware that wholesale spraying of pesticides around the yard may kill beneficial insects and bees visiting flowers in areas being sprayed.

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




Just Cute Little Harmless Pups

by Glenn Crumpler

I was riding fence, on the four wheeler, just after a pretty big windstorm. Several pine tops around the house had been broken off and I was pretty sure, because all of our fencing is electric and most all of it is bordered by woods, limbs would have wires down somewhere on the place.

At about 6:30 p.m. as I rounded the northeast corner of the south pasture, something just inside the fence caught my eye. My first thoughts, by the looks of its ears, was that it was a fawn. "No, it could not be a fawn, it is too small. It is a baby fox! No, that is not right; the color is too light and the tail is too skinny."

As I got about 50 feet from the critter that had caught my attention, suddenly two or three more appeared and it was apparent they were baby coyotes. This was the first time I had ever seen a baby coyote. They looked to be about six weeks old.

I turned off my four wheeler and just sat and watched them for 30 minutes or more. Within just minutes, five of the little pups had appeared and seemed amused at my appearance. They looked at me, but did not seem to be too alarmed by my presence. In just a little while, they were frolicking and playing with one another just like all young-uns do. One pup would pounce upon another’s tail, while others just roamed around or stopped to scratch fleas. They wrestled and played, going in and out of the wood line, every now and then stopping to look at me.

Before long, I could identify one from the other when they came out. One was obviously the runt of the litter and it was the most adventurous and bold. Another was the largest of the bunch, and it was the most cautious and alert.

They were so cute and playful! My first thoughts were, "This will be fun to watch them grow up. If I can see them every day, they would get used to my presence and the sound of the four wheeler. My boys will love to see these pups." I sat there thinking about how neat this experience was and about how fun it would be to watch them grow up. I even took several videos of the pups as I watched them so that I could document their growth.

I sat there all excited feeling like a genuine National Geographic photographer when suddenly I remembered the two registered Angus calves we had already lost to coyotes. During calving season, coyotes are always a threat and we see them every few days and hear their howls and whines at night, wondering if they have attacked another calf. Some nights, I will get in the truck and drive across the road to the calving pasture and shine my spotlight to drive them off, or I will at least go out on the front porch and fire a shot with my shotgun to scare them away.

It sounds like there are dozens of them when they sound off. If you have ever heard them, you know the sound and the eeriness of hearing them in the dark. If you have ever seen a month-old calf that had been attacked and eaten by coyotes, you know how brutal and vicious they really are.

I remember one night a couple of years ago when I heard trouble in the chicken coop in the planted pines just outside our bedroom window. I had heard coyotes that night yelping and whining earlier as they hunted, so I got out of bed and walked outside in the dark with nothing on but my underwear, boots and a pistol in my hand. (Yep, I looked like you are visualizing!) Just as I approached the gate, I was completely surrounded by several growling canines. Whether they were wild dogs or coyotes, I do not know, but at the moment it did not matter. They were all around me. I immediately fired a couple of shots in the ground and I heard them run off. Though coyote attacks on humans are rare, I can assure you their sound alone will scare you to the point you will hurt yourself trying to get back to the house!

But these little coyote pups I had driven up on in the pasture were so small, cute and playful. They were harmless. What would be wrong with just letting these few pups grow up and coexist with our cattle? What harm could these little playful pups cause – especially if I could build some kind of relationship with them? They are just little, harmless puppies!

That night as I watched the videos of the pups over and over and showed them to my grandsons, I thought about how these little, playful and seemingly harmless coyotes, and my thought to try to make friends with them, were so analogous to the way sin gets a hold on us.

First, there is something or someone that attracts us or gets our attention. Sometimes, the thought or attraction is the bait of Satan; other times it may just be the tendencies of our own sinful heart. At first, it seems to be little, cute, attractive, interesting, beneficial and harmless, so we rationalize it cannot hurt anything if we just coexisted and interacted with it a little. Sometime we can even see it as being God-sent! I mean, it’s just a look or a thought, surely that could not hurt anything and it may even make me better or at least it will meet a need I have. The next thing we know, we realize those little pups have grown up and we find ourselves surrounded by a vicious pack of grown-up coyotes that are out to kill and destroy us.

These temptations may be an object, a thought, an action or a person, but, though they seem harmless at first, they grow up and take us further than we intended to go, make us stay longer than we intended to stay and cost us more than we wanted to pay!

I remember a preacher friend telling me once that we are never tempted by something or someone that is unattractive. Temptation is always attractive and seductive or it would not be tempting, it would not catch our attention.

There are many examples we can look at in our lives and the lives of others, but just consider the familiar case of King David in the Bible. The same man who God referred to as a man after His own heart. David was home from the war, was alone and could not sleep so he got out of bed and stepped out on the roof of his house. He was not looking for anything or anyone, but he happened to look down and he saw Bathsheba (the very beautiful wife of one of his soldiers) taking a bath. That definitely got his attention.

Bathsheba was not doing anything wrong or looking to do anything wrong, but was doing just what she normally did in the privacy of her own courtyard. At this point, David had just accidently seen her, but he had not sinned. But as he continued to look, he began to lust and think of how good she could be for him, so he sent a servant to go see who she was. The servant came back and asked, "Is this not Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah?" Caught in his passion, David ignored the question of his servant and he sent for Bathsheba and he lay with her and she became pregnant. Bathsheba was a victim because she was a subject of the king and was required to do as he demanded. Had David listened to his servant, this would have been his way out. To lie with the wife of one of his most elite and loyal soldiers would not only be foolish but unjust and shameful.

Hebrew law required that anyone caught in adultery should be stoned. So David not only committed adultery but he also lied and even had Uriah killed to try to hide his sin. For a man of God such as David to stoop to this kind of sinful behavior shows us there is no limit to the depths of sin that you and I are capable of once we start to walk or stray away from God!

"Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:15 NKJV). Just as a child is a human being before it is born, so sin is in our hearts before it is revealed. When we hold temptation in our hearts and fantasize about it in our minds, sin is conceived; and once sin is conceived, it brings forth death.

The good news is, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 KJV)

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.




Made in the USA???

by Suzy Lowry Geno

"Humpfgh ..." the man made a half-gurgling, half-grunting sound as he raked his hands across the jewelry displayed on an old quilt on a stout table.

"More junk made in China," he exclaimed, as he grumbled some more.

As I rushed over to untangle the mass of necklaces and bracelets he had just jumbled, I explained in my best and, hopefully, CALMEST storekeeper voice, "No, nothing in this store is made in China or anywhere else outside the United States ... and most is made as locally as possible."

The necklaces he’d carelessly tossed across the table are individually handmade from horseshoe nails by a retiree in the nearby small town of Allgood.

The colorful polished rock items are also handmade by a woman patriot from Etowah County.

But I explained as I almost backed him into a corner, the majority of the items are made by me on this farm from local items grown or produced right here.

No, I don’t believe that anytime soon I’ll be getting the ingredients for my honeysuckle jelly or my goat milk soap from anywhere any further than my backyard.

"Just thought you were a junk store like everybody else," he said as he left with no apology.

As I sat on my little stool behind my handmade checkout counter, I could only shake my head.

You can preach the benefits of global economy all you want, but in this little homesteader’s eyes we’ve got to stop before it gets any worse! My disgruntled customer had made a point. Too many stores he’d likely been in were just filled with junk from China! And it’s up to us to stop it before it gets any worse!

To me, nothing good can possibly come from growing meat in the United States, having it processed OVERSEAS and then shipping it back to the United States for our families to eat. Somehow the thought of my meal being more well-traveled than I am does not suit me.

But it’s not just that, we must start examining everything we buy!

A needle breaks in two pieces with one pricking my finger as I’m on the last row of a baby quilt. As I reach to get a new needle, the letters "Made in China" glow in gold and mock me from the pink plastic case.

From now on I’m going to be ordering my wooden clothespins from Lehman’s Non Electric in Ohio! Their clothespins are handmade by the Amish. The ones that just sprang open on my clothesline letting the sheets drag in the dirt brightly said, "Made in Taiwan."

Tammy Hurd and her family at Munchkins Rebel Homestead have brought their expertise and some of their recipes from Maine to combine with good Southern ones to provide goodies such as bagels, homemade bread AND farm-fresh, farm-raised chicken. They sell at local farmers markets, directly from their farm near the Blount-St. Clair County line and can be reached through Facebook.

There’s a two-piece screwdriver in the drawer in my office. It’s not supposed to be in two pieces, but as I tried to tighten the FIRST screw on a hinged door of my chicken coop, on the FIRST screw, the screwdriver broke neatly in two ... not made on this continent.

In my office, there’s also an entire drawer of flashlights that will neither flash nor light. All made outside the United States!

And don’t even get me started about blue jeans! If you’re like me and you actually live in jeans, you better get on the internet and hunt those actually made in the USA or you may get arrested for indecent exposure once you bend over a time or two! My late husband and, now, my son find that practically every pair of jeans or pants in general will split right in the crotch if they squat down to work.

Is it that they don’t know how to sew a seam or is the thread just spider-web thin?

We don’t wear that denim just to look like all the wannabe farmers and cowboys ... we actually do the work and we expect the jeans to hang in there in one piece right along with us!

An article in USA TODAY notes that every American yearly eats an average of 260 pounds of imported food.

So if we can’t trust folks to make a screwdriver that will hold itself together for more than one use or a pair of jeans you can actually bend in, can we really trust what we’re eating?

A rash of articles on the internet notes there are simply not enough Department of Agriculture or USDA inspectors to inspect all the food that is imported.

So we go from the simply inconvenient such as a broken needle to the downright wasteful to the DANGEROUS – such as Chinese drywall (a friend of mine is still struggling to fix all the economic and health issues that caused) – to deadly dog food, to sickening baby formula.

Shagbark hickory syrup and dandelion jelly (above) are just two of the goodies sold by Bailey’s Best Farm between Snead and Oneonta. You can find them on Facebook in your quest to Buy Local!

But I see good signs.

Just down my road and on each side of our county from me are young farm families legally selling organic chicken and fresh-from-the-farm pork along with farm-fresh eggs and even hickory bark syrup!

Local farmers markets have EXPLODED in the past few years with almost every community having close access to at least one. (There was even a fully stocked farmers market every Tuesday in one of the huge medical buildings in Birmingham where my late husband traveled regularly for treatment!)

And how many folks do you know who have started gardening again? You can know what is in or been sprayed on your food if you grow it yourself OR if you KNOW the farmer personally displaying it for sale in that wicker basket!

We’ve done so much to mess up this country and to ourselves with often a generous amount of help from our own government. But all is not lost!

A friend’s husband comes from four generations of cabinetmakers. He will custom make cabinets for your kitchen or bathroom for about the same or a little more than you’d pay to get foreign-made cabinets … and the ones he makes won’t be made of fiberboard – they will last a lifetime!

Or if you don’t know anybody personally, check out the furniture made in many Amish or Mennonite communities around the country!

Some people have asked me why I like their products so much. No, I don’t share all their religious beliefs and you have to watch for unscrupulous people even there. But if you find an Amish or Mennonite family who creates with wood rather than builds, you’ll likely never look inside a big store again!

And Amish foods that are Department of Ag approved are the same way – no weird ingredients you can’t pronounce ... just old-fashioned goodness!

I hope I educated my recent customer about the Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement before he grumbled out to his car.

We have to check labels. Buy USA made if at all possible. Support your LOCAL farmers and local businesses that sell USA made goods.

It’s like that old saying regarding eating an elephant ... it may look overwhelming if we look at the overall picture, but even that entire elephant can be eaten if we do it one bite at a time!

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a small Blount County homestead and can be reached by email at slgt@yahoo.com.




More Hot and More Garden Stuff

by Herb T. Farmer

Black Pearl pepper is usually grown as an ornamental plant, but can be eaten as well. It looks great on a salad, but watch out … it’s a hot one! Black Pearl peppers make beautiful container plantings.

Hello, gardeners! Happy August to each of you!

Today, I’m like the kid who refuses to pick up his room before he can go outside and play. Maybe the August heat just scorched my brain a little and I can’t seem to find my productive thread.

Be careful with this weather. I just burned my mouth with water from a bottle that was sitting in my truck today. I didn’t realize it was hotter than a cup of McDonald’s coffee!

Please leave bowls of water out on your properties for thirsty animals. Also, remember that if you feed the raccoons at your home then please leave a bowl of water near where they feed. Raccoons are one of the cleanest mammals in our area, as they wash their food before consuming it.

Now … on to gardening. Lately the water catch system here on the farm has been going completely dry between rains; meaning some of the vegetable beds have to be irrigated with public water. If you are having the same issues, I suggest you add more catch vessels. Your local Co-op stores have a variety of holding tanks available for you to choose from.

Forget those 55-gallon barrels. Get some 275-gallon storage tanks to catch your roof runoff! As long as you’re catching rainwater, you might as well catch the most.

Speaking of catching rainwater, remember to leave your watering cans and various other vessels where they can catch a drop of nature’s liquid goodness. Just be sure to empty them at least every three days in order to keep mosquito larvae from hatching. Another helpful tip is to use a water-breaker to reduce the surface tension on standing water. A drop of dishwashing liquid added to a bucket of water will be enough to prevent mosquitoes from being able to walk on the surface of the water, thus preventing them from being able to lay eggs. The mosquitoes will sink and theoretically drown. About a teaspoon of Dawn will treat about 50 gallons of water.

If you have containers out to catch water, use them or dump them.

Sun Sugar tomatoes are super sweet and just keep on producing through the hot weather.

Sunscald is affecting a lot of plants here on the farm. Tomatoes, chili peppers, bell peppers, and even watermelons are getting a tough dose of the rays. For small gardens, a white sun shade (such as a bedsheet) can make a big difference in preventing crop loss due to intense exposure to the sun.

Lately, I’ve noticed sunscald damage on sun coleus, bay laurel, betel leaf and various tropical houseplants. Most of these can be moved into the shade without starving them for light. I like to boost the growth of tender plants during the warm months so they will better tolerate the three or so months of cold weather indoors.

Last month I made one of my favorite summertime desserts and I’m getting ready to make another one. Banana pudding! Want the recipe?

This recipe is one that I found on the internet at food.com. It most closely followed my aunt’s recipe. But a couple of years ago, my dear friend Lady Murielle made her own version of my copied recipe and it is sensational! We worked together on this one Wednesday evening, and wrote down the adjustments. I hope you enjoy it.

BANANA PUDDING

This is by far the most delicious banana pudding I have ever made.

¾ cup (heaping) sugar, divided
1/3 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
10 ounces whole milk
6 ounces evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
40-50 vanilla wafers, divided
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 large bananas, ripe but lightly speckled, sliced

Mix ½ cup sugar, flour, mace and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in egg yolks and milks. Cook uncovered over boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. This makes the custard. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Reserve 10-12 vanilla wafers for garnish.

Spread a small amount of the custard on the bottom of a 1½ quart baking dish; cover with layers of 1/3 each of the remaining vanilla wafers and bananas. (Place one banana slice on each wafer.) Pour about 1/3 of the remaining custard over the bananas. Continue layering wafers, bananas and custard to make three layers, ending with custard.

Beat egg whites on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining (heaping) ¼ cup of sugar and cream of tartar, beating until stiff but not dry. Spoon over custard, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to the edge of the dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. It is also good after refrigerating.

Garnish with remaining wafers and bananas when serving.

Make two and save one for tomorrow’s dessert!

Remember the Perseid meteor shower is August 11-12.

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at farmerherb@gmail.com. I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

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




Moultrie Tripod Deer Feeders

by John Sims

Deer Feeder Classic Tripod (Good)

The Deer Feeder Classic keeps feeding simple, reliable and economical. Thanks to Moultrie’s exclusive Quick-Lock modular technology, interchangeable with all Moultrie feeder kits, assembly has never been easier. Just insert the Quick-Lock hopper into the kit and twist, no tools necessary! Made from durable, UV-resistant plastic, the hopper has a fill height of 5.5 feet for easy ground-level access. A dusk setting programmable up to 30 minutes before sunset offers flexibility in patterning deer to your schedule.

Deer Feeder Pro Tripod (Better)

Get the fully programmable functionality of the Deer Feeder Elite, but with the economy of durable, UV-resistant plastic parts and a nonadjustable fill height of 5.5 feet. Moultrie’s exclusive Quick-Lock modular technology makes setup easier than ever before and is compatible with any Moultrie feeder kit. Simply insert the Quick-Lock hopper into the kit and twist. New square, locking legs add stability to the well-thought-out design of the Deer Feeder Pro, featuring a 360-degree feed pattern.

Deer Feeder Elite Tripod (Best)

Set multiple daily feeding times of your choosing, make the feeder short or tall and get the durability of metal moving parts, with a wind-resistant metal spin plate and funnel. A UV-resistant plastic Quick-Lock hopper assembles in a snap. Just insert the hopper into the kit and twist! New square, locking legs and feeder feet add stability to the already-awesome Deer Feeder Elite, featuring a 360-degree feed pattern.

Visit your local Quality Co-op for all your deer feeding needs. Be sure to check out their selection of attractants and feeds including MaxRax and Big Buck Blend deer feeds.

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.




My Spices

by Nadine Johnson

As a rule, I have no trouble thinking of a topic for my next column. This time was a bit different. While pondering the situation, I happened to reach for my spice collection. I do not have a spice rack. I use a plastic box stored in a cabinet. As I looked through the contents, I said to myself, "This is it. I’ll give a small amount of information regarding the culinary and medicinal uses of all these herbs." Here’s what developed.

Red pepper (capsicum/cayenne): All of us Southern country folks know this fresh-grown garden fruit is a must when serving cornbread, field peas and creamed corn. There are many ways to prepare it and serve it. It is a heart stimulant, aids digestion and controls bleeding. If you happen to have a small cut, cleanse the area well, apply red pepper powder and a bandage. You will heal rapidly.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum): Cinnamon toast, French toast, bread pudding and cinnamon rolls are just a few of the tasty ways cinnamon is used. In the herbal medicine cabinet, it is useful for the control of diabetes (don’t leave off your doctor’s medication). It is also said to boost brain function.

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum): For a delicious baked ham, I coat it with a brown sugar paste. Then I punch cloves about 2 inches apart all over it. I put it in a brown paper bag in a 300 degree oven for 22 minutes per pound. My favorite alternative recommendation for cloves is clove oil. Keep a bottle on hand at all times. If you have a toothache, apply the oil with a Q-tip. It will coat the nerve and relieve your pain until you can see your dentist.

Garlic (Allium sativum): A must for most so-called Italian dishes. When mixed with capsicum, it will help to lower blood pressure. Actually its benefits are too numerous to mention. For those of you who wish to grow it, I recommend elephant garlic. Remember to plant it in the fall, not in the spring.

Parsley (Petroselinum sativum): I add this to many dishes, especially potatoes. The green herb is excellent in salads. It is said to be a diuretic and vasodilator, and it has a high vitamin content. For growers, remember it is a great butterfly attraction. One day you will have a beautiful, green plant. The next day you will have a leafless plant with well-fed butterfly larvae crawling all over it.

Sage (Salvia officinalis): Pork sausage and Thanksgiving dressing would be lost without it. It is said to strengthen the nervous system, improve memory and sharpen the senses. I read some place that the wife must be the boss of the family in order to grow sage successfully.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaria): One of the daintiest of all the herbs, but its tiny leaves are powerful. It’s good in most vegetable, meat and salad dishes. Those tiny leaves are also a very high source of potassium, iron and manganese and have other health-providing properties.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): This is another butterfly attractant. It has a licorice flavor and can be used in many foods – cooked or raw. It is the best control for baby’s colic I know of. I had a great-grandbaby born in Las Vegas. She suffered with colic. (Her mother suffered with her.) The doctor’s prescription didn’t help. I sent fennel. Her doctor said, "Don’t use it." The baby and mother continued to cry. I finally asked, "Do you think your grandmother would send something that will harm your baby?" The answer was "No." The fennel was given, the baby was relieved and they both slept.

There are other herbs in my storage box, but this is enough for today.

For this research, I have pulled many books off the shelf, including my ragged, old cookbook, "Camp Stews, Etc.," I published in 1979. These books literally cover my play-room that also serves as my office.

Now it’s time to push the Send button and clean up the place.

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




PALS: It's Back to School Time!

Get involved to keep your campus clean.

by Jamie Mitchell

Back to school means a new start and fresh beginning for teachers and students alike. Clean notebooks, unbroken crayons and sparkling classrooms are hallmarks of the commencement of a new school year. You can be sure the grounds of each school will be freshly cut and cleaned, as well, for the new batch of students and parents who will be arriving for that first day.

Fast forward a couple of weeks; the notebooks are beginning to wear around the edges, the crayons aren’t quite as sharp and the classrooms have started to smell, well, more lived in. The grounds of the school may also have a stray wrapper here and there. This is where the Clean Campus Program comes into play!

The Clean Campus Program is free to all Alabama schools and is designed to promote a cleaner and healthier environment for all Alabama campuses. The CCP also presents an opportunity for students and faculty members to be a part of having their respective schools recognized for their efforts. Many CCP schools have regular campus cleanups, participate in recycling programs and have created amazing outdoor classrooms for their students. In addition, the schools and students get a chance to compete in statewide contests to win monetary prizes each year.

As a member of the Clean Campus Program, the schools can additionally have me come speak to their students about littering, recycling and ways they can make a difference in their community. I speak all through the school year at schools throughout the state. My program is 30 minutes and can be tailored to work for any age level from kindergarten through college.

If you would like to introduce a school near you to the Clean Campus Program, have it check us out online at www.alpals.org. They may also call me with any questions anytime at 334-263-7737 or email me at Jamie@alpals.org.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.




Pick Up Some Pawpaws

Pawpaw fruits (Credit: Troy Evans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bugwood.org)

This often overlooked fruiting tree can make a nice addition to the yard or garden.

by Tony Glover

Picking up paw-paws; put ‘em in your pocket.
Picking up paw-paws; put ‘em in your pocket.
Picking up paw-paws; put ‘em in your pocket.
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

If you are from almost anywhere in the eastern United States, you have probably heard this song at some point in your life; but few people have tried to grow this largest of the native woodland fruits.

The earliest documentation of pawpaws (Asimina triloba) is in the 1541 report of the de Soto expedition, who found Native Americans cultivating it east of the Mississippi River. The Lewis and Clark Expedition depended and sometimes subsisted on pawpaws during their travels. The famed explorer William Bartram, who traveled through Alabama, collected and sent plants to England. Chilled pawpaw fruit was a favorite dessert of George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson planted them at Monticello.

The pawpaw, although still relatively unknown in its native country, is slowly gaining in popularity. Researchers are studying this interesting plant and its many potential uses.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) foliage (Credit: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org)

It looks very much like a tropical plant and grows wild near creek banks and river bottoms in the understory of broadleaf forests all around the eastern United States. The tree is a small, normally multitrunked plant reaching about15-25 feet. It makes a very nice small tree with large, coarse-textured leaves that turn mostly bright yellow before falling off.

They produce maroon, upside-down flowers up to 2 inches across. The normal bloom period consists of about six weeks during March to May, depending on variety, latitude and climatic conditions. The blossom consists of two whorls of three petals each. Each flower contains several ovaries which explains why a single flower can produce multiple fruits much like little hands of bananas.

As mentioned, the fruit is the largest edible fruit native to North America. Individual fruits weigh five to 16 ounces and are 3-6 inches in length. The larger sizes will appear plump, similar to a mango. The fruit usually has 10-14 seeds in two rows. The ripe fruit is soft and thin- skinned, and has a banana and mango flavor. The fruit ripen from late August to early October, depending upon the variety.

Pawpaws are very difficult to transplant from the wild, but can be transplanted from containers or even bare root if handled and cared for properly. They prefer a well-drained soil, but can tolerate some periodic flooding. I planted three trees in a partially shaded area in my backyard three years ago and I hope to get some fruit in the next year or two.

Pawpaws are also quite tolerant of full sun and may actually make more fruit in sunnier locations. However, it is well-adapted to medium shade. It may live in deep shade, but will not likely fruit very well.

You will need to plant at least two plants for pollination purposes. (You can do like I did and purchase named varieties that are propagated by grafting.) This is the best way to assure early and good quality fruit. Plants grown from seed may take eight years to produce fruit and the fruit may or may not be good to eat.

Pollination can be an issue in some years. The flowers are complete, but self-incompatible and they require cross pollination between trees. Flies or beetles are the natural pollinators, but they are not very efficient at it and you will get a much greater fruit set if you do some hand pollination using a soft artist’s paintbrush.

A few years back I talked with Dale Brooks, a pawpaw producer in Morgan County, and he suggested the following varieties: Mango, NC-1, Sunflower and Sweet Alice. If you are interested in the tree for strictly ornamental characteristics, he suggested planting NC-1 because of their dark, glossy leaves.

Research is underway to develop improved selections for both landscape and fruit production. Interestingly, certain plant extracts are being researched for cancer therapy where it shows some promise in shrinking drug-resistant tumors. Certain plant extracts have also proven effective as a natural pesticide. This last attribute may explain why it has few insect pests.

How a plant with such a catchy song and so much going for it could have been overlooked for so long is a mystery. For more detailed information, visit Kentucky State University and their pawpaw information website, www.pawpaw.kysu.edu.

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



Serene Settings

Lack of Pressure is Key to Getting Close to Mature Bucks

by Todd Amenrud

Many land managers implement food plot programs and timber stand improvement. They also practice sound herd management and have everything whitetails could ever need. Yet they still find it difficult to harvest mature bucks. They put in their time, hunting countless hours in pursuit of a home-grown trophy. Because they can’t seem to connect, their mind ponders copious reasons why.

Unwittingly these hunters are often the cause of their own downfall. A mature buck will not tolerate much of an intrusion before it changes something to avoid making contact with you. These animals often figure out your movements and habits before you ever see them. Most hunters also tend to go hunting whenever they have an opportunity – whether the circumstances are in their favor or not. You can’t divulge your intent and blow the deal before you have an opportunity. Why let them know you’re coming?

Extraordinary Anxiety

Just because you have the day off work doesn’t mean you should head to the treestand. Only hunt when the conditions, especially the wind and thermal, are in your favor. A mature buck will often figure you out before you ever see him. (Credit: Bruce Macqueen)

"I got the day off work! I’m heading to the treestand!"

So many hunters never even consider the wind direction, whether the thermal is in their favor, if they can approach their ambush location without being busted, and a dozen other details that will ultimately factor into their success. They hunt because they have the opportunity to hunt. The problem is, their target buck (or other deer for that matter) will often pattern this hunter before he ever sees the animal. It’s best to only hunt when the conditions are in your favor, or at least wait until the majority of the details back your success – hardly ever will all the circumstances be in your favor, but you must at least make sure the air current (wind and thermal) is supporting your ambush location and approach.

I know how you feel; we only get so many days to hunt each season so we want to make the most of each opportunity. However, by making mistakes and hunting when the list of details favors the animals, we teach our quarry how to avoid us. Rather than just going hunting because I have the time off work and my daddy duties, if the conditions aren’t right, I use that time to practice shooting, set up another ambush location somewhere else, scout a new location, deal with my camera-traps, prepare other equipment, glass a food plot or ag field, search for new properties to hunt and numerous other tasks I believe are also part of the hunt. This way prime ambush locations aren’t wasted and the likelihood of harvesting the buck you’re after still exists.

Getting There is Half the Battle

Oftentimes your plan is blown before you ever reach your stand site. Getting there undetected is just as important as hunting during the right conditions. There are numerous deceptions we can use to help us make it to our stands undetected – from preparing silent approach trails or planting screen cover, to mixing up our access routes or having a buddy drive you to and from the site. We just don’t want the animals to know they’re being hunted.

I often prepare silent approaches to my ambush locations before the season by snipping branches, raking leaves and other debris off the trail or even cutting a path through tall grass with a weed-whacker. Ideally, you should be able to access your treestand and have deer bedded within 100 yards that haven’t noticed you.

A great tactic I’m doing much more of these days is planting screen cover to hide my approach. Strips of corn, millet or some sorghum will work, but BioLogic’s Blind Spot is perfect for this. The Egyptian wheat in this blend can grow 12-14 feet. It will grow a thick stand that even with only a 10 food wide strip it is difficult to impossible to see through. This tactic works great for screening open spots you must cross, stand sites or ground-blind locations, parking areas or any place you want to remain secluded.

When you enter your hunting area, do you drive into the property the same way every time? I learned many years ago while hunting Manitoba farmland with its section roads that oftentimes bucks simply see you coming and your hunt is blown before you ever get out of your vehicle. I’ve watched bucks from my treestand do this with other hunters – "Here comes Billy-Bob on his way to his treestand again," so they skedaddle out of the area or stay bedded until after dark to sidestep the contact. In the Manitoba situation, the section roads were the only way to access the property via land. Once I figured this out, I used a small johnboat and trolling motor to travel up the Red River so I could come in from the back side of the property. I believe two whopper bucks were the results of employing this tactic.

Using the buddy system is a way to fool your herd on approach. Whitetails become accustomed to farm vehicles and ATVs. In fact, I’m sure most of you have driven by a bedded whitetail and watched them hunker down and stay hidden. Try going by them on foot and see if they stay bedded – they’ll be onto your neighbor’s property before they begin to slow down. A vehicle is much less intrusive than a human on foot. With this plan, you simply have a partner drive you to your treestand and then leave with the vehicle. The deer believe the danger is gone with the vehicle. Obviously you want your friend to pick you up at the site when the hunt is over. This can be especially effective when hunting a food plot, agricultural field or bait site where there will likely be deer present when the hunt is over and you need to go. The last thing you want to do is identify your ambush location as a spot associated with humans and danger.

A Safe Haven

Just as important as approaching your stand site undetected is getting out of your hunting area clean. Here you can see how BioLogic Blind Spot is planted around the stand site to screen movement. (Credit: Jesse Raley)

If you wish to house mature bucks in your area, you MUST give them a spot where they are left alone. If during the hunting season you’re making scouting trips through the parcel to find a new rub on a tree you didn’t find on your last scouting trip three days ago … sorry, but you will not hold mature bucks in that area. Giving them a secure sanctuary is important, not only if you wish mature bucks to reside in the area but also if you want the herd to move freely and willingly during daylight hours. Pressure will only condition your herd into moving more during the night, before and after legal hunting time.

Contact with humans will force them into doing something different to steer clear, and can cause them to completely change secure areas (bedding areas). They will probably still be somewhere within the region they’ve claimed as their home range, but they will search out spots where they are left alone and now they’re going to be MUCH more difficult to hunt! Whitetails, especially mature bucks, know when they’re being hunted.

Pressure on Purpose

With all of the information preaching the positive for not pressuring your whitetails or your hunting area, sometimes you may need to use force to get a mature buck up and moving during legal hunting hours. I would much rather hunt a buck that is undisturbed and moving about naturally, but sometimes pressure is necessary to get an opportunity for a shot. Sometimes as a last hurrah in a situation where they have been pressured too much and aren’t moving at all during the day, or in areas that are difficult to hunt from a traditional treestand or ground blind, a little pressure can be just the ticket.

To sum up, pressured whitetails are difficult to hunt unless the pressure is targeted and on purpose. Don’t hunt when the conditions aren’t in your favor. Give them a spot where they can live undisturbed. Animals free from anxiety are much easier to hunt than bucks that know they’re being pursued. Be sneaky, cover your approach and ambush your buck while he’s going about his daily routine undisturbed. Lack of pressure is a key in consistently killing mature bucks.

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




Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Dude, you need to calm down! I know we’re lost, but we can figure out how to get back home if we just put our minds together!

Why would someone call another person "dude"?

For some time now, we have known the basic outline of the story of "dude." The word was first used in the late 1800s as a term of mockery for young men who were overly concerned with keeping up with the latest fashions. It later came to stand for clueless city folk (who go to dude ranches) before it morphed into our all-purpose, laid-back label for a guy. What we didn’t know was why the word dude was chosen in the first place.

Now, we finally have the answer. In 2013, Allan Metcalf (who wrote the book on "OK") said in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" that a massive, decade-long "dude" research project has finally yielded convincing results.

The project belongs to Barry Popik and Gerald Cohen, described by Metcalf as "googlers before there was Google." Along with the help of other colleagues, they have been combing through 19th century periodicals for years, slowly amassing the world’s biggest collection of dude citations. The latest issue of Cohen’s journal, "Comments on Etymology," lays out, in 129 pages, the most solidly supported account yet of the early days of dude.

So where does dude come from? Evidence points to "doodle," as in "Yankee Doodle Dandy." He’s the fellow who, as the song has it, "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni." "Macaroni" became a term for a dandy in the 18th century after young British men returned from their adventures on the European continent sporting exaggerated high-fashion clothes and mannerisms (along with a taste for an exotic Italian dish called "macaroni"). The best a rough, uncultured colonist could do if he wanted to imitate them was to stick a feather in his cap.

"For some reason," Metcalf said, "early in 1883, this inspired someone to call foppish young men of New York City ‘doods,’ with the alternate spelling ‘dudes’ soon becoming the norm."

Some of the early mocking descriptions of these dudes seem awfully familiar today: "A weak mustache, a cigarette, a 13-button vest, a curled-rim hat, a minaret, two watch chains cross the breast." Yep, sounds like a hipster. But that word has gotten so stale. We should all go back to "dood," or maybe even "doodle."

mentalfloss.com



The Challenges of the Summer Season

by Stephen Donaldson

As we head into summer, the prospects of warm weather with timely rains has given way to excessive heat and dry weather. Many producers I have spoken with haven’t had any rain in 50-plus days. The combined heat and lack of rain pose more feed and management problems than those 20-degree, snowy winter days.

It is very difficult to preserve forage for grazing and also harvest hay for winter feeding. To further complicate the issue, if moisture doesn’t fall soon, many producers will have to start feeding hay that has already been harvested. Feeding winter hay during the summer runs producers short on feed for the winter.

Because cattle and horses require high amounts of fiber in their diet, the problem isn’t easily solved with a feed bucket. The first order of business, to help survive these times, is to sell all nonproductive animals. Cows that aren’t bred or have lost calves during the calving season should be sold. Also, if cows are nursing calves, consider weaning the calves early and start them on feed sooner or simply market them. By weaning early and culling nonproductive animals, demands on pastures will be greatly reduced.

Secondly, we have been fortunate enough that not all areas of the state are experiencing drought conditions. There is a possibility that there could be excess hay in these areas for sale at a reasonable price. Most of the time when purchasing hay, I would advise particular attention be paid to the quality of the hay, but in these circumstances it is easier to have forage regardless of the quality and supplement according to the animals’ needs.

Speaking of supplements, producers need to make sure the supplements they are using for their cattle don’t contain urea. Urea tends to increase forage digestion and, therefore, increase consumption. Increasing consumption is one of the last things you want to do when forage is in short supply. Those of you feeding low-moisture mineral tubs should be fine, just make sure it doesn’t contain urea.

The hot, dry conditions also increase stress levels on our animals, thus making them more prone to disease. It is imperative that your animals receive proper vaccinations to help them through the added stress. Parasite load could also increase in your herd because cattle are grazing closer to the ground. This allows animals to pick up more eggs and increase the parasite load. Surprisingly, there tends to be more cases of pneumonia and respiratory disease during the hot, dry weather. Lump in increases in pinkeye and foot rot and it seems like we are experiencing the plagues all over again.

With all of these potential problems, it is imperative we have a strategy for the worst and when rain and cooler weather come our way we can simply adapt to our normal management practices. If affordable forage can be found, the solutions become easier. It would be advantageous to go ahead and purchase supplemental forage because chances of your forage rebounding quickly from drought conditions are slim.

Supplemental feed strategies are the most difficult under these circumstances because it is nearly impossible to get enough effective fiber in the ration to satisfy the animals’ requirements. Add to that the difficulties of producing a feed ration containing high fiber at a cost that allows you to remain profitable – this seems to be an impossible solution. The most successful solution would be one that combines limiting farm available forage with a high-fiber feed supplement to stretch existing farm forage. Also, as fall approaches, high-fiber feedstuffs such as gin trash, corn stover and peanut hay can be used to increase effective fiber supplies.

As we work through this difficult time, it is imperative we pay extra attention to the needs of our livestock. Attention to general health, body condition scores and stress levels will be very important to the success of your operation.

Remember, during challenging times, there are no dumb questions and drawing from the experiences of those who have been through them can be the difference in success and failure. So, lean on the expertise of your local Quality Co-op and we will help you navigate through the tough times.

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



The Changing Landscape of Public Hunting

No matter how hard we try, we simply can’t keep up with the losses of public hunting land on an acre-for-acre basis.

by Chuck Sykes

Last October, I penned an article published in the December issue discussing public hunting opportunities in our state. One of the focal points of that article was the fact that we had lost access to an 18,000-acre Wildlife Management Area in south Alabama and we needed to prepare for other losses to come in the future. Well, as the great Yogi Berra put it, "It’s like déjà vu all over again." I am writing this article one day after learning we will no longer be able to manage for public use the 19,000-acre Scotch Wildlife Management Area.

"For almost 60 years, our family-owned timberland has provided public access to our land, as a part of the Scotch Wildlife Management Area. We would have been happy to continue to do so for another 60 years, if it were not for government action that threatens our use of the land," said Gray Skipper, a spokesperson for Scotch.

"With the listing, in 2015, of the black pine snake as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, we have good reason to believe we are now on a slippery slope toward a time when our use of our own timberland will be seriously restricted," he explained.

"To the many law-abiding citizens who have enjoyed hunting and other recreational and conservation activities on the land for nearly 60 years, and to the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, we say thank you for being such good stewards of the land.

"We did not arrive at this decision lightly or without much deliberation, but recognizing our responsibility for ensuring that this land remains available and productive for future generations, we feel we had no other choice. We ask those who have enjoyed the use of this land to consider the fact that we were led to this action only by what we regard as environmental regulatory overreach by the federal government."

On behalf of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, I would like to thank the Scotch family for allowing us to manage hunting opportunities on their property for resident and nonresident hunters for nearly 60 years. Think about that for a minute: One family allowed people desiring to hunt in Alabama the opportunity to utilize their property for almost 60 years for no monetary gain. That is the definition of public service.

But, as we saw last year with the loss of the Boykin WMA (family objectives changed), the loss the year before of 12,000 acres in the heart of the Coosa WMA (profit statements for new owners) and now the loss of the Scotch WMA (federal government overreach), times are changing and we must adapt. It really doesn’t matter what the reasons for the losses are; it’s their property, not ours, and they can do with it what they want.

As the agency in charge of providing quality hunting opportunities, we must change our mindset of relying on individuals or companies to provide land for public hunting. It’s not like it was 30 years ago when people would donate land to our division to run as a WMA for the assurance that someone would oversee the property and provide in-kind services such as road work, law enforcement, etc. I’m certainly not going to question landowners’ motives when land leases range in price from $5 per acre to some as high as $30 per acre. Who can blame them for wanting to maximize the return on their investment?

During my tenure as director, which began in December 2012, we have had over 65,000 acres removed from our WMA system for various reasons. As a division, we are doing all we can to mitigate those losses. In the past two years, the WFF Division has been fortunate to have enough Pittman/Robertson match money to purchase approximately 23,650 acres for the WMA system. In addition, the Forever Wild Land Trust has purchased over 6,800 acres to add to the WMA system. Those are pretty impressive stats, adding over 30,000 acres into the WMA system in such a short period of time. But sadly, we are only replacing approximately half the land we are losing.

So, where do we go from here? Our model of a WMA has to change. The odds of us being able to piece together large chunks (10,000-20,000 acres) are minuscule. We must think about managing smaller blocks for quality hunting opportunities.

For example, the newest acquisition into the WMA system is the Dallas County WMA. This 5,893-acre property is located on the east bank of the Alabama River approximately halfway between Selma and Camden. The property will have limited hunting the first year until we can fully assess the wildlife resources there. At that point, we are considering offering mentored hunts and limited-opportunity hunts. This property could be the crown jewel in the WMA system if managed properly. The area’s rich soils have the potential to produce not only quantity but quality white-tailed deer. Turkey, quail and waterfowl can be hunted there as well.

We are hoping, over time, to turn this property into the destination WMA in the state that not only produces a quality hunting experience but also provides an educational location where our staff can conduct landowner tours showcasing proper wildlife and forestry management practices.

We feel that having smaller WMAs located strategically throughout the state is the model for the future of the WMA system. Placing manpower and equipment on state-owned properties is the wisest use of our limited resources. Working in collaboration with the Forever Wild Land Trust and many non-governmental organization partners, WFF plans to acquire as much quality hunting land as possible to offset the privately owned losses to the WMA system to ensure hunting opportunities for generations.

The first time I went to our old C.S Roberts diagnostic lab in Auburn, I had to step around several buckets in the floor that caught rainwater. I think the roof was so bad that sometimes when it rained there was more water coming down in the building than there was outside. Yet that was the facility in which hundreds of thousands of brucellosis tests were run on the way to Alabama becoming brucellosis free.

If you go to Elba today, you will find a modern facility that opened in 2005. If you go to Auburn, you will find a new state-of-the-art facility most states would love to have. The new laboratory facility at Boaz opened in 2010. That makes our facility at Hanceville the oldest in our laboratory system and it is only 20 years old. I think that speaks well for the commitment the state of Alabama and the Department of Agriculture and Industries have made to animal agriculture and the veterinary community in our state.

Whatever you think about state employees, I can say – without question – that while new facilities are great, it is the people at our labs that make them work. Since I have been state veterinarian, we have always had this deal of doing more with fewer people, yet the margin of error remains near zero. We still would love to have more pathologists and support staff, but when rapid, accurate results are necessary, our people get the job done.

One factor helping in rapid diagnosis, especially of foreign animal disease, is being tied in with the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and the Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory at Plum Island, New York. In most foreign animal disease outbreaks, rapid recognition or diagnosis and response is vital to getting the fire put out with minimal loss.

I recall a few years ago when there was an outbreak of the wildebeest form of malignant catarrhal fever. That disease affects cattle, but is a little difficult to diagnose after the animal dies. We had one of the heifers in Alabama that had come out of the herd where the outbreak originated. There was a reasonable degree of certainty that we were dealing with this foreign animal disease, but we needed a positive diagnosis. Working through our lab and USDA, the sample we collected was sent on a jet to Plum Island and the diagnosis was made.

Years ago, the world of diagnostics for diseases hinged on finding antibodies in the blood of a suspect or exposed animal. There are some drawbacks to using antibodies as the sole diagnostic tool. First, animals that have very recently been exposed may not have developed an immune response and the test for antibodies could be negative. An additional problem is that we may not be able to determine whether the antibodies are a result of vaccination or actual exposure to the virus or bacteria. Make no mistake about it, we still look at antibody levels. But now we are actually able to look for DNA and RNA from more and more disease agents. You don’t have to remember the name of the test we use to find the DNA/RNA sequences. There will not be a test at the end of this article, but the polymerase chain reaction has become an invaluable tool in our tool kit for rapidly diagnosing animal diseases.

Additionally, we take advantage of the ability to send digital pictures from the field or the satellite labs to the mother ship at Auburn. I am not saying our veterinarians in the field or satellite labs at Boaz, Elba or Hanceville cannot adequately describe what they are seeing. However, having the ability to allow the pathologist to see the animal carcass or diseased organs by looking at a digital picture sent by email provides another piece of the puzzle in making a diagnosis. And you know what they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Another of our 21st-century capabilities is to destroy really bad disease agents. I haven’t written about prions in a while, so if you don’t know what I am talking about I won’t hold that against you. It may be easier to tell you what a prion is not. They are not viruses, bacteria or parasites. Prions are actually some kind of abnormal protein that is very difficult to destroy. In fact, sterilizing them by normal means such as an autoclave will not destroy these fairly evil disease agents. We have a tissue digester that will render prions as harmless as a butterfly. And the tissue digester is not environmentally unfriendly. The ability to destroy pathogens with the digester could be incredibly important in handling carcasses of certain diseased animals.

Finally, we have an excellent quality-control program holding us accountable for providing accurate test results that are repeatable time after time. The quality program involves adhering to a set of standard operating procedures that means every test is run by the same set of standards each time it is run. The quality program gives us a tremendous amount of confidence that when our test results are negative, they are negative. If the results are positive, they are positive. And while nothing is 100 percent, the quality program stacks the deck heavily in our favor. It also gives us more credibility with the farmers, poultry companies and veterinarians who are receiving the results of our work.

As we continue to deploy the most modern tests, equipment and communications, we can support animal agriculture even better. And as we serve animal agriculture, we play a large role in serving everyone in the public as we do our part in sustaining the health of our livestock and companion animals.

My hat is off to all who got the job done in the old days. They did an excellent job. But it should be apparent to the casual observer, this is not the diagnostic lab that was around when your daddy was growing up.

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



The Co-op Pantry

by Allison Stewart

Peggy Sutton, Founder and President of To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co.

To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. is an organic, sprouted-flour company located in Bullock County. Founder and President Peggy Sutton started the company in her kitchen in 2006 for a few friends and family members after she researched the benefits of sprouted grains, the time-honored tradition of how our ancestors would harvest grains that had naturally sprouted in the fields. Sutton was fascinated by the process and astounded by the great taste of sprouted bread vs. un-sprouted bread. She was hooked and wanted everyone to bake with sprouted flour. The rest is history.

What is Sprouted Flour?

Sprouted flour is made from germinated grains. Sprouting grains aids digestion by removing the natural barriers on the outside of all grains. Sprouting also increases nutrition and bioavailability of the nutrients in the grains to be used by your body or, to simply state it, it digests like a tomato not a potato. To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. ensures it is a four-day process that takes time, water, gentle drying and a controlled environment. And the results are truly phenomenal. But there is so much more than that.

"The No. 1 reason to use sprouted vs. un-sprouted flour, for me as a baker, has to be the fabulous taste," Sutton said. "Sprouting removes bitterness and brings out the unique taste of individual grains."

TYH is a manufacturing company. Not fancy on the outside, but very precise on the inside. Certified organic and kosher, To Your Health is Safe Quality Food Level II certified and is the world’s biggest producer of organic sprouted grains and flours with over 50 products bursting with peace, love and sprouted flour power in every package. Currently there are over 27 different organic grains, legumes and seeds sprouted at the company. Seventy percent of the products are gluten-free and handled in their gluten-free dedicated facility.

"The innovation of my business is that I started it sprouting in mason jars," Sutton explained. "There was no equipment to do what we do. Today, we have specialized machines designed for our sprouting application that each hold 1,600 pounds of grain. We will have 16-20 of those machines in operation by the end of this year."

In September, they will be celebrating their10th anniversary; just 10 short years after the days of mason jars and a kitchen hobby. TYH employs 35 people, 32 of whom reside in Bullock County, which plays a vital role in Bullock County’s economy.

Their production had averaged 50,000 pounds per week, but completion of their third expansion in July increased production to 120,000 pounds weekly and created 15-20 new jobs. They have the space to eventually increase production to over 240,000 pounds weekly.

They sprouted over 1.5 million pounds of grains in 2015 and expect to sprout about 4.5 million pounds this year.

Statewide Initiatives

TYH initiatives include the formation of a statewide organic farmers’ co-op. The business will truly become a buy-local entity when the company can purchase grains grown in their own backyard of Alabama. Organic farming is a $43.5 billion market, but still with shortfalls.

"We will always remain strong advocates for future economic growth in our region. With the success of my business I have an opportunity to make a difference in my community. Why wouldn’t I?" Sutton said.

TYH is involved in educational opportunities to strengthen workforce training in our area – most recently with a training grant through Trenholm State Community College and the hiring of a work study student from BCHS who has excelled in his Agriculture Science project.

They are working in conjunction with the Whole Grains Council to set national industry standards for sprouted grains to ensure the integrity of the sprouted product market as it grows.

TYH has also worked with Alice Evans at Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network.

Sutton wants to mention the heightened level of interest from chefs around Alabama, including Chef Ban Stewart with his shrimp and sprouted grits on the menu at Kowaliga.

Allison Stewart is the public relations and salesperson for To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co.




KOWALIGA SHRIMP n'
SPROUTED GRITS

by Chef Ban Stewart
4 servings

1 ½ lbs Alabama gulf shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 cups chicken stock
¼ cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
¼ cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
½ yellow onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
6 green onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
2 cups TYH Sprouted Yellow Corn Grits
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 cups water
Salt & Pepper

In a heavy bottom, non-reactive sauce pot combine chicken stock, lemon juice, orange juice, onion and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes until reduced by half. Add Old Bay along with salt & pepper to taste.

In a separate pot, combine milk, cream, and water. Bring to a boil, add grits and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to stir grits. Cook for 30-45 minutes until desired texture is reached. Add more cream if consistency is too thick.

Melt butter in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add shrimp seasoned with salt and pepper.

To plate: Place grits in bowl. Top with citrus broth, peppers and onions. Place cooked shrimp on top. Garnish with scallions. Enjoy!

TYH PEGGY'S FAVORITE CORNBREAD

2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup lard, butter or oil, melted
1 cup TYH Sprouted Blue Corn Flour
½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup Jack cheese, grated
1 cup sour cream (whole fat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3-5 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen organic corn kernels

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into a greased square glass baking dish (double recipe for a 9x13 baking dish). Bake at 350° for 1 hour until lightly browned on top. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting into squares for serving.

Note: This cornbread is simply the best! I serve it with soups, chili and even bbq.

TYH SPROUTED
PURPLE CORN TORTILLAS

2 cups sprouted purple corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon Celtic salt
1-1/8 cups filtered water
¼ cup lard

Mix all ingredients well until a dough ball forms, about 3 minutes. If dough is a little crumbly, add a tablespoon of water at a time until dough holds together well. Let dough sit, covered, for about 2 hours. Uncover and separate dough into 16 pieces. Form each into small, slightly flattened balls.

Place a floured plastic bag (gallon-sized zip lock) on a bread board. Place a ball of dough on top. Top with another floured plastic bag and roll the tortilla out with a rolling pin. (You can also use a tortilla press in place of the rolling pin.) Slowly remove the top plastic bag, flip the tortilla over into your hand and slowly remove the second plastic bag.

On a burner set at medium heat, place an iron skillet. Put a tortilla on the skillet. Once you begin to see some bubbles appear, take a spatula and flip the tortilla over to cook on the other side. Once the second side is a little browned, remove it from skillet and place on a plate. Repeat the process and simply stack your finished tortillas. Store in a zip lock bag. (I refrigerate mine if not using them all.)

FLOUR TORTILLAS

4 cups sprouted wheat flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
2/3 cup natural lard, cold, cut into chunks
1¼ cups plus 3 Tablespoons hot water, divided

In bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder; stir well. Cut in lard with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in 1¼ cups of water, mixing well. Add remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time only if dough is too dry to handle. Let dough sit on counter, covered, for about an hour before pressing.

Shape dough into ½-inch balls; roll each out on a lightly floured surface into a very thin circle (or use a tortilla press following recommended directions). Circles should be about 6 inches in diameter.

Heat an ungreased iron skillet or griddle to medium heat (about 375°). Cook tortillas about 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Pat tortillas lightly with spatula while browning the second side if they puff during cooking.


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 2016 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.

-- Mary Delph, maryd@alafarm.com

TYH’s BREAD RECIPE

Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves

3 cups organic sprouted flour (you can use gluten-containing or gluten-free flour)
2 cups organic whole buttermilk (can substitute water or non-dairy liquid of choice)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup raw honey
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking soda
¼ cup organic butter, melted

Mix flour and buttermilk into a batter by hand, in electric stand mixer or in food processor. Thoroughly blend in remaining ingredients.

Pour into a well-buttered and floured loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 1-1½ hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

NOTE: This is a great batter bread that will result in a wonderful bread for slicing and toasting - not suitable for sandwiches. If your dough runs on the dry side, increase your liquid 2 tablespoons at a time until you get the consistency you want.

You may need to experiment with oven temperatures and time. You can tent the loaf tops with foil and lower temp to 325° for a longer baking time if center is doughy and tops brown before center is done.

Our favorite flavors:

Apricot Almond - Add 1 tablespoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon apricot oil (optional), ½ cup chopped organic, unsulfured apricots, and sprinkle top of loaf with sliced, organic crispy almonds before baking.

Cinnamon Raisin - Add 2 heaping tablespoons organic ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon oil (optional) and 1 cup organic raisins.

Lemon Poppy Seed - Add 1½ tablespoons lemon flavoring, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon powdered organic lemon peel, 1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional) and 1 tablespoon organic poppy seeds.

Rosemary Walnut - Add 1½ teaspoons ground organic rosemary, 1½ teaspoons whole organic rosemary and ½ teaspoon ground organic sage. Sprinkle top of loaf with chopped, organic crispy walnuts before baking.

Herb Loaf - Add 1½ teaspoons organic dill, 1 teaspoon organic tarragon, and ½ teaspoon each organic oregano, basil and thyme.

PEACH BREAD

1 pound peaches, freshly peeled and sliced
½ cup organic unsweetened apple juice*
1¾ cups sprouted wheat, spelt or brown rice flour
1 cup Sucanat or date sugar
1 teaspoon each aluminum-free baking powder AND baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large egg, lightly beaten (preferably pastured)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted (preferably raw or organic)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup crispy (soaked and dried) almonds, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook peaches and apple juice*, stirring often for 15 minutes or until peaches are tender. Process the peach mixture in a blender until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine flour and next 7 ingredients. Stir in peach puree, egg, butter and vanilla; blend well. Stir in almonds.

Pour into a greased and floured ceramic or glass loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cover with a parchment tent after 30 minutes if excessive browning occurs. Bake additional 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Very special served with homemade vanilla ice cream topped with a dash of freshly ground nutmeg.

Note: You may replace apple juice with dry white wine or dark rum, depending on your tastes and preferences.

PEGGY'S SWEET CREAM POUND CAKE

½ pound organic butter, softened
3 cups Sucanat, coconut-sap sugar or maple sugar
6 large eggs (preferably organic or pastured)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups sprouted flour (your choice)
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
Pinch sea salt
1 cup heavy organic cream

Preheat oven to 325°. Blend together butter and sugar (I use my stand mixer) until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and sea salt.

Add cream and flour mixture alternately to butter/egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Spoon into a buttered and floured Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean. Cool cake on wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan. Continue to cool before slicing. Serve alone or top with your favorite accompaniments.

FIRECRACKER FRIED CHICKEN

8 chicken drumsticks, 16 wings cut in half or 8 thick breast slices
¼ cup hot sauce (I love Pete’s)
1/3 cup sprouted wheat flour
3 Tablespoons sprouted corn flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups lard or beef tallow for frying
(I prefer beef tallow)

In a resealable plastic bag, place chicken. Pour sauce over chicken, seal bag and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. (The longer it marinates, the spicier it will be.)

In another resealable bag, combine flours and salt. Shake to blend. Add chicken, seal bag and shake to coat.

In a large, deep skillet on medium-high heat, heat lard or tallow. Add chicken and fry, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until juices run clear. Turn occasionally to brown evenly.



This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Diagnostic Lab Anymore

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Not an awfully long time after I came to work as a veterinary medical officer at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, the diagnostic lab at Elba was temporarily without a veterinarian/director. So I was occasionally dispatched to perform necropsies. I did the necropsies just as they had always been done at that lab – on the ground out back under a tree. That wasn’t a big deal to me. That is how we did necropsies when I was in private practice. Come to think about it, I didn’t always have a tree to do them under when I was in private practice. The fact that we did necropsies on the ground at Elba does not reflect the quality of work done. It just serves as a waypoint on the journey our veterinary diagnostic laboratory system has been on over the past decade or two.

The first time I went to our old C.S Roberts diagnostic lab in Auburn, I had to step around several buckets in the floor that caught rainwater. I think the roof was so bad that sometimes when it rained there was more water coming down in the building than there was outside. Yet that was the facility in which hundreds of thousands of brucellosis tests were run on the way to Alabama becoming brucellosis free.

If you go to Elba today, you will find a modern facility that opened in 2005. If you go to Auburn, you will find a new state-of-the-art facility most states would love to have. The new laboratory facility at Boaz opened in 2010. That makes our facility at Hanceville the oldest in our laboratory system and it is only 20 years old. I think that speaks well for the commitment the state of Alabama and the Department of Agriculture and Industries have made to animal agriculture and the veterinary community in our state.

Whatever you think about state employees, I can say – without question – that while new facilities are great, it is the people at our labs that make them work. Since I have been state veterinarian, we have always had this deal of doing more with fewer people, yet the margin of error remains near zero. We still would love to have more pathologists and support staff, but when rapid, accurate results are necessary, our people get the job done.

One factor helping in rapid diagnosis, especially of foreign animal disease, is being tied in with the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and the Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory at Plum Island, New York. In most foreign animal disease outbreaks, rapid recognition or diagnosis and response is vital to getting the fire put out with minimal loss.

I recall a few years ago when there was an outbreak of the wildebeest form of malignant catarrhal fever. That disease affects cattle, but is a little difficult to diagnose after the animal dies. We had one of the heifers in Alabama that had come out of the herd where the outbreak originated. There was a reasonable degree of certainty that we were dealing with this foreign animal disease, but we needed a positive diagnosis. Working through our lab and USDA, the sample we collected was sent on a jet to Plum Island and the diagnosis was made.

Years ago, the world of diagnostics for diseases hinged on finding antibodies in the blood of a suspect or exposed animal. There are some drawbacks to using antibodies as the sole diagnostic tool. First, animals that have very recently been exposed may not have developed an immune response and the test for antibodies could be negative. An additional problem is that we may not be able to determine whether the antibodies are a result of vaccination or actual exposure to the virus or bacteria. Make no mistake about it, we still look at antibody levels. But now we are actually able to look for DNA and RNA from more and more disease agents. You don’t have to remember the name of the test we use to find the DNA/RNA sequences. There will not be a test at the end of this article, but the polymerase chain reaction has become an invaluable tool in our tool kit for rapidly diagnosing animal diseases.

Additionally, we take advantage of the ability to send digital pictures from the field or the satellite labs to the mother ship at Auburn. I am not saying our veterinarians in the field or satellite labs at Boaz, Elba or Hanceville cannot adequately describe what they are seeing. However, having the ability to allow the pathologist to see the animal carcass or diseased organs by looking at a digital picture sent by email provides another piece of the puzzle in making a diagnosis. And you know what they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Another of our 21st-century capabilities is to destroy really bad disease agents. I haven’t written about prions in a while, so if you don’t know what I am talking about I won’t hold that against you. It may be easier to tell you what a prion is not. They are not viruses, bacteria or parasites. Prions are actually some kind of abnormal protein that is very difficult to destroy. In fact, sterilizing them by normal means such as an autoclave will not destroy these fairly evil disease agents. We have a tissue digester that will render prions as harmless as a butterfly. And the tissue digester is not environmentally unfriendly. The ability to destroy pathogens with the digester could be incredibly important in handling carcasses of certain diseased animals.

Finally, we have an excellent quality-control program holding us accountable for providing accurate test results that are repeatable time after time. The quality program involves adhering to a set of standard operating procedures that means every test is run by the same set of standards each time it is run. The quality program gives us a tremendous amount of confidence that when our test results are negative, they are negative. If the results are positive, they are positive. And while nothing is 100 percent, the quality program stacks the deck heavily in our favor. It also gives us more credibility with the farmers, poultry companies and veterinarians who are receiving the results of our work.

As we continue to deploy the most modern tests, equipment and communications, we can support animal agriculture even better. And as we serve animal agriculture, we play a large role in serving everyone in the public as we do our part in sustaining the health of our livestock and companion animals.

My hat is off to all who got the job done in the old days. They did an excellent job. But it should be apparent to the casual observer, this is not the diagnostic lab that was around when your daddy was growing up.

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




Time for Some Forethought on Forage

Do you have a plan for fall into winter grazing?

by Robert Spencer

Whether you have cattle, sheep, goats or horses, forages are their most efficient source of nutrition. Developing and implementing a comprehensive fall-into-winter grazing plan will ensure quality grazing for your animals and minimize reliance on hay and grain-based feeds.

This article was written mid-June while most of us were in the middle of a drought. By the time you read this, I hope the drought is long gone and forages are in abundance.

No matter what the situation, your goal for the remainder of this year should be to ensure your animals have access to quality forages well into early winter. Those of us in the northern part of Alabama know production of fall, cool-season forages begins to slow down the middle of October. In the southern part of the state, your fall forage-production season may extend to the end of November. No matter which part of the state your farm is located in or the type of grazing animals you have, the remainder of this article will share some ideas on practical ideas for extending the grazing season for your livestock.

  1. Soil test – Cost ranges from $10-$20 (depends on amount of information requested). It will let you know where your pastures stand on soil pH and if additional soil supplementation is needed. Visiting www.aces.edu/anr/soillab/, reading the information and submitting a soil test or two will be worth your time and money. Quality soils are essential for forage production and quality.
  2. If your soil test report calls for lime and you can afford it, make an arrangement to apply it. Soil pH of 6.5-7 is ideal, ensures nutrient availability within soils, and increases the likelihood of seed germination and seedling survivability. Fall is the ideal time to apply lime. If the soil test calls for nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium and you can afford to apply them, do so at the recommended rate. Fertilizer enhances soil quality, increases nutrient availability, boosts vegetative development, and increases forage growth and quality.
  3. If you already have a rotational grazing plan that allows each paddock to rest several weeks or months, you are a step ahead of most folks. If you have a plan allowing you to stockpile forages beginning in September and October and provide grazing into November and December or later, you are way ahead of most folks. If you don’t have a rotational grazing plan, now is the time to develop one and begin putting up some extra posts, fencing and gates. Always remember to have one more paddock than you think is necessary.
  4. Overseeding or re-establishing pastures are options. Overseeding pastures with ryegrass, small grains, turnips or any combination will provide late fall through early spring forage grazing; do so around the first to middle of September. Overseeding with clover and any grasses should begin about the same time and will provide late spring-into-summer grazing for next year. It also provides a jump start into next year’s grazing season. Re-establishing pastures requires some extra work and can be done around the same time or slightly later.

This article provides some basic ideas for initiating fall into winter grazing. While there are other choices, you need to take a brief amount of time to explore your options when it comes to costs, product availability, equipment and time requirements. Each farm has unique situations, needs and resource constraints.

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




Timed-Event Man

by Baxter Black, DVM

In the world of rodeo, cowboys usually fall into one of two categories; rough stock riders or timed-event men. Each looks on the other with suspicion. Bronc riders can’t imagine havin’ to drag a horse and trailer all over the country and ropers think bull riding is uncivilized!

Jack and Russell entered the punkin roller at Bokchito, Oklahoma. They were both 16 and invincible! On arrival, they discovered a mix up. Jack was entered in the bareback and Russell in the calf roping.

Jack complained, "I told Mr. Ward to put me in the calf ropin’ and Russell was ridin’ bares! Besides, Russell’s bought a brand new riggin’!"

Which, of course, he had! Not only that, Russell had a new set of custom-made bronc spurs and had just attended Mel Autry’s rodeo school!

The secretary glared at him and growled, "Well, Jack, you better see if it fits your hand, ‘cause I ain’t changin’ the order!"

They stomped around cussing the contractor, the secretary, their luck and each other’s event. But as the National Anthem played over the speakers, Jack was down in the chute tryin’ to pound his left hand into Russell’s right-hand riggin’!

Minnie Mouse was an 800-pound grulla mare. Jack made some comment about stick horses and Shetlands. ‘Bout not wantin’ to hurt her. Russell ignored him. Jack was sorta scratchin’ his spurs a little and thinkin’, "By, gosh, this ain’t bad! I’m winnin’ the bareback! Easier than I thought."

At the quarter-mile pole, Minnie Mouse bogged her head, planted her front feet and exploded in midair! By the time she lit on all fours again, Jack had both legs on the left side and was laid across her like a roll of carpet!

He couldn’t get his hand free! With all his weight stickin’ out like a wind vane on the starboard side, he began to drag the little mare right. From his vantage point on the wing tip, Jack could see the arena fence flashing by at eye level. He was stuck hard and fast, and pulling her closer and closer. Big square ties and net wire began clickin’ by like a railroad bed.

"Gosh," he thought, "I hope it’s cheap wire ..."

He needn’t have worried. He hit a tie! The collision was so calamitous it knocked the mare down!

At the conclusion of this spectacular exhibition, the crowd applauded wildly. As Jack hobbled out the gate, a man in yellow boots and a bolo tie asked him where he was gonna be appearing next.

Standing in the parking lot after the rodeo, Jack observed what a sorry job Russell had done in the calf roping.

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.



Warm the Soul

Home-canned Soup for the Winter Months

by Angela Treadaway

How many of you remember as a child growing up and having your mother or grandmother open up a can of home-preserved vegetable soup and how it made the coldest of winter days seem warm? August and September are the best months to prepare soup because there should be such an abundance of fresh vegetables. Well, preparing your own soup in the summer can do just that for you in the winter.

As a regional food safety and quality agent with the Extension system, I have clients asking questions frequently about making their own soups at home and canning them. I had a client call a few weeks ago and ask about home canning her famous French onion soup that has thickeners. I had to tell her no and I will explain why shortly.

Another type that is not safe to try and can at home is a cream-based soup with flour, milk and some kind of oil or fat – all of which are not safe for home-canned products. They could be frozen, but not canned.

Any kind of tomato- or vegetable-based soup without flour, pasta or cornstarch could be canned. They could even include meats and, if proper steps are followed, can be safely canned at home.

Problem Ingredients in Canned Soup

Adding flour or other thickening agents to a product for home canning prevents the heat from penetrating to the center of the jar, interfering with safe processing to destroy the bacterial spores that cause botulism. Never add thickening agents to a home-canned product. Wait until you are ready to prepare the food for serving and then add the flour, cornstarch or other thickening agent you are using.

The only exception to this rule is when a scientifically research-tested recipe calls for Clear Jel as in pie fillings or small amounts of thickener in a few relish recipes. It is not safe to just add starch to any recipe or to create your own recipe.

Butter, milk, cream, cheese and other dairy products are low-acid foods that should never be home canned. Again, add butter and milk to soup just before serving.

Products high in starch also interfere with heat processing. Thus, add noodles or any type of pasta, rice or dumplings to canned soups or stews at serving time. Avoid using noodles, alphabet noodles, spaghetti or other pasta; rice, barley, etc. to canned soups.

Safe Soups to Can

So what soups can be canned? Vegetable soups in a broth base may be safely canned using the process time for the ingredients that takes the longest process time for the individual ingredients in the soup. Most soups will take 60-90 minutes to process in a pressure canner depending upon size (pints or quarts) and ingredients – never can soup in half-gallon containers.

Use caution to avoid packing ingredients too solidly in the jars. For vegetable soup, fill the jars half full of solids; then add broth allowing for a 1-inch headspace and process in a pressure canner. There needs to be space for the hot liquid to circulate around the food particles.

Pieces of cooked beef or chicken can be added to the vegetables to make a vegetable meat soup.

Thickened or creamed tomato soup should not be canned. Instead, can tomato juice, tomato vegetable juice blend or crushed tomatoes (without added vegetables). When you want to make the soup, open the jar of tomato product and add the desired seasoning, vegetables and thickeners. A good cream of tomato soup is made by pouring the heated tomato mixture into a heated white sauce.

Avoid canning pumpkin, winter squash, broccoli or cauliflower soup. These pack together and contain ingredients that interfere with safe processing. There are no scientifically research-tested recipes for these soups.

Freezing Soup

How can you preserve soup safely? Freeze it. Although freezing temperatures do not kill bacteria, microbial growth stops in the freezer.

Using a modified starch suitable for low temperatures such as ThermFlo will help prevent separation of a thickened soup.

Soups made from fall vegetables such as pumpkin, butternut squash, cauliflower or broccoli are flavorful when frozen. It is also safe to freeze vegetable and meat soups that contain pasta, rice or noodles.

Just remember to allow time for frozen soup to thaw in the refrigerator; or, if it is defrosted in the microwave oven, it should be heated and eaten immediately.

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.




“Playing Above the Curve”

Beef Cattle Conference Set for Aug. 13 in Auburn

by Marlee Moore

Auburn University’s Department of Animal Sciences will host its 2016 Beef Cattle Conference Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Ham Wilson Livestock Arena on the Auburn campus. The conference, themed "Playing Above the Curve: Innovations for the Cow-Calf Producer," will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The registration fee, including lunch, is $100 per person.

Animal sciences faculty have worked with representatives of Alabama’s beef cattle industry to put together a conference program covering all aspects of the cattle business, said Don Mulvaney, animal sciences professor and 2016 conference chair.

"The conference will feature presentations by a number of faculty who are involved in our research, teaching and outreach programs," Mulvaney said. "It will be an excellent place for beef producers in the state and region to learn how to rebuild their herds wisely."

The morning portion of the conference will focus on heifer development, selection, reproduction, breeding and health. The afternoon sessions will spotlight active and emerging results of research in the department and will include updates on forage production and utilization, residual feed intake and efficiency, meat safety and food security. Conference attendees will receive a departmental report and summaries of conference presentations.

Wayne Greene, head of the Department of Animal Sciences, said the program reflects a collection of research that either has been conducted or is underway and is aligned to sustain animal agriculture.

"The viability and long-term sustainability of animal agriculture is crucial to both the Alabama economy and the well-being of the state’s citizens," Greene said. "The mission of our department is to help producers take advantage of innovations and practical concepts that will ensure success now and in the future. This year’s program will be valuable to cattlemen in all phases of the industry, especially cow-calf producers, in the Southeast and beyond."

To register online, visit https://mell-base.uce.auburn.edu/wconnect/CourseSt... and submit the completed form along with credit card information. To submit by mail or email, print and complete the form and send, with payment, to Donald Mulvaney: 116 Upchurch Hall: Auburn, AL 36849 or mulvadr@auburn.edu.

Mulvaney strongly encourages early registration because of limited capacity and robust demand.

For more information on the conference program or registration, contact the Department of Animal Sciences at 334-844-1521 or visit www.ag.auburn.edu/ansc/ for updates.

Marlee Moore is a writer for Alabama Farmers Federation.




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