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August 2018

4-H Extension Corner: A Whole New World

From Chick Chain to Poultry Palaces

by Carolyn Drinkard
Ethan Hughes holds Lucy, his Silver Laced Wyandotte, who was named Reserve Champion at the Chick Chain Show. His chickens provide more eggs than their family can use, so they share with other family members. Ethan also provides eggs for the third Sunday Men’s Ministry breakfast at his church. 
When one enterprising young man from Wetumpka made the decision to become a part of the 4-H Chick Chain, he thought he would only learn about chickens. Little did he know that this experience would not only open a whole new world to him, but ultimately, would change his life!
Ethan Hughes is the youngster, and his story started innocently enough. His parents, Trey and Kim Hughes, wanted to plant a family garden, but they needed a soil sample.

Kim and her three boys, Ethan, (14); Evan, (11); and Eli, (5); traveled to the Elmore County Extension Service to get a sample box. While there, some of the ladies mentioned the 4-H Chick Chain Project to the boys.

Because the Hughes children were home-schooled, they were not members of 4-H nor had any of them ever had chickens of their own. Nevertheless, Ethan was interested and expressed a desire to try his hand at raising chickens. Fortunately, his parents agreed to let him try.

The baby chicks would need a comfortable place to live. Ethan and Trey looked on the internet at hundreds of coop plans.

"We wanted something that would meet the needs of the chickens, but also look good and match our house," Trey said. "We had no plans, but we had decided on some things we liked. We wanted to build something we could do as a family."

Trey works for Alabama Power, and his only carpentry experience had been some electrical and finishing work. Nevertheless, with his do-it-yourself attitude, he persevered, teaching Ethan as they worked. At first, only Trey used the saws, but as time passed, Ethan became more proficient. The twosome still joke about the number of pocket-holes Ethan had to make until he could work the saws.
Many buyers want their coops customized to match their homes. Poultry Palaces offers many other options to meet individual needs. 
"When I first started," Ethan laughed, "I was not very good. Dad and I worked together as a team, and I kept learning as I went along."

Ethan and Trey completed their first chicken coop, just in time to welcome Ethan’s 4-H Chick Chain flock. Even though Ethan had never had chickens before, he quickly became very attached to his brood.

"Chickens are really more fun than work," he stated. "I just enjoy fooling with them."

As part of the Chick Chain Project, Laurie Weldon, the 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent, visited Ethan. Weldon was pleased with the progress of his flock, but she was most impressed with the coop Ethan and Trey had built. A chicken lover herself, Weldon asked the Hugheses to build one for her.

"I wanted a nicer coop for my own chickens," Weldon stated, "and I had saved a photo from Pinterest. Trey said he and Ethan could build that coop."

Weldon liked her new coop so much she ordered another one for the outdoor classroom at the Elmore County Extension Office. Later, she added still another coop, just for quail.

Word quickly spread about the quality workmanship and practicality of the Hughes’ chicken coops. Trey and Ethan named their business Poultry Palaces.
Ethan works on the door to a coop while Lucky, his assistant, supervises. 
Kim posted a few pictures on Facebook, and suddenly, the Hughes family heard from people all over the country.

"It was unbelievable," Trey added. "As we went along, we changed a few things from the first one we built to make it easier on us and easier to deliver. We have now gotten to meet such a variety of people. We still get a lot of repeat customers."

That was in 2016. Today, Poultry Palaces is such a successful business that Trey and Ethan have branched out in other directions: building custom furniture and dog kennels.

Ethan has built many coops by himself, and now he continues to hone his skills making solid wood furniture. He has already built many pieces for his mother and grandmother, Ruby Winn.

One table with custom-turned legs was made from a large sycamore tree that once grew on the Hughes property. Ethan did the mortise and tenon on the breadboard ends by hand, a slow process requiring meticulous measuring and accuracy.

"He had to have so much patience," Kim proudly stated, "because it took him a very long time to do this kind of work."

So, what about the 4-H Chick Chain Project that started all of this?
From left, Evan, Trey and Ethan Hughes work to complete their orders. All the boys help in the family business. 
Well, Ethan completed his project and was rewarded with the Senior Showmanship award and Best in Breed. His Silver Laced Wyandotte was named Reserve Champion.

When his two chickens were auctioned, Winn purchased both and returned them to his flock.
He now has three coops. They are filled with happy hens, and he has more chicks on the way.

The chickens provide the Hughes family with more eggs than they need, so they share them with other family members. Every third Sunday, Ethan supplies the eggs for the Men’s Ministry breakfast at his church.

Ethan is still in 4-H, serving on the Youth Council and participating in the Shotgun Club. He enjoys all kinds of hunting and finds time to coach a church-league soccer team. He will be a junior this year, but, after graduation, he plans to attend Auburn University and go into their Ag Econ program.

The decision to bring 10 little chicks to the Hughes home not only led a family into a successful business but also helped a young man discover his incredible talent as an artisan and craftsman.

"My chickens opened up a whole new world for me!" Ethan said. "I never thought we’d have our own woodworking business that I enjoy so much. I like to work with my hands, so I hope I can have my own business someday."

Check out Poultry Palaces on Facebook.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

A Close Call

by Baxter Black

Talk about takin’ a beating.

I stood on the porch at Dale’s horse farm and soaked up the view. It was deep springtime in west Tennessee. The grass was so green it hurt your eyes. The dogwoods were in bloom and two sleek and shiny horses grazed in the picture. It looked like a cover on the Quarter Horse Journal.

"Nice fence," I said, commenting on the pole fence circling his pasture.

"Thanks," said Dale, "but we had a heckuva scare buildin’ it. See that post ...."

I noted a stout post at the end of the driveway. The harrowing tale unfolded.

Dale had decided to build this fence and finally got around to it in December. He enlisted the aid of two friends, Chuck and Phil. They all dressed warmly because it was 20 degrees the day they started.

At the particular post in question, the boys were havin’ trouble diggin’ the hole. It was close to the paved road and the ground was hard.

Dale backed his tractor up to the future hole and poised the posthole auger over the designated spot like an ovipositing wasp. The auger spun on the surface of the frozen ground. Chuck, who’s as big as a skinned mule, pulled down on the gearbox. No luck, Chuck. So Phil stepped between the auger and the tractor and leaned his weight on the horizontal arm supporting the auger.

Now, Phil had come prepared to work in the cold. He had on his hat with Elmer Fudd earflaps, mud boots, socks, undies, long johns, jeans, undershirt, wool shirt and Carharts. Carharts, for you tropical cowboys, are insulated coveralls made out of canvas and tough as a nylon tutu.

Phil gave Dale the go-ahead. Dale engaged the PTO. The auger clanked and started to turn. Suddenly, Phil seemed to explode in front of Dale’s eyes! Dale engaged the clutch immediately and everything stopped.

Phil stood before them naked.

I said naked. Not quite. He had on his hat and his boots and his belt, still through the belt loops. The jeans had been ripped off his body from the pockets down, leaving only a small piece containing the fly. It flapped like Geronimo’s loincloth.

As explanation, Phil’s pant leg had brushed up against the extended arm of the PTO. In a split second, as fast as Superman could skin a grapefruit, the PTO had torn all the clothes off Phil’s body.

In less than three minutes, his body turned blue. Nothing was broken, but he was as bruised as the bottom avocado at the supermarket.

Chuck commented later that he looked like he’d been run through a hay conditioner.

I figger he was the blazing example of that expression "... he looked like he’d been drug through a knothole."

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,

A Livestock Handbook Trilogy

Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide joins prior publications on beef cattle and small ruminants.

by Robert Spencer
The trio of livestock pocket guides now available from ACES. 
Alabama Cooperative Extension System continues to provide educational media to serve the interests of livestock producers. Many of you may already be familiar with the Alabama Beef Cattle Pocket Guide and the Small Ruminant Pocket Guide, which have been available for several years. The newest pocket guide is the Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide.

All three are made possible by ACES, Alabama Farmers Federation and checkoff funds from livestock sales at statewide livestock sale barns.

One of the reasons these publications are called pocket guides is their narrow width and thinness which allows them to slide into a full-size shirt or pants pocket. These three publications will best serve any technical interests of experienced or novice livestock producers and 4-H youth.

Content of the three publications typically addresses categories including forages, nutrition, health, management, marketing, economics, reproduction, body-condition evaluation, and meat yields and quality. The appendices include a wealth of technical aspects, contacts and resources.

Contributing authors include specialists from ACES, Auburn University, Maryland Cooperative Extension, Louisiana State University, Alabama Public Health Department, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, and Dayspring Dairy LLC.

The dairy goat and sheep production guide is unique for the obvious reason that it addresses small ruminant dairy interests, which tends to be a small cottage industry. Yet, there is a strong interest among individuals and families who enjoy using the milk for personal consumption or further processed into cheese, fudge and ice cream or yogurt. Milk from small ruminants can also be further processed into skin care products such as soaps, lotions and shampoos.

Additional content of this production guide that makes it unique are chapters such as Preparing Your Property for Dairy Goats/Sheep, Selecting & Managing a Dairy Goat/Sheep Herd, Parasite Control and Milk Care.

Many of you may not be aware there are several breeds of sheep suitable for milk and cheese production.

There are at least five breeds of dairy goats and at least one breed of dwarf dairy goats.
In my 18 years of outreach, there have always been inquiries about where to find information on dairy goats, starting a goat dairy, regulations, facilities, etc. I would end up directing them to several resources including various experts within Extension, Department of Public Health, environmental agencies, internet and other producers. With the exception of a producer list, this publication contains all the information a novice or potential producer would need when it comes to technical interests in sheep or goat dairies!

This wealth of information in the form of a pocket guide is made possible by Boyd Brady, Extension specialist, Dairy Science Department of Animal Science, Auburn University.

The best part about this trilogy of publications is they are all free, thanks to ACES, Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Checkoff Funds.

How can you access this publication? You can contact Boyd Brady at 334-844-1562 or Or you can call your local county Cooperative Extension office and ask how to get this or other publications.

Robert Spencer is interim facilities manager for Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center. You can contact him at

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

USDA’s Receives $10 million in Funding for Development

The Technology Modernization Fund Board has awarded funding to support the development of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s customer experience portal that helps better connect America’s farmers, ranchers, conservationists and private foresters with vital USDA resources and programs.

The board is chaired by the federal chief information officer for the Office of Management and Budget. is mobile device-friendly. For farmers, it can identify the most convenient USDA office locations. Additional functions to be added to the site include an interactive calendar, an online appointment feature, digital forms and a business data dashboard.

When the 2018 Farm Bill is signed into law, there will be plain language program descriptions and a tool to determine eligibility.

To learn about the website’s vision, visit

Honey Imports Now Account for
70 Percent of U.S. Supply

Since 2006, over half the honey supplied in the United States has been imported, with the total reaching 70 percent in 2017.

The 2017 volume represents the highest import level on record, continuing the longer-term trend of a growing share of honey supplies coming from foreign sources.

The largest foreign source of honey in 2017 was India, outpacing Vietnam and Argentina, the second and third leading sources, respectively.

Although U.S. honey imports were recorded for many different countries in 2017, the top five foreign suppliers (Vietnam, Argentina, India, Brazil and Ukraine) accounted for 77 percent of imports.

While imports have risen in quantity as well as in share of supply, national average honey prices for domestic honey remain high. In 2017, wholesale prices averaged 215.6 cents per pound, just below the 2014 record of 216.1 and over twice as high as prices in the mid-2000s.

Alabama Electric Co-op Receives USDA Loan for Improvements

Alabama’s Wiregrass Electric Cooperative will receive a $23.46 million loan to help build 55 miles of line, improve 23 miles and make other system improvements, including smart grid projects.

The loan to the Hartford-based utility is part of $309 million for 16 projects to improve rural electric facilities in 12 states through USDA’s electric infrastructure loan and loan guarantee program.

Funding for the loans comes from the federal government’s FY 2018 omnibus spending bill. The measure allocates resources for infrastructure investments, including $6.25 billion to USDA for electric loans. It directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

Wiregrass serves nearly 24,000 customers in six southeastern Alabama counties.

U.S. Food, Beverage Plant Employment
by the Numbers

The U.S. food and beverage manufacturing sector employed over 1.5 million people in 2016, the most recent period for which complete counts are available.

Within the U.S. manufacturing sector, food and beverage employees accounted for the largest share of employment (14.1 percent). The number was just over 1 percent of all U.S. nonfarm employment.

Over 35,000 food and beverage manufacturing plants are located throughout the nation. Meat and poultry plants employed the largest share of workers, followed by bakeries, and fruit and vegetable processing plants.

Agencies Align Oversight, Safety Efforts

The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have announced the alignment of USDA’s Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices Audit Program with the requirements of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule.

The announcement is part of the two agencies’ ongoing effort to make the oversight of food safety stronger and more efficient and to streamline produce safety requirements for farmers.

"Specialty crop farmers who take advantage of a USDA Harmonized GAP audit now will have a much greater likelihood of passing a FSMA inspection as well," said Perdue. "This means one stop at USDA helps producers meet federal regulatory requirements, deliver the safest food in the world and grow the market for American-grown food."

While the requirements of both programs are not identical, the relevant technical components in the FDA Produce Safety Rule are covered in the USDA H-GAP Audit Program.

The alignment will help farmers by enabling them to assess their food safety practices as they prepare to comply with the Produce Safety Rule. However, the USDA audits are not a substitute for FDA or state regulatory inspections, officials noted.

The Produce Safety Rule, effective Jan. 26, 2016, establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The rule is part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to implement FSMA.

Large farming operations were required to comply with the rule in January 2018. However, the FDA had previously announced inspections to assess compliance with the Produce Safety Rule for produce, other than sprouts, would not begin until spring 2019. Small and very small farms have additional time to comply.

Potatoes No. 1 in U.S. Veggie Consumption

Potatoes rank first among the vegetables Americans like most, according to data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Americans consumed an average of 156.3 pounds of fresh and processed vegetables per person, according to recent-year tabulations. But potatoes hold the top spot at 48.3 pounds per person, including both fresh potatoes and processed products (frozen, canned and dehydrated potatoes; potato chips; and shoestrings).

Canned tomatoes are the leading canned vegetable. Tomato consumption – fresh and canned – came in second at 28.3 pounds per person.

Americans consumed 7.7 pounds of fresh and dehydrated onions per person, almost a pound more than head lettuce consumption. Consumption of carrots, sweet corn, and romaine and leaf lettuce finished the list of America’s top seven vegetable choices.

CRP Application Period Continues Through Aug. 17

As part of its 33-year effort to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat on private lands, USDA will continue accepting applications for the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program until Aug. 17.

Eligible farmers, ranchers and private landowners can sign up at their local Farm Service Agency office.

FSA stopped accepting applications last fall for the CRP continuous sign up excluding applications for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and CRP grasslands. The pause, which ended June 4, allowed USDA to review available acres and avoid exceeding the 24 million-acre CRP cap set by the 2014 Farm Bill.

CRP enrollment currently is about 22.7 million acres.

In return for enrolling land in CRP, USDA, through FSA on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation, provides participants with annual rental payments and cost-share assistance. Landowners enter into contracts lasting from 10 to 15 years.

CRP pays producers who remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

Growth Expected in Meat, Animal Products

USDA’s recently released commodity forecasts for 2019 indicate expected growth in U.S. production of beef, pork, broilers (young chickens), turkey, eggs and milk.

Generally, production growth in meat and animal products is supported by relatively low feed costs, the long-term trend of increasing animal weights for meat, and higher yields per animal for milk and eggs.

However, veal production is expected to decrease, while no growth is expected for lamb.

In 2019, growth of beef and turkey production is projected to exceed the respective 2014-18 averages of 1.2 percent and 0.4 percent. Growth of pork, broiler and egg production is expected to be relatively consistent with the respective 2014-18 average growth rates of 3 percent, 2.3 percent and 1.9 percent.

The forecast growth rate for milk production is down compared to the 2014-18 average of 1.7 percent.

In 2014-18, veal production contracted sizably, averaging annual decreases of 7.9 percent, but contraction has slowed in 2014-18. Similarly, in 2019, lamb saw average annual declines of 1.3 percent in 2014-18 and is expected to maintain production levels consistent with 2018.

An Old House & Pokeweed

Even if a house is no longer a home, it might still have worth by protecting your next meal such as this pokeweed. 
by Christy Kirk

For many years, I have photographed and painted landscapes with older houses and barns. They are usually abandoned structures, sometimes with thick vegetation obscuring the original shape of the building. Winding vines and low branches seem to reclaim what once belonged to a family now long-gone. The images may bring a fondness for past ways of life, a sadness for nearly worn-out structures or a sense of how much lifestyles have changed.

Whether I am in a bigger city or a rural area, it isn’t unusual for a building or house to catch my eye.

One morning, I was on my way to pick up my daughter, Rolley Len, from her dance class. I drove with my son, Cason, down a side street near downtown Opelika. As I stopped for a turn, I looked to my left at a little yellow boarded-up house sitting on a corner lot. We had already passed it earlier when we dropped off Rolley Len, but this time there was some new activity.

As we approached, I saw there was a sand-colored, four-door car parked close to the other side of the house rather than in the semicircle driveway. On the side with the driveway, there were seven or eight people who appeared to be a family. What had earlier looked like just another old abandoned house slowly going to waste had become an animated scene infused with life.

Children played in the yard, grownups talked in the shade of a tree, and one man pulled tall green leafy plants from the side of the house.

Immediately, I realized the man was not simply weeding; he was harvesting a mess of pokeweed to make poke salat while his family patiently waited. The pile of greens quickly grew to knee high as he nimbly gathered the plants and leaves.

Although the house was empty and the backyard garden was overgrown, the untended soil was still giving back to a family.
Rolley Len Kirk is carefully weeding around the pokeweed where she will have her garden. 
Years after a house is no longer a home, and the history of the family may be forgotten, it can still have a tremendous value. For this house, the treasure was pokeweed, an amazing food because not only will it grow almost anywhere without human attention, but it is also a very nutritious addition to a family meal.

Later Rolley Len asked why I didn’t stop while the family was still there. I almost did, but truthfully, without knowing the family or if it was even their property, I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be to my curiosity. Rather than intrude or spoil their activities, I had decided to leave them alone and let them keep their privacy.

Just like I don’t know the story of this family, most of us who drive by abandoned houses will never know the stories of the people who once lived there. We don’t know whether their lives were filled with struggle or strength, but we can witness that the land can keep on giving. No matter what life had been like within the home when it was occupied, for me, the yellow house and its grounds became symbols of nature’s ability to consistently replenish its resources to nurture man.

Remember, pokeweed is poisonous and must be harvested and prepared carefully. Before picking pokeweed, make sure you know when the plants are safe to harvest. Any plants with purple on the stem or berries should definitely be left alone. Some people wear gloves while they pick, wash and cook it.

All recipes for poke salat should include washing and boiling the greens multiple times as a first step towards making it safe to eat. For extra food safety, it is recommended between boils and rinses to also wash out the boiling pot and colander.

For more information on harvesting and preparing poke salat, view these Youtube videos: "Cooking Poke Salad on a Campfire with Josie Rae,", and "Seven wild edibles around your house,"


  • Pokeweed leaves (about 2 brown paper bags full, the more the better because they cook down)
  • Water
  • Bacon grease, enough to coat pan
  • Crushed bacon, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Remove leaves from plant. In a large pot, place leaves. Rinse in cool water. Drain and refill with water. Bring to rolling boil for 20 minutes. Pour leaves into colander and rinse in cool water. Return to pot and cover with water. Boil and rinse at least two more times.

In a large skillet, fry leaves for a couple of minutes in bacon grease. Add crushed bacon, salt and pepper.


  • 5 pounds poke leaves, stems removed, leaves washed and rinsed
  • Water
  • ½ pound pork fatback, baked in oven until crisp
  • 3 large bunches green onions, roughly chopped
In a large pot, place washed leaves and cover with water. Bring to a boil, allow to cook for about 15 minutes. Drain water and refill with fresh water. Bring to a boil again and allow to cook for about 15 minutes or until the leaves turn an olive-green color. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze water from leaves and return to pot.

Pour grease from fatback onto leaves and add onions. Cover and cook until the onions are very tender.

Note: Other options: When panfrying, add a half cup of chopped onions and country ham to the leaves, or add eggs and cook with the leaves until they are dry.

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

August Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • In order to calculate the planting date for a fall garden, determine the frost date and count back the number of days to maturity plus 18 days to harvest the crop. If snap beans mature in 55 days and the frost date is Nov. 15, you should plant on or before Sept. 3.
  • Plant a fall crop of garden peas. The roots of peas fix nitrogen into the soil for next spring’s planting. Remember, though, when planting peas for fall, plant them almost twice as deep as spring-planted peas. This will help keep the seeds cool and also from drying out before they germinate.
  • Bearded irises are planted as rhizomes in August and their tops should be exposed when planted. Planting the rhizomes now will let them become established before winter and give you blooms next spring.
  • Plant annual flower and ornamental plants such as blue daze, celosias and zinnia. Plan for fall color by planting marigolds and nasturtiums.
  • Plant spring wildflowers. They must germinate in late summer or early fall to develop good root systems and be ready to grow in spring when the weather warms. Plant seed in well-prepared soil, one-half inch deep, and water thoroughly.
  • Order fall bulbs for planting.


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


  • Continue deadheading to keep flowering plants producing for fall.
  • Prune climbing roses and rambling roses once they’ve finished flowering (unless they are repeat-flowerers). Prune hybrid roses late in the month for a more uniform appearance and a show of fall blooms.
  • Cut back herbs now to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves to be harvested before frost.
  • Once it has finished flowering, cut back lavender after last flush has faded.
  • For a higher yield, pinch back axil suckers on tomato plants. The sucker cutting can be propagated to form new tomato plants.
  • For prize-winning winter squash and pumpkins, pinch off any female flowers and young fruit that develop from now on. Energy is then directed to producing larger fruit.
  • Lightly prune blueberries; cut any blackberry canes that have produced fruit; clean and fertilize strawberry beds.
  • 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.


  • To check on water levels, trowel into the soil and look for moisture to a depth of 3-4 inches, or deep enough to ensure water is reaching roots.
  • Because August is usually the hottest month of the year, watering is a top priority in lawn care.
  • Stop watering potted amaryllis bulbs; store them in a dark, dry spot for several weeks, allowing the foliage to dry naturally. Then bring the amaryllis out again to initiate winter bloom.
  • Watering deeply once every 4-7 days (more in hot weather, less in cooler) encourages deep roots and healthy plants.
  • Conserve water. Water early from 4-7 in the morning. Consider investing in soaker hoses and/or a drip system. These watering systems put the water right where it’s needed – in the soil and next to the plant – rather than wasting it into the air.
  • Remember container plants must be watered daily … and twice daily during periods of high heat.
  • If 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.
  • If water is scarce, consider letting the lawn go dormant, and reduce watering to once a month. It may look a little scrappy, but that glowing green hue will return with fall rains.
  • Anytime we go for four to six weeks without at least an inch of rain, established trees need water. Trees less than two years in the ground need water every one to two weeks, depending on the soil, weather and species of tree. Place a bubbler, a small sprinkler, or a soaker hose at the dripline of the tree (the area on the ground – a circle – corresponding to the furthest reaches of the branches), and water for 30-60 minutes or more with a low flow of water.
  • Consider installing a rain barrel or two.


  • Always read the label before using chemical pest controls.
  • Keep up the battle against slugs and aphids.
  • Look for aphids on the underside of leaves – rub them off by hand or spray with an insecticide to prevent them from multiplying.
  • Keep birds and squirrels off berries with netting or old net curtains.
  • Every weed pulled now is a hundred you don’t have to deal with later. Don’t let them go to seed. Make a pass through each bed each week, because weeds are not just unsightly but steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants.
  • Kill or remove poison ivy from your property before it goes to seed.
  • Keep an eye out for white powdery mildew on plants. If possible, remove the affected parts and spray with a fungicide to prevent further spread.
  • Solarize empty beds to kill weed seeds and disease pathogens: Water the soil thoroughly, then seal it with clear plastic for 6-8 weeks. Weigh the edges of the plastic down with soil, bricks or landscape timbers.
  • To avoid giving pests a free lunch, pick fruits and vegetables as soon as they’re ripe.


  • Take photos and make notes for next year’s landscape.
  • Pull vegetable plants that are finished producing. Amend soil and replant for fall harvest.
  • Pick beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash often to encourage more production.
  • Keep asparagus well-weeded and mulch heavily with straw. Let asparagus ferns grow till frost to feed the underlying crowns.
  • 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.
  • Gather herbs and flowers for drying and preserving. The best time to gather herbs for drying is during the midmorning hours, just after the dew has dried off the herbs, but before the sun causes them to wilt. Cut the herbs in clusters with the stems attached.
  • Homegrown dill is delicious, easy to grow and harvest. You want to harvest almost-mature dill heads, not the green ones or the completely dry ones. The green ones won’t have the flavor you are looking for and the dry ones will have already dropped most of their seeds. Store the seeds in an airtight jar.
  • For peak flavor, basil, sage, marjoram and oregano, mint and tarragon are best harvested just before bloom Add a light layer of mulch around young plants to help their roots retain moisture.
  • Let the weather, not the calendar, dictate your mowing routine. Do not mow at all during times of drought.
  • Lawn growth slows down in late summer; raise the cutting height of your lawn mower to help the grass cope.
  • Wear safety goggles when using all portable power tools such as trimmers, blowers, chain saws, etc.
  • Keep cutting tools sharpened and in good repair.
  • Establish a new compost pile to accommodate the coming fall leaf accumulation.
  • Don’t let your existing compost pile dry out completely, or it will not cook. Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will eventually rot if not turned.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! If you haven’t done so already, be sure all bare soil is covered with mulch, or compost with mulch on top. Avoid putting mulch or compost onto plant stems. Use about 3 inches wherever possible.
  • Watch for surprise or magic lilies when mowing. The lilies pop up quickly after a rain.
  • Collect ripened seed and store for next year. Leaving some seed heads in place can be attractive and allows the plant to self-seed in the surrounding soil.
  • Spade or till soil for fall bulb planting; add a moderate amount of fertilizer.
  • 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.
  • Be especially vigilant about ventilation and watering needs in the greenhouse.
  • Before heading out for vacation, move houseplants out of direct sunlight, especially those in south-facing windows.
  • Remember to clean birdbaths out regularly to help our birds during the worst heat.

Back to the Land

Kerri and Joseph Williams live busy lives, working from dawn to dusk. With Joseph’s parents, they started Williams Nursery in 2008. The business has prospered through the years, especially from social media advertising and online sales. 

Living off the land and following the ways of nature have given a Washington County couple satisfaction and happiness.

by Carolyn Drinkard

In the small farming community of Leroy in Washington County, Kerri and Joseph Williams enjoy a simple lifestyle, living as close as possible to nature and steeped in the goodness of the earth.

"People used to live off the land," Kerri said. "If you didn’t grow it or kill it, you didn’t eat it. Food is one of the main things in our daily lives that’s changed."

The Williams family grows and preserves most of the food they eat. When they buy, they find local, fresh natural foods, because they want to know where this food comes from and how it has been produced. They teach their children natural ways of healthful living, because they believe we are all a part of nature.

To say this young couple stays busy would be an understatement! They have numerous businesses that place many demands on their time and energy. Joseph also works a full-time job with Brown and Root at BASF in McIntosh.

Kerri and Joseph are hard workers. It is very important for them to pass on a strong work ethic to their four daughters, who range in ages from 16 to 1. They, by example, teach self-sufficiency and independence.
The older Williams girls are as industrious as their parents. They work in the garden and at the nursery. Pictured from left are Maddie, 9; Mackenzie, 16; Marlee, 1; and Maygan, 8. 
Kerri and Joseph grew up gardening. Kerri got her gardening and preserving inspiration from her great-grandmother, Margaret Counselman. As a child, Kerri lived near enough that she could run back and forth to Counselman’s house. She spent many hours gardening, harvesting and canning with Counselman.

Joseph’s inspiration came from his grandmother, Ethel Everette. He has fond memories of helping Everette shell peas and shuck corn. For years, his grandparents owned Everette’s Nursery in Leroy, so he grew up around plants. However, he most enjoyed working with Everette in her garden.

For the Williamses, gardening is a family affair. The older girls, Mackenzie, 16; Maddie, 9; and Maygan, 8; join their parents in planting and harvesting. Baby Marlee, 1, sits in her stroller and watches.

The Williamses practice natural farming, using fertilizer gathered from their bird and rabbit pens. They preserve seed stocks from their purple hull and lady peas, butter beans and okra seeds. Other supplies come from the Farmers Cooperative Market in Leroy.

Kerri cans and freezes their fruits and vegetables. By midsummer, she has her canning wall full of jars, filled with colorful vegetables, jams and jellies. She enjoys sharing her canned items with family and neighbors.

Kerri creates many of her own natural products that are free of additives, chemicals, fillers and preservatives. She makes butter and buttermilk. She does not churn, choosing instead to use her mixer.

When one of their girls had a reaction to dyes and perfumes in detergents, Kerri found a recipe and experimented until she developed her own detergent. She believes her homemade products are safer for her family.

An avid outdoorsman, Joseph enjoys hunting and fishing, especially with his three older girls. His family eats the game they harvest, but they raise most of their other meat.
Maddie, left, and Maygan work to defeather the Coturnix quail before skinning them. The Williams family eats some of the quail and sells the others. 
On one area of their farm, Joseph has built a number of birdcages. He raises bobwhite quail and releases 300-400 in the Coffeeville area each year, hoping to increase the quail population.

Before he releases the birds, he traps coyotes in the region to give the quail a better chance to survive.

He feels his efforts are paying off as he is seeing more quail in the wild.

Joseph also raises Coturnix, or Bible, quail. They are easy to raise and tend to be gentler than other species. Around seven weeks, the Cots reach maturity and start laying. There is a big market for both their meat and eggs. Joseph incubates his eggs in a large oven incubator, choosing to butcher about 150 birds for his own family. His daughters help him skin the birds and freeze the meat that is high in protein.

The Williams family keeps domesticated turkeys for meat and chickens for both eggs and meat. They give away most of their chicken eggs, but during the summer months, the girls set up a lemonade stand and sell the eggs at the nursery. The family also has ducks, which roam around their pond.

Joseph also keeps New Zealand and Flemish cross-mixed rabbits. Once again, the Williams girls help to care for these animals, giving them names such as Bugs and Sophia. Most of the rabbits are sold for meat, but the family does keep some for food.
Margaret and Eddie Williams help their children at the nursery. They love and enjoy working with plants, but most enjoy being with their grandchildren, who also help at the nursery. 
In 2008, Kerri and Joseph started a plant farm. Joseph’s parents, Margaret and Eddie Williams, joined them in a venture to grow and sell plants to wholesale nurseries.

"I had talked to a friend who told me that he could not grow enough plants in his nursery in Lucedale, Mississippi. I came home and talked to Kerri, Mom and Dad, and we started growing for that nursery," Joseph stated.

Unfortunately, the economic downturn of 2008 caused the family to change their original plan. Because of customer requests, the Williamses started to sell their own plants at retail. They cleared more land and used one of Joseph’s old bird pens as a greenhouse. What started as a wholesale plant farm is now Williams Nursery.

"At first, we didn’t do tropicals," Joseph explained, "but the demand increased so much that we started picking up all the seasonal stuff."

The Williams family tried some traditional advertising with minimal success; however, when Kerri used social media to advertise, their contacts exploded.

"I can hardly keep up with Facebook," Kerri added. "People send pictures and ask questions about plants. They make orders and send requests. I have to use time at night to respond because I can’t get my other work done if I don’t."
Kerri deadheads spent blooms to make the plants bloom again. Weeding and deadheading are full-time jobs at the nursery. 
Kerri related an interesting story about the power of social media. Eight customers had contacted her for a particular type of plant they didn’t grow. She drove to the supplier where she gets additional plants and decided to pick up 15 plants. Before leaving, she posted that she had the plants to fill all the orders she had received. By the time she got home, she had sold all 15 plants and had orders for 5 more.

Williams Nursery offers a variety of shrubs, trees, tropicals, ferns, vegetable and bedding plants; combo pots, and just about anything else their customers need. They grow many of the plants they sell. In Southwest Alabama, Williams Nursery is known for its healthy, well-kept plants and its great prices.

In 2017, Kerri and Joseph started yet another business. So many customers had asked them about landscaping that Kerri and Joseph agreed to start with just a few homes. Now, they have expanded to businesses and nearby factories. Customers use a computer program to design their individual plans, giving a much better idea of the final results. The Williamses use environmentally sound practices and usually do their landscaping on weekends.

Kerri and Joseph Williams have chosen to live off the land, work hard, teach their children self-reliance and help their neighbors. Their rewards: satisfaction and happiness.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

Big Bonnie Cabbage

Thomasville student Braden Stauffacher grows a giant from a starter donated by Bonnie Plants.

Braden Stauffacher, of Thomasville, grew this giant cabbage for his third-grade science project. Bonnie Plants donated the starter cabbage plant that rapidly grew to 22 pounds, 4 ounces. The head weighed 16 pounds, 10 ounces and reached a circumference of 45 inches. The leaves of the cabbage reached a width of 38 inches. Braden harvested his giant plant May 23.

Catch Some Bass – Plant Some Oats

“For he said to Judah, ‘Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars.
The land is still ours because we have sought the LORD our God; we have sought Him,
and He has given us rest on every side.’ So they built and prospered.”
~ 2 Chronicles 14:7 (New American Standard Bible)

by John Howle

Why would America need walls around its borders? That’s like asking someone who raises sheep or goats why they need fences. The fence is not only to contain the animals from roaming freely onto neighboring property but also to keep predators from attacking the livestock. In this farm boy’s humble opinion, only a fool would opt for open borders.

In a March 2018 article in the New York Post, Paul Sperry said the $18 billion wall President Trump plans to build on the southern border "will pay for itself by curbing the importation of not only crime and drugs, but poverty." According to Sperry, neither Mexico nor U.S. taxpayers will have to pay for the wall. "The barrier will cover its own cost just by closing the border to illegal immigrants who tend to go on the federal dole."

According to Steven Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies, "If a wall stopped just 200,000 of those future crossings, it would pay for itself in fiscal savings from welfare, public education, refundable tax credits and other benefits currently given to low-income, illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America."

Border protection for a nation’s sovereignty goes way back to the Old Testament days of the Bible. There are parts of modern-day Jerusalem that have been walled off since the days of Abraham. King Solomon not only built the temple but also a wall around the city, which fulfilled his father David’s prayer. Eventually, there were attacks and breaches in the wall. When King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, came through, he tore down the wall. The wall remained in a demolished state until Nehemiah made it his personal mission to rebuild the wall. While he was working, Nehemiah and his workers had to defend against attack during the rebuilding phase. They had a hammer in one hand and a weapon in the other.

According to a 2007 article by Stephen Flurry, archaeologists found the remains of Nehemiah’s wall that was showcased in the Bible in Nehemiah 3.

Dr. Eilat Mazar explained her archaeological findings at a conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2007. Some of the attendees doubted her and questioned her findings. She didn’t argue.

"The stones will speak for themselves," she simply said.
River fishing for bass can be productive when casting into the swirls below the rapids and around logs and limbs near the river bank. 

River Fishing for Bass

Fishing for bass in a river requires a different method than still-water lake fishing. For one thing, the river is constantly moving, and finding the bass requires some strategy. Two of the most productive places I’ve caught bass are in the swirls below rapids where the water rotates slowly. Dropping a Texas-rigged worm near the bank and slowly jerking the bait through this swirling water can produce a strike.

In slower-moving areas of the river, look for logs and limbs to drag your worm through. If the fish aren’t biting the worms below the surface, try casting toward the river bank and slowly retrieving a jointed minnow towards the boat.

New Coat for an Old Trailer

If you ever have to replace the treated planks in a trailer, it will make you want to preserve the wood as long as possible. It’s often quite an undertaking to replace lumber in the trailer that rots and deteriorates as a result of being outdoors. You can take steps to preserve the wood and get twice the life out of the planks.

Used motor oil, if handled carefully and kept off the ground, is a great wood preservative. You can take a handheld paint roller and simply roll the oil onto the wood for a long-lasting protection. The wood absorbs the oil like a sponge. The paint roller helps keep the oil from the ground, and you can be environmentally friendly by recycling.
Young bucks feel comfortable browsing in this food plot during the day because of the tall cover. This is a warm-season plot, but the oats will give cool-season cover, as well. 

Side Notes for Planting Oats

Cool-season forages such as oats, rye, rye grass and winter wheat can dramatically increase winter forage production for cattle and make ideal forage for winter deer.

Oats are my favorite cool-season grass because of the tall forage. If you are planting oats in your food plots, under ideal conditions where fertilizer and lime amounts are correct, oats grow tall enough to provide cover for deer traveling in and out of food plots.

For cattle, oats can be top sown and trampled into the ground through hoof traffic. Oats have a high germination rate and are quite responsive to nitrogen. Oats are reasonably priced, and it might be worth a cool-season experiment to try planting some on your property.

A great companion crop for oats is Durana white clover. This is a great combo for either pasture or food plot forage.

Planting dates in Alabama for oats range from late August in northern Alabama to September in the central zone and October for the southern zone.

This August, take some time to go fishing, protect your trailer and plant your food plots and cool-season forage. In addition, take time to study the Bible. Who knows, you might see modern day connections to events that occurred 3,000 years ago.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Chef's Corner: Revisiting Some Old Favorites

by Brian Taylor

This month I wanted to revisit some of my favorite recipes we’ve published over the past couple of years. Maybe you missed it or your copy was lost, but I’d hate for you not to have a chance to try these dishes this summer.

We are also going to try something new this month, an "Ask the Chef" portion of the article. If you have any questions regarding cooking, please feel free to email me at, and I’ll do my best to help you out.

You never know, you may even have your question published!


Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen okra
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 pound catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
In a 3-quart pot, bring water to a boil. Dissolve bouillon cubes in boiling water.

In a medium skillet, heat vegetable oil. Cook celery, bell pepper, onion and garlic until tender.

To boiling water, add tomatoes, okra and cooked vegetables. Season with salt, red pepper flakes, thyme, bay leaf and hot pepper sauce. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add catfish, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until catfish is flaky and tender.


Servings: 2-4
Oil, for frying
  • 1 pound U.S. farm-raised catfish nuggets or fillet cut into small pieces
  • 1 package favorite fish fry (Louisiana, Zatarain’s, etc.)
  • 4 ounces wing sauce (I like Texas Pete)
  • Carrots and celery, as desired
  • 4 ounces ranch or blue cheese dressing
In a skillet, heat oil to 350°. Thaw catfish nuggets and rinse well.

Into a bowl, pour fish fry mix. Dredge nuggets in mix, making sure to coat evenly and thoroughly.

Place nuggets in hot oil. Fry until golden and crisp, maybe a little longer than you normally would. Remove nuggets. Drain well on rack or paper towel-lined plate.

In a large bowl, toss nuggets with wing sauce to coat evenly. Put in center of a plate. Serve with carrots and celery. Dressing can be drizzled over top or served on side as a dipping sauce.


Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 2

  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound Portico 5/7 ounce U.S. catfish fillets
  • 1½ cups fine cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (I like Old Bay)
  • 1 quart vegetable oil, for deep frying
In a small bowl, mix buttermilk, water, salt and pepper.

Into a flat pan large enough to hold the fillets, pour mixture. Spread fish in one layer over bottom of pan, turning to coat each side. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

In a deep fryer, heat oil to 365°.

In a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, combine cornmeal, flour and seafood seasoning. Add fish to mixture, a few fillets at a time. Tumble gently to coat evenly. Repeat until all are coated.

Deep-fry fillets until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Avoid overcrowding fillets to give room to brown properly. Fish should be slightly crisp outside, and moist and flaky inside. Drain on paper towels.


Servings: 4
Serving size: 4 ounce

  • 1 pound SouthFresh Alligator Meat
  • 8 ounces fish fry (such as Zatarain’s)
  • Oil, for frying
  • 6 ounces horseradish sauce (recipe included)
Heat oil to 350°. Prepare alligator by cutting into 1-1½ inch pieces. In a gallon resealable plastic bag, pour fish fry. Add gator pieces. Shake well to coat. Dust off excess breading.

Fry, a few pieces at a time, until golden brown and floating, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plate. Serve with horseradish sauce.


  • 4 ounces mayonnaise
  • 2 ounces prepared horseradish
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir well.

Brian Taylor CEC, CCE is the corporate executive chef for SouthFresh Farms.

Corn Time



FFA Sentinel: Ready to Lead and Inspire

New state officers are elected at the Alabama FFA State Convention.

by Preston Hughes
The 2018-19 Alabama FFA State Officers are, from left, Summer Parker, president; Maggie Edwards, vice president; Matthew Wilson, secretary; Ethan Phillips, treasurer; Preston Hughes, reporter; and Kalyn Rouse, sentinel. 
The 90th Annual Alabama FFA State Convention was a thrilling and exuberant time for the officers, members and guests present! We honored our members who received awards in proficiency areas and scholarships, and we installed a new slate of state officers.

During the convention, we also recognized our honorable guests and our partners who were present. We are most thankful and truly honored to have the continual support of Alabama Farmers Cooperative and all other partners who make this event and FFA a success.

Twenty-two state level contests, ranging from Livestock Evaluation to Prepared and Extemporaneous Public Speaking, were held the day before the convention kickoff Wednesday. FFA teams from across the state descended upon Auburn University and Opelika High School to compete in their respective events.

The convention’s attendance was estimated at 1,800 members, guests, partners and friends of FFA. Without the help of Auburn University, Opelika High School and an army of volunteers, the contest day would not have been a success.

During one of five sessions, chapters or individuals who placed in the contests and awards programs were honored.

Ashlyn Ruf, Ardmore Chapter, was selected as the 2017-2018 State Star Farmer, while Kaleb Wright was awarded the Mindy Stringer Memorial Scholarship.

State FFA Degrees were awarded to 269 outstanding FFA members. The State FFA Degree is the highest award a state association can award to an individual member. Students earn this award though Ag Education coursework, their supervised agricultural experience project, and their FFA and community service participation.

Our convention consisted of many happy and emotional moments – especially during the keynote speeches and retiring addresses.
The State Star Farmer Award was presented to Ashlyn Ruf, Ardmore Chapter. The award is sponsored by Cargill and the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity of Auburn University. 
DeShawn Blanding, the 2016-2017 Southern Region National FFA Organization Vice President, provided one of the most remarkable speeches at the convention when he delivered his keynote address. His theme was "Your Destiny, Your Decision."

Blanding’s three big points were: "Be you, be about it and believe." He stated that you must know yourself to be able to grow yourself. Next, he mentioned that "being about it" is not just saying you are going to do something but also sticking to and doing it!

When I heard him say that, I thought about the popular phrase: "If you are going to talk the talk then you better walk the walk!"

His final point was to "Believe."

Blanding closed his speech and left us with, "Commit yourself to it, be you and simply believe."
With hearing these inspirational words, those present could take home a very important outlook about not only their lives but also the lives of others.

We were also fortunate to have had Mr. Matt Lohr, a farmer, husband, father, former National FFA Officer and the Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, deliver the opening session keynote. His humor and storytelling guided members to continue to strive for success during and beyond their FFA journey.
The Hale County FFA Chapter places second in the Crime Prevention award category. Pictured from left are Jamichael Edward, David Robinson and advisor Ronald Reaves. 
The 2017-2018 State Officer Team delivered their retiring addresses. Each officer had their own theme for their retiring address, ranging from State President Cameron Catrett’s "Put on your Perspectacles" to an emotional-and-inspirational speech delivered by our State Reporter, Will Jordan, with his theme of "Your Life Matters." Each and every state officer gave a heartfelt and genuine retiring address.

We witnessed a roller coaster of emotions from each state officer. Many times, we felt as if we were right there with them living through their speeches.

As a newly elected state officer and on behalf of all Alabama FFA members, we congratulate them on their year of service. We now look forward to our year of service as the 2018-2019 State Officer Team!

The New Slate of Officers

During the week of the state convention, state officer interviews were held. Officer candidates went through a very tedious interviewing process. There was a test to be taken, a letter to be written and five interviews to evaluate the 12 candidates representing the three FFA districts in Alabama.

Once selected, our services had only just begun. We truly had an experience of a lifetime that most of us would never have gotten if not for FFA and the opportunity to become a state officer.

Each officer had a unique experience during the short election time.

After the convention, the newly installed state officers begin their leadership training with Alabama CTSO Leadership Summit and Base Camp Training, provided by the National FFA, and Checkpoint Conference in Raymond, Mississippi.

Here are just a few statements from the new slate of officers:

Our State President, Summer Parker, and State Vice President, Maggie Edwards, mentioned, "I love meeting and spending the week with the state officers from Mississippi and Louisiana at the Checkpoint Conference."

Our State Secretary, Matthew Wilson, and State Treasurer, Ethan Phillips, mentioned, "We met and learned that all of us share a great passion for this organization. It is very interesting to see how the other states run their associations."

I, as our State Reporter, and State Sentinel, Kalyn Rouse, mentioned our most memorable moments so far as state officers, " I truly cherish being able to connect with not only the other five new officers but also having the opportunity to reach out to the other officers and members in our great state. I really love the feeling of them (district officers) looking up to me, and me being able to help them!"

As the newly-elected state officers continue their summer training and leadership development, we hope to inspire members and continue to build leaders, grow communities and strengthen agriculture through agriculture education and FFA. Our year of service is member-focused, and we look forward to reaching out to FFA advisors and members in our state during 2018-2019.

You can find our contact information on the state officer page,, as well as information on how you can support the future of agriculture and FFA.

I am also pleased to take this opportunity to invite you to next year’s convention to be held in Montgomery the first full week of June.

Preston Hughes is the 2018-2019 Alabama FFA State Reporter.

Formax Breeder Gold

by John Sims

As cattle producers, the part of your operations impacting profitability the most is reproduction. To get the highest returns, you must get a live calf from each cow on the farm every 12 months.

To do this, every cow has to be in good body condition and have the correct mineral and vitamin supplementation program in place. This will have her bodily functions performing at their highest levels.

Mineral functions include skeletal formation, functions in protein synthesis, oxygen transport, hormone production, fluid balance, mineral and vitamin relationship, growth and reproduction.

Formax Breeder Gold is the right mineral for your herd to maximize performance and profitability. Breeder Gold has a 2-1 ratio of calcium to phosphorous for proper utilization. High P levels balance late-summer and winter forage P deficiencies.

Alabama’s minerals and vitamins requirements are different from other parts of the country. This mineral is formulated to work with Alabama forages, taking into account our soil type, forage type, annual rainfall and nutrient leaching.

Breeder Gold is weather coated for our humid climate to keep it loose for easy consumption. Special flavorings have been added to ensure proper consumption. The percentage of chelated trace minerals was increased to maximize absorption and utilization of copper, zinc and manganese. These trace minerals are chelated using MINTREX chelated mineral technology.

Benefits of MINTREX chelated mineral technology:

  • Increase weaning weights by 5-10 percent.
  • Improvement in milk production by 2-8 percent.
  • Improves first service conception rate.
  • Decrease open cows by more than 5 percent.
  • Decreased days post calving to conception by 19 days.
  • Reduced mortality and morbidity rates in stocker calves.
Now is the time for your herd to start benefiting from the unsurpassed performance of Formax Breeder Gold mineral. We offer the same mineral package with increased magnesium for fall and spring (Formax Grazing Gold).

This and other premium Formax minerals are available at your local Quality Co-op. To find a location near you, go to or see the listing on page 4.

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

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Blow the Mosquitoes Away

The last two or three summers have seen an increase in mosquito-killer services to treat yards in my neighborhood.

Sprays attempting to kill mosquitoes are controversial because some research shows such spraying is not very effective. That is one reason why many cities have stopped applications.

However, one sure tool in the battle against mosquitoes is a good, old-fashioned breeze. It doesn’t take much air to blow away a weak-flying mosquito.

The next time you plan an outdoor event, pull out the box fans, oscillating fans or a combination of these, and point them across the spaces where you are sitting. They will help keep you cool, too.

Just remember to weigh down any lightweight items such as napkins!

Shade Cloth for Fall Crops

While visiting an urban farm in Havana, Cuba, a couple of years ago, I saw lettuce and other cool-season crops successfully grown under shade cloth in hot weather.

Now, I use a 60-percent shade cloth to help me get the fall lettuce crop up and going in the heat of August and September. That little bit of cooling shade is enough to help transplants make it through the Indian summer days and go on to produce many good fall and winter harvests.

Last spring, the shade cloth also kept our lettuce from bolting during an early hot spell. The plants went on to provide plenty of lettuce through May.
Plant yellow squash for fall harvests. 

Late Squash

Gardeners can squeeze in another crop of yellow squash by sowing seeds early this month. Late plantings often avoid problems with squash vine borers that tend to be most active from late May through June and July.

If other insects such as squash bugs or flea beetles have been present in your garden, protect seedling plants with a thin insect netting.

Uncover when the plants begin to bloom to allow bees to do their pollination work.

You can order fabric netting, or just buy several yards of white voile from the fabric store to stitch up whatever size cover you need.
Maypop is also called passion vine because the intriguing late-summer flower represents different aspects of the crucifixion story. 


Depending on your experience, maypop is either a nasty weed or an enjoyable landscape treat.

The native perennial vine is also called passion vine because the intriguing late-summer flower represents different aspects of the crucifixion story. The outer fringe symbolizes the crown of thorns, the knobby stigmas in the center are the three nails, the 10 petals are 10 disciples (minus Peter and Judas) and the five stamens in the center are the wounds that Jesus received.

It is a larval host for the Gulf fritillary, zebra longwing, red-banded hairstreak, Julia and several other butterflies. The flowers are also a source of nectar for butterflies and pollinators, and birds and wildlife eat the fruit.

Vines grow to 20 feet or longer, so give it a fence or something to climb on. Beware: the plant spreads by root suckers; maintain control wherever you choose to grow it.

Maypop fruit are seedy, but edible, and will be enjoyed by many critters.

Prevent Winter Weeds Now

Save yourself a lot of bending and weeding this winter by taking a little time now to refresh the mulch around trees and shrubs, and in flowerbeds. Mulch laid down in spring is decomposing quickly in the warm humid weather and becoming too thin to be an effective weed barrier. Renew the pine straw, bark, chopped leaves or whatever organic mulch you are using.

If annual winter weeds such as annual bluegrass are a problem, rake back old mulch and sprinkle some Preen (Treflan) on the ground under the shrubs.

Be Patient with Peppers

About this time each year, I often hear gardeners say their bell peppers didn’t do anything. But, they will! Bell peppers don’t fruit well in hot weather, but the plants will continue to grow if watered and fertilized. As soon as the weather cools down a little, they begin setting fruit again.

Take care of those lagging peppers, and they will reward you with a nice fall harvest.

Harvesting Basil

Take advantage of any basil in your garden to make some pesto for use this winter.

Morning is the best time to pick the leaves, as the flavorful oil will be more concentrated than after a hot afternoon. Also, pick the older green leaves, leaving the young ones that aren’t as flavorful yet.

Trim off the flowers and fertilize with a liquid plant food for another big flush of growth before the nights begin to cool. Basil does not like cool weather and will languish as soon as the summer heat fades away.
Annual salvias will put on a big fall show. 

Encourage Salvia

Annual salvias will put on a big fall show with just a little help from you now. Deadhead old blooms, trim out dead stems, fertilize and water if needed.

They will again be branching and blooming, growing bigger and better than ever.

Many of the annual varieties, such as Hot Lips, Lipstick and Lady in Red, will reseed next spring if the mulch under them is not too heavy.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of “The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists” and former garden editor of Southern Living Magazine.

No Gobble Gobble

The most important thing Thomas showed us is to just be thankful. 
by Suzy McCray

This is the fourth morning that there is no "gobble gobble gobble" coming from behind the workshop door, asking to be let out into the sunshine as quickly as possible.

There will be no more long walks in freezing thunderstorms trying to find where Thomas has hidden himself because he was scared of the storm, knowing we MUST find him before a coyote does.

There will be no more happy general store customers posing while Thomas fluffs his tail feathers and tries to act aloof – although secretly enjoying every moment of the attention.

Thomas came to this farm about five years ago with a guinea, a few chickens and a couple of rabbits when a couple’s grandchildren had moved away, and the couple decided they wanted the freedom to travel.

Thomas was raised with the chickens and evidently, just assumed he was one.

Then my son got five turkeys to raise for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners the next year. A large temporary pen was built with a blue tarp over the top, and Thomas moved himself in with the others, suddenly realizing he was not just a large chicken!

Some of you may remember the story of how the other turkeys got respiratory infections and were given antibiotics, so they couldn’t be butchered for the holiday meals. Soon, they’d outgrown their pen. Every morning, we let them out, and they waltzed, waddled and clomped right over to free range with our multitude of chickens every day.

Who knew turkeys could have such personalities?

Soon folks were literally skidding to a stop in the highway, backing up and driving in to photograph the crew! One lady, in the early darkness of dementia, was brought to see her favorite turkey every afternoon around 3 p.m. Her walking stick was colored with butterflies and flowers, and the turkey would literally dance his mating dance around her walking stick every afternoon!

Long after that sweet woman was moved to assisted living, she could scarcely talk of her family, but she REMEMBERED and talked about those turkeys!

But, one by one, each turkey eventually left us ... dying peacefully of old age, likely of heart attacks ... until there was only Beautiful and Thomas left. Beautiful was a male, as well, but named because he delighted in spreading his feathers any time anyone wanted a photo or a hug. Last year, Beautiful began to act droopy.

Thomas stood vigil by his side for three long days and nights. And then Beautiful left us.

Thomas adapted fairly well. He returned to the bunny barn almost each night to be safely shut in from bobcats and coyotes (unless a storm scared him).

Last week, I knew something was wrong.

The first night, Mack found him way around behind the back goat fence. I decided I wouldn’t let him out the next morning because he was acting so poorly.

But when I went to feed and water the animals, he was beside the door, bright and perky, asking to go outside. So I turned him out.

That night after church, we searched for hours and couldn’t find him. I prayed God would have caused him to pass away before something could find him to eat him. (Yes, I PRAYED for a turkey!)

The next day as I was mowing, I saw iridescent feathers just slightly sticking out from a bush right behind the house ... and there was Thomas, who had died peacefully the day before. I know there are probably turkey farmers reading this, who grow hundreds of the big- breasted critters every year for our holiday feasts. Or just other homesteaders, such as my friend, Jenny, out West who raise two turkeys every year for their family, one appropriately named "Thanksgiving" and the other "Christmas."

But I can’t help but identify with Thomas.

We don’t know how old he was because we don’t know how old he was when he came here to live.

But he always seemed a little unsure of himself … never seeming to quite fit in … always looking a little different … always seeming to be a little different from everybody else.

He wasn’t the prettiest of the turkeys. He wasn’t the friendliest. He was pretty shy around most folks till he got to know them (unlike Beautiful who never met a stranger!).

Most folks that REALLY know me will attest to that sounding a lot like me. I can write words read by thousands, but you put me in a roomful of strangers and I want to do like Thomas and hide under the porch!

But like so many other things and animals here on this farm, God has used Thomas to teach me lots of lessons.

While Thomas couldn’t be like any of the other turkeys, who each had their own distinct personalities and traits, there were still things about Thomas that God could still use.

Because Thomas’ death was announced on Facebook, there’s been over 100 folks who wrote little notes explaining how he always made them smile with his goofy turkey gait, or how he always made them wonder what he was thinking as he tilted that red-topped head gazing at them to see if they’d by any chance brought a piece of biscuit or a french fry!

God dressed the lilies in the field. He knows the number of feathers on each bird (including goofy big birds such as Thomas). And He KNOWS what’s in MY heart.

A man at our church testified Sunday morning of how he feels so close to God early in the mornings as he stands in the midst of his acres of bountiful Blount County tomatoes.

I guess the most important thing Thomas showed us during his tenure on the farm is just how thankful we all ought to be. All of us that are privileged to enjoy the country life, to even just have a scrap of land to dig in the soil and watch the seeds break through, who can gaze out through the morning mist and see not one but three different mama hens clucking to small clutches of baby chicks ... who hear the roosters crow ... who hear the goats or cows or sheep or horses making their early morning sounds.

Today, as you go about your chores, jobs, and lives, don’t forget the simple things around your farm or even your small city lot. Look up at those clouds. Listen to the birds in the trees. Smell whatever flower (or weed!) is currently in bloom.

And think about Thomas and all the simple things around us. Folks, we are simply just blessed.

Suzy McCray is a freelance writer living on a small homestead in Blount County. She can be reached at or on her Facebook page.

Not Changing Political Nor Football Team Colors!

Bunches of evil! Poison ivy, trumpet vine, English ivy, etc. – all invasive – all will die; by my hand and the pump sprayer! 
OK, folks. It’s hot outside! And the lack of rainfall has not affected the advancement of my botanical nemeses – trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), aka cow itch, hell vine or Devil’s shoestring, and Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis).*

Both of these plants have waged war against me and my desire to have clean and clear walk paths, as well as plantings of desired flowers and shrubbery.

Until now, I have passively attempted to eliminate these problems by cutting, chopping, pulling and burning their vines in the spring when the growth is fresh. This method has been fruitless for me and most fruitful for them!

Having forgotten the rules of nature for years when it comes to these two invasives, every time I whack and pull at them, they come back with a vengeance! When you attack a plant, its nature is to fight for survival.

In the past, I have written about the negative impact of using synthetic insecticides and herbicides. I have not changed my opinion. However, there may come a time when a little pill may resolve your problems. Just remember that disclaimer! "For occasional use only. Use only as directed."

No, my dear readers, I am not talking about Viagra. I am referring to glyphosate. Yep! The evil Roundup that has become the scourge of the organic culture is what I am getting ready to use.

Over the last few years, as I have been attempting to eradicate the unwanted plants, I have not used much of anything stronger than 5 percent vinegar. And, although it is an effective weed killer, there just ain’t enough vinegar in the world to completely kill the undesirable plants here.

By the way, what kind of garden do you have where you can run around and spritz all your weeds? Sounds like you have a lot of time on your hands.

Let’s face it. I’m getting too old and tired to chop, pull and dig up those vines that seem to be stronger than sinew!
Wisteria is pretty for a minute. Then it becomes a farmer’s and homeowner’s nightmare. 
Last year, I spoke with my friend, Davy, with Alabama Grown. He has acres and acres of hunting land. I asked him if he ever had to try to eliminate wisteria and he said he was battling some at the time. He uses glyphosate, but he’s not aggressive with his applications. He said you have to attack it slowly and regularly, pointing out that if you go at it with aggression it’ll come back even stronger the next year.

Well, that’s all good if you have the time to treat it regularly. I found something on the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants website. Under chemical controls, it recommends, for stump treatment, cutting stems as close to the ground as possible and immediately applying a 25-percent solution of glyphosate to the stem.

This stump treatment will help prevent accidental contamination of desired plants such as my red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).

For foliar treatment of tough vines, the recommended mix ratio is 2.5 ounces of glyphosate 41% concentrate to one gallon of water. Additionally, I like to use a surfactant in the mix. My personal choice is 1 tablespoon of original Dawn per gallon of mixture.

"Well, that’s the way it is …" as the beloved Walter Cronkite used to say. (Sure miss him.)
When you buy glyphosate, look for this percentage. Mix it strictly according to instructions. 
I am not changing the way I think or stopping preaching about synthetic solutions to problems. But, when the issues are increasing exponentially and one’s capabilities are becoming diminished by natural or otherwise unexpected causes, one has to do what one has to do. Kill before it multiplies!

Not much gets me going like watching wisteria and trumpet vine turn yellow and begin to die off within a week or so after applying the evil chemical!

Hmm. I’m in a mood now. I wonder how this stuff will work on creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)? Summer poinsettia (Euphorbia cyathophora)? Nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus)?

I feel something diabolical coming on! Oh, the simple pleasures in life. …

I’m going to make a taco now. I’ll give you a couple of recipes in September.

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 I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

* According to Dr. Nancy Loewenstein, Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Extension specialist, Auburn University, “It can be difficult to identify the actual species of the invasive types. … Many infestations that grow rapidly are actually a hybrid of Japanese and Chinese types.” Extension Daily, “What You Need To Know About Wisteria,” April 28, 2017

PALS: Pike County Water Festival

Learning How to Keep Our Waterways Clean

by Jamie Mitchell
Every spring, fourth-graders throughout the state look forward to attending their county’s water festival. The Pike County Water Festival has invited PALS to attend for the past several years to do a quick presentation to the students about littering as it pertains to water.

This year, Janet Gaston, of Troy University, asked PALS to incorporate littering as a larger component of the festival, complete with experiments and a short lecture portion.

I jumped at the chance to make littering a higher priority and came up with some experiments that would create hands-on scenarios for the students.
The first experiment showed the students how litter travels in water. One student got to be the litter bug and throw trash into a piece of gutter we used to create our "ditch." Another student poured water into the ditch so they could see how the litter travels and gathers when it rains.

Our second experiment focused on water pollution. The students added water color to a cup of water and poured it into other cups of clean water to see how the pollution travels with the water as it moves from ditches to streams to lakes, etc.

These experiments really helped create a visual for the students that I hope will make them really think next time they consider littering.

The fourth-graders of Pike County are now armed and ready to help spread the anti-litter message.

ne of the most wonderful things about the Clean Campus Program is that it is FREE to all Alabama public and private schools thanks to ALFA and Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

If your local school would like to schedule a presentation, contact me at or 334-224-7594. Schools can also sign up for the Clean Campus Program online at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Pickles, Pickles, Pickles!

by Angela Treadaway

The pungent aroma of vinegar mixed with spices, such as dill, cinnamon, cloves and mustard seed indicates that something is being pickled in the kitchen. This aroma brings to mind the wonderful sweet lime pickles my grandmother made, which have always been one of my favorite pickles.

Some of you may think making pickles is too difficult or takes too long, but there are several different ways to make pickled foods including a process called "quick-pack" that anyone who does home food preservation can do in a few hours.

In fact, there are four basic types of pickles: brined or fermented, fresh pack or quick process, fruit pickles and relishes. Almost any food can be pickled if that’s your preferred method of preservation!

The brined or fermented pickles are ones that take a longer time because the product is brined or cured over a three- to six-week period in a high-salt solution.

This process will change the cucumbers’ colors – from green to an olive or yellow-green and the inside from white to translucent.

Fresh-pack or quick process pickles are not fermented. There are two methods to make this type of pickle.

One requires soaking the vegetables in a low-salt solution for several hours or overnight to draw some of the salt from the cells; the vegetables are then drained and processed with vinegar, spices and seasonings.

The second type calls for cooking the vegetables with vinegar and spices, then packaging and processing immediately. Beet pickles, bread-and-butter pickles and pickled asparagus or green beans use the fresh-pack method.

Fruit pickles are just what the name implies – fruits simmered in spicy syrup then packed and processed. Watermelon rind pickles fall into this category.

Finally, relishes are mixtures of fruits and/or vegetables chopped, seasoned and cooked in a vinegar and spice solution then packed and processed.

All types of pickles are better when allowed to stand for several weeks after processing. This allows the flavors to develop to their fullest.


1. Use small, firm cucumbers. This is, hands down, the most important! If you start with a big soft cucumber, you’ll end up with big soft pickles. Always, always select the smallest, firmest cucumbers and leave the big soft ones out of the pickle jar. It’s a natural law of sorts – if you are using ginormous, overgrown cucumbers, nothing is going turn them crunchy … no matter how creative you get.

2. Jar them immediately after picking, or as soon as possible. Going straight from the vine to the jar is the best. I always try to plan room in my schedule to can up a batch right away on pickle-picking day.

However, I’ve still had good results using farmers market cucumbers – providing they are firm and I don’t leave them on the counter for days and days.

3. Soak cucumbers in an ice water bath for a couple of hours. If I can’t get to work canning my cucumbers immediately after picking (or when I get home from the farmers market), submerging them in an icy bowl of water in the fridge will help them firm up and stay firm.

4. Cut off the blossom end of the cucumber. The blossom end of a cucumber is said to contain enzymes that can cause mushy pickles. Removing it is your best bet.

5. Low-temperature pasteurization treatment results in a better product texture, but must be carefully managed to avoid possible spoilage.

Place jars in a canner filled halfway with warm (120-140 degrees) water. Then, add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat the water enough to maintain 180-185 water temperature for 30 minutes.

Check with a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain the water temperature is at least 180 during the entire 30 minutes. Temperatures over 185 may cause unnecessary softening of the pickles. Caution: Use only when recipe indicates.

What about alum? Back in the day, it was recommended to add alum or food-grade lime to pickle recipes to help with crispness. Due to safety considerations, it’s not recommended anymore.

What if I STILL get mushy pickles? Well, then you might as well just quit this whole canning thing and go back to buying everything from the store … not really. Sometimes mushiness still happens, even if you do everything in your power to prevent it. Mushy pickles are still quite edible. If I get super-duper mushiness going on, I use them for chopping up to add to potato salad, etc.

Just keep experimenting – you’ll get into your crispy-pickle groove eventually.


Yield: 7-9 pints
  • 8 pounds 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
  • 2 gallons ice water
  • 1¼ cups canning or pickling salt, divided
  • 1½ quarts 5 percent vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 Tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice
  • About 3 Tablespoons whole mustard seed
  • About 14 heads of fresh dill or 4½ Tablespoons dill seed
Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slice from blossom end and discard; leave ¼-inch of stem attached. In a larger container, place cucumbers.

In a large container, dissolve ¾ cup salt in ice water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain.

In a large pot, combine vinegar, ½ cup salt, sugar and water. In a clean white cloth, tie up pickling spice. Add to pot. Heat to boiling.

Fill jars with cucumbers. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seed and 1½ heads fresh dill or 1½ teaspoon dill seed per pint jar. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process, or use low-temperature pasteurization treatment. If you want to process without low-temp pasteurization, you can process in a water bath canner – pints, 10 minutes, and quarts, 15 minutes.

A great place to get more recipes is the National Center for Home Food Preservation operated by the University of Georgia Extension Service or any state cooperative Extension website. All of their information is researched and the safest recipes you can get.

If you have questions on food preservation or this article, please contact Angela Treadaway, Regional Extension Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, at 205-410-3696.

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

Responsible Ag

Madison County Co-op – In the Birthplace of Alabama

by Sharon Cunningham
The county of Madison is rich in history and known as the birthplace of Alabama. It sits atop the remnants of the Cumberland Plateau.

Madison County was named for the fourth president, James Madison, after he was the first president to visit the area.

In 1950, when Wernher von Braun started building Redstone rockets, growth took off in a different direction. The expansion of jobs and homes took the area as only an explosion of a rocket could create.

Even with such a history of growth, agriculture has not been forgotten. Major crops in Madison County include cotton, wheat, soybeans, corn and beef cattle. Watercress is also grown in the area.

Madison County Co-op has three locations to supply both farmers and urban customers. The main store is located on 231/431 North in Meridianville, and you can find a wide assortment of products there.

Bonnie Plants has been growing and producing some wonderful vegetables this year for the small-scale farmer and home gardener, and supplying the farmers market with a plentiful selection.

If you happen to find a new puppy, kitten or even a goat while visiting the market, the Co-op can help with feed and products to care for your new little one.

If you have a large-scale operation, don’t worry. They are there for you, too.

When you find time to get away from the heat and are looking for shade this summer, make sure to stop in and look for that bird feeder or something to help keep the bugs away.

Sharon Cunningham is EHS coordinator for AFC. If you have any questions about the Responsible AG program or would like to learn how to join, you can contact her at


It’s good for much more than just flavoring sausage.

by Nadine Johnson

I had an early morning phone call from a man who was rather distressed. He was looking for a source for sage. He went on to explain that he couldn’t have salt due to extremely high blood pressure. In an effort to find something he could eat, he wanted to make sausage. He could not find sage on the grocery shelves. He hoped I could help him.

I could help. Soon per telephone, I had sage ordered and en route to him.

I also remembered I have a good many salt-free recipes on hand. These recipes were given to me by a woman I worked with during the early 1950s. Our paths continued to cross occasionally through the years.

I’m planning to include these recipes in my second cookbook that I’m in the process of publishing.

The first cookbook was titled "Camp Stew, Etc." It became available just as Hurricane Frederick hit South Alabama in 1979 and has completely sold out.

The salt-free recipes have been copied and mailed to the gentleman who was seeking a source for sage.

There are many plants in the salvia family. Many are ornamentals and simply provide lovely flowers for our pleasure. There are red and purple ones. We all enjoy seeing them every day.

However, my early caller was seeking Salvia officinalis, a culinary sage. It is commonly used to flavor turkey or chicken dressing and sausage. It aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Sage tea serves as a tonic for the blood. When used as a wash, it benefits the hair and skin. It is used as incense in some purification rituals.

Sage is not the easiest herb to grow but I have had the pleasure of doing so. Once, I had a whole row across my vegetable, flower and herb garden. They produced beautiful purple flowers in the spring. I wish I had made a picture.

When I was a child, my grandmother Schofield kept sage in her vegetable garden. It was grown in a special spot and received very special attention. It was grown primarily to flavor (along with hot pepper) the wonderful homemade sausage made during the well-remembered, and not forgotten, home hog killings.

I hope my early morning caller will create sausage comparable to those made by my parents and grandparents.

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

Southern Animal Health Association

Working With Our Neighbors

by Dr. Tony Frazier

A few weeks ago, while traveling home from Tennessee, I crossed the state line into Alabama and saw the welcome sign. I suppose that, because I was returning from the Southern Animal Health Association meeting, I was reminded that the state line is where my responsibility for the general health of the herds and flocks in the state begins.

I got to thinking that if diseases respected state boundaries my job would be a lot easier. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to keep certain regulated diseases from entering the state or responding as rapidly and appropriately as possible to keep down the spread of such diseases.

A good example would be last year when we had a few cases in Alabama of low pathogenic avian influenza – or bird flu to the person on the street. The first case was reported in Tennessee and likely originated from migrating waterfowl. The cases in Alabama probably originated from the same group of waterfowl as they passed over our state. If animals carrying diseases could just respect state boundaries, I might be able to take up golf or some other worthwhile pastime.

Because diseases do not respect state lines, I feel fortunate an organization such as the Southern Animal Health Association exists, and I am part of it. SAHA is a district group affiliated with the U.S. Animal Health Association. It is comprised of animal health officials from 14 southern states. I will not list all the states, but as you can imagine, Alabama and all our bordering states are members.

We meet face to face twice a year to discuss common animal health issues experienced in southern United States that may or may not be unique to us. However, we all try to be mostly on the same page and look for ways to work together to assure the health of our herds and flocks.
We also work to harmonize state regulatory requirements. That doesn’t mean all states require the same things for animals being imported from another state but we try to be close.

Also, because disease outbreaks often tend to be regional, we often perform multistate exercises mimicking an outbreak of something, such as foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza.

In fact, it is not always diseases we are concerned about. Hurricanes have created some formidable problems for animal health officials.
We are all aware of the devastation some disease outbreaks or natural disasters can cause. I can assure you the chaos is greatly diminished by the fact that we have all discussed and exercised our roles and responsibilities while the sun is shining, the wind is not blowing and animal carcasses are not piling up.

A spin-off group from SAHA is the Southern Agriculture and Animal Health Disaster Response Alliance, or SAADRA. Because southern states tend to be at risk for similar diseases and disasters, SAADRA focuses on responding to these events as a region, if it becomes necessary. In the early 2000s after 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, a significant amount of emphasis was placed on emergency preparedness. Many of the states’ departments of agriculture put an individual in place who could focus on being prepared for disasters.

While my job certainly includes preparing and responding to disasters, I am thankful we have Ben Mullins in our department. He not only does this job for Alabama but is also involved in SAADRA.

I know many of you travel out of state for shows or sales, or to sell stock to buyers in other states. It is important to SAHA that regulations are reasonably harmonized.

It would be more of a headache than you can imagine if we didn’t try to get on the same page on matters such as animal disease traceability, trichomonas, chronic wasting disease, Johne’s disease, avian influenza, equine event permits, bovine viral diarrhea, foreign animal diseases and feral hogs – to name a few.

While it is not possible to look at regulations from one southern state and assume our regulations are the same, we try to make sure there are no huge differences among the states.

Because SAHA has every southern state veterinarian on its board, we all realize we need the input from stakeholders, such as cattlemen’s associations, equine associations, poultry and egg associations, the Livestock Marketing Association, Farm Bureau and others representing producers. We realize, for regulations to work for the good of everyone, we must have buy-in from the animal agriculture industry.

In most states, the veterinary diagnostic laboratory systems are either under the supervision of the state veterinarian or at least have a close relation with them. That allows the input and interaction needed to have the best possible surveillance for diseases.

We also work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in helping to shape areas, such as interstate shipment of animals, indemnity and surveillance for diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, brucellosis, avian influenza and tuberculosis. Additionally, we work with other governmental agencies that have an impact on animal agriculture. Besides USDA, we have a close working relationship with our State Departments of Public Health, as well as state and federal wildlife agencies.

I am not an English literature expert, but I can Google for famous quotes with the best of them. John Donne is credited with writing, "No man is an island." I think that works well for my job as state veterinarian … no state is an island. Therefore, it is not only important but critical that we, in the southern region, work closely because neither domestic nor wild animals recognize state lines. I am fortunate to be able to work with our neighboring state veterinarians.

We held the SAHA meeting in Alabama in 2007, and it will roll back our way in 2021. These meetings are great opportunities to demonstrate our capabilities and to learn what is working well in other states.

I am all for learning from my mistakes. However, if I can learn from what has and hasn’t worked well in other states, I will have better served the citizens of our state.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Buster’s the best pool player I’ve ever seen, but he sho’ better start puttin’ some English on that ball if he wants to beat that feller from Memphis!"

How does one put a language on a billiard ball?

The expression "put some English on it" comes from the Commonwealth games of snooker and billiards – now taken up around the world.

One of the ways of striking the cue ball is to make it spin by hitting it off center. In this way, the ball can be made to curve around other balls or bounce off the cushion in an unusual, but planned, way.

Hence, to spin the ball was taken to be part of the English game.

Special Opportunity Area … What Is It?

A creative partnership leads to the creation of Alabama’s ultimate public hunting experience!

by Chuck Sykes
A successful hunter at Cedar Creek Special Opportunity Area 
Up until a few years ago, the acreage of privately-owned lands managed within the Wildlife Management Area system exceeded 200,000 acres. These landowners graciously allowed the use of their lands to be incorporated into the WMA system for years. But as business models and needs gradually changed, many of these landowners withdrew their tracts. This resulted in significant acreage loss to some of our existing WMAs, losing over half Coosa WMA, and a total loss of some long-standing WMAs (Boykin and Scotch). If it wasn’t for the portion of the Coosa WMA being purchased through the Forever Wild Land Trust Program in 2006, Coosa WMA would have been dissolved of public hunting opportunities.

In an effort to reduce this loss in available public hunting lands, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division presented a proposal in 2014 to the Forever Wild Land Trust Board of Trustees to partner with them and cooperatively purchase FWLT program nominations that would serve to add acreage to existing and/or create new public hunting opportunities.

This proposal involved the FWLT program providing the required 25-percent state-matching funds with the Wildlife Restoration Program, administered by WFF, providing the remaining 75-percent funding of a land tract’s appraised value.

Before this financial collaboration, the FWLT outright purchased multiple tracts to consistently add acreage into the WMA system. The second FWLT purchase in program history, in 1994, added 640 acres to Barbour WMA.

Since then, FWLT purchases have led to the creation of three WMAs (Grand Bay Savanna, Perdido and Yates) and additions to Coosa, Freedom Hills, Jackson County, Lauderdale, Lower Delta, Lowndes, Riverton, Skyline and Upper Delta WMAs.

Also, saving long-standing Cahaba and Mulberry WMAs, in 2009, resulted from FWLT leasing the recreation (hunting) rights for those properties.

To date, the FWLT program has contributed over 228,000 acres to the WMA system.

The creative partnership advances the missions of both FWLT and WFF by leveraging monies to purchase even more quality public hunting properties.

Recent land purchases in Dallas and Russell counties have allowed for the development of a new public land hunting program termed "Special Opportunity Areas." These new properties, along with previously DCNR-owned Fred T. Stimpson and Upper State Sanctuaries Areas in Clarke County and Department of Transportation’s wetland mitigation land in Jackson County, became the first tracts to implement this limited-quota permit program.
What is a SOA? It’s a smaller public hunting area, typically 3,000-7,000 acres in size, divided into hunt units comprised of approximately 300-500 acres. Access to hunting is limited to those who are successful in attaining a limited-quota permit through the randomized selection process administered through the website.

Each SOA has specific hunts, typically two to four days in length, for a collection of game species including deer, turkey, waterfowl and small game. Applicants apply by choosing the desired hunt dates on the specific SOA. If selected, the successful applicant and one guest will be assigned a specific hunt unit for that duration. The hunt unit will be dedicated to them for their sole use throughout the hunt dates assigned to them.

This program is unlike any other in the state, providing a hunt with attributes far exceeding many private hunting clubs. Judging from the feedback from the initial year’s hunters, it’s a success that will not only continue but expand in the coming years.

Land tracts available under the new SOA program include:

  • Crow Creek, 400 acres located in Jackson County, offers adult archery deer hunting for a permit holder and one guest, and waterfowl hunting on select dates and times throughout the season for a permit holder and three guests.
  • Cedar Creek, 6,400 acres, and Portland Landing, 4,744 acres, both in Dallas County, and Uchee Creek, 4,735 acres in Russell County, offer deer and turkey hunting throughout their seasons for the permit holder and one guest, and small game hunting on selected dates for the permit holder and three guests.
  • Fred T. Stimpson, 7,200 acres, and Upper State Sanctuary, 1,920 acres, in Clarke County, offer adult archery deer hunts for a permit holder and one guest; youth gun deer hunts for a youth hunter and youth guest with their supervising adult permit holder; and squirrel hunts for a permit holder, youth and up to five guests (at least one additional guest must be a youth). Fred T. Stimpson also provides limited-quota opportunity for a youth waterfowl hunt.
A valid state hunting license and a WMA license are required to hunt any of the SOAs.

How do I get to be a hunter on one of the new SOA properties? Visit the website and follow the Hunting link to Special Opportunity Areas and begin the registration process. On this page you will find the registration process steps to follow, frequently asked questions, and be able to click on a link to view the various upcoming hunts.
The 2018-2019 hunting season registration:

  • Various deer hunts will begin July 16 and close Aug. 21.
  • Youth squirrel hunts at Fred T. Stimpson SOA and adult waterfowl hunt at Crow Creek SOA registration will begin Sept. 4 and close Oct. 4 (Crow Creek SOA youth waterfowl hunt registration will be in January 2019).
  • Turkey hunts offered at Cedar Creek, Portland Landing and Uchee Creek SOAs will begin Dec. 3 and close Jan. 3, 2019.

The public lands managed within the WMA and SOA systems not only provide for outstanding public hunting opportunities but also secured landscapes for wildlife habitat, wildlife research, and simply represent a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors.

This upcoming season, be sure to take advantage of some of your public land hunting opportunities in Alabama, either through the traditional WMA route or by applying for the Special Opportunity Area hunts.

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

Still Cooking

Joe Smith’s smile says his New York-style cheesecake came out of the oven just like he hoped. 

Dallas County’s Joe Smith shows how the golden years can stay sweet.

by Alvin Benn

Aging has a way of bringing out the best or worst in some people, but that doesn’t include Joe Smith, who has been quietly counting the years with grace and dignity as they tick down.

His mornings usually start at the Selma-Dallas County YMCA swimming pool where he joins a large group of senior citizens for water aerobics classes.

Occasionally, he can be seen entering the Y wearing a bright-red T-shirt inscribed with wide white letters informing curious visitors that "I’m Slow But I’m Not Lazy. I’m 84."

A niece made the T-shirt as a way of honoring a man who won’t allow the years to slow him down. He just sees them as more challenges to surmount.

He encourages people, especially after swim class, to try and stay young as much as possible and to focus on fun things to do. His preferences include baking cookies, cakes and other delicious creations.

Smith sells some of his homemade delicacies to help pay for the ingredients, but much of his time is involved in community fundraisers where he’s busy at his oven, making mouth-watering fried chicken and what’s become known as "Joe’s Monstrous Cookies" and "Smitty’s Pound Cake."
Joe’s flashy T-shirt gets laughs when he wears it to the Selma YMCA 
His culinary piece de resistance is his New York-style cheesecake. Those who have eaten a slice rave about it for good reason. According to a friend, it can produce a sweet sensation that lingers long after it’s been consumed.

His cheesecakes weigh around 8 pounds, take three hours to make and rarely leave any crumbs behind as slices quickly vanish.

Ingredients include lots of cream cheese, of course, brown graham crackers for the crust, crushed pineapple, melted butter, white sugar, jumbo eggs, coconut, crushed almonds, whipping cream and, to top it all off, a cherry on top.

"I always put cherries on my cakes because it’s a nice touch to something I’m proud to have made," Smith explained.

Smith loved cheesecake while he lived in New York. After one of his daughters ordered one that cost $50, all he could say when he arrived at the house was, "Heck, I can make one myself, and it’ll be just as good … if not better."

While living in New York, he spent time enjoying piled-high Jewish corned beef sandwiches on rye bread. He also fell in love with Cuban food when he lived in Miami.

He takes personal pride not only in the way he handles his kitchen but also adheres to a life worthy of emulation. He doesn’t smoke or drink, is a regular churchgoer, spent six years in the Air Force and supports the military whenever he has an opportunity.

He also does his own chores around the house, cuts the grass and volunteers to help those who need transportation assistance.
Joe, left, and Anthony Bonner weigh Joe’s New York-style cheesecake at Joe’s house. It came in at nearly eight pounds. 
Remaining active is a way for him to pay tribute to the love of his life. He and Brenda had planned to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary two years ago, but she passed away after a lingering illness.

Cookies are among his many kitchen creations, but he’s no stranger to barbecues. He’s helped to raise thousands of dollars for the church and other worthy causes.

Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Selma benefited from one of his projects that once netted $1,200 and helped the church to obtain a much-needed air conditioner.

Julia Lane, one of "The Ladies" in the water aerobics class, is one of his biggest fans and quick to praise him for his ecumenical efforts.

"He’s a good human being, and you can’t say more than that about everybody," Lane said as she finished her swim for the day. "He helps people who need it the most, and that’s commendable."

Smith’s good deeds emanated from childhood when he’d watch adults help neighbors in need. He did it without having to be asked. It was a lesson in life that’s been a big part of who he is.

He once received a Volunteer Award, but that isn’t why he pitches in to help others. It is just something he enjoys doing. His rewards are in the smiles greeting him when he contributes something positive to his state.

The Depression may have been in its waning period in the late 1930s, but it was still a negative economic factor as Smith watched Dallas County’s jobless families try to survive. He can still remember what it was like as he entered his teenage years.

Raised in rural Dallas County where his grandparents taught him the importance of hard work and responsibility, he tried to copy them, especially when sharecropping season was at hand, along with worries about the weather.

"I can still remember what it was like plowing behind our mule named Bill," he recalled. "He helped us to complete our crops and I’d think about him a lot in the fields when I’d be in the hot sun chopping cotton and whatever else was needed."

Smith could have made the Air Force a career, but decided to see what the rest of the world offered and it was on to other ventures. He found them in New York and Florida, picking up recipes along the way.

His successes in the kitchen have earned him a following in parts of Alabama. If someone asks him about his latest recipe, he’ll be happy to share it with his fans – without being overly specific, of course.

He knows there is always room for improvement in any venture and he doesn’t mind mentioning the time one of his early coconut banana cream pies failed to pass muster.

To put it mildly, it just about blew up on the culinary "launch pad," but Smith made the needed corrections and got it into proper orbit.

Asked recently how he’d grade himself when it came to cooking, baking and sharecropping, he broke into a big smile.

"I’d give myself a seven or eight, but then, nobody’s perfect," he answered.

He must have been thinking about that coconut banana cream pie.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

The Case of the Dying Dogwood

In the fall, the dogwood will show its color. 
by Tony Glover

Why are the dogwood trees in my yard dying?"

When you are a county agent, this is the type question you get.

This question reminds me of one I had early in my career when I was a much worse "smart aleck" than I am now … although I still struggle with that fault.

A receptionist for a doctor (who will remain nameless due to Horticulture HIPPA laws) called and said, "Dr. Smith wants to know why a large oak tree in his yard recently died."

I asked for some additional information, but she had none to offer. I told her to go back to the kind doctor and tell him I recently had a neighbor die, and I was wondering if he knew what killed him.

She laughed and said, "I will ask him," and then she hung up the phone without allowing me to explain I was only kidding to make a point. Of course, the point is we need more information than this to make a diagnosis (or even an educated guess).

Upon extensive questioning, the following information was extracted from the client who asked the dogwood question.

"Last spring, we built a raised flowerbed around each tree approximately 6 feet square and proceeded to plant small flowers and shrubs in the new soil added into the raised bed," she explained.

Now as Sherlock Holmes might say, "The answer is elementary, my dear Watson."

It is never a good idea to cover the root system of a tree with additional soil, but dogwoods are especially sensitive due to their relatively shallow root systems.

Planter boxes created around the base of trees do a great job of reducing mower damage to the trunk and beautifying the landscape. However, planter boxes creating raised planting beds around established trees can cause damage to roots by depriving them of nutrients, oxygen and water.

If you build a planter box around a landscape tree, take care to maintain the soil at the original level and make sure the installation of edging materials does not sever tree roots. You may be able to gradually add some new soil to the bed, but no more than 1-2 inches annually, and I would still think twice about trying this around a small tree such as dogwood. Large trees can withstand this process much better than smaller plants with very limited, shallow root systems.

Although I have given the primary reason to not cover the roots of a tree with additional soil, I want to mention another reason to avoid this practice. When soil is placed in contact with exposed surface roots and the tree trunk, it greatly increases the likelihood of rotting organisms invading the roots and trunk. If the trees do not die quickly from the reasons discussed above, they may die slowly from a fungal pest. Even piling mulch around tree trunks can cause this problem.

I see this in landscapes very frequently. Those in the horticulture trade call these "mulch volcanos" because mulch is piled into the shape of a volcano. Mulch is a good thing, but do not place it against the trunks of trees or shrubs.

Sometimes people put planters around trees to cover surface roots that make it difficult to mow grass. It can also be tempting to cut these roots off to make mowing easier. Neither one of these ideas is good for the tree.

The solution providing for the healthiest trees is to kill the turfgrass and apply a thin layer of mulch, no more than 2-3 inches deep.

For a dogwood, I would suggest a ring of mulch around the tree extending at least as far out as the limb spread. This will accomplish several things, not the least of which is to reduce moisture competition, prevent mower or weed eater damage, and possibly prevent you from getting a knot on your head from a vindictive limb.

If you insist on having some flowers under your trees, I would suggest using large containers that can be periodically moved.

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

The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein

We have a real treat this month! Mrs. Tommie Madison has agreed to be our cook of the month. Madison lives in Saragossa, a small community located near Jasper in Walker County. She is a widow who lives alone, but keeps herself active with many hobbies and involvement in her church.

Madison got married when she was 16 and didn’t even know how to boil water! Her mother- and step-father-in-law stepped in and gave her the cooking instructions she needed to be able to fix meals for herself and her new husband.

Madison’s other hobbies are gardening and working with her flowers. She also crochets and sews, and loves collecting cookbooks. Along with her busy life, she helps her daughter in her office. She also still finds time to be a devoted animal lover!

Madison has not only lost her husband but also her son. She still has her daughter, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

By the time you read this, Madison will have celebrated her 74th birthday!

Hope you had the best birthday ever and thank you so much for sharing your life and recipes with us.

~ Mary

For September, we will be featuring bacon, chicken, coconut, coffee, goose, honey, mushrooms, peas, rice and squash; and making or using biscuit and guacamole.

October’s recipes will feature apple, caramel, dessert and cookies, kale, pasta, pork or sausage, pumpkin and spinach; and making or using chili and country ham. Of course, any treats you like to share for Halloween would be appreciated, too!

We are always interested in anyone who would be willing to be interviewed and share some of her … or his … favorite recipes with us. Contact us if you are interested.

We would love to hear from you … for recipes or to be our featured cook.

~ Editor

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News. You may email her at Jena Klein is AFC’s Wellness Program Coordinator. You may email her at


  • 1 quart cooked turnip greens, undrained
  • 1 can black-eyed peas, undrained
  • 1 can pinto beans, undrained
  • 1 can great northern beans, undrained
  • 1 can original Rotel
  • About 1 pound smoked sausage, cut up
In a large stock pot, place all ingredients. Cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes.

Note from Mary: Serve with cornbread!


  • 1 8-ounce container whipped topping
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup chopped cherries
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 graham cracker pie crusts
In a bowl, place first six ingredients. Mix. Divide between pie crusts. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.


  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 small can evaporated milk
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 unbaked pie crusts
Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, place all ingredients except crusts. Mix. Divide between pie crusts. Bake for 1 hour.


  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed and divided
  • 4 boiled chicken breasts, cut up
  • 1 stick butter, melted
Heat oven to 350° degrees. In a bowl, place chicken soup, sour cream and broth. Mix. Add ¼ sleeve crackers. Stir. Add chicken. Stir. Pour into a baking dish. Top with rest of crushed crackers. Pour butter on top. Bake until heated through.


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 36 ounces chicken stock
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans mild diced green chilies
  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained, divided
  • Tortilla chips
In a pot, add oil, onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add cumin, chili powder, chicken stock, chilies, chicken and 1 can of beans. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer.

In a bowl, pour other can of beans. Mash. Add to chili to thicken. Simmer 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.


Yield: 8 servings

  • 2 cans crescent rolls
  • 1 pound Swiss cheese. sliced or shredded, divided
  • 1½ pounds deli corn beef, sliced
  • 1 can sauerkraut
  • 1 egg white
  • Caraway seeds, optional
In a 9x13 baking dish, press 1 can of unrolled crescents. Seal seams and perforations. Bake at 375° for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. On baked crust, layer ½ of cheese and all corn beef and sauerkraut. Top with rest of cheese. Bake until cheese melts. Remove from oven.

On a lightly floured surface, press or roll second tube of crescent dough into a 9x13 rectangle, sealing seams and perforations. Place over cheese. Brush with egg white. Sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake 12-16 minutes or until heated through and crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

The Root of All Things Feed, Part 2: Carbohydrates

by Jimmy Parker

Last month we began a short series on the nutrients in the feeds we buy and give to our animals. We talked primarily about protein and its many uses.

This month, we are turning our attention to carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates provide most of the energy animals use to grow, reproduce, produce and just survive. They can and do get some of their energy from fats and oils, and sometimes utilize some of their protein for energy. However, generally speaking, the majority of animals’ energy comes from carbohydrates.

Why are carbohydrates important and where do they come from?

As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates provide the bulk of the animals’ energy and are not readily stored by them. They have to be eaten daily.
Carbohydrates are formed by photosynthesis in plants and serve as the structural components for those plants. They are also abundant in the grain portions of feedstuffs.

They have a number of functions:

  • Provide the energy needed for most of the natural processes of the body.
  • Are the main source of calories animals use to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • Can be building blocks for other nutrients (rumen microbes can take nitrogen and carbohydrates to form their own proteins).
  • Extra carbohydrates are usually converted to fats and stored as such.
Livestock can show signs of deficiencies. The most common one is technically known as ketosis. It is most often caused by the animal metabolizing too much stored fat when available carbohydrates are too low to meet their needs. High-producing dairy cattle at peak lactation and sheep or goats in late gestation are two classes of livestock most commonly to have issues.

The most common symptoms of too few carbohydrates are weight loss, slow growth, decrease in milk production, weak newborns and, if not corrected, starvation.

Carbohydrates can, generally speaking, be divided into two major categories: crude fiber and nitrogen-free extract. Nitrogen-free extract, or NFE, is made up of soluble sugar and starch and is digestible by all classes of livestock. Crude fiber is the less digestible portion of the carbohydrates. It usually consists of the cell wall portion of plants. It is not readily digestible by swine and poultry, and far more digestible in the diets of cattle, sheep and goats. Horses are somewhere in between in their ability to utilize the crude fiber portion of a diet.

All carbohydrates must be broken down into basic components to be absorbed. The carbohydrates are generally broken down to monosaccharides, most often glucose or fructose. When digested by rumen microbes in cattle, sheep and goats, they are often broken on down to volatile fatty acids to be absorbed.

Last month, we talked about proteins being comprised primarily of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen with a nitrogen molecule attached. Carbohydrates are also made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. We talked about the protein being like a string of one or two or 10 blue Lego blocks with a red block attached to the end of the chain to represent the nitrogen. Carbohydrates can be thought of in the same manner, but without the nitrogen. When we think about the carbons in the carbohydrate and the Lego example, the NFEs are simple chains of Legos that come apart fairly easily.

They are broken down by digestive enzymes and can be digested by most any animal in a normal digestive process. Most of the crude fiber can be thought of as the same set of Lego blocks, but glued together and can only be separated by rumen microbes. Some of the less digestible fibers are glued together so well they can’t be digested even by the rumen microbes. They are what we get when our forages get too mature before being harvested.

All things considered, carbohydrates are the largest portion of our animals’ diets and one we most often overlook while concentrating on things such as protein and vitamins.

Protein and vitamins are also important. When thinking about your feed needs, look at the whole picture and find the most efficient source of all the nutrients fitting your particular animals’ needs.

In swine and poultry, it is fairly easy. With both of them, crude fiber is more of a filler, and the numbers should be fairly low. Ruminants need more fiber and some of the crude fiber is needed, but it can still, to some degree, be a filler.

You need to have a better idea of what your forage is providing in order to make the best decision.

As always, feel free to call or email me if you have any questions about your particular situation.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

We Often Don’t See the Big Picture

Cattle for Christ Elijah 81398 
by Glenn Crumpler

Elijah, in my mind, was just one of those bulls who rarely comes along. He was a long, deep-bodied, thick, easy-keeping, heavy-muscled, structurally correct, sound-footed, calving-ease, high-growth Angus bull who just seemed to have it all, including a calm and sweet personality and good performance numbers. He never needed any grain to keep his body condition, even during breeding season when he was working hard. It was just very hard to find a flaw in this fine bull we called "Cattle for Christ Elijah 81398. "

His first calf crop was exceptional, just as we expected them to be. If there was ever a herd bull I thought could help improve the industry, Elijah was the one.

One of our corporate sponsors agreed to help us market his semen before we ever collected him. The first order was for $150,000 going to Brazil. We also had two Angus ranches each offer $50,000 for a three-month breeding season in their herds. This was $250,000 we had on the table for Elijah in his first exposure to just a few people.

We took Elijah to the bull collection facility donating the semen collection and housing of the bull to fill the initial semen order. The Brazilians said, if their first calf crop did as they expected, they would be placing a much larger second order. Wow!

Elijah was going to live up to his name and our expectations, and was going to do so much to help Cattle for Christ financially fulfill our ministry efforts at home and around the world. Elijah was the big breakthrough we had been waiting for.

After several weeks of quarantine for health testing to qualify his semen for international export, the collection facility started trying to collect Elijah for the Brazilian order. After several weeks of not producing enough freezing-quality semen, I decided to visit the facility and see Elijah because I knew his semen quality was excellent before we delivered him.

Well, to make a long story short, when Lisa and I arrived, the first thing Lisa said when she saw him was, "Glenn he doesn’t look right. I don’t think he feels good."

That indeed was pretty obvious. We decided to load him up and bring him home to our own veterinarian, Dr. Jerry Hawkins, to see what was going on. He examined him the next morning.

"Glenn, there is something major going on with Elijah," Hawkins said. "You need to get this bull to Auburn University today."

So that is what we did.

When we arrived at Auburn, the entire veterinary faculty was there, as were about 20 students. They ran several tests and concluded Elijah was full of stones in his kidneys, bladder and urethra. There was no hope of saving him. He was building fluid that was running out of his eyes, and he was in severe pain. Their only recommendation was to euthanize him and put him out of his misery.

When I asked them what could have caused this problem, they all said without hesitation, "Too much grain in his diet."

We did not even know he was getting any grain.

I was heartbroken over the loss of Elijah. I was also very discouraged over the loss of the money we already had on the table and the future income we knew he would provide for the work of the ministry around the world. I just could not understand why God would allow this to happen when 100 percent of the income from Elijah was going to fund His work of sharing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and meeting the physical needs of people around the world – people who we knew, without a doubt, He loved and desperately needed His help! This really made absolutely no sense to me. To tell you truth, I still do not understand it all.

However, the bull belonged to God! His name was Cattle for Christ Elijah. He was registered and belonged 100 percent to God’s ministry. I did not lose one penny when he died. My job was only to take care of him and do what I could do to use him to glorify God. If he was God’s, God could do or not do whatever He wanted to do … whether or not it made sense to me.

Sometimes, we just do not understand why things happen, and we are not able to see the big picture going on behind the scenes and circumstances.

I suppose the greatest lesson God reminded me of, again, was that my hope and the hope of the ministry is to be found only in Him, in who He is and our relationship with Him. We cannot put our faith in any person, institution or material thing, regardless of its intended purpose, the good it might produce or who it belongs to. The work is His. He is our provider and sustainer, and only He is worthy of our worship. The glory can only be His!

I don’t know… perhaps if Elijah had lived, I might have given him more glory and credit for the success than I would have the One who created and gave him to us.

A lot of bad, even terrible, things happen in our lives and the lives of others in this world that are hard to understand, many of which are so devastating it would be ridiculous to even compare them to something as trivial as the loss of a bull – even though he could have been used to help so many people around the world. Even when we do not understand, one thing we do know and can hold on to is God’s promise that His Word is always true.

One of those promises is "… all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28, World English Bible). Certainly not all things that happen are good, but God has promised to use them for good if we allow Him to work in and through us in the midst of our hardships and heartaches, whatever they may be.

A bull can be replaced, but a more serious illustration involves the recent diagnosis of one of my truest friends with what appears to be stage 4 colon cancer. Doug Townsend and I go back over 30 years to when he was my ABS service representative when I had my own One Way Angus herd. His daughter and my sons attended cattle sales together in the early 1990s that they still remember.

Every time we have conducted international artificial insemination training events, Townsend has led that portion of the training. Several years ago, he even went to Venezuela on my behalf to do a survey trip when I was sick and on IVs for a 16-month period.

Townsend is and has always been a true friend to me, my family and to the ministry.

When diagnosed, as serious as it is, Townsend’s affirmation that He is in God’s hands and is safe there allows him to face the future, whatever it may be, with confidence. He belongs to the Lord and whatever the Lord does with him will be fine and will be what is best for him. His greatest desire is to be faithful during the process and that God be glorified in and through his life, however long or short it may be.

Knowing from experience the challenges of being self-employed and having health problems, I assured him and his family that I and others who loved them would do all we could to help keep his income coming in until he recovered.
On Father’s Day, I had the privilege of baptizing Brandyn in a muddy creek he and I often visit. 
Just before he went back to the hospital, Jack and I met with him to get his schedule for filling liquid nitrogen tanks, and we went to work. The last four of those seven days, my 9-year-old grandson, Bradyn, traveled with me through east Alabama and southern Georgia, working late into the night and traveling over 1,740 miles going from farm to farm filling semen tanks.

As we worked, Bradyn realized the seriousness of Townsend’s condition. He heard many of the customers we visited say things that encouraged him. He got to experience the joy of personally giving himself to help someone else, even when it was not easy.

We had a lot of windshield hours together where we could talk and a lot of farm visits where he actually got to see and be a participant in the ministry part of the work of Cattle for Christ. The Lord was using all of these things to draw Bradyn to Himself.

At 8 p.m. on a Tuesday night we pulled over on the side of a rural Georgia highway, Bradyn prayed to God, confessed his sin, and asked Jesus to save him and to be the Lord of his life for all eternity! On Father’s Day, I had the privilege of baptizing Brandyn in a muddy creek he and I often visit.

You see? Townsend’s situation is very serious, but even that, God used for good to accomplish His purposes for Bradyn’s life and for all the lives Bradyn will touch. In this, even Townsend was blessed as was our entire family. A big part of that was Townsend’s prayers that God be glorified in and through his life and his illness. Once again, God was and will forever be faithful!

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

When the Pressure Is On

Barometric Pressure’s Influence on Whitetail Movement

by Todd Amenrud
In the author’s opinion, no other aspect of weather has as big an influence on deer movement as atmospheric pressure, also known as barometric pressure. 
Many hunters want to know, "What are the triggers that make mature bucks get up and move during legal hunting hours?"

This information would allow them to maximize their hunting time and to prevent burning pristine hunting locations when the odds aren’t in their favor.

The problem is there are many influences dictating whitetail movement. However, some are more important than others.

Back in the 1980s and early ’90s, I was involved in a study we called the "What Makes Whitetails Move Study." While the findings of the study were to be used in a book and video, I really had a more personal motive … I wanted to know what conditions proved to give the best potential for seeing more deer and harvesting mature bucks.

There is the possibility of having a successful hunt just about any day, but I wanted to maximize my time. Keep in mind this was before smartphones and trail cameras made it MUCH easier to gather said information.

We documented numerous statistics such as temperature, wind direction and speed, lunar phase and position, cloud cover, precipitation, relative humidity and barometer, among several others. We took these readings when we began our observations and then again when we finished. They were to determine if there were any significant changes during the period. We recorded how many whitetails we saw, what activity they were engaged in (feeding, chasing, traveling, breeding, etc.), when the activity happened and how long it lasted.

We also had two unmolested, private, captive, control herds in large enclosures that could be watched any time to give us something to weigh against our wild findings. We hoped we would find the mysterious combination of factors to give us an edge in the whitetail-woods.

Without present-day technology, we wrote our notes on paper. We collected data for seven years. However, I have continued gathering this information for my own benefit. Since the introduction of new technology, it’s so much easier. Nowadays, it’s simple to collect and record data, but the findings are the same.

While there is a comfort zone within each of the influences we recorded (for example, the amount of light from the moon combined with the amount of cloud cover; they don’t like to move as much when it’s too hot or too cold; or too windy or raining/snowing, etc.), barometric pressure had more influence than any other stimulus. Whitetails have the ability to sense these changes.
A barometer is an instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure. It refers to the amount of air pressure exerted by air molecules against the Earth’s surface. It’s the increase, decrease or stabilization of this pressure that affects deer behavior, sometimes significantly.

Many of you may have witnessed this escalation or decline in deer movement and not known why it was happening. We’ve all had days, even a week or more, when we have to admit hunting was tough and deer sightings were rare. If you hunt long enough, you’ll definitely experience such a lull.

Then, all of a sudden, deer appear as if God opened up the drain plug on a sink full of whitetails! Unfortunately, they can mysteriously vanish again just as abruptly.

It’s not hocus-pocus; it’s atmospheric air density triggering this activity. More to the point, it’s the rapidly rising or falling barometric pressure before or after a weather front that seems to show the biggest impacts. Anytime the barometer is moving is a time you want to be in the woods.

You may have heard the news- or weatherperson mention the terms "low pressure" or "high pressure." This terminology simply refers to increased or decreased barometric pressure within a weather system. If the air molecules above the Earth’s surface are not as dense, the result will be a decrease in barometric pressure. The resulting low-pressure system is known to usher in clouds, rain and/or snow. High pressure, on the other hand, tends to be clear or very few clouds, low humidity and fair weather.

A whitetail’s inner ear works very much the same way a barometer works. In fact, it’s said ancient man also had the ability to better sense these changes. Annabell, my Lab, heads to the basement whenever we have low pressure. Believe it or not, I can also sense the change.

Our modern problem is, if you’re watching the barometer at home … you’re too late. Instead, you must anticipate the movement by predicting when weather fronts will arrive and leave for your hunting area. On the leading and tail edges of the front, the barometer will fall or rise – that’s when you want to be in the tree.

A high, stable barometer is also good hunting.

After compiling our results, whitetails seem to move best when the pressure is from 29.90 to 30.30 inches with the best movement occurring at the higher end of the range, around 30.10 to 30.30 inches. I’ve also seen this with mule deer and pronghorn, and it’s likely true with many other animals.
This buck cut a scent trail of Special Golden Estrus and followed it past the author’s blind just after a system of heavy winds and snow broke into a high-pressure system. 
A lot of the high-pressure fronts will come with wind. Numerous trophies are shot immediately after sustained high winds have died down. I’m not sure … are the whitetails just avoiding the gale or sensing the barometric change that ushered it in? Probably both.

Keep in mind, you must also have other factors in your favor, or more so, your deer herd’s favor if you wish to see the barometric pressure’s influence. If the temperature is outside their comfort range or maybe hunting pressure keeps them bedded, the impact won’t be as significant. Molested whitetails aren’t going to want to move during legal hunting light - no matter what the barometer tells them.

Whitetail being able to sense the change in barometric pressure is likely Mother Nature’s way of protecting the herd. The pressure’s change tells the animals they may have to bed down for a period so they better put on the feed bag (or finish whatever activity they’re involved in) before the coming weather front arrives.

In my opinion, the biggest impression can be seen in northern zones just before and just after a major snowstorm or blizzard. If you can’t predict when this will happen before the front hits, make certain to be in your treestand when the storm breaks – activity is all but guaranteed.

Remember, barometric pressure is only one contributing factor to deer movement.

In my view, it is one of the most important elements and should not be overlooked. However, it’s really a combination of factors that all contribute to deer movement.

Keep an eye on the barometer, but don’t use it as your only way to predict herd activity.

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.

Women on the Farm

Managing Farm Financials for Successful Operations

by Jessica Kelton

OK, so that title is a pretty big misconception. In reality, women fill all sorts of roles on the farm, whether they are the sole operator or help run the farm or raise the children while someone else runs things. It’s a fairly common assumption that the wife might handle the farm record keeping while the daily farm operations are left to the husband.

There also seems to be the idea of an acceptable disconnect between the financial and the production sides. In truth, knowing the farm and how it operates is key to successful record keeping and financial management, and vice versa. Debbie Kirkland is a perfect example of what I mean.

Thomas and Debbie Kirkland have owned Kirkland Farms in southeast Alabama for several decades, and Debbie has been in charge of the financial records from the beginning.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit and talk to Debbie about how she kept records and the value of this system for the farm.

I’m not going to lie, I make a terrible interviewer, with very few questions prepared and even fewer notes taken. Thankfully, Debbie can carry a conversation and what she said made an impression on me, so I didn’t need too many notes.

She knows her stuff. I’m not just talking about returns or profit margins or ratios. She knows the farm. She knows the acres planted and what crops they are growing, good land and bad land, and the drought years from decades past.

When she is talking numbers, they aren’t just numbers – she understands how they relate to the operation.

Farm life wasn’t new to Debbie when she married a farmer; she was raised on a farm with a father she described as progressive (he was planting twin-row peanuts and installing irrigation before most). Thinking outside the box and doing things a little differently than others doesn’t really seem to be a problem for her. If you know Thomas, you know the same applies to him, too.

Doing things differently for the Kirklands isn’t randomly decided. They research, question and seek advice. And, yes, they look at their financials to see if it makes sense!

Analysis of financial records can be a powerful tool when making decisions on the farm, but they have to be accurate. There has to be some dedication to keeping good records. This is something Debbie is well aware of – given that when they first starting farming she was keeping up with crop budgets with pen and paper. When computers and software became available, she was quick to learn how to use them for farm record keeping.

Over the years, solid record keeping and using these records to aid in their decision making has helped the Kirkland Farm weather several downturns in the market and maintain a profitable farm operation.

As I said before, understanding the farm – what’s feasible in the field, not just on paper – is an important element for keeping the books, and then using those records to make decisions. While both Debbie and Thomas have a firm grasp on both the financial and production sides of their farm, they have always been proponents of outside professional advice –whether it was from a private consultant or Extension. Sometimes there can be a disconnection between knowing the farm and knowing the numbers, but it isn’t advisable or acceptable if the farm is going to be successful.

If you have questions or maybe you’re keeping records but haven’t figured out how to use them to their fullest, consider finding outside advice to help you and your farm. If you’re a female on the farm, regardless of the role you play, I encourage you to follow Debbie’s lead – be informed, be knowledgeable about your farm and be connected!

Feel free to contact your local Extension office if you have any questions or would like assistance with financial analysis for your operation, or if you are interested in any upcoming Women in Ag courses offered in your area.

Jessica Kelton is a regional farm and agribusiness management agent for ACES.

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