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Home > Archives > December 2009

December 2009

A December to Remember

Spend plenty of time familiarizing the youth with the firearm before going afield.

By John Howle

Mark Twain once said, "History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme." I’ve heard many people relate the country’s recent economic status to financial hard times of the depression even though this recent "recession" is said to be not as severe. I guess it depends on your perspective. If you are unemployed right now or earning very little for your farm products, this one’s pretty severe.

With Christmas on the horizon, we can expect to see children’s gifts downsized as the government becomes supersized. A gentleman in my Sunday school class recently observed there seemed to be a boom in young couples expecting babies. The only cause we could come up with was the lack of money was causing people to stay at home and entertain themselves.

Christmas time during the Great Depression meant, if you were lucky, you might get fresh fruit like apples, oranges and some candy in your stocking. If you were well off, your child might also get a doll or a toy truck made by hand or made in America. Today’s children can expect to receive cheap, plastic items shipped directly from China, and the fruit in today’s stockings might not come from American farmers, who ironically produce the world’s safest food.

As people tighten their financial belts this Christmas, one good thing that may come out of this financial debacle is people may once again realize why we Americans and Alabamians celebrate this time of year, and we may also receive some blessings simply by spending quality time with our family and friends.

Buy American

When is the last time you heard that slogan? When was the last time you could buy American if you wanted to? You can still buy American, but it takes some research. For instance, if your youngster or grandchild is at the age he or she has shown responsibility and proper gun safety, it may be time to invest in a quality, American-made firearm. The Henry Rifle Company has a slogan saying, "Made in America and Priced Right." Those are two qualities we really need right now.

The Henry Mini Bolt comes in black and orange colors.

The Henry Mini Bolt Youth Rifle is my all-time favorite starter gun for youngsters. It can shoot .22 short or .22 long rifle cartridges. It is a simple, bolt-action .22 with a short length, and it is lightweight so youngsters can carry it with ease on long squirrel hunts. In addition, right out of the box, the rifle is pin-point accurate. At our family farm in Cleburne County, I took the Mini Bolt on a squirrel hunt before giving it to my son, and the fiber optic sights resulted in no misses even on the long shots at tree top squirrels.

The Mini Bolt comes in two colors-black or orange. The U.S.A. Olympic Shooting Team was so impressed by its kid-friendly performance and accuracy they named it the Official Youth Rifle of their program. For more information, visit

Spend More Time Than Money

Jake Howle shows off a squirrel he shot with the Henry Mini Bolt Youth Rifle.

Buying a firearm for a youngster is great, but it doesn’t take the place of the time actually spent together on the shooting range or on the hunt. The crucial time is spent educating the child on firearm safety before giving them a gun. It’s best to have a youngster practice with a toy gun before getting a real one. The most important commandment of the 10 commandments of hunter safety is, "Always keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction." That safe direction is toward the ground unless shooting. Even if the firearm goes off accidentally, the only thing the young hunter will shoot will be the ground. The best listing I’ve found for the 10 commandments of hunter safety can be found at Click on safety and 10 commandments of hunter safety.

What to hunt

Sometimes it’s best to let the child dictate what game will be hunted. If the youngster is new to hunting, a four-hour sit in a hunting blind or a gun with enough recoil to knock fillings loose might turn the child off to hunting. Squirrel hunting is one of the most practical youth hunts because the hunt often involves action, talking, walking and a strong chance to actually harvest game. The youth will often let you know when he or she is ready to progress to larger game requiring patience like deer hunting.

When I’m in doubt about child-rearing issues, I consult the Bible. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Keep in mind, the verse doesn’t say, "Train up a child in the way we think they should go." Each child is given a purpose, plan and time at which things will progress naturally. The main thing is to have patience as the youngster learns woods wisdom skills.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Be Aware of Food Safety During the Holidays

By Angela Treadaway

What is a foodborne illness?

Food contaminated by bacteria, viruses and parasites can make you sick. Many people have had foodborne illness and not even known it. It’s sometimes called food poisoning, and it can feel like the flu. Symptoms may include: stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever. Symptoms can start soon after eating contaminated food, but they can hit up to a month or more later. For some people, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, foodborne illness can be very dangerous. No one wants to spend the holidays in the hospital or, for that matter, feeling miserable. The Centers of Disease Control estimates there are as many as 13 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. every year. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented by using safe food handling practices and using a food thermometer to check that your food is cooked to a safe internal temperature!

It’s always important to keep foods out of the danger zone, which is between 41°F and 135°F to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. To do this, just keep hot foods hot, at least 135°F and keep cold foods 40°F or lower. Make sure you have a good food thermometer to check foods for safety.

Preparing and serving holiday buffets

Do not let foods linger during preparation; cook them thoroughly and serve them promptly. Keep hot foods hot with warming trays, chafing dishes or crockpots. Keep cold foods cold by placing serving dishes on crushed ice.

Remember the "2-hour rule" especially when entertaining with a large meal or buffet. Don’t let perishable foods linger for longer than two hours in the danger zone.

Keep replacement dishes of hot food in the oven and extra cold foods cold in the refrigerator or a cooler during the buffet.

Do not add new food to a serving dish that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours. Remember also to change serving utensils.

Provide serving spoons and tongs for every dish served. Even finger foods, like cut vegetables, candies, chips/nachos and nuts, should have serving implements to prevent cross contamination between guests.

Traveling with food

Wrap hot food in foil and heavy towels, or carry in insulated containers to maintain a temperature of at least 135°F.

Store cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs to maintain the temperature at 41°F or below. Full coolers keep their temperature better than partially full ones, so add extra insulation to take up unoccupied space. This also prevents containers from sliding, falling over and leaking.

Vegetables, herbs and other foods stored in oil

Home-prepared products in oil can be made safely only by adding dehydrated ingredients to oil. These products can be kept at room temperature. Dehydrated ingredients include ingredients that are very dry and can be kept at room temperature without spoiling, e.g. dried herbs and spices, dry-packed sundried tomatoes, etc.

If home-prepared products in oil are made using fresh or frozen ingredients, e.g. fresh basil, peppers, mushrooms or garlic, they should be kept refrigerated at all times and must be discarded after one week unless properly acidified. These products may be safely frozen for longer storage. Thaw frozen products in the refrigerator. After the products have thawed, they should be kept refrigerated at all times and must be discarded after one week unless refrozen.

Consumers who purchase products made with fresh ingredients from fairs or farmer’s markets or receive them as gifts should check they were constantly refrigerated after they were prepared, and when they were prepared. Discard them if they are more than one week old.

Commercially-prepared products in oil containing an acid (like vinegar) or salt in their list of ingredients are generally considered to be safe. Store them in the refrigerator after opening and between each use. Contact the manufacturer if you have questions about a particular product.

Eggnog and other recipes with raw or lightly cooked eggs

Be sure to handle and prepare these tasty treats safely. Commercial, ready-made eggnog is prepared using pasteurized eggs and does not require heating. Homemade eggnog may contain harmful bacteria if not prepared properly. Prepare homemade eggnog using pasteurized egg products, found in most grocery stores.

If you choose to make eggnog with whole eggs, be sure to heat the egg-milk mixture to at least 165°F. Refrigerate promptly, once steaming stops, dividing large amounts into shallow containers so it cools quickly.

Precautions should also be taken with sauces, mousses and any other recipes calling for raw or lightly-cooked eggs. Use pasteurized egg products or bring egg-mixtures to a uniform temperature of 165°F. All of these foods must be stored in the refrigerator.


Popular holiday beverages, like unpasteurized apple cider and other drinks made from unpasteurized apple cider, may pose a safety risk since they may contain harmful bacteria.

Serve pasteurized ciders or bring unpasteurized cider to a rolling boil before serving. This is especially important when serving cider to children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Leftovers: storage and reheating

While it is tempting to leave turkey and other foods at room temperature for snacking after a meal, you should refrigerate all leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Refrigerate once steaming stops and leave the lid on or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigeration temperature. Avoid overstocking the refrigerator to allow cool air to circulate freely.

Store turkey meat separately from stuffing and gravy.

Reheat solid leftovers to at least 165°F. Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.

Use leftover turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within four days for best quality or freeze for later use

Giving and receiving gifts of food

It’s lots of fun to get a package through the mail. During this season, many of the packages contain gifts of food – either homemade or from mail order businesses.

Whether it’s baked goods, fruit, candy, shelf-stable canned items or perishable items, like cheese, meats or sausages, it’s always a great idea to know how to tell if it’s safe to eat and what to do with the food once you open the package.

So if you’re giving or receiving, here are a few food safety tips to keep in mind for these special gifts.

Ordering food gift boxes or baskets safely

Ask the company how the food will be mailed. If it’s perishable, it should be delivered as quickly as possible. Ideally, this would be overnight.

Also make sure the outer package of the perishable food will be marked "KEEP REFRIGERATED."

It’s also a good idea to ask if the food items will come with storage and preparation instructions.

Finally, let your friends know you’re sending a gift in the mail, so the food items are handled appropriately. If you’re mailing to a business address, make certain the package will be delivered during business hours.

Receiving gifts of food in the mail

When you receive a food labeled "Keep Refrigerated," open it and check the temperature immediately. It should be at least refrigerator cold to the touch and ideally still partially frozen with visible ice crystals. If the food items are warm, you should notify the company. Do not consume the food. It is the shipping company’s responsibility to deliver the food on time and your responsibility to have someone at home to receive the product.

Remember to refrigerate or freeze the food items immediately after opening.

Mailing perishable food

Food items that are frozen first will stay in a safe temperature range for a longer period of time. After freezing, the food should be packed with a frozen gel pack or purchased dry ice. The frozen food and cold source can then be packed in a sturdy box made of heavy foam or corrugated cardboard.

Fill up any air space in the box with crushed paper or foam "popcorn." Label your package "PERISHABLE – KEEP REFRIGERATED," arrange a delivery date with the recipient and ship the package overnight

For questions concerning holiday food safety, please contact Angela Treadaway, Regional Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> or by phone at (205) 410-3696.

Have a Happy and Safe Holiday Season.

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.

Bibb Co. Teacher Uses Ag Experience in Productive Classroom Activities

Pioneers “Goats in the Classroom” Curriculum

Including “Ag in the Classroom” activities in classroom studies, students are able to learn more about agriculture’s role in our society and economy. Students who are exposed to agricultural lessons can become better supporters and advocates for ag policies as adults.

By Grace Smith

Most children learn about "curds and whey" through a familiar nursery rhyme. But for some Bibb County students, they’re learning first hand about this step in the cheese-making process. But it doesn’t stop with cheese-making.

Shelly Jones, a teacher at Cahawba Christian School, has introduced several agricultural topics to her students like making entrees and goodies from locally-grown products, creating compost piles and building raised-bed gardens. Jones gives much of the credit for her inspiration for including these concepts in her curriculum to programs like Ag in the Classroom.

"Two years ago, I attended the Ag in the Classroom training in Tuscaloosa," Jones said. "It was wonderful! I learned how to integrate the ag knowledge I had into real activities in the classroom."

Shelly Jones, a teacher at Cahawba Christian School, enjoys using Ag in the Classroom lesson plans in her curriculum. One of her latest lesson plans involved showing her students a step-by-step process of how to make cheese.

Ag in the Classroom (AITC) is making it easier for teachers to incorporate agricultural topics into their day-to-day class activities in ways that are not only informative, but also practical and fun. With projects like Pioneer Corn Husk Dolls complete with feathers and beads, or the Dirt Baby with grass seeds that, when watered, produce a head full of lush, green hair, AITC is helping teachers include everyday agriculture products and concepts in all subject areas.

While Jones does utilize many of the AITC projects in her lesson plans, she has found her own way to make the lessons more personal. She and her sons have a herd of goats and recently took them to school to demonstrate topics like breed character, milk production, proper care-giving techniques and other topics that are easier for students to comprehend when they can visualize the animal first-hand. After her presentation and allowing the children to lead the goats, she took the class indoors and conducted a cheese-making demonstration. Jones found a practical and tasty way to put that cheese to use and the project has proven to be one of her favorites.

“Ag in the Classroom” provides students with activities that are exciting and informative. Younger students may enjoy coloring agriculture-themed pictures, while older students can learn about soap-making or making caramel from goats’ milk.

"Goats in the Classroom has been my favorite project. The goats are so connected to people," she said. "The students loved having them at school. The cheese we made turned out well and the next week, we made homemade pizza with it. There was not a scrap left!"

While Goats in the Classroom has been her favorite topic, Jones certainly hasn’t limited her ag-related topics to goats.

"In August, our class began a raised-bed vegetable garden. The students have really enjoyed watching their mustard greens, beets, carrots and sunflowers grow," she said.

She also noted her students learned important life lessons when caterpillars destroyed their mustard greens and when a rain storm washed away much of their carrot seedlings in just a matter of days.

Jones and her class created a compost pile on the edge of nearby woods and they frequently see local wildlife like whitetail deer ease over to investigate the fertile pile.

Jones enjoys teaching her students to make treats from agricultural products like pear preserves made from pears her administrator brought them and lip balm from beeswax and coconut oil. But another project she conducted allowed the students to put their individual culinary skills to use.

During a recent “Goats in the Classroom” demonstration, Cahawba Christian School students were able to learn more about agriculture through hand-on activities. These three students got to feed this goat before the demonstration started.

"One of our other projects was an ‘Eat Fresh, Eat Local’ food contest," she said. "Students brought in food items that came from within 50 miles of their home. They were then judged on how much they knew about the product they brought in."

The project produced some delicious dishes like blueberry cobbler, pecan pie, blueberry pancakes, plum preserves, seasoned potatoes, pumpkin muffins and mustard green salad (produced from greens in the class’s garden).

According to Amy Belcher, a coordinator for Alabama AITC, as children are becoming more removed from the family farms of yesteryear, it is becoming increasingly important to teach them about farming and agriculture.

"As each generation has gotten farther and farther removed from the farm, kids have lost their connection to agriculture. Years ago maybe their grandparents had a farm or something, but nowadays that’s not the case. We want students to know where their food and fiber come from. We want them to appreciate the importance of the American farmer. If the American farmer can’t stay in business, then we must rely on other countries to supply our food," she said.

Belcher said AITC coordinators host summer institutes and workshops where teachers are presented agricultural literacy activities which provide course of study content to incorporate into their daily lesson plans. She added that all curriculum activities and teaching materials incorporate skills for all subject areas, the Alabama courses of study and the Stanford 9 Test.

"At the summer institute teachers receive tons of free materials including curriculum, books (typically accelerated reader books), DVDs, samples of raw ag products and so much more," she said. "The summer institute is a professional development institute which includes instruction providing participants with innovative research materials and high-yield teaching strategies that increase student knowledge of the nutritional and economic importance of the food and fiber systems in their daily lives."

Belcher added that since Alabama AITC was established over 700 teachers have been trained in their workshops, and, this past summer, 84 teachers attended the three-day summer Institute, giving countless Alabama students the same up-close and personal learning experiences as Jones’ students.

"The students are very engaged in the hands-on activities we have done," she said. "The teachable moments are endless when you can have your students up out of their desks experiencing learning in a very real way."

For more information on Ag in the Classroom, visit

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

The process for producing goat cheese has several steps. Step one: You will need one gallon of 2% milk. Heat milk to approximately 190o F. Cream may form at the top of the mixture; skim this off. Step two: Add 1/2 cup of vinegar and allow mixture to cool stirring occasionally. Step three: Once the mixture cools, curds and whey must be separated. Using a colander the whey can drain off leaving only the curd. Step four: Allow curds to completely drain and then add approximately 1 teaspoon of salt. Step five: Enjoy on your favorite cheesy dish! (Makes approximately 1/2 pound)

Black Belt Adventures Taps Rich Natural Resources

By David Rainer

The strip of prairie soil crossing central Alabama has long been known for its dark, fertile soil, rural demography and hard-working citizens struggling to make a living.

What every Alabamian who enjoys the outdoors knows is the Black Belt is renowned as one of the premier destinations for hunting and outdoors activities in the nation.

In an effort to capitalize on the Black Belt’s natural resources, Montgomery businessman and landowner Thomas Harris hatched an idea to promote those assets and spread the word throughout the world.

After almost two years of planning, that idea was unveiled at Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge in Hayneville, smack dab in the middle of the Black Belt.

Called the Alabama Black Belt Adventures, the initiative is tailored after the successful Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and the Alabama Quail Trail.

The initiative currently has 22 hunting and/or fishing camps and lodges lined up to participate in the program with more expected to be added. The initiative not only promotes a wide variety of outdoor activities, but also the many historical and cultural attractions available in the Black Belt. The website www.alabamablackbeltadventures.comand an extensive marketing campaign are being spearheaded by Luckie & Co. of Birmingham.

"The Black Belt, as you know, is rich soil, rich heritage and history, abundant wildlife and outdoor recreation," said State Rep. John Knight of Montgomery. "It is a region of honest, hard-working Alabamians. Those are the assets of one of America’s unique regions – the Alabama Black Belt. What we’re talking about not only means so much to the Black Belt, but so much to the state of Alabama.

"Last year I was pleased to begin working with many of our outdoor recreation and economic development leaders to develop a way to take the Black Belt’s abundant resources and use them to create jobs and opportunities for our people. Alabama Black Belt Adventures will make Alabama one of the top destination points in America to hunt, fish, hike, bike ride, bird watch, ride horses and enjoy our many other outdoors opportunities. There are so many opportunities wrapped up in this adventure. My goal for the initiative is simple – take the God-given natural resources of the Black Belt and use and promote them to help all the people of the Black Belt."

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Commissioner Barnett Lawley worked with Rep. Knight, Economic Development Director Neal Wade, Thomas Harris and Tim Gothard of the Alabama Wildlife Federation to hash out the details of the initiative.

"We met about a year-and-a-half ago at Thomas’ house about what we could do to create economic opportunity for the Black Belt and make it sustainable," Lawley said. "We came to the realization that heavy industry, like the automotive industry, was not going to work because of several reasons – lack of infrastructure and lack of a workforce. What we did realize is there was no shortage of natural resources and outdoor opportunities within the Black Belt. The resources are continually flourishing because of the soil, the black prairie soil, hence the Black Belt. There’s no other place in the world that has the rich nutrients that this soil continues to produce every year.

"Our goal is to harness the resources that are created from this, promote them to boost tourism in the Black Belt through a marketing program that we are developing for outdoor opportunities. In doing so, we expand job opportunities. In addition to the vast hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, bird-watching, kayaking and other opportunities the Black Belt naturally offers the citizens and the people of this country, there is really something special about the historical amenities offered by the Black Belt. We’re talking about the Southern cuisine, the historical sites throughout the Black Belt or just the friendly people located throughout the region. There are many attractions other than hunting and fishing that people can enjoy."

Lawley said the ADCNR will create education programs at the State Cattle Ranch in Hale County, a Forever Wild acquisition, and the Auburn Research Facility in Camden to help landowners and farmers improve their wildlife habitat. Lawley also said the program would also ensure the cultural aspects of the Black Belt are not affected.

"During the effort to brand the Black Belt as a premier destination for outdoors adventures, we’re going to strive to protect the heritage, the history and culture of the region while harnessing and expanding the natural resources that are so abundant," Lawley said. "The infrastructure to support this initiative is already here, already in place. This is not something new we have to do. We want to work with expanding facilities and help create new ones. By marketing this area and creating activities by use of the natural resources is going to have an economic impact on every community in the Black Belt. The abundance of land and natural resources in the Black Belt is unlike any other place in the world."

State Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville said his support of the initiative is grounded in his lifelong love of the outdoors in Alabama.

"I grew up hunting and fishing all over Alabama with my granddad and dad," Bedford said. "Now I have the privilege of hunting with my son, now 22, all across the Black Belt. I appreciate the values that come from being in the outdoors with your children and instilling those values in them. God gave us this land to be stewards of it. I think Black Belt Adventures is a step in the right direction – not only from the hunting and fishing but the fellowship and the image improvement for Alabama.

"In this time of divided politics where they talk about red issues and blue issues, we come together today in a bipartisan manner on an issue that’s red, white and blue. And I’m glad to be a small part of it."

Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (BASS) and resident of the Black Belt at Pintlala, said seizing on opportunities is what made his ventures into bass fishing and the creation of the Whitetail Institute so successful.

"That’s exactly what we’re doing here," Scott said. "We’re taking something that is so obviously evident and putting a saddle on it. I think it’s going to be one of the best doggone programs that’s ever happened."

Jackie Bushman of Montgomery said he followed Scott’s lead when he formed the hunting organization Buckmasters.

"What we wanted to do was promote hunting," Bushman said of the birth of Buckmasters. "It doesn’t get any better than this. Where else can you hunt something for seven months out of the year? It doesn’t happen many places. Some states have only seven or eight days of hunting. We have it all right here. We’ve got this opportunity now and we can make it happen.

"After 20 years in TV, we do 26 original shows a year and a third of those shows are done right here in the Black Belt. It doesn’t get any better than this. . . .I was born and raised in Alabama and I will die here. I love Alabama and I love the outdoors. This will accentuate everything we do. I will promote it every chance I can."

Bottle Christmas Tree Is Unique Holiday Decor

How about a unique way to decorate your yard and benefit the environment? What would you think about a tree made from old bottles? Bottle trees have been around for quite some time, but have recently been making a comeback. They were originally used to protect the home from evil spirits. Leah Chadwick, office and accounting manager of AFC’s Grain Division, built this one with multicolored bottles as a substitute for a Christmas tree outside her home. She said, "I don’t believe bottle trees ward off evil spirits. I just like unusual yard ornamentation. I always joke it is a tree that doesn’t have to be watered or weeded!" For an interesting history on bottle trees, visit Felder Rushing’s website:

Celebrating Tradition

Many communities joined to celebrate Alabama 4-H’s first 100 years. This handsome group was at our “birthday party” in Colbert County.

by Amy Payne Burgess

What a great year this has been, in so very many ways. Each season has had its wonders and joys, from the warm fires of winter through the floral displays of summer and fall. A fresh group of young people came into 4-H this year, reenergizing us with their enthusiasm and their excitement over new ideas and new experiences.

It’s been a great year for Alabama 4-H. Our organization has continued to grow and prosper, developing innovative programs responding to the changing needs and interests of Alabama’s young people. Last year, Alabama 4-H Club membership increased to 65,135, up 11.2 percent from the previous year. Membership in community-based, volunteer-led clubs was up 23 percent, and project club membership was up 38 percent. Volunteer commitment, the future direction of 4-H in Alabama, nearly tripled. The time given by parents and volunteers was comparable to our adding 30 new entry-level 4-H staff positions.

And it was our Centennial Year – a time to celebrate the great things 4-H young people have done in Alabama for 100 years. Communities all over our state had special events recognizing the impact of "Head, Hands, Heart and Health" on their families and children. We have made a difference in young lives for generations now, and we will continue to make a positive difference for many years to come.

Every Alabama childhood should include “wading in the creek” and catching minnows and crawdads. The Alabama 4-H Center on Lay Lake offers the current generation an opportunity to continue that great tradition.

It’s often said "there is no new thing under the sun." We certainly see that in 4-H. For those who remember 4-H history, we can look back to the corn clubs and tomato clubs that once helped put food on Alabama’s tables by introducing "scientific agriculture" to our small, family farms. Rarely have those old skills been so warmly received as they are now. Through the Junior Master Gardener Program, fresh vegetables make their way to family dinner tables and to community food banks. Young people learn the important sciences of agronomy and agriculture, and the patience and commitment required of a good gardener or farmer.

In Alabama, we now see many current and former 4-Hers participating in things like Community Supported Agriculture, offering fresh, locally-grown produce in every corner of our state. Reports suggest Alabama’s CSAs will be providing some outstanding winter squash, sweet potatoes and greens throughout this holiday season. Entrepreneurial 4-H alumni are also successfully reviving such wonderful arts as cheese-making and the milling and marketing of specialty grains. In many areas of our state, it’s now possible to put together a complete Christmas dinner with materials from "right in our own backyard." If your holiday table doesn’t include an Alabama-grown turkey or Alabama shrimp, you are missing a special treat!

Another of our "new" programs also looks warmly to our past successes. The "4-H Practical Production Heifer Project" in Sumter County is designed to increase the interest of youth in the world around them and to give families an opportunity to work together. It is a practical project where parents and grandparents can involve children and grandchildren in cattle and land management.

Even young people in rural areas don’t have the connection to agriculture they once had. A heifer program in Sumter County allows kids and families to reconnect with the spirit of livestock production and land management.

To those many Alabamians whose childhoods included wandering through woods and pastures, it’s shocking to realize how many members of the current generation no longer have the opportunity to wade in the creek, catch frogs or hear an owl calling in the night. That is one of the reasons our 4-H Center and Coosa River Science School are so popular with school groups and summer campers. The traditional connection with forest and river are at the heart of the Alabama experience, linking us to the world around us and to our place in the universe.

Yes, the world is changing. Technology and a global society offer grand new opportunities for Alabama’s young people. But the values which 4-H teaches remain timeless.

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent in Northeast Alabama. She may be reached at burgeap@

Corn Time


Fayette Co. Facility Helps Horse-Loving Children Excel in Equestrian World

Lance Ezelle, manager Fayette Farmers Co-op, with Jill and Steve Dean, Hunter Creek Stables owners, who are loyal Co-op customers.

Hunter Creek Stables Prospers with Hard Work, Self-Reliance and Confidence

By Don Linker

Hunter Creek Stables is a full-service equine facility located near Fayette on Highway 107 specializing in Hunter Jumper discipline. Owners Steve and Jill Dean operate the farm with the help of their son, Cooper.

Jill is the instructor and coach, while Steve takes care of maintenance on the farm as well as manages their other business interests. Steve also handles the announcing at the state 4-H show and does many of the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association events. Cooper and a student worker, Julianna Dubielak, help clean stalls, groom and feed horses, and perform other chores as needed.

Alexa Rodgers of Northport warms up one of the lesson horses at Hunter Creek before practice.

Jill has overcome many obstacles to get where she is today— a professional coach and trainer. At the age of 19, she was a working student earning her way to train with the Junior Olympic Equestrian Team as a junior rider. She trained, rode horses, mucked stalls, groomed and fed horses, in addition to other chores, to help pay for her Olympic training.

Then her father had a hard time financially, which led to her getting the payment books on her truck and horse trailer. At about the same time her show horse died and the insurance wouldn’t cover him, so she took out a bank loan to buy another one to train. She had to have some way to earn money to pay back the loans, live and go to school. Teaching riding lessons seemed to be the logical choice to pay the bills and still be involved in the horse business.

How did the decision to teach children to ride affect the direction your life has taken?

"Teaching lessons enabled me to pay my way through Mississippi State University; however, it took me seven years to finish, as I could only afford to take a few classes at a time. Being financially on my own at 19 years of age taught me to work hard, be self-reliant and be confident I could conquer life’s difficulties. The other thing I found was that I loved teaching children to ride so much more than I ever loved competing myself. Teaching lessons pays the bills, but there is such joy in seeing children with a real love of horses excel in the equestrian world."

Jill has ridden and shown nationally for over 35 years and has coached for the last 25 years with many honors like the 2006 Alabama Hunter Jumper Association (AHJA). Also in 2006, Hunter Creek Stables was named Show Barn of the Year by the AHJA. Local, state, regional and national champions have trained at Hunter Creek under Coach Dean’s supervision. The most recent honors for Dean include coaching the 4-H Southern Regional Gold Medalist and two-time Silver Medalist in the Hunt Seat Competition.

How do you evaluate a beginning rider and what do you hope to instill in them?

" I take pride in evaluating each student’s confidence level, ability and aspirations for their age and maturity. Lessons reflect an individual’s needs in a certain area, and I help them meet those needs in an atmosphere of fun and safety. Whether you want to learn to ride as a hobby or take the challenge of showing at some level, we can help you achieve those goals at Hunter Creek. Lessons are taught progressively to build a strong foundation with the fundamentals of classic riding. We want to instill in our students the love of the horse and a spirit of sportsmanship that will live a lifetime in their character. Hunter Creek students build life-long friendships and memories and also learn about the values of hard work, dedication, commitment, teamwork and of course have fun."

What do you look for in a horse or pony?

"A horse or pony must have a calm disposition, be child friendly and have fluid, flat-kneed movement. I select the horse to fit the child’s ability and confidence level. When you coach Hunter Jumper or any other discipline, you are dealing with two athletes, the child and the horse, so compatibility is critical.

"Current students Emily Barnes, Allie Lyle, Josie Perkins, Julliana Dubielak, Jalynn Musgrove, Karrli McNeil, Alexa Rodgers and Cooper Dean all agree that the spirit of teamwork, friendship and sportsmanship evolve from a love they all have of this noble animal, the horse. The hard work and hours of practice are all worth it when the judge selects you and your horse to receive a ribbon.

"Parents must be supportive and make the commitment to take their child to lessons and practice weekly and in the summer before the State 4-H show to two sessions a day." Parents of Alexa Rodgers, Jalynn Musgrove and Allie Lyle are Tina Rodgers of Northport, Trisha Musgrove of Fayette and Renate’ Lyle of Hamilton, respectively, indicated they all have seen a higher level of self-confidence in their daughters through their riding lessons. Mrs. Lyle said Allie used to be a very shy girl, but through horse lessons has become self-reliant and a self-confident young lady. This became evident in Montgomery at the State 4-H show where Allie won first place in the horse judging competition for the entire state. The mothers all agree Jill and Hunter Creek have been a positive influence in their children’s lives and it shows in how hard they work to attain their goals.

What are the services offered at Hunter Creek?

"We offer boarding from pasture to full stall care as well as having lesson horses available for children who do not own a horse or pony. This is great for parents who are not yet ready to commit to purchasing a horse or pony. Discounted yearly annual rates are available and private lessons for haul-in customers are also available. When parents feel it is time to purchase a horse or pony for their child, we will find an animal that is suitable for that child."

Jill said it takes teamwork to keep her operation going and she relies on Lance Ezell, manager at Fayette Farmers Co-op, Kelly Truell, assistant manager, and all the other employees at the Co-op for all her farm needs and to answer questions she or Steve may have about products. She knows her horses’ nutritional needs are met by Co-op horse feeds and they carry all the tack and animal health products Hunter Creek might require. They are always ready to help in any situation that might arise.

Hunter Creek Stables is having a Holiday Horse Camp on December 21 and 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. For more information about the horse camp or any other Hunter Creek services, contact Jill Dean at (205) 270-8942. The address at Hunter Creek Stables is 786 Highway 107, Fayette, Alabama.

Your local Quality Co-op appreciates your business and is ready to help with all your equine, livestock and farming needs. If we don’t have what you need, we will be glad to order it for you. We want to earn and keep your business.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.

Hunter Creek students (from left) Allie Lyle of Hamilton, Alexa Rodgers of Northport with Karrli McNeil of Hamilton behind, Josie Perkins, Cooper Dean, Emily Barnes, Jalynn Musgrove and Julianna Dubielak, all of Fayette, are ready to ride.

Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

With an unstable cattle market, I have talked with several cattle producers who have or will be about to wean calves. These producers are trying to decide what to do with these calves. Should they sell them now or hold them with the possibility of cattle prices rebounding in the early spring? While I cannot predict what the future holds for cattle prices, I have read several articles and heard several comments from economists who predict brighter days are ahead in the cattle marketplace. It also appears heavier-weight calves are bringing a bigger price when compared to lighter calves than in years past. This means if you can add additional weight to your cattle, it will pay off with more dollars in your pocket.

If you are considering holding your calves with the possibility of higher prices in mind, let’s discuss a preconditioning program that will offer you more flexibility in marketing your cattle this spring. A complete preconditioning program will require the producer to meet certain standards feed yards look for when purchasing such cattle. A properly preconditioned group of calves usually has a lower death rate, less sickness, fewer days on feed and better performance in the feed yard over non-preconditioned calves. A proper preconditioning program will include a complete health and vaccination program, management practices like castration and dehorning, 45-day weaning program, and training to eat from a bunk and drink from a trough. To meet these standards, a producer must carefully plan their program to eliminate as many potential problems as possible.

The first main consideration in a preconditioning program is to accept it is time-consuming and there will be bumps in the road along the way. If you make it through the 45-day period without any sickness or other problems, consider yourself in the minority.

After realizing there will be pitfalls, your next goal will be to have a small area with plenty of shade to wean your calves. You should make sure the pen is well-built and durable to reduce the chance of cattle getting loose. Fresh-weaned calves will put a lot of pressure on a pen and the stronger the pen, the less chance of finding your calves loose and on the run. It is also important to build a pen that is not only durable, but adequate in size based on the number of cattle you will be weaning. I would recommend a smaller area for the first week until you get the cattle comfortable with their surroundings and settled down from the weaning process. A smaller pen will also allow you to keep a closer eye on the cattle initially and will encourage the calves to start on feed in a quicker manner. You should also make sure to provide at least 18 inches of bunk space per calf to allow all calves to get around the bunk.

Another consideration is to provide a clean water source. Do not allow cattle to drink from a pond or creek, but provide them with a water trough so they can learn to drink from such. Producers would be surprised to learn calves that have been drinking from ponds and creeks have a very difficult time learning to drink from a trough.

A final consideration in selecting a proper weaning location is to make sure the area is well-drained and offers plenty of shade. Wet, muddy areas offer a lot of problems during the preconditioning program as well as inadequate shade.

The second main consideration after pen selection will be nutrition. Cattle need to be started on a feed that is palatable and digestible. It does not matter how good you think your feed is or how cheap your feed cost,. If the calf will not eat it, it will not work. Start the calves on a complete feed that provides protein, energy, minerals, vitamins, digestible fiber and is medicated to help reduce any initial respiratory sickness. Feed at the rate of five pounds per head per day along with a high quality forage source. This high-quality forage will be very beneficial in keeping your cattle full and reducing any digestive disorders during the preconditioning period.

I would also encourage you to consider a low-moisture molasses tub like STIMU-LYX® during the initial weaning period. These blocks are very palatable and calves will normally lick these blocks on the first day they are weaned which is beneficial since it might take a couple of days before they readily consume feed.

After your cattle are consuming feed, prepare to feed them at a rate of two percent of their body weight on a daily basis. Keep in mind, you will increase the pounds of feed offered to cattle as cattle gain weight during the preconditioning program. Research also indicates most of the weight gain during a preconditioning program occurs from days 30 to 45.

The biggest key to a successful nutrition program is providing a feed that is palatable, nutritionally fortified and readily accepted by the calf. Again, if a calf will not eat the feed, then it will not help you. I would also encourage you to keep up with your feed cost on a cost per pound of gain basis. What might be your cheapest feed on a ton basis might be your most expensive feed on a cost per pound of gain basis.

A final consideration from a nutritional standpoint is to always provide a complete mineral and vitamin supplement at all times. A good mineral/vitamin supplement will reduce sickness, encourage feed intake and help prevent dehydration if a calf does get sick.

The third main consideration is a complete health and vaccination program. A complete health program will require cattle to be vaccinated and boostered for blackleg (7 way), IBR, PI3, BRSV and once for Pasteurella. Cattle should also be treated for internal and external parasites. Cattle should be vaccinated using standards set forth through The Beef Quality Assurance Program including location of shots and proper handling of vaccines. Also, some of your cattle will get sick to some degree. Producers who precondition calves should look and walk through cattle at least twice daily to find changes in calves showing any signs of possible sickness. If you do have a sick calf, isolate it from the other calves until it gets well. Remember, a sick calf will not eat and a calf that will not eat will get sick, meaning a proper vaccination and feeding program is essential in a successful preconditioning program.

A final consideration is proper recordkeeping. To determine the success of a preconditioning program, a producer must keep detailed records on cost, performance and problems. At the end of the program, detailed records will let you evaluate the success of your program and will offer a way to make changes to improve future programs. I would also encourage you to tag and individually identify each calf. This will allow you to identify calves that may be showing sickness and allow you to trace poor performing calves back to their sire and dam for potential culling from your herd.

While a preconditioning program takes a lot of planning and additional work on the part of the producer, it can be financially rewarding for you. On average, preconditioning calves is profitable nine out of ten years. To do this, you must control sickness and death loss along with selecting a feeding program that will put weight on your calves at the lowest cost per pound of gain. While I believe there will always be a place for stockyards, I also realize the cattle industry is evolving and your greatest potential for profit is to provide what the market wants. The market wants cattle that are healthy, ready to eat and source-verified, and they are willing to pay additional money for these calves.

Your local Quality Co-op is standing by ready with products and knowledge in developing a successful preconditioning program. Each store can provide you with fencing supplies, feeders, vaccines, parasite control products, mineral supplements and high-quality feeds to put you on the right track. If I can help you in developing this program or making recommendations on your feed and health program, please contact me at (256) 947-7886 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

As we celebrate the holiday season, I wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Feeding Wintering Birds While Helping Yourself

Feeding the Flock Qualifies as STAR Project

By Jerry A. Chenault

One of the most pleasurable things about winter, to me, is feeding the flock. Who doesn’t love to watch outside a kitchen window and see all kinds and colors of birds coming to feed at their feeders? It surely brightens a cold, gloomy day. It helps the birds, but it probably helps us even more. That, my friend, is a STAR project for sure! What is STAR? I’m glad you asked. Let’s get ready to feed the flock, brighten our view AND find out about STAR!

Why would feeding birds help us? Research has shown time and time again that interaction with nature calms us, heals us, makes us happier and less stressed, and even lowers blood pressure. That’s what WE get out of the deal. Not to mention the pure joy of watching the birds.

STAR is a project of the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs division of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. One of the main branches of the STAR project, which is headed up by extension specialist Marilyn S. Johnson, is an initiative to get people outside and physically active in nature. We’re trying to help get Alabama out of the national championship races in obesity and premature deaths. We’ve still got a long way to go.

Now...about feeding the birds. What feed is best? Sunflower seeds will attract the widest variety of birds and are the recommended choice for hanging and pole-mounted feeders. The smaller, black, oil-type sunflower seeds are preferred by most songbirds.

When using mixed seeds, you’ll want to avoid mixes containing milo, wheat, oats, rye or rice. Why? Because most songbirds will turn up their noses at these seeds and they will, instead, attract nuisance birds like pigeons and starlings. The mixes containing the good stuff – like sunflower seeds, cracked corn, safflower, peanut hearts, etc. — are more expensive. Cracked corn and mixed seeds make excellent feed to spread on the ground. Doing this will cause great gatherings of birds at one time for "bird parties" you can watch and enjoy.

Many species of birds not attracted to feeders can be drawn in with suet feeders. Suet is a hard beef fat which can be obtained from your butcher or your local Quality Co-op and dispensed in cages, baskets, bags, pine cones, logs, etc. The birds love it because it’s a high-energy food for winter and it helps replace insects in their diet. Thrashers, flickers, woodpeckers, thrushes, kinglets, wrens, catbirds, orioles, juncos and sparrows are a few of the many kinds of birds who love suet feeders.

Remember to make sure there is plenty of fresh water available for the birds attracted to your yard. Bird baths provide excellent sources for water and can even be equipped with heaters...or you can use the melting/replenishing of their water as an excuse to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise. That would be even better! It’s a win/win situation.

Jerry A. Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent with Alabama Cooperative Extension System in the New and Nontraditional Programs division.

Genetics - A Trick or, A Treat?

By Robert Spencer

All of us are familiar with Halloween and the tradition of kids going door-to-door and yelling "trick or treat" in hopes of getting candy. If they do not receive any candy, there is always the possibility they could pull some kind of prank on the solicited household. Livestock genetics and Halloween have much in common; both can offer surprises, sometimes tricks, sometimes treats. While I am by no means a geneticist, one thing I enjoy about raising goats is trying to improve the overall quality of my herd by utilizing bloodlines or genetics having a known history for producing quality animals. During my previous six years of raising goats, I have been able to make overall improvements in the quality of my herd; but last year and this year, I have experienced a setback in the quality of my herd offspring. Using the same herd sire each year and knowing the track record for my does, my demise can be attributed to the herd sire. This experience has been a major disappointment.

Keep in mind there are two basic concepts in reproduction: genetics which are considered potential for improvement or problems; and heredity which is "what you see is what you get," or the result of genetics. Too many times I have seen goat producers put stock in genetics or registration papers with total disregard to taking a close look at the buck/buckling or doe/doeling they intend to buy and their parents, siblings or offspring. Or, they buy based on a farm name with total disregard to quality or lack of.

Two years ago, I decided it was time to switch herd sires. In my case, I bought a herd sire whose top side (buck bloodlines) had a proven history on several farms and in the showring. I used him on half my does last year and had a high mortality rate (40%) and low birth weights (7-8 lbs). I wrote that off as him being young and a first-time breeder. On the other half of my does, I used an older buck I had been using for three years. He always gave me strong, healthy kids and satisfactory birth weights (8-10+ lbs). However, I decided to sell the older buck and keep the young one – a decision I would regret many times over several years. This year was even worse. That same young buck, now three years old and the sole herd sire for this year, gave me the same high mortality rate (40%) and low birth weights that ranged from five to seven pounds; a major concern. Needless to say, he no longer resides on my farm.

Looking back on things, I made two mistakes: (1) keeping and using that buck for a second year and (2) not looking closer at his registration papers. While he had a strong top side (many bucks I have personally seen and admired), all brood stock on the bottom side were unknowns, which is where I suspect my genetic variables came into play, and the offspring became a hereditary disappointment. But then again, all of us are familiar with the old adage "hindsight is better than foresight."

Oops, There Goes Profits

My other sharing point is something some may have experienced—losing money when selling a goat. I recently made arrangements to sell half a goat to someone; it was an older doe, so I had her processed into ground meat.

By the time the sale was completed the final product broke down to four dollars per pound for the ground meat and $4.50 per pound for the ribs, a price I was very proud of until I did the math. The live weight of the doe was about 150 pounds, the hanging weight was 75 pounds, and the total weight of the finished products was 30+ pounds (20+ pounds of ground goat and two nice big slabs or ribs, or ten pounds of ribs). By the time everything was sold I had about ten pounds of ground meat left in my freezer.

Initially someone might say $4 per pound for ground meat and $4.50 per pound for ribs is a darn good price. Take a look at the table and see what you think.

The value placed on the doe is based on her value as brood stock; market value as an older meat animal might be $.75 per pound if lucky. I had her for three years and she gave me two kids (not good). We won’t go into health care and feed costs; it was time to cut my losses. Keep in mind all figures are approximations, but as you can see the $9 return per animal is probably not worth quitting one’s day job. Also, the extreme travel distance to find a custom processor is typical when trying to have a goat or sheep processed.

These two stories are typical situations, learn from my mistakes and avoid duplicating them. It is a good thing I like raising goats, and don’t mind losing money. My accountant once told me, "You don’t want to make money farming; profitability would result in paying more taxes."

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

Happy Hunting Ground

by Ralph Ricks

A couple of weeks ago I was minding my own business when I happened to be watching an older gentleman of high regard doing a small task with his hands. As I stood there watching him, I noticed time had crept into his hands and there was a slight tremor that was barely visible. There was, or rather is, nothing wrong with this gentleman that could not be fixed by a good dose of "being younger."

As usual, I suddenly found myself thinking of things totally unrelated to what was going on at the time. My last thought before coming back to the task at hand was, I wondered how in the world he could hit anything with a rifle if his hands were shaking that way. Later on, I boarded this train of thought and let it carry me on a long journey.

After determining this fellow would have a hard time hitting a stationary target, I told myself to remember how lucky I am my hands do not shake and my marksmanship hasn’t gotten any worse since turning 50 years old; it also hasn’t gotten much better either for that matter.

As I struggle to line up the front and rear sights on an open-sighted rifle with my bifocal glasses, I begin to see time is catching up with me. Last year, I took my daughter dove hunting and had one heck of a time finding the fast-moving birds, my old tired eyes just couldn’t make them out anymore. I heard the other hunter’s guns going off but just never saw the birds.

I sat there still watching those hands tremble, and a little voice kept telling me to be thankful it hadn’t happened to me yet. Sure rifles are a little heavier, hills are a little steeper, the days are a little colder, the bed feels better at four or five in the morning, but ain’t it a great way to spend a day, a weekend, a week or even a whole season?

My advice to myself and to my fellow hunters is to appreciate the days afield we are granted.

Thank goodness my hands are not shaking to the point where I cannot hit a deer with a rifle. Thank goodness I live in a country where I can still spend hours upon hours in the woods pursuing game animals. Thank goodness I have places where I can go to enjoy being outdoors.

I cannot imagine the torment life would be if I were unable to hit the woods each fall and spring and go hunting.

So once again to you younger hunters and fishermen out there, every day you are able to do what you love, remember to appreciate it one day at a time and give thanks you are able to go outdoors because there may be a time when you cannot.

The more I thought about this situation and reminded myself in many ways how lucky I was and how terrible it would be not to be able to go out into the woods, my mind wandered even further off the path and I started trying to figure out how I had fallen in love with the outdoors and when it had happened. I cannot remember a time where I didn’t want to go hunting. Suddenly it hit me. I realized where all of my enthusiasm had come from. For years I thought it was just something I was born with that had developed from reading hunting magazines and such. I was wrong; it was something much closer and larger.

It was my Dad. The following list is probably similar to most outdoor folks.


- Helped me catch and land my first fish.

- Took me hunting for the first time.

- Taught me how to eat a bologna sandwich on the bank of a creek.

- Taught me how to bait a hook.

- Taught me how to cast a fishing pole.

- Taught me how to shoot a rifle.

- Taught me how to sharpen a knife.

- Taught me how to shoot a squirrel.

- Taught me how to dress a squirrel.

- Told me how proud he was with my first deer.

- Taught me how to "skull" a jon boat.

- Taught me ethics.

- Taught me a good hunter never shoots game he doesn’t intend to eat.

- Taught me a good hunter and a good fisherman never break the game laws.

- Taught me how to be a man.

- Taught me how to be a father.

There are many milestones in my outdoor adventures that Dad never got to see. He never got to see the big ten-point buck I killed in 2003. He never got to see that first turkey I killed. He never got to see the first turkey I called and killed all by myself. He never got to hear me call a turkey. I never got to make him a turkey call. He missed seeing his only granddaughter kill her first deer. He never got to see her pull in her first fish or watch her bait her first hook. He never got to tell her all of his hunting and fishing stories. He never got to show her what great bait Catawba worms are. I have spent countless hours in the woods since he passed away and he missed all of them.

So my second bit of advice to the younger hunters out there is to appreciate every single minute in the woods with YOUR dad because someday, he won’t be there and hunting with ghosts isn’t nearly as much fun, but there will come a day when its all you’ve got until its your turn to be Dad.

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

High School Student Commits to Fighting World Hunger

Ethan Hill had a “War Eagle” moment when he found that Faida Mitifu, the Ambassador from the Democratic Republic of Congo, had attended graduate school at Auburn. She was very supportive of Ethan’s interest in international relations and in building connections between Auburn and her country.

Designs Program to Attract Students with Common Interest in Food Shortages

By Grace Smith

Being in the midst of the holiday season, hunger is a topic that, for most Americans, is even more unimaginable than usual. We’re surrounded by feasts of flavorful meats, decadent pies and casseroles galore. Even during seasons of less bounty, most of us have never experienced the burning in our stomachs, dehydration, fatigue and apathy associated with a lack of food. But over 800 million people worldwide (13 percent of the earth’s population) have felt those pains.

One Alabama teen isn’t letting that staggering figure fall upon deaf ears.

This summer, Ethan Hill, a junior at Auburn High School, began talking with his parents about community service projects. After some discussion, he began looking deeper into the global food shortage problem and what he could do to make a difference. Living just a stone’s throw from Auburn University, he learned more about the epidemic after looking into the university’s student-led "War on Hunger" initiative sponsored in conjunction with the United Nations World Food Program.

Ethan Hill enjoyed meeting young people from around the world at the recent World Youth Institute, and he spent a great deal of time consulting with Kristy Baba, the Peruvian delegate.

After talking with some of the university leaders about their "Universities Fighting World Hunger" program which links universities around the world, Hill decided to establish a similar program at his school called "Schools Fighting World Hunger." Although in its early stages, the program aims to increase students’ awareness and advocacy of solving the world’s food shortage. Ethan said although the program is still in its beginning phase, it has been warmly received by the students who have been involved.

"The students I have talked to about it are pretty excited about getting it started and trying to connect with other students in Alabama and around the world," he said. "We would be the first high school in the U.S. to start it, so it would be a really big deal."

Hill found a way to gain even more insight on the world food shortage, and after writing an eight-page paper on hunger in the country of Nepal, he was invited to attend the Global Youth Institute hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation. He describes the gathering as an "organization founded by Dr. (Norman) Borlaug for fighting hunger by bringing the future generations into the problems dealing with world hunger."

The three-day event was held in Des Moines, Iowa, in mid-October and gave over 100 students across the U.S. and other countries the opportunity to interact with world leaders, share their thoughts and ideas with their peers, tour research and industrial facilities, and participate in hands-on projects.

The event boasted presentations by several distinguished global leaders, but Hill said his favorite speakers were Bill Gates; the Secretaries of Agriculture for the U.S., Mexico and Canada; and the president of Pepsi Co.

Hill said he also enjoyed making friends with students from different places who shared a common commitment to fighting global hunger, and he plans to keep in touch with many of them via FaceBook.

"A lot of the kids there were from Iowa, since that’s where it’s hosted, but there were kids from around the world, including one from Peru and one from Tanzania," he said. "It was pretty gratifying to see other kids who have a similar perspective and who are interested in hunger and how to fix it."

Another part of the trip Hill enjoyed was the tours, and he said the tour of the medical school in Des Moines and Dupont’s Pioneer Seed facilities were the most interesting stops.

"We went to the Des Moines Medical School," he said. "It was very striking to see the nutritional effects on people who don’t get adequate food. We also went to Pioneer Seed’s corporate headquarters and toured their building. It was pretty impressive to see what effects Dupont and Pioneer have on the industry with the seeds they produce."

But the highlight of the trip for Hill was the chance to put his cause into action.

"We got to pack food for kids in Tanzania," he said. "That was a good hands-on experience — seeing what they’re going to be eating, how the process is done and how fighting hunger is taken further than just people giving money. It makes it a realistic process that shows we can have a real impact if people support us."

Hill and his fellow Youth Institute constituents attended the televised World Food Prize award ceremony which is held in conjunction with the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium or "Borlaug Dialogue" as it is better known. Hill said he was awed by the magnitude of the event.

"They put us in the capitol building right behind the keynote speaker, and it was really cool to know the presidents of foreign countries and ambassadors were just a few feet away from us and to see the presentation and how well-known and advocated it is in Iowa," he said. "Just to be in the presence of all those people and to be considered so important by all of them was quite an honor for us, and to know they acknowledge us and they put their support behind the program meant a lot."

Hill said the conference left a lasting impact on him and he was struck by the effort the organization leaders put in to promoting this topic for the attendees.

"I think it was important they advocated so much for the future, and they’re clearly trying to build for the future and get kids interested in the advancement of agriculture in the U.S. and the world. They’re trying to bring young people forward who will be able to produce better agriculture and get kids interested in it. They’re pushing us forward so we can become more involved in science, agriculture and in global food issues. We are being better prepared to advance our generation to where it needs to be as far as feeding everybody in the world."

After returning from his trip to Des Moines, Hill is taking on the task of developing his Schools Fighting World Hunger program with gusto.

"I’ve talked to the leader of the (Auburn) University project, Dr. Harriet Giles, and I plan to talk to Dr. (June) Henton, to try to figure out the best way we can build an infrastructure and become the most successful in schools," he said. "It would be my hope before the end of the year we would be able to begin laying the groundwork, and I know next year we’ll be able to be a lot more involved, once we have more support of the students and our project is better known…by next year we should have a pretty good foundation."

Like the esteemed humanitarian and renowned agronomist Norman Borlaug, Hill realizes the dire need to feed the hungry and he knows the key to fighting that battle begins with an industry that hits home to many Cooperative Farming News readers.

"Food and water are the two biggest issues for human life, and right now a billion people around the world do not get adequate food. I think if we want to help people in any other way, the issue of food needs to be the base point where we start. Advancing agriculture is the key to feeding people, and improving agricultural science and technology will be the only way we’re going to be able to feed the people of the world — through producing better, higher-yielding crops, producing more drought and pest-resistant plants, and producing hardier plants," he said.

For more information on The Global Youth Institute visit If your school, club or youth group would like to join in the campaign to address world hunger, you may contact:

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

Ho, Ho’s Governmental Helicopter!!!

It’s Headin’ Straight T’ward Christmas Time
In Flat Rock, “My True South”…

by Joe Potter

It was Saturday in the nine o’clock a.m. as I come upon The Flat Rock General Store for the pure needfulness of the parkin’ of my pickup. Here I spied all notions of people, and there were transportation modes of all sorts parked some distances, makin’ foot walkin’ necessary.

And—there it set—Ho, Ho’s Governmental Helicopter, right square dab twix the intersection of County Roads 131 and 129, clear in the pure center of downtown Flat Rock, a carryin’ the Alabama Governmental Seal clear on both sides.

Slim had pulled it off, a usin’ some political strong armin’ what with politicians bein’ needful in an election-vote-gettin’ year. He had Santa Claus delivered to downtown Flat Rock square in front of The Store. At this moment in time, jovial old St. Nick, full dressed in white beard and red suit, was a wavin’ t’ward two sides as he moved ‘tween the Governmental Helicopter and the front porch of The Store where there was a big, old John Deere green rocker chair a waitin’ for him. All ages of youngun’s from C.C. Smith, Hatton, Old Bethel, Mt. Hope, Wolf Springs, Flat Rock plus addin’ on some other miscellaneous places stood in a humongous big, old line stretched straight arrow west a lookin’ at Mississippi.

Most near all Santa’s helpers (The Store Regulars) was on hand, all dressed up in full Mossy Oak camo and a sportin’ Christmas red bandannas ready for necessary assistance purposes. Bro. started things off a holdin’ a portable speakin’ megaphone attempin’ to offer both younguns and parents some useful line stayin’ and movin’ directions. "Truth" and Estelle began instantly a loadin’ and unloadin younguns from Santa’s lap. Heath, Dustin and Ms. Ida were takin’ pictures. Essex, the widow Cora and Willerdean were passin’ out Christmas candy goodies. Slim and Bro. were standin’ alongside The Store steps a greetin’ both younguns and parents. "Hatch," S.R. and J.R. had been offerin’ assistance with parkin’ since earlier in the mornin’. All three carried a certain look of tuckeredness as the hour glass hit on 9:30 o’clock...

Mr. Harley Hood and Friends had set up on the far side of the porch from Santa and were providin’ some wonderful Christmas holiday musical sounds.

My Daddy "Pop" C.C. and Farlow were off over by The Flat Rock Community House. "Pop" was offerin’ some younguns John Deere Gator rides and Farlow had his Mossy Oak camo backhoe all shined up and was allowin’ some younguns up and down rides in the shootin’ house attachment on the rear arm of the backhoe.

My four grand younguns, Kamron, Kole, Ashlyn and Anna Kate Potter, all showed up and they all carried this glimmer in their eyes like they’d just experienced Sarturday night full live on the midway over to the North Alabama State Fair.

Yep, with lots of help from a full passel of Santa’s helpers, Slim had pulled it off…. He put Santa Claus and Christmas believin’ up top for lots of both big and little folks on this beautiful Saturday in Flat Rock — "My True South." I sure believe. Do you believe???

And I heard him say, as the governmental helicopter flew away, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!!"


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

Landowner Questions Wetland Appraisals

Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate stands near his family’s Charolais herd in Lowndes County.

By Alvin Benn

It’s known as the Wetland Reserve Program and Rick Pate thought it sounded like a pretty good deal, one that could provide a solid financial future for family members down the road.

The timing was also perfect and he couldn’t wait to sign up for a federal project aimed at setting aside and preserving wetland areas in Alabama for future generations to enjoy.

Pate, who is mayor of Lowndesboro, operates a successful landscape business in Montgomery and is helping his parents oversee their cattle operation in rural Lowndes County. He went to an informational meeting at the county seat in Hayneville back in April to learn more about the wetland program.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery (left), chats with Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate in Pate’s kitchen. The two discussed a wetland reserve program the mayor and several Lowndes farmers feel has been unfair to them.

What sounded good at first—especially federal funding to establish and improve wetland areas—began to crumble as Pate looked into details. It didn’t take him long to see numbers that appeared more than a bit inequitable to him.

Case in point was neighboring Wilcox County where wetland appraisals were listed at $1,805 an acre while his land was valued at $1,520. That $285 difference might not seem like much for one acre, but, when it’s compounded many times over, it added up to quite a monetary disparity in Pate’s mind.

"I just couldn’t understand why land in Wilcox County was worth that much more than ours in Lowndes County," he said, as he recalled his initial reaction to a map of Alabama’s 67 counties and how much was being offered in each one of them under the Wetland Reserve Program.

A company hired to examine property that might be included in the program came up with a difference of $2,042 an acre between Baldwin and Mobile counties, the highest in Alabama, and the $1,520 an acre for Lowndes, Lamar and Fayette counties, the three lowest in the state.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery (front row center), stands with Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate (front row left) and other Lowndes County farmers concerned about federal prices linked to a wetlands resource program.

Numerous factors are involved in appraising property, especially when swampy wetland areas are involved, but Pate kept wondering why 15 counties were given appraisals of $1,805 an acres. Several of them were Black Belt counties not that far from Lowndes with similar soil and wetland areas.

The first person he went to for help was U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery, and he wasn’t disappointed, especially when the Second District Congressman and Meg Joseph, his chief of staff, arrived at Pate’s house on Aug. 5. It was part of a 93 city swing through Bright’s sprawling district

"I laid out our problem to them that NCRS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) had admitted it was wrong," Pate said, adding he was then told "I had no recourse to appeal."

Pate had already decided to set aside 425 acres in his family’s 600-acre spread for the wetlands program. He was considering a 30-year easement period during which federal funds would be provided to his family for hardwood trees, duck ponds and other wetland additions and improvements.

Although he had not signed an official contract with the federal government, Pate had, in effect, agreed to agree to such a deal—pending a fair settlement.

"I could pull out of the program and reapply next year," he said. "The current year’s program will not actually begin till the winter of 2010-2011. I’d also be required to repay the federal government money for appraising my land for the program."

His father’s failing health was a big reason why Pate was seriously considering enrollment in the wetlands program and he felt extended delays could prove costly to his family, especially if funding was curtailed or the program ended due to continuing budgetary problems having virtually paralyzed some federal agencies.

Pate felt the issue was vital to the welfare of his family. So did several other farmers with similar concerns in Lowndes County. That led them to insist Bright personally take an interest in their bid to right an apparent wrong.

"I wanted (Bright) to take the lead and not one of his staff members," said Pate, 54. "I felt that was the only way for us to get some relief. When you’ve got a congressman going to bat for you in Washington, it carries a lot more weight than if one of his staff people does it."

That was an important consideration for Pate and his farming friends, and Bright didn’t let them down. In early October, Bright questioned two USDA officials seeking specifics about conservation programs contained in the 2008 Farm Bill.

One of those officials was Dave White, chief of the NRCS. The other was Jonathan Coppess, administrator of the Farm Service Agency. The two testified before the Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research Subcommittee.

Bright asked White about disparities involving the Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC) which sets land values in connection with the Wetlands Program. He also wanted to know about the establishment of land values which would play a key role in the program. He wanted to know details about how those land values were reached.

The congressman noted Lowndes County received a $20 per acre increase from 2008 to 2009 while Wilcox County farmers got a $305 hike.

"We don’t have a problem with those folks over in Wilcox County and hope they can get as much as possible, but we don’t feel we should receive anything less than what they get," Pate said.

Bright asked White if anything could be done to see that an appeal process could apply to farmers in those counties who believe they received an inaccurate GARC amount.

That’s when White said something Bright no doubt will remember for a long time—a federal bureaucrat who admitted a mistake had been made—kinda.

"Well, he didn’t actually use the word ‘mistake,’ but he came pretty close when he said, ‘I am more than aware of it, Mr. Bright, and I’ve been contacted by your office, of course. You’ve taken a great interest in this.’"

The good news, Bright said, was when White told him someone from the Alabama Department of Conservation would be going back to work "and redo those Geographic Area Rate Caps."

"I will guarantee those producers (in Lowndes County) have enough acreage, and if they chose to, to move forward with the WRP (Wetland Reserve Program)," Bright said he was told. "There’s enough acres in the cap that Congress gave us that we can do that. So any producer who felt the amount kept them out will have that option in Fiscal Year 2010 which is what we are in. We are going to redo those GARCs."

Small town mayors rarely see themselves as politicians or statesmen, but Pate has formed a friendship with Bright for what he has been able to do in such a short time.

"The story here isn’t so much the problem we face as it is the huge bureaucracy that can’t be moved," he said. "It’s like they stonewall you. It’s not a bad mistake to make a mistake, the important thing is to recognize it was made and to correct it."

The Wetland Reserve Program can be more than a bit complicated, but those directly connected to it have become familiar with it since the start of the year. That includes Bright and his staff.

Republicans had controlled their Second District seat in Congress ever since the Goldwater sweep of 1964, but Bright’s conservatively-moderate approach to politics swept him into Congress last year and he hopes to stay there for awhile.

He isn’t likely to pick up much Republican cross-over voter support in Lowndes County in next year’s election, but the former Montgomery mayor really doesn’t expect much because the county is predominantly black and heavily Democratic. In other words, it’s his county. He beat his Republican opponent Jay Love by a 4-to-1 margin in his 2008 victory.

When asked who was the last national Democrat he had voted for, Pate broke into a big laugh and said, "FDR," one of America’s most liberal Democratic presidents. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected 22 years before Pate was born.

"All I can say is I’ve never voted for a Democrat running for state and national offices, but this could be the first time," said Pate.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Looking for Time Well Spent:

RFD-TV Launches “Time Well Spent” As Weekly Series

Premiering on RFD-TV the first week in January, rural Alabama celebrates itself and shows the nation the unique appeal of our great state! A production of Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Time Well Spent is television families can enjoy together, as they see the people, places and events that maintain some of the state’s most time-honored traditions and heritage.

Each 30-minute episode will contain different segments illustrating separate aspects of rural Alabama. Jim Allen will bring to the screen a feature entitled "Rural Alabama… You’ve Got to Love It!" which will focus on special places and events that add a bit of distinctive charm to the landscape of the state.

Grace Smith will host a segment that will take a youthful look at rural Alabama. "Young Folks in Action" will demonstrate how young people are living and learning traditional values as they participate in rural and agricultural activities across the state.

Sidney Phelps of Bonnie Plants will bring out the green thumb in everyone as he delivers the segment "The Gift of Growing Things." A helpful guide for people of all skill levels, this segment will provide the tips and techniques to take gardeners from planting to pruning and harvesting.

"Farming for Wildlife," hosted by BioLogic’s Bobby Cole, is a fun look at improving habitat for wildlife on your property. Each segment will deal with a different topic, from whitetail deer to farm pond management, in an effort to maximize wildlife use and landowner enjoyment.

Special people… Special Events and Activities… A Special Place defined as Rural America… Time Well Spent is a special program, and we believe you will agree it is, well — TIME WELL SPENT each and every week!


Launched in December of 2000 and now beginning its 10th year of broadcasting, RFD-TV is the nation’s first 24-hour television channels dedicated to serving the needs and interests of rural America with programming focused on agriculture, equine, rural lifestyle, along with traditional country music and entertainment. The channel is now distributed into over 40 million homes worldwide by DBS and cable systems including DISH Network, DIRECTV, Comcast, Verizon FiOS TV, Mediacom, Charter, Bresnan, Time Warner, Cox, SKY, Freesat and over 600 independent rural cable systems. Production originates in studios located in Nashville, Tennessee, for RFD-TV and RFD HD, and now London, England, for RURAL TV, the company’s new international channel which launched throughout the UK in March 2009. RFD-TV The Magazine now has over 160,000 paid subscribers for its bi-monthly publication, and the company continues to operate RFD-TV The Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

For more information on RFDTV, visit their website:

CONTACT: RFD-TV: Cathie Lowe, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">, (615) 620-9239; Time Well Spent: Jim Allen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">, (256) 308-1605 or Grace Smith, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">, (256) 303-0472.

Monitoring for CWD in Deer and Other Cervids

By Dr. Tony Frazier

In veterinary medicine, we use a lot of acronyms (the first letter of each word). BSE, FMD, FVRCP and on and on and on. The acronym CWD stands for Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD is a disease affecting cervids which includes deer and elk. In Alabama we are mainly interested in whitetail deer. We do not have mule deer and elk native to our state. CWD is caused by a prion and is in the group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies—TSEs. Some other diseases in that group are bovine spongioform encephalopathy, transmissible mink encephalopathy and, one of my favorites, fatal familial insomnia. Fatal familial insomnia is apparently an inherited genetic disorder in which the results of the prion being formed in the brain results in a condition of total sleeplessness that eventually becomes fatal. It actually only affects 28 families worldwide. That seems like an absolutely horrible way to go. But on the other hand, I suppose you could get a lot done before you die since you don’t have to take time out to sleep! Anyway you can see, even though the incidence of these diseases is quite low, they are pretty bad characters.

CWD is a disease of deer and other cervids, and is not known to cross into humans at all. But when has that ever stopped mass hysteria when the news media is having a slow day and gets onto something like that? Other states have reaped the adverse results of reporting CWD existence within their borders. All you have to do is mention CWD was found in a deer and, all at once, nobody wants to hunt and certainly nobody wants to consume deer meat.

The hunting industry is huge in Alabama. Each year hundreds of Alabama deer hunters harvest thousands of Alabama deer. This provides quite an economic boost to our state. We certainly do not want anything like CWD to threaten this great industry. For that reason, we at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, along with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, have implemented measures to monitor for the presence of CWD in our deer population. This is done through surveillance of hunter-harvested deer through sampling of brain tissue as well as allowing whitetail game breeders to implement CWD monitoring plans. These monitoring plans require annual inventory be kept. The owners of these captive deer benefit by having the ability to sell and ship deer to other states.

There is an old saying: if you don’t want to find something, you shouldn’t look for it. That may be true, but I do not want something to be out there sneaking up on us. It is not likely we have CWD in Alabama because the disease has not been found anywhere in the states near ours. However, when you are dealing with a wildlife disease, you cannot just have a regulation that we do not allow wild animals with CWD to come into our state. There are regulations from the Department of Conservation and Wildlife prohibiting native wildlife like whitetail deer to be purchased and brought into the state. But if you ask any deer on the street, they cannot tell the difference of whether they are captive or wild—at least not by looking at them.

While doing some research for this article, I ran across a website for a group called the CWD Alliance. They consisted of the Boone and Crocket Club, Mule Deer Foundation and The Rocky Mountain Elk Association. It was very interesting to me that their mission is much the same as ours. That is to make sure the information put out is accurate and to control the disease —- if it should show up. Just be aware we are monitoring for a disease that has not made it into our borders, but it is out there.

One final bit of advice: we are professionals, so do not try to do this on your own. And certainly, if you get caught out some night shining a big light on deer, do not try telling the game warden you are monitoring for CWD!

Mountain Mint

Hoary mountainmint (Pycnan-themum incanum)

By H.T. Farmer

I just finished my fall seed collections a few days ago and there’s still a bunch of plants out there for you to harvest seeds from, if you haven’t done it yet.

There were lots of wild Asteraceae in various genres, Lobelia, Carolina buckthorn, beautyberry and, one of my all-time favorites, mountain mint (Pycnanthemum).

Mountain mint grows wild in many conditions from moist, flood areas to poor, dry clayey soil. The area where I harvest mountain mint is a rocky roadside on a hill of Alabama red clay. It seems to like the conditions best there because the shrubs grow taller and fatter. That area gets sun nearly all day long. Though this mint will grow in part shade, it thrives in full sun.

Mountain mint species like narrowleaf mountainmint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)
grows from Quebec, Canada, to Florida and beyond. Other species like the coastal plain mountainmint (Pycnanthemum nudum) and Appalachian mountainmint (Pycnanthemum flexuosum) are distributed within the warmer Southeastern United States.

Medicinal uses: Like many mints, mountain mint is used to treat gastric disorders like gas, colic, indigestion, etc. A tea made from the leaves and sweetened has a pleasant menthol flavor. When combined with chamomile and Stevia, the mountain mint tea is naturally sweet and is sipped for relaxation. Mountain mint tea is also used as a carminative. Native Americans made poultices to use as a remedy for headaches or genital inflammation in men.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are 11 species of mountain mint growing in Alabama and surrounding states. Five of the species are considered to be threatened or endangered. Be sure you know which ones you are harvesting and use the wildcrafting code of ethics when doing so.

Thanks for reading!

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

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

Mustang Team Completes Extreme Makeover:

Snap’s Crowd-Pleasing Horse Heads To College

Dale ‘Snap’ Lively and Duece walk a 12-inch by 12-foot beam to their first place win in the horse course.

By Don Linker

Seventy-two-year-young Dale "Snap" Lively of Nauvoo and Duece, a four-year-old mustang from Montecristo, Nev., teamed up to win third place at the Eastern Extreme Mustang Makeover in Murfreesboro, TN, on October 23 and 24.

This was the culmination of a 100-day training period in which Snap put the winning moves on a willing horse. The duo placed fourth in the in-hand event which consisted of maneuvers from the ground like moving the shoulders over and trailer loading. With a near flawless run in the horse course, where they had to do lead changes, turns and a freestyle exhibition, the pair finished number one, which earned them a spot in the top ten.

When the dust cleared in the finals and the points were tallied, Snap and Duece scored 52.5 points, one-half point behind a two-way tie for first place. For their third place finish, Lively received a check for $2,000. He also received a ribbon and headstall for first place in the horse course. Snap stated the money was great, but the real honor was winning the "crowd pleaser award," a framed print of mustangs running.

The show culminated on Sunday, October 25, with Duece being the top-selling horse in the auction/adoption bringing a whopping $8,800. The buyer was Mrs. T. Boone Pickens from Texas. Snap was enlisted to take Duece to Stillwater, Okla. on November 18 and he was presented to Oklahoma State University by Mr. and Mrs. Pickens during halftime of the Colorado-Oklahoma State game with Snap in the saddle for one last time. Duece is on to another adventure and Mr. Lively is on to…well, we’ll see.

Congratulations to Snap and Duece for the honor they have received for their hard work and their partnership. I hope Duece enjoys his time at Oklahoma State, I did many years ago. I wish Snap the best and hope he has many more years in the saddle.

Quality Co-ops support your equine endeavors and have the feed, animal health products, grooming supplies and tack to make your equine friend look and feel their best. If your local Co-op doesn’t have what you need, they can order it for you. We want to earn your business and will strive to keep it.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.

Myotonic Goat Registry Moves to Alabama

Joe, Alex, Max and Tara Lawrence on their farm with two of their 35 Myotonic goats.

“Basically, it’s managing a database of breeders and animals”

By Mary-Glenn Smith

In 1998, when Joe and Tara Lawrence first built their new house in Adger, they decided a goat would be a practical way to help clear some of the brush off their property.

"It all started with just wanting one goat," explained Tara.

Little did they know at the time that "one goat" would become such a huge part of their lives ten years later.

"A co-worker of Joe’s brought in the AFC Cooperative Farming Newsand there was an ad saying ‘fainting goats: come see them fall,’" Tara began.

The “Wall of Fame,” as it is called, in the Lawrence’s living room.

At first they thought the ad had to be a joke, but since they were looking for a goat anyway they decided to give the farmer a call and go see what fainting goats were all about.

After a lengthy speech from the farmer about the goats, he quickly clapped his hands and half the herd fell over.

"At that moment we knew we had to have one," Tara said.

The goats really fainted.

The Lawrences left the farm that day with a billy goat and the next day called and told the man they would be back to buy a doe and a kid.

"From that day on, it was like eating potato chips, you couldn’t just have one of them," Tara explained.

Today, Joe and Tara along with their two sons, Alex, 15, and Max, 11, own and operate a Myotonic goat farm, known as Outlaw Farms.

The family just recently purchased the Myotonic Goat Registry from its founder, Gene McNutt of Chapel Hill, Tenn.

Alex Lawrence, 15, with a prize-winning Myotonic goat.

"He had a real desire and a passion for the breed and a vision for where he wanted to go with the breed," Joe said as he explained why McNutt founded the registry.

At first McNutt approached Tara about doing some work for him with the registry. With Tara’s love for the breed, she immediately said yes to his offer. A week later, McNutt asked if she would be interested in purchasing the registry and again she said yes. Tara left her job at a CPA firm and two weeks later she purchased the registry. The family drove up to Tennessee with their stock trailer, loaded up the office, signed a contract and returned to Adger as the owners of the Myotonic Goat Registry.

"Mr. McNutt wanted the registry to go to someone who he knew would be the best for the job and the breed," Joe said. "He had several other offers, but none seemed to be as concerned with preserving the breed as much as Tara was."

"Tara loves this breed and is going to promote it, make it grow," Joe continued. "It’s not about the money. There has to be a certain amount of money coming in to run the business, but it’s more about promoting the animals."

A Myotonic goat, Eddie, fainted.

The Myotonic Goat Registry is believed to be the largest registry of Myotonic goats in the world with 651 members and over 10,000 animals from all over the United States and Canada. Members are called breeders and most of them actively show and breed goats.

"Basically it’s managing a database of breeders and their animals, keeping up with the animals’ pedigrees, so anyone wanting to have their animal registered can send the paperwork to us and Tara plugs it in to a database for a fee," Joe explained. "The registry is growing by leaps and bounds."

"Not only do Myotonic goats faint or fall over and become stiff, they have to meet a breed standard," stated Tara, who manages the whole registry.

The breed standard is based on size, head, coat, stiffness relating to their level of myotonia congenita, and conformational traits established by the registry.

The Myotonic Goat Registry has a board of advisors, a show committee and a youth director. The registry recently set up a new youth program to promote the animals to the younger generation. A child joins the program for $12 a year and once they have been a member for two years they will be eligible for a scholarship.

"Hopefully with the new youth program we will have somebody to leave all of this to," Tara said.

"Myotonic goats are currently considered a rare breed according to the government," Joe added. "At one point, they were almost extinct."

"Myotonic goats have been traced back to the 1800s," Tara said as she described the breed.

"The legend goes that a migrant worker from Nova Scotia named John Tinsley appeared with four Myotonic goats," Tara continued. "He came and worked on a farm for just one season and then left his wife and his four goats behind."

"The legend surrounding them is about as unusual as they are," she added.

The Lawrences bought their first goats ten years ago just for pets and to help keep their property cleaned off. Today the family breeds, raises, sells and shows Myotonic goats.

"We started with a variety of sizes and colors," Tara said. "The original goats were a white one, a silver one and a tri-color. Now we only have black and white commercial-size animals."

There are currently 35 goats on Outlaw Farms, all of which have their own special name.

"All of them have to have a name," youngest son Max explained. "We’ve got some pretty funny names."

Two years ago, they decided they would start concentrating on quality stock. They wanted to breed bigger, meatier, show goats.

"We have purposely stayed a small herd so it was manageable and so we could offer quality animals and, more than anything, we wanted to produce a structurally-correct animal," Tara stated. "We want an animal that is hearty and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, and is large and could be used as a production animal on the commercial end."

"Almost every goat we have on the farm is show quality," Joe said of his current herd that was started roughly a year and a half ago.

Alex and Max do most of the showing. They have competed in shows throughout several different states with the farthest one being Indiana.

The family will usually take about 15 goats to a show with them. They compete in different classes based on the age and sex of the goat.

"We pick out what happens to be looking good on the farm at that time to take to the shows." Joe said.

The "Wall of Fame" in the Lawrence’s living room proudly displays awards, ribbons and trophies won at shows over the past two years.

"Our goal is to preserve the breed," Tara said. "We also want to educate the public through the shows."

Myotonic goats, sometimes known as fainting goats, stiff-legged goats, wooden-leg goats or nervous goats, are the only breed of goats that faint. But the goats don’t actually faint, instead they have a condition called myotonia congenita.

The condition causes their muscles to become extremely stiff and lock up, and if the goat isn’t balanced it will fall over as if it fainted. This only happens if the goat gets scared. Most goats will usually only stay out for about 30 seconds when they faint.

"Different things can make them faint," Joe explained. "If they are already on alert they won’t faint, you just about have to surprise them to make them fall out. But sometimes the darndest things will scare them, something like a leaf falling out of a tree."

Along with breeding and showing, the Lawrences also endorse the Myotonic goat for its quality meat.

"Generally the condition (myotonia congenital) causes muscles to get really, really big, so they are considered a meat animal," Joe said. "They have a really large meat to bone ratio, more so than other larger goats. You get a lot of bang for your buck. We hope by promoting and growing this breed they will become a more marketable animal as far as the meat goat industry goes,"

"The meat is so tender, it’s unbelievable, it just falls apart in your mouth," Alex added.

Most of the goat meat consumed in the United States comes from Australia.

"We want to someday walk into a grocery store and buy goat meat," Joe said. "We want to promote our domestic animals rather than foreign animals."

Most of the animals sold at the Lawrence’s farm are sold directly off the farm, whether for meat, pets or breeding. For more information on the registry, the breed or for a farm visit, go to or

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.

Peanut People

Rabbit Hunting with the Rhodes Boys

(From left) Ronald, Ronny and Justin Rhodes get ready to turn their beagles loose.

Three generations of this Crenshaw County family still gather at the family farm to chase cottontails with their beagles.

By Ben Norman

Ronny Rhodes, 67, has seen a lot of changes in his favorite sport of rabbit hunting over the last 55 years. Rhodes began hunting rabbits as a pre-teen in the mid-1950s when rabbits were plentiful and often provided a farm family with the only meat for the evening meal.

Rhodes said when he began rabbit hunting he didn’t have a hound, so he flushed the rabbits out of briar patches and brush piles by beating the bushes with a long stick. When he was quick enough, he bagged a rabbit with his 20-gauge single-barrel shotgun.

Today Rhodes hunts rabbits with his son, Ronald, 39, and his nine-year-old grandson, Justin, on the family farm and on land Ronald leases.

"Things have really changed when it comes to rabbit hunting and the equipment we use," said Rhodes. "Today we have four-wheel-drive trucks with nice dog boxes to transport our beagles to the hunting lease, auto-loading or pump shotguns to give the hunter a second and third shot if he misses, and cell phones to stay in touch with each other."

Ronny Rhodes points out a likely looking place to jump a rabbit.

Habitat has also gone through a drastic change since Rhodes started hunting in the 1950s.

"I was once a quail hunter too, but I think some of the adverse changes to the quail habitat have affected the rabbit population too," said Rhodes. "Every small farm had a garden when I was a boy. Small patches of corn and peanuts with grown-up fencerows around them were common. Also, farmers burned the woods off back then and this practice released young tender vegetation for wildlife in the early spring. I’m not a wildlife biologist, but I’m convinced the absence of farming practices I observed as a boy is largely responsible for the demise of the bobwhite and the reduction in rabbit numbers."

Because rabbit numbers are down in some areas, the three generations of Rhodes have taken a new approach to rabbit hunting by copying the practices of the old-time fox hunters.

"We’ve gotten to the point where we just don’t shoot many rabbits," said Ronald. "Fox hunters of yesteryear just loved to hear their dogs run a fox so they almost never killed the fox. We are now basically doing the same thing. We do harvest enough rabbits to have a ‘rabbit supper’ at the end of hunting season, but I guess we probably bag less than five percent of the rabbits our beagles jump."

According to Ronald other enjoyable aspects of rabbit hunting with beagles have overshadowed the need to shoot a rabbit just because their beagles run a rabbit by a hunter.

"Things like selecting a pup to train, the actual training of a young dog and the camaraderie of being out together hunting as a family is thrill enough. Now we can stand around and talk without having to hurry to try and cut off a rabbit for a shot. The old-time foxhunters would often turn their dogs loose and then just sit down and build a fire. They were enjoying the ‘hound music’ and each other’s company. We are doing basically the same thing — we are just using small beagles rather than foxhounds and substituting a rabbit for a fox," laughed Ronald.

Ronald said the key to a successful rabbit hunt today is finding a food source close to thick cover like large briar patches.

"Rabbits prefer succulent foods high in nutrition. Native forbs and grasses combined with fertilized agricultural crops and food plots like clover, oats and wheat attract rabbits. They like fertilized lespedezas, emerging soybeans and cowpeas, too. Deer hunters who plant food plots of the above grains and grasses are contributing to the health of the rabbit population, also. We find a lot of rabbits in cut-over land that has had a year or two to regenerate. Pine plantations provide good hunting up until the canopy closes. After the tree limbs start shading out sunlight, the food supply decreases rapidly."

Both Ronny and Ronald are glad the youngest member of the Rhodes clan of rabbit hunters, Justin, has taken to rabbit hunting with a passion. When asked what he likes about rabbit hunting with beagles, Justin replied, "I like everything about it. You have to get up early and, sometimes, it’s really cold, but I don’t care. Daddy lets me carry his unloaded shotgun for him sometimes. He watches me close and says he is teaching me to handle a gun safely. I really enjoy going rabbit hunting with my dad and granddaddy."

Ronald said Justin is learning responsibility with safe gun handling, taking care of and feeding the beagles, and looking after his 4-H show calf.

"Justin started showing calves last year and has really taken an interest in it. We buy all of our livestock supplies including wormer and vaccines from Luverne Cooperative Services. They really have a friendly and helpful staff there," said Ronald.

The Rhodes boys all feel they are seeing more rabbits this year than they have in the past year or two. They are planning on planting food strips and building "rabbit condos" out of brush to provide food and shelter for rabbits. A "rabbit condo" can easily be built by piling brush over a log, rock or stump to provide shelter. Piling limbs over an object creates a cavity in the middle of the brush pile and makes an excellent place for a mother rabbit to give birth. Brush piles should be created in reasonably heavy cover so the rabbit has a better chance of escaping predators. They should not be constructed in pastures or open areas where a rabbit is susceptible to being caught by a predator.

Ronny Rhodes is still rabbit hunting the same land he hunted as a twelve-year-old boy, but his son and grandson now accompany him. And with Justin’s new found love for rabbit hunting, it’s a good bet a Rhodes will be following a pack of beagles for many years to come.

Ben Norman is an outdoor writer from Highland Home.

Realizing Rubs Aids Hunting

With trail cameras and other technology coming to the market some hunters have not learned to read sign and develop hunter’s savvy. While the technology can be great and can lead to actually learning more, it is important a hunter takes the time to learn to read sign. Here the author examines a couple of rubs.

By Todd Amenrud

One of the marks of an adult buck, the so called "rub," is one of the best scouting aids a hunter has. During late summer, very increased amounts of testosterone start flowing through a buck’s body - antler bone hardens, his velvet dries and they all start on their way to making rubs. They continue to make rubs all the way through the season and into winter until they shed their antlers. Before trail cameras hit the market, reading rubs, scrapes and other physical signs were the best way to get close to a buck. If you learn to read it properly, it still can be.

The first rubs of the season happen as soon as their antlers harden. I’ve heard them referred to as "velvet rubs." When the buck’s antlers harden, the antler velvet dries; from this point on, they start to rub on saplings, brush, tall weeds, fence posts, telephone poles and many other objects. Some think the first rubs of the season are to help peel the velvet from their "crown." I believe they’re just testing out their new, hardened antlers. In fact, sometimes they don’t need to rub the velvet off at all. It just falls off or I’ve seen birds or other deer eat it off.

Bucks will deposit scent from their forehead and/or preorbital gland on a rub. This buck is sniffing this rub to tell which other bucks have visited the rub, or maybe to see if his scent is sufficiently deposited on it.

The famed rub is made from a buck scraping or rasping his antlers on a tree or sapling. It is likely made for several different reasons. One reason, and probably the most important, is to mark territory - not only visually, but by scent as well. A buck will rub his forehead and/or preorbital gland on the tree. This tells the other deer in the area exactly which buck made the rub. The first visible rubs in an area are usually made by the more mature bucks in the region.

Whether the bucks know they are in "training" or not, this feat also helps build up their neck muscles. It’s nature’s way of seeing, for the most part, only the strong survive and perpetuate. There are always going to be some inferior one-and-a-half-year-old bucks that will do some of the breeding, but, with a fairly balanced herd, the more dominant, stronger, older bucks do the bulk of the breeding.

For whatever reason the rub is made, it’s an excellent way to learn much about a buck. Following their daily movements and then ambushing them along one of these paths is a proven tactic for harvesting trophy bucks.

When you come across a good density of rubs, it usually means you’ve found an area where a buck is spending a good majority of his time. Called a "hub," "core area" or "secure area," it’s definitely a spot we’re trying to find. Whitetail will often have a number of different secure areas and many travel routes to and from them. They choose which bedding site or trail to use depending upon where they have the best advantage to noticing predators. They may change secure areas and travel routes depending on time of year, the availability of cover, pressure or food source changes during the season.

Once located, a buck’s "bedroom" is a reliable origin to begin the hunt. Food sources, travel routes and other factors are not as dependable as their bedrooms. They pick these spots for a reason – consistent safety. If not spooked, or if the conditions don’t change drastically, they’ll usually go back to these spots day after day.

Different deer have different personalities. Some deer seem to love to rub on tees and others don’t. The number of rubs can have something to do with the age and breeding status of a buck, as well as the buck-to-doe ratio in the area. Sometimes the type or size of the trees in an area can also influence the amount of rubs. If there aren’t many trees of the right size or type, obviously you won’t see as many rubs.

Whitetail can rub on many different objects and some of them you have to have a keen eye to pick up on. They have been known to rub on telephone poles, fence posts, corn stalks, garden shrubs and other odd objects. Here, a shredded brush clump is examined.

Direction of travel should be easy to tell. If a buck is traveling north, he’s facing the south side of the tree, so the rubs should be on the south side of the tree. Size of the buck can be told too. You’ve all heard, "big deer rub on big trees; small deer rub on small trees." For the most part that’s true. However, big deer will also rub on small trees, but small deer don’t as often rub on big trees. If the rub is on a small tree, how high it is off the ground is a good indication - the higher off the ground, typically the bigger the buck. Unless the tree was so skinny a smaller buck could have pushed the tree over and worked up the tree that way.

As far as where to intercept a buck along a rub line - I like to work from his core area. I don’t mean bust right into his bedding area, I mean use it as a starting point. Use it in conjunction with other things in their domain.

Once I’ve found out where a buck is spending the majority of his time, I try to put very little pressure on that spot. If you spook him from his secure spot, you may have to start all over again. Some bucks will tolerate very little before vacating the area.

You’ll have to determine when and where he is going to give you a shot during legal hunting hours. Is he going to dawdle on his way back to his bedding site in the morning? Does he like to get up mid-day and drop downwind to scent check his bedding area?

Rubs are one of the best scouting aids available. Aside from an actual animal sighting or trail camera photo, you can gather more information from it then any other form of physical sign. If you search out rubs in your hunting area, they just might lead you to a buck this season.

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

Relocate Camellias in Two Steps to Increase Chance of Success

By Tony Glover

Question: I have a ten-year-old camellia I need to relocate. When is the best time to move it and how should it be done?

Answer: Moving a camellia is possible and fall is a good time to get started with the process that I will recommend. This process can work well with many shrubs, but the larger they are the riskier it becomes. I suggest you use a two-step process if you have the time available. In the first step, try to make a realistic estimate of how much soil you can leave around the root ball. The more you can leave, the greater your chance for success. But there is a limit to how much you can physically handle without specialized digging and lifting equipment.

Once this determination is made, use a long-pointed shovel to slice through the root system at the distance from the trunk you have determined you can handle. Push the shovel into the soil at least eight to 12 inches in a solid ring around the plant. Pry the soil apart at least a couple inches, but do not attempt to dig the plant out yet. This is much easier to accomplish and better for the plant if the ground is fairly wet which shouldn’t be a problem this year.

The reason to create the air gap is to allow root formation at the margin of the hole. When roots are sliced through they will form new branching roots at the point they are severed and those roots will not go across the air gap but will concentrate at the point they were cut. Allow these roots to grow for eight to 12 weeks before completing the transplant process. Mulch the area above the slit to prevent root damage from cold temperatures and keep the root ball moist particularly at the slit margin. One other thing to do at this time is to pull as many bloom buds off as possible. The idea here is to reduce the energy needs of the plant that would normally be used for flower and fruit formation and to redirect the energy toward root formation. However, do not prune at this time.

Go ahead and send off a soil test for the new location and make pH and other adjustments prior to moving the plant. Do not add any nitrogen at this time, even if the soil test recommends some additional nitrogen. You may find out more about soil testing by visiting or by calling your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System office.

When the time comes in January or February to complete the second step, measure the root ball and dig an appropriate-sized hole in the new location. Dig the same width, but loosen the soil at least a foot or more past the hole’s margin. Dig slightly less deep than the depth of the root ball you intend to keep around the old plant. If the plant is not too large to handle you may leave the top intact, but if pruning will be needed, do so prior to digging by making mostly thinning rather than heading cuts.

Use an old sheet or blanket to hold the root ball intact as much as possible and to make lifting easier. Invite some strong family or friends to help with this process because even a small root ball can be quite heavy. Wrap the root ball in the old sheet and tie it in place before attempting to move. Lift the plant by the root ball and not by the trunk.

Make a note and use some marking paint to indicate the orientation of the plant and try to replant with the same directional orientation. Make certain the plant is not set too deeply. It is much better to perch the plant up slightly higher than the soil grade and mound soil up to cover any exposed roots. After planting, water the plant thoroughly to firm the soil around the root ball and make certain you keep it well watered through the first summer and longer if needed.

Covering the entire plant with a shade cloth may be a good idea if the new location has more direct light or direct morning light hitting the lower trunk. Trunk splitting due to rapid thawing after a very cold night can do a lot of damage to cold-sensitive plants like camellias. That is one reason to orient the plant in the same general direction as it was previously. If covering the plant is too difficult use a trunk wrap to reflect light away from the plant and to provide some insulation from the cold.

For more tips on growing camellias visit the American Camellia Society at

Tony Glover is a Regional Extension Agent with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Retired Oneonta Fire Chief Now “Simply A Grass Farmer”

Promotes Benefits of His Natural, Forage Fed Angus

By Suzy Lowry Geno

"I’m just a grass farmer," Charles Montgomery explained with a laugh.

"Those black Angus cows are just a ‘value-added product’," he said of the grass-fed beef he now sells one-on-one to the public.

And someone looking out over the cattle munching happily on 65 acres Charles and his wife Connie own and the other 200 nearby they lease might think it’s as simple as Charles makes it sound.

But Charles approaches his farming and ranching with the same tenacious and carefully studied actions as he did during his more than half a century of dedication to fire and emergency medical services in the North Central Alabama area.

"It’s a balance of keeping the harmful weeds out," Charles explained. "Thistle is probably the worst."

Charles explained for non-farmers and ranchers the area’s thistle has a prickly spine and red or purple flowers. "Some people think those flowers are pretty, but they’re not pretty to me because each one has about a million seeds.

C&C Farms grass fed beef is taken directly to one of two local processors so custo-mers dictate the cuts of beef they want and pick up the beef directly as a finished product.

"We either dig them out or spot spray. Horses will eat it and it will kill them. It’s really important to eliminate."

Other problem weeds include fennel and what Charles said he’s always known as "dog grass and hog weed."

"We soil test all our fields," Charles explained. "We can either lime or do whatever we need to get the necessary pH and mineral content for healthy grass. Healthy grass means healthy cows."

"A good combination" is a mix of Bermuda, bahia, orchard grass, rye and clover.

"We drill the rye and clover in the fall. The clover and rye takes the nitrogen deep out of the ground and when the leaves fall it puts the nitrogen on top of the soil."

Some of the cattle raised on C&C Farms travel single file down the dividing fence line to get to the gate to eventually reach the picturesque pond.

While he relies on Paul Thompson and other experts with Quality Co-ops, both at the Oneonta store and statewide, for assistance in growing that better grass, he doesn’t have to buy any packaged feeds.

"I don’t buy any feed for my cows. I feed only grass, hay and salt.

"I feel grass fed beef is better for you," Charles explained. "It’s going back to the way the animals were fed naturally."

While some of the benefits may still be debated, forage conferences held jointly by Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service throughout the state seem to bear out Charles’ statements, as do other scientific studies.

Jake and Sugar’s latest offspring.

Consumer Reports cites studies by several scientific groups at noting grass fed beef "can have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids which may help reduce heart disease risk…. Grass fed beef usually now have more conjugated linoleic acid which might improve the immune system and help fight cancer, atherosclerosis and type-2 diabetes."

The website noted grass fed animals, while usually having "less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories," have "more vitamin E, beta carotene, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid."

Consumer Reports also notes other benefits of grass fed beef including "raising cattle on well-managed pastures can lessen erosion and boost soil fertility."

Charles and Connie bought their farm in 1999. It is the former Clarence Cornelius farm adjacent to Taits Gap in rural Blount County just across from the fertile Murphrees Valley where pioneers were first enticed to settle in Blount in the early and mid-1880s.

Older neighbors, Fred and Geraldine Cornelius, have proved vital in giving Charles advice and leasing additional lands to him.

Charles retired in 2006 after serving for 22 years as Oneonta’s Fire Chief, but that was his ‘second" retirement and just the crowning highlight of his service career.

Charles previously retired from Birmingham Fire and Rescue as a Lieutenant Fire Medic. He then went on to serve as the Riverside Police Chief for five years (in St. Clair County) and he and Connie operated a restaurant in Branchville there for three years.

When Charles came to Oneonta, there were only a handful of volunteer fire departments throughout Blount County and Oneonta’s department was struggling.

While he concentrated on building Oneonta’s fire and rescue service to the professional, well-respected and recognized organization it is today, he was vital in helping numerous volunteer fire and rescue squads throughout the county organize, bringing the total number of fire and rescue departments within the county up to 23.

Charles was vital in helping establish 911 service in Blount in 1993, with that group having a baptism by fire coming on line during the blizzard in March 1993.

He served multiple years as chairman of the Blount 911 Board, as President of the Blount Fire and EMS Association, and of Blount’s Hazardous Materials Team.

Connie continues to work as Manager One with the Blount County Salvation Army. She is also the former Disaster Coordinator for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi and worked days with little rest coordinating hurricane relief in past years.

Charles explained the drought of 2007 "put me out of the cow-calf business." He sold his two registered bulls and all of his cattle, but he hopes to begin that effort again along with his grass-fed beef endeavors.

"I love to watch the cows grow and mature," Charles explained. "And with the cow-calf it’s fun because it’s kind of like finding Easter eggs every time you find a new calf!"

Charles grew up around farming. His dad, John, now 90, bought a small farm in Blount in 1990 and now has goats, laying hens, catfish and other animals.

Jake and Sugar, two Great Pyrenees, help take care of the predator problem at C&C Farms, where coyotes are the number one problem.

C&C Farms bales hay on probably 75 acres each year in round and square bales.

While Charles was known throughout the Southeast as a fire and emergency medical service pioneer, always stressing the importance of well-trained firemen and medics whether at paid departments or as a volunteer, his approach to life is now less hectic.

It’s like the "eat wild" website explains of farmers of Charles’ ilk: "They raise great grass. The animals do the rest."

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Ol’ Merve hung too close to that champagne fountain at his niece’s wedding and got three sheets in the wind!"

What does "three sheets in the wind" mean?

It’s a sailor’s expression, from the days of sailing ships. You might think a sheet is a sail, but it’s actually a rope (always called a line in sailing terminology), or sometimes on really big ships a chain, which is attached to the bottom corner of a sail. The word actually comes from an Old English term for the corner of a sail. The sheets were as vital in the days of three-masted, square-rigged, sea-going ships as they are today, since they trim the sail to the wind. If they run loose, the sail flutters about in the wind and the ship wallows off its course out of control.

Extend this idea to sailors on shore leave, staggering back to the ship after a good night on the town, well-tanked up. The irregular and uncertain locomotion of these jolly tars must have reminded onlookers of the way a ship moved in which the sheets were loose. Perhaps one loose sheet might not have been enough to get the image across, so the speakers borrowed the idea of a three-masted sailing ship with three sheets loose, so the saying became three sheets in the wind.

Stocker Cattle Gains and Pasture Costs

by Dr. Don Ball

Auburn University scientists have conducted numerous steer grazing experiments involving various forage species. These studies have generally involved crossbred animals of similar breeding and weights, and were conducted over multiple years. Therefore, they provide a good basis for comparison of both the animal production potential and the production cost of various forage species commonly used in Alabama.

In the interest of providing a way to get a clearer view of the performance of stocker cattle on forages, performance criteria for stocker steers grazing the 37 different pasture treatments used in these Auburn University grazing studies were summarized from various research reports and articles. Subsequently, Auburn University 2008 budget estimates for the various forage species or species mixtures involved in these studies were used to determine both the approximate pasture costs per acre and the pasture costs per pound of gain. Notable points revealed include the following:

* The seven lowest total pasture costs per pound of gain and eight of the ten lowest total pasture costs per pound of gain involved legumes.

* Forage yield is an important economic factor, as evidenced by a study at the Wiregrass Station in which pasture costs per pound of gain for Coastal Bermudagrass were less than those of bahiagrass, and those for bahiagrass were less than those of common Bermuda-grass. The forage quality of these three is similar, so the primary difference in pasture cost per pound of gain was production per acre. Data from this test also indicate that application of nitrogen (N) is a more cost efficient practice (results in more dry matter production per pound of N applied) on some forages than on others.

* Coastal Bermudagrass overseeded with vetch was a lower-cost treatment than any of the other warm-season perennial grass treatments, which suggests overseeding a legume can be a cost effective practice.

* Use of a sorghum/sudangrass hybrid was a very expensive option. Both average daily gain and calendar days of grazing provided by this grass were low as compared to most other treatments.

* In general, the higher the percentage infection by toxic endophyte in tall fescue, the more costly the gains. For example, among treatments at a study at the Black Belt Station the total pasture cost per pound of gain was almost double ($1.12/lb vs $0.65/lb) in high versus low endophyte treatments.

* Adding legumes to either tall fescue or orchardgrass substantially lowered pasture cost per pound of gain. In fact, this management practice resulted in the lowest three pasture costs per pound of gain of the 37 forage alternatives evaluated.

* It appears both improved forage quality and reduction of the amount of fertilizer N used were factors in substantially lowering total pasture cost per pound of gain when forage legumes were included in pastures for stocker cattle. An important concept is stocker cattle producers who are able to increase animal performance via providing higher quality pasture and/or who are able to lower fertilizer inputs (with legumes or by other means) can achieve lower pasture costs per acre and lower costs per pound of gain.

* Of the 37 forage treatments, only five treatments had less than a $0.50 total cost per pound of gain. Careful assessment of performance and pasture cost per pound of gain are the crux of sound pasture decisions.

The data summarized pertains to stocker-steer tests. Nonetheless, it has some relevance to other types of livestock operations, as it should facilitate obtaining a better understanding of the relative level and duration of nutrition provided by these forage species and mixtures. The pasture cost values were calculated assuming the application of recommended management practices with commercially purchased inputs as reflected in 2008 Auburn University forage crop budgets. In addition, although pasture cost per pound of gain is an important measure of production efficiency, it is not the only factor affecting profit.

However, this exercise provides much insight regarding both the approximate levels of performance expected from various forage species or species combinations as well as the relative cost of using them in livestock production. The publication from which the information in this article was excerpted is available at

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

Sunny South Attracts Michigan Dairy Family

Neal Halsey gets the cows set for the morning milking.

By Jaine Treadwell

One nippy October night in Nashville, Michigan, the Halsey family milked 120 Jersey cows, loaded them into four semi-trucks and headed south to Alabama.

When the sun came up, the Halseys unloaded the cows for their morning milking in rural Pike County.

Marian Halsey and her sons, Stanley and Neal, laughingly admitted their story seems a bit farfetched, but it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The Last Burro

by Baxter Black, DVM

He was the last burro left in the dusty corral.

His two companions had been sold by the man. They were younger, stronger and finer looking even by burro standards, which are quite high. They were worth more and brought more money which was what the man needed.

Pickin’s were slim. Every evening the man would stake the last burro out down below the spring to graze. During the day, he went with the man and packed mud, water, rocks or wood.

One morning the man fed him a small bowl of grain. This continued for several days until the morning the man brushed him down, bobbed his tail and trimmed his long whiskers. Next thing he knew, the burro was blanketed and fit with a pack saddle. Two panyards were hung over the frame and a thick pad was laid between the forks.

The burro watched with his wise burro eyes as the man led the woman out to the hitch rail and gently lifted her up on his pack saddle. The man shouldered his own pack, picked up his walkin’ stick and clucked to the burro.

The burro was old, but he carried the load as easily as an old man milks a goat. From memory... automatic. As he walked down the road he passed his two younger, stronger companions. They were hitched to a water wheel and strained in their harness as they walked round and round. ‘Better this than that,’ thought the last burro.

They walked all day. It was the cool season, his hooves were hard as iron. The woman balanced well.

The second day the woman got off and walked a while. The man tied his pack on the saddle and they walked on. As the days went by, the woman got off more often and they’d stop to rest for a while.

They arrived in a town late one night. The man went in a house. The woman waited. Momentarily the man returned and led the burro around back to the stable. The burro was glad to get the saddle off. He was watered, tied in a far corner and fed some grass hay.

The burro watched as the man put a blanket in one of the stalls and laid the woman down. Time passed. Later in the night the woman walked out carrying a man-child and laid him in a hay manger.

The burro slept, as old men do, with one ear cocked. He saw the sheepmen come, he heard the singing. He’d heard it before. The burro had worked the sheep camps long ago.

Next morning the man fed and watered the burro and left. While he was gone, the woman picked up the man-child and brought him to the burro. She raised one of his tiny hands and stroked the burro’s soft nose. She, herself, patted the burro’s neck.

On the trip back home, the woman and man-child rode on the burro’s back.

As the years went by, the woman would bring the growing man-child out to the corral and hold him up or set him on the burro’s back. She would talk man-talk to the child. And when the burro got too old to work, the man-child would come, stroke his nose and give him a handful of grain.

One day the burro could no longer get up. He became frightened. The woman and the grown young man came to the corral and held his head in their laps. They patted his rough coat and stroked his soft nose. Eventually the burro closed his eyes. He felt a teardrop on his face. It was the last thing he ever felt.

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,

We Have Wild Poinsettias in Alabama

Wild Poinsettia

by Kenn Alan

There’s one big patch of garden area here at the Tomato Tower that seems to get absolutely covered in weeds every year. They start growing in the eastern-edge tomato and butterfly bush beds in mid-July and, if left un-maintained, grow to between 15 and 30 inches tall by early November! It’s really a cool looking plant and butterflies seem to enjoy them, so I decided to study them a little closer this year and see if I could find an affinity for these little invaders.

The plant I am speaking of is the Mexican Fire Plant (Euphorbia heterophylla) or wild poinsettia. It is native to Mexico, but scientists believe - and the USDA claims - this plant is also native to the contiguous United States.

The wild poinsettia is a close cousin to the familiar ‘Poinsettia’ (Euphorbia pulcherrima) commonly purchased for their festive red color during the late-fall, early-winter holiday season.

The wild poinsettia grows in zones 9b through 11 as a perennial, but will grow as a self-seeding annual through zone 7b. (This data is from personal observation and does not harmonize with other documentations.)

This plant is resistant to most herbicides and is considered to be invasive in many states, but has not appeared on the Federal Noxious Weeds List as of the latest update. The simplest way to control this plant is to manually pull it before the flowers mature and produce the fruits.

Upon my close observation of this weed for the last two years and after having spent many hours pulling and composting the little buggers, I have decided to embrace it as a wildflower and keep it under control in one of my planting beds.

It really is quite beautiful with its intense green foliage and orange to scarlet red accents on the upper leaves.

It has a cyathium or false flower in the top center of the leaves that produces the fruits. Collect these fruits after they mature on the plant for seeds.

Happy Winter Solstice, Everybody!

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook. E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> with questions and other gardening topics. For more gardening tips, log on to Home Grown Tomatoes at

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