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December 2014

4-H Extension Corner: Leaders of Tomorrow


2014-15 State Council at 4-H Youth and Development Center in Columbiana. From left to right, front row, are Joy Maxwell (State Council Advisor), Taylor Parker (State Council Vice-President), Mary Matthews (State Council Secretary), Emily Long, Olivia Byrd (State Council President) and Ronni Rena Brasher (State Council Advisor); second row, Elle Clark, Miller Kinstley, Kayla Mitchell , Paige Wilbanks, Kirsten Holt (State Council Advisor) and Delaney Davenport; back row, Dr. Paul Brown, (Associate director of Extension), Doug Summerford (State Council Advisor), Andrew Williamson, Jonathan Hart and Dr. Gary Lemme, (Director of Extension).

Alabama 4-H State Council prepares youth to become meaningful members of their communities.

by Joy Maxwell

The Alabama 4-H State Council program provides opportunities for youth to represent 4-H through leadership and citizenship that contributes meaningfully to their communities. The 2014-2015 Alabama 4-H State Council is composed of approximately 13 energetic and positive high school students who act as ambassadors for Alabama 4-H. The 4-H State Council often meets with 4-H county youth councils and regional councils as well as 4-H groups in their local areas, region and state.

State council members are selected by completing an application through their 4-H foundation agent and also an interview process with state council advisors. The youth meet several times during the year at the Alabama 4-H Center, via conference and social media. During the face-to-face meetings, they get to know each other through team building activities, retreat planning and promoting 4-H around Alabama. State 4-H events and leadership workshops also keep the council very active.

This year’s officers are Olivia Byrd, Marion County, president; Taylor Parker, Cherokee County, vice president; and Mary Matthews, Jefferson County, secretary. Other members include Caitlyn Barnhill, Escambia County; Tyler Barrett, Cullman County; Elle Clark, Marshall County; Delaney Davenport, Pike County; Jonathan Hart, Russell County; Miller Kinstley, Shelby County; Emily Long, Dale County; Kayla Mitchell, Covington County; Paige Wilbanks, Lauderdale County; and Andrew Williamson, Morgan County.

4-H State Council by region.

State Council President Byrd stated, "I am honored to be the 2014-2015 Alabama 4-H State Council President. 4-H has given me so many incredible opportunities, and I am humbled to finally be able to give something back. It is very rewarding to share my leadership skills and creativity with a group of such outstanding young people, who in return have helped me continue to grow and learn in this program as well."

The state council has five advisors who provide guidance and leadership to the council members as they prepare for events and activities. The advisors are Ronni Rena Brasher, Sarah Butterworth, Kirsten Holt, Doug Summerford and myself, Joy Maxwell.

It gives me great honor to work with outstanding and energetic 4-H State council members. The advisers and I allow the council members to use their leadership skills and creative minds to plan and coordinate Mid-Winter and other 4-H activities. Each of the council members showcases great leadership and citizenship skills throughout their community and state.

One of their major responsibilities is planning the annual 4-H Mid-Winter Teen Leadership Retreat held at the Alabama 4-H Center every February. The council members take the lead in planning the event from the theme to the decorations. The 2015 theme is "Futuristic Galaxy!" The event will take place Feb. 6-8, 2015.

"Our state council members amaze me with their energy and commitment to engage Alabama’s youth in positive experiences. They truly exemplify the essential elements of 4-H: Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery," Summerford said.

The council members also prepare the annual statewide 4-H community service project. In the past, the council members have focused on Alabama’s Ronald McDonald houses as their main community service project. Each county would collect items such as paper plates, toothpaste, coloring books and much more. The items were divided between the Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham Ronald McDonald houses.

This year’s community service project is school supplies. 4-H members will collect school supplies and donate them to the school of their choice in their county. The council members truly enjoy giving back by helping other 4-H members across the state learn the value of leadership and community service.

As part of the 4-H Centennial Youth Initiative, the state council members will be called 4-H Ambassadors starting July 2015. The youth will have the same responsibilities, but their current uniform will change to Kelly green blazers, black slacks, black skirts and a bow tie. The current State Council members are really excited about the new changes with the new name for state council and attire. If you are interested in learning more about Alabama 4-H, please view the 4-H website at www.alabama4h.com.

Joy Maxwell is the 4-H Youth Development Citizenship and Leadership Specialist.

A Labor of Love for the Long Term


Salem and Dianne Saloom are proud of the honor bestowed on them for their forest management abilities.

by Alvin Benn

Dr. Salem Saloom may not see himself as a "Renaissance Man," but medical, missionary and environmental endeavors would certainly seem to define him that way.

A man of many talents, he isn’t averse to trying something new and his track record is filled with successes that have earned him state and national recognition.

After a long career as a general surgeon, Saloom shifted gears to become one of Alabama’s most honored landowners often cited as one of the state’s leading stewards of natural resources.

Toss in his involvement with "Samaritan’s Purse," a worldwide medical missionary organization, and it’s easy to see that, at the age of 66, he isn’t about to try out any rocking chairs in the near future.

He and his wife Dianne became involved in forestry 30 years ago when they bought 120 acres and slowly increased it to where, today, they have 2,200 acres to manage in rural Conecuh County, not far from Evergreen.

Salem and Dianne Saloom were the recipients of Private Landowner Award for Longleaf Restoration presented in DC at Celebration of Longleaf Restoration Initiative on July 22, 2014.

They still live in Brewton, but have made their Conecuh property a second home. They try to spend as much time as they can surrounded by splendid rustic settings.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan is one of Saloom’s many admirers and praises him for using the family’s farm for multiple purposes.

"It’s as good a model as can be found when it comes to using a farm for recreation, hunting and timber production," McMillan said. "Dr. Saloom knows that timber can be and should be a long-term investment, not a quick source of revenue."

One look at Saloom’s membership in organizations and committees and it’s easy to understand the importance he attaches to being involved in relevant activities in the state. A good example? He’s the current chairman of the Alabama Forestry Commission.

The good feeling he always got from caring for his patients has been extended to his love of the great outdoors. In a way, all those trees and wildlife on their property are part of their family.

"If you plant a lot of trees and don’t do anything to care for them, by walking away you are doing a disservice not only to your property but your state as well," he said.

Public service has always been a trait of the Saloom family ever since Salem’s grandfather left Lebanon in 1918 to begin a new life in America. He settled in Enterprise where he was successful in the mercantile business.

His family’s department store flourished until the Depression in 1929 when loyal customers, unable to pay their bills because of the times, left it with $50,000 in unpaid purchases.

The Salooms were the recipients of the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s 2010 Governor’s Forest Conservationist Award.

The Salooms showed how much their new country meant to them and, instead of legal action against their customers, forgave their debts, an altruistic action that endeared them to everyone in the community.

"Lebanese are a resourceful people and my relatives were able to recover from that period and become successful again," Saloom said.

Good management is the key to success in any venture, whether it involves retail stores or agriculture, and Dr. Saloom applied that principle to his medical clinic as well as his farm.

Development of a proper habitat was one of the first things he did at his Conecuh County farm because, "if you are dedicated to thinning, replanting and prescribed burning, it’s a good thing."

He first focused on loblolly trees, but, in recent years, has been transitioning to longleaf pines. The latter require more time to mature, but, in his opinion, are better for the environment.

Loblollies’ mushrooming popularity in the South became so prevalent that longleaf trees appeared to be on the verge of becoming an endangered species, so Saloom is doing his part to save them.

"You can cry in your beer or make lemonade out of lemons," he said. "Longleafs may not grow as fast as loblollies, but they have a better root system and can survive droughts much better than loblollies. In many ways, they are just better."

Saloom is a man of action who isn’t afraid to pursue a dream if he feels it’s the right thing to do. Such was the case when he wanted to annex 40 acres to his property in Conecuh County. The property was purchased from 36 heirs.

"It took 18 months to complete that transaction," he recalled. "It all goes back to vision. If you don’t have it, you just lie down and die. That’s not the way I am."

One of his proudest accomplishments occurred in 1989 when he cut his first stand of trees. He celebrated by using part of the proceeds from the timber sale to buy a new wedding ring for Dianne.

In recent years, he’s been involved in more than a dozen important agencies, ranging from the American Tree Farm System to the Longleaf Alliance, from the Alabama Treasure Forest Association to the State Tree Farm Committee.

Salem and Dianne, along with their son Patrick, were named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 2010 and were saluted before 350 woodland owners in Vermont.

"Their tree farm work is a labor of love and faith," said the organization in a statement honoring them. "Their motives are unselfish and they have put forest management to work in a big way."

Whenever Salem and Dianne feel like getting a panoramic view of their property and the wildlife inhabiting it, they climb a Depression era fire tower they disassembled and moved to their property.

They can climb it in about 90 seconds for a spectacular view not only of their farm but miles around. Few Alabamians have a 110-foot fire tower in their backyard, but the Salooms do and marvel at it each time they gaze up to the top.

The state didn’t charge them for the tower, but the couple incurred the cost associated with moving it from Baldwin County and providing deep footings to keep it upright.

"We took it apart piece by piece in 4 to 5 days and put it together over a two-week period," he explained. "It’s like brand new."

Aware of the significance of the galvanized steel tower built about 80 years ago, he has had it listed in the National Historic Register.

"Dr. Saloom is very knowledgeable about forestry and is doing a great job down in Conecuh County," said Alabama State Forester Greg Pate. "It’s hard to find an empty date on his calendar, but he always finds time to speak with me on various issues regarding our state’s forests."

What impresses him the most about the Salooms is their stewardship of natural resources because "they care about the land and are doing all they can to preserve it."

Salem is a committed environmentalist because he sees much more than slow-growing longleaf trees when he and Dianne take a stroll through their forest.

"They may take longer to grow, but you can enjoy them along the way," he said of his longleafs. "Then, there’s the hunting and the aesthetics. You can’t beat what we’ve got here."

What Alabama got was much more than pine trees. It’s got a man who has, through his medical and forestry efforts, generously repaid the state many times what it provided the Saloom family nearly a century ago.

The big event is only 4 years away and, no doubt, he and Dianne might just celebrate by taking another stroll through their fabulous forest.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

A Logger's Way of Life: Sustainable Forestry


Forests provide a way of life for John McGowin, Alabama’s 2014 Outstanding Logger of the Year.

John McGowin, owner of McGowin Logging Co., Inc., was recently named by the Alabama Forestry Association and the Alabama Loggers Council as the 2014 Alabama Outstanding Logger of the Year.

by Ashley Smith

Alabama grows green – timberland covers approximately 23 million acres of the state. Driving from the capitol of Montgomery down through the southern part of the state, trees grow along the roadside and all throughout the region. In the heart of this forested country, John McGowin makes his home. The forest provides a way of life for him in his profession as a logger. Alabama’s forests are where McGowin has lived, worked and played for 60 years. He believes it is important to properly care for the land so that it can continue to provide for future generations.

Becoming a logger was a natural fit for McGowin. As the grandson of a logger, McGowin grew up in the woods and as an adult worked for 15 years as a harvest operations manager for Union Camp. In his job with Union Camp, he managed timberland and oversaw 20 logging crews for the subsidiary Rocky Creek Logging Company. He spent those years learning the ins and outs of forestry. When Union Creek disbanded Rocky Creek Logging Company and did away with McGowin’s job, he saw the opportunity to switch gears and go into logging on his own.

Forest Management

McGowin was familiar with forestry as a renewable resource because of his background. When American Forest and Pulp Association initiated the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, training and education for loggers was a key component of the program. Still in the very early stages of his own logging career, McGowin realized the relevance of SFI. In 1994, he became one of Alabama’s first loggers to earn Alabama’s Professional Logging Manager status and has maintained its yearly requirements ever since.

While John and Sylvia McGowin grow a variety of trees, John is especially fond of the twin white oaks in their front yard.

In his harvest operations, McGowin clearcuts or thins according to the needs/requests of the landowner. Although he does work directly with a few landowners, McGowin spends most of his operating time working with Resource Management Service, a private timberland investment firm. Since RMS owns former International Paper timberland, McGowin is now harvesting tracts he once managed for Union Camp years ago! On each tract he logs, he performs an analysis of the tract and closely follows the contract, whether with an individual landowner or with RMS. McGowin performs roadwork, entry and closing on jobs for individual landowners; RMS handles road closures on their tracts. He keeps a dozer onsite and at the ready. Through the years, McGowin has seen firsthand the importance of properly following forestry best management practices.

Safety

Safety proves an important feature in McGowin’s operations. Safety discussions occur in the woods with reminders coming at any time. The crew starts each day and ends each day together, all taking time off for a morning "cookie break" and lunchtime. These opportunities allow for safety discussions as well as anything else pertaining to the tract. On an annual basis, McGowin hosts a full day of safety, professionalism and educational opportunities. His insurance company discusses safety and updates on new regulations. Emergency and first aid training is provided by a field professional. A number of people in the forestry community attend McGowin’s annual meeting that typically qualifies for continuing education credits for loggers as well as foresters.

McGowin realizes that exposure for safety issues happens in all areas of the job, especially on the road with his trucks. He chose to install in-woods scales on all of his trucks to ensure that trailers carry a safe yet efficient load of fiber to the mills.

"We all get behind log trucks at times," McGowin explained. "I want my family safe on the road, too."

Business Management

All accounting, payroll, cost analysis and recordkeeping are handled within the McGowin Logging office. Bookkeeper Lisa Lowe works to assist McGowin with these responsibilities. Lowe also works for McGowin’s cousin and silent business partner Mason McGowin.

With 18 employees, McGowin realizes the importance of every person on the job. He also believes co-workers make a difference in whether someone wants to go to work. His crew members share similar beliefs, and many are close to the same age. They enjoy working together.

"I am proud of my crew," McGowin said.

McGowin also shared that it is important to "come out here and work hard, go home and say our prayers, and come back out here tomorrow and do it again."

McGowin hires experienced and dedicated equipment operators and truck drivers, who all understand the objective of the harvest or thinning and will respond to requests to get the job done.

Beyond the Job

Through the years, McGowin has been an active member of the Alabama Loggers Council and the Alabama Forestry Association. His knowledge of the area and the forest business brings credibility and years’ worth of experience to any timber discussion. He actively participates in area Log-A-Load events benefiting Alabama’s Children’s Hospitals.

McGowin spends many hours on the job with McGowin Logging, but realizes the need to take time away from work as well. In the spring, he likes to get into the woods to call turkeys. He and his wife Sylvia enjoy time spent together, at home or traveling. One of their favorite pastimes is working in their yard, tending to and nurturing the variety of trees growing there. White oak, live oak, post oak and red oak thrive. Other trees benefitting from the couple’s green thumbs include hickory, bald cypress, pine, magnolia and even red mulberry.

"I have about 100 trees behind the house that have been pruned and fertilized," McGowin shared. "Eventually, I will get back there and take out some of the understory so that those trees can grow without competition."

As he talks about his trees, it is evident that this man enjoys Alabama’s forests, forests that truly provide a place for him to live, work and play.

Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Women’s share of farm operations varies widely by type of enterprise

Women are the principal operators of nearly 14 percent of U.S. farms, but their share varies widely by farm specialization.

Census of agriculture figures show women operate a disproportionately large portion of sheep/goat farms and other livestock farms, three-quarters of which are horse farms. Farms in these two categories tend to be small, with 46 percent of sheep/goat farms and 57 percent of other livestock farms having sales less than $1,000, compared with only 20 percent of all U.S. farms.

Establishments of this size qualify as farms under USDA’s definition because they have sufficient acres of crops or head of livestock to indicate they could normally have $1,000 or more in sales.

On the other hand, 1 percent of farms with a woman principal operator (2,486 farms) have sales of $1 million or more.

USDA expands microloan eligibility, increases lending limits

The USDA has acted to improve farm loans by expanding eligibility and increasing lending limits to help more beginning and family farmers.

As part of the effort, USDA has raised the borrowing limit for the microloan program from $35,000 to $50,000; simplified the lending processes; updated "farming experience" requirements to include other valuable experiences; and expanded eligible business entities to reflect changes in the way family farms are owned and operated. The changes became effective in November.

In addition to farm-related experience, other types of skills that may be considered to meet the direct farming experience required for farm loan eligibility include operation or management of a non-farm business, leadership positions while serving in the military or advanced education in an agricultural field.

U.S. ag co-ops set sales record, post job growth

The nation’s farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives set a new sales record in 2013 with total business volume of more than $246 billion. That surpasses the previous record set in 2012 by $8 billion, a 4 percent gain. U.S. co-ops also enjoyed robust job growth over the previous year.

This third consecutive year of record sales by farmer cooperatives reflects increased sales in the overall farm economy in 2013. U.S. crop production and livestock sales both increased 6 percent in 2013, while production input (farm supply) sales increased 2 percent.

Ag co-ops also enjoyed record net income (before taxes) of $6.2 billion, besting the previous high of $6.1 billion set in 2012. Co-op income is either reinvested in the co-op for needed improvements or returned to the member-owners. It then circulates in local communities.

The number of full-time employees working for ag co-ops climbed by almost 7,000 in 2013 to 136,000, up 5 percent from 2012. Counting seasonal employees, ag co-ops employ 191,000 people.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the sales and net income records, combined with strong gains in employee numbers, underscore the strength and productivity of the nation’s farmer- and rancher-owned cooperatives.

"These co-ops play a vital and growing role in the nation’s economy," Vilsack said.

Decline in crop returns, big gains in livestock receipts expected

Crop receipts are expected to decline 7 percent in 2014, the second annual decrease following a record high in 2012. Conversely, record livestock prices are projected to drive a 15.3 percent increase in livestock cash receipts.

Even with record corn production projected, cash receipts for corn are expected to decline by more than 20 percent due to a 32 percent decrease in the annual average corn price. Declines in receipts are also expected for most other major crops including fruits and nuts, wheat, soybeans and vegetables/melons.

A notable exception is cotton that is projected to recover from a significant decline in 2013.

Despite expected declines in beef production, cattle/calves receipts are expected to set a record in 2014 due to higher prices.

Hog production also is expected to decline, but higher expected annual average prices will drive the forecast increase in hog cash receipts.

Wholesale milk and broiler receipts are expected to benefit from higher production and record annual average prices.

Global stocks of major crops rising

Global stocks of major crop commodities are forecast to expand in the 2014/15 marketing year, with total supplies of wheat, rice, corn and soybeans completing a recovery from the relatively low levels that preceded the 2008 spike in world crop prices.

Record U.S. crops of corn and soybeans, along with good harvests by some other major producing countries, are forecast to push both U.S. and global stocks of these commodities to record levels.

World wheat stocks also are forecast to rise based on the outlook for record or near-record harvests by major foreign producers including China, the EU, India and the former Soviet Union.

While world rice stocks are forecast below peak levels of the early 2000s, good harvests and ample stocks are expected across the major producing regions in Asia.

As noted, the supply outlook is expected to lead to generally lower commodity prices.

Farms engaged in agritourism often have other nontraditional activities

Farms providing agritourism services typically produce other agricultural commodities and may provide a variety of other goods and services, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Agritourism involves attracting paying visitors to farms by offering tours, harvest festivals, hospitality services (such as bed and breakfast), petting zoos and other attractions. Some agritourism farms also engage in direct marketing of fresh foods to individual consumers and/or retailers, value-added agriculture (such as the production of beef jerky, fruit jams, jelly, preserves, cider, wine and floral arrangements), generating renewable energy and custom work (such as machine hire and hauling for other farms).

All of these are considered nontraditional or niche activities involving innovative uses of farm resources.

While these nontraditional activities complement conventional farm operations, research suggests they also reflect higher levels of education and connections to the broader economy that are more typical of agritourism farm operators.

Ag exports hit another record high

The USDA has released its final total for U.S. agricultural exports in Fiscal Year 2014 and the figures show another record.

Export sales soared to $152.5 billion, up from last year’s record of $141 billion.

U.S. agricultural exports have risen 41 percent in value over the past 5 years and have increased in volume as well. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the gains demonstrate "an increasing global appetite for high-quality, American-grown products."

Ag Producers Front and Center

Information on leading producers presented at American Society of Agricultural Consultants annual meeting.

by Jim Erickson

The characteristics and practices of the nation’s top agricultural producers were front and center at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Agricultural Consultants when Jeanne Bernick, an editor of Top Producer magazine, reviewed information her publication has gathered about their readers and commercial farms in general.

Among other things, commercial farms with annual sales of $250,000 or more are just 12 percent of all farm numbers, but they account for 89 percent of the dollar volume of all farm production.

Those percentages vary considerably by commodity, but a clearer picture of the economic impact of larger operations emerges from figures measuring farm production expenditures. For example, from 2001 to 2012:

Annual farm production expenditures increased more than 80 percent, with commercial farms accounting for all of the growth.

Ag chemical expenditures grew 59 percent, with commercial farms again accounting for all of the increase.

Commercial farms also were responsible for almost all of the near tripling of fertilizer, lime and soil conditioner expenditures, and the more than 100 percent rise in both seed and plant and farm equipment expenditures.

This year’s drop in the prices of many commodities will have a major impact on many of those farming operations, Bernick said. And while earlier good years could have led to a healthy increase in working capital adequate to weather the downturn, many producers reinvested the higher income from that period as a tax avoidance strategy.

However, research from a sampling of Top Producer readers late this summer provided indicators of how these farmers manage their operations in a volatile environment. According to Bernick, survey findings from this producer group included the following:

Twenty-two percent have more than one enterprise and use diverse entities as a way of spreading risk. Bernick cited as examples a producer who farms 20,000 acres in 11 states, one with 30,000 acres in Illinois and Brazil, and one with 12,000 acres in row crops as well as hog, cattle and dairy operations.

One third reported their farm/ranch has purchased or leased more land during the past year and 22 percent said they will do the same next year.

Thirty percent expect their acreage to increase by at least 15 percent in the next 5 years. Anticipated acreage growth increases with size; those with $1 million or more in revenue anticipate a 37 percent jump in acreage.

More and more rely on technology as a tool for higher yields, with nearly 70 percent owning or leasing yield monitors, 38 percent using variable-rate controllers and/or 32 percent employing satellite guidance systems.

Other yield-increasing investments planned in 2015 include drainage, irrigation, nitrogen management and scouting.

While 63 percent still use local banks, the number using agri-finance institutions as a lending source is growing.

Bernick added the sample group shares many of the same concerns that other business operators have such as regulation and other government pressures, risk management and profitability, succession planning, identifying opportunities for growth and employee management.

The survey also had good news for the ASAC group. Leading producers recognize they need help and, during the past 3 years, have hired outside consultants to assist them in various ways. Areas in which expertise has been sought include accounting, 46 percent; crop protection, 36 percent; marketing, 26 percent; scouting, 24 percent; succession plans, 16 percent; and human resources, 11 percent.

America’s Aging Farm Population

from Alabama A&M University

Right now, the American farming population is aging, and new farmers aren’t getting in:

- Half of all current farmers and ranchers are likely to retire in the next decade;

- Farmers and ranchers over age 55 control more than half of U.S. farmland;

- Number of entry-level farmers and ranchers has fallen by 30 percent since 1987; and

- New farmers make up only 10 percent of farmers and ranchers.

What happens when these aging farmers and ranchers are no longer working the land? Their lands concentrate in bigger and bigger and bigger operations, and we lose our family farms and ranches and our rural communities.

What makes it hard for beginners? Several factors make it difficult for new farmers and ranchers to get started and become profitable:

- Limited access to land.

- High cost of land, especially large parcels needed for conventional production systems.

- High cost of production technologies.

- Small scale of operations unsuited to conventional production systems and markets.

- Limited resources, financing opportunities, and financing eligibility.

- Increasing demand for business skills.

Given these challenges, new farmers and ranchers have different needs from their established counterparts. Many programs administered by the Small Farms Research Center in the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences at Alabama A&M University address these unique needs. The Center is also particularly interested in addressing and meeting the needs of veterans in Alabama who are interested in farming or ranching. The Center and its staff have extensive experience working and assisting limited-resource and socially disadvantaged beginning farmers and ranchers in Alabama. Center Director Dr. Duncan M. Chembezi has served and continues to serve on USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee. Please visit and navigate through our web portal at www.aamu.edu/smallfarmscenter to learn more about our programs and services; and how our work can help you in your farming business. You may also reach us at 1-866-858-4970 – toll free.

Bad-Day Reminder


Christy Kirk remembers her Grandma Helen Smith, far left, very fondly, especially at holidays.

by Christy Kirk

BOOMPH! It was dark and traffic was heavy as I drove Rolley Len and Cason home from school. Honestly, at the time a "boomph" sounded much better to me than some of the alternative sounds: crunch, crash, shatter or splat. I looked into the side mirror. "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." Yes, they were.

It was one of those moments where you can do nothing but stop in your tracks. On this busy evening, we were headed to pick up a rare, but much desired, pizza and then take it with us to church for my women’s Bible study. Traffic was bad, and it seemed as if it took forever to get the 7 miles around Shug Jordan. I had driven from their school and waited at the curve linking Shug Jordan to S. College. And then, BOOMPH!

All of the things you have to do or want to do gets put on hold. Although the damage might appear minimal in the dark, you never know. So, instead of hurrying off to our next destination, we pulled over and waited for the police to arrive. Rolley Len and Cason were curious about what would happen next. I realized this time spent on the side of the road didn’t have to be a waste. They had lots of questions: Who bumped us? What are they driving? Can I see the damage? Where are the policemen?

Both Rolley Len and Cason have always been inquisitive, especially while in the car, but I saw that, although this experience was very frustrating for me, it was new and extremely interesting to them. As a parent and a teacher, I have had to learn how to turn down my own tension level so it doesn’t affect everyone else in my vicinity. My bad day or bad luck may be an opportunity for me or someone else to have a "slow down moment."

Getting bumped on the road and seeing the now familiar phrase "objects in mirror are closer than they appear" made me think of my mom’s mother Helen Smith. I believe it was in the late 1970s when this warning phrase began being printed on all passenger-side convex car mirrors. I remember riding in my Grandma Helen’s new, big, black car, and we saw the printed words on the right-side mirror.

Back then Jenny and I both sat in the front seat, me in the middle because I was younger and, of course, without seatbelts. As children, Jenny and I looked into the convex mirror and laughed at how ridiculously obvious the words seemed. Now I can’t imagine not having Rolley Len and Cason in their booster seats with seatbelts secured. But I think about riding in the car with Grandma Helen and I remember feeling safe and special. Safe because I was in the middle between her and my sister, and special because we were not relegated to the backseat.

As the Christmas season gets closer, I feel lucky to have been reminded of my Grandma Helen in such a seemingly random way. I already make my Grandma Rhodes’ dressing for Thanksgiving, so this year I am going to make some of Grandma Helen’s recipes at Christmas. I want to share some of her favorite appetizers, sides and desserts with you with the hope that my bad-day reminder will help make your next meal feel special. I hope for every frustrating slow-down moment you may experience during the holidays that your joyful moments are multiplied. Merry Christmas!

Creamed Corn

Shuck fresh corn. Boil it for about 10 minutes. Reserve the juices. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Add corn to the reserved juice. Add flour and stir. Add bacon grease for flavor. Cook until thickened and add salt, pepper and butter to taste.

Fruitcake Cookies

1 cup margarine, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
2 Tablespoons vanilla
3½ cups self-rising flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
7 cups pecans, chopped
6 slices candied red, green and yellow pineapple, chopped
½ pound red and green candied cherries, chopped
2 cups dates, chopped
2 cups sweetened golden raisins

Cream margarine and brown sugar in mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Beat well. Sift flour, baking soda and cinnamon together. Add to batter and mix well. Stir in pecans, pineapple, cherries, dates and raisins. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 300° for 20-30 minutes or until edges are brown. Cool for several minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes around 120 cookies.

Grandma Helen-Style Cheese Ball

16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (8 ounce) container chive and onion cream cheese

1 teaspoon paprika, plus more for coating ball

½ teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until blended. Cover and chill 4 hours or until mixture is firm enough to be shaped. Shape mixture into a ball. Smooth surface with a frosting spatula or table knife. Roll the cheese ball in a plate of paprika until the entire outer ball is covered. Wrap cheese ball in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator up to 2 days.

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

Be a Better Hunter With Moonrise-Moonset Times

Hunting Heritage Foundation releases 3rd Edition “Alabama Hunting & Fishing Almanac.”

by Corky Pugh

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is happy to announce the publication and distribution of the "2014-2015 Alabama Hunting & Fishing Almanac." Twenty-four thousand copies of the Almanac were published in partnership with the Alabama State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Alabama Farmers Cooperative. AFC and H. T. Hackney Co. have distributed the Almanac to over 500 retail outlets across the state for free giveaway to customers.

The Almanac is now also available electronically at www.huntingheritagefoundation.com or through a major partner, www.classifiedsforhunters.com, an innovative Internet-based shopping venue for hunters. The publication may be downloaded for free at either site. Another major partner, Great Days Outdoors Magazine, has sent the Almanacelectronically to subscribers as a free bonus issue.

The Alabama State Chapter of NWTF provided major funding for the Almanac as a part of NWTF’s "Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt." initiative. This initiative recognizes all the good habitat work undertaken by NWTF and others is for naught unless we also work to sustain the broad base of hunters.

As NWTF CEO George Thornton put it, "The past has proven we won’t have sustainable wildlife habitat unless hunters are involved. Hunters pay for 80 percent of the budgets for state wildlife agencies that drive the research and work to restore essential habitat for game and nongame species."

To learn more about this two-pronged initiative, go to www.nwtf.org/STH2. This laudable direction on the part of NWTF helps to move the entire hunting community out of the single-focus approach so prevalent in the past.

Also of note is that NWTF has reached across species-specific lines at the national level, signing a memorandum of understanding with Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, organizations that share a common vision.

This is the kind of synergistic leadership needed if hunting is to remain strong. Only by casting aside the parochial, competitive ways of the past, and adopting collaborative, cooperative ways can we overcome the obstacles confronting us.

The "Hunting & Fishing Almanac" is made possible through just such collaboration. With the help of NWTF, AFC and H. T. Hackney Co., we are pleased to be able to provide this ready-reference guide to hunting and fishing to retailers to give to their customers free. This partnership results in getting the Almanac in the hands of rank and file hunters and fishermen through hundreds of stores at the local level. Classifieds for Hunters and Great Days Outdoors have greatly expanded the reach of the Almanac by making it available electronically.

The moonrise-moonset times in the Almanaccan be used to determine the best times to hunt deer. According to Tom Hayes, who wrote "How to Hunt the Whitetail Deer," "Except for a brief early-morning and late-evening feeding period, the whitetail normally gets up with the moon and lies down with the moon.

"Though hunting is generally poorest at the time of the full moon and is generally best when the night is totally dark; at all times – during favorable weather – when the moon rises during the daylight hours, the days will be above average for hunting while at those times when the moon rises during the hours of darkness hunting will produce below average results."

For example, the week of Christmas 2014 should be a prime time to hunt. It is the dark of the moon, and the moon rises during the daylight hours all week. So if you have some time off for Christmas, this year should offer excellent hunting opportunities – if the weather will cooperate.

The Almanac, in its third year of publication, is a 32-page, calendar-based guide to hunting and fishing seasons and regulations. The user-friendly text has proven popular with all kinds of hunters, the avid and not-so-avid. Every hunter counts the same in paying for management and protection of wildlife resources enjoyed by all of society. This is why it is so important to keep the base of hunters broad.

An additional 1,000 copies of the Almanachave been custom-printed for other businesses such as Finchburg Grocery, Great Days Outdoors and Gettin’ Outdoors Radio with Big Daddy Lawler.

The corporate citizenship displayed by H. T. Hackney Co., AFC and other partners is a real asset. Keeping people hunting and fishing not only pays for putting conservation enforcement officers and biologists on the ground and in the water but it drives a huge economic engine.

Hunting amounts to a $1.8 billion economic impact annually in Alabama. Freshwater fishing adds another $780 million. The two activities are responsible for $1.7 billion in direct retail expenditures, spinning off $155 million in state and local taxes every year in Alabama.

To learn more about the role hunters play, go to www.huntingheritagefoundation.com.

Corky Pugh is theexecutive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for, go to the website at huntingheritagefoundation.com. You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">corkypugh@mindspring.com.

Committing to a Clean Campus

LaDonia Elementary takes recycling seriously.

by Jamie Mitchell

LaDonia Elementary School has partnered this year for the first time with Alabama PALS and the Clean Campus Program! I spent a day with over 500 students from first to sixth grades teaching them about littering, recycling and creative ways to reuse household items. The students learned that half of all litter is unintentional, so it is always very important to be aware of any trash or wrappers that could easily become unintentional litter. They also learned that people who litter in Alabama can be fined up to $500 for their ways.

LaDonia is taking their new commitment to be a "clean campus" very seriously by installing a new recycling center on campus. The students are learning what can and can’t be recycled, and are constantly looking for more opportunities to be greener and take better care of their campus. At the direction of their teachers Tina Bussey, Kathy Hornsby and Connie Carpenter, LaDonia is looking to have a very active presence as a participant in the Clean Campus Program.

If a school in your area is interested in participating in the Clean Campus Program, please have them contact me at 334-263-7737. Our poster and essay competitions are a great way to get students interested in making Alabama more beautiful, and, with a $250 prize attached, the students get really excited to participate! Remember, there is no cost to participate in the program, so give me a call today!

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Cooking Ahead Safely

by Angela Treadaway

Gathering round the table for a special meal with family and friends can be a source of joy and feed both body and soul. Cooking late into the night before your meal, however, can greatly diminish the pleasures of the table. Cooking too far ahead can decrease the quality and safety of your food.

Here are some tips to put the focus back on family and friends rather than frenzied (and possibly unsafe) food preparation.

Begin by limiting the number of foods you serve to a few favorites

For example, do you need two (or more) desserts? Remember: desserts spelled backwards is S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D.

Unless food will be frozen, it’s safest to start preparing most perishable foods no more than a day before a meal. For example:

Assemble a vegetable casserole a day in advance, refrigerate and then bake the day of your dinner. Plan 15 to 20 minutes additional heating time for the refrigerated cold casserole. Heat until it’s hot and steamy throughout.

Cut washed fruits and vegetables within a day of your meal for salads and relish trays. (NOTE: Wash fruits and vegetables under cool running tap water.) Store all CUT fruits and vegetables covered such as in storage containers or single-use plastic bags in the refrigerator. Store fresh-cut produce above raw meat, poultry and fish, and below cooked items. Avoid leaving cut and/or peeled fruit and vegetables at room temperature for more than two hours. This includes the TOTAL of preparation time and serving time.

Keep cut fruits such as apples, pears, bananas and peaches from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice. Or use a commercial anti-darkening preparation. Cover and refrigerate cut fruit until ready to serve. (NOTE: Bananas don’t keep as long as the other fruits mentioned – cut close to serving time.)

Non-perishable foods such as cakes and cookies can be prepared a few days in advance and still taste good. Or, they can be frozen for longer storage.

Special tips for handling meat:

As a general rule-of-thumb, purchase fresh raw meat, poultry or seafood no more than 1-2 days before your holiday meal. Freeze for longer storage. These foods taste freshest if cooked the day of your meal.

If you have frozen your meat, poultry or seafood, plan time for safe thawing in your refrigerator. Allow approximately 24 hours for each 5 pounds of weight. For turkey, make sure you remove the bag containing the neck and giblets from the body cavity.

To prevent cross-contamination, thaw or store a package of raw meat, poultry or seafood on a plate on a lower shelf of your refrigerator to prevent its juices from dripping on other foods.

If you prepare meat, poultry or seafood the day before your meal, divide it into small portions. Then refrigerate in loosely covered shallow containers within two hours of cooking – limit depth of meat, etc. to about 2 inches. You can place loosely covered foods in the refrigerator while still warm; cover tightly when food is completely cooled. On the day of your meal, reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees until hot and steaming throughout.

Preparing pumpkin pie ahead of time:

Pumpkin pie is especially popular around the holidays. A pumpkin pie is a form of custard and must be kept in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or cooler. Foods which contain eggs, milk and any with a high moisture content must be kept refrigerated, as bacteria love to grow in these foods. Avoid letting a pumpkin pie set at room temperature for more than TWO hours. That means it shouldn’t sit out more than TWO hours total including after it’s baked and while waiting to be served.

(NOTE: Some commercial pumpkin pies purchased at room temperature may later need to be refrigerated. Check the label on commercially baked pies for storage requirements. Don’t buy pies stored at room temperature if label directions are unclear or missing.)

If you’d like to get a head start on preparing your pumpkin pie, it’s easiest and safest to freeze just your shaped and unbaked pie crust in a freezer- or oven-safe pie pan. Or, purchase an unbaked frozen pie crust already in a pie pan. Then, add the pumpkin filling, mixed according to directions, to the frozen crust just before baking. It takes just a few minutes to mix together the ingredients.

Unless the directions with your frozen pie crust recommend otherwise, place a baking sheet in your oven and pre-heat your oven to the baking temperature given in your pie recipe. Then place your pie on the hot baking sheet and bake your pie as usual the day of your meal. To save additional time, buy a pie filling with the spices already added, especially if you must buy extra spices just for your pie.

Instead of making a baked pumpkin pie, consider making a form of pumpkin pie that can be frozen such as Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie.

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.

Corn Time


Cowpokes


December Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Dormant roots of asparagus are available now in some nurseries. Consider male-only plant varieties for greater harvest.
  • Continue to set out cool-season bedding plants such as pansies, violas, stock, snapdragons, dianthus and ornamental kale.
  • Don’t forget tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator. They can be planted any time in December.
  • If you’re planning on indoor color this winter, it’s time to force those bulbs you’ve been chilling. Get them moved into a warm area of the house so they’ll be tricked into thinking that spring has arrived. They’ll start putting out leaves and developing buds so you’ll have a rush of beautiful color later this month. To keep the color coming, stagger your potting cycle so everything doesn’t bloom at once.
  • Plant living Christmas trees in the ground as soon as possible after the holidays.
  • Plant trees and shrubs, taking care not to plant them too deeply. Always plant them at the same level as the root ball.
  • Prepare beds and individual holes for rose planting in January and February. Use composted manure, pine bark and similar materials mixed with existing soil.
  • Rather than leaving your beds bare, consider sowing cover crops such as winter rye and hairy vetch that will improve soil fertility and texture, cut down on erosion and weeds, and provide ample mulch material when you chop them down in spring.

FERTILIZE

  • If the soil is acidic, your landscape probably could benefit from an application of lime. Get your soil tested and be prepared for spring.
  • Holly plants with a heavy set of fruit often suffer a fertilizer deficiency. An application of complete fertilizer late this month can be helpful and provide a head start next spring.
  • Mow the lawn for the last time to eliminate stragglers, and dethatch if necessary to remove any dead grass. Apply a final coat of low phosphorus fertilizer to tuck it in for winter.
  • Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves were yellow between the veins.

PRUNE

  • Berrying plants such as holly and yaupon may be pruned now while they can be enjoyed as cut material inside the house. Use good pruning practices when selecting Christmas greenery from landscape plants. Don’t destroy the natural form and beauty of the plant.
  • Don’t spare the pruning shears when transplanting bare-rooted woody plants. Cut the tops back at least one-third to one-half, to compensate for the roots lost when digging the plant.
  • Now is a good time to take hardwood cuttings.
  • Wait until the end of this month to start pruning woody plants as necessary. This chore should be done while the plants are dormant – likely to be late December through February.
  • Stone fruits such as cherries, plums and peaches are prime for pruning in December.
  • Prune outdoor limbs or branches that have been damaged by winter storms. The damaged parts should be removed immediately. Remove suckers and water sprouts, too.
  • Remove older canes of blackberries.
  • Frost has killed back the top growth of most of our favorite perennials and they can now be pruned nearly to the ground. The tops of others are still green, and they don’t need to be completely trimmed back. Just a general cleanup of any brown foliage is necessary there.

WATER

  • Drain and store garden hoses and watering equipment in a readily accessible location. The lawn and plants may need water during a prolonged dry spell.
  • If you need to use a hose frequently in the winter and find all the connecting and disconnecting troublesome – especially when your fingers are freezing, attach a quick-connect fitting between the tap and hose. The fitting can be left in place all year.
  • If your automatic watering system stays on all year, it’s time to adjust the amount of watering during each cycle. Many dormant plants require lower amounts of water in colder months. A good rule of thumb is to reduce irrigation time by half when night temperatures remain in the 40s or below. Turn the system off in rainy periods to reduce costs and prevent overwatering.
  • Fix any dripping outdoor faucets and then wrap the exposed portion of the water pipes. Insulation that becomes saturated from a leaky faucet is of little protective value during freezes.
  • Turn off and drain sprinkler systems by removing the head from the sprinkler at the lowest point of your lawn or install a sprinkler end drain.
  • Watch for dry, windy conditions with low relative humidity that can damage turf. It may be necessary to irrigate periodically to help the grass survive.
  • Remember, plants need water during the winter and well-hydrated plants withstand freezes better; water when the top inch of soil is dry.
  • Check the soil moisture of houseplants. In general, don’t water until the soil is dry an inch or so from the top. Overwatering is the biggest risk in winter … go easy.
  • Check overwintered plants in the basement and garage to check for possible water needs.
  • During dry and frozen times, fill the birdbath. You don’t have to haul out the hose; just fill a pitcher with water. Some gardeners invest in birdbath warmers to keep the water from freezing.

PEST CONTROL

  • Now is a good time to reduce the insect and disease potential in next year’s garden. Clean up the garden, removing all annuals that have completed their life cycle. Remove the tops of all herbaceous perennials that have finished flowering or as soon as frost has killed the leaves.
  • Apple, peach, pear and plum trees need to be sprayed regularly. There are different sprays to be applied at various times throughout the cool months, so be sure to check with your local Co-op store about when to spray your fruit trees to keep them healthy.
  • Brownish specks at the tips of camellia petals or brown dead centers at the base of petals can indicate petal or flower blight. Remove and destroy infected flowers, including fallen blossoms; also remove the mulch beneath the shrub. Treat with a fungicide. Enrich the soil and strengthen the affected plants by adding compost to the growing bed.
  • Clean up piles of bricks, stones, wood or other debris that can serve as insect-breeding and overwintering sites.
  • Watch out for snails. Hand pick or treat accordingly.
  • Apply broadleaf herbicides to control winter annual and perennial weeds in your lawn. Use only as directed.
  • Watch out for signs of houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. If tackled before they get out of hand, nonchemical methods are usually successful: a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray (as directed on label) or, with the most tenacious (like mealybugs), sometimes an alcohol swab and Q-tip.
  • Don’t store firewood in the house as insects can come in with it. Leave the wood outside until you are ready to use it. Burn the oldest wood first so that pest populations do not get a head start.

ODD JOBS

  • Wish you would have installed drip irrigation this year? Did the wooden handle on your 20-year-old shovel split? Was one plot particularly weedy? Now is the time to make a list of all the things you’ll forget by next spring. What worked or didn’t work in your garden this year? What did you learn? Hopefully you’ve been keeping a gardening notebook or journal so you have information about what you planted, when and how it fared.
  • Become a Master Gardener! Call your county Extension office for more details.
  • Give gardening tools and subscriptions to gardening magazines as gifts.
  • Take some time to care for houseplants. With a wet cloth, wipe the dust from their leaves. Doing this allows your plants to breathe during the time of year when indoor pollution is at its height.
  • Watch for houseplants with leaves that have brown, dry edges as this indicates low relative humidity in the house. You can increase humidity by running a humidifier, grouping plants together or using pebble trays. To do this place gravel in trays (in which an even moisture level is maintained) under the flower pots. As the moisture around the pebbles evaporates, the relative humidity is raised.
  • Living plants that make good Christmas gifts include herbs. Basil, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme grow well indoors, in a sunny window.
  • Check bulbs, corms and tubers in store for signs of rot.
  • Clean and oil garden tools. Your tools have worked hard for you this past year, so do them the favor of cleaning them up before they take a winter’s rest. Clean off any visible debris and dirt, sharpen blades and oil all moving parts. You can purchase sharpening kits at your local Co-op store, or take them to a specialty store to have them sharpened. If your hardware store doesn’t perform this type of task, look for a knife or tool store in your area.
  • Cut asparagus to the ground and mulch it.
  • Follow weather forecasts closely to ensure you’re setting greenhouse heating accurately.
  • If you are planning to save caladium tubers for another year, dig and allow them to dry in a well-ventilated, shady area. After 7-20 days, remove leaves and dirt, then pack in dry peat moss, vermiculite or similar material for storage. Pack tubers so they do not touch each other. Dust with all-purpose fungicide as you pack. Place container in an area where temperature won’t drop below 50 degrees.
  • If you have saved seeds of your favorite plants, allow them to air dry; then place them in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Be sure to label each packet carefully. Remember, seed from hybrid plants will seldom resemble the parent plant.
  • In dry periods, make a start on winter digging if you have heavy soil. Clay soils will be improved by the action of winter frost after they are turned. Leave light, sandy soils until late winter, but mulch with organic matter to help prevent leaching. Earthworms will help in drawing down organic matter in the intervening months.
  • Move your garden accessories indoors or cover them with heavy plastic to extend their lives. Freezing and thawing is hard on porous surfaces like cement, terra cotta and plaster, but can be equally damaging to plastic furniture. Move small pots, window boxes and statuary indoors before freezing weather.
  • Once the plants are trimmed back, take a look at your mulch layer, garden fabric, trellis and garden edging. These items are much easier to replace or replenish in the off-season. Since your plants are dormant, the risk of damaging them if you need a major overhaul is limited.
  • Prolong the life of holiday-season gift plants by providing proper care. Check to see if the pot wrap has plugged up the bottom drainage. Don’t overwater. Keep out of drafts from heating vents and opening doorways. Fertilizer is seldom needed the first few months.
  • Repair and treat fencing and timber structures while climbing plants are dormant.
  • Scoop fallen leaves and rotting plant debris from ponds.
  • The last of the leaves should have fallen by now. Make sure to remove them from the lawn and either compost or add to your garden beds as mulch.
  • When you add leaves to your compost bin/pile, be sure to have extra soil available so that each 6-inch layer of leaves may be covered with several inches of soil. Always wet the layer of leaves thoroughly before adding the soil. Add grass clippings, blood meal or a cup of a complete lawn or garden fertilizer to each layer of leaves to provide the necessary nitrogen for decomposition. A sprinkling of dried molasses also encourages microbes to work harder.
  • If you haven’t set out a bird feeder, do it this month.

Earl




Gifts for the Gardener

by Tony Glover

Do you have a gardener on your Christmas gift buying list? If so, I have a few suggestions to help with your gift buying chore. Tools are always a safe bet. There are many items that would make great gifts for the seasoned gardener, as well as those who are just beginning to get their hands dirty. And, while the veteran probably has most of these items, who wouldn’t enjoy a shiny new upgrade?

Spade – This item is a short-handled shovel with a square head. It is great for digging holes for planting and edging beds. This item can be fairly expensive, but worth every penny. A quality spade will last well into the next generation of gardeners.

Hand Trowel – Trowels are a "must-have" for those small chores around the garden. They are perfect for planting small annuals, vegetables and herbs. The most durable ones are constructed of one piece of forged steel, with a rubberized handle.

Bypass Handheld Pruners – This tool is the real "workhorse" of the garden. They are a necessity for many jobs, including deadheading, shaping and cleaning up last season’s worn foliage. A good set of pruners can be fairly expensive, but quality and durability make them worth the price. Make sure they can be taken apart for cleaning and sharpening purposes.

Loppers – If they have trees and shrubs in their landscape, they may need a pair of pruning loppers. Typically, they can be used to cut branches with a diameter up to and including 2 inches, which makes them very handy for many pruning tasks in the garden. They should be bypass rather than anvil types for smoother cutting.

Pruning Saw – Small folding pruning saws are much easier to use for limbs larger than 2 inches.

Hand Rake – This item is perfect for those small areas. It has narrow tines which prevent damage when removing leaves and debris from your annual and perennial beds.

If you are buying for someone with some physical limitation such as arthritis, there are many ergonomically designed tools to make the job easier. Items with larger grips or those that use a ratcheting action are just a couple of examples. For those who have a hard time bending over, there are short garden seats on wheels with swivel seats and knee pads (garden kneelers) with hand supports to allow you to get back up. Garden carts with four pneumatic tires are much easier to use than old-fashioned, one-tire wheelbarrows.

If tools are not quite what you are looking for, a gardening reference book may be just the ticket. One great book is "Easy Gardens for the South." One of the authors is Harvey Cotten, the director of the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. This book has 300 plus pages of good, practical gardening information and great pictures for the Southern gardener.

Another valuable reference source that is an oldy but a goody is "The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists: The Best Plants for All Your Needs, Wants and Whims" by Lois Trigg Chaplin. With over 200 lists, this book is great for making sure you have the right plant for the right place. It includes trees, annuals and everything in between. This reference also addresses challenges such as slopes, poor drainage and alkaline soils. Either of these books would make a great addition to any gardener’s library.

If you have a gardener on your list who is a fan of native plants, I like "Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast: Landscaping Uses and Identification" by Leonard E. Foote and Samuel B. Jones Jr.

Plants are always great gifts. Maybe they lost a tree in recent storms. If you don’t know what plant to buy, then let your favorite gardener make the decision themselves. A gift certificate to a local garden center of choice could be the perfect choice to your gift-buying journey.

If money is a little short this year, why not make up your own gift certificate of your labor that they can redeem from you later? The certificate could be redeemable for a few hours of your labor to help them with a gardening task at some time in the future.

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

How's Your Garden?

Your favorite gardener would love to have a special handmade sign like this – a great idea for a Christmas gift this year.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Recognize a Special Gardener

The gardener in your life who doesn’t really need anything for Christmas might enjoy an official accolade for the garden. This little sign was spotted at the community garden in Ocean Beach, Calif., where there are many plots managed by a multitude of folks. Made of wood and hand painted, this is an idea that you can create in your own style or in the taste of your own Gardener of the Year. Whoever the gardener in your life is, he or she would probably be as proud of the sign as the plants in the garden!

Spray Fruit Trees Now for Fewer Pests Later

Disease and insect problems of deciduous garden fruit trees such as peaches, pears and apples may be hiding on your trees waiting for spring and summer to make their appearance. However, you can thwart or delay them by applying certain sprays in the winter to kill their overwintering forms. There are typically two products you can apply at the same time. Dormant oil (horticultural oil, Volck oil) controls insects such as aphids, thrips and mites by killing all stages of the pests, including the eggs, which often overwinter in the crevices of the bark. Another product, lime-sulfur, helps knock back the overwintering spores of diseases such as peach leaf curl and fire blight. Both of these products meet national organic standards. Copper sprays are used to combat disease, too, but these sprays can’t be combined with the dormant oils; spray them separately at another time. Ideally, the first spray was done after the trees dropped all their leaves in late fall. It’s too late for that one, but, no problem, you have two more chances at the pests. The second spray is around the New Year, and the third, just before the trees start to bud, which would make Valentine’s Day a safe date to remember. If you take care of your fruit trees like this now, and rake and remove all old leaves and droppings from under the trees, you will start the growing season well ahead of the pests.

Pine Needles Protect from Freezes

If you planted half-hardy annuals and perennials this spring and summer, put some mulch on them to protect their roots from damage in a severe cold snap. Sometimes the difference of a good cover can keep these plants from getting killed back in a hard winter. Examples of plants that can be hurt in severe cold in Central Alabama are pineapple sage, lantana, annual dianthus, Hot Lips salvia and Mexican sage. I’ve seen all of these live for several years then disappear in an extreme winter, like the one we had last year. If you will recall, there was a lot of dead rosemary in our state this spring, although the woody shrubs is usually evergreen. Pine straw is a good mulch to pile around the base of these plants because it will insulate the ground, but not pack down too tightly around the base of the plant.

African Violets Tricks

Given humidity, light and moisture, the African violet is a long-lived flowering plant for the indoors. It has stood the test of time. If you should get one as a gift or simply pick up a plant to brighten your home, here are a few tips. Plants will grow one-sided toward the light, so give them a quarter turn each week. They need a bright window, but not in direct sun, especially in summer. Have you ever had one that just didn’t bloom? Well, the plants need 8 hours of darkness each night to initiate blooms, so beware not to place your plants in a spot where there is a light left on overnight! Keep plants away from cold windows and drafts; they need mild temperatures between 60-80 degrees. Always water at the roots, not over the leaves, and use tepid water to keep the soil slightly moist, not soggy. African violets don’t like the salts in soft water, so if you have a water softening system, best to collect a little rainwater just for your violets. Because they like humidity, a bathroom is a good spot for them. You can also increase their humidity in special self-watering pots, which also makes watering from below easier. Check out the resources at optimara.com, a top African violet brand whose home is in Nashville.

Not only can it be used for cooking, but swiss chard is also a great choice for ornamental uses. It looks beautiful in a clear vase, or planted with pansies and parsley for winter color in flower beds.

The Many Uses of Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is a vegetable plant with multiple ornamental uses. You can plant it in with pansies and parsley for winter color in flower beds, at least in South and Central Alabama. (Long-lasting hard freezes may kill it if unprotected in North Alabama.) What I love about using chard at this time of year is how beautiful it looks in a clear vase, especially if you are growing a variety such as Bright Lights that has such colorful stems. In the kitchen, use the big colorful leaves as a base to serve mounds of chicken salad or a spread of cold cuts. Of course, you can always cook with it, too! A lot of folks ask me how I cook with it, as it is not one of the greens that Southerners typically grew up with. We have several great bean and lentil soup recipes from Epicurious.com that call for the leaves of chard. Other people I know simply sauté the greens to serve as a bed for a piece of grilled chicken.

Callaway Gardening Symposium

The 29th Annual Callaway Gardening Symposium is coming up January 23-25 at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. For more information, check their website at http://www.callawaygardens.com/SGS.

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

Keeping Things In and Out

Instead of centering the post in the hole, place the post at one hard edge of the hole. This reduces the amount of surface area that has to be tamped, and it gives your tamp bar more room in the hole.

by John Howle

"Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up." – Robert Frost

There’s a lot more satisfaction in putting up a new fence than there is in mending an old one. There’s a fresh neatness to the look of a brand new fence. Fences are great for keeping things in or keeping things out. A lot of us fence builders on farms across America would be willing to donate our fence building skills and time to put up a solid fence along the U.S./Mexican border, especially with the new threats we face from overseas and the credible evidence we now have of their entry through this poorly protected border – but I digress.

Whether you are building a barbed wire fence, horse fence, field fence, dog fence or chicken fence, fence construction follows a few simple rules of physics. First, all corners need to be braced well to avoid pushing posts inward or having the wire sag. Second, all posts need to be deep in the ground to allow strength while stretching the wire and support from livestock that might push against the fence. Finally, plan a strategy so the fence is not only strong but neat looking as well.

Post Placement in the Hole

When you are planning to tamp posts tight in the ground, you can save time with your tamping if you place the post in the hole next to one side of the hole. The side touching the post will be hard packed ground, and you have less area to tamp tight around the post. You can set the posts in cement, but this is impractical as well as expensive.

Instead, having a front end loader bucket full of creek gravel mixed in with the soil around the post will allow a tight-set post. If you don’t have access to creek gravel, it may be worth having a load of gravel such as crush and run or other crushed stone that can be shoveled into the hole as you tamp the post tight.

Level Before You Shovel and Tamp

Once you drop the post in the hole and begin tamping the first couple of inches, keep a carpenter’s level handy to get the post straight up and down. It’s important to level the post in the first stages of tamping, otherwise, the post will be too tight and difficult to straighten. It only takes a short amount of time to level the post in the first stage, and you’ll be glad you did once the fence is complete and all posts are straight and perpendicular to the ground.

Pouring cement in a tire placed around a metal T-post can secure the post when the fence goes across areas of slate rock. It takes about 1/8 of a cubic yard of cement to fill one tire. One yard of cement will complete eight cement posts.

Concrete Can Serve a Purpose

If you are blessed with hard, slate rock in unforested areas of your pasture, putting up a fence can be a challenge. Sometimes you may hit hard, slate rock you can’t even bust through with a 16-pound, sharpened tamp bar. If it’s virtually impossible to break through rock on longer sections of fence, you can actually use concrete to help set some of these posts.

My Dad came up with a technique where he would drive the metal post as far into the rock as he could go. Next, he placed an old car tire around the post. Finally, he poured cement in the tire surrounding the base of the metal post. It takes 1/8 of a yard of cement to fill one tire. Once the cement sets hard, we found the posts were then solid and tight enough to hold six tight strands of wire in place securely. Over time, the cement can rust the post, but you will have years of problem-free service with this section of fence.

Chicken Fencing

Certainly the most inexpensive way to contain chickens is with the use of chicken wire supported between posts. However, you also have to have solid entrance doors or gates going into your chicken run. About the cheapest way to create a predator proof entrance into a chicken pen is with the use of skinned, pine posts.

Simply cut some pine timber as big around as a standard post and peel the saplings with a draw knife or a garden hoe that has been straightened out. You can then slice the post in half lengthwise with a steady hand and a chainsaw. These pine slabs can be attached to two parallel 2-by-4s evenly spaced at top and bottom, and attached to the post with heavy-duty hinges.If you get truly skilled at fence building, you might want to consider using your talents to help create a secure southern border fence for the United States as well.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Livestock Medicines and Responsibilities

tock Medicines and Responsibilities

Bad example of prescription and nonprescription livestock medicines that have been stored in the open, in indeterminate temperatures and likely exceeded expiration dates.

by Robert Spencer

With time, research and educational endeavors, people have become increasingly aware of direct and indirect sources of soil and water contaminants. One potential source is livestock medicines that have become expired, incorrectly stored or improperly disposed of. Hypodermic needles and plastic syringes are also of concern for litter, safety and biohazard issues. While these medicines and their accessories are not a major source of contaminants, they do have potential to become a contributing factor through ground and water contamination that then affects our recreational and drinking water.

It doesn’t matter whether we are talking nonprescription or prescription medicines, in the form of pill, liquid or powder. Unwanted or expired livestock medicines have the potential to be incorrectly disposed of by dumping on soil, in toilets or sinks, and disposed of in landfills. Then, via ground, septic tank or public water treatment, they leach into our soils and water systems. Such practices have potential to impact our environment, waterways, drinking water and health.

Used hypodermic needles should be stored in containers labeled for disposal of used needles and listed as biohazards. Then, as these containers become full, they can be taken to a local veterinarian’s office or event accepting these containers. Otherwise, these needles end up on the ground, in garbage cans or in landfills. To dilute syringes with medicine residue, wash them in soapy water and rinse. This helps weaken or break down what miniscule amounts of medicines remain in syringes.

An ideal storage container for used hypodermic needles. Needles do not need to be lying in the open with easy access.

What types of medicines and accessories are we talking about?

- Antibiotics

- Coccidiostats

- Prescription and nonprescription

- Vaccinations

- Wormers

- Tranquilizers

- Estrogen

- Any type of pharmaceuticals

- Used hypodermic needles and syringes

- And more

Proper Storage:

- In cool, dark areas such as refrigerators (ideally without freezer compartments) designated for farm use.

- Out of direct sunlight.

- Outdoors only during times of moderate temperatures.

- In lockable cabinets or elevated shelves out of reach of animals, children and inquisitive types.

Avoid:

- Continuous exposure of medicines to direct sunlight.

- Leaving medicines in extreme temperatures such as hot or cold (above 80 degrees and below 45 degrees).

- Sunlight, heat and cold alters or breaks down many medicines.

- Keeping or using medicines that no longer have labels, are expired or have been around for more than a year.

- Leaving used needles or syringes lying around after use, or disposing of in trash or garbage.

Potential Resources for Assistance with Proper Disposal:

- Look for local collection events that promote taking back medicines.

- Local law enforcement and municipalities with relevant departments, state and federally funded agencies and programs, veterinarian’s office and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

If you are a livestock producer and now better understand responsible use, storage and disposal of livestock medicines, please take time to look around your house, barn and outbuildings to see what best management practices should be implemented on your farm. Seek out events that take back unused or expired medicines. By following through on aforementioned practices you can insure: livestock medicines have a sufficient shelf life; they are kept out of reach of curious children, cleaner recreational and drinking water, and a healthier environment for the general public and generations of the future.

Sources for Information:

"Disposal of Unwanted Medicines: A Resource for Action in Your Community;"www.iiseagrant.org/unwantedmeds.org

www.unwantedmeds.org

www.epa.gov/ppcp/

For more information or assistance please contact:

Dr. Karnita Golson-Garner

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

P.O. Box 967

Normal, AL 35762

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

Make Whitetails Do a Double-Take


When presenting a set up to the deer, you need to give the specific deer a reason to close the distance. Otherwise, “your buck is just another guy walking down the street.” Think about the sights, sounds and smells that would be present with that scenario and duplicate them.

Keys to Bringing Bucks to Decoys

by Todd Amenrud

The buck stood at the edge of a picked cornfield about 250 yards away. Even at that distance, I could see he was a definite "shooter." Rather than skirting the field and coming by my stand just off of the corner, he cut straight across the middle. What to do? I picked up my rattle-bag and cracked it as hard as I could. He stopped and turned his head in my direction. I hit the rattle-bag a second time and he came on a steady trot in my direction. Once he reached 100 yards he slowed to a fast walk and started to swing downwind. Long story short – he stood 80 yards downwind of me, hardly moving a muscle for almost five minutes. His only movements were his ears searching for "the two bucks he had just heard" and his nose waving in the breeze scanning for other supporting evidence. He turned and slowly disappeared over the ridge.

What makes a state of affairs seem real to you? If you can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it – the more senses we satisfy, the more that scenario seems real. This is also true for whitetails. By using different techniques a hunter can appeal to a variety of the whitetails’ senses at once. On that day, I sure wish I had some scent set-up or a decoy placed out to draw his attention and coax him in the final 80 yards.

Does, fawns and young bucks will often ramble straight into a well-placed decoy, scent placed out properly or a vocalization that sounds authentic, but mature bucks almost always need confirmation from more than one source before they enter into the unknown. They do trust their sense of smell entirely, but if they see or hear something and aren’t sure they’ll almost always wait for confirmation before proceeding further.

Decoying can appeal to their sight, calling can deceive their hearing and scent, or the lack of it, can con their sense of smell. Why not do something to appeal to more than one of their senses at a time? After having success with scent and with calling, I’ve been experimenting more with decoys. Obviously decoys are not something most people use every time they venture afield, but it is an exciting tactic that can work amazingly well when used in the right place and at the right time.

I find that when using decoys, adding scent, calling or a combo of both will almost always help, but you must pay attention to a few details. I believe decoy posture and movement are particularly significant niceties. Some decoys are in an alert posture. This typically brings other deer in alert and edgy. Sometimes I may want an alert, intimidating posture when presenting certain scenarios to mature bucks, but for most deer throughout most of the season you’ll be better off with other postures.

When is it natural for a standing deer to be totally motionless? When it’s alert, when something is wrong or out of place, or just before it’s about to bolt? I’ve tried a number of different things to add motion to decoys – from tying a string to a chicken feather or white hanky and taping the string to the hind end or ear of the decoy and letting the wind move it, to tacking a real whitetail’s tail to the hind end of the decoy and operating it with monofilament line. Granted, in a 15 mph wind, the chicken feather starts fluttering so fast it looks like the decoy will soon take flight, but I believe even that extreme motion is better than no motion at all. There are kits on the market to help convert standard decoys into motion decoys and decoys that come with moving parts so hunters have options, but motion and posture are definite keys.

Sometimes an alert posture will work. In fact, sometimes I want a prepared, aggressive posture. For instance, if I’m after a mature buck, "playing the competition card" and using aggressive tactics have worked great for me. I wish I would have had this scenario ready to go for that Iowa buck! When after younger bucks or any deer, success depends on many other factors. The biggest detail to keep in mind is – you must give "that deer" a reason to interact with your set up.

What time of year is it? Are you after a buck, doe or will any deer do? What age-class buck are you after? Best advice here, think about what that "specific deer" wants at that particular time of year and give them a reason to close the distance. For any deer, any time of year, I feel a decoy in a feeding, greeting or bedded posture is best.

When using scent with your decoy, you must start by eliminating foreign smells. After your decoy is cleaned in Scent Killer Soap, only touch it while wearing rubber gloves or clean hunting gloves and make sure it’s stored in a place where foreign odors are not going to transfer on to it. If you have to transport your decoy, place it in a garbage bag or something that will seal out foreign odors.

When choosing lures and scents, again, think about what the specific deer you’re after wants at that specific time of the season. For instance, early season I might use plain buck or doe urine … just something to add realism to the scenario. Closer to the rut with a buck decoy sometimes I’ll use a combo of Active Scrape and Mega Tarsal Plus. One gives a full-spectrum scrape aroma and the other is a territorial-intrusion scent. Trying to create the illusion my fake buck is moving into his breeding territory.

When dispersing the scent, I prefer to put the scent on a Pro-Wick or a Key-Wick near the decoy rather than putting the smell right on the decoy. Simply because a week later your decoy smells like last week’s pee. This way I don’t have to constantly scrub down my decoy. Keep the decoy clean.

Calling is another weapon in your arsenal. Once again, every situation is unique. It might be adding some soft social grunts during early season while using a buck decoy, but one of my favorite tactics during the rut is to place out a bedded doe decoy with a small buck decoy standing over her about 10 yards away. I’ll place out some Special Golden Estrus and maybe add an estrus bleat to seal the deal.

Some hunters believe by trying to appeal to more senses you’re leaving yourself open to making more mistakes. Details are important whenever you hunt whitetails, but if you use common sense, keep human scent out of the picture and present things as natural as possible results will follow. Answer the questions of "why" a specific deer would interact with your set up and, when he does, "how" he might interact with the scenario you’ve presented. Maybe to be social or maybe it’s for competition. The more realistic you can make it seem the better it will work for you.

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

Master Apiarist Shows Pioneer Spirit


Margie Smith was named 2014 Lady Beekeeper of the Year for Southern Alabama. Randy Hamann, a state apiary inspector for Alabama, presented the award.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Have you ever wanted to be an apiarist? Margie Smith did and, at age 5, her grandfather started to teach her all about bees. She was not afraid of the bees, and she found herself fascinated by them. She developed a love for beekeeping that would become a life passion.

Many of Smith’s family members were beekeepers. When she met Jim Smith, her future husband, she learned he, too, shared her love of bees. Ironically, his family had also been beekeepers.

Margie and Jim practiced apiculture for over 25 years.

"We were very proud to be called ‘bee farmers’ because farming is one of the most noble professions in this world," she explained.

The couple managed over 400 hives, selling their honey to wholesale packers. At one time, Jim was state president of the Alabama Beekeepers Association and Margie served on the state Board. In 1996, Margie was honored with the Alabama Beekeeper of the Year award.

Smith has been a longtime member of the Mobile County Beekeepers Association. After Jim’s death, Smith continued to work in the organization. Currently, she serves as secretary-treasurer. This year, Smith was named 2014 Lady Beekeeper of the Year for Southern Alabama. She writes a monthly e-newsletter called "What’s Happening Now." The newsletter is featured on the Mobile County Beekeepers’ Facebook page. She still enjoys teaching others about bees.

Smith currently serves as a SWARM dispatcher for Mobile County. She is on the Emergency Management list for both the fire department and local police. When swarms appear in people’s yards or barns, they call Smith, who then locates a local beekeeper to remove the swarm. She helps the beekeeper to gather 50 bees to be tested to see if any Africanized bees might have invaded this swarm. If the bees test negative for Africanized bee infestation, they are then put into the hives to begin pollinating plants and vegetables.

Recently, beekeepers in the Mobile area have had to contend with bears attacking their hives.

"It’s our fault," Smith said. "We have taken away the bears’ food sources, their land and their homes. Bears are usually shy, and they will run away at the first sight of humans. But when they are hungry, they come in closer to our houses looking for food. I feel sorry for them."

Smith worries about the approaching winter.

"Last winter was so cold and it stayed so long that when spring came, there was not enough time to build a strong workforce for pollination. Many plants, like some of the oaks, don’t have many acorns. Many fruits and nuts did not get pollinated, so there aren’t any nuts. Animals rely on the acorns, the fruits and the nuts. When there aren’t enough, the animals are hungry, so they come closer to humans. This always causes trouble," she explained.

Smith’s pioneer spirit is evident in everything she does. She works with other beekeepers to find creative ways to protect their hives from the bears. Some have built heavy-duty fencing around the hives. She has also worked with wildlife officials to find solutions to the problems created by hive invasion.

Smith owns land in Choctaw County and allows a friend to keep his bees on her property.

"We have to watch for two-legged ‘bears,’ too," she laughed.

In fact, many beekeepers keep locks on entrances because of human intrusions.

Smith has encountered another problem that perplexes her. Sometimes, hunters shoot into the hives, causing extensive damage.

"Why would hunters want to do this?" she said sadly. "I just can’t comprehend it. I don’t see why anyone would want to hurt God’s creatures!"

Smith loves the land and spends much time outdoors enjoying nature. She delights in telling about hearing a cougar crying out in the night in the wooded area surrounding her home in Turnerville, about 12 miles north of Mobile. She has also spotted bears near her home.

Smith has three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. All of her children live in other states, so she keeps herself busy with her chickens and her volunteerism. She is a certified Master Gardener who gives advice on plant and vegetable pollination. In addition, she speaks at various venues, educating the public on the importance of bees. She also assists the Mobile County Beekeepers Association when they have guest speakers.

"Beekeeping should mean a whole lot to everyone," she explained. "People need to love and protect bees because they are our friends. All of us depend upon bees! Without bees, we are in trouble. None of us would survive!"

Author’s Note: I am so sad to report that Margie Smith passed away on November 3, 2014. It was a joy to spend time with "Miss Margie" because she was a person who had devoted her life to making a difference. This delightful lady shared her knowledge and her passion for life with all who met her. I send my prayers and condolences to her children, family and friends. Rest in peace "Miss Margie"!

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Mistletoe

More than a Holiday Decoration

by Nadine Johnson

Mistletoe – "An evergreen plant having white berries that grows as a parasite on various trees. Used in Christmas decorations." That’s what my dictionary has to say about mistletoe.

Mistletoe – "(Phoradendron flovescens) Plants in round clumps on tree branches; leaves: leathery and spoon shaped; flowers: greenish; berries: white; habitat: tree branches; in bloom: May-June." That’s what "North American Wildlife"(a Reader’s Digest publication) has to say about mistletoe.

Also according to "North American Wildlife,"this plant grows everywhere in the United States, in Canada and south of the border. Evidently it grows over a large part of the world.

The following is a quote from "World Book": "Mistletoe is associated with many traditions and holidays. Especially Christmas. Historians say the Druids, or ancient priests of the Celts, cut the mistletoe which grew on the sacred oak, and gave it to the people for charms. In Northern mythology, an arrow made of mistletoe killed Balder, son of the goddess, Frigg. Early European peoples used mistletoe as a ceremonial plant. The custom of using mistletoe at Christmas time probably comes from this practice. In many countries, a person caught standing under the mistletoe must forfeit a kiss."

(I’ve handled much mistletoe. However, none that I handled appeared to be good arrow material. This makes me wonder how a mistletoe arrow could kill anyone.)

This is not the only pagan practice we Christians have incorporated into our Christmas celebration. I wonder if the plant grew or grows in the Jerusalem area. Research didn’t answer that question.

When I was young, we always used mistletoe in our Christmas decorations. Of course, gathering it from the wild was quite a chore since it grew primarily in the upper reaches of the trees. We solved this problem by shooting the main stem with a .22 rifle.

Mistletoe berries are poisonous; therefore, we must be very careful that none are available for young children to accidentally consume. Poison plants can have a useful place in medicine, though. You’ll find mistletoe in some alternatives or homeopathy medicine. Better yet, it is now being used in the treatment of cancer.

Research reveals that mistletoe is a symbol of peace. Perhaps we should hang a sprig in all homes, public and government buildings at this time.

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

My Answer to an Ongoing Debate

by Stephen Donaldson

As I consider each month what topic to discuss, I try to pick one that seems to be debated every year and try to give my logical explanation for my opinion. Recently, I was in a discussion with a group of cattlemen who had differing opinions of whether or not to supply creep feed to cattle. To further complicate the issue: if you decide to creep calves what feed do you use? So, as you see, the matter can get quite confusing.

First, let’s settle the debate on whether or not one should creep feed calves. Currently, weaned calves that have been through a proper backgrounding program are worth $2.50 per pound. With a high-quality creep feed, one can expect that it will take 4 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of gain. For this argument’s sake, however, let’s assume it takes 6 pounds to get that pound of gain. The cost of our high-quality creep feed is $354 per ton or $.177 per pound. Therefore, it costs $1.06 to put on 1 pound of gain. When you sell that calf, each pound of gain added will net you $1.44. If, hypothetically, you add 50 extra pounds by creep feeding, then you have added $72 profit per head, just by creep feeding. So, on a 50 head herd, you have paid for the cost of a 3-ton capacity creep feeder in one year.

Skeptics will say that this huge advantage disappears as cattle prices go down. While the difference would decrease, as long as the price of cattle stays above the cost per pound of gain, additional profits would be realized. So, in order to calculate additional profits, always consider the cost of gain versus the price per pound received for the cattle being marketed. This relationship is the best indicator of profitability.

Since we have decided that in many cases creep feeding is a profitable endeavor, we must now decide what, when, where and how we are going go about supplying this supplemental nutrition.

The simplest way to deliver creep feed is in a gated feeder. These feeders come in various sizes and are gated to allow only the calves to have access to the feed. This can also be accomplished by using a small lot and creep gate to allow only the calves to enter the lot and simply feed them in troughs.

Where seems to be an odd question, but another method to creep feed is to creep graze. Lush ryegrass, clovers, wheat and sorghum/sudan hybrids are all very good sources of creep feed. If you have the ability, install a creep gate so only calves can access these forages. They are an effective and economical choice for increasing weaning weight in your herd.

When should I start creep feeding? Most calves usually don’t start looking for supplemental nutrition until they are about a month in age. At this time, the milk provided by the cow can’t totally satisfy the calf’s nutritional demand for maximum growth. As the calf grows and matures, its reliance on the cow for nutrition decreases. By the time a calf reaches 400 pounds (4-5 months), only about 20 percent of its nutritional requirements are satisfied by its mother. Since most calves are weaned at about 7 months, creep feeding can significantly enhance growth pre-weaning.

The feed you use in your creep feeder or in your feed bunks depends greatly on the genetics of the cattle being fed. You should also consider the level of performance desired and the way the cattle will be marketed. In earlier articles, I discussed the importance of developing a program and sticking with it. If you plan to retain ownership of these cattle, the very efficient growth obtained at earlier ages is worth taking advantage of because the pounds go on at a lesser cost. If you are selling the cattle at weaning, one must consider the calves don’t need to be too fleshy and possibly discounted at the market. So determine your marketing plan and choose one of the Co-op feeds that meet the requirements of your plan. If cattle are going to be marketed at weaning, choose a higher protein feed with less energy to promote lean tissue and frame growth to gain the advantage of higher weights and maximum price.

Though not all the schools of thought have been covered, this gives you a general idea of the factors to use when deciding whether or not to creep feed calves. Generally, creep feeding increases profits or decreases losses and allows cattle to reach their full genetic potential. In my opinion, purebred operations should definitely creep feed to allow cattle to maximize their individual genetic potential.

Finally, set your goals, choose a feed that helps you meet those goals and feed it to your cattle to increase the success of each of your operations. A friend once told me you can choose a wagon or a pickup – both will get you to your destination.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

New Technology, Traditional Approach

Sam Kennedy explains how his water system works. In the background is the portable housing for the chickens.

Glendale Farm provides clean and safe food for local customers.

by Keith Johnson

About an hour north of Huntsville on a dead-end dirt road sits a beautiful old farm house shaded by ancient, towering oak trees. This is the first sight a visitor has of Glendale Farm, but it is far from the only strikingly beautiful one.

Sam and Rachel Kennedy are taking this picturesque farm and creating on it a production model with good tasting and ultra-healthy meats as their primary goal.

Sam left the Navy a few years ago to start working on his dream, and Rachel, who works as a dietician, has bought into the dream as well. The farm has been in Sam’s family since the 1930s, but was grazed without rotating and resting the pastures for most of those years.

Although this was standard practice on most farms during that time period, such management reduces the productivity of pastures and increases the likelihood that cow trails will turn into gulleys on hill pastures.

Sam’s parents, Delk and Mary Susan Kennedy, began the healing process of the land when they took over the farm while Sam was just a boy. While growing up on the farm, Sam watched and helped his dad as he tried to figure out which corrective actions to take to stop the scars of erosion from continuing to take a toll on the farm’s precious topsoil.

The red cattle on Glendale Farm show the South Poll heritage.

Sam’s family learned from grazing guru Jim Gerrish why rotational grazing is so important and how to create the infrastructure necessary to make it work. Gerrish’s books and seminars also emphasize how to make a farm profitable by using the animals as the "tractor" on the farm.

Gerrish believes in letting the animals do the work they are best adapted to do and save on the cost of machinery and fuel.

Gerrish also emphasizes the value of cutting winter feed cost by eliminating the feeding of hay through the substitution of standing fescue. By doing this, the cattleman’s number one expense is drastically reduced. More on this topic can be found in his book, "Management Intensive Grazing."

Sam pointed out that a great deal of what he is doing is not new at all but was largely forgotten during the 20thcentury. He says he is actually going back to a more traditional approach to farming that has been made easier with the advent of new technology such as improved fence chargers and portable electric fencing.

The ewes lounge in the shade during the heat of the day.

Sam now rotationally grazes South Poll cattle that were developed to finish on grass in the South’s heat and humidity. Their smaller frame, color and predisposition to easily fatten make them ideal for Sam’s operation.

He has discovered what many other grass finishers have known about most beef cattle being raised today. The vast majority of cattle today are different from those common before about 1960. They are ideal for the grain finishing in feedlots, but not well suited for grass finishing, which is the goal at Glendale Farms. Grass-finished meat has health benefits that grain-finished beef does not have, but it is difficult to get most modern cattle to be tender enough to suit consumers with grass alone.

This is why Sam started using the South Poll bulls to improve his herd’s grass-finishing ability. He is not yet satisfied with his level of tenderness, but he says he can certainly beat the supermarkets’ bland beef in taste. Many of his customers would be glad to have his beef as it is today, but Sam’s perfectionism won’t allow him to sell what he does not consider a superior product. However, Sam is offering hamburger for sale.

Glendale Farm’s lambs are a different story. A rather large herd of Katahdin ewes produce a lamb product that is very much in demand, not only by local families but also by some of Nashville’s finest restaurants.

Possibly the most unique business niche on Glendale Farm is the pastured poultry product raised on grass as well as grain in portable housing that looks like Conestoga wagons for birds. While the other meat products are processed in USDA plants off the farm, Sam is processing his chickens on the farm through an exemption that allows this as long as the farm stays under 20,000 birds per year.

Because of the exemption that poultry has, customers can come to the farm to get their chicken directly, or it is sometimes delivered as is to area restaurants.

Sam’s Navy training shows in his super clean and organized processing area. Not a speck of dirt or any tools out of place can be spotted in the facility. Chickens in the freezer are lined up military style waiting for their buyers. Great attention to every detail has obviously been given.

Sam says the cost of labor is his big problem with poultry processing. He has yet to figure out how to cut it down, but he is planning to partner with another farm family in this aspect. He urges other farmers who are considering this to check with their own state regulations since they vary from state to state. He also says to be persistent, since the farmers are often more knowledgeable than the regulators about the rules in this murky area of the law.

Sam and Rachel Kennedy have a vision of a beautiful farm producing healthy and delicious food for local consumers, and they are well on their way to achieving this. If you want to unplug from the industrial food system and get your food directly from the farm so that you can know the farmer and actually see how it is raised, they invite you to join them in this adventure and visit them at Glendale Farm just a few miles off of I-65 between Pulaski and Columbia, Tenn. They believe you will be very pleased with what you see. You can contact them through glendalefarmtn.com.

Keith Johnson is a freelance writer from Morgan County.

Optimize with Protein

Daily intake of protein helps ruminants utilize forages most efficiently.

by Jackie Nix

Ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) have the unique ability to utilize materials (grasses, forbes and other roughages) that are undigestible by humans and convert them into highly nutritious food for human consumption. This is made possible by the symbiotic relationship between rumen microbes and the ruminant. The ability to convert inexpensive, underutilized roughages into high-quality meat and milk is the main advantage ruminants have over other commercially raised livestock (pork, poultry, etc.). Given that forages are among the least expensive feeds available, it goes without saying that anything we can do to maximize forage intake and/or utilization is going to positively affect economic returns.

Unfortunately, not all forages fed to ruminants are going to be of the highest quality. Unfavorable weather can set back hay harvests resulting in over-mature or rain-damaged forages. In general, as a plant matures, it converts from a vegetative (leafy) state into a reproductive (stemy) state. When a plant is in the reproductive state the plant’s nutritional resources are focused on producing reproductive structures (flowers, stem, seeds, etc.) instead of leaves. Nutritional quality decreases due to an increase in indigestible fiber (stem) and decreased nutrient content (leaves). The total loss of quality is dependent on the type of forage. Grasses mature faster than legumes such as clover or alfalfa. Thus nutritional quality of grasses such as Bermudagrass, orchardgrass, prairiegrass or fescue drops off faster than legumes such as clover or alfalfa. Indicators such as stem size and stem softness as well as the presence of seed heads or flowers can help to gauge forage maturity. Hay containing large amounts of mature seed heads will be of low quality.

When it comes to bulky, high-fiber, low-quality forages, intake is limited by the amount that can fit in the rumen at one time. The faster the bulky forage can be digested and moved out of the rumen into the lower gastrointestinal tract (rumen turnover), the faster more forages can be consumed. Quicker rumen turnover time is advantageous in that more nutrients can be processed by the animal in the same amount of time. More nutrients mean more building blocks, thus improving overall animal performance.

Protein is key to optimal fiber digestion and intake. Ruminally available protein is a limiting factor in fiber fermentation. Remember, the reason low-quality forages are lower in nutritional quality is that they contain higher amounts of fiber. Recall that in feeding a ruminant, one is actually providing nutrients for the rumen microbes. Protein is a key component for microbial adhesion to fiber that is needed to begin the fiber digestion process. Protein is also needed for the enzymes responsible for breaking down fiber. Additionally, inadequate dietary protein depresses animal performance; in turn, depressing appetite that further hinders animal performance. For all of the stated reasons, protein supplementation improves forage digestion and increases forage intake.

Just as you and I like three regular meals and between meal snacks throughout the day instead of one huge meal, rumen microbes respond better to small regular doses of protein rather than slug feeding once a day or less frequently. Research repeatedly shows that regular daily supplementation of protein yields better results than less frequent protein supplementation. Studies conducted at Kansas State University reflect this. In one study, reducing supplementation frequency resulted in cows losing more weight during the winter. In another, daily supplementation was shown to improve forage intake and digestibility as opposed to twice a week supplementation.

Research shows that it doesn’t take much protein to enact a positive influence. Supplementation with limited amounts (less than 2 pounds) of a high-protein supplement increased digestibility and intake of lower quality forages in numerous studies.

When it comes to providing supplemental protein to cattle for the purpose of stimulating forage utilization and intake, there is no better method than the use of self-fed SWEETLIX EnProAl poured blocks. SWEETLIX EnProAl technology results in high-quality supplement blocks with consistent hardness and intake. This results in cattle consuming small, regular doses of ruminally available protein throughout the day, every day. This continuous delivery of protein to rumen microbes results in optimum fiber utilization and helps improve rumen turnover.

SWEETLIX EnProAl weather-resistant blocks can be used under even the harshest winter conditions. These blocks don’t require special feeders and will not blow away or spoil as opposed to commodity supplements like soyhull pellets, cubes or dried distillers’ grains. Just roll them off of the truck bed or trailer and forget them. These highly palatable protein supplement blocks are also an excellent source of magnesium to aid in the prevention of grass tetany in early spring pastures.

In summary, dietary protein is a key factor in the digestion and intake of low quality forages. Research confirms that regular, daily intake of even a small amount of protein helps aid forage digestibility and increase rumen turnover rate. SWEETLIX EnProAl self-fed, poured blocks deliver 1-2 pounds of supplementation daily in a convenient, weather-resistant, no-waste form. SWEETLIX EnProAl protein supplement products are available in multiple formulations and product sizes to allow the greatest amount of flexibility for cattle producers. Call us at 1-87SWEETLIX or visit www.sweetlix.com for more information or go to your localQuality Co-opand ask for SWEETLIX by name!

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at jackie.nix@ridleyinc.com or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife. References available upon request.

Peanut People


Shepherd’s Christmas Reunion

by Baxter Black, DVM

The light of the campfire flickered across the faces of the herders. They’d polished off the last of the cabrito.

"Muy Bien," Tío said, "I’m glad we got together. It’s been a long time. We lost José last year."

Pedro said, "Yeah, if it wasn’t for him we’d never had the nerve to go to Bethlehem that night. It was scary when those angels lit up the camp … bright as day!

"What I remember is the singin’," Juan said. "It was like we were in a canyon full of sound, you could almost see it! I figured it would spook the sheep, but it didn’t.

"Little Jake stood behind ol’ José, peekin’ around his leg," Pedro said. "When them angels finished and rose up and flew outta there, José said, ‘C’mon boys we’re goin’ to town!’"

Tío stirred the fire with a stick.

"Truth is I felt kinda foolish pokin’ our heads in every stable we came to; ‘course, Bethlehem ain’t that big, and, we were all surprised when we walked around the back of that inn and there they were, just like the angel said! They had an ol’ burro tied to a post … I’ll never forget it. The man was layin’ out on a pallet snorin’ away … shoot, he’d walked all the way from Galilee. And the lady, she was propped up against a feed manger holding a baby.

"They were country people, didn’t look like they had much. What struck me was it was so … simple, so unfancy. I was expectin’ more of a fiesta. This was the baby that the angels had said was going to be a Savior to all the people in the world, but it didn’t seem right that they’d just invite a bunch of sheepherders? Seems like they’d tell the priest or at least the mayor, have some fanfare … but they didn’t."

That old feeling that had come over him standing 10 feet away from those angels all those years ago came back. A shiver ran up his arm. Tío had kept track of the baby. They’d named him Jesus. Tío had watched as Jesus grew up and turned into … a hero. People followed him wherever He went. He performed miracles. He preached. He said He was the Son of God.

Well, Tío believed it. You can’t just make up angels. He touched the campfire with his stick.

José’s son Jake, now a grown man, spoke into the silence, "I held Him," he said quietly.

"The señora got up and needed to go outside. I took Him very carefully. He was warm, the baby, but it felt like He was holding me and not the other way around. I stayed very still and then, to my surprise … He looked at me … like He knew what I was thinking.

"Then he reached up and put his hand in mine, and I filled up inside like I knew everything that mattered in the world," Jake paused, "and through all that has happened since then, to Him, and to me … He has never let go of my hand."

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

Simply Southern Television Show

“Simply Southern,” a television show about Alabama and the South, will be produced by Alabama Farmers Federation Broadcast Director Kevin Worthington, seen here on-site at Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham.

Alabama Farmers Cooperative and the Alabama Farmers Federation are launching a new statewide television show Jan. 4, 2015, focused on agriculture, gardening, rural lifestyles and rural youth programs.

"This is a great opportunity to educate the public about the importance of agriculture while featuring some of Alabama’s most interesting places and innovative people," said Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan. "We are excited to partner with Alabama Farmers Cooperative in producing the new television show. We share a common mission to strengthen agriculture and promote a better appreciation for farmers and the rural way of life."

The show titled "Simply Southern" will air Sunday mornings across Alabama on major network television stations. It builds on the success of AFC’s previous television program, "Time Well Spent," that aired for 2 years on local network affiliates and then for 2 years on RFD-TV.

"Simply Southern" is being produced by Federation Broadcast Director Kevin Worthington. Each episode will include a farming story, a gardening segment sponsored by Bonnie Plants, a rural lifestyle feature with AFC’s Jim Allen, and a story about 4-H, FFA, Ag in the Classroom, Farm-City or other rural youth activities by AFC’s Samantha Carpenter.

"Simply Southern" is television everybody will enjoy as they see the people, places and events that give Alabama its distinctive charm.

"We are excited to be back on the air with ‘Simply Southern,’" said AFC’s President Rivers Myres. "Like the old show, there will be something in it for the whole family. It’ll be a show Alabamians can be proud to call their own. You may recognize some of the places and events covered, and some will be a new adventure for you! Our folks and the people at Alfa are searching high and low to show you why the South makes life worth living."

"This show has the potential to be one of the most effective public relations projects the Federation has initiated in the last 20 years," said Federation Communications Director Jeff Helms. "Our goal is to reach urban and suburban audiences who know little about production agriculture, but who are interested in gardening, food and rural tourism. By offering a mix of stories, we hope to both entertain and educate viewers while still appealing to the core membership bases of the Federation and AFC."

Helms hopes the program will be so popular viewers will record episodes to view later or share with friends.

The two ag-related companies decided to offer the program on network television because some potential audiences don’t have access to cable or satellite programming. The partners chose top-rated stations in each of Alabama’s television markets to air "Simply Southern."

"I’m fired up to be promoting our farm families and the South on television again," said AFC Director of Public Relations Jim Allen. "We got more mileage out of the first show we did than just about everything else we’ve ever tried to put together. I’ve worked closely with Alfa for years and, believe me, ‘Simply Southern’ is a perfect union of two of the most respected agricultural organizations in the Southeast. Really interesting folks and places exist that aren’t often highlighted in conventional media. We’ll beat the bushes to find as many as we can to encourage people to get off the couch and experience what’s out there!"

The show will air at 6 a.m. Sundays in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Dothan, and at 6:30 a.m. in Mobile and Columbus, Ga.

Stay tuned to AlfaFarmers.org and Alafarm.com for more information about "Simply Southern."

Something for Everyone

BBTCAC’s entrance last year decorated for Christmas and a quilt welcoming shoppers to the Center.

Black Belt Treasures Cultural Art Center is a shopper’s delight, especially at Christmas.

by Carolyn Drinkard

With Christmas just around the corner, most of us are looking for that perfect gift for our loved ones. Well, look no farther than Black Belt Treasures Cultural Art Center in Camden! When you go, you should plan to spend hours exploring the "treasures" from over 450 artists whose works are displayed there. Each unique piece comes with a remarkable story about the artist, which makes the artwork even more special. There is something for everybody, in all price ranges.

Located in an old automobile dealership building, this non-profit organization opened in 2005 to give area artists and craftsmen a place to sell their artwork. The gallery has also provided e-commerce opportunities, which have helped to give artists a larger market for their goods. This, in turn, has increased tourism and helped to stimulate the area’s economy.

From its inception, BBTCAC has provided educational arts experiences to youth and adults in this impoverished area. But BBTCAC has a vision to develop more artistic traditions, and they are working hard to bring their dreams to reality.

Clockwise from top left, Kristen Law teaching Laura Grace Creswell in a pottery class. Art classes are offered by BBTCAC and the theme for these two projects was Christmas.

"We are now in a cycle of change and growth," stated Sulynn Creswell, executive director. "We want to provide opportunities for individuals of all ages and walks of life to learn a new craft, perfect their skills, build their portfolios and potentially become entrepreneurs as they sell their works of art."

Stephen James, an artist from Monroe County, showed some of his works at BBTCAC’s 2013 Open House.

Crewswell described the gallery’s recent efforts to raise funds for a pottery station as a "spark to ignite the changes." With the help of architectural students from Auburn University, BBTCAC has developed plans to repurpose the warehouse area behind the gallery into workspaces for artists. This would give visitors an opportunity to actually participate in an interactive art experience. Another part of the warehouse would be used for classes, workshops, exhibits, festival events, music, dance and dramatic performances.

With a desire to carry their culture across the ages, BBTCAC hopes to equip the facility with a mobile studio that could be moved across the 19 counties in this region. This would give BBTCAC the ability to develop skills in fields previously untouched, while showcasing more regional artistic traditions. By providing educational opportunities for multigenerational groups, the Studio Artist Trail would hopefully improve the challenged livelihoods of area artists and craftsmen by giving each one more opportunities for exploration and expression.

Betty Anderson, whose grandmother was one of the original Gee’s Bend quilters, moved back home from New York to open a museum in her Dad’s shoe shop. She makes lye soap using her family’s traditional recipe. Her soaps can be found in the Handmade Traditions section.

Developing a Quilt Trail is another part of the vision. They hope to bring attention to quilting’s rich heritage and take visitors throughout the Black Belt region to see other arts directly related to quilting. Visitors would travel from one county to another, enjoying a different experience at each stopping place. For example, a guest might find audio or visual tours in one area; a hands-on workshop at the next; and quilters actually putting a piece together in still another. At each stop, as guests are enjoying other non-traditional events, they would also be exposed to the rich culture and traditions that make this area so special.

The talented artists, who live in this region, get inspiration from their surroundings and use many natural materials found in this area.

"These unique craftsmen and artisans have taken things other people have thrown away and fashioned works of art that not only touch the senses but also the heart," stated Kristin Law, who serves as Art Programs & Marketing Director.

For example, shoppers can find lifelike ducks, birds and turkeys hewed from Tupelo gum wood, graceful furniture fashioned from the twigs and splinters of beaver dams, breathtaking images painstakingly stroked on the shell of an oyster or intricately patterned baskets fashioned from pine needles. These are just a few of the thousands of pieces on display.

John Sheffey makes sure his carvings are realistic down to the smallest detail.

The Black Belt artisans and craftsmen are as unique as the artwork they create. Some have studied extensively; others are self-taught. Some have exhibited in world venues; others can’t believe that people would even notice their works. Some are professional artists; others have full-time jobs, creating only in their spare time. But all have one thing in common: each has taken a spiritual journey into his own soul to enrich our lives and make us see the world in a whole different way!

A personal visit to the Black Belt Treasures Gallery will indeed be an unforgettable experience! In the years since opening, BBTCAC has welcomed visitors from every state and 23 countries. Their friendly staff welcomes all guests and enjoys sharing the unusual stories associated with each piece. Anytime is a good time to visit Black Belt Treasures, but around Christmas there is a special ambience. The Gallery is beautifully decorated; children’s artwork of angels, ornaments, reindeer and, of course, Santa, are displayed; holiday music fills the air; and there is a special aura all around. BBTCAC partners with the Camden Chamber of Commerce and numerous churches, civic organizations and schools to host many special, seasonal events. If you are thinking about visiting during this time, be sure to give them a call for dates and times.

Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center

209 Claiborne Street

Camden, AL 36726

Open: Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Phone: 334-682-9878

Email: info@blackbelttreasures.com

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "If I had my druthers, I’d be workin’ day shift stead o’ graveyard."

What in the world is a "druthers"?

"Druthers" means "if I had my preference." It is an American phrase and not used widely elsewhere. People elsewhere in the world might want to know what druthers are, as the phrase conveys otherwise. Druthers is a shortening of "would rathers." The phrase originated in the late 19th century and is first cited in the January 1870 edition of Overland monthly and Out West magazine in a story called "Centrepole Bill," by George F. Emery:

"If I was a youngster, I ‘drather set up in any perfession but a circus-driver, but a man can’t always have his ‘drathers."

Druthers, as opposed to its earlier variant drathers, is traced back to 1876 in Dialect Notes:

"Bein’s I caint have my druthers an’ set still, I cal’late I’d better pearten up an’ go ‘long."

The Co-op Pantry

Wow, what a year this has been! Our cookbook is at the printers, and we are just waiting until they are ready! People have been so generous with their time and recipes to honor Roger Pangle and his struggle with cancer. Even though he passed away in December 2013, his courage and memory will live on.

We are so pleased that not only were we able to make a donation to cancer research but we were also able to make a donation to the United Way, a cause Roger supported whole-heartedly for many years. Thanks to everyone who helped make this project possible. Check your local Quality Co-op store for your copy of "Southern And Then Some More."

Our cook of the month, Linda Taylor of Marion, has fought the fight and won, and we are so honored to have her share her story this month.

"I was raised in the city until I was 10 years old, but I was always a country girl at heart. My mother and father moved to Perry County where they had been raised, and where both sets of my grandparents were from. I was the oldest grandchild on either side and was not only spoiled but was so blessed to know and enjoy them for many years before they passed away.

"With such an extended family, gatherings were huge affairs with all of the aunts, uncles, cousins and, of course, lots of good food. One grandmother cooked without a lot of spice and the other cooked with lots of spice including lots of black pepper, onions and hot pepper from the garden, but both were equally fantastic cooks. So were my parents, even my daddy. He had cooked in the Army and as my Mother would say, ‘He still thinks he is cooking for an army.’ Meaning we always had huge amounts of food and usually lots of people over to eat.

"I started cooking at about the age of 10 or 11 since my Mother worked 13 miles away in the closest small town of Marion. This meant I got home from school before she got home from work. I found out very quickly that if I had supper ready, she would clean the kitchen, which I thought was a great trade off since that is still my least favorite job. My supply of food was a double-chest freezer filled with beef and pork and every vegetable you could imagine which mostly was raised on the farm (and we thought that we were poor)!

"I had many trials and errors, but I eventually learned the basics and I have always had a deep desire to learn more. It doesn’t matter what all you master in cooking, there is still something different out there and I love searching for it. No matter what you fix, there is usually something a little better. I never get complacent, even though I do a lot of ‘from scratch’ cooking by using fresh vegetables and doing some baking, I also like to tweak recipes or use boxes and mixes without being detected. If I ever tasted a dish and just loved it, I had to have the recipe!

"My husband Conrad and I have been married for 40 years and we have three grown children, Tracie, Wade and Brandon, and they have blessed us with six grandbabies. Abbi, our oldest and only girl, is now 14; Hayden is 13; Coley is 11; Whit is 10; Zane is 3 and our baby Leo, age 2, completes the set.

"I was totally caught off guard in 2006 when I heard from my doctor the dreaded words, ‘You have breast cancer.’ Your world stops, but only momentarily; for your next step is how to fight this awful disease. After months of chemotherapy and radiation, I was just beginning to perk up when I heard the dreaded words for the second time. I couldn’t believe it, but what can you do but continue to fight? I was told it too was breast cancer, but a different type; therefore, I would still have to have chemotherapy with different drugs. I was terribly disappointed to say the least and besides, my hair had just begun to grow. After everything, I was told just this past May that I am now in my fifth year of remission. God really doesn’t give you more than you can bear and to Him I give all the praise. The chemo weakened my knees and I am now in the process of getting my second knee replacement. Now I feel that I will physically have the strength to cook and do the things I enjoy.

"I think one of the worse side effects that I had was losing my taste buds during chemo, but, never fear, they came back with a vengeance! I love to eat and cooking is my passion. Reading and collecting cookbooks is my favorite hobby. Since I have been unable to do all of the things that I enjoy including some cooking, I am ready to make up for lost time. I have already accumulated lots of new recipes which I am dying to try! I am going to share with you a few of the many recipes either my family loves or is a favorite requested by friends, neighbors and church members."

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

SQUASH CASSEROLE

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

½ cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons black pepper or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups extra sharp cheese, shredded

3 cups young yellow squash, cooked, drained and measured

2 eggs, beaten lightly

1 bag frozen season mix (onion, bell pepper, celery) or chop your own leaving out what you don’t like, but needs lots of onion.

1 can water chestnuts, lightly chopped (optional)

In a large bowl, mix soups, mayo, seasons and cheese. Gently mix in squash. Add eggs, folding gently until well mixed. Pour into a greased 13x9 casserole dish. Bake at 350° degrees until slightly puffed and lightly browned, 45-50 minutes. May sprinkle paprika or cheese on top about the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Note: This is a great way to use summer squash when it is plentiful and I usually freeze a few bags to make this casserole later. I have tried several different squash casseroles, but, believe me, this one is the best. My family and friends always request this one at lunches and dinners.

MOTHER'S CHESS PIES

3 cups sugar

2 sticks butter (either salted or

un salted)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond flavoring

2 teaspoons corn meal

8 eggs

2 pie crusts, regular size (not deep dish)

Preheat oven to 450°. Melt butter in a bowl in the microwave. Add sugar and beat really well for 3-4 minutes, or longer. Beat in other ingredients except eggs. Stop mixer. Add eggs and just barely beat them until blended, just a good swish or two. Divide mixture in half.

Put pie crusts onto cookie sheet pans. Fill the crusts with the filling. Bake on the middle rack of oven for 10 minutes, turn oven down to 350° and bake for about 30 more minutes or until nice and brown and middle will still barely move. Put pies on racks to cool. Makes two pies.

Note: This is my mother’s recipe and she was always asked to bring these pies for any occasion. My mother passed away when she was only 54 years old with ovarian cancer. Not only for myself but my mother is why I try to do all I can for the Cancer Society.

MAW'S CHICKEN PIE

1 large baking hen

Cover with water and bake hen on low in oven at 225° overnight just adding a small amount of salt and pepper. Let hen cool and chop into fairly small pieces. Measure out at least six cups of the good hen broth. Bring to a boil in a large boiler. Add dumplings and let cook until done.

Dumplings

1 cup plain flour

Large dash salt

2 Tablespoons oil

17 Tablespoons ice water

1 egg

Put into food processor and process until dough forms. Roll out on heavily floured surface until very thin. Cut 2-inch strips (pizza cutter works great) and boil in broth until done. After this step, make gravy.

Gravy

1 package brown gravy mix

2 packages chicken gravy mix

2 cups water

Cornstarch, as needed

Whisk gravy mixes with the water. Pour slowly into boiler of boiled dumplings, stirring gently. If you need more water or cornstarch added to make thicker, do so. You want a thick consistency, but not stiff. Stir hen gently into dumplings and gravy. You will not need much salt but adjust seasonings at this point, adding more black pepper. Cover with cheese wafers and bake.

CHEESE WAFERS

1 pound extra sharp cheese

3 cups plain flour

1 stick butter

½ cup shortening (not oil)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper (if desired)

Grate cheese. Mix other ingredients with cheese either in a food processor or by hand. May have to do several batches in food processor at a time, but much easier. Chill and roll into 1-inch balls on an ungreased baking pan.

Flour a potato ricer and flatten balls (do not have to be too thin). Bake at 400° about 15 minutes, but DO NOT BROWN. Take up and let cool on wire rack. Pour hen mixture into a very large baking dish or make several. Top with the cheese wafers and put some down the sides of the dish. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese wafers are not too brown. As you can tell, this is a very time-consuming recipe, but it is the best chicken pie that you will ever eat.

Note: This is my mother-in-law’s original recipe and she was the most wonderful cook! I tried to learn everything I could from her, but it usually took me several tries because she seemingly always left out one little detail! When we have a special occasion, my family requests this pie.

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

CHEESE BALL

1 (10-ounce) package extra sharp cheese, grated (we like Cracker Barrel)

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 small onion, grated (not chopped)

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper or to taste

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Pecans or other nuts, chopped

Mix all together in food processor except parsley and nuts. Put in a bowl and refrigerate just until slightly firm. Roll into a ball. Roll into parsley and/or nuts.

Note: I like this best served with Ritz or Townhouse crackers after it mellows for several days in fridge. Let it come to room temperature to serve. So easy and great!

PINA COLADA COCONUT CAKE

1 box butter recipe cake mix

1 small container of whipped topping

1 can condensed milk

1 can piña colada cream of coconut (not coconut milk)

1 small package frozen coconut, thawed

Make cake in a 13x9 baking pan using the package directions on the box. When the cake is done, let cool for about 20 minutes and then poke close holes in it with the handle of a wooden spoon. It will not matter if cake tears up a little. Pour condensed milk over the warm cake. Pour cream of coconut over cake. Let it soak in really well. Put cake into fridge and let get completely cool. You can even wait a day or so if you like. Cover cake with whipped topping. Top with coconut. Cover well when refrigerated. The longer it sets, the better it will be. It will almost get to a pudding consistency.

Note: I have not found anyone yet who does not like this cake if they like coconut cake. This is good at Christmas or any time of the year. We even had it for my daughter’s birthday in July. This is one of the easiest cakes I have ever made.

CRANBERRY COMPOTE

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

1 small can crushed pineapple

1 small apple, chopped fine (optional)

1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped(optional)

Stir all together and chill.

Note: Very good with turkey and dressing, ham or pork loin. Very easy and you can use your imagination to add other favorite fruits or nuts.

LADY'S APPLE DUMPLINGS

1 (10-count) can Butter-Me-Not biscuits

1½ cups sugar

1½ cups water

5 apples (Gala is best)

1 stick margarine

Allow biscuits to warm to room temperature before using. Mix sugar and water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Peel apples, cut in half and core. Melt margarine in a 13x9 baking dish. Roll each biscuit thin. Wrap around an apple half. Place in margarine seam side down. Pour sugar-water between wrapped apples. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Take pan out, dip out syrup and pour over dumplings. Return to oven. Do this two more times - bake 45 minutes in all.

Note: Lady was the name everyone called my stepmother that suited her perfectly! Since my mother died so young, my Daddy married again in his later years. She definitely was a “Lady” and wonderful cook, also.

JOY'S FUDGE BROWNIES

2 sticks margarine

8 Tablespoons cocoa

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup all-purpose or self-rising flour (sift before measuring)

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups nuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray or grease and flour. In medium bowl, put margarine and cocoa. Melt in microwave. Add sugar and stir well with wooden spoon. Add eggs one at the time and other ingredients; beating well with spoon. Slowly stir in flour. Add nuts last. Pour into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let rest on wire rack until cool. Cut and enjoy!

Note: This is my sister’s recipe and is the best one I have ever found for brownies. Why buy a mix when you usually have all the ingredients on hand, it takes only about 10 minutes to put it together, bake and you have wonderful brownies. You can also cut into larger squares, top with ice cream and a drizzle of fudge sauce and have a fabulous dessert.

HOG'S IN A BLANKET

2 cans Pillsbury Buttermilk Flaky Biscuits

Pam cooking spray

Waxed paper

1 package Conecuh Smoked Sausage (hot or mild)

Pull biscuits into 2 layers (or less if you like extra thin). Place layers between waxed paper sheets, sprayed with Pam and roll them into saucer-shaped and -sized rounds. Cut sausage in links long enough for rounds and wrap the dough around each one placing on Pam sprayed baking sheet seam side down. Bake at slow 300° until brown and sausage is cooked through. This may take at least 45 minutes.

Note: You may have to experiment with this, but they are always requested for any breakfast get-together around the holidays. You may fix your own sauce for dipping if you like. I had only the above ingredients one morning and did not want to have just plain sausage and biscuits. I had a few left over and my oldest son came by. I said, “Have a pig-in-a-blanket.” He said, “Mama that’s not a pig-in-a-blanket, that’s a hog in a blanket.” Thus the name for the recipe

Tizwhiz Structure

by John Sims

When the Tizwhiz feed line was first offered in 1956, research results became evident in breeding mares; healthy, sound foals; and stronger equine athletes. Consistency, fixed formulas and product quality were the original cornerstones of Tizwhiz Horse Feed line.

The tradition of these three factors continues in the Tizwhiz brand today, making sure every horse gets the most out of each bag of feed. Tizwhiz is still the most clinically researched and proven vitamin and mineral program available on the market today.

Tizwhiz Structure is a pelleted feed researched and formulated as a reduced starch ration for all life stages from young horses to performance and aged horses. The reduced starch levels help maintain focus. Your horse will benefit from a 14 percent protein feed with a balanced increase of amino acids, 7 percent fat for safe high calories to maintain body weight and cool calories for controlled stamina levels. High fiber is incorporated for safe digestion. Added yeast cultures enhance fiber digestion and forage utilization. Added organic selenium increases digestive absorption and optimizes immune response.

Tizwhiz Structure is available at your local Quality Co-op store. This product has been a proven winner for many years on Alabama horses. So the next time you’re in the Co-op, pick up a bag of Tizwhiz Structure and treat your horse to better performance.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein 14%
Lysine 0.74%
Crude Fat 7%
Crude Fiber 14%
Calcium (Ca) 0.95%
Phosphorus (P) 0.60%
Salt (NaCl) 1%
Sodium (Na) 0.35%
Copper (Cu) 62 ppm
Manganese (Mn) 60 ppm
Selenium (Se) 0.30 ppm
Zinc (Zn) 180 ppm
Vitamin A 2,550 IU/lb
Vitamin D3 1,000 IU/lb
Vitamin E 150 IU/lb
Biotin 2.70 mg/lb

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

What If Ebola Had Been An Animal Disease?

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I have more than a passing interest in the subject of disease. That’s probably not a great revelation to most of you. I tend to be a little more interested in animal diseases than human disease, but, since I am a human, I keep my radar tuned toward whatever is happening in the world of human diseases. I would suppose, unless you just woke up from a coma, you have caught at least some of the round-the-clock coverage about the current Ebola virus activity and how it affects the United States. As I have listened to the people on the news ponder such subjects as closing our borders to people coming from Ebola-infected areas and how do we impose quarantines on people who may have been exposed to the virus, I was surprised by the difference in the approach we take toward animal disease and human disease.

First, in the world of veterinary medicine from early on in veterinary school, emphasis is placed on Foreign Animal Diseases. So far as I can tell – and I could be wrong – I believe human medicine doesn’t focus on the foreign aspect of diseases like we do. As I Googled the Centers for Disease Control website, I found the term "foreign" diseases used once in reference to diseases we do not have here yet. Then they use the term Exotic Disease. This appears to be a disease travelers pick up when they travel to a foreign country and contract some virus, parasite or bacterial disease we do not usually see here. They also use the term Emerging Disease when most often traveling from a Third World Country in sort of the same context. In veterinary medicine, when we use the term foreign animal disease, we all know exactly what we are talking about.

This may be the place where I interject that I am fully aware there is a huge difference between humans and animals. I understand that we are not going to use some of the methods to control human diseases that we use to control animal disease, "test and slaughter" for example. But it seems we have some firewalls in place to keep animal disease out of our country that would do well to at least enter the debate when it comes to things like the Ebola virus. Some, but not all, of the tools we use to keep foreign animal diseases out of our country are closing borders, quarantine, testing and educating the public.

The first firewall we have in place to keep foreign animal diseases out is that – if you want to bring an animal into this country from a country or region where there is foot and mouth disease or highly pathogenic avian influenza or other devastating foreign animal diseases, it just ain’t going to happen. If you go to the USDA Veterinary Services’ website, you can find a list of countries that cannot ship cattle, poultry, eggs, meat products and other animal products to the United States. Do we close our borders to countries in order to keep animal diseases out? You bet we do! (After over 10 years of writing this column, I believe that is the first exclamation mark I have used.)

A little over a month from now when you are reading this column, I have no idea where we will be with Ebola in the United States. I do know that as I pull my thoughts together for this column, the subject of quarantine is a long way from being settled. Do people need to be quarantined based only on exposure? Are they allowed to self-monitor? If they have a fever or show symptoms, do you quarantine them for a full 21 days or just until the fever drops? There are a number of issues neither the political nor the medical authorities can agree upon. When it comes to foreign animal diseases, we have a very simple answer to the question, "If animals are allowed to come to the United States from foreign countries (excluding Canada and Mexico), do we quarantine them?" The short answer is "Yes." Some quarantines may be 30 days. Some may be 60 days. Pet quarantines are generally based on rabies only. However, when it comes to poultry and livestock, animals are quarantined – not because they have been exposed to a disease, not because they are coming from a country where a foreign disease is common, but simply because they are coming from a foreign country. Sometimes the quarantines include the animals having to test negative before being released. In cases of the animals being kept in quarantine and tests being performed on the animals, the person importing the animal gets the bill.

I just read in the news that some state governors and the army are planning quarantines for the Ebola virus. The article stated the White House called the quarantine plans ill conceived. That may well be so, but I believe the quarantines in place to keep foreign animal diseases out of our country have been a good idea. I have always thought that politics and science mix about like ice cream and mustard or oil and water, and any time politics and disease debate, disease always wins. Anyway, I think when in doubt, quarantine.

Another firewall we have is that each state animal health official has the ability to do what they deem necessary to protect the livestock and poultry industries in their particular state. And just not livestock or poultry; if you want to send a dog to Hawaii, it is definitely going to be quarantined. It will be for five days if you go through the vaccinating, testing and the required waiting period. But if you have not done the necessary prior planning before shipping the dog to Hawaii, the dog will be quarantined for 120 days. Hawaii is the only state that is rabies free and they intend to stay that way. Don’t tell them that quarantines are ill conceived.

And finally, we try really hard to educate the public, especially livestock and poultry producers, to be on the lookout for foreign animal diseases. Have you ever noticed how many human diseases have "flu-like" symptoms? It’s the same deal with animals: fever, lethargy (no energy), loss of appetite and death. Those are the clinical signs for a lot of animal diseases. Yet we encourage people to be on the lookout for high numbers of sick animals, a large die-off, hemorrhagic diseases (bloody diarrhea and vomiting) and neurological diseases.

We have several tools to keep foreign animal diseases out of our country. I believe we have been fortunate those devastating diseases that lurk over the horizon have not been able to cause outbreaks here. A few years ago, I spoke to a veterinarian who has been involved in laboratory work and foreign animal disease research for years. He said he believes that some of those viruses are coming in with people who travel to the United States, but the viruses are not getting introduced to their animal hosts. We certainly cannot keep people from travelling here from countries with foreign animal diseases. But we do have firm plans in place to deal with these diseases if a break in our defenses should occur.

Either way, it would be interesting if Ebola were treated like a foreign animal disease.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Who Do We Think We Are?


Whether or not hunters in Alabama should be allowed to use a suppressor (shown top left and on the firearm) is a question that is currently being investigated by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Despite what you may hear around the local coffee shops, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spends considerable time and effort researching issues before setting rules and regulations.

by Chuck Sykes

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, "Who do they think they are?" in reference to our department, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, when a member of the public finds fault in something we do. Unfortunately, these statements are usually the result of someone spreading falsehoods which we then have to address.

The idea for this article came about after reading a letter to the editor in an outdoor magazine. The writer implied that we at DCNR, specifically Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, did not think about any consequences when passing the regulation to allow suppressors to be utilized in hunting. He even went so far as to accuse us of catering to poachers. Really, we are catering to poachers? I probably should simply let it go, but that’s not my nature. So, here is my rebuttal to some of the accusations found in that letter.

When considering revising conservation regulations, we give much forethought to every decision we make. These decisions are not made haphazardly or without careful deliberation concerning the outcomes. Of course, we considered all aspects of allowing suppressors to be utilized in hunting. We looked at both the pros and the cons. That is our job. We look at facts and do not base our decisions on emotion. And let’s clear up one misconception first: We are not in a James Bond movie. A suppressor does not make a weapon totally silent. It simply reduces the sound to a safe hearing level, similar to a muffler on a car or motorcycle.

Alabama is one of 39 states where it is legal for a person to own a suppressor and more than 30 of those states allow hunting with a legally obtained suppressor. Why shouldn’t Alabama’s law-abiding, license-carrying hunters be allowed to use suppressors this season? We thought it was a legitimate question that deserved an answer. So, we began asking questions and gathering facts.

Question 1: Will this flood the woods with hunters with suppressors?

Answer: No, it will not fill the woods with suppressors. There are many steps a person must go through to legally (I would like to stress LEGALLY) obtain a suppressor. He/she must be 21 years of age, pass an extensive background check conducted by ATF (which eliminates any felon), pay $200 for a possession stamp, purchase the suppressor itself (more than $700), and finally pay a gunsmith to modify the barrel of the weapon to accept the suppressor. The paperwork alone will eliminate many people from wanting to obtain a suppressor. Once the expense for purchase is added on, we just did not see an issue.

Question 2: Will the use of a suppressor negatively impact the resource?

Answer: We feel quite the opposite will happen. A suppressed weapon can be an effective tool for game management. Filling crop damage permits and hog removal are two activities in which multiple targets need to be removed. The noise reduction will aid the hunter in taking multiple animals.

Question 3: How will the use of a suppressor impact law enforcement matters like night hunting?

Answer: When crossbows were legalized, many opponents were convinced the resource would suffer greatly and law enforcement efforts would be futile, but cases are made every year involving night hunting deer with crossbows. The misconception is that officers hear a shot and respond; however, the overwhelming majority of our night hunting arrests result from public complaints of earlier activity and not as immediate responses to hearing a shot. Therefore, a suppressor has no effect.

Here is another way to think about this in relation to night hunting: Do you really think a poacher is going to risk having a $3,000 gun, scope and suppressor combo confiscated if caught? We don’t think it’s going to happen. And, we believe the overwhelming majority of hunters would never participate in this type of activity anyway.

Question 4: How will the use of a suppressor impact a hunter?

Answer: One of the most common problems for shooters is decreased accuracy caused by flinching in anticipation of the firearm’s discharge and recoil. Suppressors dramatically increase accuracy due to reduced recoil and noise, especially among new and inexperienced shooters. And further benefits of noise reduction should be evident: I know my hearing would be much better if suppressors had been available when I was a young hunter.

Whether a member of the public agrees or disagrees with a regulation we pass is not the point. We fully understand we are never going to please everyone. But to insinuate that we just sit around in a back room in Montgomery and pass regulations without thinking about the consequences is not only insulting, it’s absurd.

The mission of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is to manage, protect, conserve, and enhance the wildlife and aquatic resources of Alabama for the sustainable benefit of the people of Alabama. This is a mission we take seriously and intend to fulfill. So, to answer the initial question in the title of the article, this is who we are and why we do what we do.

There are many intelligent and hardworking employees within this department. Many of them dedicate their entire careers to protecting and enhancing the wildlife resources of this state so future generations of hunters and fishermen can enjoy the great outdoors in Alabama. They deserve much better than the comments I read in the letter to the editor.

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

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Women Excelling in Agriculture

Active sisters of Auburn University’s chapter of Sigma Alpha.

by Michelle Bufkin

Traditional agriculture is typically portrayed as a man’s field, but the USDA has found out that there are more women in agriculture than previously thought.

Former Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said, "A study released by USDA’s Economic Research Service, ‘Characteristics of Women Farm Operators and Their Farms,’ found the number of women-operated farms more than doubled between 1982 and 2007. When all women involved with farming are added up – including primary and secondary operators, they are nearly 1 million strong and account for 30 percent of U.S. farmers."

Agriculture is a growing field for women. This is proven at Auburn University College of Agriculture that is 51 percent female, which is exponentially higher compared to the past. There are some departments within the College of Agriculture that are between 70-80 percent female.

Recruitment Chair Erin Forte, center, with the Fall 2014 Recruitment Class.

One organization showcasing women in agriculture is Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority. Sigma Alpha was founded in January of 1978 at The Ohio State University. Five women who wanted a group of like-minded females interested in the agriculture industry and sisterhood founded Sigma Alpha. Sigma Alpha is founded on four pillars: scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. The Sigma Alpha objective states, "The objective of Sigma Alpha shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive for achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture." Sigma Alpha prides themselves on producing well-rounded future leaders in the agriculture industry. The vision of Sigma Alpha is "to be the foremost organization fostering academic excellence and professional development while encouraging networking and lifelong bonds for women leading the agricultural industry. We strive to build diversity by marketing our organization on an international level." Sigma Alpha on the national level has 61 collegiate chapters spread out over the nation. Sigma Alpha is training and educating the future generation of agricultural leaders, and, for many students at Auburn University, it has done just that.

Auburn University’s chapter of Sigma Alpha was chartered in 2010. For the past 4 years, Sigma Alpha has been growing and cultivating young agricultural leaders. Auburn’s chapter has around 55 active sisters. These sisters plan events such as formals, socials, philanthropies (including work at humane societies, horse rescues, College of Ag events and Ag in the Classroom), fundraisers and many others.

Amanda Martin is the student recruitment and alumni relations coordinator for the College of Agriculture at Auburn University and was a member of Sigma Alpha.

"I could not imagine my college experience without Sigma Alpha! My sisters truly became my family and are still my closest friends even though we are all states away. Through the Sigma Alpha sorority, I was able to not only develop strong ties of friendship but also professional contacts and essential professional skills for my future. The experiences through this organization have definitely helped me in my career path and developed me into a strong, confident female leader in agriculture. I am forever grateful to my sorority and proud to be a member of such an amazing organization for young female leaders," Martin said of her experience.

Her experience is not a lone one. Most girls who have joined Sigma Alpha feel similarly. Hannah Donaldson, a senior in Agricultural Communications, also describes her time in Sigma Alpha.

"Sigma Alpha has been the best thing I have done while here at Auburn. Through this organization, I have been able to network with people in the agriculture community that have helped shape me into the leader I am today, and have helped me realize what I wanted to do after graduation. Sigma Alpha is very close to my heart. I have made most of my best friends through Sigma Alpha, and they are all ladies who are interested and care about agriculture, and, like me, want to spend their career bettering the agricultural industry. I wouldn’t want to be a part of any other sorority."

Sigma Alpha is not like other college organizations that you join and once you graduate you’re done. Sigma Alpha is for life, as long as you want. Once you graduate, you have the opportunity to become an alumni member, and as long as you are a dues paying member you are invited to attend alumni events your chapter holds, along with national convention where you can further develop the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Sigma Alpha has been a life-changing experience for me and for many other women. When I came to Auburn, I never thought I would join a sorority, but Sigma Alpha has been a positive influence in my college career. Through Sigma Alpha, I have grown as a leader, agriculturalist and an advocate for agriculture. Sigma Alpha helped me realize what my passion is and what future career fits my interest best. It is an organization that multiplies the efforts of its members. Sigma Alpha is a growing organization with a bright future ahead of it and for the agriculture industry.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Working Like a Mule


Mark Morris is shown with his mule, 19-year-old Mindy.

by John Howle

The jingle of trace chains mixes with the smell of leather and sweating mules as logs are pulled from wooded parts of the pasture. Once the log is pulled onto a high, cleared ridge, the mules can take a break while the log is cut into firewood lengths. It looks like a scene from years ago, but it takes place most weekends around one Hightower man’s property.

"I just love this life," said 46-year-old Mark Morris. "I must have been born in the wrong century."

Like many of us who grew up without cell phones and iPads, Morris has an appreciation for skills of days gone by. Working with a team of mules is Morris’ idea of a fun Saturday.

"I’ve been involved with horses all my life," Morris said. "For the last 20 years, I’ve been doing a lot of work with mules."

Morris has a male named Mike who is 12 years old and a female named Mindy who is 19. The mules weigh 1,100-1,200 pounds each.

Together, this team helps him cultivate his garden, snake logs from the woods, and carry wagonloads ranging from camping supplies and firewood to children looking for an old-fashioned ride down a dirt road. Morris has used his mules not only for work but he has also used them for carrying young brides to their wedding sites and deceased people to their final, earthly destinations in a horse-drawn hearse.

For day-to-day working, Morris hooks a singletree behind each mule, and the singletree is connected with a doubletree, attached to either a wagon or forecart. The forecart is a two-wheeled rolling cart that can be hooked to various implements ranging from harrows and logging implements to walking plows and a cultivator.

The trace chains are hooked to the singletree that is attached to the doubletree that are then attached to either a forecart or wagon for pulling.

On the day of my visit, Morris was snaking logs out of the woods with his team of mules.

"These were diseased and rotted trees that I will cut up in firewood lengths for our horse camps," Morris explained. "We will spend a whole week at horse camp where we ride all day and cook our food over open fires and with Dutch ovens."

Morris rode for the last 5 years in the Alabama Wagon Train while the route was still in use.

"That was 190 miles from Boaz to Montgomery," Morris recalled. "One year, I rode a mule the whole distance, but I wouldn’t recommend it because a mule doesn’t have as smooth a gait as a horse for long distances."

On a typical workday with his mules, Morris will usually hook the team to a ground slide to work off their initial energy.

"Once you get the edge worn off, these mules will work a steady pace all day long," Morris said. "Mike, the younger mule, needs to pull a wagon or ground slide for a few minutes so he can settle down and work in harmony with Mindy, the older mule."

Morris has neighbors in the Hightower community near Ranburne who also enjoy working with mules, draft horses and trail riding horses. A typical Saturday means there will be a gathering of mule and horse enthusiasts at Morris’ barn ready to go for a full day ride or help with mule-drawn work around the community.

"My neighbor, William Hartley, also breaks horses and mules," Morris said. "We can do just about any heavy-duty work around here with either my mules or Hartley’s draft horses."

Mark Morris’ neighbor William Hartley owns mules and draft horses, and together these two men can accomplish about any job around the woods or farm.

The use of draft animals has gotten Morris out of a jam more than once.

"One time we got a tractor stuck that was pulling a rounded-over load of corn," Morris remembered. "With Hartley’s draft animals, we pulled that wagon full of corn out of the mud, and went back and pulled the tractor out. Now that’s real horsepower."

"In the near future, I want to haul hogs to a nearby market for slaughter using my mules to pull the livestock wagon," Morris stated. "If it’s old-fashioned, I want to do it."

Morris’ town job isn’t actually in town. He works as a horse wrangler and takes care of many of the farming duties at his job at the West Georgia Riding Academy. When he isn’t at work, he is involving his family and friends with his love for horses and mules.

"My son Jody often rides his horse to school in Ranburne," Morris said. "I leave a horse trailer near the school where Jody and his friends can keep their horses while classes are going on."

The local school officials in Ranburne, approximately 5 miles from Morris’ home, tell the students they can wear spurs to school only if they have ridden the horse to school. Spurs cannot be worn on days you don’t ride a horse.

The economy may get so bad that we all have to start riding horses and doing our work with mules in the near future. If so, Morris and his family and friends are ready.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Year in Review

Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser in his period sheriff’s getup wrangling the folks from the DeKalb Farmers Co-op while riding a zero-turn Hustler mower. Try doing a zero-turn on a horse!

by Herb T. Farmer

It is December and the Winter Solstice is upon us. As for me, I am welcoming the end of a trying year. As I get older, the years try my patience more and more. One thing is for sure, though; I can start a new fiscal year any time I want and knowing that keeps me going.

The Winter Solstice arrives at 4:03 p.m., Sunday, December 21, 2014. At that point I will begin my new year and celebrate it with some mulled wine and orange short-pies. (Recipes to follow.)

Let’s take a look at The Herb Farm 2014 and see if I can justify my existence among such sublime and august wordsmiths.

January usually doesn’t excite me and last January was no different, with one huge exception. I bought a new digital camera and began to practice on close-up photography or "photomacrography" as it is sometimes referred. So, besides watching the brown leaves blow around in the dead of winter, I published a few pictures of the life that was showing through.

February featured more photos and a checklist of my chores in the greenhouse on Groundhog Day. In March, we talked about seed saving and sorting, pinching and rooting plants to share, and the cranberry casserole recipe.

Dick Cooper, curator of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and friends Bear Coker and Randy Gulley poking fun at me while reading the September issue of “The Herb Farm.”

The April column of The Herb Farm featured one of my favorite spices, Ginger (Zingiber officinale). As usual, I featured some of the medicinal uses of the spice and finished off with my recipe for ginger chips.

Last May, we discussed some of the local native flora, along with featuring some photographs of Alabama wildflowers. In June, we talked about summer’s little annoyances like mosquitoes, ticks, venomous snakes and poisonous plants. On the lighter side was my nearly famous potato salad recipe.

The hot July weather made me remember the times working in the fields at night to avoid the heat, but also to hear radio stations from other states that you couldn’t pick up in the daytime. Music and gardening have always been closely related in my life. Popcorn was that month’s recipe.

August began the last big harvest of vegetables and herbs from the garden. Eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, beans and okra were harvested almost every day. It was a great growing season! Oh, let’s not forget all the tomatoes and chilis harvested. There were so many to put up, the pantry and freezer space got full and had plenty to share and also to make several batches of tomato wine.

In September, I wanted to feature my friends with the band Wet Willie. It was fun to trade gardening secrets with Donna Hall Foster and it was doubly fun to hang out with them all in Fort Payne at the Boom Days event. Again, music and gardening flow together.

Well, by October, I was sitting on my laurels from the season’s harvests. By then, most of the fruiting veggies should have waned in production. Did I mention what a great growing season it was? There was a third big harvest of chilis coming on and I had planned what to do with them. Then one night, my garden was raided by deer that ate only the foliage from all of the chili plants, exposing the fruits to the direct sun. The peppers began to get sun scald and I had an emergency harvest on my hands. After the harvest, I killed two blenders in the processing stage and ended up making the best hot chili paste using my Squeezo food processor!

That brings us to November. My November column wasn’t published and it’s probably a good thing. Somebody said something to me just before I began writing and it really got me going. Thanks, CFN for saving me from more hate mail!

Now for some recipes, and you’re gonna love these.

Gluten-Free Orange Short-pies

8 ramekins for baking short-pies

1 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill All-purpose Baking Mix or sorghum flour

3 Tablespoons tapioca starch

¼ teaspoon salt

1½ cups water

2 Valencia oranges, juiced and zested

2 Tablespoons butter

4 egg yolks, beaten

Whisk together the following in a medium sauce pan: sugar, baking mix, starch and salt. Add in water, orange juice and half of the zest (finely chopped). Stirring frequently, bring to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in butter. In a small bowl, temper the egg yolks by gradually whisking in about ½ cup of the orange mixture. Whisk that mixture back into the orange mixture and bring to a boil. Continue to cook while stirring constantly until mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat. Put into ramekins with baked cookie dough (included). Top with meringue or whipped cream and remaining orange zest.

Crust:

1 package Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie mix

Follow instructions on package to make. Put a ¼" layer of cookie dough into each ramekin and bake for 10 minutes at 350°.

Mulled Wine

In a slow cooker, add 2 liters of your favorite red wine, 1 sliced orange, 6 cloves, 1 teaspoon whole allspice and 1 cinnamon stick. Slowly heat, then serve.

Happy Winter Solstice!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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



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