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December 2015

4-H Extension Corner: Partnering with CAC

by Donna Reynolds

Alabama 4-H has announced a new partnership and community service initiative with the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers. This initiative is being led by Joy Maxwell, a 4-H leadership and citizenship state specialist; Sheila Weber, Teens Getting Involved for the Future program coordinator; and Gina South, state director of the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.

Weber actually came from a Children’s Advocacy Center to lead the TGIF program at Extension.

"The TGIF program is a grant-funded project and we are required to do an annual service project," she said. "I knew from experience that the CACs needed all the help they could get, so 4-H and TGIF partnering with the CACs for this worthwhile statewide service project was the logical thing to do."

What is a CAC?

A CAC is a non-profit organization that serves the needs of child victims or witnesses of crime. Most are victims of abuse and neglect. There are currently 33 CACs serving 64 Alabama counties. The National CAC is based in Huntsville and was the first CAC in existence. CACs are now worldwide.

The centers provide child forensic interviews, counseling (in-house and referrals), victim advocacy, forensic medical assessments, multi-disciplinary team case reviews and community education.

These young people are involved with TGIF in Monroe County. They will be working with the new program.

4-H and CACs are similar and unique in that they are both statewide organizations that serve children. Both organizations utilize evidence and research-based practices to enrich and improve the lives of children. Most importantly, according to statistics, it has been established that 4-H serves the same children that CACs do.

"When you have a CAC, you have an entire community coming together to tell children they care about them, and they want to help them heal from the trauma they unjustly experienced," said South.

"Our state 4-H and TGIF leadership are excited to be a part of this community service project and hope to maximize this partnership to help the children of Alabama grow into healthy, well-adjusted and productive citizens," Weber added.

How the Project Works

4-H Foundation agents and TGIF agent assistants will be given a list of needs by the executive directors of local children’s advocacy centers. 4-H and TGIF began the statewide community service project by implementing a supply drive to benefit local CACs in every county. The supply drive will run for the entire school year and help lessen the financial burden of purchasing supplies.

"It is never too early for young people to learn the importance of giving back to their community and helping others in need. This project is a great way for them to learn that it is not always about giving money to a worthy cause. Giving of their time to help others in need can be just as beneficial," Maxwell said.

In April 2016, April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, 4-H members will work with their local CACs for a service project. The service project will vary according to needs, but can include:

  • Hanging blue ribbons around town for awareness;
  • Placing pin wheels on courthouse lawns – each representing a victim served by their local CAC;
  • Planting flowers, cleaning or painting at local CACs;
  • Assisting with CAC sponsored fundraising events; and/or
  • Helping with other needs of their local CAC.

For more information, contact Joy Maxwell at, 334-844-2276 (office) or 205-612-2790 (cell); or Sheila Weber at, 334-844-7690 (office) or 334-707-6440 (cell).

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

A Christmas Tree

by Baxter Black, DVM

Christmas tree is one of those things
Like popcorn balls or angel wings
That children make in the snow.

Things with beauty unsurpassed
That touch our lives, but never last
More than a week or so.

It shines from every living room
Like someone in a bright costume
That’s happy to see you drop by.

And in a world that never slows down,
To see their lights all over town
Warms you up inside.

And it’s nice to get to know one well
To know each tinsel and jingle bell
That often as not don’t ring.

I can stare at the lights and never stop,
Look back at the angel on top
And imagine he can sing.

Even the scraggliest Christmas tree
Seems to have some dignity,
Guarding the gifts below.

But all the ones I’ve seen up close
Seem to be smiling and acting the host
To all who say hello.

Sometimes I think, if I were a tree,
The most that I could hope to be
Is one of those wonderful pines.

That gets to spend a week with friends
When even a grown-up kid pretends
That all the world is fine.

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

A Four-Legged Farmhand

Left to Right, Tammy Dunham, just started helping at PHARM Dog USA, Sheila Hunt and her new dog Sue, Jackie Allenbrand, PHARM Dog USA originator, Wendy Miller and Bobby Miller with their dog Cap. Bobby helps train and Wendy helps on the board and with placements when she can.

PHARM Dog USA provides dogs for help around the farm to farmers with illness or disabilities.

by Jackie Allenbrand

If you are reading this, chances are you are involved in agriculture in some form or the other. Sure, some of you own large farms and have lots of helpers; but, for a lot of people, you own a small farm growing as much as you can on your land and/or raising cattle, goats, sheep, so forth.

Things are going great, your farm is prospering, your health is good and then … you suffer a debilitating injury or illness. No longer can you round up the livestock, you can’t even get the pasture gate open. Do you sell your property and move into town or try to scrape up money you don’t have to hire a helper? Where do you go from here? I am happy to tell you there is somewhere for you to go: PHARM Dog USA.

Left, Allenbrand and her first demo dog, Kristy, trained with service skills. Right, this is Odie. Labrador Retrievers or Lab mixes saved from shelters or rescues are trained with service skills a farmer might need. Things such as retrieving tools, carrying buckets, helping with mobility and opening gates can be helpful to save time and energy.

I thought of the PHARM Dog USA concept in 2005. My husband and I used dogs on our farm to work the cattle and wondered if a dog could be trained for further farm use. Since developing the program and placing our first dog in 2009, PHARM Dog USA has placed several dogs with farmers with a disability or illness that may need the help of a four-legged farmhand.

We use Border Collies only for herding purposes. For service work, the program uses Labrador Retrievers or Lab mixes saved from shelters or rescues. Opening gates and retrieving tools are a few of the things dogs can be trained to do on the farm. Mobility is another purpose dogs have been trained in to assist with walking on a farm’s uneven terrain.

PHARM Dog USA has not only placed dogs in Missouri but in Nebraska as well, and hopes to expand this service to farmers in other states. The program travels to the farm for the final placement to be with the farmer onsite and to make sure the farmer is comfortable with commands and to answer any questions while on the farm. These travel costs add up and PHARM Dog USA does not receive corporate sponsorship but runs off donations and small grants. We currently have a Go Fund Me campaign established.

We are a 501c3 Not for Profit and a group of farmers just trying to do our best to help other farmers. No one within our group receives a salary and money donated goes back into the program. Since we are a small group, the placements do take some time before becoming finalized.

If anyone has further questions, please visit our website,, and Facebook at PHARM Dog USA.

While PHARM Dog USA has not yet placed a dog in Alabama, give us a call. We are looking to expand the program as quickly and widely as we can.

Jackie Allenbrand is originator of PHARM Dog USA.

A Gift ...

For the man who has everything and realizes he has nothing

Steve Crumpler

Coffee boiled in an open pot is one of the most fragrant and pleasing aromas (along with country ham frying) that I remember from my childhood. It still smells mighty good. Our parents made it every morning. I can’t remember how old I was when I started drinking it, too. It was mostly milk, sugar and a little coffee at first, but soon black, hot and unsweetened. Our Uncle Lloyd always drank his from his saucer, hot from the pot, and he always kept a pot cooking on the stove. Michael Combs sings "I’m Drinking From My Saucer Cause My Cup Has Overflowed"that reminds me of Uncle Lloyd. As I got older and started driving, I would take a thermos with me on long drives or all-day fishing trips. Like Gomer Pyle told Andy, "It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold." He, I think, had hot chocolate and ice tea in his. The old thermos bottles had a glass vacuum bottle inside a thin metal jacket. On many occasions after I dropped one, I could hear what sounded like crushed ice inside and knew that it was time to buy a new thermos.

In 1976, I graduated from college and started seminary in New Orleans. It was a long drive from Enterprise to New Orleans. My younger brother, Glenn, gave me a gift shortly afterward. It was a two-quart, stainless-steel, Thermos brand bottle, model No. 2466, stopper No. 764 and the date of Jan. 77 was stamped on the bottom. Today, almost 39 years later, I still use that thermos. The handle has been replaced with straps of inner tube. The cup is long gone. The stopper is almost worn out and I can’t find a replacement. There is a little dent in the bottom where I recently tried to pick it up by the stopper and it pulled out and let the bottle drop. But it still keeps hot coffee hot! I don’t know if it keeps cold things cold because all I ever put in it is coffee. Hundreds of gallons of coffee have I enjoyed from that old bottle. In fact, I have drunk from it several times today at work and as I write these words.

This old thermos bottle is something I treasure and value. I like it because it is sturdy, durable, well-made and functional. It has fully supplied my need for a thermos and is likely to last as long as I do. But more than anything else it is special to me because of who it came from and the love behind the gift. I was not aware or consciously thinking that I needed a really good thermos. I was in the routine of repeatedly buying another cheap one whenever my old one broke. Glenn cared about me and he thought long and hard about something I really needed, but would never likely buy for myself because the price was high and my money was low. I probably could have survived without it, but who knows? He cared about his older brother and he demonstrated his love and compassion by giving me something I really needed and that I have frequently used with great satisfaction, contentment and joy. And every time I use it, I remember that my brother loved me enough to give me a great gift. And it makes me appreciate both him and the gift again. A man I work with donated one of his kidneys to his father a couple of years ago. I imagine his father feels the same way about the love gift he received.

One of the great truths about God is that He loves us. He loves all of us. He loves you. He loves all those people you and I have never met all around the whole world. And He loved us so much that He gave us the one thing we desperately needed above all others. He gave us the most precious gift He could possibly give. He gave His Son, Jesus Christ. And He gave Him to suffer, bleed and die for us so we could live. And He did not love us because we were so cute, sweet and loveable. He loved us when we were dirty, filthy, wicked, evil, rebellious, perverted, hateful and mean. He loved us even though we chose to be his enemies. While we were still sinners, God loved us and Jesus died for us. That is the only hope any of us have. Without that gift we are doomed. Without that gift we are ruined. Without that gift we are dead. Without that gift we are condemned and guilty and helpless.

God loved us and Jesus died for us. That is the only hope we need. Jesus is the difference between living and dying, between Heaven and Hell, between hope and despair, between joyful gladness and endless miserable sorrow, between good and evil, right and wrong, righteousness and wickedness.

In giving us His Son, God gives Himself to us. What a wonderful gift! What a precious gift! What a needed indispensable gift! What a priceless gift! What an undeserved and unearned gift! And it is a gift that keeps on growing and keeps on blessing us more and more. Every day with Jesus truly is sweeter than the day before. Every day with Jesus we do love him more and more. Jesus saves and keeps me. He’s the One I’m living for. For every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and further is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NKJV)

The good news is that God has given us the most wonderful gift in the world and in that gift He gives us everything we need. But a gift must be accepted and received to be possessed and enjoyed. God’s gift is free, but it is not cheap. The only way we receive Jesus is by giving ourselves to Him. Like in marriage, each receives the other only by giving themselves entirely to the other.

If we have received this greatest gift of all, we have the joy, privilege and responsibility to let the world know about the gift God has given to them. We must love them and want them to receive the gift because He loved us and because He loved them, too. The gift is big enough for all of us. Are we big enough for Him?

Steve Crumpler is Glenn’s brother.

A Sweet Miracle

Miracle fruit tastes very bland, but its effect on foods with high acid content is curious. A glycoprotein in the fruit makes a naturally sour flavor taste very sweet.

by Tony Glover

When I worked at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Extension office I had a few unusual questions. One in particular that I was thinking about recently involved a client asking about a "fairy tree" she had heard about on a Martha Stewart TV program. The caller said that when you eat the fruit it makes everything you eat afterwards taste sweet. I thought to myself, "Do you also see pink elephants?" But I decided not to verbalize my thoughts.

I searched extensively for any leads and could not find any reference to a fairy tree. The questioner did tell me the plant was a small tree or bush that produced red berries. She has a few other details such as the berries had the miraculous ability to cause anything acidic eaten for the next several minutes to taste very sweet. At that point, I was beginning to question Martha Stewart’s veracity.

I am a firm believer that every question has an answer. On the other hand, some people get upset when the answer is "I don’t know. Why don’t you go ask Martha?" Thankfully, we now have the Internet to help with tricky or difficult questions. Internet search engines are amazing tools and I used it to solve part of the mystery. When I gave up on the fairy tree search I typed the phrases: "everything taste sweet" and "Martha Stewart." The first result was an answer page on Yahoo where someone had posted the question, "What is the name of the plant that makes everything taste sweet that was featured on the Martha Stewart show?" I knew I had hit pay dirt.

The answer posted said the plant is called "Miracle Fruit" (not fairy tree) and from there I found the scientific name. I felt proud of myself and mentioned the "Miracle Fruit" to Melanie Johns, the taxonomist at the Botanical Gardens, and she said in perfect Latin, "Oh, you mean Synsepalum dulcificum." She then went on to give me several details about the plant and the fruit she has grown in the garden’s conservatory in the past (she is such a "know-it-all").

The rest of the mystery may never be solved. Specifically, from where did the name "fairy tree" come? I told the story of my research at the dinner table and my daughter came up with a reasonable hypothesis. She said, "I bet something was said about a ‘berry tree’ and the person heard ‘fairy tree.’" My daughter is no Google (she’s more like a "Yahoo"), but I think she may be on the right track.

This likely misunderstanding reminded me of a visit I got from a young newlywed who was trying to follow her mother-in-law’s handwritten recipe for her new husband’s favorite dish. She came in and said, "I have been all over town looking for a dash pepper and no one has even heard of this variety." I gave her a somewhat puzzled look and asked where she found the reference to this pepper and she said it was referenced in her mother-in-law’s handwritten recipe. As a smile came across my face, I asked her if she thought it was possible her mother-in-law was referring to a quantity of pepper rather than a type of pepper. The young lady’s face turned as red as if she had seen a ghost, or eaten a ghost pepper I should say. There is always the possibility that I jumped to the wrong conclusion in both cases. If so, I would appreciate you letting me know if you have any information on a "fairy tree" or a "dash pepper." I tried the Internet; so there is no need to look there.

The question still remains, "Does the fruit really make everything sweet?" Amazingly, the fruit does make other foods with high acid content and a naturally sour flavor taste very sweet. The plant is not cold hardy in our area, but could be grown indoors in a sunny window and even moved out in summer. There have been numerous attempts to commercialize the "Miracle Fruit" with little success, but if anyone can cause a shift in the market it’s Martha.

Scientists have isolated the glycoprotein that causes the taste modification effect, but the molecule is so large it is difficult to synthesize. Therefore, all attempts at using it as a sugar substitute have largely failed. It does however work well as fresh fruit. I think it would make a great practical joke to pull on a friend. The berry itself is described as very bland; but just imagine your friends’ surprise when they taste your new "sweet lemon" just after eating the berry.

If you want to purchase a plant or seeds or even tablets, you can find them for sale on the Internet. This might make a unique Christmas present for someone trying to cut back on the sweets over the holidays.

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

A Time for Reflection

by John Howle

On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting and great merriment. But, most of all, we experience it in our hearts. For more than just a day, Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man. The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls.

– Franklin Roosevelt, Christmas Message 1944

America during 1944 was vastly different than what we see today economically, politically and spiritually. In June 1944, America took part in the D-Day invasion where American and allied troops crossed the English Channel into Normandy signaling the end of the war in Europe. People throughout the United States were encouraged to grow victory gardens to help ease the food shortage. The president spoke openly about his faith in and reliance on God. The average cost of a new house was $3,450 and the average wage was $2,400 per year. A gallon of gas was 15 cents and a loaf of bread was 10.

Chickens love to eat green forage through the winter. Cool-season annuals mixed with cool-season clovers grow well into the winter.

December should be a time of reflection. This is the month when we examine the past year for profitability, progress and personal growth, but it’s also a time for us to reflect on our spiritual progress as individuals and as a country. Remain optimistic this December, and center your desires on personal, spiritual growth.

Forage for the Fowl

Chickens are one of the easiest farm animals to upkeep once they are grown. Whether you have free-range or fenced-in birds, they love to eat greenery throughout the winter. The following are forage varieties that will grow through the winter to provide your chickens with plenty of healthy greenery.

The winter annuals such as ryegrass, wheat and oats continue to grow over the course of winter providing healthy forage. Legumes such as white and red clover not only fix nitrogen for the companion grasses but they help build your soil. A mixture of cool-season grasses and legumes is good for all farm livestock through the winter.

Savor the Stockpile

This is the time of year when those stockpiled fields of fescue really come in handy. Since feeding hay and stored feed during the winter months is the most expensive part of feeding livestock throughout the year, it make sense to keep some forage available for cattle if your pasture size, rainfall amounts and fertilizer applications have been met.

Whether you are grazing stockpiled fescue through strip grazing or timed grazing, the important fact to remember is to keep the cows from grazing fescue below 3 inches. Fortunately, the leaves of fescue will continue to grow in the cool season especially if the temperatures stay above 45 degrees. It’s important to leave tall fescue above 3 inches going into warm weather to preserve stand persistence.

A plastic 55-gallon drum makes an ideal kennel for your dogs.

Versatile Plastic Drums

Plastic drums have many practical uses around the farm. They can be used to store rainwater or gutter runoff for watering your garden during drought times. They can be used to carry water to livestock by installing a spigot at the base for attaching to a hose. They make airtight containers for storing grain such as corn.

The plastic drums have many other farm uses as well. They make ideal receptacles for holding salt mineral for the cow herd.

Simply suspend the barrel from a sturdy tree limb with a rope or chain.

The drums also make ideal doghouses and can be suspended off the ground with a couple of I-bolts and lengths of chain.

Before you complete construction of your shooting house, bring your chair and rifle to make sure the shooting portholes are at the right height for adult and youth shooters.

Test Shoot

This winter might find you with some extra time on your hands to build a shooting house. This is a great way to get the youth involved in hunting in a comfortable environment. If a deer does come by, you want to be able to shoot safely and with easy maneuverability.

The best way to do this is to perform a test shoot in your shooting house before construction is complete. First, sit in the chair you will use in the shooting house. Next, create the shooting portholes at the right height off the ground so you can shoot from a sitting position. Keep in mind the height of younger shooters when constructing your shooting porthole and adjust the height accordingly during construction.

Our great country is facing many threats from around the globe, on the borders and on our own soil. If we could convince our national leaders to rely more on God’s wisdom and less on their own self-serving agendas, we would see America’s greatness return. Meanwhile, we face the empty philosophy of, "Hey, we got this. We’re gonna take care of everything you need. Just trust us." This December, as you review the events of the year, put your trust in God instead of the government and honor Christ in Christmas.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Ag Adventures

Children and adults got to play in the “corn crib.” (Credit: Caleb Hicks)

Annual event bridges the gap between farmers and the public.

by Michelle Bufkin

The fourth annual Ag Discovery Adventure had 1,907 people, a record number, attend to learn more about the agriculture industry. The event, held on October 10, focused on teaching the public about agriculture through hands-on activities and presentations. ADA is hosted at E.V. Smith Research Center by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Auburn University’s College of Agriculture. It functions through the hard work of professors, Extension personnel and student volunteers.

This year’s event included attractions such as corn shelling, apple cider, a corn maze, a livestock barn – full of expected and unexpected animals, a large fisheries exhibit, wildlife, cotton ginning, unmanned aerial vehicles, sweet potato picking, tractors, bad bugs, wagon tours, pumpkin painting and a crowd favorite, Aubie. One of the favorite events of all attendees, young and young-at-heart, was the "corn crib." This was a sandbox people could play in that was filled with corn kernels; everyone walked away from it smiling! The importance of all of the attractions at this event was to educate the public about agriculture, along with being fun and entertaining.

Aubie prepares to fly the drone. (Credit: Caleb Hicks)

"It’s an event where we give families the opportunity to reconnect with agriculture. It reminds them of the College of Agriculture’s mission and the future needs in agriculture," said Paul Patterson, associate dean of instruction at Auburn University.

One of the new attractions this year was Chef David Bancroft from Acre. Acre is a restaurant featuring fresh, locally-sourced foods that offers farm-to-table Southern cuisine. Bancroft cooked three separate Alabama dishes at the main stage, but before serving them he shared where each dish came from. People these days are extremely curious about where their food comes from, and Bancroft shared this with them. One of the dishes Bancroft cooked was oysters that were farm-raised in the Gulf. He also shared that the oysters were brought up from the Gulf the day before; that is the definition of fresh food. Bancroft also cooked delicious chicken and an entire hog.

Also new this year was a pond raceway and a focus on aquaponics. Stan Arington from Auburn High School brought some of his aquaponics students, who made a fisheries area. This helped highlight a growing industry, not only in Alabama but in the nation as well.

The event had a strong wildlife presence featuring multiple snakes, rabbits, bees and fire ants. This offered a unique outlook on how agriculture is more than just cows, plows and sows.

Attendees were allowed to climb on all of the large equipment at this year’s event. (Credits: Caleb Hicks)

One goal this year was to portray how agriculture has embraced technology through precision agriculture. Christian Broadbeck, a research engineer, helped make this possible by flying an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone multiple times this year.

Three different organizations arrange this event, but everyone involved agreed that it was made possible by Auburn University student volunteers.

"I want students to realize they can make an impact because of their knowledge. I also want the students to realize that we cannot do Ag Discovery Adventure without them," said Dr. Lisa Kriese-Anderson, Extension specialist and associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences.

Professors and Extension personnel worked hard beforehand and students worked hard that day to make the event possible.

"One aspect of the event I find most reassuring and inspiring was the can-do spirit of our student volunteers. Students are a big part of the success of the event," Patterson said.

Students agreed that the event this year was a big success.

"My favorite part of Ag Discovery Adventure this year was leading the wagon tours. We provided the riders with a lot of factual information, but I really just enjoyed interacting with all of the different attendees. I enjoyed seeing their perspective of agriculture change throughout the day," said John Allen Nichols.

Nichols, a senior in poultry science, has attended Ag Discovery Adventure since its beginning in 2012.

The main purpose of ADA is to educate the public about the truth about the agriculture industry.

"I want the public to be impacted by the non-biased information they can receive by attending Ag Discovery Adventure. I certainly want them to have fun – but I want them to realize that producing food and fiber is not scary or harmful. What is portrayed at EV Smith is a legitimate, factual snapshot of agriculture in the United States," Kriese-Anderson said.

These days most people are four generations removed from a farm, so the place they turn for their information about farming is the Internet. Ag Discovery Adventure provides the public with a different option; it helps bridge the gap between farmers and the public. The public enjoyed the event and learned a lot of information.

An attendee told Broadbeck, "Thank you for this event. This is the favorite thing we do each year."

Each year this event has grown in attendance, stations and in information provided to the public and everyone looks forward to seeing that growth continue.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Ag Insight

Farmers’ use of contract labor on the rise

Agricultural technologies adopted over the last half-century, embodied in equipment, structures, seeds and chemicals, allow farmers to use less labor. As a result, even though total agricultural production more than doubled between 1960 and 2011 (the latest estimates available), the amount of self-employed labor in agriculture fell by 70 percent, and the amount of hired labor fell by 60 percent.

While most labor used on farms comes from the self-employed labor of farm families and hired labor (full and part-time employees), farmers also hire labor contractors to provide labor to farms, usually for specific tasks. Contract labor accounted for 1.2 percent of total costs in agriculture in 2011, compared to 13 percent for self-employed and hired labor.

While the use of contract labor declined by half between 1960 and the mid-1980s, tracking the decline in self-employed and hired labor, it has since grown as some farmers have shifted to contract labor in place of hired labor.

Productivity gains spur agricultural output

Worldwide agricultural output has been growing, but the factors causing that increase have changed.

The average annual rate of global agricultural output growth slowed in the 1970s and ’80s, then accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the latest period estimated (2001-12), global output of total crop and livestock commodities was expanding at an average rate of 2.5 percent per year.

In the decades prior to 1990, most output growth came about from more input usage (i.e., more labor, capital and material inputs per acre of agricultural land). Bringing new land into agriculture production and extending irrigation to existing agricultural land were also important sources of growth.

This changed over the last two decades, as input growth slowed. In 2001-12, improvements in productivity - getting more output from existing resources - accounted for about two-thirds of the total growth in agricultural output worldwide, reflecting the use of new technology and changes in management practices by agricultural producers around the world.

U.S. livestock production led by poultry and eggs output

Total U.S. livestock output has grown more than130 percent since 1948, with the poultry and eggs subcategory growing much faster than meat animals (including cattle, hogs and lamb) and dairy products.

In 2011, the real value of total poultry and egg production was more than seven times its level in 1948, with an average annual growth rate exceeding 3 percent. The rapid growth of poultry production is due largely to changes in technology, advances in genetics, feed formulations, housing, and practices and increased consumer demand.

Retail prices of poultry fell in the late 1970s and ’80s, relative to beef and pork prices, leading to expanded poultry consumption in that period. Increased domestic consumption and exports were also driven by consumer response to an expanding range of new poultry products as the industry moved away from a reliance on whole birds and production shifted to cut-up parts and processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets/tenders and chicken sausages.

Brazil now an importer and exporter of ethanol

Brazil had historically been the world’s largest net exporter of ethanol, but rising sugar prices (sugar is Brazil’s primary ethanol feedstock) and growing demand for domestic ethanol consumption has led to lower ethanol exports.

In 2010, the Brazilian government lifted a tariff on ethanol imports through the end of ’15, leading to the country’s first imports of ethanol. Imports grew rapidly in ’11 and resulted in Brazil being a net ethanol importer by a small margin for the only time in its history. Ethanol exports recovered in ’12, but have declined each year since, imports remaining an important source of supply.

Since ’10, the United States, now the world’s largest ethanol exporter, has been the largest supplier of ethanol to Brazil, followed distantly by the European Union.

Farm to School Census data shows positive results

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced preliminary Farm to School Census data for school year 2013-2014 that indicates strong farm-to-school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste.

Census data also indicates that schools purchased nearly $600 million worth of food locally in school year 2013-2014, a 55 percent increase over school year 2011-2012 when the first Farm to School Census was conducted, creating new marketing opportunities for farmers and ranchers in their communities.

The results are an outcome of efforts to target resources to help schools serve healthier meals to students following the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. A recently released report shows the grants alone have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students that have expanded market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities.

The Farm to School Census is a nationally representative survey of school districts. Nationwide, more than 42,000 schools have Farm to School programs, operating in conjunction with the National School Lunch Program and other school meal programs.

Census results can be accessed online at Final Farm to School Census results will be released in early 2016.

Most U.S. farmland is operator-owned

Because land is a critical input to farming and farm real estate represents such a large portion of the value of farm sector assets (around 80 percent), the ownership of agricultural land is a topic of interest to farmers, lenders, policymakers and others concerned with the farm sector.

A majority of U.S. land in farms (62 percent) is operator-owned, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The balance of farmland is rented, and the portion of rented land in farms has ranged from 35 percent to 43 percent over the 1950-2012 time period. Some farmland is rented from other farm operations - nationally about 8 percent of all land in farms in 2012. The majority of rented land in farms is rented from non-operating landlords. In 2012, 30 percent of all land in farms was rented from someone other than a farm operator.

Food security lagging in some African nations

USDA’s annual International Food Needs Assessment, covering 76 low- and middle-income food-insecure countries, has indicated a long-term decline in the population that is food insecure, based on the nutritional target of 2,100 calories per person per day.

While the food-insecure population has declined substantially in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, it has remained high in Sub-Saharan Africa and is projected to rise.

Factors contributing to declines in the food-insecure population share include gains in domestic production of food staples, slowing population growth rates, and increased food imports due to higher export earnings and lower prices for imported food.

Although food security is projected to be stable or improve in most SSA countries through 2025, it is projected to deteriorate in a number of countries, particularly those coping with prolonged civil strife.

India is world’s largest beef exporter

Since 2009, India’s exports of beef - specifically water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef - have expanded, with India moving ahead of Brazil to become the world’s largest beef exporter in 2014.

India’s beef exports grew about 14 percent annually between 2000 and 2015, and are expected to lead major exporters with about 6 percent annual growth during 2015-2025. India’s exports of relatively low-cost beef (primarily to low- and middle-income markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East) reached a 24 percent global market share in 2015, and that share is projected to increase to 32 percent by ’25.

The U.S. share of the global beef market has fluctuated, but averaged 12 percent during 2013-2015, and is projected to rise to 15 percent in ’25.

Brood Cow Supplement

by John Sims

We’re in the throes of the winter feed season again. Dry weather this fall caused our pastures to mature early and decrease in the quality our cows need to maintain body condition going into winter. Many of us are facing the fact that we missed a cutting of hay either this summer or early fall. Much of the hay harvested has lower protein and lower energy levels than is optimal for cows that are trying to nurse a calf.

We have just the right puzzle piece to fit into the nutritional gaps in your winter feed program. Brood Cow Supplement is a textured feed containing multiple energy and protein sources, cottonseed hulls to slow passage rate and improve absorption, as well as vitamins, chelated trace minerals and GHP2 gut health pack to bind up toxins in forages.

Energy is more critical than protein for keeping body condition on cattle in the winter. Brood Cow Supplement contains steam-flaked corn for maximum energy digestion. This high energy level allows BCS to be fed at a low rate to save you money. It is designed to be fed in conjunction with your hay and STIMU-LYX tubs late in the feed season to give that extra energy boost your cows need. Feed at a rate of 3-7 pounds per head per day.

BCS has 13 percent protein and a high energy level, making it very flexible to feed cattle in all stages of growth. And feeding calves will help them grow into strong bulls and heifers. This product is much better than by-products, sweet feed or pellets to get the proper growth rate on your cattle.

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

Busy Fingers

Bettie Morgan wears a Christmas jacket she made as she prepares to work on another quilting project.

Wilcox County crafter always has several projects underway, so she is never bored.

by Alvin Benn

Leisure time for Bettie Morgan often means making quilts, scarves, dresses, pillow cases and many more creative works of art at her home in rural Wilcox County.

When she’s not producing them for family and friends, she can be found much of the week at the Wilcox County Public Library where she and daughter Crystal Martin direct activities there.

Morgan isn’t bothered by Father Time’s inexorable advance and, at the age of 70, believes she still has plenty of spring left in busy fingers that skillfully operate sewing machines in a tastefully decorated room at her house.

"I just like to stay busy," she said. "Doing what I do is great therapy for me. I’m never bored."

That’s quite an understatement by the busy grandmother who has been involved in a number of community projects that have touched the lives of many throughout Alabama’s Black Belt region.

Bettie Morgan, right, and daughter Crystal Martin hold a large quilt with outdoor panels – destined for a family member.

She helped organize the Southern Stitchers Quilt Guild and currently serves as president. She’s also a member of the Cozy Quilters Guild in Thomasville and is a major supporter of the Black Belt Treasures Textile Arts Guild in Camden.

Collecting hand-sewn creations is a joy for Morgan, who likes to find vintage linens, particularly handkerchiefs and aprons. Her collection includes 250 aprons with some more than 100 years old.

What pleases her most of all are aprons once used or made by her mother, grandmother and other relatives. She regards them as symbols "of service" to others as well as a continuum of her family’s lineage.

Discovering old aprons on-line, at flea markets and other outlets are akin to gold nuggets for a woman who equates them to rare baseball cards for men who spend a lifetime searching for that extra special one.

"The older the better, especially if they are in good condition," she said. "It’s like discovering something historic because that’s what they are, sort of like family heirlooms."

Morgan determines the age of aprons by the kind of fabric used to create them. She said her search for something special often nets her originals. That’s like hitting a collector’s jackpot.

Rachel Morgan wears a colorful toboggan made just for her by her grandmother Bettie Morgan.

She said the number of aprons she has may pale in comparison to collectors who have hundreds more than she does, "but each one means something special to me."

Retired nurse Sheila Wells is amazed at her friend’s ability to move from one sewing or crocheting project to another without missing a stitch or a beat.

"Bettie’s never idle and I wish I had half the energy she has," Wells said. "She’s also extremely organized and that helps because of all the things she does every day."

Wells said Morgan’s speed at finishing projects is a way to quickly get them to family members and friends, particularly during holiday periods. While others might procrastinate on one project, Morgan often works on two or three at the same time.

"I was basically raised by my grandmother until I was 14 and learned about sewing from her and other relatives," Morgan said, adding it has provided a perfect foundation for a hobby that’s become more than that.

With Christmas just around the corner, she’s busier than ever as she creates something appropriate for her children and grandchildren.

When she’s not sewing, she can be found knitting, crocheting, smocking, embroidering or whatever else that’s needed to bring about smiles from those who receive her creations as gifts.

Morgan isn’t alone in her creative efforts. Martin and granddaughter Rachel Morgan were avid learners as they grew up watching her do her thing.

They try their best to emulate her, but realize they’re a long way from matching her output.

Martin holds a Christmas stocking made by her mother.

"If people run into problems, they call mom and she’s always willing to do whatever she can to help," said Martin, 45.

Morgan’s library career was somewhat unexpected. She doesn’t have a degree in library science, but filled in to help when the director left. At last count, she’s been at it for three decades.

Knitting didn’t come as easy as her ability with other artistic creations, but she wouldn’t give up until she had mastered it. For her, persistence is a good way to prevail whenever challenges appear.

"I was sitting at home around Thanksgiving, found a knitting pamphlet and vowed right there and then to try again," she said. "I’ve been knitting ever since and love every part of it."

Crocheting is her favorite creative process "because it’s portable" and can be taken wherever she might be going at the time.

Several months ago she shifted from artist to teacher at Alabama Southern Community College in Thomasville where she attracted a large audience of sewing enthusiasts who admired her display of handmade creations.

Morgan grew up in Baldwin County, but she and husband, Sam Morgan, found a home for keeps in Camden. He owns a business not far from their house. They’ve been married 50 years.

Former Circuit Court Judge Anne Farrell Wright admires Morgan’s sewing prowess, but she’s just as amazed at her ability to obtain funding for the little library where the budget can be just as challenging as juggling several needle-and-thread projects at the same time.

"Her ability to look for grant money has been vital to the continued operation of the library," Wright said. "Bettie has even found a way to obtain funding to help those with hearing and sight problems."

Located at the old Wilcox County Courthouse, the library continues to provide services to residents throughout the area. Morgan and Martin are the two biggest reasons for that.

Being in the midst of the holiday season hasn’t slowed Morgan down a bit. If anything, it just has her pushing the afterburners to complete projects destined for family members as well as special friends.

Rachel, 18, beams with pride when friends admire a quilt that her grandmother made just for her.

"When they ask me questions about the quilt, I just tell them that ‘Ma-Ma made it for me,’" she said. "It makes me feel good when they see it and ask me about it."

Taking it all in is Sadie Bell, a Yorkie who has the run of the house, but, at times, just prefers to cuddle up on a couch or chair with Morgan, who can’t resist taking a break to give her a big hug.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Carbon Roots

Huge piles of processed sugar cane to be charred

by Robert Spencer

Anyone who has ever flown over Haiti in the Caribbean Basin will tell you they have a severe deforestation problem with long-term environmental and natural resource consequences. In the early 1900s, over 60 percent of Haiti’s land was covered with trees; by 2006, less than 2 percent of the land was forested. The denuding began during colonial development of the 1600s and intensified when coffee production was introduced in early 1700s. Throughout the 19th century (post Haitian revolution) the government was forced to export timber to pay off a 90 million franc indemnity to France. Forests in the mountainous areas were cleared and 50 years later a quarter of the colony’s land was under coffee. These hillside soils were particularly susceptible to erosion when cleared for farming. The system of plantation monoculture and clean cultivation between rows of coffee, indigo, tobacco and sugarcane exhausted soil nutrients and led to rapid erosion.

Around 1954, logging operations were accelerated in response to Port-au-Prince’s (nation’s capital) intensified demand for charcoal. This rampant deforestation transpired in conjunction with environmentally unsound agricultural practices, rapid population growth and increased competition over land. No management or reforestation plans were ever developed or implemented to reduce this consequential impact.Anestimated 15,000 acres of topsoil are washed away each year and erosion also damages other productive infrastructure such as dams, irrigation systems, roads and coastal marine ecosystems. Soil erosion also lowers the productivity of the land and worsens droughts, all of which increase the pressure on the remaining land and trees. A sad situation for an impoverished nation, people struggling to eat day to day and the future of Haiti.

Chopped biomass

Current research indicates over 93 percent of Haitians rely on charcoal and wood as a primary energy source for cooking. Given this predicament, the price of charcoal in Haiti is extremely high compared to most developing countries, so an average Haitian family might spend a significant portion of their income on cooking fuel.

Prior to the 2010 earthquake, Eric Sorenson and Eric Delaney (both from the United States) brought their fundraising skills, global experience and innovative expertise to Haiti. They developed biochar, a soil amendment product made from recycled vegetation designed to improve soil fertility and quality. They then developed the idea of making an alternate cooking fuel source known as green charcoal. Not only did this provide an alternative to denuding the land of trees, it further processes used sugar cane stalks from local processors, and converts them into a value-added product. This project provides sustainable economic benefits and job opportunities for 90-plus people.

Their website pages,, provide the following information:

"Over the course of several years of close collaboration with rural Haitian communities, Carbon Roots International implemented field trails, developed appropriate technology, and ultimately expanded focus to include the production of renewable, charcoal-cooking fuel known as green charcoal. In 2013, we formally launched an innovative, market-based social enterprise model in northern Haiti that addresses deforestation, energy security, rural poverty and job scarcity. Their funding comes from a combination of donations, earned income and grant partners such as Halloran Philanthropies, United States Agency for International Development and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Carbon Roots International is a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation.

Green briquettes being moved out to drying racks

"CRI has responded to Haiti’s charcoal problem, and the low-adoption rates of many cookstove and alternative fuel initiatives, with an innovative, culturally appropriate fuel called green charcoal. Green charcoal briquettes are made from carbonized agricultural waste, and can be used as ‘drop-in’ replacements for traditional charcoal, requiring no new stove technologies or changes in cooking methods, significantly decreasing key obstacles that plague new cookstove and alternative fuel technologies. Moreover, green charcoal briquettes are cheaper than traditional wood charcoal, which is extremely attractive to energy consumers at the bottom of the income pyramid.

"Consumers in Haiti are proving receptive to switching to green charcoal briquettes. Because the briquettes function the same, and switching to green charcoal saves money while preventing deforestation, Haitians are embracing green charcoal as a viable alternative to wood-based charcoal and wood fuel. CRI’s consumers are quickly recognizing that green charcoal is good for the environment and makes financial sense!

Racks with green charcoal drying on them

"Based in northern Haiti at an 8-acre production center located outside of Cap-Haitien, the enterprise employs a decentralized network of approximately 99 smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs to produce carbon-rich char dust from agricultural waste such as sugar cane bagasse using kilns.

"At the central production center, the enterprise uses the char dust, a proprietary binding recipe, and commercial mixing and briquetting equipment to produce renewable charcoal cooking briquettes called green charcoal. Following processing, the briquettes are dried and packaged for sale. Biochar has become a byproduct of the production process.

"Green charcoal is sold to two main customer segments: base-of-the-pyramid households and institutional buyers such as schools, restaurants, businesses and orphanages. The enterprise sells green charcoal to BoP customers through a network of women charcoal retailers and institutional buyers purchase directly from the enterprise.

Cured briquettes are bagged; bags are then sewn up for distribution throughout the entire country.

"The production and adoption of green charcoal reduces reliance on traditional wood-based charcoal, which is one of the primary drivers of deforestation in the developing world, while also creating new jobs in rural areas, and raising crop yields and building soil resilience. Farmers earn new income by monetizing their agricultural waste; women charcoal retailers offer a highly competitive product, enjoy higher profit margins and develop business skills; and charcoal customers have access to a cleaner, viable cooking fuel that is cheaper than traditional charcoal."

These innovative processes have so many applications on a global basis.


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

Christmas memories from Old Field Farm

My grandparents James (Jim) and Vennie Inmon as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary August 9, 1959.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

What is it about Christmas that makes us think of the past so much?

Was it because we were younger? Is it because we miss our families? Or is it because of Christ’s sacrifice that makes us want to share so much of our lives and share His Gospel with everyone?

Many of my regular column readers may know that my maternal grandparents were Vennie and Jim Inmon. Way back in 1983 I shared some of their Christmas memories with a local newspaper where I was a reporter.

Granny then remembered her childhood Christmases near Altoona in Etowah County and then in the edge of Blount County as special because she and her three brothers and two sisters looked forward to the big red apples and a sticks of candy they’d receive in their stockings. It was a special Christmas indeed when she received a small, black-haired doll whose head was made of china with a body of softly stuffed cotton.

Christmases with Grandpa Jim and their five daughters and two sons proved even more special. Grandpa was truly "Santa" and Granny his "Missus" as they sprinkled soot on Christmas tree branches so the children would see what a hard time Santa had dragging the tree down the chimney. Large sooty-black footprints also made a trail across the freshly scrubbed floor ....

Granny was only 13 or 14 when they married, so looking back now I can see that they were only kids themselves as they began welcoming their family of seven. (They were married for more than 50 years!)

Many of the toys their kids received were homemade, and Granny displayed a special talent for creating stuffed animals and dolls without patterns from scraps of fabric from old clothes and wherever else she could find. (Every time I make something similar to sell in my tiny general store I think of her sewing those little special critters and how my mama loved them!)

Granny ALWAYS made a chocolate cake and a coconut cake for Christmas. The coconut had to be hand scraped from a real coconut (and I remember thinking of how those coconuts – that we saw ONLY at Christmas back then – looked like little monkey faces). The coconut couldn’t be from a box or bag! The children had to leave the tempting cakes untouched in the middle of the table until the big day – but on Christmas Eve, Santa always helped himself to a large piece of each! Only later did my mama and the other kids put two and two together as they remembered Granny’s fondness for coconut and Jim’s for chocolate!

When the children were older, cutting the tree became a family affair, and they trooped through the woods until they found a pine that would touch the ceiling. Sweet gum balls were dipped in flour to make snowy ornaments, popcorn was strung and crepe paper twisted to produce other decorations.

My mama could also remember Granny twisting crepe paper in special ways to form ropes across the ceiling that all tied together in the center of the ceiling with a special homemade ornament trimmed with twigs of holly or other greenery in the middle.

Grandpa began to actually play Santa at Olive Branch Church and, until about two years before his death in 1964, he WAS Santa for numerous churches, clubs, the city of Oneonta and scores of starry-eyed grandchildren (including me).

Grandpa babied Granny until his death, but a lot of good-natured kidding and joking happened through the years! Granny always "snooped" to try and determine her present under the Christmas tree. One year, Grandpa hid her real present and wrapped a brown, stuffed teddy bear and placed it under the tree.

"I punched little holes in the paper trying to see what was in that package and I got sooooo mad," she told me later as she laughed.

The bear survived more than 50 years and was loved by a generation of grandkids and great grandkids, and nobody seems to remember what the "real" present was!

I inherited that precious brown bear after Granny died, but it was lost in a fire many years ago ....

Grandpa was sort of a handyman and could make many interesting things. At Christmas, he decorated their yard with cutouts of Christmas figures he made and painted. Of course, there was Santa, a snowman and other imaginary friends, but there was always an angel or two and sometimes even a specially cut out and painted nativity scene ....

As mentioned before, my grandpa died in 1964, but my Granny lived until the mid-1980s and EVERYONE in the family was REQUIRED to spend Christmas Day at Granny’s! By the time of her death, her descendants numbered near 100 and we basically all still trooped to Granny’s little, white clapboard house in Oneonta for Christmas dinner every year!

Although she was blind and basically homebound, she kept up with everyone’s activities throughout the year and she KNEW who didn’t come on Christmas, and they better have had a good excuse for missing!

Until near the end of her life, she made certain every one of her grown children, her grandchildren and then beginning her great grandchildren had at least one present underneath her tree!!! It didn’t matter to us if it came from the local five and dime store: it was personally picked out and wrapped by Granny and Christmas wasn’t officially Christmas until we opened that special gift!

And Christmas wasn’t usually Christmas unless several gathered around the old upright piano in the dining room and sang old-time Gospel songs!

My first cousins Shirley Evans Moss, Grace Evans Huie and Polly Evans Gargus usually formed the basis of the singing with my Uncle Gene Inmon providing a resounding bass! Several took turns playing the piano, but it was Grace who played by ear the most from the time she was so little her feet dangled from the piano bench!

I was so blessed to be a part of this huge family whose legacy continues onward ....

But the best legacy I received there and from my parents Paul and Inez Lowry and from my Grandpa Harly Lowry and his wife I never knew, Maud Smith Lowry, was the knowledge that Christmas was only the BEGINNING. That little baby boy was born in a manger to die for me and take away my sins!

The Christmas story is a simple one. But it didn’t end with the bright star above and it didn’t even end with the cross ... Christ arose so that any who repent, believe on Him and consecrate their lives to Him can share in His eternal life.

May your Christmas be filled with Christ’s true glory!

Merry Christmas from Suzy and all the critters at Old Field Farm!

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

Cleaning Out the Cupboard

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Occasionally, I need to update readers on a few topics that probably would not make for a good article. However, the Cooperative Farming News is one of my best ways to get information out to those in animal agriculture who need it. We generally publish rule changes and other pertinent information on our Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries website, But I occasionally run across folks involved in animal agriculture who either don’t own a computer or prefer not to spend much time on it.

I do not want to miss the opportunity to tell the folks at the Cooperative Farming News that they provide me with a priceless medium to communicate with the animal agriculture segment of society. Most of my state veterinarian counterparts in other states who know about my monthly column in this news magazine are just a little envious.

I will admit that certain subjects like trichomonas, a venereal disease in cattle, may not be something that piques everyone’s interest. But if you happen to be a cattle producer who is bringing in a bull from another state, this little upcoming segment could be extremely important to you.

If you are not in the cattle business and are not importing bulls from another state, there still could be some benefit from being familiar with the rule change. Maybe you are in a group of people at the church social or in the break room at work and the conversation begins to lag. Then you can insert the question into the conversation, "Hey, have y’all heard about the new change in the State of Alabama Trich rule?" At that point, your audience will realize you are well-informed on a variety of subjects and you are likely far more intelligent than they had estimated. If fact, it will be kind of like when Goober on the "Andy Griffith Show" grew a beard and the Mayberry citizens automatically perceived him as being more intelligent because he looked more intelligent and distinguished. You start talking about trichomonas in cattle and how it causes transient infertility and that the disease is usually perpetuated on the male – your stock is automatically going up.

Trichomonas Rule Harmonization

Our current rules regarding importation of bulls over 18 months of age most likely changed as of the meeting of the Ag Board in November. We will no longer require a negative culture test for these bulls prior to entry. So the entry requirements will be: for bulls greater than 18 months of age they must be tested negative by a single Real Time PCR within 60 days, be officially identified and be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection with test information included.

Avian Influenza(Bird Flu) Update

Due to the recent outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza an emergency rule is in place to become a permanent rule. All poultry entering the state must be from a flock participating in the National Poultry Improvement Plan AI Clean status or be tested negative for AI with 21 days prior to entry. Birds must be on a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or accompanied with a copy of participating 9-3 or 9-2 NPIP form.

Animal Disease Traceability

We are moving forward with the Animal Disease Traceability program and will soon be providing guidance for stockyards, cattle producers and veterinarians to begin to utilize electronic tags and electronic health certificates. We have been trying to get the word out about our rule requiring cattle of breeding age to be identified with an official device at the time of change of ownership. Those approved devices are the metal ear tags that can be obtained through my office or the electronic identification tags that can be read with an electronic reader. The federal regulation requires these same cattle be identified before crossing state lines. All official identification devices must be associated with a specific premises number. If you have any questions about animal disease traceability, please contact my office at 334-240-7253. If you have any type of cattle producer meetings coming up you need more information for, we will try to accommodate whatever that need may be.

Diagnostic Laboratories Survive Budget Challenges … For Now

Back in early 2010, Commissioner McMillan had just taken the reins at the Department of Ag and Industries. I don’t know this to be a fact, but I suspect he would rather have not had to deal with the huge budget cuts we were dealt right after he arrived. Our department lost right at a quarter of our employees. I remember after we cut everything – we started bringing our own toilet paper when we came to work – the Commissioner asked me and another division head to cut another half million dollars each from our respective divisions. I told Commissioner McMillan that if I had to find a half million more dollars to cut, he could have our whole budget. We were already so thin it was a real challenge to get critical work done, especially at the labs. At that point we made a decision to increase fees to help make up for the shortfall. That had kept the wolves outside the door. But this year, we really sweated the challenge of how to continue to do what we need to do, especially with avian influenza a real threat.

Fortunately, the battles fought somewhere downtown yielded us enough to carry on another year. And it is a familiar song, "Doing more with less resources and less people." I am certainly concerned as we look at the next year and further down the road. It appears the 2017 budget may be leaner than the 2016. If you are involved in animal agriculture, it is something I would say is ok to lose sleep over. Maybe nothing bad will happen. Maybe bird flu will just fade away. Maybe no foreign animal diseases will occur in our state. I would still rather be accused of being paranoid that having someone say, "Dr. Frazier, you didn’t take those threats to animal agriculture seriously. Now look at the mess we are in." In the meantime, we watch and wait and keep our field personnel at the ready. It is a better plan than whistling while we walk past the cemetery.

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

Corn Time


December Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Force some bulbs for the holidays to have blooms before spring arrives. Amaryllis, paperwhites and hyacinths are all classic bulbs to force at this time of year.
  • Trees and shrubs can still be planted any time the soil is not too muddy.
  • Some garden centers will carry live or uncut Christmas trees that are balled and burlapped. They should be brought indoors for no longer than 10 days; then plant where it is to grow.


  • Get your soil tested and be prepared for spring.


  • Grape vines can be pruned any time during the dormant season. Do some pruning now if you want to use vines for wreath making.
  • Keep good pruning practices in mind when cutting holiday greenery. Make clean cuts at branch angles or leaf nodes, and keep an eye on the shape of the plant.
  • Take evergreen and hardwood cuttings. Dip them in a rooting hormone before putting them in pots filled with rooting media and place in a cold-frame for the winter. Roots should form by spring.
  • Stone fruits such as cherries, prunes and peaches are prime for pruning in December.
  • Prune outdoor limbs or branches 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.


  • Even if you plan to use a water hose this month, store it where it won’t freeze. If you don’t plan to use it any more, drain it, wind it up and bring it indoors. Sprinklers should also be stored indoors.
  • 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.
  • Drip irrigation systems should be turned off if a freezing morning is forecast; remove the end plug for drainage.
  • If the month is unusually dry, get out the hose, turn the water back on during a (relatively) warm weekend and give newly transplanted trees and shrubs a drink.
  • 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.
  • Consider misting your houseplants once or twice a day since dry, heated air can stress them.
  • Overwatering is the biggest risk to houseplants in winter … go easy.
  • Check overwintered plants in the basement and garage for possible water needs.
  • For those with outdoor ponds, be sure to add water as needed to keep aquatic plants from drying out. Also make sure to break a hole when ice forms across the top to release accumulated gases and allow oxygen to enter.
  • 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.


  • Remove dead vegetable plants from the garden to prevent insects and diseases from over-wintering.
  • Apply broadleaf herbicides to control winter annual and perennial weeds. Use only as directed.
  • Check camellias and azaleas for spider mites and treat with insecticidal soap if mites are found.
  • 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 or 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.


  • As you put most outdoor gardening to bed, think about what happened this year. If you didn’t take notes during the season, set aside some time on a nice cozy evening and jot down what went well in the garden and what did not. Then put down ideas on what you will do differently next year. Consider keeping a garden journal during the following year.
  • Clear days are good for applying mulch to beds you didn’t get to earlier in the fall – 2-3 inches is sufficient.
  • Frost action ruins clay pottery and birdbath bowls. Are yours stored in a dry shed or overhang?
  • If possible, before bringing a Christmas tree indoors, give it a good shake and even a good cleaning with the garden hose to remove dead leaves, pollen and hitchhiking insects.
  • The more recently a tree is cut the better it will hold up indoors. To test the freshness of a tree, pull lightly at a needle. If the needle comes off easily, then the tree is not very fresh. The best way to assure a fresh tree is to go to a local "choose ‘n cut" tree farm. Go to for the closest farm or check the yellow pages under Christmas Trees.
  • Lettuce can be kept going through much of the winter by covering with row cover fabric or constructing a cloche (mini-greenhouse) over the bed. Monitor greenhouses, cloches and cold frames daily; temperatures heat up quickly on a sunny day.
  • The strawberry bed can be mulched with straw when nights are regularly falling below freezing.
  • Use some down time to clean, sharpen, oil and repair garden tools and equipment. Wash work gloves and dry them thoroughly.
  • Examine the stored roots, corms and bulbs of dahlias, cannas, gladiolus, tuberoses, caladiums, tuberous begonias and others you dug up in the fall. These should remain plump and firm, and should not show signs of growth or rotting. Throw out rotting/moldy ones and, if others are showing sprouts and roots, place them in a cooler, darker place and make sure their packing material is dry. The back of the refrigerator is cold enough to stop such growth.
  • Wood ashes from the fireplace, used sparingly, are a good source of nutrients for the garden, especially phlox, sweet William, peony and spring-flowering bulbs. To use wood ashes later on spring plantings, store them in an old metal tub or other dry and fireproof container. CAUTION: Make sure there are no live coals before storing wood ashes.
  • Keep composting.
  • Take your mower in for service after the final mowing rather than in the spring rush, then store without gas in the tank by running it dry.
  • Become a Master Gardener! Call your county Extension office for more details.
  • Give gardening gifts this Christmas. Clothing, boots, toys, Farmers Almanacs, pocket knives, gun safes, wild bird feeders, beekeeping equipment, tubs/wheelbarrows to put it all in and much more can be found at your local Co-op store!
  • Keep lawns free of leaves.
  • Avoid walking on frozen grass.
  • If you have any leftover seeds, store these in a cool, dry place. Some gardeners save their seeds in an airtight jar or plastic bag placed in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • 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.
  • Move household plants away from cold windows.
  • Look 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.
  • Holiday flowering plants are usually sold potted in a peat moss soilless mix. This mix is difficult to wet once it dries out and the water may roll right off the root ball. If the water immediately runs out of the pot at watering time, the soil may have dried too much. Place the pot in a pan or sink of warm water to soak for about an hour then remove. Let the pot drain thoroughly.
  • For traditional color choose poinsettias with an abundance of dark, rich green foliage that is undamaged, dense and plentiful all the way down to the soil line.
  • Other 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.
  • If you received houseplants as holiday gifts, be sure to remove the foil surrounding the pot to avoid root rot.
  • Clean up the water garden. Remove floating leaves and algae from the water and discard any dead plant material. If there are any tender plants needing protection from freezing temperatures, remove them to a heated structure.
  • If you haven’t set out a bird feeder, do it this month. They’ll thank you by coming for daily visits and singing for their supper. Once you have drawn birds to the feeder, keep it filled. The birds will depend on you. A word of advice: resist the urge to feed squirrels when you feed the birds. Squirrels are cute to watch, but they can be very damaging in a garden. After you stop feeding them, they’ll stay and will keep looking for food, digging up bedding plants and even potted plants, looking for roots to chew on or bulbs to eat.


How's Your Garden?

Armand clematis always surprises with fragrant, late-winter blooms.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Fragrance When You Least Expect It

There are a few great landscape plants that bloom in fall and winter to bring fragrance to your garden during the off season. Try tea olive (Osmanthus species), a shrub, and Armand clematis (Clematis armandii), an evergreen vine. In South Alabama, the loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica) is a nice small tree with large, evergreen leaves with fragrant late-winter blooms. Avoid eleagnus, which also has a nice fragrance, because it is on the state’s list of invasive plants.

Discouraging the Squirrels

One way to keep squirrels from eating the seed in your bird feeder is to make it hot!

Add crushed hot pepper flakes, hot pepper seeds, hot peppercorns (whole or cracked) or coarsely ground hot pepper to the seed. Put enough in with the seeds that the squirrels are sure to come across it frequently. Avoid cayenne powder because it can get into the bird’s eyes. The heat doesn’t bother the birds as they don’t have the capsaicin sensors, but the squirrels have to be desperate to eat it. Most of the time, they will go elsewhere for food.

Evergreen Tapestry in Winter

A great landscape offers a nice mix of trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers that offer color, foliage and fragrance unique for each season. That’s what invites you out into the garden to see what is happening each day. Evergreens, which maintain their foliage through the seasons (thus the name, evergreen), are particularly important to help carry a garden through the winter. Landscape designers use them in key places to anchor foundation plantings, provide privacy screens or just introduce subtle, but interesting, foliage textures and colors. You can mix it up with needle-leaf and big-leafed evergreens for a variety of textures. Then mix the leaf colors of evergreens - the assortment varies from gray to various shades of green to chartreuse to gold. One of the prettiest assortments of evergreen trees and large shrubs I’ve ever seen functioned as a windscreen at a home on top of Monte Sano. It was a long planting of mixed evergreens with contrasting textures and colors so it looked like a giant living tapestry. The same can be accomplished on a smaller scale to create a vignette of textures and colors that looks good in any season, but especially in winter. Now is a good time to shop for those plants

Wintering Cilantro

Most of the time, fall-planted cilantro will tolerate Alabama winters; but, if you want it to produce more leaves in the cold weather, place a cloche over the plant or cover it with a white frost blanket during cold spells. This will protect it from severe freezes and then, as the weather warms up, the plant will grow new leaves until the next cold spell comes along. Fall-planted cilantro will put on many flushes of growth before it flowers in the spring, that is why it is always good to plant cilantro in the fall. When the weather warms up in March or April, the plants will stretch and bloom. Some gardeners get frustrated with cilantro because it blooms and stretches shortly after they plant it, leaving them to think that it’s not a good crop. However, results are a lot more productive in the fall! When spring arrives, leave the cilantro to bloom in the garden to attract bees and other beneficial insects that like cilantro blooms. Later you can harvest the mature seeds (coriander) to use in Asian and Latin American dishes.

A wildflower meadow is a beautiful sight!

Wildflower Seed

There is still time to plant an abundance of wildflowers from seed on your property, whether it’s to create a wildflower meadow, line a long driveway or just plant a flowerbed with flowers that attract native bees and other pollinators. Many wildflower species germinate quickly, allowing the seedling to establish a root system before top growth begins in spring. You can buy a few packets of seed to sow individually or purchase seeds in bulk for large areas. Some companies sell seed mixes especially suited to the Southeast that include a mix of reseeding annuals and perennials. To spread seeds over a large area, mix them with sand (1 part seed to 10 parts sand). Stir the seeds and sand together in a bucket and scatter by the handful. Don’t rake or cover with soil because many wildflower seeds need light to sprout. Instead, walk over the area (or use a lawn roller in large areas) to make sure the seeds have contact with the ground.

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

Knife Works: A Lifelong Passion

Will Bagley hammers steel on the anvil that his granddaddy gave him. The anvil once belonged to his great-grandfather.

Self-taught, teen knife smith heads his own business, honing skills for the future.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Growing up on a small farm in the Sandflat community, south of Thomasville, Will Bagley learned firsthand how useful and necessary knives are on a farm. Early on, he developed an intense fascination with knives, causing him to read books and magazines related to knives. He would spend hours talking to dealers and collectors, wishing he had the money to buy all the knives that captured his attention.

A family vacation to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., would change the youngster’s life and help him find a way to satisfy his passion for collecting knives.

While in the mountains, Bagley visited his favorite shop, the Smokey Mountains Knife Works in Sevierville. He watched intently as the knife maker forged horseshoe knives. The cutler explained his techniques and took the time to answer the young boy’s questions. It was here that Bagley became convinced he could learn to make his own knives. Before leaving the store, Bagley used his savings to buy a miniature forge and a paperback book on knife making, convinced that he could teach himself to make knives. He was 11 years old at that time.

Back home, Bagley started to collect old nails, railroad spikes, rebar and scrap iron. He spent many hours planning and designing his knives before he would heat up the forge. He learned by trial and error. Even though knife making is a slow, intense process, he never gave up, spending long hours heating metal in his forge, using a hammer to shape the steel on his anvil and grinding to finish the knife.

Before long, Bagley realized he needed a larger forge than the small one he had brought home from Tennessee. That’s when his grandfather, John Bagley, stepped in to help. The elder Bagley had grown up when times were hard, and people "made do" with whatever they had.

Making a knife is a very labor-intensive process. It is also requires that the knife smith always be focused on what he is doing.

"Paw Paw said that we’d just have to make what I needed," Bagley laughed.

And that’s just what they did! The twosome made a forge out of an old tire rim and fashioned a tripod to support the rim. Then they combined clay, dirt and mortar mix to place inside the rim to insulate the area and keep the heat in one place. They ran a pipe through the center for airflow and connected it to some old crank-type bellows that had once belonged to his great-great grandfather. He used a torch to strike the coal to heat the forge.

"A recycled forge," he laughed, "but it worked. It was too slow, and the sulfur smoke would get to me. I burned myself a few times, and even got a sliver of steel in my eye. But I quickly learned a lot, especially to always use my safety glasses and take more precautions."

His first attempts may have been awkward, but, as he progressed, he began to produce knives he was proud of.

Will Bagley says his granddaddy, John Bagley, has been a great influence in his life by giving him tools to get started and helping him build his forge.

"I showed a few of my knives to some friends, and they liked them. It wasn’t long before people were asking me to make knives for them," he stated.

He continued to hone his skills on the homemade forge in his backyard shop.

Fast-forward six years, and now, this self-taught knife smith heads his own business, called Sandflat Knifeworks. He owns a larger forge that is much faster and hotter. Most of his materials are still ones he finds or that someone donates to him, but he can now be more selective of the steel he uses for blade smithing. He has expanded his shop to two rooms, one to forge and one to finish.

Bagley has also diversified his business. He now makes shepherd hooks, flower hangers, key chains, letter openers, hoof picks and other items upon request. He made his own chisel from an old crowbar, and he now uses it to sculpt decorative leaves for ornamental uses. These items are very popular, so Bagley markets them on Facebook, at Black Belt Treasures in Camden and at his home in Sandflat.

Knives are still his first love, however. Historical knives are some of his favorites. He has made many Bowie knives, which sell as quickly as he can finish them. On a whim, he also made a Khopesh, a crescent-shaped war knife used by ancient Egyptians. He still has this knife and proudly displays it for visitors to see. Bagley admitted that he does have some knives he will not sell, however. These are some that have very special meaning to him. He keeps them in a protected area of his home, and gets them out occasionally to look at them.

Left to right, Bagley displayed his work at Depot Days in Pine Hill. A large crowd watched as he went through the process of changing steel into a knife. Many youngsters came by to ask questions about knife making. These decorative leaves are made by Bagley to be sold at Black Belt Treasures in Camden. He also makes keychains, letter openers, flower holders and many more decorative items.

Bagley also enjoys making machetes. He recently made a replica of one used in "Rambo 4," and it sold very quickly. Even though he enjoys making various kinds of knives, he prefers to make knives that are used as tools for constructing things.

Bagley has seen his business grow, especially through social media.

"I want to keep what I make about 99 percent of the time," he stated, "but somebody comes by or messages me and offers me money for it, so I sell it."

Bagley says that his Granddaddy John has been a great influence in his life.

"He gave me his anvil and the tools I needed to get started," Bagley explained. "He also helped me build my forge and find the materials to get started."

He added that his Granddaddy has always encouraged him and believed in him.

This past August, Bagley began a new phase of his life. He entered the University of West Alabama on an academic scholarship. He plans to study nursing, specializing in becoming either a nurse anesthetist or an emergency flight nurse. Each weekend, however, he drives back home to Sandflat to work in his shop.

Bagley displays at local festivals, setting up his forge to show visitors how he makes his knives. His exhibits attract many spectators, most unfamiliar with knife making. He enjoys explaining what he is doing, especially to children; just like the knife-smith back in Tennessee did for him so many years ago.

His goal is to produce functional, affordable knives, but one of his future goals is to master Damascus steel. Damascus steel knives are stronger and beautifully etched with intricate designs. He looks at the creations of other knife makers and hopes one day to create his own artistic blade patterns that would bear his own signature style.

He now uses social media to network with veteran knife makers, who share their techniques and give him advice. One of his favorites is Jesse Hemphill at Skirum Knifeworks in DeKalb County.

"Mr. Jesse’s stuff is just awesome," he said. "One day, I hope I can be half as good as he is."

For now, Bagley spends his weekdays studying and his weekends forging. His future looks bright. There is no doubt, with his dedication, determination and drive, he will succeed at whatever he chooses to do.

"I plan to keep making knives for a long time," he added. "I love making stuff; especially things that can help people do a job easier."

Check out Will Bagley and Sandflat Knifeworks on Facebook or you can contact Sandflat Knifeworks at 334-456-9547.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

Regarding Huntsville being “about as south as they (dahlias) can be raised” that was in the article “Devoted to Dahlias” (March 2015), your readers might want to know that throughout the 1940s and until his death in 1975, my dad grew a variety of gorgeous dahlias in Auburn. I don’t know if he purchased a particular kind or not, but I know they bloomed profusely and gave him, Grady Loftin, and his friends a great deal of pleasure. Maybe your readers might want to go ahead and give them a try.

Grady Sue Loftin Saxon

Maximizing Immunity

Preventing disease via nutrition is going to be more important than ever.

by Jackie Nix

Many of you may have already heard of the new Food Safety Modernization Act proposed by FDA. In a nutshell, previous FDA rules were focused primarily on identifying food safety problems after they occurred and responding accordingly. FSMA seeks to help prevent food safety issues in both humans and animals through preventative controls throughout all levels of production, storage and distribution. Part of the fallout of FSMA is the topic of antibiotic use in meat animals. With debate still ongoing, one thing is clear, that reliance on antibiotic use in food animals is on a downward trend. With this in mind, it is going to be more important than ever to build strong immune systems in our calves through sound nutrition.

While overall nutrition is important to maintaining health, there are several key trace minerals typically deficient in the diet that play critical roles in the development and maintenance of the immune system in calves. These key minerals are copper, zinc and selenium.

Copper is needed for proper development of antibodies and white blood cells in addition to antioxidant enzyme production. Copper-deficient cattle are more susceptible to infections and do not respond as well to vaccinations. In addition, they tend to be less resistant to parasitic challenge. Studies have shown cattle receiving proper copper nutrition tend to be less susceptible to infections and have less severe infections when disease does occur.

Zinc plays an important role in the maintenance of skin, gastro-intestinal linings and the linings of the respiratory system. These are the body’s first defense against bacterial, viral and parasitic invaders. Additionally, zinc is crucial in non-specific immunity from neutrophils and phagocytic cells and antioxidant activity. Zinc is also necessary for development of antibodies needed for specific immunity.

Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E in the removal of free radicals via antioxidant activity and is critical for phagocytic cell function in non-specific immunity. Research has shown selenium-deficient cells are less able to kill pathogens. Selenium deficient animals are less able to respond to a specific invader and have lowered antibody titers.

Since much of a calf’s body stores of trace minerals are obtained in-utero, especially during the last trimester, nutrition of the dam is crucial for the calf’s immunity. The dam’s nutritional status affects the calf in two ways. First, it affects the quality of the colostrum she is able to offer for passive immunity. Second, it provides necessary building blocks for when the calf’s body develops its own immunity.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that stress has a direct negative effect on immune function. For example, it has been shown that phagocytes do not respond normally to infection in the presence of cortisol (the "stress" hormone). Prolonged stress has been shown to actually increase an animal’s mineral requirements. The stress brought on by a harsh winter will tax the levels dams have to give, thus making supplementation of the cow herd with high-quality mineral sources critical during winter and spring. It’s important to keep high-quality supplements in front of the cows even after calving as the cows need to replenish body stores to prepare for breeding. Calves will also need access to supplements since some minerals such as copper are not transferred in milk in appreciable quantities. High-quality supplements will give them the building blocks they need for a strong immune system.

In summary, maximizing immune function via nutrition, especially trace mineral nutrition, is going to become increasingly important in beef production. SWEETLIX offers a wide variety of high quality supplements that will deliver essential minerals and vitamins to cattle in an ultra-convenient delivery system. For cows and calves coming out of a stressful winter and spring, consider one of the SWEETLIX CopperHead Supplements. SWEETLIX CopperHead Supplements are fortified at 150 percent of NRC recommended levels of copper and zinc, and SWEETLIX CopperHead Max Supplements at 250 percent of NRC recommended levels of copper and zinc. Both include highly available, organic forms of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt. Visit to learn more about these products. Also like us on Facebook to learn more about how SWEETLIX can work for you.

SWEETLIX is a registered trademark of Ridley Block Operations

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations ( You can contact her at 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.

Pals: Looking Good

Hokes Bluff Middle School repurposes recycled products to use in art projects.

by Jamie Mitchell

Hokes Bluff Middle School is partnering with PALS to keep their campus and community looking good! Seventh-grade science teacher Nicki Busch recently invited me to Hokes Bluff Middle School to kick off their 2015 Clean Campus Program.

I met with a seventh-grade "interest" class to inspire them to look for more ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. The students heard my 30-minute program on the "lifecycle" of a piece of trash, and we spent another 20 minutes answering questions and hearing personal stories of recycling and litter pickup.

The students at Hokes Bluff have recently been working on several recycled art projects including making flowers from plastic bottles and decorative pumpkins from old books. The students were excited to show me all of the projects on which they had been working! Their next goal is to partner with the local recycling facility to begin recycling paper and cardboard. Busch is constantly looking for more ways that the students of Hokes Bluff can make a difference.

If a school near you would like to hear more about the Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program, I would love to provide them with more information. I can come personally to help them get a program started! Just have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Persistence and Patience Brings Home to Food

by Christy Kirk

During the fall, Jason spends a lot of his free time getting ready for the coming hunting seasons. It can seem like the preparation process is a never-ending series of activities and chores. All of the hard work that goes into being ready is necessary to have a successful season. Putting in the labor ahead of the season is also a tradition handed down for generations in families who hunt.

When my Grandfather Rolley hunted in the very early 1900s, it was mainly for food. There was not a lot of preparation for a hunt ahead of time; but to maintain the stream of food, he had to be prepared and ready throughout the year. Over the years, hunting has changed from being a key necessity of survival to being an activity many people participate in because of preference or as an extracurricular sport.

Avid hunters who prefer wild game to the butcher shop know that consistent persistence and patience in the field mean bringing home enough food for the table or the freezer. With modern lifestyles, not many people, especially teenagers, have the patience or time to plan ahead for the season or to actually put in the time needed to find the desired game.

Now, even in Alabama, most people get the majority of their meats and fish from the grocery store. However, for Jason it is almost like there isn’t a choice but to hunt and fish. At our house, we rely heavily on wild game and want to be sure what is brought home is enough to last all year long. Jason and his father, Len, have already started initiating Cason and Rolley Len into the determination, commitment and rigor required to maintain hunting lands.

They try to make it fun for the kids so they don’t realize that some of what they are doing is actually work. Another way to keep the children interested in hunting for wild game is in the way you cook the meat or fowl you bring home. When you introduce new foods to your children or cook for friends or family who do not hunt, it is important to carefully consider recipes you use to create their meals.

When I think of ways to cook wild game, I first think about how my grandparents or great-grandparents might have cooked it. I have older cookbooks that I use as well. Sometimes I use the older recipes and sometimes we are more adventurous. Usually, I try to look for recipes that make the wild game seem more familiar such as the Brunswick stew recipe provided. Children will be more likely to try something new at their next meal if it looks similar to something they already know and like.

Here are a few recipes to try this holiday season with your friends and family. They are familiar enough that even people who never eat wild game will be willing to try. They are also easy to adapt to your tastes and what wild game you keep in your freezer.

Filets of Venison

Deer meat

1 medium onion, chopped

½ Tablespoon parsley, chopped

French dressing (enough to coat)

Cut leg meat in 1-inch slices; pound with a wooden tenderizer or potato masher into ¾-inch thickness. Add onion and parsley to French dressing and allow to marinate. Soak meat in mixture for several hours. Wipe away excess onion and parsley and pan fry in a little oil or broil. Cook until well-browned and tender.

Option: Cutlets can also be rolled in flour, dipped in slightly beaten egg mixed with a little water, and rolled in bread crumbs before frying.

Squirrel or Rabbit Brunswick Stew

2 grey squirrels or 2-3 rabbits

8 cups water

1 Tablespoon salt

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup canned corn

2 onions, diced

1 cup lima beans

2 cups canned or strained stewed tomatoes

¼ pound salt pork, diced

1 Tablespoon flour

1 Tablespoon butter

Skin dress, clean and disjoint squirrels or rabbits. Put and salt in a large pot or kettle; bring to a boil. Add meat, potatoes, corn, onion, beans, tomatoes and salt pork. Cover and simmer 2½ hours. Stir every 30 minutes. Mix flour with butter into a smooth paste. Add to the simmering mixture and mix well. Cover and cook 15 more minutes. Season with pepper and stir until slightly thickened.

Roast Wild Turkey

4 pounds turkey

Poultry stuffing (recipe included)

½ cup butter, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Flour for dredging

2/3 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 450°. Dress turkey and wipe with a cold damp cloth. Put in stuffing. Fasten wings and legs close to the body with skewers or tying. Spread 3 tablespoons butter over breast and legs. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and flour. Sprinkle the bottom of roasting pan with flour. Place turkey on back in the pan. Put turkey in oven for 15 minutes. Melt remaining butter with water. Baste bird with this mixture.

Reduce heat to 350° and cook about 2 hours or until tender. Baste every 10 minutes and add water if needed. Turn bird occasionally to brown evenly. Sprinkle with flour two or three times during cooking to create a thick crust.

Note: A 4 pound bird requires about 30 minutes of cooking per pound.

Cornbread Stuffing for Turkey
(not my Grandma’s dressing recipe)

6 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup onion, chopped

2/3 cup celery, chopped

3 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

4 cups corn breadcrumbs

¼ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Melt butter in frying pan. Add onion, celery and parsley. Sauté until lightly browned. Remove from heat and mix thoroughly with remaining ingredients.

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

Public Hunting Opportunities

Steve LouAllen harvested this buck on the Black Warrior WMA last season.

Providing opportunities for the public to enjoy quality hunting and fishing is a major part of our job.

by Chuck Sykes

Last month I wrote about the hardships the Wildlife and Fisheries Division and the Conservation Department as a whole have faced over the past few years with monetary transfers to the General Fund Budget. Despite the fact the legislature passed a budget that only required a transfer of $3 million instead of the proposed $18.3 million to the General Fund, there were still negative consequences to those actions. In fact, we are still sifting through the rubble of the session to see what damage was done.

In addition to the State Parks’ issue of the 2015 session, the Forever Wild Land Trust program was in the crosshairs. Legislators were looking to change the constitutional amendment providing the program with a steady source of revenue for purchasing land throughout the state. They wanted to shift that money to the parks’ system. However, the public spoke loudly, just as they had during the reauthorization of the FW program in 2012, and the legislation was removed from the calendar.

I have reason to believe this attack will come again during the 2016 session, which begins on February 2. Honestly, I don’t think money is the only issue behind attempts to dismantle the FW program. I truly believe it is a fundamental belief by a few that governments should not own any land. I’ve heard the argument, "The state doesn’t need any more land; they have enough already." Really? Well how much is too much state-owned land? As with most issues I encounter, misinformation is the root of all evil. So, let’s look at the facts, not someone’s opinion.

Alabama has roughly 23 million acres of timberland, which is the third most timberland acreage in the 48 contiguous states. As far as private timberland acreage is concerned, Alabama ranks second behind Georgia with approximately 95 percent of Alabama’s forested acres being privately owned. The Wildlife Management Area system encompasses approximately 753,000 acres. So, is that really too much land to be under management by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries? Some opponents say yes, the state shouldn’t own that much land.

Let’s break down the 753,000 acres, which is less than 4 percent of the total timbered acres in Alabama. State Lands Division owns roughly 13,000 acres, WFF owns 96,000 acres, FW owns 221,000 acres and the remaining 423,000 acres are under lease agreement with several companies – TVA, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and USFS.

Now, let’s look at the 423,000 acres under lease agreement. In the three years I have been director, the WMA system has lost more than 40,000 acres. For example, WFF lost the 18,000-acre Boykin WMA five months ago. The Boykin family has provided the public hunting land through WFF for more than 50 years.

"After a great deal of soul-searching by the family, we have come to the conclusion that we will not be able to renew the Frank W. and Rob M. Boykin Wildlife Management Area agreement beyond August 8, 2015," wrote Riley Boykin Smith, President and CEO of Tensaw Land and Timber Company. "We have had the privilege of offering the hunting rights on these lands to the State of Alabama for many, many years, and we recognize and appreciate the opportunities this wildlife management area has afforded the many citizens in this area who enjoy the outdoors and hunting in particular. However, as you can imagine, our families have expanded many times over during that period of time, and the demands on Tensaw and its ownership from both the use and development standpoints necessitate this decision."

WFF can’t count on these leased acreages to provide public hunting opportunities into the future. In addition to the possibility of losing more land, WFF can only manage the hunting on these leases, not the overall wildlife and land management. So, to provide a quality public hunting experience in perpetuity, we must own the property. As I stated in last month’s article, according to the 2011 National Survey, Alabama ranks seventh in the nation as far as hunting-related expenditures go. The money generated through the excise taxes paid by manufacturers on these goods combined with dollars generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses pay for the staff and services provided by WFF. One major aspect of the services offered by WFF is to provide a quality hunting experience to those who buy a hunting license. This involves owning and managing property.

Keep in mind, these properties managed for public hunting also provide other recreational opportunities. Hiking, canoeing, biking and bird-watching all take place on WMA systems. This is a prime example of hunters paying the way for others to enjoy nature: "Hunters pay, everyone benefits." It is our job to be wise stewards of the land as well as stewards of this money to provide the most opportunities for the hunters in Alabama. Therefore, WFF has teamed up with FW to make the most of every dollar dedicated to purchasing property. The first example of this partnership is taking place as I write this article. Back in its heyday, the Autauga WMA was approximately 6,000 acres of leased land. Due to losses, it has only comprised 370 acres for the past two decades. Under this new partnership, WFF and FW will jointly own approximately 8,000 acres over the next two years.

This partnership allows WFF to utilize the FW funds to serve as state match money to gain access to Pittman/Robertson federal money. In the past, WFF had to sacrifice state dollars that could be used for law enforcement and other purposes to serve as match for the federal share. By WFF and FW working together, each program wins. FW can spend $1 and WFF can use $3 of federal money. In the most simplistic terms, let’s say a piece of recreational property appraises for $4 million and the FW board deems it a positive addition to the state WMA system; they only have to invest $1 million to acquire it because WFF can use $3 million of Pittman/Robertson money to finish the purchase.

Purchasing and managing public hunting lands is extremely important to WFF and apparently equally as important to the Legislature of 2010. During that legislative session, HB 330 was passed and signed by the Governor. The bill said, "To add Section 9-11-2.1 to the Code of Alabama 1975, relating to no net loss of land acreage available for hunting; to require the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to find replacement acreage for hunting lands when existing hunting lands owned by the department are closed or to find replacement acreage for hunting lands, where feasible, when existing hunting lands managed by the department are closed to ensure there is no net loss of land acreage available for hunting."

So, maybe hunters and recreationists should be asking why FW and WFF are coming under attack for purchasing land. I would certainly like to know the answer.

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

Recalling Richard’s Rotator Cuff

by Nadine Johnson

Lately I have had an old horsetail and Bone-up tale nagging at my brain. It is begging to be told. Here it is.

Several years before Richard’s (my husband) death he developed a problem with his right rotator cuff. I’ve never experienced this type of pain, but all who have use the word "excruciating" to describe it. For treatment, I took him to a highly recommended orthopedic physician in Montgomery.

X-rays were made and the doctor handed Richard a prescription with this remark, "Here, Mr. Johnson, take this medication and see me in six weeks."

The prescription was filled and taken as directed.

He continued to take the medication as prescribed and saw the doctor as scheduled. He was no better.

The doctor said, "Keep on taking your medication and see me in six weeks."

He did, but he was no better.

Then for the third time was told, "Keep on taking your medication and see me in six weeks."

On this occasion, as we got into the car to go home, I announced, "When we get home I am going to start you on my horsetail and Bone-up."

I did just that. One week later, his pain was gone! He took horsetail and Bone-up continuously until five days before his death. (He never took another one of the prescribed pills.) He never experienced shoulder pain again.

Bone-up is a mixture of calcium and other properties beneficial to bone health.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is very high in silica, a major constituent of the biological cement that holds every part of our body together. Science has proven silica’s crucial role in our body’s absorption of calcium.

The doctor’s prescribed medication was a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. This story is not told to defame the product. I’m sure it has helped many people. However, it was not what was needed in Richard’s situation.

There were times when Richard would say, "Nadine, I have just got to take a break from so many pills. See what we can leave off for a few days."

Then, as an afterthought, he would add, "But DON’T leave off my horsetail and Bone-up!"

He did not want the shoulder pain to return.

Most of my readers know that horsetail and Bone-up are the supplements that enabled me to get severe osteoporosis under control.

As always I advise you to consult with your physician before taking any alternatives.

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

Safety First

Treestand safety is no accident.

by Stuart Goldsby

The use of elevated platforms for hunting purposes has increased tremendously and gone through considerable changes. More deer hunters take to the trees now than at any other time in history. Hunters have more choices and better engineered equipment than could have been imagined 30 years ago. Modern platforms are engineered with the safety of the user in mind. If properly used, these platforms are designed to reduce the risk of injury to the hunter.

When comparing and shopping for an elevated stand or fall-restraint device, only purchase equipment approved by the Treestand Manufacturers Association. Look for this indication on the packaging or visit TMA’s website to view products they have approved.

A fall-restraint harness is one of the least expensive investments in deer hunting gear, and can save your life when used properly. Read and follow the directions and instructions and practice using it before the day of a hunt. Having a recovery plan in place should you fall from a platform (while properly attached to the tree) is a must. You will only have a few minutes before the effects of suspension trauma (loss of consciousness) begin. Simply practice getting back to the platform or to the ground from a suspended position.

Don’t just wear your harness to climb up or down a treestand. To use it properly, attach the tether to the tree and remain attached to the tree until you are safely on the ground.

Climb only a healthy, straight tree and always use a haul line to bring your equipment up behind you, only after you have reached your final stand placement. Before descending, lower your equipment using the haul line. Never rush, and know your limits; if you think you are high enough in the tree then you probably are.

Always let someone know where you will be and when to expect you back, even if you carry a cell phone.

When hunting season is over remove your stands from the woods and replace any damaged or expired equipment before storing. Always contact the manufacturer before making alterations to any equipment.

Keep in mind that it is not necessary to hunt from an elevated position to have a successful hunt. Stalk hunting and the use of ground blinds have become increasingly popular and productive. You should hunt from the ground if it makes you feel more comfortable.

The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries received reports of 14 treestand accidents – one of which resulted in death – during the 2014-2015 Alabama deer season. The majority of the victims were complacent adults who chose to ignore simple safety rules while using an elevated platform.

Be responsible to yourself, your family and to the community of hunters. Follow all instructions and rules and keep safety the number one priority. Remember, treestand safety is no accident!

Stuart Goldsby is a regional hunter education coordinator for Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Stay Merry, Be Wary

The holiday season is not the time of year for foodborne illness.

by Angela Treadaway

Preparing for the holidays, we will encounter a variety of sumptuous food offerings – from eggnog and unique cookies to appetizers and roasted meats. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety agents and website are offering recommendations to consumers to help them avoid foodborne illness while enjoying these seasonal feasts.

From office parties to traditional get-togethers at home, many kinds of foods will be present throughout the month. People should remember food that has been sitting out for more than two hours invites bacterial growth that can lead to foodborne illness. Folks who are more at risk for foodborne illnesses are the young under the age of 5, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system who are going through treatments or have been in the hospital.

The best thing to do is to follow the four basic food safety steps when preparing food to help reduce foodborne illness. Those steps are:

Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often.

Separate – Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry apart from cooked foods and vegetables.

Cook – Use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked.

Chill– Refrigerate or freeze promptly.

The Holiday Buffet

Foods that have been sitting out for too long on the buffet or table at holiday parties can cause foodborne illness. Many parties go on for several hours and food is often left at room temperature. Be wary of any foods – hot or cold – that have been left out for more than two hours. This is also known as the "Danger Zone" – when food is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, it allows bacteria to multiply.

Any perishable foods on the table not served with a heating source (chafing dishes or slow cookers) or chilling source (nesting serving dishes in bowls of ice) should be discarded after remaining for two hours at room temperature.

Safely cooked hot foods such as turkey, ham, stuffing, chicken fingers and meatballs should be served hot and replenished frequently. While on the buffet, hot foods should be kept at a temperature of at least 140 degrees. Cold foods such as chicken salad or potato salad should be served and kept cold – at or below 40 degrees. A helpful hint is to prepare extra serving platters and dishes ahead of time, store them in the refrigerator or keep them hot in the oven (set at approximately 200-250 degrees) prior to serving.

The Dessert Table

Bacteria can also multiply quickly in moist desserts containing dairy products. Keep eggnog, cheesecakes, cream pies and cakes with whipped-cream or cream-cheese frostings refrigerated until serving time.

Some of America’s favorite holiday foods may contain raw eggs or lightly cooked eggs. Most commercially sold eggnog is pasteurized, meaning the mixture has been heated to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria that may have been present in the raw ingredients. However, if you’re making your own eggnog, be sure to use a recipe calling for slowly heating the mixture to 160 degrees. This will maintain the taste and texture while also killing bacteria.

Do not allow children (or adults) to eat raw cookie dough or lick the beaters after mixing batter containing eggs. Raw eggs could be contaminated with salmonella, a leading cause of foodborne illness.

Helpful Resources

Alabama Cooperative Extension System Food Safety website and food blog:

There Is No Place Like Home for Food Safety is a handout covering food safety when shopping for foods, storing foods, cooking foods correctly, and serving and storing leftover foods.

ACES local county Extension office and regional food safety and quality agents are available to answer questions you may have on food safety and quality.

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: Food safety experts available year-round from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET to answer questions about safely preparing and cooking foods. The toll-free number is 1-888-MPHotli[ne] (674-6854). Recorded messages are available 24 hours a day.

Holiday Buffets Fact Sheet is a concise one-page summary about common types of foodborne bacteria associated with holiday foods. The fact sheet also provides recommendations from USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline that will help you have a safe holiday party.

Cooking for Groups Brochure helps hosts of large dinner gatherings and parties prepare and serve food safely for large groups.

Fight BAC website:

There are many other food-safety websites where you can find great information.

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.

The Co-op Pantry

by Susan Haigler

I am a Sagittarian – the Traveler. Astrologers say we are free-spirited, optimistic, open-minded and ambitious.

My mother, a Tyler, Texas native, married my father, who was from Auburn. They lived in Montgomery. However, being a true Texas Longhorn supporter, she wouldn’t consider having her baby born anywhere but the Lonestar State. I was born on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year.

My first travel experience was to Alabama where I grew up in Montgomery.

I attended Mt. Vernon Junior College in Washington and graduated from the University of Alabama. At both, I took home economics. To be honest, I knew nothing about cooking.

On Christmas Eve, we enjoyed our neighbors dropping in for a glass of cheer, bacon-wrapped crackers and a shrimp ring.

We would leave Santa peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Nehi Orange drink after we returned from Christmas Eve Service at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension.

After we opened our gifts on Christmas morning, we would eat a light breakfast so we wouldn’t spoil our appetites for our noon meal. Pass the muffins, please.

We weren’t traditionalists, much to the dismay of my Texas grandmother, and the main entrée would be rump roast.

New Year’s Day, with many resolutions, we enjoyed baby back ribs and Susan’s cookies.

I married and moved to my husband’s hometown of Fort Deposit. We lived there for 43 years. After his death, I moved back to Montgomery. I am now a member of Montgomery Junior League, Dogwood Garden Club, Antiquarian Society, literary clubs and other civic organizations. I’m especially interested in politics as I have been a delegate five times to the Republican National Conventions.

This traveler has lived up to the astrologers’ description: 22 trips to Europe, several cruises to Canada and Alaska, several cruises to the Caribbean and two cruises to Panama Canal. This does not to mention trips in this wonderful country. Always good to return to "Sweet Home Alabama."


1 pound bacon, thinly sliced


Brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut bacon slices in half. Wrap a piece around each cracker. Lay flat on baking sheet. Top each with a pinch of sugar. Bake 25 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Remove from baking sheet and let cool.


2 packages Knox gelatin

Water, lukewarm

3 pounds fresh shrimp, boiled

6 eggs, hard boiled

1 cup mayonnaise

1 small bottle catsup

1 lemon, juice and grated rind

1 small bottle stuffed olives

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Dash cayenne

Cover and soak gelatin in water for 30 minutes.

Cut or grind shrimp. Chop eggs. Mix mayonnaise, catsup, eggs and olives. Add lemon juice and rinds. Combine with shrimp. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.

Melt gelatin in double boiler over warm water. Add to shrimp mixture. Pour into ring mold and refrigerate until congealed. Serve with crackers.


½ cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup bananas, mashed

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1½ cups flour

1½ teaspoons soda

½ teaspoon salt

Cream shortening with sugar. Add bananas. Add the eggs and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and stir into batter. Pour into tiny greased muffin tins. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes.


2 red apples

3 Granny Smith apples

2 cups raw cranberries

1 cup quick oatmeal

¼ cup sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup flour

½ cup pecans, chopped

1 stick butter

Cut apples with peeling into ½-inch thick slices. Place in a greased 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle cranberries over apples. Combine oatmeal, sugars and flour. Sprinkle evenly over top of apples. Sprinkle with nuts. Melt butter and drizzle over top. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Serves 6-8 people.

Note: Leftovers are good served warm with ice cream.


4 cups cornbread, crumbled

4 eggs, boiled and chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 (12-ounce) can Mexican corn

1 (17-ounce) can English peas, drained

¼ cup mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and chill overnight.


2 boxes shoe peg corn frozen in butter sauce, thawed

1 can water chestnuts, diced

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

¾ cup mayonnaise

1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

¾ stick butter, melted

Mix first four ingredients. Pour in baking dish. Combine crackers and butter. Put on top of corn mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.


1½ pounds fresh asparagus

¼ stick butter

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups milk

1 seedless orange, peeled and cut into pieces with membrane removed

Salt, to taste

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1 egg, whipped

½ cup cashew nuts, chopped

Steam asparagus. Melt butter in saucepan. Remove from heat and whisk in cornstarch until well blended. Return to heat. Whisk in milk (1 cup at a time). Continue until sauce begins to thicken. Add orange pieces.


3 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

5-8 pounds rump roast

2 Tablespoons seasoned salt

1 teaspoon paprika

2 Tablespoons pepper, freshly ground

1 Tablespoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 stick butter

Crush garlic with salt and pepper until becomes paste. With a paring knife, insert mixture in 8-10 places on all sides of roast. Mix all other seasonings. Coat roast on all sides. On top of stove in heavy Dutch oven, melt butter and brown roast slowly on low heat for about 45 minutes or until brown on all sides; rotating several times. Cover and cook for about 3 hours more.

Note: Very tender roast and delicious gravy. Goes well with white rice.


Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Rack of ribs

Onions, sliced

Garlic, minced

Barbeque sauce (bought or homemade)


Lemon juice

Preheat oven to 300°. Salt and pepper ribs. Put in a pan with a little bit of water. Spread onions and garlic on top. Cover pan tightly with foil and cook for 3 hours. Remove from oven. Put on a hot grill for a few minutes on each side. Cover with barbeque sauce. To add a little more flavor, add a dash of Tabasco sauce and lemon juice (1/4 cup juice per 18 ounces of barbeque sauce). Each rack will serve 2-3 people.


1 cup pecans, finely chopped

1 (1 lb. 2 ounce) box butter cake mix

1 (3.4-ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix

4 eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup water

½ cup Mount Gay Rum

Place nuts in bottom of Bundt pan. Mix all other ingredients. Pour into pan. Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes.


1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

½ cup Mount Guy Rum

¼ cup water

While cake is baking, put all ingredients in a saucepan and boil for 2 minutes. When cake is done, poke holes all over top with ice pick or long skewer. Slowly pour topping over cake. Cool completely before removing from pan.

Note: Much moister than grandmother’s fruit cake.

(Church of the Ascension
1960 cookbook)

½ cup shortening

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg, well beaten

½ teaspoon vanilla

1¾ cups flour

1/8 teaspoon soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ cup nuts, finely chopped

Cream shortening and sugars. Blend in egg and vanilla. Work in sifted dry ingredients and nuts. Shape into two rolls about 2 inches in diameter and wrap in waxed paper. Chill for 3 or 4 hours in refrigerator. Cut in 1/8-inch slices. Place on slightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in moderately hot oven (about 375°) for 10-15 minutes. Makes about 48 cookies.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2016 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.

The FFA Sentinel: Life Lessons from the Woods

Aquaculture production is one of Alabama’s leading agricultural industries.

FFA members enjoy Woods, Water and Wildlife Day 2015.

by Abbi Lipscomb

On September 30, more than 200 FFA members from across the state gathered at Lanark Park in Millbrook for FFA’s 3rdannual Woods, Water and Wildlife Day. FFA members and their advisors experienced a hands-on event regarding current agriculture issues Alabama is faced with in regards to today’s natural resources. As the FFA members arrived the sponsors of the program, First South Farm Credit and the Alabama Wildlife Federation, talked with the members about what they hoped the members would take away from this program and provided an overview of the day. Camp Powers, First South Farm Credit, provided words of welcome and was honored for his continued support of this program. Alabama FFA is so very thankful to all of our sponsors and supporters who continue to invest in agriculture education and FFA. As part of the program the FFA members were divided into groups to visit the different stations that had been set up for the day.

Lawrence McGhee, a state soil scientist, presents FFA members with a history and description of Alabama’s soils. Understanding our soils can improve agricultural practices.

In the wildlife management rotation, FFA members were asked to identify the skins of various animals such as a skunk, an otter, a black bear, a coyote and a beaver. After identifying the skins our guide brought out an Eastern Indigo Snake … make that a live Eastern Indigo Snake, one of Alabama’s wildlife on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services threatened species list. We were all able to touch it while our guide discussed snakes in our state. She also talked with us about the wild hog infestation plaguing Alabama for many years and the difficulty in managing the invasive species. Crop destruction is an issue Alabama farmers and game managers face as a result of feral hogs in Alabama.

The forestry rotation consisted of our group walking to Gum Pond to identify trees based on their bark and leaves. The identification of tree species is known as dendrology. Our group stopped along the way to identify tree samples and discuss the possible history of them. We could see from the tree rings that some of them had endured years with plenty of rain while others suffered from drought and fire. A tree’s growth rings can tell, in part, the local weather patterns. Gum Pond was a seasonal pond that only held water during certain times of the year.

In the soil science, also known as agronomy, station, we were taught the importance of testing your soil before doing any type of construction or site-prep work. State Soil Scientist Lawrence McGhee taught about the many different soil types in Alabama. He told us how soils formed and how soils are different throughout the state. Did you know that Alabama has its own type of soil? It is called Bama Soil. Alabama’s soil diversity is the key to Alabama’s agricultural diversity. Soil management for Alabama’s agriculturists is an important part of good stewardship.

An Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officer discusses our game laws and issues facing Alabama’s game species.

In the aquaculture station, the members learned about the benefits of farming shrimp, catfish and tilapia in Alabama. The presenter brought several different types of catfish including a hybrid and an albino. We learned that if you cross two albino catfish you get a full-bred albino instead of only a percentage of the offspring being albino. Twenty-five different species are cultured in Alabama ponds and other culture systems. Alabama ranked second in channel catfish production in the United States in past years producing 145 million pounds of aquaculture product, a $130 million economic impact for the producers of our state.

As we closed the day and departed for home, Alabama’s FFA members left with a look at Alabama’s Natural Resources and the industries that are a direct result of those resources.

On behalf of all of the Alabama FFA chapters and their members, we would like to thank Tim Gothard and Elizabeth Johnson along with the Alabama Wildlife Federation for hosting this event at Lanark Park, and for their continued support throughout the year. We also would like to thank Camp Powers and First South Farm Credit for so generously sponsoring this informative event that helps to educate our members on some of the issues Alabama agriculture might encounter. An additional thank you must also go out to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service along with all of the other volunteers and AWF staff who assisted in making FFA’s Woods, Water and Wildlife Day a continued success. We are looking forward to many more years of this event.

For additional information on our sponsors, please visit the following websites:

Alabama Wildlife Federation:


First South Farm Credit:

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural

Alabama FFA Association:

Abbi Lipscomb is a FFA member from Jacksonville High School and serves as the 2015-2016 Central District FFA Sentinel.

The Sky is Falling (But Just a Little)

by Stephen Donaldson

The news this fall hasn’t been on the positive side for cattlemen. After a couple of years of record cattle prices, the cycle reversed and we saw cattle prices drop by at least 30 percent in most cases. We are also inching closer to the implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive rules that will make it more cumbersome to obtain feed-grade antibiotics to treat sick animals. But, even with this negative news, there are ways to treat sick animals and make profits in the cattle business.

Many feed companies are seeking alternatives to replace medicated feeds in their list of feed products. Many natural alternatives exist to help boost cattle performance and heath. Many plant derivatives can actually help cattle increase performance and efficiency. Probiotic compounds can help with gut health and help keep cattle on feed and help improve their feed conversion.

In Alabama, most cattle operations are cow-calf operations. Many of these operations also retain ownership of their calves through a backgrounding phase and market the cattle through board sales. Because these cattle are retained so long, producers sometimes lose sight of the importance of nutrition when the calf is in utero (while the cow is carrying the calf). If the cow receives proper nutrition while pregnant, then many problems can be averted.

As stated earlier, cattle prices have moved lower this fall and have caused most cattlemen to seek cheaper feed sources. Commodity prices have been stable this fall or maybe slightly cheaper than the past couple of years. Many cattlemen have abandoned higher-cost complete feed to save money. The issue we must consider is if feeding the cow herd cheaper actually saves money.

By feeding soybean hull pellets, corn gluten pellets or 50/50 we have totally wrecked our mineral balance. These ingredients tend to be high in phosphorous and potassium. This limits our ability to control the proper mineral complement that we must be feeding the cows. Additionally, the variability from load to load can also help to complicate the problem even further. Many loads of corn gluten feed have been found to contain sulfur at toxic levels. During processing, corn gluten feed is dried and many times during the drying process the product is overheated, thus binding important protein and carbohydrates. Soybean hull pellets, according to many veterinarians, pose a choking danger when fed to cattle as the sole supplement. So, unless you are analyzing each load of these commodities, it is impossible to provide a complete balanced diet to your cow herd.

Now that I have destroyed any notion that these byproducts are okay to feed to your cow herd, I will defend them and say that they are great components of a balanced diet fed to brood cows. They do provide protein and carbohydrates at an economical price. So using them in a blended diet that has been properly balanced with minerals can offer an economical and nutritious supplement for your cow herd. Generally speaking each byproduct shouldn’t make up over 20 percent of any ration to help alleviate these nutritional imbalances.

So you ask, "Why is it so important that I use a complete feed for my brood cows, especially if it costs more than commodities?" Aside from the problems described previously, university research has shown, in the current calving season poor cow nutrition could result in increased dystocia, weak calves, sick calves and poor response to vaccines. In subsequent years, problems with fertility and poor replacement heifer performance can be noted. So, while you may see great returns in the short run, long term herd health and performance can cost you profits for several years.

Likewise, proper feeding of replacement heifers directly affects their production potential as they develop into cows. Too much condition on these animals directly affects their ability to cycle and become pregnant. Improper nutrition during their growing phase can be linked to poor feet and soundness. So proper feeding at strategic times affects the profitability for years to come.

Complete feed can also aid by including probiotics, ionophores and chelated minerals to ensure proper nutrition to the cow. This helps improve the efficiency of feed utilization by the cow and calf health. The benefit of consistency and proper nutrition is important enough that it must be considered even though profits are down from the past few years.

When considering a complete feed to supplement your cows and heifers, take a look at Brood Cow Supplement or one of your local Co-op’s complete cattle feeds.

I hope everyone has a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

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

The Ultimate Christmas Gift

Our very identity as a hunter came in the package.

by Corky Pugh

Almost all of us who hunt can vividly remember the first person who took us hunting. If you will, think for a minute about who introduced you to hunting. For many of us, these rich memories revolve around the holiday seasons.

Out of school for Christmas break, we were able to tag along with older relatives or friends on hunting excursions. The experiences we shared helped shape and mold us into the hunters we are today.

Bundled up in layers of clothes to stay warm in the crisp December air, we ventured into forests and fields. The comradery, the lessons learned at the hand of more experienced hunters, the successful hunts as well as the days we got skunked, now bundle us in memories like the layers of warm clothes.

The Christmas season, with all the brightly-colored lights, carols ringing all around and all the other wonderful holiday sights and sounds, brought excitement and anticipation. The neatly wrapped presents under the tree, especially those long ones, were of particular interest.

That first .410, 20-gauge or .22 I received as a Christmas gift was highly treasured then and is now even more treasured due to the countless memories of a lifetime of hunting with it.

But the real gift was the introduction to a lifetime of highly pleasurable, rewarding outdoor recreation.

Our very identity as hunters came in that package.

There may be vintage photographs capturing the sheer joy of our first hunts. The times spent with family and friends were far more important than the game we pursued.

Eating What We Kill

The rack from our first deer was an important memento of the hunt. Just as highly valued – for some of us, more so – was the great family recipe for venison. Almost all hunters eat what they kill, and consider this a very rewarding aspect of the hunting experience. We were taught that utilizing game for the table was an essential part of hunting.

My grandfather’s words still ring in my ears, "Son, don’t you shoot anything you’re not going to eat."

Lo, the wisdom of the ages. He knew that was part of the hunting ethic because he had been brought up that way, and he was hell-bent on ensuring I was, too. For this and so many other things, I am eternally thankful.

Much has changed since Granddaddy taught me this. But eating what we kill is more significant now than ever. Public acceptance of hunting is highest when game is taken for the table, and lowest when taken only for the trophy. Because society decides for us what our rights and privileges are, responsible utilization of game animals for food is essential.

Keeping the Tradition Alive

Recent research by Southwick Associates revealed that 37 percent of hunters surveyed had taken a child hunting in the past 12 months, 17 percent had taken more than one child hunting and 50 percent had taken a kid shooting.

"Passing a love for hunting and shooting along to the next generation is a vital part of the total outdoor experience. Everyone has special memories of time spent in the woods or at the range with their parents or other mentors as a young person, and it is clear today’s adults want to keep that tradition alive for their kids," said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates.

Family Relationships Still Significant

The majority of those children taken hunting, 54 percent, were the son or daughter of those surveyed, 19 percent shared hunting with a young person not related to them and the remainders were grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Although family relationships are a major factor in hunting indoctrination, there are many young people who are introduced to outdoor pursuits by someone other than a family member. For almost one in five, the neighbor, friend or co-worker of a parent is the special person who takes the time to introduce a young person to hunting. Thankfully, most hunters feel a strong motivation to pass the heritage along.

One of the advantages of a family member acting as a hunting mentor is the reinforcement that occurs as part of the family culture. The telling and re-telling of stories recounting hunting experiences, the sharing of wild game meals and the repetitive experiences afield all lead to a lifetime of hunting. But often there are ways for someone other than a family member to interact with the family resulting in the same kind of reinforcement.

Whether you are a parent, other relative or a family friend, the rewards of introducing someone special to hunting are awesome. Because our hunting heritage is passed along one special person at a time, each and every hunter should make it a priority to take a young person hunting this Christmas season.

Give someone you care about the ultimate Christmas gift. You’ll both be glad you did.

Corky Pugh is the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for, go to the website at You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email

Warmed Up for the Holiday Season

by Herb T. Farmer

Thank goodness this year is almost over! 2015 was full of unnecessary, negative, stupid, nonsensical BS. I found myself part of things that used to be interesting and enjoyable, but changed for the worst for whatever reasons.

Get ready! I’m just warming up for the big Festivus holiday.

Adventures in Northeast Alabama: Failing newspaper and one-term, local government making their final hoo-rah by throwing their weight around and making bad decisions.

Adventures at a friend’s home for Thanksgiving: People bringing their unruly children to what should have been a peaceful feast.

Adventures on the streets near home: People arguing about "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays," and people offering their obtuse opinion on the "reason for the season."

Let me just sit back with a cup of lavender tea and try to explain all of my frustrations from the last few months while, at the same time, I fix my attitude about it all.

Okay. Northeast Alabama: Forget it. I ain’t got no dawg in that fight no more. I fired myself. Not worth thinking about it.

Thanksgiving to me is all about the food and sharing it with friends. On occasions, I will spend the day with some friends at their home for the feast. (Remember, though, I always cook my own birds for the holiday after I get home.)

One Thanksgiving, I agreed to spend the day with a friend who has a very large family. With large families come many children. With many children come assorted viruses acquired at their schools and doctors’ offices.

If there is one thing my friends know for sure about me, it’s the fact that I avoid doctors, hospitals and children, especially during the cold and flu season.

Three-year-olds should know to cover their mouth when they cough, unless their parents don’t do it. There were children and adults alike coughing and sneezing with not so much as bowing their heads to prevent splattering the food or other guests. Several times that day I almost forgot myself and said something to them, but I kept my composure. (I ate a lamb chop, cranberry sauce and a few crackers. That’s all that seemed safe after the salvo of saliva mist.)

The kids were screaming, running in and out the doors, and throwing toys at each other. I couldn’t understand most of the conversations going on. For that matter, I didn’t understand why all of the parents ignored the spectacle and kept talking amongst themselves.

After I’d had all of the poorly parented virus-bags I could stand, I said goodbye and thanks to my hosts. I got a phone call on the next Saturday from my friend who didn’t actually notice when I had left. He agreed the event was somewhat chaotic, but that it only happens three or four times a year. Of course, I made sure to ask when the other occasions were.

Excuse me while I get more tea.

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays: REALLY? Either one is just a friendly greeting of the season. When you try to force someone else to do only as you do, you get revolting and disrespect. That would be like me telling all of you to drink only black, caffeinated coffee for breakfast because that’s the way it was intended to be drunk.

As far as a greeting goes, I just say, "Hey." No matter what season it is, I say, "Hey"!

And, speaking of the season … here’s something that really gets me going.

I have heard enough folks repeating this age-old line, "Remember the reason for the season." These are the same folks who start shopping at midnight Thanksgiving night at some big merchant while the mommas and poppas of the mom-and-pop stores rest and are thankful for what they have.

To you who parrot that line, I must say that for all of my life I have noticed that the reason for the season is retail and not that other thing you shallowly profess.

Pretty tasty elixir. I hope it helps this cold. Grrr. Happy Winter Solstice!

Recipe for a Cold Remedy: Turmeric and Honey Elixir

I read this last month on According to their article, turmeric has "strong anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties" (that) "destroys bacteria …." Honey is a natural anti-bacterial, anti-microbial product.

Mix 3.5 ounces of pure, unprocessed honey and 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder.

Upon the first symptoms of a cold, take ½ a teaspoon per hour for the first day. On day two, take ½ a teaspoon every two hours. Day three and beyond, take ½ a teaspoon three times per day.

I have not yet tried this, but I will in just a few minutes. "Achoo!" Bless me.

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

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

When the Pressure is On

When a low pressure system arrives, whitetails can stay bedded for long periods, sometimes a day or more, until the weather breaks. (Credit: B.G. Smith; shutterstock)

Barometric pressure can have a significant impact on whitetail movement.

by Todd Amenrud

Back in the 1990s I was involved in a study we called "What Makes Whitetails Move." The results of the study were to be fodder for a book and video, but those involved all had a more personal motive … we wanted to know what conditions give us the best potential for seeing more deer and harvesting mature bucks. While any day has the potential for yielding a successful hunt, I wanted to maximize my time.

We documented statistics such as temperature, wind direction and speed, lunar phase, moon position, cloud cover, precipitation, relative humidity and barometer. We took these readings when we began our observations and then again when we finished, in case there were any significant changes. We recorded how many whitetails we saw, what activity they were engaged in (feeding, chasing, simply traveling, breeding, etc.), when it happened and how long it lasted. We also had two unmolested, private, captive "control whitetail herds" that could be witnessed at any time to give us something to weigh against our "wild findings." We hoped we would find the mysterious combination of factors that would give us an edge in the treestand.

Understand, this was before trail cameras and smart phones; we wrote our notes down on paper in pencil. We collected data for seven years; however, I have continued gathering this information for my own benefit and, since the onslaught of new technology, it’s so much easier. Nowadays it’s definitely effortless to collect data and record it, but the findings are the same.

While there is a comfort zone with each phenomenon we recorded (for example, the amount of light the moon put off combined with the amount of cloud cover, and they don’t like to move as much when it’s too hot or too cold, or too windy or raining/snowing, etc.), the barometric pressure had more influence than any other occurrence.

The key to using the barometric pressure to your advantage is to anticipate when the weather fronts will enter and exit your hunting area. (Credit: Carolina K. Smith MD; shutterstock)

In my view, no other aspect of the weather has as big an influence on deer movement as the atmospheric pressure, also known as the barometric pressure. Whitetails have the ability to sense these changes. A barometer is the instrument used to measure the amount of air pressure exerted by air molecules against the earth’s surface. It’s the increase, decrease or stabilization of this pressure that affects deer behavior, sometimes greatly.

Many of you may have witnessed this escalation or decline in deer movement and not known why it was happening. We’ve all had days, even a week or more, when you have to admit it was tough and deer sightings were rare. If you hunt long enough, you’ll definitely experience a lull caused by this. Then all of a sudden deer appear as if God opened up the drain plug on a sink full of whitetails and there are deer everywhere! Unfortunately, they can mysteriously vanish again just as abruptly.

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

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

A whitetail’s inner ear works very much the same way as a barometer. In fact, it’s said that ancient man also had the ability to better sense these changes. Our modern problem being, if you’re watching your barometer at home … you’re too late. Instead, you must anticipate the movement by predicting when weather fronts will arrive at and leave your hunting area. On the leading edge and tail edge of the front the barometer will fall or rise – that’s when you want to be in the tree.

A high, stable barometer is also good hunting. After compiling our results, whitetails seem to move best when the pressure is between 29.9 and 30.3 inches with the best movement occurring at the higher end of that range, around 30.1 to 30.3 inches. I’ve also seen this with mule deer and pronghorn, and it’s likely true with many other animals.

A lot of the high-pressure fronts will come with wind. Numerous trophies are shot immediately after sustained high winds have died down. I’m not sure, are the whitetails just avoiding the nor’easter or sensing the barometric change that ushered it in? Probably both.

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

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

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

Remember that barometric pressure is only one contributing factor to deer movement. In my view, it is one of the most important elements and should not be overlooked. However, it’s really a combination of factors that all contribute to deer movement. Keep an eye on the barometer, but don’t use it as your only way to predict your herd’s activity.

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

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