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December 2016

2016 USDA Drought Assistance Programs Available to Eligible Alabama Farmers

Press release from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries

As of Oct. 20, 2016, 32 counties in Alabama have been designated as primary natural disaster areas and 15 additional counties are classified as contiguous counties by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of the recent drought.

Due to a significant number of counties impacted by drought conditions, several drought assistance programs are now offered by the USDA. Programs offered by USDA- Farm Service Agency are:

  • Livestock Forage Disaster Program – LFP is designed to provide compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought. The grazing losses must be due to a qualifying drought condition during a county’s normal grazing period. Eligibility requirements are for those livestock producers who own or lease land in a county assessed by the U.S. Drought Monitor as: D2 (severe drought) for 8 consecutive weeks, D3 (extreme drought) or D4 (exceptional drought). LFP payments are calculated based on the drought conditions supported by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
  • Emergency Loan Program – An emergency loan is offered by FSA to producers within counties declared by the president or designated by the secretary of agriculture as a primary disaster area. Contiguous counties are eligible for emergency loans. A variety of terms must be met in order to become eligible for an emergency loan.
  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program – NAP provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable crops to protect against natural disasters resulting in minimal yields or crop losses. Drought is considered an eligible cause of loss. Coverage eligibility for NAP applies to those producers who have completed an application of coverage and paid the appropriate service fees before NAP closing dates established by FSA during 2016.

Commissioner John McMillan of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is encouraging producers impacted by the drought to contact their local USDA-FSA office regarding eligibility of available programs.

"We want to make certain Alabama producers are aware of all program opportunities offered by USDA-FSA due to losses as a result of the drought," McMillan said.

For contact information to various USDA-FSA county offices in Alabama where producers can inquire about additional program details, visit

For more information on how to reach your county USDA-FSA office, contact Hassey Brooks at hassey.brooks@agi.alabama.govor 334-240-3877.

4-H Extension Corner: 4-H Market Steer Program

Molding Future Cattle Producers and Agricultural Leaders

by Justin Miller

Young people interested in learning more about beef cattle have a new option, thanks to Alabama 4-H. Alabama 4-H’s Market Steer program is similar to the traditional steer program, but focuses on teaching students about the cattle industry.

Dr. Molly Gregg, assistant director of Alabama 4-H, said Market Steer was developed to allow more youth an opportunity to experience one of Alabama’s greatest agrarian traditions – raising beef cattle.

"Alabama families and youth have been looking to 4-H to provide an affordable and educational steer project to train young people in the challenges and opportunities of developing a quality product in support for the future of agriculture and food production," Gregg said.

Danny McWilliams, Alabama Cooperative Extension System coordinator for Colbert County, said this program was modeled after the 4-H programs of Chick Chain and Pig Squeal.

"Our primary goal was to create a model similar to Chick Chain and Pig Squeal and to educate our youth about the commercial cattle industry in Alabama," McWilliams explained. "The amount of success these programs have had was reason enough to keep the beef project simple."

Alabama 4-H member Nick Grissom showing off his steer’s pen.

Alex Tigue, an Extension regional agent, said, while Market Steer resembles other programs, there are things that make it different.

"Unlike Chick Chain and Pig Squeal, Market Steer will not have an auction at the end of the project," Tigue added. "We want to teach the 4-H members about marketing their cattle as freezer beef direct to consumers and help them find as many marketing opportunities as possible."

Market Steer was launched this past August and will run until the calves are ready to be processed, expected to be between next May and July.

Tigue said, once the students receive their steer, it is their responsibility to care for the animals.

"The students are randomly assigned a steer to keep the project fair. We want the members to have a level start and see who the best cattle producer is," Tigue said. "During the program, each kid cares for the calf: feeding it every day, keeping it watered, watching for health issues, maintaining facilities for the calf and so on."

Students also will have to halterbreak the calves so they can be shown, as well as go through Beef Quality Assurance Training to learn about protecting the quality and safety of the beef they are producing.

Tigue said it is important for the students to understand what these animals are for.

"It is extremely important to make sure these students understand these animals are food animals, not pets," Tigue concluded.

The idea for a program like this has been talked about for several years. After discussion with fellow Extension personnel, the Northwest Alabama 4-H Animal Science Team made the decision to pilot Market Steer this year. There are 15 participants in this pilot program.

On the day of delivery, Alabama 4-H member Jessie Jordan watches as her steer gets familiar in its new surroundings.

McWilliams said the team decided to use existing materials to aid them in the launch of the program.

"Instead of developing our own curriculum, the team decided to use materials and curriculum already available. A ‘Beef Resource Handbook,’ purchased from Ohio State Extension, was provided to each participant," McWilliams explained. "Three mandatory meetings also were held throughout the state before 4-H members could receive their steers."

The team worked with a producer in Tuscaloosa County to secure the steers needed. Since the start of the project, several home visits have been conducted to help with getting the steers halterbroken and also keeping a close watch on any sickness with the steers.

McWilliams said, so far, the program has been going well and several educational lessons have been learned.

"We have had great results with the steers and the members. I am only aware of one steer having sickness and requiring veterinarian attention," McWilliams said. "There have been several unexpected educational opportunities for us to capitalize on with this project, but that is expected with any new program.

"Alabama 4-H agents Leslie Goins and Janet Lovelady have been extremely helpful in launching the Market Steer program. Without their help, piloting this new program would not have been possible."

McWilliams said the hope is that Market Steer will help youth learn about the commercial cattle industry, leadership, financial management, animal husbandry and animal science.

"The market steer project is simply another tool in our arsenal to help mold and make future agricultural leaders in this state and also share the good news of 4-H to our youth," McWilliams added. "No matter the project or competition we provide to youth, our ultimate goal is to share the essential values of 4-H."

Justin Miller is with Extension communications.

A Stressful Season of Cheer

by Stephen Donaldson

This is my favorite time of the year. I enjoyed Thanksgiving. It’s a time we spent with our family around food. It’s a time when we generally slowed down a bit and reflected on the happening of the past year.

It is also a time that starts Christmas celebrations and a season of giving. My wife, Jackie, and I have five children, so you can see this has always been a joyous and special time for us.

This Thanksgiving was a bit more stressful. We faced the same challenges as many of you. The challenges of a severe drought like we are currently experiencing made things very stressful. We faced decisions and challenges that were not the norm; challenges and decisions that most definitely affected our finances and operational profitability.

Not only were we faced with the challenge of the drought but also with the lowest livestock and grain prices we have seen in several years. The dramatic decrease in prices made the decisions even tougher. The decisions to keep, cull, sell early or buy more feed were unique to each operation. I will not try to give the answer, but offer suggestions that may help you weather this dry storm.

First, determine the carrying capacity of the feed or hay you have on hand along with the carrying capacity of your forage if there is any left. This will give you an idea of how many animals you actually need to try to survive with. If you have more animal units than you can supply feed for, then start culling and selling unproductive animals.

Second, after you have culled these unproductive animals, evaluate your feed resources and, hopefully, you will have enough feed and hay resources to get through the winter. If not, then determine if it is wise and profitable to buy supplemental feed and hay. Remember, with cattle, it is nearly impossible to replace hay with feed. So, try to locate additional hay or forage for a base to supplement your current supplies. There is an abundance of hay to our north and west. You may want to consider purchasing some of this hay to give more forage to get your livestock through the winter.

As I stated earlier, it is nearly impossible to totally replace forage with feed, but supplemental feed can help stretch forage supplies. High-fiber feeds can replace a small portion of hay, but not entirely. Poor-quality hay is better than none. Even wheat straw will work for the fiber portion of the cattle’s diet. It must simply be supplemented with nutritious feedstuffs to help the animals meet their nutritional requirements.

Creep feeding calves will take some of the nutritional demands from the cow. Calves also require less fiber and can be fed more nutrient-dense feeds. Calves also gain weight very efficiently at lighter weights, so this could help return more dollars at weaning.

An area that could offer the most financial return during the drought and low cattle prices is backgrounding cattle or stockering. The most depressed cattle prices seem to be in freshly weaned calves. Consider buying these calves or, if you have a cow-calf operation, taking your weaned calves to high weights before selling them. Currently, yearling calves are bringing more per pound than it costs to put that pound on with current feed prices. Therefore, every pound you add puts more money in your pocket.

One thing I want to caution you about as you are determining your supplementation program. Look carefully at the tag on the supplement. Supplements containing non-protein nitrogen or urea generally tend to make cattle consume more forage. So, if you are already short on hay, these supplements will hasten the disappearance of your hay stores. If you feel you need a protein supplement for your herd and are short on hay, look for an all-natural supplement or especially one that doesn’t contain NPN or urea.

As you consider options for your cattle operation, always remember that cattle are ruminants and require forage and fiber for their digestive systems to work properly. My first priority is to supply this nutrient and then I can supplement to meet their nutritional needs.

As I close, I hope each of you can take time to spend some quality time with family and friends during the holiday season, and I hope you can show some kindness to make someone else’s life better. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy 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

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

GPS popularity growing rapidly

Recent figures show guidance systems using Global Positioning System coordinates to automatically steer farm equipment such as combines, tractors and self-propelled sprayers are rapidly gaining in popularity.

Guidance systems help reduce operator fatigue and pinpoint precise field locations, within a few inches. Freed from steering, operators can access timely coordinates from a screen, monitor other equipment systems more closely and correct problems more quickly.

Guidance systems also can reduce costs by improving the precision of sprays and the seeding of field crop rows. Between 2010 and 2013, these systems were adopted on 45-55 percent of planted acres for several major crops, including rice, peanuts and corn. Once adopted for a particular crop, the use of guidance systems tends to be rapidly adopted by other crop farmers.

The ease-of-use and functionality of these systems have also increased along with adoption rates.

$1.7 billion in CRP payments go to producers

This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue nearly $1.7 billion in payments to over half a million Americans who have contracts with the government to protect sensitive agricultural lands.

The payments, part of the voluntary USDA Conservation Reserve Program, will allow producers to protect almost 24 million acres of wetlands, grasslands and wildlife habitat in 2016. The current enrollment limit is 24 million acres.

CRP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who remove environmentally sensitive land from production to be planted with certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat. In return for enrolling in CRP, USDA, through the Farm Service Agency, provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Landowners enter into contracts that last 10-15 years.

Over 1.3 million acres were newly enrolled in CRP in fiscal year 2016 using the continuous enrollment authority – triple the pace of the previous year. In FY 2016, FSA also accepted 411,000 acres through its general enrollment authority, plus 101,000 acres in the new CRP-Grasslands program that balances conservation with working lands.

During its 30-year history, USDA estimates CRP has reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff by 95 and 85 percent, respectively. The program also has restored some 2.7 million acres of wetlands and protected over 170,000 stream miles with riparian buffers.

Record soybean harvest expected

USDA has raised its 2016/17 forecast of the U.S. average soybean yield to a record 51.4 bushels. Coupled with a harvested acreage estimate of 83 million acres, the higher yield boosts forecasted soybean production by 68 million bushels to 4.3 billion.

The 4.3 billion bushel forecast would be a record for U.S. production, while 2014/15 and 2015/16 productions would become the second and third highest harvests, respectively.

The largest production gains are due to higher acreage and yield indications for North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois. These increases more than offset reductions in acreage and production for Minnesota, Iowa and Tennessee.

Much of the production gains are attributable to significant gains in yields that have increased from 38.1 bushels per acre in 2000/01 to 48 bushels per acre in the 2015/16 marketing year.

Growing conditions for soybeans this year were nearly ideal. Spring planting for soybeans proceeded without any major delays. During the summer growing season, the Midwest soybean-growing region benefited from much-above-average rainfall and there were no prolonged dry or hot spells to stress crops.

Gains in production are leading to higher forecasts for ending stocks and increases in exports, reducing downward pressure on domestic soybean prices.

Ag co-op income increased in 2015

Net income for the nation’s agricultural cooperatives soared by 14 percent last year, according to data released by USDA.

In its annual report on national cooperative business sales, they reported that the country’s farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted a record net income of $7 billion in 2015.

"The latest data show cooperatives are a key to building stronger and more vital communities, particularly in rural areas," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

According to USDA data, total business volume fell for the Top 100 cooperatives, from $177 billion in 2014 to $149 billion in 2015. However, net income rose from $4.3 billion to $4.9 billion in 2015, an increase of 14 percent.

CHS Inc., a fuel, grain and food cooperative based in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, remains the nation’s largest cooperative in the United States, with $34.7 billion in total business volume for 2015. Dairy Farmers of America, a milk marketing cooperative based in Kansas City, Missouri, came in second place, with $13.9 billion in total revenue, and Land O’Lakes, a dairy foods and farm supply co-op, based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was third, with $13.1 billion in sales.

Seafood availability shows variations

The supply of seafood available for consumption in the United States is up from 11.7 pounds per person in 1970, but down from a peak of 16.5 pounds in 2006, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service’s food availability data.

In 1970, fresh and frozen shellfish accounted for 21 percent of seafood availability. In 2014, by comparison, fresh and frozen shellfish (mostly shrimp) accounted for 34 percent of the 14.5 pounds per capita of seafood available for consumption.

New efficiencies in shrimp aquaculture beginning in the early 1980s sharply increased availability and reduced prices, and made shrimp a popular menu item at fast casual dining places across the United States.

A 35 percent decline in canned tuna availability since 2000 was largely offset by a surge in fresh and frozen fish availability from low-cost imports of farm-raised salmon and tilapia, and the increased use of wild-caught Alaska pollock in frozen fish sticks, imitation crabmeat and fast-food sandwiches.

Alabama electric co-ops receive government loans

USDA is providing $3.6 billion in loans to fund 82 electric projects in 31 states. These loans will finance infrastructure upgrades, create jobs and improve system operations for rural electric customers nationwide.

The $3.6 billion will build or improve 12,500 miles of transmission and distribution lines. It includes $216 million for smart grid technologies, $35 million for renewable energy, $26 million for environmental improvements and nearly $1.8 million for energy efficiency. The loans are being provided through the Electric Program of the Rural Utilities Service, the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration.

Recipients include:

  • Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, $60.6 million to build or improve 484 miles of lines and make other system improvements.
  • Dixie Electric Cooperative, $25.8 million to build or improve 89 miles of lines and make other system improvements including $2.25 million for smart grid projects and $684,000 for energy efficiency projects.
  • South Alabama Electric Cooperative, $24.7 million to improve 169 miles of lines and make other system improvements including $220,000 for smart grid projects.
  • Singing River Electric Power Association in Alabama and Mississippi, $49.94 million to building or improve 576 miles of lines and make other system improvements.

Chinese fruit imports increasing but U.S. share lags

The rise in Chinese living standards has spurred demand for a more diverse and nutritious diet, leading to a surge in China’s fruit imports.

Fruit is a discretionary item consumed as a dessert, given as gifts, and distributed at meetings and banquets. With greater disposable income, demand for fruit (particularly fresh fruit) has grown rapidly.

In the most recent eight years, import volume grew more than three times to 3.8 million metric tons in 2015. The United States was a pioneer in opening China’s fruit market during the 1990s, but China’s recent surge of imports came mainly from tropical and Southern Hemisphere countries. The United States remains the predominant Northern-Hemisphere supplier, reflecting quality, extended seasonal availability and other competitive attributes; however, its share of total Chinese fruit imports has declined for most of the new millennium.

In 2015, there was a small uptick in the U.S. share moving from 2.6 percent to 3.5 percent, but that percentage is far below the peak share of 11.5 percent in 2001.

All Maggots Are Not Created Equal

Screwworms Found in Florida Keys

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Note from author: Some of the material in this article may be a little bit gory and we do not recommend you read it just before, during or after eating. However, we do recommend you read the article any other time.

It is a little ironic that I am writing this article about flesh-eating maggots returning to the United States as Halloween approaches. The return of screwworms to the United States could be scarier than anything to do with Halloween. The biggest majority of you reading this article may not be familiar with screwworms. After an intense eradication program, the last reported case of screwworms, other than very sporadic cases, was in Florida in 1959.

It took quite a bit longer in the Southwest. Due to their proximity to Mexico, they continued to have significant problems until 1979. In 1979, southwestern United States had over 7,000 cases. By 1982, there were only six cases reported. After that, screwworms were considered to be eradicated from the United States.

Since then, on five occasions, screwworm larvae have been found on animals and at least one person and were quickly eliminated …… until now.

Before I fill you in on the details of the outbreak in the Florida Keys, I want to spend a little time discussing the parasite and its ability to have a serious negative economic impact on animal agriculture.

Most of us have experienced maggots in some form or fashion, even if we just left some garbage out and the green blow flies spent some quality time there eating the garbage and laying their eggs. In more extreme cases, I can remember, when I was in private veterinary practice, occasionally a client would bring in a shaggy dog and tell us there was some disgusting odor coming from the dog. We would usually lift up some of the long hair and find the dog had been infested with maggots. By the way, maggots from blow flies have a very distinct odor. Anyway, we would usually remove the maggots, clip the hair around the infested area, clean it really well and life would be good again.

While the maggots we are familiar with are at the very least disgusting, they do seem to have a place in the food chain or at least were put on Earth to help get rid of garbage and rotting carcasses. Yes, they have a dirty job, possibly one of the worst there is, but somebody has got to do it.

The Cochliomyia hominivorax, the scientific name for the screwworm, on the other hand, eats the flesh of living animals and sometimes humans. Although hominivorax means human-eating, we are far from the top of the menu for this parasite. According to some entomologists, we are their last choice. However, as uncommon as it is, there are instances when humans have been infested with the parasite. In fact, in late July or early August 1998, a Huntsville man travelled to Brazil and brought back a few screwworm larvae in a wound on the back of his neck. That is an interesting story, but I won’t go into it now.

All you have to do to find out what kind of problems these flies and their offspring can cause is to talk to some of our older farmers who remember fighting the maggots known to kill a 600-pound steer if left untreated. It seems that the flies would lay their eggs in wounds left from dehorning, castration and navel cords that were still wet on newborn calves, pigs, sheep, goats and other livestock. These flesh eaters would often do enough damage to kill their prey or at least cause enough to considerably devalue the animals.

Screwworms were eradicated by releasing sterile male flies into the environment. They would mate with the female flies, but the eggs laid would not produce offspring. The males were sterilized using radiation and massive quantities of them were released. Little by little, the screwworm population gradually went away.

I have talked to some people who ranched out in Texas when screwworms were in their heyday. They said it was awful. But it was a good day when screwworm maggots were no longer formidable adversaries.

Now fast forward to this past Sept. 29. A biologist from a wildlife refuge on Big Pine Key, Florida, contacted the Florida Department of Agriculture concerning the increased number of maggot infestations in deer. Larvae were submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The next day, NVSL confirmed the larvae were Cochliomyia hominivorax. Oct. 11, sterile male releases began and over 3 million flies have been released at 22 sites on nine different Keys.

These are the results of 22 releases since Oct. 11: During the past about four weeks, reports of close to 100 deer in the Florida Keys have died. Also a pet pig and two dogs have been reported to have screwworm larvae affect them.

As the crow flies, Big Pine Key is around 600 miles from Dothan. So, it is not likely that a fly will make that pilgrimage on its own. But that is not what we are concerned about. Notice I said, "On its own." I was at a meeting last spring and a veterinarian told us he knew for sure a fly could travel over 300 miles in one day. He knew that because the fly was in his car.

Not only that, but, if Hurricane Matthew had hit the Keys and carried a few pregnant female screwworm flies a few hundred miles, this could have gotten pretty ugly pretty fast. We just have to be very vigilant to watch for any signs of screwworms making the trip from the Florida Keys to Alabama.

You should always be on the lookout for maggot infestations on livestock and pets. Your local veterinarian can not only help with the control and treatment of these maggots, but can also help identify suspicious maggots. If they are not sure about screwworms, some of our field people can come by and work with your local veterinarian to collect maggots and get them officially identified. I would tell you to do this until further notice, but with screwworms always being just a ride on an airplane away, I do not think there will be a time when we can let our guard down completely. But right now, for sure, be on the lookout.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to call me.

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

Bextra Bale Feeder

by John Sims

I know I have used this as the product spotlight before, but, due to our weather conditions this fall, it’s worth discussing again to help us all get through the winter.

Traditional hay rings have been proven for years to reduce wasted hay. Now we have an option to extend our stored hay reserves by saving even more hay than we have in the past. The drought in our state has prevented us from taking advantage of stockpiled forage this fall and caused us to start feeding hay earlier. To extend your hay supply, start by wasting less at the ring.

The Bextra Bale Feeder has been proven to be the best hay-saving ring on the market. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Indented uprights center the bale in the feeder for minimal waste.
  • Cattle eat from the bottom of the feeder in their natural grazing position, and they exit less.
  • Oklahoma State University research proved that using a Bextra hay feeder reduced hay waste by approximately 58-75 percent compared to a conventional skirted and open-bottom hay feeder.
  • This feeder will pay for itself and also provide a return on investment from the amount of hay saved.
  • For more research information, go to

Quality Co-ops offer two types of Bextra feeders. One is mild steel (black) and carries a one-year warranty; the other is galvaneal (red) and carries a five-year warranty. We also offer the Bextra basket that fits in the top of your existing hay feeder to convert it to a hay-saving feeder.

Talk to your local Co-op TODAY about the Bextra feeder, and start saving more hay and money.

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

Corn Time


Cows in the Manger

by Baxter Black, DVM

Have you given any thought to whether there were any cows in the barn on Christmas Eve that night many years ago? All Luke says is there was a manger. It doesn’t take much Bible reading to inform us that cows have been domesticated for centuries. Why, Adam even named ‘em! They’re mentioned throughout the Old Testament.

But, this was a manger in a barn behind an inn … a motel, I would guess. I couldn’t speculate if they had a restaurant in-house, but surely they would have offered a Continental breakfast … scrambled eggs, a loaf of bread, some dates and honey, and, of course, fresh milk! Butter would be on the table and cream for their coffee substitute. Grape juice would have been out of season and Ethiopians hadn’t invented coffee yet, just frankincense and myrrh.

So it stands to reason they kept a cow in the barn, kind of a Jersey-Corriente cross that didn’t eat much and had a calf every year they could sacrifice or BBQ, plus some chickens and goats.

So, what difference does it make if a cow was in the barn when Jesus was born? Well, to me, it represents a connection between them and those of us who also keep livestock. We can immediately picture the stable as it’s often portrayed. It had several pens, an alley running lengthwise, hay storage at one end, maybe a lockable grain room with tools, a halter, hog snare (for gentile guests), sheep hook, some calving straps, a cat, a length of rope and a pack for the burro – whatever ya need to keep domestic beasts.

We also know what it smelled like: animals, hay and straw, lamp oil, pigeon droppings. ... It would be warm. The more animals, the greater the body heat. It could have been cozy if the doors closed tight. We can picture the feeder, the trough Mary laid baby Jesus in. It wouldn’t have looked like a nest as the Nativity scenes depict. It would have been deeper and longer. Able to hold an evening’s ration for ol’ bossy. Made of wood, with the boards’ edges worn smooth from years of cows rubbing. They probably took the manger out of the cow’s pen and just threw her some hay over the fence.

It would be nice to think the innkeeper or his wife would have shown Joe and Mary to the barn. Lit the lamp, maybe found them an empty stall out of the wind, forked in some straw. The bare minimum. But still, how could they leave a woman in labor out in the barn? I don’t get it. I have to accept it all as God’s plan. Jesus was born of regular, decent working-class people. He grew up with them, learned a trade. If it were proper to say, He had a normal life for a while. God did it that way for a reason. So we could relate to Jesus better. That’s why the cow was there, so we farmers and animal lovers would feel a part of it.

For Mary’s sake, it’s too bad Joe didn’t stop on the road a bit earlier that night, like at a farmhouse. He might have received a kinder welcome. If they were my kinfolks, they’d have fed ‘em supper, found ‘em a place to sleep inside and probably mid-wifed Mary! But they didn’t stop. Joe was in a hurry to get to Bethlehem, and you know how men are.

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,

December Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Plant bareroot trees, shrubs, roses and vines.
  • If you still haven’t planted your tulip bulbs, there is still time.
  • If you’d like to grow your own blackberries or raspberries, plant canes now while they are dormant.
  • If you’re planning on indoor color this winter, it’s time to pot up those bulbs you’ve been chilling the last couple of months. Get them moved into a warm and cozy area of the house so they’ll be tricked into thinking spring has arrived.
  • Plant native hedges to encourage wildlife and create attractive boundaries around your garden.
  • Get blueberries in the ground this winter for an attractive addition to the fruit garden. With pretty white flowers, delicious berries and fiery autumn foliage, these acid-loving plants provide constant interest.
  • Plant more lettuce in your cold frame.
  • Strawberry plants should be installed now.


  • Get your soil tested and prepared for spring.
  • If weather is mild, feed pansies, snapdragons and other winter flowers.
  • Stop feeding your houseplants until February or March and then only lightly.


  • Remove limbs or branches damaged by storms, suckers and water sprouts, too.
  • Hollies may be trimmed now and the prunings used in holiday decorations.
  • If you haven’t already, cut down dead asparagus foliage and mulch the entire bed with straw.
  • Lightly and discreetly prune Southern magnolia, juniper, golden false cypress and hollies, and use the sprigs for inexpensive wreaths and swags.
  • Prune climbing roses now, cutting away diseased or damaged growth and tying any new shoots to their support. Prune older, flowered side shoots back by two-thirds of their length.
  • Prune grape vines.
  • Prune Japanese maples now if needed, as they will bleed sap if pruning is done any later.
  • Start pruning your wisteria by removing the longer canes.


  • As houseplants grow more slowly during winter, increase the time between waterings, but do not cut back on the amount of water. Over-watering is the biggest risk to houseplants in winter … go easy.
  • December can be surprisingly dry. Don’t forget to irrigate, even if it feels odd. Plants are especially vulnerable to drought and frost damage right now, and they need your help.
  • Insulate outdoor taps or turn them off at the mains and pack away unneeded hoses. 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.
  • Spot check any newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials for watering needs. If there’s been no rain for a week, you need to drag out the hose and water your plants. Remember, newly installed sod needs water, too!
  • Water greenhouse plants sparingly to maintain as dry an atmosphere as possible.
  • Water houseplants with tepid water. Cold water may shock them.
  • Wake up amaryllis bulbs by watering once, placing in a bright spot and waiting for them to respond. If no response in a couple of weeks, water again … but don’t repeatedly water an unresponsive bulb or it may rot.
  • 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 of your pond to release accumulated gases and allow oxygen to enter.
  • Check overwintered plants in the basement and garage for possible water needs.


  • Be on the lookout for any bagworm sacs in your garden and landscape. Handpick to remove as needed.
  • Clean up garden debris to eliminate overwintering areas for diseases and insect pests.
  • Gather up old mulch from around the base of rose bushes that suffered from blackspot or rust this summer to reduce the chance of infection next year. DON’T put in compost. Replace with fresh mulch.
  • If you haven’t already done so, clean out your greenhouse thoroughly. Wash the inner sheeting, the floor and benches with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.
  • In addition to keeping feeders full, hang suet cakes to attract birds that will eat pests in your garden.
  • Take precautions against browsing winter animals, including deer, rabbits, mice and voles. Deer fencing, trunk wrappings, mesh wire, scented oils, a good guard dog or a hungry barn cat are just a few options.
  • Apply broadleaf herbicides to control winter annual and perennial weeds. Use only as directed.
  • 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 pest populations do not get a head start.


  • December is a good month for reflection and for going over your garden journal. What worked or didn’t work this year? Hopefully, you’ve been keeping up with information about what you planted, when and how it fared. Think ahead about plants that need to be moved – or removed – and consider what you might want to try next year.
  • All power equipment should be winterized before storage. Change the oil and lubricate moving parts. Either drain fuel systems or add a gas stabilizing additive to the tank. (You’ll be a step ahead next spring if you have your mower blades sharpened, too.)
  • Clean and oil all garden hand tools before storing for winter.
  • Avoid walking on your lawn when it is blanketed by heavy frost, as this will damage the grass beneath.
  • Be prepared for sudden swings in temperature and protect tender plants with row covers, newspaper or blankets.
  • Be sure newly purchased indoor plants are well protected for the trip home. Exposure to icy temperatures for even a few moments may cause injury.
  • Be sure the root zones of azaleas and rhododendrons are thoroughly mulched. Any organic material will do, but mulches made from oak leaves, shredded oak bark or pine needles are preferred.
  • Carefully plan your vegetable garden for next year so you ensure good crop rotation to avoid a buildup of pests and diseases.
  • Check on those stored summer tubers and bulbs.
  • Check that climbing plants are securely attached with plant ties to their supports.
  • Choose a dry day to clear out the garden shed in preparation for the spring. While you’re there, check it for security. This is particularly important in winter when you visit it less often.
  • Christmas trees hold needles longer if you make a clean, fresh cut at the base and always keep the trunk standing in water.
  • Clean leaves of large and smooth-leaved houseplants such as dracaena, philodendron, ficus, etc.
  • Continue to collect fallen leaves to be used as mulch and add to leaf bins or compost bins to rot down.
  • Cover compost bins with a piece of old carpet or some plastic sheeting to prevent the compost from becoming too cold and wet to rot down.
  • Cover strawberries with a floating row cover – they’ll fare better over winter and bear earlier next spring.
  • Frost action ruins clay pottery. Are your pots stored? Your birdbath bowl?
  • Give houseplants as much light as possible as days grow shorter.
  • Hairspray works well to keep seed heads and dried flowers intact on wreaths and arrangements.
  • Holiday poinsettia plants do best with sun for at least half the day and night temperatures in the 50s or 60s. Keep plants away from drafts, registers and radiators, and let the soil dry only slightly between thorough waterings. Be sure to punch holes in decorative foil wraps to prevent soggy soil conditions.
  • If the soil is dry enough, dig new beds, especially those to be used in February or March. Add plenty of organic matter while digging so only a light raking will be needed at planting time.
  • Inspect your stock of saved seeds to confirm they’re dry and secure.
  • Leave some of those dried perennial seed heads standing – they’ll help feed the songbirds. Coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and blackberry lilies are just a few great, natural seed sources for birds.
  • Leave the faded flower heads on your hydrangeas until the spring, as they will provide frost protection to the swelling buds farther down the stems.
  • Only female holly trees bear the colorful berries. There must be a male tree growing nearby for pollination if fruits are desired.
  • Overwintering geraniums like bright light and cool temperatures. Keep soils on the dry side.
  • Place a few plastic jugs filled with water between rows of cole plants to collect heat during the day and radiate it back at night.
  • Prepare your planting beds now with compost and manure for planting in early spring.
  • Provide houseplants with increased humidity; mist often or place plants over a tray of moist pebbles.
  • Give gardening tools and subscriptions to gardening magazines as gifts.
  • Take an inventory of tools and equipment you need for next year. Add them to your Christmas list!
  • Turn over empty beds and borders, and pile compost or partially composted leaves/manure on top – let the worms and frosts break up the clods of soil.
  • Wash and disinfect bird feeders and baths.
  • 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 for 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.
  • If you have any leftover seeds, store them in a cool and dry place. Some gardeners save their seeds in an airtight jar or plastic bag placed in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • After purchasing a living Christmas tree, leave it outside until a few days before Dec. 25 to keep the tree from becoming stressed. Remember to keep it watered.
  • 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.
  • 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 or bulbs to eat.
  • Become a Master Gardener! Call your county Extension office for more details.

December Means Holidays, Hunting, Family & Friends

Ground deer meat is a great option for hunting camp meals for the whole crowd.

by Christy Kirk

It is hard to believe that just a month ago Jason and I were walking down a neighborhood street trick-or-treating with Rolley Len and Cason in near-80-degree weather. As the sun went down, the temperature dropped some, but not nearly enough to make it feel like winter was almost here. Even when it is hot, the end of October means it is time to prepare the hunting camps again for the winter.

Rolley Len says December is the crazy-busy time of year because of the holidays, hunting and visiting family. There isn’t much idle time for making plans or preparations once holiday season hits. To make the most of it, everything at the camp should be cleared out and cleaned up for the holiday season ahead. As soon as the weather is cold enough for the snakes to start hiding out instead of hanging out, Rolley Len and Cason will want to go as often as possible, so it has to be ready at a moment’s notice.

Of course, they will also have their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends come, too, which means plenty of fun and a lot of food. It can be challenging to come up with meals that will satisfy the variety of tastes and diets of small children and adults. But then Cason says his favorite camp foods are burgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, pork, deer and catfish. Clearly there are unlimited options for feeding a small or oversized bunch of folks, but to me ground deer meat is one of the most versatile choices.

Whether we are getting ready for camping or just planning for the school week, I want to watch our budget when buying groceries. I definitely don’t want to buy a lot of food that will not get eaten. The food on our grocery list needs to be items that can mix and match easily with the others so there is little waste and nothing remaining to take back home for leftovers.

When we hit the camp this month, there will be plenty of burgers and hot dogs, but that can get old, especially for the grownups. Besides wanting a range of menu items, we also look for recipes that incorporate vegetables. Here are three ground deer meat recipes with overlapping ingredients including vegetables. Each tastes quite different from the other and would be really delicious additions to your next camp meal.


Cheeseburger Salad

2 hamburger buns, split and cut into ¾-inch strips
1 pound ground deer meat
1 small red onion, chopped, divided
1 cup ketchup
½ cup dill relish (finely chopped), if desired
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
8 cups lettuce, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Crisp bacon, crumbled
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425°. On a baking sheet, arrange bread strips in a single layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the strips are lightly toasted. Set the strips aside. Croutons can be flavored with garlic or other spices.

In a skillet over medium heat, place ground deer meat. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until meat is well browned. Into meat mixture, stir in ½ of onion, ketchup, relish and mustard, mix well.

On a large serving platter or in individual bowls, place lettuce. Spoon meat mixture over lettuce. Top with remaining onion, tomatoes, bacon and cheese. Hamburger bun croutons can be placed on top or in separate bowl.

May be served without salad dressing, but this is good with Catalina, a bacon-flavored vinaigrette or Ranch.


1 (16-ounce) box elbow macaroni
2 pounds ground deer meat
1 Tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can tomato sauce
1 (14-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack or cheddar cheese

In a saucepan, boil elbow macaroni over high heat. Cook just until soft. Do not overcook because noodles will cook more after being mixed with other ingredients. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, brown ground meat with the Monterrey Steak Seasoning, and drain. Add all remaining ingredients except the cheese. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil again then move to low heat. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. Remove from heat, top with cheese and re-cover for 5 minutes to melt cheese and let mixture thicken.


½ pound ground deer meat
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
¾ cup onion, chopped
¾ cup carrots, shredded
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1¾ pounds (about 4 cups) potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups chicken broth
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 (16-ounce) package Velveeta cheese, cubed
1½ cups milk
¾ teaspoon salt
¼-½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup sour cream, if desired

In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown ground meat until no longer pink. Drain and set aside. In the same saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Sauté onion, carrots, basil and parsley until tender, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, meat and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes.

In a small skillet, while potatoes cook, melt remaining butter. Add flour, cook and stir until bubbly, about 3-5 minutes. Add to soup in saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Cook until the cheese melts. Remove from heat. Blend in sour cream.

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


Eight Steps for Scent-Free Whitetail Hunting

Whoever smelt it … will have an un-notched tag.

by Todd Amenrud

Back in the 1980s, I used to get razzed because of the detailed preparation I went through to try and remain as scent-free as possible when hunting whitetails. My father and grandfathers taught me that whitetails have a great sense of smell. They also educated me on how to play the wind, but, besides hanging our clothes outside before the hunt, we did little to reduce odors. When others saw how persnickety I had become about reducing odors I was made fun of … until antlers began to hit the ground.

We all know a whitetail’s sense of smell is a force that’s difficult to beat. To an olfactory offense so strong, it’s likely impossible to be totally scent free. However, it’s a proven fact that it is possible to reduce our odors to minuscule, trace levels that even mature bucks will tolerate in close quarters. Are you doing enough to reduce these alien odors so you can get closer to whitetails? Do deer think you stink? Follow these steps to get closer to whitetails:

1) Wash your clothes in a quality hunter’s detergent. Besides our body, we need to be concerned with everything else we’re bringing into the woods, our clothes being one of the most important.

Do not put your boots or clothing on until you get to your hunting location. In fact, if you have a long walk to your ambush site, you may want to carry your clothes until you get closer to avoid sweating in them. Rubber-bottomed boots will help to reduce scent transfer on the trail.

Some feel they must also treat their clothes with a product to remove the UV from the garment. There is no need if you use a superior hunter’s wash like Scent Killer Gold Laundry Detergent because it doesn’t contain optical brightening agents or fluorescent brightening agents. So, besides removing all UV from the garment, it doesn’t add any back. If you are a numbskull and wash your deer hunting clothes in regular detergents, you will add back the brighteners.

2) Dry your clothes outside if possible. If you live next to a gas station or greasy restaurant, you’re defeating the purpose; if it’s late season and your wet clothes would freeze solid, it’s OK to use your dryer. If you do, remove all fabric softener bars before drying; before storing them, it may be a good idea to let them air-out outside if possible.

3) Once your clothes are dry, store them in a container so no odors have the possibility of infusing into them. Make sure the clothes are totally dry! If there is any moisture in them, you will begin a chemical reaction and odors will begin being produced. This is the same reason it is best NOT to include leaves, dirt, pine boughs or other natural items in the container with your clothes. Even with our limited human sense of smell, after one week in the container the difference in the smell of fresh pine boughs compared to the ones you have in your container will be obvious. If you must put something in with the clothes, fill a sock with one-third cup of baking soda and place it in the container – switch it out every few weeks.

4) Shower in Scent Killer Body Wash & Shampoo and use Scent Killer Deodorant. In nearly all regions of the whitetails’ territory, L-serine (human scent) is the most feared odor they can experience. Reducing these odors by showering is extremely important.

Brush your teeth! Yes, most toothpaste has a minty odor, but it’s better than the bad breath of a human carnivore. To reduce any breath odor while in a stand, a piece of mild mint gum or eating an apple can help. Again, yes, both also have an odor, but both are better than that nasty carnivore breath.

Do not pass through where any odors may cling to you or your clothing. If I’m going out for a morning hunt, I will shower directly before. If I come inside to eat, I will remove all hunting clothing before I enter any building and shower again before heading back afield. Try to plan ahead – make sure you have your vehicle filled with gas and eat any meals before showering and brushing your teeth. In addition, be picky about what you eat immediately before you head out. Onions, peanut butter, lemons … if you can smell it after a meal, guess who can smell it 1,000 times better?

5) Don’t put your clothes on until you get to your hunting area. In fact, don’t even remove them from their protective container until then. It’s amazing how many hunters put on their hunting boots at home and then stop to fill up with gas, or they put on their hunting clothes and stop at a café for breakfast … then they proceed to try and fool a nose as sophisticated as a bloodhound’s. These hunters usually have a vacant trophy wall and an empty freezer.

If you have a long walk to your ambush location, carry your clothes until you get close to the site to avoid sweating in them. Sweating not only causes more odors, but it’s a sure way to become cold.

Scent Killer Gold spray works when applied like you see here, but actually works best when you treat your clothing and then let it dry-in ahead of the hunt. When used in this way, I refer to it as a scent-elimination suit.

6) Treat your boots and clothing with a quality scent elimination spray like Scent Killer Gold. Spray your clothing the day before and allow the spray to dry into your clothing. Then return your clothes to their container. Scent Killer Spray molecules adhere to odor molecules making them too heavy to form a gas. No gas, no smell. Spray down each layer of your clothing, concentrating on your high sweat areas – the small of your back, your underarms, crotch and feet. Believe it or not, your feet have three times as many sweat pores as your armpits. With the spray dried into your clothing, it seems to me like I’m wearing a scent-elimination suit.

I believe in this product so strongly that I would list it in my Top 2 most important hunting tools. I must have my bow and I must have my Scent Killer Gold. I make mistakes just as often as everyone else and I’ve seen this product protect me countless times.

7) Pay close attention to scent-transfer. We have taken care of the greater share of smells we may carry into the woods on us, but what about the smells we may be leaving behind? Every time you touch an object it’s like you’re pushing your scent into it. How strong the smell will be and how long it lingers will depend on temperatures, humidity and numerous other factors. Why telegraph your presence to the herd? Wear rubber-bottomed boots and don’t touch anything with your bare hands. Pay attention and be sneaky.

8) When the hunting season is over for the year, where do you store your treestand(s) and other gear? Hopefully, you don’t amass them in your garage or other area where foreign odors will permeate and cling to them. Just think; during the winter when you start your car to warm it up before you take it somewhere, where do you imagine the exhaust fumes are collecting? I promise you a whitetail will smell that! Pay attention to storing your equipment in a spot where minimal odors will be able to contact them. An outdoor shed or even covered by a tarp under an awning is a good place to store a treestand.

These tasks are ways we can prevent odors from entering the whitetail woods so we’re better at closing the distance on them. We still must learn all we can about playing the wind and thermal current. Understanding the air current, when combined with the plan mentioned, will make you deadly this season.

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.

Entitlement Programs in Wildlife Management, Really?

The amount of time our department wastes each year dealing with wildlife welfare cases is absurd.

by Chuck Sykes

If I had to guess, the majority of hunters and fishermen in our state tend to lean toward the conservative side of things. I feel like they believe in the right to keep and bear arms, and hard work gets you to where you want to be in life. I also believe they would be appalled at the amount of time and resources our department expends every year on Wildlife Welfare cases.

Most outdoor enthusiasts understand the role hunters play in the hands-on portion of the management of wildlife on their property, hunting lease or wildlife management area. Unfortunately, many do not understand the role they play in funding statewide wildlife management. As y’all are aware, I’m much better at explaining wildlife management topics than policy or political topics, but I’m going to do my best to explain the role hunters play in funding statewide wildlife management. Please stay with me on this because it’s critical you fully understand. I’ll try to be brief, but I’m going to have to go all the way back to the late 1930s.

Try to put yourself in that time period. It is nearing the end of the Great Depression, people have very little money and wildlife numbers are at historic lows due to market and subsistence hunting. It was during such an atmosphere that a group of gun and ammunition manufacturers went to Washington to ask legislators to enact an excise tax on their goods and place the money into an account to fund state wildlife agencies. You understand, businessmen went to Capitol Hill to request a tax be placed on them in a time when money was extremely tight. Why would they do this? Because they were savvy businessmen, that’s why. They understood the simple fact that, with proper funding, state wildlife agencies could do their jobs to make sure wildlife would be managed correctly. With wildlife to hunt, these manufacturers understood that people would need guns and ammunition. It was a brilliant business move to protect their industry and, more importantly, played a pivotal role in conservation of the wildlife of our country.

The Pittman/Robertson Act was enacted in 1937 to provide a constant source of funding for state wildlife agencies. Every time you buy a gun, box of ammo, treestand or other various hunting accessories, you are helping to fund wildlife management. According to the 2011 National Survey, Alabama hunters rank seventh in the nation on hunting-related expenditures. So, a really good pot of money is set aside in Washington for wildlife management in Alabama. I wish it was easy to get that money, but it isn’t. That money is allocated to each state based on two criteria: land mass of the state and the number of hunting licenses sold. Because we can’t do anything about the size of the state, we have to depend on the sale of hunting licenses to obtain our share of those Pittman/Robertson funds.

Unlike many states, Alabama has quite a few exemptions allowing certain people to hunt without buying a hunting license. Residents who hunt on their own property, residents over 64 and all kids under 16 do not have to purchase a license. Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries is solely dependent on the sale of hunting license and Pittman/Robertson dollars to provide services for Alabama hunters and receives no money from the state General Fund. Could these exemptions be considered a type of entitlement program? We are asking license-buying hunters to pay for services to a group who does not pay. What else would you call it?

Let me explain why I wanted to write about this topic this month. Repeatedly, week after week, year after year, additional groups ask DCNR and WFF to grant them exemptions from purchasing hunting and fishing licenses. Additional exemptions could quickly lead to a funding crisis. Should our license-buying hunters be asked to bear that burden? For example, we have another group of hunters, organized field trial participants, who feel they should not have to pay to hunt in our state. We have been bombarded the past several weeks by an extremely vocal portion of this user group. Field trial exemptions were granted by our department decades ago for a select few who wanted to participate in bird dog (quail) field trials on private property and then grade hunting dogs on their performance. Originally, there were less than a half-dozen of these trials statewide, and none were on state-owned property. These events had hundreds of participants who rode horses and watched the dogs. Although no game was killed, they were still classified as hunters and a field trial permit allowed these hunters (resident and nonresident) to participate in the activity without having to purchase a license.

Fast forward to last year when over 100 field trial permits were given to groups pursuing quail, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, coyote and fox, and I’d bet many more were held without the proper permits. Many of these events even took place on several WMAs.

As with most entitlement programs, there are always those who try to beat the system and eventually cause a problem for the program. What was designed as a very limited program taking place on private land has now turned into a welfare program impacting resources on our state WMAs. The vast majority of these properties were bought and paid for by license-buying hunters. Due to growing permit requests, costing Alabama and its hunters thousands in lost license revenue and even more in the 3-1 matching Pittman/Robertson funds, and, due to the negative impacts on our state hunters and resources, we decided to limit the number of field trial permits per club to three per year on private land. They can still have field trials on WMAs with one simple stipulation: Buy a license. That seems pretty simple to me. But, good gracious what we have gone through for making that decision.

The amount of time our department has had to devote to this issue should infuriate every licensed hunter in Alabama. One would think we had completely outlawed the practice of field trials when nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of issuing unlimited permits, allowing residents and nonresidents to participate without purchasing a license (with many taking place on public land), we will now issue three per club. For additional field trials and those taking place on public land, participants will now need to purchase the appropriate hunting license. Let me remind you how much a hunting license would cost the resident participants: $17.45 for an annual small game license. Non-residents have a choice: $98.65 for an annual small game license, $60.25 for a 10-day small game trip license or $43.75 for a three-day small-game trip license.

In the grand scheme of things in the field trial world, is that really too much to ask? Why should deer and turkey hunters pick up the bill for these folks? I can’t really think of a reason. Can you?

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

Farm Art

by Herb T. Farmer

Art is where you find it. Textures are interesting, even in a stack of bricks.

During the most non-productive time of the year, when it seems like the entire United States is either on a holiday or preparing for one, I tend to get very frustrated and tired of the humdrum of everything that is going on.

Plants dried up during the drought, people beat one another up over an election that seemed more like a football game in a bad part of town, and a friend of mine nearly started a fire in his garbage can that would have burned his house down if he hadn’t caught it in time. And all this ho-ho-ho nonsense really bites my shorts!

First of all: The almost fire. Here is my buddy’s story. He, like most folks that I know – myself included – has certain rituals he performs at least once a year on the weekend that daylight savings time ends for the year. We make annual checks on heating and air conditioning fan lubrication and change the filters; put a little chlorine bleach in the evaporation pump reservoir; and change all of the 9 volt batteries in the smoke detectors.

Well, he did all that. One thing he never realized until last month is one of the many reasons why we should never put batteries in the regular garbage. They should be taken to a recycling center, along with light bulbs and tubes. Another thing that should be observed is the way we recycle our refuse. Glass, tin, steel, aluminum, paper, plastic, etc. should all go to the recycler, nonmeat food waste goes into the compost piles and the rest is just garbage.

Shades of brown and gray add to the textural depth of the simplest subject.

OK. My friend disregarded those rules and threw his batteries into the garbage can along with other stuff like paper, plastic bottles, aluminum foil and cans. He has a 1-year-old toddler and she was walking through the kitchen, grabbed the trash can and tipped it over. She fell onto the trash and started screaming. When they got to her, they couldn’t figure out what happened. They got her calmed down and my buddy started picking up the trash. Thankfully there was no glass in the can, but … when he picked up the batteries; one of them was as hot as a firecracker! Apparently one of them had become attached to a piece of aluminum foil and had created a short between the positive and negative poles. He burned his fingers on one hand and his daughter got a minor burn on her thigh.

Had the child not had the accident, the battery could have exploded or, worse, burned the house down.

Folks, please do as I do. Save your batteries for a collection center. I wrap a piece of tape across the top of the 9 volt batteries and put tape on the positive poles of the rest; then save them in a plastic storage box until I’m going up town.

This time of year lacks excitement and not much gets me going, so mostly I just wander around the farm and look at all of the art that’s out here. Art, you ask? Yes! Art is where you find it and it can be found almost everywhere. Have a look at my photos and see what I’m talking about.

Left to right, paint peeling from old wood always makes me wonder when the first sign of aging was for the boards. Rusty metal is somewhat artful when you really wonder what the object is.

One other thing I do a lot of in December is cook. I found a recipe for bran muffins and it is about as boring as this month is long. After making some adjustments, I made a batch that is worthy of sharing. You know I love muffins? Want my recipe?


1 regular box bran cereal flakes
2½ cups brown sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dates, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon fresh ground cloves
4 eggs
3½ cups buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup apple sauce

In large mixing bowl, sift flour and combine all dry ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, lightly whisk eggs. Blend the rest of the wet ingredients into the eggs. Use a mixer on medium/low and gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry (1/3 at a time).

Place muffin papers in muffin tins. Fill 2/3 full with mix. Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes. Let cool. Top with your favorite topping, butter or icing just before serving.

Folks, this makes a bunch of muffins! The batter will keep in the refrigerator for a good two weeks, and the muffins freeze well.

The Winter Solstice is Wednesday, Dec. 21. Enjoy and stay warm.

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.

FFA Sentinel: Agricultural Education Celebrates 100 Years of National Vocational Education

A Look Back at FFA in Alabama

by Andy Chamness

Agricultural Education and FFA chapters will celebrate 100 years of the National Vocational Education Act of 1917 in February 2017. This act is better known as the Smith-Hughes Act. In the early 1900s, U.S. Senator Hoke Smith and U.S. Representative Dudley Hughes, both from Georgia, believed rural youth were not receiving their fair share of federal education dollars. The congressmen, representing mostly rural people, also believed rural youth deserved as much of a chance at education as their urban counterparts. Thus, the two men sponsored legislation providing the initial funding for vocational agriculture, home economics, and trade and industrial arts education. The resulting legislation bears their names, as does what would become known as vocational education for nearly a century in the United States. This legislation created vocational agriculture classes across America, the catalyst for Future Farmers of America and New Farmers of America.

Governor George Wallace signs a proclamation on Sept. 19, 1977, declaring Dec. 7-10, 1977, as Alabama FFA Foundation Week.

During the week of Feb. 19-26, 2017, FFA members from around the country will celebrate two big events: National FFA Week and the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Hughes Act. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 was passed by the United States Congress Feb. 23 of that year. FFA members learn about this historic event and the opportunities it has provided, usually in their first agriculture class.

As the National FFA Organization spans our country and has become as diversified as the agriculturalists who live in it, one must stop and reflect on how we got here. Legislation comes and goes, and is amended, ratified and passed, but what does it say about a piece of legislation and its very importance that those who have worn the National Blue and Corn Gold will stop 100 years later to remember it?

It says a lot, actually. Although some of the verbiage and quite a few of the names have changed, the story is the same. We refer to vocational courses now as Career and Technical Education courses, but, if you stay around an Agriscience Department long enough, you just may hear it referred to as the VoAg Department. This change is also on the FFA Jacket. No longer does it read Vocational Education around that cross section of the ear of corn but Agricultural Education. Also, gone are those white FFA sweetheart jackets, but, of course, FFA has reached a pretty close to even number of young men and women in membership as of late.

Still, the story is much richer. FFA is usually remembered by every stately gentleman around a small town’s square sharing a story about his youth – maybe as a steer or hog project, or maybe he was the state winning corn grower, or maybe his sweetheart was an FFA sweetheart.

Let your imagination run wild to a picturesque, Mayberry-like time and just look how far we have come. Now we have satellite-remote tractors with GPS sync and Bluetooth providing streams of data, and let’s not forget drones used for crop management and yield data.

Left to right, Representative Dudley Hughes, Georgia (Credit:; Senator Hoke Smith, Georgia (Credit: Smith and Hughes cofounded the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act of 1917, making Agriculture Education possible.

Still, FFA and Agricultural Education are two sides of the same heart. One could not and would not be sustained without the other. What follows is a little walk down memory lane to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Hughes Act and the National FFA Organization that it helped create.

Virginia, in the mid-1920s, was the first state to form a future farmers club for boys in agricultural education classes; this later became known as the Future Farmers of Virginia. Henry Groseclose, who was an agriculture teacher from Blacksburg, Virginia, is commonly referred to as the "Father of FFA." In just a few short years, Future Farmers’ clubs were organized across the country. A similar group for African-American students was also established called the New Farmers’ clubs.

In 1926, the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City, Missouri, invited vocational agriculture students to participate in livestock judging events. Two years later, also at the American Royal, students from across the United States met to establish the Future Farmers of America that was to provide farm boys leadership training.

November 1928, 33 delegates from 18 states met at the Hotel Baltimore. Leslie Applegate of New Jersey was elected as the first national FFA president, and the first national advisor, Dr. C.H. Lane, was accepted. National dues were set at 10 cents per member.

Today, 65,000 FFA members descend on the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, to attend the second largest convention in the United States, where delegates from across the country make decisions for the greater good of the membership and six new national FFA officers are installed. Dues, by the way, are currently $7 annually.

In 1928, the first sectional gathering of the New Farmers of America paved the way for its founding in 1935. Dr. H.O. Sargent, a federal agricultural education official, conceived the idea of a national New Farmers of America Organization. G.W. Owens and J.R. Thomas, who taught at Virginia State College, co-authored the NFA constitution.

In 1965, FFA and NFA merged.

In 1929, Alabama was the 36th state to receive its charter. The original charter certificate, signed by Henry Groseclose and written by hand, hangs in the office of the Career/Technical Education Field Office in Auburn. Earl Solomon of Uriah (Monroe County) was the first state president. FFA chapters across Alabama were assigned charter numbers according to schools or names of the chapters and Abbeville High School (Henry County) bears the distinction of having the charter number of AL0001. After the initial charter numbers were distributed, charter numbers were assigned as chapters joined the state association or as numbers became open and available.

At the third national convention in 1930, the FFA creed was adopted. It is one of the longest-standing parts of the organization. Erwin Milton (E.M.) Tiffany, Wisconsin, penned the creed, and, though it has had a few changes (revised in 1965 and 1990), the basic values and beliefs of the creed are still intact and remain a solid foundation for the FFA’s principles.

The National FFA Organization began as the Future Farmers of America, and this name was used for 60 years. The current name maintains the organization’s roots, while reflecting the science, business and technology of agriculture.

FFA is one of only two student organizations to have a federal charter, the other being the Boy Scouts of America Organization. Public Law 740 passed the U.S. Congress in 1950, thus making FFA an intracurricular part of the agriscience education program. FFA activities are so important to the purpose of the curriculum that they should be considered a part of the agriscience curriculum and are not to be considered as extracurricular.

One of FFA’s most widely recognized symbols is the blue corduroy jacket. Dr. Gus Lintner, advisor of the Fredericktown (Ohio) FFA Chapter, was looking for a uniform for the Fredericktown Band that was to appear at the 1933 National Convention. His design of the blue corduroy jacket captured the attention of the official delegates and they voted to adopt it as FFA’s official dress.

Alabama has had 15 national officers. Two served as national secretary and the others as Southern Region Vice President. The Falkville Chapter (Morgan County) had back-to-back national officers in 1985-86 with Robert Weaver and 1986-87 with Jayme Feary.

The state convention has been held in three cities: Auburn, Birmingham and Montgomery. From 1934 to1946, the convention was in Auburn. Birmingham hosted the convention in 1947. The convention then returned to Auburn in 1948 and remained till 1968. (There was not a state convention in 1966.) The convention moved to Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum in 1969 and remained there until 1976. In 1977-2003, the convention was held at the Montgomery Civic Center. Auburn became the host city again in 2004, moving back to Montgomery and the Montgomery Renaissance and Montgomery Performing Arts Centre in 2010 and has remained there.

FFA districts in Alabama date back to 1934, when several chapters organized themselves into three districts, simply called districts one, two and three. By 1936, Alabama had 22 districts that included 114 of the state’s 138 chapters. Most of these districts were named for a nearby city, although a few were named for a county or geographic location. Some of these districts were Andalusia, DeKalb County, Gadsden, East Alabama, Montgomery and Muscle Shoals.

The number and size of districts has varied a great deal over the years, as districts often were reorganized every few years based upon membership trends and the number of state staff members. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Alabama was divided into five districts; in the mid-1960s, the state was organized into four districts. Several years later, Alabama had six districts with a seventh district added in the 1970s. In 1991, Alabama was divided into four districts, and, in 2000, the state was divided into three districts: North, Central and South. Today, the district organization continues to be a vital component of Alabama FFA, as it provides opportunities for leadership training and friendly competition among chapters.

Alabama FFA has had 11 state advisors. C.W. Reed served the longest at 18 years. R.E. Cammack, who served from 1930-1946, became the first State Vocational Director, now known as Deputy Superintendent of Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development and Counseling. Jacob Davis, the current state advisor, has served in that capacity since 2012. Philip Paramore currently serves as the executive secretary. There have been 11 State FFA Executive Secretaries since 1946. Byron Rawls, Alabama’s executive secretary from 1960-1964, eventually became the National FFA Advisor and served from 1979 to 1983.

Alabama, just like the national FFA, has had a terrific history. From its humble beginnings in the late 1920s to the technological 21st century, FFA has played a key role in developing the potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. Production agriculture practices are not the only content taught in Agriscience these days. As we learn to navigate and incorporate into the technological future, FFA still inspires youth to success through its many activities, leadership development opportunities and, of course, contests. Let’s not forget those contests. Ah, the old banners, National Blue with Corn Gold lettering, won by FFA members and hanging in Agriscience departments across the state. It’s like a Klondike bar … what would an ag teacher do for a state winning banner?

Without the support of our local schools, communities, and our representation in our state capitol and in Washington, vocational education would not be possible. So as February 2017 nears ever closer and the celebration of National FFA Week and the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Hughes Act are underway, take the time to recall your time in FFA, dig out your old jacket (see if it fits, mine doesn’t), speak to a local Agriscience class, join a local FFA Alumni Affiliate, return to the old home place, farm and school, and take yourself and those students you meet down memory lane.

I want to offer a special thank you to Jacob Davis and Philip Paramore for contributing portions of this article.

Andy Chamness is the Central District FFA Advisor.

Forty-one Alabama Counties Are Primary Natural Disaster Areas

Qualified farmers in affected and contiguous counties may be eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

Press Release from Alabama Farmers Federation

Forty-one Alabama counties have been declared primary natural disaster areas because of drought-triggered losses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As of Oct. 3, 11 contiguous counties have also been designated disaster areas. Farmers and ranchers in these contiguous counties likewise qualify for USDA natural disaster assistance.

Alabama’s primary natural disaster areas are Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Cullman, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Macon, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, Pickens, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker and Winston counties.

Contiguous counties are Autauga, Choctaw, Dale, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Henry, Marengo, Montgomery, Perry and Pike.

Qualified farm operators in the above counties are eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency low-interest emergency loans, provided the farmers meet eligibility requirements. Farmers have eight months to apply for loans to help cover part of their losses.

Other FSA programs provide assistance, but do not require a disaster declaration, including the Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; and the Tree Assistance Program.

As of Oct. 3’s U.S. Drought Monitor, all of Alabama is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought. The monitor’s highest intensity, exceptional drought, affects 14.84 percent of the state.

For assistance from FSA, visit

From Seed to Sheet

Father and daughter use Lawrence County cotton to create heirloom bed linens.

by Cecil Yancy

Red Land Cotton’s label proudly states it is made from 100-percent cotton grown in Alabama. (Credit: Emily B. Hall)

The father is an Alabama cotton farmer. The daughter is a mixture of beauty, grace and marketing experience.

Together, Mark Yeager and Anna Brakefield have created quite possibly the best sheets you’ll ever put on your bed, all with the added bonus of being made from cotton grown on the red clay of Lawrence County.

Red Land Cotton is the only business venture of its kind in the nation: Using the cotton grown on their farm to make sheets.

These sheets feel like the heirloom sheets that would have been on your great-grandmother’s bed in the 1920s.

They started producing lines of heirloom cotton sheets from 50 bales of cotton grown on the family farm, enough to make 3,000 sets of bed linens – a fitted sheet, flat sheet and two standard pillow cases.

The word heirloom isn’t a marketing ploy.

This Alabama-made story began when Yeager posted a video on social media of four bales of cotton being lifted by a forklift.

"My sister, June Martin, wrote back and said, ‘I’d like to have some sheets made from that Alabama white cotton,’" Yeager recalled.

Anna Brakefield mixes steel magnolia social graces with marketing savvy for Red Land Cotton. (Credit: Alyson Clemons)

Yeager, who grows 3,000 acres of cotton, said he’d always thought about producing clothing from the cotton he grew. He took his sister’s comment about "wanting some sheets from that Alabama white cotton" as a sign that it was time for the dream to become reality.

With the seed for the idea planted, Yeager contacted his daughter, Anna, and they began literally growing the project from the ground up. Brakefield is a graphic artist who lived in Nashville.

"We went to Cotton Inc. and decided we were really going to do this," Yeager said.

"I remember the folks at Cotton Inc. telling us that a lot of people come to them with ideas, but a lot don’t follow through because of the challenges," Brakefield remembered.

Brakefield was so convinced of the potential of the new venture with her father that she quit her job to pursue the dream.

It might seem like a risky move, but it’s a choice she’s prepared for all her life. After earning a degree in graphic design from Auburn University, she went to New York, where she worked for advertising agencies on such accounts as BMW and American Express. She picked up the marketing savvy from her time in the Big Apple, but retained the steel magnolia social graces.

"Dad brings the agricultural background and I bring the marketing perspective," Brakefield smiled and beamed at her father.

Mark Yeager proudly stands in a field of cotton destined to become sheets. (Credit: Gary Clark)

They found the model for their product by looking back into an old hope chest.

"A family friend in my parents’ Sunday school class had some bed linens she had inherited from her great-grandmother, whose name was Madeline Gray," Brakefield said.

Yeager and Brakefield took the heirloom linens to researchers at Cotton Inc., who reverse-engineered the sheet and identified the weave and thread count.

"We’re trying to reintroduce a textile that hasn’t been in the market for almost a century," Brakefield explained.

The weave back in those days wasn’t as tight as it is today. The effect is a wider weave that allows for more airflow. Think of the coolness on the back of a pillowcase for the entire sheet.

There have been many challenges bringing the sheets to market; the first was finding a textile mill.

"No textile mill wanted to deal with a small quantity of cotton," Yeager said.

This cotton raised in Limestone County is the basis of the only business venture, Red Land Cotton, of its kind in the nation to use the cotton grown on their farm to make sheets. (Credit: Emily B. Hall)

Until Parkdale, a South Carolina textile, agreed to spin the cotton to yarn. With a mill, a weaver and a finisher on board, the question from the team to Red Land Cotton became, "What works for y’all?"

Taking it a step further, Brakefield worked with another Alabama company, Alabama Chanin, to produce the hand-created embellishments for the high-end bed linens.

In its first year, Red Land Cotton produced two lines of sheets: Madeline Gray, the namesake owner of the sheets who inspired the company’s product, sells for $275 and is available for any bed size; and Red Line Classic sells for $250 per set.

An added bonus of the sheets comes from the way they are prepped. The bleaching process, used by the company that preps the fabric for sewing, leaves specks of cotton material in the sheet, making each set unique.

After the fabric is prepped, the sheets are shipped to New Jersey where they are sewn.

Red Land Cotton has plans to branch out into towels made from Alabama cotton as well.

If you would like to know more about Red Land Cotton or order a set of sheets, visit

Cecil H. Yancy Jr. is a freelance writer from Athens.

Ginkgo Biloba

by Nadine Johnson

In 1995, I wrote an article about ginkgo biloba. Soon after the article appeared in The Montgomery Advertiser, I received an interesting communication. It was from Clayton Fawkes, the president of Golden Fossil Tree Society Inc., located in Lombard, Illinois.

The letter began, "One of our Alabama members wrote me a letter recently with an article by you entitled, ‘Ginkgo an exotic gift from Mother Nature.’"

I was invited to join this organization, started back in the 1970s. Since the dues were only $2 per year, I joined for five years. Every so often, I received a very interesting newsletter.

Here is a quote from one of those letters. "At least 250,000,000 years before homo sapiens pushed through the mists of antiquity, the gingko tree dotted the reptile-ridden landscape of the Mesozoic era. Of the thousands of plant species existing today, the ginkgo is a remarkable and tenuous link to that remote past. How remote is summed up in a tribute to the ginkgo by the late Sir Albert Seward, ‘An emblem of changelessness, a heritage from worlds of an age too remote for our human intelligence to grasp … a tree that has in its keeping the secrets of the immeasurable past.’"

I have lived in a good many places and often planted a tree. The last tree I planted was a ginkgo in Goshen. As I write these words, that tree is getting ready to delight people with its annual display if gorgeous golden foliage. To me, these trees are beautiful at any time of the year, even when their limbs are bare. At one time, I saw streets in Montgomery lined with ginkgo.

Although the ginkgo tree (also known as the golden fossil tree) is originally from China, you will find imprints of the once-living fossil in our own petrified forest. At one point, Fawkes informed me that there are now ginkgo trees growing in every country in the world. If so, they must be adaptable to all climates. AMAZING!!!

In my ginkgo folder, I found an article my late cousin, Dr. Theo Dalton, sent to me some years ago. It states that ginkgo is an excellent herb for the brain’s health. A quote from this article states, "Ginkgo is one of the most important herbs for the brain. It is important to understand that its components don’t go directly to the brain. The ginkgosides work as herbal antioxidants throughout the body, and enhance the microcirculation of its capillary beds. This is why ginkgo is beneficial to all organs that have rich blood supplies, including the heart, liver, kidneys and spleen."

Time went by and I ceased to hear from Fawkes. I contacted his grandson and learned he had passed away. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be associated with this gentleman and for all the wonderful information he furnished. I wish there was room to share it all with you.

Once again, I suggest you consult with your physician before taking alternatives.

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

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Some hybrid amaryllis may surprise you by how well they do after being transplanted in the garden.

Amaryllis Moves to the Garden

After your Christmas amaryllis blooms, it may have a second life in the garden. Our mild climate allows many of the hybrid amaryllis bulbs to be planted in the garden, where they often thrive for several years. After the blooms fade, keep the foliage alive indoors through winter by putting it in a window and keeping it watered. In the spring, transplant it to a spot in the garden with good drainage and where it gets four to six hours of sun. Don’t bury it too deeply; keep the neck of the bulb an inch or two below the surface. Next winter, place mulch over it with pine straw to protect the bulb from freezing and uncover it in the spring. It should bloom again the next spring. Place it in a flowerbed where it can bloom among other plants and the foliage will be camouflaged. Fertilize with bulb booster fertilizer and leave the foliage all summer (it will die back naturally) to provide energy for the bulb to bloom again next year.

Coping with Drought

It is best to wait until spring to evaluate damage to landscape plants from drought. Sometimes a plant will drop leaves in response, but won’t die. Or only a portion of the plant dies. In the exceptional drought of 2007, our native Alabama azalea completely died back, but the roots survived. The next spring the plant sent up new shoots in the original location and several others to form three separate plants, so now we have three Azalea alabamense. When selecting new plants, consider if they can survive with infrequent watering after they are established. A few with exceptional drought tolerance include yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Check with the Alabama Extension Smart Yards program for more recommended plants that best tolerate periods of drought.

Suet is a Winter Buffet for Birds

In winter, when sources of fat and calories are sparse for birds because fewer insects are active, suet can be a big source of nutrition for your local bird population. Woodpeckers in particular love suet, but so do many other birds including warblers, nuthatches, chickadees and cardinals. My mother-in-law always kept a pan of suet in her freezer to refill the feeder daily if needed. This is the recipe she used that originally came from her Audubon birding group.


2 cups (2 sticks) Crisco
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup plain white flour (not self-rising)
1/3 cup sugar

In saucepan over low heat, melt Crisco and peanut butter together. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. When Crisco and peanut butter are melted, add combined ingredients. Stir until well mixed. Spread into a cake pan. Freeze or refrigerate. After it hardens, cut into squares to fit your basket or, better yet, freeze in containers the same size as your feeder.

With a little care, your poinsettias will survive through the holiday season.


Christmas poinsettias do not like a chill. Be careful how you bring them home from your shopping trip or they could shed their leaves prematurely. Make the poinsettias your last stop and keep them inside a car or truck cab where they are protected. When inside the car or house, put them in a spot where the air is still – not where heating vents will blow on them. Water enough to keep the soil moist and they should last you through the season.

Beautiful foliage for making decorative garland may be growing in your yard or that of a friend who will share.

Make Your Own Garland

Garland made from a mix of foliage, berries and fruits offer an elegant welcome into your home during the holidays. You can make your own or purchase evergreen garland and embellish it with foliage cut from your own garden. The key is using fresh foliage that holds well after being cut. What is fresher than what you just cut? This one includes Southern magnolia, juniper, nandina, pomegranate and citrus. While time-consuming, it is not difficult to wire bunches of foliage together and attach to a longer wire or rope to create a length of color and texture. Or you can make a smaller swag to hang on the front door. Look for easy step-by-step instructions in books or instantly on YouTube. You’ll need just a few materials: clippers, wire, wire cutters, rope and maybe some florists’ tape or twine. If you choose to wear garden gloves, choose the tight-fitting type with rubber-coated palms and fingertips for easy gripping.

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

Just Tired and Reflecting

by Glenn Crumpler

On this particular unusually hot, late October afternoon, Jack was busy hauling and unloading our hay for the winter. Darryl was busy on the other tractor drilling in 45 acres of winter grazing in the cultivated fields that were dry as powder, and I was in town delivering some CFC Trailblazer players, running around trying to get some cottonseed donated from various farmers and coordinating the borrowing of a couple of peanut wagons to haul and store the seed in until we can feed it up.

Jack called me about 12:30 that afternoon to see if I would be home soon to check for calving. About midmorning, he had seen a cow in the back pasture walking around with her tail up in the air, but he had not been able get back to the pasture. Just the day before, we lost a really nice newborn heifer calf to buzzards. That may sound strange, but buzzards do more than just hover around looking for something dead. If they get hungry enough and find the right opportunity, they will go out and kill something for themselves and a newborn calf is an easy target.

Buzzards tend to hunt like a pack of wolves that surround their prey in large numbers and in an ever-tightening circle. When the mama cow chases off some of the buzzards from her newborn calf in one direction, the others jump in behind her and start pulling out chunks of flesh or skin. When she then turns and charges them away, those she just ran off jump back in for a quick bite off the other side. Within just a matter of minutes, although the mama cow is doing all she can to protect her newborn baby, the buzzards will have eaten out the eyes of the helpless calf and will have begun to tear away at its tail end.

It is a ruthless process to watch buzzards kill a baby calf and it is not something you ever want to see, but it happens more often than you think. We lost a calf to buzzards last year, and almost lost a couple more before we could get to the calving pasture to run them off. During calving season, if you see buzzards circling or perched in nearby trees, you better check to see what they are up to!

We knew the buzzards had zeroed in on one of our calving pastures, so whenever we know a cow is giving birth, one of us will usually stay with her until the calf is delivered and has been cleaned up and is up nursing. If we cannot stay with her, we will at least check on her every half-hour or so, just to make sure she delivers OK and she eats the afterbirth before it attracts more buzzards.

Within 20 minutes after Jack called me, I was in the pasture watching this really good 8-year-old Angus cow laboring to give birth. I thought for a while as I watched from a distance that she had an unusually large blood plug or part of her ruptured water bag was hanging from her vaginal area. As I watched and waited from 12:45-2:45 as she labored and pushed with all her might I decided to get a little closer to see if I could see any progress. When she got up, the dark, bloody looking plug was still there, just a little bit longer than it had been. I had seen that before and I knew this was not gonna be pretty! It was not a plug or part of the water bag at all, but was the tail of the calf! There was no way that calf was coming out butt first with all four legs pointed in the opposite direction.

As I began to get the lane ready to try to take her to the catch pen where the squeeze chute was, about one-quarter of a mile from where she was laboring, I called Darryl and Jack to come help me. We got the four wheelers and tried to slowly move her toward the lane. Just as we got about 50 feet from the lane she broke away and there was no bringing her back.

Because we had just been given some injectable tranquilizer by a friend who had gotten out of the cattle business, we decided our best option was to tranquilize her using our Pneu-Dart Rifle so we could get our hand on her and eventually try to either find the back legs and pull the calf breach or, better yet, to flip the calf and bring it out the traditional way. We hoped that, as the drug slowed her down but before she went down, we could again try to get her into the lane headed for the squeeze chute. That plan worked for the entire quarter mile except for last 30 feet – when she went through the electric fence and tore out into a pasture with the 3-year-olds.

Too late to back out now! We were not going to get her in the squeeze chute and she is surely going to die unless we do something. I darted her a third time and then walked up to her and gave her another dose of tranquilizer by injection. She must have been an alcoholic because a normal drunk could not stand up after being so heavily sedated. We ended up choking her down with a lasso and tying her feet together so she could not get up.

I did all I could do for about almost an hour and a half, but could not turn the calf nor could I get the calf’s back hooves pulled around straight enough to pull the calf backward. At times, Darrell and I both had our arms up to our armpits in the same orifice – one pushing the butt of the calf forward while the other tried to pull a leg around to clear the pelvis. By dark, both of our arms suffered from complete muscle burnout, but we had done all we could and there was nothing else to try. If we could have gotten her in the chute where she could have stood up, gravity would have been our friend in our efforts to reposition the calf, but lying on her side, we just could not flip the calf. They were both dead the next morning.

Just last night at about 10 as I was trying to write this devotional, Jack called me about a heifer that was having trouble having her calf. We had been keeping an eye on her since dusk, but she just was not able to pass the head of the calf – partly because her water had never broken, causing too much pressure in the birth canal. About 11 p.m. we finally got her in the chute. After we broke her water and got the OB chains on the calf, it was an easy pull, but she would have never passed it on her own without the water breaking. The cow and the red bull calf are both fine this morning.

I am not sure what the point of this story is devotionally, but I am tired and just taking time to reflect. There are always wars raging and challenges in this life. However, the Holy Spirit is reminding me as I write that God is indeed a Good Shepherd who loves and cares for each of His sheep. He knows us each by our own name. He loves and cares for us as individuals. He has a unique plan for each of our lives and He does all He can to help us, no matter what we are going through. He never gives up on us. He is always calling us, not wanting anyone to perish. Yet, we often are uncooperative or unwilling to let Him do what needs to be done in our lives, things only He can do. Some of our problems are out of our control – just a part of living in a fallen world. Others are brought on by someone else or are the consequences of our own bad decisions. Regardless, He has promised to see us through them all and to never leave us or forsake us.

"‘Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?’ says the Lord." (Isaiah 66:9, NKJV) God promises He will do in, for and through us everything He has promised. All we have to do is surrender our will to Him, trust Him and leave all the consequences to Him! He is faithful and His love is unconditional.

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

Learn to Lead

by John Howle

“We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me or get out of my way.”
~ General George S. Patton, Jr.

There are basically two schools of thought on leadership. One comes from the world. This first school of thought says that there are only about one in 10 people who possess the skills and personality to effectively lead people. The other school of thought comes from the Bible. It says we are all supposed to be leaders, and if we feel we lack the skills, all we need to do is ask. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:5, ESV)

Further instructions on leadership are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 (NIV). "Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

"In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

"In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

"A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus."

What would America look like if all our leaders followed this prescription for leadership? We would see improvement in our communities, our schools and even our homes.

Slick Trick for Stealthy Stalking

Moving through the woods with stealth in search of white-tailed deer can be challenging when there are crunching leaves or limbs underfoot. If you hunt in an area where turkeys are present, a diaphragm mouth call can help conceal your presence. As you take a few steps, softly cluck with the mouth call to give the impression of a turkey in the area. Deer may often be fooled into thinking a flock of turkeys is foraging in the area, giving you a slight advantage on your approach. The mouth call is small and convenient to carry as you walk through the woods. Because turkeys have two feet, their travel through the woods closely resembles human footsteps. The key is making deer think you are a turkey.

Place strips of wood between stacks of lumber to allow the wood to dry or cure out before constructing projects around the farm.

Preserve the Planks

If you have larger projects around the farm requiring lots of lumber, it may be worth your time to have an experienced sawmill operator cut lumber to the specifications of your project from tree logs you have cut down. Saw-milled white oak makes great flooring for porches. Milled poplar is lightweight and is easy to drive a nail through.

Regardless of the type of lumber you plan to use, stacking and allowing the wood to cure for a few weeks will help the finished product look better because much of the moisture can cure out. When stacking this lumber, make sure you have plenty of strips between the layers of wood to allow air to circulate. These strips should at least be ½- to 1-inch thick.

Deer Cam

Mounting a digital game camera along common travel corridors in December can give you a good idea of the deer in the area. The camera will also let you know which big bucks are still in the woods. Many of the large bucks do a great deal of feeding during nocturnal hours. The deer cam will help spot the elusive, trophy deer in your area. Check the legalities of your area before setting up the camera.

Unfamiliar Terrain

Maybe you’ve been invited to hunt property you’ve never been on before or you are on a hunting trip outside of your comfort zone. It’s a frustrating experience to get turned around in the woods for long periods or, even worse, get lost.

An old boy scout trick to prevent getting lost in unfamiliar territory is to periodically stop and look over your shoulder. By doing this, you are registering landmarks such as unusual trees or rocks so that on the return trip you will recognize these physical features.

When hunting unfamiliar terrain, stop and look back in the direction you’ve come to memorize unusual landmarks or trees to prevent getting lost.

Ed Parton and his wife, Carolyn, served as Santa and Mrs. Claus for many years in Ohatchee.

The Best Leaders are Servants

Serving others should be the objective of any leader. Ed Parton and his wife, Carolyn, have spent a big chunk of their life serving the community of Ohatchee playing the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Their efforts have brought happiness to hundreds of youngsters in their area. Even though Ed’s health won’t allow him to play the role of Santa anymore, the joy he and his wife brought to their community became a legacy as many of those youngsters became adults and brought their own kids to see Santa.

This December, whether you are leading people in your workplace, your place of worship, in local politics or your own home, study the biblical principles of leadership to be the most effective. Your home, community and nation will benefit.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Making the Most of Your Cattle’s Feed

Protein is critical for maximum forage utilization.

by Jackie Nix

SWEETLIX EnProAl poured tubs provide needed protein along with other essential nutrients to help cattle perform better on lower-quality forages.

Ruminants have the unique ability to utilize materials inedible by humans (grasses, forbs and other roughages) and convert them into highly nutritious meat products for human consumption. This is made possible by the symbiotic relationship between rumen microbes and the ruminant. The ruminant’s ability to convert cheap roughages into high-quality meat and milk is its main advantage over other commercially raised livestock (pork, poultry, etc.). Given that forages are among the cheapest feeds available, it goes without saying that anything we can do to maximize forage intake and/or utilization is going to positively affect the bottom line.

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

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

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

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

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

When it comes to providing supplemental protein to cattle for the purpose of stimulating forage utilization and intake, there is no better way than the use of self-fed SWEETLIX poured blocks. These highly palatable, weather-resistant, self-fed supplements provide needed protein along with energy, minerals and vitamins. Because cattle naturally consume these blocks multiple times during the day, this provides a steady intake of protein to help rumen microbes digest hay most efficiently.

In summary, protein is a key factor in the utilization and intake of low-quality forages. Research confirms a regular, daily intake of even a small amount of protein helps aid forage digestibility and increase rumen turnover rate. SWEETLIX self-fed poured block supplements deliver 1-2 pounds of supplementation daily in a convenient, weather-resistant, no-waste form. SWEETLIX offers a wide variety of protein-supplement products in multiple product sizes to allow the greatest amount of flexibility for cattle producers. Contact your local Quality Co-op or visit for more information.

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.

O Tannenbaum – Try These Tips!

Proper selection and care will result in a longer lasting, more beautiful Christmas tree.

The Glover clan with a Christmas tree they selected, (from left) Meg, Drew, Julie and Wes.

by Tony Glover

A question I often hear this time of year is, "I love to use a real Christmas tree, but the needles are always a mess. What type of tree has the least problem with needle shedding?"

The quick answer is, "The fresher the tree, the better it will hold its needles." The only way to know you have a freshly cut tree is to cut it yourself, or, in my case, I just point to the tree and tell one of my kids to cut it for me. If you buy a tree from a local choose-and-cut farm, it probably doesn’t matter what species you purchase; just pick the tree you like best. The key to keeping the needles attached is to get the fresh-cut tree stump into water as quickly as possible.

Choosing a precut tree from a sales lot can be a little riskier than cutting the tree yourself, but, if you follow these tips, your chance of getting a good tree will improve greatly. Purchase a tree as soon as trees are available, even if you don’t plan to decorate it for several days. The sooner you can get the tree in water the longer it will last. Most of the trees on sales lots were cut at the same time, so the longer they stay on the lot without water the less likely they will even take water up when they are placed in home tree stands with water reservoirs. Look at the tree trunk near the base and, if you see splitting, the tree most likely has dried so severely it will not absorb water.

Look for a tree with a healthy, green appearance and few dead or browning needles. Run your hand along a branch to see if needles seem fresh and flexible. Needles should not pull free easily. If possible, bump the base of the tree on the ground. You should expect some of the old dead needles to fall off, but if green needles also fall, the tree is not very fresh.

Once you have chosen that perfect tree and have arrived back home safely, you should make a fresh cut a couple of inches above the original cut. This removes any clogged wood that prevents water uptake. If you are not ready to place the tree indoors, you may store it in a shady area outdoors or in an unheated room or basement. Regardless of where you locate the tree, make sure to check the water reservoir frequently and keep it filled a couple of inches or more above the tree’s base. Your tree should be taking up a quart of water per inch of trunk diameter per day. I have not seen any research that proves any concoction added to the water works significantly better than plain tap water.

A tree disposal bag is a good idea and can help you with cleanup after Christmas. Another tip to consider involves tree location in the home. Keeping the tree away from heat sources such as air ducts, wood stoves and fireplaces will prolong the freshness and reduce the risk of fire. Make certain all lights and extension cords are in good working order and turn lights off when the tree is not attended. Because our homes are much drier in the winter when the heating system is operating, a small room humidifier can be good for you, your houseplants and Christmas tree.

A field of trees shaped and ready for someone to take one home.

Some trees are just naturally better at retaining their needles. Douglas fir, eastern white pine, Fraser fir, Leyland cypress, Scotch pine and Virginia pine are considered to have excellent needle retention. Freshness, however, is the most important factor involved in needle retention. The ultimate in freshness is to purchase a living tree in a container. I have used everything from hollies to Arizona cypress as a living tree to be planted in the yard after Christmas. Many nurseries will stock container plants suitable for Christmas tree usage. However, even though these trees have a root system, they still need regular watering. The environment inside your home is much hotter and drier than the conditions were at the nursery. The shorter their time indoors the greater success you will have with them once planted after Christmas. Don’t forget to keep them watered in the landscape as well.

To find a local Christmas tree farm visit this website:

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

Our Christmas and New Year’s Challenge

by Suzy Lowry Geno

All those heart tests they did on me recently were all for nothing!

Sunday night I got home from the funeral home from visiting with our sweet neighbor’s family. He lost his lengthy battle with cancer Friday afternoon and there was a line snaking throughout the funeral home of folks waiting to pay their respects. So I was a little later getting back home than I anticipated.

I’d fed and watered all the animals and finished all my other nightly chores before I’d left, but neither mine nor my son’s animals were safely shut up in their respective sheds and houses. The chickens, ducks, guineas and turkeys just won’t go in until that sun sets!

I got out of my little red truck and there were coyotes yipping and yapping all-around and all over my back pasture!

This gray-headed, lantern-twirling, screaming-bloody-murder, chubby homesteader made a beeline to the field not even stopping to grab my gun!

Wish there was a video showing how fast I can run when I don’t think about it! So for that particular night at least, it was gray-haired homesteader one, coyotes zip! And I wasn’t even out of breath!

The gate in the turkey’s pen was completely off its hinges and was standing upright, but, at least for that particular moment, all the goats, bunnies, ducks, chickens, turkeys, guineas, cats and even dogs were SAFE.

Several weeks ago as I was plodding along on a fancy-dancy treadmill while undergoing a nuclear stress test, I told the nurse that maybe I should get one of those workout machines for home. She immediately began to cluck, almost like a mother hen, and said the same thing I’ve heard from numerous doctors and nurses: That my little farm agrees with me and nothing else could be better for my health!

Even though every month I try to faithfully take to the bank my hard-earned-dollar farm payment, I realize I am only the caretaker of these 15 acres because of God’s Grace.

And, as Christmas is upon us and yet another year is about to end, I am almost constantly reminded of how truly spectacular that Grace is.

Last night, my son, who lives nearby, rode the 3 miles to town with me. Just outside of town, there lay a huge doe someone had hit with their vehicle. At two other different points, we slowed to watch deer along the side of residential roads, clearly enjoying the beautiful weather. One doe and an older fawn traipsed through a highly manicured lawn obviously seeking to munch on the homeowner’s well-tended landscape.

The air was still and crisp. One of those nights that it just makes you wonder at the scope of things … that just make you simply glad to be alive.

How many times in the past few years have we all missed those moments?

We sit inside our homes glued to TV screens (I really DON’T miss that constant noise!)

Or even when we are on the go or outside, our eyes are glued to our tablets or our phone screens.

I am amazed when I see RVs with huge TV screens that magically emerge under the awnings outside so folks can sit there in the wonder of nature and watch football games!

And, oh, I’m bad enough. I’m hooked on Facebook and I love to read folks’ daily comments about what’s going on in their lives!

But as this new year approaches and we take stock of our lives and think about our futures, I hope you and I reflect on just what is truly important in our world!

2017 will be the year I, along with the rest of my 12-year classmates, enter the age of 65 and all those aggravating Medicare decisions. My mailbox is already almost daily filled with ads for scooter chairs, hearing aids, assisted-living facilities and home-care options!

Just like when so many of us yearned for our 13th year, when we could officially classify ourselves as teenagers; our 16th birthday, when we could get that long-awaited driver’s license and actually be mobile; our 21st year, so we could say we were legally adults; the age of 30, when we felt we had arrived; then 40, when we suddenly realized we might actually be living those futures we had planned and educated ourselves for; and 65 is heralded by many as the age to sit down and grow old!

I don’t think so!

All of us in the Oneonta High School Class of 1970 may be getting numerically older, but I don’t think many of us are just going to be sitting down!

Yes, we’ve lost some class members to untimely deaths from terrible diseases and others to wrecks even when we were much younger and we miss them so, but this old girl – and many more of my classmates – are going to keep moving and keep cherishing every minute of every day we are blessed with!

This Christmas several of us will again be missing our longtime spouses and I’ll especially be thinking of my sweet neighbor who lost her husband of 50 years ... there’s no doubt we will still mourn because these spouses were with us most of our lifetimes.

But this Christmas I also have a brand new granddaughter AND another GREAT-grandson on the way! Looking into baby Aria’s smiling face is enough to put anyone into the Christmas spirit!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I think we should be ever-changing and ever-alert to God’s leadings in our lives, but my challenge, and I believe yours too, is to not waste a second of this wonderful life God has blessed us with!

This Christmas, while we adore that baby in the manager, our real focus should be His sacrifice for us on the Cross!

While we’re celebrating the end of 2016, our thoughts for 2017 should be ones of thankfulness that we are still here to Glory in Christ!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all the animals and me here at Old Field Farm! May your days be simply-lived and peace-filled!

Suzy Lowry Geno lives on a small homestead in Blount County and can be reached through Facebook or by emailing

PALS: “See ya later, litter!”

W.S. Neal Elementary is becoming a leader in community cleanup.

by Jamie Mitchell

W.S. Neal Elementary School has decided to partner with the Clean Campus Program this school year! Located in East Brewton, W.S. Neal Elementary is looking to become leaders in their community for making positive changes. They would like to be a shining example by keeping their campus clean and getting involved in community cleanups.

I recently visited W.S. Neal Elementary and spoke to their pre-K through fourth-graders. The students heard more about what it means to be involved in the Clean Campus Program and learned many new ideas for ways they can make a difference. We discussed changing from plastic drink bottles to reusable containers. We calculated that just their group would contribute over 1,500 water bottles per week to the landfill if they brought a new water bottle to school every day. That is just in one week! Switching to a reusable container means all of that plastic would stay out of the landfill and not potentially become litter!

This group of students was also super excited about our annual poster competition coming in the spring. With a $250 prize for the winner, the kids were very motivated to participate! The theme for this year’s contest is "See ya later, litter!" They will be due in April 2017.

PALS is so excited to welcome W.S. Neal Elementary School to our program!

If a school near you could benefit from hearing my antilitter message, I can be reached by phone at 334-263-7737 or by email at The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools. Schools may sign up for the Clean Campus Program online at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Quality Co-ops Black Powder Rifle Winners

During the summer, Quality Co-ops accepted online entries for a black powder muzzleloading rifle kit to be given away. The drawing was held Oct. 10, 2016. Here is a list of some of the winners by location:

Co-op Store

Albertville Farmers Co-op

Altha Farmers Co-op/Altha, FL

Altha Farmers Co-op/Marianna, FL

Andalusia Farmers Co-op

Atmore Truckers Association

Blount County Farmers Co-op

Calhoun Farmers Co-op/ Jacksonville

Calhoun Farmers Co-op/Piedmont

Central Farmers Co-op/Selma

Central Farmers Co-op/Demopolis

Central Farmers Co-op/Faunsdale

Cherokee Farmers Co-op/Centre

Clay County Exchange

Coffee County Farmers Co-op/Elba

Colbert Farmers Co-op/Leighton

Colbert Farmers Co-op/Tuscumbia

DeKalb Farmers Co-op/Rainsville

DeKalb Farmers Co-op/Crossville

Elmore County Co-op

Farmers Co-op of Ashford

Farmers Cooperative, Inc./ Live Oak, FL

Farmers Cooperative, Inc./ Madison, FL

Farmers Cooperative Market/Frisco City

Fayette Branch of AFC

Florala Farmers and Builders Co-op

Goshen Farmers Co-op

Hartford Farmers Co-op

Jackson Farmers Co-op/Scottsboro

Jackson Farmers Co-op/Stevenson

Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op

Lauderdale County Co-op/ Florence

Lauderdale County Co-op/Elgin

Lawrence County Exchange/ Moulton

Lawrence County Exchange/Courtland

Limestone Farmers Co-op

Giles County Co-op/Lynnville

Giles County Co-op/Pulaski

Luverne Cooperative Services

Madison County Co-op

Marshall Farmers Co-op/Arab

Cullman Farmers Co-op/ Holly Pond

Mid-State Farmers Co-op

Morgan Farmers Co-op/Decatur

Morgan Farmers Co-op/Hartselle

Opp’s Co-op

Quality Cooperative, Inc.

Randolph Farmers Co-op

St. Clair Farmers Co-op/Ashville

St. Clair Farmers Co-op/Pell City

Taleecon Farmers Co-op

Talladega County Exchange

Tuscaloosa Farmers Co-op

Walker Farmers Co-op

West Geneva County Co-op

Winston Farmers Co-op


Amber Sewell

JoAnn McCormack

Gene Edwards

Tim Johnson

Robert Carnley

Chance Allman

Blake Hamm

Thomas Young

Scott Mitchell

Doug Farnell

Blake Willis

Scott Mackey

Holly McCormick

Stephen Whitley

Barry Pool

Chris Thompson

Chad Greeson

Mark Brown

Christopher Leifer

Roger Long

Greg Scott

Robert McGranahan

Jonathan Smith

James Holliman

Victoria Harrison

Kelvin Thomas

Laine Dillard

William McClendon

Gary Loyd

Jimmy Jones

Rick Sharp

Michael Young

Daniel Jenkins

Mark Hamilton

Jay Moorer

James McCormack

Timothy Fisk

Daniel Jones

Daniel Rose

Richard Marion

Kali Lake

Dean Lovell

Steven Compton

Brad Parker

Rickey Jackson

Cody Delaney

Chris Taylor

Denise Staples

Joseph Taylor

Cindy Boyd

Harley Pohlman

Johnny Brewer

John McClain

Matt Odom

Jim Casteel

AFC also sold raffle tickets to its employees for chances to win two additional rifles. The raffle raised $350 and the money was contributed to the United Way and Breast Cancer Research. These rifles were won by Valarie Britton and Terri Adams.

To view available photos of the winners, visit AFC’s Facebook at /alafarm.

Sand Bar on Stilts

Selma restaurant is rescued from the ruins.

by Alvin Benn

Sand Bar Restaurant owner David Pearce Jr. and Manager Kim Morris are happy they have a new business to run after last year’s flood.

Kim Morris’ eyes were fixed on a frightening sight as it moved toward the Sand Bar Restaurant and she knew there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.

It was the day after Christmas 2015 and floodwaters from the Alabama River began to cover every inch of dry land at the Selma City Marina.

"It looked like one of those time lapse videos," Morris said. "I never dreamed water could get that high that fast, but that’s just what happened. I just kept sloshing through it in my boots, picking up mud with every step I took."

There wasn’t enough time or energy to move heavy equipment and appliances because it wouldn’t have accomplished much anyway, Morris added.

Some of the smaller items were put up on blocks, but that didn’t help since the water kept rising and she knew it was only a matter of time before the restaurant became a total loss.

It had survived a smaller flood a few years before this big one and any thought of a New Year’s celebration had to be shelved. A band was hired to perform, but the flood made it a moot point.

Lisa Bickerstaff pitched in to help her sister and was joined by other volunteers who did the same thing, but knew it didn’t amount to much – other than providing loyal support.

Kim Morris faced a huge cleanup problem when a flood destroyed her restaurant at the Selma Marina a day after Christmas last year. A newer, bigger restaurant opened in the spring. (Credit: Montgomery Advertiser)

When the water finally receded, all that was left was a muddy mess in the dining area and bad memories that still haunt her.

The average flood stage of the Alabama River at the marina is about 45 feet, but the disaster witnessed by Morris exceeded that level by over 5 feet.

Options were limited for Morris and owner David Pearce Jr., and they studied a variety of steps before narrowing them down to two possibilities – elevation or closure.

Pearce’s family operates one of Alabama’s largest catfish farms and didn’t become successful by reducing the number of ponds on their sprawling business in the Browns community about 25 miles west of Selma.

Pierce demonstrated his faith in Selma’s future by building a new restaurant at the same location and local residents began to respond as soon as it opened. He’s also provided about 100 pounds of catfish every week for hungry customers.

It wasn’t an option of reopening, because there wasn’t much left once the water eased back into the Alabama River and workers were told their jobs would have to be delayed until something could be worked out.

The first order of business, of course, was to work out a plan to build another restaurant that wouldn’t be victimized by more flooding. That was taken care of by constructing the restaurant atop 16-foot-high support pillars.

The most important part of the construction project was the height. That’s how high the new restaurant is today, much higher than the smaller restaurant that was destroyed. Each pillar is arranged to carry the heavier weight as well as allowing floodwaters to flow UNDER the restaurant, not through it as previously had happened.

By doing that, Pearce had demonstrated his determination to complete a project that should curtail the most serious of floods in the future.

Also included in the initial planning phase was a public-private lease arrangement showing his confidence in the continued viability of the restaurant.

"We knew, unless we had the support of the city, we probably wouldn’t be able to build another restaurant," Pearce explained. "It didn’t take that long to nail down a good plan and we went right to work on construction."

Within a few months, the restaurant had been rebuilt and was supported by two wooden entrances – traditional steps on one side and, on the other, a unique winding ramp for those who might have a hard time climbing steps to the top.

Selma’s newest restaurant recently opened atop 16-foot support pillars to prevent the kind of flooding that destroyed the previous one.

Pearce is a relatively new restauranteur, but Morris is familiar with every phase of the business and makes important decisions daily.

Together, they’ve made a good team, but it’s been Pearce’s financial assistance that’s made the difference.

What he did was put up $500,000 to build the new restaurant. It’s much larger than the flooded facility and he’s confident that public support will help to pay back his investment many times over in the future.

Morris’s experience has been invaluable and she’s proved it by the way she runs the business and the 16 employees who work there.

A couple of years after finishing high school, she walked into Major Grumbles, one of Selma’s most popular restaurants in the central business district.

She didn’t have any experience but her energetic approach to something new impressed Howard and Martha Strickland, owners of the business.

"Martha took one look at me and said ‘you’re hired,’" Morris recalled, with a big laugh. "She said I was a good-looking girl and would start out as waitress."

It wasn’t long before she had earned her spurs and moved up to more responsible work. One of the benefits of working at Major Grumbles, situated on a soapstone bluff overlooking the Alabama River, was meeting famous people.

Nationally known civil rights leaders would often drop by during their visits to Selma, but what thrilled her most of all were the entertainers.

Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones starred in "Blue Sky" being filmed in Selma in 1994 and they became regular customers at the restaurant.

"They were such down-to-earth people, especially Tommy Lee," she said. "I remember how much he liked our marinated chicken sandwich on homemade sourdough bread."

The "Blue Sky" crew also enjoyed cornbread soup that enabled them to not only sample the soup but eat the bowl at the same time.

"I don’t know why the bowl didn’t disintegrate when people started eating it, but they seemed to like it quite a bit," Morris said.

Lange rented a house in Selma’s Old Town district and was joined by her children during the filming. Her performance, by the way, garnered an Academy Award for her as best actress that year.

That experience was long ago and, today, Morris is a grandmother with more energy than many of her employees – putting in long hours throughout the week.

Sand Bar Restaurant owner David Pearce Jr. tries his hand at mixing a drink at his new restaurant.

In addition to managing the restaurant, she’s also the bartender and has created her own line of specialty drinks including "Tie Me to the Bed Post" that is pretty much self-explanatory.

Building the new restaurant high enough to avoid future disasters should have done the trick, but those who were around in 1961 can attest to the granddaddy of floods in Selma.

It was described as a "century flood" and remains the worst-ever recorded locally, one that saw caskets without vaults popping to the surface and floating through low-lying areas.

Hopefully that shouldn’t happen again, not with Selma’s restaurant-on-stilts working like a charm.

Morris keeps a reminder of last year’s post-Christmas flood on a ledge behind the bar – a 12-year-old bottle of Chivas Real blended Scotch.

It’s caked in mud and little of the label can be seen. It’s also resting high up in the restaurant … just in case.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: Bud was dreading the 2-mile walk home that cold winter evening after a Christmas party. "It’s really gonna be a three-dog night when I get home!

What does a dog have to do with night?

"Three dog night" is Australian slang (later used in the United States) for a very cold night. From the practice of bushmen sleeping with their dogs to stay warm; the colder the night, the more dogs were needed.

The Macquarie dictionary of Australian slang

Specialty Crop Block Grants Awarded to 14 Recipients

Press Release from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries

Alabama has received over $334,000 in funding to distribute to 14 specific project initiatives that were approved as part of USDA’s 2016 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program awards.

"We are pleased to partner with USDA and administer the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program in Alabama," said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan. "We are excited about many of the 2016 projects and are encouraged that these projects will provide outreach, education and research of specialty crops in Alabama."

All Alabama project recipients attended a kickoff meeting Oct. 21, 2016, at the State Department of Agriculture and Industries headquarters in Montgomery. At this meeting, official contracts were signed and the specific details of each project’s plan of action were discussed.

The grants are part of USDA’s continued effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administrated by AMS, awarded grant funds for 693 projects in all 50 States, the District of Columbia and five U.S. Territories.

"The grants will help ensure our specialty crop sector remains competitive, has the resources it needs to solve challenges and can meet Americans’ growing demand for these products. This is important for our farmers and rural communities as well as for all American consumers," USDA-AMS Director Elanor Starmor said.

For additional grant information on the awardees, please visit the grant program at

For more information on Alabama’s SCBG program, contact Johnny Blackmon at or 334-240-7257.

The Co-op Pantry

Wow, it’s almost Christmas again! I am so very thankful my family and I have survived to celebrate another Christmas. Last June, my husband, Steve, had a close brush with death and, for a few seconds, I truly thought him dead. While trimming what he thought was one large limb from the mulberry in our yard, it turned out the tree was actually broken and the limb, resting on the roof, was all that was holding it up. When he cut the limb away, the tree fell and caught him by the leg and threw him about 20 feet across the roof. After seeing him lying there, neither moving nor speaking, I don’t think my life will ever be the same again. The fire department had to come and extract him from the roof. In the process, my little ankle-biter, Stony, bit one of the fireman. That is a memory I wish I didn’t have! There were flashing lights and wailing sirens, about 30 people who just came to see if they could help and a limping fireman. Life in small-town Alabama makes you realize that your neighbors are also your family.

After two surgeries, Steve is recuperating from a shattered leg and a torn shoulder tendon. He still has several months and a lot of physical therapy before he is back to normal.

Be careful when you are cutting on huge trees and watch out for tiny dogs!

I plan on having a wonderful and memorable Christmas this year because I have so much to celebrate. Looking back, I recall other Christmases that are now fond memories: my time as a small child in rural Alabama, my huge maternal family together at Christmas and kids running, laughing, falling and breaking things (lots of things)! Then later, when we moved to Kentucky, I experienced Christmas on a working farm. Animals still had to be fed and watered, no matter what the day. However, we didn’t have to go tree shopping; we could just cut one down. Those were wonderful days, even if I didn’t appreciate them properly at the time.

One of the funniest things I remember from my time in Kentucky was the year my mother decided we must have a duck for Christmas rather than a turkey. The little town we lived near had one grocery store. They would order things for you if they weren’t in stock, but they could not get her a duck for Christmas. She got morose, and talked about the lack of duck incessantly. One day, shortly before Christmas, my father calmly picked up his shotgun, went out the backdoor and came back about an hour later – with a duck. He plopped the dead fowl down on the kitchen counter and went to clean the shotgun.

Now, don’t think this deterred my Mom; she was an Alabama farm girl who hunted right along with her brothers and had always helped dress the game. She grabbed the dead duck, a HUGE knife and garbage bags; then instructed me to follow her outside and see how it was done. (I still get nauseous thinking about it.) Head and feet lopped off, blood and feathers flying, and my mother’s eyes gleaming with fervor as she explained the virtues of plucking rather than skinning said duck. (I really don’t want to remember how efficiently she dismembered and gutted the bird.) Once the duck had been de-feathered, it had to be singed to get rid of pin feathers (which she made me do). My mother was one of the sweetest people you could ever hope to meet, but, when she made her mind up to do something, don’t get in her way.

For a day or so before Christmas, the house was fouled with vinegar fumes while Mother was removing the gamey taste from the duck.

Then came the baking! We had the normal mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie along with the roasted duck.

I have to admit that it was one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed. All of us had contributed to the meal and that somehow made it better. That duck was absolutely delicious and Mom was right about leaving the skin on. Looking back, she was right about most things!

I wish you and yours a Merry and Memorable Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hug your families and spend time with them; they may not be there next year. Open presents and stuff yourselves on your favorite foods. We will work on healthy eating next month!

Here’s to you, Mom!

I freely admit that none of these recipes are original to me, most are from family, friends or recipe swaps, but they are all delicious.

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


2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, optional
2 teaspoons paprika
1 (5-pound) whole duck
½ cup butter, melted, divided

Preheat oven to 375°. Rub salt, pepper and paprika into skin of duck. Place in a roasting pan. Roast duck for 1 hour. Spoon ¼ cup butter over bird, and cook for 45 more minutes. Spoon remaining ¼ cup butter over duck, and cook for 15 more minutes, or until golden brown.

Note: This recipe will serve about four people, so no leftovers to deal with. I would also suggest you cover your bird in foil while it cooks to keep the juices in. If you want the skin to be crispy, remove foil for final 15-30 minutes.


Salt, to taste
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quar- tered
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

In medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, but still firm, about 15 minutes; drain. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat butter and milk until butter is melted. Using a potato masher or electric beater, slowly blend milk mixture into potatoes until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: When choosing varieties of potatoes for mashing, I recommend Russet or Yukon Gold.


6 large sweet potatoes
½ cup butter
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt, to taste
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into slices. In a heavy skillet, melt butter. Add sweet potatoes. In small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cover sweet potatoes with sugar mixture and stir. Cover skillet, reduce heat to low and cook for about 1 hour or until potatoes are candied. They should be tender, but a little hard around the edges. Also, the sauce will turn dark. You will need to stir occasionally during the cooking. Stir in the vanilla just before serving. Serve hot.

Note: Watch these carefully and turn as needed so you don’t end up with a burned mess.


For your green beans, used canned or frozen and prepare to package directions. Mom always canned our veggies and it was simple to open a jar and they were ready in a jiffy.


1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, do not use evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 (6-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
Whipped cream or ice cream

Preheat oven to 425°. With mixer, beat pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt. Pour into pie crusts and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°; bake 35-40 minutes longer or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool and serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

Note: I would probably use a bit less salt. It totally depends on your taste buds.


Unless you are an experienced bread maker, buy them ready for the oven and prepare them according to package directions.

For those of you who want to do it from scratch, here goes:
1 cup water, at 110°
2 packages yeast, not quick rising
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
4¼ cups flour

In a large bowl, combine water and yeast; let stand for 5 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir in butter, sugar, eggs and salt. Add flour, 1 cup at a time and beat in as much as you can. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days. Grease a 13x9 baking pan. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Divide into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth round ball. On prepared pan, place in rows. Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake until golden brown, about 17 minutes.


1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (12-ounce or 3 cups) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
½ teaspoon orange zest, freshly grated

In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil; stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and simmer, stirring every once in a while, until berries just pop, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in zest and cool.

Note: While this is a very easy recipe, I admit I will buy mine canned and without the berries.

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 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. -- Mary

Three Q’s of Successful Marketing

by Robert Spencer

During my work overseas, I am often asked what it would take to market a product to the United States. I have to explain to people I am not the one to facilitate that, but I have some recommendations. After mulling over the idea, I feel the same applies to producers in the United States trying to market a product. The three Q’s of sustainable successful marketing are quantity, quality and qonsistency. OK, I am being a little bit creative on the last one, but you get the idea.

Successful marketing of export products to the United States is something I learned while working in Guatemala. There they produce flowers, vegetables and fruits, and coffee, and export huge quantities of each to the United States and Europe. Each industry has a national association that sets standards that include the three Q’s. Myanmar has industry associations that set export standards for honey, avocados, coffee and more; and they set quality, quantity and consistency standards allowing them to export to United States. And Haiti is working on exporting mangos and coffee to us. Is the United States the only market for exports? The answer is no, but that is what a lot of other countries strive to accomplish.

How do the three Q’s apply to production and marketing in the United States? Most commodity organizations and buyers have inspection or grading standards and expectations. Grocery stores probably have higher expectations than farmers markets; consumers have certain expectations for what they find acceptable and will purchase; and even livestock facilities have grading standards and groupings. Other than the poultry and swine industry, the cattle industry is probably the most organized livestock commodity group, and, with the help of Cooperative Extension Systems in many states, they are putting together groups of cattle based on gender, age, body size and confirmation, then organizing private treaty sales to draw buyers who have certain expectations and demands. This has generally proved to draw more buyers and bring a slightly higher price for cattle, with the farmers benefiting.

Sheep producers in the western half of the United States tend to be well-organized and able to put together groups of animals the buyers are actively seeking. The goat industry continues to lag behind when it comes to standards, volume and consistency.

Take a look at livestock sales facilities. Some are USDA-graded with designated days for specific livestock. Some facilities choose to bypass USDA-graded sales and have designated days for specific livestock. Other facilities have auctions offering all forms of livestock and supplies one or two days a week. All have their benefits and serve clientele.

The USDA-graded cattle sales break down into categories including feeders, slaughter and replacement; medium, small and large; bred; and more. USDA-graded goat and sheep sales break down into categories including slaughter kids, lambs, yearlings, does/ewes, bucks and rams; and a few feeder animals. Based on my observations, I would guestimate there are fewer USDA-graded facilities and more nongraded facilities in Alabama.

Choosing the best way to sell your animals can be determined by what is most practical for your situation. However, if you were able to put together groups of animals that addressed quantity, quality and qonsistency, I would expect you would be more likely to attract buyers willing to pay a higher price.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. You can contact him at

Turning Tidings of Great Joy

Bud Rogers spreads Christmas cheer with unique handmade wooden ornaments.

by Carolyn Drinkard

A wooden ornament begins to take shape as Bud Rogers turns the piece on his lathe. Bud works on the porch of his shop for better ventilation and dust control.

Christmas is indeed the most wonderful time of the year for Frank "Bud" Rogers!

"I’ve always been kind of a kid at Christmas," he laughed. "It was such a special time when I was growing up. It still is!"

Every year, when the Christmas season rolled around, Rogers would gather scraps of wood to make six or seven ornaments for family and friends. It was his way of doing a little something extra to spread Christmas cheer. Because the ornaments had to be painted, Rogers only made a few, since he had never liked to paint.

Rogers had almost given up making tidings of joy for others when he came across a plan showing how to make a rolling pin from laminated wood. While making one for his wife, Julie, he had a revelation. Why couldn’t this same process be used to make his beloved Christmas ornaments? If he glued layers of colorful wood together, shaped the block and then dipped it in lacquer, he could produce ornaments with incredible color without ever having to paint! His idea worked, and he has never looked back!

Making ornaments may have started with a simple rolling pin, but it has blossomed into his passion and his signature. Throughout the year, he makes thousands of one-of-a-kind ornaments that are treasured as gifts and keepsakes.

Rogers admits that his love affair with wood started early in his life, but it has progressed through many different stages. As a child, he was intrigued by small pieces of firewood his father brought home from the sawmill. Rogers often selected a few planks to make his own toys, teaching himself to use tools and learning from the school of trial and error. As his skills improved, he made furniture, including wooden display cases for the dolls his mother had crafted.

"When Julie and I first got married, I was a school teacher in Mobile County and not making a lot of money," he explained. "We didn’t have much furniture, so we would go to the furniture stores, find what we wanted and then I would try to make it, out of necessity."

After a year, the couple returned home to Jackson, where Rogers worked at Boise Cascade, a local paper mill, for 37 years. Rogers continued to build furniture, mostly for family members. He made beds, all kinds of tables, spinning wheels, hall trees, quilt racks and much more.

He explained that he and Julie liked Shaker furniture, so he would make and sell different pieces to buy the tools he needed for his shop.

He often looked for discarded furniture he could rebuild. One example is a rocking chair that had fallen off a truck. Rogers refurbished it into a cherished family treasure.

Bud’s ornaments are known for their unusual colors, grain patterns and shapes. No two are ever alike.

Rogers explained that, when his daughters moved away, he filled their homes with many pieces of furniture he had made or restored. Still, entering the Rogers’s home today is like stepping into an antique haven. Each piece of furniture has a fascinating story, one both Bud and Julie are eager to share.

After his grandfather passed away and left him an old sideboard, Rogers stripped and refinished it, sparking still another stage in his progression: a fervor for refinishing that he still does on a limited basis during summer months.

With the birth of his two daughters, Kathy and Kelli, Rogers entered his toy-making stage.

"The girls would sketch what they wanted, and I would build it," he laughed.

His younger daughter, Kelli, remembered having the best dollhouses and doll furniture in town, because her Dad had made each piece just for her.

The birth of his two granddaughters expanded Rogers’s horizons even more.

"My granddaughters loved horses, and they collected the Breyer horses," he explained. "When they came for a visit, we always made a trip to the Farmers Cooperative Market in Leroy to get some new horses for the barns and stables I had built. One barn I built had 10 stables," he chuckled. "I also made miles of fencing and gates. The girls also loved jumping horses, so I made jump obstacles for them, too."

When Rogers came up with a way to use laminated wood to make Christmas ornaments, he transitioned into a brand-new passion – woodturning. Rogers taught himself to use both the lathe and tools for carving.

"I didn’t have anybody to show me how to do this," he explained. "That’s why I like to show others and help them."

He often has visitors who come to his workshop to watch him turn the ornaments. He spends hours, patiently explaining his process and giving helpful tips, especially to children.

Bud cuts pieces of wood into 2-by-6 strips. He uses soft hardwoods such as poplar, cedar, maple, sycamore or mock orange.

To make his turned-wood ornaments, Rogers places layers of glued wood strips on his lathe and then uses tools to shape and decorate the wood. Rogers prefers to use soft hardwoods such as poplar, cedar, maple, walnut, sycamore and mock orange. These woods have both the strength and the variety of colors he likes.

Rogers first uses his planer to smooth several different pieces of wood. With his table saw, he cuts each piece into 2-by-6 strips. As he stacks six to eight layers, he monitors the colors of the wood, using as many different hues as possible. This means, when the ornament is finished, each will have different grain patterns and coloration, and no two will be alike.

Rogers then glues the pieces together and places them in a vice to dry. After drying, the 6-by-8 wood blank is placed on the lathe.

As the wood turns, Rogers uses special tools to round the block and decorate it with beads and coves. He pointed out that one of the secrets of woodturning is keeping his tools very sharp.

When finished carving, he removes the ends with a band saw and smooths any rough spots.

With an awl, he punches a small hole in one end, inserts a brass eyehook and attaches a hanger.

Then he dips each ornament into high gloss lacquer and hangs it on his drying rack for four to five hours. He uses three coats of lacquer to produce the sparkle, shimmer and shine of the ornaments.

By using what he termed his own "assembly line," he can usually complete more than 20 ornaments a day.

Even though Bud says he has a one-man shop, he pointed out that his wife, Julie, is his quality-control supervisor. Julie helps by looking for nicks and checking for lacquer puddling.

Even though he is a one-man shop, Rogers said Julie is his quality-control expert. She inspects the products and helps identify surface nicks or paint puddling. Recently, Rogers has had some issues with his eyesight, so he depends on Julie even more.

An avid conservationist, Rogers uses scrap wood to make his treasures. He expressed his gratitude to all the people who had given him wood through the years. His older daughter, Kathy, collects scrap wood from cabinet shops and door factories in Auburn and brings them to her father. Once, a cabinetmaker even donated used sanding pads. Friends and neighbors often bring scrap wood to his shop, and he keeps an eye out for salvaged wood.

Even the byproducts of his turnings are recycled. Rogers uses the sawdust and shavings around his tomatoes and mulches other areas in his yard with the rest. To keep dust to a minimum, he works on the porch area of his workshop, wearing a mask and safety goggles.

Rogers has expanded his use of laminate to make other popular items such as pulls for ceiling fans, wine stoppers, standing Christmas trees, spinning tops and handles for dustpans with trays made from old car tags. He has also taken his traditional ornaments and fashioned some into birdhouses.

Black Belt Treasures in Camden sells Bud’s ornaments and other wooden items. His turned Christmas trees are favorites with customers.

In the hands of Bud Rogers, a block of scrap wood will become an incredible piece of art. Even though he has worked with wood for over 40 years, he never tires of making his ornaments. Like a child on Christmas morning, he waits to see what will appear after he decorates each block. Rogers was humbled to know that his turned ornaments are in such high demand, bringing joy to so many others.

Rogers displays his Christmas ornaments and other wooden pieces at Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center in Camden. Tourists from all over the world stop by looking for unique handmade items made in the United States of America. Rogers is elated his work has found homes in dozens of countries.

For Rogers, Christmas will always be special. As the season rolls around, Bud and Julie decorate their trees and enjoy the sights, sounds and surprises of this miraculous moment. They celebrate togetherness and traditions glowing with goodwill and gratitude. Oh, and that rolling pin that started Rogers’s journey? He has it hanging on the wall in his den as a reminder that little things can make such a big difference in life! Now, as Rogers turns his tidings of joy, he is spreading the magic of Christmas all through the year, one ornament at a time!

Bud Rogers’s ornaments can be found at Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center. You can contact them at 334-682-9878 or Rogers also sells his ornaments and other wooden pieces at his home. You can contact him at 251-589-8013 or

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville

Want to avoid the holiday meal preparation frenzy

Follow these easy tips for cooking ahead safely.

by Angela Treadaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special tips for handling meat

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

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

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

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

Preparing pumpkin pie ahead of time

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

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

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

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.

Winners of the 50th Annual Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention

2016 FIDDLE CHAMPION – Maddie Denton

Harmonica – Daniel Amick

Bluegrass Banjo – Barry Waldrep

Dulcimer – Rob Pearcy

Beginning Fiddler (10 & Under) – David Lin

Old-Time Banjo – Brandon Holder

Apprentice Fiddler (Age 11-15) – Benjamin Lin

Classic Old-Time Fiddler – Rafe Stefanini

Junior Fiddler (16-34) – Maddie Denton

Intermediate Fiddler (Age 35-54) – Joel Whittinghill

Buck Dancing (16 & Over) – Palmer Osborn

Mandolin – Tyler Andal

Dobro – Damion Kidd

Old-Time Singing – David Williams

Guitar – Finger Picking – Allen Watkins

Guitar – Flat Picking – Adam Wright

Senior Fiddler (55+) – Marcia Denton

Bluegrass Band – The Franciscos

Old-Time Band – The Corkburners

Buck Dancing (15 & Under) – Ivy Phillips

“The Hub” Wins State FFA Competition

Hubbertville High takes top honors in state Agricultural Mechanics CDE.

Members of the Hubbertville FFA Ag Mechanics team won the state title. Fayette Branch of AFC presented the team with a check for their hard work. Shown are (from left) FFA advisor Trent Hill, Mason Stidham, Brandon Hunter, Clay Gary, David Freeman and Fayette Manager Kellie Trull.

by Susie Sims

FFA has been active at Hubbertville High School in Fayette County since 1941. Like other teams around Alabama, Hubbertville has competed for years in the club’s district and state competitions. This year, the Hub (as it’s known locally) took home top honors in the state Agricultural Mechanics Career Development Event.

The state event was held at Auburn High School in Lee County. Hubbertville competed earlier in the district contest at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville.

Trent Hill is the FFA advisor at Hubbertville. He said the local program has qualified for state-level competition by placing in the top four at district contests for the past several years. This is the first time the school has won top state honors and been allowed to keep the title.

Hub could have potentially had two teams representing our state at Nationals this year. Along with the Ag Mechanics team, the Hub Forestry team was also awarded first place at this year’s state competition; but due to scoring errors, the honors were given to the true winner a mere 18 hours later.

Team members include Clay Gary, Mason Stidham, Brandon Hunter and David Freeman. All are seniors.

Gary earned the top individual score in the state competition. Stidham was second. Gary has grown up farming and believes it gave him an advantage in the competition.

"Growing up with an ag background gives me a better chance of figuring something out if we didn’t go over it before the competition," he said. "I use what I’ve seen on the farm to make my decision."

While only one other team member has an ag background, others drew from their family experiences in mechanics and carpentry. As seniors, the boys are already planning their futures. They each received a $10,000 scholarship to Universal Technical Institute. Their plans range from engineering to agriculture to community college.

For the competition, members of the team studied in five areas. Subjects included:

Machinery and Equipment: repair and maintenance, materials handling, process- ing, adjustments and metal fabrication.

Electricity: AC/DC power, electrical safety, electrical standards, sensing devices, electrical wiring, controls, elec - tronics, motors and other electrical loads, operation instruction and manufacturer’s recommendations.

Compact Equipment: mechanical power, electrical power, hydraulic power, engine operation, maintenance, troubleshooting and repair.

Structures: Structures, storage, concrete, masonry, plumbing, electrical, fabrication, construction, building materials, ventila - tion, heating and air conditioning.

Environmental and Natural Resources: Water quality, sustainable agricultural prac- tices, soil and water conservation, survey- ing and biological waste handling.

The district contest consists of two stages: a written examination and problem-solving. The written exam has 75 questions and participants have 40 minutes to complete it. The problem-solving segment features 25 problems participants must identify and solve within 40 minutes.

To qualify for the state events, teams must finish in the top four places in district competitions. Each team is made up of no more than four members. Scores are based on the sum of the three highest-scoring team members.

State events are similar to the district contest, but are more involved. Participants have one hour to answer 100 written questions. They must compete individually in all five subject areas and then work together as a team to solve a problem.

Preparation for competition takes months, if not years. Team members are given a list of items they are to be competent in. Within the five systems areas, there are 132 items on the list. In addition, there are 29 items listed that are considered general skills.

"They have to be prepared to answer questions on just about anything," Hill explained. "They have to be good test-takers and have a practical working knowledge of ag mechanics. It can be anything from plumbing to engines to electrical wiring."

Gary noted that this year’s competition included having to wire a three-way switch, an outlet and a light within 20 minutes.

"I don’t think anybody got done," he recalled.

Hill’s only regret about his team winning state and going to the national event is that it can no longer compete.

"Once you win state and compete in nationals, you can’t field the same team again. They can compete in other areas, but not in ag mechanics," Hill said. "I’m proud of these guys and what they’ve accomplished. This school has been here a long time and for these guys to come along and work as hard as they have to win this that means a lot to me."

The team competed Oct. 18-22 in Indianapolis in the 89th National FFA Convention. Hubbertville was named a Bronze Emblem Team. Clay Gary won a Silver Emblem award while David Freeman, Mason Stidham and Brandon Hunter took home Bronze Emblem honors.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

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