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December 2017

4-H Extension Corner: Recognized Innovation in STE

Alabama 4-H wins NAE4-H Interactive Educational Website Award.

by Donna Reynolds

The 4-Hinnovator program loaded on a computer.

Alabama 4-H was selected a national winner for the Interactive 4-H Educational Website Award. The Alabama team was recognized Nov. 16 at the NAE4-H Awards Banquet in Indianapolis, Indiana.

"It is a pleasure for the member recognition committee to witness your expertise and professionalism. Your efforts are appreciated and recognized for the contribution they make to our clientele – especially the youth and volunteers who participate in 4-H. Your efforts also build youth development in general and those of us who serve in its ranks as professionals," said Eric Larsen, NAE4-H member recognition chair.

Alabama Team Members

Members of the Alabama Extension team included Dr. Molly Gregg, 4-H program leader; Kimberly Graham, communications specialist; Bruce Dupree, creative services manager; David McCormick, media production specialist; Aimee Lewis, marketing manager; and Brynne McCormick, 4-H youth member and voice actor for the project.

"The 4-Hi program is unique from the ground up," said Emery Tschetter, director of Extension communications and marketing. "It is based on exceptionally creative communication techniques to train leaders.

"In addition to the award from the NAE4-H Agents, it has been recognized by communication and education groups across the nation for its creative and interactive approach."

Program Mandate

According to Gregg, when Alabama wanted to create a full-scale STEM curriculum for youth ages 9-18, they turned to the creative team at Alabama Extension to bring the content to life.

"The mandate was to reduce print costs and increase innovation in program delivery. The result was 4-Hinnovators, a completely digital, four-course curriculum enhanced with multimedia pieces that make program planning and teaching easy for educators and engaging for youth audiences," she said.

Website Promotes the Program and Serves as a Portal

A website promoting the program provides a source of information for new and upcoming products. In designing the website graphics, the objective was to establish a cohesive look to the brand using color, illustration and animation to attract both educators and youth audiences. Through the creation of a focused and visual portal for the promotion of 4-Hinnovators, Extension is able to funnel the public to a single information source that both educates and serves as a portal to the online courses.

Gregg said the key audience for the 4-Hi website is science educators and 4-H agents who will implement the curriculum with youth, particularly those in middle schools. According to Teach for America, just 1-4 fourth-graders from low-income backgrounds is proficient in math and only 1-6 is proficient in science.

By 2018, 8 million jobs in science, technology, engineering and math will be available in the United States, but the vast majority of U.S. students will be unprepared to fill them. The 4-Hi website provides educators with resources to turn these numbers around.

4-Hinnovator Curriculum

"Many factors were considered in designing the website graphics," Gregg added.

The 4-Hinnovator curriculum has four separate courses covering a wide variety of science and engineering fields.

Designed as modern-day graphic novels, each course is divided into four lessons. The graphic novel approach was specifically used to engage, entertain and educate young people. Color is used to identify the program as a whole as well as each of the four courses – gold being the brand standard, and red, blue, green and purple designating individual courses.

Gregg says the diverse characters were created to be relatable science heroes for youth audiences. They also are used to introduce the various forms of science, technology, engineering and math featured in the curriculum. As the team leader, the D.I.L.A. character was designed and animated as a guide for educators as they navigate the 4-Hi curriculum.

Program Now in 11 States

Through the website and promotional efforts, 4-Hinnovators has expanded to 11 states, doubling the target goal of new state participation. Over 12,000 people have been in direct contact with the program through these efforts. Web content has an average engagement time of five minutes with some people staying on the site for as long as 10 minutes.

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




44 Years and Going Strong

Faye Shumate has been greeting customers by name at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op for over four decades.

by Alvin Benn

Faye Shumate, 84, holds the trophy she received for being named the 2010 Cattleman of the Year by the Dallas County Cattlemen’s Association.

Ask Faye Shumate about friendship and she’ll respond with a big smile and a definition.

"To have a friend you have to be a friend," she said as she concluded another sale at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma.

"Ms. Faye," as she’s known to just about everybody in the Black Belt region, has been working at the Co-op for 44 years and considers it to be her second home.

When customers walk through the front door, they know they’ll be greeted with an ear-to-ear smile and their first name.

She was hired Nov. 5, 1973, by a manager who couldn’t wait to bring her onboard because he was aware of her popularity in the area.

"Please fill out some paperwork. Now, when can you start?" he asked.

"Right away," she responded.

She was at work the following Monday and is still at it well into her fourth decade of service to the community.

At the age of 84, illnesses have slowed her down a bit, but that’s understandable. Her work status now is part-timer, but Ms. Faye doesn’t see it as any kind of demotion.

"I just enjoy what I do and hope I can keep working here as long as possible," she said. "It keeps me going."

She began losing her balance 10 years ago and tests revealed she had vertigo. She has never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s movie by that name, but it’s the real thing, not something out of Hollywood.

In April, she had a heart attack and a stent got her back on track. A four-prong cane enables her to get around, but she spends much of her time behind the front counter, reducing the need to walk around the Co-op very long.

Many folks her age are still in bed at 7:30 a.m., but Ms. Faye is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by that time, ready to greet the first customers of the day.

Central Alabama Farmers Co-op General Manager Tim Wood and veteran employee Faye Shumate enjoy the sunshine outside the Selma business.

General Manager Tim Wood first met her during his preteen years when she displayed a work ethic still remembered by those who watched her.

"I used to come here with my dad when I was a boy. Now, she’s watched my kids grow up," he said. "Having her here is as important to us as it is to her."

Wood marvels at her ability to memorize the names of customers as well as occasional visitors. She doesn’t need file folders or a cabinet. She knows the names of customers who have been dealing with the Co-op for decades.

"She may not know the name of everything we have on our shelves but she’s never forgotten the customers she considers members of her family," he added.

Wood played football for the Auburn Tigers, but Ms. Faye doesn’t allow that to cause a fuss because of her allegiance to the Crimson Tide.

"When I come to work during the football season I’ll say ‘Roll Tide’ to Tim and he’ll say ‘War Eagle’ to me," she said. "He’s a super nice boss and I don’t know if I could ever work for anybody else."

Her husband was Eli Shumate, but everybody just called him "Red." He drove a truck for Bush Hog. They had a good life together before he passed away at the age of 59.

A widow for the past 26 years, she balances loneliness with help from supportive friends as well as taking part in church activities. She’s a people person and it pays off.

Her church has always been her anchor, especially since Red passed away. She rarely misses a Sunday morning service and always carries her Bible with her.

"I read it every morning with my breakfast and right now I’m into Isaiah 25. Thanking the Lord for what you’ve got can help you get through the day."

She spends much of her time making cookies. Her specialties are fruit drop cookies, pecan tarts, fudge and other sweet things from a sweet lady.

With four children, five grandchildren and lots of friends who drop by to visit, she enjoys making cookies for treats.

Debbie Kynard, seated, is one of the Co-op’s administrative staff and Ms. Faye drops by to say “Hi” on occasion.

One of her many admirers is Ronnie Leet, whose family operated a business in Selma for many years and provided her with a livelihood.

"Being around Faye made our day," Leet said. "She was always positive and smiling. My mother was disappointed when she left us for another job, but we understood it was something she felt she needed to do."

The Leets maintained a warm relationship with her.

"I still go up to her and give her a big hug whenever I’d see her," Leet said.

A few years ago, Ms. Faye received a special award from the Dallas County Cattlemen’s Association. It was a beautiful silver bowl with her name engraved on it.

It seemed unusual for a woman to receive a "CattleMEN’s" award, but she didn’t mind. It was an honor she cherishes and keeps it on display at her home.

"I was shocked over the award," she said. "They kept it a secret from me until it was time to make the announcement."

Debbie Kynard, one of the administrative staff, has worked at the Co-op for the past 13 years and is one of Ms. Faye’s best friends.

"People want to know where she is if she’s not here," she said, referring to her friend’s occasional medical problems. "When she’s not here, we all are worried."

Kynard and the other employees are aware of her setbacks, but are just as convinced she’ll be back behind that counter to greet customers.

Her determination to keep working as she pushes toward her mid-80s has been noted by friends aware of her ability to bounce back from adversities in the past.

As November neared, she took a few hours off to check on a friend who was ill. She is ready to lend a hand to anyone who needs one.

Most of all, she’s not going to let vertigo and a heart attack keep her from helping someone who is ailing.

She’s been down, but not out, in the past and always finds a way to bounce back and flash that infectious smile of her.

"She takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’," Kynard said.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.




Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Steer Weights Running Lower

Steer weights in 2017 are lower than a year ago, driven by an aggressive marketing of slaughter-ready animals in feedlots, especially compared to a year ago, due to greater profit margins for retail meat packers than in 2016.

Still, steer weights remain above their 10-year average, a period when 2011-13 corn prices averaged over $6 per bushel.

Seasonality of steer dressed weights is largely determined by biological factors and weather-related impacts on animal growth. Seasonally, steer weights tend to increase from the spring months then decline from late-fall into the early-spring months.

The long-term trend, previously marked by sustained growth in dressed weights, is due to improvements in cattle genetics through selective breeding and the implementation of modern production systems.

For steers, several factors interact to influence year-to-year changes in carcass weights, including producer response to market prices of outputs and inputs (feed and feeder animals); weights and age at which animals are placed into feedlots; and animals’ biological responses to abnormal weather.

Apples First in Total Fruit Consumption

Americans consumed an average of 115.4 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2015, the most recent period for which full-year data is available.

The data takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste and other losses in eating places, grocery stores and homes to more closely approximate consumption.

Apple juice consumption at 14 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2015, combined with fresh apples (10.7 pounds per person) and canned, dried and frozen apples (3.3 pounds per person), puts apples in the No. 1 spot for total fruit consumption.

While orange juice leads juice consumption at 23.7 pounds (2.7 gallons), total orange consumption, including juice and fresh, came in second.

Americans consumed 11.3 pounds of fresh bananas per person in 2015, almost a pound more than fresh apple consumption. Consumption of grapes reached 7.9 pounds per person, and strawberries, watermelon and pineapple rounded out the list of the nation’s top fruit choices.

Sub-Saharan Africa Increasing Rice Consumption

After 10-15 years of economic, social and demographic transformations, Sub-Saharan Africa appears to be poised for major changes in its dietary preferences.

Among the poorest regions in the world, the area still faces major political and economic challenges, and low food security. However, it has a young, fast-growing population and prospects for economic growth.

Expanding urbanization and a rising middle class with higher incomes are driving changes in consumption patterns and preferences away from traditional staples and toward rice and other commodities.

Rice consumption has expanded in the diets of many SSA consumers at the expense of sorghum, millet, and roots and tubers. On a per capita basis, West African nations, collectively known as the Economic Community of West African States, have seen the largest increases in rice consumption.

Excluding Nigeria, which reduced its rice consumption because of declining oil revenue and limited foreign exchange reserves, the remaining ECOWAS countries recently surpassed the global per capita rice-consumption average. These countries are projected to increase their rice consumption further to nearly 70 kilograms per person by 2026.

If the projections are realized, SSA, as a whole, has the potential to become the world’s leading rice importer.

Federal Indemnity Payments Closely Tied to Drought

For farmers and ranchers in most parts of the nation, it comes as no surprise that drought has been the largest individual driver of federal indemnity payments and disaster assistance for over four decades.

At any given time, some portion of the country faces drought conditions. In recent years, large areas of the United States have experienced prolonged drought, with significant impacts across entire agricultural sectors.

A major drought can reduce crop yields, lead farmers to cut back planted or harvested acreage, reduce livestock productivity and increase costs of production inputs such as animal feed or irrigation water.

Since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, drought has been an important focus of U.S. farm policy. Early federal policy mitigated farmers’ hardships primarily by providing ad hoc disaster assistance in response to a drought.

With changes to the federal crop insurance program in the 1990s, the emphasis of farm programs shifted from ad hoc disaster assistance to risk management, with a greater reliance on crop insurance to compensate farmers for drought losses.

Wheat Price Discovery is Shifting

The United States has led the world in the pricing and trade of wheat, but that dominance is shifting somewhat.

Over time, a substantial share of world wheat exports has shifted to Russia and Ukraine (collectively, the Black Sea region) and the European Union. At the same time, U.S. wheat futures (contracts for the purchase/sale of wheat at a given price on a future date) prices are being supplanted by new price benchmarks that more closely track supply and demand conditions in the Black Sea region and the European Union.

While the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Soft Red Winter Wheat futures contract is the most active wheat futures market in the world, futures trading volume has grown substantially for the Euronext Milling Wheat contract traded in Paris. Rising volume indicates a market may be more important for price discovery, the process by which markets determine the value of wheat through trades between willing buyers and sellers.

Findings from a new study by economists at USDA’s Economic Research Service and Montana State University suggest that, while U.S. futures markets remain dominant in wheat price discovery, the Paris futures market has gained influence since 2010, moving from a 9-percent share of price discovery to nearly 25 percent.

Rural Veterans Earn More Than Non-vets

Veterans tend to have higher earnings compared to nonveterans and that reality also applies in most rural-based industries.

In 2015, rural veterans, who were full-time wage and salary workers, had median earnings of about $50,000; $11,000 more than the median earnings of their nonveteran counterparts.

Earnings for veterans and nonveterans varied by industry, however. For example, compared to nonveterans, the median earnings for veterans was $29,000 higher in financial services, $20,000 higher in education and health, and $11,500 higher in transportation and utilities.

Differences in median earnings by industry between veterans and nonveterans generally track closely with educational attainment. However, in 2015, even in industries where fewer veteran than nonveteran earners had a college degree, the median income for veterans was near or greater than that of nonveterans.

This may be explained by a variety of factors, including differences in demographic composition and job skills. For example, veterans tend to be older and are predominantly male, and thus on average more likely to have higher earnings than the general population.




Chronic Wasting Disease in Alabama … Why Should You Care?

Now is the time for hunters to stand up for the most popular game animal in the state.

by Chuck Sykes

This buck in Kansas has CWD.

Since August of this year, wildlife biologists with the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries have been receiving calls of sick, dying and dead deer from several counties. Most of these calls have come from several northern Alabama counties, but the WFF staff has also fielded calls from counties in the central portion of the state. Many of these deer have been examined by WFF biologists, and samples for disease testing have been taken from carcasses that were not too far decomposed. Based on the timing of these reports, evidence from necropsies and results of lab testing, most of these deer were probably affected or killed by hemorrhagic disease.

As reports of sick and dying deer have spread across the various social media platforms frequented by Alabama’s deer hunters, what is normally a fairly routine occurrence for late summer and early fall in Alabama (i.e., HD activity) has turned into a flood of misinformation from "internet experts." These "experts" have confirmed via Facebook that hundreds of deer have died all over Alabama from a variety of diseases. Hoof and mouth, black tongue and hoof rot, among others, have all been implicated in the reports, but the two diseases most often mentioned are HD and chronic wasting disease. About the only thing HD and CWD have in common is that they both infect white-tailed deer. Beyond that, the diseases are quite different.

HD is a disease caused by one of several serotypes of the epizootic hemorrhagic disease and bluetongue viruses. It is endemic to Alabama and the rest of the Southeast, so white-tailed deer native to this region have evolved with the disease. Many southeastern deer populations, including native Alabama white-tailed deer, have an inherent resistance to the viruses. This means deaths during HD outbreaks in Alabama are usually minimal. Deer populations in more northern states, as well as northern deer translocated to southern states, are much more susceptible to HD, and deaths in these populations are not all that uncommon. Dramatic, highly visible mortality events caused by HD occur in these areas every few years. In fact, Tennessee and Kentucky have experienced extensive mortalities from HD during the summer and early fall of 2017.

EHD and BT viruses are transmitted by biting midges in the genus Culicoides. HD most often occurs in late summer and early fall since that is the time of year when these midges are most abundant. During other times of the year, the risks of EHD or BT exposure are minimal due to the lack of midges. This is why HD is the first thought when WFF staff receive reports of sick or dead deer in August, September and October.

Infection by HD does not mean certain death for Alabama’s white-tailed deer. Many deer infected with one of these viruses show no or only mild evidence of being exposed. Others may exhibit more severe signs such as depression, fever, respiratory distress, and swelling of the head, neck or tongue. Some of these animals will die shortly after infection, while most will stay sick longer. Infected deer that do not die soon after infection most often recover from the disease. These deer develop antibodies to the virus causing the initial infection, which makes them immune to future infections from that same virus.

CWD is a whole different animal. CWD is not endemic to the Southeast. CWD was first recognized as a disease syndrome in 1967 in captive mule deer at a wildlife research facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk and moose that has been classified in the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. These diseases are believed to be the result of infectious, self-propagating prion proteins. Infectious prions are normal cell proteins whose shape has been transformed in such a way that they cause disease. Although considerable research by wildlife health officials is ongoing, the overall biological and epidemiological understanding of CWD remains poor. CWD is closely related to TSEs in other species including scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and a new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

CWD attacks the central nervous system of the deer and presents symptoms including extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, odd behavior and poor coordination. The disease is infectious, communicable and always fatal. CWD is insidious and has a prolonged incubation period of at least two years or longer. Diagnosis must be made by post-mortem testing of specific portions of the animal’s brain (i.e., obex) or lymph node tissue from the throat (retropharyngeal lymph nodes).

To date, CWD has not been detected in Alabama. It has been diagnosed in free-ranging and/or captive cervids in 24 states – Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming – and two Canadian provinces – Alberta and Saskatchewan. CWD also has been detected in South Korea (elk) and Norway (reindeer and moose).

There are two primary sources of exposure to CWD for uninfected deer: CWD-infected deer and CWD-contaminated environment. Once CWD arrives, it does not go away. The prions causing the disease can survive in the environment for years. There is no effective way to sanitize infected facilities, soil, etc.

Because it is not endemic to Alabama, the most likely route for CWD to arrive here is through movement of live deer or certain deer parts from areas where CWD does occur. WFF has taken measures to decrease the likelihood of this happening. It has been illegal to import live deer into Alabama since the early 1970s and a regulation banning the importation of body parts most likely to carry the infectious prions (i.e., large bones, spinal cord and brain) from CWD-positive states was put in place in 2016. This brings us to the scariest portion of this article.

Over the last 11 months, Conservation Enforcement Officers of the Law Enforcement Section of WFF have arrested individuals who were knowingly violating both state and federal laws in place to protect Alabama’s deer herd. The fact is that Alabama has already been subjected to the two primary sources of exposure to CWD previously mentioned. In November 2016, Larry Durham of Jackson County was charged with violating the state’s CWD-imported-carcass ban. Durham had illegally harvested a white-tailed buck in the state of Illinois, known to have CWD. Durham was observed travelling in Illinois with the field-dressed carcass of that deer visible in his vehicle by another Alabama resident hunting in Illinois. This Alabamian chose to be part of the solution and called WFF with what he had observed. Durham was later found at his residence in Jackson County in possession of the deer the caller witnessed. No attempt had been made to remove any of the potentially disastrous tissues that could carry CWD from the carcass.

Later that same month, Conservation Enforcement Officers arrested Lewis "Sonny" Skinner and his associate Franklin Loden for unlawfully importing six live white-tailed deer from the state of Indiana. Skinner, who was a commercial deer breeder in Alabama, hired Loden to covertly bring the deer into this state; knowingly in violation of the decades-old import ban. This sort of illicit activity based solely on personal profit by those involved in commercial deer breeder activities puts the entire Alabama deer herd at risk, not just those captive herds held by deer breeders. Skinner would later surrender his deer breeder license and plea to fines and restitution totaling $750,000. Tremendous fines such as this underscore what is at stake when just one person knowingly violates a law put in place to protect us all.

The detection of CWD in deer breeder facilities in Texas and that state’s swift mitigation of its spread through the use of their electronic database for tracking captive herds prompted WFF to draft an amendment of this state’s deer breeder regulation. Currently, WFF seeks to require real-time traceability of those captive herds so that upon detection CWD can more effectively be contained.

It only takes looking at this one month alone to get an understanding of the grave risk we, who so dearly love the natural resources of our state, face. WFF leads the fight in protecting those resources today as they have every day for the last 110 years.

In 1908, State Game and Fish Commissioner John H. Wallace Jr. made a very profound statement when he said, "Since the State in its sovereign capacity occupies the attitude of guardian and custodian of the people’s welfare, it is therefore the duty of the State, by enactment of appropriate legislation, to endeavor to extend adequate protection to those resources in which the people have collectively a natural right. Wise and discreet individuals who feel no inclination to make assaults on Nature’s store-house should have their rights protected by the enactment of strong laws to restrain the hands of the wanton and reckless, whose vandalism would annihilate every visible thing of fin, fur or feather, to gratify their savage instincts."

I can’t think of a more fitting comment than that to explain the current state of the Game and Fish Agency. It will only take the careless actions of one individual to completely change the course of our state and the natural resources found here. It’s up to all of us, as hunters, to remain

vigilant and watch out for activity that will negatively impact our natural resources. Call 1-800-272-GAME to report any suspicious activity.

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




Corn Time





Cowpokes





December Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Bare-rooted rose bushes can be planted this month.
  • If soil conditions are unsuitable when you receive mail-order plants, hill them in a piece of ground or pot until there is an improvement.
  • If you potted up some bulbs such as hyacinths, daffodils or tulips in September for winter forcing, make sure they remain moist and in the dark until they have established their root systems. They may have already filled their containers with roots and new top growth may have begun. If so, bring them into the house and set them in a cool room, in indirect light. After a week or so, move them into bright light. Rapid growth should ensue.
  • If you’d like to grow your own blackberries or raspberries next year, plant canes now while they are dormant. Varieties of blackberries for Alabama include the thorny uprights Shawnee and Kiowa and thornless uprights Arapaho and Apache.
  • Be sure to mulch to prevent soil heaving.
  • Plant rabbiteye blueberries 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.
  • This year, consider purchasing a live Christmas tree for your home and, later, for your landscape. Before bringing a live tree into the house, water it thoroughly and don’t keep it in the house for over 10 days.
  • Dormant roots of asparagus are available now in some nurseries. Consider male-only plant varieties for greater harvest. Plant asparagus in areas with good drainage such as raised beds or hillsides.
  • Plant tulips and spring bulbs you have stored in the refrigerator. Spring bulbs should be planted by this month so a good root system will develop to nourish the bulb before it sends up leaves and flowers in spring.

FERTILIZE

  • Take a soil test instead of guessing what the garden needs and wasting money on unnecessary amendments that do not improve the health of the garden and, in some cases, may be detrimental. Add recommended amendments such as sulfur, lime and organic compost. Amending the soil now allows time for them to settle in and change the soil for spring plantings.
  • If weather is mild, feed pansies, snapdragons and other winter flowers.
  • If you haven’t already, cut down dead or yellowed asparagus foliage to about half an inch from the ground. Soil pH should be around 7. Add lime if needed and cover beds with 1 inch of compost then about 4 inches of straw or leaves.
  • Wood ashes from the fireplace (not the grill), used sparingly, are a good source of nutrients for the garden, especially asparagus, phlox, sweet William, peony and spring-flowering bulbs. Avoid adding wood ashes to acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwood, blueberries, gardenias and centipede turf.

PRUNE

  • December is a good month to take cuttings of rhododendrons, azaleas and other evergreen shrubs. The cutting should be taken from new tip growth and kept in bright light at about 70 degrees.
  • Prune climbing roses now; cutting away diseased or damaged growth and tying in any new shoots to their support. Prune older, flowered side shoots back by two-thirds of their length. Always sterilize pruning shears and loppers between cuts on roses to prevent spreading disease.
  • Taller-growing bush roses can be pruned down by about half to prevent the wind from loosening them through swaying and in turn damaging the roots. The branches of standard roses should also be shortened.
  • Prune outdoor limbs or branches damaged by storms. The damaged parts should be removed immediately. Remove suckers and water sprouts, too.
  • Remove older canes of blackberries.

WATER

  • Insulate outdoor taps or turn them off at the mains.
  • Don’t let the hose freeze and burst. On a warm, sunny day, stretch it out with both ends open to allow the water to drain completely. Coil it up and put it away.
  • 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.
  • During the winter months, houseplants should be watered sparingly to prevent waterlog and rot.
  • Plants and shrubs growing beneath large evergreens or under the eaves of the house need to be checked to make sure they’re getting adequate water.
  • Check overwintered plants in the basement and garage to check for possible water needs.
  • Water in your greenhouse sparingly, early in the day.
  • For those with outdoor ponds, be sure to add water as needed to keep aquatic plants from drying out.

PEST CONTROL

  • Apply dormant spray to take care of overwintering insect eggs.
  • Clean up garden debris to eliminate overwintering areas for diseases and insect pests.
  • Gather up fallen leaves from around the base of rose bushes that suffered from blackspot or rust this summer to reduce the chance of infection next year.
  • Pests may overwinter on houseplants. Keep an eye out for them as small infestations of red spider mite, greenfly and whitefly can soon spread. This could provide problems in the future so it is best to control now by spraying, removing them from the leaves or, if really necessary, disposing of any infected plants.
  • Remove yellowing leaves from winter brassicas (cole crops) as they are no use to the plant and may harbor pests and diseases.
  • Keep mice away from stored produce.
  • Protect all young trees from rabbit damage by placing wire around the base of the tree.
  • Apply broadleaf herbicides to control winter-annual and -perennial weeds. Now is the time to control spurweed or lawn burweed while the weeds are young. Ferti-lome Weed Free Zone has been proven for cool-weather performance. Always read and follow label directions.

ODD JOBS

  • In your garden journal review notes from this past year and devise strategies to overcome problems faced last year. Draw up a landscape design that can be installed in the spring.
  • The remains of any old crops unaffected by disease should be cleared away and added to your compost.
  • Turn compost to mix the ingredients and help the contents decompose.
  • Cover compost bins with a piece of old carpet, some plastic sheeting or a piece of old metal roofing to prevent the compost becoming too cold and wet to rot down.
  • For those with heavy soils, this is the perfect time to dig so winter frosts can help breakdown newly turned clods. Wait until the ground is dry. This is also the ideal opportunity to work in organic matter such as the contents of the compost heap/bin(s), well-rotted manure or composted bark.
  • Give gardening tools from your local Quality Co-op and subscriptions to landscaping magazines as Christmas gifts.
  • Saved seeds left to dry can now be cleaned and packaged. If you have enough, a packet of homegrown seeds makes an ideal little gift slipped into a Christmas card.
  • The more recently cut a Christmas tree is the better it will hold up indoors. To test the freshness of a Christmas tree, pull lightly at a needle. If the needle comes off easily, the tree is not very fresh. The best way to ensure a fresh tree is to go to a local choose ‘n cut tree farm. Go to southernchristmastrees.org/AL for a grower near you.
  • Provide houseplants with extra humidity by grouping plants together or by setting the pots on leak-proof trays filled with moistened pebbles.
  • Net your pond to keep the water clear of leaves.
  • Removing pumps and filters from ponds and water features will help prevent them from being damaged by freezing water during the winter.
  • Throw a rubber ball on the surface of your pond so an air hole for the fish can easily be made without having to smash ice.
  • Tidy up sheds and clean pots and trays making them ready for the next season.
  • Become a Master Gardener! Call your county Extension office for more details.
  • If you are thinking about becoming a beekeeper, now is the time to order bees. Contact your local beekeeping association for more information. Your local Quality Co-op can get beekeeping equipment needed for this venture.
  • If you have pottery that won’t be used for winter, it is usually a good idea to empty them and store them where they will either be dry or free of frost. Terracotta is especially prone to breaking when frozen.
  • Lift and store dahlia tubers after their leaves are blackened by frost.
  • During dry and frozen times, fill the birdbath. You don’t have to haul out the hose; just fill a pitcher with water. Some gardeners invest in birdbath warmers to keep the water from freezing.
  • Avoid walking on your lawn when it is blanketed by heavy frost or snow; this will damage the grass.
  • Carefully plan the vegetable garden for next year to ensure good crop rotation to avoid a buildup of pests and diseases.
  • Check tree ties and stakes to ensure climbing plants and trees are still secure after strong winds. Tighten or loosen ties if necessary.
  • Check on any corms and tubers dug up and stored this fall. Remove and discard any showing signs of disease or rot. Continue to do this every couple of weeks until time to plant them next spring.
  • Check the security of your shed. This is particularly important in winter when you visit it less often.
  • Continue to collect fallen leaves and add them to compost bins/piles or to use as mulch.
  • Cover strawberries with a floating row cover – they’ll fare better over winter and bear earlier next spring.
  • Glossy-leaved houseplants such as philodendrons, rubber plants and palms should be sponged off periodically to allow them to breathe. Plants with nonglossy-type leaves should be set in the sink or bathtub and sprayed gently with tepid water until the dust is cleaned away. Be sure the foliage is allowed to dry completely.
  • Buy amaryllis bulbs potted and ready to bloom, or buy bulbs to grow.
  • If you have been keeping your poinsettias and Christmas cactus in 14 hours of darkness since September, they should be ready to bring back into the living room by Dec. 1. They prefer to be kept on the cool side, 65-70 degrees during the day and 55-60 at night. Keep them away from heat sources and out of drafts.
  • Keep clearing leaves off the lawn to let the light in and prevent dead patches appearing.
  • Keep fleece at hand to protect hardy salad crops on cold nights.
  • Leave the faded flower heads on hydrangeas until the spring. They will provide frost protection to the swelling buds farther down the stems.
  • Now is a good time to repair fences, trellises, pergolas, etc.; and to replace any loose posts or any rotting at the base before they collapse, causing a lot of damage.
  • Send lawnmower and shears to be serviced and sharpened while they are in less demand.
  • Start eating those stored vegetables.
  • Take an inventory of tools and equipment you need for next year. Add them to your Christmas list!
  • Ventilate your greenhouse on warmer days to reduce the risk of disease.
  • Wash and disinfect bird feeders and birdbaths.
  • Hang suet cakes and keep bird feeders topped off to attract birds that will in turn eat pests in your garden.
  • Place bird feeders where you can enjoy the show from a window or from your porch or deck. Visit your local Quality Co-op and check out their selection of bird feeders and bird seed/suet cakes.


Earl





Evaluating the Hay vs. Feed Question

Especially in years like this one, knowing the nutritional value of your cut forage is critical to making the most economical feed decisions.

by Jimmy Parker

Forages are a main component in feeding all ruminants and highly important in horses’ diet. Cattle, sheep, goats and horses all have a need for some long-stem-type fiber in their diets. The most common place to find that is the grasses they graze or the hay provided to them. So, it quickly becomes clear that we need to do a good job growing and storing grass and hay. We also need to have it tested so we know what we have and can supply our livestock with what they need. We want to feed the hay to minimize waste, because, when you put a pencil to it, hays and grasses really are expensive.

This is really not the place to go into growing forages but keep in mind that proper soil fertility is a key to growing quality forages and where it all starts. Hays and grasses from well-kept soils will add value to your feeding program and cut supplemental feed costs. Your local Quality Co-op folks can help you.

Harvesting forages properly is also important. When we have a wet year like this one, timely harvesting becomes difficult and often the grasses get too mature before we can get them stored. This will mean that the hay will likely be lower in protein and energy, and higher in fiber. Most likely, it will not meet our livestock’s needs during times when they are producing more.

When the weather does not cooperate, it becomes difficult to get the hay put up correctly. When hay dries too long, you will get a much higher percentage of shattered leaves lost. The leaves are where most of the needed nutrients are located. You will get up to 20 percent of shattered leaves in good condition. If the hay stays too long in the sun before it is stored, you can see 50 or even 75 percent of the shattered leaves lost before it reaches the baler. When you take that into account, the hay will contain, in a good year, about 75 percent of the protein and energy the grass had before it was cut.

Now, when you get the hay stored in the barn, whether you cut it yourself or you bought it, get it tested. Extension personnel have told us this for years and they were correct. You need to know what you are feeding. The hay might meet all your livestock’s needs and you won’t have to spend additional money on supplements. However, you need to know either way. This year I have seen a good number of hay samples and very few of them were good. Most were deficient in protein and energy, and had more fiber than needed.

When you have the hay sampled, you will get back lots of important information, but there are a few numbers that will likely mean more for the average producer than the others.

We will talk about protein first as it is one of the more important ones. This year, the average of all the samples I have seen is 8.7 percent protein. For grass hay, this is OK, but not great.

The second number most producers will look at is TDN or total digestible nutrients. This is a measure of the energy stored in the feed or hay. It is as important as protein and a number we all need to know. This year’s average on hay samples has been 54 percent. That is poor quality. A chart I use shows that anything below 54 should be used for mulch.

Why is the TDN that low? Most likely the samples I’ve seen were cut late and the grass was more mature than it should have been. Had it been harvested earlier in the growth cycle of the plant, the protein and TDN would, most likely, have been higher, but with the rain we had it probably wasn’t possible.

There are many other numbers on the forage reports producers need to know. ADF or acid detergent fiber and NDF or neutral detergent fiber are also important. They all will tell a story about digestibility, energy levels and just how much of these forages the animals can consume.

ADF indicates just how digestible the fiber is. The lower the number the more digestible the forage is. Hopefully, your sample will be 30 to low-40 percent. Our average hay samples this year were 43, again bordering on OK to poor. Over 46 would be really poor.

NDF indicates how much an animal can consume. Again, a lower number is better. NDF values in the 40-percent range would be excellent, in the 50-percent range good and over 60 percent starts to seriously limit how much an animal can eat. Our average hay samples this year were 69. That will limit how much the animals will voluntarily eat.

When we take into account the fact that the hay is fairly low in protein and energy, and now the animal can’t consume enough of it, it means that to maintain our herds we are likely to have to provide a good bit of supplementation.

When you look at the cost of hay, often feed is a more economical option. For instance, if a 900-pound bale of this year’s average hay cost $30, each pound of actual TDN would cost 6.1 cents. If a ton of decent (say 13 percent protein and 65 TDN) feed costs $200, the actual cost of a pound of TDN would be 6.5 cents; more, but not by much. If you factor in the waste you get when feeding hay, your herd’s energy needs can be met more economically with a quality feed.

The animals will always need some long-stem fiber, so some hay is absolutely needed. Keep in mind that hay is expensive and you need to have it tested. That helps you make a good business decision on how much hay is needed and when and where you need to buy feed to fill in the holes the forage program leaves in meeting your livestock’s needs.

In the long run, your animals will do better and so will your bank account.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.



First Cotton Bale of 2017 at Currie Gin


Father and son Larry and Justin House brought in the first bale of cotton this year to Frank Currie Gin in McCullough. Gin Manager Ron Bailey, right, continued his tradition of presenting a check to the farmer who brings in the first bale. The check was presented to Justin Wednesday, Oct. 11, for the bale brought in Oct. 2.




Herbal Sleep Aids

by Nadine Johnson

Since becoming a herbalist, I have had the privilege of speaking to many garden clubs and other organizations. A few years ago, I decided it was time to end that pleasure. Recently, I was invited to present a program to the Monroeville Garden Club.

I said to myself, "Go ahead, Nadine, do this one more time."

And I did.

My granddaughter, Jennifer, accompanied me to Monroeville, a lovely little town situated in Alabama’s Black Belt region. As we were entering the building where this event was being held, something in my right hip went "BING!"

I had severe pain when I put my weight on my right side. With the assistance of Jennifer and some of the club members, we managed to get me inside.

The members insisted they enjoyed my presentation. However, I felt it was just not up to my usual standard. Due to this "BING," I, like Elvis, was "All Shook Up." For instance, one lady asked me was there an herb that would help with sleep. I do not feel like I gave her a proper answer. That is what triggered this column.

Insomnia is a common problem among the older generation. It’s not always easy to find a solution. However, some people gain benefit from taking a mixture of valerian, passion flower, hops and maybe other herbs.

In one of my well-worn herb books, I found an excellent listing of herbs that aid in sleep. Here’s their list: catnip, chaparral, dandelion, dong quai, hawthorn, hops, lobelia, mullein, passion flower, peach, peppermint, primrose, red clover, skullcap, squaw vine, taheebo, valerian and yarrow. The author had highlighted hops, lobelia, passion flower, skullcap and valerian. This indicated that these herbs are the most beneficial.

Melatonin is another natural product that has helped many people to sleep.

My "BINGED" hip has improved daily and is now practically back to normal. I began to write this column several days ago.

Yesterday, my older son, Richard, and I attended an annual gathering at the Salem church and cemetery, located between Troy and Montgomery. My late husband has ancestors buried there. Regular services are no longer held at this historic church. As we sat talking, I explained how and when I had injured my hip, causing me to be using a walking cane.

One of the ladies spoke up and said, "I am a member of America’s oldest garden club and we would love to have you come to present a program."

I began to explain that I could only go if a child took me and I don’t like to ask them for too much.

Before I finished this remark, Richard said, "We will get you there."

So I am now scheduled to speak to one more garden club. It will be a great privilege to speak to our nation’s oldest garden club.

Of course, as always, check with your physician before taking herbs and/or alternatives.

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




How Do You Know It’s Christmas?

by Baxter Black, DVM

So how do you know it’s Christmas?

‘Cause the sheep can always tell.

They follow a little tradition and have for quite a spell.

On Christmas Eve around midnight, the sheep, wherever they are,

All rise in quiet unison and fixate on a star.

And from their stirring comes a sound, a chuckling tra, la, la

That weaves and builds itself into a soft melodious baaa,

Which carries like a dove’s lament when nights are very still,

As if they’re calling for someone beyond a yonder hill.

The legend herders passed on down attributes this tradition

To one late night in Bethlehem. A heavenly petition

Wherein a host of angels came and lured them with a song.

The herders left in haste, they say, and stayed gone all night long.

Well, sheep don’t do too well alone. They’ve never comprehended

That on that night they waited up the world was upended.

So, now when daylight shortens up and nights get long and cold,

I make my check at midnight like we’ve done since days of old.

And if I find the flock intent and standing all around

I listen for the heavenly host above their throaty sound

And scan the dim horizon in an effort to discern

The sign the sheep are seeking … that their shepherds will return.

And I am but a watchman in this drama that replays

Around the Earth this time of year, and so I stand and gaze

And, though I see no special star or hear no sweet noel,

I know it must be Christmas, ‘cause the sheep can always tell.

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




How does a lender determine whether to renew my line of credit?


by Dr. Robert Tufts & Ken Kelley

Figure 1. Part of the Farm Finance Scorecard from the University of Minnesota, Center for Farm Financial Management, Link

It is just like school – you take the exam and the grade determines your financial health. The first question is pass/fail. If you do not answer it correctly you do not get to continue.

1. Do you have a balance sheet?

If the answer is yes, you still may not have all the points. Ideally, you would have several years of financial statements so the lender could see the trend in your financial health.

The next two questions are:

2. Do you have enough cash or liquid assets to pay off your short-term debt?

3. Do you have more assets than liabilities?

The answer to these questions is on the balance sheet.

The balance sheet is a list, as of a certain date, typically the end of the year, of all the assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). The difference between assets and liabilities is the owner’s equity in the farm.

Assets are divided into two categories, current (used up or sold within one year and cash on-hand) and noncurrent (machinery, breeding livestock and buildings). Liabilities are also separated into the same two categories, current (due and payable within one year) and noncurrent.

Lenders calculate ratios and compare them to standards to analyze financial health (see Figure 1 for part of an example Scorecard).

The answer to question 2 is the Current Ratio, current assets divided by current liabilities. If the ratio is greater than 1.0, then you have more current assets than current liabilities. Notice on the Scorecard that a ratio less than 1.3 is considered vulnerable and greater than 2.0 is considered strong.

The answer to question 3 is one of the solvency ratios. The farm debt-to-asset ratio tells the lender whether you have more assets than liabilities; e.g., do you have enough collateral to take on additional debt. Again, looking at the Scorecard, if your debt is equal to 60 percent or more of your assets, you are vulnerable; but if your debt is only 30 percent or less than your assets, your financial health is considered strong.

Question 4 is like question 1:

4. Do you have an income statement?

The income statement is a summary of revenue and expenses for a given period, normally a year. Again, it takes over one year of information to establish a trend.

The income statement includes revenue and expenses from normal farming operations and from the sale of capital assets. Although most farmers are on the cash method of accounting, financial analysis requires accrual-adjusted numbers; e.g., what generated revenue this year even if you postpone the actual payment to another year.

Hopefully, the farming operation generated a profit (revenue greater than expenses). The amount of profit alone does not tell the entire story. Two operations may generate the same amount of profit, but one required twice the amount of assets (labor and equipment) to produce the profit. So, again, ratios are calculated to analyze financial health.

Rate of return on farm assets is used to calculate the profitability of the operation. Its Scorecard (similar to Figure 1) considers a rate of return less than 4 percent as vulnerable and greater than 8 percent as strong. Repayment capacity and financial efficiency ratios are also calculated from the data on the financial statements.

This has been a simplistic explanation. There are many other issues; e.g., should the balance sheet have assets listed at cost or market value and several more ratios that are usually calculated.

Lenders also consider nonfinancial information such as history with the lender and reputation in the community.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System is offering a Lender program at 13 locations throughout the state December through February. The program sponsors include First South Farm Credit, Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit. In addition to a more detailed discussion of financial statements and ratios, credit analysts from the sponsors will be speaking and answering questions. For more information or to register, visit www.aces.edu/lender.

Robert Tufts is a member of Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Farm and Agribusiness Management Team. He is a professor emeritus at Auburn University, and is currently a visiting professor with ACES. Ken Kelley is a regional farm and agribusiness management agent for Alabama Cooperative Extension System.





How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Storing Precious Bulbs and Roots

Bulbs and rhizomes such as gladiolus, dahlias, tropical gingers and caladiums do not have to be purchased year after year. They will sprout again next spring if dug now and stored in a dark, humid, cool room in a box of dry sand, peat or vermiculite through winter. A basement is ideal.

There is still time to dig these half-hardy bulbs, even though the nights have frosted. They store best if the foliage is dry. Just get them out of the ground before a hard freeze.

If storing in sand, avoid using sand from the beach; it is too fine and also salty. Instead, use builder’s sand or play sand with larger grains to allow better air circulation. Bury the bulbs in layers; space so they do not touch and use enough sand, peat or vermiculite to cover them completely.

Evergreen Ferns Outstanding in Winter

Evergreen ferns bring life to the forest floor in winter.

Beds in the shadow of pines or big shade trees look especially nice with stands of green winter ferns growing among the tree trunks, providing a nice coarse texture on the garden floor. Now is a good time to learn about these or others to get familiar with their winter look. (Check out the fern glades at the Dothan, Huntsville and Birmingham Botanical Gardens).

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is a native fern with 1- to 2-foot-long arching fronds. It forms a clump as it grows, spreading out underground stems so the clump gets larger each year, but keeping a nice, neat habit.

Another is Japanese holly fern (Cyrtomium falacatum), called holly fern due to the shape of its leaflets. It has arching fronds reaching about 1-1.5 feet long and 4-7 inches wide.

Japanese tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) has heavier, dark-green, glossy fronds with a hairy midrib that look like they could be made of silk. Japanese tassel fern also grows in clumps with fronds growing 1-2 feet long and 10 inches wide, the widest of the ferns mentioned here.

Both tassel fern and holly fern, because they have leathery foliage, are somewhat tolerant of dry spells once established.

Although you can plant now to allow them to root well, be aware that they will look their best when growth begins next spring.

Fresh holiday greenery looks and smells wonderful.

Keep Greenery Green

Drink plenty of water and stay out of the hot sun. Sound familiar? The same advice that keeps us from wilting also keeps holiday-cut greenery from wilting.

If possible, place outdoor greenery away from the sun’s rays so wreaths and outdoor decorations will last longer.

Fortunately, cool weather helps preserve the foliage, too. If we get a warm spell, it helps to mist the foliage using a spray bottle of water.

You can also coat greenery (and your tree) with an antidesiccant, a spray-on product that coats the leaves to help keep them from losing moisture through their pores. Antidesiccant is common in the North to protect landscape plants in winter, but may be harder to find locally. If so, try online.

Portable Winter Home

A portable greenhouse is perfect for overwintering plants not quite cold-hardy enough to make it outside.

Portable greenhouses offer a convenient option for overwintering potted plants that can withstand a little chill, but not freezes. Sizable greenhouses (8-by-10) are made of a reinforced plastic cover that fits over a metal or fiberglass frame. They are easy to assemble and take down.

In Jefferson County, we overwinter our prized half-hardy and tropical potted plants (palm, succulents, lemongrass and citrus) inside two of these, with little or no added cold protection. When the temperature drops to 20 degrees, it helps to cover the plants with a frost cloth inside the greenhouse. If the weather is cloudy and the temperature stays below freezing for several days, you may need an additional source of heat such as an incandescent bulb.

Christmas Seeds

Don’t know what to give the gardener who has everything? How about seed packets, or a gift certificate for their local Quality Co-op or favorite catalog to pick out their own? Seeds are a lasting gift, too, as leftover seeds will store for another year or two in cool, dry conditions.

Those who like to try something new each year might especially enjoy browsing through some of the colorful heirloom seed catalogs such as Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek for familiar, old varieties and unusual ones that are fun to try.

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




I Can. We Will.

Alabama FFA delegates attend the electrifying and inspiring 90th National Convention.

by Cameron Catrett

Alabama’s National FFA Convention Delegation

"I Can. We Will" was the theme of the 90th National FFA Convention and Expo held in Indianapolis, Indiana, Oct. 25-28, 2017. Over 67,000 FFA members from the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands came together, filling FFA Way with a sea of blue. This is the second consecutive year the National Convention has been held in Indianapolis.

Annually, National Convention serves as a time to celebrate the accomplishments of members, teachers and the agricultural industry through competitive events, educational tours, leadership workshops, volunteer activities, concerts, rodeos and so much more.

As the Alabama FFA State President, I had the distinct honor of meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for a small-group, roundtable discussion with nine other states’ association representatives. We discussed the importance of Career and Technical Education and the impact of the National FFA Organization.

FFA is the world’s largest student-led organization. The governing body, made up of 475 voting delegates, met during the convention. Delegates served on six different committees, debating issues brought forth by state associations and creating proposals for consideration by the national board. Ten delegates represented Alabama’s nearly 15,000 FFA members. Alabama’s six state officers, in addition to our three district presidents and one at-large member, served as Alabama’s voting delegate team.

Will Jordan, Alabama FFA State Reporter, described his delegate experience by saying, "This was my second year serving as a delegate and it was just as remarkable as the last. The opportunity to network with other state officers and returning delegates as well as the opportunity to make decisions and vote on proposals that would positively impact our organization was humbling."

Cameron, fifth from left, was selected as a representative of the National FFA members to serve on a special roundtable committee with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in yellow jacket.

As a Discussion Group Leader and returning delegate, I enjoyed seeing the intense passion each and every delegate showed regarding the future of agriculture and the National FFA Organization.

Jasey Black, Alabama FFA State Treasurer, said, "It is very exciting to see peers leading discussions, chairing committees and sharing opinions when drafting committee reports. I loved being reminded that we are a student-led organization and seeing states come together in order to achieve common goals."

Delegates worked hard and played hard. This was my fourth National FFA Convention and second as a delegate. Being on the delegate floor will always be remembered as one of my most electrifying convention experiences, unlike any other. The craze and excitement on the delegate floor can be described as life-changing – uniting delegates as one.

"The flow of energy could be felt onto the floor of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. The music and lights added to the energy and had the delegates dancing and singing well before each session began," said Banx O’Barr, Alabama North District FFA President.

National Convention general sessions provided inspiring messages and several opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of fellow members. Trent Thomas from the Goshen FFA Chapter was featured onstage as a Poultry Proficiency Finalist and was named the National Winner. Eleven Alabamians received their American FFA Degree, including past state officers Cassidy Catrett, Ivy Harbin and Jordan Stowe.

The Alabama Delegation had much to celebrate, including the recognition of Andy Chamness, Alabama FFA Executive Secretary, being awarded with Honorary American FFA Degree and Alabama FFA State Advisor Jacob Davis being recognized for his service to the National FFA Board.

Members enjoyed hearing motivational messages from retiring national officers and keynote speakers, including Laila Ali, Mick Ebeling and Jon Petz.

Gracen Sims, Alabama FFA State Secretary, especially enjoyed the national officer team’s retiring addresses and being challenged and motivated by session speakers.

John Crawford, Alabama FFA State Vice-President, vividly remembered the words of National President David Townsend’s retiring address and summarized them by saying, "We can choose to live each day for the betterment of ourselves or we can choose to use our gifts and talents for the good of those around us."

The Alabama FFA State Officer Team stops for a photo outside of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.

Caitlin Nolin, Alabama South District FFA President, and Maggie Edwards, Woodland FFA Chapter President, agreed that David Townsend’s challenge to "find H.O.M.E." was inspiring. H.O.M.E. was defined as Helping Others Maximizes Experiences.

Members witnessed history being made in the closing session when the new National Officer Team was elected and installed. Breanna Holbert, California, became the first African-American female to be elected National FFA President.

Jordan Brown, Alabama Central District FFA President, said, "I will never forget seeing the faces of the newly installed national officers. In that moment, their hard work had paid off and their excitement was contagious."

After several action-packed days, members returned energized and motivated to make a positive impact in their homes and communities.

When reflecting on his convention experience, Alabama FFA State Sentinel Bryce Hendricks described what this year’s theme meant to him.

"I realized that ‘I Can. We Will’ means I can as an individual; however, we will serve our organization more effectively whenever we come together as one unit."

Whether from the suburbs of a major city or the fields of a rural town, individually each member can do great things. When members zip up their blue jackets, we unite as one and that is when we have the power to make the greatest impact. "I Can. We Will." Join us in Montgomery for the 90th Annual Alabama FFA State Convention June 6-8, 2018. We look forward to seeing you there!

Cameron Catrett is the Alabama FFA State President and 90th National FFA Convention and Expo Leadership Delegate representing Alabama.




I’m out of the boat ...

by Suzy Lowry Geno

It’s that time of year again.

Most folks are concentrating on a small baby in a manger.

Some churches’ Christmas plays tell the Gospel story from the manger to the cross, but it’s the Nativity Story that takes precedence throughout most of the western world for most of December.

And another baby is also featured as the month and the year winds to an end; the Baby New Year comes on the scene as the Old New Year tottles on into the history books.

But, of course, I’m different.

No one who knows me and my simple life will likely be surprised. While most everybody else is concentrating on the Nativity Story in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, I’m out of the boat with Peter over in Matthew 14: 22-34.

Of course I will be celebrating Christmas with my family like everybody else, and I love all the joy and love the season represents.

And as far as Baby New Year escorting out old Father Time 2017, I’ll likely tell that baby to wait just a minute and let me express thanks for the Year 2017 and what joy it has brought me.

This was a milestone year for me in way more ways than one.

I turned 65 back in May; that is a birthday kind of like turning 13 and becoming a teenager, or turning 16 and getting to drive a car; or turning 21 and finally feeling like you have REALLY become an adult.

And while some folks may think 65 is ushering in the declining years of one’s life, it’s been nothing like that for me!

As far as years go, 2017 has been to this point the most outstanding year of my life!

I’ve found the love of my life after all these years. Sometimes it just takes 50 years for people to realize what is really important in their lives ...

So the year 2017 has been a ground-breaking, blessed, wonderful year in many, many ways ...

But nothing is EVER easy or simple in my life, of course!

Along with all the blessings and wonderful occurrences, there’s been a big share of trials and tribulations to balance things out!

So that’s why I’m splashing around outside that boat with Peter instead of kneeling at the manger ...

Peter was a pretty ordinary man. He must have been, at least, a little successful because he owned his own fishing boat. He was married because Jesus later healed his mother-in-law. I’m not sure if he had any children or not but he seemed to have been just an ordinary working man supporting his family. Likely a ruddy, outspoken man who wasn’t afraid to defend what was his.

In the Book of Acts, we see that Peter was an "uneducated common" man whose courage and great acts could only be explained because he had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Peter went from denying Christ three times after Jesus was arrested to preaching a sermon where over 3,000 men became Christians at one time – so what happened and why am I thrashing around in the sea in the water with him???

In Matthew 14:22-34 (now this is described in Suzy-language, not quoted verbatim from any translation from the original Greek!), Peter and the other disciples were going across the sea in a boat because Jesus had told them to go on while He dispersed a large crowd He had been speaking to.

A storm came up. As they traveled on, they saw someone, perhaps a ghost, walking toward them … actually walking on the water.

When they realized it was Jesus, Peter asks the Lord to let him come to Him.

So brave, often rash, Peter hops out of the boat and almost immediately begins to sink when he starts looking at the crashing waves and high winds instead of looking toward Jesus.

First of all, the boat containing all the disciples was in a storm, EVEN THOUGH they were going exactly where Jesus told them to go!

Most folks of faith believe Jesus will help us through the storms of life, but they often fail to notice that sometimes the storms are caused when we step out in faith as Jesus asks us too.

Peter had all the initial courage he needed. As long as he had his eyes on Jesus, he walked out right on top of the water, held up by the Lord’s strength.

But as soon as he started looking at the storms and taking his eyes off Jesus, he started to sink!

And this is why I’ve been bobbing around in the water with Peter much of the last half of 2017!

A very wonderful teacher and elder at my new church, Bro. Wayne Brannon, started me thinking about this as he began a study of 1 Peter on Wednesday nights and referred back to that section in Matthew. (Bro. Wayne and his wife recently celebrated their 62nd year of marriage and KNOW the importance of faith!)

As I’ve faced troubles and trials during the last few months, I analyze, question and try to figure things out for myself, and I start SINKING just as Peter did!

I have to remind myself of how God stood with me over five years ago when my husband died after a lengthy, lengthy heartbreaking series of illnesses.

How God stood by me when there were four other major family calamities the very week of my husband’s funeral.

How God stood by me through those long months of not only heartbreak but financial troubles and more.

No, I forget too quickly that God has continually stood there through the storms and ALL I HAVE TO DO IS LOOK TO HIM!

While Peter might be looked at as failing because he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink, he KNEW where his help would come from!

As our study so aptly explains, "True believers know who to turn to when we sink!!!"

So I will be celebrating the birth of that baby in the manger later this month.

But I am celebrating even more the man who that baby became.

In Mark 10, we learn how great trials often accompany great blessings and that’s where I’m standing!

This simple, country homesteader may be a bit more wrinkled and gray, BUT I’m still learning: learning not to analyze everything that happens in my life AND not to PANIC when I start sinking because I’ve taken my eyes off my Savior once again.

So I’ll be celebrating Christmas with a new zeal this year.

And if you see me panic and start sinking during the next few weeks, don’t worry and don’t try to toss me a lifejacket: just watch as I turn my eyes back toward my Savior – that child who once was in a manger – and I’ll be fine!

***

From everyone at the Old Field Farm in Blount County, have a Merry Christmas and peace-filled New Year.

Suzy Lowry Geno can be reached on Facebook or through her website at www.taitsgapstore.com.




Joy ... to the World

Seed-saver Elene Crow shares native-Alabama seeds around the globe.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Elene Crow collects seeds to save and share.

To Elene Crow, every day in December is Christmas! As an administrator for the Heirloom Seed Syndicate and a participant in many other flower groups, she participates in a Christmas card exchange with other members. Inside each card is a very special gift: a package of heirloom seeds.

"It’s like Santa coming every day," she laughed. "You never know what you’re going to get. If I can’t use the seeds, I pass them on to somebody who can. These are gifts that really do keep on giving."

Most people would not be excited about a gift of seeds, but Crow is. You see, Crow is a spermologist, a seed saver! Not only does she collect seeds but she also shares them with people all over the world. What makes her different from other seed savers is that she has never sold a plant or a seed, choosing instead to trade or share.

"I’m just a seed-a-holic," she laughed. "I love collecting and sharing seeds. When I visit anyone, I look at their plants … but I see the seeds they will produce."

Sharing her seeds is a passion for Crow, but sending her seeds to one place has now become her mission. That place is the Hussein K. Mugambi AFSU Farm, an orphanage in Uganda.

"This is a remote area," she explained, "and the only way to get in is by a small boat. It sometimes takes a month for my seeds to get there. He sends me pictures of the children eating the harvest. The watermelon seeds were a hit for them last year."

Because this area has a similar planting season to South Alabama, Crow has found hundreds of different seeds to share. She spends 12 months planning, collecting and sorting the seeds she mails each January. Last year, she sent two boxes; this year, she plans to send even more.

"The smiles on the children’s faces make it worth it. It is unreal the pleasure I receive knowing I helped those in need. I believe I have been led to help them."

In 2017, Crow has also been a part of helping even more people. After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the fires out West, the exchanges received thousands of requests for heirloom seeds that had been swept away, damaged or destroyed. Crow was overjoyed to help these victims, who had lost their seedstocks.

Crow joyfully shares her native Alabama seeds all over the world. Each year, she plants Bedwell’s Supreme White Corn, a native to Clarke County, as well as other favorites such as Alabama Red Okra, Sand Mountain Sunshine Watermelon, Franklin Red Cowpea, Knuckle Purple Hull Pea, Talladega Cucumber and many more. Outside the United States, her most requested seeds are Bedwell’s Supreme White Corn and the Atkinson Tomato. Within the United States, the favorite is the Alabama Blackeyed Butter Bean.

Elene looks through cards she has received. The cards contained seeds from all over the world. Many request seeds that Elene might have on hand. The exchanges allow members to get unusual and hard-to-find seeds.

Seed saving requires dedication and patience. Crow’s rule of thumb is cool, dry and dark. After the seeds have dried, she places them in transparent bags and labels and catalogues them in large books. Because seeds sent outside the United States have to go through customs, Crow has learned inspectors rarely damage boxes containing seeds in clear, labeled bags.

"Really, you have to know your seeds in order to handle them properly," she said. "Information is out there on the web or in books, but I am not afraid to ask someone who knows more than me. Someone will always teach you and help you."

Elene Crow lives on a small farm in the Round Hill Community, just outside of Thomasville. Behind her home is a rolling, terraced hillside that slopes gently downward. Hundreds of birds find sanctuary here, including many ducks that visit the pond at the foot of the hill. Local photographers often come to her farm for seasonal or holiday shoots, as the backgrounds are stunning. In early spring, Van Sion daffodils cover the hillside. These golden-yellow beauties, whose bulbs date back to 1620, have thrived here for years, and visitors come to see the breathtaking spectacle. Crow separates the bulbs periodically and shares them with collectors all over the United States.

A variety of fruit trees grow along the hillside, all started from seeds or sprouts, shared by family and friends. One that is especially desired is a white-fruited peach, given to her in the ‘70s by Erskine Chaney. Crow does not know the name of the tree, but she has sent its sprouts as far as Illinois and Georgia. In the ‘70s, she also planted plum sprouts from her mother’s home near Coffeeville. In 2016, she gave away 27 five-gallon buckets from these trees. Her other trees include apple, grapefruit, lemon, lime, quince, pawpaws, mayhaws and pomegranates.

Crow practices organic farming. In 2016, she used the straw-bale system in her gardens. In 2017, she opted for the lasagna method with three sisters, a technique her daddy had perfected. She composts, using tea and coffee grounds, wood chips, ashes, egg shells, Epsom salts and old powered milk. She also spreads manure from her chicken and guinea houses. To control pests, she uses only natural remedies such as Neem oil mixed with water. She picks garlic from her garden and puts it at the base of her fruit trees. She is also careful to remove all spent fruits, feeding the excess to her chickens and guineas.

Crow loves her plants, mixes her own soil for each one and eagerly shares their stories. For example, one cactus, which she named "Three Mile Cactus," came from a co-worker, who walked the long trek to the floor of the Grand Canyon just to get her a sprout. He held it in a coffee cup on the flight back to Thomasville. Crow has already collected and shared many seeds from this special cactus.

During winter months, Crow moves her plants to a 15-by-30 patio that she has enclosed as a plant room. The room has windows, benches and shelves that hold thousands of plants. She also has a small greenhouse she uses for smaller plants.

Children and staff members enjoy the Atkinson tomatoes grown on the AFSU Farm. She sends boxes of seeds each January to plant to help feed the orphans.

Crow is a study in contrasts. She grew up in the Cunningham Community, near Coffeeville. Her father was a mailman and a farmer, who loved to garden. Crow said she spent many pleasurable hours following her dad and learning from him.

"I grew up in the country," she said, "so I know how to work. I grew up in the woods, so I learned common sense."

For years, she worked in real estate, before taking a job in maintenance at MacMillan Bloedel. She worked there until she retired in February 2017.

"I was the only woman in maintenance, but the men accepted me and helped me. I asked questions and they showed me how to do things. They taught me and, in three years’ time, I went for my electrician certification and got it."

Crow finds joy in her many other eclectic interests and hobbies. Even though she has lost 98 percent of the sight in her right eye, she is an avid reader who critiques manuscripts for publishers in both the United States and Canada. She also judges books for the Molly Award and Romance Writers of America. For years, she has volunteered at the Clarke County Museum’s Pioneer Day, teaching visitors how to hand-churn butter. In addition, she is a respected and experienced judge for local, state and national beauty pageants. She also serves as treasurer for Round Hill Baptist Church.

"I cultivate my garden and my life wisely," she added. "My daddy always told me, ‘Green side up!’ When I look at seeds, I see smiles on the faces of those I have shared with. Putting a smile on the faces of people is my way of paying back all the blessings I have received in my life."

Plants have given Elene Crow something very special and allowed her to scatter seeds of joy to the world.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at drinkardcarolyn@gmail.com.




Look Out!

by Herb T. Farmer

When using a honing steel, be sure to pay attention to every move you make.

Well, here we go, again. ‘Tis the season to be nonproductive, eat like little piggies and argue about whether one should say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Xmas."

Yeah. That last one really gets me going every year. By the way, people, that argument is about as useless as playing a game of tic-tac-toe! The winner is always the one who goes first. The other player is only left with an empty argument.

Let’s talk about holiday safety.

We’ll start with gift giving, and all the importance of choosing the most appropriate gift for the person being gifted.

Folks, really. A sausage and cheese gift set is about as warm and loving as a store-bought fruitcake … neither have much nutritional value to speak of. And, no! If it’s the thought that counts, you are being as thoughtless as a politician pretending to vote for the good of the order.

Children’s gifts are no different. Just because there’s an age guide on the manufacturer’s packaging doesn’t mean it’s right for your child. Some gifts should be demonstrated by the adult in the family; if there is one.

Back in my day, the kids only ran the risk of cutting their fingers on the sharp edges of tin toys for the boys and getting their dolls too close to the coal-burning fireplace and catching its hair on fire. Both of those things could be fatal, but usually ended up a terrifying, tearful mess. Momma would take a scrap of printed material from her quilting bin and make a decorative scarf for the baby doll; or wrap a Band-Aid around the cut finger after giving it a painful dose of mercurochrome.

"Batteries Not Included" – that used to be a common printed statement on the box.

Nowadays, we see pictures of the newborn kid posing with a .22 caliber pistol gifted from Uncle Billy Jim. Or I hear about the 11-year-old daughter who got a pink shotgun for Xmas. "Bullets Not Included."

When you give your kid his or her first AK47, be certain you know how to operate it and, for goodness sake, do NOT load it until you’re at the rod and gun club firing range, and have completed a gun safety course.

Food safety: Be sure to keep your cooking surfaces clean. If you only have one cutting board, wash it with soap and hot water between preparing different food groups (cheese, meat, vegetables, fruits, etc.).

Be sure to follow all U.S. Department of Agriculture food preparation guidelines. These can be found online at www.fsis.usda.gov > Topics > Food Safety Education.

When cooking in the oven, make sure the oven door is completely open and you are prepared to handle hot pans with pot holders or silicone gloves before removing pans from the oven. Do not attempt to baste or sample meat while it is in the oven. Both of these things are burn hazards.

Remember to keep pot handles pointed 90 degrees from the front of the stove top in order to prevent accidental spills.

Cutlery safety is not something to be mindless of, either. Always pay attention to how you handle knives and scissors. When honing a knife, make sure you do it the way you are most comfortable, and without distractions. If you use a honing steel, be sure to use a clean knife on it. Never sharpen a knife that has been used, but not washed. You can contaminate the steel.

Use caution when washing your cutlery. It’s all too easy to let the blade slip from your wash cloth and subsequently slice your palm or fingers. Pay attention to what you are doing!

Whether you are carving a brisket, ham or bird, be sure to stand at a comfortable height from the cutting surface and be mindful of what you are attempting to do.

Canned goods in jars: If you canned your potatoes and green beans properly then the Mason jar lid should easily twist off while the sealed lid may need some coaxing with a bottle opener.

Unfortunately, some folks feel the ring of the jar should be wrenched down so tight that it is nearly impossible to remove.

Never try to coax it open by tapping the edge with a butter knife handle or anything else! The ring is very light and thin. It can be easily dented. Denting can cause fractures or weak points in the top of the glass jar. Glass develops a memory when bumped or cracked.

Now for the case in point: I once saw a lady hold a jar in a dish towel while her friend used a pair of channellock pliers to twist off the lid after tapping with a butter knife handle failed. The jar broke and a large shard ripped through the dish towel and severely cut the lady’s hand.

Needless to say, that holiday was ruined and most of the family went to the emergency room waiting area while minor surgery and many stitches happened.

Don’t be a bone head this holiday season! Use some common sense and work the safety situation in your mind before acting.

And, no! Giving a hundred $1-off coupons for various products as a gift is not the same as buying a $100 gift card!

Now, go and do the holidays … safely and in peace.

I eat my yard! You should eat yours, too!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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




Never Too Late to Learn

by Robert Spencer

I recently watched a webinar sponsored by the Let’s Grow Committee of the American Sheep Industry Association. The specific video was "Selection for Parasite Resistance" and it was quite informative. The presenter was Joan Burke, Ph.D., and was based on several years of research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Booneville, Arkansas. The focus was primarily on managing for parasite resistance in sheep, including hair sheep, and did mention goats. All the data are based on packed cell volume, fecal-egg counts, body-condition scores, etc.

It mentioned several things many of us already know regarding gastrointestinal parasites:

  • They affect both goats and sheep.
  • They are one of the greatest health issues.
  • Anthelmintic resistance among GP limits tools to control them.
  • Barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) is the greatest threat to sheep and goats.
    • They thrive in warm, humid climates.
    • They are present in most states and as far north as Canada and can overwinter.

She also shared some impressive trivia about barber pole worms:

  • One female can produce 5,000 eggs per day.
  • Their life cycle is about three weeks.
  • They primarily affect weak, young, old, female, pregnant and lactating animals.

She began to get my attention when she listed the environmental factors influencing GP infection:

  • Rainfall, humidity, temperature
  • Season
  • Management
  • Stocking rate
  • Nutrition and body condition
  • Gender
  • Stress

She went on to discuss how widespread anthelmintic resistance is necessitating alternative strategies:

  • Three-way combination treatments of anthelmintics (I knew we had two-ways, but had no idea we were up to a three-way combination.)
  • Combining copper oxide wire particles with a dewormer
  • Parasite control utilizing
    • Condensed, tannin-rich forages (fresh or dried)
    • Dry-lot production
    • Grazing management
    • Genetics – parasite-resistant breeds or individual herd sires exhibiting parasite resistance

The parasite-resistant breeds of sheep utilized in this study included St. Croix, Gulf Coast or Florida Native, Barbados Blackbelly and Katahdin. Even Burke acknowledged, within each breed, there could be variations. This has also been my personal experience. Recommending breeds in any livestock situation is a sensitive matter. It is like asking a group what is the best brand of car, pickup truck, breed of dog or cat … opinions will vary.

She had a multitude of charts demonstrating the various findings of their research project. Some of the more interesting points mentioned were:

  • Crosses tend to be more parasite-resistant.
  • Fall-born lambs tend to be more parasite-resistant than spring-born.
  • Most worm transmission occurs during the periparturient period (last month of pregnancy).
  • The larger the litter size the greater the chance of parasite infestation among ewes and lambs.

From there, the presentation went on to state that genetics and environment are the primary factors affecting performance and vigor. There was a collection of easy-to-follow charts illustrating the data and statements.

Sometimes when I can see things in print, I can absorb and process the information much easier. You can find this presentation along with several other good videos at https://www.wormx.info/video-library. The website for the aforementioned presentation can be found at http://www.sheepusa.org/Growourflock_Resources_Pro....

Take the time to view these sites for information on various aspects of management and health issues. I promise you will learn something new.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. You can contact him at rds0002@Auburn.edu.




Overwhelming – But Doable!

by Glenn Crumpler

The well in this picture was constructed in October when I was last in India.

I have never seen so many people in one place! Until I saw it for myself, I really could not visualize it.

India is about one-third the size of the U.S. geographically, but has almost four times the population. The United States has a population of roughly 325 million people, while India has a population of over 1.3 billion – over 400 million of them being children!! Yep, India has almost 25 percent more children than the United States has in total population!

Just a little more trivia. The United States has 31.27 persons per square kilometer (a square kilometer is 247.1 acres) or one person for every 7.9 acres. India, on the other hand, has 343.68 persons per square kilometer, or one person for every 0.71 acres. You take away all the uninhabitable land area of mountains, marshes, lakes, streets, buildings, etc. – that makes for one heavily populated and crowded place!

Sadly, 31 percent of the children around the world under 5 years old who are stunted from malnutrition live in India. It is estimated, in some regions of India, 64-71 percent of the children are either stunted or have retarded cognitive development due to malnutrition. In most cases this is irreversible. World Bank data indicates that India has one of the world’s highest demographics of children suffering from malnutrition – said to be twice that of Sub-Saharan Africa. India’s Global Hunger Index ranking of 67 among the 80 nations with the worst hunger situation places them even below North Korea or Sudan. It is reported that in India 44 percent of children under 5 are significantly underweight and 72 percent of infants suffer from anemia.

There are a number of reasons for these high rates of malnutrition and child mortality, but they all eventually go back to inadequate protein intake (or the inability to absorb protein). Some of this is due to lack of breast milk, a high-carbohydrate diet lacking protein (mainly rice is eaten every meal), and diseases from contaminated drinking water and poor hygiene. Even in places where water may be available within a reasonable distance, only 40 percent of households have toilets of some type. It is estimated that 60 percent of India’s population still practice open defecation, leading to more contamination of water and food sources, increased parasite absorption and higher incidences of typhoid. The lack of flushing toilets and handwashing practices not only complicates the matter for everyone but they have a greater impact on girls and women, who are more susceptible to infections affecting their bodies and the babies they carry in pregnancy. High rates of illiteracy contribute to all of these problems.

In response to the incredibly high occurrences of preventable diseases, defects and deaths among children, Cattle for Christ is working as part of a much broader and holistic evangelistic strategy all linked together to address these issues. The strategy includes pastor training and church planting, providing a quality education for children, providing greater access to safe and clean drinking water by digging water wells, treating children for internal parasites, and educating families and children on basic hygiene and handwashing practices.

To help make these programs self-sustainable, we are also working to provide water buffalo, cows, sheep and goats for families to have access to milk products and adequate protein in their diet. These animals will also provide a source of revenue so families can eventually send their children to school, purchase some medicines and be able to purchase sanitation supplies.

In India, we can provide three water buffalo or three cows to a pastor’s family for $1,100. Three lactating or bred sheep or goats can be provided for $600-$650. These animals will help sustain the pastor while he devotes his time to ministry and will enable him to train others in animal husbandry and other skills so eventually the entire village will be able to sustain themselves in some way. The dung from the livestock is used to cover the walls of the huts and when dried is used as a fuel source to make fires to keep warm or to cook over.

In these remote villages, it is most often the heavily persecuted church-planting pastors that Cattle for Christ helps to train with our Cattle for Christ TRAILBLAZER players. These pastors are the ones who coordinate, initiate and facilitate the work. They are often persecuted, rejected and beaten, but as they continue to go to, love and minister to the needs of the people, they are eventually able to build some relationships so all the other work can gradually be implemented. These acts of sharing the love of Christ open the doors for sharing the Gospel message of Christ, church planting and discipleship. All of these are needed for the people to be able to reverse the common practices leading not only to childhood deaths and malnutrition but also to the other detrimental social, physical and spiritual practices.

In years past, Cattle for Christ has been involved in a lot of church planting and church-building construction in unchurched and underchurched areas around the world, but that has changed through the years as we have learned better and more strategic ways of meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the people. Though we are still very much involved in pastor training and church planting, we no longer put a strong emphasis on church buildings (for a variety of reasons). However, there are extreme cases like these in the hard places where pastors walk long distances (sometimes days) to visit the people in these very remote villages where there are no Christian churches. In these cases, a church building is needed as a place for the pastor to stay, for the people to meet, for training to take place and for children to be educated. However, these church buildings do not need to be westernized; they just need a place that is safe, shaded and dry. The churches we help build usually cost $1,500-$4,500 and the people in the community do the construction. The focus remains on the people and not the building; however, the building facilitates the holistic work, all of which is part of our broader, strategic plan to share the Gospel message and the love of Christ Jesus.

Water wells to provide clean drinking water are critical in reducing such diseases as typhoid and diarrhea that make the people’s digestive systems unable to absorb the limited nutrients consumed. Price ranges for these wells vary from country to country. In the remote villages of India, where most of the water is contaminated due to under-regulation, overpopulation, pollution, lack of septic systems, open defecation, etc., the need for safe drinking water is critical and the price is very low when compared with the overall benefits to the health of the people. A 100- to 200-foot deep, hand-pump-operated well can be installed for $1,000-$1,500. The average cost of sending a child we are working with in India to school is $30 a month if they live with their own family. This includes lunch, books and uniform. Because it is unlawful (and strictly enforced by the current Hindu regime) in India to teach anything religious in a licensed school, it is critical we help place children in schools where there is an intentionally placed network of Christian teachers and leadership who can love and minister to the children in school, and also minister to and share the Gospel with them and their families outside the school. In the remote places where there are no schools, the rules cannot be as heavily enforced as in larger communities, so the pastors often start their own schools inside their homes or church buildings and teach what they can, including the Bible.

There are several children we are helping who were living as orphans in their villages and have been unofficially adopted by the pastors. Total care for these children (a Christian-home environment, safe shelter, school, three meals a day, routine medical care, supervision, clothing, etc.) averages $100 per month. To visualize the real numbers of children who need our help, keep in mind what we have already discussed: there are 25 percent more children in India than the total population of the United States!

India is just one country of many with such great need where Cattle for Christ is working. We are also addressing these same needs as part of our overall strategic approach to share the Gospel message and the love of Christ here at home, in Africa, the Middle East and other places around the world. None of this happens without the financial and other support of those who partner with us in our ministry efforts.

As you, your family and your church celebrate the birth of Jesus and all the ways He has blessed you this Christmas season, please think about what you can do to help us bless His children who will otherwise have no hope or reason to celebrate. We know we can’t save them all – but by working together – we can save millions while sharing the love and Good News of the God who came and gave Himself to eternally SAVE all! It’s overwhelming, but it’s doable!

Please contact us today to at 334-333-4400 to see how you can help, or donate online at www.cattleforchrist.com. Thanks for your partnership and Merry Christmas!

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




PALS: Boaz Intermediate School is back with the Cl

Students are making a difference with schoolwide recycling.

by Jamie Mitchell

Boaz Intermediate School in Marshall County has joined the Clean Campus Program! We are so excited to welcome them back to the program for the first time in over six years! At the direction of teacher Amanda Duckett, these students are sure to have lots of Clean Campus success.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the fourth- and fifth-graders, and they made a great first impression! Not only were the students super attentive but they also are about to begin a schoolwide recycling campaign.

The local recycling facility is providing the school with bins and will empty them as needed. This type of partnership is key for schools to make the recycling process as worry-free as possible for the teachers.

During our discussion, the students learned all about where their trash goes and how long it lasts once it gets there. They learned why their new recycling project is so important and how they will be keeping thousands of pounds of plastic and paper from going to the landfill. The students saw ideas for making treasure from trash, and, of course, we talked about litter and all the ways it adversely affects our communities.

The students from Boaz Intermediate School are ready to make a difference in their community!

Do you know if your local schools are a part of the Clean Campus Program? If not, please visit our website at www.alpals.org to learn more! The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools. Schools may sign up for the Clean Campus Program online or by calling 334-263-7737.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.




Poinsettia – The Christmas Flower of Choice

Tips for Keeping Your Plant in Top Holiday Health

by Tony Glover

Poinsettia research is conducted at the Ornamental Horticulture Research Center in Mobile. (Credit: John Olive)

One of the most delightful decorations at Christmas is the poinsettia. It is hard to believe that poinsettias were almost unknown just a few generations ago because today they are such a big part of holiday decorating.

The plant is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. He was appointed by John Quincy Adams in the 1820s. In 1828, Poinsett was exploring the countryside for new plants and came across a large, beautiful, red shrub. He took cuttings from it and brought them home to his greenhouse in South Carolina. The rest is history.

I took a trip to Central America and could not believe my eyes when I saw huge poinsettia shrubs the size of small tress everywhere. They are not cold-hardy in most of the United States, so we enjoy them almost exclusively as a seasonal plant that is most colorful around Christmas.

Now, they come in more than the traditional red colors. Many colors and variegated forms are now available.

They are also being paired up with other plants in planters. One combination you may find is a red poinsettia planted with a related, but very different-looking, plant called "Diamond Frost." This combination makes the poinsettia look like it is in a snowstorm of white baby’s breath-like blooms.

Interestingly, the colorful parts of the poinsettia are not the flowers but the bracts, technically modified leaves not blooms.

This leads me to the first tip on how to have a long-lasting plant. The actual poinsettia flowers are small, green or yellow, and situated in the middle of the bracts. Look closely for these small flowers and choose plants with unopened flower buds or buds that are just beginning to open. If you see dried flowers or they are missing altogether, those plants will not last too much longer.

Poinsettias planted with Diamond Frost make an interesting contrast.

The plant should appear full with uniformly dark-green leaves from under the colored bracts to almost the base of the plant. The leaves themselves should be completely free of disease and insects (check the underside of leaves for pest). Before you leave the store, ask for a protective sleeve or paper bag to protect the plant from wind or cold temperature. Do not buy a plant that has been stored in a sleeve or looks wilted while the soil appears wet. Do not allow your plant to be exposed to cold temperatures during the trip home. Even a few hours in a cold car could shock the plant and cause an early leaf drop.

Once home, the poinsettia will last much longer if you put it in the right place. The right place may not be the best place for display. Remember, you can put the plant on display when you have company and move it to a better place for longevity at other times – just don’t move it very much.

Poinsettia thrives in bright sunlight. Put it near a bright window, but not in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight could discolor the bracts. On the other hand, low light can cause it to lose some of its leaves too early.

Poinsettia doesn’t tolerate moisture extremes. Do not keep the potting mix too wet or too dry. If allowed to dry out too much, it will wilt and drop its leaves. Conversely, don’t allow it to remain in standing water. This could result in root rot, causing it to have the same symptoms as not enough water.

Poinsettia doesn’t last long when exposed to extremes in temperature, particularly in drafty locations. This can cause overall plant decline and leaf drop. Keep the plant away from heat vents and outside doors. If possible, keep the plant with other plants or set the container in a gravel-filled pan half-filled with water. Doing this will keep the humidity a little higher around the plant in an otherwise dry, winter home.

For more information on the care of your poinsettia, including after-holiday care, visit http://www.aces.edu/go/770.

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




Preserves: A Great Idea for Holiday Gifts

Involve kids in the fun and science of preparing jams and jellies for seasonal sharing.

by Angela Treadaway

As the holidays approach, spend some time in the kitchen with kids and make some jams and jellies or other items for them to give as gifts. You will be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime, too, with some great memories.

Do you have a hard time buying gifts for family and friends during the holiday season? Here is an idea for this holiday season: Grab your kids and head into the kitchen to prepare some homemade preserved gifts. Food preservation is a science allowing kids to explore and understand the science of safe food preservation, so lifetime skills are being learned and experienced in the kitchen. Starting with jams and jellies is a great way to begin preserving with youth. Jam’s high acidity, large amount of sugar and lack of available water slow the growth rate of microorganisms such as mold, but freezing or boiling-water canning is needed to fully stop spoilage.

There are a wide variety of recipes available allowing you and your children to select favorite flavors to prepare for homemade gifts. You want to make sure to use recipes from a trusted source such as the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and National Center for Home Food Preservation. Other websites such as Pinterest or Facebook might not have USDA-tested recipes and they may not recommend to water bath can your jams and jellies after filling your jars. A safe jellied product is one that is water-bath canned to create a vacuum seal allowing jellied products to be set on the shelf and not mold or create yeast that will spoil the product.

It is also critical to remember, when teaching youth, to use current, research-based methods for preserving food at home. Paraffin or wax sealing of jars is no longer considered an acceptable method for preserving any jellies. Any pinholes or cracks in the wax paraffin can allow airborne molds to contaminate and grow on the product.

For proper texture, jellied fruit products require the correct combinations of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar. The fruit gives each spread its unique flavor and color. It also supplies the water to dissolve the rest of the necessary ingredients and furnishes some or all of the pectin and acid. Good quality, flavorful fruits make the best jellied products.

These are a few of my favorite recipes for giving at Christmas time for gifts.

Ginger Pear Preserves

Pears with lime and gingerroot combine to make a delicately flavored preserve with an exotic island taste.

Yield: 7 (8-ounce) half-pint jars

5½ cups (about 8 medium) finely chopped, cored, peeled pears
3 limes, grated, zest and juice
2-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon freshly grated gingerroot
7 (8-ounce) half-pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine pears, lime zest and juice, sugar and gingerroot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and test gel. If preserves break from spoon in a sheet or flake, it is at the gel stage. Skim off foam. If your mixture has not reached the gel stage, return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 5 minutes. Repeat gel stage test and cooking as needed.

Ladle hot preserves into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

In a boiling water canner, process jars for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Apple Preserves

Yield: 6 half-pint jars
6 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
½ lemon, thinly sliced (optional)
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg or cinnamon or allspice

In a large saucepan, combine apples, water and lemon juice. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in pectin and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently. Add lemon slices and sugar. Return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; add nutmeg. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

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.




Principles of Parasite Prevention

Fall deworming is even more important after a wet summer.

by Jackie Nix

Self-fed Safe-Guard 20% Protein Dewormer Blocks offer a deworming option that doesn’t involve running cattle through chutes. This could be an ideal method for heavily pregnant cows or producers without access to chutes or working facilities.

Internal parasites create an economic burden on cattle producers. Internal parasites in cattle reduce feed intake, reduce average daily gain and alter the animal’s immune system. Expensive nutrients fed to sustain cattle are diverted to sustain the parasitic organisms instead.

Parasitism is classified as either clinical or subclinical. Clinical parasitism means the body is overwhelmed to the point that disease symptoms are present (anemia, edema, diarrhea, rough coat, etc.). These symptoms are easier to see and treat. However, if one waits until clinical symptoms appear, the damage has already been done and the animal has been inefficient for quite some time. Subclinical parasite infections do not show outward disease symptoms, but the animals are less productive (lowered milk production, reduced weight gain, altered carcass composition, reduced conception rates, etc.). The time to deworm is in the subclinical stage before major damage has been done and money has been lost due to poor productivity.

In general, younger animals and animals under stress are more likely to be negatively affected by parasites. Mature cattle acquire some degree of immunity. However, mature cows near calving time are very susceptible to parasites as their own immunity is suppressed due to the pregnancy. Also, bulls are more susceptible to internal parasites than cows.

The Life cycle

Figure 1. Basic Life Cycle of Common Gastrointestinal Nematodes of Cattle.

In order to control internal parasites, one must understand their lifecycle and how they are transmitted to cattle. Luckily, most of the economically important internal parasites (roundworms, stomach worms, barber pole worms, etc.) have similar life cycles (Figure 1). The adult nematodes mate and produce eggs within the host. These eggs pass out of the gut in the feces. The eggs hatch, and the larvae go through several stages before they reach the infective stage. This infective stage migrates from the manure pat onto moist grass (Figure 2) where it is consumed by the host. The larvae mature into adults, completing the life cycle. It is important to note that these larvae need moisture (from rain or dew) and soil temperatures of 55-85 degrees to swim up the blades of grass. As the grass dries, the larvae move back down into the soil. Cattle do not pick up larvae from dry pastures. Thus, the warm, wet conditions we’ve experienced this summer have been ideal for internal parasite transmission.

Control

Control of internal parasites is a never-ending battle entailing a combination of pasture management and strategic use of anthelmintics. Control should be aimed at reducing exposure to infective larvae and disrupting the life cycle. Control practices include the following:

Figure 2. Infective larvae found in a drop of dew.
  • Move susceptible cattle to clean pastures. Clean pastures are those that haven’t been grazed by other cattle for at least 12 months as larvae can survive for up to a year in pastures. Rotating pastures with other species (horses, sheep or goats) also acts to clean pastures as these parasites are species specific. When the larvae are ingested by anything other than cattle, they will die harmlessly in the gut.
  • Do not overstock pastures. Overstocking pastures forces cattle to graze closer to the ground and thus pick up more larvae.
  • If forced to use pastures that aren’t clean, refrain from turning cattle out on new grass until the dew dries.
  • Strategic use of dewormers, especially before calving and/or moving to new pastures.
  • Periodically have fecal egg counts conducted to assess if your current deworming program is effective.

There are many anthelmintic products on the market to choose from. When choosing a dewormer, consider the following:

  • Production status of animals to be treated (cow vs. calf, beef vs. dairy)
  • Product efficacy for the desired parasites
  • Ease of use
  • Slaughter/milk withdrawals
  • Cost

With all of this in mind, consider use of the Safe-Guard En-Pro-Al Molasses Dewormer Blocks or the Safe-Guard 20% Protein Dewormer Blocks. Both utilize the active drug ingredient fenbendazole, labeled for the removal and control of lungworm, stomach worms, barber pole worms, brown stomach worms, small stomach worms, intestinal worms, hookworms, thread-necked intestinal worms, small intestinal worms, bankrupt worms and nodular worms. These are the only self-fed dewormer blocks on the market.

Self-fed delivery of dewormer has many advantages over other delivery methods. First of all, drenches, injections and pour-ons require cattle be worked in a chute. Not every producer can afford to purchase expensive catch gates and chutes. Also, there are inherent stresses placed on both cattle and humans when cattle are worked, especially when cows are in late pregnancy and/or temperatures and humidity are high. Lastly, there is the safety issue of working cattle in close quarters, especially when utilizing inexperienced help.

To learn more about these two self-fed dewormer options, visit www.safe-guardcattle.com to view the product label or ask for them by name at your local Quality Co-op.

In summary, the warm, wet summer we have just experienced has provided ideal conditions for the transmission of internal parasites. Control of these internal parasites will depend upon a combination of pasture management and strategic use of dewormer products. No matter which anthelmintic product you choose, deworming cattle this fall will be critically important to maintain productivity over the winter. Consult with your local veterinarian to determine the anthelmintic program that is best for your situation.

Safe-Guard is a registered trademark of Merck Animal Health.

En-Pro-Al is a registered trademark of Ridley Block Operations.

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




Reflection and Adaptation

by John Howle

“But I think my mistakes became the chemistry for my miracles.
I think that my tests became my testimonies.” ~ T. D. Jakes

December is a great month to reflect on the past year and look forward to turning the page to a new year. Questions you might ask yourself in December are what did I invest most of my time and money in over the last year? Were these things profitable? Did I make mistakes?

Obviously, time spent with family and friends or studying the Bible is always a good investment. However, if you look back over your bank statement or check register, you want to know things like where did your resources go and did your investments translate to profits?

Not all investments turn profits but they always result in education and experience. Sometimes, a heifer won’t breed or she is barren and must be sold. This education forces us to look harder at the animal’s background and ancestral breeding habits before purchasing future livestock. If you buy a flock of chickens and they systematically get snatched and eaten by an elusive hawk or yanked off the roost by an opossum, this education forces us to keep the chickens protected with wire, netting or some type of protective shelter. If you purchase an ATV for farm use and hunting and get a lemon, the education results in the response, "I’ll never buy that brand again."

This December, don’t dwell on any mistakes of the past year. Look upon the mistakes as education for the future, and your new year should be successful. In the words of Ben Franklin, "Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out."

Cover Your Scent

Starting a small teepee fire and feeding it with leaves can saturate your clothes and cover your scent with a nonalarming smell to deer.

You can spend a fortune on cover scents for deer hunting or you can cover your scent for free. Deer have an acute ability to detect any unfamiliar odor in their area, so it makes sense to cover your scents with natural, local smells. One of the best ways for hunting clothes is with the smoke from a small fire. You only have to build one the size of your hat to get the cover scent of smoke.

First, create a small teepee-style fire with twigs. Once the fire gets going, add leaves or pine straw to a degree thick enough to create smoke on the fire. Then, simply stand over the fire allowing the smoke to infuse your clothes. Fire is a naturally occurring event in the woods, so the smoke is a familiar, instinctual smell to the deer.

Another free cover scent is cow manure. Now, for this cover scent, you fortunately don’t have to put it on your clothes. Simply step into a pile or two on your way across the pasture to your hunting location. The smell of cow manure is familiar to deer and, therefore, perceived as nonthreatening.

Purposefully stepping into a pile of cow manure can cover your scent on a deer hunt.

You might, however, want to remove your boots before sitting down to the supper table that night to keep yourself from becoming threatened.

On a final note, wearing rubber boots helps eliminate odors as well. The leather in boots can trap scent molecules that can be carried around with you in the woods; rubber boots remain relatively scent free.

Steady the Shot

Joel Grubbs, coach of the Carroll County, Georgia, 4-H Rifle Team, gives us a tip this month on taking a steady shot. He says most people have always heard to hold your breath to take a shot. This presents a problem because your heart rate will gradually go up when you hold your breath, and this can make the shot unsteady. Instead, try to control your breathing on the exhale and be slowly squeezing the trigger as you reach the end of your exhale.

"Shooting at game is much different than shooting at a paper target," Grubbs said. "However, breathing control can add to the accuracy of your shot, even if you are experiencing a little deer fever."

Timed Trimmings

We have all heard that high-pitched scraping and squeaking sound briars make as the truck drives down overgrown access roads and firebreaks. December is an ideal time to trim back this growth from the roadsides and fence lines because much of the summer growth of broadleaves, briars and grasses has stopped. A gas-powered hedge trimmer makes quick work of cleaning fence lines and the sides of access roads.

Be cautious when cutting around fences, however. If you cut into a hanging strand of barbed wire, you can seriously dull or ruin your trimmer. Take your time and look carefully as you trim along the fences.

This December, as you reflect on the past year, don’t dwell on the mistakes made. Instead, look at the mistakes as learning points and adapt to avoid them for the coming new year.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.




Some Thoughts About Christmas

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I have been a regulatory veterinarian for over 20 years, more than a third of my life. I tend to look at the world through a regulatory set of glasses. I am not a person who never met a regulation he didn’t like. I am also not someone who thinks we are always needing more regulations. I am, however, a regulatory person, and I tend to have a perspective on life driven by regulations. I am also a Christian and, hopefully, I look at the world through that set of glasses, at least most of the time. So, when you put those two heavy influences in my life together, it sometimes makes for some interesting musings. A good example is my thoughts about Christmas.

I once wrote a small article in a publication for accredited veterinarians in Alabama considering the regulations that could have possibly been involved in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," especially if all the animals were from out of state and required health papers to travel into Alabama. It seems regulatory issues could have reduced the 12 days to five days – lords leaping, ladies dancing, golden rings, pipers piping and drummers drumming. Of course, there is a concern about the drums. There were once a few cases of anthrax associated with bongo drums made of skins from animals where anthrax is common, but drums are not on my list to regulate.

Anyway, sometimes when I think of the first Christmas and Jesus being born in a manger in Bethlehem, I start speculating on how modern regulations could have played a role. Maybe they had these regulations in place then and Luke chose not to waste parchment writing about that aspect of the first Noel. Either way, I am sure God’s plan to bring the Christ child into the world would not have been hindered by a few government regulations.

So, think back with me if you will to the first Christmas and consider some of these questions. The Bible states that Mary and Joseph went from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. I wonder if a health certificate could have been required for the donkey Mary rode the roughly 96 miles between the two towns. I wonder if they would have had to have a negative Coggins test to be able to go along with the health certificate? I am wondering, with the road between the two towns passing near the Mediterranean Sea, should the donkey have been vaccinated for encephalitis because it is a mosquito-borne disease?

Another question I have has to do with public health. Was it not an issue with the Bethlehem Health Department that the Bethlehem Inn put Mary and Joseph in with the animals for lodging? Consider this: There is no way, today, a hotel with no vacancies could book the barn out back as an extra room. And, for sure, you could not put a pregnant woman into such accommodations. Certainly, there would have been the possibility of exposure to E. coli and salmonella. You are required, today, to have hand-washing stations in petting zoos. I wonder what they did before hand sanitizer was invented?

And, drawing from my 50-plus years of attending nativity scenes and Christmas programs, I am fairly sure sheep were present in the stable where Christ was born.

I wonder if there was a chance any of these sheep had scrapie? Although scrapie, the prion disease affecting sheep, was first documented in the 1700s, there is common speculation the disease has been around since Biblical times.

Was there any consideration of brucellosis if a cow had recently calved in the stable? Had there been any foot and mouth disease detected in the area?

I seriously doubt any of that crossed the minds of the expectant parents. I suppose they were focused on the fact that God’s own Son was about to be born in those humble surroundings.

As I take off my regulatory glasses and look at the birth of Christ from a Christian perspective, I realize, on that first Christmas day, everything was perfect. There were no worries about animal disease or where the hand sanitizer stations were located. After all, it was the Great Physician of all time being born there. When God, in His infinite wisdom, decided it was time for His Son to be born into the world to provide salvation for all mankind; everything was perfect.

There is one other aspect of the first Christmas I want to mention, especially considering most of you reading this article are somehow involved in agriculture. I cannot take credit for noticing this because I have heard other great thinkers bring out this point: The first announcement of the birth of Christ went to the shepherds – farmers, if you will. A person could only speculate as to why the angels made the birth announcement to a group of farmers, especially when there were so many people in Bethlehem at the time that there was no room in the inns.

I think it was because farmers usually know they depend on God for rain to grow their crops and grass, and for dry weather to harvest their crops. I suspect, last summer when we went through a significant drought, there were not many of us in the agriculture community who did not ask God to send us some rain. I figure that even though the shepherds were startled by the angels, when they heard what the announcement was, they didn’t have a difficult time believing Jesus had been born in Bethlehem. After all, Isaiah had predicted that a few hundred years earlier.

So, as we approach the Christmas season this year, I hope you will take time to reflect on the fact that the first Christmas marked a day that changed the course of human history. We still acknowledge that first Christmas today every time we write the year of "2017." When we write it, we acknowledge Christ was born 2017 years ago. I hope, as we celebrate Christmas 2017, your life is better because of what happened all those years ago.

From all of us at the office of the State Veterinarian, "Merry Christmas!"

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




Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: Elmer, you better git up and get back to diggin' that ditch! The boss just got finished tellin' us that time is money.

How can time be worth money?

"Time is money" means time is a valuable resource (because our time in this world is finite), so it’s better to do things as quickly as possible.

While this familiar maxim may seem like an invention of our hectic and impersonal modern society, it actually comes to us from the ancient Greeks. Antiphon, an orator who wrote speeches for defendants in court cases, recorded the earliest known version of the saying in "Maxim" (c. 430 B.C.) as "The most costly outlay is time."

Centuries later, the notion of time’s value appeared in English as "Tyme is precious," included in Sir Thomas Wilson’s "A Discourse Upon Vsurye" and John Fletcher’s "The Chances."

A century after Fletcher, Benjamin Franklin rendered the exact wording of the current version in "Advice to a Young Tradesman," and the saying afterward came into wide use.

phrases.org




STIMU-LYX Sheep 15 Supplement

by John Sims

Good forage is the basic component of a great sheep program. How do you get the most out of your sheep forage program? That’s easy, STIMU-LYX Sheep 15 supplement tubs. Sheep 15 is an all-natural, high-energy, free-choice supplement specifically formulated for sheep and lambs. This low-moisture supplement tub delivers protein, energy, vitamins and minerals, while also increasing the digestibility of the forage.

It has been a great year for growing forage, especially after the dry conditions we experienced last year. The drawback of a wet growing season is forage quality. While we did produce more hay, forage quality and digestibility suffered. Hay was not cut when it should have been because of impending rain or the cut hay was rained on and it took longer to cure; either situation results in hay with lower protein and low-energy levels.

Sheep 15 helps the sheep get more protein and energy from the hay by improving the pH level in the rumen, increasing microbial activity and improves forage digestibility.

The supplement must be licked to be consumed. This creates a large volume of saliva, a natural buffer for the rumen. This keeps the pH at an optimum level.

Benefits of STIMU-LYX Sheep 15 supplement tubs:

  • Better forage digestibility
  • Higher energy levels
  • Mineral/vitamin supplementation
  • Improved body condition
  • Increased milk production
  • Enhanced reproductive performance in ewes
  • Improved growth rate of lambs

Sheep 15 comes in a 125-pound, nonreturnable plastic tub. The hardness of the product ensures the sheep do not overconsume the supplement . Keep out one tub for every 25-30 head of sheep. Do not place near their water and/or hay sources. These supplements should be fed year-round for the best performance.

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




Surprise Strike

Three Keys to Unlocking Big Buck Success

by Todd Amenrud

Even if you can’t find a good tree for your treestand, there are tripod and quad pod options that can be easily combined with a pop-up blind like the one in the background.

Whether you pursue whitetails with a gun or a bow, hunting from a treestand yields the highest success rate of any technique by a large margin. Still hunting and drives are both exciting and challenging techniques, but a well-planned ambush will put notches in your bow, venison in your freezer and antlers on the wall.

Let’s be clear. You can’t just nail a bunch of neon-yellow two-by-fours in the crotch of a tree and expect great results. Ambush location selection, site preparation, quality equipment and choosing an appropriate time to hunt the site all have a huge sway over how victorious you will be. Following are a few rules to live by when it comes to hunting from an elevated platform.

Choose Wisely Grasshopper

Much of choosing the proper stand site has to do with structure. In the same way an angler finds the spot on the spot, the lay of the land and topography differences that confine or guide movement are keys to stand placement. In fact, I submit that structure is much more significant when hunting whitetails than when fishing. As with most animals, whitetails travel from place to place using cover and terrain to their advantage. Learning to recognize the transition areas, access points and travel corridors is crucial to choosing the spot.

One of the first orders when approaching a new area is to obtain an aerial photo, satellite image or topographical map. The first spots to focus on are the funnels. I don’t care if you’re hunting big timber, agricultural land or rural lots – there are funnels in your hunting area. With agricultural land and more populated areas, funnels are easier located because of the sections and manmade dividers, but there are bottlenecks everywhere. Wherever you can limit their movement to a smaller zone, there will be more traffic. If you can confine their movement to a smaller area, it’s easier to position yourself to beat their astonishing sense of smell.

It’s actually best if you can use both, a satellite image and a topo-map. An aerial photo or satellite image won’t show the terrain breaks, so it’s difficult to tell whether it’s flat ground or a steep incline. Whitetails always want to take the path of least resistance or the safest from predators.

When looking over an area, I like to imagine it without any trees, brush or blow-downs. Look for the points, topography breaks, steeper angles, edges or turns that will force or encourage the animal to go one way over another. If you try and foretell their travel patterns first and you add the physical obstructions back to the picture, it can sometimes seem obvious where they will pass through.

Make sure you plan to hunt the site when there is the best chance for the buck to also be there. Many hunters lick their finger, stick it in the air and set up downwind in an area with great sign. You must question, however, if the buck you’re after ever want to spend time there with the wind blowing that particular direction. All the deer signs you’ve set up on may have been made under totally different conditions. This is why I like to map wind directions and correlate them with my trail camera photos.

Keep records! There is a certain set of circumstances when whitetails will feel most comfortable spending time in a given area. That’s when I also want to be there.

Extraordinary Anxiety

"I have the day off of work! I’m heading to the treestand!" So many hunters never even consider the wind direction, whether the thermal is in their favor, if they can approach their ambush location without being detected, and a dozen other details that will ultimately factor into their success. They hunt because they have the opportunity to hunt. This is the detail that kills the chances for average hunters. The problem being, their target buck (or other deer for that matter) will often be aware of them before they ever see the animal.

It’s best to only hunt when the conditions are in your favor, or at least wait until the majority of the details back your success. Hardly ever will all stars align in your favor, but you must at least make sure the air current (wind and thermal) is supporting your ambush location and approach.

I know how you feel; we only get so many days to hunt each season so we want to make the most of each opportunity. However, by making mistakes and hunting when the list of details favors the animals, we teach our quarry how to avoid us. If the conditions aren’t right, use that time to practice shooting, set up another ambush, scout a new location, deal with camera traps, prepare other equipment, glass a food plot or ag field, search for new properties to hunt or many other tasks that are also part of the hunt. This way prime ambush locations aren’t wasted just because, and the likelihood of harvesting the buck you’re after still exists.

Getting There is Half the Battle

While most hunters use scent to attract whitetails to within range, certain smells have a great calming effect and can quiet the nerves of a wary buck. They can be used to boost confidence on an approach trail or simply placed on a wick, as you can see in this photo, to waft odors downwind. (Credit:Wildlife Research Center)

Oftentimes your scheme is blown before you ever reach the stand site. Getting there undetected is just as important as hunting during the right conditions. There are numerous deceptions we can use to help us make it to our stands undetected – from preparing silent-approach trails or planting screen cover such as BioLogic’s Blind Spot to mixing up our access routes or having a buddy drive you to and pick you up from the site, we just don’t want the animals to know they’re being hunted. I’m a big fan of planting screen cover and using the buddy system of drop-off and pick-up.

We should also be concerned with scent transfer on our approach trail. If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you know I am a Wildlife Research Center disciple and a devoted user of the Scent Killer System. Keeping foreign odors to a minimum is critical no matter when you pursue whitetails.

Lots of hunters use scent for attraction purposes, but fewer know that scent can also have a calming influence on deer. Creating a signpost near your stand or using something such as Golden Buck or Golden Doe dragged on your approach trail can often calm the nerves of a wary whitetail. Just like a dog needs to pee on a tire or a certain tree, deer and other animals all do this. They’re just saying, "Hey, I live here, too." I use signposts mostly as a stopper in spots where I know I can shoot, but they also have a reassuring effect on animals.

Along the same line, dragging a trail into your area can also have this same encouraging effect. I like the two lures mentioned before for this. Golden Doe is a nonthreatening smell with curiosity appeal where Golden Buck is more of a territorial marker- and challenge-type scent. So it depends upon your timing and the deception you’re trying to deploy as to which will work best.

Regardless of the time of the season and no matter where you roam, an ambush from aloft affords advantages you wouldn’t normally have. You can get off the ground so your scent isn’t concentrated at a deer’s nose level. You can typically see further and your movement is concealed somewhat because you’re out of their normal line of sight.

Yet, let me say in closing that a well-placed ground blind can work every bit as competently as a tree-stand, and the mentioned ideas pertain to whenever you’re planning a whitetail ambush site – in a tree or on the ground. Choose your spot wisely, hunt when the conditions are in your favor and the whitetails also want to be there, and approach (and regress) undetected. I promise you positive results.

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.




The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein

It’s almost Christmas! I am so not ready. No gifts bought or wrapped. No tree, literally – no tree!!! We moved a short while back and our old, ratty, Christmas tree was chunked. It needed to be, but, oh, the memories attached to that chunk of plastic. My husband, Steve, and I had that tree through most of our marriage, both good times and bad.

So, I have to find a new tree and I have decided to do something new for the Christmas Co-op Pantry. We are just going to pick some fun food to add to what you are going to cook anyway. In the past, I have done the column and guests have done the column. We are going to spice things up a bit this year!!! –Mary

I am going to take over the January Pantry to help start the year with some healthy recipes or healthier versions of recipes we already prepare. – Jena

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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

BROWNIES

10 Tablespoons (1¼ stick) unsalted butter
1¼ cups sugar
¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons
unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cups coarsely chopped pecan pieces, optional

Heat oven to 325°. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper so parchment hangs over sides (this way you can lift the brownies right out). Spray parchment. In a double boiler or medium metal bowl fit on top of a pot of simmering water, combine butter, sugar, cocoa and salt. Stir, watching butter; if it’s not melting quickly enough, turn up heat. Keep stirring until butter is melted and you have a paste. When paste is so hot you can’t touch it, remove top of double boiler or bowl from simmering water. Allow to cool a bit. Stir in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. Add flour. Stir until it disappears. Beat vigorously for 40 strokes with spoon. Gently stir in nuts. Spread evenly in lined pan. Bake until cake tester comes out mostly clean, 20-25 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Lift up parchment onto a cutting board. Cut brownies to desired size.

BEER AND CHEESE SOUP

¾ cup minced carrots
¾ cup minced onion
¾ cup minced celery
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 stick (½ cup) butter
¼ cup corn starch
3 cups chicken broth, heated
12 ounces lager beer
1 cup heavy cream
16 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated or cut into small cubes
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated or cut into small cubes
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce, optional
White pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
Other seasonings of choice

In a large pot, sauté all vegetables (except garlic) in butter. In a small bowl, mix corn starch with broth until dissolved. Add along with garlic and beer to vegetables. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes. In a separate saucepan on medium-low (very important), heat cream. Gradually add cheese to cream, stirring constantly. Add cheese mixture gradually to stock. Add mustard, Worcestershire, hot sauce, pepper, salt and other seasonings. Stir.

Serve with hard bread. (An option is to cut French baguette into slices about ½-inch thick. Place a small amount of butter on each slice. Sprinkle with onion powder. Toast.)

ASPARAGUS CASSEROLE

1 sleeve crushed Ritz or other buttery crackers (enough to cover bottom of casserole dish)
2 cans asparagus, drained
1 (15-ounce) can very small English peas, drained
1 can mushrooms, drained
1 stick butter
1 cup whole milk
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimento, drained
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

In bottom of 9x13 casserole dish, lace crackers. Layer asparagus, peas and mushrooms on top of crackers. In saucepan, melt butter. Add milk, soup and pimento. Mix. Pour over top of casserole. Cover with cheese. Bake at 350° about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

WHISKY TRUFFLES

Makes: about 36

¼ cup whiskey
4 Tablespoons sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
2 cups powdered chocolate drink, divided
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, combine whiskey and sugar. Bring to a boil. Cook until sugar completely dissolves and whiskey is reduced by a third. Add heavy cream. Return to a boil. Immediately remove pan from heat and add 1½ cups chocolate. Stir until chocolate melts and blends with whiskey/cream mixture. Add butter, Continue to stir until blended.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover. Bring to room temperature, about an hour. Chill in refrigerator for at least 5 hours or until ready to use.

Rolling Truffles

On a plate, place remaining chocolate. Set aside. On a plate, combine confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. Roll approximately a teaspoon of chocolate mixture into a round ball. Roll ball in chocolate or sugar/cinnamon until completely covered. Repeat with rest of chocolate mixture.

MEATBALLS

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1½ teaspoons salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground beef
½ pound lean ground pork
½ cup finely chopped bell pepper
2 large eggs
¾ cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1½ Tablespoons dried parsley
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
¼ cup milk
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

In a large pan, add olive oil. Place over medium-high heat. Add onions, season with about ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds.

In a large bowl, add beef, pork, bell pepper, eggs, cheese, herbs and breadcrumbs. Using your hands, combine ingredients. Add onion/garlic mixture. Season with another teaspoon or so of salt. Using your hands, mix again. Add milk and Worcestershire sauce. Mix once more.

Shape meatballs to desired size. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 425°. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Distribute meatballs evenly on baking sheet. Bake, turning after 10 minutes. Meatballs should be browned and cooked through in 15-20 minutes.

Skewer with toothpick. Serve as appetizers, hors d'oeuvres or snacks.

CINNAMON DOUGH ORNAMENTS

¾ cup applesauce
2 (2.37-ounce) bottles ground cinnamon
2- to 3-inch cookie cutters
Drinking straw or skewer
Colorful ribbon

Heat oven to 200°. In a small bowl, mix applesauce and cinnamon until a smooth ball of dough is formed. (You may need to use your hands to get everything mixed well.) Using about ¼ of dough at a time, place it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Roll into ¼-inch to 1/3-inch thickness. Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. Cut dough into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Make a hole at top of ornament with drinking straw or skewer. Place ornaments on baking sheet.

Bake 2½ hours. Cool ornaments on wire rack. Let rest 1-2 days or until thoroughly dry, turning occasionally. Insert ribbon through holes and tie to hang. Decorate with opaque paint markers found in arts and crafts stores, if desired.

Note from Mary: These ARE NOT for consumption by humans or fur babies.

EGGNOG

4 eggs, room temperature (important), separated
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a large bowl beat egg yolks with electric mixer until they lighten in color. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until completely dissolved (not gritty). Add milk, cream, bourbon and nutmeg and stir with spoon to combine.

Place egg whites in separate bowl and, after cleaning and drying or replacing blades, beat with electric mixer until soft peaks form. With mixer still running gradually add 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form (meringue).

Whisk the meringue into the mixture. Chill and serve.

SUGAR COOKIES

Makes: about 5 dozen

1½ cups butter, room temperature
2 cups white or raw sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour (or overnight).

Heat oven to 400°. On floured surface, roll out dough to¼- to ½-inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. On ungreased cookie sheets, place cookies 1 inch apart. Bake 6-8 minutes. Cool completely.

ANGEL BISCUITS

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
2 cups whole buttermilk
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 cup butter at room temperature

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. Add buttermilk to yeast mixture, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in yeast mixture until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead 4 or 5 times.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a 2 1/2 inch round cutter. Place on lightly greased baking sheets, barely touching each other. Cover, and let rise in a warm place free from drafts for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until browned.

APPLE PIE

1 homemade pie crust or prepared from the grocery store. Enough for pie pan lining and upper crust.
7 granny smith or other tart apples
Juice of half a lemon
½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, chopped
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch (enough to thicken syrup mixture)
1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

Press one of the prepared pie crusts evenly into a greased deep dish pie plate. (Place pie crusts back into the fridge until ready to use.)

Peel and slice apples into equal size slices (about ¼ inches thick) . Toss apples with the juice of lemon and set aside.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add in brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Simmer for about 1-2 minutes until mixture is combined (add a bit of water if needed). Turn off heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Add apples into pot and toss to combine. As the apples heat they will release their juices making the liquid become syrupy. Vigorously stir in cornstarch until mixture becomes thickened and syrupy. You may want to put cornstarch in a sieve and sprinkle a small amount at a time between stirrings to avoid clumping. Taste and add seasonings and/or sugars if needed. Let apples sit for about 20-30 minutes, syrup will thicken up a bit more. With a slotted spoon, add apples into prepared, chilled pie plate. Pour on about 1/2 cup leftover syrup mixture.

Roll out the top crust and place on top of apples. Seal the edges of pie crust. Brush top crust with egg white to create a golden color when baked. Brush with a bit of the leftover syrup mixture then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar.

Place pie on baking sheet and bake for 60-65 minutes or until crust is golden (if crust begins to brown too much, cover with foil).

Let pie sit for about 15 minutes before cutting. Serve alone or with vanilla ice-cream.


December Healthy Recipe

BAKED CRANBERRY PEARS

4 pears
½ cup fresh cranberries
2 Tablespoons honey
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3-½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Cinnamon, to taste

Heat oven to 375°. Cut pears in half and scoop core out with a spoon, leaving a little bowl for cranberries. On a baking sheet, arrange pears bowl side up. (You can slice a little of bottom off so they sit flat.) Fill bowl of each pear with cranberries. Drizzle honey over cranberries to fill bowl. In a small bowl, mix butter and nuts. Sprinkle over tops of pears. Finish with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Bake pears for 20-25 minutes, until pears and cranberries are soft and nuts are crispy.

Note: This is a totally vegetarian dish that gives a bright, festive look to any Christmas meal! The cranberries with the pear and honey give it a sweet and tart flavor at the same time.




Way to go, Abbeigh!

Washington County’s Abbeigh Jo Gibson brings home Grand Champion Market Meat Goat prize at Alabama National Fair.


Abbeigh Jo Gibson, Washington County, exhibited the Grand Champion Market Meat Goat at Alabama National Fair. The contest held Oct. 28 was sponsored by Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. Abbeigh purchased her goat feed from Farmers Cooperative Market in Leroy. Jeff Hughston, manager of the Co-op in Leroy, was proud of Abbeigh’s win. It also qualified her for AFC’s Animal Scholarship of $500.




“Oh, A-Hunting We Will Go”

Nourish kids not only with food from the great outdoors but also with love and appreciation for the bounty of nature.

by Christy Kirk

Checking traps is one of Rolley Len and Cason’s favorite things to do outside. They both like catching fish and turtles in the pond, but, when it comes to checking pens for wild boars at the hunting camp, Rolley Len is more interested than Cason in what has been trapped. For a 7-year-old, checking hog traps is a pretty big commitment. It’s an ongoing responsibility as they must be checked often. I also think he likes checking the pond traps better because he prefers tender, flaky fish over the sometimes-tougher wild pork.

Hunting takes diligence and commitment, no matter what game you are trying to bring home. Getting your children to invest in your own personal commitment to put food on the table can take some time. Friends and family can provide the training. But for children to have a lifelong love of hunting and fishing, they have to feel it deep inside them, as well. Besides taking Rolley Len and Cason into the woods, to the lake and anywhere else our next meal could be found is to share the hunting experience through books, movies and videos.

Before they learned to read, we watched "The Fox and the Hound" over and over. They watched live hunting videos with their father, Jason, almost nightly. They also sat in his lap and flipped through magazines with photos of wild boar and large game hunts. Not only did they learn about hunting, they got to spend quality time with their daddy. As they have gotten older, the movies and books have changed, but they still love some of the ones they watched or listened to when they were small.

Experiencing the outdoors through books can take them to places they may not be able to go to until the next hunting season. These books feed their love for hunting and fishing, and spending time with family and friends. I know sharing movies and stories with Rolley Len and Cason over time has helped them become invested in our commitment to bring home our next meal from the great outdoors.

If you have some special young people, or even adults, in your life that you want to share your love for hunting with, here is a list of some top hunting books for all ages. What better gift could there be for Christmas than a book that brings your family together?

"Oh, A-Hunting We Will Go" by John Landstaff (ages 4-9)

"Deer Hunting with Daddy" by Jenna Johnston (ages 4-9)

"Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls (age 9 and up, but Cason is 7 and loves the movie version)

For teens and adults:

"The Fox and the Hound." The 1996 novel by Daniel P. Mannix is over 200 pages and absolutely for mature readers. It tells the story from the animals’ perspectives and is very true to real life in the wild, as well as human nature. For the children, there are shorter, child-friendly versions of the story as well as the Disney movie based on the novel.

"The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer for Food" by Jackson Landers

"Green Hills of Africa" by Ernest Hemingway

"How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life" by Larry Benoit

CROCKPOT WILD HOG BACKSTRAP

Onion, sliced in thin circles
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1-2 pounds large pork backstrap, cubed into bite-size chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (10 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
¾ cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup sour cream

In a large crockpot, place onion slices. Add mushrooms. Add pork. Generously sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, spoon soup. Add chicken broth. Stir until smooth. Add Worcestershire sauce. Stir. Pour soup mixture into crockpot and cover.

Cook on high. After about 2 hours, turn it down to low. Cook for 2 more hours. (Adjust cooking times depending on crockpot and how much time you have before you want to eat.) It is ready when onions and mushrooms are tender, meat is fully cooked and tender, and soup is very saucy.

Turn off crockpot. Add sour cream. Stir until combined.

Note: This is really good served over mashed potatoes.

PULLED PORK

Wild hog pulled pork

Spray cooking oil
4 pound wild boar roast, halved to fit in crockpot
1¾ cups ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar, or to taste
¼-½ cup beef broth
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons celery salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 shakes hot sauce, or to taste

Spray a large crock pot with vegetable oil. Add roast. In a bowl, whisk remaining ingredients together. Pour over roast. Cover. Cook on low until meat shreds easily with a fork, about 7 hours; 8-10 hours on high if frozen. If meat is dry, add more beef broth.

Shred and serve on buns or corncakes.

SPICY ROOT BEER PORK ROAST

3 pound wild boar roast, trimmed of fat, rinsed and patted dry
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 large red onion, sliced
2 cups root beer, canned or bottled
3 Tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Season roast with salt and pepper. In crockpot, place roast. Add all other ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Remove meat from crockpot. Shred with a fork. Top with Spicy Root Beer Barbecue Sauce (recipe included).

SPICY ROOT BEER BBQ SAUCE

3 cups root beer (not diet)
1 cup bottled chili sauce
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic paste
¼ teaspoon root beer concentrate (in the spice aisle)

In medium saucepan, combine root beer, chili sauce, cayenne and garlic paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Add root beer concentrate and stir. Cook uncovered at a low boil for 20-30 minutes, stirring often. Sauce should reduce by almost 2 cups. Remove from heat. Serve on top of pulled pork.

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




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