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February 2010

Ag Economist Sees More Global Interdependency

Dr. Terry Barr Predicts Slow Recovery with Sector Volatility

By Jim Erickson

The good news is that evidence is pointing to a turn-around in the economy. The troubling aspects are: the recovery won’t be quick, and volatile conditions will prevail in many sectors, including agriculture. In addition, the emerging economy will likely bring with it a host of other changes.

That’s the way Dr. Terry Barr, an agricultural economist, views the road ahead.

In a recent talk at a meeting of agribusiness leaders, Barr noted the world is on the brink of a major structural change in global markets for food, services and capital. And those markets will be shaped by shifting economic and regulatory policies, as well as by economic conditions in countries other than the United States.

The end result will be a transition to more sustainable growth, a trend that will rebalance global and economic interdependency, Barr said. Complicating and slowing that change are the condition of financial markets of advanced economies, where the current downturn began and the fact of a resource-challenged world still lies ahead.

The impact potential changes in numerous policies will have on the private sector’s decision-making is another factor in the complex economic equation. New policies being considered in this nation provide a case in point. Among the certain or probable areas of change are:

• Regulation of financial markets;

• Immigration;

• Energy, where climate change issues and a transition from fossil fuels could have a major impact;

• Health care;

• Governmental oversight affecting clean air, and water and food safety; and

• Deficit reduction, a battleground that will affect tax policies and various entitlement programs including Social Security, and farm and food programs.

With virtually every aspect of the economy touched by possible policy shifts in these areas, risk management and long-term investment strategies are bound to be affected as well, Barr predicts.

U.S. consumers took on a huge amount of debt before the recession and now are cutting back. As a result, consumer spending – a major part of the domestic economy – no longer can support all the business expansion taking place before the bubble burst. And while job losses recently have slowed, the consumer remains uneasy about high unemployment, which likely will peak at 10.5–11 percent this year, Barr said.

Not surprisingly, the level at which the nation’s industrial capacity is being used now is low and likely will not recover quickly. Money is available for expansion, but virtually all borrowers – businesses (including farmers) and consumers — are unwilling to take on debt at levels they were comfortable with earlier. Another reason is, while interest rates are comparatively low, lending qualifications and loan covenants are tougher.

Until businesses become more optimistic and start to invest more, unemployment will remain stubbornly high.

Barr is senior director in charge of economic research at CoBank, an agribusiness lender that is part of the federal Farm Credit System. He earlier worked with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, an agricultural trade association of which Alabama Farmers Cooperative is a member, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

During his talk, Barr made a number of other observations and predictions including:

• The Chinese economy has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years, primarily due to increases in its exports. In the emerging economy, China will need to rely more on its own consumers for economic growth due to cutbacks in consumer and business spending in the U.S. and other markets.

• The level of global economic recovery will set the pace of any rebound in oil prices. Situations in important oil-producing areas like the Middle East, Nigeria and Venezuela will keep uncertainties in the market.

• Potentially larger supplies of natural gas mean prices of that commodity are likely to hold steady.

• Falling home prices and a slumping stock market have been key factors in the decline of consumers’ net worth during the current recession. Home prices recently have started to show some slow improvement but remain 29 percent below their peak in 2006.

• The Federal Reserve will continue to promote growth well into 2010. Any significant increase in inflation and interest rates isn’t likely until the jobs situation shows strong improvement, a situation not expected until 2012.

The outlook for agriculture: a mixed bag, much volatility

U.S. agriculture will not be exempt from all the uncertainties and difficulties the emerging global economy will bring, and each commodity will face differing circumstances and challenges.

During a recent presentation before an audience of agribusiness leaders, Barr took a detailed look at what’s ahead for the food and fiber sector.

A key question in this mix is whether gains in technology will outpace the recovery in overall demand for agricultural products.

The prediction that China and India will account for 70 percent of the growth in the middle class between now and 2030 could be good news for American agricultural exports because higher incomes invariably are accompanied by a demand and ability to pay for a better diet. But any growth in exports won’t be a straight-line path and considerable volatility will prevail, Barr believes.

Here’s a summary of what he expects in various sectors of the ag economy:

• Grain – World supplies are rebounding as demand weakens and crop conditions improve. Wheat leads the way because it can be grown in so many places, although declining U.S. acreage has slowed the buildup of supplies here. Demand for corn for ethanol production continues to support grain markets in general. Production increases in South America will affect the market tone this year and perhaps longer. With expected production increases in 2010, U.S. soybean stocks also could increase quickly.

• Cotton – Sharp increases in yields since 2003 have boosted non-U.S. production by more than 25 percent, a factor limiting the market for domestic output. Current U.S. production is at its lowest level in 20 years and harvested acreage is at a 25-year low point.

• Livestock, dairy and poultry – The meat industry will be cautious about expanding this year. The hog sector has been under pressure for more than two years and poultry now is struggling to hold onto a positive turn in late 2008 and early 2009. Although milk-feed ratios have made a small recent turn-around, dairy producers will continue to be affected by market volatility. Meat and dairy will need to increase exports in order to grow. Exports now account for 14 percent of all U.S. meat production, ranging from a high of 20 percent of pork output to seven percent of beef.

• Inputs – Prices of feed, nitrogen, potash and phosphate are set globally and likely will remain highly volatile.

Overall, while farm net cash income fell in 2009, the farm debt-to-asset ratio remains at a manageable level and the ag sector’s balance sheet was solid entering 2010.




Alabama Wine Trail: Passport to a Growing Industry

By Mary-Glenn Smith

For years, sweet tea has been known as the "drink of the South." On a hot summer day there seems to be nothing better than a cool, refreshing glass of sweet tea. In a restaurant in the South, it’s extremely rare to hear someone order "iced tea;" around here the tea is always "sweet." It seems people always associate Alabama with sweet tea, but that may not be the case much longer. No doubt, sweet tea will always be a staple drink for Southerners, but with wineries popping up all over Alabama, the infamous beverage may find itself sharing the limelight with another…wine.

There are ten locally owned and operated wineries in Alabama. They are found as far north as Albertville and as far south as Perdido. The wineries are: Jules J. Berta Vineyards in Albertville, Wills Creek Vineyards in Attalla, Morgan Creek Vineyards in Harpersville, Bryant Vineyards in Talladega, White Oak Vineyards in Anniston, Ozan Vineyards in Calera, Vizzini Farms Winery in Calera, The Fruithurst Winery Co. in Fruithurst, Whippoorwill Vineyards in Notasulga and Perdido Vineyards in Perdido. These wineries are businesses that make up the Alabama Wineries Association. The Association was formed in 2007 to help promote the state’s locally-crafted wines.

The Alabama Wine Trail is another way of promoting Alabama’s wines that are rapidly growing in popularity throughout the country. The Alabama Wine Trail is sponsored by the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. All of the wineries in the state encourage visitors to stop, take a look at their farm and sample the different wines produced there. The Alabama Wine Trail is a perfect way for wine enthusiasts or just anyone interested in learning more about locally-produced wine to visit all of Alabama’s unique wineries.

When one embarks on the journey of the Alabama Wine Trail they will pick up a "passport" at the first winery they visit. After a tour of the winery and a sampling of wine the visitor will receive a stamp on the passport. They will continue to pick up stamps as they visit each participating winery on the trail until their passport card is filled. At the end of the trail, when they have received all the stamps, the visitor of the trail will receive a free commemorative Alabama Wine Trail glass.

Most of the wineries on the Alabama Wine Trail are open Monday through Saturday during regular business hours for guided tours and wine tastings, but others are just open on the weekends and by special appointment. It is always best to call ahead before venturing to any of the ten wineries.

Wine was once just a drink offered at many social gatherings. Today wine is being regarded as somewhat of a health drink. Studies have shown, when consumed in moderation, it can actually be beneficial to your health. This is due to the high levels of antioxidants found in grape wines, mostly muscadine wines. These antioxidants have been proven to help prevent blood clots and aid in defense of heart disease by keeping plaque from forming in the arteries. The muscadines grown in Alabama have actually been found to have five times more antioxidants than any other grapes.

Alabama has several different trails, one for civil rights, one for historic churches, one for birds and there’s even a shopping trail. The Alabama Wine Trail is one of the newest trails in the state, and is believed to be one of the best by many people who have visited the trail. The Alabama Wine Trail is a great journey for anyone looking to truly get a taste of Alabama and support local farmers while doing so.

For more information on the Alabama Wine Trail visit www.alabamawinetrail.org or contact the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association at www.northalabama.org. Most of the individual wineries have their own websites with information about their wines and hours of operations as well. All of the information for the ten wineries can be found on the Alabama Wine Trail website.

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.



AU Sand Mountain Bahiagrass Gives North Alabama Producers New Forage Option


By Dr. Don Ball and Dr. Jim Bostick

Bahiagrass occupies more acres of land in Alabama than any other forage species. However, someone who lives in North Alabama might find that statement hard to believe because most of the bahiagrass in Alabama is in the southern one-half or so of the state. This hardy grass, which is native to South America, can be grown on soils and sites ranging from drought-prone sands to fairly heavy clays and from upland sites to wet-natured bottom fields.

Bahiagrass can be used for either pasture or hay, but is most commonly used for pasture. Although a number of hybrid Bermuda-grasses have a higher yield potential, bahiagrass has a longer growing season than Bermudagrass and consequently provides more calendar days of grazing. Unlike hybrid Bermudagrasses, bahiagrass can be propagated by seed, and is quite tolerant of a wide range of fertility regimes. Once established in an area in which it is adapted, it will persist almost regardless of how it is managed.

Pasture acreage in North Alabama is dominated by cool-season forages, especially tall fescue. While cool-season forage species can provide a good supply of nutritious pasture forage in spring and autumn, production in summer is poor. Warm-season pasture forage options in North Alabama and areas with similar climate are limited, but another option is now available in the form of the variety ‘AU Sand Mountain’ bahiagrass developed and released by Auburn University.

This variety originated from a patch of Pensacola bahiagrass planted in the early 1960s on what is now the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center near Crossville. Over time, nature selected the hardiest plants and, in 1984, Dr. Edzard van Santen, a plant breeder in the Department of Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University, collected seed from this ecotype and began working with it. Since that time it has been included in numerous yield trials in Alabama and in several other states.

The variety has been proven to be more winter hardy than other bahiagrass varieties and will expand the area of adaptation of bahiagrass farther north. The exact northern limit is not known, but is likely at least as far north as Central Tennessee. In the upper portion of the area where bahiagrass has been commonly grown, AU Sand Mountain has consistently yielded better than other varieties. However, the farther south the new bahiagrass is grown, the less likely it is to outperform currently available varieties.

AU Sand Mountain Bahiagrass will provide another warm-season perennial grass option for livestock producers north of the area where bahiagrass has typically been grown. It may be particularly useful in areas where a warm season perennial grass is needed but sites and soils are too moist for good Bermudagrass production. (Note: in some areas bahiagrass may out-compete other perennial forages, so plantings should be limited to areas where there is no concern about this occurring).

In addition, this variety will provide a higher-yielding bahiagrass option for persons in the northern portion of the area in which this grass is presently commonly grown. Persons interested in obtaining more information about this new variety should contact Dr. Jim Bostick, Executive Vice President of the Alabama Crop Improvement Association, whose phone number is (334) 693-3988. To order or be placed on the waiting list for seed, please contact Grady Congo (256-308-1732) or Bill Reedy (256-308-1706) at Agri-AFC in Decatur.

Dr. Don Ball is an Extension Agronomist/Professor in the Department of Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University and Dr. Jim Bostick is Executive Vice President of Alabama Crop Improvement Association in Headland.



Auburn Adding New Poultry Feed Mill

By Alvin Benn

Auburn University professor Don Conner sits near drawings of a $7 million state-of-the-art feed mill and research facility.

Construction of State-of-the-Art Research Facility Will Begin
Later this Year

Alabama may be known around America as the "Land of Cotton," but poultry production isn’t taking a back seat to the fluffy white stuff.

Chickens are being produced by the billions each year in Alabama and, for that reason, Auburn University’s College of Agriculture is awaiting the start of construction for a state-of-the-art feed mill on campus.

It isn’t designed for commercial use, but the end result of testing at the site is expected to play an important role in producing the best feed possible for U.S. poultry producers.

"This facility will be a flagship academic/industry feed mill for the Southeast," said Don Conner, who directs Auburn’s Department of Poultry Science and is the guiding force behind the new mill.

This is a similar facility to the one being built at Auburn University. It is the Animal Nutrition Center at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo. (Photo Courtesy of Dr. Andy Thulin, Cal Poly State University)

The $7 million, 12,000-square-foot building, which is expected to be under construction later this year and, by the time it is completed in about 18 months, is expected to be the most modern facility of its kind in the country.

Conner, a Virginia native who specializes in microbiology focusing on poultry science, has spent countless hours on the project and becomes animated when discussing its importance, not only to the industry but Alabama as well.

Auburn has one of only six poultry science departments in the country and, once the new facility is completed, will be one of only four major training facilities in the U.S.

"Our students will learn high-end animal food production," Conner said. "People might say ‘Oh, they’re just making chicken feed,’ but they don’t realize how highly-regulated and sophisticated this industry has become."

Those who conjure up images of farmers spreading chicken feed to roosters and hens around the barnyard would be surprised to learn just how much science has entered the picture in recent decades.

As the world’s population soars toward the eight billion mark and drought reduces food production, especially in underdeveloped countries, facilities like the one being built at Auburn University (AU) take on even more importance.

"It can be daunting to think about future demands on food production during the next 40 years," said Conner, during an interview at his office. "We’ll need to become as proficient as possible on food — just as much as we’re concentrating on energy needs today."

Conner points to poultry’s popularity around the world, especially in some countries where the production of beef and pork is frowned upon or forbidden because of religious prohibitions.

When he began working on the feed mill training facility, Conner thought raising funds might be a major hurdle to overcome. He soon got a pleasant surprise.

Millions of dollars began to pour in from a variety of companies specializing in poultry production, facilities or equipment involved in it.

Conner said the vital ingredient of the new feed mill isn’t the building itself. It’s the equipment inside and it represents a big chunk of the $7 million cost.

He said an AU fund-raiser couldn’t believe it at first when a lot of his work was taken care of by the same corporate officials he had planned to see about financial assistance.

"He said ‘This is crazy,’" Conner recalled. "He told me ‘We’ve got people coming to us to participate in this project.’"

Conner said at least 30 different companies are on the donor list for the feed mill facility — something he said will be "head and shoulders above any other of its kind in the country."

The new Auburn feed mill training site is being patterned after one at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. Conner said the California site is the best in the country "and we’ll be right up there with them when ours is completed."

Modern construction methods will be used at the AU facility. Conner said it will be based on a modular design with units being shipped to the university where they will be pieced together, much like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

"They had theirs assembled in only eight hours," Conner said. "When we get to that point, we’ll have a crane waiting for the pieces to arrive."

Two years ago, in early 2008, Conner met with Cal Poly’s poultry science department head in Atlanta during a conference and compared notes. At the conference, Conner invited representatives of major equipment manufacturers to a "light breakfast" and most of them showed up.

"We gave ’em a biscuit and a cup of coffee for a seven a.m. meeting about financial help on our project and the fact so many of them came was impressive in itself," said Conner, breaking into a big smile.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides millions of dollars each year on a variety of farm-related projects, but those seeking funds for brick and mortar ideas often get rejection notices.

"The USDA is hesitant when it comes to building projects and it’s hard to get those through for funding," Conner said. "We thought at first that we’d have money problems with our projects, but were very pleased with the response we got right off the bat."

Site preparation and other requirements will consume much of the 18-month-long construction calendar.

Once the feed mill is finished, AU’s 60 poultry science students will begin utilizing it as part of their curriculum. They will be delighted to move into their new digs because the one in use now was built more than 30 years ago and is clearly outdated, according to Conner.

"What we have now met our basic needs in making feed on campus, but it was a bad example of a teaching facility," he said. "It isn’t possible to provide high-end precision teaching."

Feed produced at the new facility will be used much as it is today — providing nutrition for research animals. AU’s poultry research farm is a vital part of Conner’s department.

Conner said few U.S. universities offer poultry science degree programs and believes the new feed mill will help increase Auburn’s student enrollment past the 60 mark.

"The fact is we don’t have as many young people growing up on farms as we once had," he said. "Getting them interested in poultry science isn’t easy. The reality of it is we are dealing today with students with non-farm backgrounds."

Conner noted the U.S. agricultural industry has been dealing primarily with corn and soy products for feed while, in Europe, there is an emphasis on wheat "and we don’t feed wheat to chickens."

The new facility at AU is designed to (1) increase process control to meet research needs well into the future, (2) expand AU’s teaching mission by providing students with hands-on training in feed manufacturing and science, (3) expand AU’s extension mission by way of industry short courses for the feed and poultry industries, (4) re-invent outreach and proprietary research programs and (5) provide food-diets for other AU animals.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Cloverbuds: The Youngest 4-Hers


Many Cloverbuds appreciate the fine art of mixing dirt and water to create mud. If you are going to be a gardener, mud is a great place to start.

By Amy Payne Burgess

A question I often hear is: "My kids are too young to be in a 4-H club. How can I get them involved in 4-H?" The answer is easy: "Start a Cloverbuds club!"

Cloverbuds are a special part of the Alabama 4-H youth development program. Cloverbuds provide a "have-fun-while-learning" way to build the confidence, social skills, decision-making abilities, knowledge and physical skills of five to eight year olds. Children can learn about art, science and all of the other subjects that are part of traditional 4-H. However, there is a unique blend of activities and opportunities specifically designed for their age level, without competition.

The primary goal of the Cloverbud program is to promote children’s healthy development - mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. It provides an excellent opportunity for children to reach their highest potential, since early-life experiences, even subtle ones, affect young people’s future development.

This Cloverbud is building a birdhouse as part of a day camp at the Anniston Museum of Natural History. The activity helps her develop creativity and organization, as well as practicing fine motor skills – and having fun.

Like all of Alabama 4-H, young people develop belonging, independence, generosity and mastery. Interestingly, the research shows children who are able to build those life skills are far less likely to have later problems with drug use, school failure, delinquency and depression later in life. They become healthier and happier adults!

Cloverbuds meet separately from any other 4-H group or club. They may meet in community centers, schools, libraries, childcare settings, churches or in the homes of interested parents or trained adults.

All 4-H programs are designed using university-based research on topics like leadership, environmental education and healthy lifestyles. That is also the basis for Cloverbud programs. Your county Alabama Cooperative Extension System staff can link you to activities and projects matching this age group and help you organize your club.

Many kindergarten and early elementary teachers make Cloverbuds an enriching part of their classrooms. Teachers trained in the Cloverbud curricula receive support and resources from their county Extension office. Some county Extension programs also build summer day-camps around Cloverbud activities. For example, it’s easy to create a day camp focusing just on the arts, the environment, plant and animal science – or a wider array of 4-H topics.

Many Alabama kindergarten teachers include Cloverbud learning as part of their classroom activities.

Cloverbud programs are guided by an adult volunteer, whether in a club-like setting, a school or a special-emphasis group. Adult and teen volunteers guiding the Cloverbud program receive educational instruction on how to work with this particular age group.

The Cloverbud Connection

The Alabama 4-H website (www.alabama4h.com) offers more than a dozen easy-to-do activity areas, from learning about world geography to studying the science of bubbles. Any parent whose child has asked "What causes bubbles?" should look at this as part of Parenting 101.

Our website also links to our Junior Master Gardener program, Just Move Alabama and other programs that can be adapted to younger kids.

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent in Northeast Alabama. She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">burgeap@auburn.edu.



Cooking With Whole Grains Promotes Good Health

By Angela Treadaway


While everyone knows that to promote good health you should eat more whole grains, we all tend to eat refined grains instead. Whole grains have more fiber, more health-promoting nutrients and can even help control your weight (by keeping you feeling full longer). But making the switch isn’t always easy. You have to get used to trying, buying and eating new foods. And many people think they don’t know how to cook whole grains.

The truth is there are some simple ways to add whole grains to your diet and most whole grains are simple to cook — you can even prepare them in a slow cooker. Here are tips for adding more whole grains into your diet and cooking them. Also, included is a simple whole-grain recipe.

Simple Ways to Eat More Whole Grains

Here are three quick and easy ways to get more whole grains and give the fiber and nutrients in your daily diet a big boost:

1. Use whole-wheat flour in recipes instead of white flour. This is one of the easiest ways to boost your intake of whole grains. It usually works well to substitute whole-wheat flour for half the white flour your recipe calls for. (In other words, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of white flour, use 1 cup of whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of unbleached white flour.) Often, you can use 2/3 whole wheat flour and 1/3 unbleached white flour in the recipe and it will still turn out wonderfully.

2. Use brown rice in place of white rice. You can turn all your favorite rice dishes (from salads and stuffing to stews and casseroles) into servings of whole grains. Choose long-grain brown rice when you want light, dry grains that separate easily. Choose short-grain brown rice when you want starchier rice where the grains stick together when cooked. Quick-cooking brown rice (available in many supermarkets) makes this substitution a snap.

3. Add barley to your favorite dishes. Barley is a whole grain contributing super-healthy soluble fiber. Cook barley and add to side dishes and salads, or stir uncooked barley into casseroles, soups or stews while they’re cooking (let simmer for 60-90 minutes). You can find it in most grocery stores as pearled barley, in which some of the hull, bran and germ have been removed.

How to Cook Whole Grains

Are you new to cooking whole grains? Here are some quick cooking tips:

Brown Rice: One cup of uncooked brown rice makes about three cups of cooked brown rice. Follow the directions below if you are using the stovetop, microwave or rice cooker. For the stove top: Combine 1 cup dry rice, 2 1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in 2 to 3-quart saucepan. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook for about 45 minutes (rice should be tender and water is absorbed). For the microwave: Combine 1 cup rice, 2 1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in a 2 to 3-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover dish and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes or until boiling. Reduce setting to MEDIUM (50 percent power) and cook 30 minutes more or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. For the rice cooker: Most rice cooker manufacturers recommend specific amounts of rice and water. Generally, though, use about 2 cups of water for each cup of dry rice.

Barley: Use about 3 cups broth or water to 1 cup of dry barley (pearled or hull-less). Cooking times may be a little longer using the hull-less barley and a little shorter if using barley grits. Stove top: Bring the barley-water mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook until tender (about 60 minutes). Oven: If you’re baking your barley in a very liquid casserole mixture, it will take about an hour and 15 minutes to cook. (Because barley is best cooked slowly, it doesn’t lend itself to cooking in the microwave.)

If barley and brown rice don’t appeal to you, not to worry; there are plenty of whole grains to go around. Not all are suitable for microwave cooking; sometimes it’s not that convenient because you have to be in the kitchen to change the power setting throughout the cooking process, and you also need to be stirred midway. That said, here’s how to cook some other whole grains:

Wild rice: Wild rice adds a nutty flavor and chewy texture to any dish. To make it, use 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of wild rice. Use a saucepan with a tight-fitting cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring at least once. Cover the saucepan; turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook about 50 minutes or until the rice kernels puff open. For the microwave: Combine 1 cup of well-rinsed wild rice with 3 cups of water or broth in a covered 2-quart glass casserole. Cover dish and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Microwave on MEDIUM (50 percent power) for 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes; drain any excess water before using.

Bulgur (from hard red wheat): Use 2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of dry bulgur. Bring to boil in a medium saucepan, then lower heat to simmer. Cover saucepan; cook about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. For the microwave: Combine 1 cup bulgur with 1 3/4 cups hot water in a microwave-safe dish. Stir and cover; cook on HIGH for 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Stir again, cover the dish and let stand for 7 minutes.

Quinoa: It’s important to rinse quinoa well before cooking to remove a bitter-tasting resin on the outer hull. To cook, combine 1 cup of well-rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Amaranth grain: Combine amaranth grain and water in a nonstick saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring mixture to a boil; cover pan and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until grains absorb the water and bind together (about 25 minutes).

Whole Grains in a Crockpot:
Most of these whole grains will cook in liquids added to a slow cooker if it’s on for about eight hours. Just add half a cup or more to your slow-cooker stews and soups. If you’re making a casserole-type dish in the slow cooker, makesure there’s enough liquid for the grain to absorb. You can also cook just the grains in the slow cooker overnight or throughout the day on the LOW setting. If cooking in the crockpot overnight, be sure to use four cups water per cup of whole kernel grains.

Whole Grain Recipe
Cream of Chicken &
Mushroom Casserole

2/3 cup pearled barley, dry (or use barley groats, increasing the cooking time to about 90 minutes total)
1/2 cup basmati white rice (or long grain rice)
1 package dry onion soup mix (like Lipton’s)
4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (about 1.6 pounds), each cut into 2" strips
1 can cream of mushroom soup, condensed (Healthy Request)
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream (or light sour cream)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups mushroom slices, raw
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted in nonstick pan until golden brown
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon parsley flakes)

Preheat oven to 350o. Combine barley, rice and onion soup mix in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place chicken breast strips evenly on top of the mixture. In medium bowl, combine condensed cream of mushroom soup, fat-free sour cream, chicken broth and sliced mushrooms. Spread on top of the chicken and barley mixture. Cover pan with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil, sprinkle almonds and parsley over the top and bake 15 minutes more. Serve hot. Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Information per serving: 343 calories, 26 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate, 7.8 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 52 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 358 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 21%.

Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at (205) 410-3696 or your local County Extension office.



Corn Time






Corn Time






County Fairs, Why?

By Baxter Black, DVM

"Most people just don’t get it," said Ron, bemoaning the urban politicians who continue to whittle away at funding for county fairs and the ag Extension service. "It’s all about the kids learning real life."

To their misfortune, urban children have much less opportunity to connect with real life. They look at some farm kid working on his show steer every day for months. It is beyond their comprehension. "Why," they think, "would anyone want to waste their time in such a mindless pursuit?" and then whip out their Game Boy and fall into a trance.

Thank goodness there are some politicians, corporations and influential associations who DO get it. As farmers and livestock raisers continue to decline in numbers, it is even more critical that parents, county agents, ag teachers, 4-H leaders, scientists and teachers instill in the next generations the realities of life that farming depends on. Does America want to become a net importer of food in 50 years?

I appreciate Mrs. Obama’s garden, Whole Foods specialty markets, organic and natural producers. They have a niche market. But who is going to feed the other 99 percent of our burgeoning population, much less a hungry "third world"?

Those kids, our kids who are fitting steers, doing chores, picking apples, showing hogs, driving the grain truck, learning to weld, riding pens, irrigating strawberries, managing a pasture, hosing the milk room, stacking hay and learning to read the sky, are assimilating the mountain of knowledge it takes to make dirt and rain into food.

Farm kids start learning the land and the livestock when they are old enough to carry a bucket. When they help with the daily chores they are practicing. It’s like taking piano lessons or tennis lessons except what farm kids learn has a much more profound objective: feeding us all.

Our culture expends a great deal of effort on future NBA stars, astronauts, environmental lawyers, doctors and political science majors. But for every 100 rock stars, Rhodes scholars and Heisman trophy winners our country produces, we better make sure we spend enough to train at least two future farmers, so the rest of them can eat. That is the essence of the county fair.

Beneath all the fun, auctions and show ribbons, the serious business of learning how to make a living off the land continues like an underground river.

The list of ‘essential professions’ is a short one. That’s the reality of real life. Farm kids hold our future in their hands. They are in training to feed the world. And fair board members and county agents get it.

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.



Cow Pokes




Earl





Farmers Learning Benefits of Web-Based Social Media


By Grace Smith

To define social media might be impossible and, with its mass appeal, may not even be necessary. But for those who may have been "living under a rock" for the last five years or so, the website Spry.com does a great job of explaining just what social media really is: "Social Media are primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio…"

Boy, has it caught on! With sites like Facebook boasting over 300 million users worldwide, social media has become commonplace among most demographics. But one demographic has been a bit more reluctant to climb aboard the social media train.

Social media and farming seem to be as opposite as night and day, but farmers are learning ways social media can serve as a great complement to the work they do each day. So how do these two seemingly opposing topics coincide?

Recently Anne Mims-Adrian, Alabama Cooperative Extension System associate director of information technology, along with professional speaker Michele Payn-Knoper gathered responses on the benefits of using social media in farming, ironically posting the question on Twitter, another social media site allowing users to post short comments and questions. Here are a few of their responses:

Farmers’ social media benefits:

• Sharing information and ideas with other farmers and learning from other farmers, ranchers and associates of agriculture.

• Providing quick, responsive networks and communities for farm use and important emerging issues.

• Marketing farm and ranch products.

• Connecting and interacting with consumers, creating conversations and relationships with them.

• Allowing agriculturists to share positive information.

• Educating people who are not associated with agriculture.

• Widening the scope of local farmers.

"Social media is a great way to connect and learn from others about ideas and practices that can improve farm operations," Mims-Adrian said. "Often farmers connect with people they would have never been able to before. They’re able to educate people outside of ag and support the ag industry using these new online tools."

According to Mims-Adrian, using blogs or online journals, farmers are able to overcome the negative image they’re sometimes given by showing consumers the "goodness of rural life." They’re also able to show how they make an honest living farming and highlight some of the struggles they face allowing an often-unaware public to more easily relate with them.

Mims-Adrian also shared that farmers are beginning to use video and picture-posting sites like YouTube, Flikr and Facebook to highlight how their operations are carried out and to even promote products they grow on their farms.

"Other sites like agtalkplus.com and newagtalk.com provide forums where farmers can share their knowledge and experience with other farmers," Mims-Adrian said. "Operation solutions are also shared among farmers and there are plenty of discussions about farming and the agriculture industry."

Mims-Adrian also noted Ag Talk was developed for farmers by farmers and is supported solely by donations.

According to Mims-Adrian’s research, use of social media among farmers reflects that of the general population. Younger farmers are more likely to use sites like YouTube and Facebook as compared to farmers ages 50-plus. She noted lack of time, lack of understanding in using the technology and desire of privacy as some of the barriers preventing farmers from engaging in social media. But if farmers are willing or able to overcome those barriers, she stressed the benefits social media can provide to farmers and their operations.

"There are many benefits to using social media," she said. "Some are: to share ideas and solutions with farmers and others, connect with farmers nationally and all over the world, help consumers understand farming and the agriculture industry, and market farm products."

One Alabama farmer has overcome those barriers and has seen great success in using social media to promote and highlight his farm.

Will Gilmer of Gilmer Dairy shared his experiences with several Alabama farmers at the recent Precision Ag Conference in Atmore. He started his presentation by telling the audience how he realized first-hand the need to inform the public about agriculture. About 10 years ago, he was showing his Holstein heifers at the West Alabama Fair and someone asked him, "Excuse me, are those Dalmatian cows?"

Gilmer realized using social media, he could effectively tell his story to a large number of people. His farm already had a website, gilmerdairyfarm.com, but he began blogging on his site, "The Dairyman’s Blog," once or twice a week in 2007.

Not only did he realize social media was a great way to share his story with the general public, he also realized the importance of taking advantage of Internet venues typically untapped by agriculturalists.

"We’ve begun to see a lot of anti-agriculture groups out there taking advantage of the fact that some of us haven’t been contributing on the Internet, and there’s a lot of anti-agriculture opinion on some of the things we do on many sites.

"Blogging allowed me to update and project what we’re going to do for the day or next few days," he said. "As more people started reading, I started tackling agriculture issues. Those get the most responses on each side of the issue."

Earlier this year, Gilmer set up a Facebook account and he said initially he was hesitant to set up the webpage because he thought "that’s something high school kids do and I don’t have time for that." But what he soon realized was it didn’t take much time and it allowed people to look into the everyday happenings of Gilmer Dairy.

"It really does work well," he said. "I have close to 460 people who can see my Facebook page every day and look at what I’ve done on the farm. It’s been a real benefit for us."

Twitter is another social media tool Gilmer has begun practicing and he said it’s been great for non-farm individuals to learn about his farm.

"Twitter is another site I use and it’s really a neat tool," he said. "It allows you to give short updates, and what’s neat about that is sharing our farm routines…folks who don’t live on a farm eat that stuff up."

Gilmer noted there is a growing number of farmers using Twitter and other ag-related companies and organizations are starting to "Tweet" or post comments on the site, as well.

Then he decided to tackle YouTube, a site that allows users to post videos for others to see.

"I thought ‘Well, what the heck, I’ll try a few things,’ and so I decided to post a video on YouTube," he said. "I figured it was worth making a fool out of myself to try to talk a little more about agriculture. So I posted a few videos and they caught on."

So he started Gilmer Farm’s MooTube Minute on the ever-popular social media site.

His most popular video is one he calls "Water and Poo" named after the Stonewall Jackson song "Waterloo." The video shows Gilmer spreading manure over his pasture and singing about his responsible farming ways to the tune of the 1959 hit. The video has been viewed over 9,000 times and for those interested in checking it out, go to www.youtube.com and type "‘Water ‘n Poo’…a song about nutrient management" in the search box.

"People ask, ‘Why should I use social media?’ and the first answer is: because everybody else is," Gilmer said. "We’ve all heard the statistics; the average American is three generations removed from the farm, and we (farmers) only make up about 1.5 percent of the population. People just don’t understand agriculture anymore. Our values are the same as they’ve always been…and it’s important to get our story out there. Using social media is something we can do to educate others and shape their opinions. There are a lot of groups out there that are directly in opposition to what we’re doing; we need to do what we can to keep public policy on (the farmers) side."

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



Fast Friends Farm for Enjoyment in Blount Co.

Mary Isbell and one of the horses on her farm.

Noted Golfer Mary Harvey Isbell and Her Long-Time Friend
Nora Jernigan Join Forces for a New Adventure

By Suzy Lowry Geno

"It’s not often someone can take up golf at age 30 and score lower than the temperature in July!"

That’s the way legendary golfer and golf course designer Gary Pate described Mary Harvey Isbell when she was one of the seven initial inductees into the Blount County Sports Hall of Fame in January of 1997.

More than a decade later, Mary, and her best friend since age 16, Nora Jernigan, continue showing that determination and knack for trying new things as they enjoy the animals and work on Mary’s family farm in Blount County.

Mary Isbell visits with some of the Belted Galloways and miniature donkeys while miniature Herefords look on in the background.

Mary won the Women’s Alabama Golf Association State Amateur Championship in 1979, 1983 and 1985. She then won that organization’s Senior Amateur Championship in 1995 AND SEVEN more times! She also won the Lady Legacy category.

But her heart was always back at her family’s Blount County farm where she had hopped on the tractor to plow or bush hog as soon as she came home from school every afternoon and spent her Saturday mornings doing "tomboy" things like squirrel hunting with a single-shot .22 rifle.

"I was always ready to do whatever it took to relieve dad," Mary explained. "I always enjoyed the outdoors better than staying inside."

Nora Jernigan with one of the Paints.

Mary lived on that farm with her parents Ike and Zelda Harvey until she was 20, when she moved to Center Point and married Lester Isbell.

Lester worked as a programmer for a computer-operated burning machine at a large Birmingham plant while Mary worked for Associated Grocers and then South Central Bell.

As time went on and Mary’s parents passed away, the couple began work on a house on the farm and spent as much time there as possible.

When Lester retired in 1997, Mary took early retirement and the couple moved to the farm full time, later building two beautiful pine-paneled additions to the home.

Lester and Mary operated a small golf shop in Oneonta for a time and then a popular driving range on the farm, an unusual but complementary value-added farm income.

Lester had health problems the last two years of his life before passing away two years ago this month (February).

Before his death, Mary and Nora talked with him and bought a couple of horses for him to watch in the 36 acres of rolling pastures.

Nora and Mary met when they were both 16 and became fast friends. While Nora’s family home was in Tarrant, she attended both Tarrant and Oneonta High Schools as her mother, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, was often confined to the Oneonta hospital.

Nora owned Miller Drug Store in Oneonta until her own husband, Jerry, who served as pharmacist there, passed away just weeks from Lester’s death.

Mary had worked as a pharmacy delivery person to help out her friend.

As both women struggled to face their losses their respective farms became more and more important.

Mary had already learned how important the animals could be as she struggled to deal with Lester’s illness.

"When Katrina was coming in, it was gray and cloudy and looked so bleak. But I sat out in the pasture on my cart and watched the horses for a couple of hours and it was the most relaxing time I’d had in a long time," Mary explained.

Now those original two horses, Rebel and Sweet Pea, live on Nora’s farm in the middle of Blount County (with Sweet Pea expected to foal in late April or early May) and the number of animals on Mary’s I&J Farm is ever-expanding.

There are now five Belted Galloways, three miniature Herefords (with a miniature bull to arrive as soon as new fencing is ready), seven horses, including one miniature, and two miniature donkeys.

There’s also Great Pyrenees Elvis to help guard the farm from predators like the increasing number of coyotes in the area.

"After those first two horses, Lester would hear Nora and me talking and planning for more animals and he joked ‘have you two lost your ever-loving minds?’," Mary now laughs.

As Mary and Nora show visitors around the farm, it’s amazing they note, "WE" built this section of fence last summer or "WE" built the attractive barns.

The two women do practically all the work by themselves with little outside help. Mary explained she and Lester literally built the attractive additions on their home themselves so other projects for her and Nora usually don’t appear too daunting.

They’ve stretched countless miles of electric fencing.

"Probably the time somebody would have needed a video camera the most was when I was digging the water lines for the four frost-free faucets at the troughs. I rented a Ditch Witch and it was all I could do to hold it on the line," Mary laughed.

One of their only failures, Nora explained, was when the pair intended to give Elvis a bath and he simply balked. "There was just no arguing with that big dog. He’s bigger than the miniatures."

At least one of the horses had been abused so it takes special loving care, and the miniature horse was a gift.

Mary decided on the Belted Galloways because of their docile nature. According to the U.S. Belted Galloway Society, while "sheeted cattle" are referred to in literature and arts as early as the 11th century, the first recorded history says the cattle may have been developed in the Galloway district of Scotland where the rugged and hilly seacoast region required a special hardiness for survival. But much of their selective breeding is still a mystery.

The miniature Herefords have joined the farm in the past few months.

"We researched them everywhere and really liked them because they are small enough for us to care for easily," Mary explained. "I just wish now I had paid more attention to my dad when he was tending our cattle back when I was younger."

One neighbor can’t understand Mary’s fascination with the animals on her farm if she doesn’t intend to use them for meat.

"If we name them, we’re not going to eat them," Mary stated.

But the animals have given the two women a special healing as they deal with the loss of their husbands.

"I can go out and just talk to the horses," Nora said.

But there’s also a lot of joy involved.

Mary has bought a small pink saddle and Nora’s twin two-year-old granddaughters, Darlene and Nora, enjoy riding the miniature horse and another younger friend, Cheney, just loves visiting the farm.

"We’re still learning all the time," Mary explained. "It’s a calming adventure."

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




Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

With the beginning of a new year, most of us make resolutions to better ourselves. This is also an excellent time to make new resolutions for your farm operation as well. While the weather is cold and we are spending more time in the house or shop, take this opportunity to develop a management plan for the coming year. Once you have developed and implemented a cattle management plan, it will be much easier to make decisions to improve the profitability of your herd. While we are enjoying a strong cattle market, we can consider other ideas that could lead to even more profits during the coming year. Once you have decided to create a management program there are several areas you should pay close attention to. Consider your management plan in the following areas: cattle selection, recordkeeping, health, forage utilization and nutrition. We will cover each of these briefly to assist in creating an overall plan.

Let’s start by looking at cattle selection. Cattle selection is the beginning of every management plan. If a producer does a poor job in cattle selection, it makes all the other areas more difficult to manage. The biggest problem I am aware of in cattle selection continues to be consistency in the herd. If you will be adding cattle or if you will be purchasing cattle in the coming months, please consider the following. Buy cattle that match!!! Go into the marketplace with a visual of your current herd and select cattle that will match your other cows. Too many times producers select cattle that do not match once they get them on the farm. Select cattle based upon body type, breed, color, quality and disposition. Cattle that are close to the same type are much easier to manage than those that look like a rainbow. Cattle that are alike also will usually have similar needs and demands, will produce similar calves and will allow you flexibility in marketing your calves. Remember, "one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch." Similar cattle will also have similar nutritional demands and will make it easier to create a feeding supplementation program. The final advantage of similar cattle selection is in the area of bull selection. With similar cattle, you can select a bull best fitted for the needs of your cattle market.

If you have made a decision to keep heifers, locate them in a different pasture so you can manage them differently from your mature cow herd. A reminder: when selecting cattle from a livestock auction, pay close attention to details like disposition, udder development and reproductive performance. Other than herd sale-outs, most cattle are at an auction for a reason.

Another key area for management consideration is recordkeeping. A good recordkeeping system will save you money as well as assist in cattle selection. It will also help you to prepare for the National Identification System that will be implemented throughout the country during the coming months and years. A good recordkeeping system including identification, reproductive performance, calving problems, weaning weights of calves, body condition scores and health issues will give you the ammunition needed to cull poor-performing cattle each year. Poor-performing cattle will cost you money and the only way to recognize these poor producers is with proper recordkeeping. For example: a cow that calves every 14 months instead of 12 months will cost you an extra calf in six years. There are several good computer programs available for record-keeping as well as the old standby of a pencil and notebook. Your local Quality Co-op can help you get started by providing ear tags and other methods of cattle identification.

A good health program with proper vaccination and parasite control is another area of cattle management easily overlooked. I have been on several farms that have suffered from poor reproductive performance as well as poor body condition due to an inadequate health program. A proper health program is used as a preventative while an improper health program is used as a cure. A proper health program consists of internal and external parasite control, reproductive vaccinations and blackleg vaccinations. Other vaccinations for problems like warts and pinkeye are also available and should be considered when working your cattle. Also remember, it is imperative to have a facility allowing you to work your cattle easily and safely. Again, your local Co-op can help you in developing a program and providing the vaccines and parasite control products needed for a proper vaccination program.

They can also assist in selecting handling equipment to help keep you and your cattle safe. Poor facilities lead to stressed cattle and lost body weight.

Next, let’s look at forage utilization and then nutrition as integral parts of a detailed management program. Once you have selected like cattle, have implemented a record-keeping system as well as a health program, you now look at a feeding program. Nutrition and genetics work hand-in-hand to create a desirable end-result. A great nutrition program cannot overcome poor genetics, while great genetics cannot reach its full potential without adequate nutrition. This statement, while simple, is overlooked time and time again on farms throughout the state.

When looking at a nutrition program we start with what is available naturally, and that is forage. Whether hay or standing grass, your nutrition program will be based upon this. With something this important, "know what you got." Send in soil samples and fertilize based upon these recommendations. Send in hay samples from each cutting and see how nutritionally sound the hay is. If you know the forage quality, you will know what is needed to supplement for maximum performance.

You should also pay close attention to weed control. Weeds will reduce the overall quality of the forage as well as take away needed nutrition from your grass.

We can help you in taking and making recommendations on soil samples, as well as helping analyze your forage. Your Co-op also carries weed control products and the knowledge to help you select the proper herbicide program for your farm.

A final piece to the management program can now be implemented. Nutritional supplementation should only be considered after you have looked at all of the other areas. A complete nutrition program will provide supplemental energy, protein, minerals and vitamins to help your operation to maximize profits. So many times, we visit farms that supplement just to be supplementing. Your supplementation program should only be implemented after giving careful consideration to your total management program. Again, we have qualified personnel who are available to assist in selecting the best feed products available to meet the additional nutritional needs of your cattle herd. Also remember, just because a feed is cheaper on a per-ton basis, this does not always lead to your most economical means of supplementing your cattle. Too often, producers purchase a commodity ingredient based upon price without looking at the total nutritional profile of that commodity. I encourage you to research the supplement you are using and see what that commodity is providing your cattle and whether it meets their nutritional needs.

While these are some general ideas to help you to get started in developing and implementing a total management plan, it is by no means the only way to do it. Evaluate your current program and implement ideas you think will best help you improve the overall quality of your operation. You might need several years to completely implement a total program. But once implemented, you will soon see the fruits of your labor.

I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage producers to keep a close eye on the nutritional plane of their cattle herd. While hay was plentiful this past year, most hay crops were harvested at a more mature level, reducing overall nutritional quality. I have also talked with producers who put hay up at a higher moisture level due to poor weather conditions. The months of February and March are always difficult on cattle and I expect this year to be no different. If we can assist you in improving the nutrition levels of your cattle, please let me know.

I hope this will provide the information needed to create a management plan to help keep you profitable, even if depressed market conditions come our way. As always, I can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">jimmyh@alafarm.com or through your local Quality Co-op. I hope the New Year has started off well for you and I look forward to visiting with you over the next several months.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If you would like to contact him, please feel free to call at (256) 947-7886 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">jimmyh@alafarm.com. He looks forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.



From Southern Turkey Hunting, “The Swimming Turkey

By Ramond B Jones

I suppose everyone knows as a general rule the Meleagris Galapvo doesn’t normally swim. Turkeys were not endowed with webbed feet or feathers and down like waterfowl that keep the body dry and warm in the water. The turkey foot is fully equipped for walking and running over all kinds of terrain, but is not made for swimming. The scales on the turkey foot and leg are a remarkable design by the Creator and keeps these extremities dry and somehow don’t freeze, but are still inept at swimming.

There is considerable difference of opinion as to whether or not turkey can swim. Sandys and Van Dyke (1904:265) states that the turkey performs poorly in the water. Audubon (1931:2) observed turkeys crossing a stream wrote: "The old and fat birds easily get over, even should the river be a mile in breadth; but the younger and less robust frequently fall in the water – not to be drowned, however, as might be imagined. They bring their wings close to their body, spread out their tail as support, stretch forward their neck, and, striking out their legs with great vigor, proceed rapidly towards the shore; on approaching which, should they find it too steep for landing, they cease their exertions for a few minutes, float down the stream until they come to an accessible part, and by a violent effort generally extricate themselves from the water." Additionally, on May 14, 1954, at the Little Shoal Creek embankment of Bankhead Lake, Alabama, a hen was observed calling excitedly to two poults in the water. Their age was estimated at ten days. The water was at least 100 yards wide. The hen had evidently flown across and was calling the poults to her (Martin and Atkenson, 1954). In any event, it is safe to assume turkeys do not naturally propel themselves across the surface of the water and this premise is the basis of the story of my swimming turkey.

I’ve hunted the wild turkey for most of my hunting life, having killed five of the six species (Occelated not included) and a total of over 225 birds. I’ve heard thousands of turkey stories from hunters over the years, but I consider the swimming turkey as one of the most unusual and bizarre tales I’ve known about. The story is true and happened in Tennessee on a place about 40 miles south of Nashville on a beautiful cattle farm where I had hunted many times.

I have served several years on the Board of Trustees of David Lipscomb University in Nashville, which is about 100 miles north of my hometown of Huntsville. The reason for this particular hunt was an executive committee meeting of the University on a Thursday. My plan was to check into a motel just off I-65 on Wednesday evening, try to roost one and hunt until 9 a.m. the next morning which would give me time to clean up, check out and drive to the meeting.

After checking into the motel, I drove eight miles to the place and hunted hard all the familiar spots which included climbing two steep hills. I didn’t see a turkey track or any fresh sign, was about to give up and was down to my last yelping spot. To my surprise at this last spot I got an answer, I got set up and tried all my tricks on this most vocal gobbler. My homemade striker box got answers, my new Roberts glass/slate rosewood peg call also received many answers and my Primos mouth callers also got numerous responses, but to no avail.

I knew I had tied into a tough old bird that was not going to be easily seduced. I waited until he flew up and figured he would be easy the next morning since I didn’t think he had any hens with him. I made the long trip in the dark back to my truck and almost felt sorry for the old boy who I felt sure was spending his last night all alone in the woods.

Shortly after going to bed that night it dawned on me, if I repeated the same trip the next morning I would have to leave at 8:15 or 8:30 which would cut my hunting time, if I was to make the 10 a.m. meeting. I got up and called the owner of the farm and asked if he had a key hidden to a gate much closer to the turkey. The owner said he did, told me where it was and I settled in for the night still feeling sorry for the gobbler on his terminal tree limb.

I arrived at the gate plenty early the next morning after a good breakfast and was full of confidence because I knew where my adversary was roosted. The revised walk saved me one steep hill and about 25 minutes of walking. I was a little early when I stopped on an open ridge overlooking the hollow and the roosted turkey. The heavens were brilliant with stars and the weather was perfect. The few minutes just before daybreak are very special to the turkey hunter, particularly if he is not in a hurry. It is during this time of the day I like to get down on one knee and thank God for this wonderful country and the privileges we enjoy as Americans and for just being a part of His creation.

The turkey sounded off on schedule and I had already set up by a predetermined huge oak tree just a little above his location. This should be easy and my meeting time safe; however, very little goes as planned when it comes to hunting the wild turkey.

To my amazement there were eight hens roosted in or near the oak tree by which I was sitting. How they got there I have no idea, they must have flown up after dark since I was there until you couldn’t see a watch. The gobbler flew down and I saw him strutting about 100 yards away. The hens also saw him and courteously flew to him and the entire group steadily moved away from me. So much for feeling sorry for this gobbler. I tried all kinds of calls and trickery, but to no avail, because this gobbler was at present a "happy camper" and had no need to go anywhere.

At this point it was 7 o’clock and my hunting time was evaporating. In the essence of time, I decided to leave the gobbler and try to locate another one. I retraced my steps to the top of the open ridge and encircled the entire place yelping loudly as I walked, for I was now hunting in desperation. Once I happened to see two hens pecking along, but no gobbler, for all my effort I didn’t even receive a peep. Eight o’clock found me looking at my watch and heading to the truck, walking down a long hollow in the pasture. I was still yelping as I walked, I don’t know why, other than hoping I may be uttering some turkey curse words at whichever turkey might choose to hear them. Finally when I was within about 100 yards of the truck I heard a gobble back up on the ridge about ¼ mile from where I started. At first I didn’t quite believe it was a gobble because of the lateness of the season and the trees being full of leaves that damper the sound. The gobbling was profuse and consistent and too much to leave even though it was 8:25. I reasoned I could spare maybe 20 minutes so I reloaded my gun, crossed a small creek and began climbing toward the gobbling turkey. I didn’t have to guess or speculate on direction because he was so constant and regular with his gobbling.

I climbed fast and through territory I had never seen and toward the most vocal turkey I’ve ever hunted. Upon arriving at the turkey’s general location, I realized he was in the open ridge pasture that I had started in, only he was at the extreme southwest corner. The time was 8:35 when I softly yelped, still 60 or so yards from the edge of the pasture. No time for cat and mouse games, so I shucked my vest and keeping only my striker box call and my mouth yelper, I crawled toward the fence at the edge of the pasture. When I was about 15 yards from the fence, I could make out the pasture edge and the fence. The spring foliage provided good concealment and fortunately there was a big hackberry tree directly between me and the gobbler. When I moved my head slightly to the left of the tree, I could see his fan about 40 yards away. I clucked on the box and he double gobbled and started toward me. The fence was nailed to the hackberry tree so I had been able to crawl to the fence unnoticed by the turkey. The turkey kept coming and gobbling, I was on my knees and my job was to be sure he was in range and my gun was properly threaded through the web wire fence. When he was at 25 yards, I "putted" at him after my front site was on his wattles. The turkey straightened up and I let loose a dose of #5s from my new Benelli shotgun.

The vegetation was less dense to the right of the hackberry so I immediately jumped in that direction to peer over the fence at my turkey. The fence was a good 47" web wire, so all I could do was watch the turkey flop in the pasture. Feeling things were about over, I stepped up about two feet on the fence as I started to cross it. To my amazement the turkey rose and flew while I was teetering on the fence. I couldn’t get a good bead on him and I saw him disappear behind a big red dirt bank bordering a small ½ acre pond. The only evidence of the turkey’s presence was some small waves emanating from near the bank in the pond. There was nothing to do now but cross the fence and pursue the whereabouts of the bird. Upon arriving at the top of the bank, I observed the turkey sitting much like a goose would sit on the water and paddling slowly with his wings and maybe his unobserved feet. He was ‘swimming’ in a circular path looking rather content, but getting farther and farther into the pond. Frantically, I looked around for a long limb to maybe rake him closer to the bank, but I couldn’t find one.

Time is of the essence now because it is 8:45 and my turkey is moving into deeper water fast. No time for strategizing, so I waded into the pond and, when I reached the "swimming" turkey, I was about waist deep in the water. I tried to direct his path in the water with my gun, but every time I got him close, he would maneuver away from my grip. Finally, I got him close enough and made a lunge for him, grabbing his neck with my left hand just below his head and drew him close to me.

At this point the turkey become unfocused from his leisurely "swim" and immediately attacked the one who had interrupted his aquatic experience. The turkey’s wings flailed me over the head, knocking off my hat and headnet. My gun, as well as everything else I had, was soaked with water. There is not a fountain in Paris or Rome that could rival the one the turkey was creating around me while I was fighting the mud and water trying to get out of that pond. At first I thought I could hold the turkey above my head to lessen the water flow, but after a few seconds this idea was abandoned. Next, I rationalized that if I partially submerged the turkey it would lessen the fantastic amount of water flowing around me, but this only made matters worse. My situation wasn’t getting any better; in fact, I had used up important minutes and was still over waist deep in the water holding a flogging turkey. Finally, I decided to just close my eyes, make for shore and ignore the beating and dousing I was receiving.

After much effort, I mucked out of the pond and laid the turkey on the top of the red bank that had originally hid my view of the turkey while I was teetering on the fence. I began then retrieving my hat and headnet from the pond when the turkey took his last death flop and wound up back in the pond. I retrieved him again, but with not as much fanfare as the first time.

Now I began to pick up my gear which was scattered on both sides of the fence and for several yards into the woods. The time on my wet watch was 8:53. With my gear gathered up, I climbed a nearby gate and ran downhill toward the truck. On the way I ran into a bunch of cows and calves with one old bull (friendly) that must have laughed at the sight of a soaking wet turkey hunter and his wet load running across the pasture. I arrived at the truck, threw my turkey in the bed and all my wet stuff in the rear seat. I then drove to the creek, got out my knife and bush clipper and jumped into the knee-deep creek with the turkey and "breasted" him on a little grassy bank in eight minutes. I then washed and put the breast in a plastic bag, loaded the bag in a cooler and drove quickly through two sets of gates and to the motel. The time was 9:24 which was already 24 minutes later than I had intended to leave for Nashville.

I dashed through the shower, threw on my clothes and shoes and the rest of my stuff in the pickup, and headed for Nashville after purchasing a sack of ice for my turkey. Fortunately the I-65 and Nashville traffic was light and I arrived at the meeting at 10:19, 19 minutes late. Several times during the meeting I caught myself smiling as I thought about the events of the morning.

At one of our committee breaks, one of my fellow board members said, "I noticed you were a little late this morning. Did you run into anything unusual on your trip to Nashville?"

My impulse was to tell this story, but I thought better of it and answered, "You wouldn’t believe it" and just let it go at that.

Raymond B. Jones is the author of "Southern Turkey Hunting: A Family Affair." This story and many others can be found in his book.



Goat Coats from Angel’s Wings

Pam Dean can embroider show dates, dates of birth, special awards or any other message on her custom-fitted animal coats.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Someone once said the best way to be a success in business is to find a need and fill it.

But Pam Dean also knows that sometimes you FIND that need when you’re on an entirely different path!

Pam began her business, Angel’s Wings, primarily as a tribute to her late mother, Grace Robinson, who instilled a love for sewing into Pam’s psyche when Pam was just a child. Pam had no way of knowing the soft, cuddly blankets and other items she sews and embroiders for babies and others would morph into custom-made coats for goats and other animals!

While Grace was hampered by severe asthma and other health problems, she sewed all sorts of things like the cheerleader outfits, band uniforms, color guard and other needs for students at Tarrant High School in Jefferson County.

Pam shows how to embroider a special animal’s name and other statistics on their custom-made coats.

"They would just come to our house and Mother would sew," Pam remembered. "When I was about ten, she really started me sewing, both by hand and on the machine. Hemming and things like that.

"When I was in the seventh grade taking home economics, we had to make a jumper and model it in a fashion show. I brought mine home and my mother made me take the entire thing apart and resew it ‘correctly.’ I finished about 5:15 the morning of the show. Mother had a few things to say to that teacher about teaching us to sew correctly!" Pam laughed.

"Mother had a natural talent. She’d look at a dress in a store or in a catalog, lay out some newspaper and cut out a pattern to fit whoever she was making it for.

"When I was Rifle Captain in the band and my sister was Color Guard captain, mother made all of our outfits like that," Pam recalled.

Flaco models his custom-made goat coat (front view, below, and side view).

While Pam modestly said she didn’t inherit her mother’s talents, her creations featured in her shop beg to differ.

Pam worked for the Jefferson County School System in Pinson Elementary’s library for 27 years. During that time she had also been sewing and embroidering from home.

She and her husband, George, who works for Alabama Power, now live on 60 beautiful acres situated partly in Blount and partly in Etowah Counties atop Straight Mountain. She began Angel’s Wings about 19 months ago and spends her time between designing, embroidering and making things for the public and her two little "angel" granddaughters, MaddiLynn and GraceAnn Dean.

She’s even embroidered ribbons used by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders in cheering camps thanks to word-of-mouth, from one friend, who knew another friend, who knew another….

And that’s kind of the way the "goat coats" started as well.

Tracy Martin was visiting with Pam and Donna Blackwood at Quilting and Such next door. She mentioned problems she was having trying to keep her 12-year-old pet goat, Flaco, warm in the colder months.

Flaco has a benign throat tumor that grows out instead of in, making fitting any type of non-customized blanket or goat coat a problem. Flaco’s health has also caused him to loose a lot of his hair, emphasizing the need to keep him extra warm.

Dr. Joe Hastings in Oneonta has sent samples of Flaco’s tumor to Auburn University and it is so rare even the Auburn specialist were perplexed.

Meanwhile, Flaco just keeps contentedly eating and roaming around the Dean’s farm with Tracy’s other eight goats. (When Tracy is not tending her farm, she is a regionally-known artist utilizing scrap metal for unusual sculptures!)

Tracy explained, "Goats ARE addictive. I had a goat when I was a kid and then I fostered one about 18 years ago when I worked for the Shelby County Humane Society…. He was blind…"

The goat was eventually "legally evicted from my house in Birmingham," Tracy explained, "so I found my place on Straight Mountain and the rest is history. All in all, I’ve had 13 goats during my life on the mountain."

Tracy began talking to Pam and Donna about Flaco and his special needs and how a coat she’d ordered was just not large enough for him.

Pam said, "I adjusted that one and we were just allowing a little here and a little there."

Eventually, Flaco wound up with his own custom-made goat coat, with flowers, butterflies and his name embroidered on it! It has an inside layer of rainbow-colored fleece for added warmth. (While we didn’t get a photo of it, rumor has it that husband George’s modeling Flaco’s newest coat for the sewing stores’ customers was a big hit in downtown Oneonta! "He has such a great sense of humor and has been my biggest supporter," Pam noted.)

After Tracy’s urging, Pam has begun making other animal coats, which can be custom-sized for the individual goat, sheep, horse, etc. for the tiniest premature critter to a bigger, elderly animal who just needs extra warmth.

"All I need are the animal’s measurements," Pam said. "From neck to tail, from front legs to back. I guess this shows I will try anything! It can be for a tiny animal or one that is really large."

So now amidst the purses, blankets, baby outfits and other customized items inside Angel’s Wings, you may find a bright jumper featuring Velcro straps and a name like Flicka embroidered across the top for somebody’s unique equine or caprine "angel"!

"This is just the perfect job for me now in my life," Pam said. I love being here every day. There’s no hesitation every morning when I awake and know I’m going to get up and go to work here."

Pam feels her mother would be especially supportive of this new sideline for her Angel Wing’s business.

"She was never afraid of trying something new," Pam explained. "She was happiest each day if she learned something different."

Pam can be reached at Angel’s Wings on First Avenue in the historic Tin Town section of downtown Oneonta by phoning (205) 625-7410 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. til 2 p.m. on Saturdays. She can be open other times by special appointment.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a Blount County farm. You can reach her through her website www.suzysfarm.com.



Happy Hunting Ground

By Ralph Ricks

The best time of the year is on the horizon. After waiting nearly a year, the end is in sight, rather, the beginning is in sight, the beginning of turkey season that is. Last turkey season was not nearly as successful as I hoped it would be. I do consider the season partially successful, though, because, although I did not take a bird last year, I did learn a lot. When I think of some highly qualified and skilled turkey hunters here in Butler County and consider these guys who usually take their limit on gobblers only got one or two, then I feel pretty good.

As with any hunting season, the year started off with promise. Pre-season scouting trips were rewarded with plenty of turkey signs and early spring mornings were full of gobblers rocking the timber with their morning calls.

The first morning yielded a tom very close to where I had set up to listen and he sounded hot! Every yelp I sent in his direction, he answered and it seemed like he was going to come in. From where he was sounding off, it followed the pattern of a turkey I had gotten on late the previous season after having harvested an old boss gobbler from the same area. I was situated on the edge of a food plot and things were looking good. As I continued to work the tom, I heard a flutter of wings behind me and chanced a look over my shoulder and there, floating into the plot, was a hen. I felt pretty good, not only had I gotten a gobbler to answer my yelps, but I had also fooled a hen into thinking she had some company. She settled into the food plot and began to yelp along with me trying to coax the tom down to where we were. One of the first things I learned in my short turkey-hunting career is, if a real hen wants to call gobblers into gun range, let her, but remember, now your chances of those sharp eyes detecting any slight movement have just doubled. Every now and then, I would yelp, just to let her know she wasn’t alone. She was very close and I was able to listen to her calling for better than a quarter of an hour. After a short while, I was able to duplicate not only her rhythm but also her pitch. After a while, the tom refused to cross a small stream and moved away from my new friend and me. The last I saw of that young hen was a look in my direction that looked like she was asking her sister, "What was wrong with him?" and walking off in the opposite direction. I sat there with every call I own and tried to duplicate her sounds while it was still fresh on my mind and finally was able to do it and was rewarded by an answering gobble, but was unable to call the bird to me.

After several more attempts to harvest this turkey, I have convinced myself he must be a big old boss gobbler because he has a set routine he follows most mornings and when he gobbles, every other tom in the woods shuts up. The season ended with me concentrating on him so his reign of terrorizing every other tom in the woods would end. I finally found the tree he liked to roost in most evenings and the problem with that is it is very strategically located with plenty of visibility for this bird to wait until the sun comes up and hens fly down, then he can decide where he wants to go. This is a gobbler that makes the hens come to him.

Finally, I decided I had him figured out. He roosted in that one tall pine tree that gave him a commanding view of a hardwood bottom. He could sit there until sunrise, talking to his hens and when they flew down, he could fly down near them, gather them up and take them to a hill top where he could strut and drum to his heart’s content for them.

The last day of the season rolled around and, while I had gotten on a gobbler in a different spot, I still had no luck in taking him either. Having chased the old boss for six weeks of turkey season, I finally had a plan to get him. I planned to get into the woods before dawn and get around him, before he could see me from his crow’s nest of a tree and beat him to his favorite hilltop.

Morning arrived and I actually got to the woods a little later than I wanted and had a mile or so to walk to get into position. When I reached the bottom of the hill I was aiming for, it was beginning to break daylight. I hadn’t heard him gobble, so I didn’t know where he was and hoped my gamble had paid off. Suddenly, once again his now familiar gobble shook the trees; he was behind me, I had gotten around him without him seeing me; I was fired up. As I eased up the hill, I got to a spot where the ground was all torn up and there were not only wing drag marks, but also tracks and a couple of feathers. If you are an experienced turkey hunter, you know what I found. I was standing in the middle of the holy grail of turkey hunters, a gobbler’s strutting ground. All the while I was hearing this bird behind me tearing up the world gobbling and I haven’t hit a lick on a call yet!

My original plan had been to sit at the hilltop and wait with an occasional yelp from the call I had learned to exactly imitate that hen from the first day of the season. He was at the bottom of the hill, but apparently having trouble rounding up his hens because he would not start his daily trip up the hill. I knew he would eventually come because I was sitting next to his strut zone. One of the other first things I ever learned was: never give the high ground to a gobbler. Fighting all my instincts, I decided to get up and move down to him. Just as I got to the edge of the food plot at the bottom of the hill and yelped at him, he gobbled. He gobbled about 150 yards south of his strutting ground and about 75 yards above me. Fortunately there was plenty of cover between him and me, and I was able to hotfoot it back to my original position. At this point, I started yelping to him and got no answer. It was almost as if he had disappeared from the face of the earth.

I looked at my watch and it was nine o’clock and I hadn’t heard anything from him for some time and was coming to the conclusion that turkey season 2009 had come to an end. I was sitting there enjoying my last morning in the woods trying to talk myself into getting up and heading home, when movement caught my eye and I saw a red head moving through the pines. It was the gobbler! He moved behind some yaupon bushes and I decided he couldn’t see me and to shift my position slightly. As I was shifting, he appeared with three hens in tow. Now I had eight pairs of those eyes to avoid. After being in a half crouch with my gun at my shoulder for about ten minutes, my arms were telling me something had to change. I quickly calculated the range and decided he was close enough to kill. I took the shot. My last vision of looking down the barrel as the gun went off was the bead was about an inch over his head when my finger squeezed the trigger just as my arms were giving out. I missed the bird entirely. I count the hunt as almost a success because I had outsmarted him and caught him with most of his guard down. It had taken me all of the season, but I had figured out what call he was vulnerable to, what his movement patterns were and almost how he thought. I tell folks the last thing he expected on that hillside strutting zone was a twelve gauge shotgun being pointed at him and going off.

I hope a gobbler’s memory is as bad as they say it is, because I know where I’ll be on the morning of March 15th, I have even found a quicker way to get to my spot. I’ll keep you posted, so keep on the lookout for a photograph.

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



Hewitt-Trussville High School Snapdragons Tending to Life Skills Through Gardening


Above, teacher Carrie Jones with one of the students showing off their JMG registration certificate.

Jr. Master Gardener Program important to developmental efforts

By Luci Davis

Congratulations go to the JMG Snapdragons for being the February Group of the Month. JMG Snapdragons are a group of 15 youth at Hewitt-Trussville High School who are led by teachers and volunteers. Teacher Carrie Jones and volunteers, Lisa George and Susan Grimes, work with the students on a daily basis to bring gardening into the classroom. This is the second year the group has participated in the JMG program. The JMG Snapdragons are not your typical group of young people. They range in age from 14-21 and have various physical, psychological, emotional and developmental limitations and delays. This group of young people is part of the Life Skills Academy at Hewitt-Trussville High School.

Students work on skills while planting in the raised bed garden

The Life Skills Academy received a CAWACO RC&D educational grant to help further their JMG program. As a result of the grant, the P.L.A.N.T. project was created and a partnership between Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Hewitt-Trussville Life Skills Academy and the JMG program was formed. The project involved an intergenerational pairing of members of the Life Skills Academy with residents of the Oaks on Parkwood, a retirement community in Jefferson County. The main objective for the students was to prepare them, through a combination of classroom instruction, mentor interaction and horticultural therapy, to acquire the skills and training to prepare them to contribute to their community to the best of their abilities.

The students spent time at the retirement community helping to improve their grounds by adding flowers and container gardens to their patio. Back at the school, the drafting and carpentry classes designed and built raised beds for the exceptional students to begin gardening outside. Inside the classroom, the JMG curriculum was used to teach their science lessons that complemented their outside gardening.

The whole class modeling their Know-and-Show Sombreros (a JMG activity).

The program allowed students to develop necessary life skills while connecting with their community. Furthermore, the residents of the Oaks on Parkwood reported greater life satisfaction and self-esteem combined with lessening of depressive symptoms. The students have an increased connection to their natural surroundings that has proven to be an important part of their learning. One of the goals of the volunteers, teachers and students is to earn JMG certification by the end of the year.

Many successes have come out of this project. Carrie Jones spoke of one student who, before the P.L.A.N.T. project began, would not look people in the eyes, dig in the dirt, touch a plant or carry anything heavy. Now he looks people in the eyes, is the first to introduce himself, digs in the dirt, plants, weeds and carries anything he is asked to. Jones also said this was a big step for this student.

Volunteers Lisa George and Susan Grimes work with a student to build a rabbit-shaped topiary.

Jones talked very appreciatively of the volunteers who come into the classroom once a week, Lisa George and Susan Grimes. "I have seen many sessions with Ms. Grimes that evoke many amazing responses from some of my students who have moderate to profound disabilities."

JMG is typically used with young people between the ages of eight to 14. This group has shown how versatile the JMG curriculum can be and how it can serve any child interested in gardening.

They have also chartered their class as a 4-H club. Bridgett Helms, County Extension Agent for Jefferson County, works with the students once a month on 4-H projects. All of the students have learned and can recite the 4-H pledge.

Luci Davis is the State Junior Master Gardener Coordinator. For more information on the program, phone (334) 703-7509.



How's Your Garden?

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Garden Catalogs are Educational

All the garden catalogs in my mailbox since December have made great bedside reading to get a peek at the many tools, garden supplies, seeds and plants available this year. Vegetable gardening aids like row covers and composters are fancier than ever. One catalog even offers Mason bees, tiny native bees that appear in the spring. Heirloom vegetables, particularly tomatoes, get top billing in many catalogs; even though I love Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato, I’m not about to give up on my highly productive and disease-resistant modern tomatoes. Between Early Girl, Better Boy, Goliath and Juliet hybrids, I have a great variety of delicious tomatoes with little fuss.

Climbing roses bloom early, so wait until after they bloom to prune them. This one is Buff Beauty.

Climbing Roses

Winter is a good time to train your climbing roses, but don’t prune them. Most climbers have already set their flower buds even though you can’t see them. If you cut them back, the new growth appearing in spring will be flowerless. Only remove dead wood and any canes you can afford to lose. The time to prune them back more severely is in the spring, after they bloom.

Making More Azaleas

Azaleas will layer easily, so you can start your own new plants by taking an existing branch and bending it to the ground where it can grow new roots. Later in spring, after the branch roots, you can cut the newly rooted piece away from the mother plant. If you gently scrape just the outer bark from the stem where it touches the ground and weigh it down with a block or brick, you’ll increase the chances of it rooting. My George Taber Azalea is doing this on its own and keeps creeping beyond where I want it to be. If you wonder why some of your original plants are now as big as Greyhound buses, this natural ability to layer is why.

Ivy in Trees?

Don’t let ivy climb up your trees because sooner or later it will choke out the new growth. Pull it off as it starts to creep up the trunk. For trees where ivy is already creeping up into the top, pull the stems away from the trunk enough so that you can cut each with a pruner so it is severed from the roots. In some cases you might need a crowbar and a saw, but be careful to protect the tree’s bark as much as possible and avoid harming the tree itself.

Boxwoods

Remember to keep boxwoods watered during really cold, dry weather to avoid winter burn. Also, if leaf miners have been a problem in the past, they are sure to be back and will disfigure this year’s new leaves, too. Pick up an insect killer containing imidacloprid (Merit), one of the most effective products against the miners. Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Care is one such product. It is important to treat the plant early before the miners make the leaves look bad for the year. Apply at the very first sign of new leaf growth. One application of Bayer Tree and Shrub Care lasts the entire growing season.

Wildflower Seeds

Purple coneflower is an easy wildflower to grow and will endure lots of stress. This “meadow” is in downtown Chicago. How about that?

If wildflower seeds you have sown in the past never grew into their promise, try planting them in wads of soil. Make mudballs containing a large pinch of seeds and lay them in place. The seeds release gradually as the mudball breaks down and hopefully more of them will stay in place long enough to sprout and root before they can be washed away by a rain. In other years, this can be done ahead of time in the fall, too, by freezing the mudballs. Then they’re ready when you are and seeds will have the chilling some require, too.

Planting Time

Now is a good time to think about making changes to flower beds, especially those with perennials. New shoots may already be poking through the ground in parts of the state. Transplant these now before they get big and give them a chance to grow a few roots in their new location before hot weather arrives. Some of the items typically transplanted now are aster, candytuft, coneflowers, daisies, daylilies, iris, mums, salvia, sedum and other hardy perennials.

Keiffer lime has unique double-lobed leaves prized as an ingredient in Asian cooking, much like we use bay leaves. (Credit: istock)

A Special Lime

If you enjoy cooking Thai food and other Southeast Asian dishes, consider growing Keiffer limes to keep this ingredient handy. Citrus trees often begin appearing in nurseries and mail order catalogs for sale early this spring. The tree is also known as Kaffir, Thai and Asian lime. Although not yet common, this plant is becoming more popular as our appetite for Asian food grows. The leaves are used fresh or dried and can even be stored in the freezer. The juice of the fruit is too strong and acidic for cooking, but has application as a cleaner if you like to clean with lemon juice. The tree is cold tender so you must keep it indoors or in a greenhouse during winter. Plant the thorny tree in a large pot, but not so big it is awkward to move about. Remember, you’ll be growing it only for the leaves, so it won’t require a big tree to provide what you need.

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



It’s Nearin’ Valentine’s Day…

There’s Anticipation and Gleefulness In Flat Rock…

By Joe Potter

It’s a picture perfect winter Saturday in the mid-afternoon and there’s a Beau Day man gatherin’ and planned eatin’ over to The Cabin at Potter’s Mud Creek Farm. A heavy accumulation of men folk like Slim, my Daddy "Pop" C.C., Farlow, Bro., "Truth," S.R., J.R., and "Hatch" was gathered. Additional, the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood, and friends was a set up along side the outdoor fire ring and was a pickin’ and a grinnin’. There were other men folk like Mr. Wilton Foretenberry, Orland Britnell, John Thorn, Mr. Galen Grace and Clint Lauderdale standin’ close and a sharin’ warmth from the dry wood-loaded fire ring.

Some of the man-group was a clappin’ to the musical sounds while others were a sharin’ trophy huntin’ pictures from ought nine. Even more was a story tellin’ ‘bout huntin’ happenin’s and/or a laughin’ ‘bout the one that got away.

As hostin’ fellars, me, Heath and Dustin, were workin’ on late evenin’ eatin’ vittles — smoked sausage, ribs, deer tenderloin, chili, baked beans, slaw, lightenin’ bread, cokes, coffee and Southern sweet tea. As Heath and Dustin were a linin’ up the savory, Beau Days, season-endin’ eatin’ buffet, I was struck by the reality there was no Chinet for usefulness in the consumin’ of our delectable buffet.

Here Slim noted the dilemma and offered Essex was proprietorin’ The Store on this day and there was bundles of Chinet in the rear storage area used for eatin’ day purposes down to The Store. I rushed for my pick-up and a quick Flat Rock General Store run as Heath and Dustin finished up dessert, bread puddin’ and pineapple upside-down cake.

As I ended my three-minute run to The Store and lined my pick-up for parkin’, there was several transportation modes parked around The Store. As I entered and headed t’ward the storage room, to my surprise a full settin’ of women had collected around the old potbellied heater. There sat Essex, Ms. Ida, the widow Cora, Willerdean, Estelle, three of her hair factory customers, the Beauti-Control lady and the UPS delivery lady.

Here I hovered, spoke my "Howdys," and offered my intentions to Essex. She returned my "Howdy" and offered there was a gal gatherin’ goin’ on a celebratin’ the endin’ of 24/7 football, huntin’ season and the return of men to a normal family life for the comin’ near seven months. Estelle took the floor at this point and offered the women was a enjoyin’ refreshments, a plannin’ for comin’ church functions and The Store’s annual "writin’ my feelin’s to my sweetheart" Valetine’s Day contest for twenty ten.

At this point, I proceeded with my Chinet run as the women continued to direct their gal-gatherin’ along with anticipation and in a near gleeful manner. Soonly, havin’ gathered the needful Chinet and directin’ myself at exitin’ the old double-front doors, I heard Willerdean take the floor and exclaim with gleefulness, "It is goin’ to be a special weekend. There’s no more huntin’ or football, and I just know Farlow will be at home and not in front of the TV!"

I gathered myself at my pick-up door, made my three minute return Chinet run to The Cabin. All those man-folk gathered comminstin’ to consumin’ and enjoyin’ the delectable man day buffet.

Happy Valentines Day to love birds of all ages!!!

REMEMBER YOUR HERITAGE!!!
ALWAYS, THINK GOOD MEMORIES!!!

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




It’s Thyme!

By H. T. Farmer

Golden lemon thyme makes a great container planting.

One of the most versatile herbs in Southern gardens is grown for a number of reasons. Some folks grow it for cooking, some for fragrance and some for flowers. It is grown as a border plant, an accent plant, a stone garden filler and even taller varieties are grown for high-bush planting in miniature gardens. Some varieties make nice bonsai plantings and others are planted between stepping stones.

The herb I am talking about is thyme (Thymus sp.).

There are more than 100 varieties of thyme, but I will just describe a few because there’s only so much space allowed me and my musings. Therefore, we’ll just touch on some of the most commonly used ones and their primary purposes.

Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is the most popular of the culinary varieties, but there are cultivars of T. vulgaris which offer different flavors and scents. English thyme is an upright variety (8" H) which has broad leaves, white flowers and a sweet fragrance. French thyme, on the other hand, has gray narrow leaves, white flowers and is also an upright type. It makes a nice short shrub-like planting in the garden (12" H x 18" W). It is also noted for having an excellent flavor. Oregano thyme is a bushy creeper (6-10") with a very strong oregano/thyme flavor. This variety is a good one to grow indoors in a sunny window.

There are many others with culinary value like coconut thyme, nutmeg thyme, silver queen, silver edged thyme and more! And then there are the citrus flavored and scented thymes. Orange balsam thyme is a small, upright shrub with orange-scented leaves and lavender flowers. Lemon thyme, variegated lemon thyme, golden lemon thyme and lime thyme all have a citrus scent and flavor, and should be a part of everyone’s thyme garden.

All of those are excellent for seasoning foods, whether adding directly to the dish or by simmering in a bouquet garni.

There are many varieties of thyme with a mounding and creeping nature. Some of these are elfin thyme, creeping thyme, Doone Valley thyme, mint thyme, minus thyme and, my favorite, Woolly thyme.

All of these thymes make excellent accents and borders in the garden. Large groupings can make a lovely feature or focal point, too.

Ask your local Quality Co-op or garden center to help you find as many thyme varieties as possible. Be sure to get at least three plants of each type so you can start enjoying the beauty, flavors and scents right away. Nobody should have a thymeless garden. (I can’t believe I wrote that, but it’s true!)

Thanks for reading!

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

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



Last Minute Garden Plans

By Ken Alan

Happy Groundhog Day!

It’s February and winter is half over! If you did as I did, your garden was planned, measured, sketched, and magazine pictures were cut out and placed in your "Garden 2010" scrapbook and logged more than a month ago. Even though careful plans were well-documented, I always find more flowers and herbs I want to add to my already-bulging planting beds. I say, "No problem!"

From Thanksgiving weekend until Groundhog Day, the seed catalogs are dog-eared, book-marked, folded, creased, highlighted and notated upon! A packet of seeds for everything I want to plant still makes too many plants for my garden beds. I always overgrow. I overgrow and I share with my neighbors and friends. It helps the neighborhood look colorful and good, and it gives my bees something extra to eat! Some of my friends and neighbors ask me what I am growing this year so they will know what to plant and share with me.

Springtime at the Tomato Tower is a weekend social event! Jerome and Jason, my sanitation and recycle friends, like the extra eggplant and tomato plants I grow. Last year they had a bumper crop and brought me a few baskets to share with the neighbors. Postman Bill’s wife loves roses and he sees to it she gets cuttings from all of mine when I prune them.

This time of year is when I do most of my spring-blooming bulb shopping. The flowers are starting to show their faces and the nurseries are full of boxes of bulbs from Holland. I know, I know. Spring-blooming bulbs aren’t supposed to be planted in the spring, but in the fall. No matter! This is the time of year to buy them, chill them in the refrigerator for about six weeks and plant them. When they bloom next year, they will have matured another year and they should be spectacular!

Besides buying the premium bulbs from the local nurseries, I like to go on rescue missions in "big box" stores. That’s what I call it anyway. A lot of times they will mark down their bulbs after a certain number of packages from the display are sold and the season ends. I have gotten some good deals on bulbs that way.

Always be on the lookout for something new for your gardens because it’s experimenting with new varieties that keep gardening exciting.

Sign up for our newsletter by e-mailing Home Grown Tomatoes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">HGTradio@gmail.com and put "newsletter" in the subject line.

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E-mail me (kennalan@hgtradio.net) with questions about seeds, bulbs or other gardening topics.

For more on these or other gardening tips log on to Home Grown Tomatoes at
http://HGTradio.net.




News from Your Local Co-op: Franklin County Co-op Receives Farm City Hall of Fame Award


Karen Linker

The Franklin County Extension System and the Farm City Planning Committee held their 2009 Annual Farm City Awards Banquet on November 23 at the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville. One of the winners of the Franklin County Extension System Agricultural Hall of Fame Award was Karen Linker and the staff of Franklin County Co-op.

This is what the committee had to say: "Franklin County Co-op was formed in Russellville in 1939. This farmer-owned cooperative was established to provide the supply needs of the Franklin County farmers. This cooperative serves the farm, home and business needs of Franklin County. For the past six years, Karen Linker, as manager, and the staff have provided customers with quality products and service with a smile.

"Karen has been a major source for agricultural community projects in the Franklin County area. Without her generosity and willingness to help, many of the projects would not have been successful."



NRCS Announces High Tunnel Pilot Study to Increase Availability of Locally Grown Foods


Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett announced a pilot project for farmers to establish high tunnels - also known as hoop houses - to increase the availability of locally-grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. Financial assistance is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

A high tunnel is a greenhouse-like structure, at least six feet in height and made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting.

"High tunnels offer an option to extend the growing season for vegetables and other specialty crops for personal or commercial use," Puckett said.

They may offer particular advantages to small, limited resource and organic farmers by extending the crop growing season, improving soil and plant quality, and addressing soil and water concerns. The seasonal tunnel structure must be planned, designed and constructed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation. Those vegetable crops grown directly in mineral soils are eligible. Crops grown hydroponically or in pots/containers above ground are not eligible.

NRCS will begin accepting applications immediately for the three-year study..

For information, producers can visit their local NRCS field office listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or online at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.



Pasture Stocking Rates Have Many Practical Applications


By Dr. Don Ball

Various approaches have been taken to try to provide a standard measurement of the stocking rate of a pasture. As early as 1943, grazing capacity was expressed in terms of cow days, and the stocking rate relationship of cows to sheep was defined as six sheep equal one cow. In 1955, this was refined by introducing the term "animal unit," which was defined as a 1,000 pound live weight cow and her calf.

In 1964 the Society of Range Management (SRM) defined an animal unit as one mature cow with calf or their equivalent. In 1974, SRM defined an animal unit as one mature cow (1,000 lbs) based upon an average daily forage consumption of 26 lbs of dry matter per day. This was a step forward because it allowed the animal unit to be used as a conversion factor for various kinds and classes of animals based on their demand for dry matter. While this unit of measure has been widely used in the USA, many other definitions of an animal unit have been used around the world.

In 1991, a Forage and Grazing Terminology Committee was formed under the leadership of the American Forage and Grassland Council. Committee members were appointed by eight different federal agencies, five professional societies and included recognized authorities on grazing research from New Zealand and Australia. Dr. David Bransby, Department of Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University, was one of the committee members.

This group defined a basic animal unit as a non-lactating bovine (cow) weighing 500 kg (1,100 lbs). In order to allow comparison to other kinds and classes of animals, they then recommended it be assumed an animal unit has a dry matter intake rate for maintenance of 8 kg (17.6 lbs) per day, and that any animal may be represented as a certain fraction or multiple of the animal unit based solely on its rate of forage intake per day. For consumption of 17.6 lbs of dry matter to result only in maintenance, the feed consumed would have a digestibility of about 57 percent (10.0 lbs of total digestible nutrients). The approximate number of animals compared to one animal unit thus defined is shown in Table 1.

It may seem to some people that this business of developing a stocking rate standard is largely an academic matter, but in reality it has many practical applications. For example, if a cattleman buys a farm on which a certain number of 900 lb small frame cattle have been pastured and he decides to use 1,200 lb large frame cattle, he has a way of estimating the new carrying capacity. This approach becomes even more useful in situations in which different species of animals are involved. Stocking rate is of critical importance in successful pasturing of livestock, so it is likewise important to define or describe it as well as possible.

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



Peanut People





Rodeo Injury Propels Bullrider into College Coaching Career


CNFR qualifier Justin Caylor of Andalusia competes in the saddle bronc riding at a college rodeo.

Education key to Chad Phipps finding new opportunity in the sport he loves

By Mary-Glenn Smith

No one seems to know the importance of a college education better than University of West Alabama (UWA) rodeo coach Chad Phipps.

Dalton, GA, native always felt sure he would make a living doing just what he had done for years: rodeoing. Phipps grew up in a rodeo family and spent his childhood surrounded by every aspect of the sport.

"My dad has been in rodeo his whole life and I have been around horses and in rodeos since I was born; I grew up rodeoing," Phipps said. "I got on my first calf when I was just five years old."



Should You Add Fennel To Your Garden This Year?

By Jerry A. Chenault

The ancient Greeks called it "marathon" because it grew wild around the village of Marathon, which was about 25 miles from Athens. This vegetable, or herb, is also known as finocchio, sweet fennel, fetticus, carosella, Florence fennel and sweet anise. Its history and world-wide popularity (not to mention its wide variety of uses) make me think you might want to grow it in your vegetable garden...or your herb garden this year.

It seems a lot of people grow fennel these days because of its prevalence in Italian and Mediterranean recipes; but the history of this herb/vegetable shows it is much more versatile than that! New England’s Puritans called fennel "meeting seeds" and they used them to help endure their endless church services. Some researchers say fennel seeds help suppress the appetite. Others say many Puritans readied themselves for the marathon services with whiskey and then chewed the aromatic fennel seeds to mask the evidence. I suspect a bit of both methods were used.

Fennel has been used since ancient times as a digestive aid and as a healing herb. Even today many Latin Americans boil its seeds in milk as a "milk promoter" for nursing mothers. Its current medicinal/herbal uses are beyond the scope of my article, but its growth and culture are not beyond your garden!

Fennel, scientifically known as Foeniculum vulgare, is actually a perennial plant; but it is commonly grown as a tall annual (3-6 ft. high) in full sun and good garden soil. It is commonly planted by seed in early spring. Fennel’s stalk looks like celery and can be eaten raw (or boiled) when they reach a diameter of about an inch. The stalk and all other parts of the plant have a distinctive anise-like (licorice) fragrance and taste.

Many varieties of fennel produce a bulbous base which is called the "apple" and is often cooked as a vegetable. Because the plant grows rapidly, many gardeners make successive plantings two weeks apart. That’s always smart in vegetable production, but not a lot of people do it.

I read about one lady who likes to cook fennel outdoors on the grill and bastes it with olive oil. I think I’d like to try that, too. The seeds can be harvested for use in dieting (or other long-meeting needs) by shaking them out and drying in a cool location. The seeds are popular in European rye breads, in Italian sausages and meatballs, and can even be found in Chinese five-spice powders. The apples, or bulbs, can be harvested once they’ve reached the size of a tennis ball or larger. In short, people all over the world use every part of fennel in their cooking.

Here’s one other use for fennel you may not know about. The Anglo-Saxons who settled England around the 5th century used fennel hung over their doors to protect them against witchcraft. That knowledge may help you understand a Harry Potter movie sometime.

Regardless, consider adding fennel to your 2010 garden plans and make this your best gardening year ever! Happy Gardening!

Jerry A. Chenault is with the Urban R.E.A., New & Nontraditional Programs.



Snake in the Bedroom

By Lisa Hamblen Hood

I sometimes feel a false sense of tameness out here in the "sticks," but then I have an incident that reminds me of the wildness. Such an incident happened one quiet weekday afternoon when my daughters were in the midst of swapping rooms. When I returned from a walk, I saw what looked like half a Wal-Mart store stacked in the hallway with the other half equally split between their rooms.

I went in and began working in my office when I heard both girls screaming. I ran to check on the disturbance when I learned my younger daughter had seen a live snake in her room, under a pile of clothes, teddy bears, flip-flops and fishing gear. At first, she thought it was her brother’s rubber snake, but then it flicked its tongue.

I knew I’d have only one opportunity to grab that snake and, if it crawled under the huge mound of unsorted girl-stuff, we wouldn’t find it again until next spring. All I could find to grab it with was a pair of long-handled salad tongs. I bravely donned some rubber boots, grabbed a trash can and the tongs, and steeled myself for the terrifying job.

Both my daughters stood in the hall, nervously calling out encouragement. For a brief moment, I wished my husband had been there to assist, but upon further reflection realized he’d be useless. If he’d have been in that situation, he would have torched the house and called the insurance agent. He’s the toughest man I know. He would grab the Devil by the horns and wrestle him to the ground, but he’s an absolute coward when it comes to snakes.

I took a deep breath, leaned over cautiously and grabbed it. I never realized before how strong snakes are, nor how big this particular one was until I held the writhing creature aloft, trying to stuff all its five foot length into the plastic trash can. I lost my grip once, but quickly recaptured the wiggling snake before I lost my chance forever. When I finally had it safely in the trash can, I started walking down our long hall toward the back door. That’s when the snake reared its triangular head up over the edge of the can. Some unplanned expletive escaped my lips and I threw the trash can down the hall.

I screamed for the girls to run out the front door and open the back door. The snake then began racing straight for my bedroom. Somehow I closed the bedroom door and tossed enough muddy rubber boots at the critter that it headed out the back door and promptly slithered under the air conditioning unit.

All this chaos had been frequently punctuated with phone calls in which the caller would hang up when the girls answered. I found out later it was my mother calling on her cell phone to tell us she had bought a new car. When she couldn’t hear them answer, she’d hang up and redial.

Also in the midst of the crisis, my husband called. The girls gave him the short version. After a pregnant silence, he simply asked, "Is it dead yet?"

It wasn’t.

Then my mom drove up in her new car.

"Look at my new ride!" she announced proudly when we met her out in the driveway.

"Great, mom," I answered glumly.

I’ve got a big snake under the air conditioner that I’m trying to pull out with a coat hanger so I can kill it before it finds its way back under the door.

We all bragged on her new car for a minute and then ran to the backyard just in time to see our show goats trotting off down the road. Apparently, the front gate had been left open in all the confusion. Ignoring them, I found a spade, stood atop the air conditioner and eventually dispatched the snake.

That midnight, as I lay in my bed reflecting on the incident, I hoped the snake had only been in the house a few hours because someone left the back door open and had not come in earlier in the year and laid eggs. It took a while to go to sleep.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">lisa25@centex.net.



Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "I wish it would stop stormin’! Soon as it gets to where the cows ain’t up to their bellies in mud, here it comes rainin’ cats and dogs again!"

What do household pets have to do with heavy precipitation?

The most common explanation of why "cats and dogs" is used to describe a heavy rain is when, in olden times, homes had thatched roofs in which domestic animals like cats and dogs would like to hide. In heavy rain, the animals would either be washed out of the thatch or rapidly abandon it for better shelter, so it would seem to be raining cats and dogs. Other suggestions include derivation from a similar sounding, but unspecified, Greek aphorism which meant "an unlikely occurrence," or it is a corrupted version of a rare French word, catadoupe, meaning a waterfall. It has also been suggested, at one time, the streets of British towns were so poorly constructed that many cats and dogs would drown whenever there was a storm; people seeing the corpses floating by would think they had fallen from the sky, like the proverbial rains of frogs.

The most favored one in the references I have found is mythological. It seems cats were at one time thought to have influence over storms, especially by sailors, and dogs were symbols of storms, often accompanying images and descriptions of the Norse storm god Odin. So when some particularly violent tempest appeared, people suggested it was caused by cats (bringing the rain) and dogs (the wind).

There is, I have to report, no evidence I can find for any connection between the saying and the mythology other than the flat assertions of writers. The phrase first appears in its modern form in Jonathan Swift’s A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation in 1738: "I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs," though a variant form is recorded in 1653 in City Wit, a work of the English playwright Richard Brome, in which he wrote "It shall raine ... Dogs and Polecats," which seems to suggest a stranger and less easily comprehensible origin.

There are other similes which employ falls of improbable objects as figurative ways of expressing the sensory overload of noise and confusion that can occur during a violent rainstorm; people have said it’s raining like pitchforks (first recorded in 1815), hammer handles and even chicken coops. It may be the version with cats and dogs fits into this model, without needing to invoke supernatural beliefs or inadequate drainage.

Having said all that, there is some evidence suggesting a direct link between heavy rain that seems to precipitate cats and dogs. It comes from a poem by Jonathan Swift, A Description of a City Shower:

Sweeping from butchers’ stalls, dung, guts, and blood;
Drown’d puppies, stinking sprats, all drench’d in mud,
Dead cats, and turnip-tops, come tumbling down the flood.

As Swift penned these lines in 1710, nearly 30 years before he wrote the book in which raining cats and dogs appears for the first time, it just might suggest he was quoting an expression he himself had created.

From World Wide Words http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-rai1.htm




Stock Horse Association Promotes Easy, Safe and Affordable Riding

Horsemen and women from all over the Southeast are participating in a new format of Stock Horse Event making it easy and affordable for entry-level riders to get started training and showing a Stock Horse. This new-age horse program is presented to aspiring Stock Horse enthusiasts in Alabama and the Southeast by the Alabama Stock Horse Association.

The Stock Horse concept is all about a good horse a person can safely enjoy no matter what they want to do with their horse, whether going on a trail ride, working cattle, riding in a parade or just going down the road.

The Alabama Stock Horse Association (ALSHA) was organized in 2008 and became an affiliate of the American Stock Horse Association the same year. ALSHA is a not-for-profit corporation, duly registered with the Alabama Secretary of State. It is governed by a slate of officers and a board of directors made up of the officers, four lifetime directors and one director from each of six districts across the State.

The mission of the Alabama Stock Horse Association is to help people ride a better horse by participating in the tried-and-true methods recommended by the American Stock Horse Association. These methods originated in Texas through the Stock Horse of Texas (SHOT) organization and the concept is spreading across the United States like wildfire. The reason for this phenomenal growth is people who participate in events sanctioned by this association get the help they need in a comfortable atmosphere and at an affordable cost to "Ride A Better Horse."

The events offered by ALSHA constitute a program rather than just a show in the traditional sense of the term. This program includes an educational aspect in the form of a clinic with every event and an evaluation aspect in the form of a show which follows the clinic. The clinic is usually on the first day of an event and the show on the next day.

This combination of an educational clinic followed by a show gives a person the opportunity to learn and to practice what is expected of them in a given class or division and then to compete against other riders who are on the same skill level as themselves. Also, the cost to participate in the event is very affordable.

The success of this type of show is based on the fact that it offers a level of competition easy enough for any interested person to get started showing a Stock Horse. In the clinic, a person can learn exactly what will be expected of them in the classes they will participate in at the show. They can then practice the maneuvers under the watchful eye of a competent clinician who gives tips, instructions and helps them develop their horsemanship skills in a caring and understanding manner.

Everything done at one of these clinics is based on helping people with the horse they ride in a helpful, non-intimidating way. A person does not have to go out and buy a high-dollar horse to participate in this program. The whole program is geared toward the beginner who needs help getting started on the road to "riding a better horse." This program can provide help in a very meaningful way. It has been tried, tested and proven in Texas and its popularity is exploding in Alabama.

While providing an excellent opportunity for beginners to get started, these events also provide a place for more advanced and experienced horse people to participate. The Open and Non-Pro Divisions are just as competitive as those at any show anywhere. On the other hand, the level of difficulty in the Limited Non-Pro, Novice and Youth Divisions are scaled down to the point so even the least experienced riders will feel comfortable participating in them.

There is no ownership or registration requirement to participate in the events. Participants do not have to own the horse they bring to one of these events and it does not have to be registered. It can be of any breed. However, this is a HORSE program; donkeys and mules are not allowed.

This program has experienced phenomenal growth in Alabama. The first event in March, 2009, at the Southeastern Livestock Exposition, had 22 horse/rider combinations in the show and 63 total entries. The events in June and September showed continued growth and the final event of the year in November included 40 horse/rider combinations with a whopping 115 total entries. One hundred and fifteen people have participated in the clinics. Larger events with increased numbers in the clinics and shows are the logical expectation for 2010 and beyond.

The 2010 season will have events in March, mid-summer, September and November.

There are seven divisions or skill levels at each event which are: Open, Non-Pro, Limited Non-Pro, Novice, Youth, Collegiate and Green Horse. Each of these Divisions has the same four classes: Ranch Pleasure, Ranch Trail, Ranch Reining and Ranch Working Cow Horse. Any person can find a level of competition comfortable for them. From the Open Division, which is pretty tough, to the Novice Division, that is easy enough for anyone to feel comfortable, there is a place for riders of all levels of skill and experience.

All of the rules, class descriptions and patterns are in the American Stock Horse Association Handbook. The handbook and a lot of other information about this program can be found at the following webpage: www.americanstockhorse.org.

Call Thomas E. Fuller at (251) 513-1499 for more information about the Alabama Stock Horse Association.



Surfing the Net…Or Getting Lost on the Information Super Highway


By Dr. Tony Frazier

I grew up about an hour from the beaches of Pensacola, Florida and Gulf Shores, Alabama, but I do not surf. In fact, if you ever watch the Weather Channel, you will find that about the only time the waves on those beaches are big enough for surfing is when there is a hurricane coming. Surfing in a hurricane has never really appealed to me — not even my more adventurous side.

I have, however, found it necessary in my line of work to surf the Internet. The term "surfing the net" is one that none of us had ever heard of before the late eighties or early nineties. The best I can tell, the Internet was first used to convey information within the military. When it became available to the general public, it was referred to as the "information superhighway." I have discovered that probably as often as not it could be referred to as the "misinformation" superhighway. It is easy, if a person is not careful about the sources of the Internet information, to be wiped out by a huge wave of misinformation while "surfing the net."

According to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics website, which I consider to be credible, over 50 percent of farmers had access to the Internet back in 2005. I think we can reasonably assume that figure has probably increased since 2005. I am not only concerned farmers are accessing misinformation and propaganda, I am also concerned about the effect it has on the consumer when they are reading half-truths about agriculture on the Internet and accepting those as facts. I will provide you with a few examples of how easy it is to get lost on the information superhighway.

Unless you have been travelling in a foreign country or have been in a coma since 2005, you are aware of the effort to get some sort of a national animal identification program going. My estimates are based on nothing more than personal experience, but I got the feeling most producers were neither strongly in favor nor strongly opposed to such a program. Most of the producers I talked with were more concerned the program could be implemented without them having to alter their normal operation and that the cost was reasonable. I have no statistics to go along with that, but at least in traveling across Alabama, I feel I talked to a decent cross section of the livestock and poultry producers. There was a certain portion (far from the majority) who were vehemently opposed to the program. Unfortunately, many of the producers who were in this camp, when asked why they took that position, cited information they had read on the Internet. And, quite honestly, if some of the information I read on websites opposing the implementation of such a system were true, I don’t think I could sleep at night.

Another example is most websites that extol the perils of "factory farming." When the unsuspecting consumer obtains information about animal agriculture from those sources, they get a much distorted picture of modern animal husbandry and production. As I visit many of these websites, if I did not know better, I would think today’s farmer is only interested in making money and has no concern for the welfare of his or her animals. Many of these sites present as facts that modern husbandry practices include loading animals up on antibiotics and hormones while making them live in such densely populated areas they cannot move and are grossly unsanitary. The paradox of that is stressed animals do not produce very well. So, if money is the primary reward, a producer engaged in those types of husbandry practices is pretty much "shooting himself in the foot." Nonetheless, if I am a consumer who has no knowledge of animal production, it could make me skeptical.

There is basically no policing the Internet or regulating it to insure the information found on it is true. In fact, most websites give no indication as to whether there is a particular agenda being pushed by whoever is providing the information. It can be difficult to divide the truth from half-truth from outright lies when surfing the net. It is one of the great inventions of our lifetime when used properly. You can find anything from how to scramble an egg to how to build a rocket to take you to the moon. If you have a computer and access to the Internet, there is a world of information at your fingertips. The problem lies in knowing which websites you can depend on.

There are a few rules of thumb I use when getting information I need. I tend to trust information I get from websites from state departments of agriculture. I trust information I get from cooperative Extension websites. I tend to trust information I get from websites of reputable industry publications that stand up to the scrutiny of readers from all sides of the debate. I trust information on the website www.alafarmnews.com because I personally know the folks who put out this publication. There are other websites I trust, but in most instances, the information you need can be verified by going to multiple sources. Now, if y’all will excuse me, I think I will surf the net for a while. Now what was that website? www……….



The Co-op Pantry





A life-long resident of Coffee County, Margaret Blair Hataway went to work at a local Rite-Aid after she retired from her career as a teacher at Kinston High school, and she said she sees more former students on the job than she does anywhere else.

"Everyone comes to the drug store, so many of my former students are now my regular customers," Margaret said.

And living in a rural area means Margaret is also a regular customer to some of her former students.

"We do business with the Co-op in Elba and the one in Enterprise, depending on which one we’re going to be closest to that day. The store in Enterprise is managed by one of my former students, and my sister and I think one other employee might be the only two people working in the Elba store who aren’t former students of mine," she said.

Margaret’s sister Brenda Martin has worked at the Coffee County Farmers Co-op in Elba for nearly 20 years, and is a big fan of Margaret’s cooking.

"She cooks and bakes all the time, and makes some of the best desserts for diabetics you’ve ever tasted. You really can’t tell they are low-sugar or sugar-free. They are so delicious," Brenda said.

Margaret and Brenda have two more sisters, and all four ladies still live in Coffee County and see each other often. Margaret said that despite growing up in a house with three sisters, none of them could cook when they got married.

"I could boil eggs and fry French fries, and that was about it," Margaret said.

"Our Grandmother Blair lived with us, so anytime our mother wasn’t able to cook, Grandmother Blair stepped right in to take over for her. All four of us girls had to learn by trial and error once we were out of the house," Margaret explained.

Margaret and her sisters all grew up surrounded by farming, and find it hard to believe how much things have changed around them.

"Daddy farmed until 1955, then went to work in the cotton mill until he retired. Back then, just about every field you’d see around here was planted in cotton, now you’d have to drive around a while to find some," she recalled.

"I forget there aren’t many of us cooks who avoid recipe books and do our own thing in the kitchen," Margaret said of her recipes.

"My method of cooking is much more about grabbing a little of this or that and adding as I go. These recipes are a combination of some easy things and some harder favorites. I just hope other people can make some use of them and enjoy them, too."

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 pint fresh strawberries

1 large container of Cool Whip

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese

12 individual-serving packs of NutraSweet

Graham cracker pie crust

Reserve some whole strawberries for garnish; chop the remaining berries into small pieces. Mix chopped strawberries, Cool Whip, cream cheese and artificial sweetener in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Pour into crust. Slice reserved strawberries and place on top of pie. Place in refrigerator about 2 hours before serving.

Note: Peaches or blueberries may be used instead of strawberries.

Mother’s Tea Cakes

1 cup butter, melted

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons buttermilk

All-purpose and self-rising flour

Combine first six ingredients in a mixing bowl. Sift equal amounts of both flours into a separate large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour wet ingredients into the well. Combine as you would for biscuits, gradually drawing more and more flour from the edges of the bowl into the wet dough. Mixture will be thick, like biscuit dough. Pinch off small amounts of dough and flatten to the size of a biscuit, about 2 to 3 inches across. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350o until they begin to turn lightly brown. Do not over knead in flour or over cook as they will be dry.

Note: Margaret doesn’’t measure the flour for this recipe. She sifts together a 5-pound bag each of self-rising and all-purpose flour, and fills her mixing bowl with it, refrigerating any flour left after the dough reaches a biscuit-like consistency.

Easy Low-Sugar Pie

2 packages of sugar-free chocolate (or any flavor) Jell-o pudding

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

12-16 oz container of Cool Whip (depending on how large you want your pie)

Combine all three ingredients and mix well with an electric mixer. Pour into a graham cracker pie crust. Place in the refrigerator about 2 hours to chill before serving.

Simple Low-Sugar Peach Cobbler

1 cup fat-free or low fat milk

24 individual packets NutraSweet

1 cup self-rising flour

Fresh sliced peaches (about 2 cups)

½ cup margarine, melted

In a medium bowl, stir together milk, sweetener and flour. Mix well. Line the bottom of a glass, deep-sided casserole dish with fresh sliced peaches. Pour mixture over them. Top with margarine. Do Not Stir. Bake at 350ofor about 1 hour. Top should be browned and bubbling.

Old Time Egg Custard

1 unbaked pie crust

6 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar or 1/2 cup Equal, NutraSweet

1 cup milk (fat-free or low-fat)

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 300o. Prepare an unbaked pie crust sprayed inside with Pam. Mix eggs and next 4 ingredients well and pour into the pie crust. Bake until the center springs back to the touch. Serve hot, allow to cool or refrigerate as preferred.

Note: Coating the inside of the crust with non-stick spray keeps the crust from becoming soggy if all the pie is not eaten the day it is baked.

Low-Sugar Chocolate Pudding

2 1/3 cups skim milk eggs yolks (reserve whites for meringue)

2 cups Equal or NutraSweet, divided

5 tablespoons self-rising flour

2-3 Tablespoons cocoa

Combine milk, egg yolks, 1 ½ cups sweetener, flour and cocoa. Cook in a double boiler until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Pour into an appropriate-sized, oven-ready bowl. Beat remaining egg whites and 1/2 cup of Equal or NutraSweet to make a meringue. Put the meringue on top of the pudding and brown slightly on top in hot oven. Can be served hot or cold.

Mother’s Egg-Bread Dressing

1/2 cup self-rising flour

1 cup fine corn meal

Pinch of baking powder

Salt & pepper to taste

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1-2 onions, chopped

Stir together all ingredients and pour into a 10-inch skillet greased with cooking oil. Bake in preheated oven on 350o for about 45 minutes.

Place prepared bread in a large bowl. Add homemade chicken broth to the bread. Mix with a potato masher, adding additional broth until mixture is soupy. Pour into a greased dish and bake for 45 minutes on 350o.

Note: 1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup or chopped celery may be added to the broth and bread mixture before final baking.

Broccoli Casserole

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup light mayonnaise

1 can cream of mushroom soup

3 Tablespoons onion, chopped

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli

Ritz crackers, crushed

In a large bowl combine eggs, mayonnaise and soup. When well mixed, stir in onion, cheese and broccoli. Pour into a casserole dish. Top with cracker crumbs. Bake at 350o for about 1 hour or until brown on top and bubbly.

Aunt Maude Hataway’s Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups of boiled, soft sweet potatoes

1 cup Equal or NutraSweet or Sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup skim milk

Topping:

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup pecans, chopped (or whole)

1/3 cup plain flour

1/3 cup butter

Thoroughly mash sweet potatoes. Stir in next five ingredients. When mixture is combined, transfer to a 2 to 3-quart casserole dish coated with non-stick spray. Stir together topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle over potato mixture. Cook in a preheated oven at 350o for 30 minutes.

Mrs. Connie Pearl Hataway’s 14 Layer Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar

1 cup cooking oil

7 eggs

3 cups self-rising flour

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Using a hand mixer on medium speed, mix sugar and cooking oil. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add flour and mix in well. Add milk and vanilla. Mix well. Preheat the oven to 425o degrees. In greased/floured 9-inch cake pans, put 5 tablespoons of batter and bake until done. This may take only 2 minutes; gently remove cakes to cool while cooking more.


Note: These bake so quickly she doesn’t really time them. She watches them bake and removes them from the oven as soon as they begin to brown.

Filling/Topping

2 cups sugar

4 Tablespoons of cocoa

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

Dissolve sugar and cocoa well in evaporated milk in a saucepan. Cook and stir 1 1/2 to 2 minutes after it comes to a boil. Cool slightly and put between layers and on the top of cake.

Corn Fritters

2 cups self-rising flour

½ can whole yellow (not sweet) corn

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm water

Stir together flour, corn with its liquid, onion, salt and pepper. Add warm tap water to get mixture to the consistency of hush puppies, where the batter can easily be dropped from the spoon, but will hold together. Allow batter to rest 10 to 15 minutes. Stir again to release air from the batter. Drop spoonfuls of batter into heated oil in a deep fryer. Fry until medium-brown. Drain on paper towels and serve warm. Makes about 20 fritters. Recipe can easily be multiplied to serve more.



The Co-op Pantry

A life-long resident of Coffee County, Margaret Blair Hataway went to work at a local Rite-Aid after she retired from her career as a teacher at Kinston High school, and she said she sees more former students on the job than she does anywhere else.

"Everyone comes to the drug store, so many of my former students are now my regular customers," Margaret said.

And living in a rural area means Margaret is also a regular customer to some of her former students.

"We do business with the Co-op in Elba and the one in Enterprise, depending on which one we’re going to be closest to that day. The store in Enterprise is managed by one of my former students, and my sister and I think one other employee might be the only two people working in the Elba store who aren’t former students of mine," she said.

Margaret’s sister Brenda Martin has worked at the Coffee County Farmers Co-op in Elba for nearly 20 years, and is a big fan of Margaret’s cooking.

"She cooks and bakes all the time, and makes some of the best desserts for diabetics you’ve ever tasted. You really can’t tell they are low-sugar or sugar-free. They are so delicious," Brenda said.

Margaret and Brenda have two more sisters, and all four ladies still live in Coffee County and see each other often. Margaret said that despite growing up in a house with three sisters, none of them could cook when they got married.

"I could boil eggs and fry French fries, and that was about it," Margaret said.

"Our Grandmother Blair lived with us, so anytime our mother wasn’t able to cook, Grandmother Blair stepped right in to take over for her. All four of us girls had to learn by trial and error once we were out of the house," Margaret explained.

Margaret and her sisters all grew up surrounded by farming, and find it hard to believe how much things have changed around them.

"Daddy farmed until 1955, then went to work in the cotton mill until he retired. Back then, just about every field you’d see around here was planted in cotton, now you’d have to drive around a while to find some," she recalled.

"I forget there aren’t many of us cooks who avoid recipe books and do our own thing in the kitchen," Margaret said of her recipes.

"My method of cooking is much more about grabbing a little of this or that and adding as I go. These recipes are a combination of some easy things and some harder favorites. I just hope other people can make some use of them and enjoy them, too."

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 pint fresh strawberries
1 large container of Cool Whip
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
12 individual-serving packs of NutraSweet
Graham cracker pie crust

Reserve some whole strawberries for garnish; chop the remaining berries into small pieces. Mix chopped strawberries, Cool Whip, cream cheese and artificial sweetener in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Pour into crust. Slice reserved strawberries and place on top of pie. Place in refrigerator about 2 hours before serving.

Note: Peaches or blueberries may be used instead of strawberries.

Mother’s Tea Cakes

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons buttermilk
All-purpose and self-rising flour

Combine first six ingredients in a mixing bowl. Sift equal amounts of both flours into a separate large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour wet ingredients into the well. Combine as you would for biscuits, gradually drawing more and more flour from the edges of the bowl into the wet dough. Mixture will be thick, like biscuit dough. Pinch off small amounts of dough and flatten to the size of a biscuit, about 2 to 3 inches across. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350ountil they begin to turn lightly brown. Do not over knead in flour or over cook as they will be dry.

Note: Margaret doesn’t measure the flour for this recipe. She sifts together a 5-pound bag each of self-rising and all-purpose flour, and fills her mixing bowl with it, refrigerating any flour left after the dough reaches a biscuit-like consistency.

Easy Low-Sugar Pie

2 packages of sugar-free chocolate (or any flavor) Jell-o pudding
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
12-16 oz container of Cool Whip (depending on how large you want your pie)

Combine all three ingredients and mix well with an electric mixer. Pour into a graham cracker pie crust. Place in the refrigerator about 2 hours to chill before serving.

Simple Low-Sugar Peach Cobbler

1 cup fat-free or low fat milk
24 individual packets NutraSweet
1 cup self-rising flour
Fresh sliced peaches (about 2 cups)
½ cup margarine, melted

In a medium bowl, stir together milk, sweetener and flour. Mix well. Line the bottom of a glass, deep-sided casserole dish with fresh sliced peaches. Pour mixture over them. Top with margarine. Do Not Stir. Bake at 350ofor about 1 hour. Top should be browned and bubbling.

Old Time Egg Custard

1 unbaked pie crust
6 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar or 1/2 cup Equal, NutraSweet
1 cup milk (fat-free or low-fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 300o. Prepare an unbaked pie crust sprayed inside with Pam. Mix eggs and next 4 ingredients well and pour into the pie crust. Bake until the center springs back to the touch. Serve hot, allow to cool or refrigerate as preferred.

Note: Coating the inside of the crust with non-stick spray keeps the crust from becoming soggy if all the pie is not eaten the day it is baked.

Low-Sugar Chocolate Pudding

2 1/3 cups skim milk
3 eggs yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
2 cups Equal or NutraSweet, divided
5 tablespoons self-rising flour
2-3 Tablespoons cocoa

Combine milk, egg yolks, 1 ½ cups sweetener, flour and cocoa. Cook in a double boiler until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Pour into an appropriate-sized, oven-ready bowl. Beat remaining egg whites and 1/2 cup of Equal or NutraSweet to make a meringue. Put the meringue on top of the pudding and brown slightly on top in hot oven. Can be served hot or cold.

Mother’s Egg-Bread Dressing

1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 cup fine corn meal
Pinch of baking powder
Salt & pepper to taste
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1-2 onions, chopped

Stir together all ingredients and pour into a 10-inch skillet greased with cooking oil. Bake in preheated oven on 350o for about 45 minutes.

Place prepared bread in a large bowl. Add homemade chicken broth to the bread. Mix with a potato masher, adding additional broth until mixture is soupy. Pour into a greased dish and bake for 45 minutes on 350o.

Note: 1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup or chopped celery may be added to the broth and bread mixture before final baking.

Broccoli Casserole

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup light mayonnaise
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3 Tablespoons onion, chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli
Ritz crackers, crushed

In a large bowl combine eggs, mayonnaise and soup. When well mixed, stir in onion, cheese and broccoli. Pour into a casserole dish. Top with cracker crumbs. Bake at 350ofor about 1 hour or until brown on top and bubbly.

Aunt Maude Hataway’s Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups of boiled, soft sweet potatoes
1 cup Equal or NutraSweet or Sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup skim milk

Topping:

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped (or whole)
1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup butter

Thoroughly mash sweet potatoes. Stir in next five ingredients. When mixture is combined, transfer to a 2 to 3-quart casserole dish coated with non-stick spray. Stir together topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle over potato mixture. Cook in a preheated oven at 350o for 30 minutes.

Mrs. Connie Pearl Hataway’s 14 Layer Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 cup cooking oil
7 eggs
3 cups self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Using a hand mixer on medium speed, mix sugar and cooking oil. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add flour and mix in well. Add milk and vanilla. Mix well. Preheat the oven to 425o degrees. In greased/floured 9-inch cake pans, put 5 tablespoons of batter and bake until done. This may take only 2 minutes; gently remove cakes to cool while cooking more.

Note: These bake so quickly she doesn’t really time them. She watches them bake and removes them from the oven as soon as they begin to brown.

Filling/Topping

2 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons of cocoa
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

Dissolve sugar and cocoa well in evaporated milk in a saucepan. Cook and stir 1 1/2 to 2 minutes after it comes to a boil. Cool slightly and put between layers and on the top of cake.

Corn Fritters

2 cups self-rising flour
½ can whole yellow (not sweet) corn
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Warm water

Stir together flour, corn with its liquid, onion, salt and pepper. Add warm tap water to get mixture to the consistency of hush puppies, where the batter can easily be dropped from the spoon, but will hold together. Allow batter to rest 10 to 15 minutes. Stir again to release air from the batter. Drop spoonfuls of batter into heated oil in a deep fryer. Fry until medium-brown. Drain on paper towels and serve warm. Makes about 20 fritters. Recipe can easily be multiplied to serve more.



The FFA Sentinel


Alabama FFA Alumni President Gary Kendrick of Pell City is shown with the Alabama FFA Alumni’s state winning basket at the 82nd National FFA Convention held in October 2009 at Indianapolis, Indiana. Because it was the overall winning basket, it was sold at the National FF Alumni’s live auction. According to the contest rules, all of the items had to fit inside the basket or, in this case, a cherry cabinet donated by the Wellborn Cabinet Company of Ashland. The “basket” contained donated items ranging from food to clothing to grandstand tickets to Talladega Superspeedway. The total retail value was approximately $10,640. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Hall of Mt. Orab, Ohio, purchased the “basket” for $2,750.

By Philip Paramore

Developing leadership, cooperation and citizenship for tomorrow’s agriculturists is the main goal of the National FFA Organization. In the 80-plus years of its existence, the FFA has supplemented agricultural instruction by making classroom instruction come to life through realistic application. The initial idea for the organization was cultivated after courses in vocational agriculture were established by the National Vocational Education Act in 1917. Virginia, in the early 1920s, started a Future Farmers Club for boys in agriculture classes. The idea spread throughout the country and the National Organization was formed in 1928 at Kansas City, Miss. National dues to the Future Farmers of America were set at 10 cents per member.

By 1934, the only state which had not chartered an association was Rhode Island. In the next 20 years or so, the organization began providing services to support its growing membership. The National FFA Foundation was created in 1944 to provide funds from business and industry to support new programs. In 2009, more than 15 million dollars was raised by the foundation. The next three decades would bring a host of new programs and changes, designed to keep pace with the growing membership and the changing needs of the agriculture industry.

The National FFA Alumni Association was formed in 1971, producing another arm of support to the organization. The Alabama FFA Alumni Association started in May 1972.

For some organizations, in order for a person to be an alumni member, they have to have been a part of or member of that organization in years past. This concept is not the case with the National and State Alumni Associations.

According to the National FFA website, "Agriculture teachers rely on FFA alumni members to help ease the outside commitments of teaching, bring more support to agricultural education programs and give teachers more freedom to do what they do best – teach kids!

"FFA relies on alumni members for student recruiting, scholarship money, aiding in camps, conferences, national FFA conventions and other personal development programs. The high level of commitment the FFA Alumni offers the National FFA Organization (and state organizations) and the communities in which they live helps make FFA students’ lives better."

After a few years of active membership, the Alabama FFA Alumni grew stagnant. In 2009, it was revived and officers were elected to lead the organization into a viable organization.

Serving as president is Gary Kendrick of Pell City; vice president is Shannon Peters of Montevallo; secretary is John Rogers of Piedmont; and treasurer is Arthur C. Waddell of Cherokee.

Every year at the National FFA Convention there is a National FFA Alumni Benefit Auction to assist FFA. Each state is asked to donate a "basket" which is then sold at a silent auction, with the exception of the state winning basket which is sold at a live auction.

The contest rules are simple. All items must fit securely into the basket and be wrapped with clear cellophane. The bottom of the basket cannot be larger than 3x4 feet. A list of the items included in the basket must be clearly visible. The basket can be of any creation.

Alabama’s Alumni Officers and members wanted to do something unique. Following the rules, a solid cherry cabinet donated by Steve Wellborn, Wellborn Cabinet Company of Ashland, valued at $4,899 was obtained using the 3x4 feet "basket" size. Inside the cabinet were items donated by 47 businesses or persons making the total retail value of the "basket" approximately $10,640. Included items were:

Here at Home (autographed), art book by Jack C. Deloney. Donated by Jeff Helms, Director of Communications for Alabama Farmers Federation (Alfa). Retail Value ~ $50.

• Hampton Inn Motel of Pell City, one room for three nights. Donated by General Manager Chad Snead. Retail Value ~ $392.70

• 26 pounds of Pure Attraction Seed, two volumes of Whitetail News and one DVD on Producing Trophy Whitetails. Donated by the Whitetail Institute. Retail Value ~ $57.

• Tote bag, coaster, three lapel pins, six ink pens, small folding cooler, hat, two hitch covers, five pot holders, three rain gauges, two car tags and 50 sample bags of peanuts. Donated by the Alabama Peanut Commission. Retail Value ~ $50.

• 48-quart cooler, pair of Craftsman Gear Wrench Gloves and Craftsman Gear Wrench T-Shirt. Donated by Taylor Supply Company. Retail Value ~ $45.

• One-gallon of peanut brittle. Donated by Seven Winds Kitchen. Retail Value ~ $32.

• Box of regular tea bags, box of decaffeinated tea, bag of regular coffee and bag of decaffeinated coffee. Donated by Red Diamond Coffee and Tea Company. Retail Value ~ $18.

• Miniature cotton bale. Donated by the Alabama Cotton Commission. Retail Value ~ $5.

• One yellow mug. Donated by Alabama Wheat and Feed Grain Commission. Retail Value ~ $3.50.

• One catfish-shaped drink huggy. Donated by the Alabama Catfish Commission. Retail Value ~ $3.50

• Four key chains, a luggage ID tag and apron. Donated by the Alabama Pork Producers Commission. Retail Value ~ $9.50

• Cyclops Brute Electric Fence Charger (sized for 100 acres). Donated by Taylor Fence Inc. Retail Value ~ $300.

• Autographed book by Ray Scott. Donated by Ray Scott Enterprises. Retail Value ~ $50.

• One T-Shirt, two bottles of sauce and a gift certificate. Donated by Dreamland BBQ. Retail Value ~ $80.

• Horse grooming brush. Donated by the St. Clair County Farmers Federation – Alfa. Retail Value ~ $10.

• Assorted fishing lures and artificial worms, and one-day guided fishing trip on Lake Logan Martin in Central Alabama. Donated by Bucks Island Marine and Mr. David Hopkins. Retail Value ~ $450.

• Alabama FFA Flashlight. Donated by Alabama FFA Association. Retail Value ~ $25.

• T-Shirt. Donated by the Spring Garden High School FFA. Retail Value ~ $7.50

• T-Shirt. Donated by the Pell City High School FFA. Retail Value ~ $7.50

• Stuffed animal and Case XX Commemorative Trapper Yellow-Handled Pocket Knife Dedicated to Alabama FFA and Alabama 4-H (1 of 1,000). Donated by the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. Retail Value ~ $50.

• Two three-day general admission tickets for the first Indy Car Race at the Barbers Speedway in Leeds. Donated by Barbers Speedway. Retail Value ~ $170.

• Four two-day race packages including grandstand tickets, hospitality passes, hospitality parking and pit passes. Donated by the Talladega Superspeedway. Retail Value ~ $1,800.

• Three one-year magazine subscriptions. Donated by Buckmasters Inc. Retail Value ~ $69.85

• T-shirt, cap and four jars of honey. Donated by the Alabama Bee Keepers Association. Retail Value ~ $60.

• One half-gallon container of pecan halves. Donated by Whaley’s Pecan Company. Retail Value ~ $34.50

• Four bottles of signature bar-b-que sauce. Donated by W.D. Ricks Sauce Company. Retail Value ~ $20.

• One night hook-up and two stalls for RV camping. Donated by Seven Springs Lodge. Retail Value ~ $34.

A Heritage to Treasure: A History of the Old Chickasaw Nation of West Colbert County, Alabama autographed by Freda S. Daily. Donated by Freda S. Daily. Retail Value ~ $50.

• 11 pounds of Farrier’s Formula, 11 pounds of Double Strength Feed Supplement, one bottle of hoof ointment and hoof pick tool. Donated by Life Data Inc. Retail Value ~ $180.45

• Four jars of homemade jelly. Retail Value ~ $12.

• Four jars of jelly. Donated by Southern Pride. Retail Value ~ $16

• Folding chair and umbrella. Donated by The City of Pelham. Retail Value ~ $30.

• Framed Auburn Print, Auburn key chain, framed Alabama Print, Alabama alarm clock and Alabama shot glass. Donated by Bill’s Custom Framing. Retail Value ~ $125.

• T-shirt. Donated by the City of Alabaster. Retail Value ~ $10.

• Polo shirt. Donated by the American Village in Montevallo. Retail Value ~ $25.

• Cap. Donated by Five Star Heating & Cooling. Retail Value ~ $10.

• Cap and license plate. Donated by ALFA Young Farmers. Retail Value ~ $20.

• Bottle of wine. Donated by Morgan Creek Vineyard, Harpersville. Retail Value ~ $12.

• Clarion Skincare products for women and Clinique Skin Care products. Donated by Victoria Patterson, Montevallo. Retail Value ~ $620.

• Bottle of Pilleteris’ Marinade. Donated by Pilleteris Inc. Retail Value ~ $5.

• Cap and t-shirt. Donated by the Birmingham Barons AA Baseball Team. Retail Value ~ $35.

• Eight tickets for the 2010 Regions Charity Golf Classic (Seniors Tour) in Birmingham. Retail Value ~ $160.

• Two tickets to Alabama Adventures Water Park in Birmingham. Donated by Alabama Adventures. Retail Value ~ $70.

• 2006 World Series Baseball autographed by Detroit Tigers Pitcher Todd Jones. Donated by Todd Jones. Retail Value ~ Priceless.

• Auburn University College of Agriculture cap, pair of gloves, golf balls, towel and two cup holders. Donated by the AU College of Agriculture. Retail Value ~ $60.

• Insulated mug, two glass coffee cups, two baseball caps, Lorus men’s wrist watch, mini Maglite, two keychains, two calculator pen sets and screwdriver. Donated by Praxair Co. in Pell City. Retail Value ~ $120.

• Basket of assorted gifts donated by Alabama A&M University. Retail Value ~ $350.

Alabama’s Alumni Association basket won the top state basket qualifying it to be sold at the live alumni auction during the National FFA Convention at Indianapolis, Indiana. Because Alabama had the best state basket, an FFA member will be eligible for a free trip to the Washington Leadership Conference in the summer of 2010. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Hall of Mt Orab, Ohio, purchased the basket for $2,750.

Alabama’s Alumni Association also had the highest percentage of membership growth in the nation at 300 percent, which includes 100 new members.

Philip Paramore is an Education Specialist with the Alabama Department of Education .




The Reality of Raising Goats:

Its continuous challenge is not for everybody

By Robert Spencer

After ten years of raising goats, let me be the first to admit two things: (1) it’s not easy and (2) I’ve yet to make a profit. I’ve heard all the sales pitches on various breeds and seen the reality. I’ve heard the experts tell how it is supposed to work and seen the reality. I’ve heard recommendations on what it takes to properly raise goats and know the reality of what it costs to implement those best management practices. While the reality is: raising goats is a continuous challenge and may not be for everyone. I’ve always said, "There is nothing wrong with making mistakes as long as they can become a learning opportunity." Let me briefly discuss a few of the challenges and recommend some options.

1) Raising goats is not always profitable – This is pretty much typical of most agriculture enterprises. Whether goats or corn, it takes a whole lot of money to make a little bit of money; this is known as economies-of-scale. In most agriculture ventures, it takes significant volume to generate modest income, ask any row-crop farmer. If someone finds goat farming is not profitable, maybe they should accept it, scale back their operation and enjoy their hobby. Or, add another form of livestock production to see if diversification offers profitability.

2) Goats are a challenge to raise – Too often the problem may not be goats, but the number of goats (stocking rate). When too many goats are raised on a limited space (overstocked), they quickly become vulnerable to stress, parasites, disease, etc. If goats are too crowded, they tend to fight which leads to weaker ones not able to consume adequate nutrition, which leave them vulnerable to health problems. Goats are meant to browse, not graze; avoid lack of browse or grazing matter at all costs. They should not have to compete for nutrition. Also, if they are forced to graze on short growth/overgrazed pastures (lower than six inches), they will become vulnerable to stomach worms and coccidia. In situations like previously mentioned, goats can become susceptible to nutritional deficiencies and health problems, then health care costs can quickly consume any potential for profits. Rather than compromise the health of your goats, consider reducing stocking rates. A goat population lower in numbers, less stressed and receiving adequate nutrition is more likely to be thrifty and require less health care.

3) Goats are expensive to feed – Again, the stocking rate reflects costs of supplemental feeding. Relying on grain feed and hay as a primary source of nutrition is expensive. Unless there is adequate browse and/or pasture, supplemental feed and hay will be necessary. Goats need the long fibers of vegetation (fresh or hay) in their diet to maintain proper digestion. That does not mean they won’t appreciate an occasional treat of feed, but minimizing the need for supplemental feed will keep more money in your bank account.

4) The Southeast is ideal for raising goats and forages – WRONG! The Southeast is ideal for raising parasites and mediocre forages. The heat and humidity of the Southeast allows stomach worms and coccidia to thrive and the poor nutrient value of soils in the South does not facilitate quality forages. Goats tend to remain healthier in arid or colder climates where parasites are less likely to thrive. The soils of the North and Midwest offer better nutrient values for producing quality forages, from legumes to grasses. That is why these regions are known for their ability to produce volumes of any row crop or forage in comparison to the South. Again, lower stocking rates allow goats to select quality vegetation in adequate quantities which allows them to subsist on what is available.

What to do, what to do? Some changes need to take place in the goat industry. Goat producers must become more practical about goat production, stop making excuses and look at what has worked for other forms of livestock production. Either learn to raise less on more or consider lowering stocking rates and adding other animals. Whether it’s cattle, hair sheep (not wool sheep) or horses added to an operation, they are not nearly as susceptible to parasite problems as goats. In the case of cattle or horses, it’s almost like they eliminate the worms and reduce the problem so the goats can thrive. The best thing I have done on my farm these past few years is cull my problem goats and add a few horses. I am worming my goats less frequently and have reduced my feed bill.

Heat and humidity tends to stress out all forms of livestock. Note cattle production does better in the cooler environment of the North and Midwest, and they are closer to quality forages, hay and the "grain belt." The hog and poultry industry is moving further to the North; again, cooler weather and closer access to grains. It costs to transport grains long distances. Also, if you pay attention to publications focusing on the goat industry, they are reporting more and more goat farms appearing in the North and Midwest; it’s for a reason.

I’m not advocating we abandon the goat industry, just become more practical about it. Fewer animals can be less stress and more money remaining for you and your family to enjoy. A farm with abundant forages and healthier animals allows a family the opportunity to take a vacation. My wife and I did that this past year and were amazed, it had been 15 years since we left the farm together for more than two days. And, for those who are retired and living on a fixed income, didn’t you retire to enjoy a certain quality of life and to be able to travel? Enjoy your goats, but enjoy life more!

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.



Use Ingenuity to Simplify Chores in the Winter

Placing firewood in the back of a two wheel drive truck can increase traction.

By John Howle

The frigid days of February make sitting in front of the fire feel good. However, if you live on the farm, the work still has to be completed cold or not. With a little ingenuity, your chores will go easier during winter’s bitter end.

Trucks and Trailers

To get better traction off-road with a two-wheel drive truck, add extra weight in the bed of the truck and lower the air pressure in the rear tires a few pounds. The extra weight in the back can be firewood since this is always a useful item around the home or hunting cabin. Five gallon buckets of sand held secure in milk crates also work. Be sure to re-inflate the tires before going considerable distance on pavement.

The Yamaha Rhino 450 Side-by-Side makes it easy to haul wood out of remote spots.

Tire pressure can change quite a bit during the cold days of February. Since air is a gas, it expands when warm and contracts when it’s cold. Cold days mean lower air pressure in the tires. In most parts of the U.S., the difference between summer and winter temperature averages is about 50o F. This means you can lose about five psi (pounds per square inch) when winter’s icy temperatures hit. This can affect traction, handling and durability of your vehicle’s tires. The rule of thumb is for every 10o F change in air temperature, the tire’s inflation will change by around one psi. Keep the tires inflated to the tire manufacturer’s specifications instead of the vehicle specifications. Often, the psi numbers inside the vehicle door are lower simply to provide a smoother ride with a lower air pressure. This can be unsafe, however, when hauling a load or towing.

When you put a heavy load on a truck or trailer, place a greater majority of the weight on the driver’s side or left side of the truck bed or trailer. Most roads have a slight crown with the middle being higher than the sides. The load will be more stable if placed on the higher side.

The bark will easily slip off dried hickory logs. The bark can be used for a fire lay or for smoking meat.

Wisdom for Wood

There have been many advancements in technology allowing us to access remote areas of the woods. One is the side-by-side by Yamaha. The Rhino 450 Side-by-Side in four-wheel drive allows you to haul firewood from remote areas of the woods. With the opening tailgate and dumping bed, you can haul enough firewood to last for a couple of cold, February days. The four-wheel drive is especially convenient when the winter rains have turned pasture bottoms and forest hollows into slush. For more information, visit www.yamaha-motor.com.

After cutting hickory for firewood, save the limbs that would normally be discarded. Once cut in six to 10-inch lengths; the smaller hickory limbs do an excellent job smoking meat in the smoker. On a chopping block, a hand axe or hatchet makes quick work of cutting up the limbs, and a plastic, five-gallon bucket with a lid works well to preserve the wood in dry storage.

Soak an axe head in linseed oil to prevent slippage of the head and preserve the wood.

When clearing trees for food plots or cutting firewood, to make sure sprouts don’t reappear on the stumps this spring, spray the outer top section of the stump with herbicides like Round-up or Remedy to prevent new growth and speed rotting of the stump. For best results, spray while the sap is fresh.

If knot-free hickory logs cut into firewood lengths are allowed to dry, the bark will slide off intact. Place a larger log on top of a smaller log and tap the bark off the top log with a hammer or split it off with an axe. This bark makes a great fire lay, burns easily and can be used to smoke or grill any campfire food.

For safe felling of a tree when obstacles are around, it is important to know how tall the tree is and how far the tree top will travel when landing. To determine approximate tree height, back away from a tree you want to measure. Hold a stick upright at arm’s length. Sight over the stick so its tip appears to touch the top of the tree and your thumb is at its base. Swing the stick 90 degrees to a horizontal position as if the tree were falling. Keep your thumb positioned at the base of the tree, and notice where the tip of the stick seems to touch the ground. Pace the distance from that point to the base of the tree to get its estimated height.

As a wooden handle axe or hatchet gets older, the wood often shrinks due to a loss of moisture in the wood. This is dangerous because the axe or hatchet head could fly off while swinging or chopping. Soaking the head in a bucket of water or a creek will work as a temporary fix because the wood absorbs moisture and swells securing the head. Better advice is to keep the wooden handle soaked with linseed oil for the life of the axe or hatchet. Wood absorbs and holds linseed oil well and should keep the head secure for the life of the tool.

Ross Thrash (left) and Jake Howle show a couple of harvested squirrels from an Alabama squirrel hunt.

Get Youth Involved

February is an ideal month to get youth involved in the outdoors and develop self- sufficiency skills. Deer season is over, and hunting pressure in the woods is minimal. Squirrel hunting works well to get youth involved because it is fast paced, chances of getting a harvest are high and the squirrel is an easy animal to clean and prepare.

I recently had the opportunity to take an old college buddy from Cleburne County and his son on a squirrel hunt on our family farm. Mark Thrash and son, Ross, live in West Palm Beach, Florida, and they never miss a chance to enjoy the hardwood forests of Alabama. They tell me not many West Palm Beach residents have had the opportunity to enjoy Southern fried squirrel.

This February, don’t let the bitter winds slow you down. Ingenuity and modern day technology will have you completing the work and resting in front of the fire by sunset.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



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