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February 2014

4-H Extension Corner: Reporting on Congress and Conference

Alabama delegates attending the National 4-H Congress were (from left) Josine Walter (chaperone), Seth Rankins, Allison Riddle, Kayla Mitchell, Cheyenne Hartin, Taylor Parker, Maggie Killen, Sabrina Garrett and Tanya Bales (chaperone).

by Tanya Bales, Josine Walter, Joy Maxwell and Kristen Roberson

Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2013, seven Alabama youth attended National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Ga. The event was an award trip the youth received after competing in the Alabama State 4-H Achievement Interviews at last year’s 4-H Mid-Winter Teen Leadership Retreat. The youth turned in record book portfolios highlighting their year’s project work, achievements, community service and leadership experiences. Once the portfolios were evaluated by state 4-H staff, the youth were invited to interviews where they were later named the State Achievement Winners.

The winning youth included Allison Riddle, Covington County; Kayla Mitchel, Covington County; Cheyenne Hartin, Covington County; Sabrina Garrett, Shelby County; Seth Rankins, Lee County; Taylor Parker, Cherokee County; and Maggie Killen, Lauderdale County.

While in Atlanta, the youth attended various leadership workshops, project classes and community service events alongside youth from 45 states and Puerto Rico.

When asked about her experience, Mitchel said, "It is hard to choose just one thing that was my favorite about my time at National 4-H Congress, but I would definitely say I enjoyed all of the workshops and inspirational speakers. The International Dinner was also very exciting because we were able to experience foods from across the world, some of which I had already eaten before but had not thought about where they were actually from."

Riddle said her most rewarding experience of the week was "getting to help revitalize an underprivileged school in the Atlanta area as part of the National Congress Day of Service."

The 2014 National Congress Delegates will be announced in February. Teens interested in getting involved in the Alabama 4-H Program should contact their local Alabama Cooperative Extension System office or visit

Special thanks to event leader Molly Gregg and chaperones Josine Walter and Tanya Bales.

National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference

The 2013 National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference was held in Louisville, Ky., where 4-H members were recognized for excelling in their poultry activities and projects. The conference consisted of activities and contests designed to introduce participants to poultry and the poultry industry. This year, Alabama had two outstanding young men who were recognized as state winners and competed for national awards. Jacob Walls, DeKalb County, won 9th place in Turkey Que.

"I had a great experience representing the state of Alabama at the national level in 4-H. Competing with the best of the best in the United States is like nothing else that I have ever done. I am ready to go back for round two at any time," Walls said.

Miller Kinstley, Shelby County, won 8th place in Chicken Que.

"It was a very rewarding experience, not only because I had the opportunity to learn more about the poultry and egg industry but also make connections and meet people from across America. I was extremely honored to represent Alabama at a national conference and could not be more thankful for the support and encouragement I received from my brother David who represented Alabama in 2012 as well as 4-H and Alabama Cooperative Extension System," Kinstley said.

Preparation for the various contests helps these young 4-H members learn life skills and workforce development. The conference is used to make participants aware of careers in poultry and the allied industries. The chicken and turkey barbecue contests involve skills in barbecuing, preparation of a product, and a presentation demonstrating knowledge of the poultry industry, food safety and product attributes. Some of the life skills learned during this competitive event are becoming an informed consumer, food safety, leadership, communication skills, problem solving and decision making.

Special thanks to the event leader Amy Burgess and chaperones Joy Maxwell and Kristen Roberson.

Tanya Bales, Josine Walter, Joy Maxwell and Kristen Roberson are all regional 4-H agents for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

A Big Duck ’n’ Dressing Dinner

by Christy Kirk

I can tell when duck season is about to start because Jason starts to crave a big duck dinner. He will talk about it for a week or more before he actually decides to cook one. It wasn’t long after Christmas that Jason pulled a duck out of the freezer and asked me to make some cornbread. I thought, after having my dressing at Thanksgiving, Christmas and as leftovers, Jason might be tired of it, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Jason Kirk taught Rolley Len, pictured, how to wash and tear the greens.

In the past, Jason has made duck dressing using Tumpsie Trionne’s recipe, but he wanted to use my dressing recipe this time to see if it would go well with the duck.

Like many grandmas, my dad’s mother Robbie Rhodes had her own special secret recipe for her dressing. She did not share the recipe with anyone for a very long time. When she finally told my mother how to make it, my mother swore that something was either left out or changed from the original. One year I remember hearing my mom exclaim, "It’s mayonnaise!" Grandma Rhodes used Hellmann’s in the cornbread.

When Grandma was in her late 80s, she moved from Anniston to Huntsville - eventually moving in with my parents for her remaining years. She gave my parents instructions on how to make the dressing for the holidays. Every year, my parents followed her instructions, but when they tried to recreate it, it was never quite right. Even the smells at Thanksgiving were not the same as when Grandma made the dressing at her house. My parents tried and tried to figure out what else was supposed to be in the dressing, or what they were doing wrong, to no avail.

As they made the dressing, they adjusted and tasted the recipe … too much pepper, not enough salt, too much celery. Finally they stopped trying and put Grandma Rhodes back to work in the kitchen. My father’s job had always been to chop the onions for the dressing so he was usually around when the dressing was made, but he had never paid attention to everything she put in the mix. Since my grandmother was elderly, Mom and Dad stayed in the kitchen with her to make sure they could help her if she needed it.

Being able to actually watch Grandma Rhodes in the process several times meant my parents were able to learn the entire recipe. My mother wrote it down and also submitted it for a cookbook put together by her work. Mom gave both my sister and me copies of the cookbook when it came out in 2002, but it was many years later before I was brave enough to try to make the recipe. How could I try to reproduce a taste we all considered a family tradition? Even the smell had to be right.

In 2012, I had finally tried to make my grandmother’s dressing for Thanksgiving. I doubled the recipe, but my pan was too shallow. The dressing stayed in, but the butter oozed over the sides and caught fire in the oven. Luckily, I didn’t ruin the dressing when I extinguished the fire. It tasted pretty good, but I think the whole situation with almost burning the house down made it less special for me. So, I made it again at Christmas for my family and again this past Thanksgiving and Christmas. Apparently the keys to getting a family recipe right are trial and error, and family input. This Christmas, my parents and sister all said it was like Grandma Rhodes’, which was the best compliment I could have gotten. So in my cookbook, I added the exact measurements and amounts of the ingredients so I can make it exactly the same every time. It can be tricky to follow in your family cook’s footsteps if they never use measurements, but it can be done.

Since duck is not my favorite entree, I think Jason puts off making it until he knows there will be family or friends around who appreciate it as much as he does. Some family friends were visiting from out of town this winter, so it was the perfect time for him to try a new version of duck ’n’ dressing.

When Jason asked me to make the cornbread for the dressing, I had to ask myself why we didn’t make the dressing more often since we love it so much. The answer is because part of it being special is that it was only served at certain times of the year. Special family recipes shouldn’t be just for special occasions.

For your next meal, fill your home with the smells of food from your childhood. Spend some quality time with your family and try to recreate the warm feelings you had when you walked into your grandparent’s home during the holidays so you can experience them all year.

Duck ’n’ Dressing


1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
Dab of flour, about 3 teaspoons
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s)

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Pour into a greased pan and bake until done (15-20 minutes). Allow to cool. Can be made a day ahead if necessary.


1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
2 cups chicken broth
4 Tablespoons butter (divided)
½ Tablespoon salt or to taste
¼ Tablespoon pepper or to taste
1 large onion, finely grated
4 eggs

In a large bowl, crumble cornbread until it is a fine texture. Add soups and broth. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add to mixture. Add salt and pepper, onion and eggs. Mix well. Melt remaining butter in a deep baking dish. Pour dressing mixture into baking dish. Bake at 450° for approximately 45 minutes. Shake or stir occasionally throughout the cooking. Do not overcook.

This recipe can be doubled for larger groups. Just double the baking time as well and stir or shake the dressing so it will cook consistently. Keep a close eye on it to make sure it does not overcook


Take two dressed ducks and place in a large sauce pan or pot. Add water to the pan until ducks are almost covered. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat a little; cook until tender.

After you pour the dressing mixture into the buttered pan, place the cooked ducks into the dressing. Cook for the 45 minutes as in the original recipe.

Note: Be sure to stir the dressing so it doesn’t brown too much around the edges.

Jason served his duck ’n’ dressing with black-eyed peas, greens and catfish. He even taught Rolley Len how to wash and tear the greens.

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

A Strong Finish

Judson College Equestrian Teams Competing Well in Recent Events

by Katelyn Vanhoozer

Judson College Equestrian Teams traveled to Berry College in Rome, Ga., to compete in shows on Nov. 16, 2013. Team members finished high in the standings in a variety of events.

Collegiate teams competing in the shows were from Berry College, Emory University, Georgia College & State University, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Judson College, Kennesaw State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi College, University of Alabama, University of North Georgia and University of Georgia.

Both the Huntseat Team and Western Team from Judson had numerous placings at the latest IHSA competition. The Judson Equestrian Team Members (in alphabetical order) are: Alexandra Huber, Mechanicsburg, Penn.; Brianne Culp, Brunswick, Ohio; Caitlin Autrey, Selma; Christina Duke, Vestavia Hills; Katelyn Vanhoozer, Waco, Texas; Katie Brown, Muscle Shoals; Katie McQuaig, Cummings, Ga.; Kayla Syck, Deatsville; Lindsay Tubbs, Brent; Mary Kilpatrick, Dothan; Megan Walker, Pell City; Olivia Breimhorst, Warrior; Rebecca Malphurs, Dothan; Rylee Parnell, Tibbie; Sheila Palmer, Hoover; Shelby Crews, Greenville; and Veronica Primavera, Deatsville.

The Huntseat Team was first to ride, with sophomore McQuaig placing fourth in the event and senior Breimhorst placing fifth in Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter. Freshman Brown placed fourth in the Novice Over-Fences class.

In Beginner Walk-Trot-Canter, freshman Palmer placed first; freshman Huber placed second; senior Malphurs placed third; and sophomore Vanhoozer placed fifth.

Later in the day, the Western Team competed against Berry College, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and University of North Georgia.

Sophomore Kilpatrick placed fourth in Advanced Western Horsemanship, senior Crews placed fifth in Novice Western Horsemanship and junior Parnell placed fourth in Intermediate II Western Horsemanship.

In Beginner Western Horsemanship, freshman Tubbs placed third, sophomore Autrey placed fourth,and junior Culp placed fifth.

The Huntseat Team will be traveling to Georgia Tech on Feb. 8, 2014, for their next show.

Katelyn Vanhoozer is a Judson College Equestrian Student Reporter.

AFC Employees Honored for Years of Service

At the 2013 AFC company Christmas party, service awards were presented by interim CEO Tommy Paulk (left, except 35- and 40-year awards).

Honored for 40 years of service was Roger Barnes (left), Feed, Farm & Home, with Jimmy Powers, Feed, Farm & Home Warehouse Manager.
For 35 years, Joyce Brannon, Management Services. Not pictured: Fred Burgett, Feed. For 20 years, Angelia Jones, Payroll
For 15 years, Dale Siniard, Feed, Farm & Home, and Joan Carter, Grain. Not pictured: David Collins, Grain. For 10 years, Robin Moore, Purchasing, and Charles Keenum, Feed, Farm and Home. Not pictured: Phillipe Mahieux, Computer Services.
For 5 years, Sena Hollingsworth, Accounting Service; Judy Jones, Accounting Service; Rodney Poe, Feed Mill; Joseph Hamm, Feed, Farm & Home; and William Hamm, Feed Mill. Not pictured: Ryan Dawson, Computer Services.

Bringing Alabama Ponies Home

Sacred Way Sanctuary owners Sean and Yvette Collin have diligently worked for many years to bring native Alabama ponies home. These ponies are smaller than the American Quarter Horse or other Spanish breeds.

by Susie Sims

Sean and Yvette Collin are on a mission to bring back a major part of Alabama’s history. They are bringing native Alabama ponies home to live. The Collins’ love for their Native American heritage has motivated them to share a portion of Alabama’s earliest history.

The Sacred Way Sanctuary basically is divided into two distinct parts: historical and religious. The historical side offers many exciting, hands-on opportunities for students of all ages to learn about the way of the native people of Alabama. For those seeking a religious experience, the Sanctuary offers a wide range of ancient ceremonies.

Sacred Way Sanctuary is open for historical journeys as well as religious experiences.

Sacred Way is centered around "Spirit Horses" that the Collins say are vital to their health as Native Americans. Yvette noted their "journey" with Spirit Horses began several years ago when a friend gave her a horse. She was in need of healing and the animal helped her overcome her difficulties. Since that time, the Collins have been actively trying to restore the endangered lineages of Native American horses, especially the Alabama pony.

Sean, who is an assistant professor of business law at the University of North Alabama in Florence, has driven all over the country to rescue horses. When he hears of a Native American horse that needs a home, Sean is quick to make arrangements to bring the animal home. He feels it is his duty as a Native American to preserve as much heritage as possible before the old ways are forgotten.

Yvette Collin is a descendent of Plains and Mayan Indians. She believes her Spirit Horses can heal the body and soul. Look closely at the stripings on the horses’ legs. Sean Collin said those are primitive markings that only ancient bloodlines exhibit.

He has a strict no-sale policy for Spirit Horses. They are paired with people who need them. He does not believe in "owning" the animals but only caring for them.

The descendant of Cherokee Indians directed me to their website for more clarification. "Spring is an exciting time here at Sacred Way, as many rare and beautiful foals are born. Each year we select a handful of tribal leaders, community leaders, organizations, families or individuals that are committed to raising and preserving these very special and unique creatures. Sacred Way does NOT sell horses. We are dedicated to their preservation and protection, and to educating others about their unique history and character."

Clockwise from above, Sean Collin is standing near a tree tied with prayer flags. Native people believe that the prayers are carried on the wind. In the background is Robbie Neal, manager of Lauderdale Farmers Co-op in Florence. This structure, commonly called a sweat lodge, was constructed by Native Americans using traditional methods. The Collins had a ceremonial teepee constructed.

According to their website, "Sacred Way Sanctuary strives to honor horses, buffalo and other sacred beings in the manner of our ancestors. Visitors will learn about Native American cultures, as well as experience the way in which these special animals traditionally lived amongst The People. We are a unique cultural immersion destination that caters to families, community groups, school groups of all ages, historians and anthropologists, as well as visitors from around the world."

The spiritual side of Sacred Way is more difficult to understand for those who were raised in a Southern Christian environment. Yvette and Sean have made it their life’s work to rekindle the Native traditions and teach people who are interested.

Left to right, Sacred Way is home to a white buffalo. They have several Churro sheep, the traditional companions of the Navajo People of the Southwest. The animals are unique because they have four horns.

"We do a lot of spiritual work here," said Yvette, who is a descendant of Plains and Mayan Indians. "It’s real traditional; basically what Jesus taught - you can’t take anything for the self. So, all of that is free. People come to do ceremony."

She noted that sometimes people who are going through terrible tragedies come for help.

"We are a place to come where it’s going to be okay," Yvette said. "When they don’t feel like the world has anything left. What else do you say? Traditionally our people have plenty of medicine for that - meaning they knew how to connect to the Holy Spirit and help alleviate that.

"We tried to create a place here where people understand there’s no judgment and they don’t have anything to be afraid of."

Knowing many Southern Christians do not have a working knowledge of Native American religion practices, Yvette is patient and willing to explain anything.

"For my people, taking responsibility for life is the way you honor God. By caring for His creations you honor Him … I know it is not as much a Western society perspective but it is a very Native one. And we also wanted to honor our ancestors … both my husband’s from here (Alabama, Tennessee) and mine. To preserve what they valued."

Yvette is working on her Ph.D. dissertation on Native Americans and their relationship with the horse. She said the simple-sounding topic is actually quite complex.

"Our history books don’t record it the way our ancestors said it happened," she noted.

She said her program is looking at how indigenous cultures say history occurred and is comparing that to what modern science is discovering in medicine, psychology, agriculture and history.

Persons interested in contacting the Collins about visiting their farm may call them at 256-648-0582. You may visit their website at

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

BSE: Ten Years Later

by Dr. Tony Frazier

There is an old saying, "Don’t look for something if you don’t want to find it." I suppose that makes a fair amount of sense, but I have actually spent the better part of the last couple of decades doing just that - looking for diseases I do not want to find. A great deal of the responsibility of the office of the State Veterinarian is to carry out surveillance activities for diseases such as avian influenza, brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis, mycoplasma, BSE and a bunch of others. It should go without saying that it is not our desire to find any of these diseases. However, if they are out there in Alabama, we want to know it so we can quickly respond to them. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is one of those diseases we spend a lot of time and effort looking for in order to be able to export beef to many of our foreign trading partners.

BSE was first diagnosed in 1986 in the United Kingdom. Most of the cases occurred there, although there have been cases in many countries around the world including the United States where three cases were diagnosed between 2003 and 2006. (The 2003 case is why I gave the column the title "BSE: Ten Years Later." I will refer to some events going back farther than 10 years, but I liked the title.) Anyway, the disease emerging in cattle took on a much higher level of significance in 1996. That was the year with escalating numbers of BSE cases as well as a rise in the number of variant CJD cases. (Variant CJD is the disease thought to come from consuming products from BSE-infected cattle. These encephalopathies are caused by prions that are rogue proteins accumulating in the brain, not a virus causing a rabid, zombie person as portrayed by Hollywood.) Sometime in 1996, U.K. health officials announced a likely link between BSE and the human disease. At that point, the worldwide cattle community began taking certain steps to look for the disease.

Here in the United States, all cattle imported from the United Kingdom were located and quarantined so they would not make it into the food chain. Additionally, we began looking for the disease. As we worked our way through the late 1990s and early 2000s, we began testing about 20,000 bovine brain samples annually for BSE. In about the middle of 2003, our worldwide trading partners told us we were not testing enough cattle. They believed we had the disease, but were not looking for it hard enough. So, in an effort to accommodate those concerns, in October 2003, we, along with the rest of the United States, put a plan together to get 40,000 samples annually. According to people at Harvard, that would give us a 95 percent confidence level that, if the disease existed at a level of one case per 1 million head of cattle, we would find it.

That brings us to 10 years ago. In fact, I hate to admit it in writing because I am about 10 days late in writing this column, but it was 10 years ago today that forever changed the beef industry here in the United States. It was December 23, 2003, when it was announced that a dairy cow from Washington State had tested positive for BSE, making it the first to be found in the United States. The early response was swift and negative to put it mildly. The cattle market dropped like a lead balloon and foreign markets closed their doors to U.S. beef. The cost to the beef industry was in the billions of dollars by the time the smoke cleared. The event that garnered wall-to-wall news coverage was referred to as "The Cow that Stole Christmas."

Response from our side, that being the government regulatory agencies, was equally as swift in putting firewalls in place to reduce the chances of allowing the possibility of BSE-infected material getting into the food chain to about as close to zero as could be possible. Immediately, ruminant-source protein was banned from cattle feed. Specified Risk Material - animal tissue where the causative agent for BSE could be found - was banned from the food chain, and that even included pet food. And the level of testing went from 40,000 samples annually to, well, as many as we could collect. I know that by 2006 we had collected about a million samples nationally.

The increased testing did yield two more cases of BSE in the United States. One was from Texas and the other was from Alabama. Having a positive BSE cow from your state is not something I would wish on a state veterinarian I didn’t like, but, in some kind of odd way, I believe our Department of Agriculture, USDA Veterinary Services and the beef industry in the state did benefit from having to deal with the positive case here. We all had to be on the same page so far as making sure the public was given accurate information. I worked closely with our USDA veterinarians as we conducted work to trace the cow to the farm of origin. We constantly were in contact with the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and the Alabama Farmers Federation. We worked long days, nights and weekends to try to find the farm of origin of a red cow with no form of identification. Just as a side bar, that incident figured prominently in magnifying the need for an animal disease traceability program.

When we completed our work and the dust settled, we were able to tell the consumer that the process worked. Our work to find BSE had made certain the animal never reached the food chain. But, even if a cow is never tested and makes it to processing, the firewalls put into place also make sure that possible infected material never reaches the food chain. That event confirmed the system that is in place does work. The degree of working together and educating the public about BSE has been a bright spot in an otherwise bad situation.

Sometime around 2007, we went back to testing at the 40,000 per year level. Actually, I believe we average just over 42 or 43 thousand samples annually in the United States. From those, about 1,100 per year come from Alabama. That includes samples collected by government personnel, state and federal, and by private practicing veterinarians. We continue to test at that level to satisfy the export market as well as to let the American consumer know, if the disease is out there at a level of one-in-a-million, we have a 95 percent confidence level that we will find it.

As we look at diseases Alabama has waved good-bye to such as bovine and porcine brucellosis, we believe we are watching BSE ride off into the sunset. We continue to test for it as well as for scrapie in sheep and goats, and Chronic Wasting Disease in deer. Scrapie and Chronic Wasting Disease are cousins of BSE. Certainly those have not been eradicated from the globe, but they become less and less of a threat to the animal community and certainly to consumer confidence because we continue to look for something we do not want to find.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Chocolate, Yum

by Nadine Johnson

I was 16 years old when I received my first box of chocolates from a beau - Whitman’s Sampler. I can truthfully say I was surprised. I can also say this event made me feel very special.

My younger brothers and sister helped me eat that first box of chocolates.

Cacao is an evergreen tree whose seed are used to make cocoa and chocolate. It may grow 25 feet tall. Its fruit is a melon-like pod that may be 12 inches long. The seed, imbedded in the pod, are about the size of lima beans. These trees are cultivated in Central and South America, the East and West Indies, and West Africa. The beans supply chocolate and cocoa as well as cocoa butter used in candies and medicines. These beans have also been used as money.

Cocoa is a reddish-brown powder made by grinding the kernels of the seed of the cacao tree. The cocoa is melted and pressed to remove the fat. Then it is ground and sifted into a powder.

Chocolate is the cocoa mass with the fat left in. Chocolate manufacturers receive many types of beans. They blend the beans to yield the desired flavor and color in the final product. The beans are cleaned, roasted, hulled, blended and ground. The process continues and provides us with all these wonderful goodies which make us drool.

Cacao trees were cultivated in Central America long before Columbus’s famous voyage. This is truly an American plant.

I consulted World Book for information about cacao, cocoa and chocolate. My research revealed that cacao beans contain health-providing nutrients. However, it is doubtful a single reader is going to be thinking about health when they consume chocolates.

I never received chocolates from another beau - but from this one I received many. Recently, I discussed this subject with my children.

Richard Jr. said, "I especially remember a box of light chocolates with nuts."

That was Pangburn’s All Nuts. Many of my readers will remember the era.

My siblings helped me eat that first box. My children helped me eat many more.

Love is truly "a many splendored thing." Valentines and a box of chocolates are a great way to express that love. This will also create many memories such as I have.

It will not be necessary to consult your physician before consuming this herb.

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

Corn Time


Does Your Turkey Habitat Pass the Test?

If you find a turkey nest, leave it alone. The hen will usually come back to care for the eggs. If you visit more than once, you are creating a trail that can be used by coyotes, foxes, bobcats and raccoons.

by John Howle

It’s a satisfying feeling to watch a flock or two of wild turkeys thriving among the forests and fields of your farm property. This doesn’t happen by accident. To create and maintain a healthy flock population on your place, you can follow a few proven techniques to make sure you have turkeys on your place for future generations to enjoy.

Protect From Predators

This time of year, the food sources of the woods are running low, and turkeys will be venturing out into open fields in search of seeds and winter forage. This is also a time when turkeys are vulnerable to attacks from coyotes and foxes. However, the landowner can unwittingly become a predator to hens and poults. During late spring and early summer, you might jump a hen off her nest. If this happens, certainly don’t try to incubate the eggs or bring family and friends out to see the nest.

The hen will often return to the nest if traffic is low. If you return a few times to "check on the nest," you are creating a trail that can be used by predators such as skunks, opossums, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. If you do stumble upon a nest, quietly back away without disturbing the cover. The hen will often come back and sit on the eggs until they hatch.

This cow is ready to be rotated to a new area for grazing. Constant low grazing can ruin turkey habitat.

To control the population of predators, many landowners will trap or shoot them as the opportunity presents itself. This plan is not very effective in the long term. A more effective plan for protecting the turkeys involves creating more nesting and escape cover.

One way to create more cover actually involves less work. When you bush hog or mow fields, leave about 30 feet of the field edges unmowed. This is especially helpful during May and early June while the hens are nesting and raising poults.

In addition, if it is possible, keep cattle, sheep and horses out of the field edges from around April to June so the hens can have more nesting areas. We’ve all had the discouraging experience of cutting hay or bush hogging to find that we’ve exposed a nest or crushed the eggs with a tractor tire.

Things We Can’t Control

Certainly weather is the main thing a landowner cannot control while attempting to provide habitat for wild turkeys. Unfortunately, weather is the most important aspect of wild turkey production. Turkey poults have a higher mortality rate if May and June are rainy months. On the other hand, if the sun comes out regularly and dries the poults after a brief rain, they will fare better.

This unmowed dry grass creates ideal nesting habitats.

The hen takes care of the poults when they are young by covering them with her wings much like a mother hen will do with her chicks. If poults can survive until around September, they have a much better chance of survival to adulthood. Obviously, rain is a good thing, because it stimulates grass and plant growth, and this in turn stimulates insect production. Both of these are required by young poults.

Create the Cover

There might not currently be much cover for wild turkeys on your property if you are using all available land for pastures and hay. However, it doesn’t take much effort or money to create ideal nesting cover and structure for hiding. Young poults have small legs, and it’s critical for them to be able to put their feet on clean dirt or ground. In addition, the poults need enough plant structure to allow the birds to move through forage as they feed on insects. For the first six weeks of life, insects make up 90 percent of a turkey poult’s diet.

Feathering for our Feathered Friends

There is a simple process called feathering that can easily create the necessary cover for a healthy turkey flock. Feathering simply means allowing the field edges to grow up in natural vegetation and leaving the edges unmowed. This may not look appealing to the eye to see the edge of your fields grown up, but it does lead to better chances for seeing turkeys on your place.

In these unmowed areas, you will have overgrown, dried grasses that make ideal nesting areas, and the briars and woody vegetation that begins to appear provide needed escape cover. In a couple of years, you should begin to see positive results from your feathering if there are any turkeys in your area.

Left to right, once the field edges are allowed to grow for a couple of years, cover and bugging areas are created. It might not look too pretty, but letting your field edges grow up in briars can provide valuable escape cover for young turkeys.

Turkeys and livestock learn to adapt and live with each other if only a few simple steps are taken. Don’t allow cattle to graze forage too low, especially if the forage consists of native species of grasses. Fescue is a bunchgrass and is not ideal for the travel of young poults. I would not suggest killing the fescue, but consider planting some of the lower production pastures in native grasses, which are more ideal for young turkeys.

This February while you are planning your springtime turkey hunts, take some time to plan out a management strategy for holding turkeys on your property. You might find that all you need to do is let the field edges go unmowed, and time your mowing and hay production so nests won’t get destroyed. With nesting areas and cover, you can help your property pass the habitat test for wild turkeys.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Don’t Let the Urgent Keep You From the Most Important

by Glenn Crumpler

Anyone who has ever worked on a farm knows that a farmer’s work is never done. No matter how many hours you labor, how well you plan, how large or how small your operation, there is always something urgent that still needs to be done.

To be successful in farming, you get up before daylight and work till after dark. At night, you grab a quick bite and then settle in to do the bookwork, catch up on phone calls and emails, make plans for the next day, weeks and months: booking feed, seed, fertilizer, checking cattle markets so you can plan your weaning and feeding programs, planning cattle matings, lining up additional hired labor for special projects (if you can find potential hourly employees who are willing to do that kind of work), and the list just goes on and on. Sometimes, just as you are finally getting ready for bed, you get to put your boots back on to go round up the cows that a neighbor called and told you were in the road - then you spend a couple hours fixing the fence with a flashlight. Other nights, you may go out one last time to check the first calf heifers before going to bed and inevitably find one that needs your help. If nothing else, an alarm will go off at one of the chicken houses because something there has gone haywire - all this without any overtime pay and without any comp time so you can sleep in the next morning.

Farming is a great way of life, but it requires a lot of hard, stressful work and the outcome is completely out of your hands. When livestock is involved, you know you are in for a seven-day work week every week.

Not only is farming a hard and risky business, the need for successful farmers is more critical than ever before as the world’s population and the demand for safe food supplies are growing at record numbers. More and more people are facing hunger and malnutrition, all the while more and more young people are leaving the family farm and the average age of the American farmer is at an all-time high. The demand for a steady food supply is rapidly growing while the farming workforce is aging and steadily diminishing.

Ministry is the same way, especially worldwide mission work. The need is so plentiful and as Jesus Himself stated, the workers are so few. Wars, natural disasters, famine, disease, corruption, abuse, neglect, illiteracy, poverty and terrorism are all on the rise, and more and more people are hurting around the world - mostly as a direct result of the sinfulness of mankind. Never have the stakes been higher or the need greater for the world to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and experience the transforming power of His Holy Spirit. The workload is growing, but, like in farming, the numbers of those willing to work or to give of themselves and their resources to help with the work are rapidly shrinking.

We have already thought about how we feel that our work is never done, but can you imagine how Jesus (holy, loving, compassionate God in the flesh) must have felt as He saw all the sinfulness, brokenness, hurt and need in the lives of the people He encountered on a daily basis? Not only could He see their outward need, He could look into their hearts and minds and see the total depravity of mankind others could not see. From a mere human perspective, the burden of seeing needs only He could meet would be overwhelming.

I am reminded of the occasion recorded in John 5 when Jesus came upon the man at the pool of Bethesda who had been crippled and unable to walk for over 38 years. It was on the Sabbath day when Jesus was passing by. Seeing the man who had been suffering for so long and who had lost all hope of getting any better, Jesus healed him on the spot and told him to stand up, pick up his bed and walk, and immediately he did just that.

Now the Pharisees (the most religious of the day) saw the man walking and carrying his bed on the Sabbath and they were outraged. Undoubtedly, they had passed this man by many times throughout the 38 years he had lain by the pool waiting for a chance to be healed. They had seen him suffering day after day, month after month, and year after year, but evidently had shown little or no compassion for his condition. Instead of being thankful and celebrating his complete healing and a new chance at life, they only saw he was breaking their manmade rule for the Sabbath by picking up and carrying the bed he had lain on for so long in his miserable condition.

The Pharisees had witnessed both the miracle of a miraculous healing and a broken rule. Instead of focusing on the miracle, they focused on the broken rule - not God’s rule, but their own. Instead of wanting to bless and thank the One who had healed the man, they wanted to know who He was so they could punish and kill Him for breaking one of the rules they created to give themselves power over others. They asked the man who healed him, but he did not know who Jesus was.

Later, Jesus found the man he had healed in the temple. Jesus said, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more…." Jesus had healed the man physically, but he had a greater need and that was to be healed spiritually - to have his sin forgiven. The man was elated to be physically healed, but Jesus told him he had to repent and seek God’s forgiveness to be healed spiritually.

When the Pharisees confronted Jesus because He had broken their rule and healed on the Sabbath, He replied: "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." Jesus was teaching that there was never a wrong time to do good for others nor a right time to stop doing good. The Bible teaches in Genesis that after creating the heavens and the Earth, God the Father rested on the Sabbath, but this does not mean that He stopped doing good.

Our work on the farm will never be done, but we need to make sure that we do not get so busy tending to the urgent that we neglect the most important needs. Taking the time to nurture our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and showing His love to others must be our priority, regardless of what it costs us. Other urgent things may have to go undone, but the Kingdom work is more important than any other work we do and it will produce the only harvest that will last for eternity.

It is far more important that we feed the world spiritually than we feed them physically. The good news is, if we put Jesus first in our lives, we can do both!

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


February “Lunch & Learn”

Press Release from CAMGA

Central Alabama Master Gardener Jane McCarthy, Prattville, will share information on identifying, propagating and enjoying succulents at the monthly "Lunch & Learn" meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Held at the Elmore County Extension facility on Queen Ann Road in Wetumpka, the free L&L will begin at noon and end at 1 p.m. Attendees are invited to bring their lunch and learn. Beverages are provided by CAMGA.

With extensive greenhouse growing experience, McCarthy’s presentation is sure to educate and entertain all those with an interest in growing members of the huge family of succulents or those who simply would like to know more about them.

The CAMGA "Lunch & Learn" programs for the public began in early 2012 and are held on the second Wednesday of each month. From 30-50 attendees have made these L&Ls a monthly event. Additional subjects for 2014 include: Garden Design; Annuals & Perennials; Hydrangeas and more.

For more information, call the ACES office at 567-6301.

February Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist


- Late this month and early next month are good times to start seeds indoors of summer annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables. Use a good sterilized soil to start the seeds. To sterilize potting medium, set your oven at 180 degrees. Place about five cups of potting medium in a large baking sheet or roasting pan and add one cup of water; mix thoroughly. Cover the container with aluminum foil, loosely affixing an opening so steam can escape. Insert a meat thermometer through the foil into the potting mix. The material should never get above 200 degrees. Try to keep the temperature constant for about 30 minutes to ensure safe and adequate sterilization. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

- If you bought pre-chilled spring blooming bulbs, there is still time to plant them.

- Most perennials can be divided and moved until they begin to show new growth.

- Before trees leaf out, take a good look at your property. Are there any eyesores such as a neighbor’s trash can you’d like to screen out? Now is the time to notice which evergreen trees or shrubs can transform your property into the private sanctuary it ought to be.

- Deciduous shrubs and trees are still dormant enough to transplant this month. Once the buds have begun to swell, it will be too late.

- February is a good time to purchase trees and install them in your garden while they are still dormant, as long as the ground can be worked. Exercise restraint and prudence when making your selection, and avoid buying a tree which will ultimately grow (sometimes very quickly) way too large for the space. You cannot prune a tree that wants to be huge and make it small. It’s a losing battle and the poor tree will suffer.

- Don’t let the calendar deter you from planting some vegetables. English and edible-pod peas, spinach, kale, onions and a few other cold-hardy crops can be planted in late February through March.

- February is the month to begin spring gardens with crops such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower (transplants only), Swiss chard, collards, kohlrabi, lettuce (leafy), mustard, Irish potatoes, radishes and turnips.

- If you have a cold frame and conditions allow, sow an early crop of spinach and lettuce in it. Don’t use potting soil to grow seeds; seed-starting mix is finer-textured and the right choice.

- Irish potatoes should be planted in February or early March. If planted too early the tops can be frozen off by spring frost. The soil temperature at four inches deep should be 50 degrees.

- Bonnie strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.


- Fertilize winter bedding plants such as pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and dianthus with a slow-release lawn fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound per 10 square feet of bed area.

- Feed iris with bone meal.

- Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs if not done in November. Don’t fertilize while they are blooming.

- Use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed roses. If you use a dry-type fertilizer, be sure to water it in thoroughly.

- Cool-season grasses need an application of a slow-release form of nitrogen fertilizer in February. Check labels before using fertilizers.

- February is the ideal time to fertilize healthy trees. A simple calculation is based on trunk diameter – use one pound of a high nitrogen fertilizer (slow-release type such as 19-5-9) per inch diameter of tree trunk … measure the distance around the tree about four feet above the ground and divide by three. Spread the fertilizer evenly throughout under the canopy of the tree.

- Mid to late February is the time to fertilize shrubs and evergreens. Use an acid-type rhododendron fertilizer to feed evergreens, conifers, broad leaf evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

- Feed English peas, spinach, kale and onions.

- Perk up your garden with the addition of rotted manure or compost. Two to four inches spread over the surface and tilled to a depth of 8-12 inches will improve the spring garden.

- Houseplants may notice the longer days and begin growing. You can begin feeding them again, but use a diluted (50 percent) fertilizer mix until the growth is robust.


- Bush roses can be cut back to two to three feet in height and climbers can be cut to five or six feet.

- Cut back hybrid tea and repeat-blooming roses before the buds break.

- Deadhead pansies periodically to ensure more blooms. During active growth in the spring, fertilize them about once a month.

- Cut lirope (monkey grass) down with mower set on four inches or with string trimmer. Pull back the existing foliage to check for new growth. If you cut the new growth, your lirope will have brown tips when it matures during spring and summer.

- Lenten roses will begin unfurling new leaves this month into the beginning of March. Remove old leaves, cutting them off as close to the soil as possible.

- Cut down ornamental grasses before wind and rain causes them to shatter and litter your lawn or planting beds.

- Always prune trees and shrubs with a purpose such as to get rid of dead or broken branches, to make plants more shapely or to admit sunlight to areas beneath. In other words, don’t just saw off tops!

- Overgrown summer-blooming shrubs can be pruned in late February or March. These might include abelia, beautyberry, butterfly bush, rose of Sharon and crape myrtle.

- Prune your summer-flowering shrubs now, but be aware that spring bloomers produced their buds last fall and pruning them now will result in the loss of flowers. Forsythia, quince, spirea and other early spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned a little later, after they have finished flowering.

- Some trees bleed sap profusely if pruned in spring. It doesn’t harm the tree, but if you want to avoid the mess, wait to prune maple, birch and dogwood trees until early summer.

- When removing wayward branches from shade trees, make correct pruning cuts at the branch collar.

- Summer-bearing raspberries and blackberries should have all the canes that produced fruit last year removed.

- Mature apple and pear trees can be pruned, but do not prune young fruit trees, peaches or plums before March.

- Kiwis and grapes must be pruned by Valentine’s Day to prevent sap "bleeding."

- Prune back leggy houseplants. Many will root easily from the cuttings.


- Water outdoor plants well a few days before the arrival of a cold front, but not just before.

- Once you plan your plantings, pots and beds, you can design an irrigation system that can save time and money in more efficient watering for a maximum yield.

- Keep misting your indoor plants. Winter is long and dry for them, but be careful not to overwater. Check soil for dryness before watering.


- Apply broadleaf weed killer on warm days to eliminate henbit, chickweed, dandelions, clover and non-grassy weeds.

- This is a good month to apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent warm-weather weeds.

- Beat cane fruit diseases by spraying liquid lime-sulfur on berry crops such as raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Spray before buds begin to swell.

- February is the month to make the last application of winter dormant spray. Wait for a time period that will ensure temperatures above freezing for at least 48 hours to apply a dormant oil spray to euonymus, hollies, oaks, pines, pecans and fruit trees which are prone to scale. To prevent damage, cover any actively growing flowering annuals or overseeded lawn areas to avoid contact with the dormant oil spray. Follow label directions carefully to ensure good results without damage.

- Spray for peach leaf curl before the middle of the month.

- You should take a walk around the garden to check for damage caused by rabbits and rodents. Install hardware cloth around stems to protect against further damage.

- Continue to pick up fallen camellia flowers to prevent the spread of camellia petal blight.

- Keep an eye out for signs of houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. If tackled before they get out of hand, nonchemical methods are usually successful: a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray (as directed on label) or with the most tenacious (like mealybugs) sometimes an alcohol swab and Q-tip.


- February is one of the two coldest months of the year. Don’t let unseasonably mild temperatures dictate what you do in the landscape.

- Start planning this year’s garden. Sketch the garden and fill in the rows for rotating crops and planning space.

- You’re going to be using your pots and seed trays next, so this is a good opportunity to wash out and sterilize them with 10-parts water to 1-part Clorox so your seedlings will get off to the best possible start.

- Put bluebird boxes out in February.

- Purple martins usually start arriving in North Alabama the last week in February. Get your houses ready!

- Avoid the spring rush and take soil samples. Your local Co-op has kits available. Follow soil-test recommendations for the proper amendments to your soil and the plants you wish to grow.

- It’s time to turn the compost pile!

- "Scalp" the warm-season lawn late in the month to remove winter-killed stubble. Set the mower down one or two notches.

- Brighten things up in your home by forcing branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as forsythia, flowering quince, flowering almond, peach, spirea, dogwood and crabapple. It’s simple. Just cut the branches, place them in a bucket of warm water and recut the stems to enhance water absorption. Then sit back and let nature take over. In a few days, the branches should produce flowers.

- Build something for the garden. Do you want a raised bed, trellis, cold frame, arbor, tool shed, fencing or screen?

- Check your over-wintered plants such as fuchsias and geraniums and verbena.

- Don’t wait ‘til the spring rush to get your mower and tiller back in shape!

- Get cutting and digging tools sharpened now. For sharpening jobs that you can’t handle, take tools to a local hardware store that advertises blade sharpening.

- Help cure spring fever on a pleasant winter day by cleaning out and tidying up the garden shed.

- If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month.

- If you potted bulbs for forcing last fall, check their progress. Soil should be barely moist. If tips have sprouted and have a few inches of growth, bring the pot into a cool, bright room (50-60 degrees). Gradually expose the plant to increasing warmth and indirect sunlight. Increase waterings. Feed once a week with half-strength houseplant fertilizer. To help the stems grow straight, turn the pot every day. When buds and foliage are fully developed, bring into full sunlight, and enjoy the early spring show!

- Stored summer-flowering bulbs may try to start to grow if they are subjected to heat. They should be kept very dry and stored at 45 degrees. If they are shriveling, put them into slightly damp peat moss, but keep them cool!

- Test leftover garden seed for germination. Place 10 seeds between moist paper towels. Keep seeds warm and moist. If less than six seeds germinate, then fresh seed should be purchased.

- Weather permitting, February is the month to begin tilling or spading the soil. Do not undertake this project until the soil is dry enough to work.

- One of the best ways to test the soil is to simply take up a handful of earth and squeeze it in your hand. If water oozes out, the soil is still too wet to till. Compost, well-rotted manure and any other organic matter are excellent additives to mix into vegetable garden soil as you prepare it for planting. This is also the time to turn under your cover crops.

- Continue feeding our feathered friends, you’ll want them to stick around to help with insect control when the weather warms again. Locate feeders out of the wind, positioning them near natural cover and perches. For ground feeding, provide an area near cover with a clear view of the surroundings.

- Suet is an essential source of energy for birds during winter. Your local Co-op should have a variety to choose from.

Feed Conversion Efficiencies

by Robert Spencer

Everyone has the preferred form of livestock production for their farm; there is no well-defined protocol to determine which is best for everyone. A lot of it depends on personal choice and resources (land and financial). There are some technical aspects such as feed conversion ratios, average daily gains, stocking rates, etc., most of which have to do with production efficiencies. A lot of this has to do with breeds, genetics, stage of development, and quality of nutritional resources. This article will look at feed conversion ratios and save average daily gains for another issue.

No matter what type of livestock you prefer, all animals have basic nutrient requirements, so trying to provide anything beyond fundamental requirements is a waste of nutrients and money. Protein is the most expensive component of commercial rations; therefore, it stands to reason goat feed is more expensive than cattle feed. Some general numbers to know are 10, 12 and 14; these are relevant protein requirements for cattle, sheep and goats. All this will range +/- 2 percent depending on the stage of production including maintenance, lactating and developing animals. Maintenance animals have the lower nutritional requirements such as adult animals not breeding or lactating. Lactating and developing animals have the higher nutrient needs. Lactating animals are nursing young. Young animals tend to include lactating, weanling or not fully developed animals.

Some basic components of nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fiber, fat and minerals. Some animals process nutrients more efficiently than others; there are many variables. That is why you need to understand the term "feed conversion ratios" to better understand processing efficiencies of each species. Wikipedia defines Feed Conversion Ratios as "a measure of an animal’s efficiency in converting feed mass into increased body mass." We measure in pounds, as in pounds of feed (forages, hay or grain-based) consumed and converted into body mass (pounds). Numbers found tend to vary depending on sources of information, breeds, stage of production (maintenance, lactating, developing), age (younger more efficient, older less efficient), etc. Lower ratios indicate greater efficiencies. The following numbers are simple ranges or average of pounds of feed per pound of expected weight gain: cattle, 4.5-7.5:1; sheep, 4-8:1 and goats, 6-8:1. The higher the number, the less efficient the animal is. To put this in perspective consider the following critters: hogs, 3-3.2:1; poultry, 2:1 and fish: 1:1. All of these are much more efficient than ruminants.

How can we improve feed conversion ratios? The key is quality; quantity does not compensate. There are two primary sources of nutritional resources, forages and supplemental. (1) One is found in a natural environment or habitat such as grazing or browsing for cattle, goats and sheep. Year-round quality forage for grazing and browsing is the most efficient and healthy source of nutrition for livestock. (2) Three supplemental sources of nutrition include: commercially formulated feeds (loose and pelleted), hay (round or square bales) and silage (much of it is vegetation based). Hay and grain-based rations are ideal for supplemental feeding of lactating or developing animals. Silage works for cattle, but requires extra preparation equipment and storage facilities. Extra pounds of poor or low-quality protein/forages/hay/grains are no substitute for quality sources of nutrition. Quality contributes to an efficient feed conversion ratio and production efficiencies.

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

Formax Fly Control

February is the time of the year we need to consider fly control programs for spring and summer. While it’s cold and dreary outside, spring will soon be here and flies will be back again.

The best feed-through fly control program is provided at least 30 days prior to the emergence of flies. That makes the month of February critical in the selection and implementation of a fly control product. Flies cost the cattle industry billions of dollars each year from lost weight and the transmission of disease. With the current value of cattle, the use of a good fly control program will actually pay for itself and put additional profits in your pocket from the increased weight gain alone.

While there are several products available and each offers its own advantages, we have had very good results from the use of IGR in minerals and tubs. IGR is an insect growth regulator shown to be very effective in controlling and preventing the most costly of the flies – the horn fly.

We offer Formax Mineral with IGR as an excellent loose mineral for fly control. Formax IGR Mineral also contains large levels of highly available minerals and vitamins to meet your cow’s daily needs for these nutrients.

As the days get longer and warmer, it is time to select a fly control product to add weight to your calves and profits in your pockets at sale time.

If you have questions about this or any fly control product available at your local Co-op, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Goats Aren’t Just for Farms Anymore!

by Jackie Nix

As goat lovers can attest, goats have a lot of personality. More and more people are raising goats as pets rather than commercially for meat or milk. For many first time owners, this is their first experience raising a ruminant animal and they are surprised at how different they are from dogs and cats. In an effort to help simplify the experience, the SWEETLIX All Purpose Goat Pail was developed for all sizes, ages and breeds of goats.

Since goats are ruminants, they are designed to digest forages like grass, browse and hay. And because these little guys are living the high life as pets, their needs won’t be as rigorous as animals in a production setting. Under these conditions, it’s very easy to overfeed your goats. The SWEETLIX All Purpose Goat Pail was developed to "spoon feed" to your goats the essential nutrients most likely to be lacking in hay and pastures. Think of these pails as insurance to bridge nutritional gaps – just in case. In many situations, this pail, fresh water and plentiful pasture or good quality hay are all you need. When you don’t know the quality of your hay or if you notice your goats are losing weight, it’s best to hedge your bets by feeding a small amount of commercial feed as well.

We know that nutrition can be confusing! That’s why the SWEETLIX All Purpose Goat Pail delivers the full daily requirement of salt, minerals and vitamins along with supplemental protein needed to keep your goats healthy and happy. The added protein helps the rumen microbes digest available hay and pasture more efficiently – giving you more bang for your feed dollar! Provide it to goats on a self-fed basis as directed for glossy coats and strong hooves. No other sources of salt or minerals are needed or recommended. So be sure to throw away all of those white salt blocks and red trace mineral blocks as they will interfere with proper intake of the SWEETLIX All Purpose Goat Pail. Also, there’s no need for measuring scoops as these self-fed pails allow goats to adjust to their needs on a daily basis.

This convenient, 18-lb flat-back pail is designed to be easily hung from fencing or a post anywhere your goats are. We recommend placing them within 10-30 feet of your water source. You don’t even need to shelter these weather-resistant pails from the elements as the unique SWEETLIXformula retains its excellent palatability in rain, sleet or snow. This supplement won’t melt or blow away. You don’t even need to dump rain water off, unless you just want to, as the goats will drink the water and continue eating the supplement.

Plus, because these pails are available 24/7, there are no worries about the dominant goats keeping the smaller, weaker ones from getting their share. Just provide one pail per 5-10 animals so each can have access. It may be necessary to have at least 2 pails at all times if you have one very dominant goat. Once these heavy-duty, plastic pails are empty of supplement, they make great water and feed buckets.

Another added benefit is that when these pails are hung up, kids cannot climb or lie in them, keeping the supplement clean. As you know (or will soon find out!), keeping feed clean of kids’ dirty little feet is an uphill battle! Goats are very clean animals and will refuse to eat feed, minerals or hay covered in dirt and manure if given a choice. When feed pans and hay troughs are contaminated with manure, goats are more likely to contract deadly parasites. Keeping supplement clean not only promotes proper intake of nutrients but also helps protect your goats from disease.

While knowing what and how to feed a goat can be a little overwhelming, the SWEETLIX All Purpose Goat Pail strives to simplify this as much as possible. Just follow our feeding directions, and let the goats get what they need, when they need it. What could be easier?

Ask for the SWEETLIXAll Purpose Goat Pail by name at your local Quality Co-op! For more information, visit or call us at 1-87-SWEETLIX.

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

How's Your Garden?

This heart topiary found in a Califiornia yard was created by a loving husband and has been maintained by his widow

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

A Valentine’s Shrub

One day when my husband and I were riding through a neighborhood in Pacific Beach, Calif., this large, heart-shaped shrub caught our attention enough to stop and take a picture. The lady of the house came out and told us her husband created the topiary many years ago. He has since passed away and she maintains it in his memory. Since this is the month for valentines, I thought this would be nice to share with all you sentimental gardeners. We all have plants linking us to loved ones.

Sweet Pea Flowers

One of the best gentle fragrances of spring has to be sweet peas. However, I am usually only smelling them in someone else’s garden because I often miss the narrow window of time for planting! So with this writing, I am reminding myself, and hopefully you, too: if you like sweet pea blossoms, now is the time to plant them. These are not flowers you can usually get at the florists or even a farmers market, making them all that more special to have in the garden. They are hard to transport without damage. Sweet peas are so easy to grow that it’s a shame to let the opportunity pass. The cut stems hold up for a few days in a vase, too. They will grow in the ground or in a container. A packet of seeds will plant 10 feet or more along a chain link fence or trellis.

Left to right, With a little paint and some time you can create a magic spot to enjoy your garden. This patio observed on a North Carolina garden tour might be the inspiration. Sansevieria is one of the toughest houseplants you can buy. It is nice for either indoor or outdoor decoration.

Prepping for Spring

A few days of nice weather in winter give us a chance to get ready for spring by painting furniture, building patios, fences and other projects not about growing. Act now, while there is time, to begin creating that magic spot in your garden where you can sit and enjoy later. For inspiration, here is a bright patio I saw on a garden tour in North Carolina. Painted chairs, a painting created with outdoor latex and lots of color elsewhere make this a charming little spot.

A Tough Houseplant

Sansevieria, otherwise known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, is one of the toughest houseplants you can buy. Its thick succulent leaves are well adapted to low light and they hold lots of water so you don’t have to water very often. I move ours outdoors to the shade in the summer and then bring it indoors for the winter, placing it just about anywhere regardless of light. It would probably survive in a closet for a few weeks. If you’re looking for a nice houseplant to decorate indoors, this would be a good one to try. The one pictured here is in a hotel lobby in Austin, Texas, where it is also planted with a paddle plant at the base for contrasting shape and texture.

We Can Grow Citrus in Alabama

If you have a garage or basement that doesn’t freeze, chances are you can grow some of your own citrus! I take this example from a friend in Homewood who has been growing citrus in containers at the foot of his driveway for years. When frost threatens, he moves them into the garage for the winter. There they stay until April of the next year. It is amazing how many delicious fruit are borne on these containerized trees, especially high-value fruit such as Meyer lemon. Meyer has a tender skin, exceptional fragrance, and is thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin-type citrus. It is sweeter than lemon and much more fragrant. Meyer is known to make great lemonade. Years ago, the LA Times wrote an article titled "100 Things to Do With a Meyer Lemon" that can still be brought up online by entering the title name in the LA Times website search bar. You will begin to see citrus for sale in garden centers now and through spring. If you’ve ever thought about growing some, now is a good time to act on it. Unless you live on the coast, your citrus needs winter protection. Three of the most cold-hardy types are satsuma, calamondin and kumquat. Lemons and limes are the least cold hardy.

Left to right, If you have a garage or basement that doesn’t freeze, chances are you can grow some of your own citrus! Large plastic barrels have been used to grow potatoes vertically. This is a clever idea for gardeners with patios or small growing spaces.

Clever Potato Barrel

Here is a clever idea from gardeners Tom and Cathy Ellis for growing potatoes vertically. These large plastic barrels are perfect for the deep soil potatoes need to put on lots of tubers and are adaptable to patios or places where there is not a lot of growing space. Planting pockets are cut from the sides to create planting holes for seed potatoes and, of course, there are potatoes planted in the open top. With drainage holes in the bottom, potatoes will grow happily until it’s time to eat them!

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

In-Flight Layover

Sandhill cranes by the thousands use Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur as wintering grounds because of the habitat and abundance of food. The endangered whooping crane also uses the refuge, which recently held its 75th anniversary celebration. (Credit: USFWS, David Rainer)

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Celebrates 75 Years of Waterfowl Preservation

By David Rainer

The rattling trill of noise was baffling as I walked across the parking lot at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur recently to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Because I hadn’t visited the refuge in winter, I didn’t realize what all that noise was until the trill with a goose-like finish started getting louder and louder. I looked in the gray skies and the mystery was solved. It was a group of six cranes floating lazily in the north wind, headed for an agricultural field for a mid-morning snack.

"Whooping cranes?" I asked one of the rangers.

"Nope, those are sandhills," he answered. "We’ve got thousands. We’ve got some whooping cranes, too. If you look in the back field, the whooping cranes are the white ones."

Indeed, the back field was filled with cranes, mostly the red-capped sandhill variety. The white whooping cranes, an endangered species, were easy to spot.

The crane population is only one aspect of the mission for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge providing food and rest for a vast variety of bird and waterfowl species using the Tennessee River Valley as wintering habitat.

"We average at peak in the winter between 60,000 and 75,000 ducks on the refuge," said Wheeler NWR Manager Dwight Cooley. "Almost without exception, mallards are the No. 1 waterfowl species we winter here. There has been a bit of change over the last 20 years. Gadwalls are our second highest number of birds that winter here. At one time, the American wigeon was second.

When 9-year-old Brooklynn Howard volunteered to help Larry Battson in the exotic animals presentation, she didn’t know she’d end up holding a python on her neck. Brooklynn is the daughter of Adam and Linda Howard. Linda is a software developer at Alabama Farmers Cooperative. (Credit: Decatur Daily)

"At one time, we had 50,000 Canada geese wintering here. Now we’re lucky to get between 500 and 1,000 of the migrant Canada geese. Our geese come from Southern James Bay. There was a study done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited that looked at this. What the study found was the geese were wintering north of us for a variety of reasons, one of which was changing agricultural practices to minimum tillage and no-tillage areas. The birds are just not getting this far south any more."

While no waterfowl hunting is allowed on the 35,000-acre Wheeler NWR, Cooley said the refuge’s wintering habitat makes the hunting better throughout the state.

"The fact that the refuge attracts the largest number of ducks in the state, even though we don’t hunt the refuge, I think the surrounding areas see a lot of benefits in the waterfowl hunting throughout the Tennessee Valley," he said.

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the executive order to establish the refuge in 1938, Cooley said it was a time when the United States was trying to "tame" the Tennessee River.

"It was also a time of concern about waterfowl populations and breeding habitat in particular," said Cooley, who has been the manager at Wheeler for 16 years. "It was really viewed as an experiment to see if wildlife could be managed in these newly developed deep-water reservoirs in north Alabama. This is a long, almost riparian type of refuge. It’s 20 miles long. It was part of the land acquired by the Tennessee Valley Authority for buffers and flowage easements when Wheeler Dam was constructed in 1936.

"As a matter of fact, in the executive order signed by President Franklin Roosevelt it was stated that waterfowl was the prime reason the refuge was established."

Cooley said, although the NWR system is in a period of tight budgets, the primary missions will be continued.

"For here, our priorities are waterfowl and endangered species," he said. "We will provide recreational opportunities for residents. And we’ll provide conservation and environmental education for the public. The City of Huntsville brings every student in the fifth grade over here every year, and uses the visitor center and observation area for their conservation and education classes.

"There are plenty of fishing opportunities. And we allow hunting for deer, feral hogs and small game. The deer and hog hunting are bow-only except for a two-week to 20-day season for flintlocks or primitive muzzleloaders. We follow state regulations on small game. We allow shotguns with non-toxic shot and rimfire rifles. We get quite a lot of use during the hunting seasons. And we have more and more people who are interested in wildlife photography."

As part of the festivities, the Teddy Roosevelt Show, featuring Joe Weigand, made its way through the crowd during the celebration.

Like most everything, Cooley said the effort to enhance the waterfowl habitat at the refuge has been trial and error, and has significantly evolved over the years.

"When it started, the work was primarily in the deep-water habitats in the reservoir itself with suitable plant species," he said. "It didn’t work very well because of the depth of the water and raising and lowering of the water levels from summer to winter pools. That also involved electricity production, flood control and, early on, mosquito control.

"The managers at the time said there was one thing they could do, which was farm the areas that had been in crops when the TVA acquired it. That was aimed primarily at geese, which they knew would use those upland areas. So the farming program in the National Wildlife Refuge System really started right here at Wheeler. In fact, one of the former refuge managers Tom Atkeson wrote a book called ‘Farming for Wildlife,’ which was based on some of the early work done here at Wheeler."

The habitat improvement eventually included water-control structures in the lowland areas to control the water levels to help in the planting of native vegetation with good seed production as well as row crops around the edges of the areas.

"As we flood them in the winter time, those areas are flooded to provide food for the waterfowl," Cooley said. "In the upland areas, we farm between 3,000 and 5,000 acres on a share agreement with eight farmers in the area. We rotate between corn and soybeans, mostly. Sometimes we will plant milo and millet."

Celebrating its 75th year of existence was a lesson in persistence. The government shutdown forced the original anniversary celebration to be rescheduled. Then Mother Nature decided to send a winter blast through north Alabama for the rescheduled date of Dec. 7. Because of the weather forecast, a variety of outdoors components to the celebration were canceled. The remainder of the events was held inside the visitor center just off Highway 67.

Despite a long journey in bad winter weather, Larry and Cheryl Battson, founders of Wildlife Educational Services, made it to Decatur in time to present their live wildlife program at the celebration with a variety of native and exotic animals.

The Teddy Roosevelt Show, featuring Joe Wiegand, entertained the audience with his one-man theater show about the life and times of America’s 26th president, who was an avid hunter and explorer.

The anniversary celebration wasn’t the only big event scheduled for Wheeler NWR. On Jan. 11, 2014, the refuge celebrated the second annual Festival of the Cranes.

The Festival of the Cranes included nature walks, live raptors and refuge tours. Visitors got a chance to see some of the more than 12,000 sandhill cranes, along with several pairs of whooping cranes, that winter each year at Wheeler.

Hosted by the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association, the Festival of the Cranes kicked off at 6 a.m. with a sunrise breakfast in the visitor center classroom. Cooley then led an early morning walk to see cranes and other waterfowl as the birds foraged in nearby fields.

Joan Garland, education outreach coordinator for the International Crane Foundation, gave presentations on efforts to restore a migratory flock of whooping cranes to eastern North America. Additional activities included two showings of "Hope Takes Wing," a film by and about Operation Migration on the history of the whooping crane, and two presentations by Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center that taught about birds of prey, including owls, hawks, falcons and eagles.

Visit or for more information on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and the Festival of the Cranes.

David Rainer is with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Junior Master Gardener: Native Gardening

Thomasville Elementary School’s 3rd grade students participating in the Junior Master Wildlife Gardener program are (from left, back row) Landen Fendley, Jackson Reid, Jackson Haskew, Matt Bradford, Drake Tolbert, Coleman Anderson, (front row) Katherine Ledkins, Ciarra Dobbins, Chloi Murphy, Luke Stephens and Trey Bucurel.

3rd Graders Find Ideal Spot for Garden

by Carolyn Drinkard

Thomasville Elementary School’s 3rd grade students in gifted education are participating in the Junior Master Wildlife Gardener program by working in the school’s garden. So far, the group has investigated the components of wildlife habitat and assessed the values of various locations on the school property as sites for native gardens.

Based on sun, food, water and soil, the school’s garden proved to be an excellent site for their studies. They tagged the elements in the garden itself. They looked for a water source, cover from predators, constant food supplies and a safe place to raise young.

They also pretended to be a native animal and decided whether they would, as that animal, choose to make a home in the garden or to move on elsewhere. The students were spiders, deer, raccoons, snakes, armadillos and insects. They all found the school’s garden needed a better water source to become a more ideal habitat location. Another finding was that larger animals such as deer would not want to raise young there because the area was too small.

The group plans to place plants in their garden to provide better food and shelter for native animals such as small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles. This will be an ongoing project being supervised by Meg Whitley, gifted education specialist with Thomasville City Schools.

The Junior Master Wildlife Gardner program is through The National Wildlife Federation and 4-H. It teaches about ecology and protecting native species of plants and animals. There are service components as well as academic components. The students will earn their certificates by the end of this semester.

Carolyn Drinkard is the Marketing/Communications Director for Thomasville City Schools.

Marital Miscommunication

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

The key to a successful marriage is good communication. You’d think after 25 years of marriage, my husband and I would have it down pat. In fact, we’ve been married so long and been through so much together that we shouldn’t even have to speak at all. Surely hand gestures, eye contact and mental telepathy should be sufficient. Au contraire!Too many disagreements have begun with the words, "I thought …" and "You said …." Well, it does give me some twisted sense of satisfaction that after many years together, other couples still have verbal train wrecks.

One of my friends’ parents had a major marital miscommunication after they’d been married a few decades. My friend Kristi was a teenager at the time. Her dad Roy Don was just coming in from feeding the livestock. He was pulling his muddy rubber boots off on the back porch when he spied a big black snake coiled under the downspout on the corner of the house. He didn’t want to take a chance on the snake being gone if he went in after his gun. So he hollered at his wife Linda to bring his .410. She was busy making chicken gravy in a big wrought iron skillet on the stove. I know from years of making this wonderful concoction that you can’t be interrupted while cooking it. So she ignored her husband and kept on stirring and adding milk until the consistency was just right, and then slid the skillet off the burner.

When she didn’t come right away, Roy Don hollered at her again to please bring the .410 shotgun. He was of the opinion that the only good snake was a dead one, and he just needed her to bring it to him right away. Kristi and her little sister were sitting on the sofa in the living room watching and listening as the situation unfolded. They were just surprised and relieved that he hadn’t asked one of them to fetch the gun, since they were usually the ones dispatched for such chores.

They were even more surprised when their mama stormed through the dining room right past the gun cabinet and into the garage. The two teenage girls just looked at each other and shrugged. They heard the sound of drawers and cabinets being opened and shut and rifled through, and the muffled sound of their mother muttering something about always having to drop whatever she was doing and come tend to him.

Finally, she emerged and burst out the back door to where her husband was waiting rather impatiently.

"Here ya go!" she said in an aggravated voice as she thrust a can of WD-40 into his hands.

He was dumbfounded.

"What the heck?" he asked her along with a few more colorfully worded rhetorical questions.

"I asked for my .410 shotgun so I could shoot that snake over there. What am I supposed to do with this?" he spluttered. "Grease him to death?"

When it dawned on her the whole ridiculousness of the situation, she burst out laughing.

"Well, Roy Don, I could hardly hear you over the noise of the kitchen vent. I didn’t know why you needed me to stop what I was doing to bring that to you at that very instant."

Her husband couldn’t stifle his laughter but still wasn’t going to be deterred from his mission.

"You stand right here," he said, "and I’ll be right back."

In a few minutes, the snake had been shot and hauled off to the pasture, and the happy couple was able to get to the table while the gravy was still hot.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at

Month of the Groundhog

De Kay’s snake or brown snake (Storeria dekayi) is the first snake of the season here.

by Herb T. Farmer

As I promised, I have started keeping a journal of my activities. Oh, it’s much better than when I worked in an office more than 30 years ago.

Back then, I kept my planner up to date. At the end of the week, I filled in what I did. HA! Seriously.

I like to journal. There are two kinds of journaling I do now. The first is a written journal where I write down my daily experiences in the garden such as weather, what’s popping up, bugs and desirable insects or spiders, wildlife in general and also what kind of work I performed. The other journal is a digital one where I document all of the previous, along with any photo references and cool shots. The whole process doesn’t usually take more than an hour and I do it daily. Beats the heck out of watching television and it is productive.

Back in November, I was up in Birmingham attending a Dia de los Muertos costume party and visiting some friends whom I hadn’t seen in a good long while. There, I ran across an acquaintance who is a professor at Samford University. Dr. Larry Davenport told me he had published a book that I somehow overlooked. I told him I would order a copy as soon as I got back home, and I did.

Left to right, Biology Professor and author Dr. Larry Davenport at last year’s Dia de los Muertos costume party. Dr. Larry Davenport’s stories and details of his adventures as a field biologist make his book “Nature Journal,” a must have for folks who love our natural world.

Larry is a great storyteller and a great biologist with the utmost respect for nature. His book "Nature Journal" is the big reason why I have begun journaling religiously.

Go and buy some copies for your friends. It makes a great Groundhog Day gift.

Speaking of Groundhog Day: This year it is on a Sunday. How appropriate for Groundhog Day to kickoff the beginning of the spring-growing season on the first day of the work week?

Left to right, What am I? We’re halfway through winter now. The emerging Knockout Rose is a sign of good things to come.

I’ll spend my holiday in the heated greenhouse, potting plugs I started back in December, planting seeds for chili peppers, and smelling the soils and fertilizers. (That always gets me going this time of year.)

How will you spend your Groundhog Day? Email and tell me.

Broiled salmon, basmati rice, roasted Brussels sprouts and cranberry casserole

Last month, I posted a photo and asked you to guess what it was. So far, nobody has gotten it right. However, some of your emails are amusing. This month, I will give you a little clue. Look at the image labeled, "What am I?"

The recipe of the month for February is a wonderful, herby broiled salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts, along with a cranberry casserole and Basmati rice.

For the salmon:

Oil the 1.5 pound slab of fish with olive oil.

Melt a pat of butter and heat about a tablespoon of olive together in a 10" cast iron skillet (preferably Lodge).

Sauté chopped garlic cloves, coarse ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, fresh chopped thyme, dill weed and fresh chopped lemongrass basil stems in the skillet.

Thoroughly coat the salmon with the hot mixture of herbs and spices.

Place the slab of salmon into the hot skillet on the stovetop.

Spritz the top of the fish thoroughly with lemon juice.

Place the skillet into the preheated broiler until the first sign of browning garlic appears.

Remove and serve with a drizzle of hot butter and garlic.

Email me with tips on the rice and Brussels sprouts, and how to make a delicious cranberry casserole.

I’ll be back next month. You have been warned!

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

Happy Groundhog Day!

For more information, email me at

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

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

Nutrition Feeding for A Live Calf for Each Cow

by Jimmy Hughes

When looking at your beef breeding herd, the most important consideration is to have a high percentage of calf crop. A live calf from each cow each year is needed to remain profitable in the cattle business. We are experiencing very strong cattle prices; yet at the same time, input costs are higher, meaning we still need that live calf each year from each cow in your herd. With this in mind, what are some general thoughts concerning beef nutrition and feeding for the breeding herd to help get a live calf on the ground each year?

I have written in the past and, just as a reminder, I will again ask that you first give very strong consideration to a breeding season. The implementation of a breeding season will allow flexibility in your feeding decisions and will allow better management of your cost. A breeding season with accurate recordkeeping will allow you to make better decisions on culling unproductive cows. The use of a breeding season and recordkeeping will allow a producer to realize if a cow is really calving every 12 months or if it is every 14 or 15 months. While this may not seem like much, in 3 years you will lose at least one calf from that cow.

In general, the cow/calf operations in Alabama will be forage-based and cattle either graze daily or have hay provided during times that grass is not available. During times when mature cows are not nursing calves, protein and energy requirements can be met with average-quality grass or hay. This does not include the minerals and vitamins required on a daily basis for needed performance. Nursing cows, bred and nursing heifers, and growing heifers will normally require supplementation above what normal forage will provide.

Your cow herd can basically be divided into four different periods.

First trimester will be the period of time when the cow is nursing a young calf and is probably short bred and carrying her next calf. The requirements for the cow during this time will be for maintenance and lactation. You want to provide the cow with the needed nutrients for milk production as well as maintaining body condition to carry her next calf. Ideally, you would like the cow to wean a calf at least 60 percent of its weight and, to accomplish this, added energy from fats and carbohydrates is vital. It is also important to meet her protein needs as well as her mineral and vitamin needs for high-quality milk, improved immunity and reproductive performance.

Second trimester will be the period after the calf has been weaned and your cow is between 3-6 months bred back. This is the time of the lowest nutrient requirement for the brood cow. While this is her lowest requirement period, it is important to maintain body condition and continue to provide a highly available, high-quality mineral and vitamin supplement free choice.

Third trimester is the period when nutrient needs are increasing rapidly because of fetal development. This is a critical period to be aware of body condition so, when cows do calve, they will be in good condition to produce and provide milk as well as cycling to be bred back in an optimum period of time. This is also a critical time if you have first-calf heifers. This is the period when calves develop and grow at a rapid pace. If you over-supplement your heifers, then this may lead to larger calves and increased birthing issues at calving time.

Postpartum interval is the critical period for the cow because lactation needs are high and the cow’s reproductive system is recovering from calving. A highly fortified mineral and vitamin supplement is critical at this point. It is also important to realize that feed intake will be 35-50 percent higher for a lactating cow over a non-lactating cow. The most important period in terms of nutrition will be 30 days before calving until 70 days after calving and rebreeding.

Too often, I feel we, as producers, utilize the same program every year and that is grass only when cows have it available and then, when grass is dormant, we turn to hay. We also will provide minerals sporadically based upon when we notice the feeders are empty. This type of program doesn’t take into account the different requirements for nutrients based upon the cows’ stage of production.

Energy and nutrient needs vary depending on the cow’s frame size and condition, stage of production and environmental conditions. In general, the cow requires the following.

Energy: We consider energy the most limiting nutrient in the cow’s diet and it should be the first consideration in its diet. The total energy intake of the cow can determine the ability of the cow to maintain body condition, level of lactation and the utilization of other nutrients. The cow’s energy requirement is greatly influenced by mature body size, physical activity and environmental temperatures.

Protein: Microbial protein supplies about 50 percent of the protein and amino acid needs of the cow and we see the most common protein deficiency in cows grazing mature forages or low-quality hay. Protein deficiency results in reduced digestion and intake of forages resulting in reduced growth and overall performance.

Minerals: The first thing a doctor will prescribe to an expecting mother is prenatal vitamins and minerals. The same requirement is there for the brood cow as well. Pregnancy and milk production will increase the need for calcium and phosphorus, and various deficiencies can result from inadequate supplementation. Trace minerals are also needed in the proper form and ration for immunity as well as reproductive efficiency.

Vitamins: Microbes in the rumen can synthesize vitamin K and B vitamins; therefore, they are not normally provided in a mineral and vitamin supplement designed for brood cows. Vitamins A, D and E are in most mineral and vitamin premixes and are vital to immunity, reproduction and the overall general health of the animal.

While the requirement for some of these nutrients may be greater than other nutrients, they are equally important because, if one of these nutrients is deficient, performance will suffer. It is important, as a producer, you develop a nutrition program to meet the cow’s needs for all nutrients based upon her stage of production. It is also important to understand that some ingredients and products will adversely affect digestion and utilization of hay and forages. This can also lead to reduced performance and lost body condition.

If you have any questions on a nutrition program, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886 or

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

PALS: Connecting to Earth

Students at Rucker Boulevard Elementary School in Enterprise partner together with PALS. The students enjoyed the Giving to the Earth program presented by Mary Stanford, far right. The school won the second place PALS State Award and a $750 scholarship.

Rucker Boulevard Elementary Outdoor Classroom Encourages Respect for Environment and Community

by Mary Stanford

Rucker Boulevard Elementary School in Enterprise is excited about their Outdoor Classroom.

Sheree Hardrick, principal of the school-wide project, has instilled in her students the meaning of giving through community outreach and has partnered with Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program. The front wall at the school is dedicated to the soldiers at Rucker for their dedication and work with the outdoor classroom. The Outdoor Classroom includes teacher gardens, a weather station, student sculptures, wind station, composting, sensory garden, butterfly garden, solar house, rock garden, blueberry garden, historical garden, performing arts center, storytelling center and a human sundial.

Left to right, the students of Rucker Boulevard Elementary School are so proud of their Outdoor Classroom, bottom right. Rucker Boulevard Elementary School loves their Soldiers Wall.

Alabama PALS is proud to be partnered with Rucker Elementary School. The elementary school won the second place PALS State Award and a scholarship of $750 awarded at the annual PALS Governor’s Award Luncheon.

The Clean Campus Program is designed to promote a cleaner and healthier environment for all Alabama schools, and presents an opportunity for students and faculty members to be part of having their school recognized for their efforts.

Clockwise from top left, composting bin using lunchroom leftovers; a sculpture made by a student out of recycled materials is featured in their Sculpture Garden; and a solar house made out of plastic bottles.

Hardrick took me on a tour of their Outdoor Classroom, and shared with me all of the project-based learning activities.


More students litter in groups than by themselves.

Prior to the tour, I presented a PALS educational program to the students. Giving to the Earth is powerful for students. Whether learning about littering, recycling, planting a tree or experiencing learning activities in an outdoor classroom, students become connected to the earth. In turn, it motivates them to want to do more while building a foundation for respect for their environment and community.

If you would like information on the Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program, contact me at

Mary Stanford is the Clean Campus Coordinator for PALS.

Peanut People

Poultry Holes, Coyote Count and Turkey Tricks

Poultry netting or chicken wire tacked over field fence will keep baby chicks in the fence, and the field fence will keep the larger animals in.

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”– Abraham Lincoln

by John Howle

This February, make sure you are on the right side of the fence. If you are in doubt, simply read the Bible and you will know which side is God’s side. Speaking of fences, if you’ve put up quality field fence purchased from your local Co-op, you can’t go wrong. But what if you decide to raise chickens within the confines of your field fence, which has the larger openings? The easiest way to remedy this is to line the interior of the field fence with chicken wire or poultry netting.

Plug the Poultry Holes

The chicken wire can easily be tacked onto the field fence with small staples, and the small openings of the chicken wire prevent younger chicks from getting out. This will allow you the ability to raise your chickens in a natural, free-range environment, and the birds will be able to forage on grass and insects. This not only cuts down on the chicken feed, but the chicken droppings will add valuable nitrogen to the soil.

Mounting your hydraulic drill to the front-end loader will give you downward pressure for post holes in hard-packed clay and slate rock, as shown by David Howle in this photo.

Post Hole Power

When it’s time to build a large perimeter fence, you may have decided it is time to invest in a hydraulic or PTO-driven post hole drill. On our family farm, much of the soil is hard-packed clay mixed with slate rocks. Some of the rear-mounted post hole drills simply turn without drilling out dirt. One way to remedy this is to go with a hydraulic post hole drill and mount it to the front end loader of the tractor. This allows the operator to apply downward pressure to the drill and makes post hole drilling more efficient.

Coyote Count

This February while you are feeding the remainder of the winter’s hay, be on the lookout for coyote signs. Coyotes will often search out winter pastures for field mice and manure. The field mice can be found eating remaining seeds of hay and cow manure contains folic acid that coyotes require in small quantities.

You may think the coyotes are not causing much trouble on your place because you haven’t seen them take down a calf. If they run out of field mice and rabbits, they will certainly take down a calf, but if you have turkeys on your property, coyotes will decimate the flock if not kept under control. On a turkey hunt, I had called for a few minutes, and two hens flew down within 20 feet of my ground blind.

Keep the coyote population under control for the sake of your turkey flocks. Keep yourself well-camouflaged when coyote hunting.

Within two minutes, a coyote showed up. After creeping up beside my fallen tree, he lunged towards the hens and would have taken one out of the flock if not for #5 turkey load in my shotgun. Sometimes, it is necessary to take out some coyotes to ensure other species such as ground-nesting birds have a chance.

February Garden Tips

During February, we really don’t think about spring planting while the ground is frozen and dead grasses and weeds are covering our garden plots. However, this is the best time for preparation. February is an ideal time to apply lime to the garden, so it has time to neutralize the acid in the soil before the roots will need it.

February is also a time to sharpen shovels, hoes, pruning shears and chainsaw chains. For hand tools such as shovels, hoes and mattocks, use a flat mill file, and file your strokes toward the base of the handle. You will be impressed how much more efficiently a sharpened shovel or hoe will slice through dirt or compacted soil.

Left to right, this February, use a flat mill file to put an edge on your garden hand tools. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to cut through dirt and roots. Pinpoint the high water mark during winter rains to know how high to place your wiring across the creeks.

Water Works

This February when the rains begin, keep a close check on the high water mark of your creeks. Measure the height of the water at its highest point before putting fencing across your creeks. It’s a frustrating matter to spend all day putting up fencing across the creek only to have it wash out during the first rain. If you measure the creek when it is at its high point, place your main cable or fence wire above this level. This way, if the lower portions of the fence wash away during heavy rains, you will have high water wire remaining for making repairs.

Turkey Tricks

February is the ideal month to gather flock information on your wild turkey population. As you are feeding the livestock, search the field edges for turkey scratchings in search of seeds. Be on the lookout for turkey droppings. The gobbler has J-shaped droppings. If you find a few of these, your chances will be good for harvesting a tom during the spring hunting season.

This February, make sure you are on God’s side as you make decisions regarding your farm or family. We see many government decisions being made based on irrational "feelings" instead of Biblical facts. The true change begins in our own communities, and the next generation benefits when we are on God’s side.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Propagating Camellias with Air Layering

Blood of China camellia

by Tony A. Glover

In February each year I usually get a few calls about propagating a favorite camellia that is in bloom. People usually want to know the simplest way to get a new plant that will be identical to their old favorite or one they have admired in a neighbor’s yard.

If that is a question you have, I will tell you about the best two options to get a clone of the plant you desire. The simplest option is to try and identify the variety and see if it is commercially available to purchase. The second option is to propagate a new plant yourself.

One of the easiest ways to propagate your own new camellia plant is to use a technique called air layering. Air layering can be used on many types of plants and at various times of the year. For camellias, I would do them after danger of severe cold, but before it gets too warm. Late March or April is usually a good time to start the process.

Kramers Supreme camellia

Obtain a small bag of sphagnum moss from a garden center and soak a double handful overnight for each rooted plant you want. You need the moss to be thoroughly soaked before the next step in the process.

Select a nice section of healthy looking wood about 18-24 inches from the top. Take a sharp knife and cut a ring around the stem in two places about one inch apart. Cut deep enough to remove the bark and cambium layer just under the bark in the one inch area. The bark should slip off easily this time of year. Once the bark is removed peel the greenish layer (cambium) off with a knife so the bark will not grow back. If you have or can easily find some rooting hormone, you may sprinkle some on the wound. This may speed up the rooting process, but is not necessary for success. Squeeze out the excess water from the moss and place it around the wound. Take some plastic (an old bread bag works well) and totally cover the sphagnum moss, but keep the moss somewhat loose. Tape both ends of the plastic cover to trap the moisture inside the bag. Electrical tape works well, but any weather resistant tape is fine. It helps to keep light out so cover the whole thing with aluminum foil giving the appearance of a large baked potato.

It will take three to six months for the root system to develop enough to be removed from the mother plant. You can test by feeling the bag after a few months to see how full it has gotten. As the roots form the bag should become tight with the newly developed root system. Once the bag is filled with roots, you may cut the baby plant free from the mother plant just below the bag.

Remove the foil and bag to transplant into a container or the soil. For container growing, use a good, light potting mix with mostly pine bark and a little peat moss to grow the new plant. I would suggest you grow it in a container for a year after rooting before planting in the landscape. You may use a tablespoon of slow-release fertilizer the first year after transplanting in the container. Make sure to keep the plant watered properly before and after transplanting it to the permanent site.

By the way, if you would like to see some beautiful camellias and talk to some expert camellia gardeners, mark your calendar for the Feb. 22-23. There will be a free camellia show held at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. On Saturday, the doors will be open for public viewing from 1-5 p.m. and again from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday. If you would like to enter your locally grown outdoor camellia blooms, you may bring them from 8-10:30 a.m. on Saturday. There is no charge for entry and you do not even have to know the name of the camellia you are entering. As an added bonus, you may bring flowers you do not know the names of and have experienced camellia growers make an attempt at identifying what variety you have. Bring those unidentified blooms between 8-10:30 a.m. Saturday morning and leave them with your name and contact information, and you might as well enter them in the contest.

For more details about the camellia show, contact Dave Glass at 205-408-5756. For more information about growing camellias, visit:

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

Removing Feral Hogs

by Barry Estes

The most effective system of removing hogs from a property includes trapping and shooting. The traps used should be large enough to catch an entire sounder in a single catch (30+ pigs). The shooting equipment must include advanced thermal optics because pigs are most active at night; that is also when they are the most vulnerable. Using both of these methods will drastically decrease your feral hog population.

First, the trap has to be large and strong. It also has to deploy a gate system that can be triggered remotely to reduce human presence in the area. Our trap system accomplishes both. The Jager Pro MINE system includes an 8-foot wide gate, six 16-foot special-made hog panels and a game camera that transmits pictures via AT&T to our cell phones. The camera also receives and transmits the signal to close the gate when we get all of the pigs in the trap. This allows us to catch and monitor the location remotely. The game camera tells us what we need to know and saves time and money. The most effective time of the year in Alabama to trap feral hogs is January through May.

Second, the shooting must be directed at the "right" hogs. We always look for sow(s) first in any sounder. While shooting a boar does help remove a single pig from the property, shooting a sow removes future generations. Once the sows are down, we simply kill as many of the remaining hogs as possible. We are out for large numbers because good hog control is all about numbers and our techniques accomplish this mission.

Alabama Hog Control, Inc. was created to help farmers and other landowners with their hog problems. While complete eradication is almost impossible, it is still our goal. AHC carries liability insurance covering the company, the landowners, the farmers and our clients. We also carry Life Flight insurance.

Traps can be purchased, leased or with a per pig price structure; however, we recommend the traps be purchased for your best return on investment. They are very durable and will last for years. Our thermal optic shooting services are free as long as the landowner/farmer allows us to bring clients. These clients are normally from out of state and are always accompanied by an AHC guide. We have a great relationship with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. We are able to obtain the required permits to bait and perform the thermal optic night hunts.

If you have had enough of the crop/land damage and lost yields, contact Barry Estes at barry@alabamahogcontrol.comor 334-301-0179. You can find more information about Alabama Hog Control, Inc. at our website,

Barry Estes is President of Alabama Hog Control, Inc.

Rivers Myres to Head AFC

Rivers Myres has recently been named Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s new CEO.

Sam Givhan, Alabama Farmers Cooperative Board Chairman, announced the Board of Directors has chosen Rivers Myres to serve as the next president and chief executive officer of AFC. The rigorous search conducted by AFC’s Board of Directors included several talented individuals from the deep bench of administrative talent at AFC including corporate management, member store managers, division heads and management at AFC subsidiaries. Myres will be the sixth CEO of the company since it was founded in 1936. He replaces Roger Pangle, who passed away in December.

Since 2005, Myres has served as president of Southfresh Aquaculture, LLC, a majority-owned subsidiary of AFC headquartered in Tuscaloosa. He has an extensive working knowledge of the intricacies of running and growing a large agricultural enterprise where he has seen Southfresh grow to provide stock fish, feed, and fish processing and marketing to local catfish producers.

Myres is a native of Greenville, Miss., and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Mississippi.

Chairman Givhan expressed his confidence that Myres will bring new energy and vision to AFC and the entire cooperative family of staff, member Co-ops and the farmers who own them.

Expect a more in-depth profile of Rivers Myres in the March issue.

Saddling Up for Service

Dr. Tony Frazier tagging cattle.

Would-Be Cowboy Puts Dream Aside, Then Rounds Up State Vet Position

by Alvin Benn

Alabama State Veterinarian Tony Frazier may not have realized his boyhood dream of emulating Roy and Gene, but the job he has today does provide him with a unique "saddle."

It’s a seat just behind the steering wheel of vehicles taking him across Alabama to confer with cattlemen, farmers and fellow veterinarians on issues ranging from changes in state and national policies to the latest technological advances.

Right now he’s happy to report that Alabama’s new Animal Identification rules are being adhered to around the state as the system enters its second year.

"People tend to look negatively at most any governmental program, but this new one is valid and important because it provides security for our food supply," Frazier said.

Identification tags are at the heart of the new system, allowing veterinarians and animal owners to trace diseases - should there be any - while, at the same time, protecting marketability.

Animal identification isn’t new in Alabama because it’s been around for a long time, with farmers using ear tags, brands and other methods to determine ownership and track animal performance.

ID tags are part of Alabama’s new Animal Identification rules program.

The difference in the new ID rule is that it’s mandatory, not voluntary. Enforcement of the requirement began on Jan. 1, 2013. It went into effect in October 2012.

Regional Extension Agent Henry Dorough said mandatory animal ID rules are a "proactive approach to initiate a rapid traceability program in the event of a livestock disease outbreak."

Such a program could have helped identify the movement and original source of the Alabama BSE cow in 2006, said Dorough, who worked with Frazier on disseminating the new requirement.

Frazier has tried to make it clear to farmers and others involved in the state’s food production industry that "it’s not so much a government mandate as much as an education and outreach program."

"Any time you have a change in something that’s been around for a long time, there are always a few who don’t appreciate it," Frazier said. "Most world-class producers such as those in Alabama understand and have no problem with what we’re doing."

Frazier said government programs should be accepted "for the right reasons because identifying details about animals is an important method in protecting food supplies."

Traveling the state and meeting with producers or answering phones that seem to ring off the hook at his office at the state Department of Agriculture in Montgomery isn’t what Frazier had in mind when he decided to become a veterinarian.

Born in Brewton 53 years ago, he had other ideas about what he wanted to do in life and it didn’t involve helping to deliver calves in the middle of the night.

"I wanted to be a cowboy," he said, breaking into a big smile. "But, then, I realized they didn’t even make minimum wage."

Western heroes such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Alabamian Johnny Mack Brown and others captivated kids around the country who watched them in movie theaters during the 40s and 50s and, later, on their television sets at home.

Fiscal reality soon entered the picture and Frazier began to focus on what he could do best and that was taking care of animals big and small.

He’s no stranger to horses since he’s been riding them since he was 8 years old. His uncles had cattle and he learned how to keep up with them on his favorite horse.

Frazier was 12 when he found "Daphne," a dapple-grey Racking Horse. They bonded from the start and became inseparable. He couldn’t wait to get home from school so he could hop on board.

Eventually he had to put riding aside and focus on writing term papers at Auburn University where he enrolled in 1981. He moved on to the AU Vet School in 1984 and, 4 years later, graduated from the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

After completing his college education, Frazier worked at a veterinary clinic in Cullman for a couple of years before returning home to Brewton to open his own practice, specializing in large animals.

"Solo practice can be tough because you’re constantly on the go day and night at times," Frazier said. "In addition to regular daily work, emergency care also takes up a lot of time, but I’m not complaining because I really loved my practice in Brewton."

His most memorable emergency medical case involved a small horse hit by a slow-moving train that still inflicted serious damage to the animal.

"He didn’t have any broken bones, but did have a gaping wound in his chest cavity, so large you could see lung tissue," Frazier said. "I thought at first I might have to put him to sleep, but I was finally able to stabilize him because I got to him quickly after learning what had happened."

Frazier has always enjoyed surgery and meeting challenges, but, in 1990, an offer too good to turn down came his way - a job with the state Department of Agriculture and Industries as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2001, he was appointed State Veterinarian.

"Tony’s a real professional who does an outstanding job for the people of Alabama in a very responsible position," said State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan.

Within the state Department of Agriculture, Frazier is responsible for the Animal Health section, meat inspection, diagnostic laboratories and poultry programs.

In addition to his state duties as Alabama’s chief veterinarian, Frazier also is a member of numerous organizations, including being an advisor to the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and Alabama Cattlemen’s Association along with being a monthly contributor to this publication. His involvement in his home town was also extensive. He once served as president of W.S. Neal Elementary School in Brewton.

Tony and Patty Frazier have been married for 25 years and have three children, Nathan, Madeline and Samuel.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Shocking Collars!

by Baxter Black, DVM

A steady growth in population continues worldwide. As we grow, urban development paves and permanently changes the ecosystem. Cities and towns, large and small, annex their surrounding natural woodlands, plains, farms and ranches. It results in city limits extending miles from the edge of town and a beginning of the assessment imposing real estate housing development taxes and laws on rural inhabitants.

It happened to Mick. He had a 90-acre, fenced pasture with a good well and easy access. A subdivision was progressing across the road. One afternoon, he loaded his two cow dogs in the pickup to gather a bunch of his cows into the trap. Upon arrival, he crossed the cattle guard and sent the dogs out to gather the cows.

The dogs’ collars bore shock devices to receive Mick’s signals. He was concentrating on his dogs when a pickup with a camper banged over the cattle guard behind him. Mick looked back to see the town animal control officer.

"Whattya need?" asked Mick.

"Sir," the officer said. "You are allowing your dogs to run loose. It is against the town leash law that prohibits canines to run unrestricted within the city limits. You, sir, are in violation."

Mick explained to the officer that these were working dogs, they bring the cows into the trap and are under his control at all times. They argued, but the officer wrote him a citation anyway.

Mick refused to pay the fine and was required to appear in court the next Monday. He pleaded innocent. The judge asked Mick how could he communicate with dogs a hundred yards away? With whistles? Semaphore flags? A bugle?

"No," said Mick, "These dogs are very smart and I’ve taught them Morse code."

"Can you show us how it works?" asked the judge.

"Certainly," said Mick. He handed both the judge and the animal control officer a shock collar.

"It is very sensitive," said Mick, "But if you hold it … sure, on your neck is fine, I’ll demonstrate. This means turn left: dot dash dot dot dot dot dot dash dot dash."

Before the judge had reached the first dot dot, he had fallen off the back of the bench, crash-landed his office chair and was covered in robe. To Mick’s credit, the judge had fallen to the left.

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,

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "I heard the new postmistress’ husband was out of town so much because he was a spy for the military. Turns out that was just gossip. Don’t tell nobody, but I’m told by a reliable source that he’s really got a second family in another town and he’s spending time with them."

Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about personal or private affairs of others. The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, for example through excited discussion of scandals. Some newspapers carry "gossip columns" detailing the social and personal lives of celebrities or of élite members of certain communities.

There is an absolutely false explanation going around the Internet about where the word gossip originated. It goes like this … early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TVs or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs and bars. They were told to "go sip some ale" and listen to people’s conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. "You go sip here" and "You go sip there." The two words "go sip" were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus, we have the term "gossip." Please don’t spread this ridiculous rendition. There’s no truth to it.

The word is actually from Old English godsibb, from god and sibb, the term for the godparents of one’s child or the parents of one’s godchild, generally very close friends. In the 16th century, the word assumed the meaning of a person, mostly a woman, who delights in idle talk, a newsmonger, a tattler. In the early 19th century, the term was extended from the talker to the conversation of such persons. The verb to gossip, meaning "to be a gossip," first appears in Shakespeare.

The term originates from the bedroom at the time of childbirth. Giving birth used to be a social (ladies only) event, in which a pregnant woman’s female relatives and neighbors would gather. As with any social gathering there was chattering and this is where the term gossip came to mean "talk of others."

Spotlight on Some Special Folks

I keep some of my cleavers on display in my office, but they all get used from time to time.

by Kenn Alan

Last year I started reviewing more book titles, paying more attention to warranties on tools, watching more closely the dollars spent on items for the garden, and where I could find best values.

Sometimes, the best value for tools is not found on, or even from a local store, that is offering a 50 percent-off coupon.

Here at the Tomato Tower, we are all about value. That means saving money, saving natural resources and the three-Rs: re-use, renew and recycle. If we can’t use it, we either up-cycle it, free-cycle it or recycle it. (… And there’s that category where it becomes an art project.)

Did you ever notice that some tools available 20 to 40 years ago can’t be found anymore? Maybe the same type tool is available, but it has been redesigned or made from a cheaper grade of materials.

Some manufacturers do this instead of maintaining the integrity of their product and raising the price. They must believe folks will stop buying their rake or hoe or frying pan because the cost of materials and/or labor costs have forced them to change or else.

Left to right, Carol Nichols says she has a lot of Master Gardeners who are on her email list. I love the estate sales where there was a do-it-yourselfer in the house.

Well, let me tell you that there is something to be said about the label "Made in the USA"! Sure, there are some products that are better made in countless other countries, but to pay a little more to get the best product that lasts, and for it to be made here in the USA is what I want. I hope you feel the same way.

Last year, I teased you by dropping hints about shopping for used gardening tools at yard sales and estate sales. Now, I am going to tell you about some of my shopping experiences and where I have been finding some cool, used tools.

Left to right, my son called the cleaver his “Special Pizza Cutter.” This is the before and after. Dexter-Russell customer service is tops in my book! This is a collection of some of my Dexter-Russell cutlery. Some are vintage and some are new. The quality hasn’t changed since 1818 and they are all sharp and all get used.

Several years ago, my sweetheart and I started going to garage sales and estate sales on a regular basis. It wasn’t because we were needing or collecting anything in particular. It was more like window-shopping, for those of you who remember what that means, or just shopping to see what the market has to offer. It was a date, if you will, for us to spend some time together. We both started finding things we needed (never knew we did before, but…) and things we knew friends were looking for.

… A spade here, a wheelbarrow there and, guess what, I began to notice the quality of tools and things other folks had bought many years before and they were still in great working order.

We got on the email list for Carol Nichols Estate Sales, our favorite one, and we try to go to every one she conducts. It’s like a weekly social event for us now. Even if we don’t buy anything, (not likely for that, but…) we go and see what other folks treasured and how they lived.

Carol Nichols is originally from Memphis, Tenn., but she has been living in the metro Birmingham area for most of her life. She graduated from Vestavia Hills High School and got her bachelors degree from the University of Montevallo.

I asked her how she got into the estate sale business. Carol told me her first real job was in management at Bruno’s (the grocery store chain) and wanted to start a family. Her mother pioneered estate sales in the area. The hours were flexible, so she followed suit.

The other day I asked Carol just what items attracted men and women to her sales. She said, for the guys, it is tools and guns; for the ladies, jewelry attracted them the most.

I collect good quality, vintage cutlery. There’s nothing better to slice those homegrown tomatoes with than a good, sharp kitchen knife. (I don’t mean a Ginsu either!) A sharp knife in the kitchen is like a sharp pair of pruners in the garden. A couple of years ago, I bought a kitchen knife at one of her sales. It was a Dexter meat cleaver; although it had a split wood handle from too many runs through the dishwasher, the name "Dexter" was all I cared about.

Over the years, I have purchased more than a couple of dozen vintage Dexter knives and forks.

I gave that particular cleaver to my son for his 28th birthday and told him we would replace the wood handle when it finally failed. Last summer, he said the handle finally fell apart and he wanted to make another one himself. He wanted to find some brass rivets to replace the ones that held the handle on and he would do the rest.

After calling a few folks I knew who were knife artisans, I found some rivets online. The problem was they sold them by the gross and we only needed three. A friend of mine said the next time he came to town he would bring me some. That was last August.

I am not sure how to finish the story here.

My son died last October, two days after his 30th birthday. I got the knife back.

The knife needed to be treated with respect, not just because it is a Dexter but because the restoration was a project my only child and I had planned to do together.

I telephoned Dexter-Russell and got connected with a fellow named John Auclair. I told him I had a cleaver purchased at an estate sale with a broken wood handle and the handle finally failed from abuse. The abuse was from putting it through a dishwasher too many times. I asked him if he would send me three rivets and I was going to make a new handle for the knife.

John told me, for certain liability reasons, he could not send me the rivets, but offered to replace the handle for me if I would send him the knife. So, I decided to send the knife to Dexter-Russell in Southbridge, Mass. Along with the knife, I sent him the story about what the importance was for me to restore the handle.

A few days later, I got a phone call from Mr. Auclair, "Your knife will be shipped back to you in a couple of days, and I think you are going to be pleased."

When I received it, I couldn’t believe what I got! It epitomizes the meaning of "good customer service." I only wish my boy could see it.

Dexter-Russell has been making fine cutlery since 1818 and will be celebrating their 200th anniversary in just 4 years. Trust me, they make stuff that lasts a lifetime.

Since the death of my son, I have decided to take some time off and study the aspects of life that I may have overlooked.

Thank you, Alabama Farmers Cooperative, for asking me to be a regular contributor for so many years. I look forward to writing feature articles from time to time.

Thank you, to all of the readers. I will be as close as an email, should you want to contact me.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this column, please email me at

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook and keep up with the latest news. Tell all your friends, too!

FYI: Dexter-Russell Cutlery –

Also: Carol Nichols Estate Sales - and on Facebook at Estate Sales by Carol Nichols n

The Co-op Pantry

We have an absolutely wonderful column this month by Pam Hamilton of Eutaw. In fact, I think it is so interesting I did very little editing and am letting Pam tell her story in her own delightful way.

"I am an advanced clinical nurse educator and I work at the Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. One thing I owe the night shift in ICU is meeting my husband Grayfield. He was in x-ray at the time; he is now a Certified Nuclear Medicine Tech where we both work. I have been at DCH for 30 years and worked at UAB, where we met, for about 3 years. I actually was born at DCH, too!

"I grew up in a wonderful little community in Tuscaloosa County – Holt. Many good people still live there, and my home church, Holt United Methodist, is still shepherding people with their love as they did me when I was a little girl.

"I learned to cook mostly from my Moma, who was the best! She always loved to delight others with her good food. As a little girl and giving Christmas presents to my teachers, I remember her making this beautiful white fudge, adding green and red chopped candied cherries, and placing the delicious squares in brand new Tupperware containers – part of the teachers gift! I was so proud to carry it to my teachers! One Halloween, Moma had found this recipe in the newspaper for Black Cat English Pizza Muffins – she delighted this little girl with something cute and good! Imagine my delight when I was going through some of her recipes and found the yellowed newspaper clipping of that recipe. I have it preserved very carefully in my special collections.

"Moma taught me to cook mostly by example. I don’t remember asking her very often how to do things – I just learned by watching. And my Daddy, who was the SECOND best cornbread maker (next to Moma of course!), when I asked him to write down how he made cornbread, gave me the same response, ‘I don’t have a recipe – I just do it!’ After much thought, he was able to make some measurements and write it down. But guess what? I ‘just do it,’ too!

"This brings up the fact that Grayfield makes better cornbread than I do – out of a cookbook from the County Extension Office in Auburn. This ‘split household’ is not too proud to eat cornbread made by a fan from our opposing team!

"Although we eat lots of good food, I am not afraid to substitute healthy options for ingredients in recipes – we use ground turkey in everything you would normally use ground beef in – Plainville Farms 94% Fat Free Turkey from Publix is excellent, tender and works in everything I cook — spaghetti, soup, chili, meatloaf, even burgers.

Barbara McGee’s Fresh Apple Cake

"Eutaw United Methodist Church, where we attend, has some of the best cooks in the world. Our ‘Second Sunday Lunches’ are known far and wide, and are attended well! We have published three cookbooks since I have been a member there.

"I usually identify my favorite recipes by the cook’s name – Nancy’s Pineapple Casserole, Barbara’s Fresh Apple Cake, my sister Barbara Hinkle Pritchett’s Barbara’s Wow Barbecue Sauce, to name a few – that gives me happy memories of those people."

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

for Baby Back Ribs

1 cup ketchup
½ cup mustard
¼ cup vinegar
2/3 cup brown sugar

Mix all together well. Cook on medium heat until sugar is melted and well blended. For more pizazz, add a few drops of hot sauce. Wash baby ribs, salt and pepper them and wrap them in aluminum foil. Bake at 350º until tender, usually 1-1½ hours. Spread the barbecue sauce on the ribs and place under the broiler for a few minutes.


1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 can pineapple (I have used either tidbits or chunks), drained
1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans
1 box sugar free Jell-O (you can use raspberry, cherry, or strawberry)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly; tastes better if refrigerated. To me, the more pecans, the merrier!

Note: My friend Susan at work gave this recipe to me, and since then I have put it in our church cookbook and it’s always requested, especially, at Thanksgiving and Christmas.


2 cups enriched cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1½-2 cups sour milk (I use non fat buttermilk)
3 Tablespoons fat (I use either corn
oil or olive oil - it is good both ways)

Preheat oven to 400º. Mix all well and bake in a hot greased iron skillet.

Note from family: You won’t have any leftovers!


2-3 slices white bread, crumbled (I use whole wheat, or leave it out altogether)
½ cup celery (sometimes I leave this out; sometimes I precook a little so it won’t be too hard)
1 whole skillet cornbread
½ cup chopped onion (precook this as it also helps soften)
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 large egg
Sage, to taste
¼ cup black pepper
2 cups chicken broth (you can adjust this as you wish to get the right degree of moisture)

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight (I have not done this but it may increase flavor mingling).Bake in 2 quart baking dish at 350º for 25-30 minutes.

Note: My daughter has been making our Thanksgiving and Christmas dressing using Ms. Prudence’s recipe – we always want it both holidays. It is like my childhood memories of good comfort food.


1 cup corn oil
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
3 cups peeled, diced apples
1 cup pecans, chopped

½ stick oleo
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk

Mix oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Sift flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Blend with first mixture. Add apples and pecans. Pour into a Pam-sprayed tube pan. Place in a cold oven. Bake at 325-350º for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

For glaze: Combine ingredients in saucepan. Boil for 1 minute. Spread on hot cake after removing from pan.


1 large can pineapple chunks
¾ cup sugar
1Tablespoon flour
1 egg
6 slices bread
1 stick oleo, melted

Beat egg; add flour, sugar and pineapple chunks. Mix well. Bake 25 minutes at 325º. Cut each slice of bread into 9 cubes. Put on top of pineapple chunks. Pour oleo over top. Bake 10-15 minutes longer. (If recipe is doubled, use 9 slices of bread and 1½ sticks oleo.).

Note: You’ll want to double this recipe; Nancy can’t come to “Second Sunday Lunch” without this delicious casserole!


2 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup oleo
1/3 cup milk

1 cup light brown sugar (think Splenda brown sugar!)
1 cup nuts, chopped
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter or oleo

Add all ingredients to potatoes. Mix well. Put into a greased casserole dish. Mix topping together. Crumble on top of casserole. Bake at 350º for 25-35 minutes.

Note: This sweet little lady has gone to Heaven. I remember her every time I read this recipe — it is good!

(Nola Hinkle)

1½ pounds ground beef (or that
Plainville Farms Ground Turkey!)
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 eggs
1 teaspoon instant minced onion
1 can (15-ounce) tomato sauce, divided

Reserved tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
½ cup sugar (be brave and healthy, use Splenda!)
2 teaspoons mustard

Mix meat, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and eggs. Add onion and half of tomato sauce. Form into loaf in 9X5 inch pan. Bake at 350º for 50 minutes. In saucepan, combine topping ingredients; bring to boil. Pour over meatloaf; bake 10 minutes more. Yield: 6 servings.


1½ cups ketchup
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup oil (I use olive oil for everything), you can reduce this to 2 Tablespoons
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (Splenda works fine)
3 Tablespoons mustard
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (I just use a sprinkle of garlic salt)
1 lemon, cut in half (this works best, but I have used the equivalent in bottled lemon juice)

In a saucepan, mix all ingredients; squeeze lemon juice into sauce and add 1 lemon half shell. Heat slowly about 10 minutes. Sauce does not have to reach the boil, but heating blends the flavor (and it tastes even better the next day!). Makes about 3 cups. Per serving: 33 calories, 1 gm. fat, no cholesterol, 118 mg. sodium.

Note: I renamed this sauce in honor of our split household. No one is split when it comes to its taste!


1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened and sliced, divided
2 cups packed brown sugar (have to use the REAL brown sugar -- light brown is OK if you wish)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2½ cups powdered sugar

Heat stick of butter, brown sugar and salt in heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Let bubble about 30 seconds. Whisk in whipping cream and cook until bubbles reappear. Let bubble about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour the hot frosting into a bowl and slowly add powdered sugar while mixing with a hand mixer, mix for about 5 minutes. Add remaining butter. Continue to mix for a couple of minutes.

Note: Searched all my cooking life for the perfect, easy caramel icing recipe – search is over! I named this in honor of Carla, who passed it along to me. Another good caramel cake cook Marilyn Windham gave a good idea – if you make a sheet cake in an aluminum pan, pour the icing while hot over the cake and it “ices itself.” Just use yellow or white cake, mix or scratch. The icing steals the show!


1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup white Karo syrup
1 cup raw peanuts
Dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix all except vanilla, butter and baking soda Microwave for 7 minutes on high. Stir in vanilla and butter. Microwave 3 more minutes or until golden brown. Add baking soda. Pour out carefully onto a cookie sheet pre-sprayed with Pam spray. Let cool, then break into pieces.

Note: I have learned that microwaves vary on the time; just watch closely so peanuts don’t overcook.

Note from editor: Make sure your throughly coat the cookie sheet with Pam. Otherwise, the brittle with still stick.


2 pound ground turkey
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried sage
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together well; form into patties and cook until well done.
If you like it extra spicy you can lightly coat the patties with more of the seasoning mix.

Note: For a healthier breakfast sausage casserole, you can use this turkey sausage, crumbled, with egg substitute and fat free cheese, shredded. I did this on Christmas and used a pre-made pie crust. It was pretty good! My favorite turkey sausage is Plainville Farms 94% Fat Free; I can only find it at Publix grocery store.


1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Mix together well. Drop onto cookie sheet. Crisscross a pattern on top with a fork. Lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350.

Note: I named this simple recipe as above because it has to be the recipe the lunchroom ladies used when I was a child. I loved those cookies! They are so easy and so simple; just three ingredients.


½ pound butter
2 cups sugar (sift three times)
6 large eggs
3 cups cake flour
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 small carton sour cream

Measure flour and sift three times with soda and salt (set aside).Add sugar to butter, creaming until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, creaming after each. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Use any flouring desired. Bake in tube pan for 1½ hours in 325º oven.

Note: My Aunt Eda – yes, her proper name is “Eva” and everyone calls her Eda – no one knows why! I always gets requests for this delicious cake.


3 cups long grain brown or white rice
1 can mild green chilies
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups grated cheese
½ cup sweet milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients and pour into baking dish (sprayed with Pam spray) and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Note: You can use white or brown rice. I use brown and to soften it (it’s a little tougher) I cook as directed, but add a tablespoon of olive oil.

Dear Readers, over the coming months of 2014, I am seeking cooks to submit recipes for our upcoming cookbook, "Southern and Then Some More." Those who are willing to share their cooking story with the Pantry, along with 10-12 recipes, will be a Cook of the Month and can tell their story, along with sharing their recipes - AND - will receive a free copy of the cookbook when it is published in December.

Thanks, Mary

The FFA Sentinel: National FFA Convention

Harris Elected to National Office

by Kelsey Faulkner

The 86th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo was held October 30-November 2, 2013 in Louisville, Ky., at the Kentucky Exposition Center. More than 62,000 members, advisors, parents and supporters attended. Alabama had more than 750 attendees participating in competitions, workshops, convention sessions and other activities.

Congratulations to Wiley Bailey, 2013 Southern Region Vice President, for an outstanding year of service to members across the country.

Representing Alabama as delegates included the six state officers: William Norris, president; Bailey Sims, vice president; Hayden Whittle, secretary; Shelby Windham, treasurer; myself and Alyssa Hutcheson, sentinel, as well as the three District Presidents: Valerie White, North; Brittany Taylor, Central; and Kaleb Richard, South; and two District Vice-Presidents: Cody Maddox, North; and Blair Hendricks, South.

On Tuesday, we began the official delegate process. We attended our delegate training sessions as well as the Welcome to Louisville Luncheon where we heard from Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville; Dr. Steve Brown, National FFA Advisor; and David Beck, Executive Vice President of The Kentucky Farm Bureau.

After lunch, we attended our assigned committee meetings. The six committees included FFA Image and Branding; Agricultural Education as a Career; Integration of the Agriculture Industry; The Role of FFA in Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Enhancing SAE Involvement; and the Promotion of Agricultural Literacy.

Throughout the day, we attended delegate hearings and meetings, and we closed the day with a dinner sponsored by Wrangler.

On Wednesday, we attended public hearings and our final committee meetings as well as another delegate luncheon sponsored by BASF, Elanco, UPS and Wrangler.

Congratulations to Jackson Harris, 2014 Southern Region Vice President, from the Eufaula Chapter.

One special event occurred on Wednesday evening when we attended a dinner sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation. In attendance were Jimmy Parnell, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation; Paul Pinyan, executive director of the Alabama Farmers Federation; Jennifer Himburg, director of Alabama Young Farmers; State Senator Bill Holtzclaw; State Representative Alan Boothe; Dr. Philip Cleveland, director of Career Technical Education; Jeff Newman, State School Board; and Kib Mckibbens, Governor Bentley’s Office, as well as the members of the Alabama Delegate Body: Philip Paramore, executive secretary; Jacob Davis, advisor; and Dr. Chris Kennedy, Central District Specialist. This dinner provided the delegates the opportunity to voice the importance of agriculture education and FFA for the lives of today’s youth. The delegates learned from our special guests more about the impact of agriculture on Alabama and how important political support is for the industry. Afterwards, the delegates attended a concert with performances by Dierks Bentley and Jana Kramer.

On Thursday, the delegates attended General Session 1C, the two Delegate Business Sessions, as well as taking the State Photo. Thursday concluded official delegate business. Over the course of the sessions, special guests included Joe Torrillo, New York Fire Department; Rick Pitino, renowned basketball coach; Katie Pratt, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance; and Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.

On Saturday morning in the Eighth General Session, we watched as over 3,000 FFA members received their American Degrees and as the Stars Over America Finalists were recognized.

There were seven American Degree recipients from Alabama: James Alford, Samson Chapter; Jackson Harris and Zach Padgett, Eufaula Chapter; Cameron Hill and William Perry, Skyline Chapter; Logan McCord, Marbury Chapter; and Josh Williams, Douglas Chapter. Congratulations to Buster Padgett and Michael Counts for having two American Degree recipients each and to each advisor with an American Degree Recipient.

National Career Development Event participation resulted in two gold, four silver and seven bronze awards from Alabama. National competition is tough! The two gold-ranking chapters were Mary G. Montgomery in Agriscience Technology & Mechanical Systems and Oak Grove in Forestry. Oak Grove placed seventh! The silver-ranking chapters were Wetumpka (William Norris) for Extemporaneous Speaking; Cherokee (Nikki Giba), Prepared Public Speaking; Lawrence County, Poultry; and Pleasant Valley, Nursery-landscape. The bronze-ranking chapters were Enterprise, Parliamentary Procedure; Horseshoe Bend, Meats Evaluation; Hartselle. Livestock; South Baldwin, Horse; Pleasant Valley, Floriculture; Albertville, Dairy; and Jacksonville (Alexis Paige), Creed Speaking. Congratulations to all these winners. These chapters and individuals represented Alabama well. Thank you to each member, advisor and coaches.

Congratulations to State Staff member and State Advisor Jacob Davis for being elected as president-elect of the National Association of Supervisors of Agriscience Education and as a member of the National FFA Board of Directors. Davis is already currently serving on the National FFA Foundation Board.

The Alabama FFA Association is very proud of the outstanding year of service from retiring National FFA Southern Region Vice President Wiley Bailey of the Sank Rock Chapter. He did an amazing job at entertaining and inspiring everyone at the National Convention. I was proud that one of the best retiring addresses at convention was delivered by a member from Alabama.

The Alabama FFA Association is also extremely proud of Jackson Harris of the Eufaula FFA for being named Southern Region Vice President. The following is an excerpt from a news release about his election:

As a freshman at University of Alabama, Jackson Harris sought one of about 30 spots in the University Fellows Experience, a program that fuses high academic standards with a passion for community service.

He was asked during the interview process to identify his strengths he would be able to bring to the group over his 4 years in college.

His answer?

"Well," he said. "I restore antique tractors."

After a polite exchange of quiet smiles and chuckles, Harris explained about his experience in FFA. He told the panel, despite the fact he didn’t grow up on a farm, through FFA he learned the difference between an alternator and a radiator, and much more. He shared times when he and his 10-member tractor team would spend countless hours in the school’s shop restoring every inch of machines manufactured and used in American fields for decades before they were born.

The passion he conveyed to the panel was overwhelming.

"Looking back, I wouldn’t change the answer I gave that day," Harris said. "From that little tractor restoration team, I found within myself an ability to see things not as they are but as they can be."

Harris was elected to the 2013-14 National FFA Officer Team as Southern Region Vice President at the 86th National FFA Convention & Expo….

Originally from Eufaula and a community development major at the University of Alabama, Harris served his Eufaula FFA chapter as secretary and president. He was vice president of the Alabama FFA Association. Harris won several honors as a member of his chapter’s FFA string band and quartet at district and state level competitions.

In 2008, his team was named National Grand Champion of the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition, an honor that opened the door to represent Chevron Delo Lubricants as a promoter at the World Ag Expo in California later in his high school career. The Eagle Scout was also involved in the Student Government Association at Eufaula High School….

After graduation from the University of Alabama, Harris hopes to stay in his home state and serve Alabama citizens – especially those living in poverty – by equipping rural communities with opportunities for economic and creative growth.

"I hope to promote premier leadership, personal growth and career success as a national officer at conventions and conferences across the country," he said. "I look forward to welcoming members and encouraging them to share their passions and experiences for agriculture."

On behalf of the Alabama FFA Association, we sincerely thank each advisor and supporter of the FFA for providing this and many more opportunities to help members realize their fullest potentials.

Kelsey Faulkner is Alabama’s FFA Reporter.

We Eat What We Kill

by Corky Pugh

Granddaddy’s words ring in my ears, "You don’t shoot anything if you’re not going to eat it."

He spoke and lived this iron-clad rule. As a youngster, I wondered if maybe it was a vestige of living hard during the Great Depression, and the waste-not, want-not thriftiness of his generation.

As time passed, I came to realize this self-imposed rule was part of being a responsible, ethical hunter. The utilization of what we kill is far more than a responsibility, though. For most of us who hunt, the process of dressing, preparing and eating wild game is a cherished and integral part of the hunting experience.

Dr. Jim Miller, renowned wildlife biologist and Mississippi State professor, very eloquently articulated this part of our hunting heritage in an essay titled, "A Source of Solace."

According to Miller, "Aside from feeling genetically and instinctively predisposed to hunt, I treasure and enjoy everything about it: the planning and preparation, the sights and smells, the privilege of observing animal behavior, the scouting, the challenges and thrills of the chase, the skillful cleaning of harvested game, the final organic feast."

In Alabama, wild game regularly graces the tables of multitudes of hunters and their families. Churches and other organizations hold annual game suppers, and AWF Wild Game Cook-offs have grown into major events. This cultural phenomenon is certainly not unique to our state, but it is as strong here as anywhere. Eating what we kill is part of the social fabric that has made us who we are as Alabamians and as Americans.

Angus Cameron and Judith Jones, authors of The L. L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook, put it this way: "The cooking of game and game fish has always been an important part of the American cuisine; if anything, it is more American than apple pie and more indigenous. Game and fish have supplied an important part of the American diet for at least two centuries and are still important in many areas of our country today. When the frontier was on the Eastern Seaboard, the use of game was often crucial and continued to be an important part of the diet as the frontier moved on across the continent - to the middle frontier, to the Old West and finally to Alaska."

Cameron and Jones continue, "To hunt and fish, and eat game and fish came naturally to Americans, and no wonder - our ancestors in Europe were either enthusiastic hunters or poachers, and savored game meats of all kinds. Of course, if we wished to go back far enough, all the familiar meats were once game. Our remotest Stone Age forebears hunted the wild ancestors of all our domestic critters long before they settled down as herders and farmers."

Recent national research by Responsive Management revealed that obtaining meat is an increasingly important motivation among American hunters. In a 2013 nationwide scientific telephone survey measuring hunting participation among Americans ages 18 and older, a question asked hunters about their single most important reason for hunting in the year prior to the survey. More than a third (35 percent) of hunters hunt primarily "for the meat." This is a substantial increase since 2006 when 22 percent named "for the meat" as their most important reason for going hunting.

Nationally, only 1 percent of hunters go hunting for a trophy as the primary motivator.

As hunters, we don’t tend to sort things out as clearly as the statisticians; for most of us, there are multiple motivations in a mix of variables related to why we hunt. The researchers verified this, but their difficult job required sorting out this complex mix and making sense of it all. Within the mix of variables, those of us who hunt primarily for the meat often save antlers as a memento, and the smaller percentage who are more fascinated with antlers still enjoy eating venison.

The most elusive variable involved tradition and the sentimental side of hunters and hunting. This thread is woven throughout the entire hunting experience, including how we utilize what we kill. Treasured family recipes, passed from generation to generation, are often used in game preparation. In like fashion, the events featuring wild game are frequently built around long-standing tradition.

A related, but separate, research project by Responsive Management, measured the percentage of adult Americans nationwide who approve of various motivations for hunting. Eighty-five percent approve of "for the meat" as a motivation for hunting. This motivation ranks at the top, right along with "To protect humans from harm," also at 85 percent. "For the challenge" only garners a 40 percent approval rating, while lowest of all is "For a trophy," at 28 percent.

Why should we as hunters be concerned with what people in general think about all this? Society decides for us what our rights and privileges are. Like it or not, this is the way it works. As hunters, we are a minority - only 7 percent of the people hunt. However, the vast majority of the other 93 percent approve of lawful, ethical hunting. Eighty-nine percent of Alabamians approve of hunting, so long as fair chase is maintained. Without fair chase - for instance with bait, public approval for hunting in Alabama drops to only 19 percent.

For more of Dr. Jim Miller’s insight, go to and look under What the Hunting Heritage Foundation Stands For.

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

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

Wood Heat Warms Your Soul

A “teepee” of firewood catching fire inside my wood-burning heater.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Just about every article or TV segment on "saving energy" begins with the statement: "Turn your thermostat down (or up depending on the season) to so-and-so."

That may be well and good if you HAVE a thermostat, but there are more simple-living folks than you can imagine who manage to live 365 days a year without that little magic dial or digitally-glowing gadget on their walls.

Many folks told me last summer that I had lost my mind because I lived through the Alabama-heated summer yet again without an air conditioner in my house. (Remember, Southern girls don’t perspire they "glow"!)

And there’s even more folks who question my sanity when they learn my sprawling house is heated solely with a wood-burning heater. But I just smile to myself because I know something too many people don’t know: wood heat warms your very soul!

Some of you may know that on Halloween I slipped in a very strange way and, even though I never hit the floor, I sustained a severe hamstring injury. Yowl! It was (and continues to be) the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through. (I have a new sympathy for football players who get that injury.)

My youngest daughter was being helpful and brought in a so-called energy-efficient room electric heater so I wouldn’t have to carry firewood in and get up and down to stoke the heater. I used it for three days and while it seemed to keep the room warm, I nearly froze to death!

Yes, it could have been in my mind, but when I rebuilt the fire in my sweet wood burner, the house took on its usual warmth. And I could stand up against it or sit nearby and just feel the warmth reaching inside to my very bones.

You can’t do that very well over a vent with a forced-air heater, can you?

I know wood heat isn’t for everybody but here’s how it became such a big part of my life.

When I was a little girl and we lived just down the hill from my current farm (one of my allergy doctors wrote that I lived "in a hollow beside a creek"), we heated with a propane heater in the living room. But my parents’ bedroom, where my little bed was also located, had a fireplace.

On really cold nights, they built a fire, sometimes with coal and sometimes with wood, and I’d go to sleep comforted watching those flames.

Many years later, my husband Roy and I bought our then-dream house. Totally electric, central heat and air. Just touch that dial. We touched. Then we flinched when the bill came.

We traveled over the river and through the woods to Cullman County and came back with an Ashley wood-burning heater, a three-wall safety pipe to go through the ceiling and roof, and a fireproof pad for the floor. We were in business and we loved it! Roy was still young and healthy, and he and my dad cut mountains of free firewood from my homeplace.

Then our house burned.

But NOT from the wood heater; the cause was electrical wiring behind the clothes dryer. The wood heater was fine; so I sanded it down, painted it myself with the right kind of paint and we installed it in the new house we built back.

We built it even safer. There were special tiles laid on a cement pad on that section of the floor and up the wall behind the heater. Again we had three-wall pipe through the ceiling and roof. It was even easy to clean out the chimney because I could take out the elbow by loosening a few screws, and clean it out from the bottom up with a large box situated underneath to catch the soot.

Then my daddy died and the following year we bought the house and home farm from my mama. My wood heater was sold with the other house.

We managed for a couple of years without it until the Blizzard of 1993 hit. Have you ever tried to heat a sprawling house with just a fireplace for six days? We slept on a mattress in front of the fireplace and vowed to never again be without a wood-burning heater!

I bought another Ashley from an Oneonta business and we set it on the raised hearth of the fireplace. Putman’s Tin in Oneonta cut a piece of metal to fit the fireplace opening with a hole for the pipe. But instead of just venting the heater up the chimney, we have pipe that goes from the heater up through the brick chimney to the top - just an added safety feature.

It’s a pain to move the heater out to change the elbow every 3 or 4 years, but that’s what a strong son and friends are for. And I can run a brush up through the heater and up the pipe to clean out soot and creosote more often.

A couple of years after we got this wood heater in the 1990s, our central heat and air unit died. We never replaced it.

After Roy’s heart attacks about 7 years ago, all heater duties fell to me. After he passed away, tending the heater was no big deal because I’d done it for so many years after his sickness (and years before when I worked at home while he worked running his electrical company).

Last year I even borrowed a neighbor’s small electric chainsaw and made quick work of several smaller trees that needed to come down around my little general store and around the farm. You have to remember SAFETY FIRST when dealing with any kind of chainsaw, so, please, please, please read up on all that before you ever pick up a saw!

The Clemson Extension Service has some wonderful information on line at the National Ag Safety Database,,

They note, "Most people have some way to arrive at the amount of conventional fuel it takes to heat the house for an average year."

They quote the "Smithers" method that "assumes the following equivalents to one cord of average dry hardwood."

Each of these is supposed to equal a cord of wood: 150 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil; 230 gallon LP gas, 21,000 cubic feet natural gas or 6,158 kwh of electricity.

They have further info there to figure out what your savings could be. There’s also helpful info on picking a wood heater to suit your specific needs.

Several websites talk about the release of pollutants from wood heaters and I believe contrary to what the EPA is trying to state it equals out. Numerous websites I visited such as notes, "A wood fire does not contribute to global warming because no more carbon dioxide is released than the natural forest would release if left untouched. Using wood for heat means less fossil fuels burned, less greenhouse gas emissions and a healthier environment." While I don’t personally believe in the so-called Global Warming, to me they make a valid point.

You should just be careful and not burn treated wood, plastics, colored print sections from the newspaper … anything that might contain chemicals!

Other good articles can be found through their websites at Mother Earth News and Backwoods Home.

For the last 2 years, I’ve stored most of my firewood on my carport instead of under my long back porch which is where we stored it for about 20 years.

By storing the firewood on the carport, I have about a six-inch step to come inside and that’s it. That means a lot as I’m not a spring chicken anymore and those eight steps up and down to the back porch are a little riskier with a big armload of firewood. Also, with it on the carport, I don’t have to go out in the weather to bring in the wood and I just bring in what I need right then. At night a little extra wood is stored in a large plastic container near the heater. (We did store it in one of those half-whiskey barrels, but, alas, it finally fell apart and then I burned it!)

The majority of that firewood is gone by the spring, so insects AND SNAKES aren’t a problem. Seasoned wood can still be stored under the porch until I’m near needing it, then it can be moved to the more convenient carport.

This year I’ve bought wood, had wood my son has cut and been able to get free wood. (There is still a lot of storm-damage wood folks just want out of their way.)

When dealing with wood, I ALWAYS wear a couple of my late-husband’s good, sturdy, thick Carhartt shirts, jeans, thick gloves and sturdy boots - ALL available at my local Blount County Farmers Co-op or at most Quality Co-op stores in the state.

As with any type of heat, I always have at least four smoke detectors with FRESH batteries in areas of my house.

It might be a little easier to flip a switch or turn a dial for heat, but there is no describing how it feels to sit in a rocking chair in front of the wood heater, sewing a quilt or knitting, while my cats curl around my feet.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be reached through her website at

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