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February 2016

4-H Extension Corner: Give to Grow Alabama 4-H in 2016

by Donna Reynolds

Alabama 4-H grows confident, capable and caring young people with the life skills to thrive in today’s world and to succeed in their boldest dreams for tomorrow.

Alabama 4-H’s many and varied programs provide experience and opportunities that prepare young people to be college- and career-ready, aspire to learn, stay active and learn to be leaders. Programs offered include science and technology, animals and agriculture, consumer sciences, leadership, citizenship, and environmental and outdoor science.

"Young people have an array of choices in their 4-H experience where individuality is valued, and each person is encouraged to discover his or her own skills, talents and interests," said Dr. Molly Gregg, assistant director for 4-H programs with Alabama Extension. "4-H also helps young people learn to make good decisions, think critically, build relationships, practice leadership, and develop a concern for their community and their world."

Alabama 4-H’s Give to Grow allows you to support 4-H.

With funding from county, federal and state sources declining and tax dollars only going so far, Alabama 4-H program relies on support from youth, families, Extension specialists and agents, volunteers, partners and donors to succeed.

"Join me in investing in the future of Alabama by making a charitable donation to expand 4-H opportunities to all youth of Alabama; they are our future leaders. The lessons our youth learn today in 4-H will benefit Alabama in the future. Thank you for your generosity and faith in the young people of Alabama," said Dr. Gary Lemme, director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Give to Grow 4-H donations help fund clubs, camps, enrichment programs and recognition of outstanding young people and adults who are leaders among their peers. When you give to 4-H, you enrich young lives through designated support of a project area, event, scholarship or improved facilities.

Your donation can provide the HOPE! You can:

  • Send a young person to camp;
  • Help a young person build a rocket;
  • Support and build new leaders;
  • Help a young person learn stewardship;
  • Send a young person outdoors to discover the wonder of nature; or
  • Prepare a young person to take action for today and tomorrow.

There are various ways to give to Alabama 4-H.

  • Cash. Cash gifts are the easiest way of giving to 4-H. Make checks payable to the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, Inc., and mail to 227 Duncan Hall, Auburn University, AL 36849
  • Credit Cards. Visit the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation website at for details about giving by credit card.
  • Other ways to give. Securities, corporate matching gifts and planned deferred gifts are a few of the additional ways to give. For more options, visit the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation website at, or

"Alabama 4-H opens so many doors for young people," said Paul Pinyan, chairman of the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. "By supporting the Give to Grow campaign, you can help expand program opportunities for youth in every part of the state."

"When you Give to Grow Alabama 4-H, young people grow in confidence, responsibility, leadership and good citizenship. 4-H affords youth opportunities to learn by doing. Half the globe is under 25 years of age. We need their engagement like never before. There is a world of need out there, but also a world of opportunity. You can make a difference," Gregg added.

In 2014, more than 138,000 young people – 37,591 in 1,863 4-H clubs and 101,084 in 4-H events and activities, across the state – pledged their heads to clearer thinking, their hearts to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service and their health to better living.

Call the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, Inc., office at 334-844-5536 with any questions.

4-H is the nation’s largest positive youth-development and youth-mentoring organization, empowering more than 6 million young people in the United States. As the youth development program of the Cooperative Extension System and USDA, 4-H serves every county and parish in the United States through a network of 110 universities and more than 3,000 county Extension offices.

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

A Quilt of Honor

JoAnn and Boyce Kelley were high school sweethearts who have been married 61 years. Both were deeply touched when they received the Honor Quilt.

Inspired church members find a creative way to recognize a veteran.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Memorial Day 2013 was a very special day for Boyce Kelley. He donned his old Air Force uniform and headed to Springfield Methodist Protestant Church to be part of a service to remember those who had died serving their country and those who had served but had now passed on. The ceremony took on a somber tone as each name was read, followed by the single clang of the church bell.

After this, Kelley and the other veterans led the solemn parishioners from the sanctuary to an area beside the church where a sea of white crosses stood, representing veterans from the Sandflat Community who had served their country. Silently, each person moved to stand American flags beside the crosses.

All the living veterans stood at attention and saluted. Others in the crowd placed their hands over their hearts. Most bowed their heads in respect and gratitude for the sacrifices of these warriors. Parents pulled their little ones closer, and many of the old ones wept. No words were spoken; none were needed.

The flags from the Memorial Day Service at Springfield Methodist Protestant Church would be used by Kathy Ballard to make an Honor Quilt for the church’s oldest veteran, Boyce Kelley. (Credit: Missy Fendley)

The crowd lingered longer that day, as if to make sure the picture before them was forever preserved in their minds and hearts. The image of the red, white and blue flags wafting gently in the warm, spring breeze was unforgettable. Many visitors stopped to take in the sight and to pay tribute.

Kathy Ballard, the church’s secretary, had watched the moving ceremony and seen the face of Boyce Kelley, the oldest veteran in her community. She had seen the pride and the tears of this man who had dedicated his life to keeping his country safe, a man who loved God and his family, a man who had recently suffered great loss. She knew what the flags meant to him, and she wanted somehow to give something back to a person who had already given so much. That’s when she decided to gather the flags and preserve them forever for "Mr. Boyce."

Ballard did just that and set out to design a quilt that would reflect the patriotism, the dedication, and the loyalty of one man to his God and his country. It would take her almost two years to finish the top and monogram her special message, but still she never gave up. She said that she knew she had to do this. She kept her idea from everyone but two other church members, Faye Fendley and Doris Kelly, whom she has enlisted to do the quilting.

Kelley, a decorated Vietnam veteran, who served for 28 years in the U.S. Air Force, knew nothing about the secretive workings in his honor. Well-known and respected in Southwest Alabama, Kelley entered the service in 1952 and travelled all over the world. In fact, Kelley said he could not begin to name all the countries he had been privileged to visit.

Kathy Ballard, the church’s secretary, was touched by the moving Memorial Day ceremony and the face of Boyce Kelley, the church’s oldest veteran.

Through the years, Kelley has shared his military experiences with churches, veterans’ groups and schools. One such story involved his first deployment at age 19. Kelley got to see the Sahara Desert for the first time. He was stationed in Sidi Slimane, Morocco, near the area where Rommel and Montgomery fought. He recalled that years after the battle, American soldiers would unearth abandoned trucks and tanks that had been swallowed by the constantly shifting sand.

Kelley laughed when he told about his four-year deployment to Roswell, NM.

"I never knew about the extraterrestrial incident that supposedly happened there," he said. "I learned about this after I left. I was watching TV, and the show was about this incident."

One of the things he did remember most about Roswell was the high wind rate. While there, at least three airplanes were lost because of the wind.

In 1969, Kelley was sent to Vietnam for a year. At that time, he was leading a combat support outfit. He recalls being under constant fire from rockets and mortars. He received the Bronze Star for exceptional bravery in combat while he served in that war. When he spoke of Vietnam, Kelley’s voice broke with emotion and sadness.

"It was a terrible war. It made me sad to see how some in our country treated our boys when they came back home."

Boyce Kelley cherishes the Bronze Star he earned for service in Vietnam. Kelley also showed his special citation from President Johnson.

During the height of the Cold War, Kelley was part of the Air Force Security Service in Turkey. He remembered being with hundreds of other soldiers, monitoring the Soviet Union.

"Now, we use satellites for this," he explained.

Kelley married his high school sweetheart, JoAnn Hudson, in 1954 and raised a family of four while serving his country. His oldest daughter, Teresa, was born in the Panama Canal Zone, where Kelley and his family stayed for three years. The other three were born on military bases throughout the United States: Tom, in Shreveport, La.; Debbie, in Roswell; and Cindy, in Biloxi, Miss. Even though his children moved all over the world, all of them were able to graduate from their father’s alma mater, Thomasville High School. This was a source of great pride for Kelley.

Doris Kelly, left, helped to quilt the top made by Kathy Ballard. Doris and Faye Fendley worked together to hand quilt the top in a backroom of the church set aside for the Sunshine Quilters.

Kelley retired in 1979 and returned to his home in the Sandflat Community. He attended Alabama Southern Community College, earning a degree in refrigeration and electricity. He worked with Sears for seven years and then went to work at the Thomasville Mental Health and Rehab Center where he did electrical maintenance. When this facility closed in the ’90s, he worked at Searcy Hospital in Mt. Vernon, retiring a second time in 1996.

After his retirement, Kelley continued to work with military causes and community organizations. He served as Vice Commander of the local VFW. He was also Commander of the Armed Forces Association for many years. He marched in parades and attended funerals, representing the military. He still speaks to various groups and organizations about a subject he is very passionate about – freedom.

"I am extremely patriotic," he explained. "Our strength lies with a strong military to defend our country. Freedom is not free. Somebody lost a life so you and I could be free. There has been so much suffering for our freedom, and so many people affected by this."

The passing of so many World War II veterans saddens Kelley.

"These guys saved our world," he said. "Being in the military is more than putting on a uniform. It’s swearing an oath and giving your allegiance to this country … so many never came home."

In November 2015, Ballard and other church members planned to present the honor quilt to Kelley at the Veterans’ Day program. However, he and his wife were on a trip to Florida to visit their grandchildren. The quilt was presented, instead, at the Adult Christmas Banquet in December.

Boyce Kelley received the Honor Quilt from Faye Fendley, one of the two quilters who helped Kathy Ballard.

The heartwarming tribute touched all who were there. Kelley read aloud the monogram that Kathy Ballard had lovingly stitched on the honor quilt, "One Nation Under God."

"This quilt is the greatest gift I have ever received," Kelley said. "It represents what I represent: my country. I love this country, its flag and all the good it stands for. This quilt represents the hard work of people at my church and their belief in freedom. This cross represents my belief in God and my belief that He is, and will always be, the center of this country that I love. I pray we will always be ‘One Nation, Under God.’"

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She may be contacted at

A Silent Minute

Finding the light in the darkest of times

by John Howle

If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, King James Version)

February can be a dark time of year. The days are short and nights are extended. Getting outside to feed the cows their hay ration or taking a brisk walk around the fence lines can help supply those small doses of vitamin D we need from the rare sun showing on these days.

Our country also seems to have entered into a time of darkness. Threats outside our borders and strife within our borders seem to illustrate the darkness that has swept through the land. But lo, there is good news. None of these things escape God’s vision, and He tells us in 2 Chronicles there is a way to bring the light back into our lives and into our country.

It’s interesting that this is an if/then statement. If we do three things: humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face; then: God will hear us, forgive our sins and heal our land. During World War II, Winston Churchill, along with the support of King George VI, called on the people of England to pray for protection and peace for one minute each night at 9 o’clock while Hitler’s bombing raids were wreaking havoc within the country.

The story goes that the clock, Big Ben, would chime nine times, and this was the signal for the country to begin praying collectively. It was known as "The Big Ben Silent Minute." This practice of calling for prayer each night at 9 continued for years after the war concluded, and we know from history that darkness and Hitler did not prevail, and Britain and the United States remain free today.

This freedom and protection granted by God can only be preserved through prayer. George Washington often prayed and fasted asking for God’s protection and providence during the American Revolution while serving as the Commander in Chief. When he was inaugurated in 1789, Washington also enlisted God’s protection over the country he was about to lead as he said the following, "In this first official act, my fervent supplications to the Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes ...."

An old, burned-out extension cord makes an ideal fence insulator for attaching your electric fence to trees.

Homemade Tree Insulators

Electric fencing is ideal for containing animals and subdividing the grazing of pastures. Often these fences can link into the woods line and you need a way to attach the electric wire or poly tape to the tree. If you have an old extension cord that has burned out or any insulated wire, simply make a loop in the wire and attach it to the trees with fence staples once you have run the electric wire through. The coated wire provides the necessary insulation for the electric current to travel past the tree without grounding out.

Non-Skid Trailer Floor

The floor in a cattle trailer can get quite slick. If you are taking a prized load of beef to the sales barn, the last thing you want to happen is for the livestock to slip down or get a leg broken on the way to market. Feedlot panels can be secured to the wood floor of the trailer with fence staples to keep the cattle from losing their footing in the trailer.

A 16-foot panel costs around $20. Your local Co-op will have panels and everything you need to attach them. Keep the flooring cleaned out with a pressure washer to avoid manure buildup and corrosion.

Place your hay ring in an area that is well-drained to avoid buildup of mud, health risks to cattle and weeds in the spring.

Move out of the Mud

The freezing rains we get this time of year can really tear up pasture areas where the cattle are fed round bales of hay. If the hay ring is in a low-lying area, the mud buildup can reach the teats on cows and can possibly cause infection, not to mention other health problems. A better spot to place hay rings is on a higher, well-drained area. Look for one that might have rocky ground near the surface. Feeding cattle in muddy areas can also result in many more weeds the following spring.

Provide the Protein

February can be a stressful time for cattle. The colder temperatures require more energy, and this time of year the forage may be wearing thin and hay alone might not provide the needed protein to come through the winter in a healthy condition. Your protein solution is as near as your local Co-op. Offer your herd a syrup tub of 24 percent protein this winter. It works on cattle as well as a hot bowl of chili does for a hungry farmer.

This February, let’s all take a moment to realize the power of prayer if we want our nation to remain blessed. Every generation before us did this and we reap those blessings today. If we don’t, we will continue to see God pushed out of our schools, community and public squares. In the words of Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

A Sweet Alternative

Tips for cooking with Honey

by Angela Treadaway

Honey can add a unique flavor to foods for variety. It also makes products moister when used in baking. The color and flavor of honey depend on the type of blossom from which the bees get their nectar. Honey is produced in most countries and every state in the United States. For a description of some of the most common types of honey and suppliers, you can visit, the National Honey Board website.

Honey can be used as a glaze, sweetener for fresh fruit, to make honey mustard, on baked goods and many other ways. However, unless a recipe for baked products is designed for honey, some adaptations need to be made when substituting honey for sugar. For best results, use recipes developed for using honey. When substituting honey for granulated sugar, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. With a little experimentation, honey can replace all the sugar in some recipes. When baking with honey, remember the following:

  • Reduce any liquid called for by ¼ cup for each cup of honey used.
  • Add ½ teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.
  • Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning.
  • A 12-ounce jar of honey equals a standard measuring cup.
  • When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey. The honey will slide right out.

When storing honey here are some helpful hints:

  • Store honey at room temperature – your kitchen counter or pantry shelf is ideal.
  • Storing honey in the refrigerator accelerates the honey’s crystallization. Crystallization is the natural process in which liquid in honey becomes solid.
  • If your honey crystallizes, simply place the honey jar in warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve. Or, place the honey in a microwave-safe container with the lid off and microwave it, stirring every 30 seconds, until the crystals dissolve. Be careful not to boil or scorch the honey.

Honey is sometimes considered a health food, so let’s look at some of the facts and myths about honey. Honey has been touted for being more nutritious than sugar or having special medical properties. According to the "American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide," "Ounce for ounce, the nutrient content of honey and table sugar is about the same." Honey does have antioxidants, but not in as high quantities as fruits and vegetables, and honey would not be consumed in the same quantity as fruits and vegetables. However, darker-colored honey contains more antioxidants than lighter-colored varieties.

There are several home remedies such as those for colds, arthritis and wound healing that use honey, but how effective they are has not been documented. Although various studies on specific health benefits of honey are ongoing or have been done, honey should never be given to children less than 1 year of age. Honey may contain botulism spores that will not harm adults due to the high-acid environment in their stomachs, but can cause botulism poisoning in children less than 1 year of age.

Honey Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup honey (or ½ cup honey and ½ cup brown sugar)
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
4 Tablespoons milk with 1 teaspoon baking soda added
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup nuts or raisins (optional)

Cream together sugar (if used) and shortening. Add eggs, honey, milk and soda. Mix. Add flour, mix again. Stir in oats and nuts or raisins (if used). Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

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

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

COOL regulations due for overhaul after repeal

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it will amend country-of-origin labeling rules for beef and pork in the wake of Congressional approval of legislation repealing the requirement and President Obama’s signing of the legislation.

Enforcement of the current provisions ended immediately after the repeal, included in a spending and tax measure approved by lawmakers and sent to the president in late December.

USDA now must develop new rules to remove the beef and pork labeling requirements from its regulations. However, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged "all imported and domestic meat will continue to be subject to rigorous inspections to ensure food safety."

Repeal of the COOL provisions was needed to avoid more than $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs the World Trade Organization authorized Canada and Mexico to levy against a variety of U.S. products because of the country-of-origin rules, included in the 2002 Farm Bill.

Untouched by the repeal were COOL regulations for poultry. The law’s defenders viewed that as a victory, but said the repeal was a blow to consumer protection.

Sorghum prices fall below corn

Prices for sorghum have returned to their customary level trailing those for corn after an upward spike caused by supply-demand factors.

Corn tends to be preferred over sorghum as a feed ingredient, so sorghum typically sells at a discount compared to corn in global markets. Throughout much of the 2014 marketing year (September-August) this situation reversed.

Due in large part to strong demand from China, sorghum began selling at a premium over corn, at times exceeding 20 percent. As a result, sorghum use for ethanol production declined while acreage for the 2015 harvest increased to result in a record-large U.S. crop.

The size of the 2015 crop, combined with recent changes in China’s import policy that could reduce U.S. sorghum’s export prospects, has greatly increased the availability of sorghum in domestic markets for feeding and ethanol production. Accordingly, the price fell back below the price of corn and is now more in line with historic relationships.

Given these lower prices, sorghum used for ethanol production is expected to expand more than fivefold this year, and U.S. shipments to Mexico, which were hampered by the high prices for the 2014 crop, are expected to at least partially resume during the current marketing year, beginning September 2015.

USDA approves rule on safety-net payments

The USDA has finalized a rule to ensure that safety-net payments go only to active managers of farms that operate as joint ventures or general partnerships.

As called for in the 2014 Farm Bill, the action exempts family farm operations, but closes a loophole where individuals who were not actively part of farm management still received payments.

Since 1987, the broad definition of "actively engaged" resulted in some general partnerships and joint ventures adding managers to the farming operation and qualifying for more payments even if they did not substantially contribute to management.

The new rule applies to operations having more than one farm manager and requires measureable, documented hours and key management activities each year. Some operations of certain sizes and complexity may be allowed up to three qualifying managers under limited conditions.

The changes apply to payments for 2016 and subsequent crop years for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs, Loan Deficiency Payments and Marketing Loan Gains realized via the Marketing Assistance Loan program.

As required by Congress, the new rule does not apply to family farms or alter regulations related to contributions of land, capital, equipment or labor. The changes go into effect for the 2016 crop year for most farms. Farms that have already planted fall crops for 2016 have until the 2017 crop year to comply.

Producers should consult their local Farm Service Agency office for more details.

Fertilizer dealers get reprieve from OSHA rules

Anhydrous ammonia dealers will not be subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Process Safety Management rule – at least not in the near future. The reprieve was another of the miscellaneous provisions in the end-of-session federal spending and tax legislation approved by Congress and signed by President Obama.

Dealers breathed a sigh of relief because without the new measure they would have been subject to what they viewed as a costly requirement having little or no benefit. Under the bill, OSHA won’t be able to apply its PSM rule to agricultural retailers until the Census Bureau establishes a new North American Industry Classification System code for farm supply retailers. In addition, OSHA must hold a rule-making procedure that includes public notice and comment before implementing any new requirements.

In a surprise memo, said to apply to virtually all retailers who store and sell anhydrous ammonia, OSHA last summer had announced plans to apply the PSM rule.

Food insecurity above average in 14 states

Food insecurity is higher than the national average in 14 states, according to data gathered by the USDA.

Food-insecure households are defined as those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Food insecurity rates differ across states due to characteristics of the population, state-level policies and economic conditions.

Estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2012-14 ranged from 8.4 percent in North Dakota to 22.0 percent in Mississippi. Data for 2012-14 were combined to provide more reliable state statistics.

The national average of food insecurity was 14 percent. Of the remaining 36 states, 20 had food insecurity rates lower than the national average while 16 states, as well as the District of Columbia, were at or so close to the national average that the differences were not statistically significant.

New workplace safety effort targets industries, including ag

The Departments of Justice and Labor have announced a plan to more effectively prosecute actions that put the lives and the health of workers at risk.

Under the plan, the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. attorneys’ offices will work with the Department of OSHA, Mine Safety and Health Administration, and Wage and Hour Division to investigate and prosecute worker endangerment violations.

Statutes included as part of the enforcement effort are the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and the Mine Safety and Health Act.

Federal officials say on-the-job fatalities, injuries and deaths of workers from diseases caused by exposure to carcinogens and other toxic and hazardous substances while they worked have prompted the effort using criminal prosecution as an enforcement tool.

Worker safety statutes generally provide for only misdemeanor penalties. However, prosecution now is being encouraged under other laws that carry stiffer penalties.

Lower net cash farm income in 2015

U.S. net cash farm income is forecast to drop in 2015, marking the second consecutive year of decline after reaching recent highs in 2012 and 2013. NCFI includes funds available to farm operators to meet family living expenses and pay down debt.

The income figure is expected to drop by $35.6 billion, or 28 percent, to $93 billion in 2015. If realized, the 2015 forecast would be the lowest since 2009 and be $14.7 billion (in real terms) below the previous 10-year average.

The drop reflects a broad decline in commodity receipts. Crop receipts are expected to decrease by $18.2 billion from 2014. Livestock receipts are expected to decline by $25.4 billion, with the largest decreases expected for dairy ($13.9 billion), hogs ($6.6 billion) and broilers ($4.4 billion).

Partially offsetting reduced cash receipts, total cash expenses are forecast to decrease by $7.9 billion in 2015, the first decline since 2009. Government payments are also projected to rise 10 percent ($1.0 billion) to $10.8 billion in 2015.

Alabama Farmers Cooperative Service Awards

Each year at Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s annual Christmas party, employees are recognized for their years of service with Certificate of Service awards. AFC CEO Rivers Myres, far right, presented the awards.

35 Years: Nita Looney, Accounting Service (not pictured) 15 Years: Tammy Parton, Accounting Service; not pictured: Wanda Davis, Computer Services

25 Years: Brad Blackwood, Hardware & TBA; Floyd D. Powers, Hardware &TBA; and Mary Delph, Management Services

20 Years: Joe E. Seibert,
Feed Department (not pictured)

10 years: Dan Truitt, Computer Services; not pictured: Judy Raney, Feed, Farm & Home 5 years: Grady A. Lambert, Hardware & TBA

Alvin Benn Receives Communications Award for Excellent Journalism

Al Benn, right, receives the Communications Award in recognition for outstanding coverage of Alabama agriculture from the Alabama Farmers Federation, presented by Jimmy Parnell, Alfa’s President.

by Debra Davis

Reporter Alvin Benn received the Communications Award in recognition for outstanding coverage of Alabama agriculture from the Alabama Farmers Federation.

He accepted the award Dec. 7, 2015, during a session of the Federation’s 94th annual meeting at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre in downtown Montgomery. Benn said he was honored to receive the recognition and has always felt a special connection to farmers.

"Growing up in Amish country around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I saw how hard farmers worked and how vital they were to their communities," Benn said. "I was always interested in telling the stories of the people who make this country tick."

He was nominated for the honor by Dallas County Farmers Federation member Sam Givhan, who cited Benn’s commitment to covering the interesting and moving stories of rural Alabama.

In presenting the award, Federation Communications Department Director Jeff Helms noted Benn’s dedication to journalistic integrity over a career that’s spanned more than five decades.

"Benn understands that every person has a story worth sharing, from political leaders and popular figures to small town farmers, businessmen and teachers," Helms said. "Reading his stories about average people is both enlightening and entertaining. His storytelling style hooks readers quickly and makes the subjects truly relatable, whether he’s writing about an Alabama governor or a Dallas County farmer."

Over 50 years as a journalist, Benn has written more than 50,000 news stories about Alabama and its people. While he covered hard news about civil rights, the space race and football, arguably, his most memorable assignments have focused on everyday people.

Benn started work as a reporter in 1964 with the United Press International wire service. His newspaper career wound through Decatur; Alexander City; Selma; Natchez, Miss.; and LaFayette, Ga., before he landed a job with the Montgomery Advertiser in 1980, where he still works. He is also a regular contributor to Cooperative Farming News, a publication of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

Benn has also received the Distinguished Alabama Community Journalist honor from Auburn University’s Department of Journalism and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alabama Press Association. Before becoming a reporter, Benn served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years, leaving with the rank of sergeant. He and his wife, Sharon, live in Selma. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Debra Davis works with Alfa.

Birds, Berries and Rose Buds?

by Herb T. Farmer

It has been a weird winter. Or, has it really?

There were irises blooming in January, along with calibrachoa, portulaca, petunias and even roses. Yes. Roses! We have had temperatures that dropped well into the 20s for several nights in a row, but the killing just hasn’t been complete.

Fatsia japonica seeds ripening

It sure is nice to read the National Weather Service forecast and discover that for two or three days I can open the doors and windows, and let some fresh air into the house. It keeps the utility bills down as well.

Happy Groundhog Day! Thought I’d throw that in as I speak of what’s growing here on the farm.

Groundhog Day is the day I usually start seeds in the greenhouse for spring-planted vegetable plants like tomatoes, chili peppers, eggplants and such. But this year I have a bustling crop of fatsia (Fatsia japonica) seeds, I think I’ll spend the day preparing them for planting.

You see, fatsia seeds must be ripe before planting for the best results. Also, the outer membrane and fruit pith should be removed, as it contains a chemical that retards germination.

Just spread the seeds onto an eighth-inch mesh (or smaller), wash and mash. When you’ve successfully removed the gooey chaff, all that’s left are the seeds. Let them dry before planting in 72-cell, deep-well plug flats. They will usually begin germination in about 10 days with bottom heat.

The herb plantain (Plantago major) is plentiful this year. There’s a large patch I let grow wild without cutting. It makes a nice green groundcover for the wintertime. Plantain is my go-to herb for most skin conditions such as poison ivy, chlorophyll irritation, bug bites, bee stings, cuts, scrapes, skinned knees and such.

Plantain – one of the most useful herbs around.

I keep a large jar of dried plantain leaves for making poultices. When it’s fresh, though, it is just as easy to pick some leaves, chop them up and apply to the ailing area. Or you can pick a leaf or two, pop them into your mouth and chew them into a cud to make a pack (poultice) for the wound. All parts of the plant are useable. Seeds can be ground into flour. Plantain leaves are edible as well. Use the tender young leaves in salads. Older leaves can be chopped and used in stews and soups. Plantain is a good source of calcium and vitamin A.

Weird winter weather? Some of my stonecrop sedums are beginning their spring emergence. I hope they hang on for another six weeks.

Weeping yaupon berries are popular with most songbirds.

There are lots of things for the birds to eat here on the farm. American Goldfinches are enjoying the dried flowers of zinnias, basil and echinacea while the bluebirds and mockingbirds are feasting on the intense-red berries on the weeping yaupons (Ilex vomitoria Folsom Weeping). Note: I enjoy the parched leaves of this cultivar for making black tea.

The elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens fruitlandii) produced a ton of fruits this year! Well, maybe not a ton, but at least enough for me to enjoy snacking on. There just isn’t enough to make jelly, though.

Of course, wintertime just wouldn’t be so colorful without the bright red berries on the evergreen bushes known as nandina. Nandina (Nandina domestica) is one of those plants I have a love/hate relationship with. It is an old-fashioned plant used in landscapes in the South from about the late 1920s until it was deemed invasive in the latter part of the 20th century. It is drought-tolerant and naturalized in many areas due to birds dropping the seeds.

Colorful nandina, but don’t eat it!

Although all parts of the nandina are poisonous (producing hydrogen cyanide), birds are able to tolerate a scant amount of the berries without dying. Nandina is particularly poisonous to felines and grazing animals.

Well, folks, that’s all I have time for this month. I am sorry I don’t have a new recipe for you. I guess you’ll just have to get some turkey soup out of the freezer and make a grilled cheese sandwich. Add a little Alabama Sunshine Jalanero hot sauce to the soup for a little extra spice. Oh! And don’t forget the pickle for the grilled cheese!

It is so nice to look outside my western windows at 5:15 p.m. and see the sun! The days are getting longer and next month we get spring! Enjoy your February and get busy sowing seeds.

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

But You Didn’t Tell Me!

by Glenn Crumpler

My grandson, Bradyn, is in the first grade. I remember picking him up from school one day during the first week of classes when he said, "Grandad, you know what?"

"What son?" I replied.

"First grade ain’t no joke!" he said.

Ha! I know what he was thinking!

In kindergarten he learned a lot, but the schedule was not as full and the classroom rules, while being introduced and learned, were not as strictly enforced and the consequences of breaking those rules were much more lenient than first grade. In the first grade, Bradyn and his classmates are learning that not everything revolves around them as an individual, and that rules are established and enforced not only for their benefit, but for the benefit of the group as a whole.

Before I left for the Middle East in October, my daughter told me that Bradyn had been getting bad marks for his conduct in class, not for bad behavior, but for talking when he was not supposed to be talking. His grades were also slipping because while he was busy talking, he could not listen to his teacher’s instructions and was not completing his work as instructed.

I had a long talk with Bradyn about his grades, but especially about his conduct grade. Not everybody can learn and make all A’s, but everybody can be respectful and obedient! I even wrote a note to his teacher giving her permission to discipline him as needed if he did not listen to her and then also to call me so I could do the same, before having him publically apologize to her and to the class. Well, this worked for a while, almost the whole month I was gone.

However, after I had been home for about five days, I had to make a Wednesday through Sunday trip attending cattle sales in Tennessee and Kentucky. Since I had not seen the boys for so long, I wanted them to go with me, but they would have to miss three days of school to do so. Bryant, the oldest who is in the second grade, had missed a couple of days because he had been sick, so that ruled him out. When I asked their mama how Bradyn had been in school, she told me that during the last week, he had again gotten into the same troubles as before and that his teacher said we needed to have another talk.

That night I talked with Bradyn again about his conduct and how his bad conduct reflected badly not only on himself, but also on his mama and daddy and all his family, including me. I told him that since we were best friends and partners, I had to be able to count on him to do the right thing even when I was not there and that I expected a lot out of him because I knew he was a good and smart boy – but mostly because we were partners and because we wanted to live our lives to please Jesus and make Him look good. I told him that he was a leader with a lot of potential, that God had a great plan for his life, etc. and how it hurt me to see him not live up to his potential, not only because of the influence it had on him personally, but also because of the influence it had on others.

It was sort of a good cop/bad cop talk where I tore him down a little bit and then built him back up bigger than he realized he was – a lesson I learned from one of my mentors, friend and former high school Principal Coach Thad Morgan. Morgan caught me in high school kissing a girl on a day when he just happened to be taking a group of visitors on a tour of the campus. He just happened to open a door when I was giving her a kiss. I vividly remember him getting face to face with me telling me to get my butt to his office and to stay there until he got there. He also told the girl to go with me. We sat there for what seemed like hours. When he came marching in, he said, "Young lady you get yourself back to class." That seemed easy enough, so I too started to get up when he pointed his finger at me, tilted his head like he does when he means business and told me to have a seat!

Well, to make a long story short, he lectured me for a while about how there was a time and place for everything and how school was no place for that kind of activity, etc., and told me a little more about the subject than I knew previously and how one thing leads to another in such situations. He told me he was surprised and I had let him down by not living up to my reputation and to the goals and standards of our faculty and student body. I have to admit that at that point I felt pretty small and disappointed in myself.

But then, about the time I was feeling like dirt, he started rebuilding my self-image and building my character by telling me how I was a leader in our school. He said he and everyone else looked up to me, and he and they expected a lot from me. He told me about all the potential I had as an individual and all the influence I had on others. He told me that people were looking at me and were going to follow me whether I was a good example or a bad one, so it was critically important that I be a good example. He told me I had a lot of responsibility for the lives of others and the reputation and character of the institution. All these things he was telling me to build me back up were things I did not see in myself, but, by the time he was finished, I sure did not want to let him down! He ripped me good, but was careful and spent a lot more time to build me back up in a way that helped to change my life and taught me lessons I have never forgotten. This encounter impacted the way I have lived my life and treated others for the 40 years since!

This was the kind of influence I was trying to have on Bradyn in our conversations. After we talked, I told him I had planned to let him stay out of school for three days to go to the cattle sales with me, but, since he had not done what I had asked, he could not go. If he could not be respectful and obedient in class, he could not miss class to go with me.

I will never forget his face and the huge tears in his eyes when he looked at me and said, "But you didn’t tell me!"

Well, I had told him several times. What I had not told him was that if he was good I would take him with me. I just told him the importance of being respectful and obedient at all times, whether or not there were any strings attached or anything in it for himself. When he said, "But you didn’t tell me," he was saying but you didn’t tell me there were immediate consequences for this wrong – especially missing the opportunity to go on the road with me and stay in hotel rooms!

How many of us make decisions and live our lives with this kind of thinking? If there are immediate benefits, or if there is a high probability we will get caught, we will do what is right. But, if there are no immediate consequences and/or if we think we are not likely to get caught, we will just do what we want to do to achieve whatever benefits we are seeking, without regard to the effects on others or what the Word of God tells us about the issue.

Jesus has told us that He is coming again, this time to judge the world.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31 King James Version)

Jesus is coming again! He has called us to faith and repentance where He is the Lord of our life. In America, we have free access to the Gospel message and the Word of God. Saying, "But you didn’t tell me" will not be acceptable!

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

Corn Time



Farming: A Labor of Love

The Old Rotation at Auburn University that is tended by professors and students.

by Michelle Bufkin

Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion. This statement rings true with most farmers. They get stressed when working on anything else, but they thrive under the pressures of farming. Why? One word: love. Farmers love what they do and that is proven over and over again when they continue farming – when literally anything else would be easier. It is also reflected when they reminisce on why they started farming.

Garrett Dixon, a young farmer in Salem, explained his love for farming started at an early age. Dixon grew up on a farm in East Alabama, and knew early on that he wanted to farm in some capacity, whether full- or part-time. Dixon’s grandfather, Ed Gullate, was a large influence on his love for farming.

"Even though he passed away when I was 10, he helped instill in me the love and passion for agriculture I have today," Dixon explained.

Because of that passion, Dixon applied for a Youth Loan through the Farm Service Agency at the young age of 17. This loan allowed him to purchase his first head of registered Angus cattle. A few years after, he decided to begin row cropping; now he has grown wheat, soybeans and sesame over the last two years.

Not all of those years have been easy going, but Dixon has continued to do what he loves, because there is nothing else he would prefer.

"Each year has had its challenges, especially with the weather, but each day I look forward to going to work again," Dixon said.

As we all know, farming is not the easiest profession in the world. One farmer now feeds 155 people; a lot of that is because of technology, but another important aspect is work ethic. If farmers gave up when the going got tough, there would not be enough food to feed the 7 billion people on the earth.

Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs has seen his fair share of hard, disgusting and testing jobs. Through these experiences, he wrote "The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge." This stands for Skill and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo. All of the points in the pledge apply to farmers, but there are a few who stand out greatly.

"I believe there is no such thing as a bad job. I believe all jobs are opportunities, and it is up to me to make the best of them," Rowe said.

In the agriculture industry, we all know there are jobs we would rather not have – whether it is an actual job with a title or just a chore that needs to get done. But, somehow, they all still get done, and with little-to-no complaining.

"I do not follow my passion. I bring it with me. I believe any job can be done with passion and enthusiasm," he added.

This is something that is incredibly important to agriculture. There are so many different jobs that a farmer has to complete in one season, and in one year. Because of the wide span of jobs, it is important that a farmer brings passion to everything, instead of just planting cotton or working cows. There are also a large diversity of jobs available in the agriculture industry that make taking passion with you incredibly important.

"I believe the best way to distinguish myself at work is to show up early, stay late and cheerfully volunteer for every crappy task there is," he said.

Farmers work from sun up to sun down. It is not a normal 9-to-5 job, not that anything is wrong with those jobs. In agriculture, you work until the job is finished or it is too dark to see. That is just one characteristic that makes farmers some of the hardest workers.

One example of farmers fighting on when it would be so much easier to give up that expressed their love for their livelihood happened in December 2015. Right around Christmas, parts of the Southwest were hammered with snow.

"Cows have literally been buried alive for two days," said Robert Hagevoort, a dairy Extension agent with New Mexico State University. "Some of them were alive when they were found, and some of them weren’t."

Farmers in that area continued on fighting, searching for cows and continuing on with their lives as best they could. The farmers were exhausted, overwhelmed and devastated, but yet they continued persevering. This speaks to the work ethic, faith and love not just these farmers but all farmers have for their farms.

According to Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By this definition, farmers may be insane because after all the struggles they have they keep on farming. But that is what makes farmers special. If it was easy, it would be something everyone was willing to try.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

February is Rabbit Season!

by Christy Kirk

Chopped cabbage with onions, salt and pepper cooked down in a skillet of butter or olive oil. Field peas simmering in a big pot on the stove top with Conecuh sausage added for flavor. Grandma’s cornbread – crunchy on the outside, but tender in the middle – still hot and waiting in a cast iron skillet. Each of these dishes could stand alone as a meal, but together they make an amazing blend of flavors that never disappoints. On New Year’s Day, our family had this combination with a pork roast. For my family, February is rabbit season and that means it is time to add some wild rabbit to the menu.

There are so many ways to cook rabbit that you are sure to find a recipe to love. Whether wild or farm-raised, rabbit is a healthy choice, and it is as easy to cook as chicken. Although wild rabbit must be dressed, Jason says they are easy to clean and provide a lot of meat. Like wild hog meat, wild rabbit meat will be a little less tender than farm-raised because of their more active way of life.

Jason’s favorite way to eat rabbit is cooked on the grill and basted with a barbecue sauce. A lot of home cooks already make their own barbecue sauces that are unique to the chef or the family. Using a store-bought sauce may be the easiest for some families, but you can also make a simple homemade sauce to your taste using items you already have at home: ketchup, molasses and a little lemon juice.

Whether you make your traditional family-approved sauce or experiment with new recipes and tastes, creating or improving your barbecue baste for your next meal can be a great family activity. I know both Rolley Len and Cason love to mix and match ingredients until they find success. The time it takes to experiment with sauces, spices and cooking methods will pay off when you discover your perfect combination.

Besides being a versatile and healthy menu option, wild rabbit is inexpensive to hunt because rabbits can be killed with pellet or bb guns. Also, unless you live within city limits, you can probably find them easily around the underbrush on your property lines without having to travel to property reserved just for hunting.

Traditionally, rabbit hunting is allowed in many counties through the end of February; however, some areas have changed their open and close dates for the 2015-16 season, so be sure to check for your particular locale before you hunt. For more information, visit

I have included a few wild rabbit recipes for you to try that are simple enough to make at home or at your hunting camp. Whether you have been at work or on a hunt, simpler is almost always better after a long day because the easier it is to prepare your next meal, the quicker you get to enjoy it with all the fixings.

Sauce Ideas for Rabbit

This is a list of ingredients that can be combined to make a sauce your own way. You may want to use them all, or just a few. The key is figuring out what tastes the best to you, and then remembering which ingredients and what amounts you used to create your special blend.

  • Ketchup
  • Red wine (cheap is fine)
  • Ground cumin
  • Soy sauce
  • Honey
  • Black pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Coriander
  • Kosher salt
  • Cider vinegar

Roasted Rabbit

1 (3-pound) rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces

1¾ teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon black pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

4 teaspoons sugar

1 onion, chopped

¾ cup ketchup

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 Tablespoon paprika

1½ Tablespoons Worcester- shire sauce

1 cup water

Roasted rabbit with bacon.

Preheat oven to 350°. Season rabbit with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add rabbit pieces and brown on all sides. Put rabbit in a 9x13 baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, onion, ketchup, garlic, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and water. Pour over the rabbit. Bake uncovered for 90 minutes, basting frequently.

Roasted Rabbit with Bacon

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly into rings

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tablespoon thyme, fresh chopped

1 boneless rabbit, in pieces


Black pepper, freshly milled

12-16 strips bacon, cut in half

Thyme sprigs

5-10 fresh sage leaves dipped in olive oil (1 for each piece of rabbit)

5 ounces dry cider (Sercial or Madeira are two inexpensive options)

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly butter a shallow tray (about 10x14). Spread onion rings in tray in a single layer. Scatter garlic and thyme on top of onions. Season rabbit meat with salt and pepper. Arrange them on onions. Place bacon strips over the rabbit pieces.

Place thyme sprigs around the rabbit. Place tray in oven on a higher shelf and cook for 20 minutes. Top each piece of rabbit with a sage leaf. Roast for another 15­-20 minutes or until bacon and sage are crispy and the rabbit is cooked. Remove meat and onions to a warmed serving dish. Place tray over direct heat and add cider to juices. Bring to a simmer until it bubbles for about 5 minutes or reduced by about 1/3. Pour sauce over rabbit in serving dish.

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

February Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • 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.
  • Most perennials may be divided and moved up until they begin to show new growth.
  • Get roses in the ground now so they’ll be established before hot weather arrives. Choose bare-root roses for all but the warmest parts of the South. In the warmest areas, select container-grown plants.
  • Plant Irish potatoes and onions. It’s also time to plant asparagus.
  • Bonnie strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.
  • 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 that 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.


  • Trees that weren’t fed last fall should be deep fed by punching a series of 1- to 2-inch holes two feet apart around the drip line and filled with an appropriate food. A mulch of well-composted manure is also an excellent treat for your tree.
  • Fertilize spring flowering bulbs if not done in November. Don’t fertilize while they are blooming.
  • Feed English peas, spinach, kale and onions.
  • Fertilize camellias and azaleas. Refresh the mulch layer around azaleas to protect their shallow root systems from drying out.
  • Fertilize palms late this month. Use a product labeled specifically for palm trees. It should contain manganese, iron and potassium.
  • Continue to feed pansies every 10-14 days with liquid fertilizer. Fertilize perennials now to supply nutrients. Feed iris with bone meal. Avoid getting fertilizers directly on foliage.
  • Use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed roses. If you use dry-type fertilizers, be sure to water it in thoroughly.
  • 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.


  • Many trees can be pruned now. Wait to prune spring-flowering trees until after they flower. For fruit trees, contact your local cooperative Extension office to learn how to prune to enhance fruit yield.
  • Choose early summer to prune maples or birches; if pruned now, these trees bleed sap profusely. Also hold off on pruning oaks and walnuts until early summer to avoid wilt disease.
  • Give shrubs a late winter shape-up. Prune branches to reduce height or direct growth. Thin the twiggy growth from the interior of shrubs. Prune spring-blooming shrubs after flowering.
  • Prune liriope (monkey grass) before new growth appears. Use a lawn mower to make quick work of this task, adjusting the height to remove old growth. Add a grass catcher attachment to eliminate raking.
  • Complete winter pruning of dormant plants such as cane berries, blueberries, fruit trees, grapes and roses. Pruning stimulates new growth and increases flowering and fruiting.


  • 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 to save time and money in more efficient watering for a maximum yield.


  • Apply a pre-emergent weed killer to existing planting beds this month. This type of weed killer interferes with seed germination. Do not use it in areas where you plan to sow seed. Use it only around established planting areas.
  • Moss will start growing on lawns before the grass, so now is the time to start killing it with ferrous sulphate.
  • Spray horticultural oil on fruit trees and other landscape plants prone to disease and insect attack. Apply before leaves appear and when temperatures will not dip to freezing within four hours of spraying. The oil smothers overwintering insects, eggs and disease spores.
  • Ventilate your glasshouse or conservatory on mild days to help prevent fungal problems.
  • Weeds will be readily apparent in dormant, warm-season lawns. Dig or spot spray offenders with an herbicide that won’t kill grass.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. If tackled before they get out of hand, non-chemical methods are usually successful: a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray (as directed on label) or, with the most tenacious (such as mealybugs), sometimes an alcohol swab and Q-tip.
  • Keep misting your indoor plants. Winter is long and dry for them, but be careful not to overwater.


  • The vegetable garden should get its first tilling (if weather permits) to allow the weather to aid you in breaking up the dirt clods. Exposed weeds and seeds hopefully will perish. Preparing the seed beds now also spreads out the work to where you aren’t so pushed in the early spring.
  • Set up flats for starting seeds. Full spectrum lighting and a heat mat can facilitate growing a variety of annuals, perennials and vegetables for this year’s garden.
  • Check stored fruit and vegetables, and remove any damaged or moldy produce to avoid spoiling the rest.
  • Consider moving or replacing damaged, overgrown or badly placed shrubs.
  • Hellebores may show distorted foliage that is the result of stop-start growth caused by lower temperatures. New shoots should now grow normally.
  • If you haven’t already, put up bird nesting boxes this month.
  • If you’ve been feeding birds, continue to do so. Birds become reliant on certain food supplies in the fall so if that supply disappears, they can go hungry. Locate feeders out of the wind, and position 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 Quality Co-op store should have a variety to choose from.
  • You’re going to be using your pots and seed trays next, so this is a good opportunity to wash and sterilize them with 10 parts water to 1 part Clorox so your seedlings will get the best possible start.
  • Force branches of spring-blooming shrubs and trees such as forsythia, apple and cherry once buds have begun to swell. Cut on an angle or, better yet, hammer the ends of stems to make for better water uptake and put indoors in water.
  • Get your lawn mower serviced. There is nothing quite as vexing as having a perfectly good weekend opportunity to mow the lawn only to discover the blades are dull or it otherwise needs service. It’s your last best chance to get your implements in prime working order this month. Waiting could result in longer wait times as other procrastinators discover the same thing.
  • Prepare hand tools for spring use. Wire brush and sharpen tools with cutting edges such as shovels, spades, hoes, pruning shears, hedge trimmers and trowels. Apply a light coat of oil to the cutting edges.
  • Now is the time to build the trellis for your squash, gourds and indeterminate tomatoes, so purchase materials this month.
  • It’s time to turn the compost pile!
  • If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month.
  • Build frames for new raised beds.
  • Summer-flowering bulbs may try to start into growth 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!
  • 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.
  • If you haven’t already, start a garden journal. If you have, continue to update it. Some things to include are:
  • An inventory of your plants, including their current size/ health/ age/ flower color/blooming season.
  • A diagram of your current garden.
  • Notes regarding work you’ve done in the garden such as planting, seeding, fertilizing and pruning.
  • A list of gardening tasks you want to accomplish, including seasonal gardening chores.
  • Lists or photos of plants you want to include in your garden.
  • Photos of the gardens of your dreams.
  • Sketches of your ideal garden.
  • Notes from garden lectures and books.
  • Photos from garden tours.
  • Notes on the weather and how it is affecting your garden.
  • As your garden grows and evolves, take photos.
  • Anything about the garden that pops into your mind and would be fun to read months or even years from now.

George Mann’s Legacy:

A Profound Influence on So Many Young Hunters

by Corky Pugh

George Mann of Opelika passed from this life November 16, 2015, at the age of 74 after an extended illness. His personal legacy with his wife, children and grandchildren is exceptionally strong. But Mann also touched the lives of so many more people in a powerful way.

The Real Deal

Mann was the real deal, as genuine as could be. Watching him interact with his 3-year-old granddaughter Rosemary, you saw exactly the same man that he was in a hunting camp with the guys. Consistency was woven throughout the fabric of his life.

Mann’s many accomplishments as a hunter and fisherman are legendary. Take a look at Pope and Young at the bow kills of George P. Mann for a sampling. Despite his great accomplishments, he saw no need to impress anybody. The contest was between Mann and the animal.

The record-book whitetails Mann took with a bow came from relatively small Alabama tracts he personally managed. His management strategy involved setting aside 10 percent of the acreage, preferably near the center of the tract, as sanctuary. He managed the sanctuary as thick as he could get it, impenetrable to man or dog. He never went in there, and would not let his scent stream drift through the area if he could avoid it.

Obsessive and Unorthodox

In addition, Mann obsessively managed the human disturbance factor, not over-pressuring these small tracts. He carefully monitored wind direction, and would not hunt a place with the wind anything less than optimal. Consequently, these areas became whole sanctuaries in effect, a place for mature bucks to escape from the human disturbance surrounding them.

Mann obsessed over detail, but only the details that matter. This was as true in his personal life as it was in his outdoor life, if the two were even separable.

Often unorthodox in his approach, Mann hunted almost exclusively from the ground. Many of his record-book deer were killed sitting in a metal folding chair, wearing hip boots, hidden in a creek bed. He would wade the creek to a carefully pre-selected point, and spend hours sitting in the chair with only his head and shoulders visible over the creek bank.

He had thought the whole business through. The flowing water masked his steps and scent. The creek bank and heavy foliage along the edge provided a visual screen. The plant life along the creek banks was most attractive to deer because of the rich, fertile soil, ample moisture and sunlight penetration.

Mann practiced with his bow in a most unconventional way – one arrow a day, every day. Think about it; what else could more closely replicate actual hunting conditions? He shot heavy, steel-shaft arrows of his own manufacture. His bow was so powerful I could not begin to draw it the one time I tried.

Mann could draw it effortlessly.

His bow kills included every conceivable North American big-game animal: elk, moose, grizzly bear, polar bear, black bear and all. Mann hunted fair chase, free range, wild animals with no gun back-up. Many of his bow kills are displayed at the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum, adjacent to the Montgomery Zoo. This world-class, Smithsonian-quality exhibit, built by George as an educational facility, was the location of a memorial service held on December 27.

Many in attendance at Mann’s memorial were other friends, people who he had allowed to share his world. Prominent in attendance were people he helped with getting their first deer.

Over 200 First Deer

Mann personally helped over 200 people take their first deer. Of all his many accomplishments, this was what he seemed to enjoy most.

Mann allowed me to bring first-time deer hunters to his place for years on end. All benefitted from his personal attention and were coached through the whole process of trying for a deer, most of them successfully. Many of Mann’s other friends were allowed the same privilege of bringing first-time hunters.

Bo Jackson was taught to hunt by Mann, and one of my cherished possessions is a 5-by-7 photograph of Mann and Jackson with Jackson’s first turkey. The photograph bears the handwritten inscription, "Bo and his 240-lb. hen call," along with the vital statistics of the turkey.

Most of Mann’s first-time hunters were not celebrities, but many hold the potential to be great, in no small part due to Mann’s influence. Three come to mind: Trey Banks, Clay Hamilton and Eddie Hackett.

Trey and his father Quincey were Mann’s guests for a hunt when Trey got his first deer. I remember Trey as a slightly-pudgy little kid with impeccable manners. This little kid has now grown to be a star athlete, who is attending veterinary medicine school in Georgia on an academic scholarship. Inspired by Mann, Quincey founded Mentoring Sportsmen of Alabama that has introduced hundreds of kids to hunting and fishing.

Clay Hamilton and his dad Sam came to Mann for Clay’s first deer. Sam was Regional Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Atlanta. He later became head of the agency in Washington, promoted against his will. His friendship with Mann led him on several trips to Alaska with Mann as a fishing guide and host. I accompanied them once, a life-altering experience. Clay, following in his father’s footsteps, is a pilot for the Fish & Wildlife Service, stationed at the location where Sam began his career in the Wildlife Refuge System.

Eddie Hackett and his dad Ed were at Mann’s camp with me on a really horrible day to try to hunt. The wind changed directions all afternoon, and none of us saw a deer. Determined to get Eddie a deer, George took him out the next morning, which was cold as all get-out, on the edge of one of his sanctuaries.

Mann was a camouflage-clothing manufacturer’s worst nightmare. He wore blue jeans, a solid brown shirt and white tennis shoes. But he knew how to be still. Sitting on the ground with their backs against a tree, Eddie and Mann saw a big buck plodding through the thick cover, his head bobbing from the weight of his rack.

Mann doe-bleated with his voice, "BEHHHH."

The huge buck stopped, turned toward them and started their way. Mann reached over and moved Eddie’s rifle barrel in line with the deer’s approach and whispered, "Get ready."

The deer walked up to seven steps, and Eddie executed a perfect right-behind-the-shoulder shot.

He told me later, "Mr. Pugh, all I could see through my scope was brown hair."

Eddie’s and Ed’s individual thank-you notes were heartfelt. Ed’s note, in part, read, "Eddie grew so much that weekend." Eddie has pursued a career in geology.

Mann’s last first deer was with his youngest grandson, Patton Mann Brown, at age 7 on November 17, 2013.

Jackson, Banks, Hamilton, Hackett, Brown and so many others like them are now lifelong hunters. George Mann’s positive influence on all of them is a profound legacy.

Corky Pugh is theexecutive 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

Having a Doggone Good Time!

Two gets a well-deserved hug by Addi-Mc McDuffie.

7-year-old Addison McDuffie takes field trials by storm.

by Cindy Boyd

At 7 years old, Addison McDuffie of Cecil is winning titles in field trial competitions that many a young boy or girl would envy. Addison, known as Addi-Mc by her field trial friends and family, has been attending field trials all over the state with her parents, Hunter and Mindy McDuffie, since she was riding at 2. She began competing at 4 years old and in 2014, at just 6 years old, she claimed Youth Handler of the Year in Alabama, the youngest to win the title. At her most recent event at Bama Quail Field Trial Club in Tuskegee, Addi-Mc, along with her fancy setter male, Two, and her Saddle Horse, Romeo, won first place in the youth handling division.

She has been competing with Two, owned by Charles and Heather Klinck, for the last several years. Addi-Mc began competing on her favorite field trial horse and friend, 26-year old-Fireball. Addi-Mc’s parents met at the field trials when they were kids and have continued to compete, sharing their love of the sport with Addi-Mc.

When asked what exactly she does at a competition, Addi-Mc gave this explanation, "I go to the woods on my horse with my dog and my scout. My scout is usually my Dad. I blow my whistle and Two looks for birds. When I see my dog on point, I raise my hand and yell. I go to my dog and jump off my horse and flush the birds out. Then I shoot my gun. I get Two by the collar and we go find the next birds. We don’t kill the birds."

Romeo and Addi-Mc McDuffie stand by while Two cools off after his run at the Bama Quail Field Trail.

Youth field trials originated in Fitzpatrick and are promoted by The Alabama Field Trial Association. A revolving Silver Trophy is given to the Youth Handler of the Year in memory of John Barnett and an anonymous donor gives a $1,000 college scholarship in memory of a young handler, Hartley Carter. Addie-Mc explained that two kids (handlers) go out together with their dogs and scouts. Each course is 20 minutes long and they only shoot blanks in their guns. Some of the kids shoot handguns, some shoot shotguns and some let their scouts do the shooting for them. Addi-Mc always has her parents, along with grandfather, Tommy "Da" Traylor, at the field trials supporting, encouraging, and teaching her. The season runs October to March with about five or six youth field trials each season.

When asked what she does when she isn’t competing at the field trials, Addi-Mc said, "I play."

The kids all play together hula hooping, driving golf carts and horsing around while they are outside on a beautiful day. Addi-Mc prefers to be outside even when she is at home. No Barbie dolls and playing with make-up for this girl! Her favorite pastime is zip-lining.

Addi-Mc will be attending the National Amateur Free For All Championship in Union Springs with her parents on February 22, 2016. That day just also happens to be her birthday. Last year, the kids painted her horses. She can’t wait to see how they will celebrate her birthday at the field trials this year!

Cindy Boyd is a freelance writer from Montevallo.

Hi-Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed & Grass Stopper Containing Dimension

Winter weather doesn’t usually make you think about improving your lawn … but it should. February is the best time to apply pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn to control crabgrass and weeds this spring and summer.

Hi-Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed and Grass Stopper containing Dimension is the perfect product to handle this job. Control or suppression of many grasses and weeds including crabgrass is easy and convenient. Just apply 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet to get three to four months of grass and weed control. It’s that easy!

A split application is recommended for best control in south Alabama, where the growing season is longer. Apply 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet in early February and another 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet six to 10 weeks later to provide better in-season control of grass and weeds in your lawn.

Dimension herbicide is unique in that it can also be used to provide post-emergent control of crabgrass if applied no later than four weeks after germination. To obtain this level of crabgrass control, use the higher rate (9 pounds per 1,000 square feet) after crabgrass has already emerged.

For best results, apply after mowing your lawn. Rainfall or irrigation will activate the product.

How's Your Garden?

Beets need proper spacing to make a good root.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin


At $1 to $1.50 each, it pays to grow your own beets! Now is the time to plant the spring crop. In my garden, the old Detroit Dark Red variety seems to have the best survival rate. I’ve tried golden beets, but always lose more than half the young seedlings to cutworms and other critters that must find them as sweet and delicious as we do! The trick to growing vigorous beet plants is giving them space. Seeds sprout more than one plant, which results in crowding. Crowded plants will just sit and do nothing. Because the plants are so close together, pulling one seedling can also uproot adjacent ones, so make easier work of it by cutting the extra plants with nail scissors.

Plant Asparagus Crowns

It may be slow getting started, but once established a bed of asparagus will yield for 20 years without replanting. A sunny corner of the garden that is out of the way, but easy to reach, is ideal for starting your bed. If the soil is heavy clay, improve and raise the soil up 12-18 inches high for good drainage. The key to a long-lived productive plot is excellent drainage. Order asparagus crowns such as those from the Jersey or UC breeding programs, which will have Jersey or UC in the name. These hybrid varieties are more vigorous and productive than the older seed-propagated Mary Washington. Set crowns as soon as they arrive, planting in trenches about 5 inches deep in sandy soil, or 3-4 inches deep in clay soil. (If you start with Bonnie transplants, which tend to have many plants in a pot, separate the individual plants to the spacing on the label.) Wait until after frost to plant because young plants are sensitive to cold. As the plants grow, fill in the trench. Let them grow tall and develop a strong root system, keeping the bed watered and fertilized until the plants are killed back by frost in the fall. Next year you can begin enjoying the young spears as they appear in early spring. After harvesting for about 6 weeks, let the subsequent spears grow tall so they will rejuvenate the planting for next spring’s harvest.

Fescue Lawns

If you have a fescue lawn, it will be growing vigorously again, but don’t be tempted to fertilize it like your neighbor might be fertilizing warm-season grasses such as Bermuda, zoysia, centipede or St. Augustine grasses. Because fescue is a cool-season grass, the ideal time to feed it is in the fall. Too much fertilizer in spring will encourage disease. Fertilize lightly only if the lawn looks too yellow and weak, but otherwise just apply a thin topdressing of composted manure (an eighth to quarter inch) over the lawn with your spreader. The ideal growing height for most turf-type fescues is 2.5-3 inches. Don’t mow too closely because it only weakens the grass and encourages weeds. Taller grass will also have deeper roots that will come in handy come summer! The ideal time to fertilize fescue is in the fall.

Water Evergreens

Boxwoods, gardenias, camellias, and other evergreens will burn more easily in a frigid wind if they aren’t well hydrated. Make sure that your evergreens, especially any in containers, are well watered.

Camellias may not bloom as well now because many started blooming earlier when the weather was unseasonably warm.


If your camellias aren’t blooming as well as they should, did you see blooms on them last December when it was unusually warm? Many camellias and other spring-flowering plants that started blooming too early had their buds and blossoms blasted by freezing weather when it finally arrived. This will be especially true of the earliest ones.

Plant Onions Now

It’s time to start setting out your Bonnie onion transplants. Onions take up such little space in the garden, yet provide you with pounds of seasoning for months, particularly if you store the bulbs with good air circulation in a cool, dry place. For green onions, plant extras to cut the tops off without worrying about impeding development of the bulb. Plant so the top part of the neck of the plant is partially above ground. If you can’t plant your onions right away, untie the bunch, separate the seedlings and put them in a pail with a couple inches of moist soil over the roots to hold for up to a week. Did you know that the size of your onion will be directly proportional to the number and size of leaves on the plant? For each leaf there is a ring of onion and the size of the ring depends on the size and health of the leaf. Fertilize your onion plants with Bonnie Plant Food to grow great-big onions.

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

It’s That Time of Year

by Stephen Donaldson

Wow, who can believe the weather we experienced in the winter of 2015? Mild temperatures have been a blessing that allowed cattlemen to feed less feed and provided unusual forage growth. The abundant rains have also been great for forage growth, but the excess rain has been devastating to many families with flooding.

We sincerely hope those who have been adversely affected by the Christmas floods and high winds are on their way to getting their lives put back together. We also hope the New Year will bless all of these victims enough that their lives will find prosperity.

Even before the excessive rains came, cattlemen were experiencing production problems of their own. The unusually wet, cloudy and mild weather increased forage growth and we saw problems we usually only experience during the late winter and spring. Many producers started seeing cases of grass tetany in their cattle.

Grass tetany is a result of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is a mineral necessary for proper muscle and nerve function. Magnesium isn’t stored in their bodies to the degree that calcium and phosphorous are stored; therefore, it must be supplied in their diet.

Normally, there is an adequate amount of magnesium in forage to supply the needs of beef cattle. However, in wet, cloudy weather, a plant’s ability to absorb magnesium from the soil is limited. Because the plant can’t absorb magnesium, cattle consuming this forage become magnesium deficient. The symptoms vary, but include nervousness, excessive salivation, muscle spasms and eventually going down; at that point, they won’t survive long without an IV containing magnesium.

Since we have had and are experiencing problems with grass tetany, we have to determine how we are going to deal with the problem. Cattle need to consume about 0.6 ounces of magnesium daily or about 1 ounce of magnesium oxide daily. There are several ways to supply this amount of magnesium.

The first and most common method is to supply a mineral with higher-than-normal magnesium concentrations. These minerals need to contain at least 12 percent magnesium. Most minerals are formulated for 4-ounce per day consumption and, if the mineral is 12 percent magnesium, this would supply 0.48 ounces of magnesium, which would be borderline in providing enough magnesium to alleviate the problem. The issue with supplementing magnesium in a mineral supplement is consumption. Magnesium oxide isn’t very palatable. So, if you are supplementing magnesium, pay close attention to consumption to insure enough magnesium is being supplied to your cattle.

Supplemental feeds also help to supply magnesium. Feeds containing grain byproducts and fortified with minerals and vitamins tend to help meet cattle’s magnesium requirements. Specialized supplements such as a hot mix are generally fortified with additional magnesium to help with tetany problems. Also, supplements such as our Brood Cow Supplement can go a long way to decrease the incidence of grass tetany.

Another option is to supplement with molasses tubs, especially ones with added magnesium. An advantage of supplying magnesium by this method is enhanced palatability. Cattle will tend to consume this product more readily simply because it is incorporated with molasses. However, it is very difficult to monitor consumption with these products.

Many times, if cattle are consuming good quality hay, producers will not experience problems with grass tetany. Hay from well-fertilized fields usually helps supply magnesium needs. The extra dry-matter consumption will supply some of the needed magnesium. This hay will have to be high quality and palatable to lure cattle away from lush grass, but will sometimes work.

Of all the methods we have examined, my preference is all of the above. When grass tetany is a possible problem, I prefer to give the cattle several options to increase their magnesium consumption. Cattle most afflicted with this problem tend to be cows nursing young calves. Since these cattle are in a highly productive stage of production with many nutritional demands, they would do well on lush grass with some supplemental feed, hay and a mineral containing at least 4 percent magnesium. These are all the most palatable sources of magnesium and insure the greatest success in getting magnesium into your cattle.

As we move into the new year, I wish everyone much success. I hope your year is both peaceful and successful. I hope your operations flourish and, if there are issues, I hope we can help.

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

I’m an Addict

A photo of Horton Mill Covered Bridge showing the big column about a third of the way from the bank.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Hello. My name is Suzy and I am an addict.

I have tried to overcome my addiction for many years, but I have failed.

To overcome addiction one needs to distance oneself from others or the thing(s) that are the source of the addiction. But I’ve found that to be an impossibility! As a matter of fact, others not only try to feed my addiction, I fear I’m usually surrounded by others who share the same problem.

Yes, it’s true. I am a covered bridge addict!

And the fact that my home county of Blount County had four of the state’s remaining covered bridges (sadly, that number has now been reduced to three) sure added to the struggle.

My problem first surfaced in the summer of 1979. My now-late-husband Roy and I found our dream home sitting atop 2.5 acres on the road directly behind the historic Horton Mill Bridge. And I fell in love with that old bridge!

The smell of its timbers … the way it creaked when I drove across it … the peace and calm that seemed to just surround it and everyone in it if you hiked along the riverbank below.

So the problem magnified gradually.

There were some drinking glasses with picturesque covered bridges painted on the sides that I just had to have. Of course, similar coffee mugs followed in quick succession.

This was before everything in the world could be at your fingertips on the Internet, but there were books and books and books about covered bridges and I had to have every one I saw!

Swann Covered Bridge

Then there were potholders, kitchen dish towels, calendars and framed photos I made myself.

We’d go on a trip or just a Sunday afternoon drive and I’d see a sign pointing to one of Alabama’s remaining covered bridges and I HAD to go there.

Then in the early 1980s while working as a newspaper reporter and doing publicity for tourism in our county, I was privileged to get to interview Zelmer Tidwell at his home near Locust Fork.

He was paid $3 a day as foreman and his workers $1.75 a day when Blount’s covered bridges were built in the late 1920s and early ’30s.

Supplies were as inexpensive as the salaries. The 42,000 board-feet of lumber required for Horton Mill Bridge’s original town-truss style was bought at $17 per thousand. All work was done strictly, securely and solidly by hand without benefit of power or battery-operated tools.

Easley Covered Bridge after its renovation.

Tidwell remembered all the timbers and materials for the bridges being hoisted from the ground by ropes. Beams and latticework were held together by large bolts with the nuts on the outside to keep them from being stolen. Absolutely no large machinery was used in the original construction.

Only one man was seriously injured during Tidwell’s tenure as bridge superintendent. The late Julius McCay, one of the carpenters, lost his footing while atop Swann Covered Bridge and fell. He was unconscious for several hours, but soon returned to work.

Legend has it (as recounted in the book "Country Roads" by Carolynne Scott – one of the books I HAD to have because of its section on covered bridges) that many of the other construction workers’ lives were changed by the beautiful prayer McCay recited while he was unconscious!!!

Tidwell said it took a crew of 15 men 1.5 months to complete Horton Mill Bridge’s original construction including the time for construction of the off-center stone support pillar.

Mr. Tidwell told me he used dynamite to "pit out" the large boulder in the river to provide a level foundation for the bridge’s laid-stone support pillar.

When I asked him about the deep gorge spanned, Tidwell simply said, "I just threw me a couple of braces across. We had to build it part of the way, and then move on up and work on the other."

Mr. Tidwell passed away in the late ’80s, but my interview with him just fueled my addiction, I mean interest.

My daddy had the late local artist Faye Todd paint a large painting of Horton Mill Covered Bridge after our dream had burned and we built another house.

And even after daddy died and we bought my farm home place from my mama, the painting – and my covered bridge addiction – traveled with me!

There are note cards, Christmas ornaments and so much more featuring covered bridges ... so I guess there’s basically no hope for me.

The lovely Nectar Covered Bridge was destroyed by arson in ’89 and I stood and photographed that bridge as it fell to the river below, while grown men stood on either side with tears streaming down their faces.

But our county is still blessed to have Horton Mill Covered Bridge, Easley Covered Bridge and Swann Covered Bridge all still IN USE in the county today, thanks to a revitalization project carried out by the county and about $500,000 in a combination of Transportation Enhancement Funds, National Covered Bridge Restoration monies and local funds.

If you love covered bridges like me, all you have to do to visit is drive into Blount County. Take Alabama Highway 75 about five miles north of Oneonta and Horton Mill Covered Bridge is on the left. Horton Mill is more than 75 feet above the river below and is possibly the farthermost above water still in use in the Southeast today.

Easley Covered Bridge is north of Oneonta off U.S. Highway 231 between Oneonta and Cleveland in the small community of Rosa. You follow the signs by turning onto the road beside Pine Grove Baptist Church and the smaller bridge is less than a mile away.

Swann Covered Bridge is located one mile west of Cleveland just off Alabama 79 and is the longest in the South still in use with a 324-foot span.

According to Sharon Rose, a past president of the grassroots group Friends of Blount’s Covered Bridges that was instrumental in pushing the rehabilitation, preserving them provides a historical picture not afforded many landmarks that have been lost as progress has taken its roots in our society.

"Visiting a covered bridge conjures thoughts of a time when life was slower, so much simpler," Rose said.

And this simple-living covered-bridge addict agrees!

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

Magnesium and the Rumen

What You Need to Know to Prevent Grass Tetany

by Jackie Nix

As we enter into winter and spring, many will start high magnesium supplementation to help prevent winter tetany and grass tetany. I think we’ve all heard over and over that cattle need extra magnesium to prevent tetany. But have you ever wondered why?

Why are cattle so susceptible?

Cattle are more susceptible to tetany than any other domesticated species. Ruminants in general are less efficient in absorbing magnesium than non-ruminants. Of domesticated ruminants, cattle are three times worse at absorbing magnesium than sheep or goats. The reason cattle are more likely to experience magnesium deficiency is that the primary site of absorption occurs in the rumen.

The body relies more on daily intake of magnesium than on body reserves. Circulating levels of magnesium in the system are strongly affected by daily feed intake. Fasting causes a rapid decline in serum magnesium levels. This is why transport and bad weather can be triggers for onset of tetany symptoms.

Rumen environment

The chemical environment of the rumen is crucial for magnesium uptake in cattle. Magnesium is absorbed by active transport across the cell wall against an electrochemical gradient. Think of it like trying to push a heavy box up an incline. Extra potassium in the rumen increases the potential difference (making that incline steeper), thus reducing magnesium absorption. In contrast, the presence of sodium in the rumen decreases the potential difference (making the incline less steep), making magnesium absorption easier. So, in essence, sodium enhances magnesium absorption while potassium blocks it.

Rumen pH is also important because the solubility of magnesium is highly dependent on pH. Magnesium must be dissolved in the rumen contents in order to be absorbed. Magnesium is most soluble at a slightly acidic pH. Excess nitrogen in the diet can negatively influence magnesium absorption by creation of excess ammonia that in turn raises rumen pH and allows less magnesium to dissolve in the rumen contents.


Colostrum contains up to three times the magnesium of "regular" milk, thus increasing magnesium needs drastically at calving. However, even though "regular" milk isn’t a rich source of magnesium, the concentration is not influenced by the dam’s diet. So lactation will continue to drain maternal reserves in situations of a magnesium-deficient diet or interference in absorption. On the flip side, enhanced magnesium intake doesn’t increase the amount of magnesium found in milk.

Onset of tetany

The rate of onset is dependent on the degree of deficiency. Lactating cows can experience rapid decline while undernourished, non-lactating cattle (of both sexes) can experience a slower development of symptoms. Symptoms include extreme excitability, muscle twitching, frequent urination, grinding of teeth, staggering, uncoordinated and stiff gait, and eventually collapse with convulsions with classic paddling. Death usually follows soon afterwards. Progression may be a matter of hours or may stretch out for several days.

Treatment and prevention

Animals exhibiting symptoms require immediate treatment. Because calcium deficiency often accompanies magnesium deficiency, IV administration of both magnesium and calcium is a common treatment. Consult your veterinarian for more detailed treatment information.

Prevention is best achieved with a combination of daily intake of a supplement containing sufficient magnesium and proper management. SWEETLIX high magnesium supplements will be properly balanced and will be sufficiently palatable to overcome the bitterness of the added magnesium oxide. Management wise, make sure cattle don’t lose too much weight or become malnourished. Don’t allow them to run out of hay or supplement. Try to plan calving to avoid the most inclement weather if possible.


Winter tetany or grass tetany can be costly to cattle producers and can be caused either by a physical deficiency of magnesium or a metabolic imbalance such as excessive potassium or nitrogen in the diet. Prevention is best achieved by a combination of smart management practices and daily intake of a magnesium-fortified supplement. SWEETLIX offers many high magnesium options to best meet your production needs. Contact your local Quality Co-op location or visit us on the web at to find out which SWEETLIX Livestock Supplement will best suit your needs.

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.

My Camellia’s Not Blooming!

Camellia japonica “Blood of China”

by Tony Glover

When people have older homes with old camellias around them, I often hear the following question: "I have had a camellia near my home for many years and it has never bloomed (or has quit blooming). It does produce plenty of bloom buds, but they never open. Do you have any idea why this happens?"

The disorder described is commonly called bull nose and the exact cause is not known. In general, this disorder is thought to be either an environmental or genetic problem. The environmental issues that could cause this could be as simple as a light problem or wide temperature fluctuations. Camellias bloom best when they get about three hours of intense morning light followed by filtered light and late afternoon shade. In deep shade, the foliage may do fine, but they may never bloom well.

Other environmental concerns may be excessive fertility (especially too much nitrogen) and alkaline soils. Normally, Alabama doesn’t have alkaline soils (except in our Black Belt area) but it is possible – especially near houses with mortar or brick work. If you fertilize with nitrogen, you may want to quit for a couple years (near the plant root system) and see what happens.

The best soil for camellias contains humus or well-decomposed organic matter, is slightly acid and is highly retentive of moisture but drains well. In camellia culture, the value of organic matter cannot be overemphasized, since it improves aeration and drainage, and adds moderately to soil acidity.

Pruning at the wrong time can be a problem. Camellias require only light pruning, if any, to remove dead wood, to shape into compact plants and to thin inside limbs to increase air movement. Do not shear plants or make multi-headed back cuts. The best time to prune is after blooming and before new flower and vegetative buds form. We primarily grow two types in our area. Camellia sasanqua blooms in the fall and should be pruned in late winter and Camellia japonica blooms from December until March and should be pruned just after blooming is completed or no later than June.

If the plant has never bloomed, the problem may be genetic in nature. That simply means it does not have the capacity to bloom in your climate or your specific microclimate no matter what you do. It may do fine in another area, but is genetically unsuited for your situation. In that case, you should enjoy the other fine qualities of the plant, or remove and replace it with another camellia cultivar or a completely different plant. Late-winter-blooming cultivars of Camellia japonica tend to bull nose worse than earlier-blooming cultivars of the same species and Camellia sasanquas seldom have this problem.

The large, winter-blooming Camellia japonica is our state flower and is certainly a beautiful addition to any Alabama landscape. In general, they are tough, pest-resistant plants that perform well with minimal care. However, all plants require some care to keep them performing at their best. To learn more about this exotic beauty, visit one of the camellia shows across the state and South. You may find out where these shows are by visiting

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

Pals: Brookwood High School Green Team

The Green Team from Brookwood High School reads Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” to students and used it as the theme for a float in a local parade.

“Speaks for the trees” ... and a whole lot more

by Jamie Mitchell

The Green Team from Brookwood High School in Tuscaloosa County recently invited me to come speak at their monthly meeting and holiday party. Jennifer Reynolds, one of the Green Team sponsors, scheduled the meeting and was very enthusiastic about everything this group is accomplishing!

This supercharged group is spearheading all of the recycling for the school. They currently recycle paper, plastic and cans. The money they make from can recycling comes right back to the club for special projects.

The Green Team adopted the mile leading up to their school as part of their community commitment.

They also work with their local elementary school to teach the younger generation about littering and recycling. The Green Team reads Dr. Seuss’s "The Lorax" to the elementary students and does craft projects with them. The team even had a Lorax-themed float in a local parade recently!

Lastly, this impressive group has joined the Adopt-A-Mile program and adopted the mile leading up to the school. They are truly committed to keeping their campus and community litter free!

Is there a school near you that would like to start a Green Team of their own? If so, I would love to get them signed up with the Clean Campus Program and help them get started! Just have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Paws and the Public

The staff of Decatur Animal Services, from left, are Alane Ward, adoption manager; Kari Hallman, kennel manager; Calvin Ellison, kennel staff; Danny Melson, director; Lynne Johnson, animal services officer; Chris Phillips, animal services officer; and Miles Naylor, cruelty investigator.

The goal of Decatur Animal Services is to do what’s best for the animals and the public.

The Decatur Animal Services was established in 1956 through a city ordinance to provide control of nuisance animals. The primary purpose then was to impound animals that were running at large, disease control and investigation of all cases reported for various reasons. We have come a very long way since that time. The 20th century has changed the way people view animals for the better. We have seen a major impact on the importance of the welfare of animals. The animals have become more like family members to us than just mere pets. We also provide the best quality care we can for the animals, provide numerous educational opportunities for our community and continue to improve the outlook on shelters in general.

The Decatur Animal Services now has a multifaceted place in our community. We house stray animals for a period of time in hopes of an owner claiming them. Once the holding period is up or an animal is surrendered by its owner, the animal will go through a series of evaluations to see if it is adoptable. When the animal passes its evaluation, it is then tested for parasites, vaccinated, dewormed and treated for topical parasites such as fleas and ticks. It is only then that the animal is moved up for adoption. The animal’s final step is being spayed/neutered before it goes to its forever home. This is our way of assisting in the control of animal population in our area. We are not a no-kill shelter, but work very hard to give each and every animal an equal chance to pass our evaluations and have the opportunity to go to a forever home. We also use legitimate rescues to help those hard-to-adopt animals, so they may get the rehabilitation they need to get the homes they deserve.

This is Peaches, a former Decatur Animal Services resident. Peaches was a little hard to adopt out since she has numerous allergies that make her struggle with her coat. She had quite a bit of hair loss while she was here. Her adoptive mom, Elizabeth Hoehn, takes her to the veterinarian to control her allergies, and has her looking and feeling like a queen. Peaches is quite the gal in her neighborhood. People come from all over to visit her.

We offer a multitude of services here at our shelter including adoptions, redemptions, in-taking of strays and owner surrenders within the city limits of Decatur. We also have educational field trips for schools that inquire about the program and want to bring their students. We inform these groups what services the shelter offers and jobs available in the animal services department in Decatur. During summer break for students, we have high school students, through the Decatur Youth Service program, work with us at the shelter. We are hoping to build responsible pet owners in the future by educating the youth of today.

Families who are missing a pet should come to their local shelter within 24 hours and report their missing pet and bring a photo if there is one available. It is extremely important for the owner to come in as soon as possible so that we can watch for their missing animal. The quicker we know that an animal is missing and what it looks like the better success we will have in finding the loved one.

We currently have two animal control officers and one cruelty officer. They patrol the city limits to enforce leash laws, answer citizens’ concerns and handle cruelty issues. If necessary, the officers, when an issue arises, will take a citizen to court to assure the citizen will follow the ordinance or law. When an animal is apprehended and an owner comes in to claim it, fees are in place to encourage spaying/neutering, rabies shots and, for the redemption of the animal, to encourage people to follow the leash law. This also keeps the animal safe from harm such as being hit by a car or other unforeseen events.

We have been in this location since 2010 and our numbers have really improved. Comparing 2010 to 2015 our numbers have changed for the better. Our intake has decreased by 8.7 percent, our adoption rate has increased by 37 percent, our return-to-owner animals have increased by 28.6 percent and our euthanasia rate has decreased by 37 percent. We are very proud of our number of adoptions and redemptions. In 2015 alone, we had 391 cats and 610 dogs adopted. On top of those numbers, we had 298 pets returned to their owners.

This inseparable couple, Mr. Whitten and Callie, are finally together after a 4.5-month wait. Everything was ready to go. Whitten had come by the shelter many times to visit Callie; he knew she was the one! On the day she was to be spayed, there was a surprise for all – there were three newborn puppies in the cage with her. We thought she was just gaining some much- needed weight. Callie and pups were then taken home by Kari Hallman, kennel manager, until the pups were old enough to be brought back; and all were adopted by loving families. Callie got spayed and home she went with Whitten. “She is well worth my wait,” Whitten said.

The importance of spaying and neutering of family pets cannot be stressed enough. Litters are brought in by the hundreds into shelters as unwanted animals that could have been prevented by having the cats and/or dogs spayed or neutered. We offer information to the public in regards to the importance of sterilization of pets through POW flyers, handouts and, of course, word of mouth. The Decatur Animal Services believes very strongly in the concept of spaying and neutering all animals; we talk to many people who come into our shelter trying to impress the importance of this act of love.

Decatur Animal Services would not be able to operate without the support of the community, volunteers, the mayor, City Council, our Advisory Board, our veterinary community and donations from the public. Our dedicated volunteers are 35 strong. These volunteers do everything from cleaning cages and showing people around the shelter to walking the dogs daily. Our Advisory Board collects donations from the public to help us with animals in need of a special procedure to assist in the extra maintenance for the animals’ quarters, as well as helping us with offsite and special events. We also have the support of our local television stations, local newspapers, Facebook, pet stores, Petfinder and Adopt A Pet. Our shelter participates in many events such as Paws for Cause, Art for Paws, Big Heart Fair and numerous parades to bring awareness of pet care and resources to our community.

We have had many visitors to our new facility since we moved in August 2010. Different organizations and city governments have visited to hear and see the successes we have had. The building site plan, as well as our numerous innovative activities and actions, has led to many new animal establishments wanting to copy the model of our building and performance.

The staff at Decatur Animal Services works well together with one mind-set: Doing what’s best for the animals and the public. We are always open to more and better ideas to improve our performance.

For more information about Decatur Animal Services at 300-A Beltline Road SW, contact Danny Melson, director, at 256-341-4791 or Kari Hallman, kennel manager, at 256-341-4790. For adoption or redemption information, contact Alane Ward, adoption manager, at 256-341-4790. For cruelty or field service questions, contact Miles Naylor, cruelty investigator, at 256-341-4792. You can also visit us at or

Peanuts, anyone?

by Nadine Johnson

This is my own personal Valentine story.

During my teenage years, peanut boilings provided entertainment each September. The host/hostess would plow up enough peanuts to equal 2-3 gallons. They were picked off the vines, washed (in a zinc washtub), put into the wash-pot and covered with water. The wash-pot was placed in the front yard for this event. A fire was built around the pot, of course.

Around sundown, we rural teenagers would arrive. We began eating nuts before they ever boiled and ate until they were over-cooked and the last one was gone. Of course, while this was going on we were talking, laughing, playing teenage games and enjoying life.

A girlfriend and I attended one of these social events together in 1946. So did Richard Johnson, a 19-year-old WWII Navy veteran. At 15, I thought he was an old man. However, before the night was over, I agreed for him to take me home. It was a decision I never regretted. We married when I was 17 and had 58 years together.

"Peanut is a spreading vine of the legume family, with yellow flowers and brittle pods ripening underground, and containing one to three edible seeds." That is a quote from my dictionary.

A good many years ago, one of the world’s leading magazines printed an article about peanuts. They commented that when Jimmy Carter became president many people wanted to make this the national tree. That is, until they learned that it grows on a bush instead of a tree. At the time, I was still a CCU nurse. I gathered opinions from my farmer patients. They all agreed that the peanut grows on a vine.

I wrote to the magazine relating some of my thoughts and knowledge, plus the fact that I was a peanut farmer’s daughter. In return, a vice president replied, giving me details about the growth of the peanut. He ended his very nice letter with this remark, "The peanut grows on a bush."

George Washington Carver (1861-1943) was a botanist and chemist who chose to make Alabama his home – Tuskegee Institute. He became known as The Peanut Man. He created all kinds of things out of peanuts. He wrote down over 300 uses for them. He also confirmed that the peanut puts nutrition back into the soil at the same time it requires nutrition for its growth.

Research tells me that the peanut is a native of Argentina. They came north and became our most popular nut choice. They comprise 67 percent of our nut consumption. It’s a rare American home that doesn’t have peanut butter in the kitchen as well as other peanut products. Actually our favorite nut is not a nut at all – it is a legume. But who cares?

My mother made the best biscuits in the world. They contained Yukon’s Best flour and Session’s peanut oil.

Peanuts are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They provide energy, protein, minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and more – essentials for optimum health. In fact, the food value of peanuts is legion.

Peanut vines (or are they stalks?) make excellent hay. As a girl, I knew exactly how much to provide for the horses each afternoon.

I have a great-grandson who is highly allergic to peanuts. We very carefully monitor his diet to be sure there are no peanuts in any of his food. We all find this very sad.

I’m glad I was a farmer’s daughter and had the opportunity to be involved in the farm production of peanuts. I hope today’s teenagers are having peanut boilings and enjoying the events as much as we 1940s teens did.

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

Standard Size

by Baxter Black, DVM

Mac told me a harrowing tale about losing a loaded six-horse trailer off the back of his pickup. He admitted he knew the ball was too small, but it wasn’t far to go, it was gettin’ dark, the kids were restless, it was a new moon, the tide was running out, his hat was too tight ... whatever the excuse he needed to justify not changing the ball.

I agree, noting that the hitch on my wood splitter was smaller than my stock trailer and I often had to make my daughter stand on the tongue when I moved the splitter around the place.

We concurred that there are some things in life that should be standard size. A law should be passed making it illegal to build any contraption that took less than a two-inch ball!

Not only that, said Mac, plastic fittings! If you don’t have the exact coupling, you have to rig a cobbled-together reducing, enlarging, sliding, snapping or screwing menagerie of fittings to get you by ‘til you can get to town for just the right part! Meantime, your repaired section of pipe looks like a peyote smoker’s whiskey still!

Have you ever tried to buy a drill chuck? "What size?" asks the friendly hardware man. "Well, I don’t know. It’s just a reg’lar drill, but it’s settin’ on my shop bench 36 miles from here!"

How ’bout medicine and vaccine doses? 100,000 units per cc, 5 mg per ml, 200 mg per cc, administered at the rate of 2 mg per pound body wt., 3 cc for calves under 200 lbs., 10 cc per cwt, 2 pills for children, a tablespoon for adults. I heard one vet say he determined dose by the size of pistol grip syringe the cowboy had!

Now Mac and I allow that horse shoes, Levis, pickup seats, jalapeños and spouses can be variable ... to suit the owner or operator. But what possible excuse can be made to explain why in the past 20 years, car companies had manufactured thousands of different kinds of oil filters! Just tryin’ to find one that fits your truck in the car parts catalogue is like tryin’ to find a bareback riggin’ in a New Delhi landfill!

Folding chairs, square headlights, computer parts, electrical connections, bolts, wood stoves, belt loops, haying equipment, gate hinges, tax regulations, hunting laws, political promises, economists’ predictions and legal loopholes all come in such a blithering array of shapes and sizes that what you thought you had that might have worked is now obsolete!

I finally put together a complete collection of wrenches and sockets only to find the world’s gone metric!

One of my oft-married friends finally solved his problem. I envy his ingenuity. He ordered a wedding ring with an aluminum band. "Perfect," he said, "Fits any finger!"

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,

The Co-op Pantry

Jennifer Ballew enjoys being a stay-at-home mom. Pictured here from left to right are her family Erni, Rebekah, Jennifer, Luke and Haleigh.

My first column for the Pantry was the February 2012 edition. While I was eager for the challenge of doing something very different, I was also terrified. Jennifer Cross, a dear friend and co-worker, was my first cook. She held my hand and encouraged me when I screamed, "I can’t do this." The column turned out great and the response to Jennifer’s story and recipes exceeded my wildest expectations.

Four years later, Jennifer is still my friend, still has her two beautiful daughters, Haleigh and Rebekah. She is still a busy mom and she still comes up with innovative dishes for her family. A few things, however, have changed.

Jennifer has gone from a single mom raising two little girls to marrying a wonderful man, Erni Ballew, and welcoming a new son, Luke. Jennifer no longer works for Agri-AFC, but is a stay-at-home mom. They have also moved. Guys, we wish you well and look forward to more delicious recipes in the future.

"Being at home for more than two years and having another child has made my life completely different, but wonderful! Haleigh will be 12 years old soon and Rebekah is 8 years old. Luke had his first birthday at the end of August. Erni still plays recreational hockey and works full time to support our family. I am now a stay-at-home mom and love it. While I enjoyed my time at Agri-AFC and made great friends, being at home is my passion. I still love to cook, but am learning that my crock pot is a life-saver on busy school nights. Hope you and your family enjoy these recipes," Ballew said.

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


1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cheddar cheese soup

1 can red beans

Dash garlic powder

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup mild Pace Picante

Put soups and beans on bottom. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Put chicken on top and cover with Pace. Cook on high for 4 hours.

Note: I made this one up all by myself!


1 can cream of mushroom soup

4 boneless pork chops

Place in crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.


1 (12-ounce) container cottage cheese

1 (8-ounce) package shredded mozzarella

1 (8-ounce) package shredded parmesan cheese

1 pound hamburger meat or ground turkey

Pinch Italian seasoning

Pinch garlic salt

1 jar Prego with meat spaghetti sauce

Lasagna noodles, uncooked

In a bowl, mix cheeses together including cottage cheese. Brown your meat and add a pinch of Italian seasoning and garlic salt. In crock pot, layer spaghetti sauce to cover bottom, a few noodles, some meat and then some cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Cook on high for 3 hours and then check it to make sure the noodles are tender.


4-6 boneless pork chops

1 bottle of Sticky Fingers BBQ sauce (or your favorite bbq sauce)

Place in crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.


Salt and pepper, to taste

4-6 boneless pork chops

1 Tablespoon oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 jar spaghetti sauce

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Sprinkle salt and pepper over pork chops. Brown pork chops in oil. Put into crockpot and layer onion on top. Add pasta sauce. Cook on low 4-6 hours. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve over cooked Orzo.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 can (10¾-ounce) cream of mushroom soup

1 cup (8-ounce) sour cream

4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

Place chicken in a slow cooker. Combine soup and sour cream. Pour mixture over chicken. Cook on low for 4-5 hours until chicken is done and tender. Sprinkle with bacon.


3 pound roast

2 (7/8 ounce) packets brown gravy mix

1½ cups water

Put roast in crockpot. Combine gravy mix and water. Pour over roast. Cook 6-8 hours on low or until meat is tender.


1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 Tablespoons onion soup mix

2 Tablespoons beef broth

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

In a slow cooker, combine soup, soup mix, broth and cornstarch. Let mixture stand for 15 minutes. Stir in meat. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender. Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes.

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

The FFA Sentinel: The Greatest Good

Agriculture education teachers provide their students opportunities outside the classroom through FFA.

by Andy Chamness

In what profession can you make a difference in the lives of young people, spread the good news about agriculture and develop the qualities of leadership every American should possess? By becoming an agricultural educator. Teaching in and of itself is a calling, but step into the world of agriscience education and it becomes a BIG world. The day in the life of any agriscience teacher may begin before sunrise taking care of his/her own livestock, poultry, kids or other farm chores. Then, it is off to school. The ag teacher is usually one of the first on campus because they have a key to most everything. These men and women open up a world of project-based, hands-on learning to every student who walks through the shop, greenhouse, barn or classroom door. They have been called to do the greatest job anyone could want. These individuals get to talk about agriculture all day, see a project started and completed, watch as the proverbial light bulb comes on in a student and spend their days, and some nights, working with the very future of our great nation.

Lance Williamson, agriscience teacher at Ohatchee High School, works with his students on their projects.

I remember a piece of advice I received from a veteran ag teacher when I first started teaching agriculture. He simply told me, "They (being the school system) pay you to be a teacher first." I have never forgotten that. Waking every morning with the goal of sharing knowledge with students and often learning from them in return has been a blessing.

Every day, ag teachers are preparing lessons, demonstrating, facilitating and lecturing on the importance of agriculture, FFA, basic soft skills, work ethic and occasionally a debate or sermon on appropriate behavior.

As the day moves on, when most everyone else is leaving campus, ag teachers are still practicing with a FFA Career Development Event team, preparing paperwork, grading projects or holding a monthly FFA meeting for members or advisory councils.

Sound like a long day? They have not made it home yet to check calves, hogs, chicken houses, help with dinner and homework for their children, or spend time with their spouse.

Come to think of it, it sounds a lot like the hours a farmer or rancher keeps. Maybe that is why ag teachers understand diligence and hard work. They are all farmers at heart; whether in the rural or in the urban agricultural programs, they all have a farmer’s mentality.

In a time when technology seems to be king, we often forget about the skills needed to keep a farm, no matter the scope, running. If the skills are not introduced by children’s parents or grandparents, where will they ever pick it up?

Teaching agriculture and being an ag educator is one of those special callings every teacher puts their heart and soul into. They inspire, carry on a tradition and have a genuine willingness to help young people believe in the American Dream.

I was recently asked, "Why does an ag department need a welder?" Self-sufficiency is the first thought I had. For all of the farmers and ranchers who have patched trailers and implements with your own welder, aren’t you glad someone introduced them to welding?

To the cattlepeople who got into the business because their ag teacher helped them get started with a show project. Or the contractor who had their first shot at a nail in the seventh grade agriculture department nail driving contest. Aren’t you glad they did? Maybe that someone who inspired them was their agriculture teacher. The thousand little teachable moments that happen every day in the agriscience departments across the state are amazing to be a part of and to see the fruit that bears in those students, sometimes years down the road.

Sharing hands-on skills with students is only half of the benefit in teaching agriculture. Agriculture education builds upon the core subjects of science, math, English and history. The study of the history of America is the study of American agriculture. These subjects are incorporated every day in the agriscience classrooms and labs across the state and nation. Agriscience teachers are helping to develop quality citizens, community leaders, farmers, ranchers and more agriculture teachers. Studies show that students enrolled in career and technical courses such as agriculture have a graduation rate of 96 percent.

In 2014-2015, Alabama had 305 agriculture teachers teaching in 265 programs across 65 counties. With 44,302 middle and high school students enrolled in agriscience courses last year, the potential for impact is huge.

Alabama is as agriculturally diverse as the people who live inside its borders. Many areas of the agriculture industry are being taught throughout the state. If you go to our southern counties, you may find turf grass or horticulture programs. If you head up to the Tennessee River Valley, you will likely find forestry and animal science represented in their agricultural programs. Alabama’s agricultural diversity serves as one of the greatest assets of our state. With the average age of farmers in the United States at 57, we are in need of young agriculturists who have a passion for teaching and promoting agriculture.

To be called an agriculture teacher is a badge of honor and sacrifice. Ag teachers have many stories of success and sometimes failures, but that is how it goes in life. The profession of agriculture education is truly a calling and takes special men and women to share their love of agriculture and passion for sharing their knowledge with students.

For those of you in the best profession in the country, I want to say thank you for all your hard work, dedication and patience with all of the "other duties as assigned."

For all of our young people who are thinking about your career and what you may do in the future, think about your passion for agriculture and passing that on to the next generation.

If you are a farmer, rancher, or timber or wildlife manager in Alabama, I would like to encourage you to visit your local high school and get to know your local ag teacher or teachers.

If you are a local ag, I would like to encourage you to get to know your local farmers, ranchers and business owners. What better way to share with the community than to share your passion for agriculture with the students enrolled in an agriculture course or a member of a local FFA Chapter?

Agriculture is our history and must be our future; please take the time to share agriculture with your communities and help us in serving the greatest good.

For more information about teaching agriculture or becoming an agriculture educator, please visit Teach Ag Alabama at or the National Association of Agriculture Educators’ Teach Ag Campaign at

Andy Chamness is an education specialist in agriscience education with the Alabama State Department of Education.

The Home Place

Mattie Belle and Irving L. Adams

An Alabama heritage of farm and family

by Alvin Benn

Depressed and lonely after the death of her husband, Mattie Belle Smith Adams began to write her memoirs, carefully collecting her thoughts about having lived into her late 80s and, for the most part, enjoying every moment.

Writing in wide spiral notebooks, her hand was as steady as when she was a girl in elementary school crafting every cursive letter to perfection.

"I was born to Ed and Emma Smith on a cold November morning in 1912 and was their eighth child," she wrote. "Mama went into labor in the late evening of the previous day. When dark had come and I had not, Dr. James Donald decided to spend the night being afraid that he could not get back in time for the delivery."

The doctor she mentioned lived about 3.5 miles from her house and he often traveled by horse and buggy over roads deep and soggy in mud.

"He spent the night dozing by the fire and I arrived shortly after breakfast the next morning," Mattie Belle wrote.

Her mini-book is a vivid collection of memories about yesteryear when she and husband Irving "Buck" Adams raised two daughters and rarely missed church in Marion Junction.

The Home Place was constructed in 1910 and five generations have lived here.

The Home Place was the name of their farm and, years later, would be selected as one of the most important in Alabama.

She had no way of knowing about circumstances surrounding her birth, of course, but she was a loyal listener as family friends and relatives regaled each other with stories about it and other fascinating moments out in the country.

"My mother was an interesting lady," recalled daughter Audra Adams Westbrook, a retired educator. "She loved The Home Place better than anything. That’s why we asked her to think about her past and put it down on paper."

She and Buck were inseparable, and they spent 60 years together before he succumbed to a lingering illness in 1997.

Their courtship was far from a whirlwind experience. After meeting him on Christmas Day, Mattie Belle would admit that she had some "issues" with Buck at first since she was a devout Baptist and he was Mormon.

When he agreed to convert to her faith, everything fell nicely into place after his baptism.

"Daddy died a Baptist," Audra said.

Writing a memoir in longhand isn’t done much these days, but it has a way of encapsulating recollections without drawing them out unnecessarily.

Reuben Sanders Tubb (great-grandfather) purchased the land for The Home Place in 1906.

Audra kept tabs on her mother as she aged and, when she got home from the school where she was employed, she got a kick out of the latest additions to the growing memoir.

Mattie Belle worked on her book for about two years and it tended to keep her alert and fresh as she completed page after page.

"Mother would check family Bibles, obituaries and other sources to help her," Audra said. "I told her that I would put it all in a format that could be shared with the family. She was very specific in what she wanted."

Audra never forgot her mother’s admonition, "This is for my family – it is personal."

Among her favorite childhood memories was enrolling at Marion Junction School and remaining there until her high school graduation in 1930.

Her descriptive recollection focused on a school with no cafeteria, requiring her and her friends to bring their lunch in a box or brown paper bag. It consisted of biscuits with fried chicken, ham or sausage, a baked sweet potato and a tea cake, apple or orange.

"Sometimes we would slip off and go to one of the stores to buy crackers and cheese, a dill pickle or an oil sausage, but it was against the rules. We ate outside under the trees or on the steps," she recalled.

Mattie Belle didn’t live long enough to enjoy one of her family’s most cherished moments when The Home Place was selected as an Alabama Century and Heritage Farm, but Audra and husband John were on hand to represent her.

Emma Tubb Smith and Joseph E. Smith (Mattie Belle’s parents)

The announcement was made last November at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma, signaling the admission of The Home Place into select company across the state.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has recognized nearly 600 farms under the Century and Heritage program and Dallas County had 11 farms on the list. Alabama has thousands of farms, so selection isn’t a given by those who try to apply.

Credit has to go to Audra, a born researcher who used her skills to check records needed for the application for inclusion as an Alabama Century and Heritage Farm.

The subject of applying for the coveted honor surfaced during lunch at the Elks Club in Selma one day and Audra took it from there.

"I love digging and spent days at courthouses where what we needed was available," she said. "What I needed were oral stories, dates, names and other details. I went back into generations of our family and made copies once I found them."

Applications for admission into the Century and Heritage club included a myriad of requirements including a list of structures over a 40 year period. They included houses, outhouses, windmills and silos.

Audra’s application included the family’s home that was built in 1911, a dairy barn, milk house and one-car garage built in the 1950s. Photos were also provided with the application.

The history of The Home Place covers a span of 104 years with the roof progressing from wooden shingles to tin to asbestos shingles and then back to tin. Generation after generation provided their share of improvements.

Century and Heritage Farm Certification presentation for The Home Place. Pictured are (from left) Audra Adams Westbrook, fourth generation; John A. Westbrook, fifth; John J. Westbrook, sixth; John W. Westbrook, Audra’s husband; and Glenda Adams Brock, fourth.

Neighbor Jimmy Holliman, former president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and a prominent farmer in the state, suggested at that Elks Club lunch that the Westbrooks see about applying for inclusion.

Audra indicated she was unfamiliar with the Heritage program and when she contacted Amy Belcher of the state Department of Agriculture, she soon got a packet of information providing lots of details.

Selection standards were split between Century and Heritage farms. The requirements are relatively similar and the Westbrook application went into specific details to make sure their farm qualified.

During her research, Audra discovered that, in addition to row cropping at the farm, J.E. Smith also operated a small blacksmith shop on the place. He suffered a stroke and died in 1937.

The original property for The Home Place was purchased by Reuben Sanders and Sarah Elizabeth Tubb in 1902. John and Audra, along with their son, John, own and operate the farm today where they raise beef cattle.

In the past, the family has grown cotton and corn, and raised sheep, turkey and dairy cattle on the farm.

John became his wife’s biggest cheerleader as she spent countless hours researching records in Dallas and Perry counties.

"I knew what Audra was doing would be something relatives would value through the years because it would enable them to study factual history of the farm and not have to rely on hearsay," he said. "She spent up to five months doing the research before submitting the application."

Mattie Bell’s final memoir memories were as colorful as her first and pretty much summed up much of her golden times during the decades since her birth.

"Today in 2001, I still live in the family home built for my mother more than 90 years ago," she wrote. "How I wish she could see it now! Its looks have changed, but it will always be ‘home.’ To me, it is beautiful! I was born in the front bedroom (1912)."

She let future readers know that her birthplace – home to six generations of happy families – meant just about everything to her.

"Married in the living room (1936) and have never moved in my life," she wrote. "I hope that it will endure and that future generations will have as much pride in it as I do."

Mattie Belle Adams died of an apparent heart attack at her home on Aug. 10, 2002.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

The Ultimate Wildlife Habitat

A drip torch is the most common tool used to ignite prescribed burns.

A pine stand managed with prescribed burns can provide a year-round food source for game and non-game species.

by Chuck Sykes

I wanted to take the liberty to write one more management article before the 2016 legislative session began and I had to return to writing about policy and legislation. Other than the topic of cull bucks (GDO February 2015), I don’t know of another issue that raises as much contention around the hunting camp as the pine tree versus the hardwood tree discussion. There is a huge misperception that pine stands do not provide good wildlife habitat. I participate in numerous debates each year with hunters who despise pine plantations. In their opinion, the losses of hardwood forests are the root of all evil in wildlife management. I’m not just throwing these hunters under the bus because many of these debates are with wildlife management professionals as well.

I know sitting in a bow stand in a mature hardwood forest gives people "the warm fuzzies," and I enjoy that as much as the next hunter. But, I also understand this is a short-lived feeling. As soon as the acorns are consumed, the food source is gone and so are the deer.

Young pine stand prior to first thinning (left) and after thinning and cool-season burn (right).

Mature hardwood stands are pretty to look at it, and they do provide a great food source in late fall and early winter when the acorns are falling. But, what do the animals do about the other nine months of the year when food can be hard to find in this closed-canopy environment? They either go hungry or find somewhere else to live.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: There is a huge difference between a pine stand and a well-managed pine stand. This is where most people fall short in their arguments. A pine stand that has not been burned or properly thinned is not what I refer to as a well-managed stand. Pine stands lacking proper management typically have too many trees present in the overstory and undesirable hardwood (sweetgum, hickory, elm, etc.) in the understory. These hardwoods compete for nutrients and sunlight not only with the beneficial wildlife food sources but also with the crop trees.

Think about the life span of a loblolly pine plantation and the wildlife benefits found during that time period. From planting through about age 8, a pine plantation provides food and cover for a host of wildlife from deer and turkey to rabbits and quail, and too many neotropical migrant songbirds to name. From age 8 years until the first thinning at 12-15, the food production drops off drastically and cover is the only viable wildlife component to the plantation. However, after the first thinning, food and cover can remain constant throughout the plantation by introducing rotational prescribed fire to the equation until the final harvest and the cycle begins again. What other timber type can produce that many beneficial years? Oh yeah, a longleaf pine that produces more quality food and cover throughout its lifecycle due to its higher tolerance of fire.

It takes three things to produce quality wildlife food in a natural environment: sunlight, moisture and disturbance. After a first thinning on a pine plantation, sunlight is allowed to reach the forest floor for the first time since canopy closure three to five years earlier. Skidding the felled timber to a centralized location disturbs the forest floor, allowing seeds buried in the soil the opportunity to germinate. After a couple of good rain events, the forest floor is full of beneficial grasses and forbs that will feed wildlife.

Now, this is the time period where most pine management falls apart. In Alabama, if left unmanaged, most pine forests will become infested with early successional hardwood species such as sweetgum, elm, poplar, sycamore and many others. This is where prescribed fire fits into the management equation. Prescribed fire, in the hands of a trained professional, is the most cost-effective and beneficial management tool in our arsenal. However, when used carelessly or improperly, it can have devastating consequences. I guess this is why many people shy away from fire.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume I am managing 100 acres of pine plantation that has been thinned for the first time in late winter through early spring. Ample rainfall occurs throughout the spring and early summer, bringing a flush of greenery underneath the thinned stand. Many beneficial wildlife plants are present, but those sunlight-loving, little hardwoods are also sprouting up everywhere.

In a perfect world, I am going to utilize roads or create firebreaks that will break up the 100 acres into 25-acre units. In January following the thin, I am going to burn two of the four quadrants. This will set back the hardwood component and stimulate the beneficial foods. The following year, I will burn the remaining two quadrants. Then, I will set up a burning regimen on the property in which I will burn each 25-acre block every three to five years. (However, on extremely productive soils, this time frame may be too long between burns. Once the undesirable hardwoods reach a certain stem diameter, they cannot be controlled with fire alone.) Quality wildlife food and cover will be abundant, it will be aesthetically pleasing, and it will also be growing a valuable cash crop.

I’m not anti-hardwood; I’m just very pro-pine. If given a choice, I will take a pine plantation over a hardwood forest any day if my goal is to provide optimum wildlife habitat. A combination of thinning and rotational burning can produce a 365-day-per-year food source for the neighborhood wildlife. Nothing else can do that and also produce a viable income at the same time. So, the next time you hear someone talking bad about a pine plantation, you can shed light on the subject.

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

Why Do We Coggins Test Horses?

The horse industry is BIG BUSINESS in Alabama. Consider that the equine industry has a $563 million direct effect on the Alabama economy, according to the Alabama Horse Council, and horses account for 20 per cent of the economic impact agriculture has on Alabama.

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Swamp fever is what they used to call it. That’s because equine infectious anemia used to be so prevalent in the coastal areas of the Southeast. The disease was first diagnosed in France in 1843. Several years later in 1888, it was diagnosed in North America where it was called equine relapsing fever. The first extensive epidemic is reported to have occurred in Wyoming in 1901.

The virus that causes EIA is a retro-virus from the lentivirus family, the same virus family as the human AIDS virus. There is no known threat to humans by the EIA virus. The lentivirus family has the characteristic of possibly having a very long incubation period – the length of time between exposure and infection until the host begins to show signs of illness. That means the virus could be present in an equine host for a long period of time, yet the animal will appear completely healthy. While disease can develop within a few weeks of being infected, it most often takes months to years. One important reason to have your horses tested is because the large majority of infected animals don’t show any apparent signs.

The virus is most often transmitted by horseflies that feed on the blood of an infected horse and then feed on an uninfected one. It can also be spread by brushes, combs, tack, bits and using hypodermic needles on more than one horse.

Once infected, the horse will remain infected for life. The disease itself is manifest in three forms: acute, subacute and chronic that may become fatal. In the acute disease, the horses, ponies, mules or other equids become very ill. They will have a high fever, possibly swelling in the legs and lower abdomen, be lethargic and simply appear to be very sick. In the subacute form of the disease, the animal will not be as ill as the acute animal, but will be somewhat sick. The chronic phase occurs if the horse survives the acute or subacute phase of the disease. The chronic animal will have recurring episodes of illness and may recover, only to have a later episode. These animals often are on a roller-coaster ride that will eventually lead to their demise. There is no effective vaccine and no cure.

For years, the diagnosis of the disease was complicated and had some room for error. In 1970, Dr. Leroy Coggins developed a diagnostic test that could detect, not the presence of the virus, but antibodies to it that an infected horse had produced. The test is what we call the Coggins test. While it may take up to 60 days for an infected horse to become positive, it is a very good diagnostic test. In 1973, the USDA made the Coggins test the official test for EIA.

Once a horse is officially declared to be positive, it must be branded with a cold brand or hot brand with "64A" on the left side of the neck. Then there are three possible dispositions of the horse. First, it may be euthanized or permitted to slaughter on a restricted movement permit. The second possibility is to house the horse in an approved screened stall that will be periodically inspected to make sure flies are not a transmission factor (nearly impossible). Finally, the horse may be isolated at least 150 yards from any other horse for the rest of its life (also periodically checked to assure compliance).

In Alabama, our Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory ran just under 8,000 Coggins tests in the last fiscal year. That number is down from about 20,000 Coggins tests in fiscal year 2005. There are also private laboratory companies that run many more tests on Alabama horses. If any private laboratory or our lab gets a positive, the horse and its herd of origin are tested by animal health officials at our laboratory then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Dr. Sara Rowe, who is in charge of EIA testing in our laboratory, is extremely conscientious about the tests. Retests on positives are run in ways to make sure they are not false positives.

The last positive horse we had in Alabama was in 2012. There are no positive horses under quarantine here in the state. In fact, the likelihood of your horse getting the disease is reasonably small. However, if your horse does happen to become infected with the virus, it is not going to be a good day.

Here is an additional bit of information that may be helpful to veterinarians and horse owners. We are offering electronic Coggins test results. This is the results of a partnership with Global Vet Link. This is just another way technology moves us farther down the road to make things quicker and more efficient.

In Alabama, we have regulations requiring a negative Coggins test on all equines over 6 months of age that enter the state or that are participating in events. In the case of events including organized train rides, shows, roping and other times horses are co-mingled, the event officials are responsible for making sure all horses that participate have a negative Coggins test. It is possible that there are times when officials do not check for a negative test, but you need to do it because it is the right thing to do.

It seems that EIA is actually perpetuated by horses that tend to fly under the radar. "Bush" races in places like Texas and New Mexico are sort of the equivalent of cock fighting here in Alabama. Those races tend to be held in very out-of-the-way places. The horses are given injections of blood from other horses right before the race to increase their oxygen supply. That act along with using dirty needles on several horses and other ill-advised practices seems to make the spread of EIA pretty easy.

To protect your own horses and the equine industry in Alabama, we recommend you have your horse tested annually for EIA. If you have questions about the test, please discuss them with your local veterinarian. If you have questions about EIA regulations, call us.

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

Williams’ Farm Leads the Way

Hilton Williams going over paperwork with Dr. Cynthia Brasfield.

Sheep producer becomes leader in state Scrapie Eradication Program

by Robert Spencer

On November 18, 2015, Hilton Williams and his wife Barbara of Crane Hill Katahdin Farm became officially enrolled in the Export Monitored category of the Federal Scrapie Eradication Program. They are now one of two such enrolled farms in Alabama. This category is very involved and allows their sheep farm to export animals or germ plasm (embryos/semen) outside the United States. Given the global concern with controlling scrapie, this is a significant accomplishment for the Williams’ farm!

While all sheep and goats must be enrolled in a Federal Scrapie Eradication Program, there are three options available to producers. All three have the same fundamental requirements of ear tagging prior to any animal leaving the farm of birth and keeping records of acquisitions and sales a minimum of five years after each animal dies or is sold. These categories are:

These sheep are part of Hilton and Barbara Williams’ Katahdin flock.
  • Mandatory – the most basic program requires obtaining and installing free scrapie ear tags while keeping records on sales and purchases of small ruminants.
  • Select Monitored – requires the same tagging and record keeping, but also requires testing a certain number of older (>14 months) animals that die, random sampling on limited number of animals based upon the size of the flock/herd, and mandatory testing on any animals showing signs of disease that could be compatible with clinical signs of scrapie. No farm visits from U. S. Department of Agriculture officials are required for either of the first two categories. There are seven farms in the Select Monitored category in Alabama.
  • Export Monitored – has the same previously mentioned requirements, but also requires annual farm visits by a federal veterinarian, blood testing of each animal and official scrapie tests on all animals over 14 months of age that die, and official visits on a scheduled basis to obtain flock inventories and review record keeping. There are now two farms in Alabama in this category.

The Select and Export Categories are voluntary programs. Producers must request enrollment, be accepted and comply with documentation requirements to participate in either of these programs.

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. It is classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The presence of scrapie in the United States has prevented the export of breeding stock, semen and embryos to many other countries. The Scrapie Eradication Program is designed to accelerate the eradication of the fatal brain disease. You can learn more by visiting one of the websites listed as references or contacting the State Veterinarian’s office at 334-240-7215. They will be happy to provide you with more information about the Scrapie Programs and order your free scrapie tags.

The USDA initiated an initiative to eradicate scrapie in 2001. This undertaking has reduced the prevalence of scrapie by over 90 percent. The National Scrapie Eradication Program is coordinated by the USDA and includes participation by state governments, industry and producers. The good news is that an indemnity program is in place to compensate owners for the financial loss they may incur from live animals that have to be destroyed due to scrapie infection or exposure.

All sheep and goats are required to have an official ear tag prior to moving off the premises of origin. The tags and application pliers are free. Sheep and goats need to be tagged by their owners with USDA-approved tags before:

  • A change of ownership occurs by sale, by trade, private treaty or auction;
  • Transport to a livestock market;
  • Transport to a slaughter facility; or
  • Transport to a show, fair, petting zoo or other exhibition

While breed registration tattoos are acceptable for identification in goats, the tattoo must be legible and producers must have registration papers that accompany the animal. Tattoos are not recommended for use as scrapie ID in animals delivered to stockyards. Farms that buy goats and sheep with scrapie tags should NOT apply new tags unless the animal accidentally loses the tag from the farm of origin. Records documenting tag replacement must be kept to enable the animal to be traced back to the farm of origin in event of a scrapie diagnosis. Complete information is available at

Now that you have a better understanding of the scrapie program, you can understand the significance of the Williams’ undertaking. The quality of the Williams’ flock and their newly Export Monitored status puts Crane Hill Katahdin Farm among other frontrunners in the Alabama Sheep Industry.


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

Into Ecuador

Carter Sanders of Goshen had a rare opportunity to visit the deep jungle and the indigenous people who inhabit Yasuni National Park.

Carter Sanders journeys to meet the primitive Waorani.

by Jaine Treadwell

The grunting of a jaguar raised Carter Sanders from a light sleep. Without moving, not even blinking, he listened for movement in the darkness of the jungle.

The jaguar is feared even by the indigenous people of Ecuador. There, Sanders had come face-to-face with one of the big cats. It was a thrilling moment but not one he wanted to repeat – especially not in the dark of night with only the walls of a thatched-roof hut between him and the jaguar.

Sanders stilled himself in the hammock, not sure if the grunting of the jaguar was real or imagined. But he soaked in the night knowing he was in a place where few men had gone or ever would.

Sanders, a Goshen native, owns property in Ecuador – property on which he planned to grow cocoa, but now plans to grow corn instead.

He fell in love with the vast jungles in northwestern South America when visiting a friend who had been an international exchange student at Troy University.

The Waorani sleep on hammocks in thatched-roofed huts. Carter Sanders spent nights in the huts listening to the sounds of the jungle around him.

"The biodiversity of Ecuador is amazing," Sanders said. "The more I visited, the more I wanted to be there. When a certain piece of property became available, I realized that was my best opportunity to become a part-time resident of that remarkable country."

Sanders purchased the property that is on a river and surrounded by the jungle.

In time, Sanders began to feel more like an Ecuadorian and he wanted to know more and experience more about the country that had become his second homeland.

"I wanted to travel into the deep, deep jungle," he said. "I wanted to experience the Amazon Basin and, even more, I wanted to know more about the indigenous groups who inhabit the jungles, especially the Waorani that remain uncharted within the 2.5 million acre Yasuni National Park."

Sanders said what he knew most about the indigenous groups of Ecuador was that five American missionaries were killed by one of the groups in 1956.

"There are now so few of these indigenous people because, until fairly recently, killing each other was their solution to any dispute. About 70 percent of the men of these indigenous groups died by being speared," he said. "I was fascinated by these indigenous groups."

Carter Sanders holds a Waorani blowgun, quiver and kapok.

Sanders learned that the most primitive of the indigenous groups live in the restricted area of Yasuni National Park.

"About 400 Waorani live in the restricted area of the park," he said. "They are the most primitive of the indigenous groups and are clinging to their old ways of life. I wanted to go into that area and see what life was like for people who are living as if they were back in the Stone Age."

Sanders knew the possibility of his being allowed to visit the restricted area of Yasuni National Park was almost nonexistent. But, his chance came unexpectedly when he was invited to go with the brother of friend who is a Waorani princess.

The journey was a unique experience and a rather harrowing one.

"An international health card was required and I was afraid the invitation wouldn’t be extended until I got that done," Sanders recalled. "The main part of the journey was by water taxi that was nothing more than a canoe with a motor. It took two hours by truck to get to the water taxi and then 12 hours on the water. That’s a long time to be on the water in the jungle. When we finally got off the water, it was a long truck ride to the park."

Sanders described the area where the Waorani live as a donut with the most primitive of the people living inside the donut hole.

"The Waorani who live outside the hole are mainly young people," he said. "Most of them are 20-somethings and younger. There are some people around the age of 40, but very few as old as 70 or more. The indigenous people were fierce and fighters, even headhunters, and they had killed each other off. So the population is now mainly younger people."

The indigenous people who live on the outside of the donut hole have acclimated to the ways of the outside world.

"They enjoy the same things we do – bottled drinks, sugar and store-bought bread," Sanders said. "I was very surprised to see that they had cell phones and computers. Their way of life has changed. Their old ways of life are preserved only inside the donut hole."

Sanders realized, when he entered the donut hole, he would be stepping back into the Stone Age and to a place where few men had gone and to a place that would soon no longer exist as it was.

"I was looked at pretty much as an oddity, but the Waorani were accepting of me because I was with one of them," he said. "At first, it was rather uncomfortable for me because the Waorani were nude. They live in thatch-roofed houses. They cook over open fires. They are primarily bush hunters so I got to eat on the wild side. I had an opportunity to watch them processing a wild pig and enjoy the meal with them. I got to fish for piranha and enjoy the sights and sounds of the deep jungle. It is a beautiful and intriguing place.

"The biodiversity of Yasuni National Park is said to be the greatest of almost any place on the planet. There are monkeys, jungle birds and reptiles of all kinds. It was just an amazing place to be, but it’s all threatened by oil development. The area is rich in oil – 800 million barrels – and oil drilling is already underway in the outer parts of the park and it’s moving closer to the donut hole where the Waorani are maintaining their way of life."

Sanders said, as the drilling continues, roads will be carved out, the rich mix of trees will be cut destroying the habitats of the birds, amphibians and reptiles in that part of the world.

"The Waorani’s way of life will be gone forever," he said. "There are only 3,000 of them remaining with 400 of them in a place where they thought their ways of life would be protected.

"But already outside the donut hole they are drinking colas and talking on cell phones. I was fortunate to step inside the donut hole and to be a part of a vanishing way of life. Soon what I experienced will no longer exist."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

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