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February 2018

4-H Extension Corner: Competition and Camaraderie

Alabama 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Team brings home Reserve Championship.

by Maggie Lawrence
Alabama was represented in the national competition by the Lee County 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl team. Members are (from left, front) Theresa Gullatt, coach; Gavin Rankins; (back) Nathan Gullatt; Rice Nichols; Ethan Rankins; and not pictured is Angela Nichols, coach. 
An Alabama 4-H team brought home the Reserve Championship prize from the North American 4-H Invitational Dairy Quiz Bowl Competition. Brothers Gavin and Ethan Rankins, Rice Nichols and Nathan Gullatt are all Lee County 4-H Club members and represented our state at the Louisville, Kentucky, contest.

Together, the team gave Alabama its best showing ever at the national contest. Alabama has competed nationally seven times, making its first appearance in 2005, and had never placed in the top six teams.

In addition, the Rankins brothers earned the top two scores on the event’s written test. Gavin placed first with younger brother Ethan just behind in second place.

"We are extremely proud not only of the team’s second place in the overall contest but the hard work and time they put in to reap their success," said Theresa Gullatt, a longtime 4-H volunteer who coached the team. "This is such a huge accomplishment. I felt like our Alabama team garnered as much attention, if not more, as the New York team who won the contest."

Preparing for the National Contest

In 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl, each match has two portions. First, there are team questions where team members work together on answers. The second portion pits two teams against one another for 20 toss-up questions.

"Mastering the buzzer for toss-up questions was part of the team’s practices," Ethan said. "I learned how to hit a buzzer quickly."

Nichols added that each competitor gained valuable life skills by participating in 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl.

"We all learned more than just dairy facts," she said. "We learned how to work cooperatively as a team, and that takes practice."

Theresa said the team began national competition preparations back in late summer. She began coaching Lee County 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl teams in 2013.

"Every member worked hard as individuals and as a team," she said. "Four teens willing to put the time in to reach a goal also says a lot about this group. They appreciate the others’ strengths and use the team’s camaraderie to their advantage.

"Sometimes they competed against themselves. On several occasions, a group of Auburn University veterinary students practiced with them."

Gavin said the hard work provided more rewards than the top placing the team won.

"It was an honor to represent Alabama," he said. "Meeting peers from other states who have a passion for the dairy industry and also reconnecting with friends I had met at other national events made the Louisville competition especially rewarding."

Maggie Lawrence is the news unit manager for Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

A Swift Hundred Years

Selma’s popular Swift Drug Co. is in its second century of serving the community.

by Alvin Benn
Swift Drug Co. owner Buddy Swift takes a breather outside his business that dates back to 1916. 
Surviving in any business for 100 years is remarkable and Buddy Swift has reason to smile as his little drugstore moves confidently into its second century in downtown Selma.

What makes Swift Drug Co. Inc.’s success story so amazing is the bloodline connection that began in 1916 when William P. "Will" Swift opened for business on Broad Street years before the Edmund Pettus Bridge was built.

Many new owners usually retain the name of founders on marquees even if they are long gone after selling it to those with no family connection.

Such is not the case at Swift Drugs because it has three generational links to relatives who created the business.

Swift family members have operated the same store across the street from Selma City Hall through the Depression, world wars and competitive businesses.

Some unable to weather business challenges go under, leaving only the name on front door signs to show that they once existed.

Others such as Swift Drugs just keep plugging along like the little engine that could and did.
Selma is home to seven other independent drugstores and they all share with Buddy’s business the same reason for their success – small town customer support.

Buddy majored in history and political science at the University of Alabama and wanted to be a lawyer, but shelved that plan and decided to stick to the family’s business.
Cindy Bannister, left, and Libby Welch greet customers at Swift Drugs in downtown Selma. 
He said his father bought out his uncle’s share of the business and, one day, asked him if he could come down "and work a little while to see what you think about maybe joining us."

"I really wanted to go to law school, but I went to the store just like Daddy suggested and here I am 44 years later," said Buddy, who smiled and added, "I think I’ll just stay a little longer now."

Selma is unique when it comes to locally owned drugstores. There are of eight of them –all independent businesses either within walking distance or easy drives for their customers.

"The main reason we all continue to do well against the big chain operations is the excellent relationship we have with our customers and the fact that we all go the extra mile to make them happy," said Buddy, 66.

As far as he is concerned, he and the owners and operators at the seven other drugstores are "colleagues, not competitors."

He said Selma’s drugstores have managed to stay afloat and haven’t been cowed by big chains with ownerships and headquarters far from Dallas County.

"We’ve seen the big chains come and go, but we’re still in business," he said. "A lot of it has to do with the fact that our customers come from throughout the area where we all live."

Mike Reynolds, who owns radio stations in Dallas County, said he and Buddy have been good friends for years and it eventually led to their supportive relationship. These things happen in small towns.

"Buddy may be owner and president of the drugstore, but he’s never had a business card," Reynolds said. "There’s really no need for it because we all know one another."

When it comes to business reputations, Buddy has one of the best in the state and it’s not by accident. His drugstore has been honored by the Alabama Retail Association and that’s quite an honor.

"For a business to survive the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement," said ARA President Rick Brown, who commended Swift Drugs for its "enduring first century contributions."

Buddy never went to a pharmacy school, but is a certified pharmacy technician licensed to assist in the business.

"This is a dangerous job and you must keep your mind on what you’re doing," he said, no doubt mindful of the scene in the popular Christmas movie, "It’s A Wonderful Life." In it, a near-fatal mistake by a fictional pharmacist in the filling of a prescription was luckily averted at the last minute.

In addition to his business enterprises, Buddy has been a key player in numerous civic programs, including his direction of the annual Battle of Selma Civil War re-enactment each April.
Kay Swift holds up candy creations sold to help raise funds for a cystic fibrosis program in Selma. 
He’s been chairman since 1987 and said over $400,000 has been raised through the years to assist local charities.

Unfortunately, the re-enactment was canceled last year and it doesn’t appear there will be one this year.

Money or the lack of it contributed to the anticipated demise of what once was one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions in the month of April.

Some city leaders have pointed to a "calculated cost" factor, saying over $22,000 would have to be paid back to the municipal government that, for many years, had covered expenses.

Buddy’s no slouch when it comes to politics, once having served as an important member of the Alabama Democratic Executive Committee.

Agriculture is also important to Buddy, who is also a prominent landowner and farmer in Dallas County.

Family ownership and management of Swift Drug Co. is likely to end one day because no one has appeared on the horizon to succeed Buddy when he finally hangs it up.

There is, however, every day an optimistic sign that a Swift name will continue to be part of the business, a least for a while.

Kay Swift may not be a blood relative but she’s been chief pharmacist for nearly 40 years and that ought to make her at least an honorary member of the family.

Buddy is the first to acknowledge her importance to the company and likes to say, "She’s a keeper."

That’s high praise for anybody who has worked for the same business as long as Kay has and she’s a fixture at the pharmacy.

Fond memories of downtown drugstores included soda fountains where root beer floats and tuna sandwiches were popular until changing times eliminated them.

Space is expensive, so every inch is used today to sell magazines, birthday cards, candy and T-shirts promoting football teams.

It’s a comforting feeling to know that Swift Drug Co. and the seven other drugstores in Selma continue to exist and prosper.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Alabama Producer Named to Sorghum Board

An Alabama producer has been named by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to serve on the United Sorghum Checkoff Program Board.
Appointed to serve a three-year term was Carlton Bridgeforth of Decatur.

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program Board is comprised of 13 U.S. sorghum farmers and authorized by the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.

Since 1966, Congress has authorized the establishment of 22 industry-funded research and promotion boards. They enable farmers and ranchers to leverage their own resources to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets, and conduct important research and promotion activities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service provides oversight, paid for by industry assessments, ensuring fiscal accountability and program integrity for participating stakeholders.

U.S. Ag Trade 2018 Forecast Similar to 2017

The 2018 fiscal year will look similar to 2017, but with a slightly higher trade balance (exports minus imports) because of lower imports, according to the latest USDA trade forecast.

Total agricultural exports are expected to value $140 billion along with $117 billion in imports. Taken together, the trade balance would reach a surplus of $23 billion compared with 2017, when the balance was near $22 billion.

Both years mark a slight improvement over 2016 when exports and imports both fell, leaving a surplus of just $17 billion.

Before 2015, the United States had a consistently higher trade balance, driven by lower total imports. This is largely due to appreciation of the U.S. dollar as the country’s economy recovered from the Great Recession.

The 2018 forecast is driven by expectations of high demand for U.S. exports of corn and soybeans and their products.

Record Peanut Production Predicted

Peanuts are expected to be especially plentiful in the 2017/18 marketing year as record acreage of planted peanuts and high yields per acre are on track to produce the largest peanut harvest of all time.

If realized, the 7.6 billion pounds of peanuts predicted will exceed the previous record of 6.7 billion pounds in 2012.

The 2017 forecast calls for a significant change from 2016 with 37 percent more peanuts produced. The projected growth is due to a 15-percent increase in yield per acre and a 19-percent increase in acreage harvested.

The record production will likely mean a significant increase in peanut exports that had already doubled since 2011.

At state levels, record-high yields are forecast in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, with production in Georgia and South Carolina expected to be the highest on record.
Georgia is the largest producer of peanuts in the nation and responsible for growing roughly 50 percent of all the country’s peanuts.

U.S. Land Use Shows Marked Changes

While the adage is true about no one making any more land, it’s also true there have been changes in how some 2.3 billion acres in the nation are used.

Land used in agriculture has become less common over time, declining from 63 percent in 1949 to 52 percent, according to the latest data available. Gradual declines have occurred in cropland, while grazed forestland has decreased more rapidly.

Latest figures show 392 million acres of agricultural land were in cropland (18 percent less than in 1949), 655 million acres were in pasture and range (4 percent more), 130 million acres were in grazed forestland (59 percent less), and 8 million acres were in farmsteads and farm roads (45 percent less).

In contrast, land used for rural parks and wilderness (included in nonagricultural special uses) has increased by 226 million acres since 1949, contributing to the relative growth in nonagricultural land use over time.

Urban land, representing a relatively small share of the U.S. land base, has nearly tripled in area since 1949 to accommodate economic and population growth.

USDA IT Model to Be Revamped

USDA has announced it will revamp its information technology operating model to increase efficiency in serving its customers.

USDA officials are convinced the ability to effectively manage and modernize IT systems will be a key factor in achieving a more customer-focused organization. The goal is to enable informed decision-making and improve the experiences customers have when interacting with USDA, whether they are working with the agency online or sitting across the table.

USDA touches American citizens daily through its work with America’s farmers, ranchers, national forest users, rural communities, consumers, trade partners, agricultural industry, scientific researchers and the public.

The agency will work with the White House Office of American Innovation to execute a series of key strategies, including:

  • Having a single chief information officer, along with one assistant CIO for each mission area, who will focus on improving IT for the specific services and programs. This will reduce the number of CIOs from 22 to one, with seven assistant CIOs.
  • Consolidating end-user services and data centers from 39 to a single data center and a backup. This move will provide a cost-effective, high-quality, departmentwide helpdesk and reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Enabling a strategic approach to data management and introduce data-driven capabilities by implementing executive dashboard solutions with USDAwide data.
  • Improving the USDA customer’s experience by delivering all new Farm Bill programs online and creating online service portals that are easy-to-use, include additional self-service capabilities and integrate data for common customers.

Household Spending on All Food Shows Slight Increase

The average American household spent a slightly larger percentage of its income on total food – grocery and restaurant purchases – in 2016 than in 2015.

The increase from 12.5 percent of expenditures in 2015 to 12.6 percent in 2016 possibly reflects 2016’s 0.3-percent rise in total food prices, combined with the 2.1-percent decline in transportation costs.

With a 12.6-percent share, food ranked third behind housing (33 percent) and transportation (15.8 percent) in a typical American household’s 2016 expenditures.

Breaking down food spending further, 7.1 percent of expenditures were spent at the grocery store and 5.5 percent at restaurants.

Looking at expenditure shares over time, food’s share has steadily declined since 1984 (the first year of available data), when food expenditures accounted for 15 percent of consumer spending. As the share for food has declined, the shares of income spent on housing, health care and entertainment have increased.

A Closer Look at Global Ag Trade

Among the agricultural-product categories that make up the largest share of global-trade value, movement in average import shares has varied, with some products growing in significance and others declining.

Over the four five-year periods measured from 1995 to 2014, oilseed imports (bulk commodities) and their products (intermediate commodities) have had the fastest growth in share of total value.

In contrast, the share of trade for two bulk-product categories – grains and tropical commodities (coffee, sugar and cocoa) – declined during that period.

For consumer-oriented products, the share of animal products, fruits and nuts, and vegetables in global-agricultural trade declined slightly, while the share of processed food increased.

Fibers, particularly cotton and others used for clothing, witnessed the steepest loss in share of total agricultural-import value. Cotton consumption peaked in 2007.

China, the largest consumer of cotton fiber, reduced its imports beginning in 2012 to rely more on domestic production and carry-over stocks from previous years.

The growth in oilseed trade and their products has been one of the most significant developments in the global trade landscape, driven by growing imports from China and India and export growth from Southeast Asia and the Americas.

Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Feed Division Now a Certified Safe Feed / Safe Food Facility

From left, Clay Holcombe, EHS coordinator; Walt Black, vice president of Risk Management; Mandy Roper, Feed support staff; Jimmy Parker, animal nutritionist; Kay Clark, assistant quality assurance manager; Terrie Higgins Adams, Feed support staff; John England, quality assurance manager; Al Cheatham, COO; Chuck Cobb, Feed Mill manager; Stacy Dawson, assistant director of Feed; and Rivers Myres, CEO. 
by John England

The Safe Feed/Safe Food program ensures our customers that we will provide a nutritionally sound and high-quality feed; in turn providing high-quality food for people around the world.

In order to reach such high standards required to become a certified facility, the AFC Feed Division has total commitment from the management, animal-food safety team and feed-mill employees.

AFC has an ongoing commitment to being the leader in quality and customer satisfaction.

John England is the quality assurance manager for AFC Feed Division.

An Ounce of Prevention: Verse Two

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I looked back to see what subjects I addressed in this column last winter. I had written about the screwworm incident in Florida, the success of the Brucellosis Eradication program in Alabama and an article titled, "An Ounce of Prevention." That article was aimed at horse owners and encouraged them to vaccinate their horses in the spring.

At that particular time, we did not see the storm clouds gathering that would eventually land us in an outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza. We were fortunate we only dealt with the low pathogenic form instead of the highly pathogenic form of the avian influenza virus.

When the dust finally settled, we looked back over our shoulders and asked if there was anything we could have done to prevent the outbreak. Probably not surprising, we found we had become complacent on our biosecurity practices. So, I decided to write about preventive measures we need to be taking NOW to prevent another avian influenza outbreak that could be, by the luck of the draw, either low or highly pathogenic.

I have often said that biosecurity is a relatively new term. It certainly wasn’t something we used when I was in veterinary school back in the 1980s. I found one source that said the term "biosecurity" was not widely used until the ’90s.

Of course, the fact you do not have a single word to describe something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In fact, the original meaning of biosecurity was pretty broad. Biosecurity was defined as "measures put in place to prevent or reduce the risk of transmissible diseases." The best I can tell, they had some of those measures in place back in Old Testament times.

Biosecurity is extremely important in preventing viruses such as avian influenza, human flu or even the common cold. And a lot of what makes up biosecurity is just common sense. Remember when your mom used to say, "Get that out of your mouth. You don’t know where it’s been." I would tweak that just a little and say, "Don’t walk into that chicken house without disinfecting those shoes. You don’t know what you may have walked through."

I can remember when I was in private practice, I would occasionally see a dog with parvo that I am fairly certain had never been outside the fenced-in backyard. The owners always had a hard time understanding where the virus could have come from. I would always suggest that we never know what we are walking through.

Of course, we would know if we stepped in a pile of dog manure. But sometimes we just walk through somewhere that those invisible viruses are hiding and bring them home to our pets.

Hopefully, if you are a poultry grower or work in a closely related job, you will pay close attention to the rest of this article. I am sure nothing I am going to write will be some great revelation like Saul on the road to Damascus. Still, we become complacent and need to be reminded occasionally.

I heard a presentation once where the researcher put out disinfectant foot baths for people to walk through going into their chicken houses. To document the effectiveness of the foot baths, they set up video cameras and informed the farmworkers they were being videoed. Early on, the workers all walked through the disinfectant on their way into the chicken houses. After a couple of weeks, the video showed the workers would put one foot in the disinfectant and step over with the other. And after another couple of weeks, they were stepping over the disinfectant baths completely. And that was with people who knew they were being videotaped.

I want to mention a few practices that, if used as intended, can greatly reduce chances of spreading bird flu. If you don’t have a poultry farm, these practices could keep your dog from getting parvo. Or it could keep you from getting the flu.

The main thing we know is that avian influenza viruses do not just wander into chicken houses on their own. The viruses are typically introduced into the environment via wild waterfowl feces. Actually, it is usually ducks. Wild geese are fairly susceptible to the virus and they tend to die before they can shed much of the virus.

Last year from early March until April 21, we were extremely busy on our search-and-destroy mission to stop the spread of avian influenza in Alabama. When the dust settled, poultry company veterinarians, U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agriculture representatives got together and looked at why and how the virus likely spread. It was interesting that the expert opinion of the group was that direct farm-to-farm transmission played a limited role. That means there was reasonable risk the virus was introduced from the environment.

One of the significant concerns was the lack of strict biosecurity at poultry farms. I know poultry farms are interesting to people who are not familiar with them. We recommend you do not allow visitors in the poultry houses. Many of the commercial poultry companies have policies limiting admittance to poultry houses. After all, "You don’t know where those visitors have been."

Another practice – that may work as well or even better than anything else – is the use of footwear disinfectants to walk through when entering the chicken house. However, they are only effective if they are maintained and used.

I don’t mean to be critical – well, actually I do. I have seen foot baths with algae growing in them. I have seen foot baths that have not been changed in so long they looked like they were filled with muddy water.

Probably one of the easiest ways to spread the virus is on shoes worn in the pasture or woods where wild ducks have done their business. And probably one of the easiest ways to prevent that route of introduction of the virus is to have properly maintained and properly used foot-ware disinfectants.

We also recommend that you have some type of dedicated coveralls or outer covering only worn in the chicken house. Obviously, we are not doing surgery, so we are not trying to be sterile. We are just stacking the deck in our favor by covering clothes we wear outside the chicken house.
I have been to poultry farms with coveralls hanging in the control room, but they appear to have not been worn in quite a while.

We also believe the virus can be introduced onto a farm on tires. We have worked with various utility companies to try to educate them about driving onto poultry farms and to stay as far from the chicken houses as possible. They also know to reduce exposure to the farm as much as possible during known outbreaks.

And finally, like your momma told you, "Wash your hands." Wash your hands before going into the chicken house and wash them after you come out.

Use common sense. Don’t become complacent. Work with your poultry company and follow their biosecurity policies.

Usually, January through late spring is avian influenza season. If you follow this advice, maybe we can spend this year doing something besides fighting avian influenza.
Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253

Brood Cow Supplement

by John Sims

We’re in the throes of winter-feeding season. Many of us are facing the fact that, due to a rainy season, much of the hay harvested has lower protein and energy levels than is optimal for nursing cows.

We have just the right puzzle piece to fit into the nutritional gaps in your winter feed program. Brood Cow Supplement is a textured feed containing multiple energy and protein sources, as well as vitamins and chelated trace minerals. Cottonseed hulls are used to slow passage rate and improve absorption of nutrients. We even added GHP2, a gut health pack, to bind up toxins in forages.

Energy is more critical than protein for keeping body condition on cattle in the winter. BCS contains steam-flaked corn for maximum energy digestion. This high-energy level allows BCS to be fed at a lower rate to save money. It is designed to be fed in conjunction with hay and STIMU-LYX tubs late in the feed season (right now) to give that extra energy boost cows need to maintain condition and produce the milk their calves need. Feed at a rate of 3-7 pounds per head per day.

Brood Cow Supplement has 13 percent protein and a high energy level that makes it very flexible to feed cattle in all stages of growth. Hand fed to growing calves, developing bulls and heifers, or finishing steers, this product is much better than byproducts or sweet feed to get the proper growth rate.

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

Calling All Toms

Learning to call wild turkeys can be great fun for kids and will hopefully soon lead to some delicious meals.

by Christy Kirk

We had no idea how we could have missed anything orange or Thanksgiving-themed still sitting out among all of the traditional Christmas red and green that took over our house in December. But there I was putting away holiday decorations after Christmas, when Rolley Len and Cason spotted something that had a turkey on it. Inspired by the sight of a turkey out of season, Cason began to do a wattle dance. Then they both started making turkey calls.

I told Rolley Len and Cason to keep the calls coming because it won’t be too long before they could go hunting for a real wild turkey to bring home for our next meal. Now is the time for them to practice their calls for the spring hunting season. Judging from their turkey warbles that day, they definitely need some finishing work before heading out to the woods.

Most kids can learn a new skill such as calling wildlife by watching others or reading a how-to article, but actually participating in the activity firsthand can make the most difference for a young hunter. Making a lot of noise before your hunt may muddle your chance of success, so try to find time to teach your children how to call a turkey and practice before you actually go on the hunt.

Also be sure to have an extra turkey call just for them to use during your adventure so they can be an active part of the hunt. Developing a good call happens through experience, meaning they need plenty of opportunities to try out their abilities.

In the next few weeks, Jason will have to practice with Rolley Len and Cason before turkey season. If they are lucky, they can successfully call a tom on their own, and maybe they will get to watch a tom do his own majestic wattle dance.

For audio of different turkey calls, visit:


  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ cup ice water
  • 1 egg (used before baking)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste, divided
  • 2½ pounds boneless, skinless wild turkey meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Water, divided
  • 1 cup pearl onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • ¼-½ cup chopped carrots
  • ¼-½ cup green peas
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup light cream

In a food processor, combine and pulse flour, pepper and salt. Add butter, a few cubes at a time and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle in ice water. Pulse until dough starts to come together and pulls away from sides. Transfer to a floured surface. Form into a ball (it will not be smooth). If it doesn’t come together, add more cold water, a tablespoon at a time. Flatten ball into a thick circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Heat oven to 375°. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper turkey generously. Add to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned. Set turkey aside.

If not already cooked, prepare pearl onions. In a medium saucepan, bring quart of water to boil. Add onions. Boil for about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool in cold water.

In separate pan, add remaining oil with garlic, celery, potatoes, carrots and peas. Cook until vegetables soften. Stir in onions. Set aside.
In a small pot, bring chicken stock to a boil.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour for 1 minute. Add stock, milk and cream. Once it boils, turn heat down to low and let simmer, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large baking dish, place turkey and vegetables. Cover with cream mixture. Stir gently to combine.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to form a circle about an inch wider than dish. Drape it over dish and pinch edge to make a sealed rim. Use a sharp knife to pop vents in top.

In a small bowl, make an egg wash by beating egg with 2 tablespoons of water. Brush top with egg mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, or until crust is golden.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1½ pounds boneless turkey cutlets
  • 1¼ cups seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 5 Tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or use aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, slice turkey cutlets into nuggets, about 2-inch pieces.

Into a gallon plastic bag, pour breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Pour olive oil over turkey. Stir with a spoon to coat.

Place a few nuggets at a time into breadcrumb mixture. Seal bag. Shake well enough to coat all pieces.

Arrange nuggets in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all nuggets are on baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until turkey is thoroughly cooked.

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

Checklist to Prepare for Spring

by Robert Spencer

February is here with hopes for warmer temperatures around the corner. It is time to start thinking of preparing for spring and identifying some best management practices for livestock production.

Our strategy could be to utilize quality inputs to ensure quality livestock production with the goal of profitability. Quality inputs do not have to be the most expensive, but rather the most effective at an affordable price.

Take a look at this checklist and justifications to see what might be applicable to your situation.

Soil testing

For a mere $7, you can have a basic soil analysis conducted at Auburn University. For more information, visit This will determine if there is need for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime for proper soil pH (6.5-7). With additional tests and fees, the sample can also be analyzed for soil quality/health, special soil and water analysis, and feed and forage analysis. Contact your local cooperative Extension office to see about sample boxes and instructions. Your local Quality Co-op can also accommodate your soil analysis needs, just call or pay a visit. After all, they will likely be the ones to provide any applications.

Budgeting for soil supplementation

Once you are able to determine if or how much soil supplements are needed, you can start allocating funds for pending applications over the next few months. While it is best to apply most soil nutrients during spring and early summer, fall is the best time to apply lime to improve soil pH. Also, lime is the most efficient soil supplement; not only because it improves soil pH but it also allows soil nutrients and minerals to become more accessible to forages.

Hay testing

If the nutrient levels of any remaining hay on your farm are unknown, send a sample for analysis. If the hay is from your farm, you will know quality levels and if improvements are needed. If the hay is from another farm, hay testing will determine whether to make future purchases from the same farm or seek out another source.

Birthing kit

Whether you have cattle, goats, sheep or horses, and if birthing season is pending, you need to have basic birthing supplies including: hypodermic syringes and needles, iodine, shears, antibiotics, docking (for sheep) or castrating (for cattle or sheep) equipment, newborn nutrient supplementation, vitamin E or selenium, ear tags and container to hold all the items.

Documentation for all livestock

Whether it is on paper, in a computer or both, recordkeeping is essential to identifying animal ownership in case of escape, disaster or insurance claims. The old adage, "If it isn’t documented, it does not exist," is so true in any of the aforementioned cases.

This article may have left out some best management strategies relevant to your situation. If so, please implement them as part of your checklist to prepare for spring and share with others.

I hope this is of benefit to you and your farm, and increases your likelihood for sustainability and profitability.

Robert Spencer is interim facilities manager for Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center. You can contact him at

Chef's Corner: Memories and Comfort Food

by Brian Taylor

During the winter, when the wind is cold, the nights are long and spring seems so far away, I tend to feel the need to cook. Now, I always cook, but this time of year gives me a need for comfort foods. Comfort can mean different things to different people, but to me it means food memories of the past, not simply the stick-to-your-ribs food it’s often equated with. So this month I chose to share a take on some of my memories using Alabama farm-raised catfish.

I lived and worked in Nashville around the turn of the century (that makes me sound old, doesn’t it) and one of my favorite things about living there, and there were many, was Nashville-style hot chicken. Whether for lunch or a late-night snack, it always hit the spot.

This recipe is spicy and will get your forehead sweating a little, but if you’re worried about it, just cut the cayenne amount by half. You’ll still get all the flavor with just a touch of heat.

Using hot oil is imperative, as it toasts the spices. You can’t get that signature flavor any other way.

The tortilla-crusted catfish is homage to one of the first real chefs I ever worked for, Chef Lee. He loved Southwestern flavor and used this type of crust on all types of fish and chicken. If you want to take a little shortcut, substitute tortilla chips for fresh tortillas … heck, even Doritos would work.

Lemon and butter are two flavors that will always go well with any fish, and catfish is no exception. This is a classic and, hopefully, one you will enjoy.
Lemon Butter Catfish 


Servings: 4
  • 4 catfish fillets
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 medium lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Fresh chopped basil or parsley leaves, for garnish and flavor
  • Extra lemon slices, for serving
Use paper towels to thoroughly dry excess moisture from fish fillets – this step is crucial for fish to brown nicely in pan. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine butter, lemon juice and zest, and 1½ teaspoons kosher salt. Stir to combine well.

In a separate bowl, combine remaining kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. Evenly press spice mixture onto both sides of fish fillets.

In a large, heavy pan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until hot. Cook 2 fish fillets at a time to avoid overcrowding (allows for browning). Cook each side just until fish becomes opaque, feels somewhat firm in the center and is browned - lightly drizzle some of the lemon butter sauce as you cook, reserving the rest for serving. Take care not to overcook, as that will result in a tougher texture.

Serve fish with remaining lemon butter sauce, basil or parsley, and lemon wedges.


Serves: 4-6
  • Peanut oil
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Salt, to taste, divided
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds catfish fillets, strips or nuggets
  • ¼ cup Creole rub (recipe included)
  • Sliced white bread, of choice (I use 2 pieces per serving)
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 cup dill pickle slices
Heat pot of peanut oil to 350° degrees.

In a bowl, pour cornmeal. Mix in salt.

In two separate bowls, pour buttermilk and flour.

Dredge each piece of catfish in flour, buttermilk and seasoned cornmeal. Put on plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

In large METAL bowl or pot, add Creole rub with a healthy pinch of salt. Add ¼ cup HOT fryer oil. Stir until a loose paste forms. (You may need to add more oil to achieve the correct consistency.) Set paste to the side.

Fry catfish in batches until golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towel.

Toss catfish gently in chili paste mixture until evenly coated. If you want it really spicy, just add more cayenne to mix.

Serve Hot Catfish on top of white bread.

Garnish with ranch dressing and dill pickle slices.


Makes: 7/8 cup
  • 4 Tablespoons cayenne
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 4 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
In a small, resealable container, combine all ingredients. Mix well.
Tortilla-crusted Catfish 


Serves: 4
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 corn tortillas, torn in pieces
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 catfish fillets
Heat oven to 375°. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In blender, place tortilla pieces, pepper, lime juice, cilantro and spices. Pulse until mixture is uniform small crumbs. Spread on plate.

In shallow dish, beat egg.

Dip each fillet in egg and then in crumbs, patting crumbs to adhere. Place on baking sheet.

Bake until fish flakes, about 15 minutes depending on thickness of fillets.

Brian Taylor CEC, CCE is the corporate executive chef for SouthFresh Farms.

Considering the Options for Horse Hay

by Jimmy Parker

Ideally, we would have ample pasture for our livestock year-round. This, however, is not generally the case and we have to supplement with other things. Cattle, sheep, goats and horses all need to have some form of long-stem-type fiber and that means we almost always have to feed hay when the pastures stop growing. Generally, in the winter months, half to three-fourths of the feed your horse gets will come from hay. Hay is one of the most expensive things we buy or grow and feed, when the actual cost per pound of nutrient is considered and good hay buying decisions will often mean more to a producer’s bottom line and to the quality of life for the animal than any other routinely made decisions.

Hay generally is divided into two categories, legumes and grasses. Legumes, generally alfalfa and clovers, tend to be higher in energy and protein. They also tend to not grow well in Alabama and have to be hauled in, making them far more expensive than local grass hays. In certain situations, they still price in an acceptable amount and are really good to add to your feeding regimen when needed. They do have some drawbacks that should be considered such as a higher likelihood of mold and the possible presence of blister beetles in alfalfa.

Grass hays are far more abundant within the state and form the backbone of most winter-feeding plans. When we talk about grass hays in Alabama, we can divide them into three basic categories: warm-season perennials, cool-season perennials and cool-season annuals. They do vary widely in nutrient content, digestibility and palatability. The age and growth stage of the plant, the weather at harvest and even the time of day the hay was cut can make a difference in the nutrient values, digestibility and how well the horses will eat it.

Warm-season perennials such as Bermuda grass and sometimes Bahiagrass and dallisgrass make good hay if harvested properly. Bermuda grass is the one most often considered to be horse hay and makes reasonably good hay. If it is not harvested in a timely manner, it tends to lose value fairly quickly and the protein and energy levels get to be too low. At that point, it is not a good option and can actually cost the animal more energy to digest than it provides (as can any of the grass hays).

Cool-season perennials such as fescue and orchard grass can have a place in meeting our hay needs. Both actually test higher in protein and energy than the warm-season perennials if harvested correctly and can be a good source of nutrients in some situations.

Orchard grass is not as widely available, but makes an excellent feed when you can find it.

Fescue has a bad reputation, well-earned in horse circles. However, unless you are feeding pregnant mares, it may work for you if it was harvested correctly.

One of the problems with cool-season grasses is they mature before the weather is warm enough to get them cut and dried, and often they are too mature or have mold problems from incorrect weather conditions at harvest.

Again, these cool-season grasses can have a great deal of value if harvested and stored correctly. Don’t be afraid to look at them when considering hay needs.

Cool-season annuals tend to be the highest in protein and energy values of all the grass hays we have available in the Southeast, but, they have many of the same concerns as the cool-season perennials. They will most likely become too mature before the weather is warm enough to cut and dry enough that they won’t mold. If you can find ryegrass, rye or wheat hay cut at the proper stage and not moldy, it will make excellent and generally inexpensive hay and should be considered.

By now, most all of the hay-buying decisions have already been made and what we have is what we will have to feed, but to feed it correctly we need to know what we actually have. For less than $20, you can have it tested and know exactly what you’re dealing with. Then we can make intelligent decisions on how much supplemental feed will be needed to help our horses survive the cold days that are still going to be around for a little while longer.

Poor hays, less than 6 percent protein and 55 percent TDN, will starve a horse. Even if the horse is eating all it can hold, it will lose weight and starve.

Unfortunately, I have seen this before and, years such as 2017 when it rained all summer and a large percentage of the hay was too mature when it was harvested, that becomes a real issue.

The cold, wet days of late winter really are a drain on the livestock and they need plenty of energy to stay warm and, frankly, to survive. Poor hay by itself can starve them and even when combined with feed, if it is the wrong feed and it is not fed at the correct rate, the animals will suffer.

Have your hay tested. If you find it is not as good as you thought, your local Co-op can help you find the feed matching your animals’ needs to get them through the winter and advise you on how much to feed.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist

Corn Time


Do-It-Yourself Kit

by Baxter Black, DVM

This notice was found on the side of a first calf heifer at the sale barn:


  1. Remove calf from shipping crate. The shipping container is equipped with an automatic unloading device. If, for some reason, this unloading device jams proceed to step 2.
  2. If calf-unloading mechanism fails to work, you may call a local authorized factory repairman or make minor adjustments at home by following these directions.
  3. Before attempting calf removal yourself, study the diagram. Familiarize yourself with all the moving parts including the supporting frame, flotation bag, elastic opening, lubricating oil and enclosed calf. The calf usually comes with four foldable legs (front and back), a flexible tail and a movable head. The head should contain attachments for sight, smell and hearing.
  4. To facilitate removal from the container, the calf should be properly folded. Either the front legs and head should be fully extended or the back legs should be extended, tail up.
  5. Once you have confirmed the calf is correctly folded, it is necessary to check the container opening for size. This is done by applying gentle traction to the extended legs. Primitive medieval utensils are available to aid in applying this traction: chains, head snares, eyehooks, handles and a patented bovine extractor device. (NOTE: These mechanical aids should be used with care to prevent damage to the calf and its reusable container. Power-assisted, precision instruments such as tractors and four-wheel drive vehicles are not recommended!)


  1. OXYGEN ADJUSTMENT: Ensure the air pump is functioning and the breathing tube is free of packing oil. If pilot light goes out, apply intermittent pressure to the bellows.
  2. FUEL: The portable calf container comes equipped with four zerks connected to the fuel reservoir. CAUTION: The initial filling is critical to ensure long-term smooth running of your new calf! This first tankful is loaded with special additives that help prevent breakdowns and stalling. (If the calf is not given this fuel within the first few hours, the warranty is not valid!)
  3. TROUBLESHOOTING: If overheating, knocking or leaks develop, consult your local authorized factory repairman.

You are the proud owner of the 2018 Model Bovine. With proper care and maintenance, it should last two to 10 years. Enjoy! (Manufacturer assumes no liability or makes no promises regarding profitability of enclosed calf.)

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,

Donnie Southern – Not Sitting Still

Donnie Southern and one of the prize fish he caught! 
by Suzy Lowry Geno

Donnie Southern has a familiar "Fisherman’s Prayer" hanging on a plaque in his living room:

"I pray that I may live to fish until my dying day.

And when it comes to my last cast I then most humbly pray

When in the Lord’s great landing net and peacefully asleep

That in His mercy I be judged, BIG ENOUGH TO KEEP!"

While that anonymous little poem is humorous and aimed at fishermen, it explains just a little of Southern’s philosophy of not only fishing AND hunting but life in general.

Southern, whose "real" name is Herman Ladon Southern, suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, meaning at this point in his life he spends a lot of time in his wheelchair because of weakness in his legs. But don’t let that fool you!

He can slide onto his four wheeler and canvass the woods for deer around his Highland Lake-area acreage in rural Blount County.

He can tilt his wheelchair just so and scamper/crawl into his or a friend’s boat to seek out the biggest catfish or bass you can imagine. He runs errands in his pickup and keeps the house cleaned and swept almost immaculately.

Oh, and don’t forget about his special hunting stand at the hunting club in Carrollton Hunting Club in Carrollton where he’s an active member! It’s made just a little lower than most hunting stands so he can enter it more easily.

Trophies throughout his home attest to his outdoorsman abilities! There’s an eight-point buck staring down in the living room that he shot just "over a road or two" from his own home in Blount.

Then there’s trophy bass, catfish and crappie he’s caught in nearby Highland Lake or the Coosa River.

He has a feeder in his own woods where he can watch deer come by to snack, but says, "I don’t like to kill them here. These are more like my pets. I just like to watch these."

In fact, his game camera shows does and bucks coming by the feeder regularly (night and day!) along with comical bandit-faced raccoons, wild turkeys and the occasional slinky coyote or fox.

Southern underwent his first surgery at the age of 10 to lengthen tendons in his legs. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, "Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a group of inherited disorders that cause nerve damage, mostly in a person’s arms and legs in the peripheral nerves. It is named for the three physicians who discovered it. The series of disorders are complicated, but in many instances it means the messages from the brain don’t reach the nerves and vice versa."
Caden Browning, Donnie’s nephew, and some big crappies he caugh 
It’s an inherited, genetic condition occurring when there are mutations in the genes affecting the nerves in feet, legs, hands and arms.

His mother, Pauline Jeanette Murphree Southern, had the disease, his grandmother was fine, but his great-grandmother had it.

Their courage and can-do attitudes no doubt have inspired him throughout his life.

Southern worked at Saint Joe Paper Company for 18 years. His last job was as a maintenance mechanic at South Pac in Birmingham where they made boxes.

"I worked on the machine that made the boxes," he explained.

Twenty-seven years ago, he built the beautiful home he and wife Rita share.

"I did it all, but the foundation and the roofing," he explained of the intricate craftsmanship.

For a while Southern walked with a cane, then progressed to a walker. He now utilizes a wheelchair much of the time. He’s been basically retired for about 10 years, but has fitted in a lot of hunting and fishing!

Donnie and Rita, who works in shipping and receiving at the Oneonta Walmart Supercenter, use much of what he hunts or catches.

"It’s just too expensive to carry the deer to the slaughterhouses, so I pretty much process it myself," he said. "I cut them up into steaks and cube it. I add a little salt, pepper and garlic or whatever. You’ve got some great eating!

"I think venison is delicious in tacos and in stews. There are just so many ways to cook it. My wife makes some great salads using it, too. "

Southern credits his good friends, some who have passed away, with helping him in his outdoor endeavors.

"I thought the world of Angelo Brand (a local taxidermist and outdoorsman who passed away a few months ago)," he said. "Then there’s Sonny James Allman. We fished together. He has a little stool. His boat has a step up where I can crawl onto easily."

There’s catfish who hit crappie jigs, bucks who seem to pose as targets and others who seem to be rehearsing as flying reindeer, and lessons to teach others such as explaining tongue-in-cheek to his nephew Caden Browning, "It’s just sometimes not a sin to lie about fishing."

"I’m not going to just sit around," he explained. "I just love the outdoors too much."

To folks who might just sit when they have this or similar problems, he says, "To everybody his own, but I’ve just got to be out and enjoying the outdoors. I’ve been just about everywhere, but there are just not many better places than around here … around home … in Alabama for hunting and fishing!"

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer living on a small homestead in Blount County. She can be reached through Facebook or her website at


February Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • If you didn’t plant them last fall, strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.
  • If soil conditions allow, take a chance sowing peas (snap, English or sweet), lettuce, spinach and radish. If the weather obliges, you will be rewarded with extra early harvests.
  • By the third week of the month, plant potatoes 4 inches deep in prepared soil.
  • You can plant asparagus crowns through February.
  • 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.
  • Deciduous shrubs and trees are still dormant enough to transplant this month. Once the buds have begun to swell, it will be too late.
  • Plant daylilies, bleeding hearts and hostas this month. In fact, most perennials can be divided and moved until the time they begin to show new growth.
  • Repot any root-bound houseplants now before vigorous growth occurs. Choose a new container only 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the old pot.


  • Feed the soil by applying compost to plantings throughout landscape: trees, shrubs, lawn and all garden beds.
  • Mid- to late-February is the time to fertilize shrubs and evergreens. Use an acid-type azalea, camellia and rhododendron fertilizer to feed evergreens, conifers, broad leaf evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.
  • Use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed roses and other deciduous trees and shrubs. If you use granular-type fertilizers, be sure to water it in thoroughly.
  • Trees not fed last fall should be deep fed by punching a series of 1- to 2-inch holes 2 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.
  • Your houseplants may notice the longer days and begin growing. You can begin feeding them again, but only use a half strength solution of houseplant fertilizer until the growth is robust.
  • Cool-season grasses need an application of a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer in February. Check labels before using fertilizers.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs if not done in November. Don’t fertilize while they are blooming.
  • Feed English peas, spinach, kale and onions.
  • 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.


  • Always start pruning by removing all dead, decayed or broken branches.
  • Pruning improves the shape of the plant, as well as opens the center to provide good air circulation and sun exposure. Remove dead wood that looks gray and brittle, and branches that rub each other.
  • It’s prime pruning time for deciduous trees and shrubs (including fruit trees) while they are dormant. Don’t paint the wounds – let them heal naturally. Always use sharp tools to make clean cuts. Remove suckers and water sprouts, too.
  • Before shaping a tree or a shrub, learn its habits – some bloom or fruit only on old branches, others only on new growth. Do not delay too long because warming weather will send these plants into a vigorous growth spurt that you want to direct by pruning.
  • Begin pruning fruit trees. Start with apples and pears first. Peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom.
  • Forsythia, quince, spirea and other early spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned later, after they have finished flowering.
  • Prune summer-flowering shrubs now, but be aware that spring bloomers produced their buds last fall and pruning now will result in the loss of flowers. Summer-flowering shrubs include buddleia or butterfly-bush and summer-blooming hydrangeas, ‘Annabelle’ and Pee Gee. All bloom on new or current season’s growth. Prune buddleia by at least half its size. ‘Annabelle’ can be pruned to 6-12 inches in height. Pruning and removing half of the older stems of Pee Gee promotes blooming and creates a tree form by removing the suckers.
  • Rejuvenate holly shrubs with a hard pruning.
  • 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.
  • Kiwis and grapes, including muscadines, must be pruned by Valentine’s Day to prevent sap bleeding.
  • Save grapevine prunings to make attractive wreaths and other craft objects.
  • Deadhead pansies periodically to ensure more blooms. During active growth in the spring, fertilize about once a month.
  • Wisteria is a bit of a law to itself as far as pruning is concerned. It needs pruning twice a year to keep it in tip-top shape. The first pruning should occur in August with a second in the winter, any time between December and February. In winter, each shoot should be cut back to two healthy buds from the main stem. Don’t prune any shoots you are training over a support. If you forgot to prune in August, still do as described.
  • Cut liriope (monkey grass) down with a mower set on 4 inches or with a string trimmer. Pull back existing foliage to check for new growth. If you cut the new growth, the liriope will have brown tips when it matures during the spring and summer.
  • Cut back hybrid tea and repeat-blooming roses before the buds break. Wait to prune one-time blooming roses until after they have bloomed. Always sterilize using rubbing alcohol or a 10 percent bleach solution on the cutting surface of pruning shears and loppers between cuts on roses to prevent spreading disease.
  • If stem borers have been a problem with your roses, drop a little white glue on the end of the large stems after pruning.


  • Check evergreens for sign of desiccation.
  • Make sure outdoor containers are regularly watered, particularly those sheltered by house porches or eaves.
  • Water evergreens if the soil is dry (and not frozen).
  • Water outdoor plants well a few days before the arrival of a cold front, but not just before.
  • Once you have planned your plantings, pots and beds, you can design an irrigation system that can save you time and money in more efficient watering for a maximum yield.


  • Continue feeding wild birds; you’ll want them to stick around to help with insect control when the weather warms again.
  • Dormant sprays can be applied to ornamental trees and shrubs now. Do this on a mild day while temperatures are above freezing.
  • If you haven’t yet applied your dormant spray to your fruit trees, do it now!
  • Moss will start growing on lawns before the grass, so now is the time to start killing it with potassium salts of fatty acids (Bonide MOSSMAX RTS). Better yet, change the conditions promoting moss growth. Reduce shade by pruning trees and brush. Also aerate the compacted soil that promotes moss growth.
  • Scout tree branches and limbs for signs of insect egg masses. Destroy insect eggs before they hatch. Pick off and destroy without resorting to pesticides if you can.
  • If you had peach leaf curl, use a dormant spray and finish before middle of the month.
  • Apply a pre-emergent herbicide on your lawn to control summer annual weeds, such as crabgrass. The temperature is warm enough for application when forsythia and dogwood bloom. Your local Co-op has a selection of products including Hi-Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed & Grass Stopper with Dimension. Always read and follow product label instructions.
  • Hedges are often neglected. Now is the time to clear their bases and remove all the debris collected. This will expose any overwintering pests to frost and kill them, preventing infestation later. A mulch of well-rotted compost or grass cuttings will provide food later and help conserve moisture.
  • Continue to pick up fallen camellia flowers to prevent the spread of camellia petal blight.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of houseplant pests such as spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. If tackled early, nonchemical methods are usually successful: a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray (as directed on label) or with the most tenacious (such as mealybugs) sometimes alcohol and cotton swab.
  • Keep misting indoor plants. Winter is long and dry for them, but be careful not to overwater.


  • Start a garden journal.
  • The vegetable garden should get its first tilling (if weather permits) to allow the weather to aid in breaking up 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.
  • This is a good opportunity to wash out and sterilize your pots and seed trays with 10 parts water to 1 part Clorox so seedlings will get off to the best possible start.
  • Late winter often finds birds’ natural food supplies near nonexistent. A well-stocked feeding station will provide a life-giving haven for our feathered friends. Locate feeders out of the wind, positioning them near natural cover and perches. For ground feeding, provide an area near cover with a clear view of the surroundings.
  • Suet is an essential source of energy for birds during the winter. Your local Quality
  • Co-op should have a variety to choose from.
  • Put up gourds or martin houses early this month – it’s the last chance before purple martin scouts start looking for a suitable residence.
  • Put bluebird boxes out in February.
  • Get the lawn mower serviced. 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 squash, gourds and indeterminate tomatoes, so purchase materials this month.
  • If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month.
  • Build frames for new raised beds.
  • Stored summer-flowering bulbs may try to start to grow if they are subjected to heat. They should be kept very dry and stored at 45 degrees. If they are shriveling, put them into slightly damp peat moss, but keep them cool!
  • 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.
  • Check stored fruit and vegetables, and remove any damaged or moldy produce to avoid spoiling the rest.
  • Collect scion wood now for grafting fruit trees later in spring. Wrap bundled scions with plastic and store them in the refrigerator.
  • Hellebores (Lenten rose) may show distorted foliage that is the result of stop-start growth caused by lower temperatures. New shoots should now grow normally.
  • It’s time to turn the compost pile! It seems it’s always time to turn the compost pile ….
  • Quince, forsythia, redbuds, cherries, winter honeysuckle and deciduous magnolias will bloom indoors with a little help. Choose stems with swelling flower buds. Cut stems at an angle and place in a bucket of water. Indoors, recut stems or, better yet, hammer the ends of stems for better water uptake and place in a container of warm water with a floral preservative. Place in a cool spot in indirect light. When you begin to see color in the flower buds, move them to a brighter room.
  • Season-extending devices such as cold frames, hot beds, cloches and floating row covers will allow for an early start to the growing season.
  • Seed potatoes are available (or soon will be). Chit them (allow shoots to form) by placing them in a light, cool, frost-free place.
  • Tall and leggy houseplants such as dracaena, dieffenbachia and rubber plants may be air layered now.
  • The mild days of winter are an ideal time for improving your soil. Work the ground when it is dry, using a garden fork to loosen the soil. Add organic matter such as chopped leaves, composted manure or mushroom compost to improve fertility and drainage.
  • To avoid injury to lawns, keep foot traffic to a minimum when soils are wet or frozen.

FFA Sentinel: Building Beyond the Classroom

Baldwin County High agriscience program continues to grow in participation and facilities.

by Tina Covington
James and Cathy Phillips of Bay Minette recently donated a calf to the ag program at Baldwin County High School. Students will care for the calf as part of their classroom studies. The agriscience program has grown tremendously in the past few years and now has over 300 students enrolled in a variety of classes. 
The scenery is changing at Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette. Drive by the campus on any given school day and you will likely see the Tiger Band practicing outdoors and various sports teams honing their skills. You’re also bound to find the school’s agriscience students tending to livestock and crops as part of an ever-expanding course of study.

The agriscience program at BCHS has exploded, more than doubling its enrollment in just three years, and is expanding its reach beyond the classroom. Under the leadership of David Garrett, the program has turned its focus to agriculture-related courses and the students are reaping the benefits.

"I started out teaching landscape-type classes, but shortly after I discovered our kids at BCHS had more of a farm background," Garrett recalled. "I wanted to expose them to as much of a farmlike atmosphere as possible."

That transformation began by utilizing an existing, but underused, on-campus pavilion that had been taken over by weeds and limbs.

"That first year, we basically built a small livestock area that could host some domesticated hogs or goats, and maybe some chickens," he explained. "We also built a vegetable garden area.

"We also used the first year to make our woodshop one of the focus points of the program. We make teacher plaques, picnic tables and other little projects."

The following year, the program expanded its livestock area and started planting crops.
"We grew peanuts that we harvested by hand and had a huge peanut boil," he said. "We continued building our picnic tables, and started student projects such as building corn hole sets.

"We also purchased our first heifer calf named Lily."

In one year, the program grew from 156 to 181 students. There are now 361 students enrolled in the agriscience program and the school has added a second teaching unit, bringing on Andrew Jones, who has 17 years of ag-teaching experience.

BCHS Principal Craig Smith said he decided to expand the ag program because of a student survey showing a big interest in that field.

"The key to this elective being a success was finding the right person to start the program," Smith said. "We knew we needed a go-getter who could connect with our kids and get them motivated. We found that person in Mr. Garrett. He actually promised in his initial interview that if he was brought on staff he would have so many students interested we would have to hire another teacher after the second year. And he was right!"
During a visit to Auburn University, students toured the College of Agriculture. 
With the addition of Jones, Smith said he is looking for tremendous things out of this department.

"They are both great working with our kids and have a great vision for their program," he said.

Garrett credits the program’s success to the hands-on approach the school offers students.

"We not only spend time in our classroom teaching FFA history and safety," he explained, "but we also teach about synchronizing cattle. Then we get out and look at live cattle. We use the farm as a teaching tool.

"We do a lot of outside work, but we do it so that we can simply teach our kids about work. We are trying to get the next generation to understand that without hard work you cannot accomplish much."

Garrett pointed to the school’s accomplishments with great pride, giving credit to the administration and students who put in the sweat equity.

"All of the facilities on our BCHS FFA Farm were built and have been maintained by students," he noted. "We built all the fences, put in all the posts, and have planted and harvested crops. Students enjoy the challenge of taking care of livestock and crops."
They have also enjoyed learning practical skills they can utilize throughout their lives.

"The students in our program get a good working knowledge of how plants grow and what all it takes to put forth the effort to grow vegetables at home," he added. "We try hard to make sure our students learn that the work taking place at school can also go on at home.

"We try to make sure all of our kids can go home and grow food that their family can eat."
Hayden Peacock has been in the program all four years of high school, including one year at North Baldwin Center for Technology. He has worked a part-time job baling and raking hay. His boss also owned horses and cows, sparking an interest to better understand the process to care for them.

"I always liked learning more about them (livestock)," Peacock said. "This is where the ag program comes into play. It helped me learn more about the process of a cow’s life and the process of livestock in general."

Garrett’s classroom goes beyond the traditional training, Peacock said, and that’s why he has stayed involved even though he has already taken every single course offered. Now in his senior year, Peacock spends his leadership class working in the agriscience program. He encourages other students to give it a shot because it’s a lot more interesting than they think.
David Lacey and Mary Elyse Allen show off their new calf, Ritchie the Ribeye. Students in the agriscience program tend to livestock as part of their studies and also cultivate crops on campus. 

"If people go into that room and never learn one thing about ag, they will learn one thing in Mr. Garrett’s class … and that is respect," Peacock said. "He does more than just teach us about the process of working with cows, horses, pigs and chickens. He cares about every single person in that room and makes it a point that he wants to see us succeed."

Mary Elyse Allen has been part of the program for two years and said it has helped shape her career goal of becoming a veterinarian.

"What I like most about this ag program is the people I work with and the things we do such as working with livestock and planting plants," she said.

The students also get to take part in numerous field trips, Allen said, that provide additional educational opportunities.

The students recently visited Auburn University and toured the College of Agriculture.

Allen will also be part of a group of students traveling to the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

"I also love my ag teachers," she said. "They do an excellent job of teaching us.

"I’m really looking forward to my next two years being a part of this ag program."

With a wealth of success already under his belt, Garrett said he is not done dreaming. He has a wish list for facilities and supplies, and wants to continue to add to the courses and opportunities available to students.

"In the future, we want to offer our students an opportunity to raise and show their own livestock at some local county fairs," he said. "We are in need of a show barn, more grazing pasture and livestock."

For more information on this program or how you can help, contact David Garrett at or call the school office at 251-937-2341.

Tina Covington is a freelance writer from the Baldwin County area.

Flags to Watch For

by Glenn Crumpler

For the past few weeks, we have been constructing new fencing and cross fencing on the 45 acres where we plant our winter grazing in the cold months and where crabgrass grazing is available in the warmer months. This has been a pretty large investment of time, labor and supplies as we replaced all of the old, rusty perimeter fencing and rotten posts with four strands of high-tensile electric fencing and brand-new posts.

We also installed four two-strand, high-tensile cross fences going east and west (each a quarter-mile long) paralleling our existing, old, one-strand cross fences to make lanes. We cross fenced those again going north and south, creating 10 paddocks with lanes and gates leading into each paddock.

There are four gates on each line of cross fences so we can move cattle from one paddock to the other; reassemble stray young calves that occasionally wander or get pushed through the wire into another paddock; and for the fertilizer trucks to have access to each paddock.

We use this system so we can practice what is most-often referred to as "rotational grazing," where cattle are moved from paddock to paddock in a rotational pattern to allow the first paddock time to recover and put on new growth before it is grazed again.

In theory, all through the season, the cattle are able to stay on grazing with optimal nutritional value.

It is a bit more complicated than this, but we construct lanes and paddocks for several reasons.

First, with the smaller paddocks, we can get the cattle to consume all of the grazing (mature and less mature/desirable and less desirable) to the desired level, eliminating waste. It also leaves enough leaf for photosynthesis to help obtain optimal regrowth of the plants in a timely manner.

Second, keeping the cattle in smaller areas concentrates the feces and urine so nutrients are put back into the soil on a more uniform basis.

Third, it makes it easier to turn the cows on the grazing for a few hours to get only the nutrients they need, then put them back on hay for the rest of the day. When cattle get full and lie down, they are just wasting the grazing. We want to remove them before they lie down.

Fourth, it helps us have all of the lactating cattle on grazing, while also keeping them in assigned groups to match with parentage. In other words, we currently have all our lactating cattle in three groups by age and pedigree, with each group having their own bull. This helps us plan our matings and keep track of the pedigrees of the calves to be born next fall.

Fifth, moving the cattle on and off every day, and moving them from paddock to paddock every few days, just makes them easier to handle. Instead of driving them, they learn to respond to our calling them and follow us. Just like with people, it is always easier to lead cattle than it is to push them!

One thing required to make this system work is good fencing so the cattle learn to stay within the lanes when going from paddock to paddock and to stay within a particular paddock once they are put there.

In our scenario, good electric fencing is the best option and it is much easier to install, to repair and to maintain than net wire or barbed wire.
Our cows are all restrained by electric fencing with some areas being four to five strands along the highway and others just one old, rusty strand. It all stays hot. They know it is hot and don’t try to cross it.

If you are not familiar with electric fencing, it does not hurt you and will not kill you or the animals, but it does send a brief, pulsating surge of electric current that is very uncomfortable and will make you want to turn it loose pretty quickly!

One negative thing about electric fencing is that it is often hard to see, especially if it is new and the cows do not know it is there. Cows and especially calves, when turned out into a new pasture, will inevitably run and jump and enjoy their new grazing land and check out the borders they have to range in. Unless they know where the almost invisible fencing is at, they will run right through it before they realize it – never experiencing the shock.

For this reason, we spent a lot of time flagging the new fencing. Every 10-15 feet, we tied an orange piece of plastic surveying tape to the fence to allow the cattle to see it and know it is there before they run through it. They all know what electric fencing is. They respect it and stay within its boundaries. However, if they don’t know it is there, they will often go right through it without intending to.

Before Ben, our fall intern from Mississippi State University, began putting up the new fence, I gave him instructions on how I wanted it laid out and constructed. These instructions were based on years of experience on how cows think, how they react to pressure when being moved and how they would best navigate back and forth between the permanent pasture and the winter-grazing paddocks.

This will be especially important when we need to move them in the afternoons or if we needed to catch one up for treatment.

When I got home from India and Africa, I expected to see the fence installed the way I had directed or commissioned Ben. That is exactly what he and Darryl had done!

We turned the cattle on the winter grazing two days ago and took them off for the first time yesterday. Everything worked just as we had planned.

As I sat in my office on this cold drizzly morning having just checked the cattle on the new grazing and trying to decide what to write about, I was reading in the Gospel of John, specifically chapters 12-17.

I could not help but notice, as Jesus was preparing His disciples for what He was about to go through, what their lives should be like after He was gone and what He was calling and preparing them to do, two emphases stood out like the orange flagging tape on the fence: "commandments" and "the world."

In just the words Jesus spoke, it is significant that He used the words "commandments," "command," "commanded," "my word" and "things I have spoken" 25 times in these six short chapters. He used the word "world" 46 times (19 times in chapter 17 alone, when He was praying).

In these passages, Jesus tells us He did everything the Father "commanded" Him to do and all of the Father’s "commands" are everlasting. Jesus also gave them a new "command" to love one another just as Jesus had loved them so the "world" would know they were His disciples.

He went on to say, "If you love me, you will keep My commandments. … He who has My commandments and keeps them, is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. ... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me." (New American Standard)

He warns us that in this "world" we will have troubles, but promises that if we keep His "commands," even in the midst of the troubles, we will have joy and peace, and whatever we ask for in His name and according to His will, He will do it!

When I look at the prayer of Jesus in John 17 (26 verses – almost nine times longer than any other recorded prayer of Jesus in the Bible), I see He mentioned "the world" 19 times. He is making it clear that He loves all the people in the world and He died for the sins of all the world. His desire is for the entire world to know and experience His love, and have the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation He purchased for them when He gave His life so they could be reconciled to God the Father and inherit eternal life.

There are a lot of commands in the Word of God. Two stand out: (1) We are to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. (2) We are to "Go you therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you ...."

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

This is a flag showing us where we are and begs the question, "Do we really love Him?"

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

Healing Through Horses

Dena Little and hundreds of volunteers discover a passion for helping children at Storybook Farm.

by Rebecca Oliver
Storybook Farm is more than just a horse farm. It’s a place of refuge for the children who find healing on its 50 acres with the help of loving equine friends.

Sixteen years ago, founder Dena Little discovered her passion for healing children with the help of horses after reading an article about a woman who had started a horse therapy program for children with disabilities and emotional issues.

"Horses have always been a mainstay of comfort throughout my life," Little said. "I thought maybe I could help others find the same thing."

Little calls herself a "champion of the underdog" whose mission is to show the love of Christ.
Little, who grew up riding and competing on horses, bought a small farm in Auburn after selling a successful corporate bakery in Atlanta so she could raise her two daughters with horses.

As Little’s horse therapy program grew, she bought another larger property near Opelika.

Today, Storybook Farm services over 1,500 children a year, according to Director of Communications Andrew Skinner.
Children who ride horses at Storybook Farm participate in a form of physical therapy made fun. 
Families bring their children to Storybook for scheduled lessons where the children participate in educational activities while riding horses.

When Little first began horse therapy, she admitted it was an intimidating task.

Little said one of the first children to come to Storybook was a girl with a brittle bone disease.

"She could’ve broken a bone very easily and it was very daunting for me," Little said. "If I could’ve wrapped her and the horse up in Bubble Wrap, I would’ve."

However, the girl experienced no injuries or problems at Storybook and thrived from the therapy she received.

"This is a safe place for the children and it’s a place where families can escape the issues they face," said Lara Potts, who is a parent/supporter of Storybook Farm.

The lesson plans at Storybook have themes designed to make it not feel like traditional therapy.

The horses at Storybook are named after characters from literature such as Huckleberry Finn, Boo Radley, Mrs. Potts and more to make the activities as fun as possible.

In addition to horses, the children who visit learn about nutrition and gardening in "The Secret Garden."
The volunteers at Storybook connect with the children as they experience healing through horses. 
A new dog agility course will be under construction soon where children will be able to play with dogs.

"We create an environment where the children are relaxed," Little said. "It’s a form of therapy they can enjoy that isn’t run by counselors or physical therapists."

According to Little, the impact of Storybook is threefold in that it helps children, their families and the volunteers.

"For the children, this is a safe place; for the families, it’s a place to escape; and for volunteers, it’s a place where they learn service before self," Little explained.

Volunteers undergo two weeks of training before they begin working at Storybook. Most volunteers are students from Auburn University, so program sessions are condensed into time periods aligning with university semesters.

Little said that, after their time at Storybook is over, many volunteers go on to pursue careers dedicated to helping others.
A rider makes a slam dunk. 
"In the volunteer training sessions, I try to instill a sense of service before self," Little said. "The program is also therapeutic in many ways for the volunteers."

With the help of over 300 volunteers per year, generous donations, grants and fundraisers, Storybook provides their services to families at no cost.

Storybook hosts an annual Derby Dinner and Auction on the farm the first Saturday in May during the Kentucky Derby. Attendees dress in their best Derby attire and spend a day cheering on their favorite contenders and bidding on auction items to benefit Storybook’s mission.

Last year, Little purchased 25 additional acres for the expansion of Storybook Farm. On the new acreage, a new barn will be constructed to house more horses.

With a projected budget of $400,000 for 2018, Little’s hopes for the future of Storybook Farm are for it to continue to change lives and share love and dedication of service.

Rebecca Oliver is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Homemade Convenience Mixes

Take control of the ingredients in your prepared mixes by making them at home.

by Angela Treadaway

Families are now more concerned than ever about what they consume. By preparing your own homemade convenience foods, this allows you to control the final product, its nutritional value, and the quality and quantity of the ingredients. You can limit fat, sodium, sugar and additives, and also save valuable time.

When comparing the costs of home-prepared foods with commercial convenience foods, remember that cost per serving is only one consideration. There are other factors to consider when deciding whether to prepare a mix at home or to buy it at the local store.

Ways For Making Convenience Mixes More Nutritious

  1. Substitute whole-wheat flour for all or part of the bleached white flour.
  2. Use vegetable oil instead of solid shortening.
  3. Use fat-free milk instead of whole milk.
  4. Add more nonfat dry milk than the recipe calls for.
When reducing fat, please keep in mind that fat adds moisture, flavor and tender texture to cookies, cakes, quick breads and muffins. Using a fruit puree such as banana, prune or apple and nonfat dairy products such as nonfat yogurt or sour cream can help to give some fat-like flavor and texture characteristics to homemade baked goods without adding fat. Adding fruit to recipes will also increase the nutritive value.

People often ask if oil can be substituted for margarine or shortening when making cookies. All three ingredients are fats, but they are not all interchangeable. Oil is 100 percent fat. Margarine is a mixture of fat and water (light margarine or spreads have a higher percentage of water). Substituting one cup of oil for one cup of margarine adds more fat than the original recipe. The cookies will have a greasy taste and feel.

Creaming shortening or margarine with sugar helps produce a cookie with a tender texture. Substituting oil in a cookie recipe may change the texture and volume.

Most recipes will not work if all the fat is eliminated. But reducing fat is a good choice. Flavor does not have to be lost when reducing fat in recipes to make them healthier. When modifying a recipe using fruit purees, replace the amount of fat called for with half as much puree.

You can easily make your own mixes at home for many flour-based foods (cakes, quick breads, pie crusts, cookies), as well as foods containing a variety of spices such as spaghetti sauce, chili sauce and meatloaf.

Flour-Based Mixes

Using a favorite recipe, combine all of the dry ingredients with margarine. Blend well and refrigerate in an airtight container, labeled with directions for preparing. Date it and use within three months.

When you are ready to use the mix, empty it into a bowl and add liquid ingredients such as eggs, milk, water and vanilla as given in the original recipe.

All-Purpose Convenience Mix

  • 9 cups flour
  • 2 cups nonfat dry milk
  • ¼ cup baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • ¾ cup canola oil
In a large bowl, combine flour, dry milk, baking powder and salt. Stir together. Mix oil into dry mixture until smooth. Place in an airtight container. Refrigerate and use within a month. Or it can be divided and put into freezer-safe containers and frozen.

Cornbread Convenience Mix

Makes: 11 cups
  • 4 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • ¼ cup baking powder
  • 1½ cups instant dry milk
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup margarine
In a bowl, stir dry ingredients together until well mixed. Cut in margarine with a pastry blender. Store in tightly covered container in the refrigerator or freezer. Use within a month.

Salt-Free Seasoning Mix

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dill weed
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place in an airtight container. Store in a cool place. Use in place of salt to season food.

Hot Cocoa Convenience Mix

Makes: 4-1/3 cups
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1½ cups dry nonfat milk powder
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ cups non-dairy powdered creamer, light (optional)
Into a bowl, sift cocoa. Add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.
To use
In saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add ¾ cup Convenience Mix. Stir well.

Mocha Mix

  • 1/3 cup Hot Cocoa Convenience Mix
  • ¼ cup instant coffee
In a bowl, combine hot cocoa mix and instant coffee. Store in an airtight container.
To serve
In a cup, measure 1½ tablespoons mix. Add boiling water and stir well.

Bran Muffins

  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup whole bran cereal
  • 1½ cups All-Purpose Convenience Mix
Heat oven to 400°. In a bowl, place egg and beat. Add sugar, water and oil to egg. Continue beating. Blend in whole bran cereal. Add convenience mix. Stir quickly and vigorously until just mixed – batter will look lumpy. Spray or rub muffin tins lightly with oil. Fill tins about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes

Yeast Rolls

Makes: 16 rolls1 package dry active yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2½ cups All-Purpose Convenience Mix
In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, oil and convenience mix. Beat vigorously. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead until smooth, about 20 times. Cut off small sections of dough and shape into rolls. Arrange on a lightly greased baking pan so rolls are packed tightly and touching one another. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400°. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

For more information on saving money by making your own convenience food mixes and many more recipes, go to the University of Maine’s Extension service website.

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.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin
The observations of people from many places are now part of how we are learning more about bird populations. 

Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird populations are always shifting and changing. Today, folks like us can use our combined powers of observation to help scientists understand their movements. Every February, the national Audubon Society engages folks around the country to simply record and report what birds they spot anytime (for as few as 15 minutes) from Feb. 16-19.

Visit the official website of the Great Backyard Bird Count at for more information on how to participate and provide the information you collect.

Pre-emergent Weed Control

Many folks do not fuss over a perfect lawn but instead consider those early dandelions and henbit an early source of pollen or nectar for native bees.

But, if you apply a pre-emergent for crabgrass or other grassy weeds, remember to time application according to the weather. The first crabgrass seeds can sprout when the soil temperature is in the upper 50s. That may be earlier than you expect because of long, winter warm spells.

If you aren’t certain, it’s probably better to get it out a week or two early than to miss the window and end up with a bunch of crabgrass.

Some folks use the height of forsythia blooms as their guide for timing the first application, and then apply again weeks later according to the timing directions of the product.

Improving Compost

Keep adding green kitchen waste to your compost pile, and shovels of chicken or rabbit manure if you have it. If you don’t have a compost pile, it’s always a good time to start one because compost is one of the keys to good garden soil – be it for flowers, trees, shrubs, fruit or vegetables.

Enhance the nutritional quality of your compost with mineral supplements such as Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), Azomite or other rock dust (many different minerals), alfalfa pellets or blood meal (trace minerals). Sprinkle a little across the top of the pile every three or four months, depending on how much material you add to the pile.

This is especially helpful if your ground is poor and sandy.
Lamb’s ear pairs well with many other flowers. 

Trim Lamb’s Ears

Lamb’s ear is one of the few gray, fuzzy-leaf perennials that will thrive in our humid climate. To keep it looking good, plants need a thinning this time of year – before new growth begins.

To do this, simply reach down into the clumps and remove all the browned, matted leaves. Then clip the oldest, woodiest-looking stems, leaving those that are the most succulent. Although the plants will look rough right after the thinning, they will grow back quickly.

Removing old growth and matted leaves allows for good air circulation that helps keep the plants looking fresh. It helps to clean out under the plants at the end of spring, too.

Remember Houseplants

Experience has taught me that I need a reminder to water potted plants tucked away indoors for winter.

I use my phone to remind me about a precious 10-year-old hoya plant in a little-used bedroom and the citrus in my pop-up greenhouse. Out of sight, out of mind is no longer a problem with a handy phone alert to keep those precious plants watered.

Seeds for Spring

This is a reminder to buy seeds of your favorite spring flowers and vegetables if you have not already done so.

Also, test germination of leftover seeds by sprinkling them between two layers of paper towels. Keep the towels moist and at room temperature; check for sprouting every few days. Most viable seeds will have sprouted in a couple of weeks.

By storing leftover seeds in an airtight plastic container in the freezer, I have been able to keep most seeds for longer than five years.

If you do this, be sure to include one or two moisture-absorbing packs that often come with shoes or other products. Keeping the air inside the container dry is crucial to longevity of the stored seeds.
The unusual color combo of Queeny Lime Orange promises to be a big hit among zinnia fans. 

A Zany New Zinnia

Each year, the All America Selections organization names vegetables, herbs and flowers selected for outstanding performance throughout the United States.

In 2018, winners include a very interesting and aptly named zinnia, Queeny Lime Orange. It has large, dahlialike blooms sure to be a favorite for cutting and arrangements. The bloom colors range from dark coral to peach to orange to a light peach with a dark center as the flowers age.

It was the fan favorite in last year’s AAS trial gardens.

This new AAS Winner is also perfect for cut-flower gardens as the blooms last two to three weeks in a vase.

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


Is it all about the return on investment?

by Jessica Kelton

A few days ago, my teenage son informed me that he didn’t plan to have any kids because, in his words, "It doesn’t make financial sense."

Now, although I completely agree with him, I wonder how he came to this conclusion. Was it based on all the times he’s heard me tell him I don’t have any money because he’s already taken it all? Or did he sit down and put pen to paper and realize he would get absolutely zero monetary return from a kid? Not likely, but at least he’s thinking about what a financially sound investment should look like.

Unlike with kids, where I know there’s not a payoff in the end (financially, anyway), trying to make financial sense of agricultural investments can be a tricky proposition, particularly with irrigation.

We hear return on investment thrown around a lot when discussing equipment purchases, and irrigation systems are no different. Irrigation is a costly investment – so, yes, you should sit down and do the math to figure out increased net returns each year and the break-even point before making the decision to start installing pivots in your fields.

There are even websites that can do the math for you. Just enter some acreage numbers, up-front costs, crops you’ll plant, expected yield, etc. – and it will tell you everything you want to know. But again, in ag, it’s tricky because there are several assumptions being made to calculate that ROI. What is the expected yield? What crop is being planted? What is the expected price? (The one calculator I looked at defaulted to $1/lb. cotton for expected price!) No, you don’t ignore the ROI, but are there other things you need to take into consideration if you’re looking at irrigation for your farm?

In most cases, if you figure the return of irrigation over dryland acres, it doesn’t take long to see a financial benefit even with substantial purchase and operating costs of an irrigation system. But that increased yield, which makes it feasible, doesn’t just magically happen!

ROI is important for making a decision, but how you manage that irrigation to actually produce the expected yield is just as important.

How are you going to decide when to turn on the irrigation? A lot of growers wait for visible plant stress to turn on the system. That means, if the plant is wilted, it’s time for some water … probably not the best way to decide when to cut on irrigation.

There are several ways to schedule irrigation: checkbook method, online systems, soil sensors, etc. All of these are good tools for irrigation scheduling, but you have to commit to managing the system if you’re going to commit to the purchase.

And then there’s the weather. We can do all the calculations we want, but we can’t predict the rain five years from now. When your fields are irrigated, you can push for higher yields because you know you’ve got the water. But what if you get the timely rains? What if you don’t? That irrigation system is an insurance policy for when you don’t have the rainfall at the right time. Just like any insurance policy, its value is way more apparent when you need it, not when you don’t.

So as a numbers person, I definitely urge you to look at the return potential for irrigation, any large purchase or new practice. It has to make financial sense for your operation. But, just like kids, sometimes there’s some hidden value you just can’t calculate.

If you are considering installing irrigation and have some financial questions or have irrigation already and would like information on how to manage it for higher profit, contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System Farm and Agribusiness Management Agent, or check out the team at; on our Facebook site,; or Twitter,

Jessica Kelton is a regional farm and agribusiness management agent for ACES.

Managing Pressure – the Key to Success

It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about your job or hunting, you’ve got to learn to manage pressure.

by Chuck Sykes
Joey Dobbs, chairman of the Conservation Advisory Board, with some of the wood ducks he shot after the snowstorm. 
I’ve been drawing a blank when trying to find a topic for this month’s article. As I am writing, it’s December, hunting season is in full swing, and there is an endless supply of issues at work. I’m tired, stressed and about brain-dead. After an incredibly hectic and frustrating week at work, I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend in the woods where I could clear my mind and get back on track.

Thursday afternoon, weather forecasters began predicting a winter storm that I paid absolutely no attention to. I was getting started with a very important meeting Friday morning when I received an email advising us of the winter weather moving into our area.

By lunch, the rain had turned into sleet. By 2, snow was falling and we were scrambling to finish the meeting and trying to ensure our employees could get home safely.

By 2:30, I was beginning my typical 2.5-hour trip toward Choctaw County for my weekend of relaxation. Five hours later, I finally made it. It was an extremely nerve-wracking trip. The weather forecasters got this one correct. Power was out all over, cars were in the ditches and snow was falling at a rate I’d never seen in Alabama. By the time I made it, snow was approximately 6 inches deep and my stress-free weekend wasn’t starting so well.

My stress level was not getting better at all. In fact, it was much worse after that horrendous drive. But, as the weekend progressed, I began getting better by the hour.

Saturday morning, a friend and I had an incredible early morning wood duck hunt. The backdrop of bald cypress and water oaks was covered with a beautiful blanket of snow. It was a beautiful morning, and we took our limit of drakes.

In the same area, several other groups of hunters were doing their fair share of shooting, as well. Ducks were flying everywhere.

We decided to try our luck again bright and early Sunday morning. We scraped out a limit of ducks, but the numbers were down considerably from the previous morning. Again, several other groups of hunters were in the area, and their shot count was down, too.

We drove past the boat ramp on the way to the camp and stopped to talk with two boatloads of duck hunters. When I asked how their hunt went, they said it was very poor and they couldn’t understand what was different.

They said, "Friday morning was incredible, yesterday was good and today was terrible."
Chuck Sykes with two of the wood ducks he shot during the same hunt. 
At that moment, I was given the topic for my article.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your job or hunting, too much pressure can be devastating to your success. I’ve seen it time and time again with deer hunters. They hunt the same food plot over and over because it’s their favorite. They pay no attention to the wind or the fact that the constant disturbance in the area is causing the deer to change their pattern and sightings are going down as a result.

But, for some reason, when the duck hunters didn’t recognize it, it really hit home with me.
Unlike ducks in Arkansas or even north Alabama where new flights of ducks are periodically coming into the area, most of our wood ducks are residents. Therefore, we must be much more cautious with our hunting strategy.

I have several little openings along the creek where water oaks drop acorns in the shallow water that I can take a limit of wood ducks on most mornings. But, I’m very careful not to overhunt each spot. I’ll shoot my three as quickly as possible and get out where the remaining ducks can come and feed and loaf around until they go to roost in late afternoon.

The area I’m hunting is private land, but it has limited access from the Tombigbee River. So, other hunters can access a portion of the creek where I hunt if they don’t mind taking a cold boat ride before daylight, dodging barges on the river and floating logs and debris in the feeder creeks. They can hunt this area if they stay in the boat.

I’ve had to remind a few of them over the past few years that if they get on the bank or even stand up in the water with waders that they are trespassing and can be issued a citation. In addition, they must stay in areas of the creek accessible during normal water levels. They can’t take advantage of a high-water event to get onto private property.

I’m using wood duck hunting to prove the point of this article because of what I encountered with the duck hunters. They have one place they apparently love to hunt and, instead of finding other areas, they keep returning time and time again – in this instance, three days in a row. Their success went down with each consecutive day.

My point is this, wouldn’t it be wiser to hunt one day in your favorite spot and have a successful hunt by taking your limit of ducks instead of hunting the same spot three days in a row and killing the same number of ducks?

It doesn’t matter if it’s your best food plot or your preferred duck hole. Hunting pressure can turn your favorite place to hunt into a disaster. Managing hunting pressure can be the difference in having a full freezer or tag soup.
Chuck Sykes is director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

My Cellphone

by Nadine Johnson

Modern technology boggles my mind. My 2-year-old great-grandson handles it without any trouble.

I wonder how much money I have spent trying to find a cellphone I can operate.

Cellphones are actually a wonderful thing. I especially like to have one so I can quickly contact AAA if I have a flat tire away from home.

I think I got my first cellphone around 1995. It was so simple to use. It wouldn’t make pictures, of course, but it did what I needed it to do.

During the last three years, I’ve had several phones that had to be rubbed in exactly the correct manner in order to use them. I have wasted a good bit of money because I could not make them work.

Wonder of wonders – recently I found the perfect cellphone for me. I don’t have to rub it. The numerals are not tiny and easy for me to press. I personally think it was created with older people in mind.

Shortly after I received it, I took it to Sunday school for show and tell.

The lady in front of me said, "I’ve been trying to find a phone like that. Where did you get it?"

Of course, I gave her all the needed information.

Others keep asking me about it. For that reason I thought some of my readers would like to have the information, too. If so, you can call me.

A part of my problem is the fact that I go back to the days before electric lights. Yes, we had a telephone. It was mounted on the wall. Every family had a ring – not a number. The rings were something like one short and a long, three shorts, etc. Everyone could also listen in on anyone else talking on the line. There was no privacy, but who cared? It was good to have a telephone.

A wonderful woman we called "Miss Pearl" (and she was a pearl) had Central. In her house, there was an interesting piece of equipment with wires running every which way. If someone wanted to talk to a party who was not on their line or needed to make a long-distance call, Miss Pearl moved the wires to the perfect slot and the call went through.

On more than one occasion, I had the pleasure of watching this activity. When she answered the telephone, she always said, "Central," in a very precise manner.

There have been many changes in telephones during my lifetime. I had begun to think there was not a cellphone for me. Thankfully, there is one and I found it.

I’ll write about herbs next month.

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

Old Things Made New

by John Howle

"Power is not alluring to pure minds." ~ Thomas Jefferson

It’s amazing how many warnings and predictions our Founding Fathers made about unchecked power and the negative consequences it can bring. What would they think today as congressmen serve term after term for decades without anything positive getting accomplished and few laws getting passed? The swamp runs deep for sure.

I have an idea. Since it takes long periods of time for swamps to produce gasses and fossil fuels that bring great wealth, let’s pry some of these swamp dwellers loose from their seats in Congress and see if we can’t find oil under these guys. At least then something of value could be produced.

I would love to see elected congressmen serve only one or two terms and then be required to return to their homes and businesses. I think we would all be better off, and that temptation of lifetime seats and special interests would go away.
February is an ideal month to get a shot at coyotes during their mating. 

February Farm Hunting

February is an ideal time to control coyote populations around the farm. This time of year, coyotes are looking for mates. If you want to reduce the populations around your farm, it’s an ideal time to call coyotes into range. An unmanaged pack of coyotes can do serious damage to livestock, as well as the family pets.

Unattended calves, goats, sheep and chickens are subject to be attacked when they stray from the group. Calls imitating deer fawn, rabbits or even field mice can often bring coyotes in for a shot. In addition, during the winter when you are feeding cattle late in the evening, keep your rifle handy in case a coyote or two are seen.

If you are setting up a blind to hunt from, make sure you limit your movements and are completely camouflaged. Coyotes have keen vision and a strong ability to detect movement or things appearing out of place. Also, be sure to set up your blind downwind of the expected path of travel.

New Use for Old Barn Wood

You might have a shed or two on the farm falling in or past the useful stage. If that is the case, you can salvage the boards and do many things with them. If the boards are solid enough and have some length, you can repurpose them on newly constructed sheds. You can also use them to make items around the home such as coffee tables or picture frames. There is, however, a major concern with wood-boring insects.
A paint roller makes quick work of treating old barn wood. 
There is a product called Tim-bor that can be applied to the wood that is designed to kill powderpost beetles, termites and even discourage carpenter bees from boring. Tim-bor is similar in consistency to baking soda powder. Simply add water and spray the liquid onto the wood.

In addition to the Tim-bor, I like to add Permethrin SFR 36 percent and diesel fuel. The oil in diesel fuel is a natural preservative and insect repellent, and the permethrin works well to kill any insects present.

After I mix the Tim-bor, permethrin and diesel fuel in a bucket, I simply use a paint roller to apply the mixture. I apply it to the top, bottom and sides of each plank, and allow it to soak for a couple of weeks. The diesel will have a strong smell for a couple of weeks, but, after a short time, you can bring it in the house without smelling like you replaced the fuel pump on your diesel tractor.

Building a Picture Frame

We have an old barn about to collapse from the weight of a tree pressing on it from the side. Before bracing the barn with poles to prevent collapse, I took a few photos of the barn in its original position. The idea was to take a black and white photo of the barn and create a frame with some of the original barn wood.

To make a frame from barn wood involves a table saw, miter saw, drill, brace brackets and wood glue. With the table saw, cut the barn wood planks in 3-inch widths. Using a dado blade or multiple cuts with the standard saw blade, you can cut the inset (rabbit ear) where the photo, glass and photo backing is held in place.

Finally, use a miter saw to cut the 45-degree angles. This step is extremely important. If the corners aren’t exactly 45 degrees, your frame will be out of square and the edges won’t concisely join together. You want to be able to glue the wood of the joints and mount corner brackets for extra stability.

The 90-degree corner brackets are also essential. If the frame ever drops, the place the frame will break is one of the 45-degree angles. The metal, 90-degree corner brackets make sure the frame will stay strongly attached even if the glue seal breaks. You can have your glass cut at any glass shop and hang the photo on the wall with a couple of brackets and a section of wire.

The inside cut of the frame bordering the picture might need staining to match the older, uncut wood. A walnut stain applied carefully around this cut will add to the visual effect of the photo inside. You can also make all your cuts and assemble and glue the frame. Then you can wait till the project is complete before applying the mixture of diesel, permethrin and Tim-bor.

This February, whether you are talking old, swamp-dwelling politicians or old barns, do what you can to make old things new.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

PALS: Setting the Bar High at Highland Elementary

Students in Gadsden are proud to be on board with the Clean Campus Program.

by Jamie Mitchell

Alabama PALS is pleased to announce Highland Elementary in Gadsden has decided to join the Clean Campus Program! At the direction of teacher Wanda Gilliland, the Science Club at Highland Elementary will be the leaders of the program at the school.

I recently spoke to the fifth- and sixth-grade students at the school to fill them in on the Clean Campus Program and to motivate them to set the bar high on campus!

There are several basic guidelines to being a part of the Clean Campus Program. We generally ask every school involved to plan to have regular campus cleanups, recycle if it is available in their community and have some involvement with making their community more aware of their litter-free movement.

I always tell schools they can decide how involved they would like to be in the program. We are happy to see schools involved even at the most minimal levels. Doing a small part is better than doing nothing!

On the other end of the spectrum, we really reward the schools participating at the highest levels. With our annual Clean Campus Awards/Scrapbook contest, schools can win a first prize of $1,000, second prize of $750 and third prize of $500.

It truly is up to the schools as to how involved they would like to be with the program!

The Science Club is planning to start recycling cardboard and paper in their school. They also liked the idea of making bookmarks from cereal and snack boxes to put in their local library to help spread the antilittering message into the community. Campuswide cleanups are also on their to-do list!

We are so excited to have Highland Elementary onboard with the Clean Campus Program! We have the utmost confidence in the leadership of the Science Club as they begin this new venture.

One of the most wonderful things about the Clean Campus Program is that it is FREE to all Alabama public and private schools!

Is there a school near you that may want to join our litter-free movement? Please have them give me an email at or a call at 334-224-7594.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Pope's Country Store

A Friendly Stoppin’ Place in Marengo County

by Carolyn Drinkard
A visit to Pope’s means ice cream and treats. The store was originally owned by the great-grandparents of these children, (from left) Anderson Gates, Natalie Gates, Maddox Gates, William Gates (baby), Matthew Gates, Lindsey Fuller, Beth Fuller, Sarah Grace Gates and John Luke Gates. 
Small, country stores are falling by the wayside, unable to compete with big stores and the internet. For many rural areas, the demise of their convenience store means having to drive miles for basic needs such as food and fuel. One community store in rural Marengo County, however, continues to thrive, connecting several communities and providing travelers a friendly place to stop.

LeAnn Pope Moore and Marcus Pope grew up within view of this little country store. For years, Ms. Eleanor Cooper ran the store, known as Cooper’s Country Store. Each morning, Cooper made a pot of coffee and saved one cup just for Mac Pope, LeAnn and Marcus’s father. The siblings visited the store frequently and had fond memories of their times there.

When the business was put up for sale in February 2017, LeAnn and her husband Bayne, and Pope purchased it, changing the name to Pope’s Country Store. People in this area know the Pope and Moore families as small-business owners, farmers, loggers, foresters and merchants. For all the family members, this store has always been a regular stopping place. Now, it would have family ties.

Pope’s Country Store is located in Vineland, an unincorporated area of Marengo County. For years, it has proudly served as a one-stop destination for locals from the surrounding communities of Arlington, Surginer, Magnolia, Moore’s Valley, Shiloh, Pine Hill and Dixons Mills. In fact, Pope’s faithful customer base comes from three different counties: Marengo, Wilcox and Clarke.

Located at the intersection of Highways 10 and 25, Pope’s Country Store welcomes many other travelers passing through this area. Northwest Alabama residents, headed to Alabama’s beaches, often stop in for fuel, cold drinks, snacks and bathroom breaks. In addition, Highway 25 is a popular thoroughfare for University of Alabama students, traveling to and from Tuscaloosa. Many make this a regular stopping point, as there is only one other fuel stop between Vineland and Greensboro.
The owners of Pope’s Country Store are (from left) Bayne and LeAnn Moore and Marcus Pope. 
Employees affectionately tell stories of UA students who have underestimated their need for gas. Heading to Gulf Shores, one group of girls saw their empty light flashing. They managed to get just a few feet from the turnoff to the store. Employees helped push the car to the tanks. Needless to say, the youngsters were so grateful, on their return trip, they stopped by again to thank the staff.

Pope’s Country Store is a community hub, stocking staples that save folks a trip to town, meaning driving 13 miles to Thomasville. Pope’s also serves delicious, Southern-style meals. They start early with a brisk breakfast business, then follow with lunch and a short-order supper. Everyone in the area praises their cooks, who proudly say they cook the old-fashioned way. In season, Pope’s offers crawfish and fresh Alabama Gulf shrimp. They also smoke their own barbecue pork and brisket. They prepare locally grown vegetables and produce, as well as made-from-scratch desserts. In addition, Pope’s caters parties and special events.

Pope’s stocks traditional road fare, popular with truckers and loggers: black-rind cheese, crackers, Beanie Weenies, potted meat, sardines and Vienna sausages. Additional amenities are clean restrooms and comfortable seating areas.

"Our unique location lends itself to a faithful customer base," LeAnn laughed, "but we often get a lot of other folks in here. We see truck drivers, logging crews, farmers, cattlemen, engineers, teenagers, road crews, old-timers, teachers, preachers, storytellers and comedians. They all walk through our door!"
Pope’s Country Store is located at the intersection of Highways 10 and 25. Locals often refer to the store as “The Intersection.” 
The three owners rotate the times they oversee the store, because all three work full-time jobs elsewhere. LeAnn is the librarian at Thomasville Middle School, Bayne works for the Alabama Forestry Commission and Pope owns South Alabama Wood Products.

LeAnn believes the store offers something truly unique and quite special, something she describes as "endearment and entertainment."

"I love these people," she said. "The store provides a place to visit and to serve! The stories we hear are priceless!"

LeAnn told about her first week at the store. It seems a young lady had lost her car charger, so she sold hers to the lady. In another story, she related how a local farmer had left a load of watermelons in front of the store. The trailer was there for over a week … and no one stole any melons.
Mary Garner is the crew chief. She orders, stocks and waits on customers in the front. Mary’s good-natured personality and ready smile are what customers always expect when they come into Pope’s. 
"You have to come in for the entertainment!" she laughed. "Why, just last week, one of our regulars pulled up with a rooster riding shot-gun in his car! Now, where else could you see that?"

Pope’s also provides convenience as an overnight parking area for trucks, trailers, tractors and hay equipment. On weekends, many truck drivers leave their rigs, fueled and ready to pull out on Monday. It is not unusual to drive by and see large farm tractors or trucks, pulling stock trailers, refueling at the tanks. Pope’s is also a popular stop for farmers, pulling feed trailers to and from Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Faunsdale.

Pope’s provides employment for community members.

"We are able to provide full-time jobs to three of the hardest-working women in the area!" said LeAnn.

Mary Garner is the crew chief. Her helpers are Danielle Rembert and Tasha Square. The group uses a team effort to plan menus that LeAnn posts on Facebook.

LeAnn pointed out that the store offers ease for her family.

"Having the store has also been very convenient for all of us," she laughed. "I’ve almost quit cooking at my own home!"

Amber Cooper Fuller often shops the store. Her grandparents once owned it, so she has many fond memories of being there. Fuller believes small, community convenience stores will make a comeback.

"For my generation, we have everything shipped to our homes," Fuller said. "Having this store nearby means I can run over and get extra things I need. I also see my neighbors. Pope’s really helps out a lot of people in this area."

This small country store provides food, fuel and friendly clerks, but it also offers much more. While connecting multigenerations, it also serves as a nostalgic link to the past. Most important, however, Pope’s Country Store is just a friendly place to stop and rest awhile.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

Romancing the Farm

Well, I was beginning to get spoiled with the warm temperatures of autumn. And then, Dec. 8, most of Alabama paused for a little snow storm. Brrr. It was a perfect time to place seed orders. 
by Herb T. Farmer

Happy Groundhog Day, everybody! Let’s hit the ground running this month! I want to plant some veggies right now!

I’m going to have to show the farm a little more love than I have in the recent past.

It is so obvious when this old homestead begins to shake the sugar tree in order to get more attention from me! The last three years of hobbling around with a bum foot, 13 months of that time in a boot limiting all motion to none and the lack of physical exercise made me sluggish. I gained fatty insulation around my heart. Not good!

Well, you can’t always get what you want. I made some adjustments in my diet and the way I work, both in the house and on the farm. Let’s just say it " … ain’t no drag" cause "papa’s got a brand-new bag!"

Before changes were made, though, I had to get some direction from physical therapists. These folks took my ailments and desires down on paper, measured my ranges of motion, estimated my capabilities and came up with a plan to whip me back into shape in just six months. And let me tell you folks, sometimes it felt like I was tied to the whipping post!

They strapped me into this machine called the AlterG, Anti-Gravity Treadmill. I would walk for 40 minutes while watching a video screen of me walking. I literally had to learn how to walk again and that was interesting.

Those therapists had me doing all kinds of things from pulling cables on a universal weight machine to standing with my back toward a corner on one leg with my eyes closed and a chair in front of me in case I needed to suddenly stop from falling. As comical as it sounds, I had developed balance issues. Oh, and I did fall into the chair … many times.

All of my seed orders are in and I’m preparing to start them right away. I have plenty of herbaceous cuttings to stick, as well.
About four times a year, the copper-bottomed pans get their Bar Keeper’s Helper deep-cleaning. Here are some of the smaller ones waiting their turn. 
This time of year, the greenhouse is my happy place – my escape from day-to-day distractions such as the leaky shower pan needing to be caulked or the package delivery services knocking on the door. It can be 30 degrees outside and I’ll be toasty warm in the old sun pit.

Grab a T-shirt, don the overalls, slide on the boots and go to work.

I’ll have the music playing in the warm greenhouse while I mix up some of my special soil blend for cuttings and seedlings. Soil mixing and music are just like beans and cornbread – ‘cause they go hand in hand.

Before I go on to the recipe, let me try to get my farm to remember me, for I have long neglected her.

When I made the decision to do this kind of work, I knew it would be a change for the best and a lifetime commitment. It’s like songs were written for me and the garden soil. "No matter how they tossed the dice, it had to be. The only one for me is you, and you for me. So happy together."

Ole farm, you’re my best friend. Ooh, you make me live. Oh, you’re the best friend that I ever had and I’ve been with you such a long time. You’re my sunshine and I want you to know that my feelings are true. I really love you. Oh, you’re my best friend.

I will take better care of you, and give you a daisy a day when they are in season – or maybe a zinnia. I will feed you only the best fertilizers and I promise not to poison you with evil chemicals. If weeds get in the way, you can bet I’ll grab the cultivator and I’ll be stroking you like Clarence Carter! That’ll get me going for sure.

I’ll write you love letters in the sand – or soil, as it be.

And I’ll write them extra big so when that weird neighbor a couple of farms down kites over Sunday mornings in his go kart ultralight, it’ll give him something to talk about at the barber shop in town.

I have a lot of simple pleasures I am just now realizing. For too many years, I took them for granted and didn’t realize how important they were. One thing for sure is my farm makes me stay positive and keep on smiling!

Sometimes we expect too much as we age. I know I did. I wanted too much from my body and I had to change some things so I could get on with my life. It just goes to show that, if you try sometimes, you just might find you’ll get what you need to enjoy living.

Let's eat!
The egg is the last thing to go on. It still needs to be lidded for the egg to get to a safe temperature. The only trouble I have with the bacon, egg and cheeseburger is, by the time I get it prepped and cooked, I don’t even taste the first few bites because it just slides down my mouth like a hungry baby robin getting that worm poked down its throat. 
Today, we are having a big, juicy, gluten-free bacon, egg and cheeseburger!

Start with about a 1 pound portion of choice beef rump roast. Put it in your Cuisinart and grind it into ground beef. Note: If the roast is extra lean, add a slice of bacon.

Shape into a burger patty about 1.5-inch thick. Dimple the center of the patty with your thumb to keep it cooking evenly. Add salt, pepper and onion powder to taste. Encircle the beef with two to three slices of bacon. Pin it with toothpicks, if necessary.

Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium heat. Coat the cooking surface with olive oil. Place the burger in the pan and cover with lid. Check on the burger after about eight minutes. If the meat is brown on the down side, flip it over. Do not mash the beef patty with the spatula! Wait about two minutes to replace the lid. (This allows some of the water to evaporate.) Place some rings of yellow onion on top of the patty. You may also want to add some rings of sweet or jalapeño peppers or fresh mushrooms, too. Cover the skillet and wait about four minutes. Turn patty and onions again. Place cheddar cheese, more rings of onion and an egg on top. Cover again. Cook for two to three more minutes. Remove your masterpiece and plate it up. You don’t even need a bun! Break the yolk of the egg and let it drift across the burger. Let it rest for five minutes. Eat it!

Dear ole farm, Happy Valentine’s Day! Whenever you need me, I’ll be there ….

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

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh … I’ll be there.

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.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: Merle had never had his hunting dogs get loose; so, to get them up, he had to play it by ear.

Did this man have to listen for his dogs?

Initially, this referred to the playing of music without reference to printed notation. More recently it is also used figuratively to mean to "handle a situation in an impromptu manner"; that is, without reference to predetermined rules or guidelines.

The use of the word "ear" to denote musical talent dates back to the 16th century. William Caxton’s assistant, Jan van Wynkyn (aka Wynkyn de Worde), printed a book by William Bonde, "The Pilgrimage of Perfection," 1526, containing:

"In the psalmody ... haue a good eare." [The psalmody was a place where psalms were sung – what is now called the choir.]

The phrase "play by ear" came into use much later. The first record of it is in an 1839 edition of The Edinburgh Review:

"Miss Austen is like one who plays by ear, while Miss Martineau understands the science."

The figurative sense came into being in the mid-20th century in the United States. The early references in that context all relate to sports, notably baseball. For example, this story about the proposed sale of the Brooklyn Dodgers, from The Coshocton Tribune, February 1934:

"Before going further in this direction, perhaps I can believe that awful suspense by stating that I am reliably informed today that the Brooklyn Dodgers, otherwise the daffiness boys, otherwise the young men who play by ear, are for sale."

The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein

Valentine’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is an annual holiday celebrated on Feb. 14. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.

I thought I would include some Valentine’s Day trivia. The cards, candy and flowers we acquired from England. In Slovenia, it is celebrated as the first day to work in the vineyards and fields. Shakespeare mentioned Valentine’s Day in "Hamlet." In Latin America, it is common for friends to perform acts of appreciation for each other.

The United States has the distinction of it being a highly commercialized celebration. We send roughly 2 million Valentine’s Day cards per year (not counting the ones kids give each other at school). Most people spend well over $100 on their Valentine each year. That makes Valentine’s Day sales to be roughly $20 million!

Whatever Valentine’s Day means to you, have a great time.
~ Mary

For the month of March, we are looking for recipes featuring bananas, celery, crab meat or peanuts, and ones for sauces.

April’s recipes will feature broccoli, carrots, crawfish and garlic, and ones for grilled cheese.

We are always interested in anyone who would be willing to be interviewed and share some of her … or his … favorite recipes with us. Contact us if you are interested.

Get those recipes rolling in!
~ Editor

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


  • 2 cups semisweet, bittersweet or milk chocolate chips, melted
  • 1½ cups assorted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, etc.) plus more for garnish
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. (Take care to avoid wrinkles.)
In a medium bowl, combine chocolate and nuts. Scrape mixture onto foil and spread to an approximate 12x9 rectangle. Sprinkle with additional finely chopped nuts, if desired. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.

Transfer bark and foil to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1½-inch pieces.

Tip: To melt chocolate, microwave on medium for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving on medium, stirring every 20 seconds, until melted. Or place chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.


Cooking spray
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour or all- purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped strawberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed), plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen (not thawed)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice or lime juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • Confectioners’ sugar for garnish
Heat oven to 350°. Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and generously coat with cooking spray.


In a medium bowl, combine flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add oil and butter. Using fingertips, blend into flour mixture until evenly combined. Mixture will be a little crumbly. Firmly press dough into prepared pan. Bake until just barely beginning to brown around the edges, 15-20 minutes.


In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries, rhubarb and water. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until fruit is very soft and mostly broken down, 4-6 minutes.

Into a medium bowl, pour through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on solids to extract all liquid. Pour strained juice into a glass measuring cup. You need 1 cup strained juice; remove any extra or add a little water if short. Stir lemon/lime juice into fruit juice.

In a medium bowl, whisk granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt until well combined. Whisk in eggs. Stir in juice mixture.

Pour filling over crust. Bake until just set, 15-20 minutes. (The center should still be a little jiggly – it will firm up as it cools.) Let cool to room temperature in pan on a wire rack, about 1½ hours. Gently lift out of pan all in one piece using foil’s edges. Cut into 9 squares.

Garnish with fresh strawberries and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, just before serving.


  • 1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist white cake mix
  • Water, vegetable oil and egg whites, called for on cake mix box
  • 1 container fluffy white frosting
  • Red food color
Heat oven to 350° for regular cake pans, 325° for coated cake pans. Grease or lightly spray bottoms only of one 8-inch round and one 8-inch square pan.

In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil and egg whites with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter into pans.

Bake square pan 25-29 minutes, round pan 29-34 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pans. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Cut round cake in half. Put square cake on tray with one point toward you. Place cut side of each half round against one of top sides of square cake to make a heart. Tint frosting with a few drops food color. Frost cake with frosting. Store loosely covered. You can decorate the cake with candy flowers, sprinkles or anything else you want.

Note from Mary: I know this may be a bit hard to visual in your head, but just follow directions, point the cake pieces as directed and you will get a beautiful heart.


  • 12 large fresh strawberries, rinsed
  • 1 package (3-ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream
Slice stems from strawberries to form a flat base. Place strawberries on cutting surface, pointed end up. With sharp knife, carefully slice each strawberry in half vertically to within ¼ inch of base. Cut each half into 3 wedges to form 6 petals. (Do not slice through base). Pull petals apart slightly.

In small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and sour cream until light and fluffy. With pastry bag and star tip or small spoon, fill strawberries with cream cheese mixture.

Note from Mary: Please cut carefully and do not cut through base or your strawberry is ruined!


  • 1 pint (2 cups, 18-20 strawberries) medium-large strawberries
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate or white vanilla baking squares
  • 1 teaspoon shortening or vegetable oil
  • Gently rinse strawberries and dry on paper towels (berries must be completely dry). Line cookie sheet with waxed paper.
In 1-quart saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate/vanilla squares and shortening, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Dip lower half of each strawberry into mixture; allow excess to drip back into saucepan. Place on cookie sheet.

Refrigerate uncovered about 30 minutes or until chocolate/vanilla is firm, or until ready to serve. Store covered in refrigerator so chocolate does not soften (if made with oil, chocolate will soften more quickly at room temperature).

Note from Mary: Super easy and delicious. Make some in both chocolate and white, and you will have a dish that is fit for a king.


  • 2 pints fresh strawberries, sliced
  • ¼ cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • Cooking spray, for pan
  • 2¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a large bowl, combine strawberries and 3 tablespoons sugar. Toss until coated. Refrigerate for an hour.

Heat oven to 400°. Spray 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour in 1½ cups heavy cream. Stir until just combined. Drop dough into prepared pan and press down evenly.
Bake until edges are golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, make whipped cream topping: In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat remaining heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

To serve, slice cake into 12 pieces. Top bottom shortcake with sugared strawberries, then second shortcake. Top with whipped cream.


  • Olive oil spray
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups nonfat, low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup chopped zucchini
Spray a large pot with olive oil spray. In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry onions, carrots and garlic for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and carrots soften. Add broth, tomato paste, tomatoes, cabbage, green beans and all spices. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until veggies are all tender. Add zucchini and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes.

Note from Mary: I am including this just in case you have stuck to your resolution to lose weight! It is colorful, healthy and delicious.

The Role of Vitamin A in Ruminant Nutrition

Vitamin A needs are highest during the stress of calving that often corresponds with the time of year when natural vitamin A intake is at its lowest due to lack of green grass. 
by Jackie Nix

As you have probably already heard, a global vitamin shortage (particularly vitamin A) has skyrocketed feed prices and set the feed industry on edge. This shortage is expected to continue well into 2018. As a result, many feed manufacturers have taken steps to reduce vitamin levels, particularly vitamin A, in their products. But is that a good idea? This article seeks to discuss the importance of vitamin A in the ruminant diet and explore the pitfalls of cutting vitamin A out of the diet or storing supplements or feed for long periods.

What is vitamin A and what does it do?

Vitamin A, or retinol, is a colorless, alcohol compound. It is one of the fat-soluble vitamins (along with vitamins D, E and K). Vitamin A is necessary for ruminants’ vision. It affects bone development through bone metabolism. It directly affects immunity through both production of antibodies and through maintaining an adequate barrier to infection with healthy epithelial cells.

Vitamin A deficiency results in night blindness and formation of ulcers on the cornea, unchecked bone growth manifesting as malformed bones and joints, and reduces the primary antibody response in the event of infection.

Additionally, vitamin A’s role in the maintenance of mucous membranes and epithelial linings directly affects other production parameters. Deficiency often results in keratinization (a form of thickening and hardening of tissues) and thus a loss of tissue function and increased susceptibility to infection. Keratinization of the digestive and respiratory tracts results in diarrhea and pneumonia. These are typical secondary symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. Keratinization of the reproductive tract results in poor sperm production in males and early abortion in females.

How do ruminants get vitamin A?

Ruminants get vitamin A solely through their diet, either from manmade supplements or from plants. Plants make carotene that the ruminant converts into vitamin A. Plants contain carotene to varying degrees. A relatively good indicator of carotene content is the amount of greenness of the plant. Fresh forages and early cut, leafy, green hays have high carotene content. Cereal grains (excluding yellow corn) have poor carotene content. While yellow corn has more carotene than other cereal grains, its content is only one-tenth of well-cured quality hay.

Ruminants on high-grain diets and/or lacking adequate access to green-growing forages are most susceptible to vitamin A deficiencies. This is most common during winter months when forages are dormant, but also in situations of overgrazing or drought, too.

Vitamin A is stored in the liver and can be built up during times of abundance to help animals cope during scarce periods. It is believed healthy adults can store enough vitamin A to last several months. Young animals have much less storage capacity. Borderline deficiency is much more common than severe deficiency and the need for vitamin A is greatest during calving (kidding or lambing), breeding and other times of stress.

Vitamin A Instability

All sources of vitamin A are relatively unstable and degrade over time. The carotene content of cut hay decreases during the curing process and then the content of the cured hay decreases during storage. The amount of degradation depends on temperature during storage, exposure to air and sunlight, and amount of time in storage. Under average conditions, the carotene content of hay can be expected to drop roughly 6-7 percent per month. Thus, hay over six months old has lost at least half its vitamin A activity.

The vitamin A content in commercial feeds and supplements also decreases over time (see Tables 1 and 2). Generally, a loss of over 50 percent over one year is common, but losses greater than 50 percent in six months are possible.
For this reason, it is important to only purchase enough feed or mineral/vitamin supplements that can be consumed within six months or less. Talk with your feed manufacturer for specific storage recommendations on the products you are utilizing.

Why Cutting Vitamin A Levels Isn’t Always the Answer

In the past, we’ve never worried about vitamin A degradation in feeds and supplements as a rule. Vitamin A was relatively cheap and we oversupplemented in many cases. Thus, even with a loss of vitamin A activity, our animals were getting plenty. Now that vitamin A prices have skyrocketed and supply is short, we need to be more mindful of what we are delivering and when.

Cattle’s vitamin A needs are highest during stressful periods such as calving and lactation. Given that many of our cattle calve before green grass is abundant, it is critical to supplement these cows with adequate vitamin A through pregnancy and lactation. Once pastures are green and lush again, vitamin A can safely be reduced. But until then, you are placing your herd at risk.


Even with the high cost of vitamin A right now, the extremely high cost of lost production from lack of vitamin A makes continued supplementation during winter months still important. If one wishes to cut back, do so after spring green up when plenty of new forage is available.

All SWEETLIX supplement products for cattle, goats and sheep contain varying levels of vitamin A. For information about which SWEETLIX supplement will best fit your specific situation, visit your local Quality Co-op location, go online at or call 1-87SWEETLIX.

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.

The Ultimate Survivors

Unfortunately, winter weather is usually not the determining factor for insect numbers.

by Tony Glover
Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, larva on cotton, Gossypium hirsutum (Credit:Eddie McGriff, University of Georgia, 
If you think a cold winter will solve our insect problems, you have a lot to learn about most of our perennial pests.

One expert stresses that insects are more than a match for Mother Nature, even when she strikes with unusual vengeance, with prolonged stretches of cold weather.

"Some crops, fruit trees and even livestock animals may fall prey to cold weather, but insects can survive even record cold," said Dr. Xing Ping Hu, an Alabama Extension entomologist and Auburn University professor of entomology.

As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – a maxim that can be aptly applied to insects in the wintertime, according to Hu.

"Insects have been around for ages and have survived a wide range of weather conditions," Hu said.

They have adapted for surviving even in the coldest temperatures either by entering diapause – ceasing to feed, grow or reproduce – by hibernating in protected sites or by burrowing deep down into highly protective sites such as leaf litter or the ground.

Over time, some species simply develop increased freeze tolerance or resistance.

Alaska and Minnesota, two states known for brutal winters, are a testimony to the adaptive ability of insects, according to Hu.
Adult Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. (Credit: Susan Ellis, 
"We should remember that both states are also known for their active mosquito populations during the summer," she added. "In fact, mosquitoes are far more susceptible to lack of spring rainfall than they are to prolonged and unusually cold weather."

Last year, we enjoyed more rainfall than normal that helped us recover from the 2016 drought, but mosquitoes were terrible all year long in many areas.

Aside from that, the Deep South cold snaps have neither been cold enough nor lasted long enough to make any appreciable dent in insect populations, with the possible exception of imported fire ants. However, fire ants would need two weeks of temperatures below 10 degrees to have much effect on the number of ant colonies, so do not expect a big reduction unless an event like this happens.

For another major Southern pest, termites, extremely prolonged and frigid weather typically isn’t an issue at all. Termites manage to avoid freezes entirely by burrowing into the ground.

Furthermore, some pests of vegetables and forage crops do not overwinter here at all. Much like birds, they overwinter in more tropical climates and migrate back when the weather gets warm. They may have a little longer trip, but they will be here sooner or later. Fall armyworms are an important example of a migratory pest.

Cold weather and its persistence may affect the arrival time of some pest, but usually not their severity. Simply put, if you are hoping for a cold winter to reduce the pests, you may be in for a disappointment even if it does turn off cold.

"Garden Bugs," pubs/docs/A/ANR-1045/ANR- 1045.pdf

"Mosquitoes In and Around Homes,"http://www.

"Fire Ant Control Products," pubs/docs/A/ANR-0175-A/ANR-0175-A.pdf

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

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