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January 2009

Miniature Dream Donkeys are “Easy Keepers”

Fifth grader Justin Butts helps Teresa Caudle show her Dream Donkeys.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

"If a donkey or mule doesn’t want to move, he probably has a good reason and you should just agree with him," Teresa Caudle explained.

As the owner of C&S Dream Donkeys, Teresa seems to not only know, but sense, what her diminutive animals are thinking. She thinks mules and donkeys have a bad reputation for being stubborn they don’t really deserve. If a mule or donkey acts in a stubborn way, it’s probably because someone has mistreated it or has trained it in the wrong way, maybe even years ago.

"With these little donkeys, learning has to be fun," she explained. "They want to know why they’re doing something. Then they’re quick to learn and quick to obey."

Teresa Caudle shares a special moment with one of her donkeys.

Teresa, who has always been known as an animal lover, quickly fell in love with the miniature donkeys when she and her husband Jack lived on seven acres in the Smoke Rise area, near where Blount, Jefferson and Walker counties converge. When they moved to the current ranch of 27 acres just outside Oneonta about three years ago, she began expanding her herd, which now numbers 22 — and counting!

Although several of the little donkeys have won prestigious awards, she feels their companionship is what makes them really special.

Legend has it the little donkey was so humbled Jesus chose him to ride into Jerusalem one last time, and the little donkey volunteered the next week to carry Jesus’ cross.

Miniature donkeys at C&S Dream Donkeys.

When he was denied that honor, the humble animal followed Jesus to Golgotha where he stood trembling as Jesus was raised on that horrible wood. The legend says as the cross’ shadow fell on the donkey’s back, the little donkey was forever marked as a sign of remembrance of humbleness and true love.

Even though Teresa said she’s not certain if that’s exactly what happened more than 2,000 years ago, she can certainly attest to the little animals’ personalities.

Her herd bears that remembrance cross—a dorsal stripe starting from the mane and running down their backs and a matching stripe that goes over each shoulder—certainly makes you stop and think!

Although she raises and breeds miniature donkeys, Teresa Caudle shares a laugh with draft mule, Evie, who stands 17 hands tall!

In this past summer’s 17th Annual Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show in Shelbyville, Tenn., Blountsville fifth-grader Justin Butts won several ribbons driving four-year-old Digger pulling an easy-entry cart. All-in-all in Shelbyville, C&S donkeys won two first place ribbons, two fourth place and one sixth place.

Teresa (and Justin) said that really made them proud since the show this year grew to 1,233 entries with approximately 400 animals competing, making it the second largest event of its kind in the United States!

Justin had to control Digger as he pulled the cart through several maneuvers and obeyed commands like backing into a small garage.

More recently Justin and Digger and several more of C&S’s donkeys competed in Andulusia and came home with two first place ribbons, four seconds, two thirds and a Reserve High Point.

One of the females shown is named Maybelline, named so because her natural coloring around her eyes makes her appear to be wearing eye makeup!

But most people are not going to compete in competitions so why would anyone else want a tiny donkey: too small to ride and too small to act as a guard animal for others?

Teresa explained there have been a lot of "horse people" who may be growing older and still want animals, but just feel their age or maybe physical limitations may be prohibiting them from caring for a large animal. Others with smaller children like the idea of an animal the kids can care for more easily than a regularly-sized horse.

"These little animals are just a perfect fit," Teresa said. "They’re like big puppy dogs. They want to be brushed and petted. They don’t bite or kick—if you buy them from a reputable dealer that’s been handling them their whole lives. I even know of people who keep them in their back yards!"

And the little donkeys can be lifelong friends. They can live to be from 25 to 40 years old and weigh approximately 250 pounds.

"They are really easy keepers," Teresa remarked. "I give mine about a handful of dry pellets each day and about a flake of hay. And of course they get treats as well.

"The animals also usually give birth easily. They normally deliver their babies easily and the babies weigh about 10 to 15 pounds. Usually you just walk out and find them standing in the pasture the next morning by their mamas."

Although she can trim them herself, Teresa usually has farrier Larry Crane from Warrior trim their hooves about every six weeks.

Jason Butts, Justin’s dad, is Teresa’s "right hand farm man" doing everything from building the rows of neat fencing and cross fencing to helping with routine animal care.

And Teresa also has another "helper." The "S" in the ranch’s name comes from Teresa’s dad, Leon Sanders, who lives in Limestone Springs.

"A lot of times we just have to sneak and not tell mother when we buy a new animal," Teresa laughed.

All of Teresa’s animals must meet breed standards. Several of the females are due from now until spring.

"It’s really interesting to watch their different personalities develop and to see the traits they get from their mamas and their sires," she said.

C&S is open by appointment only to only those "serious" about the miniature animals. For more information you may phone Teresa at 205-274-8361.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.



2009 National FFA Week February 21-28, 2009


National FFA Week Logo

By Jacob Davis

The Alabama FFA Association and the National FFA Organization will celebrate National FFA Week, February 21-28, 2009. The theme this year, "Step Up/Stand Out," embodies all the best about FFA members, from the most recognizable symbol of the organization, the blue corduroy jacket — a symbol of pride and tradition, to the bright future of agriculture and the traditions of leadership and hard work.

More than half a million members around the nation, including over 15,000 in Alabama, will participate in FFA Week activities at the local and state level. The focus of National FFA Week is to tell America about the great opportunities available in agriscience education for all youth. With its beginnings in 1928 as the Future Farmers of America (FFA), the National FFA Organization today reaches out to all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The Alabama FFA Association was chartered in 1929. FFA is committed to developing character and leadership skills and preparing members for a lifetime of civic leadership and career success. FFA members have opportunities to attend national leadership conferences, develop a supervised learning project, learn life skills and serve their communities with service projects.

District and State Officers of the Alabama FFA Association are (from left): Joey Stabler, South District Sentinel, Daphne; Andrea Pittman, South District Treasurer, Eufaula; Morgan Lambard, South District Secretary, Leroy; Maranda Foust, South District Vice President, New Brockton; Kristen Bernard, South District President, Ashford; Jessica Goolsby, Central District Sentinel, Montevallo; Mary Helen Jones, Central District Reporter, Wetumpka; Matt Chandler, Central District Treasurer, Billingsley; Paige Tucker, Central District Secretary, Pell City; Randy Stanford, Central District Vice President, Lineville; Kacey Colquitt, Central District President, Marbury; Peyton Gilbert, North District Historian, Sylvania; Patrick Howard, North District Reporter, McAdory; Hunter Garnett, North District Treasurer, Danville; Bailey Blankenship, North District Secretary, Speake; Sarah Beth Worsham, North District Vice President, Cherokee; Wiley Bailey, North District President, Sand Rock; Kimberly Henderson, National Officer Candidate, Enterprise; Anna Leigh Peek, State Sentinel, West Limestone; Clifford Brown, State Reporter, Marbury; Raven Buchanan, State Treasurer, Wilcox Central; Michelle Vasbinder, State Secretary, Enterprise; Brandy Feltman, State Vice President, Oakman; and Zachary Jones, State President, Spring Garden.

Through classroom instruction and hands-on learning, agriscience education and FFA are making a positive difference in the lives of students everyday. FFA members are the leaders of tomorrow. They are our future engineers, scientists, teachers and producers. Students may earn awards and recognition and educational scholarships to pursue their career goals.

For Alabama chapters, that focus on the future showed last fall when 584 state members joined more than 57,000 members, advisors and supporters at the 81st national convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. The state delegation had competitors involved in 12 different career development events (CDE).

The Eufaula FFA Chapter’s restored 1946 Case A model tractor captured first place at the convention, defeating nine other teams from across the United States in the restoration contest. Noah Sims of the Falkville FFA Chapter was selected as the national proficiency winner for Agriculture Mechanics Energy Systems. The Horse Shoe Bend FFA Chapter’s forestry team placed second in the nation.

Alabama’s current state officers are: President Zachary Jones, Spring Garden FFA; Vice-President Brandy Feltman, Oakman FFA; Secretary Michelle Vasbinder, Enterprise FFA; Treasurer Raven Buchanan, Wilcox-Central FFA; Reporter Clifford Brown, Marbury FFA and Sentinel Anna Leigh Peek, West Limestone FFA.

One of every five Americans is employed in the critical food, fiber and natural resources industries of agriculture, and former FFA members and supporters serve in these essential careers. Today, more than 300 career opportunities are available to students through agriscience education. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership,

personal growth and career success through agricultural education. For more information about the Alabama FFA Association, visit their website at http://www.alabamaffa.org or the National FFA Organization’s website athttp://www.ffa.org.

Did You Know?

The State Officers of the Alabama FFA Association are (from left) Anna Leigh Peek, State Sentinel, West Limestone; Clifford Brown, State Reporter, Marbury; Raven Buchanan, State Treasurer, Wilcox Central; Michelle Vasbinder, State Secretary, Enterprise; Brandy Feltman, State Vice President, Oakman; and Zachary Jones, State President, Spring Garden.

• FFA chapters are in 15 of the 20 largest U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.

• The 2007 National FFA Convention was host to 53,631 FFA members, advisors and supporters.

• The shortage of qualified agriscience teachers is the greatest challenge facing FFA and agriscience education.

• Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer, with more than 24 million people working in some area of the industry. FFA prepares members for more than 300 careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture.




A Hundred Years Old – and Looking Marvelous!


These farm lads were learning that science-based agriculture can make a difference in the quality of life.

By Amy Payne Burgess

When somebody turns 100, it’s not often you can say they are "healthy, strong and vibrant." Well, Alabama 4-H is celebrating its first century, and it’s full of vim, vigor and vitality. Probably "being around young people" is the key to keeping us young. And to anyone who monitors the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of Alabama’s youth, you may realize we need all the health and energy we can muster!

Let’s look at the history we are celebrating. Alabama 4-H began in 1908, when boys’ corn clubs were formed in Calhoun and Tuscaloosa County. These clubs were a strategy by the USDA to have kids show-up adults by using new, scientific techniques to grow bigger and better corn crops. In those days, Alabama was blessed to have some true giants of modern agriculture, men like Seaman Knapp, George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. You’ll certain win on Jeopardy if you know Thomas Campbell, America’s first Extension agent, was a Tuskegee man!

These young 4-H ladies were in high style, showing off their 4-H project fashions in the 1920s.

So we grew and evolved: tomato clubs, home demonstration clubs, peanut clubs, pig and calf clubs. Young people helped put food on Alabama tables; they brought in modern farming and hygienic living; they even played an important role on the home front in World War I. By the era of World War II, Alabama’s 4-H clubs had become a world-wide model for modern democracy, a fact that has become the subject of serious academic research. Our use of parliamentary procedure for deliberation and debate was a conscious counterpoint to Hitler Youth and to the Soviet’s Young Pioneers.

Today, guys and girls in Alabama 4-H may be involved in learning about robotics and rocketry.

We are proud 4-H "responds to the changing needs and interests of Alabama’s young people." While most of us mourn the passing of rural and small-town life, we fully recognize Alabama kids no longer live in Mayberry or up on Walton’s Mountain. Our young people will be competing in a world economy against the young people of Beijing and the best and brightest students of Silicon Valley. We often say 4-H seeks to "prepare young people for theirfuture, not our past." We do that through building Belonging, Independence, Generosity, and Mastery – our "BIG M."

But we do honor those who have led us to where we are today. I would encourage you to visit our web site at www.alabama4h.com. You may be especially interested in the events taking place as part of our Alabama 4-H Centennial. April 20 - 24 is 4-H Centennial Blitz Week with a goal of every Alabama county doing something special to celebrate the heritage and future of Alabama 4-H.

Although the basics of “Head, Heart, Hands and Health” remain, you may notice significant changes in some 4-H programs

I would also encourage you to follow the links to the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame. The Wall of Fame recognizes individuals and businesses that have had an impact on 4-H in our state. Perhaps you know of a 4-H volunteer or county staff member who has had an impact on you or the young people of your community. He or she might be just the person we may wish to add to the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame!

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent for DeKalb, Marshall and Cherokee Counties.



Congressional Ag Internship Deadline is February 1

By Darryal Ray

Applications are now being accepted until February 1 for the third year of the Congressional Ag Internship program sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation in cooperation with Alabama’s three land-grant universities — Auburn University, Alabama A&M and Tuskegee University.

"We are pleased to announce we will again offer the Congressional Agricultural Internship program to a selected student of one of our land-grant universities, pursuing a degree in an agricultural-related field," said Keith Gray, director of the Federation’s Department of National Affairs. "The program allows a student to gain invaluable public policy experience in the participating congressional office."

According to Gray, a student enrolled in Auburn, A&M or Tuskegee with an interest in federal agriculture, natural resources and environmental policy may be eligible for the program. The selected candidate(s) will attend agriculture committee hearings, prepare briefs, conduct research directly related to federal agriculture policy or rural development, and meet with constituents. College credit may also be earned by giving a written presentation of the internship.

The student will be responsible for his or her own expenses, but will receive a stipend of $2,000 per month during internship which begins March 1 and ends May 31.

The minimum requirements for consideration are:

Currently an undergraduate or graduate student in the College of Agriculture with at least 60 hours, the most recent 15 hours having been completed in the Alabama Land-Grant University System

Good academic standing

Good interpersonal/public relations skills

Ability to communicate both in writing and orally

Leadership and involvement on campus

Background or interest in federal agriculture, natural resources and environmental policy.

Eligible students must complete a two-step application process. First, written applications will be solicited in the three land-grant universities, and then will be evaluated and ranked by the selection committee. Second, the participating congressional offices will interview the top finalists.

A committee composed of representatives from the Federation and the universities will coordinate the application and selection process. Applications must be received by February 1. The first intern selections will be announced in mid-December for the spring semester.

For more information or applications for the Congressional Agricultural Internship program, call the College of Agriculture at your university or Millie Hawes at the Alabama Farmers Federation at (334) 613-4268 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">MHawes@AlfaFarmers.org.




Cow Pokes






Earl






Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

As we enter into the coldest weather of the year in the Southeast, it is very important we manage our cattle herd for these cold days ahead. These are the critical months to maintain body condition on cattle. Energy requirements are at their highest during extreme cold weather, and I continue to be concerned over the quality of forage we have available this year. High input fertilizer cost deemed it necessary for a lot of cattle producers to either reduce our eliminate fertilizer applications in hay fields. This will leave hay crops at a below average energy level (TDN). The use of lower quality forage during cold weather will leave cattle in a reduced energy balance meaning loss body condition. This lost body condition will have a direct impact on reproduction and performance this spring.

With the beginning of cold weather, I wanted to look at some issues concerning the relationship between temperatures and feeding demands of brood cows. I would suggest you closely monitor your cattle this winter. When the weather is cold and wet, cows need extra feed to just keep warm. A cow needs to eat more roughage in cold weather to give her the calories for heat energy. If she doesn’t have enough roughage, the pounds will melt off of her as she robs body fat to keep warm.

High quality feeds is not as efficient as roughage in producing long term heat because cows will readily gobble up the feed and stand around shivering. If a cow has a good winter hair coat, she will do fine in dry weather until temperatures drop below 32o F. With a wet hair coat due to rain and snow, this critical temperature can rise to as high as 59o. At these points, she will require an increase in feed intake to produce the body heat and stay above her lower critical temperature level.

Lower critical temperature is defined as the lower limit of cattle comfort during cold weather. When below this level, an increase in feed is required to maintain the cow’s current body status. When figuring lower critical temperature, you must also take into account the wind and moisture make effective temperature lower than thermometer temperature. You must always determine the wind chill factor when arriving at amount of degrees below a cow’s critical temperature point. Critical temperature for any cow or calf will vary according to hair coat, moisture, age, size, amount of body fat, length of exposure and wind. Cold stress is also less severe if the storm is brief, compared with the chill and stress of continuous bad weather.

Critical Temperature for Beef Cows

Coat Description Critical Temperature
Summer or Wet 59o
Fall
45o
Winter
32o
Heavy Winter
18o

A rule of thumb to compensate for cold is to increase the amount of feed (energy source) by one percent for each two degrees of cold stress. For thin cows, cows with poor hair coats or a wet hair coat figure a 1 percent increase for each temperature drop. Example A: A wet cow will require 9 percent more feed at 50o than that same cow at 59o.Example B: A cow exposed to a wind chill temperature of 28o on a dry day will require 4 percent more feed than the same cow at 32o.

Many producers overlook the effects of cool, wet weather when supplementing cattle. I would suggest you become familiar with the critical temperature of your cow herd and make feeding decisions based upon this. I would also encourage you to look at alternative energy sources like complete beef feeds or low moisture supplement tubs like STIMU-LYX to add more energy to your cattle herd during the cold days ahead. By doing this, your cows will remain in better condition and be more productive as they calf this spring.

If I can help you determine your critical temperature level or can help you develop a feeding program around your available forage, please call me. I can be reached at 256-947-7886 or jimmyh@alafarm.com.

I hope each of you had a Merry Christmas and look forward to a new year with the hope of good prices and prosperous crops.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.



FIeld Trials Championship Moves to Bullock Co.


(From left, back) Tony Gibson, Becky Gibson, Fred Rowan, Dr. Joe Maddox (judge), Johnny Capps (judge), Robbie Spiller, (front) Tim Moore with My Mustang Salley, Runner-up, and Doug Ray with Elhew Gunn, Champion, at the Gulf Coast Open Shooting Dog Championship Field Trail held at Conecuh Station near Blue’s Old Stand in Bullock County.

Gulf Coast Event Draws Top Trainers and Shooting Dogs

By Ben Norman

The muffled sound of thundering hooves coming from a large stand of plantation pines makes one think they are about to witness the 1st Calvary burst out of the woods into an open field. It isn’t the 1st Calvary, but mounted participants in the 2009 Gulf Coast Open Shooting Dog Field Trials being held at Conecuh Station near Blue’s Old Stand in Bullock County.

This event had been held for many years on Blackwater Forest near Munson, Florida, until a storm came through and destroyed the facility where the field trials were held.




Finding and Hunting Late Season Bucks

With calling or rattling during late season it may be wise to start off soft and social. Whitetail bucks will continue to spar up until they shed their antlers. Where a couple weeks prior to the peak of the rut it might work best to make it sound like a knock-down, drag-out brawl – during late season it’s more of a social, male get-together rather then a battle for breeding rights or territory.

By Todd Amenrud

"Bucks at the Buzzer," "Bitter Cold Bucks," what do you title an article about hunting late season whitetail when "late season" is a term relative to where you are geographically? This obviously influences what "stage" you will find the herd in and which tactics will bring success. In Minnesota "late season" means the last gun hunter has passed through, the crops are down, the foliage is off the trees, typically there’s snow on the ground and the deer are starting to reform their social structures. However, here in Alabama or Mississippi the rut may still be in swing.

If you’ve always hung up your bow at the end of peak rut, you don’t know what you’re missing. Even in our northern latitudes, some years you may have rut activity lasting through the month of December and even in to January. On the other hand, some years they go into "winter survival mode" early. Which manner they display will determine where to find them and how to hunt them.

How do you know which mode they’re in? Read the sign. If there are still a few does yet to be bred, then as far as the bucks are concerned, it’s still all about "perpetuation of the species." You should see significantly more sign than if they have gone into winter survival mode. When going into winter, a very clear pattern starts to develop. The bucks will try and put on some of the weight they lost during the rut and will begin to try and conserve energy. Unless they’re spooked, most of their travel will be done from the bedding area to a food source and straight back.

Iif there are still a few does yet to be bred in an area, you should see significantly more signs than if breeding is over. A scouting camera is a great way to find a buck’s whereabouts.

If all the does have not been bred, you’re probably better off using the breeding or competition tactics you did during post rut. If breeding is finished, you’re better off using their curiosity or hunger to your advantage.

Even though the frenzy of peak rut may be over, the bucks may still be ready to breed at the drop of a hat. Any sign of a receptive doe can encourage them to go berserk again. In some areas not all the does get successfully bred the first go. Some call it a "secondary rut." It’s a fact, sometimes a few does will make it through two estrus cycles before being effectively bred. Many times this happens in areas where the buck-to-doe ratio is lopsided and there aren’t enough bucks to get the job done the first time. Yearling doe-fawns may also come into heat their first time during December, January or even February.

After all the does in an area have been bred, whitetail will start to reform their social structures. The bucks start to tolerate each other more and the does start to socialize in their doe-fawn family groups. The "alpha," grandmother doe, slowly starts to become the dominant deer in the area again.

To know where to find your late season buck, the same principles hold true regardless of the time of the year. A whitetail needs food, water and cover. They also need a spot where they are left undisturbed, so I will add "pressure," or should I say "lack of pressure," to that modus operandi.

Because of temperatures, the cash-crops probably being harvested and other factors, food sources can become limited for whitetail during late season. Although food sources may be restricted, they can become easier for a hunter to find. If there’s only one restaurant in town, guess where everybody eats?

Late season is a great time to intercept bucks cruising for that last receptive doe. Estrus or breeding scents can work. Todd Amenrud poses with a typical 7x7 that actually had his nose touching a wick soaked in Trail's End #307 when Amenrud released the arrow.

If you have whitetail in the area, there must be a source of water somewhere nearby. In areas that have freezing temperatures but no snow, a water source can be a key. Just like you may have seen a dog lap up snow for a source of moisture, a whitetail will do the same thing. In the spring and early summer there is so much moisture in the forage they are eating, whitetails may not need to visit a water source for some time. But now the plants are dry and have died, or are dormant for the winter, what do they do? "Water" can be a huge, often overlooked, key to bagging a late season buck.

Whitetails also need to be protected from the elements so cover, or "a place to live," is also very important. It really depends upon your area as to what you may find. In some regions, whitetail inhabit the same haunts all year long, while in other regions they may travel 40 miles or more to find suitable wintering grounds. The flora and temperatures in your area will likely determine whether they need to move or not.

One of the most important aspects to location is pressure. If the spot receives a lot of hunting pressure or other forms of stress, it can make harvesting a mature buck near impossible, especially if the chance of a receptive female is long gone. (Girls make all males act stupid at one time or another.) Without the rut causing them to do vulnerable things, a mature buck will not tolerate much of a disturbance before he changes something to avoid making contact with you. In extreme cases he may totally vacate the area. Ideally we want to hunt whitetails as undisturbed as possible. Try to put as little pressure on your hunting area as possible.

Once you locate a late season buck, how do you close the deal? In my opinion, the best tactics will all depend upon whether breeding is complete. And, if it is finished it can depend upon how long it’s been over. If there is still the hint of a receptive doe, you will likely be better off using the same tactics you did just before the peak of the rut. If breeding is finished, use their need to feed to your advantage.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.



For Jay Minter, the Land and Family are an Unbreakable Chain

Jay Minter of Tyler stands in a productive peanut field at his Dallas County farm.

By Alvin Benn

Jay Minter grew up in an agricultural family steeped in Alabama history, but his future didn’t appear to center around farming.

For one thing, he went to a college that didn’t have a course in agriculture. He studied religion and philosophy instead.

When he returned home from Memphis where he had received a degree from Rhodes College, he joined his dad in operating a sprawling farm operation where cotton had been the key to a multi-generational success story.

Jay was in his mid-20s at the time and, although he had grown up at the farm, he realized he still had a lot to learn from his dad, who was his "professor" without a blackboard.

Peanuts, at right, have been a major boost for Jay Minter’s farm in Dallas County.

Then, it all seemed to fall apart just as he was really learning the ropes. James Anthony Minter III developed cancer and was gone within two years.

The same thing would happen to David Casey who was Jimmy Minter’s right-hand man on the farm. He succumbed to cancer within two years of his boss’ death.

That left Jay in charge of a huge farm operation when most men his age were either in graduate school or starting out at the bottom rung in corporate America.

Although the Minter family had been raising cotton and other crops in the area near the bend of the Alabama River since the founding of the state, Jay wasn’t a prototypical farmer.

What he did have was a sense of history and the importance of continuing the family operation for as long as he could.

He never had an agricultural epiphany and his father never ordered him to take over the business when he was gone. But, deep down inside, Jay knew the land, the family and he, in particular, were part of an unbreakable chain.

"I always considered myself to be a responsible person and when my dad died I knew this was where I should be," he said, as he tried to stay dry under the leaky deteriorating awning of the closed general store his family had operated for decades.

Frolicking in the rain and splashing in mud puddles near him were his children—Gilley, 10; Cink, 5; and Madge, 2. He smiled at their antics, no doubt thinking of the days when he was a boy how he had done the same thing.

Jay Minter stands with daughter, Gilley (left) and holds his daughter, Madge. Standing in front is son, Cink.

Jay is the sixth generation Minter to operate the farm. His family dates back to Cahawba, which was Alabama’s first capital city. Minters were around when statehood was bestowed in 1819.

His ancestors’ longevity is well known in Dallas County. Some lived into their 90s and expressed their farming opinions long after they were too old to run it on a daily basis.

Tyler, located about 10 miles east of Selma just off U.S. Hwy 80, was named for a railroad president and not the U.S. president. It once was a hustling, bustling place with eight general stores, two cotton gins, a railroad station, a saw mill and two doctors.

On the other end of Dallas County is the community of Minter. Jay said it’s named for relatives of his ancestors.

A decade after statehood, his great-great-great grandfather—Anthony Morgan Minter—settled in the area and began growing cotton in the rich soil not far from Durant’s Bend on the Alabama River.

Jay Minter points to the spot where his family has operated a farm near the Alabama River in Dallas County for nearly two centuries.

When Wilson’s Raiders invaded Dallas County in the first week of April, 1865, the Minters hid the family jewels in the blankets and diapers of James Anthony Minter. It worked. The Yankees never found them.

By the time the baby was old enough to take over operations of the farm, a railroad crossed over the family property and Tyler became a commercial center in that part of Dallas County.

Most of the structures built during the late 19th century, including the general store which was built in 1890, are still standing—barely.

"They serve to remind me of my place in a long continuing chain," said Jay, 36. "My family almost exclusively grew cotton on the same land for the next 110 years."

That’s one reason why the Minter operation has been recognized as an important part of the Alabama Century and Heritage Farm programs.

Jay Minter (right) stands with employee Prince Perkins at the family farm in Dallas County.

A Century Farm is one that has been in the same family continuously for at least 100 years and still has some agricultural activity in place. A Heritage Farm has the same criteria along with a requirement for farms to possess interesting and important historical and agricultural aspects.

The Minter operation is one of 10 Dallas County farms belonging to both exclusive clubs and its young owner has been singled out by Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks for his management abilities.

"Jay Minter is one of Alabama’s unique farmers," said Sparks. "He has an innovative approach to farming and has been willing to think outside the norm and try new things. That includes diversifying crops. Jay’s progressive thinking has made him a very successful farmer."

Diversification has been a key to Minter’s continuing success story, especially in the wake of two devastating droughts in the past decade.

The gin that once processed untold thousands of bales of cotton has been idle for several years. Changing times in agriculture have removed cotton gins from many farming communities.

"Cotton, historically, was our main crop," Jay said, after hopping into his pickup truck to conduct a tour of the huge farm for the Cooperative Farming News. "Not anymore. These droughts have been awful. You hope you only have one like it in a career, but we’ve had two in the last 10 years."

Jay never lost his sense of humor as the back-to-back droughts continued to dry up the land and put the Minter farm into an agricultural vise.

He couldn’t do much more than hope for the best and even joke about college courses that didn’t exactly prepare him for prolonged dry spells.

"With my religion and philosophy courses, I’d tell people that I could pray for rain and if I didn’t get it, I could justify why," he said, breaking into a smile.

Jay admitted that his affinity for staying on the cutting edge of agriculture may have been costly, especially when a lot of money was spent to upgrade his cotton gin.

"I was committed to cotton to a fault and didn’t step back far enough to analyze how it had changed with the times," he said. "I think I may have stayed too long with it."

The Minter operation today focuses on row crops, including a burgeoning peanut business, cattle, sorghum and timber. A big part of the farm today is in trees.

Robin Sanderson, a consulting forester who lives in Monroeville, was effusive in his praise of the Minter family.

"I have worked with them for 30 years and I know all about the big impact they have had on this area," said Sanderson, who dropped by to chat with Jay for a few minutes. "I know many people who praise the character and reputation of the Minter family, especially Jay as he carries on a tradition started nearly 200 years ago."

Good character and responsibility have always been impressed upon Minter children then and now. Jay and his wife, Julia Anne, make sure their children know what those words mean.

Jay’s mother, Ann Minter High, couldn’t be prouder of her son for what he has accomplished virtually by himself for the past decade.

"His dad always called him ‘professor’ and I don’t have any doubts Jay would have made an excellent teacher," said Ann, who continues to live on the farm—high on a hill overlooking the closed gin and general store.

She said if Jay had not taken over management of the farm, the land most likely would have been leased to other farmers or someone else would have been hired to supervise operations.

As it turned out, Jay was the man and he had his own plan. Instead of ending a long line of Minters plowing the fields in and around Tyler, he kept the line going strong.

That leads to James Anthony Minter V, or "Cink," as he’s better know for obvious reasons to anyone familiar with Spanish.

Right now, he’s enjoying life as any 5-year-old boy would. He has the run of the place as well as the love that envelopes him by Minters near and far.

"Cink is all boy and loves country living," said his dad. "I don’t want to force him into anything when he’s of age. That’s something he’ll have to decide for himself."

Jay’s dad, who died at the age of 54, didn’t force his son into continuing the family operation, but, in the back of his mind before he died, he just knew it would happen.

"I guess it was a natural evolution that I’d come back and take over the family business," said Jay. "After college, I basically had my fill of big city life."

Tyler can hardly compare with Memphis, of course, but it does have something Beale Street lacks. There isn’t a traffic light in sight in "downtown" Tyler where an occasional train rumbles through town, past the closed buildings and cattle grazing not far from the tracks.

Jay Minter wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.




Get Fired up in January

By John Howle

Like an old hound settled in front of a warm fire, January is asleep. Many of the smaller animals are burrowed under ground or in hollow trees. Even the bucks of deer season have grown weary carrying their headgear and are ready to shed antlers. Every acorn hidden under leaves or frost becomes a treasure for deer, turkeys and scurrying mammals.

A 12-gauge shell holds 12 matches and slides snugly into a 16-gauge spent shell for a convenient match case.

Get Fired up

Getting a fire going on a cold, winter day is a priority. In a survival situation, it is critical. Keeping a stock of strike-anywhere matches in dry storage with you at all times is the first consideration when going afield. For a convenient match safe, a 16-gauge spent shotgun shell slides snugly into a 12-gauge shell. This will hold 12, strike-anywhere matches and can easily be carried in your pocket.


Find Squirrels; Fry Squirrels

Sam Stevens (left) and Jake Howle harvest enough squirrels for a lunch time squirrel fry.

January is a fine month for squirrel hunting because the cold weather rids the animal of many of the warm month parasites. You can hunt in the morning and have enough squirrels harvested and cleaned to eat by lunch. Once you’ve accumulated enough squirrel meat from fall and winter hunts, a simple way to prepare this dish is frying.

Wash the meat thoroughly to remove any stray hair. If you harvested the squirrels with a shotgun, hold the meat up to a bright light to reveal any shotgun pellets. Allow the meat to soak in buttermilk and salt in a refrigerator for a couple of hours before you prepare the ingredients. Crack eggs into a bowl and mix until the eggs are consistent. Drop the meat into the eggs, remove and coat with flour. Pour enough vegetable oil into a skillet to cover the bottom approximately 1/4 inch thick. Frying the meat at low heat for a considerable time in a cast iron skillet with a lid tenderizes the squirrel. Thoroughly brown both sides of the meat before serving.

Winter Wood

Winter is a practical time to cut trees for clearing land or opening up food plots in most parts of the country because the wood is at its driest. Leave stumps at least three feet high, so they will be easier to remove in the spring with a bulldozer or tractor implement when the ground is fully thawed.

In addition to leaving the stumps three feet high, spray the top cut of the stump with a Round-Up® mixture to prevent resprouting of limbs. This way, if you don’t get around to pushing the stumps up, the stump won’t sucker out with regrowth.

Blood Stains

If you get blood on your pants or favorite hunting jacket either from cutting yourself or dressing wild game or livestock, pour hydrogen peroxide on the blood stain before it sets in. The peroxide will foam and bubble the blood stain right out of the fabric, then, simply wipe the area with a damp cloth. Apply the peroxide and wipe until the stain is completely gone.

Look for decorative wood in the creeks for your next mounting work.

Decorative Mounts

The next time you are scouting the creeks of your hunting land or farm, be on the lookout for unusually decorative driftwood that has been sanded and shaped by gravel, sand and water. This will look great as mounting art for your next duck or largemouth bass. Most taxidermists can mount your harvest onto the wood.

Shed Cabin Fever

Break cabin fever by searching for sheds starting late January. Start looking for antler sheds before the squirrels and chipmunks devour them for the calcium and other minerals present. In many parts of the country, bucks start shedding antlers in January. The farther south you go, the later they shed.

Howle-antlershed photo-- Look for shed antlers near fence lines where they often jar loose from the buck jumping fences.

Fence rows are a productive place to look. Often, a buck jumping a fence will jar an antler loose or crawling under the fence can snag an antler ready to detach. If you find one in this area, keep looking. Chances are the other one is not far away. Once you’ve found one, expand your search in 100 yard increments. Also, check stream crossings and hardwood trails with thick underbrush that act as a snag. Sheds will give you a good idea of the bucks that survived hunting season.

Call of the Wild

Around the end of January, coyotes will begin to look for mates for breeding. This is the time of year you will hear coyotes become more vocal. Often, hunters or ranchers will hear barking and yipping followed by long howls. Two or three coyotes sounding off together can sound like 20 because of the wide range of vocalizations the predators make. To make a more productive hunt, try to pinpoint these sounds and remember the locations. To hunt successfully this time of year, use a high volume coyote call that imitates the sound of a coyote looking for a mate. Conceal yourself and use cover scent. Coyotes are fairly territorial if food is available, and their mating calls will help you have a successful hunt if you set up within their calling ranges.

Handle the Pressure

Tire pressure can change quite a bit during the cold days of January. Since air is a gas, it expands when warm and contracts when it’s cold. Cold days mean lower air pressure in the tires.

In most parts of the U.S. the difference between summer and winter temperature averages is about 50o F. This means you can lose about five psi (pounds per square inch) when winter’s icy temperatures hit. This can affect traction, handling and durability of your vehicle’s tires. The rule of thumb is for every 10o F change in air temperature, the tire’s inflation will change by around one psi.

Iron out the kinks

On guns with wooden stocks and forearms, small, shallow dents can be removed from the wood with a wet cotton washcloth and steam iron. Place the wet cloth over the dent and apply the steam iron to the area. The steam entering the porous wood combined with heat expands the wood which helps pull the dent out. Repeat the process until the ding is removed. This method of using hot steam to remove dents works for most wood surfaces including furniture and other wood working projects.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Editor’s Note: All sketches shown in this article are by Jesse Limbaugh, produced from photos by John Howle.



Goshen’s William Sanders Expands His Horizons on Israeli Kibbutz



William Sanders on his last day of work on the kibbutz. They were repairing the irrigation system. It was a wet job, but that was ok since it was around 115o outside.

By Jaine Treadwell

Dreams don’t always come true but, when they do, it’s not by some stroke of magic. It’s because a lot of planning and energy have been devoted to the dream.

That was the case for William Sanders of the Goshen community.

Sanders, age 24, grew up on a fourth generation farm in rural Pike County, but he was not cemented to the red clay soil. He often traveled with his parents, Bill and Ann Sanders.

When he was 10 years old, he traveled with his parents to Israel and did the "tourist" thing. Sanders was so impressed with the country and the culture he wanted to go back. The want turned to a strong desire and then a consuming dream.

"For all those years, I dreamed of going back to Israel but I didn’t want to go back as a tourist," Sanders said. "I wanted to live among the people and experience the culture as a part of it."

View of the kibbutz from the top of a nearby mountain. This is the Arava Valley portion of the Negev Desert. The mountains on the far side are in Jordan.

Sanders graduated from Auburn University in the spring of 2008. His goal was to get a job and to visit Israel, but not necessarily in that order.

For two years, he researched opportunities to live and work in Israel and he realized his best chance was to work on a kibbutz.

"Working on a kibbutz was not a way to make money but it was a chance to live and work among the people and get room and board," Sanders said and added with a smile, "And make a few dollars — 50 a month."

In early 2008, Sanders applied and was accepted at Kibbutz Yotvata, and, for two months last summer, he labored on the kibbutz in Israel’s Arava desert just north of Eilat. It was the place where Sanders was to realize the dream that had been with him for nearly 14 years.

Valley center pivot. Notice the sand dunes at the edge of the field.

"I arrived at the kibbutz in the hottest part of the summer and, if I’d had a choice, I would rather have gone during the growing or harvesting seasons but I was just proud of the opportunity to be there," Sanders said. "Our volunteer leader took a little time to explain what the kibbutz is all about. Although she said the kibbutz is a free-society and people are encouraged to live their lives as free-thinking individuals, when you were on the job that was not true. You did exactly as you were told."

Sanders found the mindset was to work as you were told and not to deviate from the accepted operating procedure.

"One day we were loading crates on to a trailer," he said. "They weren’t that heavy but there were a lot of them. The guy I was working with parked about 100 feet from the crates. I asked him why he didn’t pull up closer and he said because he would have to back the trailer to get out."

They even use John Deere tractors in Israel.

Sanders said the man had never backed that kind of trailer and had no training on how to do it.

"He had a government issued license to operate the tractor, but because he didn’t have specific instructions from his supervisor, he wouldn’t even try it even though it would have saved a lot of time," Sanders said. "That’s the way things worked on the kibbutz and I learned quickly to fall in line."

The main products grown during the fall and spring on the kibbutz were lettuce, corn, onions, potatoes, garlic, hoodia, mangos and dates. Grasses were grown year round for the dairy cattle.

"Since I was there in the summer and it was too hot to grow anything, we spent our time getting ready for the fall season," Sanders said. "Every day we worked in sight of the Jordanian border. Several times a day we would see both Jordanian and Israeli military vehicles patrolling the border."

Israeli drip irrigation.

Sanders usually worked with a crew of three to five people repairing irrigation systems for the fall season.

"The repairs were basic —- replace a seal here and a pipe there," he said. "The work could get repetitive at times, but everyone I worked with, mostly South Americans and Koreans, spoke great English so we could pass the time talking.

"The kibbutz had three primary irrigation systems being used on a daily basis. The most widely used was the Israeli invented drip irrigation system, which is the most water efficient irrigation system in the world but it’s very labor intensive and expensive."

Sanders’ work crew also worked quite a bit with a system with long pieces of aluminum pipe connected to each other with sprinklers at the top.

"The kibbutz also owns two Valley center pivots," Sanders said. "When worked on the stationary aluminum sprinklers, we would have to turn them on to make sure they were working properly. Getting soaking wet is not a bad thing when it’s 115o outside. It cooled you off and you would dry in five minutes out in the sun."

Lettuce greenhouse.

About once a week Sanders said he would have to work on that type irrigation in the grass and millet fields.

"These fields were being irrigated with sewage water from the dairy and the kibbutz," he said. "The smell was not as bad as you would think, but it was always in the back of your mind knowing where the water came from. I found the best way to get through it was to keep my mouth shut very tightly and work fast."

Almost every corner of the kibbutz had some type of experiment underway.

These date trees were only a few years old. Some grew to over 50 feet high. Dates are the second most profitable enterprise on the kibbutz.

"There were tests trying to improve the efficiency of the irrigation systems and tests seeing what new crops could be grown," Sanders said.

There is a very serious water shortage in the Middle East and efficiency is extremely important when it comes to water.

"In Israel, it’s against the law for a private citizen to own a well," Sanders said. "All water must come from the government and the kibbutz must find ways to lower its water usage every year. It’s because of this that water leaks always take top priority over other jobs. Even the smallest leak is repaired immediately after it has been found. It’s amazing to see these people are able to fight back the desert and actually farm in this place. Along the eastern edge of the property there are sand dunes just feet away from fields."

The lettuce is grown in a very large greenhouse. The temperature is controlled by the same type of cool cells used in American poultry houses.

In some fields the rows were covered with plastic for a few weeks before planting. The plastic absorbed the radiation from the sun and killed any fungi or bacteria in the sand.

"All of the lettuce is grown hydroponically," Sanders explained. "It’s cut and bagged in the greenhouse and shipped to clients across the country. The lettuce is inspected by a rabbi every few weeks so it can be marketed as kosher and be sold at a premium price."

The largest enterprise for the kibbutz was the dairy. Six hundred cows were milked three times a day.

"The milk goes next door to be processed and bottled," Sanders stated. "More than 70 percent of Israel’s chocolate milk is made right there in the desert. One of my bosses invited me to help with the milking one night. That was a real experience. Three people and I milked 600 cows in under two hours."

Work on the kibbutz was hard and the living conditions weren’t the best —- seven in a small two-bedroom house. But he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Before and after his "kibbutz experience," Sanders traveled to places including the Lost City of Stone, Petra in Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, the Western Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock in the old city of Jerusalem, and the Jordan River. Each site made a lasting impression on him and increased his will to go back to Israel again.

"But maybe not to work on a kibbutz," Sanders said smiling.

The Israel experience was one Sanders will always treasure but one memory of his summer on the kibbutz stands clear.

"I’ll never forget seeing the sun come up over the mountains in Jordan," he recalled. "It was an awesome sight. And, at each breaking of dawn, I knew my life had been made better because of my time at Kibbutz Yotvata."

Author’s Note: William Sanders began working with Bonnie Plants as of January 1.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



Growing Money on Trees with Carbon Credits

By Patrick Cook

Yes, Virginia, money does grow on trees, at least if you are a forestland owner who is considering planting trees or using existing plantings to earn carbon credits.

How does this work? First, a brief lesson in recent history: a growing body of research has revealed greenhouse gases — water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone, to name a few — generated by both natural and manmade processes, have increased in recent decades.

These gases are indispensible in creating the greenhouse effect warming the earth and sustaining life on our planet. But a growing number of scientists fears excessive emissions of these greenhouse gases, partly due to industrial activities, are causing excessive warming of the atmosphere — warming already negatively affecting the earth’s environment.

What can be done about it? Scientists at the Center for Atmospheric Research believe one solution is carbon credit exchanges — proactive efforts by some sectors of the economy, including forestry, to offset higher-than-desired emissions of carbon dioxide by other sectors of the economy.

One of these proactive players may turn out to be forestland owners, who can use existing and future tree plantings to store carbon in the ground, said Beau Brodbeck, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional agent specializing in forestry, wildlife and natural resources.

In the case of carbon dioxide, for example, a tree can absorb an estimated 48 pounds, while an acre of trees can absorb as much as 2 tons a year, storing the carbon in leaves, branches and trunks.

In fact, a program promoting this sort of carbon storage already is in place. The program, based on the carbon credit concept, was created in response to scientific findings about global warming and formalized by an international agreement stemming from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for a 5.2 percent reduction in greenhouse gases compared to emissions in 1990.

Industries located within countries that signed the pact are now required to reduce greenhouse emissions, which they essentially can do in one of two ways: either by reducing emissions through cleaner technologies or by offsetting their emissions through a carbon credit exchange program, Brodbeck said.

And this is where Alabama forestland owners may play a role. In fact, our state’s rich reserve of forestland may turn to be an especially lucrative source of carbon credits. Aforestation — planting trees in old agricultural fields — is one option. So are long-term forest preservations within conservation easements and long-term sustainable forest management.

Although the United States is not a signatory to the agreement, U.S. industries can still cooperate with forestland owners on a voluntary basis.

In fact, a mechanism already is in place — the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) — to provide carbon credits. Started in 2003, CCX is already actively trading and providing opportunities for forestland owners around the country, Brodbeck stated.

Instead of directly purchasing carbon credits, they work through what are known as aggregators, companies seeking carbon credits and combining them into packages sold on CCX.

Aggregators prepare the projects, measure the data — for example, how many tons of carbon your aforestation is creating — and then secure the contract and monitor the system to ensure compliance, Brodbeck explained.

Alabama already has had an 8-acre parcel of land registered and sold on CCX with many others possible within the next few months.

But what began as a voluntary program may soon become mandatory if a congressional bill, which already has garnered bipartisan support, passes next year.

Still, despite all the promises associated with these credits, taking part requires some commitment from the owners. Landowners are required to complete some paperwork before they can be formally enrolled, according to Dr. Rebecca Barlow, an Extension private forestland management specialist and Auburn University assistant professor of forestry and wildlife sciences.

First, they have to document they are the actual owners of the property. Also, if they choose the aforestation option, they must show when the trees were planted and also provide proof the land had no trees on it before December 31, 1989.

If cases where landowners choose the sustainable management option, their property must be certified through affiliations like the American Tree Farm System.

In all cases, timber is cruised by a third party to determine carbon levels on the site. Payment is based on projected net carbon dioxide sequestration.

Landowners are also required to sign 15-year contracts. Use limitations are also imposed on the land during the life of the contract.

In meantime, Brodbeck said landowners with questions about the CCX program should visitwww.chicagoclimatex.com.

NOTE: This is part of a series associated with Thriving in Challenging Times, a statewide Extension initiative to help Alabamians cope with the recent economic downturn. Call or visit your county Extension office for more information.

Patrick Cook is a Regional Extension Agent.



Happy Hunting Ground

By Ralph Ricks

At this writing, another new year is on the horizon and 2009 is significant for me. I will reach the half-century mark in May and, sometime between now and then, I intend to take some time to reflect on both my life and the world in general. Many things have happened since I was born at the end of the fifties. I remember watching America’s first astronauts blast into space on our state-of-the-art black and white television. I remember watching them walk on the moon in 1969 in black and white on our new color television.

I remember living in Wyoming in the sixties and having people stare at our Alabama license plates. I remember when my mom asked dad for permission to get a part-time job.

I grew up in the age of Mayberry (I always wanted to live there when I was a kid), Captain Kangaroo, playing outside till dark, walking to school by ourselves, unlocked doors, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, old beat-up bikes instead of brand new ones, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs, erector sets and model airplanes.

We grew up in a neighborhood where there were dozens of kids to play with and our bicycles were horses, airplanes or race cars depending on whether the game was cowboys and Indians, fighter planes or racing down hill. Dirt clods were hand grenades (if you were playing army) and a stick was your gun (if you didn’t get one for Christmas). I always got some sort of toy gun for Christmas.

One year in particular, I got a "Magumba Big Game Rifle" complete with plastic Monte Carlo stock, an imitation inlay in fake ivory of a bull elephant in the butt, plastic scope and three bullets that loaded into the magazine. The bullets were spring-loaded and would fire a projectile and eject the "empty cartridge." You then had to go and find the plastic bullet after firing. It came with safety instructions, targets and almost everything you needed to hunt big game.

On that Christmas day, it was too cold to go outside and our hallway became my jungle in which to shoot my targets. The day progressed and mom had our Christmas pheasants ready (I didn’t eat turkey until we moved back home to Alabama) and we sat down to our feast. I finished eating before everyone else did and asked to be excused. I sat down in my dad’s recliner holding my new rifle. I remember imagining how much fun it would be when I was able to take my new gun outside, shoot it and show it off to my friends.

It was then I noticed our family cat investigating the underside of our now empty Christmas tree; empty because we had all opened our presents. She didn’t know it but dear "Fluff," the faithful companion, had turned into a marauding leopard needing to be taken care of and I intended to do just that. I shouldered my faithful "Magumba Big Game Rifle" (with genuine imitation ivory inlay) and drew a bead on this terrible nuisance killer as she climbed the tree looking for an escape. As my finger grazed the trigger, I was thinking that for her there was no escape. The spring-loaded bullet went off zinging into the branches of the tree toward the cat. I don’t know if I hit her or not, but she came zinging out the other side. I could see my bullet lying in the corner and crawled under the tree to retrieve it in case the beast dared to come back to within gun range. I remember the bullet being just out of my reach and when I tried to "skoush" a little closer, down came the tree. Of course I hollered and the whole family jumped up from the table to see what had happened. I would have loved to seen what it looked like as they rounded the corner from the kitchen to the living room and saw my dad’s beautiful snow covered tree (covered in the fake snow my dad loved) down in the middle of the room with my feet sticking out of the branches. The whopping I received must not have been a bad one because I don’t remember it.

My point is when was the last time you ever heard of someone knocking down a Christmas tree?

When was the last time you "played army"?

When was the last time you got in a green pecan fight?

When was the last time you heard of any one playing cowboys and Indians?

When was the last time you played with a set of tinker toys? (Hint: Most of us are now able to get the big set where we can really make something good!)

I know it has been said before, but now it’s my turn, we need to get back to simpler times or maybe just simpler things.

I want to know the following things:

- When did deer hunting get high tech?

- When did bass fishing get higher tech?

- What happened to squirrel hunting?

- When did "…inches of bone" enter our deer hunting vocabulary?

- When did hunting clothes get high tech?

- When did the good old cane pole get high tech?

- What happened to digging your own worms and going fishing?

- When did antler size get to be so important?

- When did catch and release become the "thing"?

- When did the harvest of a big game animal stop being a private affair between the hunter and the animal he just killed?

I could keep going on and on for days so I guess it just means I’m getting older and when you look back the road looks easier and nicer than it did when you were concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other trying to get home —- like the time a friend of mine and I went swimming on Christmas day in our new wet suits, but that’s another story.

Happy New Year!

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



How's Your Garden?

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Painted Trees?

Painting and stabilizing dead trees can add a festive and colorful touch to your mid-winter garden.

Well, they’re dead ones that have given new life as purple, chartreuse and blue sculptures in a garden bed. I saw this last summer at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson where they dress the place up for Summer Celebration field day every summer. Research Associate Jason Reeves is known for transforming throw-aways into artful displays. These trees were victims of drought that were cut and hammered onto an X-shaped base for stability. The idea is a fun one that gardeners can use to add a festive touch to an area for a special occasion. I’m thinking the idea is also a good one to give yourself something really bright to look at in mid-winter. Of course, don’t try this on live trees because the paint could injure or kill them. If you enjoy horticultural events, check the calendar of events at the University of Tennessee horticulture center for next year at http://westtennessee.tennessee.edu. Their two big public events are the Summer Celebration in July and a Pumpkin Festival in October. You can see pictures from this year’s events online.

Instant Raised Bed

Hay bales can be utilized to create a raised bed for an instant garden.

If you don’t want to dig a garden, but need a place to grow some healthy vegetables, here is an idea from Dennis Thomas, General Manager of Bonnie Plants: hay bale raised garden. It creates an instant garden from hay bales laid out in rows right on top of the ground. A 12 to 18 inches space between each row of bales is filled with a good compost or potting soil. You can plant right in this soil and Presto! an instant garden. As time passes and the straw weathers, roots will grow into the bales, too. The beauty of this system is that not only is it quick and easy, but at the end of the season, you can take all of this material and till it into the ground to create a more permanent raised bed. You can easily tailor the size of the hay bale garden to whatever you want. The one pictured here took 100 bales. You can see this hay bale garden on TV in an interview with Dennis by AFC’s own Grace Smith on Time Well Spent.

Use a row of potted boxwoods or euonymus to add some structure and a bit of green to your patio.

Potted Hedge

I was on a garden tour this fall where folks opened their gardens for a bunch of plant and garden aficionados to poke around. This meant a continual stream of people moving through. Altogether there were about 600 "lookers." The clever owners of one garden created a barrier between a patio and a precious bed with a row of potted boxwoods. You could also use boxleaf euonymus in such a pot because it is so forgiving about water. Either way, this is a pretty way to add some structure and a bit of green to your patio.

Potted Bulbs

Purchase blooming bulbs like daffodil or hyacinth to enjoy now; then in early spring, plant the bulbs in your garden to enjoy again next year.

This is the one time of year when garden centers fill greenhouses with pots of spring blooming bulbs. If you find yourself eyeing these to brighten your home or give as a gift this winter, consider buying some that can go into the garden after they bloom. Daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are the most dependable to come back in the garden next year even though they began life in a nursery pot. In South Alabama, amaryllis often make it, too. So don’t hesitate to even buy these for yourself knowing you will enjoy them in the garden in the spring of 2010 and perhaps many more years. Plant in a sunny spot where the soil drains well. Wait until early spring to plant them though because the plants bought now have been grown in a greenhouse; taking them into freezing weather could damage them.

Get the Dirt on Dirt

A lot is being discovered about soil biology and the relationship between organisms that live in the soil and the plant roots growing in it. Many times these organisms increase the ability of plants to take up nutrients and even resist disease. If this subject catches your interest, I recommend a book called Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, both who garden in Alaska. Theirs are some hardy microbes! After reading his book you’ll see what is meant by the term "feed the soil" instead of feeding plants and an understanding of what is meant by the soil food web. Be forewarned, they are proponents of organic gardening and are down on synthetic fertilizers for gardeners. Whether or not you agree, their discussion of soil science, fungi, protozoa, earthworms and other creatures that dwell underground is fun for gardeners to read. In addition, if you really enjoy soils, consider a trip to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History this year to see "DIG IT! The Secrets of Soil," an extensive exhibit about soil running through 2009. You can access videos, download educational materials and learn more about the exhibit athttp://forces.si.edu/soils/index.html. After the exhibit closes in Washington, the museum plans to take in on the road.

Eat The View

Can you imagine a vegetable garden in the White House lawn? That is what a campaign to replant a large organic victory garden on the First Lawn like ones done during WWII, and before, with produce going to the White House kitchen and to local food pantries. If you missed the coverage, the originators of this idea have been touring the U.S. in a retrofitted school bus with a garden on top. You can read more about the campaign on www.eattheview.org. Also view the videos "This Lawn is Your Lawn" and "The Garden of Eatin’: A Short History of America’s Garden," both by Roger Doiron on www.vimeo.com.

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



It’s Time Well Spent in January

Episode 23: January 3 & 4

Jim goes to Jimmy Jones’ longhorn cattle farm near Greenville where he finds the animals’ horn length is more important than their carcass weight.

Grace introduces us to some folks from Eufaula High School who won the Chevron Delo Tractor Restoration Competition at the National FFA Convention. Watch as these students share with us their dedication to the success of their local FFA chapter.

Chuck travels to Mississippi to talk with professional trapper Robert Waddell about proven beaver trapping techniques.

Episode 24: January 10 & 11

Jim travels to Untamed Mountain in DeKalb County to visit Susan and Wilbur McCauley at Tigers for Tomorrow, a wonderful place that is home for, among other critters, very large cats.

Grace visits in Montgomery with Jackie Bushman of Buckmasters to learn more about the Young Bucks activities at the 2008 Buckmasters Expo and how this program is helping hone the skills of Alabama’s youngest hunters.

Chuck will discuss the benefits of using supplemental feeding to provide nutrition for deer during stress periods.

Episode 25: January 17 & 18

Jim goes to see Joe Sims in Hartselle as he shows off some of his antique and unique musical instruments he’s repaired or built over the years.

Grace visits former FFA member and college freshman, Bethany Lewis of Ashford, whose hard work on the farm has helped make her family’s dairy operation a success.

Rod Pinkston of Jager Pro shows Chuck how he handles wild hog problems.

Episode 26: January 24 & 25

Jim makes his way to Alabama Gold Camp in Clay County and talks to Miner Mike about prospecting for gold.

Grace takes us to Talladega, home of the Marianna Greene Henry Arena, where several dynamic young people are overcoming the burdens of physical therapy in some unconventional ways.

Chuck gets with Dr. Lee Youngblood to discuss how to establish a successful chufa plot for turkeys.

Episode 27: January 31 & February 1

Jim visits D.A. Ray in Trinity and meets some of his unique gourd people creations.

Grace takes us to the small town of Meridianville where each fall one farm family opens its farm and invites North Alabama students to its pumpkin patch and sends them home with a deeper appreciation of agriculture.

Chuck discusses the benefits of working with neighboring landowners to form wildlife management cooperatives and then travels to Ohio to hunt with a co-op that has been practicing quality wildlife management with great success.




January Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist


PLANT

· Immediately move living Christmas trees outdoors.

· Plant balled-and-burlapped, container and bare-root trees, shrubs and vines.

· Plant container and bare-root roses.

· Sow seeds of warm-season annuals indoors.

· Plant bare-root perennial vegetables: asparagus, radicchio, Jerusalem artichoke, horseradish, etc.

PRUNE

· Do not prune spring flowering plants, like azalea, quince, forsythia, spirea, etc. This removes their spring flowers. If needed, they can be pruned when the plants have finished flowering.

· Prune deciduous fruit trees like apple, plum, peach and apricot. Pruning promotes the development of new fruiting branches and opens the tree to sunlight.

· Turn and prune house plants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.

WATER

· Overwatering indoor plants encourages root rot. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.

PEST CONTROL

· Every slug left to roam your garden will reproduce 200 offspring. In addition, the offspring will also reproduce young. So you can make a major reduction in the slug population in your garden by eliminating them now. Visit your local Co-op for details.

· January is a good time to make an application of dormant spray to help control over-wintering insect and disease problems. A combination lime sulfur and oil spray, or copper spray are the ones most often used for winter dormant spraying. Do not spray when the temperatures are below freezing, when it is raining or at a time when the wind is blowing. Of course, apply the spray according to label directions.

· Spray apples, peaches and pears affected with canker problems.

· Keep a close eye open for insects on your houseplants. Quarantine gift plants until you determine they aren’t harboring any pests.

· If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, be sure to check those plants for insect infestation.

· Mealy bugs on your houseplants can be killed by touching them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

· Remove aphids from houseplants with a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water, and add a drop of dishwashing detergent. Apply this to troubled plants with a soft brush.

· Review your gardening chemicals and check for deteriorating containers. Consult local authorities for acceptable ways of disposing of chemicals no longer used.

ODD JOBS

· Add garden record-keeping to the list of New Year’s resolutions. Allow space in your journal to record the dates of first and last frosts, sowing seeds, planting, transplanting, time of bloom, first fruits, fertilizing and problems with pests. Make a note of which varieties of flowers and vegetables did best and which did poorly in your garden. Over a period of years, this will be an invaluable record.

· You can also start a file where you can store articles clipped out of newspapers and magazines, or lists of ideas you want to try in the garden. A good place to get many new ideas is by joining your local Master Gardeners Association.

· Look at the "bones" of your garden. Think about possible pathways, beds, borders, irrigation systems, lighting, sculptural and water features. This is the best time to put these in or replace ones no longer working.

· Winter is a good time to sign-up for gardening classes or seminars offered by many garden centers or town recreation offices. Or gather a group of friends to learn bonsai, compare notes on growing perennials or tropical houseplants, whatever piques your interest.

· Review your vegetable garden plans. Perhaps a smaller garden with fewer weeds and insects will give more produce.

· Check the seeds you saved and stored from last year’s garden. Discard anything that is damp, diseased, moldy or in otherwise bad condition.

· If the ground is workable (not frozen or too wet), now is an excellent time to turn the soil. Not only will this expose insect eggs to the effects of winter and hungry birds, the freezing will help to break apart heavy clods of dirt.

· Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.

· Extra time now might well be spent getting the garden tools ready for spring. Sharpen and oil tools like shovels, shears, mowers, etc. Power tools like weedeaters and mowers may benefit from a good tune-up.

· Does your mower need sharpening; does the oil need changing; what about the filters; is the engine running properly? If you need to have any parts of your power garden implements repaired, this is the time to do it. If you take a mower in now, you may get it back in a few days. If you wait until mid-February or later, it will probably be two or three weeks.

· If you potted bulbs of daffodils, crocus, tulips or hyacinths in the fall, bring them indoors now to force them into bloom. Place pots in a cool window receiving direct sunlight for at least a few hours each day. Allow soil to dry partially between each watering.

· Check stored fruits and vegetables like potatoes and apples for bad spots which may lead to decay. Remove and use those which show signs of spoiling. Separate others into slotted trays or bins to increase air circulation and reduce decay possibilities.

· Force a winter bouquet from cut branches of forsythia, pussy willow, deutzia, wisteria, lilac, apple, peach or pear. Bruise the cut ends and set them in water. Spray the branches frequently. Keep them in a cool place until they bloom, then move to a warmer area for display.

· Think about how you might incorporate stones in your garden. Look into types of stone, characteristics that complement and the different roles stones play in design.

· Examine your land in the stark winter days, looking for places where an evergreen might go nicely.

· A water feature is a garden element that can take many different forms. A simple birdbath is attractive and functional while a fountain or waterfall can bring a garden to a whole new level of sophistication.

· To clean crusty clay pots, add one cup each of white vinegar and household bleach to a gallon of warm water and soak the pots. For heavily crusted pots, scrub with a steel wool pad after soaking for 12 hours.

· You can force hyacinth, paperwhite narcissus and Lily of the Valley bulbs into bloom indoors in a shallow bowl of water or in pots this month.

· Although tomatoes, peppers and eggplants self-pollinate, to insure ample fruit set in home greenhouses, take a cotton swab or a fine paintbrush and transfer the pollen from one flower to another. Swirl the swab or brush lightly inside each flower, one after the other. Repeat this process the next day. Don’t wait too long after the blossoms appear to pollinate. For most plants, the most successful pollinating can be done the day after blossoms open. If successful, you will be able to see tiny fruits as the flowers wilt.

· Get creative in the workshop. Build a bat house or a birdhouse or two. Paint garden furniture, arbors and fence segments. Construct artificial lighting set-ups for growing houseplants or starting transplants indoors.

· If you install supplemental lighting for your indoor plants, the 48-inch, 40-watt fixture with two fluorescent tubes is the industry standard. Spare parts are readily available and high production volume assures lower costs for 48-inch tubes than for other sizes. Use one cool white and one warm white tube to obtain a light mix most beneficial to plants. Plants grown under lights need a nightly rest. An automatic timer is ideal to turn the lights off at night.

· Fluorescent tubes lose intensity with age. If you are using quite a few fluorescent lamps on your houseplants, change a few tubes at a time to avoid plant damage by the sudden increase in light intensity.

· Don’t forget your houseplants! Dust on the foliage can clog the leaf pores, so clean them up a little with a damp cloth or a quick shower under the tap. Actively growing plants will benefit from a shot of liquid plant food. Make certain the plants have sufficient humidity by setting them on a tray filled with clean pebbles and a little water, or by simply setting a cup of water nearby.

· Repot houseplants and patio plants that may be pot bound. This can be determined by sliding a knife down the inside edge of the pot. If there is resistance, it means large roots have grown out the edge of the soil ball and the plant is pot bound. Remove the plant from its pot and cut away any large, circling roots on the outside of the soil ball. Pot into the next largest container using fresh potting soil.

· Transporting house plants now without cold protection for even "just a few minutes" can be detrimental. Wrap plants with three or four layers of newspaper or paper sleeves and staple the paper shut over the foliage.

· Always cut off the faded flowers of your amaryllis so no seeds form. Producing seeds robs the bulb of strength needed to flower next year.

· Allow cacti to go semi-dormant in the winter. Water only to avoid shriveling. Place in full sun with a maximum day temperature of 65o F and a night temperature of 40-50o.

· If you have succulents like jade, hoya and sansevieria, they may be reluctant to bloom in the house. Grow them in a small pot and hold back the water. This may persuade them to flower.

· Houseplants and holiday gift plants should not be placed on top of the television. This location is too warm and, in most homes, too far from windows to provide adequate light.

· The low light levels of winter call for some adjustments in the placement of houseplants. Bring houseplants that normally thrive on the north side of the house to east windows, while allowing the plants from the east more sun on the south.

· Rain is the best water for plants. Catch it in clean trash containers and siphon out what you need into watering cans. Better yet, if you have plumbing skills you can put a valve on your rain barrel and connect it to a gravity-flow drip system.

· Open the doors and windows when temperatures permit to give your house a change of air. This will benefit you and your houseplants.

· Please feed the birds and other small creatures which may not be able to find food. For only a few dollars you can feed an enormous number of birds. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and bread crumbs as well as bird seed. You don’t have to be a bird watcher to enjoy the feeling you get when you’ve helped out one of God’s creatures.




Myths About Foodborne Disease

The Truth About Food Poisoning and Foodborne Disease;
Correcting Some Common Misperceptions

By Angela Treadaway

Americans often take "food poisoning" for granted. However, a growing barrage of medical evidence documenting serious problems arising from contamination in our food, combined with the increasing complexity of our food supply system, reveal nonchalance towards "food poisoning" is outdated and dangerous. Here are some myths about foodborne illnesses explaining why it is in our families’ best interest to clean up our food.

Myth: Foodborne illness is caused by food that has spoiled or "gone bad."

Fact: While spoiled food can make a person sick, most foodborne illnesses are caused by bacterial or viral organisms contaminating the food, not the food itself. Most foodborne contamination that makes people sick does not affect the appearance, taste, smell or texture of the food.

Myth: All foodborne illnesses are the same.

Fact: Thousands of different bacteria and viruses cause foodborne illness and health consequences can vary from mild flu-like symptoms to death depending on the organism, the amount ingested and the unique immune response characteristics of the person exposed. Anyone experiencing abdominal pains, blood in urine or bowel movements, or even milder symptoms lasting more than a couple of days should seek immediate attention.

Myth: Foodborne illness is unusual.

Fact: Since people may only hear of two or three outbreaks a year, many assume foodborne disease is only a sporadic problem. In reality, the Centers for Disease Control estimate one out of every three Americans becomes sick from contaminated food each year, 325,000 Americans are hospitalized and 5,000 die annually because of the severity of their symptoms. Most foodborne illnesses are isolated cases, not outbreaks. Often, what people assume is the stomach flu is actually a case of disease caused by contaminated food.

Myth: Foodborne illness is a fleeting inconvenience.

Fact: Foodborne illnesses are increasingly being linked to long-term injury and health conditions. For example, reactive arthritis is known to be caused predominantly by foodborne diseases like Salmonellosis, while another common bacteria, Campylobacter, is implicated in up to 40 percent of all cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, characterized by sudden-onset acute paralysis. E. coli 0157:H7 is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in American children and can also lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, blindness and death.

Myth: Foodborne illness can always be traced to the last thing you ate.

Fact: Foodborne illness can be caused by contamination in food eaten a few hours ago, a few days ago or even a few weeks ago.

Myth: Safe cooking can prevent all foodborne disease.

Fact: Americans can reduce their family’s risk of getting sick by understanding and practicing safe food handling. These include proper refrigeration, cooking to an adequate internal temperature and guarding against cross-contamination. However, there are many, many instances of foodborne illness where consumer behavior does not play a role. The only sure way to prevent foodborne disease is for food producers to keep disease contamination out of their products in the first place.

Myth: Foodborne illness is no big deal for healthy people.

Fact: Certain populations, like children, elders, pregnant women and the immune-compromised, have a higher statistical risk of illness and dire consequences, but no one is immune from the ravages of foodborne disease.

Myth: Foodborne illness is inevitable.

Fact: Most foodborne diseases could be prevented by greater industry and regulatory commitment to producing a safe food supply. Every time a case of foodborne illness occurs, it spotlights a gap in the food safety network that has allowed the introduction of potentially deadly pathogens into food. Food producers can and should do more to prevent contamination from happening in the first place, and the government and American families have the right to demand they do.

Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For more questions on this or on Food Safety or y our our Preparation of different vegetables contact Angela at 205-410-3696 or your local County Extension office.



Peanut People






Pike County’s Casey East Named Miss Alabama Agriculture


By Debra Davis

Casey East of Pike County, pictured below, was crowned Miss Alabama Agriculture during the closing session of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 87th annual meeting in Mobile on Monday night, December 8. Miss East is a 22-year-old student at Troy University and the daughter of Philip and Kathy East of Banks.

As the winner, she received a $2,000 scholarship and the use of a new Dodge Charger for the next year. Miss East will represent Alfa Farmers at a variety of events during the coming year where she will promote the state’s largest industry - agriculture. The pageant is sponsored by the Federation’s Young Farmers Division.

Kayla Nicole Boddie of Chilton County won first alternate and $750 in the pageant. She is the 17-year-old daughter of Steve and Leigh Ann Boddie of Verbena and is a senior at Chilton County High School.

Erica Kathleen McDaniel of Pickens County won second alternate and received $500. She is the 20-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Johnny McDaniel of Gordo. She is a junior at the University of Alabama.

Kaitlyn Shay Smith of Mobile County won third alternate and $300. She is the 18-year-old daughter of Sharon and Robert Tate. She is a freshman at the University of Alabama.

Kayla Nichole Moore of Houston County was selected as Miss Congeniality by the other contestants who participated in the pageant and received a silver tray. She is the 19-year-old daughter of Darin and Starla Moore of Dothan. She is a freshman at George C. Wallace Junior College in Dothan.



Putting up fermentables for the winter (Beer part 2)


By H. T. Farmer

Last month I gave you an overview of the art of beer crafting with herbs and spices. I listed the simple equipment needed you may already have around the house. I got a couple of e-mails asking about the difficulty level of brewing beer. Basically, if you can read a recipe and boil water, you can brew beer.

Beer is a fermented, hop-flavored, malt-sugared beverage comprised of four basic ingredients as defined by the Federal Government. Those ingredients are barley, hops, yeast and water.

Barley or other cereal grains like wheat or rice are malted and added as a starch. Malting is the process of placing viable grains into a water bath allowing them to germinate followed by drying them. Unless you have the facilities to do this, I would recommend you buy the malted extracts. Malting the cereal grains produces the malt sugar or maltose. Maltose is 1/3 as sweet as sucrose.

Hops are the flowers of the female hop (Humulus lupulus) plant. As a member of the Cannabaceae family, hops are a cousin to the infamous herb marijuana. Hops are added as a bittering agent and for aroma.

Yeast is a single-celled fungus used to create carbon dioxide and produce alcohol. The yeast used is defined by particular strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and each strain is selected for a particular application according to the type beer to be brewed.

Beer has many health benefits and, ounce for ounce, contains more antioxidants than a tomato!

Last month I brewed a holiday stout containing 12 pounds of malt extract and two pounds of very dark grains. I added four varieties of bittering hops and six ounces of bitter orange rind and pith I had dried and saved in my refrigerator. I also added 12 ounces of blackberries and four cinnamon sticks to the wort.

It was a full-bodied stout with good head retention and goes well with red meats. In other words, it tastes great and one will fill you up!

I promised a link to some recipes last month. Beerrecipes.org had a superb selection of everything imaginable from IPA, bitters, bock and stout to steam ales, porters, pilsners, lagers and mead.

If you don’t find what you want there, call my friend SunAe at Alabrew.com in Birmingham and describe to her what type beer you want to brew. She’ll help you create the recipe that suits your taste.

In the February edition of The Herb Farm, I will have a bone to pick with one of the other contributing writers.

E-mail me with questions.

Thanks for reading!

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




Sand Mountain Seed Bank Dedicated to Preserving Our Food Heritage

Dove and Russell Stackhouse with some of their heirloom products.

Industrial Food Pales in Comparison to the Food of our Ancestors

By Keith Johnson

Have you ever eaten Choctaw sweet potato squash? How about Old-Time Tennessee melons? If you are like most people you probably haven’t. These are some of the precious heirloom foods our ancestors depended on for their very survival and they are disappearing at an alarming rate as elderly gardeners hang up their hoes.

You may remember your grandparents saving seeds from one crop to use in the next year’s production. As a child I thought the only reason my grandmother did that was to save the cost of buying new seed. While that may have entered into it, I realize now those seed often were not available at any seed store and they were also preserved because of their unique taste, hardiness, or perhaps even because they evoked memories from her childhood.

Often seeds of a particular variety have been passed down through countless generations and even made epic crossings with our immigrant ancestors as they risked everything to leave the Old World and create a hopeful new life in America. These seeds were often sewn into the hems of dresses and carried in hat bands as they made the harrowing voyage.

Dove Stackhouse uses the heirloom varieties in her own organic production.

Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek tribes of the Southeast also had a rich heritage of farming. Many of our varieties were developed at enormous effort by our Native American ancestors and then cultivated for the last three hundred years by the Scots-Irish people of the South.

The Sand Mountain Seed Bank is a private organization run by Charlotte Hagood and Dove Stackhouse with the assistance of Dove’s husband, Russell. Operating on a shoestring budget these women have done yeoman’s work in preserving hundreds of plant varieties on the verge of extinction.

Russell Stackhouse shows off some of the rare vegetables preserved by Sand Mountain Seed Bank.

Talking to Dove about these plants gives one a sense of the urgency of the task.

She said, "We have gone from relying on hundreds of varieties of potatoes to four."

She sees this as a very disturbing trend for several reasons.

Every year seed companies reject the cornucopia of plant species available and select only a handful of plants bred to tolerate chemical fertilizers, pesticides and provide long shelf-life.

"If you look into a typical seed catalog you will see only four or five varieties of beans listed while there are hundreds out there," Dove pointed out.

If these rejected varieties are not used, they eventually disappear. She noted each of these species existed because they provided some strength or advantage in a specific situation.

The Stackhouses make use of an unusually wide variety of vegetables on their farm.

What is going on is similar to a diverse and rich hardwood forest being cut down and replaced with row upon row of pine trees. Hunters refer to these pine tree plantations as "pine deserts." As the voracious pine beetle has proven a monoculture can be a biological disaster.

While my grandmother‘s generation realized the varieties they saved were well adapted to their particular area, tasted good and were free with a little work, they did not realize their efforts were important for another reason. Plant geneticists are telling us that by allowing the huge variety of garden plants to become extinct and becoming totally reliant upon a small number of varieties we are leaving ourselves open to a food catastrophe. The earth’s normal climate changes or the rise of a particular disease or pest can wipe out some varieties of a species while not harming others. If those other varieties do not exist, we have nothing to fall back on. Many of those varieties took hundreds of years to develop and cannot be replicated in decades — let alone a few months.

Sometimes the old ways, like the old plants, are best.

Interestingly, one of the first things to be sacrificed was good taste. I can recall several years ago my father reading a statistic about the huge decline in the pounds of fresh tomatoes consumed by Americans. He said that didn’t surprise him since eating the typical grocery store tomato was like eating a baseball. Dove pointed out that when you select for a particular trait you always lose something in the deal. When we select for a thick skin for shipping the taste suffers.

I did not realize how far things had changed until recent years. I remember as a teenager hearing elderly friends and neighbors complain the food from the grocery store wasn’t fit to eat because the taste was so bad. At the time I attributed it to the natural decline of their ability to taste, but now I realize at least part of the problem was the foods they were eating really did not taste as good as the fare they had grown up on.

As organic farmers, cover crops are essential.

In the last few years, I have enjoyed some of the succulent vegetables grown from seeds the Sand Mountain Seed Bank seeks to preserve and I can testify there really is a difference. Industrial food pales in comparison to the real food of our ancestors. I don’t believe parents would have such a difficult time getting their children to eat vegetables if they could offer them these heirloom varieties.

Wendell Berry, author of the classic "The Unsettling of America," has long encouraged younger generations to not only save the seeds of their families but to record the history of those plants. Dove and Charlotte have been doing just that by preserving the stories behind their seeds. For example, the Johnston Family Bean is believed to have come from Europe to Georgia where it fed the family before traveling with them to Sand Mountain in the mid-1800s. The family subsequently moved to California for three generations and has now returned to Alabama still carrying those treasured seeds. They have donated some to the seed bank where the history of the Johnston Family Bean has been faithfully recorded.

Charlotte and Dove will be offering some workshops on seed saving and they need some gardeners to take some of the seed to grow out as a way of increasing the supply. Also, Dove said Charlotte is an excellent speaker and is available for garden clubs and other groups.

Perhaps one of the silver linings of these tough economic times will be a renewed interest by families in gardening and self-reliant living. We could do a lot worse than spending our time in the garden teaching our children how to grow their own food. While we are at it, let’s devote some effort to saving these treasured gifts from our ancestors.

If you are interested in the important work of the Sand Mountain Seed Bank, you can contact them at (256) 891-9856, (256) 878-3045 or by e-mail fastflyer4@bellsouth.net. Their mailing address is 411 Teague St., Albertville, AL 35950.

Keith Johnson is a freelance writer from Morgan County.




SLIM—WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, EVEN WITH ‘EM “YANKEES”!!!

TROUBLIN’ TIMES FOR AMERICANS…

By Joe Potter

It was Monday in the a.m. movin’ ‘tward near high noon when I moved through the old double front doors of The Flat Rock General Store. There was a full ledger of folk swappin’ warmth with the ole potbellied heater there in the rear.

Most near all the regulars includin’ Slim, Essex, Ms. Ida, the widow Cora, Farlow, Willerdean, "Truth," Estelle, my Daddy "Pop" C.C., Bro., S.R., J.R., "Hatch," Heath, Dustin and the sleepy-eyed musician, Mr. Harley Hood, himself had huddled close.

There were several other comers who had found their way to The Store like John Thorn, Orland Britnell, Roland Gargis, the UPS lady, two Cat servicemen and Mr. Wilton Fortenberry. Some of the comers had collected themselves inside because of the bitter outside temperatures. Others thinkin’ possible it was eatin’ day down to The Store.

As I gathered myself on a sack of layin’ mash alongside Farlow, there was a variableness of heavy subjects a floatin’ amongst the gathered store crowd. They included lost jobs, gas prices, bailouts, bankruptcy, oil prices, interest rates, loans, foreclosures, heavy debit, etc., etc., and so on. Slim raised up from over behind the counter, out of his old recliner and commented "Americans are a facin’ ‘Troublin’ Times.’" He further commented, but ya’ll all study on the pure fact "we’re all in this together, even with em’ ‘(Darn)Yankees’ and we will all have to work together to come above these ‘Troublin’ Times.’" He noted it would take sacrificin’ by all folk, but Americans could get past these current "Troublin’ Times" and be stronger for it.

Several other folk, includin’ my Daddy "Pop" C.C., the widow Cora, Ms. Ida, Essex, John Thorn, Bro. and Orland Britnell, offered up their own commentin’.

Then quickly, just in a short second, the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood, moved talk toward a New Year’s Eve dance down to the National Guard Armory. Estelle and Willerdean strung two six-foot-long pieces of white butcher paper along the back wall. There in red marker Estelle titled up the words Ought Nine New Year’s Resolutions.

Here Slim comminst to handin’ red markers toward all gathered folk and further noted beyond "Troublin’ Times," we need to hold true to The Store’s yearly tradition of placin’ New Year’s Resolutions from Flat Rock folk on the rear wall.

At this instant several folk had finished off their lunch eatin’s, spoke their goodbyes and directed themselves toward the old double-front doors to meet their afternoon duties and obligations.

Ms. Ida took a red marker from Slim and penciled down her resolution words—- sincere knee bendin’ prayer from all folk toward God for direction durin’ these harsh USA "Troublin’ Times." Then she commented that "Our America is in ‘Troublin’ Times,’ because we have all become part of a ‘spoiled society.’"

I wish for each individual reader a special, blessed, prosperous and healthy two thousand and ought nine…

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

Remember—believin’ is the better part of prayin’... Then go direct, pray to God yourself!!!

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




Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Man! When I saw that deputy hiding behind that hedgerow I slammed on my brakes as fast as I could. I missed getting a ticket by the skin of my teeth!"

What has speeding got to do with ones gums?

The source of the phrase "by the skin of one’s teeth" is the Bible, Job 19:20. Although the precise phrase Job used was "My bone cleaveth to my skin, and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth" (not "by").

Just what the "skin" of one’s teeth might be is a bit unclear, but it probably refers to the thin porcelain exterior of the tooth, not the gums. Job evidently kept his teeth, but just barely. It is also possible he was saying the margin of his escape was as narrow as the "skin" of a tooth is shallow — the equivalent of a "hair’s breadth."

In any case, Job clearly meant he’d had a very hard time of it, and the phrase has been used ever since to mean a very narrow or arduous escape.




Taking A Fall

By Baxter Black, DVM

One of the secrets of life is knowing how to take a fall. Physical, financial or emotional.

When you drop something, it breaks. Be it a bank, a bone or a heart.

I’ve experienced all three kinds of falls. They all take a while to get over. My usual reaction is to roll...and keep rolling till I can see daylight. This method to get beyond trouble is not unique to me. Cattle feeders have as many lives as Geraldo Rivera. They crash and burn over and over, and are miraculously reborn, acting as if nothing ever happened! They are like the Chicago Cubs at the beginning of each season. The slate is clean, their memories erased and it’s Batter Up!

I’ve bought twice as many wedding rings as I’ve been married. To my good fortune I just kept rolling till the best one finally caught me and put me back on my feet.

I have a dear friend who contracted Parkinson’s disease in his forties, 20 years ago. The battle he and his family fight continues to this day. They struggle and fall and keep rolling. And every single hour of every single day that they get their head above water is worth more than any World Series ring, Academy Award or $700 billion dollar bail out.

It is this human spirit of resilience that makes regular folks into heroes. Single mothers working two jobs. Local bankers in tight-money-times extending loyal farmers seed money to keep them rolling. Teachers, firemen, doctors, deputies putting in unpaid extra hours to make our lives better. Volunteers whose immeasurable contributions allow hospices, museums, county fairs and colleges to keep communities functioning.

It was surprising to me that when the American economy stumbled and fell in October, most of the rest of the world’s economies tumbled like dominos. Now they are scrabbling around like we are, trying to find their footing. Some of the global nations may have taken secret pleasure in our misery, our come-uppence. Our fall was humbling. But now the realization of their dependence on us is humbling for them. No one has any doubt that the United States carries the world’s economy on its shoulders.

The shoulders of each American — you and me, and each of us who gets up everyday, goes to work, pay our taxes, takes care of those around us, unselfishly contributes our time and money, and keeps the faith…in God and country and each other.

We are taking this fall together and all we can do is keep rolling till we see daylight. And a year from now the world will be a better place.

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



Teff-Old Crop/New Use

By Dr. Don Ball

Occasionally a crop comes onto the forage scene in the United States few people here are familiar with. This is the case with teff, also sometimes called summer lovegrass, which is a warm-season annual grass native to Ethiopia. It is closely related to the warm-season perennial grass, weeping lovegrass, which is sometimes planted in Alabama, but is most widely grown in Oklahoma and nearby states. The primary use of teff on a worldwide basis is as a grain crop, but in recent years some forage varieties have been developed and made commercially available in the United States. This article is not necessarily aimed at promoting this crop, but rather to be informational.

Teff is a quick-growing grass with thin stems and narrow leaves. The seed are extremely small, numbering approximately 1.3 million per pound. Teff is quite sensitive to cold weather and should not be seeded until after the last threat of frost has past and soil temperatures are at least 55 to 60o F. It is normally planted into a smooth, level, prepared seedbed. Seeding rates vary from four to six pounds per acre for raw seed, to eight to ten pounds for coated seed. Because of the small seed size, planting depth should be about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch. A good way to plant the seed is by broadcasting (perhaps after having been mixed with some inert material to increase the volume) followed by cultipacking, or by planting with a cultipacker-seeder.

Applying too much nitrogen to this grass can increase the likelihood of lodging, to which it is rather susceptible anyway. It is probably best to apply no more than 30 to 50 units of nitrogen per acre at establishment with a similar amount applied after each harvest up to September 1. Phosphorus and potassium needs are similar to those of other warm-season annual grasses like millets or sorghum/sudan hybrids.

Like many summer annual grasses, teff has the potential of making rapid growth. It is possible for it to be ready to harvest for hay within six or seven weeks after planting. With adequate rainfall, a planting made in May should allow three or more cuttings in Alabama. Season-long dry matter yield of teff is potentially five tons or more per acre, but two to four tons per acre is more realistic.

Teff seems to be better suited for hay than for pasture as it is reportedly sensitive to trampling damage. Also, animals may pull up the rather shallow-rooted plants when they graze. However, as mentioned earlier, a potential problem when growing it for hay or haylage is it lodges rather easily. Forage quality of teff is good, with protein content of appropriately fertilized forage harvested at hay stage often being 12 to 16 percent crude protein. Livestock readily eat the forage unless it is harvested late and is overly mature.

Teff as a forage crop is not likely to revolutionize Alabama agriculture. However, it is another forage option and may be useful on some farms. To date, most of the forage teff planted in the United States has been done by commercial hay producers who are growing it for the horse market.

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



The Co-op Pantry

Mary Malone of Somerville said she really owes her love of cooking to the fact that her mother was more than willing to let Mary loose in the kitchen.

"I always liked cooking, and mother really didn’t, so she welcomed all my mistakes," said Mary, adding her experiences as a student in Home Economics and 4-H increased her understanding of cooking.

Mary also said her recipe collection reflects the amount of traveling she did with her husband John during his time as a minister.

"We have been married 43 years and lived in lots of places. When we moved into my home place two years ago, it was our twenty-fifth move. John was a civilian pastor in churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma before entering the USAF as a military chaplain. As a chaplain, we lived in Alabama, Mississippi, California, Colorado and Upper Heyford, England. I have collected recipes from good cooks everywhere we lived," she stated.

Before she retired from the Cooperative Extension a few years ago, Mary also found a way to make her love of cooking part of her working life wherever she and John lived.

"I was a Home Economics teacher and a hospital dietician. I worked with food services in a child development program in England and, when John worked at the Air Force Academy, I ran the professors’ private dining room which meant I did all the shopping, cooking and cleaning. Since the professors were mostly men, they’d eat just about anything, and I really enjoyed that experience a lot," remembered Mary.

Mary said her husband John has never complained about her cooking.

"He said one time he had rather starve to death than to have to fix himself something to eat. Both he and our daughter Lisa are very supportive of my efforts in the kitchen. I’m very lucky," she said.

While Mary’s recipes may have come from many different cooks, her recipes have a singular theme.

"I am a plain cook who likes recipes with few and familiar ingredients. I look for recipes that are quick and easy, and call for ingredients I probably already have. Through the years, that’s the way I’ve cooked," explained Mary.

The recipes Mary shared this month reflect her penchant for quick preparation and her travels as a minister’s wife, including two recipes for the South’s favorite beverage: tea.

"Tea Punch was shared with me by Madge Caperton of the Stevenson Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Stevenson, Alabama. Sue Dear (a fellow Home Economics teacher) in Memphis gave me the recipe for Hot Spiced Tea 40 years ago. Sue and I are still friends, and I have a container of this tea in my cupboard right now," Mary said.

While the recipe for Caramel Pie can be a little tricky, it’s still the only recipe she ever uses for that particular dessert.

"The recipe was given to me many years ago by the best cook in the Wren Presbyterian Church in Wren, Mississippi. I have found it a little hard to make because the melted sugar tends to lump when added to the custard, but the lumps can be worked out with a little effort, and the results are sure worth the trouble," Mary added.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Mocha Punch

Combine equal parts chocolate milk, softened vanilla ice cream and cold coffee. Serve in chilled punch bowl. Nice for summer bridal shower or tea.



Tea Punch

7 individual serving size
tea bags
1¾ cups sugar
1 medium can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 small can frozen lemonade concentrate

Enough water to make 1 gallon of punch

Make tea as usual. Stir and store in refrigerator.


Hot Spiced Tea

¼ cup instant lemon-tea mix
½ cup Tang
½ cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Stir ingredients together and store in an air-tight container. Use two heaping teaspoons per teacup boiling water.


Chicken Casserole

4 cups chicken, cooked and pulled
2 (10 oz) cans cream of chicken soup
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
3 sleeves Ritz crackers, crumbled
1½ cups (3 sticks) butter or margarine, melted

Mix cracker crumbs with melted oleo. Place half of crumb mixture in bottom of 9 x 13-inch baking dish coated with non-stick spray. Mix the cooked chicken with the soup and sour cream. Pour over the layer of cracker crumbs. Add remaining crumbs to top. Bake at 350o for 35 minutes.


Hashbrown Potato Casserole

1 (24 oz) package frozen hashbrown potatoes, thawed
1¾ cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 (8 oz) package sour cream
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

In a large bowl mix all ingredients together. Pour into 9 x 13-inch baking dish coated with non-stick spray. Cover with foil. Bake at 350ofor 45 minutes to 1 hour.


Mexi-Rice Casserole

1 (5 oz) package saffron rice, prepared according to package directions
1 (11 oz) can Mexi-Corn
1 (10 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup cheese, grated

Mix first 3 ingredients with half of the grated cheese. Pour into greased 8 or 9-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake at 350o for 30 minutes.


Veg-All Casserole

2 (15 oz) cans Veg-All, drained
1 can shoepeg corn, drained
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 cup cheese, grated
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted

Mix all ingredients except cracker crumbs and oleo. Pour into baking dish. Cover top with cracker crumbs. Sprinkle oleo over crumbs. Bake at 350o for 30 minutes.


English Pea Salad

1 (15 oz) can small English peas, drained
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons dry onion flakes
½ cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Mayonnaise to blend

Chill peas. Mix with all other ingredients. Serve chilled on lettuce leaf.


Golden Glow Salad

1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple
1 (3 oz) package lemon Jello
1 cup carrots, shredded

Drain juice from pineapple and add enough water to make two cups liquid. Bring to a boil. Stir into gelatin until dissolved. Add drained pineapple and carrots. Place in refrigerator and chill until firm.



Betty Mae English’s
Caramel Pie

3/4 cup plus 6 Tablespoons sugar, divided
4 tablespoons flour
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
¾ cup sugar, melted
¼ cup butter or margarine
½ teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 baked pie shell

Mix ¾ cup sugar with flour. Mix egg yolks with milk. Add milk-mixture to flour mixture and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Keep milk-mixture boiling while adding melted sugar, stirring constantly. Cook until thick, stirring all the while. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and salt. Pour into baked pie crust.

Beat egg whites with six tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie. Bake at 350o for 15 minutes.




Iron Skillet Chocolate Pie

4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup plus 6 Tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 baked pie shell

Melt butter in iron skillet. Mix one cup sugar, flour and cocoa. Add to butter and mix lightly. Beat egg yolks and milk together and add to mixture. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into baked pie shell.

Beat egg whites with six tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie. Bake at 350o for 15 minutes.


Chocolate Peanut Clusters

1 package chocolate flavor almond bark
1 large jar salted dry roasted peanuts

Melt bark in large glass bowl in microwave. Add peanuts and stir to coat. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Allow to cool. Store in airtight container with waxed paper between layers to prevent sticking.



This Premises is Quarantined

By Dr. Tony Frazier

Have you ever seen one of those figurines with a veterinarian wearing a white lab coat and holding a syringe with a hypodermic needle? I have never seen a figurine of a regulatory veterinarian. I do not think they make them. But if they did, I think it would depict a veterinarian wearing coveralls and holding a quarantine book. Just like the syringe containing vaccine or antibiotics in the hands of the private practicing veterinarian, the quarantine in the hands of a regulatory veterinarian is a tool used to control disease. The quarantine is not the only tool we use, but it has played an important role in the control and eradication of regulatory diseases like brucellosis and tuberculosis.

I remember seeing some old black and white movie when I was a kid. I don’t remember much about the movie except that some house was placed under quarantine because a family member had some dreaded disease. There was a big sign on the door that simply stated, "QUARANTINED." I think the neighbors would run up to the front porch, leave food and other necessities, and run away as quickly as possible. Although I do not know what a quarantine issued by public health officials entails exactly, I suspect that would be pretty close. Let me assure you official quarantines issued by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries through the State Veterinarian are not the same as one that would be issued by public health officials to control human disease.

The quarantine we issue simply restricts the movement of animals onto or off a premises for various reasons to reduce the spread of animal disease. Often a quarantine may be issued until further testing can be done to determine if a disease actually exists on a certain premises. It is much easier to release a quarantine after a herd, flock or individual animal tests negative than to not quarantine and get a positive retest while animals have continued to move on and off the farm. I would say that over the years, in Alabama, hundreds of quarantines have been written, with most of them having to do with the brucellosis (Bangs) program. Probably the most frequent use of the quarantine today involves horses that test positive for equine infectious anemia (EIA) by a Coggin’s Test. We also use the quarantine when certain infectious diseases are suspected on poultry farms and swine farms.

As I mentioned, the quarantine is to the regulatory veterinarian what the needle and syringe is to private practicing veterinarian. However, there is a bit of a negative connotation that accompanies the use of the quarantine. As much as I do not want to hinder the ability of anyone involved in animal agriculture to carry on business, I must sometimes, for the good of all involved, temporarily stop movement of animals onto and off certain premises. And, as much as I want folks to like me, sometimes when I wear my regulatory hat, I am taken off people’s Christmas card list. Being a regulatory official does sometimes involve making decisions that adversely effect farmers. I do feel bad for those producers who have, through no intentional action, found their premises under quarantine. Therefore, I do not ever take it lightly when I must place a premises under quarantine. Bear in mind, my obligation is to the health of all of the flocks and herds in the state.

Occasionally I will meet someone whose farm was under quarantine for months or even years during the brucellosis eradication program. Usually the stories they pass on to me are not with fond memories. But it was those quarantines that played a major role in the fact we no longer have brucellosis in Alabama. It is not a pleasant thing to be told you cannot sell cattle except under a restricted movement permit. Yet today we enjoy the fact we no longer have to test cattle for brucellosis because of those herd owners who endured that hardship. Even today, for whatever the reason, while the quarantine is not welcome, people generally tend to understand the necessity to issue the notice of quarantine.

So, I give you the quarantine. It is a legal document backed up by law in the Code of Alabama, 1975. It specifically defines the premises involved, the number and species of animals involved and whatever restrictions are included in each specific case. And it has my signature on it. The quarantine is like a hammer to the carpenter, the drill to the dentist and the whistle to the referee. It is not the only tool a regulatory veterinarian has in the tool box. But when it is needed to control livestock diseases, I am relieved I have the quarantine available.




What’s Your Game Plan for 2009?

By Robert Spencer

Those with goat farms are well aware of the current situation with goat production presenting more challenges than ever. In last month’s article, I talked about getting lean for 2009 and cutting excess in whatever form it may exist on your farm. Prior to our current economic situation, two years of drought severely impacted livestock production.

Over the past year we have seen the cost of feed, fertilizer and fuel hit all-time highs. Other than labor these are the primary costs associated with most farming enterprises. With goats we can add cost of healthcare. Personally, within the past year I have witnessed more producers exiting the "goat business" than I have seen venture into goat production. Potential producers are expressing an interest, but tend to be hesitant to act. So, what can be expected to take place within the goat industry for the new year?

Those who are serious about goat production and have an extensive agriculture background will likely remain viable operations. Given the high cost of feed and other input costs, those who have been hobby farmers, "doin it for the fun" or just playing around will probably question how much longer they can continue raising goats. I expect many retirees who have been raising goats will take a look at the economy, their pension and the cost of raising goats versus returns and question the practicality. In other words, tough times require "getting tough" by developing a strategy that will keep an operation going at a sustainable level. Taking some time to develop a game plan for 2009 will give a producer some goals with measurable objectives and a way to evaluate progress through to the end of the year.

Goals

So where to start? As a business, a farm should have the realistic goal of making money. Too often some consider farming and profitability as two words that do not fit into the same sentence, merely a good concept.

If nothing else, a farm manager should strive to minimize losses and decrease the negative margin between operating expenses and revenues.

Objectives

(1) Minimize use of grain feeds by maximum use of grazing, browse and hay; this will reduce feed costs.

(2) Develop grazing paddocks and utilize pasture rotation to minimize problems with gastrointestinal parasites; this will minimize healthcare cost.

(3) Cull nonproductive animals; they run up your feed bill and drain your pocketbook.

Culling is the practice of removing inferior animals draining farm resources and inhibiting farm growth. Learn what type of body frame/condition is desirable for breeding stock and then cull the rest.

A good regiment might be to keep the best 50 percent, cull the rest and rebuild your herd from there. Good brood stock should have body length, width in the front and back (space between the legs), a smooth back, depth in the chest, length in the neck and legs, and be good producers. From there learn to cull animals with continually health, udder and foot problems; fail to breed back on a regular basis; slow to grow-out and requiring frequent healthcare.

All this is straight-forward information with a limited amount of details, but the reality of being able to remain in the goat business for 2009 is going to require developing a game plan to control expenses, increase revenues and allow profitability to become a more attainable goal.

Searching for Spanish Goats

Brush, swamp, woods goats, whatever.... Searching for old Spanish goats. They won’t look like Boers or Nubians —- twisted horns, rangy build, but are very hardy.

If you have some, they’re an endangered breed and a backyard goldmine. Please check out www.spanishgoats.org or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">postmaster@spanishgoats.org or 540-687-8871. No fees, no profits, just breeders.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.



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