Sign up for email updates from Cooperative Farming News

Facebook Twitter Instagram
Home > Archives > January 2010

January 2010

Producer Splits Time Between Alabama & Texas Herds

Bill Rainer says one of the best attributes of his Braford cattle is their superior maternal abilities, like easy calving and milk production.

Bill Rainer Dedicated to Improving Braford Breed

By Kellie Henderson

Long-time Bonnie Plants employee Bill Rainer may split his time between Bullock County, Alabama, and New Summerfield, Texas, but in either location he’s never very far from his Braford cattle.

"I’ve had cattle most all my life, but I’ve only had the Brafords about 12 years. They’re just great cattle," Rainer said.

Originally from Bullock County, Rainer lived several different places over the years, but always called Bullock County home. He now spends most of his time in New Summerfield where he works as a station manager for Bonnie Plants. And it was there Rainer first learned about Brafords.

"I’ve worked in East Texas since 1995, and I didn’t even know what a Braford was until I went there," Rainer recalled.

"My predecessor at Bonnie had Braford cattle, and he asked me to go pick him up another bull. I went to a Braford breeder’s place to buy the bull, and while I was there I bought myself 20 brood cows from him," he explained.

Since purchasing those 20 cows in 1997, Rainer has expanded to two herds of about 125 cows – one in Alabama and one in Texas.

But Rainer is more than just a producer of Braford cattle. He serves as president of the United Braford Breeders, an association dedicated to the improvement of the breed. And Rainer’s efforts to improve his own herd have been successful as one of his bulls was Grand Champion at the 2008 Fort Worth Stock Show.

Braford cattle are 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Hereford, and Rainer still develops some replacement stock from purebred Brahman and Hereford cattle in addition to his registered Braford bulls and cows.

"Brafords are great cattle because they are efficient. They don’t require the extra attention some cattle need," said Bill, and his wife Janet agreed.

"The Brafords are really good cattle. They make great mamas with lots of milk, and we don’t even have calving problems with our first-calf heifers. The bulls seem so huge, but they’re gentle enough to eat pellets out of your hand. They’re such pretty cows. It’s beautiful to see a pasture full of white faces and long ears," Janet said.

Bill and Janet live on land that has been in her family for generations, and she said it’s always been a home place surrounded by cattle.

"Mama and Daddy always had cows. In fact, Daddy was one of the first people in Bullock County to own Santa Gertrudis cattle. I’ve always enjoyed being around cows, and the Brafords are especially fun for me," she said.

The Bullock County native relays background information for each of his Braford herd sires. In the background is the Rainers’ home which features beautiful views of the pastures and their cattle.

In addition to the positive attributes Brafords have on their own, Bill said they make an excellent cross for other breeds of cattle.

"We only keep a select number of bulls intact to sell each year, and they are great for Braford operations or to cross on another type of cow," Bill explained as he looked over the cattle records on the clip board he grabbed from behind the seat of his truck.

"Particularly for people with Angus or Angus-type cattle, crossing those cows with a Braford bull is a fast-track to a three-way cross-type of cow. The black, white-faced brood cow is a great cow, and with an Angus-Braford cross, producers get the added benefit of Brahman genetics for heat and insect tolerance, and superior mothering abilities," Bill said.

He also added his cattle aren’t pampered and fed-up fat to look good.

Bill Rainer takes a treat of Co-op Range Pellets to two young Braford bulls he has for sale.

"They might get a treat of a few pellets to get them from one pasture to another, but their main food source is fescue. We don’t even feed as much hay as a lot of cattlemen do. These cattle keep their condition with minimal input, and that’s important to me and the customers who buy these cattle," he said.

Bill does transport some weaned cattle from one herd to another, and he currently has young bulls for sale here in Alabama that were produced in Texas. Similarly, many of Rainer’s replacement females born here in Alabama will be sent to his Texas herd to be bred to his herd sires there.

Janet Rainer says the white faces and long ears make Braford calves a beautiful sight in the pasture.

"One of the young bulls I have for sale is a brother to our grand champion bull," Rainer added.

In addition to the Rainers’ love of Brafords, the couple also enjoys their work with the United Braford Breeders.

"It’s a small association because it’s a less-common breed, but it’s a wonderful group of people and the association does a lot to support the kids who show Brafords and have an interest in the breed," Janet said.

Braford cattle have filled more than just pastures for Bill and Janet. Their home and the cabin on their Bullock County Farm are filled with photos and other mementos of their cattle, and the couple is particularly pleased their oldest grandson Vann has begun showing Braford calves.

The Rainers’ love for their cattle is evident throughout their home, including this custom-made art glass window depicting one of their herd sires.

"Showing cattle is good for young people. They learn a lot and it keeps them busy," Janet said.

And with two herds of cattle several states apart, Bill and Janet know all about busy.

"But we love the cattle, and the other Braford breeders we’ve met make the meetings even more fun," Janet explained.

For more information on Braford cattle, visit the United Braford Breeders online at www.brafords.org.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

4-H Developing Online Learning System to Boost Int

Goal is to meet nation’s need for competitive workforce

By Jim Erickson

More than a half-century ago, Sputnik’s launch by the former USSR sparked a dramatic increase in the number of U.S. students opting for studies, and ultimately careers, in science, math and engineering.

Today, nearly a decade into a new century, the importance of those fields has increased. But as challenges in biotechnology, alternative energy, genetics and other fields have come to the forefront, members of the Sputnik-inspired generation of scientists and engineers are retiring. And experts say replacements aren’t coming fast enough to maintain the nation’s technology leadership in the future.

Agricultural science is a notable case in point due to its diverse impact on so many aspects of people’s lives, both here and throughout the world. Everything from the foods we eat and clothes we wear to the fuels we use have a link to agriculture.

With that reality in mind, and with its decades of experience with and commitment to America’s young people, the national 4-H Youth Development Program has embarked on Project Pathways, a research-based learning system for youth ages nine to 19. To be available online and in CD sets, the new program is designed to take advantage of how young people learn and communicate today.

"Inventive 4-H out-of-school programming like Project Pathways will allow youth to be exposed to and engaged in the sciences earlier, which has been shown to motivate (them) to pursue a career in the sciences as adults," noted Donald T. Floyd, Jr., National 4-H Council president and CEO.

A look at some statistics shows the need for Pathwaysinitiative.

• Only 18 percent of U.S. high school students are proficient in science, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

• Just over 32 percent of U.S. undergraduates are enrolled in science-related degree programs according to the National Science Foundation. That compares with 63.3 percent in Japan, 62.1 percent in China and 56.2 percent in Germany.

• Of all science-related degrees now awarded, only 3.7 percent are in agriculture.

The clear conclusion is if America is unable to keep up with the increasing demand for professionals trained in science, engineering and other technological fields, it faces a daunting task of competing effectively in today’s global marketplace.

4-H is uniquely positioned to play a key role in encouraging young people to develop an interest in science and engineering. The 4-H mission states the organization "empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults."

Achieving that goal involves a team effort including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 106 land grant universities and the National 4-H Council. The end result is what ranks today as America’s largest youth organization, encompassing some six million young people, 4,500 4-H educators, 500,000 volunteers and 60 million alumni.

With Pathways, 4-H has set aggressive targets of fostering one million new scientists and one million new ideas. It will assess progress toward those targets by measuring literacy in ag science, engineering and technology (SET), the number of ag SET majors and the number of college graduates pursuing ag SET careers.

In designing the Pathways effort, 4-H leaders recognized the organization faced a number of challenges, including greater demand for 4-H project materials, the need to respond rapidly to changes in ag science, today’s tech-savvy youth and the need to connect with a larger community of learners.

The obvious solution: Going digital and making materials available online. Work now under way aims for offering a curriculum with some 1,000 learning activities dealing with cutting-edge plant and animal science content.

A "Project Builder" interface will enable prospective users to find the content-driven activity they want to pursue. Projects will be customizable according to a user’s age, where he/she lives, the identity of any sponsor(s) supporting a particular activity, etc. According to Roger Olson, 4-H Council vice president of rural and agribusiness development, the number of possible combinations will be virtually unlimited.

Project activities will be entered and tracked in a "V-Book," an online virtual project book replacing printed project and record books.

Overall, the online content will provide a blueprint for self-guided learning, with additional information including online videos, accessible to enrich the learning experience. Questions a user will be asked to answer will reinforce important concepts in each project.

In addition, a protected online community at the 4-H website will provide opportunities for social networking, free online collaboration with subject matter experts and a searchable database of relevant project information from land grant universities and industry sponsors.

Partnerships developed with sponsors and other content providers will affect how the ultimate cost in dollars and man hours will be borne. But there’s no doubt it will be a multi-million-dollar project involving many thousands of man hours.

According to Dr. Bob Horton, professor of educational design at The Ohio State University and chief architect of the Pathways initiative, the development plan timetable is for the initial content to be completed and online by late 2011, assuming all necessary funding is obtained. Updating will be continuous after the Pathways debut.

Olson noted industry sponsors will be able to gain added visibility by providing branded online content like "Ask the Expert," simulations and moderated chats, podcasts, news tickers and blog centers, and tracking and reporting journals.

"Project Pathways will be designed to accommodate, inspire and empower a wide variety of learners," Horton said. "This is the first time the efforts of industry, academia and youth development are combining to create a robust curriculum blending the latest interactive online programming with offline, hands-on work alongside passionate, expert mentors."

Alternate Energy Becoming A Campaign Issue

Commissioner Ron Sparks fills the tank of a Department of Agriculture and Industries vehicle Liquid Propane fuel.

By Alvin Benn

The race for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination is heating up and alternate energy has become an issue the two leading contenders are focusing on as Alabama’s June primary nears.

Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks and U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, have been going all-out to spotlight the need for alternate fuel sources to cut back on foreign oil dependency.

As they traverse Alabama in search of votes, they mention many subjects, including the declining economy and high unemployment rates, but energy is among other topics drawing their interest as well as those who listen to them.

Sparks recently called a news conference at his office to announce a three-year fuel efficiency study has begun on 11 state vehicles, including the one he drives, to see how much can be saved using liquid propane (LP) as a gasoline supplement.

As soon as the news conference ended, Sparks and key staff members went outside to show reporters what is being done to utilize propane to cut costs.

The commissioner personally pumped 10 gallons of LP into his Ford Expedition, occasionally looking back at the storage tank where the fuel is kept at state headquarters.

The agriculture department has more than 200 cars and trucks on the road throughout the year and Sparks believes LP gas can save the state thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars in fuel costs in the future.

Charlie Stafford, a regional sales executive with Blossman Propane Gas in Daphne, watched as Sparks pumped and made it clear LP may not be the answer to fuel efficiency, but it’ll certainly be a big help once it’s tested.

"Obviously, we don’t think this is the silver bullet in the gun, but we feel it is part of other things that will make us energy self-sufficient and not dependent on foreign oil," said Stafford.

Heather Goggin of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs talks with Montgomery engineer Dan Cooper during the recent Renewable Energy Conference at Auburn University.

Sparks is practicing what he preaches and has often used the propane supplement during his trips around the state.

He said he once drove his Expedition to Gadsden and couldn’t have been happier during the 300-mile roundtrip. He said he felt "no difference" in handling, especially on hills, during use of propane. Once it was used up, his vehicle switched over to gasoline.

It costs about $5,800 to outfit each of the 11 vehicles, but Sparks said savings from using propane will quickly pay for that expense during the 36-month test period.

At the time of the demonstration, gasoline was selling for an average of $2.50 a gallon while propane was going for $1.60 a gallon. That price dropped to $1.10 a gallon once a 50-cent per gallon federal tax credit was applied.

"The numbers are overwhelming on just what you can save," said Stafford, who indicated millions of dollars can be saved in the years to come once state vehicles begin to switch to a propane supplement. "The future is here, yet it’s still in its infancy stages."

Liquid propane isn’t the only alternate fuel source being used or considered by state officials, including Sparks, and Stafford praised them for their "forward thinking."

He specifically praised Sparks and Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Glen Zorn for "leading the way."

"We owe a deep debt of gratitude to them," said Stafford, referring to the two men. "They’ve been so involved from the get-go on alternate fuel from bio-diesel to ethanol and now with propane. Those guys are trying to save taxpayers money and clean up the environment as well."

Lisa Fountain, executive director of the Alabama Propane Gas Association, watched as Sparks pumped LP gas into his vehicle. She said she was hopeful the experiment will be successful, but cautioned it will take a while before the answers are in.

"We don’t have all the data right now, but, once it’s in, it will be transmitted up to Washington where it will be analyzed," she said.

Sparks said in a written statement issued prior to his news conference he hopes the pilot project "will show transportation costs can be reduced while also using a cleaner fuel."

In addition to the propane study, Sparks also announced details of a new loan program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Industries.

Aimed at helping Alabamians who live in rural areas like the Black Belt region, the program will provide money to the state at a one percent interest rate. The funds can then be lent to businesses throughout the state as a way to help those working on alternative fuel sources.

The loans will be available to minorities and women in 17 Black Belt counties including rural areas in Montgomery County.

"We hope to continue to focus on alternative fuel development and delivery as we believe these kinds of businesses in rural and qualifying areas will enhance energy security and job creation," Sparks said.

Those counties involved in the federal loan program include Barbour, Bullock, Choctaw, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter and Wilcox.

Sparks said the money may be used to help city and county governments in the area to fuel their vehicles "or for a variety of other projects that can cut costs."

The nation’s concern over foreign oil dependency hasn’t been lost on Davis either. The congressman has been focusing much of his attention on that issue ever since he announced his candidacy for governor.

During the recent Alabama Renewable Energy Conference at Auburn University, Davis brought up another factor in solving America’s increased concern over foreign oil prices and how linked the U.S. is to those who control the source of that energy.

He focused on "biomass," a renewable energy source that can be obtained from a variety of existing "contributors"—from tree stumps to tall grass.

Much of that source, Davis pointed out during the conference, is available in Alabama’s Black Belt — the poorest region of the state where unemployment in some counties has topped 20 percent and isn’t getting any better.

He said conversion of "biomass" into energy that can propel vehicles, run factories or be used for a variety of other reasons may not be around the corner, but lauded Auburn University as a research institution that can help in that development.

"It can happen in the next decade," Davis said. "We can be a leader on the research front and there is no reason why Auburn University should not be at the forefront in 2019 of alternative energy research in this country."

He used "2019" for a good reason. That’s the 200th anniversary of statehood for Alabama and, in his way of thinking, cause for celebrating if, by then, something has been done to help ease foreign oil dependency.

"I have no idea how good the football team will be, but you have every capacity of winning the national championship in the area of researching alternative energy," Davis said.

His remarks were made a few weeks before the university hosted the annual Iron Bowl game between Auburn and Alabama.

The game was won by Alabama by five points, but the Tigers pushed the Tide to the limit — illustrating Davis’ prediction that Auburn University scientists and researchers have the capability of helping America solve its energy problems.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Autauga Co. Farm City Week Unites Entire Community

By Grace Smith

Autauga County held its annual Farm City Week activities November 16-20. The week-long celebration included activities for children and adults, and was organized to recognize the interdependence of rural and urban communities.

According to Mike Lamar, chairman of Autauga County’s Farm City Week, "The purpose of Farm City Week is to provide a venue for rural and city residents to come together for fellowship, food and fun in order to help one another recognize the contributions to society each one makes."

Two highlights of the week were the Kid’s Tour, held Tuesday morning, and the banquet, held Thursday evening.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, nearly 500 local third grade students attended the Farm City Week Kid’s Tour along with their teachers and parent volunteers. The event was held at R.H. Kirkpatrick Arena in Autaugaville where attendees were greeted by approximately 60 volunteers who organized stations where students could learn more about farm life. The stations included various farm animals, a plasticulture demonstration, bee-keeping, goat meat and cheese taste-testing, cotton-ginning, a wood-working demonstration and, the always popular, mobile dairy unit.

Right, during the Farm City Kid’s Tour, students were able to get up close and personal with some of Autauga County’s more unusual commodities—honey bees.

According to Yvonne Thomas, Autauga County Extension Coordinator, "The Farm City Week Kid’s Tour was sponsored by the Autauga County Extension office in partnership with Mid South RC&D, the Autauga County Farm City Week Committee, local farmers and the Autauga County Young Farmers."

Thomas also noted the importance of the Tour.

"It is important for students to attend the Farm City Week Kids Tour because it provides an opportunity to highlight what agriculture means to our local economy and exhibit how farm families supply many of the basic necessities of our daily life," Thomas said. "Through participation in the various activities, the youth discover the connection between farm life and their everyday life. Most importantly, the youth leave with a greater appreciation for those who grow, harvest and deliver agricultural goods to feed their families."

Thursday, November 19, R.H. Kirkpatrick Arena was once again bustling as the county’s rural and urban families alike joined to participate in the celebration’s annual banquet. The event boasted a delicious meal and recognized outstanding Autauga County citizens.

At the Farm to Home station sponsored by the Autauga County Young Farmers, Kelly Gaines, left, showed students how farm products are used in eveyday life.

Lamar said, "The purpose of the banquet is to honor the achievements of businesses, business people and farmers who make Autauga County the great place it is. This is truly the one time each year each of the groups is at the same place at the same time."

Winners were Kirk McKinney, Farmer of the Year; Jim’s Restaurant, Business of the Year; and Clyde Chambliss, Business Leader of the Year. Several poster and essay winners from Autauga County schools were recognized as well.

In recognition of Farm City Week, the 4-H Home Grown Kids collected and donated 624 pounds of food to the Autauga Interfaith Caring Center.

It won’t be long before the 2010 Autauga County Farm City Committee will meet once again. According to Lamar, the Committee usually starts preparing for the following year nearly 10 months in advance.

During the Tour, students were able to sample goat milk, cheese and sausage at the Goat Station. Many students were suprised at how much they enjoyed the goodies.

"Our Farm City Committee usually begins our preparations with a wrap-up meeting in early January," he said. "At this meeting, we discuss what went right with our previous year’s festivities and how we can improve them."

At the Farm to Home station sponsored by the Autauga County Young Farmers, Kelly Gaines, left, showed students how farm products are used in eveyday life.

But Lamar said it’s all worth it because it has cultivated effective communication between the rural and urban areas in the county fostering improvements and positive working relationships.

"Our county, town and city governments have worked together to bring in industries and businesses across the county that have improved tax revenues which, in turn, have improved services offered to county residents like schools and roads," he said. "A key reason this has occurred is that all groups communicate well. Farm City activities help promote this communication…."

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

Citrus Peels and Pomanders Make a Farmhouse Smell

By H. T. Farmer

During the cooler months here in Alabama the days when I can comfortably enjoy the windows and doors open are few and far between. Sometimes when I drive into town for the day and come back home, I am suddenly hit in the face with the scent of my compost bucket, old coffee grounds or breakfast skillet stench. If you work indoors all day, you get used to it, but that’s not a good thing. I like for my house to smell good just in case folks stop by.

I discovered a couple of things that help. I usually harvest all of my satsumas, Meyer lemons and limes off of all of the trees by the end of November to the beginning of December. I try to use all of the parts of the fruits, including the peels. I generally use the zest of the lemons for making lemon curd or limoncello and the lime zest for pies. A fresh stock of citrus peels is a good thing to have around to add to your beer recipes. Also, citrus peels make great air fresheners when dried and made into potpourris or simmered in water on the stove top with other spices like whole cinnamon, whole allspice, cloves and nutmeg.

Another great idea for a natural air freshener is to make a pomander. I have seen many things in stores labeled as pomanders; but a cheap silk pillow with oily rose petals or cedar chips inside isn’t even close to what one actually is.

Pomander, roughly translated, means perfumed, round fruit. It is a traditional New Year’s gift usually made from an orange covered in spices.

Orange pomander

To make a pomander the way that I do, you will need a few items from the kitchen:
*1 unblemished orange (thin-skinned preferably)
*Whole cloves
*Ground cinnamon
*Ground nutmeg
*Ground allspice
*Small nail or toothpick
*Decorative string or embroidery thread
*Skewer or long needle (to push the thread through the orange)
*2 buttons
*1 medium-size brown paper bag

Your orange will ultimately be studded with cloves.

Using your nail or toothpick, make your design for clove arrangement by poking holes into the orange. Stick the clove stems into the holes. From the stem end to the blossom end, insert your needle or skewer into the orange, pushing the string all the way through. Tie a button on the string at the bottom of the orange and attach the other button to the string at the top as a decoration. Mix your ground spices to the desired scent and roll the orange in them. Place the remaining spice mixture and your pomander orange into the paper bag and close the top. Place in a cool, dry place for three-five weeks to dry. Be sure to check on its progress every few days to ensure it isn’t developing a fungus and to gently dust your project with the spice mixture in the bag.

When it dries, you will have a natural room deodorizer that is also a snappy decoration. Send me pictures of your pomanders. I’d enjoy seeing them.

Thanks for reading!

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

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

Conference Showcases Timely Forage Information

Dr. Don Ball, Extension Forage Crop Agronomist at Auburn University, was an organizer of the event,.

By Susie Sims

More than 300 people gathered for the biannual Alabama Forage Conference which was held on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009.

The University of West Alabama in Livingston hosted the one-day event, which featured speakers from six Southeastern states.

"We had a wonderful program," said Dr. Don Ball, who helped organize the conference. "For 35 years, I have been working with forage crops in Alabama and this was the best conference yet."

Ball serves as the Extension Forage Crop Agronomist in the Agronomy and Soils Department at Auburn University.

After the conference he noted the material presented proved timely for those who attended the program.

Wade Hill, who served as the moderator for the afternoon equine session, agreed fully with Ball.

"Many people are struggling to find more efficient methods of providing feed for their animals," Hill said. "Proper forage management can prove to be very economical for many producers."

Hill serves as the NRCS district conservationist for Winston and Marion Counties. He and his father raise horses and produce hay for sale, mainly for equine consumption.

More Input Does Not Always Equal More Yield

Ball pointed out that one of the sessions led by Dr. Gerald Evers of Texas A&M University proved to be quite thought provoking.

Dr. Gerald Evers of Texas A&M University presented material on pasture systems for blackland soils.

Evers presented material concerning low, medium and high-input beef pasture systems for blackland soils. The low-input category included no improved management practices while the high-input category featured Bermuda grass with nitrogen.

The most surprising result, according to Ball, came from the medium-input category, which highlighted Dallas grass with white clover as the input.

Ball stated, of course, the high input showed improvement, but, for the money, the best level of input came from the middle.

"When it came to economics, the medium input offered the best value," Ball said.

Evers is a Regents Fellow and professor with Texas A&M University. He has been involved in numerous forage and livestock research projects.

Advances in Fescue

Ball was particularly interested in the research results presented by Jimmy Ray Parish of Mississippi State University.

Parish discussed tall fescues of the future. He has been working on improving the durability of fescue while resolving its toxicity.

Ball explained that Kentucky 31 fescue, which had become endophyte-infected, was proving to be non-beneficial and even harmful to cattle.

Parish’s data revealed a novel endophyte that can increase the durability and weather-tolerance of the fescue without producing the harmful effects, like inhibiting reproductivity and hurting animal gain.

Ball noted, even though Parish has only gathered grazing data for one year, everyone should keep their eyes on this research.

"This is really exciting news," Ball said. "It sounds as if in the future we can have fescue even more productive in terms of yield and animal performance, and it can be grown in an area where we can’t currently grow fescue."

Equine Session

This year marked the first time an equine session has been included in the forage conference, which has taken place biannually since 1997.

Wade Hill, who served as moderator for the equine session, also placed first, second and third, along with his father, in the legume producer category of the Alabama Hay Contest.

Hill explained that the organizers included an equine session because of the increasing effect horses are having on the state’s economy.

Dr. Mary Goodman of Auburn University talked about the effects of overgrazing pastures. Hill explained the concept was the same for all grazing animals.

"She explained how grasses operate," Hill recalled. "She talked about photosynthesis and what it takes to make the grass grow."

Goodman discouraged overgrazing because there is not enough grass left for photosynthesis to take place. If no photosynthesis takes place, then the plant cannot grow back as it should.

Dr. Betsy Wagner, also of Auburn University, discussed nutritional issues related to horses on pasture.

Wagner pointed out that a horse is a grazing animal and it is possible to properly feed a horse with nothing but forage.

"This is possible if we provide the right type of forages at the right time," Hill said, noting forage-only feeding takes time to research and effort to provide the proper nutrition.

The final speaker in the equine session was Tom Keene, who has managed horse farms in Kentucky and has worked as a hay broker. He currently works for the University of Kentucky assisting producers with marketing their hay.

Keene discussed hay as a proper component of a horse’s nutrition.

Alabama Hay Contest

On a personal note, Hill said one of the most exciting portions of the conference was when the winners of the Alabama Hay Contest were announced.

Hill and his father placed first, second and third in the legume producer category.

Other winners included:

• Grass producer - Butch Frye, first place; Ben Burleson, second and third places.

• Grass buyer - Kim Romaine, first and second places.

Hill hopes the contest inspired more producers to test their hay, even if they don’t enter the contest.

Hill noted one of the entries in the buyer category was dissatisfied with her hay. She concluded she was paying too much for what nutritional value she was getting from the hay she purchased.

"That’s the whole point," Hill explained. "Producers and buyers need to know the nutritional value of their hay. The only way to know is to have it tested."

Hill noted Auburn University now tests hay samples.

"For many years people have sent their hay to Georgia to be tested," Hill stated. "Auburn does the same kind of testing."

Auburn’s hay tests cost $10 to $25 and provide a similar analysis to Georgia tests.

Dr. Gobena Huluka of Auburn’s Soil Testing Lab said the $10 basic test suits the needs of most producers.

Persons interested in submitting a hay sample for testing should visit: www.aces.edu/anr/soillab/ and click on the forms and publications link. They may also contact their local extension office for help in submitting a sample.

Alabama Farmers Cooperative sponsored the prizes for the hay contest. First place winners received gift certificates for $150, second place received $100 and third place received $50. The gift certificates were redeemable at their local Quality Co-op.

Contact Information

Persons interested in entering next year’s hay contest may call Hill at (205) 921-3103 or may contact their local Extension office.

Ball may be reached by calling (334) 844-5491 or e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">dball@aces.edu.

Evers may be reached by calling (903) 834-6191 or by e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">g-evers@tamu.edu.

Parish may be reached by calling (662) 325-2717 or by e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">jrparish@pss.msstate.edu.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Couple Settle Into Peace and Simplicity in Macbea

The McKnatt house is their own creation and their own handiwork. Bea chinked all the logs. Art supervised. In the front yard, a bottle tree helps “keep the spooks away.”

By Jaine Treadwell

T’is a gift to be simple,
T’is a gift to be free,
T’is a gift to come down
Where we ought to be.

Art and Bea McKnatt have taken the words of that old Shaker song to heart and have dropped out of the "rat race" and opted for a "simple life" in rural Montgomery County.

When they married 25 years ago, they agreed a simple life was what they wanted to live. But first they had to shed the shackles holding them on life’s fast track.

The gate to the McKnatts’ is always seemingly locked, but open to friends and neighbors.

The McKnatts’ “golden” pond.

Art was principal of a county school and Bea was the secretary for a bank vice president. They knew leading a simple life would mean living with less. They also knew living a simple life would improve the quality of their lives.

A pastor friend provided the couple with a scripture that directed their path, I Thessalonians 4:11.

"The scripture says ‘That ye study to be quiet and to do your own business and to work with your own hands,’ and that’s what we decided to do," Art said. "We left the rat race for a simpler way of life. It’s not possible to get completely away from the ways of the world, but you can live on the fringes. That’s where we are."

Actually, where they are is tucked snuggly away in Macbea Holler in rural Montgomery County and they are as happy as bees in honey.

Bea McKnatt is an experienced quilter. She is quilting a picnic cloth to match the vintage color of the 1936 Ford pickup truck.

"This is the life we want to live," Art said. "It’s the life we dreamed about. We’ve made a concerted effort to live simple lives and we’ve learned to live with less. Why, we don’t even have a working television any more since digital TV came in. And, we’ve found we are sitting at the kitchen table and talking more. We do have an old television set with a VCR and we said when we got bored we’d watch a movie. We’ve only watched one… I’m afraid that TV is going to go bad."

The McKnatts get their news from WTBF in Troy every morning and they find that’s all the news they need to know.

"I get up before sunup and go for a two-mile walk," Art said. "Usually, Bea goes with me. That’s a real special time — waiting for the sun to come up.

"We both like walking in the woods and we’ve got trails. Being out in the early morning —well, there’s nothing like it."

The McKnatts spend their days doing what needs to be done and what they enjoy doing.

The interior of the McKnatt home is warm and inviting. Many of the furnishings were crafted by the Amish in Tennessee.

"Some mornings, I go down to the store at Dublin and drink a soda with whoever’s around," Art said. "Then I’ll go home and Bea will have dinner ready. I’ll take a nap and then I’ll do what needs to be done. Something’s always torn up and something always needs fixing, so there always some work to do."

But most days, Art and Bea are fast at "work" doing the things they love to do.

He restores "old" cars, trucks and gas pumps. She is a quilter.

"We’ve never been bored and we’ve never been caught up," Art said, laughing.

The McKnatts have a small garden and eat "mostly out of the freezer." Most of their social life is centered around church and most of the other time they are involved in their "hobbies" or rocking on the porch.

Art and Bea McKnatt built the store or hangout from scratch.

But life at Macbea Holler has not always been that simple.

The couple built "almost everything down here." And that’s a lot, a house and several outbuildings, one down by the pond they call a "hangout." The logs for the house were brought in and erected, but the couple did all the other work necessary to make it their home in the "holler."

"A friend had worked with subcontractors and found he could mess up a lot cheaper than he could pay the contractors to mess up and we decided we could do the same," Art said, laughing and adding that a man and his wife can get a lot of satisfaction from knowing they put a roof over their heads. "It’s a good feeling to know you did that."

Art McKnatt enjoys going down to the “hangout,” kicking back and reading from his collection of National Geographics.

Art has a shop where he brings old things back to their natural beauty. Bea has a quilting frame in the house that is never "wanting" long.

"We stay busy all the time and we love every minute of it," Art explained. "When we’re not working, we’re reading. Bea has always been an avid reader and now I read a lot, too. She likes to read books about the Amish and I collect National Geographics going all the way back to the 1930s. Some days I’ll go down to the ‘hangout,’ and kick back with my magazines."

The couple has great admiration for the Amish and has developed a deep friendship with a couple and their family in Tennessee.

"We go up and visit with them. We admire the commitment of the Amish people to stick to the old ways," Art said. "As a people, they are so content with their lives and so committed to family and family values. When we go up there and are in their company, I can just feel the pressures of life slipping away. They have a wonderfully simple lifestyle. It’s hard, but so rewarding."

A bedroom at the McKnatts’ is furnished with found items, including the bed that was found in an old shed.

When it rains it pours, but the back porch substitutes as a “clothes dryer.”

Art McKnatt’s great-great grandfather’s first wife died in childbirth. This is the only likeness of her ever found. It was done by an itinerate artist on a window shade.

The McKnatts have found leading a quiet, simple life means letting go of the stresses that come with life in today’s rat race world.

"A friend gave me a book titled ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,’ and, when you get to thinking about it, so much of what we sweat is small stuff," Art said. "When we’re here at Macbea Holler — me piddling in the shop and Bea working on her quilts – it’s all small stuff."

And, when the couple takes a quiet walk through the woods and stops to watch the sun set, that’s the big stuff and that’s why the simple life is the life for them.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Entries Sought For Alabama’s Farm of Distinction C

The Alabama Farm-City Committee is seeking applications for Alabama’s 2010 Farm of Distinction competition, which recognizes outstanding farmers and rewards them with cash and other prizes.

Based on the applications submitted, division winners will be chosen from five areas of the state, plus one at-large winner. These six farms will then compete for the state title and prizes valued at more than $10,000.

SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag will donate a new John Deere Gator TX to the 2010 winner. In addition, Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) will present each division winner with a $250 gift certificate and the state winner with a $1,000 gift certificate, both of which are redeemable at any of its Quality Co-op stores.

The state winner also will receive a $2,500 cash award from Swisher International of Jacksonville, FL.

Division winners will be judged by a panel of agricultural experts who will visit each farm. The state winner will be announced during the annual Alabama Farm-City Awards April 12 in Birmingham. Alabama’s winner will go on to represent the state in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition at the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, GA, on Oct. 19-21.

"Agriculture is still Alabama’s number one industry, employing about 20 percent of its total workforce," said Jeff Helms, chairman of the Alabama Farm-City Committee. "The Farm of Distinction program is one way we can showcase the best farms in our state, recognizing them for hard work, conservation, good management and innovative thinking."

Farms will be judged on environmental stewardship, overall appearance, accomplishments, efficiency and leadership of the farm owner. Any size farm is eligible. The Farm of Distinction Award is presented annually by the Farm-City Committee of Alabama.

Applications for the 2010 Farm of Distinction can be downloaded at www.AlfaFarmers.org/farm-city.

For more information, call 1-800-392-5705, ext. 4212 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=2010%20Farm%20of%20Distinction">jhelms@alfafarmers.org. The deadline for applications is Feb. 16.

Equine Piroplasmosis is on the Radar Screen

By Dr. Tony Frazier


Equine Piroplasmosis (EP) is a disease we have not spent much time thinking about. EP is a tick-borne protozoal disease affecting the equine species —- horses, donkeys, mules and zebras. In fact, wild zebras are considered to be an important reservoir for the disease in Africa. The protozoal agent carried by ticks is either Theiler equi or Babesia Caballi. Those organisms, once they enter the body of their equine host, set up residence in the animal’s red blood cells. The problem comes when the immune system begins to drop laser-guided bombs on the infected red blood cells. The collateral damage is not a pretty sight.

Although EP is endemic (meaning the disease normally occurs) in 90 percent of the world, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, England and Ireland are not considered to be endemically infected. It is more prevalent in the tropics and sub-tropical areas of the world…probably because ticks enjoy the climates in those regions and are more numerous there. The United States did experience an epidemic in Florida during the 1960s after the introduction of horses from Cuba. During that outbreak, about 20 percent of the horses on the Brighton Indian Reservation died. I don’t care who you are, that is a high mortality rate. After that there was an extensive tick elimination program in place and, in 1982, the United States was considered to be EP free. (Some of you may remember my article about tick fever in the November 2008 issue. I am still trying to figure one good thing ticks are responsible for.)

In general the United States does not allow horses that test positive for EP to come into this country. Please bear in mind, testing positive does not always mean the horse is infected. It means an exposure has caused the immune system to build antibodies against the PE organism. On the other hand, a negative test may not always mean the horse is negative. It may just mean antibodies were not circulating in the blood at detectable levels at the time the blood was drawn. Anyway, in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, some horses that tested positive for detectable PE antibodies were allowed to compete in the stadium events: jumping and dressage. Those horses were housed in isolated stalls with strict tick control in place. Additionally, no PE positive horses were allowed to compete in field events like cross-country races because of the potential for tick exposure. Similar measures were taken by Australia in 2000 when the Summer Olympics were held in Sydney.

Referring back to the title of this article, PE is out there on the radar screen. Those of you who visit some of the more popular horse websites like thehorse.com may be aware, in October 2009, a seven-year-old mare in Texas became ill and tested positive for EP. Follow-up testing on the ranch found over 30 horses to be positive. Afterward, traces to possible exposed horsed began. By November 30, over 1,200 horses had been tested with 342 horses testing positive. 289 of those horses are in Texas. One horse originating in Texas was traced to Alabama and has tested positive. Besides Texas and Alabama, at least 10 other states have positive horses. These animals and farms are under quarantine as we move through the process to deal with the disease.

Clinical signs of the disease mimic many other diseases. (How many times have you read that statement?) Horses infected with EP may exhibit loss of appetite, lack of energy and weight loss. Other signs include anemia, rapid breathing and rapid pulse, colic or diarrhea, kidney damage or even kidney failure, and swelling of the lower limb. Foals may become infected in the uterus and be born weak and anemic. And while some horses that become infected may spontaneously clear the organism over a period of several months, others become long-term or chronic carriers. When stressed, these carrier horses may show signs of the disease again and become more likely to spread the disease.

There is no vaccine for the disease. Strict tick control is absolutely vital to controlling the disease. Although most articles include the use of a single hypodermic needle on multiple horses for vaccines or treatment as a means of spread, I will just say, if you are doing that, you have larger problems than EP. In fact, if you are using a dirty needle on horses…well, we will save that for another article.

In the spring of 2010, Kentucky will host The Kentucky International Equine Summit, the likes of which the equine industry has never experienced. There will be horses from all over the world. You can bet that EP issue has my counterpart, Dr. Bob Stout, and his staff working overtime to make sure EP does not become an issue for them.

Be assured, we are working with USDA to make certain EP or any other new disease does not come into Alabama and establish residence. If you have questions about your horse’s health, we encourage you to contact your local veterinarian or feel free to call us on issues involving unusual disease signs.

Feed the Birds. It’s Cold Outside!

By Kenn Alan

Each year at the Tomato Tower, we plant more and more varieties of annuals and perennials. But, I really like all of the past year’s successes, so I keep planting them as well. The garden gets pretty full these days.

One other issue causing crowding here in the gardens is that I now plant extras of the plants I collect seeds from each season. I do this because the birds love them and it looks more natural than plastic bird feeders, although I still use them for specialty feed.

Purple finches on basil

Echinacea seeds, along with thistle and black oil sunflower seeds, attract the American goldfinches and cardinals. Basil seeds attract the purple finch, dark-eyed junco and sparrows.

Once you have collected all of your seeds for saving in the fall, leave a few behind on the stems for the birds to eat.

Another great source for food is my collection of trees and shrubs. Cedar waxwings love the berries of our native hollies like the Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) and the common winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and so do the blue jays and red winged blackbirds, among others.

Robins, brown thrashers, towhees and grackles all enjoy scratching for worms in the compost heaps, especially since they get turned about every other week. (There’s some great dirt there too! I can hardly wait until spring.)

Make sure you remember our feathered guests this winter and leave them something to munch on.

There are only a few shopping days left until Groundhog Day!

Brrrr! It’s cold! See y’all in February.

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook. E-mail me (kennalan@ hgtradio.net) with questions about bird watching in the garden or other gardening topics. For more on these or other gardening tips, log on to Home Grown Tomatoes at http://HGTradio.net.

Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

Happy New Year!! I hope you had a joyous holiday season and will have a prosperous 2010.

This is the time of the year some producers need to become aware of the potential of grass tetney concerns in cattle. The wet, mild fall and the possibility of a wet, mild winter have lead to cattle grazing green grass from North Alabama into the Florida Panhandle. Along with this green grass comes the classic problem of grass tetney. Grass tetney could become a major concern for cattle producers this spring, if preventative measures are not in place.

The lack of magnesium intake by cattle is the cause of grass tetney. Cows are most vulnerable when grazing lush green forages either low in magnesium and/or high in potassium. High levels of potassium will interfere with magnesium absorption by the animal. Therefore, pastures fertilized with products like potash, chicken litter and ammonium sulfate will increase the chance of grass tetney.

Grass tetney generally occurs in late winter and early spring when cattle are grazing lush forages. Cattle most susceptible are those calving during times of the year when tetney is most likely to occur. At the onset of tetney, animals will appear nervous and muscles can be seen twitching. As the condition progresses, animals will have problems walking, will eventually go down and will normally lie on one side and thrash about. If the condition is not corrected, death may occur within three hours.

Since nothing can be done to control the weather, the best alternative to prevent grass tetney is to feed a complete mineral with adequate levels of magnesium. Most high magnesium minerals will contain 14 percent magnesium. At this level, cattle will receive the needed 12-15 grams per head per day to prevent grass tetney.

Magnesium is very unpalatable, so you should only provide high magnesium minerals to cows 30 days prior to and through grass tetney season. During the other times of the year, provide a complete mineral containing at least three percent magnesium, along with at least six percent phosphorous. Your local Quality Co-op also carries other supplement tubs and blocks containing adequate levels of magnesium to prevent grass tetney.

If you have an acute case of grass tetney, a sterile solution containing magnesium and calcium is given intravenously to the cow. This must be done slowly to prevent rapid increases in blood calcium levels, which can cause heart failure.

The best way to stop grass tetney is to prevent it. To accomplish this, provide a high magnesium mineral to cattle beginning early January. Make sure the mineral is provided to cattle at all times and they are consuming an average of three ounces of mineral per head per day.

I would also encourage you to visually inspect your cattle often during this time of the year. Cattle during wet, cold conditions will require an increase in energy to maintain current body conditions. Cattle can lose several body condition scores over a short period of time during these conditions. A lower body condition will directly affect reproductive performance and growth of calves nursing these cows. If you find your herd is losing body condition, we will be glad to recommend products to help maintain or increase body condition scores.

If you have any questions about grass tetney or other mineral concerns, please contact your local Co-op or e-mail me at jimmyh@ alafarm.com. I can also be reached by phone at (256) 947-7886.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. He looks forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.

Feral Hog Hunters Cautioned About Swine Brucellosi

By Gary Moody

The growing popularity of hunting feral hogs in Alabama brings a growing risk of contracting illnesses like swine brucellosis, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) which is urging hunters to take precautions when field dressing the animal.

The ADCNR advises all hunters who field dress hogs to wear gloves, and Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley said heavy, rubber gloves are preferred due to the possibility of nicks from a knife.

"After field dressing the hog, hands should be washed with soap and hot water. Swine brucellosis does not affect the edibility of the meat. As with all pork, it should be thoroughly cooked," he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160o F.

"As we have been saying for years, hunters should be aware of the potential threat and use common sense safety precautions," said Alabama Wildlife Chief Gary Moody.

Swine brucellosis is an infectious disease of pigs that can be contracted by humans. Because it can have a long incubation time, immediate symptoms may not be present. Although few humans die of infection, the disease is often chronic and debilitating.

The feral hog (Sus scrofa) is a non-native species brought to the Southeast centuries ago by Spanish explorers, but has become a nuisance for landowners, farmers and rural residents as their population has increased.

Swine brucellosis is caused by the bacterium Brucella suis. Humans can get swine brucellosis through handling infected tissues of wild pigs. Brucellosis bacteria are found in bodily fluids, concentrating in reproductive organs and milk. The bacteria can enter the human body through cuts, nicks, abrasions or other breaks in the skin.

In 2007, eight Florida hunters were diagnosed with swine brucellosis, and a Texas hunter recently contracted the disease when he did not wear gloves while cleaning a hog.

Because swine brucellosis can have a long incubation time, immediate symptoms may not be present. Although few humans die of infection, the disease is often chronic and debilitating.

Gary Moody is the Alabama Wildlife Chief of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

FLATROCK.COM

Plannin’ and Resolutin’ Full Throttle
T’ward New Years 2010…

By Joe Potter

It was Tuesday of 9 a.m. as I walked through the old double-front doors of The Flat Rock General Store. Today was eatin’ day down to The Store with country ham biscuits, cinnamon rolls, coffee, Florida fresh orange juice and sweet milk, simple but tongue-slappin’ good.

All the regulars were present includin’ Slim, Essex, Ms. Ida, the widow Cora, my Daddy "Pop" "C.C.," Farlow, Willerdean, "Truth," Estelle, Bro. S.R., J.R., "Hatch," Heath, Dustin and the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood. Course there was several other folk who showed up for eatin’ day. Mr. L.O. hand delivered the country ham. My good friend, Mr. Ed Whatley, him who promotes and cooks beef in his workin’ job with the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association down in Montgomery was consumin’ a country ham biscuit and a washin’ it down with Florida fresh orange juice. Finally Miss Grace Smith and Mr. Jim Allen from the Cooperative Farmin’ News was a consumin’ the breakfast vittles. Additional the two was lookin’ to turn over stories for their TV Program Time Well Spent, what as it is goin’ national across the full U.S. of America on RFD-TV startin’ near bout early January. Then there was them two camo huntin’ guys who walked in late and was a takin’ on all the leftover breakfast vittles bits and pieces.

Here several subjects was throwed about like good food, the weather, RFD-TV, politics, church, New Years, Bowl games, all as some folk was doin’ their tummy rubbin’s with most lookin’ settled and content. Estelle and Ms. Ida stood at this point and took the floor. Estelle was obliged to point out the two six-foot-long pieces of white butcher paper strung up along the back wall of The Store b’hind the old potbellied heater. There so titled in red marker were two topical subjects: Resolutions 2010 and FlatRock.com.

Seems these women had desires to put Flat Rock on the .com cyberspace computer Internet highway, and as time moved with fastness t’ward January 2010, it was resolutin’ writin’ down time for all those Flat Rock folk who so felt it in their needs. On FlatRock.com, seems Ms. Ida was willin’ to set up and run the computer site with her full effort to hand deliver Flat Rock and The Flat Rock General Store, Lawrence County, Alabama, to the people cross Alabama and further on into the hands of all parts of U.S. of America. Most near all those gathered were in favor of her efforts and comminst to offerin’ assistance and their idears.

Here Estelle started passin’ out red and green writin’ markers for folk to pencil down their 2010 resolutions. Harley Hood stood and offered those gathered an invite to the 2010 New Years Eve Dance down to the Armory. Course, music to be played and words sung by Mr. Harley Hood and friends.

At this point those gathered commenced to stir t’ward the old, double-front doors of The Store as to exit for early p.m. personal duties and obligations. Most were offerin’ at L.O., Slim, Essex and others their special "Thanks" for some fine breakfast vittles eatin’ food.

I wish for each Farm Fresh Memories reader a blessed, safe, healthy and Happy New Year 2010….

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

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

From UCLA to AL Sawmill...?

Darryl and Wendy Curl with the sawmill she operates.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

How did a noted UCLA instructor, who has traveled all over the world giving lectures, and his chiropractor wife, both San Diego natives, wind up living in rural St. Clair County operating a sawmill, making beautiful furniture, and raising pygmy goats and a handful of chickens?

While it may seem a circuitous route to some, it simply "makes sense," according to Darryl and Wendy Curl.

Darryl was and is an expert in oral-facial pain and headaches while Wendy, a wellness and prevention consultant with a major insurance company, continues part-time now.

The Curls both explained that growing up in the San Diego area was wonderful years ago.

"San Diego was every bit as beautiful as Alabama. There was a small town, family-oriented atmosphere," Darryl explained. "But slowly over the years that changed, sadly, in my opinion."

Still, when Darryl traveled to Europe, Asia, and parts in between (including an all-expense paid trip to treat the royal family of Thailand), "I was always terribly homesick for home in San Diego," Darryl said.

Darryl Curl adjusted the router table extension he made from lumber he sawmilled and planed from a 150-year-old oak tree in his yard which was downed during Hurricane Katrina.

"But I’d come to visit my sister, Cheryl, in Clarksville; my brother-in-law Bill in Mobile, and friends in Oneonta, and I wouldn’t get homesick as long as I was in Alabama. I thought at first it was because Oneonta and the area seemed so similar to the way San Diego used to be."

When Darryl retired from the University of California, Los Angeles, the couple lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for a year, before moving permanently to Alabama in 2005.

They looked at houses in and around Oneonta before finding their dream home in next door St. Clair County, just outside of Springville.

Their approximate three acres slants gradually until it’s bordered by a pristine creek. But more importantly, there are TREES everywhere.

"In San Diego there weren’t many trees," Wendy explained. "If you had a tree you certainly didn’t cut it down."

Darryl has been a woodworker since his early teens, when he and a friend built a regulation pool table when they were in the ninth grade.

Wendy operates the tractor while Darryl uses a cable to snake a log onto the load to carry to the sawmill on their farm.

Once in Alabama, he completely outfitted a workshop on the property, but he didn’t buy his wood at the store.

The couple at first carefully harvested downed trees from storms, cutting the lumber using a regular chainsaw, band saw and table saw, "and way too much brute force."

Although the furniture Darryl made from that lumber is beautiful, getting the wood was simply too labor-intensive.

So this year that did it: they bought a huge Lumber Mate 2000 band saw/sawmill which will handle logs up to 31 inches in diameter.

While the sawmill sits primarily in the corner of their yard, wheels can be attached and it can be pulled behind their truck. With a smaller-sized tractor (also bought because loading the logs to the sawmill had required "more brawn than brains" until that purchase) they now travel to homes and farms where trees are down and cut the trees into useable lumber, for their own use, for the use of the landowner or to sell.

They cringe when they see "good" trees piled with brush in burn piles, knowing there is often good useable lumber that just needs to be harvested from those downed trees.

"To burn a tree like that is such a shame," Wendy explained.

Darryl continued, "A tree is almost 100% useable. There is usually beautiful wood, bark that can be used for mulch, sawdust for gardens or for bedding animals, and more.

"We save homeowners the money of having to have trees disposed of and, if somebody just buys rough-cut lumber from us, they can know it is true sized, for example with 2x4s actually being 2x4."

Oak, pecan pine, hickory and poplar lumber drying in the Curl’s garage helped along by a dehumidifier and a propane heater.

The Curls have converted their two-car basement garage into a drying room, where a dehumidifier and a propane heater help to dry stacks of cherry, walnut, hickory, pine, oak, poplar and more. Their bedroom is directly above the drying area so it requires little heat, demonstrating the couple’s desire to use all things for more than one benefit.

Darryl believes the country will come out of the current economic financial situation with a better understanding of our resources.

"In the old economy there was a way of life where people treated things as somewhat disposable. I believe in the new economy that will change a bit. When someone has to cut a tree or it is downed by storm damage, they need to stop and think how that lumber could be used to build things at their home or business, or by a church or someone else ."

This vegetable bin was built by Darryl from reclaimed wood.

"It sometimes takes nature 150 years to grow a tree, but then only five or ten minutes to burn it," Darryl explains.

The Curls lost a 150 year old oak to the winds of Hurricane Katrina a few years ago. As a neighbor began cutting the tree up for firewood, the Curls decided the tree needed to "live on" in a different way.

Now they point out several beautiful pieces of furniture they call "Katrina wood" from that tree.

An attractive three-panel privacy fence at the end of their driveway (shielding the sawmill area) is made from pine.

Even some of the goat sheds and the neat chicken coop were made from downed wood.

It’s truly a partnership as Wendy is the sawmill operator while Darryl loads the logs and unloads and stacks the lumber.

Even pine branches have their purpose as they go to feed the six pygmy goats.

The female pygmies’ pasture encompasses a wooden play area complete with tree house, slide and other play areas, which was there when the couple bought the house. Now a different kind of "kid" enjoys those playful amenities.

Wendy Curl and bottle-fed Lily.

While Darryl had experience with some livestock before, bottle-feeding Lily, which the couple bought when she was six days old, was a new experience for Wendy. Although she was born on Easter (thus her name), Lily will still jump into Wendy’s arms when she claps her hands.

The chickens free-range over the farm during the day, and Darryl is talking about adding a couple of geese as "burglar alarms."

Wendy’s mother and stepfather came to visit a couple of years ago, went back to their native Los Angeles, immediately put their house on the market and bought a home in the same area as the Curls. Now they say they’ll never move again as well, so taken are they with the area.

The kids’ playground has been taken over by real “kids.”

Darryl said his feelings for the area really came into focus a few weeks ago when they were attending to some business at the Blount County Courthouse in Oneonta.

"I had a sudden urge to go outside and look at the monuments," he said. "I walked right up to the engraving noting that Alvin P. Curl, my uncle, had died during World War II. And then it struck me why I never became homesick when I visited here."

"It’s the idea of family," he concluded. "This place just has everything we wanted."

Author’s Note: You can contact the Curls at Alabama Portable Sawmill at (205) 401-3783.

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

Happy Hunting Ground

By Ralph Ricks

At this writing, all of the hunting seasons are in full swing. Deer season is wide open, dove season has split, and quail, rabbits and squirrels are fair game for the hunter. My daughter and I have been giving local squirrel populations a run for their money and have already had some good days in the woods — just spending time together as a father and daughter. Our weapon of choice in this pursuit of our bushy-tailed quarry is .22 rifles, but of late, I have considered using my faithful old .410 shotgun. My intention is to demonstrate to my daughter that a shotgun is a good equalizer on a running squirrel and she sees the advantage. But to her there is something more honorable about taking a squirrel with a rifle…at least that’s her side of the story. Personally, I think the recoil is the basis of "honor" in this case.

The day I decided I would use my faithful old single-shot, I drug it out of the closet and cleaned and oiled it up in preparation for yet another trip to the woods. She asked me about the shotgun and I explained to her it was a Christmas present from my parents when I was about 13 years old.

It was a totally unexpected present. The year before I had gotten a b.b. gun for Christmas and, although I had expressed a desire for the good, old Red Ryder, I got way more than I asked for. I got the most powerful and up-to-date lever-action b.b. gun that was made. Less than a year later, I was hunting squirrels with my dad’s single-shot, bolt-action .22 and doing fairly well with it, when the last present to come out from under the tree was in a short box and was very heavy. Earlier, I had watched my brother unwrap a .22 automatic pistol with surprisingly very little envy. Dad handed me the box and said I had forgotten one. Part of the fun for the brief milliseconds before ripping off the wrapping paper, is judging the weight and shape of the present, comparing it with my mental "want list" and try to figure out what was in the package. As I unwrapped the box, I was still clueless. There was no tag, label or writing to tell what was inside. The incredible weight of the present was what was mystifying me the most. Finally, all of the paper was gone and still I couldn’t tell what it was from the outside.

I proceeded to open the box and when I saw the stock, I realized I had hit pay dirt.

There, in three pieces, lay a brand-new, single-shot "for ten" as we used to say. I don’t think my parents ever surprised me more, except for the time I got some live seahorses, which is another story all together.

Dad showed me how to assemble the gun, and I was in business when I found the box of shells in my stocking. It was still dark outside and I knew the time from then until daylight was going to be the longest three or four hours of my life. I occupied the time by watching my brother take his pistol apart and put it back together several times and every so often looking over to the tree to make sure my new shotgun was still there. I counted the shells in the box four or five times. I sat there cradling my gun as I watched my father do many times in the fields when we were after pheasants. I sat there and imagined how that cat I shot with the "Magumba Big Game Rifle and plastic bullets" would feel if it were still alive. Mom and Dad occupied their time by going back to bed and sleeping (this was the last year we opened presents on Christmas morning as Dad had lost his patience with three and four a.m. shouts of excitement).

Finally, the sun broke the horizon and we managed to wake Dad a second time to take us out to shoot our new guns. Dad sent us around the yard and road to find cans and bottles to use as targets. My brother using his vast skills acquired as a Boy Scout, quickly invented and assembled a set of sticks from which to hang the aforementioned cans and bottles. We mounted it to the fence and hung our targets.

My brother had to load the clip for his pistol and this took some time. He didn’t load the clip in the house because my dad absolutely forbade any type of loaded gun in the house. I stood there with my single-shot loaded and "ready for bear" as I watched each of nine .22 bullets inserted into the clip with painful slowness. It had already been made clear I would shoot last due to my much greater firepower.

At last, the little automatic was loaded and my brother was preparing to shoot. The time he took to unload that auto-pistol seemed to take longer than it took him to load it. In retrospect, I know that with a new gun you want to enjoy every shot and try to make it count, but to a 13-year-old with a new shotgun, it was taking entirely too long. I don’t remember if my brother shot more than one clip or not before it was my turn. He did pretty well considering the pistol had fixed sights and it was just out of the box, but there were still some targets that just needed to be obliterated. Dad gave me the word it was my turn.

Obliterated is too light of a word to use when describing the effect a .410 shotgun loaded with number sixes can do to a bunch of beer cans from about 10 feet. Let’s just say it was a good thing my beloved brother was finished shooting because ,unless you like picking off bits of aluminum cans, there wasn’t a whole lot left to shoot at. That shot was what caused my dad to threaten to bend the barrel over my backside and my mom to remind me she had gone to the hardware store in Foley and bought it and it was registered in her name and it could go back just as easily as it had come home.

As is generally expected in South Alabama on Christmas morning, the skies began to cloud and rain began to fall, putting off my planned hunting trip out back of the house and we had to come inside. We spent the rest of the day cleaning those guns and dreaming of the next time we were allowed to use them.

Thanks Mom and Dad...up until my daughter was born, that was the greatest Christmas ever.

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

Hobby Becomes Booming Business for Wetumpka Farm C

By Mary-Glenn Smith

Oakview Farms ships orders all over the country. Patty Lambrecht prepares a custom order of extra coarse grits for shipment to Texas.

Grits and lettuce —- two things you don’t usually find being produced on the same farm. But at Oakview Farms Granary that is exactly what you will find, along with herbs, honey, fresh eggs, fruits and vegetables.

Joe and Patty Lambrecht have had a gristmill operation at their farm in Wetumpka since 1998, but just got into growing hydroponic lettuce two-and-a-half years ago.

What started out as a hobby has turned into a booming business for the Lambrechts.

Joe first became interested in milling when he met an elderly man with a gristmill at a mule show. From there, he started buying old gristmills, fixing them up and then he began milling.

The Lambrechts started making cornmeal for fun, while both still working corporate jobs.

"We were making cornmeal and giving it away," Joe said. "Then we started selling it."

From the cornmeal, the Lambrechts decided to move onto something a bit more challenging —- grits. Since Joe was already familiar with the milling process, it didn’t take long for them to figure out exactly how to make grits.

In the back of the retail store at Oakview Farms is the mill, where the Lambrechts make grits, flour and cornmeal.

"When we started making grits, our business took off," Joe said about the best-selling product in Lambrecht’s mill operation.

"We got the mill going and it was doing really well," Joe continued. "Then I retired from the car industry."

"The whole grain industry jumped up when the ‘Buy Fresh, Buy Local’ program happened; a lot of things just kind of fell into our laps," Joe explained about the early success of the family-owned and operated business. "Timing is everything."

The Lambrechts sell stone ground yellow and white cornmeal in two, five and 25 pound bags.

Today the Lambrechts make cornmeal, grits and flour. They mill yellow and white cornmeal, and yellow and white grits. Every day they ship orders all over the country to individual homes and upscale, white tablecloth restaurants. A big buyer of Oakview Farm’s products is the Marriott Hotel Corporation. The chefs at the luxurious Marriott Hotels across Alabama use the Lambrecht’s products daily when preparing their finest meals. Some of the hotels buying from Oakview Farms include The Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa in Hoover, The Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence, and several other fine hotels.

Oakview Farms is one of the few milling operations still doing things the old-fashioned way and that is part of what makes their products some of the best in the world.

"We grind with stone," Joe explained. "The reason we use stones is because stones don’t heat the grain up. If you don’t heat it, you save the quality of the grain."

Freshness is also a big selling point for Lambrecht’s products.

"We grind on demand," Joe said. "So everything is fresh when he leaves here."

Joe suggested all the products from Oakview Farms be refrigerated after purchasing to maintain freshness.

The retail store at Oakview Farms has a variety of grits, cornmeal, flour, cheese, jam, jellies and many other products.

In addition to selling to upscale restaurants and hotels, the Lambrechts sell all the products they make straight from the farm at their retail store.

"We have so many people to come through looking for something to spend money on," Joe said. "We don’t want them to leave here if they can’t buy something."

The Oakview Farms retail store not only has their fresh-made grits, meal and flour, but also sells raw honey, real Amish butter, cheeses, jams, jellies and chowchow —- just to name a few.

"Everything we sell, we eat," Joe said. "There is nothing in our store we don’t eat."

The Lambrechts also sell their products online and at farmers’ markets which keeps the couple busy during the summer.

"The grits pay the bills, so we can do other things," Joe said.

Other things like growing hydroponic lettuce. The idea for growing lettuce started out as sort of an experiment.

Lettuce is grown hydroponically at Oakview Farms in greenhouses. Once the seeds are germinated, tiny lettuce are put into the table filled with water and fertilizer. The Lambrechts usually keep 8,000 heads of lettuce of different varieties and sizes on their farm ready to sell at all times.

"I thought the lettuce would do well here because there is really no competition," Joe reasoned.

"I don’t have to compete against field crops in Alabama," Joe said. "A couple times of year some people will have some lettuce in their home garden, but it goes away pretty fast —- the heat, the cold or the rain gets it."

The experiment turned out to be quite successful. Today, lettuce is the second best-selling item at Oakview Farms.

Like the grits, the Lambrechts sell the lettuce to individuals and restaurants.

"I already had the contacts with the restaurants cause of the grits," Joe explained. "So I didn’t have to go out and beat on cold doors. All I had to do was pick up a head of lettuce and say ‘Chef, look what I got.’"

"The chefs like this lettuce because its pesticide-free and herbicide-free," Joe said. "But we aren’t organic because we do raise it with synthetic fertilizer."

At the farm, the Lambrechts have three greenhouses in which they grow five different varieties of lettuce year-round. Of the five varieties, butterhead is the most popular among customers. The lettuce is grown hydroponically on a table made of wood with a Styrofoam house board for a tabletop. The table is filled with water and fertilizer. Germinated seeds are placed individually in small holes in the Styrofoam. The practice of growing crops hydroponically began with the Aztecs centuries ago. Once the seeds are placed in the hole, they will grow for 25-40 days depending on the variety and the preference of the customer buying the lettuce.

"Surprisingly enough, we grow lettuce at different ages or different sizes for different chefs," Joe said. "Some chefs prefer baby size, some prefer it a little larger,and some prefer it really mature."

The Lambrechts have found most chefs at high-end restaurants prefer for their lettuce to be small and tender, but the retail industry wants it as big as they can get it.

"At any given time we keep about 8,000 heads at some stage; it could be at the germination stage or ready to harvest," Joe said. "The goal is to have lettuce for sale every day."

Joe and Patty Lambrecht welcome visitors to their farm. They offer tours to individuals and groups September through November and start back up after the holidays giving tours the second week in January through the first of May. For more information on Oakview Farms and their products, visit their website www.oakviewfarms.com.

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.

How's Your Garden?

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Great Backyard Bird Count

This is a reminder the Great Backyard Bird Count takes place next month during the weekend of February 12–15. We introduced readers to this annual event last January, so I won’t repeat. Register at www.birdsource.org to report your bird sightings. You can continue reporting, too, at www.ebird.com. For those who really enjoy attracting bluebirds to your property, did you know there is a group of like-minded folks who meet annually to learn about this species? Find out more about this organization at www.nabluebirdsociety.org.

Keep Your Asparagus Patch Neat

Heavy rope run through holes drilled in posts can be used to support asparagus ferns as they grow.

If you have the space and like asparagus, now is a good time to start thinking about starting an asparagus patch. This is a perennial vegetable that will yield a harvest for 20 years from a single planting, if you do it right. Asparagus likes a deep, well-prepared, rich bed, giving you a chance to work off your holiday excesses with some serious digging. The problem with asparagus is it can be very unwieldy, growing into a big, often-weedy patch becoming hard to manage. A few years ago, I came across a very logical system for growing this vegetable. Doug Croft, the gardener at Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania, kept the asparagus in a wide row and the ferns held up by heavy rope running along the length of the planting to keep the ferns upright. The rope ran through holes drilled in posts spaced every few feet along the row. This made it easy to reach under the plants to keep the area weeded and mulched, and just kept the five-foot ferns neat. If you’ve never seen asparagus grow, you will be surprised at how tall it gets. The part we eat is the young shoot as it comes out of the ground, but after a few weeks of harvesting the shoots, you must leave the rest to grow up to full size through the summer to give strength to the roots so there will be more shoots next year. Doug’s system makes it all quite manageable. The trick is to put this row at the edge of the garden where normal cultivating won’t bother the perennial vegetable.

Remove Old Soil from Pots

This is a good time to clean up old flowerpots and remove the existing potting soil. After a while, the texture of the soil starts to break down and it no longer supports growth as well. Good potting mix contains peat moss and composted bark; after a while the organic components begin to decompose, especially in our warm, humid climate. It’s a good idea to always refresh the soil in your containers every other year, if not every year. Of course, replenish your pots with a good quality potting mix. It’s hard to find the more economical big bales of potting mix these days, most of it comes in more expensive bags, but you can still find nice big, four-cubic-foot bales of Bonnie Potting Mix at many Quality Co-ops. This is the same quality mix Bonnie Plants uses to grow their vegetable and herb transplants in their greenhouses.

Spend dreary winter days cutting strips of fabric to use as ties for your tomatoes next summer.



A Good Winter Time Killer

Keep yourself busy on a dreary winter day cutting up ties for your tomatoes. You can make them from strips of stretchy fabric. The ideal material is women’s nylon stocking. Just cut open one side of the leg and then cut across the leg so that you end up with strips about 6 inches long. The soft material won’t skin tomato stems and will stretch all you need when reaching to tie a wayward stem to a cage or stake.

Garden Gloves Have Come a Long Way

Today there are garden gloves for just about any task.

I started wearing garden gloves when my hands were finally big enough to fit inside a pair of cloth gloves that were standard issue years ago. That and leather were all you could find. Today, there is a garden glove for just about any task. The stretchy, rubber coated ones feel almost like medical gloves and let you do more precision work like seeding. Nitrile chemical gloves protect you from pesticides when spraying. Other styles have pads to keep your hands from blistering if you do a little too much raking at once. Some have rubberized dots to give you a slip-free grip. Elbow-length pruning gloves protect your arms from rose thorns or other prickly bushes. And, of course, there are still rugged, leather-types for all-round work; these range from really soft goatskin leather, to pigskin, smooth leather or suede. The gloves I find myself using the most have rubber-coated fingers, making them somewhat moisture-proof and great for setting out flower and vegetable transplants. Gardening ladies be forewarned, your glove collection may grow to the same size as your shoe collection. As a big believer in letting your tools do the work, my assortment of styles includes gloves in just about every material, fit and level of ruggedness available, because each is well-suited to specific tasks. The most expensive in my collection — above-the-elbow-length, leather gloves — come out only at pruning time. Each time I use them, their value goes up. A good pair of gardening gloves protects your hands while you work and is well-worth using.

Leave the Semi-Hardy Plants Alone

Sometimes we gardeners lose the least hardy of our perennials during a really cold winter. Three I’ve lost over the years include Mexican sage, purple heart and lantana here in Birmingham. Although it is tempting to cut the dead tops of these bare-looking perennials back now, sometimes those tops are just enough to help protect the plants from cold. The stems provide a little cover and they also catch leaves that tend to bunch around the crown of the plant for added protection. So, if you can stand it, refrain from cutting back the ugly tops of those less-hardy perennials until spring.

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

J. D. Wigley Added to FFA Wall of Honor

Longtime Ag Teacher Has Had Large Influence

By Susie Sims

J.D. Wigley (center) was named to the Alabama FFA Wall of Honor. Shown with Wigley are Homer Tate and his wife, Jeanette. Tate and others nominated Wigley for the Wall of Honor.

2009 was a year of milestones for J.D. Wigley. Not only did he reach the age of 97, but he was honored by those he spent his life teaching.

Wigley was placed on the Alabama Future Farmers of America Wall of Honor.

Wigley taught vocational agriculture at Riverton High School for a number of years. When Buckhorn High School opened in 1958, Wigley became the agriculture teacher and the FFA advisor there.

Former students of his, including Homer Tate, Bobby Green and Frank Riddick, nominated the former ag teacher for the tribute.

The three wrote letters to the Alabama FFA Foundation in support of Wigley’s nomination.

"I believe Mr. J.D. Wigley should be in the Wall of Honor because of the immense influence he has had on my life and hundreds of other young men," said Tate in his letter. "He not only taught us life-long skills, but also instilled in us self-confidence and qualities of life needed our entire lives.

"He taught us to do our very best in whatever we began and to be winners in all our endeavors. Personally, he has helped me to be successful in my agricultural career."

Winning seemed to be a theme Wigley instilled in all his students.

Roger Jones, a Madison County commissioner and Buckhorn student, said in a Huntsville Times interview: "Mr. Wigley’s FFA chapter was second to none. Buckhorn won more than any of the other chapters in the state under his leadership."

Tate agreed whole-heartedly.

"You didn’t mess around," Tate said. "He made you win. When he and Mrs. Wigley got into something, they got into it to win. They taught us how to win."

Tate focused that drive to win into a successful farming career in Madison County.

Riddick characterized Wigley as a "unique" teacher.

"He not only taught from the books, so to speak, but he taught common sense things that would be helpful in achieving success in any endeavor you should choose later in life," Riddick said.

To prepare his students for the FFA public speaking competition, Wigley required all Vo Ag students to write a speech and present it to the faculty and student body, Riddick recalled.

"Writing the speech was bad enough but having to present it to a large group was even worse," Riddick said. "But, as I reflect back on this, now I see where it enhanced my ability to communicate effectively, which contributed greatly to any career success I have had."

Riddick noted that even after he graduated, Wigley continued in his role as advisor, directing him on many occasions over the years.

Green, who graduated from Riverton High School in 1951, fondly remembered his FFA years with Wigley.

He said Wigley was his teacher and advisor from 1948 to 1951.

"During that period under Mr. Wigley our FFA chapter won every county, district, state and national contest we entered, and we entered them all," Green recalled.

"Mr. Wigley had the leadership and ability to take any poor, backward, bashful, redneck country boy and make him into a proud, confident, motivated individual who could stand up before a civic group of successful men and give a speech without fear or hesitation."

Green praised Wigley’s wife, Lou, for doing her part. She taught Home Economics as a school subject and manners as a life subject.

Students remember being taught respect for parents, teachers and elders. They were instilled with social graces allowing them to act confidently at any social gathering or event.

"Mr. Wigley would go the distance to help get a deserving student a scholarship to attend college," Green said. "He did for me. What success I may have had in life I owe most of it to Mr. Wigley."

Tate noted, even though he may have forgotten some of the things Wigley taught him in the classroom, he would never forget the influence Wigley had on his life.

"You can multiply that by several hundred students," said Tate.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Let Us Resolve…

Covington County 4-Her Kayla Mitchell became a “salt educator” after her father was diagnosed with diabetes. Do YOU know the connection between salt and good health?

By Amy Payne Burgess

January is always an exciting turning point, a time when we can look forward to a new year of opportunities and personal development. It’s the time when we often make serious, well-intentioned promises to be better human beings, wiping the slate clean of bad habits and resolving to adopt good habits.

The number one resolution people make each New Year is to be healthier – specifically to lose weight. I hate to be a nag, but Alabama has some serious opportunities for improvement in that category. We have the nation’s second-highest rate of adult obesity (one in three of us are obese). That fact alone has an incredible economic impact on Alabama. Since obesity is associated with heart disease, cancer and diabetes, it challenges our medical resources and leads to lost work productivity.

Losing weight is a resolution many of us should take to heart. And, as we often note in this column, the way we adults respond to issues like health and fitness will be the model our kids and grandkids also adopt. Okay – promise to be a good role model?

Tasty and healthy eating are important in St. Clair County 4-H. This group of students is learning to cook from a “real” chef.

Start with how the family cooks. Research shows what you eat (and how much!) has a greater impact on obesity than exercise. Although exercise is crucial to health, you would have to briskly walk three miles to burn off the calories in a single doughnut or four-and-a-half miles for one fried fish sandwich. Work with your kids to learn the healthiest foods and the tastiest, most-delicious ways of preparing them.

"Come and take a walk with me!" is a great thing to ask of your family. You’ll be amazed at the benefits. Simply being outside, getting some exercise, makes you feel better physically and mentally. Research has shown walking in nature is a tremendous method of stress reduction. If it’s a group activity, it’s also a wonderful time for conversation and bonding.

Walking and other youth health and fitness activities are included in some of Alabama 4-H’s most important programs. Many clubs start their meetings with simple fitness activities from our Just Move! Alabama program as a regular reminder we each pledge our "Health to better living."

When 4-H brought Just Move! Alabama to Fun Day at Grand Bay’s Castlen Elementary, kids were up and active — and making lots of noise! Doing what kids are supposed to do.

Just Move! Alabama has been adopted by school districts, 4-H clubs and youth organizations throughout the state. 4-H staff regularly train teachers and other youth leaders in this program which we developed with Auburn’s Department of Health and Human Performance. Just Move! Alabama includes three modules: Volley, Vitals and Vittles; Frisbee, Fun and Food; and Jumping for Health.

It’s lots of fun! Students and adults are engaged in physical exercise, learn basic nutrition information, find out how to read food labels and get the scoop on the nutritional value of fast foods, as well as how to make healthy snacks.

In Wilcox County, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System taught students about the “Downward Spiral of Addiction” as part of their Health Rocks! training.

Another important 4-H health program isHealth Rocks! This program uses university-based research to reduce tobacco, alcohol and drug use by youth. Special emphasis is placed on tobacco-use prevention. Health Rocks! helps youth develop life skills in critical thinking, decision-making, communication, managing feelings, stress management and goal setting. Those skills allow young people to develop the internal strength to resist risky behaviors. It also provides accurate health information regarding youth tobacco, alcohol and drug usage.

Yes, adults and kids can all become healthier by making changes in their lives. Sometimes it’s something as simple as keeping a "food diary" of what you eat. Sometimes it means following through on your promise to walk a half-hour each day. As any 4-Her can tell you, those small changes will make a real difference in your life and the lives of those around you.

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent in Northeast Alabama. She may be reached at burgeap@ auburn.edu.

Organization Celebrates National FFA Week, Februar

By Philip Paramore

The Alabama FFA Association and the National FFA Organization will celebrate National FFA Week, February 20-27, 2010. The theme this year, "Lead Out Loud," 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.

Over 520 Alabama FFA members and advisors attended the 82nd National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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, 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.

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

Alabama’s current state officers are President Hunter Garnett, Danville FFA; Vice President Mary Helen Jones, Wetumpka FFA; Secretary Wiley Bailey, Sand Rock FFA; Treasurer Kacey Colquitt, Marbury FFA; Reporter Patrick Howard, McAdory FFA; and Sentinel Joey Stabler, Daphne FFA.

For Alabama chapters, that focus on the future showed last fall when over 520 state members joined more than 54,000 members, advisors and supporters at the 82nd National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. The state delegation had competitors involved in 12 different career development events. The Falkville FFA Chapter’s Forestry Team placed third in the nation.

Alabama’s current state officers are: President Hunter Garnett, Danville FFA; Vice President Mary Helen Jones, Wetumpka FFA; Secretary Wiley Bailey, Sand Rock FFA; Treasurer Kacey Colquitt, Marbury FFA; Reporter Patrick Howard, McAdory FFA; and Sentinel Joey Stabler, Daphne 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 at http://www.ffa.org .

Did You Know?

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

• The 2009 National FFA Convention was host to 53,473 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.

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

Proper Preparation Improves Venison’s Appeal

By Angela Treadaway

Deer season is well under way and many spouses who have never prepared venison have lots of questions as to how to prepare it to remove the game taste. If processed and prepared properly, deer meat tastes just as good as any other meat and in most cases is much healthier because it is much leaner. Wild animals, like deer, which are constantly on the move and never feed under artificial conditions, have meat with a higher ratio of protein to fat than domestic animals; for example, while you may see venison with some distinct fat layering, you will never see it marbled with fat. Apart from the favorable ratio of protein-to-fat in the meat of game animals, it also contains certain necessary minerals, in fairly generous amounts. All the red meats are good sources of phosphorus and iron (but not of calcium). Of the 15 different minerals required for human nutrition, most game meat (notably venison) contains sodium, potassium and magnesium, as well as traces of calcium, cobalt, zinc, manganese and aluminum.

What the hunter does with the meat he has bagged is another question, and not too infrequently the answer to that question creates a bad image for game meat. Immediate and proper handling of the kill is most important in not only how the meat will taste, but also how the non-hunters of the family will react to it. Aside from proper techniques of handling, cleanliness is important, from both the practical and psychological viewpoint. A perennial complaint from the female non-hunter, who is ultimately asked to prepare the meat, is about the careless manner in which the animal is handled, transported and processed. Once you understand this attitude, it is not difficult to understand why so much excellent food has gone to waste, just because the cook was unwilling to work with it.

Finally, the cook should understand the meat from all species of wild animals does not taste the same. Some animals, like deer, caribou, elk and moose, are some what similar to beef in their taste, texture and cooking requirements. Others, like beaver and bear, are somewhat similar to pork. The flavor of game meat can even vary within a species, depending upon the age of the animals, the type of diet it lived on, and — to perhaps belabor a point — how it was handled after being killed. After processing it properly, it’s up to the cook to prepare it properly.

HINTS

Here are some hints to make your next venison meal as delicious as it should be:

• Older deer will likely be drier and tougher than younger deer. Cooking methods can be varied accordingly.

• You can make almost any meat tender by cooking it in some water over very-low heat until it is done. High heat toughens meat and may dry it out.

• Soaking meat in salt, vinegar and water for several hours will help remove the gamey taste.

• To season venison, various combinations of marjoram, thyme, parsley, garlic or onions may be used.

• Marinades tenderize and enhance — and may disguise - game flavors. The following suggestions can be used as marinades:

• Vinegar, wine or wine vinegar (to cover a roast or steak).

• French or Italian salad dressing.

• Tomato sauce, undiluted tomato soup or tomato juice (the acid of the juice has a tenderizing effect on the meat).

• Pickle, orange, lemon or grapefruit juice.

• Juniper berries can be used in small amounts in marinades —- just make sure you know how to correctly identify the Juniper berry.

• Always start out with the more simple recipes until you have mastered them, then move onto more complex recipes.

• To moisten lean meat, you could use one of the following:

Bacon slices (wrapped around the meat before cooking).

Light cooking oil (take a brush and brush it lightly over whole surface).

Other additives that can be used to enhance the flavor are: salt, pepper, onion, celery, vinegar, soy and/or Worcestershire.

RECIPES

Venison Chili

2 lbs of ground venison
1 pkg chili seasoning
1 bottle chili sauce
2 16-ounce cans pinto or kidney beans
2 16-ounce cans diced tomatoes

Season and cook meat with salt and pepper in a skillet with a little vegetable or olive oil. Pour meat in crockpot. Pour in other ingredients. Mix. Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours

Venison Steak and Onions

Venison steak, sliced into thin strips
¼ cup oil
½ cup onions, chopped
1¼ cups water
1 tablespoon beef or chicken bouillon granules
1 can mushrooms, drained
1 tablespoon flour
¾ cup water

Brown steak in hot oil. Combine onions, water and bouillon in a saucepan. Boil till onions are tender. Pour over meat. Simmer till meat is done. Add mushrooms and heat. Combine flour and water. Add to mixture. Cook until it thickens. Serve over egg noodles.

For more questions concerning cooking of venison or other wild game, please contact your local County Extension Office or Regional Extension Agent Angela Treadaway at (205) 669-6763 or (205) 410-3696.

RFD-TV Launches "Time Well Spent" as Weekly Series

Fridays at Noon and 9 PM CST

Premiering on RFD-TV the first week in January, rural Alabama will be celebrated showing the nation the unique appeal of our great state! A production of Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) in partnership with G2 Productions, Time Well Spent is television families can enjoy together, as they see the people, places and events that maintain some of the state’s most time-honored traditions and heritage.

AFC president Tommy Paulk said, "Time Well Spent is a show that portrays the very best of rural Alabama, highlighting several of our customers and their operations. We’re proud to produce this quality program."

Each 30-minute episode will contain different segments illustrating several aspects of rural Alabama. Jim Allen will bring to the screen a feature entitled "Rural Alabama…You’ve Got to Love It!" which will focus on special places and events that add a bit of distinctive charm to the landscape of the state.

"My segment features colorful people in Alabama and surrounding states that have used their imaginations and chosen a path less taken…or some picked up a machete and started blazing trails in directions nobody had ever thought of," Jim said. "Really interesting folks and places exist in the South that aren’t often highlighted in conventional media. I plan to find as many as I can and show ‘em off for the whole world to see."
Grace Smith will host a segment that will take a youthful look at rural Alabama. "Young Folks in Action" will demonstrate how young people are living and learning traditional values as they participate in rural and agricultural activities across the state.

"The life lessons these young people are learning are priceless and it’s important to share their stories," Smith said. "Unfortunately we hear so much negative about today’s youth and this is a great opportunity to highlight the positive lifestyles of some really outstanding young people."

Sidney Phelps of Bonnie Plants will bring out the green thumb in everyone as he delivers the segment "The Gift of Growing Things." A helpful guide for people of all skill levels, this segment will provide the tips and techniques to take gardeners from planting to pruning and harvesting.

"With our segment on Time Well Spent, Bonnie Plants will showcase ‘gardening greener’ to all ages," Phelps said. "Whether you’re a novice or an expert, you will obtain something from this segment. I’ll cover topics like selecting biodegradable pots, gardening in rural area or urban setting and gardening in unconventional ways."

"Farming for Wildlife," hosted by BioLogic’s Bobby Cole, is a fun look at improving habitat for wildlife on your property. Each segment will deal with a different topic, from whitetail deer to farm pond management, in an effort to maximize wildlife use and landowner enjoyment.

"The show is so interesting," Cole said. "Each segment entertains and before you know it...you’ve learned something. Time Well Spent is a refreshing look at rural life, at a time when our fast-paced world needs to slow down and look around at the alternatives."

Time Well Spent will air on RFD-TV Friday evenings at 9 CST and will premier Friday, Jan. 1, 2010. Subsequent episodes will be seen every Friday at noon and 9 p.m.

Special People… Special Events and Activities… A Special Place defined as Rural America… Time Well Spent is a special program, and we believe you will agree it is, well — TIME WELL SPENT each and every week!

“Time Well Spent” January Episodes on RFD-TV

Episode 1 (January 1, 9 p.m. only)

Jim goes to Northwest Alabama to visit horse trainer, Jason Wilds. This extraordinary horseman can get a horse to do just about anything.

Grace takes us to the West Alabama town of Camden where many young people spent their summer developing a talent for artwork while learning a deeper appreciation for the artists of the Blackbelt area.

Episode 2 (January 8 )

Jim gets a history of Tom Hendrix’s great-great-grandmother and why, in her honor, over the last 31 years Tom has built the largest unmortared stone wall in the United States.

Grace introduces us to Brad Cox, an FFA student, whose character, knowledge and hard work has contributed to the success of the renowned Racking Horse operation near his hometown of Arab.

Episode 3 (January 15)

Jim visits Jerry and Wanda Sanders at their Alabama Peanuts and Pacas Farm near Ozark where you’ll meet some wonderful, llama-related alpacas the Sanders raise.

Grace heads to Sand Rock to meet with the Bailey Brothers, three talented young men who share a passion for farming, FFA and bluegrass music. These three young men show off their musical abilities and recall their childhood growing up on their Sand Mountain farm.

Episode 4 (January 22)

Jim heads to Springville in St. Clair County where he and biofuel expert Dave Bransby visits with Wayne Keith, who has revived gasification technology that enables regular vehicles normally fueled with gasoline to be powered with biomass materials like wood.

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, but sends them home with much more than a pumpkin…more importantly, they teach them a deeper appreciation of agriculture.

Episode 5 (January 29)

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 also travels to South Alabama to visit with cattle showman, Reba Hicks, from Slocomb. During her visit, Reba shares her showmanship secrets and the preparation required to get her heifer, “Chanel,” ready for the showring.

Each episode will also include segments on gardening and wildlife habitat. Segment details to be announced.

Safeguard pets from cold weather risks

Automobile hazards, sudden temperature drops and dietary concerns are just a few of the dangers pets face even during the South’s relatively mild winters.

Antifreeze, which is vital to cars during cold weather, presents pets with both a hazard and a temptation. Antifreeze is extremely dangerous for pets, even in small amounts. There are environmentally friendly types of antifreeze that are a little less hazardous, but all antifreeze is toxic to pets. Be sure not to leave any of this toxic substance out where pets can get to it, and clean up any spills or drips immediately. The toxic liquid supposedly has a sweet taste that tempts animals.

Automobiles pose another risk to cats and small wildlife. Warm engines and chilled animals can be a deadly combination.

Cats will crawl into the engine because it is warm. If you have cats outside, knock on the hood or honk the horn before starting the ignition to scare them out before it is too late. Starting the engine with an animal lodged inside can have disastrous results.

When temperatures fall, an outdoor pet’s needs rise. According to the Humane Society of the United States, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life, no matter what the temperature.

Give cats a warm place to sleep inside your home, garage or an outdoor shed. Provide a sheltered area high off the ground for warmth, security and safety. A box with a soft blanket inside makes a cozy bed.

Protect dogs with a dry, draft-free doghouse. The Society recommends turning the house away from chilling winds, and covering the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. The doghouse floor should be a few inches off of the ground and covered with bedding. A house with bedding is best, but if you have a dog that destroys rugs or blankets, try hay as a bedding. Choose a doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to hold in the animal’s body heat.

Pregnant pets, as well as puppies and kittens, need special consideration. If newborns are instantly chilled, they are not likely to survive.

Burns are another common winter pet hazard. Never leave pets alone with electric, kerosene or propane space heaters. An accidental bump can result in terrible burns or a fire. Don’t let pets spend too much time in front of the fireplace or near heating ducts. Even heating pads set on low can burn an animal.

A balanced diet can tip the scales in a pet’s favor when the temperature drops. Underweight or pregnant pets can have special diet needs. Calorie demands increase for body temperature maintenance. Try feeding pets a little more when it is extremely cold. To prevent diet distress, remember that pets are not disposals for holiday meal leftovers. If your pet eats a lot of bones, there is the possibility for lacerations or punctures in the intestinal tract, and many other digestive problems. Sometimes turkeys have a metal ring or strings to hold the legs, and if a pet eats these, partial or complete gastrointestinal obstruction could occur. Fat left on the carcass will also cause stomach upset. The best place for the turkey carcass is the trash.

A constant supply of fresh water is another important aspect of a pet’s diet. Be sure to use non-metal water bowls to prevent wet tongues from sticking on frosty days. Make sure the chilly temperatures have not turned the pet’s water supply into a solid block of ice.

Although the seasons change, some pet health safeguards should stay the same year-round. In many places, mosquitoes are present even in the winter, so be sure to continue your pet’s heartworm medicine.

Whatever the weather, a little preparation can save time and lives during an emergency. A local veterinarian can provide emergency tips and an emergency number to call after hours.

Set A Goal To Change With Gardening

By Jerry A. Chenault

Goal setting. When I think of goal setting I usually think of people deciding to shed a few pounds, join a gym, eat better, or maybe make or save more money. Rarely does gardening enter my thought process. But maybe it should! Yours too! Maybe we should all set a few realistic goals involving becoming a more active participant in 2010 in what we might call "meditative gardening."

Now, don’t think I’m advocating you go out and sit in a cross-legged lotus position in your turnip patch while meditating on the cosmos and burning some incense. That’s not quite what I mean.

Let me explain. First, let’s nail-down eight reasons you should be gardening in the new year:

1. It is both physical and mental activity.

2. It allows us to be creative.

3. Gardening teaches us the miracles of life.

4. Gardening touches our emotions.

5. Gardening provides us meditation, prayer and introspection places.

6. Gardening heals us! Really!

7. Gardening is soothing, centering and grounding.

8. Gardening forces us to notice the details we might otherwise miss with our busy and hectic lifestyles.

Now, maybe you’re starting to get the picture! Set some goals to include gardening in your life this year. Don’t need the vegetables? Give them to those who do! Only interested in ornamental gardening? That’s super! Did you know the Latin word for "sacred" is where we get our word "sanctuary"? It’s a place of refuge and protection. Your walled garden can be a place where you are restored and nourished in your senses...a place of respite from the noises and the hectic pace of life. It’s no accident the Persian word for "paradise" means "an enclosed garden."

In the meditative garden, there is a conscious and deliberate restoration of the meanings and the intent of what we would ordinarily consider as work or a laborious task: digging, planting, watering, weeding, pruning, etc., of plants and the garden area.

Maybe you’d like to incorporate reminders in your garden of the presence of the divine. Many people use statues (like Mary or Buddha) and other symbolic elements like spirals and circles...or crosses, saint statues, etc., to remind them we are not alone in this earthly walk.

Native Americans used the circle (which symbolizes life force, energy and heavenly objects like the sun or moon) in all kinds of aspects of their daily lives, like dances, the medicine wheel, arrangements of dwellings, etc. Other geometric shapes can be used with the circle to create sacred space outdoors in creating beds, pathways, screens, etc.

Water is also a primary element in meditative gardens. Water is the primordial fluid. Water, in the form of a fountain, stream, pool, ornamental pond, etc., relaxes and soothes us. Water also represents purity and purification the world over. Don’t overlook it in your garden. Remember, in the scriptural book of Genesis, we are reminded, "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

In fact, the book of Genesis begins in a garden, doesn’t it? Why not set some gardening goals and help yourself to the wonders of gardening this year? I hope you will. To learn more visit our website at www.faithgardens.org.

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

Sewing is not a lost art

An 1870 New Home Sewing Machine head.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

I’m sad.

The "big box" store in our county is discontinuing all fabric sales. As I write these words, there’s likely still a feeding frenzy there as women like me try to get as much bargain material as they can before it’s all gone.

I knew there was no need to even talk with the local store manager.

This big chain has been doing this all over the country, in spite of a letter-writing and e-mail-writing campaign by hundreds of homesteaders and other sewers.

The sewing machine with its casket top.

There’s a couple of smaller places I can go within our rural county and, of course, I can get anything I want at any time at any price by using the Internet, but I’m still sad.

Maybe I’m a throwback. But I can go back in my mind and "see" the fabric vital in the important milestones of my life.

I grew up when every high school still had a home economics department featuring lines of shining plastic-smelling new Singer sewing machines. It was a rite of passage in our school that every ninth grade girl was required to make a dress subsequently modeled at our own version of a fashion show. Mine was bright yellow, because that was my daddy’s favorite color and I was definitely a daddy’s girl.

And even before that, sewing was stressed in 4-H.

I learned to sew on my mama’s treadle Singer sewing machine and what I would give to have that particular beauty in my home now!

On that machine I made my very first 4-H project. Since I was an animal lover even then, particularly cats, I designed a simple skirt featuring a print of hundreds of cats. With it I wore a white sleeveless cotton blouse on which I’d appliquéd one of the fabric’s cutest cats.

Sewing projects in various stages of completion.

I didn’t win a prize that year, but until our house burned in 1983, I still had a swatch featuring that fabric’s cats in my 4-H record book!

Two years after the cat skirt, I won the apron contest at my school, sewing a greenish apron bordered by comical scarecrows. I didn’t win at the county level, but I was so proud to be a fifth grader modeling my apron at the county’s old Activities Building!

During my teen years, I sewed funky bell bottoms and matching tops but certainly not to wear to school! We were all still required to wear dresses or skirts unless the temperature was several degrees below freezing!

So I’d go to the upper level of Watson’s Department Store, buy fabric, and make skirts and matching vests. I made ones using corduroy, fake fur and anything else that looked unusual.

Later when my girls were young, I made the majority of their clothes, often using material from their grand-mother’s old clothing to make cute new outfits. And, of course, I continued to make a lot of my own clothes.

When I was 21, I was sewing a particular orchid dress when my long-time best friend came by to see me. She was going to bring some of her own bell bottoms by for me to hem.

Three days later, I wore that orchid dress at the funeral of my best friend, her young husband and her brother, who were all victims of a violent car crash. Whenever I think of that funeral, I remember that orchid dress and how Libby admired it that day while I sewed….

A decade passed and I had a son. I didn’t sew as much for him, but there were tiny camouflage pants and dinosaur sheets and curtains.

For my teenage girls, there were band uniforms to alter and skirts to hem….

Now there’s a brown and green baby quilt featuring all sorts of animals draped over my first GREAT-grandson’s baby bed….

And I find whether I am sewing by hand (which I find is better therapy than any psychiatrist could EVER be!), rhythmically powering my 1870 treadle sewing machine or zipping along with the shiny new can-do-almost-anything Singer, I feel at one with thousands of other women who still sew and the thousands who went before us.

I answered a newspaper ad in another county for the treadle machine. It has a coffin-top instead of the kind I’d grown up with where the machine sank down as you closed the lid. The woman had moved to Alabama from Florida and had bought it 25 years before at an estate sale, never using it to sew but enjoying it as a piece of furniture.

I brought it home and, after much research, discovered it had been made in 1870! I found in pencil where the original owner had signed her name inside one of the four drawers.

How I wish I could know how she got the machine. Did she save her egg money for months? Was it a gift from a generous husband? What all did she sew?

As I oiled it, installed a new belt and began sewing, it was almost as if I became one with her, treadling along with more than 140 years difference in time.

It’s the same when I haunt estate sales. I’ve found patterned and solid fabric folded together, some even cut for quilt squares. Other times I’ve found partially completed dresses, vests and other outfits. And I try my best to finish them.

At those same estate sales, I’ve found pin cushions still containing threaded needles from perhaps the owner’s last projects.

And I handle all those sewing notions and fabric with respect and awe.

There’s still a lot of folks who sew and that encourages me…but I think we’ve lost something special when we buy a piece of clothing produced hurriedly in some foreign land by somebody rushing to make that day’s quota. If it gets ripped or stained,
too often we simply throw it away and go buy another similarly thrown together pair of pants or shirt.

We don’t have the pride of remembering when we picked out that particular fabric, running our fingers over its tightly woven lines. We don’t remember carefully cutting it to fit using a tissue-paper pattern we carefully measured to make certain its lines fit our curves.

A dress or blouse we stayed up all night to stitch would be treasured, not discarded simply because of a rip or stain. It would likely be mended, with stains carefully treated (or even covered by a decorative patch!).

I’ve interviewed some homeschoolers in the last few years whose mothers have made certain they at least knew the basic stitches so they can sew on buttons, hem and make simple alterations. And I’ve seen others, even in public schools, who’ve learned to make entire outfits. And there are quilters who enjoy that craft.

But they’re usually the exception, not the rule. In this age of instant gratification, whether it’s from microwave meals or "movies on demand" at home, I think we’re losing something by not enjoying the satisfaction of carefully stitching our way toward a finished project we can wear or look at for a long time.

One of these days (hopefully when I’m at LEAST 99!), my family will come back from the funeral home and survey my legacy: There will be stacks of fabric in various stages of projects, quilts pinned together ready to be stitched and pin cushions with needles threaded to match, ready to use.

And hopefully they will SMILE at the memories!

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "You know Cleatus had that Bait, Fireworks, Fill Dirt and Deli Shop down on Elvira Street and was makin’ a killin’! They put that highway by-pass in and now his property ain’t worth a hill of beans."

Why does this person use a commodity like beans to value this piece of property?

A hill of beans in colloquial American is a symbol for something of trifling value, as in expressions like "it ain’t worth a hill of beans." Its most famous appearance, which brought it to the notice of a wide international public, was at the end of the film Casablanca, in which Humphrey Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman, "Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

The mundane bean has for at least eight centuries been regarded as the epitome of worthlessness. Even if you know how many beans make five, you are unlikely to consider any one of them to be valuable. Part of the strength of the fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is the contrast between the valueless beans Jack was given in exchange for the cow and the riches revealed by the full-grown beanstalk.

The expanded formula of a hill of beans is American. From the evidence, it seems to have appeared in the modern sense about 1860. It is yet another example of the expansive hyperbole so typical of U.S. English in that period. An example from rather later is in The Indiscretions of Archie by P. G. Wodehouse: "Here have I been kicking because you weren’t a real burglar, when it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans whether you are or not."

The original sense of hill of beans was literal. For example, a book on rural affairs by one J. J. Thomas dated around 1858 used it in describing how to grow lima beans: "A strong wire is stretched from the tops of posts placed at a distance from each other; and to this wire two diverging cords from each hill of beans are attached." A little drawing alongside makes clear the writer is referring to the mounding along the row of bean seeds.

It would seem this is the origin of the phrase, and it was then applied figuratively to the illogical idea that if one bean was worthless, a whole hill of them would be even more so.

From World Wide Words, http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-hil2.htm

Statewide Referendum for Catfish Checkoff Program

Alabama Catfish Producers will go to the polls Thursday, February 25, 2010, to decide whether the state catfish checkoff program should be continued for five more years beginning on March 9, 2010, at the current rate of 50 cents per ton of feed manufactured or sold in Alabama. Producers who have purchased feed within 30 days of the referendum will be eligible to vote.

The first Alabama catfish checkoff program was approved by a 91.7 percent vote in 1989. Alabama law requires a statewide producer referendum to be held every five years on whether the program should be continued. If approved, checkoff funds would be used to finance research, education and promotion activities aimed at further developing the state’s multi-million-dollar catfish industry.

Townsend Kyser, chairman of the Alabama Catfish Producers, said the checkoff program has been especially valuable in funding research activities.

"Since 1994, U.S. catfish feedmills have contributed $5 per ton of feed produced for catfish promotion through The Catfish Institute. As a result, we have been able to use Alabama checkoff dollars to fund research programs that directly benefit farmers," Kyser said.

Thanks to improved fish health, genetics and environmentally-sound management practices developed by the researchers, Kyser said Alabama’s catfish industry is now a $500 million-a-year business. Much of that growth, Kyser said, has happened since the first checkoff referendum in 1989. According to the Alabama Catfish Producers, Alabama catfish growers purchased 191,784 tons of feed in 2008, compared to 46,000 tons in 1989.

"Even with the last year or two being difficult, that is still a strong indication of how far this industry has come in the last 20 years," Kyser said.

Although the program is voluntary, Kyser said the checkoff has experienced 100 percent participation from catfish producers for the past 15 years.

Funds collected from feed manufacturers are remitted to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, which gives the funds quarterly to the Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. A producer committee representing Alabama Catfish Producers members from all over the state determines how the funds are distributed.

On February 25, Alabama catfish producers will be able to vote between 8 a.m. and the close of business at their county polling sites. No proxy voting will be allowed and no ballots will be accepted by mail. For more information, contact Mitt Walker at 1-800-392-5705, ext. 4757, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=Alabama%20Catfish%20Checkoff%20Program">mwalker@alfafarmers.org.

This referendum is authorized by Acts of 1987, No. 87-587 or Alabama’s Regular Session, as amended by Acts of 1993, No. 93-625.

Stay Warm with Wool and Wisdom

By John Howle

I was once told by an outdoor writer from Wyoming who had hunted in all parts of the U.S. including Alaska that the coldest he had ever been while hunting was on a deer hunt in Alabama during January. Even though we are not known for predictable snowfall, the high humidity and biting winds in many parts of the state can be downright dangerous when you are planning to stay outdoors for extended periods.

Wool: Nature’s Best Warmth

Certain animals have the equipment to not only stay warm but seem to almost enjoy the brittle, biting days of January. Long ago, people realized the thick wool of sheep offered nature’s best warmth. Even when wet, wool will retain heat, and in the unlikely event of falling into a deep creek or river in winter, wool could be a lifesaver while getting a fire started.

Cabela’s carries a line of wool outdoor gear that makes the cold days of January more enjoyable.

If you don’t like the feel of traditional wool in the form of socks, jackets and pants, many companies are offering these products in Merino Wool, which has a silky smooth touch as well as the incredible insulating qualities of standard wool. If you start your wool coverage with your feet, I learned a trick from some hunters in Illinois about cold feet. First, spray your bare feet with an unscented, antiperspirant. The antiperspirant will keep your feet from sweating which is the main cause of cold feet. Next, put on the wool socks. If your feet do perspire some, the wool wicks the moisture away from your feet.

If you are having trouble keeping the trunk of your body warm, especially if you sit for a few hours in a tree stand without moving, a wool jacket is a great outer shell. The thickly woven fibers keep the biting wind out, and the natural insulating qualities of the wool keep your body heat trapped inside.

Cabela’s makes a bomber style wool jacket that is machine washable with a special interior lining for smoothness against the skin and a membrane that resists rain soaking through to the skin. The Cabela’s Outfitters Wool Jacket has a breathable Dry-Plus lining designed to block rain from entering. It has two snap-close cargo pockets, angled handwarmer pockets and a storm flap. The 22-ounce wool provides plenty of outer warmth for the end-of-season deer hunts or those biting, cold days when you have to hunt for a hole in the fence on the backside of the pasture. For more information, visit www.cabelas.com and type wool jacket in the search box.

Beeswax-based boot protectants will preserve the leather while waterproofing the boot.


Protect the Leather

Since the leather on boots is basically skin without the lubricants that naturally occur, it’s important to keep them conditioned. When leather gets wet, it stretches and loses strength. If it dries too quickly, it hardens and cracks. Any mud or dirt should be removed with water and a brush. Even dry dust and sand can work its way into the pores of the leather causing it to break down. Applying Sno-Seal or other beeswax-based waterproofing will recondition the leather without breaking down the leather or rotting the threads giving the boots an extended life. A hair dryer can be used to warm the wax once it is applied to allow it to soak into the pores of the leather.

A small fan will help dry your work or hunting boots without the expense of commercial boot dryers.



Dry Boots Equal Warm Feet

During the winter, leather boots worn while hunting or working get wet from rain, snow and mud. Placing the boots on commercial boot dryers will have them ready to wear the next day. Without a commercial boot dryer, a small, electric fan will suffice. Lay the boots with the open ends facing the fan allowing the air flow of the fan to slowly dry the boots, and they’ll be ready to wear the next morning. Avoid placing the boots close to the fireplace or using a hair dryer because this dries the boots too quickly, cracking and hardening the leather.

Twelve Strike Anywhere matches can be stored in spent 16 and 12-gauge shells. Simply slide one into the other.



Three Strikes and You’re Cold

Strike Anywhere matches will deteriorate over time and moisture speeds this process. To correctly store matches, the humidity should be low; otherwise, the ambient moisture will get locked in with the matches, thus deteriorating the match heads. January nights in front of a fireplace or wood heater are an ideal time to store matches because the air will be dry when the match case gets closed. For a convenient match safe, a 16-gauge spent shotgun shell slides snugly into a 12-gauge shell. This will hold about 12 Strike Anywhere matches and can easily be carried in your pocket.

Protect the Head

Being in extremely cold environments is a threat to survival. The cold not only numbs the body but the brain as well. The brain doesn’t stand extreme cold very well because of the many blood vessels. You lose 75 percent or more of your body heat through an unprotected head; therefore, a warm head cover will help prevent disorientation and confusion at a time when it’s most important.

Warmer Nights

To get the most warmth out of your sleeping bag, place a space blanket, shiny side up, under the bag to reflect more body heat. Sleeping on an air mattress leaves cold air underneath your body because open space of the air becomes chilled. A closed cell foam mattress holds heat better that an air mattress, but it may not sleep as comfortably. Even though it takes more space while packing, the most comfortable route is to place a closed cell foam mattress on top of the air mattress with a space blanket underneath the sleeping bag. This may sound like a tedious affair, but you’ll sleep more comfortably and warmly than your counterparts.

Don’t let the cold weather of January leave you with a case of cabin fever. Grab some wool, and with a little ingenuity, you might even enjoy those cold snaps in January.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Subtle Factors Can Affect Animal Food Preferences

By Dr. Don Ball

Animals, like humans, prefer some foods over others. Grazing animals normally like and want to eat forages and feed materials that are tender and/or have high nutritive value (although exceptions occur when certain anti-quality compounds are present) and tend to reject or avoid those that are fibrous and have lower nutritive value. However, research done by Dr. Fred Provenza and colleagues at Utah State University has shown other less obvious factors can also affect animal preferences.

"Palatability" is usually defined as the degree to which a food material is pleasant or acceptable to the taste. However, Dr. Provenza believes, with regard to grazing animals a better definition might be, "the interaction between taste and post-ingestive feedback." In other words, how the animal feels after eating a food (and not just how it tastes) has a lot to do with how much of that food it will want to eat in the future.

Most of us have had the experience of getting sick soon after eating a particular food and then finding our liking of the food was diminished for a long period thereafter. This result can sometimes occur even if we know the food did not cause the illness. Experiments involving treating forage with lithium chloride (a tasteless compound that causes nausea in livestock) showed this phenomenon seems to also occur in animals. This is actually quite valuable for an animal because if it happens to take a few bites of a poisonous plant and subsequently gets sick (as happened when they ate lithium chloride-treated food), then they are unlikely to want to eat it again.

Once animals have developed preferences, they will still try novel (new) foods, but initially only in very small quantities. Most livestock producers have observed that when something new (a novel flavor) is introduced into an animal’s diet, consumption is reduced. If the novel food does not make the animal sick, it will likely eat more of the material if the opportunity arises in the future. However, if animals eat a familiar food along with a few bites of a novel food and then get sick, it is the novel food they will later avoid, not the familiar one. Interestingly, when animals experience sickness following a meal consisting only of familiar food, they do not totally avoid the familiar food (as they would a novel food), but rather are merely not inclined to consume as much of it in the future.

Another interesting finding was that an animal’s experiences early in life also have an important impact on preference. In one study, various pairs of lambs and their mothers were exposed to a particular unique forage crop for only one hour per day for five days when the lambs were six weeks old. Three years later, during which the animals had no opportunity to eat the unique forage to which they were briefly exposed in early life, it was found their early conditioning resulted in their willingness to readily eat that forage, but not forages they had not previously eaten. Animals tend to eat foods their mother eats, so the mother’s preferences tend to become the preferences of her offspring.

One might think this was merely a matter of the animals not wanting to eat something with which they were not familiar (an example of the novelty factor just discussed), but this was not the case. After the sheep had ample opportunity to develop a taste for previously unpreferred forages, they would readily eat them when necessary, but they always maintained a preference for the forages they had learned to eat while at their mother’s side.

While we may think we can accurately predict which forages or other feeds animals are going to prefer and why (and in many cases we may be right), it is now known there can be a lot more involved in animal preference than just the inherent taste of a food material. This knowledge helps explain situations in which animals behave differently from what we expected with regard to what they choose to eat.

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

The Co-op Pantry

"These are appliances. If you don’t want it wrinkled, iron it; if you don’t want it dirty, wash it; and if you don’t want to be hungry, cook it."

Keith Dunn said this is the advice his mother gave him and his twin brother Craig as she introduced them to the iron, washing machine and oven when she went to work as a florist while the boys were young.

"And in the 25 years Sherry and I have been married, there have been several times when I was home more than Sherry, so I did the cooking," explained Keith.

Keith and Sherry have two sons and a daughter, and Keith said it’s been hard in recent years to know how much needs to be cooked for a family dinner in their home.

"Cory (21) and Grayson (17) can both eat like a horse, so I’ve had to learn to stretch things or cut down a recipe depending on whether or not both boys will be home that night," he explained.

Keith currently does freelance graphic design work, but he and his wife have family ties to agriculture and continue to feel close to the farming background they knew growing up.

"Sherry’s family always had someone to keep the family farm going, and her dad always had cows. Even though my dad worked in Huntsville, we moved out of town when I was eleven, so, as a teenager, we had chickens, and my dad always had a garden of about 10 acres that we plowed with a horse," Keith said.

Keith added he and daughter Mattie (11) had their first garden in town last summer.

"The plot probably got more shade than was ideal, but we had some really good, acidic tomatoes and lots of peppers. We still have four or five bags of peppers in the freezer," he said.

In addition to day-to-day cooking, Keith and his family have a penchant for entertaining and host a big party every December.

"We’ve had the Santa Open House for 14 years now, and we basically invite everyone we know to drop by for some good food and a visit with Santa," he said.

Several of the recipes Keith shares this month are annual favorites at their Santa Open House, like Praline Bars and Apple Butterscotch Dip. Other recipes are from cherished friends and family members.

"The ice cream recipe is one we had as newlyweds at the home of Nell Brooks in Florence, and, after 25 years, it’s still the only ice cream we know how to make. And the Roquefort dressing was my granddad’s secret recipe he made every summer. When his house was cleaned out after he died, his handwritten recipe was found behind the stove," Keith said.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Ice Cream

2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
2 cups canned pineapple juice
1 (2 liter) bottle Mello Yello

In a large container, mix milk, juice and a portion of the soda. Pour into ice cream freezer, adding soda until mixture reaches fill line. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Note: Fat Free condensed milk, lite juice and/or diet drink may be used for restricted diets. Also, orange or grape soda can be used instead of Mello Yello. Keith said kids love them all!

Peanut Butter Balls

2 ¼ cups Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) real butter, softened (not melted, no substitutes)
1 (1 pound) box powdered sugar
3 cups crisped rice cereal
Chocolate Dip

Mix ingredients in order listed. Mix with spoon or hands until thoroughly mixed. Form into balls approximately the size of a walnut.

Chocolate Dip: Melt a 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2 ounces paraffin together in double boiler over medium heat. Dip balls in chocolate using a spoon and fork or toothpick and place on wax paper to cool. When cool, drizzle with remaining chocolate. May place cookie sheet with candies on it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up chocolate.

Chocolate Fudge Pie

1 cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
2 Tablespoons flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 stick (½ cup) margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 prepared pie crust

Combine all filling ingredients and pour into pie crust. Bake at 325o for 30 minutes.

Apple Butterscotch Dip with Granny Smith Apples

6 ounces butterscotch morsels
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ Tablespoons white vinegar

Combine morsels and condensed milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, remove from oven and mix thoroughly. Add salt, cinnamon and vinegar to butterscotch mixture, mix partially. Microwave on high for 2 additional minutes, remove from oven and mix thoroughly.

Hint: It’s best to keep dip warm while serving.

Preparing Apples:


6-8 medium size Granny Smith apples

Thoroughly wash apples. Core and cut into wedges, but do not peel.

Soak apples in ICE COLD salt water (approximately ¼ cup salt) for at least 30 minutes (this keeps the apples from turning brown). Rinse thoroughly in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and serve with Dip.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 pound Pepperidge Farm Hot and Crusty Bread
4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1 (12 oz) package white chocolate chips, divided into thirds

Tear bread into pieces and place in a 9 by 13 baking dish. Pour 3 cups cream over bread and let soak for 30 minutes. Stir together eggs, sugar and vanilla mixture. Mix into bread mixture. Stir in 2/3 of the white chocolate chips. Bake at 350o for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can also prepare the night before and bake just before serving.

Sauce for topping: Mix remaining white chocolate chips and whipping cream. Heat over low heat until smooth. You can also microwave for 2 minutes, but be careful not to burn or boil over. Pour sauce over cooked bread pudding just before serving.

Note: Keith said the Pepperidge Farm bread can be hard to find and recommended using a crusty deli bread as a substitute.

Parmesan Biscuits

1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, divided
1 cup butter or margarine, divided
4 cups self rising flour
2 cups sour cream
¼ cup milk

Reserve 2 tablespoons cheese and 2 tablespoons butter. Combine remaining cheese and flour in large bowl. Cut remaining butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly, add sour cream and milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to a ½ inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch round cutter. Place on baking sheet. Brush with reserved melted butter and sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake 18 minutes at 425o.

Praline Bars

2 sticks butter (no substitutes)
½ cup sugar
2 cups pecans, chopped
Box of graham crackers

Preheat oven to 325o. Line a flat surface with foil to transfer crackers to once removed from the oven. Line a cookie sheet with foil then with graham crackers. In a small sauce pan, cream sugar and butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Must stir constantly or mixture will scorch. After 3 minutes, pour quickly and evenly over graham crackers and spread with spoon or spatula to cover completely. Sprinkle with pecans and place immediately into oven. Cook for 10 minutes; overcooking will burn graham crackers. Remove crackers promptly using two spatulas, one to lift and one to help push off bottom spatula. The mixture is hot like peanut brittle and will easily burn you and also quickly hardens. Move all crackers to prepared foil and let cool. Break into pieces when cool.

Note: Keith makes these every Christmas for their Santa Open House, but said they are good anytime.

Bud McNeil’s Roquefort Dressing

About ½ small wedge of Roquefort cheese (or blue cheese) or corresponding amount of a large wedge (adjust to taste)
1½ cups Hellman’s mayonnaise, well chilled (can use light)
1 empty pint jar or similar container with lid for storage
1½ teaspoons dehydrated minced onion
Dash of garlic powder, or to taste
½ teaspoon Tabasco pepper
1 can Borden’s canned milk, well chilled

Place cheese in the freezer for a while to make firm enough to easily dice with a fork; do not mash or cream cheese. Fill pint jar or container about 3/4 full of mayo. Add the next three ingredients one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add diced cheese. Fill the remainder of the jar with Borden’s milk and stir well.

Note: Keith’s “Granddad” McNeil made this annually. Keith said it is great on summer salad or on sliced tomatoes and even better to dip fries in!

Chicken Crescents

1 whole chicken, roasted in crockpot all day
2 cans crescent rolls
2 cups cheese, grated
1 (26 oz) can cream of chicken soup

Skin, debone and shred chicken. Place a small amount of chicken in the center of each crescent roll. Add a little cheese and roll up. Set crescents side by side in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Cover with soup and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes at 350o.

See more of Keith Dunn’s recipes at www.alafarmnews.com.

Easy Lite Potato Soup

1 (10 oz) package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
2 (14 oz) cans fat-free chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
1 (10 ounce) can reduced-fat cream of celery soup
¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste
2 ounces reduced-fat Velveeta cheese, chopped

Combine the potatoes, onions and chicken broth in a soup pot. Cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are tender. Add the skim milk, celery soup and pepper. Cook until heated through. Add the cheese and stir until melted.Serves 6.


Stuffed Bell Peppers Olive oil

¼ cup each bell pepper and onion, both chopped
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 jar pasta sauce
Water
6-8 Bell peppers, cleaned, halved length wise, deseeded and boiled for 15-20 minutes
1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, prepared according to package directions
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes with garlic and oregano
Parmesan cheese, grated

Put a small amount of oil in skillet and add onion and bell pepper; cook until transparent. Add meat. Cook meat until browned and drain any excess fat. Add pasta sauce, then add a little water to the jar, swish around and pour into pan. Add prepared rice. Add tomatoes. Mix ingredients. Place pepper halves in 9 by 13-inch baking dish, fill each with mixture and place any excess mixture around peppers. Cover liberally with cheese. Bake at 350o for about 30 minutes until bubbly.


The Co-op Pantry

"Some interests or hobbies come and go, but I’ve always loved cooking," Leigh Brannan said.

"When I was little I had one of those play kitchen sets, and I loved it. When I was in first or second grade, the preschool where my mom worked was putting together a cookbook, and I submitted a recipe for it. And it was a real recipe for tomato pie, not just some ‘Get your Mommy to help you’ kind of thing," Leigh explained.

Originally from Tallahassee, FL, Leigh’s love of cooking was definitely influenced by her family.

"Everyone in my family is always so appreciative of how much effort goes into making delicious food. It makes people feel special when you cook something for them, and who doesn’t like to eat?" she said.

Leigh currently lives in Montgomery and works as the Director of Public Relations and Communications for Faulkner University.

"It’s a job that’s full of variety, and I’m never doing the same thing from one day to the next," Leigh said.

When she’s not working or cooking, Leigh enjoys working with her church’s youth ministry program, gardening and traveling.

"This past summer I went to Spain and it was a wonderful trip. It’s a country with a rich mix of cultures and I’ve enjoyed trying to recreate some of the dishes I tasted there, some with good results, some not so good," she joked.

"That’s another thing I love about food and cooking. There’s always a story or memory attached to a recipe, and in that way it’s like a photo album, keeping those stories and memories fresh," Leigh said.

"In my kitchen I have a picture of my great Aunt Deda rolling out pie crust. She would always put cinnamon, sugar and butter on the scraps left over from the pie dough to make little treats for us. She would have been 100 this year, and I call her my kitchen muse, watching over my cooking and giving me kitchen inspiration," Leigh explained.

And Leigh and Aunt Deda aren’t the only ones in her family who love cooking.

"It’s just something our family does. We all like to get in the kitchen and cook together, and I think part of it is that cooking’s a project we can complete and everyone gets to enjoy when we’re done," she said.

And from her college roommate’s Alabama Pork Chops to the Frozen Fruit Salad she and her mom created as a treat for afternoon tea, the recipes she shares this month were all family-approved.

"I made a big list of recipes and let the family vote on which ones I should use," she explained.

"Apple Sausage Breakfast Pie was something a friend of mine made when I visited her in D.C. I made it for the family and they all went crazy for it. We’ve even made it and given it as Christmas gifts," she said.

She also said Sweet Onion Pudding is a very mellow side dish and the recipe for Butter Pecan Molasses Cookies was given to her by a professor’s wife when she spent a semester in England.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Vegetarian Chili

1 to 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, in chunks
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper OR smoked paprika
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

Heat peanut oil in Dutch oven. Sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic. Add chili powder, pepper/paprika, salt and sugar. Add beans and tomatoes. Simmer for 45 minutes, adding water to reach desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Mama’s Meatloaf

1 ½ pounds lean ground round
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup onion, minced
1 green pepper, diced
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons ketchup, divided
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients except 2 Tablespoons ketchup and place in a loaf pan. Top with remaining ketchup. Bake at 325o for 1 hour. Alternately, bake in muffin tins for individual servings and a faster bake time of 30 minutes. Serves 6.

Alabama Pork Chops

6 thick pork chops
Salt & pepper to taste
6 slices lemon
1 cup ketchup
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350o. Place chops in deep baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place 1 lemon slice on each chop. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over chops. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake 1 hour.Serves 6.

Apple Sausage Breakfast Pie

1 pound ground sausage
1 (11 oz) piecrust mix
1 (20 oz) can apple pie filling
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup brown sugar

Brown sausage in skillet until no longer pink, breaking up in fairly small bits. Drain on paper towel. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350o. Use ½ package piecrust to prepare according to package directions a single pastry for 9” pie pan. Line pan with pastry; flute edge and prick bottom and sides with fork. Bake 10 minutes. Pour pie filling into partially baked shell; layer cooked sausage over pie filling; sprinkle with cheese. For topping, combine brown sugar with remaining piecrust mix. Sprinkle over pie. Return to oven; bake 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Note: This pie may be assembled and frozen before the final baking. Thaw and bake as directed before serving.

Marinated Black-Eyed Pea Salad

½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 (15 oz) cans black-eyed peas, drained
1 green pepper, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced
¼ cup onion, chopped

Combine oil, vinegar, garlic salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour dressing over and marinate at least 4 hours. Yields approximately 6 cups.

Sweet Onion Pudding

2 cups whipping cream
3 oz Parmesan cheese, shredded
6 eggs, beaten
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
6 sweet onions, thinly sliced

Stir together cream, cheese and eggs in a large bowl. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; gradually stir into egg mixture. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350o. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, 30-40 minutes or until onion is caramelized. Remove from heat. Stir onion into egg mixture and spoon into lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until set. Serves 10-12.

Note: This is filling, but lower calorie because the bread is absent.

Frozen Fruit Salad

1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 pint strawberries, free of stems
10-15 maraschino cherries, halved plus 1 to 2 Tablespoons juice
3 bananas
1 (12 oz) can Eagle Brand milk
1 (9 oz) Cool Whip
½ cup pecans, chopped

Mix all ingredients except pecans in food processor. Fold in nuts and freeze. To serve, let soften a bit and then scoop.

Peanut Sauce for Stir-fry

3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons soy sauce, divided
4 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 ¼ teaspoons rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon dried cilantro

In mini food processor, combine peanut butter, garlic and 1 teaspoon soy sauce; puree. Add remaining soy sauce and rest of ingredients; process until combined. Pour over finished stir-fry while still in pan and heat through. (Makes enough sauce for a bag of frozen vegetable mix and added meat.) Serve over rice.

Sautéed Spinach

1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) bag fresh spinach
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until golden. Add spinach; cook until wilted. Right before spinach is done, add cheese and cream. Stir and add salt. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Squash Soufflé

2 cups yellow squash (about 1½ pounds raw)
½ cup onion, sliced
Oil for sautéing
2 Tablespoons flour
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 sleeve Town House crackers, crushed
½ stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325o. Sauté squash and onion in a small amount of oil until soft. Add flour gradually to milk; add egg, cheese and salt. Mix with cooked, drained squash/onion. Place mixture into greased 1 quart casserole dish. Top with crushed crackers. Pour butter over crumbs. Bake 35 minutes.

Note: If doubling, do not double salt.

Butter Pecan Molasses Cookies

1 box butter pecan cake mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening
1 Tablespoon molasses
½ cup pecans, chopped
Sugar

Mix half of the cake mix and baking soda together. Add in eggs, shortening and molasses. Beat until smooth. Beat in remaining cake mix. Add nuts. Chill dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375o. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Dip tops into sugar. Place on baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes (6-7 for chewy cookies). Cool slightly before removing to cooling rack. Yield: 5 dozen.

Orchard Cake

2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups apple, chopped
1 cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325o. Combine sugar, oil, juice and vanilla; beat. Add eggs and beat. Sift dry ingredients together and add to sugar mixture. Add apples and nuts. Pour into greased 10x12-inch baking dish. Bake 1½ hours. While hot, top with sauce.

Sauce:
1 cup brown sugar
¼ pound butter
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients and cook 3 minutes. Pour over hot cake.

Guava Turnovers

2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
4 ounces guava paste
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400o. Line pan with parchment paper. On a separate piece of parchment, cut the pastry sheet into squares. For large turnovers, divide sheet into 4; for bite-sized, divide sheet into 8 squares. Cut cream cheese and guava paste into slices approximately ¼-inch thick. Adjust slices to fit pastry and lay 1 slice each of cheese and guava diagonally in the center of each pastry square. Mix egg and water, brush edges with pastry brush. Fold to form a triangle and crimp the edges. Arrange all on pan and brush with egg wash. Bake 15-20 minutes or until fluffy and golden. Remove to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, stir sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm turnovers. Let cool.

Note: Guava paste is readily available in the Mexican section of the grocery store.

Orange Carrot Cake

1 box yellow cake mix without pudding
1 (3 ¾ oz) package vanilla instant pudding mix
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
1/3 cup water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 cups carrots, shredded
½ cup raisins, finely chopped
½ cup pecans, chopped
Creamy Orange Frosting
Pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350o. Combine cake mix and next 6 ingredients in large mixing bowl; beat approximately 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in carrots, raisins and pecans. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish top of cake with pecan halves.

Creamy Orange Frosting:
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16 oz) box powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind

Combine butter and cream cheese, beating until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and orange rind. Beat until

The Co-op Pantry

"Some interests or hobbies come and go, but I’ve always loved cooking," Leigh Brannan said.

"When I was little I had one of those play kitchen sets, and I loved it. When I was in first or second grade, the preschool where my mom worked was putting together a cookbook, and I submitted a recipe for it. And it was a real recipe for tomato pie, not just some ‘Get your Mommy to help you’ kind of thing," Leigh explained.

Originally from Tallahassee, FL, Leigh love of cooking was definitely influenced by her family.

"Everyone in my family is always so appreciative of how much effort goes into making delicious food. It makes people feel special when you cook something for them, and who doesn’t like to eat?" she said.

Leigh currently lives in Montgomery and works as the Director of Public Relations and Communications for Faulkner University.

"It’s a job that’s full of variety, and I’m never doing the same thing from one day to the next," Leigh said.

When she’s not working or cooking, Leigh enjoys working with her church’s youth ministry program, gardening and traveling.

"This past summer I went to Spain and it was a wonderful trip. It’s a country with a rich mix of cultures and I’ve enjoyed trying to recreate some of the dishes I tasted there, some with good results, some not so good," she joked.

"That’s another thing I love about food and cooking. There’s always a story or memory attached to a recipe, and in that way it’s like a photo album, keeping those stories and memories fresh," Leigh said.

"In my kitchen I have a picture of my great Aunt Deda rolling out pie crust. She would always put cinnamon, sugar and butter on the scraps left over from the pie dough to make little treats for us. She would have been 100 this year, and I call her my kitchen muse, watching over my cooking and giving me kitchen inspiration," Leigh explained.

And Leigh and Aunt Deda aren’t the only ones in her family who love cooking.

"It’s just something our family does. We all like to get in the kitchen and cook together, and I think part of it is that cooking’s a project we can complete and everyone gets to enjoy when we’re done," she said.

And from her college roommate’s Alabama Pork Chops to the Frozen Fruit Salad she and her mom created as a treat for afternoon tea, the recipes she shares this month were all family-approved.

"I made a big list of recipes and let the family vote on which ones I should use," she explained.

"Apple Sausage Breakfast Pie was something a friend of mine made when I visited her in D.C. I made it for the family and they all went crazy for it. We’ve even made it and given it as Christmas gifts," she said.

She also said Sweet Onion Pudding is a very mellow side dish and the recipe for Butter Pecan Molasses Cookies was given to her by a professor’s wife when she spent a semester in England.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

VEGETARIAN CHILI

1 to 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, in chunks
3 to 4 cloves garlic. minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper OR
smoked paprika
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

Heat peanut oil in Dutch oven. Sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic. Add chili powder, pepper/paprika, salt and sugar. Add beans and tomatoes. Simmer for 45 minutes, adding water to reach desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

MAMA'S MEATLOAF

1 ½ pounds lean ground round
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup onion , minced
1 green pepper, diced
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons ketchup, divided
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients except 2 Tablespoons ketchup and place in a loaf pan. Top with remaining ketchup. Bake at 325o for 1 hour. Alternately, bake in muffin tins for individual servings and a faster bake time of 30 minutes. Serves 6.

ALABAMA PORK CHOPS

6 thick pork chops
Salt & pepper to taste
6 slices lemon
1 cup ketchup
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350o. Place chops in deep baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place 1 lemon slice on each chop. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over chops. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake 1 hour. Serves 6.

APPLE SAUSAGE BREAKFAST PIE

1 pound ground sausage
1 (11 oz) piecrust mix
1 (20 oz) can apple pie filling
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup brown sugar

Brown sausage in skillet until no longer pink, breaking up in fairly small bits. Drain on paper towel. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350o. Use ½ package piecrust to prepare according to package directions a single pastry for 9” pie pan. Line pan with pastry; flute edge and prick bottom and sides with fork. Bake 10 minutes. Pour pie filling into partially baked shell; layer cooked sausage over pie filling; sprinkle with cheese. For topping, combine brown sugar with remaining piecrust mix. Sprinkle over pie. Return to oven; bake 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Note: This pie may be assembled and frozen before the final baking. Thaw and bake as directed before serving.


MARINATED BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD

½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 (15 oz) cans black-eyed peas, drained
1 green pepper, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced
¼ cup onion, chopped

Combine oil, vinegar, garlic salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour dressing over and marinate at least 4 hours. Yields approximately 6 cups.


SWEET ONION PUDDING

2 cups whipping cream
3 oz Parmesan cheese, shredded
6 eggs, beaten
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
6 sweet onions, thinly sliced

Stir together cream, cheese and eggs in a large bowl. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; gradually stir into egg mixture. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350o. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, 30-40 minutes or until onion is caramelized. Remove from heat. Stir onion into egg mixture and spoon into lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until set. Serves 10-12.

Note: This is filling, but lower calorie because the bread is absent.

FROZEN FRUIT SALAD

1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 pint strawberries, free of stems
10-15 maraschino cherries, halved plus
1 to 2 Tablespoons juice
3 bananas
1 (12 oz) can Eagle Brand milk
1 (9 oz) Cool Whip
½ cup pecans, chopped

Mix all ingredients except pecans in food processor. Fold in nuts and freeze. To serve, let soften a bit and then scoop.

PEANUT SAUCE FOR STIR-FRY

3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons soy sauce, divided
4 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 ¼ teaspoons rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon dried cilantro

In mini food processor, combine peanut butter, garlic and 1 teaspoon soy sauce; puree. Add remaining soy sauce and rest of ingredients; process until combined. Pour over finished stir-fry while still in pan and heat through. (Makes enough sauce for a bag of frozen vegetable mix and added meat.) Serve over rice.

SAUTÉED SPINACH

1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) bag fresh spinach
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese , grated
1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until golden. Add spinach; cook until wilted. Right before spinach is done, add cheese and cream. Stir and add salt. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

SQUASH SOUFFLÉ

2 cups yellow squash (about 1½ pounds raw)
½ cup onion, sliced
Oil for sautéing
2 Tablespoons flour
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 sleeve Town House crackers, crushed
½ stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325o. Sauté squash and onion in a small amount of oil until soft. Add flour gradually to milk; add egg, cheese and salt. Mix with cooked, drained squash/onion. Place mixture into greased 1 quart casserole dish. Top with crushed crackers. Pour butter over crumbs. Bake 35 minutes.

Note: If doubling, do not double salt.

BUTTER PECAN MOLASSES COOKIES

1 box butter pecan cake mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening
1 Tablespoon molasses
½ cup pecans, chopped
Sugar

Mix half of the cake mix and baking soda together. Add in eggs, shortening and molasses. Beat until smooth. Beat in remaining cake mix. Add nuts. Chill dough 1 hour.Preheat oven to 375o. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Dip tops into sugar. Place on baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes (6-7 for chewy cookies). Cool slightly before removing to cooling rack. Yield: 5 dozen.

ORCHARD CAKE

2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups apple, chopped
1 cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325o. Combine sugar, oil, juice and vanilla; beat. Add eggs and beat. Sift dry ingredients together and add to sugar mixture. Add apples and nuts. Pour into greased 10x12-inch baking dish. Bake 1½ hours. While hot, top with sauce.

Sauce:

1 cup brown sugar
¼ pound butter
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients and cook 3 minutes. Pour over hot cake.


GUAVA TURNOVERS

2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
4 ounces guava paste
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400o. Line pan with parchment paper. On a separate piece of parchment, cut the pastry sheet into squares. For large turnovers, divide sheet into 4; for bite-sized, divide sheet into 8 squares. Cut cream cheese and guava paste into slices approximately ¼-inch thick. Adjust slices to fit pastry and lay 1 slice each of cheese and guava diagonally in the center of each pastry square. Mix egg and water, brush edges with pastry brush. Fold to form a triangle and crimp the edges. Arrange all on pan and brush with egg wash. Bake 15-20 minutes or until fluffy and golden. Remove to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, stir sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm turnovers. Let cool.

Note: Guava paste is readily available in the Mexican section of the grocery store.

ORANGE CARROT CAKE

1 box yellow cake mix without pudding
1 (3 ¾ oz) package vanilla instant pudding mix
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
1/3 cup water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 cups carrots, shredded
½ cup raisins, finely chopped
½ cup pecans, chopped
Creamy Orange Frosting
Pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350o. Combine cake mix and next 6 ingredients in large mixing bowl; beat approximately 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in carrots, raisins and pecans. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish top of cake with pecan halves.

Creamy Orange Frosting:
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16 oz) box powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind

Combine butter and cream cheese, beating until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and orange rind. Beat until smooth.

The Co-op Pantry

"Some interests or hobbies come and go, but I’ve always loved cooking," Leigh Brannan said.

"When I was little I had one of those play kitchen sets, and I loved it. When I was in first or second grade, the preschool where my mom worked was putting together a cookbook, and I submitted a recipe for it. And it was a real recipe for tomato pie, not just some ‘Get your Mommy to help you’ kind of thing," Leigh explained.

Originally from Tallahassee, FL, Leigh’s love of cooking was definitely influenced by her family.

"Everyone in my family is always so appreciative of how much effort goes into making delicious food. It makes people feel special when you cook something for them, and who doesn’t like to eat?" she said.

Leigh currently lives in Montgomery and works as the Director of Public Relations and Communications for Faulkner University.

"It’s a job that’s full of variety, and I’m never doing the same thing from one day to the next," Leigh said.

When she’s not working or cooking, Leigh enjoys working with her church’s youth ministry program, gardening and traveling.

"This past summer I went to Spain and it was a wonderful trip. It’s a country with a rich mix of cultures and I’ve enjoyed trying to recreate some of the dishes I tasted there, some with good results, some not so good," she joked.

"That’s another thing I love about food and cooking. There’s always a story or memory attached to a recipe, and in that way it’s like a photo album, keeping those stories and memories fresh," Leigh said.

"In my kitchen I have a picture of my great Aunt Deda rolling out pie crust. She would always put cinnamon, sugar and butter on the scraps left over from the pie dough to make little treats for us. She would have been 100 this year, and I call her my kitchen muse, watching over my cooking and giving me kitchen inspiration," Leigh explained.

And Leigh and Aunt Deda aren’t the only ones in her family who love cooking.

"It’s just something our family does. We all like to get in the kitchen and cook together, and I think part of it is that cooking’s a project we can complete and everyone gets to enjoy when we’re done," she said.

And from her college roommate’s Alabama Pork Chops to the Frozen Fruit Salad she and her mom created as a treat for afternoon tea, the recipes she shares this month were all family-approved.

"I made a big list of recipes and let the family vote on which ones I should use," she explained.

"Apple Sausage Breakfast Pie was something a friend of mine made when I visited her in D.C. I made it for the family and they all went crazy for it. We’ve even made it and given it as Christmas gifts," she said.

She also said Sweet Onion Pudding is a very mellow side dish and the recipe for Butter Pecan Molasses Cookies was given to her by a professor’s wife when she spent a semester in England.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.


The FFA Sentinel

By Jacob Davis


The 82nd National FFA Convention was an exciting experience for thousands of FFA members from across the nation. There was an attendance of over 53,000 members, advisors, parents and supporters who converged on Indianapolis, Ind. for the event at the end of October. Alabama had over 520 attendees participating in competitions, workshops, convention sessions and other activities surrounding the convention.

Alabama had several state-winning Career Development Event (CDE) Teams representing Alabama in National Competition. The following chart identifies those teams and the results of their efforts. A special recognition goes to Shane Bryan, advisor, and the Falkville FFA Forestry Team for placing 3rd in the nation. The team members were Ashley Holmes, Justin Jacobs, Christopher Wilhite and Jordan Saint.

CDE Events

Agricultural Mechanics
Creed Speaking

Dairy Cattle Evaluation
Extemporaneous Speaking

Floriculture
Forestry

Horse Evaluation
Livestock Evaluation
Parliamentary Procedure
Prepared Public Speaking

Poultry
Team

Douglas HS FFA
Danielle Cassady
(East Limestone HS FFA)
Arab HS FFA
James William Haynes

(Tallassee FFA)
Enterprise HS FFA
Falkville HS FFA

(3rd in the Nation)
Southside HS FFA
Douglas HS FFA
Geraldine HS FFA
Elizabeth Wilson

(Jacksonville HS FFA)
Arab HS FFA
Results

Silver
Bronze

Bronze
Bronze

Silver
Gold

Bronze
Bronze
Silver
Silver
Bronze

Ten FFA chapters in Alabama submitted applications for recognition in the National Chapter Awards Program. Those chapters are listed here alphabetically followed by their star ranking (3 being the highest): Brantley HS FFA (2), East Lawrence HS FFA (2), Eufaula HS FFA (2), Fort Payne HS FFA (3), Geraldine HS FFA (2), Montevallo HS FFA (2), McAdory HS FFA (1), New Brockton HS FFA (2), Pell City HS FFA (2) and Speake HS FFA (3). This program allows chapters to receive recognition for the chapter’s Program of Activities they conduct throughout the year. The Speake FFA Chapter was honored this year by being named as a National Finalist for the Models of Innovation competition of the National Chapter Award Program in two categories: Community Development and Student Development. Each of these chapters is very deserving of the recognition they have received. We have other chapters that do some great programs and don’t receive the recognition they deserve because the chapter officers don’t fill out an application.

The highest honor the National FFA Organization offers to its members is the American FFA Degree. This degree is bestowed upon members who meet certain criteria which substantiate their growth as a productive member of society. Honorary American Degrees are also awarded to teachers, superintendents, partners and others to recognize their support of the agriscience education program and FFA. The following list is of Alabama’s recipients.

Jerry Newby (right), President, Alabama Farmers Federation, was one of two recipients of the 2009 Honorary American Degree presented by FFA to recognize their support of the agriscience education program and FFA. The other recipient was Dr. Joseph B. Morton (not pictured), State Superintendent of Education. The award was presented by Paul Maya (left), FFA National President.


Honorary American Degree

Jerry Newby, President, Alabama Farmers Federation

Dr. Joseph B. Morton, State Superintendent of Education


American FFA Degree

Taylor Andrews, Brantley FFA

Jared M. Beasley, Gaston FFA

Ciara Crotzer, Speake FFA

Judy Elizabeth Eldred, Smiths Station FFA

Robert Samuel Ginwright, Montevallo FFA

Brittani Landers, Montevallo FFA

Sarah Lesley, Red Bay FFA

Bethany Ray Lewis, Ashford FFA

Josh Maples, Elkmont FFA

Jonathon Micah Martin, Gaston FFA

Amanda Pangburn, Geraldine FFA

Justin Bryant Posey, Montevallo FFA

Zac Rutherford, Speake FFA

Steven Turbyfill, Red Bay FFA

Salora Wright, Clements FFA

Attending the National Convention with Jerry Newby, President of the Alabama Farmers Federation, were Representative Richard Lindsey of the 39th District and chairman of the Education Finance and Appropriations Committee; Mike Kilgore, Executive Director of the Alabama Farmers Federation; Paul Pinyan, Director of Governmental Affairs of the Alabama Farmers Federation; and Brandon Moore, Director of the ALFA Young Farmers Program of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

The Alabama FFA’s membership of 15,067 afforded the association 12 voting delegates to the National FFA Convention. The delegate process is an important part of the convention and concludes the debate on issues brought out in July at the State President’s Conference in Washington, D.C. One item the delegates passed was to increase national membership dues from $5 per member to $7 per member for the 2010-2011 school year.

Three chapters from Alabama participated in the National FFA Talent program at this year’s convention. The Enterprise Chapter had a quartet that performed at various functions during the national convention. The Kate Duncan Smith D.A.R., Enterprise and Sand Rock Chapters had string bands that performed at various functions as well as on stage at the National Talent Review.

The Goshen FFA Chapter was responsible for Alabama’s Hall of States Exhibit. The advisors of the Goshen Chapter are Rusty Yeomans and Kelly Pritchett.

Justin Posey, 2006-2007 State Reporter from the Montevallo Chapter, was Alabama’s choice as a national officer candidate to go through the nominating committee process. While Justin was not selected as a national officer this year, we are proud of him and wish him the best.

Alabama also had a great showing in the National FFA Alumni, but a separate article will be devoted to their accomplishments.

Jacob Davis is the Executive Secretary of the Alabama FFA Association.

The Runaway Stage

By Baxter Black, DVM

If ever there was a suspicious story, thought the insurance adjuster…
Walter (an alias) loved his new truck. It was a bright red, half-ton rig. When he drove it down to the Sikeston rodeo grounds, he made a point to park it at the far end of the arena away from the general parking area. Might not even get dusty, he thought.
All during the rodeo he snuck glances at his shiny, new truck just visible outside the edge of the arena. When the bull riding began he was daydreaming of the ‘new-car-smell’ and faux leather seats. The roar of the crowd drew his attention back to the present. A big rangy Brahma bull with massive horns, a firm hump and bad attitude threw his rider off like he was skipping rocks and thundered around the arena!
The pickup-man brought him halfway back, but the bull circled again and eyed the back fence. He ran to it like an Olympic high jumper! Over he went, taking out two-by-ten boards, a cable, three-colored pennants and landed smash-down on the cab of Walter’s new red truck! You could hear the air bags pop as the windows blew out, the horn honked and the blinker lights came on as the roof caved in!
The insurance adjuster listened skeptically. He interviewed several eyewitnesses and discreetly asked if there was a history of bootlegging white lightning in Walter’s family. But eventually he approved the repair.
Back at the fairgrounds three months later for the horse show, Walter was more careful where he parked his newly-rebuilt, red pickup. This time he parked it a car’s width away from the arena fence on the gate-end side.
The featured spectacular item of the show was a beautiful, handcrafted stagecoach with a four-horse hitch. No one really remembers what spooked the horses and caused the driver to leap for safety, but they all agreed when the horses thundered through the gate and bore hard to the right, it was as if they were attracted to the color RED!
The horses shot between the fence and Walter’s shiny, new pickup!
Unfortunately, they hit it at an angle so the horses got through, but the stagecoach peeled off the left side of the pickup, shredding fiberglass, chrome, steel and glass in its wake! It looked like somebody had cut an alligator skull lengthwise with a circular saw!
Walter stared into the doorless cab thinking how hard it had been to convince the insurance adjuster that a bull had smashed his new vehicle the first time, and now…well, this new twist might catapult himself into the Insurance Adjuster Whopper’s Hall of Fame!
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.

The Year in Review

By Robert Spencer

There has been a lot happening within Alabama’s goat and sheep industry this past year. To better understand this progress, one must have an awareness of this industry’s background. Too many people fail to realize the amount of effort necessary to make such progress; it takes vision, initiative, networking, communications, repeated efforts, willingness to maneuver around obstacles and a good sense of humor.

A strong interest in goats and sheep as meat animals began developing within the United States in the early 1990s. Federal subsidies for fiber animals (angora goats and wool sheep) had ended and farmers were searching for alternatives like dairy or meat animals. Due to a growing influx of ethnic and faith-based population who had a special preference for goat and lamb, goat and sheep production of those meat animals became the most viable option.

These two factors and others lead many people to consider goat and sheep production for meat as a "nontraditional" form of livestock production. Many failed to realize goat and lamb (the meat) are the two most commonly consumed forms of red meat throughout the world. Over the past 15 years, the industry has continued to grow despite certain challenges.

In a brief overview, until the new millennium (2000) there were two missing components needed to move the small ruminant industry forward: (1) adequate educational/outreach efforts to teach potential and novice producers how to best raise meat goats and sheep, and (2) a sufficient number of processing facilities offering USDA inspection for goat and sheep processing. Around 2000, USDA, Extension and Land Grant universities realized the need for programmatic efforts and the implementation of outreach/educational programs began.

Agencies and institutions within Alabama joined the initiative by looking at what its nationwide partners were doing and began replicating the efforts within the state. In 2006, Alabama Cooperative Extension System began ramping up its efforts and has continued to play a significant role in moving the statewide industry forward. 2009 was no different; Extension offered the 3rd Annual Small Ruminant Spring Symposium, which focused on sustainable goat and sheep production as a viable alternative to high-cost inputs; the Master Meat Goat Herdsman Program, a statewide comprehensive training program for potential and existing meat goat producers on various aspects of production, management and marketing; and the 3rd Annual Small Ruminant Conference which offered innovative ideas on marketing based on information shared by experts from across the Southeast. Tuskegee University, who has been a statewide leader in small ruminant educational programs for years, held their Annual Goat Day and, as always, did an outstanding job!

Prior to 2009, within Alabama, there were no USDA inspected processing facilities processing goats and sheep on a regular basis. Now there are two, one in the southeast and one in the northeast part of the state. The one in the southeast is D&W Processing, located in Newton, AL (between Dothan and Enterprise on US Hwy 84). It is owned and operated by Dan and Wade Hussey. You can contact the plant at (334) 692-9977. The one in the northeast is Cox Butcher Shop located west of Florence; owned by Adam and Renee Cox, their number is (256) 766-2051. Either facility is likely to require advance arrangements to have animals processed.

Now that goat and lamb producers have this opportunity handed to them, they must take responsibility and move their industry forward. They must unite, begin promoting and marketing goat and lamb to the general public, and create product-availability awareness among ethnic and faith-based populations who prefer goat and lamb.

The key to long-term consumption of goat and lamb is to promote their health values to mainstream American consumers. The future of the small ruminant industry is not in a few processing facilities but rather in promotion of a fresh, healthy food product that is locally raised, processed and readily-available.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

TRUCK FARMER TURNS TO ART

Blount Co.'s Brad Martin Carves New Niche

This Indian head is an example of Brad’s more traditional wood carving.


By Suzy Lowry Geno

When Brad Martin was just a preschooler, his mama, Jane, would rip apart paper grocery bags for large sheets of drawing paper, hand him a handful of marking pens and knew he’d be content for several hours.

Move forward three decades and it was only natural Brad began to look at some form of art to supplement his truck farming income in the Liberty Community of Northeast Blount County.

But what?

"I thought about things that could be mass-produced and worked with clay some, but that just didn’t feel right," Brad explained. "Then I saw some chainsaw carvings and I thought ‘I bet I can do that!’"

And do that he does!

One of Brad’s most recent endeavors has been a 20-foot-tall, double-outdoor statue at the farm of Larry and Vicky Culley on Blount County Road 20 atop Straight Mountain.

Which is Smarter, You or the Turkey?

Quite often contestants in a calling contest at the national level actually sound better than a real hen. A hen’s voice may be cracking and she might not make the yelp sound the way a judge behind a curtain would like to hear it, but her rhythm is always perfect. Capturing their rhythm is a key to consistently calling in toms.

By Todd Amenrud

With senses of hearing and sight many times greater than ours, it may seem like the wild turkey is smart. In reality, the wild turkey is as dumb as a rock. However, it’s been said by some "if a turkey’s sense of smell was anything like its hearing or sight we would never get close to them." Combine that, with common turkey hunting "hang-ups," and the way turkeys behave simply because of natural turkey biology and some hunters may think they were an incredibly intelligent bird. There’s no doubt the wild turkey is a wily rival in the springtime woods. What can we do to combat these common "hang-ups," extraordinary senses and things turkeys do just because they’re turkeys?

First, we need to learn about the bird and their habits. Turkeys have eyes seated at the sides of their heads. Because of this, they see a much wider field of view than humans. They can see over 240 degrees. That alone is amazing, but if you think about the fact they have perception, or focus, of the ENTIRE AREA —- that’s mind-blowing! Humans can catch movement out of our peripheral vision, but can only focus on the area we are directly looking at. A turkey has focus of their entire field of view! Now, add in they can see color. In fact, they discern color many times better than we do and their eyesight for picking up movement is also better than ours. To get close, you must keep movement to a minimum and blend into your surroundings.

Their hearing is easier to fool than their sight. However, it’s been said by some experts that a turkey can pinpoint a sound a mile away. I tend to think even further than that. The instruments making their hearing so phenomenal must be located inside their head. Because, unlike whitetails, which have two large cone-shaped radar funnels for ears, turkeys only have two small holes in their head. I guess we don’t need to know how they hear so well, we just need to know its extraordinary - period.

With a turkeys’ unbelievable sense of sight, it is important you wear a camouflage that breaks up your human form and blends into your surroundings.

There are several things we can do to fool these two extraordinary senses. First, camouflage - and I mean camo from head to toe. Remember, turkeys see color so pick a camo that breaks up your human form and also has colors that blend into your background. I don’t believe there is one perfect camo for all conditions. Maybe you’re hunting during early season on an oak ridge, combating late season when there is thick vegetation everywhere or possibly hunting out West in more open terrain - it depends upon when and where you are hunting as to which camo will work the best.

Expert turkey hunter Toxey Haas, inventor of Mossy Oak Camouflage, thought "blending in" was so important he brought actual leaves, dirt and forest matter with him to the textile manufacturer when he first developed his original "Bottomland" pattern. Now they (Mossy Oak) have a number of different patterns so hunters are able to blend into basically any surroundings.

When I say camo from head to toe, that’s exactly what I mean. Cover up your face, your hands and anywhere there’s exposed skin. Human skin is like neon to a turkey. I don’t care for face paint so I usually opt for a face mask. If you wear glasses, pull the brim of your hat low enough to prevent glare.

Turkeys may seem smart sometimes, but they are just reacting to their instincts from what they’re able to take in with their incredible senses of sight and hearing. By paying attention to a few details you can harvest a gobbler this season.

Several years ago, I was guiding a fellow. He was a good hunter, but had never hunted turkey before. We set up and I called in two different toms (male turkeys) this particular morning. Both of them, when they reached about 50 yards from us, popped their heads up and turned from a brilliant red color to pale white as they did the "turkey trot" in the opposite direction. I was dumbfounded and couldn’t figure out why. I walked out and stood near our decoys to ponder what had spooked the two long-beards. When I looked back at the hunter I noticed two bright, white and red tube-socks revealed when he sat down and his pant legs rose up. That’s why I say from head to "toe." We fixed the problem and harvested the next bird that responded to the call.

If you need to move, make it slow and steady. Try and do any repositioning when the bird goes behind a tree or other cover. Remember turkeys are dumb, but they also seem paranoid. Any unnatural movement and they usually don’t stick around to see if everything’s going to be OK, they bolt.

When picking a spot to set up, one of the first things I look for are shadows. Pick a spot where you’re not right in direct sunlight. It’s also a good idea to find a large object like a tree trunk or a tree that has blown down to set up against to help break up your human form.

Their hearing is great, but if you do things right it can be fooled. To me the whole "essence" of turkey hunting is calling the gobbler into bow or shotgun range. When calling, you have to be able to make turkey sounds somewhat technically correct, but in my opinion, rhythm is the most important part of calling turkeys.

If you go to a calling contest and listen sometimes, these people sound so pristine, crisp and clear they actually sound better than a hen turkey. If you get a chance to listen to that ol’ hen sometime, her voice might be cracking and she may not make her yelp technically correct, but the rhythm is always on. The best teacher is to listen to a flock of hens and practice. In fact, when dealing with gobblers with hens, mimicking whatever an old hen sounds like can be a great way to call the entire flock to your position.

When walking in close proximity to turkeys, I really don’t worry about crunching leaves. A flock of turkeys makes a lot of noise when traveling through a dry forest floor. It’s the unnatural noises or ones typical to predators, like large branches snapping, brush slap-back on noisy fabric or human voices, that will do you in.

One way I try to deceive their ears is to make turkey sounds other than turkey vocalizations. Think about the sounds turkeys make other than yelps, clucks and the rest of their repertoire. Non-vocal turkey sounds can work when nothing else does. The sound of dry leaves when they’re walking or scratching for food, or maybe the sounds of wing-flaps as they fly down in the morning can add realism to your set-up. For these noises I carry a turkey wing. It works great for making all of the above sounds and I also use it when imitating a fight between two toms. In fact, I’ve used nothing but a wing to call in gobblers before.

Instincts and superior senses can sometimes make it seem like a turkey is smart. They’ve got a brain the size of your thumbnail; they’re not very smart at all. However, if you hunt turkey long enough, you’ll probably be humbled many times by these stupid birds. Persistence does pay off. If you find ways to get around their excellent hearing and exceptional sight, you can score on a tom this season.

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

“Learning Lizards” Flourish in Outdoor Classroom

The JMG Learning Lizards and volunteers participated in the “Green U Campus Clean Up Day” as part of the National U-Green Day on September 26. They helped clean up the school’s campus including pruning the shrubs.

Middle Schoool Students Becoming Junior Master Gardeners

By Luci Davis

The JMG (Junior Master Gardeners) Learning Lizards are from Whitesburg Middle School in Huntsville. Mrs. McQueen and Mrs. Bramlett lead this group of 79 hard-working, enthusiastic kids. The group consists of Mrs. McQueen’s 6th grade Science Classes and Mrs. Bramlett’s Science Clusters and it is their first year using the JMG program.

The JMG group meets as a part of their science classes where they do a JMG activity every Friday. The students work through the JMG handbook. Whenever possible, they have volunteers come in from different community groups to work with them. Some of the groups are The Master Gardeners of North Alabama, The Huntsville Men’s Garden Club, Optimist Club of Huntsville and April Waltz (AWF). Ken Creel, an Alabama Cooperative Extension Agent, is also a big part of the JMG activities.

As the group works through the Alabama State Course of Study, they pull from the JMG handbook to get hands-on learning activities to bring the concept to reality.

The group has completed several activities and has enjoyed them all. One of the group’s favorite JMG activities was setting up phase one of their birdhouse trail. Part of the activities will be making homemade (class made) bird suet the students will put out at school and some for them to take home.

A student who is busy drawing his illustration of a hamburger plant.

A student with her illustration of her perception of a hamburger plant.

Another of their favorite activities was the interpretation of what a hamburger plant is. Each member was told to illustrate what they thought a hamburger plant would look like. Then they discussed how all parts of a hamburger actually come from a plant. Students displayed their work during the Parenting Day activities.

The group is also involved in service learning projects. The group participated in a "Green U Campus Clean Up Day," where they cleaned up the school’s campus including pruning the shrubs.

Their main service project for this year is to begin building an outdoor classroom for their campus.

"We have started with a dry creek bed, turtle habitat, frog abode and a bird sanctuary that will actually encompass our whole campus," McQueen said, sharing the group’s ambitious and worthwhile plans. "By the end of this school year, we plan to have our hydroponic greenhouse, aquatic-studies area and weather station up and going!"

The JMG Learning Lizards were recognized as the National December Group of the Month and have received notification they have won one of the National Aero Garden and Seed Kits Growing Kids Awards. This means they will be getting an Aero Garden for their classroom.

"That makes the third grant we have gotten this year, so we are off to a great start building our outdoor classroom. YEAH!!!," said McQueen.

The teachers believe the students have really enjoyed the lessons and activities they’ve been engaged in.

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

Back to
Top
Tickets & Deals