Sign up for email updates from Cooperative Farming News

Facebook Twitter Instagram
Home > Archives > January 2013

January 2013

Align Yourself With Business Advocates

by Thomas Hall

I've been aiding a few clients recently with developing written business plans for their current and future operations. At first, the task seemed daunting to them. Just the thought of writing is enough to make most people break into a cold sweat. However, once they got past the thought of writing and began to describe their current operation, the nerve-wracking task moved to a productive exercise in identifying the future direction of the business.

One section of a business plan that some people give little attention to is identifying an advisory team. An advisory team is a group of individuals who are advocates for the farm operation. The advisory team is a sounding board when you are considering making changes to your operation. The team you assemble should have differing backgrounds and experiences, and, most importantly, should be interested in seeing the farm operation succeed.

An advisory team can be a valuable resource for your farm operation. No one is an expert in everything; we each have strengths and weaknesses. The people you choose as advisors will have strengths in the areas you may lack in or care nothing about. As Warren Buffett once stated, "If you don’t know jewelry, know the jeweler."

A few months ago, I met a farmer at his accountant’s office. The farmer asked the accountant if he needed an LLC. The accountant began discussing the tax benefits of an LLC if it filed as an S corporation. I stopped the conversation and noted there is more to consider than just tax consequences when choosing a business entity. One should also consider the legal and management issues as well. The accountant and farmer agreed, so we first identified the goals of the farmer in order to best meet his needs.

An accountant’s expertise is in taxes and the farmer’s main goal is producing crops for a profit. I, on the other hand, attempt to look at the larger picture of the farming operation. With multiple advisors having differing experiences, a farmer is able to make an informed decision. An advisory board should not be confused with a board of directors. An advisory board has no authority over your operation. The members only provide advice that you can accept or not. Your board is there to share their knowledge and as Einstein said, "The only source of knowledge is experience."

In order to find the right individuals to serve as advisors, you should first consider the following:

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

What are your goals for your operation?

In what areas do you need guidance: management, human resources, taxes, legal, marketing, lending, agronomics issues, etc.?

What outcomes do you wish to accomplish from meeting with an advisory team?

Put your thoughts in writing so you can clearly articulate the desires you have for your business to an advisor. You may already hire consultants to assist in areas such as accounting, marketing, financial planning, crop scouting, nutrition, etc. Consider being with these professionals when you begin building your advisory team.

The composition of your advisory board will also change throughout the years depending on the stage of your business. If you are just starting out, you may need more assistance with identifying the enterprise you should focus on. In mid-career, you may need guidance on succession planning as your children come back to the farm. Later in life, you may need aid in making retirement plans.

Once you have an advisory team assembled, set a time to meet. You may want to meet quarterly or once a year. Realize time is valuable and to get the most out of your meeting you need to be prepared. Having an agenda for each meeting will help guide the discussion and respect your advisors’ time. Also, advice may require compensation. You may not have to write a check, but perhaps a nice meal or activity such as golf, hunting, etc. would be a nice gesture to reward your advisors for their commitment.

Realize changes aren’t going to happen overnight. Your advisory team may make recommendations you would like to carry out, but can’t implement immediately. You may have to say, just as Alan Jackson did, "Just be patient, I’m a work in progress."

Thomas Hall is an Extension Economist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. For more information about farm management and financial analysis, please contact your County Extension Coordinator or an Extension Specialist: North Alabama: Holt Hardin, 256-574-2143 or Robert Page, 256-528-7133; Central Alabama: Jamie Yeager, 334-624-4016; Southwest Alabama: Steve Brown, 251-867-7760; Southwest Alabama: Thomas Hall, 334-693-2010.

Editor's Note: The columnist for December's The Business of Farming was incorrectly attributed. "Get Organized, Go Digital" was written by Thomas Hall.

The items covered in this article are informational only and are not meant as tax, legal or financial advice; consult with your tax professional, lawyer or financial consultant for guidance on issues specific to your situation. The author does not endorse any websites, companies or applications, and cannot attest to the accuracy of the information provided by third-party sites or any other linked site.

At 92, Still Running True

Buren Smith and his border collie Jake after Smith tells Jake to jump on a stump.

by John Howle

He’s one of those who came of age during the Great Depression and served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the Philippines. Buren Smith of Macedonia in Cleburne County definitely qualifies as a member of the prestigious "Greatest Generation."

Smith and his wife Ellen got married and rented 65 acres for three years when he was drafted into the army.

"I paid that land off in three years plowing behind a mule before I was drafted," Smith said. "I was serving in the Philippines when they dropped the ‘A’ bombs on Japan."

Smith was fortunate to get electricity as early as he did in the 1940s.

"While I was overseas, the power company was coming through with lines and poles, and you had to sign and notarize an agreement," Smith recalled. "They mailed the form to me overseas, and I thought I would never find a notary until an officer told me he could notarize it."

After returning from the war, Smith and his wife ran a small dairy and farmed to make a living. Smith is now 92 years old and his wife passed away eight years ago, but, when you mention Border Collies, a fire lights in his eyes and he shows true passion as he talks about his dogs like they are old friends.

Bonnie works sheep while Buren Smith gives commands.

"I started working Border Collies in the 1970s," Smith explained. "I saw a man working his dairy cattle with a Border Collie, and I started a search for one of the dogs that lasted two years."

Smith eventually bought a Border Collie for $50 from Woodrow Wilson (not the former president, but a local mercantile owner who lived near Smith).

"Do you want to know who owned that dog before Woodrow?" Smith asked. "Fred Howle, your grandfather, was the first owner."

I was surprised at Smith’s response, but I remembered a fine cattle dog named Kate my grandfather used to own on his own farm.

Smith had that first Border Collie Kate bred to a male from Atlanta, and he began raising and training Border Collies to help him gather up and turn out the dairy cattle he had to milk every day.

Smith began to get pretty good at training Border Collies on his dairy farm, and he then moved on to training them for field trials.

"Over the years, I have competed across Alabama and Georgia," Smith said. "I never won first place in the top class, but I’ve won several first place awards in the lower classes which use younger dogs."

Buren Smith has been working with Border Collies since the 1970s.

During Border Collie trials, the object is to work three sheep with your dogs. You work inside a 60-foot circle and you have to cut one sheep out of the group.

"You know, the last thing a sheep wants to do is to be separated from the group," Smith stated. "Once the bug bites you to compete with these dogs, you’re bitten good."

Smith’s favorite dog was named King. However, he doesn’t mention that fact around his current dogs.

"I ran between 25 and 30 cows, and King would go down to the pasture and pick the cows out one by one to be milked," Smith remembered. "As soon as the milking of that cow was done, King would be ready to run her out of the barn and back into the pasture before she would mess up the barn with manure."

When he and Ellen married, his wife didn’t like dogs.

"Once I got King, she changed her mind about dogs," Smith said. "That dog was a big help to Ellen also."

Smith remembers his wife and dog with fondness on one particular story.

"One time, me and my Daddy were cutting timber down in the woods," Smith recalled. "King kept running around me and I knew he wasn’t supposed to be out of the pen. I noticed he had something hanging around his neck, and when I looked, it was a note from Ellen that said, ‘There’s a fellow waiting here at the house to see you.’"

Jake closes the gate and holds it shut after Smith reminds him to never leave a gate open.

Smith said Ellen was busy with household chores and didn’t have time to go to the woods hunting for him. Instead, she sent the message by the most dependable source.

Smith now has four Border Collies: Jake, Jan, Bonnie and Sue. He told Jake to wait on the stump while he opened the gate. The dog immediately jumped on the stump and balanced waiting for Smith’s next command.

Smith then flung the pasture gate open and started walking toward the house. He turned around and said, "Jake, you know not to leave that gate open."

To my surprise, the dog then jumped off the stump and ran toward the gate. The dog then stood on his back legs and pulled the gate shut with his front legs and held it there waiting for Smith.

Out in the pasture, Smith demonstrated the skills of one of his younger dogs. Bonnie, after receiving commands from Smith with a whistle and voice commands, ran to the low end of the pasture, gathered up about 20 head of sheep and herded them to the exact spot Smith directed.

"If you want to work two dogs, you have to give two separate commands or they will run into each other," Smith explained. "I once saw a fellow work four dogs with four different commands."

Buren Smith is a remarkable Alabamian and a selfless American. Growing up during the Depression, fighting in a World War, and raising a family on fluctuating dairy and cattle prices have never dampened his positive attitude, and, if you are ever in Macedonia, stop in and say hello. It won’t take long for him to tell you about his dogs or give you a show.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Blount County’s Three Covered Bridges Restored

Above, Horton Mill Bridge showing the massive stone column underneath. Below, Horton Mill Bridge while still closed and undergoing remodeling.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

The late Zelmer Tidwell was paid $3 a day as foreman and his workers $1.75 a day when Blount County’s covered bridges were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

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

Fast forward nearly a century later, to restore the three remaining covered bridges and make them safe for traffic has cost more than a half million dollars in a combination of Transportation Enhancement Funds, National Covered Bridge Restoration monies and local funds.

Blount leaders said that money will be repaid eventually by tourism dollars to the local area. But everyone interviewed believes the worth of repairing such great symbols of historical significance is simply "priceless."

"The covered bridges of Blount County have more than the draw as historical landmarks. They were the lifeblood of our communities for a time that has passed. These bridges represent a way of life our community remembers so well," noted Sharon Rose Murphree, president of the grassroots group Friends of Blount County’s Covered Bridges that is instrumental in pushing the rehabilitation to come to fruition.

"Preserving them will provide a historical picture not afforded to many landmarks that have been lost as progress has taken its roots in our society. Visiting a covered bridge conjures thoughts of a time when life was slower. That is something all of us can appreciate.

"The visitors these bridges bring to our county are a positive boost to our local economy."

Other officers of the Friends group include Larry Clowdus, vice-president; Barry Johnson, second VP; Janis Paterson, secretary; and Jana Thomas, treasurer.

The smaller Easley Bridge, north of Oneonta on U.S. Highway 231, is probably the most picturesque of the three covered bridges.

"From the standpoint of the Chamber, we not only think of the bridges as a vital part of the history of Blount County but as a major part of our local economy since tourism is crucial to us," agreed Donny Ray, executive director of the Blount-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce. "There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t have people from South Carolina, Georgia, all the states, and from foreign countries, coming into the Chamber seeking information on the covered bridges and how to get to them."

Horton Mill Covered Bridge is located just to the left of Alabama Highway 75 about five miles north of Oneonta. The current bridge, built in 1934-35, replaced an older one built around 1895 that served a grist mill and small community about one-eighth mile downstream.

Horton Mill is known as the highest covered bridge above water (around 75 feet!) still in use in the Southeast.

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

The smaller Easley Bridge is north of Oneonta (on U.S. Highway 231 between Oneonta and Cleveland) in the small community of Rosa (turn onto the road beside Pine Grove Baptist Church). It is the shortest of the bridges at just 95 feet, but may be the most picturesque of them all. It is a town-type bridge, 14 feet wide and just 18 feet above the river. It was built in 1927-28 shortly before the other two.

All bridges are clearly marked with signs along the main highways. Maps to the bridges are available at the Blount-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce office across Alabama 75 from the Blount County Courthouse. These maps were designed by the Friends group.

According to Blount County Engineer Winston Sitton, the county originally applied for Transportation funds to replace roofs and do other "cosmetic" work on the bridges in 2003. But, by 2009, all three covered bridges had been closed to traffic because of structural issues.

"We had to make the decision to close the bridges just like we would any other bridge we inspect because of their age and the general degradation of the bridges and their supporting structures," Sitton explained.

Above, Blount County dignitaries including County Commission members, construction workers and members of Friends of Blount’s Covered Bridges gathered for a ribbon cutting when rehabilitation was completed at Swann Bridge in October and the bridge reopened for traffic. (Courtesy of Sharon Rose Murphree) Right, Swann Bridge; bottom right, looking at the river through Swann Bridge.

Bids were opened by the Blount County Commission on September 22, 2011, and Bob Smith Construction, Trussville, began work on Swann and Easley Bridges simultaneously November 2011.

Smith’s construction company has many local ties to Blount and the bridges. Smith himself grew up in the Rock Springs area of the county. Project Manager John Friedberg Jr. is married to a Blount native, and Superintendent Eric Nordgren and his wife Becky also have Blount ties.

Smith’s Office Manager Les Neel, also a Blount resident, noted the company especially enjoyed working with Sitton and previously with county engineer Richard Spraggins (before his retirement), and Blount Engineering employees Glenn Peek and Meg Jackson, as well as on-site inspector Gary White.

"They’ve done a great job for the county," Neel stated. "Glenn did good estimates on how much lumber was needed for work at each bridge."

Those replacement timbers had to be ordered from the Pacific Northwest and, after they were planed to size, taken to Shelby County where they were treated for a longer life, and then later were treated with a fire retardant.

The Easley and Swann Bridges were opened back to traffic shortly before the Blount County Covered Bridge Festival in October with a dedication ceremony headed by Probate Judge and County Commission Chairman Chris Green.

The Horton Mill Bridge was scheduled to be reopened to traffic by the time this article was published. The Horton Mill renovation was a bit more extensive than the other two, Sitton explained. At one point, visitors were awed by workers in a scissor-lift rising from the river bed 70 feet below to the underside of the bridge.

I was privileged to interview Zelmer Tidwell in the mid-1980s about his tenure as construction foreman of 12 of Blount’s covered bridges including the three still standing. Mr. Tidwell passed away in 1987.

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

Only one man was seriously injured during Tidwell’s tenure as bridge superintendent. The late Julius McCay, one of the carpenters, lost his footing while atop Swann Covered Bridge and fell. He was unconscious for several hours, but soon returned to work. Legend (as recounted in the book "Country Roads" by Carolynne Scott) has it that many of the other construction workers’ lives were changed by the beautiful prayer McCay recited while he was unconscious!

Tidwell said it took a crew of 15 men one-and-a-half months to complete Horton Mill Bridge including the time for construction of the off-center stone support pillar.

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

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

That work ethic was exemplified by the workers who completed the bridges’ most recent renovations, Judge Green explained.

Those who would like more information or a map to Blount’s Covered Bridges may contact the Chamber of Commerce where maps are available at 205-274-2153 or their website at The Friends group can be contacted via their Facebook page.

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

Bypass the Busyness and Get Some Work Done

by John Howle

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." – Socrates

A common slogan I often see outside of churches while traveling down the road reads, "If the Devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy." Evidently, being "busy" is not a new thing. Supposedly, Socrates lived from around 469 B.C. to 399 B.C. For Socrates to make this quote, being too busy was a potential problem in his days as well.

I think Thomas A. Edison gives a pretty fair definition of busy. "Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."

Being busy can prevent us from getting important things done. Being busy causes us to send someone a text instead of talking to them on the phone. It can cause us to stay at home and send an e-mail instead of going to our neighbor’s house to check on them in person.

This tree has barbed wire in the very center. A plank or strip of wood will prevent the tree from eating the wire.

I grew up hanging out with men who wore overalls and accomplished lots of work, but always seemed to have time to help their neighbors build a barn or kill a hog. I grew up around women who spent all day washing clothes, hoeing the garden and cooking for their families, but always seemed to have time to cook a meal for someone who was sick or write a long, hand-written letter to someone who had lost a loved one or needed encouragement.

For this new year, let’s make it a habit to stop the busyness in favor of taking time to serve those around us. If you have younger children, it sounds crazy, but they don’t have to take part in every activity offered in your community. Most children develop their critical thinking skills while they are simply at home or in the nearby woods learning to play by themselves.

Don’t Eat the Fence

How many times have you just nailed the barbed wire fence to nearby trees only to come back in a couple of years to see the tree slowly eat or grow around the wire. Many trees will actually eat through the wire causing you to have to re-attach the wire. This problem can be avoided by simply nailing a strip of wood to the tree. Once you’ve nailed the strip of wood to the tree, you can then nail the wire to the strip.

Hydrogen Peroxide

We all know that hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning out cuts or scratches you can get while working around the farm. You can also brush your teeth with it or soak your toothbrush in it to keep it free of germs. There are other uses as well.

Save money on your family portrait and do it yourself with hay and old barn wood.

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

Family Photo Fix

Don’t spend a fortune when it comes time to take your family photos. It’s a frustrating experience to hire an individual to take your family’s picture only to find the props like hay bales and old barn wood can be found in your own yard or around the farm.

We had a small shed collapse on the farm, and I salvaged the pieces of wood, cut them in seven foot lengths, and attached them side-by-side with two wood strips on the backs of the planks. Set this frame against a wall or tree, then set a few hay bales in front, and take your own family photos.

Warm Wool

It’s January, so it’s time to break out the wool socks. Wool offers the best protection against foot moisture during the cold, rainy months because wool wicks moisture away from your feet. In addition, wool stays warm even when wet. Cotton, on the other hand, even though it works great in the summer months, remains clammy and cold for the duration of the day when worn in boots.

Merino wool from the merino sheep offers the softest wool currently available. The warm-wool principle works also for pants and jackets. Even if you get wet with rain or snow, the wool will continue to warm your body much better than any other material offered today and, since it works pretty well keeping sheep warm, it’s all natural.

Coyote Control

Coyotes pose a threat to smaller livestock, turkeys and a range of wildlife, and their population must be kept in check.

Look for coyotes around pasture edges in winter. Scouting while feeding cattle works well.

Around the end of January, coyotes will begin to look for mates for breeding. This is the time of year you will hear coyotes become more vocal. While feeding the livestock this winter, look around pasture edges in the late evenings for prowling coyotes.

They will often enter pastures searching for rats and field mice looking for grains and seeds. Also, the coyotes will eat fresh cow manure for the folic acid present in the droppings. Being downwind of the coyotes, concealed and using nothing more than a mouse squealer can result in a productive January hunt.

This January, bypass the busyness, get some work done, and visit with your friends and neighbors. Who knows, you might make some new friends and help someone in need.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

4-H Extension Corner

Character Education, the 4-H Way

Teamwork adds to both individual and group success. It builds young people’s awareness of Fairness, Respect and Caring. In studying 4-H Skins and Skulls, everyone’s perspective and opinion counts – much like democracy.

by Chuck Hill

Beyond intellectual and academic achievement, what will be the keys to the future success of America’s young people?

Certainly, psychological and spiritual well-being are critical. But for our long-term success, we should also consider such traits as personal responsibility, empathy and caring, and good citizenship. And what about some of the basic things connecting people with one another, like good manners?

One of the key roles of 4-H is to complement and supplement classroom education. Studies have shown the unique and powerful effect of 4-H science, arts and leadership programs. Historically, one of the most widely celebrated aspects of 4-H participation has been our capacity to aid in building good character.

Young people will take risks. It is often said 4-H helps young people build character by allowing them to take risks in a secure and nurturing environment. For some kids, that risk is standing in front of a group to give a speech. For others, it is flying down a zipline at the 4-H Center.

Alabama 4-H has created a respected program for inspiring integrity in youth. This program, Leading With Character, places an emphasis on six key positive attributes: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.

Like the universality of The Golden Rule, 4-H Character Education applies to the varied cultures and belief systems of Alabama’s youth and families. Since contemporary society sometimes undermines good character – and since too many youth are not taught the fundamental tenets of Right and Wrong at home – 4-H can often help fill a critical function.

Trustworthiness and Responsibility

Peer pressure has historically led young people down troubling paths. As kids develop Integrity, they learn to stand up for their own beliefs – what they think is right. Kids have a powerful, innate sense of right-and-wrong that can be directed at confronting the peer pressure of bullying or drug experimentation. With support, their loyalty to family, friends, school and country can be affirmed. They learn self-control and to be accountable, not blaming others for their actions.

In practice, this means young people understand their personal obligations to do their chores and their schoolwork. It means obeying the law and generally being a "good citizen," a key goal of the overall 4-H experience. Without Trustworthiness and Responsibility, young people cannot bring honor to themselves, their family, friends, school or community. Those attributes are crucial to developing a good work ethic.


Decorum in the classroom or club meeting is crucial to social and intellectual development. Even with the excitement of a visit from the 4-H Center Herpetology Program, this group demonstrates their respect for one another and for their visitors.

Treating others as you want to be treated is a key tenet of every organized society. 4-H has a strong tradition of helping young people "put themselves in other people’s shoes." Leading With Charactertrains young people in basic courtesy, to use good manners, and be polite and civil to everyone. It emphasizes listening to others and trying to understand their points of view. 4-H places importance on the great democratic ideal of valuing people for who they are inside not for what they wear, where they live or the color of their skin.

Any drive along our nation’s highways quickly demonstrates how courtesy and good manners have room for improvement. From an early age, young people can be taught the importance of taking their turn, being aware of others and showing respect. Whether it is someone who is too self-involved to give a turn signal or a young person who "butts in" to the cafeteria line, lack of respect violates the shared rules holding together an orderly society.


Every young person has loudly and emphatically stated, "It’s not fair!" They are also pretty good at detecting hypocrisy. Being treated fairly and equitably seems to be one of those basic human expectations. Although we all wanted to be treated equitably, sometimes we ourselves pick favorites or make judgments based on our own prejudices. Leading With Character reminds young people that "loving our neighbors as ourselves" extends to a larger group than just the people who live next door. It’s all about sharing, being nice to other kids, being honest and standing up for those who are being treated badly.

Even with changes in technology, the basic rule of “waiting your turn” is important for young people. In the classroom or on the highway, good manners are part of the contract holding society together.

Thinking beyond your own immediate wants and needs is one of the hallmarks of 4-H character education. The 4-H Pledge vows a commitment to “my club, my community, my country and my world.”


It can be very difficult to teach young people Empathy, the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. However, research shows 4-H is extremely successful with helping develop empathy. Kindness, compassion and charity are not always valued in a materialistic society where people are judged by "the stuff" they possess. 4-H strives to provide all its participants a level playing field where every young person has a chance to learn and grow.

Through Leading With Character, young people can become leaders in reaching out to meet needs in the community. Their innate kindness and generosity are easily directed into inspiring food or clothing drives, fundraisers and other personal or communitywide acts of caring.


It is often said, "Citizenship is not a spectator sport!" The 4-H approach has always been on loyalty and service "for my club, my community, my country and my world." In practice that means a respect for the democratic process, the law and such symbols as our flag. For example, thousands of young people have learned to practice flag etiquette through 4-H. They have learned the crucial practices of democracy through the management of 4-H club meetings.

Citizenship also means having respect and stewardship for the environment. As Alabama’s premier youth environmental educator, 4-H ties the philosophical notion of environmentalism with the very practical needs for clean air and water.

Yes, there are many important skills and abilities which Alabama’s young people need for a bright and shining future. With the aid of 4-H, they can develop not only the mastery of ideas and information, they can develop the moral and ethical connections of character which our state and nation will need in the years and decades ahead.

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

Home Grown Tomatoes

Daylilies, the Perfect Perennial

Such a complex flower, yet so easy to grow.

Over the years, I have collected lots and lots of perennials planted all over the Tomato Tower gardens. They offer color and wildlife shelter in both sunny and shady areas. Some of them are shrubs and some are roots, bulbs, rhizomes and tubers.

One of the most fun plant varieties we always count on for garden color is the daylily collection (Hemerocallis sp.). Maybe that is why folks have labeled it the "Perfect Perennial."

There are literally thousands of cultivars of daylilies today and, depending on the species and cultivar, they have a hardiness range from USDA zones 1 to 11. Mostly, what we grow around here are the ones that are hardy from zones 5a to 10a.

The colors of daylilies cover a wide range. About the only colors not yet found are true white and true blue. Although there are pale creamy daylilies and deep burgundy, red and even purple ones now bred, they still have not found the right combo to make those other colors.

Daylilies come in a wide variety of colors combinations and shapes.

Daylilies are easy to grow and thrive in well-drained, mildly acidic soils (pH 6.0 to 6.5). They require very little fertilizer. Fertilize early in the spring; time release is ideal, with moderate nitrogen and higher phosphorous and potassium.

Daylilies range in height from six inches to nearly five feet tall.

Though drought tolerant, daylilies like a good soaking about once per week during dry spells. Be careful not to over-water. Additionally, you should use water-smart methods of hydration. Avoid overhead watering in the heat of the day because that will cause spotting on the blooms or wilting. Also avoid watering in the late evenings. The best time to water your plants is early in the morning and that applies to most plants. Mulching helps retain moisture and keeps the roots cool. Be sure to keep your daylily beds free of weeds, as they will compete for moisture and could also spread plant pests to your daylilies.

Aphids, beetles, cutworms, slugs, snails, spider mites and thrips can do damage to your daylilies. However, unless there is an infestation, the damage is usually negligible. Also, deer may eat the young flower buds off your plants.

Sunday Gloves

Going Bananas

Rocket City is a 3 foot tall one

Custard Candy

Irish Envy

Siloam Double Classic

Fooled Me

Plant your daylilies in the early spring or fall for the best results. Avoid planting them during the hot summer months.

Daylilies mostly prefer full sun, but some can tolerate partial shade as long as they get at least six hours of sunshine per day.

When searching for the right daylilies for your garden, consider these few things. How tall will they get? Do you want them for a backdrop in your beds or a front border? What colors will best suit your existing landscape? Do you want a re-bloomer? What will the height of the foliage be?

Daylilies form dense clumps and, although not essential, should be divided every few years in order for them to perform their best.

Dividing your daylilies should be done in early fall in order for the plants to become established before the winter sets in. If you live in a part of the country with a hot climate, be sure to trim back the leaves about one-third, so the plants will not require as much moisture. Divide your daylilies by digging up the clumps and separating the crowns. Be careful not to damage the roots in this process. The new plants can then be replanted in another location or shared with your gardening friends.

Some daylilies make great cut flowers. Choose a scape with several buds on it and place in a vase of water. As each blossom fades, remove it and another one will open.

If I had labeled them all when I planted them, then I would have a record of this unknown cultivar.

Finally, on daylilies, please remember to label or map your daylilies so you will always have a reference to their names. Please don’t make the mistake of saying, "Aw, I’ll remember that." You won’t. Trust me.

Month Three. Again, there is no room for a picture of the gourd garden. I will say, though, we have added a new PVC arbor that has been in the box since 1999. We have also planted a variety of beans. Pictures coming soon!

Gardening rocks my world! And daylilies are low maintenance plants that keep producing year-after-year. Go get some today from your local independent garden shop or your local Quality Co-op.

If you have any questions or comments regarding daylilies or other things discussed in this column, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

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

Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Deer Season Yields Abundance of Food

Rolley Len is proud of her dad Jason when he bags a deer which provides some of her favorite meals.

by Christy Kirk

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas. ~ Author Unknown

For a lot of people, January is a time of reflection. Abundant New Year’s resolutions about weight loss and financial gain can be found in most every community. While many people are concerned about eating healthier, others wonder if they will even be able to put food on the table for themselves or their family. Providing for your family’s basic needs is especially important as a parent. Deer hunting not only supplies an abundance of food but is also an opportunity to teach your children about the importance of a healthy diet based on a local sustainable resource.

Because our family relies heavily on deer meat throughout the year, we usually run out by the time bow hunting season begins in mid-October. Jason tries to get two or three does through bow season, and that meat will last at least through the beginning of January, but he continues to hunt through the season until it ends January 31. Toward the end of rifle season, Jason usually adds five more does to the freezer.

Jason and Cason with one of the deer Jason killed. The children love to help Dad spot deer from the stands at the hunting camp.

An average size doe will yield about 25 pounds of ground meat, plus Jason will cube the select cuts of meat for an additional 10 to 15 pounds of cube steak. We have our own grinder and cuber at the house, and keep an extra refrigerator to cure the meat for at least six or eight days.

Once the meat is cured, Jason packs 1½ pounds of either cube steak or ground meat into quart freezer bags. He then seals each bag with his homemade "vacuum sealer" - a sink filled with water. He drops the quart bag into the water leaving one open corner above the water line. The water pressure pushes the air out until it is all gone and then the bag is sealed. This ensures each package is airtight and just the right portion size for the four of us.

Ground deer can be used just like hamburger. Some of Rolley Len and Cason’s favorite ways to eat deer meat are in hamburgers, tacos and spaghetti. The meat is healthier than beef because it has less fat.

Besides the food that comes from hunting, the kids really enjoy going to the hunting camp and sitting in the stands. They color and play and also scout for deer. They both love to be the first to grab Daddy and point out a doe entering the green field. Sometimes they see imaginary deer or coyotes, but they have a great time. Having our children spend time with their Daddy, Paw-Paws and close family friends is important to both Jason and me.

During bow season, you have to be sure to watch your children very closely. Warmer temperatures mean snakes are not likely to be hibernating, so parents should be extra cautious. Jason encountered two rattlesnakes at the camp toward the end of October. The unusually warm temperatures in December, and even in January, suggest you should still be cautious no matter what month it is.

This January when you are making your New Year’s resolutions, remember to think about how you want to spend the next year with your family. As you think about changes you want to make for yourself and your family, consider making a resolution that will have a positive impact on your entire family. I hope you are fortunate enough to not have to worry about where your next meal will come from, but, if you are unsure, remember there is an abundance of wild game in Alabama you can hunt to fill your plate.

Deer Chili
1 pound ground deer meat
1 large onion, diced
2 cups canned or stewed tomatoes, diced
2 cups canned red kidney beans
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper
Chili powder to taste (I use 1 teaspoon)

Brown the ground meat in a skillet and drain. In a large pot, add meat and all remaining ingredients together. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring routinely.

Deer Chow Mein
8 cups egg noodles
1 pound deer steak strips, thinly cut
2 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
4 Tablespoons soy sauce, divided
Chopped scallions to taste

Marinate the meat in 1 tablespoon soy sauce for 20-30 minutes.
Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water according to package directions, rinse with cold water and set aside.
In a wok or deep skillet, heat the oil and stir-fry the deer strips. After about 3 minutes, add onions and continue to stir-fry, adding salt, sugar and remaining soy sauce. Add noodles and stir, cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add scallions and serve.

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

Through the Fence

Freak of Nature

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Nature is perfectly beautiful, but not always perfect. Every now and then, there’s a little hiccup, a glitch, a faux pas of some sort. Scientists call it a mutation. Some are minor such as my kids having slightly webbed toes. Others are curious such as having two eyes of different colors. Some are really conspicuous such as albinism; while others are just downright weird. In those cases, the person or the animal usually dies shortly after birth or has a greatly diminished quality of life.

In the world of farm animals, funky mutations such as extra teats on a goat are fairly common and basically harmless. But one of my students Guthrie and his daddy Wesley ran into a real freak of nature the other day. They were out checking on their latest crop of calves when Wesley noticed something odd. He saw what looked like a bushy goatee growing off the chin of a calf. Upon further inspection, he realized that it was the vestige of another calf’s head. It had blood flowing to it, so the tiny "twin" was still alive. I’ve heard of this happening before. In fact someone brought a similar specimen to exhibit when we owned the local meat locker.

This calf had two empty sockets where its eyes would have been. It had partially shaped ears and a mouth that kept opening in a creepy way to reveal a small tongue and some teeth. Guthrie had been around cows all his 12 years on the earth, but he’d never seen such a bizarre spectacle – neither had his dad for that matter.

They needed to do something to better the animal’s chance of survival and to make him more marketable at the auction. First, they tried to pen it. That didn’t work. It was quicker and more agile than either of them. Then young Guthrie tried his hand at roping it. He couldn’t land a loop on either of its heads. After chasing it around and finally cornering it against a panel fence, Wesley basically tackled the bewildered calf.

"Whatcha gonna do, Dad?" asked Guthrie as he watched his dad in action.

Dads hate questions like that, I think. He was still just trying to formulate a game plan as he held the writhing two-headed calf. He ordered the boy to go rummage through his pickup truck for something they could wrap around the small stump of a head, maybe a piece of leather, an old rubber glove or some twine. I’m sure the inside of Wesley’s truck looks like most farm trucks — a veritable cornucopia of random items — everything from syringes and vet medicine bottles, to coke cans and empty potato chip bags, from plastic ear tags and fencing pliers to last week’s mail.

After searching through vast acres of miscellany, Guthrie came back with one of his mama’s elastic headbands.

"Will this work?" he asked.

"Perfect!" replied his dad who was beginning to sweat in the late morning summer sun.

He took the piece of fabric-covered elastic and tightly wrapped the furry lump under the calf’s chin.

"Daddy, how’s that gonna work?" Guthrie asked, never at a loss for words.

"It’ll cut off the blood flow, and the small head will wither and fall off."

"Just like when we castrate those bull calves," the boy mused to himself, proud to have made the connection.

Guthrie loved working with his dad. He always seemed to know what to do in any situation. Once again, his dad had risen to the occasion. Wesley, a man of few words, got up, finished checking the rest of the herd and got back in the truck without comment.

Last Tuesday morning, when I began my junior high reading class with my usual question, "Who’s got earthshaking news?"

Guthrie’s hand went up first.

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

How's Your Garden?

Winter is a good time to bring long, tangled vines back under control with careful pruning.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Tame Spring Vines Now

Winter offers a perfect opportunity to trim back or thin overgrown vines eating fences or encroaching where they are not welcome. In winter, it is much easier to see the structure of deciduous vines and climbing roses – and the wasps are inactive! Remember, early spring bloomers such as early climbing roses, wisteria, yellow jessamine, Lady Banks rose, and coral honeysuckle have already set their flower buds. Prune them selectively because you will also be cutting the spring blooms. If you need to cut these severely, save the severe pruning until after they flower. We Southerners love wisteria, but if you want to plant it, avoid the common and invasive Chinese and Japanese species (Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda) which are unfortunately plentiful in the marketplace. Instead, plant Amethyst Falls (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’), an American-native wisteria that blooms a little later and isn’t as aggressive.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Mark your calendars for the Great Backyard Bird Count during the weekend of February 15-18. Learn more about this citizen-science program and register at to report your bird sightings.

Not Going to the Dogs

This groundcover is growing back through a barrier of welded wire fence placed to keep dogs from digging in a prime spot.

Is part of your landscape literally going to the dogs? Dogs are not usually a garden’s best friend, but gardens and dogs can co-exist with fences and a few tricks. If your mutts are digging where they shouldn’t, here is a simple dog barrier from a garden in Columbus, Ga., where the owner’s dog digs near the front door. To keep things looking nice and discourage digging in such a prominent spot, the owner pinned 2 x 4-inch welded wire fence to the ground to protect the groundcover so it could grow back through the openings in the welded wire. We love our pets and our gardens, too!

What Do You Do With Old Potting Mix?

After a couple of years, the potting soil in containers holding your seasonal color or vegetables and herbs starts to break down in texture. When that happens, it doesn’t drain or hold air like it should and the plants don’t grow as well. Then it’s time to replace it or at least replenish it by mixing in about one-half new potting mix soil. So what do you do with the soil coming out of the pot? Work it into new landscape plantings or in-ground flowerbeds to improve the texture of your garden soil.

A Reading Ladder?

I visited the Petersen Garden Project, a community garden in Chicago, where the organization also owns a building to have workshops and other events. Inside, there was a very clever library of garden books prominently displayed on old ladders. Stretched horizontally along the wall, the old ladders got a new life as bookshelves and added to the charm of the whole place. You can adapt this idea to hold other things, too, such as pictures.

Above, old ladders find a new life as display shelves at a community garden library. Right, A wagon is perfect for keeping little things handy while you work.

Put a Wagon to Work

A wagon is a perfect way to move things through the garden while you work. It’s perfect for hand tools, small bags of fertilizer, seeds, and other relatively small things and keeps them organized while you work in the garden. I have narrow pathways, so it works better for me than a wheelbarrow, and it is lower to the ground so I can see and reach into it more easily when kneeling or sitting on the ground.

This holly provides an evergreen anchor for cool-season color in a pot.

Holly Is Happy in a Pot

Small holly shrubs are perfect evergreens for containers, especially when paired with flowers for seasonal color. Select a holly you like for the container according to leaf size, color and plant size. Months (or one to two years) later it can be transplanted to the garden. Read or save the label, so you will know how much space to give the holly in the garden as hollies can vary from small, dwarf shrubs to small tree size. Moving evergreens from pots to the garden over time is a nice way to slowly build a screen or hedge on your property, too. Hollies also provide great cover for songbirds and berries for them to feed on in the winter.

Master Gardener Classes

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener by taking the classes offered through the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and becoming a part of this volunteer community, now is a good time to check with your regional Extension office about class schedules. Check the various organization’s websites at to find the one nearest you.

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

Kayo and the Mare

by Baxter Black

Getting bucked off is always a possibility in the daily life of a journeyman horse trainer. They take on horses to break and ride. Kayo (an alias to protect the guilty) had gained a good reputation for skilled horsemanship.

Already accepted to vet school at WSU, Kayo could probably teach the faculty a lot about horse psychology! One of the local horse traders brought over a 6-year-old paint mare named Kahlua that had a bad reputation and needed some schooling. She liked to buck!

Kayo knew the mare, having seen her being "aired out" in the local arena, where she had displayed her bad behavior. Kayo agreed to take her on. After five days in the round pen and another week of long rides in a nearby pasture, Kayo figured Kahlua was ready for the next step.

It was late afternoon. Kahlua was tacked up in a Western saddle and snaffle bit. Our trainer was wearing chinks and a cowboy hat, screwed down tight! They headed up the road toward the outskirts of town. Kahlua pranced a lot, taking everything in: tractors, trucks, traffic, bicycles, fences, driveways, kids and racket in general. They stopped often to acclimate. Kayo had a good feeling about the horse. I’m told good trainers have this sixth sense. They crossed the gravel road and headed back. One obstacle lay along their way, a construction zone.

The workers were on a break and several were lined up along the tall chainlink fence just watching. A couple of them hollered hoorahs. Kahlua’s ears were circling like sonar dishes; she tensed up. Kayo noticed the throatlatch was crooked and reached down to pull it back. At that moment, feeling the rider off balance and distracted, Kahlua broke in two! Kayo’s head flew aft and then was slung forward … twice! On the third pitch, Kayo flipped out over the swells, hooking the sleeve of both jacket and hoodie over the saddle horn! Kahlua did everything she could to shake off the baggage hanging on her left side!

The audience was cheering the action as horse and rider bucked and banged into a picket fence, mailboxes, car bodies, sawhorses and signs reading "Caution: construction area: STAY BACK!"

Finally, right in the middle of this three-ring circus, Kahlua, with one mighty Power Buck, peeled the jacket and hoodie off the flailing rider … leaving our journeyman trainer flat out in the dirt!

Kayo stood unsteadily and looked back over her shoulder at the hard-hatted, enthusiastic audience. Kahlua was galloping home with the jacket, hoodie and sports bra still hooked over the horn flying like semaphore flags on a Coast Guard Cutter! Kayo was bareback, her right arm hanging dislocated and limp. She pulled her chinks up under her chin, glared at the appreciative construction crew and marched down the road mumbling unflattering nicknames for Kahlua.

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,

Feeding Facts

Producers: Be Aware of Aflatoxin Danger

by Jimmy Hughes

As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time making sure the feed we manufacture is nutritionally balanced to meet the needs of the animal it’s designed for as well as being safe and free of any toxins or other foreign ingredients that could have a detrimental effect on the well-being of that animal. Each year is unique and we work very diligently in making sure we are aware of any issues related to ingredient quality. This year the issue we are facing is toxins in some by-products used in feed manufacturing. With the extreme weather conditions in the upper Midwest this summer, we are seeing high counts for aflatoxins in the by-products derived from corn such as distillers and corn gluten.

An analysis of the 2012 corn crop conducted by Alltech shows multiple mycotoxins present with over 80 percent of the samples containing between two and five toxins. With this amount of the corn crop showing toxins and with the issues related to high levels of toxins and livestock production, I feel it’s important to make producers aware of the potential problems associated with these toxins as you make feeding decisions for the next few months.

Aflatoxins are very potent compounds causing a variety of human and animal health problems. While on rare occasions, livestock can die from ingesting aflatoxin contaminated feed, most commonly the toxins reduce feed efficiency and reproductivity of livestock. Aflatoxins are most common in hot, dry years during pollination, crops damaged by insects, drought stress or early frost. Two types of screening test are most commonly used to test for toxins: blacklights and commercial test kits. The blacklight is a quick preliminary test that is a visual inspection for the presence of a greenish-gold fluorescence under light. The greenish-gold color indicates the presence of an acid being produced by actively growing fungus in the kernel. Commercial test kits are available for on-site test for aflatoxins. The test is very specific for aflatoxins, but it requires training and practice to be accurate.

The Food and Drug Administration has established an "action level" of 20 ppb for aflatoxins in interstate commerce. This is the level at which federal agencies can take action, including seizure of corn or prohibition of its sale. The FDA has also established guidelines for using contaminated grain in livestock feed. These guidelines are based on maintaining performance and avoiding disease related to aflatoxins, except for dairy cattle in which prevention of toxin residue in milk is the concern. Pet food is also of great concern because of the greater sensitivity of dogs and cats.

A producer can feed contaminated grain as long as these guidelines are followed.

Another issue related to corn is the levels of toxins found in the by-products coming from corn such as gluten and distillers. A rough estimate suggests the aflatoxin levels in feed by-products will be three times higher than that of the corn itself. Therefore, a corn with 50 ppb aflatoxins will render gluten or distillers with 150 ppb toxins. That is where the problem will come from. A lot of producers in Alabama feed a by-product as the largest component of an animal’s diet or will purchase feed from a commodity blending station selling a product off the farm, and very well may not be testing the products for aflatoxins which in turn may very well be producing a product very high in toxins and can have a negative effect on animal production. Binding agents such as sodium bentonite and aluminosilicates may reduce the effects of aflatoxins on livestock; the FDA does not recognize their aflatoxin management practices. Blending aflatoxin-contaminated grain with clean grain is not legal except in advance of direct feed operations. It is the owner’s responsibility to isolate the corn from general commerce.

The best way to prevent any issues in livestock coming from high levels of toxins in corn or corn by-products is to make sure you purchase your feed from a commercial feed mill. We at Alabama Farmers Cooperative take great strides in testing our ingredients for any toxins that potentially cause the producer or his livestock any problems. I would recommend questioning your feed provider and see if they are testing ingredients and checking to see what the toxin levels are in these ingredients. I would highly recommend, if you are buying corn gluten or distillers and are feeding in large amounts, you question the seller of this product as what the levels of toxins are in the product. If this number is above 70 ppb or if they can’t tell you what the level is, then I would highly recommend you go another direction in purchasing your winter feed.

If you have any questions or concerns as to the potential problems with aflatoxins in feed, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> or 256-947-7886 and I will be more than happy to assist you in any manner possible.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC's animal nutritionish

Farm Fresh Memories

Recollectin' And Rememberin’ On 2012, Plus Doin' Forward Thinkin' T'ward 2013 In Flat Rock…

Object — Life, Happiness, Meet More Folk and be Sure of Heaven after Earth, A personal Responsibility!!!

by Joe Potter

It was Wednesday one hour short of high noon in Flat Rock. There was a heavy nestin’ of folk congregated in all parts of The Flat Rock General Store. Yep, it was eatin’ day at The Store. The cold weather and smell of savory country vittles was bringin’ ‘em in from all letter directions (N, E, S, W). There’s all The Store regulars – Slim, Essex, Ms. Ida, the widow Cora, Farlow, Willerdean, "Truth," Estelle, Bro., S.R., J.R., "Hatch" and Dustin. Back a playin’ some harmonica and a singin’ a cappella by the old, pot-bellied heater was the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood.

There are folk from Hatton, Wolf Springs, C. C. Smith, Mt. Hope and a few stretched even further away. Some local folk like J. C. Goodwin, Rene Payne, Greg Flannigan (my old tractor restorer/mechanic), Vernon Parker and Donald Kidd, special friends and helpers in the clutch, others and so on. Then there’s the "I know its eatin’ day" regular store visitors: L.O. Bishop, Orland Britnell, John Thorn, Wilton Fortenberry, Ms. Teresa McDonald (she brought homemade bread) the UPS delivery lady, Sears repairman, two Cat repairmen … a more than normal heavy crowd.

The Eatin’ Day Menu:
Lynn’s camp stew
Joe’s grilled smoked sausage
Estelle’s hot apple cobbler
Teresa’s homemade sourdough bread
Slim’s FRGS beverages
Sweet milk
Southern sweet tea

Then Bro. offered thanks and the eatin’ line formed b’hind Essex, Ms. Ida and the widow Cora. The sign offered:

No pushin’ or shovin’, please, there’ll be plenty for all, plus seconds, possible thirds for the heavy eaters.

Lynn, Estelle and Teresa were helpin’ fill folks’ plates, my grilled sausage were self-serve, so I was in line visitin’ and howdyin’ with folk and surveyin’ the surroundin’s. The eatin’ folks were stacked thick. Some hangin’ off the counter, settin’ on sacks of layer mash, Pepsi cola cases, even the back storage room was holdin’ eaters.

Course, with the comin’-close days of year 2013, there on the back wall b’hind the old heater was two six-foot pieces of white butcher paper and in red marker was so penciled The Store regulars plus other community and area Flat Rock folks’ New Year’s resolutions – like diet, exercise, save money, cook more, eat less fast food, get a 10-point buck, travel, make new friends, work harder, get new job, hunt less ... the list was well too long to pencil down in full.

As I settled beside Lynn with my vittles (hard to admit, her camp stew is actual better than my chili, beef or chicken stew), I commenst to recollectin’ and rememberin’ 2012 happenin’s. Wow, gettin’ married May 17 in Alaska. All the people who helped Lynn and me in Seattle: Swedish 1st Hill Hospital, Dr. Livingston, Dr. Courson, Dr. Warren Dinges; our Hotel, E911 firehouse paramedics, nurses and many, many others. The six nights in the hospital and Lynn’s recovery from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Losin’ my left-hand pinky finger doin’ horse treat feedin’ … another story. The big hole that still lingers in my heart from the deaths of Heath, my oldest son, and my Daddy "Pop" C.C in 2010. Bein’ all Auburn University, my ag roots and two years removed from a National Championship, the disappointment and embarrassment of this season.

Meetin’, seein’ people and goin’ places: Chip Blalock, Sunbelt Ag Expo in Georgia; John Doran, Twisp, Wash.; Mayor Pat Smith, Lusk, Wyo.; the Davises and their ’54 Dodge pickup, Lusk, Wyo.; Steve Shadwick, Douglas, Wyo. (rancher, businessman, jack-of-all-trades and now our friend); Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Lewellen, Potter and Sidney, Neb.; Mitchell and White Lake, S.D. and goin’ to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn.; the Louisiana cattlemen and their families … just a small samplin’ of so many wonderful places and real, special people who have made our lives better.

Course, I am always wantin’ and Forward Thinkin’. Wantin’ to publish my writin’s (poems, books), write more, finish a passel of titled – started poems, go more places, meet lots more people, see and experience the United States. We have a list: love our kids and grandkids at home or from a distance, and for them to all know how much they are all loved. Work to promote my ag roots and rural heritage, "I have a story to tell." Ride our horses and get some cows (hard to do and travel).

Wow! Eatin’ day had lingered. As the clock hit on 12:30 p.m., lazily and with full-mouth "I’m stuffed and happy" grins, the gathered folk offered lots of special "thank yous" for some fine eatin’ day vittles. Here the gathered folk returned to visitin’ and barterin’ with Slim, most headed out for afternoon duties and obligations. Me – well, I ain’t finished!!! Think of all your daily "simple blessings" …. Happy New Year!!!


Joe Potter, Potter's Mud Creek Farm is located at 5840 Country Road 339 (County Line Road), Russellville, near "Our" Flat Rock, in Lawrence County; email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." onclick=",'','resizable=no,location=no,menubar=no,scrollbars=no,status=no,toolbar=no,fullscreen=no,dependent=no,status'); return false">
Our Outdoor Heritage

Robertson’s 29 Words

Hunters’ dollars spent for guns and ammunition generate a three-to-one federal match for state hunting license revenues that must be protected for states to qualify. Photo Credit: Mitchell Marks

by Corky Pugh

With 2012 marking the 75th anniversary of the Pittman-Robertson Act, now is a good time to take a look at some of the things that have made this hunter-funded wildlife restoration program so effective. This landmark program, enacted by Congress in 1937, has provided millions of dollars to the states for work aimed at enhancing wildlife populations and habitats. Funding is derived from federal excise taxes on firearms and ammunitions paid at the manufacturers’ level. Money for approved projects is apportioned to each state annually based essentially on the number of licensed hunters in the state. The projects and work activities are funded on a three to one basis, providing three federal dollars for each state hunting license dollar.

In this era of dire economic times for state governments across the country, elected officials face daunting challenges in finding ways to fund essential governmental services. Some are tempted to dip into any fund carrying a positive balance in order to find money. A few look at the Game and Fish Fund with dollar signs in their eyes. Not only is this short-sighted in terms of adversely affecting the state’s ability to sustain wildlife and fisheries resources providing the base upon which hunting and fishing and the related huge economic engine depend, but it is illegal. Thankfully, our money, as hunters and anglers, is protected from such raids by both a provision of the Pittman-Robertson Act and a provision of the Alabama Constitution.

Carl Shoemaker, an attorney and journalist, is referred to by some as the "father" of the P-R program. Shoemaker began his career as an attorney in Ohio, later tiring of the profession and moving to Oregon and becoming owner and publisher of the Roseburg Evening News. His interest in conservation matters eventually led to his appointment as head of the Oregon Fish and Game Commission. Shoemaker frequently travelled to Washington, D.C. on state business and learned his way around. In 1930, he was appointed special investigator for the newly created U.S. Senate Special Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources.

Shoemaker wrote the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration bill and did the necessary work in Washington to secure legislative sponsors. Shoemaker called Congressman A. Willis Robertson of Virginia and invited him to lunch in the Senate Dining Room. Robertson was chair of the House Select Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources. Before being elected to Congress, Robertson had headed the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Commission.

Shoemaker and Robertson met for lunch, and Shoemaker handed Robertson a copy of the bill to read. Robertson read the bill and asked Shoemaker for a pencil. He inserted a short clause, and said, "With this amendment I have inserted, I will gladly introduce the bill in the House."

The words Robertson inserted made the bill foolproof, prohibiting the states from tampering with or diverting their own hunting license dollars and receiving the federal matching funds provided by the bill. What he wrote following the enacting clause itself read, "…and which shall include a prohibition against the diversion of license fees paid by hunters for any other purpose than the administration of said State fish and game department…"

Robertson’s experience on the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Commission had taught him state legislatures, in that era, were not above taking hunting and fishing license receipts from state game and fish agencies and using them for other purposes. This was a common occurrence in those days, but Robertson put a stop to it with 29 penciled-in words. Those simple, straightforward words have meant many millions of dollars for wildlife conservation work over the past three-quarters of a century.

In order to qualify for funding under the Act, states were required to pass legislation "assenting" to the provisions of Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration, specifically Robertson’s 29 words. Within 12 months of the passage of the Act, 43 of the 48 states had passed the required "assent legislation" prohibiting the use of hunting license revenue for any purpose other than to operate the wildlife agency. In time, the remaining states passed the required legislation, with all states then becoming eligible to receive three-to-one matching funds for wildlife work.

In the late 1960s, the Alabama Senate raided the Game and Fish Fund, attempting to divert hunting and fishing license monies to other purposes. In a groundswell of public outrage from hunters, fishermen, landowners, and people in general who recognized the importance of the issue, a Constitutional amendment was adopted by an overwhelming margin. Amendment 272 of the Alabama Constitution makes it very clear that our hunting and fishing license monies can only be spent for the purposes of managing and protecting fish and wildlife resources.

In these challenging economic times, we should all be both thankful and ever-vigilant. We should be thankful the program of state government that provides the resource base upon which hunting and fishing depend stands on its own bottom financially and is protected from political tinkering. We should be ever-vigilant in order to assure things stay this way. To do anything less invites trouble for the incredibly wonderful hunting and fishing opportunities in Alabama and for the resultant benefits economically and societally.

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

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for go to the website at You can write to us at P.O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "That Cleadus was just beside himself when he came out of the bowling alley and found that his ex had bashed the windows out of his pick-up."

How can one be beside one’s self?

"Beside oneself" is one of several old phrases in which a loss of a mental faculty is explained as being, broadly, away from one’s person. The most common phrase is out of one’s mind, which is first found in the 15th century, slightly earlier than beside oneself.

Though beside now usually means something like "by the side of; next to," one of its earlier senses was "outside of; out of." By around 1500, this developed a figurative sense, parallel to "out of one’s mind: having lost (a specified faculty); having lost one’s senses." Shakespeare has, iambically, "Enough to put him quite beside his patience." (Henry IV part I) The more common version with "oneself" – the only current use – is found in the King James Bible, Acts 26:24, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."

Since the concept is relatively straightforward, other phrases tend to be variants on the same theme. "Out of one’s wits," "off one’s head," "on another plane" and any number of slangy alterations all represent this family of expressions.

Horses, Horses, Horses!

Syrup Making Day on 5 Bar C Farms

Emory Combs cooks sugarcane syrup in an evaporator pan over a fire pit at Syrup Making Day November 10 in Waverly.

Because “good syrup is hard to find”

by Jade Currid

On a cool, fall morning as crisp and refreshing as the first bite of a delicious apple, friends and family gathered on 5 Bar C Farms, owned by Emory and Becky Combs of Waverly, to delight in Syrup Making Day, an epic annual event held on November 10.

Attendees experienced the syrup-making process firsthand, eagerly watching as a magnificent Belgian powered a mill grinding sugarcane. A mechanical mill, run by a tractor, was also fascinating to watch as it ground the sugarcane fed for the prized syrup.

After being squeezed out of the cane, sweet juice ran down a pipe to a large tank next to an evaporator pan.

Emory, who grew up around syrup making, tended the evaporator pan cooking the moisture out of the juice and leaving a mouthwatering, make-a-call-home-to-your-mama-kind of sugarcane syrup.

"We just do it like they used to do it – the old-timey way," Emory said. "Good syrup is hard to find."

The thickness of the syrup depends on how long it is cooked. Cooking the syrup for a shorter amount of time produces pancake syrup and for a longer period of time produces a thick syrup.

Sugarcane is fed into a mill to be ground for the making of delicious syrup.

The evaporator pan and the paddles he used to stir the syrup are cherished gifts from a friend in Columbia, Tenn.

Emory enjoys preserving and partaking in old-fashioned endeavors.

"My wife said I was born 100 years too late," he fondly joked.

Emory had made about 50 gallons of sorghum syrup the previous day.

"We don’t put any additives in it," he said. "It’s pure cane syrup and pure sorghum syrup."

Attendee Cynthia Childers, 63, said the event is significant because it preserves the past.

Syrup cooks in an evaporator pan. Attendees enjoyed learning about the syrup making process firsthand. Right, the bubbly goodness cooking in the evaporator pan looks promising.

"I would like my children to realize what we did back then. It’s very important they know our background and history," she said.

While growing up in agriculture, her family rarely had to buy anything except flour and sugar and items of that nature since they grew their own food.

One of the Combs’ Belgians powers a mill grinding sugarcane to be made into delicious syrup at Syrup Making Day November 10 in Waverly. Fellowship of family and friends is an important aspect of Syrup Making Day.

One of 10 children who pitched in on farm chores, her rearing shaped her to be self-sufficient.

"It was a very healthy background," she said. "Instead of watching TV, we were out picking peas and butter beans."

5 Bar C Farms furnishes sugarcane for the Loachapoka Syrup Sop and grinds juice for the event.

In addition to making syrup, Emory raises and trains Belgians and mules, and breaks them to hay, plow, and log.

His customers hail from as far as Tennessee and Pennsylvania, and he has sold some of his mules to bird-hunting reservations.

He and his family make appearances with their equines, wagons and carriages at weddings and parties and in festivals and parades.

A child gleefully sits abroad a Belgian as it powers the mill.

The Combs drive their horses and wagon in the Southeastern Livestock Exposition rodeo every year with the SLE dignitaries aboard as passengers.

Lenoy, Emory and Becky’s son who is in the construction business, helps with work on the farm and with other events and projects his family is engaged in.

He is involved in almost every aspect of the syrup-making process including the planting, cutting and skinning of the sugarcane, feeding of the sugarcane into the mill, firing of the pit to heat up the evaporator pan and care of the horses.

The cooking part is a special process reserved for his father.

Involved members of the community, the Combs have been a part of the Waverly Barbecue for many years and provide pot-luck suppers for the Waverly Community Club.

The dedicated family cooks pork and chicken barbecue and Brunswick stew for the Waverly Barbecue occurring shortly before Syrup Making Day.

"We’ll cook that Brunswick stew all night long Friday and sell it," Lenoy said. "We ended up selling about 200 gallons of stew, about 300 to 400 pounds of pork, and about 200 to 250 chicken halves. We just about sell out every year."

Emory and Becky have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. Becky emphasized the importance of cooking and family time in their lives.

"I have followed my mother’s footsteps and have cooked all of my life," Becky said.

Emory also constructs breathtaking structures using methods of the olden days and has built numerous fancy hunting lodges. Building wagons is also one of his specialties.

Becky said that hosting Syrup Making Day allows them to have fun, meet people and share their love.

"It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding work," she said.

They buy all of their supplies from Taleecon Farmers Co-op in Notasulga and the people who work there are good folks and always accommodating.

Anyone interested in purchasing well-trained mules or Belgians, having a horse- or mule-drawn carriage or wagon make an appearance at their event, or have Emory build them a structure or wagon of their dreams can contact Emory and Becky at 334-321-8114 or 334-887-7288.

Be sure to mark this outstanding event on your calendar. Anyone in need of a syrup fix can find it at Syrup Making Day in Waverly, which falls on the second Saturday of November every year.

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.

The Herb Lady

Testimonial for Bone-Up® and Horsetail

by Nadine Johnson

Mary Eicher wishes to share her health experiences with you. Here, in her own words, is her story. I suggest you go online for information regarding medical terms you don’t understand.

Just a little bit about my diagnosis. Around 2000, I noticed a red rash across my nose and both cheeks. Since I have worked in the medical field for most of my life, I quickly figured out it might be an autoimmune disease.

The doctor I presently work for is a general practitioner, but, in 2000, I was working for a general surgeon. He sent me to a rheumatologist in Pensacola, Fla. I was promptly diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called CREST. Since you are a nurse, I am sure you are familiar with this.

Symptoms include calcinosis with calcium depositing into my skin, Raynaud’s in my hands and feet with complete shutdown of the peripheral vessels causing numbness, tingling and, of course, loss of blood in my fingers and toes. I don’t have any esophageal symptoms or webbing of my fingers. I do have some telangiectasia on my face.

My ANA was 1:5000. I was tried on several medicines to relieve the symptoms. Most of these did not work or caused other problems. As a last resort, I was told prednisone would probably be the best treatment to keep the disease under control. Since I was not excited about taking prednisone, I read and researched to see if there was anything else available including holistic medicines, herbs and whatever else might help.

That is when I came across your article in AFC Cooperative Farming News regarding your ordeal with osteoporosis. Since I had developed chronic, painful tendonitis in both legs and particularly in my feet, I was ready to try anything because it was so painful and difficult to walk. I thought after reading the wonderful results you had received, it might help me. AND HELP ME IT HAS.

From the first week of taking Bone-Up® and horsetail, my symptoms began to subside. Since then, I can function well enough to run my house, cook, clean, wash and help take care of my granddaughter who is a very lively 4-year-old, plus work a four-day work week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As long as I can get these products, I will not be without because it’s the difference between being able to walk and a wheelchair. My symptoms are getting progressively worse and I am sure, except for a miracle from God, that by now I would not have been able to walk.

I thank you so much for sharing your plight with osteoporosis because I would probably never have known about these products and the great benefit thereof.

You may use my name, if you like, because there is help for chronic tendonitis and probably someone out there needs to know.

Gratefully, Mary Eicher

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, Al 36577 or by email at

From the State Vet's Office

The Blue Book

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I came to work for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries in June of 1995. I was hired as a field veterinary medical officer. My responsibilities were to oversee the animal industries work such as Brucellosis testing and to supervise the meat inspection program for my assigned geographic area in South Alabama. My time and experience working on large animals prepared me reasonably well to do some parts of the job such as testing cattle and horses, identifying diseases in carcasses and working in the stockyard. I was not, however, very versed on the Code of Alabama and other regulations that would guide me down the road with my job.

When I took the VMO position, my first task was to drive to Montgomery and officially come on board. I made the pilgrimage from my home in Escambia County to Montgomery where Dr. Ally welcomed me on board. They got me signed up on the insurance program and did a few other bookkeeping-type things. Then they gave me a 1990 Chevy Lumina with over 100,000 miles on it, a beeper, a State of Alabama Calling Card to use to call the office when my beeper went off (that was before cellphones and when pay phones were fairly common), a three-ring binder full of rules and regulations, and a little blue book.

The Blue Book, "Laws of Alabama Relating to Animal Industry," has only 109 pages and not full-sized. They are 6 x 9 inches. That book has largely — but not completely — defined my job, responsibilities and legal authority by which I have operated for the past 17 years and some change. The laws contained in that book gave me the legal authority to quarantine test animals exposed to regulated diseases. It gave me the authority to condemn a carcass that could cause the consumer to become ill if eaten. It even gave me the legal authority to make sure animals were not treated inhumanely during transport and at stockyards. As I look through the Blue Book, I realize the laws, relevant to animal industry in Alabama, can for the most part be divided into two broad areas. The first area is of animal disease control and the second of consumer protection.

Chapter 4 is of more than passing interest to me personally. That is the chapter that has the law establishing the office of the State Veterinarian. There have only been four Alabama State Veterinarians, including me. They are Dr. Millican, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Ally and me. The law establishing the Office of the State Veterinarian also establishes the State Veterinarian’s responsibility for maintaining the health of Alabama’s herds and flocks. That roughly considers the collective total of the cattle in the state as the state cattle herd. The same goes with poultry. The law gives the State Veterinarian along with the Commissioner of Agriculture the authority to develop rules needed to carry out the mission of disease eradication and traceability. Being able to establish rules is very helpful.

Rules carry the same authority as the laws, but are easier and, more importantly, quicker than getting a law passed. When dealing with something like a disease outbreak, having to wait for the legislature to be in session could turn an incident into a disaster. Rulemaking is not something taken lightly or as easy as me waking up one morning and deciding we should require all livestock to be identified with electronic identification. First, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries must agree that a rule is truly needed to accomplish our mission of maintaining the health of the state herds and flocks not addressed by a specific law. We are, however, restricted to making a rule that comes under the umbrella of an established law. Some of the laws we have today are decades old and, although they address issues such as disease traceability or animal welfare, there may be considerations necessitating a rule to further define the law.

Rules must be passed by the State Agriculture Board. The board is made up of people who have a vested interest in agriculture. The board members are appointed by the governor and the Commissioner of Ag and Industries. To approve the rule, these board members must see merit in the rule that it serves the citizens of the state. Since I have been State Veterinarian we have not had to go to the board often with a rule we needed to be passed. Primarily, I am not looking for another regulation to have to implement unless it is deemed a necessity. When we have gone to the board with a rule, we have worked closely with trade groups such as Alfa, the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and other key players such as the USDA and educational institutions.

We, the Commissioner and I, do have the ability to implement what is called an emergency rule. Suppose the Agriculture Board met yesterday and today an urgent need arises to make a new rule to control disease. The Commissioner and I have the authority to declare an emergency rule. The emergency rule does have a shelf life unless it needs to become a permanent rule. This process would coincide with the next board meeting. Emergency rules are established usually under extreme circumstances such as a disaster or during a disease outbreak.

While the Blue Book has not necessarily been my constant companion over the years, it has never been too far outside arm’s length. There are laws dealing with disease control I never knew existed before becoming a regulatory veterinarian. These include laws prohibiting the feeding of certain types of garbage to hogs and requiring livestock carcasses be disposed of within 24 hours of death. Over the years, we have investigated many calls complaining about a neighbor who drags their dead cattle off to the back side of the farm for the buzzards and coyotes to eat. A large number of the farmers who are breaking the carcass disposal law are not aware there is such a law. Unfortunately, ignorance of the law doesn’t give someone a pass to break the law.

As I said earlier, many of the laws in the Blue Book are several decades old. There are laws dealing with tick eradication and the requirement for counties to have dipping vats for cattle. Those laws are holdovers from the 1920s. Time passes, technologies change and laws become obsolete. I will have to say, though, the laws dealing with Alabama’s animal industry provide us with a pretty solid foundation to protect animal health and to protect the consumer.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Sage Grass & Cedars

The Co-op Pantry

Just before Christmas, a Grinch sideswiped my car in the mall parking lot and just drove away. I had to do the whole nine yards … police report and the dreaded trip to State Farm. Robbie, my agent, calmed me down and the conversation, of course, turned to food. She told me I had to interview "the cupcake lady." I appreciate her help with the accident and for introducing me to Christine Woodmansee, our cook of the month and the best cupcake baker in North Alabama - if not the whole state.

Christine and her husband Bruce moved to Decatur from Enterprise several years ago. Christine is active in just about every charitable endeavor in the city, and still finds time to make her wonderful cupcakes. Christine and Bruce have three delightful fur children, a pair of Havanese, Isabel and Sofia, and they have a kitty sister, Chloe.

I told Christine to say exactly what she wanted to in the column, so here we go!

"If you ask anyone who knows me to say the first thing that comes to their mind when they hear my name ... most would say ‘cupcakes.’ My love for cupcakes really began about two years ago when my good friend Chris introduced me to the most beautiful cupcake I have ever seen from a local cupcakery. I was then on a mission to eat my way through their menu. Although I never made it through all of the wonderful flavors, I did begin to think to myself ... "Hey, I can do this"! So here it all began....

"Once I figured out a few basic flavor recipes for the cakes, I then started getting creative with my frosting flavors, fillings and decorations. I scoured the Internet to follow any cupcake blog I could find. From these forums, I got so many wonderful tips and ideas, and started putting my own twist on them. I think I also own just about every cupcake cookbook that has been published.

"The cupcake itself should be moist and flavorful, and the frosting should not be too sweet, but also packed with flavor. The best part about cupcakes is experimenting with fillings and toppings to decorate these beautiful little morsels of happiness. As far as fillings, just core out the center of the cupcake (you can buy a cupcake coring tool at your local craft store) and fill with jams, curds, mousse or cream fillings ... the possibilities are endless!

"Presentation is everything! We eat with our eyes first. For the decorations on top, you can drizzle with chocolate ganache, caramel sauce, lemon curd or even a flavored jam. Another great way to decorate them is with sanding sugars, sprinkles and even candy. Each holiday you can buy themed candy that is fun to use to decorate.

Strawberry Cupcake with Strawberry Buttercream

"When I started baking cupcakes, it was mostly just for birthday parties, potlucks and community bake sales. Now when I bake for fun and experiment with new flavors, I box them up and gift them to my neighbors, insurance agent, vet, dentist, eye doctor, car salesman, hair stylist and anyone else I can think of that I want to make happy. Surely I can’t eat all of those cupcakes by myself! It’s a great feeling to walk in with that box of cupcakes and see their faces light up.

"I should also give a shout out to my no.1 taster, my husband Bruce. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it! So now when we travel, I drag him into any cupcakery I can find so we can ‘sample the competition.’ He has even been known to sit through an episode or two of one of my favorite TV shows, ‘Cupcake Wars.’ He’s a real trooper. Thanks Bruce, for being my no. 1 fan!"

Thank you, Christine for being our guest this month. Let’s bake cupcakes!

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


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
15 ounces canned pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350°. Place 24 cupcake liners in muffin tins. Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add flour mixture and stir until combined. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Frost with cinnamon cream cheese buttercream (recipe included).


8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
4½ cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Slowly add sugar. Once incorporated, add cinnamon and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.


2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s “Special Dark” Cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coffee

Preheat oven to 350°. Place 24 cupcake liners in muffin tins. Mix together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in coffee (batter will be thin). Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 - 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool completely. Drizzle chocolate ganache (recipe included) over each frosted cupcake.


8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Melt the chocolate chips, cream and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.


2¼ cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1½ cups sugar
Zest of two lemons
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Place 24 cupcake liners in muffin tins. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together buttermilk and egg whites. Put the sugar and lemon zest in another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add butter and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in extracts. To butter mixture, alternately add wet and dry ingredients in small amounts until fully incorporated. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 18 - 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool completely. Core out a small hole in each cupcake and fill with lemon curd.

Note: I also drizzle lemon curd over the frosted cupcakes and then dust with yellow sanding sugar.


8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
4½ cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice of one lemon or 2 teaspoons of lemon extract
Zest of one lemon
Yellow food color ing, optional

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Slowly add sugar. Once incorporated, add lemon juice/extract, vanilla extract and zest. Beat until smooth.

For What It's Worth

The Evolving Face of Agriculture

by Robert Spencer

The general public’s interaction and familiarity with agriculture in general has lessened with time and changes in agriculture. Much of this is due to various technological and mechanical advancements that have increased yields per acre. With increased productivity, more food is being grown, processed and marketed while fewer people are actually involved in agriculture - less than 2 percent of the population. However, there are some other interesting trends developing in agriculture.

In some areas, locally grown, healthy food has become more important to consumers; this has moved beyond purely organic food. More and more small, local food producers are promoting their locally grown fruits and vegetables. Bigger farms still ship long distance, there’s no way consumers can know where the food was grown, and there is a good feeling in knowing it’s grown at a farm five miles from where one lives. To know a local farmer seems to provide a personal relationship.

The cost of land, equipment, labor, fuel, fertilizer and other production inputs have become almost cost prohibitive to anyone interested in buying and starting a new operation. It is so much more financially feasible for someone to inherit a farm and initiate production than to take out huge loans to get started as a beginning farmer. Rather than starting out "big," some of the smaller start-up farms are 30 to 40 acres in size. The labor required to work small acreage is more intensive than larger-scale operations. Given today’s situation, the small scale farm is more likely a second income for many farmers. More and more are choosing to sell their products direct to consumers through farmers’ markets or selling to local restaurants rather than allowing a middleman to purchase them at wholesale prices and mark them up to retail prices. For many retirees and young farmers farming on a small-scale has become a lifestyle choice.

Farmers Markets

More and more small-scale farmers are trying to fill an ever-growing niche in the local markets; they realize this is part of a marketing strategy that gives them a marketing advantage over common fruits, vegetables and meats. We’re seeing a lot more young people who want to get into farming, but doing it in a much smaller way.

Then there is the growing trend among certain consumers who are cognizant of their food quality and want to know where their food comes from, and they’re willing to pay more if they know how it’s grown locally. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, a federally funded agency, has initiated Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, whose mission is to strengthen local and regional food systems.

We know demand for local and regional foods is strong, as consumers across the country are looking to connect with their food and the people who grow and raise it. The USDA program website tells us:

The number of farmers markets has more than tripled in the past 15 years and there are now more than 7,175 around the country;

In 1986, there were two community supported agriculture operations, today there are over 4,000;

There are farm-to-school programs in 48 states, totaling more than 2,200 and up from two in 1996; and

All 50 states in the U.S. have agricultural branding programs such as "Farm Fresh" or "Eat Fresh, Eat Local."

The advantage of local farmers’ markets and local and regional markets often provide farmers with a higher share of the food dollar, and money spent at a local business often continues to circulate within the community, creating a multiplier effect and providing greater economic benefits to the area.

National Agriculture Statistics

And then there is the USDA Ag Census, conducted every five years by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the most recent one being conducted in 2007. Keep in mind, a farm is counted as an operation that sells, or would normally sell, more than $1,000 in agricultural products a year. Some of the data shows U.S. farm operators are becoming more diverse.

Of the 2.2 million farms in the U.S., 1.83 million have a white male principal operator.

The number of principal operators of all races and ethnic backgrounds has increased 4 percent since 2002, but the growth in the number of non-white operators has outpaced this overall growth.

The number of operators of Hispanic origin has also increased 10 percent since 2002.

One of the most significant changes in the 2007 Census of Agriculture is the increase in female farm operators, both in terms of the absolute number and the percentage of all principal operators.

There were 306,209 female principal operators counted in 2007, up from 237,819 in 2002, an increase of almost 30 percent.

The number of small-sized farms are up. Farms with one to 179 acres are up from 2002. Mid- to large-sized farms of 180 to 1,999 acres are down; very large farms of 2,000 acres or more are up.

The average size of a farm is 418 acres, down slightly from 441 in 2002. The smallest farms counted: 1 to 9 acres; the largest farms counted: 2,000 acres or more.

Small farms are in the majority: 60 percent of all farms reported they earned less than $10,000 annually from farm sales.

Goats, sheep and vegetables raised on farms increased in 2007 while many other production sectors showed a drop or little change.

Working off-farm is more common in 2007 – the total number of farmers working off-farm increased 10 percent; in 2007, 65 percent or 1.2 million farmers work off-farm.

Alabama Agriculture Statistics

The latest agriculture census has found 8 percent more Alabama farms and 33 percent more female farmers than five years earlier.

The number of farms had risen in Alabama, from 45,126 in 2002 to 48,753 in 2007. That stopped a downward trend and was greater than the 4 percent increase seen nationally.

The increase in female farmers – from 4,821 in 2002 to 6,444 in 2007 – was very significant.

"Thirty-three percent is a pretty stout increase," said Bill Weaver, director of the statistical service’s Alabama field office. The number of black farmers rose 15 percent, from 2,350 in 2002 to 2,709 in 2007.

This article has shared some agriculture information and provided exposure to some agencies and trivia with which some readers may not be familiar. To me the most interesting statistic regarding agriculture is: "The average age of an Alabama farmer is 57.6 years." When you have some spare time, do some research on agriculture production and see what kind of information you can find to spark your interest. Keep in mind, this is 2012, five years since the last Ag Census, and another one is about to be conducted which will reveal more interesting statistics.

Robert Spencer is an agricultural specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The Magic of Gardening

Too Much To Mow – What Can I Grow?

If your New Year’s resolution is to make your hobby farm profitable and more than just a hobby, you may be interested in a course I am working on called Farmer 101. I am collecting names and determining interest now for a class I hope to start in February or March. If you have an interest in this type of course and you are in the North Alabama area anywhere near Cullman, please take the survey at this web address: I will contact everyone who completes the survey and provides their contact information by mid-January.

Last year I attended a seminar called "Too much to mow – What can I grow?" by some county Extension folks in Northwest Georgia. The program was developed to help new farmers or farmers transitioning between commodities. The Farmer 101 class will have a similar goal although a somewhat less catchy title.

For beginning farmers, just determining what government agency does what can be very confusing. Likewise, trying to determine what crop or livestock to consider requires a great deal of thought and research. How do you plan to market what you produce? How will filing a Schedule F form affect my taxes? These are just a few of the things we will cover in this course. In large part, the meat of the course will be determined by those who participate. The survey responses will direct the course content and may even impact the number of sessions we will have.

As food for thought, I wanted to pass along some nuggets from an article originally written by Steve Richards at Cornell listing "5 Keys to Success" for beginning farmers. This list is not verbatim but is similar to the one he wrote for Small Farm Quarterly of Cornell University. The Farmer 101 course will help address some of these, but others obviously can only be mastered over time.

Five Keys to Success of a Beginning Farmer:

Experience. No course or seminar can substitute for real world experience. If you don’t have much experience, you could start by volunteering or getting a part-time job with a successful and experienced farmer. Alabama A&M Small Farms Research Center will soon be starting an incubator farm program. Contact Karen Wynn at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> for details.

Education. Farming requires business savvy and technical skills. You can start this process in the class, but you may need hands-on assistance to gain the required skills.

Equity. It is very difficult to start a farming business with no equity in terms of land, equipment or cash resources. Sweat equity can only carry you so far. Most successful small farmers already have some land available and they do not depend solely on farm income to survive.

A Business Plan. The course we plan to offer will help guide you in this process, but every business plan is unique and will require a lot of homework on your part.

A Marketing Plan. I often tell folks there is no money in growing farm products of any kind – only in selling them. This is clearly the most important key to success and will determine your commodity mix and to a large extent how you will live your daily life. If you are interested in fruit or vegetable growing, you may want to go through this free online marketing course: It will describe several marketing options and walk you through the decision-making process to help you narrow down the best fit for you.

I also highly recommend the Southern Sustainable Ag Working Group annual conference to be held in Little Rock, Ark., January 23-26, 2013. You may learn more about this conference at Also, the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers annual meeting will be at Auburn University on February 8-9, and you can get details at their website: or by contacting your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System office.

If you are thinking about moving from hobby to profit, I hope you will start the New Year off right by taking advantage of some of these opportunities to learn from other folks’ mistakes and by taking advantage of the collective wisdom of knowledgeable people.

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

Back to
Tickets & Deals