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January 2014

13% Pellets with Bovatec

by Jimmy Hughes

This is the time of the year beef cattle producers will consider extra nutrient supplementation for their cattle herd. With cold days and nights ahead, the cow’s requirement for energy will increase to a level above what hay can provide. If you are trying to find an economically priced feed that will help you meet your cattle herd’s need, I would recommend 13% Pellet with Bovatec.

This feed is very comparable in cost to soyhulls and will provide a better nutrient profile for your cattle. This pellet will provide 3 percent more protein, a higher fat percentage for increased energy, minerals and vitamins for increased reproductive performance and improved immunity as well as Bovatec.

Bovatec will improve feed efficiency, increase weight gain and is a preventative for coccidiosis in your cattle herd.

This pellet also contains Mintrex and GHP2 for improved digestibility, improved feed quality and feed efficiency.

All of these benefits come in a form with better consistency and less separation of ingredients in the feed.

I would encourage you to consider this product over soyhulls or corn gluten as a very favorable alternative to supplementing your cow herd nutritional needs this winter.

If you have any questions concerning this product, please call me at 256-947-7886 or

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

A Wintry Whiff

If there are still does that haven’t been bred, you will typically see more signs because the animals are much more active. If this is the case, you may be better off using the same “rut-time tactics” used earlier in the hunting season. (Credit: Yoderrm)

Late Season Scent Tactics for Whitetails

by Todd Amenrud

Everyone has heard how extraordinarily acute a whitetail’s sense of smell is. Fooling it is one of the hunter’s main concerns. This consists of keeping foreign odors, especially human scent, out of the picture so as not to alert them to the fact they’re being hunted, and also using lures and scents to try and use their sense of smell to your advantage by attracting them into range. Granted, they also have excellent hearing and eyesight, but if you can fool their sense of smell, you’ve got it made. I love to set up deer scents to try and lure in mature bucks, and late season is my favorite time to do it.

The Right Aroma

Do you believe a food lure, curiosity scent, rut-time smell or plain urine will perform best? The type of scent you choose may influence how to set it up, and choosing the right lure will depend a great deal upon the "condition" of your herd. Here in the South, we will often have rut activity lasting through the month of January and even into February. On the other hand, if the majority of does have been bred and we get cold temperatures early, some years they seem to go into their winter patterns while there’s still time left in the hunting season.

Examine the signs and watch their activity. If you’re still seeing signs of the rut, there will be more activity than if they’ve begun their winter patterns. Once they settle into their winter routine, whitetails expend much less energy and a very clear pattern from bedding to food begins. During the winter, it’s all about conserving energy. If there is still breeding going on, aside from finding more signs of movement, you’ll probably see fresh rubs and scrapes, too.

Left to right, a Quik-Wik works anytime as a scent dispenser, but it works especially well in inclement weather. Its design sheds rain or snow keeping the scent fresh. When your hunt is over, the felt wick slides right back inside the orange, sealable container. During late season, it can be pretty simple when trying to lure in bucks. During that time, for a buck, it’s all about breeding or filling their gut. (Credit: Yoderrm)

If all of the does have not been bred, you’re probably better off using the same scent tactics you would normally deploy the first part of the season. Breeding or competition scenarios should still work. Scents like Special Golden Estrus or Active Scrape will support a breeding picture, and Mega Tarsal Plus or Golden Buck will help pull off a competition scenario. During late season, I’ve had equal luck with either a breeding set-up or a rivalry situation.

If breeding has finished, you’re usually better off using curiosity or hunger to your advantage. Plain buck or doe urine may work, or food smells like Sweet Apple Mash or Acorn Mash will appeal to their need to feed. Curiosity smells like Buck-Nip or Golden Doe can build confidence and play to their curiosity, but one of my favorite late-season lures is Trails End #307. This diverse scent appeals to hunger, curiosity and sex urges – how can you go wrong?

Delivery Methods

The same application methods can be used all season long, but late season we need to use some common sense. Tools like a Magnum Scrape Dripper may freeze up with consistent below-zero temperatures. In areas that receive snow, scent trails are more difficult to create. An important note: after using Magnum Scrape Drippers for years, I’ve found that even if you get below-freezing temperatures at night, as long as your daytime highs rise into the 40s the dripper will still function perfectly.

If we have snow, scent trails will still work great, but they’re just more difficult to create. A Pro-Drag is a great tool for generating any kind of a scent trail. It’s constructed of a large piece of super-absorbent felt with two tails, all attached to a heavy-duty string. The two tails make it easy to dip into a bottle of scent so you can refresh the drag periodically. The string is looped so it can be simply attached to a stick found at your site. This way you can drag the trail off of the path your feet are taking. This is key in deep snow. A Pro-Drag creates a continuous, easy-to-follow trail.

Quik-Wiks work anytime, but their design is especially effective during late season or bad weather. This unit comes with a pop-out, retractable, felt wick inside a protective container with a screw-on seal. A Quik-Wik can be filled with scent in the warmth of your home or camp and simply hung at your hunting site when you arrive. When you’re finished with the hunt the wick stores back inside the plastic case. The design will shed rain or snow and is the perfect tool for using scent during late season – or anytime.

A simple wick set-up is designed to lure in deer from downwind. This is the easiest scent tactic that I know of. Place lure-soaked wicks crosswind from your position at your maximum confident shooting range. Maximum range is important because you want the smell to draw in the deer before it gets directly downwind of you. This set up can be created by using felt wicks like a Pro-Wick, Key-Wick or with one of the heated scent dispensers on the market.

Late season is my favorite time for using scent, maybe because it’s easy and I’ve experienced results. I try to keep it simple and think about what a mature buck wants at that time of the season. For a buck, it’s either going to be about breeding or filling their gut. Even if they are on a distinct feeding pattern, a little Special Golden Estrus can stir things up. Keep human scent out of the picture by using Scent Killer, clean gloves and rubber-bottomed boots. Use common sense and results will follow for you.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-Chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.

Ag Community Mourns Loss of AFC President Roger Pangle

Roger Trent Pangle died at his home in Decatur on Saturday, Dec. 7, after a bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 64.

Pangle was born May 27, 1949, in Maryville, Tenn., to Harvey E. Pangle and Vista Hampton Pangle. Pangle was preceded in death by his parents and sister Peggy Hicks. Pangle learned at an early age, on the family farm in east Tennessee, the value of hard work and long hours.

Roger Trent Pangle

He attended Porter High School, then graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a degree in Agronomy. After receiving his degree, he worked as a wholesale seed salesman for Sawan Seed Company in Guntersville.

In 1976, he began his career at Alabama Farmers Cooperative as a district sales manager, then as director of the seed department and later as vice president of the Crops, Farm and Home Department. He was named AFC’s executive vice president and chief operational officer in 1996 and, in August 2012, he became president and chief executive officer.

He also served as chairman of Agri-AFC, an LLC owned by AFC and Winfield Solutions of Land O’ Lakes. He was past chairman of the board of directors of Universal Cooperatives, Inc. based in St. Paul, Minn. He has been a member of the Decatur Kiwanis Club and once served as president. He was also vice chairman of the board of directors of Progress Bank.

When he wasn’t at work, he enjoyed hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. Pangle was a member of Westmeade Baptist Church for 36 years.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years Brenda Byrd Pangle of Decatur; son Erik Trent Pangle and wife Gretchen of Hartselle; daughter Brittany Pangle of Decatur; two grandchildren Hunter and Sydney Pangle; brother Lewis Pangle and wife Cindy of Maryville, Tenn.; brother-in-law, Carl Hicks of Etowah, Tenn.; and several nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made online to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network ( or your favorite charity.

Aggressive Pecking in Backyard Flocks

SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Block can help alleviate aggressive behavior by providing essential nutrients as well as alleviating boredom.

by Jackie Nix

Aggressive pecking is a very real problem for the backyard flock owner. While it is perfectly normal for birds to establish a dominance hierarchy or "pecking order" by pecking one another, it is not normal or healthy for birds to actually wound or even kill one another.

What is aggressive pecking?

In a nutshell, it is any pecking that extends beyond normal establishment of hierarchy. Often aggressive pecking starts as feather pulling, especially in young birds. If this proceeds to the point of causing injury and blood is drawn, other birds will be drawn to the red color and can literally kill the wounded bird. Unfortunately, this aberrant behavior is a learned vice and can spread throughout the flock.

What causes aggressive pecking?

Backyard poultry species are highly evolved for pecking behavior. They have keen eyesight and depth perception in order to scratch and search out insects, plant materials and even small animals. In their natural setting, birds spend a great deal of time occupied by this investigating/hunting behavior. Some contend that aggressive pecking is caused by boredom or other stresses placed on the birds related to limiting their ability to scratch and forage for food. Others state the general stress of overcrowding, bright lights, high temperature, poor ventilation, parasites, etc. cause the birds to turn on one another. Another proposed cause is dietary deficiency, particularly protein.

Aggressive pecking resulting in feather loss or injury is a problem in backyard flocks.

How Can Aggressive Pecking be Prevented?

Because this behavior is learned, it is very difficult to stop once established in a flock. For this reason, prevention is your best bet.

Good husbandry is key in prevention. Provide adequate space, ventilation, roosting and nesting sites, etc. to minimize stress on your birds. There is a wealth of information as to these requirements on the Internet.

Remove any sick or injured birds from the flock and isolate them until they have recovered to keep other birds from turning on them.

Genetic selection for more docile breeds or more docile birds within your own flock will help to curb aggressive pecking.

Provide adequate nutrition through a balanced diet and make sure each bird has equal access to feed.

Provide mental stimulation for the birds.

The SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block can help prevent aggressive pecking by providing nutritional supplementation in addition to mental and physical stimulation through the pecking of the block. The SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block contains protein, energy, minerals and vitamins to help bridge any gaps in the birds’ diet. Additionally, the SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block is full of whole grains, so it provides visual interest and allows the birds to focus on pecking individual grains. This occupies the birds’ brains and engages their scavenging instincts. In simple terms, happy birds = less destructive pecking.

In summary, prevention of aggressive pecking is important for the backyard flock. Good husbandry, management and nutrition are all crucial. The SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block is an excellent all-purpose supplement for any type of poultry or fowl and can help alleviate instances of aggressive pecking in your flock. Ask for the SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block by name at your local feed dealer!

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations ( You can contact her at or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife. References available upon request.

Auburn’s Bob Ebert Retires

Bob Ebert in his office at Auburn University.

But He’ll Stay Busy

by Galen Grace and Charlotte Deweese

Robert A. "Bob" Ebert, Extension Animal Specialist/4-H Youth Animal Programs, Auburn University, began life on a diversified crop and livestock farm in St. George, Kan. The Ebert family farm was settled by his great-grandfather in 1854. Bob’s family consisted of his parents and nine children with Bob being the oldest. They farmed more than 1,000 acres and lived in the house his grandfather built after his marriage. Bob and six of his siblings have an LLC that owns the farm today.

Ebert has retired after a successful career at Auburn University. He joined the staff in August 1985 as the Beef Teaching Unit manager in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science and served in this position until August 1995 when he assumed the position he had until retirement.

Ebert is a 4-H alumnus whose years in 4-H work strongly influenced his life and his choice of a career. He joined the Riley County (Kan.) Bonfire 4-H Club in 1957 and was an active member and leader through his senior year in high school.

Bob Ebert with Cathy Crow, president ACWA, and students Chandler Mulvaney, Jason Edmonson, Carla Weissend and 4-Her Emma Merriman.

Ebert wrote in his Kansas 4-H Club record book, "Since I’ve been in 4-H, I have taken many projects and have benefited from all of them. I have had 10 years in 4-H work. I have worked my hardest and strived to improve myself each year …. This year I took fat lambs and baby beef. I think these were my two favorite projects. I like animals above everything. That, I guess, is why I am taking Animal Husbandry at Kansas State University."

Fat lambs (market lambs in today’s language) were Ebert’s first project and remained one of his favorite projects. Over his years in 4-H, he also had projects in market lambs, breeding sheep, steers, heifers and grain crops. The Bonfire 4-H Club met once each month where they had junior and senior leaders. He served in most of the offices in this club and also served on the county council. The Bonfire 4-H Club is still active today in Riley County.

Bob Ebert with his 1965 Reserve Grand Champion at the Kansas State Fair.

Ebert’s young life consisted of farming, 4-H, the county fair, baseball and basketball. During his years in 4-H, he attended 4-H Day in the spring where he competed in speaking, model club meeting competition and did many demonstrations. Later he had a new experience when he attended State 4-H Congress as a senior. A highlight other than the competition at the state fair was getting to stay in the dorm with three-high bunk beds. At state fair, he competed in livestock shows, livestock judging, sheep shearing and tractor driving.

Ebert had a somewhat different schedule in high school. For three semesters he attended two high schools at the same time because there were not enough boys to have Ag classes at both. As a freshman, he was one of 24 total students in his high school. While in high school he joined FFA where he would eventually become president of his chapter. Ebert had the great opportunity to start driving to school when he was 13, until he graduated with the other five in his graduating class.

While attending Kansas State University, Ebert worked at the sheep and beef barns as a student employee. After 2 years, he moved on and started managing the personal cowherd of Dr. Don Good, head of the Department of Animal Science. As a member of the Block and Bridle Club at Kansas State, he served as an officer for 3 years and in 1969 was a member of both the Livestock and Wool Judging teams. He also chaired the committee to honor the Rogler Family for their contributions. At the time Mr. Rogler was a state representative. Because of the relationship Ebert had with the Rogler family, he was hired upon graduation to manage their cattle operation.

Starting in 1970, he had a short stint with Black Watch Farms owned by an investment company. Then in November 1970, he was hired by Kittiwake Farms in Jasper to manage their Polled Hereford cattle operation. While employed by Grady Sparks at Kittiwake, Ebert managed five production sales and the dispersal, showed cattle from Colorado to New York, and hosted numerous 4-H and Junior Cattlemen meetings and cattle fitting demonstrations. Also, he was active in the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association where he served as president of the Walker County Cattlemen’s Association. He served as president of the Alabama Polled Hereford Association for 2 years and was instrumental in the formation of the Alabama Purebred Beef Breeds Council. As a loyal customer and supporter of Quality Co-ops, he was asked to serve on the board of directors for the Walker Farmers Cooperative.

After the dispersal of Kittiwake Farms, Ebert moved to Auburn and became the manager of the Auburn University Beef Teaching Unit in August 1985. For the next 10 years, he lived in the Herdsman’s House, now part of the Auburn University College of Agriculture Ag Heritage Park. His responsibility at this unit was to manage the livestock used for the classes taught in the Department of Animal Science. While he was unit manager, he applied for graduate school and completed his master’s degree in adult education. In 1995, he was hired as an Extension specialist. In this position, Bob has trained and mentored too many youth to count in 4-H and FFA livestock programs.

While he was managing all these duties over the years, he also judged livestock shows of four species in 10 states. Officiating livestock judging contests in four states was another of Ebert’s accomplishments. He mentioned that over the years he had some innovative ideas that were tried - some worked, some did not. You might ask Ebert about these when you have an opportunity.

Ebert’s retirement from Auburn University was effective Dec. 31, 2013. We asked him what he would like to be most remembered for as the Extension youth livestock specialist.

"The most satisfying experience is reflected by young people telling me of their experiences because of me being in their lives," Ebert replied.

Many people have shared with Ebert the positive effect his actions, no matter how insignificant he thought the act was at the time, have had in their children’s lives.

"Bob Ebert spent a career in education of youth in Alabama. As I watched him one-on-one with the youth, it is apparent he puts his heart into what he does with the youth. Not long after arriving as department head, I made the comment to our staff that after seeing Bob’s work at the Alabama Jr. Livestock Expo, I wish every faculty member would take steps that Bob takes the week of the Southeastern Livestock Expo. What he has done is increase the outreach to target future students and agriculture leaders," said Dr. Wayne Greene, head of the Department of Animal Science at Auburn University.

Each year the Alabama Cattlewomen’s Association honors a gentleman with the Father of the Year award. In 2013, they chose Bob Ebert to recognize, not only for his biological family but also for all the youth he helped raise over the years. Grady and Connie Sparks graciously hosted the award presentation at their ranch just outside Auburn.

Bob and his wife Carol have five children and 14 grandchildren who live from Atlanta all the way to Richland, Wash., and range in age from 18 months to 18 years. Ebert says he will phase out retirement as he will assist with the transition of the youth programs to a new person. As he does this, he and Carol will travel and he will start writing his memoirs so his grandchildren will understand the life of growing up on a Kansas farm.

As the old saying goes, "What goes around, comes around." It is the relationships people make in their lives that keep them going. So now from the time in 1970 that Grady Sparks brought Bob Ebert to Alabama, it is appropriate for Ebert to be associated with Drummond Sparks Beef to keep him busy in retirement.

Galen Grace is a development officer with the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation and Charlotte Deweese is a coordinator with 4-H Development Programs.

Back in Business

Betsy Compton and Tony Luker have been managing the Jefferson Country Store since it reopened on Oct. 1, 2013.

Country Store Re-opening Relieves Rural Crossroad Community

by Alvin Benn

Churches and country stores have mirrored rural life since America’s founding, but changing times have taken their toll on small businesses catering to those who rely on them the most.

The churches haven’t closed or moved in the tiny Marengo County crossroads community of Jefferson, but, for a year, the Jefferson Country Store wasn’t much more than a name on an exterior wall.

Not anymore. A few months ago, new life was breathed into the grocery opened in 1957 when Ike was in the White House and the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik created quite a stir across the fruited plains.

Community patronage kept the store running for more than half a century and that’s just what brought it back to life as of Oct. 1, 2013.

"I crawled under these counters when I was a little girl and never forgot those days," said Betsy Compton, who runs the store with boyfriend Tony Luker. "We’re very happy to reopen it."

This T-shirt lets everyone know the Jefferson Country Store was founded in 1957. It’s for sale.

The two are leasing the store from Hattie Morgan in an arrangement making everybody happy since the bottom line is insuring the shelves are stocked and the customers keep coming.

Reopening the Jefferson Country Store was just about the best news local residents could have received on the eve of the holiday season. They knew it meant a lot of things, not the least of which were gasoline prices.

Having the store in their neighborhood meant no more 20-mile roundtrips to stores in Linden or Demopolis to pick up milk, bread and other food staples. Such was the case during the year the store was closed.

News spread fast when it reopened and it wasn’t long before business flourished again as folks lined up to buy favorite treats including hoop cheese and crackers, souse, rag bologna, pickled pigs feet and many other delicacies not always easy to find at a supermarket.

Above, Betsy Compton divides her day – working at the University of West Alabama when she’s not helping at the Jefferson Country Store in Marengo County. Right, Nate Charleston, right, the first customer at the Jefferson Country Store, is a daily supporter of the business run by cook Tony Luker who waits on him.

Men in hard hats once again could drop by on their way to or from a nearby paper mill while senior citizens could relax in rockers near where Luker prepares his hamburgers and homemade chicken salad.

Benches are nearby for those who would rather sit than rock. Tables provide a perfect place to play checkers and dominoes. If games aren’t in order, there’s always politics and people to discuss at what easily can be called an indoor clothesline. College football, of course, often dominates conversations.

Left to right, a deer trophy “modeling” a sombrero is quite an eye-catcher inside the Jefferson Country Store in Marengo County.This is a sign of another time. It is being given new life on a shelf at the Jefferson Country Store in Marengo County.

Nostalgia oozes from every corner of a store with "A Family Tradition since 1957" on a bright red sign outside.

That tradition took a breather in 2012 when several factors led to a lock on the front door. It wasn’t long before efforts began to open it again.

Visitors marvel at the décor that would please those who love Norman Rockwell paintings and calendars - rustic, modern and other touches that are pure Americana.

Luker does a lot more than make hamburgers and biscuits. He’s no stranger to yard sales and other events where signs, once attached to the sides of barns and telephone poles, can be purchased and displayed in his store hugging Alabama Highway 28.

Founded in 1810 and named for our third president a decade later, Jefferson once was a hustling, bustling place with a hotel, two dry goods stores, a drugstore, two schools, a couple of tanneries, a wagon shop, blacksmith shop, Masonic lodge and, of course, a church.

Not much is left of those days, especially traces of what once had been. Jefferson’s major claim to fame generally is considered to be the birthplace of internationally acclaimed sculptor Geneva Mercer.

An unincorporated community with varying population estimates usually put at a few hundred, Jefferson is what rural America is all about. Residents now hope, one day, a post office or some semblance of one will return.

Luker, who grew up cooking and training under those who had more experience, is the acknowledged star of the store’s rebirth. During busy times of the day, especially at lunch, he’s like a perpetual motion machine - lining up bread for sandwiches, buns for hamburgers and, of course, jars of Duke’s Mayonnaise always nearby.

"I never use anything but Duke’s, especially when I’m making my chicken salad," he said. "There’s just something about it that you can’t find in other mayonnaise."

Created in 1917 by Eugenia Duke of Greenville, S.C., Duke’s is popular throughout the Southeast when it comes to tomato sandwiches, cole slaw and potato salad.

Luker’s day begins early and he’s at the store well before the 6:30 a.m. opening. That’s when he begins to make his biscuits. Some customers often arrive just as the doors open because they know the biscuits won’t last long.

As the weeks passed and November pushed toward December, business continued to grow, reflecting the optimism among those who were happy to shop there.

"We have some customers who only have to walk across the road to get what they need," said Betsy, who indicated she’s working hard to have wholesalers deliver eggs, milk, bread, cookies and other items to the store.

Saturdays are extra busy because customers usually aren’t working and take advantage of it by walking or driving over to have a biscuit and coffee.

Solid public support has been enough to convince the chief cook and bottle washer that the future looks exceedingly bright - making up for his 12 hour days/72 hour weeks.

"I was kinda scared at first whether it would work because of the economy being the way it was, but things have turned out for the best," said Luker, 33.

If he ever thinks the pressure has gotten to be too much, he can always count on Nate Charleston to cheer him up.

The store’s first customer on opening day, Charleston proudly plunked down a $1 bill which wound up in a frame and on the wall near where the hamburgers are made.

"He reminds me of it every day," said Luker, with a laugh that lets everybody know the two are good friends who share a hope that the Jefferson Country Store will continue to stay open.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Bulls, Bands and Barrels

by Jade Currid

The arena dirt lit up with the acronym BBB outlined in dancing flames and fireworks exploded as larger-than-life bull riders whose silhouettes were accentuated by the elaborate pyrotechnics made their grand entrance onto their stage.

Above left to right, a rank bull displays his athleticism to an awe-filled crowd at Opelika’s first annual Bulls, Bands and Barrels event Aug.10, 2013. The Blane Rudd Band performed at Opelika’s first annual Bulls, Bands and Barrels event. A barrel racer and her horse turn tight around their last barrel before they give it their all during the homestretch.

Announcer Luke Kaufman, renowned for writing and singing adrenaline-inducing songs about bull riding, introduced these top rodeo athletes to an eager, frenetic crowd before they made their way back to the chutes, where they would prepare to hop on rank bulls possessing the intensity and fury of a freight train and the fleet-footed and agile nature of cats.

This spectacular action was delivered to the town of Opelika in the form of the area’s first annual Bulls, Bands and Barrels, a brilliant event taking the rodeo world by storm. It is the brainchild of Hunter Price of Ole South Entertainment.

Right, bull rider Devin Hager wowed the crowd with his 84-point ride. Below, Opelika’s first annual Bulls, Bands and Barrels event Aug. 10, 2013, showcased top-notch rodeo stock.

"I don’t think in the Southeast or pretty much anywhere across the country, unless you go to a PBR event or something like that, you’re going to find the production level you’re going to see at one of these Bulls, Bands and Barrels deals, for sure," Hunter said.

Hunter grew up raising livestock on the family farm, C&H Farms in Opelika, and started raising rodeo stock with his father Randy around 6 years ago.

Hunter developed an interest in the bucking bull industry about 7-10 years ago, his father said.

"That was something he became involved in from the standpoint of flushing cows for embryo transfer to raising his own bucking bulls," Randy said. "That interest fueled over to a producer/production standpoint of putting on different events."

Hunter has produced events everywhere from Texas to venues throughout the Southeast.

The pickup man is ready to assist rodeo athletes in the bull riding portion of Bulls, Bands and Barrels.

A first-rate, professional event, Bulls, Bands and Barrels showcases top bull riders and barrel racers along with a local band to attract a variety of spectators, provide exciting entertainment, bring a high-caliber event to a venue in a smaller town and allow attendees to get the biggest bang out of their buck.

"Everybody comes for a reason," Hunter said.

Stock contractor Rickey West, a dynamic force in the bucking bull industry, serves as the tour’s stock coordinator.

"He’s got some of the best bulls on the East Coast and probably even further than that," Kaufman said. "He’s got a really good pen of bulls."

Kaufman, who works a lot of events in this part of the country, said that whenever West asks him to appear at an event, he jumps at the opportunity.

PBR Bull Rider Sean Willingham made an appearance.

Bull rider Devin Hager, who wowed the crowd with his 84-point ride on a powerhouse animal he described as "a good little bull to get on," voiced his support for Bulls, Bands and Barrels and Rickey West.

"This is a good event," he said. "I mean, everything is running very well. Rickey West puts on a good bull riding. Everything is organized and in order."

A major focus of the event is to support a local philanthropy in the community where it is hosted.

"It’s cool when you can have an event like this and get everybody in the community involved," Kaufman said.

Proceeds from the Bulls, Bands and Barrels event benefited Storybook Farms, a non-profit, faith-based ministry dedicated to bringing healing and hope to children facing life challenges through equine therapy.

"I think for the community at large, it was just such a nice event to have," Dena Little, owner and founder of Storybook Farms, said. "It was just really good wholesome family fun and I think that fills a void we have in our community. I appreciate the Price family for stepping up and getting involved with the farm and continuing to better this community."

The Price family has deep-rooted ties with the organization.

"Oline Price, who is Lee County’s Revenue Commissioner, has served on Storybook’s Board of Directors for a number of years, and she is an avid horsewoman herself," Little said. "It’s been a wonderful way for her to get involved in the equine community and help with kids at the same time."

Little went on to describe her collaboration with Hunter on the event.

"This is the first time I’ve worked closely with Hunter and I love his enthusiasm. He just has a zeal for getting things done," she said.

From left, a rodeo athlete adjusts his spurs before the bull riding portion of Bulls, Bands and Barrels. Brinson James the Entertainer and a young rodeo clown bring onlookers joy through their spirit, enthusiasm and colorful makeup and attire.

Little said the event was a terrific way for people who are not familiar with Storybook Farms’ ministry to become involved and to learn more about it.

She attributes Storybook Farms’ work as a God-thing and stresses how it is both beautiful and remarkable to watch how horses can touch each child at their point of need.

In addition to Kaufman, the event also featured high-profile appearances by professional bull rider Sean Willingham, who is sponsored by Rockstar Energy Drink, and professional rodeo entertainer Brinson James, who also works events for the Professional Bull Riders, Inc.

Kaufman, a native of North Carolina who is also an announcer for Championship Bull Riding, Inc., reminisced about how he obtained his start in music at an early age.

"I actually got started playing music in church," he said. "I played in a choir band. My first time singing in public was at a Cowboy Church."

Kaufman’s latest project in music is his collaboration with fellow artists from his record label, Ledfurd Recurds, which is based in North Carolina, on a compilation CD called "A Family Affair."

Kaufman expressed excitement about having two songs on the CD released on iTunes Oct. 1, 2013.

He attained considerable success the year before when he released the CD, "Beyond The Bunkhouse," on iTunes.

Legacy Brinson James The Entertainer, whose repertoire includes his epic dance moves and trick roping skills, kept the crowd’s energy up with his antics.

"I love my job," Brinson said. "I think it’s one of the best jobs in the world just to go out there and entertain people, do what you love and you get paid, so it’s perfect."

Bulls, Bands and Barrels events are booked across the Southeast for 2014.

The vision for Bulls Bands and Barrels is for it to expand to 12-15 events across the Southeast and incorporate a Finals event by 2015, Randy said.

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Cane Syrup and Bluegrass

Above, Kenny Campbell holds a jar of the clear, golden syrup. Inset, the syrup is bottled under the Stone Cabin label, and Kenny Campbell gives it away. Those who manned the syrup kettle get first dibs.

Each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Pike County’s Kenny Campbell basks in the memories of his boyhood as he hosts his annual syrup making, culminating with a camp stew supper and bluegrass music.

by Jaine Treadwell

Syrup is just naturally too thick to get in one’s blood.

But somehow it got in Kenny Campbell’s blood and that, along with the bluegrass in his bones, is a rather unique mixture in a man.

Campbell is the co-founder and president of KW Plastics in Troy, the world’s largest plastics recycler of high-density polyethylene. Plastic recycling is a complex procedure, but Kenny Campbell is, admittedly, a simple man.

"I like the simple things of life," Campbell said, as he relaxed against the backdrop of the lake near his home on the outskirts of town.

The chilly wind of the late November day swirled the sweet, sticky steam from the nearby bubbling syrup kettle and it mixed amiably with the cheerful chatter inside the barn.

The Friday after Thanksgiving has become a tradition at the Campbell barn on Henderson Road in Pike County. On that day, Campbell invites family and friends to the annual syrup making that begins not long after sunup, and the camp stew supper and bluegrass picking and grinning that begins just after dark and winds down around midnight.

Campbell grew up "all up and down" County Road 223 in rural Pike County. It was on that road that syrup somehow got in his blood.

"Back then, just about everybody had a cane patch and the best cane was a green cane," Campbell said. "Most of the cane was the purple variety, but the green cane was the best. It was easier to peel and to chew and it was sweeter. And the syrup made from green cane was the sweetest, the best syrup you could get."

From left, a meter is used to help maintain the correct temperature. Reeves skims the cooled juice, the bubbles, as it accumulates.

Several years ago, Campbell began a search for the green cane he remembered so vividly from his boyhood days. He had almost given up when he met a sugar cane farmer from Louisiana who participated in a bass fishing tournament hosted by his son, Christopher.

The Louisiana farmer was familiar with the green cane and sent Campbell the seed cane he needed to start his own patch.

Christopher Campbell pours the syrup from the large kettle to a large stockpot.

Campbell shared the seed with others in hopes the green cane would make a comeback in and around Pike County. He also decided to make syrup from the green cane.

"I couldn’t find a cast iron kettle, so I had one made," he said. "Harry Bullard made the kettle from stainless steel. The kettle has the same dimensions as the old kettle, but stainless steel won’t rust and it’s easier to clean."

Campbell, laughingly, said the stainless steel kettle wasn’t foolproof.

"The first syrup was taffy syrup," he said. "We didn’t even think about eating it. We poured it all out."

But that was then. This is now and the syrup made on the Friday after Thanksgiving was the clearest, the "goldenest" syrup you could ever hope to find.

After the syrup is poured into a smaller specialty cooker, it is drawn into glass Mason-type jars.

The syrup makers first poured the syrup in glass Mason-type jars. A few days later, they bottled the syrup under the Stone Cabin label and Campbell gave it away. Those who manned the syrup kettle got first dibs.

With the syrup "poured up" and the kettle cleaned, all attention turned inside the barn where the camp stew was cooking in a pot, but not just any pot.

Campbell said the large cooker is oil heated. The oil is inside the wall of the cooker, originally used to make cosmetics – lipstick to be exact. Campbell found it by chance and it proved to be just perfect for cooking camp stew.

"The way the cooker is heated – with oil between the walls – the lipstick wouldn’t stick and neither will the camp stew," Campbell explained. "So you don’t have to be constantly stirring the stew. That way, making camp stew is much easier."

When the stew is done and everyone pushes back from the table, it’s bluegrass time.

"That’s the kind of music I grew up listening to," Campbell said. "My daddy played the fiddle and his brother played, too. Another brother played the guitar and their sister Lureen played the ‘violin.’ It’s the same instrument. You just play it a different way. She went on to play in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra."

Left to right, Kenny Campbell (far left) enjoys playing bluegrass with family and friends who show up for the syrup making. The stew is prepared in a larger cooker that has oil inside the walls. The cooker was originally used to make lipstick.

Campbell said playing music was the only entertainment available to his family.

"They would play music until bedtime and most of them were accomplished musicians because they had plenty of practice," he recalled. "They would move the furniture out of one room of the house and that’s where they would play and square dance."

Campbell said the musicians learned from each other.

"Nothing was written down," he said. "That’s how I learned to play the guitar, from listening to and watching other pickers."

His dad Newton Campbell was legendary among Alabama fiddlers. He played all around the area and entered local and state fiddling contests.

"My dad never entered a contest that he didn’t win first place," Campbell said. "I played guitar with my dad and my friend, the late Reynolds Rushing, backed his mom on the guitar. His mother was one of the best fiddle players around. When she died, Reynolds started playing fiddle. When my dad died, I wanted to play fiddle and I tried because I really wanted to play it, but it was not in me to play fiddle."

Campbell has been blessed in that he enjoys all kinds of music – except rock and rap. "I’m not even sure that’s music."

"But it’s bluegrass that’s in my bones," he said. "It’s what I grew up with and what I love."

So, each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Campbell basks in the memories of the days when he was a boy, chewing green cane and sopping a biscuit in syrup made from green cane juice and sitting on the porch listening to the bluegrass music his family played.

And, when the day is done and the green cane syrup has been bottled, the camp stew is on the table and the bluegrass is playing in the barn, Kenny Campbell straps on his guitar, tunes it a time or two and joins the band.

As the old Shaker song says, "’Tis a gift to be simple." Kenny Campbell has the gift.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Chemical Weapons Prevention

In addition to the many honors and awards Will Carpenter of Chesterfield has received from universities and agribusiness, he and his wife Hellen enjoyed the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to an organization he played a key role in founding. An interesting side note is that Hellen is the granddaughter of Dr. James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball late in the 19th century.

Retired Ag Chemical Exec. Contributes to Nobel Peace Prize Efforts

by Jim Erickson

An organization featured in the news early in December is one probably unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the world. Since that news event – the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons – the number who could tell you very much about that entity probably isn’t much greater.

One person who knows the organization as few others do is Will Carpenter, now a retired Monsanto Co. executive. His familiarity stems from the key role he played in developing the international treaty that created the OPCW and his subsequent service as the U.S. representative to, and co-chair of, its Science Advisory Board.

That effort spanned more than two decades and, for much of that time, was in addition to his work at Monsanto, a career during which he was instrumental in developing and marketing a number of well-known products including the herbicides Lasso and Roundup.

"Back in 1971, I once had two-thirds of the world’s supply of Roundup sitting on my desk," he recalled.

His desk wasn’t all that big, but it was enough to hold the 18 quarts constituting a major percentage of the chemical that existed then.

Carpenter was born and raised in rural Mississippi, the son of a county agricultural Extension agent. Not surprisingly, he developed an early interest in the industry that would become his life’s work.

A Mississippi State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in soil science, he went on to earn a doctorate in plant biochemistry and physiology from Purdue University.

Carpenter joined Monsanto in 1958 as a research biochemist and rose through the ranks to become vice president and general manager of the company’s new products division.

His involvement in the development of an international chemical weapons treaty began in 1978 when the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency asked the Chemical Manufacturers’ Association (now the American Chemistry Council) to participate in creating the pact.

"The thinking was that the (chemical) industry absolutely had to participate in the treaty process," Carpenter said. "After all, that’s where the expertise was, and companies in the industry were the ones that would be living with whatever treaty emerged."

With Monsanto’s agreement, Carpenter accepted the call. With five other industry colleagues he persuaded to join him, their role was to serve as "honest brokers" between all the parties involved including chemical companies, diplomats, and political and military leaders throughout the world.

To say it wasn’t an easy task would be a major understatement.

One major challenge was finding ways to balance chemical companies’ insistence on safeguarding their proprietary knowledge with the need for effective steps to make sure any treaty could accomplish its goals. The interests of various nations’ political and military leaders also had to be taken into account.

One early point of agreement in Carpenter’s group was that the treaty had to include plant inspections and other steps to prove nations and chemical companies were in compliance.

"Post-World War I, the League of Nations had a chemical weapons treaty. But there were no verification procedures in it so it was of no value," Carpenter said.

"At the end of the day, history, logic and fact demanded it (verification)," he stated.

Another point of early consensus among Carpenter’s team was that everyone they talked to would hear the same story, not different ones tailored to whatever this or that group wanted to hear.

Carpenter readily admits to feeling discouraged at times during the 15 years it took to complete the treaty, known officially as the Chemical Weapons Convention.

"We found differences between various departments in our own government could be as great as those between our nation and Russia, for example. Fortunately, though, such instances were rare," he observed.

"Sure, there were compromises along the way. Our contribution was coming up with a treaty that was tough in its verification procedures, but also one that industry around the world could live with."

The treaty had to be ratified by at least 65 nations before it went into effect. To date, 190 countries have done so. Among those that haven’t are North Korea, Egypt, Angola and South Sudan. Israel and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) have signed the treaty, but have not yet ratified it.

The treaty contained a number of aggressive timelines and not all have been met, Carpenter noted. However, he firmly believes it’s better to look at what has been accomplished.

For example, 80 percent of the world’s stockpiles of chemical weapons have been destroyed under the close supervision of OPCW, the entity created to implement the treaty’s provisions. In recent weeks, the organization also was put in charge of steps to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

OPCW is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands. And while many assume the organization is part of the United Nations, it’s not. The two work closely together, but are separate, independent entities.

The chemical weapons treaty is based on science. However, science changes constantly, a fact that led OPCW to create the Science Advisory Board to make sure the organization kept pace with new developments. Carpenter was the first U.S. representative to serve on that body and was its co-chair during his 3 years as a member.

Carpenter was pleased to learn this year’s Nobel Peace Prize would go to the OPCW.

"There were some people who thought that meant I had won the award," he said with a smile. "I just tell them not to overemphasize my contributions because there were many other people also involved, working on other parts of the treaty."

A suburban St. Louis, Mo., resident, Carpenter, 83, retired from Monsanto in 1992, but has remained active. Among other things, he has served on a number of corporate and advisory boards including the initial board of Aetos Technologies and its subsidiaries until 2008.

Aetos was founded as a financial partnership with its management team, private investors and Auburn University to commercialize and market technologies developed at research institutions.

Coach’s Dilemma

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Deciding which crisis to attack first is always a dilemma. Do you look for the fire extinguisher or call 911? Do you shoot the skunk off the porch first or go warn the children? Once the proverbial fork in the road is taken, there’s usually no way to go back. Thankfully, life’s crises are seldom life threatening, but they can sure look that way on the front end. The other day, one of our young coaches was faced with a difficult choice his life had not prepared him for.

Besides teaching high school history and geography, besides coaching high school and junior high girls in cross country, basketball, track, tennis and golf, he also supervises the physical education classes for the elementary students, grades third through fifth. At our tiny rural school that number is less than 20 kids. In addition to calisthenics, running laps around the gym, dodgeball and other indoor games, the coach likes to take the kids outside to run. After being cooped up inside classrooms all day that is usually a welcome break.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a track at the school, at least not a conventional one. We have a worn-down trail roughly in the shape of an oval in the back of a pasture. It’s owned by a local rancher who is also the father of a student and a school board member. The kids have to work around the livestock kept there. Recently, the coach loaded his herd of rambunctious elementary students into a short bus and made the trek down the dirt road to where the "track" is located.

There was a horse at the fence eyeing the rowdy kids as they filed off the bus. The coach opened the gate to let the kids begin their workout. When that horse saw an escape route, he bolted out of the gate. The coach watched the horse trot across the open pasture and then looked back at the group of young’uns wandering aimlessly. He wondered to himself as he looked back and forth between the horse and the kids, "Which one should I tend to?" Not having his own children or a horse, he wasn’t sure which would be easier to corral. After a few seconds of deliberation, he went to round up the children.

He then explained the situation to them and that they would have to help bring the horse back. They listened wide-eyed. They adore him like lots of kids do their coaches; they would do just about anything he asks of them.

"Here’s what we’re going to do," he began. "We are all going to hold hands and spread out as far as our arms will allow. Next, we are going to walk slowly towards the horse and get around behind him. Then we will begin walking him slowly back towards the gate he escaped from."

There were the usual protests from kids not wanting to hold hands with "so-and-so" because they had "cooties" or whatever. But soon they all grabbed hands and formed a human chain. They didn’t have to get too close to the horse before he got antsy. Unlike the coach, he didn’t need even a minute to ponder his choices. He galloped towards the gate, kicking up clods of mud as he went. He went right back in there, relieved to be away from the excited kids.

They were so proud of the accomplishment that they cheered and gave one another high-fives. Maybe the kids thought their moment of "cowboying" earned them a reprieve from their normal workout. But no interruption, no matter how novel, ever deters the coach from his goals. He is so methodical and focused he rarely gets sidetracked. He just smiled and uttered his signature phrase, "Back to work."

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

Come Alive Outside

The Alabama Department of Conservation was at the event demonstrating Alabama’s wildlife and the programs they have to get you outside.

Event Attracts Young People to Outdoor Activity

by Luci Davis

The Come Alive Outside Challenge found its way to Alabama for the 2013 competition. The competition is sponsored by John Deere and JP Horizons Inc. The Challenge was created to bring high school FFA students together with college Horticulture students. John Deere saw a way to get young people out in their communities to take action and "Come Alive Outside." The contest was brought to Alabama this year when Auburn University hosted the Professional Landcare Network’s Student Career Days.

Left to right, Elmore County Junior Master Gardeners were there sharing what the program does for the schools in Elmore County. Jimmy K. Lanier, founder of the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail, discusses the many trails and hiking adventures the area has to offer.

Congratulations to the Elmore County 4-H and FFA for winning the 2013 Come Alive Outside Challenge. Seven groups from around the state entered the competition, but only one could come out on top. The Elmore County 4-H and FFA group won $1,500 for their program. This Come Alive Outside Challenge was a two-part event: 1) Encouraging folks to join the Come Alive Outside movement during the event itself and 2) asking for your vote for the best five-minute video capturing the event’s ability to portray the essence of "Come Alive Outside." Also, part of the competition was determined by the input from the Auburn University Horticulture student mentor Jack LeCroy. LeCroy, Elmore County 4-H leaders and youth, Junior Master Gardener leaders and youth, and Wetumpka High School FFA students came together and planned a fabulous event held June 15. The group worked hard to advertise their event through a variety of channels to ensure a good turnout.

Betty Benjamin demonstrates the art of Horse Driving with some young Elmore County residents.

Fort Toulouse National Historic Park came alive for an incredible day of sharing the outdoors with the citizens of Elmore County and surrounding areas.

"True simplicity in event planning was inviting community leaders, groups and individuals to participate by sharing their love of Coming Alive Outside," LeCroy stated.

He went on to comment about the importance of expressing the true meaning of Come Alive Outside from the community’s perspective in their own voices.

The team approach continued when they began organizing the participants for the event. Local community clubs/groups were asked to participate in the event activities in various ways. Even groups with prior engagements still participated by having handouts and flyers available for display during the event. Groups represented through handouts and table displays were the Coosa Paddling Club, Coosa River Keepers, Trail of Legends, Wetumpka YMCA, Piedmont Birding Trail, Elmore County Humane Society and Heroes of the Water. The local Wetumpka Bonnie Plants representative donated plants for display at the Junior Master Gardeners table. In all, over 25 groups were scheduled to share their perspective of Come Alive Outside.

Central Alabama Master Gardeners were a large supporter of this wonderful event. They were on hand to share their love for gardening, discuss composting and demonstrate the use of rain barrels. JMG, a 4-H youth gardening program, was highlighted by Suzanne George, a Central Alabama Master Gardener who volunteers her time at Holtville Middle School with their JMG 4-H club. Many CAMGA members received JMG Leader Certification and are now actively involved as JMG leaders in middle schools throughout Elmore County.

The Central Alabama Beekeepers Association was teaching about our bees and the many uses of honey. What a great hobby to get you outside.

Dawn Cermak, also a CAMGA member, enjoys sharing outdoor gardening and nature activities with preschool-age children. Theresa Jones, Dawn’s 4-H co-leader for a local neighborhood club, came with her daughter to share 4-H club information. She, like most parents, was surprised to find our 4-H membership is free. While the co-leaders talked to interested adults, the children demonstrated 4-H arts and crafts.

Many local teenage 4-Hers were out demonstrating the many outdoor activities available through 4-H, including livestock clubs, hiking, gardening and many others. Marie Powell, local high school arts teacher, member of the Outdoor Women Unlimited club and 4-H Volunteer, shared examples of re-purposing and adding art to enhance gardens and provide functionality to someone’s garden using other people’s by-products. Powell works with the JMG club at her school decorating pots, garden labels and simply making the garden more attractive. The list of participants, food vendors and the Fort Toulouse activities could go on and on.

LeCroy did mention how impressed he was by the visitors to the park who also enjoyed the events of the day. Archeology college students and their professor from Chicago joined in on the fun, as they demonstrated how their careers allow them to spend time outdoors. Campers from as far away as Canada enjoyed seeing what outdoor activities Elmore County had to offer. Visitors enjoyed learning about Alabama’s vast diversity in nature and historical events. State Representative Greg Wren was also in attendance and invited folks to Come Alive Outside and enjoy what the Alabama outdoors has to offer and suggested it be shared with family and friends.

To see the videos from all the Alabama Come Alive Outside Challenge participants, visit LeCroy and the Elmore County team want to thank everyone who participated in making this event a success, by doing and expressing how you Come Alive Outside and desire for others to do the same! As the Come Alive Outside motto says, "Everybody wins when somebody goes outside!"

What a fabulous event on a beautiful day.

"Often we get so busy in daily lives, we forget the riches of natural beauty and the wonderful adventures that surround us," LeCroy concluded. "The team discovered Come Alive Outside is vast and an adventure for all ages. It was a thrill to see the kaleidoscope of perspectives from those who dare to make the adventure and share their experience."

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

Corn Time


Crack the Whip

by Corky Pugh

Crack the Whip is a simple outdoor children’s game involving physical coordination and is usually played in small groups, either on grass or ice. One player, chosen as the "head" of the whip, runs (or skates) around in random directions, with subsequent players holding on to the hand of the previous player. The entire "tail" of the whip moves in those directions, but with much more force toward the end of the tail. The longer the tail, the more the forces act on the last player, and the tighter they have to hold on.

As the game progresses, and more players fall off, some of those who were previously located near the end of the tail and have fallen off can "move up" and be in a more secure position by grabbing onto the tail as it is moving, provided they can get back on before some of the others do. There is no objective to this game other than the enjoyment of the experience.

According to the Wikipedia definition, references to this game go back to the 1890s in England. The game is illustrated in Winslow Homer’s painting "Snap the Whip" of 1872.

The recent gyrations of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are reminiscent of this old-timey children’s game. Fall Turkey Season - no Fall Turkey Season - then limited Fall Turkey Season; Mandatory Game Check - then No Mandatory Game Check; Deer Zones, Bait and the list goes on. The flurry of regulatory actions makes one’s head spin.

Those who suffer most are not the higher-ups at the Conservation Department. The people at the end of the "tail" are most severely impacted: the hunters and landowners of the state, and the front-line employees of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

Alabama hunters and landowners have a long history of cooperation with rules and regulations laid down by the Department. This cooperation goes back historically to the very beginnings of wildlife conservation in Alabama in the 1920s and 30s. This willing cooperation and voluntary compliance with Conservation Department mandates over the past 90 or so years have been based on the earned credibility of the Department. This earned credibility came hard in the early years and on occasion thereafter.

As Fred Marshall, referencing Mandatory Game Check, recently wrote in The Montgomery Independent, "… there will always be that certain segment who will break our game laws. Honest hunters don’t want to be included in that segment, and they resent the fact that they are being REQUIRED to prove their honesty."

Hunters in Alabama want to understand and comply with the regulations. This voluntary compliance is deeply seated in much more than the avoidance of arrest and subsequent fines. The admittedly self-serving interest of knowing that compliance will result in better hunting opportunities lies at its heart. The highly successful re-establishment of deer and turkey populations stands as a constant reminder to all.

Well-founded research has consistently shown that complex rules and regulations have a detrimental effect on hunting participation. Many, many hunters will choose to stay at home rather than run the risk of violating the law.

Interestingly, Alabama came to be a destination state for hunting because of our abundant game populations and easy-to-follow regulations. Ask one of the some 44,000 out-of-state hunters who travel to our state each year to hunt, and they will tell you that Alabama is a mecca compared to most other states, and that simple, straightforward rules and regulations play an important part in that package.

The front-line employees - Conservation Enforcement Officers and Biologists, as well as highly-critical administrative support staff - are placed in the absolutely untenable position of trying to explain and justify rules and regulations, only to have the rug jerked out from under them by reversals by higher-ups. Such reversals would not occur if regulations were on sound footing supported by both valid science and well-vetted public support. In the recent instances, both were missing. It’s the organizational equivalent of whiplash.

Put yourself in the shoes of a career employee of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, more than likely the only uniformed presence of the Conservation Department at the local level, trying to explain all this in a credible way to the public without being disrespectful of the Commissioner. Multiply this times 326 (the number of employees) or so, and you will have some sense of the impact on morale and getting the critical work of the Division done. The manner in which the career professional employees of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries have handled this is living testimony to their dedication and resiliency.

But the most tragic aspect is reflected in the lost credibility for the Conservation Department. The reversals of direction are not the problem. Anybody with walking-around sense knows the wisdom of changing direction when you find you have erred. Will Rogers put it this way: "When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging." Credibility is closely related to trust. You only get trust one place - trustworthiness. Key elements of trustworthiness are predictability and consistency.

The problem is the ill-conceived, half-thought-out decisions to start with. Any references to the need for more data are suspect at best. Wildlife management by its very nature is not a precise undertaking. A working knowledge of sound game management principles and practices - which by the way is held by a fair percentage of Alabama hunters and landowners - causes many to question exactly where the Conservation Department is headed. The most benign theory is that the insatiable desire for "more data" is driving the direction of things.

Fred Marshall reported that those he talked with said the measure and associated fine smacked of "revenue enhancement." Republicans are supposed to be about less government intervention in peoples’ lives, not more. The requirement of children under 16, seniors over 65, Lifetime License holders and landowners hunting on their own land to first obtain a Department-issued "Harvest Exempt License Privilege Number" ($4.25 if over the phone) before hunting or face arrest and a subsequent fine hardly meets this criteria.

It’s all quite perplexing. The growing public sentiment is that the flurry of regulatory actions is a side show diverting public attention from the real issue - bait.

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


Eggs and Chickens

Cason, left, and Rolley Len enjoy feeding and watching the chickens.

by Christy Kirk

Down at the end of a long dirt road sat a neat one-story house with a tidy yard. There was no electricity or water running to the house. The house belonged to my great-aunt Daisy and great-uncle Dave Hollingsworth. My mother, then Sandy Smith, spent many hours at Daisy and Dave’s house. After Dave died, Daisy moved into my mother’s Grandma Pearl’s house, so they saw each other more often after that.

Aunt Daisy was the person who took Mom to Deerman’s Chapel in Steele and taught her about the Bible. They took walks to both the cemeteries near the house, and she taught her about people who were buried there. Daisy warned Mom about the hobos who rode the rails that ran behind the house. Mom has a lot of memories from her visits to their house and many of them involve gathering and preparing food for the rest of the family.

My Great-Grandma Pearl kept chickens at her house. They were Dominickers and my mother helped Pearl with them and even named them: Mutt, Jeff, Ola and Judy. These "pets" were not eaten, but their eggs were. Some of the other chickens were eaten. Mom took care of the new chicks. She played with them and, as they grew, they followed her around the yard.

The Kirks’ chickens usually stay in the coop, but this rooster seems to be enjoying his time outside.

Grandma Pearl had a chalk egg she would put underneath the hens to coax them to sit and hatch their own eggs. One day when my mom was little, she was acting like a chicken sitting on her eggs and Pearl slipped the chalk egg under her. She said her grandma laughed and laughed because Mom thought she had really laid an egg.

Eggs were collected each day and stored in an open bowl on the cabinet rather than being refrigerated. The eggs were used so quickly they never went bad. Mom said that one time, when an egg was broken into the skillet, an embryo was there, so it had to be thrown out. However, when an egg was cracked and a double yolk was discovered that was considered good luck.

While some children today grow up not knowing where any of their food comes from, mother knew exactly where her fried chicken came from. Grandmother Pearl would go out to the chicken coop, pick out a mature chicken and wring its neck. Even though my mother has never been squeamish, she never got the hang of wringing a bird’s neck - although she did try.

Jason and I have had chickens at our house since Rolley Len was a baby. We started with 12 Bantam hens and roosters, and one tough rooster we named Alden after a former coworker. Our birds were free range and roamed the yard. We didn’t eat these chickens, but they laid plenty of eggs, which we did eat.

Having chickens can be an inexpensive way to add protein to your diet, but usually only if your chickens can be out of their pen during the day. They can eat from the land instead of only eating feed you have to buy. Raising your own birds also means you should have healthy, chemical-free chickens to help provide for your family long-term. Whether you keep them in a coop or allow them to roam, the chicken litter can also be a money-saver by being used as fertilizer.

After about 1.5 years, our chickens and roosters started slowly disappearing from the yard. We were down to Alden and another Bantam rooster that stayed on our back porch. Rolley Len named that one Duck and he would stand on the back of a porch chair, peering into a window, and crowing over and over. Being the last two birds left, and the only ones that were named, we were protective of them by making sure they were tucked away at night, but it was not enough.

While I was pregnant with Cason, I came home one day and saw the hawk perched on top of Alden’s fluffy body lying lifeless in the driveway. Feathers were everywhere and it was too much for me. We kept Duck in the pen after that and it was a while before we got more chickens. Our new chickens stay in the coop most of the time. So far we have not had any eggs from them, though, and we have to get our eggs from the store until they decide to lay.

Eggs are one of the most versatile items you can have in your kitchen. Not only can you use them in recipes, but they can stand on their own whether boiled, fried, scrambled or poached. Eggs can be sophisticated in quiche or crepes or as simple sustenance. I remember eating an over-easy egg with crumbled saltines all mashed together as a child and loving it. Whether it is for breakfast or dinner, add an inexpensive protein by having eggs at your next meal. You might be surprised at the variety of dishes you can come up with.

Cheesy Bacon, Asparagus & Spinach Quiche

1 pound bacon, cooked and broken into smaller pieces

2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 bundle asparagus, steamed and chopped

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

½ cup whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Other optional ingredients: diced mushrooms and sautéed, diced onion

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

In a greased quiche or pie pan, place a thin layer of bacon on bottom. Layer spinach and asparagus on top of bacon. Add second layer of bacon on top of the vegetables.

In a medium size bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks, milk and cream together. Add white pepper, nutmeg, salt, pepper and cayenne to liquid mixture and mix until well blended.

Pour the mixture over the ingredients in pie pan.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove and add cheese. Return to oven and bake about 40 more minutes. Remove and let set for 20 minutes before serving.

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

Farm Safety and More!

Rave Reviews for Geraldine FFA Event

from Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed

It was super! It was educational! It was fun!

These were on-the-spot evaluations by participants of Geraldine FFA’s first Farm Safety Day held in November 2013 in the town park in Geraldine.

And while these assessments were definitely on target, the event was much more, according to alumni member James Parrish, a now retired FFA advisor who helped facilitate and conduct the day from start to finish.

"I would sum up the event as a gigantic exercise in cooperation and leadership development," Parrish said.

Parrish supported his statement with a bevy of reasons why.

Geraldine FFA’s Farm Safety Day was a success because it was well planned and organized. FFA members Joseph Poore and Alex Combs move tables to be used in the instructional component of the event. FFA safety instructors Dylan Garner (lying down) and Alexis Fowler (standing at right) followed the lesson plans provided by the Progressive Ag Foundation on farm safety. The foundation also provided participants with t-shirts and goody bags as well as furnishing $l million in liability insurance coverage.

Regarding the cooperation, Parrish pointed out, off the top of his head, he could name five groups or agencies who helped with the event. These included the town mayor and council members who furnished not only park facilities but also a tractor and mower; area businesses who donated food items and other supplies; Geraldine school principal Steve Street and his third-grade teachers who arranged for 80 third graders to participate in the project; the Geraldine FFA chapter officers who recruited student instructors and facilitators; and six Geraldine FFA Alumni members who cooked and assisted with preliminaries.

Geraldine FFA members Brook Rosas and Andrew Fricks taught tractor safety to third graders at the Geraldine FFA Farm Safety Day. Geraldine High School students come from rural areas and need to know how to be safe in farming-related environments. The “Big Orange Machine” really captured the students’ interest.

Relative to leadership development, Parrish noted, in addition to planning the event, FFA officers and their advisor recruited 37 members who served as facilitators and student instructors for six different safety areas: lawn equipment, bicycle, tractor, chemical, itchy plants and stingy bugs, and home alone/stranger danger safety. The FFA members got hands-on experience not only in executing lesson plans on the safety topics but in interacting with the third grade participants. Ten FFA members served as guides and assisted students as they rotated between the six safety-instructional areas.

Chip Blanton of Fort Payne coordinated the Farm Safety Day which was his 17th safety event to coordinate, most of which were for the Fort Payne FFA when Blanton taught agribusiness education there. Blanton noted, initially, The Progressive Farmer magazinesponsored the safety project, but now the program is administered through the Progressive Ag Foundation which conducted 485 safety days in the United States and Canada last year. The foundation furnishes student/teacher lesson plans, t-shirts for participants, goody bags and a $1 million insurance policy to cover program participants.

A group of the third graders, the focus of the Geraldine FFA Farm Safety Day project, take a refreshment break from the instruction on safety topics provided by FFA members. They rated the safety day as a “super” activity.

Terry Johnson, Geraldine FFA advisor, was elated with the project.

"We’ve worked on it since August," Johnson said. "It engaged over 125 participants and moved like precision clockwork."

Besides Parrish, FFA alumni participants included Sammy Harris, Tim Guest, Larry Shellhorse, Larry Lingerfelt and Marcus Combs. Regular FFA members who worked on the project included Alixis Fowler, Jarred Gillispie, Diana Hernandez, Selene Hernandez, Joan Hernandez, Cody Maddox, Alicia Brumbeloe, Gustavo Hernandez, Hannah Grant, Alex Combs, Sara Phillips, Katie Heath, Danielle Phillips, Andrew Fricks and Brooke Rosas as student instructors; Kylie Oliver, Tate Richey, Austin Brown, Joseph Poore, Cory Hood, Wyatt Williams, Karrigan Martin, Seth Gilliland, Hope Norwood and Peyton Dowdy as guides; Macy Price, Emily Willoughby, Stephanie Jones and Desirae Hancock as lunch servers; Levi Childress and Bailey Blocke as water boy/girl; Dalton Garner, Alec Gibson, Steven Guffey, Jackson Gentry and Jake Bearden for set-up/take down; and Dakota Gilbert as garbage man.

Sammy Harris gave an appropriate wrap-up of the activity.

"A hallmark of the project was it allowed the FFA members to do a good deed and have fun while doing it," Harris said.

Feed Your Fingernails

by Nadine Johnson

This column is about my fingernails. For some reason, I was born with a very poor excuse for fingernails. They were flimsy and paper thin. I’ve often compared them to onionskin paper, like was used for correspondence during WWII.

Many years ago, I heard that if I took gelatin it would improve the texture of my nails. I probably took a gallon of these capsules. Finally I realized they were not helping. I smoothed my torn ragged nails each night with a file. I carried a nail clipper in my uniform pocket (I was a nurse, you know) for quick nail repair.

Today my nails are so thick and strong I almost have to use a rasp to file them. To explain the improvement I’ll have to mention horsetail and Bone-Up. Most of my readers are aware these are the products I take for the control of osteoporosis. (I’m not going to bore you with that story again right now.) One day when I was out of horsetail I substituted a product called Herbal CA. It contains a mixture of herbs including horsetail; therefore, I knew it would serve my nutritional needs.

Horsetail is high in silica. It aids in the absorption of calcium if the two are taken together.

Time went by and I continued to take Herbal CA. Several months later I realized a marked improvement in my nails. There had been no other changes in my supplemental intake; I can only assume this product was responsible. I take one capsule twice daily (the same amount as I took of horsetail). My thick, strong nails require very little maintenance. They are never ragged and don’t develop hang nails. I don’t like long nails so they are filed about once weekly.

The texture of my hair has been improved along with my nails. When I was young, my hair had very good body. While taking oral cancer treatment this changed. For a while I feared I was going to be bald. Instead it just got thin and limp. I actually made this statement, "God gave me wonderful hair. I didn’t appreciate it properly, so He took it away from me." Guess what – He has given it back!

There was no other change in my diet or intake of supplemental nutrients; therefore, I have to assume I owe this improvement to taking Herbal CA instead of just plain horsetail.

Herbal CA contains alfalfa, marshmallow, plantain, horsetail, oatstraw, wheat grass and hops. They are all very good herbs. Each one, singly, provides us with nutritional benefits. Mixed together into a single capsule, they have certainly improved both my nails and my hair.

As always, I advise you to consult your physician before taking any herbal remedy.

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

For a Career with Growth Prospects – Get Yourself an Agricultural Degree

Nikki Little of Bankston wants to be involved in agriculture by financing people in rural areas. She is also a great advocate for agriculture through the use of social media.

With the world’s population expected to be at 9 billion people by the year 2050, there is not going to be a shortage of mouths to feed. In fact, the question is who is going to feed them and how? The next generation of agriculturalists is stepping up to the plate in a variety of fashions.

by Anna Leigh Peek

A story by CNBC has recently been circulated on the Internet quoting investor Jim Rogers, who claims students should "Skip the MBA, get an agriculture degree." Some in the business world are baffled by this idea and those in agriculture are nodding their heads.

Rogers’ reasoning behind his belief is that the finance industry is about to slip into secular decline. Rogers believes the center of our economy will not be finance in the upcoming years but production of real goods.

Majors in agriculture almost always lead to a job upon graduation, and many of Auburn’s agriculture programs have 100 percent job placement as do other schools offering agricultural programs. The starting pay is also typically higher than most entry-level positions in other industries.

What many students do not realize is a degree in agriculture does not mean you will be out in a field wearing overalls and playing in the dirt. In fact, most will not.

Take Abbie Adcock, for example, who grew up on her family’s poultry farm in Woodville. She is studying poultry science and is on the production track at Auburn, but is interested more in the quality assurance, marketing or sales aspect of the industry. Adcock wants to ensure consumers have a safe product they want to buy.

Mark Phillips, who has a desire to return home to the farm, works for a farmer in the Auburn community. During the fall he balances his time between the classroom and field.

Joshua Carter of Prattville is a senior who last fall changed his major from pre-med in the College of Sciences and Mathematics to agronomy and soils in the College of Agriculture at Auburn.

"I came to Auburn wanting to make a difference in the world by studying diseases of humans and pursuing a pre-med degree, but now I’m learning about diseases of plants and the importance of agricultural science," Carter said. "What I’ve discovered is that this is a vitally important applied science with far-reaching and profound effects on human health."

Nikki Little, a senior in agricultural economics, wants to help finance people in rural areas. She has applied to the Financial Planning Program at the University of Alabama.

"This graduate program is in line with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and after I graduate I will sit for the CFP exam for the CFP certification. I want to be a financial advisor in a rural area and help ordinary people plan out their retirements, and children and grandchildren’s education," Little explained.

The common misconception is that if you are studying agriculture you will become a farmer - that is not typically true. There are some students studying agriculture who will actually be involved in production agriculture.

Mark Phillips of Headland is a senior in agronomy. He grew up around farms of his grandparents and uncle. From an early age, he had an interest in farming and knew it was what he wanted to do.

Phillips did not have any intentions of going to college, but after pressure from his family he went to Auburn and started in biosystems engineering. After two semesters, he decided he wanted to be closer to the production side of the industry and changed to agronomy and soils.

Although he is away from his family’s farm, Phillips has gained valuable experience working with Robert Miller on his farm in the Loachapoka area.

"What I am learning in the classroom transfers to knowledge I can use in the field," Phillips said. "They just about have to pull me off the tractor when it is time for me to go to class. I’m hoping to be able to farm full time one day."

James Robert Parnell of Stanton also plans to return to his family’s farm upon graduation.

"I’m planning on going back home and running the cattle operation and becoming a partner in our family timber business," Parnell said.

Some graduates with agriculture degrees will return to production agriculture; others will not. However, it will take the combination of both to continue producing the food and fiber to fuel the world.

Today’s young agriculturalists give us hope for the future. In the agriculture industry, there are so many ways to contribute and the next generation is finding ways to make an impact. It will be these young people who have a major part to play in the years to come.

For those trying to decide on a career path, these upperclassmen all share the same sentiment: Choose a degree in agriculture - its degrees are in demand, it’s more than a job, it is a lifestyle, and agriculture presents challenges to be solved.

Do you think jobs in agriculture today look like American Gothic? Think again.

Anna Leigh Peek is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Game Meat Under Pressure

Janice Hall, Alabama Cooperative Extension System Food Safety Agent, will be conducting pressure cooking workshops throughout the state.

Re-Enlist Your Steam Cooker for Enhanced Taste and Tenderness

by James Langcuster

Through her work as an Alabama Cooperative Extension System Food Safety Agent, Janice Hall has noted two food trends in recent years: a slight uptick in hunting — at least, partly driven by a desire to reduce food costs - and a keen interest among many overworked, overstressed consumers in reducing the time invested in food preparation.

Drawing on these insights, Hall is reacquainting consumers with pressure cooking, a technique that, while not exactly going the way of the dinosaurs in this age of ready-to-eat microwavable foods, has undergone a sharp decline.

Re-enlisting Pressure Cookers

At workshops throughout the state, Hall is issuing a forthright call for consumers to dust off those pressure cookers and to enlist them once again as an integral component of home cooking.

Pressure cooking works by creating steam that, in turn, builds pressure. A small amount of water or other liquid is placed in the bottom of the cooker and heated to boiling. The steam produced from this boiling, which is mostly trapped under a tightly sealed lid, raises the pressure and temperature to exceptionally high levels, cooking the food in considerably shorter time.

A pressure cooker not only makes meat more tender and tastier, it cooks in a fraction of the time.

Improved Taste and Tenderness

As Hall has discovered through her own experience, pressure cooking is an ideal way not only to reduce the toughness commonly associated with game meat but also to enhance its taste.

"Pressure cooking effectively gelatinizes - breaks down - the connective tissue associated with tough meat, particularly game meats," Hall explained, "but the process also infuses meat with whatever ingredients you choose to add while preserving the natural flavor."

The technique can reduce cooking time by as much as two-thirds in some cases.

A relative newcomer herself to pressure cooking, Hall was sold on the process after successfully cooking her first batch of field peas.

"I burned my first pot, but after I got the hang of it, I couldn’t believe you could cook something that tasted so delicious in such a short time."

Among her most enduring memories associated with pressure cooking: her first serving of lima beans.

"The flavor was unbelievable," she recalled, speaking to a pressure cooking workshop held Oct. 22 in Monroeville.

Ecologically Friendly and Energy Efficient

Pressure cooking is also considered ecologically friendly, requiring less energy than other conventional cooking techniques. It’s an especially convenient cooking option during power outages.

"Whenever the power goes out, it can be safely and efficiently used with an alternative source of energy, whether this happens to be propane, charcoal or wood," Hall said.

Daniel Robinson, state executive director of the Alabama Farm Service Agency, who attended Hall’s workshop last year, is one of many Alabamians who spent his boyhood hunting and fishing to help his family stretch food dollars.

While he rarely hunts now, Robinson still has an affinity for game meat - squirrels, rabbits and turtles - and holds a high regard for pressure cooking as an effective way to tenderize these meats.

"I noticed a big change not only in tenderness but also taste with the ingredients completely enclosed in the meat," he recalled, adding he values the process not only for turning out tastier, tender meats but also in a fraction of the time.

Taking the Process One StepFurther: Pressure Canning

Some hunters are taking this one step further, using pressure canning to preserve game meat.

Dr. Mark Smith, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist and Auburn University associate professor of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, is an avid hunter who not only dresses his deer but pressure cans much of it.

He was first sold on the merits of canning years ago after sampling the fare of a fellow hunter.

"Canned deer meat tastes completely different - it comes out more like roast beef, and there is no gamey taste to it," said Smith, who also pressure cooks squirrel and rabbit, and processes feral hog meat into sausage.

While he’s become an old hand at preserving game meat by pressure canning, Smith cautioned that this process requires some advance preparation and time, though he perceives it is as worth the effort.

"I use the canned meat in a variety of ways - in open-faced sandwiches, in stews, with rice and gravy, with chili, with taco fajitas and even with stroganoff," Smith said. "It adds some diversity to my diet and there’s also a great deal of self-satisfaction and independence that comes with this."

"I stay pretty busy each hunting season canning deer meat for my friends and family," he added.

Pressure CanningImpractical for Some

Pressure canning is less practical for hunters who are accustomed to processors butchering their deer rather than undertaking this task on their own, according to Smith, who dresses his own animals.

Safety a Critical Concern

Safety is a critical concern with all aspects of pressure cooking and canning, but especially with canning. An inadequately sealed container of meat can provide a haven for potentially deadly bacteria and toxins - a lesson driven home earlier this year to a Washington state attorney who used an old family recipe to can elk meat and almost lost his life after exposure to botulism.

"Anyone involved in pressure cooking and canning should follow all the recommendations prescribed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," said Dr. Jean Weese, an Alabama Extension food safety specialist and Auburn University professor of Poultry Science who heads the Alabama Extension food safety team.

Weese said no home-canned meat product should be held for more than a year.

"Pressure-canned meats, compared with their commercial counterparts, are more prone to losing their vacuum over time, and for this reason, we tell home canners they should consider 12 months the limit for carrying over canned meat products," Weese concluded.

James Langcuster is a Specialist III in Communications & Marketing-Department with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Handy Tool “Spans” the Ages & Eliminate That Tinny Taste

Listen to bluegrass and enjoy a simpler way of life.

by John Howle

“Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends than any music in the world. You meet people at festivals and renew acquaintances year after year.” -- Bill Monroe

Bluegrass is a simple form of music. It reflects a simpler time of life, and it can be performed without electricity or an elaborate stage set up. If you contrast bluegrass with today’s mainstream music, you see drastic differences. I wonder what Ralph Stanley or Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs would think about Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber’s performances on and off stage?

I just can’t picture a bluegrass singer being escorted through a crowd while screaming profanities at the audience. I also can’t picture a bluegrass performer dancing on stage mimicking the rutting habits of wild animals in Africa. It may seem tame by today’s standards, but I’ll take a bluegrass performer any day over the mainstream "American Idol" performers. Visit www.alabamabluegrassmusicfestivals.orgor you can Google bluegrass festivals in Alabama.

The Creative Crescent Wrench

A crescent wrench is versatile and the hole in the handle can be used to tighten gate hinge bolts.

The early form of the adjustable wrench or "crescent wrench" was developed by English engineer Richard Clyburn in 1842 and was referred to as an English key or spanner because of its adjustable jaws. This is a handy tool to use in modern-day times.

The hole at the end of the crescent wrench is ideal for tightening gate bolts used to hold pasture gates. Simply slip the hole in the end of the handle over the gate hinge-pin and tighten once you’ve drilled the bolt pilot hole.

Many times, the crescent wrench can take the place of multiple sizes of wrenches. There are times when you shouldn’t use a crescent wrench - namely, when the nut is rounded off or the nut is extremely tight on the bolt. In this case, move to a boxed in, accurately sized single wrench

Frosty Forage

Well, here it is. The heart of winter is upon us, and you’ve been feeding winter hay to your cattle herd. One of the biggest expenses is winter feed costs. Tall fescue has a strong sod tolerant to trampling, and it suffers little damage for the following growing season.

Stockpiled forage can save money and extend the grazing season.

If you are grazing stockpiled fescue this January, to make sure your stands of forage are healthy for the following season, limit the amount of grazing. Once the forage has been grazed down to about two inches, remove the livestock from the field if possible.

Mississippi State University has conducted experiments showing you can winter a cow with a young calf adequately with three hours of grazing each day with only a partial feeding of fair quality hay or silage. The idea is the cattle graze only long enough to get a fill, and this reduces trampling damage and excessive manure on the field that can reduce the amount of desirable forage.

Another option for winter grazing management is to restrict the grazing to a three day supply. This will also extend the number of grazing days. Stockpiled tall fescue forage will likely become deficient in nutrients as late winter progresses, so it is critical to provide minerals, supplemental energy and protein in late winter and early spring. This is especially important for animals with higher nutrient requirements such as lactating cows and cow/calf pairs.

Good Ole Green Beans

Well, I’ve run out of canned green beans from the summer. Nothing that comes from the store compares with the fresh taste of green beans canned in glass jars. Maybe like me, you’ve had to resort to buying and eating green beans out of a can. If so, you can make them taste better with this tip.

First, open the can of green beans and drain out all the water. This water has been stored in the can and it makes the beans taste like a tin can. Once the water is drained and the beans are washed, put them in a pot to cook with fresh water. Add your usual seasonings, and the tin-canned green beans will taste better. They won’t taste as good as those canned in glass jars, but they also won’t taste like the metal of a tin can.

Fishing swivels can help in organizing your keys.

Fishing Gear for Your Keys

When you have a handful of keys for the farm, the home and the job, keeping up with them can be a hassle. I found myself with multiple key rings linked together, and this is an uncomfortable proposition in the pocket. Some heavy duty tackle can remedy the problem of bunched-up keys.

I use heavy-duty fishing swivels to separate groups of keys. Since the swivel is designed to rotate and turn in multiple positions, it can keep the keys from bunching up in your pocket. Also, it is easier to get the swivel clip open instead of trying to pry open key rings.

This January, while you are warming around the fire, put on a little bluegrass music and enjoy simpler times. Get the kids to download a song or two from iTunes, and that will help keep the tradition going. Finally, be sure to visit a bluegrass gathering in your area. You’ll be amazed at those people who can create music without electricity and elaborate stage productions.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

How's Your Garden?

The lovely Bradford pear is only one example of invasive plants and diseases that have become problematic in our landscapes.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Nice Plants with a Dark Side

Kudzu may the best-known example of what can happen when an introduced plant becomes invasive. The Japanese beetle is an example of an invasive insect that came in from another country. Neither has a natural check in our local natural system of checks and balances because the co-factors that would ordinarily keep them from over-running their environment aren’t likely present.

Most invasive insects and plant diseases come in unnoticed on produce or plants - in spite of agricultural inspections and restrictions. However, many problematic landscape plants are already in our yards. Some are still being sold, others maybe not, but there aren’t as many restrictions on ornamentals as there are on insects and diseases that can wipe out agricultural crops. However, if you spend much time in the countryside and see how runaway plants can choke out native growth, it might inspire you to carry a machete and self-impose restrictions on what you grow.

So what is in your garden that is invasive? A hedge of Chinese privet? A pretty Bradford pear? A fragrant mimosa? Chinese tallow tree (popcorn tree) with beautiful fall color? Chinese wisteria with fragrant late winter blooms? These are plants we’ve come to know and love, but they also have a dark side. They’ve broken out of our landscape and are going wild, growing fast and furiously especially in any area disturbed by construction, road building, forestry practices, etc.

So, to learn more about what is high on the list of things to watch for take a look at the website of the Alabama Invasive Plant Council. They feature an easy to use list of plants ranked according to level of concern. Visit the website of the Alabama Invasive Plant Council at

Check out the North American Bluebird Society website to learn more about the beautiful bluebird.

Ground Cover Clean Up

Now is a good time to trim ground covers such as mondo and liriope to get rid of old, tattered foliage. This month, in warmer parts of the state, the new leaves begin sprouting from down in the crown of the plant; so don’t wait until spring. By waiting, you risk clipping the new foliage and the ends will be tattered all year. If you want an even, smooth ground cover from a planting still in clumps, dig each one up, pull apart the clumps and set the plantlets about six inches apart over the area you want to cover. If the ground cover is not on a slope, mulch with fine pine bark between the clumps to help keep weeds from sprouting in the disturbed soil.

Easy Resource for More About Bluebirds

Bluebirds are birds we all hope to spot. Like purple martins, there is a subset of bird lovers who focus just on this group of birds. You can learn more about bluebirds and even download some factsheets on things like "getting started with bluebirds" and "how to build a nestbox" at the North American Bluebird Society website at

Take a Hard Look at the Lawn

The bird’s nest fern is a better choice for the house than Boston fern. The thick, leathery leaves are not as sensitive to indoor environments.

Look at your lawn. Do any winter weeds bother you? If so, consider spot treating henbit and other broadleaf winter weeds with a liquid herbicide in a stretch of time where the weather is predicted to be mild. Spot spraying minimizes overall use of the herbicide. Sometimes a heavy presence of weeds indicates the grass is not thriving because it’s just not suited for that spot. Is the lawn thin because of shade, soggy soil, tree roots or other conditions unfavorable to grass? If so, it may be worth considering alternatives such as ground cover, mulch or a mass planting of low-growing shrubs.

Bird’s Nest Fern Won’t Shed

Are you always picking up fern fronds from the floor underneath your ferns? Boston-type ferns we move indoors for winter are notorious for this as they try to get used to the lower light and drier air inside. There is a better fern for the house. The thick, leathery leaves of bird’s nest fern aren’t as sensitive to the indoor environment. There are several forms of bird’s nest ferns varying in the width of the leaves, but all form a rosette of leathery, easy leaves perfect for a fern stand or table top. Keep them in bright, but not direct, sunlight and keep the soil moist. Feed every couple of months with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half the normal rate to keep the tips of the leaves from turning brown. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, with regular watering between feedings.

This pencil fence, spotted at a San Diego school, is a perfect design for anywhere learning takes place. The boards have been cut and painted to look like pencils.

Pencil Fence

One of the great things about travelling is seeing things that are new and different. While in San Diego this year, I spotted a schoolyard fence made from boards that had been cut and painted so each looked like a pencil. What a perfect design for a school or any place where learning takes place.

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

I Prefer the Smell of Roses to Rotting Leaf Litter

Just look at the finished product! I can even smell the richness though the pages of this magazine. Scratch and sniff? Not really.

by Kenn Alan

I do. I do prefer the smell of roses to rotting leaf litter. However, this time of year, it is hard to find a rose in the garden that has not become as stinky as the rots. In fact, the roses are the rots, along with the other plant materials.

Here in Alabama, we enjoy long, mixed-up autumns and springs, rather than full-blown winters in between. All of the leaves on the oaks, tulip-poplars, hickories and maples are still dropping in January.

I wish, sometimes, we could have a December with temperatures consistently below 40 degrees, rains of three inches per week and occasional winds of 15-20 mph. Then, I could have my leaf and pine straw maintenance taken care of, and my roof and gutters would not have to be power-blown again in January!

It’s January and the leaves are still falling, but of course I have a good use for them.

Ah, "if wishes were horses" … No matter, I love the climate here. My roof is at a 4 and 12 pitch, so it is easy for this old man to walk around and blow the litter to the ground four to five times per year. This also gives me the opportunity to inspect the roofing shingles, chimney, standpipes, ventilation turbines and gutters.

All of the leaf-litter is blown to the ground and then, with the same wonderful blowing action, blown to the back of the Tomato Tower property and gathered at the head of the central compost heap. There is where the magic begins and the best soil is created.

The Tomato Tower composting system works much like a blast furnace, in that all raw materials (compostable materials) are deposited at the top of the heap. The "heap" is positioned at ground level at the back of the gardens. The beginning of the compost system is at ground level, but the final product is deposited at the bottom of the heap (about 10 feet below the ground level). In other words, the compost heap is on a hill.

Left to right, newspaper can be added along the way. Be certain you wet the papers in order to start their decomposition. This is my favorite: shredded documents. Better cover them before the spies get to them!

Leaf litter, grass clippings, potting soil from pots of annual spent plants, small branch clippings, and various and sundry other organic materials are deposited at the top of the heap.

Kitchen scraps, such as all vegetable discards, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, banana peels, corncobs, bread scraps (that I don’t save for the birds and squirrels) and non-animal fat products are added to the top of the compost heap. Sometimes, when I process a lot of vegetables such as peeling 30 to 40 potatoes at one time, I place the peelings into a paper bag and just deposit the whole thing on the top of the heap. Paper breaks down in short order and becomes part of the soil mix.

Left to right, be sure to evenly spread your shredded paper so it doesn’t blow all over the place. This will all become fine soil in a few weeks.

The mixture of yard waste and kitchen waste is lightly stirred and turned with a potato rake nearly every time an ingredient is added. This is done to keep the mixture aerated so it doesn’t smell like rotting garbage. In fact, if you keep the mixture properly aerated, it will begin to smell like rich garden soil in no time at all!

The blast furnace concept of composting works very well for me. One might say that by adding rotting leaf litter at the top, it comes out smelling like a rose at the bottom. Or, "I love the smell of processed compost in the morning! It smells like …" Wait for it … "Victory Garden!"

Make your compost this winter and start amending your planting beds with nature’s magic in the spring.

If you have any questions or comments regarding composting methods, email me at

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I Would Say You Are an Artist

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Len Murphy and one of the stained-glass church windows he helped Chuck Peters create. Right, one of the Georgia church windows installed.

Len Murphy has retired twice in his lifetime: once from the Homewood Police Department where he served as an officer for many years seeing the best and worst of humanity; and once from the engineering test department of Harley Davidson in Talladega.

Add in a successful term as an elected Oneonta City Councilman, numerous beautifully crafted wood items in his home and the homes of family members (there are many trees and other outdoor projects that will be enjoyed for years thanks to his work as an amateur arborist), and a 3-year stint playing bass guitar in the contemporary band at Lester Memorial Methodist Church.

Then there’s the gorgeous landscaping at his and his wife Mary’s spacious home at Limestone Springs with the beautiful natural stone patio and backyard retaining wall they crafted themselves, and even more outdoor projects there, PLUS decorating and other projects at the couple’s part-time home on the Gulf Coast and you’d think Len would be about ready to slow down just a bit.

Left to right, Len Murphy works in his stained glass studio. Len Murphy burnishes the edges of glass with gold foil.

Mary (a former homicide detective with the Birmingham Police Department and now executive director of the Prescott House, an advocacy center for abused and neglected children) and Len do spend as much time as possible enjoying both their homes, but Len’s latest projects are a fulfillment of a lifetime dream: for the past couple of years he’s been crafting beautiful stained glass windows, wall hangings and other decorations.

"I’ve just always been fascinated with stained glass," Len explained. "I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but just couldn’t find anybody to teach me.

Then he discovered Chuck Peters at Cloudland Glass in Cloudland, Ga.

Len Murphy crafted this detailed ocean view for the couple’s master bath.

Peters has been a designer, craftsman and artist throughout his life, and has created stained- glass windows and sculptures since the early 1970s. He, too, began originally as a hobby during his career in the corporate world as an artist, designer and creative director, but his passion for the craft soon meant he had numerous commissions to complete.

His work is now on display throughout the United States and Europe at residences, commercial sites, churches, cathedrals and galleries. Known as a "Master Craftsman," Peters’ love for sculpture and glass has combined to create unique three-dimensional, stained-glass sculptures and more, and Len said he felt blessed to be invited to study with such an artist.

Peters was working on a complete set of stained glass windows for a small church so Len’s education began truly as a "baptism by fire."

Not only did he have to learn to cut the intricate pieces of glass and then solder them in place but they also had to complete intricate adjustments for each window since the aging building was not squared and none of the windows, although close, were of the exact same size.

Especially daunting was making certain the round plates from another artist could be fitted exactly into the tops of each window.

Going by the designs and cutting the intricate glass was intriguing ("Remember I was an engineer," he laughed), but soldering the often tiny pieces in place was detailed and often tedious work.

Above, a close-up of Len Murphy’s unique stained glass cross. Left, the Murphys’ Gulf Coast Christmas tree features stained-glass crosses made by Len.

"When you solder the front side then you have to turn it over and solder the back. It’s really flimsy at that point. He had special tables and equipment he’d made especially so he could turn them over without putting any stress on the windows," Len explained.

Another beautiful window handcrafted by Len Murphy in their Limestone Springs home.

In addition to learning the intricacies of cutting and fitting the beautifully colored pieces of glass, Len also took detailed photos of Peters’ workshop and each individual table for the different areas of work.

Len spent months with Peters soaking in the atmosphere, the techniques and the love of the stained glass.

He learned to not only score the glass, then cut it, but also to grind the edges and then burnish the edges with gold foil, utilizing a specialized machine.

Len sold much of his woodworking equipment amassed through the years in order to have more room at his Limestone Springs’ home basement to outfit a complete stained glass studio patterned heavily on Peters’.

He’s crafted many smaller projects including crosses and other figures for the couple’s Gulf Coast Christmas tree including a cross especially made for Mary detailing the crucifixion.

He has tables of beautiful sheets of glass which he orders, but he never ever throws away even the tiniest bit of colored beauty.

"There’s always a use, always somewhere you can fit in just that little bit of color," he explained.

He has projects in mind utilizing some of his mother’s older costume jewelry, and some of the Christmas crosses include keepsakes from both sides of his and Mary’s families.

Just for fun, one of Len Murphy’s metal crafts: a “Jimmy Buffett”-type clock where it’s “always five o’clock.”

His engineering and draftsman background mean he has crafted some beautiful items others say are nearly impossible!

But it is the larger works that are amazing at their Limestone Springs home.

A vibrant ocean scene completely covers what was a "plain" window above the soaking tub in their master bath.

The arch over the home’s front door, measuring more than 40 inches tall and 60 inches wide was so intricate Len had to have a special helper to assist with the installation.

Len doesn’t plan on selling any of his work and does it primarily for his own enjoyment.

"I have to be in a special mood to solder - to make it pretty," he said.

Talking about the large fish window over the tub he notes, "I fooled around with that design for a long time, probably two months or more."

Len’s latest project was a lighthouse window based on a photo of a South Carolina lighthouse.

When he sent a photo of the completed window to Peters he received this reply: "This was a very nice design, layout, use of the bevels and your soldering has much improved. I would say you ARE an artist."

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

January Doesn’t Move Me

What am I? Look in your own yard and then email me with your answer.

by Herb T. Farmer

January just doesn’t move me like other months in the year. That is why you didn’t get an article from me January of last year. Well, that and the fact I was waiting on the world to end in Mayan Prophecy style (tongue in cheek).

December is slow and crowded with holidays. My new year begins on the Winter Solstice. So, from that time until Groundhog Day is just a waiting game for me. That first five weeks of winter is trying when you get most of your motivation from sunshine.

I’m an old codger (well, not that old) who doesn’t care for the nightlife and I don’t watch TV.

The fact is that January holds the least excitement for me in the garden. I chose most of my seed purchases last month. Not much left to do but get out the leaf blower every few days, take a stick and draw lines in the dirt where crops will be planted, or look at the pictures in the seed catalog to see what the plants will look like when they grow up.

This is the time of year I usually spend a lot of time tinkering in the glass greenhouse, hovering around the heater and getting seed trays ready for planting next month. Soaking up the sunshine and smelling the soils, fertilizers and the blooms on the petunias I overwintered is what I usually do. Nothing seems to get me going this month.

I am fascinated with nature, her colors and her patterns.

Okay folks. I could say I just had an epiphany, but since that isn’t celebrated until January 6, we can just call it a good idea.

While I was struggling to pour words out of my bored brain, I decided to take a break for a couple of days and do something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I just spent two days researching digital cameras online and with photographer friends who know the equipment better than I do. I must have watched YouTube videos for eight straight hours.

Thanks to speedy free delivery, I now have a decent camera to take pictures of the plants that I write about in this column.

Left to right, hardy ferns have been hit by the cold weather and are dropping spores. Camellia sasanqua bud is the last one of the season on this bush. It is usually finished blooming in December. Hydrangea macrophylla showing us some hope for spring.

You probably could tell I like to take my own pictures for this column. Now, as soon as I learn how to use this thing, I hope to give you the best herb and vegetable pictures ever possible. The key is to try to understand all those dials, switches and buttons. The owners’ manual is as thick as a phone directory - and that’s just the English version!

Buds beginning to show on the bay (Lauralis mobalis). Unfortunately, the biters have begun munching on the leaves. Baby onions peeping through the mulch. The hellebores are popping up from seed and blooming on last year’s plants as well.
Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) buds are set in July for a brilliant splash of bright orange color in early March.

It’s time to learn and practice.

I have decided to start keeping a better garden journal and coordinating the plant pictures with the dates and cross-referencing them with the names of the plants in alphabetical order.

Thanks to you, my January just got busy and interesting.

What are you doing this month? Planning your gardening tactics for 2014? Drop me a line. I would really like to know.

I’ll be back next month with some healthy herb tips and lots of pictures!

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

For more information, email me at

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

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

January Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • When Bonnie Plants onion and cabbage transplants are available, plant them in the garden beneath a row cover.
  • Folks in the southern part of the state can plant potatoes in the early part of the month and those in the northern part toward the end or first part of February. Only when the soil is dry enough, dig a trench about a foot deep and place potato pieces with one or more eyes every foot. Fill the trench halfway with good, loose soil and keep filling as the stems emerge leaving about 2 inches above the soil. Fill until the soil is level again.
  • If the soil dries out enough to work, go ahead and prepare a spot for the late February planting of peas and kale.
  • Start seeds of cabbage, early lettuce and, at the end of the month, broccoli.
  • Continue planting container grown ornamentals. Be sure to loosen the roots and the media before backfilling. For slightly pot-bound roots: Cut on three or four sides, shake the roots and media to a loose condition and then re-plant.
  • January is the best month to plant trees, but, as with fruit and nut trees, selection of adapted species is critical for long-term success. Select trees for permanence and durability, not just for fast growth.
  • If a live Christmas tree was purchased, plant outdoors as soon as possible.
  • This is the time to move any perennials in your house that are in the wrong place.
  • Select and plant roses.
  • Sow wildflower seeds.


  • Add lime according to soil test recommendations. For best results in home landscapes, till the lime into the root zone area for the plant you intend to grow. Surface-applied lime reacts very slowly and not as completely as lime mixed into the soil. The sooner the lime is applied in the winter, the more ready you’ll be for spring planting.
  • Fertilize established stone fruit trees with a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as a 3:12:12 formulation with trace elements. Follow label directions.
  • Pansies are by far the most popular winter landscape annual. Deadhead periodically to ensure more blooms. During active growth in the spring, fertilize them about once a month. A dilute liquid feed of 5:10:10 or 5:10:30 will keep them going and growing.
  • Store wood ashes in sealed, fireproof containers. Apply a dusting around baby’s breath, asters, irises, lilies and roses in spring. Do not apply to acid-loving plants. Excess ashes may also be composted in moderation.
  • Actively growing houseplants will benefit from a half strength shot of liquid houseplant fertilizer.
  • Fertilize asparagus beds in late January.
  • Don’t fertilize newly planted trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs as they break ground toward the end of the month. Use an all-purpose granular fertilizer according to label directions, or apply a light dusting of compost.


  • It’s a good time to prune most of your deciduous trees and shrubs.
  • When pruning large limbs always undercut first. This means to cut from the bottom up, one-third of the way through the limb then finish by cutting from the top. The undercut keeps the limb from splitting and breaking off, which could damage the trunk and become an entryway for insects and diseases. Do not cut flush to the trunk; the collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones that help heal wounds.
  • Do not prune fruit trees until March, especially peaches.
  • Grapes should be cut back to the main structure of the plant, leaving two buds per side-shoot as a general rule.
  • Prune roses, but not too much. They needn’t be taken down to the ground like gardeners do in cold-weather areas.
  • Ornamental grass tops should be cut back now. On old established clumps, prune back to 2 feet or so with the younger plantings simply tipped back to remove the brown foliage.
  • Now through mid-February is the time to cut back winter-damaged, unattractive liriope, also known as monkey grass, foliage. Avoid tipping the new growth or there will be brown edges for the year to come. If you do it now before growth begins, you can use a string trimmer or the lawn mower set at its highest setting.


  • Open the end of drip lines and run the system for a few minutes to flush it. Flush every few months to keep your system in optimum working condition.
  • When watering your houseplants, which should be minimal during the winter, do it just enough so the water saturates the soil and comes through the drainage holes; at this time of year, plants left in standing water can suffer root damage.
  • Water outdoor plants in the absence of rain, and especially when freezing weather is expected. Well-hydrated plants are more likely to survive severe temperatures.
  • Be sure to keep an eye on all newly planted items through the winter to ensure they get enough water. An inch a week should be the goal.


  • Read label instructions before applying any pesticide.
  • Apply dormant oil to control scale and other insects on fruit trees. Wait until the temperature will be at least 70 degrees for two days following application.
  • Spray bare rosebushes with dormant copper spray.
  • Apply post-emergence weed control to actively growing broadleaf weeds in your lawn.
  • Cakes of suet hung in trees will attract insect-hunting woodpeckers to your garden.
  • Check all fruit trees for evidence of rodent injury to bark. Use baits, guards or traps where necessary.
  • Near the end of the month, weed the asparagus bed and strawberry plot, then feed the plants and renew the thinning mulches.
  • Every slug you catch before it reproduces can spare you from facing several more generations.
  • If you have rose bushes, rake the fallen leaves and discard them as many disease organisms persist through the winter. Covering them up with new mulch will not solve your disease problems.
  • On mild days, remove winter weeds such as wild onions/garlic and chickweed.
  • Check your houseplants for signs of insect infestations. If treatment is needed, try weekly applications of insecticidal soap or other organic treatment. The shower is a good place to apply it.
  • Quarantine gift houseplants until you determine they are not harboring any pests.


  • Make a resolution to keep a garden journal this year.
  • Check with your county agent to see when the next Master Gardener’s class is offered.
  • Always use room temperature water when watering or misting your houseplants!
  • Apply anti-desiccants to newly-planted evergreens.
  • Clean out your bluebird, wren, martin and other birdhouses to get them ready for February. Martin scouts and first-breeding birds of other species will be in town in February.
  • Brightly colored paints applied to the handles of tools will make them easier to locate in the garden.
  • Check stored fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and apples for bad spots which may lead to decay. Remove and use those which show signs of spoiling. Separate others into slotted trays or bins to increase air circulation and reduce decay possibilities.
  • Check stored summer bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and gladioli to be sure they are not rotting or drying out.
  • Could the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand trucks use a fresh coat of paint?
  • Dust on the foliage of houseplants can clog the leaf pores, so clean them up a little with a damp cloth or a quick shower under the tap.
  • Forsythia, jasmine, flowering almond, spirea, wisteria, redbud and quince sprays can be cut and brought into the house now for forcing.
  • If an unexpected warm streak fools bulbs into thinking it’s springtime, help protect them with an extra light layer of mulch.
  • If you can’t have spring yet ... fake it! Force crocus, hyacinth, narcissus and Lily of the Valley bulbs into bloom this month.
  • In preparation for icy sidewalks, go to your local Co-op and get a bag of urea. Sprinkle very lightly and the ice melts … it’s much better on your plants than salt and not nearly as messy as sand, perlite, bird seed or cat litter. Close the bag tightly to avoid clumping and a 50-pound bag should last for many years.
  • Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
  • Make sure your plants have sufficient humidity by setting them on a tray filled with moistened, clean pebbles, or by simply setting a cup of water nearby.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch. Apply a layer of three inches of bark, straw, aged manure or compost to all garden beds (over in-line drip irrigation). Leave no soil uncovered.
  • On cold nights, it is a good idea to close the curtains or blinds between the window and your houseplants.
  • Remember where you’re living! January in the Southeast can mean 70 degrees today and 20 degrees tonight. Don’t let unseasonably mild temperatures dictate what you do in the landscape.
  • Swap seeds and plant information with your gardening friends.
  • To clean and sanitize heavily encrusted clay pots, scrub them with a steel wool pad after they have soaked overnight in a solution consisting of one gallon of water and one cup each of white vinegar and household bleach.
  • To reduce injury, allow ice to melt naturally from plants. Attempting to remove ice may damage plants further.
  • Turn houseplants every two weeks for balanced foliage as they seek sunlight.
  • Remove spent flowers from amaryllis after blooming. Set the plant in a bright sunny window to allow the leaves to fully develop. Keep the soil evenly moist, not soggy. Fertilize occasionally with a general purpose houseplant formulation.
  • If you heat with wood, keep a pot of water on the stove. The added moisture will be healthier for you as well as your houseplants.
  • Some houseplants are sensitive to the fluorine and chlorine in tap water. Either use rainwater or allow containers of tap water to stand overnight to allow these gases to dissipate before using on plants.
  • To prolong bloom, protect poinsettias from drafts and keep them moderately moist.
  • Avoid foot traffic on frozen lawns as this may injure turf grasses.
  • Keep up with raking; fallen leaves can do heavy damage if left to smother grass.
  • Make an inventory of the plants in your home landscape. Note their location and past performance. Plan changes on paper now.
  • Move garden ornaments such as urns or jars into the garage or basement to prevent damage during the cold winter season. If containers are too large to move, cover them to prevent water collecting in them or turn them upside down during the winter so water will not collect and freeze in them causing breakage.
  • Any machine repair you have done now will spare you the long waits that begin in February. Consider mowers, chain saws and other power tools.
  • By the end of the month, thin onions planted in October so the plants are six to eight inches apart. This will allow maximum bulbs to develop.
  • If you pluck or cut individual leaves from lettuce or spinach, they will continue to produce into late spring.
  • Review your vegetable garden plans. Perhaps a smaller garden with fewer weeds and insects will give you more produce.
  • Feed the birds and provide them with some unfrozen water. For only a few dollars you can feed an enormous number of birds. If you are bothered by the seed germinating when some of them inevitably land on the ground, hang the feeder over your compost bin.

Land to Understand

Jerry Paul Owen on a small creek running under the cabin.

Jerry Paul Owen’s dream was to create a place where people could not only enjoy the outdoors but be able to see how land
and wildlife management techniques could truly benefit the land.

by John Howle

If you look on the map, the name of the creek running through Jerry Paul Owen’s property is Henry Creek. But if you ask anyone in Cleburne County, this is Penny Creek. In 1972, an unmarked government truck hauling more than $70,000 worth of newly minted pennies crashed and sent the cargo into the creek.

People flocked to the area for a few weeks hoping to cash in on the coins in the stream.

"For a long time, people were searching the creeks with metal detectors, but the Secret Service got most of the coins out," Owen said. "From that day on, Henry Creek was called Penny Creek."

Owen, a retired plumber and current circuit clerk for Cleburne County, dreamed of buying the land for years, but it wasn’t until years after the previous owner died that he was able to purchase it. She had told her kids if they ever decided to sell to let Owen have a shot at it.

A couple of scouts take time to fish in the creek running under the cabin.

"I bought the 170 acres on both sides of Penny Creek in 2000," Owen said. "Most of the improvements you see I was able to do with a Komatsu PC 120 Trackhoe."

Owen’s property is a Certified Treasure Forest and it’s certified for Classroom in the Forest.

"This is a place we can show kids God’s creation and get them off the technology for a while," Owen remarked. "I have 27 acres in tillable cropland, 40 acres in managed pines and the rest is mixed hardwoods, and it’s all managed for wildlife."

Owen’s dream was to create a place where people could not only enjoy the outdoors but be able to see how land and wildlife management techniques could truly benefit the land.

"Originally, I just wanted to create a place where my grandkids would always be able to hunt even if the federal government shut down the public hunting lands," Owen explained. "Now that I’ve seen how successful the wildlife and land management programs have been on this property, I would love to see other landowners care for their land this way."

The two biggest attractions on Owen’s place are his cabin built over a creek and a suspended bridge crossing Penny Creek. "I used the excavator to clean out the creek, pile drive the steel beams and lay the concrete for the footing of the cabin," Owen stated. "With cables and a turnbuckle system, I was able to square the cabin up for the rest of the construction."

The Scouts are shown on Jerry Paul Owen’s suspended bridge over Penny Creek.

The suspended bridge, always a favorite of the Boy Scouts and other guests, was originally built so Owen could cross the creek to hunt in rainy weather.

"I used the excavator to dig out the creek banks and set the wooden posts in concrete," Owen said. "I then used cables for the flooring frame and hand rails with a turnbuckle system. Every few years, I can tighten the cables with the turnbuckles."

It took a lot of planning and work to create the aesthetic structures on the property and turn the land around so that a variety of wildlife species could be supported. There are shooting houses and ground blinds set up in the hunting areas, and Owen keeps certain parts of the property as wildlife sanctuaries where the wildlife have safe zones.

Owen has groves of sawtooth oak planted for deer and turkey, and his cropland is planted exclusively for wildlife.

"On the 27 acres, we plant corn, oats, wheat and rye," Owen said. "I always keep at least 12 acres of corn and soybeans."

The Boy Scouts have been coming to Owen’s place for many reasons. First, there are species of every Southern hardwood, wildlife forages and a diverse amount of woody vegetation they can identify. Second, they get a chance to make plaster molds of fresh track including deer, turkey, coyote, raccoon and other wildlife.

Left to right, the loft allows for two upstairs beds and the handrails are plumbing pipe used by Jerry Paul Owen in the plumbing business. There are shooting houses overlooking the croplands.The Scouts gather in front of the cabin for outdoor church and prayer.

"I have trails cut throughout the property, so this makes it easier for groups like the Boy Scouts to go on hikes and conduct wildlife and habitat studies," Owen added.

One of the assignments for the Boy Scouts was to split into groups and collect items on a scavenger hunt. Samples of leaf varieties, animal habitats, animal tracks and wildlife food sources were a few of the items each group was responsible for finding.

"You know, you just can’t learn this stuff with smart phones and the computer," Owen remarked. "Once a kid pulls a wild muscadine to eat or chews on a sourwood leaf from our farm or picks up a wild turkey feather to go in their hat, they remember the experience much more than just clicking on it with a mouse on a computer."

The Scouts have also completed many merit badges at Owen’s farm.

"Jerry Paul gives us a standing invitation to come out any time to work with the Scouts," said Scoutmaster Jerry McCullough. "Last year we camped on the banks of Penny Creek and spent the day making plaster casts of animal prints, following animals to their dens and learning true woods-wisdom skills."

Even though Owen donates weekend trips to the cabin and farm for fundraisers, National Wild Turkey Federation events and church groups, he says he doesn’t manage his farm for financial profit.

"I just think God blessed me with this land so I could help educate and bless others with it," Owen stated. "I would just love to see other people use their land to benefit people in a positive way."

There might not be any pennies left in Penny Creek, but Jerry Paul Owen continues to find value in the land for what it can offer future generations.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Learning Opportunities Abound

by Tony Glover

Last year, I developed a very successful series called "Farming 101" designed to help beginning farmers. One thing I learned from this course was the insatiable appetite for learning those of you interested in agriculture have. I view this as a positive sign for the future of agriculture in Alabama. Recently we have seen a reversal in the long trend of lower farm numbers to an actual increase in people involved in agriculture. The large farms are continuing to get larger, but at the same time large numbers of small farmers have sprung up. Many of these folks are either first-time farmers or retirees returning to the farm after off-farm careers.

The learning opportunities for this latter group have never been greater, especially coming up in the early part of this year. Two great events you should be aware of are the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference Feb. 7-8 in Opelika and the Southern SAWG Conference Jan. 15-18 in Mobile.

The AFVGA Conference is an annual event with a focus on fruit and vegetable growing. This conference and tradeshow will feature many sessions for beginner farmers and the advanced grower as well. Concurrent sessions allow you to choose the programs that meet your needs. There will also be a half-day intensive workshop just for the beginning farmer focusing on marketing. For details and registration information, visit their website at

The Southern SAWG meeting in Mobile is a huge event that moves from state to state. This is a rare opportunity for Alabamians to attend this event in their own state. Over 1,200 organic and sustainable farmers are expected to participate in one of the largest and oldest sustainable farm and food conferences in the country.

SAWG is an acronym for the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Their whole mission is to provide practical information tailored for those in the South producing organic and sustainable food on a commercial scale and for those in our region working to improve local food systems.

Farmers, researchers, Extension agents and community leaders serious about creating more vibrant community food systems will attend this event covering all areas of small scale agriculture. The four-day event will start with two full days of pre-conference activities including a wide selection of intensive short courses, mini courses and field trips, plus a virtual farm tour extravaganza, a seed swap and a special showing of the film "Eating Alabama."

The two full days of general conference activities start January 17 and will include over 60 educational sessions, a series of networking sessions and a trade show. It will conclude with the big Taste of Alabama banquet dinner Saturday evening.

Nearly 100 presenters from across the country, most of whom are innovative farmers and ranchers from the South, will share their valuable information and experiences during the event.

More information about this event can be found at To read the experiences of some who have attended this event, go to

I plan to attend both of these events and I hope many of you will take advantage of these events as well.

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

Manage Wildlife Openings for More Than Deer

Plantings such as sorghum can benefit multiple wildlife species. (Credit: Agrilife Today)

by Carrie B. Threadgill

A majority of wildlife openings in Alabama are developed to benefit or attract white-tail deer. However, the benefits are much broader and many other species can and may already benefit from managing those openings throughout the year. Other game species such as Northern bobwhite or wild turkey can greatly benefit from wildlife openings as well as songbirds, rabbits and many non-game species.

Deciding on what and when to plant for deer can be important for attracting additional species. One grain that can be beneficial for deer, quail, turkey and a host of other species is Egyptian wheat. Planting Egyptian wheat in the spring and summer months can provide a great food source for quail during the fall and late winter. Fall-planted wheat may be beneficial to turkeys in the fall and winter, and may also provide needed cover for quail during the summer breeding season. Other foods that can be beneficial for deer, quail and other species include grain sorghum and corn that provide food in the fall and winter months if planted in the spring or summer.

For a more cost-efficient planting, try browntop millet, which is commonly used in wildlife openings. Millet can be a great choice if you want to manage openings for mourning doves, while other species such as quail will also benefit from the planting. Millet, wheat or any other grains planted throughout the year can be beneficial for songbird species as well. During the summer months, field sparrows, indigo buntings and blue grosbeaks are just a few of the species you may encounter in those openings. The timing of plantings as well as the proportion of openings planted at a given time are both important factors to consider when attracting certain species.

It may be beneficial not to plant entire openings at once. If considering quail in your management plan, a good rule of thumb is to have 25 percent of an opening planted at any given time to provide beneficial food as well as cover for those birds. Maintaining a portion of the opening in fallow fields year-round can create important brood habitat for quail. This can be established by maintaining patches of annual weeds with species such as common ragweed and partridge pea among planted patches. These fallow fields provide overhead cover with bare ground for chicks to move around along with an abundance of insects. Planting strips while incorporating rotational disking can help provide good foraging areas with bare ground interspersed throughout.

Another way to manage wildlife openings for quail as well as rabbits and songbirds is to develop shrub thickets scattered among an opening or along the edges. Good species to include are blackberry, wild plum and wax myrtle. While providing escape cover for quail and rabbits, these thickets make good nesting habitat for other songbird species such as yellow-breasted chats.

Regardless of the primary reason for developing wildlife openings, it is important to realize, with proper management, those openings will provide needed habitat and food resources for several other species. Having a better understanding of the management options can enhance multiple species and increase our enjoyment in outdoor Alabama.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit

Carrie B. Threadgill is a wildlife biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Marketing Trends Always Include Exceptions to the Rule

by Robert Spencer

Trying to predict trends and prices for small ruminants going to market is not easy; it tends to include surprises and disappointments. Some generalizations include: (1) Summer into early fall tends to bring lowest prices of the year; (2) prices begin to rise slightly in November and December, dropping after Christmas; and (3) prices begin to rise in February and peak in March and April. 2011 and 2012 provided us with some fantastic spring prices and above average prices the remainder of the year. When prime goat prices hit close to $3 per pound in spring of 2012, there was talk about good prices being here to stay. Then 2013 rolled in and prices failed to meet expectations; prime prices in spring rarely rose above $2 per pound, and summer through fall prices hit lows we have not seen in 4 years. By November 2013, prices started to rise, about $1.50 per pound, but nothing to get excited about. I hope some of the concepts and price trends shared in this article will encourage you to develop a marketing plan for 2014.

One thing I have learned about trends, there are always exceptions to the rule. I found the market report shown below of interest; it was taken from the USDA Agricultural Market News in November 2013 and shows some interesting aspects. (Thank you Charlie Meek for sharing.) While there is nothing special about prices for slaughter kids (Selections 1 and 2), prices for slaughter bucks and wethers are significantly higher. While I do not propose everyone haul their goats and sheep to Pennsylvania, here in the Southeast we are not accustomed to seeing higher prices for slaughter bucks, nor do our market reports categorize prices for kids and wethers.

I found these components and pricing from the New Holland report interesting. Based on my observations, I have not seen this trend in the Southeast. In the past, "experts" have told us wethers are discounted at sale barns and older billy goats will not bring good prices. This sales report makes me question generalizations. Then again, preferences for certain types and sizes of goats and sheep vary with some faith-based holidays.

In the past, I have told producers to take advantage of prime market prices by having their sheep and goats to market one to two weeks prior to Christian Easter. Apparently, some people took my advice and did so in 2012 and 2013, and it actually backfired. While reviewing sales reports, I noticed market prices actually dropped one to two weeks before Easter. When asking myself why, I noticed a significant increase in the number of animals going to market during this same time frame; basically, the markets were "flooded" with animals and prices actually dropped. Based on studying the market reports for Easter 2012 and 2013, I began to notice prices actually peaked four weeks prior to Easter. I now suggest having goats and sheep to market four weeks before Christian Easter.

If you watch trends relevant to Orthodox Easter, you will notice prices tend to increase prior to this other Easter: a second surge and another prime market. This occurs only when there are several weeks between Christian and Orthodox Easter such as in 2013. Otherwise, if the two Easters are back to back, there will not be a second opportunity. In 2014, both Easters fall on the same date (April 20). If things go as expected, there should be a strong demand and good prices for goats and sheep about the end of March into early April.

Most types of agriculture production and marketing tend to be risky ventures when it comes to predicting what will occur with weather, harvest yields and price futures; all we can do is keep on trying and hope for the best.

Happy New Year! I hope it is a good year for you and your family, and a profitable year for whatever agricultural enterprise you pursue.

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

Out With the Old, In With the New

by Angela Treadaway

Dating of foods can be confusing - it’s important to know when the timing is right. In this instance, I’m referring to food product dating, not courtship. "Sell by/use by/purchase by/best-if-used-by" - how do consumers know which to follow? To eliminate the guessing and confusion, the following are some practical guidelines outlined by the USDA.

Generally, dates such as "sell by" are voluntary, meaning they are not mandated by the federal government. Dates are provided by manufacturers as a quality guide. One exception on voluntary code date regulation is baby formula and some baby foods in which code requirements are linked to nutritional adequacy.

Date markings on labels are often confusing to the average consumer. It just takes an actual reading of these label markings to discern the difference:

"Sell-By" dates tell the store how long to offer a product for sale. It is the store’s responsibility to pull these products off the shelf on the sell-by date, but in actual practice it may not always get done. Be diligent in noticing these marks to make sure you buy these products before the "sell-by" date, the longer before, the better, of course.

"Best if Used By" dates recommend best flavor or quality and do not refer to food safety. These are primarily for the consumer’s use after the purchase.

"Use-By" dates refer to the last date the manufacturer suggests is best for the product to be consumed.

So what about that chicken you plan to roast and serve? Think about timing when you’re in the store. Be sure you buy fresh chicken before the "sell by" date on the package. After that, you can keep it in your refrigerator for one to two days before cooking. Or, pop it in the freezer and extend its possibilities for up to one year. Remember, Listeria monocytogenes, a microorganism that can make you sick (a pathogen), can grow while refrigerated. Thus, the USDA stresses quick use of these products, or freezing, to arrest growth of this pathogen. Maintaining the refrigerator below 40 degrees can slow the growth of microorganisms.

When you purchase, as well as whenever you use, milk or other dairy products, be sure to take a look at the date. Usually dairy products keep seven days after the date listed on the carton if they have been refrigerated correctly at 40 degrees or below. The practice of returning the carton to the refrigerator quickly every time you take it out will ensure prolonging milk’s freshness as well as other dairy products to their maximum.

In the case of shelf life, or prolonging quality, we are talking about simple spoilage organisms, but pathogens such as the above mentioned Listeria monocytogenes are a concern with milk as well as poultry.

Baking a cake with fresh eggs? Check the date on the carton. Eggs in the shell and refrigerated can last a month. However, hard-cooked or boiled eggs only last one week in the refrigerator.

When is it time to say goodbye to that package of unopened lunch meat? In two weeks, you should throw it out, but deli meats sliced at the store should be eaten within one week.

When is it time to toss the package of opened lunch meat? Just three to five days.

Food becomes unsafe if mishandled at home in situations such as when defrosting food at room temperature for several hours, or letting raw meat juices contaminate vegetables. Bacteria can then grow, causing foodborne illness. Stay safe by following the food safety guidelines: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. Keep your refrigerator temperature set at 40 degrees or below for optimum freshness of refrigerated foods, only open door for a few minutes at a time, and return cold items quickly after getting out what you need.

If you have a question about meat, poultry or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854, TTY: 1-800-256-7072.

For more food safety information or questions, call Angela Treadaway, regional Extension agent for Food Safety in Walker, Blount, Cullman, Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair counties, at 205-410-3696 or contact your local county Extension office.

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

PALS Governor’s Award Winners

Glencoe Middle School in Etowah County was the winner of the 2012-2013 Alabama Clean Campus Award. The school received a $1,000 scholarship and a sign to be displayed in the school.

Dedicated to a Cleaner, More Beautiful Alabama

by Mary Stanford

Alabama PALS along with our sustaining sponsors Alabama Department of Transportation, Vulcan Materials, ALFA, Honda and Alabama Farmers Cooperative held the Governor’s Awards Nov. 13, 2013, at the Marriott Legends in Prattville.

Drewe Victoria, Pine Level in Autauga Co. was awarded First Place in the K-3 grade Poster Contest.
Jessica Johnston, Blountsville Elementary in Blount Co., was awarded First Place in the 4-6 grade Poster Contest.
Alisha Englsh, Sparta Academy in Conecuh Co., was awarded First Place in the 7-12 grade Essay Contest.

The winner of the State Award received a $1,000 scholarship and a sign to be displayed at their school. Winners of the Poster and Essay Contests were awarded $250 for first place and all winners received a plaque.

Everyone enjoyed a wonderful lunch and Alabama PALS thanked all the volunteers for their dedication in making Alabama a cleaner and more beautiful state for future generations. All of these students, teachers, administrators and community leaders are truly "making a difference."

Alabama PALS looks forward to having the opportunity to work with your school. If your school would like to partner with Alabama PALS, please contact me at

2012-2013 Alabama Clean Campus Winners

1st - Glencoe Middle School, Etowah County

Poster Contest (K-3 grade)

1st - Drewe Victoria, Pine Level, Autauga Co.
2nd - Noah Mathews, Pearl Hoskew Elementary, Mobile Co.
3rd - Brenden Fowler, Corley Elementary, Marshall Co.
HM - Riley Mason, Oneonta Elementary, Blount Co.
HM - Jakay la Portis, Joe M. Gilmore Elementary, Clarke Co.
HM - Cade Fisher, Hubbertville School, Fayette Co.

Poster Contest (4-6 grade)

1st - Jessica Johnston, Blountsville Elementary, Blount Co.
2nd - Joey Boutwell, Hidden Lake Elementary, Houston Co.
3rd - Olivia Trucks, Southeastern Elementary, Blount Co.
HM - Justis Churchwell, Hayden Middle School, Blount Co.
HM - Preston Bales, Straughn Elementary, Covington Co.
HM - Abby Fuller, Wilson Hall Middle School, Clarke Co.

Essay Contest (7-12 grade)

1st - Alisha English, Sparta Academy, Conecuh Co.
2nd - Haley Amos, Thomasville Middle School, Clarke Co.
3rd - Alex Honea, Albertville Middle School, Marshall Co.
HM - Holly Bennett, Elmore County High School, Elmore Co.
HM - Hank George, Holt High School, Tuscaloosa Co.
HM - Hannah Prescott, Thomasville Middle School, Clarke Co.

Mary Stanford is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Peanut People

Reading and Interpreting Feed Tags

by Jimmy Hughes

It is the time of year to once again make decisions about what we will use for feed over the next few months. As we enter the winter feeding season, these decisions can have a direct impact on body condition, reproductive performance and profitability. I am often asked about prices and tags required on each bag of feed manufactured and sold in Alabama. The most common question is, "Why is one 14% protein feed one price while another is a lot more expensive?" I had a producer recently say, "All I can go by is what is on the tag." If feed tags look similar but are priced differently, is the feed the same? Is one feed dealer trying to make more money than the other? More times than not, it’s not the feed dealer who is pricing the feed too high but the ingredients that are different. What is required on a feed tag? Who regulates feed tags? How can the producer find the true value of the feed based on the tag? Can a similar feed tag really be that different? These are all questions I will try to answer for you.

A feed tag is required by law to be on each bag of feed manufactured and sold in Alabama. The feed tags are required to carry certain information to provide the consumer with some reasonable idea about the feed. All tags must state the name of the feed and what class of animal it is intended for. The tags also must state if it is medicated and, if so, any restrictions for use of that drug along with the level of drug and its intended use. The tag must provide certain nutrient levels along with an ingredient list. The final information on a feed tag will be management practices and any restrictions along with the weight of the bag and the manufacturer of the feed.

While all this seems cut and dried, there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to the information provided in the nutrient and ingredient list that can make two very similar-looking feeds be very different. The nutrients required on a generic beef cattle tag are the minimum protein and fat along with a maximum of fiber. Some tags also contain the levels of some of the minerals and vitamins.

There is no requirement for levels of energy to be on a feed tag. The animal requires energy for all body functions including body heat during cold and wet weather. This is also the difference in most feeds with different prices but similar tags. The ingredient list on most feeds will be a generic tag, meaning it uses generic terms for ingredients such as grain, plant protein, processed grain products, roughage products, etc. This is what allows a feed company to use a variety of ingredients matching the tag, but provide very different levels of energy. These differences in ingredients are what make a feed cost different even though the tags look the same.

What you can see is the ingredient breakdown and nutrient levels of two feeds that look identical on the tag but are very different formulations-wise. Diddle Cattle Ration provides more fat (energy), less fiber, higher TDN (energy), higher levels of phosphorus, zinc, copper and vitamin A. Daddle Cattle Ration provides less fat, more fiber, lower TDN, and lower levels of minerals and vitamins with the exception of calcium, which is a low cost ingredient.

The take-home message is that just because the feed tags between two different feeds may look identical, the feed in the bag can be very different. I would suggest, if you are comparing two similar feed tags with two very different prices, you are comparing two different feeds. The more expensive feed will probably contain higher amounts of energy as well as minerals and vitamins not listed on the tag. I tell producers on a daily basis there are no secrets in the feed business nor any ingredients one feed company knows about that the rest don’t. It comes down to this: Find a feed dealer you trust and don’t change feed companies based on a much lower cost. Consider the possibility that the higher priced feed is a better feed that will better meet your cattle’s needs as we move toward cold and damp weather conditions.

I can assure you that you can trust your Alabama Farmers Cooperative Feeds to be well fortified to help meet the needs of your livestock. I also can assure you that you can trust your local store can provide these products at a fair price that will keep you in business and not put you out of business.

If I can help you in any manner or be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Regulating: It’s All About the Process

by Dr. Tony Frazier

A famous college football coach - his name escapes me at the moment - is known to occasionally say, "It’s all about the process." What he means, in my estimation, is that having a successful football program encompasses so much more than what we see when two football teams get out on the field and go head to head. The process begins long before the kickoff. In fact, I suspect the process begins when the young men who are the college athletes were just little boys maturing into great athletes, but, just as important, as they grow up to be men of good character. It may not even be a good comparison but I have been involved in regulatory veterinary medicine long enough to realize that it too is all about the progress.

I have met a few people who believe all the ills of society, or at least all the problems challenging animal agriculture, can be overcome by a well-placed regulation. I am not one of those people. Neither are most of the people who work in the field of regulatory veterinary medicine. Most of us realize the success of any regulatory program is indeed a process beginning when we ask ourselves if the problem rises to a level that all of animal agriculture can be served by regulating certain diseases. Then we have to ask ourselves if regulations put in place to deal with certain diseases can be implemented without being a detriment to sectors of animal agriculture such as the dairy, beef, pork or poultry industries. If we believe that can be accomplished, we have to come up with practical, enforceable rules. Finally, and maybe not necessarily the last step in the process, we must have buy-in by industry. Those are the broad areas of the regulatory process that must be carried out for a regulation or regulatory program to be successful.

First, let’s go back and look at whether a disease or problem rises to a level at which regulations are necessary. We take into consideration some questions. "Could this be devastating to a large portion of the industry?" "Does it involve public health?" "Is there significant environmental impact?" "Can the problem have a large negative impact on exports?" I realize that when many people hear the word regulation, it is sort of like hearing fingernails scraping down a chalkboard (unfortunately, a sound today’s children will never relate to). However, if I am a producer - and I do have chickens, horses and honey bees, I want my government regulators asking those questions. I will admit we sort of do a delicate tightrope act that balances doing the best job to protect animal agriculture while not impeding livestock and poultry production.

One good example is how we treat bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many regulations were put in place that were basically firewalls to reduce the likelihood of cattle being exposed to BSE here in the United States to near zero. A surveillance program was also put into place so the consuming public would not be fearful of "maybe the disease is out there, but they are just not looking hard enough." Additionally, there was a certain level of surveillance that had to be achieved for our trading partners to continue to import our beef products. Although it took a while to get everything in place, when the second and third BSE positive U.S. cows were announced, the negative impact was minimal.

Next we must ask ourselves, "How can we regulate this disease or problem without being detrimental to the industry we are trying to protect?" Sometimes I will go speak somewhere about something like … say animal disease traceability. Occasionally, someone in attendance will point out that they truly believe our (government’s) goal is to ultimately put the family producer out of business. I generally don’t get into a big debate with someone who has their mind made up to begin with. But for any of you who may want to be on the other side of the debate somewhere down the road, here is my side. I usually eat three meals a day. Most of those meals have beef, pork or poultry as the entrée. Next, while I didn’t go to the trouble to separate animal agriculture from all agriculture and forestry in the state, we are talking about an industry accounting for 40 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product and nearly 600,000 jobs (22 percent of Alabama’s workforce). And finally, if we put the family farmer who accounts for about 80 percent of the farms nationally and probably more than that in Alabama out of business, there will not be much need for my job. So let me go on the record to say I am not out to put the small farmer out of business.

Then we can implement a regulation with a high degree of practicality and enforceability. Many of you may not be aware of the noxious plant tropical soda apple. It is a weed with stickers that can absolutely take over a pasture. The plant primarily exists in Florida, but has spread into other Southern states including Alabama. Unfortunately, the seeds are spread as cattle with tropical soda apple seeds are transported to areas that do not have the problem with the plant. In a brainstorming session, a group of regulatory veterinarians discussed the possibility of making it a requirement for cattle that come from a pasture with tropical soda apple to be kept in a dry (grassless) lot for seven days before shipping them to non-tropical soda apple areas. After seven days, the chances of having seeds that could germinate and grow after being passed in the manure has pretty much been nullified. But who is going to make sure cattle stay in a dry lot for seven days? Not me. So after a bit more discussion, it was decided a regulation such as that was not practical or enforceable, so it never came to pass. It does serve to make my point, though.

Finally, for a regulation to be successful, there must be industry buy-in. We participate in both state and national organizations made up of producers, veterinarians and regulators. Regulations often begin at the level of industry recognizing there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Organizations such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau, the American Veterinary Medical Association, United States Animal Health Association and National Institute of Animal Agriculture usually meet and come up with resolutions that are presented to the government concerning the need to regulate or reduce regulations. These resolutions are considered and may go forward to the USDA. Then a draft rule is presented for a period of time for comments by the public. After the comments are considered, the regulation may be tweaked and a final rule is implemented.

Anyway, it’s all about the process. Sometimes, depending upon the urgency, the process doesn’t take long. Other times, the process may take a few years to get the wrinkles ironed out. When any new regulation is rolled out, you can bet there was a long, thoughtful process behind it. I still can’t remember who that coach was who always talked about the process, but I will have to say he is correct. It is all about the process.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Retired Co-op Manager Steve Bray Passes

Steve Bray, 70, of Jay, Fla., passed away on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.

Steve was born in Brewton to Charlie and Bertie Bray, but grew up on the family’s farm in Jay. Like many in the community, his parents were farmers. He and his siblings had a very active role in working on the family farm. This is where Steve acquired his lifelong love of the land and outdoors.

Steve joined the United States Marine Corps in 1961 where he performed his duties as a combat engineer until his honorable discharge in October 1965.

On March 8, 1963, Steve was married to Carol Cecilia Bell. Steve and Cecilia have two children Mitzi Bray Dixon and Derek Steven Bray, and five grandchildren.

In 1975, he went to work for Jay Peanut Farmer’s Cooperative. He started out as the assistant manager and was later promoted to manager. Steve retired in December 2010 after serving 35 years with the Co-op and surrounding farming community. Steve was awarded the E.P. Garrett Award naming him Co-op Manager of the Year for 1995 in recognition of outstanding service to Jay Peanut Farmers Cooperative, Inc. and dedicated service to the farmers he served.

Steve’s life philosophy was always "hard work and dedication." When he was not managing the Co-op, he was busy operating his own farm. In his few hours of off-time, he enjoyed working in his hunting club, tending to his pond, gardening around his home and spending time with his grandchildren.

Science in Action

FFA members are learning about forest management along a Nature Trail.

Alabama Nature Center Hosts Woods, Water and Wildlife FFA Day

by Rebecca Bearden

Science is best understood when processes are viewed in action. Viewing soil layers in the creek bank, distinguishing red oak species through careful leaf inspection, discovering a fish is more than just a challenge tugging at a line and learning how wildlife are managed through proper harvest methods - these are just a few of the processes agriscience students were able to experience firsthand at the 2ndAnnual Woods, Water and Wildlife FFA Day October 9, 2013, at the Alabama Nature Center. More than 180 participants from across the state enjoyed an all-encompassing, natural resource-themed field trip to the ANC, thanks to the generous sponsorship of First South Farm Credit. Students and teachers hailed from FFA chapters throughout the state including Thorsby, Maplesville, Southside, Crossville, Boaz, Bibb County, Clanton, Clay County, Reeltown, Isabella, Cordova and Elmore County High School.

FFA members gained appreciation for the great outdoors by having the opportunity to fish during Woods, Water and Wildlife Day.

"This program gave FFA students an opportunity to view science concepts in action as well as meet professionals from a variety of natural resource agencies," said Chris Kennedy, education specialist with the Alabama Department of Education. "This program was especially vital to high school students who are beginning to consider career options."

Tailor-made for the agriscience curriculum with a careers focus, the day’s agenda included sessions in wildlife management, soil science, aquaculture, hunter safety and forestry. Session leaders included professionals from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

"Our goal at the ANC is to prepare the next generation for wise natural resource management," said Tim Gothard, Alabama Wildlife Federation Executive Director. "This program provided the students with a great opportunity to participate in hands-on, conservation-related programming and see what jobs are available in the natural resource field."

This unique opportunity was made possible by a grant from First South Farm Credit and the vision of Camp Powers, president of the South Alabama Division of First South Farm Credit.

FFA members learned about one of Alabama’s fastest growing industries - aquaculture.

"We were looking for the most efficient way to reach out to tomorrow’s leaders in forestry, wildlife and agriculture," Powers said. "The FFA chapters across the state were the ideal target audience because of the abundant natural resources in our area. The mission of the Alabama Nature Center is to connect people with the outdoors. It was the perfect location to host such an outdoor program."

According to Kennedy, the program’s success was measured by the number of raised hands and smiling faces participating in the in-depth discussions regarding jobs and related natural resource issues at each station.

"Every student and teacher I spoke with left with new knowledge about possible career choices and an excitement about Alabama’s wildlife and outdoors," Kennedy said. "We are so grateful our students were given the opportunity to participate in an event that will help them understand their roles as leaders in the management of our woods, water and wildlife."

If you are not familiar with the Alabama Nature Center, it was developed through the efforts of the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the Hill Family, a not-for-profit entity known as the AWF Isabel and Wiley Hill Conservation Education Center, was formed. The Lanark Estate was conveyed to the AWF-IWH CEC to provide for long-term stewardship of the property and development of an outdoor education facility, and is now known as the Alabama Nature Center. ANC, located at Lanark in Millbrook, is a Planned-Use Outdoor Education Facility offering hands-on, outdoor-based educational programs and activities for students, educators, church and civic groups, and the general public. ANC contains 350 acres of striking forests, fields, streams, wetlands and ponds traversed by five miles of boardwalks and trails. ANC is reserved for school field trips, teacher-training workshops, seminars and other educational programs scheduled in advance with the AWF.

To schedule a trip or for more information about the Alabama Nature Center, please visit

For more information about the Alabama FFA Association, please

Rebecca Bearden is a Conservation Education Specialist with Alabama Wildlife Federation.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "That Finny won that spellin’ bee down to tha school den sold more oranges than anybody else in his grade! Don’t he just take the cake!"

What does a cake have to do with one’s spelling ability or citrus sales?

"Take the cake" means to either be the most outrageous or disappointing, or to win the prize/be outstanding.

It is widely supposed this phrase originated with cake-walk strutting competitions, commonplace in the black community of the Southern United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In those, couples would be judged on their style in the "cake-walk." The winners were said to have "taken the cake," which was often the prize. This is recorded in U.S. newspapers from around the 1870 onwards; for example, The Indiana Progress, January 1874 has:

"The cake-walk, in which 10 couples participated, came off on Friday night, and the judges awarded the cake, which was a very beautiful and costly one, to Mrs. Sarah and John Jackson."

The phrase is much earlier than that, though. As early as the 5th century BC, the Greeks used "take the cake" as symbolic of a prize for a victory. In 420 BC, the Greek Aristophanes wrote "The Knights," a criticism of the powerful Athenian politician Cleon:

"If you surpass him in impudence, the cake is ours."

Clearly, that phrase would have entered into English in translation, and although it may have been long used in Greece, there’s no evidence of any take up of it in English prior to the 19th century U.S. usage.

In the United States, the phrase is sometimes given as "take the cakes," although the singular is used elsewhere in the English-speaking world. That version is the earliest citation in print in English. William Trotter Porter’s 1847 work "A Quarter Race in Kentucky" has:

"They got up a horse and fifty dollars in money a side ... each one to start and ride his own horse ... the winning horse take the cakes."

The Co-op Pantry

January is here again, and it is again New Year’s resolution time! Here is one resolution I want to challenge each and every one of you to join me in keeping this year. Go to your doctor and get a checkup. If you have skipped for a year or more, go soon. Preventing illness is better than being treated for a preventable lifelong condition such as type 2 diabetes.

Here are some frightening statistics. Alabama is one of the states with a diabetic rate of greater than 10 percent of its population. The last statistics I found, from 2012, ranks Alabama no.3 and our neighbor to the west ranked no. 1 of the states with the highest percentage of diabetic residents. Make your resolution not to become a statistic this year. These are scary stats, not bragging rights, folks!

You may be pre-diabetic for years with no symptoms. Detect it now and you may never develop full-blown type 2 diabetes. This is the type that is most affected by diet, heredity, obesity and lack of exercise. Type 1 diabetes is a different story since the genetic and developmental factors are different. Please consult your physician for details.

What are the symptoms if you are diabetic? According to the American Diabetics Association:

Urinating often

Feeling very thirsty

Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating

Extreme fatigue

Blurry vision

Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

Weight loss - even though you are eating more (type 1)

Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

What can we do to help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes through diet? Get a plan from your doctor or nutritionist and follow it. Eat healthy and, to do that, cook healthy. Add in at least 30 minutes (if your doctor approves) of exercise per day.

Cut back on the fats, I know that one is particularly painful for Southerners. If you are baking, use half the butter. I suggest a commercially prepared fat replacer, usually found in the baking aisle. I would also suggest you get the fruit-based one.

Reduce the sugar by one-third to one-half. Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or almond extract will all boost the sweetness factor of a food.

Reduce the salt. For most of what you cook, you can reduce the salt by one-half at least. Note: If you are baking with yeast, you can’t reduce the salt otherwise the food will be flat.

Make a healthy substitution. Switch to whole-wheat bread, rice and pasta. Use fat-free milk instead of whole milk or a milk substitute. If you are making a meat casserole, cut back on the meat and add more veggies. It will be much healthier.

Ditch the toppings, frostings and shredded cheese unless you get one specially formulated as low fat, fat-free or sugar-free. Cut out or at least back off on the condiments. Butter, mayo, syrup, ketchup, jelly and mustard can be loaded with salt, sugar or fat.

Easy Chili

Don’t fry it. I know that is heresy in the South (equal to telling you not to drink super sweet iced tea or eat fried chicken), but it is not the healthiest way to cook. Broil, grill or steam it. Buying my husband a new grill for Christmas was possibly the best gift I could have given the whole family. He loves to grill and the fat content goes way down.

Cut down on your portion size, eat slowly, use smaller plates and, if you are eating out, split those huge restaurant-size portions with someone or take half home for another day.

This month, let’s try a few tasty but healthy dishes. Enjoy and be well.

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


½ banana
½ mango, peeled and chopped
½ cup sugar-free, fat-free vanilla yogurt
2/3 cup skim milk
Several ice cubes
2 teaspoons of protein powder, optional

Mix together in a blender or smoothie maker. Enjoy. Healthy and delicious.


2 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups frozen cut green beans
1 small onion, sliced and separated into rings
1½ pounds boneless beef sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1½ cups thick and chunky salsa, your favorite
1 (14-ounce) can no-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup reduced-fat shredded
Mon terey Jack or reduced-fat Mexican blend cheese (optional)

In a 3½- or 4-quart slow cooker, combine potatoes, green beans and onion. Add meat. In a medium bowl, combine salsa, broth, basil and garlic. Pour over mixture in cooker. Cover and cook on low-heat setting 8-10 hours or on high-heat setting 4-5 hours. If desired, sprinkle individual servings with cheese.


1 whole-wheat tortilla
1 teaspoon light mayonnaise
¼ cup cooked chicken breast, cubed
1 cup romaine lettuce, shredded
1 tomato, chopped

Wrap tortilla in plastic wrap and place in microwave for 10 seconds. Spread mayonnaise on tortilla. Place chicken in the middle and top with the rest of the ingredients. Roll up like a taco or burrito. Serves 1. A lot healthier than the fast-food wraps!


¼ cup liquid egg substitute
1 slice of whole-wheat bread, cut in small cubes
4 fluid ounces fat-free milk
2 Tablespoons fat-free Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
12 ounces ground beef, sirloin, extra lean
8 ounces sausage, you choose the spiciness
½ cup spaghetti sauce, low sodium

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine egg substitute, bread, milk, cheese, parsley, pepper and garlic. Add ground beef and sausage. Mix thoroughly. Shape meat mixture into a round loaf, 9 inches in diameter. Place loaf on the unheated rack of a broiler pan or a roasting pan with a rack. Spread spaghetti sauce evenly over the top. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf registers 160° and juices run clear. Transfer meatloaf to a serving platter; sprinkle with herbs of your choice such as basil, thyme or garlic powder. Cut into wedges to serve.


8 Tablespoons trans-fat-free stick margarine
1 Tablespoon ginger root, grated
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsulfured molasses
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
7 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Beat margarine, ginger and sugars until smooth, about 4 minutes. Add molasses and dry ingredients; scrape bowl and mix well. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1-inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate or freeze until firm, 2 hours or more. Preheat oven to 325°. Roll dough into 1½-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes.

Note: Remember you are using very little sugar, so don’t put too much sugar on a dough ball and then add more to the recipe when you run out. That defeats the purpose of making reduced sugar cookies.


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 cups plain non-fat yogurt
2 cups cornflakes cereal

Preheat oven to 350°. Crush the cornflake crumbs between 2 pieces of wax paper. (You decide on how coarse or fine you want your “crumbs” to be.) Dip chicken breasts in yogurt, coating both sides. Roll in crushed cornflake crumbs to coat all sides. Place in a 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.


1 (7-ounce) can water-packed solid tuna, drained and separated into chunks
1¼ cups celery, thinly sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup sweet onion, finely diced
3 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon spicy Dijon mustard
8 (1-ounce) slices whole grain bread

In a medium bowl, combine tuna, celery, tomatoes, onion, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, mayonnaise and mustard. Spread mixture on top of 4 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread slices and cut in half diagonally.


2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
1 (8.75-ounce) can sweet corn, drained
¼ cup barbeque sauce
2 Tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise

Preheat grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken 10 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear. Remove from heat, cool and cube. In a large bowl, toss together chicken, celery, red bell pepper, onion and corn. In a small bowl, mix together the barbeque sauce and mayonnaise. Pour over chicken and veggies. Stir. Chill until ready to serve.


1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 (16-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
11½ ounces V8 vegetable juice (Spicy Hot V-8, if available)
2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
¼-½ cup water
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Low-fat sour cream, chopped green onions, grated low-fat cheese, sliced ripe olives for garnish (optional)

Crumble ground beef in microwave-safe casserole. Add onion. Microwave, covered, on high for 15 minutes. Drain; break meat into pieces. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 4-5 hours. Garnish as your diet allows.

These recipes are not original to me, but have been given to me by friends who have been trying to help me be a healthier person. Have a wonderful and healthy New Year!

The Food Age

by Baxter Black, DVM

According to a food scientist at the University of Arizona, more than 100,000 plant and animal varieties have become endangered over the last quarter century. In addition, it is commonly believed only about 100 species of crops and livestock provide most of the food in the world. His interest is in reviving these endangered plants as a regular part of the American diet.

When I was a student, we had to study the benefits of the multiplicity of breeds - be they beef cattle, chickens, hogs, sheep, dairy or goats. It was a colorful time. But, as the food scientist observed, things have changed. Today, most of the chickens and hogs raised are composites, mongrelized to combine the benefits of many breeds into one superior sire or dam. My old animal science books have pretty pictures of Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Bantams, Plymouth Rock and Delaware hens and roosters! Now they are shuffled to the side.

The most common hogs in commercial operations today are a three breed crossbred involving Hampshire, Duroc and Yorkshire. In FFA, I remember learning the traits of Poland China, Spotted Poland China, Berkshire, Tamworth and Chester White. They are now "heritage" pigs, their pictures hanging in the National Pig Museum.

Sheep breeds have managed to maintain some diversity, simply because of low numbers in the United States. I think of them today as either meat or wool breeds. But they come from royal ancestors: Merino, Suffolk, Southdown, Cheviot, Shropshire, Rambouillet, Dorset and Hampshire.

This huge diminution in the variety of plant and animal foodstuffs is the direct result of the industrial world’s obligation to feed a burgeoning global population. They take what genetics are available and improve upon them. Chemical companies devise growth enhancers and disease repellants to increase production. Farmers and implement dealers enact planting, growing and harvesting methods with better machinery to produce even more.

Instead of going back to look for natural substitute foodstuffs, these ag scientists are taking the best from all of them and building their own product! It’s working, and although many people distrust modern agricultural practices, they are the ones who benefit. Food is safer, better, cheaper and more abundant almost every year than the previous. It is also more available to those with a tight budget or, worse, go to bed hungry.

I appreciate the food scientist’s interest in preserving plants and animals falling to the wayside. I sympathize. My little tour through the sheep, hog and chicken breeds is just me reminiscing about the old days. But it’s not real life. The world went through the Ice Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Exploration Age, Industrial Age, Technological Age and now we are in the Food Age. What modern agriculture has done in the last 30 years to stay ahead of global starvation is nothing short of a miracle. And still the onerous numbers hang over our heads: world population in 2013, 7.2 billion; in 2025, 8.1 billion; in 2050, when my son will be as old as I am now, will be 9.6 billion.

The downside, he may never see a watermelon radish, purple majesty potato or a real homegrown tomato, and that will be too bad. It’s the price we pay to feed the world.

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,

Transferring the Farm

Two-Generation Farm Business Workshops Help Families Identify Factors Critical for Success

For many families working to transfer a farming operation from one generation to the next, it’s not the legal, financial and technical issues that prove most challenging.

As many families have learned from experience - often bitter experience, the biggest challenge often involves ensuring this transition occurs on the basis of open communication and trusting relationships among family members.

Indeed, effective relationship building and overcoming barriers to effective communication often prove to be the critical measure of success in the course of transferring a farming operation from one generation to the next, according to Dr. Paul Brown, associate director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

"As it happens, professional help, whether this turns out to be legal, financial or technical assistance, often comes together pretty well," said Brown, who grew up on a family farm in Iowa. "However, it is the human relationships and levels of communication among family members that often prove critical to success.

"Individual family members come into this multigenerational dialogue with different expectations and goals, but, as family members, they must develop a common vision of how these goals are going to be met."

With interest in farm succession planning on a steady rise, ACES will hold a series of seminars in February to provide farm families with tools to better ensure these operations are passed as successfully and seamlessly as possible from one generation to the next.

Workshops are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland; Monday, Feb. 17, at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center in Belle Mina; and Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center in Crossville.

Anyone interested in learning about the critical factors for success associated with transferring a farming operation across generations is encouraged to attend, according to Brown.

The workshops will help families assess the feasibility of two-generation farming operations and how to develop the communication and human relationship skills essential for success. Families will also be advised about the most effective ways to transfer ownership and management responsibilities and to divide business income.

The training will also identify the factors most essential for securing a business arrangement serving both generations.

"What we want to accomplish through these workshops is to give families an overview of the farm business transfer process – the key factors they need to discuss as a family before they proceed with planning," Brown explained.

The workshops will explore a four-stage transfer process whereby ownership, management and income are transferred from one generation to the next using a series of business arrangements.

These workshops will begin at 5:15 p.m. with registration followed by dinner.

In addition to Paul Brown, other speakers will include Dr. Francesca Adler-Baeder, Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Human and Family Studies at Auburn University, and Dr. Robert Tufts, an attorney, Extension specialist and professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

The capstone of each workshop will be a discussion about planning assistance, further educational topics and future programming.

"Succession planning is a multi-year process as the torch is passed from one generation to the next," Brown said. "So, it’s important we get feedback about additional help people will need, either as individuals or as members of a multiple-family operation."

Pre-registration is required one week before each scheduled program so meal arrangements can be made and materials prepared.

For more information, contact Nan Chambliss of the Alabama Extension Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Programs at 334-844-4450.

Treasure Forest Association Honors ADCNR/NRCS Staff

News Release from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

In October, the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association honored Jim Schrenkel and Tim Albritton with the Gary Fortenberry Partnership Award. The award was presented by past President and current Board of Director member Jimmy Jimmerson.

Schrenkel is a wildlife biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and works in partnership with the Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service in wildlife management and implementing NRCS assistance programs.

Albritton is the NRCS State Staff Forester who oversees forestry practices for the agency.

They received the award for their work in supporting county ATFA chapters.

ATFA is a landowner association that promotes a multiple-use land management philosophy.

We Never Know Who We Have In The Basket

by Glenn Crumpler

If you missed the previous article entitled "A Chicken’s Right to Choose" in the October issue, you may want to read it before you read further. If you cannot find that issue, you can go to and click on the Monthly Devotional tab and read it there.

What a fine sight. The red hen, her three young roosters and four very beautiful pullets. This is the hen I previously wrote about that made the choice to do everything she could to save the lives of these chicks - even to the point of enduring being eaten alive by fire ants who were trying to kill her hatching babies. She could not save them all, but she was willing to die trying.

I have enjoyed so much watching this hen and her little chicks run around the yard and interact with one another through the different stages of their development. I remember how at first she clucked to them almost continuously to keep them close to her side. At night when it was cool, she would sit with her wings spread on the ground and every now and then you would see a little head pop out here and there - sometimes from under a wing, sometimes from under her breast, sometimes from under her tail. It was hard to figure out how she could lie down and keep them all covered up, and yet they had enough room to move around so freely underneath her. I would guess, in the early days, even though she was lying down, she was not resting. Her legs still bore some of her own weight so the chicks could stay warm and safe without being crushed. Even when she rested, she still bore the burden of putting her babies comfort and safety ahead of her own.

I remember how protective the mother hen was of the chicks when they were little. Whenever a threat was perceived, just one loud cluck would bring all the chicks running to her where she would cover them with her wings - again willing to give her life to protect the lives of her babies. If I got too close or if I managed to catch a chick and it started chirping, she would come after me. Knowing she did not stand a chance to defeat me, she was still instinctively willing to take me on regardless of the danger to herself.

As the chicks grew, they became more and more independent and began to wander off a little farther each day in directions of their own choosing. This was particularly the case for one little white rooster. He would always wander further than the others. It was evident that not only did they all have their own distinctive looks and coloring, they also had their own individual personalities and behaviors. They were all fine chicks and were equally cared for by their mother.

This picture was taken the day I finally had to catch and put them in the pen with our other chickens. (Lisa is allergic to chickens scratching in her flower beds!) As you can see, they are almost fully grown now and will soon reach their full potential and independence. The pullets will soon be laying eggs of their own and the roosters will soon be proudly crowing at the crack of dawn. Other than minor color variances, they all looked pretty much alike at birth, but now they all have a look of their own.

Not all the eggs the hen set on hatched and not all the chicks that hatched that day made it to this point. One died at hatching and one died at about five weeks of age of a heart attack when he bit an electric fence. But seven of the nine did survive and have made it to maturity, able to fulfill what God created them to be. They bonded with their mama and with one another as they lived life together. They frolicked, played, explored and occasionally fought one another while they were growing up. They would fill up with feed in the morning and then perch together and sleep in the sunshine. At night, they would all roost in an old nesting box and, as they got older, in a nearby fig tree. They have enjoyed the life given to them and we have enjoyed watching them grow.

I do not know how the two that died early or the five that died in the egg would have turned out or why they had to die early. What I do know is that the seven that did survive have made beautiful, useful chickens I am proud to own and have in my flock. I know they were well worth all the hardship, pain and sacrifice the mother hen went through to give them the chance at life and, if she has the opportunity to sneak away again to make another nest, she will do it all over again regardless of the costs.

When I reflect on this story, I am reminded of two songs that speak to the issue of God having a plan for every life. We never know what our children will look like, what their personalities will be, what experiences they will face (good or bad) or what their future holds, but we do know each one is "created" by God and that God has a plan for their lives and He holds their future. He told Jeremiah: "Before ‘I’ formed you in your mother’s womb ‘I knew you,’ before you were born, ‘I set you apart’ ... " (Jeremiah 1:5)

Read the words of these songs:

In the Basket:

A little baby placed in a basket, was put in a river to save his soul, a Hebrew son, his name was Moses, he was found by the house of Pharaoh.

They didn’t know who they had in the basket, didn’t know who he’d become, didn’t know from the cradle to the casket, he would be the chosen one.

We’re holding children that we believe in, yet there are many we’ve set aside, so many people within our basket, we’ve got to stop and realize.

We don’t know who we have in the basket. We don’t who they’ll become. That is why from the cradle to the casket, we must share with everyone.

No matter their sin, nor where they have been, on them we must never give up. Don’t leave them alone. Don’t pick up a stone. He faithfully lifted them up.

We don’t know who we have in the basket. We don’t who they’ll become. That is why from the cradle to the casket, we must share with everyone.

Mary Did You Know:

Mary did you know that your baby boy would someday walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know?

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I Am!

We never know whose life we hold in our hands or the plans He has for them. We do know God has created them for a purpose. Our choice as parents is not to decide if we should allow them to experience life, but to give our lives to nurture and protect theirs.

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

Wrangling Over Farm Bill Continues

Editor’s Note: At press time, although Congress was still in session prior to its holiday recess, no further action on a new Farm Bill was considered likely until after Congress re-convenes in January.

by Jim Erickson

As the clock ticked down on the final days of the initial session of the 113th Congress, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was putting pressure on lawmakers to approve a new farm bill.

At the same time, farm organizations and commodity groups were struggling with divisions in what traditionally has been a unified front on such legislation.

Early in December, Vilsack joined with leaders of Ducks Unlimited to highlight the value of public/private conservation efforts and the results achieved in recent years by producers, landowners and the USDA. The secretary said Congress must pass a new farm bill to continue those efforts.

Vilsack’s conservation-oriented pitch for farm bill passage came on the heels of an earlier report issued by the White House Rural Council on the economic importance of passing a food, farm and jobs bill. The lengthy document cited a variety of benefits that it said would have a positive impact on all Americans.

Meanwhile, as Congressional leaders attempted to resolve partisan differences in Senate- and House-passed versions of farm legislation, various ag groups that usually have presented a united front in earlier farm bill debates were clashing over safety net programs for crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton.

In its conservation message, USDA said it has partnered with more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners on conservation projects since 2009 – a record number. These programs also strengthen outdoor recreation, adding more than $640 billion annually to the economy, the department emphasized.

Figures released by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service show 5,268 contracts in Alabama from 2009-2012 as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. In addition, there were 662 contracts under the Conservation Stewardship Program, 149 in the Wetland Reserve Program and seven as part of the Grassland Reserve Program.

The Conservation Reserve Program also has signed 3,695 contracts enrolling nearly 165,000 Alabama acres in that effort.

Among other things, the Rural Council Report pointed out that a farm, food and jobs bill would build on the recent momentum of U.S. agriculture economy, an important ingredient in the nation’s economic growth. The legislation also would protect food assistance programs benefiting families and individuals both in urban and rural areas, and would promote new markets abroad and at home for U.S. producers.

A key sticking point among Congressional Democrats and Republicans has been food stamps. The farm bill version approved in the GOP-controlled House cuts $40 billion from the program over the next decade. Senate Democrats and President Obama have said they can’t accept that large a reduction.

Infighting among commodity groups has seen corn and soybean lobbies warn they would oppose any final bill that does not address their trade-related concerns and instead would support a 2-year extension of current law.

General farm organizations such as the American Farm Bureau were seeking a truce so Congressional negotiators could get their job done and not be forced to deal with competing farm factions.

Other farm leaders have urged passage of a farm bill so farmers will be in a better position to plan for next year and arrange financing with lenders.

Political observers of the farm bill scene fear the differences that have arisen among ag groups could be a portent of increasing difficulties in getting legislation passed by a Congress that already is so polarized.

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