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January 2015

4-H Extension Corner: The Changing Face of Alabama

4-H youth get hands-on learning in most programs.

by Margaret Lawrence

Parents want children and teens involved in activities that build skills and knowledge. Young people want activities that are fun and offer variety. The answer: Alabama 4-H.

Extension professionals across the state are working closely with adult and youth advisory groups to ensure 4-H in every county is an exciting and fun place for young people ages 9-18 to belong and learn.

"We are taking what has been good about 4-H since its founding more than 100 years ago and applying it with new ideas, projects and technologies to develop the next generation of citizen leaders," said Dr. Paul Brown, Alabama Extension associate director.

Brown noted that Alabama 4-H’s Centennial Youth Initiative allows young people to take the lead in developing a 4-H program that suits their interests.

"Including youth in planning encourages increased participation in 4-H, and it will also encourage older youth to continue their 4-H experience," Brown said.

4-Hers from across the state participated in 4-H Day at Auburn University.

Six counties have recently earned the Centennial Youth Initiative Designation in recognition of their county 4-H team’s efforts to transform and revitalize 4-H.

Mobile, Washington, Baldwin, Escambia, Cherokee and Etowah counties earned the distinction because of their excellence across the 4-H programming spectrum. These areas of excellence are:

- Forming a unified Alabama 4-H team and program,

- Utilizing consistent research-based curriculum resources,

- Diversifying delivery modes tailored to today’s youth,

- Promoting plan-of-work development and teamwork at all levels, and

- Aligning staff and position assignments to support program resources and delivery modes.

This designation will provide a full-time Alabama 4-H Foundation Agent dedicated to growing 4-H programs in each of the six counties. These Alabama 4-H Foundation Agents will be funded by Alabama Extension and the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation.

"Our goal is to help every county earn the Centennial Youth Initiative designation and to have a full-time 4-H agent working in every county," he explained.

Currently, more than 120,000 young people participate in 4-H programs in Alabama. Dr. Molly Gregg, an Alabama 4-H curriculum specialist, called the project opportunities almost boundless.

"There is truly something for everyone in 4-H," she said. "We have projects ranging from rockets and robots to wildlife, public speaking to interior design, and archery to animals."

In addition to a wide variety of projects, Brown said there are many different ways to participate as well.

"We have adopted a variety of club options and delivery modes enabling every young person to access 4-H in our diverse communities," he added.

Ways to Participate in 4-H

- Enrichment programs

- In-school clubs

- Community clubs

- Special interest clubs

- Camping

- Self-directed learning

- Online opportunities

While 4-H is a fun-filled organization, parents can feel confident in 4-H programming and its volunteers.

Brown said 4-H provides opportunities for youth to develop strong leadership skills and fosters independence – two elements parents want in their children’s activities.

"Research has shown that youth in 4-H earn better grades and are more likely to pursue a high school education," he said.

Benefits of 4-H Participation

- Four times more likely to make contributions to their communities (Grades 7-12)

- Two times more likely to be civically active (Grades 8-12)

- Two times more likely to make healthier choices (Grade 7)

-Two times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering and Computer Technology programs during out-of-school time (Grades 10 – 12)

(Information from Tufts University research project, 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development)

Brown emphasized that 4-H provides a safe and welcoming place for youth to learn and belong.

"We have an excellent staff that enables Alabama Extension to reach the state’s diverse youth population," he said. "Our adult volunteers undergo a rigorous screening to assure we maintain a safe environment for all the youth."

To learn more about participating in 4-H, visit online. You can also visit your county Extension office. Find your county office under county government listings in the phonebook or find them online.

Margaret Lawrence is the manager of Communications and Marketing for Alabama Extension.



A Man with Three Hats


Robert Spencer making goat milk soap.

Working in the Golden Country of Myanmar

by Robert Spencer

This was my second trip working with the Farmer to Farmer program in Myanmar. My services as an employee of Alabama Cooperative Extension System were voluntary to the Farmer to Farmer program, funded by U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Winrock International. Both of my visits have targeted working with small-scale livestock farmers who are trying to improve production, management and marketing practices while increasing farm revenues and quality of life for their families and communities. While most of these farmers are goat or sheep producers, some raise cattle or poultry; aquaculture is just beginning to catch on in Myanmar.

Myanmar was formerly known as Burma and is located in Southeast Asia surrounded by China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh. Myanmar is known for its thousands of Buddhist pagodas with their golden domes. Agriculture is its primary industry with the majority of the population living in rural areas. The good news: there is strong domestic demand for agriculture products and strong export opportunities to surrounding countries. Much of the country’s climate is semi-arid with an annual rainy season, making it challenging for consistent agriculture production. While there are some larger commercial- and government-supported farms, most of the farms are small-scale and limited-resource farmers who are eager to produce, improve practices and seek out markets that will pay better prices.

Robert Spencer showing goat with a sore mouth

During my three weeks in Myanmar, I was responsible for farm visits, workshops, demonstrations and hands-on activities in Yenangyaung, Twintaw and Mandalay – three cities located across the central region of Myanmar. We spent about two days in each village. For my previous assignment in April 2014, I had two scopes of work (issues to address); this time I had three. They included Upgrading Small Ruminant Farm Operations, Goat Milk Soap Making and Livestock Business Management. The food is very good in Myanmar; it reminded me of a cross between Thai and Chinese. We ate very well everywhere we traveled.

The challenges these farmers face are similar to what we see in other countries: weak nutrition plans, lacking health and reproduction management, problems with gastro-intestinal parasites and limited profitability. Based on these findings, my farm topics addressed: reproduction, nutrition, quality selection, minerals and vitamins, body condition, selective deworming strategies and rotational grazing. Workshop presentations addressed: Animal Husbandry, All-Natural Meat Goat Production, Parturition and Kid Care, Nutrition, Enterprise Budgets, Vitamins and Minerals for Livestock, and Strategic Parasite Control.

I made multiple recommendations for short-term improvement and will receive feedback in six months whether they were implanted. They addressed culling undesirable animals, castrating terminal meat goats, creating better health and biosecurity management, developing advisory groups that include women, establishing recordkeeping training and documents, and helping farmers to better understand ideal market weights and price per kilogram.

As stated earlier, this was my second visit and I have received feedback from my initial visit. Based on my initial recommendations to previous villages, the farmers have begun providing supplemental minerals and feed for their goats and sheep and seeing improvements, and they better understand meat goat enterprise budgets and cost of production. Each one of these trips has been a very positive experience, and I look forward to future visits.

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



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

U.S. dressed-cattle weights reach record levels

The average weight of cattle slaughtered in the United States increased in 2014, as rising prices for cattle and beef coupled with declining feed costs have induced growers to feed cattle for longer periods.

The average dressed weight - the weight of the carcass minus feet, head, hide and organs - of U.S. slaughtered cattle has been increasing in recent years, but rose sharply from 799 lbs./head to 822 lbs./head between September 2013 and September 2014.

U.S. cattle and beef prices have set a number of successive record highs since mid-2013 because of declining cattle inventories resulting from drought-degraded pasture and forage conditions during 2010-12. With improved weather, cow-calf operators appear to be rebuilding herds by retaining heifers for breeding, adding upward pressure to cattle prices.

As a direct result of placing fewer heifers in feed lots, there is a larger proportion of steers that typically weigh more than heifers in the slaughter mix, contributing to heavier average weights.

USDA funding boosts agricultural exports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service has awarded funding to more than 60 U.S. agricultural organizations to help expand commercial export markets for American products.

Through the Market Access Program, FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities to help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. The program, focusing on consumer promotions including brand promotion for small companies and cooperatives, is used extensively by organizations promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts, processed products, and bulk and intermediate commodities.

Through MAP, FAS will provide $173.2 million to 62 nonprofit organizations and cooperatives in fiscal 2015. Participants contribute an average 214 percent match for generic marketing and promotion activities and a dollar-for-dollar match for promotion of branded products by small businesses and cooperatives.

The Foreign Market Development Program focuses on trade servicing and trade capacity building by helping to create, expand and maintain long-term export markets for U.S. agricultural products.

Under FMD, also known as the Cooperator Program, FAS will allocate $26.7 million to 22 trade organizations representing U.S. agricultural producers. The organizations on average contribute nearly triple the amount they receive in federal resources and will conduct activities to help maintain or increase the demand for U.S. agricultural commodities overseas.

The past 6 years represent the strongest period for U.S. agricultural exports in the history of the United States. Farm exports in fiscal year 2014 reached a record $152.5 billion and supported 1 million jobs in the United States.

Farms are big users of energy

Agricultural businesses, particularly those specializing in crop production, are heavy users of energy and energy-intensive inputs. Ignoring the energy embodied in purchased machinery and services, energy-based purchases accounted for over 25 percent of farm operator expenses in 2012, on average.

U.S. farm businesses are classified as industrial users of electricity and poultry production has the highest share of electricity expenses (5 percent) among all types of agricultural producers, while cotton and rice producers have the highest share of electricity expenses (3 percent) among crop producers, primarily for irrigation.

While motor fuel accounts for about 6 percent of operator expenses, the farm sector is a heavy indirect consumer of natural gas. For example, up to 80 percent of the manufacturing cost of fertilizer can be for natural gas.

Expenditures for fertilizer were over 11 percent of total operator expenses among farm businesses in 2012, with much higher expenditures for most crop farms. Natural gas as a source of electric power has been increasing in recent years, reaching 27 percent of electricity generation in 2013. As a result, the farm sector is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in the price of natural gas.

USDA launches market for carbon credits

A USDA grant has helped initiate a partnership designed to improve the environment by creating a market for carbon credits generated on working grasslands.

Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, recently purchased almost 40,000 carbon dioxide reduction tons generated on working ranch grasslands in the Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota.

The amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by the company’s purchase equals the amount that would be reduced by taking more than 5,000 cars off the road, according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Chevrolet’s first purchase of third-party verified carbon credits generated on working ranch grasslands was undertaken voluntarily as part of its commitment to reduce 8 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. This is comparable to the annual carbon reduction benefit of a mature forest the size of Yellowstone National Park.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a $161,000 grant to Ducks Unlimited in 2011 to develop the necessary methodology to quantify the carbon stored in the soil by avoiding grassland conversions, resulting in the generation of carbon credits.

This is how the credit system works:

Landowners voluntarily place lands under a perpetual easement, but retain rights to work the land such as raising livestock and growing hay.

The carbon-storage benefits of this avoided conversion of grasslands are quantified, verified and formally registered, resulting in carbon credits.

The carbon credits are made available to entities interested in purchasing carbon offsets.

The landowners receive compensation for the carbon credits generated on their lands.

"Ranchers benefit from new revenue streams while thriving grasslands provide nesting habitat for wildlife are more resilient to extreme weather, and help mitigate the impact of climate change," Vilsack said.




Bridging the Food Gap

From left, Ranae Bartlett and Dr. Terri Johnson. two school board members, Madison Mayor Troy Trulock and Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler with a lunchroom employee in the Mill Creek Elementary School kitchen.

Farm Collaborative brings locally grown food to Huntsville schools.

by Maureen Drost

Because of a partnership with North Alabama farms, students at schools in the cities of Huntsville and Madison, and others in Madison County can now receive more locally grown foods like watermelon and sweet potatoes.

"It’s tough for the small farmers to compete with the mega-farmers," said Marty Tatara, child nutrition supervisor for the Madison City Schools.

The Farm Food Collaborative, a project of the Food Bank of North Alabama, is the area’s first local hub to aid family farms in selling their fruit and vegetables to schools, restaurants, workplace cafeterias, distributors and grocery stores. According to the Food Bank of North Alabama, families in North Alabama spend $2.4 billion on food grown annually outside the area; meanwhile, 59 percent of local farmers report a net loss. Bridging that gap is the hub’s aim.

The collaborative officially launched its partnership with the school districts last fall. School officials ate lunch that day at Mill Creek Elementary School in Madison and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Huntsville. The menu featured sweet potatoes from Haynes & Sons Farms in Cullman.

Madison Mayor Troy Trulock, left, with Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler in the Mill Creek Elementary School lunchroom with kids all around them.

Fall 2012 marked the soft launch for the program. Since that time, the collaborative has contributed to making close to 500,000 pounds of produce available. That’s more than $290,000 worth of local food.

It is rare for Child Nutrition directors from nearby school districts to work together so closely, said Joey Vaughn, head of Huntsville City Schools Child Nutrition Program, in a news release.

Other sponsors for the partnership are the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Boeing, Walmart, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Alabama’s Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Resource Conservation & Development Council, and Wallace Center Winrock International.

Early in the 2014-2015 school year, watermelon from third-generation Haynes Farms was on the menu. A fifth-generation farm, Scott’s Orchard in northern Madison County, trucked in apples for serving in October, Tatara said.

Other fruit from around the state in recent months included Chilton County peaches and satsuma oranges from South Alabama.

The kickoff of the North Alabama Food Bank at Martin Luther King Elementary in Huntsville. From left are Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, Kathryn Strickland with the North Alabama Food Bank, Madison City Child Nutrition Supervisor Marty Tatara, Boeing-Huntsville Vice President Tony Jones, State Agriculture Department Executive Terry Martin and Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler.

Beside Haynes Farms and Scott’s Orchard, other participants in the collaborative include Jackie Loyd of Jackson County who grows squash, Jacob Sandlin of Cullman County who plants and harvests heirloom tomatoes, and Wade Whitehead of Cullman County who farms with his extended family.

"We offer a fruit choice, grain, vegetable and milk every day," she said.

Planning for produce is "last minute" based on picking times and the weather.

More than 9,000 students attend Madison city schools, Tatara said, and the system is growing rapidly. In 1998, there were six schools, and now the town has 12. Each school features food storage, and that means the collaborative can send a refrigerated truck to the farm and easily meet the Madison schools’ refrigerated truck for delivery.

In an interview with The Huntsville Times, Kathryn Strickland, executive director of the Food Bank, called the launch of the Farm Food Collaborative a win-win-win partnership for local farmers, the state’s economy and Alabama families making decisions on healthy food choices.

The non-profit North Alabama Food Bank opened its doors in 1984 to help feed the hungry. For children today, according to agency officials, that means more than 59,000 youngsters plus their parents and guardians face some "stark anxieties."

Seventy-seven percent of these children qualify for such programs as free or reduced cost meals at school.

Those "stark anxieties" include the following questions:

"Should I buy groceries or pay the utility bill?"

"Will the food last until my next paycheck?"

"Even though I skipped dinner, will the kids have enough to eat tonight?"

Reduced price and free breakfasts and lunches at school are one of the answers to these fears. The National School Lunch Program was established when President Harry Truman signed the act authorizing it in 1946.

The Child Nutrition programs, said Tatara, are re-authorized every 4 years. She plans the menus and coordinates with the cafeteria managers at the 12 schools.

"Our children are great fruit eaters, vegetables not as much. I’ve literally watched them go ‘watermelon’ when they see it."

There’s the "eternal argument": "Do you put it on their plate?" versus "Do you not put it on their plate?"

Tatara will have "the little guys" take the food and use positive remarks to encourage them to eat it.

"A lot of times children are more comfortable with their peers … at least at trying it."

The website for the new Farm Food Collaborative is www.farm-food.org.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.



Bucks in the “Hood”

With the lack of gun hunting pressure near larger cities, this now gives bucks a chance to live past one year and, with age, comes a chance to show some decent antler growth. This same phenomenon is happening around big cities all over the country. (Credit: Yoderrm)

Hunting Metro Whitetails

by Todd Amenrud

What a terrible afternoon! Two horseback riders had ridden by down the neighbor’s property line and now the other neighbor’s boy was out on his ATV tearing up the ground. He was buzzing by so close I had to turn my face because the breeze was blowing the dust in my eyes. Disappointed, I was about ready to get down out of my treestand when I saw a slight flicker of antler in the sunlight. My binoculars picked out a massive buck bedded down within 100 yards. Now I couldn’t move, nor did I want to!

The afternoon went on and I cursed the ATV. It was amazing … that buck was bedded within 30 yards of the ATV trail and it never seemed to bother him. Finally the sun dropped behind the trees and the ATV sounds stopped. A couple of does popped up from their beds and ambled by. There were dry leaves, but I could hardly hear them, because even though the ATV noises had stopped, rush hour on the highway sounded like flies buzzing in my ears.

My binoculars stayed glued on the buck. At long last, he finally rose up and stretched. He did a good scent-check of the area, waved his nose in the air and started browsing in my direction. To make a long story short, I drove an arrow through both lungs when the buck reached 22 yards and he expired seconds latter about 100 yards away.

Too many hunters put much too much physical pressure on an area for it to house mature bucks. Use your optics at a distance and let your trail cameras do the work for you.

Many whitetail hunters talk about heading to "deer camp" or a lease or club somewhere off in the "boonies." What many of these hunters don’t realize is when driving through suburbia, they are traveling past some of the best deer hunting there is. Whitetails have flourished in many rural areas. In fact, oftentimes the man-made sections and dividers actually make for more attractive "edge habitat" that whitetails favor.

I have grown up on a property that 14 years ago turned into a "century farm." My family has owned this farm for over 100 years and it’s now of historical significance. Throughout the years, I’ve seen this area change from dirt roads and just barely being able to see the neighbor’s yard lights into now a suburb of a major city. My worst fear while living here has been that my hunting spots would all be developed and eaten up by the sprawl. That has somewhat come to pass; however, the hunting has actually gotten better, especially for mature bucks.

With the houses closer together, many places that used to be open for gun hunting are now only open for archery - bad for the gun hunter, great for the bowhunter. This now gives bucks a chance to live past their first year and, with age, comes a chance to sport some decent headgear. This same phenomenon is happening around big cities all over the country. From Memphis and Montgomery to Minneapolis and Milwaukee, great hunting can be found in the suburbs surrounding these metropolises.

There are both good and bad things about hunting these small tracts created by human inhabitants. The downside is, once you gain access, these spots can be tricky to hunt. Sure, there’s typically not as much ground to be concerned with and funnels are blatantly obvious with the sections and man-made dividers. On the other hand, these smaller parcels are much more difficult to approach and, since the deer live in close proximity to humans day in and day out, they learn fast how to avoid making contact with you.

There are more disturbances to contend with in metro areas such as dogs, bikers, horseback riders, hikers, busy roads … just to name a few. However, whitetails become accustomed to these disturbances and really pay them no mind unless they mean immediate danger. I know it’s difficult to tolerate, but whitetails are there all the time and deal with these disturbances even when you’re not there.

Just like when hunting large timber or farmland, one should obtain an aerial photo or satellite image of the property. Search out several different ways to approach each site so you can have alternates depending upon the wind. In smaller tracts, it’s especially important to remain undetected. Spooking one doe may set off a chain reaction, bumping all deer from the area.

When hunting these small rural pieces, you may be setting up very close to their bedding areas. Not only would I suggest mapping out several stand-approach routes, I would go a step further and clean these trails so you can approach silently. With the sites that you have selected prior to the season, it’s a good idea to go out a month before opening and cut silent trails with a pruner or weed-whacker. When the leaves start to fall, I may even go back with a rake and remove the debris from the trail. Because of doing this, quite often I will see deer bedded very close after approaching the site and climbing the tree.

Aside from their unbelievable sense of smell, remember deer can see, too. I recall a hunting trip to Manitoba where I was hunting a wood lot very near Winnipeg. From this lot, which I shared with several other hunters, I could see the tall buildings from downtown and hear the drone of the cars on the highways. I had been in my treestand for a while one afternoon when a fellow hunter, who looked like he had just gotten off work, pulled off a nearby road and started to get ready. This guy walked half a mile across a wide-open stubble-field to get to his stand. Every deer in the woodlot saw him approach and bolted. I counted 18 in all and two would have easily made Pope & Young. I had approached through a creek bed and, to my knowledge, had gone undetected. I left with the deer.

Scout a lot, but scout smart. Most of my scouting is done at a distance by glassing or with trail cameras. Much can be learned while exerting little or no physical energy.

In my opinion, scouting is the most important aspect leading to a successful hunt. It is especially important for these metro bucks; however, too many hunters "over-scout" a spot because they scout the wrong way. Constant scouting of your area on foot is only going to educate the deer on how to avoid you. Some "boots on the ground" scouting is necessary, but regulate it and scout from the perimeter with optics and let your cameras do the work for you.

Limiting the amount of direct disturbance is especially important if you’re after an older buck. Whitetails are basically "home-bodies;" there’s a reason they live where they do. Yes, I mentioned before there are other types of disturbances that whitetails deal with every day like dogs and hikers, but I believe they know when they are being hunted. After all, in these metro areas, humans are their only predator.

There are some trade-offs. Finding access to property close to metro areas can be difficult. And then, you may have to contend with the traffic, barking dogs, other hunters and hikers. However, if you put forth a little persistence and patience, the rewards can be great!

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.



Build Your Forage Not Your Weeds

Fertilize the right amounts at the right time for healthy forage and fewer weeds.

by John Howle

January is normally a good time to sit around the fire and stay warm after the cows have been fed. If you want to get a head start on weed prevention for the following spring, however, January can be a great time to put a plan in place for healthy forage and fewer weeds.

According to Dr. Dennis Hancock, associate professor and State Extension Specialist in forage crops for the University of Georgia, one of the most effective ways to protect your pasture from weeds is to make sure the pasture is not overgrazed.

"Between January and April, your pasture shouldn’t be grazed shorter than three-and-a-half to four inches," Hancock said. "Allowing sunlight into the soil surface signals the weed seeds in the soil that there is a chance for them to grow and be competitive."

Less Pay When You Overgraze

Overgrazing is one of the most common factors in weed growth in pastures. Weed seeds can be easily dispersed by the wind, bird droppings and isolated weeds going to seed and lying dormant in the soil. Once overgrazing takes place, pasture openings in forage provide ideal spots for weeds to take root and become huge problems. This can contribute to the introduction of new weeds in the pastures. If the forage is dense, there are fewer chances for weeds.

A soil analysis is the first step in weed control. Healthy soil helps forage grow better. Weeds can quickly take over in nutrient-poor soil.

During mid-winter, most of the broadleaf weeds will be small and easier to kill.

"Even light rates of 2, 4-D can kill or largely suppress our major winter and spring weeds such as thistles and buttercups if sprayed when they are small," Hancock explained. "Summer hayfields can also be kept largely free of major annual weeds such as crabgrass and pigweed if pre-emergent herbicides such as Prowl H20 are applied before the soil temperature gets above 55 degrees."

Strengthen Your Soil

For the cost of a bag of fertilizer, you can send a soil sample to your lab and determine exactly what nutrients are missing. Weeds thrive in poor soil, and no matter how much you spray, if the soil pH and nutrients aren’t there, your existing grasses and clovers can’t outperform the weeds.

Hancock recommended all producers regularly test their soil.

"After making sure you don’t overgraze your pastures, the next biggest key is making sure the soil fertility is where it needs to be by starting with a soil test."

We often overlook this most basic step, but without healthy soil, cattle forage just can’t perform well enough to keep up with grazing and weed competition.

Plant Seeds to Reduce the Weeds

Starting in January, you can put weed control forage to work on your farm through "frost seeding."

Planting clovers with grasses not only works well as companion crops but the dense forage keeps sunlight off the bare ground helping to prevent weeds.

"The only forages that should be sown in January and February are clovers," Hancock said. "With the ‘frost seeding’ technique, you can broadcast seed, and the freezing and thawing action of the soil during February and March will draw the seed into good contact with the soil."

Some clovers do better than others when planting during the dead of winter.

"The best clover choices to use for perennial pastures (fescue and Bermudagrass) are white clover and red clover," Hancock added. "Annual clovers can also be established this way, but it will delay their development and reduce their total productivity."

Hay Feeding Time

Once the last round bale of hay has been fed in a ring, it can be a frustrating experience to see all the forage turned into a muddy wasteland due to cattle traffic around feeding areas. These areas are ideal for weed growth the following spring. Instead of just letting any volunteer weed grow up in these areas, these can be ideal areas for planting cover crops such as clover for the upcoming spring.

Any positive forage that is growing can decrease the chances of weeds taking over the bare spots. Timing is the key in getting the forage growing before the weeds. Make sure in these areas, the soil nutrients are available for positive forage growth.

Mistakes to Avoid

It’s inevitable that weeds will appear in your pastures, but the right control techniques can keep you one step ahead. Hancock said that some of the biggest mistakes producers make with weed and forage management can be corrected.

"Grazing too close, improperly timed herbicide application and failure to fertilize the right amounts at the right time are the most common forage management mistakes," Hancock concluded. "In the prevention of weeds, you can use clovers to fill in holes in the stand much more appropriately than leaving it for the weeds to act upon."

If you put your weed management plan into place this January, you might be able to spend more time this spring and summer on managing your forage instead of eradicating problem weeds. As long as there are seeds and soil, there will be weeds, but the weeds can be kept under control. This January, break away from the fireplace to prepare your forage for warm weather growth without the weeds, and visit your local Co-op for products to put your plan into place.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Cattle Theft on the Rise

Make sure you aren’t helping them rob you!

by Jackie Nix

With record cattle prices comes record temptation. It is no surprise that cattle theft is on the rise this year. Unfortunately, in many cases, by the time producers realize the cattle are gone, they have already been sold at auction. These losses can be devastating. So what can you do as a producer to theft-proof your livestock?

We need to rethink the idea of training cattle to come running up every time we drive a pickup into the pasture. When you feed off the back of your truck, that’s exactly what you are doing. Unfortunately, the bad guys know this, too, and pull up, beep the horn and the cattle practically load themselves.

SWEETLIX EnProAl self-fed supplements can help in this regard. The fact that cattle get 24/7 access to supplement means they won’t be hungry and running up to the truck like they will with daily or weekly feeding of supplements like cubes or pellets. Just keep the recommended number of tubs out at all times for continuous supplementation. We even have a program to help remind you of when to replace barrels. You can sign up for the SWEETLIXSupplement Scheduler at www.sweetlix.com. This convenient program allows you to enter specific information for each pasture. The program tracks consumption by pasture and will automatically send you email reminders when you need to replace the supplement. Wa-lah! No more hungry cattle running up to greet you!

You can also use our new free Livestock Intake Calculator for Supplements app for both Apple and Android smartphones. This easy-to-use app will calculate the average daily intake for your supplements and your cost per head per day, as well as the replacement dates for supplements. There are a lot of options available to help you keep supplements in front of your livestock.

Additionally, the highly palatable nature of SWEETLIX EnProAl supplements helps draw grazing cattle to stay near the tubs. You can strategically place SWEETLIX EnProAl supplementsin areas of the pasture that are out of sight from the road or farther away from the gate and any loading chutes. Thieves are looking for an easy mark, so making your cattle less accessible will make them less attractive as targets.

Other steps you can take to protect yourself include padlocks on gates and proper identification on every animal, whether this includes branding, ear tattoos, ear tags or all of the above. Keep records on all animals and their various forms of identification. For small herds, you might even take the extra step of photographing each animal for later identification. Of course, frequently check cattle and try not to make your visits predictable. And finally, you need to make sure your livestock are adequately insured. Talk with your insurance agent to make sure your policy covers replacement costs for the current value of your animals.

In summary, high cattle prices bring out the bad guys looking to make a quick buck off your hard work. Make sure you aren’t making it easy for them. SWEETLIXnot only can help you provide the best nutrition for your cattle but can also help you keep them safe from theft! Contact your local Quality Co-op location and ask for SWEETLIX today!

SWEETLIX and EnProAl are a registered trademark of Ridley Block Operations

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at jackie.nix@ridleyinc.com 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.



Chicken From Farm to Table

by Kristin Woods

What’s for dinner tonight? There’s a good chance it will be chicken – now the number one species consumed by Americans. Interest in the safe handling and cooking of chicken is reflected in the thousands of calls the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline receives. The following information answers many of the questions these callers have asked about chicken. Many of these calls we also get at the local County Extension Office and the USDA website is where we go for many of the questions we get.

Chicken Inspection

All chickens found in retail stores are either inspected by USDA or by state systems that have standards equivalent to the Federal government. Each chicken and its internal organs are inspected for signs of disease. The "Inspected for wholesomeness by the U.S. Department of Agriculture" seal ensures the chicken is free from visible signs of disease.

Chicken Grading

Inspection is mandatory, but grading is voluntary. Chickens are graded according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s regulations and standards for meatiness, appearance and freedom from defects. Grade A chickens have plump, meaty bodies and clean skin, free of bruises, broken bones, feathers, cuts and discoloration.

Fresh or Frozen

The term fresh on a poultry label refers to any raw poultry product that has never been held below 26 degrees (-3.3 C). Raw poultry held at 0 degrees (-17.8 C) or below must be labeled frozen or previously frozen. No specific labeling is required on raw poultry stored at temperatures between 0 and 25 degrees (-17.8 C and -3.9 C).

Dating of Chicken Products

Product dating is not required by Federal regulations, but many stores and processors voluntarily date packages of chicken or chicken products. If a calendar date is shown, there must be a phrase immediately adjacent to the date that explains the meaning of that date such as sell by or use before.

The use-by date is for quality assurance; after that date, peak quality begins to lessen, but the product may still be used. It’s always best to buy a product before the date expires. If a use-by date expires while the chicken is frozen, the food can still be used because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.

Hormones & Antibiotics

No hormones are used in the raising of chickens. Antibiotics may be used to prevent disease and increase feed efficiency. Before the bird can be slaughtered, a "withdrawal" period is required from the time antibiotics are administered. This ensures that no residues are present in the bird’s system. FSIS randomly samples poultry at slaughter and tests for residues. Data from this monitoring program have shown a very low percentage of residue violations.

Additives

Additives are not allowed on fresh chicken. However, if chicken is processed, additives such as MSG, salt or sodium erythorbate may be added, but must be listed on the label.

Rinsing or Soaking Chicken

Washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. Rinsing or soaking chicken does not destroy bacteria. Only cooking will destroy any bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken.

How to Handle Chicken Safely

Fresh Chicken: Chicken is kept cold during distribution to retail stores to prevent the growth of bacteria and to increase its shelf life. Chicken should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Select fresh chicken just before checking out at the register. Put packages of chicken in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leakage which could cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Make the grocery store your last stop before going home.

At home, immediately place chicken in a refrigerator that maintains a temperature of 40 degrees (4.4 C) or below. Use it within one or two days, or freeze it at 0 degrees (-17.8 C). If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.

Chicken may be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged. If freezing chicken longer than two months, overwrap the porous store plastic packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a freezer bag. Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to freeze the chicken from opened packages or repackage family packs of chicken into smaller amounts. Proper wrapping prevents "freezer burn" that appears as grayish-brown leathery spots and is caused by air reaching the surface of food.

Safe Thawing

There are three SAFE ways to thaw chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold running water and in the microwave. Never thaw chicken on the counter or in other locations. It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Boneless chicken breasts, bone-in parts and whole chickens may take one to two days or longer to thaw. Once the raw chicken thaws, it can be kept in the refrigerator an additional day or two before cooking.

Safe Cooking

ALL chicken needs to be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees (73.9 C) as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Kristin Woods is the regional agent in Food Safety in Southwest Alabama.



Corn Time




Cotton ... The Royal Plant

Liz and Harold Rosser in the cotton field.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Harold will do practically anything on the farm with a smile, BUT he doesn’t belong in the cotton field!"

That was what Harold Rosser’s father Norman said about him as the family farmed beside Oak Grove Church along a rural area of Alabama Highway 79 growing cotton until 1946.

"I didn’t like anything to do with cotton," Harold remembered. "The bending over, the hoeing, the way it stuck my fingers. I did it, but I hated cotton picking!

"There was nothing but hard work, daylight till dark. There was no 9 to 5 on the farm. I enjoyed most of it, but I hated picking that cotton."

So why did Harold and part of his family recently spend an enjoyable day in a cotton field actually picking cotton for fun???

"It’s such an important part of our heritage. The younger folks won’t know anything about it unless we tell them and show them," Harold explained.

For many years the Rossers hosted an annual springtime Mule Plowing Day on their farm just off Lena Road in Blount County, often having as many as 250 to 300 guests.

Karlie Mann rides on the pick sack that belonged to Boyce Faust’s late mother, Mattie Lee Blackwood Faust, as her great-granddad Harold Rosser picks cotton.

"It was important to keep our heritage alive," Harold stated.

Growing legal liabilities and time marching on in their own lives ended the public plowing days, but keeping the farming heritage alive is still alive.

Harold’s wife Elizabeth (who he calls Liz) grew up right on the Rosser’s current farm.

Harold was a "strategic executive" for Rental Service Corporation and the couple built a home in Birmingham in 1958 where they raised their three children (now grown to include seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren).

In 1998, the couple MOVED the home they’d built in Birmingham to Liz’s family’s Lena Road farm, where it looks as if it has always been a part of the landscape!

This past fall, Liz and Harold looked out over the cotton fields surrounding their home where Liz once picked cotton herself. (The acreage is now part of the more than 761 acres leased, rented or owned and cotton farmed by Lance and Jimmy Miller from the Snead-area farming operation that also includes farming operations with additional acres of peanuts, chicken houses and more.)

"We were talking about how all the schools used to let out for at least two weeks of ‘cotton picking’ in the fall so families’ kids could help pick cotton in the fields," Harold recalled.

"Our daughter Sheila Wooten is a professional photographer and we just decided we’d show some of the grandkids how it was back then."

Included in the day’s activities were getting to "ride" on a cotton sack while Harold picked, picking cotton themselves, and hauling the fluffy blooms out of the cotton fields in one of Harold’s wagons.

Twins Kaylee and Karolina Mann with some of the cotton they helped pick.

A special item was Boyce Faust’s mother’s (Mattie Lee Blackwood) pick sack! She used that sack throughout the 1960s until her family quit farming cotton in 1970.

While Harold doesn’t actually miss getting his fingers pricked in the cotton fields each fall, he can appreciate the words said by Henry W. Grady in Elberton, Ga., in June 1889 as part of a speech entitled "The Farmer and the Cities."

Grady, an editor, public speaker, civic leader and national figure, is often given credit for having "done more than any other man to heal the wounds between the North and South after the Civil War," including a tribute in "Agriculture Classics" published by the Progressive Farmer in 1967.

Grady spoke eloquently of cotton: "What a royal plant it is! The world waits in attendance on its growth. The showers that fall whispering on its leaves are heard around the earth. The sun that shines upon it is tempered by the prayers of all the people. The frosts that chill it and the dews that descend from the stars are noted ....

"It is gold from the time it puts forth its tiniest shoot. Its foliage decks the somber earth in emerald green. Its blossoms reflect the brilliant hues of sunset skies in Southern climes and put to shame the liveliest rose; and when, losing its snowy fleeces at the sun, it floats a banner that glorifies the field of the humble farmer, that man is marshaled under a flag that will compel the allegiance of the world and wring a tribute from every nation of the Earth.

"Its fiber is currency in every bank in all the world. Its oil adds luxury to lordly banquets in noble halls and brings comfort to lowly homes in every clime. Its meal is feed for every beast that bows to do man’s labor from Norway’s frozen peaks to Africa’s parched plains.

"It is a heritage that God gave to this people when He arched the skies, established our mountains, girded us about with oceans, tempered the sunshine and measured the rain.

"Ours and our children’s forever and forever - and no princelier talent ever came from His omnipotent hand to mortal stewardship!"

While cotton is not the "king" it once was in the South (thanks in part to that little boll weevil that changed the face of Southern farming), new technologies mean farmers such as the Millers are growing cotton for the worldwide market once again - utilizing the newest technologies to pick the fluffy white blooms so that no fingers are pricked!

And while they cherished the afternoon sharing a big part of their heritage with part of their family, the Rossers are thankful children don’t have to walk those long dusty rows each fall!

Suzy Lowry Geno lives a simple life at Old Field Farm in Blount County. She can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.




Cowpokes




Creep Feeding

by John Sims

Creep feeding is the managerial practice of supplying supplemental feed to a nursing calf. Feed is provided in a creep feeder with some type of physical barrier preventing cows from having access to the supplemental feed. Milk from a lactating beef cow furnishes only about 50 percent of the nutrients that a 3-4-month-old calf needs for maximum growth. The remaining nutrients must come from elsewhere if the calf is to realize its genetic potential for growth. Creep feeding management practices may be equally applied to other species such as horses, goats, sheep, etc.

Tarter Gate: 650# (C65F) and 1000# (C10F) stationary feeders feature Tarter’s E-Coat red finish for long life. These are ideal for small- to medium-sized herds.

Tarter 140 bushel (C140WC) and 165 bushel (FM165WC) portable creep feeders offer larger capacity for larger herds, feed door lids that open from the ground, heaviest cages on the market and a powder-coat finish for long life.

Priefert Ranch Equipment: 750# (CFC) is a stationary creep feeder featuring Priefert’s architectural-grade powder coat finish with UV inhibitors over galvanized metal for increased resistance to rust and corrosion.

Your local Quality Co-op store has access to these feeders as well as high-quality creep feeds for your herd. Recommended creep feeds include: CPC grower 13R, Formax Stocker 13, Formax Stocker 12 and Formax Grower 12.

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




Dittany of Crete

by Nadine Johnson

Dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamus) is a tender perennial herb that grows approximately 8 inches in height. It is a beautiful and unusual plant, sometimes used as an external astringent and wound herb. Due to its trailing nature, it makes a wonderful basket plant. In fact, in my opinion, it does much better in a hanging basket than it does in the ground. Its half-inch leaves are densely covered with fine white hairs. It produces numerous pink flowers in drooping spikes. The leaves may be burned as incense.

Soon after my intense interest in herbs began, I purchased a dittany of Crete plant. I planted it in a hanging basket and tended it much as I did all my other herbs. This included watering practically every day, especially during hot summer weather. This one plant didn’t do well at all. It was sickly. In fact, it appeared to be dying. With intentions of destroying it, I moved it to the covered, but open air area where my flower pots and other equipment were stored. I forgot about it. It received no water at all for several weeks.

One day as I went to the storage area for some needed article, I was greeted by one of the most beautiful blooming plants I had ever seen. Bunches of flowers were hanging like grapes. Instead of being round like grapes, though, the single flowers were draped over each other much like a pinecone is formed. Needless to say, this plant was moved to a much more fitting location. I began to give it more attention with less water than I had previously provided. In return, it provided me with much pleasure for several years.

Crete is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Dittany of Crete grows wild on this island from which it is named. It is still used as a culinary herb, but its relatives – oregano, Greek oregano and sweet marjoram – serve this need with a much milder flavor.

My literary sources provide me with little information regarding the medicinal value of dittany. As stated above, it was once used as an external astringent and wound herb. The only common name I find for the plant is "Gas Plant" that could possibly be derived from one of its folklore health remedies.

Records state that dittany is still used as a ceremonial herb. This could be in the form of tea or incense.

Dittany of Crete can be propagated by seed or by cuttings. I found it more practical to purchase an established plant. It is doubtful local nurseries will offer this interesting herb for sale. However, it can be obtained from many of the herb nurseries which offer mail-order service.

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




Earl




Farm-City Salute


Franklin Co. Co-op is recognized as Organization of the Year by ACES.

The Franklin County Co-op in Russellville was presented the Organization of the Year award by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at the 59thFarm-City Banquet held at the A.W. Todd Center in Russellville on Nov. 24, 2014. The program had this about the Co-op:

"The Franklin County Cooperative was formed in Russellville in 1939. This farmer-owned cooperative was established to provide the supply needs of Franklin County farmers. This cooperative serves the farm, home and business needs of Franklin County. Manager Karen Linker and staff provide customers with quality products and service with a smile.

"Karen has been a major source for Agricultural Community projects in the Franklin County area. Without her generosity and willingness to help, many of the projects would not have been successful."

Karen Linker, left, was presented the award by Katernia Cole, Franklin County Extension Coordinator.




Focus on World-Class Farming

John Beasley explains proper care of athletic turf during a media tour of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn University’s Media Day offers insight into some of the special projects and advancements taking place at the school.

by Alvin Benn

When it comes to watching grass grow, Auburn University professors have shown it can be far from boring or "artificial."

What they’ve done for years is show that athletic turf can be terrific under the watchful eyes of scientists who have made AU a trend-setter in that department.

That fact was illustrated recently at Jordan-Hare Stadium when reporters got a chance to stand on manicured grass at the same time as they watched "War Eagle 7" and "Spirit" practice their graceful aerial entrances.

Other successful AU programs were also on display including research discoveries that help feed the world.

Mary Catherine Gaston and John Jensen, right, walk along a pond during a tour of Auburn University’s aquaculture area.

Dubbed "Media Day" at the Auburn College of Agriculture, the program involved a little bit of everything for reporters, photographers and TV crews anxious to ask a lot of questions.

"We’ve never done this before, but felt the time was right to host a special event offering the media insight into some of the many things we do here," said AU College of Agriculture Communication Specialist Mary Catherine Gaston, who described the event as a way to update, improve and promote the department’s own special "brand."

"Some might say ‘Oh, you grow food,’ but we grow a lot more than that," Gaston explained. "We also grow fibers that make your clothing and turn some of those fibers into fuel and energy."

William Batchelor, dean of the Auburn University College of Agriculture, said the event was important because "there are a lot of good things that go on every day and we want to tell that story to the people of Alabama."

He described Alabama farmers as "world-class" and said they can compete "with anybody on Earth" as the department continues to look for ways to incorporate new technology into existing systems to make them more efficient.

In order to provide some specifics in the event, tours were held at the AU Forest Products Lab, the School of Fisheries and the Turfgrass Science divisions.

Mention Auburn University to most people in Alabama and they will likely mention championship football teams as well as cattle and cotton programs. For the most part, however, they don’t know much about a project that turns wood chips into electricity.

All the more reason, then, for the day-long program to single out three departments that have achieved international acclaim through the years.

At the AU Forest Products Laboratory, news crews learned about bioenergy research and watched a mobile gasifier demonstration.

Much of what the professors discussed may have sailed over the heads of reporters more familiar with touchdowns, politics and catfish ponds, but they tried to explain the basic nuances of their specialties to ease possible confusion.

Steve Taylor, who directs the AU Biosystems Engineering department, said the specialties span the "entire supply chain from producing biomass, harvesting, transporting, processing and converting it into a host of products."

A $10 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy dealt with biomass harvesting and transporting systems in a state with an abundance of trees to provide the basic resource needed.

"Two-thirds of Alabama is covered by forest land that amounts to about 22 million acres," said Taylor, who called the trees an "appropriate source of biomass that can be converted into electrical power."

Part of the research in Taylor’s department involves developing new biofuels, including gas made from loblolly pine trees. Loblollies are the most popular trees in Alabama when it comes to transferring their wood chips into energy.

Tigercat, a Canadian-based company involved in heavy-duty work in forests, has developed a new machine used by AU engineers.

A huge prototype being used in Taylor’s department was lauded as the "BMW of forest product equipment," exceeding competitors compared to "Fords and Chevys."

"What we have was specifically built for us as a research project," said Taylor, who was joined at the demonstration by AU researchers Christian Brodbeck and Sushil Adhikari. "It’s the kind of machine we wanted, but it is applicable throughout our industry."

The next stop was at the E.W. Shell Research Center where reporters were treated to an animated tour led by John Jensen, who has been at the university for more than 40 years and never tires of talking about his favorite subject.

"What we have here is the biggest and maybe the best facility of its kind in the world," said Jensen, who indicated that new technology is being developed at AU to help satisfy recreational fishermen as well as others who rely on rivers and oceans for sustenance.

Jensen said it all comes down to one word – WATER – something the Southeast is known for, especially when it involves continuing research projects.

He said Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and other Southern states are "rich in water resources" that allow researchers an opportunity to further their studies.

"We have it throughout our states, but we must be careful not to ruin or waste those resources," said Jensen, adding "some are blaming the lack of fish for consumers because of competition from China and Vietnam."

The burgeoning world population has created new supply problems for those countries that provide the food, especially in America where catfish have become an international staple in some areas.

"The middle class is growing and demanding more food," Jensen said. "That is why we are working so hard in increasing seafood because it is the most commonly eaten source of protein on Earth."

Jensen believes it is a demand that will be met in the future because "our oceans will feed us forever if we don’t risk reducing that capability, something that happened in 1975 when we realized we had reached a maximum sustainable yield in some areas."

Because of that dilemma, Jensen said aquaculture has become a major source of meeting world demand for fish. Auburn University is helping to lead the way.

Catfish production currently is in the millions of pounds a year, but is predicted to easily soar into billions of pounds annually if the right steps are taken.

"If we’re smart, we’ll feed China and other fast-growing countries; but, if we aren’t, we may run the risk of losing our advantage," Jensen explained. "I’m not saying that can happen, but that’s the reason we’re working so hard here at Auburn to make sure it doesn’t."

It takes a dedicated professor to spend his time watching grass slowly grow to acceptable levels, but Eric Kleypas can’t wait to get to work every day.

When he finished his master’s program, his status changed from student assistant to full-time employee, and his eyes sparkled when he talked about his good fortune.

"I was hired for my dream job and you can’t ask for more than that," said Kleypas, 39. "As a student, I was able to go to class and then come out here to apply that knowledge."

One thing he learned is that downpours can’t be allowed to stop major college football programs or ruin valuable turf. That’s why proper compaction and drainage keep that from happening.

"When you have 300-pound football players, bands and cheerleaders stomping on the field, it can do tremendous damage. We make sure that won’t happen here because of the way we treat our soil," he said.

That leads us back to artificial turf that used to be the rage in some football and soccer programs around the world, but, as far as AU professors are concerned, that will never happen on the Pat Dye Field.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.




From Mule Barn to ... French Barn

The French Barn, a reclaimed and repurposed mule barn, is now a memorable spot for special gatherings.

by Jaine Treadwell

The light filtered dimly from the old, gray barn. The music was soft and the voices were low. Laughter was intermittent and spontaneous. Yet another night at the old French Barn.

Randolph and Louise Johnston never really planned to turn the century-old barn into a gathering place for family and friends. To say it "just happened" would be to downplay all of the thinking, planning and hard work that went into the barn’s transformation.

But in a loose sense, it did "just happen."

In the 1950s, Golden Johnston, the patriarch of the family, was one of the largest mule farmers in southeast Alabama. The barn, just behind the Johnston home on South Main Street in Brundidge, was the "watering hole" and corn catch for Johnston’s two dozen mules and good saddle horse.

Golden, like many other mule farmers, was reluctant to put his mules out to pasture and put a mechanical monster in his fields. He knew what his mules could do. He didn’t exactly trust a tractor.

But change is constant. Golden accepted that.

Louise and Randolph Johnston never really planned to turn the century-old barn into a gathering place for family and friends; but, in a loose sense, it “just happened.”

After Golden’s death, his son and daughter-in-law found a purpose for the Johnston family home – that of an antique shop. Louise was very knowledgeable about antiques and had a flair for decorating and the shop flourished for a time.

Eventually, the antique shop, once again, became the Johnston family home.

"The house became a home again, but we didn’t have any mules so we didn’t know what to do with the barn," Randolph recalled. "We’re not sure how old the barn is, but the house dates back before the Civil War so the barn is 100 years old or older. We were surprised the barn was still in good condition, but we didn’t have a use for it."

Because of its historical significance, the Johnstons never considered taking it down. They just would make good use of it in some way.

The barn that once stored hay and corn became a storehouse for items for the antique shop, primarily big, heavy pieces – wrought iron benches, gates and railings. But, as Loise placed the pieces around the barn, a transformation began.

"Everything had a place," she said.

And, as more things were brought from the shop, the barn began to take on a life of its own. Louise could envision an outdoor living space - an area for indoor entertainment outdoors.

One thing led to another.

The Johnstons found a use for a couple of old sheds and a tenant house on the farm that were beyond repair. They used the wood from those structures to make repairs to the barn. And, Randolph lucked up and found a great deal on old large, solid bricks that had been cleaned and stacked.

Randolph Johnston created an outdoor seating area and landscaped it with native plants and Italian cypress trees.

"We weren’t sure how we would use the bricks, but the price was good and the bricks would work well with the wrought iron and barn wood," Louise said.

Much like when Noah was building the ark, the townspeople were curious. They didn’t see how Randolph and Louise could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. How could an old rustic barn ever be anything more than, maybe, a dance hall or honky-tonk?

The Johnstons were sure the barn would be neither, but even they weren’t sure exactly what it would be.

Not until they visited New Orleans and were keenly aware of the wrought iron and how it mixed and blended to create the look of France. When the Johnstons returned home to Brundidge, they named the old mule barn the French Barn.

But there was much work to be done before the French Barn was transformed into a New Orleans-style, indoor-outdoor entertainment area.

"We found a carpenter who could do anything and everything we wanted and needed done," Randolph said. "We were doing some remodeling of the family home, too, so we used several of the windows from the house in the barn to give it a more open look. We moved the kitchen appliances from the house to the barn and created a kitchen area out there."

The watering trough, which was too heavy to be moved, was cleaned, disinfected and transformed with brick and wrought iron to become a serving area.

Some of the salvaged wood from the tenant house was used to build a bathroom, but the mules’ watering trough posed a problem.

"The watering trough was made from concrete and was too heavy to be moved," Randolph explained. "The best idea we could come up with was to turn it into a serving area."

The watering trough was cleaned and disinfected and covered with layers of brick and trimmed with wrought iron to give it a French look, too.

Randolph created an area for outdoor seating and landscaped the area with native plants and Italian cypress trees.

A front porch was added to give the barn a more inviting look and to also serve as another gathering area.

Transforming a mule barn into a French Barn was no easy task. It took a lot creative thinking and a lot of hard work, but the French Barn has been a place where many memories were made – memories of special birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and school reunions – including Johnstons’ 50th - but most of all gatherings of families and friends.

Those who gather at the French Barn, whether as first-timers or long-timers, marvel at the masterful transformation of the old barn that brings New Orleans to South Main Street in a rather sleepy little Pike County town.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



Growers Conference

Fruit and vegetable producers will meet in early February.

Press Release from Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Commercial fruit and vegetable production continues to expand in the Southeast. The Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s annual Conference and Tradeshow offers producers access to the newest information and research affecting their operations. AFVGA’s conference is set for Feb. 6-7, 2015, at the Marriott Grand National Hotel and Conference Center in Opelika.

Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, an entomologist and commercial horticulture program coordinator with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said it is a great opportunity for networking.

"Producers will get to meet experts outside of the state of Alabama who they wouldn’t normally get the chance to meet," Majumdar said.

While the conference is geared toward professionals, anyone interested in learning more about fruit and vegetable growing would benefit from attending.

"We are targeting fruit and vegetable producers, gardeners, educators, community leaders and conservation agencies as well as the specialty crop industry by offering a range of educational topics," Majumdar added.

The first day of the conference is filled with keynote speakers, hands-on workshops, educational sessions and grower networking sessions for major fruit and vegetable crops. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Feb. 6 and is followed by a general session at 8:30 a.m. and guest speakers at 8:45 a.m.

The workshops begin at 10 a.m. and feature topics ranging from vegetable grafting and transplant production to marketing your farm and beekeeping. The remainder of the day will be filled with educational sessions with breaks so attendees can visit the trade show and network. Some new educational sessions include training for commercial greenhouse and high tunnel crop producers.

"It is an excellent educational opportunity for producers to interact with industry and state leaders in agriculture," Majumdar said.

Registration cost is $100 for the first member and $60 for the second member. There is a reduced registration rate for students and staff from educational institutions. The trade show cost is $250 per booth with one person attending and $75 for the second attendee. Sale of products is allowed at booths. Lunch will be provided.

The second day of the conference and trade show opens at 7:30 a.m. with educational sessions ranging from new beginning farmer to irrigation and food safety. The conference will conclude at 11 a.m.

Registration for members, sponsors and exhibitors is available www.aces.edu/dept/associations/afvga/2015AFVGAconf....

A detailed agenda with activities and times for both days can be found www.aces.edu/dept/associations/afvga/documents/AFV....




How's Your Garden?

Winter is a good time to think about garden infrastructure such as a large cistern for collecting rainwater.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Lawns

If winter weeds such as henbit are taking over your lawn, just spot treat them and other broadleaf weeds with an approved weed killer. In areas where grass is thin or weedy because of shade, soggy ground, tree roots or other conditions not suited to growing a good cover of grass, then consider a ground cover, mulch or a shrub bed. Trying to grow grass in places where it isn’t suited is a no-win situation.

Cisterns to Collect Rainwater

Gardeners love a good rain. Plants just seem to respond so much better to rain than our garden hoses. According to some meteorologists, one reason is that rainwater contains nitrogen-bearing oxides produced by lightning. If you are a serious gardener growing fruits and vegetables that need water at critical times, a cistern for collecting rainwater might be a good investment over the long run. Water bills keep going up, but rainwater is a gift. There are many ways to collect rainwater, from a series of inexpensive 50-gallon drums networked together to specially made cisterns such as this one I saw at a botanical garden in North Carolina several years ago. Just do an Internet search for "rainwater collection" and you will likely find a system you can buy or build to suit your needs and budget.

Alpine straw-berries make up for their small size with extra flavor.

Alpine Strawberry is All Flavor

The first time we grew Alpine strawberries, we were hooked on their flavor. Even though the fruit is very small, the flavor is huge. It’s strawberry with maybe a hint of pineapple and a very aromatic scent. Alpine strawberries are not very well-known but they deserve a little more attention, especially in North and Central Alabama where they do best because of the slightly cooler weather. The plants look like common strawberries only more compact and they generally do not generate runners. However, they are perennial, so you can expect your planting to get better with time. Divide the plants every 3 or 4 years and start anew. Water regularly and fertilize in spring and you will likely enjoy steady production of berries, with the best being in the cool months. Plant them in a spot where they get some afternoon shade to avoid the searing summer sun. Serious gardeners will start their own from seed, but it takes a year to get a fruiting plant. Because they are not very well-known, you may have to order them from companies that ship plants.

Perennials Respond to Winter Attention

Unless it happens to be bitter cold or raining, the "off season" is a good time to tend to perennials when there aren’t many other demands on your time. For example, the iris bed that didn’t bloom well last spring probably needs dividing. Dig and discard the old rhizomes; replant the younger ones. Daylilies, too. Rake out the old foliage in a bed of lamb’s ears and cut back old woody stems. The bed will look thin and rough when you finish, but it will grow back in early spring. Trim back tattered ornamental grasses; use a string trimmer or blade for thick plants. Sprinkle a little lime around your Lenten roses; they like it better if the soil is not too acid. Trim back browned hostas, peonies and other cold-hardy deciduous perennials if you haven’t already done so.

A mix of cool-season greens is pretty in the garden and on the table.

Build Raised Beds

Mild winter days are a good time for building projects such as raised beds; take advantage of the next mild spell. Deep raised beds are great because plant roots like the soft, deep environment. Because the beds require a lot of soil, starting now also gives you the chance to create a good pile of composted leaves to help fill them. Avoid filling deep raised beds completely with native soil, but use a 50/50 combination of potting soil and amendment such as leafy compost or cow manure. Using native soil defeats the purpose of the raised bed where the rich, airy soil encourages good root growth. A plant grows in proportion to the health of its roots.

Using the Raised Beds in Winter

Our raised beds are the source of all of our salad greens and several leafy herbs like parsley and cilantro through winter. We keep them covered with a large sheet of frost cloth stitched together to fit the size of our bed. The frost cloth allows sunlight to pass through along with good air exchange (unlike plastic). Water also passes through, so the beds get the benefit of rains. You may find frost cloth at local landscape supply stores or search it online. A lot of frost cloth is sold as blankets to put over favorite shrubs and ornamentals. To cover long raised beds, look for material sold in lengths or rolls. You may also find it sold by the foot. For those who sew, the spun bond polyester material will remind you of interfacing. If you take good care of the material and store it out of the weather during the warm months, it should last several seasons.

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




Hunting at the Ballot Box

by Corky Pugh

Alabamians once again voted to support hunting and fishing, with 80 percent checking the "YES" box beside Amendment 5 to the State Constitution in the November election.

Amendment 5 added the following language to the Alabama Constitution:

"The people have a right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, subject to reasonable regulations, to promote wildlife conservation and management, and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Hunting by the public and fishing by the public shall be the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This amendment shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to eminent domain, trespass or property rights."

NRA President and prominent Alabama attorney Jim Porter said, "Amendment 5 – Right to Hunt and Fish will protect our sporting traditions from attack initiated by well-funded national anti-hunting groups that have assailed sportsmen throughout the country in recent years. Additionally, it specifies that wildlife conservation and management decisions will be based on sound science, not the misguided emotions of anti-hunting extremists. Hunting by the public and fishing by the public shall be the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife."

Thankfully, the percentage of voters who support lawful, ethical hunting has not changed too much since 1996 when Alabama voters adopted a similar amendment by an 81 percent margin. The 1996 Amendment simply read:

"All persons shall have the right to hunt and fish in this state in accordance with law and regulations."

According to information compiled by the Initiative and Public Referendum Institute, Alabama was the first state to adopt such a referendum, followed by Minnesota (1998), North Dakota (2000), Virginia (2000), Wisconsin (2003), Louisiana (2004), Montana (2004), Georgia (2006), Oklahoma (2008) and others. The language varies, with some referring to hunting as, "a valued part of our state heritage." Another reads, "Hunting, trapping, fishing and the taking of game and fish … will be preserved for the people and managed by law and regulation for the public good."

Three states already included the right to hunt and fish in their state constitution: Vermont (1777), Rhode Island (1844) and California (1910, right to fish only).

Having watched the public policymaking process up close and personal for many years, I am always cautious about ballot initiatives on hunting issues. Remember that only 7 percent of the people hunt. Fortunately, the vast majority of Alabama voters support hunting, as long as fair chase is preserved. When asked the question "Do you support hunting?" in a public opinion poll, the response was 87 percent "Yes." However, only 19 percent responded "Yes" when asked, "Do you support hunting over bait?" Based on the vote in November, 20 percent of Alabama voters were not in favor of hunting being guaranteed as a basic right. That means one out of five people who voted do not support hunting.

The constitutional amendment should stand as a vivid reminder that our rights are defined for us by society. This is why our conduct as hunters should always be responsible and ethical.

Many vividly remember the overwhelming adoption of a local referendum on hunting by voters in a certain east Alabama county not that many years ago in which the question was, "Do you favor hunting deer with dogs?" Based on a series of conflicts between landowners and a small rogue element of hunters, public sentiment was so strong that had the question been, "Do you favor hunting?" there would probably be no hunting now in that county.

A point worthy of note is the slight erosion of public support for hunting over the past 18 years in Alabama. Based on the results of public opinion polls in Alabama and across America, it is obvious that as fair chase is compromised, public support for hunting is lost.

Around the country, ballot initiatives are increasingly being used by anti-hunters to restrict or prohibit hunting. Alabama hunters are well served by proactively protecting their rights through the adoption of Constitutional Amendment 5.

Considering the language in Amendment 5, of particular significance is that, in order to meet Constitutional muster, new hunting and fishing regulations must be "reasonable, and promote wildlife conservation and management, and preserve the future of hunting and fishing."

Furthermore, hunting is legally established as the preferred wildlife management tool, as opposed to other pie-in-the-sky animal-rights extremist approaches to deal with over-abundant populations of deer and other animals.

As the authors of "The Sportsman’s Voice: Hunting and Fishing in America" note in regard to hunting- and fishing-related referenda, "As these trends indicate, the majority of recurring ballot issues concerned with sportsmen and wildlife are sponsored and initiated by anti-hunting interests. On the other hand, hunters and sportsmen are, for their part, responsible for initiating just one of the major recurring ballot issues: the proposal to insert right-to-hunt-and-fish language into state constitutions. Considering the frequency of ballot measures proposed exclusively to limit the rights of sportsmen, these right-to-hunt-and-fish constitutional amendments can be viewed largely as defensive – in some cases, preemptive – strategies by pro-hunting/pro-sportsmen interests."

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 huntingheritagefoundation.com. You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email corkypugh@mindspring.com.




January Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Indoors, start seeds of perennials or slow-growing annuals such as coleus and geraniums beneath lights.
  • Late in the month, sow beets, carrots, radishes, cress, bok choy and garden peas directly in the garden; cover the planting rows with dark compost to warm the soil.
  • Plant seeds of herbs such as dill and parsley.
  • Try sprouting a test sample of leftover seeds before ordering new seeds for spring. (Roll up 10 seeds in a damp paper towel. Keep moist and warm. Check for germination in a week. If fewer than half sprout, buy fresh seed.)
  • Go ahead and incorporate some fruit trees in your landscape.
  • When Bonnie Plants onion, cabbage, broccoli and chard transplants are available, plant them in the garden beneath a row cover.

FERTILIZE

  • Add lime according to soil test recommendations. For best results in home landscapes, till the lime into the root zone area for whatever 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.
  • Store wood ashes in sealed, fireproof containers. Apply a dusting around baby’s breath, asters, lilies and roses in spring. Do not apply to acid-loving plants. Excess ashes may be composted.
  • 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.
  • Apply a light application of fertilizer to established pansy plantings. Use one-half pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet of bed area. Repeat the application every four to six weeks, depending on rainfall. Dried blood meal is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies.
  • 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.

PRUNE

  • Pansies are by far the most popular winter landscape annual. Deadhead periodically to ensure more blooms.
  • Ornamental grass tops should be cut back.
  • Grapes should be cut back to the main structure of the plant, leaving two buds per side shoot as a general rule.
  • Berries need to be cut back, spent canes removed and new sucker growth controlled.
  • Most trees can have dead limbs removed, suckers trimmed off, old seedpods removed, lanky growths trimmed and crisscrossing limbs controlled any time of year.
  • Turn and prune houseplants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.

WATER

  • 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.
  • Some plants are sensitive to the fluorine and chlorine in tap water. Water containers should stand overnight to allow these gases to dissipate before using on plants.

PEST CONTROL

  • Always use pesticides only according to the label instructions.
  • This is a good time to eliminate slugs. Every one left to roam the garden will reproduce 200 offspring this spring, summer and fall. In addition, the offspring will also reproduce young. So you can make a major reduction in the slug population in your garden by eliminating them now.
  • If you have bugs or diseases in your garden and you want to get a head start, consider applying dormant oil (also known as horticultural oil) especially to roses, broadleaf evergreens and fruit trees. The oils are effective and ecologically friendly. They work by smothering the insects hiding out for the winter. Do not apply when temperatures are below freezing; apply when temperatures will be above freezing for at least 24 hours.
  • Bird feeders and suet blocks may attract raccoons and possums. Store bird seed in a secure place and hang your feeders in locations where only birds can reach them.
  • 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 guards, baits or traps where necessary.
  • Check all houseplants closely for insect infestations. Quarantine gift plants until you determine that they are not harboring any pests.
  • Fencing, plant choice and landscape design can help make your yard and garden less attractive to nuisance wildlife.
  • Fluffy, white mealy bugs on houseplants are easily killed by touching them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  • 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.
  • Most of the maintenance chores and home garden tips for January deal with soil preparation. If the soil has thawed in your area, it’s a good idea to turn it. This will start to break up the frozen layers as well as exposing insect eggs and larvae for the birds to take care of. In addition, if it freezes again, it will kill any exposed pests.
  • Mothballs are not animal repellents and they are not meant to be used outside.
  • On mild days, remove winter weeds such as wild onions and chickweed.
  • While considering seed for the spring season, look for plants with improved insect, disease and drought tolerance.

ODD JOBS

  • The importance of recordkeeping can’t be stressed enough. A journal can be very rewarding and full of useful information to you in the future. If you’d rather do it online and publicly, start a blog! Take photos of everything. In years to come, you will look at your older photos and be amazed at how things have changed!
  • Amaryllis aftercare: Remove spent flower 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.
  • Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.
  • 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 that may lead to decay. Remove and use those showing 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.
  • Clean and sharpen tools.
  • Could the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand truck use a fresh coat of paint?
  • During the winter, most houses are too dry for houseplants. Humidity may be increased by placing plants on trays lined with pebbles and filled with water to within a half inch of the base of the pot. 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 plants.
  • Enroll in gardening classes! Check with your local Extension office and find out what’s available. If you’re not already, check with them about becoming a Master Gardener!
  • Houseplants with large leaves and smooth foliage such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber plant benefit if their leaves are washed at intervals to remove dust and grime to help keep their leaf pores open.
  • If weather permits, cover crops, planted in the fall, can be turned under.
  • If you haven’t already, 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.
  • Keep up with raking; fallen, wet leaves can do major 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.
  • Near the end of the month, weed the asparagus bed and strawberry plot, feed the plants and renew mulches in the beds.
  • Reapply mulch where needed.
  • Remember where we live. Don’t let unseasonably mild temperatures dictate what you do in the landscape. Temperatures can change drastically here. Be prepared for more winter weather.
  • Start a gardening journal.
  • To clean crusty clay pots, add one cup each of white vinegar and household bleach to a gallon of warm water and soak the pots. For heavily crusted pots, scrub with a stiff brush and/or steel wool pad after soaking for 12 hours. After the deposits are removed, rinse the pots in clear water.
  • Use the branches from your live Christmas tree to protect tender perennials.
  • Feed the birds regularly and see that they have water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and bread crumbs as well as bird seed.


Learning Events

by Tony Glover

There has been a long-term trend in the decline of farm numbers that has seemed to have been reversed. The large farms are continuing to get larger as mid-sized operations continue to decline, 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. Some are even military veterans looking for a new career when they leave the service.

The learning opportunities for these folks have never been greater, especially coming up in the early part of this year. I want to highlight three great events you should be aware of taking place in our state. First, the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference will be held Feb. 6-7 in Opelika. The meeting will be at the Marriott Grand National Hotel and Conference Center.

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 best meet your needs. For details and registration information, visit their website at www.aces.edu/afvga.

Second, the Southern SAWG meeting will be in Mobile January 14-17. This is a huge event that moves from state to state. This is a rare opportunity for Alabamians to attend this event in our 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.

Southern SAWG is an acronym for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group whose 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 on January 14 with two full days of pre-conference activities, including a wide selection of intensive short courses, mini courses and field trips. Last year, I attended a 1.5-day workshop on growing vegetables in high tunnels that was excellent. I see the same presenters will be back again this year.

The two full days of general conference activities will start January 16 and 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.

First time attendee James Chris Fields of Bunny Goat Farm in Brewton said, "This conference was way beyond my expectations … the amount of information I came away with was voluminous, but, more importantly, I met so many great contacts with way more experience than me and that is worth more than I can even comprehend."

More information about this event can be found at www.ssawg.org/january-2015-conference/.

Lastly, for those interested in the greenhouse, nursery and landscape industry, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Gulf Coast Horticulture Expo also in Mobile. The 2015 event will be held January 28-30 at the Mobile Outlaw Convention Center right on the water in downtown Mobile. This event will be filled with educational opportunities for both experienced and newcomers to the ornamental industry. From my personal experience, I learn as much from people on the trade show floor than from the seminars, but you don’t want to miss either one. Learn more about this event and register online at www.gshe.org/.

Turn your winter months into a time to learn and get inspired by what others are doing by taking advantage of one or more of these great events taking place in the next few weeks.

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



Let’s Talk a Little Bull … Nutrition

by Stephen Donaldson

By the time you read this, we will have slipped slowly but surely into winter. The holidays are over, our favorite college football teams are winding their seasons down and we are entering a downright challenging time of the year for our cattle operations. For those of you who have fall calving herds, I hope you have a supply of our Brood Cow Supplement to keep their body condition score high enough to successfully get them rebred, and, for those operations that are calving in winter and early spring, don’t forget to supplement your cows. It will pay huge dividends in the long run.

Another annual event around the Southeast in the fall is the numerous bull sales. Many of the larger seed stock operations have sales this time of year. There are also numerous performance (bull test) and consignment sales that allow commercial cattlemen to select their genetic direction for the next year or two. Most of these sales offer bulls that are 12-24 months in age. Some sales also offer mature bulls or, as my neighbor advertised, "used bulls."

First, let’s talk about the bulls that are 24 months in age or less. These bulls are still basically adolescents or, as they would relate to humans, teenagers to just-leaving college. Most of these bulls have been on an elevated plane of nutrition. Most of the rations they are fed are heavy with grain, 68-72 percent TDN and about 12 percent protein. The common management practice is to feed this ration through a self-feeder. When the bulls are sold, they are generally over-conditioned. While frustrating to the purchaser, pretty, fat bulls always seem to sell better. No one wants to take home an ugly, thin bull to turn out into the front pasture.

These young bulls, especially those under 16 months, need to see little-to-no breeding activity until they are around 24 months and closer to maturity. If it is a must, these bulls could be used on 10-15 cows with little trouble. However, if you chose to turn your teenage athlete out with little or no nutrition, realize that he is going to lose weight and must be fed during a recovery period once the breeding season is over. If you plan to use your $6,000 investment successfully over multiple breeding seasons, it is in your best interest to provide him with a high level of nutrition during a recovery phase after the breeding season.

Now that we have identified this major problem, and, believe me, it is a very common problem. When using young fat bulls, how do we solve it? The solution is simple. After the breeding season, isolate your bull in a small lot and simply feed him. The lot should be large enough that the bull can exercise. The bull should be supplied with plenty of forage or hay, clean water and supplemental feed. Ideally the bull will be fed once or twice a day. Many will now ask, "What should I feed?" The answer lies at your local Quality Co-op store. There are several feeds the Co-op blends that can properly rehab your bull. Look at feeds in both the Formax and CPC lines containing 12 percent protein. Most any of these feeds, fed at a rate of 15-20 pounds per day, will restore your bulls’ weight and condition without getting them too fat. The new Brood Cow Supplement feed will also accomplish this goal.

Second, we will talk about mature bulls or those 24 months or older. While these bulls are for all practical purposes mature and through growing, they still need rehab periods. Mature bulls that lose too much body condition run the risk of being sterile for some period of time. It is important for these bulls to maintain their body condition to remain fertile and settle cows. With calf prices remaining at all-time highs, it is important to get as many calves on the ground as possible in order to maximize profits. In other words, let’s make hay while the sun shines.

We talked earlier about rehabbing young bulls. Old bulls are rehabbed in exactly the same way; however, the protein content of the feed is less important. Just make sure you are providing enough energy to allow the bull to gain weight and add body condition. Most bulls need to be slightly over-conditioned before going to work because it is inevitable that they are going to lose weight and condition while breeding cows.

With the current cost of genetics, it is in each producer’s best interest to take care of and protect his investment. When the rehab period begins, producers should also take time to deworm and provide any vaccinations recommended by their local veterinarian. Remember all of those products can be picked up when you get your feed at your local Co-op store.

So take some time to protect your investment and provide good luck to that bull for several breeding seasons.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. You can reach him at 256-476-5272 or stephd@alafarm.com.



PALS: Serious About Going Green

W.S. Harlan Elementary took the PALS challenge to heart to begin a recycling and beautification campaign at their school.

by Jamie Mitchell

W.S. Harlan Elementary School is getting serious about "going green." At the direction of teachers Joy Colvin and Jennifer Hammac, W.S. Harlan is committing to begin a recycling program and start a campus and community beautification campaign.

Jim Allen, far left, PALS board member and AFC’s Director of Advertising and Public Relations, and Jeff Helms, far right, PALS Board Chairman and Alfa’s Director and CCI General Manager, present the 2013-2014 Clean Campus Award to Lakewood Primary School.

The student council met recently with me to discuss ideas to help with the implementation of these new projects. This group of young leaders will be the ones to get the other students at W.S. Harlan excited about participating in the recycling campaign and various clean up days that will be scheduled. They also intend to make an impact beyond just the school grounds since they are scheduling events to elicit support from the whole community.

In addition to creating a more beautiful school and community, a major goal for the school is to submit a scrapbook for the Clean Campus Award for next year. The winner of the PALS Scrapbook Competition receives a $1,000 scholarship, and they are excited to have a shot at it!

If a school near you would like to hear more about participating in the Clean Campus Program, have them give us a call at 334-263-7737.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.




Peanut People




Pecans Flourish In Pine Country


Mason McGowin points to the original graft location on one of the pecan trees in his Chapman pecan orchard.

by Ashley Smith

The rising sun in the east shines through the stately pines as one drives south on Alabama Highway 31 outside of Greenville. In the early morning, traffic is light and does not distract from the natural beauty of the area. The landscape changes slightly, altering from miles of pines to a short glimpse of a pecan orchard. For an area well-known for timber production, pecans prove to be a surprise!

For more than 40 years, Mason McGowin has been involved in the growing and harvesting of pecans. In the early 1970s, McGowin lived in Fairhope where he owned a pecan orchard, seedling nursery, shelling plant and mail order business. He learned the many facets of pecans from experts at Auburn University as well as other pecan growers. A couple of Georgia’s top pecan producers spent much time with McGowin, who learned from them how to be a modern pecan grower. As McGowin’s knowledge of pecan management grew, so did his pecan business.

During that time, he further developed an existing mail-order business for shelled pecans.

"Mail-order pecan sales were a big deal at that time," McGowin shared. "A number of women’s clubs or groups sold pecans as fundraisers for their organizations. In fact, Vasser College in New York was our largest customer."

Pecan pre-sales prior to the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas especially) are serious business for bakers! McGowin’s south Alabama pecans and smooth-running shelling plant worked to fill the orders.

McGowin nurtured the Fairhope pecan business in all aspects. He acquired up to 800 acres of pecans, the largest pecan orchard in Alabama at that time. McGowin owned a seedling nursery where he grew his own pecan stock. He cracked the shelling business wide open, providing pecans for orders near and far.

The pond in the pecan orchard was created from a fairly large wet area – turning a liability into an asset.

Sunshine, rain and warm temperatures add up to an ideal area for growing pecans. As McGowin’s productivity and capacity increased over the years, so did the amount of associated risk.

"What a gorgeous crop we were bound to have in 1979," McGowin affirmed. "Branches weighed heavy with the future crop. When Hurricane Frederic blew through the area on September 13, winds destroyed the crop as well as about half of the trees."

McGowin recovered from his losses. Orchards were replanted and repaired as needed. In 1981, he sold the orchards in south Alabama.

Although he rid himself of the acreage, McGowin felt inspired to plant an orchard in his hometown of Chapman. On timberland purchased from his uncle, McGowin first cleared timber to create the 100-acre orchard. Pecan seedlings from McGowin’s nursery in Fairhope were used to plant the Chapman orchard. In the well-manicured area that now flourishes with pecan trees, it is hard to imagine anything else.

As the orchard approaches 30 years old, McGowin reflects on the years.

"We planted varieties that produce top quality nuts, although pollination characteristics were a significant consideration," McGowin recalled. "The trees generally take 3 to 5 years to begin producing pecans."

Varieties include Cheyenne, Stuart, Desirable, Cape Fear and Kiowa. They are planted according to a pattern to result in maximizing pollination. McGowin credits much to the knowledge and education he received from Auburn University’s pecan specialist Dr. Bill Goff.

While McGowin’s orchards are closer to Montgomery than they are to the coast, he still contends with hurricanes and strong winds. When Hurricane Ivan blew through Alabama in 2004, he lost 10 percent of the trees, but realized that loss could have been much higher.

More often than not, McGowin’s greatest loss comes from wildlife.

"We suffer a lot of wildlife predation," McGowin admitted. "In order of severity, we struggle with crows, squirrels, deer and rats/mice."

During harvest season, crews gather all nuts shaken from the trees. If they do not, deer show up later ready for a tasty and easy snack! Beavers gnaw their way into profits as well.

"The orchard always seemed to have a fairly large wet area running through the middle of it," McGowin shared. "I decided to turn that liability into an asset and built a pond. We didn’t think too much about the beavers when they gnawed down some of the willow trees. My attitude changed towards the beavers when they set their sights on my pecans!"

McGowin’s Butler County orchard includes nearly 3,000 trees. Because pecan orchards are few and far between in the area, it is more isolated from pests that could be in other areas. With the size and age of the orchard now, McGowin is able to cover his expenses. Routine maintenance on the orchard is necessary throughout the year. Fertilization occurs on a regular basis. McGowin shops at the local Quality Co-op in Greenville for his orchard fertilizer. Harvesting comes in the fall; McGowin likes to be done before Thanksgiving.

"I cannot tell you how many hours I spend in the orchard," McGowin said. "Easing along through the trees is so satisfying."

Much of his enjoyment with the pecan orchard is because the orchard grows on family land close to home. For three generations, the McGowin family has claimed this area of Alabama. With a strong business sense and an eye towards sustainability, trees grow in Chapman. For McGowin, he is pleased to include pecans in the landscape.

Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.




Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "After the fire, the maintenance supervisor down at the mill said it was the night foreman’s fault. Sounds like he’s just passin’ the buck to me."

What does a dollar have to do with a fire at a manufacturing plant?

"Passing the buck" means to evade responsibility by passing it on to someone else.

Look up "buck" in the dictionary and you’ll find a couple of dozen assorted nouns, verbs and adjectives. The most common use of the word these days is as the slang term for the American dollar. That’s not the buck meant here, though. Look a little further down the list and you’ll find the definition "buck: an article used in a game of poker" − and that’s the buck that was first passed.

Poker became very popular in the United States during the second half of the 19th century. Players were highly suspicious of cheating or any form of bias and there’s considerable folklore depicting gunslingers in shoot-outs based on accusations of dirty dealing. In order to avoid unfairness, the deal changed hands during sessions. The person who was next in line to deal would be given a marker. This was often a knife, and knives often had handles made of buck’s horn − hence the marker becoming known as a buck. When the dealer’s turn was done he "passed the buck."

Silver dollars were later used as markers and this is probably the origin of the use of buck as a slang term for dollar.

The earliest citation found of the literal use of the phrase in print is from the Weekly New Mexican, July 1865:

"They draw at the commissary and at poker after they have passed the ‘buck.’"

This is clearly around the time the phrase was coined, as there are several such printed citations in the following years.

The figurative version of the phrase, that is, a usage where no actual buck is present, begins around the start of the 20th century; for example, this piece in the California newspaper The Oakland Tribune, May 1902:

[Oakland City Attorney] Dow – "When the public or the Council ‘pass the buck’ up to me, I am going to act."

The reporter’s use of quotation marks around pass the buck indicate its recent coinage as a figurative phrase, or at least one the paper’s readers might not have been expected to be familiar with.

The best-known use of buck in this context is "the buck stops here" that was the promise made by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, and which he kept prominent in his own and his electors’ minds by putting it on a sign on his desk.

Phrases.org




Sowing the Seeds of Safety

In all, the Geraldine FFA’s Farm Safety Day included over 98 third graders, 33 FFA member instructors/support persons, and 13 adult sponsors, speakers and Alumni members.

Geraldine FFA Chapter’s Farm Safety Day emphasizes safe habits and practices for young people.

Release from Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed

With a year of experience under their belts, Geraldine FFA members and their advisor, Terry Johnson, really know how to conduct a Farm Safety Day," said Chip Blanton, a long-time coordinator of Progressive Agriculture Foundation safety events.

With Johnson directing, 45 of his FFA members turned into instructors and demonstrators by conducting six workshops on safety topics. The topics included escaping itchy plants such as poison oak and ivy; watching out for stingy bugs such as spiders, bees and wasps; using tractors wisely; avoiding chemical mishaps, including spills and skin burns; stranger danger from animals as well as people; and riding bicycles without getting injured.

Cody Maddox, president of the Geraldine FFA Chapter, welcomed participants to the Farm Safety Day held at the Geraldine City Park.

Johnson noted that surveys document just about everyone who engages in agriculture knows someone whose life has been detrimentally affected by farm-related injury or death. A recent tractor accident in our own county of DeKalb in the Henagar area added to the tragic farm-related statistics nationally.

"And what’s really sobering," Johnson continued, "is that by practicing a few simple safety precautions, many of these chilling misfortunes could have been avoided."

That’s why the Progressive Agriculture Foundation is on a crusade to bring safety and health information to residents of rural communities.

Chip Blanton served as coordinator of the Geraldine FFA Farm Safety Day. Blanton has aided and assisted Progressive Foundation Farm Safety Days for over 10 years.

That’s why the Geraldine FFA Chapter sets aside a special day during the year to emphasize developing safe habits and practices, and they do it with young people.

"Kids are long-term beneficiaries and the most easily educated group," Johnson said.

According to Johnson, Geraldine FFA’s focus was with three different groups. One group was our FFA members who we made responsible for relating to the kids included in our special safety day as they did the workshop’s actual teaching and facilitating of the safety instruction. While some taught, others provided support services such as getting the participants to the right places on a very tight time schedule and distributing food according to the master plan. My observation of what has happened with our Safety Day for the last 2 years was our FFA members who conducted the safety campaign actually learned the most. I guess they embodied the "learn by doing" part of the FFA motto. This came from the FFA members preparing the safety lessons that required doing research, organizing materials and practicing public speaking. They learned a lot from listening to and watching their fellow FFAers perform the safety lessons, Johnson stressed.

Kylie Oliver, holding Kennedy (pet used for instruction); Selene Hernandez, right, and Joanna Renteria, not pictured.

The second group participating in Geraldine’s safety program was vibrant third-grade students, eager to participate and motivated by a day of learning that was different – away from the regular school campus since the event was held at the Geraldine Park and outdoors with a change-of-pace atmosphere.

The third group of participants was the Geraldine Alumni FFA who prepared food, helped supervise students, took pictures of activities and served in any capacity where they were needed.

The Progressive Agriculture Foundation furnished T-shirts that are popular nowadays with young people, along with snacks and instructional resources.

"The sponsoring foundation prides itself on designing safety days that are age-appropriate, hands-on, fun and safe for children," added Chip Blanton, the safety program’s veteran coordinator.

Comments from the different participating groups in the farm day provide an effective evaluation of the event.

Third-grader Hannah Richards, in recounting what she gained from the day, said she learned that she should not talk to strangers or give them information about herself such as her name or where she lives.

Just as race car driver Tony Stewart has a pit crew to help him in automobile racing, FFAer Jarred Gillespie is assisted by fellow members Wyatt Williams and Dalton Garner at Safety Day in cautioning third graders about keeping their hands and feet free of the paths of rotating lawn mower blades. Itchy plants such as poison oak and stinging bugs such as wasps and spiders were covered in a special presentation to third graders by Alexis Fowler. According to Geraldine Agriscience Teacher Terry Johnson, “It’s better to be safe than suffer the ill effects of rashes and stings or bites which can sometimes be fatal.”

Macy Price, from the FFA group, recalling her job of making sure food was distributed to the children in an orderly fashion, credited teamwork from fellow FFAers for making her work go smoothly.

And Sammy Harris of the Alumni chapter said FFA members took command; they all had their jobs, and they performed them with competence and precision; while another alumni person Tim Guest thought the things taught at the Farm Safety Day were important not only to the safety of a farm but to any job and life in general.

Alumnus James Parrish, a former teacher with 35 years of experience, including keeping the attention of children, noted the event’s student teachers never lost the attention of the children; they related to their audiences by teaching on a level and in a way the kids could understand.




Spreading the News About Animal Disease Traceability


by Dr. Tony Frazier

I suppose whatever segment of society a person belongs to dictates the topics of conversation that dominate when fellow members of a particular group get together. Lion tamers probably talk about how difficult it is to find a lion with a good disposition anymore. Astronauts probably talk about the price of rocket fuel or something like that. Old country music disc jockeys probably debate whether what is classified as country music these days is even real country music. And I can tell you for sure that state veterinarians talk about animal disease traceability. And I guess that’s because I talk about animal disease traceability on a daily basis I assume it comes up in the conversation of livestock producers at least occasionally. I say all of that to say this: I recently met a person who I judged to be a fairly good cattle producer, who was very knowledgeable about cattle production and fairly up-to-date on most of the important current issues. But I was just a little amazed to find out he had never heard about animal disease traceability and our current state and federal regulations governing traceability.

It was interesting to me that this beef producer had not been on an extended trip to Tibet, spent the past few years in a coma nor locked up somewhere with no contact with the outside world. In fact, he had been doing what most beef cattle producers do. He had been buying feed, selling cattle and going to the auctions, but the subject of disease traceability had never come up, at least not to get his attention. And while I hate to say it, it was obvious he does not regularly read my column in the Cooperative Farming News. I guess, when I think about it, there are some reasonably important things I couldn’t tell you about such as "are we supposed to take a baby aspirin every day or does that not actually do any good?" I’m sure many of you could tell me all about that subject, but it just hasn’t come up in any of my conversations. The bottom line is that not everyone who is affected by animal disease traceability is aware of it and certainly not aware of the state and federal regulations.

Animal disease traceability has been a prominent issue in the past several years. There was an initial plan rolled out in 2005 that followed some years of planning. Our concern for not being able to trace animals exposed to certain contagious and even catastrophic diseases began to surface as most states were becoming brucellosis free. Since the 1950s when the Brucellosis program began to have mandatory components, regulatory folks like me began to have the ability to trace cattle exposed to brucellosis by using the silver tag placed in the ear of cattle that had been either vaccinated or tested for brucellosis. The identification used in that program and also the tuberculosis eradication program was used to trace diseased and exposed cattle.

With a waning brucellosis program and emerging diseases like BSE and foreign animal diseases like foot and mouth disease in Europe, concern began to rise sharply in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As the early system for identifying livestock for disease traceability purposes in 2005 developed, it was met with mixed emotions. Some people saw the big picture and embraced the concept of the need to be able to trace animals as it relates to disease. Some people were fairly non-committal and just wanted to know what they needed to do. Then there was a group who were convinced that the attempt to identify animals was just another way the government wanted to get to know more about their business. The latter group gained enough support that USDA decided to circle the wagons, reconfigure the program and start again. This time the emphasis was rightly placed on the ability to trace disease. Support by state cattlemen’s associations was important to get us to the place we are now. In fact, producers from the Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Committee came to me and asked if we could put a rule in place that would mirror what the USDA had in mind to implement as a federal rule that would affect animals crossing state lines. These producers realized we not only needed the ability to trace animal disease but also to compete for the world export markets, as the rest of the world is beginning to demand a traceability system be in place.

The rule passed here in Alabama is fairly simple and the emphasis is on cattle and bison. Our rule requires that cattle, at the time of change of ownership, be identified with either the silver tags obtained through my office or with electronic identification tags purchased at various places if you have a premises number. The premises number can also be obtained through my office. The rule became effective January 2013 and simply states:

"Official ID is required for cattle, 18 months of age or older at change of ownership; all female dairy cattle; cattle and bison used in rodeo, show, exhibition or recreational events. Exemptions to the rule are cattle less than 18 months of age and cattle sold for slaughter purposes. The approved official ID can be the original brucellosis silver metal ear tag, which is distributed by AL State Veterinarian; brucellosis vaccination orange metal ear tag for heifers distributed by the AL State Veterinarian or USDA/APHIS/VS; and Electronic Identification purchased through approved animal identification number manager or distributor."

The federal law, as I mentioned above, becomes effective when you cross state lines with your cattle or bison.

I think I wrote my first column on this subject back in 2005 or 2006. I am sure this will not be the last time we visit this subject. There are still people out there who haven’t heard about animal disease traceability. I was talking to my pastor the other day who was telling me about a teenager who he began talking to about Jesus. The kid, who had grown up in the United States, didn’t have a clue about who Jesus was or what effect he has had on humanity. I was surprised by that, but I grew up in church and figured everybody has at least heard about who Jesus is. I guess it just depends on the circles you travel in. So I guess if there are still people here in Alabama who haven’t heard about Jesus, then it is reasonable that there are cattle producers who have not heard about animal disease traceability. For more information on either of these topics, please call my office!

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253.



Super’s Soppin’ Syrup Made the Old-Fashioned Way

Ashley Ballard, Gary Luker’s granddaughter, sells “Super’s Soppin’ Syrup” for $6 a jug.

The desire to pass on family traditions inspired Gary Luker to find ways to let his grandchildren experience the tradition of making sugar cane syrup.

by Carolyn Drinkard

The sun was rising on a clear, chilly November morning in Sandflat. A crowd had gathered to watch Gary Luker and his family make cane syrup. Syrup making is a rare event in Southwest Alabama, so there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. Neighbors had gathered with their lawn chairs and quilts to watch and reminisce.

Syrup making has always been a community event in this small community, and today was no exception. In fact, Luker’s aunt Lillian Styron had travelled from Pasadena, Texas, just to be here with her family. At 86, Aunt Lillian remembered that one family in Sandflat had a mill, and everybody would take their cane there.

Passing traditions on to his grandchildren is important to Gary Luker. Grandson Clay and granddaughters Alexis and Ashley Ballard take turns pushing cane through the mill. Luker’s 86-year-old aunt Lillian Styron, from Pasadena, Texas, came just to be a part of this day. She told the children that when she was a child, on the day her grandfather made syrup, school was dismissed so all the children and neighbors could be there to help.

"On syrup making days, the Sandflat School would be closed so all the children could attend. It was always a much-anticipated event," she added, "and everybody came to help or just enjoy the time with their neighbors. It was like a big festival."

Only a handful in this crowd had ever seen syrup making before. Many spectators swapped stories they had heard years before from their grandparents. Some gathered around the mill. Others stood under the syrup shed, near the fire pit, where a fire sizzled and crackled as more pungent pinewood was fed into the firebox. The aromas of hot coffee, homemade biscuits and sausages floated through the nippy air.

For Gary "Super" Luker, this moment was a dream come true! Luker had always loved the old ways and cherished the traditions of his family. After his mother died, he was cleaning out his dad’s barn with the help of his grandson Clay. He found a number of old plows his grandfather had used.

"I was amazed that Clay had no idea what a twister, a sweep or a shovel was," he explained.

He was determined his grandchildren would not only hear about but also experience some of the customs and practices of their ancestors.

That spring, Luker bought a mule and taught his grandchildren how to plow, plant corn and peas the old way, and harvest the crops.

Gary Luker, left, planted cane. Then cut and stripped it for making cane syrup. The process is very labor intensive.

"I wanted my four grandchildren to know how their grandparents lived off the land," he added. "Who knows? One day they may need to know how to grow their own food."

After that, Luker decided to tackle another time-honored tradition: syrup-making. In his granddaddy’s times, cane syrup was the only source of a sweet taste because sugar was so scarce and expensive. People would use the syrup to sweeten coffee or tea. Some told stories of their grandmothers using syrup, hand milled on their farms, on grits and oatmeal. Even today, cane syrup pecan pies are still very popular in this area.

Luker wanted his grandchildren to experience making cane syrup, so he bought a mill, built a syrup shed, cut the wood and planted the cane. He even made most of the other tools he would use such as the cane strippers and skimmers. He involved his grandchildren in each step of the preparation. His goal was to make sure the children would remember these moments and be able to tell the stories to their grandchildren.

Choosing the right day to cook the syrup can be tricky in South Alabama because the weather can be unpredictable. Usually, early November is the best time. Cooking too early means that syrup makers have to battle the yellow jackets buzzing the juice or swarming the sweet mixture. However, the cane must be harvested before the first frost, because a frost will sour the cane, causing the juice to have an unsavory taste.

The time to make syrup had arrived and the excitement mounted. Since this process would take all day, Luker brought three mules to be used interchangeably to pull the pole. The mules stomped and snorted, blowing their breath into the cool air, clanging their gear as they shook to keep warm. Luker hooked the harness on the first mule, and his cousin John Bagley snapped the reins to start pulling the pole.

Brian Luker, Gary’s son, pulls the cane after juice is squeezed and stacks the remains.

Luker let his grandchildren slowly feed the cane into the mill by hand. As the mule circled, the pole turned the mill’s three drums, mashing the juice from the cane stalks. It was a slow process, much like the steady gait of the mule. The cane juice ran through three filters to a large container below. The goal was to clean the juice as much as possible before cooking. A pungent, sweet smell permeated the cool air as the juice flowed slowly into the collector bucket. About 8-10 gallons of juice are needed to make a gallon of syrup.

From there, Luker transferred the juice to the cooker, a large, homemade, aluminum container. Luker offered small cups of the sweet juice to those who stood near the warm, sputtering fire. His Aunt Lillian took a sip and then recounted more stories of drinking cane juice as a child. A few tried the sweet, pungent juice, but only after being warned of the "laxative qualities" of the raw juice.

Benny Crawford carefully pours the juice into the cooker, and skims the hot, bubbling mixture to remove dregs and impurities.

Another cousin Benny Crawford cooked the sweet juice, continuously stirring the hot foaming mixture with a large metal spatula. It’s important that the mixture does not stick to the kettle as that would make the syrup have a scorched taste. Continuous boiling causes water in the juice to evaporate, leaving more sugar content. The hot mixture produced foam, and Crawford carefully skimmed it to remove the dregs and impurities that had cooked out.

Making cane syrup is a slow, tedious process requiring constant attention. Nothing can be hurried. The quality of the syrup is dependent on the juice reaching the right temperature to have the desired texture, color and flavor. Not cooking the juice enough would make the syrup have a watery consistency. Cooking the juice too long would make the syrup turn to a hard candy.

As the hours passed, some neighbors left and others arrived. Many grandparents stopped by with their grandchildren, took pictures and watched the process. At lunchtime, the women brought out baked sweet potatoes, tomato gravy, lima beans, potato soup, cornbread and more biscuits that had been kept warm in the oven in the syrup shed. Some visitors had also brought homemade baked goods, and they shared with all who had come. The children watched, wide-eyed, munching on sugar cookies and listening to the old stories circulating among the crowd.

Gary Luker shares some of the sweet juice with his cousin Linda McIntyre and aunt Lillian Styron. Styron told stories about lining up as a child to get the sweet juice because children had very few sweets to enjoy.

By 4 p.m., Luker deemed the syrup ready. He drained a small portion from the spigot and walked among the spectators, sharing samples. Each grandchild sampled the sweet concoction, licked their fingers and asked for more. The clear, citrine-colored syrup received praises from all who tasted it. A smile of pride and satisfaction broke across Luker’s face as he drained more syrup from the spigot.

The next step was jarring, and Luker’s wife Charlotte and his cousin Judy Crawford took charge then. His daughter Jennifer Ballard and granddaughters Ashley and Alexis helped pour the hot liquid into tiny jugs and pint jars bearing labels of "Super’s Soppin’ Syrup." The women and children worked quickly to cap the containers so all the flavor could be preserved. Since this syrup had no additives or chemicals, it was much desired by family and friends.

Boyce Kelley, John and Nancy Pugh, and Harrison O’Bryant came to watch the syrup making. Harrison’s favorite part was the mules. “Harrison is only 5, but he will always remember Nan Nan and Paw Paw bringing him to see this,” Nancy said.

Luker took a pint jar and held it up toward the sun. The amber color meant a good batch. The look on his face showed the pride he felt after a day of very hard work.

"This is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done," Luker explained. "It’s something I don’t think my grandchildren will ever forget."

The sun was setting in the west as family and friends folded their chairs and loaded their belongings. A day of hard work was ended, leaving fond memories and a sense of nostalgia.

Syrup making evokes memories of simpler days, days when neighbors took the time to visit and share and care; days when life seemed less confusing and more stable; days when time moved more slowly just like the making of cane syrup.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.



The Co-op Pantry

Janice and Dan Ferguson

We are honored to have such a lovely lady as our cook of the month, what a way to start off a new year of great cooking! Mrs. Janice Vickers Ferguson actually shops at two of our stores, Lauderdale County Co-op in Elgin as well as the Limestone Farmers Co-op in Athens. She has a fascinating story and some of the best recipes we have gotten in! Sit back read and enjoy. Then go try out Mrs. Ferguson’s yummy recipes.

I was born in the Wooley Springs area of Limestone County and grew up mostly around the Athens and Ardmore area. My husband Dan grew up in Tanner. We have lived the past 37 years on our farm outside Rogersville in Lauderdale County. This is where our family was raised. Our son and his family also live here. We have 200 acres on which we have lots of fun deer hunting, riding four-wheelers, horseback riding, fishing, creek wading and just exploring around in the woods for muscadines and such.

Actually, I grew up cooking. I remember learning to make cakes, candy, cornbread, etc. by watching it done and a natural desire to cook developed.

I remember making my first pan of cornbread when I was about 7 at my great aunt’s house. She cooked on one of those old wood stoves where you had to feed the wood in one side and the other side was the oven. I was very intrigued by it as we had always had an electric range.

I made my first cake when I was around 10. I had to beg my mother for hours to be able to make it. It was made from scratch without a recipe.

I was around 14 when I did my first canning of kraut. Mother was sick and the cabbage was ready. It took a lot of persuading on my part; however, Mother finally gave in to let me try out my talents in kraut making. I was one tired young lady by the end of that project. That was the last of my canning, so to speak, until I married. Dan bought me a pressure cooker in the first year of our marriage and I have been canning now for 47 years.

There were six children and my parents; needless to say, everyone in the family took their turn in the kitchen cooking. We all liked to eat, so everyone grew into great cooks as adults. I don’t think we even knew what a recipe was, we just cooked. I still cook virtually the same way with many of my dishes, although I do have many good recipes that I often use. My family enjoys them very much whether from scratch or recipe.

My family joins in and cooks together. Dan isn’t big on cooking; however, he makes a wonderful breakfast and thoroughly enjoys everything we all cook. Our son Jason and his wife Lori make a great team in the kitchen preparing meals. Jason grew up cooking in the kitchen right beside me. He and Lori are both outstanding cooks. Our grandchildren Lauren, Katelynn and Jackson also enjoy cooking. They have grown up helping with my gardening, canning, cooking and preserving. Lauren and Katelynn did their own little project of making 14-day pickles at the ages of about 7 and 9! I have the cutest picture of them chopping cucumbers in those big old dishpans. As my family shares in the enjoyment of daily and holiday meals, we are thankful for the blessing of God to be able to live on a farm and be together.

I have been a homemaker and worked at schools as a substitute bus driver, cook and teacher. My main love is being at home where I enjoy cooking for our family, gardening and spending time with my grandchildren. I grow my own herbs such as garlic, garlic chives, lemon mint, catnip, chives, oregano, cilantro, sweet basil, thyme, sage, parsley, ginger and several more that I use to cook with. I also grow all our vegetables and either freeze or can them. When a recipe calls for a certain herb or vegetable, I work it out to use what I have grown and preserved. I tried to adjust some of my recipes to correct measures, as sometimes I cook to taste.

I like to read cookbooks and have a collection of around 200 of them. I am an avid reader and enjoy books on grown and wild herbs. I look forward to receiving the AFC Cooperative Farming News with all of the interesting articles; I especially like the recipes from the Co-op Pantry, The Herb Lady and The Herb Farm. I also enjoy Taste of Home and Southern Living magazines.

Janice said to tell everyone she is 66 and her husband is 71, and they are still going strong.

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

CHEWY CAKE

2 sticks margarine, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1½ cups nuts
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together with spoon. Press into greased and floured 10x12 pan.

Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes. As soon as cake starts to rise lift the pan and let it bump so cake falls. Do this 3 times during baking. If done right, this is almost like a brownie.

Note: This is a 100 year old recipe. It was given to me by an elderly church friend in 1985. It is one of our favorites.

MEAT NOODLE CASSEROLE

1 (12-ounce) package noodles
1 pound ground beef
1 cup onion, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup green pepper, chopped

2 cans condensed tomato soup

1 cup cheese, grated
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Cook noodles as directed on package. Brown meat. Add onion, celery and peppers. Layer noodles with meat mixture into a 9x3 baking dish. Mix soup with Worcestershire sauce. Pour over mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in oven at 325° for 45 minutes.

JANICE'S POTATO SOUP

5 cups potatoes, cubed
1 cup onions, chopped
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 soup cans milk
1 can chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
Pinch of sage, just to taste, optional

Cook potatoes and onions in water until done. Add soup, milk, broth, bouillon cube and sage. Let simmer.

CRAWFISH CORNBRED

3 eggs, beaten
1 onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons jalapeno peppers, chopped
¼ cup oil
1 (16-ounce) can cream style corn
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 (16-ounce) package frozen crawfish
1 cup cornmeal, plain
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Mix eggs, onion, peppers, oil, corn, cheese and crawfish. Mix cornmeal, salt and soda. Add to egg mixture. Grease a 10" cast iron skillet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Pour mixture into skillet and bake at 400° for 30 minutes.

SALMON PATTIES

1 can pink salmon
1 slice bread
¼ cup meal
¼ cup flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Pour juice from can of salmon over bread to dissolve. Take fork and flake salmon, bones and all. Mix with other ingredients in appropriate size bowl. Drop by tablespoons into a hot pan of grease. I use an iron skillet on medium heat. Brown and turn over to brown other side.

HOT APPLE CIDER

¾ cup instant tea with lemon
1 (22-ounce) Tang Orange Drink Mix
1½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Mix all together, store in an airtight container.

When ready to use, mix ¾ cup of mixture with:

½ gallon pineapple juice
½ gallon apple juice
4 cups water

Note: This is good hot or cold. For holidays pour into crock pot and let simmer. Enjoy!

JANICE'S PIMENTO CHEESE

1 (8-ounce) block cheddar cheese

1 (8-ounce) block Velveeta cheese

1 (8-ounce) block Colby/Monterey Jack cheese

1 (4-ounce) jar pimento

1 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper, or to taste

Shred cheeses on large side of grater. Mix all ingredients in bowl large enough to stir easily. If pimento cheese is too thick, add ¼-½ cup water to desired consistency.

Note: My son and daughter-in-law say I make the best they have ever eaten. I always make enough to share with them.

GRAMMY'S SWEET POTATO PIE

6-8 large sweet potatoes
1 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1½ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup white corn syrup

Bake potatoes in oven until done. Let cool, peel and slice into 1-inch chunks. Place in buttered casserole dish. Combine other ingredients and pour over potatoes.

Topping

1 cup flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick butter

1 cup nuts, optional

Mix flour, sugar and butter together until mixture becomes crumbly; add nuts and spread over potato mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

DELICIOUS PUNCH

1 large package lemon Jell-O
4 cups sugar
14 cups water, divided
1 (18-ounce) bottle of Real Lemon
2 large cans pineapple juice
1 (1-ounce) bottle almond extract

Dissolve Jell-O and sugar in 4 cups of hot water. Add lemon, remaining water, pineapple juice and almond extract. Chill and serve.

HOMINY

Shelled corn, enough to make a gallon

Water

1 quart wood ashes, in a bag

Butter

Place corn in a pot filled with hot water and wood ashes. Let soak several hours or overnight. Boil until the skins come off. Drain and remove ash bag. Wash well in cold water. Boil again in clean water until soft. Wash and fry in butter. Serve.

Note: This is an old recipe similar to what I remember my mother doing. I did try it on

GRAMMY JANICE'S
CHICKEN AND DRESSING

1 chicken, boiled, deboned, reserve broth
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large pan cornbread, cooked with 4 eggs
2 Tablespoons sage
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1 stick oleo
1 can cream chicken soup
Salt, to taste
4 slices loaf bread

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together except broth. Add enough broth to make mixture consistency of cornbread batter. Dressing dries out as it cooks. If dressing looks dry about halfway through cooking, add more broth. I cook mine in a large iron skillet which I add a little bacon grease or oil. Bake at 375-400° until done.

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

24 medium mushrooms

¼ cup butter, melted

2 green onions, finely chopped

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning (or seasoning of choice)

1/3 cup Ritz crackers, crushed

Remove stems from mushrooms; finely chop stems to make 1/3 cup. Melt butter and stir in remaining ingredients including chopped stems, but not mushroom caps.

Stuff mushrooms with mixture. Arrange in baking dish. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes.

Note: We usually have these delicious mushrooms for birthdays and holidays. My family never leaves any leftovers. I usually triple the recipe. I also use different types of mushrooms.

FRUIT CAKE COOKIES

½ pound candied cherries, chopped

½ pound candied pineapple, chopped

¼ pound candied mixed citrus, chopped

½ cup flour (all purpose or self-rising)

1 cup coconut flakes

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups pecans, chopped

Dredge fruit in flour; add other ingredients and mix by hand. Drop by tablespoonful onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 275° for 25-30 minutes. Store in airtight container several days to improve flavor. Yields approximately 3½ dozen.

Note: We can’t have Thanksgiving or Christmas without these on the list. Dan, Jason, Lori, Lauren, Katelynn and Jackson, and all our friends and relatives put in a request for these starting early. My husband worked with a man who always requested that he bring them to the get-together at work.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2014 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook when it is published. - Mary



The FFA Sentinel: Going All Out

“Go All Out!” was the 87th National FFA Convention’s theme.

at the 87th National FFA Convention and Expo

by Will Graves

This past October, the 87th National FFA Convention and Expo reached an all-time record of 64,409 members, advisors and guests in attendance in Louisville, Ky. Only 475 of those members have the unique opportunity to represent their state as a delegate. The "Delegate Process," as it is referred to, exemplifies what the National FFA Organization is all about, because FFA is the largest student-led organization. The 475 members who have the opportunity to serve as delegates get to decide on the changes that will be made within the organization. The process works much like our government. There are proposals sent by states to the National FFA headquarters and six committees are formed. When national convention arrives, the delegate body is divided into committees in order to complete their reports. The final reports are presented to the delegate body and voted on. If the report is passed, it is then sent to the National FFA Board of Directors for the consideration of the changes the members want to see in the organization in the near future. Perhaps one of the biggest changes proposed this year is to allow middle school members (seventh and eighth grades) the opportunity to compete at the national level – currently they cannot. Alabama made this proposal because we have a large number of middle school members who deserve the same opportunities as older members. Alabama had the opportunity to have 11 delegates represent our state on the delegate floor: our six state officers, as well as five of our district officers, representing the North, Central and South Districts.

Jackson Harris proudly represents Alabama as the National FFA Southern Regional Vice President.

Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to go to sessions and hear keynote speakers, industry leaders and, best of all, our national officer team! From the Eufaula FFA Chapter in Alabama, National Southern Region Vice President Jackson Harris definitely gave his home state something to be proud of. We are so proud of Harris and his year of service to this great organization! Aside from the sessions, members had the chance to visit the FFA Mall and do some shopping at the FFA Megastore, where you can find anything and everything FFA!

Another fun part of national convention is the Career Fair and Expo. There members can visit with industry professionals and FFA partners as well as meet with college recruiters. This Career Fair is a great opportunity for members to expand their horizons and look into college and career options. Agriculture is such a diverse industry, and students who are interested in an agricultural career need to be open to the many career paths available to them.

While all of these events were taking place at the Kentucky Expo Center in Freedom Hall, there was another very important event taking place downtown. This is an event that some might say is the most important and prestigious process taking place at national convention: the National Officer Selection Process. The process was held downtown at the historic Galt House Hotel. It took place over five days with the election being held on the last day of convention. Alabama’s National Officer Candidate Nikki Giba is from the Cherokee FFA Chapter in Colbert County. Giba was a state officer during the 2012-2013 school year; she served as the State Sentinel. Giba said the process was long and very challenging, but the friendships she made throughout that week are ones that will last a lifetime. Alabama was represented very well and I thank Giba for her commitment and service to the Alabama FFA Association and the National FFA Organization.

Above, Delegates for the 87th National FFA Convention are (from left) FFA State President Will Graves, Central District FFA President Anna Pollard and FFA Vice President Levi Colquitt. Right, Nikki Gibia, Red Bay FFA Chapter and 2014-2015 Alabama FFA National Officer Candidate, with Daryl Behel, her advisor.

As State President, I had the opportunity to be part of some really fun events at national convention. I was able to meet with all of the friends I made at the State President’s Conference this past July and catch up with them. The friendships I have made in the FFA are priceless and I am so blessed to be part of such a wonderful organization. I attended banquets and spoke with industry leaders, and I even met some of the National Officer Candidates! Even though I got to do all of that, the most rewarding part for me was shaking the hands of our state’s American Degree recipients. They are the members who strive for excellence. Only one percent of the total membership will receive their American Degree each year. The American Degree is the highest honor the National FFA Organization can bestow upon its members and it was an honor to share that moment with our recipients and congratulate and commend them for their hard work and perseverance.

Will Graves, Cleveland FFA Chapter, is currently serving as the Alabama FFA State President.



The Herd Sire

by Baxter Black, DVM

This is one of those stories that sounds so unbelievable that you’ll know I didn’t make it up!

Mike studied the bloodlines. He checked performance records. He knew his herd like the top two layers of his tool box! He was a good young cattleman. When he decided on the course of action to improve his herd’s genetics, he called the breed association rep. They discussed his needs. Plans were made for the field man to attend a bull sale in Texas with the express instructions to buy exactly the right bull.

The call from Texas delighted Mike. The field man had bought the perfect yearlin’ bull that would carry Mike’s cows into the 21st century for $10,000 ... half interest. He agreed that the co-owner, a purebred breeder from Oklahoma, could use the bull that fall. Then the breeder would ship the bull to Pine Ridge country of northwestern Nebraska in time for Mike’s spring breeding.

In February, arrangements were made to put the bull on the back of a load going as far as Sterling, Colo. The trucker would call Mike on arrival.

Mike waited anxiously. Several days passed and nobody called. He called his partner only to find they’d left Oklahoma territory a week before! Feeling uneasy, Mike called the Sterling sale barn.

No, they didn’t remember any bull.

"Let us check."

They suggested possibly the bull Mike was lookin’ for had been bought by a trader!

"What’d he pay?" Mike asked.

"Fifty-six cents a pound."

In a panic, he tracked down the trader. He’d run the bull through the Brush sale. The trader said he broke even. Packerland had bought him as a baloney bull! Mike drove all night to Packerland in a desperate effort to save his bull!

"No," they said. "He was too thin to kill so they’d sent him to a feedlot in Rocky Ford!"

Mike smelled like burnin’ rubber and was chewin’ the upholstery when he boiled into the feedlot in a cloud of dust! The foreman was surprised, but led him over to the receiving pens. There stood Mike’s future; road weary, coughin’ and covered with sale barn tags!

Mike’s knees were shakin’!

"Nice bull," said the foreman, "But ya cut’er close, sonny. Tomorrow evenin’ he’da looked a lot different without his horns and cojones!"

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



The Opposite of Fresh is Stale

New Twists on Old Favorites

by Christy Kirk

All you need is a fresh start! How many times have you heard someone say those words? Because of my own experiences, when I hear this said to anyone, I immediately think that something bad has happened to the person. After thinking about it, I realized I needed to check my reaction to the saying. After all, the opposite of fresh is stale.

In one of my education classes, we had a whole chapter devoted to change and how different people react and respond to change. As you have probably seen in your own lives, some people think change is never a good idea while some folks dive into every new possibility fearlessly.

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference.

Whether a person chooses to make a big change or feels forced to, most people faced with this type of life decision would surely want to know about the "freshest" opportunities, wouldn’t they? Some people do not. They feel that staying with what you know can seem like the safest long-term option, and sometimes it is.

If I ever find myself resisting change, especially when it seems out of my control, I try to remind myself of the times in my life when the idea of never changing anything about my life was the scary thought. A fresh start doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. With an open mind it can be a way to recognize new opportunities. Sometimes you have to weigh your options carefully and then make choices based on your instincts.

We all hear testimonies from people in church, at work and even on the street who have made bad choices in their lives - especially those who have made bad decisions and overcome the consequences. They want us to learn from their mistakes, but sometimes we have to learn the lessons for ourselves. No matter how many times we are told or shown, sometimes we jump into change with closed eyes and widespread arms, but then sometimes we close our eyes, cross our arms and stay exactly where we are.

Change can be scary, but it has still always meant new opportunities and experiences to me. When I moved to Montgomery from Nashville in 2004, I remember thinking I would probably never move again. I actually felt sad at the thought of never packing up and moving again, of never starting over. I was settling down, or so I thought. Of course, I was wrong.

The New Year ahead causes us to reflect on our lives, trying to make sense of all that we have been through and what may be ahead, and, for some people, it will mean making a fresh start. I hope whatever decisions or challenges you are facing this year, you are able to adapt to the changes you encounter.

In the spirit of change, here are some new twists on some New Year’s Day favorites for your next holiday meal or gathering. Happy New Year to you and yours!

Hot Turnip Green Dip Recipe

½ cup onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped turnip greens (or fresh if you have them)
¼ teaspoon grated lemon rind, or a tiny splash of lemon juice
1 can cream of mushroom soup
6 ounces garlic cheese (check the deli)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Hot pepper sauce, to taste

Sauté the onion in butter until tender, then set aside. Cook turnip greens according to package directions and drain well. Combine them with the lemon rind in a food processor until smooth. In the top of a double boiler, combine sautéed onions, turnip greens, soup, cheese, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce; stirring until mixture is well blended and heated. Serve hot with tortilla chips.

Black Eyed Pea Salad

2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
½ cup red onion, chopped
½ clove garlic
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

Combine first 4 ingredients and toss lightly. In separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour over pea mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours. Remove garlic before serving.

Black-Eyed Peas with Garlic and Kale

1½ pounds kale, washed and drained
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon garlic, chopped or minced
Dried red pepper, to taste
2 cups canned or cooked black-eyed peas
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Pull the kale leaves from the tough stems. Discard the stems and chop the leaves into 1 inch pieces. Place about 2 inches of water in a large pot and heat to boiling. Add the kale, cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes.

Drain the kale. In a large skillet, combine oil and garlic. Cook the garlic over low heat, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the peas and red pepper. Cook until blended, stirring for about 3 minutes. Add kale and stir to blend over low heat. Add the cider vinegar just before serving. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Brown Bears
(great for kids on nights at the hunting camp)

Brown Bears, ready to cook, right, and ready to serve. Yum!

1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, softened
2-3 cans refrigerator biscuits (or your own biscuit dough)

Mix sugar, cinnamon and butter together until well blended. Butter hands to prevent sticking. Take the biscuits and roll in hands to form long snake-like pieces. Wrap the snake-like dough around a stick or skewer in a coil fashion. Cook over an open fire until cooked (should appear brown). Remove from the stick and roll the cooked dough in the cinnamon mix and put some inside the hole the stick was in.

Foil Fries
(also great for children at the camp)

Potatoes, cut into fry shape
Tin foil
Cooking spray
Butter or oil

Salt, pepper or other seasonings, to taste

Spray a piece of tinfoil with cooking spray. Place potatoes onto foil. Add butter or oil, salt and pepper or other seasonings. Place the fry packet on hot coals and cook for about 30 minutes.

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



The Co-op Pantry

Janice and Dan Ferguson

We are honored to have such a lovely lady as our cook of the month, what a way to start off a new year of great cooking! Mrs. Janice Vickers Ferguson actually shops at two of our stores, Lauderdale County Co-op in Elgin as well as the Limestone Farmers Co-op in Athens. She has a fascinating story and some of the best recipes we have gotten in! Sit back read and enjoy. Then go try out Mrs. Ferguson’s yummy recipes.

I was born in the Wooley Springs area of Limestone County and grew up mostly around the Athens and Ardmore area. My husband Dan grew up in Tanner. We have lived the past 37 years on our farm outside Rogersville in Lauderdale County. This is where our family was raised. Our son and his family also live here. We have 200 acres on which we have lots of fun deer hunting, riding four-wheelers, horseback riding, fishing, creek wading and just exploring around in the woods for muscadines and such.

Actually, I grew up cooking. I remember learning to make cakes, candy, cornbread, etc. by watching it done and a natural desire to cook developed.

I remember making my first pan of cornbread when I was about 7 at my great aunt’s house. She cooked on one of those old wood stoves where you had to feed the wood in one side and the other side was the oven. I was very intrigued by it as we had always had an electric range.

I made my first cake when I was around 10. I had to beg my mother for hours to be able to make it. It was made from scratch without a recipe.

I was around 14 when I did my first canning of kraut. Mother was sick and the cabbage was ready. It took a lot of persuading on my part; however, Mother finally gave in to let me try out my talents in kraut making. I was one tired young lady by the end of that project. That was the last of my canning, so to speak, until I married. Dan bought me a pressure cooker in the first year of our marriage and I have been canning now for 47 years.

There were six children and my parents; needless to say, everyone in the family took their turn in the kitchen cooking. We all liked to eat, so everyone grew into great cooks as adults. I don’t think we even knew what a recipe was, we just cooked. I still cook virtually the same way with many of my dishes, although I do have many good recipes that I often use. My family enjoys them very much whether from scratch or recipe.

My family joins in and cooks together. Dan isn’t big on cooking; however, he makes a wonderful breakfast and thoroughly enjoys everything we all cook. Our son Jason and his wife Lori make a great team in the kitchen preparing meals. Jason grew up cooking in the kitchen right beside me. He and Lori are both outstanding cooks. Our grandchildren Lauren, Katelynn and Jackson also enjoy cooking. They have grown up helping with my gardening, canning, cooking and preserving. Lauren and Katelynn did their own little project of making 14-day pickles at the ages of about 7 and 9! I have the cutest picture of them chopping cucumbers in those big old dishpans. As my family shares in the enjoyment of daily and holiday meals, we are thankful for the blessing of God to be able to live on a farm and be together.

I have been a homemaker and worked at schools as a substitute bus driver, cook and teacher. My main love is being at home where I enjoy cooking for our family, gardening and spending time with my grandchildren. I grow my own herbs such as garlic, garlic chives, lemon mint, catnip, chives, oregano, cilantro, sweet basil, thyme, sage, parsley, ginger and several more that I use to cook with. I also grow all our vegetables and either freeze or can them. When a recipe calls for a certain herb or vegetable, I work it out to use what I have grown and preserved. I tried to adjust some of my recipes to correct measures, as sometimes I cook to taste.

I like to read cookbooks and have a collection of around 200 of them. I am an avid reader and enjoy books on grown and wild herbs. I look forward to receiving the AFC Cooperative Farming News with all of the interesting articles; I especially like the recipes from the Co-op Pantry, The Herb Lady and The Herb Farm. I also enjoy Taste of Home and Southern Living magazines.

Janice said to tell everyone she is 66 and her husband is 71, and they are still going strong.

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

CHEWY CAKE

2 sticks margarine, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1½ cups nuts
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together with spoon. Press into greased and floured 10x12 pan.

Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes. As soon as cake starts to rise lift the pan and let it bump so cake falls. Do this 3 times during baking. If done right, this is almost like a brownie.

Note: This is a 100 year old recipe. It was given to me by an elderly church friend in 1985. It is one of our favorites.

MEAT NOODLE CASSEROLE

1 (12-ounce) package noodles
1 pound ground beef
1 cup onion, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup green pepper, chopped

2 cans condensed tomato soup

1 cup cheese, grated
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Cook noodles as directed on package. Brown meat. Add onion, celery and peppers. Layer noodles with meat mixture into a 9x3 baking dish. Mix soup with Worcestershire sauce. Pour over mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in oven at 325° for 45 minutes.

JANICE'S POTATO SOUP

5 cups potatoes, cubed
1 cup onions, chopped
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 soup cans milk
1 can chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
Pinch of sage, just to taste, optional

Cook potatoes and onions in water until done. Add soup, milk, broth, bouillon cube and sage. Let simmer.

CRAWFISH CORNBRED

3 eggs, beaten
1 onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons jalapeno peppers, chopped
¼ cup oil
1 (16-ounce) can cream style corn
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 (16-ounce) package frozen crawfish
1 cup cornmeal, plain
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Mix eggs, onion, peppers, oil, corn, cheese and crawfish. Mix cornmeal, salt and soda. Add to egg mixture. Grease a 10" cast iron skillet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Pour mixture into skillet and bake at 400° for 30 minutes.

SALMON PATTIES

1 can pink salmon
1 slice bread
¼ cup meal
¼ cup flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Pour juice from can of salmon over bread to dissolve. Take fork and flake salmon, bones and all. Mix with other ingredients in appropriate size bowl. Drop by tablespoons into a hot pan of grease. I use an iron skillet on medium heat. Brown and turn over to brown other side.

HOT APPLE CIDER

¾ cup instant tea with lemon
1 (22-ounce) Tang Orange Drink Mix
1½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Mix all together, store in an airtight container.

When ready to use, mix ¾ cup of mixture with:

½ gallon pineapple juice
½ gallon apple juice
4 cups water

Note: This is good hot or cold. For holidays pour into crock pot and let simmer. Enjoy!

JANICE'S PIMENTO CHEESE

1 (8-ounce) block cheddar cheese

1 (8-ounce) block Velveeta cheese

1 (8-ounce) block Colby/Monterey Jack cheese

1 (4-ounce) jar pimento

1 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper, or to taste

Shred cheeses on large side of grater. Mix all ingredients in bowl large enough to stir easily. If pimento cheese is too thick, add ¼-½ cup water to desired consistency.

Note: My son and daughter-in-law say I make the best they have ever eaten. I always make enough to share with them.

GRAMMY'S SWEET POTATO PIE

6-8 large sweet potatoes
1 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1½ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup white corn syrup

Bake potatoes in oven until done. Let cool, peel and slice into 1-inch chunks. Place in buttered casserole dish. Combine other ingredients and pour over potatoes.

Topping

1 cup flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick butter

1 cup nuts, optional

Mix flour, sugar and butter together until mixture becomes crumbly; add nuts and spread over potato mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

DELICIOUS PUNCH

1 large package lemon Jell-O
4 cups sugar
14 cups water, divided
1 (18-ounce) bottle of Real Lemon
2 large cans pineapple juice
1 (1-ounce) bottle almond extract

Dissolve Jell-O and sugar in 4 cups of hot water. Add lemon, remaining water, pineapple juice and almond extract. Chill and serve.

HOMINY

Shelled corn, enough to make a gallon

Water

1 quart wood ashes, in a bag

Butter

Place corn in a pot filled with hot water and wood ashes. Let soak several hours or overnight. Boil until the skins come off. Drain and remove ash bag. Wash well in cold water. Boil again in clean water until soft. Wash and fry in butter. Serve.

Note: This is an old recipe similar to what I remember my mother doing. I did try it on

GRAMMY JANICE'S
CHICKEN AND DRESSING

1 chicken, boiled, deboned, reserve broth
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large pan cornbread, cooked with 4 eggs
2 Tablespoons sage
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1 stick oleo
1 can cream chicken soup
Salt, to taste
4 slices loaf bread

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together except broth. Add enough broth to make mixture consistency of cornbread batter. Dressing dries out as it cooks. If dressing looks dry about halfway through cooking, add more broth. I cook mine in a large iron skillet which I add a little bacon grease or oil. Bake at 375-400° until done.

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

24 medium mushrooms

¼ cup butter, melted

2 green onions, finely chopped

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning (or seasoning of choice)

1/3 cup Ritz crackers, crushed

Remove stems from mushrooms; finely chop stems to make 1/3 cup. Melt butter and stir in remaining ingredients including chopped stems, but not mushroom caps.

Stuff mushrooms with mixture. Arrange in baking dish. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes.

Note: We usually have these delicious mushrooms for birthdays and holidays. My family never leaves any leftovers. I usually triple the recipe. I also use different types of mushrooms.

FRUIT CAKE COOKIES

½ pound candied cherries, chopped

½ pound candied pineapple, chopped

¼ pound candied mixed citrus, chopped

½ cup flour (all purpose or self-rising)

1 cup coconut flakes

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups pecans, chopped

Dredge fruit in flour; add other ingredients and mix by hand. Drop by tablespoonful onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 275° for 25-30 minutes. Store in airtight container several days to improve flavor. Yields approximately 3½ dozen.

Note: We can’t have Thanksgiving or Christmas without these on the list. Dan, Jason, Lori, Lauren, Katelynn and Jackson, and all our friends and relatives put in a request for these starting early. My husband worked with a man who always requested that he bring them to the get-together at work.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2014 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook when it is published. - Mary



The Transparency Factor

Key to the Confident Consumer

by Michelle Bufkin

There are numerous factors that go into U.S. farmers and ranchers producing food consumers feel confident in eating; one factor that is becoming more relevant is transparency. In today’s world, consumers are no longer complacent about where their food comes from. Today’s consumers want to know more information about their food. So why do we not give it to them? Andy Vance, a broadcast and sales professional at Feedstuffs, recently held a webinar where he discussed the biggest factor of consumers feeling comfortable about buying the food we produce - the transparency of the farm or company.

Consumers think about food production constantly, yet they know very little about how their food is brought to the dinner table. While this is the truth, it is not solely the producer or the consumers’ fault; it is both. As producers, whether farmers or processing companies, we are afraid consumers might misunderstand what and why we do certain things. We love our industry so much that we do not want anyone to misunderstand and maybe later misrepresent the industry we dedicate our whole lives working to better. There is an easy solution to this issue.

"Instead of being defensive and secretive, we should focus on being educational. No one trusts someone who acts like they have something to hide," Vance said.

This is so true. As producers, we know there are real reasons to not allow people onto our farms, whether the reasons are human safety, biosecurity or animal safety. But consumers see our closed-door policy as us trying to hide something; we need to be more transparent about our reasons. If we explain how easily salmonella is spread among chickens and explain the high level of biosecurity is the reason people are not allowed in chicken houses, it can help counteract the belief that we do not want consumers to see the "horrible conditions" in which our chickens are raised. We, as farmers, know our chickens are not raised in horrible conditions, but, until we tell consumers why they cannot come into the chicken houses, some will assume it is to hide the something inside.

An example of transparency playing a large role in helping consumers feel more comfortable with the agriculture industry was in 2011 when Cargill allowed access to Oprah’s film team to tour a feedlot and meat processing plant. Cargill opened their doors, so they could tell the true agricultural story of how our meat is finished and processed. At the time, transparency was a relatively new concept, but more companies are accepting this important factor and are becoming more comfortable with being open to consumers. Because Timmerman Feedlot, one of Cargill’s providers, was willing to allow a film crew on their land, most consumers were able to see a feedlot for the first time. Consumers learned the amount of work that goes into finishing and caring for cattle.

When the film crew went to the Cargill plant, they explained that the cattle were kept in a small pen for two hours in order to calm them down. This transparency helped dispel the myth of cattle being extremely uncomfortable in small pens; it actually produces a calming effect for the cattle. The Cargill employee in the film explained the slaughter process, and this is probably the first time most viewers have ever heard the process explained by a professional. The peace of mind this transparency offered to consumers is astounding. Consumers do not always have a vast knowledge of the slaughter process, so giving them a peek into what we do and why we do it can greatly boost their confidence in the agricultural industry. The Cargill employee also discussed that cattle are moved through circular chutes to calm the cattle’s nerves. Because of the transparency Cargill offered, consumers learned that cattle producers truly do care about the animals, no matter the circumstance.

The Cargill employee explained her belief, "… we are committed to doing it right. I believe that when animals are handled with dignity and harvested carefully that this is the natural order of things."

It is incredibly important for consumers to hear that producers are committed to handling animals safely and humanely. The film crew also described the regulations in place on the slaughter of cattle. Without the transparency offered by Cargill, consumers may not know how the regulations control the process in order to keep the process as humane and quick as possible.

Obviously, we do not all run a processing plant large enough to catch Oprah’s eye, but we can all do something to increase the transparency of the agriculture industry. The most important thing is to be transparent, to be willing to talk to people about what we do and why.

Another beneficial tool is offering people the opportunity to visit your farm. Whether they accept or not, it is not as important as the offer itself. Offering to allow them to see what you do on a daily basis can help consumers realize that we are not trying to hide anything. We just sometimes assume people understand what agriculture is, and that is not always the case. Showing people what the agriculture industry believes in and works for firsthand does more to bridge the gap between producer and consumer than people realize.

No matter what kind of practice you run, whether beef cattle, row crops or chickens, consumers are curious about all of it; show them that we have nothing to hide!

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Unintended Consequences

Controlling the spread of kudzu, once thought harmless, costs approximately $6 million a year. (Credit: www.dnr.wi.gov)

Whether it is termed unintended consequences or
collateral damage, the result is still the same: outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action.

by Chuck Sykes

As the old saying goes, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Many times throughout history, well-meaning individuals have done things that initially appear harmless, but once the dust settles, nothing could be further from the truth. For example, kudzu was introduced into the Southeast United States in the late 1800s for erosion control and a high-protein food source for cattle. Now, approximately $6,000,000 is spent annually trying to control the spread of kudzu.

Additionally, we can all think of selfish people throughout history who have knowingly caused severe problems by only thinking of personal gain. You are probably wondering where I am going with this. How can these things relate to issues dealt with by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division? Unfortunately, it’s all too easy.

One of the species receiving the greatest concern in Alabama is Asian carp. (Credit: USDA)

Feral hogs, for example, are a species brought here by early explorers as a readily available food source for future explorations. That seemed harmless enough until well-intentioned hunters started moving them around in order to have another animal to hunt. The unintended consequences resulting from introducing feral pigs into new areas is evident from one end of our state to the other. Feral hogs inflict millions of dollars of damage each year in Alabama.

To stress the importance of finding a solution to the ever-expanding feral hog population, the Alabama Feral Hog Council was formed. The AFHC includes representatives of state and federal agencies, universities and many NGOs. The first step in slowing the spread of feral pigs is to educate the public about the dangers of transporting live feral pigs for release. In the past, once trapped, feral pigs became personal property. Even though it was illegal to move feral pigs, the enforcement was extremely difficult due to language in the regulation that changed the status of pigs once reduced to "personal possession." At the request of WFF and with the full support of the AFHC, the Conservation Advisory Board passed a regulation to clarify the language. Now, it is illegal to move or release live feral hogs. This new regulation will definitely remove many of the constraints placed on our conservation enforcement officers.

Illegal transportation of live white-tailed deer may the biggest threat to our terrestrial wildlife resources, and this isn’t just an Alabama issue. It seems every week I read an article about either chronic wasting disease infecting a deer herd in a new state or some unscrupulous individual getting caught illegally bringing live deer across state lines. Within the past month, Ohio became the newest state to have a CWD-positive deer found in one of their many breeding facilities, and the Department of Justice in Mississippi handed down sentencing for illegally importing deer into their state.

Illegally importing live white-tailed deer and falsifying records is a violation of state and federal law. Importing live white-tailed deer could introduce illnesses like CWD into the native deer herds, and bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis into livestock. The illegal importation of white-tailed deer represents a great danger to Alabama’s hunting heritage and to the huge economic benefit white-tailed deer provide to the state.

In addition to issues with terrestrial animals, Alabama has a wealth of water resources that act as a conduit for the invasion of aquatic nuisance species. These ANS pose a significant problem to Alabama. They are species introduced outside of their native ranges that can grow in or are closely associated with the aquatic environment. These can have deleterious effects on the local economy, human health and natural resources.

The Alabama Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan lists 18 species (i.e., 11 fishes, two crustaceans, three mollusks, one mammal and one jellyfish), 13 plants and one blue-green algae as species of great concern in Alabama. A few of these species have not yet established reproducing populations in Alabama, but they are considered strong threats based on information about problems in neighboring states, the region or the nation. Those animals receiving the greatest concern in Alabama are the nonnative carps endemic to Asia. These species are silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis). In recent years, silver carp have increased drastically in parts of the Mississippi River Basin, with populations negatively impacting native fishes by competing for valuable food resources. Bighead and silver carps were originally introduced in the United States in the 1970s for aquaculture and use in treatment of sewage ponds, but could not be confined. Although not established in Alabama, silver carp populations currently exist and have confirmed catches from Bear Creek of Pickwick Lake in Mississippi. It may be only a matter of time before Alabama has its first confirmed silver carp catch in nearly 20 years!

Hydrilla, an aquatic plant originating from India, is an ANS of great concern in Alabama. This plant is widespread in the Mobile Delta, Tombigbee, Tennessee and Chattahoochee river drainages and has been found recently in the Tallapoosa River drainage. It was introduced in the United States via the ornamental aquarium plant trade and has also been introduced accidentally as fragments on boats, boat trailers and outboard motors, and deliberately by recreational anglers. Hydrilla grows aggressively and competitively, forming thick mats in surface waters, prohibiting native plant growth, reducing sport fish foraging efficiency when open water space and natural vegetation are lost, and sometimes impeding boating and fishing.

These are just a few examples of issues WFF addresses on a daily basis in an attempt to manage, protect, conserve and enhance the wildlife and aquatic resources of Alabama for the sustainable benefit of the people of Alabama. You can also do your part to help: Please make sure your boats and trailers are cleaned of aquatic vegetation, and, if you see any illegal activities, report them to Operation Game Watch at 1-800-272-4263.

Chuck Sykes is director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.



Who Would Have Ever Thought It?

by Glenn Crumpler

When Jack and I first started the Cattle for Christ cattle farm, we started by fencing and cross fencing the 6 acres in front of my house. As the herd grew, we fenced the 30+ acres around Jack’s house. As the herd continued to grow, we fenced the 45 acres of cultivatable land where we plant winter grazing and the 60+ acres of the south pastures. Soon, we had the lease on a couple of other pastures donated and even rented yet another farm that is miles down the road.

As time went by, we realized that when we were fencing and cross fencing all this land, we had not dreamed big enough! We had built 12- to 16-foot gates in all our fencing, never dreaming we would ever have equipment donated that would be too large for those standard openings. Who would have ever thought that in a couple of years we would have almost 300 head of cattle, a 115-horse power dual-wheeled tractor, 40-foot long gooseneck trailers, a 20-foot disc and a 16.5-foot grain drill – all donated to the ministry? God had given us an idea, or a vision of what He wanted to do, but we never dreamed it would be as large as it has turned out to be. We underestimated what God could and would do!

In 2011, we sold most of our cattle to generate funds to support our mission work through the Cattle for Christ Moving-Em Out for Missions Sale. We are now working to rebuild our herd back up to 125 mama cows, but I still do not know if we are dreaming big enough.

As I write this on a Monday morning, I have just returned from Jordan two days ago. This was my second trip to Jordan this year working with Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as Jordanians. On this trip, we programmed 150 of the new CFC TrailBlazer solar-powered players and 200 of the CFC TrailBlazer Sidekick players that go in the stuffed animals for children.

When I arrived at the Atlanta airport, I received a call from Larry Cochran who serves on our Cattle for Christ Board of Directors. He and two other men I know and have done mission work with were on their way to do work in Nicaragua. I got off the tram at their concourse and had a brief time to visit with them and have prayer together before proceeding to catch my flight.

As we reminisced, I mentioned how amazing it was that Larry had taken me on my first mission trip to Mexico in 1991 and we have done several more trips together since that time. Jack Scobie (one of the men with Larry) and I had been on several mission trips together, the latest being this past July when he went with me to Nicaragua with one of our teams. Larry Montgomery (the other guy with Larry) and I had spent a couple of weeks in the jungles of Peru, miles up the Amazon several years before. My wife Lisa had also been on a trip with him and his wife in years past.

Who would have ever thought back in 1991, when Larry took me on my first mission trip, that 23 years later we would be meeting at an airport, each heading out to different parts of the world doing a different work for the same Lord? Between 1991 and this meeting in 2014, the Lord had allowed us to work together to help do His work in over 50 countries! As we talked and prayed, we thanked God that His plans for us were much bigger than we had ever dreamed.

On my flight between Atlanta and Paris, I took a picture. I could not help but think that there is no way the Wright brothers could have ever imagined this sight would be possible when they were dreaming about flying or even when they successfully completed their first flight that was shorter than the wingspan of a current 747 passenger jet!

On my flight, we were traveling over 630 mph at an altitude of 39,000 feet crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Three hundred people on the plane – all walking around as they wished. The plane had six restrooms with running water and flushable toilets. Each passenger had their own color television where they could watch a huge library of movies, listen to world news or even monitor the path of the plane by watching the GPS system – all in a variety of languages. The cabin was pressurized, the climate was controlled by each passenger and we even had hot meals served along with frozen ice cream!

The first motorized plane flown by the Wright brothers on Dec. 17, 1903, had a wingspan of 40.3 feet, weighed only 605 pounds and had a 12 horsepower gasoline engine. They flew at an altitude of only 10 feet for a distance of 120 feet at speed of 6.8 mph and for a span of 12 seconds. Yep, I feel confident saying, when Orville and Wilbur made their flight, a flight like mine never crossed their minds. They would have never thought it possible.

Now, as I look forward and think about the new line of CFC TrailBlazer solar-powered audio devices Cattle for Christ is using to help evangelize the world, disciple Christians, train pastors, plant churches and minister to the needs of children both here at home and around the world, I have great expectations. I can visualize how the Lord can use this technology and these tools to transform our culture and raise up a whole generation of new believers in America. I can visualize how millions of American children can learn of God’s love for them, know His Word and accept His gift of salvation before they get deep into the sins plaguing our culture.

I can see how these tools can make the Word of God and other evangelistic and discipleship programs available in solar-powered audio format to billions of people who either do not have access to the written Word or who cannot read the Bible if they had one. (Over 50 percent of the world cannot read and over 70 percent do not read, but learn and communicate through story telling.)

The Bible tells us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:14 NKJV) It also tells us: "For all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" and then it asks us four questions: "How can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent." (Romans 10:13-15)

To learn how you can help us get this brand new solar-powered technology, audio discipleship material and an audio Bible for yourself and help us send them to the rest of the world, please contact me or visit our website at www.cattleforchrist.com.

As great as my expectations are, I know God is going to use these tools and the people they reach to accomplish His purposes in ways beyond my ability to imagine.

I truly believe, in a few years, we will look back at what the Lord has accomplished through the CFC TrailBlazer resources and ask the question, "Who would have ever thought it?"

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



Working Your Way Through Winter

by John Howle

"My heart aches for America and its deceived people." - Billy Graham

To deceive means to cause someone to believe something that is false, often for personal gain. Synonyms would be words like mislead, misinform, snooker, bamboozle, dupe or trick. When people believe a lie, they are considered deceived. Be vigilant in your search for the truth, and don’t always take things at face value.

The Bible has a lot to say about truth. In John 8:32, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Then there’s John 16:13, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." Finally, even a powerful political leader, Pilot, was seeking truth when Jesus stood before him in John 18:37-38, "Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world - to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him.’"

More Planning, Less Plumbing

This January, there are a few things that should be taken care of before the cold weather of winter peaks out. Last year, in most parts of Alabama, folks got to experience some extremely cold temperatures, snows and icy winds that would chill to the bone. So much for "global warming." One morning last year, the temperature gauge read -2 degrees. We had some plants and shrubs that had weathered the winter for years suddenly come up dead the following spring.

I had to do some quick plumbing to take care of pipes that had burst in the upstairs walls of my house. It’s a great idea to run high-quality extension cords and a couple of heat lamps in areas close to your pipes when temperatures dip. In addition, keep the water running at a trickle during the night so the moving water will prevent freezing.

Burning Benefits

January is an ideal time to conduct a prescribed burn through your timber. If you have adequate, clean firebreaks and a day with little or no wind, a prescribed burn has many benefits. First, the following spring, the wildlife will get a lot of high-quality browse from the spring growth. Second, a prescribed burn helps keep the forest floor clean and kills much of the shrub growth. Finally, prescribed burns help prevent out-of-control wildfires because much of the forest floor fuel is burned up before it has a chance to accumulate.

Chickens love green forage during the winter. This can be grain- producing grasses such as ryegrass, oats or wheat, and add clovers such as red and white.

Chicken Forage

Chickens love a little green forage during the winter. There are two ways to do this. First, you can hand-gather clover by the buckets and give it to the chickens, or you can plant forage exclusively for chickens. Grain producing grasses such as ryegrass and oats mixed with clovers such as red or white can offset the bag feed you have to give the chickens, and these grasses and clovers make ideal insect holding areas as well as healthy forage.

Battery Bullet Points

If you have implements that require a battery such as ATV-mounted seed sowers, herbicide sprayers or even your trusty trolling motor, a deep cell marine battery is your best choice for long-term usage. The deep-cell battery is designed to be completely discharged and recharged. When you are working around the farm, it’s critical to be able to use the battery all day and recharge without permanently damaging the battery. The deep-cell is designed to endure the abuse. At the end of each use, attach the battery to a trickle charger so it will be ready for the next time.

Well-worded signs, aluminum nails and tree marking paint can help in properly marking your property borders against trespassing.

Post Your Property

At the end of deer season, you may have noticed that unethical hunters might have made entrance onto your property. It is easier to prove cases of trespassing if your property is posted; however, it is implied that you are trespassing if you are on someone else’s property whether it is marked or not. It’s best to clear up any doubt by having your property posted. Choose signs with informative wording instead of aggressive wording, and you’ll be on better terms with all your neighbors.

Some of the things you will need to properly post your wooded property are informative-worded posted signs, aluminum nails to attach them to the tree, hammer and a few cans of tree marking paint. Always use aluminum nails to attach the signs. The use of regular nails will damage chainsaws and timber harvesting equipment. The aluminum nail is much softer.

This January marks a new beginning for farms and families. Make sure you are searching for the real "truth" as you embark on a new year.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



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