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Home > Archives > January 2017

January 2017

A Family Affair

by Baxter Black, DVM

If you live in a rural community, you can probably name many examples of multigenerational families who operate a ranch or farm. Their lives are built around the animals or crops they raise. Last August, I spent a couple of days gathering and branding calves for a local rancher.

It was obvious that Dad was in charge and every member of this tight-knit family knew their job. You would expect things to move along smoothly; in part, due to the up-to-date facilities and reasonably calm livestock. He said a prayer for the gather; then sent us out to bring in the 100 or so cows.

When we got the pairs to the corral, we sorted the 250-pound calves off into a separate pen. "We" is defined as the four hired help plus the Dad, the Son and the Daughter, all family members over 6 feet 2 inches tall … and tough!

I was assigned to fill the holes, sort of a quality-control position. Ropers rotated. We had at least three muggers on the crew who seemed to take pleasure doing the flanking. I got tired just watching them!

By noon, it was 96 degrees and the dust was thick as diesel fumes. Dad had a Nord Fork calf holder he wanted to try. It reduces labor by holding the front quarters while the roper holds the hind legs. The muggers ignored him. Every time he attempted to hook up his Nord Fork, the muggers stepped in front and dove at the calf!

We were down to the bigger calves. Roper drug a big’un by the hind legs into the sweat-soaked, dirty crew. I reached down to hold the rope tight so Roper could take up slack.

The rest of the story is still blurry in my memory: visions of Gettysburg, Moby Dick, "Star Trek," the Ziegfeld Follies and "Jurassic Park" clash, wherein Captain Ahab gets his harpoon line tangled around Spock’s ankle who is fishing for Jaws. Shrek is water skiing. Cat Woman is juggling the vaccine gun, a branding iron, an ear tagger, open pocket knife and a can of fly spray. This whole extravaganza is accompanied by Beethoven playing "Ship My Body Back to Texas if I Die Out on the Trail!"

The calf got one hind foot loose. Daughter dived on top of the calf. From my view looking up, Dad’s silhouette is trying to get his Nord Fork on the front end, but gets sucked into the vortex and crashes forward onto the growing pile. This is when Son jumps on top of Sister, alias Daughter. Mind you, Brother, alias Son, weighs as much as the calf, making Sister a 500-pound sandwich!

This is a moment when I stood up and took an imaginary photograph. I titled it "Killer Whales Attacking a Writhing Porpoise."


The calf rose to his feet – castrated, vaccinated, tagged and branded. He stared at the creatures around him. Although he had never seen a coal miner, he figured that’s what they would look like comin’ home from work. All they needed was a light helmet and lunch bucket.

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,

A Message from Mia

You, too, can make a difference for an animal in need!

by Mary Delph

Hey, my name is Mia and I am a rescue dog! I am a Siberian Husky. I am very beautiful, if I say so myself. I have big blue eyes and I know how to use them to get what I want from my Mom and Dad. Yes, I guess I am a little spoiled.

I mostly have had a good life, not being abandoned or mistreated. My first owner got me as a pup and then decided I just didn’t fit in her household. A friend of hers gave me a new home with another Husky to play with and life was good until the great escape.

My friend and I escaped from our nice yard and were on the run for days! My friend got hit by a car and died. I was lucky; I was picked up and taken to the pound.

Then I was sent to my current home as a foster, but, I fit the family so well, I got to stay. I have a huge fenced-in backyard with dig wire around the bottom so I can’t go for any more strolls.

Even though they aren’t my biological pups, I am raising two rescue pups: Stony, a Heinz 57, and Princess, a German Shorthaired Pointer. Both of them were from litters that were accidents. I love my little accidents!

Okay, my babies and I have it good and I am thankful. True, I was never hurt and mistreated like the dogs at the pound told me they were. They made me cry to hear their sad stories of abuse and betrayal. So, if you can find it in your heart to care for a dog (or even a cat) that needs a home, a shelter animal will be so grateful. Trust me on that!

My babies and I are warm and toasty in our dog houses and have all the food we can eat, but many other animals aren’t this fortunate. So, this year, if you are thinking about getting a new pet, check your local shelter and find your new family member there.

P.S. My Mom said if you are considering a Husky like me, to remind you of a couple of things. As a breed, we tend to be a little mouthy and we love to get out and go for LONG walks, so make sure you have a secure yard. We are high-energy dogs and need a big yard or lots of long walks. We shed twice a year; I mean we REALLY shed. On the really positive side, I am good with well-behaved kids and other pets, as long as I consider them part of my family. Mom said to tell you that we are one of the most affectionate breeds ever and are very playful, too!!!

Happy New Year,


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

A New Kind of Public Library

With vision, innovation and commitment, Thomasville Public Library transforms into a community hub.

Gina Wilson, director of Thomasville Public Library, praised the help of Randy Johnson, who came to the Library as a part of the partnership between TPL and Georgia Pacific. As a part of the GP Rehab Program, Randy was recovering from a work-related injury, but he had not been medically released to return to work. He chose to volunteer with TPL through this unique partnership. One of his projects was to ready TPL’s plot in the Community Garden. He also built the Little Free Library that stands beside the building that will be renovated to house the new library.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Community libraries have always been centers for information and ideas, but, in today’s digital world, libraries have had to reinvent themselves to keep up with ever-changing technologies. The Thomasville Public Library has done just that, becoming a dynamic community hub, not only bridging the area’s digital divide but also addressing the region’s economic woes. TPL’s transformation is an inspiring story of vision, innovation and commitment.

Like most small, rural libraries, space was an issue for TPL, and a new building was not an option in a region with some of the highest unemployment in the state. Undeterred, Director Gina Wilson and her dedicated staff of three full-time and four part-time employees, used their mission of community engagement and relevancy as a call-to-action, creating what they now call their "Culture of YES!"

With no funding for major changes, the staff decided a simple facelift would be a start! They used a grant from the Thomasville Worthwhile Club to change the entrance to the library, adding a 24-hour, dual book/digital media drop, outdoor information boards, and benches and rocking chairs for Wi-Fi users forced outside because of overcrowding. Inside, they opened the library areas, added natural lighting and made the front desk more inviting and engaging, creating a welcoming ambience. Because most people in the community worked shifts, the library changed its hours, staying open 48 hours a week, two nights after 5 and a half-day on Saturdays.

To understand the diverse needs of all age groups, staffers journeyed into the community. TPL Youth Services Coordinator Dawn Heartsill used her findings to design programs to involve toddlers through teens. Heartsill moved into community schools to organize Book Clubs for elementary and middle school students and a Teen Advisory Council to coordinate events, such as Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week. She expanded Summer Library Programs, adding hugely successful special events Tuesdays in June at the Thomasville Civic Center. Tours and field trips brought even more students into the library. TPL gave away free library cards to all third-graders, organized an in-house reading program at the Thomasville Boys and Girls Club, and brought home schoolers into the library for specially designed activities.

Left to right, in October, children who attended Story Hour enjoyed a Halloween party at the library. Hailey Bender, left, and Zoie Harvell participated in the costume contest. The children’s section of the library is bright and cheerful, with comfortable chairs and colorful decorations. Mary Madeline Drinkard enjoys a good read while waiting for her grandmother to finish her interview.

TPL embraced and welcomed technology into every aspect of its outreach. Recognizing that tech-hungry seniors yearned to learn basic technical literacy skills, Martha Grammelspaucher, TPL Adult Services Coordinator, partnered with the Thomasville Nutrition Center and the local RSVP to offer Tech Tuesday. Staffers travelled to the Center each second and fourth Tuesday, providing e-reader training, answering tech questions, and troubleshooting tech devices owned by the seniors. They also took along a rolling library with books for the seniors to check out or return on the spot. They sparked interest in the Young at Heart adult coloring program, by offering coloring kits seniors could check out. The library and the nutrition center displayed the artwork, creating even more interest. This successful program has now branched out into origami, involving even more seniors.

Miriam Pugh works on an iPad in the Literacy Station, donated by International Paper.

In 2014, with funding from a grant, Wilson added a genealogy and local history area with two computers loaded with ancestry-search software. She also created shortcuts to genealogy forms, developed tip sheets to make a search much easier and added over 200 books, containing vital records, births, deaths or family-specific information. She and her staff added other local historical documents such as school yearbooks and community scrapbooks, compiled by local organizations such as the hospital auxiliary, garden club, bicentennial committee and beautification group.

Partnerships with businesses and schools initiated even more positive relationships. A 2015 Early Literacy grant from International Paper Company allowed staffers to go into local pre-schools with free books and library information for 3- and 4-year-olds and their parents, as well as free sets of classroom editions for their teachers. When the grant came in under budget, IP allowed the library to purchase an Early Literacy Station that holds four iPads, loaded with over 100 early literacy-learning programs.

The Rehab Program, with Georgia Pacific in Pennington, provided help with maintenance, landscaping, carpentry and technical projects. GP employees, recovering from work-related injuries but not medically released to return to full-time work yet, were encouraged to volunteer at TPL. One GP worker, Randy Johnston, built a Little Free Library and placed it on the site of the proposed new library to serve until the library expansion project has been completed. Johnson also renovated and planted TPL’s plot at the Community Garden, in addition to repairing and renovating unusable furniture.

Chris Trull paints the Little Free Library that stands beside the building donated to the City of Thomasville for a new library.

One of the most mutually beneficial relationships has been with Thomasville City Schools. Wilson and her staff worked closely with the three school librarians to understand the needs of TCS teachers and share ideas and resources, especially e-books that teachers checked out through their school media centers. Employing students from the Work-Based Learning Program at Thomasville High School provided staff members with time for professional learning and other activities.

October 2016, TPL partnered with Alabama Southern Community College, the Alabama Career Center in Jackson, Clarke County DHR, the Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network, the Thomasville Library Foundation and the City of Thomasville for a grant to expand services to rural and poor job seekers in North Clarke and adjacent counties. Since transportation and technology have been employment barriers in this region, TPL offered free access to computers and staff assistance to do job searches and complete online applications. The staff also provided referrals to partnering agencies, resume help, interview preparation and free lessons for those lacking basic digital literacy skills.

"There was a missing piece for our area job seekers," Gina Wilson explained. "Many couldn’t drive to Jackson, but they could come here to use our services. Our goal has been to improve their abilities to access resources, obtain information and apply business resources to get a good job. In the future, we hope applicants can apply for jobs through video chats right in our library."

TPL’s open-door/no-card policy to use the computers keeps Ruby Hightower, TPL’s Technology Coordinator, very busy. In 2015, over 11,587 guests enjoyed wired-computer use. Hightower collects data to plan various projects such as the recent addition of a new T1 fiber line to enhance connectivity even more.

The data have also shown some other interesting facts. For example, in 2015, TPL’s official service population was listed as 8,863; however, the staff welcomed 46,884 visitors, with over 40,840 checking out the 17,389 books and 41,692 available digital books.

The staff at Thomasville Public Library have worked to transform the library into a community hub and service center for the region. Pictured are (from left, front) Gina Wilson, Ruby Hightower, (back) Maxine Owens, Martha Gramelspacher, Chris Trull, Dawn Heartsill and Julie Rembert.

Surveys in 2015-2016 showed 40-42 percent of these users came from four surrounding counties: Choctaw, Washington, Wilcox and Marengo. If TPL had been able to count wireless use, the numbers would have been far higher. This data verified that TPL’s impact crossed county lines, making it a regional information center.

January 2016, dreams of a larger library became a reality. First U.S. Bank of Thomasville donated the old Bedsole Furniture Building to the City of Thomasville, for the purpose of moving the current public library from Highway 43 to the downtown area. The projected costs to renovate the historic, two-story building into a new modern library are $3.5 million, and fundraising efforts have already begun. With the new building, the library will become a one-stop experience, housing a children’s area, a reading amphitheater, a small business center and a professional business area with computers, an old-fashioned reading room without electronic intrusions, a community room, and another large multipurpose room for public meetings and children’s events.

With vision, innovation and commitment, the Thomasville Public Library has emerged as a new kind of library, one that looks much different from libraries of the past. TPL is now a 21st century community hub, offering solutions and services that will improve life for everyone.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

A New Thing

by John Howle

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” ~Isaiah 43:19

January is a time for starting new things, having new beginnings, and watching the Lord do new things. This past summer and fall, I watched the creeks on our family farm run completely dry. I watched many hardwood trees die from lack of ground moisture. I saw a few spots on the sides of the roads where someone would inadvertently toss a cigarette out the window leaving behind a large black swath of burned ground because the grass was dry and dead in the heart of the growing season leading up to late fall.

But now, it’s time for new rains, new plantings, fresh harvests from the woods, and using any excuse possible to get outside to relieve cabin fever. Even though springtime is a few months away, prepare now for the upcoming growing season in your pastures.

Clover Cover

Using nothing more than a handheld seed sower, you can disperse clover (red or white) this time of year and get pretty good germination through frost seeding. The heaving of the soil through thawing and freezing and cattle hoof traffic works the seeds into the ground this time of year. An ideal ratio of clover growth to grasses is 30 percent clover and 70 percent grass.

The clover, through the nitrogen-fixing nodules on the root system, makes nitrogen available to the surrounding plants in a natural, organic form, which is more readily available to companion plant root systems, and this form of nitrogen doesn’t leach or wash away with rains and doesn’t evaporate into the air.

Using a sharp hatchet, chop an angled indention into the tree trunk well into the cambium layer below the bark. Pull the blade back creating a pocket where you can spray a couple of squirts of Remedy brush killer. About four cuts and sprays around the diameter of the tree should be sufficient for a kill.

Hack and Squirt

Hack and squirt may sound like a terrible intestinal infirmity, but it’s actually a great way to kill unwanted trees in the pasture, on the creek banks or areas where unwanted tree growth is crowding available pastureland. Using a sharp hatchet, make a solid downward chop cutting through the bark and through the cambium layer of the tree. Pull the hatchet head back slightly, making a cup-like indention, and spray an herbicide mixture of Remedy brush killer into the indention. Make about four or five of these hack and squirts around the diameter of the trunk to make sure you have a good kill.

Tie flagging around the trees you have treated to keep up with their progress and let people be aware of deadfalls as the tree deteriorates. The only time you don’t want to use the hack and squirt method is during the spring when the sap is flowing strong enough to work the herbicide out of the cuts in the tree. Also, don’t cut and spray when much rain is in the near forecast. The herbicide can be sprayed from a simple pint bottle, and many trees can be treated with one spray bottle of mixture.

A turkey decoy placed in an open field will help bring wary coyotes in for a shot.

Coyote Control

A pack of coyotes can take its toll on deer herds, turkey flocks and spring calves. January is an ideal month to control some of the predators through strategic hunting. First, set up near a location where you have spotted coyotes.

Using a turkey decoy can enhance your chances of getting a shot at these sly stalkers. A remote game caller using hen calls works well. You can also simply call softly from your secluded blind with a mouth call just to attract attention to the decoy. Without some sort of decoy, if the coyote is coming near and sees no target prey, they will often bolt. The decoy gives them a target to approach.

If you have a regular spot in the fence where you have to cross repeatedly, it may well be worth constructing a fence crossing instead of putting in a gate. In areas where I leave the fenced pasture headed for the hunting lands, a fence crossing is an ideal convenience.

Fence Crossing

If you have a spot where the pasture fence meets your hunting lands, you might not want to cross the fence each time snagging on barbed wire; it may not be cost effective to put in a gate that can rattle and clank. Instead, you can install a wooden fence climb-over spot with treated lumber. The one is this photo was constructed by my hunting buddy and neighbor, Clayton Vaughn. He’s a Vietnam vet, a great American and an avid deer hunter.

Late Season Deer

There’s still time to harvest deer meat before the season closes this month. If you can harvest a doe, the meat is often preferred over the buck. The buck has had plenty of extra hormones running through his system during breeding, and he has had the stress of fighting off other bucks and staying on the move. The meat of the doe is often more tender, and it lacks the stronger flavor of the buck. Plus, taking a few does out of the deer population helps keep the buck-to-doe ratio at healthier levels.

Use this January to set positive goals for this New Year, but certainly be expecting God to do new things in your life.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

A Rural Tradition Returns

The Orrville Tractor Show is back and better than ever!

Bill and Karen Grimes are proud of their little town’s $170,000 pumper truck.

by Alvin Benn

When volunteer firefighters got together to host an antique tractor show in Orrville several years ago, some felt it wouldn’t last long and they’d soon be moving on to some other fundraising project.

Were they ever surprised!

Few, if any, of the organizers dreamed it would grow into one of Alabama’s most popular rural events, one that has attracted thousands of spectators every autumn.

"Our first tractor show was a small event, but people who drove by wondered what we were doing and it soon caught on," said librarian Karen Grimes, one of the event’s key organizers. "We learned they liked what they saw."

From a few hundred spectators who showed up in 2001 to the most recent one a few weeks ago when up to 5,000 people attended, it was apparent those who started it had created something pretty special.

It wasn’t long before they also realized they had a real tiger by the tail and wondered how much longer they could keep going.

It got so big, so fast, in fact, that those running the show had to announce a "time out" last year so they could recharge their personal batteries and decide if they wanted to continue.

"We met around Christmas in 2014 and decided not to have one in 2015," Karen said. "It just got to be too much and we needed to regroup."

When word spread that there would not be another event in 2015, disappointed supporters urged organizers to give it another try and bring the West Alabama Antique Tractor, Car, Gas Engine and Craft Show back to life.

Sam Givhan, a member of AFC Board of Directors, stands next to a John Deere tractor.

Karen said many involved in the tractor event soon began to receive overwhelming positive responses and decided to give it another try.

Questions about the event’s longevity lingered after the first tractor show, but an admonition from the late Howard Gray, a Dallas County investigator with an eye on the future, helped resuscitate it.

"Howard let us know we had to keep it going," said Karen, whose husband, Bill, is chief of the Orrville Volunteer Fire Department. "He said we had a great thing going and just shouldn’t let it die."

Those who believe local word-of-mouth is better than slick advertising campaigns out of Madison Avenue in New York nailed it in regards to the Dallas County event.

As word spread around Alabama, farmers and collectors couldn’t wait to bring their old John Deere tractors and Fords to Orrville – a tiny crossroads community 15 miles west of Selma.

Mike Gallahar of Munford in Talladega County hauled his antique tractor 130 miles and then carefully put it on display in a large field not far from Orrville’s old high school.

His tractor was soon joined by dozens more, as well as farm implements and other pieces of old agricultural equipment that helped to sustain the existence of rural families for many years.

"I got to drive my granddad’s Allis-Chalmers when I was young and it’s always stuck in my mind," said Gallahar, 65. "I don’t remember the new name of that company, but the old one has always meant a lot to me."

Tractor companies with solid agricultural pedigrees often are sold or merged with other businesses through the years. Spectators at the recent show had a ball examining them.

The Allis-Chalmers Co. was formed in 1901 in Milwaukee following a merger. Financial problems led to its demise in 1985, but it was reborn as Allis-Chalmers Energy AGCO.

It was much the same with other tractors that might be a bit rusty, but still remain loaded with nostalgia and can provide a history lesson for those too young to have known their origins. That goes for the farm implements, too.

"Some wouldn’t have a clue about just what a threshing machine is or what it can do," said Sam Givhan, a member of AFC Board of Directors and a well-known farmer in west Alabama.

The West Alabama Antique Tractor, Car, Gas Engine and Craft Show is fun for all ages.

Back in the old days, Givhan said, hay had to be cut manually and fed into a thresher, but, with today’s combines, it would be cut at the ground level, dumped into trucks and then transported.

"In the past 20 years, technology has grown by leaps and bounds," Givhan said. "Today, we have GPS machines, steering controls and other amazing machinery for farmers."

The mid-November event keeps growing because other attractions are added to make it even more popular. Fun and games, arts and crafts, a petting zoo, bungee jump and even rescued turtles draw attention each year.

After the first event, organizers felt a stage needed to be built and it wasn’t long before a big one emerged for singers and other entertainers to perform.

The tractor show’s biggest fan has been James "Big Daddy" Lawler, a legendary Wilcox County-based outdoorsman whose radio broadcasts attract huge audiences throughout Alabama.

Lawler has been the emcee at all but a couple of the Orrville shows and has originated his Saturday radio program from the site of the tractor event.

He enjoys each one and saves most of his praise for Karen for her organizational skills.

"She is one of the most remarkable special events coordinators I’ve ever known," Lawler said. "Karen and Bill have done most of the important work since it started and Orrville is lucky to have them."

Orrville was first known as Orr’s Mills, but began to appear on state maps as Orrville in 1853, according to Stuart Harris in "Alabama Place-Names."

The town was named for James Franklin Orr, who bought land in the area four years later. He developed the town around his commercial cotton gin.

It should be noted that Orrville’s population is only 204 residents. The volunteer fire department doesn’t have that many members, but community support is as strong as it’s ever been.

It’s been that way since the first firetruck arrived not long after the end of World War II. Bill said it might have been war surplus, but, from what he’s heard, it was greeted with open arms from volunteers.

Federal grants and supporters who open their wallets each year to keep the event viable have meant everything. A $170,000 pumper truck is one of the reasons the town has so many people who help to keep the show going strong. It’s parked at the volunteer fire department headquarters and ready to go to fight brush fires and help those hurt in wrecks as well as other emergencies in the area.

A second vehicle is also part of the volunteer fire department, but there is no need for a ladder truck in the little town with no multistory structures.

Droughts that continued through much of 2016 have kept volunteers in Safford, River Oaks, Marion Junction, Beloit and Potter Station on their toes, especially for possible grass fires.

A brochure distributed by the departments also let residents know they are ready to respond to calls about house fires, bad weather alerts, missing person reports and vehicle accidents.

The Orrville Volunteer Fire Department is supported, in part, by an ad valorem tax, but donations are always appreciated and area residents have always responded to calls for assistance.

The tractor show’s future will depend, as it always has, on people who support it. If the most recent event is any indication, it should be around for many years to come.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Agriculture affected by proposed truck speed limit

The U.S. Department of Transportation is moving forward with a requirement for speed-limiting devices, or chokers, in all new big-rig trucks and possibly for those already in use.

The idea is not a new one. The American Trucking Associations, representing trucking company owners, and the safety-advocating Road Safe America asked in 2006 that all heavy highway vehicles be limited to a top speed of 68 mph. In 2011, DOT agreed it would propose such a requirement. Limits of 65 and 60 mph also have been suggested.

Now, DOT has issued its proposal, and over 3,700 individuals and organizations have submitted comments. Most, but not all, are critical or opposed to the measure.

Few farm and ag commodity groups have shown an interest in the issue, though speed-limiting devices will apply to a lot of farm commodity hauling, especially if DOT applies the mandate to existing trucks.

Some 25 years ago when the nation had a 55 mph speed limit for all vehicles on the highways, the agency considered speed limiters for trucks but determined there was little justification for the added equipment.

As DOT now points out, much has changed since then. Many more trucks are on the road and improved technology and economy of speed-limiting devices have made control systems more practicable.

Also, the double-nickel speed limit days are long gone. In 35 states, highway speed limits are 70 mph or higher (Texas, 85 mph). The proposal projects that imposing a 68 mph maximum for big trucks would save up to 96 traffic deaths a year; a 65 mph maximum, up to 214 lives; a 60 mph limit, up to 500 lives.

The ATA and many of its member companies have said the idea of highway speed-limiting devices isn’t all that bad, even though they can slow deliveries. Reducing speed saves fuel and reduces accident frequency, they say. Other benefits include extending the life of brakes, tires and engines, and likely lower costs for liability insurance.

The ATA points out that whichever of the possible top speeds may be proposed, highways should have uniform speed limits and DOT must consider the potential danger of different speeds for cars and trucks.

Ag exports a key market for many states

All states export some agricultural products to markets overseas. While the value of agricultural exports is relatively modest for states such as Alaska, Rhode Island and New Hampshire (less than $100 million in 2015), many states rely on agricultural exports for a large share of their market revenue.

The largest beneficiary of overseas markets is California, contributing 17 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports by value. The $23 billion worth of agricultural goods exported by California in 2015 is more than the combined totals of the next two largest exporters. Iowa and Illinois exported agricultural goods valued at $10 and $8 billion, respectively, in 2015.

To put these numbers in perspective, the most recent agricultural census calculated the total value of agricultural sales in California to be $44 billion, while Iowa and Illinois had $31 billion and $17 billion, respectively.

In California, tree nuts account for the largest share of exports. Soybeans are the most valuable export in five of the Top 10 exporting states, including Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Other leading export products for states in the Top 10 exporters include cotton, wheat and fruits.

Alabama’s estimated agricultural exports in 2015 slipped to $1.237 billion, ranking the state 31st in the nation. The state’s overseas farm sales peaked in 2013 at over $1.6 billion.

New report lists research findings

In its recent Annual Report on Technology Transfer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released results of investments in scientific research including 222 new inventions, 94 patents awarded and 125 new patent applications.

The report includes new agriculture-related discoveries, inventions and processes made by USDA researchers, universities and small businesses with the potential for commercial application.

"From permanent-press cotton clothing, mass production of penicillin, frozen orange juice to the most effective and widely used mosquito repellents, our scientists and research partners have changed the world and every year their work leads to new advances," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

He added that studies show every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to the economy.

Highlights from the 2015 report include:

  • A bio-refinery that turned a city landfill into an energy park.
  • Computer chips made from wood fiber.
  • Mosquito-resistant uniforms for U.S. military personnel.
  • A new biological control agent to combat a major citrus disease.
  • An on-line climate and weather tool to better manage farm pests and plant diseases.
  • Cost-effective solar-powered irrigation pumps for remote communities.
  • Flu eradication through genome editing in pigs.
  • Bacteria-repellant cooking-pan surfaces.
  • Robotic apple pickers.
  • Affordable tornado-safe rooms.
  • Virus-based fire ant control.

Sweet potato production on the rise

Although sweet potato consumption often is associated with meals during the recently ended holiday period, the fact is that U.S. production of sweet potatoes has increased substantially in recent years.

Production reached a new record high of 3.1 billion pounds in 2015, a 4.8 percent increase over 2014’s 3 billion pounds. The largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States is North Carolina that harvested 1.6 billion pounds in 2015 and has been responsible for most of the gains in recent years. California, Mississippi and Louisiana are also notable sweet potato-producing states.

In 2014 and 2015, production gains were bolstered by growth in both exports and domestic demand. From 2000 to 2015, domestic consumption of sweet potatoes grew considerably with per capita availability rising from 4.2 pounds to 7.5 pounds.

The marked rise in domestic demand has been encouraged by promotion of the tuber’s health benefits. Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and vitamin C, and they are an especially rich source of vitamin A.

Federal appeals court rejects egg rules lawsuit

A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit by six states challenging a California law prohibiting the sale of eggs from chickens not raised in accordance with strict space requirements.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a recent ruling that the states failed to show how the law would affect them and not just individual egg farmers. California voters approved a ballot initiative in 2008 requiring egg-laying hens in the state must spend most of their day with enough space to allow them to lie down, stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs.

In 2010, California legislators expanded the law to ban the sale of eggs from any hens not raised in compliance with the standard.

Attorney General Chris Koster of Missouri filed the original lawsuit challenging the law. Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Iowa subsequently joined the legal action.

In upholding a lower court’s ruling, the 9th Circuit ordered the case dismissed without prejudice, giving the states the right to bring another lawsuit against the law in the future.

Red meat, poultry exports expected to increase

USDA forecasts for net exports (exports minus imports) of U.S. red meat and poultry in 2016 and 2017 show successive increases, largely due to higher beef production and expectations of solid growth in poultry exports.

U.S. beef exports are expected to increase by almost 9 percent in 2016 and almost 7 percent in 2017 as the beef sector recovers from a multiyear drought in major beef-producing states and U.S. production increases.

On the other hand, U.S. beef imports are forecast to decline by about 10 percent in 2016 and 11 percent in 2017, as supplies in Oceania tighten with herd rebuilding and larger supplies of U.S. beef become available at lower prices.

U.S. net poultry exports (broiler meat and turkey) are forecast to increase in both 2016 and 2017 reflecting higher production, lower prices and strong foreign demand for relatively low-priced meat protein. In total, U.S. net exports of red meat and poultry are expected to be 10.3 billion pounds in 2016 and 11.5 billion pounds in 2017.

Corn Time

Counting Flowers on the Wall

by Herb T. Farmer

Well, if you’ve been following my column, you know I strongly dislike cold weather. These old bones just don’t want to move much during the winter months and I run out of things to do in the house.

Even the cats and dogs mostly stay curled up by the stove or the sunniest window in the house. The cats don’t move about much until the sun goes down and then they want to go out and watch me feed the raccoons. The dogs follow me outside whenever I go to the barn or workshop.

Sometimes, not often, I get bored. Rain falling on a cold January day keeps me inside the house. Since I don’t subscribe to a television provider, I can’t keep up with the soap operas or the fake news. I’m not much for talking on a telephone and neither are my friends. So that leaves me to my own devices more often than not.

This cleaver was made in 1942 by Briddell. That company made cutlery for the U.S. Armed Forces. This is my favorite vegetable cleaver.

Every piece of cutlery I own and all of my pocket knives have been thoroughly sharpened and deep cleaned. The computers have all been opened up, dusted and vacuumed. The house is clean except for a few traces of pet hair, referred to in this house as "a condiment." I think I have watched every single YouTube video on the principals and construction of rocket mass heaters.

I’m running out of interesting stuff to do!

There are some simple pleasures in life I take notice of and appreciate every time. For example, just now, I took a break from writing and prepared a roast to cook for supper tonight. Using my favorite kitchen tools (my vintage, recently sharpened cutlery), the 12-inch butcher knife and the Briddell 6-inch vegetable cleaver that was made in 1942, I cut off 2 pounds of rib roast from a 16 pounder I have been aging in the refrigerator and seasoned it with salt, pepper and minced garlic. Then I cut up some carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, onions and bell peppers to be slow roasted on the grill.

The simple pleasure is in using a couple of very old and very dependable knives. They have survived the test of time. Every time I use them, I am reminded of a song, "Stuff That Works," by the late, great Guy Clark.

One of the jade plants that is budded.

Everything’s ready to cook.

Last month started off fairly warm, so I left a lot of plants outside until the sixth or seventh before bringing them into the greenhouse and the house. The coldest it had been up until then was about 36 or so degrees. It’s a good thing because a lot of succulents need a chill down before they bloom. This year, the Sansevierias (in the asparagus family), Jade plants, kalanchoes and barrel cactuses all set buds. It’s always exciting to watch them bloom. I wonder if the night-blooming cereus will finally bloom this year?

Beefsteak Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ is a beauty, even when not in bloom. It is one I cut and share each year.

I guess one other thing I can go ahead and get out of the way is start some more Beefsteak Begonia cuttings. Each year, I take cuttings and start small plants to give to friends and neighbors in the summer. Last year, I started about 30, but ended up with more because there’s always a leaf or a stem that breaks off. When that happens, I stick them into the nearest pot with room enough to share the soil.

This year I think I’ll take 50 cuttings. But not stems. I’ll take leaf sections and stick those. It takes up less room and, besides, each leaf section should yield at least five or six individual plants.

Yes, sir. It gets mighty boring around here in January. Oh, well. I guess I’ll have time to catch up on all the "Simply Southern TV" episodes I missed last year. They’re definitely worth watching. If they’re not in your market area yet, you can watch them online from their website. Go to or on Facebook at Simply Southern TV and see what they are up to.

Well, dang-gonnit! Nothing gets me going and puts me in a bad mood quicker than a broken water pipe in the greenhouse in January! Looks like I’ll have to stop playing solitaire and tend to this little inconvenience before my pump burns up.

No recipe this month. I’ll double up for February. Maybe I’ll be in a better frame of mind.

Get your Groundhog Day gift shopping done. It’s right around the corner! Stay warm, y’all.

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

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


Dealing with Drought

Tips for Livestock Producers

by Jackie Nix

Drought has made this a tough year for many livestock producers in southern Appalachia. Drought-affected pastures rarely produce adequate amounts of forage. Hay is in short supply and what’s available tends to be of below-average quality. Drought-stressed plants tend to be nutrient deficient, especially in protein, phosphorus and vitamin A.

How Does Drought Affect Nutrient Quality?

Drought has forced many cattle producers to start feeding hay early. As such, hay quantity and quality may be lacking this late in the feeding season.

Drought conditions affect nutrient quality in a variety of ways. First, because there is very little or no new growth, animals only have access to older, less-desirable plants in the pasture. Second, the nutritional quality of forages available is compromised by the stresses put on the plant by lack of water.

Drought stress negatively affects plant metabolic functions, resulting in low mineral and vitamin levels. Of these, phosphorus and vitamin A are usually most pronounced. Drought-stressed plants also do not metabolize nitrogen into proteins. Consequently, these plants contain low protein levels. But the second negative result is the accumulation of nitrates. Excessive levels of nitrates (over 1.5 percent) are toxic to livestock. Plants that are most susceptible to the accumulation of toxic levels of nitrates include sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, pearl millet, corn, wheat and oats. Some weeds are also known to accumulate nitrates. These are pigweed, smartweed, ragweed, lambsquarter, goldenrod, nightshades, bindweed, Canada thistle and stinging nettle. Be on the lookout for these weeds in your hay and pastures.

Symptoms of nitrate poisoning are labored breathing, staggering gait and sudden death. The membranes of the eyes and gums are bluish due to lack of oxygen and the blood is a chocolate-brown color, but turns to bright red when exposed to the air.

The key to avoiding nitrate poisoning is to have all hay forage tested and request the optional test for nitrate levels. Contact your local Quality Co-op representative or local cooperative Extension agent for more information about this forage analysis and the dangers of nitrate toxicity.

Dealing with Drought Conditions

Unfortunately, drought forces producers to make hard decisions. Options include early weaning, moving animals to additional pastures, purchasing supplemental feed and finally reducing herd numbers. In some cases, a combination of each of these strategies is in order.

A lactating female’s nutritional needs can be cut by roughly one-third just by weaning. In commercial situations, it may make sense to wean early and sell light-weight calves rather than pay feed costs required to maintain lactating females and/or creep feeding growing livestock. You will need to calculate the value of your market animals in relation to the cost of feed to carry them to normal market weight to decide if this is a valid option for you.

If the option is available, you may want to look into the possibility of moving livestock to alternate grazing areas such as hay fields and harvested crop fields. If your hay fields are too stunted to harvest as hay, allow your livestock to graze what is available instead.

At some point, you will have to purchase at least some supplemental feed to maintain your livestock. One feedstuff all cattle need is hay. While high hay prices may lead you to look for alternatives, hay cannot be totally excluded from the diet. Use of feeds and supplement blocks can help to maintain productivity, especially when hay or pasture quality is suspect.

Tips for Stretching Your Feed Dollar

A few tips that can help stretch your feed budget:

  1. Reduce the amount of wasted feed. If your animals tend to waste a lot of hay or feed, now is the time to remedy this. Solutions may include purchasing or making hay feeders to prevent animals from walking on the hay or building trays under hay feeders or troughs to catch dropped hay or feed.
  2. Deworm all animals and treat for coccidia. Don’t let internal parasites place added strain on your livestock.
  3. Cull unproductive animals. Now is the time to cull those marginal animals you were going to keep around for one more year. Any animal not meeting the production goals you’ve set isn’t paying for its feed.
  4. Always provide a complete mineral/vitamin supplement such as SWEETLIX 6% CopperHead to deliver recommended levels of phosphorus, copper, selenium and vitamin A. Mineral-deficiency lowers feed-conversion efficiency. More efficient feed conversion allows you to stretch your feed resources further.

Remember, it is vital to provide supplementation to pregnant females under these conditions. Mineral needs are increased due to pregnancy or lactation and drought-stressed forages are more likely to be deficient in nutrients such as phosphorus and vitamin A.

There are many supplement options available for all livestock species. Contact your local Quality Co-op for more information about how SWEETLIX Livestock Supplements can fit into your feeding program.

In summary, drought conditions this summer and fall have resulted in low-quality hay and pastures for a variety of reasons. When feeding low-quality forages, nutritional supplements are necessary to maintain reproduction and growth. Supplements pay for themselves in added production when used properly in these situations. For more information about SWEETLIX supplement products and information to help you decide how they fit in your management situation, visit

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


Extension Corner: Opening Doors

Beginning Farmer Program provides information for people of all ages and backgrounds.

by Katie Wendland

Farming was a way of life for Americans in the New World and on the Great Frontier. Over time, many families traded in country life for life in the city. While there are still family farms in operation, many young people today are more than three generations removed from family farms.

This generation gap has provided avenues for growth and expansion in urban areas, while posing problems for young people – and others – interested in agriculture.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has partnered with Farmscape Solutions, Crotovina, the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to implement the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program in Alabama.

Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, an Extension entomologist and one of the co-chairs of the program, said the number of young people entering farming continues to decline, but numbers of farmers and ranchers over 35 continue to climb – as does the number of small farms and ranches nationwide.

BFRDP Provides Customized Services

The BFRDP was developed to provide education, mentoring and technical assistance initiatives for those interested in the agricultural sector.

"There was a specific need to be met," Majumdar said. "There are many people in the state who would like to be involved in agriculture, but don’t know where to start. Our goal is to provide them with support and resources to be successful."

Jayme Oates, director of Farmscape Solutions and a collaborator on BFRDP, said it offers comprehensive assistance customized to the needs of the individual.

"Folks getting into farming often have education, experience or long-term careers in other disciplines," she said. "For instance, an accountant or retired bank executive will have the confidence and skills to make financial decisions and structure their business to be profitable, but may need assistance with crop management."

BFRDP Open to All

A group discussion during the Beginning Farmer stakeholder meeting held in February 2016.

Majumdar said veterans and underserved communities are two of the areas the BFRDP hopes to assist.

"There are over 400,000 veterans in Alabama," he said. "Veterans are a motivated group, interested in farming and learning more about agriculture. Before we began our program in-state, many veterans were traveling great distances for training."

The BFRDP is not a program set in stone. In fact, Majumdar said this is one of the main draws for participants.

It is a multistep program providing basic information, assistance in securing funds and technical information. The information garnered through the program is catered to the needs of participants.

Majumdar said participants have a wide variety of interests – from organic production to livestock. Much of the interest in the Beginning Farmer program stems from local food movements and a desire to know where food is coming from.

Extension agents throughout the state are the face of the Beginning Farmer program, working to provide resources and guidance.

Oates said the agents, or Technical Assistance Providers, work to meet each farmer where they are physically, mentally and culturally to prepare them for a quality farming experience.

BFRDP Funding Opportunities

Farmer 101 class in Cullman with an Extension agent teaching.

Oates said working capital and cash flow are challenges to most farmers, regardless of their levels of experience.

"There are incentive programs, grants and loans available through local, state and federal agencies targeting beginning farmers and ranchers," Oates said. "It is important to make beginning farmers aware of these funding opportunities. More importantly, this information must be complemented with training regarding the contractual agreements involved with each opportunity."

"Because many of the people interested in farming have no agricultural background, lots of them are not aware of the costs associated with farming," Majumdar added. "One of the resources we are happy to provide is a direct link to available funding."

Oates said it is in the farmer’s best interest to have a solid understanding of further obligations before pursuing or committing to a contract. BFRDP work focuses on assisting farmers with growing farm profits rather than farm debt.

Information and Assistance

For more information about the Alabama Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, visit Work on an electronic curriculum and an app for mobile devices is underway. Updates on progress will be posted at

Katie Wendland is a writer for Extension Communications.

FFA Sentinel: Transforming Purpose into Action

Record numbers attend the 89th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

89th Annual FFA National Convention and Expo

by Cameron Catrett

Indianapolis, Indiana, was flooded by a sea of national blue and corn gold from Oct. 19-22, 2016. Over 65,000 FFA members from the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands traveled there to attend the 89th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo. Indianapolis was home to the National FFA Convention from 2006-2012, but for most members this was their first time attending the convention in Indianapolis. For the past three years, the National FFA Convention was held in Louisville, Kentucky.

"With this year being the first year I attended the National Convention in Indianapolis, I was anxious to attend at a different site. The support from the community of Indy was so great and it made me feel like I was at home. Walking down FFA Way and seeing all of the smiling faces of excited members in blue jackets made me feel even more welcome," said Alabama FFA State Secretary Ben Castleberry.

The 89th National FFA Convention theme was "Transform Purpose to Action." Annually, the convention serves as a time to celebrate the accomplishments of members, teachers and the agricultural industry through competitive events, educational tours, leadership workshops, volunteer activities, concerts, rodeos and so much more.

Sierra Goodwin, Alabama FFA State President, shared about her convention experience.

"The convention showed me how truly blessed I am to be a part of our organization," she said. "It is an organization where I have a family of 649,355 members, who all share a love for FFA and agriculture. It has also shown me why my heart leads me where it does and just how much of a privilege and honor it is to serve as a State FFA Officer."

Torran Smith, Alabama State Sentinel from the Reeltown FFA Chapter, had the honor of being a flag bearer at the convention.

FFA is the world’s largest student-led organization. Alabama was represented by almost 800 FFA members, advisors and parents. The governing body, made up of 475 voting delegates, met during the convention and expo. Delegates served on six different committees; they debated issues brought forth by state associations and created proposals for consideration by the national board. Eleven delegates represented Alabama’s over 14,000 FFA members. Alabama’s six state officers, in addition to our three district presidents and one at-large member, served as our voting delegate team.

Torran Smith, Alabama FFA State Sentinel, described his delegate experience.

"This was my second year serving as a delegate," he said. "I loved the committee meetings this year, especially the small-group discussions.

"I mostly enjoyed seeing the passion every delegate showed regarding the future of agriculture and the National FFA Organization. The voting delegates were the hype of the national convention. All 475 delegates led the enthusiastic sea of blue in every general session."

I served on the Methods for Increasing Diversity and Inclusion Committee alongside Smith and could not agree with him more.

Although this was my third National FFA Convention, being on the delegate floor was an electrifying experience unlike any other. The energy and excitement during general sessions was life changing – helping delegates transform purpose to action.

"Realizing you are just one jacket in the sea of blue is very humbling, but knowing the impact that one jacket can make is very empowering," said Hannah Black, Alabama FFA State Reporter. "Everyone has the potential to do great things in their jacket. It is just up to them to find their passion and purpose."

Former Alabama FFA state officers Cody Maddox and Will Graves receive their American FFA Degrees. Pictured from left are Cody; Philip Paramore, FFA Executive Secretary; and Will.

The convention general sessions provided inspiring messages and several opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of fellow members. Grady Gunn, Alabama FFA South District Secretary, could be found on stage throughout the convention as a member of the National FFA Band. Seventeen Alabamians received their American FFA Degree including past state officers Will Graves and Cody Maddox. The Alabama delegation could be heard loud and proud throughout the convention hall each time Alabama FFA State Advisor Jacob Davis took the stage for national board recognition. Ethan Mobley, Alabama FFA State Vice-President, and fellow delegates enjoyed hearing motivational messages from retiring national officers and keynote speakers Dianna Nyad, Jason Brown and Colin Ryan. Each speaker challenged and motivated members; leaving us eager to "Transform Purpose to Action."

Members returned energized and motivated to make a positive impact in their homes and communities.

When reflecting on her convention experience, Alabama FFA State Treasurer Becky Hawkins said, "It is hard to put into words the emotion, passion and love I felt as I walked beside an FFA member from Puerto Rico speaking another language, a Wisconsin FFA member and a few Texans screaming ‘Gig ‘em Aggies.’ We think about these places being so far away. Yes, geographically we are separated by lakes, mountains and even oceans, but, as we walk through the sea of blue, we become one. We share the same passion for agriculture and have the same heart for the FFA."

Continue to "Transform YOUR Purpose to Action" and join us in Montgomery for the 89th Alabama FFA State Convention on June 7-9, 2017.

Cameron Catrett serves as the 2016-2017 South District FFA President and a delegate representing Alabama at the 89th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo.

Horses are Making Hay for Alabama

The biggest challenge of the study was to determine the state’s horse population. (Credit: Deborah Davis)

A new study reports that the horse-industry impact exceeds $2 billion.

by Jamie Creamer

Despite back-to-back economic blows over the past decade, Alabama’s horse industry continues to have a substantial impact on the state’s bottom line.

A recent economic analysis by Auburn University economists indicates horses pump an estimated $2.08 billion annually into Alabama’s economy, contributing, both directly and indirectly, to about 24,000 jobs representing $706 million in total labor income.

Auburn agricultural economics graduate research assistant Darcey Richburg – working under the guidance of agricultural economics professors Patricia Duffy and Deacue Fields, and equine science associate professor Betsy Wagner – invested two years in the study. It included conducting surveys, compiling data, crunching numbers and printing mountains of spreadsheets.

Richburg, a 2013 Auburn animal sciences alumna, will receive her Master of Science degree in agricultural economics in December.

Richburg and her advisers designed the project to determine the economic impact of Alabama’s horse business in the wake of both a 2005 change in federal horse slaughter laws and the deep recession of 2008. The slaughter ban cost the U.S. horse industry an estimated $65 million in horse meat exports in 2006.

"Nationally, the slaughter ban and the recession resulted in large declines in the number of foals registered in major breed registries," Wagner said. "We knew the national numbers have been slowly rebounding, but we didn’t have a sense of what was happening in Alabama until we could do our own economic impact study."

Another project goal was to develop a set of budgets for horse owners based on low, moderate and high levels of care.

"No two horse owners spend the same amount of money on their horses, but for someone who’s thinking about buying a horse, the budgets we developed can at least give them an idea of what horse care and equipment cost, and help them figure out if they can afford to get into the business," Richburg said.

The USDA’s Census of Agriculture is an important source for the state’s farm horse population, but it doesn’t take into account the larger category of companion animals.

The biggest challenge of the study was determining the state’s horse population, Richburg said.

"You have two categories of horses – farm horses and those used for recreational and companion purposes," Richburg said. "USDA’s Census of Agriculture was our source for the state’s farm horse population, but it didn’t take into account the larger category of companion animals."

To calculate that number, Richburg relied on a national pet demographics survey the American Veterinary Medical Association conducted in 2012 and by extrapolation pegged Alabama’s total farm and companion horse and pony population at just under 154,000.

The new analysis, based on 2015 data, comes 10 years after a similar economic impact study of the state’s horse industry that determined horses were a $2.4 billion industry in Alabama. But Duffy cautioned against comparing that study’s results to the more recent analysis for two basic reasons.

"For one thing, the 2005 study indicated the state had roughly 187,000 horses at that time, or about 33,000 more than today," she said. "Also, the economic impact assessment software available today is more sophisticated than what could be used then."

Wagner, Alabama Horse Council president, said the latest analysis provides the horse industry another much-needed statistic.

"This information also gives us a much better estimate of the number of jobs in the state associated with the horse industry," she said. "When you consider feed store employees, facility managers, equipment sales reps, marketing professionals, hay and grain producers, and others who supply products or services to horse owners, you see the impact the industry has on people’s economic well-being and on Alabama’s overall economic health."

The study was supported in part by the Alabama Horse Council.

Richburg’s complete thesis, "An economic impact study of the Alabama horse industry," is available at

Jamie Creamer is a specialist 3 in the Comm & Marketing department of Auburn University.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

In winter, when bees are not present to pollinate citrus trees, gardeners can take their place until warm weather arrives.

Winter Citrus in Garden Centers

The easy availability of extra-large plastic containers and inexpensive portable greenhouses makes growing citrus easier than ever for all Alabamians, not just those on the coast. This time of year, citrus trees are often sold in bloom at garden centers throughout the state. If you bring one home to keep indoors or in a greenhouse until spring, be sure to hand pollinate the flowers to get fruit set. Most citrus blooms in the spring when blossoms can be visited by bees, but greenhouse-grown plants may be in bloom now; so it will be up to you to play bee and pollinate the blossoms. To do this, collect the sticky golden pollen with an artist’s brush or cotton swab and brush it onto the pistil in the center of the flower. Do this for each bloom until all the flowers have been pollinated. If you have a variety like Meyer lemon that blooms continuously, it helps to somehow identify the flowers that you worked. A couple of ideas are to clip the branch with a clothespin or hang a tiny strip of colorful flagging tape. That way you will know where the new unpollinated blooms are when they open.

Candle Fire Okra

January is the month when we dream of the upcoming garden while thumbing through our seed catalogs. This year, dog-ear the page for Candle Fire okra, a 2017 All America Selections winner that produces smooth (not ribbed) red pods as pretty as they are tasty. The plant has red stems, too. This variety may be the brightest red of all the okras; it will look good in beds along with the flowers. If you don’t have a lot of space, or prefer to just grow a little for fresh harvest, think of this plant as an ornamental that yields okra pods, too. The plant grows to 4-5 feet tall with good branching, so it will be like a hibiscus in the garden. Early maturing, it produces pods within two months of planting seed. Just be prepared to harvest it regularly to keep the plant growing and producing more pods. Edge the bed with low-growing flowers such as marigolds or a low-growing herb such as parsley for good companions.

The many side shoots that sprout from the leaf axils of a harvested broccoli makes it worth keeping plants after the main harvest.

Broccoli Shoots from the Side

If your fall broccoli is still in the garden, leave it for side shoots. Once the main head is harvested, most varieties send out a number of shoots with tiny buttons of broccoli from the side. Artwork is a recent introduction that is bred to produce lots of side shoots that are a little more open and looser than traditional broccoli, making it a great choice for continuous harvests.

Second Chance

Purple Pixie is a low-growing loropetalum that won’t eat your windows.

One positive thing about the drought is that it may give some of us a second chance to correct mistakes in the landscape. One lesson is to match the ultimate, mature size of the plant to the space. Plan for growth … because it will happen! This will save you lots of pruning in the future. For example, there is a lesson to be learned about loropetalum, a popular group of shrubs much appreciated and planted for their colorful foliage and blooms. Loropetalum cultivars range from the size of a small tree to a spreading, weeping form only 2 feet tall, but twice as wide. Read the label on these plants and look for the ultimate height of each. Purple Pixie is a weeping form suitable under windows.

Invasive Plants

Another lesson: avoid invasive plants. Remove existing ones and avoid planting any others. A list of invasive plants in Alabama is found on the webpage of the Alabama Invasive Plant Council at Some of the worst offenders are Bradford pear, English ivy, Chinese tallow, elaeagnus, Japanese honeysuckle, mimosa, popcorn tree and winter creeper euonymus. These plants choke out natives species in the wild. Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance has published a great booklet with some good suggestions for replacement plants, found online at

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

I Practice What I Preach!

With the season in full swing, it’s time to really test the Game Check program!

by Chuck Sykes

When the Conservation Advisory Board agreed in April that Game Check should become mandatory for the 2016-2017 hunting season, the challenge fell on the Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries to begin a massive educational program to inform hunters of the upcoming changes. Everyone knows that change comes hard most times, and this was to be no exception. We had an uphill battle ahead of us due to hunters’ fear of the unknown and misinformation spreading like wildfire.

The author and his two fur-kids, BES, left, and Syd with a deer he harvested using the Outdoor Alabama app to be in compliance with the now mandatory Game Check system.

As with most things in life, timing is everything and, in my opinion, the time was right to pursue mandatory Game Check. The three prior years of voluntary Game Check had provided the department an opportunity to listen to the concerns of the hunting public and adequately address them. It also allowed many of the government-overreach types to see the program was simply a harvest data gathering program as had been discussed from the start.

Our first step in the education process was to provide as many media outlets as we could with the true facts about Game Check. Why we needed it, what hunters were required to do and how the data would be used were the main talking points. We developed a series of radio and magazine advertisements that would go out statewide as well. The most daunting task was to begin setting up public meetings throughout the state. The meetings would provide hunters an opportunity to ask questions and express any concerns, and in return we would have a venue to present the truth. Finally, we produced an instructional video that could be viewed 24 hours a day seven days a week at the Outdoor Alabama website for those who couldn’t attend one of the seminars.

When it was all said and done, my staff and I had organized and conducted more than 50 public meetings in 36 counties throughout the state. These meetings began the second week of June and concluded the week of Thanksgiving. The average attendance at each of the meetings was approximately 50. For the most part, these were hunters who legitimately wanted to understand the Game Check program. As with any crowd, though, there were always a couple who simply wanted to complain. Because of this, I conducted the vast majority (44) of the seminars. I didn’t feel as though my staff should have to deal with "those idiots in Montgomery" statements.

Typical seminars consisted of a PowerPoint presentation that usually lasted 20-30 minutes followed by a question and answer session. Most lasted an hour or more. If I could get people to watch and listen to the presentation, I could diffuse about 90 percent of the hostility in the room because I was presenting the true facts of the program. Most of the negativity I received early on was from two types of people – misinformed being the largest portion and a few who would never be happy with anything. You know the ones I’m talking about. If I told them we would place a buck behind every tree in the state, they would just complain that there weren’t enough trees!

I’ll have to apologize to the first few seminar participants because the presentations became stronger each week, building on the questions of the previous meetings. By the time I led the 10th meeting, I had just about heard all of the excuses and complaints and had tailored the PowerPoint to answer most of the questions. When August rolled around, most of the complaints had stopped and attendees simply wanted to learn about the program and how to comply with the new regulation the quickest and easiest. I guess word had spread that the Game Check system was not nearly as bad as it had been portrayed on social media and around hunting camps. I could sense we were making a good bit of progress with most hunters. The attitude of all the attendees had completely changed by the November meetings. Even the hunters who didn’t want to Game Check their harvests understood the truth about the program and were going to comply.

Now that we are almost a month into the season (I’m writing this on Nov. 14, 2016), I am pleased to see that many people are participating. I ran a comparison of the first three weeks of the season last year (voluntary) and this year (mandatory), and the results were pretty impressive. During the time period of Oct. 15, 2015, to Nov. 14, 2015, 1,059 deer were reported into the voluntary Game Check system. Even with the severe drought and unseasonably warm weather, 5,841 deer were reported into the mandatory Game Check system during that same time period this year. Under normal conditions, I bet at least twice that many would have been reported. I know personally, I had harvested three deer with my bow last year as compared to only one this year.

I participated in the voluntary Game Check program for the past three years. But, this year was different. I harvested a doe in Choctaw County on Oct. 29. The shot was good and she only made it about 25 yards. I immediately took out my cellphone, opened the Outdoor Alabama app, and within two minutes of the shot had successfully recorded my harvest into the system. I didn’t have to fumble through my backpack and find my harvest record either. Instead of being the director at a seminar explaining to hunters the benefits of Game Check and the simplicity of using the app to report a harvest, I was the hunter. I was able to experience Game Check from the user’s perspective and, I’m happy to report, I was right!! It was simple. It was easy. And, most importantly, the department received valuable harvest information that over time can be used to make wise management decisions.

Thanks to all of the hunters who trusted what we had to say and have participated in Game Check. By working together, we can make Alabama’s natural resources the best they can be.

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

January Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • When Bonnie Plants’ onion and cabbage transplants are available at the Co-op, plant them in the garden beneath a row cover.
  • Leaf lettuces and other salad greens can be planted beginning in mid-January through March. They will need the protection of row cover or a sheet on extremely cold nights, but a fresh harvest for the dinner salad makes it well-worth the effort.
  • If you didn’t get them out this past fall, sow wildflower seeds.
  • Try sprouting a test sample of leftover seeds before buying 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, get fresh seed.)
  • If a live Christmas tree was purchased, plant it outdoors as soon as possible.
  • If you are thinking of adding any fruit, flowering or shade trees to the garden, this would be a good time to select and plant them. Do your research; just because a plant looks good in a catalog doesn’t mean it will survive in your area.
  • For outdoor winter fragrance, consider planting paperbush plant (Edgeworthia chrysantha), winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and/or silverberry (Elaeagnus ebbingei). They may not bloom this winter but next year you’ll have the sweetest-smelling yard on the block!


  • 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 readier your lawn will be for spring planting.
  • Actively growing houseplants will benefit from a half-strength shot of liquid houseplant fertilizer.
  • Store wood ashes in sealed, fireproof containers. Apply a dusting around peonies, baby’s breath, asters, lilies and roses in spring. Do not apply to acid-loving plants. Excess ashes may be composted in moderation.
  • Fertilize asparagus beds in late January.
  • Don’t fertilize newly set-out 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.


  • Damaged limbs should be pruned off promptly to prevent bark from tearing.
  • When pruning large limbs, always undercut first. This means to cut from the bottom up, one-third of the way through the limb; then finish by cutting from the top. The undercut keeps the limb from splitting and breaking off, which could damage the trunk and become an entryway for insects and diseases. Do not cut flush to the trunk; the collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones that help heal wounds.
  • Forsythia, jasmine and quince sprays can be cut and brought into the house now for forcing. The warmth in the home will bring some early blooms to your room.
  • January is a great month to prune most deciduous trees and shrubs. Fruit, flowering and shade trees can be pruned at this time. Do not prune spring-flowering plants such as quince, forsythia, spirea, etc. as you would be removing their spring flowers. If needed, these plants can be pruned when the plants have finished flowering.
  • 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.
  • Now through mid-February is the time to cut back winter-damaged, unattractive liriope (monkey grass) foliage. Avoid tipping the new growth or there will be brown edges for the year to come. If you do it now before growth begins, you can use a string trimmer or the lawn mower set at its highest setting.
  • Ornamental grass tops should be cut back now. On old, established clumps, prune back to 2 feet or so; younger plantings should simply be tipped back to remove the brown foliage.
  • If your aging ornamental grass has died in the center, try cutting the dead out with a Sawzall to about 10 inches deep. Fill the void with compost or good garden soil and it should fill back in.


  • 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 houseplants 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.
  • When you water your houseplants, which should be minimal during the winter, do it just enough so that water saturates the soil and comes through the drainage holes; at this time of year, plants left in standing water can easily suffer root damage.


  • Quarantine new gift plants to be sure they do not harbor any insect pests.
  • Fluffy, white mealy bugs on houseplants are easily killed by touching them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  • Insecticidal soap sprays can be safely applied to most houseplants for the control of many insect pests.
  • While reviewing garden catalogs, look for plants with improved insect, disease and drought tolerance.
  • Cakes of suet hung in trees will attract insect-hunting woodpeckers to your garden.
  • Check all fruit trees for evidence of rodent injury to bark. Use baits or traps where necessary.
  • Dormant spraying of fruit trees, cotoneaster, dogwoods, etc. should be done this month. Follow the label’s instructions and avoid spraying on days that are windy, rainy or below freezing.
  • Use an all-purpose spray (not dormant spray) on evergreen ornamentals to protect against red spiders, thrips and scales.
  • Near the end of the month, weed the asparagus bed and strawberry plot, feed the plants and renew the thinning mulches.
  • This is a good time to eliminate slugs. Every one left will produce 200 offspring this spring, summer and fall. In addition, the offspring will produce young. So you can make a major reduction in the slug population by eliminating them now.
  • Apply post-emergence weed control to actively growing broadleaf weeds. Read label instructions.
  • Rake fallen rose leaves and discard them as many disease organisms persist through the winter. Covering them up with new mulch will not solve your disease problems.


  • Review last year’s garden journal and start a new one for this year by recording your seed/plant orders. Make an inventory of the plants in your landscape. Note their location and past performance. Plan changes in your journal now.
  • Check with your county agent (Alabama Cooperative Extension System) to see when the next Master Gardener’s class is offered in your area.
  • Repair or have maintenance done on mowers, chainsaws and other power tools.
  • Sharpen and oil tools such as shovels, hoes, shears, machetes and scythes.
  • Does the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand trucks need a fresh coat of paint?
  • Brightly colored paints applied to the handles of tools will make them easier to locate in the garden … while you have the paint out for the wheelbarrow.
  • If the ground is workable (not too wet), now is an excellent time to turn the soil in existing beds. Not only will this expose insect eggs to the effects of winter and hungry birds but freezing will help to break apart heavy clods of dirt.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous ornamental shrubs and trees for propagation.
  • Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees, to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
  • Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.
  • To reduce injury, allow ice to melt naturally from plants. Attempting to remove ice may damage plants further.
  • Check your stored bulbs, vegetables and fruit.
  • To clean the inside walls of heavily encrusted clay pots, scrub them with a steel wool pad after they have soaked overnight in a solution consisting of one gallon water with one cup of white vinegar added. After the deposits are removed, rinse the pots in clear water. A brief soak in a solution of one gallon of water with one cup household bleach added will help sanitize the pots.
  • Use sand, bird seed, cat litter, sawdust or vermiculite to gain traction on icy paths. Avoid salt or ice melters as these may injure plants.
  • Turn houseplants every two weeks for balanced foliage as they seek sunlight.
  • Wash dust off houseplant leaves on a regular basis with room-temperature water. This allows the leaves to gather light more efficiently and will result in better growth.
  • Set the pots of humidity-loving houseplants on trays filled with pebbles and water. Pots should sit on the pebbles, not in the water.
  • If you heat with wood, keep a pot of water on the stove. The added moisture will be healthier for you as well as your houseplants.
  • The natural summer and fall food supply has either been eaten, has died or is frozen, and insects have entered their next stage of development as larvae inactive until spring. Feed the birds and provide them with some unfrozen water. Just a few dollars spent on wild bird seed can go a long way.

Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op Employees Recognized

Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op’s employees were recognized during the Co-op’s annual meeting Nov. 17, 2016. Chris Casey, manager, was selected as the 2015 E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year and, during his acceptance speech, stated he wouldn’t have received the award without the employees’ help. The plaque says, "Thank you for your contribution to Jay Peanut Farmers Cooperative. Your dedication and loyalty have helped us become the best. THANK YOU!!" Pictured from left are Ronnie Moore, Eugene Harrison, Justin Goodwin, Derrick Enfinger, Lisa Lane, Brent Wolfe, Mike Martin and Bae LaMastus.

Lessons From Freddy

by Glenn Crumpler

I will never forget the impact one man had on my life. He never spoke a word to me. He never looked me in the eye. I am pretty sure that he never even knew I existed, I had met him or how he impacted my life.

It all happened one weekend many years ago when Lisa and I went on a three-day getaway trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, with some longtime friends of ours, Ray and Sherry Boyd. We were on our way back home, just north of Bonifay when we topped a hill and met another vehicle swerving all over the road and headed right for us.

Just as we topped the hill and saw it was out of control and going to hit us, Ray instinctively went off the road to avoid the head-on collision. The SUV slung gravel all over our car as it barely missed us before it swerved in the opposite direction and began to flip several times before resting on its side against some pine trees on the opposite side of the road.

Lisa and I were sitting in the backseat when the SUV passed us. While Ray was trying to keep control of our car on the roadside, I turned and witnessed the entire horrific flipping episode going on behind us. On the second or third flip, I saw something fly out of the SUV and hit about 15-20 feet up in the pine trees before falling back to the ground.

I was active-duty military at the time and knew first aid. As soon as we were able to get stopped, I ran to the crash scene to see what I could do to help. When I got there, I found a man lying unconscious on the ground. He was what I had seen fly out of the vehicle and hit high up in the trees. Another young man, the driver of the SUV, was unharmed and kneeling over the unconscious young man begging for him to wake up.

Because his lips were turning blue, it was obvious he was not breathing; although he did have a pulse. Again, as a result of my training, I opened his mouth to see if he was swallowing his tongue or if there was anything I could find obstructing his airway.

Now here is where I need to help you see the entire picture before finishing this story. The young man, the uninjured driver, was clean-cut, sober and seemed to be a good guy just trying to help a friend who was having a hard time. In the process, he had gone to where his friend was, picked him up, put him in his SUV and was taking him home. While he was giving his friend a ride, he accidently went off the road and jerked the wheel to get back on the highway causing him to lose control, resulting in this terrible accident.

However, his friend, the unconscious one, was the epitome of filth! He was unshaven, unkempt and reeked with the odor of old urine, body odor and alcohol. He stunk as bad as anyone I had ever been around, really to the point of making me nauseated. It was obvious he had not bathed in days or weeks and had been drunk for probably as long.

As I said earlier, he still had a heartbeat, but his lips were turning blue because he was not able to breathe (though he was trying). I knew he had to get oxygen to live, but something was blocking his airway. As I opened his mouth to cleanse his airway or begin breathing for him, what I saw stopped me in my tracks. His mouth and throat were half full of blood, tobacco juice and other fluids. If his teeth had ever been brushed, you would not have known it. I opened his eyelids, just to see that both eyeballs were collapsed. I felt the back of his neck and realized it was obviously crushed.

There was no way I could tilt his body or turn his head to clear his airway without killing him instantly. The only way I could help him and the only hope of saving his life was for me to suck the fluids out of his throat and into my own mouth and spit it out over and over again until I could get enough of it out that he could get air on his own. I knew there was no way I could get all this blood and filth out his throat without having to swallow some of it just because I would have to suck so hard. If he did not get oxygen and get it now – he was sure to die!

The first thought to cross my mind, besides just the grossness of the sight, was, "He has been drunk for so long that there is no way he knows where he has been, what he has done or who he has done it with. If I get his blood in my mouth, lungs or stomach, there is no telling what disease I may catch!"

At that moment, though, I had the training and knew what had to be done and how to do it to give him a chance at life. I made a conscious decision that I was not willing to risk my life to save his! He was probably going to die anyway, I rationalized, but I was there! I was the only one who had a chance of saving his life. However, what I most remember is telling his friend, "You suck and I will hold his head still and do compressions if his heart quits."

What if Freddy (I later found out his name) had been a clean-cut, respectable-looking person … perhaps a young mother with children in the car or a husband with his wife in the car? What if it had been a friend of mine, a family member or one of my own children who was just on a casual drive and had an accident and needed my help in this way? I believe and I hope I would react differently and do whatever was needed to preserve life. But Freddy? He was just a drunk, too filthy, too repulsive, too much of a risk and too far gone for me to even risk my life for, much less to give my life for!

It was not until sometime later when I was basking in my being Christ-like that the Holy Spirit reminded me of this opportunity with Freddy and my failure to even risk my life to save his. He reminded me and convinced me that in the eyes of a Holy God, before accepting and putting my faith in what Jesus has done for me, my life looked just like Freddy’s. In God’s eyes, Freddy’s and my sinful conditions were indistinguishable.

My sinful nature, my thoughts and actions, even my pride and self-righteousness, made me totally undeserving and unworthy of His love. My sin is filthy and repulsive in His sight and makes me absolutely and unquestionably disqualified for His love – yet even while I was a sinner, even while I was filthy and stinking and was totally outside of His will, helpless and dying, He loved me enough to send His only Son not to risk His life, but to suffer and give His life in my place, to pay the penalty for my sin and to purchase for me forgiveness and eternal life! He shed His own blood to wash me clean and make me just as acceptable to Himself as His Son Jesus. Not only did He cleanse me but He continues to keep me clean, even when I stray or fall!

I would not risk my life for someone like Freddy, but God gave His life to save someone like me, like Freddy and like you! You cannot be good enough that you do not need the forgiveness and salvation only Jesus can give, and there is nothing so bad you have done or ever will do that Jesus did not die to forgive and to cleanse! He gave His life for us, because it was the only way for any of us to be reconciled to God and to inherit eternal life.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ESV) What better way to start the new year than to confess your sin and accept God’s forgiveness for yourself? When you see a Freddy, realize he/she is just like you were!

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

Little River State Park Puts New Funding to Great

Press Release from Resource Conservation & Development Council

Little River State Park, nestled just off Interstate 65 at the Atmore Exit 57, sits on approximately 2,000 acres of long-leaf pines. This is a unique piece of forestry. With a 25-acre lake, it’s a place offering activities such as hiking, horse trails, swimming, boating, fishing and camping. Camping sites offer primitive as well as full RV hookups. There are pavilions for rent that are perfect for reunions, birthday parties or holiday gatherings. There is also a playground for the kids to enjoy.

Pictured from left are Tracy Sells, RC&D board member and secretary; Larry White, RC&D board member and Escambia County commissioner; Nanice Godwin, RC&D executive director; Alabama Representative Harry Shiver; Rick Murphy, IMOM chief executive director; Otis French, chairman of RC&D; and Dawn Cave, LRSP manager.

LRSP is funded by public entry fees, rentals and donations. All funds taken in at LRSP go directly back into the park for operations and improvements.

Iron Men Outdoor Ministries manages LRSP. The purpose of IMOM managing this park is to provide a place for retreat, healing and time away from hustle in the surroundings of God’s great outdoors. IMOM has worked diligently to make the park more wheelchair accessible, and family friendly.

Oct. 25, 2016, IMOM was presented with a $10,000 grant provided by the Gulf Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council. Through this grant, numerous upgrades and improvements have been made this year. IMOM was able to purchase a much-needed golf cart, repair grills, and repair and add picnic tables. In addition, they built two water slides, a floating dock and a new pier.

Beatrice Elementary School donated playground equipment. With these funds and the help of volunteers, this equipment was moved and installed at the park. Now, with added activities and upgrades, the park is looking forward to generating more tourism activity and renewing interest in the park from locals.

State Representative Harry Shiver connected IMOM with RC&D. During a presentation, various ways were discussed to improve and keep the park open.

As they sat on the porch overlooking the lake, Shiver shared his memories of coming to Little River as a young boy and fondly remembered swimming and attending dances. Otis French, chairman of RC&D, described the park as a place of serenity. RC&D Board Member and Secretary Tracy Sells offered advice on managing the park. RC&D Board Member and Escambia County’s Commissioner Larry White discussed means of advertisement. Janice Godwin, executive director, helped with the application process and has visited the park on numerous occasions through the years.

IMOM Chief Executive Director Rick Murphy, IMOM Secretary/Treasurer Mindy Newell and Park Director Dawn Cave left the meeting reassured that it was important for the area and community for LRSP to remain open to the public and serving those with disabilities.

It’s going to take help from the community, park entry fees and rentals, volunteers and donations to sustain Little River State Forest. The serenity, history and beauty are ready to be shown off and taken in.

The park is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. It is located just off Interstate 65 at Exit 57. Drive 11 miles West on Hwy 21 to 580 H. Kyle Road. Call Little River at 251-862-2511 and speak to Dawn Cave if you have any questions or would like to book a pavilion for a party or family reunion.

Visit our website at for more information and click on Little River State Park.

My New Address

by Nadine Johnson

My new address is 29150 Lake Forest Blvd., Apartment 1007, Daphne, AL 36526. Because many of my readers have my home address, I thought it would be nice to share this information. Now I’ll tell you why I have moved.

I married on Aug. 12, 1948. Since that time, I have slept on a beautiful bed that once belonged to my husband’s great-grandparents. Shortly after my marriage, my mother-in-law informed me that this bed and other items of furniture were never, ever, to leave the family.

Because mattresses are so thick these days, recently I have had to climb a ladder to get into the bed. Of course, this was unsafe for an old lady.

I’ve solved the problem. My mattresses are now lower on a metal frame. The ladder has been retired. Grandpa’s bed now resides in my son’s house in Pensacola.

A chest that came to the Bank’s area (in Pike County) on a covered wagon now sits in another son’s house in Mobile.

Jennifer (a granddaughter) has the French linen press.

The railroad bench is placed in Serena’s (another granddaughter) living room. She loves old things.

Mother’s beautiful oak pie safe, ordered from Sears Roebuck in the mid-1920s, is now housed in Russ’s (a grandson) kitchen.

The old, round dining table and sideboard had taken up residence in Pensacola a few years ago.

There were many small items. I piled these in the living room floor and said, "Take what you want."

As they made selections I told the item’s history.

A daughter-in-law requested, "Please write these stories for us."

I might just do that.

My heirs did not have to wait until my death to receive their treasures. (Others would probably consider them trash, but their history makes them treasures to us.)

After downsizing, I could move to a smaller apartment. I did so. For five years, I had lived in a lovely, gated apartment that I refer to as an "Ivory Tower." I chose to move to a more secluded complex quietly nested in an area much like HOME. No more locked gate.

I brought with me reading, writing and arithmetic. I remain THE HERB LADY.

For my readers in the Troy (Pike County) area, I’ll add this bit of trivia. My husband’s great-grandfather happened to be Dr. Pugh Hollinger Brown. You will find his office in the Pioneer Museum of Alabama located in Troy. Early one morning, he delivered the older sister of the late Margaret Pace Farmer. (The baby was named Hollinger.) Shortly after this delivery, he walked through the door of Goldthwaite Drugs and dropped dead. I know this through family lore. The story is also told in his obituary that I still have a copy of.

Now I can sit on my small, secluded patio to enjoy my morning coffee. Here I can look down through a growth of bayberry/wax myrtle (just one of the herbs around me) at a pine needle-strewn area that requires no mowing. I hear the birds singing and the squirrels playing. A little, tail-wagging black dog often comes to say hello. I’m comfortable and content. Life is good.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 251-644-5473, or by email at

New Beginnings

It’s a great time to rethink our traditional approach to dieting.

by Christy Kirk

New Year’s Day is a sign of the end of the holiday season and also a symbol of new beginnings. January is the traditional time of year when many of us start to think carefully about improving our lifestyles by creating new goals to focus on during the coming year. Taking steps to decrease health concerns including weight management always seems to be one of the top resolutions for many people each year.

On social media last month, an old friend about my age shared that she had lost a lot of weight over several months in 2016. Her friends and family knew she was not on a strict diet so they all wanted to know how she had managed to shed the weight without starving herself.

My friend is a working mother with five beautiful and healthy children. Over the last few years, she has had serious health issues that made eating healthier a priority. She knew she couldn’t control the possibility of her illness returning, but she could make sure she was in the best possible health to better manage her symptoms should they return.

She explained that her weight loss wasn’t due to remarkable exercise or strict dieting. For the most part, she simply stopped eating processed foods and tried to eat fresh, including lots of salads. Keeping this regimen through the holidays would require a lot of self-control, but, if your health could be endangered by overindulging, you would make sure you make healthy choices at every meal and event.

Making dieting resolutions after the holidays can seem impossible. I have broken many nutrition rules through the holiday season, and I know it is going to be difficult to adjust over the next few months. When it finally gets really cold in South Alabama, I don’t usually crave a salad or even a vegetable plate. I want comfort foods like chili, stews, and chicken and dumplings with white loaf bread to sop up any gravy in the bottom of the bowl.

If you are like me and can’t live without comfort foods during the winter months, here are a few recipes to try. Use the wild turkey in your freezer from the fall or fresh duck this winter for a twist on traditional chicken and dumplings. And if you want to cut calories, there is also a healthier option for making dumplings with turkey breast. No matter what your resolutions are, I hope you have a healthy and delicious new year!


1 pound boneless skinless turkey breasts, cut into 1½-inch cubes
3 (14.5-ounce) cans reduced sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
4 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
Parsley, chopped, to taste
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 egg whites
½ cup 1% cottage cheese
2 Tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, place turkey and cook until thoroughly done. Add broth, water, vegetables and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

While the soup simmers, prepare dumplings. In a large bowl, beat egg whites and cottage cheese until blended. Add water and salt. Stir in flour and mix well.

Bring the soup back to a boil. Drop dumplings by the tablespoon into soup. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the dumplings comes out clean. Don’t lift the cover while they are simmering.

Note from editor: I have a friend who is diabetic. She makes her dumplings with a simple, low-calorie option of using flour tortillas. Use 14 ounces of fat-free, burrito-size tortillas. With a sharp knife, cut the tortillas into 5 strips. Cut strips in half.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ cup shortening
½ cup milk
¼ cup water
3 (14-ounce) cans of chicken broth or 4 cups fresh chicken broth
1 cup cooked turkey (or chicken)

Stir together flour, salt and baking powder with a pastry blender; cut in shortening. Add milk and enough water to make the dough workable, but not stiff. Drop dough by the spoonful into a large pot of boiling chicken broth. Cook until dumplings are set, about 30 minutes. Do not stir until the dumplings are set. Add meat to pot and cook 10 minutes longer until meat is heated. Cover and reduce heat to simmer.

For flat, noodle-like dumplings: roll the dough out thin and cut into 1-2-inch pieces. Boil in the broth and cook until the dumplings are set.

For canned biscuit dumplings: Pull biscuits apart and drop pieces into the boiling broth.

To thicken the broth to a more gravy-like consistency, mix 2 tablespoons of flour with ¼ cup milk until smooth. Stir this mixture into the simmering broth and stir until thickened.


2 stalks celery, minced
1 onion, minced
Chives, minced, to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons duck fat (or butter)
2 Tablespoons flour
Pinch each basil, oregano, thyme and allspice, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Splash Worcestershire sauce
2 carrots, sliced
6 cups chicken or duck stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dumpling dough (using your favorite recipe)
2 cups cooked duck meat, sliced or cubed

In a bowl, put the celery, onion, chives, garlic and salt. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, place duck fat or butter. When fat is very hot, sprinkle in flour and whisk to break up any lumps.

Stir the mixture almost continuously, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to prevent scorching. The mixture will turn golden and then a rich dark brown.

When the roux has turned a nice dark color, add all at once the minced vegetables mixture. Stir vigorously, scraping the bottom of the pan. There will not be enough liquid and all of the roux will clump up around the raw vegetables, but the salt will cause the vegetables to release their liquid to mix with roux and coat vegetables in a thick, shiny-brown sauce.

Add dry spices, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce; continue cooking until vegetables are tender.

Add carrots and stock to pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add salt and pepper.

Prepare your dumpling dough. When broth is boiling gently, use a spoon to scoop dough into small mounds and drop into the boiling broth. (Heating the bowl of spoon in broth as you work will help keep the dough from sticking.) Cover pot and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the dumplings are shiny and cooked all the way through.

Add the duck meat into the stew for the last 5 minutes of the dumpling cooking time and simmer until meat is hot.

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

PALS: Keeping our Campuses Clean

C.A. Donehoo Elementary joins the team.

by Jamie Mitchell

At the direction of teacher Alicia Walker, C.A. Donehoo Elementary in Gadsden has decided to join the Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program. I recently spoke to the fourth- and fifth-graders at the school to explain the program and get them excited about participating this year.

The students learned that, as a part of the Clean Campus Program, they are expected to participate in regular campus cleanups and form a small committee to ensure they are following through with their commitment.

Because there is a recycling facility nearby, they are also encouraged to participate in a recycling program at the school.

In addition to cleanups and recycling, we also encourage the schools to participate in our annual poster and recycled-art competitions.

We dedicated a few minutes at the end of my talk for questions and comments, and I was so impressed with the interest these students have in keeping their campus and community clean. I just know this group of students is going to be making a big difference as our partners in the Clean Campus Program!

Is there a school near you that could benefit from hearing the anti-litter message? I can be reached by phone at 334-263-7737 or by email at to set up a program. The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools. Schools may sign up for the Clean Campus Program online at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Quality Co-op Black Powder Rifle Winners

During the summer, all of the stores in the Quality Co-op family accepted online entries for a black powder muzzleloading rifle kit to be given away. The drawing was held Oct. 10, 2016. Most of the winners were listed in the December issue. Here are the rest of the winners:

Co-op Store

Coffee County Farmers Coop/Enterprise
Elberta Farmers Co-op
Headland Peanut Warehouse Co-op
Marion County Co-op
Pike Farmers Co-op


Steve Richard
George Saltera
Katherine Price
Mike McKay
Homer Wright

Remembering the Brucellosis Eradication Program

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Back in February 2007, I wrote an article titled "Something Worth Remembering." It was a look back at the Brucellosis Eradication Program; a truly successful program spearheaded by the state and federal animal health agencies. Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, we sort of put an exclamation point on the whole program by honoring my immediate predecessor, Dr. J. Lee Alley. Practically all of the bloodwork done in testing cattle for brucellosis was performed at our state Diagnostic Laboratory in the old Gilmer-Turnham building at Auburn University. Thousands of blood samples were collected, centrifuged down, serum drawn off and brucellosis diagnosed under the leadership of Alley. Now that we are in the new TBS State Diagnostic Lab, we have a new state-of-the art Serology Lab section. In partnership with the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, we have named that section the Dr. J. Lee Alley Brucellosis and Serology Laboratory. A plaque sponsored by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association was placed during the dedication service commemorating Alley for his many years of service to the cattle industry during the Brucellosis Eradication Program. I have also decided to take a look back to honor Alley by rerunning the article from February 2007. Thanks again, Dr. Alley!

There are some things you should never forget, like your anniversary, your spouse’s birthday and your social security number. There are other things just worth remembering for what it took to accomplish them.

We celebrate the Fourth of July to remember what it took to gain our freedom as a nation. We celebrate religious holidays to remember what it took to gain another kind of freedom. But there are other events and accomplishments mostly kept alive in the memories and recollections of those who were involved. That is the case with the Alabama Brucellosis Eradication Program. The program changed after Alabama became brucellosis-free in 1998. However, it will always be something worth remembering.

While going through some old files not too long ago, we ran across one containing some old and very interesting information about the National Bovine Brucellosis Eradication Program. A Progress Report, dated December 1958, stated that steady progress had been made since the program began in 1934. It is interesting that the Brucellosis Program began about 17 years before Alabama even had a state veterinarian. It seems the program began as a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the 48 state governments and qualifying territories.

Others actively participating in the program, in addition to individual livestock owners, were practicing veterinarians, federal-state Extension services, public health districts, and various livestock and educational groups. It also reported that at one time brucellosis was the most-widespread and most-costly communicable disease affecting cattle in the United States.

It was a tremendous effort early on to get cattle producers to buy into the voluntary program. It was, however, not until the mid-1950s that USDA began to implement regulations affecting the interstate movement of reactor cattle. That was followed by regulations affecting stockyards that handled reactor cattle. While that was going on nationally, in Alabama, we were slowly making progress by achieving certification levels in various counties. To be a certified county, there had to be a certain percentage of the purebred herds tested as well as certain percentage of dairies. Cherokee County was the first county to be certified in the program.

As the program evolved, testing cattle at slaughter and when returning to the farm from stockyards began to locate infected herds to be further tested.

There were probably two monumental events that took place paving the way to eradicate the disease. First, the legislature passed a law establishing the Alabama Brucellosis Eradication Program, giving the Board of Agriculture the authority to make regulations as needed to eradicate the disease in Alabama. The second occurrence was the regulation requiring Change of Ownership Testing of all eligible cattle – through sales at stockyards, by private treaty or special sales.

As with any type of regulatory program, it was not accepted with open arms by everyone involved. However, the success of the program was not because it was a government program but that it benefited from buy-in by a large portion of the Alabama cattle industry.

That buy-in did not come automatically. As I understand, Dr. John Milligan, state veterinarian (at the time); Dr. Hines, USDA assistant area veterinarian in charge; Dr. J. Lee Alley, USDA epidemiologist (at the time); and a fellow named Hamm Wilson, the "Daddy" of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, took their show on the road. They went to county cattlemen meetings all over the state to explain the seriousness of the program and the need for producer cooperation.

Maybe it was that type of government-industry cooperation that was so instrumental in our eventually becoming a brucellosis-free state. It was indeed a monumental task. At the peak of the program, the state was divided into 16 sections with a veterinary medical officer and varying numbers of animal health technicians in each section. Over the years, hundreds of herds and thousands of cattle were tested. Portable panels and squeeze chutes were hauled thousands of miles as they moved from farm to farm.

A lot of the folks who worked so hard and gave so much of themselves to eradicate that costly livestock disease are no longer around. Many of the others are retired, but, my goodness, what stories they can tell about conquering a tiny bacteria that you can’t even see with the naked eye. I suppose it is somewhat ironic that I was fortunate enough to have been a stockyard veterinarian when I was in practice, but it was even more special to me that, when I went to work with the state, the last brucellosis outbreak in Alabama was in my section where I was the veterinary medical officer. I am glad I got to play a small part in waving goodbye to Bang’s disease in our state.

Special thanks go out to Dr. J. Lee Alley, Dr. Carl Wilson (deceased), Dr. Wally Hester, Dr. Don Cheatham and Dr. Curtis Chrisenberry. Also to the many, many other people who played any role in the Brucellosis Eradication Program, the Alabama livestock industry owes a large debt of gratitude to them all. It is truly something worth remembering.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Well, the proof is in the pudding; Ed’s been working on that tractor since July. Let’s see if she’ll run!"

What does pudding have to do with mechanical repair?

"The proof is in the pudding" is a popular figure of speech meaning "the quality, effectiveness or truth of something can only be judged by putting it into action or to its intended use."

At first glance, the statement of "the proof is in the pudding" seems thoroughly mysterious. What proof and in what pudding? But the key to the mystery lies in the fact that "the proof is in the pudding" is actually a mangled form of the original phrase that was "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." A dish may have been made from a good recipe with fresh ingredients and look delicious, but you can really only judge it by putting it in your mouth. The actual taste is the only true criterion of success.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating" is a very old phrase, dating back to at least 1605, and proof in the adage is an antiquated use of the word in the sense of test (also found in printer’s proof, a preliminary test copy of a book printed to check for errors, etc., before commencing a large print run).

Just how and why the phrase "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" was shortened to the semi-nonsensical "the proof is in the pudding" remains a mystery, but it’s worth noting that most people now interpret proof in the sense of conclusive evidence. That’s probably just as well, because saying "the test is in the pudding" would make, if possible, even less sense. In any case, "the proof is in the pudding" is hardly the only English idiom that doesn’t make any sense if read literally and it certainly serves a useful purpose, even if it does sound like a cryptic clue from a Sherlock Holmes story.

STIMU-LYX HLF-30: The Energy Tub

by John Sims

This month’s product spotlight features the New and Improved STIMU-LYX HLF-30 Energy Tub. STIMU-LYX differs from other supplements because it is made by a unique process to lower the moisture content and the consumption rate. It also increased the levels of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals over those found in other forms of hay supplementation.

The HLF-30 formula has 30 percent protein to help make up deficiencies in the protein content of your hay. We have increased the fat level by 60 percent over the previous formula to deliver more energy per day to help your cows maintain body condition.

The greatest benefit of this product is the dramatic increase in fiber digestion. Cattle consuming STIMU-LYX keep the rumen environment optimal for breaking down fiber; thus releasing more protein and energy from the hay by maximizing digestion.

Consumption should average 0.75 pounds per head per day. Recommended stocking rate is one tub per 25 cows.

Keep free-choice salt or mineral and water available at all times.

STIMU-LYX HLF-30 has proven to be consistent, dependable and profitable on Southeastern farms for many years. Due to the drought, the lack of stockpiled forage and low hay inventories has made hay supplementation a critical part of your winter feeding program. Make sure you choose a supplement that increases digestion and not just increases hay intake. The NEW STIMU-LYX HLF-30 Energy Tub will get more out of your hay, lower your supplementation costs and improve the performance of your cattle this winter.

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

The Co-op Pantry

The Co-op Pantry normally features a Cook of the Month. This month – because it is January, the month of New Year’s resolutions – we are going to change a little. This month we will be featuring "healthy" recipes. We had requested our readers send in some of their favorite healthy recipes. These recipes could be low sodium, gluten free, low carb, vegan, vegetarian and the list goes on! Recipes can be made healthier just by changing a single item in them. These recipes can be used for addressing a single problem or just toward a healthier lifestyle. With that said, I am going to share a cartoon I saw recently that features most of our thoughts about healthy recipes and as well as the first recipe suggestion sent to me. ...

Take 2 parts of hydrogen to 1 part of oxygen, and chill below 31° for 3 hours, or until small cubes form, pour 3 shots of absolute vodka over, and garnish with an olive stuffed with blue cheese.

Well, oxygen is good for you and so are olives, blue cheese is mold and that is the same as penicillin, right?

This was submitted by Mick A. Jaeger.

With that said, eating healthy can actually be easy and TASTE GREAT!!! I think these recipes will prove that! Let us know what you think and, if you like these, maybe we can do it again another month!!


Serving: ½ cup
Makes: 10 servings
SmartPoints = 1 per serving

16 ounces fat free salsa (mild, medium or hot, whatever you prefer)
1 cup uncooked onion(s), diced
1 (16–ounce) can black beans
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or bottled)
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice (or bottled)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Best if refrigerated overnight.

I use this over salad as a dressing, often with cubed chicken breast.

Note: All ingredients can be more or less, per your personal tastes!!

Submitted by Lori Ready


28 ounces (1 pound, 12 ounces) cauliflower florets (some stem is okay, but mostly use the florets)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (less makes a bland crust, so please use it)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼-½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼-½ teaspoon onion powder
¼-½ teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
2 ounces cream cheese
2 Tablespoons finely ground flax­seed (if you buy pre­ground, you want it to be even finer, so run it through your blender or food processor to get it as fine as you can)*
1 ounce shredded cheddar cheese (I love the flavor the cheddar adds. You can sub Parmesan if you’d like, but do use fresh and not canned. The cheddar is way cheaper, so there’s that, too.)
2 large eggs

Place a rack in center of oven. Put pizza stone on rack. Preheat oven to 375°.

Have a rimmed baking sheet ready (it doesn’t need to be sprayed or lined with parchment or anything).

In a food processer and in 3-4 batches, chop the cauliflower until it is as fine as you can get it. It should be the consistency of wet sand. (Much finer than for cauliflower rice. If you buy pre-­riced cauliflower, it will still need to be processed, so save money and just buy whole heads.) When each batch is finely processed (about 30 seconds or at least 8­-10 2-­second pulses), scrape it out onto baking sheet.

When all the cauliflower is on baking sheet, spread it out as evenly as possible.

Place the tray in oven on top of pizza stone and roast for 20 minutes, stirring and turning the cauliflower once after 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool until it is no longer steaming; stirring every once in a while, ­­about 10-­15 minutes. Leave oven on and stone in place.

Once cool enough to handle, scrape all cauliflower into a lint­-free towel. Squeeze moisture out. (Be aggressive with your squeezing.)

After processing, cooking, cooling and squeezing out excess water, you should have 12 ounces of cauliflower pulp. Tada!

Once again­­ you’re losing an entire pound in weight, so squeeze mightily!

Pizza Crust
In bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, combine the cauliflower pulp and all the rest of the ingredients. Pulse and process until everything is evenly combined.

Taste a tiny bit (if you’re concerned about food safety, use pasteurized eggs or taste the mixture before adding the eggs) and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Line the back of a rimmed baking sheet or a flat cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment and scrape dough into center. Using your hands, pat into a 12-inch circle. Once it’s mostly there, use one hand cupped around the edge to form the outer crust and use the other hand to pat the dough out evenly. When done, you’ll have an even circle of dough with no cracked edges. (You can build up the edge just a wee bit thicker than the rest, but it’s not necessary.) Dough will be about ¼-inch thick.

Open oven and slide parchment onto pizza stone. Bake for 12 minutes. Rotate parchment 180 degrees and bake an additional 12 minutes.

Pull parchment out onto a flat cookie sheet. Place a round cooling rack on top of the crust and then carefully flip the whole thing over so parchment is on top. Slide crust back onto pizza stone and peel off parchment. Bake an additional 10 minutes.

Repeat the cookie sheet/cooling rack maneuver to flip the crust right­ side up onto the stone. Turn off oven, prop open door a bit and let crust sit to dry further for another 15 minutes.

Build Your Pizza
Spread on a thin layer of spreadable cheese (goat cheese or cream cheese) or evenly cover the crust with a thin layer of shredded mozzarella or preferred shredding cheese. Spread or drizzle on reduced/drained pizza sauce (it should be almost as thick as tomato paste). Use about ½ cup. (You can also just save the sauce for dipping if you’re concerned about the moisture.)

Add toppings. Make sure none of the raw toppings are too large or thick, so cut as needed. Mop any moisture off toppings. Pre­cook bacon if using.

Arrange toppings evenly on the cheese. Add a bit more finely grated cheese if you want.

Use a cake spatula or pizza peel to place the pizza back on the stone and bake for 10 minutes at 375°. Remove pizza and allow to cool for 2­3 minutes before slicing and serving. Pick up at will. Enjoy.

**Optional** After baking, place a rack on the top setting and broil the pizza for 1­2 minutes to get a bit of color on the cheese and toppings.

* I do this in bulk when I buy ground flax and then store it in a gallon zip-­top bag in the original box in the fridge.

Note: This recipe sounds complicated, but, once you do it a few times, it is actually easy and so good!!

Submitted by Kate Klein


Honey or Karo Syrup or Molasses (we prefer honey)
Peanut Butter
Rolled oats
Any nuts (we prefer pecans)
Raisins, dried cranberries and/or other dried fruits (your preferences)

In a bowl, mix honey and peanut butter. Add oats and nuts.

You will need a blender or mixer as it becomes too heavy to mix by hand!

Mix in dried fruits.

The key is the ratio of peanut butter to honey .

Place on a cookie sheet and flatten with a rolling pin. Bake at 350° until crunchy, but not dried out! Cut into bars and keep in a sealed container to keep out moisture. (If they dry out, heat for a short time in microwave and they will regain their moisture and softness.)

We also do this without the peanut butter and make it as a chunky granola mix to eat as a snack rather than in bar form!!

Note: This recipe is a trial and error recipe – it depends upon your own individual taste, but the end results are well worth it!!

Submitted by Walt Black


1 envelope onion soup mix
2 eggs
¾ cup water
1/3 cup no fructose ketchup (I used reduced sugar)
¾ cup pork rinds, crushed (crush, then measure)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground chicken

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, mix, using clean hands, all ingredients until well blended.

Place two ends from a loaf of bread, end to end, onto the surface of a 9x13 baking dish. Form meat mixture into a loaf on top of the bread slices. Squeeze a little more ketchup on top. Bake for 1 hour. Let stand for 10 minutes, before slicing.

Susan’s Tips: To take this meatloaf over the moon, heat each slice on a sizzling hot cast iron griddle skillet, putting a crusty sear on both sides!

Peel off bread from the bottom of each slice of meatloaf and give it to your four-legged children. Tails will wag, and they will love you forever!!!

Recipe by Southern Plate, Submitted by Susan Smith


1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 piece flatbread (I prefer naan bread)
1 slice Swiss cheese
5 leaves raw baby spinach
1-2 ounces sliced oven-roasted turkey
1 Tablespoon whole cranberry sauce
Aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 375°. Spread mustard on half of flatbread. Place cheese on top of mustard. Layer spinach leaves on top of cheese, followed by turkey. Spread cranberry sauce over turkey. Fold other half of flatbread over to close sandwich. Wrap in a foil pocket, leaving slightly open on top and bake for 7 minutes.

Note: These easy-to-make little sandwiches are great with a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter day.

Submitted by Cindy Overcast


Serving: 1½ cups without garnishes
SmartPoints = 6 per serving
Per serving: Calories: 239, Total fat: 9.2 g, Sat fat: 1.6 g, Trans fat: 0 g, Chol: 33 mg, Sodium: 621 mg, Total carbs: 22.9 g, Sugars: 7.2 g, Fiber: 5.9 g, Protein: 16.2 g, Calcium: 30 mg

1 pound lean ground beef (at least 93% lean)
1 cup medium onion, chopped
1 (14-ounce) can Mexican style diced tomatoes undrained
2 (14-ounce) cans beans (kidney, pinto, black or chili) rinsed and drained
1 (11-15-ounce) can corn, undrained
2 cups water
1 package (1.25-ounce) reduced sodium taco seasoning
1 package (1-ounce) ranch dressing mix

Optional Garnishes
Avocado, chopped
Light sour cream or nonfat plain Greek yogurt
Reduced-fat shredded cheese
Pico de gallo or salsa
Fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips

Spray a skillet with cooking spray and brown ground beef. Stir in onion until onion is soft. Drain excess fat.

Into slow cooker, place browned beef and onions. Add tomatoes, beans, corn, water, taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix.

Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Serve with garnishes as desired.

Submitted by Lori Ready


1 side wild salmon fillet (about 4 pounds)
⅔ cup plain breadcrumbs
⅔ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
⅓ cup butter, melted
¾ teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve

Position a rack in the middle of oven. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with a large piece of foil. On the baking sheet, place salmon fillet, skin side down; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic. Pour in butter; season with salt and pepper (or to taste). Using your hands (it’s easier than using a wooden spoon), mix ingredients together until breadcrumbs absorb butter (about 40 seconds).

Pour mixture over salmon, pressing it onto the top until the fillet is completely covered.

Bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fillet), until the crust is golden and the salmon is cooked and flakes easily with fork.

Serve with lemon wedges and a squeeze of lemon (optional). Team with a salad, steamed vegetables, rice or mashed potatoes.


Serving: 1 stuffed breast
Makes: 2 servings
Per serving: 291 calories, 8g total fat (3g sat fat), 428mg sodium, 8.5g carbs, 1g fiber, 1.5g sugars, 43g protein

¼ cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
2 (5-ounce) raw boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
1 ounce (about 2 slices) reduced-sodium 97-98% fat-free sliced ham
2 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese
¼ cup (about 2 large) egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute

Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Spray 8x8 baking pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, mix breadcrumbs with seasonings.

Pound chicken to ½-inch thickness. Evenly top with ham and cheese. Tightly roll up each chicken cutlet and secure with toothpicks.

In a wide bowl, place one stuffed chicken cutlet. Evenly top with half of egg whites. Shake to remove excess and transfer to baking pan. Generously coat with seasoned breadcrumbs. Repeat with remaining stuffed chicken cutlet. Evenly top with remaining breadcrumbs.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 20 more minutes.


1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons water
Baking spray
1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar (not packed)
2 large egg whites
3 ripe medium bananas, lightly mashed
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ Tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat until cranberries burst, about 4 minutes.

Lightly spray a loaf pan with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg whites, bananas and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Add flour mixture and blend at low speed until combined, do not over mix.

Fold in cranberries and pour batter into prepared loaf pan; sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake in center rack for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool at least 25 minutes; bread should be room temperature before slicing.


½ pound fresh green beans

Flour Mix
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder (I think I used garlic salt)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder

Egg Mix
1 egg
1 cup milk (I used 2%)

Breading Mix
2 cups panko breadcrumbs*

Preheat oven to 425°.

Cover a large baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with non-stick spray (I used an EVOO one) and set aside.

In a medium pot, add 2-3 inches of water and some salt and bring to a boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, trim ends off green beans.

Once water is boiling, add green beans and boil for approximately 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add ice and water to make an ice bath.

After 3 minutes, drain the green beans and place in ice bath. Let them cool. Drain and pat green beans dry.

In a small bowl, add the flour, garlic powder/salt, paprika and onion powder. Whisk it together and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Add about 2 tablespoons of flour mixture to egg mixture and whisk it to combine. Set aside.

In a third bowl, pour in bread crumbs. (If you’re not using the seasoned kind, sprinkle in some salt and pepper and stir to combine.) Set aside.

Set up an assembly line in the following order: green beans, flour mix, egg mix, bread crumbs, pan.

Dredge each green bean into flour mix, dip it in egg mix, then dip it in bread crumbs. Make sure to fully coat the green beans with each step. Line them in a single layer on baking sheet.

Bake green beans for around 15 minutes, until the breading is golden brown and crispy. You can sprinkle with salt when they come out, but I skipped this step since I had used garlic salt and salted the boiling water.

I mixed up a dipping sauce of ranch with a little bit of Frank’s hot sauce. Simple and so good.

A great substitute for fries!!


5 carrots, chopped
3 onions, chopped
2 (16-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, with liquid
1 large head cabbage, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can cut green beans, drained
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 stalks celery, chopped
1 (1-ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
2 quarts tomato juice
1 (14-ounce) can beef broth

In a large pot, place carrots, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, green beans, peppers and celery. Add onion soup mix, tomato juice, beef broth and enough water to cover vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are tender. (May be stored in refrigerator for several days.)

Note: An oldie, but still a goodie!!! This soup was rumored, in days of old, to melt away those thighs.


Serving: ¼ recipe (about 3/4 cup)
Makes: 4 servings
Per serving: 138 calories, 3.5g total fat (0.5g sat fat), 398mg sodium, 23.5g carbs, 5g fiber, 14g sugars, 3.5g protein
Cook: 2 hours and 15 minutes on high or 4½ hours on low, plus 15 minutes

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup water
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup balsamic vinegar

In a medium bowl, combine mustard, oil and water. Mix thoroughly.

In a slow cooker, place Brussels sprouts and cranberries. Add mustard mixture. Stir to coat. Add salt and pepper.

Cook on high for 2 hours and 15 minutes or on low for 4½ hours, or until sprouts are tender and lightly browned.

In a small pot, bring vinegar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Stirring frequently, cook until thickened to a syrup-like consistency, about 12 minutes.

Stir sprouts and drizzle with balsamic reduction.


1 spaghetti squash (about 5 pounds)
1 cup water
5 slices of bacon, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil or regular oil
2 cups fresh or frozen petite peas
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

Poke spaghetti squash with a fork throughout the skin. In a slow cooker, place squash and water. Cook on high for 3 hours.

While squash is cooking, in a skillet, add bacon and oil. Fry until soft. (Bacon will do more cooking in the slow cooker later.)

When spaghetti squash is finished, remove from slow cooker. Cut open with a knife and scoop out the spaghetti strands. Leave water from cooking in cooker.

Place spaghetti strands back into cooker with bacon, peas, salt, pepper and cream cheese. Cook on high for another 45 minutes to an hour.

20 minutes into final cook time, add Parmesan. Give mixture a good stir to make sure the cheese coats the pasta. Top with a bit of shaved Parmesan, and enjoy!


Serving: 2 cups
Per serving: ¾ bread, 1 veggie, 1¾ meat and ¾ fat

1 pound ground round
2 cups water
15 ounces tomato sauce
1 can red kidney beans
1 cup carrots, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 beef bouillon cube
1 cup celery (may substitute mushrooms)
2 cans Italian tomatoes (14½ ounces)
1 cup onions, diced (may use dried)
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt, optional
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1 cup green beans, French Style
½ cup small macaroni or 1 can whole kernel corn

In a skillet, brown beef and drain. In a pot, place beef and add all other ingredients except cabbage, green beans and macaroni. Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes. Add cabbage, green beans and macaroni. Bring to a boil and simmer till tender. You may add water to make thinner.

Submitted by Jena Klein (originally from
Priscilla Russell)


¼ cup butter
⅓ cup honey
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of ½ a lemon)
2½ pound salmon side
Sea salt, to taste
Cracked pepper, to taste (optional)
Lemon slices, to serve
2 Tablespoons parsley, fresh chopped

Position a rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with a large piece of foil, big enough to fold over and seal to create a packet (or 2 long pieces of foil overlapping each other lengthways to create your salmon packet, depending on the width of you fillet).

In a small saucepan, melt butter over low-medium heat. Add honey, garlic and lemon, Whisk until honey has dissolved through butter and mixture is well-combined.

Place salmon onto lined baking sheet. Pour honey mixture over salmon. Using a pastry brush or spoon, spread evenly over salmon. Sprinkle with a good amount of salt (about 2 teaspoons) and cracked pepper. Fold sides of the foil over salmon to cover and completely seal packet closed so butter does not leak.

Bake until cooked through (about 15-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish and preference of doneness). Open foil, being careful of any escaping steam, and grill/broil for 2-3 minutes on medium heat to caramelize the top. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately with lemon slices.


½ cup pomegranate seeds (about ½ pomegranate)
½ cup apples, diced (about ½ apple)
½ cup clementines, diced (about 2 clementines)
½ cup pears, diced (about ½ pear)
½ cup kiwi, diced (about 2 kiwis)
½ cup strawberries, diced (about 5 strawberries)
½ cup cranberries, chopped (about ½ cup fresh cranberries)
Cinnamon, optional
Sugar, optional

When preparing the pomegranate to extract the seeds, save two halves for serving bowls.

Put all of fruit in a bowl and stir together. Scoop the pomegranate fruit salsa into pomegranate bowls before serving if desired.

Serve with baked cinnamon chips (recipe included).


Flour tortillas (I like the little 6″ ones)
Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly brush one side of each tortilla with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly brown and crisp. Cool on a cooling rack and serve.

Skinny Cranberry Bliss Bars


Serving Size: 1 bar
Makes: 30 servings
SmartPoints = 7 per serving
Per Serving: Calories: 149, Total Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 5 mg, Sodium: 47 mg, Fiber: 0 g, Carbohydrates: 24 g, Sugar: 17 g, Protein: 2 g

2 cups all-purpose flour (I like Gold Medal)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, unpacked
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large egg whites
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

8 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped (reserve some for top)
2 ounces white baking chocolate, melted*

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a 9x13 non-stick baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and stir to blend.

In another bowl, whisk sugars with butter, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Whisk dry ingredients into wet ingredients in two additions until batter is very well-blended. If the batter looks more crumbly than smooth, add just a drop of water at a time (ONLY if needed) until it smooths out.

Fold in white chocolate chips and cranberries. Spread batter onto the baking pan using the back of a measuring cup to smooth evenly.

Bake 10-14 minutes, until the edges are light brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Don’t over bake or bars will be dry. Let it cool completely on wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until well-blended. Frost bars and sprinkle with remaining cranberries. Drizzle with the white chocolate.

When the chocolate sets, cut into 15 large squares (5 cuts by 3 cuts with the knife). Then cut each square in half diagonally to create triangles. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

* To melt chocolate, place in a microwave-safe cup and heat 15 seconds; stir. Another 15 seconds; stir until the chocolate is melted.

Note: These are like the ones you get from Starbucks, but Skinnier!!

Recipe from Skinny Taste , Submitted by Jena Klein


Serving: 1/5 of recipe (about 2/3 cup)
Makes: 5 servings
Per serving: Calories: 108, Total Fat: 3.5 g (2g sat fat), Sodium: 331 mg, Carbs: 16 g, Fiber: 2.5 g, Sugars: 4 g, Protein: 4 g
Cook: 2½ hours on high or 5 hours on low

12 ounces (about 9) baby red potatoes, halved
3 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup water
¼ cup light sour cream
¼ cup light/reduced-fat cream cheese
¾ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Optional topping: scallions, chopped

Spray a slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add potatoes, cauliflower and water.

Cover and cook on high for 2½ hours or on low for 5 hours, or until cauliflower and potatoes are soft.

Turn off slow cooker. Drain potato and cauliflower in a strainer. Transfer to a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients. Thoroughly mash and mix.

Recipe from Skinny Girl , Submitted by Jena Klein


¼ cup dark chocolate chips, melted
1 cup mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoon unsweetened vanilla macadamia nut milk
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Stevia, to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper, optional
Pinch of sea salt, optional

Coat a shallow glass pan with coconut oil spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine chocolate chips, sweet potato and cocoa powder. Add remaining ingredients and mix until fully combined.

Transfer gooey mixture to prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Cover with saran wrap or wax paper and refrigerate approximately 4 hours.

To serve, slice into bite-size cubes.


Servings: 4

4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ large yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
1 teaspoon tamari (gluten free soy sauce)

½ avocado, sliced
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Green onions, sliced
Toasted peanuts, chopped
Toasted sesame seeds

Thai Peanut Sauce
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon sriracha
Juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

Preheat oven to 400°. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, flipping halfway, until tender. Prick with a knife or press with an oven mitted hand to see if they are done.

While potatoes are baking, make peanut sauce. In food processor, place all peanut sauce ingredients and blend until combined, scraping down sides as needed. Season with salt to taste. Set aside until ready to use.

Next, make the tempeh filling. In a medium skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tempeh and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add soy sauce, cook another minute then turn off heat.

When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut a slit in the middle of each one, being careful not to get burnt by steam. Fill with tempeh filling, a couple of slices of avocado and drizzle with peanut sauce. Garnish with cilantro, green onions, peanuts, sesame seeds and sriracha.


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large uncooked onion, chopped
4 medium poblano chilies, seeded and diced
2 average size serrano chiles seeded and minced
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds uncooked boneless skinless chicken breasts
45 ounces cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup salsa verde
2 Tablespoons fresh limejuice
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced

In a large soup pot, heat oil. Add onion and peppers. Sauté, stirring often until softened about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, salt, cumin, coriander and oregano.

Add broth, chicken and beans, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered until chicken is cooked about 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and let sit 5 minutes and shred.

Put chicken back in pot and stir in salsa verde, limejuice and cilantro; heat through and serve.

Submitted by Lori Ready


Servings: 4

3 medium zucchini, spiralized or julienned
4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Hemp seeds, for garnish

1 shallot, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup cashews, soaked in water overnight or in hot water for an hour, drained
2 cups basil, packed
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup water

Preheat oven to 300°. Toss tomatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast 40 minutes until slightly shriveled and some of juices are released.

While tomatoes are roasting, make pesto. In food processor, place shallot and garlic and pulse until finely minced. Add cashews, basil, yeast and olive oil, and blend until creamy. Season with salt and black pepper.

Toss zucchini noodles with tomatoes and pesto and serve garnished with hemp seeds.


½ large grapefruit
½ lime
1 lemon
1 orange
½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon honey
½ can La Croix Coconut Sparkling Water (or sparkling water of choice)
Citrus slices to garnish (optional)

In a bowl, juice all citrus. Add ginger and honey. Stir to combine. Fill a cup with ice and pour juice mixture in. Top with sparkling water. Stir with a straw (gently) and garnish with additional citrus slices.


1 ounce chocolate protein or plant protein
2 large handfuls spinach
1 banana, frozen
1½ teaspoon* mint leaves, chopped (or cut into small pieces with kitchen shears)
½ can of light coconut milk
1 teaspoon cacao nibs, optional

In a blender, process all ingredients until smooth and no chunks remain.

Serve immediately.

* This measurement is approximate. I used the leaves from 3 medium-sized mint sprigs.

We are looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. We 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 2017 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. Email your recipes to Mary Delph at

The Drought Dilemma

by Robert Spencer

This article was written in the first part of November 2016 and, by the time you read it in January 2017, I expect drought conditions remain an issue. Here in the Southeast United States, we saw continued deterioration due to drought conditions as dry conditions and above-average temperatures persisted from early summer though fall of 2016. This in turn affected soil moisture and agriculture across the region. Both row-crop and livestock farmers have been significantly impacted, reducing crop yields and forage availability for livestock.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, severe and extreme drought conditions exist for northern Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, and western parts of South and North Carolina. Exceptional drought conditions exist for Northeast Alabama and Northwest Georgia. Oct. 20, 2016, NOAA: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center predicted the drought conditions would remain persistent for the Southeast through at least the end of January 2017.

For livestock producers, we know this has already caused hay shortages, little or no surplus pastures for winter grazing, increased need to feed hay and supplemental grain feed, and other relevant economic hardships. While goat and sheep prices at sale barns have remained lucrative, cattle prices will likely remain at lows we have not seen in years. Farming is always a risky endeavor, kind of like a roller-coaster ride; each commodity has its ups and downs. About three months ago was the time to have determined carrying capacity of your farm during drought conditions.

So, the big question is what to do? We know we have little or no control over certain situations, and we know we need to have a backup plan to take appropriate action.

Things a producer has little or no control over:

  • Rainfall.
  • Cost of establishing irrigation systems.
  • Planting winter or cool-season forage seed, when there is no rain.

Things a producer has varying degrees of control over and can mitigate by:

  • Evaluating your situation and resources: inventory number and size of livestock and their current and future forage, hay and feed requirements.
  • Goats, sheep and cattle will consume 2-4 percent of their body weight daily in vegetation, hay and feed. This can add up very quickly with a 1,000-pound cow.
  • Evaluating cost and consequences of providing additional hay and feed.
  • Determining if keeping your current inventory of livestock is worth land and forage damage and cost of forages, hay and feed.
  • Evaluating if it is time to cull problematic and low-producing animals.
  • If your forage availability and hay inventories are low, and you do not want to reduce your livestock inventories, now is the time to seek additional sources of hay.
  • Grain-based feeds are there if needed, especially for lactating or pregnant animals.
  • As the drought continues, reassess your livestock inventories and needs, and forage and hay inventories.
  • Planning for spring forage production and availability.
  • Don’t let your animals suffer during these difficult times; provide sufficient nutrition including water and mineral supplements.

The aforementioned suggestions are some basic ideas; there is an abundance of informative resources to be found. Visit, There is the National Drought Mitigation Center,; The Center for Food Security and Public Health,; The Noble Foundation,; Perdue Extension,; North Dakota State University,; and the list goes on and on. A simple internet search on drought and livestock will provide you with a wealth of information and options.

. Retrieved Nov. 3, 2016

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. You can contact him at

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Adult yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) (Credit: Johnny N. Dell,

by Tony Glover

When I was a kid growing up, I heard the insult thrown around that someone was a "yellow- bellied sapsucker" and it is also used as a name by those who have no idea what bird they are looking at as a parody of sorts (view funny clip from "The Honeymooners" at I have to admit, I did not know at the time that in fact there really was such a creature and I certainly did not know it was a beautiful woodpecker species called Sphyrapicus varius. The belly is white to light yellow, but the other part of its name is quite descriptive because it does suck or lick sap from trees. This species is a migratory bird for most of the Eastern United States, but both the male and female likely overwinter all over Alabama and other areas of the Southeast according to Dr. John Kush of Auburn University.

It is very likely you have seen the damage they cause to landscape trees and shrubs. This particular woodpecker will make holes usually in a circular pattern around the trunks of trees. They make two kinds of holes to harvest tree sap. The most commonly seen damage is recognized by round holes that extend fairly deep in the tree and are not enlarged after being made. The less recognized holes are rectangular and shallower and the bird must maintain these holes continually to keep the sap flowing. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "The sapsucker licks the sap from these holes, and eats the cambium of the tree, too." This is important to know because the cambium is the tissue that conducts food and water and, if enough damage is done in a circular pattern, the plant may be completely girdled and die.

Damage caused by a yellow-bellied sapsucker. (Credit: Chazz Hesselein, Alabama Cooperative Extension System,

Although these birds can feed on many species of trees and shrubs, they do have their preferences. Some favorite tree species include maple (maple sap makes maple syrup, which humans like as well), pecan, hickories, birch, pine, elm and some oaks. They are attracted to previously damaged trees, which is why you may see dozens of rings of holes on one tree and none on a nearby tree of the same species.

I was recently called out to troubleshoot a landscape problem involving some hollies that were declining and where one large plant was already near death. A quick inspection of the trunk revealed sapsucker damage of the most destructive type just described. It turns out that hollies are among their favorite shrubs. Because the holly had numerous rows of sapsucker feeding damage, the plant was getting very little nutrient movement from the leaves to the rest of the plant resulting in a general unthrifty, thinning appearance to the foliage and eventually plant death.

Hollies are pretty tough plants and can be heavily pruned during the winter months. If you have seen this type of damage and the plant looks really bad, you might consider a severe renewal pruning to save the shrub. Hollies can be pruned all the way back to a few inches above the ground and regrown. This would be a good way to salvage a plant with a large area of the trunk damaged by sapsuckers. People often try to discourage these birds by using plastic or blow up predator birds nearby in hopes of frightening the sapsuckers, but most scare tactics are ineffective. For valuable landscape plants, you could use bird netting over the plants; for tree species, you can try attaching rings of hardware cloth or burlap fabric around the trunks. Make sure to remove the burlap or other materials after the main feeding period that usually ends in June. If the trees are large and healthy looking and all the holes are round rather than rectangular, it may not be necessary to do anything because that type of damage is rarely fatal to the trees.

Now is a good time to prune and take some preventative action before these birds start scouting out nesting sites and preparing to start breeding again. When the sap starts rising in late winter and early spring, you will see increased activity of this bird that does most of its damage from February to June. Do not harm this bird because it is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Killing this bird would likely be ineffective anyway because other sapsuckers would likely replace any killed.

The next time you want to throw out an insult to some scoundrel, please don’t call them a "yellow-bellied sapsucker" because we don’t want to harm this bird’s reputation any further.

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

Tips for Safe Handling of Meat

These answers to frequently asked questions may surprise you.

by Angela Treadaway

As an Extension agent in food safety, I get calls frequently asking about the safety and need for washing beef or poultry products before cooking. The following is what I tell them as a recommendation from the Centers of Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Should I wash beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking it?

There is no need to wash or rinse beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking; therefore, it is not recommended. Some consumers think they are removing bacteria from the meat and making it safer. However, any bacteria present on the surface are destroyed by cooking. In fact, washing creates the danger of cross-contamination. Washing allows most bacteria present on the surface of meat to spread to ready-to-eat foods, kitchen utensils and counter surfaces.

Should I wash chicken or other poultry before cooking?

There is no need to wash or rinse poultry before cooking; therefore, it is not recommended. Some consumers think they are removing bacteria from the poultry and making it safer. However, any bacteria present on the surface are destroyed by cooking the poultry to 165 degrees. In fact, washing creates the danger of cross-contamination. Washing allows most bacteria present on the surface of poultry to spread to ready-to-eat foods, kitchen utensils and counter surfaces.

What are the safest ways to thaw foods?

Foods must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. Foods are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as food begins to defrost and become warmer than 40 degrees, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.

Foods should never be thawed or even stored on the counter or defrosted in hot water.

Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food is in the Danger Zone, 40-140 degrees – temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Planning ahead is the key when refrigerator thawing because of the lengthy time involved. Even small amounts of frozen food such as a pound of ground meat require a full day to thaw.

Foods defrosted in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.

Cold water thawing is faster than refrigerator thawing, but requires more attention. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Small packages of meat or poultry – about a pound – may defrost in an hour or less. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound. If thawed completely, the food must be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.

When microwave defrosting food, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the defrosting. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed and may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow. Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.

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

To everything there is a season...

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Eggs are a mainstay on a homestead. However, most people are not aware that some free-range hens will slow down or completely stop egg production in colder weather.

Most everybody knows that I sell eggs from my little farm – big brown eggs (and sometimes green and blue ones) – fresh eggs from happy chickens.

But I’m writing this in mid-November to be published in January and some folks just don’t understand what is going on around here.

One customer was adamant when I told her there wouldn’t likely be any more eggs until the next afternoon.

"But why not?" she exclaimed. "Why don’t you get some more?"

Meanwhile, about 300 brown, yellow, checked and reddish-looking hens meandered around the farm, scratching, clucking and singing until their friendly roosters unearthed a tasty tidbit and that particular harem would run over to see what their leader had provided to eat.

It’s hard for a lot of folks to understand that a lot of small farms or homesteads like mine, pretty much live by nature’s calendar. I’m not a commercial operation.

According to, "Most chickens produce eggs at the fastest rate when there is a better chance their offspring will survive to maturity. Chicks clearly would not survive as well in cold weather. For a chicken, it gives them no reason to lay eggs in the winter; so their bodies automatically shut off egg laying for the colder months.

"Chickens deserve and need a rest. ... Winter is a chicken’s time to naturally shut down and rest from laying eggs all summer long. Don’t they deserve a rest?"

It’s true that not all chickens adhere to that time table. Some of my girls lay just about year-round.

The initial 25 chicks I bought, over two decades ago, from the late Jerry Sterling at the Blount County Farmers Co-op all laid almost completely year-round for THREE years! But I think that was just the luck of the draw ... because I haven’t had any that have done that since!

It just seems that when the days start getting shorter, I start finding fewer and fewer eggs in my hens’ nesting boxes.

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, "In the Northern Hemisphere, daylight hours start getting longer after the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21. The daylight continues to lengthen every day until Summer Solstice, June 21. Then the reverse happens."

A hen with her baby chicks.

The weather these past few months has been somewhat unusual in north central Alabama. Not only have we had a record-breaking drought but it’s just not been as cold as usual. So one of my little hens just hatched seven tiny chicks that are a combination of game, Easter Egger and Golden Comets ... during the first week of November (so I had to make a fast run to the Blount Co-op for chick starter!) ... and I didn’t build the first fire in my wood-burning heater until Nov. 10 ... about a month later than usual ... and that’s all the heat I have in this house so you KNOW it must have been much warmer this year.

But what about all the ways folks try to keep hens laying bountifully year-round? Many add lights, some around the clock and some on timers to come on in the early morning hours.

Some folks add pepper or other hot stuff to their feed claiming that makes them continue to lay.

But others, as some at the website, say providing artificial lights and other things are actually hazardous to the hens.

They note that a chicken is born with the number of teeny tiny eggs already inside her that she will ever have in her lifetime and, if you try to speed up the process, you may endanger her health or even her life.

So, although I have tried lights on timers in the past, usually I just let my girls slack off during the early winter months and, come the longer days, I usually have more eggs than I can imagine.

Most everybody is familiar with the verses in Ecclesiastes where Solomon notes, "… for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven. ..."

Maybe it’s because I spend the majority of my time on this little 15-acre farm now, but, somehow, it seems my life does revolve around the seasons, not just of each year but the seasons of life.

When it is blazing hot and miserable like it was a lot last summer, I sweat – I don’t perspire – as I tend to animals and tend to other chores on this farm. Births (or hatchings) and deaths are things that must be dealt with directly; there’s no funeral director you can call when a pet goat dies.

There are animals here I have helped into this world and the same animals I have sat with and ministered to as their spirits left this Earth.

In the winter when the rain, sleet and sometimes even snow pelts down from the darkened sky, I’m hauling fresh hay and digging out poop to keep my animals dry and comfortable; there’s no sunny desk to sit behind in a climate-controlled office and not even a thermostat when I’m finished and can go into the house.

But, oh, the warmth that comes from that wood-burning heater!

But I’ve learned so much from the animals, wildlife and even the plants here at Old Field Farm.

Jesus talked about how a kernel had to be planted in the earth to die, before the new birth of a plant comes forth in spring, as an example of his death, burial and resurrection.

David, in Psalm 71 and in other places, pleaded with the Lord to remember him in his older age, noting how his enemies looked upon his gray hair and felt they could take advantage of him.

And wise old Solomon talked about those seasons and how there’s a time and purpose for everything under Heaven.

I get really frustrated sometimes now because I can’t hold out to dig post holes or do other manual labor like I did even last year and certainly not like I did 10 and 20 years ago.

But this simple little farm makes me sit down, take notice and think about those seasons, whether in each year or in an entire lifetime.

I’m working toward building a tiny greenhouse to replace the one destroyed by a microburst last January. But before I began I’ve had to draw the plans, gather the material, and then work as my strength and physical stamina allows.

I don’t think God created us to be as busy as we’re all trying to be in this century. Put down that smartphone, get off Facebook and look to nature around you to see what God is trying to tell you. Like my busy little hens, there are times when we simply need to stop, rest and get ready for what comes next in our lives.

David once again said it best (this time in Psalm 37:3), "Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him."

Suzy Lowry Geno lives on a small homestead in Blount County and can be reached through Facebook or by emailing

What Next?

by Stephen Donaldson

As I sit and write this article, we have finally had two significant rains. These rains have delivered some relief to our historic drought. Many producers have already taken steps to survive the limited feed resources caused by the drought.

In addition to the drought, cattle prices have taken a tumble, causing much angst to cattlemen. Because potential profitability has taken a hit, cattlemen are faced with two tough choices. One, do I sell cattle to meet my feed supplies or, two, do I purchase feed to meet my cattle’s needs? Either choice will limit profitability.

As I have stressed during this drought, cattle must have some sort of long-stemmed fiber in order for their digestive systems to function properly. Hopefully, you have enough forage to provide this important nutrient to your cattle. High fiber feeds can help stretch your existing hay supplies, but can’t replace hay in its entirety.

By the end of November, many cattlemen were already supplementing cattle like it was January. This made me worry because we are just now reaching the time of year when supplementation is critical. I hope cattlemen were just staying ahead of the curve and trying to keep plenty of body condition on their cattle before our coldest days come. As we reach the coldest months of the year, watch the body condition of your cattle carefully and increase supplementation if needed. Remember, it is easier and more cost effective to keep condition on cattle than to let them get too thin and try to catch up during the winter.

By the time you receive your Cooperative Farming News, we will be facing another obstacle that we are not used to. On Jan. 1, 2017, the Veterinary Feed Directive regulations went into effect. The way you purchase and use antibiotics for mixing and feeding has changed. You must now have a VFD to purchase feeds containing certain antibiotics you have used in your operation.

You must get the VFD from your veterinarian after he/she has observed your animals and deemed that a feed containing an antibiotic would be a suitable treatment. FDA will be the agency regulating these VFD drugs. If you use a feed containing a VFD drug, you could be subject to inspection by the FDA. Most FDA inspections will most-likely happen at the distributor level, but anyone handling or using a VFD drug is subject to an audit.

While this will be cumbersome for many of us, as is changing any habit, it is a rule that could hopefully give consumers more confidence that antibiotics aren’t being misused in animal production. It could also help the efficacy of these drugs and make them more effective in your operation.

As stated earlier, the VFD will have to come from your veterinarian. It is imperative to have a good working relationship with a veterinarian if you intend to use feed-grade antibiotics. This is known as a veterinary-client-patient relationship. The veterinarian must be familiar with your operation and have physically examined your livestock before they can issue a VFD. Hopefully, you already have this relationship; if not, try to identify a veterinarian in your area and develop one.

It will take time for this transition to be seamless. Distributors are going to be placed under a lot of pressure because they will ultimately be the gatekeeper. As a producer, be patient with these distributors because this is new territory for them, too. In the end, we can all work together to make this new regulation work for everyone.

Wow, drought, shortages of feed, depressed cattle prices and new government regulations. That seems to be enough to make anyone want to quit. However, these are issues that we in agriculture have dealt with for centuries and that will arise in the future. So, as usual, we will work through these together and keep doing the things we love.

Check with your local Quality Co-op store. They will be happy to help you navigate through these trying times.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If I can help any of you, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 or

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