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July 2014

4-H Extension Corner: Soaring Wings at the Alabama 4-H Center

Raptor programs are one of the highlights at the 4-H Center.

by William Hemmer

Watching the smooth flight of any bird can be both inspiring and uplifting. This magical event can be observed daily at the Alabama 4-H Center in two fashions: The abundant natural wildlife and by children exposed to the Alabama 4-H Center.

The goal of the Alabama 4-H Center is to provide a platform where young people can come to learn by doing, while creating lifelong memories for the youth. There is nothing like it in the world when you see the impact our team has on youth. The noticeable growth in confidence of a child from the arrival to the departure from the 4-H Center is like watching a bird take flight.

Programs at the Alabama 4-H Center can range from a formal classroom setting to outdoor learning venues about the waters, forests, ecosystems and animals.

We have the greatest classroom for learning that I have been involved with; the ability to see, touch and learn in a fluid process is amazing.

Flag raising at the 4-H Center is a morning ritual for 4-Hers at camp.

The Coosa River Science School has impacted thousands of children of all ages, distinguishing itself as a national leader in environmental education and development of youth. The live species programs of the Raptor Trek and Herpetology (birds and reptiles) are among some of the best in the United States.

Becky Collier and her staff are one of a kind. Her passion for sharing and in teaching kids is evident every day and is duplicated at every level by the staff who come in contact with the children.

As well as the onsite setting of the Coosa River Science School, the environmental education expands in all directions as far as the public will allow via the Outreach Program.

I wish I had a penny for every mile logged by the staff in the Raptor Trek van. I am fairly certain that from Limestone County to Mobile County and from Choctaw County to Chambers County, our Raptor Trek Van has been spotted by the great folks of Alabama.

The activities available for groups at the Alabama 4-H Center are abundant. The growth that can take place with selected activities ranges from physical accomplishments building confidence and character to analytical course information that can assist in increasing knowledge base and aid in decision making.

The activity slice-of-the-pie at the Alabama 4-H Center impacts each and every child. The mastering of something, whether it is physical or intellectual, is something you see continually with the young people.

Marisol Clark, who directs activities at the 4-H Center, is awesome. She knows what kids need and what they want and is able to blend the ideas into activities that are flat out fun.

Our instructors are well trained in safety and procedures that lead to great experiences for all involved.

The Alabama 4-H Foundation and Alabama Cooperative Extension System are the driving forces behind the Alabama 4-H Center.

We have been able to grow at the Center on the back of hard work by great people all over Alabama. The impact of the Center reaches every corner of the state. I feel honored to be here and assisting in the continued growth of the 4-H Center.

Summer camps and school groups have been enjoying the Center for years. I want to continue to foster those relationships. Corporate and church retreats that have come to visit the Center have returned year after year because of the great things accomplished during their meetings and/or fellowship.

So, like watching a soaring eagle in its strong flight and majestic travel, the Alabama 4-H Center has traveled a majestic journey to this point – one that has been amazing.

We have been able to grow the impact the Alabama 4-H Center has on Alabama children in leaps and bounds.

Sandra Spencer, who has been the Alabama 4-H Center manager for the past 14 years, is the reason. Her footprint will never leave us. Her heart and soul were put into the 4-H Center. This is evident by the relationships formed and the magnitude of folks impacted by her actions.

I will work tirelessly to deliver the same passion and commitment that Sandra delivered for the state of Alabama.

Come see us at the Alabama 4-H Center and be part of the flight!

William Hemmer is the new manager of the Alabama 4-H Center.



A New Director for Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System

Dr. David Pugh

Dr. Tony Frazier

If you kept all of your past articles of "From the Office of the State Vet"in a leather-bound book somewhere and if you refer to the article in the May 2012 issue of AFC Cooperative Farming News, I wrote about our former Lab Director Dr. Hoerr’s retiring. If you don’t keep the old articles around, you will just have to take my word for it. Anyway, the article was sort of left with the implication of "stay tuned." Well, after a long, diligent search, the Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System has a new director. He is Dr. David Pugh, and he is not a stranger to the large animal veterinary community, not only in Alabama but across the country. I will tell you more about Pugh later.

The Diagnostic Laboratory System consists of three branch laboratories. They are located at Elba, Boaz and Hanceville. The branch laboratories support the local agriculture and veterinary communities. They have the capability to perform necropsies, microbiological testing and serological testing for various diseases. Often a diagnosis or at least a strong suspicion of what the problem is can be determined at the branch laboratories. The branch laboratories are staffed with a veterinarian, a microbiologist, a technician and an administrative assistant. If a cattle farmer, poultry producer, horse owner, pet owner or veterinarian needs to know the cause of death of an animal or multiple animals, the branch labs are often where the pieces of the puzzle begin to be assembled.

The main diagnostic laboratory, the hub of the wheel – or as Dr. Slaten refers to it, "The Mother Ship,"is located in Auburn. The present facility at Auburn, officially named the Thompson Bishop Sparks Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, was opened in 2006. While the Auburn lab offers all the services offered at the branch labs, it is also a state-of-the-art laboratory capable of performing virology, histology and toxicology. Tissue samples and other specimens requiring further testing are sent from the branch labs to Auburn for more pieces of the puzzle to come together.

If you are not a state employee, you may not be aware that over the past few years our budgets have been whittled away fairly significantly. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that we do not have a printing press to create money and, when the economy in suffering as it has over the past few years, the state takes in less taxes and you have to rearrange budgets to fit the money you have. Having said that, I will admit the budget cuts have had some effect on our diagnostic labs. While we have been able to hire some new folks to replace those we have lost over the past few years, we are still not hitting on all eight cylinders. I will say that the personnel we have working at our laboratories are very competent, and they are very dedicated to what they do. I have never asked anything from the laboratories that they did not accomplish as fast as they could and did a very good job accomplishing it.

As we began our search for a lab director to replace Hoerr, a couple of things became evident to me. First, a state-supported laboratory cannot compete salary wise with private industry. Secondly, many very good candidates shied away from taking the position because of the uncertain times our state is facing. I don’t think Alabama has the market cornered on facing uncertain times. In fact, I think during our present economy, most states are in that same situation. So we operated for a couple of years with Dr. Sara Rowe as our interim director. I cannot say enough about the job she did as interim director while continuing to carry out her other duties as director of microbiology and serology. As a salaried employee, Rowe gets nothing more than a very heartfelt thank you for all of the extra hours she put in and the stress she endured. They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t know if I agree with that, but, if it is true, Rowe should be as strong as anybody you will meet.

That brings us to our newly appointed Laboratory Director Dr. Pugh. I believe, and certainly as we searched for the right candidate for the job, that to the person we hired this would be as much a calling as it is a job or position. The more I come to know Pugh, the more I am convinced he views the position as a calling - the place he is supposed to be. He understands the rough times we have gone through and shares a vision of where the laboratory system needs to be to support the great agriculture industry and the veterinarians and pet industry in this state. The good thing is, I believe, Pugh brings the tools with him to have the system hitting on all eight cylinders very soon. Having spent 5 years in large animal veterinary practice in Georgia, he has learned to use duct tape and bailing wire to construct the space shuttle if that is what the job requires.

Pugh has held faculty positions at both the University of Georgia and Auburn University. And while you will never hear him blow his own horn, Dr. David Pugh has a very impressive résumé. He earned his master’s degree in Agricultural Entomology at Auburn. He received post DVM training in Equine Clinical Nutrition at Virginia Tech and theriogenology at Texas A&M. He is a diplomate of the American College of Theriogenology, the American College of Nutrition and the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists. He has worked as a technical services veterinarian for both Fort Dodge and Pfizer Animal Health. His most recent job was project veterinarian and director of operations for the Auburn Equine Source Plasma Project. He is author of over 600 publications and is editor of the "Sheep and Goat Medicine" book that I believe is pretty much the gold standard in the veterinary industry when it comes to small ruminant medicine. He has received many awards in the veterinary community and has served on many committees.

As I mentioned earlier, Pugh has an impressive résumé. However, the thing, to me, that outshines his résumé is the character and type of person he is. If I had all the things in my tool kit that Pugh brings with him, I might need to get a hat a couple of sizes bigger than the one I wear now. Pugh is one of the most humble people I know. He looks at those he supervises as his teammates striving toward the same goals. He is just as comfortable communicating with a farmer who never finished high school as he is discussing veterinary issues with PhDs. He is a man who leans heavily upon his faith. I feel fortunate that Dr. David Pugh will be riding herd on the Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System. I believe we are in good hands as we ride into the future.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.



A Not Fancy Fix for Cross Creek Fences

Completed view of the creek fence from above and downstream.

A creek fence constructed of heavy-gauge tin may not be pretty, but it IS effective, practical and durable.

by John Howle

It’s July and the creek may be low around your farm. If so, this makes an ideal situation when repairing fencing and containment across the creeks of your property. There are about as many methods of fixing fences that cross creeks as there are farmers fixing them.

I’ve seen people tie plastic 55-gallon drums together, string barbed wire across the creek and allow fence posts to sit suspended by a wire in the creek. Some methods work fairly well and some not at all. After years of trial and error, we found out a method that works fairly well and has withstood some raging flash floods over the previous months.

This fix is not fancy, but it will prevent cattle from escaping the pasture through the creek crossing. First, you need enough cable to go across the length of the creek and attach it to a nearby tree on each side. If no trees are present, large, corner posts and bracing will be needed to handle the weight of the cable and other creek-containment materials. Next, you will need enough sheets of heavy-duty tin to cross the creek. Finally, you’ll need slick, galvanized wire to attach the tin to the suspension cable. Grab a cordless drill and you’re ready to head for the creek.

It’s great having creeks and water sources running through your farm, but these areas are also vulnerable spots where cattle can escape, especially when the creeks run low during drought times. The system I am covering for this article makes use of used, heavy-duty tin wired to a cable crossing the creek.

The tin provides a barrier even when the creek gets up. The current of the creek simply causes the tin to rise and fall in the water, and as long as the top of the tin is out of the water, debris such as limbs, leaves and trash are less likely to collect. The snagging and catching of limbs and larger debris are what cause the creek-crossing fences to tear down. Once a large limb hangs on traditional strands of barbed wire going across the creek, larger and larger debris builds up and the fence wire stretches and breaks. This method makes use of a heavy-duty cable that can handle the weight better than fence wire.

Placement of the Creek Cable

Ideally, a creek-crossing, livestock-containment system (I should get that term copyrighted as CCLCS) works better when there are two, larger-size trees to connect the cable to. If not, you’ll have to install the braced posts on each side of the creek. The cable should be at a height allowing the sheets of tin to be suspended just above water level.

For each piece of tin, use a cordless drill to create two to three holes in the top of each piece. Using smooth pieces of galvanized wire, run the wire through the holes in the tin and attach the tin to the cable. It is important to use a heavy, thick gauge of tin to withstand the wear and tear when the water level rises and rushes against the panels during heavy rains.

How it Works

During a heavy rain, the water level of the creek can rise rapidly, and limbs and other debris will be carried down the creek. Since the tin is attached to the cable on the top side, the flow of water rushes under the tin. If the water level rises higher, the tin will act as flaps allowing the higher water and debris the ability to continue flowing without trapping the debris in the way that simple barbed wire crossing the creek would.

Once the water level goes back down, the flaps or pieces of tin will also go back down into place. You can adjust the height of the cable by loosening the cable clamps and tightening or loosening the cable. Typically, you want the tin to rest just above water level when the creek is running at regular flow.

Routine Maintenance

In areas where creeks and streams enter your fenced pastures or wooded areas, it is critical to make regular, routine visits to these spots. In larger creeks, larger logs can wash in and should be removed by chainsaw or a chain hooked to your tractor. If the occasional large objects wash in and aren’t removed, these areas build up debris and can tear out the livestock-containment areas of the creek.

It’s a frustrating experience to sit in the house through a heavy rain and wonder if the cows are going to get out of the pasture through the creeks the next morning. By keeping heavy debris cleaned out of the creek regularly, your CCLCS should stay in good shape for years. Use this homemade CCLCS so you can enjoy the sound of rain on the tin roof without the worries of cows getting out of the fence.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



AFC’s Donnie Saylors Retires


AFC Feed Mill Supervisor Donnie Saylors, pictured with his wife Jean, came to work for AFC in 1972 and retired April 24. We all wish Donnie a happy and fulfilling retirement!


An Exhibition of Gigantic Proportions


Asbury Early Childhood students were fascinated by the “sights and sounds” of audio-visual presentations on agricultural topics included in the recent Farm Day dedicated to providing experiences for students to reinforce their knowledge about the five human senses.

Asbury FFA conducts a “very unique” Farm Day.

Press Release from Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed

While Farm Days are normally eventful and popular, according to Advisor Casey Smith, the first Farm Day conducted by the Asbury FFA Chapter was especially unique.

"It was an exhibition of gigantic proportions, and although it occurred on April 15, it was the coldest day of spring. But the cold weather didn’t dampen the excitement of the kids involved," Smith said.

Farm Day was a petting zoo whereby the pre-K through second-grade kids gained familiarity with several commonplace animals as well as a kangaroo, which is native to Australia.

It was an Ag in Action learning lab with a 24-foot enclosed trailer housing a transformed cotton picker cab including an electronic learning station.

It was exposure to large farm machinery such as a corn picker.

Asbury pre-K through second-grade students reinforced their sense of “touch” via use of a rabbit at the April 15, 2014, Farm Day. They liked the fuzzy-wuzzy “feel” of the rabbit’s fur. The students are Gundalupe Calderon, Emily Goble, Luke Andrews, Jennifer Lopez and Destiny Smith.

"And it was more!" Smith said. "It was a reinforcement of classroom concepts learned about the five human senses of taste, smell, touch/feel, sight and sound for Early Childhood students.

"And here’s how it worked. Several weeks prior to Farm Day, pre-K through second-grade teachers taught the five human senses to their students by using classroom resources. These teachers worked hard to ensure their students knew about the sense organs – the mouth, the nose, the hands and feet, the eyes and the ears."

Then came Farm Day providing new dimensions to the students’ learning through exposing them to real world examples, thus making an indelible and unforgettable impression on them.

"The kids had so much fun. They didn’t regard their novel laboratory learning as school," second-grade teacher Shawnee Rains pointed out.

"The hallmark of Farm Day was lessons beyond those provided by teachers and books in the regular classroom. While, as teachers, our regular teaching about the five human senses may have approached monotony sometimes for the kids, they did not experience dull or boring moments at all in their Farm Day experiences," according to Sharon Childress, pre-K teacher.

Big boys now! Tristen Minton and Evan Stone are ready to roll while participating in the Asbury FFA Farm Day. The two second-graders got the “feel” of driving a farm tractor in the Ag in Action Mobile Classroom. Although the tractor was a simulation, it had all the features of the real thing. Maybe the fellows even acquired some motivation to include farming in their list of potential careers.

School patrons, high school students and teachers furnished farm equipment, animals and other props needed for the grand farm re-creation. The Ag in Action Mobile Classroom was provided by the Etowah County Soil and Water Conservation District. Farm equipment was furnished by Allen Childress and Son, who farm locally.

Students even had the opportunity to "milk a cow" as a model cow with provisions for simulated "milking" was available, thanks to the Ag in Action Mobile Classroom provided by the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Teachers and co-sponsors of the event were Natalie Smith, Shawnee Rains, Sharon Childress, Karla Ashley, Valerie Chamblee, Sheree Howard, Nicole Green, Natalie Floyd, Mary Bethune, Merideth Davidson, Anne Duckett, Dawn Greer, Mary Turner and Nikki Terrell.

Seventeen FFA members were involved in the Farm Day. They included Jovita Perez, Emmalie Burbanks, Laci Rose, Shelly Decker, Laura Bozarth, Maria Chavez, Seth Rains, Cody Templeton, Riley Oliver, Devin Bearden, Junior Gasper, Andrew Spray, Glenn Scott, Ian Downer, Jacob Bates, Ashton White and Michelle Gasper.

"Our Farm Day was such an awesome and multi-faceted event. It really had dual missions. One of its objectives was to challenge Early Childhood students with a day chocked full of hands-on learning. Another reason we had for sponsoring the event was to provide a practicum whereby FFA members demonstrated responsibility and involvement as they helped to plan, set up and implement the day," FFA Vice President Cody Templeton said. "I regarded the event as an opportunity to put youth leadership into action."

Smith noted in his evaluation that the Farm Day was highly worthwhile because it allowed younger students to get an idea of agriculture and where their food comes from. It also featured cross-curricula teaching by Asbury educators and engaged teachers from other teaching specialties in relationships and interactions with the agriscience program as the activities unfolded.

"I thought the use of live examples was a particularly effective way to teach the five human senses. Also, I observed that several of my FFA members had never seen an old-timey corn sheller in operation, and some had never been close to some of the very common farm animals we had on display," Smith concluded.




Artemisia

by Nadine Johnson

Artemisia is the herb of the year; therefore, I’ve chosen to write about it. My dictionary has this definition: "Any of a genus (Artemisia) of aromatic herbs or shrubs of the composite family, with small greenish heads, including wormwood." I have been told there are around 200 species of artemisia. Many of them are tough, perennial, shrubby weeds that grow in the dry, dusty regions of North American prairies, Siberian steppes and Turkey’s tan deserts. There are other species that commonly grow along roadsides and in waste areas near the sea in Europe.

Many species have been cultivated for medications for such purposes as antiseptics, digestive aids, bitter tonics and to expel internal parasites. Some are cultivated for use in insecticides. Many are used in the art of dried crafts. Some have a long history of use as culinary seasonings.

I have had the pleasure of growing a good many of these herbs. I will tell you about a few.

Artemisia annua, sweet wormwood or sweet Annie, is a reseeding annual. It can easily grow head high. Its sweet-scented, green foliage is widely used in potpourri and wreath making. The dried herb maintains its wonderful aroma for many years. It has been used in China for centuries to treat malaria, tuberculosis, dyspepsia, jaundice, boils and other diseases.

Artemisia vulgaris, mugwort, is a hardy perennial. It has dark green leaves which are downy-white underneath. It easily grows to a height of five feet. It is most often used to rid the body of intestinal parasites. The dried leaves make an excellent stuffing for a dream pillow.

Artemisia dracunculus, French tarragon, is a much sought culinary herb the world over. Here in Alabama, I think we can consider it a half-hardy perennial. It doesn’t like our hot, humid summers, or our extremely wet, freeze and thaw winters. For this reason, I had better luck growing this plant in containers with shade during the heat of the day. Wherever it’s grown, it always looks wilted due to its floppy, weak-stemmed traits. Its limbs can reach a length of two to three feet. It is also a perennial.

(There is a Russian tarragon. It is not desirable for culinary use. Do not confuse the two plants.)

Artemisia absinthium, wormwood, is a very ornamental, hardy perennial that can grow to a height of five feet. It has intricately cut, grey-green foliage with stout woody stems. I believe it is still used to flavor vermouth and it was formerly used to flavor the now illegal absinthe. (That’s what my reference says.) It makes a beautiful ornamental bedding plant.

Artemisia abrotanum, Southernwood, is another hardy perennial which can grow to a five foot height. It has feathery, grey-green leaves on stout woody stems. The leaves have a strong, rich smell and easily serve as a moth repellent. This herb, bearing the common name of "Lad’s Love," is a native of Europe. It has somewhat naturalized over parts of North America. There is a variety of the plant which has a citrus scent. According to legend, Southernwood is useful in the treatment of coughs, congestion, catarrh, fever and stomach problems.

Author Charlotte Bronte evidently had a great appreciation for this particular herb. In her book, "Jane Eyre," the heroine often gained solace from her many woes by going into the garden and smelling Southernwood.

My growing days are over, but they are remembered with pleasure.

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

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




Attack of the Voles

by Carolyn Drinkard

After such a wet, cold winter, which seemed to linger much too long, I was thrilled when my perennials began to pop up. Each morning, I found something new to delight me. Bees and butterflies arrived, and I even spotted a hummingbird on the feeder, so I knew the spring flower parade had officially begun.

I enjoy all kinds of flowers, but I especially look forward to the arrival of the hostas. I had never seen a hosta until the late 1990s, when I visited my daughter-in-law’s family on Sand Mountain. Hostas were everywhere, and I thought they were so beautiful. I came home, ordered some hosta bulbs and started a shade garden on the southern side of my porch. In all that time, the hostas have never disappointed me. From small shoots, they spring forth, strutting their showy foliage, dancing in the wind, and then sending forth scapes that spiral with lavender, white and purple flowers. Each year, it seems as if the hostas try to outdo all the other plants around them and, usually, they succeed.

My hostas were especially beautiful this spring. Their dark, green leaves seemed almost blue, and my yellow-striped varieties looked as if an artist had individually brushed each leaf with sunlight. One morning, as I drank coffee on the porch, looking over the breathtaking display in the shade garden, I noticed one of the plants had a broken stem. I picked up the leaf and quickly blamed my three cats, who enjoy playing in this area. That afternoon, the plant had even more broken leaves and it had lost its healthy glow. I looked more closely and discovered the leaves had tiny bite marks on them. I also found several small holes near the plant. I then dug the plant to find that the roots had been bitten and chewed. Using a flashlight, I aimed light into the nearby holes. I saw no movement, but the dirt around the holes indicated something had been in and out recently, dropping tiny pieces of the hosta leaf along the way. Something was attacking my beloved hostas. I knew I had to take action quickly or I could lose all of them.

Healthy hosta After vole attack

Grabbing my iPad, I Googled for the possible culprits and soon identified my attackers. Voles! A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse. Its body is somewhat stouter than a mouse, and it has smaller eyes and ears. The head of a vole is not as pointed as a mouse, and its tail is shorter and more hairy. They are sometimes known as meadow mice or field mice. These rodents are very prolific, with one female producing 10 or more litters a year.

Many people confuse voles with moles. Moles are carnivorous, but voles are herbivorous. Even though both burrow underground, their burrowing habits are different. Moles leave visible molehills, while voles do not. Moles leave ridged runways on top of the ground as they travel beneath. Voles travel deeper, leaving a number of telltale burrow openings. Voles may use mole tunnels, however, to escape predators.

One vole can eat its weight in plants in just 24 hours. I discovered, even though voles love the leaves of hosta plants, they can also burrow into the root systems of trees and shrubs, killing the plants. This really frightened me because my beloved hydrangeas were nearby. I had lovingly rooted each hydrangea from an older plant found in the yard of my husband’s grandmother. The thought of these family heirlooms being attacked made my blood curdle!

I immediately declared war on the pests, vowing with the determination of a valiant soldier not to let them destroy any more of my hostas. I planned my attack on all fronts! First, I would gather all the information that might give me an advantage in this assault. My iPad, a quick call to my pest-control company and advice from some of my gardening friends gave me the "intelligence" needed to begin a frontal attack.

Because I already had the infestation, eradication of these pests was now my only option! I visited my local Quality Co-op for my weapons: d-Con, ZP Gopher Bait and mousetraps. I try to use eco-friendly products on my flowers, but this pesky varmint was unlike any other I had ever dealt with. Since I would be using poisoned bait that could have adverse effects on pets and birds, I took extra precautions. To prevent damage to my cats and guineas, I carefully placed the poisoned pellets deep into the holes burrowed by the voles and used a stick to make the pellets go even farther down. I set the traps using peanut butter as bait. Then I covered the traps with cardboard boxes. I used fencing to cover the area so my pets could not get near.

With my careful mulching and composting last fall, I had unwittingly "aided and abetted the enemy," giving this stealthy little rodent a great place to hide. I remedied this by removing the old mulch from around my hostas and nearby shrubs. Next, I trimmed some limbs to let more light into the shaded area. As a last resort, I placed coyote urine around the plants, as I learned that coyotes are one of the voles’ natural predators. Unfortunately, with so much rain this spring, the predator repellent quickly dissipated and had to be replaced often. Even worse, the putrid aroma permeated the porch area where I love to sit and enjoy my flowers. It also drove my playful cats from the porch. They would peer nervously at the porch, as though the coyotes that yelp around our pond at night had suddenly taken residence on the porch. Needless to say, this "weapon" proved ineffective and had to be retired.

I am still "fighting" to save the hostas. Regretfully, I must report I have lost four plants since this skirmish began. I don’t think two others will make it. The entire bed looks as if a dark cloud has blanketed the area. Gone is the vibrancy seen in early May. Instead, the hosta bed looks war-torn, bleak and sad.

Though weary, I return each day to my shade garden with the dedication of General MacArthur. I look for new burrow openings or other signs of chewing in the hosta bed. Then I search for any telltale signs that the voles may have moved into other areas of the garden. So far, I believe I have contained the infestation to only the hosta area.

My war with the voles continues! Up to this point, I have never seen the enemy I so relentlessly pursue. I have found no enemy casualties, no bodies in the traps and no signs of withdrawal. I replace the pellets two or three times a week, but, alas, I have seen no signs that the poison is working.

I am resigned to admit that the voles are a formidable enemy, but I will not give up the fight. Even though I have lost some battles, I have not lost the war. Whatever it takes, I will not be deterred. I am determined not to merely endure but to prevail! My hostas are depending on me!

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.



Cattle to Win


Autauga County cattleman Win Parmer relaxes at his Autauga County ranch while his cattle take it easy under the shade of large trees not far away.

Win Palmer was honored for his long career in the cattle business when he was awarded the Alabama BCIA’s Richard Deese Award on the organization’s 50th anniversary.

by Alvin Benn

Ask Win Parmer what the beef cattle industry means to him and he only needs four words to answer.

"It’s in my blood," said the Autauga County rancher whose experience with cattle began when he was just a kid in Mississippi, sitting on a stool in freezing weather to milk "his" cow.

Other than a 4-year stint with the Air Force where he was a jet mechanic, Parmer has spent most of his 66 years producing high-quality cattle for buyers around the country.

His reputation within the industry continues to grow with awards sprinkled throughout the family house, sharing space on walls with prize catches including a large elk head. The animal was nailed on an Apache reservation by the avid hunter.

Win Parmer, left, stands with his granddaughter Faith Parmer, 11; his wife Joan and son Mike at their cattle ranch in Autauga County.

The Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association’s Richard Deese Award isn’t given lightly and Parmer’s most recent award was presented on a special occasion – the BCIA’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Named for Auburn University’s late, legendary Extension animal scientist, the award cites Parmer for "dedication, innovative leadership and commitment to performance."

He was specifically honored for a long career including "a significantly broad scope" of the cattle industry with a focus on beef cattle principles.

Parmer is no stranger to such accolades. When he was manager of the Grey Rocks Ranch just down the road from his house, he won several top bull and commercial herd awards from the BCIA where he currently is vice president.

Win Parmer holds a heavy souvenir, the Richard Deese Award, given to him during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association.

In 1993, the Win Parmer Ranch was designated as a "Farm of Distinction" by the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Farm City Committee. Six years ago, the ranch owner was named Alabama BCIA Commercial Producer of the Year.

Born in north Alabama and raised in Mississippi, Parmer learned early about the importance of filling a stainless steel bucket with milk from his designated cow before heading for the bus stop to get to school.

Grady Parmer moved the family to Tupelo, Miss., where Win became one of his high school’s best athletes. He was a four-letter star who divided his time between football, basketball and other sports when he wasn’t busy with his books and other activities, most on the farm.

He still remembers playing basketball at Tupelo’s Elvis Presley Park and would occasionally catch a glimpse of the famous singer.

Farming, however, kept him busy during his early years, especially milking on those cold early mornings. He also became active in Future Farmers of America, saying it was "a big part of my life in Tupelo."

Discharged from the service in 1971 after several years at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, he considered moving back to Mississippi, but found the job of a lifetime managing Gray Rocks Ranch at his little community between Selma and Autaugaville.

During his long tenure at Gray Rocks, Parmer helped develop a Santa Gertrudis seed stock operation. He bought Charolais, Hereford and other selective cattle to breed with Santa Gertrudis bulls.

Ann Upchurch, who owned the farm at the time, was so taken with Parmer’s successfully colorful results that she nicknamed his creation the "Rainbow Herd."

Upchurch virtually adopted the Parmers and left half of her cattle to them and the "Rainbow Herd" kept growing. Today it consists of 450 Angus, Hereford, Charolais and Santa Gertrudis cross cows bred to Angus and Simmental bulls.

Parmer’s management of the Gray Rocks Ranch and, later, his own has been based in part on a "performance" program that involves recording vital information on the cattle under his care.

Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Billy Powell is effusive in his praise of Parmer and his management system.

"Win was ahead of his time in using performance records as a selection tool," Powell said. "What he did was design a plan to use performance details instead of visually inspecting cattle which was the accepted practice at the time."

Powell said Parmer has been providing performance records detailing weight, weaning and other information that can help potential buyers decide which animal to purchase.

"His system helps define which heifer calves to put into a herd and which to take out," Powell said. "It’s a way to constantly improve genetics and Win has been a leader in that field."

Joan Parmer has been much more than a housewife at the family farm. She’s been actively involved in the operation and is happy to help her husband of 46 years in any way she can.

"We’ve been blessed, especially in the way our performance record plan has helped our operation," she said. "Cattle buyers looking for a certain breed can check our records for details. Each head has its own record and can be examined on a computer."

Parmer purchases much of the fertilizer and seed he needs from Central Alabama Farmer’s Co-op in Selma and general manager Tim Wood has become a good friend.

"I’ve known Win for 30 years and his name is synonymous with the Cattlemen’s Association in Alabama," said Wood. "He’s widely respected throughout the state."

Parmer’s years in the Air Force helped him organize his cattle operations and Wood said it has led to one of the best businesses in the state – urban or rural.

"Win’s military experience helped him to become a very detailed person," Wood said. "He can look at a farm or ranch operation and size it up quickly."

Harrell Watts, who raises Simmentals in Dallas County, is another booster of the Parmer operation, especially his personal management style.

"Win is very knowledgeable when it comes to the cattle industry, but, most of all, he’s a very honest businessman," Watts said. "He’s a good person to know and have dealings with."

Operating a cattle ranch can be costly, especially when the weather turns sour. That’s what happened during downpours earlier this year.

"All that rain ruined the hay, making it soggy and over mature," said Parmer. "The quantity was there, but the quality was terrible. I had to buy supplement feed to make’em eat the hay and it cost me about $10,000."

Mike Parmer learned a lot from his dad and, today, is the wildlife manager at Gray Rocks Ranch. He and his wife have four children for Win and Joan to spoil.

Two Blue Heelers have also become part of the family. Buddy has been around for a while and, in recent months, has been joined by Blue Bell, a female Heeler who might add to the number of four-legged animals at the ranch.

The Heeler breed emanates from Australia and is popular among cattle operations. They keep track of cattle that graze on land near the house or under trees to catch some shade.

Win Parmer has won recognition and awards during his long career as a cattleman, but a comment from a man he admired may top them all. It was Dr. Deese, the man whose name is affixed to Win’s latest honor.

During his years with Gray Rocks Ranch, Parmer went to Wallace Community College at night in Selma and it’s where he earned an associate degree in Agriculture Business.

What he really wanted to do was move on to Auburn University to pick up a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Science, but Deese told him to forget it.

"He told me I’d be wasting my time because I already knew more than the kids graduating from Auburn with that degree," said Parmer, breaking into a big smile. "I was 33 at the time and what he said really made my day."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Choose Cotton

Vote Yes on Amendment One

by Mary Johnson

The one and only amendment on the July 15 primary runoff ballot could have major implications for Alabama’s cotton industry. Cotton producers are asking the people of Alabama to choose cotton and vote "yes" on Amendment 1.

The provision would allow Alabama cotton farmers to decide if their current voluntary checkoff should become automatic. The Alabama Farmers Federation and its State Cotton Committee support the amendment.

"The research and cotton policies funded by the Alabama cotton checkoff program have kept our family farm in business," said Autauga County farmer Jimmy Sanford, who serves as chairman of the Alabama Cotton Commission.

The commission is a board of 11 cotton farmers who serve as unpaid volunteers responsible for disbursing checkoff funds.

Cotton farmers created the checkoff in the 1970s to help their industry rebound from losing market share to man-made fibers. Since then, Alabama farmers have paid a self-imposed fee per bale of cotton sold to fund cotton research, educational and promotional activities.

Most notably, checkoff money helped fund research for the boll weevil eradication program that has increased yields and reduced dependence on pesticides. More recent research has helped farmers reduce yield losses from pests such as stinkbugs and nematodes while protecting the soil and environment.

"All Alabama cotton farmers have benefited from research funded by the cotton checkoff with increased yields and improved environmental practices," said Federation Cotton Division Director Carla Hornady. "Through the farmers’ commitments to supporting this program, cotton has remained a viable crop in Alabama. The industry employs nearly 2,800 people and has a $290.1 million economic impact for our state’s economy."

Currently, the checkoff contains a refund policy that only 7 percent of farmers request. However, those farmers still have access to and benefit from checkoff-funded research and promotion without paying into the program.

"This amendment is a fairness issue with us," Sanford said. "We think it’s time for all of us cotton farmers to have a uniform stake in what needs to be done. And we’re asking the general public to allow us to have that uniform voice by voting ‘yes’ on this amendment. Voting in favor of this provision will help cotton compete nationally and globally in the fiber market."

If the July 15 amendment passes, the commission would then be allowed to schedule a vote for cotton farmers to decide on the change to the checkoff program.

To find out more about the "Choose Cotton" campaign, visit ChooseCotton.com.

Mary Johnson is director of News Services for the Alabama Farmers Federation.



Corn Time




Cowpokes




Dangerous Discovery

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

"Back when I was a kid…………" are words that make everyone groan. Invariably the person saying them is an "old timer" who tells tales of heroism and hardship. They remember butchering hogs in the winter, boiling their clothes in a vat of lye soap and water over an open fire, studying by candlelight and walking to school uphill both ways - things us modern mortals could never imagine.

My dad used to tell me about some of the crazy things he and his brothers did when they were growing up in west Texas. Some of the stories were so outlandish that I used to doubt they ever happened. That is until, one day, after I was grown and married and running a business in a large city. I ran into an older man who had known my dad and those hellions he called brothers. He told me several of those same stories - almost verbatim.

My father was one of six children born to an itinerant Methodist preacher who traveled the state on horseback ministering to rural communities. He would be gone for several days at a time, and while he was gone, he left my naïve grandmother in charge of the children. She innocently believed they were all immune to youthful temptations.

During one of my granddad’s extended preaching stints, his boys went out scouring the countryside looking for mischief. It was only the power of their godly mother’s prayers that preserved their lives that day. They had gone out exploring near an abandoned mine and found a real treasure - a stick of dynamite. They spent the better part of the afternoon discussing the possibilities until they devised a cunning plan.

There was a large dead tree at the edge of town that stood near the middle of Main Street. (Of course, to say it was atown would be an exaggeration - it was more like a small community with a couple of stores and churches and a country school.) The boys found some kite string, cut a small opening in the top of the dynamite and sprinkled black powder onto the string that would serve as a fuse. They unrolled an ample length of string and then carefully wedged the stick of dynamite into a crevice of the tree. Then they started walking, while one of the boys carefully let out the string behind him as they went along the road.

They had to get far enough away from the tree so they would not be suspect when the detonation occurred. With one last nod to caution and commonsense, the boys hesitated. It was only a momentary pause; one of them struck a match and touched the end of the fuse. He dropped it casually as it sparked to life, and they all walked on, staring straight ahead, trying to appear normal. They dropped the hissing fuse as they sauntered nonchalantly towards the end of the town. They turned around and waited anxiously.

In a few moments the burning fuse reached the dead tree and the dynamite. It exploded with a thundering blast that blew out most of the town’s windows. The surprised boys saw tiny slivers of the old tree rocketing skyward in one instant and come raining down over the town and its shocked citizens in the next. Incredibly no one was hurt. It gave the townsfolk something to chat about for the next few days and wonder how and why the old tree exploded. It also gave those preacher’s boys something to do for an afternoon and something to brag about for years.

However, it wasn’t safe to brag about it to anyone else because my granddad might have found out when he returned. He had a barbaric way of punishing his sons for misbehaving - he would pick them up by the hair and kick them in the shins. I never understood how he did that since they towered over his 5-foot-2 frame by the time they were 13. I don’t know how effective that treatment was, either. Judging by the tales my dad told me, many of which were verified by that old man I met later, its effect must have been short lived.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at lisa25@centex.net.




Earl





Fruits, Nuts and Ice Cream

by Christy Kirk

Have you ever tried the Paleo Diet? It is the healthy eating plan where you are supposed to eat like a "caveman." Your menu would include fish, wild or grass-fed meats, poultry, eggs, tree nuts, and lots of fruits and vegetables. The first time I heard of it, the Native American part of me thought: Of course! Hunter-gatherers would make a healthier, more natural menu. Then the modern, convenience-oriented part of me thought: Are you kidding me? No mac and cheese? No pasta or ranch dressing?

But then I started thinking about how my family ate when I was growing up, before pre-packaged and processed foods were so abundant. We did eat things like hot dogs that dyed the water pink, white-bread dinner rolls slathered in butter and plenty of starchy potatoes, but more typically dinner consisted of the majority of our plate being filled with vegetables. Sliced tomatoes and hand-chopped slaw were almost always served along with the other veggies. Mom and Dad would also have either a green onion or a slice of white or Vidalia on the side of their plate.

Although we mostly went to the farmers market, sometimes my parents kept a garden or some of their friends had gardens. I remember in the late 1970s my Dad parking on a dirt road, and we walked through rows of red dirt picking vegetables out of a big garden. I tried hard to tread lightly so I didn’t sink into a mound of red mud and squash the squash. It was hot, there were gnats and the okra was prickly, but we knew where our food came from. It is a memory my parents have long since forgot, but those trips to the field meant something that has stayed with me over the years.

Although we didn’t always have a home garden, my favorite places to live in Anniston and Huntsville had something in common: an abundance of fruit and nut trees. On Highland Avenue in Anniston, we had two or three fig trees. We pinched the skins to see if the figs were ripe enough to eat and ate them straight off the trees. The house at Windsor Terrace had four green apple trees. My sister and I would climb the one tree closest to the house so we could climb onto the roof and eat apples. The house we lived in while I was in high school was on San Ramon in Huntsville. The house was nothing fancy, just a simple brick rancher, but it had other impressive attributes. In the front yard was a pecan tree and in the back there was a plum tree, two peach trees and an apple tree. In the very back corner of the yard, my dad made a garden. In that corner garden, Dad grew tomatoes, watermelons, squash and more.

Now, one of Rolley Len’s favorite things to do at Pawpaw and Nana’s house is to pick tomatoes and check the other fruit and vegetables growing. My parents have a postage stamp garden at their house in Florida. It is just big enough for the two of them with some left over to share with neighbors. Even in that small space (about 1 yard by 1 yard square), they have had peppers, okra, tomatoes and strawberries to last all summer.

Picking fruit and vegetables can become addictive once you get on a roll, and I have seen that determined fixation in Rolley Len when she checks my parents’ garden. At our house, Jason has planted pear, apple and plum trees so pretty soon Rolley Len and Cason will be able to enjoy growing, picking and eating their own fruit. If you can’t grow your own, visit your local farmers market or u-pick. There might even be a delivery service in your area.

When I looked up information about what you should eat on the Paleo diet, I realized it isn’t that far off from the way we already eat at home. Don’t get me wrong - at my house we love foods like chip and dip, and pasta alfredo, but even Rolley Len and Cason know that moderation is key. Although it might be hard for families to stick to the caveman menu fulltime, there are many ways to incorporate healthy choices into your normal routine. And if you have a child or a spouse who hates veggies, you can even sneak them in by mixing them into non-veggie recipes.

One night, I mixed a gorgeous green spinach puree and chopped red peppers into my ground deer meat spaghetti sauce. The spinach picks up the garlic and tomato tastes, and the red peppers blend in with the sauce. I had been nervous that Rolley Len might shy away from the sauce because she had seen the bright green puree before I added it to the skillet, but she had two helpings. I told her we could also use the puree in brownies and she was both surprised and intrigued. (I will let you know how those turn out.) As you plan your own summer menu, add some of your own hunter-gatherer ideas to your next meal for a nutritious twist.

The Fourth of July holiday simply must include homemade ice cream. So, here are some recipes that join together healthy fruits and nuts with creamy deliciousness.

VANILLA ICE CREAM

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

2 cups heavy cream

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Whisk the milk, sugar and salt together until sugar is dissolved. Stir in cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or longer. Once chilled, pour into your ice cream freezer and follow the directions for your freezer.

VANILLA ICE CREAM (little healthier version)

4 cups half and half

1 (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk

2 Tablespoons vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into the freezer container and follow the directions for your freezer.

BUTTER PECAN ICE CREAM (One of my Mom’s favorite flavors)

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup pecans, shelled

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup white sugar

Pinch of salt

2 cups heavy cream

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt butter in a skillet. Add pecans and 1 teaspoon of salt to butter. Cook over medium-low heat until pecans are toasted and golden, about 8 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat, strain butter from the pecans. Place the pecans in the refrigerator to chill.

Whisk the milk, sugar and remaining salt together until sugar is dissolved. Stir in cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or longer. Once chilled, pour into your ice cream freezer and follow the directions for your freezer. Add buttered pecans to the freezer for the last five minutes to mix throughout the ice cream.

WALNUT ICE CREAM

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup strong coffee

1 Tablespoon powdered sugar

Use the recipe for vanilla ice cream. When it starts to firm in the freezer, add walnuts, coffee and sugar. Let it finish freezing.

PEACH ICE CREAM

½ Tablespoon vanilla (change from original recipe)

½ Tablespoon almond extract

1½ cups mashed peaches

Use the recipe for vanilla ice cream, but with reduced vanilla and add almond extract. Add peaches to the ice cream before freezing.

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



He May Have Saved Your Life

by Suzy Lowry Geno

If you’ve been in a car accident, had a heart attack or stroke, or experienced a house fire, directly or indirectly Charles Montgomery may have helped save your life!

While folks were thrilling to the heroic efforts of Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe playing some of the very first paramedics at the Los Angeles Fire Department during the 1970s TV show "Emergency," Chief Montgomery was helping instigate the same type programs in Alabama in real life!

Montgomery was one of the first five medics who put the first rescue truck into service in Alabama in Birmingham.

But that is just a small sampling of what Montgomery’s life meant to those in north central Alabama and all of the state.

Chief Montgomery died April 10 of this year at his home farm, C&C Farms, about 3.5 miles outside of Oneonta, where he had retired in 2006 after serving more than 27 years as that city’s fire chief.

Chief Montgomery had fought and survived cancer in the 1990s, but it was a combination of health problems which finally claimed his life at the age of 73.

Chief’s career was wide and varied, but it seemed everything he did or accomplished was a stepping stone on the way to help others.

He basically grew up in and around the Irondale area of Jefferson County.

He proudly served in the U.S. Air Force and then later retired from the City of Birmingham as a Lt. Fire/Medic.

He then served for 5 years as the Riverside (St. Clair County) Police Chief. He and his wife Connie also operated a restaurant for 5 years in the St. Clair County town of Branchville.

When Montgomery was chosen as Oneonta Fire Chief in the early 1980s, he basically had to restart the department "from the beginning."

Charles Montgomery with some of the prime hay he grew.

A stickler for detail, training and "doing it right," Montgomery was a hard taskmaster, but under his leadership the Oneonta Department grew into one of the premier departments in the state.

But Montgomery was still not satisfied. When he came to Oneonta, jokers would say, if you were going to have an accident, you better have it in Oneonta or maybe West Blount or Blountsville because there were few trained personnel in other areas of the county and even fewer volunteer fire departments. The ones that existed were struggling with little training and even smaller revenues.

While he concentrated on building Oneonta’s fire and rescue service to the professional, well-respected and recognized organization it is today, he was vital in helping the numerous volunteer fire and rescue squads throughout the county organize, train train train train! and secure additional funding. Blount County now has 23 fire and rescue departments. Much of that help came with his involvement with the countywide Blount County Fire and EMS Association. While he served as the organization’s president more than once, he was always involved in helping other departments.

Montgomery was instrumental in helping Blount County begin 911-enhanced services in 1993 and served several times as the board’s chairman. Blount 911 literally had a baptism by fire coming on line for the first week during the notorious Blizzard of 1993.

Also, while at Oneonta, he instigated the Hazardous Materials Team that works tirelessly throughout the county during emergencies, working as well to achieve funding for that program.

Oh - and in addition to all of this, we can’t forget he also taught courses for several years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Medic Program and for the State Fire College.

After his "retirement" from the city of Oneonta, Montgomery still continued to mentor young men and women who were becoming fire and rescue medics - always ready to answer a question or just offer a listening ear as he sat comfortably in his rocker at his farm’s side porch.

He also enjoyed sharing his vast knowledge of the Civil War and history in general, and loved anything outdoors, including annual hunting trips.

When interviewed for this magazine a couple of years ago, Montgomery explained then with a laugh, "I’m just a grass farmer."

"Those black Angus cows are just a ‘value added product,’" he said of the grass-fed beef he sold one-on-one to the public.

And the article continued, "And someone looking out over the cattle munching happily on the 65 acres Charles and Connie own and the other 200 nearby that they lease might think it’s as simple as Charles makes it sound.

"But Charles approaches his farming and ranching with the same tenacious and carefully studied actions as he did during his more than half a century of dedication to fire and emergency medical services in the north central Alabama area."

He relied on those at Quality Co-ops, in Oneonta and statewide, for assistance in growing that better grass for his cows.

After describing an intensive program of getting other weeds and thistles out of his pastures, Montgomery explained, "We soil test all our fields. We can either lime or apply whatever we need to get the necessary pH and necessary mineral content for healthy grass. Healthy grass means healthy cows.

"I love to watch the cows grow and mature. And with the cow-calf operation it’s fun because it’s kind of like finding Easter eggs every time you find a new calf!"

Montgomery was also a good neighbor. As this reporter faced those long terrible months of my husband’s ailing health and impending death, he would ALWAYS remind me, "View the glass half full, NOT half empty!"

As his health worsened, Montgomery concentrated more on growing hay, hay so good that several folks with elite horse and alpaca farms wouldn’t feed anything else.

I also helped Montgomery "get started" with laying hens a few years ago and his enthusiasm for those birds led him to buy incubators and even begin selling some of his farm-fresh eggs.

Add Jake and Sugar, his two Great Pyrenees, who helped take care of the predator problem, and a few pot-bellied pigs "more for aggravation than anything else," and Montgomery continued to enjoy his farm until his death. (Connie had retired from her lengthy career as a manager of Blount County Salvation Army a few months before his death.)

Chief Charles was honored by an Honor Guard from Birmingham Fire and Rescue, an Air Force Honor Guard, and firefighters and medics from Oneonta and throughout the state. Oneonta Fire and Rescue members served as pall bearers.

Montgomery’s casket was taken atop an Allgood Fire Department fire truck from Lester Memorial Methodist Church in Oneonta to Oak Hill Cemetery.

His funeral was conducted by his former pastor Bro. Jack Redfearn, and Oneonta Fire Chaplain and Blount County Co-op assistant manager Mel Wade.

Wade brought chuckles from throughout the crowd as he talked about Montgomery’s quick temper and how he would never hesitate to tell anybody exactly what he thought, especially if he thought they weren’t doing their job right! But Wade also mentioned how, once the flare up was over, Montgomery went right on like nothing had happened, ready to be a friend and guide.

That love and respect was evident at the cemetery as the bagpipes were played and tears streamed down the faces of several gray-haired fire retirees, but also from the eyes of several still "wet-behind-the-ears" fire recruits who Chief Charles Montgomery had already begun encouraging.

Montgomery may now be gone from this Earth, but his legacy certainly lives on in the lives of those he trained and those whose lives were saved because of those men and women being thoroughly trained.

We remember Chief Montgomery! The glass IS half full!

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



How's Your Garden?


Crinum is an old Southern lily. Plant it and let it be because these plants don’t like to be moved.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Crinums Worth the Wait

Summer is the season to search for crinums in bloom and hope your neighbors will share. These old Southern bulbs live a long, long time. You may not find every type for sale in garden centers, but they are usually available by mail order from some companies that specialize in bulbs and perennials, if you need a source. When you find your crinum, plant it in a spot where you can let it be because these are plants that don’t like to be moved. Over time the clump will grow larger and larger. Crinums also go by names such as milk-and-wine lily, St. John’s lily, Creole lily and star lily.

A Red Picket Fence?

Not exactly a conventional fence color, this red picket fence was spotted in the big city of Chicago, but it’s an idea that is adaptable anywhere, especially around a kitchen or flower garden. In winter, the red pickets can add some color to an otherwise bleak landscape. The blue morning glory winding over the structure is especially nice for summer. Other vine ideas might be yellow jessamine for late winter, clematis for spring, tropical vines for summer and climbing aster (Ampelaster carolinianus) for fall.

Oleander Loves the Summer

When the weather is hot, oleander keeps on blooming through hot weather in blazing sun and in poor soil. It is a good choice for a container or the ground in South Alabama anywhere the soil drains well. At the beach, it tolerates salt spray. In North Alabama, look for cold-hardy varieties: Pink, Hardy Red, Double Yellow (also sold as Matilde Ferrier) and Sister Agnes. Because oleander is toxic, do not burn the leaves or plant it where children or pets might be tempted to chew on any part of it.

Go Easy on the Lawn

Ever watch your lawn turn brown overnight in the summer after you mow? Mowing during a dry spell will weaken the grass and open the turf for more baking by the hot sun. Wait until the weather breaks to mow. The grass isn’t growing in a drought. It’s just trying to stay alive. When the weather breaks and it begins to grow again, raise the mower blade to its maximum setting for the rest of the summer. Taller grass grows deeper roots and shades itself, too. Water thoroughly. One good, deep watering is better than multiple shallow waterings. Deep watering (at least an inch of water at a time) encourages roots to reach down into the ground, creating a deep root system making the grass more drought tolerant so you don’t have to water as often. Also avoid fertilizing in the middle of a drought. The plant food won’t be utilized and it could even burn the grass. By this time, warm-season lawns should have received the feedings they need, and cool-season lawns aren’t ready for feeding until early fall.

Succulents on a window shelf can be set out in summer and brought indoors for winter.

Succulents Like it Dry

One way to beat the heat and still enjoy a window box is to plant it with succulents. Succulents are usually desert plants built to naturally take the heat and bright sun. You can plant them in their own individual pots on a shelf, like the ones pictured here, or plant them in a hay basket. Because they are desert plants, they don’t like rich, moist potting mix. Use a soil made for potting cactus, or make your own with equal parts perlite, builder’s sand and a premium potting mix. This will give the plants good aeration and drainage to help avoid rot during rainy weather.

A Different Twist on Chives

In bloom in July or August, garlic chives are relatives of onions and chives, but their thin, flat, leaves taste very much like garlic, only milder. You can use them raw or near the end of any cooking process (their mild flavor is destroyed by heat). The pretty, edible flowers also have a mild garlic taste. If you keep the flowers harvested, the plants will produce more leaves. Now is a good time to find friends who have this plant and make arrangements to collect some seeds. They sprout easily. This same quality causes them to reseed readily in the garden, so keep that in mind. They will grow in full sun or partial shade. These perennial plants are tough, enduring summer and winter with no problem. Garlic also grows well in pots, which is a good way to grow them if reseeding becomes a problem. After a couple of years, the original clumps will need dividing in spring.

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



If God Can Use a Dove …?


by Glenn Crumpler

Last week I was working in the office when I received a phone call. Because my cell phone does not work well inside the office, I stepped outside and just walked around the yard as we talked. As the conversation continued, I made my way to my favorite chair where I like to sit and just enjoy watching my chickens meander around the chicken yard. Somehow, I find this relaxing and enjoyable.

It is sort of like pulling up a bucket in the pasture during the cool of the day and watching the cows and calves as they all gather around me. If you have ever done this, you know how peaceful it can be. The cows are relaxed knowing I am there; the calves are relaxed knowing mama is close by; and I relax as I have a brief time of escape and to take my mind off all I need to be doing and the decisions that have to be made. I can just enjoy and admire God’s creations while also seeing His love and majesty in a special way I often miss in the midst of busyness. Almost without exception, these moments turn into times of worship that are very personal and rewarding.

When my phone conversation ended and I headed back to the office, I saw a very unusual sight – so rare that it has only happened to me one other time in 55-plus years. On the barn (where our office is), there was a solid white dove perched on the eave of the building. This dove did not have pink eyes like most white doves. It was just as pure and white as it could be. I could not help but notice that not one feather was ruffled, missing or out of place. It was a dove without noticeable blemish, even the tail feathers were full and even on the ends like you had traced it out and cut it from a pattern with a pair of scissors.

I approached the dove to get some pictures knowing it would fly away. Much to my surprise, it was not afraid of me. It looked at me and turned its head side to side as I approached as close as I could get, but it did not fly away.

This being so rare and odd, I decided to pull up a chair and just see what the dove would do. I thought to myself how I would love to hold this beautiful dove, gently caress it and just admire its beauty. I could not reach high enough to touch the dove nor could I get it to come to me, so I just watched and longed to hold it and show it affection. Eventually the dove started grooming itself. I thought to myself, maybe it will pull out a feather and I will at least have it to save as a reminder of this special moment. About that time, I saw a very small, light, pure-white chest feather float off the dove. It was so light, it took a couple of minutes to get to the ground. It seemed to just float in the breeze, neither rising nor falling, just floating. I was able to eventually catch it and I now have it in my Bible.

It helps to understand that I live out in the country in a pine thicket with relatively few neighbors and none who keep white doves. I could not help but think that God was reminding me that His Holy Spirit is always with me, and He will never leave me nor forsake me. I found this to be a good hour or so to just sing aloud, pray and worship the God who loves me enough to send His only Son to take my punishment upon Himself and Who loves me enough to send me His Holy Spirit to comfort, fill and guide me – giving me His peace. He even loves me enough to send this rare dove at just to right time to encourage and comfort me – it was sort of like sending your wife flowers (at work) when there is no special occasion, just to say I am thinking of you and I love you.

Not only did God use this special occasion to remind me that He loves and cares for me, but He also loves and cares for all those for whom my heart and His heart are burdened: family and friends who need a closer walk with Him, who need His healing touch, but also those who live behind the many faces forever etched in my mind and whose stories and life circumstances I cannot adequately explain to those who have never seen or experienced for themselves even a hint of their plight.

I see the faces of those digging through garbage dumps seeking anything they can put in their stomach. I see the little 11-year-old girl in Jordan who doused herself in kerosene and set herself afire because she was going to be raped again that night and there was no one to protect her. I see the faces of those who have lost everything they had or ever will have materially as a result of war and violence – those who have nothing to live for or to hope in, nothing to look forward to because they have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. They do not know God has plans for their lives and has made provisions for them to have eternal life. They do not know because they have no access to the Christian faith or the Word of God.

God used this little white dove to remind me that He too loves and cares for all these people and desires to draw them to Himself so they can know His love for them. He longs for them to experience His forgiveness and inherit not only hope for this life but also for eternal life. He desires to hold them, to caress them, to love them and to be loved by them. Just like my desires for the dove, He does not want to harm them in any way, but just to show His love and affection and enjoy a relationship with them.

In Christ, all racial barriers to salvation are abolished (there is neither Jew nor Greek), all social barriers to salvation are abolished (there is neither slave nor free) and all gender barriers to salvation are abolished (there is neither male nor female). He loves us all the same and His desire is to have a relationship and to demonstrate His love for all people, of every nation (Galatians 4).

God used this beautiful little dove to remind and encourage me to stay in the fight of making His love and salvation known to all the world. I am sharing this experience to remind you that God loves you and desires to have a close personal relationship with you. He also has plans to use your life, talents, resources and influence to share His love with those who have never heard. If He can use a dove, He can surely use you and me to demonstrate His love to others!

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




Implementing the Farm Bill

Universities and state Extension services are developing online tools and materials to help farmers and ranchers make informed decisions on programs that will affect their operations.

by Jim Erickson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is gearing up to implement provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill and help farmers and ranchers decide how participation in the legislation’s various programs will affect their business operations.

As part of that effort, the department has awarded $6 million to universities and state cooperative Extension services to develop online decision tools and other materials, and train experts to educate producers about new options in the legislation.

According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, "Helping farmers and ranchers understand new Farm Bill programs and what the programs mean for their families is one of USDA’s top priorities.

"With the resources we’re providing, university experts will help ensure farmers and ranchers are highly educated as they make critical decisions about new programs that impact their livelihoods. The new tools that will be developed will empower farmers and ranchers to select the plan that best fits their unique needs."

Among other things, the new resources will help farmers and ranchers make an educated choice between the new Agriculture Risk Coverage and the Price Loss Coverage programs. Using online tools, producers will be able to use data unique to their specific farming operations combined with factors such as the geographical diversity of crops, soils, weather and climates across the country to test a variety of financial scenarios before officially signing up for the new program options later this year.

Once a producer enrolls in the ARC or PLC program, he or she must remain in the program through the 2018 crop year.

New tools also will be provided for other programs. Sign-up for the newly established Margin Protection Program for Dairy begins late this summer, and enrollment for "buy-up" provisions under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program will begin early next year.

An online MPP tool will be available when sign-up begins and the NAP buy-up provision resource will become available to producers in the fall for the 2015 crop year.

The University of Illinois will head the National Coalition for Producer Education, and the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M will serve as co-leads for the National Association of Agricultural and Food Policy. The three organizations will receive a total of $3 million to develop the new online tools and train state-based Extension agents who can in turn help educate farmers.

Plans call for the U.I., FAPRI and AFPC to develop ARC and PLC online tools. Illinois also will develop the online resources for the MPP and NAP programs. Working with the lead entities will be a number of other universities and consultants.

In addition, USDA will award $3 million to state cooperative Extension services at land-grant universities for outreach and education on the new Farm Bill programs. Funds will be used to conduct public meetings where producers can talk with local Extension agents and Farm Service Agency staff.

The implementation schedule has the outreach meetings beginning late this summer.

A preliminary website now gives farmers and ranchers opportunities to begin familiarizing themselves with the new programs and the information they will need to consider when deciding which program options work better for them. Producers can visit www.fsa.usda.gov or the local FSA office for those details.

Since the Farm Bill’s enactment, USDA also has been working to implement the legislation’s other provisions, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding research; establishing public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.

During upcoming months, the anticipated implementation time line for selected Farm Bill programs includes the following:

Mid-summer - Producers receive letters notifying them of current bases and yields, and 2009-2012 planting history.

Late summer - MPP, ARC and PLC online tools become available. MPP enrollment for 2014 and 2015 begins. MPP owners have opportunity to update yields and reallocate bases for ARC/PLC purposes.

Fall - NAP buy-up online tools become available.

Winter - ARC/PLC one-time selections occur.

Early 2015 - ARC/PLC sign-up for 2014 and 2015 begins. NAP buy-up enrollment starts.




Insight on Ag

by Jim Erickson

USDA Seeks Partnerships to protect soil, water

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is teaming with businesses, nonprofits and others on a 5-year, $2.4 billion program to fund locally designed soil and water conservation projects nationwide.

Authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill approved earlier this year, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program is intended to involve the private sector more directly in planning and funding environmental protection initiatives tied to agriculture.

"It’s a new approach to conservation that is really going to encourage people to think in very innovative and creative ways," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said.

Universities, local and tribal governments, companies and sporting groups are among those eligible to devise plans and seek grants.

In addition to protecting the environment, the approach is designed to bolster the rural economy by supporting tourism and outdoor recreation jobs while avoiding pollution that would cost more to clean up, he said.

The USDA will spend $1.2 billion - including $400 million the first year - and raise an equal amount from participants.

The program establishes three pots of money for grants. Thirty-five percent of total funding will be divided among "critical" areas including the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Columbia, Colorado and Mississippi river basins, the Longleaf Pine Range, prairie grasslands and the California Bay Delta.

Another 40 percent will go to regional or multi-state projects selected on a competitive basis and 25 percent to state-level projects.

Continued Growth Projected in China's meat imports

While the USDA projects robust increases in China’s meat production and imports of feed grains, China’s meat imports are also projected to rise.

Pork imports are projected to show the most growth, rising from about 750,000 tons in 2013 to 1.2 million tons by 2023. The United States, Canada and European Union are the main suppliers of pork to China.

China’s meat consumption is expected to expand at a pace similar to the trend of the past decade. Pork will continue to play a central role in China’s meat economy (China accounts for half of world production and consumption); however, poultry is gaining in popularity - largely because it is cheaper than pork.

Restaurants, fast food chains and cafeterias play a key role in diversifying meat consumption, since many feature specific kinds of meat or chicken. Beef and mutton are important parts of popular ethnic cuisines and are becoming popular among the broader population.

Although China is expected to continue producing most of its own meat, China’s livestock sector is under pressure from rising costs, disease, environmental regulations and resource constraints that could lead to China’s meat imports rising even further if production cannot sustain its current pace of growth.

China’s Net Grain Imports surge in 2012 and 2013

China’s demand for imported grain, much of it from the United States, has surged recently, with imports of cereal grains rising to 16 million tons in 2012 and 18 million in 2013.

Imports in 2013 included 3 million tons of corn and 4 million tons of distillers dried grains with solubles, a co-product of U.S. corn ethanol production used for feed, from the United States.

In 2013, the United States supplied 70 percent of China’s wheat imports and, for the first time, China became a major market for U.S. sorghum.

China’s demand for feed grains appears to have reached a turning point, as a tightening labor supply and rising feed costs force structural change in China’s livestock sector. Labor scarcity, animal disease pressures and rising living standards are prompting rural households to abandon "backyard" livestock production and shift more production to specialized farm enterprises that rely more heavily on commercial feed. Because of this, China has switched from being a corn exporter to importing 3-5 million tons annually since 2009.

Rising feed demand has also pushed up costs and motivated feed mills and livestock producers to explore new feed ingredients like DDGS and sorghum.

Pesticide Use trends show change

Pesticide use in U.S. agriculture grew rapidly between 1960 and 1981 before declining slightly over the last three decades.

The total quantity of pesticide active ingredients applied to 21 selected crops (accounting for more than 70 percent of the sector’s total use of pesticides) grew from 196 million pounds in 1960 to 632 million pounds in 1981. Over this period, the share of planted acres treated with herbicides for weed control increased, as did the total planted acreage of corn, wheat and, particularly, soybeans, further increasing herbicide use.

Since 1980, over 90 percent of corn, cotton and soybean acres were treated with herbicides, leaving little room for increased use. The application of improved active ingredients, new modes of action having lower per-acre application rates, and recent technological innovations in pest management have also contributed to declining pesticide use.

While farmers have used insecticides and fungicides for many decades, the widespread use of herbicides is a more recent phenomenon, as weed control was previously achieved by cultivation and other methods.




It’s the Law ....

Alabama’s new Cottage Food Law is now in effect.

by Angela Treadaway

The first training session aimed at helping Alabama entrepreneurs comply with Alabama’s new Cottage Food Law was held June 5 at the Montgomery County Extension Office.

The new law that went into effect June 1 allows anyone to sell nonhazardous foods made in the home directly to consumers.

Nonhazardous foods specified by the new law include cakes, cookies, dried herbs, jams and jellies.

At Auburn University, Dr. Jean Weese, a food safety specialist who heads the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s food safety team, said that while these foods are not subject to inspection by the local public health department, the folks preparing these foods are required to attend a food safety course.

"This food safety course, required by the new Cottage Food Law, teaches basic food safety steps with the goal of ensuring the food sold to friends and neighbors is as safe as possible," Weese explained.

The food safety training course will be tailored to help cottage food entrepreneurs comply with this act.

"The concepts taught in this class apply specifically to foods prepared in the home," Weese said, adding that participants will receive a certificate upon completion of the course.

The Cottage Food Law requires entrepreneurs to attend this prescribed safety course every 5 years. The cost of each course will be $25.

The ServSafe certification, also taught by ACES, can also be used to comply with the new law, Weese said.

Under the new cottage food law, home prepared food cannot be sold to restaurants, novelty shops, grocery stores or over the Internet.

Likewise, the law prohibits certain foods from being sold directly to consumers, including baked goods with ingredients requiring refrigeration. These include custard pies, Danish with creamed fillings and cakes with whipped toppings.

Products that are also prohibited under the law include juices from fruits and vegetables, milk products, soft and hard cheeses, pickles, barbecue sauces, canned fruits and vegetables, garlic in oil and meats in any form.

The Cottage Food Law requires entrepreneurs to include labels on their products bearing the following information: the name of the individual entrepreneur(s) or business; the address of the individual(s) or business; and the statement that the food is not inspected by the Department of Public Health.

Sales prescribed under the Alabama Cottage Food Law cannot exceed $20,000.

For more information about upcoming training contact your local county Extension office or, for the training offered at the Cullman County Agriplex in Cullman County, Thursday July 10, 2014, from 4-6 p.m., please call me at 205-410-3696.

For a map to the Cullman County Agriplex, located at 1714 Talley Hoe Street SW; Cullman, AL 35055, visit http://www.aces.edu/counties/Cullman/images/directions.jpg.

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.




July Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Plant the following vegetables no later than July 20 to allow time to mature before frost: tomatoes, peppers, okra, corn, cucumbers, squash, snap beans, pole beans and lima beans.
  • Divide and reset oriental poppies after flowering as the foliage dies.
  • If you want to try your hand at fall potatoes, plant by the 15th.
  • Plant zinnia seed by July 4 for late blooms in annual border.
  • Many perennials and biennials can be started now from seed, then set out in the fall in nursery beds.
  • Plant a cover crop in bare spots in the vegetable garden

FERTILIZE

  • Apply no fertilizers to trees and shrubs after July 4. Fertilizing late may cause lush growth susceptible to winter kill.
  • Fertilize container plants every 2 weeks with a water soluble solution.
  • Apply fish emulsion according to label directions when pepper plants begin to bloom.
  • Spread a couple of inches of compost over asparagus beds. Remember to keep the soil moist.
  • Time to put down your second and last fertilizer application on centipede. Fertilize zoysia lawns now with a 26-4-12 lawn fertilizer.
  • Check azaleas and camellias for iron chlorosis (pale green leaves, darker green veins). If necessary, use copper or iron chelate to correct iron deficiency.

PRUNE

  • Clip the flower stalks off garlic. Once the leaves have turned brown, garlic can be harvested.
  • Cut back about three quarters of the new growth on thyme plants regularly throughout the summer.
  • Perennials that have finished blooming should be deadheaded. Cut back the foliage some to encourage tidier appearance.
  • Keep deadheading spent annual flowers for continued blooms.
  • Don’t pinch mums and asters after mid-July or you may delay flowering.
  • Prune climbing roses and rambler roses after bloom.
  • Semi-hardwood cuttings of spring-flowering shrubs can be made now.
  • Summer pruning of shade trees can be done now.
  • Prune summer-flowering shrubs as soon as the blossoms fade.
  • Do not prune azaleas and rhododendrons after the second week of July for they soon will begin setting their buds for next year’s blooms.
  • Pinch basil periodically if you don’t harvest it weekly. Pinching keeps it from flowering and ensures a full, bushy-looking plant.

WATER

  • Keep cukes well watered. Drought conditions will cause bitter fruit.
  • Newly planted trees and shrubs should continue to be watered thoroughly, once a week. Water frequently enough to prevent wilting.
  • Early morning irrigation allows turf to dry before nightfall and will reduce the chance of disease.
  • During long dry periods, soak the garden thoroughly once a week; don’t just sprinkle daily. Light, frequent irrigation helps only during the period of seed germination.
  • To keep hanging baskets looking attractive, soak the baskets in a tub of water every few days in addition to the regular daily watering.
  • Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water your garden while you are on vacation.
  • Check water hoses while they’re under full water pressure. Look for leaky connections. Repair as needed.
  • Trade out the sprinkler. Where possible, install soaker hoses or a drip-tube system; both deliver water directly to soil.
  • At least monthly, observe automatic irrigation systems in action. Make sure you’re not watering hard surfaces such as sidewalks or driveways.
  • Add a rain barrel to catch runoff from rooftops. Install the largest barrel you can afford. Choose one with a cover to prevent wildlife or children from falling in. Make sure the water-release spout is situated high enough to allow rain water to flow into the watering container of choice.
  • Install a timer on sprinklers or automatic irrigation systems. If you purchase a timer, look for one that includes a rainfall shut-off device. New wireless timers gather weather data from the local weather observation stations and adjust watering frequency accordingly.

PEST CONTROL

  • Use all chemicals – for insects, weeds or nematodes – according to label directions.
  • If you see white butterflies flitting among your vegetables, you’ll soon spot green worms feasting on cabbage family crops (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts). Treat plants with Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacterium. Caterpillars consume Bt when they munch on treated leaves and the bacteria kill them.
  • If you’re dealing with flea beetles or Mexican bean beetles on vegetables, dust crops with a pesticide such as carbaryl or spray an organic control like pyrethrum. Be sure to coat leaf undersides.
  • Apply final treatment for borers on hardwood trees.
  • Apply second spray to trunks of peach trees for peach borers.
  • Continue attracting insect-eating birds to the garden area by providing them with a fresh water source. Keep feeders and baths clean.
  • Fall webworms begin nest building near the ends of branches of infested trees. Prune off webs. Spray with Bt if defoliation becomes severe.
  • Hot, dry weather is ideal for spider mite development. With spider mite damage, leaves may be speckled above and yellowed below. Evergreen needles appear dull gray-green to yellow or brown. Damage may be present even before webs are noticed.
  • Keep weeds from making seeds now. This will mean less weeding next year.
  • Monitor lawns for newly hatched white grubs. If damage is occurring, apply appropriate controls, following product label directions.
  • Remove infected leaves from roses. Pick up fallen leaves, but do not place in compost. Continue fungicidal sprays as needed.
  • Powdery mildew is unsightly on lilacs, but rarely harmful. Shrubs grown in full sun are less prone to this disease.
  • Spray hardy phlox with fungicide to prevent powdery mildew.
  • Spray hollies for leaf miner control.
  • To minimize insect damage to squash and cucumber plants, try covering them with lightweight, floating row covers. Remove covers once plants flower.
  • Insecticidal soaps will help control aphids and other soft-bodied insects early on. Malathion is a good all-round material for aphids and red spider mites, and gives some worm control. Carbaryl (Sevin) is another effective material, especially for bean beetles, tomato and corn earworms, cucumber beetles and pickleworms. Bt (Dipel, Thuricide) is an excellent biological control for cabbage worm or cabbage looper.
  • To control weeds, use a mulch. Deep cultivation after plants are older will do more damage than good.
  • Store pesticides in a safe place in their original containers, away from children and pets. Use them carefully in your garden. Read the labels and follow the directions. The warnings and precautions are for your protection.
  • Control mosquitoes by eliminating all sources of stagnant water.
  • Clean off harvested vegetable rows immediately to prevent insect and disease buildup.
  • Till and mulch soil to conserve moisture for germination of fall crops and to help reduce the nematode population in the soil.

ODD JOBS

  • Know your limitations with gardening activities. Most heat-related incidents happen while someone is doing an activity. If you feel weak, stop, get to a shaded area and get hydrated.
  • Drink lots and lots of water. Hydration is key to keep from having a heat-related illness. An 8-ounce bottle of water an hour when outside will be effective.
  • Wear SPF 50 sunscreen when expecting to be outside for long periods of time. Sunburn is a stress on your body and enough of it will put you in enough pain to keep you inside for a very long time.
  • If you have a pre-existing condition that may cause you to have a heat-related illness, you need to wear a med-alert bracelet or necklace.
  • Check garden centers for markdowns on remaining plants.
  • Harvest onions and garlic when the tops turn brown.
  • Replace mulch as needed.
  • Houseplants, including amaryllis, can spend the summer outdoors in a sheltered location with filtered bright light (not direct sun). Feed regularly.
  • Don’t bag or rake clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
  • Don’t let the compost heap dry out completely, or it will not "cook." Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned.
  • Start planning the fall garden.
  • Keep lawns at about 3 inches to protect from summer heat.
  • Clean up fallen fruits under trees.
  • Maintain a 3- to 4-inch mulch layer around trees and shrubs to protect them from mower and weed whacker damage. Don’t place the mulch too close to the trunk.
  • Bats help control mosquitoes; attract these friendly mammals with bat houses.
  • Divide spring and early summer perennial including daffodils, daylilies, iris, etc., and replant the best clumps. Discard the diseased or damaged material, and share any surplus with friends.
  • Low areas in the lawn may be gradually filled with shallow applications of good top soil where needed. Avoid temptation to apply a layer of sandy loam over the entire lawn area just because your neighbor does.
  • At this time of year, you might find a beautiful flower on some plant in your garden and you just want to save the seed. Tie a piece of string around the stem so you can identify it later and very carefully remove the other flowers from the plant as they fade. Then, when the seed is ready, you can cut the stem bearing the seed. After leaving it in a warm dry place for a few days, carefully separate out the seeds and put them away for another day. They should be kept perfectly dry. This is one technique towards creating your own special garden. Don’t forget to label them!
  • Be on the lookout for suckers coming from the roses in your garden. Where roses grow on their own roots, maybe reared from cuttings, there should be no suckers at all. But many roses we buy have been grafted to a stronger root stock and sometimes this root stock will send out suckers. Any suckers from the roots, or from the stem below the graft, should be carefully removed as far below the surface of the soil as possible.
  • Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife which will help avoid injury to the growing plant. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of the stem from resting on the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water to the garden for collecting flowers, rather than a cutting basket.
  • Harvest often to get vegetables at the proper stage of maturity. If left to mature fully, the plant will stop producing. Early morning harvest, before vegetables absorb heat from the sun, is best for most vegetables.


Pals: Respecting the Environment


With the students of James Wilson Elementary

by Mary Stanford

James W. Wilson Junior Elementary School in Montgomery is partnering with People Against A Littered State. Meredith Bishop, principal of the school, wants her students to respect their environment. The purpose of the "Clean Campus" program is to implement litter education and involvement in community and campus clean-up activities. PALS is happy to partner with James W. Wilson Elementary School in an effort to make students good stewards of their environment. Students saw how important it is to take care of their environment not only on Earth Day but every day.

By being part of PALS, students and faculty have opportunities to have their school recognized for their efforts. PALS can be used as a "springboard" for many different kinds of activities at the school. Some of these can include: environmental clubs, educational curriculum, Earth Day projects, school clean-ups and community outreach programs. The second-grade faculty and students incorporated the PALS educational program into the state curriculum. There is also a wonderful opportunity in qualifying for the State Award presented to first, second and third place winners at the Governor’s Awards luncheon. There are $1,000, $750 and $500 scholarships awarded to the winning schools.

Alabama PALS looks forward to having the opportunity to work with your school. Let’s make Alabama a cleaner and healthier place to live for generations to come. If you are interested in having me come to your school, contact me at mary@alpals.org.

Mary Mitchell Stanford is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.



Peanut People




PLAY the Music!

“What am I?” Can you identify these red, white and blue flowers? Last month WAI was a tick bite on tender human skin.

Radio and Gardening

by Herb T. Farmer

Way back when … more than 35 years ago (actually, this story dates back to more than 40 years ago), it was okay to put the big Bose 901s on the back porch and with 500 watts of power blast all the music into the garden and field. That’s what we did when I lived in Europe and it worked equally well in rural Alabama.

The Teac model A-6300 with 10-inch reel-to-reel tapes played for 1.5 hours before I had to flip them over to play the other side (1/4-track stereo sound).

I remember spending hours programming the music to blend perfectly with segues that were so subtle you couldn’t always tell there were more than a song or two playing within a half-hour time, because that is what I wanted to hear while I worked. I always appreciated the deejay’s art of choreography when it came to finding the perfect beat or note to use for the segue between two songs or commercials.

Back then we lived for the opportunity to work late at night, because we not only avoided the intense heat of the day but we could listen to AM radio stations from across the United States, coming in clear as a bell. We could listen to stations we had only heard about from radio people who had access to what was then a seemingly exclusive publication Billboard Magazine.

In those days, we would take our transistor radios out in the yard at night during the summertime and pick up scattered broadcasts from radio stations from Fort Worth to New York City. Some of the stations broadcast on a clear channel, so all we had to do was wait until about an hour after local sunset (the time determined by the FCC according to latitudes and longitudes when AM radio stations are required to change their broadcast signal by power reduction or cease broadcasting).

If we had to cultivate the fields at night, we would hook up a 12-volt car battery to an old Delco or Philco reject radio with an antenna and speaker ripped off an old Buick and blast the music from an old field wagon we pulled along where we were working.

It passed the time and helped teach me to love farming and gardening.

Back in the day, we could clearly hear radio stations WLW out of Cincinnati, Ohio; and WOR, WCBS and 77-WABC out of New York City. On Friday and Saturday nights, we listened to the Grand Ole Opry on AM 650 WSM, Nashville. Sunday nights were good program listening nights. 15-WLAC Nashville played Wolfman Jack’s syndicated show at 9 p.m.

I like the classics. This old Motorola AM-FM transistor radio has been around for a long time.

WWL 870 and WBAP 820 used to compete for the long-haul truckers listenership by playing mostly country music with trucker themes. (I remembered making the comment to my friend one night that "if I hear one more tear-jerking Red Sovine’s ‘Teddy Bear’ song …." I was going to do something quite negative. Well. You can imagine the real conclusion.)

Still, those radio stations had an incredible market share because their target market was awake and working while the stations’ signals were at their finest range.

Music Radio WLS Chicago was a favorite of ours. Playing "Top 40" music in the 1970s meant the same as playing classic rock today. The only difference is, back then, we got to hear the one-hit-wonders. Some of those songs only got played for a day or two, before being cut from the playlist for whatever reason. Some songs were cut because of a suggestive word or phrase. Some were translated into seemingly satanic nonsense and banned by the stronghold maintained by local narrow-minded preachers.

Steve Allen coined the phrase "Radio is the theater of the mind" and that was used in public service announcements for years, produced by the Radio Advertising Bureau.

Recalling an old song by Brewer and Shipley (Coffee and Doughnuts is what we used to call them), "One Toke Over the Line" became a top 10 hit back in 1971. It was obvious to most of us kids what the song was about. It was a tongue-in-cheek euphemism meaning wasted-tired. That song was performed on the Lawrence Welk Show by a couple of his regular guest singers. I couldn’t believe my ears. And then, Welk back-announced the performance with something like, "There, you just heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale." I thought I was going to choke on my potato chips! Little did they know they had just performed a song about smoking marijuana. I still laugh when I think about that.

Nowadays, we can pick and choose music from an assortment of websites.

Recalling music that really got me going back then is sometimes a challenge. Thank goodness for the scientists who created a cyber-brain that allows us to simply type in a few obscure lines of a memory of sorts and then we can find the name of a song that may have only been on a radio station playlist for a week by accident. Then we find the YouTube video that confirms the hunch and we further our research and buy our song. iTunes is my friend. There, I can find most of the music I grew up with and some of the music I have been exposed to along the way, over the many, many, many years. (Sorry. Today, I feel old.)

I still make my own playlists, but I don’t worry so much about song-blending segues. Lately, I have been mixing my music by going down the digital lists in my databases and highlighting the songs I want to hear. I put them into Mp3 format and assign them to a music player program that has a "mix" feature, so I can’t possibly predict the next song to be played.

I don’t put the big speakers on the porch anymore. Not everybody wants to listen to the same music and I don’t want people to come around the house, thinking they have just found Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show!

About 40 years ago I built an FM transmitter with a Heathkit kit. (Heathkit was the brand name, similar to Radio Shack kits.) It finally wore out and I just found one on Amazon.

It’s a simple design, but it serves the purpose and it’s already assembled.

I simply plug in the FM transmitter to my computer headphone jack, tune the transmitter to an unassigned frequency and play my music. I listen through the earbuds plugged into my FM radio tuned to the same frequency that I am broadcasting on. Or I listen to it on the truck radio. My little radio station broadcasts a very low power signal that can only be heard on my property. Any greater signal would certainly land me in jail or make me poor, or both. The FCC carefully regulates and enforces those rules. That protects us all and it’s one of the many great reasons to be a citizen in the United States of America!

Here’s a simple recipe for an All-American snack! Happy Independence Day!

POPCORN –
An original All-American treat

Use only the best natural popcorn kernels (never use microwave popcorn).
Heat large saucepan over medium heat.
Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil (may add butter as well).
Heat one minute.
Add ½ cup popcorn. Cover pan and listen for pops.
When the popcorn begins to pop, gently shake the pan while holding the lid firmly in place with a potholder.
Remove from heat when the popping reduces to one pop per second. Keep covered for about a minute.
Dress up your popcorn with any of the following: Ground rosemary, salt, pepper, dill weed, ground flaxseed, granulated garlic, cumin, onion powder, crushed red pepper, stevia, ground parmesan, or infused herbal butters or infused olive oils. These make great toppings.

Enjoy!

I’ll see y’all in August!

Until then, 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 farmerherb@gmail.com.

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.



Rocky Times


The front of the historic Pike Activities Building, commonly known as the Rock Building, in Troy.

Efforts are underway to restore The Rock Building, dedicated to “the farm people” of Pike County.

by Jaine Treadwell

The handprint of Pike County is all over the Rock Building.

Imagine an age-bent farmer struggling to lift a massive field rock onto a mule-drawn wagon.

Or the woman of the house handing over the field rocks bordering the lilac bushes by the backdoor steps or barefooted children "toting" rocks from the fields and piling them neatly by the side of the road.

"If you can image that, then you can understand why the Rock Building was dedicated to ‘the farm people of Pike County,’" said David Helms, who is among those spearheading the grassroots efforts to preserve the historic Pike Activities Building in Troy.

David Helms examines the outside structure of the Rock Building. The rocks were laid in a spider-webbing pattern. The brick masons used a beaded joint to connect them.

The building is commonly and affectionately called the Rock Building.

The Rock Building was heavily damaged by an arsonist’s fire more than 20 years ago.

The insurance money of $150,000-plus was put into the coffer of the Pike County Commission that has ownership of the building. The money was not used to repair the damage from the fire.

Commission Chairman Homer Wright and Commissioner Charlie Harris said the money should have been used to make the needed repairs and the building should never have been left to time and the elements. But what’s done is done and they are supporting the efforts to restore and preserve the historic Rock Building.

"It’s like David Helms said. If we don’t do it now, it probably will never be done," Wright said. "The Rock Building is a part of Pike County’s history and it should be preserved. The time is now."

Every area of Pike County is represented in the Rock Building, a Works Progress Administration project of 1938-39.

"There were few, if any, farm families that didn’t contribute field rocks to the building of the Pike Activities Building and claim to be a part of it," Helms said.

Judge Alex Brantley had the idea to concentrate the varied county activities into one central spot. He made the arrangements for the WPA to erect the Activities Building that would be 80 feet by 170 feet and have two levels.

The building cost $54,497 with the WPA contributing $19,665 and the county $34,882.

Helms said field rocks were plentiful throughout the county and were the natural choice for the construction of the building.

"Everybody was involved in collecting the rocks," Helms said. "School children all around the county collected rocks. They would even take their rocks to school where they would be stacked for the county to pick up."

Many of the farmers of that time were tenant farmers and didn’t have any way to get the rocks they picked up and stacked to the construction site.

Jerrell Harden’s dad, the late J.C. Harden, used his brand new 1937 pickup truck that had set him back a whopping $615 and went all around the county picking up rocks and delivering them to the construction site on Church Street and running through to Love Street and within a block of Court Square.

"I was only in the first or second grade, but Daddy had us boys out picking up rocks," Harden said. "We’d leave school and go pick up rocks. And we picked up a whole lot of them."

Rocks of all sizes were "toted" and "piled up," and transported by wagon or pickup truck to the construction site. Big, strong hands left their prints on the Rock Building. Mothers’ hands and grandmothers’ hands and little children’s hands left their prints on those rocks.

And those rocks were held together with mortar and sweat equity.

Coy Danner’s dad Perry was the master bricklayer for the project. Danner said the construction of the Rock Building gave men much-needed jobs and put food on their tables.

"A lot of master bricklayers worked on the Rock Building and a lot of men got their training as bricklayers on the building," Danner added. "And the money was good for the times."

Danner said brick masons worked from sketches and the rocks had to fit, and that was not always easy. The rocks were odd sizes and odd shapes. They were laid in a spider-webbing pattern. The brick masons used a beaded joint to connect them.

A beaded joint is a raised joint rolled out with a mason’s tool much like a pipe, Danner explained.

"Beaded joints are more durable because they shed water better than u-shaped joints," he said.

Once the Rock Building was completed, a gala celebration was held with more than 3,000 people attending. The entire county took pride in the building and most citizens were in and out the Rock Building, at least, several times a year.

The handsome building housed all county offices – the School Administration, the County Health Office, the Department of Human Resources, Pensions and Securities, and the Veteran’s Affairs office.

The basement area was the site of everything from boxing matches to 4-H talent shows. The children got their vaccinations required for school admission. Residents gathered there when important community decisions were to be made – decisions including the closing of the two privately owned hospitals to bring a Hill-Burton hospital to Troy.

Pike County Fair Days were held at the Rock Building. Men dressed in top hats and women in bonnets. An unofficial court was held to raise money for the construction of the original Memorial Stadium at the college in Troy.

Helms said the Rock Building is a monument to the persistence of the people of Pike County and a memorial to the memories created there.

"Now is our best and, probably, last chance to save the Rock Building," he said. "It’s now in the hands of the people of Pike County. We’ve got to step up and do what has to be done to save ‘the Rock.’"

A community meeting was held on May 19 to determine the interest in and passion for saving the Rock Building.

"We had a very good meeting and so many memories of the Rock Building were shared," Helms said. "We formed several committees to explore uses for the building and possible funding avenues. It’s time for us to commit to the preservation of this historic building. If we don’t do it, it’s not going to be done. Now is the time … whatever it takes.

"The Rock Building is made up of countless pieces of Pike County and it should be treasured."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.




Seeing Red

Pinkeye is second only to scours in terms of diseases affecting calves.

Dealing with highly infectious pinkeye in cattle

by Jackie Nix

As we approach the hot summer months, more and more producers are dealing with the nuisance of pinkeye. Pinkeye is a highly infectious bacterial disease. Although pinkeye is nonfatal, it costs cattle producers over $150 million per year. These expenses result from decreased weight gain, reduced milk production and treatment costs. Additionally, infected animals are worth less at sale time. Pinkeye is second only to scours/diarrhea in terms of diseases affecting calves.

Causes of Pinkeye

While the bacteria Moraxella bovis is the main causative agent, other microorganisms such as chlamydia, mycoplasma and acholeplasma or viruses such as the IBR virus can either predispose the eye to pinkeye or make the disease more severe.

Irritants to the eye make it more susceptible to development of pinkeye. Irritants include ultraviolet light, plants, dust and flies. Cattle lacking pigment around the eyes tend to be more susceptible to UV-light irritation resulting in inflammation and infection. Plants provide irritation through release of pollen and chaff, and also physical irritation through poking, especially in the seedhead stage. Dust is usually not a major factor for pastured cattle and is more relevant in confinement. Several species of flies (face flies, stable flies and house flies) also provide irritation and can actively carry the bacteria from animal to animal. Face flies have been shown to remain infected with M. bovis for up to three days after feeding on infected secretions. Pinkeye can also spread via physical animal-to-animal contact, especially in close quarters.

If left untreated, ulcerations can occur and can result in loss of the eye. This is particularly troubling for bull calves, as bulls rely on visual cues for detecting cows in heat. Research has shown that weaning weights can be reduced as much as 60 pounds per calf. Additionally, cattle with pinkeye are discounted an average of $11.75 per CWT at the sale barn.

Treatment

M. bovis is susceptible to many antibiotics including oxytetracycline, penicillin and sulfonamides. Treatment involves handling cattle and either delivering an IM or Sub-Q injection or other direct eye treatments. As always, consult with your veterinarian prior to treatment. It bears mentioning that the new FSMA regulations will require prescription by a veterinarian for these drugs in the not-so-distant future. These drugs are available over-the-counter as it stands today.

Prevention

Given that treatment is expensive, prevention becomes even more important. The first means of prevention is to never bring infected animals to your farm in the first place through careful inspection prior to purchase. Also, a standard quarantine for new animals will help identify carriers and allow them to be treated prior to introduction into the main herd. Commercial vaccines are available (consult with your veterinarian before embarking on a vaccination program), but even vaccine manufacturers recommend environmental management and fly control in addition to vaccination. Other methods to help prevent pinkeye include proper mineral and vitamin nutrition including adequate levels of zinc and vitamin A for eye integrity. Additionally, regular clipping of pastures will not only prevent seedheads from irritating animals’ eyes but will also increase the relative nutritional value of your pastures by increasing vegetative growth. And finally, fly control will go a long way to keep pinkeye from spreading throughout your herd.

Feed-Through Fly Control

Rabon Oral Larvicide is a nontoxic feed-through larvicide. Rabon interrupts the lifecycle of the target flies by preventing larvae from developing into adults. Rabon is not absorbed by the animal and safely passes through the digestive tract. There is no slaughter withdrawal and Rabon can be safely fed to lactating and pregnant cows. Rabon remains in the manure where it kills developing larvae on contact. Rabonis the only feed-through fly control product to control horn flies, face flies, stable flies and house flies. As mentioned earlier, face flies, house flies and stable flies are known to transmit the M. bovis bacterium from cow to cow. Reducing the number of these flies will cut transmission, especially in a pasture situation. Another advantage of Rabon is that it can be utilized for fly control for horses as well as cattle. Rabon is environmentally safe and has no adverse effect on the dung beetle or other beneficial insects.

SWEETLIXoffers a variety of products containing Rabon for your convenience. Additionally, these productswilldeliver essential nutrients, including zinc and vitamin A which are so important for eye integrity. The SWEETLIX Rabon Molasses Pressed Block and SWEETLIX Pest-A-Side Pressed Block with Rabonare compact and easy to use. Just place them where cattle congregate. No special feeders or bunks needed. SWEETLIX 6% CopperHead with Rabon loose mineral combines the superior copper nutrition of CopperHead with the fly control benefits of Rabon. SWEETLIXhas a product to fit any size operation and any production scenario.

Summary

In summary, pinkeye is a costly bacterial disease for the cow-calf producer. Anything that irritates or damages the eye makes it more susceptible to infection by the M. bovis bacterium. Treatment involves costly antibiotics and stressful cattle handling; thus prevention is preferred. Prevention of pinkeye can be achieved through a combination of vaccination, management and fly control. SWEETLIX products containing Rabon Oral Larvicide offer the superior fly control of Rabon along with the proven intake and superior nutrition of SWEETLIX. To learn more visit www.sweetlix.com or call 1-87SWEETLIX to find the self-fed fly control supplement that works best for you.

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



Self-sufficiency

by Corky Pugh

Fifteen-year-old Robert came ambling down the driveway to the cabin about dusky dark carrying a respectable stringer of fish. The look on his face was one of pride and satisfaction, but he was careful not to act too excited.

The stringer held several hand-size bluegill and a channel cat weighing about two pounds. Robert had spent the better part of the afternoon fishing from the bank a couple hundred yards from the cabin.

He and his dad had come from south Florida to turkey hunt, and when the turkeys didn’t cooperate, I offered for the kid to go fishing. He was quick to accept the opportunity, and I loaned him a couple of spinning outfits and an assortment of artificial baits. The water was fairly muddy from spring rains, and the artificials proved unproductive.

Robert had walked back to the cabin and asked where he could get some live bait. I pointed him toward the lakeshore, where the small Asiatic clams, Corbicula, grow in great abundance. He was able to simply scoop up the mollusks from the sandy bottom with his hands. Armed with a plastic cup filled with the natural bait, he returned to his fishing spot.

When he came back at dark with the fish, he wanted to know where he could clean his catch and asked to borrow a knife. Supper was already on the stove, and I gave him a small fillet knife and showed him the fish cleaning table on the dock.

Pretty soon, the kid showed up at the door with the dressed fish. He brought them in the kitchen and proceeded to cook them in a skillet with no assistance from anyone. It was obvious he had done this before.

With no real fanfare, he added the fish he had caught to the supper table in a very matter-of-fact way. His fresh-caught fish added a tasty dish to dinner, and were prepared nicely.

Over the meal, I asked Robert to tell me how he caught the fish, knowing the he would relish the chance to recount the details.

"The mussels worked great," he said. "I smashed some with a rock, and used them to chum the fish up. I caught the bluegills on little pieces of mussel and used cut bait from a small bluegill to catch the catfish."

The boy’s saltwater fishing experience was showing. Chumming and cut bait? Never argue with success.

Robert was neither smug nor unduly confident. He asked for help and advice when needed, but otherwise was quite self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency, being able to provide for oneself without the help of others, is a rare trait today. Young people in particular are the unwitting victims of our drive-up window society.

Aldo Leopold wrote about "the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery." Most kids Robert’s age think eggs come from Styrofoam. Bless their hearts, they don’t have a clue about chickens.

Robert’s satisfaction went beyond simply providing for himself. He put food on the table for all of us. Remember how it felt when you were a kid to bring fish home for supper? The ability to provide sustenance is very gratifying in a real and powerful way.

I clearly remember the first fish I ever caught. It was a hand-size bluegill caught on a cane pole. The man who helped me catch it was Troy Hall, a friend of my parents. I was all of 4 or 5 years old, and I remember to this day exactly where my little feet were when I caught the fish. If old Troy had tried to put my fish back in the water, we would have had one helluva fight.

To Robert, demonstrating his skill was important. This rite of passage is important in the development of young hunters and fishermen.

Robert’s ability to complete the whole cycle – from finding bait, successfully catching the fish, cleaning his catch, cooking the fish and eating it – was highly gratifying to him, his dad and to me.

None of this would have likely taken place if the State of Alabama required kids under 16 to purchase a license to fish. Some states actually impose such requirements and put restrictions on participation in hunting and fishing by kids. The "Families Afield" initiative, led by the National Wild Turkey Federation, National Shooting Sports Foundation and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, has done much to help reduce these obstacles to participation.

To those of us who grew up hunting and fishing in Alabama, it’s unthinkable that any state would not allow kids under a certain age to participate. Thankfully, our state was one of the ones that got it right to begin with.

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

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for, go to the website at huntingheritagefoundation.com. You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email corkypugh@mindspring.com.

Sighting with Circles, Bracing with Posts & Spreading with the Co-op

by John Howle

"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

"‘Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.’

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Luke 18:9-14 (KJV)

I’m not sure why I find humor in the Pharisee’s prayer. If we fast forward to modern day, it might go like, "I thank thee Oh Lord that I’m not as low down and sorry as my fence cutting neighbor down the road. I’ll try to be humble even though I’m perfect in every way."

It’s important to stay humble and sometimes, if we become too prideful and refuse to humble ourselves, circumstances can humble us. May we all pray like the publican and stay humble realizing that our true strength comes from God - not ourselves.

Circular Sights

There are some times when a scope on a ranch rifle can get in the way. If you are protecting your herd from coyotes or relieving your farm of pests and damaging varmints, having quick access to a handy rifle is essential. With a scope, you have more bulk to carry in your pickup or tractor. Many prefer to use rifles without a scope around the farm for that reason.

A Henry Rifle’s front sight is the area of focus while looking through the ghost ring that allows the shooter to get on target quickly.

Henry Rifles (www.henryrifles.com) has a line of lever action rifles that offer pinpoint accuracy with the traditional irons sights. The lever action .30-30 comes equipped with what are called ghost ring sights. The rear sight is a circular ring instead of a "V" sight. The eye naturally focuses on the front sight while looking through the circular ring. Once you get used to it, you can get on target quickly, and this is critical when taking a shot at an errant coyote.

More Bang with Brace Posts

Here’s a dilemma. You’ve got a long span of fence to construct out in the open and nothing to stretch to. How do you solve the problem? Putting up "H" brace posts along the way not only provides something to hook the fence stretchers to but it also provides support and strength for long spans of wire.

Basically, you put two posts into the ground as wide as the horizontal brace post. A large nail is all that is needed to hold each end of the brace post in place. For additional support, I sometimes use a small chainsaw to cut notches into the vertical posts where the horizontal brace post rests.

Prescribed Burns

Prescribed burns are one of the most effective and cost efficient ways to stimulate growth in your woodlands. Make sure you have wide firebreaks free of debris, and only conduct a burn on a day when the weather is suitable. You certainly don’t want a wind to be blowing on the day you burn for the risk of jumping the firebreak.

Typically, you want a flame that is about two feet high that burns slowly through your pines. During the following spring and summer, you will see dramatic increases in the amount of forest-floor forage. Even though the actual burn may be around December, it’s a good idea to start planning early.

When you have large amounts of fertilizer to put out, your best bet is using a pull-behind spreader from your local Co-op. This spreader operates by being pulled, so you can pull it with a heavy-duty truck or a tractor.

A Co-op Spreader is Better

Your local Co-op is the best place to visit when you need large amounts of supplements added to your pastures. For fertilizer or pelletized lime, the unit can be rented, loaded and pulled around your farm with either a heavy-duty truck or a large farm tractor. Once you’ve cut your forage for hay, go back and apply fertilizer in the late summer before rain is forecasted so you can have full forage growth through late summer and fall in preparation for winter stockpiling or grazing.

Poplar Planks

If you want lightweight wood resulting in smooth boards that are easy to work with, choose poplar. Once dried, the wood can be used to cover barn walls or construct farm sheds or outbuildings. What’s more, it’s much easier to drive a nail through poplar than oak or other hardwoods.

We once hauled our cattle and hogs exclusively with a flat-bed ton truck equipped with cattle panels. We made the panels out of poplar so they could be lifted out of the standards easier. These panels lasted for years because we kept the truck parked under a shed.

This July, while the weather is hot and our tempers can sometimes flare, let’s remember to stay humble and pray the publican’s prayer.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Smart Yard – Be Water Smart


Moisture-sensing devices can save even more water when added to existing or new irrigation systems.

by Tony Glover

Smart Yard Landscaping is an initiative of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System that involves using several common sense principles to make our lawns and gardens more sustainable. Water conservation and management is one of the key components and principles involved in having a "Smart Yard."

With summer entering the "dog days" here in Alabama, we expect water bills to rise as it gets hotter and drier - especially if we use sprinklers to irrigate. Because July is officially Smart Irrigation Month, and because it’s also the peak water-use month across most of the country, there is no better time to learn how using smart irrigation technology can help save you water, time and money. Did you know more than 50 percent of water used to irrigate lawns and gardens is wasted? The amount of water wasted by the average homeowner in just 1 year could be enough to fill three backyard swimming pools.

Irrigation systems are a great way for people to water their yards without spending hours wrestling with a hose, but they can also lead to overwatering. The worse-case situations we see are systems programmed to water daily during sod installation and never altered. These lawns are being grossly over watered. Simply re-programming the system to water a maximum of once or twice weekly will benefit the lawn and your pocket book, not to mention conserve a valuable community resource. For new systems or even for folks who want to retrofit older systems, there are some great new products to help you conserve water. For example, soil moisture sensors and weather-based irrigation controllers allow for much more efficient watering. These add-on products are very inexpensive and will pay for themselves very quickly.

Another big problem I see in landscapes is watering the shrub beds on the same schedule and volume as irrigating their turf grass. Shrub beds should be zoned separately and should use micro-irrigation rather than turf-type spray heads. Better still, use drip irrigation that puts water right where you need it without spraying it into the air at all. Once shrubs are well established, it is likely they will not need supplemental irrigation unless we experience a severe drought or they are very drought-sensitive plants such as hydrangeas.

If you want to learn more about conserving water, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website (http://www.epa.gov/watersense/). Look for the WaterSense label to choose quality, water-efficient products. Many products are available, and don’t require a change in your lifestyle. Explore the link to learn about WaterSense labeled products, saving water, and how businesses and organizations can partner with WaterSense.

They also have a listing of irrigation professionals who have become WaterSense irrigation partners. These professionals have completed a WaterSense-labeled program certifying their expertise in water-saving technology and techniques. According to the EPA, if homeowners with irrigation systems hired WaterSense irrigation partners to perform regular maintenance, each household could reduce irrigation water use by 15 percent. That’s about 9,000 gallons annually – or the amount of water that would flow from a garden hose if you left it running nonstop for nearly a whole day. My research indicates moisture-sensing devices can save even more than this when added to existing or new irrigation systems.

Conserving water is more than a good idea, it should be considered a responsibility of every citizen. It really doesn’t matter if someone has "more money than they have sense," they should use our collective public resources in a wise and thoughtful way. For more "Smart Yard" tips, visit our Extension store and search for "Alabama Smart Yards" (https://store.aces.edu/).

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



Southern Makers


The second annual Southern Makers attracted a sell-out crowd of approximately 2,200 people. Southern Accents Architectural Antiques of Cullman provided the remarkable set designs for the Second Annual Southern Makers Festival at the Union Station Train Shed. (Photo at right, credit: Michelle Marie Photography)

A unique Alabama experience, Southern Makers celebrates the creativity of the state’s artisans, designers, chefs and more.

by Jade Currid

Teeming with brilliance, ingenuity, and the finest food, art, craftsmanship and designs the state has to offer, Southern Makers, an authentic Alabama experience, attracted a sell-out crowd for its second year of existence on May 3, 2014, at the Union Station Train Shed in Montgomery.

Abounding discussions, demonstrations, tastings, workshops, maker conversations and a market featuring goods from Southern artisans and chefs generated provoking thoughts about contemporary Alabama-based food and design among approximately 2,200 attendees.

Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Matter, E.A.T. South, and Southern Accents Architectural Antiques created and curated the event.

Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Executive Vice President Galen Thackston and E.A.T. South Director Denise Green attended the VIP Farm Party held at the E.A.T. South Downtown Farm on the night prior to the Second Annual Southern Makers Festival. Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood; Southern Accents Architectural Antiques; Matter Creative Studio; and E.A.T. South are the prominent creators and curators of Southern Makers. (Credit: Greg Spradlin)

"Our goal as one of the creators and curators of Southern Makers is to support community, creativity and design that makes life better – values on which our firm is founded," explained Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood PR Coordinator Abby Bassinger. "Southern Makers provides an opportunity to not only put this commitment into action but also to foster economic growth and development, and to shed light on Alabama and the creative individuals who reside here."

An event of this nature is imperative for the community as it brings awareness to the South’s artisan culture, instills pride in Alabama’s homegrown and handmade designs, entices visitors to explore and discover more of the South, and creates a common thread that connects people in different communities, Abby expounded.

Southern Makers featured agriculture, Alabama’s largest industry and one of the integral pieces comprising the state’s story, in addition to the other areas that influenced Southern Makers, including textiles, food, literature, art and design.

Hassey Brooks, who works for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and farms with his brother in Montgomery, displayed classic Southern hospitality as he sold delectable homemade pickles, made from a family recipe, and fresh eggs.

Fourth-generation farmers Garrett Hentry and Justin Barrett debuted their business, River Region Beef, at Southern Makers Festival. (Credit: Michelle Marie Photography)

Hassey related how people across the state work in niche trades, and how Southern Makers showcases the efforts of these Alabamians and promotes small scale production.

He also raises poultry, an area of agriculture he says has gained more interest in the state within the last couple of years.

According to Hassey, people who are a generation or two removed from the farm are entering agriculture.

"They may not have the capacity or acres to do it, so they start out small," he said.

River Region Beef, who adheres to a vision of providing quality, healthy beef cattle to the marketplace while incorporating sound environmental practices and sustainable management of local farms throughout the River Region, made its debut at the event.

Golson Foshee of Foshee Management Company and Cathy Gerachis of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood discussed urban revitalization and the new Downtown Montgomery Dexter Avenue Plan and Market District. (Credit: Michelle Marie Photography)

Producers Justin and Jordan Barrett of Bar Neal Farms in Wetumpka and Garrett and Emily Henry of H3 Cattle in Pintlala own and operate the business.

A hot commodity, pepper jelly made by Hot Damn Jelly Co., sold out two hours before the event was over.

"We grow as many peppers as we can in Auburn," said Hot Damn Jelly Co. owner Jessi Norwood. "We also grow peppers at my parents’ farm in South Alabama. What we cannot grow ourselves, we buy locally."

Hot Damn Jelly Co. debuted a Smoked Jalapeno Jelly at Southern Makers.

"It’s so smoky one lady swore it had bacon in it!" Jessi exclaimed. "It’s a great jelly to use this summer when you don’t feel like grilling, but still want to get in the taste of being smoked all day!"

Re-Invention, a social company and vendor at the event, exemplifies how Alabamians make a difference not only in their communities but worldwide.

Andrew McCall of Vines and Branches makes custom handmade items of wisteria, hardwood and kudzu. An exceptional basket maker, he is one of the four artists featured in the Southern Makers documentary.

The altruistic business that aims to eliminate extreme poverty and initiate opportunity for social enterprises globally offered its collection of handmade, re-invented, recycled and repurposed home accents, furnishings and other goods, G.E.A.R. by Re-Invention, for sale.

G.E.A.R. by Re-Invention is the result of the company’s vision to foster economic sustainability by hiring and designing from within.

"We work with women who are in transitional programs as well – teaching them how to sew and collaborate with different organizations to help them provide another economic alternative to their program and to help provide jobs, so all of our profits are reinvested to support the organizations we partner with," said Rachel Fisher, Re-Invention director of Communications and Customer Relations.

The screening of a work-in-progress version of the Southern Makers documentary, filmed by 1504 Pictures, examining the vision and process of four Alabama artists – a chef, a basket maker, a quilter and a visual artist – was a highly anticipated facet of the event.

"After the inaugural success of the Southern Makers event in Montgomery last year, organizers decided a documentary would be a good way to further raise awareness of Alabama’s thriving community of makers," said Tyler Jones of 1504 Pictures.

The documentary was funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

"It was commissioned to be produced by 1504, the creative studio I’m part of in Birmingham," Tyler said. "I shot and edited the film with Mark Slagle, but it was a collaborative effort with several people to make it possible."

1504 Pictures gathered additional footage at Southern Makers and aspires to complete production and post-production over the summer.

"We made the film as a tribute to individuals who identify as Southern makers, and our hope is the project will be a tool for education and tourism," Tyler said.

Tyler related that it was daunting to show a project that was not completed yet, but doing so allowed the film crew to receive feedback from audiences.

"More than anything, it was an honor to be included in the Southern Makers program alongside so many people I admire in this state," Tyler said.

"I’m proud to see the state rally around its artisans, and it goes to support a great cause through E.A.T. South," he said. "I look forward to seeing the event grow, and 1504 hopes to continue working with makers around the state."

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Well, I bet that Johnson feller still has 75 cents of every dollar he’s ever touched. He might have waited until he was 40 before he got married, but I bet he’s well heeled."

How does being frugal have anything to do with the bottoms of one’s feet?

Well heeled, today, means wealthy or well provided for.

There are several meanings of the word heeled. Three of these can lay some claim to being the source of this phrase:

- Provided with money.

- Equipped with a weapon, especially a revolver.

- Having a heel, or spur.

Of course, "well provided with money" is our contemporary understanding, so that has to be a good place to start. In Eva Wilder Brodhead’s "Bound in Shallows," 1897, there’s the line:

"I ain’t so well-heeled right now."

The context of the story makes it clear that this "not so well-heeled" refers to poverty. Good-quality shoes have never been available to the poor and consequently have been seen as an indication of prosperity. It’s reasonable to assume the heel being referred to here is the heel of a shoe or boot, as in the converse of the phrase, "down at heel."

The "equipped with a revolver" meaning is given in J. H. Beadle’s "Undeveloped West," 1873:

"To travel long out West a man must be, in the local phrase, ‘well heeled.’"

Again, the context the line is in makes the meaning clear - in this case, the possession of a gun.

The "having a heel" version is cited in the Iowa newspaper the Dubuque Daily Herald, April 1866:

" ... they resembled dung hill chickens thrown into the pit with their natural spurs, to meet and contend with game cocks well heeled. One stoke puts them to flight, squawking as they go; they cannot stand steel."

Here, the heel is clearly an applied spur that cocks were equipped with during cock fights.

The above citations, as well as the large majority of other early references, are American and it’s reasonable to suggest the term originated in the United States. The cock-fighting citation is the earliest, but not so much earlier than the others to make it the obvious source.

If we take a broad view and say that the phrase meant "well equipped" [with something], we could accept any of the above as plausible origins. Unless more evidence is found to link anyone to the phrase as we now understand it, we have to say that, apart from locating the origin in the United States, the jury is still out on this one.

phrases.org




Story of Two Old Goats Essential Products

by Karen Pfarr

Karen Synder suffers from carpal tunnel in her hands as well as arthritis and fibromyalgia. After much study, she began using pure, all-natural essential oils to relieve the swelling and discomfort. This worked much better than the chemical- and perfume-laden products she found. However, she found one problem with using pure essential oils as a carrier oil base: after applying the oil, she couldn’t touch anything because of the greasy residue.

Since Synder is an avid quilter and fiber artist, the greasiness meant she could not handle her fabrics after using the oils. She began creating her own formula – one that would draw the essential oils, moisturizers and healing agents deep into the skin quickly without greasiness. After 7 years of development and fine-tuning, Two Old Goats Essential Lotion is the result of her effort.

It didn’t take long to find out this lotion was not only great for quilter’s hands but everyone loved it. Wives were finding their lotion on husbands’ night stands. It was being used not only on hands but knees, feet, elbows - anywhere you have dry skin, joint pain or swelling.

Now, after surgeries to remove spurs due to arthritis in her ankle and a Tarsal Tunnel release, the search began for yet more relief. Two Old Goats Arthritis & Fibromyalgia Essential Lotion is her answer. When pain takes over your brain, you need quick relief. What could possibly make her original formula better? More research brought Synder to German chamomile and birch bark for the strongest anti-inflammatory and analgesic possible without drugs and chemicals.

Synder intends to continue to enjoy life quilting, gardening and walking. So Can You!

Karen Pfarr isformer employee for Two Old Goats.



The Co-op Pantry

When Pauline Cogdill at our store in Live Oak, Fla., told me they had a great cook with a fascinating story to tell; she wasn’t kidding. She put me in touch with Crystal Newberry Eubanks, this month’s cook. After hearing her story and checking out her recipes, I knew Pauline was right. This lady had to be featured in our column! Crystal has packed more traveling and living into her life at a relatively young age than most of us will in our entire lives.

Crystal was born in Lake City, Fla., and moved to O’Brien, Fla., in April 2005 after she and husband Arnett married. Crystal related that they met on a blind date, set up by a friend. She remembers telling her friend that Arnett just wasn’t her type. They were married 2 years later! Crystal and Arnett have been married 9 years and have three adorable children, Zeke, 5; Nema, 2; and Titus, the baby, who is 10 months old.

Crystal informed me that, when she was first married, she didn’t know how to cook anything unless it came out of a box!

To quote her, "We ate grilled chicken and green beans probably two or three nights a week. It was easy and something I could cook that didn’t come from a box."

She stated, as time went on, she did learn to cook a few more things, but not many.

All that changed when she and her husband moved to West Africa for a 3-year missionary trip to Mali! Crystal was forewarned that there were no boxed meals available and everything she cooked would be from scratch. Crystal shared that their supervisor’s wife invited her over and shared some of her favorite recipes that were easy to prepare with readily available ingredients. Later, Crystal was able to find two cookbooks written by missionaries in Africa which were a great help to her. Crystal learned the Internet could be an invaluable resource as well. It was at this point, Crystal related, that her love of cooking grew and became something she actually looked forward to doing. Crystal noted that Zeke was born during this trip in Senegal, Africa.

Crystal tells me she collects cookbooks and has quite a collection, especially books with lots of pictures of the food in them. Her favorite TV cooking show is "The Pioneer Woman."

Crystal and Arnett don’t know if another mission trip is in their future, but they haven’t ruled it out either. For the present, they are back on the family farm, Eubanks Farms, that keeps them busy producing hay and grain as well as providing lime and fertilizer spreading and sawdust delivery to local poultry producers, not to mention the work that goes into raising three children!

What an amazing life this young couple is leading!

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

CHICKEN POT PIE

1 jumbo can mixed vegetables
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup onion, chopped (1 small onion, chopped)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1¾ cups water
1 chicken flavored Maggi cube (chicken bouillon cube)
2/3 cups milk
3 cups cooked chicken, cut into small pieces

Drain and rinse mixed vegetables and set aside. Melt butter. Stir in flour, onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly. Turn off heat. Add chicken cube to water to dissolve. Add to butter mixture. Add milk. Turn heat to high. Stir constantly until it boils. Don’t stop stirrin; it will burn. Boil for 1 minute. Turn heat off.

Add vegetables and chicken. Stir. Place into casserole dish and cover with crust (recipe included).

Crust
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup Crisco
5 Tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in Crisco until crumbly. Add water a tablespoonful at a time until dough is formed. Roll out and put over casserole dish. Cut 6 slits in the top of crust. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Note: This recipe is one of the first ones I learned to cook from scratch. It instantly became a favorite.

LASAGNA

1-1½ pounds ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 cans tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Lasagna noodles (I use 6 for a 9x13 pan)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, more if you want it

Brown meat and onion. Drain. Add back to pot. Add seasonings and tomato sauce. (May need to add a little water.) Simmer at least 1 hour. Remove bay leaves.

Cook lasagna noodles. Drain. Take a little bit of the sauce mixture and put into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Layer lasagna noodles. Layer sauce. Layer cheese. Repeat layering process, ending with a layer of cheese. Cook for 30 minutes at 350°.

Note: This recipe became a favorite for cooking for a crowd while we lived in Mali even though cheese was about $15-$20 for 2 lbs.

SHEPHERD'S PIE

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (1-pound) can green beans, drained
Tomato soup (recipe included)
Potatoes, cooked
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese (or more!)

Lightly brown meat; add onion, cook till onion is just tender. Add seasonings, beans and soup; pour into greased 1½-quart casserole dish. Mash hot potatoes like you would for mashed potatoes. Spread over meat. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes.

TOMATO SOUP

3 Tablespoons butter or margarine
3 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can pureed tomatoes
Dash garlic salt, onion salt, basil and oregano

Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Blend in flour and salt, cooking and stirring until bubbly. Using wire whisk to prevent lumps. Stir in tomatoes and spices. Cook just until smooth and thickened.

Note : This recipe is one someone brought to us when I had Zeke. I LOVED it! It took me almost a year to track down the recipe. I finally did and it’s been a favorite ever since! The original recipe called for canned tomato soup, it wasn’t available where we lived, so I made my own tomato soup. I’ve tried it with canned since we moved home and it just isn’t the same.

VENISON ROAST

2 onions, sliced in rings
Carrots and potatoes - enough for your family
½ teaspoon black pepper
Garlic salt, to taste
Worcestershire sauce
2 pounds venison roast (if you have a bigger piece, that’s fine, too!)
½ pound bacon
1 box beef broth

Separate onion rings. Wash and peel the carrots and potatoes. Place onions, carrots and potatoes in bottom of slow cooker. Rub pepper, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce directly on meat. Place on top of onions, potatoes, and carrots. Wrap bacon slices around the roast, overlapping if necessary, and tuck ends of bacon underneath. Pour in beef broth and add a few more dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Cover and cook on low for 7-10 hours, or until meat has reached desired tenderness.

Note: Hunting is a favorite pastime and this roast is perfect!

CHOCOLATE CAKE

2 cups sugar
1¾ cups flour
¾ cup baking cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir by hand. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in boiling water. Stir by hand (batter will be thick). Pour into pans. Bake 30-45 minutes or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans. Remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely.


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

-Mary

CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

6 Tablespoons baking cocoa
2 Tablespoons oil
1 (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter
2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Mix cocoa and oil with spoon in bottom of a large bowl. Add cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar on low speed, 1 cup at a time, until spreadable. You can freeze the leftover frosting and use it again.

Note: This recipe was the first from scratch cake I had ever made. It was a hit and is a family favorite, especially for birthdays!

CHOCOLATE PIE

1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1/3 cup flour
3 eggs (separated - yolks for pies, whites for meringue)
½ stick margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (9-inch) pie crust baked and cooled (frozen or your favorite recipe)

Mix the first five ingredients in medium-size saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. After about 3 minutes or so, scoop out some of the hot chocolate mixture and add to the egg yolks to temper the egg yolks. Add to pot. Heat until thick and pudding like. Turn off heat, Add margarine and vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into baked, cooled pie crust. Cool pie. Top with meringue (recipe included).

MERINGUE

3 egg whites (from pie recipe)
¼ teaspoon cream of tater
½ teaspoon vanilla
6 Tablespoons sugar

With an electric mixture beat the first 3 ingredients. Add sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks have formed. Put on top of cooled pie. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Let cool a bit and stick in fridge to finish cooling.

Note: This I learned to cook in Mali. It’s my husband’s absolute favorite.

QUICK AND EASY BROWNIES

2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, melted
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnut halves (optional)

Combine all ingredients in order given. Put in 9x13 greased pan. Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes.

Note: I found this recipe while living in West Africa and craving brownies. They are so yummy and easy!

CHICKEN TETRAZZINI

1½ pounds boneless, chicken breasts, cut into cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 (10¾-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken
½ cup or more, shredded Parmesan cheese
1¼ cups milk
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin (or a can of sliced mushrooms)
4 cups hot cooked penne or your favorite pasta
¼ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add chicken, garlic and onion; cook 6-8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add soup, cheese, milk, seasonings and mushrooms, stirring until combined. Remove from heat. Add chicken. Add pasta. Pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes at 375° or until bubbling and top is browned.

Note: A family favorite.

SUPREME STEAK CASSEROLE

2 pounds round steak or cube steak
Flour, as needed
Salt & pepper, to taste
2¾ cups water, divided
1 can cream of chicken soup
Butter Crumb Dumplings (recipe included)

Cut steak in 2-inch pieces. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Coat steak and brown thoroughly in pan. Add 1 cup of water to pan and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Remove steak and place in baking dish. Add soup & 1¾ cups water to pan you cooked steak in, Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Pour in baking dish with steak. Drop spoonsful of dumplings on top of steak. Cover dumplings with bread crumbs mixture (use your hands - it’s easier). Bake at 425° for 20-25 minutes until deep golden brown.

BUTTER CRUMB DUMPLINGS

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup salad oil
1 cup milk
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients except butter and bread crumbs. In a separate bowl, mix butter and bread crumbs.

Note: This is one of my favorite recipes from childhood.

SPAGHETTI

1 onion, chopped
6 gloves garlic, chopped
1 pound (or a little more) hamburger meat
2 cans tomato sauce
1 heaping Tablespoon basil
1 heaping Tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 chicken or beef bouillon cube

Brown onion, garlic and hamburger. Drain grease and put hamburger mixture in pot. Add tomato sauce and seasonings. (You may need to add a little bit of water to the sauce, you’ll just have to eyeball it.) Simmer on low, the longer the better! Serve with noodles.

Note: This recipe I got from our house helper n Mali.



The Face of Bass Fishing

Ray Scott has been the face of bass fishing for decades. The founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society now spends most of his time at Ray Scott’s Trophy Bass Retreat near Pintlala, where he entertains clients with some of the best bass fishing in the nation and Southern hospitality.

At 80 years old, Ray Scott is still angling to improve the sport.

by David Rainer

Toward the end of February, the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex was filled to the brim with fishing fans from all over the world. Inside the Civic Center, the daily weigh-ins from the Bassmaster Classic showcased the best bass anglers in the world. In the adjacent buildings in the BJCC, displays featured everything from $70,000 bass boats to $4-a-pack plastic worms.

For all practical purposes, that fishing extravaganza could certainly be called "The House That Ray Built." Anyone with knowledge of bass-fishing history will know exactly who that is – Montgomery’s own indomitable Ray Scott, who took bass fishing from local "buddy" events to the national stage during his tenure as the head of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society or, as it’s more commonly known, B.A.S.S.

Although he sold B.A.S.S. in 1986, Scott has remained the most recognizable name in bass fishing around the world. Although he’s been gone from the helm of B.A.S.S. for more than 25 years, Scott remains the face of bass fishing, as shown by his reception by the crowd during the recent Classic.

Despite his reduced role at the "Super Bowl of Bass Fishing," he remains active in the bass-fishing arena. He helps the fledgling American Bass Anglers because "they remind me so much of B.A.S.S. when we were first getting started," and continues his quests for clean water and preserving fishing habitat, including recruiting more than 500 anglers to protest a proposed grass eradication plan by TVA on Lake Guntersville.

"I used to ride a bicycle with a buddy of mine, Gene Gray, and we’d ride down and fish Three-Mile Branch out on Atlanta Highway," Scott said. "Every once in a while, we’d ride all the way out to the Alabama River.

The spacious lodge on Presidents Lake provides ample space for Ray Scott’s storytelling around the fire amid his memorabilia, not to mention the great dining provided by his amateur chef son, Wilson.

"Back then everybody’s waste went into the Alabama River. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but when I was old enough, I realized what this was doing to our fishing. I sued (more than 200 lawsuits) those people to stop dumping raw waste into our rivers."

In 1967, a few years before he started the clean-water efforts, the insurance salesman hatched the idea of a bass-fishing circuit that would clean up the tournaments that were being held at the time.

"I’d been to some of those derbies and you could smell the stink coming off of them," Scott said. "You’d have guys weighing in 40 pounds of fish, and you could tell some of those fish had been freshly thawed. They were crooked as hell. I always dreamed of having tournaments that weren’t infected like that."

In 1968, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society was born, and Scott went from an extra desk in his insurance office in Montgomery to a separate B.A.S.S. office with two desks the following year.

Membership in B.A.S.S reached 2,000 in the first year that Scott called "a monumental climb. Then the next year we hit 6,500, and the next year 25,000. And it kept going to glory, whew."

Scott and Bob Cobb, editor of the Bassmaster magazine, hatched the idea for the Bassmaster Classic on a trip to an outdoors show in Georgia in 1970. When Cobb asked where they would hold the Classic, Scott responded, "We won’t tell them. We’ll keep it a secret, and that’ll give us a year to decide where to go."

In 1971, Scott put the top 24 bass anglers on a plane and didn’t tell them where they were going until they landed in Nevada, where the first Bassmaster Classic was held on Lake Mead with little fanfare or media coverage. Arkansas’ Bobby Murray won the first Classic and the $10,000 top prize. In contrast, Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., won the 2014 Classic on Lake Guntersville and took home a $300,000 check and a marketing value of more than $1 million during the remainder of his career.

On a trip out West during the B.A.S.S. early years, Scott witnessed a trout fisherman with all his paraphernalia carefully releasing a small trout back into the stream. Another revelation popped into Scott’s head – catch-and-release.

"We were killing too many fish," he said of the early tournaments when the limit was 15 fish. "I wrote all the fishermen a letter and told them I wasn’t going to penalize them for a dead fish, but I wanted them to try to keep the fish alive. Some of them said, ‘What are we going to do, put them on a stringer and hang them over the side of the boat?’ That’s what some of them did. They tried. They put coolers in the boat and transferred water from the lake to and from the cooler. We managed to keep about 35 percent of them alive.

"Then Don Butler, the first member of B.A.S.S., helped develop the first livewell. Now we’re keeping 97 to 98 percent of the fish alive."

At 80 years old, Scott now spends much of his time near Pintlala at his place that could be called the "Retreat That Bass Fishing Built."

Ray Scott’s Trophy Bass Retreat was once the private farm where Scott entertained two Presidents – George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – and numerous other dignitaries and celebrities. Bass-fishing legend Rick Clunn, a four-time Bassmaster Classic winner, caught the heaviest bass of his career (13 pounds, 15 ounces) in Presidents Lake.

Several years ago, Scott decided to open the retreat to the public after "Outdoor Life" magazine named the 55-acre Presidents Lake the best bass lake in America.

Scott bought the 200-acre tract in the 1980s and built three additional lakes around 1990. He entertained the Bush presidents in the mid-1990s. When Scott and Buckmasters founder Jackie Bushman became spokesmen for the initiative to promote the Black Belt (Alabama Black Belt Adventures), Scott decided to open his private bass-fishing haven to the public.

"I guess it was a dream to have my own fishing lake," he said. "After word got around, everybody wanted to fish it. After we put a price on, it cut down the demand. But it’s worked out well."

The retreat (RayScottBassRetreat.com) offers several different packages ranging from a day on the water to the deluxe package with three nights’ lodging and two days of fishing. The lodge built on a point in the Presidents Lake provides the site for plenty of hospitality from Jim Kientz and Jim Liner, not to mention the excellent food prepared by Scott’s youngest son, Wilson.

Scott invited me and my best buddy, Jay Gunn, to Pintlala for a little fishing recently. Despite a cold front that had the big fish suspended and unwilling to bite, Gunn and I managed to leave with our thumbs torn to shreds from grabbing the fish by the lower jaws to toss them back. Although Scott apologized for the "poor" fishing, our count for the day was 93 bass with the largest at 5-plus pounds.

Despite keeping a busy schedule, Scott regularly entertains visitors at the retreat with numerous tales of B.A.S.S. and his outdoors exploits.

"I’ve worked with a lot of great people through the years," he said. "I am the most blessed man in the world."

Scott still remembers the incident that started his bass-fishing obsession. It was a fish he caught at Bridge Creek near Prattville a long time ago.

"Daddy (Ray Scott Sr.) had a little one-bedroom cabin up there," he said. "I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old. I went below the spillway of the lake with a cane pole and some worms I’d dug up. I’d been catching bream about as big as three fingers. Then all of sudden my cork went under and I thought I was going to lose my pole. I finally got the thing in and it was a bass about a pound. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I couldn’t wait to show it to my mother. I never will forget it.

"That was my introduction to bass fishing, and I never got over it."

David Rainer is with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.



The FFA Sentinel: The ABC of Agriscience

Donya Holland agriscience teacher at Ashford High School is a great example of how the ABC process seeks out quality agriscience teachers.

by Debra Davis

Market demand for high school agriscience education teachers in Alabama is high, and a shortcut for qualified graduates with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture is helping fill the need.

The Alternate Baccalaureate Certification program allows college graduates with an agriculture degree to transition into teaching. Donya Holland, an agriscience teacher at Ashford High School, is among a handful of teachers who took advantage of ABC.

With degrees in agricultural economics and animal and dairy sciences from Auburn University, Holland said she never dreamed of being a teacher. A substitute-teaching job at Rehobeth Elementary School in 2005 led her to a new career as an agriscience teacher.

"After college, I worked for ConAgra and Perdue as a broiler rep," Holland said. "When I started a family, I wanted to have more time with my kids and decided I needed to make a change. While I was substitute teaching, my resume fell into the right hands, and I was able to start teaching agriscience. It has been more rewarding than I ever dreamed it would be."

Jacob Davis, state supervisor for agriscience education with the Alabama State Department of Education, said school systems use the ABC approach to hire a qualified candidate who then has 3 years to successfully complete necessary exams and online courses.

Holland completed that work and was certified within the 3-year requirement. She teaches agriscience, fish and wildlife management, greenhouse management, and sports and turf grass management. She also is the FFA advisor at Ashford High School. She said she found her niche.

Ashford High School FFA members pose with their advisor after inspecting their FFA Garden project.

"I love what I’m doing," Holland said with a grin. "It’s a challenge, but when I see I’ve made a difference in a kid’s life, it is so worth it."

There are 310 teachers in agriscience education in Alabama, and there are at least five openings right now, Davis said.

"I’ve seen the largest amount of turnover for teachers this year," Davis said. "A lot of teachers have reached retirement age, and I expect more of that in the next couple years. Plus, agriscience teachers can get jobs in other segments of the industry, and we’ve seen some of them leave for other ag-related careers. There are a lot of opportunities outside of teaching that can attract them away from the classroom."

A shrinking pool of students seeking agriscience education degrees compounded the teacher shortage.

Auburn University is the state’s only university that still offers an agriscience education major. Alabama A&M closed its program last year. Davis said the trend appears to be turning around.

"We have seen an increase in agriscience majors enrolled at Auburn; in fact, it’s about doubled in the last 5 years," Davis said. "But that will take a while to show results. In the meantime, retirements continue to create more openings."

Davis said Alabama’s shortage is part of a national trend resulting from less emphasis being placed on career tech programs, including agriscience.

"We’re seeing that trend reverse now," he said. "There is a renewed emphasis in the skilled trades. A college education isn’t for everyone, and statistics prove that. Even for those students who take career tech and decide to go to college, they still learn things that will help them throughout their lives."

Davis said it took several years of downsizing the program to create the dilemma, so it will take a while to build it back up.

"Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of support from organizations like Alfa and the Farmers Federation, plus a lot of support from the governor and the Legislature," Davis said. "Turning it around is a slow process."

For more about the ABC program, contact Davis at ddavis@alsde.edu or 334-242-9114.

Debra Davis is the Publications Director for the Alabama Farmers Federation.



The Great Social Debate

Ag and the Power of Social Media

by Michelle Bufkin

Some of the largest conversations concerning the farming industry lately have been occurring on social media sites. The only issue is that a majority of these conversations have been occurring without input from any agriculturalists. We as an industry need to focus more of our time and energy on educating and informing the public.

The easiest and most efficient way to do this is through utilizing social media.

Jeff Helms, director of the Department of Public Relations and Communications at Alabama Farmers Federation, stated, "Many consumers trust their Facebook friends or Twitter connections more than scientists when it comes to questions of food safety. Therefore, it is important for farmers to personally engage their customers through social media."

As crazy as it seems, people do trust Facebook or Twitter more than they trust scientists. This could be our, as an industry’s, fault because it is more difficult to find scientific evidence than it is to just read what your friends post and believe it. So to combat this issue, we need to become more involved where the people are; we need to provide them with easy access to the truth about agriculture, and the best way to accomplish this is to make your presence known on social media.

There are around 1.3 billion users on Facebook and 255 million users on Twitter. That is 1.5 billion potential readers of articles, statuses and truths about agriculture. All you have to do is join, or if you are already a member start posting.

Will Gilmer, who has been using social media sites since 2009, describes how quickly things can spread over social media.

"I posted a picture of a cow grazing with a sunrise behind her, and it was shared 44 times, and liked over 100 times. James Spann shared that same picture and it had over 1,000 likes and shared 61 more times."

That means 105 people shared that picture to their, on average, 150 friends. This means that in one day’s time a possible mind-blowing 15,570 people saw a glimpse into the life of a farmer, just because Gilmer took the 20 seconds to post a single picture.

Joining or becoming active in social media can be intimidating for some farmers. Just be prepared going in and concentrate on what you can realistically accomplish via social media. Do not expect to have 100 friends or followers the first day you start your account, or when you decide to become an active member.

Gilmer’s advice is, "For people in agriculture just getting started, begin by connecting with people you already know, and it will grow from there. People who know you are more likely to share your information."

I have found this is the truth. Once you start posting/tweeting things, especially if you keep posts relevant to agriculture, people will begin to follow and listen to you.

Social media is not only about educating the public about farming. It is also about cultivating relationships. Helms and Gilmer both strongly express that social media provides a transparency about farming that has not been possible before. People thousands of miles away can see what is happening at your farm seconds after it happens. Through social media you can provide the public with a virtual first-hand experience of the daily operations on your farm. This virtual experience can easily transform into a physical experience when you invite your friends and followers to see what you do on a daily basis; you might be surprised how many people will accept that invitation if given.

We can also show the public the truth about how we raise the livestock and grow the crops they eat.

Gilmer explained why this is important: "We used to think, that as long as we were growing food and people needed to eat food, we could do pretty much whatever we wanted, but now we have to do things in a way acceptable to the public we serve. By having these relationships over social media, we can learn how to continue to do the best job we can while at the same time getting everyone on the same page about agriculture."

The current population is curious about how their food is grown: whether GMO’s are healthy, whether chickens are happier free ranging or in a cage and whether grass or grain-finished beef is healthier, but most are so far removed from a farm they have no idea who to ask. They turn to what they can find on the Internet, from any source, including ones debasing agriculture.

"The first step in helping people understand production agriculture is to humanize the industry. It’s much more difficult to demonize a farming practice if you know the farmer whose family depends on it for their livelihood," Helms explained.

The more we use social media to tell people about agriculture, the more likely they are to listen, believe and support it.

Social media can be a great marketing tool for farms or their products. I know many cattle farmers who have Facebook pages to allow potential buyers the opportunity to see the cattle before a sale. The same is done for farms selling show calves, but you can use social media no matter what kind of farm you have. Social media can also be used to not only help you better connect with your customers but also to understand what they want.

"Because of social media I know more of what my customers are looking for, and what their expectations are," Gilmer said.

Social media is a much easier way to find out what customers expect and how to reach and exceed those expectations.

"To be successful in this arena, the interaction must be genuine, honest and transparent. In the agriculture community, we must be receptive to the concerns of our customers and be willing to admit there’s room for improvement within our industry. Openness is key in social media," Helms explained.

Once your customers share their concerns and expectations over social media, be prepared to continue serving the public with the knowledge gained.

Social media is becoming an important part of the world we live in, so, instead of fighting, our industry should embrace and use social media to our advantage. It can increase the revenue, the awareness and the possibilities for your farm. Social media is efficient because of the large amount of people using it, the relationships formed on it and because it easily provides marketing capabilities.

Michelle Bufkin is a freelance writer from Auburn.



The Roto Tiller Saga

by Baxter Black, DVM

It all started because Jo wanted a small lawn behind the house. Tom encouraged her. Tom’s friend offered to lend them his heavy-duty, magnum, HumVee-version of a tiller.

Jo borrowed my Dodge 2500 Ram diesel to pick it up in Sierra Vista, 30 miles away. I received the call at sundown.

"It won’t start."

"Try to jump it, the cables are in the tool bag."

It worked.

During the week, they manhandled the monster tiller around in the close-quartered backyard. Sometimes it took both of them to control the raging beast. It was Saturday morning when Jo heard the screaming! She raced out to find Tom pinned sideways against the wall! He had tried to till and turn in a small, three-sided, brick cul de sac and got stuck. Jo flailed at the machine that was attacking her man! He had somehow hooked the throttle on the handlebar with the OFF switch under his overall strap! Jo tried to push it and it reared up and growled! The spinning rotary blades jumped back, bit into the earth and slammed Tom against the wall and was climbing up his bib!

Jo jerked the spark plug wire off! The dead machine crashed to a halt. It sat there ticking, like Stephen King’s 1958 Plymouth Fury in the movie "Christine."

To return the killer tiller, Jo borrowed my ’76 GMC.

"Should I put gas in it?" she asked.

I said, "It should have half a tank … but the gas gauge is broken."

They drove the malevolent tiller back to the lender and started home. They passed two gas stations.

"Shouldn’t we top off the gas?" asked Tom.

"No," said Jo, "Baxter said it was half full."

Ten minutes later, Jo was on the phone to her son asking him to meet her on Hwy 90, alongside the road with a can of gas. He did. It was getting darker. Tom was feeling like the can in "Kick the can." Four miles later, they saw the lights of the Circle K.

"Halleluiah," sighed Tom.

That was just before he saw the red lights flashing in the rearview mirror … "Oh, no."

The officer pulled them over because of no taillights.

"Could it get any worse?"

Eveready Tom found a piece of wire in the pickup bed and attempted to hotwire the fuse. Jo saw the sparks and heard the sizzle. Tom raised his smoking index finger which smelled like burning hair.

Tom started to cry (no, he didn’t, but it sounds good). The sympathetic officer allowed them to drive home with their emergency lights on. Tom got a mile down the road. He took a deep breath.

"Well, we got lucky. At least he didn’t see that the license plate expired 10 months ago."

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



You Might Own Goats or Sheep If ....

Results from 2014 ACES Small Ruminant Producer Sampling Survey

by Robert Spencer

The goal of this survey was to develop a better understanding of our Alabama clientele and their farm situation. Our expectations were that such feedback would give us some guidance to better help our clientele and improve our outreach initiatives for the future. This survey was sent to 476 clients (351 via USPS and 125 by email) based on a cumulative mailing list. Each recipient was assigned a unique code to keep them anonymous and, as a survey was returned with that code, to prevent repetitive mailings. Funding for postage was provided by Sheep and Goat Check-off Funds, managed by the Meat Goat & Sheep Commodity of Alabama Farmers Federation.

Return rates were as follows:
- Total of 12 percent of the surveys were completed.
- While the number of returns and percentages were lower than anticipated, they do fall within norms of 1-20 percent.
- The return results of this survey are considered a sampling of our clientele.

* A few areas where numbers and not percentages are used.
** You will see my comments posted at the end of the question in parenthesis.

SECTION I: CURRENT STATUS/DEMOGRAPHICS

Do you currently farm?

Yes – 96%

No – 4%

Do you own or rent the land you farm?

Own – 96%

Rent – 4%

Check the box relevant to your gender.

Female – 20%

Male – 71%

(This did not surprise me.)

Check the category that best matches your age:

less than 21 – 0%

22-30 – 5%

31-40 – 12%

41-50 – 8%

51-60 – 31%

61-70 – 24%

71+ – 19%

(Clear majority in 51-70 age groups.)

What is your primary source of income?

Off-farm job – 52%

Farm sales – 5%

Retirement funds – 34%

Other – 7%

(Found this very interesting.)

How many acres do you actively farm? Please round up where appropriate.

1-10 – 32%

11-25 – 27%

26-50 – 13%

51-100 – 20%

101-200 – 2%

More than 200 acres – 5%

(This is interesting when you consider 59% farm 25 acres and less, very few bigger farms.)

Other than you, how many people actively help with farm responsibilities on a regular basis?

1 – 60%

2 – 22%

3 – 8%

4 – 6%

5 – 2%

5+ – 2%

(I assume this indicates spouse or child helping on farm.)

Do you pay for help on your farm during the course of the year?

Yes – 28%

No – 71%

(Amounts paid ranged from several hundred to $3,000, not very many shared $ amounts.)

Do you have goats, sheep or both? Feel free to mark more than one – such as meat & dairy.

Majority were meat goats, a few dairy

Most of sheep responses were hair type, few wool

Do you have poultry on your farm? If yes, what type? Mark all that are appropriate:

26* had chickens, very few with ducks, geese, etc.

What other forms of livestock do you have on your farm?

Beef cattle, few dairy – 16*

Pigs – 1

Rabbits – 6

Of the goats & sheep on your farm, what are their primary purposes?

Meat – 55%

Dairy – 13%

Breeding stock – 25%

Pets – few

Of the goats & sheep you sell, what are your primary outlets?

Directly off the farm – most prevalent, w/ varying numbers (3-30)

Sale barns – most common w/varying numbers (3-40)

(Would have expected the opposite.)

What time of the year do you sell the majority of your goats and/or sheep?

Spring (Mar.-May) – 30%

Summer (Jun-Aug.) – 30%

Fall (Sept.-Nov.) – 25%

Winter (Dec.-Feb.) – 32%

(This really surprised me as I expected one or two seasons to be dominant.)

How many years have you been raising goats and/or sheep?

1-5 yrs. – 42%

6-10 yrs. – 28%

11-15 yrs. – 10%

16-20 yrs. – 6%

More than 20 yrs. – 13%

(This is significant when you consider 70% have been farming 10 years or less!)

On average, approximately how many hours per week do you work on your farm?

10 or less – 24%

11-20 hours – 44%

21-30 hours – 7%

31-40 hours – 11%

More than 40 hours – 13%

(Over 68% of respondents work 20 hours or less.)

Do you consider yourself a part-time farmer or full-time farmer?

Part-time – 76%

Full-time – 23%

(A lot of part-time farmers.)

Do you work primarily off-farm or on-farm, or retired?

Off-farm – 47%

On-farm – 22%

Retired – 35%

(This confirmed what I suspected.)

Do you currently have a working relationship with a veterinarian?

Yes – 60%

No – 39%

(Was glad to see this, hope it increases with time.)

Do you consider your farm operation profitable; in other words, do revenues from goats and sheep sales and value-added products exceed operating expenses and inputs?

Yes – 15%

No – 48%

Breakeven – 37%

(Breakeven percentage was higher than I expected, yes about what I expected.)

What type of farm records do you keep?

Financial (expenses & revenues) – 68%

Reproduction (breeding) – 41%

Production (kidding/lambing) – 51%

Health (illness and treatment) – 35%

Parasites (fecal-egg counts & FAMACHA scores) – 22%

Body-condition scores – 4%

(I would expect a high percentage for financial, that can be used to evaluate farm management and for tax purposes.)

What are your top three primary sources of information?

Extension/university meetings – 59%

Internet – 50%

Magazines & books – 38%

Organization/registry meetings – 16%

Newsletters – 34%

Producer meetings – 27%

SECTION III: AREAS OF INTEREST

Which formats of the events and information sponsored by Extension do you prefer?

Workshops – 61%

Seminars – 39%

Field days – 63%

Forums – 13%

Newsletters – 63%

Which of the time frames do you prefer to attend educational programs?

Weekdays – 25%

Weeknights – 27%

Saturdays – 61%

The overall feedback provided a much better understanding of our clientele and future program areas to address. I hope you found this as interesting as I did. I thank those who completed the surveys.

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



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