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July 2016

4-H Extension Corner: Want to Build a Robot? These 4-H’ers are learning how!

Lauderdale County 4-H Robotics Club is engaging with technology and fun.

by Janet Lovelady

For nearly 10 years, youth in Lauderdale County have enjoyed the challenge of building and programming Lego robots. The fun started with the Lego RCX units, and has evolved to include the Lego Mindstorm robots and the newest Lego EV3 robots.

The Robotics Club members proudly present the robots they will take to the NW Alabama STEM Challenge.

Hattin Berryman, a sixth-grader at Waterloo School, has been in the club for three years.

"4-H came to my school and I learned about the robotics club," Berryman recalled. "Since I had gotten a Lego Mindstorm set for Christmas, I knew I wanted to join to learn more."

In the club, which meets once a month, youth work in groups of four to six building a robot to meet a certain task or challenge. Examples include a parallel-parking course, an obstacle course, a rattlesnake robot and a drag race car. Once the robot is complete, the team begins to program the robot’s brain to do what they want it to do. While the Lego Mindstorm robots can be programmed directly on the robot brain, the Lauderdale 4-H Club members use a laptop and the Mindstorm software to program the functions. This process takes a lot of patience, and a lot of trial and error!

"In robotics club, I have learned more about the Mindstorm sets and about working with robotic teams," Berryman said.

Each year, as the club’s community service project, the members volunteer at the Northwest Alabama Boosting Engineering, Science &Technology Robotics Competition. They serve in hospitality, providing judges and help with snacks and drinks throughout the day. This event also gives the 4-H youth an opportunity to see different student-built robots in action. Many of the 4-H members go on to join their school’s robotics team when they reach the seventh grade.

"Our Robotics Club is a training ground for our schools’ BEST Robotics teams," jokingly said Janet Lovelady, 4-H Foundation regional Extension agent. "But I don’t mind at all. I’m proud to see Lauderdale 4-H’ers competing in BEST."

Lovelady tries to provide a competition for the 4-H’ers as well. Whether it’s at county roundup or at a regional event in northwest Alabama, the youth have the opportunity to show what they’ve learned with their robots.

This year, a regional event was sponsored by Lockheed Martin Corp. and held in Limestone County. Six counties participated in the STEM event that included a robotics competition, a Junk Drawer Robotics activity, a rocketry learning station and a GIS adventure.

Many of the Robotics Club members are very well-rounded 4-Hers! Berryman also participates in Chick Chain and Shooting Sports.

When asked if he would recommend 4-H to others, he replied, "Yes, you will learn a lot about yourself, meet new friends and have a lot of fun doing it!"

Janet Lovelady is a 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent in Lauderdale County.

A Favor

by Baxter Black, DVM

Have you ever had a simple gesture of kindness end up unappreciated?

James and Kevin had just chased a steer to the end of the arena in a fruitless attempt to head and heel the crafty critter. James had lost his hat during the run so Kevin stopped to pick it up for his heeler. He hung his loop and coils over the horn and swang off … well, not quite off. As his right boot cleared the cantle, it hooked the loop.

As in a lot of near-death experiences, Kevin remembered very distinctly seeing the rope around his ankle as he neared the ground. He kicked, meaning to shed the snare, but, instead, he stuck his toe into Buck’s flank!

In that split second, he thought to himself, "It’s a good thing I’m on ol’ Buck. A less seasoned horse would spook."

Buck, of course, was thinkin’, "Whoa! What was that!"

He spooked and was goin’ flat out in three jumps!

Down the arena they went! Kevin did a couple of half gainers and managed to put a nice figger eight between his boot and the saddle horn!

He sat like a man on a sled tryin’ to pry the loop off his foot as he bounced along on his pockets, feet in the air, hands on the rope, leaving a trail through the arena dirt like someone draggin’ a sack of watermelons down a sand dune!

Ten feet behind the flashing hooves, Kevin peered through the flying dirt. They were fast approaching the awe-struck ropers at the chute end of the arena.

In desperation, Kevin laid flat on his back and kicked the captured boot! The loop came loose and his heels bit into the dirt in full flight! They stuck and he stood straight up like Wiley Coyote runnin’ into a canyon wall! With a dramatic flair, he tipped his hat.

James rode by the rigid, unrecognizable figure covered with dirt from hair to his spurs.

"Nice ride," he commented. "Least you could have done was pick up my hat."

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

A Watchful Eye

A small rubber cord works to secure most cameras to a tree or post and is faster and easier than most belts that come with the camera.

Trail Camera Tips and Tricks

by Todd Amenrud

Early trail camera models from the 1980s were slow and flash models. The trigger devices were not reliable, picture quality was often poor and you had to wait to develop your 35 mm film to find out what happened. I can’t tell you how many rolls of images of nothing I developed.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," as they say. Most technologies have a breakthrough that suddenly makes the technology more user-friendly. That innovation with trail cameras was digital photography. Suddenly film cameras limited to 36 shots were replaced by digital cameras capable taking hundreds of shots. There were no more trips to the film processor and trail camera enthusiasts were able to instantly view their pictures on the camera or a computer.

Infrared flash was another big step forward, and now we also have HD video, time-lapse and wireless connections so you can view images seconds after they are captured. Trail cameras today come in all shapes and sizes. They range from very complicated and expensive to very basic and affordable.

Digital trail cameras offer the choice of shooting still photos or video clips. Different settings for sensitivity, multi-shot and video length allow shots to be captured in a variety of situations. I especially like the video setting when monitoring a scrape. It’s fascinating to see up close the ritual bucks go through when freshening a scrape.

Test for Success

Trail cameras come with specifications suggesting their performances such as flash-range distance, trigger speed, etc. Most of them are fairly accurate, but I still like to test a new camera. It really helps to understand under what conditions it will be best used.

Mount the camera in your yard and starting at the camera walk directly away from it marking off every 10 feet until you’ve reached 50-60 feet. Then turn the camera on and walk off to one side. Walking at a normal pace, pass through the trigger area at each marker, giving the camera the appropriate recovery time after each shot. Then repeat the test, walking at quicker speeds, until you’re moving at a trot … if you have kids, let them do the running.

Pull the card and check the images. One of the shots will be focused better than the others; this distance is the camera’s standard focal length, something to keep in mind when you set the camera in the field. If the camera was able to capture you at fast speeds, this model is good to use on field edges, funnels or trails where you’ll encounter walking deer. If the trigger is slow, the camera is best used on scrapes, feeding sites or mineral licks where it will have no problem capturing standing deer.

You may want to repeat the same test at night to see a real-world look at the camera’s flash range, nighttime focal point and speed. The night test will also give you an idea of how bright the camera’s infrared sensors are. These tests reveal which models work best under which conditions.

Choose Your Spot Wisely

One of the best places to capture deer photos with a trail camera is a feeder, but other good places are scrapes, trail intersections, fence crossings, a hot oak tree dropping acorns, mineral licks and food plots.

Trigger speed is not a big issue at most food sources. Animals spend time there and should trigger the camera often. Center the food source in the camera’s field of view. The optimal effective range of most cameras is about 20 feet. The best height to set the camera depends upon a number of factors such as direction of the sun; if there are squirrels, raccoons or other small animals you don’t want to trigger the camera; whether you have trespassers who might like a new camera if they can reach it; or how the camera will be hung (i.e. small or large tree, fencepost, commercial tripod, etc.).

In most instances, it’s best to point the camera south, away from the sun. This helps eliminate sun spots or glare during daylight.

Remove any brush, grass or limbs that can move with the wind and trigger the camera. These objects would most often distract from the photo anyhow, so take the time to eradicate them.

Setting up on a trail or crossing requires different settings and positioning for the camera. Animals passing quickly challenge the camera to activate and trigger before the subject is out of the field of view. This often results in empty frames. To correct this problem, try pointing the camera at a 45 degree angle to the trail or crossing. This keeps the animal in the field of view longer and should result in less blank frames or shots with only half an animal.

Play it Safe

It pays to be careful and sometimes sneaky when setting cameras. I don’t like to set the camera too close to a scrape, mineral site or any spot a whitetail may focus. One of my favorite tricks when setting a camera at such a location is to mount the camera 5-6 feet high on the tree, but leave some slack in the strap. Then jam a stick behind the camera to angle it down on the site. Whitetails don’t see the high-mounted camera as well, and if they see light from a flash or infrared sensor, it doesn’t seem to bother them as much as if a blast goes off a few feet away right at nose-level.

Choose a camera with a quiet shutter. If you get lots of photos of the animal looking right at your camera, you probably have a loud shutter. The quieter your camera functions, the better.

It cannot happen at every site, but I like to position cameras so I can drive right up to them and change cards from my ATV. An ATV is so much less intrusive than a human on foot. In addition to that, I leave virtually no human scent at the site.

When hanging the camera, if possible, I like to replace the original mounting strap with a small bungee-cord with hooks on both ends. Some of the camera manufacturers provide straps that could double for the seat belt in your vehicle. Now you have to bear-hug the tree and try to fling the seat belt around the tree. The small rubber cords are much faster and easier.

Finally, minimize the impact of camera setups by checking cards as little as possible. New SD cards can hold thousands of images, so there’s no need to swap cards or pull cameras more than once a week unless you need most recent information. Time your visits for midday. Set up a route where you check all your cameras on the same day, at the same time and from the same direction. Some feel this regularity conditions deer to their presence so, even if a buck hears or sees them coming, he won’t be alarmed because the cam-checking matches the normal activity on the property.

Trail camera pictures and videos offer insight into what is truly on your property. They may inspire you to hold out for a specific buck and give you valuable data to help make management decisions from one year to the next. And, truth be told, trail cameras are a fun hobby on their own.

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

Acronyms We Must Know

by Stephen Donaldson

Time is marching on to the day when we as cattle producers won’t be able to run to our local Quality Co-op store and buy feeds containing antibiotics or antibiotic premixes to treat our sick livestock. We won’t be able, at our leisure, to buy those water-soluble antibiotics that have been a salvation to our operations. All of this has fallen upon us because of the first acronym of VFD. VFD stands for a new act by Congress named the Veterinary Feed Directive.

VFD authorizes the Food and Drug Administration or FDA (second acronym) to ensure the judicious use of medically important antibiotics. By ensure I mean the FDA has authority to regulate and enforce the contents of the new act. Unless you are a livestock producer who has been living in a cave with no communication, you have read or heard about these new regulations. These new regulations will most certainly affect the way we manage our livestock systems.

As for the drop-dead date of the new regulations, it is Jan. 1, 2017. Now, don’t think you can beat the system for a while and stockpile a bunch of feed-grade antibiotics. You can stockpile them, but, Jan. 1, you must have a VFD to legally feed those antibiotics – even if they were bought before Jan. 1, 2017. To obtain this VFD, you must have a proper VCPR (very important acronym). VCPR stands for veterinary/client/patient relationship.

The reason a VCPR is so important is that if you and a veterinarian can’t define that you have this relationship then that veterinarian can’t issue you a VFD to allow you to buy feed-grade antibiotics or medicated feed to use in your operation. Most cattlemen don’t share this relationship with a veterinarian. While many livestock producers use a veterinarian in emergencies or dire situations, this doesn’t qualify as a VCPR.

The VCPR in Alabama is defined in the Veterinary Practice Act. It states that this relationship exists when a veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making medical judgements regarding the health of the animal or animals and the need for medical treatment and is created by actual examination by the veterinarian of the animal or a representative segment of a consignment or herd. The FDA also suggests this veterinarian should have working knowledge of the operation that should be evidenced by multiple farm visits each year.

I would bet that most livestock operations in Alabama don’t share this type of relationship with a veterinarian. It has been my experience that there just aren’t enough large animal practitioners for our livestock operations to have this close a relationship. However, prior to the implementation, I strongly suggest you seek out and find a veterinarian who can work for you in this capacity.

Most livestock producers are reactionary people and don’t seek help until it is surely needed. If you don’t have a VCPR with a veterinarian before the time that one is desperately needed, it may be difficult to find one willing to write a VFD to treat your sick animal(s). After all, the veterinarian is the responsible party in this situation. If the vet doesn’t feel comfortable with your management, chances are the VFD will not be written. The veterinarian’s license and livelihood are on the line. Therefore, it is imperative you and a veterinarian develop a professional relationship to allow each of you to feel comfortable when a VFD is needed.

The reach and ramifications of this new law are going to catch many of us by surprise and operations will be hurt because managers forgot to practice the six P’s (Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance). In this case, our planning can help prevent animal mortality and morbidity, and ensure we produce healthy animals within the bounds of the law for a profit.

So, as we move ever closer to the implementation of this law, we must realize the responsibility to properly use feed-grade antibiotics in our livestock operation falls squarely on the shoulders of the producers. It is imperative that producers take all possible steps to be prepared for this new regulation. Don’t be that producer who is poorly prepared so it costs your operation animals and money. Remember, you still have these antibiotics at your disposal, but you must follow new regulations to use them.

As time goes by, we will look at other bottlenecks related to the VFD.

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

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

United States resumes beef, other meat shipments to South Africa

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently confirmed the first shipment of U.S. beef had arrived in South Africa following the reopening of that market earlier this year.

Early in January, after more than two years of intense discussions, the United States and the Republic of South Africa concluded an agreement on sanitary barriers and related health certificates for U.S. beef, pork and poultry products exported to South Africa. The South African market had previously been closed to U.S. poultry since 2000, beef since 2003 and pork since 2013. With the removal of the barriers, U.S. exports of meat to South Africa could reach $75 million annually.

The United States began shipping poultry to South Africa earlier this year under the terms of the agreement. As a result, U.S. poultry exports to South Africa totaled almost 12,000 metric tons, worth $7.2 million, in the first quarter of 2016.

China’s status as leading soybean importer likely to continue

China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans and experts predict that’s not likely to change.

The country’s dominance as an importer reflects government policies favoring imports of soybeans over feed grains, coupled with dietary shifts toward more animal proteins that create a strong demand for soybean meal used for livestock feed rations.

In 1995, China adopted a policy of 95 percent self-sufficiency for grains; and, from 2008 to 2012, the country increased price supports for wheat, rice and corn at higher rates than those for soybeans. That action made soybean production less attractive to farmers and resulted in an 18 percent decline in domestic production while soybean imports jumped 50 percent.

China’s border policies also favor soybean imports. Import tariffs for soybeans are lower than those for soybean meal or oil, resulting in that nation’s oilseed-crushing industry becoming the largest in the world, supplied mainly with imported soybeans.

With China’s policies continuing to favor grain production over soybeans and its feed and livestock industries expected to continue growing, the country’s demand for imported soybeans is projected to remain strong over the next decade, increasing from 83 million tons in 2016/17 to 109.5 million tons in 2025/26.

Rural counties less synonymous with farming

Where farming was once almost synonymous with rural, non-metropolitan areas, the predominance of farming as an industry in rural areas of the United States is now largely confined to the Plains States, and only 6 percent of the rural population in 2015 lived in the 391 rural farming-dependent counties nationwide.

This finding comes from the USDA’s Economic Research Service whose typology codes are a classification system providing a tool to analyze and characterize the economic dependence of U.S. counties.

In contrast, although also declining in number, manufacturing predominated in the economies of a similar number of rural counties (351) concentrated mainly east of the Mississippi, but also including a scattering of counties farther west. These counties account for about 22 percent of the rural population.

The 183 rural mining dependent counties accounted for 7 percent of rural population in 2015, and were the only economic type among rural counties to see strong population growth (1.6 percent) in 2010-15.

Weed control practices change with increase in glyphosate resistance

For weed control, U.S. corn and soybean farmers rely on chemical herbicides, applied to an overwhelming majority of corn and soybean acres. But the types of herbicides used have changed as the number of glyphosate-resistant weeds has increased.

Over the last two decades, the greater use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in herbicide products such as Roundup) and decreased use of herbicide products containing other active ingredients has contributed to the development of over 14 glyphosate-resistant weed species in U.S. crop production areas.

Glyphosate resistance management practices include herbicide rotation, tillage, scouting for weeds and other forms of weed control. In some cases, USDA experts have found usage rates for RMPs have increased. In other cases, RMP use dropped; but then has been on the rise in more recent years as information about glyphosate-resistant weeds spread.

Global stocks of cotton anticipated to decline

Global ending stocks of cotton are forecast to decline in the 2015/16 marketing year (August-July), down about 9 percent from last year’s record of nearly 112 million bales.

Cotton stocks rose dramatically between 2010/11 and 2014/15 as relatively high prices encouraged world production and discouraged consumption. Despite this season’s anticipated decrease, ending stocks remain double those of 2010/11.

The recent global stocks buildup resulted from policies in China insulating Chinese cotton producers from declining world prices and, at the same time, encouraged imports. More recent policy shifts in China have discouraged production and imports in that country, beginning the process of reducing the surplus of government-held stocks.

In 2015/16, China’s stocks are anticipated to decrease for the first time since 2010/11. However, with stock reductions also anticipated in the rest of the world, China’s share of global stocks remains above 60 percent.

USDA offering portable storage, handling equipment loans

USDA now is providing a new financing option to help farmers purchase portable storage and handling equipment. The loans that include a smaller microloan option with lower down payments are designed to help producers, including new, small and mid-sized producers, grow their businesses and markets.

The program’s new microloan option allows applicants seeking less than $50,000 to qualify for a reduced down payment of 5 percent and no requirement to provide three years of production history. Farms and ranches of all sizes are eligible.

The microloan option is expected to be of particular benefit to smaller farms and ranches and specialty crop producers who may not have access to commercial storage or on-farm storage after harvest. These producers can invest in equipment such as conveyers, scales or refrigeration units and trucks that can store commodities before delivering them to markets.

Producers do not need to demonstrate the lack of commercial credit availability to apply.

To learn more about farm storage facility loans, visit or contact a local FSA county office.

Soybeans dominate cropland expansion in Argentina

Land planted to soybeans in Argentina grew from less than 5 million hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres) in 1992/93 (April-March) to 20 million hectares in 2015/16, while wheat and corn areas have seen little or no growth during this period.

Soybean meal is a major component of livestock feed, and the growing demand for meat and livestock products worldwide has supported increased soybean production and trade.

In Argentina, tax policies have played a role in soybean production as well. In 2002, the country imposed taxes on its agricultural exports as a way to generate government revenue. Argentina applies lower export taxes on soybean meal and oil than it does on raw soybeans, stimulating the construction of large oilseed crushing facilities and, consequently, leading to more soybean meal and oil exports.

In 2008, the Argentinian government increased export taxes and imposed a permitting system that further restricted exports of products such as corn, wheat and beef. Soybean products face less obstacles in export markets and abundant opportunities to expand planted area through double cropping and adjusting crop-pasture rotations on marginal lands in the northwest part of Argentina.

As a result, Argentina’s soybean area has expanded rapidly and is projected to reach over 22 million hectares by 2025/26.

Animal Management for Their Safety ... and Yours!

by Robert Spencer

Whether pets or livestock, all animals have the potential to hurt themselves or humans when in stressful situations. Stress comes in many forms for animals – unfamiliar surroundings, overheating, storm or fire, startling noises, bright lights and/or sudden movements. A startled or stressed animal is likely to behave irrationally and can run in any direction. If an animal of any size were to run at you, you could end up being seriously injured.

Teeth and Appendages

Most four-legged animals have teeth, claws or hooves with sharp edges. So if you have an encounter with a stressed, startled or aggressive animal, you could end up with serious cuts, slashes or bruises. Watch out for those teeth – dogs, cats and pigs have the ability to repeatedly bite or slash with their teeth, often requiring medical treatment, including stitches. Although ruminants (horses, goats, sheep and cows) do not have sharp teeth, they can cause crushing impacts. You would be surprised at the bruising or injuries you can suffer from an encounter with an angry or stressed animal.

This horse appears calm, but let something startle him and his 900-pound body and head can quickly swing in any direction!

Size Matters

The larger the animal the more significant the damage from being struck or rammed. When animals are startled or aggressive, they can bruise or seriously injure any child, adult or elderly person by simply swinging their head or charging. The impact can result in a person ending up on the ground, having the breath knocked out of them or requiring medical attention. A child is most easily injured and traumatized by an aggressive animal, sometimes with long-lasting negative consequences. The elderly have brittle bones and are unable to withstand bodily impact. Almost any livestock farmer can tell you about witnessing or experiencing a charging ruminant.

Tendencies to Injure Themselves

When an animal is placed in an unfamiliar location or stressful situation, they generally panic and tend to run away from the source of surprise. Most also have poor depth perception. If they go into panic mode, they may run into barn walls or fencing and can hit with such impact they risk serious injury or death if they were to break their neck.

Animals Can Sense Stress

Most animals can sense stressful situations and become nervous in anticipation of potential danger. In a tense situation, approach slowly and calmly. Any sudden movement, stalking or loud noises are sensed as precursors to danger.

Rules to Remember for Your and Your Animals’ Safety:

  1. Never approach an animal from behind. Most animals have panoramic view or the ability to see about as far back as their front shoulders. If you come at them from any further back than their panoramic view, you could easily startle them.
  2. Never make a sudden movement or loud noise in their direction. They become easily stressed and can bolt away or charge. Either way, they have total disregard for the safety of themselves, other animals or people. Only use flailing arms or loud noises as a last attempt to drive away a charging animal.
  3. Never startle a sleeping animal. If you are approaching a sleeping animal, always approach slowly, make a modest amount of sound so they hear you coming and always approach from their front.
  4. Be very cautious when approaching a female animal with newborns or young. They may be very aggressive to the point of intending to hurt you to protect their young. Female animals tend to be territorial and protective.
  5. Be very cautious when approaching an animal in the dark or with a bright light behind you. Most pets and livestock are colorblind so all they see is something dark to light gray coming at them. If they are unfamiliar with you, they may panic and take flight or go into attack mode.

When approaching any animal, take time to observe them and let them see you. While most encounters are not fatal, they can result in injury and trauma. You will find more information on the Internet or at your local library. Two books I recommend on livestock management are "Human Livestock Handling" and "Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach" by Temple Grandin, a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, world-renowned autism spokesperson and consultant on animal behavior.


Beam, T. "Working Safely With Livestock." The Ohio State University Extension, January 1992.
AEX-990-08. National Ag Safety Database. nasdonline. org/217/d000016/working-safely-with-livestock.html.

"Introduction to Livestock Safety."

"Proper Handling and Facilities Critical to Good Working Relationship."

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

Asthma: Surprising Treatment Options

by Nadine Johnson

Asthma is often an allergic disorder marked by difficulty in breathing and a cough." That is a quote from my dictionary.

I’ve never experienced this type of health problem personally. However, Richard, my husband, was an asthmatic from birth so I know it is a very stressful situation. After a traumatic delivery (that should have been by cesarean section birth, but this process was not done in 1927) during which he suffered injuries, his loving mother carried him around on the best eiderdown pillow she could buy. In later years, we learned he was allergic to feathers. All feathers were removed from our household.

Once I asked, "How did they accept you during World War II in the Navy since you are asthmatic?"

He answered simply, "I lied."

He served two years on an LST and didn’t have a single asthma attack. Of course, he was out at sea (with pure air) and sleeping on a cotton pillow – no feathers.

Today we have multiple tests for allergies, but in the 1920s and ’30s that was not an option.

Recently, the mother of an asthmatic child asked if I knew of anything that might help her. I quickly answered, "Get a Chihuahua dog."

During a very cold spell, Richard’s asthma was so severe that his pajama top could not be fastened across his chest. We purchased a Chihuahua dog. This dog, Susie, became his constant companion unless he was on the job. (I think the railroad would have objected to a dog on the diesel engine.) She slept with us. In the winter time, she slept under the cover between our feet. In the summertime, she slept on the pillow between our heads. If one of us had scolded her, she slept on the other side – away from the person who had scolded. Richard lived another 50 years and never had another severe asthma attack.

Susie was destined to have a very short life span. When she died, I cried and cried and cried.

I Googled "Chihuahua dog/asthma" and found confirmation that it is strongly believed these dogs aid in asthma control.

There is an herbal product called Enviro-detox. It contains sarsaparilla, milk thistle, red clover, dandelion, yellow dock, burdock, marshmallow, pepsin, fenugreek, ginger, echinacea and cascara sagrada. It is a detox for all the major eliminative systems – liver, lungs, kidneys, skin and intestines. This is often an asset for asthmatics.

Chihuahuas are not the only dogs beneficial for health situations. At a recent meeting I attended, the guest speaker happened to suffer from seizures. The gentleman’s wife was also present and holding a lovely little fuzzy dog (I wish I could tell you the breed). This dog has the ability to alert his master when he is going to have a seizure. There was no seizure on this occasion, but I was highly impressed with this dog’s abilities.

Consult with your physician before taking herbal products.

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

CHEF'S CORNER: Summertime Catfish Cuisine

by Brian Taylor


Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 20 Minutes
Servings: 4

4 (4-ounce) catfish fillets
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1½ Tablespoons mayonnaise
4 roma tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thin

Preheat broiler to 500°. Coat a broiling pan with nonstick cooking spray. Brush both sides of fillets with lemon juice, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place fillets flat side up on prepared pan.

In a small bowl, mix Parmesan cheese, butter and mayonnaise.

Broil fish about 4 inches from heat for 6 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and turn fillets over. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over each fillet. Top with tomato slices. Broil an additional 4-6 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.


Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 45 Minutes
Servings: 4

1 pound catfish fillets
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise or salad dressing
½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2½ cups buttery round crackers, coarsely crushed
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)

Place catfish in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until fish flakes easily with a fork. Drain water. Mash the fish. Stir in onion, mustard, mayonnaise/salad dressing, Old Bay, cracker crumbs and egg. Mix until evenly blended.

In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Form fish mixture into patties. Fry patties in hot oil. Turn to brown both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.


Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: 4

2 cups water
2 cubes beef bouillon
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (10-ounce) package frozen okra
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 pound catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

In a 3 quart pot, bring water to a boil. Dissolve bouillon cubes in boiling water.

In a medium skillet, heat vegetable oil. Cook celery, green pepper, onion and garlic until tender.

Add tomatoes, okra and cooked vegetables to boiling water. Season with salt, red pepper flakes, thyme, bay leaf and hot pepper sauce. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add catfish, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until catfish is flaky and tender.

Brian Taylor CEC, CCE is the corporate executive chef for SouthFresh Farms.

Chronic Wasting Disease: Is It Unavoidable?

Let’s look at the facts, and how Alabama is taking action.

by Chuck Sykes

During the March 26 Conservation Advisory Board Meeting, the board voted unanimously to amend the current regulation 220-2-.25 to ban the importation of certain body parts of hunter-harvested deer taken in states that have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in an attempt to further protect the valuable wildlife resources of Alabama.

CWD is a disease that affects members of the deer family much in the same way mad cow disease affects cattle. Alabama is being proactive in an attempt to preserve the hunting traditions we enjoy and prevent the transmission of CWD into our state. (Credit: Al Benn)

Each year since I have been in this position, it seems a new state falls into the category of CWD positive. Arkansas is the most recent victim. In addition, news releases are all too commonly informing the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources of people caught illegally transporting live deer across state lines. Georgia and Mississippi have both made huge cases in the last two years.

With all of the recent press surrounding CWD, I wanted to give Chris Cook, deer project leader, and Lieutenant Carter Hendrix, game breeder supervisor, an opportunity to share their thoughts with hunters about this issue and how it could potentially impact Alabama. Here are their accounts:

The rich outdoor tradition in our state brings those from outside to enjoy the activities that we, as Alabamians, sometimes take for granted. The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division’s task is management, with the goal of sustaining the resource for future generations.

Unfortunately, there are things that could affect the resource such as CWD.

CWD is a disease that affects members of the deer family much in the same way mad cow disease affects cattle. There is no cure. Once it is detected, there is no getting rid of the disease.

Some symptoms of CWD are the inability to walk or stand normally, loss of bodily functions, weight loss and poor body condition. Infected animals often stand near a water source and drink excessively.

Currently, 24 states and two Canadian provinces have been affected by CWD, but the number continues to climb. The latest state to be affected was Arkansas, with confirmed positive tests in February and March of 2016.

The economic impact of CWD is immense. In an attempt to locate the origin of the disease, states where CWD-positive tests occur must resort to sampling wild and farmed herds in the region where the initial CWD-positive animal was found. This sampling attempts to determine the extent and infection rate within the CWD-positive zone. In situations involving farmed deer, additional sampling also attempts to eradicate the source by depopulating the infected captive herds. In the first year after detection, Wisconsin spent upward of $2.5 million in control efforts from its wildlife management budget. Oklahoma spent in excess of $2.6 million. And Saskatchewan has spent approximately $30 million in attempts to eradicate the disease from commercial game farms.

The typical cost of a single test is $35 per sample. Adding the manpower and equipment costs for the personnel retrieving samples, the manpower involved in tracking farmed cervids that have been transported to and from the region and public notifications addressing the positive tests can quickly escalate the amount associated with dealing with a CWD-positive animal.

The financial impact resulting from the loss of hunters and hunting-related activities in the years after a CWD-positive test can also put a tremendous strain on already limited budgets. The detection of CWD can be financially devastating for state wildlife agencies.

Most states have taken measures to try to reduce the chances of CWD occurring in the wild. Alabama is being proactive in an attempt to preserve the hunting traditions we enjoy and prevent the transmission of CWD into our state.

In 1973, Alabama placed a ban on importation of live deer. No live members of the Family Cervidae that include any deer, elk and moose may cross the borders into Alabama. Pass-through permits for captive deer carry restrictions on the shipment, including refraining from transporting Cervidae species from areas where CWD has been diagnosed.

In Alabama, the diagnostic laboratories of the Department of Agriculture and Industries take samples and ship them to a USDA-approved laboratory for testing. Testing for CWD on hunter-harvested animals in Alabama began in 2001, with 90 animals being evaluated. In 2006, farmed cervids were added to the numbers being tested. Since then, the number of tests performed annually has ranged from 300 to almost 800. All animals have tested negative thus far. The plan is to continue sample testing.

Game breeders are licensed to breed, raise and sell deer for the purposes of propagation within enclosures in the state. Game breeders are held to standards of inventory recordkeeping and notification of transportation, deaths, releases and escapes. In 2012, it became illegal to release captive-raised deer into the wild in Alabama. Therefore, all captive-raised deer under a Game Breeder License must be sold only to enclosure owners or other game breeders.

A number of states utilize the USDA APHIS-maintained database as required by the CWD Monitoring Program Standards. The WFF Division decided to develop a proprietary secure online database for these records. This database is now in the final testing stages. Breeders have assisted in the evaluation of the database. It appears that it will be a success for documentation and disease traceability purposes.

In 2012, the WFF Division saw the need for predetermined steps and developed a CWD Response Plan outlining actions in response to a CWD-positive animal being found in Alabama.

The WFF Division wants to greatly reduce the possibility of CWD occurring in Alabama. However, the trend of states having positive tests certainly makes it appear unavoidable. On your behalf, the Division is taking steps and making preparations for either scenario.

If you see a deer that appears to be showing symptoms of CWD or a vehicle that appears to be transporting deer or elk along Alabama highways, please contact the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries at 1-800-272-GAME. To learn more about chronic wasting disease or to see our CWD Response Plan, visit

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

Corn Time


Cradle Bale Feeder Galvanized

by John Sims

Round bales of hay offer a convenience to farmers and ranchers in providing a greater amount of hay at one time to their stock. However, there is a loss of hay from the bales being placed on the ground.

The Tarter Cradle Bale Feeder is 78 ½-inches wide, 84 ½-inches long and 45-inches wide. It weighs 150 pounds and is made of 1 ¾-inch round tubing for extra strength. It also offers these advantages:

  • Keeps a round bale of hay off the ground to minimize waste.
  • Has a removable gate on one end for easy loading.
  • Has skids for ease of movement.
  • Galvanized finish with clear coating to provide protection against white rust.

Tarter offers many different types of farm and ranch equipment to help make your work easier.

Talk to your local Quality Co-op about Tarter feeders and other equipment they have available.

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

Drum-ing Up Some Delicious Meals

Don’t miss a beat with these black drum recipes.

by Christy Kirk

This past spring, my son Cason went on his first boys’ road trip with his daddy Jason and his great-grandfather Pawpaw Willie. The three of them traveled to visit some friends who are crab fishermen in Cedar Key, Florida. The McGhee family harvested stone crab until the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now they catch blue crab and sell their wild-caught crustaceans in markets regionally.

Jason and Cason Kirk caught this black drum while fishing in Cedar Key, Florida.

While the Kirks were in Cedar Key, Cason had the opportunity to see firsthand how cages are used to trap and harvest blue crabs. They also fished in the bay and channels and caught a few black drums. These fish are usually found in the Gulf waters of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas; however, they are also in freshwater or brackish waters such as bays, lagoons and river mouths. That means finding a good location for black drum fishing doesn’t always require deep-sea fishing gear or an ocean-worthy fishing boat.

Black drum can be fished year-round, but knowing their seasonal patterns can be helpful in making plans for a black drum fishing trip. In the spring, fall and winter, the fish can be found in shallow waters. As the water warms closer to summer, black drum will sometimes stay in the channels leading to the Gulf. As temperatures rise during the summer, black drum seek deeper, cooler water and can usually be found around bridge or pier posts in the Gulf.

The seasons also dictate the typical size of the fish caught. Smaller black drums, also called puppy drums, are 10 pounds or less. Puppy drums are considered better eating than the larger ones. Black drum this size are mostly caught in the fall and winter.

No matter what season you fish or your location, keep in mind that black drum fish are similar to catfish because they usually stay at the bottom of the water. Like catfish, they also have whiskers. The black drum’s chin whiskers are used to help them find food as they swim along looking for their next meal of blue crab, shrimp, clams or mussels. Black drum can also be found in some of the same locations as catfish. Cason’s Pawpaw Willie caught a large sail catfish in the same channel where they caught the black drum.

Some people will always prefer the black drum’s popular cousin, the red drum or redfish, but over time the black has gained popularity mostly because of recipes using Cajun or Creole seasoning. When it comes to cooking black drum for yourself, you can keep it simple or go sophisticated, and finding your favorite recipe may take as much patience as finding your favorite fishing spot. Whether you are on a road trip with your family or home alone, experimentation with seasoning and methods can pay off at your next meal.

For tips on black drum fishing, visit:


4 large black drum fillets (about 1 pound), rinsed and patted dry
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided plus a little more for sprinkling after grilling
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
½ cup olive oil, divided
1-2 lemons, cut into wedges

Place fillets on a wire baking rack in a dish or on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

Season fish with half the salt and pepper. Drizzle half the olive oil over the fish. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, make sure oil is all over the top of each fish. Flip fish over on the rack and repeat with remaining salt, pepper and oil. Allow the fish to marinate while you heat the grill.

With your grill at a low temperature, place the fish on the grill and let it cook with the lid closed for 7-10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Do not turn the fish, but check it at 7 minutes. The fish should be white and flaky. Use a metal spatula to remove it from the grill. Sprinkle with the additional salt and lemon juice. Serve with lemon slices.


4 large black drum fillets (about 1 pound), rinsed and patted dry
Olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
Lemons, cut into wedges, divided
Seasoning such as Chef Paul’s Seafood Magic or Creole seasoning

Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high. In skillet, put olive oil and butter. Coat fish with lemon juice and seasonings. Add fish fillets to skillet and cook 5 minutes; then flip and cook 5 more minutes. Cook 2-5 minutes longer depending on the thickness of the fish. Squeeze more lemon juice on fish if desired.


4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ red onion, minced, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Thyme, to taste
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
2 black drum fillets, rinsed and patted dry

In a small pot, heat half the olive oil on medium. Add onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until onions soften. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, thyme and sugar; season again with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 18-20 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside as you cook the fish.

Season both sides of fish fillets with salt and pepper. In a medium pan, heat remaining olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add fillets and cook 2-4 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden. Drain cooked fish on a plate lined with paper towels. Top fillets with tomato sauce and serve.


3 pounds black drum fillets, rinsed and patted dry
About 4 Tablespoons garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
2 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 Tablespoons onions, minced
2 Tablespoons green peppers, minced
2 Tablespoons parsley, minced
12 ounces beer
Aluminum foil (to fit grill), oiled

Sprinkle both sides of fillets with garlic and pepper, pressing them into the fillets. In small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning, garlic, onion, green pepper and parsley. Sauté until onion is translucent and sauce darkens and thickens slightly. Add remaining Worcestershire sauce. Simmer 15 minutes on medium-high heat. Place aluminum foil with sides turned up over grill grates. Place fillets on foil. Cook over low-medium heat for 20 minutes, raising lid only to baste generously with the sauce. It is done when the thickest part of fillet flakes easily.


4 black drum fillets, rinsed and patted dry
Salt, pepper and paprika, to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Season both sides of fish with salt, pepper and paprika. Roll in flour. In skillet on medium to medium high heat, add olive oil. Add fillets and pan-fry for 5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels before serving.

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

Getting Hitched at the Co-op

by Cory Key, reprinted with permission from Jackson News

On Friday, May 6, as customers made their way through the aisles of the Calhoun Farmers Co-op, a branch of Cherokee Farmers Co-op, in Jacksonville, "I dos" and wedding vows could be heard being exchanged in the feed and seed warehouse. Kellie Veal, a cashier at the Jacksonville store, and her husband-to-be, Keith Brooks, were getting married. The ceremony was performed by another Jacksonville Co-op employee and minister of 47 years, Ted Anderson.

At first, it seemed as though wedding plans would be delayed, as area courthouses no longer issued marriage licenses and schedules were conflicting. However, as these doors closed, the stars aligned. In spite of these circumstances, or perhaps because of them, the first Co-op wedding ceremony was born. With ample room, a convenient location and even a minister on the clock, it seemed the Co-op was going to be the perfect place for their wedding ceremony.

As Brother Ted pointed out prior to the ceremony, love isn’t a location or a piece of paper, it’s a posture of the heart. Whether held in a church, the sandy beaches of the coast or a dusty old warehouse, love exists, not in a physical location but in our words and actions toward one another.


Got Fresh Fruits and Veggies?

Be sure to follow these safe handling tips for your raw produce.

by Angela Treadaway

Local farmers markets have popped up all over the place and most grocery stores have an abundant supply of produce that more and more are beginning to buy locally as well. This is great because now more than ever we all are encouraged to eat a wider variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, and the fresher the better. Whether you buy local from the farmers market or from the grocery store, you will want to take some steps to prevent some of the harmful bacteria produce may carry from the soil and water where they were grown, where they have been stored after harvest, and that can be picked up from improper storage or handling before consuming. Several foodborne illness outbreaks have occurred the last several years linked to produce, so the following are some ways of helping to prevent a possible foodborne illness.

First: Buy Right

You can help keep produce safe by making wise buying decisions.

  • Choose produce that is not bruised or damaged.
  • When buying pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce – such as half a watermelon or bagged salad greens – choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
  • Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from raw meat, poultry and seafood when packing them to take home from the market.

Second: Store Properly

Proper storage of fresh produce can affect both quality and safety.

  • Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, fresh corn, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check!
  • Produce such as apples, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, pears, peaches and onions will change taste when refrigerated.
  • Refrigerate all produce purchased precut or packaged.

Third: Separate for Safety

Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood – and from kitchen utensils used to prepare those products.

  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with soap and hot water between preparing raw meat, poultry or seafood and preparing produce that will not be cooked.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • If you use plastic or other nonporous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after use.

Fourth: Prepare Safely

When preparing any fresh produce, begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.

  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Throw away any rotten produce.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating, including produce grown at home or bought from a grocery store or farmers market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or commercial produce wash is not recommended.
  • Even if you do not plan to eat the skin, it is still important to wash produce first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce.
  • Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush.
  • After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.

What About Pre-washed Produce?

Always refrigerate prewashed bagged produce.

Many pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce items are pre-washed and ready-to-eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging, and you can use the produce without further washing.

If you choose to wash produce marked as prewashed or ready-to-eat, be sure it does not come in contact with unclean surfaces or utensils. This will help to avoid cross contamination.

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.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Flowers by the Gallons

Find yourself needing to catch up in the garden? Well, you can still add some color to containers and flowerbeds with plants purchased in gallon or larger pot sizes. The garden industry is responding to demand for quick results by growing plants in increasingly large containers. Years ago, you might have only found a bedding plant such as a zinnia in packs or 4-inch pots for transplanting, but today much bigger plants are sold already in full bloom. Once transplanted, these look like they’ve been in place for a while. Look for big pots (or hanging baskets) of color at your favorite garden center if you’re in a pinch for a party or special occasion this month.

Mosquito Spraying

Concerns about Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases are encouraging homeowners to keep bees in mind when approaching mosquito control. Any spraying or fogging of the landscape should be done in the evening or at night, never during the day when bees are active. Be aware of this when using a mosquito-control service. Also, keep abreast of what products are being used to ensure they are as bee-friendly as possible.

Sunpatiens are the first impatiens that actually need sun.


We have learned that impatiens are flowers for the shade. Then we learned about New Guinea impatiens that can tolerate a little more sun, especially with plenty of water. Now there are Sunpatiens, the first impatiens that actually need sun. A cross between New Guinea and another undisclosed impatiens, this patented plant blooms prolifically all summer with at least a half day of sunshine. There are several colors and plant forms from 4 feet tall to low and spreading. While still needing a good bit of water, they are easier to grow than New Guineas, which are more persnickety about just the right ratio of sun and shade. If you like impatiens, these are for sure worth a try!


Wax myrtle is a great native evergreen shrub for screening.

Summer cookouts and patio time can make obvious the need for a privacy screen. If you look at Pinterest or Google images for privacy screens, you will find many options made of wood, but what about a green screen of foliage? If you have the space, evergreen shrubs can also double as shelter for songbirds. In areas where city noise is a constant, anything you can do to encourage songbirds is a nice respite from the background hum of traffic. What are some good, not-too-huge evergreens? How about wax myrtle, camellia, Emerald arborvitae or pencil boxwood? Measure your space and choose a plant that will not grow taller or wider than the space can accommodate so as not to create a new pruning task for yourself. The right plant in the right place makes for a good space.

Bush Beans

There is still time to get a second crop of bush beans by planting seeds now through August. Just be sure to keep them watered and watch for Mexican bean beetles that can strip the leaves. After the seeds sprout, keep the planting mulched to help them in the hot weather.

Renew Knock Out Roses

You can do some shaping and pruning to Knock Out roses now to encourage a great look for fall. You can start by trimming shoots that have become much longer than others. Or, if needed, tip-prune the branches by just a few inches to maintain a uniform height and encourage new growth and flowers for fall. Of course, also cut away dead, diseased or damaged stems by cutting them entirely from the plant, making the cut all the way back to the base where they originate. Give your plants a little rose food and water during dry weather. Plants that are getting enough sun and are strong and healthy will keep blooming into the fall.

Bargain Shopping

If you need some big ornamental containers for a special place on your patio or in the garden, July may be an economical month for adding them. Watch for clearance sales at garden centers at this time of year as they start making room for fall inventory. Good quality weatherproof containers made of concrete, fiberglass and double-walled plastic, or hard-fired, glazed clay can be counted on to last outdoors for many years. Our first big concrete container is still going strong after 37 years. The technology and design of containers keeps improving to where many are now very lightweight, but durable. Others have good, built-in self-watering reservoirs to reduce how often you must water. Others are very large, big enough to hold small trees for a few years.

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

July Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Plant these vegetables no later than mid-July to allow time to mature before frost: tomatoes, peppers, okra, corn, cucumbers, squash, snap beans, pole beans and lima beans.
  • You can still plant new tomato plants or root cuttings for fall harvest.
  • Plant seed of marigolds, sunflowers, cosmos and zinnias now for fall blooms.


  • Don’t bag or rake clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
  • Fertilize all container plants frequently because daily watering leaches out nutrients pretty quickly.
  • If any plants are showing an obvious nutritional deficiency, feed with iron/sulfur products to correct it. (Iron deficiency is common after periods of heavy rain.)
  • Now is a good time to take soil samples from your lawn. Soil boxes can be picked up at the county Extension office.
  • Stop feeding woody plants. They need to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more eats till late winter or earliest spring.
  • Watch for blossom end rot. If you notice a dark, mushy patch at the blossom end of young zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and others, the culprit is usually blossom end rot. BER is not a disease but a physiological condition. It is caused by a calcium deficiency induced, more often than not, by improper watering (i.e., letting the soil get too dry and then flooding it with water). You can cure BER by providing the plants with steady moisture and a layer of mulch. Clean, crushed eggshells, if buried around plants (be careful not to injure roots), will provide extra calcium. Tums antacid tablets are not a fertilizer but have been used to help boost calcium in the soil. Some people dissolve Tums in water and then pour it around tomato plants. Who knows? Calcium nitrate for sure works and would be a lot cheaper!


  • Bleeder trees like maple, dogwood, birch and elm can be pruned this month.
  • Always be on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs, and prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts.
  • Check fruit trees for water sprouts (branches growing straight up from limbs) and remove.
  • Deadhead flowering annuals. Mid-month give them a haircut to renew their looks and vigor. Snip with scissors or pruning shears. Remember to stop pinching back aster and chrysanthemum tips by the second week in July. Autumn Joy sedum also benefits from this tipping back early in the month.
  • If you have healthy, well-established, fall-blooming perennials like asters, mums and Mexican bush sage, now is the time to shear them back 4 or 5 inches to encourage bushiness as they enter their blooming season. Don’t prune again until after their fall-blooming period is finished, except for light deadheading.
  • Prune rambler roses and once-blooming climbers now, after their flowering period.


  • Don’t forget to water newly planted trees and shrubs – weekly if needed.
  • Gardens need an inch of water a week from you or the heavens. Check your rain gauge to make sure they get it, and, remember, soak deeply in the root zone, don’t spritz things with a sprayer now and again like you’re washing the car.
  • During long dry periods, soak the garden thoroughly once a week; don’t just sprinkle daily.
  • The morning is the best time to water plants because it gives the plant foliage plenty of time to dry out and allows more of the water to soak in before the heat evaporates it (less water wasted). Use soaker hoses at the base of plants to avoid moisture on the leaves and because it puts the water right where it’s needed – near the roots. Leaf moisture can cause fungal diseases if the foliage doesn’t dry out fast enough.
  • Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water your garden while you are on vacation.
  • Consider drip irrigation and/or soaker hoses as efficient watering alternatives.


  • Use all chemicals – for insects, weeds or nematodes – according to directions on the label.
  • Empty any standing water to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
  • If brown patch fungus disease has developed in the lawn, the best steps to reduce the spread of the disease are to avoid mowing or even walking on the lawn when it is wet and do not irrigate.
  • If scale is apparent on hollies, camellias, euonymus, etc., use summer-weight horticultural oil only. Spray with the heavy-weight dormant oil in the winter months only.
  • If you must use insecticides, try to hold off spraying until late in the day when the bees are not out.
  • If you’ve had a Japanese beetle problem in the past, handpick in early morning and drown them in a container of water mixed with a drop or two of dish detergent. Plan to try to reduce Japanese beetle grub population with helpful advice from the folks at your local Co-op store. Getting rid of grubs will also help to cut back on moles, armadillo and skunk-related problems as grubs are what they’re usually after.
  • Removing weeds is crucial because they will compete with your crops for food, water, sunlight and space. Since they often grow much faster than your flowers and vegetables, they are capable of blocking out sunlight before your crops can match the weeds’ size and vigor. Additionally, some weeds give off toxins that will stunt or kill your crop. Pulling new weeds daily or weekly is the easiest way to deal with this chore. If you leave the weeding for later, you may find yourself looking at a large job that seems almost impossible.
  • To control weeds, use a mulch. Deep cultivation after plants are older will do more damage than good.
  • Keep asparagus well-weeded. Let their ferns grow till frost to feed the underlying crowns.


  • Check garden centers for markdowns on remaining plants.
  • Clean up fallen fruits under trees to avoid disease carry-over.
  • 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.
  • Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife that 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, rather than a cutting basket, to the garden for collecting flowers.
  • Divide irises.
  • Don’t let the compost heap dry out completely or it won’t cook. Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned.
  • Add a sprinkling of blood meal to your compost as you turn it to speed up decomposition. Blood meal is about 12 percent nitrogen, the highest nitrogen content you will find in an organic amendment.
  • Edge beds to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A clean edge makes a big difference.
  • For peak flavor, basil, sage, marjoram, oreganos, mint and tarragon are best harvested just before bloom. Harvest lavender, rosemary and chamomile as they flower, blossoms and all.
  • Harvest vegetables frequently. The more you pick the more the plant produces – so pick away! This is especially true of squash.
  • If possible, harvest vegetables in the morning, before the heat of the day. Second best is late evening.
  • Mulch not only keeps down the weeds but also helps the soil retain more moisture and keeps the soil at a cooler temperature.
  • Order spring-flowering bulbs to get the varieties you want.
  • Prepare new beds for fall planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top.
  • Remove plants that are no longer producing. Fill their space with either your fall veggie plantings, herbs, flowers or a green manure or cover crop.
  • Start planning your fall garden.
  • Try to change direction when mowing your lawn. This will help strengthen the root system and expose different sides of the plant to sunlight.
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect your skin and yourself from the heat. Drink lots of water and Gatorade to stay hydrated. Wear insect repellent as needed.
  • When temperatures rise, it is sometimes just too hot to garden. Don’t fret, but try to work with it and do most of the work in morning hours. Remember to not overdo it, hydrate well and protect yourself from the sun.
  • Continue attracting insect-eating birds to the garden area by providing them with a fresh water source. Keep feeders and baths clean.

Life: A Series of Pippings

by Glenn Crumpler

One of the greatest blessings of getting to raise your children and grandchildren on a farm is that they get to experience firsthand so many important lessons preparing them for life and pointing them to the God of creation. These experiences enable them to learn life’s lessons and create special memories that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Much of their character and worldview will be formed by these experiences.

Just this past week, my grandchildren got to see another set of triplets born to one of our goats. They got to watch the labor-some birthing process, which itself is a miraculous event. They held and played with the new babies, and watched them as they awkwardly bounced all around the barnyard. They also got to see three hens hatch out their new chicks, something the children had expected for about three weeks. One hen hatched out five chicks, one hatched out 10 and another hatched out six, but two of them died.

Once the hens left the nests with their chicks, we got to examine the eggs that did not hatch. Some were unfertilized, others had partially or fully developed chicks that just never made it out of the shell. Some of them even showed outward evidence of being in the process of pipping (the process where the chick pecks and kicks its way out of the shell) when they died. Of course, there were plenty of questions about the ones that were not fertilized and the ones that died, especially those that died in the shell. Some questions I answered, others I could not or did not.

One of the lessons I did get to explain was how the pipping process was absolutely necessary for the chick to hatch out alive and be able to survive. Once they go through this process of struggling to break through the shell on their own, they will most often die. If you try to help them and not allow them to struggle for themselves, those that do survive will most likely not be viable.

There are many scientific reasons why this is so. For example, the chick must completely absorb the yolk before it can survive outside the shell. If you remove the chick before then, it will bleed to death. Also, the chick must learn how to breathe before it is removed from the shell. When pipping, the chick positions its head below its right wing. The wings help keep the chick oriented inside the shell. As it pips through the first membrane, it begins to breathe from the air sac between the membrane and the outer shell. This stimulates the chick to begin breathing with its lungs. When the air supply gets short, it pips through the outer shell and over a period of time varying from a few minutes to several hours, it basically cuts itself out of the shell with its beak (called zipping). Using its feet, the chick then struggles to push the eggshell apart so it can be free. Unless they go through this entire process on their own, they often bleed to death, their lungs do not develop causing them to suffocate and/or their legs will not be strong enough to support their body weight once you pull them out.

This same analogy also applies to how we face life’s daily struggles we have to go through to mature and to survive. These struggles help to mold our character and our ability to persevere and endure the greater trials and temptations we will experience throughout our lifetime. Surviving and successfully working through these struggles and trials gives us hope and encouragement that we can survive the next obstacles we face as well.

From a Christian perspective, this same principle applies, but the hope we have is much greater than just the hope of surviving until the next challenge arises. Our hope is an eternal hope that far outlasts this life on Earth. In Romans 5 (NIV), the Apostle Paul puts it this way, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

To break this down a little, to be justified means that through faith in Christ and what He has done for us through His life, substitutionary death and resurrection, God has declared us righteous; meaning that our guilt and the penalty of our sin has been paid in full and has been removed from our account. When He extended His grace to us through the shed blood of His son Jesus, He set us free from the power and penalty of our own sin. This reconciliation with God not only makes it possible for us to experience His hope and peace but also gives us direct access to Him, despite any grief, sufferings, obstacles, failures or temptations we face in this life.

God’s peace does not mean a lack of negative experience or a freedom from heartbreak and great sufferings in this life. In fact, in John 16:33, Jesus tells us that, in this world, we will have troubles and tribulations, but we can have peace knowing He has overcome this world. He will see us through our troubles until He comes back to take us to Heaven to be with Him and all Christians for all eternity!

His Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives when we put our faith in Christ. He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We experience God’s peace in the midst of life’s storms; a peace that is often beyond our ability to anticipate, comprehend or understand, because we learn that He walks with us through the storms. What Jesus has already done for us guarantees our future and guarantees our eternal victory. Our hope is in the assurance that God is with us and He will provide whatever grace we need to make it through the sufferings we face in life now and in the future.

As we continue to seek God during life’s storms or sometimes as we look back after the storm has passed, we see He was indeed present and faithful. Every struggle we face in faith conditions us to endure life’s problems, much like a professional athlete that trains daily to become better. Nobody goes directly from Little League to the majors or from pee-wee football to the NFL. Athletes must be disciplined and not give up. Every day they work to become stronger, more skilled, more knowledgeable and more confident until they mature and have developed the endurance and perseverance to perform in the toughest of competitions. Some days are better or easier than others, but if we persevere in our faith in Christ through our current struggles and temptations, we will develop Godly character and become more and more Christ-like. We cannot do this without the grace of God, but He offers new grace every day!

Paul tells us that when we remember the ultimate victory has already been won, we can claim the peace of Christ through the most troublesome times. He tells us a hint of what we will become, but until then what we must overcome! In this life, we will have troubles of many kinds to help and equip us to grow into spiritual maturity. We can rejoice in these sufferings, not because we like pain or deny its tragedy but because we know He is using life’s storms and Satan’s attacks to build our character and deepen our trust, confidence and hope in God and in His promises to bring us safely through whatever we face. In the end, He will take us home to be with Him for all eternity.

We do not need to pretend to be happy when we face violent storms, but we can have hope despite any troubles or trials we face, knowing victory is already ours through the work and person of Christ Jesus! Even when we fail, He is faithful! Our hope is not in our ability to hold on to Him but in His ability and desire to hold on to us!

Life is a series of pippings. For now, let us just keep on pipping, getting stronger and more like Christ until we are free from all that binds us. We will win a few battles and we will lose a few, but, in the end, ultimate victory is ours if we do not give up!

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

Monkey business is good in Greenville!

“Coco” the Gorilla enthusiastically waved her sign to let everyone know about the sale on Bonnie Plants.

Bonnie Plants recognizes Quality Co-op for best sale sign promotion.

It was a ZOO at the Quality Co-op in Greenville during their Bonnie Plants Sale in April. They were slinging plants all around!

Bonnie recognized Quality Co-op as the store with the best showing of the "Bonnie Plants Sale 4 for $10" sign. The store received a $100 check for the four employees and the store manager got $100.

Pictured from left are Tim Trussell, Senior Vice President of Bonnie Plants, with Quality Co-op employees Wyatt Durrance; Jerry Ball; Judy Stringer; Daniel Salter; J. Ryan Williams, manager; and Leon Coleman.

Myth Busting: The Truth About GMO Crops

Alabama Cooperative Extension specialists correct 10 common misconceptions.

by Cecil Yancy

Mention GMOs and you’re likely to hit a hot-button topic and generate a heated conversation among consumers about the meat and other foods we eat. Legislatures across the country have debated the issue of genetically modified organism labeling. To do that, university experts say, would mean GMOs and organics are different.

Based on science, however, it comes down to a matter of preference, said Alabama Cooperative Extension specialists. But there are a lot of myths feeding the conversation.

So, Auburn University and Alabama A&M University specialists have been reaching out to consumers through a series of meetings this year to dispel the myths.

The bottom line: GMOs are just as safe as their organic counterparts, the university experts explained.

"We’re not trying to sell you on not using organics, but our message is that, based on science, GMOs are safe," said Rudy Pacumbaba, an Alabama A&M Extension Horticultural Specialist.

The U.S. food supply is the most regulated in the world.

"There’s no right or wrong here," added Alex Teague, an AU Extension Animal Specialist. "You have to choose what you’re comfortable feeding your family."

At a meeting in Decatur, the animal and horticulture specialists looked at meat- and plant-based myths surrounding the GMO issue.

Myth No. 1: All conventionally raised meats are pumped full of dangerous hormones.

Truth: It’s illegal to feed growth hormones to pigs or chickens in the United States, said Chris Anderson, an AU Animal Science Specialist. Faster growth is due to genetic selection and a better understanding of nutrition. Growth hormones are implanted into the ears of cattle to help them turn faster into lean tissue. The hormones are metabolized before harvest.

Myth No. 2: Factory farms abuse antibiotics, leading to resistance in humans.

Truth: Different classes of antibiotics are administered to animals and humans, therefore, minimizing cross-resistance risks. Antibiotics can’t be given to cattle within 45 days of slaughter and each carcass is tested when it is slaughtered. The milk of dairy cattle is tested for antibiotic residues. If it tests positive, it’s flushed down the drain.

Myth No. 3: Will GMOs be in my meat?

Truth: Although 60-70 percent of GMO crops are used to feed livestock, it’s impossible for it will get in your body.

The myths continue on the plant side of things, said Pacumbaba.

Myth No. 4: GMOs are not safe.

Truth: GMOs are regulated by the USDA, FDA and EPA. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences, the European Union, U.N.’s FAO, WHO and American Medical Association have conducted numerous studies that came to the same conclusion: "GMOs are safe and don’t pose any more risk than organics."

Myth No. 5: There are numerous GMO crops.

Truth: Only eight crops have been genetically modified and approved for consumption to date: canola, cotton, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, potatoes, pineapples and one variety of apple. Over 70 countries grow and import GMO crops.

Myth No. 6: Animal DNA is in GMO crops.

Truth: No animal DNA is in commercial GMO crops on the market today.

Myth No. 7: Pesticides are in plants.

Truth: The Bacillus thuringiensis gene is inserted into GMO crops, but it is a protein in the soil that’s a toxin to some insects. Its use in GMO crops helps to reduce the need for many pesticide applications.

Myth No. 8: GMOs cause cancer and other long-term health issues.

Truth: There is no direct evidence GMOs cause cancer. Over 1,080 studies found GMOs pose no greater risk than organic.

Myth No. 9: GMOs aren’t safe to eat.

Truth: A report looking at numerous studies finds that GMOs are safe to eat. Check it out at

Myth No. 10: GMOs contribute to the death of bees.

Truth: GMO crops haven’t been implicated in the Bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

Cecil H. Yancy Jr. is a freelance writer from Athens.

PALS: Making a Difference in Montgomery!

Flowers Elementary joins the Clean Campus Program.

by Jamie Mitchell

Flowers Elementary in Montgomery has joined the Clean Campus Program! At the direction of teacher Christy Hale, the fifth-grade students at Flowers are getting the ball rolling with the Clean Campus initiative.

I had the pleasure of speaking to all of the fifth-graders at Flowers and teaching the students more about what it means to be involved in the Clean Campus Program. We listed ways they could be more involved such as picking up litter when they see it, never putting trash somewhere that it can blow away and recycling. I learned the students at Flowers are currently recycling, so they are already headed in the right direction!

We also talked about starting regular campus cleanup days and how they could coordinate cleanup days outside of school with any group they are involved with.

I also encouraged the school to participate in our yearly Clean Campus Scrapbook Competition due in October. This is an opportunity for the school to show off all of the great things they have been doing on campus to keep their school looking more beautiful. I encouraged them to take lots of pictures throughout the year to include in their scrapbook! I also told them to go ahead and mark their calendars to participate in next year’s poster contest!

Getting started in the Clean Campus Program is as easy as going to our website at and signing up through the Clean Campus link. Each school is asked to follow a few simple membership guidelines to keep their campus and community litter-free. It is absolutely FREE to become a member, so encourage a school near you to sign up today!

If you have any additional questions regarding the Clean Campus Program, feel free to give me a call at 334-263-7737.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Solutions for a Common Problem: Sooty Mold

by Tony Glover

This plant is showing the general symptoms of sooty mold. (Credit: Brian Kunkel, University of Delaware,, image #5429888)

I often get questions from gardeners who notice a sooty-looking growth on many landscape plants and sometimes even on patio furniture. The problem is a common one this time of year and it is called by the descriptive name of sooty mold. In case you were wondering, sooty mold growths are fungal complexes composed of ascomycetes and fungi imperfecti. The mold develops as a result of these organisms growing on the honeydew exudates produced from the feeding of aphids, scale, whiteflies or any other sucking insect. This fungus does not infect the plant but can do damage as a result of reducing photosynthesis. Also, as you have noticed, it is very unsightly and generally makes a black, sticky mess everywhere it grows.

The sooty mold will usually wash off with the use of a mild insecticidal soap spray and water. Some people have an allergic reaction to these molds and you should wear a mask when cleaning plants or furniture. Also, you need to look up to see where the real problem is coming from. The insects could be feeding on a tree positioned above the shrubs and patio furniture.

I noticed some crape myrtles this past week that had a heavy infestation of aphids and sooty mold growing on its leaves and the leaves of everything below it. Hackberry and river birch trees are also notorious for heavy aphid feeding and sooty mold production.

Most plants will tolerate a small insect population and light amounts of sooty mold. Control of sooty molds begins with management of the insect creating the honeydew. For example, populations of aphids are usually highest on succulent, new growth. In some situations, they can be dislodged with a strong stream of water if the plant is small enough. Also avoid excessive fertilization to keep plants healthy, but not excessively vigorous as they are more attractive to insects. The regular improper pruning of crape myrtles often seen in our area can contribute to the problem by causing excessively vigorous growth. Properly pruned crape myrtles will have less vigorous new growth and better air and light penetration that will reduce the foliage’s attractiveness to sucking-type insects.

Another important consideration may be ant management. Ants are attracted to and use honeydew as a source of food. Because of this, they will protect honeydew-producing insects from predators and parasites in order to harvest the honeydew. Using ant baits and spot treating ants can go a long way toward controlling these honeydew-producing insects by giving the beneficial insects a chance to naturally control the bad guys.

Once the honeydew-producing insects are suppressed, sooty molds will gradually weather away. As mentioned, sooty molds can be washed off with a strong stream of water or soap and water to speed up the removal process.

Plants such as hackberry or gardenias that are perennial problems may be treated in the spring with a systemic insecticide to kill the aphids before they get a chance to do any significant feeding. The systemic insecticide imidacloprid is available to both homeowners and professional applicators. The home-use product is diluted with water and poured on the soil near the base of the tree trunk, as directed on the label. Late winter to early spring (when the new leaves flush) is believed to be the most effective time for a soil treatment in our area. If the area is watered regularly, slightly later applications may do some good, but early applications work best. This product also works on soft scale but does not work on armored scale; so you may want to have your pest problem identified before treating.

Also, a winter or early spring application of dormant or summer oil may help reduce the problem if it is primarily scale insects causing the honeydew. However, if you wait until you see the sooty mold, it is too late to do anything except give the patio and shrubs a good cleaning.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "You ole son of a gun! I cain’t believe you drove all the way over here for my retirement party!"

How does one become the offspring of a weapon?

"Son of a gun" is common parlance used to express mild surprise, disappointment, etc.

There is dispute amongst etymologists about the origin of this phrase. The two points of view are primarily these:

1. The phrase originated as "son of a military man" (that is, a gun). The most commonly repeated version in this strand is that the British Navy used to allow women to live on naval ships. Any child born on board who had uncertain paternity would be listed in the ship’s log as "son of a gun." While it is attestable fact that, although the Royal Navy had rules against it, they did turn a blind eye to women (wives or otherwise) joining sailors on voyages, so this version has plausibility on its side. The sources for this point of view are:

  • The Royal Navy Museum, who confirm that women sometimes traveled on their vessels during the age of sail.
  • "The Sailor’s Word-Book," William Henry Smyth, 1867. [son of a gun is] "An epithet conveying contempt in a slight degree, and originally applied to boys born afloat, when women were permitted to accompany their husbands at sea; one admiral declared he literally was thus cradled, under the breast of a gun-carriage."
  • "Fighting Words," Christine Ammer, 1999. "A baby conceived during wartime. In World War I, the term denoted the illegitimate offspring of servicemen."

The first known printed source is "The British Apollo No. 43," 1708: "You’r a Son of a Gun." That source doesn’t mention the military and Smyth’s version comes 150 years later, but he was himself a Royal Navy admiral and in a better position than most to know what went on aboard naval ships. Whether or not the military/naval version is the origin, it is clear that, in 1823 at least, the term was used with that meaning.

2. The term is euphemistic and derived as a conveniently rhyming alternative to "son of a b----." That term has been part of the language for centuries, certainly long enough for people to come up with a euphemism for it. Shakespeare used something like it in King Lear, 1605: "One that art nothing but the composition of a Knave, Begger, Coward, Pandar, and the Sonne and Heire of a Mungrill b----."

Also, other sources in print in the 19th century point to the meaning, at least of the phrase, as indicating contempt:

  • Barham’s "Ingoldsby Legends," 1840: "We heard the rough voice of a son of a gun Of a watchman, ‘One o’clock!’ bawling."
  • Thackeray’s "Pendennis," 1849: "What a happy feller I once thought you, and what a miserable son of a gun you really are!"
  • Harper’s Magazine October 1883, 759/2: "Thou lubberly, duck-legged son of a gun."

The military version has some circumstantial evidence to support it; the rhyming euphemism origin appears to be no more than conjecture. Case unproven.

St. Clair, Jackson and Cullman complete Responsible AG Certification.

Let’s give CONGRATULATIONS to our next group of Co-op managers who have completed audits by AFC and Agri-AFC to receive their Responsible AG certifications.

Manager Brian Keith of Cullman Farmers Co-op, a branch of Marshall Farmers Co-op, followed in Steve Hodges’, general manager of Marshall Farmers Co-op, footsteps and was the second store to be audited and the third store to receive their plaque. He worked late nights, but was a trooper about completing the audit before midnight within the time allocated.

Manager Amy Milliron of St. Clair Farmers Co-op in Pell City, a branch of Talladega County Exchange, signed up right after Chris Duke, general manager of Talladega County Exchange. Talladega was the second Co-op to receive the plaque for completing the audit. She had to answer as many questions about the plants in her greenhouse as she did for the rest of the audit, but she made it!

Manager Vicki Paradise of Jackson Farmers Co-op in Stevenson, a branch of Madison County Co-op, along with her crew achieved their RA standing ahead of schedule – during the spring!!!! This group may be small, but was able to make it with everyone’s help and support.

If you have any questions about Responsible AG, you can contact Sharon Cunningham or Roger Waller. If you want a store’s view of the process, these managers have agreed to try and answer your questions.

Sharon Cunningham, EH&S coordinator, can be contacted at 256-303-4071 or, and Roger Waller, EH&S operations coordinator, can be contacted at 251-513-3109; both are with AFC and Agri-AFC.

Still Driving That Old Ford Pinto?

Reviving the brucellosis and tuberculosis surveillance programs.

by Dr. Tony Frazier

There are some things that, in my mind, have gone forever. But then my thinking keeps getting proved wrong. Take, for example, the Ford Pinto. I thought those things had gone the way of the dinosaur. But, I’m driving down the road the other day and I see somebody driving one. It was kind of a faded-out green, primer gray and rust. But it was a Ford Pinto.

I also thought the toaster oven was something relegated to museums and maybe some later episodes of "That 70’s Show." But, I stopped by the Hanceville lab one day and there in the breakroom beside the microwave was a toaster oven that gets used fairly often.

So I figure the average cattle farmer on the street thinks the brucellosis and tuberculosis surveillance programs are also things of the past. Older readers will probably remember the veterinarian coming to the sale barn and collecting blood to test the cows and bulls for brucellosis. Younger readers, even younger cattle farmers who are in their early 20s or younger, will likely not remember that much about testing for brucellosis. We were declared a Bovine Brucellosis Free state in 1998. We became Bovine Tuberculosis Free in 1981. We continued to test at the stockyard for one more year and then, sort of like Halley’s Comet, just faded away. Even today most of the students in veterinary schools are just getting old enough that they didn’t have to take a nap at school as the brucellosis program was winding down.

In February 2007 – and I can’t believe it has actually been that long ago – I wrote an article, "Something Worth Remembering," about how everybody in Alabama, including government, industry, stockyards, the vet schools at Auburn and Tuskegee, the Farmers’ Federation and the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, had worked together for our state to become brucellosis free. It was sort of a memorial article about a successful result of a long-fought battle. But it really wasn’t a eulogy, because the program wasn’t dead. To the casual observer looking from the road, it may have looked dead; but it has retained a speck of life over the past few years.

Also, if you are interested in this sort of thing, according to the World Health Organization, there has only been one disease that has ever been totally eradicated from Earth. That was smallpox, but they still say some bad guys keep a little of the smallpox virus around to use in biological warfare.

Anyway, to get back to my subject, while most states no longer deal with brucellosis, it still smolders in the Greater Yellowstone areas of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. That is because the wild buffalo and elk keep the disease around and occasionally it gets into the cattle in the area.

On the other hand, bovine TB has been making gradual progress in coming back onto the radar screen. It is in the deer population in Michigan, where cattle occasionally get infected from proximity to the deer. There are other states that have had active cases pop up in dairy cattle, roping steers from Mexico and a few other rare, but not unheard-of, infected cattle.

So, if you are USDA, you decide to relook at what we are doing about keeping those two regulated diseases at bay. Now what I am about to say is not intended to insult you if you are an epidemiologist. In fact, I am sure, if you look at most epidemiologists, they love our country, love God and love their families. But I just think epidemiologists look at the world a little differently from the rest of us. I am not saying that is good or bad ... just different. So USDA has their epidemiologists look at how we need to change the brucellosis and TB programs to bring them up to date. We are not sure what that creature is going to look like when all the dust settles, but it could have some ramifications to our cattle producers, especially those who sell seed stock or other cattle to producers in other states.

The whole document the USDA has presented is aimed at making sure we are adequately addressing how we do surveillance for these two diseases so we are not taken by surprise. Our federal government animal health counterparts want to make sure we are getting good enough representative samples to find the disease if it shows up. They are also concerned about our infrastructure being adequate to handle an outbreak.

When I started with the state 20 years ago, we were in the process of shrinking the footprint of government animal health. I am told that at one time the state was divided into 16 sections with either a state or federal veterinarian and at least one animal health technician in each section. I think when I started we were going from eight to seven sections and would eventually end up with six sections. And that’s okay.

If you have worked yourself out of a job by becoming brucellosis and TB free, that is a good thing. The only problem is, where are you going to get the workers to get a handle on the disease if the smoldering embers flame up again?

Also, our old way of doing things was to have the government purchase the last few positive herds for either of these diseases. In the environment we live in today, the government is likely to dig its heels in when it comes to paying a farmer for his herd if it is very big. They are not likely to understand why we want to depopulate a dairy milking 1,800 cows in New Mexico and for the USDA to pay for it – especially when there are only five animals in the herd positive for TB.

So our concern is that we meet the requirements to be a consistent state. It is hard to say what it could mean if we are judged to be an inconsistent state. It could, although I think this is a stretch, result in us having to start testing at stockyards again. Stay tuned as the program rolls out in its new suit of clothes.

I do want to mention Certified Brucellosis Free and Accredited Tuberculosis Free herds. We still have a few herds participating in these programs. I generally tell folks to talk to their local veterinarian to determine whether they should do what it takes to maintain a certified or an accredited herd.

But if you want to know what I think, read the next line or two. If you sell seed stock or other cattle that are likely to go directly out-of-state, I would maintain a certified and accredited herd for a handful of reasons. First, regulatory requirements tend to sometimes be moving targets. Just because today Oklahoma takes our breeding herd cattle without being tested doesn’t mean that won’t change, and sometimes on a moment’s notice. Beyond that, those programs have excellent standards to ensure you are meeting the disease traceability requirements. And finally, it only enhances the veterinary-client relationship when a veterinarian comes on your farm and has eyes and hands on most of the herd at least once a year.

We live in an ever-changing world. That is for sure. I suspect, as I have more of my career behind me than ahead, the world of regulatory medicine will continue to adapt and change to whatever is thrown our way. In the meantime, I guess I find a little satisfaction in the fact that at least somebody is still out there driving a Ford Pinto and heating Pop Tarts (I had one this morning) in a toaster oven.

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

Stuff I Like to Find

I found this sweet girl flitting around my back door. She is a promethea moth (Callosamia promethea).

by Herb T. Farmer

Hot! I say… I say… "IT’S HOT!"

July can be brutal for some folks with high temperatures around 100 degrees and humidity levels pushing 85 percent in the midday. The old me used to suggest to those folks that they move to a state that suits their wants and desires instead of taking up space here and trying to acclimatize themselves to my beloved state.

Lately, though, I have been trying to chill, as one friend suggested, in order to save my heart and brain from stress. I thought that is why I libate daily, after the work is finished.

Okay. So, I have this guru I have been working with in order to help me appreciate the universe, but he doesn’t realize I am also gleaning spiritual guidance from him. There’s no danger of him finding out that he is teaching me tolerance and acceptance by reading my column because he’s not into farming. Oh, he loves plants. He just doesn’t know I write for gardening and farming publications. I think it would shock him if he knew I consider him my guru.

There. Now you know why I haven’t been quite as ornery as you are probably used to.

Well, enough of this idle nonsense. Let me tell you what really gets me going this time of year.

There’s always something fascinating here on the farm that gets my attention. I mean, every day there is something that amazes me and makes me stop working and take notice. Wonders of nature appear before my eyes every single day and make me smile inside with curiosity and delight. (Actually, I don’t think I have ever used the word delight.)

Sometimes, it’s just an eagle or hawk riding the air currents above the field. Other times, it might be the chorus of a particular species of frog in the evening. Clouds still fascinate me and, yes, I watch the International Space Station fly over every chance I get.

Just today, I noticed a natural path of rainwater runoff from around the house to the end of the property I had not noticed before. The fascination with that is all of the mosses that seemed to appear out of nowhere. If it hadn’t rained recently, I might not have noticed it for months, or years even. There’s no telling how long it has been building itself into a landscape feature.

Reptiles and amphibians are all over the property. Turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs, toads and salamanders … I see more than one every day.

I’m sure this baby anole is thinking, “Where in the h--- am I?”

I was weeding a part of one of the flower gardens the other day. It had been exceptionally dry for a few days and the ground was resisting my weed pulling. As I scraped around in the dusty flower bed with my gloved hands to get the gripeweed (Phyllanthus urinaria) out from the root, I noticed an egg. It was a small egg about the size (a little larger, actually) of a Tic Tac. The more I scraped around, the more I found. There were five in all. Since they were laid individually and not in a clutch, I assumed they were anole (Anolis carolinensis) eggs.

Reptile eggs should not ever dry out while incubating, so I placed them in a flowerpot that gets regular attention and covered them lightly with sphagnum and vermiculite. I don’t know if they hatched, but there are a lot of baby anoles running around here.

While working in the gardens and fields, I wear my summertime perfume – DEET keeps the biting insects away. On occasion, I have to stop work midday and shower for an appointment or guest. Since I don’t want to reapply the chemical, I use natural repellants. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a good one to use to repel mosquitoes. Rub the leaves on your exposed skin and clothing. You will have to reapply every couple of hours if you are loved by the bloodsuckers.

Sometimes I’ll use lavender oil mixed with water in a spritzer bottle. For some wonderful reason, mosquitoes don’t like lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).

Top to bottom, Venusta Orchard Spiders build their webs just above small puddles of water and help control mosquitoes. Here are two of my garden guardians, wheel bugs (Arilus cristatus), beginning the life cycle by mating last October. Now I have the gray with orange older nymphs crawling around. Remember, wheel bugs are the best predatory creatures to have in your garden.

So, pick your scent. Lavender and lemon are my favorites.

A word of caution, though ... some folks have skin irritations when they use these natural repellants.

I’m still limping around in my CROW boot, so a friend of mine is driving us down to Mobile for the Independence Day holiday. We have some friends down there who roast a pig in the ground and everything. It’s always fun and there’s a ton of food and a bunch of people. The entertainment ain’t so bad either!

I’m taking eight dozen hard-boiled eggs, ready to devil or make into egg salad.

Most folks can’t cook an egg without the yolk turning green. Want to know how I do it?

Place fresh eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a rolling boil, remove the pot from the heat. Let the pot of water and eggs stand for 15 minutes. Drain the hot water from the pot, and add cold water and ice to rapidly chill the eggs. Drain the water as soon as the ice melts.

To remove the shell from the egg, tap the egg on a firm surface and roll it under your hand to crack the entire egg. The shell will usually come off in one piece.

What’s your favorite July Fourth food dish?

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

The Co-op Pantry

Wow, it is July already. This year is flying by. I am coming to agree with the statement, "the older you get the faster time goes by." I blinked and half the year has come and gone. The Fourth of July is upon us! We are looking forward to a day off work, gathering with our families and friends for picnics, swimming and fireworks, if they are legal in your area. Please be careful with those, you can easily get hurt.

Now, I am a very patriotic person. I was raised that way and I hope I am passing that on to my daughter. There hasn’t been a war this country has been involved in that my family hasn’t fought and died in. Sometimes they were on opposite sides, which was a heartbreaking situation. I respect the choices each made because they stood for what they believed in and were willing to, and did, die for their beliefs.

When we consider how our nation began, with a war against England, I decided to research what that first American Army ate. According to the Smithsonian Institute the ideal ration for a soldier was: "1 lb. beef, or 3/4 lb. pork, or 1 lb. salt fish, per day; 1 lb. bread or flour, per day; 3 pints of peas or beans per week, or vegetable equivalent; 1 half pint of rice, one pint of Indian meal, per man, per week; 1 quart of spruce beer or cider per man per day, or nine gallons of molasses, per company of 100 men per week; 3 lbs. of candles to 100 men per week, for guards; 24 lbs. soft, or 8 lbs. hard soap, for 100 men per week."

Not bad, even by today’s standards. However, the reality was that as the fighting grew more intense the ability to get supplies lessened, drastically. If you have ever studied American history, you read about that awful winter at Valley Forge. It was cold, wet and miserable. Conditions were so dire, many soldiers threatened to desert if they didn’t get food. Out of about roughly 11,000 soldiers, over 2,000 died from cold, starvation and disease. Let’s don’t forget that many of these men had their entire families with them and they had to be provided with food and shelter, too. Out of this horror, our soldiers became a cohesive army that beat a numerically superior force by will power and the sheer determination to be free!

I hope you will take this Fourth of July to reflect on our country and those who sacrificed, as well as those who are still sacrificing, to give us the freedoms we have and the greatest country on Earth in which to live.

Go find a veteran, soldier, policeman, fireman, nurse, EMT or utility worker and say "Thank You." They probably won’t be off for the Fourth, so they won’t be hard to find. Better yet, go find an organization that helps our modern veterans deal with the myriad problems they are coming home to and volunteer. A very great man said, "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."

So get up and go do something!

Okay, I am off my soapbox now and back to the issue at hand. Here are some of my American-German-Swiss-English-Irish-Welsh-Scottish-French-Dutch-Spanish -Portuguese-Greek-Italian-Russian-Polish-Finnish-Ukrainian-Scandinavian-South Asian family’s favorite recipes for our Fourth of July bash. Enjoy!

"The Food that Fueled the American Revolution." Lisa Braman. July 5, 2011.
John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1961.

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


Makes: 4 cups

2 cups mayonnaise, low fat works just fine
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped
spinach, well-drained
½ cup green onion, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Serve with your favorite assortment of fresh vegetables.


7 slices bacon, diced
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup green onion, chopped
5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped


1 cup buttery round crackers, crushed
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook and stir bacon until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. In a bowl, stir bacon, cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, green onion and jalapeno peppers. Spread into a 9-inch round baking dish. In a bowl, mix crackers, Parmesan cheese and butter. Spread on top of cream cheese mixture. Bake until bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.


6 hard-boiled eggs
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sweet pickles, finely chopped
Pinch of sugar

Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks; set whites aside. In a small bowl, mash yolks with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pickles and sugar. Mix well. Spoon yolk mixture into egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate until serving.


White or yellow boxed cake mix
Ingredients required by cake mix
Red, white and blue baking cups
1 can white icing
Your favorite red, white and blue hard candies, sprinkles or flags. Use your imagination!

Preheat oven to 350°. Make cake mixture according to box directions. Place baking cups in a regular-size muffin pan. Fill cups with cake mixture. Bake as directed on box for cupcakes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Frost and smooth each cupcake. Add your decorations to suit yourself.

Note: Great decorating project for the children in your life.


4 ears corn on the cob, husks and silk removed
¼ cup butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Rinse corn under cold water; wrap individually in aluminum foil. Grill 15-20 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. Mix butter and cheese; spread onto corn. Eat and enjoy.

Note: If the idea of Parmesan does not appeal to you, just leave it out. It’s delicious either way.


Bone-in skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks, as much as you think your family and guests will eat

Place chicken on a baking sheet. Bake at 300° for about an hour, turning if needed. Remove from oven to cool. Brush chicken with your favorite sauce.

Note: I attended a wonderful Fourth ruined by four people becoming violently ill from underdone chicken! Not my party, thankfully, and I didn’t eat any, but having guests in the hospital the next day makes them not want to come back.


1½ cups ketchup
¼ cup mustard
¼ cup brown sugar
Salt, to taste (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients.


5 pounds potatoes
8 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
4 Tablespoons bacon grease (from cooking bacon)
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper (optional, if allergic)
6 Tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup vinegar
1-1/3 cups water

Peel potatoes before or after cooking. Peelings come off easier after cooking. (If you are peeling after cooking, drain the hot water and pour cold water into pot and repeat a couple of times. Those peelings will slide right off.) Slice potatoes into ¼-inch thick cubes and keep them warm. Cook bacon and drain, reserving 4 tablespoons drippings. Add bacon to potatoes. In bacon grease, cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and sugar. Add vinegar and water. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Pour over potatoes and stir gently. Keep salad warm until ready to serve.

Note: For all that I used the German name, this is a Mary-simplified Americanized version of German Potato Salad – minus the pepper because I am very allergic to it.

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 2016 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.

The Embattled Farmer

A new monument, and much more, awaits visitors at American Village in Montevallo.

The Embattled Farmer statue was unveiled earlier this year at the American Village in Montevallo. It is dedicated to colonial farmers who set aside their plows and picked up weapons to defend a fledgling country that became known as the United States of America.

by Alvin Benn

Fiery rhetoric lit the fuse for the American Revolution, but farmers throughout the original 13 colonies supported those words with personal sacrifices that often included their lives.

Alabama was four decades from achieving statehood when the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, but farmers throughout the fledgling nation exchanged their plows for weapons of war when necessary.

As a sign of appreciation for that commitment to freedom, the American Village in Montevallo has added another statue to its growing collection of buildings and valuable paintings.

The Embattled Farmer statue located on the American Village Trail in Shelby County is 16 feet tall and sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance.

Over 500,000 students from Alabama and other Southeastern states have toured the Village since it opened in 1999 and big crowds are expected during Independence Month, as some refer to July.

"As Americans, we owe a tremendous debt to the original embattled farmers who fought for democracy and helped found our country," said Jimmy Parnell, president of Alfa and the Federation.

The statue was dedicated earlier this year in conjunction with a celebration recognizing George Washington’s birthday.

Parnell said the statue is a tremendous tribute to the patriotism of Alabama farmers as well as a site where students have an opportunity to experience the founding principles that make America great.

Students take part in the Stamp Act Rally on the steps of the Colonial Courthouse at the American Village.

"As young people come to learn about American freedom, they will see the powerful statue reminding us of the embattled farmers who fought for liberty and self-government," said American Village Founder Tom Walker.

He said another lesson to be learned from the statue is how a strong, independent, determined and courageous force of country farmers stood firm for the cause of liberty.

The original Embattled Farmer statue was built in Concord, Massachusetts, where the Old North Bridge, one of most famous spans in American history, was built.

Several replicas have replaced it since that time, but location is what matters the most.

Walker, 62, developed his American Village dream in the early 1990s as a place to educate and inspire a new generation of young people to be good citizens by building on America’s founding principles of liberty and self-government.

Instead of a static museum-like facility, he wanted a hands-on outdoor classroom to bring American history and civics to life. With support from those who shared his vision, his dream became a reality.

Colonial life is brought to life with actors portraying important characters of that period. Visitors haven’t had to read about the era. They learn from those whose commitment to the meaning of the site has them coming back after their first visit.

Walker doesn’t visit. The Village is his second home and he has spent much of his life at the site since it opened.

"If ever there was a man with a vision who took the action necessary to see that vision become a reality, it was Tom Walker," said State Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster.

Ward noted that the idea of an American Village began as a concept on paper that has turned into one of the best kept secrets in Alabama.

The National Veterans Shrine is one of the most recent buildings erected at the American Village.

"This success is due in large part to Tom’s dogged determination and vision," Ward said.

Walker’s academic background was a catalyst for what would come later and his success hasn’t been much of a surprise to folks in Shelby County and surrounding areas.

Walker graduated with honors from the University of Montevallo where he was president of the student body and was also named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.

The American Village is adjacent to the Alabama National Veterans Cemetery that has space for nearly 200,000 veterans. Walker played a role in that, too.

Former U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus cites Walker’s leadership and perseverance in helping to secure the 486-acre site.

Listing all of Walker’s accomplishments would take several pages, but Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, who served with him as a member of the UM Board of Trustees, didn’t need to waste any words.

"He walks softly, but carries with him a vision that has done great things for our state," Strange said of his friend.

A year after Walker graduated with a double major, he and his wife, Betty, visited Historic Williamsburg in Virginia. As it turned out, his long-range vision was about to begin.

It was 1976 – America’s bicentennial – and, while he didn’t set that vision aside, he kept it in the back of his mind as he served as city manager of Northport as well as assistant to the president of his alma mater.

"I felt we had neglected some of our civic duties as Americans and needed to rediscover the great gift of liberty and how it came about," said Walker, who earned degrees in political science and history at UM.

American Village Founder Tom Walker enjoys spending time in the Oval Office replica at the popular Shelby County facility.

He touched on a belief held by many Americans that history is basically boring, but he wasn’t really buying it because what they are trying to do at the American Village is recreate the drama and uncertainty of life during that time.

Big dreams about big, expensive projects can be overpowering at times and Walker wasn’t about to be dissuaded. He was determined to bring his dream to fruition.

"The greatest difficulty I had at first was to put my idea out there and hope people would help make it a success," he said. "I knew that some would tell me it wouldn’t work or just say it was a crazy."

Walker’s crazy idea has become an unparalleled success and, as he watches it push toward its silver anniversary in a few years, he wants everyone to know it wasn’t a one-man operation.

"The key to something like this isn’t just one person with an idea," he explained. "It’s hundreds of people with the same idea. I think we’ve touched a special chord in the hearts of every American who’s been here."

One of the most popular features at the American Village is the Oval Office where visitors are awed by an exact replica or as close as any could be of the one in Washington.

The stunning desk even has a jar filled with jelly beans and children can’t wait to dip into it to get one or two little sugary treats just like former President Ronald Reagan did during his two terms in office.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Time Don’t Matter to a Pig

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Ever since I was a tiny girl, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on. The written word just shouts out to me. Whether it was the back of the Pop Tart box while I was eating breakfast or even the soap wrappers while I took a bath!

Way back then, I read just about every book in the children’s section of our then small public library and was allowed, with close oversight, to check out books from the adult section. That’s how I read all the Perry Mason books when I was just 11!

So just because I was recently reading a magazine article about starting a hog farm does not mean there will be porkers oinking around my homestead any time soon. But the article had some wonderful insights

The farmer interviewed was talking about his choice of heirloom pigs, the kind that many of our great-grandfathers or grandfathers raised. He talked of the better meat, better disposition of the animals and more.

He also talked of their drawbacks as compared with raising the more commercial-type hogs of today.

He noted he usually took the heirloom pigs a few months longer to get to eatin’ size. His consensus was profound, although maybe not grammatically correct, "But time don’t matter to a pig!"

As I thought about the last hog farm I visited, where all the brown and white free-range pigs were lounging in a pine thicket in the shade, I wondered if those pigs might have figured out much more than us humans!

When my husband lay dying nearly four years ago, I only heard him once express any regret about his life. When talking to a pastor who had come to visit I heard him say simply, "I thought I’d have more time. ..."

When I was just a child, Disney and other TV shows about the future showed how we would have by now become a society of leisure because of all the time-saving inventions that would help us in our jobs and our homes. Even the cartoon "The Jetsons" showed robots doing all the housework from cooking to cleaning.

From microwaves to computers, we are now living in that future, but statistics show folks are working way more hours at their money-making jobs and housework is often still overwhelming despite being able to zap food, do laundry at the push of a button and even vacuum our homes with little round robots that work on their own.

Why has our quality of life not improved? Why are even more folks depending on pills to quiet their anxiety as they rush through life? Have we lost our focus?

Someone brought me a couple of books by Amish-farmer David Kline, collections of essays or articles he had written and first published in an Amish magazine.

While I don’t agree with all the religious aspects of the Amish, I think we can learn a lot from many of their ways.

He tells of how they all ran out of the barn when his children hurried in to announce that geese were flying over. As they all raced out into the snow, they discovered not geese but eight tundra swans.

This was extremely exciting to them as they had never seen swans on their farm before and these swans became No. 136 on the list of birds that he and his wife had listed since their marriage!

In other essays he tells of how, as he walked or sat behind a team of plowing or working horses, he was able to share all sorts of other things in nature with his children. They all worked together on the farm so they were all able to experience the joys and sorrows of day-to-day life together.

There was no hurried commute to a job in the city. And no blaring TV, as they ate a fulfilling breakfast around the table after early barn chores were completed.

Kline quotes Wes Jackson in talking about how horses restrict the Amish farm work in a good way, "... but horses are ideally suited to family life. With horses, you unhitch at noon to water and feed the teams and then the family eats what we still call dinner. While the teams rest there is usually time for a short nap. And, because God didn’t create the horse with headlights, we don’t work nights."

He notes: "Probably the greatest difference between Amish farming and agribusiness is the supportive community life we have."

While that sounds leisurely, he writes about Amish farms that are diversified, not just raising one primary crop, and how every day, every month, specific tasks must be completed. He also details about a neighbor needing help bringing in the hay (because of a leg injury) or when all his immediate family were shocking the wheat trying to beat a late afternoon thunderstorm. When they got to the top of a small rise, they saw their neighbor’s family shocking toward them from the other end of the field! Just coming out to help because they knew a storm was coming!

When the field work was finished, they spent time visiting and eating homemade ice cream!

They don’t have to worry about huge farm debt for machinery, because they generally pay for their horse-drawn equipment as they buy it.

They don’t have to worry about huge farm debt for additional land, because most farms were from 20 to 200 acres, according to the size of the family and the crops they planned to grow.

Even the more modern Amish who now make furniture in barns that were once filled with livestock, still practice those same values. ...

So many times today even folks who aren’t farmers don’t see their families much. They are busy commuting to their jobs in another city, paying for a huge house they only see in the darkness as they drive in from another day at the office. Working overtime for homes they don’t really get to enjoy.

When I was a youngster, there were kids playing all over the neighborhood. Now, too many times, kids are well-cared-for and enjoying supervised play at daycares. ... But I still think there is a lot to be said for standing barefoot in swirling waters and damming up a small creek with fistfuls of mud with your slightly older cousin. ...

When I was little the only families who had second vehicles were those whose one vehicle was a rickety farm truck! There were no bills for cell phones, no money needed for fancy nail jobs (how in the world would you milk a cow with those things on!) and a family very seldom ever ate in a restaurant. So what little money we had went for the basic bills. ...

Noted Pastor John MacArthur talked about how we should interpret Ephesians 5:15 and other verses: "Each of us are presented every morning with another 24 hours and it is up to us to decide how we are going to use that time. ... The time to make the best use of time is now, not later. ..."

Someone asked one of those question things on Facebook this past week: "If you knew this would be your last day on Earth, how would you spend that day?" Think about it. ...

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a small Blount County homestead and can be reached by email at

Trash Into Treasure

Lamar Stockman up-cycles discarded items into whimsical and useful creations.

Above, Lamar Stockman made a ladybug from a package of garden tools his wife, Linda, brought home. Left, these metal petals were made by Lamar and placed throughout the farm so something is always blooming on his property.

by Carolyn Drinkard

A cracked bicycle reflector, a rusty railroad spike and a broken yard rake: trash or treasures? Most people would say "trash," but not Lamar Stockman. Stockman never sees anything as junk. Instead, he rescues old, discarded items and turns them into something more beautiful and useful.

A skilled craftsman, licensed as a master welder, pipe fitter and crane operator, Stockman worked in maintenance at MacMillan Bloedel in Pine Hill for 45 years before retiring in 2002. He is a multifaceted individual with eclectic tastes and talents.

First, Stockman is a hardworking farmer. He and his wife, Linda, live on a 140-acre farm in Marengo County where he runs 50 head of Brangus cows. He spends much time outdoors, working on farm chores and supplying forage for his animals. He cuts more than 200 bales of hay each year and buys even more from his brother who runs a larger farming operation nearby. Stockman can often be found at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Faunsdale where he buys all his feed.

Stockman has loved horses all his life. He told the story of how his father never cared much for horses because the elder Stockman thought they ate twice as much as a plow mule. Stockman and his brothers, however, yearned to have a horse; so they worked to save $15, a tremendous amount during the Depression. The boys purchased a mule from their uncle, hoping to trade the mule for a horse after saving more money.

Shortly thereafter, their mother saw a steam-dry iron she wanted badly. Their father made a deal with the boys to swap the mule for the iron as a Mother’s Day gift. Their father promised them that when his cotton came in, he would get them a horse. He made good on his promise and got them a horse that looked like Champ, Gene Autry’s beloved steed. Since then, Stockman has always owned a horse. At one time, he raised Arabian horses, trained buggy horses and showed Quarter Horses. He still owns three Paint horses, even though he seldom rides any more.

Linda Stockman shows how easy it is to close this gate featuring a wheel on the bottom. Lamar built all of his pasture gates so Linda could easily open and close them.

Stockman is an accomplished up-cycler who takes discarded items and makes them into something more useful. For Stockman, his imaginative use of scrap always produces the unexpected, but he admits he might also season his projects with the whimsical or the unconventional.

This was certainly true when he built his own hay barn, unlike any other one in South Alabama. Stockman found circular pieces of metal and welded them together to create the supporting framework that stands 40 feet high and 90 feet long. He then ordered two billboard signs from New York: one, a Mercedes, and the other, a Verizon. He and Linda turned the images inside out and connected them to the supporting frame. Walking into the hay barn is a visual delight. Embracing the hay bales are an expensive car on one side and a colorful phone graphic on the other.

Stockman’s main barn looks very much like other red barns found. A visit inside, however, shows something quite unique. He has recycled and repurposed all his life, so he built his main barn completely from materials he had bought from the mill’s salvage yard or from other scrap sales. For example, the double-walled barn has exterior wood bought from the scrap yard at MacMillan Bloedel. The wood used in the interior stalls came from the old Elementary School in Thomaston. The frame is made from 30-foot aluminum poles, and the support beams are also aluminum. His barn gates are all recycled junk that has been given new life by Stockman’s skilled hands. Every inch of the barn has a story he delights in sharing with visitors.

Stockman’s imaginative reuse of materials can also be seen in his pastures. When he needed feed troughs on his farm, he repurposed materials he had on hand to build ones different from any others in this area. At first glance, the handmade troughs appear wider, longer and heavier than regular troughs. A closer inspection reveals they are recycled stop signs, purchased from salvage sales held by the Alabama State Department of Transportation. He welded the frames together and then covered them in heavy-duty belting, also purchased at salvage. The sturdy troughs easily withstand the bumping and pushing from hungry cows and horses.

Stockman is also an artist who sees the world differently from most people. At his farm in the community of Hampden in Marengo County, Stockman said he is still learning every day. He keeps a notebook with him to draw the ideas that pop into his head – ideas that come from everywhere, but especially from the great outdoors where he spends most of his time. His artistry reflects his deep spiritual connection to the land.

Stockman likes to take something no one uses any longer and give it a second life, but often with a twist! A stroll through his yard becomes a guessing game of trying to figure out what he used to make the whimsical, unusual garden art pieces. For example, a one-eyed chicken sports an old plow for a tail; a strutting rooster has pliers for its mouth, a shovel for its body, a leaf rake for its tail and horseshoes for the top part of its legs; and a brightly colored dodo bird, sitting happily in a bed of ivy, is made from an old wheel, wings from half a discarded yard rake and eyes made of pipe caps. Nearby, an old railroad signal beckons visitors into one of the garden areas containing a flower tree made from spring steel so the arms will move in the wind. Ten brightly painted saw blades, with teeth turned upward in an interesting pattern, surround a large flowerbed in front of his home. An inlet waterway bell and buoy flank a flower garden bordered by a waterway rope he found in Gulf Shores. Near the mailbox, a red, yellow and blue roadrunner invites visitors into the charming area. The bird’s body is made of railroad spikes, with a 3-inch pipe for its head and a bicycle reflector as its eye.

The Stockmans have placed the eye-catching pieces in ways that enhance their beautiful flowers.

He has always loved flowers, so he breathed new life into some old scrap items to make his own metal petals, which he has placed around his farm. A brightly painted magnolia is made from the disk of a tractor and the back of a 55-gallon drum lid. A nearby metal stalk of corn has a barge cable for a tassel. One flower stand, near his porch, is made from draft horseshoes and another is an old hard hat that now holds his hen and chick plants. Discarded bowling balls, painted in bright, inviting colors, have been placed throughout his gardens as focal points.

Left to right, a bottle bush with arms that would swing in the wind was built by Lamar Stockman. The colorful bottles sway, but they do not touch one another and break. This water wheel, built by Lamar, anchors a larger water garden. The spinning wheel turns a beacon light found at a flea market.

Even though Stockman’s eye for color and detail are amazing, sometimes his color choices have created some good-natured controversy with Linda. A dedicated Auburn fan, he painted two wind turbines in front of his house orange and blue. Since the Stockmans are a house divided, he chuckled and admitted he has to repaint one turbine red and white for her beloved Crimson Tide.

After his children left home, Stockman filled in his swimming pool and repurposed it into an outdoor family area. He added a large decorative frame with steel bells, modeled after an old mission he had once visited in El Paso, Texas. Linda filled the area with fragrant heirloom plants such as native sweet shrubs and wild dogwood trained to grow as topiary trees.

Stockman also collects old farm equipment that reminds him of a simpler time when people used what they had and, like him, gave new life to old things. He paints some pieces, but most he leaves just as they are, placing each special piece artistically around his farm. With a twinkle in his eye, he explained that all of his upcycled art pieces tell a story, if someone looks hard enough.

The large pond in his pasture is an additional canvas for Stockman’s imagination. Using scrap materials, he built a large Star of David, wrapped it in hundreds of lights and placed it on a 67-foot pole, making it visible to those traveling on Highway 25. Beneath it, he placed a large flag to waft in the wind. At night, the sight is truly impressive.

Each year after Thanksgiving, Stockman decorates his pond with seasonal Christmas colors. He has built a huge steel tree that he places on the pond and lights for all to see.

Stockman’s talented hands give new life to things no one wants. A free spirit, he loves his life on his farm and finds solace in repurposing, regenerating and recreating treasures. To him, every cut and every weld come from his heart. His eyes see richness in rust and splendor in scrap, and his talented hands transform trash into treasures. Each day, he starts a new adventure and, each day, he finds a brand-new ending.

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

Treat Your Cows Like 5-Star Recruits

In football and farming, the recipe for success is solid groundwork and constant development.

by Jackie Nix

To say that football is huge in Alabama is an understatement to say the least. As I sit here in May writing this, it’s the first day of spring football practice for my son’s team. And on this day, it’s easy to observe which boys worked hard during the offseason and which didn’t. Who’s vying for a starter’s position and who’s in danger of being cut. In football, the groundwork for a successful program is laid in the many months leading up to the first practice, let alone the first game.

One can draw similar comparisons when speaking about calving season with beef producers. A successful calving season requires sound groundwork, months and even years in advance. Just like a championship coach, you’ve got to constantly develop your team.

Recruit. Recruit. Recruit.

Coaches seek out the best talent, so you, too, need to seek out the best genetics to match your goals and resources. Buy the best bulls and/or semen you can afford. Carefully monitor bloodlines and records to identify successful crosses and seek to replicate them.

Bulk Up in the Offseason.

Just like athletes work to increase muscle mass in the offseason, cows can be fed to increase or maintain body condition scores before calving. Getting a cow in good flesh at this time will pay dividends in the subsequent calf crop, as she will be more likely to breed back sooner. Additionally, proper supplementation during early gestation lays the groundwork for fetal programing that will affect the performance of that calf for the rest of its life. You are making long-term investments to help keep replacement heifers on your team for a long time.

Outfit Them With the Best.

A great athlete can only do so much without the proper equipment. Your cattle need proper inputs to perform to their full genetic potential, too. This includes everything from vaccinations and fly control methods to smart supplementation and facilities. Eliminate as many stressors within your control as you can through planning and management.

Choose Your Starters and Cut the Slackers.

A football coach can only put 11 players on the field at a time. Only those players who produce on the field or show promise for the future get to stick around. Your herd is no different. Set goals and continually cull those animals that don’t deliver. Not only will it improve the overall quality of your end product, but it will reduce your carrying costs.

Develop the Talent.

A successful coach is always thinking down the road and knows to give his future stars playing time now so they are experienced later when he needs them. Remember the management decisions you make today affect not only the current calf crop but the following calf crop. And if we throw fetal programing in there, you’re affecting your herd for decades to come in terms of replacement heifer performance. Nutritional choices and disease prevention this year have far-reaching repercussions for many years to come.

Play Until the Whistle Blows.

Successful teams are fully committed. Each player does their job and continues to give 100 percent until the play is whistled dead. In the same sense, choose a course of action and follow it through. Don’t go to the effort of purchasing a highly fortified supplement and then let cattle run out or, worse yet, change directions midsummer based on what was on sale.

You Can’t Rest on Your Laurels.

Just because your team won the championship last year is no guarantee they’ll even have a winning season this year. Players and coaches come and go each season. The dynamics are constantly changing and your competition is constantly changing. The same applies to the cattle business. Your cattle and pastures change from year to year and perhaps your help does, too. What was a profitable plan last year may not be profitable under this year’s market and weather conditions. Flexibility and adaptability is the name of the game.

SWEETLIX livestock supplements offer reliable, consistent intake of a wide variety of nutritional and additive options. Choose the option that best fits your operational goals and cattle needs. Spend less time worrying about supplements and more time watching your favorite football team! Visit for more information on the wide variety of supplement options available.

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

Vintage Pickin'

Vintage Pickin’ organizer and mastermind April Wilks of White Oak Farms lounges on an antique couch that is part of a one-of-a-kind set up of décor she staged to contribute to the ambience of her vintage and antique home décor show held May 20-21, 2016.

April Wilks' barn sale turns shabby into chic.

by Jade Sampsell

In recent years, shows such as HGTV’s "Junk Gypsies" and the History Channel’s "American Pickers" are making the hearts of self-professed junkin’ and pickin’ kings and queens flutter, inspiring average citizens without antique and vintage home décor knowledge to flex their proverbial creative and imaginative muscles, and reflecting a desire to preserve and return to the ideals of simplicity, quality craftsmanship, family togethaerness and a sense of time-gone-by community.

Thanks to Chip and Joanna Gaines, who own the Waco, Texas, home furnishings shop, Magnolia Market, and host HGTV’s hit show, "Fixer Upper," America now knows that shiplap is out and skinnylap, the current hot home decorating tend, is the way to go.

Because of these down-to-earth geniuses, whom a lot of us desire to be friends with and whose farm plenty of us want to visit, Americans who are not in the home building, remodeling or interior decorating fields are now familiar with these technical terms.

Mother/daughter duo Carol Slay of Shiloh and Taylor Jones of Rainsville hold up a few items they bought. They share a mutual love of junkin’ and pickin’.

Joanna’s knack for finding the most unique pieces at shows brimming with vintage and antique home décor to brighten up homes she and Chip restore in the charming Waco area is downright uncanny.

Southern innovator April Wilks of White Oak Farms in Fyffe, who has had a life-long love affair with junkin’ and pickin,’ had attended large venues and fairs brimming with the highest-quality pieces in places such as Washington, Texas, Georgia and Nashville, and saw a need to bring these premier, mind-blowing events to her home town and state.

In the past, a number of Alabamians like her who are passionate about antique and vintage pieces had to travel miles out of town and state to attend the barn sale meccas of our country.

Another issue with traveling to out-of-state shows is the hassle or inability of bringing your finds home with you if your mode of transportation entails flying.

In fall 2015, April Wilks held her first Vintage Pickin Barn Sale, an antique and vintage home décor market with 40-plus quality vendors at White Oaks Farm, her and her husband and two children’s gem of a haven.

It was such a success that vendors requested she hold her second show the following spring, May 20-21.

In addition to a select group of elite vendors, the event offered workshops to attendees.

Among them were the milk-paint class, the trash-to-treasure gardening class and a staging class.

In the trash-to-treasure class, attendees learned how to repurpose vintage pieces such as old gas cans and use them as planters for succulent vegetation as an alternative to throwing them away.

Kerry Leasure of Here a Chick There a Chick poses with the unique neon chick sign in her booth.

Mallorie Griffith of Griffith Interior in Rainsville gave a demonstration on how to stage a dining room table.

Kerry Leasure of Here a Chick There a Chick sold her one-of-a- kind, repurposed jewelry at the show.

Leasure began as an antiques dealer selling vintage jewelry. She started to experiment and make jewelry out of broken antique and vintage objects.

"I just started to play with broken things to just see what I could do with them and people were so crazy about it that I just went down the rabbit hole," she enthusiastically related.

With an English-major background, she finds it necessary to tie in a story with her repurposed jewelry.

In general, those who have a fever for anything vintage and antique, whether they are makers or buyers, will tell you the connection and stories affiliated with the finds are what give them a certain je ne sais quoi and make them special and set them apart.

David Rhea poses by one of his favorite pieces repurposed from vintage trucks that he and his wife, Lisa, sold.

April affectionately talked about the soldier’s Bible she displays in her magnificent home.

"I could go to Kirkland’s and pick up a little something for $15, but it makes me smile every time I walk by that little old soldier’s Bible, and I just think about who carried it and what it brought them through," she related.

With a good dose of humor and a hearty laugh, she revealed another one of her favorite repurposed items in her home, a piece in her dining room that a lady pulled from an old chicken house.

"And, when I got it, it still had the feathers in it, stuck to it and the paint was all worn off of it."

April’s family, especially her grandmother, who was a collector, instilled within her a love for junkin.’

"I started junkin’ as a kid. It’s something we did on Saturdays," April fondly reminisced.

"I kind of felt like I just saw the trash and turned it into treasure," April continued.

As she grew older, attended college, married and began decorating a place of her own, April began to further develop her gift of putting key pieces together and making a home beautiful. At this time, she started following a lot of home décor blogs.

A lady whose blog she was following posted life-altering information about a show in Nashville.

Attendees enter the Vintage Pickin’ Barn Sale at White Oaks Farms in Fyffe.

"It was the first one I’d ever been to that was like this; there was nothing but vintage home décor and antiques."

April experienced love at first sight.

"I just fell in love with it, and I was just running from booth to booth like a kid in a candy store. It was like Christmas morning for a kid, and my husband was like, ‘you are going to have to slow down; you are wearing me out.’"

A tiny dream seed began to sprout within her heart, and in this moment, the path she wanted to pursue became crystal clear.

"All the way home we talked about it," she gushed. "I said I either have to be a part of it, or I’ve got to have one because this is everything that I love wrapped up in one. It was just that feeling inside that kept me up at night."

For two years, she mulled over the logistics of her vision, before courageously taking the next step to make it a reality.

"I’m not a big risk taker so it was scary to make that kind of investment, to go out and scout all of the vendors and try to get people to believe in your dream," she humbly revealed.

Sisters Ashley Doufexis, left, and April Wilks pose in front of a large chalkboard sign, part of the stunning decor April staged for Vintage Pickin'. Ashley wears many hats in serving as the show's communications specialist.

April spent a year working on her idea and driving to shows all over, just making connection after connection and handing out cards.

She tirelessly worked on developing relationships with vendors and in building the foundation for a spectacular show.

"It’s just so rewarding to see my sister living her dream," said Ashley Doufexis, April’s sister and right-hand woman. Doufexis is a gifted communications specialist for Vintage Pickin’.

White Oaks Farm is also an exclusive wedding venue, and April and her family aspire to host repurposing and vintage and antique related workshops outside of Vintage Pickin’, which will continue to be hosted each fall and spring.

Jade Sampsell is a freelance writer from Montgomery.

Women in Ag 2016

Brad Cox explains the importance of tractor and farm safety.

Sharpening skills and growing confidence with hands-on learning.

by Michelle Bufkin

"Women in agriculture need to recognize that their work is valuable – and with value comes greater confidence in themselves and in their businesses," said Marji Alaniz, head of FarmHer, in an article from agweb.

Self-confidence was one of the focuses of the Women in Ag Workshop. The workshop was held May 13 at the Black Belt Research and Extension Center in Marion Junction.

Thirty-six women attended the Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems woman-led workshop where they gained hands-on experience, knowledge and self-confidence. Each section taught the women valuable knowledge about different areas of agriculture. The sections included backing trailers, tractors and farm implements; evaluating pasture pest presence; fencing; cattle handling; needle/vaccine selection and injection sites.

Events similar to this are growing in popularity in the agriculture industry. Since most people are four generations removed from the farm, they were not fortunate enough to learn these skills from their parents. This creates a learning curve that in an industry as large and as fast-paced as agriculture can be difficult to overcome.

"It’s always good when anyone in the ag industry seeks opportunities to become a better hand on the farm, whether they’re owner/operators, managers or ranch hands, and that’s what these women accomplished in this workshop," explained Courteney Holland, equine Extension specialist. "They learned to do tasks that are not always the easiest."

The best part of the program, to most participants, was the hands-on experience. Instead of being told how to do something, they were able to actually do that task.

Wendy Yeager works with one of the participant as she drives a tractor around the farm yard.

"My favorite part was the hands-on aspect," said Samantha Carpenter, social media specialist for Alabama Farmers Cooperative and reporter for "Simply Southern TV." "Actually running cattle through a chute and driving a fence post in the ground. Even though those things seem minor and simple to those who do it every day, it was the confidence boost a lot of women needed."

Such events not only benefit the people in attendance but also the industry as a whole. The participants and the leaders hope to see them even grow in the future.

"I can’t give this event enough positive praise," Carpenter said. "Every participant I talked to learned at least one new thing, most of them more. To see this event offered across the state in multiple regions would be beneficial for the entire industry. Giving an opportunity to those who want to expand their knowledge and skills to be a better advocate, farmer and producer is something that is vital in this growing world."

This event was for anyone who was interested in agriculture. There were no prerequisites or criteria, besides the desire to gain more knowledge.

"It helps women discover new skills they most likely never knew they had. These are skills they may have never been introduced to, too afraid to try or thought they weren’t good at," Holland explained.

Holland taught the session on how to back a trailer. Her favorite part was watching the nervous participants face their fears of backing a livestock trailer in tight spaces. She saw women grow more confident in areas they were weak in and believes that helped them, their farms and the agriculture industry.

"I believe men and women have different personality strengths and those can be complimentary if we all choose to get better at the tasks we’re typically weak in," Holland added. "This event strengthened women who may be new farm owners – single or widowed. The main thing is we want them to be more comfortable with tasks on the farm."

These skills were bettered, mostly by the session leaders at the workshop. The leaders planned informative sessions that would increase confidence and knowledge. The workshops were led by a Natural Resources Conservation Service employee, a farm owner, Extension specialists and a veterinarian.

"The leaders of this event did a great job of reassuring us and making us to feel like we could do all the tasks with confidence," Carpenter said. "Being involved in production agriculture can seem intimidating because of the big equipment or large animals, but by teaching us the safe and proper way to handle situations and allowing us to practice helped us to overcome the challenges and understand we are capable."

Because of this event, these women left feeling better about themselves, their farms and the agriculture industry in general. Benjamin Franklin’s quote said it best, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

Most participants agreed that this event was a success, and hope to see it grow. So look for more events similar to this in the future. Whether you’re nervous about backing a trailer, working cattle, evaluating pest problems or sufficient in all of these things, you should never stop learning. So why not learn surrounded by women who share the same passion you do? It will not only help you but agriculture in general and future generations to come.

This event involved women in agriculture to help them be more equipped for this crazy ride that is farming.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Working Like a Mule

by John Howle

“You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.”
~ Hank Williams Sr.

The mule is an integral part of America’s history. They are smart, surefooted and efficient workers.

I was fortunate growing up on a farm in that I was taught to plow behind a mule. At the time, it didn’t seem like that much fun. That old mule just kept plodding along the rows never tiring while I was struggling and stumbling over rocks and clods trying to keep the plow balanced and the plow lines straight. I kept thinking the old mule would wear out and need a break, so I could get some water and rest a bit. That never happened.

Because I knew how to plow behind a mule, my Grandfather would remind me when we were hauling square bales of hay that I needed to work more like a mule instead of a horse.

"A horse works fast and will wear out, and a mule will hit a steady lick all day," he said.

According to the Mule Museum website, mules have been bred for use as far back as early biblical times. The mule was the favored ride of both King David and his son, King Solomon. George Washington, seeing the value of the mule as a part of America’s agriculture, was intent on becoming the first American mule breeder. After Washington wrote a letter to King Charles of Spain requesting permission to purchase quality, breeding stock, the king sent Washington two jennies and a 4-year-old jack. The mules from Washington’s stock were the forerunner of mules that were the backbone of American agriculture for generations in the southern United States.

During America’s westward expansion, wagon trains that used mules instead of horses could supposedly travel 30 miles per day, while wagon trains with horses could only average about 5 miles per day.

As an essential of the Southern farm, the agricultural statistics in the mid-1800s indicated that one farmer with two mules could plow 16 acres a day. In 1923, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued Farmer’s Bulletin No. 1311 called Mule Production that gave specific instructions on breeding good stock for farm use.

Not only have mules been used for farms across America, they were indispensable to past war efforts. In fact, the mule is the symbol of the U.S. Army. World War I was the last major war that made much use of the mule. A typical World War I wagon would be pulled by six mules with the wagon weighing 2,000 pounds and loaded with 3,000 pounds of cargo. Here’s a salute to that small handful of Alabamians who still work the mules on the land.

New Ground

A Caterpillar D5 is the ideal size for most light clearing and farm jobs.

Today, a bulldozer is much more efficient clearing land for pasture than a team of mules. Many people who have land to clear simply look around for someone with a bulldozer and hope the cost isn’t too high. If the dozer is too small, you’ll have much more expense in extra operating time trying to complete a job that could have been completed in less time with a larger dozer.

When you hire a dozer operator, don’t just go with how much they charge per hour. Look at the size of dozer the operator will be using. For most light clearing and land improvement, a Caterpillar D5 is sufficient, but for larger jobs such as stump removal a D6 or larger might be needed.

Soil Test

A soil test is the most accurate way to determine exactly what nutrients are lacking from your soil to get the most from your forage growth. Make sure you use a clean, plastic bucket, and select soil samples at a depth of 1-4 inches. Take plenty of subsamples to get an accurate picture of soil health, and mix the dirt well inside the bucket while removing rocks and stems.

Mail the sample to your lab in a box or bag that can be obtained through your local Extension office or Co-op store. In a few days, you will receive a soil report stating exactly what nutrients are missing from the soil. For the cost of a bag of fertilizer, you’ll know for sure how much lime and fertilizer you need.

Successful Spraying

We all want to see green, well-fertilized grass, and we don’t want to see weeds taking up precious nutrients. Many applications of fertilizer and herbicide can be combined if you use a liquid application for your pastures. Mixing liquid fertilizer and a broadleaf herbicide such as Grazon can help create healthier pastures. A truck with a boom sprayer can easily apply both these chemicals to the pasture getting quick results for your weed-free growth.

Grab the Grapple

One of the handiest implements around the farm is a front-end loader mounted grapple. The grapple makes it easier to pile and pack brush for burning. It can be used to remove small trees and their root balls on woody brush such as privet hedge. Finally, the grapple can be used for carrying large bundles of posts securely and safely to the fence building sites.

This July, if you have to do some hard work, remember to work like a mule instead of a horse. Keeping a steady pace can help prevent overheating and you will accomplish more by the end of the day.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

“The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge”

Southern author and journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson talks to a crowd recently at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library. Her new book, “The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge: A Memoir in Dog Years,” looks at her life in a small community in Mississippi and the dogs who have contributed so much to her life.

A new memoir by Rheta Grimsley Johnson reflects on love, loss and life.

by Maureen Drost

Can a dog’s unconditional love truly be put into words?

Southern author and journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson certainly comes close. She writes in her latest book of dogs that have enriched her life, making good times particularly enjoyable and standing silently by when sad times are almost unbearable.

"Humans don’t deserve dogs," she reflected, "but they love us anyway."

For her, "a significant pet must be a dog. Anything else is a weak substitute, a decaffeinated coffee," she writes in "The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge: A Memoir in Dog Years."

"Dogs never interrupt us, contradict us, scold us. … They are mysterious and open all at once, a dichotomous blend of need and indifference," she continued.

Johnson signed copies of her book recently at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library. As she discussed the memoir with the audience, dogs from the nonprofit Friends of Rescue chorused outside the library as if asking permission to come inside and join in. The library paired pet adoption with Johnson’s appearance.

The Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard in Alabama received special mention in the book. When she first wrote a newspaper column about the small cemetery, it was a simple burial site for good coon dogs. Today, everyone from somewhere else wants to go.

A man named Key Underwood buried his beloved dog Troop there, making the canine the first to be buried in this remote area near the Alabama-Mississippi state line. Hundreds of dogs have been laid to rest there since the 1930s.

Underwood always kept the cemetery clean and mowed the grass. According to Johnson’s interview with him, Underwood loved hearing people’s compliments on the hound graveyard. They said it looked better than many cemeteries with humans in them.

Johnson lives in a small community herself known to readers as Fishtrap Hollow. It’s in the Mississippi Hill Country midway between Memphis and Nashville. She and her husband Hines Hall have three dogs.

In her book, she calls Fishtrap Hollow an unremarkable place – not as exotic as the name implies, just a place with just over 100 acres of pines and hardwoods in northern Mississippi. She never thought she’d live there over 20 years later.

Johnson’s fans talk with her after she signed their books at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library. “The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge” is her sixth book.

One of her favorite dogs was Mabel (pronounced May-Belle). Mabel is pictured on the cover of the new book with Hank and Boozoo, the pets resting atop the bridge built by Johnson’s late husband Don. Mabel was a constant companion for the couple, and the first to be buried over the bridge in Johnson’s own dog cemetery.

"The dogs come in the house," she said. "Mabel taught me that… You can’t communicate with something you hardly ever see."

One of six books by Johnson, "The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge" joins five other volumes focusing on such subjects as Hank Williams, Cajun Louisiana and "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz. An award-winning writer, her newspaper columns are syndicated by King Features of New York.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville. She worked with Rheta Grimsley Johnson on The Auburn Plainsman, Auburn University’s student newspaper.

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