Sign up for email updates from Cooperative Farming News

Facebook Twitter Instagram
Home > Archives > June 2010

June 2010

Stricter Emissions Standards Coming In 2011

Emissions standards for new off-road diesel equipment, including cotton harvesters, go into effect in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Case IH.)

by Jim Erickson

While the original Clean Air Act was passed in 1963 and the most recent amendments to the measure won approval 20 years ago, implementation of one of the legislation’s most important provisions affecting agriculture starts in 2011.

That’s when the latest and most stringent regulations for off-road diesel engines rated at 174 horsepower and above go into effect. The new rules call for a 90 percent cut in particulate matter (smoke) and a 50 percent reduction in oxides of nitrogen emissions, often referred to as "smog" because they contribute to the formation of atmospheric pollution.

Referred to as Interim Tier 4/Stage III B, the new requirements replace the current Tier 3 emissions rules which mandated a 40 percent reduction in oxides of nitrogen compared with standards earlier in effect.

Step-by-step lowering of allowable diesel emissions, as mandated by EPA under the Clean Air Act.

But the story doesn’t end there. Final Tier 4/Stage IV regulations will take emissions of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen to near-zero levels by 2014.

In addition to larger tractors and harvesting machinery, the off-road diesel emissions rules apply to bulldozers, graders and other heavy construction and logging equipment, portable generators and airport tugs. Marine engines and locomotives are affected by somewhat different regulations and engines used in underground mining equipment are regulated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

To meet the standards, engine manufacturers will be required to produce new engines with advanced emission control technologies. Also, refiners will be supplying more ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuels. Sulfur content in the ULSD product already being used in diesel-powered highway vehicles is limited to 15 parts per million (ppm), compared to 500 ppm in low sulfur diesel fuel.

According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, the costs associated with complying with the final emissions rules will be one to three percent of the purchase price for most categories of off-road diesel equipment, depending on the size and complexity of the machine. Rumors abound but some industry experts say the EPA estimate is low and compliance costs could add 10 percent or more to prices.

Diesel engines in new, large combines like this one will be subject to much stricter emission standards starting in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Case IH.)

The necessary use of ULSD to meet tighter emissions standards has other consequences as well. Brad Nobbe (pronounced NO-bee), a principal in the Wm. Nobbe & Co., Inc., John Deere dealership based in southwestern Illinois, noted in a recent review that biodiesel no longer will be an option for farmers and other users of diesel fuel. In addition, EPA cost estimates for producing and distributing ULSD have ranged from four to seven cents more per gallon, an amount that, in part, could be offset by lower maintenance expenses.

The new diesel emission regulations do not require retrofitting older engines already in service. However, the agency has estimated, when all older off-road engines have been replaced, the tougher emissions rules annually will prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, one million lost work days, 15,000 heart attacks and 6,000 children’s asthma-related emergency room visits.

Not everyone agrees on what constitutes the best engine design technology for meeting the Interim and Final Tier 4 emission requirements.

One method uses cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) along with an exhaust filter that reduces particulate matter. In this system, measured amounts of exhaust gas are cooled and mixed with incoming fresh air to lower the engine’s peak combustion temperature, thereby reducing oxides of nitrogen to an acceptable level. However, the lower combustion temperatures increase the amount of particulate matter, requiring the exhaust gases be routed through an exhaust filter containing a diesel oxidation catalyst and a diesel particulate filter. Particulate matter trapped in the filter is oxidized into nitrogen gas and carbon dioxide, and expelled through the exhaust pipe.

The second method for reducing emissions is with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and a diesel oxidation catalyst. Unlike EGR technology, SCR raises the peak combustion temperature so the engine runs like a hot, cleaner-burning fire. Such conditions mean less particulate matter but more oxides of nitrogen. The remaining particulate matter is handled by a chemical reaction in the diesel oxidation catalyst. Reducing oxides of nitrogen is accomplished by injecting a diesel exhaust fluid (urea and purified water) into the exhaust stream. When the exhaust gases combine with the urea in the SCR catalyst, the oxides of nitrogen break down into nitrogen gas and water vapor and are expelled from the exhaust pipe.

There are pros and cons for both emission control methods.

EGR proponents, among them John Deere, say the technology is more operator-friendly and less complex to maintain. Deere explained it used cooled EGR technology to meet Tier 3 diesel engine requirements and it simply makes sense to build on a system with a proven record of reliability by adding the exhaust filter to meet the Interim Tier 4 emissions standards.

Further, Deere noted urea is not widely available today and some farmers may have to drive a distance to find a retailer handling the product. Urea’s price and storage issues, especially in colder areas where urea can freeze, pose other questions, the company said.

SCR advocates, including Case IH, claim the technology is the best approach for high horsepower agricultural equipment because it means longer service intervals, lower fuel consumption and wider fuel compatibility. The company also stated leading engineers believe all manufacturers will need to use SCR to meet the more stringent Final Tier 4 standards beginning in 2014. In addition, Case IH maintains its dealers will help ensure customers have the infrastructure needed for the transition to SCR systems.

While Case IH will be using SCR technology for medium and heavy-duty diesel engines, it will use the cooled EGR system in engines less than 100 horsepower.

A Man With a Simple Life

Paul Lowry was a craftsman, an artist with wood.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

"When I was little, I thought Paw-Paw was so good because he was a carpenter just like Jesus," one of my then-young kids giggled as we unloaded yet another load of groceries from my truck.

But throughout the remainder of that day — and the more than 30 years since then — that statement resonates in my memories and in my heart.

Yes, my Daddy, Paul Lowry, was a carpenter. But not like so many hurry-up-and-go ones you see today.

My very first memory of my Daddy is of him in striped overalls, a hammer hanging by a loop on the side, and a building-supply apron bulging with nails and sawdust it had trapped around his hips.

Daddy was a carpenter all right. But he was so much more than that simple word can describe. He was a craftsman, an artist with wood. And his talents were sometimes uncanny.

While my husband Roy would be figuring a complex calculation to determine the angle needed for the rafters on an addition to our home, Daddy took his flat yellow carpenter’s pencil and metal "square," made a few marks and had already cut a perfect-fitting rafter by the time Roy finished his equation!

Daddy could take a stubby pencil and a wrinkled yellow-lined notebook, and quickly tell you how many shingles, or bricks, or boards, or pieces of paneling, or whatever you needed to complete a small project — or build a mansion!

For special projects like my then-office bookcases, he chose pieces of lumber one-by-one, going through hundreds of boards in the long line of sheds at the building supply house.

Each rough spot was smoother, each joint perfectly matched, every piece of paneling accurately aligned — or it was torn out and redone.

In Daddy’s later long career, he owned his own construction company and his craftsmanship and integrity preceded even the printing of his business cards. He never had to advertise. He didn’t even have a business listing in the telephone directory!

But there was always another house to build, or two, or three, or even seven, in varying degrees of completion.

And Daddy picked his potential homeowners as carefully and meticulously as he did everything else in his life.

I can remember many Sunday afternoons sitting around the kitchen table when couples came with their rolled blue-ink-smelling plans to almost ask for my dad’s "blessing" on their houses.

Paul Lowry (left) and Roy Geno work on a room addition in the early 1980s.

About 30 years ago, a couple came with an extravagant house plan for those times: the total cost would be more than half a million dollars! My Daddy’s profit would have been huge for the early 1980s, at least in our little family.

But the couple began to argue as they discussed the plans. The couple ended up shouting obscenities at each other. My Daddy said nothing but continued to look over the plans and puff on his ever-present pipe.

The couple soon left, taking their arguments and plans with them.

As was his custom, Daddy let them know in a couple of days about their home. He was sorry but he just couldn’t seem to fit it into his schedule.

While his margin of profit would have been huge by those days’ standards, he told my Mama, and she agreed, working for such a bickering couple would just not be "worth it." It was that simple.

As I was growing up I didn’t understand the true sacrifices that very simple man made for his family.

He worked many days strapped into a metal and leather back-brace in excruciating pain. He had to keep working then to provide for his family. And when he finally went under the surgeon’s knife in the early 1960s for somewhat experimental surgery at the old Carraway Methodist Hospital in Birmingham, he wasn’t as afraid of coming out from under the anesthetic and finding his legs paralyzed as he was afraid of simply no longer being able to provide for us.

Paul Lowry at age 18.

A man of immense faith, he walked from that hospital freed of his back problems.

He continued building. He was so respected by his fellow builders he was the very first President of the Blount County Home Builder’s Association in the 1970s. And later served as their President for a second time.

A month doesn’t go by we don’t run into someone who brags about living in a house my Daddy built, and how pleased they are with the craftsmanship!

Daddy retired after Roy and I married, feeling he finally had someone else "to take care of" me. But he didn’t stop his busy schedule.

If he wasn’t in his workshop making crafts like trash cans, potato bins, bread boxes and other beautiful pieces of furniture, like a roll-top desk for me, he was in his garden.

He loved the smell of this earth, where his daddy and his grand-daddy before him had grown not only vegetables but cotton to support their families.

He was in the first group of farmers who sold at the Blount County Farmer’s Market at the then new Blount-Oneonta Agri-Business Center in the early 1980s, and he became widely-known for his special-tasting peanuts.

When my little family’s home burned on Feb. 28, 1983, Daddy came out of retirement temporarily, along with some of his workers, to rebuild us a simple but special home.

Roy saw the trucks pulling up and what we then thought were elderly men getting out, he silently thought "what in the world can these older men do."

Inez and Paul Lowry

Those "older" men, including my dad, worked circles around all of us younger folks.

"I could barely keep up," Roy now laughingly remembers.

Daddy had a few more years of gardening, woodworking and speaking for his much-loved Gideon group.

On June 26, 1987, he spoke at a local church about the Gideon’s outreach of providing Bibles for students, prisoners, nurses and more, and in hotel rooms, for which they are most widely-known. His testimony moved many to tears.

That night, he and I sat together on the back bench of Union Hill Baptist Church, where he’d served in so many capacities like chairman of the deacons, the building committee and so much more. We had such good fellowship as we watched my two youngest kids in the Vacation Bible School Commencement.

The next morning, Mama knew something was wrong when she called him in to lunch and he didn’t respond. She found him laying in the garden, a pan of just-picked green beans on one side and his pipe on the other. The coroner said his heart had failed him; he died before his body hit the ground.

Daddy would have been 69 on July 29, 1987.

Roy and I bought the family farm after my now-late mama built a smaller house here.

When I am around the outbuildings and barns tending my animals, there are days I could almost swear that I smell sawdust and Prince Albert tobacco.

My memories are of those smells. The smells of sawdust, newly-cut lumber, dust, freshly-tilled soil and even perspiration which were the aroma of hard work — of jobs well done — of accomplishments made.

The Bible says practically nothing about Jesus’ growth into young manhood.

But I can picture Jesus helping Joseph in his shop. They may have been crafting a cabinet for their neighbor’s kitchen area instead of a computer table like Daddy built for me, but so many other things were probably the same even though they were 2,000 years and a world apart.

The satisfaction of a job well done— even the smell of sawdust — the pride in simple jobs and the satisfaction of simple lives.

Suzy Lowry Geno lives on the family farm in Blount County and can be reached through her website at

Ag Duo Specializes in Aiding Growers in Need

Harold McLemore (left) and George Paris of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries helped a group of Lowndesboro residents plant sweet corn during the spring.

by Alvin Benn

The ground was tilled and drip lines were being prepared as George Paris and Harold McLemore stood back to watch the start of their latest community project. The two men have worked together for the past decade at the state Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADIA) and are known across Alabama for the way they’ve helped people improve their farming operations.

Their specialty is assisting people, especially low income farmers and urban families who lack basic knowledge in agriculture and gardening.

They were in the little Lowndes County community of Lowndesboro in April to help implement a grant to provide a crop that would have two purposes — physical activity to plant it and nutrition when eaten.

Their crop of choice was contained in row after row of sweet corn and they had a small audience to watch them do their thing.

Harold McLemore (left) and George Paris lend a helping hand during a sweet corn planting session in Lowndesboro.

"We planted watermelons and pumpkins last year," said Paris. "We also planted collards, but deer got into the field and ate ’em all up. Until we can get a fence up, we need to plant a crop that deer hopefully won’t bother."

Leslie Bailey, a popular entrepreneur, cook and personality who operates "Marengo House" — which is used for catering and other functions, beamed as she watched the two friends at work.

"They’re kinda like the Odd Couple, but they go out-of-their-way to help people when they need it," Bailey said. "They’re both passionate about what they are doing. You can see how they enjoy being together on these projects."

Paris, who is black, and McLemore, who is white, took different paths to their unique agricultural partnership, but it’s as though it was meant to be because of a smooth relationship that has lasted for such a long time.

They met about 15 years ago when Paris went to see McLemore who was operating a strawberry farm just off the Atlanta Highway in east Montgomery.

"I just had too many berries and couldn’t get rid of ’em," McLemore, 53, said. "Then George came along and used his marketing skills to do it for me. He got in touch with the media and it wasn’t long before people began to come to my farm to fill up their baskets with strawberries."

Once McLemore joined the state Department of Agriculture, he and Paris began working together on a variety of projects.

One of their biggest successes was a collard planting project at Knox Elementary School in Selma. They didn’t have much land to work with outside the cafeteria, but they were able to put together a plan producing huge collards enjoyed during lunch by the boys and girls who helped plant and nurture them.

Paris, 67, didn’t grow up on a farm in Sumter County, but he learned a lot about agriculture then and, later, when his family moved to Tuskegee in Macon County.

His father and grandfather were farmers and he vowed not to follow in their footsteps. So, he majored in education at Tuskegee University and began to spread his wings a bit.

He was a teacher for awhile in Birmingham and determined that wasn’t his future, either. Traveling with his father gave him a chance to see big cities like Chicago and Detroit, and he soon longed for "home, sweet, home."

"I said to myself at one time, ‘You know, Alabama ain’t so bad, either,’" he said, with a big laugh. "I was going to make cars in Detroit or movies in Hollywood, but I knew that wouldn’t happen."

When Paris went to work for the state, he quickly used farming skills that had to be part of his genetic makeup and it wasn’t long before his marketing reputation began to grow.

"I can’t go anywhere in Alabama where somebody doesn’t know George Paris," McLemore said. "His dedication to his job is well known. You can’t do a good job unless you care and he cares about what happens to Alabama farmers, especially those with limited resources."

Paris has similar feelings about his partner, calling him "extremely dedicated to his job and he wants to make sure things work right when we’re out in the field on a project."

"What we’re doing in Lowndesboro is a good example of how well we work together," said Paris. "He and I can take a look at a project and, in no time, come to just about the same conclusion on how to make it succeed."

Miriam Gaines of the Alabama Department of Public Health couldn’t agree more because she’s seen the two men work well together on more than one project.

"The relationship between George and Harold is wonderful," said Gaines, who is director of her department’s nutrition and physical activity unit. "Harold is a detail person, someone who thinks through it from start to finish while George can come in at a moment’s notice and use his own perspective. They always seem to wind up with the right decisions."

What Gaines likes most of all is being able to propose something to the two men and then stand back and watch how they react.

"When I come up with an idea they don’t tell me it’s crazy," she said. "They just gently walk me through the reality of what it is."

Case in point was Gaines’ idea of planting a "salsa" crop — something that might have made another team look skyward and scratch their heads.

Gaines’ idea was to plant a variety of crops that, when harvested, could be combined into a salsa concoction — minus the chips, of course.

The "ingredients" would include tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, herbs and cilantro which is known in some circles as "Chinese Parsley."

Instead of telling her the idea was somewhat strange, Paris said, "Okay, let’s think about that."

He explained the amount of land in Lowndesboro probably wouldn’t be sufficient for the variety needed to make the salsa. What he didn’t do was dismiss the idea out of hand and that impressed Gaines.

Paris and McLemore enjoy meeting community leaders to discuss a project and they never leave the area until they can sit down and discuss what has been suggested or undertaken.

That’s what they did in Lowndesboro when they watched and listened to Gaines and several local women go over some of the details at a table on the second floor of "Marengo House."

When they offer their own suggestions, it usually covers cost, labor and whether the crop under discussion will be a hit or a miss. They had no doubts the sweet corn about to be planted in the field behind the big house would be a success.

What Gaines especially liked about the $5,000 grant in Lowndesboro was the possibility of a double-barreled success story.

"The original grant was to produce a nutritious vegetable or fruit crop and to use physical activity at the same time," she said. "That way we could ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ If we can do this all over Alabama, it will be wonderful for communities and their backyard gardens."

One of the things she and her department are trying to do in Alabama is getting communities to embrace the concept of eating fresh produce instead of processed produce.

As long as Paris and McLemore continue their unique partnership, the health department’s goal will be met project by project.

As he pushes toward 70, Paris said he’s thinking more and more about retiring, but isn’t ready just yet.

That’s because he’s having too much fun right now traveling around with McLemore as they look for somebody else to help plant a garden or work on a community project.

They make it clear to those they help that their assistance only goes so far. Once they help them get their project off or into the ground, it’s up to the property owner to take it from there.

"We can’t do everything and we let them know that," said Paris.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

ALSHA Promotes Education and a Well-Trained Horse

Alabama Stock Horse Association Directors Eddie Hugging, Jackson, and Shon Wilson, Rainsville, watch the March Clinic in Montgomery from the sidelines. (All photos courtesy of Alabama Stock Horse Association.)

by Don Linker

Ranch or stock horses are generally well-trained horses ready and willing to perform a variety of tasks in a ranch setting. In many cases, their number one job might be transportation to and from remote parts of the ranch, so they need to travel well and be a pleasure to ride. In addition to transportation, the stock horse may be asked to work a rope, move cattle, separate a cow from the herd, and negotiate a wide range of natural and some not-so-natural obstacles, hence an all-around stock horse is a pleasure to ride, handles well and is willing to perform any task asked of him or her. In recent years, specialization in one event became popular, leading to horses good in one, but maybe not so good in other events. In the mid-1990s, a statewide group in Texas recognized the trend of specialization and saw problems arising that, in their opinion, was not good for the horse industry. They started the Stock Horse of Texas or SHOT with incorporation in 1998. The founders saw the need for affordable education for riders, so a clinic is offered the day before the stock horse show. This enables new participants to learn and then evaluate their progress in the show the next day.

Brian Sumrall, Master Shot Clinician, demonstrates the proper method to begin a turn-around at the ALSHA Stock Horse Clinic.

Tommy Fuller, president of the Alabama Stock Horse Association (ALSHA), related that Ranch Horse Versatility events were held in Alabama consisting of five classes including pleasure, trail, cutting, working cow horse and conformation. Local entries were virtually nonexistent because there was no entry level for novice competitors. In 2008 at the Versatility event in Montgomery, SHOT members, Dr. Chris Wilson and Jimbo Humphreys invited Fuller to attend the SHOT show in Waco, TX. Fuller attended the show and was excited when he learned the philosophy of the organization with their goal of an all-around trained horse through education and rider awareness. This show would also be the national kick-off of the American Stock Horse Association, a new organization, but its programs including philosophy, educational methods and competitions were well-tested in Texas before going nationwide. The methods of how to measure the worth of a good stock horse and how to teach the skills needed to succeed are sound and well-accepted.

The ALSHA event consists of four classes including pleasure, trail, reining and cow horse. The levels of competition are youth, novice, green horse, collegiate, limited non-pro, non-pro and open, so there is a place for everyone. Equine competitors do not have to be registered, but they must be able to trot, and no mules or donkeys are allowed. Points are awarded from one to ten, so attempts are rewarded with disqualifications resulting from a lame horse, illegal equipment and cruel treatment of the horse. The stated goal of the ALSHA is to help people ride a better horse.

B.F. Yeates coaches Nancy Dunn, Eclectic, on proper use of her reins in the March ALSHA Clinic in Montgomery.

The pleasure class may be the most important class, because transportation to and from tasks should be functional and a pleasure. The trail class measures the ability of the stock horse to handle everyday situations and chores; these are common sense obstacles and the class is held on natural terrain where possible. The cow horse class offers the option of either roping or circling the cow. The reining patterns measure how well the horse handles and a horse with reining experience can find it beneficial when doing the cow work. The classes are all user-friendly according to your level.

Alabama Stock Horse Association began their stock horse shows in 2009 with competitors increasing from 22 at the first show to 50 at the first show held in 2010 at the Crawford Arena in Montgomery. The increase in competitors indicates the influence of education in the form of clinics and also the levels of competition available.

If you would like to ride a better horse and be a better rider, you should check out the Alabama Stock Horse Association. They are holding an event in Fayette at the Multipurpose Complex with a clinic on June 26 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a show on Sunday beginning at 9 a.m.

For more information, contact Kristi Pate, show secretary, at (205) 399-6102, 364-1019 orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">; or Tommy Fuller, president of the Alabama Stock Horse Association, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Fuller shops at Farmers Cooperative Market in Leroy, where Manager Jeff Houston helps him when he has questions and stocks what he needs to take care of his animals.

Cole Harmon, LaFayette, is learning what he needs to know to be the world's greatest horseman someday.

Dr.David Hodo, Selma physician, is working on his horsemanship skills at the Montgomery Clinic at the Southeastern Livestock Exposition in March.

Father and daughter, Chad and Anna Smith of Ragland, are working on their horsemanship skills together.

A group of Quarter Horses take advantage of a lull in the activity to get a little rest during the Stock Horse Clinic in Montgomery in March.

Your local Quality Co-op strives to earn and keep your business and is there to help when you have questions or need something special. We also support equine activities in Alabama and are proud to see the Alabama Stock Horse Association is aiding Alabama riders in their quest to ride a better horse. While in Fayette, Fayette Farmers Co-op manager Lance Ezell will help with products they need to have a successful show.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.

At Blount Co. Co-op, Business is Blossoming

Five-year-old Shannon Salari, who was visiting from the Netherlands, enjoyed choosing flowers at Blount Co-op’s Mother’s Day event. Shannon and her parents, Katie and Mathieu Salari, were visiting with Grandma Nancy Ellis on Berry Mountain and other relatives.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

When Trey Adams was growing up in Rogersville and then graduating from Lauderdale County High School, he thought his future was set: he planned to attend Auburn University and major in engineering as his career path.

But once at Auburn, he took Landscape Horticulture as an "elective" class and his future changed at once!

"I had no clue," Trey explained. "I didn’t realize you could get a degree like that in horticulture. I enjoy working outside and I just can’t see myself working in a 9 to 5 office job now."

Trey graduated from Auburn on May 9, 2009, with that NOW-coveted horticulture degree and began working at the Blount County Farmers Co-op about six months ago as the Garden and Landscape Manager, helping to expand an already fastly-growing plant division and landscape section.

"Whether it’s a business or a house, you can just take something that looks so plain, do some creative landscaping, and change the whole look and value of the place," Trey said.

Trey is assisted by Mally Bugg and Joe Hudson. And until long-time plant specialist Doug Oliver’s mid-May retirement, they were all still learning from him.

Trey Adams, Blount County Farmers Co-op Garden and Landscape Manager, gets a flowering basket for a customer.

Doug noted the landscaping business would likely continue to increase as "I think a lot of folks have found out a well-landscaped yard can add up to 20 percent to their property’s value."

"Doug was a big part in making this plant section what it is today. When I first came here a little more than three years ago, we had one shade house. Now we have two shades houses, two large greenhouses on line just this spring and the arbor to sell from," explained Blount Manager Paul Thompson.

But like everything else at Blount Co-op, the plant section is a joint effort of ALL employees.

This year, employees were instrumental in the building of the two, 21 x 48-foot greenhouses which went into production February first.

Mally Bugg loads more Knock Out Roses

"These are not just for growing our own plants; these are for controlling the climate of the Bonnie plants we receive. These are not just plants that come in on a truck from somewhere today and we sell them tomorrow," said Paul. "We make sure these plants are the way we want them before they are sold. Irrigation begins each morning at 3:30 and we have an injection system where the plants are fertilized through that system. Right now we have about 15,000 plants and it’s a constant chore for their care and upkeep. We want people to see when they buy plants here they are buying something special. These plants are taken care of where in some of the ‘big box’ stores they’re just left on their own."

(Doug always said plants just didn’t do as well when they were sold by "big box" stores just like they sell toilet paper and canned goods!)

Flowers in one of two large green-houses.

"We constantly remind ourselves that everything leaving here is a resemblance of us," Paul emphasized. "With Trey here, our landscape design section has also really expanded. That’s turned out to be a really positive thing."

Paul especially wanted to praise Justin Carlston with Bonnie Plants for being ever-ready to bring stock when needed.

Paul and his other employees are constantly thinking of new ways to better serve their customers.

The week before Mother’s Day, Paul thought how nice it would be if customers, especially children, could come in and personally design and plant flowers for their mothers, grandmothers and other special friends for Mother’s Day.

Although he had little time to advertise, the Saturday before Mother’s Day was a HUGE success, with folks of all ages designing and planting flowers not only for their Mothers but for Decoration Days being held in the area at local cemeteries.

Blount County Farmers Co-op Manager Paul Thompson is expanding “all things plant!”

Lester Memorial Methodist Kindergarten even brought their four-year old class the previous Thursday to "dig in the dirt" and make flower pots for their moms!

"This will likely become an annual event," Paul explained. "We really didn’t even have time to promote it this year and it went so well just from word-of-mouth! Next year we will advertise it a little more and have an even bigger event, if that’s possible."

(And at the writing of this article, Paul and employees were working on some type of Father’s Day promotion.)

In addition to the huge rise in flowering plants and decorative shrubs, the Blount Co-op, as has most of the Quality Co-ops, have seen a huge increase in the last couple of years in those who are planting family gardens for the first time, or for the first time in a long time.

Paul and Trey both feel it has a lot to do with the economy, scares about problems with vegetables being recalled for various safety reasons and the fuel costs when vegetables are trucked from across the country or even from foreign lands. More and more folks are cooking and eating at home instead of spending as much time out at restaurants, according to national and local trends, and having produce grown in the family’s own garden makes those home-cooked meals even more special.

There’s also been an increase in fruit trees and berry sales like blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, apricots, nectarines and more.

Trey, Mally and Joe are available to give advice on planting everything from the tallest fruit tree to the tiniest vegetable, from a decorative shrub, to hide a building’s fault, to Knock Out Roses, which have become an area favorite.

Appalachian fifth grader Lauren Arriaga and her sixth grade brother, Cristian, make a special pot of flowers for their Mom.

Straight Mountain’s Destiny Allman chooses flowers

Even those in the tiniest of apartments or with small yards can grow beautiful flowers and at least part of their family’s vegetables by using containers, and Trey, Mally and Joe can help you with that as well. While there are containers and beautiful pots for sale, they can also help by providing information on how deep to plant and what size container you can use that you may already have on hand.

And what are the Blount Co-op’s goals for the next few months? Paul explained, "We’ll be increasing EVERYTHING involving plants!"

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount Co. and can be contacted through her website at



by Joe Potter

It’s Friday near’ bouts 5:30 in the late afternoon. There’s folks a hoverin’ all ‘bout the front porch of The Store. Many of The Store regulars, includin’ "Truth," Bro., S.R., J.R., "Hatch," Willerdean, Ms. Ida, Estelle, Heath, Dustin and the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood, are all a wearin’ white Flat Rock softball jerseys. Farlow is a standin’ on the porch near the outdoor L.P. propane grill a wearin’ his red "Eat More Beef" apron. It’s not eatin’ day down to The Store, but everybody is exchangin’ "thank you’s" with Farlow and Slim for some fine grilled "Beef Dogs" and Pepsi.

There’s this white butcher paper sign a hangin’ flat on the front porch wall. There in red marker, the writin’ reads—

FRIDAY 6:00 P.M.

Additional, there draped across that sign in big black marker letters is the word "CANCELLED."

As I finished off my first "Beef Dog" and Pepsi, Farlow took the floor and ask for more takers on seconds for "Beef Dogs."

At this point "Coach Slim," as so proclaimed on his white Flat Rock softball jersey, took the floor. He proceeds to offer out why on such a beautiful Friday afternoon in Flat Rock the softball game with Wolf Springs was "Cancelled" —- "Fresh Cow Patties," a heavy concentration of "Fresh Cow Patties." Seems "Truth" had forgot his duties to gap off Flat Rock Field on Wednesday for Friday playin’ purposes, thus allowin’ cow grazin’ clear up till Friday creatin’ the presence of heavy deposits of "Fresh Cow Patties."

Slim’s explanin’ for the game bein’ "Cancelled" brought on some laughs, head shakin’s and even a scoldin’ for "Truth" from S.R., notin’ he had offered to gap off Flat Rock Field for the Friday game.

Here Estelle took the floor and with a full-mouth grin thanked Slim personal for cancellin’ the game cause of "Fresh Cow Patties." She recollected as to why there are faded-green specks ‘bout the front of her Flat Rock softball jersey and the fact there was a near-green softball in the equipment bag. Seems in a game with Mount Hope, that there was a "Fresh Cow Patty" directly in front of her second base position, and yes, there was a batted ball that made a direct center target hit just as she had a play for the ball, causin’ serious spatterin’ and a green-tinted softball.

Estelle’s "Fresh Cow Patty" recollection story brought on more Flat Rock softball stories — that one time against Old Bethel when Harley Hood got four strikes and still struck out. In one game with Saints Cross Roads, when Heath and Dustin both hit a softball in the back of a pick-up travelin’ on County Road 129. More funnier even in a game playin’ Hatton when Willerdean got a good ball hit and started runnin square dab t’ward third base. Then there was the game with Tharptown when Slim was a havin’ leg-standin’ problems and Flat Rock only had nine players with Slim. "Truth" put a foldin’ chair at home plate and the umpire let Slim bat a settin’ down in that foldin’ chair. Course he couldn’t run, so when he hit the softball, he was throwed out at first.

More Flat Rock softball story recollections continued, too many for me to pencil down at this writin’. ‘Bout this moment in time, two Wolf Springs softball players dressed in their red jerseys showed up and expressed some confusion over the "Cancelled" game. But here, Farlow took over and made it worth their gas drivin’ trip by platin’ ‘em some grilled "Beef Dogs" and Slim offered out some ice cold Pepsi for drinkin’.

Be sure to gap off the field well before your next community softball game or try hard to hit it away from the "Fresh Cow Patties"….

Happy Summer!!! Good Chillin’ and Grillin’ to all Farm Fresh Memories Readin’ Folk.


Joe Potter is a former vocational agriculture teacher, FFA advisor and retired county agent (Colbert County).

Conecuh Military Museum Fulfills a Vet’s Call to Duty

Bob McLendon of the Springhill community fulfilled a longtime dream of preserving the history of America’s war when he opened the Conecuh River Depot military museum on U.S. Highway 231 in Troy in 2003. The museum contains artifacts from America’s wars with extensive collections from War II and Vietnam.

Bob McClendon is a walking history book on America’s wars

by Jaine Treadwell

When Bob McLendon joined the Army in 1962, his intention, his hope was to do a tour of duty in Vietnam.

"That’s why I joined," McLendon said. "I was a soldier and I wanted to go to Vietnam."

McLendon re-upped twice thinking each time he would be assigned to the war zone. It never happened. He served his country stateside. That was a great disappointment to him and, for a long time, it kind of gnawed at him.

Then one day, a friend told him that maybe serving in Vietnam was not what he was supposed to do.

"Maybe ‘this’ is what you are supposed to do," his friend said. "If you had gone to Vietnam, you probably wouldn’t be here today."

The Conecuh River Depot military museum is Bob McLendon’s continuing effort to preserve the history of America’s wars and honor those who fought them.

"This" is Conecuh River Depot Military Museum in Troy and McLendon has reconciled himself to the fact that what he is doing in the way of preserving the history of America’s wars is an important endeavor.

The military museum was a long time in coming, but McLendon’s interest in war memorabilia can be traced back to his father, Robert G. McLendon, who served in the infantry during World War II.

"My dad served in the European Theater," McLendon said. "He went to the war as a captain and came back as a colonel."

But, before he came home, the elder McLendon sent German items of war home in a German ammo box. The box was a source of great interest and growing curiosity for young McLendon and the seeds of interest in military history were embedded in the box.

McLendon’s military museum includes German artifacts from World War II that his dad, Robert G. McLendon (pictured), sent home in a German ammo box.

McLendon’s service in the U.S. Army and the interest cultivated while "digging" through his dad’s war memorabilia were the motivating factors in his desire to open a military museum.

"After I got out of the Army, I went to work in law enforcement in Gainesville, FL, where I was living at the time," McLendon said. "From time to time during those 36 years in law enforcement, I considered opening a military museum but I couldn’t find any place I could afford to buy or rent."

It was not until McLendon came "home" to Pike County in 2002 that he realized a military museum was something he could do.

"My McLendon ancestors came to Pike County in 1824 and settled just east of Brundidge," he said. "My great-great-grandfather was ordained as a Baptist preacher and preached at Salem Baptist Church in Brundidge and helped build churches at Ramer and at Henderson. So, coming to Pike County was like coming home."

Owner and operator of the Conecuh River Depots military museum, has collected “After Action Reports” telling the true story of military actions during World War II.

McLendon thought his idea of establishing a military museum could take root in the place his ancestors called home. His history was there in rural Pike County, the place where he was going to put down physical roots.

But, McLendon was sidetracked for a while. He had not counted on being bitten by a rattlesnake and the consequences of such a venomous act.

"When I finally got over the snakebite enough I could get out again and do things, I volunteered at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama doing living history programs," he said.

As a member of several re-enactment groups, McLendon was a walking history book on America’s wars. He had special interests in the War Between the States, both North and South, and World War II. He also had participated in re-enactments of the Creek Indian War and the French and Indian War. And, he had a German footlocker filled with memorabilia from World War II just sitting there not really doing service to anyone.

During each war fought by Americans, there have been brothers who have served with pride and with honor. Five brothers, cousins of Bob McLendon, served their country and are among those who stories are told at McLendon’s Conecuh River Depot.

"The Pike County Chamber of Commerce occupied a small building on the grounds of the Pioneer Museum," McLendon said. "When the Chamber moved to another location, I rented the building with the idea of opening a military museum."

For McLendon, opening the Conecuh River Depot museum of military history was not a business venture.

"You don’t make money doing anything with history," he said with a smile. "You dabble in history for other reasons. I enjoy learning about our nation’s history because it’s a part of who I am — of who we are as Americans. And, as a nation, as a people, we learn from history. It’s important that our history is preserved.

"The people who are most against war are our veterans because they have experienced it. They know what war is really like, but they know we have to sometimes go to war to prevent something worse from happening."

McLendon spends a lot of hours at the Conecuh Depot River military museum among the spoils of America’s wars because there are no real war trophies.

This display is dedicated to those who didn’t come home – the real heroes of America’s wars.

Books of military history and personalities are sold at the Conecuh River Depot gift shop. Bob McLendon’s book on the 53rd Alabama Regiment 53rd Volunteer Cavalry is a recent addition.

The Conecuh River Depot features displays of the uniforms worn by American soldiers, as well as those worn by enemy forces, like the black “pajama” type uniform worn by Viet Cong guerrilla soldiers.

Calling cards or death cards were used as propaganda on both sides during Vietnam. Special Forces left VC and NVA cards reading SAT CONG: Kill Communist. American soldiers received “Next Time You Die GI” and cards designed to make them want to give up and go home.

Each artifact was purchased with the suffering, grief and loss that comes with war.

"There’s a story behind everything in this museum," McLendon said. "We don’t know many of those stories, but I like to share those we do know because they are about the men and women who served our country during its most difficult times. My dad’s here and a lot of my cousins and friends. Strangers will come in and tell me about their experiences. It’s a learning experience for me."

McLendon said those who visit the military museum are usually most interested in the World War II and Vietnam displays.

"And, there’s always interest in the Civil War, especially the South, because most families with roots in the South sent someone into battle and because most of the war was fought in the South," he said.

The museum has a gift shop that includes t-shirts, flags, patches, artwork and books about the different American wars. One book titled "History of the 53rd Regiment Alabama Volunteer Cavalry," was penned by McLendon and inspired by the service of his great-great-grandfather who fought with the 53rd Regiment Alabama Volunteer Cavalry.

Bob McLendon spends many hours a week at the Conecuh River Depot military museum as he continues to build displays and do research giving him even greater insight into America’s wars and those who fought them.

McLendon never got the call to duty in Vietnam, but his service to his country is an ongoing one. His commitment to preserve the history of America’s wars and the stories of the warriors is in itself a "call to duty" and one he honors proudly.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Corn Time

Cow Pokes

Decatur Teen Takes Big Step in Realizing His Dream

Tanner Bennett’s orientation trip to the U.S. Air Force Academy cleared any doubt he had about starting school there this fall. The building behind him is the chapel on campus. It has four levels for worship by all the religions represented at the academy.

by Grace Smith

For most high school students, graduation has come and gone, and the bliss of a restful summer has finally set in. But for one young man, the rest and relaxation of summer will be cut a bit short. But it will mean he’s taking the first step in accomplishing a dream.

"When I was little I was always interested in air planes and if the History Chanel ever had something about air planes on, I wanted to watch that," Tanner Bennett, a senior at Austin High School said. "I was fascinated with the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and I really liked ‘Pearl Harbor.’"

With his father Joe Bennett serving in the Navy, it’s no wonder this self-proclaimed history buff had an interest in the military and U.S. war involvement. But his interest was grounded in aerial warfare.

"I’ve always liked studying about wars, but I enjoy the two world wars the most because they had the most flying in them and there was U.S. domination," Tanner said. "I think my dad being in the military definitely had something to do with me becoming interested, but I was one of those kids who would always look up at the planes when I was playing t-ball. I always loved airplanes and birds, and when I got older I started watching documentaries on WWI, WWII and flight."

Just like his military interest, the love of aviation may run in Tanner’s blood as his grandfather, Tom Bennett, flew planes commercially.

So, as a child, Tanner began flying planes too — model ones of course. But he set his sights on one day being in the pilot’s seat.

Before long this flight-fascinated little boy started high school at Austin High and he gained several interests — baseball, basketball, Student Ambassadors, National Honor Society and became more involved in his church, Decatur Christian Church. But he never lost sight of his childhood dream to one day take flight. So he enrolled in flight lessons, and before long he was registering hours that would count toward his pilot’s license.

Tanner’s early desires to be a pilot are reflected in his Halloween costume when he was nine years old.

So when the time came to decide what life would hold for him after high school, Tanner started exploring his aeronautical options.

"I was thinking about doing ROTC at Auburn and studying Aeronautical Engineering or Aerospace Engineering," he said. "Then my dad said something about going to the Air Force Academy; I’d never really thought about it before then. But when he said something about it, I thought, ‘That actually may be a better idea.’"

When asked about his father’s feelings on going into the Air Force instead of Navy, he said he was very supportive. Tanner added he was a bit leery of the underwater requirements the Navy may present.

"I figure 30,000 feet in the air is a whole lot better than 3,000 feet under water," he explained.

Then he started looking at the admission requirements to the Air Force Academy.

"I thought, ‘Wow, this is a whole lot more than I expected.’"

Admission to the Air Force Academy is not for the faint of heart, but Tanner was up for the challenge. After getting nominations from two U.S. senators, submitting his ACT scores and transcripts, passing rigorous physical fitness tests, and having to meet with multiple admission boards, Tanner received his letter of acceptance to the distinguished United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.

A trip to the Academy for orientation this spring cleared any doubt Tanner may have had about starting school there this fall.

"It was amazing," he said, "It made me want to go even more."

Tanner Bennett (right) is presented a scholarship to the Air Forces Academy by LTC J. Walker during Austin High School’s Senior Class Awards presentation.

Tanner graduated May 27th and less than one month later will leave for the Academy where he’ll almost immediately begin Basic Training, which he said he’s a bit anxious about.

"I’m kind of nervous, but I’m sure I’ll be a whole lot more nervous once I get out there and they start screaming at me to get off their bus," he said.

But Tanner said he’s had some thorough training for even the toughest for any drill sergeant. He said his grandmother, Loretta Bennett, who is a Senior Store Accountant at Alabama Farmers Cooperative, has been one of his biggest fans and toughest critics. Loretta has eight grandchildren and they all say Tanner is the favorite, but she said he gets yelled at more than any of them. So Tanner said he’s not worried about the drill sergeants.

"If I can handle her yelling at me, I can handle any drill sergeant," Tanner laughed.

Loretta is proud of Tanner and he is an outstanding young man. She added that she’ll miss him, but she knows he’ll do well at the Academy.

"Tanner is a very well-rounded and out-going person," Loretta said. "I can’t waste my time worrying — I just have to wish him well."

Loretta’s already making plans to visit Tanner commenting she’s already bought her ticket for a visit on Parent’s Weekend in early September.

Tanner is considering either Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering as his course of study and his ultimate goal is to be an F15 pilot because he said "it’s the fastest and can do the most damage." Tanner knows the Academy is going be challenging, but it’s the ticket to accomplishing this dream.

"A lot of people have told me, the academies aren’t the best place to go to because of what you have to go through, but they’re the best places to come from because of the opportunities you get after graduating."

Tanner is one step closer to accomplishing his goal and, as he follows the path to his dream, no doubt he’ll consider the words of author Henry Van Dyke:

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.

DeKalb Farmers Co-op Sponsors 5th Annual Bull Bash

by Mary-Glenn Smith

The stands were filled Saturday night, June 13, 2009, at the West Arena in Fyffe. More than 2,000 fans came out to the 4th Annual Bull Bash sanctioned by the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association (SEBRA). Bull Bash 2009 was sponsored by the DeKalb Farmers Co-op.

This year’s event, the 5th Annual Bull Bash, will be held June 12 and will again be sponsored by DeKalb Farmers Co-op. The event will still be held at West Arena in Fyffe.

"There is just not enough clean, wholesome family entertainment anymore, but Ricky West and his crew have put together a great show for the entire family. You don’t have to worry about being offended or seeing things your kids don’t need to be exposed to. He has made sure to have excellent security and control of the entire evening. Ricky has done a great job on this Bull Bash and we all appreciate what he is giving to our area, county and state," said Ronny Neely, general manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op.

Producer Rickey West worked hard to present an exciting night of bull riding full of heart-pounding action for the fans at his arena located off County Road 50.

"Ronny and everybody at the Co-op have been great helping us out over the years," West said.

West provided 28 of the 35 bucking bulls for the night’s event himself. Fred Adams of 3-A Bucking Bulls of Auburn and Heath Rodgers with High Flying Rodeo Company of Cullman bought some of their top bulls to complete the rank pen of bulls.

Several of West’s bulls have bucked in PBR (Professional Bull Riders) events. The PBR is the highest level of competition in the sport of bull riding. Only the most elite cowboy athletes and bulls compete in the PBR.

One of the bulls in the pen was F2, better known as "Easy Money."

The big nine-year-old brindle is considered by West as his best bull of all time.

"He’s never had a bad trip," West said. "We carried him to all the world bucking-bull futurities when he was three and four years old. He has always placed either tenth or higher every time. He’s got 301 outs on him and been ridden 14 times."

In fact, Easy Money is the bull that cost World Champion Bull Rider Adriano Moraes the PBR World Championship in 2004.

"All Adriano had to do was ride him to win the world and F2 threw him off," West explained.

The highest marked ride ever on Easy Money came when the popular Brazilian bull rider Renato Nunes rode him for 94.5 points at a PBR event in 2005.

"Rickey is one of the best bull men in the Southeast," said Colin McKaig, livestock coordinator for Genex Cooperative, Inc. "He does a good job putting this bull riding on; it’s good for the whole town of Fyffe."

McKaig also helps West out on his farm with the bulls.

The night kicked-off with Nashville recording artists, Buck and Duke taking the stage in the center of arena and playing great country music. The duo from Summerville, GA, brought the crowd to their feet before the bull riding even began by playing original tunes, classic country songs like Alabama’s "Dixieland Delight" and cowboy favorites like Chris LeDoux’s "Cadillac Cowboy."

"I love bull riding," said Michael Lee "Buck" Stancil of Buck and Duke. "We have played too many to count. We enjoy playing good country music to bull riding fans because they really enjoy it."

The band played for an hour, then it was time for the bull riding to begin.

"Of all the bull ridings I go to, this is my favorite because of the great crowd," said announcer Dusty Broughton of Ardmore, OK.

Among the 26 bull riders entered was Lain Hartzog, who at the time of the 2009 Bull Bash was ranked fourth in the SEBRA standings. Hartzog was only 20 years old, but has been involved with the extreme sport of bull riding since he was five years old when he started riding calves.

"I just like going and getting on bulls," Hartzog simply replied when asked what he enjoyed most about being a bull rider.

As of that date, the cowboy from Auburn had won right at $4,000 in SEBRA bull riding competitions throughout the South. Hartzog hopes to continue riding well and make it big one day as a professional bull rider.

"I would like to find a sponsor who could help me out to make it to the PBR Built Ford Tough Series," Hartzog said. "Then I want to win a world title."

Hartzog joined the other 24 bull riders in the middle of the dirt-filled arena as Buck and Duke sang the National Anthem.

When the song ended, cowboys scattered to the back-pens to find the 2,000-pound bull they had drawn for the night. While some riders were already down in the chutes tying their bull ropes onto the back of the bull they had drawn, others were stretching in preparation for the night’s wild ride against some of the country’s toughest bulls.

J.T. Stevens of Ashville turned the first qualified ride of the night when he rode High Flying Rodeo Company’s Dizzy Devil for 84 points. The 84-point score was high enough to put Stevens in first place at the end of the long-round of competition and send him back to the short-go along with seven other cowboys.

Bull fighters, Matt Baldwin and Ray Clary, helped to protect the cowboys from the burly bulls in the arena. Baldwin and Clary kept the crowd gasping as they quickly stepped in front of the fast-moving animal while the cowboy hurried for the safety of the fence.

Baldwin and Clary are two of the best bull fighters around today. They travel with CBR (Championship Bull Riding) to professional bull riding events all over the country.

"I’ve known I was going to be a bull fighter ever since I was old enough to know what it was," said Baldwin, who had been fighting bulls for 17 years.

Baldwin lives just up the road from West in the town of Sylvania.

"I come over to Rickey’s every time they buck bulls," Baldwin said. "It’s my official practice pen."

When asked about the Bull Bash, Baldwin replied, "It’s good, really good. It’s always good to come to Rickey’s."

"I just think he is going to need to get some bigger bleachers," Baldwin laughed referring to the standing-room-only crowd packing the edges of the arena.

Like Baldwin, Clary had also been a bull fighter for 17 years.

"This was my first time in this part of the country —- in Alabama," said Clary, who is from Lufkin, TX. "The people are great and really nice."

"I thought the bull riding was great," Clary added. "Had a big crowd, the bulls bucked, the guys tried hard. We had a good time; it was a great bull riding and I hope to be back here next year."

Eight bull riders came back to compete in the short-go.

Stevens came back to the short-go in first place and also with a broken left hand; his riding hand. Most people wouldn’t consider getting on a bull with a broken riding hand, but like a true cowboy, Stevens toughened up and decided to ride with his other hand.

Stevens drew one of West’s toughest bulls, Physical Education, in the short-go. Although he did not make the eight-second, Stevens showed everyone in the crowd the true meaning of the popular phrase "cowboy up."

"I broke my (left) wrist in the long-round," Stevens said. "The short-round was the first time I ever tried riding with my right hand."

Stevens went on to win the event and took home the prize of $1,800. Like most young bull riders today, Stevens, 20, also hopes to compete on the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series one day and win the world title.

"Rickey brought real good stock, all of his bulls were jam up – 100 percent," Stevens said after the win.

Brent Drawdy of Trion, GA, helped judge the Bull Bash along with Andy Lott of Ohattchee.

"I think Rickey and Selena West put on the best bull riding I have judged in 10 years," said Drawdy, who judges about 40 bull riding events a year. "It’s a quality and classy performance from the gate people, to the sponsors, to the spectators. All of the bulls are of the highest caliber going down the road today. I’m honored to have been invited to judge such a great event."

Beginning in May on the first Monday night of each month through September, West holds a SEBRA-sanctioned event at his arena. The bull riding kicks off at 7 p.m. and afterwards West bucks his practice bulls.

Mary-Glenn Smith is a freelance writer from Snead.

DSI Alabama (Disease Scene Investigation)

by Dr. Tony Frazier

If you have been watching the news recently, you have certainly heard a great deal about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was interesting to listen to the news broadcasts during the first few days of the event. Somewhere during the segment most of the reporters made one common statement. In referring to the lack of the quick ability to shut off the leak they would consistently say, "Everyone knew such an event COULD occur, but nobody really thought it would." It is a variation of what we heard after Hurricane Katrina. "Everyone knew that the levies could not withstand a Category 5 hurricane, but nobody really thought a Cat. 5 would ever hit New Orleans." I am sure the list goes on and on involving serious miscalculations of what "nobody thought would ever happen." I certainly do not want to ever hear and certainly not be quoted as saying, "We always knew there was a possibility we could have an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, but we didn’t really think it would ever happen."

We commonly hear of the phenomena known as the "100-year flood," "100-year blizzard" or "100-year drought." I even heard someone in the past few days refer to the Nashville flood as a "1,000-year flood." Those types of comments, while on one hand, describe the enormous magnitude of the event, on the other hand, give us a false sense-of-security it will be a long, long time before we see something like that again. Therefore, while we know there is a possibility those disasters are few and far between, I suppose it is human nature to think or hope it will not happen to us. As the State Veterinarian, I cannot afford to think like that. That is why we stress over and over that we need to do Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) investigations —- even though it is very unlikely we are actually dealing with an FAD.

FAD investigations are initiated either by the federal Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC) or by me when there are signs that could be consistent with an FAD. My office is on the first floor of the Richard Beard Building, headquarters of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Other than during the Southeastern Livestock Exposition with the stock shows and rodeo, and the Alabama State Fair, there are no animals to be found around here. We depend on private practicing veterinarians, producers or our diagnostic laboratories to alert us to those cases that could call for an FAD investigation.

Signs consistent with FAD include lesions or sores on the mouth, muzzle or around the feet — especially blisters, high percentages of morbidity (illness) or mortality (death loss), hemorrhagic diseases — bleeding from all body orifices, and central nervous system problems. Then the last one sort of catches everything else. That is any disease "out of the ordinary." You know, one you only see every 100 years or so. When a disease fits into one of those categories, I want to know about it. Then between the AVIC and I, an investigation may be initiated.

I have often said that other than the pint of blood we take from the producer and the barium enema, an FAD investigation is a reasonably painless process. Well, I have a confession to make. There is actually no blood collected from the producer…and there is no barium enema. When we initiate an FAD investigation, we assign the case to a FAD Diagnostician (FADD). An FADD is someone who completed special training at Plum Island, NY, where they are taught how to conduct the investigation which includes disease recognition and sample collection.

The FADD tries to make contact with the producer as soon as possible after it is decided an investigation is warranted and the case is assigned. Our goal is to make the initial contact within eight hours of our being notified. The FADD will set up a time to go to the farm of origin to do a physical examination, collect samples of blood, saliva, or other fluids or tissues, and get a very thorough history of possible means of exposure to the affected animals. The FADD uses his or her training and judgment to decide how to proceed. If, for example, the producer has just returned from Japan where there is an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease and the cattle, along with the daughter’s pet ewe, have sores and blisters in their mouths, the premises will likely be quarantined and samples sent overnight to the laboratory. When dealing with a highly-contagious disease, time is extremely important.

Most often, when the FADD goes to the farm, the situation is found to be not so urgent. Maybe a cow or two out of the herd have mouth lesions, there have been no herd additions in quite a while, and there is no history of travel or other activities suggesting introduction of a FAD virus or other infectious agent. At that point the FADD may or may not collect samples to rule out any FAD, and may or may not quarantine an individual animal. The laboratory results are usually back within a week and I sleep better knowing we are out there riding herd. I can be wrong many, many times by calling for an FAD investigation when it turns out to be negative, but if I am wrong just once, by not calling for an investigation…well, that’s just something I don’t want to consider.

I have a friend who told me about his community starting a rural fire department when he was growing up. The community came up with some money and was able to purchase an old, but functional fire engine. The community didn’t have any money at that time to house the engine so, when it wasn’t ginning season, the engine was kept under the drive through at the cotton gin. A period of time went by and there were no calls for the use of the fire engine. Then one Friday night, the gin caught fire. The men of the community were called to the fire. When they got there, the battery on the fire engine was dead and they barely were able to pull the engine away from the cotton gin before the structure burned to the ground. That was years ago and it is certainly not a poor reflection on our volunteer fire departments that have very good equipment and highly-trained firemen. They let us all rest better at night because they are "on call." But I think you get the point. Every time we do an FAD investigation, we are keeping the battery on our fire engine charged.


Enjoy the Treats of June

Get the kids involved in hands-on work the see how food can be provided and processed.

by John Howle

It would be hard to starve to death during June in Alabama when there are so many natural food sources at hand. Blackberries can be found in just about any field edge, wild huckleberries are thriving on forest banks, and plenty of fish are just waiting to be caught, fried and eaten.

Freeze fish

To prevent freezer burn on stored fish, fill the freezer bag with the fish and submerge the open bag into a sink filled with water. Keep the bag open until all air bubbles escape, and zip the bag before removing from the sink water. The pressure of the water around the outside of the bag pushes out excess air.

Grill Grate

If your gas grill is worn out and ready for the garbage man, before you throw it away, take a look at the grilling grate. If the grate is in good condition, save it for campfire cooking. Using a wire brush and dishwashing detergent, clean the grate to remove all burned-on soot and grease. Wrap the grate in aluminum foil and you’ll have a compact cooking grate wherever you need it. Place the grate on two evenly-sized sticks of firewood and build the fire between the logs. Leave the aluminum foil on the grate to cook fish or remove it to cook and sear venison or steak. For different smoke flavors, use hickory, pecan or mesquite for grilling over the camp fire.

This handy device removes kernels of corn and shoots the cob out the back to land in a bucket, all by turning the crank handle.

Corn Sheller for Chicken Feed

If you’ve been to a Cracker Barrel Restaurant, chances are you have seen a hand-crank corn sheller hanging on the wall. There’s also a good chance you may have one in your barn or storage shed that hasn’t seen use in years. This is truly an engineering marvel for removing dry corn from the cob.

Simply feed the ear into the hopper while turning the hand-crank and the rotating gear-fingers roll the kernels off the cob. The impressive part is the cob is ground downward, flips back and the cob exits the back of the device. A bucket can be used to collect the remaining cobs. This device is a handy gadget for shelling field corn you’ve raised for feeding your chickens or ducks.

Boots for ATV riding should support the ankle, protect from debris and be stiff enough to prevent twisting of the ankle.

Baking Soda Spells Relief

Eggs and bacon or fish fried in bacon grease are delicious, outdoor meals. However, these foods can come back to haunt you in the form of acid indigestion. Drink a mixture of a half teaspoon of baking soda mixed with a cup of water. Since the baking soda is an acid neutralizer, you should get quick relief.

Baking soda is also a handy chemical for removing pine sap from your hands and it makes cleaning battery terminals a snap when used with a discarded toothbrush and water. Baking soda is also an inexpensive laundry detergent that will not leave an aroma on hunting clothes. Finally, if you left those fish in the cooler too long, after washing the cooler, dump a few spoonfuls of baking soda inside before closing to remove residual odors.

Boots for ATV Riding

When trail riding or getting to your favorite hunting spot or fishing hole on an ATV, always wear over-the-ankle boots with low heels. Lace up or specially designed ATV boots will help protect the ankles if your foot does slip off the foot rest on ATV models with foot pegs instead of floor boards. Even at crawling speeds, it is quite dangerous and painful to have a foot slip off the foot rest and get ran upon by the rear tire.

William Wilson takes a closer look at browntop millet he has planted for doves.

Blackberries for the Belly

Starting around June, blackberries can be found throughout the United States in hedgerows, field edges and creek banks. If you are on an extended outing and come down with a nagging case of diarrhea, try boiling ripe blackberries until the mixture turns to a slush. Strain the juice from the seeds and pulp with a cloth, t-shirt or simply use your hand as a strainer. While the juice is still warm, drink at least a half cup of the beverage. To sweeten the concoction, add sugar or honey. You should be able to get relief.

Planting for the Birds

This June, don’t forget to plant a plot for the birds. Browntop millet and sunflower are great choices for attracting doves and turkeys. In addition to serving as a bird attractant, browntop millet has valuable uses as a protective cover for pastures. If you need grass growing fast, sometimes it is in the worst time of year when the weather is hot and the drought is on. Browntop millet has a high germination rate and the root system will help hold soil in place. For instance, if you have constructed a fish pond and need plant growth quickly to avoid erosion, browntop millet is a good choice, especially when the seeds are mulched with hay to hold in moisture.

Spider Scare

The two poisonous spiders found in Alabama are the Black Widow (left) and Brown Recluse (notice the fiddle shape on the thorax).

Many folks avoid spiders at all costs and assume they are all poisonous. Actually, the only two spiders we have to worry about in Alabama are the Brown Recluse and Black Widow. Fortunately, these two toxic spiders are easy to identify. The Brown Recluse is a small, brownish-grayish spider with a distinctive marking on its back that looks just like a fiddle. The Black Widow is a glossy black with a bright-red hourglass shape on its underbelly. Both spiders are found in dark places.

This month, while the kids are out of school and outdoors, take them on outings that will help develop their woods wisdom skills. Floating the river, going on hikes and picnics, and cooking fish fresh after the catch teaches them skills they likely won’t get in school. Here’s hoping you have a safe and productive June. Don’t forget to get the youngsters outdoors and share your wisdom with them.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Editor’s Note: Sketch shown in this article is by Jesse Limbaugh, produced from photos by John Howle.

Feeding Facts

by Jimmy Hughes

As spring comes to a close, I hope you enter the summer with plenty of grass, cows in good body condition and a successful first cutting of hay that was cut, cured and put up without getting wet. With summer fast approaching and the market outlook for cattle looking strong, it is again time to look at and consider some decisions that will pay dividends at sale time this fall. I realize when the cattle market is depressed, most producers try to reduce input cost to reduce overall production cost. The fact cattle prices are good leads me to encourage producers to implement management practices again allowing you to realize more profits in your cattle operation. It has always been my belief that the more proficient you are as cattle producers, the more profitable your operation will be. As we enter the summer months and the temperature is rising, let’s look at some of these practices that can affect your bottom line in a positive manner.

Internal Parasite Control - One of the first practices I would consider is in the area of parasite control. I realize last year a lot of producers either did not implement internal parasite control practices or used a generic product not manufactured to the same quality standards as a branded product. Cattle loaded with internal parasites cannot utilize nutrients the way parasite-free cattle can.

Several university studies indicate internal parasites can reduce digestive efficiency by 10 percent or more. At a cost of a little more than $3 per head, you can eliminate internal parasites and improve the cow’s overall digestibility. The increase in nutrient absorption will pay more than $3 the first week alone. Cows not loaded with parasites also shed winter hair sooner, stay in better body condition, breed back sooner and produce more milk. Cattle grazing grass very close to the ground are even more susceptible to internal parasites.

I would recommend worming the cattle at least twice a year with a branded product. While cheaper generics are available, they do not have to comply with the same regulations and are often manufactured in a way to be less effective on internal parasite control. I know of several producers who have returned back to branded products after using generic products because the generic products did not give the response they were looking for and their cattle suffered in growth and performance. This is a perfect time to deworm your cattle and your local Quality Co-op is ready with products that are on sale. While I will not recommend a specific product, I encourage you to read labels and talk to your Co-op manager to select the very best product to control the most species of internal parasites.

External Parasite Control - I would also consider one of many options when it comes to external parasite control. The many variety of flies along with lice cost the cattle industry billions of dollars per year in cattle weight loss, reduced milk production and disease transmission. A cow constantly being swarmed and bitten by flies or lice will spend most of the day swatting flies and rubbing against fencepost instead of grazing and putting on weight. Also, remember there is a direct correlation between nutrition and milk production —- if a cow is not eating, then she is producing less milk for her calf. What this means is the cow is not gaining weight and her calf is growing at a slower rate because of less milk production. This means less calf to sale at market time.

Also disease like pinkeye is transmitted by flies and can affect the overall productivity of your herd.

The good news is there are several products available to help you combat external parasites. Whether it is a feed-through product like IGR or Rabon®, fly tags, sprays or pour-ons, your local Co-op will have the product best fitting your needs. They will also carry minerals and blocks containing either Rabon® or IGR that are very effective in insect control.

A reminder when using a feed-through product is the product will not provide 100 percent control and cattle will still carry a small amount of flies. Also when using these products, remember they effect the lifecycle of the fly —- what flies are on your cows will remain for the lifecycle of that fly. This is usually around 28 days and after that point you will see a reduction in flies on your cattle.

We also have fly tags available that offer very good fly control. A reminder when using tags is they contain different active chemical ingredients for control and it is important to rotate the type of chemical used each year to reduce the chance of resistance.

Other options include using either pour-ons as they come through the chute in the spring or sprays used as you walk through the herd on a daily or weekly basis. Both types of products offer effective control on flies and lice, and can be purchased at any time. We also carry a full line of back rubs and face flaps that will also assist you in external parasite control.

The take-home message here is fly control is a cost-effective measure to improve milk production, increase cow weight and weaning-weights on your calves.

Vaccination Program - This is the perfect time to consider calf vaccinations for your calves as well as vaccinating your herd. This is also a good time to consider pink-eye vaccinations. A producer who does not vaccinate for blackleg along with other clostridial diseases and reproductive diseases needs to give serious thought to this management tool.

Most producers lose a calf or two as well as have several cows open each year. We most often attribute this to bad luck and go on with our daily business. A lot of these loses may be attributed to disease. One lost calf can pay for your yearly vaccination program as it will cost less than $7 per animal to properly vaccinate the herd.

This is also a good time to visually inspect eyes, teeth, udders and horns to diagnosis any problems and either correct them or sale those cattle needing to be culled.

There are a variety of vaccines available in both a killed and modified-live virus strain. If you are unsure which product to use or need assistance in creating a vaccination program, please call on your Co-op employees, local veterinarian or Extension agent for assistance in this very important area.

Another advantage of a vaccination program is it will allow you to market the cattle in a different manner leading to fewer deductions at sale time. Order-buyers want cattle that have been properly vaccinated and are willing to pay extra for this. The last thing an order-buyer wants is a sick calf on their hands, but remember a blackleg shot alone is not a vaccination program nor will you be paid extra for it.

We can ship most vaccines directly to you overnight and we are very competitively priced. We also carry a full-line of needles, syringes and cattle handling equipment to make the implementation and utilization of a vaccination program even simpler.


Implants - Implants are a great tool to maximize growth in your calves. Steers, bulls and sale-heifers can be implanted several times while a heifer you are consider to keep as a replacement should only be implanted one time. I have not seen a study that did not conclude implanting a calf did not lead to an increase in weight-gain that more than paid for the cost of the implant. When your calves go to the feed yards they are implanted which should give you enough reason to implant them at your farm. Do not let the feed yards get the added weight gain from implants when you can gain them at your farm.

Minerals - I have discussed in recent articles the overall importance of providing proper minerals and vitamins to your cattle. I realize in the past few years the cost on minerals has almost doubled and this was an area some producers saw as a way to decrease cost. Now is the time to again provide high-quality, complete minerals and vitamins to your herd. Whether you chose a loose mineral or a mineral block like STIMU-LYX®, it is very important to offer them to your herd. This decision will be very beneficial. Cattle on a complete program show better reproductive performance, improved immunity, increased milk production and increased weight gain.

I believe reproduction performance is the greatest reason to implement a high-quality mineral program. Without a calf each year on all of your cows, your chance for a profit is greatly reduced. Cows will cycle sooner, have stronger heats and have less embryonic deaths; and bulls will have improved semen quality and libidos.

The cost of a good mineral versus a lower-quality or trace mineral salt is pennies per head per day. At year’s end, it will cost less than $10 more per cow to feed a complete high-quality mineral. Mineral prices have stabilized and it is very easy to see how it would take very little in improved reproductive performance to offset cost. Remember, cattle will consume an average of four to six ounces per-head per-day. Cattle deprived of minerals will consume more until they have built up body reserves and level off on intake.

Creep Feeds - Feed costs are usually cheaper in the spring and summer due to less demand for feed ingredients. With this said, what better time with high calf prices to creep feed your cattle. The most economical way to justify creep feeding calves is to look at it from a cost-per-pound-of-gain standpoint. Most calves on creep feed will convert six to eight pounds of feed to one pound of gain. If the feed cost to make this pound of gain is .50 cents and the calf is bringing a $1 a pound, it is simple to see you are doubling your money by creep feeding.

Another advantage is you will reduce grazing pressure on your pasture, leaving more grass for your brood cows to graze. It is also proven cows nursing calves being creep feed maintain better body condition and have improved reproductive performance.

I recommend creep feeding calves every year, but it is very beneficial to creep feed calves when cattle prices are high and feed costs are affordable.

We offer a variety of complete feeds along with feed ingredients that make excellent creep feeds for calves. The producer will really enjoy the extra dollars on the check he will see at sale time from creep feeding.

Forage Samples - I really believe in forage sampling as a way to improve your overall feeding program. I like to say, if you don’t know what you got, how do you know what you need?

Producers waste thousands of dollars each year by not knowing the quality of the forage used for feeding. For less than $40, you can have a forage sample on your hay providing information on its quality. With this information, a producer can decide what he should supplement to see the most favorable results. If your forage quality is very good, it’s obvious you will not have to supplement as much as someone with a lower-quality forage. The only way to know this is to pull a forage sample and have it analyzed. Once you get this information, I will be glad to assist in determining the most economical feeding program to compliment your forage.

This past year is a perfect example of why a forage sample is so important. Hay was abundant and cattle were cheap. Producers keep putting out hay and did not supplement because of the abundance of hay. The quality of forage was poor and, added to the cold, long winter, a lot of producers had cattle that were thin or may have even died even with hay available at all times. Armed with a forage sample, this situation could have been avoided by supplementing with either feed or supplement blocks.

Equipment - When cattle are at a higher price, most producers can consider investing money into cattle equipment. I have talked about several management practices you can implement proven to add to the bottom line of your operation. Some of these practices require equipment investments and your local Co-op is ready to assist in this area. If you need head gates, squeeze chutes or complete sweep systems, they have them available at special spring and summer prices. You may need creep feeders or hay rings; maybe your mineral feeders are beyond repair, we have those available. We can also provide wire, panels and posts.

As you can see, there are several different practices you can consider to add profits to your operation. While you may not be able to implement all of these suggestions, I believe any one of these practices will offer your cattle several benefits. I encourage you to consider these practices as a management tool in your operation.

If you have any questions or I can be of assistance in any manner, please feel free to contact me at any time.Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If you would like to contact him, please feel free to call at (256) 947-7886 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> He looks forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.

From Our Mailbox

Letter to the Editor:

I would like to make a correction to the fine article Suzy Lowery Geno wrote about our house in Cleveland. The concrete blocks were made by Castle One, located on Amber Hills Rd in Birmingham (Trussville). Dac Art was notinvolved in this house. Sid Smyer at Castle One made all the blocks and worked with us in the design and construction of this house.

In our enthusiasm to talk about the house and our explanation of the history of the blocks, we may not have stressed the blocks were made by Castle One.

Visit Castle One’s website at for more information on the blocks and their applications.

Bill Sievers

Gardening Hobby Morphs into Full-Fledged Fruit Farm

David Borden of Montgomery County (standing near his rows of blueberry bushes) said most people don’t realize how easy it is to grow fresh fruit right outside their own homes.

For Pine Level’s David Bordon, the key to success was following his instinct to easy care plants.

by Kellie Henderson

While it’s not uncommon for gardeners to let their hobby get out of control, David Borden of Pine Level has taken his love of plants far beyond mixed borders and shrubs.

"We’ve always been active gardeners, and I went through a flower gardening phase, and a tree phase, and now I’m really enjoying fruiting trees and plants. What started with eight or ten fruit trees just sort of morphed into an orchard," David said.

And with the help of Rhonda Deese and the rest of the staff at Pike Farmers Co-op, the Bordens continue to expand their fruit orchard to a project that has surpassed most people’s concept of a hobby farm.

"This was a former field that volunteer pines were beginning to cover when we bought the property, so I began clearing it with the excavator," David said of the area now housing his fruit orchard.

Lynda Borden scoops feed for their horses from the charming barn on their farm, one of two existing structures when she and husband David purchased the property.

"You just follow your instincts and plant more of what’s easy," David said, making it seem as though the whole area just takes care of itself.

"And the plants and bare-root trees at the Pike Farmers Co-op have been so affordable; it’s been easy to expand. If people knew how easy blueberries and figs are, everyone would be growing them. I have never sprayed them with anything and all they take is a little pruning to produce beautiful fruit," he said.

"And pears and scuppernongs are almost that easy, too. If people wonder what they can almost abuse and still have wonderful fruit, its blueberries, figs, pears and scuppernongs," David added.

But the Bordens’ fruit harvest doesn’t stop there. Varieties of plums, peaches, apricots, apples and pomegranates are all planted in their fruit orchard, but David’s newest obsession is his collection of cherry trees.

Borden inspects one of the cherry trees on his farm which boasts multiple varieties of apple, apricot, cherry, fig, pear, plum and pomegranate trees.

"We eat a lot of fruit and I am a cherry fanatic. Cherries like a sandy soil and that’s what we have, so I’m interested to see how well we can get them to produce here," David said.

And the trees are beginning to bear tiny green cherries already, but the deer may pose a larger problem than he anticipated.

"There were two here yesterday," David said as he indicated a branch on one of his cherry trees where there was now only one small cherry.

"But if we can get them to continue to grow and produce, we’ll have to have enough for us and the deer, too," he said with a smile.

"We bought this property in 1986, and began renovating and planting, with the intention of moving here eventually," David said.

He and his wife Lynda moved their family from the city of Montgomery to the farm in 1997 and since then have continued their work on the property.

"I think people would be happier in general if they lived in the country," Lynda joked as she talked about their move.

Lynda’s parents, Dykes and Dorothy Pruitt, also relocated from their home in Tennessee to a new log cabin on the farm.

"They were more than five hours away before the move, so we were thrilled they wanted to relocate here. They’re both still very active; they mow the grass, and he cuts and she stacks firewood for the wood stove that heats their cabin," Lynda said.

This house on the Bordens' farm likely dates to the 1930's and was obscured by mounds of overgrown privet hedge when they bought the land in Southern Montgomery County.

In addition to their lovely fruit orchard, the Bordens also have a nut orchard and an oak orchard on their property.

"Alabama has 28 native species of oak, and I have 27 of those here now," said David, who spends his days working as a CPA in Montgomery.

"I’m an early riser and I do a lot of walking, but most mornings Patch and I come to the fruit orchard before our walk," David said, referring to the plump pooch tagging along behind him.

In addition to building a new home for themselves and Lynda’s parents building their cabin, the Bordens also have utilized two structures already on the property when they purchased it.

"The house there would have belonged to the tenant farmer who managed the cotton or cattle farmed here. We think it was built about 1935 and the barn was probably built about the same time as the house," David said.

"When we cleaned out the house, we uncovered some of the newspapers on the wall used to insulate the interior, some of them referring to Mayor LaGuardia as the current mayor of New York City, so it’s a great piece of local color," Lynda added.

And the Bordens added new support posts to the old barn now housing feed for their horses.

David and Lynda’s three children love to visit the farm and the fruit orchard in particular when they come home – son Gray is an attorney in Birmingham, and their daughters Skye and Kara are attending Vermont Law School and Tulane School of Law, respectively. And David said they’ve been encouraging him to buy a cider press to utilize some of the fruit they grow.

Anytime David’s not at his Montgomery office crunching numbers, chances are he’s somewhere on their farm.

"You can’t drag him off this place," Lynda teased.

"It does occupy you," David admitted, "but to me it’s recreation. I like being here, on the tractor or in the garden. We really enjoy taking care of this place."

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Happy Hunting Ground

by Ralph Ricks

At this writing, turkey season has been over for about two weeks and now the long wait until next spring has come. I promised you a report on the big, old boss-gobbler I intended to take this year, but alas, no turkey. This was one of those years I didn’t even get to make sure my shot gun would fire. Yep, never pulled a trigger. I got to look down that long 12-gauge barrel, but never got a bird close enough to "take a poke at," as they say.

I ended up spending the last three weeks of my turkey hunting in a secret spot in Butler County, in a place that at first glance would be called a "honey hole." It was a good-sized piece of land with a good population of turkeys that are hardly ever hunted. It’s way back in the woods and you wouldn’t even know it was there even after you went through the three gates required to reach it.

My first morning there, I arrived well before daylight and went to a spot I thought would be promising. As the sun began to creep up, all was quiet and I began to wonder why I woke up at three thirty that morning. Off in the distance, the first crow of the day welcomed the sun in all its glory. No sooner had the crow’s call died away when the first gobbler of the morning sounded off. At that point I figured it was all over but putting him in the frying pan. If I had had to choose a spot to set up and then decide where I wanted that turkey to be on the roost, I couldn’t have chosen better. He was about 60 yards away and I was in a spot where he couldn’t see me. As the sun rose higher, he gobbled more and more. As I yelped at him, he gobbled even more. I had my gun up and was ready, looking for that blood-red head to pop up out of the grass when suddenly I heard him fly down in the opposite direction. Knowing there was a decent-sized flock of hens in that direction, I did not panic.

I told myself patience kills more turkeys than anything.

I heard him gobble down in the hardwood bottom and I decided when that flock of hens came out of the woods, he would be somewhere in the mix and I would send him into the afterlife. I eased out of my hiding spot, got all my gear together and stepped out of the brush. It was getting a little lighter and as I looked in the direction I wanted to go, there stood another human being! It turns out it was a hunter who was hunting an adjoining piece of property and some how crossed the land line and didn’t know it. I hustled him off of the place and figured that not only had he bumped that turkey out of the tree, but the morning’s hunt was blown.

As I walked out, not trying to make a big fuss because I knew I’d be back, I heard that bird again. I decided to set up again as there was still plenty of early morning left.

I tucked myself up between two old round bales of hay and waited and called every so often. Once in a while he would gobble back, but not very enthusiastically. I heard a rush of wings over my head and right in front of me, not ten yards away a young hen settled in and started looking for the companion she had heard from her tree. I really enjoyed watching her up-close for about half-an-hour and she finally gave up and left to find herself a boyfriend and I went on to work.

I felt pretty good because I had just-about convinced myself I had lost whatever little calling ability I ever had (and I think the jury still may be out on that one anyway), but I had managed to call not only that hen, but two others on previous trips and I kept telling myself what other turkey hunters had told me, if you can call hens, you can call a tom.

I had no idea how this particular day would affect the remaining three weeks of the season. I went back time after time only to come home empty-handed. The second morning, I set up in a different spot and had at one time five strutting gobblers in the field and two more gobbling in the woods.

My shot gun has an incredible pattern and I have killed turkeys stone-dead at 40 to 43 yards (and I have witnesses, thank you). Somebody must have told that to these birds because they always stayed about 55 yards out. I snuck and crawled like I was an Army commando, never bumped the birds, but never got close enough for a shot. I came home with scratches and cuts from wiggling through briars and dewberry vines, and I am still pulling thorns out of my body. I had nearly all of my blood drained by "no see ums."

I had a great time.

They say turkeys are not very intelligent; they are just scared of everything. Somebody forgot to tell this bunch of toms they were supposed to be stupid. It finally came down to consistently seeing four gobblers together. They roosted close to one another, they flew down together, they moved together and never left each other’s side. There was always two of the four, which I guess were the dominant birds, that did all of the strutting and the other two would station themselves on either side and do nothing but watch. If they had had little microphones and sunglasses like Secret Service Agents, I wouldn’t have been surprised. The way they watched out for those two big gobblers, I have expected a black limo to drive out and pick them up when it came time to roost. If they saw something they didn’t like, they just kind of herded the two older birds off to another spot and the old guys never stopped strutting their stuff. Do turkeys have "designated drivers"?

When the end of April arrived, although I had seen a lot of these guys, I never got close enough for a shot. I like to think two things: I learned a great deal about hunting turkeys (which I doubt) and those birds will be there next year — bigger and older, and maybe those two "security guards" will be a little addled by the ladies and make a mistake.

Besides, what do you expect from me? I’m a turkey hunter, by golly!

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.

Hay Facts

by Dr. Don Ball

Most livestock producers rely on hay to feed animals during periods when forage growth is not available. Both animal performance and the economics of a livestock operation are greatly affected by the hay program, so now that hay season is in full swing, it should be a good time to think about some concepts related to hay.

Moisture Content - The general rule regarding safe moisture-content for baling hay is for small rectangular bales the moisture content should be 20 percent or less, and for round bales it should be 18 percent or less.

Maturity Affects Quality - Much Alabama hay is harvested too late. It is psychologically satisfying to get a high yield of hay, but as yield goes up, forage quality goes down. A "rule of thumb" is that for every day past the ideal date of harvest, digestibility declines by one percent. There are undoubtedly many exceptions to this rule, but it does at least provide food for thought regarding the undesirable effects of harvesting hay too late.

Rain Damage - Rain can leach nutrients out of hay; it can prolong respiration losses; it can cause increase microbial-activity that consumes nutrients; and, in the case of forage legumes, it can increase leaf shatter. Nonetheless, there is probably more overall economic loss associated with hay being cut too late than from rain damage. A hay producer obviously cannot ignore the weather, but it is worthwhile to keep in mind the threat of rain is just that -— a threat which may or may not happen. Delaying of hay harvest beyond the optimum harvest stage is certain to result in lower forage quality.

The extent of rain damage to hay is correlated with the amount of rainfall, with legume hays generally being damaged more by rain than grass hays. Also, rain coming soon after hay has been cut is less damaging than the same amount of rain which comes just before the hay would have otherwise been ready to bale.

Weathering - The more the hay on the outside of a bale becomes weathered, the more it will hold water, which favors the growth of microorganisms involved in causing hay to spoil. Thus, the rate of spoilage tends to increase over time. Most weathering of round bales stored outside occurs in a layer usually six to eight-inches deep around the rounded edges of the bale. Other things being equal, there is a lower percentage of spoilage with large-diameter round bales as compared to smaller-diameter round bales.

Heating - When hay is baled at too high a moisture-content, heating will occur due to the activity of microorganisms. This heating process lowers hay quality and, in hay having particularly high moisture content, can create a fire hazard. The temperature of hay can be monitored by driving a hollow pipe into hay bales and inserting a thermometer into the pipe. A temperature of less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit is normal; from 120 to 140 is getting into the danger zone; hay having a temperature of 160 or higher is likely to catch fire.

Hay known to have been baled at an excessively-high moisture-content, or known to be heating excessively, should be placed in a location where minimal damage would result if a fire occurred. Such hay should certainly not be placed in a barn and freshly-baled hay should never be placed against dry hay. Heating usually reaches its peak after about a week. Thus, after about two weeks a spontaneous fire is unlikely.

Toxicity From Hay - Almost every year some Alabama livestock producers have animals die from consuming hay with high nitrate content. The usual situation where nitrate levels become dangerously high is when high levels of nitrogen fertilizer are applied (60 pounds or more of actual nitrogen per acre) and low rainfall results in poor forage growth. Nitrate poisoning is possible with many forage species, but it occurs most frequently from feeding summer annual grasses (including sudangrass, sorghum, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids and especially pearl millet) and from certain weeds including smartweed, goldenrod, ragweed and pigweed.

Hay suspected of containing high levels of nitrates should be tested to determine whether it is toxic. Getting a representative sample of hay for testing is important because some plant parts (especially stems) may contain higher levels of nitrates than others. Nitrate testing is provided for a small fee by laboratory facilities that routinely test hay, including the Auburn University Soil Testing Laboratory.

Each year questions also arise regarding the possibility of poisoning from prussic acid in hay. Prussic acid, also referred to as hydrocyanic acid, can build to toxic levels in sorghum, sorhum-sudan hybrids, sudangrass and johnsongrass in pasture situations, usually immediately after a killing frost. However, prussic acid is an unstable compound and is not a problem in dry hay.

Don Ball is an Extension Forage Crop Agronomist with Auburn University.

Home Economics: Alive and Changing in Alabama 4-H

In DeKalb County, the “Sew On and Sew Forth” 4-H Club gets together twice a month at the Geraldine Homemakers Building. The club is led by Linda Daniels and Pam Rucks, along with several other members of the Geraldine Homemakers Club.

by Chuck Hill and Amy Payne Burgess

Remember Home Ec? The discipline of Home Economics has been an important and practical way to bring the latest research in food and nutrition; clothing and textiles; and other family and consumer sciences to American households. It helped make Alabama’s farm families healthier, better clothed and more financially secure. It was through school Home Ec classes and Cooperative Extension System that Alabama’s youth and families learned such fundamentals as food safety and good hygiene.

Even now, when you talk about 4-H with women of a certain age, you often hear tales (or see photos) of girls developing the skills to move from sewing pin cushions and aprons to creating cheerleaders’ uniforms and elegant prom dresses. Such traditional Home Economics projects required planning, self-discipline and taught valuable, practical skills.

Like many things in our world, Home Ec has changed. The term "Home Economics" has been widely supplemented by "Family and Consumer Sciences." And the skills and resources which youth and families need have shifted as well. Food safety is as important as ever, but such crafts as soap-making and quilting have moved from the level of necessity to become wonderful art forms. Pickling or baking may be the gateway to a lucrative business venture, not just a way to provide inexpensive and healthy meals.

The “Cookin’ It Up in Marshall County” 4-H Club meets each month at the Guntersville Middle School. The club is led by Johanna Clemons, a professional chef.

Since Alabama 4-H strives to meet the changing needs and interests of Alabama’s young people, our Home Economics programs have also evolved. You may even mistake some of these 4-H club activities for a Food Channel or HGTV episode, not the sort of things you might expect from "old-school" 4-H.

For example, the "Cookin’ It Up in Marshall County" 4-H Club meets each month at the Guntersville Middle School. The club is led by Johanna Clemons, a professional chef. Young people in the club have learned everything from kitchen safety to holiday foods and proper etiquette.

In nearby DeKalb County, the "Sew On and Sew Forth" 4-H Club gets together twice a month at the Geraldine Homemakers Building. The club is led by Linda Daniels and Pam Rucks, along with several other members of the Geraldine Homemakers Club. These young people have learned such heritage skills as knitting, simple stitching and quilting. They are in the process of obtaining sewing machine donations from throughout the community so each member can learn to use a sewing machine.

As we often note, 4-H builds what we call the BIG M: Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery. 4-H Family and Consumer Science programs are a great means of building those values. If you have visited the Foley Public Library, you got to see a perfect example through the work which "Dolphin Home School 4-H Club" has done. Working under the guidance of volunteer club leader, Karen Engelman, the Dolphins worked together on a handmade quilt as a club fundraiser.

Working under the guidance of volunteer club leader, Karen Engelman, the “Dolphin Home School 4-H Club” worked together on a handmade quilt, on display at Foley Public Library, as a club fundraiser.

Group quilts are a perfect representation of 4-H values. Young people must master specific skills, individually create their unique squares, work in a group to make the quilt into a whole and show generosity of spirit in sharing their ideas with one another and working cooperatively. And, as the Dolphins did with their Facebook posting of the quilt, you get to show off your work, not just in your community but around the world!

Through 4-H, young people continue to build skills fundamental to their safety and the safety of others. You know something cool is always going on in Cullman County 4-H, so you need to look no further than this summer’s 4-H Babysitter Boot Camp, a two-day training with the American Red Cross. This hands-on course is designed to help young people make smart decisions and stay safe in any babysitting situation. Young people in Cullman can contact the county Cooperative Extension Office for information. Residents of other counties can contact their Extension offices if they are interested in helping develop such training in their communities.

Through Youth Health and Safety Day at Choctaw County Elementary School, 4-H incorporated traditional Home Economics with other disciplines.

Through Youth Health and Safety Day at Choctaw County Elementary School, 4-H incorporated traditional Home Economics with other disciplines. The May event provided teaching stations, like the "House of Germs" where a glow-in-the-dark powder showed young people how well they washed their hands. STDs, ATV safety, Drug and Alcohol Awareness, dental care and other topics rounded out that great educational smorgasbord.

So, what about you? Are you an adult who enjoys cooking, quilting or some other aspect of 4-H Home Economics programs? Do you see needs in your community? We encourage you to share your interests and skills with young people in your community. Call your county Alabama Cooperative Extension Office to learn how you can become a trained 4-H volunteer and put your skills to work — where you live.

Chuck Hill is the 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent in Northeast Alabama. She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Honest Fishermen

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Fishermen are liars. I know; I live with two. They don’t really intend to be untruthful, but in their excitement, they sometimes exaggerate the size or number of fish caught or their own heroism in netting their catch. Guess that’s why the folks who make those insulated coolers put a measuring device on the lids. If there’s a need to embellish a fishing story, there are usually willing accomplices to corroborate questionable details. If a fisherman goes fishing alone, then he is free to lie with impunity. But sometimes a fishing story is so outlandish, so fantastic and so fervently backed up by all present — that it must be believed.

A few years ago, three brothers were enjoying a summer afternoon fishing in a lake in front of their house. Usually there was so much work to do that youthful diversions were crowded out. Their father, the ag teacher at our school, firmly believes in the purifying value of manual labor for young men. They had all learned to drive a pick-up around the farm as soon as they could see over the wheel and learned to drive a tractor shortly thereafter. That day’s outing was a treat to be savored, not only because of the rarity of it, but also because it was one of the few times all the boys got to be together, since the oldest was grown and living several hours away.

Logan, the youngest, about ten at the time, kept getting his line tangled up in the weeds and the other boys’ lines. Each time, the oldest brother, Tyler, dutifully untangled it and admonished the boy to be more careful. Each of the boys had caught several fish but had tossed them all back. By about four or five o’clock, the August sun was coaxing the mercury up towards 100.

They were about to reel in their lines when Logan got a bite. He worked with it for a while, but seemed to get hung up again. This time when he asked for help, his brothers told him not to be such a sissy and to keep working at it. Suddenly, the boy started yelling desperately for help. When the two older boys looked again, Logan’s fishing pole dipped over, nearly touching the water. Suddenly, a huge bass broke the surface, and they got a good look at it. It was enormous!

The other boys dropped their poles and ran to help. The middle son, Blake realized they hadn’t even brought a stringer and sprinted back to house to find one. Tyler dove into the murky water to help bring in the gigantic fish. He found the line was indeed tangled in the weeds and algae. It was stretched so taut it looked like it could break any second. Logan still clenched his fishing rod and held it steady. When the fish neared the bank and broke the surface again, the amazed boys made an incredible discovery — there were two fish on the line! The original fish was a decent-sized bass that could have easily been landed. The other was a huge monster bass that had attempted to swallow the hooked fish.

By that time, Blake had returned with a stringer. Tyler finally freed the line and Logan reeled it in. They whooped and hollered and celebrated their victorious group effort. Logan called his parents and gave them the short version of what had happened and asked if they should fillet the big fish. "Just how big is it?" his dad wanted to know. The boy proudly reported it was over 27-inches long. His dad excitedly told him not to dare lay a knife on it — that was a trophy to keep. He promised to take it to the taxidermist as soon as possible.

The mammoth fish, instantly dubbed Big Earl, was preserved for a few weeks in the family freezer until the opportunity arose to go into "town." The fish now graces Logan’s wall. The legend of Big Earl and the epic fishing adventure was retold for years by Logan, his brothers and their dad without any need for amplification. And they have the evidence to prove that fisherman’s story was no fabrication.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Honoring Dairy Goats

by Robert Spencer

Dairy goats have been utilized for thousands of years, not only for their milk, but much more. While goat meat production and meat goats are a relatively new concept in the United States, dairy goats have historically been utilized for their meat and milk, as pack animals, and their hides make quality leather. While meat goats do not make good dairy goats, dairy goats can be processed for meat. Dairy goats have a lot of interesting history. They are one of the oldest forms of domesticated livestock (along with sheep). Dairy goats were the first animals to be used for milk by humans. Rumors say dairy goats were brought to Americas by Columbus in 1493.

Table 1: Nutrient value of cow milk versus goat milk. Source: McCane, Widdowson, Scherz, Kloos

When comparing the nutrient value (see Table 1) of goat milk to cow’s milk, the caprine statistics show a slight advantage. But there is more! Goat milk works for those with lactose intolerances; it is more easily digested than cow’s milk due to the fact its molecules are smaller and more easily absorbed into the digestive system. The most amazing aspect of goat milk is it is naturally homogenized, so the cream stays mixed in the milk and does not separate and rise to the top like cow’s milk.

For the most part, anything done with cow’s milk can be done with goat milk, provided either is handled at an inspected/licensed dairy and pasteurized. Consumables like bottled milk, soft and aged cheeses, ice cream, fudge, yogurt, kefir (fermented beverage) and butter are excellent when made with goat milk. Then there are the value-added skin care products which utilize goat milk but do not require a licensed dairy or pasteurization: goat milk soap, shampoo, lotion, bath balms, etc. What history buff has not heard the stories about Egyptian Royalty bathing in goat milk, which according to myth is the secret to keeping their skin soft and them beautiful.

As mentioned earlier goat milk can be further processed into soft spreadable cheeses, flavored to suit any palate whether a person prefers herb, spicy or sweet, and used for cooking in an array of dishes. Most people are probably familiar with feta cheese, which is often used in salads at Greek and upscale restaurants. Take a look at the nutrient value comparison of cream cheeses, cow versus goat. Table 2 shows a significant difference in the health benefits of choosing goat milk cheese over cow’s milk cheese.

And for those who seek an alternative meat offering all kind of health advantages, consider the nutritional information shown in Table 3.

Table 2: Made available by the American Dairy Goat Association

Table 3: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 14

This article is not suggesting everyone sell their dairy cows or meat goats and buy a dairy goat, nor is it suggesting everyone needs to house a dairy goat in their backyard. However, dairy goats do deserve some respect for all they have to offer. And don’t forget, June is diary month.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Disappearing Fountains

Disappearing fountain

Hot weather is a good time to set up a little splash of water on your patio, deck or out in the garden. Lately I’ve seen many "disappearing fountains" where the water flows over the edge of a pretty container seemingly into the ground. The fountain actually sits on a bed of gravel filling a buried tray holding the recirculating water. A hidden pump recirculates the water within the closed system. The key is replacing the water when the level gets low from evaporation. A nice fountain can be made from just about any pretty container with a kit found at many garden centers.

Plants Don’t Go on Vacation

Set houseplants and potted plants in a tub or reservoir and water well before leaving for a trip. Some people use kiddie swimming pools. Leave a few inches of water in the bottom of the container so plants can drink it up in hot weather. While this won’t get you through a long trip, it will usually do for three to five days, especially if you take potted plants, even flowers and vegetables in pots, out of the heat and into a cooler, shaded place.

Frangipani Smells So Good

Frangipani blossoms smell so nice.

One of the most striking of all tropical plants, the Frangipani, is hard to find in this part of the world, but, once you see and smell it, you’ll always remember it. Last summer I found one on display in a container at the entrance to the Huntsville Botanical Garden where everybody who walked by took a look. The flowers are very fragrant at night and they attract sphinx moths. Plants are native to the Caribbean, but are best-known as the flower of the Hawaiian lei. Frangipani is easy to grow in containers where you can bring them indoors, to a greenhouse or sunroom in the fall. They usually drop their leaves in winter, so don’t be alarmed. Where do you get them? The only ways I know is to mail order from a source selling tropicals or pick one up at a nursery in Florida. Grow this like you would a hibiscus — lots of sun and some liquid fertilizer every week or two.

Renew Mulch

Mulch vegetables, flowers and shrubs to keep the ground from drying out too fast between rains or watering. Organic mulch like clean straw, pine needles, pine bark or compost is best because it adds organic matter to the soil and looks natural. Now is a good time to renew mulched beds to a depth of about two inches if you haven’t already.

A Novel Use For Clay Pots

This “scarecrow” features a novel use for clay pots. The potman also serves as a planter.

This scarecrow made from clay pots is both weatherproof and ornamental. I saw it at Biltmore Farms, where I doubt it fends off any birds, but makes a great garden centerpiece. Sometimes called a potman, these are easy to make by wiring together various size pots through the drainage hole in the bottom of each. Vary the texture of potman’s hair according to what plant you choose to put in the top — grass, long trailing plant or colorful flowers.

Sweet Potatoes Love the Heat

Sweet potatoes like warm soil. There is still plenty of time to plant. The newer varieties like Georgia Jet and Beauregard mature in about three months. Consider running a soaker hose along the row so they get the moisture they need at first. I checked the shipping schedules of sweet potato suppliers like Steele Plant Company in Gleason, TN, and they stop shipping in May. Bonnie Plants continues to sell warm-weather plants though June. Look for slips at your nearby garden center. It’s important to use disease-free, certified slips to prevent scurf and other problems. In addition to Georgia Jet and Beauregard, you might want to plant some later-maturing types so you aren’t overwhelmed by all the potatoes at once.

What To Do About Slugs

You’ll know if it’s slugs eating the foliage of hosta and other plants because damage appears overnight and there are usually slime trails reflecting light on the plants when the leaf is turned to the light. You can use a slug bait to fight the pests, but be selective about the type of bait used. Some are harmful to animals. One of the most popular baits is Sluggo because it can be used around pets and is OMRI-certified for organic gardening. The ingredients are iron phosphate and bait luring the pests to eat the product. It is slower-acting than poisonous metaldehyde-based bait, but breaks down into plant nutrients that become part of the soil. It will be several days before slugs die, so use it regularly to keep them under control. Because slugs like dark, damp environments, you can also pull mulch away from plants to see if that makes a difference. Some gardeners also set traps where the slugs naturally congregate and then dispose of them. The most popular are upside-down cantaloupe or grapefruit halves (eaten, of course) and long boards. Sprinkle bait in spots where snails and slugs visit often like around sprinkler heads. Put bait in the same areas repeatedly, because slugs tend to return to food-sites to feed. Never pile bait in mounds or clumps because piling makes bait attractive to pets and children, and is not as effective as sprinkling.

Squash Borers Squash My Plans

Every year my garden is visited by squash vine borers that really cut my harvest short. If you have a garden big enough to grow many types of squash, especially the vining types, consider choosing from this list of varieties they don’t seem to like as much. Work done at the University of Illinois revealed squash borers prefer some varieties over others. The study rated susceptibility of 12 varieties of squash relatives. Some gardeners use the most susceptible varieties simply as a trap crop so borers visit them instead of other varieties. Try it. A rating of 5 means "highly susceptible," while a rating of 1 means "fairly tolerant." Here is how they ranked:

Blue Hubbard 5
Boston Marrow 4
Golden Delicious Hubbard 4
Connecticut Field pumpkin 4
Small Sugar pumpkin 4
Zucchini 4
White Bush Scallop 3
Acorn 3
Summer Crookneck 2
Dickenson pumpkin 2
Green Striped Cushaw 1
Butternut 1

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

In Your War with Pasture Weeds, Scouting and Fast Action are Critical

by John Howle

Ben Franklin once said, "A small leak can sink a great ship." Small weeds eventually become titanic problems for your pasture forage, if left uncontrolled. As we take a look at experts from across the country for weed control, one thing remains constant — the earlier you can detect weed problems, the better your chances of weed control.


Spot spraying is a great way to save clovers, if you have isolated stands of weeds to remove.

Scouting is the most valuable resource in the war on weeds. For instance, if you find thistle in the early stages, it is much easier to control through herbicides. In addition, if there are only a few isolated weeds, hand removal or spot spraying may be the best bet. Finally, it’s not always a given you have to sacrifice your clover stands when you spray herbicides to rid the pasture of weeds.

Weed management decisions

The herbicide 2, 4-D is used in pastures because of its low cost, ability to kill a wide range of common, broadleaf weeds and, under some conditions, has less impact on certain clovers.

It's a war on weeds. Fast action required.

"Saving clover is our biggest dilemma when spraying herbicides to get rid of weeds in pastures," said Dr. J.D. Green, weed scientist with the University of Kentucky. "White clover typically has more tolerance to 2, 4-D than red clover, but both are susceptible to potential injury."

Green doesn’t advocate spraying 2, 4-D on pastures interseeded with clover with hopes of killing the weeds and saving clover.

"The herbicide 2, 4-D poses a lesser risk to clover plants than other herbicides, but it is still a risk," Green said. "If you are going to establish clover next year, you are better off spraying herbicides that will effectively kill broadleaf weeds, and that often includes clover."

"If you want to save your annual clovers, we recommend spraying after the flower head turns brown," said Dr. Eddie Funderburg, soils and crops consultant with the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma. If there are plentiful stands of clover or other legumes, spot spraying, mowing or hand-removal of problem weeds like thistle should be considered.

Some of the cattle producers I’ve spoken with have been able to save some of their white clover when spraying. They spray 2, 4-D for buttercup and thistle in the early spring while thistles are in the rosette stage and can get a good weed kill. Some I’ve spoken with say the white clover does get stunted some, but much of it bounces back for continued growth.

Spray or mechanical removal

Check with your local Extension agent for the legalities of herbicides that can be sprayed in your area.

Pigweed has a purple shaft, needles and fuzzy seed heads.

"Troublesome weeds like horsenettle and tall ironweed can’t be effectively controlled with 2, 4-D," Green said. "Forefront, PastureGard or Crossbow are my herbicides of choice for these two weeds. Although they are not restricted use, they are, however, likely to kill clovers."

For weeds like blackberry, Funderburg recommended spraying later in the growth season during the plant’s maturity.

"In Oklahoma, we spray blackberry bushes in late June or July after they begin bearing fruit so the new wood growth will be killed," Funderburg explained. "Our rule of thumb is pick the blackberries, make a pie, then, spray and kill the plant."

Funderburg said any type of thistle should be sprayed in the early stages of growth before the plant grows the shaft or bolts the second year.

"Grazon, Cimarron Max and 2, 4-D will kill perennial and biennial thistles, if you can spray in the rosette stage," Funderburg said.

For horsenettle in Oklahoma, he recommended Weedmaster or Grazon P + D once the plant is blooming or after fruit appears.

Spot spraying

Thistle are much easier to control while they are in the rosette stage.

In many cases, spot spraying (spraying isolated, weed problem areas) can be your best option. You local Co-op carries spraying equipment like Ag Spray Equipment’s full line of sprayer tanks, nozzles and spray guns for spot spraying or complete spraying with boom-style sprayers. I find a 25-gallon Ag Spray sprayer fits perfectly in the bed of a Yamaha Rhino and the seven-foot boom sprayer is ideal for remote, rough spots. With the powerful pump, the herbicide from the spray gun reaches a distance of 40 feet according to my measurements. Visit for more information.

Other options

Some cattle producers have been able to eliminate a majority of late season spraying with a hay mower. The hay mower gives a smooth clipping of pre-seeding weeds and encourages forage growth. Many have noticed how thick and relatively weed-free pasture stands are after cutting hay. The hay mower neatly cuts off weed stalks instead of knocking them over with a brush mower. For pigweed, the key is clipping the plants before production of seed heads.

Kendrick Ketchum, a beef producer in Heber Springs, AR, uses only mechanical methods for weed control. In addition, Ketchum and his three sons walk their pastures each week with shovels on their shoulders and buckets in their hands to remove isolated stands of thistle. Ketchum said other problem weeds on his farm are pigweed and buttercup.

"We try to time our mowings to clip the weeds before they produce seeds," Ketchum said.

Once the thistle bolts, the seed heads emerge and control becomes more difficult.

"In hard packed, poor areas of our land, buttercups were growing in the spring, so I began lightly disking those areas to aerate the soil, and the pasture forage began crowding out the weeds thanks to some good rain," Ketchum explained. "We can keep the problem weeds at manageable numbers on our farm without spraying, but we have to make timed-mowing and hand-removal a regular part of the work week."

According to Don Ball, Extension agronomist with Auburn University, good grazing management and optimum soil pH and fertility will help reduce weed numbers.

"This forces animals to eat weeds, and it increases the competitiveness of forage crops," Ball said. "Mowing, heavy stocking rates resulting in temporary overgrazing, mechanical hand-removal and use of goats are possibilities in certain situations for weed control."

If persistent weeds have taken over pasture forage, many of the legumes may fall victim for the pasture’s long-term forage success. You may have to sacrifice your legumes for a couple of years until the weeds have been killed. Once the weeds are under control, you can come back later to re-establish your legumes.

Your local Co-op can supply all your spraying equipment as well as herbicides for keeping weed numbers down in your pastures. Enlist the aid of your local Extension agent in weed identification, herbicide selection and sprayer calibration so your profits won’t sink this year.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

I’ll Need to See Some Identification

The Importance of the Health Certificate

by Dr. Terry Slaten

Every time I get in my car or truck to go somewhere, I put my seatbelt on. I don’t even think about it. It is just a reflex. Let me assure you it hasn’t always been the case. In fact, when I was fairly young, our family car didn’t even have seatbelts. Nowadays, it is the law we wear our seatbelts. Even if we drive around without wearing our seatbelt and do not get caught, we are still breaking the law. The same goes for having a health certificate when bringing animals into Alabama from another state or taking them to another state from Alabama. If you do not have a health certificate on such occasions, even if no one ever asks to see the document, you are breaking the law.

There is often the perception that if no one ever asks to see a health certificate, what is the use in having one? Well I’m glad you asked that question. Here is at least one good answer: In the absence of any national identification or traceability system, the health certificate serves as a fairly good means of tracing potentially exposed or diseased animals coming into our state.

(At this point I need to veer off the trail for a few sentences. They—whoever they are—have decided a health certificate is not really a health certificate because it doesn’t really certify the health of an animal or animals. It simply indicates the animals have been inspected by an accredited veterinarian and were found to be free of signs of a contagious disease. Therefore, what we have always called a health certificate is really a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or a CVI as we in government like to call it. We don’t like to use whole words when the initials will do. So if you don’t mind, when I use CVI, you’ll know I’m talking about a health certificate.)

A CVI is a perfect government document. When written, there are the original and three copies … unless your veterinarian uses electronic CVIs which will likely be the trend of the future. In general, the original accompanies the shipment, one copy goes to the state veterinarian in the state of origin, one copy goes to the State Veterinarian in the state of destination and one copy stays with the veterinarian who wrote the certificate. The copy going to the State Veterinarian in the state of destination is probably the most important. That is because it gives us a great deal of information if we need to trace the animal or animals listed on the CVI.

Different states have different requirements concerning the identification to be recorded on the CVI. Animals moving in truckload lots, like a load of steers going to be put on grass in the Midwest or going to a feedlot, may not require individual identification. However, the general description of the lot is given along with the name and address of the recipient of the animals. That is certainly not the ideal way to trace an animal. You may be looking for a black steer exposed to TB. The steer may be traced to a person who buys cattle from the four corners of the universe and puts them on grass. When you narrow it down to the premises based on the CVI, you still may have to sort through a few hundred black steers. Obviously individual identification works best. To come to Alabama or to go to most other states, animals intended to go into the breeding herd are required to have permanent individual identification. That permanent identification may be a unique brand, tattoo, or an electronic tag or microchip readable by a scanner.

A practical example of using the CVI to trace animals came on December 23, 2003. That date, in case you don’t remember, was when it was announced a cow in Washington State had tested positive for BSE. Even though it never became an issue, within 30 minutes of the announcement, we had retrieved all CVIs from Washington State over the past five years and knew where these Washington cattle had shipped to in Alabama. Even if the cattle had moved off the original farm of destination here in Alabama, it would have given us a very good place to start tracing as well as their permanent identification.

There are occasions when CVIs are sloppily written or incomplete. In such cases, we try to alert the veterinarian writing the CVI of the deficiency and remind him or her of their responsibility to be complete and accurate. We will occasionally get a CVI from another state giving the consignee or destination of the shipment as "Rodeo" and the location simply listed as "Alabama." I suppose that would be fine if there were only one rodeo in Alabama. But the last time I checked, they go on all over the state throughout the year. It is extremely important the veterinarian who writes the CVI be very thorough and accurate.

The CVI is a requirement when animals come into the state and it is the responsibility of the shipper or the person transporting the animals to make sure the document accompanies the animals as they are imported into the state. There are certain shows, sales and events requiring a CVI for all animals involved even if they are not crossing state lines. I applaud those individuals who implement that requirement because it will greatly reduce the chances of any of the animals going through the event are spreading contagious diseases.

The CVI will not solve every problem we have when it comes to traceability. It is, however, a tool in our toolbox to be used when needed. We continue to work our way through the obstacles of some sort of a national animal traceability program.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got to fasten my seatbelt and get started toward home.

Dr. Terry Slaten is the Assistant State Veterinarian for Alabama.

JMG Tigers are Active in their West Blocton Community

The 4-H Tigers made scarecrows for their garden. The youth used recycled items for the scarecrows. Pictured from left are Ronnie Pearson, Mitch Smotherman, Marci Blackmon, Casey Blackmon, Nathan Morrison and 4-H Volunteer Teresa Smotherman.

by Luci Davis

Congratulations to the West Blocton 4-H JMG Tigers for being the June JMG Group of the Month. The JMG group is a community 4-H club located in West Blocton and has seven young people participating. The group began as an in- school 4-H club and later transitioned into an after-school club. Two years ago, they decided to focus on Junior Master Gardener (JMG). This group is led by three fabulous volunteers: Teresa Smotherman, Sid Smotherman and Bobbie Blackmon.

The West Blocton 4-H JMG Tigers have been very active in their community. This past fall, the youth worked on making natural holiday cards to give to the residents at the Bibb County Nursing Home. They also made table decorations for the residents to have in their rooms. An ongoing project for the JMG group is the construction and maintenance of the school garden at West Blocton Middle School. The group started the garden from hard, clay soils covered with grass and began to transform the area. Joy Maxwell, Regional Extension Agent 4-H for Bibb County, said the garden has beautified the front of the school as well as drawn interest from other students at the school. This year, the youth created tin man scarecrows for the garden. They recycled vegetable cans to build the scarecrows.

The front of West Blocton Middle School, before the 4-H Tigers decided to plant a garden.

Casey and Marci Blackmon assist 4-H Volunteer Sid Smotherman with the preparation of the garden.

Along with the garden the group keeps the front of the school and the road litter free. Maxwell stated the Bibb County Adopt A Mile program has donated $200 to the group for maintaining the road in front of the school. This money will be used for the young people to take a field trip during the summer. This very active group also participates in the Friends of the Cahaba River clean-up day along the Cahaba River.

The Tigers are not only active in their community, but also with local, regional and state 4-H events. Every year the JMG members participate in county and regional competitive events. The group traveled to Auburn University to participate in 4-H football day and 4-H basketball day. These statewide events allow the students to experience being on a college campus during a major sporting event. Maxwell said attending the sporting events is a great opportunity for the youth to see what college is all about.

West Blocton 4-H Tigers after a long day of preparing their garden.

After all the hard work on beautifying the front of school, the West Blocton 4-H JMG Tiger members and volunteers are all smiles.

All of the events mentioned in the article have helped shape these young people into stronger people. Several of the participants started the program quiet and reserved. Throughout the program, Maxwell, the volunteer leaders and the school guidance counselor have all noticed how much more outgoing they have become. The group members have been out recruiting new members for their 4-H club. All of this would not be possible without the dedication of the volunteer leaders. One of the leaders, Mrs. Smotherman, is a science teacher at the middle school. While teaching and attending graduate school at the University of Montevallo, she has never missed a meeting or an event with the young people. She and the other two volunteers show exemplary dedication to 4-H, the participants and to their community.

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

Landowners Urged To Sign-Up

Conservation Stewardship Program
Application Deadline is June 11

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett announced on May 17, 2010, the deadline of June 11 for the next ranking and funding period for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP offers financial and technical assistance to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship.

"Voluntary conservation practices by private landowners are essential in improving soil and water quality," Puckett said.

Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland and non-industrial forestland.

Under the interim final rule published July 29, 2009, eligible producers may submit an application to enroll eligible land in CSP on a continuous basis. Producers are encouraged to apply for CSP now to ensure their applications will be considered during the next funding and ranking period. However, they can make their final decision to participate in the program once the CSP final rule is issued. The final rule will establish the policies and procedures for the program.

Potential applicants are encouraged to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine if the new program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. Producers can contact their local NRCS or Farm Service Agency Office to begin this process. NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or on-line at For additional information about CSP, visit:

This year represents the 75th year of NRCS "Helping People Help the Land." Since its inception, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments, and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.

Letter To Norm ‘Bout Spring Gather

by Baxter Black, DVM

Dear Norm,

I just wanted you to know we’re still punchin’ cows here on the S X. Not much has changed. The Beacon well is working again. It’s opened up the west side for us. We’re trying to get the stragglers all into the Kline pasture to finish branding. This morning three of us rode the Black. I dropped two cowboys at the road gate, then drove on to the corrals.

I parked far enough back, unloaded Chaco so I could sneak up and maybe catch’em in the trap. No luck. I started west to the old railroad bed, then swung back north. Wind was blowin’ like a banshee outta the west. I think the high temp was 45 degrees! Warm gloves, wool shirt (with rubber bands around wrists to keep wind from blowin’ up my sleeve), scarf, leggin’s and lined, canvas brush jacket. I was plenty warm till I turned into the wind!

Riding in the big arroyos, it was calmer but the clouds were dark and low on the mountaintops. The sky was the color of the floor in a truck stop shop! Chaco and I made a big circle, never saw a fresh track, except a single day-old bull track headin’ north. At least he was going the right direction.

Met up with Frank and Pancho at Black corrals. They headed cross-country north. I loaded my horse and hauled three miles back to the Kline where I mounted up and rode to the north fence, then back to the east and eventually turned south to the lower drinker. I saw the occasional fresh track, cows and calves moving toward the drinkers. No cows at the lower drinker, so I swung west into the brush and eased up on the middle drinker…ten of ‘em! After five hours in the saddle…ten of ‘em. That’s not a bad bunch when you’re doin’ clean up.

I stayed beyond the edge of their nervous zone. Frank called on the walkie-talkie. They were already at the Kline corrals with seven head. I told them I’d hold the bunch at the middle drinker. Twenty minutes later the boys rode quietly in. Soon as I saw them, I swung wide to the opposite side and we started them up the water line trail. You know how hard it is to keep ‘em together on that final drive, ‘specially into a stiff breeze! It makes everybody antsy. But it went as smooth as silk and not a word had been spoken. I’m workin’ with top hands out here.

Well, 17 head to the Kline gathered out of 10,000 acres of rough country on a day when stunt doubles and daredevils would have just stayed home. A good day’s work here at the ranch. Only thing missing was you, ol’ friend. But I could see your tracks everywhere I went. You were there in spirit, at least. I thought of ya when that jack rabbit shot out of the brush, spooked ol’ Chaco and slid me sideways far enough I grabbed the horn! I could see ya outta the corner of my eye. You were there alright, keepin’ me on my toes.

Take care, amigo, we’re thinkin’ of you.

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,

Mint All Over the Place

(Part 3)

by H. T. Farmer

Last time I promised more information on herbs in the family Lamiaceae. If you researched like I asked you to in June, you have discovered this next featured herb is also in the mint family.

Although it is not considered a mint in most culinary circles, basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a cousin of the Mentha and Nepeta mints and, like its cousins, has both sweet and savory aromas and flavors.


Basil has many uses and is probably the most popular herb in my kitchen. The flavor goes well with most other herbs and a wide-range of cuisines. Even simple dishes like tuna salad or deviled eggs just wouldn’t taste as good without the addition of a few freshly-chopped basil leaves.

Here on the farm, there are several types of basil cultivated. They are all grown for their culinary value, but they make a nice accent plant as well. In fact, a few years ago, I noticed how well some of the cultivars worked to aesthetically-complete some of the flower beds. They fill in nicely where more green foliage is needed to make the other colors of the flowers "pop," so to speak. That is why I started growing literally hundreds of basil plants and use them as interplantings in the flower beds.

Sweet Basil and Italian Large Leaf Basil are two of the most popular ones I grow for general cooking. They grow to a height of up to 30 inches; therefore, they are interplanted with taller flowers and shrubs. Try planting a row of tall basil as a back drop for zinnias or coneflowers, and you will get a lot of attention from your envious neighbors.

Blue Spice and Spicy Globe Basil are two mounding types with a spicy bite to them. I mostly use them, along with Thai Basil, for Indian and other Eastern dishes. The mounding basils grow to about 12 inches tall and wide. These make great border plants or interplantings with low-growing flowers. A row of low-growing bushing basil planted half-centered to a row of marigolds or pyrethrums certainly enhances the garden’s overall look.

Basil is grown as an annual here and is easy to grow from seed or from stem cuttings. As long as the nighttime temperatures are at 55° F and the day time temperatures are around 70° F, basil will grow quickly. Seed germinates in about 6-9 days while cuttings will start to root in water within a couple of weeks.

It is best to keep the flower-stalks trimmed off in order for your basil to keep branching out. But, if you are like me and grow several hundred plants, leave a few basils with the seed stalks on. Bees, hairstreak butterflies and hummingbirds will all feed on the flowers.

There are dozens more cultivars of basil and hundreds of uses for them. Plant some today!

For more information on basils and other mints, e-mail me at:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Thanks for reading!

Be sure to find me on Facebook at: "Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm."If you have any questions about other uses for basil, e-mail me at and I’ll tell you all I know. As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using this or any other herbal remedy.

Peanut People

RFD-TV Is #1 Network For Adult Viewers 50+

According to Nielsen Media Research (2010), RFD-TV is the #1 ad-supported cable television network for adults 50+ in audience composition.

Additionally, RFD-TV proudly boasts a weekly audience of over 11.2 million adults 18+. Anchoring the broadcast week is RFD-TV’s "Music Row" (Saturday 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. EST). This star-studded lineup features the very best in traditional country music programming, delivering an extraordinary 2.7+ million adults weekly (Nielsen Media Research, 2010).

"This increase in audience is no surprise to me," said Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of RFD-TV. "Interest in America’s countryside and rural matters generally are extremely high, not only from those who live there, but also from a large proportion of city dwellers. RFD-TV’s Nielsen numbers are proof, once again, audiences are searching for good, traditional, family-oriented entertainment and television the way it used to be."

RFD-TV credits its Nielsen success to its significant investment over the past year in programming including PBR NOW on RFD-TV and The Marty Stuart Show. RFD-TV will continue investing in high-quality programming which will only raise its Nielsen numbers even more.

Seed starts? Second season!

Seedlings interplanted.

by Kenn Alan

By now, I’m sure, most of the plants you are going to grow this year are in your garden beds and showing off their beauty and offering their exciting seasonal flavors you will enjoy all summer long.

Let us take a few moments and discuss the excitement factor of gardening. That’s when you get pleasant surprises popping up when you least expect them. I like to create my own excitement factor and I do it on several levels by adding seeds directly sown between my existing flowers in the garden I planted two months ago.

For veggies, place one or two seeds between each of your tomato plants now for late season fruits. Try new varieties with this method. I would recommend a determinate-type though. Some tomatoes take 90-days to produce and you will want them to come in quickly when they start to fruit because we’re looking at September for maturity. Plant a few more cucumber seeds for pickling cucs. Also, add a few dill seeds to your flowerbeds for a nice accent plant.

It never hurts to sow some ornamental pepper seeds in small containers that already have flowers or herbs in them. Even if they are just starting to show color at frost time, you can always bring them indoors and enjoy them in a sunny window this fall.

In your flower garden beds, sow some zinnias, sunflowers, bells of Ireland and bachelor buttons for cut flowers through frost. Also put in curled parsley, spicy bush basil, borage and any other low-growing, fast-maturing herbs to add more texture to your garden.

Follow the instructions on the seed packages for sowing depth and plant spacing.

Sow those seeds now and just wait for those exciting surprises to pop up and make you smile!

Next month, we’ll touch on the subject of the ethics of plant sharing.

E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> if you would like to know more about late-season seed starting.

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook and keep up with the latest news! Sign up for our newsletter by e-mailing Home Grown Tomatoes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> — put "newsletter" in the subject line.

I hope you will all tune in each Saturday from 8 until 8:30 a.m. CDT for Home Grown Tomatoes. If you are not in the local coverage area, then tune in on the Internet by going to and follow the links to listen live!

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Merv had Jarvis whooped in the wrestling match then Jarvis put him in a head lock ‘till he screamed uncle!"

Why would one scream the word used to identify an aunt’s husband to get somebody off of them?

"Uncle" is called by one child for another to submit or cry for mercy — which appears variously as say uncle!, cry uncle! or holler uncle! — is first recorded in print in the U.S. early in the 20th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first example is from 1918, but I’ve found an instance in an advertisement in the Modesto News of California, dated 1912: "This Time it is ‘Martie’ Graves and Don Johns who made them say ‘Uncle.’"

The speculations are ingenious: one from American Speech in 1980 was "Uncle in this expression is surely a folk etymology, and the Irish original of the word is anacol ... ‘act of protecting; deliverance; mercy, quarter, safety,’ a verbal noun from the Old Irish verb aingid, ‘protects.’" If that sounds unlikely, try a theory William and Mary Morris turned up. It goes back to a Latin expression used by Roman youngsters who got into trouble: patrue mi patruissime"uncle, my best of uncles." It may be rather more probable that it’s a requirement the person should cry for his uncle in order to be let free. But why uncle?

Interestingly, the earliest examples — found by Dan Norder — are all in the form of a joke. This has a number of forms which appeared in various U.S. newspapers from 1891 through to about 1907 (and which reappeared in the early 1940s), often on the children’s pages. This is the earliest he has found, from the Iowa Citizen of 9 October 1891:

A gentleman was boasting that his parrot would repeat anything he told him. For example, he told him several times before, some friends, to say "Uncle," but the parrot would not repeat it. In anger he seized the bird and half-twisting his neck, said: "Say ‘uncle,’ you beggar!" and threw him into the fowl pen, in which he had ten prize fowls. Shortly afterward, thinking he had killed the parrot, he went to the pen. To his surprise he found nine of the fowls dead on the floor with their necks wrung, and the parrot standing on the tenth twisting his neck and screaming: "Say ‘uncle,’ you beggar! say ‘uncle.’"

Later versions make the reason for choosing uncle as the key word clearer by starting the story "A man whose niece had coaxed him to buy her a parrot succeeded in getting a bird that was warranted a good talker."

The vital question is the same as that regarding the chicken and the egg: which came first, the joke or the children’s call to submit? George H. Goebel, assistant editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English, points out in private correspondence the Iowa Citizen attributes the joke to a periodical called Spare Moments, which was a London weekly of the period. He comments, "An English origin is also suggested by some points of language: ‘a gentleman’ and ‘you beggar’ both sound slightly off to an American ear, and are removed in later newspaper versions of the joke." He concludes, "But as the idiom ‘say uncle’ is apparently strictly American, the joke cannot be an allusion to the idiom, and hence the idiom must be an allusion to the joke."

Few matters are clear-cut in etymology and there’s room for an unexplained transfer of language between U.S. and British English (say somebody taking the U.S. expression across the Atlantic long before it was first written down, which inspired an English comedian to produce the joke, which was then fed back the other way). But the balance of probabilities is heavily weighted towards the American idiom being derived from an English joke.

The Co-op Pantry

I know everyone thinks their own grandmother is the sweetest, best cook ever, but in my case, it just so happens to be true.

My Memama, Willie Mae Hobbs of Troy, is a mother of five, grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of 11. And every one of us thinks we’re her favorite because she’s always had the best knack for making each and every member of her family feel special.

A lifelong native of Pike County, lots of older people remember my Memama and her late husband (a granddaddy I never knew) because they owned Hobbs Candy Company of Troy. The photographs somebody dug up a few years ago of the old candy company truck, emblazoned with Planter’s Mr. Peanut, are some of my favorites because they were memories of a time before I was born. Later she also worked 12 years with the Troy Housing Authority’s Aging Program.

I don’t remember Memama not being retired, so my earliest memories of her are of two of her favorite things: gardening and fishing, or at least the results of those hobbies. Memama always had tons of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers from the garden. I’m not really sure how old I was when I realized pickles were commercially available, but I know I ate a whole lot more pickles from jars without labels than jars with them. And I’d hate to know how many fish have been cleaned on the concrete picnic table in her backyard. The grass around it always glittered from fish scales. And while her gardening and fishing are not the serious all-day efforts they used to be, she still has her tomatoes and peppers, and Mondays mean fish for lunch (she prefers little bream).

Like so many good Southern ladies, much of her cooking isn’t based on recipes, but on feel. For cornbread or biscuits, she adds buttermilk until it feels right. And for cooking peas or greens, I guess Southerners just know how much salt and ham or bacon to add to the pot. But I vividly remember her teaching me how to crack an egg on the side of the bowl and how to wash collards twice in cold water to get all the sand off them. After I got married and wanted to learn to put up peas, butter beans and tomatoes in the freezer, Memama talked me through it over the phone and explained to me the beauty of a blanching pot. And even though she now lets all of us bring something for Christmas and Thanksgiving, she still makes the cornbread dressing herself.

The middle of seven children, only two of which were girls, Memama grew up helping her mother cook.

"I started making biscuits when I had to stand on a stool to reach the kitchen table, and there’s no telling how many millions of biscuits I cooked since then," she said.

Because so many of the things she’s always cooked for us were made from love and not a recipe, I had to select her baking recipes for the Co-op Pantry.

"Most of what I cook is vegetables and things that don’t really follow a recipe. I just throw a dab of something in there. But if I bake anything, I pull out the recipe," she said.

The hands-down family favorite these days is Egg Custard Pie, but her German Chocolate Cake has always been the softest I’ve ever tasted and my brother used to make himself sick on Memama’s little Red Pickles. I also included her Purple Passion Salad and our family’s Fish Fry Potatoes.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Purple Passion Salad

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 (16 oz) can dark sweet cherries
1 (20 oz) can pineapple tidbits
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 (8 oz) container Cool Whip

Drain cherries, reserving 2 Tablespoons juice. Drain pineapple. Beat softened cream cheese and sugar to combine. Gently stir in fruits and pecans. Fold in Cool Whip and reserved cherry juice. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Red Cucumber Pickles

7 pounds large cucumbers
1 cup pickling lime
3 cups vinegar, divided
1 Tablespoon alum
1 bottle red food coloring
8 cups sugar
50 or 60 red hot cinnamon candies
Cinnamon sticks

Peel, slice and remove seeds from cucumbers. Soak in 1 cup lime and 1 gallon of water for 24 hours.

Wash cucumbers; soak in ice water 3 hours. Drain, and place cucumbers in a large pot. Mix together 1 cup vinegar, alum and food coloring. Pour over cucumbers and add enough water to cover. Simmer for 2 hours.

Drain cucumbers. In saucepan, combine 2 cups water, sugar, 2 cups vinegar, red hots and 4 cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil. Pour over cucumbers and let sit 24 hours.
Pour off the liquid into another boiler. Pack cucumbers into jars. Bring liquid to a boil and pour into packed jars. Cook in water bath 5 to 10 minutes.

Fish Fry Potatoes

Instead of the usual crinkle-cut fries, when our family cooks fish, we use canned whole new potatoes. Open the can and pour all the potatoes out into a colander when you start to heat the oil for frying. Be sure the potatoes have ample time to drain and dry before frying. Larger potatoes may be cut in half. After the fish has been fried, drop the potatoes in one layer in the bottom of the frying basket. Carefully lower the basket into the hot oil and fry until golden. Remove from oil and drain on paper sacks or paper towels. Salt to taste while hot.

Red Velvet Cake

2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vinegar

Grease and flour 3 cake pans and set aside. Preheat oven to 350o. Gently combine flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add food coloring and beat again. Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Stir in vanilla, baking soda and vinegar. Spoon batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Remove cake layers from pans to cool.

1 stick (½ cup) butter or margarine, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (1 pound) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, chopped

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine, then beat on high speed until fluffy. Fold in pecans. Spread over cooled cake layers.

German Chocolate Cake

1 (4 oz) package Bakers German chocolate
½ cup boiling water
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Preheat oven to 350o and prepare 3 round cake pans.

Melt chocolate in boiling water and set aside to cool. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla. Mix well. Sift together flour, salt and soda. Add alternately with buttermilk. Fold in egg whites. Spread batter evenly in prepared cake pans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Carefully remove cake layers from pans to cool.

1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped

Combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla extract. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add coconut and pecans. Stir together. Cool filling and spread over cooled cake.

Pecan Pie

1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
3 eggs
1 cup dark Karo syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup butter, melted
Dash of salt
1½ cups pecans
1 unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350o. In a small bowl, stir together sugar and flour. Place eggs in a mixing bowl and beat. Add sugar mixture, Karo and next 3 ingredients. Beat on low speed to combine. Stir in pecans and pour filling into pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes or just until pie is set in the center.

Egg Custard Pie

1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
4 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups milk
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
Grated nutmeg
1 unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350o. In a small bowl, stir flour into sugar to combine. In mixing bowl, beat eggs well, then add sugar and flour mixture. Beat in salt, milk and butter. Pour into unbaked pie shell and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 30 minutes or until center is set.

The FFA Sentinel

by Philip Paramore

The G.I. Bill, officially known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was a bill which provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans. Also provided in the bill was one year of unemployment compensation. In addition, the bill included different types of low-interest loans for returning veterans to buy houses and begin businesses.

Many of the World War II veterans were from rural backgrounds. Most had been gone anywhere from three to five years from their homes. All veterans had the choice to go to college or receive vocational training in the area of their choice, like business, mechanics and, of course, farming. Those veterans who wanted to return to an agriculture-based profession had the opportunity to attend veterans’ classes related to production agriculture.

Every county in Alabama had vocational training for veterans. Most local high schools served as the site for this training, unless there was no room for the veterans. Some local churches served as "schools." The veterans who chose to receive training in agriculture were taught by certified vocational agriculture teachers, commonly referred to as vo-ag teachers.

These teachers were to have no more than 20 students. However, some teachers had more because there was a shortage of teachers. Each veteran, who desired to be involved in production agriculture, had to develop a farm plan under the direction of his vo-ag teacher. This farm plan or record book listed for each month what was to be done on his farm, down to how many rows of vegetables were to be planted in the family garden. The plan told the veteran what he had to do and when he was to do it. (The record book developed for veterans is still used by agriscience teachers today. However, over the years modifications have been made to the original book.)

The reason each vo-ag teacher of veterans was to have a maximum of 20 students was because he was required to visit each student/veteran for two hours every week. And because many of the veterans had been gone several years, production agriculture, as they knew it, had changed. The training they would receive, it was hoped, would prepare them for success in farming.

The February-March 1951 issue of The Alabama Future Farmer magazine had an article on the "Veterans Vo-Ag Program in Alabama." It lists stories from 16 counties, but because of space only eight will be featured.

"Pike County. Improved livestock farming practices is one of the ultimate aims of 376 veterans in training in Pike County under the Veterans Vocational Agriculture program.

"Some phase of livestock raising is the theme of the projects of nearly every one of the 20 classes in which these veterans are enrolled. A number of the classes are operating either calf or hog projects.

"At least four classes are now planning to launch post-treating projects. Assistant Head Teacher W.C. Hearn said the veterans will fence many acres of pasture land and other farm property with the posts which they will treat in a short period. The posts will be treated with copper naphthenate.

"Classes at Josie, Troy, Tarentum and Shellhorn are planning post treating projects. It is expected the classes will treat approximately 200 posts in 36 hours.

"A Spring Hill class is sponsoring both a purebred Duroc hog project and a Guernsey project. Another Duroc breeding project is sponsored by the class at Tarentum. Other classes which sponsor Duroc projects are Shiloh, Brundidge, Troy and Goshen. Shellhorn and Henderson classes sponsor Guernsey projects and a colored class at China Grove is operating another purebred Duroc breeding project.

"Escambia County. Ossie L. Allen, Escambia County, found peanut yields can be increased by dusting with copper sulphur.

"In 1949, Mr. Allen planted 4.8 acres and made 5,873 pounds without dusting. In 1950, his allotment was cut to three acres. Last year he dusted twice with copper sulphur and made 5,936 pounds. These peanuts were planted on the same soil-type and fertilized the same.

"The copper sulphur controls the leaf spot disease which causes the leaves to shed. When the leaves shed the peanuts shrivel and lose weight. The copper sulphur dust controls the disease and the leaves remain on the plant and the peanuts develop and increase in weight.

"Pickens County. One farmer in Pickens County will be quick to tell what the farm training program has meant to him. He is William Hoyt Kilpatrick, who has worked small wonders with the 105 acre farm after starting with only a pair of mules and work equipment, two cows, and two hogs.

"Since enrolling in the Veterans Training program he has added 18 cows, including one purebred Guernsey bull; built a grade "A" dairy barn and installed equipment for it; installed an electric pump; wired his home and barn; and enclosed 45 acres in electric fence.

"He also has running water in his home and barn, and built a sanitary toilet. He dug a stock well in his pasture and installed a pump for convenience. He wired a four-acre hog pasture. Here he planted reseeding crimson clover and rye grass.

"For his dairy barn he has 30 acres in grazing crops of oats and vetch combined, and he is shipping between 200 and 300 pounds of milk daily. Mr. Kilpatrick plans to clear an additional 30 acres of land and prepare it for sowing pasture crops next spring.

"Last year he sold ten top hogs and has two brood sows, subject to registration, which will farrow soon. He plans to increase the number of brood sows to three.

"His plans are many, too. He won’t grow cotton – instead he hopes to buy more cows. He wants to grow all feed necessary for his livestock except supplement feed.

"Covington County. Advance Wheeler, veteran of Covington County, has attained the title of "Peanut King" of South Alabama as he harvested 3,072 pounds of peanuts per acre last year to celebrate the completion of his veteran training.

"He began his training as a one-horse farmer with one cow, one grade sow and enough plow tools to cultivate crops. At the end of the first year, he began to make plans to secure better equipment and livestock. His grade sow was exchanged for purebred Durocs. By the end of the first year, he had a sufficient number of purebred sows to increase his farm from 30 acres to 50 acres of cultivated land.

"In his third year of training, Wheeler purchased a tractor and equipment to cultivate and harvest his crop.

"Veteran Wheeler, at the end of his training period, lists his accomplishments as follows: Three purebred sows, three gilts for breeding purposes, 35 shoats running on corn and peanuts. Last fall he sold 30 head of top hogs. He now has planted six acres of clover, four acres of sericea and 10 acres of lupine for soil conservation.

"His crop last year consisted of four acres of cotton, 32 acres of corn and 3.9 acres of peanuts.

"The fertilizer practices followed on this farm last year were as follows: Corn, 300 pounds 4-10-7, 150 pounds soda per acre. Cotton, 500 pounds 4-10-7, 150 pounds soda per acre.

"Veteran Wheeler feels his greatest accomplishment is the raising of 3,072 pounds of peanuts per acre planted behind a heavy litter of corn stalks around March 31, and 2½ percent DDT. In addition to these accomplishments, he has installed a gas heating system for his house.

"Escambia County. Veteran farm trainees in Escambia County are learning to treat their own fence posts.

"Demonstrations have been held by the classes at Huxford on Dewitt Cruit’s farm. The class from McCullough attended this demonstration. Louis Bell’s class at Atmore held a demonstration on Harvey Gilmore’s farm. Two other classes attended this demonstration. Roy Cook, teacher at Henley Roberts, held a demonstration on his farm for his class. The class from Damascus and the colored class from Boykin attended a demonstration at B.M. Stone’s farm.

"At these demonstrations approximately 1,000 posts were treated with pentachlorophenol mixed with fuel oil or used motor oil at the rate of one gallon penta to 10 gallons of oil. The posts are left in the mixture from six to 24 hours, according to size of post.

"Chilton County. Veteran farmers in Chilton County have shown much progress in establishing a good hog program during the past year.

"Since last spring hog projects have been established in nine of the Veteran Classes in the county. Five of the projects have registered O.I.C. sows and four are using Durocs. Since the projects were started, 92 pigs have been farrowed and all the gilts are being kept for breeding stock. Some of the gilts have already been bred and will farrow soon.

"Valuable training is received in grazing, fencing, proper feeding, value of minerals and improved breeding through these projects.

"In addition to the registered gilts in the hog projects, 47 others have been placed on individual farms of the veterans.

"Chilton County’s hog program will be much improved by bringing in the purebred gilts and boars on the Veterans’ Training Program.

"Henry County. John F. Guerin, veteran of Henry County, has whipped his personal housing problem.

"He has constructed a nice five-room home for a total cost of only $1,900. This was possible through cutting, drying and using lumber from his farm and doing much of the labor himself.

"He now has the foundation poured for a combination general use and dairy barn. He plans to soon finish getting out the lumber for the barn and hopes to finish the barn by spring.

"Jackson County. 73 veteran on-the-farm trainees were among the 124 Jackson County farmers recently nominated for membership in the Alabama 100-Bushel Club. Leading all veterans in corn production on an acre was Elbert Lands of the Skyline class with a yield of 150.06 bushels per acre. Elbert planted the Dixie 17 variety and fertilized his corn with 600 pounds of 6-8-4 before planting and side dressed with a total of 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate. He also broadcast six tons of manure before beginning land preparation.

"Three veterans entered the select circle of producers who averaged 100 bushels or more per ace on their total farm acreage. Leon Kuykendall, a member of the Pisgah class, led all veteran producers with an average yield of 136.64 bushels per acre on 12.5 acres of corn. Franklin Brashier, a member of the Skyline class, produced an average of 101.88 bushels of corn on his total acreage, while James F. Gross also a member of the Skyline class, averaged 100.88 bushels per acre on the eight acres of corn he produced."

Philip Paramore is an Education Specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.

Three Alabama Students Reel in State-Fish Art Contest Honors

Release from Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources

In Grade 4-6 division, the winner was Maya Bian, 6th grader, from Auburn, largemouth bass

Two largemouth bass and a tarpon cast three Alabama students into the winner’s circle of the 2010 Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest. The Alabama winners are: 6th grader Maya Bian from Auburn, largemouth bass; 9th grader Bonny Chen from Auburn, tarpon; and 12th grader Sabrina Steuber from Huntsville, largemouth bass. The Alabama winners were chosen from more than 2,500 entries submitted by students nationwide.

Winners from each state will have the opportunity to join talented young artists from across the country at the StateFish Art Expo, July 16-17, at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. All winning artwork will be on display and an awards ceremony will recognize the winners before a large crowd. Each winning artist who attends the Expo will receive great prizes, goodie bags and fishing supplies from Rapala.

"Wildlife Forever is pleased to honor the talented young artists, educators and parents who make the StateFish Art Contest such a successful program," said Douglas H. Grann, president & CEO of Wildlife Forever. "Together, we are using art to empower a new generation of conservationists. By sharing their fish art with family, friends and the general public, our young people are becoming ambassadors for good stewardship of fish and wildlife habitat."

In Grade 7-9 division, the winner was Bonny Chen, 9th grader, from Auburn, tarpon

In Grade 10-12 division, the winner was Sabrina Steuber, 12th grader, from Huntsville, largemouth bass

In Grade 7-9 division, the winner was Bonny Chen, 9th grader, from Auburn, tarponNational awards to be announced at the StateFish Art Expo include ‘Best of Show’ honors for the top three pieces of artwork in each grade category from across the United States. The national "Best of Show" winner in grades 10-12 will receive a $2,500 scholarship to The Art Institutes International Minnesota. The first runner-up in grades 10-12 will also receive a $1,000 scholarship to the college. The People’s Choice Award will be determined by a worldwide public online vote at the StateFish Art Contest fan page on Facebook: Online voting will begin on May 17 and conclude on July 5, with additional votes collected in person at the StateFish Art Expo.

One outstanding piece of artwork will win the ‘Art of Conservation’ Stamp Award and be reproduced as a conservation stamp. Proceeds from the stamp will be used to fund the StateFish Art Contest and children’s outdoor education.

Back to
Tickets & Deals