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June 2015

4-H Extension Corner: Chick Chain


The Chick Chain project can help open doors for all kids by offering hands-on learning opportunities.

Alabama’s Chick Chain project is expanding to Florida.

by Emily Reed

Alabama has had great and growing success with the Chick Chain project since 2013. Now, other states are taking notice and adapting the program to their 4-H programs as well. Florida 4-H is taking on the Chick Chain project after seeing how beneficial and successful it was in Alabama’s 4-H program.

The Chick Chain project is a program targeted at Alabama youth ages 9-19. The goal of the project is for 4-H youth to learn poultry management skills, develop an awareness for business management, develop recordkeeping skills, contribute to a family’s home food supply and realize the pride of accomplishing goals.

The Chick Chain project has gained statewide recognition in Alabama, expanding from just a few counties participating to now almost a majority of the 67 counties taking part. Doug Summerford, the 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent who serves Houston and Henry counties, said the Chick Chain program gets both youth and the entire community involved.

"[The Chick Chain project] truly becomes a community project as the show and auction draw spectators and bidders from numerous counties," Summerford explained. "I would encourage anyone interested in the Chick Chain project – youth, parent, potential show spectator, auction bidder – to contact their county Extension office and speak with the 4-H Foundation agent, county Extension coordinator or anyone on the county 4-H team."

The Florida 4-H has now taken interest in the Chick Chain project and has been in contact with Houston County 4-H agents, including Sheila Andreasen and Summerford, to learn more about the program and how it can be adapted to fit into Florida’s programming.

"We met in person with a Florida 4-H agent to go over the program in detail," Summerford said. "We shared how successful the program has been in our area. Based on the meeting, the Florida agent thought the Chick Chain idea could create additional positive youth-development opportunities while introducing poultry to new audiences."

Summerford labels his role in the Florida adoption of the Chick Chain project as "an information provider and encourager."

"As an Alabama 4-H Foundation Agent, my objective is to provide positive youth-development experiences for youth in Alabama," Summerford said. "I think it’s fantastic when we can join with other state 4-H agents to collaborate on programs that affect not only our youth but all youth. We’re doing a good job when we can help open doors for all kids by offering hands-on learning opportunities."

Summerford believes the Chick Chain program still has room to grow for both youth and adults.

"The program is fun, but educational, too," Summerford added. "I can’t tell you how many times parents of participating 4-H youth have said they’ve enjoyed the project just as much as their kids have. It’s not cheap to raise chickens the correct way, but all families I’ve talked with have nothing but great things to say about their experience with the Chick Chain project."

As for program growth across the United States, Summerford believes that more states will begin to adopt similar poultry projects after seeing the success of Alabama’s 4-H program.

"I think Alabama is leading the way with the Chick Chain project," Summerford concluded. "The Chick Chain formula is successful, and we keep getting better at it each year."

For more information about the Chick Chain project, please visit http://www.aces.edu/4-H-youth/AL4-H/resources/animals/science/poultry.php.

Emily Reed is with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.



A Woodland Beauty


Two different varieties of Florida Flame bloom brightly.

Couple’s Enthusiasm for Azaleas Takes Root

by Ashley Smith

Walking the woods in Alabama’s springtime proves to be a time of glorious awakening and discovery. Fresh new leaves unfurl on forest trees and plants. Leaf colors vary from vivid chartreuse to deep shades of green. Discovering the forests’ trees and plants in bloom elevates the experience. As Alabama’s last frosty winter mornings fade, spring beauty blooms in the woodland with white dogwood, pink redbud and colorful native azaleas. After winter’s chill, the bright colors of spring share hope and new life with all.

When the east Alabama couple first purchased property in Lee County, they spent hours on the land, carving out trails, identifying trees and making plans for their future home. After work and on the weekends, Kira Bowen and John Torbert invested hours of sweat equity. What was once terraced cropland for cotton and corn many plantings ago had grown up over time into an early successional forest with numerous hardwoods and spotty pines. Pockets of forestland had been clear-cut and left to regenerate in whatever species previously grew or found their way to the site.

Kira Bowen and John Torbert grow thousands of native azaleas for their wholesale nursery Southern Native Azaleas.

"John needed to map the property and identify the trees," Bowen explained. "He wanted to inventory what we had, put a management plan into place and create trails for us to enjoy the land."

A couple of miles of trails on the 160-acre property were all hacked and hand-cut by Torbert with his machete. Bowen tells the story of how they were clearing an area one wintry afternoon.

"I told him not to cut a particular grouping of understory trees because they were all native azaleas," Bowen shared. "We flagged the area to revisit in the spring. Sure enough, the bushes bloomed, and John fell in love."

With their elegant blooms and sweetly pleasant fragrance, native azaleas, often referred to as wild honeysuckle bush, are a favorite of many Southerners. Found in drains, hollows and other wooded areas throughout Alabama, deciduous native azaleas favor acidic, well-drained soil with ample organic matter. Preferring filtered sunlight, the plants increase flowering with a mix of sun and shade. Their woodland beauty and graceful appearance is truly delightful to those who see the bush in bloom.

Kira Bowen inspects the small seeds of native azaleas. Shelves of seedlings take root and grow.

Torbert’s infatuation with native azaleas was confirmed as he began buying and bringing home pickup truckloads of native azaleas purchased at nurseries throughout the region.

"There are seven to 10 species of native azaleas that are in their natural range and will thrive in Lee County," Torbert explained. "Theoretically, with a variety of species, we could have native azaleas blooming from early spring to late summer/early fall. I wanted blooms all spring and summer long!"

After the third or fourth truckload, Bowen declared a moratorium on future purchases, telling Torbert she would learn to propagate them.

Because of Bowen’s knowledge of all things plant-related, Torbert took her word for it. In college at Penn State, Bowen studied plant science. She followed her undergraduate degree with a master’s of science in plant pathology at University of Minnesota and earned a Ph.D. in the same from University of Illinois. A professor at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture since the late 1980s, Torbert felt confident that if anyone could learn to grow native azaleas, Bowen could!

With their new venture, his experience was an asset as well. Torbert studied Forestry and Wildlife Management at Virginia Tech, where he earned his undergraduate degree. While working in the Forestry Department at Virginia Tech, he earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Forest Soils. As a soil scientist, Torbert worked 20 years for Mead Coated Board and later MeadWestvaco. His knowledge of soil-specific forest management with a focus on improved growth and yield is extensive and well-known throughout the forest industry. Between the two of them, the couple could not only grow the plants but also figure out how to do it best!

While several species of native azaleas (Piedmont, Florida Flame, Oconee, Alabama) with varying colors started blooming in March and April in Alabama, more species will bloom in mid- to late-spring and into the summer: Coastal, Swamp, Pinxterbloom, Sweet and, finally, the bright red Plumleaf azalea.

Bowen and Torbert worked together to cultivate more native azaleas. They increased their number of plants by micro-propagation, seed germination and rooted cuttings. Micro-propagation is basically the art and science of plant multiplication in vitro (in a test tube, a culture dish or somewhere outside of a living organism). For seed germination, Bowen collects seeds from their plants and grows them in a controlled environment. She sees germination in about three weeks under ideal circumstances. Rooting shoot cuttings from their plants, Bowen and Torbert use a hormone accelerator to encourage cuttings of their azaleas to root. Bowen also experiments with crossing flowers of different species to create new hybrids.

Throughout their property, they planted various species of native azaleas. From their back porch, looking across the lake, they view several colors in early spring and throughout the blooming season into late summer/early fall. When asked about their favorites, Torbert prefers the brightly colored varieties while Bowen claims the fragranced versions are her favorites.

This couple’s enthusiasm for the native azalea has definitely taken root and flourished. Their passion has now grown into a wholesale nursery operation with the forming of the company Southern Native Azaleas. With thousands of plants in 1-gallon and 3-gallon pots, and more being micro-propagated, germinated by seed and rooted by cuttings, the future of their operation is sure to branch out beyond East Alabama. For more information on Bowen and Torbert’s azaleas, visit www.southernnativeazaleas.com, or contact John Torbert at 334-750-1930 or john.torbert@gmail.com.

Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Rural population decline continues

The number of people living in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties declined for the fourth year in a row according to population estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, especially in remote or sparsely settled regions, this marks the first period of population decline for rural (nonmetro) areas as a whole.

Population declines stem from a combination of fewer births, more deaths and changing migration patterns. From July 2013 to July 2014, the increase in rural population that came from natural change (58,348 more births than deaths) did not match the decrease in population from net migration (89,251 more people moved out than moved in), leading to overall population loss.

The contribution of natural change to rural population growth will likely continue its gradual downward trend due to historically low fertility rates and an aging population. However, net migration rates are prone to short-term fluctuations in response to economic conditions.

Alabama damson USDA assessment list

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that $73 million will be invested this year to rehabilitate and assess dams across the nation to ensure this critical infrastructure is protecting Americans from harm, securing public health and expanding water supplies in drought-affected areas. About 150 projects and assessments in 23 states will be funded.

The effort includes assessments of 11 dams in Alabama, with an allocation of some $250,000.

New agreements reached for beef, pork exports

The USDA has recently reached agreements allowing U.S. beef and pork producers greater access to consumers in Mexico and Peru. The two agreements will allow U.S. producers to export slaughter cattle to Mexico and expand access to consumer markets in Peru for U.S. fresh and chilled pork.

"Our priority at USDA is not only to open or reopen markets for our producers, but to help drive U.S. economic growth through trade by supporting and creating American jobs on and off the farm," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. "Mexico is an important market for U.S. cattle producers with the potential to import $15 million of live U.S. cattle per year, and we expect Peru’s market could generate $5 million annually in additional pork sales."

The United States and Mexico reached an agreement that takes effect immediately and will allow U.S. producers to export slaughter cattle to Mexico for the first time in over a decade. The USDA has been working with Mexico since 2008 to reopen this market. Exporters and producers can find the required documents on the APHIS website or through their local veterinary services office.

Similarly, USDA has conducted extensive negotiations with Peru’s Servicio National De Sanidad Agraria since 2012 to expand access for U.S. fresh, chilled pork and pork products. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service export library is being updated to the new requirements for these pork and pork products exports.

Number of certified organic growers continues to climb

The organic industry continues to show remarkable growth domestically and globally with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and a total of 27,814 certified organic operations around the world, according to USDA data.

According to figures released by the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program, the number of domestic certified organic operations increased by more than 5 percent over the last year. Since the count began in 2002, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by over 250 percent.

The certified operations list is available at apps.ams.usda.gov/nop.

"As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market," Vilsack said. "Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be."

Fruit consumptiononly half of recommended amount

Food intake surveys find Americans consuming about half the amount of recommended fruits per day, and one reason may be that some consumers incorrectly perceive fruit to be expensive.

USDA’s Economic Research Service has calculated average prices paid in 2013 for 63 fresh and processed fruits measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 1/2 cup for raisins and other dried fruits.

The amount of fruit a person should eat per day depends on age, gender and level of activity. For a 2,000-calorie diet, two cup equivalents of fruits per day are recommended.

Fresh watermelon at 21 cents per cup equivalent and apple juice (made from concentrate) at 27 cents were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries and canned cherries were the priciest.

Thirty-five fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent.

Global rice stock stightening in 2015

While global ending stocks of most agricultural commodities, including feed grains, oilseeds, wheat and cotton, are expected to reach multi-year highs in 2015, rice is an exception with global ending stocks projected to decline for the second year in a row to reach their lowest level since the 2009/10 marketing year (August/July).

Ample supplies of most commodities are reflected in prices well below the record levels of just a few years ago. At the same time, global use of rice continues to grow, led by consumption growth in China, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and several other nations.

As a result, the global stocks-to-use ratio is projected at just over 20 percent, the lowest it has been since 2007/08, a time when international concern over high commodity and food prices led several of the world’s leading rice producing and consuming countries to restrict exports and increase government-owned rice reserves.

These actions resulted in a rapid rise in global rice prices and reduced trade. Today, even though global stocks are approaching levels that prompted substantial trade restrictions in early 2008, prices are lower and global rice trade remains at near-record levels.

Manmade fibers spur growth in textile, apparel imports

U.S. net textile and apparel fiber imports rose for a second consecutive calendar year in 2014 to their highest level in 4 years.

Net imports reached approximately 14.5 billion (raw-fiber-equivalent) pounds in 2014, compared with 13.9 billion pounds in 2013 and a record 15.1 billion pounds in 2007.

Total fiber product imports grew 3 percent last year to their highest since 2010, while exports rose 1 percent to their highest level since 2008. U.S. net imports consist largely of cotton and manmade fiber products, but cotton’s share has declined in recent years due to the steady growth in the use of manmade fibers, due in part to their relative price advantage.

In 2014, cotton textile and apparel products accounted for about 46 percent of the total, while manmade fibers contributed 47 percent. By comparison, just 5 years ago, cotton contributed nearly 56 percent of the total compared with manmade fibers’ share of 38 percent.

Alabama counties to receive Forest Service funding

Some $285 million will go to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico this year in support of local schools and roads as part of the congressional 2-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Alabama’s total share will be $1.787 million.

The payments from the Forest Service may be used to support public schools and public roads; for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests; and for county projects including "Firewise Communities" programs, reimbursements for emergency services on national forests and development of community wildfire protection plans. The forest projects are reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and to help provide jobs in rural communities.

The disbursement includes $28 million in Title II funding to complete special conservation projects on Federal lands proposed by resource advisory committees. Funding is provided through the U.S. Forest Service.




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Avoid Heat Stress in Your Backyard Flock


Panting and the spreading of wings like this are symptoms of heat stress in chickens. This bird is actively trying to cool itself.

by Jackie Nix

Heat stress is one of the leading causes of chicken deaths and can be a huge issue for backyard flock owners, especially new owners. It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and take action quickly to keep your chickens healthy and happy.

Because birds cannot sweat, they have a difficult time keeping themselves cool. Birds instead rely on panting. Increased panting in laying hens causes an imbalance in blood pH that in turn decreases blood calcium and bicarbonate levels resulting in thin-shelled eggs. Additionally, a majority of egg content is water, so laying hens need to be kept well-hydrated. Heat stress can cause layers to stop laying altogether. Heat stress also results in reduced feed intake, weight loss and sometimes even death.

Signs of heat stress in birds

- Gasping and panting

- Spreading wings

- Lethargy

- Extremely pale combs and wattles

- Reduced egg size, weight and shell quality

- Decreased appetite

TIPS FOR COMBATING HEAT STRESS:

- Provide clean, cool water at all times. Birds can drink up to five times the water that they would under temperate conditions. Also, make sure there are enough watering stations so all birds have free access to water, regardless of their position in the pecking order.

- Be sure to give birds access to shade. Position chicken tractors and coops accordingly. Provide temporary shade if necessary.

- Don’t overcrowd birds. Reduce the number of birds kept in an individual house or area. By reducing the number of birds, you will reduce the amount of body heat produced.If practical, install a fan or mister, especially during times of highest heat and humidity.

- Avoid excessive activity during the hottest part of the day. Do not collect eggs or otherwise disturb them during this time.

- Feed early in the morning during the coolest part of the day. The act of digestion produces heat.

- Provide refrigerated or frozen fruits and vegetables as a refreshing treat to help them reduce internal body temps.

- Supplement electrolytes to make up for losses from panting, increased urine output and reduced feed intake. You can add electrolytes to their drinking water. Another source of electrolytes is the SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Block.

- Weight loss

- Lowered resistance to disease

- Increased cannibalism

- Increased mortality

Keeping birds comfortable is essential for maintaining healthy, productive birds and preventing excessive mortality in your flock. Keep in mind your biggest, most productive birds are often at greatest risk for heat stress. The normal body temperature of a bird is 106 degrees. If internal body temperature reaches 113-117 degrees, death from heart failure is a danger. Birds are most comfortable in temperatures of 50-68 degrees and are most productive in this temperature range. Birds can do well up to temperatures around 80 degrees, but, above this, heat stress symptoms can begin to appear, especially if weather conditions change rapidly. Proper ventilation in your coop is especially critical during high heat and humidity. Consult with your local cooperative Extension agent or research online to find the proper fan size for your square footage and bird stocking rate. Realize the temperature in your coop or penned area may be different than ambient temperature due to bird density, radiant heat, etc., so be sure to take temperature readings at bird level. For the most part, use common sense steps in keeping birds hydrated and cool.

The SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Block is a highly concentrated supplement that will help deliver essential electrolytes to birds in addition to missing protein and energy due to decreased overall feed intake. The SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Block also delivers minerals and vitamins needed by birds to help combat the negative effects caused by stress on immunity and production. Because these convenient blocks are available 24/7, birds can access them at night during cooler periods when eating is more comfortable. Also the distraction of pecking at the individual whole grains in the block can help keep birds occupied and lessen the incidence of cannibalism and aggressive pecking caused by stress.

In summary, heat stress is a very real danger for backyard chickens and other poultry, especially during sudden heat waves. Be vigilant for the signs of heat stress and follow proper management techniques to help birds maintain their body temperature and minimize stress. SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Blocks can be a part of your overall management plan to keep birds fortified nutritionally and keeping them occupied so as to not turn on each other in stressful periods. For more information, visit your local Quality Co-op or www.sweetlix.com.

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



Cooperative Farming News Places Well at NCFC Info Fair


Every year the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives has a Cooperative Information Fair. The purpose of the NCFC Cooperative Information Fair is to encourage cooperatives to improve the techniques by which they promote their businesses, inform their members and disseminate information to the general public.

Fair judges upon request will provide entrants with a numerical and written evaluation of their communication efforts. They confirm what entrants are doing well and suggest ways to improve. These professional critiques are the most beneficial part of the fair competition.

Winning entries in each class of the 2014 Information Fair were displayed at the NCFC Annual Meeting.

Alabama Farmers Cooperative placed in the following classes: Class #1 – Membership Magazine, over $15,000 per issue: 3rd place for AFC Cooperative Farming News; Class #10 – Feature Article: 2nd place for Carolyn Drinkard’s "Hog Wild" and Honorable Mention for Anna Wright’s "Oyster Farming"; Class #12 – Column: 1st place for Suzy Lowry Geno’s "Wood Heat" and 3rd place for Nadine Johnson’s "Corn, a Herb"; and Class #25 – Direct Mail: Honorable Mention for the Christmas Flyer.



Corn Time




Cowpokes




Dear Ben

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Ben Rigsby was an animal health technician who worked for USDA Veterinary Services in Alabama for a long time. He passed away in late February 2005.

Dear Ben,

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since you passed on. I hate that I never got to tell you good-bye. But I suppose standing in line at the post office one minute and being in heaven the next is not such a bad way to go. That sure reminded me of one thing. That was to let people know you appreciate them while you have the chance. Anyway, I think you knew how much I appreciated your friendship and the sage advice you gave me over the years. I remember getting to know you while I was still in practice and working at the Brewton Stockyard. You were quite an influence on my decision to leave private practice and go into regulatory medicine working for the State Department of Agriculture and Industries and to ultimately become the State Veterinarian.

I still think about the advice you gave me when I became State Veterinarian. You told me that I worked for someone who was elected politically and for me to let them handle the political stuff and for me to stick with what was best for animal health and animal agriculture in the state, without wading off into the political arena. I have tried to abide by that and it has seemed to serve me well. Over the years, I have had some fellow state veterinarians in other states who went out on a limb politically and the limb got sawed off. Hopefully, they had their résumés up to date when that happened. Even now, I think about when you used to ask me if I felt I needed a helping hand. When I would say "yes," you would tell me to look at the end of my arm and I would find one. Nowadays, after some continual economic hard times and deep budget cuts, I often wish for more help. Then I think about what you said and realize the only helping hand we may get is from those found at the end of our own arms.

Ben, I don’t know if y’all pay much attention to what goes on down here, but there sure have been some interesting times during the decade since you have been gone. Do you remember when all of us state and federal animal health folks from Alabama met in Cullman as the Brucellosis Program was winding down? We met to discuss what we would do to justify our paychecks after we became brucellosis free. You know, Ben, you spent most of your career getting rid of brucellosis. I’m glad I was able to be involved in the program, even if it was right at the end. That was an example of how state and federal animal health officials, and industry worked together to rid animal agriculture of a disease that truly was a serious problem economically as well as a public health concern. Anyway, I remember we came up with a whole bunch of things we could do to fill a 40-hour week after brucellosis. It’s kind of funny, but we have never had to refer to that list of stuff we came up with to keep busy.

Ben, I know you remember how we had really ramped up the number of samples collected for BSE surveillance after the "mad cow" epidemic over in the United Kingdom back in mid-1990s and early-2000s. Well, a little more than a year after you left us, we had a BSE-positive cow here in Alabama. It was a pretty intense few weeks as we tried to trace the cow to the farm of origin. It all worked out alright, but it did teach us that we definitely needed some way to trace diseased and exposed animals.

You know, back about the time you left us, USDA started working on some way to trace diseased and exposed animals.

I know what you’re thinking, "If we had kept testing animals at the stockyard for brucellosis, we would have still had a way to at least trace cattle and swine."

It has, to say the least, been quite a ride to get from when it all began to be rolled out back in 2005 until now. It won’t surprise you that there were a lot of people who thought it was some way the government was trying to meddle into their business. I know you would have been scratching your bald head wondering why people couldn’t understand that we were trying to take steps to take care of animal agriculture before some foreign animal disease strikes.

Speaking of foreign animal diseases, back in 2005 and 2006, highly pathogenic avian influenza was in the news all the time. Some of the experts were predicting that the bird flu, as it was called, would significantly alter human history by mutating so it could pass from human to human and would wipe out about a third to half of the world’s population. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The same goes for the variant BSE or, as I hesitate to call it, Mad Cow Disease. The experts back in the late-1990s said there would be hundreds of thousands of people die from the disease. The last I knew, there were still less than 200 people worldwide who have died from the disease.

That has taught me two or three things I had always suspected about things like this. First, everybody has an opinion. Second, to be recognized as an expert, you only need a briefcase and to be more than 50 miles from home. And finally, you can predict stuff all day, but, the fact is, you just never know how these things will turn out until time passes. Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is now in the United States and could be the next big thing we deal with. Other states and your old federal colleagues are fighting it even as I write this letter.

Oh well, I ramble on. I do want to tell you that the family is doing fine. The kids are almost all grown. Nathan is working on a master’s degree at Auburn. Samuel and Madeline are getting close to getting out of high school. Man, they grow up too fast. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

By the way, I have a young filly I am training when I get a little free time. I wish you were still around and could give me some pointers.

I suppose you see Dr. Carl Wilson up there occasionally. Tell him we sure miss him, too. He set the standard for all associate state veterinarians to live up to. Also, I figure you have met Dr. Bob Carson. He was one of my professors at the Vet School and a great friend. He hasn’t been up there long, but I know y’all have a lot in common. We really miss him down here, too.

Anyway, Ben, I’ve got to close for now. You probably already knew most of the things I wrote about, but I mostly wanted you to know that you are not forgotten. I often think about you and the good times we had. So I’m going to close for now. I will catch you again somewhere down the road.

Your friend,

Tony

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



Earl




Enjoy a Cup of Catnip Tea

by Nadine Johnson

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a hardy perennial herb that is easily propagated by seed, cuttings or plant division. It grows well in regular garden soil, in full or partial sun, and with an average amount of water. It can be container grown with minimum success.

This plant will easily reach a 3-by-3-foot size. Of course, I don’t have a garden anymore, but I have enjoyed growing catnip. It produced spiked clusters of pale lavender flowers. (Actually, this was not a very ornamental plant.) As the flowers reached the bloom stage, I cut long branches to dry. It is the grayish, heart-shaped leaves that are reserved for later use.

If there are cats in your neighborhood, it’s advisable to put a protective cage around your catnip plant. Most cats will roll and tumble in catnip like they are intoxicated. Sometimes they will completely destroy the plant. Then again, there are a few cats that completely ignore catnip.

Shortly after I retired from my nursing job, I went through a rather unpleasant period of depression. For the first time since I was 17, I could expect no paycheck. I felt I was a liability instead of an asset to my family. At the age of 55, I was forced to retire due to illness. I gradually regained my health by combining alternative medicine with my doctor’s recommendations.

Evidently my depression was due to my physical condition and change in routine. My husband tried diligently to cheer me up. It began to appear that I would be forced to seek professional help. Then one day I made myself a cup of catnip tea. It didn’t completely "cure" my problem but it definitely helped. I continued to drink catnip regularly. Finally, one day we realized I was "normal" again. Possibly I had just accepted my unemployed status, but the catnip tea didn’t hurt a thing. I have suffered no more from depression.

I once met a lady from Alaska. She told me that catnip was her cure-all. If a child had a stomachache, she gave it catnip tea. For headaches, she gave catnip tea. She swore it worked.

From my herb library I learned that catnip has been used medicinally in Europe and China for over 2,000 years. There is a listing of over 30 ailments for which it is helpful.

Depression often requires professional help. If you suffer from this ailment, don’t hesitate to consult a physician. Someone very dear to me has recently had much success with prescribed medication.

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




Everybody Sings ... the Sacred Harp Way

Each of the 11 members of Kevin Eddins’ family have their own Sacred Harp book from which to learn and to sing. The Eddins’ family (from front left) are Ewan, age 7; Eric, 4; Eli, 13; Elam, 9; Ezra, 11; (back) Evie, 17; Ethan, 3; Kevin; Edith, 6; Dana; and Emily, 15.

by Jaine Treadwell

Journeying along Judge Logue Road in Wicksburg on a late spring afternoon, motorists often hear the sound of music. But not the kind of music one might expect to be sung in rural Southeast Alabama. Not country music or gospel or even bluegrass. But what kind?

The Kevin Eddins family is the source of the music … Sacred Harp music.

Seated in their home on two facing sofas, a bench and a couple of chairs, everybody sings, all 11 of them. Actually, Ethan, age 3, doesn’t sing as much as he makes a joyful noise. The other 10 family members sing loudly and all mark the time of the music with upward and downward motions of the hand.

Sacred Harp music is powerful and harmonious American music that is uplifting, joyful and spiritual. The instruments played are the ones given at birth – the human voice.

It came to be the "official" music of the Eddins family via a rather unlikely route.

Kevin Eddins, a native of Van Cleve, Miss., said he always wanted to play music and sing, but, laughingly, admitted that "tone deaf" might best describe his ear for music. But, when he stumbled onto Sacred Harp singing in New Orleans, he was so fascinated by the unusual sound of the music, it mattered not that he was not an accomplished singer. He just wanted to learn to sing that old-time music.

Sacred Harp music is written in "shape notes." The head of each note has a shape that indicates the syllables fa, sol, la and mi, thus "shape note" or "fasola."

Sacred Harp music is sung a cappella and the singers alternate between singing the poetry and the notes.

That full-bodied, shout-it-out kind of singing touched Kevin’s heart and soul.

He said Sacred Harp music can’t be described with words. It has to be heard and, even then, it’s difficult to describe the harmonies of the four parts – treble, alto, tenor and bass.

"The music and the lyrics are somewhat masculine: strong, bold, dissonant, playful, boisterous and beautiful," Kevin said. "Sacred Harp singing is not a spectator sport. You can’t just listen to Sacred Harp music. You want to get ‘on the field.’"

Kevin said the tradition of Sacred Harp music came from a time when life was much simpler.

"It came from a time when people were not so easily distracted by electronics, entertainment and sports," he said. "Folks had to do more with less, but they made it a priority to gather with the community and worship God together."

As Kevin’s interest in and appreciation of Sacred Harp music magnified, he wanted his family to share the joy he found in singing the shapes.

"Every night, we have family worship time and I realized the singing of Sacred Harp music could be a wonderful and meaningful part of our worship time together," he said.

At first, the children weren’t into the old-time music. It was far from rock ‘n roll. And it took time and study to understand the music. But they caught on rather quickly and jumped right into the music, singing loud and long.

Eli, age 13, said Sacred Harp singing is loud, "but pretty and rich."

"It’s easy to catch onto and it’s easy to learn the shape names," he said.

Seven-year-old Ewan said singing with his family is fun and 6-year-old Edith also said that Sacred Harp music is "fun to sing."

Elam, 9, agreed that fasola singing is fun.

"And, it’s a good way to worship God," he added.

Mom Dana, also a newcomer to Sacred Harp singing, said Sacred Harp accomplished what shape-note singing was intended to do – teach singing for congregational worship.

"I appreciate getting to see and sing many of the lyrics that hymn writers like John Newton, Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley wrote that are rarely sung, but are profound in their simplicity," she said. "Sacred Harp singing is a part of our nightly family worship time and we all enjoy singing."

The Eddins’ family not only sings at home, they participate in Sacred Harp singings all across the Wiregrass and as far away as Huntsville.

At home, they don’t sit in the hollow square that is traditional with Sacred Harp sings. They sit all around the family room but, when they go to sings, they sit in the square.

Dana said the entire family enjoys going to sings.

"Sacred Harp sings are places where you can learn to sing and there is no spotlight or pressure to perform," she said. "You’re just singing and loving it and the time flies by. Many of the places we sing are like all of those quaint, old country churches you always wanted to step into, but never have. The place comes alive with the full voices and full hearts singing together to worship the eternal God."

Evie, 17, said nobody at the sings cares how good one’s voice is.

"They welcome new and inexperienced singers," she said. "They are glad you are there. I can’t express what an encouragement the singers have been to me over the past few years."

Emily, 15, said, the sings are a great time of fellowship.

"It is wonderful to be benefiting from the wisdom of the older people," she said.

Ewan said the singings are places where you can make new friends.

"And the food is very good," Elam said.

Kevin said, at the sings, there is enough simplicity for new singers to learn and enjoy, and enough complexity and variety for gifted singers to be challenged.

"Sacred Harp singing is attractive to us, as a family, for several reasons," he said. "It is not like anything modern. It is exciting to sing and we learn while we worship.

"Sacred Harp is a skill that will be useful for a lifetime and the community of people is beautiful.

"While I have horrible 1970s and 1980s music unwillingly stuck in my brain, my children will have hymns and songs of God’s saints resounding in their minds for the rest of their lives.

"People have said that Sacred Harp singing is our form of soccer. But unlike soccer, I believe our practice works toward spiritual maturity."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



Fermenting Cabbage

Sauerkraut is a low calorie, fat-free food first made in China about 2,000 years ago.

by Angela Treadaway

Sauerkraut is something we all need a little of every day or several times a week to keep our digestive systems running smoother. Fermented fruits and vegetables are making a big comeback because they are so healthy for us. Many people on Paleo and more natural and organic diets try to include these kinds of foods in their diets every day. If you have never eaten or tried making sauerkraut, this should be the year to try it. Sauerkraut is made from thinly shredded cabbage that is salted and then fermented in its own juice. The first sauerkraut was made in China, about 2,000 years ago, during the building of the Great Wall. The Germans, however, are known for their kraut. In the 16thcentury, they perfected the fermenting process of mixing salt and cabbage and allowing it to ferment. This process is still used today to make kraut around the world.

Small Batch

5 pounds shredded cabbage

3 Tablespoons canning salt or pink Himalaya fine sea salt

Large Batch

25 pounds shredded cabbage

1 cup canning salt or pink Himalaya fine sea salt

Equipment Needed

Fermenting containers should be food grade. One-gallon glass jars work well for a 5-pound batch. Larger crocks or food-grade plastic buckets can be used for larger batches. (Do not use copper, iron or galvanized-metal containers or garbage bags and trash liners.) Use a very large stainless steel or plastic bowl for mixing cabbage and salt before putting into fermenting container.

Making the Sauerkraut

Select mature heads of cabbage that are disease free. The best kraut is made from the mid- to late-season crop. When picking fresh, it is best to wait 1-2 days after harvesting to make the kraut. Kraut can be made from both red and green varieties.

For 5 pounds of shredded cabbage, you will need between 6-7 pounds of fresh cabbage. Remove outer leaves and rinse heads with cold water and drain. Cut the heads in halves or quarters and remove the cores, trim and discard any damaged tissues.

Shred or slice cabbage using a sharp knife or kraut cutter. The shreds should be long and thin, about the thickness of a quarter. Place 5 pounds of shredded cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle 3 tablespoons salt evenly over cabbage. With clean hands, thoroughly mix the salt into the cabbage. You will notice cabbage will begin to wilt as the salt is mixed in. When all the salt is dissolved and the cabbage is juicy, begin packing the cabbage firmly into the food-grade fermenting container. Use your fist or wooden mallet to firmly and evenly press the cabbage into the jar or crock. As you pack, you will notice the juice coming from the cabbage. You will need enough juice to cover the cabbage. It is important to leave at least 4-5 inches of head space.

For larger batches repeat the steps above in 5 pound batches and continue pressing the kraut into the crock leaving 4-5 inches of head space between the cabbage and the top of the crock.

Once the fermenting container is adequately filled and the juice is covering the cabbage, you are ready to put a weight on the kraut to keep the liquid covering the cabbage during the fermentation period. Be sure to wipe the edges of the jar or crock before putting the weight on top.

When fermenting in a glass jar, you can weigh down the kraut using a freezer-weight plastic bag filled with brine made of 1.5 tablespoons salt to 1 quart of water. For crocks, use a plate and weigh it down with a jar of water or a plastic bag filled with brine. The amount of brine in the plastic bag can be adjusted to give enough pressure to keep the fermenting cabbage covered with brine.

Once the weight is in place, cover the fermenting container with a clean tea towel or cheesecloth to reduce mold growth. For glass containers, you can cover the jar with a brown paper bag to keep the light off the kraut while it is fermenting. This helps retain nutrients and also preserves the color of the kraut.

Fermentation Temperature and Management

While fermenting, store at 70-75 degrees. At temperatures between 70-75 degrees, sauerkraut will be fully fermented in about 3-4 weeks; at 60-65 degrees, fermentation may take 5-6 weeks. At temperatures lower than 60 degrees, sauerkraut may not ferment. Above 75 degrees, sauerkraut may become soft. The smaller the fermenting container the faster it will ferment.

If you weigh the cabbage down with a brine-filled bag, do not disturb the crock until normal fermentation is completed. If you use a plate and jar as weight, you will have to check the sauerkraut two to three times each week and remove scum if it forms. A good test to see if kraut is ready is to smell and taste it. It should smell and taste like kraut, not sour cabbage.

Preserving Kraut

When kraut is fermented, it is ready to eat. Fully fermented sauerkraut may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months or it may be canned or frozen for long term storage.

Canning and Freezing

Instructions

Hot Pack: Bring sauerkraut and liquid slowly to a boil in a large kettle, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and fill jars rather firmly with sauerkraut and juices, leaving half-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in boiling water canner: pints, 10 minutes; quarts, 15 minutes.

Raw Pack: Fill jars firmly with cold sauerkraut, and cover with juices, leaving half-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner: pints, 20 minutes; quarts, 25 minutes.

Freezing: Pack kraut into freezer bags or containers, label and freeze.

Tips

Never reduce the salt when making kraut. If the finished product is too salty, it can be rinsed in cold water before serving.

Drain well before using.

Store canned sauerkraut in a cool, dark place.

Using Kraut

Sauerkraut is low in calories and fat free. One cup of undrained sauerkraut has 44 calories and one cup of sauerkraut juice has 22 calories. It provides almost one-third of the U.S. recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, plus other important nutrients including iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. One cup also provides approximately 8 grams of fiber.

Sauerkraut can be served in many ways. It is often eaten with hot dogs and sausages. It can be served cooked with one or two tart apples that have been peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces and heated with the kraut. Another way to serve kraut is to mash it with potatoes and serve as a side dish.

CHICKEN WITH A BITE

1 (2½-3 pound) fryer, cut up

6 medium red potatoes, quartered

2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup apple juice

½ teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon ginger

¼ cup brown sugar

Fry chicken in a small amount of oil until brown. Drain fat. Add potatoes, sauerkraut, salt and pepper. Mix apple juice with curry powder, ginger and brown sugar. Pour over chicken and simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is tender.

LAZY DAY POT ROAST

1 tart cooking apple, cored and thinly sliced

1 lean boneless chuck roast (about 3 pounds)

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes

2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 (10-ounce) envelope onion gravy mix or brown gravy mix*

Slow Cooker

Place apple slices in bottom of cooker. Remove visible fat from roast. Cut roast in half and place on top of apples. Add tomatoes, sauerkraut and brown sugar. Cover tightly and cook on high 1-2 hours. Reduce heat to low. Cook 5-6 hours or until meat is tender. Skim off excess fat. Stir in gravy mix and heat, covered, 15 minutes. Stir once or twice. Yields 6-8 servings.

Range top

Remove visible fat from roast. Place roast in Dutch oven. Add tomatoes, sauerkraut, brown sugar and apple; cover and simmer 2½-3 hours or until meat is tender. Remove from heat; skim off excess fat. Stir in gravy mix; heat to boiling, stirring, until gravy thickens. Add a little more water if gravy is too thick.

Oven

Use range top directions, except bake covered at 350° for 2½-3 hours.

*Can also thicken with flour and water mixture and season with beef bouillon or au jus mix.

GERMAN CHOWDER

2 cups chicken broth

½ cup onion

¼ cup green peppers

½ cup celery

¼ cup butter

3 Tablespoons flour

2 cups half-n-half

1 cup sauerkraut

1 cup cooked corned beef

1 cup cheese, grated

Put broth, onion, celery and peppers in a pan and cook for 10-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. In another pan, melt butter and mix in flour and add half-n-half until creamy. Add hot broth mixture, sauerkraut, corned beef and cheese. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Donna Crosiar, OSU Extension Service Family Food Education Volunteer

SAUERKRAUT POTATO SOUP

1 large onion, chopped

3 slices bacon, diced

4 large potatoes, diced

3 cups water

2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and chopped

½ teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt, to taste

2 cups dairy sour cream

1 Tablespoon flour

Sauté onion and bacon. Drain fat. Add potatoes and water. Bring to boil and simmer until tender. Add sauerkraut, caraway seeds, sugar and salt. Boil for 15 minutes. Mix sour cream and flour together. Fold sour cream mixture into soup and simmer until thickened. (Do not boil.)

LAYERED POTATO SAUERKRAUT SALAD

4 medium potatoes, cooked, cubed

2 cups red or white sauerkraut, rinsed & drained

½ teaspoon salt

2 (6½-ounce) cans tuna, drained

¼ teaspoon dill weed

4 cups lettuce, chopped

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 large cucumber, diced

1 cup dressing

Combine potatoes and sauerkraut. Sprinkle with salt. Refrigerate. Toss tuna with dill weed and refrigerate. Layer lettuce, cooled potato/sauerkraut mixture, tuna, tomatoes and cucumbers. Top with dressing (recipe follows). Serve remaining dressing in bowl. (Salad can also be served tossed and not layered.)

DRESSING

1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup sour cream

½ teaspoon dill weed

½ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup dill pickles, chopped

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons onion, grated

Mix and pour over salad. Makes about 2½ cups.

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



Fisheries Management

How Can We Do It Better?

by Chuck Sykes

With the discussions in the media recently about HB 258 that allows gill nets to be used again in the Tennessee River system, I felt there was a need to give our fisheries chief Stan Cook a chance to weigh in on issues that impact Alabama’s anglers. As usual, misconceptions and lack of communication seem to be at the root of most evil.

As I complete a few remaining tasks before retiring after 37 years as a fisheries biologist, there is a natural tendency to reflect on the journey. I have experienced much in those 37 years – 15 of them as Alabama’s Chief of Freshwater Fisheries – and I hope I am the wiser for it. Serious challenges that present significant threats face state resource agencies. However, instead of getting into specific threats, let’s assess the landscape of fisheries management in Alabama.

A large commitment of our staff time is invested in fisheries management. Fisheries management plans are crafted by input and action derived from science (biologists), users (anglers) and policy (administrators). These three elements or groups are constantly being influenced by dynamic conditions due to a growing knowledge of our natural resources; new technology; economics; environmental changes; angler demographics, attitude and desired outcomes; and the nature of politics in decision making and enacting regulations and/or law. The relationship between the three groups is similar to legs of a stool – without any one of them, the stool will not function.

The first leg of the stool represents science, the body of fisheries knowledge as practiced by biologists. Alabama fisheries biologists are hired with a fisheries master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with several years of fisheries experience. They come to our staff inspired by the latest population models and techniques, and are full of energy to make their mark in developing a world-class bass or crappie fishery. Computer population models are a great tool for biologists and can potentially produce numerous population outcomes by changing management options. In effect, it is a science tool that can support biologist’s common sense and intuition in determining a good management plan. Besides issues limiting the collection of good data, young biologists lose sight of a fundamental question in a desire to develop the ideal plan: What do anglers want? The answer appears to be simple in the case of bass. They want a quality bass fishery. However, different segments of the bass fishing community have varying perspectives on identifying a quality fishery. More than we care to admit, biologists assume they know what anglers want. Regular dialogue between biologists and anglers is invaluable.

I learned a communication lesson a few years ago when bass length limit exemptions were being requested for tournament sponsors at Lewis Smith Lake. Local officials wanted to be able to weigh-in protected fish before the fish would be released. They believed exemptions would enhance their opportunity to recruit big bass tournaments to the area. The position of the Fisheries Section, including myself, was that we should not give a privilege to a specific angling group. We felt good about our stance and shared an excellent presentation at a public meeting on the subject of management and regulation exemptions. In the discussion following, both tournament and non-tournament anglers were in favor of allowing the exceptions. The group we were trying to protect did not need protection. So we amended the regulation and developed a 3-year trial regulation exception study. At first glance, we were guilty of assuming we knew what anglers wanted, but the public-meeting process created an opportunity for us to listen to anglers and make a better decision. Why did we initially get this wrong? Although the public meeting identified for us what anglers wanted, we missed it early in the discussion because we made an incorrect assumption. The need to communicate with anglers must remain one of our highest priorities. This need goes beyond fisheries management if we are to be diligent in utilizing our resources in a sustainable manner.

What about the second leg of the stool? Anglers are a diverse family who are very passionate about fishing and protecting their beloved resources. Often, biologists are also members of the angling family. Sometimes this fact is lost in discussions. Because we are government employees, some anglers are automatically suspicious of our decisions. Although surveys have revealed that the majority of anglers are satisfied with current management, there are some anglers who strongly believe problems exist. Samples of problems submitted to us in the past include: not enough big fish, not enough fish, too many hybrid striped and/or striped bass, bucket anglers (removal of too many small bass), too many tournaments, poor fish handling, no shad, sores, too many Alabama (spotted) bass, gill nets, too many nonresident anglers, exceeding the creel limit, no room at the ramp because of tournaments, lake levels are too low, too many aquatic weeds, not enough aquatic weeds, more regulation, less regulation, etc. It is common that these problems are not mentioned in initial conversations. The message comes in the form of a recommended solution. Too often, the solution is not based on sound science or practicality. A solution based on a false assumption is always wrong. The distressed angler then wants to defend his solution rather than analyze the problem. These types of adversarial conversations are not beneficial to either side. Once again, communication is the key. If the concerned angler had requested a meeting to have a frank discussion about his or her fears for the resource, it would have a better outcome. The communication miscue is more about the lack of trust. I am convinced, if biologists and anglers were having regular discussions, the trust issue would be addressed.

How do we maintain a steady dialogue? This has been a frustrating issue. Attempts by our agency to encourage bass clubs to invite us to club meetings have been moderately successful. We also held public meetings in every county a few years ago just to create a forum for discussion, but it resulted in minimal participation. It has been my experience that anglers show up in force when there is a high-profile issue, but, when fishing is good, they prefer to talk about the next tournament or fishing trip. As I said earlier, we are passionate about fishing. Anglers, just like biologists, forget the fundamental need to communicate, and often forget the collective capacity of a group to influence positive action. Fish management agencies will need the power of anglers more than ever to address future threats.

Policy is the third leg of the stool. Administrators who enact policy are vital to integrating the biologists’ and anglers’ wishes into a strategic management plan. For this discussion, policy is a course of action adopted by government to meet a defined goal. Whether policy is formalized by statute or regulation is simply a choice of which legal path is taken to address a course of action. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been given the authority to preserve, protect and enhance wildlife resources utilizing regulations. With sport fish populations, regulations are usually about limiting harvest by use of daily creels, protected length ranges and legal gears. Basically, describing how the state can take a public trust resource such as a fish and legally transfer ownership to an individual. Although sometimes tedious in my opinion, the regulation process offers anglers more of an ownership to determining the outcome as opposed to statutes. Unfortunately, some try to impose their will on others by going the legislative route. Legislation may be appropriate at times, but, when the action is intended to remove authority from ADCNR and trump the regulation process, it can become a red flag. These attempts seldom reflect sound science and rarely do bill sponsors look for input from biologists. The danger in these legislative efforts, whether state or federal, could place access to fishing and fishing itself at risk. Sound policy will exist in fisheries management if biologists and anglers are assisting policymakers to deliver a desired outcome. Communication, again, is the message.

The application of science, insights of anglers and policy implementation has been most successful when everyone works together for what is best for anglers and the sustainability of the resource. Although biologists expect to be challenged on fish management strategies, it should take place in an environment of steady exchange. Not only is it important to strive for consensus in fisheries management but it also enables all those who care about our resources and the enjoyment we gain from them to watch for challenges. Serious challenges are coming. There are activists whose goal is to eliminate fishing, invasive species such as largemouth bass virus or silver carp threatening sport fish stocks, water management failing to adequately address fisheries resources, a shrinking angler base and failing funding models for resource agencies. These are just a few of the issues we face.

Commercial and recreational anglers, biologists and those who have not forgotten the value of a healthy ecosystem must build upon ideals we have in common. We all have a deep commitment to protecting Alabama’s waterscapes and the bounty swimming beneath those waters.

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



Fishing with Kids – Keep it Simple

by Corky Pugh

Hopefully we can all find time to share the joys of fishing with a younger person. Kids are out of school now and the fish are biting. There’s really no valid excuse for not repaying the kindness somebody special showed each of us when they introduced us to fishing. And Alabama abounds with opportunities for quality fishing experiences tailor-made for adults to share with kids. Community fishing events created especially for this purpose are underway in over 50 towns and cities across the state. There are state public fishing lakes in 20 counties. For a listing of both and more details go to OutdoorAlabama.com or contact any Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office.

I’ve never met a child, regardless of their upbringing, who didn’t delight in pulling a fish from the water. As humans, we all come pre-wired that way. It’s a very primal part of our psyche, probably rooted in fishing for subsistence. Most of us vividly remember the first fish we caught, where we were and who helped us catch it. Mine was a hand-size bluegill, and I vividly recall the exact spot I was standing in even though it happened over 50 years ago. How many other things can we remember with such clarity after so many years?

Fishing together presents the opportunity to connect with a child in a powerful way. "Teachable moments" abound, and lessons are easily learned about self-restraint, patience and self-discipline. And the rewards are immediate and memorable.

The very best way to teach a youngster to fish requires only a cane pole, crickets or worms, and the ever-willing-to-cooperate bluegill. The simplicity of this approach lends itself to children, and the direct connection between angler and fish provided by a cane pole is sure to bring squeals of excitement. You do remember how that feels, don’t you? Those unmistakable throbbing, tight circles bluegill cut on the end of a line are exactly the same throbbing, tight circles generation after generation of anglers have experienced.

Make keeping some fish to eat part of the experience. Self-sufficiency is a valuable commodity in this day and age, and it is more important than ever for young people to understand that food does not originate at the grocery store. Catch and release has its place, but if Troy Hall, who helped me catch that first bluegill 51 years ago, had tried to put my fish back in the water we would have had one helluva fight.

Bank fishing is generally best for beginners, but a boat may lend itself to certain situations. Just remember that what may be a quality experience to us as adults may be punishing to a child.

A few nice fish, caught very simply, as part of a couple-hour excursion will be far more warmly received than an all-day affair with lots of gear and after a limit of fish.

Very often, less is more.

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

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




Get on Your Horse and Go

by Stephen Donaldson

In recent weeks, the weather has finally turned warmer and less wet. Spring has finally begun to break through the cold wet winter. Spring cleaning and planting are beginning in earnest. It is also a time when horse owners begin to want to "hit the trail."

Events like the Kentucky Derby put horses in the spotlight on a national level and the romanticism of owning a horse crosses all livestock owners’ minds. While owning a horse seems like an enjoyable and fulfilling endeavor, horse ownership comes with enormous responsibility. Horses represent some of the most demanding management of all farm species.

When my daughter was 14, she asked us to buy her a horse. Fortunately, we live a quarter mile from a custom fitter. This fitter specializes in exhibiting halter Quarter Horses. I worked out a deal with this fitter to let her come and work for him. Her daily chores would involve cleaning stalls, washing horses, brushing horses and help with feeding. It would also involve taking care of the grounds and making sure all the horses had hay. After the job description was presented, she decided her day was already too full to tack on these added responsibilities.

Another program closer to home that certainly deserves a mention is the continued success of the Auburn Equestrian Team. In 2015, Coach Greg Williams’ team made it to the quarter finals of both the SEC and NCEA competition. With three previous national championships, this quarter final appearance seems anticlimactic, but it demonstrates the continued success of their program. Other colleges with programs with competitive teams that involve horses are Judson, and the Troy and West Alabama rodeo teams.

On an even more local level, high school students are competing in rodeos on local, state and national levels. Many local saddle clubs are beginning their summer show circuit. Many team penning, ranch rodeo and barrel racing events are also showing up on local calendars. The warmer weather also increases the number of trail rides and people simply riding for pleasure.

With the increase in activity surrounding horses this time of year, I felt it would be a good time to touch on the athletes upon which we ride. In discussing the health of our horses, I will defer to the veterinarians on matters pertaining to vaccinating and deworming. I strongly urge all horse owners to develop a close relationship with a veterinarian.

As I always preach when it comes to beef nutrition, horses also require long-stemmed roughage in their diet to keep their digestive system in tip-top shape. By long-stemmed roughage, I am referring to hay that is at least three inches in length. The most common source of this in Alabama is Bermuda grass hay. This hay needs to be devoid of weeds and properly cured so that no mold is present. Other hays we see around Alabama include orchard grass, some timothy and alfalfa. As with Bermuda grass, these forages need to be clean and mold free.

This time of year, pleasure horses can receive the vast majority of their nutrition from grass, but, as activity increases, supplemental nutrition may be required. One should be careful in allowing brood mares to graze fescue. Research has shown that brood mares grazing fescue have a longer gestation period, increased dystocia and decreased milk production. In managing grazing horses, pay specific attention and try to guard against grazing your pregnant mares on fescue.

Horses’ nutrient requirements vary greatly depending on their activity, growth stage and stage of production. Horses will consume 2-3 percent of their body weight in voluntary intake. So for a 1,000-pound horse, voluntary intake would be expected to be from 20-30 pounds. With this in mind, realize that most commercially formulated feeds are designed to be fed at much less than full voluntary intake, thus feed should be limited and the horse should be fed plenty of long-stemmed hay to help satisfy this level of total intake.

To properly feed a horse, it is imperative its owner or manager be able to determine proper body condition. This is important because it is the only true indicator that the animal is being properly fed. Horses competing in athletic events can also give cues to proper feeding by how they perform. This helps demonstrate how difficult proper nutrition for the horse can be. A truly observant eye is a must in properly feeding a horse.

Horses of varying performance requirements and varying stages of production and horses with different palates require multiple types of horse feeds. Protein and energy vary vastly across feeds, as well as ingredients and textures. The owner may have to experiment with amounts and types of feed to find the one that properly fits each horse or program. Just remember, when trying new feed, to start slow and provide plenty of clean fresh water and hay.

Your local Quality Co-op store will have a feed to meet your animal’s need. So come visit and find the one that fits your animal’s needs and enjoy your time with your horse.

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




Heart of Alabama: Save, Rescue, Adopt

Debbie Rappuhn playing fetch with Bella.

Heart of Alabama: Save, Rescue, Adopt is a 501c3 non-profit organization with its own facility that takes abused, neglected and homeless dogs from the community and kill shelters. We formed our organization in 2009, and since then have saved over 3,200 animals. We started working out of the Florence-Lauderdale Shelter before we had our own facility, and dropped the kill rate there from 85 percent to 15 percent. In January 2013, we moved to our own facility and are a no-kill facility! We love what we do and, with just a handful of people, have saved more and more every day!

Our seven days a week start each morning with feeding all the animals, and cleaning their pens and playgrounds that are 75-by-20 all the way around the building where they play, run and swim in the pool all day long! While they play, we are doing laundry, washing dishes, giving vaccinations and wormers, and medicating any animal that needs treatment. We take them out one by one and take pictures and update our photos. Then we take care of any area around us that needs grass cutting, weed eating and other things like that. We never have enough hours in the day to finish it all! We have visitors bringing donations and bringing animals we have accepted, and then we start with all of their vaccines and wormer and weighing and pictures. It never ends, but it is the most rewarding work you will ever find!

Bruce hands out treats.

We are trying to get grants to help us set up a food bank to help people needing assistance feeding their pets, and we are trying so very hard to start a low-cost spay/neuter program because, if this area does not get a handle on this problem, there will never be an end to the numbers of unwanted and neglected animals in our community. That is the No. 1 answer that can help this growing problem.

We run on volunteers and donations only. We do not get any help from the county or city, just wonderful people donating. We also work on grants from bigger companies to help with the things we want to start. This is difficult, but everyone who gives loves animals and wants us to save as many as we can. That is a great feeling!

The thing we are most proud of is that our place is a happy place. The animals have so much room to run and play, and so much love that this is home to them and they are happy. They have buddies to play with and so much love and care! A favorite time for them is when we go free running in the woods. To actually watch this is the most exciting thing I see. They are carefree and happy! The first thing people say when visiting is how happy the pets are. Yes, that makes us happy!

hasra would love to give you a tour of our facility to see what we do and you can donate if you would like.

Heart of Alabama: Save, Rescue, Adopt courtesy post page, Butch hasra page and our Thank You page are all on Facebook! Visit Hasra.org to donate!




How's Your Garden?

A late-blooming dogwood is a welcomed garden surprise.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

A Different Kind of Dogwood

How about a dogwood tree that is evergreen and blooms in June? Your neighbors will be asking, "What’s that?" in a good way. Empress of China (Cornus angustata "Elsbry") is related to our American dogwood, but is a different species. It has glossy, evergreen leaves that persist through the winter and drop in spring (like many hollies and magnolia). The blooms appearing in late May or early June open lime green and age to a creamy white. They are followed by translucent strawberry-red fruit that attracts songbirds in late summer and fall. Like our native dogwood, Empress of China prefers some afternoon shade. It needs morning sun, though, or the blooms will be sparse. It is not a tree for full shade. Young trees grow in an irregular shape at first, but eventually fill out to a full form (ginkgo does the same thing). Trees are typically about 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

Treat Yourself to a Large, Glazed, Weatherproof Container

A beautiful pot by the front door, on the porch, on the deck – anywhere that it is highly visible will bring you great pleasure. You can try different things in it each year and, even when you don’t have time for much else in the garden, you can always enjoy the beauty of those pots. One or two containers are usually manageable. Get one large enough to make an impact – at least 18 inches in diameter. Over the years we have accumulated several concrete, fired-clay and glazed pots that we enjoy year round. One has been turned into a fountain. The oldest was given to us as a housewarming gift in 1985 and it is still as nice as it was the first day!

Buy Good Quality Tools

One of the things I tell young people starting out with their first house is to take the time to invest in good tools. However, it applies to folks of all ages who want to enjoy their time tending the garden. Ask for them for Christmas, birthdays, etc. A good tool will do a lot of the work for you. A poor tool will wear you out. Some of the basics I recommend are pruners, a heavy-duty, solid-shank spade with a good perch for the foot, a no-kink hose, a big trowel and a small trowel with a metal blade and comfortable handle, and a water breaker for the end of the hose. If you are going to be digging up shrubs, get a sharpshooter shovel to make the job easier. I also like a little hand-held rake for easy cleaning up in beds when I’m down on my hands and knees. My favorite full-sized rake is an adjustable one so I can adjust the spread of the tines from about 5-18 inches, depending on the space I’m raking out. Finally, for heavy work, get a decent wheelbarrow and a hand truck. If you like to use gloves, get the vinyl-coated stretch gloves because they are multipurpose and have a good grip. I run mine through the washing machine (but not the dryer).

A Word about Hummingbird Feeders

Choose begonias according to whether they will thrive in sun or shade.

Hummingbirds appreciate nectar sources in your yard, especially well-tended feeders that provide them with an easy supply of sugar water. The great thing about feeders is that you can put them within easy view of a window. Hummers will especially appreciate feeders with perches, which give the birds a chance to rest while drinking. The disk-shaped basin-style feeders are easier to clean than the bottle types, but birds will come to any feeder holding fresh syrup. To make your own nectar, dissolve one part sugar in four parts boiling water and let cool before putting into the feeder. Leaving out moldy feeders can kill hummingbirds, so fill the feeders for only a day or two of use and keep the extra in the fridge for up to a week.

Begonia – Sun or Shade?

Begonias are great plants for containers because they adapt so well to the space and conditions in pots. You can grow them alone or mixed with other plants. The secret to begonias is knowing whether the type you have prefers sun or shade. The bronze-colored wax begonias can take a lot of sun, whereas the green-leaved varieties prefer a little shade. Another sun-tolerant one is Dragon Wing (it will also do fine in partial shade). In general, the tall cane begonias usually like shade; their leaves will scorch in the summer sun. Adequate water will help begonias in full sun stay looking their best.

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




June Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Continue planting cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, okra, peanuts, Southern peas, summer squash and sweet potatoes.
  • Plant a new batch of bush beans every couple of weeks.
  • Keep a close eye on the quality of your spring crops. Pull spent vegetable plants, re-till the soil and plant your second crops. Water these crops as needed.
  • Plant a cover crop in vacant beds.
  • Plant easy-to-grow Bonnie herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary in a sunny spot.
  • Gladiola corms can still be planted for successive blooms until mid-month.
  • Now that the foliage of daffodils has died back, you may divide and move the bulbs to a new spot. Daffodil clusters should be divided every 3 years to ensure good blooming.
  • This is an excellent month to get a few new perennials and plant them in the garden.
  • Tuberous begonias can now be safely planted outdoors.
  • At the end of the month, gardeners can set out more tomato plants for a harvest this fall.
  • Plant annual flowers in tubs or large containers for the porch or terrace. Make sure there are holes in the container’s bottom to provide good drainage.
  • When you buy container-grown nursery stock, check the root ball and make sure it is not bound too tightly. A mass of circling roots will stay that way even after it is planted in the ground.

FERTILIZE

  • Check the foliage of vegetable plants for signs of nutrient deficiency.
  • Side dress your vegetables with a balanced fertilizer, compost or well-rotted manure. Do not use nitrogen fertilizers on legumes.
  • Fertilize your lawn. Use a complete lawn fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Your roses will need to be fertilized each month through the summer.
  • Feed your houseplants the recommended strength of a good soluble houseplant fertilizer.
  • Heat is a key factor in the decomposition process. During the summer months, high temperatures can cause organic materials that have been added to your garden for fertilization purposes to decompose and break down more quickly. Adding additional organic materials to your garden soil can help to improve plant health and soil quality as the summer heat speeds up decomposition and the release of organic nutrients.

PRUNE

  • Keep suckers pinched from staked tomato plants.
  • Cut and dry thyme, oregano and mint.
  • Prune suckers and water sprouts from all fruit trees.
  • Deadhead the developing seed pods from your rhododendrons and azaleas to improve next year’s bloom. Be careful not to damage developing buds which may be hidden just below the pod.
  • It’s hedge sculpting and trimming time!
  • Pinch back any annuals that might be getting a little leggy.
  • Pinch your chrysanthemums to encourage them to be bushier and have more blossoms. Continue pinching every six inches of growth until early July.
  • Prune climbing roses after blooming.
  • Take cuttings for rooting of deciduous and broadleaf evergreen shrubs. Use the air-layering method on hard-to-root plants.
  • This is a good month for shearing, pinching or pruning junipers, cypress or conifers. If you’ve been cultivating a special living Christmas tree, sculpt it now.
  • Be on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs, and prune them out as discovered.

WATER

  • After your vegetable garden is well established, it is best to water it thoroughly once a week rather than giving it a light watering every day. That way, a deeper root system is encouraged to develop, which will later help the plants tolerate dry weather.
  • Water your lawn in the early morning so the turf will have time to dry before night, preventing disease.
  • Fix leaky hoses.
  • Adding mulch to flower beds and around garden plants will help garden soil retain moisture during the hot months of June and July. There are various types of mulches you can choose from including both organic and inorganic materials. Popular garden mulches include bark chips, grass clippings, stones, garden fabric or plastic, and straw.
  • Set up a rain barrel for irrigation.
  • As the weather dries out, your container grown plants may need daily watering and misting especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight.
  • Add Soil Moist Granules to containers to absorb water and release it as needed. Follow instructions on the package for best results.
  • Keep Japanese iris watered.

PEST CONTROL

  • Keep the weeds pulled before they have a chance to flower and go to seed again. Otherwise, you will be fighting newly germinated weed seed for the next several years!
  • Be alert to slug and snail damage ... seek and destroy ALL slugs!
  • Change the water in your birdbath regularly. Standing water may become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
  • Check your roses for mildew, aphid, black-spot or other disease problems or insect infestations. If they appear, take steps to control them right away. Your local Co-op store personnel can give you recommendations.
  • Protect your fruit from the birds with netting.
  • Put a couple of drops of mineral oil on corn silks within a week after they appear to prevent corn earworm.
  • Identify problems before acting, and opt for the least toxic approach. Cultural, physical and biological controls are the cornerstones of a sustainable pest management program. Use chemical controls only after you identify a pest problem and carefully read the pesticide label.
  • To protect bees that pollinate many of our crop plants, spray pesticides in the evening after bees have returned to their hives.
  • In most cases, blossom-end rot on tomatoes, peppers, squash and watermelons can be prevented. Do this by maintaining uniform soil moisture by mulching and watering correctly, planting in well-drained soil and not cultivating deeper than one inch within one foot of the plant. Also avoid the use of high-nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Bats can be an effective way to control insects. Attract bats by building and placing bat houses in your yard.
  • Check new plant growth for aphids. Aphids, or plant lice, can weaken plants and delay growth.
  • Birds will generally not be scared away by scarecrows. Instead, try tying pieces of glass, colored cloth or tin to loose strings so the wind can blow them and clash them together. Random motion is the key to alarming the birds away from the garden.

ODD JOBS

  • Work around the heat and humidity (early morning, late afternoon/evening).
  • Most vegetables attain their best eating quality when allowed to ripen on the plant, but often this peak quality is reached before the vegetable is fully mature (i.e. cucumbers, squash, okra, sweet corn, peas and beans).
  • Almost all vegetables are best when harvested early in the morning. Overnight, vegetables regain moisture they lost during the day and starches formed during the day may be converted to sugars during the evening. Vegetable quality is highest at the moment of harvest and begins to decrease rapidly afterwards.
  • Be gentle with garden plants while harvesting vegetables. If vegetables are not easily removed when twisted or pulled, use a knife, scissors or hand pruners. These tools help prevent tearing or breaking of a plant that could lead to disease infection. Also, be careful not to step on stems or foliage of the plants while harvesting.
  • Frequent picking is essential for prolonging the vegetable harvest. A plant’s goal is to reproduce; therefore, if its fruit are allowed to fully mature on the plant, there is no reason for it to continue flowering, which means fruit production will halt.
  • The best time to harvest most herbs is just before flowering, when the leaves contain the maximum essential oils.
  • To get the color of crape myrtle you want, you should purchase a containerized plant now while it is in bloom in the nursery.
  • Build, repair or paint trellises, arbors and lawn furniture.
  • Before pouring gasoline into the fuel tank of your lawn mower, garden tiller or other garden equipment, be sure to turn off the engine and allow it to cool for at least five minutes.
  • Edge beds to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine tuning with grass shears. A well-cut edge makes a big difference.
  • Don’t bag or rake grass clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
  • Start a water garden.
  • Keep the bird feeder full and make sure they have fresh water.
  • Involve the kids or grandkids in growing vegetables. It’s fun, it’s easy and it builds kids’ enthusiasm for gardening and eating healthy – because they tend to eat what they grow!
  • At exactly noon June 15, set your sundial for 12 o’clock to get the most accurate time reading throughout the summer. Other days to set your dial are April 15, September 1 and December 24.
  • Continue to mound the soil up around your potato plants. It does no harm to the plant if the soil covers the stem. As early potatoes begin to die back, reduce watering in anticipation of harvest.
  • Cut back bearded iris and divide.
  • Give the compost a turn to encourage decomposition.
  • Mulch fruit tree root area with a thin layer of compost, topped with three inches of mulch. Replenish mulches around plants to keep weeds down and conserve moisture.
  • Stake tall flowers to keep them from blowing over in the wind.
  • Stop harvesting asparagus and allow the fern-like foliage to grow.
  • Tap (gently strike) your tomato plants to encourage good pollination; water every day and start feeding them weekly once fruits set.
  • Thin out laden fruit trees after natural fruit drop to produce larger, better fruit. Clean up any fallen fruit.


New Director Named


Dr. Joseph R. Tomasso Jr. has been named Auburn’s director of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

Texas State’s Tomasso Tapped to Lead School of Fisheries at Auburn.

Release from Auburn University

Joseph R. Tomasso Jr., currently a professor in the Department of Biology at Texas State University in San Marcos, has been named director of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, effective Aug. 16.

He will succeed longtime Auburn fisheries faculty member and administrator John Jensen, who has served as interim director since the Board of Trustees elevated the former Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures to school status in the summer of 2013.

Tomasso received his master’s degree in biology from Middle Tennessee State University in 1978 and his Ph.D. from the University of Memphis in 1981. He spent the first 6 years of his career in higher education as a biology faculty member at Texas State. In 1987, he joined Clemson University as an associate professor and then professor of aquaculture, returning to Texas State in 2006 as professor and biology department head. He led the department until 2013.

Over the past two decades, in addition to teaching a broad range of biology and aquaculture courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels, Tomasso has been awarded almost $2.1 million in extramural grants and contracts to conduct research focused primarily on stress and environmental physiology of aquatic animals.

"Dr. Tomasso is an outstanding scientist with a broad perspective of fisheries, in terms of both fisheries management and aquaculture," Jensen said. "His expertise, his straightforward personality and his experience leading an academic department that is significantly larger than the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences make him a highly valuable asset to our faculty, our students and Auburn University."

In announcing Tomasso’s selection as director of Auburn fisheries, College of Agriculture Dean Bill Batchelor echoed Jensen’s assessment.

"At both Texas State and Clemson, Dr. Tomasso has achieved marked academic and administrative success while posting impressive levels of extramural funding for a variety of marine-aquaculture projects and initiatives," Batchelor said. "Auburn fisheries is a world-class program, and I am confident it will continue to advance under his leadership."

Tomasso also holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Tennessee-Martin and taught junior high science for 2 years before enrolling in graduate school at Middle Tennessee State in 1976.

Jensen will remain at Auburn through Aug. 31 to facilitate the transition in leadership and then will resume his position as fisheries professor emeritus, a title he has held since his retirement from Auburn in 2007.




Oneupsmanship

by Baxter Black, DVM

No tellin’ how many good dogs he outlived, no matter how good your dog was, he’d once had a collie, a healer or gyp that did everything your dog does and more! The same for horses and pickup trucks, though the one he drove was a wreck.

The best I could tell, he didn’t have nothin’, but I’ve never seen that affect his opinion on anything you mighta owned from a purebred bull to a bit! By the time he’d finished pontificatin’, you’d wind up suckin’ hind tit!

Last night I was braggin’ on one of my dogs I’d sold at the top of the year to a herder who worked on Basabe’s ranch. They said my dog had no peer. It was 7 miles of circuitous road from the lower field to the lane. They’d send my good collie to bring the sheep home and never had call to complain. He’d start ‘em out where the new highway sign warned "CAUTION: LIVESTOCK CROSSING AHEAD," then herd ‘em north to the Conoco billboard, go right ‘til a homemade sign read "POLOMBO’S TOMATOES AND VEGETABLE STAND" where he’d turn toward the four-way stop. Platteville read east, so he’d go ‘til he spotted "DICK’S WELDING AND SHEET METAL SHOP," take a left on Bromley then up past the barn that advertised "HAY BY THE BALE" ‘til at last he turned up the Willow Creek Road by the sign that said "RABBITS FOR SALE."

At the third mailbox that said "BASABE SHEEP," he’d fetch ‘em just like he’d been shown and drive that big bunch of scatter-brained woolies up the lane, just him, all alone.

"Top that!" I thought. "You cranky ol’ coot!"

He said, "That’s mighty impressive indeed! Though I’m not surprised ‘cause my dog spent last year teachin’ all them sheep how to read!"

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



Pals: Good Friend to Clean Campus


Hidden Lake Elementary has participated in the PALS Program for the last several years.

by Jamie Mitchell

Hidden Lake Elementary is no stranger to the Clean Campus Program. For the past several years, Hidden Lake has made a commitment to keep their campus and the city of Dothan more beautiful. With Dr. LaVonda Senn in charge of the program, the school has participated in numerous clean-up days and has had me come down to speak twice this school year!

My first visit in the fall was with the third-grade classrooms. I went to each class individually to explain the Clean Campus Program and the importance of not littering. The students were very receptive to the idea of keeping their campus and city cleaner.

In the most recent visit, I conducted a program for the fourth grade in one large assembly. The students told me how they had participated in PALS’ Statewide "Don’t Drop it on Alabama" Spring Cleanup event. Hidden Lake held a special clean-up day April 19 to clean their outdoor classroom. The students were very excited that they were able to do a "hands-on" project and see the fruits of their labor immediately.

Kudos to Hidden Lake Elementary for being an active member of the Clean Campus Program! If you think a school near you would be interested in joining the Clean Campus Program, just have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at Jamie@alpals.org.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.



Picture Perfect



Above, getting a great picture of birds requires understanding their habits and being willing to wait patiently for the right shot ... and Johnny Autery is a patient man. Right, a red-headed woodpecker.

Patience, persistence and preparation help Johnny Autery capture incredible images of the great outdoors around his country home.

by Carolyn Drinkard

As a child, Johnny Autery would chase birds and butterflies on his family’s small farm in the rural community of Bradford’s Pond near Dixon’s Mill. Autery was captivated by the outdoors and all the animals and insects living in this wonderful world. He would spend hours exploring creeks and ponds, looking for tadpoles, salamanders and frogs. He would lie on his back, look at the sunrises and sunsets, and wish he could capture the moment for eternity. Other forces of nature fascinated him as well, things like fog, rain and lightning. In fact, there was very little in the great outdoors that did not capture the young boy’s attention. He was so awed by the beauty around him that he wished he could take a picture of everything that enthralled him. Autery would get his wish later in his life.

Each year, Johnny Autery and his sister Ellen hang many hummingbird feeders to attract the birds. Ellen also plants flowers the birds love.

After graduating from Livingston University, he taught science and biology for 9 years. During this time, he was able to buy an Olympus 35mm camera, and he began to capture the natural beauty that had always intrigued him.

One natural phenomenon Autery had longed to photograph was streaks of lightning zigzagging and flashing across the sky. He kept a close eye on the weather, and, if he heard of an impending storm, he would rush to set up his equipment on a small hill near his home. This was in the 1980s when a photographer had to shoot the image, send it to be processed, and then discover what he had captured. One time, after getting his slides back, Autery was amazed to find he had snapped a "once-in-a-lifetime" photograph of an incredible cloud-to-ground lightning strike. He sent the slide to a professor at the University of Florida, who was doing research on lightning. The professor advised Autery to copyright the image, because it was truly something special. Since then, Autery’s picture has appeared in many publications such as Weatherwise magazine, National Geographic, and in numerous NOAA pamphlets and brochures. It has also been used as a backdrop on the Weather Channel, shown on The Today Show, published in Weekly Reader, and used in many high school and college textbooks. In fact, he still gets requests for use of the photograph today.

The love of photography led Autery to leave teaching and take a job with a local portrait studio in Thomasville. After the studio closed, Autery delved in sports photography that he now features on his website. In the last 5 years, however, he has gotten even more serious about his passion to photograph the great outdoors, purchasing better equipment, and spending hours, looking, listening and learning.

Autery and his sister Ellen still live in their childhood home in rural Marengo County. Ellen plants flowers that attract birds, butterflies and bees. Her handiwork becomes a veritable sanctuary for Autery, who photographs the many visitors to Ellen’s garden. He has developed many unique techniques to get close to the birds and insects, often putting feed around stumps to lure the birds closer to the blinds he has built. He also dons a camo cape to move in as closely as possible.

"It helps to know the habits of animals," said Autery, who readily admits his background in biology has helped him immensely. "Animals don’t always cooperate. The behavior of animals and insects are a big part of what you must understand. I have to play with things to get the best shot."

This spotted salamander laying eggs during a rare snowfall in Marengo County was photographed by Autery. He says it is the most unusual photograph he has ever taken.

Usually, that means spending hours patiently watching, waiting and taking countless shots just to get one that meets his high standards.

From March until October each year, Ellen keeps hummingbird feeders in her yard. In August and September, as the migration waves come and go, the yard will be filled with hundreds of hummers, darting, spiking, and jostling for food and dominance. This provides an ideal opportunity for Autery to position his cameras on posts stationed strategically around the feeders. The images he captures are amazing!

As diverse as his interests are, Autery admits that frogs and salamanders intrigue him most. Near his home lies a small pond that dried up during a drought in the late ‘90s. When the rains returned, the pond created a haven for thousands of species. On many nights, Autery dons his waders, clears away the overgrowth, and spends hours photographing and recording the frogs.

"It’s a lot of waiting, hoping I can get into position to get a really good shot," he stated. "The frogs are constantly calling and mating."

He rarely worries about snakes, but says that he has seen a few while sloshing through the water.

Tommy Lawler, left, and Johnny Autery search for native plants in the Grampion Hills of Wilcox County. Here, they visit a may apple patch (Credit: James Lawler).

Autery revealed that the most unusual thing he has ever photographed was a salamander laying eggs when it was snowing. The story behind this photograph is almost as intriguing as the image itself. Lately, however, Autery has been researching the Red Hills Salamander, Alabama’s official state amphibian. The Red Hills Salamander is found only in five or six southern Alabama counties in an area between the Alabama River and the Conecuh River. Discovered in 1960 by a biologist studying snails, the Red Hills Salamander spends 95 percent of its life in its burrow, coming out only at night to feed on insects and worms near the entrance to its burrow. Originally classified as an "endangered" species, it is now listed as "threatened." This salamander has been identified in Wilcox County, and, now, Autery is on a mission to capture an image of the elusive creature.

Even though Autery now works as a freelance photographer, he has always dreamed of becoming a wildlife photographer. His good friend Big Daddy (James) Lawler, host of the Gettin’ Outdoors Radio Show, believes Autery is already the true definition of what an outdoor photographer should be.

"I have had the absolute pleasure of sharing time with and observing Johnny in the field," Lawler said. "His professionalism in his craft is not only seen in the images he captures but also in the respect and knowledge of his subjects. Whether it is a fast-snapped shot of a high school-split end diving for a touchdown pass or waiting for that shot of a croaking frog in a Marengo County mud hole, Johnny has the same dedication and commitment to capturing each image."

“Sword of God” is a “once-in-a-lifetime” shot Autery captured of cloud-to-ground lightning while set up on a hill near his home. The photo has appeared in numerous publications. He still gets requests for use of the photo.

People in Marengo, Clarke and Wilcox counties know Autery is much more than just a country photographer. Many see him as a resident conservationist, naturalist, ecologist, environmentalist and preservationist. Autery admits that, even though he’s not into labels, he’s probably a little bit of each because he loves being outdoors with all the unusual creatures that interest him.

"I’ve learned how fragile and intricate nature is," he said. "So many species are declining because of man’s intrusion, and I want to help stop this. I want to help study and preserve all species."

For Autery, the flora and fauna found in the hills and hollows around his country home are both his canvas and his chronicle.

"I photograph the animals and flowers around me, so everyone can learn to appreciate and love what we have," Autery stated. "Whether it’s waiting for the next lightning strike, wading in a woodland pool at night looking for that perfect frog pose, spending countless hours watching and imaging birds or on the sidelines trying to anticipate that next great Bulldog (Sweet Water) play, photography is my passion."

Autery may be a man of few words, but his photographs speak volumes, in a language everyone can understand and appreciate.

Contact Johnny Autery at johnnyautery@zenfolio.com or 2auterys@pinebelt.net. He can also be found on Facebook.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.



Pine Apple in His Blood

Alvin Stone proudly wears his Co-op cap during the day when he’s at his store.

Alvin Stone is a Wilcox County cattleman, grocer and politician who has served his community for eight decades.

by Alvin Benn

When Alvin Stone enrolled at Auburn University’s predecessor in 1952, he majored in agriculture education, figuring it would provide a sensible "backup" career for him.

Little did he know at the time that his plan wouldn’t last long when he got his bachelor’s degree and left the "Loveliest Village" to resume what already had been his life’s calling – farming and merchandizing.

Toss politics into the mix and it’s easy to see he’s one of Alabama’s busiest citizens and, at the age of 80, is still going strong.

"I figured if I couldn’t make it in farming I could always teach, but, boy, was I ever wrong about that," Stone recalled. "I knew after the first day that teaching just wasn’t for me."

He learned that the moment he walked into a classroom as a substitute teacher. He walked right out at the end of the day and didn’t return "because I was a farm boy who also knew how to operate a country store and that was all I wanted to do with my life."

Eventually, education’s loss was Wilcox County’s gain because he became an important leader in more ways than he ever dreamed.

Former Wilcox County Commissioner Alvin Stone is flanked by son Chris, left, and grandson Christopher outside his store.

During the past six decades, he has fashioned successful careers as a cattleman, grocer and politician who came close to attaining the top spot in the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama.

"Legend" isn’t a lightly used word, but it would seem an appropriate description of Alvin Stone whose busy daily schedule hasn’t slowed down much as he’s entered his eighth decade.

"I’ve always been self-employed," he said, as he provided a guided tour of his store’s nondescript exterior with three weather-beaten "Alvin G. Stone" signs that can easily be seen along Alabama Highway 10 in Pine Apple.

The interior is something else, however. It’s clogged from floor to ceiling with farm-related items, some of which ought to be in a museum. A few are so important to him he won’t sell them at any cost.

"See that cooler over there?" he said, pointing to one of his favorites that hasn’t been used in who knows how long. "We bought it back in 1949, a year after we opened, and it still works if we plug it in. We just don’t do the kind of business we did long ago."

Alvin and Dot Stone enjoy spending time on the porch of their 19th century home.

Chris Stone is amazed at his dad’s agricultural collections, along with his recollections of how it was so many years ago when farmers relied on small stores like his to provide what they needed.

Dust, rust and cobwebs hide some pieces of equipment that were "retired" years ago by Alvin, who won’t think of selling them. It’s as if they are members of his extended family.

"Just look at this stuff," said Chris, who helps run the family farm and cattle operation when he’s not busy handling administrative duties as mayor of the tiny town of Pine Apple. "He won’t get rid of anything,"

Alvin is a self-made man who’s proud of that fact, even with a college education that provided an academic foundation. Hard work has been a daily habit he isn’t about to break, even when he’s out in muddy pastures tending to his cattle, baling hay or fixing fences.

Pine Apple has been in his blood as long as he can remember, even during his days at Alabama Polytechnic Institute that became Auburn University in 1960. His bachelor’s degree has API, not Auburn, on it.

Alvin hitched rides back home during weekends. The round-trip covered about 270 miles, but he didn’t mind because he knew he’d be with his family, helping his dad on the farm or at the store.

He began working long hours before he was 10, sweeping the floor, stocking shelves and helping customers because he knew where most of the merchandise would be displayed.

His grandfather J.D. Steen operated the family’s original store before the "new" one opened in 1948 – the year Harry Truman defeated challenger Tom Dewey in the presidential election.

The "Stone Store" was more than a business. Like most country stores, it was a gathering place for friends to meet, discuss the weather, cattle prices, sip a soft drink, exchange gossip and tell a joke or two.

Most of all, it had what farmers needed – fuel for vehicles and agricultural equipment, wagon parts, torches, boots, overalls, shoes, and, of course, hoop cheese, crackers and R.C. Colas.

The boss is still at it even though he doesn’t have many customers most days. If he’s not there, he’s probably in a pasture taking care of his cattle. He has a sign saying "Be Right Back" with "Alvin" just below it on the front door of the store.

His political history was, for the most part, almost as successful as his farming and business activities. He became a member of the Wilcox County Commission by unseating an incumbent who had served for 30 years.

During that time, he worked his way up the ladder to become first vice president of the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama and was next in line to become president.

Reapportionment ended that possibility when the district he served was changed demographically and he lost a bid for another term as well as moving up as president of the state group.

Alvin didn’t lose any sleep over it. He just went back to work on his farm, in his store and as a mentor to sons Gordon and Chris, who both idolize him.

"I can’t imagine anybody having a better role model than my dad," said Gordon, who is executive director of the Higher Education Partnership as well as mayor of Pike Road – one of the fastest growing towns in Alabama. "He taught me the importance of work, faith and how to treat other people."

Alvin has been a regular customer at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma and Quality Co-op in Greenville, and his visits are warmly received.

"I knew he was an astute cattleman, but I never knew how involved he was in Wilcox County politics," said Central Alabama Farmers Co-op General Manager Tim Wood. "He is a great example of giving back whether it’s in his community or Auburn University."

Auburn is an important part of the Stone family since many of them are AU graduates. Gordon lettered as a defensive back for the Tigers and family members look forward to their 40-yard-line seats each season.

Pine Apple may be a quiet little town without much excitement, but an incident that occurred several years ago is still talked about by those who remember it.

It happened at Alvin’s store when a man entered wearing a Halloween mask and a skirt. He also walked with a limp since he needed a peg-leg to get around with a noticeable limp.

He knew what he wanted because he pushed aside an elderly woman who had been minding the store, reached into the cash register and grabbed all the money he could in a few seconds.

As the limping robber made his getaway, an area resident known as "Bicycle" Thomas arrived, spotted him, got in touch with authorities and it wasn’t long before he was carted off to jail, and then on to state prison following his conviction. The money was recovered in full.

Alvin and Dot have been married for 52 years and are known as a caring couple who spend their days around their big 19th century Classic Revival house where grandchildren have plenty of room to roam.

"We’ve had a very good life together," said Dot, an Auburn graduate who worked 18 years for the State Department of Human Resources in nearby Camden. "There’s nothing fancy about us. We’re just a busy couple with a wonderful family around us."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Risk Resiliency

Enhancing Sustainability Options for Farmers

Release from Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Weather is one of farming’s greatest challenges. But Dr. Brenda Ortiz, a corn and grain crops specialist with Alabama Extension, said farmers’ abilities to manage production risks such as drought or heavy rains are improving.

"Many of the farmers who are leading the way in the use of risk-resilient practices learned about them at Southeast Climate Extension workshops and outreach programs," Ortiz said.

Producers can learn more about climate adaptation strategies at Ag Solutions Day Aug. 10 in Orange Beach. The one-day event is free and will be held at the Orange Beach Events Center, 4671 Wharf Parkway. The meeting is slated for 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and lunch will be provided.

Registration is encouraged by July 31. Visit http://www.aces.edu/go/551 to register online. For more information, contact Jeana Baker at 334-844-3922 or jlb0049@auburn.edu.

"Producers will learn best options for reducing climate-related risks," Ortiz said. "In addition, they will learn the latest on solution-oriented technologies that will help them better manage risk.

"Farmers will see innovations that can enhance their sustainability as well as learn strategies that will allow them to upscale their production levels."

Breakout Sessions

- Conservation tillage and high-residue cover crops

- Sub-surface drip irrigation

- Variable rate irrigation

- Sod-based rotation

- Sesame - A New Crop for Southeast

- Use of Drones in Agriculture

Producers will have a chance to get hands-on experience with Agroclimate website. AgroClimate uses crop simulation models along with climate data allowing producers to compare changes in possible outcomes under different conditions. Users can monitor growing degree days, chill hours, freeze risk, disease risks for selected crops, and current and projected drought conditions. They can also learn about climate cycles affecting the Southeast such as the El Niño.

Finally, participants will hear from farmers, industry representatives and Extension professionals during a panel discussion on agricultural solutions as well as a climate outlook for this summer and fall.

"Sponsored by Southeast Climate Extension project, this workshop offers growers a unique opportunity to learn from other growers as well as Extension professionals and scientists from a number of universities," Ortiz explained.

Southeast Climate Extension project is a network of row crop farmers, agricultural Extension specialists, researchers and climate scientists engaging in climate adaptation dialogue in the southeastern United States. AG Solutions Day is the Southeast Climate Extension project’s annual adaptation exchange outreach event.




Smells Take Me Back

by Suzy Lowry Geno

I was just watering the more than 300 heirloom tomato seedlings in my little greenhouse ....

The sun had beamed down upon the plastic-covered, tent-like, playhouse-sized building just enough to make it pleasantly warm as a myriad of unidentified insects buzzed about my head.

But as I happily went about my chores, I was stopped in my tracks as so often happens around this little homestead.

The smell of the water stirring the soil in the little cups, the sweet acrid aroma of the little plants themselves and even the dampness of the crunchy gravel beneath my feet immediately took me back about 58 years ....

My Granny Inmon owned the first florist shop in Blount County. By the time I came along, she had a neat little building beside her then-house along Highway 75 just south of downtown Oneonta. At the rear of that little building was a "hot house" room built almost as an afterthought ....

And that little room was where I was transported in an instant with just a strong sniff inside my little greenhouse today.

It happens to me all the time. I can be using the miter saw to cut a post or a piece of wooden trim and one whiff of that sawdust and I’m a little girl once again ....

Running into my daddy’s arms as he arrived home from work, wearing his overalls with his nail apron stretched across the front. His smell wasn’t of any fancy aftershave that was advertised on the radio.

No - his fragrance was one of hard work: sweat, sawdust and the leathery smell of the back brace he had to wear before a miracle surgery made him better.

And then there’s the 36 baby chicks currently residing in a big cardboard box under a heat lamp on my back porch.

Is there any sweeter smell than that of warmed baby chicks scrambling about on wood chips as they scratch for their chick starter feed and splash their water? We lived "just down the hill" when I was about 4 and my brother Bobby, who was 9 years older than me, raised a flock of fluffy yellow chicks in the old chicken coop as one of his first FFA projects.

He held me up to the brooder, my cheek resting on his soft, often-washed FFA blue denim jacket, and the warm smells lingered in my memory as I petted a soft ball of fluff.

And just about nothing can compare with the smell inside my little bunny barn. Right now there are eight bunnies (two for fiber for my spinning wheel - they are sheared not skinned!!!) and six rescues. When I walk in and smell their little warm, furry bodies munching on fresh hay, even the rabbit pill manure smells sweet to me.

I can walk into the back of the Blount County Farmers Co-op, or any of the Co-ops across the state, and the feed smells take me back immediately to Clarence Sellers’ small store where brightly colored fabric bags of flour nestled on one side of the storeroom while fragrant feed for just about every animal imaginable lined the other shelves.

I worry about kids today. An entire LIBRARY of books can be included in one hand-held electronic tablet or Kindle reader which seems like a miracle to me. But they are missing out on one of the most wonderful fragrances in the world: that of a new book!

Can you remember those smells on the first day of school? Those new textbooks and that freshly sharpened yellow pencil (with maybe an extra red rubber eraser with its own unique smell) all mingling with chalk dust from the blackboard and that green stuff spread upon the floor by the school janitor in order to sweep the dirt carried in by hundreds of little feet back outside?

Before you think I’ve dropped completely off the dark edge this time, here’s what the experts are saying:

In an article called "How Smell Works" by Sarah Dowdey on the website http://health.howstuffworks.com, she explains, "Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it’s sometimes called the ‘emotional brain,’ smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously."

She says we are "tightly wired" in that the "olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala that processes emotion and the hippocampus that is responsible for associative learning."

But she also notes that smells would "not trigger memories if it weren’t for conditioned responses."

In other words, when we first smell a new scent such as my Granny’s little "hot house," my brain associated that smell with good things.

But it can work both ways: for instance, a carnation can make you think about your boyfriend buying you a carnation corsage for your spring dance, conjuring up happy memories. Or the smell of that same carnation can remind you of the funeral flowers of a dear friend, which makes you sad.

Happily most of my "smell remembrances" are of good things. Dowdey says, since so many new odors are encountered while we are youngsters, many smells often bring us to childhood memories.

Who doesn’t love the smell of soil that has freshly been turned, whether it’s an entire field or garden or simply a windowbox?

I can remember riding on a "slide" being pulled behind a mule as my daddy flattened out clumps of dirt in our hillside garden. I was barely 3 at that time.

There’s the smell of freshly ironed clothes as my mama sprinkled more water on the next shirt as she pressed it into submission.

How about coal in those old, round coal-burning heaters? Evening in Paris perfume sitting on the old dime store counters for sampling? Bolts of new fabric just lining the counters on the second floor of the only store in Oneonta that HAD a second floor ....

Those memory-smells come from a time when life WAS much more simple ... and that’s probably why I (and many other back-to-the-landers) strive to get back to that simple time ....

Many folks think I’m nuts. Others wonder why I work so hard. I know there are lots of times even those in my own family have questioned my sanity.

But as my grown son Nathan, who lives nearby with his wife Kim, put my animals "to bed" for me last week he learned something from the smells, sights and sounds of the late night homestead that has helped him to understand.

Here’s what Nathan posted on Facebook later that night:

"As I put Mom’s animals to bed tonight (don’t worry, she’s fine, just at church), I may have caught a piece of understanding.

"With my usual sensory overload style, with this moon overhead: I could hear the chorus of frogs across the pasture - when I say chorus I mean almost siren-like wail of voices.

"I could smell the warm earth and grass, cooling just after the sun’s setting.

"Hens inside the henhouses softly cooed and clucked as they settled in for a cozy sleep. The guineas chur-chur-chur as they try to select their perfect limb to roost on in the nearby pear tree.

"Goats gently bleat at me as I close the doors and gates against whatever the night may hold.

"I can hear a rabbit in the ‘bunny barn’ lapping at its water bottle clackity clackity clack ....

"I’m usually well on my way to bed at this time of night, but tonight I’m grateful. I’ve seized a little bit of the peace Mom gets to have every day. Farming is never easy, only sometimes profitable.

"Every day, there IS a harvest to be reaped ...."

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




Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Gene got caught cheatin’ on his spellin’ test. Miss Kramer made him grab his ankles and whopped him good in front of the whole class! How he kept a stiff upper lip I’ll never know."

What does keeping one’s lip stiff have to do with getting punished?

Keeping a "stiff upper lip" means to remain resolute and unemotional in the face of adversity or tragedy.

This is such a clichéd expression that it is difficult to imagine doing anything else with a stiff upper lip apart from keeping it. If you try to hold your upper lip stiff, your facial expression will appear aloof and unsmiling, betraying little of any feeling you might be experiencing. That demeanor is the source of "keep a stiff upper lip." The phrase is similar to "bite the bullet" or "keep your chin up." It has become symbolic of the British and particularly of the products of the English public school system during the age of the British Empire. In those schools, the "play up and play the game" ethos was instilled into the boys who went on to rule the Empire. That "do your duty and show no emotion" attitude was expressed in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s "The Charge of the Light Brigade":

"Theirs not to make reply,

"Theirs not to reason why,

"Theirs but to do and die:

"Into the valley of Death

"Rode the six hundred."

In more recent years the stiff upper lip has gone out of favor in the United Kingdom and British heroes have been able to show more emotion. Footballers now cry when they lose and soldiers cry at comrades’ funerals, both of which would have been unthinkable before WWII.

So, where did the "stiff upper lip" originate? In 1963, P.G. Wodehouse published a novel called "Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves," and you can’t get much more English than that.

Strange then that a phrase so strongly associated with the United Kingdom should have originated in the United States. The first printed reference to it that I know of is in the Massachusetts Spy, June 1815:

"I kept a stiff upper lip, and bought a license to sell my goods."

That citation doesn’t explicitly refer to keeping one’s emotions in check, but a slightly later one, from the Ohio newspaper The Huron Reflector, 1830, makes the meaning unambiguous:

"I acknowledge I felt somehow queer about the bows; but I kept a stiff upper lip, and when my turn came, and the Commodore of the Police axed me how I come to be in such company ... I felt a little better."

The expression can be found in several U.S. references from the early 19th century and was commonplace by 1844, the date of the earliest example found from a British source.




The Bitter Fruit of a Gardener


The bitter taste of squash and cucumbers comes from a natural organic compound called cucurbitacin.

by Tony Glover

Soon after we start harvesting members of the cucumber and squash family I usually start hearing from folks who want to know why their harvest has become bitter as it gets hotter and dryer; these queries increase exponentially. This question came to the fore recently when my Mom prepared a "mess" (enough to feed an average family) of squash that were extremely bitter. When my Mom asks me a question, she gets quick service.

The bitter taste of squash and cucumbers comes from a natural organic compound called cucurbitacin. Much to the surprise of many people, there are many plants that don’t want to be eaten. Some of these plants not only don’t like being eaten but they actually do something about it. Always keep in mind that not everything in nature is good for you and somethings are downright dangerous. That is the case with this compound that can cause severe stomach pains. If the fruit are extremely bitter, you might as well pull the plant up and start again because they will not likely become "unbitter." If the fruit are only mildly bitter, there may be hope.

One myth I heard again recently is that planting cucumbers near cantaloupes will make them bitter. Although many members of the cucurbit family can cross pollinate, this will not impact the fruit taste that season.

In cucumbers, bitterness is very common and can be caused by several factors. The most-likely reason is plant stress. The problem tends to be worse when extremes exist. Extreme heat, cold, drought or excess water, lack of plant nutrients or even extreme pest and disease pressure can bring on a problem. If you can identify and correct the stress soon enough, the plant may stop producing the excess amounts of the bitter compounds.

However, the problem may be linked to genetics as well and this is especially true with summer squash. Many naturally occurring cucumber/squash relatives are weeds and can readily cross pollinate, allowing the bitter genetics to be passed along to the next generation. This cross pollination has no impact on the fruit that season but, if you save seed, it could cause a problem with their offspring. This could even happen occasionally with purchased seed. If the problem is genetic and does not seem to be stress-related, these plants will not improve and you should try again with fresh seed.

If you find you have some mildly bitter cucumbers, it helps to know the bitter compound is usually more concentrated in the stem end rather than in the blossom end of the fruit. Also, the skin tends to accumulate these compounds more than the flesh. Therefore, if the fruit is only mildly bitter, peel the fruit by starting at the blossom end of the fruit and cut off a couple of inches near the stem end. Wash the knife frequently to avoid spreading the bitter compounds to other fruit.

You might be curious about potential uses of these bitter compounds. The bitterness is both a blessing and a curse for the plants themselves. Many insects find the plants and fruit as unappetizing as we do, but the worst pest of cucumbers, the aptly named cucumber beetle, finds these plants irresistible. Scientist are trying to take advantage of both this insect-attracting and -repelling quality of these compounds. One possible use would be to produce an attractant bait to lure the dreaded cucumber beetle away from your garden plants. I hope it works better than the Japanese beetle traps that seem to draw in more pests than they can possibly trap.

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



The Co-op Pantry

I am practicing unabashed nepotism this month. I have finally convinced my cousin Peggy Cutler to be my cook of the month. Your taste buds will thank me!

Peggy comes from a family that has been in the United States since before the Revolutionary War. We are cousins a half dozen times over, some of which we have figured out and some we are still working on!

Peggy was born to Everette Bright and Lela Mills in a community in Knox County, Ky., called Stinking Creek. Peggy’s parents grew up and were married and baptized in the same small church; and later, she and her sister Rose joined the church as well. Pretty much everyone on the Creek went to the same church, no matter what denomination they actually were. Her mom said their family was Pentecostal, but they attended the little community church faithfully.

Even though Peggy lives in Milford, Ohio, now, talk to her for a few minutes and the Kentucky farm girl comes shining through. Peggy related that when they were growing up on Stinking Creek one of her fondest memories was their smokehouse. (For those of you not familiar with the term, the smokehouse was used to preserve meat or to store meat for extended periods of time if you bought it already cured.) Peggy reminisced that every year the family would buy a pig or large cuts of beef (already cured), and her mom would go out every day for bacon or beef to cook for the family.

Peggy’s mom Lela was a recipe collector and was always trading recipes at church. She started teaching Peggy and Rose how to cook at a very young age. She was very detail-oriented about cooking and taught them each and every detail about a recipe and to prepare properly before you began to cook. She explained that they would have families someday and would need to know how to cook for them.

"I live in Ohio now; my parents moved us here when I was 5 because there was not any work in their little corner of Kentucky. I grew up in Loveland, Ohio, and had a wonderful childhood. My father was able to get a job with Totes, the people who make the rainwear; his division made those wonderful rubber boots. A favorite cooking memory from this period of my life was the big baker’s table my mom used to make dough for cat head biscuits. She would let me help roll the dough," Peggy recalled.

Peggy, like me, is an animal lover (I think it may be genetic) and has had pets all her life, or rather furry family members. A vivid memory of her rabbit was letting it out of its cage to hop free in the house. When her mom found the evidence, Peggy was grounded!

When I asked Peggy about her favorite cooking shows she replied, "Celebrity Chef, Paula Deen and Mario Batali are all favorites."

"Now, I am married and have three children and seven grandchildren, and two precious pooches. I am actively involved in a Pentecostal church that keeps me very busy! We have cooking contests, which I always enter, and picnics. I also participate in bake-offs and pet contests. Outside the church, I do yoga, bicycle and make a lot of homemade doughnuts! I want to thank my dearest cousin for giving me the opportunity to share what God has so blessed me with," Peggy related.

Peggy, thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes!!! Your Monkey See-Monkey Do Casserole is to die for; it is my personal favorite.

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

MONKEY SEE-MONKEY DO CASSEROLE

1 cup onions, chopped

1 green pepper, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

1½ pounds ground chuck

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 (1 pound 12 ounce) can wholetomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 cups water

1 (8-ounce) package wide noodles, uncooked

1 (8-ounce) package mozzarella cheese, sliced

Sauté onions and green pepper in butter or margarine. Add ground chuck and brown. Add seasoned salt, pepper and sugar. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce and water. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a 9x13 pan, layer meat-tomato mixture with noodles. Top with mozzarella cheese. (Make sure noodles are covered with sauce.) Cover pan with foil. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Cut and serve as you would lasagna.

JORDAN'S BIG BLUES

½ cup butter

1¼ cups sugar

2 eggs

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup milk

2 cups blueberries

Extra sugar for topping

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to sugar mixture alternating with milk. Add blueberries. Grease and flour muffin pan. Fill all the way to the top with batter. Take the extra sugar and sprinkle top of each muffin with 2 teaspoons of sugar.

ROYMAYNE'S SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE'

3 cups sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup milk

Mix all ingredients well and pour into a greased baking dish.

Topping

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup flour

1 cup pecans, chopped

Mix and spread over potatoes. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

SKILLET PIE

1 stick margarine or butter

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

7/8 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 can pie filling (blueberry, raspberry, cherry … your choice)

Melt butter in a 2-inch deep skillet. In bowl, mix flour, milk, sugar and baking powder. Pour into center of skillet. DO NOT MIX. Pour pie filling in center on top of first mixture. DO NOT SPREAD. Bake at 350° for 45-60 minutes or until done.

CHICKEN SCALOPPINI

1 Tablespoon flour

½ teaspoon salt

Pepper, dash

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

¼ cup cooking oil

½ medium onion, thinly sliced

1 (1-pound) can tomatoes

1 (3-ounce) can mushrooms, undrained

1 Tablespoon parsley

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

¼ teaspoon oregano

Linguine noodles (enough to serve 4), prepared according to package directions

Combine flour, salt and pepper; dust chicken breasts lightly with flour mixture. In a skillet, brown chicken slowly in hot oil. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion to the skillet; cook until tender, but not brown. Add chicken breasts, tomatoes, mushrooms, parsley, garlic salt and oregano. Cover; simmer for 20-25 minutes until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally. Arrange chicken on hot buttered noodles and top with sauce.

SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN

1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into pieces

1 bottle Russian dressing

1 (10-ounce) jar apricot preserves

1 package onion soup mix

Rice, your choice

Place chicken pieces in a cake pan. In bowl, mix Russian dressing, preserves and soup mix. Pour over chicken. Bake at 350° for 1½ hours. Baste occasionally. Prepare rice and serve covered with excess sauce.

ROCK CORNISH HENS A L'ORANGE

4 Cornish hens

Butter, melted

Minute Rice mix (your choice - wild rice is really good), prepared according to package directions

Wash and dry hens. Brush with butter. Stuff with Minute Rice mix. Bake at 350° for 1-1½ hours, basting frequently with sauce.

Sauce

1 cup orange marmalade

¼ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons Worcester sauce

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 Tablespoon Accent

½ teaspoon curry powder

Cayenne pepper, dash

Mix all together.

BLEU CHEESE BACON POTATOES

4 large baking potatoes

1 (3½-ounce) package blue cheese, crumbled

1 Tablespoon milk

4 ounces sour cream

4 Tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

8 slices bacon, fried crisp

Bake potatoes until done. Cool and cut in half long way. Scrape out potato pulp. Keep the skins. Mash the potatoes. In mixer, add potatoes, blue cheese, milk, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. Pile back into potato skins. Crumble bacon on top. Zap in the microwave to reheat before serving.

SWISS VEGETABLE MEDLEY

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower combination, thawed and drained

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 cup (4 ounces) Swiss cheese, shredded and divided

1/3 cup sour cream

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 small can French fried onions, divided

Combine vegetables, soup, ½ of cheese, sour cream, pepper and ½ can French fried onions. Turn into 1 quart casserole dish. Bake covered at 350° for 30 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and onions. Bake uncovered 5 minutes longer. Serves: 6.

“COMPANY” POTATO CASSEROLE

1 large package frozen hash browns

1 medium onion, finely grated

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream

8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

1 medium-sized bag potato chips, crushed

1 stick butter, melted

Let hash browns thaw for ½ hour. Toss together potatoes and onion. In separate bowl, combined soup, sour cream and cheese. Add soup mixture to potato mixture. Turn into a 9x13 baking dish. Top with potato chips. Pour butter over all. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

6 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

2 slices white bread, cubed

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 pound sausage, browned and drained

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Beat all ingredients together. Put in greased casserole and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350° uncovered for 35-45 minutes; tent with foil if top begins to brown too quickly. Serves: 8-12.

Note: Can be made with diced ham. Add onion, green pepper, broccoli or hash browns if you wish.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2015 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.



The FFA Sentinel: Bragging Rights Earned

North District Vice President Lane Bonds competing in the Barrel Saddling Competition at the 13th Annual Colbert County Ag Day.

Over 60 FFA students participated in Colbert County Ag Day

by Katelin Waldrep

Ag Day in Colbert County is a time for FFA members from Cherokee High School, Colbert County High School and Colbert Heights High School to come together and compete for well-coveted blue banners with "FFA Winner" across them. Colbert County Ag Day is an annual event held at Longhorn R Arena in Tuscumbia where FFA members compete in several Career Development Events as well as other fun events. At the 13th Annual Colbert County Ag Day, over 60 students came to participate in these competitions.

Building Construction is one of the events students are allowed to compete in at Ag Day. This year’s project consisted of the construction of a set of stairs and the wiring of a three-way switch in a given amount of time. It was one of the closest when it came to judging. FFA members also compete in Forestry and Livestock Judging. Junior high FFA members may also compete in an event called Tool Identification where students must identify and correctly spell 50 random tools. Tractor Driving is one of the most interesting competitions at Ag Day. Seeing students weave a tractor and trailer through a course can be very entertaining. FFA members also can compete in a Nail Driving Competition and a Barrel Saddling Competition. All of the competitions are held inside Longhorn Arena, except for forestry. Forestry takes place in the woods, unless of course weather does not permit like this year and the students must take a written exam.

Donald Ray Powell from Cherokee competing in the Safe Tractor Driving Competition. He placed first at County and will represent Colbert County at District Eliminations.

Students receive a small prize from one of Ag Day’s many sponsors for winning a round, and a larger prize for winning overall. During awards, teams and individuals who place second will receive a prize from the competition’s sponsor as well as prize money. Teams who receive first will not only receive money and prizes, but also a blue banner to take back to their school. The winner of the Forestry competition also gets to take home the traveling Smokey the Bear Trophy. Winners from the county FFA leadership competitions that take place prior to Ag Day also receive their banners during awards. First place winners from each competition will be eligible to compete at the North District Eliminations in April.

Ag Day is a day for FFA members to become prepared for their future. The competitions held can further students’ knowledge and help them to have a hands-on experience with elements that will help them fulfill their dreams of things such as running a cattle farm or owning a construction company.

The Ag Ambassadors from Auburn University were also present to discuss attending college and the different majors they have to offer. Other special guests in attendance include Alabama FFA Executive Secretary Philip Paramore and the crew from the television show "Simply Southern."

Ag Day is not only a day for students to compete, it is a time for some of the finest young leaders in the county to come together and have fun. There is just something about the sound of cattle, tractors, saws and hammers. The Red Bay High School string band also added into the mix of sounds when they are entertaining at lunch. Not only do students return from Colbert County Ag Day with bragging rights for a whole year, but with memories of the fun and laughter they have shared.

Katelin Waldrep is Cherokee High School’s FFA Secretary.



Tips for Farm and Field

by John Howle

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same." – Ronald Reagan

Freedom and farming have a lot in common. Both require hard work, sacrifice, a desire to hand down virtues to the next generation, and a willingness to identify potential threats and deal with them quickly and decisively. Whether it is identifying terrorists or thistle, if immediate action is not taken, the freedoms and the farm can be quickly taken over.

This June, take an assessment of the freedoms you have as an American. Within your freedoms, you have the freedom to worship, you have the right to free speech, you have the right to keep and bear arms, and you have the right to pursue happiness. When you see politicians, lobby groups and activists make attempts to take these freedoms away, ask yourself if you are willing to stand against these power grabs through your votes and support of traditional freedoms so future generations can experience the freedoms you have.

Twelve-inch nails, known as spikes, are ideal for driving through the vertical posts into horizontal H-brace posts.

Big Nails

When constructing an H-brace in your fencing, it is important to secure the horizontal post bracing the two vertical posts. You can drill pilot holes through each vertical post into the horizontal post, and drive long nails into the horizontal post. In hardware stores, these huge, galvanized nails are called spikes. The spike needs to be long enough to go through the vertical post and at least three to four inches into the horizontal post. Spikes that are 12 inches long will go through the vertical posts and well into the horizontal post.

Oil the Chute

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting ready to catch a cow in the head chute and rusty build-up keeps you from being able to close the head holder quickly. All you can do is watch the cow nonchalantly walk right through the chute. This is the case with many head chutes that are out in the open and exposed to the elements. Pour a small stream of oil into all the working parts a few days before you work the cattle. This will allow you to concentrate on treating the cattle instead of wrestling with the head chute.

Stacked rocks on the creek banks will help prevent washouts. The stacked rocks in the photo have held the creek in place for over 100 years.

Plow Deep

Whether you are setting out an area to plant a flower garden or a garden for produce, a subsoil plow that hooks to the three-point hitch of a tractor will dig deep, breaking roots loose and aerating the soil. Plowing up the area with a subsoil plow loosens the dirt down deep, allowing root systems to move easier through the soil, and it allows rain and fertilizer to get to the root systems of the ornamentals and produce.

Washout Protection with Rock Walls

On our farm, large, flat rocks were stacked up along the creek banks where washouts were common. Even when the creek gets out of the bank, these rocks have held the creek bank in place for over 100 years. Using this same principle, if you have areas along your creek banks that are apt to wash out, stacking large rocks or dumping loads of rip-rap in these areas can prevent washing.

Worm Fishing 101

Insert the hook into the end of the worm up to the bend past the barb. Second, slide the hook through the worm until the worm head sits at the base of the eye of the hook. Finally, insert the hook point halfway into the worm body so it will be weedless.

Whether you are fishing a rubber worm as a Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged style, the hook is placed in the worm in the same manner. First, insert the point of the hook into the head of the worm up to the turning point in the hook past the barb. Next, run the tip of the hook out of the worm head, and slide the worm up and over the shank until the worm tip goes up to the eye of the hook. Finally, insert the hook tip into the body of the worm ensuring the worm body runs straight when the worm is retrieved. Don’t insert the hook tip all the way through the worm body so that the hook tip is only halfway inside the worm body. This will make sure the worm will run weedless through the water without snagging on objects.

Tub Planters

Once your syrup or supplement tub was licked clean, did the cows butt it down the hill into the woods, the creek or against the fence corners? Here’s another use for that empty tub from your Co-op dealer. Drill 3 quarter-inch holes, evenly spaced in the bottom of each tub. Fill them with potting soil and use them for planters. They are great for growing onions and tomatoes.

This June, let’s make sure we hand down our love of freedom and farming to the next generation. If patriots and farmers don’t do it, there will be plenty of others who are ready to influence the next generation with radical, anti-American viewpoints. Put God first and the rest will fall into place.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Tools of the Trade

by Herb T. Farmer

Some folks think I’m getting a little weirder in my old age, and maybe so. But I have fun and I enjoy the things I do and my personal world is of my own making.

A few years ago, a friend told me he had named all of his office equipment and tools as if they were people. He explained that it helped him become more understanding of how valuable they are and how sometimes, when they get sick (break down), he is less likely to pick them up and throw them across the room. You just wouldn’t do that to a friend.

His philosophy set me to thinking, and I decided to adopt it for my family of implements.

It all began when my down-the-road neighbor came over to help me erect a small storage shed to keep my garden tools in. I just started calling the tools by names that suited them and it stuck. My neighbor quickly caught on and started calling them by name, too. It was easy and makes you realize that each tool (friend) has its own personality.

Left to right, MC and Meatloaf, the hammers; Wormy (tape measure) and Mason (square). Can you figure out why all these tools have their names?

We started working on the footers by digging a trench to be filled with concrete. We used Doctor John (PhD - post hole digger) and Shonda (Shovel) to start the holes. Eventually we ran into some rock that had to be broken up, so we got out Roseanne (72-inch digging bar) and proceeded to pound up the obstructions.

Danny (drain shovel) helped clear out the dirt and rock, and we leveled the trench.

Donald (cement mixer named after the late actor Donald Pleasence) mixed the concrete and we poured it into the trenches.

After the concrete cured, I began the construction with Sally (circular saw), Linus (level), Mason (square), Johnny (Cash, chalk line), Meatloaf (28-ounce waffle-face hammer), MC (22-ounce milled-face hammer) and, of course, Bob (plumb bob).

Even though I built the wooden structure by myself, I was not alone.

I haven’t named all of my tools yet. It takes time to find their personality. The process in naming a tool sometimes takes years.

Other tools in my shed with names are Percy (12-pound sledge hammer), Sister (3-pound sledge), Cheryl (30-inch crow bar), Waldo (arc welder), Wormy (25-foot tape measure), Cheri (Weed-Ho - cheap and worthless tool named after my ex-wife) and Mike (12-inch miter saw).

Weird? I don’t think so. This is just another thing I do in order to keep from keep myself from getting bored with life. It works for me and certainly entertains folks who drop by while I’m working.

All this writing has made me hungry. I think it’s time for another summertime favorite. How about a pimento cheese sandwich?

½ cup roasted red peppers, chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup dried minced onions

1 teaspoon white vinegar

½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Hot sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine first four ingredients. Mix in cheese. Add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce then salt and pepper.

Serving suggestions for pimento cheese:

Use a large leaf of Romaine lettuce as a holder for the pimento cheese. Roll up the mixture in the leaf and eat it like a burrito.

Leftover wedge of cornbread and sliced tomato. Slice the cornbread wedge in half, cover with pimento cheese, add tomato slice and cover with the top portion of the cornbread.

Late night snack – Grilled pimento cheese sandwich with a sweet gherkin on the side. Use your favorite loaf bread. Heat an iron skillet, butter the bread, put pimento cheese between two slices and grill until golden brown.

Fill mini sweet peppers with pimento cheese for a great snack.

Pimento cheese on sliced apples? Oh, yeah!

I’ll have mine traditional. Two pieces of white bread with pimento cheese on a bed of lettuce with a sweet pickle, sweet pepper and grape tomato. A tall glass of Royal Cup iced tea with mint and lemon tops it off for a great, filling lunch light enough to eat on a hot summer day.

Happy Summer Solstice, everybody! It’s coming up on June 21!

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at farmerherb@gmail.com. I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

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



We Can’t Do It “Oursaelves”!

by Glenn Crumpler

I remember when my oldest son Blake was just a small boy always saying, "I do it mysaelf" (spelled to accent his accent). Independent as could be, he did not want us doing anything for him that he thought he could do "himsaelf"! It did not matter that he most often had no idea how to accomplish the task himself, he thought he could and he wanted to try without any advice or anyone showing him how.

Sometimes that is the way we all are – at least until we find out that our ways, our thoughts, our knowledge and our strength does not take us very far, except when we are headed downhill and, even then, we are most often out of control. However, this attitude seems to be our default setting no matter how many times we have learned that our way usually does not work out very well. The more we pursue our ways, the more devastating the results. Instead of living within the boundaries God has given us, we reject His ways and instruction, and try our next best approach or follow the advice of an often corrupt and twisted society.

When I look at all the chaos, foreign thinking and absolute moral depravity going on today around the world and in our own country, it becomes more and more evident that we want to do everything our way, without any moral absolutes and without any set boundaries. Anything contradicting our way of thinking is politically incorrect, intolerant, discriminatory or is too restrictive and a violation of our personal freedoms – no matter how detrimental it may be or who gets hurt in the process.

To put things in perspective, fences are an absolute necessity in any livestock operation and they are also a necessity in our own personal lives. You have heard of the open range days when stock ran freely wherever they wanted to go without any fences. Fortunately, those days are long gone in this part of the world. Think about the chaos this practice would cause now with our current population densities, increased private property ownership and much heavier traffic on the roadways.

Imagine your closest neighbor hauling in trailer loads of cattle, hogs, horses or goats and just turning them out on his unfenced property. How long would it be before the animals came visiting your place, eating your pasture (and yard), breeding your stock and destroying what you have worked so hard to build? Your neighbor would probably benefit financially from not having to feed or care for his livestock, but all his gain would be at your expense and the expense of others! How long would it be before you and everyone else around you had a problem with this practice and with this neighbor?

This scenario may sound farfetched, but is has happened before when the prices fell out of the hog market and rather than feeding valueless hogs, many farmers just opened the gates and let them go. This dramatically contributed to the devastating problems we now have around the country with wild hogs. It happened again a few years ago when the horse kill market was discontinued leaving prices plummeting. Irresponsible horse owners just turned out their horses to roam free rather than having to buy feed. I have seen them for myself roaming the hills in Tennessee and Kentucky. The effects today of a free-range society may not be as farfetched as it first seemed.

Many people today, under the guise of "Freedom of Speech," "Individual Freedom," "Tolerance," "Anti-Discrimination" or even "Freedom of Religion" want us to believe that we too should be able to live our lives free range, without any boundaries, any restrictions, any fences and without any concern for how our fellowman is affected by our actions. They also do this without any regard or respect for the Holy God who established the boundaries and directed the building of the fences in our lives; fences designed to guide our thoughts and actions, and govern how we relate to God and to one another.

Some refer to these God-established boundaries and fences as legalistic and oppressive – a list of do’s and don’ts that Christians have to live by – when in fact they are rooted and bathed in love. God’s boundaries and fences are for our safety, our good, our protection and the good of our neighbors and all of humanity. They not only make our world a better place but they show us our sin. They keep us from trespassing on our neighbors, they keep our neighbors from trespassing on us, and they help us to not trespass against our Holy and Loving God. This is important because trespassing is a serious matter and almost always leads to broken or damaged relationships between the parties, whether it is other people or God.

The word "trespass’ in scripture is almost always associated with sin and is sometimes used interchangeably with sin. Scripture reveals that sin is a "trespass" against God and "trespass" is a sin against God, both of which must be atoned for by the shedding of blood. Most often when we trespass against God, we trespass against someone else as well. Praise God for the blood of Jesus that was shed to atone for our sin and our trespasses!

Fencing also teaches us to trust and depend on the shepherd or the rancher to provide for us what we need within the fenced parameters. The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-15) who lays down His life for His sheep. If we know that He loves us enough to give His life for us, then it is a given that He is trustworthy and caring enough to meet all of our needs and sustain us within the parameters He has ordained. In fact, His Word promises that He will do so in Philippians 4:19 (NIV), "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

If God’s Word is true, then we can know without a doubt that God not only loves us and is faithful to sustain us but He also knows what is best for us. Therefore, we can trust His character, His integrity, His knowledge and the genuineness of His love enough to know the boundaries He has ordained in His Word are liberating instead of oppressive. They protect us from ourselves and from others, and point us to Jesus. He alone took upon Himself the burdens of our sin and the guilt associated with our trespasses against God and others. This is Grace!

God has indeed set moral boundaries for our lives. As we place our faith in Jesus and yield our lives to Him, we find freedom, sanctuary and contentment that could never be found living outside His will. Instead of continuing to plummet down the path of destruction doing what is right in our own eyes, let us surrender our lives afresh and anew to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows what we need. He knows the way and has prepared the way for us. He cares for you and for me. If we follow Him and walk with Him, He will lovingly and skillfully take us safely and triumphantly where we need to be, meeting all our needs along the way.

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




What My Cooperative Means

Miss Sherry Estep, Athens, Rt. 2, is guest speaker before 1,800 members of Farm Co-ops at Belle Mina Thursday. She was winner this summer of the countywide 4-H club essay contest on the assigned subject: “What My Cooperative Means to Limestone County.” (Credit: Local newspaper, 1954)

The following letter and essay was sent to Limestone Farmers Co-op’s Board of Directors:

Board of Directors:

In 1954, I lived in Limestone County and won the county essay contest and third place in the district. I was always proud of that accomplishment along with my parents and many relatives who lived in the county.

I’ve kept this essay (also my speech) for 59 years and thought you might find it interesting to see how your principles and values may have changed through the years.

Mr. Adams was manager at the time and no one will ever meet a nicer or kinder person. He picked me up at college in Florence and took me to Belle Mina.

I used my earnings to buy a Greyhound bus ticket to Lubbock, Texas, to visit my brother, who was in the military. It was a dream come true which I would never have enjoyed without the Co-op. Thank you.

– Sherry Eastep Wallace

This is her essay from 1954:

What My Cooperative Means to Limestone County

The Limestone County Farmers’ Cooperative is a business organization jointly owned by farmers and solely operated for their benefit. It has one purpose, and that is to serve you, the farmers of Limestone County. It has always striven to keep prices competitive, to offer products of the highest quality, and, at the same time, to build an organization large enough, properly equipped and owned entirely by the farmers to render them services as a group they cannot render themselves as individuals.

When you, the farmer, buys from the Farmers’ Co-op, you are buying from your own store, and, therefore, you are at home. The co-op store is entirely in the hands of the farmers, where it belongs. You, as a farmer, have paid for many stores, but this one you own. It is yours and it’s going to be what you make it. The success lies with you, the farmers of this great county of Limestone.

A farmers’ co-op organizes itself to carry on a business that will be of help to each member. This business is either the buying or the selling of farm products. A farmers’ co-op may first begin as a small club or just a small group of people. Those who are interested decide to buy certain supplies. They get a fair market price on each purchase and each patron shares in the savings. Usually, however, a large number of farmers are invited to join and a co-op store is set up as was done in Athens several years ago. Each member pays for a share of stock and becomes part owner of the store or the co-op obtains a capital loan from a bank to finance its operation, the latter being the case of the Limestone Co-op. But this debt was paid in full on December 1953, placing the store entirely in the hands of the farmers.

The management has much to do with the future developments. That’s why we are so careful in the selection of our Board. The Board of Directors consists of seven men who are representatives of the farmers. They are always selected from the membership; therefore, they are fully acquainted with the problems and needs of the farmers. These are the seven men who elect and hire a manager to manage the store.

There are many reasons why you, the farmer, need cooperatives. Among these are to provide or improve needed services, to provide the quality needed in supplies purchased and products marketed, and to help solve the problems of the farmers. It provides a means for the farmer to carry out good business practices followed by other economic groups. This great organization also provides the public with an adequate supply of agricultural products grown and marketed more efficiently and more economically.

A farmers’ co-op offers several advantages over a privately owned store. It is owned by the people it serves; therefore, the incentive to make money at the loss of a patron is not present in a cooperative set up. The management of a co-op store is hired on a monthly salary, the quality is always tops, the price is competitive and the customers, being the owners, are treated with courtesy.

A farmers’ co-op is owned by the farmers. No one can say otherwise. Since it is owned by you, the farmer, it is especially interested in you. You can never lose in any way by joining together with others who make up this great organization which means so much to the farmers of Limestone County. When profits are made, you will receive a share of them in the form of a saving. The members receive each saving in a constant effort to inform both members and non-members of the cooperative principles which are carried out in an organization like this.

There are many ways by which the public may become better acquainted with the Farmers’ Cooperative. Some of these are by special programs such as essay and speaking contests and by annual membership meetings. By personal contact, you may see any of the directors, employees or the manager about your farm problems. These men are honest, loyal and courteous, and will be glad to help you in any way possible. Just feel free to call on them at any time. Much is learned about the Co-op through the educational field, organized instructions through schools, our 4-H club, the Farm Bureau, and other youth and adult groups – local, state and national.

In everything a person undertakes to do, there must be some form of rule to go by. Just a few of those in the Farmers’ Co-op are: Each member shall have one vote in any election in which the Co-op is concerned. Money invested by members shall receive a fixed rate of interest. Profits after all expenses for running the business have been paid shall be returned to the members in proportion to their purchases or patronage. Membership is open to all who wish to join.

The most successful cooperatives do business on a cash basis, but, in some cooperatives, business may be done on credit basis if the patron’s credit rating justifies. One of the great principles of our Athens Co-op is a belief in democracy. Since we do believe in democracy, we believe in fair dealing, the only kind which you will ever receive at our local store. A great rule which we should all consider is this: if we who are going to use what is being sold, we should own the store and should govern its operations.

The Farmers’ Co-op not only offers products for sale but they will buy your products. When they are bought, they are graded and resold to the best possible advantage. The Co-op offers other services which they can perform more easily than the farmer himself. Among these are packing, storing, trucking, testing and advertising.

The cooperative is not a recent thing. It is an organization that has been in our midst for many years. Perhaps the first principles of cooperatives was started in Rochdale, England, on December 21, 1844, when about 20 poor weavers decided to place their money in a fund, rent a building and buy a small supply of stock to be used by themselves and their neighbors. They found products of the highest quality to sell at a nominal price and they received a share of the savings. Soon these stores began to spread throughout the United States and today there are more than 10,000 cooperative stores marching along with the farmers toward the goal of opportunity and achievement. Our banner we find at the very top and with pride we read the words, "Limestone Farmers’ Cooperative."




“Mama, Have You Ever Eaten a Snail?”


Even if raising snails is too wild, your kids can still enjoy the adventure of catching their own dinner such as bream.

by Christy Kirk

Cason ran up the porch steps and flew through the back door.

"I got another one, Mama!"

It might have been his 12th or 15th baby snail, but each new one he found was as special as the last. Dozens of the creatures’ tiny spiral shells were in the driveway and on the side bricks of the house. Cason had been gathering them to put in his roly-poly box and finally brought them inside.

At first I thought they were empty shells, until Cason proudly showed me one of his catch cupped in his little hand. Looking closely, we saw the antennae emerge and the snail started to move slowly over his skin. I was a little surprised that watching this almost microscopic snail was as precious as watching a newborn kitten. I was mesmerized by the snail’s cuteness, but Cason brought me back to reality when he asked, "Mama, have you ever eaten a snail?"

I don’t think he expected my answer to be yes or that actually I have eaten quite a few.

"Gross!" was his immediate response.

I started to explain about snails cooked in little dishes with garlic butter and served with French bread, but he was not buying it. I also told him they weren’t the little garden snails like the ones he was collecting.

"These were big, fat, juicy delicious snails, Cason," I added.

That made it worse.

I want Rolley Len and Cason to be adventurous eaters, because I believe it can lead to an adventurous and more interesting life. However, promoting snails as a meal was clearly pushing it with a 5-year-old.

Since adulthood, I have gladly tried new dishes just for the sake of trying something new. I try to not be afraid of eating a food just because of how it looks or is presented. In Portugal, I tried some kind of small fried whole fish served as an appetizer - eyeballs, bones and all. Ham sandwiches and ice cream from street vendors in Havana? Why not? From fresh anchovies to spicy ethnic dishes, I am game.

When I was pregnant with Rolley Len, I craved spicy Thai food, and I believe that led her to an obsession with spicy, strong flavors once she was off baby cereal. She loved cinnamon, any kind of tomato sauce and hot sauce was not a problem. She still likes the children’s favorite menu standard chicken nuggets with French fries or macaroni and cheese, but she also loves Buffalo chicken dip and Mexican food.

So how do you raise your kids to try new foods and be open to new tastes and textures? Having your children see you trying new things is probably the best way to encourage your kids to sample new dishes. After Jason and I got married, I realized that although I had always been an adventurous eater, there were still some foods I had not eaten yet. Even if I know I don’t particularly like something, I make a point of eating it in front of Rolley Len and Cason.

Although I had eaten some foods from the wild like alligator and poke salat, I had never had bream or squirrel. I had only tried deer once when I was about 8 years old. And until Cason asked me about eating snails, I had not thought of raising them to eat. I looked into it and discovered that you can raise snails to eat without much work or expense.

There are certain snails that can be raised and safely eaten if cooked properly. According to my research, 100 large snails would equal a pound and that would make 10-12 servings. Snails provide protein, carbohydrates and iron. Snails are also believed to promote a healthy immune system.

Once you have collected or purchased snails to raise, caring for them is not very complicated. Snails are said to taste like what they eat. Some people feed them cabbage, garlic or cornmeal depending on the flavor they prefer. With some patience and an adventurous palate, you might have some homegrown escargot for your next meal.

For safety and conservation, check with your local wildlife or Extension agent before raising snails or harvesting any snails from the wild.

Stuffed Snails

24 large snails, removed from shell and prepped

24 snail shells

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 Tablespoon celery, chopped

1 teaspoon onion, chopped

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Prepare fresh snails by soaking live snails in their shells in salt water for 5 hours. Wash and rinse several times. Boil for 30 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients. Pick snails from shells and boil in fish stock. Push snails back into their shells. Pack opening with prepared mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Serve hot with French bread.

Bream recipe

1-3 fish per person, cleaned

1 cup yellow cornmeal per 6-8 fish

1½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Lemon wedges

Rinse fish and place in cold water until ready to cook.

Mix cornmeal with spices in a shallow bowl. If using more cornmeal, also increase amount of spices. Heat about 1 inch of oil until hot and shimmering on the surface. Remove fish from cold water and shake off water. Dredge in cornmeal mixture and coat all sides of the fish. Lay fish in hot oil. Make sure fish do not touch. Cook only as many as will fit at one time without touching. Fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Turn and fry for 2-3 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels and racks to drain oil. Add oil as needed to pan and continue frying.

Escargots Bourguignonne

I found an old cruise ship cookbook with a fancier recipe for your homegrown snails.

Garlic Butter

2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Ground white pepper, to taste

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon cognac (optional)

Combine parsley, garlic and mustard in a food processor. Add white pepper. Process for 1 minute. Add butter, Worcestershire sauce and cognac and process for 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Escargots

24 fresh snails, prepared (See Stuffed Snails directions)

½ stick unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon dry sherry

Salt, to taste

Rinse snails in a colander under cold water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. In saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring until translucent and softened. Add the snails and sauté until completely heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sherry, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 400°. Transfer snails to their shells or to a snail plate. (If you use shells, place them in oven-proof dishes.) Cover each snail with the garlic butter mixture.

Bake for a few minutes or until snails are hot and butter is completely melted and brown on top. (Do not overbake or the flavor of the butter will be not quite right.) Serve immediately with slices of a French baguette for dipping.

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



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