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June 2016

4-H Extension Corner: Let's Go Fishing!

4-H Sportfishing Program is angling for aquatic education.

4-H Sportfishing is about creating lifelong memories and growing stewards who will become better decision-makers of our aquatic resources in the future.

by Emily Nichols and Doyle Keasal

This year, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s 4-H is hoping to draw in youth from across the state with one of its new outdoor recreation programs, 4-H Sportfishing. Alabama’s 77,000 miles of rivers and streams, 42 reservoirs (totaling more than a half million acres), 23 special state-managed lakes, and tens of thousands of private ponds and lakes make for great recreational angling – something people of all ages can enjoy. The kickoff event was May 13.

Alabama 4-H has partnered with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division to bring 4-H Sportfishing opportunities to the youth and families of Alabama and connect them to the bodies of water in their own backyard.

This hands-on natural resource program is dedicated to delivering aquatic education and fisheries outreach to youth ages 9 to 18. As a new venture, the program is being piloted in Cherokee, Colbert, Covington, Coffee, Dale, Escambia, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Marion, Tallapoosa and Washington counties. Designated county Extension staff in these areas have become certified to lead Sportfishing events and activities with youth in their communities.

Participants are encouraged to explore our state’s major recreational fisheries – black bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish – firsthand while learning to fish.

The Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources has designated June 11, 2016 as a Free Fishing Day for the public to fish recreationally in public waters without a fishing license (some lakes may still require a fee and permits, and owner’s permission is required to fish private ponds).

Though catching fish is bound to excite, it isn’t all 4-H Sportfishing is about. Helping our youth to develop responsible fishing and water-safety skills is an essential part of the program, as well as learning about aquatic ecology and getting creative through tackle crafting. Experiences such as these may inspire youth to pursue a career in fisheries or other aquatic science disciplines.

Collaborating with ADCNR to bring fishing-education opportunities to Alabama’s youth in a positive youth development setting is truly exciting. Together, we can reach youth from all backgrounds to help develop their heads, hearts, hands and health. 4-H Sportfishing is about creating lifelong memories and growing stewards who will become better decision-makers of our aquatic resources in the future.

The program is in its pilot year, but has already generated a large amount of interest. It is made possible by dedicated Extension staff, volunteers and partners across Alabama, who are enthusiastic about educating others through outdoor recreation.

Their dedication is a great investment in securing a better tomorrow for generations to come.

Now is a great time to get involved. If you are interested in learning more about the 4-H Sportfishing Program, please contact your local Extension office and ask for their 4-H representative.

Emily Nichols is an Extension natural resources specialist and Doyle Keasal is an environmental education specialist, both with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

A Call to Action

If you see something, DO something!

by John Howle

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because
of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was one of many Jews who were forced to leave Germany during Hitler’s reign of terror. Many of these Jewish people, including Einstein, were well-known for their expertise and intelligence in physics and multiple other areas of science. In this exodus, there were 14 Nobel Laureates and 60 professors of theoretical physics.

Ironically, many of these refugees who fled Germany were the very ones who could have helped Hitler develop the atomic bomb. Instead, many of these scientists helped the Allied powers. Einstein originally left Germany for Belgium, and newspapers began reporting that Einstein was one of the targets for Hitler’s assassination plots with a $5,000 price on Einstein’s head. Supposedly, Einstein touched his head and said, "I didn’t know it was worth that much."

Einstein became a U.S. citizen in 1940 and, in 1941, the Manhattan Project began that resulted in the development of the first atomic bomb. Einstein was not allowed to take part in the project because he was considered a safety risk, but, in 1943, he became employed by the U.S. Navy as an adviser dealing with highly explosive materials.

Intensive Grazing Model

This summer, while you are enjoying good grazing, consider going with an intensive grazing model. Metal T-posts and solar panel-charged electric tape can help you more intensively manage your grazing property. The white, electric tape is my preferred method because of its high visibility. A more extreme version of rotational grazing is called mob grazing.

Mob grazing is a process where cattle are confined by electrically fencing in small areas so they will clean all the forage in that small paddock. This also allows the cattle to clean most of the weeds as well as the forage. Make sure the cattle have plenty of free-choice minerals and a good supply of clean water while using this method of rotational grazing, and rotate the cattle as soon as forage is depleted in that paddock.

Left to right, handheld loppers help when you have short sections of limbs to clean back. Heavy-duty, anvil-style loppers can cut limbs up to 2 inches in diameter. The telescopic handles give that extra reach for overhead limbs that should be removed to prevent scratching the cab of your truck going down access roads.

Heavy-Duty Loppers

There are plenty of times around the farm when you need a good pair of loppers. The anvil-style loppers are my preferred tool when cleaning fence lines, clearing out shooting lanes or pruning the fruit trees in the yard. A pair of loppers is a handy tool to keep in the toolbox of your pickup for those times when you need to clear short sections of limbs and saplings that can get in the way when you are patching fence lines or don’t want the bulk of a chain saw for those smaller jobs.

There are even loppers with telescopic handles that can cut live limbs up to 2 inches thick and their expandable handles give longer reach when trimming limbs that might scratch the top of your truck on your farm’s access roads.

Best All-Around Lubricant

One of the best lubricants to keep on hand around the farm is 3-in-1 oil. This lubricant comes in a small can with a tiny spout that makes it ideal for oiling small working parts of a Leatherman tool or the workings of a small revolver. The working parts of a revolver can become stiff and slow to operate over time. A couple of drops with 3-in-1 oil will have the action of your pistol or small farm tools working smoothly.

I had a small, .38 caliber revolver that had sat in a drawer for a few years without use. I realized the action had become stiff and I wasn’t sure if the revolver would cycle through to the next round because of age and non-use. After I put a few drops of 3-in-1 oil in all the working parts, the pistol began working like it should with a smooth action.

This June, if you see evil, do something about it. Be vigilant, watch out for your neighbors and, if you see something going wrong or see someone inflicting evil on another, confront it or at least alert the authorities. Albert Einstein was a brilliant man, but I’m sure he wished he could have done more to confront the evil perpetrated by Hitler.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

A Statesman ... a Patriot ... and a Farmer

Greenville’s Eric Cates Jr. is respected and admired across the state for his many years of leadership and service.

Eric Cates Jr. in a pensive mood at an assisted-living facility in Greenville.

by Alvin Benn

Mention Eric Cates Jr. anywhere in Alabama and chances are his name is held in high regard by farmers, military officials and political leaders.

He’s never been known as a self-promoter or someone given to mounting soap boxes to issue pronouncements on daily issues.

He’s just done his job in a quiet, measured way without making waves – the mark of a true leader.

His numerous accomplishments have been thoroughly documented. They speak for themselves and those who know him gladly step forward to honor him.

Cates’ personal scorecard is amazing and, at the age of 98, he’s enjoying his deep twilight years reading to his heart’s content in an assisted-living facility in Greenville.

Farming was his main contribution to Alabama through the decades, but he put that aside when duty called during World War II and Korea. He saw his share of combat.

He’s also been a respected political leader and that’s saying a lot considering the career-ending embarrassments of those without the honor and integrity he possesses.

Cates’ leadership abilities are what set him apart from so many others who aspire to higher callings, but who lack a key ingredient to lasting popularity. It’s called respect.

"Eric has always been a straight arrow, a statesman and someone I could rely on for counsel when we were in the Legislature at the same time," said John McMillan, commissioner of Alabama’s Department of Agriculture and Industries.

One of the many honors he’s received in recent years has been his induction into the Alabama Agriculture Hall of Honor, a coveted award announced by the Auburn University Agricultural Alumni Association.

Cates’ family operates a Century Farm that has gradually grown from a few hundred acres to nearly 2,000 since its inception in 1818 – one year before statehood was bestowed on Alabama. That means it won’t be long before the family can claim double-century recognition.

In addition to his agriculture accomplishments, Cates also became known throughout the state for his service in the Alabama House of Representatives.

One of his most important pieces of legislation was co-sponsoring current use property tax valuation. It was one of several bills he either introduced himself or joined in with other House colleagues.

Born in the Searcy community 7 miles north of Greenville, Cates learned the importance of farming at an early age – handling mules, as well as corn and cotton production.

By the time he was 14, he had become a full-fledged farm hand, as he likes to point out. His family farm included four mules. One pair named Jim and George. The other two were Amos and Andy. Amos was his personal responsibility.

Lt. Eric Cates Jr. during World War II.

World War II began in Europe in 1939 and, as America prepared for its eventual involvement, Cates had already enlisted in the Army. His military specialty was field artillery and forward observer duties.

After the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, Cates’ unit participated in the Aleutian Island campaign. Japanese troops had taken control of the U.S. territory after Dec. 7, 1941, but few survived once the United States entered the war and soldiers confronted them.

"They chose to die rather than surrender," said Cates, who entered the Army as a private and retired as a full colonel by the time he completed his active duty and National Guard careers.

As WWII was drawing to a close, Cates’ artillery unit boarded a ship headed for Japan in what was anticipated to be a bloody invasion. Then, the news broke that Japan had surrendered unconditionally.

"Our ship had just gone under the Golden Gate Bridge when we heard about the dropping of the atomic bomb," he said.

His war experiences were not over yet. Five years later, he was headed for Korea where another war raged.

His artillery unit was called up in 1951 and Cates has never forgotten that tour of duty because every day was a combat day.

"We relieved a unit that had been there for a while," he recalled.

His unit was lucky. It didn’t lose anybody at the bloody Punch Bowl campaign.

Eric and Louise Cates were married in 1945 shortly after the end of WWII. Louise died in 2013.

Fate stepped into his life in a good way during WWII when his artillery unit was transferred to Fort Bragg and Cates learned about a Saturday night reception and decided to go.

There she was – a stunning beauty named Louise Braswell who had been serving as a hostess. He couldn’t get her out of his mind after they met.

"I just knew she was the one for me," he said, breaking into a big smile as he relaxed in an easy chair. "We had to be introduced first and that was no problem."

They exchanged vows on May 6, 1945, just as WWII was ending. Their marriage lasted nearly 69 years. Louise died three years ago.

By the time he had completed the military phase of his public service, he had two wars under his belt and had served 35 years with the National Guard and the regular Army. When he appeared in uniform, he proudly wore the insignia of a bird colonel.

Cates was happy to get back to his farm in Butler County where, over the years, he managed a big operation focusing on row crops, hogs, cattle, hay and timber. At one point, he also served as ASCS County Executive Director for 15 years.

Politics came next and he easily proved his abilities in that arena as he shifted from one job to another without missing a beat.

He hadn’t planned to run, but, when the incumbent announced he wasn’t going to run for a third term in the State House, Cates pitched his hat into the ring and was elected to the first of two terms.

"I thought politics would be interesting and it was," he said. "I knew I could still run the farm without much of a problem since I had been doing it for most of my life."

His legislative career was filled with accomplishments. His many responsibilities included chairmanship of the House Military Affairs Committee and service on the Banking Committee’s Ways and Means Committee.

Two of the bills he introduced or supported included transferring education support personnel, including bus drivers and lunchroom workers, into the Alabama Retirement System so they could be eligible for cost-of-living pay increases.

Another important bill was to change the timing of corporation tax payments, something that increased education revenues by millions of dollars.

Eric Cates Jr., 98, with his daughter Jean Blackmon.

Education has been the glue that’s held the Cates family together. The patriarch may not have gone to college but his descendants have. They have earned more than 20 advanced degrees through the years.

"Dad’s always valued a college education," said daughter Jean Blackmon, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University. "He is well-read and has never stopped learning."

Eric Cates III is constantly amazed at his father’s accomplishments and is happy to talk about him and his sterling example of fatherhood.

"Early on he set realistic goals he wanted to achieve in his life and he’s been able to accomplish all of them," said his son, who is a commercial banker. "He’s proud of what he’s been able to do, but not nearly as proud as his children and grandchildren are of him."

At last count, he’s doted on four children, 11 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. He’s happy to point out that there’s also one on the way.

He’s been president, director or member of numerous altruistic organizations including the Kiwanis Club, 4-H Foundation Hall of Fame, Butler County Historical Society and the Greenville-Butler County Chamber of Commerce.

In 1977, Cates was named Greenville’s Man of the Year, received a Spirit of Greenville Award and was grand marshal of the Greenville Christmas Parade. He also was honored with selection as a Paul Harris Fellow.

When he was able to get around a lot easier than he can today, he couldn’t get his day started without attending a session of the Greenville Coffee Club. He joined in 1958 and rarely missed a meeting.

"We’d have birthday parties and provide breakfast at that time for members," he said. "The honoree would be responsible for buying the breakfast."

All in all, Eric Cates Jr. has had quite a life and whenever he reflects about it he makes sure he includes wonderful in it.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Achieving Zero Pharmaceutical Waste

Alabama Extension to hold first One Health Conference in June.

Press Release from Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs will host the first SerPIE One Health Conference on Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products June 19-21, 2016, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Huntsville. The theme is "Utilizing a One Health Approach to Achieve Zero Pharmaceutical Waste."

The One Health Conference is an interdisciplinary initiative bringing experts together in the areas of human, animal and environmental health to discuss current research and Extension activities being undertaken to minimize societal and environmental impacts of PPCPs. It will offer an array of dynamic keynote speakers, presentations, exhibits and opportunities to discuss current PPCP issues.

Urban Affairs is hosting this event in partnership with the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, as well as Tennessee State University, Kentucky State University, the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the University of Illinois Extension and the 1890 Universities Water Center.

General registration for the entire event is $200 per participant, includes selected meals, breaks and the reception Sunday, June 19. Participants will also receive a digital copy of the One Health Conference Proceedings. Students, farmers and special partners may attend the entire Conference for $75. Please review the One Health Conference brochure at for a complete breakdown of registration costs and for general conference information.

This event is a part of the ACES’s Synergistic Efforts to Reduce Pharmaceuticals in the Environment Initiative that aims to achieve zero pharmaceutical waste. Primary funding for the One Health Conference is provided by ACES and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Capacity Building Project #230670.

The Conference Planning Committee is currently seeking abstract submissions for oral or poster presentations. To be considered for placement in the program, please visit the Conference website for instructions. For general information, please contact Dr. Karnita Garner at 256-372-8331 or Dr. Paul Okweye at 256-372-4931.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Applications sought for rural broadband grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it is soliciting applications for grants to establish broadband in unserved rural communities through its Community Connect program. The deadline for either paper or electronic submissions is June 17.

Community Connect is administered by USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not economically viable for private sector firms to provide service.

"Through Community Connect and our other telecommunications programs, USDA helps to ensure rural residents have access to broadband to run businesses, get the most from their education and benefit from the infinite services that fast, reliable broadband provides," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

USDA plans to award up to $11.7 million in grants through the Community Connect grant program. The agency has invested $160 million in over 240 projects to bring broadband to unserved rural communities since the program was created in 2002.

The minimum grant is $100,000 for fiscal year 2016. The maximum award is $3 million. USDA announced new rules in 2013 to better target Community Connect grants to areas where they are needed the most. To view the rules, go to

Prior Community Connect grants cannot be renewed. However, existing Community Connect awardees may submit applications for new projects that USDA will evaluate as new applications.

Nearly 61 percent of food dollar goes to three industry groups

With total food-away-from-home expenditures of U.S. consumers, businesses and government entities surpassing at-home food sales since 2014, the 32.7 cent foodservices share of the U.S. food dollar claimed by restaurants and other eating-out places probably comes as no surprise.

When that share is added to the 15.3 percent accounted for by food processors and 12.9 percent that goes to grocery stores and other food retailers, the total share of these three groups is 60.9 percent, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.

As the foodservices segment has grown, the food dollar shares of retailers and processors have declined. The percentage going to retailers is at its lowest level since 2002 while food processing’s share is down 2.1 cents since 2009.

ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the value added, or cost contributions, from 12 industry groups in the food-supply chain. Annual shifts in food dollar shares between industry groups occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from the mix of foods consumers purchase to relative input costs.

One bright spot is that a growing share of the food dollar has gone to farmers and ranchers, up 1.7 cents since 2009 to 10.4 cents in 2014.

Auburn University receives USDA nanotechnology research grant

Auburn is one of 11 universities that have received USDA grants totaling over $5.2 million to support nanotechnology research.

The universities will research ways nanotechnology can be used to improve food safety, enhance renewable fuels, increase crop yields, manage agricultural pests and for other purposes. The awards were made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the nation’s premier competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences.

With its funding, Auburn proposes to improve pathogen monitoring throughout the food-supply chain by creating a user-friendly system that can detect multiple foodborne pathogens simultaneously, accurately, cost effectively and rapidly.

Others receiving grants include the University of Georgia, Mississippi State University, Clemson University in South Carolina, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Milk cow numbers, production on the rise

The number of milk cows in the United States was up slightly in 2015, reaching 9.3 million, about equal to the number in 2008.

At the same time, improving technology and genetics have allowed milk output per cow to rise steadily, increasing by 88 percent since 1980 and reaching a record-high annual average of 22,393 pounds of milk per cow in 2015.

The result has been strong growth in U.S. milk production over the period corresponding to growing domestic and international markets for dairy products, particularly for cheese and various dairy-based food ingredients.

The size of the U.S. dairy herd reached an historic low of just over 9 million cows in 2004, following a long-term decline of over 2 million head since 1983. Over the past decade, the herd size has grown slightly by an average of 0.3 percent per year.

Dairy program modified for growth in family farms

USDA has announced that dairy farms participating in the Margin Protection Program can now update their production history when an eligible family member joins the operation. The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, protects participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below levels of protection selected by the applicant.

The change not only helps to strengthen a family dairy operation, it also helps new dairy farmers get started in the family business and ensures that safety net coverage remains available for these growing farms, USDA officials said.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency has published a final rule making the changes effective.

Any dairy operation already enrolled in the MPP and that had an intergenerational transfer occur will have an opportunity to increase the dairy operations production history during the 2017 registration and annual coverage election period.

The next election period begins July 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2016. For intergenerational transfers on or after July 1, notification must be made to the FSA within 60 days of purchasing the additional cows. Each participating dairy operation is authorized one intergenerational transfer at any time of its choosing until 2018.

Meat, poultry exports expected to increase

U.S. red meat and poultry exports are expected to rise during the next decade as steady global economic growth supports demand for high-quality animal protein.

A strengthening U.S. dollar, coupled with poultry trade restrictions related to highly pathogenic avian influenza, led to a reduction in U.S. meat and poultry exports in 2015, but longer-term trends should reverse the decline in coming years – according to USDA trade experts.

Poultry is the largest U.S. meat export category, and broiler export growth is expected to resume within the next decade with strong near-term gains reflecting a rebound from HPAI-related import restrictions. China and Mexico are major U.S. broiler export markets.

Pork exports are projected to continue rising, with Pacific Rim nations and Mexico among the key growth markets.

U.S. beef exports are projected to grow as well, consisting mostly of high-quality grain-fed beef shipped to Mexico, Canada and Pacific Rim nations.

China leads world in apple production

Apples are produced commercially in over 90 countries worldwide, with annual combined global production of about 80 million metric tons.

China is the world’s largest producer, accounting for nearly half the global output and producing nearly 10 times the volume of the United States that produces the world’s second largest apple crop.

China’s large production volume is supported by the country’s vast production area. However, U.S. yields are nearly double the average achieved in China.

Area expansion in China has slowed during the past decade, but per-hectare yields have improved, aiding the country’s production increases.

Organic operations continue to rise

USDA statistics show a significant increase in the number of certified organic operations, continuing the trend of double-digit growth in that sector.

According to new data, there are now 21,781 certified organic operations in the United States and 31,160 around the world.

"Organic food is one of the fastest-growing segments of American agriculture," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, the USDA organic seal has become a leading global standard."

According to data released by the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program, the number of domestic certified organic operations increased by almost 12 percent between 2014 and 2015, representing the highest growth rate since 2008 and an increase of nearly 300 percent since the count began in 2002.

The total retail market for organic products is now valued at over $39 billion in the United States and over $75 billion worldwide.

Agricultural Entrepreneurs

Zack Smith and Trey Colley may be young, but their farming business is already off to a great start.

Zack Smith and Trey Colley are ready to deliver some watermelons.

by Cindy Boyd

Zack Smith is currently a senior at Auburn University studying Agricultural Economics. Zack is also an agricultural entrepreneur.

Rewinding back to high school, Zack began working with his Uncle Paul when he was in the ninth grade. Paul Smith is the owner and operator of Smith Farms that is primarily a row crop operation in Montevallo. Zack had been working on the farm a couple of years when he began selling produce at the local farmers’ market. Soon after, Paul offered Zack the use of his land and equipment to start up his own business of selling produce locally.

While at football practice one day, Zack approached his good friend Trey Colley about working with him to start up this produce division at the farm. So a partnership began. Their junior and senior years of high school, Zack and Trey would work growing their vegetables. They planted okra, sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, green beans, pink eyed peas, purple hull peas, cantaloupe and watermelon. The two boys sold their produce to the local grocery store, community friends and at the local farmers’ market.

When Zack and Trey graduated from high school, they were both accepted to Auburn University. Zack began working toward his Ag Econ degree and Trey began studying Biosystems Engineering. Both are currently research assistants for Auburn University’s Soil and Agronomy Department.

Even with their current jobs and schedules, Zack and Trey have continued and expanded their business. They are using their profits to help pay for their college and living expenses. They now sell bulk to some local farmers, work three farmers’ markets and sell to the local grocery store. Zack said they are growing much more sweet corn, their best seller.

Zack’s sister, Kayla Smith, a graduate of Word of Life Bible Institute and soon to be student at Ohio Christian University, helps at the farmers’ markets. Trey’s sister, Emily Colley, a graduate of Word of Life Bible Institute and a current student at Auburn University, also helps with selling at the farmers’ markets along with selling her delicious fruit cobblers. The two sisters have been helping since they were in high school.

Left, family and friends help during the growing season. Above, Zack Smith and Trey Colley at one of the three farmers’ markets where they sell produce.

Trey’s younger brother, Clay, has been working for the business since he was in middle school.

All of these brothers and sisters are past or present members of their schools’ FFA chapter. Smith Farms Produce division even employs a few friends to help out when the crops come in.

Trey graduated May 2016 and Zack will graduate fall 2016. Trey will be heading to Ohio State for graduate school.

These boys were given an opportunity at a young age and were disciplined enough to work hard, overcome hardships (yes ... farming is hard work and dependent on nature) and turn a gift into a successful business. These boys are now men who are on their way to making a living in the agricultural industry and to making a difference by continuing to learn about the field they have been involved with since they were kids. These men are making their future and, no doubt, will have continued success.

This year, Zack and Trey are adding to their operation by offering a monthly CSA box that rotates seasonal produce at a set monthly fee. Check out their Facebook page, Smith Farms Produce Division, for more information or you can contact Zack at 205-215-9997. You can also visit them at the Alabaster, Montevallo and Mt. Laurel Farmers’ Markets.

Cindy Boyd is a freelance writer from Montevallo.

All Is Not Lost

by Stephen Donaldson

I have noticed, as I age, time does seem to pass more rapidly. Events seem to come and go with increasing speed. One such event that seems to be marching toward us with increasing momentum is the Veterinary Feed Directive, the act removing the use of humanly important antibiotics in the food chain. Well, it doesn’t entirely remove them, but ensures they are used more judiciously.

As I have formulated rations over the years, I have witnessed in some operations some antibiotics not used in the most judicious fashion. They had become a crutch and producers had replaced good management practices with the overuse of antibiotics. You need to understand that these important antibiotics haven’t been taken from us; they will just be regulated more closely to ensure they are used properly. This new law is very important to the Food and Drug Administration and Congress because they feel it will significantly decrease the growing number of bacteria that are becoming more resistant to these antibiotics.

I strongly encourage all livestock producers to develop a strong relationship with a qualified veterinarian. This veterinarian needs to have a complete working knowledge of the VFD law. The veterinarian will be your key – and only key – to using these medically important antibiotics in your operation. Therefore, these antibiotics can still be used, but their use will be monitored by the veterinarian.

Many producers view these changes as negatively impacting them. However, it could improve the efficiency and profitability of their operation. But, we don’t need to forget that some antibiotics medically important to livestock producers will be unaffected. One such class is ionophores. Ionophores are critically important to several species of livestock that are fed to be meat products for human consumption.

These antibiotics are most commonly used in poultry, cattle, small ruminant and rabbit production. They are important in controlling unwanted bacteria in the digestive tracts of these species. The control of these bacteria aids in improving growth and feed efficiency. These drugs are very useful in controlling coccidiosis. These bacteria can be very detrimental to performance and even cause death if left untreated.

Ionophores in cattle production tend to improve feed efficiency by as much as 10 percent. This improvement is also associated with growth improvement by about 5 percent. This, along with coccidiosis control, makes these antibiotics important in cattle production. In cattle, the ionophores shift volatile fatty acid production so that more proprionic acid is produced. Proprionic acid is the most energy-laden of the volatile fatty acids produced by the bacteria present in the rumen. Therefore, this shift in VFA production leads to more efficient growth.

In monogastrics, ionophores are primarily used for the control of coccidiosis. In these species, coccidiosis can be very detrimental to efficient production. Heavy coccidiosis infestations can also cause higher morbidity and mortality in these species.

Ionophores are primarily administered in the feed in monogastrics, but can be also be administered in minerals or in high- or low-moisture tubs to ruminants. Ionophores are especially toxic to horses, so if you decide to use an ionophore be sure to not allow any equine access to these products.

The industry is worried about the implementation of the VFD law because many people think it will prohibit them from using antibiotics. In reality, this law only touches those medically important for humans. In fact, we in animal agriculture still have access to those antibiotics; we will just be required to use them more judiciously.

As you make decisions concerning the feeding options in your operation, consider using one of these antibiotics to help improve the growth and efficiency of your livestock. In addition to improving growth, these antibiotics also improve the overall digestive health of your animals. As always, read the feed labels and only feed these products as directed. I encourage you to use every option available to ensure the profitability of your operation.

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

Beach Vacation? Don't Forget Your Net and Bucket!

R.J. Rhodes, author’s father, is harvesting scallops on foot without swimming or snorkeling.

June is scallop season for our coastal neighbors.

by Christy Kirk

Rolley Len and Cason have long had a fascination with cooking shows on television. Rolley Len never took a second look at a TV until one day she spotted Rachel Ray on the screen. The colorful kitchen and storytelling had her hooked. Cason might not have become interested in cooking if it wasn’t for Helen Cavallo’s quick, healthy eating "That’s Fresh!" segments interjected between his nighttime cartoons. He would be almost asleep (I thought) and he would holler through the house for me to come watch Cavallo make chocolate mousse out of avocados.

Over the last year, Rolley Len and Cason have become more and more intrigued by the cooking competitions on TV. They watch the contestants closely to see what recipes the chefs come up with, how each overcomes obstacles in the kitchen and who the kids think will be cut next.

There are a lot of great reasons for your children to watch any of these shows. First, they encourage your children to try familiar ingredients in new creative ways or to try new foods to encourage variety. They also learn about nutrition and balancing their plates and diets. Children will develop a curiosity about food and cooking that can awaken a desire to learn more about science, nature and art because cooking has all of these components.

Rolley Len and Cason are very competitive, so it was just a matter of time before they started their own foodie competitions at home. Cason has been especially aware of elevating his personal fruit salad recipe. Each time he makes it, he adds or takes away an ingredient or adjusts the amounts. He constantly reminds me that when he goes on "Chopped Junior," he will be making this special salad.

Over Christmas break this past year, the kids competed in a home-style version of "Chopped Junior" at my parents’ house. Each of them made a fruit, pudding and cake-filled trifle to be taste-tested by their Nana and Pawpaw. All the ingredients were laid out, instructions were given, the timer was set and they started working diligently on their creations. So far I have been lucky the kids mostly want to create desserts or fruit salads, but I am sure it won’t be long before they move on to side dishes and entrees.

One night, Cason and I were watching one of the shows together and the main ingredient for the challenge was scallops. He perked up and started talking about what ingredients they chose from the pantry shelves and how they were preparing the scallops. I just knew he was going to ask me to bring some home for him to cook. To my relief, he fell asleep before placing his order for seafood.

Not long after that my parents came to visit and we were talking about the children cooking more often. I mentioned the scallops and to my surprise my dad said it was almost scallop season in Florida. The season starts in June and the harvest zone is along the Gulf Coast, including destinations such as Port St. Joe. My father said you just need a net, a bucket and, if you want, snorkeling gear. For the cost of a fishing license and a few supplies, we could easily and inexpensively bring home our own scallops for our next meal instead of paying up to $15 or more at a market.

On our next trip to the beach, I will be taking Rolley Len and Cason scalloping with my parents. They already love to fish so I can only imagine how excited they will be gathering scallops from the sea. We will also have to have our own seafood-themed "Chopped Junior" while we are there. I can’t wait to see what they come up with all on their own.

There are rules and regulations. If you and your family decide to try scalloping, be sure to check the website or ask your local wildlife authorities. Also, the red tide last fall may have affected scallop breeding season negatively enough to change the dates and weight limits for the 2016 harvest season.

Here are some easy recipes that even your kids can make with a little help.


½ pound sea scallops
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, finely minced (can be jarred)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Lightly grease a 1-quart baking dish. Place scallops in dish. In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Crumble mixture over scallops. Bake at 425° for about 15 minutes or until scallops are opaque and crumble is golden.

Easy Seared Scallops


Scallops, cut into small pieces
Kerry garlic
Herb butter

In a large skillet, sear scallops with garlic and herb butter. Squeeze lemon on top after they are done.


1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
4 large scallops
Parsley, chopped, to taste
Basil, chopped, to taste
1 small shallot or onion, chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons milk (not skim)
Lemon, to taste

In a large thick skillet, put olive oil and butter. Heat on medium-high. Salt scallops and cut them into quarters, unless they are very small. When butter melts, put scallops in pan and sear until the sides are golden brown. Add parsley, basil and onions as desired. Lower heat to medium. Cover for a minute and allow to cook. Remove from pan and turn off burner. In pan with scallops, stir in heavy cream and milk. Heat on medium-low and cover for a minute. Squeeze lemon on top after serving.

Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus

What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Viruses are funny things – not humorous funny but more unique funny. You can’t see them with a normal microscope. They are not really living things, but I think they are mostly considered to be living – even though they don’t necessarily meet all the qualifications to be an organism. Viruses are just a little strip of genetic material, RNA or DNA, covered by a protective coat. A virus requires cells from a host animal or plant to even replicate. What happens is really like a hostile takeover. Take a virus that causes the common cold, for example. The virus invades the cells of your upper respiratory tract, takes control of the cells and forces the cells to produce bunches of new virus particles. This damages the cells of your upper respiratory tract and generally makes you feel bad. There is a lot of other complicated stuff that goes on, but we won’t go into that in this article. In this column, I just want to focus on one of those viruses that is a significant problem in the cattle industry. That is the bovine viral diarrhea virus. (By the way, the word virus has Latin origins going back to the 14th century and had the meaning of poisonous substance.)

The BVD virus was first associated with mucosal disease back in the early 1940s. Mucosal disease is a condition characterized by diarrhea, often bloody, followed by dehydration, loss of weight and death. In the past three-quarters of a century, we have gathered vast amounts of knowledge about the virus. But it seems for each question we answer two or three new ones are asked. The answered questions tend to show that BVD is likely more prevalent than we had thought in the past. When I was in college, they were beginning to make some decent strides toward finding persistently infected calves that were the reservoirs keeping the virus out there in such numbers. Hopefully by the time you finish reading this article, you will appreciate the significance of persistently infected calves and the potential for sizeable negative economic impact on the cattle industry.

I have always heard that the difference between a recession and a depression is all about perspective. If your neighbor loses his or her job, it is a recession. If you lose your job, it is a depression. I think the same thinking applies when it comes to BVD in cattle. If someone else has to deal with it, it is an economic setback. If you have it in your herd or stocker operation, it is financially devastating. Last year, when the cattle market was at historic highs, some of our lab folks told me about some producers dealing with BVD. I would have to say, if I had been them, that I would have at least lost sleep over the problem.

There was a stocker grower having an outbreak of pneumonia and he was losing the battle most of the time. After losing six or eight of his $1,200-a-head stockers, the lab got involved and found that he had a persistently infected calf in the group.

Another producer lost four calves that were either stillborn or died a day or so after birth. The producer took loss No. 4 to the lab and found it was a PI calf.

Dr. Terry Slaten, at the Hanceville Lab, tells me that he is now able to present a little bit of a positive side to having BVD in the herd when he informs the producer. He says the bright side is that the producer’s potential loss is quite a bit less this year since the cattle market has dropped. I am not sure how consoling that is to a producer losing calves.

I want to say a little about PI calves and why they cause so many problems. PI calves are a result of a cow being exposed to a certain strain of the BVD virus while the calf in her womb at 40-120 days of development. That is significant because the calf’s immune system is not yet developed. So, if the virus moves in and is established in the calf’s body before the immune system develops, the immune system thinks the virus is just part of the calf – like its ears, tail or heart. Most of these calves die in the womb or do not live long after they are born. However, there are a small percentage of these calves that live. Some of these PI calves are poor doers. A very few of them may not appear to be sick for a long time, although they usually get mucosal disease and die by the time they are 2 years old.

One problem coming with PI calves is that they shed millions of virus particles in every body fluid they produce. That becomes a huge problem with cattle in feedlots because having a PI calf in a pen of other cattle exposes them to constant high numbers of the virus. Even if the other calves in the pen do not get clinically ill, they will not perform nearly as well since their immune systems are working overtime because of the constant bombardment from the virus.

Many of the PI calves that live long enough eventually get mucosal disease, as I mentioned earlier. We have found exposure to the PI calves result in reproductive problems in the brood cow herd and severe suppression of the immune system, leaving the cattle susceptible to any number of other diseases. At the very least, exposed cattle do not gain weight and perform to their potential. So if you are unlucky enough to have a PI calf in you pasture, the downside possibilities are numerous. The upside possibilities are … well, zero.

We have reactivated a BVD working group that involves several entities in the veterinary and cattle industry to see what can be done to reduce the number of PI calves in the industry. I intend to have more information in future columns about the progress and direction of this working group. In Europe, BVD is a regulated disease. Some states in the United States are developing their own regulations to take PI calves out of commerce. We are not necessarily on that track, but are looking at ways to help the industry deal with and reduce the negative impact caused by BVD PI calves. Stay tuned.

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

Corn Time



FFA Sentinel: A Glimpse of the Past

by James Chamness

Beginning with the Smiths-Hughes Vocational Education Act of 1917 and the formation of the Future Farmers of America nationally in 1928, FFA has had a long-standing tradition of being the country’s premier youth leadership and stewardship organization. Sometimes, however, one must stop and look back to regain focus on the future. To understand where we are going, we must look to those who have gone before us and to those who have built the traditions for which we hold an inborn fondness.

As you read through this article, my hope is that you think fondly on the memories of your time in FFA or as a youngster on the family farm. If you are a current FFA member, my hope is that you enjoy looking back in time and you ask your parents, grandparents or maybe great-grandparents about what it was like when they were your age.

FFA members tour a greenhouse in May 1952. (Credit: All photos from FFA’s archives)

For many years, especially in the first 40 years of the Alabama FFA Association, chapter reporters would send in tidbits on the happenings of the local chapters. We continue that tradition today via articles such as this. We also have social media and several other publications both online and in hard copy where FFA members can share the great things their chapters are participating in.

Come with me, if you will, on a journey through time, back to the goings-on of Alabama FFA chapters of yesteryear. Some of these chapters still remain active today with similar projects. Below are a few of the chapter reports as printed in the April-May 1952 issue of the AlabamaFutureFarmer magazine.

Albertville – Members made two radio transcriptions that were presented on the local station WAVU, the chapter has 20 boys feeding out 108 hogs and one member was presented the 100 Bushel Corn Club certificate.

Ashville – Hosted the FFA tournament, has six new members, gave an assembly program, initiated 17 Green Hands, rebuilding shop tables, growing out 250 broilers in the basement of the vocational agriculture building, and participated in and won second place in the county public speaking contest.

Baker Hill – Bought a pig to feed out on lunchroom scraps and corn donated by members to finance the chapter, entered the Duroc Picture Judging contest, planted pine trees on the school campus, held a county speaking contest, put a FFA bulletin board in the main school building during FFA Week, 18 members ordered and received official FFA ties, 13 members put in orders for 35,000 bicolor lespedeza seedlings, and the chapter entered ProgressiveFarmer and FarmandRanch magazines subscription drives with three newspaper articles published.

Belgreen – Purchased new shop equipment, initiation is planned for new members, had one member accepted into the 100 Bushel Corn Club, dairy judging teams have begun visiting farms throughout the county, initiated 11 Green Hands, electing FFA Sweetheart, Father-Son-Mother-Daughter Barbecue planned and has five new members.

Citronelle – Elected and honored FFA Sweetheart, increased membership by six, held public speaking contest for the chapter, making plans for a joint FFA-FHA oyster supper, bought two registered Duroc gilts to start Pig Chain, ordered 14,000 bicolor lespedeza seedlings, and entered the Mobile County FFA Public Speaking and Quartet contests to be held in February – quartet won first place and put on an assembly program for the high school.

Crossville – Ordered and received rat poison, ordered 15,000 quail feed plants, organized a quartet, preparing speeches for public speaking contest, ordered one FFA jacket, ordered Green Hand pins, feeding hogs lunchroom scraps, ordered and received 9,000 pine seedlings, and bought five more pigs to top out.

Danville – Every member of a vocational agriculture class was made a FFA member – initiated 21 new members – and fed out pigs from lunchroom scraps to pay for a bus.

Bear Creek FFA members exhibit their registered hogs circa 1951.

Douglas – Plan to enter 50 hogs in Sand Mountain Hog Show, received royalty for distributing FFA calendars, attended county meeting, entered county public speaking and quartet contests, and put on a radio program and making plans for another one.

Five Points – Held an FFA ice cream social and annual FFA rabbit hunt, held class eliminations and chapter finals of FFA speaking contest, organized a quartet, won Chambers County Speaking and Quartet contests, and set out 22,000 bicolor lespedeza seedlings.

Flomaton – Started a rat control program, held a chapter public speaking elimination, elected FFA Sweetheart, published two issues of Korny Kob, and ordered 39,000 bicolor lespedeza plants and 13,500 pine seedlings.

Geraldine – Sold hogs and bought pigs, made a cooperative fruit tree order, bought corn seed cooperatively and ordered rat poison cooperatively.

Gorgas – Plan to buy a camera, planting bicolor lespedeza seedlings, built 30 table lamps in shop and planning a joint banquet with FHA.

Grant – Erected chapter signs; received official FFA calendars sponsored by Roebuck Tractor Company in Albertville; president, who is also county president, went to Birmingham; chapter put on two radio programs during National FFA Week; have 32 new pigs on the school farm; called special meeting and initiated four new members; and distributed 50 pounds of rat poison.

Hazel Green – Built shop and classroom tables and new type wall lockers for the shop, held FFA Sweetheart contest, Pig Chain increased to seven pigs, and sold candy and cushions at basketball games.

Headland – A member won Henry County Public Speaking contest and represented Henry County in trip to Birmingham, quartet automatic winner of county contest and achievement day to be held in Headland.

Isabella – Forty-four members entered public speaking contest, bought new tools for shop, ordering fruit trees cooperatively, two pigs in Pig Chain farrowed seven pigs each, and making plans to enter dairy, beef and hog judging contests.

Jackson – Held public speaking contest, repainted part of a classroom, ordered rat poison, all classes reviewed and took test on "Know Your FFA," and making plans for district contests.

Livingston – Held chapter public speaking contest with 22 members participating, set out 4,000 pine seedlings, put on assembly program, members are working on supervised farming programs and made $62 operating FFA store.

Lyeffion – Forty-three members participated in chapter public speaking contest, started pruning shrubbery around the agriculture building, chapter received 23,500 pine and cedar seedlings, and built hog pen.

McAdory – Set out 7,000 seedlings, quartet practicing, held chapter speaking contest, distributed FFA calendars to members, 47 members with improved home gardens, 12 members putting out bicolor lespedeza, elected Sweetheart and having beef judging team practice.

Maplesville – Initiated 15 Green Hands; 14 pigs farrowed this month; added two registered Duroc gilts to Pig Chain; and have 42 boys carrying 99 productive projects, 69 improvement projects and 178 supplementary projects.

New Brockton – Members ordered and planted 150 fruit trees, building tables in shop, sponsoring the LeFeure Trio with little Troy Lumpkin and members planted 4,000 pine seedlings.

New Hope – Elected FFA Sweetheart, placed FFA road signs at both entrances to town, organized county FFA, selling chances on a Yorkshire pig coming from the FFA Yorkshire Pig Chain and planning rat killing campaign.

Oakman – Held two meetings, held public speaking and quartet contests, appointed membership drive committee, Jr. III boys worked on shop projects, and organized dairy and beef judging teams.

Orrville – Elected chapter Sweetheart, boys put in a sidewalk from school building to new vocational building, flagpole and flag installed out front of the main school building, and a member won the county speaking contest.

Paint Rock Valley – Held two officer meetings, now feeding a total 28 hogs for the market, elected Queen to enter the Tri-State contest in Chattanooga and elected treasurer for county organization.

FFA members exhibit the Champion and Reserve Champion at the 1952 Huntsville Fat Stock Show.

Phil Campbell – Set out 25,000 pine seedlings; held two meetings; attended Hereford sale; planning to enter beef, dairy and hog judging, and radio and string band contests; and made $149.35 on county tournament.

Pine Apple – Rat and mouse killing campaign underway, purebred gilt has been given to the chapter by Sears-Roebuck Foundation, erected sign for church as community project, putting up FFA welcome signs and won county quartet contest.

Ramer – Held chapter speaking contest, conducted assembly program and sanitation program, ordered fruit trees cooperatively and made plans for school nursery.

Reform – Added two new books to vocational agriculture’s library, observed National FFA Week, held elimination public speaking contest, seven members set out 7,000 pine seedlings, earned $24.50 in Ike and Mike contest, and cleared $40 on ad sales.

Rehobeth – Sold and delivered 50 satsuma trees, planning Father-Son-Mother-Daughter Banquet, string band played for party at Wicksburg, planted 7,500 pine and cedar seedlings, and all members entered public speaking contest.

Spring Garden – Sold 100 pounds of rat poison and successfully carried on a rat campaign, played four basketball games, planned Father-Son-Mother-Daughter Banquet, elected chapter Farmer and set out 15,000 bicolor lespedeza plants.

Siluria – Officers for year elected, elected FFA Queen, planning rat control program, and members have started a total of 32 home vegetable gardens and seven have orchards for this year.

Tanner – Held chapter speaking contest, awarded gilt to public speaking winner, placed four gilts with members from Pig Chain, planning banquet, gave radio programs during National FFA Week and selling magazines.

Town Creek – Having welcome signs painted and will erect them soon, building mailbox posts according to FFA plans, planning to enter dairy and hog judging contests, purchased one official FFA jacket; planning to buy 11 Hereford heifers, chapter president to attend meeting in Birmingham, built two self-feeders and elected chapter Sweetheart.

Uriah – Planted 4,000 pine seedlings, ordered 42,000 bicolor lespedeza seedlings, attended county FFA meeting, participated in local campus improvement program and sold three top pigs.

Vina – Bought two cedar chests to sell to fund the Father-Son-Mother-Daughter Banquet, bought electric welder for department and organized string band.

Vincent – All members participated in speech contest, planning wiener-roast party, have erected road signs and planning on having a FFA booth at the State Fair.

West Point – Plan to enter two state sponsored contests, had a skating party, and initiated 16 Green Hands and 16 chapter Farmers.

Wetumpka – Received and displayed official banner, plan chapel program for FFA Week, showed film on rat control, displayed forest fire exhibit in town and on bulletin board, elected four honorary members and president attended meeting in Birmingham.

White Plains – Radio program and articles in paper during National FFA Week, building cabinets and shelves for Home Economics’ kitchen, bought new chapter banner for classroom and a member was elected Star Chapter Farmer.

Woodland – Six No. 1 hogs ready to sell from feeding project, planning to set shrubs around vocational ag building and making shop items to be given away at evening school meetings.

Remembering what it was like to farm and ranch and to have the desire to pass that knowledge on to the next generation is another tradition of FFA. For all of you reading this and thinking about the past, thank you for your part in this inspiring task we call FFA. As we look to the horizon, toward the rising sun and new era in agriculture, we see FFA as a bright spot for American agriculture.

A special thank-you to Philip Paramore, Alabama FFA Executive Secretary, for compiling the information from the 1952 Alabama Future Farmer publication featured in this article.

James Chamness is an education specialist in Agriscience Education with the Alabama Department of Education.

Finding God in the Barnyard

by Suzy Lowry Geno

You see it all the time on social media.

Someone’s kids had an awful wreck totaling their car, but walked away without a scratch. The overjoyed mama posts: "God is good all the time."

Someone else survives a massive heart attack and comes home from the hospital and is able to simply resume his normal life. He joyfully writes, "God is so good!"

There’s a big financial gain where there was once desolation, happiness follows months of sadness, joy springs forth.

There are slogans and memes on Facebook, encouraging words printed on tee shirts, even special vinyl letters cut out to go on your vehicle’s back windshield ....

And don’t get me wrong!

God has blessed me and this little farm exceedingly abundantly more than I would ever deserve! And I thank Him and praise Him daily for all those rich blessings!

But so many times when I see a Facebook post or even a Tweet, it makes me stop and think.

If the kids in the wreck were badly injured or even killed, does that make God bad?

If the friend or neighbor with the massive heart attack never even makes it to the ER before passing away, does that make God bad, too?

And what if you didn’t get that raise or your farm is foreclosed on no matter how hard you’ve worked and what you’ve tried to do, does that put God in the negative???

I’m no great theologian. I’m just a gray-haired, pudgy homesteader. But I do think too many times we are putting limits on God.

I wrote four years ago about how my heart changed as I was driving across the viaduct in Birmingham just before my husband Roy and I reached Kirklin Clinic and the nearby UAB Hospital.

We were going for an all-important PET scan to see if the months of chemotherapy and weeks of radiation had killed the cancer in his body.

I’d made the comment that if that test came back clear you might see me on the TV news that night from Birmingham, leaping and running across the sidewalks, praising God like an old-time country preacher!

But as we grew nearer our destination and nearer time for that all-important test, my heart was greatly conflicted.

There was no doubt in my mind that I would have indeed been shouting from the mountaintops if that test had come back showing the cancer was gone.

But the simple message I realized as I drove on toward that sandy-colored brick building was that I should be willing to praise God ALL the time, no matter what the tests results were because we had already been blessed beyond measure in our lives.

I didn’t say anything to Roy, but I was thoroughly chastised. And I haven’t forgotten that lesson.

It’s a religious debate that goes back as far as Job in older times. Why do good people suffer? Why do so many bad things happen in life? Why are some people miraculously healed when others who appear to have even more faith are allowed to suffer and die?

I guess living on a farm or homestead makes a lot of folks closer to life and death than if you simply live in the suburbs.

It seems, so far, most of 2016 has been a learning year for me. For somebody who doesn’t like to go to doctors because they’ll find something wrong with you and who puts up with lots of pain from a torn hamstring to a badly bruised hip without pain medications at home because of my allergies, I guess I was getting a little complacent.

But when I awoke in the early morning hours of Dec. 29, I was ready to see a doctor – ANY doctor – because I was in such pain.

A visit to the ER was followed by seeing a new specialist to treat kidney stones and other problems. And all seemed well again … then came March.

My youngest daughter and I got some sort of flu that lasted and lasted and lasted ... for more than two weeks I coughed until it seemed every part of my body was sore. There was no energy in spite of shots of steroids and more. I hadn’t felt this badly since I was a little girl and suffered through the old-time flu, measles and chickenpox!

Then there was another early morning trip to the ER, an ambulance ride to an out-of-county hospital and emergency surgery to remove a CLUMP of kidney stones! Yipes!

And while all this was going on, my little homestead kept right on moving forward as well.

Everyone knows my goats are my babies, no matter how old or how big they are.

Johnny-goat was one of my beloved pets who passed away when I was sick with the flu.

Johnny-goat’s twin sister died the same week Roy died, nearly four years ago.

But Johnny-goat hung on until I was suffering from the flu. I prayed he wouldn’t make it through the night because I didn’t want to see him suffer. I’d already made up my mind to call the vet in the morning if he was still with us.

He mercifully did pass away. But my daughter and I both were barely getting basic essential chores done because we were so sick. How would we bury a goat (a Nubian/Boar cross) that was the size of a horse?

A neighbor came to the rescue with a backhoe-looking contraption, easing that worry from my mind.

Then it seemed a whole passel of the guineas were determined to commit suicide by standing in the highway! My sweet little birds that we’d hatched in the incubator last year, that I’d raised in a pasteboard box with a heat lamp, and that I loved for their wacky lifestyle AND the fact they were keeping the snakes away!

During one day at the height of my flu I had to walk out into the highway and retrieve THREE guineas who met their demise at three different times!

I did not miss a single day tending to my animals during the entire five to seven years my husband was sick. I often did chores by flashlight in the mornings and then again by flashlight at night when we’d come back from his treatments.

But as I was in the throes of the flu AND THEN had to have emergency surgery for the kidney stones, I realized things were completely out of my hands. (Especially after the original ambulance ride, folks thought I might even be having a heart attack myself!)

But you know what?

If I’d had a heart attack and never made it to the hospital, God would have still been good!

Even when I was truly suffering pain that was pretty intense, God was still good!

You can argue theologies, religion and doctrines from now until doomsday, but you’ll never find all the answers. I don’t care if you read all the holy books of the world in their original languages and have diplomas covering your walls.

Some would even argue that all the trials, tribulations and tragedies of this world prove there is no God.

But even though this simple homesteader does not have all the answers, I do know this.

This week, a small game/Easter egger hen hatched six chicks in our dog’s pen. Those little bright balls of fluff don’t know anything but that their mama is there taking care of them.

There’s Scripture about God spreading His love out and sheltering us as a hen protects her babies.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even understand all the questions.

But this I know: whether I am here on this Earth or gone on to the next, I am sheltered and protected with God’s love just like those tiny chicks.

We may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but, in the long run, it will not matter because traveling through the valley is the best way to reach the mountaintop!

God IS good, ALL the time!

Suzy Lowry Geno lives a simple life at Old Field Farm in Blount County. Find her on Facebook at Old Field Farm General Store.

First Dance

by Baxter Black, DVM

I danced with another woman tonight
My wife didn’t seem to mind.
We took to the floor like a pair of swans
That fate forever entwined.

Leaving our wake through the dancers who flowed
Like notes in search of a song
We tested our two-step, tried out a waltz
and laughed when something went wrong!

I led and she followed, trusting each step,
Spurred by the beat of the band
Like birds taking wing the very first time,
It helps ... to hold someone’s hand.

Although I had known this woman before
I’d thought of her as a child
But there on the dance floor, arm ‘round her waist,
I found my heart was beguiled.

For her a window had opened. I was there,
I’m eternally glad.
The rest of my life I’ll remember
The first night she danced with her dad.

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,

How's Your Garden?

Young pines and other large conifers will grow in a container for a couple of years before they need to be moved to the ground.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Conifers in Containers

Once upon a time, Southerners thought conifers were primarily plants for Northern gardens. Today we know that many thrive in our climate, too, and are exceptional in containers where they adapt to missed waterings and cold winters. You can start with a young tree, grow it in a large decorative container for a year or two, and then later transplant it to the garden. Proven ones include Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii), mugo pine (Pinus mugo) and Hollywood juniper (Juniperus chinensis "Kaizuka"). On the opposite end of the height chart are ground covers such as shore juniper (Juniperus conferta) and Blue Rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis "Wiltonii") that stay low (12-18 inches) and spill over the side of a container. Yet most conifers you will see for sale are in-between-sized shrubs such as the popular cultivars of false cypress (Chamaecyparis) with golden threadleaf foliage such as Golden Mop, Gold Thread and Kings Gold that are particularly striking in containers. There are many cultivars of false cypress that vary in size, form and color. Many conifers tend to look alike, especially when young in nursery containers. As much as you may dislike using the scientific names of plants, they really help when trying to distinguish the conifers. Study as you shop, and hold on to plant tags with the names for a record if you should want to buy another plant later. For a good reference on which conifers grow well here try the book, "Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast," by Tom Cox of the Cox Arboretum in Canton, Georgia, and John Ruter of the University of Georgia. Both are experienced landscape professionals who have helped introduce Southerners to this once-mysterious group of plants.

Okra Is Heat Proof

One of the few summer veggies you can still plant from seed and enjoy many harvests before the end of the growing season is okra. Seeds planted now will bear fruit from late July until frost. Soak the seeds before planting and keep them moist; often slow to sprout in cool spring soils, okra seeds will respond more quickly now. Folks who really enjoy trying new things might want to look at the interesting assortment of heirloom varieties with pods of varying length, width and color. For an even faster start, Bonnie Plants also offers Clemson Spineless seedlings that are ready to transplant.

Great Big Ferns

Need something showy for the patio in a hurry? Get giant ferns. Sold in large containers or baskets, they are ready to hang as is or transplant into a big decorative pot. Look for them to be advertised or on sale now because this is their prime season. Kimberly Queen is an Australian fern whose country of origin is a good indicator of how rugged it can be in the garden. It is easiest to maintain in light shade, but will also grow in sun provided it gets regular watering. To keep it looking dark green, fertilize monthly with a water-soluble fertilizer containing micronutrients such as iron. Other big ferns are Boston fern, Dallas fern and macho fern. Macho fern can get 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. All of these appreciate light shade. To carry the ferns through winter for next spring, just cut back the fronds before freezing weather arrives in the fall and put them in a bright place that stays in the 40s or above. They will need to be watered occasionally to keep the roots from drying.

Zebra longwing is a tropical butterfly that may be found in Alabama during the summer.

A Summer Visitor

This unusual tropical butterfly, unmistakable with its long, artful wings, is a treat to see in the summer garden. Perhaps it has flown up from Florida where it is so common it was named the state butterfly! The adults feed on many flowers, with one of their favorites being lantana. They fly gracefully and slowly, often letting you approach and watch them up close in the garden. They lay eggs on passion vine that grows wild in many parts of Alabama. So keep your eyes open for this tropical butterfly, knowing that you’ve spotted a special visitor if it comes into your garden.

Squash vine borers destroy stems, most often at the base of the plants.

Are Your Squash Plants Okay?

Many times gardeners only get to pick squash once or twice before the plants suddenly begin wilting and die, leaving one wondering what they’ve done wrong. Usually the culprit is the squash vine borer moth that laid eggs on the stems of the plants weeks earlier, and now the caterpillars hatched from those eggs have burrowed into the stems. Once inside, they chew on plant tissues while hidden from sight until so much chewing is done that the plant is no longer able to sustain the stem when it suddenly wilts and dies. It’s impossible to control the pests once they are inside the plant. Some gardeners protect the vines with insecticide sprays on the underside of the leaves and stems as the young plants grow, but it is difficult to keep them thoroughly and consistently covered to avoid all damage. One way to avoid the pests is to grow butternut or green striped cushaw that the pests don’t seem to bother.

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


  • At the end of the month, gardeners can set out more tomato plants for a harvest this fall.
  • Continue planting warm-season vegetable crops such as beans, peas, squash, corn and cucumbers.
  • It’s not too late to reseed or over-seed your warm-season lawn. Be certain to keep newly seeded areas well-watered.
  • Direct-sow seeds of fast-growing annuals like marigolds, zinnias and cosmos directly in the garden.
  • 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.
  • Complete planting summer-flowering bulbs such as cannas, oriental lilies and dahlias.
  • Plant caladium and tuberous begonias in shady spots.
  • Foliage of daffodils has died back and you may divide and move the bulbs to a new spot. Daffodil clusters should be divided every three years to ensure good blooming.


  • Check vegetable foliage for signs of nutrient deficiency.
  • Side dress vegetables with a balanced fertilizer. Do not use nitrogen fertilizers on legumes.
  • Fertilize the lawn this month. Use a fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Heat is a key factor in the decomposition process. During the summer months, high temperatures can cause organic materials added to your garden for fertilization purposes to decompose and break down quicker. 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.


  • Deadhead the developing seed pods from your rhododendrons and azaleas to improve next year’s bloom. Be careful not to damage next year’s buds that may be hidden just below the pod.
  • Deadhead your annuals to encourage continued flowering. Pinch back any plants that might be getting a little leggy.
  • Pinch your chrysanthemums to encourage them to be bushier and have more blossoms. Pinch them again, every 6 inches or so, as they grow until mid-July.
  • 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.
  • Prune suckers and water sprouts from all fruit trees.
  • Be on the lookout for dead, damaged and diseased wood in trees and shrubs; prune them out as discovered.


  • 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 that will later help the plants tolerate dry weather.
  • Water lawns if there is less than 1 inch of rain per week.
  • Fix leaky hoses.
  • Adding mulch to flower beds and around garden plants will help the garden soil retain moisture during the hot months of June and July. There are various types of mulches to choose from including both organic and inorganic materials. Popular garden mulches include bark chips, weed-free grass clippings, stones, garden fabric or plastic, and straw.
  • Set up a rain barrel for irrigation.
  • Water early in the morning or in the evening rather than in the heat of the day.
  • As the weather dries out, your container-grown plants may need daily watering – especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight.
  • Incorporating a polymer such as Soil Moist at planting reduces watering.


  • 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.
  • Blossom-end rot, a relatively common garden problem, is not a disease but rather a physiological disorder caused by a calcium imbalance within the plant. Water stress can also attribute to blossom-end rot. This disorder can occur in eggplant, pepper, squash, cucumber and melon fruits as well as tomatoes. Avoid this problem by amending your soil with gypsum or a fast-acting lime. Maintain uniform soil moisture by using mulch. Other products to utilize include calcium nitrate as a side dressing or foliar spray, Yield Booster and Stop Blossom-End Rot of Tomatoes.
  • Be alert to slug and snail damage ... seek and destroy ALL slugs!
  • Check your roses for mildew, aphids, black-spot or other disease problems or insect infestations. If they appear, take steps to control them right away.
  • Continue application of deer repellents.
  • 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 from here to eternity!
  • Change the water in your bird bath regularly to avoid mosquitoes.
  • Purple martins are good to have around because they love catching and eating cucumber and Japanese beetles. New research has shown that mosquitoes are over 3 percent of a martin’s diet. Bats can be an effective way to control insects, but, similar to martins, field studies have shown little brown bats had only 1.8 percent mosquitoes in their fecal pellets. The same study showed they mainly consumed moths and spiders. It looks like DEET is still the best preventative.
  • Put a couple of drops of mineral oil on corn silks within a week after they appear to prevent corn earworm.
  • Check new plant growth for aphids. Aphids, or plant lice, can weaken plants and delay growth.
  • Protect your fruit from the birds with netting.
  • Birds will generally not be scared away by scarecrows. Instead, try tying pieces of glass, colored cloth, tin or old silver CDs 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.
  • Continue to watch for insect or disease damage on houseplants and take the necessary steps to control the problem.


  • The summer solstice falls on Monday, June 20, heralding the start of summer!
  • Work around the heat and humidity (early morning or late afternoon/evening).
  • At exactly noon June 15 set your sundial to 12 o’clock to get the most accurate time reading throughout the summer.
  • 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!
  • Most vegetables attain their best eating quality when allowed to ripen on the plant, but often this peak quality is reached before the vegetable (i.e., cucumbers, squash, okra, sweet corn, peas and beans) is fully mature.
  • 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 afterward.
  • 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, meaning fruit production will halt.
  • There are several indicators for ripeness of watermelon. The vine tendril closest to the fruit dies and turns brown when ready to harvest. Also, the underside of the fruit will turn from white to yellow. Finally, thumping a ripe melon should give a dull thud as opposed to a ringing, metallic sound when immature.
  • 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.
  • 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 motor and allow it to cool for at least five minutes.
  • Mulch around woody plants after cleaning away weeds and grass, but don’t pile thick mulch up against trunks. Two inches depth is plenty, starting several inches or so away from trunks.
  • 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.
  • If your tomato plants are staked, tie them to the stake as they grow and pinch out suckers. If your plants are caged, pinch out the first few suckers to keep fruit off of the ground and just keep the plant’s limbs trained to stay inside the cage. Generally, staked tomatoes are larger, but fewer; caged tomatoes are greater in number, but smaller … your call.
  • Add to, aerate and moisten your compost pile to speed decomposition. If you don’t do anything but add to it, your yard and kitchen waste will eventually decompose on its own.
  • Allow one or two runners to develop from the most productive strawberry plants.
  • Continue to mound the soil up around your potato plants. It does not harm the plant if the soil covers the stem.
  • Continue to mulch where needed.
  • If the weather becomes hot and dry, raise the cutting height of the mower.
  • Peach trees need 50-75 leaves per fruit to manufacture food for both fruit production and tree maintenance. Apple trees need 30-40 leaves per fruit. If you have too much fruit on your trees after natural thinning, remove more. Clean up any fallen fruit.
  • Stake tall flowers to keep them from blowing over in the wind. Add a stake to each planting hole as you’re transplanting and tie the stem loosely to the stake as the plant grows.
  • Tap or lightly thump the base of tomato blooms to encourage good pollination.
  • Keep the bird feeder full and make sure they have fresh water. Lots of calorie-burning courting and/or hungry mouths to feed!

Just Because He Loves Us!

by Glenn Crumpler

I was so thankful to hear that the weather was going to be clear and the nights once again cool for the next three days. I was afraid all the nice spring days were gone for this year and that I had missed my chance. We (my grandsons, Bryant and Bradyn, and I) had been talking about, looking forward to and planning an outing for a long time. After months of either too much rain or conflicting schedules, we had now planned our adventure during the upcoming Spring Break and the weather forecast was projected to be perfect. At last, our long anticipated time had come!

All I had to do was speak at one last meeting on Monday night and then on Tuesday we were packing up and heading out. Well, to make a long story short, on Monday I started having some disturbing health problems. I was determined that this was not going to interfere with either the event or the trip the boys and I had planned for so long; so I proceeded with my plans and started getting cleaned up and ready to go speak. By the time I got out of the shower, it was obvious that I was not going anywhere. About an hour later, I found myself in the emergency room and ended up spending the entire week the boys were out of school in the hospital. Being sick was bad enough, but missing this trip with my boys was for sure the hardest part for me – especially not knowing if I would ever have that opportunity again, at least not this year with the weather like it needed to be to make it enjoyable.

With Spring Break over, now my only hope would be for a weekend together. On top of that, I was too weak physically to do what I had planned to do with the boys. The first weekend after getting out of the hospital, it was just physically impossible for me to do anything. The second week started out hot and, once again, raining. Just when I thought all hopes for the trip were gone, a cold front passed through on Thursday and the forecast for the weekend was once again perfect! The only problem now was that I was still too weak physically.

On Friday morning, I had an unexpected boost of energy. I was far from 100 percent, but I felt like I could pull it off if we just stayed close to the house so I could get home or, at least, so they could get home if they had to without my help. Needless to say, I called the boys and we got busy packing up and went to the south pasture by the pond across the road.

The cool weather was important because the adventure we had been planning was a primitive camping trip. There is just something about sleeping under the stars by a warm campfire all wrapped up in a snuggly sleeping bag. Once you wake up to the smell of sizzling bacon in a cast-iron skillet cooked over coals, you’ll never forget that smell or that feeling!

Now that they are 7 and almost 9, they are old enough to learn and experience some things Mama would not normally let them do such as carrying a small pocket knife they can use to carve with whenever they want to as long as they are sitting down. To top that off, I gave them a Rambo-style survival knife (complete with a compass, sewing kit, matches, and a fishing line and hook). They could not use this knife, but they could wear it on their belts and hold it every now and then when I sat with them by the fire. I wish you could have seen the looks on their faces when they saw those "big" knives! I also gave them a flashlight that clipped to their belt loops. They could hardly walk with so much on their belts and in their pockets, but they sure looked and felt tough!

We also got to drive individual four wheelers through the pastures and down dirt roads. We shot turtles with BB guns. They got to use a real ax to chop up a big, old log until they cut it clear through. I do not remember how many times they did that but I know they, nor I, will never forget the first one! To keep from getting in trouble for fussing and fighting, they worked out a deal where they would each get 11 strokes before swapping out. The lucky one got to place that final chop finishing the cut and start the next one.

The first afternoon, we went fishing in the pond and caught a good mess of bream and small bass. Nothing like catching your own fish supper and frying them over the fire! Just before dark, a big doe came running across the pasture. She stopped and just stared at us for several seconds. The next morning, while the bacon and eggs were cooking, a coyote did the same thing. At night, we lay back on the four wheelers and found the few star constellations I could remember. In the mornings and sunsets, they learned how to determine direction using the sun. They learned how to start their own fire with kindling and with fat lighter splinters. We even went rattlesnake hunting! One thing I noticed, I never had to tell them when it was bedtime! By the time we had finished everything at night, everybody was ready to hit the sack. No TV, no electronics, no video games, just enjoying nature and one another!

There was a lot I had planned to do that we did not get to do, but I am so grateful I got to spend this time with my boys. I’m grateful they got to experience all this for themselves (with me) so they would have the memories and learn the lessons that only come from these kinds of adventures.

One thing I was reminded of, again, was of God’s goodness and His grace. The day before we went camping, I did not have the physical strength to go. The day after we got home, I could not have gone – but the days that were available for us to go, God gave me the strength just because He loves me and He loves my boys. He gave me just what I needed to do what I really wanted and needed to do with my boys. He blessed me because He loves me! I really believe the weather was better this particular weekend than it was the week of Spring Break when we had originally planned to go.

While we sat around the fire on Sunday morning, we had our own church and we sang praises, prayed and talked about all kinds of things. We reflected on all we had experienced during this weekend trip and we learned that God created all the beauty of the Earth just because He loves us! He sent us the deer and the coyote right out in the wide-open for us to see – just because He loves us! He made the stars and the moon so beautiful – just because He loves us! He let us have fun catching and eating the fish – just because He loves us! He created and maintains order in creation – just because He loves us! He established the seasons – just because He loves us! He created us uniquely special and He has a plan for each of our lives – just because He loves us! He gave us family and gives us the desires of our hearts (like this trip) – just because He loves us! He gave us the law and the Bible to help us know how to live – just because He loves us! We learned what sin and repentance means, and learned that God calls us to repentance – just because He loves us! Most importantly, we learned God sent His only son, Jesus, to die for our sin and to defeat death for us – just because He loves us! We learned that when we confess, turn from our sin, and ask Jesus to forgive us and save us, He will do just that and will become the Lord of our lives who meets our every need – just because He loves us! We learned that no matter what we face in this life, He will never leave us alone or forsake us – just because He loves us! We learned that one day we will be with Him in the place He has prepared just for us – just because He loves us!

God’s timing may not always line up with ours. What we want may not always be what we need. But, God will always keep His promises and provide what we need when we need it, just because He loves us!

Let’s go camping!

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

Looking for Naked Ladies

(I’m talking about spider lilies, of course!)

Spider lily, Lycoris chinensis (Credit: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,, image #5423361)

by Tony Glover

I recently bought some property with an old abandoned home and have started watching for all the underground treasures it has buried in the earth. Although my father-in-law suggested I get a good metal detector, I was really thinking of botanical treasures. In addition to the daffodils and spiderworts I saw in late winter, I am hoping to see some naked ladies (not what you think). This is one of the many common names for members of the Lycoris species. Other common names include spider lily, surprise lily, magic lily, resurrection lily and hurricane lily. These lilies are members of the amaryllis family that include other well-known bulbs such as common amaryllis, daylilies, daffodils, rain lilies and snowdrops.

These lilies are easy to grow and naturalize readily and come in a number of colors. If you plant new ones or move to a new location, the bulbs should be planted so the neck is just below the soil surface. Dormant bulbs are best planted during late summer and fall, whereas actively growing plants can be planted other times of the year. These lilies thrive in sunny to partially sunny areas such as the edges of woodlands and shrub borders or under deciduous trees. They do not require fertilizer or irrigation, but grow best in loose, moist soil with good organic matter.

The types that grow best here will have long, narrow leaves that emerge in fall, persist through winter and die down in spring. The clumps of blue-green foliage resemble liriope (monkey grass), but with a pale stripe down the center of each leaf. Leaves turn yellow in spring and should be allowed to die naturally. Cutting back leaves while they are yellowing will harm the bulb and reduce flowering. No leaves are present during summer months when bulbs are dormant or when the blooms arise (hence the name naked lady).

They are called surprise or magic lily because in late summer after a heavy rain flowers appear almost magically since there is no foliage to indicate where the bulbs are planted. Leafless stems emerge and quickly grow 12-24 or more inches tall before being topped by 8-inch clusters of tubular flowers. Most species have flowers with narrow, strap-like petals and extremely long stamens, giving a spidery appearance to the flowers (and hence another common name, spider lily). These lilies make excellent cut flowers as well as beautiful garden plants.

They have a reputation for inconsistent flowering from year to year. This is often caused by bulb crowding. Large clumps of bulbs should be divided every few years to avoid reduced growth and flowering caused by crowding. Bulb clumps are best divided from spring through early summer when bulbs are dormant. Flowering may be delayed a year or more due to the shock of dividing.

Lycoris species have long been used as garden flowers in their native habitats of China and Japan. Bulbs of all Lycoris species contain the alkaloid poison lycorine. Although Lycoris bulbs are considered to have low toxicity, homeowners should be aware of the poisonous potential, particularly if small children and pets are present. On the other hand, this poisonous component has the benefit of making these plants resistant to damage from deer and rodents. Another alkaloid component they contain is galantamine that has been used in medications to treat Alzheimer’s-type dementia. Lycoris is being grown in plantations in China for mass harvest to extract this compound.

If it actually works for dementia, it will live up to its common name of resurrection lily.

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

Loving the Transition

The irises are performing wonderfully.

by Herb T. Farmer

Did you miss me?

Sorry about last month. I believe I was supposed to discuss urbanite and hugelkultur. Well, we’re going to hold off on those subjects for a couple of more months while I rearrange my urbanite and study my hugelkultur project a bit more.

This has been a crazy busy springtime! Winter was so mild that most of my questionable plants survived. That’s a good thing, of course. And let’s not forget the timeless wisdom of the late, great philosopher George Carlin (R.I.P.) who said, "Behind every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud."

I have a broken foot. That’s a bad thing, of course. Going down the steps one morning a few months ago, I missed a step and took a hard landing on my right foot. Of course, with ice packs and aspirins, the pain subsided after a few weeks.

Then one day my foot swelled up and began to ouch me badly – so badly that I decided to go to the medical doctor. Well, the primary care doc, internist, podiatrist and orthopedist determined I now have Charcot foot (sounds like a Frank Zappa song).

They had a CROW boot made for me and I have been in it since February. I am hoping to come out of it this month. Hope, hope, hope.

It’s difficult to walk, even with my canes and sticks. Driving is out of the question!

OK … enough about that mess.

This year, the transition between winter and spring was great for the seed starting. And I love the transition between spring and summer. The flowers and vegetables are performing tremendously! The colors really get me going and the fragrances make me smile. (And sneeze, but that’s OK.)

Thanks to a friend from Auburn University, Dr. Ken Tilt, I have been able to successfully germinate seedlings from my sole Japanese maple. He taught me the fundamentals of propagating and grafting Acer palmatums before he retired. So far this year I have given away about 40 of the little buggers to friends. I still have a few to plant around here.

Left to right, one-year-old seedlings from my Japanese maple tree. The blackberries are coming in now and the bushes are still flowering like crazy!

The tomatoes and squash are coming in as well as okra. This is the first year in quite some time that I have had success with okra.

I decided to forgo seeding this year and buy plants. I ordered some from my friends at WrightGardens.comand they are performing great!

The blackberries are beginning to come in, but the blueberries are a little slow.

A few weeks ago I rode with a friend to Birmingham. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens was having their annual Plant Fiesta over at Brookwood Village. I bought a few things I needed.

Since my bay tree died a couple of years ago, I figured it was time to grow a new one. I found one at the plant sale big enough for me to take cuttings from.

I also bought a couple of patchouli plants because I forgot to bring them into the greenhouse last fall.

There’s a dwarf viburnum that has just finished blooming. I need to find the tag because I forgot the name.

Anyway, it was a fine outing for me. I never thought I would miss driving. I guess I just miss having the option.

Hey! I’m hungry!

Here’s a simple recipe for a handheld delight that is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

A burrito-style roll up is all the yumminess you can stand to hold in your hand!

Today, we’re going to make a Burrito-Style Roll Up.

Whip a couple of eggs in a bowl and place them into your oiled, cast-iron skillet or egg pan preheated to medium heat. Gently move the eggs around the pan being careful not to deflate them. When they’re almost finished cooking, turn off the gas heat or remove from the electrical eye.

Add chopped sautéed onion, mushrooms and jalapeño chilis to your scrambled eggs and top with cheese. In another skillet, warm two small flour tortillas. Roll up your eggs and veggies in a slice of turkey or ham. Add a red mustard leaf. Then roll it up in the tortillas. YUM!

Remember, Summer Solstice is June 20 at 5:34 p.m. CDT. Get out and enjoy the transition!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

Net Wrap:

Sometimes I miss baling wire … NO, I DON’T!!!

by John Sims

Net wrap is today’s faster, more productive way to bale hay. You can increase productivity by not wasting so much time waiting for the baler to tie a bale so you can kick it out and get on to the next one. The use of net wrap has increased the number of acres you can bale per day and even sometimes make the difference if you get done before a rain. Net wrap sheds water more efficiently than twine, which results in lower storage losses.

For many years, your local Quality Co-op store has been the source for the highest-quality baling twine and, if you didn’t know it already, we are the place to buy your net wrap as well. We carry several types of net wrap including Beyond the Edge wrap, to cover the edges of the bale.

Our net wraps have:

  • Roll markings to alert you when you are getting close to the end of the roll
  • Tensile strengths of 440-615 pounds
  • Available widths of 48, 51, 64 and 67 inches
  • Various lengths, but 9,840 feet is the standard length
  • Recommended wraps on a bale depend on the material being wrapped:
  • 2-3 wraps for grass hay
  • 3-4 wraps for straw bales
  • 4-plus wraps for corn stovers

The coarser the product, or the more times you plan to move the bale, the more wraps the bale needs.

So remember, your local Quality Co-op store is THE place to get your net wrap.

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

PALS: Ready, Set, Go!

Perry County Schools are pitching in to stop litter on campus with some friendly competition.

by Jamie Mitchell

Robert C. Hatch School, Uniontown

Led by the efforts of Reverend Eulas Kirtdoll, Perry County has decided to become litter free! It all began when Kirtdoll arranged a conference call with PALS and members of the Perry County School Board, county commission and other leaders. The schools immediately signed up to be a part of the Clean Campus Program and scheduled a day for me to come and do my program at each school.

John Heard, Perry County School Superintendent, was helpful in scheduling my tour of Perry County. First, I visited Robert C. Hatch School in Uniontown. The students and staff were fired up to begin their campus-wide anti-litter campaign. Deborah Rox and the student government are leading the way at Hatch to ensure success in the Clean Campus Program. I met with pre-K through 12th grade and found the same enthusiasm from the youngest all the way to the oldest students.

Francis Marion School, Marion

The next stop on the tour was Francis Marion School in Marion. Due to time constraints, I was only able to meet with pre-K through fourth grade, but I found these kids to be just as thrilled and excited as their counterparts in Uniontown. These students kicked off their Clean Campus campaign by each picking up a piece of litter before they even left the auditorium! Under the direction of teacher Leslye Essex, Francis Marion is going to increase their goals for recycling as well as work on keeping their campus free from litter.

Both schools are so excited to be a part of the Clean Campus Program that we decided to have a contest between the two schools to see which one can clean and beautify their campus more! The schools will be sending PALS a report of how much they have collected as well as supporting pictures with before and after shots!

Marion Academy, Marion

The final stop of my Perry County tour was Marion Academy. Teacher Ann LeCroy said that Marion Academy is small in number, but big on enthusiasm! They even want to join the Adopt-A-Mile program and adopt the mile right out in front of their school! They like to think of themselves as "small, but mighty!" We are so excited to have them be a part of the Clean Campus Program, too!

Congratulations to Perry County for their commitment to keep their schools and county litter free!

If your county or a school near you would like more information on the Clean Campus Program, just have them call me at 334-263-7737.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Responsible Ag

Chris Duke and Talladega County Exchange are recognized for a successful audit.

Chris Duke was the second Co-op manager to receive his Responsible Ag certification. Chris and his team at Talladega County Exchange were able to have the audit completed and the corrective actions on file before the spring season. With everything from fertilizer to grain silos, Talladega made a marked improvement in each of the available sections of the audit. The dedication of the staff to ensure the items were completed before spring season was outstanding.

Sharon Cunningham, EH&S Coordinator, and Roger Waller, EH&S Operations Coordinator, both with AFC and Agri-AFC, would like to say THANK YOU to the group at Talladega County Exchange for allowing the use of their location to ensure the Responsible Ag system was up and running for us all.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "You know, even when that customer was all up in his face about findin’ weevils in his grits he bought the day before, Vester managed to stay cool as a cucumber."

Why is this person being described as a vegetable?

The phrase "as cool as a cucumber" means to be extremely calm, relaxed and in control of your emotions; someone who is not affected by pressure.

It took scientists with thermometers until 1970 to find out what has been folk knowledge for centuries - cucumbers are indeed cool, so much so that inside a field of cucumbers on a warm day registers about 20 degrees cooler than the outside air.

The belief is ancient, but was first put on record by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher in their play Cupid’s Revenge (1610), when they referred to certain women as "as cold as a cucumber."

The Ark of Huntsville

Finding hope and happiness for homeless animals.

by Mary Delph

Our animal shelter for this month is The Ark. This wonderful, no-kill shelter was established March 6, 1990, by Nina Beal. Their mission statement says it all: "To rescue as many homeless animals as possible. To provide veterinary care for each animal to include spaying/neutering before adoption. To maintain a no-kill policy except for reason of mercy or dangerous temperament. To promote humane treatment of animals through a humane education program." This is a philosophy after my own heart!

The Ark provides veterinary care to all animals that come to them and a loving foster home until they are adopted into a forever home. The Ark operates solely on donations and fundraisers. They do not accept money from county, state or federal funding. They also have no paid staff, so everyone who works there does it for love of the animals.

The Ark has two programs they use for adopting an animal: Adult Adoption and Foster to Adopt. The Adult Adoption program is for animals that have received all of their vaccinations and have been spayed/neutered. When adopted, these animals will go to a new home for a two-week trial period. Individuals interested in adopting an animal will leave a check for the adoption fee with The Ark. The check will be held during the trial period to give the family time to make a final decision about the animal.

Above, Cricket was brought to The Ark with her fur all matted and very underweight. After her visit to their veterinarian, she was shaved. Then she had her wellness exam and all vaccinations, spaying and everything else she needed to make her a healthy little dog. Cricket is now in a loving home. Below, Lucky was a pitiful cat when he was brought to The Ark. He was rushed to their veterinarian clinic and immediately started on IV fluids. He was so dehydrated his skin stuck together like glue. He had already been declawed on his front paws and could not walk on his right front leg. After getting fluids, he perked up and ate just a little. The right paw was terribly infected and the veterinarian was afraid he might have to amputate the cat’s leg. After three rounds of different antibiotics, the battle over the infection was won. He is a beautiful cat now and has gained weight. His coat is a healthy blue-gray. He has big green eyes and is now one of The Ark’s lobby cats. They are so bonded with him that they are not sure about adopting him to a family. They will have to be very special and never let Lucky outside again.

The purpose for the trial period is to ensure the animal fits into the family and that everyone, including the animal, is happy with the new living arrangements. If the animal doesn’t fit into the family, then it is returned to The Ark and the adoption fee is returned.

The Foster to Adopt program works a little differently than the Adult Adoption program. This program was designed for those animals that come to The Ark and aren’t old enough to have all of their vaccinations or be spayed/neutered such as puppies and kittens, or those with medical conditions that need to be treated before all vaccinations and spaying/neutering can occur.

The FTA program allows individuals to take an animal home only after signing an agreement with The Ark stating the adopter is responsible for taking the animal to The Ark’s veterinarian for vaccinations and spaying/neutering. The adopter is given a vaccination schedule to know when to make the appointments with the vet at The Ark’s expense. Adopters pay the adoption fee up front and it will be held until after the veterinarian confirms that all vaccinations and spaying/neutering has occurred; then The Ark will complete the final adoption paperwork. Animals in the FTA program are still considered Ark animals until the adopter adheres to the FTA contract regarding vaccinations and spaying/neutering. If the adopter does not adhere to the contract, the animal must be returned. During the FTA period, if the animal is not working out with the family, then it can be returned to The Ark and the adoption fee is returned.

In addition to doing such a wonderful job placing the animals, they also have community outreach programs. They provide pet therapy to nursing homes and retirement communities, and provide shelter and care for pets of domestic violence victims seeking refuge at Hope Place. Isn’t that wonderful? People in a domestic violence situations don’t have to leave a pet in danger! They can know the pet is safe while they recover and start a new life. Wow!

The Ark also provides humane education to school-age children dealing with the responsibilities of having a pet.

Most wonderful to me is their program offering the Disaster Animal Relief Program for the local Red Cross to provide aid for victims of natural disasters.

The Ark also holds several fundraising events throughout the year: Annual Pennies For Paws Campaign, Needy Paws Telethon (Channel 31, WAAY TV), Bill Youkey Memorial Golf Tournament, Annual Evening Out Dinner, CFA Cat Show (Huntsville Cat Club) and Christmas Open House at The Ark.

If you are interested in adopting, you can find their animals listed for adoption on Petfinder!

If you would love to help The Ark, their address is The Ark; 139 Bo Cole Road; Huntsville, AL 35806.

Their phone number is 256-851-4088 and email address is They also have a website to check out:

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News.

The Cat

by Nadine Johnson

Barbara called and explained to me that her beloved cat was very ill.

"Can you help me?" she asked.

"I can try," I answered.

Here in her own words is the rest of the story.

"My cat was born with an autoimmune skin disease. He breaks out on a different part of his body every time. When it finally heals it goes into remission for several months. This last time he broke out on the right side of his mouth. I took him to the veterinarian. They gave him antibiotics and steroid shots.

"I took him back 10 days later because he still wasn’t healing. At this time he was put on oral antibiotics. I had to put an Elizabethan collar on him to prevent him from scratching his face raw.

"A couple more trips to the vet and three months later he still wasn’t healing. It really did itch a lot because he scratched at his face even with the collar on. I could tell he was tired of wearing the collar every day. He had his face bleeding within minutes every time I took the collar off.

"By this time we had decided to have his feet declawed, get him out of the collar and, hopefully, keep him from scratching himself.

"Every time I took the bandages off and his feet hit the floor, he started bleeding. This went on for about a month. The vet put stitches in his feet to help with the healing. I was getting upset and regretting even having him declawed.

"I had been reading Nadine’s column in our Co-op magazine every month for the last couple of years and decided I would finally give her a call. By this time I was ready to try anything to help my cat. Nadine sent me Pau d’Arco capsules and lotion, and Golden Salve ointment. I applied the lotion and ointment to his feet. He took one capsule twice daily. I changed the dressings every other day. Ten days later, his stitches were removed. (We held our breath for this procedure.)

"I told my vet I had had to go outside the box this time and had called Nadine Johnson, The Herb Lady.

"‘Good for you,’ she said.

"To everyone’s delight, this time his feet were finally completely healed.

"Now my cat is back to his usual happy self and once again things are back to normal in my house. I will always be grateful to Nadine for helping my cat when I needed it most."

And I, Nadine, am grateful to Barbara for sharing her successful story with me and my readers.

Pau d’Arco grows in South America. There are dozens of species. Tabebuia heptaphylla (from Argentina) seems to be the best. I am told that no unhealthy growth can be found around this plant even in the rainforest. Research has revealed it is an immune-system stimulant, general tonic, blood builder and liver cleanser. For healthier plants, water them with a weak solution of Pau D’ Arco tea.

Golden Salve is just that – a salve – a very good salve. It can be used wherever a salve is needed. Among other things, it will stop the itch of an insect bite almost instantly. It contains a long list of herbs and vitamin E.

As usual, check with your doctor before consuming herbal products.

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

The Co-op Pantry

Mary Grier and family, from left, Brad, Mary holding Jack and Landan.

by Mary Grier

I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I remember making muffins from boxed mixes and pretending I was a cooking show host. It comes as no surprise to those who know my parents, two excellent chefs and former long-time restaurant owners, that the joy of cooking was passed down to me.

My parents met in 1983 at a family restaurant in Hollywood, Florida, where they both were employed as managers. A couple of years later, they married and moved to Ft. Pierce, Florida, to start a family. Mom stayed home to take care of my brother, sister and me while Dad continued his career in restaurant management. By the time my siblings and I were school age, my parents decided they wanted to raise us back where my dad was brought up in Lauderdale County, Alabama, just outside the Florence city limits.

My great-grandparents, Luther and Beulah Mae Whitten, settled in Florence in the early 1900s. Their home, the Peters Plantation, was the site of a battle in the Civil War. They farmed 1,100 acres of cattle, cotton and corn. My dad had a bit of a rambunctious streak growing up, and I loved listening to bedtime stories about all of the trouble he got into on my great-grandparents’ land.

When we moved to Lauderdale County in 1997, my parents purchased the City Restaurant, a landmark diner in Tuscumbia established in 1948. During their almost 20 years of ownership, my mom began each day before 4 a.m. to make homemade buttermilk biscuits. During part of that time, my dad also owned and operated a seafood restaurant, Barnacle Bill’s Crab House, in Muscle Shoals. I spent many summers washing dishes and waiting tables. Despite busy schedules, my parents managed to have a home-cooked meal on the table almost every evening. Supper usually began with the Johnny Appleseed prayer and permission was required to be excused from the table.

My husband, Brad, and I now live in Madison with our two boys, Landan and Jack, and our two dogs. My parents sold the diner last year to help care for Jack after he was born 16 weeks premature in 2014. Jack spent the first four months of his life fighting to survive in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital. Thankfully, he is doing great now, but his journey reminds me to slow down and enjoy the little things in life.

While my husband and I both work full-time and our kids keep us busy with activities, we make an effort to sit down and have a home-cooked meal together at the table as a family as much as possible. This year, we planted a small backyard garden and look forward to teaching our children about growing and preparing food together. We’ll be harvesting summer vegetables soon, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite summer recipes with y’all.

Mary Grier is the executive assistant at AFC.


4-5 jalapeno or serrano peppers, cores and stems removed
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
Handful of cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
Salt, to taste
1½-2 pounds (about 7-10 tomatoes) plum/roma tomatoes, cores removed

In a blender or food processor, place peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and salt (start with a teaspoon – you can always add more!). Pulse 5-10 times to chop. Add tomatoes and pulse until desired chunkiness/consistency. Add more salt, to taste, if needed. Serve with tortilla chips.


2 ripe avocados, peeled, seed removed and cut into pieces
½ medium onion, finely diced
Handful of chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Garlic salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Best served immediately with tortilla chips.

Note: You can also mix a couple spoonfuls of the fresh summer salsa with salt and mashed avocado for a quick and delicious guacamole.


2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Handful of fresh basil, cut into strips
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and chill.

Note: I slightly adapted this recipe from the City Restaurant. It was my favorite salad served at the diner!


1 ripe avocado
¼ cup onion, finely diced
Handful of chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups shredded chicken, cooled (I use a smoked or rotisserie chicken)

Combine avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes (if you like a little kick!). Fold in chicken. Serve in a pita pocket.


3-4 yellow squash, sliced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 small box Jiffy cornbread mix
2 eggs
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ stick butter, melted
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Boil squash and onion until fork tender, drain liquid. In a bowl, combine cornbread mix, eggs, soup, butter, 1½ cups cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Stir in squash and onion. Spread evenly in a greased square pan. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: When my grandmother passed away, I received all her recipe cards. Her squash casserole was a staple at family gatherings.


First Layer:
24 Oreo Cookies, crushed
½ stick butter, melted

Mix and pat in bottom of 9x13 dish. Chill 30 minutes in freezer.

Second Layer:
½ gallon Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream, softened

Spread over crust and chill 30 minutes in freezer.

Third Layer: (cook first so it will be completely cool before pouring over ice cream layer)
16 ounces Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
1 can Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
¾ stick butter

Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour over ice cream and chill in freezer for 30 minutes.

Fourth Layer:
8 ounces whipped topping
Pecans, toasted and crushed (optional)

Spread over third layer and top with pecans. Store in freezer until ready to serve. (May need to set out for a few minutes before serving.)

Note: This recipe was handed down by my husband’s Grandma Jean. She makes this for us when we visit her in Eufaula. Warning – it’s hard to stop eating once you start!

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2016 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.

-- Mary Delph

The Next Generation of Ag Leaders

Seventeen ag professionals selected for statewide leadership program.

Press Release from Alabama Farmers Federation

Seventeen young agricultural professionals from across the state were recently selected for the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Agricultural Leaders For Alabama program.

Federation Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg said the intensive, two-year learning experience equips participants to be more engaged in agribusiness, public policy, farm organizations and their communities.

"The A.L.F.A. program focuses on personal development, political involvement, effective communication and understanding of the Alabama Farmers Federation," Himburg said. "This is the fourth A.L.F.A class. Previous class members now serve as county presidents; county board members; and as leaders on the county, state and national levels."

A.L.F.A. Class IV includes, by county:

Autauga – Taber Ellis, agriculture specialist with Alfa Insurance

Blount – Lance Miller, row crop farmer and Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers chairman

Blount/Etowah – Amy Burgess, county Extension coordinator and 4-H agent

Cullman – Eli Howard, credit analyst with Alabama Farm Credit

Dallas – Wendy Yeager, row crop farmer

DeKalb – Leah McElmoyl, estate planning attorney

Lee – Beth Hornsby, vegetable farmer

Limestone – Tyler Sandlin, regional agronomy Extension agent

Lowndes – Stinson Ellis, assistant shelling plant manager at Priester’s Pecan Company, and David Lee, cattle farmer

Madison – Samantha Carpenter, social media specialist with Alabama Farmers Cooperative and reporter for "Simply Southern TV"

Marshall – Hunter McBrayer, urban regional Extension agent

Perry – Cooper Holmes, Federation State Young Farmers Committee member

Shelby – John DeLoach, row crop farmer

Talladega – Jeremy Wilson, row crop farmer

Walker – Russell Miller, certified forester with Jasper Lumber Company Inc., and Daniel Tubbs, cattle and swine farmer

Participants were chosen for the program based on a written application and interview. Criteria included communication skills; understanding of agricultural trends and issues; leadership skills; and interest in service beyond participants’ own self-interest.

The program consists of six multi-day sessions including a Washington advocacy experience and an out-of-state agricultural tour. The first session is June 28-July 1.

"This class has incredible potential for serving the Federation in many areas for years to come," Himburg said. "We look forward to seeing the relationships they will foster and watching them grow together. I have no doubt this class will serve as exceptional leaders and be a part of the backbone of our organization’s future."

For more information about the A.L.F.A. program and future news and photos about Class IV, visit

Three Generations Strong and Growing

“Everyone has a job and trusts and respect each other,” said Matt Haney of all the men (from left, Matt, Cody, Horace and Keith) of the three-generation operation.

A progressive tradition keeps the Haneys moving forward in Limestone County.

by Cecil Yancy

Like most farmers in North Alabama, Matt Haney figures he’s only about three days away from a drought.

But the deep waters of family keep the ideas flowing at this three-generation operation in Tanner and the operation changing with the times.

Matt Haney’s family (from left) are Wilson, 14; Matt; Preston, 11; Matt’s wife, April; and Evan, 8.

Matt farms 10,000 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat with his father, Horace; cousin, Keith; and nephew, Cody Haney.

At 74, Horace is still active on a daily basis in the operation.

"He runs the dozer, dirt pan and does all the hay for the cattle," Matt said. "I do the crop rotation; take care of the marketing of the grain, seed varieties, fertility and crop selection; and manage the employees. Keith is the mechanic and works with the hydraulics and fuels; and Cody helps out in different areas."

Matt said the multi-generational operation works because they don’t have a lot of different bosses. Everyone has a job and trusts and respects everyone else.

He said they also have some good employees who have been with them for a while and help the operation run smoothly.

The operation began when M.W. Haney started farming with his two sons, Horace and Shirley.

Matt also continues a long tradition of service on the board of Limestone Farmers Co-op. Two years ago, when Shirley passed away, Matt was elected to the board.

Shirley’s widow, Charlotte, remains a partner in the operation.

"I take a lot of pride serving on the board of Limestone Farmers Co-op," Matt said, while driving around east Limestone County in the shadows of TVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. "I always leave the board meetings having gained something from being associated with such a great organization. Our board keeps farmers and customers in mind to benefit everyone."

It’s a sense of forward-thinking tradition that improves the Haneys’ way of farming.

"My uncle was always engineering things to make something work better," Matt recalled. "Both he and my dad taught me to work hard and not be afraid of trying something different."

Take, for example, irrigation. Fifteen center-pivot rigs irrigate about 2,500 acres on the Haney operation, but Matt said it’s tough to find enough water to do as much as they do.

The search for more water led the Haneys in a different direction. Instead of drilling directly for water, they built a 10-acre lake on part of the farm bordering a creek to catch runoff.

"If we get a big rain, the 1,500-gallon per minute pump captures the rainfall and gets it back into the pond," Matt explained.

The pond is even stocked with fish from Limestone Farmers Co-op.

On another area of the farm, Matt is installing soil-moisture probes to determine the best time to irrigate. The move is more about saving an early season as well as a late-season irrigation.

"The way the weather is around here, if we shut off the center pivots, there’s no way we could catch back up with the needs of the crop. But if we could cut two waterings during the year and still get the yields, then we could save some on diesel to run the irrigation rigs," Matt explained. "I think that will be the big benefit of having soil-moisture probes."

Ultimately, irrigation is about yields and capturing some of the market.

That was the idea behind adding grain bins and dryers to handle and store 350,000 bushels of grain.

"We’re able to haul grain from the field to the bin when the weather is good, and we’re able to haul grain out when the weather is bad and we can’t get into the field," Matt said. "We can bank on decent yields with irrigation."

Depending on the markets, Matt tries different crops. Last year was one such year with canola and milo, but he’s quick to pull back when the prices don’t pan out.

But cotton is one crop that never leaves the Haney operation. Despite low prices, the Haneys plan on increasing cotton acreage to 1,700 this year, following a decrease of 700 acres in 2015.

The reasoning goes back to providing enough cotton to keep the gin they have an interest in running.

"A cotton gin has to have cotton in order to operate and we’re committed to growing cotton," Matt said.

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

Urban Homesteading, The Old-fashioned Way

In the fall, Bobby Haskew has to pick his Japanese persimmons early because deer come into his front yard to feed on the tasty fruit. The deer can eat all of the fruit in one visit.

Bobby Haskew shows how to create a sustainable landscape with limited space.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Bobby Haskew is a man of many talents! An electrician by trade, he retired in 2004 from MacMillan Bloedel, a local paper mill in Yellow Bluff. His desire was to do something else, and he has succeeded in doing just that!

Haskew still lives in his childhood home, caring for his disabled brother Paul. Their home is located in one of Thomasville’s older neighborhoods on West Front Street, the main downtown thoroughfare. The first things most people notice, as they drive by the Haskew home, are the beautiful flowers and fruit trees blooming in the front and side yards. Visitors who take a closer look are amazed to find that Haskew has taken a small amount of space to create a thriving urban homestead, just two-tenths of a mile from Thomasville’s City Hall.

"Work has always been a way of life for me," he said. "I’ve worked all my life, because I don’t know anything else."

His hard work has paid off, however, in so many ways. For example, Haskew has long been affectionately called "Thomasville’s Honey Man." Behind his home sit 30 active honeybee hives. He manages his bees with great devotion, checking for mites, searching for the queens and capturing swarms he uses to start new colonies. His bees then reward him with about 50 gallons of pure honey each year. The demand for his honey is great, even though he sells only at two local stores and from his home. Many loyal customers drive long distances just to purchase the honey, and he usually runs out of the sweet nectar early in the season. Many local allergy sufferers swear by it, because Haskew’s bees pollinate local plants right there in his yard. Customers tout the medicinal effects of this honey, relating stories of using it instead of allergy medications or mixing it with vinegar to relieve arthritis discomfort.

Haskew’s love of pollinators is not just limited to honeybees, however. He also has blue orchard mason bees, colored a dark metallic blue. These bees carry pollen on their bellies rather than on their hind legs. While some mason bees nest in holes made by other insects, Haskew’s bees live happily in a block of wood he has constructed for them. The bees burrow and bore in deep holes that Haskew has made throughout the block. The queen lays her eggs in the fall and covers them with sod. The eggs hatch in the spring, and the bees begin their lifespan pollinating plants.

Bobby Haskew begins to work his bees in February after they become active and begin to bring pollen back to the hive. He watches the weather for warm, sunny days when the bees are less likely to sting. He says that working with bees is time-consuming, but enjoyable. Bobby Haskew practices no-till farming and other sustainable gardening practices on his urban homestead.

Haskew may have retired from his job, but he came home and continued to make his world better. For example, a hillside beside his home was unusable, so he placed railroad crossties across it, mulched the area, planted fruit trees and watched as the land transformed. Local lawncare workers brought their leaf and grass wastes, and Haskew applied the refuse to his terraced landscape. Now the area is thriving, filled with root plants and vegetables.

Gardening has always been a source of pleasure for Haskew. He has long practiced no-till, a way to plant with minimal disturbance of the soil. In the fall, he gathers leaves from his many trees and puts them in the gardens as mulch. He prefers pecan leaves because they tend to break up easier. Then he covers the leaves with pine straw for the winter. In the spring, he never disturbs the ground, choosing instead to move the mulch carefully, dig a hole or furrow, plant the seed and replace the cover around the plant. This method helps to preserve moisture, prevent soil compaction and provide nutrients the plants need. Haskew believes this method also keeps down diseases.

"Mulching is the secret to growing," he explained. "It’s the fertilizer the plant needs, and it keeps the weeds out."

Haskew plants with seeds saved from prior plantings.

"I never buy new plants," he explained. "Everything here comes back from old seeds or roots. I used to try to plant potted plants or annuals, but they required too much watering."

Bobby, left, and Paul Haskew hold some of the hundreds of pumpkins that come up in their garden. Bobby makes preserves, cakes and pies from the pumpkins.

Haskew loves to preserve the vegetables, fruits and berries he grows. He makes jelly from berries and Serrano peppers, and preserves from watermelons, pumpkins, pears and figs. He has a number of Japanese persimmon trees in his yard, and he makes a special preserve from these – if he can manage to get the fruit before the deer arrive. Haskew said that he and Paul eat some of jams, but give most away.

Heirloom plants and traditional flowers fascinate Haskew, who is a wealth of information on their history and habitat. Last year, he grew citrons that look like small watermelons. He stated that these were often found in old cornfields and present-day watermelons were developed from them. People around Thomasville often called them pine melons. They were too hard for animals to eat, but, once frost had fallen on them, cows would eat all of them. He uses his citrons to make preserves that taste much like traditional watermelon rind preserves.

Known in this area for his beautiful flowers, Haskew proudly stated that he inherited his love of flowers from his mother. His sunflowers are a vision of delight, much like postcard photographs. He explained that his mother had put out the seeds over 60 years ago, and they still come back on their own each year, blooming from the top to the bottom of the stalk. He has gladly shared his beloved sunflower seeds with the many visitors who stop by. He also enjoys showing his day lilies and camellias, as well as his angel trumpets and summer lilies. He laughed and told the story of seeing his angel trumpets all over town, as he had shared hundreds of stalks with others in the community.

"I have practiced ‘pass along’ for years," Haskew explained. "That’s why my flowers keep coming back. You can’t really enjoy flowers unless you pass them along to others."

Another passion for Haskew is spending time in his shop. Accomplished in both woodworking and metalworking, he has recycled the trees, felled by Hurricane Ivan, on his property. He had the trees milled and used the boards to make furniture, wall clocks, clock-face frames, bee boxes and traps.

He has made traps to catch raccoons, squirrels and armadillos. Last year, he made 23 armadillo traps and caught 17 of the nuisance critters, which had dug holes in his gardens. He has also built hog traps to catch feral hogs, destroying so much land in the area. Recently, he has also begun to trap coyotes, which seem to be multiplying rapidly.

Left, Bobby enjoys hunting with Holly, his squirrel dog. Holly roams the area behind his home, barking and treeing squirrels. She also helps with predators that visit his garden and fruit trees. Right, traps are built by Bobby Haskew to control predators. Last year, he caught 17 armadillos that had dug and rooted in his gardens.

Those who know Haskew well admire his self-sufficiency and his pioneer spirit.

"I hate to throw anything away," he laughed." I figure I can find a use for it somewhere. Besides, if I see something, I figure out a way to make it, without having to buy it."

For years, Haskew has kept backyard chickens because he has always liked to fool with them. He and Paul eat the eggs or give them away. About every two years, he starts a new flock, trying a different breed. In March, he purchased Gold Sex Link chicks, a new variety for him. His chickens always reward him with rich fertilizer for his plants

Because of the numerous food sources around the Haskew home, hundreds of birds visit. Haskew keeps hummingbird feeders up for the spring and fall migrations and stations game cameras throughout his yard to identify the many different species that visit. He also uses the cameras to identify predators such as deer, rabbits and foxes that lurk among his flowers and gardens.

Haskew has taken limited space and created a sustainable landscape filled with fruits and vegetables, backyard chickens, birds and bees. He chuckled at the hint that he was trendy, as urban homesteading seems to be quite popular now among millennials. He stated he was just doing what his parents before him had done: working hard and giving back.

"Nature gives us everything we need," he mused. "We just have to learn to respect it, and listen to what it is teaching us."

Long ago, Haskew listened and found that being outdoors was like being at home. His deep reverence for nature inspired him to appreciate the connection among all living things and accept his call to leave the Earth better than he had found it. With this has come true peace and contentment.

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

Want to maximize your calf’s potential? Start now!

Maternal nutrition in early pregnancy counts more than you think.

by Jackie Nix

It is easy to discount cow nutrition during early pregnancy since 75 percent of fetal growth occurs during the last two months of gestation. Oftentimes, producers tend to supplement heavily in preparation for breeding, but then slack off and wait until the last half of pregnancy to focus on supplementation again. However, maternal nutrition during early pregnancy is much more important than you think.

Fetal programming simply means that the blueprints for how an animal will perform for the rest of its life are set during fetal development. Fetal development is controlled by a complex combination of both maternal and fetal mechanisms. Intrauterine fetal growth restriction occurs when these mechanisms are disrupted. Disruptions can take the form of over- or underfeeding cows during critical periods. Fetal growth restrictions have long-term effects. Evidence is mounting that in-utero stunting permanently affects growth, feed efficiency, meat quality, fertility and overall health for the rest of the animal’s life. For example, steers from cows nutritionally restricted during pregnancy were observed to have reduced body weight and carcass weight at 30 months of age as compared to steers from cows fed adequately during pregnancy.

Placentomes are the sites where all nutrient and gas exchange occurs between mother and calf.

The first few months of gestation are critical for the development of the placenta. As we all know, the placenta is the organ that surrounds and protects the developing fetus. It controls all nutrient uptake, gas exchange and waste elimination by the fetus. Crucial to the bovine placenta are the placentomes (where the maternal caruncle and placental cotyledon join). Placentomes facilitate all physiological exchanges between fetus and mother. During this critical early gestation period the number and size of placentomes are increasing as are their vascularity, controlling blood flow. Decreased blood flow between the uterus and placenta is a primary cause of intrauterine fetal growth restriction.

Maternal nutrition directly affects development of the placentomes. Studies have shown that maternal under- or overnutrition during this critical stage of placental development results in decreased total placentome weight, even after cow nutritional status is improved later in the pregnancy. Additionally, other studies have shown that blood flow in both the placental and maternal components of the placentomes is compromised.

Pregnancy results in increased metabolic activity (both maternal and fetal) increasing the production of oxidants. Waste oxidants can cause cell damage if not neutralized by antioxidants. Just like in human nutrition, antioxidants are very important in livestock diets. For these reasons, deficiency in antioxidant minerals (for example: selenium, copper, manganese or zinc) reduces survivability of embryos and fetuses. Studies have shown that supplementation with biologically available forms of these trace minerals improves reproductive performance, particularly in cattle that have undergone stresses in early gestation.

Development during the fetal period will affect the animal’s performance for the rest of its life.

Early gestation is also a critical period for fetal organ development. Trace mineral status of the dam is critical because micronutrient nutrition is essential for cell growth. When cells divide, DNA is transcribed to RNA, translating into proteins making up the structure of the cell as well as enzymes found inside. At every step of the metabolic process, trace minerals are needed as signals or catalysts. Because different organs develop at different times, deficiencies will manifest themselves differently depending on the time period when the deficiency occurs. A heartbeat is detectable as early as 21 days after ovulation. The limbs begin developing by day 25, followed by sequential development of internal organs. A calf’s sexual organs begin development within the first 45-60 days. This is particularly significant for a heifer calf, since she will be born with every oocyte she will ever have in her entire life. Deficiencies during organ development can have lifelong results.

So what does this all mean in a practical sense? In light of what we now know about fetal programming, future strategies for optimal growth and health in cattle production will start with prenatal management. Essentially it boils down to giving your cows what they need when they need it throughout the entire pregnancy. It is clear that nutritionally restricting cows and heifers during early gestation will negatively affect fetal development. Conversely, we don’t want to overfeed during this period, either, as over conditioning also stunts fetal growth. We also know that trace mineral and vitamin nutrition during the entire pregnancy is critical. Managers should use tools such as body condition scoring and nutritional analysis of forages and commodities to balance diets to allow for precision supplementation during the various stages of pregnancy. Another resource is the SWEETLIX web page at to choose the supplement best meeting your needs.

SWEETLIX CopperHead supplements help combat deficiencies and natural antagonisms by delivering recommended levels of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt in a highly available combination of inorganic and organic sources. This level of fortification helps cows build adequate body stores needed for calf development, lactation and rebreeding. There are multiple formulations available in the SWEETLIX CopperHead line that are easily interchanged to provide consistent nutrition throughout the year as your cattle nutritional needs change.

In summary, nutrition during early gestation is just as critical as during later gestation. What we know about fetal programming tells us that nutritional disruptions during pregnancy can have far-reaching implications later in the calf’s life, even into adulthood. The take-home message is to make sure to match protein and energy needs according to stage of pregnancy and provide high-quality SWEETLIX mineral and vitamin supplementation throughout pregnancy to optimize fetal development and allow calves to maximize their genetic potential.

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

What Have We Become?

As hunters, we should really take note of how non-hunters view us.

It is one of the greatest feelings in the world for me to outsmart a gobbler by calling him into gun range. But that is a fleeting feeling when you are there by yourself. I would much rather share that feeling with someone else. Even better, I’d much rather teach that person how to achieve that feeling for themselves.

by Chuck Sykes

Regrettably, many of today’s hunters (Facebook Warriors) have morphed into a bunch of self-absorbed Hollywood wannabes. It seems a large portion of hunters these days are more interested in documenting their every move on social media than in simply hunting for the enjoyment of the sport. Here is a little bit of harsh reality for them: You are not so important that the whole world has to be updated every second of every day as to your activities. Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with posting a quality hunting photo. But the constant Twittering, Snapchatting and Facebooking to post inappropriate and disrespectful photos with Booyah, BBD, smoked him and all the other outdoor TV buzzwords in the captions, I can do without. Have a little respect for the animal, the sport and yourself.

Hunting success should not be defined as simply killing an animal. It should be about matching wits with the game animal you are pursuing, enjoying the natural world and spending time in the outdoors with family and friends. But, I guess it’s just the times we live in. Unfortunately, many of today’s hunters did not grow up in the woods like I did. They did not have good role models or mentors teaching them how to read sign and understand the biology of animals and their habitat needs. In other words, they haven’t been taught basic woodsmanship. These new hunters have gained most of their knowledge of hunting through watching outdoor TV. So, they think you must have the latest gadgets, face paint, and be able to talk trash and be cool to be a successful hunter.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I have spent the last 25 or so years of my life teaching people how to successfully manage property to assure they provide the best resources for the local wildlife and then, of course, how to effectively harvest those animals in a responsible way. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all of my motives have been completely lily white. But as a hunter maturing in the process, your motives and actions should mature as well and, for most good hunters, they do. In the beginning, for me, it was all about just killing an animal. Whether it was a deer, hog, turkey or squirrel, it really didn’t matter. Then it became a numbers game to simply kill as many as possible, thinking that would gain the respect and admiration of other hunters. Finally, I realized numbers were not the end goal for me.

Hunting success should not be defined as simply killing an animal. It should be about matching wits with the game animal you are pursuing, enjoying the natural world and spending time in the outdoors with family and friends.

What really mattered to me was educating people and helping them to be successful. It was one thing to be a turkey guide and place a hunter at the base of a tree, tell him to point his gun in a certain direction, call in a bird and have him merely pull the trigger. That was rewarding, but even more rewarding was when that hunter would call me and say, "I learned a lot from our hunt. When I got home, I looked for the same type of area. I did similar things to what you did, and I called up my own bird today."

The old saying goes, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him a lifetime."

As hunters, we should be following this principle as well.

As I have said numerous times in articles in this magazine, turkey hunting is my favorite pastime. Nothing is better than being in the woods before daylight on a cool, crisp spring morning and hearing that first gobble. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world for me to outsmart a gobbler by calling him into gun range. But that is a fleeting feeling when you are there by yourself. I would much rather share that feeling with someone else. Even better, I’d much rather teach that person how to achieve that feeling for themselves.

I predicted in the April article that if we have good weather we should have a good season. I can tell you mine has been great as of the writing of this article April 5. So far, I have hunted or guided during bits and pieces of 17 days, seen seven birds harvested and three missed. That’s a gobbler shot at every 1.7 days. My average last year was 3.3 days, and the 10-year average before that was 2.3 days. So, I’d say this year is off to a great start.

I’ve been fortunate enough to carry two brothers, ages 14 and 18, on several occasions. They are as excited about turkey hunting as I was at that age. They have killed five with me calling and one by themselves. I wouldn’t take anything for the one they did solo because I was getting the play-by-play as the hunt was unfolding. They were using techniques they had learned from a couple of our previous hunts. I had taught them how to be successful in the turkey woods.

This job has definitely shown me that we, true outdoorsmen, are a dwindling group. From dealing with legislative issues to working with the general public, I’ve seen that there are just not that many people like us as there used to be. And, because of that fact, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, especially when we are around the non-hunting public. Most non-hunters don’t mind hunting if it is conducted in an ethical manner.

So, the next time you harvest an animal, please remember, being a complete idiot on social media doesn’t do any of us a favor. As the legendary Coach Bear Bryant so eloquently put it, "Act like you’ve been there before!"

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

“Sell-by” ... “Use-by” ... When is it safe??

Understanding date labeling, food safety and food waste.

by Angela Treadaway

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 133 billion pounds of food is wasted annually. This loss has an estimated $161.6 billion in retail value. That’s $523 worth of food per person per year!

Unfortunately, in the United States there is no uniform system used for food dating. Some of the dates you might see include:

  • A Sell-By date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. For best quality, you should buy the product before this date.
  • A Best if Used By (or Before) date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A Use-By date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

These dates cannot be relied upon as an indicator of food safety because there are too many variations in transportation and storage conditions. If foods are mishandled, foodborne bacteria can grow and cause foodborne illness – before or after the date on the package. For example, if hot dogs are taken to a picnic and left out several hours, they will not be safe to use later, even if the date hasn’t expired.

Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the pack date (the day the eggs were washed, graded and placed in the carton). Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. When a sell-by date appears on a carton bearing the USDA grade shield, the code date may not exceed 45 days from the date of pack. Always purchase eggs before the sell-by or EXP date on the carton. For best quality, use eggs within three to five weeks of the date you purchase them. The sell-by date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs are perfectly safe to use.

Infant formula is the exception to the rule. Federal regulations require a use-by date on the product label of infant formula under Food and Drug Administration inspection. If consumed by that date, the formula must contain not less than the quantity of each nutrient as described on the label. Also, if stored too long, liquid formula can separate and clog the nipple.

Because of the confusion over code dates, use-by dates and expiration dates, some food manufacturers use a closed dating system such as a Julian date. A Julian date usually indicates the day of processing using a three-digit number corresponding to the day of the year. Most consumers are unaware that this three-digit number corresponds to a date and thus pay no attention to it on the package.

Since product dates aren’t a guide for safe use of a product, how long can the consumer store the food and still use it at top quality? Follow these tips:

  • Purchase the product before the date expires.
  • If perishable, take the food home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly. Freeze it if you can’t use it within the recommended time frame.
  • Once a perishable product is frozen, it doesn’t matter if the date expires since foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.
  • Follow handling recommendations on product.
  • Consult the Alabama Cooperative Extension System publication "Better-Safe-Than-Sorry Food Storage Chart" for a detailed list of food storage times.

For more information, contact your local county Extension office and ask to speak to a regional agent in food safety.

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.

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