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March 2013

Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Appreciate Nature’s Bounty

If hunters shoot from the road, deer will never mature into one of these magnificent creatures. Experienced hunters who manage their deer population well may watch a buck for years before taking a shot. Inset, this past deer season, Jason came across a deer that had been shot and left in a field about 100 yards from the road. Because the field was private property, more than likely, the deer had been shot from the road and left for dead. Not only is this illegal, but it is also bad sportsmanship.

by Christy Kirk

When my sister and I were growing up in Anniston, my parents never had to tell us to finish our supper. Whatever was put before us, we ate and usually had seconds. Many parents tell their children to finish their dinner because there are people starving in the world who are not fortunate enough to have a hot delicious and nutritious meal every day. My sister and I appreciated the food on our table not only because it tasted good but also because we were growing and, therefore, very hungry. Sometimes appreciation for where your next meal comes from is inherent, but many times children must be taught.

Determining the way you will teach your child the importance of food for human survival will depend on your own point of view. If you have a parent or grandparent who lived through the Depression or experienced several years of ration tickets in the 1940s, you may have seen them stockpile pantry staples such as beans, flour or rice. You may have also seen your mother or grandma stretch the meat and stock of a whole chicken for an entire week: fried chicken, chicken n’ dumplings, dressing and rice soup until every bit is used. Wasting food was never an option for many generations, but the ease of our modern lifestyles has caused many people to become relaxed about their own food efficiency.

Not long ago, a young man told me he had purposely shot a small deer that was probably only a year old. After he indicated it was intentional and not a mistaken shot, I asked him why he didn’t let it be rather than killing the deer. He said he just wanted it off his family’s property; it was a nuisance. So, I asked him if he at least gave it to another family so someone could benefit from his kill. He said no, that he left it. That is when his parents or the person who taught him how to hunt should have taken him to task for his behavior. All young hunters must go through a hunter safety course to get their license, but children and parents must understand that becoming a mature hunter is a lifelong process, not just a onetime test you pass and forget.

Hunters are typically some of the most conservation-conscious people – no matter where you live. Parents who hunt usually make sure environmental awareness and responsibility are passed on to their offspring. Children who see Mama or Daddy showing a respect for nature and the cycle of life are more likely to have the same reverence for wildlife instilled in them. Like many families in Alabama, Jason’s family has hunted the same land for generations. Boys and girls are introduced to the outdoors and hunting not long after they are born. Because of this, parents have to make sure their children grow up learning how to be as safe in the woods as they would in their own backyard.

Jason especially teaches Rolley Len and Cason how to be safe and knowledgeable outdoors. Every time they are together in the woods, he is regularly annotating their experience. From showing them how to look for squirrel nests or identifying deer tracks to spotting buck scrapes on trees, they are developing a respect for nature and an understanding of the cycle of life.

Every hunting season provides an opportunity for so many teachable moments. During rabbit season, Jason used one of the rabbits to explain to Rolley Len how the heart and lungs work. While some parents may feel squeamish about dressing an animal to teach their child physiology, it is important to remember this is where food comes from, and children need to appreciate that groceries, including meat, don’t just magically appear in grocery stores.

Rolley Len and Cason both know we eat what Daddy kills. The kids see Jason clean and dress fish, deer, rabbit or anything else he brings home. Jason believes new hunters would benefit if the hunter safety training included instruction in cleaning and dressing the game. Young hunters should be encouraged to appreciate that they might be bringing home their family’s next meal, not just a trophy mount.

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

Home Grown Tomatoes

Are You Ready For Spring?

Looks like I’ll be testing a bunch of new organic veggie and flower varieties from Renee’s Garden.

by Kenn Alan

With only a couple of weeks left in winter, I thought I would spend a little time talking about planting your seeds and plants into your vegetable gardens.

If you are like I am, you have been composting organic materials and yard waste since the end of last summer. That is usually the cut-off time of the season for me when I stop amending the soil in the flower and vegetable beds with compost. Then I have from early September until now to get more compost ready to add to the planting beds early in the season.

Prepare your planting beds by adding compost and a slow-release fertilizer to the top and then turn into the soil. If you are creating an onion bed, add equal parts compost and sand. Onions, especially bunching onions or scallions, prefer well-drained, sandy soil.

The temperatures have not been terribly cold, but let’s follow the guidelines on direct sowing seed outdoors. The average last frost date is still ahead of us and some seeds would just sit in the soil and rot before the temperatures got warm enough to sustain growth.

Clockwise from top left, these onions were sprouted indoors to test their viability. Now they’re going to the garden.Open garlic bulbs and plant garlic cloves about 6 inches apart. Leave the pointed end pointed up and exposed, but cover the rest with sandy soil. This is where the gourds and such will be planted. Watch for the transformation.

We can, however, directly sow seed for lettuce, mustard, pak choi, spinach and other brassicas. Still, some cool-weather plants are easiest to cultivate when started from young transplants. Those plants include chard, kale, cabbage, collards, broccoli and turnips.

Direct sow allium (onions, garlic, leeks, chives, etc.) seed now. Onion and garlic sets should also be planted.

Carrots, dill, coriander (cilantro) and parsley may be sown. For the coriander, plant some seed now and then plant more every two to three weeks in order to have fresh leaves throughout the season.

“Building Soils Naturally – Innovative Methods for Organic Gardening” by Phil Nauta. It’s not as difficult as you might think and this book makes it even simpler.

I discovered, last year, carrots grow well in large containers. Several 30-gallon pots filled with a well-drained growing medium produced enough carrots for my family and some extras for sharing with neighbors and friends as well.

Bunching onions perform well in large containers, too.

Plant your potatoes. Use seed potatoes for the best results. Cut the seed potatoes about 1 ½- to 2-inch cubes. Make sure at least one eye is on each seed piece. Dig a trench in your cultivated, amended soil about 3 ½- to 4 ½-inches deep. Cover the seed pieces with an inch or two of soil. When plants are 6- to 8-inches tall, begin to mound soil around the bases of the plants to start forming a hill. When the plants are about 15- to 18-inches tall, the hill should be around 5- to 6-inches tall.

Start your basil seed indoors. Thyme, summer savory and mint seed are also ready to start indoors.

If you have tomato plants already started and at least 6-inches tall, then you can plant them in the garden. However, you must shield them from the cold nights until the danger of frost has passed. Cover each plant with a Wall OWater Season Extender. You can also protect the plants with gallon milk jugs or two-liter soda bottles prepared by cutting off the bottom. Note, if the temperature drops below about 25 degrees, additional protection may be needed to keep the plants from getting cold burned. Additionally, if the daytime temp rises above about 80 degrees, the bottle covers may need to be removed during the day.

I started reading a book last week and I can’t seem to put it down. It is called "Building Soils Naturally – Innovative Methods for Organic Gardeners" by Phil Nauta. Although I haven’t finished it, I believe I am going to have to recommend this title for anyone who really wants to create their own soils without using peat or coir as a base. Even if you don’t want to take the plunge into the deep end of the organic pool, there is information in this book you need to know. So, get the book now or wait until I finish it and I’ll give you a proper review.

Finally, this month, I started my gourd, squash and cucurbit garden. I have never attempted to grow them in this manner, so this could be interesting. From now until the end of the season, I will post a picture and tell about the progress of the project. Pass or fail, I will report all of the information. This is the beginning of the series, so bear with me. The first picture had to be taken early in February, before I completely prepared the whole area.

Month one: The gourd garden. Let the fun begin!

If you have any questions or comments regarding things discussed in this column, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook and keep up with the latest news. Tell all your friends, too!

The Herb Farm

Attitude is Everything!

These strawberry plants produce hundreds of fruits each year.

by Herb T. Farmer

About one year ago, March 17 to be exact, I experienced a life-changing episode that scared me so badly I nearly lost all faith in life. For some odd reason, I had a seizure. When you feel you have been living right and eating the proper foods, and then you have something like that happen, it can shake you up. It did me and that’s for sure!

While I was road-testing new doctors and trying to learn to trust them again, I kept hearing the same comments from my friends who would stop by the house. They would ask me about my herb and vegetable gardens. "What kind of new and exciting peppers are you growing, Herb?" Or, "Did you plant those basil seeds I gave you last year?"

Well, long about June, I started feeling guilty because I felt as if I had let them down. I knew I had let myself down, because the farm was beginning to look ratty and unkempt. I had not planted half of the seeds I usually plant. I wasn’t sharing plants or cuttings and I certainly didn’t have the usual veggies to offer my friends and neighbors. It seemed as if I had lost all interest in the one part of life that meant so much to me and that is gardening.

By mid-summer, I started feeling much better, but I was still spending a lot of time searching for new herbal dietary supplements and alternative ways of life.

It wasn’t until autumn that I realized that I had blown most of my year and there wasn’t going to be much fruit or vegetables to can or freeze. After bragging, in a previous article, about how doing that was a sure way to save money on your grocery bill and you’ll know where your food came from, I felt a bit let down.

All through this winter, I kept track of my produce bills from the farmers markets and grocery stores. I have to tell you, it sure is disheartening to have to open a tin can of potatoes or tomatoes instead of opening a quart Mason jar. Additionally frustrating was and is having to do without red, yellow or orange bell peppers for roasting or sauces, because they are nearly $3 each!

None of those things I have enjoyed and counted on over the years happened because I had a bad attitude. Moreover, the fact I did not make my garden what it should be just synergized the situation!

The gluten-free tortilla slider, a very hardy and tasty handheld meal.

That is changed now. I am stoked about the farm again! I feel, with the help of Mother Nature, this year will be the best year ever here at the Herb Farm! There will be a full freezer and all of the shelves in the pantry will be full of jars of fruits and vegetables. I am even counting on being able to share more with my neighbors this year than I have in the past.

Oh, I am certain I will make a trip or two to the big farmers market up in Birmingham to pick up boxes of peaches or a couple hundred pounds of sauce tomatoes, but the garden here is already producing salad greens and the strawberry plants are loaded with blossoms and green berries!

Yes, sir! I am pumped up and excited about this year’s garden and you should be, too! Save some money on your grocery bill by planting your own vegetable patch, or interplant your veggie plants with your flowers and shrubbery.

It will make you feel good to grow your own food. It’ll change your life and attitude about everything.

Remember. Attitude is everything!

Spring arrives on March 20. Happy Vernal Equinox, everybody!

Giant Garnet mustard leaves are cut into ribbons and wilted with the sautéed scallions and baby portabella mushrooms to go on the slider.

Here’s the recipe that I promised last month.

Gluten-free Mustard Green Tortilla Sliders for Two

½ cup scallions, chopped
4 small fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 medium to large fresh mustard leaves, ribbon cut
½ pound ground round (2 patties)
Cheddar cheese, enough for 4 sliders
4 6" corn tortillas

Sauté scallions and mushrooms. Add mustard greens and sweat until wilted. Cook beef patties and cut each one in half to make half-moon-shaped patties. Place cheese on tortillas and toast until cheese melts. Fold tortillas in half like a taco. Put half patties and sautéed veggies on each tortilla and serve with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Enjoy!

We’ll have another recipe in April.

Until then watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water and breathe!

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at

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

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

The Herb Lady

Chickweed and Bed Bugs

by Nadine Johnson

I have never had the pleasure of seeing a mattress filled with chickweed; though my husband did. By now, most of you have met Richard, my husband, and know he was a railroad man. Well, one day he and a co-worker happened to be tending to railroad business in the vicinity of Greenville. They also happened to see an interesting rural scene.

An older farm house had a sign out front – ESTATE SALE. They stopped to check this out. As it turned out, a lovely older lady was liquidating her large store of treasures in preparation for moving to a less demanding lifestyle.

She entertained these two men with a complete tour. She even took them to her bedroom. She turned back the covers to expose her mattress filled with chickweed. Of course, Richard came straight home to tell me of this experience.

According to legend, this was a common practice at one time. It seems chickweed is covered with many tiny barbs. Bed bugs would get trapped in these barbs and die.

Recently, an exterminator told me he has been in this business for over 30 years. He saw his first bed bug 4 years ago. Since that time, bed bugs have become such a problem until he cannot take care of all the requests he receives for their eradication. He also told me a victim can never be sure how he or she got them. He also said people from all walks of life are subject to becoming victims.

In the herb world, chickweed (Stellaria media) is considered a mild-mannered mystery. It is one of the most common weeds. It can be found almost any place in the world. It is an annual which grows best in the cold months. In pulling the weeds, I discovered it had the feel of Velcro.

This herb is said to be a mild diuretic. Some say it helps to dissolve body fat. It has been used to treat respiratory problems such as bronchitis, cough, colds and, possibly, tuberculosis. There are other ailments this herb might control.

Chickweed is also a healthy addition to salads. It is very high in vitamin C. Its cousin cleavers (Galium aparine) can be used in the same manner. It would take quite a while to gather enough chickweed to fill a mattress. We might have to do so if the bed bug plague continues.

Bed bugs were a problem through the WW II era. Then along came insecticides such as DDT (which, of course, is now banned) and we thought we had eliminated bed bugs forever. Not so. They have returned with a vengeance. We humans can be thankful the little devils are not as large as German shepherds.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577 or by email at

Howle's Hints

Forget the Politics - Get Outside and Use Your Woods Wisdom Skills

Keeping both eyes open as you shoot will have you on target quicker.

by John Howle

"Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself." Mark Twain

Get ready to shed the heavy winter coat for something lighter because March is giving us the signal that spring is not far away. The cold weather may have resulted in us spending more nights than we should in front of the 24-hour news feed. Watching the political leaders of this country try to make decisions affecting the direction of the country and the future of our children and grandchildren can be a frustrating experience because there’s not a reader out there who could run his or her farm in a similar manner and stay in business for long.

March is a great time to forget all the politics and enjoy a crisp, morning turkey hunt. Few things create as much excitement as hearing a thundering gobble echo through the chilled, spring woods. The mornings start cold, but, once the sun comes up and warms the body, you might find yourself in a comfortable doze at the base of a shoulder-width tree.

Packing a Pillow

If you are going on a long hike, hunt, or fun, family outing involving sleeping on the ground or in a tent, a pillow helps you sleep better. The only problem with the pillow is it takes up too much room in your day pack or backpack. To remedy this, I buy the two gallon Ziploc bags. I fill one Ziploc bag three quarters of the way full with air. I then stuff this bag into a second, two-gallon freezer bag to ensure against leaking. Finally, wrap your fleece jacket around the pillow for a sound night’s rest. The next morning, you have two 2-gallon bags for storing items for the trek back to civilization.

A prescribed burn is an effective way to increase the wildlife habitat of your property.

Cunning Coyote Shot

Keeping the coyote population under control is a must if you are raising livestock. Few things tempt a coyote more than a newborn calf or young goat. Keeping your rifle handy this time of year is essential if you are going to be able to get a shot at the wily varmints. If your rifle has a scope, an easy way to get on target quickly is to keep both eyes open as you find the animal in the cross hairs. With both eyes open, you increase your peripheral vision allowing you to find the target fast.

Your dominant eye should be the one looking into the scope. To find which eye is your dominant eye, you can make an "ok" sign with your thumb and forefinger extended at arm’s length. Center a distant object in the circle with both eyes open, then, close each eye separately. The eye keeping the object in the center of the "ok" sign is the dominant eye.

Friendly Fire

A prescribed burn can be your most cost-effective resource for enhancing habitat on your farm in wooded areas. Once the burn has taken place, it’s amazing to see how much new, green forage appears in the spring. The fire gets rid of excess leaf litter, opening up the ground for seed-to-soil contact for native plant germination.

Cleaning out a natural spring can draw wildlife to the spot.

This creates ideal forage and bugging areas for young poults. Don’t worry about a prescribed fire causing turkeys to leave the area; many wildlife biologists I’ve talked to say they’ve seen turkeys crossing over to the still smoldering burned areas to eat charred seeds and bugs. We love a good charbroiled steak; I guess the turkeys like their bugs charbroiled as well.

Spring Cleaning

Robert Frost wrote a poem called "The Pasture." In this poem he talks about cleaning out the pasture spring:

"I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;

I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I sha’n’t be gone long. You come too."

While he’s waiting for the water to clear, it can also be inferred the speaker is clearing his mind as well. If you have a spring on your property that’s clogged with mud and debris, simply raking or shoveling it out will allow clean water to collect, and all wildlife needs a fair amount of water. Once you’ve cleaned the spring, you may find lots of wildlife using this watering hole, and it makes a great spot for photography.

WD-40 can remove tar and bug splatters from the front of the truck.


You may have used WD-40 to loosen rusted bolts or lubricate a hay baler chain, but it also has other uses around the farm. WD-40 will clean grease from a rubber hose, clean tar splatters from the sides of your truck, and remove bug splatters from the hood and front bumper. In addition, you can spray WD-40 on the tines of your garden digger and it will prevent rust and help keep grass and debris from grabbing and wrapping around the tines.

Egg Timer

If you raise your own chickens for the eggs and maybe forgot to put the date on them, an easy way to see if the eggs are too old to eat is by putting them in water. An egg that is fresh will lie on its side at the bottom of the water. If the egg balances on the smallest tip or floats, it’s time to throw it away. Eggs will usually balance or float when they are older than three weeks.

This March, forget the politics and plan a few fun outdoor activities. The kids will love it, and you can demonstrate how to use your woods wisdom skills.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

If you can’t plant your onions right away, lay them out in a cool, shady spot.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Last Call for Blueberries

If you’ve been wanting to plant blueberries, but haven’t quite gotten around to it, don’t delay. It’s best to give them a little time in the ground before hot weather arrives. Like azaleas, blueberries have very fine, hair-like roots that need regular watering at first and don’t take well to smothering. You can put a light layer of pine straw (which is acid) over the bare ground to help retain moisture after you plant. Watering is very important; use a drip system or a soaker hose to water your plants regularly and deeply during the first couple of years. Deep watering encourages deep rooting, making plants more drought tolerant later. Once established, the shrubs do very well, and you can pick gallons of berries from each shrub (you’ll need at least two for cross pollination). Recommended varieties for Alabama include Climax, Woodard, Premier, Tifblue, Centurion and Powderblue. In coastal Alabama, try some of the introductions from the University of Florida such as Beckyblue and Bluecrisp, which are hybrids of Southern Rabbiteye and Northern Highbush. Blueberries are pretty shrubs well-suited to neighborhood and urban landscapes. A row of three to five makes a nice, loose screen or background for a flowerbed – just leave yourself a path to pick the fruit!

It’s Onion Time

There is still time to plant onions. Don’t set them too deeply or they may not bulb properly. Bonnie Plants onion bunches should be available at your local Quality Co-op now. If you can’t plant them right away, unbundle them and lay them out in a cool, shady spot out of the weather. It’s okay if they dry out a little bit, that’s better than taking a chance on them rotting in the tight bundle.

There are several ways to maintain beautiful window boxes in warm weather. It is possible to set up a drip irrigation system similar to what is used for container plants. Another option is to plant drought-tolerant plants.

Window Boxes

This beautiful window box is in the historic district of Charleston, SC, where so many of the homes have charming boxes filled with seasonal flowers and foliage. The challenge with window boxes is that they dry out quickly in the summer. Just like a container sitting on the ground, it is possible to set up a drip irrigation system in a window box for easy watering. It’s more work in the beginning to run tubes up to the box and maybe even disguise with the house paint, but it will pay off. Window boxes like drought-tolerant plants, too. These include waxy-leaved begonias, succulents, and other plants such as rosemary and dusty miller, that don’t instantly wither when the beverage service is delayed.

Hints for Climbing Roses

The early blooming climbing roses will begin their show soon. If you don’t have one on a fence, wall or trellis, now is also a good time to plant since it is when the assortment at garden centers is the best. There are a number of climbers that are vigorous, easy and outgrow or outlive blackspot and other typical rose diseases. Some I’ve seen Alabama gardeners favor through the years include Climbing Pinkie, Old Blush, New Dawn, Sea Foam, Buff Beauty, Seven Sisters, Don Juan, Dortmund and American Beauty. A new one proving very tough is Peggy Martin, a Katrina survivor discovered alive after the waters receded. When you have a choice, train climbers where they get morning sun, but are shaded from the blazing afternoon sun.

Cool Weather Flowers

Snapdragons and pansies planted last fall should be coming along very nicely now. If your pansies look leggy, trim them back an inch or two. Today’s snapdragon hybrids are much more heat tolerant than older varieties; so after your snaps bloom, snip off the flower spikes and see how the plants often branch and bloom again, especially in North Alabama.

Now is a good time to plant climbing roses on that empty fence, wall or trellis. If you have a choice, train climbers where they get morning sun, but are shaded in afternoon.

Swiss chard, which is both frost and heat tolerant, adds great seasonal color to a flower border. In addition, it attracts swallowtail butterflies which lay their eggs on the foliage.

Swiss Chard Is a Lot More than Edible

Yellow Jessamine is a survivor in the garden, not demanding much care other than pruning.

A flower border in my neighborhood was spectacular last spring anchored by a big, beautiful Swiss chard. Swiss chard is one of the few leafy greens that tolerates both frost and heat, so it’s still possible to plant in now for beautiful foliage into summer. While it’s a delicious leafy vegetable for sautéing or adding to soups, it’s also great seasonal color. Parsley is another cold-hardy green that grows well in summer. It is also likely to attract swallowtail butterflies to lay eggs on their foliage and rear a crop of butterflies for summer. One of the best examples of using parsley, kale and chard with flowers is the fall and winter planting at the Summit Shopping Center in Birmingham where large concrete containers are used throughout the walks and entrances to stores. If you are in the area, don’t miss their seasonal flower mixes for a good education on potted combos.

Yellow Jessamine

In spring, I always try to spot yellow jessamine in the pine trees or other places where it climbs and rambles on the roadside. Seeing it in the wild is a good reminder of what a survivor it can be in the garden. In spring the long, twining vine is covered with sunny blooms. The rest of the time the evergreen leaves will cover fences and trellises without demanding much care other than occasional pruning if it outgrows its bounds. It’s easy to find in many garden centers now. You can plant yellow jessamine to adorn a pretty fence or hide an ugly one!

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

Feeding Facts

Minerals & Vitamins

by Jimmy Hughes

As cattle producers enter the spring, they do so with great anticipation of a successful year. This year, though, brings about several concerns for beef producers throughout the state. Farmers are, and always will be, concerned about weather conditions that either make a successful or an unsuccessful crop year. As a cattle producer, you have to make tough decisions each year to remain in the cattle business.

What I am seeing in the Southeast is a continuing trend in the use of mineral and vitamin supplements not meeting livestock’s needs. It seems common for a new mineral company or a lower cost mineral to come along on a daily basis. The end results of this trend can be very costly to the producer utilizing the products.

The use of lower cost minerals are starting to show in reduced reproductive performance, increased numbers of retained placentas and prolapses, inability to fight off sickness and infection, and reduced milk production and growth. Most producers do not realize what a vital role the proper mineral and vitamin program plays in the overall performance of livestock.

A good mineral and vitamin supplement will contain the proper amount and ratio as well as the most absorbable source of minerals and vitamins for the cow to utilize. Too often, I am seeing more and more minerals from sources that cows can’t easily absorb or will be in amounts that bind each other, and the cow can’t utilize the product.

Mineral and vitamin supplementation is essential for acceptable performance in cattle. When considering a complete supplement, we must understand what makes up a complete supplementation program. Minerals are broken into two categories: macro and micro. Macro minerals make up the largest percentage of a mineral because they also make up the largest percentage of the mineral composition in the animals body. These minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium and sulfur. The Micro minerals make up the smallest portion of a mineral supplement because they make up the smallest amount in the mineral composition of the animal. Micro minerals are: copper, cobalt, zinc, iron, selenium, iodine, manganese, molybdenum and fluorine.

This is a quick overview of the macro minerals you should be concerned with when selecting the proper mineral supplementation for your cattle.

Calcium is very important in bone and teeth formation, nerve function and milk production. It is one of the less expensive ingredients in a complete mineral mix. What this means is that the higher the calcium level in the mineral the lower the expected cost. Calcium and phosphorus also work hand-in-hand in absorption and utilization. There must be more calcium than phosphorus in the overall diet of the animal or phosphorus will bind calcium making it highly unavailable in the cow’s diet. A good mineral supplement will run between 15 and 18 percent calcium.

Phosphorus is also very important in the formation of bone. Phosphorus also plays an important role in reproduction and proper cell balance. It is an expensive ingredient in most mineral supplements and will be at sub-standard levels in minerals with lower prices. Phosphorus levels should run from 4 to 8 percent in good quality supplements.

Sodium is very important as a major cation of extracellular fluid where it is involved in osmotic pressure and acid-base equilibrium, preservation of normal muscle cell irritability and cell permeability. Salt provides both sodium and chlorine in a mineral supplement. It is also relatively inexpensive and should go into the supplement at the rate of 20 to 25 percent.

Chlorine is a major anion involved in osmotic pressure and acid-based balance along with aiding in the digestion process. Like sodium, chlorine is added to most supplements in the form of salt.

Magnesium is very important as an enzyme activator primarily in the area of energy production. Magnesium also plays a key role in the prevention of grass tetney during the spring. It is an expensive ingredient in the mineral supplement. Magnesium is also very bitter and, when fed at high levels during non-grass tetney times, can lead to a decrease in consumption leaving your cattle deficient in other minerals. Most minerals will be at least 2 percent magnesium and up to 14 percent in high magnesium mineral supplements. Pay extra attention to the magnesium and phosphorus levels in minerals. Some mineral companies might sacrifice one of these two minerals in a cost-cutting effort.

Potassium is a major cation of intracellular fluid where it is involved in osmotic pressure and muscle activity.

Sulfur is very essential in sulfur-containing amino acids that are the building blocks for protein. It also plays a key role in tissue respiration and serves a component of biotin and thiamine.

The micro minerals and their functions are:

Iron is very important in blood formation and cellular respiration.

Copper is very important in hemoglobin synthesis, enzyme systems, and maintenance of nerves and hair pigmentation. Alabama is a copper-deficient area and research is available promoting the increased levels of copper in mineral supplements. I would look at a mineral supplement that is at least 1,500 parts per million copper.

Zinc is very important in immunity along with hoof integrity. It is also important in the development of bone and hair.

Manganese is utilized as an enzyme activator, growth, reproduction and cholesterol metabolism.

Cobalt is a component of B vitamins and is needed by rumen bacteria for growth and reproductive performance.

Selenium is regulated by the FDA and can only be provided at the rate of 3 milligrams per head per day. Any mineral supplement higher than 26 ppm selenium will have a lower consumption rate than those with 26 ppm in the total supplement.

Iodine is important in the formation of thyroxin and is also very important in immunity.

Molybdenum is important in microbial activity.

Fluorine is important in protecting teeth against decay.

As you can see, all of these minerals work together to assure that the cattle are performing and reproducing at an adequate level. Cattle deficient in any of these minerals may show signs of depressed immunity, slow reproductive performance, poor milk production and reduced feed efficiency. All of these areas will have a direct impact on the bottom line of your cattle herd.

Remember, university research has shown the importance of ALL of these minerals to be included in the diets of cattle at a level to meet their daily requirements. A supplement not including adequate levels will have a direct impact on your cattle herd. It is also important to note that most mineral problems will show up later than sooner meaning that when you least expect a problem you may find less calves in your pasture due to a reproduction problem. While it might seem this would be an area to potentially save some money this year, it would cost you more in the long run than the small savings seen.

The biggest factor most producers give me for changing minerals and vitamins is their cost difference. With that in mind, let’s look at the difference in mineral cost on a yearly basis.

A good all-purpose highly fortified mineral and vitamin supplement will cost a producer around $18 a bag while an economically priced mineral will cost closer to $14 a bag. Based on these two figures, it will cost an additional $8 to $10 per cow per year to feed a good fortified mineral over a lower cost mineral. On a 100 cow herd that figures out to be $800 per year in additional cost. At today’s prices, you would only need one additional calf to offset the additional cost. You would only need to save one calf from sickness or increase your weaning weight an additional 5 pounds to justify the better mineral. I would encourage you to consider this as you decide what mineral supplementation program you would like to implement and select the program giving the most returns.

An example of a good/complete mineral should contain at least 14 percent calcium, 4 percent phosphorus and no more than 20 percent salt along with adequate levels of the other discussed minerals as well as vitamins A, D and E. A good mineral supplement will also contain highly available sources of these minerals. A mixture of sulfates and oxides along with chelated trace minerals will be more available to the animal assuring utilization by the body. Look at the mineral tag; as phosphorus levels go up, the price will be higher as well. Be aware of trace mineral levels as a way to lower the overall cost of a complete mineral. While lower available minerals might be at a lower cost, if the animal can’t utilize it then it does not matter what the cost. As a producer, always remember that in the mineral business if there is a cost difference there is a quality difference as well. Also remember, trace mineral salt will not meet the daily mineral requirements for your cattle other than for sodium and chlorine.

As you can see, there are a lot of considerations when deciding on a complete mineral supplement. When the proper supplement is selected and offered to your cattle, the cattle will perform at a level up to the standards you are looking for as a producer.

If I can provide more information or provide you some assistance in the decision-making process, please feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> or 256-947-7886.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Farm Fresh Memories

Navel Lint, Toe Jam, Pocket Fuzz and Dryer Stuff!!!

Studyin' 'Bout Lint Places, Types and Quality, at the Flat Rock General Store....

by Joe Potter

It’s Monday comin’ on near two in the afternoon down at The Flat Rock General Store. I howdied at Slim over b’hind the counter settin’ in his old recliner. Here I navigated myself back to those gathered round the old potbellied heater settin’ area and found a Pepsi cola case ’longside Ms. Ida. There is a heavy congestion of folk so assembled. All The Store regulars are so gathered - includin’ Slim, Essex, Ms. Ida, the widow Cora, Farlow, Willerdean, "Truth," Bro., S.R., J.R., "Hatch," Dustin and the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood. Course, community and area folk are comin’ and goin’ as warmer weather has approached.

The topical discussions are large and wide in variance. Gardenin’, whole milk, Easter church visitors, medical marijuana, Hatton baseball, school lettin’ out, soil samplin’, storm shelters, cattle prices, the economical state of folk in general, jobs, Bro’s Sunday preachin’ and them folk who needed it.

The widow Cora had the floor and was tellin’ those so assembled ‘bout the tallness of her Irish tater plants, also offerin’ she suspected they would need lots of heavy dirt throwed to ‘em pretty soon. Just now Slim rose up from his old recliner, leaned on the counter and proclaimed to the gathered group that folk ‘bout Mt Hope was sayin’ the Sibleys, Reba and Jerry, was dislodgin’ from here bouts and movin’ to Auburn permanent like. Seems folk here suspect they want to be closer to Dean/Dr. Jeff and Bridget Sibley, maybe to their grandkids, two other young’uns, possible even Aubie and Coach Malzahn, ha!

At this point, Estelle busted through the old, double-front doors of The Store carryin’ what held the look of four 25-pound sacks of wind-light flour - meanin’ they was short on weight by the way she was handlin’ them as she flung them on the counter. Here then she turned and howdied to the settled folk with somber words, seems she also carried a very somber grin or smile. Bro. questioned Estelle as to the need for four 25-pound, wind-light flour sacks.

Now with what carried the look of near tears, Estelle somberly noted she was abandonin’ her hair beautifyin’ factory and cosmetology certificate in search of a full college degree in cloth and material usage, further notin’ flour sacks carried her instructor’s first assignment.

Here, as total quiet fell over the collected group, mouths fell open, jaws dropped and heads shook with pure lack of understandin’. There were even a few utterances from the group of Why?, Really?, Surely not?, etc., and so on.

Followin’ some state of normal bein’ regained by the group, Estelle continued to explain her first college assignment was on lint places, types and quality. She took on explainin’ that navel lint, toe jam, pocket fuzz and dryer stuff were pure, clear in-word as to place and type. However, she so put that quality was highly variable based on place and type, and each flour sack carried samples of navel lint, toe jam, pocket fuzz and dryer stuff.

Just now Willerdean questioned Estelle as to why her college instructor would hand out such an extreme assignment to a first-time freshman college student. Why not English, history or math?

Here Estelle took on a full-mouth grin as she proclaimed to the gathered group, there ain’t no such class, assignment or instructor. April Fools!!! I got you all ….

I put work into them four 25-pound, wind-light flour sacks all weekend. I will be doin’ beautifyin’ over at my hair beautifyin’ factory full well after some of you folk have passed.

Just now with total dumbfoundedness lots of the gathered folk come on disasembelin’ with heads shakin’ and jaws still full dropped.

So keep your guard full up this April first and watch out for more middle-aged, women-type college freshman carryin’ four 25-pound, wind-light flour sacks, pure full of navel lint, toe jam, pocket fuzz and dryer stuff. Still …


Joe Potter, Potter’s Mud Creek Farm is located at 5840 County Road 339 (County Line Road), Russellville, near “Our” Flat Rock, in Lawrence County; email:
4-H Extension Corner

Prepping May Not Be What You Think

Fruit trees are another way you can prepare for the future and assure your family of always having something to eat with the fresh fruit and later with what you canned or made jelly from.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

I recently made a comment to one of my friends about how I need to work harder on having more food and other necessities stored here on my little farm.

She replied in almost amazement, "Oh - I just have faith in God because He will provide what I need. I go to the grocery store at least two or three times a week."

I understand what she meant BUT nowhere in the Bible or in my studies have I been led to believe I can just sit here on my little acreage on my not-so-little-behind while everything I need simply appears!

Growing up in the rural South it seemed just about everybody grew a garden every year. Mostly women spent the hot days before air conditioning "putting up" fruits and vegetables in shiny jars their families then enjoyed all winter. You prepared in the summer for the long hard days of winter, and beyond.

You tried to can extra tomatoes if you had a bumper crop that year because drought, disease or insects might make the crop not so great the next. The same goes with peas, beans, peppers, whatever.

(And an extra bonus was you KNEW what was in the food because you grew it and prepared it YOURSELF, so there was no need to worry about chemicals, disease or other unknowns.)

Even the government recommends we now have at least three days of food and water in our homes (and the more the better!) in case we have to shelter-in-place during power outages, blizzards or worse. Our friends in the Church of Latter Day Saints have long held that families should have one to two years of food stored, not only for personal and family disasters but to help others in similar straits.

If you are really serious about preparations, a goat or two can provide your family with milk for drinking and for making cheese, yogurt and great homemade ice cream!

But I’m afraid too many folks nowadays dismiss preparations as something only those with "strange ideas" or hidden agendas do. An extremely popular TV show each week features folks who are preparing shelves of food, guns and ammo, water and all sorts of things because they fear natural disasters will melt the ice at the North and South Poles flooding all the nation’s port cities; magnetic problems with the sun will cause the power grid to fail worldwide; or terrorists will stop all deliveries of food across the nation.

Some of those shows are easily dismissed as you watch folks burying bunkers in their backyard or digging special food cellars under the carport floors of their suburban homes.

But in my simple way, I hope folks don’t dismiss all those ideas so quickly.

I told my friend with the frequent grocery store habit how "prepping" really had helped my family in the past. Here’s one example.

If you have even a small backyard area (and even some cities are now allowing hens, but no roosters!), a few hens can provide your family with fresh wholesome eggs AND great free entertainment as they scratch and cluck their way around the yard.

My Mama was not a wealthy woman, but when her estate was finally settled I wound up with about $1,000 in cash that had no designated place it had to be used.

Because I had spent a lot of the previous months tending to her, my home canning shelves were not completely bare but not many folks would want to live on vegetable soup and jellies!

So my husband Roy and I traveled to one of the discount grocery stores and spent that entire amount on canned meats and other canned foods, trying to get brands we knew were as naturally prepared as possible.

We came home, unloaded those cans and went about our usual business. We vowed to add a little every week until that spring and summer when we could have hopefully a bigger and better garden supplemented by great foods to eat and can from the Blount County Farmers’ Market in Oneonta.

Approximately six weeks after our shopping trip, Roy suffered two major heart attacks.

While son Nathan kept the family’s electrical business going, neither Roy nor I could work for several weeks – he, because he was recuperating (although he was never able to fully return to actual "work"), and me, because I was caring for him.

While we were able to pay our regular monthly bills thanks to Nathan’s hard work, GUESS WHAT WE ATE DURING THAT TIME!

Yep, I simply walked to the pantry and "shopped" for whatever I wanted to cook on any particular day! Not only did that help us financially, because the food was already bought and paid for, BUT, since at first I couldn’t leave him alone, I didn’t have to worry about getting to the store to shop!

Even broccoli planted in rocky soil produced a good spring crop.

While I was always a leftover-back-to-the-lander-type from the 1960s and 70s, we had truly learned our lesson during the Blizzard of ’93 when we were without electricity for six days and virtually snowed in for that same amount of time. We vowed then we would ALWAYS have wood for heat and food that could be cooked easily on that heater’s stove top.

(And all of us have seen news reports of folks who have endured natural disasters like hurricanes and snowstorms which brought all sorts of outages. If you waited on government help, a lot of times those helps were snowed in or destroyed as well. Those with secondary heat sources and stored foods and water fared much better. I know personally because I have friends who were in some of those disasters.)

Now Nathan and his creative wife Kim are continuing our prepper ways. They’ve both resumed hunting and have cans and a freezer full of venison and other game. A pressure canner, meat grinder and other tools are considered necessities in their home, as they can meats, stews and chilis, and make specially-prepared sausage.

The amount of fruits and vegetables grown in their raised beds has been amazing. And did I mention their chickens that provide such great and LARGE farm-fresh eggs? (They may have caught the chicken addiction from me.)

But maybe you live in an apartment or a small house, and maybe like me the gray on your head shows you’re just not as full of energy as you once were. There’s still no reason you can’t be prepared.

One year in addition to our small garden, I hastily planted a couple of yellow crook neck squash plants and two tomato plants between the shrubbery by our home’s carport. I couldn’t tell you how many meals we enjoyed off just those four plants!

You can grow herbs and all sorts of vegetables in flowerpots or five gallon buckets. You can buy an extra can or two of soup or something else you like (maybe an extra roll or two of toilet paper!) each week when you grocery shop. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up!

And hundreds of cans of things can be stored on closet shelves or in boxes under your bed if space in your home is sparse!

A couple of hints to get you started: don’t buy anything you don’t normally use or eat. Cans of something you don’t like might keep you from starving in an extreme emergency, but it would be awfully boring and unpleasant!

Also, don’t buy anything to save long term with a pop-top on the can because those can come loose without any warning.

Your county’s Extension service has a wealth of knowledge they will share with you FREELY; not only on growing great foods but on preparing in all ways. The folks at your local Quality Co-op can advise you on planting things big and small, whether an acre garden or a few buckets by your sidewalk.

I think in my simple way, COMMONSENSE IS THE BEST PREPARATION OF ALL - and it doesn’t hurt to have faith that my grocery-store-traveling friend mentioned as well!!!

Suzy Lowry Geno enjoys her simple life on a small Blount County farm and can be reached through her website

Horses, Horses, Horses!

Take Their Temperature First Scouting for Gobblers

Scouting is possibly the most important aspect of turkey hunting for consistent success. If you’re going to call in a gobbler, commonsense dictates there must be one present. (Credit: mtnangle)

by Todd Amenrud

Do you know the success rate of most hunters? It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s only around 15-17 percent for a whitetail bowhunter, and around 12-14 percent for a turkey hunter, regardless – bow or shotgun! I guess that’s difficult for me to fathom because that’s not a "daily rate" but for the ENTIRE SEASON! I’m stating this for the purpose of this piece, not to brag but I can’t remember the last hunting season when I didn’t have success … and I know some of you are right there with me. Why … because I ensure success though scouting and preparation. Sure, there are time constraints for some and access issues for others, which obviously have a huge influence on success rates. But I don’t know I would step foot afield without some sort of current information about the area I intend to hunt and the game I’m pursuing.

Scouting is possibly the biggest element of hunting anything, but especially for turkeys. Learning roost locations, strutting zones, grit sources, bugging habitat and the lay of the land is of utmost importance if you wish consistent success. Having knowledge of any obstacles in the area can be one of the most important pieces of information. I have called gobblers through a fence or blow-down and over a creek or road before, but don’t count on it happening often. You want to position yourself within an area they have utilized before and one that’s easy for them to access.

Try to create your set-ups in spots turkeys habitually use rather than spots they don’t frequent.

Learning where the bird is going to be at certain times of the day can help. Keep a journal if necessary. If you get them to answer your calls, write down the time, place and the call he answered to. If you "take their temperature" while scouting, it can make it easy when it’s time to hunt. After the tom is finished with his hens for the day, many times they go day-after-day to preferred strutting locations. Make note of these spots, and the different avenues that might be used to access them.

You have to pick a set-up location offering the birds easy access. Don’t set up across a river, fence, drainage or bunch of blow-downs and expect to call that bird to you. You have to make it simple for the turkey to get to you. Look for turkey signs in the form of tracks, feathers, droppings, etc. It’s much easier to call birds into spots they customarily like to travel and spend time in than spots they don’t.

Getting an answer to a locator call is one of the most popular ways of discovering a gobbler’s location. Every turkey hunter has a favorite locator call, but if you hunt different locations you may have to be well versed in a number of calls to get them to sound off. For instance, in the pine-ridge area of South Dakota, I’ve found a coyote howl or peacock call works great. But when using the same call while hunting northern Missouri or Mississippi, those calls will be returned with silence. There, they seem to sound off better to a simple owl hoot or a crow call. In most areas, a simple hoot or crow call will work great and throughout most of the South those are the sounds I would start with.

If you run up against a bird that some label as "call shy," you can sometimes howl, caw and hoot yourself blue in the face and get nothing to acknowledge your presence. In this case, "hen-talk" may be the only way. Use the same calls you would use while hunting. I like to do this before I hunt a bird anyway. Learn which call they favor. Sometimes you can blow a diaphragm until you get dizzy without a response, but the same series done on a slate or possibly a box call drives them crazy. Just changing tones is often all it takes.

Turkeys will have patterns. They will have yearly, seasonal and daily patterns. It’s really the daily patterns that will be most valuable. Water is impor-tant in a turkey’s life. (Credit: 400ex127)

However, let me caution you that going overboard on the calling during pre-season or before you actually hunt can make it tough when you need to score for real. I do not suggest using hen talk often during pre-scouting. Find out what the bird likes and then shut up. You don’t want to call them in all the way to discover the noise they thought was a sexy hen is really some idiot out scouting. Pre-season, or when you’re not actually hunting the bird, get him to answer once or twice and then leave well enough alone.

I’ve got a buddy who likes to go out and practice, sometimes calling in the same bird two or three times before the season starts. If you’re good, that may work – you can learn what each individual bird "turns on" to. But then again, it only takes one mistake to educate a gobbler that those sounds were coming from an idiot in camo.

Optics are a very important part of turkey hunting, as well as turkey scouting. When up against the uncanny eyesight of a turkey, I need something to combat that. Optics are especially important when you get bad weather and the birds aren’t very vocal.

Trail cameras can be used for turkeys just like they are for whitetail. Use the cameras to help you develop a pattern. Week-to-week their patterns can change, but day-to-day they are fairly reliable.

Scout as you hunt. While you’re hunting, always pay attention (seems to be harder as I grow older), even if it’s not immediately relevant. Remember where you heard other gobbles, where you saw other toms and the time of day that it happened. If your target bird fails to cooperate, then you have many other options.

As I mentioned, some don’t have the time to spend scouting if they want time off to go hunting. If that’s the case, I would be questioning landowners, outfitters, sporting goods stores, registration stations, the local conservation officer or anyone I believe may have information to help. Landowners and other hunters can usually provide the most recent information, which is typically the most valuable.

Pending when you are scouting, remember the toms might be doing something a bit different when hunting actually rolls around. If you are out a month or two before the season, the birds are probably going to have a different daily routine and possibly inhabit a different area than when the season is at hand. This time of the year, they are out of their winter patterns, broken up into smaller groups and will be right in the midst of breeding season. The most reliable information will be gathered within a week before you actually hunt.

As I said, scouting is an important part of hunting anything. It’s fun and healthy just to get out there. It aids in building confidence, helps so you’re not stumbling around on opening day (or your first hunt for the year) and definitely will help you fill your tag this season.

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

Sage Grass & Cedars

The Co-op Pantry

Mary Delph's daughter Clarissa holds a pan of Peach Cobbler.

Wow! It’s April already and Easter came early this year, so what on earth do we do with April? No ham, no boiled eggs, no dye all over your kitchen, no fancy desserts. Well, it turns out there are an amazing number of food-related things happening in April.

April is National Food Month, National Fresh Florida Tomato Month, National BLT* Sandwich Month, National Pecan Month*, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month* and National Soy Foods Month among others and special days are set aside during the month as well, such as:
April 1: National Soylent Green Day (It is April Fool’s Day after all) and National Sourdough Bread Day
April 2: National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day – this one is self-explanatory
April 3: National Chocolate Mousse Day*
April 4: National Cordon Bleu Day
April 5: National Raisin & Spice Bar Day
April 6: National Fresh Tomato Day (The TV dinner appeared on this day in 1954)
April 7: National Coffee Cake Day*
April 8: National Empanada Day
April 9: National Chinese Almond Cookie Day
April 10: National Cinnamon Crest Day
April 11: National Cheese Fondue Day*
April 12: National Licorice Day (can’t stand the stuff) and Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day*
April 13: National Peach Cobbler Day*
April 14: National Pecan Day*
April 15: National Glazed Ham Day – buy pre-cooked and serve with the peach cobbler
April 16: National Eggs Benedict Day* and Day of the Mushroom
April 17: National Cheese Ball Day*
April 18: National Animal Crackers Day – I dare you to get a package and go down the street eating them!
April 19: National Rice Ball Day
April 20: Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day
April 21: National Chocolate-Covered Cashews Day – eat enough for me, I am dieting again.
April 22: Jelly Bean Day – hopefully you will have some left over from Easter or can find them at drastically reduced prices by now!
April 23: National Picnic Day – go on a picnic even if you have to do it inside for lunch.

Easiest Peach Cobbler Ever

April 24: Pigs-in-a-Blanket Day*
April 25: National Zucchini Bread Day
April 26: National Pretzel Day
April 27: National Prime Rib Day
April 28: National Blueberry Pie Day
April 29: National Shrimp Scampi Day*
April 30: National Oatmeal Cookie Day* and National Raisin Day – again, eat enough for me!

Did you know April was such a busy month? I am including recipes (with *) to accompany several of the food months and days. They are all easy and tasty, and most of them can be prepared by your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc., with adult supervision, of course. Have fun, enjoy spring and start cooking.

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


½ pound bacon (approx. 12 slices)
8 slices white bread, toasted
8 leaves iceberg or Bibb lettuce, fresh and full
8 slices ripened tomatoes
8 Tablespoons mayo or
salad dressing, or to taste
Kosher salt, taste

Cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Spread 1 tablespoon of mayo on each slice of bread, more if you like. Add 1 slice of lettuce to 4 pieces of toast. Add 2 slices of tomato on top of lettuce. Arrange 3 slices of bacon evenly on top of tomatoes. Add 1 slice of lettuce on top of the bacon. Put the remaining 4 pieces of toast on top to finish the sandwiches.

Note from Mary: I also like to butter the toast slices before adding the mayo or salad dressing. It will keep your toast from getting quite so soggy and even though it adds more fat, it tastes so good.


4 slices white bread
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
2 slices Cheddar cheese

Preheat skillet over medium heat. Generously butter one side of a slice of bread. Place bread, butter-side-down, into the skillet. Add 1 slice of cheese. Butter a second slice of bread on one side and place it butter-side-up on top of sandwich. Grill until lightly browned and flip over; continue grilling until cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining 2 slices of bread, butter and slice of cheese. Makes 2 sandwiches.


1 large package cream cheese
5 ounces Roquefort cheese
5 ounces Cheddar cheese, softened
Juice of 1 onion
1 teaspoon Worcester shire sauce
1 cup pecans, chopped

Let cheese warm to room temperature overnight. Mix everything together except the nuts and blend well. Add ½ of the nuts and mix again. Shape the mixture into a ball and leave in the refrigerator overnight. About a half hour before serving, roll in the remaining pecans and serve with an assortment of crackers.


2 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. When mixture boils, cover for one minute. Uncover and cook without stirring until a small amount dropped into cold water is brittle (265° on a candy thermometer). When almost done, beat the egg whites and salt until they form stiff peaks. Slowly pour the syrup mixture in and continue to beat until the mixture is no longer shiny and will hold its shape when dropped from a spoon. Add pecans and vanilla. Drop at once by spoonful onto waxed paper. Makes 4 dozen.


1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1½ cups milk
1 (16-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Mix pudding mix and milk. Fold in the whipped topping until blended. Refrigerate until chilled and serve.


2 eggs
1½ cups sugar
1½ cups milk
3 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Dash of salt
4 Tablespoons Vegetable oil
Brown sugar

Mix first 5 ingredients. Beat in vegetable oil. Pour into 9x13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar, cinnamon and bits of butter. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes and enjoy!


8 ounces Velveeta
2-3 Tablespoons milk
Variety of dippers

Place ingredients in pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring until melted and smooth. Transfer to a fondue pot or crockpot. Have your kids gather round and serve with a variety of dippers: French bread cubes, bite sized raw veggies, meat cubes, etc. … just use your imagination.

Note from Mary: This is super easy and the kids can make it with only minimal supervision, but it is still tasty. If you don’t have fondue forks, a regular one will do.


1 (29-ounce) can peaches
6 slices white bread, edges trimmed
1 egg, beaten
1½ cups sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 stick butter, melted (use real butter, not margarine)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Drain peaches and cover the bottom of 8x8-inch baking dish with them. Cut bread into strips. Place strips over peaches. A weave pattern looks good, but you can place them any way you like.
Melt butter in medium bowl. Mix egg, sugar and flour with butter. Pour mixture over bread slices. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the bread slices are browned. Serve warm. This is great with ice cream, too.

Note: You can cook this is any oven-proof dish.


2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tablespoons butter
½ cup onion, chopped
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Paprika for color
White rice, cooked

Melt butter in large skillet, fry the onion and garlic until they are transparent. Add the shrimp and fry until it begins to turn pink. Add the hot sauce and reduce the heat. Cover and simmer 5-10 minutes. Serve over white rice.


1 package hot dogs
1 (8-count) can package crescent roll dough
Preheat oven to 400°. Separate dough into triangles. Roll up each hot dog in a dough triangle. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, with the tip of the crescent on the bottom against the tray so the dough doesn’t come undone as it bakes. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with cheese sauce or catsup.

Note from Mary: This is a fun and easy cooking project even very young children can help prepare.


Cooking spray
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
3 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ pound Canadian bacon, diced into ½” pieces
6 English muffins, diced into ½” cubes
½ teaspoon paprika
1 (.9 ounce) package hollandaise sauce mix
1 cup milk
¼ cup margarine

Coat 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Whisk eggs, milk, onions, onion powder and salt in a large bowl until well mixed. Layer half the bacon in baking dish. Spread muffin cubes over meat and top with remaining bacon. Pour egg mixture over casserole. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat your oven to 375°. Sprinkle casserole with paprika and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven until eggs are nearly set, about 30 minutes; remove foil. Continue baking until eggs are completely set, about 15 more minutes. Whisk hollandaise sauce mix with milk in saucepan. Add margarine and bring sauce to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer and stir until thickened, about 1 minute. Pour sauce over the casserole to serve.

Note from Mary: Eggs Benedict can be a time consuming and nerve wracking dish to prepare. By doing it up in a casserole and using a prepared hollandaise sauce mix, it is much easier to make and still very tasty.


1¼ cups butter
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups uncooked oats

Heat oven to 375°. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combined flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add dry mixture to egg mixture; mix well. Stir in oats. Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, depending upon preference for chewy or crisp cookies, just watch them carefully. Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy.

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! Email me -- Mary

Our Outdoor Heritage

The Good Old Days Are Right This Very Minute

by Corky Pugh

March heralds a favorite time of year for many of us — spring turkey season. Some 55,700 hunters annually pursue wild turkeys in Alabama. With a seven-week-long season and an annual limit of five gobblers, plenty of opportunity exists. With an estimated population of 550,000 birds and an annual harvest of almost 38,000, our state is a mecca of turkey hunting.

It’s hard to believe, not very many years ago, there were not huntable populations of turkeys in most of Alabama. In 1940, the estimated population was 16,000 statewide. The literal translation of these numbers is that for every track, feather or strut mark we see now, there were 33 less in 1940. For every turkey sighting now, there were 33 less in 1940. And for every gobble heard now, there were 33 less in 1940.

Our grandfathers would indeed be amazed.

In the words of Tom Kelly, "The good old days are right this very minute."

The only thing less fun than turkey hunting without turkeys is duck hunting without ducks, which most of us have done on occasion.

So how did the relative abundance of turkeys come to be? A massive re-establishment program led by the Game and Fish Division (now Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries) in cooperation with landowners and hunters produced phenomenal results. Trap-netting and translocation of wild turkeys to suitable habitat, followed by a period of protection, enabled reproducing populations to become established.

For a free copy of "The Wild Turkey in Alabama," a Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division publication, contact your nearest WFF district office or go

For more of Tom Kelly's perspective on turkeys, read "The Bad Old Days" in "A Year Outside," available You can listen to Tom reading "The Bad Old Days" on the Hunting Heritage Foundation website

Thankfully, eastern wild turkeys have proven to be far more adaptable than once thought. Not too many years ago, the contemporary "science" held that "in order to sustain huntable populations of eastern wild turkey, large, unbroken tracts of mature, open-understory hardwood are necessary." This bit of wisdom gave way to the realization that turkeys are incredibly adaptable, and can thrive in a wide variety of habitats. Once again, our grandfathers would be amazed.

When you pursue this noblest of gamebirds this spring, be sure to share the experience with a younger person. Introduce a newcomer to turkey hunting’s grandeur. Yes, turkey hunting requires much patience and skill. But only by attempting to teach a youngster, can you demonstrate exactly what to do and what not to do (with apologies to 11-year-old Brooks).

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

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for, go to the website at You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

The Sustainable Garden

Willie Bowling, a farmer, and county agent J. B. Mitchell, both in Cullman County, inspect the field. (Credit: Auburn University Archive, May 1926)

by Tony Glover

Gardeners have the same challenges as farmers in maintaining a sustainable growing system. In last month’s issue of Cooperative Farming News, Jim Langcuster had a great article about soil conservation efforts since the Dust Bowl days. We all now realize soil conservation is the most important part of agriculture sustainability. The same holds true for home gardens as well.

There are several things home gardeners can learn from modern soil conservation practices. In last month’s article, we learned frequently plowed, precious topsoil that had accumulated over centuries dried in the summer heat and was blown away during the decade of the Dust Bowl. We also learned our main problem was soil eroding away in water rather than blowing away. On a smaller scale, home gardeners experience similar problems. In addition to soil lost through water and wind, you can lose scarce organic matter by the continual turning of the soil.

Home gardeners should learn to practice no-till or limited-till gardening to reduce soil and organic matter losses. Farmers mainly accomplish this through raising cover crops or leaving crop debris on the surface. Gardeners can do this as well and they have the added advantage of being able to bring mulch into the garden from last year’s leaf crop from nearby trees or hay left over from a fall landscape display for example. However, since we can easily bring in outside sources of organic matter, gardeners often overlook the importance and other advantages of growing our own organic matter with winter and summer cover crops. Local Extension agents such as J.B. Mitchell were encouraging farmers to plant legume crops way back in the 1920s and we are still singing the praises of these miracle crops that add nitrogen and organic matter as well as pulling valuable nutrients from deep in the soil.

Small gardeners often find it difficult to practice crop rotation on such a small scale, but it is very important for long-term sustainability to develop a sound rotation plan. The first step in crop rotation is good recordkeeping. Make notes about where you planted what vegetables and what pest problems they had. Learn which crops are related and are the same host for important soilborne diseases and pests such as nematodes. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has several good publications on soil improvement and crop rotation, but the most useful one is called, "Nematode Control in the Home Garden." This publication offers several suggestions on how to reduce nematodes that are also useful ways to reduce soil-borne diseases and conserve soil at the same time. You will also learn which vegetables are closely related and this knowledge will help you develop a small scale rotation plan for your garden. You may find this publication on their website at and search the publications with the keywords, "garden" and "nematodes."

One of my favorite books was written by F.H. King about 100 years ago called, Farmers of Forty Centuries. Even before the disaster of the Dust Bowl and tremendous erosion problems in the South, Professor King studied the ancient farms of China and tried to teach Americans that sustainability begins with soil fertility and conservation. We now know it is a bad practice to wear out farm land and move to new soil, and, as gardeners, we often have nowhere to move so we must do a good job of conserving and improving what we already have.

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

From the State Vet's Office

This and That, Spring 2013

by Tony Frazier

Occasionally, I write a column dealing with more than one subject. Those subjects are usually reminders of columns I have already written. Or they are subjects that do not require a whole column to get my point across. This is one of those columns. Consider it the information buffet line.

The Importance of Communication

I wrote my first "From the State Vet’s Office" column in April 2004. Or was it 2005? Either way, the column was titled, "The Office of the State Veterinarian." That article was a good opportunity to communicate to producers across Alabama what it is we do and how we serve the animal agriculture producer and the consumer.

When Jim Allen and Grace Smith approached me about writing this column, I sat down and wrote down 10 subjects I wanted to communicate to the audience who would read my column. I figured, in the course of a year, I could come up with a couple of relevant subjects and that would round out a year. To be honest, I thought I would do this for a year, then, if I had exhausted any material to write about, I would thank AFC Cooperative Farming News for the opportunity and move on to something else.

Here we are around a hundred or so articles later and we haven’t exhausted writing material yet. This column has become a huge tool in the toolbox for communicating messages needing a vehicle to get them out to you in agriculture. Over the past few years, I have written columns about BSE, West Nile virus, avian influenza, disease traceability, wildlife disease threats, disaster preparedness and response, and the list goes on. This column has allowed me to address questions I would hear at producer meetings and stockyards. It has given me an opportunity to report factual information about subjects given 30 seconds to a minute of coverage on the evening news.

I use a lot of different tools to make every effort to communicate information to those of you who benefit from it. I occasionally have the opportunity to place an article in other magazines. I appreciate those opportunities. However, this column has provided me with a venue to get important information out to both producers and consumers in a timely manner. You cannot put a price on that.

Time to Vaccinate Horses

Spring is almost here and with that the 2013 crop of mosquitoes will not be far behind. Therefore, it is time to vaccinate your horses. We typically have cases of Eastern equine encephalitis, which is almost 100 percent fatal, and West Nile virus, which is fatal in many cases and debilitating in others. There is no good reason to skip the vaccination part of your horse’s health. I know the economy is still tight, but your vaccination program is not the place to cut corners. I recommend, at a minimum, you vaccinate against tetanus, WNV and EEE every six months. Consult your veterinarian for the exact vaccines that fit your needs.

Here’s kind of a funny story about the logic some people use to decide whether to vaccinate or not. One of my veterinarian friends told me of a client who had started losing calves to blackleg. When my friend discussed the importance of vaccinating against blackleg, the farmer stood there and studied about it for a few seconds. The he told my friend, "Well, we used to have blackleg a long time ago, then we started vaccinating. We went several years without losing a calf, so a few years ago, we quit vaccinating." I’m just wondering if maybe the fact they were vaccinating was the reason they went for several years without losing a calf to blackleg.

Brucellosis Vaccination

Back in about the 1970s through the end of the century, brucellosis vaccination was a significant part of most bovine practitioners’ practice. Brucellosis (Bang’s) vaccination was a requirement for most female cattle to move across state lines as part of the Brucellosis Eradication Program. Then when we became brucellosis free in Alabama, everyone re-evaluated the need to vaccinate against a disease we were able to say we no longer had in Alabama.

For the most part, when we became brucellosis free, other states recognized that and most states did not require us to vaccinate our females entering their states and we no longer had to Bang’s test our cattle. Let me emphasize "most states." There was a period of time that some of the New England states like Vermont and Massachusetts continued to require vaccination and testing. I doubt very many of our cattle made their way that far up into the Northeast. Over the years, regulations have continued to change and different states now have brucellosis regulations affecting cattle being imported from Alabama.

Brucellosis has never completely gone away. There continues to be pockets of it in bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone area of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. The USDA, along with state departments of agriculture, continues to have a surveillance program that serves to catch Bang’s suspects at harvest facilities. However, in applying the old bit of wisdom of "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," some states are requiring the vaccination to enter their state.

Now, back to your original question, "Should I vaccinate my heifers against brucellosis?" That depends on a few factors. If you are a seed stock producer, I would recommend you vaccinate so you are not limited to the states you can sell to. If you show heifers that may go to shows in places like Wyoming or the Dakotas, I would recommend you vaccinate. And finally, I would mention the orange brucellosis vaccination tags serve as an official method of identification in our new disease traceability program. Also, it is worth mentioning the federal government is about to implement their traceability program that pretty much mirrors ours. If you have questions about vaccinating against brucellosis, contact your local veterinarian or call me at 334-240-7253.

Put more water in the soup

I have heard folks from my grandparents’ generation who, when times get hard and money gets tight, would just put more water in the soup to make it go farther. Well, we are still adding water to the soup here at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. We have fewer people still trying to get all the work done and it sometimes spreads a little thin. But our labs are still operating at full throttle, our meat inspectors are making sure all of their assignments are covered, and the poultry and animal industry folks continue to cover stockyards, flea markets, BSE samples and whatever else we need to do. Unfortunately, it just takes us longer sometimes to get everything done. If we can ever do anything for you, give us a call.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

For What It's Worth

What Is Your Forage Production Plan?

by Robert Spencer

If you do not have a quality forage production and management plan in place at this time, now is a good time to start planning and implementing a total management system to ensure quality forages in your pastures to meet the nutrient needs of your livestock for the upcoming grazing season. This likely necessitates a comprehensive strategy including: (1) soil testing to determine possible nutrient deficiencies and appropriate supplements; (2) assessing nutrient needs of your livestock and developing a seasonal forage plan with the potential of adding more variety; (3) a grazing management plan including rotational grazing and proper resources (fencing, gates and access to water); and (4) long-term plans for sustainability. The goal for a quality forage program is to meet the nutrient needs of your animals, and minimizing reliance on grain feeds while increasing the likelihood of profitability and sustainability.

Soil tests, nutrient deficiencies and supplements

Soil testing is the easy part. Visit your local Extension office to pick up a soil test kit, follow the instructions, send it off to the lab at Auburn University and wait for results to come back to you. Once you have evaluated the results, it is time to make decisions. If the results reveal no deficiencies, you are in the clear. If the results show deficiencies, then it’s time to make decisions whether to use commercial fertilizers, animal manure or do nothing. Adding agricultural lime is a task best done in the fall, as it takes a while for the lime to improve soil quality.

Nutrient requirements versus nutrient availability

When trying to determine forage availability and quality, it is important to know the nutrient needs of the species on your farm. To give you some general ideas, keep in mind these are ranges and there are lots of variables such as stage of development, lactating versus maintenance animal, dairy versus beef, etc. Beef Cattle: 8-12 percent crude protein, sheep: 10-14 percent crude protein, and goats: 10-16 percent crude protein. Keep in mind, total digestible nutrients numbers for all types of forages should be greater than 50 percent, regardless of species. (See the table with this article covering a few of the forage varieties I recommend; this will give you a few ideas. When studying qualities of various forages and their protein and TDN levels, keep in mind applying fertilizer insures nutrient qualities. The numbers provided in this table are peak nutrient quality; nutrient value will vary depending on soil quality and seasonal temperatures.)

Grazing management

Deciding to utilize rotational, intensive rotational and no rotation grazing is a matter of choice including resources (fencing, posts, land and finances). Establishing fencing is time consuming and expensive, but then again so is feeding grains. Based on some crude calculations I did several years ago, it takes 5 years of being able to utilize fencing to justify the initial investment. Cost for establishing electric wire (strand or net), barb wire and net fencing can range from two to five dollars per foot, depending on cost of materials, labor, etc. The practices of rotational and intensive rotational grazing are ideal management systems, but you must decide what works best with your available resources.

Long-term sustainability

Start thinking year-round quality forage availability, not just seasonal. There are annual and perennial types of forages that can be planted, and even some perennial types that will need to be renovated about every 3 or 4 years. Without going into great detail on various options, I will say most vegetation planted for spring, summer and fall grazing is perennial with possible need for reestablishment about every 3 to 4 years. Vegetation for winter grazing tends to be annuals and needs to be established every fall in order to be ready for winter. Annuals are good for grazing and if they die off in the spring they serve as "green" manure, providing nutrients and organic matter which enhance soil quality. When considering long-term sustainability of forage availability, always keep in mind to match quality forages serving the nutrient needs of your livestock.

Now is a good time to begin planning and implementing quality forage production for this summer. Make sure you know your soil conditions and have addressed them as best as you can. Evaluate current forage presence and determine what should be added to improve the quality of pastures so they better serve the nutrient needs of your livestock on a year-round basis. Assess your options on grazing management, based on resource availability; only you can decide whether intensive rotational grazing, rotational grazing or stockpiling forages is best suited to your situation. The ultimate goal is to have a plan insuring long-term sustainability by keeping input and management costs to a reasonable amount so, at the end of year when you balance costs versus revenues, your operation’s financial status remains in the positive.

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

Through the Fence

Whirling Woodrow

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Mark Twain once said, "It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." That’s true of people of course, but certainly true of dogs. My dad once had a Jack Russell terrier that couldn’t have weighed more than 15 pounds, but she thought she was a Rottweiler. She could back my Labrador off her food bowl or her favorite chew toy. Even though she was little on the outside, she was big on the inside. She was aptly named — Spunky.

My friend April had a feisty little dog like that, a red Dachshund named Woodrow. He was stocky and muscular, and looked like a miniature Durock hog from the rear. He helped April’s daughter D’lin run the goats when they needed to be exercised in preparation for the stock shows. All she had to do was turn him out in the pen with goats, and he’d go to work. If the goats didn’t want to get going, Woodrow would scoot underneath them and nip them on the belly or the inner thighs. It didn’t take much of that to put them in motion.

He loved to chase skunks and got sprayed lots of times. He even grabbed a porcupine by the tail once or twice and got a mouth full of sharp quills to show for his effort. But even that rude rebuff wasn’t enough to deter Woodrow from chasing all the varmints off April’s property. Perhaps his favorite target was raccoons. Like most farmers and ranchers, they had more raccoons than they ever wanted. They were forever getting into the cat food and garbage. They stole eggs and ate baby chicks. But Woodrow and his fellow ranch security guard, Gus, a white Australian shepherd, kept them in check - for the most part.

But one night there was a loud ruckus out on the carport. It was a cold wintry night, the week before Christmas. April was in the hospital with pneumonia. D’lin and her dad had just come in from the evening chores. Gus and Woodrow wouldn’t stop barking and the sound was reverberating off the metal walls. Finally, D’lin and her dad got flashlights and went to see what all the commotion was about. There was a stack of horse blankets stacked up in the corner of the carport. Both dogs were looking under there and barking ferociously. D’lin squatted down and shone the flashlight under the pile. There was a huge raccoon backed up against the wall snarling at her.

Her dad found a golf club and whacked the raccoon a couple of times. He was unconscious when they pulled him out. Then Gus, thinking he had dispatched the ‘coon, jumped on him and started shaking him violently. Then he started swinging the limp animal around in circles. On the second pass, Woodrow clamped onto its tail. But since he didn’t add much weight, Gus didn’t even notice that he had a "hanger-on." Woodrow growled fiercely as he tightened the grip on the raccoon’s striped tail. D’lin and her dad laughed at the comical sight of the little wiener dog swinging around in the air repeatedly.

Finally, Gus took a break and laid the varmint on the ground, but it took some coaxing to convince Woodrow to let go. Then both dogs stood proudly beside their prey as if they’d stalked it for miles through the African bush country and brought it down on their own. They never realized it was the initial blow to the head that felled their enemy.

D’lin went back inside to get ready for bed while her dad fetched his shotgun to finish the job he’d started. Even after the carcass was hauled off, Woodrow kept returning to the sight and sniffing and growling. He may not have been the "hot dog" he thought he was, but he showed them whose side he was on. His canine pride made him even more motivated to keep patrolling the perimeter looking for intruders. It was a long time before they were bothered by any others.

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

On the Edge of Common Sense

Your Own Worst Enemy

by Baxter Black, DVM

It usually happens when you’re by yourself. You’re trying to load a bunch of cows in the one-ton. It should hold 12 head, but with four to go, they plug up! You’re slappin’ them with the BQA-approved paddle, you chunk a piece of wood at the one in the gate. You’ve actually turned around and leaned up against the last cow in the loading chute and pushing like you were trying to jump start your car!

You slide into that stage where cussing is mandatory, "Git yer sorry @#%*! no good bag of rumen contents, in there! You think this is a home for pampered poop processors! I’m gonna cull every @#%!* one of you if you don’t … Where’s that dog when I need him!"

Then the light dawns … yer good dog is already in the bed of the truck, guarding his territory!

Another time I was trying to get one of my old farm trucks to start. It was a ’69 Chevy I had bought used. I remember it had a funny smell in the cab. It took me weeks to identify it. It was only when I ran in to Oscar Van Oosten’s daughter and recognized the scent of a milking barn that I placed it!

Anyway, I called my daughter out to help me start the truck. I took off the air filter and had her lean under the hood and spray starter fluid (ether) into the top of the carburetor, as I sat behind the steering wheel cranking the engine and pumping the gas pedal. It would catch, then peter out. We switched positions, to no avail.

I hooked up the tow chain to the old Ford and had her pull me down the driveway, popping the clutch and banging on the chain. "Dang it!" I said, kicking the tire. I raised the hood again and stared down at the malignant machine holding an empty can of starter fluid. My daughter piped up, "You think it’s out of gas, Dad?"

Until you spend all day digging and setting a nine-foot railroad tie in the corner of a four-acre field you just bought, then finding out the next day somebody moved the survey stake and your rock-solid post should actually be 14 feet to the southwest, do you realize you were just a little hasty. Maybe should have looked at the map a little closer.

My friend John was laying a nice sandstone floor on his mother-in-law’s veranda. He bought a new cement-cutting blade for his circular saw. "Doin’ it right!" he said to himself. He started down a line on a piece 4½-foot long. Then the blade tied up! He pushed and pushed, eventually cursing the @#%&!* sandstone, the veranda, the mother-in-law (quietly), the blade and the &^$#@ Chinese workers who made this worthless #@%&!!!! saw!

His wife heard the racket. She peeked out the screen door and listened to him curse and condemn the hardware store, the safety glasses and his sore leg. "Maybe," she said, "It would cut a little easier if you took your knee off the cord!"

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,

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