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March 2015

4-H Extension Corner: A Grilling Event

(From left) Amy Burgess, Etowah County Extension coordinator; Blake McMahan, 4-H Club member from Limestone County; and Betty Broman, Limestone County Extension coordinator, at the 2014 National Chicken-que Contest where Blake placed second.

by Maggie Lawrence

Brutal cold did not stop Blake McMahan, a 4-H Club member from Limestone County, at the National Chicken-que Contest. Despite temperatures below freezing, McMahan grilled his chicken and the competition to perfection, winning second in the contest, held during the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference in Louisville, Ky.

A West Limestone County High School graduate, McMahan was an active 4-H member for the past 2 years, focusing on the Chicken-que project.

"Competition day I was nervous, but I also felt confident in myself," McMahan said. "I had a game plan on how I wanted everything to go and things just fell into place cooking."

Betty Ann Broman, Limestone County coordinator for Alabama Extension, recalls McMahan’s focus on competition day.

"The morning of the competition, it was only 27 degrees," she said. "But Blake was well prepared and did not let the cold weather affect him. His attention to detail paid off in the quality of his final product."

McMahan, who is now a student at Calhoun Community College, confessed to having mixed emotions during the awards ceremony.

"At first, I was nervous because my name hadn’t been called out. Then it changed to excitement when they announced me as the second place winner."

Amy Burgess, who provides leadership to Alabama 4-H poultry and egg projects in addition to her role as Alabama Extension coordinator for Etowah County, said it takes more than a well-cooked chicken to win the contest.

"The 4-H Chicken-que contest involves skills in barbecuing and product preparation as well as a presentation demonstrating knowledge of the poultry industry, food safety standards, nutrition and product attributes," Burgess explained. "This is not just a barbecue contest."

Burgess and Broman both noted McMahan’s commitment to preparation and practice between winning the Alabama 4-H Chicken-que contest in late summer and the national contest in late fall.

Broman said McMahan practiced on weekends and evenings with her.

"We worked on doneness, timing and arrangement of the preparation area," Broman said. "We adjusted the food safety and food handling aspects of his grilling plan. To help prepare, Blake also honed his skills by cooking for several groups in the West Limestone community, including several volunteer fire departments."

She added that a former Marshall County 4-H member briefed McMahan on what to expect at the national competition and helped fine tune his preparation techniques. In addition, a Limestone County poultry farmer worked with McMahan on the content of his presentation.

Burgess called McMahan’s work ethic impressive.

"He set a goal of placing high at a national 4-H contest in his chosen project. He did all that he could do to accomplish that goal.

"What Blake did was to showcase Mastery. Mastery is one element of positive youth development that 4-H strives to instill in its members. I am extremely proud of Blake and for how he represented the Alabama 4-H program."

Both the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation provided financial support to McMahan’s trip to the national competition.

Maggie Lawrence is the News Unit Manager, Extension Communications and Marketing for Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Failure to reauthorize federal program will affect school, road funding in Alabama, other states

Public school and road budgets in Alabama and most other states may take a hit this year because Congress thus far has not reauthorized a federal law passed in 2000.

USDA has announced that amounts paid to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will drop from the more than $300 million in 2014 to $50.39 million this year. In Alabama, the cutbacks mean a loss of nearly $1.2 million – from $1.79 million last year to $589,000 this year.

A 1908 act required that 25 percent of receipts from National Forests in each state be paid to support local schools and roads, based on a 7-year rolling average of that revenue. While that measure is permanent, it was supplemented in 2000 by the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act providing larger, stabilized payments to more states. It also created a forum for community interests to participate collaboratively in the selection of natural resource projects in the National Forests, and has assisted in community wildfire protection planning.

The Obama Administration supported a 5-year reauthorization of the more recent program to transition payments to counties in the 2015 fiscal year, but Congress has not acted on it. Accordingly, payments to states revert to those called for under the 1908 law.

Multiple operators common among larger family farms

Larger farms often require more management and labor, as well as capital, farmland and other resources, than one individual can provide.

For that reason, it’s no surprise that multiple-operator farms are prevalent among large and very large family farms. Having a secondary operator also may provide a successor when an older principal operator phases out of farming.

According to the latest government figures, 38 percent of all U.S. farms were multiple-operator farms, while 73 percent of very large family farms had more than one operator.

Because farms are generally family businesses, 68 percent of all secondary operators were spouses. About 16 percent of all multiple-operator farms (and 6 percent of all farms) were multiple-generation farms, the data shows, with at least 20 years’ difference between the ages of the oldest and youngest operators.

Food spending away from home nearly matches sales at grocery stories, other retailers

Spending at grocery stores and other retailers accounted for 50.4 percent of the $1.4 trillion spent on food and beverages by U.S. consumers, businesses and government entities, according to the latest government figures.

The remaining 49.6 percent took place at restaurants, school cafeterias, food concession stands at movie theaters and recreational events, and other away-from-home eating places.

In 1960, the away-from-home market had a 26.3-percent share of total food expenditures. Except in some recession years, that share has grown steadily through the decades. Two-earner households and busier lifestyles have led consumers to spend less time cooking and seek the convenience of food prepared away from home, analysts say.

Majority of dairy farms enroll in Margin Protection Program

More than 23,000 of the nation’s dairy operations – over half of all dairy farms in America – have enrolled in the new safety-net program created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Known as the Margin Protection Program, the voluntary program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the difference between the price of milk and feed costs falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

USDA officials said enrollment far exceeded expectations in the program’s first year and credited outreach efforts for the high-participation level.

During the three months of the enrollment period, USDA held more than 500 public meetings, sent out nearly 60,000 direct mailings and conducted more than 400 demonstrations of the web-based tool designed to help applicants calculate their specific coverage needs.

Unlike earlier dairy programs, the Margin Protection Program offers dairy producers a range of choices of protection best suited for their operation. Starting with basic coverage for an administrative fee of $100, producers can select higher levels of coverage at incremental premiums. More than half of applicants selected higher coverage beyond the basic level.

Dairy producers interested in enrolling in the Margin Protection Program for Fiscal Year 2016 can register between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2015.

Alabama conservation projects receive federal funding

Alabama is part of three projects among 115 across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico that will receive more than $370 million in federal funding as part of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

In addition, these projects will leverage an estimated $400 million more in partner contributions  for a total of nearly $800 million – to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment.

Projects in which the state is involved include:

- The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers Conservation Partnership, that also includes Florida and Georgia. Lead partner in the effort will be the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District. Persistent drought and long-term landscape change have reduced the capacity of the ACFR Basin to balance human use with ecological demand. The project to improve water quality and quantity in the ACFR includes more than 20 partners, ranging from private industry and large nonprofit organizations to universities and local soil and water conservation districts.

- Longleaf Pine Range. Coastal Headwaters Forest – Longleaf Conservation and Restoration. Led by The Conservation Fund, the 205,000-acre coastal headwaters project, located in Florida and Alabama, will use partnerships and resources to acquire conservation easements and restore the off-site loblolly pine to the native longleaf pine. In doing so, more than 44 at-risk species’ habitat will be enhanced and more than 150,000 acres of longleaf pine restored. Water quality and quantity to the Gulf of Mexico will be protected and at least 80 jobs retained.

- Watershed improvement. Alabama Farmers Federation will lead this program and will work to address a growing demand for water in several Alabama watersheds. Recent data shows that in some cases irrigation has increased up to 80 percent in the past few years. The goal is to work with partners to provide direct technical support and outreach to program participants to ensure future irrigation practices will be efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. The ultimate goal is to protect, improve and enhance water quantity and water quality in the state’s watersheds.

Animal Antibiotics

A proposed phase-out of certain antibiotic use by the FDA could affect how farmers treat their cattle.

by Jackie Nix

The Food and Drug Administration is implementing a voluntary program within the animal, feed and drug industries to phase out the use of certain antibiotics in the use of animal feed or drinking water. To date, all animal pharmaceutical companies have agreed to fully comply. Here’s what you need to know about the changes:

Antimicrobial resistance

Resistance is an important public health issue not only in this country but globally. Microbes have an incredible ability to mutate and adapt to their environment. In the presence of less-than-killing-doses of antimicrobials, resistance can and does develop. What that means is that the drugs we have today can eventually quit working if we don’t address this issue.

Changes to FDA Rules

In an effort to curtail antimicrobial resistance crossover from food animals to humans, the FDA is modifying how feed- and water-based antimicrobials are used in animal agriculture. FDA has identified medically important antimicrobial drugs used for both humans and animals and will restrict usage of these (see Table 1 for a complete list) from current practices. Luckily, the drugs most used in humans are least used in livestock and vice versa (see Figure 1 on right).

In a nutshell, the only thing that will go away completely is the use of these shared drugs in low doses for the enhancement of growth or feed efficiency. These shared drugs will still be available for treatment, control and prevention of disease in livestock. However, they will no longer be available over-the-counter and will require a veterinary feed directive – essentially a prescription for livestock. This means your livestock will require veterinary oversight prior to the purchase of feeds, supplements and/or additives containing the targeted drugs. You or your veterinarian will provide your feed dealer with a VFD and both will be required to keep these on file for a specified period of time. There are specific rules that govern what is a valid veterinary-patient relationship, and the specific details are still being worked out.

An important detail to keep in mind is that use of animal-only drugs will not change. Animal-only drugs you are able to purchase OTC today you will be able to continue to purchase OTC after these changes are implemented.

As of the writing of this piece, implementation is said to start "within 3 years" of the writing of the last FDA document. That places the start roughly in December 2016. However, details are still being worked out with all of the participating stakeholders.


So what can you do in the meantime? While all legal uses and combinations of drugs are still available OTC today, including drug claims for growth enhancement and improved feed efficiency, you might want to start preparing yourself prior to 2016.

Producers can start looking into other options (perhaps switching from a shared-use drug to an animal-only use drug) and also start discussions with their veterinarian and feed distributor on the coming changes.

Feed Dealers can start discussions with their customers, local veterinarians and vendors to foster a line of communication on making these changes.

In summary, the proposed FDA voluntary program to restrict use of selected medically important drugs in animal feed and water is designed to help protect public health and keep both humans and animals safe and healthy. To learn more about these proposed regulations visit FDA’s website at

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

Best in Beef

Joel Dobbins, winner of Best in Beef

Students compete at annual High School Beef Cook-off.

from Alabama Cattlemen’s Association

Beef was sizzling as young culinarians across Alabama convened at Carver High School in Montgomery on Saturday, January 24, for the 54th Annual Junior and Senior High School Beef Cook-off, sponsored by the Beef Checkoff program and Alabama CattleWomen’s Association. Forty-two students qualified to compete by winning their county cook-off with a delicious beef dish. Students participating are involved in either Family and Consumer Science or Culinary Arts at their high schools.

The "Best in Beef" winner was Joel Dobbins from Sardis High School in Etowah County who prepared Roast Po-Boys. This winner was determined by judging the first-place dishes from each division.

While judging was taking place, students, teachers and parents participated in an educational program featuring "Careers in the Food Industry" and "Beef: From Pasture to Plate."

Above are the senior high school winners whose schools are located in the north division of Alabama; below, senior high school winners from schools in the southern part of the state. Far left, each photo, is Cindy Fitzpatrick, ACWA president.

ACWA President Cindy Fitzpatrick from Lowndes County said, "It is exciting to see these young people’s creativity with beef. This creativity coupled with the career opportunities in foodservice make a great combination. Beef is the top protein in foodservice and there is no doubt the cook-off gives us a platform to share this information with students, parents and teachers."

The following students also took home awards in their divisions:

Sr. North

1st: Joel Dobbins, Sardis H.S., Etowah (Best in Beef)

2nd: Landin Griffin, Pleasant Grove H.S., Jefferson

3rd: Harley Lesley, Locus Fork H.S., Blount

Sr. South

1st: Michael Ransom, Murphy H.S., Mobile

2nd: Beverly Campbell, Jemison H.S., Chilton

3rd: Jayla Lane, Carver H.S., Montgomery

Above are the junior high school winners whose schools are located in the north division of Alabama; below, junior high school winners from schools in the southern part of the state. Far left, each photo, is Cindy Fitzpatrick, ACWA president.

Jr. North

1st: Meghan Mims, Cordova H.S., Walker

2nd: Madison Wilbanks, Heritage Christian, Lauderdale

3rd: Dustin Barrs, West End H.S., Etowah

Jr. South

1st: McKenzie Falk, Elmore County H.S., Elmore

2nd: Sarah Trattles, Elberta Middle, Baldwin

3rd: Acadia Thomas, R.B. Hudson Middle, Dallas

Beef promotion programs are made possible by cattle producers who pay a $1-per-head beef checkoff when they sell their cattle. A recent study by Cornell University reported an $11.20 return on each dollar contributed by producers through the national beef checkoff program. The Alabama Cattlemen’s Association manages the checkoff program for our state.

Corn Time


Devoted to Dahlias

Last fall, Mary Frances Brosemer and her brother Walter, center, were named an Alabama Century Farm by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Presenting the award is Terry Martin with ADAI.

Century-Old Brosemer Farm Blossoms Northeast of Huntsville

by Maureen Drost

Few motorists on the heavily trafficked northeast Huntsville road realize they’re passing a family farm that’s well over 100 years old.

They don’t realize the original barn still stands as a kind of recognition for the generations of family members who’ve labored on this ground, whether on the original 200 acres occupying both sides of the road or the present 50 acres.

They don’t realize the operation is now known for 8 acres of stunning flowers, especially the more than 10,000 dahlias raised annually - the biggest harvest in the state.

Last fall, Mary Frances Brosemer and her brother Walter were named an Alabama Century and Heritage Farm by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

Brosemer runs the farm herself today, selling dahlias plus abundant crops of sunflowers and zinnias to local florists and hundreds of customers who shop at the Greene Street and Bailey Cove markets in the spring, summer and early fall.

Dahlias are available in every color except black, in 35 species and over 50,000 hybrids. These are just a few of the 10,000 plants Brosemer raises annually.

"People place orders, too, for parties and weddings," said Brosemer. "I do some wedding flowers if help is needed."

She keeps a hectic schedule much of the year, but you won’t hear her complain. On this day, she’s busy enchanting a visitor with stories of the family connection dating to 1898 when the farm was purchased. Her great-grandparents moved to the Huntsville area in 1888.

"We were a self-sustaining farm," Brosemer said. "We sold cream and brought it once a week to what was then the L&N Depot in Huntsville."

The cream came from the milk of their Jersey cows, with the family also raising beef cattle and pigs; growing wheat, corn and oats; and tending their beehives.

In their spare time, her grandfather, father and uncle were avid woodworkers. All the judges in town during the 1950s used Brosemer-crafted gavels in their courtrooms. Stumps from chittamwood trees on nearby Wade Mountain were the source of the wood, she said. The trees were often cut down to make a yellow dye.

Dahlias became a large part of the harvest when Brosemer, who had left Huntsville for several decades, returned in the ‘90s and began raising flowers with her sister Teresa. Walter joined them later. Once again, the farm was truly a family effort.

It’s obvious Brosemer enjoys sharing about dahlias. With their availability in every hue except black, she considers them one of the prettiest of flowers. Her largest flowers measure 6 inches across, and the smallest ones are the size of baseballs.

As she speaks, she shows off photo after photo she shot of the flowers last year and highlights her membership in the Dahlia Society of Alabama. Members participate in the organization’s major fundraiser every spring as they sell their flowers at the Bloomin’ Festival in Cullman.

In North Alabama, she said, "We don’t hear as much about them (dahlias). We’re about as far south as they can be raised."

She does have a friend, though, in the society named Kathy Whitfield who grows the blooms in Birmingham. Some of her customers buy flowers in Huntsville because not enough dahlias can be raised there to meet demand.

The blooms’ intriguing history dates to 12th century Aztec culture where they were wildflowers. Historians know the Aztecs grew the flower and even found it helped ease what we know now as epilepsy. Later the Spanish conquistadors introduced the flower to Europe after conquering the Aztecs.

From the first three named species later developed in Spain, 35 species exist today with an incredible number of named hybrids – more than 50,000. Some dahlias look like multi-colored feathers. Others come in bright, spidery shapes. Still others have unique folded petals.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that the flower is so beloved on the Brosemer Farm and among its large, captivated following. As this month begins, the annual sale of the fabled dahlias isn’t far away. On the first of this month the plants are started in cold frames. May 1 is planting day, and the first market opens the same month.

More views of the Brosemer Farm and its fields may be found on the Alabama Dahlia Society website.

For more information on dahlias, go to

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.


Feral Hog Explosion

Ronald Britnell, county Extension coordinator for Morgan County, killed this 270-pound boar while deer hunting in Sumter County.

Playing catch-up is the challenge.

by David Rainer

Playing catch-up is a difficult task in almost every endeavor. That’s especially true when the issue at hand is the explosion in the feral hog population.

I heard a story last week from a hog hunter who had trapped and relocated a group of hogs to the Tombigbee River swamp in the 1980s before everyone realized what a destructive force an unchecked wild hog could become.

The complicit owner of the swamp told the hog hunter, "If I knew then what I know now, I’d have killed you and the hogs."

While that statement might be a bit over the top, landowners with feral hog infestations know the damage these eating machines can wreak.

Early in the previous decade, wildlife managers and landowners knew something had to be done about the burgeoning wild hog population.

Since 2003, Steve Ditchkoff, the "William R. & Fay Ireland Distinguished Professor" at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, has been involved in wild pig research. In 2004, Ditchkoff and noted wild pig expert Jack Mayer of the Savannah River National Laboratory in Georgia introduced the International Wild Pig Conference; it has been held every 2 years since. This year’s conference, held recently at the Embassy Suites in Montgomery, hosted 250 attendees from all over the world.

"We know the wild pig problem is growing," Ditchkoff said during a break at the conference. "We have pigs popping up in areas where they were not before. Damage has to be increasing. We were talking about how poor our damage estimates are. The agriculture damage of $1.5 billion is the estimate we always use nationally – that’s based on $300 per pig – but that’s a guess. Some people project the damage is in the multiples of billions. In Alabama, the estimate is between $50 and $100 million. We think that’s a conservative estimate."

The greatest concentration of pigs in Alabama is in the lower coastal plains below I-85 with significant densities north of Mobile Bay in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

"We’re starting to get a measles sort of distribution across the state with little spots here and little spots there," he said.

The distribution problem has been exacerbated by people with trucks and trailers.

"People ask how fast pigs spread," he said. "One of our presenters said, ‘They move at 70 miles per hour – in the back of a pickup truck.’ Pigs move extremely slow on their own. This is a human problem. The vast majority of these pockets popping up are due to hunters releasing them.

"Even then, can you really stop them? We’ve got people who say, ‘We want pigs and we don’t care how it’s going to affect anybody else.’"

When feral pigs show up in an area, the only viable option to deal with the infestation is trapping with a plan.

"Strategic trapping is the only way to do it," he said. "I don’t care about how many pigs you kill. I only care about how many you left behind that can reproduce.

"We developed a trapping strategy at Auburn and cleared 20,000 acres at Fort Benning (Ga.). You can do it if you do it right. It’s not a new mouse trap. You use game cameras, bait and corral traps."

They developed a five-step process: find the pigs, identify the pigs, acclimate the pigs to traps, trap them and monitor the area afterward.

"You’ve just got to make sure that when you trap them you get them all," he said. "Patience is the key. Identifying them is easy. Baiting has to be done strategically. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got every pig in that sounder. If the sounder is too big, you have to build a bigger trap or add traps.

"Then we’ve got to set the triggers to make sure that when the door falls, all the pigs are in the trap. Again, being patient is the key."

The traps can be as simple as a trap with a stick, string and guillotine door to the modern traps that can be monitored and executed by smartphone. The smartphone user gets a video feed from the trap and then dials a number and enters a code to close the trap door.

Because pigs have such a high reproduction rate of up to two litters per year with four to eight piglets per litter, trying to control the population through hunting will likely be futile.

"Hunting won’t do it," Ditchkoff said. "You have to kill about 70 percent of your pigs just to hold it steady. If you’ve got 100 pigs, you’ve got to kill 70 this year, 70 next year and 70 the year after that just to maintain."

Ditchkoff’s team discovered territorial behavior with the pigs at Fort Benning. Sounders would stick to and defend their territories. With whole sounder removal, trappers can start working in a grid fashion to remove the population.

"If you take the whole sounder, you don’t educate any, and they’re smart critters," he said. "That way, you’re dealing with novice pigs all the time."

Chris Jaworowski, wildlife biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, said the wild pig conference covered control methods from toxicants and contraceptives to thermal imaging and traps with remote technology.

"Some people think toxicants and contraceptives could be the cure-all for pigs," Jaworowski said. "That was discussed – that it was not true. These are just more tools for the toolbox. Right now, there are no approved species-specific toxicants (poisons) or contraceptives in the United States. We’re hoping that within 3, 5 or 10 years those tools will be available to everyone."

Jaworowski thinks one important bit of news highlighted during the conference is that the U.S. Congress has allocated $20 million for feral hog control.

"That’s a huge step," he said. "We’ve finally had Congress recognize that the nation has a pig problem, but this is a long-term process. This is just the tip of the iceberg."

Jaworowski said Auburn graduate student Rachel Conley participated in a research project that sought to identify the distribution of wild pigs across Alabama. She enlisted the help of WFF’s conservation enforcement officers to map wild pig populations in each county.

Conley’s research indicated feral hogs are in 64 of Alabama’s 67 counties with 36 counties reporting an increase in the pig population in the last 5 years. That pig distribution covered 38.3 percent of the land base in Alabama.

Jaworowski, who manages the Lowndes County Wildlife Management Area, said WFF is looking at ways to deter people from moving live wild hogs. It is already against the law to transport wild hogs, but it is happening anyway. WFF Director Chuck Sykes has proposed a change to feral hog regulations requiring that any hog caught by trap or by dogs must be killed at the site of capture before it is moved.

"We’ve got to get increased fines and penalties," he said. "We’ve got to get people to look at risk versus reward. It’s got to be more expensive to get caught trying to move them.

"And we’ve got to teach landowners how to trap hogs. The most beneficial method is to make it a collaborative effort where all the landowners in an area are on the same page with trapping and control programs."

That brings up the question of what to do with the feral hogs once reduced to bag. Wild pigs can carry pseudorabies and brucellosis, so proper handling is a must.

"We recommend using gloves when cleaning wild pigs, and stay away from the reproductive tract," Ditchkoff said. "I’ve eaten a bunch of them, and they make the best sausage in the world. Most people can’t figure out why wild hog sausage is so good. But if you go to the store and buy sausage, that’s the worst meat off the pig. With a wild pig, you use the hams, backstraps and tenderloins. You’re grinding that into sausage, and it is delicious."

For more information and more David Rainer columns, visit

David Rainer is with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Good For What “Ales” Ya

The glass on the left is clean. The one on the right is “beer” clean. It has been sanitized. This removes all impurities from the surface making it crystal clear and the beer retains its head longer. The glass on the left shows signs of impurities where the bubbles are caught on the sides and bottom.

by Herb T. Farmer

Here. Hold my beer and watch this!

It’s an iconic statement that usually means something is about to happen (stupid or profound, or both). Sometimes it’s the last words before someone wins a Darwin Award. Sometimes it’s a precursor to the best "BAD" idea anybody ever had. All those videos out there on YouTube showing somebody doing something idiotic probably started with those very words.

Well, not this time. Here. Hold my beer while I show you how to make your own beer.

I decided to devote most of 2015 to researching and writing about fermentables and their benefits to our health. Let’s start with a simple beer, or "ale" to be more specific.

In this column, I will explain the fundamentals of the beer brewing process, the importance of sanitization, and the bad and potentially dangerous parts of the process to avoid.

We’ll start with a simple, easy-to-make kit beer that includes some specialty grains, hops and two types of malt extract: liquid malt extract and dry malt extract. In a later column, we’ll cover some special processes and I’ll show you how to make some of your own equipment that’s pretty expensive if you buy it premade and new.

Beer is racked from the secondary fermenter to the bottling bucket. Racking from the bottling bucket into bottles.

Consider this column a recipe for goodness. We are going to make a kit beer called Brushfire Smoked Brown Ale. Let’s get started.

You will need a basic brew equipment starter kit that contains a 6.5-gallon fermenting bucket, fermenter bucket lid with grommet in place, fermentation airlock, siphoning equipment, 6.5-gallon bottling bucket fitted with bottling spigot assembly, about 3 feet of three-eighth-inch food-grade tubing, bottle filler, bottle brush and sanitizer. Later you will need bottle crown caps, capper and 12-ounce beer bottles, about 48-54. Note: Do not use bottles with twist-off threads. Brown bottles are best, but any dark-colored bottle will work. You will also need a 4-5-gallon stainless steel stockpot for cooking the ingredients. Another option is a 5-gallon carboy and hydrometer.

Oh. You will also need a beer kit and yeast. The particular kit I use is sold through Midwest Supplies Homebrewing & Winemaking (

Clean and sanitize your stockpot, stirrer and any other equipment you will be placing into the boil using an oxygen-based detergent/sanitizer such as One Step or B-Bright.

Start by placing your specialty grains (in this case they include Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt, Briess Victory, English Dark Crystal and English Chocolate Malt) into the included muslin bag and tie a knot in the top of the bag to prevent spillage.

Draw your brewing water of about 2 gallons to start. Use only good-tasting drinking water. Place your steeping grains bag into the water and bring the temperature to 155 degrees for 15-30 minutes.

Remove the grain bag. Do not try to squeeze out the water in the bag as it will impart unwanted flavors.

Bring your wort (unfermented beer) to a boil. Remove the stockpot from the heat source and add the malt extracts while stirring the wort to avoid scorching.

IMPORTANT!!! Do not leave the wort pot unattended. It will boil over! You must watch your pot and, when it starts to foam and the volume rises, stir the wort down and/or reduce the heat. I’m not kidding folks, this will happen, so be ready. A wort pot boil over is a nasty mess and totally preventable.

After dissolving the extracts, return the wort to the heat source and bring it to a boil. When the boil starts rolling, start your timer for 60 minutes. It is now time to begin adding the hops included in your kit. The first addition is now. Add 2 ounces of Kent Goldings bittering hops.

Boil for 45 minutes and then add 1 ounce of U.K. Fuggles hops.

After the 60-minute boil, it’s time to cool the wort as rapidly as possible. It is after the boil that the wort is most susceptible to wild yeasts and other fungi contamination.

Sometimes, I will boil about 4 gallons of water and then cool it in the refrigerator prior to my brewing. If you begin your boil with just 2 gallons of water, the chilled water added to your wort will help cool it faster. Place the stockpot in a sink of ice water. Add your chilled water to top off 5 gallons of wort. Change ice water as necessary to reduce the wort temperature to at-the-most 80 degrees. Pour your wort into the sanitized fermenting bucket and take a temperature reading with a sanitized thermometer. Ideal is 60-70 degrees, but 80 won’t kill the yeast you are about to pitch.

Right now it is time to take a hydrometer reading. Sanitize everything that will come into contact with the wort at this point, including the hydrometer. Your specific gravity should be somewhere around 1.064 to start.

It’s time to pitch the yeast. This kit recommends Safale US-05 Dry Yeast.

Aerate your wort in the fermentation bucket by stirring vigorously for several minutes or pouring back and forth into another sanitized bucket. Sanitize the yeast pouch, cut it open with sanitized scissors and pour the yeast on top of your wort.

Place the sanitized lid on top of the bucket and fit it with a sanitized airlock.

Important: Although some supply houses don’t mention this, it is important to keep light away from your beer while it is working. I cover mine with a black towel and set the bucket on a towel in a dark place where it won’t be disturbed.

Your airlock should start bubbling within a day and that means your beer is working.

After about two weeks, you can either leave your bucket alone to continue its process or rack the beer into a secondary fermenter (carboy) to finish. Either way, it still needs to age for another two weeks before bottling.

It’s time to bottle your beer. Your kit should come with some corn sugar to prime your beer for carbonation. Mix your priming sugar with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Boil for 5 minutes and let cool while you sanitize your bottles, caps, racking bucket, hose and bottling wand.

Pour the priming solution into the racking bucket. Siphon your beer into the racking bucket, making certain to not disturb the sediments in the bottom of your fermenter. Only siphon the beer.

Using your bottling wand attached to your bottling bucket spigot, carefully fill the bottles, leaving 1-inch headspace in each bottle.

Place your sanitized crown caps on the bottle top and secure them with your capper.

Place the full bottles in a dark place where they will be left undisturbed for one to two weeks. After that, they can be refrigerated and enjoyed.

Personally, I like to keep my ales in the coolest part of the basement or the root cellar where the temperature is seldom above 60 degrees. The only time I like my beer ice cold is the first beer after a weekend project on a hot summer day. Dinner beers? I prefer them between 55-60 degrees.

Next time, we’ll talk more about fermentable drink and, along the way this year, I’ll share some brewing tips that will expand your recipes of choice.

Let me try your beer recipes. I’d love to get your feedback on this one as well.

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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


by Nadine Johnson

Make a wish. We’ve all done so and, occasionally, had the pleasure of having that wish come true. My relative/friend, Carter Sanders, of Goshen, appears to be doing this at present.

Sanders didn’t attend college following high school. Instead, he joined many others and became a successful farmer. Years later, he developed the urge to obtain a college degree. He gave up farming, attended and graduated from Troy University with a degree in international business. (He didn’t abandon farming completely. He continued to raise cows.)

He chose Spanish as a second language. In order to learn this language properly, he needed someone who spoke Spanish as a native tongue. He expressed this desire to a lady in the international department of Troy University.

She looked up at him and said, "You are in luck. There is a young student from Ecuador coming to Montgomery on an afternoon plane. I suggest you meet him."

Sanders did so and a friendship was formed. Sanders became "Big Brother" to Andres Espinosa while he was learning Spanish.

Andres’s family came to visit in Goshen. Sanders and his mother visited Ecuador. Time passed and Carter developed a strong desire to own and farm property in Ecuador. At first it was a dream. It has now become a reality. Espinosa is now a business associate.

Primarily, Sanders plans to grow cacao (chocolate) trees, which sounds like an ideal endeavor. There is always a great demand for this commodity and it is becoming short in supply.

He will also grow corn and probably raise cows. I hope he plants pink-eyed purple-hull peas, also. I’d hate to think he didn’t have that Southern food to enjoy.

Now, here’s the reason this story belongs in one of my columns. On his property, there is a natural growth of an herb that is gaining popularity here in the United States. The herb is guayusa (also called runa). It’s my opinion that he might as well market this also.

Guayusa is totally new to me. For information, I have searched the Internet. Here’s a bit of the information I have collected.

Ilex guayusa (this is the scientific name) is a member of the holly family and grows in the Amazon area. It is one of the three known caffeinated members of the holly family. The leaves are dried and brewed (for tea) for their stimulating effect. It is sometimes referred to as "The Night Watchman" due to its aid in keeping a body awake. (Oh, brother, could I have used this while working night shifts as a nurse!)

Here is a partial list of the many health benefits I found. It contains theobromine, theophylline, vitamins C and D, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, chromium and caffeine. It also offers all the essential amino acids including leucine which is needed to build nerve tissue.

It will help to balance the pH in the body, blood sugar levels, detoxify blood, improve digestion, improve urinary function, improve digestion, strengthen lungs, aid in elimination, remove cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

I can’t confirm any of this information, but neither can I dispute it. However, if guayusa is safe and provides half of these benefits it is truly a wonderful herb.

I have a box of guayusa tea bags which Sanders provided. I’m trying to develop a taste for it, but, of course, we don’t always drink herb teas for their taste. You can probably find this at your local herb shop.

I miss Sanders, but wish him well. I’ve been asked if I’m going to make a trip to Ecuador. The answer is "No." I might if I were younger.

As always, check with your doctor before taking herbs.

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

Hard Work ... Big Rewards

Culvain Strang grew up on a small farm. He loves the outdoors, especially when he can hunt or fish.

Faith, family and helping others are the foundation for high school senior’s bright future.

by Carolyn Drinkard

While most high school students were enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Culvain Strang was working a shutdown in Mississippi taking apart a boiler. The hourly pay rate for the job was $23, with overtime paying $34.50, plus per diem and travel. Strang worked 15 days during the holidays and brought home quite a hefty paycheck for a young man who is still in high school.

Strang explained that his uncle got him the job as a journeyman helper. A supervisor found out that Strang could weld, and put him to work welding skin casings on the outside of the boiler.

"It was real cold, and this kept me warm," he laughed.

Strang welding in the lab at Alabama Southern Community College.

Nevertheless, it was excellent hands-on experience for Strang.

Strang learned to weld in a unique program started in 2009 at Thomasville High School. This program was a collaborative effort among Thomasville City Schools, the City of Thomasville and Alabama Southern Community College. In his junior year, Strang chose to enter the Dual Enrollment Program that allows a student to take college classes while in high school. Strang wanted to learn to weld, so he started in the 15-unit welding lab on the THS campus. An Alabama Southern Community College instructor taught the classes.

During his senior year, Strang has taken two courses at THS each term and then travelled to the ASCC campus, less than a mile from the high school. Each day, Strang takes welding and other related courses on the ASCC campus. When he finishes in May, he will be able to take two more courses at ASCC to receive his certification.

Strang’s welding instructors were not surprised when they heard about his working during school holidays.

"Culvain wants to learn," said Jeff McCutcheon, Strang’s welding instructor on the THS campus. "I never had to tell Culvain to do anything. He always came in and got right to the job he had to do. So many other students have the talents, but they choose not to develop them. It’s all about making the right choices, and Culvain’s got a good head on his shoulders!"

Brian McIntosh, Stang’s instructor at ASCC, echoed McCutcheon’s words.

The Strang family: (from left, front) Brittney Strang South, Pam Strang, Dana Strang; (back) Dean South, Culvain Strang, Andrea Strang and Nathaniel Strang.

"If I had a shop full of Culvain Strangs, my job would be easy. Culvain follows the safety procedures and the rules of the shop 100 percent. Teaching Culvain is not really teaching. It’s coaching," he said.

In May, Strang will graduate with a 4.0 average on the Advanced with Honors Diploma Program at THS. He praised all of his high school teachers for his academic success, but one actually kept him from making a really bad decision. His ninth-grade science teacher Stephanie Wright encouraged Strang to stay in the more rigorous academic diploma program.

Culvain Strang says Stephanie Wright, his ninth-grade science teacher, convinced him to stay in the more rigorous Advanced Diploma Program at Thomasville High School. Wright encouraged and supported him as he progressed through high school.

"I wanted to drop out of the Advanced with Honors Program, but she convinced me not to," he stated. "Mrs. Wright kept telling me that I could do it and urging me to try."

Strang noted that Mrs. Wright still checks on him and encourages him to do his best.

Strang attributes his work ethic to the way his parents raised him. He grew up working on his family’s small farm in the rural community just south of Thomasville. His dad Dana worked construction, so there were periods of time that the elder Strang was away from home. Strang, his brother Nathaniel, and two sisters Brittney and Andrea helped their mother Pam by working in the family’s garden and helping to tend the animals they owned. The family still raises chickens, ducks and geese. They also keep three horses to ride.

The Strang boys did yard work and tended the fruit trees their Dad had planted. Dana had taught his boys how to graft the fruit trees so that a peach tree could also have plums growing on it. He also taught the boys how to groom the trees so that more fruit would be produced.

Culvain Strang in the welding technology lab with his instructor Brian McIntosh. McIntosh says that working with Culvain is actually like coaching because he wants to learn everything he can.

Strang loves living in the country. He grew up enjoying the outdoors, roaming through the woods, hunting and fishing. As he gets older, however, he admits it is harder to find the time for the hobbies he enjoys.

The Strang children have always been taught the core values of faith, family and helping others. For years, the boys and their father have done maintenance for their church, but they have never charged for any of their services. The boys also have their own lawn care business. For widows or those living on fixed or low incomes, the young men have never accepted any pay.

Nell Jackson, who lives just down the road from the family, is one of their customers.

"Those boys are so into helping people," Jackson explained. "They have done so many things for me, and they won’t ever take any money. They tell me that it’s their Godly duty to take care of widows. They are such hard workers. I just can’t say enough good things about them."

Strang says the person who has most influenced his life is his dad.

"My dad lives what he says," Strang said. "He messed up early in his life, but with the Lord’s help, he got himself straight. He always told my brother and me that ‘if you don’t work, you don’t eat.’ I’ve worked all my life, but I like to work!"

Strang’s parents have encouraged him to go to college, but at this point in his life, he wants to finish his welding degree at ASCC, add another trade option and then get a job.

"I like working with my hands," Strang said. "I don’t like sitting in a classroom. I really want to work construction, like my Dad did. Then, I can see where this takes me."

Welding teacher Brian McIntosh has no doubts Strang will succeed at whatever he tries.

"He’s just a natural. If he stays at what he’s doing, he will be one of the best!"

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Headline Oddities

by Baxter Black, DVM


Hmm? Animal activists compare rabbits to dogs and cats. They are often kept as pets. So are mice, pigs, guppies, weasels and snakes. Do these protestors sit around brainstorming their next great cause?

I can see rabbit rescue facilities forever raising funds, BLM adoption programs and eventually feral rabbits being shipped to Mexico by the millions to be slaughtered for human consumption.


Hmm? They can already get a driver’s license, pay taxes and be given parking tickets printed in Spanish. I would suggest, to be fair to the hundreds of thousands waiting in line to immigrate legally, that those cutting in line must be required to buy their own Unaffordable Health Care policy first.


Hmm? San Diego: Feral pigs frequently demolish entire ecosystems making it crucial to eliminate them. The animal rights group PETA objects: "…should not be killed just trying to provide food for their families to survive." As with the feral horses, the activists never have any real solutions, all they have is another cause for fundraising, which, of course, is how they make a living. If they were truly serious, each protester, activist and member of PETA would show their personal commitment by adopting their own feral pig, care for it, feed it, contain it, give it regular medical care, have it inspected monthly by the local Extension agent, then be humanely euthanized.


Hmm? "Entomophagy could prove a nutritional and eco-friendly solution as overpopulation strains our current food systems!" Ants and grasshoppers seem to be the common insects on the menu. Would these insects be domestically raised and killed humanely? Would each ant be given a postage stamp-sized pen that allows it to turn around and lay down? Would it be overseen by the Department of Agriculture? How ‘bout feral insects? Will there be a season? Could you get your grasshopper license for Bucks Only? Would college classes on raising grubs, butterflies and beetles be taught to the hungry Third World? Where would you start … Zimbabwe, the Andes, Detroit, New Mexico, San Francisco? Care for some tapeworm pasta?

CONCLUSION: The more advanced a civilization becomes, the farther it gets from the real world.

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,

Horizon Milk Plus

by John Sims

Milk Plus is a highly palatable, nutrient-dense source of high-quality protein and energy to supplement all stages of cattle, horses, swine, goats, rabbits and poultry.

Milk Plus contains organic trace minerals for increased absorption and utilization. These trace minerals help improve reproduction and immunity.

B vitamins including biotin improve hair and skin quality. Vitamin E helps maintain performance levels during periods of stress.

Milk Plus contains molasses, dried whey and anise powder to give it unbelievable palatability and assure your animal will consume it well. Yeast cultures ensure proper digestion of feed stuffs.

This is a pelleted supplement that will mix easily and increase the performance of your animal no matter your current feed program.

Milk Plus is a great protein booster for producing muscle and frame on growing animals and increasing milk production and maintaining body condition on lactating animals.

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

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Cherry Tree

This time of year the ornamental cherry trees get attention because they are so pretty in the landscape and usually get advertised by garden centers. (Not to be confused with fruiting cherries that don’t thrive here.) If you want to plant an ornamental cherry tree such as Yoshino, Akame, Kwanzan, etc., buying it in bloom insures that you will get the type of flowers you want. It’s helpful to know that a cherry tree is shallow rooted, so be sure to plant it in a place where you don’t mind just keeping mulched if grass should get thin and weedy underneath as the tree grows. Also, be aware that cherry trees are not long-lived trees (15-20 years); so put it in a place where you can enjoy it, but it won’t leave a big hole in the garden design if the tree is attacked by borers or suffers some other decline. Give the tree a well-drained spot; that is crucial as cherry species do not like wet feet.

Daffodils can be moved even when in full bloom.

Rearrange Daffodils?

If the daffodils in your garden are all mixed up and you’d rather they be grouped by color, bloom time or any other reason, you can move them now – while they are in bloom! Digging them up in all their glory may not seem like a plant-friendly thing to do, but if you pick up a shovel full of plant, bulb and root and gently tuck them into their new location, they won’t mind a bit. Water them in thoroughly to settle the soil. After the bulbs finish blooming, feed them with a little bulb booster fertilizer. The key is disturbing the root ball as little as possible. If you find the bulbs have worked their way deeply into the soil, use a long transplanting spade.

Grow a variety of lettuces in a shallow pot to make a live salad bowl.

Plant a Lettuce Bowl

Now is the time to set lettuce transplants in the garden. Be sure to cover them if a hard freeze is predicted. Most lettuces will tolerate a light frost unless they’ve just come out of a greenhouse and are not properly hardened off. One quick idea is to plant a number of lettuces in a single container for a mix of greens in your salad. Wider is better than deeper in the case of lettuce, as you want plenty of surface area for the leaves to expand, while the plants themselves are relatively shallow rooted compared to most other crops. Containers 8 inches deep are okay as long as they hold enough volume of soil to keep from drying out too quickly. (I’ve seen old birdbath bowls repurposed as containers with a large hole drilled for drainage.) Feed your lettuce plants regularly with a good liquid fertilizer such as Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food and they will provide you with a host of salads before hot weather causes them to bolt (grow tall to bloom) and turn bitter.

Match the Gloves to the Job

Garden gloves come in many types and materials, and some are especially suited to certain jobs. For example, the nitrile-coated stretchy type is excellent for planting and working in wet soil. Are you laying brick or stone? Choose a rugged leather glove that wears well. For raking leaves or other jobs that require a good grip or a lot of repetitive motion that could wear a blister on your hand, get a pair that fit well and have a non-slip coating finish to help provide a good grip. I find that nitrile-coated stretch gloves have many multi-purpose uses and are also easy to rinse or even put in the washing machine (delicate cycle, no dryer). Finally, for pruning prickly plants such as roses or blackberries, my fancy elbow-length leather gloves can’t be beat. They are expensive and often hard to find unless you mail order them, but since I only use them a few times a year for thorny pruning tasks, they should last for many years.

This e-book, available from iBooks or iTunes, includes some great information on gardening basics.

Check out the new "Gardening in the South" ebook

The folks at Alabama Extension Service have compiled a lot of great horticultural know-how into an ebook called "Gardening in the South, Volume 1: Getting Started." Topics include some great general information about soils, botany and propagation that leads to understanding of how plants and the garden environment work. When you understand that, it is easy to solve problems and do new things. Other topics include greenhouse growing and a compilation of practical advice from Alabama Smart Yards meant as a smart approach to landscape maintenance. One great feature of the book is a brief quiz at the end of each chapter to check your knowledge of key points. All in all this is a great training book to recommend for your friends and family to learn some basics of horticulture and enjoy their lawn and garden. The book is available for $9.99 from iBooks or iTunes for your Apple devices.

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

HR Advice

Dr. Bernie Erven

Addressing “People Issues” on Farm and Ranch

by Jim Erickson

If you’re like many farmers who report that labor is one of their top management problems, but think managing human resources is something only big companies need to worry about, it may be time for an HR checkup.

That’s the advice from Dr. Bernie Erven, Ohio State University professor emeritus who specializes in HR issues in his work with farmers and ranchers.

Erven minced no words in his comments.

"Your HR situation will be about as good as you choose to make it," he bluntly told more than 300 farmers and agribusiness representatives at the recent Farm Futures Business Summit held in St. Louis, Mo.

"Everything (in your farming operation) involves your people," he said, adding that "people issues" are easy to postpone because operational matters are what most producers are more comfortable managing.

And while HR management isn’t rocket science, there are no magic formulas because farms and farm families aren’t alike.

And make no mistake, he noted: "Family farm businesses and family relationship issues are both part of the … challenge."

Elaborating on family relationships in farm operations, Erven noted that many difficult HR-related issues may need to be addressed, ranging from what authority a 90-year-old grandfather has to assign tasks and other priorities to other employees and family members to an automatic assumption that the new fiancé of the farm operator’s daughter will solve the farm’s labor shortage problem.

Erven readily acknowledges it’s easy to adopt a sarcastic and/or cynical attitude about HR management – that it’s simply a matter of doing the required paperwork, that the only real goal is to find people with common sense who want to work, and then figure out how much you need to pay them, and find ways to control and perhaps motivate them.

A more productive alternative calls for elevating HR management to a new level of importance and making a first-class farm workforce a passion rather than a headache, he suggested. Accomplishing that goal requires not just talking about it but also what you actually do.

Erven offered a checklist of steps for improving HR management, including:

- Having a clear and written vision of what you think HR success includes – a message you can share with your people.

- Developing HR goals that are SMART, i.e, specific, measurable, achievable, rewarded and time-oriented.

- Having an organizational structure that includes job titles and job descriptions. "Your organizational structure is either an asset or a liability. It should make explicit what has been vague, unmentionable or avoided," including the responsibilities of the grandfather and fiancé noted earlier, Erven counseled. The structure also should give one person clear responsibility for overall HR success, including hiring and training, rather than sharing those duties among others on your team.

- Having a farm culture that fits the operation’s goals and family. Shaping that culture can only be done from the top down by management, never from the bottom up by employees, Erven said. Preferably incorporated in that culture is elements such as teamwork, self-motivation, self-discipline and trust that are valued.

- Having appropriate HR practices in place. Such practices and procedures have been developed for large, non-agricultural business, but can easily be tailored to fit individual farms and their circumstances, Erven maintained. Examples of HR practices include: having job descriptions; an employee handbook or written summary of key policies and procedures; job application forms and steps in the application and hiring process; procedures such as orientation and training to equip employees to succeed; and ongoing matters related to safety, communication, job performance evaluation and feedback, discipline and discharge, compensation and benefits, and operating within federal and state laws.

- Making sure those in supervisory positions have the ability to handle HR responsibilities.

Elaborating on the final point, Erven maintained that HR management abilities are important not only for senior personnel but also for middle managers and working leaders. Outstanding experience at one level does not adequately prepare a person to succeed at the next level. "Encourage and provide needed training at every management level," he concluded.

Keeping it Safe

Rolley Len and Cason Kirk learn about wearing orange and how to hold their guns.

by Christy Kirk

Rolley Len and Cason started going hunting with Jason early on just like he did with his dad. Hunting safety is one of those things Jason had ingrained in him, and he is constantly teaching the kids new things about how to enjoy the woods in a safe way. On one of our last trips to the camp, he told them if they ever get stuck or lost in the woods they needed to know how to stay warm and safe. He showed them how to find highly flammable kindling and how to make fire without a match.

Jason goes to great lengths to explain how to be safe around wild animals, ponds, fire and guns. Rolley Len and Cason may not remember everything they are told, but a lot of it will sink in. It may seem early to start, but, if anything ever happens, maybe they will be prepared rather than scared.

A person can survive outside in the woods or swamp at least overnight if they know how. Not that there are many people who would jump at the chance to live like a "survivor" if given the option. But Jason definitely wants the kids to be able to survive through being lost or stranded if they had to do it. We both want them to know the trails and landscape as well as he does.

Years ago, Jason and I were riding a four wheeler out in the bottoms of the hunting camp. Being a creative writing teacher who loves mysteries, I said, "What if you were out here in the swamp and someone came walking up seemingly out of nowhere?" Jason said, "You wouldn’t." We continued to discuss different scenarios: an escaped prisoner hiding out, a survivalist trying to live off the grid? Jason said they would be found and probably sooner than I would think.

Families who hunt the same land for generations know the property better than some people know their own house. They can tell by the stars and tree line which direction to go to head to their truck. They know where animals have root scraped and which path leads to the best spot. Years of observing subtle changes in the landscape create an instinctive familiarity with details. Signs that the woods or swamp were being inhabited by humans would definitely be noticed.

Hunters usually don’t run into strangers looking for trouble. After all, they are armed and usually are out of sight on hunting land owned by a person or private business and, sometimes, behind a locked gate. When we go to the camp, we don’t expect to see anyone we don’t know. Which is why the news we heard was very unexpected.

Word spread quickly: A robbery on 10, a business, no, maybe not a business. The rumors were that hunters had been robbed by heavily armed men in an ambush. How could this happen? Why would it happen?

The rumors may turn out to be false, but it got me thinking about the possible dangers. Lots of hunters don’t take money or anything else of monetary value besides their gun. But then, we live closer to where Jason hunts, so he wouldn’t need cash or credit cards to get gas or supplies on the way like some hunters. And if you are travelling from outside the area, you would likely have more money or plastic in your wallet than your hunting license.

Children and adults can be trained for fire and gun safety, but an ambush-style robbery is highly unusual and not something you can predict or prevent. It is still hard to imagine why a group of robbers would target hunters who are most likely just on their way to find food for their family. I hope that it isn’t the case, because, as I write, two suspects are in custody, but two are still being sought.

All of us in the area hope they are found quickly and brought to justice. I am optimistic that this will not be a trend; that it is a one-time ill-conceived plan. I pray those of you who rely on hunting as a major food source can continue to hunt and bring home your next meal without worry or fear. Some general safety tips for hunters include:

- Harness or restrain yourself while in a treestand.

- Always identify your target.

- Always point your gun in a safe direction.

- Always assume the gun is loaded.

- Wear your hunters’ orange.

- Regularly inspect your treestand to make sure it is secure.

- Never aim at a flat surface or water.

More hunting safety tips can be found at

This is a very interesting recipe I found that reminded me of my mother’s sauteed mushrooms. If you don’t have a lot of groceries on hand, this can be a great way to get your protein with a lot of flavor.

Eggs and Mushrooms

½ pound mushrooms

1½ cups water

1 Tablespoon Butter

4 Tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

Cayenne pepper, to taste

1 cup milk

6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

2 Tablespoons dried bread crumbs

Wash mushrooms. Drain, peel and remove stems. Cook stems and peelings in water for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a cup and set aside. Slice mushrooms and fry slowly in butter until tender. Mix flour, salt, pepper and cayenne together. Add milk slowly to make a smooth paste. Add the cup of mushroom stock and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thick. Add mushrooms. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Place a layer of eggs in the dish, then a layer of mushroom mixture. Keep layering until all ingredients are used. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes or until crumbs brown.

Roast Wild Duck

Dress your duck. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff with dressing or sliced onion and apples. Tie legs and wings together close to the body. Rub bird with butter. Place strips of bacon all across the breast. Cook at 350° for 18 minutes per pound, basting often. Serve with currant jelly or make gravy from the bacon and duck drippings.

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

Let’s Talk Turkey

Chainsaw chains have a small hash mark indicating the angle to run the file through the teeth for a sharp chain every cutting.

by John Howle

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

In an age of iPhones, on-demand service, and impatience, it’s hard for a lot of modern-day folks to wait on things. I’m reminded of that fact any time I drive through a major city. I’m usually going at or below the speed limit simply trying to concentrate on my lane and praying I didn’t pass my exit while impatient horns sometimes blow. Meanwhile, folks are darting in and out of traffic as if they learned to drive from a videogame, not realizing they are responsible for 2 tons of steel and plastic.

Another example of impatience is through the use of technology. Immediate, online banking services, direct deposit of paychecks and the ability to use plastic cards for speedy services can have drawbacks. Now that North Korea and other anti-American countries have shown they have the ability to attack our most "secure and safe" institutions, and department stores are reporting the compromise of customer card numbers each year, it may be time to wean ourselves off some of the technology now holding us hostage.

Maybe we can get off Facebook and actually go visit someone in person. Maybe some of our government officials can begin delivering top secret, sensitive information through armed guards and store the hardcopy information in a safe instead of tweeting and texting the information. Finally, maybe, just maybe, we can get young people off the machines long enough to develop truly innovative ideas like cures for disease and cheaper fuels.

This March try planting seeds that develop patience. First, get the kids in the garden and let them plant seeds that will develop into fruit over time. Get the kids off the machines and teach them to identify tree varieties in your area. Finally, teach the kids as many hands-on skills as you can while they are young and, remember, a hands-on skill is not navigating through an iPhone screen.

Chainsaw Savvy

Spring is near, so it’s time to finish up the last of the firewood and clearing of the pasture edges. We’ve heard the expression, "There’s a lot of sawdust on the ground." Actually, a properly sharpened chainsaw chain will blow out saw chips instead of sawdust. The dust indicates that the teeth are dull and aren’t biting out the proper amount of wood.

Fortunately, modern chainsaw chains have small hash marks on the top of the teeth to show the correct angle for running the file through the teeth. There will be a section of the chain where two teeth are turned in the same direction. This is where I start sharpening and where I end.

Box Call for Beginners

March is a magical time for the woods. The dead of winter is over, and the first few buds of spring show up. Moreover, March is a great month to hear the echoing thunder of a gobbler turkey in the woods. If you’ve always wanted to hunt one of these majestic birds of the woods but were intimidated seeing callers make eloquent noises with nothing more than a piece of diaphragm plastic in their mouth, don’t worry.

The box call is all you need for calling a tom turkey. Make sure the paddle of the box is covered with chalk to provide the friction and resistance for calling. Simply slide the paddle across the top of the box for soft yelps, and let the paddle drag slowly across the box for purrs. With nothing more than these two simple calls, you should have a tom coming in your direction if he’s in the area.

Once he starts coming in your direction, stop calling. Slowly and carefully, bring your shotgun into position when there is a tree between you and the tom so you won’t spook him. Turkeys are experts at detecting motion, sound and colors. If they could smell, hunters wouldn’t have a chance.

Timed Mowing for More Turkeys

It’s a frustrating experience to cut hay and discover you’ve ruined a turkey nest full of eggs. For better survival rates for eggs to hatch into turkey poults, you can strategically time your mowing to allow for eggs to hatch. According to biologists with the National Wild Turkey Federation, you can leave field edges of about 30 feet unmowed during May and early June for about six weeks to keep from destroying nests.

In addition, keep cattle, sheep and horses from overgrazing fields in early spring from April to June so hens can have more nesting areas. If you do jump a hen off her nest, don’t try to incubate the eggs or return to the nest to show your friends. Making a trail to the nest could cause the hen to abandon the nest and allow predators such as skunks, opossums, raccoons, foxes or coyotes to find the nest and destroy it.This March plant some seeds not only in the garden or the pasture but also into our younger generation, and have the patience to wait for the fruit to appear. The results may not be immediate or on-demand, but the fruit will be worth the wait.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

March Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Plant cool-season Bonnie vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, lettuce, etc.
  • Set out Bonnie broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower transplants.
  • Also in midmonth, sow other hardy vegetables such as carrots, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, leaf lettuces and turnips.
  • Caladium bulbs require warm soil temperatures, and setting them out in early spring can cause them to rot. Go ahead and purchase them as soon as they are available, but wait until the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees to plant them.
  • Direct-sow leaf lettuce and spinach as soon as soil is ready and workable. Make weekly plantings this month and next to ensure a long harvest season.
  • Dormant mail-order plants should be unwrapped immediately. Keep the roots from drying out, store in a cool protected spot and plant as soon as conditions allow.
  • During the first few days of March, sow the last plantings of spinach, turnips, mustard, beets, carrots and broccoli.
  • If you didn’t get it done in February, asparagus roots should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.
  • If you started any vegetables indoors to get a head start on the season, harden them off by slowly acclimating them to the outdoors before planting them.
  • In mid-to-late March, plant corn, tomatoes, squash, peppers and cucumbers. Be prepared to use covers … snow in April isn’t unheard of. The last frost date in 2014 in Ardmore was April 27. In Orange Beach it was March 22. Be ready to use covers.
  • In the middle of the month, plant a row of Swiss chard. Tender stalks will be ready to harvest in mid-May – and the plants will keep producing all summer.
  • Plant radishes, peas, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower as soon as you can work the ground – they’ll survive frosty weather.
  • Pull mulch away from perennials, shrubs and trees to allow the soil to warm around them.
  • Set out herbs such as rosemary, chives and thyme, but not tender basil!
  • Shop now for summer – and fall-flowering perennials. Eye-catching bloomers include purple coneflower, coreopsis and hardy hibiscus for summer color. Try Mexican bush sage, autumn sedums and asters for fall blooms.
  • Sow sugar snap peas before the necessary cool weather disappears. Remember to provide support for vines.
  • Transplant onions, shallots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards and asparagus crowns to the garden.
  • Tuck tender bulbs such as dahlias, tuberous begonias and gladiolas into the garden this month. If you love glads, plant some weekly until mid-June to ensure a season-long show.
  • Wait to plant warm-season annuals such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, sweet potatoes and watermelons until after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to about 60 degrees (a temperature in which you can comfortably walk on soil in bare feet).


  • It is best to get a soil test before fertilizing to determine needs. Your local Co-op store has the testing material needed.
  • Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 6-12-12 to perennial beds when new growth appears.
  • Consider applying sulfur to the soil around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies and dogwoods. Use a granular formulation at the rate of 0.5 pound per 100 square feet.
  • Don’t jump the gun and feed your warm-season lawn too early. It’s best to wait until the grass starts actively growing.
  • After bloom, fertilize bulbs with a "bulb booster" formulation broadcast over the planting beds. Hose off any granules that stick to the foliage.
  • Fertilize shrubs and trees if this wasn’t done in February.
  • Fertilize the garden as the soil is being prepared for planting. Unless directed otherwise by a soil test, 1-2 pounds of 12-12-12 or an equivalent fertilizer per 100 square feet is usually sufficient.
  • Fertilize pansies.
  • Fertilize pecan trees with 1 pound of 10-10-10 for every inch of trunk thickness.


  • Finish pruning evergreens early in the month. Cut to shape and control plant size.
  • Early spring is also an ideal time to prune summer-blooming trees and shrubs.
  • Finish pruning summer-flowering plants that form blooms on new growth such as butterfly bush and rose of Sharon.
  • If any of your spring-blooming shrubs or trees (including dogwood, lilac, forsythia, flowering quince or saucer magnolia) need a cut back, take out the trimmers right after the flowers fade. This helps ensure that you get plenty of blooms next year.
  • Cut English ivy back hard. When new growth emerges in spring, it will be strong and healthy.
  • It sounds harsh, but deadheading annuals and perennials is simply the act of cutting spent flowers from your plants. It will make your plants look better, help reduce problems with pests and diseases, and usually encourage your plants to bloom more.
  • Pinch growing tips of sweet peas and garden mums when seedlings reach 4 inches high. This pinch increases branching, which ultimately increases flower number.
  • Ornamental grasses should be cut to the ground just as the new growth begins.
  • You can cut tulip foliage down as soon as it is unattractive because they probably won’t come back anyway. On daffodils, Dutch iris and other low-chill bulbs, however, leave the foliage until it turns brown. The green leaves are replenishing the bulbs for next year’s blooms.
  • A severe pruning now of overgrown beds of groundcovers will remove woody stems and induce new, compact growth from the base whereas later pruning will retard growth.
  • Remove winter damaged plants once you can distinguish the dead wood from the greenwood.
  • When peaches are the size of your thumb, thin them to one fruit every 4-6 inches of stem. If you don’t thin, you will have a tree full of small fruit and broken branches.
  • Prune jasmine after flowering.
  • Prune boxwood – but not with shears. Use a hand pruner to make foliage "holes" in the greenery so light can penetrate to the trunk.
  • Now is the time to prune giant holly shrubs back to a manageable size. Don’t be shy – you can cut them to 18 inches tall and they will come back.
  • Trim over-wintered houseplants to remove lanky growth before moving them outdoors.


  • March is a good time to note areas of poor drainage. If there are pools of water in your yard that do not drain, fill in the low spot or scoop out a channel for the water to drain away.
  • Check the plants under the eaves of the house and under tall evergreens to see if they have sufficient moisture.
  • Check out the automatic lawn sprinkler system for leaks, broken pipes or heads, or wasteful misting.
  • Water all bulbs during times of growth and especially during foliage and bloom development.
  • March watering may not be necessary for established lawns. However, lawns started within the last year are especially susceptible to winter desiccation injury and need supplemental cool-weather irrigation.


  • Follow instructions on pesticide labels carefully.
  • Apples, pears and other plants infected with fire blight should have had diseased wood pruned out by the end of February. If this was not completed by then, wait until dry weather in mid-summer. Pruning wounds made at this time of year may provide entry points for the bacteria that caused the disease.
  • Apply controls for wild garlic. It will take several years of annual applications for complete control.
  • Get the jump on crabgrass by applying a pre-emergent herbicide. Time applications to coincide with forsythia flowering.
  • Grubs become active this month and feast on grass before molting. Check with your local Co-op store to learn which treatments work best in your area.
  • If not already done, remove and dispose of the foliage of plants such as roses, peonies, iris, daylilies, apples and horse chestnut that are subject to annual fungal leaf diseases.
  • If you haven’t already, gather and dispose of fallen camellia blooms to prevent blight from developing and spreading.
  • Spray peach trees with a fungicide for the control of peach leaf curl disease.
  • To control iris borer, clean up and destroy the old foliage before new growth begins.
  • We’ve all heard about filling a tuna or cat food tin with beer and snails and slugs getting in and drowning … and this really, really works by the way. But, if you normally don’t have beer around or don’t like the idea of anyone seeing you buying it, another very effective alternative is mixing two cups of warm water, a packet of dry yeast, and one teaspoon each of salt and sugar. The salt will help ensure the slugs and snails die before they have a chance to escape. If you’re going to dump the slugs and/or mixture in your garden or compost pile, skip the salt; it’ll make your soil too salty. Empty and refill daily.
  • You can spray fungicides while the trees are in bloom, but not insecticides. The bees are still pollinating your fruit trees and are susceptible to the sprays.
  • Be careful not to get lawn herbicides too close to trees. Weed-and-feed-type fertilizers are notorious for killing young shade trees.
  • Keep up the spray regimen with roses. Orthene and Funginex are the favorites.
  • Go through old chemicals. Properly dispose of anything that is outdated and ineffectual. Many waste companies have select days when residential chemicals can be disposed of at their facility or at weekly pick up. Check with your local waste management company or landfill for details.


  • Start a garden journal.
  • Remember to rotate the vegetables in the garden to reduce insect and disease problems.
  • Pick a permanent spot for Bonnie herbs in the garden. You’ll be amazed at the variety offered and many of them will come back year after year.
  • If you haven’t done it already, check stored tools and outdoor furniture for signs of rust. Remove any surface rust with steel wool and paint with rust inhibitive paint.
  • Turn the compost pile.
  • Mow lawns low to remove old growth before new growth begins.
  • Remove tree wraps from young trees for summer growth.
  • Divide overgrown clumps of hosta now that you can see the leaves unfurling aboveground.
  • Tune up the lawnmower and be sure the blade is very sharp. Dull blades tear the grass, sharp ones cut it.
  • Save money by growing your own food. It may be easier than you think to grow fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Folks at your local Co-op store can help with advice and/or you can visit for guidance.
  • Allow any flowers that self-seed such as bachelor’s button, cleome or zinnia or bulbs you want to naturalize to form and drop seeds. That way you can be sure they’ll come back next year.
  • As day lengths increase, houseplants begin new growth. Repot root-bound plants, moving them to containers 2 inches larger in diameter than their current pot.
  • Clean debris and muck from the water garden, adding it to your compost pile.
  • Clean up rose beds, removing any fallen leaves from last season and refreshing mulch around plants.
  • Consider a perennial cutting garden.
  • Convert garden paths to weed-free zones by covering paths with newspaper or cardboard topped with pine straw, grass clippings or chopped leaves.
  • Cultivate weeds and remove the old, dead stalks of last year’s growth from the asparagus bed before the new spears emerge.
  • Delay planting if the garden soil is too wet. When a ball of soil crumbles easily after being squeezed together in your hand, it is dry enough to be safely worked.
  • Feed your pond fish when the water temperature hits 50 degrees.
  • Fill bird feeders and clean birdhouses to offer room and board to returning migratory species. Feeders can stage a fascinating show as birds wing their way back to summer breeding grounds!
  • Gradually remove mulch from strawberries as the weather begins to warm.
  • If you have a greenhouse, it is time to take cuttings of wintered-over plants
  • Keep your perennials healthy and looking good by dividing them every few years. Divide most perennials in spring once their new foliage has grown a couple of inches tall. Plant the divisions in your garden to fill in bare spots – or use them to trade for different varieties with gardening friends, family or neighbors. Wait to divide spring-blooming varieties until after they’ve finished blooming.
  • Make maintaining your new garden easier with a raised bed. You can add high-quality soil to solve any problems with clay or sand. And you don’t have to bend down as far to weed, plant or tend to your plants.
  • March winds are also notorious for their ferocity so make sure exposed plants are well supported.
  • Mulch blackberries and other bramble fruits for weed control.
  • Open the greenhouse or conservatory doors and vents on warm days
  • Raise purple martin houses as soon as you can.
  • Repair any fencing, arbors or trellis work that is weak or has broken over the winter.
  • Set up nesting boxes for bluebirds.
  • Take a little time to prepare the vegetable garden soil for planting. The addition of well-rotted manure, processed manure, peat moss or compost are good additives
  • The single best thing you can do to save time and energy in the garden is spread mulch. A 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch will stop many weeds from growing. It also helps your soil stay moist during hot, dry periods this summer. Look for inexpensive or free mulch materials in your area. For example, many municipalities offer a free compost pile for city residents.
  • There is often a strong temptation to start removing winter mulches from your flower beds ... WAIT!!! Pull the mulch off gradually as the plants show signs of new growth. The purpose of winter mulch is to act as a protector from sudden changes of temperature and chilling winds, so keep in mind that it is still winter! It is much better to remove the mulch a little later than to remove it too early.

One Medicine

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I am delighted to have a guest contributor to my column this month. Our guest is Dr. Tom Vaughan, past Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University. Vaughan was Dean while I was in Veterinary School at Auburn and I remember hearing stories of his days in the clinics handling unruly young colts (and vet students!) with just the grip of his hand. Those stories still hang about the vet school like the woody smoke of a campfire on a fall afternoon. Vaughan is a renowned equine veterinarian, instructor, author, historian, Southern gentleman and friend. Vaughan, thank you for the mark you have made on the veterinary profession.

"Nothing is older than our habit of calling everything new." – Mark Twain

In recent times, some pundits have declared that the healing arts have entered into a new era of cooperation between human medicine and veterinary medicine with "the whole being greater than the sum of the parts."

Reaching back in antiquity, there is perhaps no older concept. From the beginning of time, human health has depended to a significant degree upon veterinary medicine. With the domestication of animals more than 10 thousand years ago (versus the domestication of man which is still a work in progress), man’s existence soon became dependent upon the herds of livestock – sheep, goats, hogs, cattle and yes, poultry, as well as the dog to help with herding and hunting, and the horses and donkeys needed for transportation and draft. Although not an agricultural animal, cats became valued for their control of vermin, especially around grain stores. As agriculture progressed and the nomadic culture gave way to a more settled and stable life, man’s survival hinged on healthy herds and flocks, and on sustainable animal production. Planting and harvesting crops and transport of forest products necessitated draft/stock horses and oxen. The recognition and control of animal diseases, and the means of repair of injuries, soon came to apply to the human population. In fact, the moral constraints and taboos governing liberties taken with the human body meant that early physicians were better acquainted with the anatomy and pathology of animals than of man. Contagious diseases required isolation and/or abandonment of infected individuals to prevent spread to the healthy animals. Thus, quarantine and slaughter were adopted early to preserve the health of the herd. Pathological organs and tissues become recognizable as associated with certain diseases. All of these findings and practices could be applied to human afflictions (except slaughter, of course). Thus, the earliest practitioners of medicine ministered to the needs of both the human and the animal population.

Human medicine and veterinary medicine have enjoyed or suffered a varied relationship over the course of time, with veterinarians often being the object of condescension. With the advent of modern medicine, starting with the Enlightenment of the 18th century, many medical discoveries came from association with animal medicine. Louis Pasteur was not a physician but a bacteriologist, whose early work with such animal diseases as anthrax and rabies contributed to proof of the Germ Theory about 1860. Edward Jenner (1815-1898), English physician and father of vaccination, discovered the new technology working with cow pox. Late in the 1880s, Frederick Kilborne and Cooper Curtice, both veterinarians, and Theobald Smith, M.D., worked under Daniel E. Salmon, D.V.M., in the laboratories of the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry. They discovered the cause of Texas Fever1 to be a protozoan blood parasite transmitted by the cattle tick. Although this single finding saved the cattle industry in 15 or more southern states, the significance of that fact was dwarfed by the impact it had on human medicine. This was the first discovery of the transmission of an infectious disease by an insect vector. It opened the door to explanation of the pathogenesis of human malaria, yellow fever, many viral encephalitides, typhus, plague, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Rift Valley fever, Lyme disease and many more human diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas, lice, bedbugs and other insects. The noxious "summer fevers," notably malaria and yellow fever, were common human contagions in the Mobile Bay area and the river basins of the Chattahoochee and Tombigbee River well past the turn of the century (1900s). The French had given up construction of the Panama Canal due to yellow fever.

In 1892, Dr. William Leroy Broun, president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama at Auburn, invited Dr. Charles Allen Cary of South Dakota State College to give three months of lectures in veterinary science to the students in Agriculture. The next year, Cary was appointed as Professor of Physiology and Veterinary Science, a department in the Agricultural Experiment Station. Thus began the curriculum that was to become in 1907 the College of Veterinary Medicine under Dean Cary who was to serve until his death in 1935 – still a record a century later. This was the first veterinary college in the entire southern United States below the Mason & Dixon Line, from Maryland to Oregon, and tied with Colorado for the seventh oldest in the United States.

Although Cary is well remembered for his leadership in the tick eradication campaign as well as control of hog cholera, rabies and other animal diseases, perhaps his greatest contribution was to human health in the control of tuberculosis. This scourge of human health down through the ages accounted for the greater cause of morbidity and mortality in the human population. One out of every 500 people in the United States died every year from tuberculosis. Particularly vulnerable were the young. If given the chance to walk through an old cemetery, dating back to the 19th century, note the number of children buried – a grim reminder of the tragic cost of this disease.

The year before he came to Auburn, Cary had studied in Germany under Robert Koch who received the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the tubercle bacillus as the cause of T.B. When Cary came to Alabama in 1893, he immediately set out to establish meat and milk sanitation in the cities, to screen the cattle population for T.B. carriers and to pasteurize the milk supply that was the principal source of the infection in humans. Today, the annual incidence rate of new cases in the United States is about 12 per 100,000 persons, and the death rate in Alabama is less than one per 58,000.

It is no exaggeration to say that the strength of veterinary medicine at Auburn, at a time when more than 40 schools nationwide went out of existence, was built in large measure by the priority for public health-human health established early on by Charles A. Cary. Surely, he would be amused at the thought that "One Medicine" was a modern concept.

The contributions of animal medicine have drawn heavily on the use of animal models of human disease. Four out of every five of all known human infections are shared in nature by vertebrate species of lower animals. This resource has been of inestimable value to human health research, and is the greatest argument for continuation of its use against those who oppose it on some perceived moral grounds.

Then, there are those in the profession who criticize veterinary scientists for "prostituting their profession," for doing human health-related research, arguing that they should restrict themselves purely to animal diseases. How shortsighted is this view of a profession that has devoted itself to the health and well-being of all the animal species since the beginnings of time.


Your humble and obedient servant,


1 Dr. Frazier’s article, "A Ticking Bomb," AFC Cooperative Farming News, March 2013

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

Pals: New Ways to be “Green”

Crestline Elementary students commit to recycling, outdoor classroom, more in their PALS partnership.

by Jamie Mitchell

Crestline Elementary School in Hartselle has decided to partner with Alabama PALS for the first time this year. At the direction of science teacher Barb Helton, Crestline Elementary is making a commitment to look for new ways to be "green."

In an effort to support the new commitment, the school has decided to install an outdoor classroom. The plans are drawn and funds are being raised in an attempt to have the new classroom ready for next school year. Helton has some great ideas to sell recycled art projects as a fundraiser to help the outdoor classroom become a reality! The school is also collecting paper and cans to be recycled and used for different projects in the outdoor classroom.

First- through fourth-grade students recently listened to the Clean Campus Program 30-minute presentation to help the students understand more about the new projects. The children were active participants in the presentation offering ideas on how they could keep their school and community cleaner. The students were challenged to organize clean-up days with any teams or clubs to which they belong. They also were very excited to hear about the poster competition coming up later in the spring. This year’s poster competition topic is "Take Action for a Cleaner Alabama," and the winner receives a $250 prize.

If a school near you would like to hear more about participating in our poster and essay contest or would like any information on the Clean Campus Program, have them give us a call at 334-263-7737.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Peanut People

Prime Time ... or Freeze Time?

After breeding, bucks need to put on weight and valuable fat stores that were lost during the rut. In deep snow, food sources need to be accessible. Brassicas and corn are usually sure bets for late-season hot spots. (Credit:

Enduring Late Season Conditions

by Todd Amenrud

When I was a bit younger I remember hunting in Canada when the actual temperature was -20 degrees, and that’s not factoring in the wind chill. "How can you stand it?" I would tell those who asked that big bucks don’t stop moving just because it’s cold. Nowadays, I bring heaters and stuff disposable warmers in any spot that will hold one … and maximize my time afield. Whitetails also do not like the severe cold. They will almost surely reduce their movement, but you have to be there when they are. Here in the South it’s not as big a factor as in the northern half of the country or as I mentioned in Canada, but it can still get cold. With planning, proper equipment, making the best use of your time and a "warm attitude," late season can still be a very productive time.

When the rut is over, bucks start to "put on the feedbag" once again. They have a desperate need to try and put on weight and fat lost during the rut. Brassicas and corn can be hot spots during cold temps, especially if we have snow. Whatever their food source, it must be accessible. Acorns and foods close to the ground can be covered, but brassicas and corn are usually still within their reach.

When cold temperatures hit, I try to maximize my hunting time. If there is a weather front moving through, I want to be in my treestand just before the front reaches my area. On these extremely cold days there can be a lot of deer movement during midday hours. When the temperatures reach below zero, I will usually only sit for three to four hours at a time. So, whatever method of predicting deer movement that you use, try and arrive "just before" you think the deer will.

The keys to surviving late-season cold are to maximize your time, avoid sweating, use wool garments and shove disposable warmers anywhere they will fit.

Stand approach can be very important. Carry your heavy outer layers of clothing to avoid sweating up on your walk to your site. If you’re wet, you’re going to freeze. Otherwise, walk slowly. If you sweat, you’re going to get cold quickly. If you have a long walk to your hunting site, leave a little earlier and move slower.

Wool and other materials that wick moisture away from your body are invaluable during late season. In these nasty temperatures, my main concerns are my hands, feet and head. If one of these falls to the cold, it seems your whole body follows. For my hands, I use wool gloves and lots of disposable hand warmers. I like gloves instead of mittens because I can still operate my release effectively.

My head and feet are especially sensitive to the cold. It seems I always get one vicious virus during deer season, and it is usually because my head gets wet and then cold. On stand approach, I wear a different hat in case I do sweat. When I get to my site, I replace it with a dry wool face-mask and wool hat.

Many hunters have problems with their feet getting cold very fast. I like to use one pair of wool socks and rely on my boots to do their job. The liner design on many new cold-weather boots wicks away moisture to keep your feet warm and dry. I believe that wearing multiple layers of socks actually does more harm than good. With only one or two pairs of socks, your boots will typically have air space left and room for your feet to have proper circulation. If you have a tough time wiggling your toes, you probably have on too many socks or need the next size larger boots.

In severe cold, toe warmers or heated insoles can also help. These work just like disposable hand warmers, but I do not start them until I get to, or close to, my ambush location. Again, I don’t want my feet to sweat.

Your other gear may endure consequences from the cold as well. Treestands are one important consideration. Some materials expand and contract differently in temperature changes. I prefer steel over aluminum-constructed treestands; they seem much quieter in extreme temperatures.

Do you know how your bow will perform in severe temperatures? Do you know how YOU will perform in the cold? I make sure I take at least a couple of shots in close to the same temperature and while wearing similar clothing that I’ll be hunting in. Your bow will probably shoot a bit differently. You need to know for sure, so practice. I’ve heard many people tell stories about how they couldn’t physically draw their bow because of tense, cold muscles or because their clothes were too bulky. Wouldn’t you like to know all this before the moment of truth?

If you’ve hunted in frigid temps, you probably have noticed that it seems like every little noise is magnified. If your bow is noisy on the range, it will likely seem worse in the woods on a still, cold morning. My bows are whisper quiet, both while drawing and when shot. However, I’m much more concerned with a silent draw than a release.

Scent still works well in cold temperatures; however, I might change my tactics a bit just to make it easier and faster to set it up in the cold and/or snow. I’ve had great luck using Special Golden Estrus through the end of the season – portraying the scenario that there is still one hot doe that has yet to be successfully bred. A simple way to beat the cold and still set up a successful scent trap is to fill Quik-Wiks in the warmth of your camp or home and then put them in your pocket to keep them warm until you decide to deploy them. When you get to your ambush location, set them up crosswind from your site to lure in bucks from downwind. Quik-Wiks are great tools to use anytime during the season, but I especially like them for late season because of their unique design.

Calls are another item to consider. When you blow into a call, you put moisture into it. Calls that are inhale only are typically freeze proof. Some hunters turn their call around and inhale through the tube end. Otherwise, there are a number of freeze-proof calls on the market.

Deer have a temperature comfort zone just as we do. Many times, in excessively cold temperatures, they will stay bedded and not move much. To them, it may be that getting up and expending energy is not as important as conserving it. However, I’ve seen some of the biggest whitetails of my life during freezing-cold temperatures. My dad taught me during my first few years hunting that many times it’s the hunter who can stay still, patient and alert the longest who ends up with the prize to show for their efforts. In extreme temperatures, that’s not easy. But, if you plan right and use the proper gear, you can bag a cold-weather, late-season buck.

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.

Reducing Cost of Production

While Improving Returns, an Ongoing Endeavor

by Robert Spencer

Last month’s article compared profitability of meat goat versus hair sheep production. The numbers and calculations were based on a typical commercial small ruminant operation as found in the Alabama Meat Goat Enterprise Budget ( The goal of that article was to help people take a realistic overview of financial factors associated with meat goat and hair sheep production. While both enterprises showed losses (goats: -$2,640.42 and sheep: -$1,349.28), there are always opportunities for improvement. This month’s article will share some ideas on reducing cost of production while increasing revenues for meat goat and hair sheep enterprises.

Modifying facets such as capital investments, fixed costs and herd inventories would involve some major changes over the long run. Aspects such as buying or selling land, eliminating or adding barns and fencing, and significantly reducing or increasing herd size require long-term adjustments. This article will focus on short-term (2 years and less) adjustments that can be readily implemented to improve variable costs and potential revenues.

The following suggestions could be implemented in less than 2 years with long-term benefits. Let’s assume your objectives are to minimize feed costs, establish forage quality and availability, manage forages efficiently, and pursue ideal marketing opportunities to increase revenues; all the while increasing herd size over time.

Take time to evaluate and document where you expect your farm to be in 2 years. Be willing to review and adjust as needed.

Minimizing feed costs (likely one of your biggest expenses) will require availability of year-round quality forages; implementing this will minimize reliance on feed and hay and associated costs. Supplemental feed and hay should be utilized only when forages are limited, ewes are lactating and young animals developing.

Establishing a year-round quality forage program requires soil testing to determine soil conditions including the possible need for lime and fertilizer. Healthy soils are essential to plant development, nutrient availability and quality forages. Ideal soil pH should range 6.5-7; otherwise, it may require lime treatment.

Insuring year-round forage availability requires establishing a combination of cool- and warm-season grasses, legumes and forbs. This may or may not require site preparation. While overseeding is an option it may provide limited success. Utilize grasses with low-maintenance requirements; this should reduce the need for fertilizer and chemicals. The utilization of legumes will add nitrogen to the soil and should eventually reduce or eliminate the need for commercial nitrogen. Some options for summer forages include crabgrass, bahiagrass and sericea lespedeza; for spring and fall: clovers, vetch and fescue grass; and for winter: ryegrass, turnips and small grains. Seed availability, options and costs will vary.

Provision of supplemental minerals on a year-round basis is essential to health, reproduction, fetal development, muscle and tissue development, parasite tolerance, growth, etc. Options include loose or block, species appropriate and more than just a salt block. The year-round provision of minerals cannot be overemphasized.

Rotational grazing should be designed, implemented and efficiently managed to increase forage availability and quality, reduce gastro-intestinal parasite problems, extend grazing seasons, and minimize reliance upon hay and grain-based feeds; the more paddocks the better. Use of portable or fixed electric polywire is the most affordable with ideal animal behavior. A combination of woven and electric wire may be necessary for mischievous animals.

Market diversification that includes direct farm sales while targeting ideal times for off-farm sales are two practical strategies to increasing farm revenues. Direct farm sales allow you to set the price and receive all monies. There are trends where small ruminant market prices tend to rise about mid-November and continue until they hit yearly highs around Easter holidays. Be knowledgeable of market opportunities based around ethnic or faith-based holidays. About a month prior to these events, the demand and prices should increase for goats and sheep.

The suggestions made in this article are some practical ideas for a challenging situation. Yes, there are initial costs associated with implementing these practices; whereas, the long term benefits should be better control of feed and health related expenses, and increased productivity while increasing profit margins. These suggestions are not the ultimate answer to everyone’s situation. Each farmer will have to evaluate resources, product availability and practicality. Additional ideas can be discovered while talking with other farmers and attending workshops and conferences.

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

Ride of a Lifetime

Peggy Verdonck visits with Jay in the pasture at StarDutch Equine in Wetumpka.

Immigrant Horse and Rider Live American Dream

by Jade Currid

The story of Peggy Verdonck Riley of Wetumpka and her registered 2004 palomino overo mare, Jetalito Sunny Step, known as Jay, epitomizes the American Dream.

Both natives of the Netherlands, the harmonious horse and rider pair have made a mark not only on the local equine scene but have earned worldwide acclaim.

Verdonck and Jay emerged as world champions from the final test of their Level I Open Western Dressage class at the second annual Western Dressage Association of America World Show held in Tulsa, Okla., November 1-2, 2014, after a clean, collected ride marked by smooth transitions, a flowing and ethereal trot and lope, and a rock-solid partnership of horse and rider hewn by a long, rewarding journey to this shining moment in their history.

Verdonck’s cues to Jay were imperceptible; horse and rider were truly one.

Since she and Jay were the first team to enter the monumental class early that morning, a long, anticipatory wait for the results loomed ahead at a venue characterized by gargantuan buildings, multiple arenas, roomy wash areas for the horses, a feed store on site, and the attendance of the top riders and trainers in the emerging discipline of Western Dressage.

"When the class was over, I didn’t really grasp what had just happened until my family back home started texting and when my parents from Europe called me on my cell phone," Verdonck revealed. "That’s when the tears started streaming down my face and it really started sinking in that Jay and I had become the 2014 World Champion WD Level I Open."

Peggy Verdonck displays the High Point Buckle of the Level I Open Division she won at the show. (Credits: Peggy Verdonck)

Verdonck and Jay also won the High Point Buckle of the Level I Open division, Reserve Champion in Level II Open, which she is particularly proud of since it is a class higher, and a fifth and sixth place.

Verdonck decided to enter the second annual Western Dressage Association of America three months prior to the event.

Leading up to the epic show, she rode Jay almost every day, fine-tuning the details they needed to work on, and held fundraisers and clinics to finance their venture.

The Making of a World Champion Equestrian

At 8 years old, Verdonck began riding a Norwegian Fjord at an English barn in the Netherlands. That might explain her weakness for the breed and why an endearing Fjord named Jelly Bean currently takes up residence at her barn.

"The first year I took vaulting lessons to create a good balance and feel for the horse’s movement before moving on to a saddle," she explained. "Soon after that, I got totally hooked on horses. It wasn’t a hobby anymore; it had become a lifestyle."

The enterprising young equestrian started volunteering at that barn, and then after moving to Germany when her dad received papers to work at a different military facility, she started riding at a new barn where she focused on dressage.

Peggy Verdonck and her husband Joel Riley, Riley Horseshoeing, strike a pose in the cotton field near their home in Wetumpka. Joel supports Peggy in her equine dreams and in operating StarDutch Equine. (Credit: Peggy Verdonck)

She became a groom and then eventually an assistant trainer at the barn in Germany.

In her teens, she was a member of a pony club and honed her skills in the disciplines of show jumping, dressage and quadrille that is akin to a drill team, but with the incorporation of dressage.

Verdonck worked at a number of large barns when she was young, not in return for money but for the golden opportunity of riding and showing the barns’ horses.

"I took many, many lessons from different trainers and competed in dressage and show jumping as a teenager and in my early 20s," she said.

While serving in the Dutch army at age 21, she bought her first horse, a 3-year-old Arabian named Aglaya, with her hard-earned money and a little help from her older brother Dennis.

Shortly after that, she felt the urge to try her hand at something new with horses.

Verdonck started Aglaya in English, but cross trained her in Western. That is the pivotal point when her Western riding career began.

"While mainly riding in Western events, I never forgot the importance of dressage exercises while training my horses, so I was already riding Western Dressage before it even officially was given a name in 2010," she related. "I was ecstatic to learn about the founding of the Western Dressage Association. It felt like coming home!"

A World Champion Horse Shows Promise Early On and Steals Owner’s Heart

Verdonck bought Jay when she was 6 months old in the Netherlands from American Paint Horse Association breeder Leo Copinga.

"She turned out to be a winner at a very young age," Verdonck said. "I started exposing her to the show ring as a weanling in several in-hand classes such as in-hand trail and halter. Jay is my heart horse, my once in a lifetime horse! She is extremely versatile and has a heart of gold!"

She’s never ever going to go anywhere, she gives everything, Verdonck said.

Jay is not the type of horse Verdonck can ride in the arena every day as Jay starts anticipating what Verdonck will ask her next.

She knows what is coming next because she is so smart, Verdonck said.

"So really, with her, one day we go on a trail ride, the next day we do some trail obstacles and the third day we do some dressage work, and I think that’s important – diversity in the training – for every horse and not just Jay."

Verdonck’s highlights of competing with Jay include winning a class in reining at a stock horse show.

Jay’s versatility and ability to do well in any class, whether it is trail or Western Dressage, is what Verdonck is proud of most.

Verdonck’s goal in training any horse is to develop a well-rounded mount.

A Hobby Turns Into A Profession

Verdonck and Jay moved from the Netherlands and Verdonck became a proud United States resident in 2006.

"After that, I just had more land here, and I could afford more horses, too," she explained. "So from there, more horses started coming, people started asking me to start horses for them and that’s where it kind of started."

Verdonck started receiving more requests to give lessons and to start horses, and once she moved to her current residence in Wetumpka, StarDutch Equine, her boarding, lessons and training facility, was born.

"I train, I start horses under saddle or I work with horses that have problems with people," Verdonck laughingly related. "I also help people with their problems with the horse so they can work together to eventually becoming a team again."

She gives lessons in Western, Western Dressage, English and jumping.

"When it comes to training for people, there’s always lessons included to teach them to deal with their horse when they get it home," she said.

Verdonck also gives clinics and demonstrations.

"It’s still a hobby to me," she fondly said.

Everyone has a day where they say, ah, it’s too cold to go outside to feed, she quipped.

An Explanation of Western Dressage

Western Dressage is the addition of classical dressage techniques to the daily training of every horse and rider, no matter what discipline and no matter the breed, but especially for the training of the Western horse and rider, Verdonck explained.

"It teaches the horse to create a healthy posture and build healthy muscles to be able to do certain exercises in a healthy way," she continued. "It teaches the rider what to do and what not to do when it comes to the physical and mental health of the horse in the long run."

Western Dressage follows a training progression ladder called the training pyramid that helps to avoid skipping steps while training and provides a goal to work towards, she revealed.

"So it’s not really discipline-related," she stipulated. "Some people just put everything in boxes. Dressage is this, Western is that, but a lot of techniques coming from other disciplines benefit every horse."

Dressage techniques can benefit the Western horse and Western techniques can benefit the dressage horse, she said.

The diversity of horses and people is Verdonck’s favorite aspect of Western Dressage.

Western Dressage is a melting pot for many different breeds and crosses of horses and equestrians with all sorts of backgrounds.

"Western Dressage doesn’t discriminate," Verdonck said. "Everyone is welcome!"

Currently, there are not many Western Dressage shows in the area, but more equestrians and groups are showing interest in the discipline, she said.

"There are certain dressage groups that have added Western Dressage classes," she said. "They think it’s important. They welcome every horse; it doesn’t matter if it’s a big Warmblood for dressage or a Fjord, the Birmingham Dressage and Combined Training Association is very open to it. They always have big classes and the Western Dressage classes were added for us, even if it is just me, but it’s growing. More and more people are coming. Hopefully, it will keep growing from now on."

It’s A Team Effort

Verdonck has the utmost support of her husband Joel Riley, of Riley Horseshoeing, in achieving her goals as an equestrian and operating StarDutch Equine.

"He’s a test-caller. He’s a groom. He’s a chauffeur. He supports me, and he’s my shoulder to cry on. Everything – he’s very supportive of everything," she tenderly revealed.

"Joel and I are both outdoor people," she related. "We share the passion of horses, but also of just being outside."

The Future

Verdonck plans to keep doing what she loves: ride, teach and occasionally show.

"Of course, in Western Dressage, but also in my other favorite disciplines: obstacle/trail events, ranch pleasure and ranch trail," she revealed. "I also love going on long trail rides with my husband and friends."

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Delmont has lost his marbles. Says he’s gonna break the Guinness Book of World Records height jumped flat-footed from a standing object using only a beach umbrella as a parachute. He’s climbing up one of the silos down to tha granary now!"

How could someone lose marbles by jumping from a grain bin?

Losing your marbles means "to lose your wits or your mind."

In the 1954 film, "The Caine Mutiny," Humphrey Bogart linked insanity with marbles when he showed his character, the demented Lt. Cmdr. Queeg, restlessly jiggling a set of metal balls when under stress in court. Bogart’s performance was so affecting that many have supposed the film to be the source of the phrase. It is American, but originated in the late 19th century, not the 1950s.

Marbles are, of course, the little glass or metal balls children use to play the eponymous game. From the mid-19th century, "marbles" was also used to mean "personal effects," "goods" or more generally "stuff." From the 1920s onward, two U.S. expressions became established – "to pick up the marbles" and "to pick up one’s marbles." These mean "to carry off the honors or prizes" and "to withdraw from activity or game and cause it to cease."

It’s most likely that "marbles" was coined as a slang term meaning "wits/common sense" as a reference to the marbles youngsters play with. The notion of "losing something important to you" appears to have migrated from the image of a forlorn child having lost his prized playthings. An early citation is found in an August 1886 copy of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

"He has roamed the block all morning like a boy who had lost his marbles."

During the late 19th century, the phrase began to mean "getting frustrated or angry." This reference from New Zealand was printed in The Tuapeka Times in August 1889:

"For I tell you, that no boy ever lost his marbles more irrevocably than you and I will lose our self-respect if we remain to take part in a wordy discussion that ends in a quarrel."

This transition began here around the same time and the Ohio newspaper, The Portsmouth Times, reported a story in April 1898 referring to marbles as a synonym for mental capacity:

"Prof. J. M. Davis, of Rio Grande College, was selected to present J. W Jones as Gallia’s candidate, but got his marbles mixed and did as much for the institution of which he is the noted head as he did for his candidate."

The expression was used as both "anger" and "sanity" for a few decades. What is common in all the early citations is the sense of loss and its consequent reaction. By 1927, the loss of sanity meaning had won out and an edition of American Speech defined the term unambiguously:

"Marbles, doesn’t have all his (verb phrase), mentally deficient. ‘There goes a man who doesn’t have all his marbles.’"

State Cotton Referendum

On Wednesday, April 15, Alabama cotton producers will have the opportunity to support the state cotton checkoff by voting for a uniform assessment in an amount not to exceed $1 per bale. The uniform assessment would replace the voluntary assessment approved by the qualified voters in 2012. The assessment rate would be set annually by the Alabama Cotton Commission and applied to all cotton ginned within Alabama.

Producers who grew cotton in 2014 or planted cotton in 2015 will be eligible to vote. Checkoff funds are used to finance research, education and promotion projects to improve profitability, production efficiency and utilization of cotton and cotton products.

On April 15, producers will be able to vote between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at their county polling site or sites. No proxy voting will be allowed and no ballots will be accepted by mail. A list of polling places is included.

For more information, contact Carla Hornady at 334-613-4216. The referendum is authorized by Act No. 81-388, Alabama Legislature of 1981 (Regular Session) as amended by Act No. 2002-152 and Act No. 2014-188 which amended Amendment 388 of the Constitution of the State of Alabama.

Polling Locations:

Agricultural Center - Hwy. 14, Autaugaville

ALFA Office - Robertsdale

ALFA Office - 1398 S. Eufaula Ave., Eufaula

ALFA Office - Centerville

Whitley’s Store - Snead

ALFA Office - Union Springs

ALFA Office - Greenville

ALFA Service Center - Jacksonville

ALFA Office - Lafayette

ALFA Office - Centre

ALFA Office - 301 1st Street North, Clanton

ALFA Office - Butler

ALFA Office - Grove Hill

ALFA Office - Lineville

ALFA Office - Heflin

ALFA Office - 401 Main St., Enterprise

ALFA Office - 8095 Hwy 72, Cherokee

Colbert Farmers Co-op - Leighton

ALFA Office - Evergreen

ALFA Office - Rockford

ALFA Office - 306 West Bypass, Andalusia

ALFA Office - Luverne

ALFA Office - 307 Main St., Cullman

ALFA Office - 311 James St., Ozark

ALFA Office - 300 Broad St., Selma

DeKalb Farmers Co-op - Crossville

ALFA Office - Wetumpka

ALFA Office - Atmore

ALFA Office - Gadsden

ALFA Office - Fayette

ALFA Office - Russellville

ALFA Office - 511 East Maple Ave. Ste 5, Geneva

ALFA Office - 422 W Lawrence Harris Hwy, Slocomb

ALFA Office - Eutaw

ALFA Office - Greensboro

ALFA Office - 1 Park St., Headland

ALFA Office - 1038 Ross Clarke Cir. NE, Dothan

ALFA Office - Bypass, Scottsboro

ALFA Office - 4760 Eastern Valley Rd, McCalla

ALFA Office - Vernon

ALFA Office - Rogersville

ALFA Office - 10380 Hwy 20, Florence

ALFA Office - Moulton

ALFA Office - Town Creek

ALFA Office - 709 2nd Ave., Opelika

ALFA Office - Highway 72, Athens

AU Experiment Station - Belle Mina

ALFA Office - Hayneville

ALFA Office - Tuskegee

Jeff’s Gin - Harvest

ALFA Office - Hwy 231 N, Hazel Green

ALFA Office - Linden

ALFA Office - Hamilton

ALFA Office - Guntersville

Driskell Farm - Grand Bay

ALFA Office - 3582 S. Alabama Ave., Monroeville

ALFA Sales Office - 2108 E South Blvd., Montgomery

ALFA Office - 2033 Beltline Rd., Decatur

ALFA Office - Marion

ALFA Office - 200 Broad St., Aliceville

ALFA Office - 1208 S. Brundidge St., Troy

ALFA Office - Wedowee

ALFA Office - 3544 US Hwy. 280/431N, Suite B; Phenix City

ALFA Office - Columbiana

ALFA Office - Ashville

ALFA Office - Livingston

ALFA Office - 314 E Battle St., Talladega

ALFA Office - 431 N Broadnax, Dadeville

ALFA Office - Hwy 82, Northport

ALFA Office - 903 Airport Rd South, Jasper

ALFA Office - Chatom

ALFA Office - Camden

ALFA Office - Double Springs n

Storming Selma... Again

James Hammonds is a proud Southerner, but has been known to wear a blue uniform when there aren’t enough Yankees to “shoot” during the Battle of Selma Re-enactment each year.

This April’s re-enactment of the Battle of Selma celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War raid.

by Al Benn

Civil War history has become a passion for James Hammonds who has made the annual Battle of Selma re-enactment a priority in an already busy life.

When late April rolls around each year, he’s ready to slip into his Confederate uniform to become Capt. Hammonds, commander of the Jeff Davis artillery, a unit formed in Selma and one that fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War including Gettysburg.

A proud Southerner who dates his ancestry back long before the war, Hammonds is not reluctant to don Union blue to fill out the Yankee ranks if there aren’t enough Northern re-enactors.

This year’s reenactment is particularly significant because it’s the 150th anniversary of the battle, one that began and ended in one day on April 2, 1865.

The outcome was never really in doubt because the Confederacy was dying as overwhelming Union forces roared into Selma to deliver a coup de gras.

Yankees storm Confederate defenses during the annual Battle of Selma re-enactment – an event that has become the biggest of its kind in Alabama.

It was a punitive raid because Yankee cavalry using Spencer repeating rifles roared through Selma and burned much of the town that produced weapons used against them.

A Renaissance man with eclectic tastes, Hammonds’ interests often extend from Alabama development projects to world travel.

Whenever his family arrives in England, it’s a given they’ll be at the Globe Theatre in London to savor a Shakespearean play. Henry V is his favorite character.

Hammonds spent his boyhood in Lowndes County where learning experiences included climbing aboard a trailer to stomp on growing piles of cotton prior to ginning.

Agriculture, land development and Civil War history have made him a busy man who believes that familiarity with the past has a way of putting today and tomorrow into proper perspective.

James Hammonds stands next to one of the original Brooke Rifles outside Selma City Hall. At one point in the Civil War, it was the most powerful rifle in the world.

Born in Memphis on April 1, 1955 (he’s no stranger to those April Fool’s jokes), Hammonds, who will be 60, has been a student of family history going back several centuries.

"I’m a descendent of the first secretary of the Jamestown colony and another ancestor was the first governor of the Alabama-Mississippi territory," he said with pride.

When he mentions his extensive familial background, he’s not bragging – just stating facts that allow him to speak with authority about his deep, deep roots in America.

"I’ve always been interested in history because it’s fascinating where it can take you," he said, during an interview in his office high on a bluff overlooking the Alabama River and the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge.

His late father was a tail gunner on a bomber during World War II and then served for years as an Alabama State Trooper.

Other than his dad, the most influential member of his family was Lowndes County Probate Judge Harrell Hammonds who became a legend in the Black Belt.

It’s said the judge either owned or knew where every cow in the county might be grazing. He was a man to be reckoned with and enjoyed spreading his agricultural beliefs to anybody who’d listen.

"He had a philosophy about farming," said his proud nephew. "He’d say the less you spent the less you had to make back to make a profit. I’m not sure it worked for others, but I knew it worked for him."

Before he was a teenager, young Hammonds was driving vehicles in pastures on his uncle’s farm and feeding trailing cattle. Before he could walk, he’d be hoisted up on one of his uncle’s 200 horses.

"It was hard not to get a little farming into me," he said, with a laugh, remembering formative years that made him appreciate the importance of agriculture.

He majored in public administration at Auburn University, followed by a stint with the state Department of Post-Secondary Education where he helped to coordinate federal programs.

As his experience and success increased in land management, he had time to dabble in other interests and that led him to his involvement in Civil War re-enacting.

While visiting relatives in Pensacola, he learned about a re-enactment event at Fort Morgan and went over to see what all the excitement was about.

Civil War re-enacting was just becoming popular around the country at the time and it didn’t take him long to help establish an event in Selma.

It takes many willing volunteers, not to mention money, to launch something of such a magnitude, but Hammonds was game and plunged ahead with enthusiasm.

When he and friends approached the Selma Kiwanis Club for help nearly 30 years ago, they were met with less than solid support at first.

That reluctance included concern that re-enacting a Civil War battle might stir up modern day worries over negative reaction among some Selmians.

Hammonds couldn’t see anything offensive in supporting such an undertaking and impressed upon civic club members the chance to raise a lot of money to help with various community projects.

The proposal passed by one vote and was a smashing success from the start with the club reaping thousands of dollars to help support civic programs.

It wasn’t long before the Battle of Selma Re-enactment became one of the top events of its kind in Alabama. Word spread, leading hundreds of re-enactors from around the country to come to Selma to participate.

According to Hammonds, millions of dollars resulted from the battle re-enactments, bringing smiles to motel managers, restaurant owners and other businesses that benefited from the event during its nearly three-decade existence.

Hard work hardly describes the effort that local residents have put into the event. Hammonds is among them because he spends several Saturdays at the battle site.

"From January to late April, we have work parties there," said Hammonds, who is president of the April 1865 Society, Inc. which sponsors the annual event. "It takes a lot of volunteers to make this a success and we’ve been fortunate to have what we need."

The city of Selma stepped in to help a few years after the first battle re-enactment by purchasing land near the actual site of the clash between Union and Confederate troops.

Hammonds estimates that up to 700 re-enactors come to Selma each year to take part in what has become one of Alabama’s most popular spring events.

"We’ve welcomed re-enactors from several states and from as far away as Sweden and Germany. They come to Selma to watch our event or take part in it," said Hammonds, whose wife and two daughters have pitched in to help whenever needed.

In addition to the battle re-enactment itself, organizers added something that has been a huge success – "Schoolchildren Day." Students from throughout central Alabama arrive for a two-day outdoor history lesson provided by Hammonds and his "troops."

The night before the battle re-enactment is devoted to a ball befitting something out of "Gone With the Wind." Women in beautiful dresses and dashing re-enactors in full military attire dance the night away at Sturdivant Hall, one of Alabama’s most famous antebellum mansions.

Hammonds’ latest project is establishment of interactive historic markers around Selma to help tourists locate sites linked to the actual event.

Each marker costs $3,500 and Hammonds has bought one himself. By the time this year’s event is held, a dozen of the markers will be in place.

"James had a vision to bring the re-enactment here and we couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out," said Buddy Swift, who owns a pharmacy in downtown Selma and has helped as a volunteer numerous times.

Benny Austin is another Hammonds’ admirer, calling him "the driving force" behind the event.

"Without his willingness to step up and become our leader, we wouldn’t have had the great success we have today," Austin said. "He certainly is to be commended for his dedication. He has given of himself to make it what it is today."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Strategic Heifer Development

by Stephen Donaldson

One of the most challenging aspects of cattle production is proper development of replacement heifers. The challenges are many. They range from providing the proper levels of nutrition to the heifers being bred at the proper time. As you delve into all of the issues surrounding heifer development, every producer’s plan will be different and unique. In the following paragraphs, I will offer some suggestions that might make this planning simplified.

First, you must decide the age that you want to calve these heifers. There are three strategies I will suggest as it pertains to age at calving. The most accepted age to calve heifers is 24 months. Research has shown that calving at this age should result in the most calves born to this female during her productive life. Calving heifers at this age does pose the most challenging scenario as it relates to getting her rebred and confined to a controlled breeding season. They are also not physiologically mature so they need the proper nutrients to finish growing, provide milk for a calf and remain in adequate condition to rebreed.

Another option is to breed heifers to calve at 36 months of age. Advantages to this scenario are the heifer has reached maturity as far as growth is concerned making it easier to get her rebred during your controlled breeding season and, some studies suggest, she will wean more pounds over her lifetime. Disadvantages include a longer time to return revenue on your investment and there is the potential to get these heifers too heavily conditioned.

The final option I will mention is calving the heifers at 30 months, wean their calves early and have them ready for rebreeding during your normal breeding season. This option allows the producer to realize some return on investment early, allows the heifer to calve and only requires her to raise a calf and not stress her system to try to lactate and rebreed. It also allows her to mature before calving. The disadvantages are similar to 36-month calving. It takes more time to realize income and there is still the potential to have the heifers become too fleshy.

I realize there are many other options that can be employed and these are simply practical methods I have experienced. Whatever heifer system you employ, remember, these are challenging animals to feed.

Second, you have to determine the nutritional route you will take. Certainly, grass and forage should be the base of your heifer-development system. After weaning, producers need to take time to determine the weight their heifers need to be at the time of breeding. Typically, heifers need to be 60-70 percent of their mature weight when they are bred. After determining the age and weight, and the number of days until breeding, simple math can tell you the average daily gain needed to get animals to the proper weight.

If your heifers are grazing winter annuals, they should gain fast enough to reach their desired weight without supplementation. Simply provide the cattle with free-choice minerals and adequate grazing. In North Alabama, there may be a span of a few months when winter annuals don’t provide adequate nutrition and supplementation would be required. If you are grazing your heifers on perennial grass in Alabama, they, most likely, will require some supplementation to achieve gains that will allow them to reach the proper weight and condition for breeding.

There are many supplemental feeding strategies to provide your heifers with the proper nutrition they require. Many like to feed commodities like soybean hull pellets, corn gluten pellets or dried distiller’s grain. These ingredients will work, but, again, a good quality free-choice mineral is a must. My preferred method is to use a complete feed like CPC Grower or even the Brood Cow Supplement. These are complete feeds and assure that each animal gets the proper nutrition needed. A good rule of thumb is to feed 2 percent of a heifer’s body weight to obtain around 2 pounds of gain per day when using these complete feeds.

Finally, the most difficult phase of heifer management is after they have calved. Heifers at this stage have gone through some extreme change. They have been through the trauma of giving birth, suddenly having another animal dependent on them for survival, healing after calving and completing their growth to final maturity. The protein and energy drain on their system is enormous. The nutrition present in their environment isn’t enough to meet their body’s requirement. Supplementing feed during this phase of a cow’s life is critical and a place to not cut corners. Proper supplementation will ensure that she raises a strong healthy calf and rebreeds in your closed calving season.

Taking time to plan your heifer development will pay huge dividends down the road. Proper heifer development will help to insure cow quality and longevity. It will help to increase weaning weights and profits. Start those replacement heifers off right and reap the benefits the rest of their lives.

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

Taking Tom

Identify common roosting sites on your property and take note of fly up and fly down times for the flock.

by John Howle

As the fields and forests shed their drab winter coats, March brings in new excitement with the sounds of tom turkeys gobbling through the hills and hollows of Alabama. If you’ve never witnessed the strutting of a turkey in spring, you are missing out on a real treat. A gobbler will spread out his feathers making himself appear twice his size and dance in a circle in an attempt to attract a hen for mating.

Wild turkey meat is truly delicious, and the male gobbler is the legal bird to shoot in the spring. If you have turkeys on your property or have a place where you can hunt turkeys, this spring is a great time to try your skill at harvesting a mature male turkey. With a few simple techniques, you can increase your chances of a successful harvest this March.

Locate the Longbeards

Even though you may have seen a few turkeys on your property, before a hunt, it’s important to locate the birds for the next day. One of the easiest ways is to sit on a higher elevation just at sunset and listen for the flapping of wings when the birds go to roost. Turkeys will fly to roost just at dusky dark and, if you are set up on a high elevation the next morning near the roosting site, you can increase your chances of harvesting a tom. The tom produces J-shaped droppings that are easily identifiable.

Often, a tom will gobble right before he goes to roost and may gobble just when he gets on the roost. This gives you an opportunity to set up in his territory for the next day’s hunt. The birds will fly down from the roost when it is just getting daylight enough for them to see potential predators.

Set Up for the Hunt

If you know where the turkeys are roosting, you have increased your odds of a harvest. It is important to set up your blind on high ground. Gobblers are much more likely to come uphill to calling as opposed to coming downhill. In three to four minutes, you can drag nearby limbs around the base of a shoulder-width tree making a respectable blind. Also, look for natural blinds such as a blown-down tree or brush pile to set up in.

Use natural blinds like blown down trees and supplement your concealment with limbs and branches for complete camouflage.

Turkeys have incredibly accurate eyesight. They can see and hear 10 times better than humans, and wildlife biologists will tell you a turkey can see an object the size of a flea from across a football field. Camouflage is important, but it’s more important to remain completely motionless while hunting. Keeping your body, hands and face camouflaged and remaining motionless will allow the gobbler to come near your location without noticing you.

John Wayne’s Advice

John Wayne once said, "Talk low, talk slow and don’t talk too much." The same is true for calling in a gobbler. Whether you use a box call, slate call or mouth call, the key to bringing a mature tom into range involves nothing more than a few simple soft and low yelps, clucks and purrs. You want to call softly so the tom actually has to look for you in the woods. If you call loudly, the gobbler can pinpoint your exact location and be looking for something to appear out of place.

Don’t worry if your calling doesn’t sound professional. The calls you are making are the sounds of a turkey hen and, if you hear a wild turkey hen in the woods, you’ll realize their natural sound doesn’t sound as good as professional callers.

An effective call repetition would be the following soft sounds of "yelp, yelp, yelp" in series of three or five. You can follow up the yelps with the sounds of soft "purrs." This can be achieved by slowly dragging the box call paddle across the top of the box or, if you are using a slate call, use the striker to slowly drag the tip across the slate making a purring sound.

If the gobbler is gobbling and working his way towards your location, stop calling. If you call too much, the bird may become suspicious and may not come within range. If the gobbler is headed your way, you should already have the shotgun in position or propped on your knee. With a little practice, you will be able to keep the shotgun braced with one hand and deliver a few soft yelps and purrs with the other hand with little movement.

To make a quick, humane shot on a gobbler, aim for the base of the neck, and don’t shoot while the tom is strutting. Wait until the bird is standing at rest. Don’t take a shot unless the bird is within 25 yards to guarantee a quick dispatch.

This March try your hand at turkey hunting. You can share the bounty with your family and friends, and you can exercise your self-reliance skills.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

The Co-op Pantry

We are fortunate this month to have a lady who has done just about anything you can think of and is still coming up with new things to try, both in cooking and working with her beloved dogs and sheep.

My name is Suzanne Olsen of Ewe Herd It Farm and I was born and raised in a small suburb outside of Detroit, Mich. I joined the U.S. Air Force in 1985 and met my husband Larry at technical school in Texas. After my enlistment was over and my first of two sons was born, I went back to school and received a degree in Elementary Education. After 24 years in the military, my husband retired and found a job at Whiting Naval Air Field, bringing us to the Milton, Fla. area.

As a young reader of the "Little House on the Prairie" series, I dreamed of having a farm. That dream would have to wait 38 years!

While we were stationed in Germany, we lost our little mixed breed dog. We were able to locate a Cardigan Welsh Corgi named Timmy in Ireland. Before heading back to the United States, we obtained Katie from the same breeder and she put us on the path to farm ownership.

Suzanne and Larry Olsen

Shortly after arriving back in the States, I took both corgis with me to the national Cardigan Welsh Corgi club herding trials. There they were introduced to goats in the pouring rain. Timmy had no interest in the goats. Katie couldn’t wait to get in to tell those goats what to do! She was the only dog that day to get those goats to move. It was then that I knew I had to find someone to teach us how to herd.

A few weeks later, we were driving from Little Rock, Ark., to Olive Branch, Miss., to meet our new herding trainer Nancy Obermark. We worked diligently at learning the craft of herding. About a year later, it was time for my husband to retire and it was then we decided to look for a small farm wherever we moved so we could get some sheep to continue our training.

We finally found the place in Allentown, Fla. We tore out the broken-down horse fencing and began putting up fences for the sheep. Thanksgiving weekend that year, we went to get our first three sheep to start herding training on our farm. We joined a local dog training club to see if there were other people who might like to learn herding. Now, most Saturday mornings you can find us gathered together at the farm to help each other with our training. We also host a herding workshop several times a year to advance our training.

In the midst of all of this, I decided to return to school to hone the skill I loved practicing: baking. Because I was in culinary school, I also learned some new techniques in cooking. Since leaving Germany, I had missed all of the quality European food. In school, I learned many of the techniques to help me recreate many of my favorite European recipes. Sometimes I have to get creative and change some of the ingredients that are difficult to find in our area and certainly impossible to grow, but I enjoy the challenge!

Soon it will be time to harvest our first batch of lambs. Since they are hair breeds, they don’t have the same strong flavor the woolies do. Their meat is mild in flavor, similar to that of tender beef. I am looking forward to trying many new lamb recipes and maybe developing a few of my own.

For more information on training herding dogs, email me at

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


2 (20 ounce) jars unsweetened chunky applesauce
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 pounds kielbasa or Polish sausage, fully cooked and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped

In a bowl, combine applesauce and brown sugar. Stir in sausage and onion. Transfer to a greased 13x9x2 baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40-50 minutes or until bubbly.

Note: My husband said that this sounded nasty … until he tried it!


3-3½ pounds ground chili beef (you could also use lamb or mutton, but shhh, don’t tell the sheep!)
Small green bell pepper, diced
2 medium onions, diced
3 Tablespoons chili powder
3 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or
1½ teaspoons granulated salt)
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
3 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can New Orleans Style Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Cook the beef, onion and bell pepper until beef is thoroughly cooked and onions and peppers are caramelized; pour into crock pot. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook in crockpot with cover on for 3-4 hours on high heat, or 6-8 hours on low heat.


Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

½ cup unsweetened coconut, shredded*
4 large eggs, separated
1 stick plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted
butter, softened
½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
1 package vanilla sugar or 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (do not use imitation vanilla)
¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour, sifted
3 level teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Carefully toast the shredded coconut in an unoiled frying pan on a medium burner, stirring constantly. Immediately remove browned coconut from pan to prevent it from burning. Separate the eggs. Beat together the butter or margarine, sugar and vanilla sugar/vanilla until creamy. Add in egg yolks, one at a time. Mix together flour, baking powder and the roasted coconut. Fold into the batter. Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the batter, making sure to not stir the batter. Spread dough in the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Using a spoon, carefully remove the center of the cake, leaving ½ inch around the edge and bottom of the cake. Crumble the insides of the cake and set aside.

22 Raffaello coconut-almond candies (sold in the specialty chocolate section at Walmart and some grocery stores)
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 packages whipping cream stiffener (sahnesteif) (sold in some stores under the American name “Whip It” by Dr. Oetker in what looks like un sweetened Kool-Aid packets. You could substitute 4 teaspoons of corn- starch and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar mixed together.)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups or 8.8 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen, divided
1/3 cup apricot jam
1 Tablespoon coconut, unsweetened and shredded

Mash 14 of the coconut-almond candies. Put 8 aside for decoration. Beat the heavy whipping cream, whipping cream stiffener and sugar together until stiff. Fold in mashed coconut candies and about 1-1/3 cups of the raspberries (save some nice berries for decorations). Spread into the opening of the cake forming a dome. Warm up apricot jam. Using a pastry brush, spread warmed jam around the outside of cake. Take ½ of the crumbled cake mixture and pat around the outside rim of the cake where you spread the jam, using the jam to adhere the crumbs to the outside of the cake. Carefully cut the remainder of the coconut candies in half to make 16 pieces. Put the candies evenly around the top of the cake. Decorate further with the leftover raspberries and coconut. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Servings: 16

* If using sweetened coconut, reduce sugar by half.


3 flour tortillas (you can use the flavored ones)

10 farm fresh eggs, or 16 ounces egg substitute

10 ounces frozen spinach

4 ounces premium cut chicken

1½ cups mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Place ¼ of a tortilla into a sprayed muffin pan. Mix eggs, spinach, chicken and 1 cup of the cheese together. Put 1/8 cup of the mixture into muffin pan. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes. Let sit for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Note: You can use any combination of meats, cheeses and vegetables. Other ideas include: left-over turkey, ham, breakfast sausage, bacon, ground beef, cheddar cheese, Mexican cheese, brie cheese, Ementaller cheese, Gouda cheese, Swiss cheese, peas, shredded cooked carrots, chopped cooked broccoli, cooked and chopped asparagus, chopped artichokes, etc. Sometimes I buy several kinds of ingredients and allow my family to choose their own fillings. Three eggs plus the ingredients will fill 4-6 cups. This is a great recipe for cleaning out some of the leftovers from your refrigerator!


2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

16 ounces sour cream

8 cups homemade cream corn (about 4 cans canned cream corn)

3 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix

Preheat oven to 350° and butter a 9x13 pan and small casserole dish. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well blended. Add sour cream and cream corn; mix until well blended. Fold in cornbread mix until well blended. Pour into pans and bake for about 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes a 9x13 pan, plus extra for a small casserole dish. (It makes A LOT!) This is a great church supper potluck dish.

Notes: You can cut this recipe in half and make it in a medium-large casserole dish. You could also try using two cans of cream corn and two cans of whole kernel corn without the water. I have seen that suggested in some recipes and have tasted it before, though it doesn’t taste as nice as the fresh cream corn. Some stores sell frozen cream corn and that would be a good substitute for the homemade, fresh cream corn.

(Cucumber Salad)

Serves: 4-5 persons

Cucumber salad is a classic dish of the Kalten Küche. Typical spices include salt and white pepper, dill, tarragon and chives. A number of countries have their own variants on this simple cucumber salad.

2 large cucumbers (English)

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¾ cup sour cream

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Peel cucumbers and cut into very thin slices. Mix together vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over cucumbers. Marinate about 20 minutes. Drain off liquid, toss cucumbers with sour cream. Top with fresh parsley and serve.


2 large fennel bulbs**

4-5 carrots, peeled

¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Parmesan cheese shavings

Preheat oven to 400°. Remove the fennel stems and slice the bulb in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, slice the bulb vertically into ½-inch thick slices, cutting right through the core. Cut the carrots into the same size pieces as the fennel wedges. Spread the fennel slices and carrots on a baking sheet. Coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss together with your hands. Roast vegetables for about 45 minutes or until the edges are crisp and brown. Turn them once, halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and cover with cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste; serve.

** Fennel fronds may be chopped finely and sprinkled over roasted vegetables before serving or reserved as a garnish for a fresh citrus salad.


1 box Golden Raisins

Orange Juice

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

8 cups oatmeal, uncooked (I use 4 cups each of whole and quick cooking oats)

The night before baking cookies: Put raisins in a medium-large bowl and pour orange juice on them until they are covered. Add enough water to increase the liquid level by about 1 inch. If you forget this step, as I often do, then plump the raisins in the juice in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely before using in the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350˚. Beat together the butter and sugars until very creamy (the mixture will get much lighter in color). Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda cinnamon, and salt; add to sugar mixture and mix well. Stir in oats; mix well. Stir in raisins; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. (I use a Pampered Chef medium scoop that ejects the dough onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.) Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 8 dozen cookies. (This recipe may be cut in half.)

Note: You can also make these into bar cookies, but they work better as individual cookies. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in TWO ungreased, parchment lined 13x9 metal baking pans. If using glass pans, decrease the time slightly.


1 package refrigerated pie dough, room temperature (you can also make your favorite fresh pie dough recipe)

Lemon curd (recipe below)

Confectioner’s sugar

You will need the following equipment:

Mini cupcake tin
Cookie cutter in the shape of a flower

Unroll the pie dough. Start by cutting flowers with a flower-shaped cookie cutter. Place each flower inside a cupcake form. Fold in alternating petals to help the dough fit into the cavities of the cupcake tin. Carefully push the three outer petals against the sides of the tin and then push the other three inner petals against the walls of the tin, until all petals are flattened slightly against the sides and over the lip of each tin opening. (You may need to alternate which holes you use if the neighboring petals touch each other.) Poke holes with a fork in each of the petals to keep the dough from puffing too much during baking. Bake at 350° for about 5-7 minutes or just until the petals begin to get some slight color. Remove from oven and pipe some lemon curd into each flower. Immediately return filled flowers to oven and bake for 4-5 more minutes or until the flower petals are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool in tins for about 3-5 minutes. Move flowers to a cooling rack. Before the flowers cool any more, sprinkle them with confectioner’s sugar. Don’t worry if the lemon part gets white from the sugar, it should soon absorb into the curd.


4 teaspoons lemon peel, grated
⅔ cup lemon juice
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup melted butter (do not use margarine as it gives an inferior flavor)

In a blender, combine lemon peel, juice, eggs and sugar; whirl until smooth. Melt margarine in a saucepan. At lowest blender speed, slowly add margarine; whirl until blended. Pour mixture back into the pan you melted margarine in. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it bubbles and thickens. Pour into ½ pint jars, filling to ¼ inch to ½ inch of top. Water bath process for 15 minutes. Stores for up to 2 months in a cool, dry place. Makes three ½-pint jars. (If it lasts long enough to get into the jars!)


2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup pecans, chopped

1½ cups all-purpose flour

Crust Topping
½ cup milk chocolate chips, melted

4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1½ cups white sugar
¾ cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon flour
½ cup caramel ice cream topping
½ cup pecans, chopped

1-1½ cups milk chocolate chips, melted
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
Caramel ice cream topping for drizzling (or make your own fresh caramel; much better in flavor!)
Whole toasted pecans for decoration

To Prepare Springform Pan

Lightly grease bottom of springform pan. Cut a circle of parchment paper slightly smaller than the bottom of pan and place in pan bottom. Generously grease the parchment paper. Attach side of springform pan to the bottom and generously grease the sides. Place two layers of heavy-duty foil around the bottom and sides of the springform pan to keep water from leaking into the pan. Preheat oven to 350°.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until just combined. Press dough into bottom and about 1½ inches up the sides of a prepared springform pan. Bake 10 minutes or until crust just begins to become golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Turn oven down to 300°.

Cheesecake Filling
In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk. Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Remove 1 cup of filling and place in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon flour and ½ cup of caramel ice cream topping; stir until combined. Place by dollops in a circular pattern on top of the prepared crust until all caramel filling mixture has been used. Pour remaining filling on top of the caramel mixture.

Place springform pan in a larger pan and set on middle oven rack. Pour boiling water into larger pan, being careful to not get any water in the springform pan. Carefully slide rack into oven and bake 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cheesecake center will not be set, but do not continue baking any longer. Turn off the oven and leave the cake in the oven for several hours or until room temperature. Do not open the oven door during this time!

Once cake has cooled, remove from oven. Remove foil from springform pan. Loosen sides from cake. Place in refrigerator until chilled.

Once chilled and just before serving, melt milk chocolate chips and cool slightly to keep from melting the cake. Pour chocolate over the top of crust and spread evenly. While chocolate is still soft, sprinkle toasted pecans on top. Return to refrigerator for a few minutes to set the chocolate. Drizzle with caramel sauce and serve. 12 servings.

Note: If you know how to temper chocolate, you should take the extra time to do that before drizzling on top of the cheesecake.


Boil fresh corn on the cob until tender. Allow the corn to cool before proceeding further. Once cooled, cut about half way through the kernels with a sharp knife along the length of the cob, rotating the cob as you go. Be careful to not cut close to the cob. Once you have the corn cut, use a dull knife (like a table knife) and scrape off the remaining corn from the ear. It’s best to do this step in a large bowl to catch the juices. Mix all the corn together to make fresh cream corn.

On a good sized ear of corn, you will probably get about ½ cup of cream corn per ear; less with smaller ears.

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

The Color of Caladiums

Credit: Lars Ploughman,

by Tony Glover

Caladiums can add beauty and color to the garden, but I often hear questions from gardeners who have had poor luck growing them. The questions usually sound something like this, "I have seen caladiums in other people’s yards and they are beautiful. Every time I try to grow them they struggle and never seem to do well. What am I doing wrong?"

The problem they’re having could depend on timing, soil type, light intensity or a half-dozen other things, so I’ll start by giving optimum growing conditions for caladiums in general. As with many plants, caladiums do have some requirements to have the best chance of success.

Caladiums (Caladium × hor­tulanum Birdsey) are grown for their spectacular, multicolored foliage and are considered tropical; therefore, they respond well to warm, moist soil with soil temperatures about 70 degrees and above. Don’t get started too early. You might want to consider planting them outside about the same time you would plant okra seed as they require similar soil temperature. If caladium tubers are planted in cooler soils, they tend to grow slowly and the tubers might even rot before they get going. Caladiums are popular planted in pots, borders and as bedding plants throughout the South and they perform best in dappled or moderately shady locations. You will need to keep the soil moist, but do not allow the plants to stay water saturated. If you grow them in containers, make sure you use a very well-drained soilless potting mix. Caladiums will benefit from regular feeding with a soluble-type fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer.

You may purchase caladiums as tubers or as already-started plants. There are two main types of caladium: the fancy- and lance-leafed types. The fancy-leafed caladium with its large, heart-shaped leaves will reach heights of 12-30 inches depending on variety and growing conditions. The lance-leafed type usually grows smaller and has narrower leaves. Both come in many different color combinations and many have interesting color variations. For the most impact in the landscape, group caladiums as a focal point in mass plantings. When planted in the foreground, they will provide a striking contrast with the green foliage of other plants.

If you purchase tubers, the larger tubers will have more leaf buds and provide a larger plant. Each tuber will have a large central bud surrounded by smaller buds. Removing this central bud will allow the tuber to produce many more shoots and leaves. To carefully remove the central bud, use the tip of a sharp knife to lift it out, being careful not to damage the smaller surrounding buds.

Caladiums do not winter-over here in Alabama, but, by taking some simple steps, it is possible to save the tubers to use again next year. Before the foliage loses its color in the fall, dig up the tubers and spread them out to dry for about a week. When dry, remove the dried foliage and soil from the tubers and pack them in dry peat moss or vermiculite, making sure the tubers do not touch each other. Store the tubers in a low humidity area where the temperature will not drop below 50 degrees. Normally the tubers will not perform as well the second year. Some varieties respond better than others; you may have better luck with the white-colored foliage sprouting the second year. If you like a challenge, wintering them over may be worth a try.

Caladiums do not have many problems. Sometimes the leaves will show burning on the outer edges that could be from watering during the hot part of the day, watering too little or from fertilizer touching the leaves. Planting caladiums too early in the spring in cooler temperatures could cause leaf spot, showing tan to brown spots on leaves. These diseased leaves should be removed immediately.

If you would like more in-depth information, please view our publication titled "Greenhouse Production of Caladiums,"ANR 1256 online at

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

The FFA Sentinel: Kentucky Road Trip

FFA members from Clements, Tanner and West Limestone High Schools at the Locust Trace Agriscience Center in Lexington, Ky.

by Tate Yancey

FFA members from Clements, Tanner and West Limestone High Schools recently toured many different aspects of agriculture in Kentucky. The trip, funded through a $5,000 grant from the Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Conservation and Development Council, allowed students the opportunity to broaden their perspective of agriculture in the United States.

On November 19-21, the students attended the North American Livestock Expo in Louisville, Ky. This is the world’s largest all-breed, purebred livestock exposition and boasts 10 different species of livestock. Next, the students travelled to Lexington where they toured the Locust Trace Agriscience Center. Students in Lexington can attend the Locust Trace Agriscience Center as part of their high school curriculum to take classes in one of five programs: Plant and Land Science, Veterinary Assistant, Agriculture Power Mechanics, Equine Studies or Large Animal Science. The students from Limestone County were shown around the school by the Locust Trace FFA officers and they learned more about the training provided by a high school that only focuses on agriculture.

"The most interesting part of Locust Trace was the Animal Science Class. I really enjoyed how they have their own animals on site such as the Equine Science class where they are able to interact with horses each day. It was much more of a hands-on experience," said Meghan Lynn, a senior from Tanner High School.

Ivy Harbin, a senior from West Limestone High School, shared a similar sentiment about the school.

"The most enjoyable part of the trip for me was the Locust Trace Agriscience Center, because of how much it benefited the students attending in a variety of major agricultural fields," Harbin said.

The next stop was the University of Kentucky’s sheep unit where the students learned about the sheep industry and were trained in sheep evaluation.

Then, the FFA members went to the Keeneland horse racing track and toured the race track, stables and the sale ring where horses are often sold for millions of dollars. The students developed an understanding of the thoroughbred industry as well as equine management.

"Sitting in the seats at Keeneland’s sale ring was an interesting experience because I learned how the horses are actually sold," said Tiara Grigsby, a senior from Tanner High School.

On the final day, the group travelled to the Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington to tour the yards and learn about the cattle industry. The students gained valuable insight and knowledge from Jim Akers, chief operating officer of Bluegrass Stockyards.

The final stop on the trip was to the Darley thoroughbred horse breeding operation at the historic Jonabell Farm. The Jonabell Farm is owned by the Prime Minister of Dubai and is the site where many thoroughbred studs are raised. The students were provided with an in-depth tour of the farm and also learned about the thoroughbred industry.

The FFA members who participated in the trip returned to Limestone County with great appreciation and knowledge of many different types of agriculture.

Tate Yancey is president of Tanner FFA.

The Future of Farming

Students getting to pet Billy!

Why Ag in the Classroom Is Important

by Michelle Bufkin

Fifty-eight. That is the average age of farmers in the United States according to the latest (2012) agriculture census from the USDA.

This is a statistic that is becoming common and prevalent in the agriculture industry. More often we as an industry hear this statistic and get worried about who will take over our farms, businesses and overall food production. Only 6 percent of principal farm operators are under 35 and this does not bode extremely well for the future. This is especially a problem because most Americans are at least four generations removed from a family farm.

I believe this is why there are so many questions about our food system today; consumers truly do not understand the process from field or pasture to plate. When most school children are asked where milk comes from, they respond with: "The grocery store." They do not realize there is a before-the-store market and this is why agriculture education is important.

An official agriculture education class may not be feasible in every single school in the nation, or even in the state. This is where Ag in the Classroom programs play a crucial role, and help fill the gaps between producers and consumers.

The National Ag in the Classroom program began in 1981 when the USDA selected a task force to discuss and encourage agricultural literacy. Each state organization addressed agriculture education in an individual way that best suited its needs. The National Ag in the Classroom website states, "… Today’s network of state programs has successfully become a key player in providing quality classroom resources and in the delivery of teacher professional development. In most states, key resources align with state academic standards and in-service programs have become an invaluable tool in helping teachers become more comfortable with the subject of agriculture."

The most common way for schools to participate in Ag in the Classroom is to educate teachers by sponsoring a trip to their state Ag in the Classroom workshops. This provides educators with a basic knowledge of agriculture and resources to use in their classroom.

I personally know numerous teachers who have attended these workshops and returned to share with their students their newfound knowledge, but some urban and suburban teachers still may not have enough information. This is not because of any fault of their own, but because they, along with a lot of America, have grown away from the agriculture industry.

One way to provide information to students is for professionals from the agriculture industry to come into the classroom and teach them about agriculture from a personal perspective. No one knows your story better than you, so why not tell it along with the entire agriculture story?

Ag-industry led "Ag in the Classroom" events are growing all over the nation and our state. I personally have orchestrated three Ag in the Classroom events, participated in five, and plan to be more actively involved. Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority’s national philanthropy is Ag in the Classroom, so each semester we plan several events at local elementary schools.

This past year, we organized different stations for kindergarten through third grade students. Each station focused on a different aspect of the agriculture industry: cotton, row crops, dairy, nutrition, chicken, food safety, horse breeds, anatomy of the bean and beef cattle.

The highlight of the day was always when the students saw Billy the Steer. Billy was a bottle baby that my family raised and who is used now solely as an educational tool. Billy attends our Ag in the Classroom and other petting zoo events. For most of the students, this was the first time they had been within 20 feet of a cow, and definitely the first time they were allowed to touch one. I believe this hands-on experience helped the students connect not only with Billy, but also with agriculture. They were almost guaranteed to go home and tell their parents about the cow they were able to pet that day.

If nothing else, we have supplied information, but also maybe instilled a passion for animals, especially livestock, in a younger generation. That is the overall goal of Ag in the Classroom, obviously to educate, but students will not remember everything we taught them that day. They may not even remember anything we taught them, but maybe we planted the seed of interest in and passion for agriculture. That is what agriculture needs for its future to be secure: people who are passionate about it. Since agriculture is a difficult profession, that is not getting easier; we need to have younger generations who are truly passionate about agriculture. Then we would stand upon a more secure foundation.

Every school may not have the opportunity to have teachers who have attended Ag in the Classroom conferences, but it may have students whose parents are farmers. What better way to educate the future generation than starting with your own child’s classmates? To me, nothing is better than that. The personal connection can increase your credibility and ability to connect, not only with the children but also with the parents and teachers.

If you do have a child, feel free to reach out to a local school in your area. Most schools are ecstatic to have outside organizations come in and teach their students about something new. No one knows your story better than you. Do not be afraid to go out and share it, especially with students, who will eventually control the future of agriculture.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

The Myth of Precision

Would a higher level of precision yield a different management approach?

by Corky Pugh

Wildlife management, by its very nature, is an imprecise undertaking. Wild animals in natural habitats simply don’t lend themselves well to precision approaches. Anyone who believes otherwise or leads you to believe otherwise should be the subject of careful scrutiny.

Even deer census techniques, designed to get an approximate count of deer on a particular property, are just that - an approximation. According to Dr. James Kroll, author of "A Practical Guide to Producing and Harvesting White-tailed Deer," "A census is not an absolute count of all deer on the property. It is an index to what is going on in the population ….

"The first question to ask when considering a census is: Do you really need one?"

He describes the variety of useful, and not-so-useful, census techniques. He then addresses the difference in accuracy and precision.

"To my knowledge, no one has ever demonstrated the true accuracy of census techniques under ‘wild’ conditions," he noted.

The more practical approach to deer management involves collecting age and weight data from deer on a specific property to determine the overall well-being of the herd. Such an approach is readily available to Alabama hunters and landowners through the state’s Deer Management Assistance Program that has remained available since its inception in the 1980s.

Deer genetics are talked about a lot, with references to "cull bucks" (whatever those are) or trying to manage for specific antler characteristics. According to Alabama’s top deer biologists, Gray and Cook, culling is not generally recommended because of so much uncertainty about heritability of antler traits and the several decades long time required for any measurable improvement.

Instead, Gray and Cook said, "If better antler quality is a deer manager’s goal, then the majority of their effort and resources should focus on improving the quality of the habitat, improving buck age structure (letting young bucks mature) and maintaining the deer herd at a level well below carrying capacity through doe harvest."

For a few individuals with enough extra money, genetics means investing in "breeder bucks" or straws of semen for artificially inseminating does. These latter practices are in the realm of animal husbandry, not wildlife management. These practices, common in domestic cattle or swine production, have no value for 99.9 percent of hunters.

Aldo Leopold, the "Father of Modern Wildlife Management," noted, "The value of any game animal is inversely proportionate to the artificiality of its origin."

Leopold led the way to a scientific approach toward wildlife management and brought a hunter’s perspective to the discipline.

Attempting to tinker with deer genetics in a wild population with the mistaken belief that one can alter the gene pool is the equivalent of pouring a teaspoon of fresh water (or some other liquid) into the Gulf of Mexico.

Deer breeders and others in related money-making ventures do not want you to think about this reality. Nobody questions that a breeder working with a captive herd can cross a particular buck with specific characteristics with a particular doe with specific characteristics and sometimes produce offspring bearing similar characteristics.

However, moving outside the confines of a high fence and attempting to do the same thing is a costly exercise in futility. And who wants to kill a deer bearing the behavioral and physical characteristics of a cow?

The double-fanged dilemma that high-fence operators face is how to keep deer numbers within the carrying capacity of the land inside the fence, and how to maintain the long-term genetic diversity of the deer population within the enclosure. The primary factor driving both these difficulties is the inability of animals to disperse.

Wild deer in natural habitats disperse or move to new territory if things get crowded. They also are pushed to new range by other deer. Have you ever watched a doe kicking at her offspring? She’s not just tired of nursing. Her instinct is to push offspring away once weaned.

Wildlife professionals use data to determine trends. Field survey data and harvest data reflect population trends as well as hunter behaviors. Wildlife science recognizes the need to balance collection of sufficient data to make valid statistical inferences with the need to operate within available funding and other realities. Science recognizes that methods and specific objectives may have to be adjusted to what is affordable and practical.

The State of Alabama has conducted a statistically valid, random-sample mail survey of licensed hunters every year since 1963. The methodology was developed by statisticians at North Carolina State University and is periodically updated to keep survey methods current. The survey results are used along with other research, field observations, public input and all available information to make wildlife management decisions, including recommendations for harvest regulations. Many other states use the same approach to monitoring game harvest and hunter success, as well as methods, i.e., gun/archery, stalk/dog.

For example, up through the mid-1990s, the Alabama deer harvest was comprised of 70 percent bucks and 30 percent does. Through an educational approach, the state shifted hunter behavior to achieve a balanced harvest beginning with the 2000-2001 hunting season.

According to the most recent Alabama survey, 185,606 deer hunters participated in 3,609,956 man/days of hunting. They harvested 266,725 deer: 51 percent bucks, 49 percent does.

The survey captures information about all game animals. For example, 54,800 hunters killed 45,300 turkeys in 518,500 man/days afield.

Are these harvest numbers precise? No, they are within +/- 4.3 percentage points for deer and +/- 9.4 percentage points for turkey, an acceptable margin of error.

Does this matter? No. Any higher level of precision would not yield any different management approach.

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

The Next Big Food Idea

Food Entrepreneur Conference Set for April at Auburn

from Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Do you have a family recipe you would like to see on the market? Well, do we have a conference just for you! On April 8-9, 2015, the third annual Food Entrepreneur Conference will be held at the Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Commerce and Industry at the Auburn University Research Park in Auburn.

"You could be the next Sister Schubert or Wickle’s Pickles," said Jean Weese, professor and Extension specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety team. "The great thing about this conference is that you can get a lot of the information in one place or else find out where to get the information. You can talk to the experts and experienced entrepreneurs, and get answers on the spot."

Patricia Barnes, better known as "Sister Schubert," will start the meeting off talking about her experiences as a struggling food entrepreneur.

The conference program includes other successful entrepreneurs who can warn participants about how to avoid the mistakes they made. Last year’s program, for example, included a panel with Jason Wilson from Back Forty Beer in Gadsden, Ben Moon from Dreamcakes in Birmingham, Brian Sapp from White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Ga., and Laura Pritchard from The Overall Company in Opelika. They offered "real-life" advice, and a similar panel is planned for this year.

Auburn University has assisted hundreds of individuals get through a maze of legal and business requirements on their way to being successful, says Pat Curtis, director of the Auburn University Food Systems Institute that sponsors the Food Entrepreneur Conference with ACES.

Barnes, for example, sought help from Auburn when she decided to add sausage to her rolls. She had just expanded her sweet roll line by adding meat to her parkerhouse rolls, but she discovered she needed something called a Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points plan. By adding meat to her product, she became a meat processor. Knowing how to navigate through the regulations of food processing will be discussed in detail at the conference. More importantly, you will interact with individuals who can assist you during as well as after the meeting.

Food scientists from ACES also will talk about other services they provide, including food testing at a minimal cost (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires every food product to have a label listing ingredients as well as allergens).

Experts from the Small Business Development Center will offer tips about creating business and marketing plans, and finding financing.

Offering information about their areas of specialty will be a meat scientist and experts from the interdisciplinary Aquaculture and Fisheries Business Institute that focuses on solutions for the region’s fisheries-related busi­nesses.

A highlight of the conference is the small group breakout sessions on the second day when aspiring entrepreneurs meet with specialists in their area of interest.

One of the sessions this year will deal with Alabama’s new Cottage Food Law passed in 2013. The law allows for the sale of certain food products deemed "non-hazardous" from a person’s home, eliminating the cost of a commercial kitchen and the need for selling through a retail outlet or farmer’s market. A small-business owner operating under the Cottage Food Law must register with the county health department and take a food safety course or attend a Cottage Food Law class. Both are also available through the ACES food safety team.

"Non-hazardous" foods include baked goods, canned jams and jellies, dried herb mixes and many candies, but not meat, fish, low-acid or acidified foods. Entrepreneurs who manufacture low-acid or acidified foods such as many canned vegetables and sauces must employ a supervisor who has completed the Better Process Control School, also offered by Auburn University.

Keep up with plans for the third annual Food Entrepreneur Conference at the AUFSI website or the Food Entrepreneur Conference Facebook page.

For more information, contact Jean Weese at 334-844-3269 or, or Jacque Kochak at 334-844-7465 or

The Roosters – “Ninety and Nine”

by Suzy Lowry Geno

When we first ordered our original 25 Golden Comet hens from the Blount County Farmers Co-op, Roy and I would often spend hours just sitting out in our lawn chairs watching "chicken TV."

Those first Y2K chicks almost immediately increased by five when I ordered five Americauna (Easter Egg) chicks as well.

The bright-eyed little biddies were certainly different than the thousands of squawking broilers Roy’s mama raised at her commercial poultry houses as our little free rangers scratched in the grassy areas gulping down bugs and worms.

I tell everybody that chickens ARE addictive! I soon found chickens were like the old adage of eating potato chips: while you can’t eat just one chip, you can’t stop wanting more and different varieties of colorful little birds.

The next year, of course, I ordered more chicks. But it wasn’t long before one began to act a little differently and I couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong. It was a little skinnier and its tail feathers came in long and full.

Then one morning I heard a wavering eerie sound - but it was definitely a first cock-a-doodle-do!

That wasn’t a weird-looking little hen - we had our first rooster!

Some folks suggested we get rid of him; after all, he wasn’t needed to make eggs. Others said he’d make a nice addition to the stew pot. But he quickly proved his worth. He sounded a unique call if a hawk flew over and the hens immediately raced to the safety of the coop or the shade of the oak tree whose branches we left low for good hiding spots.

He’d also let forth another special call if he scratched up a wiggly worm or another tasty morsel!

Just about every year after that at least one of the new "hens" we ordered turned out be a little male. And then one of the Easter Eggers hatched about 15 eggs underneath the back porch including three of the prettiest brown, gold and white roosters you’ve ever seen - with one featuring the grayish-green legs of his Easter Egg mama.

Most of my "chicken learnin’" came from what I’d read in books, magazines (such as Backyard Poultry and Countryside) and from the Internet. It seemed roosters fought each other and were really territorial. Lot of folks on Internet homesteading forums even talked about their roosters spurring them and causing other problems. But evidently my roosters didn’t peruse the Internet nor read those same books! They pretty much all got along. Sometimes there was a little chest bumping and a lot of cackling if one got too loving with one of the others’ girls, but no serious confrontations ever occurred. And none ever attacked me.

But Roy said what happened every night just as it was getting dark was what was truly amazing to him even though he’d been raised on farms throughout his childhood.

My chicken coop has been added onto four or five times, so there is one door at the front and two doors on each side.

Each night each group of hens lined up with "their" rooster and marched into their individual doors to their partitioned sections of the coop.

Roy said it reminded him of boys and girls lining up behind the flags and marching in to Vacation Bible School at church when we were all little.

But the most amazing part happened on some nights after that: maybe a chubby hen slipped into our dog Maggie’s fenced area because there were some choice worms under her pen’s thatchy grass and she let time slip away. Or maybe another hen accidentally was pushed into the wrong door by a group of girls rushing in to get the choicest spots on the roosts. Or maybe another just tarried too long out by the feeding trays.

I don’t think roosters know how to count, but evidently each rooster knows exactly how many hens are "his" and each knows when any one of their little harem of 20 or more is missing!

That particular rooster comes trotting back out the door, leaving the other hens inside, but clucking, calling, and looking in the bunny barn, under the cedar tree, in the edge of the woods until he finds his missing hen!

He then escorts her back to their door, scolding her all the time, until she is tucked safely inside with his other girls.

Whichever rooster it was (or still is) that found one missing wouldn’t rest until each and every one of his charges were safe inside for the night! And this farmer better not try to shut that door until EVERYONE is accounted for!

I’ve often said that some of the times I’ve felt closest to God are when I’ve been around my animals: witnessing the miracle of birth or even just the calmness of a barn smelling sweetly of hay as rabbits and goats munch their evening meals.

So the roosters have set me to thinking of how much more our Savior seeks us out when we stray from His fold of safety.

Jesus told a parable of a shepherd who had 99 sheep safely in the fold (Luke 15:4-7), but who left them to seek out that one tiny lamb who had gotten left behind or who had strayed too far away from his safe haven.

Children’s Bible story books often feature an illustration of a kindly shepherd striding back toward his flock carrying that single lamb draped across his shoulders.

It’s a SIMPLE story with a SIMPLE premise: the rooster going back out after one errant hen or the shepherd seeking one lost lamb.

Nowadays, it wouldn’t qualify as the theme for a mega movie or the plot of a best seller.

And you may think it strange and not understand why this simple woman is musing about such things on her homestead - unless you’ve been that little lost lamb ....

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

Under Roof

The AADA is channeling resources to make a difference in farmers’ pocketbooks.

The Alabama Agricultural Development Authority continues to have funds available to support special agricultural production needs. For 35 years, AADA has supplied Alabama farmers with low-interest loans for farm improvements. From drip irrigation requirements for vegetable and nut producers to an ever-growing need for hay barns for cattle folks, AADA has responded to the farmer’s needs. AADA has low-interest dollars to make the project work.

A new AADA program for which a need has been expressed is machinery shed loans. Given the elevated cost of farm equipment, leaving equipment uncovered just isn’t smart! Putting equipment under a roof serves to extend equipment life, "cut the rust," and reduce climate wear and tear. All of these advantages will reduce your machinery maintenance cost. As with hay barns, AADA’s low-interest funds can make the "build/don’t build" management decision easier.

Finally, AADA wants to be there to support and encourage the use of irrigation systems for field crops when and where needed. Via the Departments’ Intermediary Relending Program, up to $125,000 in low-cost funds can be made available. Irrigation requires increased management and the cost is greater, but the payoff from increased yields can be substantial. Examine your planning horizon and determine if irrigation is in your future.

For information contact Harold McLemore or John Gamble at 334-240-7245 or Visit for additional information and applications on all loan programs offered by AADA.

Why Should I Buy a Hunting or Fishing License?

by Chuck Sykes

When I speak to various groups across the state, it never fails that, when I ask them how the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is funded, I get the wrong answer.

One of the most frequent activities I perform as director is to give presentations to a host of civic and sportsman’s groups throughout the state. The most disappointing portion of my typical presentation is the answers I get when the crowd responds to this question: "How is the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries funded?" Inevitably, I hear "Tax Dollars!" and nothing could be further from the truth. WFF receives no tax dollars for operation.

Alabama has two equally important sources of funding for fish and wildlife management efforts: 1) the dollars generated from the sale of state fishing and hunting licenses, and 2) federal funds derived from excise taxes on equipment manufactured for hunting, fishing, boating, archery and recreational shooting. These federal funds are a result of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. These two federal programs are considered the most successful wildlife conservation programs in American history.

The PRWR and DJSFR Acts have provided stable, consistent funding to state fish and wildlife agencies in the form of federal reimbursement for approved projects since 1937 and 1950, respectively. Both federal laws incorporate the "user pay – user benefit" philosophy and are funded through the excise taxes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs and distributes the funds to state fish and wildlife agencies using formulas established by the Acts. Alabama receives $3 from the respective federal programs for each $1 generated through license sales until our share of the allocation has been distributed.

Since enacted, the Acts have resulted in billions of dollars being apportioned to state fish and wildlife agencies to reimburse up to 75 percent of approved project costs for fish and wildlife restoration and enhancement projects across the nation. Alabama has received hundreds of millions of dollars in WSFR funds to be used as match for license revenue on projects focusing on fish and wildlife management, habitat protection, land acquisition, scientific research, population monitoring, hunter and aquatic education, and public access for hunting and fishing.

During the past several years, federal apportionments have grown to amounts larger than Alabama could match due to the tremendous increase in firearms and ammunition sales across the country. This inability to match all of our federal dollars has created a situation in which we are actively pursuing creative ways to spend the apportionments. All Alabama hunters, anglers and conservationists can do their part by ensuring they purchase the required hunting and fishing licenses on an annual basis.

A cornerstone of both the PRWR and DJSFR Acts is the protection of license fees paid by hunters and anglers. A state is eligible to receive PRWR and DJSFR funds only after it has passed legislation for the conservation of fish and wildlife that includes a prohibition against the diversion of license fees paid by hunters and anglers for any other purpose than the administration of the state game and fish agency. Alabama passed the needed assent legislation in 1939 (PRWR) and 1951 (DJSFR) and has steadfastly protected the funds from diversion attempts that would cause our agency to lose critical funding for fish and wildlife management.

Alabama has never purposefully diverted any funds and has always had the management of our fish and wildlife resources at heart. Some examples from other states where diversions have occurred include co-mingling of funds when a fish and wildlife agency is merged into another larger agency, loss of control of lands purchased with license revenues, use of state hunting and fishing license revenue to fund capital improvements that don’t have a wildlife-related purpose, transfer of fish and wildlife equipment or property acquired with license revenue to another state agency, and failure to keep accurate equipment inventory records to ensure assets acquired with license revenues and/or PRWR and DJSFR funds are used for allowable activities. To resolve a diversion of funds, all license revenue or illegally acquired assets must be fully restored, with interest, and made properly available for the administration of the fish and wildlife agency. The state must use a source of funds other than license revenue to replace diverted license revenue. The impact of diverting funds from the state game and fish agency can be financially debilitating and cause undue burden on the management of a state’s fish and wildlife resources.

Alabama has a rich hunting and fishing heritage, but we must ensure the future of our resources through sound management. To accomplish this goal, it is critical that all hunters and anglers purchase the required licenses to allow us to maximize our ability to utilize our full share of federal PRWR and DJSFR funds. And, rest assured, we will do our best to ensure those funds are utilized in a manner allowed by the guidelines of the PRWR and DJSFR Acts.

How important is it to WFF that everyone purchases a license? It is crucial. For WFF to provide services the hunting and fishing public is accustomed to receiving, we must have license revenue for funding. For example, PRWR and DJSFR dollars cannot be utilized to pay for law enforcement activities. Therefore, 66 percent of every dollar generated through license sales goes to provide law enforcement support. If license revenue goes down, so does the law enforcement budget. Vacancies are not filled and services to the public suffer.

Unlike many states, Alabama offers quite a few exemptions that reduce the number of licenses sold. Any Alabama resident under16 or over 65 is not required to purchase a license, and a resident does not need a license to hunt or fish on property he/she owns. But, who is the first to get a call when poaching, night hunting or trespassing is suspected? You got it, WFF. So in reality, the funding for WFF is more in line with a "user pay-everyone benefit" system.

I want to go back to my typical civic- or sportsman-event presentation. After a recent event in Tuscaloosa, I had a gentleman approach me and ask why he needed to buy a license because he neither hunted nor fished. So, I asked him what hobbies he did have. He liked to canoe, hike and bird watch. I explained that hunters’ dollars helped purchase some of the property he utilized in hiking and bird watching. In addition, some of those same dollars that hunters and fishermen provided improved habitat for the birds he enjoyed and also made sure the rivers and streams he used for canoeing were clean and productive.

After our brief conversation, he understood the importance of those license dollars for the benefit of all Alabama citizens and especially the wildlife. Further, he assured me he would purchase a license so he could contribute to the future success of this division and the wildlife we are entrusted to protect and enhance. So, the next time someone asks why they should purchase a license, you will be armed with the proper ammunition to persuade them to support wildlife management and conservation in Alabama.

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

Your Walk Talks

by Glenn Crumpler

When we planted our winter grazing, we really thought we were only sowing oats, wheat and ryegrass. That was all the cattle needed and all we intended to grow. However, just like last year, when the seed sprouted we had a boat load of pestilent wild turnips that had also found root.

You have to wonder how so many weed seed could be mixed in with the bags of grain that appeared to be so pure – especially since the grain had already been professionally cleaned prior to bagging. I know many of you experienced farmers are thinking that the turnip seed was already in the ground when we planted the grazing. That is true for some of the weed seed, but this year, and every year prior, when the turnips first present themselves, we spray to kill them before they have the opportunity to seed out and reproduce, so most of the seed was unwillingly and unknowingly sown with the grain.

Dealing with the wild turnips before they have a chance to produce seed and multiply is the only way to keep them from taking over the entire field. As Barney Fife used to say, "This calls for action now. We have to nip it in the bud and we have to nip it now!" (If you have Internet access, Google "Barney Fife nip it in the bud" and you will remember what I am referring to.) If you are going to destroy the detrimental wild turnips before they choke out the desired grazing and absorb all the moisture and expensive fertilizer available and needed for the grazing to flourish, you must eliminate them before they mature and reproduce.

Sin in our lives is much like the turnips in the grazing. Part of the problem is that we are born with a sinful nature (the seed of sin is already there waiting for the right conditions to germinate). Part of the sin problem is that the seed of sin is sown into our lives by Satan or others. Either way, we all have sin in our lives and we all have to deal with it before it masters us or chokes out the good that God created us for. This sin has the same detrimental effects in our lives as the turnips do in the grazing and must be dealt with in the same way. If it is not nipped in the bud, little by little, it will take over our lives and destroy the effectiveness of our witness!

The Bible warns us by saying, "Do not give the Devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:27 NIV). I remember when I was a youth leader telling a lot of teens that if you give Satan just a place to hang his toe, if you give him just a little something to hold on to, before you know it he will be stomping your butt! That is exactly the truth. We have to deal with the temptation to sin before it takes root and before our lusts lead us astray. We have to be looking for it and making decisions about what we will do before the temptation presents itself. I have always warned young people that you need to make up your mind about whether or not you will climb into the backseat instead of having to make a decision about what you will do once you are in the backseat! That is good advice for adults, too!

It is very important, especially for Christians, to know God is never the source of temptation to sin – though, if we lust or play with the ideas too long, we can convince ourselves that He is. "I love God, He loves me and He wants me to be happy!" (Now that is a trap!) We see something we want, perhaps something we even need, we want it really badly and begin to dwell on the object of our affection and the desire to have what we want grows to the point that it becomes lust. It is no sin to be tempted (Jesus was tempted in every way, yet was without sin). When we begin to lust, we open the door for overt temptation to present itself. When we yield to the temptation is when we sin. We have to nip the lust, the intense desire to sin, in the bud before we act it out. I have heard it said, "You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair."

In David Jeremiah’s commentary on James 1:14-16, he says, "Yielding to temptation is sin. Temptation itself is not a sin. Temptation is also not just a single event but a process involving four stages: enticement, entrapment, endorsement and enslavement. The key to overcoming temptation is not just to resist but also to change one’s thoughts – refocusing one’s mind on what is true and on the One who assures victory. Satan loves to take routine desires and turn them into runaway desires." First Satan baits his trap with various kinds of attractive lures. We need to be honest with ourselves and able to see and identify these lures and traps for what they are. Once we take the bait is when we sin and become ensnared in the trap set for us. If we hold temptation in our hearts and do not nip it in the bud, we will sin.

I know I have said it several times already, but I want to stress that temptation in and of itself is not sin. It is critically important to know this because one of Satan’s greatest strategies is to convince us, since we have already lusted and been tempted, that we have already lost the battle and there is no harm in acting out or giving in to the temptation. This is a lie from the pits of Hell! But, if we do not deal with the lusts and temptations, acknowledging them for what they are and confessing them to God, and perhaps even to a confidant who will hold us accountable, then we are in very dangerous waters and are very likely to lose the battle and destroy all God is wanting to do in and through our lives.

People are always watching us to see if our faith is real. Many are looking for an excuse to diminish our witness, to extinguish our light and to prove that our faith in Christ is irrelevant and incapable of changing lives. We must be on guard and remember that not only does our sin separate us from intimate relationship with God but it also affects the lives of others. There is no sin I can think of that affects only the offender.

My brother put me onto a song written by Rodney Griffin and Babbie Mason recorded by the Mark Trammell Quartet. The song is entitled "Your Walk Talks." The lyrics are a little comical, but very true:

"You know, your walk talks, and your talk talks,

"But your walk talks louder than your talk talks.

"Your behavior toward your neighbor

"Is really how you feel about the Savior.

"When you exemplify and shine the Light of Christ,

"You know the number in the kingdom will be multiplied.

"Yes, your walk talks, and your talk talks,

"But your walk talks louder than your talk talks."

How you live your life – your "walk" – speaks more loudly and clearly to others than anything you say. May God help us to glorify Him as we talk the Talk and walk the Walk!

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

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