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March 2018

4-H Extension Corner: Google Expeditions

4-H virtual reality program provides exciting expeditions for youth.


by Donna Reynolds
A Sparta Academy student in Evergreen using Google Expeditions to take a virtual field trip to an active volcano. 
4-H and Google have teamed up to bring computer science education to youth across the country. The new program teaches young people both technical skills such as coding and essential skills students will need in the future such as teamwork and resilience. It also helps students learn skills they will need to approach problems in a fundamentally different way across every discipline from business to engineering to the arts.

Google Expeditions is a virtual-reality teaching tool. You can swim with sharks, visit outer space, walk through a museum and more, without leaving the classroom. There are almost 500 different expeditions available and more in development.

"Using the technology and software, agents can take 4-H’ers on a virtual field trip almost anywhere in the world. They can also give the students a perspective they usually otherwise couldn’t have such as an underwater adventure or a top-of-a-mountain expedition," said Janet Lovelady, a 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent serving Franklin County.

Alabama is one of 22 states using the program this year. The collaboration includes an effort to reach communities where youth traditionally have limited access to computers, internet or computer science training. Alabama 4-H has two kits – one located in North Alabama and the other in South Alabama. All 67 counties can schedule a time to use one of the kits. So far, Lauderdale, Etowah, Chambers and Conecuh counties have conducted programs with the equipment.

A 4-H regional agent or other county staff plans and implements the programs. The virtual-reality kits have been used for school clubs, school enrichment, county events and special-interest clubs.

Each kit comes with a tablet and 10 virtual-reality units with phones and a router. The equipment is set up with the Google Expedition app,
https://edu.google.com/expeditions/#about. 4-H agents download the expedition for their programs while they are connected to Wi-Fi. The router sets up a small local network so the devices don’t have to be connected to Wi-Fi.

"This is an important feature because it enables agents to take the experience to many more youth than we might otherwise be able to do," Lovelady added.

Lovelady has conducted an Ancient Egypt Expedition with gifted classes at two schools to expand and enrich an academic unit they were studying. She also set up an exhibit at the North Alabama State Fair so her teen leaders could showcase the technology.

Lovelady also set up expeditions with the Lauderdale 4-H Computer Science Club to Space and to the Deep Sea.


Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with ACES in Auburn.



A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Pulled duck meat was a big hit when added to our traditional cornbread dressing recipe.


by Christy Kirk
Duck Dressing 
Whether you make it from scratch or from a mix or buy it in a local restaurant, cornbread is a staple of the Southern table. It’s cheap, easy to make and there are so many ways to use it. From cornbread crumbled into buttermilk with onions to my grandmother’s cornbread dressing recipe, it is an indispensable part of our family’s palate.

I started making my grandmother’s dressing recipe a few years ago and have tweaked it some to make it more like hers. Except for adding a whole duck breast to the dressing before putting it into the oven, I haven’t changed it in a big way. One Saturday this winter, Jason wanted to try something different. He had three ducks in the slow cooker for me to make duck dressing. This time, instead of putting the entire bird into the dish, he pulled the meat and then mixed it in the dressing.

I will admit that duck is not my favorite game meat but, mixed in Grandma Rhodes’ dressing, I could have eaten a pound of it in one sitting. I never would have thought of tearing the duck meat like roast beef and adding it to the cooked dressing if Jason had not suggested it. Sometimes you never know what pairings will come perfectly together.

Everyone knows cornbread and greens go together, almost like peanut butter and jelly, but one of Jason’s coworkers, Thomas Welch, shared his wife Maxine’s recipe for cornbread dumplings. Somehow, I have never heard of these before. I did a quick internet search and was amazed to find so many recipes. Once I saw all the photos of plump cornbread dumplings sitting on top of greens, I knew I had to make some.

Maxine says it took a while to get her recipe just right, but it was worth it because Thomas loves them. What makes them so good is that she adds some turnip broth to the dumpling mixture before rolling the dumplings.

To make cornbread dumplings, cook the turnip greens as you normally would. Once they are tender, remove the greens from the pot and set aside. Leave a little bit of the greens in the pot to simmer with the dumplings. Make sure to leave enough room in the pot for all of the dumplings to cook. Reserve about 1 cup of turnip broth for the dumplings.

DUCK DRESSING (REVISITED)


Ducks
  • 3 ducks, dressed
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Place ducks in a large slow cooker. Add water, salt and pepper. Cook all day (6-8 hours) on low.

Cornbread
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3 teaspoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
In a bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add buttermilk and mayonnaise. Mix well. Add to dry mixture. Mix well. Bake at 450° for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Crumble it finely.

Dressing
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 2 cups duck broth, plus more for adding during cooking as needed
  • ½ Tablespoon salt
  • ¼ Tablespoon pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Into a 9x13 casserole dish, pour 2 tablespoons butter. Coat bottom.

In a large mixing bowl, combine liquid ingredients including remaining butter. Add salt and pepper. Blend. Add crumbled cornbread. Mix well. Add onions. Make sure all ingredients are mixed. Pour into buttered pan. Cook at 450° for about 45 minutes. Add additional broth as it cooks, if needed.

Remove meat from ducks. Pull or chop into smaller pieces. Add to dressing and stir.

Note: This is my family’s traditional cornbread dressing recipe with two small changes: duck broth is substituted for chicken broth and duck meat is mixed directly into the dressing.

MAXINE WELCH’S TURNIP GREEN CORNBREAD DUMPLINGS


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dab of flour (my dab is about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup turnip green broth, divided
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except turnip broth. In a pot, heat broth. Pour just enough into mixture to bind it, but not be soupy. Form mixture into balls or disk shapes.

After making dumplings, bring remaining broth to a boil. Add dumplings. Allow to simmer on low heat until dumplings are puffy, cooked through and not doughy, about 20 minutes. Do not stir with a spoon, just shake pot a little to move dumplings around.

Note: If you don’t have turnip greens from the winter season, you might try looking for some wild poke sallet in the spring. Not only is it good with cornbread but you can also make poke sallet cornbread. Just don’t forget to brush up on safe harvesting before you begin searching for your next meal from the wild side.

WILD POKE SALLET CORNBREAD


  • ½ cup cooked poke sallet
  • 1 (6-ounce) package Mexican cornbread mix
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup margarine, melted
  • ¾ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Drain poke sallet well, pressing between paper towel layers. Chop. In a bowl, place poke sallet. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until blended. Pour into a lightly greased, 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

ROASTED DUCK

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 (5-pound) whole duck
  • ½ cup melted butter, divided
Heat oven to 375°. In a bowl, combine salt, pepper and paprika. Rub onto duck. Place in the roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour. Spoon ¼ cup of butter over duck. Continue cooking for 45 minutes. Spoon remaining butter over duck. Cook 15 more minutes or until golden brown.

SAVORY DUCK


  • 5 cups skinless duck breast fillets, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste, divided
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2½-3 cups water (or red wine)
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3½ Tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound quartered mushrooms
  • 2 cups small red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Cooked rice
Heat oven to 325°. Season duck well with salt and pepper. Toss it with flour to coat evenly. Shake off excess flour.

In a large, oven-safe pot over medium heat, cook bacon until lightly browned. Add olive oil. Heat 2-3 minutes. Toss in duck pieces. Cook, stirring often until evenly browned. Add onion. Cook 3-4 minutes more. Add garlic, water (or wine) and beef stock. Bring to boil. Cover with lid or foil. Bake 3-4 hours or until meat can be broken apart with a fork.

Add remaining ingredients. Liquid should just cover the pot’s contents. Add more beef broth if needed. Bake another hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.

Note: You can also add hearts, livers and gizzards.

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



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

U.S. Exports Show Shift in Destinations


A marked shift in the destinations for U.S. agricultural exports has accompanied the increased participation of developing economies in global agricultural trade.

Elimination of agricultural trade barriers within North America initially boosted exports to Canada and Mexico, partners with the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement. Later, rising household incomes and changing trade policies in developing East Asia (China and Southeast Asia, less Singapore) led to a near tripling in that region’s share of U.S. agricultural exports.

China’s share of U.S. agricultural exports swelled from 3 percent on average during 1995-99 to 16 percent during 2011-15. A single product, soybeans, accounts for half of this increase.

However, the strong growth in demand for U.S. agricultural exports in East Asia and North America has been offset by a sharp decline in the share going to Europe and high-income economies in East Asia, particularly Japan. In the EU, a number of barriers, including concerns over genetically modified products, continue to hamper U.S. agricultural trade.

Peanut Board Appointments For Two From Alabama


Two Alabama producers have been appointed to serve three-year terms on the National Peanut Board.

Named by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to serve as a board member was Tom Corcoran of Eufaula. Thomas Adams of Newville was appointed as an alternate board member.

The terms of both appointees began the first of this year and will end Dec. 31, 2020.
The board is composed of 12 producer/members and their alternates. Eleven members and alternates are from the primary peanut producing states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. An at-large member and alternate represent the minor peanut-producing states.

Egg, Turkey Output Rebounds After Avian Influenza Outbreak


The 2014-15 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak was the largest poultry-health disaster in U.S. history, but egg and turkey productions have rebounded since that period.

Over 50 million birds were lost to the disease itself or to depopulation, overshadowing bird losses during any previous U.S. outbreak. HPAI resulted in lower commodity production when supplies had previously been growing.

HPAI did not affect broiler output, with production growth continuing through 2015 and aligning with prior forecasts.

However, egg production declined for about nine months, with the sharpest reduction occurring from May to December 2015, as production remained 10 percent below 2014 levels.

The impact of HPAI on turkey production was initially similar to its impact on egg output, but it rebounded faster. While 2015 monthly production for June-July averaged 10 percent below the prior year, monthly production in August-December averaged only 5 percent lower.

New Egg Products Inspection System Proposed


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced a proposal to make egg products safer for Americans to eat.

FSIS is proposing to amend inspection regulations by requiring official plants that process egg products to develop Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points systems and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, and to meet other sanitation requirements consistent with the meat and poultry regulations.

The FSIS proposal says official plants will be required to produce egg products free of detectable pathogens. The regulatory amendment also is designed to use the agency’s resources more efficiently and to remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles to innovation.

Under the proposed plan, FSIS would eliminate those current regulatory provisions not consistent with the meat and poultry regulations.

With the HACCP system, plants will be able to tailor a food-safety system best fitting their particular facility and equipment. Furthermore, by removing prescriptive regulations, egg-products plants will have the flexibility and the incentive to innovate new means to achieve enhanced food safety, FSIS says.

The impact cost for the proposed rule is mitigated by the fact 93 percent of egg-products plants already use a written HACCP plan addressing at least one production step in their process, while also alleviating the costs associated with the current prescriptive regulations.
The proposal calls for a 120-day period for public comment after the rule’s publication in the "Federal Register."

Off-farm Income Percentage Varies
by Size of Operation


Most farm households rely on off-farm income such as wages from a job outside the farm. But the percentage of that income to the total varies dramatically by farm size.

Typically, only commercial-farm households receive a substantial share of their income from the farm. For example, in 2016, the median farm income was negative $2,008 for households operating residence farms (where the operator primarily works off-farm or is retired from farming), while median off-farm income was $83,400.

Households operating intermediate farms (smaller farms where the operator’s occupation is farming) also earn the bulk of their income from off-farm sources. In contrast, households operating commercial farms – where gross cash income is $350,000 or more – derive most of their income from the farm (nearly $144,000 in 2016). Changes to their total household income follow profits from farming.

Most agricultural production takes place on commercial farms. In 2016, residential and intermediate farms together accounted for over 90 percent of U.S. family farms and one-quarter of the value of production. By comparison, commercial farms accounted for 9 percent of family farms and three-quarters of production.

5 Appointed to FSA State Committee


U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has named five Alabamians to a slate of Farm Service Agency State Committee appointees.

State committees are selected by the Secretary, serve at the pleasure of the Secretary and are responsible for carrying out FSA’s farm programs within delegated authorities.

"The State Committees will help to ensure USDA is providing our farmers, ranchers, foresters and agricultural producers with the best customer service," Perdue said. "The committees are made up mostly of active farmers and ranchers, representing their peers and ensuring USDA’s programs are supporting the American harvest."

Those named are Committee Chair Monica Carroll of Ozark, Andy Lavender of Brundidge, Rodney Moon of Harvest, Steve Penry of Daphne and Doug Trantham of Alexandria.

Large Grocery Chains Increase Market Share


The share of U.S. grocery sales held by the fourth- and eighth-largest food retailers rose in 2016 for the fourth consecutive year.

Sales by the 20 largest food retailers was $515.3 billion in 2016 and accounted for nearly two-thirds of U.S. grocery sales.

The shares of food-industry retail sales recorded by the fourth-, eighth- and 20th-largest supermarket and supercenter retailers resumed their long-term trend of increased sales concentration in 2013 after decreasing slightly after the 2007-09 recession. Publix lost its spot in the top four food retailers in 2016 to Ahold Delhaize that joined Wal-Mart, Kroger and Albertson’s.

Much of the change in industry structure during the last few years was largely due to the impact of two big mergers – the acquisitions of Safeway by Albertson’s in 2015 and of Delhaize by Ahold the following year.

Kroger has maintained its ranking, in part, by acquiring a number of smaller retailers such as Harris Teeter and Roundy’s during the last few years.

Since 2013, three regional food retailers have joined the ranks of the top 20 due to mergers and A&P exiting the industry.



Alabama Cooperative Extension System Health Management Workshops for Sheep and Goats

Expand your knowledge about raising healthy, small ruminants with these free workshops offered across the state.


Press Release from Alabama Cooperative Extension System

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs will offer a series of Health Management Workshops for Sheep and Goat Herds across Alabama from March to May 2018.

The workshop is designed to expand your knowledge about raising healthy sheep and goats. Topics will include tagging animals, identifying injection sites, hoof health management, the FAMACHA system, using the California Mastitis Test to detect mastitis in does and ewes, caring for newborn animals, body condition scoring, nutritional and forage management, biosecurity measures, and the proper disposal of medication and other substances. Participants will also travel to a local farm to engage in hands-on demonstrations.

Each workshop will be 9-11:45 a.m. with on-farm demonstrations at 1-3 p.m. Participants are asked to preregister online at http://www.aces.edu/urban/smallruminants/index.php.

Saturday, March 3 – AAMU
Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station

372 Walker Lane, Hazel Green, AL 35750
Contact: Dr. Maria Browning, 256-372-4954, mll0002@aces.edu
Dr. Karnita Garner, 256-372-8331, kfg0003@aces.edu

Saturday, March 17 – Jackson County Extension Office

27115 John T. Reid Parkway, Scottsboro, AL 35768
Contact: Themika Sims, 256-574-2143, simsthe@aces.edu

Saturday, April 14 – Houston County Extension Office

Farm Center Building, 1699 Ross Clark Circle, Suite 4, Dothan, AL 36301
Contact: Phillip Carter, 334-794-4108, phillc2@aces.edu or
Willie Durr, 334-794-4108, durrwil@aces.edu

Saturday, May 5 – Talladega County Extension Office

130 North Court Street, Talladega, AL 35160
Contact: Henry Dorough, 256-362-6187, dorouhd@aces.edu

The workshops are free and open to the public; however, preregistration is required. Lunch will also be provided.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Maria Browning or Dr. Karnita Garner, or visit www.aces.edu/urban.

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Capacity Building Grant (CBG) Program (#1012164) and the Renewable Resource Extension Act (RREA) Program (#1012197).



Are small ruminant inventory trends in Alabama going the wrong way?


by Robert Spencer
In the first half of 2013, I wrote an article on decreasing inventories of meat goats in Alabama. At that time, I attributed this trend (2007-2012) to recession, drought and increasing cost of corn that was beginning to be diverted for ethanol production. Over 10 years ago, Alabama ranked No. 8 in meat goat production in the United States and ever since that ranking has dropped.

When looking at the charts provided, you will notice a strong increase in 2014, but overall trends are in a negative direction. Notice the slight increase in 2018, but that is an estimate, not based on inventory.

Dairy goat inventories in Alabama were increasing a few years ago, but dropped this past year. For the past five years, dairy goat populations have ranged as high as 3,900 and have most recently dropped down to 3,500.

According to Boyd Brady, Alabama Cooperative Extension System dairy goat expert, much of this decrease is due to one sizeable goat dairy in South Alabama moving to Mississippi.
Sheep inventories have been slowly declining in inventory since 1991. Unfortunately, there is not a breakdown of wool sheep versus hair sheep. I suspect there would be an increasing trend of inventories for hair sheep and a decreasing trend for wool sheep.

Tables 1 and 2 capture the nucleus of this information.

I find these trends of decreasing small ruminant inventories interesting, given the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports of increasing numbers of small, new and beginning farms.
Yes, there will always be show stock, breeding stock, meat, fiber and dairy small ruminants, but even prices for show and breeding stock are not as strong as years ago. However, I am not implying small ruminant production will disappear.

In January 2018, USDA conducted an Ag Census. It will be interesting to see what it shows for all the agricultural trends.

Sources for goat inventories can be found at:

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Regi...

http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/SheeGoat...



Robert Spencer is interim facilities manager for Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center. You can contact him at rds0002@Auburn.edu.


Considering Coggins Tests

Is it time to strengthen our approach to controlling equine infectious anemia?


by Dr. Tony Frazier

The horse industry has quite an impact on Alabama’s economy. If you write the checks related to taking care of your horse, you know what I am talking about. A couple of years ago, I found a figure on the Alabama Horse Council website stating that the horse industry had a direct impact of $563 million on the state’s economy.

The indirect impact, the direct money continuing to affect the economy, is about three times that amount. As a horse owner, I try to do my part to stimulate the economy with my horse-related spending habits.

As a horse owner and State Veterinarian, I have more than a passing interest in keeping equine infectious anemia to the most negligible level we possibly can. The way we currently do that is through Coggins testing of the equine population in our state.

Swamp fever is what they used to call it. That’s because EIA was so prevalent in the coastal areas of the Southeast.

The disease was first diagnosed in France in 1843. Several years later, in 1888, it was diagnosed in North America where it was called equine relapsing fever. The first extensive epidemic reported in the United States was in Wyoming in 1901.

EIA is a retrovirus from the lentivirus family, the same family as the human AIDS virus. However, there is no known threat to humans by the EIA virus. The lentivirus family has the characteristic of possibly having a very long incubation period − the length of time between exposure and infection until the host begins to show signs of illness. That means the virus could be present in an equine host for a long period of time with the animal still appearing completely healthy. While the disease can develop within a few weeks of infection, it most often takes months to years. Since a large majority of infected equines don’t show any apparent signs, it is important to have your horse tested.

The virus is most often transmitted by horseflies feeding on the blood of an infected horse then feeding on an uninfected one. It can also be spread by shared brushes, combs, tack, bits and hypodermic needles.

Once infected, the horse will remain infected for life. The disease itself is manifest in three forms: acute, subacute and chronic that may become fatal.

In the acute disease, the horses, ponies, mules or other equids become very ill. They will have a high fever, possibly swelling in the legs and lower abdomen, be lethargic and simply appear to be very sick.

In the subacute form, the animal will not be as ill as the acute animal. It will be somewhat sick.

Chronic occurs when the horse survives the acute or subacute phase. The chronic animal will have recurring episodes of illness and may recover to only have a later episode. This animal is often on a roller-coaster ride eventually leading to its demise. There is no effective vaccine and no cure.

For years, the diagnosis of the disease was complicated and had some room for error. In 1970, Dr. Leroy Coggins developed a diagnostic test detecting the antibodies to the virus present in an infected horse. The test is called the Coggins test. While it may take up to 60 days for an infected horse to become positive, it is a very good diagnostic test.

In 1973, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the Coggins test the official test for EIA.

After a horse is officially declared positive, it must be marked with "64A" on the left side of its neck using a cold or hot brand. Then there are three possible dispositions of the horse. First, it may be euthanized or permitted to be slaughtered on a restricted movement permit. The second possibility is to house it in an approved, screened stall periodically inspected to make sure flies are not a transmission factor (nearly impossible). Finally, it may be isolated at least 150 yards from any other EIA-negative horses for the rest of its life (also periodically checked to assure compliance).

Our present regulations concerning EIA require all equines over 6 months old, except those for immediate slaughter, entering the state must be accompanied with a negative Coggins test from within the past 12 months. We also have an event regulation basically saying that anywhere horses are congregated or comingled for any purpose such as trail rides, jackpot roping, horse shows, rodeos and other events are required to have a negative Coggins test. For every event, the person in charge is responsible for ensuring the horses are accompanied by a negative test.

As I look closely at what we are doing to reduce the incidence of EIA to as near zero as possible, I think we may need to look at our regulation from a different perspective. I do not want to diminish the importance of horse owners having their horses tested annually; that must continue. But I believe there is a segment that, for whatever reason, has never been tested for EIA but often comingle with other horses, mules or other equine species. For that reason, I am considering tweaking the regulation to include requiring a negative Coggins test at change of ownership and whenever a horse travels within the state.

Many horse owners believe they can tell if their horse is infected with the virus. In most incidences, that is true. But I have seen horses that appeared to be, well, as healthy as a horse. However, they were carriers of the virus. While we often hear people say they have never been asked to show their negative Coggins test at events, the disease is serious enough that I, along with many other horse owners I have spoken with, will not even participate in an event where the Coggins requirement is not being enforced.

Our diagnostic laboratory in Auburn tests around 8,000 equines per year. It is not the only lab that can perform the test. However, if all the horses tested from Alabama were counted, we are still missing a large number. Our Auburn lab had two positive horses back in early 2016.
If you have thoughts on Coggins testing and how we can better serve the horse industry in this area, I would love to hear your thoughts. Don’t hesitate to be part of the discussion.
Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253



Corn Time



Cowpokes



Crappie’s Public Enemy No.1

Gerald “Tiger” Overstreet guides anglers on what he calls Clarke County’s “fishing gold mine.”


by Carolyn Drinkard
Tiger Overstreet knows where to find the big ones. He has spent years fishing the Tombigbee and Alabama rivers. Now, he is on a mission to let everyone know the fishing bounties available in this area. 
Gerald "Tiger" Overstreet is a dedicated sportsman and angler. He knows firsthand the fishing bounties available in the two rivers surrounding Clarke County, where he has lived all his life. In fact, he is so proud of the plentiful fishing opportunities here that he is on a mission to let everybody know about the excellent fishing available on the Lower Tombigbee and Alabama rivers.

"We have a fishing gold mine right here in Clarke County with our two rivers on each side of us," he said, "but people don’t know it. We have not got the word out yet!"

Tiger grew up in the Gainestown Community near Jackson. His father, Gerald Overstreet Sr., was a commercial fisherman, so fishing was a way of life for the family. Tiger cannot remember when he did not go fishing with his dad.

Tiger grew up catching bass and catfish on the Tombigbee and Alabama rivers. However, in 2004, he discovered crappie fishing, and suddenly he had found a new passion. He still enjoys all types of fishing, but crappie fishing is now his favorite.

In 2015, Tiger started his own fishing guide service, Overstreet’s Guide Service.

"There were no crappie guides in this part of the state," he said, "and we have some of the best crappie fishing anywhere!"

Tiger guides groups all over the Alabama and Lower Tombigbee rivers. He is very familiar with the creeks and sloughs along the rivers.

On the Alabama, he keeps up with the generating schedules of the Miller’s Ferry Lock and Dam because he has learned firsthand that the currents impact the fish in both the main river and feeder streams. His success at catching quality crappie has spread by both word of mouth and social media.

"People kept contacting me about taking them fishing," he said, "so, I started guiding. Now, I’m averaging a trip a week."

Many people think crappie can only be caught in the spring, but Tiger said this is a misconception. Fishermen can catch crappie at any time, especially in this area. In colder months, crappie will gather in holes made by the currents in the main river channel. They seek cover under sunken logs, bushes or trees. This is when the electronics really help to locate the honey holes.

Tiger told one story about a young man who gave his father a guided trip for Christmas.
"I took them out the week after Christmas," he stated, "and we caught 25! Most were over 2 pounds!"

Tiger works at BASF in McIntosh. Since he works shifts, he has to schedule his fishing trips around his time off. His guided fishing trips usually last eight hours. He prefers to take guests in his own boat because he has everything he needs right at his fingertips.
Tiger and his daughter, Beth Ann, show some of the fish caught on one of his guided trips. 
Overstreet’s Guide Service is also helping anglers in another way. When Tiger bought his boat with the latest technologies, it took him two years to learn how to use his Humminbird Helix Mega imaging unit. Frustrated, he decided to offer a six-hour, hands-on, learning experience on the water. His Humminbird Electronics Training session is very popular with anglers, especially since technologies change so rapidly.

"Knowing how to use the electronics makes all the difference," he explained. "It is the only way to compete in unfamiliar water because you can locate structures easily. The images will help you have fewer hang ups, too."

Tiger also enjoys competition fishing. In fact, he has fished tournaments all over the country. In 2015, he was fifth overall in the Crappie Masters standings. He fishes on all three circuits: Crappie Masters Tournament Trail, American Crappie Trail and Crappie USA. He prefers the American Crappie Trail because the first prize in each tournament is a Ranger boat.

Having competed against some of the best, he has great respect for those who have advanced the sport and made it more accessible to all.

"When you’re fishing in these tournaments," he explained, "you are fishing against the pros. These are the guys who developed the techniques for crappie fishing."

Tiger said the largest crappie he has ever caught was 3.01 pounds in a Crappie Master’s tournament. The most he has caught in one day is 165, with three people fishing.

Big Daddy Lawler, who hosts the "Gettin’ Outdoors" radio show, has called Tiger "public enemy No. 1 in the Miller’s Ferry crappie world."

Many satisfied customers would agree. Tiger’s Facebook photos show satisfied customers with rows of large fish. The comments also verify his talents in finding and catching big fish.
Jennifer Overstreet often fishes with her husband. She enjoys crappie fishing and enters a few competitive tournaments. 
Fishing has always been a shared event for the Overstreet family. Jennifer loves fishing with her husband. When their daughter, Beth Ann, was born, Jennifer and Tiger did not let a baby keep them from fishing. They strapped a fold-out playpen on their boat and the family went fishing.

"I remember seeing that boat coming down the river with that baby bed on it," Lawler recalled. "That little girl was as happy as a lark!"

Jennifer even won the Wilcox County Chamber of Commerce Big Crappie Tournament with "Baby Girl" (as they call Beth Ann) on board, contentedly playing in the playpen.

Beth Ann has definitely inherited her parents’ love of fishing. Recently, when her Dad’s fishing partner had to work, she filled in, capturing Top Place in the Adult/Youth Division of the Crappie Masters Tournament Trail, held on the Alabama River in Prattville.

Tiger’s passion drives his desire to share his knowledge and improve the sport of fishing. He also continues his quest to let the world know about the excellent crappie fishing on the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers.

"These two rivers are as good as it comes for crappie fishing," he said. "You just gotta get out there to try it. Let’s go fishing!"

Overstreet’s Guide Service can be found on Facebook under Gerald "Tiger" Overstreet Jr. Watch him catch some big ones on YouTube. You can contact him at 251-589-3225 in Gainestown.


Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at drinkardcarolyn@gmail.com.










Desmond R. Layne to Lead Auburn’s Department of Horticulture

Former Clemson professor and current academic program director at Washington State University looks forward to returning to the South.

Press Release from Auburn University

Desmond R. Layne 
Desmond R. Layne, currently a horticulture professor and academic program director at Washington State University, has been named head of the Department of Horticulture at Auburn University after a nationwide search. He will assume the position July 1 and will succeed Dave Williams, who will return to the horticulture faculty full time after eight years at the department’s helm.

"We look forward to welcoming Dr. Layne into the Auburn family this summer," Auburn College of Agriculture Dean Paul Patterson said in announcing Layne’s selection. "He has extensive knowledge of and a strong commitment to the land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension, and will be an excellent fit for this role. I am confident he will lead our horticulture department to new heights.

"I also would like to thank Dr. Williams for his steady leadership of the Department of Horticulture in his eight years as head. He strengthened our industry relationships and sustained a reputation of excellence in our teaching programs."

Layne has been on the Washington State faculty since 2013, serving the first two years as an Endowed Chair responsible for directing the Tree Fruit Extension Team in the state that ranks No. 1 in the nation in apple, pear and sweet cherry production.

In 2015, he transitioned to his present role as professor of pomology, or fruit science, and director of two Washington State interdisciplinary academic programs – Agricultural and Food Systems and Integrated Plant Sciences – encompassing 11 undergraduate majors and almost 500 students in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. Layne also is the tree fruit Extension specialist for Washington.

Before joining Washington State, he spent 15 years with Clemson University’s horticulture department, where he advanced from assistant professor to full professor, led the State Horticulture Program Team and served as the state peach specialist for Clemson Cooperative Extension.

He said he is honored to become the next leader of a department that has been educating exceptional horticulturists and providing critical, research-based information and Extension outreach to the state and regions for over a century.

"I am excited about working with an outstanding faculty and staff to continue the programs Auburn horticulture is revered for while also exploring new opportunities through faculty hires, competitive grants and new partnerships with community colleges, other universities and industry partners to enhance its footprint and impact regionally, nationally and internationally," he said.

A native Canadian, Layne said he and his family are eager to relocate from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South.

"In the years we were at Clemson, we adopted the South as our home away from home," he said. "We love the warm and humid climate, the hospitality, the lifestyle, the available ornamental plant palette and, of course, the peaches, and look forward to returning."

Layne holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and master’s and doctoral degrees in horticulture with an emphasis in pomology from Michigan State University.



Dreaming of a Log Cabin?

There’s a size – and a price – to fit you!


by Suzy Lowry Geno
The Badger 
Most folks have dreamed at one time or another about living in a log cabin in the woods.

Whether it was when you first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s "Little House in the Big Woods" about her family’s first cozy log home or while you watched Fess Parker tamin’ the bears on TV as Daniel Boone, you likely imagined how simple life would be in that small, wooden fortress just the right size for you alone or you and your family.

But, even though I’ve been a back-to-the-lander since the 1960s, let’s face it, there’s not many of us who are able (or willing!) to fell trees, peel off the bark and then build a castle from the logs after waiting years for the trees to mature.

That’s what has ALWAYS set Brock Ray apart, though. He has always been known to be a grandiose dreamer!

He hosted two TV shows, "Better Built World of Outdoors" and "Bass in Mexico," about hunting and fishing for over 17 years, and an outdoor radio show on Sirius XM for seven years, while running a highly successful publishing company whose books and magazines dealt with all things outdoors.
Brock Ray in his booth at a hunting expo. 
BUT the difference between Ray and most other dreamers is that he makes his dreams realities!

"How else can a person make an excuse for having all the outdoors as an office," he laughed.
"During the years of my hunting and fishing shows, I saw so many places people stayed and I decided to come up with something much better: a small log cabin. Our logs are unique, and nobody has them but me. They are 4-by-8 tongue-and-grove pine.

"Most everybody would love to have a log cabin. Many people actually dream about it. But it seemed that nobody else was making small ones that were affordable. Most of the big log companies will build a small one, but they really don’t make much money on them. So, they jack up the prices so they will make their profit margins.

"And now there’s just so many people wanting to downsize and our cabins fit just what they want. We can make a great tiny home that is not on wheels."

Ray began selling the simple cabins about nine years ago and building them himself five years ago.

The smallest cabin, known as the Fox series, starts at just 196 square feet, but the sweet, 6-by-14 porch makes it seem twice as large.

The largest is the Lodge, decked out at 2,200 square feet.

In between, in various sizes and shapes, are the Sportsman, the Bear, the Whitetail, the Badger, the Perfect Vacation, the Moose Series and the Grizzly Series.

My favorite is the Elk with a slightly larger front porch and 320 roomy, but simple, square feet.
"We can customize them any way people want," Ray explained. "We can add additional windows, more outlets and the kinds of things to make them just exactly what you want."

The cabins are ideal, not only for part-time hunting or vacation homes but also for full-time residences. Or they make excellent guest houses, offices, children’s playhouses, pool houses, workout rooms or even just for backyard "man caves" or "lady’s getaways" (think sewing or craft room).

According to the History Channel’s website, there are log cabins being built in present-day United States based on the styles of ones first constructed in 1638 when the Swedish settled along the Delaware River and Brandywine River valleys.
The Elk (I loved this one!) 
Later German and Ukrainian immigrants also used the technique, followed by British settlers. Although they were usually not originally intended as permanent dwellings, some were built so well they are still standing, including the C.A. Nothnagle Log House in New Jersey built in 1640!

Log cabins likely reached their peak with the mid-19th century Adirondack-style cabins, the inspiration for U.S. Park Service lodges built in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

A simple log cabin was built from logs laid horizontally and interlocked on each end by notches. A mixture of mud, straw, sticks, gravel and more was used as chinking between the logs to make the buildings as airtight as possible.

Ray’s cabin designs make the logs fit so tightly that old-time chinking is no longer necessary and the cabins are energy-efficient and built to last for years.

"They are very cost effective to maintain with heating and cooling because they are solid logs," he explained.

Ray has built cabins all over Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina ... so far!

Ray grew up in Oxford, but has lived in the Oneonta area in Blount County for about 12 years.
He has entered into a partnership with area Quality Co-ops to introduce even more residents and outdoorsmen to the cabins’ benefits.

"The Co-ops have good locations and they deal with a lot of people who would want a cabin like mine," he said.

"A customer may have a hunting place, lake lot, river lot or recreational land. That fits our customer base. We now have cabins at Blount County Farmers Co-op in Oneonta, St. Clair Farmers Co-op in Pell City and Morgan Farmers Co-op in Hartselle. We’re working on partnerships with more every day.

"You can drop by one of these Co-ops, look over one of the smaller cabins, pick up a brochure and give us a call at 205-274-2185 for more information."

You can also check out his two websites, www.brockslogcabins.com and www.brockshuntincabins.com.

"We’ll be glad to construct you a tiny home for your full-time residence and the perfect cabin for the weekend warrior!" Ray added.


Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer living on a small homestead in Blount County. She can be reached through Facebook or her website at www.taitsgapstore.com.



Earl



Feeding for Hoof Health

A horse’s diet is a significant factor in developing healthy, strong hooves.


by Jackie Nix
A strong, healthy hoof is your horse’s best defense against thrush or injury. 
Late winter/early spring is usually a time of muddy, sloppy conditions that can spell trouble for hooves. From cracked hooves to thrush, poor hoof health takes a toll on your horses. Wet, sloppy conditions just exacerbate hoof problems by softening them up and making them more susceptible to injury and microbial entry. The best way to combat poor hoof health is to grow a strong, hard hoof in the first place.

The Biology of a Hoof


Hooves are primarily comprised of protein … namely a special kind of protein called keratin. Keratin is comprised of amino acids and forms twisted strands (much like a spring) that give it extra strength and elasticity. Then those many strands twist together (just like a rope).
Additionally, they are linked together by sulfur bonds between sulfur-containing amino acids in opposing keratin strands to give added strength.

The outermost layer contains fats and waxes in addition to the dead keratin. When the layer is intact, it seals in moisture and gives the hoof its shine and smoothness.

How Nutrition Impacts Hoof Health


The quality of the overall diet is often very evident in the appearance of hooves because they are so metabolically active. In general, a hoof will grow and replace itself in roughly one year (quicker in very young animals). Hooves are comprised of mainly protein and fats, making it obvious that animals need to receive adequate levels of both crude protein and fatty acids – particularly sulfur-containing amino acids. What you may not realize is that mineral nutrition also plays a vital role in hoof health.
Lack of essential nutrients in a horse’s diet can contribute to cracks, chips and overall, poor hoof health. 
Calcium is required for activation of the enzyme needed to form keratin. It is also required for the process of creating crosslinks between keratin fibers.

Zinc is very important for hoof growth and maintenance. It is an essential mineral in the formation of keratin. It also influences the body’s use of calcium.

Additionally, zinc plays a very important role in the formation of superoxide dismutase, an enzyme involved in antioxidant activity. Specifically, superoxide dismutase prevents the fats and oils in the hoof from oxidizing. When these fats oxidize, it breaks the protective seal and causes the hoof to become dry and brittle.

Copper is critical for the formation of crosslinks in the keratin keeping the hoof strong and hard. It is also a critical component of superoxide dismutase.

Selenium plays an important antioxidant role in the hoof by protecting the fats from oxidation.

Also, biotin, a B vitamin, is essential for long-chain fatty acid synthesis in the body.

We’ve already covered how critical fats are in maintaining a protective barrier.

Animals marginal to deficient in the nutrients in bold are most likely to experience these symptoms:

  • Slow hoof growth
  • Soft hooves
  • Cracks and chips
  • Abscesses
  • Laminitis (founder)
  • Thin hoof wall
  • Thrush

Feeding for Hoof Health


The specifics of what is necessary for optimum hoof health will vary slightly from breed to breed. Some breeds such as Arabians are known for sound hooves, while others such as Thoroughbreds have added challenges. But, in general, supplementation of these key nutrients tends to improve hoof quality vs. no supplementation.

As a rule, crude protein and fats aren’t lacking in horses grazing ample amounts of green, growing pastures. However, those with limited access to pasture or on a year-round hay diet can benefit from protein and fat supplementation.

Calcium deficiency is usually not an issue for most as well, especially in areas with hard water. But maintaining a correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in the diet is critical for health and well-being.

In contrast, zinc, copper and selenium are marginal to deficient in most soils across the United States, so supplementation of these nutrients is absolutely necessary on a year-round basis.

Additionally, most horses produce enough biotin in their hindgut for nutritional purposes, but most show a benefit to supplementation of biotin in their diets.

Futurity Precise Premium Hoof & Health Mineral


Independent research has shown time and time again that organic, chelated forms of trace minerals are more efficiently digested by the body and retained in tissues for later use. The new Futurity Precise Premium Hoof & Health Mineral offers balanced mineral nutrition, including organic trace minerals in the form of Bioplex, trace minerals of zinc, copper, manganese and cobalt, as well as Sel-Plex, a selenium-enriched yeast. These organic forms are more easily absorbed and metabolized than inorganic mineral sources, supporting mineral retention and improved tissue reserves. Futurity Precise Premium Hoof & Health Mineral also delivers biotin to help contribute to hoof health.

This free-choice supplement is highly palatable. You won’t have to worry about your horse not getting what it needs.

In summary, a horse’s diet has a huge effect on hoof quality and overall hoof health. In particular, protein, fat, calcium, zinc, copper, selenium and biotin play very important roles. Supplementation of these key nutrients can help your horse maintain or improve hoof health. Please remember that the hoof grows relatively slowly; so it may take months to notice an improvement and can take a year or more to obtain full benefits. Futurity Precise Premium Hoof & Health Mineral or any of the other Futurity Precise equine-supplement products can help make sure your horses get the key nutrients they need for healthy, strong hooves.

Ask for Futurity Precise by name at your local Quality Co-op. To learn more, call 1-800-325-1486 or visit www.sweetlix.com.



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



FFA Sentinel: FFA … my, how you have grown.

by Andy Chamness

Go ahead and close your eyes. Wait, never mind. If you close your eyes, you cannot read the story I am about to share with you.

Imagine, if you will, a cool, spring morning out on the farm. The rooster is crowing, the dew shimmers and shines off the hayfield and a distant whippoorwill is singing. A boy bursts from the front door of the farmhouse and is halfway to the barn before the screen door slams behind him. He is young, full of spit-and-vinegar. He is off to feed the hogs before beating the trail to school. There is an extra pep to his step today. He is no longer bound in grammar school; he has moved on to high school. What adventures await … what spectacles? No one in his farm family has been this far before. His parents want what is best for him and what is best for him is an education.

Oh, but wait, that farm is already too absorbed into his blood; his DNA is saturated with it. He will never leave this place.

The boy meets someone new that day. He enters a gray-and-white block building, just off the main campus. To his left, he notices a woodshop, and, to his right, a classroom full of strange memorabilia.

"What is this place? I have never seen this before," he thinks to himself.

There is a giant ear of corn and George Washington’s head seems out of place. Then he hears a voice, almost as a voice from beyond.

"Hello, young man," the low, graveled voice pierces the silence. "Welcome to Vocational Agriculture."

So is born that thirst for all things agriculture and FFA.

FFA is not dissimilar to that young man’s story. It is a story of humble beginnings, tough and changing times and, of course, growth. It woke to the glorious sunlight of a new horizon, way back in 1917, with the passage of the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act. It blossomed in the 1920s when some Virginia farm boys and their agriculture teacher formed the Future Farmers Club. It grew more in 1928 at the Baltimore Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, when farm boys from across the country met to establish the Future Farmers of America.

FFA was one of the first youth organizations in the country to desegregate: in 1965, when the New Farmers of America, founded in Tuskegee, merged with FFA.
In 1928, 33 students from 18 states gathered in Kansas City, Missouri, to form the Future Farmers of America. 
In 1969, young women joined the organization.

With the technological revolution of the 1980s, FFA took a leap of faith to better include all aspects of agriculture and its members by changing their name to the National FFA Organization in 1988.

From those 33 farm boys way back in 1928 to the 67,000 young people attending the 2017 National FFA Convention, my how you, FFA, have grown … in many ways, in fact. With a multitude of contests and awards that highlight the skills, knowledge, talents of the members, and the list of growth goes on and on, FFA has reached out to include all 50 states and the territories. More important, the opportunities FFA members are given by their agriscience teacher to grow as competitors, individuals and FFA members far outweighs the growth of the organization as a whole. It is the epitome of a grass-roots organization.

Think back on a time, and it does not have to be as an FFA member, when someone gave you an opportunity. What did you do with that opportunity? Did that person support and motivate you? Did they help prepare you to meet that opportunity? Did they allow you to learn on your own?

I remember a quote I read while learning to play guitar some 20 years ago and later discovered it is credited to the Roman philosopher Seneca. It translates, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

I don’t know of many FFA-prepared public speakers or state officers who just got lucky. In the same regard, I am not acquainted with many successful farmers who also just got lucky. Those folks were prepared for the opportunities and challenges in order to become successful.

FFA provides an opportunity. The communities, advisors, alumni, school administration and our sponsors who all help to provide the preparation of the members are to be commended.

As state staff, we encourage everyone who reads the "FFA Sentinel" articles to reach out to their local FFA chapters, advisors and members. Your experience can help prepare those FFA chapters, advisors and members for opportunities throughout their lives.

You can also support the Alabama FFA Association by giving online on our website, www.alabamaffa.org. Your generous support aids in funding the many opportunities FFA members have on a state level.

A rising sun is on the new horizon. This spring, over 3,000 FFA members will compete in the District Spring Eliminations. Over 2,000 FFA members and guests will attend the 90th Annual Alabama FFA State Convention to be held June 6-8 in Montgomery.

A brand-new slate of leaders in Alabama agriculture will be networking in the state capital as a new Alabama FFA state officer team is nominated and approved by the members. Those members will be looking for the opportunity to display their skills, knowledge, and all their hard work and preparation to be able to advance to the state finals.

I would like you to be a part of that if you can.

Now, we are back on that same farm with the same farmhouse. The boy has grown to be a grandpa. As he walks out the door to see the dew shimmering off the hayfield, he feels the warmth of the sun as it shines on his weathered face. He listens to the faint call of a distant whippoorwill. Suddenly, a fresh-faced blur bursts by to the slamming of the screen door.

"Grandpa, I’ve got birds to pick up and hogs to feed, and, oh, I will help you with that GIS system when I get home from school. Maybe I can show you how to post the pictures of the bull calves for sale to Facebook, too."

FFA and agriculture … my, how you both have grown. It is a good thing, because someone has to feed the world.


Andy Chamness is the Central District Specialist with the Alabama FFA Association.



Freshness & Family

Opelika Farmers Market cultivates a commitment to quality with strong family roots and fresh, locally grown produce.


by Rebecca Oliver
Destin King, owner, stands in the Opelika Farmers Market. 
Opelika Farmers Market opened 13 years ago to serve a community of customers looking for fresh produce sold by a staff who knew them by name.

The atmosphere of the market is arranged to accommodate a variety of colorful produce and have a downhome feel.

Destin King, owner, supplies his business as much as possible with produce grown by local farmers, including himself.

King’s father started Opelika Farmers Market as a place to sell goods from the family farm.
According to King, the market was a place where he and his siblings, as they grew up, learned the value of hard work.

"He wanted to give his four kids a place to work," King said.

Today, Opelika Farmers Market serves 300-400 customers per day during its peak season in the summer months.

Among the most popular items sold at the market are the shelled pecans the King family grows on their farm near Notasulga.

The King family farm has over 200 acres of pecan trees and they plant more each year. All of the fertilizer used for their crops is purchased at Taleecon Farmers Co-op in Notasulga.

In addition to pecans, the King family also sell produce grown in their two greenhouses.

"The main thing people come here wanting that they can’t get at the grocery store is freshness," King said.

By far one of the most popular items sold during peak season at the market is fresh tomatoes.

"We don’t gas the tomatoes like grocery stores do and our customers appreciate things like that," King explained.

The quality of the King family’s greenhouse crops is passed on to other farmers who buy plants from the Kings.

The farmers who supply the market enjoy a close relationship with the market staff and customers.

As someone who has spent his entire life in the horticultural industry, King knows good produce when he sees it.

"Our farmers know that quality is what sells," King stated.

Opelika has promoted the restoration of its historic downtown, fostering a community mindset of local is better. If it can be bought near Railroad Avenue, it must be the best around.

According to King, Opelika Farmers Market will continue its commitment to quality by keeping its roots in the family aspect of their business.


Rebecca Oliver is a freelance writer from Auburn.



How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

AL Master Gardener Conference May 3-5


Make plans now to attend the 2018 Alabama Master Gardeners Association conference May 3-5 at Birmingham Sheraton Hotel. You can check the Master Gardeners of Alabama website, alabamamg.org, for event details and registration. Everyone is welcome, not just Master Gardeners. Even if you are just curious about gardening and want to learn more, this is a great way to get started and meet others who were once in the same place you are!
For Mother’s Day, take her to the Audubon Mountain Workshop in Mentone. 

Audubon Mountain Workshop May 10-13


The next weekend brings the 42nd Annual Audubon Mountain Workshop to Alpine Camp in Mentone. This is one of our region’s largest events for learning and exploring the southern Appalachians. The Young Naturalists Program for children ages 5 -12 is a great reason to also bring the whole family. My mother-in-law provided fond memories for her grandchildren by taking them to this event.

If you are a teacher, there are scholarship opportunities.

The final Sunday of this event always falls on Mother’s Day. If your mother loves nature, this could be a great way to spend the weekend together.

For more information, visit https://birminghamaudubon.org/ and link to Mountain Workshop under the events menu.

There is Still Time for Onion Plants


Onion planting season is coming to a close, but there is still time to set out transplants early this month. Bonnie Plants transplants are available at many of your local Quality Co-op stores and other places where Bonnie is sold.

Set the transplants shallowly, 1 inch deep, in loose soil for the biggest bulbs. If set too deep, the soil will restrict bulb expansion. If your soil is heavy clay, amend with lots of organic matter and a little sand; a raised bed is ideal over heavy clay.

Cilantro


Do you get frustrated with cilantro because it bolts so easily in the spring? Try several sowings in a shady spot. Plant every couple of weeks and harvest the young leaves before the plant has a chance to flower. It is one way to extend the cilantro season as long as possible.

This fall, buy transplants to place in the garden. They will tolerate frost, but not a hard freeze.

If placed in a cold frame, greenhouse or under a frost cover, the plants will grow on mild winter days and yield throughout the cool season.
Many new native azalea hybrids are bred and grown right here in Alabama. 

Flowering Shrubs


My husband and I have noticed more landscapes relying solely on evergreens these days. Evergreens are nice for their green foliage year-round, but there can be much more.

Many deciduous flowering shrubs are spectacular in bloom and have a fine-stem structure when leafless in the winter. In addition, some of these provide nectar, pollen or habitat for pollinators.

When considering something new for your garden, check these showy bloomers: wigela, spireas, buddleia, forsythia, snowball viburnum, oakleaf hydrangea, deutzia, ninebark, red buckeye, native azaleas, clethra, Chinese abelia and fothergilla. Harder-to-find, old-fashioned shrubs such as kerria, sweet shrub and pearlbush are a treat, too.

The idea is to punctuate your garden with color in each season. It’s just one little thing a gardener can do to make a home a lovelier place.

Climbing Roses


It’s rose planting time! In just a few weeks, the first roses start blooming, including some of our best, old climbers. Now is a good time to buy as garden centers have their largest selection at this time of year.

A few tried-and-true climbing roses for our area include Don Juan, Old Blush, Climbing Pinkie, New Dawn, Buff Beauty, Veilchenblau, American Beauty, American Pillar and Dortmund. Give these a sturdy fence or arbor on which to climb. Some such as Climbing Pinkie, Don Juan, Dortmund, New Dawn and Old Blush will bloom again in summer and fall if you snip the blooms after they start to fade and keep the plant watered and fed.

Of course, it will also need full sun to build energy for multiple blooms.
A rolling platform makes it easy to move containerized plants. 

Container Help


I love plant containers. They let me put color where I want it.

However, moving them is not always easy. But, with a few boards, nails and heavy-duty casters, you can create sturdy, portable platforms for containerized plants and move them about on the patio, deck, driveway or any hard surface. This is a good use for scraps of composite decking, too! The ones pictured are cut from plywood, but they can be made from any sturdy lumber.

The important thing is to waterproof the wood so it lasts longer. A paint or stain on raw wood is more attractive, too.



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







Jamie Wallace

Reflecting on Decades of Service to Selma and Alabama


by Alvin Benn
Jamie Wallace holds a photo of himself as an Army private during his days in the military in the 1960s. 
March has arrived and Jamie Wallace doesn’t need a reminder because it’s one month he’s not likely to forget.

On March 7, 1965, he was a Selma newspaper reporter covering a proposed, 54-mile civil rights walk to Montgomery to urge then-Gov. George Wallace to ease voter restrictions.

Jamie wasn’t sure what might happen but it didn’t take long to find out as Alabama State Troopers unbuckled gas masks and moved quickly toward the demonstrators.

Seconds later, he was dabbing water on his eyes to wipe away acrid reminders of what had just happened.

He also mentally thanked the Army for having scheduled gas mask training sessions during his military days. He knew just what to do to combat the tears.

Although he’s been away from Selma for many years, Wallace still has a warm place in his heart for the town with its share of ups and downs through the years.

"Selma is an amazing town," he said. "It has risen from the ashes many times in the past."
The first time was the Civil War when Union troops burned most of Selma to the ground in a punitive raid to punish the town for manufacturing weapons of war that claimed many Yankee soldiers.

A century after the Civil War, Selma was hit hard again when Craig Air Force Base was closed in 1977 during cutbacks announced by the Carter administration.

It cost Selma millions of dollars in several ways and Wallace kept tabs on just how much of a jolt it became.

"People forget that Selma’s population dropped by 7,000 people," he said. "You don’t recover easily from things like that."

Just when it seemed Selma was about to bounce back, more pain appeared when hundreds of high-paying jobs were lost when an aircraft-manufacturing plant closed.
Jamie and Patsy Wallace survived a deadly tornado that went through Wilcox County in 2007 by using a storm shelter. One of their neighbors didn’t reach the shelter in time. 
Several years later, March 1, 2007, Jamie and his wife Patsy were preparing for lunch when a tornado roared across the Alabama River in Wilcox County and destroyed their house.

A storm shelter saved their lives, but a neighbor wasn’t as fortunate and died in the devastation that day on Sand Island.

Debris from the twister landed atop the storm shelter and it took an hour of pounding from inside to attract their neighbors’ attention, some of whom feared the worst.

Now, as another March dawns, the Wallaces are getting ready for a much happier event – his 82nd birthday.

They are looking forward to spending time with friends and relatives in person, on the phone or via computers.

Those who know and respect the couple count their blessings to have them in their midst.

Wallace is semiretired now, but still works a few days each week as a member of the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission, a 10-county organization that helps the poorest of the poor in the region.

His days as a reporter for the Selma Times Journal were soon elevated to a publisher’s position. He eventually moved on to become president of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce.

After that, he helped Selma become the first city in Alabama to promote tourism within the state’s minority communities. It was a gutsy move, but he never hesitated and made it successful.

Wallace also served 25 years as chairman of the Dallas County Department of Human Resources, was an Alabama Easter Seals officer and spent over 40 years with the West Central Alabama Rehabilitation Center.

As if that wasn’t enough to take up his time, he also was a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame selection committee when it was created by the Alabama Legislature in 1968.

Wallace has never begged off involvement in activities to help the needy. When the call goes out, he’s ready to lend a hand.

Alabama Transportation Director John R. Cooper calls Wallace "a great diplomat for the state," one who spreads good will "wherever he goes."

"Jamie makes people feel comfortable, letting them know they are important," Cooper said. "He’s a good ambassador for Alabama."

Wallace grew up in Dallas and Bibb counties where his dad spent 50 years working for railroads. He recalls how his family’s living quarters were so close to the tracks that "we could reach out and touch the cars as they whizzed by."

That might be stretching things a bit, but he’s never lost his love of trains, old and new.

His real passion, however, was reading newspapers and he couldn’t wait until bundles of the Birmingham Post-Herald were delivered to a country store where he could run over to start reading.

At the University of Alabama, Wallace and David Mathews became close friends. Mathews, who grew up in Grove Hill, would become the university’s youngest president and, later, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under the Ford administration.

Mathews believes Wallace has never received the adulation and plaudits he deserves for a lifetime of being one of Alabama’s leading citizens.

"Far more people need to know how much he has contributed to our state," Mathews said. "I hope the next generation has some good citizens like Jamie. It would be a better world."
Jamie Wallace with three staff members: from left, Patti Gibbs, Evelyn Agee and Ann Alford

 
Wallace used to volunteer to help cover elections and, with Mike Reynolds by his side, they listed returns from polls throughout Selma.

He enjoyed broadcasting and economic development almost as much as writing, but knew writing would always be his first love.

Wallace isn’t easily rattled and prefers a laid-back lifestyle but late-night trips through the 10 counties he covers can sap anybody’s strength. No bother. He just sees it as a good way to relax.

His dry sense of humor often surprises those more familiar with his professorial-style of communicating.

He gets a kick out of recounting how he helped to "bring the Bear" back to Tuscaloosa.

During his stint at the UA student newspaper, the Crimson White, he wrote an article about the hiring of Frank Rose as UA President.

Taking that as a cue, Wallace would tell friends that, in a round-about way, he played a minor role in enticing Bryant to leave Texas A&M and come back to Tuscaloosa where he had starred on the Crimson Tide football team years before.

"I like to say I had a hand in bringing Coach Bryant to Alabama," he said, tongue planted firmly in his cheek.

His reasoning contained a lot more than wishful-thinking speculation because Bryant would be hired by none-other-than Rose, who was in charge of the university during that time.

During Wallace’s days as an economic specialist, he tended to flash a big smile when it was time to pick the new board of directors.

Asked one day how he always seemed to come up with so many outstanding board members, Wallace would always smile and say, "Because I trained most of ’em."


Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



March Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT


  • Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onion sets, Irish potatoes and spinach/radish seeds may be planted in the garden now.
  • Get cool-season crops into the garden as soon as possible. If you wait too long, it will quickly become too hot for them. That being said, the nights can still get rather chilly, so make sure to have row covers or windbreaks on hand.
  • Seeds of summer-blooming annuals that were started indoors last month may be transplanted from the flats into peat pots and given dilute fertilizer.
  • Perennials such as daylilies, hostas, Shasta daisies and cannas can be divided now. Set separated plants back into the soil at the original growing depth, water well and mulch.
  • Plant container shrubs.

FERTILIZE


  • Test your garden soil pH to see if any amendments are necessary. Your local Quality Co-op has the testing material needed. A general rule of thumb is to add 4 pounds of lime per 100 square feet of garden for every pH point below 6.5, or 1 pound of sulfur per 100 square feet for every pH point above 7.5. Sawdust, composted oak leaves, wood chips, peat moss, cottonseed meal and leaf mold lower the pH while ashes of hardwoods, bone meal, crushed marble and crushed oyster shells raise the pH. The best way to adjust pH is gradually, over several seasons.
  • Fertilize shrubs and trees if this wasn’t done in February. Use an acid-type azalea, camellia and rhododendron fertilizer to feed evergreens, conifers, broad leaf evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. But wait to fertilize rhododendrons and azaleas until after they bloom. If using a granular-type fertilizer, be sure to water it in thoroughly.
  • Begin fertilizing roses.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs after flowering. Apply 2 pounds of 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 per 100 square feet. Daffodils should be fertilized again in early to mid-August.
  • March is when you need to feed pecan trees. Lack of lime, nitrogen fertilizer and zinc are common limiting factors in pecan tree production. Ask the folks at your local Co-op what they recommend.
  • Start feeding houseplants again. Repot, if necessary.

PRUNE


  • Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom.
  • Trim flowering shrubs such as forsythia, quince, winter honeysuckle and camellia after they bloom. Carolina jessamine should also be pruned immediately after bloom. Prune old, unruly or thin plants to a couple of feet above the ground to train and promote new growth.
  • Pinch off tips of sweet pea seedlings and mums when they are 4 inches tall to promote branching.
  • Remove all dead blooms from spring-flowering bulbs.
  • You can cut tulip foliage down as soon as it is unattractive because they probably won’t come back. 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.
  • Roses can be pruned this month. Severe pruning results in nicer long-stemmed flowers and more compact bushes.
  • Prune boxwood, but not with shears. Use a hand pruner to make foliage holes in the greenery for light to penetrate to the interior branches and promote air circulation, aiding in disease prevention.
  • Now is the time to renewal-prune giant holly shrubs back to a manageable size. Don’t be shy – cut them to 18 inches tall and they will come back.
  • 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.
  • Cut out canes of blackberries that have borne fruit, and any thinner than a regular pencil. Shorten the remaining young canes by at least a foot.
  • Houseplants will react to longer days and brighter light at this time by putting out new growth. The end of this month is a good time to pinch them back to generate new growth and to thicken them.

WATER


  • Water all bulbs during growth and especially during foliage and bloom development. Irrigate summer-flowering bulbs during dry weather. Keep water off foliage and blooms if possible.
  • Check the plants under the eaves of the house and under tall evergreens to see if they have sufficient moisture.
  • 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.
  • Check the automatic lawn sprinkler system for leaks, broken pipes or heads, or wasteful misting.

PEST CONTROL


  • Follow instructions on pesticide labels carefully.
  • When nighttime temperatures are forecast to remain above 40 degrees for two to three days, spray fruit trees, roses and other ornamental trees and shrubs with Bonide All Seasons Horticultural & Dormant Spray Oil to smother overwintering insects, eggs and immature insect stages.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects.
  • Aphids can become a major early-spring insect problem on tender foliage. Use an insecticidal soap, Neem Oil Spray or an insecticide such as Malathion.
  • Remain vigilant in watching for insects and pests on houseplants. It is much easier to win a bug war if you are aware of the infestation in its early stages.
  • Remember to rotate the vegetables planted in your garden from season to season and year to year to reduce insect and disease problems. Consider planting a trap or sacrificial crop to attract insects to it and away from desired vegetable. Most gardeners are familiar with the use of marigolds. Plant dill or early tomatoes two to three weeks ahead of the main tomato crop to attract tomato hornworms.
  • Begin to spray roses for black spot.
  • Remove spent camellia blooms from the bush and from the ground to prevent camellia petal blight.
  • You can spray fungicides while fruit trees are in bloom, but not insecticides. The bees are still pollinating the trees and are susceptible to the sprays.
  • Once garden weeds go to seed, you can be fighting that weed seed for years (dandelions are notorious for the seven year seed life). Most weeds can simply be pulled or cultivated out of the garden while they are young.
  • Apply pre-emergent broadleaf herbicides if you didn’t apply them last month. Read the labels carefully and be sure these weeds are listed.
  • Be careful not to get lawn herbicides too close to trees. Weed-and-feed-type fertilizers are notorious for killing young shade trees.

ODD JOBS


  • Average last frost date in Fort Morgan (the warmest town in Alabama) is March 10. The last average frost date in Valley Head (the coolest town in Alabama) is April 31. To check your approximate frost dates by ZIP code, go to https://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates/zipcode.
  • When the soil is dry enough (and your back feels up to it), try double digging. There is no better way to prepare soil for vegetable or flowering annual plant production. With double digging, plant roots can go up to four times deeper than with conventional soil preparation! You get healthier, more drought-tolerant plants and a more bountiful harvest.
  • Get your journal, calendar or notebook ready to record bloom times, timing of tasks, successes and failures, and valuable information from catalogs or seed packets.
  • If you haven’t already, inspect all garden tools. Clean, sharpen and repair/replace any requiring it. You’ll want to have a reliable hoe, rake, spade, pruners and hand trowel for working in the garden. There are many other wonderful tools and gadgets available, but these are the necessities. Don’t forget to check garden hoses and sprayers for pressure, clogs and leaks. Visit your local Co-op for garden tools and certain brands of sprayer parts.
  • Tune up the lawnmower and be sure the blade is very sharp. Dull blades tear the grass, sharp ones cut it.
  • Pick a permanent spot for Bonnie Plants herbs in the garden. You’ll be amazed at the variety offered and many of them will come back year after year.
  • Early spring plantings are best done in a raised bed for earlier soil warming and better drainage.
  • Removing the winter mulches from flower beds … pull it 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.
  • Wildflowers will begin blooming this month. Remember, they must be allowed to mature their seeds if you want new plants next year.
  • Building near a tree? Be careful – 90 percent of the tree’s roots are in the top 12 inches of soil.
  • Keep tree and shrub plantings mulched up to 4 inches deep. Make sure to keep mulch away from trunks.
  • Remove tree wraps from young trees for summer growth.
  • Mow your lawn half an inch lower than normal to remove winter debris. Do not scalp.
  • 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 create a channel for the water to drain.
  • Using a net, muck out water gardens of fallen leaves and other debris at the earliest opportunity. Keep an eye out for fish, crayfish, tadpoles and salamanders in every heap; return them to their watery hideouts.
  • Check stored ornamentation and outdoor furniture for signs of rust. Remove any surface rust with steel wool and paint with rust-inhibitive paint.
  • Broken or weak arbors, fences and trellises should be repaired this month as you will only be getting busier in the coming months.
  • Clean out birdhouses ASAP, so they will be ready when birds start to nest.
  • Houseplants are awake again, nudged by longer days and stronger light. They will need more moisture and an occasional half-strength fertilizing, but overwatering is still the biggest danger to their health. Feel around in the soil for guidance on when they need more. Be brutal with any leggy messes: haircut time!
  • Mist or spray houseplants to clean away the winter’s dust, prevent spider mites and add a little humidity.
  • Repot houseplants to be moved outdoors. Their roots will need more room as they grow rapidly in more sun.
  • To encourage houseplants to have even growth, give them a quarter turn every week or so in order to assure all sides of the plant receive relatively equal exposure to sunlight.
  • Normal food sources for wild birds are lacking November through March. You’ve hopefully gotten them through with supplemental food this far … don’t stop now!


March Moves

“Take time for all things: Great haste makes great waste.” ~ Ben Franklin

by John Howle

March is a month that moves fast. Pasture grass will soon turn from dead brown to lush green, seemingly overnight. Tom turkeys will go from being silent woodland foragers to booming gobblers looking for mates. With winter and spring calving, herds will soon increase in size. As things move fast in March, make sure you take extra time to think before acting when completing chores and projects around the farm.

There is an old carpenter’s saying, "Measure twice and cut once." I learned this rule repeatedly during a recent project of moving a workshop from my neighbor’s property to mine. The shop was 16.5-by-14.5.

It presented a daunting task to move an entire building, but I had some seasoned help and good advice.

My neighbor, Clayton Vaughn, is a Vietnam veteran and a great American. He grew up running coon dogs and bear hunting in the mountains of North Carolina. His family learned to improvise and get things done around the farm with very little money.

His ingenuity came in handy on this project.
Clayton Vaughn installs diagonal braces throughout the interior of the structure to prevent warping and flexing. 

Bracing for the Move


The first thing we did to prepare the building for moving was to brace the interior of the structure. Top plates, walls, rafters, corners and door frames were braced with 1-by-4 and 1-by-6 saw-milled poplar planks. We used poplar because it is lightweight and easy to work with. It is also strong enough to keep the building from flexing.

Jack the Structure


To be able to attach planks to the bottom of the structure, it was necessary to jack up the building high enough to get underneath. Here is where we truly needed to be alert and use all our common sense. We made sure to take the time to create flat, level surfaces where the cap blocks or jack supports were placed. The last thing we wanted was for the building to come off the jack supports or blocks while anyone was underneath it.

We took our time and jacked it slowly, one side at a time by a small degree each time. We continually checked the building for giving or stress points.
Jack up the pine pole until it is flush against the 2-by-6 plank and mount it with lag bolts and wood screws. 
When it was high enough off the ground to work safely underneath and there were plenty of jack supports, it was ready to add the skids.

Hit the Skids


With 3-inch wood screws, we attached two 2-by-6 treated planks across the floor joists and extending at least 2 feet past the front and back of the building.

Next, treated two-by-fours were mounted on the sides of the 2-by-6 planks to give them extra strength and prevent sagging.

Finally, we used a heavy-duty floor jack to lift two straight pine logs to the planks for mounting. The logs were about 8 inches in diameter, long enough for a couple of feet to stick out past the building. It was very important they were relatively straight. Three-inch screws and lag bolts were used to attach them. With the logs securely bolted, we didn’t have to attach them to the underside.
Clayton Vaughn puts long bolts through the log and 2-by-6 top plank. The log becomes a roll bar wrapped with a chain for towing. 
Once the skid logs were in place, we cut a 45-degree angle on the front of each so they would slide instead of dig.

Then we bolted a 2-by-6 plank on the front and back of the building from skid to skid to prevent the logs from rolling and turning.

Finally, on the front, we bolted a short pine pole to the top of the 2-by-6, leaving space enough for a chain between the pole and building. We wrapped a heavy chain around the length of the log to allow us to tow the building with a tractor.

When the building was in its new location, we simply jacked it high enough to be set on cap blocks at the correct level. With the building leveled and off the ground, we took a chainsaw and cut off the skids and planks even with the sides of the building. The skid logs simply dropped off because they were not bolted to the underside.

This March, as things move quickly, take time to think through your projects and use the idea "measure twice and cut once" when working around the farm. Don’t be tempted to work in haste because you will be left with waste.


John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Master Gardeners Association Plant Sales 2018

Morgan County Master Gardeners Association Plant Sale will feature unusual plants, houseplants, succulents, annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, wildflowers and some of the South’s top pass-along plants. There will be hanging baskets and mixed containers ready for gift giving.

Artisans will be there with specialty plants, items for the home, one-of-a-kind handcrafted pots, planters, crafts, handmade jewelry and yard art.

Morgan County MGA is a nonprofit organization that supports the mission of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Morgan County MGA supports scholarships, Hospice, local libraries, schools and other community projects.

The Morgan County MGA Plant Sale will be Saturday, April 28, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, April 29, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at the Morgan County Fairgrounds, behind Home Depot in Decatur.

For additional information, contact Mcmga.plantsale@gmail.com.

For more information about the Alabama Master Gardeners Association, how to join or local events, visit alabamamg.org or mg.aces.edu.



PALS: Leading the Way to a Cleaner Community

Washington County Career Tech students find ways to promote recycling.


by Jamie Mitchell
Welcome to the Clean Campus Program, Washington County Career Technical School! WCCT has decided the Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program will be their ongoing service project for the coming years.

We are thrilled they have chosen to not only become a part of the program but are also planning ways to influence and impact their community, as well.

In my recent visit with the students of WCCT, we discussed many options for community involvement.

First, they are looking at our Adopt-A-Mile program as a way for the students to take an active part in litter cleanups. Our Adopt-A-Mile program is a great way for them to have visibility in the community with the sign display and also by being seen doing the cleanups.

Second, their metal and woodworking students are considering making signs from recycled materials to spread the antilitter message.

Many of the students are also interested in making items that can be submitted to our annual Recycled Art Contest. All contest entries are due April 27, and we can’t wait to see what they submit!

Third, the school is starting a recycling program. Even with limited recycling facilities in Washington County, this determined student body and faculty have found a way to transport their recycling so they can be more environmentally friendly!

Way to go, WCCT!!

One of the most wonderful things about the Clean Campus Program is that it is FREE to all Alabama public and private schools! The Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program really is a win-win for Alabama communities.

Is there a school near you that could benefit from hearing the Clean Campus message? Do you know a school in your community that might like to participate in our contests?

If so, please have them contact me by email at jamie@alpals.org or phone at 334-224-7594.


Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.




Pig Tales

by Baxter Black, DVM

Pigs are funny. Nobody would argue about that. There are people who collect them … pictures, memorabilia, statuettes, door stops, curtains, pig clocks, wallpaper, pig tails, piggy banks, pigweed, pig stickers, piglets, pig-eyed piebalds and pygmies. In the home of a pig collector, you are surrounded by pig knickknacks.

But, due to my lack of experience, I have never been able to write pig poetry. When I attended veterinary school, there were only three pigs west of Scott City, Kansas, and they were in the Salt Lake City Zoo. In the world of cowboy music, no one has risen to claim the title "Ghost Riders in the Sty."

I have held the contention that most cowboy poetry is funny due to that close relationship between humor and tragedy. Workin’ livestock is dangerous, and those of us who do it get hurt ... a lot! So the only way to deal with the pain is to laugh about it. And you quadruple the chance of injury (and, therefore, humor) by adding a horse to the equation. Well, most people don’t work pigs a’horseback, so you don’t have as many wrecks. But where there’s a will there’s a way.

Ol’ Mr. Schneider had a hog operation in central Missouri. He was one of the few in the country to employ dogs on a hog farm – specifically, Blue Heelers.

One afternoon, he had gathered two sows to take to the sale. Big ones, in the 500-pound range. He backed his pickup to the loading chute and pulled up the tail gate. Climbing down into the loading pen, he set the gates and began tickling and tormenting the two sows up the loading ramp.
He thrashed and cursed them, but they wouldn’t go more than halfway. It was then he happened to look up and see his Blue Heeler, Bruno, sitting in the pickup bed peering down the loading chute.

He shouted commands at the dog, who promptly leaped into action! The two sows started backing down the ramp and into Mr. Schneider, who was wedged in place. He went down in the chute and one of the sows sat in his lap! The dog scaled the pileup and exited stage left.

Gasping for air and grasping for straws, Mr. Schneider did what any good cowboy would do ... he called the dogs!

Bruno tore back around the corner, stormed up the chute and bit Mr. Schneider on the ham! They loaded in the chute alright, slick as you please … all three of ‘em.

Bruno is now sausage.


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



Pro 40% Swine Concentrate

by John Sims

Feeding pigs can be complicated. If you are trying to decide what to give pigs just starting on feed, growing hogs, finishing hogs or lactating sows, we manufacture high-quality feeds specifically designed for these stages of production. BUT, if you raise your own corn or buy corn, you can make your own feed for each of these stages.

Pro 40% Swine Concentrate completes your feed ration by adding protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and medication to your energy source (corn). It is medicated with BMD, contains bacitracin methylene disalicylate, for increased rate of weight gain and improved feed efficiency. It is also for the control of swine dysentery (bloody scours) associated with Brachyspira hyodysenteriae.

If you have your own corn and want to mix your own feed for your pigs, you can trust Pro 40% Swine Concentrate to maximize the animals’ performance, no matter the stage of production.
This feed is available at your local Quality Co-op.

To find a location near you, go to www.alafarm.com.

They also have other pig feeds available:

  • 18% pig starter pellets
  • 16% sow w/pig pellets
  • 14% hog grower pellets
  • 13% Tevaco hog pellets
  • 12% hog finisher pellets


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



Real-Life Advice for Growing a Food Business

The sixth annual Food Entrepreneurs Conference offers information and business connections for aspiring entrepreneurs and small farmers.


by Dr. Jean Weese
Robert Armstrong, founder of G Mommas Cookies, will be a keynote speaker at the sixth annual Food Entrepreneur Conference in Auburn. 
Five years ago, the Auburn University Food Systems Institute combined its knowledge of food safety and food business to organize the first Food Entrepreneur Conference for aspiring entrepreneurs and small farmers. Food-business owners, faculty members from Auburn’s College of Business and state organizations began supporting the event and participating in speaker panels. Participation in the event has grown each year. Now, food-business experts and entrepreneurs from all over the state travel to Auburn each spring to give advice and share their own stories.

This year one of those entrepreneurs will be Robert Armstrong. He is the founder of G Mommas, Southern-style, bite-size cookies, based in Selma, and he will be a keynote speaker. This will be Armstrong’s first year participating in the conference, scheduled for March 21-22 at the CASIC building in the Auburn Research Park.

"I am excited to share the journey I’ve been on with G Mommas Cookies and, hopefully, I’ll share some valuable knowledge I’ve gained as well," he said.

Armstrong explained that G Momma’s came about for two important reasons – his love for his Gammy (pronounced "Gah-mee") as well as his desire to help boost the economy in his hometown. The melt-in-your-mouth cookie recipe doesn’t hurt, either.

"Gammy would bake these little cookies for all our family get-togethers and we would crawl all over one another to get a few," Armstrong said on his G Mommas website. "We would just keep coming back again and again and again. You really couldn’t eat just one!"

He also wanted to help keep Selma alive, including its rich history connected to the Civil Rights Movements.

"(Selma) has suffered from a declining economy for the past 40 years or so," Armstrong said, "and a big reason for that is young people generally don’t move back after going to college because of the lack of opportunity. It has always been a dream of mine to come back and help the area in some way."

Armstrong will be joined by other speakers, including John Syzmanski, who works in recipe and new program development for the Kroger Company and can give a big store’s perspective on food entrepreneurship, and Jimmy Wright, of Wright’s Market, who will provide the viewpoint of a smaller, local grocer.

Audience interest in the event has grown each year, too. Last year’s Food Entrepreneur Conference was a turning point – over 74 aspiring and current food entrepreneurs attended, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

Hosted by the Auburn University Food Systems Institute in cooperation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the event is focused on offering real-life advice for growing a food business as well as providing an opportunity for burgeoning entrepreneurs to make invaluable business connections. Representatives from the Alabama Department of Public Health along with ACES will cover topics such as food safety, regulations and labeling, while a professor from the AU College of Business will cover business marketing.

Past keynote speakers include Patricia "Sister Schubert" Barnes; Stacy Brown of Chicken Salad Chick, an Auburn-based restaurant that now has locations throughout the Southeast; and Chuck Caraway of Southeastern Food Group, one of Alabama’s largest food-processing companies. Caraway has agreed to come back this year as a panelist. In fact, most past presenters have seemed to enjoy inspiring others to take the next steps toward food entrepreneurship and are eager to return.

Armstrong said it will be important to share with the audience not only what worked well for him when starting his own business but also what he would do differently if he had the chance.

"I hope to impart that there really is no magic formula or secret to becoming successful in the food industry," he said. "It all starts with the product and, from there, it’s just a lot of hard work."

In addition to the speaker panels and the Q&A sessions that follow, participants can also choose to attend two of the specialized, breakout sessions on topics such as Cottage Food Law certification that allows entrepreneurs to operate some types of food businesses from their homes, catering/food service/bakery, USDA meat products, food trucks, maximizing opportunities for minority-owned businesses, and the innovative aquaponics industry.

Registration for the event is $150 before March 14 and $200 afterward. For a full conference agenda and to register, visit https://aufsi.auburn.edu/2018-food-entrepreneur-co... or call Regina Crapps at 334-844-7456. Also, check the AUFSI Food Entrepreneur Conference Facebook page for updates to the conference agenda and other pertinent conference information.


Jean Weese, Ph.D., is a professor at Auburn University and Food Safety Extension Specialist.



Seeking Clarity in Water Regulation


EPA has issued a two-year delay of Waters of the United States rule.


Press Release from Alabama Farmers Federation
The Alabama Farmers Federation applauds a two-year delay of the vague 2015 Waters of the United States rule by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Implementation of the WOTUS regulation is postponed to Jan. 31, 2020. The postponement gives the EPA up to two years to develop a new rule to provide greater certainty for farmers.

"Following last week’s [Jan. 31] Supreme Court ruling that the Sixth Circuit Court did not have authority to issue a nationwide stay of the 2015 rule, EPA’s postponement ensures farmers will not be subject to a flawed rule issued by the previous administration," said Mitt Walker, the Federation’s National Legislative Programs director. "We applaud agency leaders for issuing this rule and look forward to working with them to develop a new WOTUS rule based on sound science and within the authority delegated by Congress."

The American Farm Bureau Federation also supports the WOTUS rule delay, said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

"That rule would have put a stranglehold on ordinary farming and ranching by treating dry ditches, swales and low spots on farm fields just like flowing waters," Duvall said. "Without today’s action, countless farmers and ranchers, as well as other landowners and businesses, would risk lawsuits and huge penalties for activities as common and harmless as plowing a field. America’s farmers value clean water as much as anyone else, and they work hard every day to protect it. But they deserve clear rules, too."



Smokin’ Out Bama’s Best Pork Ribs

by Marlee Moore
The Alabama Pork Producers hopes to smoke out Bama’s Best Pork Ribs through a contest promoting Alabama farmers’ lip-smacking-good product.

The contest, running through April 2 on Facebook and Instagram, is searching for a fan-favorite restaurant serving up the tastiest pork ribs Alabama has to offer. A panel of pork-loving judges, including an Alabama pig farmer, will visit the final four restaurants in April. The winner will be announced in May to kick off summer grilling season.

Restaurants can range from hometown hidden gems to well-known favorites, but the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Guy Hall said the judges are sure to zero in on this – a flavorful, tender, stick-to-your-ribs product.

"We’re looking for the best ribs in Alabama, from smoked to grilled and from simply seasoned to slathered in sauce," said Hall, the Federation’s Pork Division director. "Pork is an important part of the American diet, and we’re excited to spotlight the most desirable restaurant rib recipes in the state."
The winning restaurant will receive a plaque and $500, and will be featured in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Neighbors and AFC’s Cooperative Farming News magazines in June. Each finalist will also receive a plaque.

One restaurant will receive a cash prize – and bragging rights – as the People’s Choice Award winner.

"Alabama pig farms market around 327,000 hogs annually, ranking the state 29th in hog production," Hall said. "Although Alabama hog numbers are low compared to states like Iowa and North Carolina, our farmers are committed to using modern production practices to raise a high-quality pork product that is lean, versatile, affordable and tasty."

Submit nominations through April 2 by commenting on the Federation’s Facebook and Instagram contest posts with the restaurant name and town.

This competition replaces the Federation’s county and state Pork Cooking Contests.

Questions? Contact Guy Hall at ghall@alfafarmers.org.


Marlee Moore is an ag communications specialist with Alabama Farmers Federation.



Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Minnie’s daughter just had her fifth birthday. In one corner of her momma’s backyard, she had an inflatable jumpy house. In another corner, she hired a juggling clown. Then there was a magician, a face-painting booth and a pony. I’m thinking she might have gone a little overboard!"

What does having a child’s party have to do with falling off of a ship?

To go overboard is "to act without restraint in some area or with excessive enthusiasm."

Not surprisingly, the origin of the idiom "go overboard" is nautical. When one falls overboard from a boat into the water, it’s quite a problem; in the same way, going out of bounds in other areas of life is problematic.

Interestingly, the "board" in overboard is actually a term for the physical railings found on a boat. If you went overboard, you went over the railings and into the water.



Spring Planting Season

Maybe it’s not the optimal time of year for installing new landscape plants but following these tips will improve your chances of success.


by Tony Glover
Spring is the second-best time of year to plant, and the sooner the better as winter wanes and spring commences. 
I have been telling people my whole career that fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs, but almost nobody (including me) follows that advice every time. "Why not?" you may ask. The answer is multilayered.

If you ask the nursery operators, they will say they would love to see more fall sales. However, customers just are not buying enough then. They cannot justify heavily stocking plants they will have to hold all winter if they do not sell.

If you talk to consumers who know the proper time to plant, they will say something like, "The plant choices are limited in the fall."

On the positive side, now is the second-best time of year to plant, and the sooner the better as winter wanes and spring commences. The reason fall planting is ideal is because we seldom have long cold spells freezing the soil to any depth and plant roots continue to grow all winter in the south.

If you plant now, the plants will have some opportunity to root in before the heat of summer hits. You will need to be more diligent to keep them well-watered throughout the first growing season and possibly longer. A good rule of thumb is that the larger the plant the longer you need to baby it with regular waterings.

Consumers often think that the bigger the plant the better, but smaller plants are much easier to establish – not to mention they are a lot less expensive.

If you are diligent in watering your new landscape plants, they will reward your efforts by faster growth and will quickly catch up in size to the more expensive plants that often are much slower to establish, even when watered properly.

There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success with spring-planted trees and shrubs you bought in pots.

Dig the planting hole wide, but no deeper than the root ball. Planting too deep can be the death knell for woody landscape plants.

If you have heavy soil, do not add organic material into the planting hole. This can negatively change the water movement and actually cause water to move in but not out of the planting hole.

If the soil is poor, consider adding better soil or organic matter to the entire planting bed for shrubs (expected root zone for trees). Many plants benefit from being perched slightly above grade.

Remove the loose organic material from the roots by washing them and pulling them apart. If roots are circling in the pot, cut or straighten them before planting.

Do not fertilize or prune the first year unless there are dead or damaged limbs.

Lightly mulch around plants to help keep weeds out and string trimmers away.

Water, water, water. Yes, it is possible to overwater and you should physically check to see if the soil is wet. It is easy to forget to water for a few days and that can make a difference in hot weather.

Do not be afraid to plant woody landscape plants in the spring but do follow these tips to increase your chance of success.


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



Tax Time Tips

A little extra time and effort now preserving tax return documentation could save you a lot of time and money in the future.


by Robert Page


Before you file away this year’s tax return, you might want to take one more look through the tax documents and financial records. After all, your return might be selected for a tax audit within the next three years. Alternatively, you might want to amend the 2017 return sometime in the next couple of years. These are just two reasons why taking one last look through your files before putting them away might be a good idea. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself.

1.Are your documents really complete or do you need to make more copies and maybe some notes to yourself?

People’s memories can fade over time. Take a few minutes to write down your answers to any questions your tax preparer asked in completing your return.

Look over all receipts and make sure you have clearly written which items on the receipt were used for farm operations. Similarly, look over credit card statements and label which items were for the farm. Whenever possible, staple your original credit card receipt to the credit card statement to clearly document farm purchases. Remember, a tax auditor looking at your return will be asking for proof for each item on the return and taking a few extra minutes may save you time and money down the road.

Did you buy any farm equipment or build any new fencing, bins or buildings in 2017 that were depreciated on your tax return? Take a few minutes and put a copy of the purchase invoices in the 2017 tax file. You may thank yourself for this in a couple of years.

Did you buy any breeding livestock in 2017 and add them to the depreciation report? Take a few minutes and add a copy of those purchase invoices to the tax file. Also, did you put an identifying ear tag or tattoo on these animals? If so, add this information, too.

If you have 2017 accounting reports such as balance sheets or income statements prepared by your accountant or from your own accounting software, make sure you have a printed copy included in the tax records matching the tax return information. You don’t want to be looking for a printed report two years from now and not be able to find it.

2.Will all your tax documents still be readable in three years?

Thermal paper receipts fade over time. If you have any doubt about document fade, take a few minutes and make a copy of the original tax document and staple them together. Three years from now, you may be very happy you did.

Farm & Agribusiness Management Regional Extension Agents are members of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our objective is to develop farm operational and financial educational programming for Alabama producers of all types. These programs are offered through print, online and in-person classes, seminars and presentations. If your organization is interested in having one of our REAs speak to your group, please contact your local Extension office.


Robert Page, CPA, REA II, is a regional Extension agent with Farm & Agribusiness Management.


The Alabama Adult Mentored Hunt Program

Becoming a new hunter isn’t just for kids anymore!


by Chuck Sykes
Wildlife Biologist Justin Gilchrest teaches the mentored hunters how to age a deer by looking at tooth wear. 
Millions of dollars are being spent nationwide in an attempt to slow the decline in hunting license sales. R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation) programs are one of the main focal points of all state agencies. Like most agencies, we have been conducting various programs designed to either recruit new hunters or engage lapsed hunters for decades. Unfortunately, most of these programs have met with limited success. Therefore, we are taking a close look at all our R3 programs to see which ones are giving the best return on our investment.

Money, free time and accessibility to property seem to be the three most limiting factors to someone starting or continuing to hunt. We are constantly working on the accessibility issue by purchasing quality hunting land around the state and providing ample opportunity for people to enjoy those lands. The money and time issue, we can’t really do anything about. Frankly, I wish I had more money and time to enjoy hunting!
Don Prater harvested his first deer during the first mentored hunt. He was mentored by Justin Gilchrest. 
In the December issue, I wrote about the inspiration to create a fledgling R3 program, the Alabama Adult Mentored Hunt Program. This program was designed to offer an opportunity to anyone over the age of 18 who has the desire to learn how to hunt.

As I said earlier, we need to get a return on our investment in these R3 programs, not just feel good about ourselves because we carried someone hunting. We need people to become hunters, not simply go hunting one time. Everyone has heard the old Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime." That’s what we intend to do with this program.

With this being a new program, we started small and offered three deer hunts on the Cedar Creek Special Opportunity Area for a total of 15 participants. We received over 100 applications from individuals who ranged in age from 19 to 75. Approximately 40 percent of the applicants were female.

AAMHP is not the typical mentored-hunting program. It is a three-day crash course in Hunting 101 taught by our staff on public land. I’ll use the itinerary from the first hunt as an example of how the weekends unfold.

  • Friday, 2 p.m.: The five participants arrived at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge for room assignments and a briefing on the events for the weekend.
  • 3:30: The participants were taken to the shooting range and given firearms safety, familiarization and live-fire training by two of our Conservation Enforcement Officers.
  • 5:30: Dinner and discussion of various meals that were prepared using venison. Five different venison dishes were served, and a cookbook was presented to each participant with the recipes and cooking instructions.
  • 7:30: Three PowerPoint presentations were delivered covering topics such as the mission of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, funding for the Division, basic wildlife management principles and techniques, and aging bucks on the hoof. Hands-on demonstrations of proper safety harness usage and proper shot placement also took place. Finally, mentors were paired with their mentee and given detailed instructions about the next morning’s hunt.
  • Saturday, 4:30 a.m.: It was time to rise and shine, and grab a light breakfast before heading to Cedar Creek SOA for the morning hunt.
  • 10:30: All participants and their mentors met at the pavilion for a review of the morning hunt, including how to locate downed deer, field dressing, tree stand safety and an extensive Q&A session.
  • Noon: Lunch, venison burgers, was cooked onsite and the Q&A session continued.
  • 12:30: Hands-on demonstration of how to read the woods for deer signs, how to use aerial imagery in your hunt, stand placement, compass reading, habitat analysis and what essential items are needed in every hunter’s backpack.
  • 2: Participants and mentors headed to their hunting stands.
  • 6: Hands-on demonstration of proper field dressing. Then everyone returned to the lodge to learn how to skin and butcher a deer.
  • 7: Dinner and cooking demonstration by one of the winning cook teams of the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Wild Game Cookoff.
  • 8: Campfire talk of the day’s activities and discussion of Sunday’s events.
  • Sunday, 4:30 a.m.: Light breakfast then the hunters headed to the woods.
  • 11: Hunt concluded and participants were given a debriefing on the weekend’s events followed by a Q&A session and everyone completed an exit survey.
The AAMHP is a labor-intensive and expensive program to implement. However, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it is well worth it. Despite the fact we are only impacting a few participants, we are creating hunters. And in turn, these new hunters are having positive conversations with their peers about the benefits and enjoyment of hunting and how our department is providing this service.
Todd Pater and his father Don both harvested their first deer during the first mentored hunt. Todd’s mentor was Conservation Enforcement Officer Grady Meyers. Don’s was Wildlife Biologist Justin Gilchrest (not pictured). Syd showcased his blood trailing skills to the mentored hunters while finding Todd’s deer. 
For example, one of the hunters I helped mentor, a special education teacher, bought her first hunting license to participate in this program. After spending an afternoon in a hunting blind with her, where she harvested her first deer, I have no doubt she will be an ambassador for hunting to her friends, family and hundreds of kids.

But state agencies and NGOs can’t do this alone. As hunters, we need to take it upon ourselves to mentor new hunters if we want to see the sport we love continue. An example of this is another hunter I helped mentor. He has many friends who hunt, but he didn’t feel comfortable asking them to teach him. That should be a wake-up call to all hunters. Look around you at work, church, the ballfield or any place you have repeated contact with the same group of people. Don’t forget, someone who wants to learn to hunt isn’t always a child. Thousands of adults would jump at the opportunity to go hunting and learn from a seasoned hunter.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. With hunting licenses being purchased by less than 5 percent of the residents of Alabama, we have a huge untapped market out there. We must all change our tactics and look to these nontraditional avenues to recruit new hunters.

I think this program is going to yield impressive results in the years to come. For more information on the AAMHP, visit www.outdooralabama.com and search for mentored hunts.
Chuck Sykes is director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.


The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein


Frances Dahlke 
This month, I am so pleased to feature a wonderful lady who it has been my privilege to know for almost 30 years, Ms. Frances Dahlke. When I began working at AFC, Ms. Frances was the only female Quality Co-op manager and absolutely one of the best managers, as well. If I have counted correctly, this will be 57 years that she has worked for a Quality Co-op.

Ms. Frances has worked several jobs and at several Co-ops. In 1955, she was first hired part time at Farmers Exchange in Cullman and was quickly hired full time. In 1961, she became a bookkeeper at Walker Farmers Co-op, moved up to assistant manager and, in 1974, she became the manager.

In 1978, she was named Manager of the Year!

Ms. Frances has also managed Cullman Farmers Co-op and Marshall Farmers Co-op in Arab.

In 1996, she retired, but decided she was bored and needed to do something to fill her time. She has traveled here in the states as well as in Europe. However, she missed her Co-op family and, to this day, still works part time at the Cullman store.

As for her personal story, Ms. Francis shared, "I was raised in Cullman County and was one of six children.

"When we got up in the morning, our mother would already have dinner cooking as we went to the field.

"After dinner, we three girls would wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen. Then it was time to go back to the field.

"I should have paid more attention to her cooking, but she could do it faster and didn’t really have the time.

"I am sharing some of my favorite recipes. I have always liked to make cakes (although I don’t do it now). When I was manager of Walker Farmers Co-op in Jasper, I would bake at least a dozen cakes, mostly pound cakes because they were easier to serve, for the Annual Membership Meeting and Customer Appreciation Day.

"I have truly been blessed because I still work part-time at Cullman Farmers Co-op."
~Mary

For April, we will be featuring broccoli, carrots, crawfish and garlic, and ones for grilled cheese.

May’s recipes will feature asparagus, barbecue, beef, egg, hummus, salsa, shrimp, strawberries and tuna, ones for salads and to make hummus or salsa.

We are always interested in anyone who would be willing to be interviewed and share some of her … or his … favorite recipes with us. Contact us if you are interested.

We would love to hear from you … for recipes or to be our feature cook. Get those recipes rolling in!
~ Editor

LEMON ICE BOX PIE


  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust pie shell
  • 1 carton whipped topping
In a bowl, combine milk and lemon juice. Mix well. Pour into pie shell. Spread whipped topping on top. Refrigerate for at least one hour. It will freeze well.

DUMP SALAD


  • 1 large box strawberry jello
  • 1 carton cottage cheese
  • 1 large container whipped topping
  • 1 large can crushed pineapple, drained
  • In a large bowl, mix all together. Chill.
  • SOUR CREAM CAKE
  • 1 cup oleo
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Topping
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
In a bowl, cream oleo, sugar and eggs. Add sour cream and dry ingredients. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix pecans, cinnamon and sugar.

Into greased and floured tube pan, spoon ½ of batter. Sprinkle with ½ of topping. Add rest of batter. Sprinkle with rest of topping. Bake at 350° for 55-60 minutes. Cool completely before taking up.

CHEESE BALL


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup finely chopped bell pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons seasoning salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • l (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, extra for coating
In a bowl, mix all ingredients except extra pecans together. Roll into a ball. On parchment or wax paper, spread extra pecans. Roll ball in pecans. Chill.

Note: I usually make 2 balls.

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE


  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ stick butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Topping
  • 1 cup ground pecans
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • ½ stick butter
In a bowl, place first six ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a greased pan.

In another bowl, place all topping ingredients. Mix together. It will be crumbly. Pour on potato mixture. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.

BUTTERMILK PIE


  • ½ cup butter
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 9" unbaked pie shell
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add remaining ingredients except pie shell. Mix well. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes.

PINEAPPLE CONGEALED SALAD


  • 2 (3-ounce) boxes pineapple flavored gelatin
  • ½ envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple, drained and reserve juice
  • 1 (9-ounce) container whipped topping
  • 2 cups buttermilk
In a saucepan, dissolve gelatins in pineapple juice. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Stir well. In a large mixing bowl, combine whipped topping and buttermilk. In a blender, puree pineapple. Add to buttermilk mixture. Stir well. Add gelatin mixture. Mix thoroughly. Pour into oiled mold and chill.

STRAWBERRY PRETZELS SALAD


  • 1 bag thin pretzels
  • 1 cup + 3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) container whipped topping
  • 1 (6-ounce) package strawberry jello
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • ½ cup cool water
  • 2 (10-ounce) package frozen, sliced strawberries
With rolling pin, crush pretzels while still in bag. Open bag and measure out 2 cups. In a bowl, combine pretzels, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter. Pat into a 13x9 pyrex dish. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, mix cream cheese and remaining sugar. Fold in whipped topping. Gently pour on cooled crust.

In a bowl, dissolve jello in boiling water. Add cool water. Add strawberries. Mix together. When partially congealed, spoon gently over cream cheese layer. Chill. Cut into squares to serve.

CHICKEN DIVAN


  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen broccoli
  • Water
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup grated cheese
  • ½ cup buttered breadcrumbs
In a baking pan, place broccoli. Heat until crisp and tender. Drain. Place chicken on broccoli.

In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients except cheese and breadcrumbs. Spread over chicken. In a bowl, combine cheese and breadcrumbs. Spread on top. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

KEY LIME CAKE


  • 1 box lemon cake mix with pudding
  • 1 small box lime jello
  • 1½ cups oil
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • Glaze
  • 4 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ½ cup key lime juice
  • Frosting
  • 1 box confectioner sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick butter
In a large bowl, add cake mix, jello, oil, eggs and orange juice. Mix well. Into 3 greased cake pans, evenly divide cake batter. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

In a bowl, mix powdered sugar and lime juice. Glaze cake while warm.

In a bowl, cream confectioner sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and butter.

On a plate, place a cake. Spread frosting on top and sides. Place another cake on top and frost. Place last cake on top and frost.

FRESH APPLE CAKES


  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butterscotch morsels
In a bowl, beat together oil, eggs and sugar. Sift together next five ingredients alternately with apple to egg mixture. Mix well. Stir in pecans and half of morsels. In a greased 9x13 baking pan, spread batter. Sprinkle with remaining morsels. Bake at 350° for l hour.

COCONUT CAKE


  • 1 box butter flavor cake mix, with need ingredients
  • Sour Cream Frosting
  • 2 cups sugar
  • l (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 package frozen coconut, thawed
  • 1 (8-ounce) container whipped topping
Prepare cake as directed for 2 layers. After each has cooled, split both make 4 layers.

In a bowl, blend all frosting ingredients reserving some coconut for coating. Chill.

In place, place a cake layer. Spread with frosting. Repeat for each layer. Add extra coconut to outside. Place in airtight container. Refrigerate 3 days before serving.

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News. You may email her at maryd@alafarm.com. Jena Klein is AFC’s Wellness Program Coordinator. You may email her at jenak@alafarm.com.



Third-Graders Garden for Giving

Top, Ms. Fortson’s third-grade class with ACES’s Dominguez Hurry, far left, and the ADAI’s Harold McLemore. Bottom, Ms. Perkins’ third-grade class with some of the collards they grew and harvested. 
by Harold McLemore

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries in conjunction with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System of Macon County sponsored a farm project with Tuskegee’s Carver Elementary’s third-grade classes.

The third-graders donated 240 pounds of collard greens from their plasticulture garden to the Tuskegee Community Christmas dinner (#BECAUSEMACON-COUNTYCARES2017).

Another ACES farm project at the Tuskegee Veterans Hospital donated an additional 60 pounds of greens to the dinner.

Congratulations to Carver Elementary’s third-graders and Tuskegee Veterans Hospital for their good works.


Harold McLemore is a marketing specialist with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.




Thoughts for March

by Jimmy Parker

Looking at the calendar, we have made it through another winter. Cool-season grasses are already growing in most of Alabama and soon will be in all of it. Hopefully, each of you and all your livestock made it through the winter with minimal problems, aside from the unusual snows in the south and bitter cold that has come and gone a time or two in the northern end of the state.

So, the grass is growing and all our worries are over; right? Well, I am sure we all wish that were the case, but unfortunately it is not. The bitter cold days we had in January were tough on livestock; that is a fact. Their energy needs increased and, generally, we as producers understood, or just felt sorry for them, and gave them a little extra on those bad days. That was a good thing and they sure did need the help.

March typically brings a number of nice, warm days and those truly are a blessing, but March still has some of those cold, wet, windy days that are real problems for our animals. When we have 40-degree, rainy days with a nice, brisk wind, our animals can suffer as much or more than they do on 20-degree, sunny days in January. The difference is that we see green grass and often do not offer them the additional feed or supplementation we offered when we wondered if the thermometer was frozen or had just stopped working correctly.

Most of us get to March and start to see green grass and warmer days, and we stop thinking about the extra feed needs our livestock have. Typically, the young, tender grass is high in the major nutrients livestock need, but the grass is so full of water and so low in fiber that sometimes it will pass through their system before the animals can get most of the value out of what they are eating. That makes it important to provide the animals with access to dry hay. This is important until the young grass matures to a point where passage rates slow down and the animals can get the full benefit of the plants.

Hay will provide some key nutrients and will slow the rate of passage through the digestive system. It basically allows the animal to better use the tender, juicy grass it is eating. The tender, nutrient-rich grass will provide a good bit of protein and energy, and help the microbes digest more of the hay. So, you can see the hay and grass will work well together to help provide what is needed for the animal.

The dry hay can help offset some of the mineral imbalances we sometime see on young, fast-growing forages. But even with access to hay, we need to be mindful of providing the proper vitamin and mineral supplements, especially to cattle.

Grass tetany is often discussed and occasionally forgotten until we make that frantic call to our local veterinarian or have to borrow the neighbor’s backhoe because we didn’t get the mineral out at the correct time and check to make sure all the cattle were eating it as needed.

Grass tetany will be discussed in most cattle-related magazines sometime in the late winter or early spring, so I will not take a great deal of time on it now. I will say that minerals with higher levels of magnesium are bitter and it takes a little while for cattle to adjust to them. It is good insurance to try and get them out earlier than you think you need them to give the cattle a little time to adjust. Next to vaccinating for blackleg, it is probably the cheapest insurance a cattleman can buy that will directly change the operation’s bottom line.

While we are talking about minerals and bottom lines, I will add that flies cost the cattle industry some serious dollars. It is not too early to start thinking about IGR minerals, especially for those of you south of Montgomery.

Fly season is almost here and it will take a few weeks for feed-through products to have effective results. For those in the northern part of the state, you might consider March a good month to convince your neighbor to also use IGR products because, frankly, those flies don’t mind crossing fences. If cattle share a fence line, it is far more effective if both of you are using IGR products.


Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.



Treating Osteoporosis With Alternatives

Another Encouraging Testimonial


by Nadine Johnson

I’m sure some of my readers are tired of reading about osteoporosis and its treatment with Bone-up and horsetail. However, every time I write about this, another suffering person gets help. So please bear with me.

The following is one of many I could tell. It’s a true story about a man I’m going to call "Ray."

In August 2011, my personal story about osteoporosis appeared in AFC Cooperative Farming News. Ray happened to read it. Soon, my telephone rang.

Ray introduced himself and stated, "I want to meet you. Is that possible?"

Of course, my answer was, "Yes."

We set a date, Aug. 8. Ray and his wife came to visit.

It was an obvious struggle for him to walk from his car to my apartment. Thank goodness no steps were involved.

On that day, Ray began to take Bone-up, horsetail and vitamin D. He continues to take these and other alternatives.

Ray’s back pain began many years ago − possibly from a high school injury and/or being thrown from a horse. By 2005, he had chronic back pain that often caused him to miss work. Sometimes he missed weeks at a time.

His primary doctor diagnosed degenerative disc disease and prescribed physical therapy. After several weeks, there was no improvement.

Ray was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. This appointment was Jan. 30, 2006. The surgeon informed Ray that he could operate. However, he advised against it.

"You would not be happy with it," he said.

Some of the vertebrae were simply too brittle to withstand surgery.

The surgeon recommended pain management therapy that Ray began in March 2006. He was given Robaxin (a muscle relaxer) and Actonel (a prescription medicine used to prevent or treat osteoporosis).

He did physical therapy regularly, with very limited activity, and did not dare lift over 5 pounds.

Ray had been forced to take early retirement from his 30-year job with Georgia Pacific Railroad. He was also forced to liquidate his cattle and equipment because he could no longer take care of the farm.

We met. He began to take alternatives. Surely his healing began immediately, but it took about two months for him to feel it. His doctor saw the alternatives and the healing.

"You keep that up," he stated.

One year later, he had a bone density test that showed a marked improvement. His doctor was amazed.

When I saw Ray again, he was walking much more like a man and with a smile on his face.

Nowadays, he is again doing farming duties − driving the tractor, chasing cattle, mending fences, splitting wood − all those things he enjoys. Occasionally, sore muscles, etc. call for a bit of pain medicine, but Motrin is all he needs.

Bone-up is a very beneficial, calcium-plus product (a bone-builder).

In Europe, they have determined horsetail is needed with calcium to obtain proper utilization. If it works in Europe, it will surely also work in America. (I am living proof it does.)

It would be a great benefit to us if our doctors would start recommending this.

Personally, I take two Bone-up twice daily and one horsetail (remember, horsetail is silica) twice daily. I have taken it since January 1995. I am now 87 years old. About two years ago, I fell "SPLAP" on cement AND I DID NOT BREAK A SINGLE BONE!!

During the past seven years, Ray, his wife and I have formed a special friendship I treasure. We thank God for providing the knowledge about a control for osteoporosis.

Also, thanks to Ray for sharing his story.

Remember to always check with your doctor before taking alternatives.


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



What Makes a “Real Cowboy”?

by Glenn Crumpler

A good friend recently reminded me that I was not a "real cowboy." I could not agree with him more. In fact, I have not even owned a horse for over 20 years nor do I have any plans to purchase one. (Although grandchildren do seem to have the ability to influence decisions I thought had long ago been settled!)

The conversation came about after a really nice-looking, young herd bull with a very good pedigree had been donated to the ministry. He really looked the part. The only problem with this bull was, as Deputy Barney Fife would say, "He’s a nut!"

We thought he was going to tear the sale barn apart trying to load him, but he finally hit the front of the trailer at full speed and we were able to slam the gate.

All the way back to the farm, he rocked the truck trying to go through the roof of the cattle trailer.

We realized he would most likely hurt himself if we tried to unload him into our heavy-duty, "highway-guard-rail"-constructed catch pen. We decided the best thing to do was to turn him out in the middle of the cross-fenced, 40-acre pasture with the 21 yearling heifers we planned for him to breed.

With two of the heifers in standing heat, we felt sure this was the safest place to unload this fine bull. So, we backed the trailer up to the heifers and slowly opened the trailer gate. He came out running and kept running.

For 13 days, we drove the surrounding roadways, talked with neighbors and put out piles of feed around our property lines trying to lure the bull back onto our property.

After five hours on a beautiful, Sunday morning of repairing four fence rows of three- and four-strand, high-tensile electric fencing, Jack finally saw the bull!

It had lived in the deep woods of a beaver pond bottom. Nobody around us had seen him, heard him or saw signs of him.

To make a long story short, about 10 days later, we were finally able to lure him into the catch pen. It had taken 23 days to get him caught! After a few days, he had settled down.

We offered to haul the bull back to our well-intentioned friend who had donated him and offered to swap him for a substitute bull.

"No," he told me. "You and I are not ‘real cowboys,’ but I know someone who is. We will come and load up the bull and leave you the new one."

A few days later, our buddy showed up with two young "real cowboys" and their horses. We told them when they got out of the truck that the best thing to do was to leave the horses either in the front cut of the trailer or take them off and reload them after the bull was loaded. If they put those horses in the 40-by-40 guard-rail catch pen with "this" bull, somebody was going to get hurt – especially the horses.

Well, they took our advice and left the horses tied up. Within three seconds of them entering the catch pen, they were both hurling themselves over the railing to avoid the oncoming mauling! After about three of these episodes in a 45-second period, the bull finally noticed the open gate, took off down the lane and hit the cattle trailer with Jack slamming the gate behind him.

Ended up, the problem was not because we were not "real cowboys" or did not make experienced decisions in handling the bull but that the bull was just a nut!

A few days later, as we were looking back and were able to laugh about this entire episode (knowing the bull was finally gone), Jack and I got caught out really late at night, three times in a four-day period during the wettest, coldest, nastiest weather we have had in years. In fact, we actually had a little snow accumulation and a lot of ice.

The first night, it rained and the wind howled, blowing my cowboy hat off my head several times before I finally just took it off and put it in the truck. A 3-year-old cow had delivered her second calf earlier that morning and, by late afternoon, Jack told me the calf could not stand and he wanted me to go check her while he took my place finishing the new fencing lane. He started fencing and I went to the calf, in our most distant pasture from the catch pen.

Turned out, the new, little heifer calf could stand up. When she did, her mother would beller and knock her back down. We ended up after dark having to take the cow to the head chute, go back and get her weakened calf, and then help it learn to nurse. This went on three times a day for over a week before the mother finally accepted her calf.

On the second day of this process, a first-calf heifer had a fine, new bull calf born during the night when the chill factor was only about 7 degrees. She did not reject the calf; she just did not clean it up. At daylight, the calf still had not nursed.

I went back to the house to get some towels to dry the calf, but, when I tried, all the wet stuff from the birthing process was solid ice! I could not wipe anything off his frozen hair.

As a last resort, I put the calf in the floorboard of the truck and set the heater on 87. After about two hours, the calf’s core temperature was finally up enough it had stopped its uncontrollable and violent shivering. I was able to dry him and put him back with his mother.

In about 15 minutes, the calf was nursing and all was well.

The next night, Jack told me that just before dark he had seen another really good, mature cow walking around looking for a place to calve. I told him to go on home and my grandson Bradyn and I would check on her until she calved.

We stayed with her until about 6:15, then we went home to leave her alone for a while and get a bite of supper. About 45 minutes later, we covered up and headed back out in the cold to check her. As we stepped outside, the yelping and squealing of coyotes sounded like they were right where the cow was.

When we arrived, she was still laboring, just beside a head of woods. As we watched with the flashlight, the reflection from the eyes of several coyotes started popping up about 30 feet from the cow. I restarted the truck and scared them off.

Almost five hours later, I called Jack to wake him up and tell him we had to catch her up and pull the calf. She just was not making any progress.

At 11:45 p.m., wet and bitterly cold as it was and with Bradyn still asleep in the truck, we pulled off our jackets, hooked up the OB chains and pulled until we were both lying on our backs to get the 109-pound bull calf delivered. He was huge, but both survived and are doing well.

Exhausted, we wiped ourselves off the best we could with some dry hay and made it back to the truck to warm up. As we sat there reflecting on the week’s events, we wondered what some of the real cowboys were doing at midnight while we were out in the freezing cold doing all of this, after long days of work and just hours before another one would begin – and these cows do not even belong to us nor do we get paid for caring for them.

Our good friend was not mistaken when he said we are not "real cowboys." We don’t own a horse, we don’t ride, we seldom even dress the part and a lot of people know more about cattle than we do. We are still, however, real cattlemen trying all we can to be good shepherds of what God has entrusted to our care (cattle, resources, people and, most important, the truth of God’s Word) so others, both at home and around the world, can know Him and His love for them.

As members of Christ’s Church and as citizens of a country that God has blessed beyond all others, we all have a command and a responsibility to shepherd and care for His sheep who are scattered throughout the world; lost, abused, hungry, cold, neglected, afflicted, hurting, lonely, victimized, terrorized and without hope for this life or for eternity.

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep." (John 10:11-13, International Standard Version)

God does not call us to a title, to a talk or to act out or dress a part - He does, however, call us to BE "good shepherds" who are His ambassadors, representing Him as we take His love, His care and the Good News of His Son Jesus Christ to all the world.

That sometimes involves a little cowboying up!


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



“Corn, Corn, Corn! Nothing but Corn!”

Bay leaves come from a bay laurel tree. And, yes. They bloom. 
by Herb T. Farmer

One of my favorite movies is "Second Hand Lions." It is basically about two secretly wealthy, aging, bachelor brothers learning how to raise their young nephew who was abandoned by his mother.

Although there were many memorable scenes in the film, one that stands out to me is when they all got matching overalls and brimmed straw hats, and claimed to be farmers. They met a traveling seed salesman in town one day and bought a bunch of seeds.

When the seedlings emerged, they noticed each row of plants looked the same and not at all like the picture and description on the packet. It turned out the salesman sold them all corn in various packets.

Watch the movie. Or, at least watch the scene on YouTube, "Corn, corn, corn. Nothing but corn." I think you’ll enjoy it.

This brings me to my reason for the title of this column. Be certain to start your garden with fresh seeds. Buy them from a reputable dealer and not from the 39-cent pack rack at the big box store. Also, it’s a good idea to Google the seed images to make sure you know what you’re getting.

I’m sure you would recognize the mix-up if you opened a packet of bok choy seed and found corn in there. But, unless buying from reputable suppliers, you really don’t know about the freshness or how the seeds were handled in the packaging process.
This little brown jug (Hexastylis arifolia) is blooming early this year. 
When buying seed, I prefer to shop at Quality Co-op stores or at least an independent retail garden center. That way, if you have any questions about the seed, there’s a knowledgeable person to help you.

When ordering online, I prefer to shop with Renee’s Garden or Johnny’s Selected Seeds. But I usually buy some from several other online and mail-order suppliers. All in all, I buy from over a dozen seed sources. Pepper Joe’s, Kitazawa Seed Co. and J.L. Hudson, Seedsman are just a few of my secondary seed suppliers. They are all reputable and have excellent customer service. Also, each seed company carries different selections. For example, I buy pepper seeds from about six different suppliers. Same goes for tomato seeds. While Kitazawa carries assorted Asian vegetables that I like, J.L. Hudson, Seedsman carries interesting flower varieties and unusual heirloom vegetable seeds.

If you start the seeds indoors, be sure they have ample direct light. A south- or southwest-facing window usually provides six to 10 hours of needed sunlight. LED lights placed near the top of your planting trays should also do the trick. Use the 5,000 Kelvin bulbs with at least 1,100 lumens per bulb.

If the cold frame is in a sunny location, this is a perfect time of year to start seed in small pots. Just make sure the seedlings don’t cook in the sun or get chilled at night.

Good cold frame starts include lettuce and other salad greens, spinach, parsley and kale. Nasturtiums, zinnias, sunflowers, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers and basil also enjoy a cold-frame jump-start.
Spicy bush basil is a low-growing, mounding herb that makes a great border plant and tastes great on roasted tomatoes! 
Carrots, radishes, beets and other root vegetables need to be started directly in the garden. Also, direct sow peas, beans, other legumes, onions and, of course, corn, corn, corn!

Transplanting the seedlings from indoors to outdoors requires some conditioning for the plants. It is best to place the starts in a protected area outside where they won’t get too much direct sun or too much wind and nighttime chill. Let them harden off for about three days before planting them in the garden.

Similarly, when you are growing plants in a cold frame, it is best to open the top a few inches each night for a few days before sending them out into the wild, wild world.

You know? One of my simple pleasures in life is watching seeds emerge from their soil bed and show their green for the first time. Between that, the smell of the greenhouse and a cup of Royal Cup coffee, it really gets me going.
No recipe today! I had bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese tacos for breakfast and hotdogs for lunch.

I’ll give you two recipes in April!

Make it a point to plant some veggies and fruits this spring and start eating your yard. I eat mine.
Happy Vernal Equinox!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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



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