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May 2016

4-H Extension Corner: Dream an Adventure with Alabama 4-H

2015-2016 4-H State Ambassadors

Mid-Winter Teen Leadership Retreat inspires and motivates participants.

by Joy Maxwell Scott

Alabama 4-H State Ambassadors presented an outstanding 4-H Mid-Winter Teen Leadership Retreat titled Dream an Adventure with Alabama 4-H. The ambassadors created their own spin on Disney using the vison of Alabama 4-H and their goals for Mid-Winter.

(From left) Myrissa Webb (Cruella de Ville), Laurin Bell (Meg) and Brianna Fuchs (Belle), all from Shelby County, channel their inner Disney characters for the 4-H Mid-Winter Teen Leadership Retreat.

The youth transformed the Alabama 4-H Center into a 4-H magical wonderland. The cafeteria table settings mirrored the classic Disney movies, the pavilion was transformed into Epcot, and the youth used their creativity and presented Disney-theme workshops. While 138 youth from 38 counties engaged in fun workshops, the workshops also provided leadership opportunities, and built life skills and workforce development skills. The workshops included cupcake decorating, theater, cultural activities and dance.

Grace Howe from Randolph County attended her first Mid-Winter retreat.

"One thing that stands out in my experience at Mid-Winter was being able to interact with other kids and working together in the different workshops. I will use it to make a difference in my school," she said.

As the 4-H Ambassadors planned the retreat, they identified goals that would enhance the value of Mid-Winter. The youth who attended learned about new and exciting opportunities in 4-H and valuable leadership skills. Ambassadors also motivated senior 4-H members to stay active on the local and state levels and to always make the best better in Alabama 4-H.

Laurin Bell from Shelby County has attended Mid-Winter for three consecutive years. This year as 4-H State Ambassador, she had an opportunity to be in on the planning.

"This event never fails to leave me speechless with the power of our youth," she said. "At Mid-Winter, we are taught that our age plays no role in what we can accomplish. If we have the will to succeed, we will go further than we could ever dream possible.

"For the past three years, I have been blessed to attend Mid-Winter and every experience has been different. However, one thing always remains the same. The youth at this event constantly rise up to the tasks before them. As an attendee, the goal is to make lasting friendships and learn new information to take back and develop in your county. As a state ambassador, the task is to plan the retreat, make sure the weekend runs smoothly and to encourage other 4-H’ers around the state. Regardless of their tasks, the youth go above and beyond what is expected from them."

The 2016 Mid-Winter was a great success. The 20 4-H State Ambassadors did an outstanding job planning and organizing it. Out of the 20 ambassadors, 14 will graduate this May.

During the retreat, several of the ambassadors reflected on their experience and time as an ambassador and 4-H member.

Rebecca Woods, a senior from Russell County, said being an ambassador provided her with numerous opportunities to better herself as a leader and an individual.

"While serving as an Alabama 4-H State Ambassador, I have established such a close bond with my fellow ambassadors that I now consider them family," Woods stated.

Brianna Fuchs, a junior from Shelby County, said as an ambassador she truly gets to experience the heart of what 4-H is: teamwork, leadership, generosity and family.

Bre Heard and Brianna Fuchs showcase the top cities in Germany during the Epcot-themed workshop.

"There are many things that make being an ambassador special, but the biggest element is the other 4-H’ers involved. From the youth to the adult advisors, working together to plan events like Mid-Winter bonds everyone together through teamwork and creative thinking. The camaraderie is unique and special," Fuchs said.

State Council President and senior Taylor Parker from Cherokee County added, "I have been a member of 4-H for eight years. Before I joined 4-H, I knew it was going to influence my life in many ways. I grew up knowing that both my parents had amazing opportunities not only with 4-H but also with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Throughout my 4-H career, I have had so many opportunities to learn new things and make lifelong friendships. Because of my experiences and opportunities in 4-H, I have decided to become a human resource manager. 4-H helped me find my passion for working with people."

Parker added that being the 2015-2016 State 4-H Ambassador President impacted her in many ways.

"Just being a state council member for the past three years opened so many doors. I have had the opportunity to travel the country, join animal science teams and be a representative for 4-H as well as the state of Alabama. I have learned so many things about our environment, livestock, science and even art that I would never have learned otherwise. 4-H has influenced me to try new things, think creatively and make lifelong memories," Parker said.

Kayla Mitchell, state council vice president and junior from Covington County, said being a member of 4-H has been the greatest experience of her life.

"I joined in fourth grade and was voted class president," Mitchell recalled. "I soon began to participate in contests. The contest I did not want to try was public speaking because being in front of crowds terrified me. With support from my parents and 4-H agent, I began to enter these contests. Eventually I became a very good public speaker. I gained more confidence and courage every time I competed.

"This is my second year as an Alabama 4-H Ambassador. My involvement in 4-H as an ambassador has given me valuable experience in teamwork and leadership."

If you would like to dream the adventure with Alabama 4-H, contact your county Extension office or find more information on 4-H’s website,

Save the date of Feb. 3-5 for the 2017 Mid-Winter Teen Leadership Retreat at the Alabama 4-H Center.

Joy Maxwell Scott is a 4-H Youth Development Citizenship and Leadership Specialist.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Farm income measures continue downward trend

After several years of high income, key measures of farm income have trended downward since 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service forecasts that net cash farm and net farm incomes for 2016 will be $90.9 billion and $54.8 billion, respectively, or $81.1 billion and $48.9 billion, respectively, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

These amounts are below their respective 10-year average, in both nominal and inflation-adjusted terms.

Net cash farm income and net farm income are distinct measures of farm sector profitability. The first tracks cash receipts and cash expenses; the second also includes noncash transactions, including implicit rents, changes in inventories, capital replacement costs and others.

Before recent dips, the 10-year averages for both income measures have largely trended upward. Over the 2010 to 2013 period, surging crop and animal (including animal-product) cash receipts led net cash farm and net farm incomes higher. Prices are expected to have declined for a broad set of agricultural commodities in 2015, and fall further in 2016. Production expenses are forecast to contract in 2016, but not enough to offset the commodity price declines.

Commenting on the latest figures, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "Overall, net farm income for all producers is forecast down slightly, 3 percent, relative to 2015. This is an improvement from the double-digit declines seen in 2014 and 2015, and it reflects a more competitive trade environment, softening projection for global demand and a continuation of the dip in agricultural commodity prices.

"While agricultural exports climbed over 45 percent in value, totaling $911.4 billion over the past five years and besting all previous records in terms of value and volume and acting as an engine for America’s farm economy, (the recent) forecast shows how weaker foreign demand can weigh on farm income."

Agreement seeks to boost ag jobs for vets

The USDA has announced a joint agreement with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to increase employment opportunities in the agricultural sector for military veterans and their spouses.

USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam signed the agreement along with Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Eversole, a commander in the Navy Reserve, also serves as president of the Hiring Our Heroes foundation. Baccam, a U.S. Army and Iowa National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan, is USDA’s military veterans’ liaison.

The agreement opens the door for thousands of service members who participate in Hiring Our Heroes events around the world to benefit from USDA’s tools and resources, Baccam said. The new partnership also strengthens USDA’s ongoing efforts to help veterans pursue careers in the fast-growing agriculture and food sectors, he added.

The pact establishes a partnership between USDA and Hiring Our Heroes, a program helping military veterans, transitioning active duty personnel and their spouses and partners with training and opportunities to find meaningful employment when entering the civilian workforce.

Since 2009, USDA has provided $466.8 million in farm loans to help nearly 7,000 veterans purchase farmland, buy equipment, and make repairs and upgrades. Microloans, offering smaller amounts of support to meet the needs of small- or niche-type farm operations, have also grown in popularity among veterans.

Those wanting more information on how USDA can help military veterans transition into agriculture as a career should visit

U.S. corn use for ethanol expected to decline

After a decade of rapid growth, corn use for ethanol production in the United States is projected to fall over the next 10 years.

The downturn reflects declining overall gasoline consumption in the United States (mostly a 10 percent ethanol blend, E10), infrastructural and other constraints on growth for E15 (15 percent ethanol blend), and the small size of the market for E85 (85 percent ethanol blend) with less-than-offsetting increases in U.S. ethanol exports.

Even with the U.S. ethanol production decline, demand for corn to produce ethanol continues to be strong. While the share of U.S. corn expected to go to U.S. ethanol production falls, it accounts for over a third of total U.S. corn use throughout the projection period.

Rural areas targeted in efforts to stem drug abuse

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced a series of upcoming rural town hall meetings as well as funding for rural communities to use to conduct health and safety outreach around prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, accounted for 28,648 deaths in 2014, and rural communities are affected at higher rates than urban communities. Health officials believe this is in part due to a lack of outreach and treatment resources available in rural communities, and this year USDA is expanding its Rural Health and Safety Education competitive grants program to give rural communities the opportunity to use funds for programs to address the opioid epidemic.

Earlier this year, President Obama tapped Vilsack to lead an interagency task force focused on this specific challenge. Recent efforts have helped identify effective tools to reduce drug use and overdose, including evidence-based prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring, medication-assisted treatment and the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

"The opioid epidemic is a fast-growing problem all across America, and we know that rural communities are facing an even higher burden than those in urban areas," Vilsack said.

Japanese market for U.S. beef could grow

Japan is one of the largest beef-importing countries in the world and an important market for the United States. In 2014, it imported nearly $3.5 billion in beef and beef products, making it the third-largest beef importer in the world. The United States and Australia are the primary suppliers, and together represent roughly 90 percent of Japan’s 2014 beef imports.

From 2004 to 2006, Japan banned imports of U.S. beef due to the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, boosting imports from Australia and making it the top supplier of beef to Japan. The U.S. share of this market has since recovered, but imports remain below pre-ban totals.

The 2015 Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement significantly reduces tariffs on Australian beef, potentially at the expense of U.S. beef. USDA is pushing for similar market access for this nation and believes it would mean a significant gain in Japanese imports of U.S. beef.

New standards affect chicken, turkey products

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced new federal standards to reduce salmonella and campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products, as well as in raw chicken breasts, legs and wings.

Based on scientific risk assessments, FSIS estimates that implementing these standards will prevent an average of 50,000 illnesses annually.

As part of a move to make chicken and turkey items safer to eat, FSIS has also updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will soon begin posting more information online about individual company’s food safety performance.

FSIS uses pathogen reduction performance standards to assess the food safety performance of establishments preparing meat and poultry products. By making the standards for ground poultry tougher to meet, ground poultry products nationwide will have less contamination and, therefore, result in fewer foodborne illnesses, the agency says.

FSIS implemented performance standards for whole chickens in 1996, but has since learned that salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts. Poultry parts like breasts, wings and others represent 80 percent of the chicken available for Americans to purchase. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS believes it can greatly reduce consumer exposure to salmonella and campylobacter.

After these standards were proposed in early 2015, FSIS began to use routine sampling throughout the year rather than infrequent sampling on consecutive days to assess whether establishments’ processes are effectively addressing contamination problems. Once establishments have completed a full set of testing under the new standards, the agency will begin posting online which facilities pass, meet or fail the new standards.

Alabama Farm-City Contest Winners

At the Alabama Farm-City Awards Luncheon April 7, 2016, in Birmingham, winners in poster, essay and multimedia Farm-City contests were honored.

The poster contest was divided into two age groups: kindergarten through third-grades and fourth through sixth grades. An addition 10 honor mentions were recognized. The first place winners and their school each received $200 from Alabama Farmers Cooperative. The second place winners and their school each received $100 from AFC. The honorable mention winners received $50 from AFC. These winning posters will be used in the 2017 Alabama Farm-City calendar.

Winners in poster, essay and multimedia Farm-City contests were honored during the Farm-City Awards Luncheon April 7 in Birmingham. From left are Jim Allen of Alabama Farmers Cooperative; Kaleigh Backstrom of Marshall County, first place multimedia; Mattie Wix of Cullman County, first place K-3rd grade poster; Dwayne Riley of Dale County, first place 4th-6th grade poster; Hannah Edwards of Dale County, first place 7th-9th grade essay; Victoria Hodge of Clarke County, first place 10th-12th grade essay; and Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman Jeff Helms.

The essay contest was divided into two age groups: seventh through ninth grades and 10th through 12th grades. The first place winners and their schools each received $300 from AFC. The first place essays will be featured in the 2017 Farm-City calendar. The second place winners and their schools each received $200 from AFC.

The multimedia contest was for 10th through 12th grades. The first place winner and her school each received $300 from AFC; and the second place winner and his school each received $200 from AFC.

Poster Contest

Kindergarten through third grade, first –Mattie Wix, third grade, Good Hope Elementary School
Kindergarten through third grade, second – Aubrey Bedwell, third grade, Southside Elementary School

Fourth through sixth grade, first –Dwayne Riley, sixth grade, Ariton Elementary School
Fourth through sixth grade, second – Rintik Setiawan, fifth grade, Eufaula Elementary School

Honorable mentions – Anna Westbrook, second grade, Marengo Academy
Carson Smith, fifth grade, Good Hope Elementary School
Dylan Palmer, second grade, Ashville Elementary School
Josie Beth Riddle, fourth grade, Addison Elementary School
Kaleb Giles, fifth grade, Leroy High School
Meagan Moore, sixth grade, Fayette Middle School
Nadia Choi, sixth grade, Redland Elementary School
Parker Price, second grade, Sulligent Elementary School
Arial Corbin, fifth grade, Loxley Elementary School
Kilah Fry, second grade, Moundville Elementary School

Essay Contest

Seventh through ninth grades, first – Hannah Edwards, freshman, George W. Long High School
Seventh through ninth grades, second – Addy Stringfellow, freshman, Alma Bryant High School

10th through 12th grades, first – Victoria Hodge, senior, Clarke Preparatory School
10th through 12th grades, second – Laurin Bell, senior, Hope Christian School

Multimedia Contest

10th through 12th grades, first – Kaleigh Backstrom, sophomore, Way Home Christian School
10th through 12th grades, second – Victor Nguyen, sophomore, Wetumpka High School

Alabama State Parks

Efforts to protect funding are going strong in the legislature and with the public.

For those who want more rustic camping, Joe Wheeler State Park features campsites for RVs in addition to the Lodge.

by Maureen Drost

This November, Alabama voters may have the chance to ensure consistent funding for the state’s 22 parks.

Five parks closed in 2015 after money was moved to the general fund to help avert a crisis.

The Alabama Senate has passed a bill on a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the transfer of parks funding to other state accounts.

A similar measure is under consideration by the state house.

"I think it has some pretty good traction," said Philip Darden, head of Alabama State Parks Partners. "It has a high chance of passing."

He said the group was formed about a year ago to help promote permanent funding for the parks.

One park, Paul Grist State Park, that closed and reopened was featured in the March Cooperative Farming News.

At a public meeting in March at Guntersville State Lodge, an official from the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association encouraged members of the audience to call their legislators.

"Social media is the key," said Sandra Burroughs in spreading the word about the park crisis.

Besides their recreational value, Alabama’s parks have a significant economic impact on the state economy of $375 million annually.

Burroughs said the parks draw over 4.6 million guests per year. Fifty percent of the visitors travel here from outside Alabama.

With 48,000 acres of land and water and a wide variation of terrain, Alabama parks, from the Appalachian Mountains in the north to the beaches in the south, offer everything from basic camping areas to resort facilities. For example, Bucks Pocket features a 6-mile long horseback riding trail, while Cheaha park has a competitive 8-mile mountain biking trail.

At Oak Mountain State Park the 52 miles of trails appeal to hikers, horseback riders, and on-road and mountain bikers. Meaher State Park features an elevated boardwalk highlighting the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta.

Cathedral Caverns State Park is a treasure found near Grant. The area open to the public extends 3,500 feet inward. Visitors can see a three-acre stalagmite forest as they tour the caverns.

Cathedral Caverns near Grant became part of the state park system in 2000. Rangers lead visitors on tours. They were originally called Bat Cave and opened to the public by Jacob Gurley in the 1950s. The cave was renamed because of its cathedral-like appearance.

Some parks, like the one on Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. A few covered pavilions are available to house larger groups, while a number of individual picnic tables can accommodate families and couples. Among the other features are camping facilities and a playground.

For more information on the parks themselves or for funding updates, visit or the Facebook page of Alabama Park Partners.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville. She was a career journalist for The Decatur Daily and The Huntsville Times.

Baiting vs. Feeding: Is it a matter of biology or sociology?

The baiting bill has become the Lazarus of wildlife legislation.

by Chuck Sykes

In the not-so-distant past when I was happily self-employed, spring was the most joyous time of year for me. I would work incredibly hard for nine or 10 months out of the year and enjoy the fruits of my labor during spring when I would turkey hunt as much as humanly possible.

Now, springtime is not such a wonderful time due to our Legislature being in session and the preparation needed for the Conservation Advisory Board meetings. The least favorite part of my job is dealing with legislation. Despite the fact that I don’t have a political bone in my body, it is a necessity of the position and I fully understand that.

Supplemental feeders remain legal for landowners and managers.

Each year since I’ve been thrust into the uncertain world of political life, there has been one constant: Baiting Bills. They have been on the committee schedule for the Legislature. Each year, they either die in committee or on the floor in either of the chambers with assurances that they will not resurface. But, like Lazarus, they come back from the dead, usually with slight tweaking of verbiage that will surely allow them to pass the next time.

This year is no exception. It’s back again, touting the need for baiting to enable handicapped children, wounded warriors and the elderly a better opportunity to harvest a deer or feral swine. In addition to these benefits, it’s also being sold as a way to reduce deer numbers in certain areas and help eradicate feral hogs.

For the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to take a stance on this issue is a no-win situation. The topic is extremely controversial. I get calls every day wanting my opinion on the subject. Each time I say, "I’m not getting involved," I get accused of helping the other side. Which side do they think I’m on? Well, it depends on who is calling, and the calls come in about 50/50 from both, proponents and opponents of baiting.

No matter which side I take, I’m going to make half of the people mad. Personally, I’m happy with the way things are. I thought the Commissioner and the Conservation Advisory Board made the ultimate compromise with both sides by passing the "Area Definition" Regulation in 2013. This allowed landowners and managers the ability to place supplemental feed on their property and still legally hunt as long as the feed was more than 100 yards from a stand/hunter and out of the direct line of sight. More importantly, it allowed them to trap feral hogs 365 days per year. But, apparently, this isn’t good enough for the proponents of baiting.

Since everyone knows I’m a biologist by trade, director by occupation and only play politician on necessary occasions, I get this statement thrown in my face quite frequently, "You know it’s biologically wrong to bait. Baiting spreads disease!" Okay, let me examine this as a biologist and the director.

Feeders must remain at least 100 yards from stands/hunters and be out of the line of sight.

Biologically, look at it this way. If a man has a severe cold and gets on an airplane from Montgomery to Atlanta, he has a much greater chance of giving that cold to many other people than if he walks into a football stadium. The same holds true for animals. If a sick animal is walking around in the woods by itself, it is less likely to make other animals sick than if they were all eating out of a trough or drinking from the same mud puddle. For example, each year we have deer die around the state from epizootic hemorrhagic disease. In years of severe drought, the casualties are greater due to the fact deer are congregated around small puddles of water. So, the idea that a congregation of animals could lead to an unhealthy environment is plausible, biologically. As the director, I’ll have to point out that most other Southern states allow baiting.

I also have to point out that according to statute it has been perfectly legal to feed in Alabama since the beginning of time. You just can’t hunt over it. So, how can I say feed placed at 101 yards and out of sight is okay and feed at 100 yards and in plain view is not? I can’t, biologically speaking. Feed is feed no matter where it is placed. So, take biology out of the equation unless you intend to attempt to change the statute that says it is legal to feed.

It blows my mind when I hear discussions taking place that baiting is biologically bad, but providing supplemental feed to animals on a property is not. Really, this is the basis for a logical argument?

The real question is a matter of sociology, politics or perhaps hunting ethics. It comes down to a simple choice of how one wants to hunt. So, let’s call a spade a spade and not cloud the topic. Some people feel hunters get an unfair advantage over animals if they are allowed to hunt over bait. However, others may say it has been proven, when baiting is allowed, deer harvest actually has gone down and not up. If I were an attorney arguing a case on Baiting vs. Non-Baiting, I could effectively argue both sides. My request of hunters and members of the non-hunting public is simple: Please just debate the facts, not opinion or personal agenda; and understand that our department is in a no-win situation on this subject. Actually, I don’t know if there is a winning side on this topic.

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

Capsicum – An American Herb with Many Beneficial Uses

by Nadine Johnson

I've written about cayenne (capsicum) before; but since it has been named "Herb of the Year," I’ve decided it should be my subject this month.

Cayenne/ capsicum/hot pepper is a truly American herb. According to legend, Columbus found this herb on his trips to America and took it back to Europe with him. Now its use has spread to the four corners of the Earth.

Practically any Southern garden will contain at least one variety of pepper; therefore, I’ll not waste space on growing instructions. You already know that. I’ll bet your iceboxes contain condiments made from pepper. Mine does, too.

When I was a child, Mother used a large sewing needle and a coarse thread to make a long string of dried hot pepper she hung in the kitchen. These dried peppers were later used, along with garden sage, to season delicious homemade pork sausage. This is just one of the many ways we use pepper in our diets. The list is endless.

This is good because pepper is very beneficial health wise. One reference book states that it is high in vitamins A, C, iron and calcium. It also contains vitamin G, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfa, B complex and potassium.

In addition to making an excellent topical liniment, pepper aids in the treatment of many ailments. My reference states that it is a good treatment for ulcers because it stimulates the protective mucus membranes of the stomach.

Following a heart attack, an acquaintance was told to make capsicum a regular part of his diet. His doctor agreed with the folk remedy that capsicum helps to regulate the heart functions, strengthen the pulse rate and cleanse the circulatory system. Since this herb reportedly speeds up the metabolism and circulation, probably it would aid in keeping us warmer if taken on a regular schedule. I know that a small amount sprinkled in the shoes will keep a person’s feet warmer in winter.

Once I cut a triangular gash on my finger with scissors. After proper cleansing, I applied a generous amount of powdered cayenne and a bandage. My wound stopped bleeding and healed rapidly.

I think this herb is an excellent choice for "Herb of the Year."

As always, I warn you to check with your physician before taking an herbal remedy. However, cayenne pepper is a common food and should easily receive your doctor’s approval.

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

Corn Time


Crawfish Cuisine

You can find crawfish by locating its chimney, mud mounds that are 4-10 inches tall. It is a home for one or two crawfish that are burrowed 3 feet or more into the ground.

Trapped or farmed, it seems there’s no wrong way to serve these freshwater crustaceans.

by Christy Kirk

Crawfish chimneys are all around the pond at the farm in Tuskegee. The crustaceans’ sculptures are anywhere from 4 inches to about 10 inches tall. Each chimney is home to just one or two crawfish that have burrowed three feet or more into the ground. Catching one crawfish at a time can be a fun activity to do with Rolley Len and Cason, but, if we want to catch enough for our family to eat, we would have to look to the pond itself.

It is hard to believe that there are more than 600 species of crawfish worldwide. With 83 different species, Alabama actually has the biggest variety in the United States. The kind you catch will depend on where you live; and the size you find will depend on the time of year you trap.

Hand lines, traps and trotlines are all good ways to catch enough crawfish for your next meal. According to multiple sources, both pyramid traps and tubular traps are among the best choices for catching the most crawfish. You can use one trap alone or multiple traps on a trotline.

Of course, some people simply tie a chicken leg to a line and see what turns up. Speaking of chicken legs, there are many options for bait. There are people who swear that chicken and hotdogs are the best. But fresh fish is most recommended and is also convenient since you can freeze the fish to keep it ready.

To find a place to set your crawfish traps, look for areas with rocks or roots where they might hide for cover. Crawfish can and will eat fish that happen by, but they also eat algae. That means crawfish can thrive in a lake or creek bed with no fish at all. They also live in tall grass, but not in large populations. Trial and error will help you find your best spot.

You should be able to put your traps out in some of the same spots you might put limb lines for catfish – close to shore in rocky areas. Crawfish are nocturnal and feed their huge appetites through the night, so you can leave the traps overnight for the best results.

Once you pull your traps, you need to remove any leftover bait and debris like leaves and sticks. Onion sacks are good for moving crawfish. About 50 crawfish will fit in a bag, so you can determine how many bags you need to fill depending on how many people you want to feed. The crawfish should be packed compactly to limit their movement because, if they are not, they may kill each other.

Many people believe crawfish that are dead before they are cooked should not be eaten. The reasoning is that if they are dead before boiling there is no guarantee of when they were harvested or how they were stored. Typically, crawfish that were dead before boiling will have straightened tails instead of curled. However, there appears to be no evidence that only eating curled tails versus straight is 100 percent guaranteed to keep you from harm. Catching your own requires more work, but an added benefit is that you will know how fresh the crawfish are.

Sometimes, I think there is no wrong way to serve crawfish. Whether they are in soups, salads, battered and fried, or in etouffee, to me they are delicious without fail. The recipes for this month are a few of my summer favorites. Whether you trap your crawfish, farm them or buy them locally, the soup, cakes and salad you can create are sure to please your family.

Crawfish can also be farm-raised. Production takes a lot of time and patience, but the results can be just as rewarding as other aquaculture. To find out more about local crawfish, including aquaculture farming, contact the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or your local Extension agent.


1 pound crawfish tails, cooked and peeled
3 cups soft breadcrumbs, divided
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine crawfish, 2 cups breadcrumbs and remaining ingredients except oil. Shape into 12 patties. Coat with remaining breadcrumbs.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Cook patties, in batches, 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Serve with a remoulade or other sauce.


2 cups crawfish tails, chopped
1 green onion, minced
6 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1½ Tablespoons Creole mustard
½ Tablespoon prepared horseradish

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well. Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Serve with crackers, slaw and/or a green salad.


½ cup Tony Chachere’s White Gravy Mix
2 cups milk
2 cups half and half
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn
1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn
2 Tablespoons green onions, chopped
½ Tablespoon Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
12 ounces crawfish tails

In a medium pot, whisk together gravy mix, milk, and half and half. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add butter, corns, onions, Creole seasoning and crawfish tails. Stir gently to mix together. Cook for about 5 more minutes.

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


Fiona's Chicken Coop

Marion Bartlett prepares for his great-grandchild’s first visit to the family farm.

Above, Marion Bartlett holds his namesake, Fiona Marion Dolan. For months, he planned for his great-granddaughter’s visit to his farm. Below, Fiona’s chicken coop took on epic proportions as her great-grandfather planned each stage of the construction. Marion Bartlett’s attention to detail was much like his many other engineering projects.

by Carolyn Drinkard

For Marion Bartlett, the birth of his great-grandchild was an epiphany! At 80, he had seen his life take many interesting twists and turns, only to come full circle to a small farm in Clarke County. But the birth of his namesake, Fiona Marion, brought him to a life-altering realization: Fiona’s first visit to his farm must be magical and memorable. Bartlett deliberated for weeks, making and discarding plans until he hit upon just the right gift. He would build Fiona her own chicken coop!

For Bartlett, growing up on his family’s small farm in Conecuh County was idyllic. He plowed using his family’s mule and helped in both the family garden and nearby cotton fields. After college, his life took on the demands of making a living as an electrical engineer, overseeing sensitive military research on radar and sonar at the University of Florida. Bartlett lived in Fairfield, Florida, where he raised and educated his two children, always telling them the stories of life on his beloved farm.

After retiring in 1997, he attended a high school reunion, and met Melba Bagley, who, like him, had lost her spouse. The two married in 1998 and moved to Alabama to the small community of Sandflat, just south of Thomasville, living in the old Bagley farmhouse until they built their new home in 2001.

Marion and Melba Bartlett enjoy their tranquil life on their farm in the Sandflat Community, south of Thomasville. The Bartletts met at a class reunion after both had lost their spouses. They moved to this area to enjoy the pastoral life.

The Bartletts enjoyed their peaceful, tranquil life on the 30-acre farm. Bartlett experienced a little deja vu as he sat atop his father’s old 1950 Farmall A tractor, planting fruits and vegetables that he shared with family and friends. The Bartletts also built a barn to house their farm equipment, but, as the building progressed, Marion decided to add a few extras such as an attached living and entertaining area the Bartletts have used for many family and community gatherings.

Bartlett continued to work from home with the University of Florida through his company, Bartlett Consulting. He and Melba also traveled extensively, returning to Florida to visit family or to finish various work-related projects. Bartlett often joked about "blowing his cover" by letting everyone know too much about his tranquil, pastoral life. His posts to family and friends related many amusing stories of the "ups and downs" of life on the farm.

Bartlett was blessed with two children: Brian, who lives in California and has two girls, Sara and Monica; and Julie, who lives in Montana. In February 2014, granddaughter Sara Dolan gave birth to the first great-grandchild, Fiona Marion. Unable to travel to New Jersey to see their new great-grandchild, the Bartletts began to plan for Fiona’s first visit to their farm. Melba, a well-known cook in the area, planned menus for months, especially ones involving fresh vegetables and fruits grown on their farm. Marion, however, was consumed with building Fiona a chicken coop. He scanned the Internet, scrutinized the hen houses of nearby chicken lovers, and stockpiled pages of data before sketching his final design. He enlisted the help of friend and neighbor, Tommy Anderson, and attached Fiona’s chicken coop to the back of his barn. At times, the project seemed to take on epic proportions, but in the end, Fiona’s chicken coop was a masterpiece any hen (or engineer) would be proud of!

Fiona’s chickens are prolific layers. They provide large, brown eggs each day for the Bartletts. Collecting eggs, feeding and playing with the chickens were among the favorite activities of Fiona’s visit.

Bartlett acquired five young Red Star pullets from a neighbor, hoping they would be laying eggs by the time Fiona arrived. He soon discovered, however, that the chickens were not really impressed with his engineering feat! The hens snubbed their noses at many of Bartlett’s modern conveniences. For example, instead of roosting on the poles Bartlett had carefully measured and installed, the chickens climbed to the roof of the pen and huddled in a small space between the rafters. Bartlett immediately closed this area and modified the roost, thinking he had outsmarted the hens. The next evening, the hens showed their contempt by clustering together in one nest.

"I learned that chickens have ideas of their own," he laughed. "I told Melba I had been playing ‘Are you smarter than a chicken?’ and the chickens had won!"

Bartlett decided that Fiona’s chickens would be happier if they were occasionally outside the pen, pecking grass and scratching to their heart’s content, much like the yard chickens he remembered as a boy. Sadly, this experiment ended poorly when a predator killed one of the hens. Now, Bartlett’s attempt at free ranging was put aside until he could figure out a way to outsmart the wildlife. His solution was to build a "chicken tractor," a mobile unit that could be moved from one area to another, keeping the hens safe while allowing them to scratch and eat grass. Ever the engineer, Bartlett used treated lumber, instead of the suggested redwood, and made a few adjustments. The massive tractor worked, but the heavier wood required even more adjustments to make the contraption mobile and easy to move around from place to place.

As time drew near for Fiona’s arrival, Bartlett sent his guests a list of things he had planned for their entertainment while on the farm. One event was riding in the "family chariot." Bartlett remembered many enjoyable days when his father would use the old farm tractor to ride the children around the fields in a wooden box. Bartlett decided Fiona would need to experience this family tradition on her first visit to the farm, so he lovingly constructed "Fiona’s Chariot." He built it large enough for two riders, even installing chairs for comfort. When his family arrived, this was one of the special treats they enjoyed most, as Bartlett recounted his own memories of riding in his family’s box.

Riding on the 1950 Farmall A that belonged to her great-great-grandfather was another treat. Fiona is held by her grandfather, Brian, with (from left) great-grandfather Marion, and parents Sara and Trevor Dolan standing by.

Other planned activities included fishing for bass and blue gill in the farm pond, pulling up and picking off peanuts for an outdoor peanut boil, gathering and eating scuppernongs, hunting snakes in the wooded areas, shooting vintage weapons, shucking and shelling corn, and, of course, playing with the chickens and gathering eggs. The women quickly eliminated the snake-hunting activity. Bartlett had also preserved some of his Hickory King field corn for his family to experience shucking and shelling the old fashioned way. The visitors first enjoyed shucking "the Conecuh County" way, using their fingers to open it. Later, they also learned to use his family’s old Black Hawk corn sheller.

The family’s favorite activity, however, was feeding and playing with the chickens. The gentle, red hens seemed to delight in being the center of attention. Gathering eggs became daily rituals, followed by picture taking and sharing even more stories. Everyone seemed to enjoy the relaxed, easy pace of life on the farm.

Sara Dolan watched as her daughter and her grandfather shared many moments and connected in a way that time could never erase.

"I grew up with my grandpa teaching me about nature," she explained. "He would tell me stories about growing up on the farm. It was very special to see him get to do the same with Fiona."

Bartlett’s life has indeed come full circle from growing up on a farm to now sharing his farm with family. Fiona’s chicken coop had become an emblem of a great-grandfather’s love, enabling him to sprinkle a little stardust through four generations.

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

First South Farm Credit Names Mike Pigg as President, Alabama Division

First South Farm Credit has named Mike Pigg to lead their Alabama Division. Effective January 2016, Pigg, who had served as president of First South’s North Alabama Division for the past five years, will be responsible for all of First South’s 16 branches and operations in Alabama. The North and South Alabama Divisions of First South were combined after the retirement of Camp Powers, who served as the president of the South Alabama Division for the past 28 years.

"Mike has the experience and leadership qualities that make First South a premier agricultural and rural land lender," said Roger F. Chappell, CEO of First South. "We look forward to Mike managing all of our Alabama market and continuing to deliver the quality service and leadership our members have learned to expect from First South."

Pigg has worked with First South for more than 36 years and recently relocated to the division office in Montgomery to handle his new statewide duties.

Gibbs Farms: A Distinctive Choice

Cleburne County Beef Producer Named 2016 Alabama Farm of Distinction

Gibbs Farms in Cleburne County was named the 2016 Alabama Farm of Distinction during the Alabama Farm-City Awards Luncheon April 7 in Birmingham. Seated are Nan and Wendell Gibbs. Standing, from left, are Farm of Distinction sponsors Jim Allen of Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Tom Tribble of John Deere, Kenneth Williams of Snead Ag Supply, Lester Killebrew of SunSouth, Jay Hamlett and Lynne Morton of TriGreen, and Jimmy Parnell of Alabama Farmers Federation.

Press release from Alabama Farmers Federation

One of the nation’s leading producers of Simmental-Angus beef cattle, Gibbs Farms of Cleburne County was named Alabama’s 2016 Farm of Distinction during the Alabama Farm-City Awards April 7 in Birmingham.

"I want everybody to know we’re real and know we’re trying hard to be as good as we can be," said Doug Gibbs, who manages the day-to-day operation of the farm owned by his parents, Wendell and Nan. "Any cattle I place in a customer’s pasture I want to know they’re 100 percent successful."

As this year’s winner, Gibbs Farms will receive over $12,000 in cash and prizes, and will represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 18-20.

Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman Jeff Helms said the Farm of Distinction contest recognizes family farming businesses that excel in production, management, stewardship and innovation.

"This was the 30th year we’ve honored an exceptional agricultural operation with the Farm of Distinction award," Helms said. "The list of recipients includes some of the finest farms in the Southeast, owned by families who are among Alabama’s greatest agricultural leaders. Gibbs Farms is one of the most respected producers of Sim-Angus breeding stock in the country, and we’re proud to have the family representing Alabama at Sunbelt."

Alabama’s Farm of Distinction received a John Deere Gator from SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative; $2,500 from Swisher International; and an engraved farm sign from Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance.

Founded in 1961 by Wendell and Nan Gibbs, the farm began as a small poultry and commercial beef operation. Today, Gibbs Farms spans three states and includes 750 acres of owned land and over 1,000 acres of leased and rented pasture. Each year, the Gibbs family markets close to 500 Sim-Angus bulls and heifers through its state-of-the-art sale barn and ships two or three 50,000-pound loads of feeder cattle to Kansas. In addition, the farm has 26 bulls leased to major breeding companies and sells semen from 13 others.

"We’ve been blessed," Doug said. "If we can help preserve our heritage and our industry and put a good face on agriculture, we are all about that. Anybody who wants to get in the cattle business has an open invitation to come and get anything from Gibbs Farms. We’re all about helping."

Wendell is a past president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and Beef Cattle Improvement Association. The Gibbses have three children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They are members of Macedonia Baptist Church.

Gibbs Farms was selected for the award from a field of six finalists that included Tate Farms of Madison County, Trantham Farms of Calhoun County, Hollingsworth Farms of Hale County, Richardson Farms of Washington County and Stroud Farm of Pike County. All six finalists received a $250 gift certificate from AFC.

Got turkeys? Want more? Here’s how!

Five “Must-Haves” for More Turkeys

Remember, most crops favored by turkeys aren’t even planted until turkey season is over. Perennials such as clovers or native food sources should be your focus for the spring season. (Credit: Covert)

by Todd Amenrud

Most wildlife species require the "F+W+C+S Formula" (food, water, cover and sanctuary) functioning in an area for them to take up residence. For wild turkeys, it’s a bit more detailed and complicated. They do need each element listed, but turkeys are a bit more persnickety, everything needs to be just right for turkeys to take up habitation. There are also a couple of things you MUST NOT have for turkeys to be found consistently in the vicinity.

1) Turkey Chow

Wild turkeys need a wide array of food types at different times of the year. These foods would also vary region to region and thus subspecies to subspecies. An eastern gobbler in Missouri is going to have a different diet than a Merriam’s in South Dakota. While some would think that planting a corn field might take care of the majority of their food needs, they aren’t even close.

Crops like clover, corn, rye, fescue, oats, millet, sorghum and chufa are great places to begin, but turkeys will also require "bugging habitat" and native foods such as mast (acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts, pinyon pine nuts) and soft mast (wild cherry, grapes and berries), buds from deciduous trees and shrubs, and other natural foods.

My favorite planting for turkeys is a well-managed clover stand. I prefer BioLogic’s Clover Plus because of the specific mix of white and red clovers. I say "well-managed" because turkeys prefer the small-leaved white clovers in the blend. It has small-leaved, medium-leaved and large-leaved white clovers, but the small-leaved varieties will emerge to the forefront if the plot is mowed often and aggressively during the cooler parts of the growing season. Large-leaved varieties typically prefer being mowed less. If managing the plot to attract turkeys, I would suggest mowing four to six times during the growing season.

Remember, crops such as corn, sorghum and chufa are annuals. They aren’t even planted until turkey season is usually over. A perennial plot or native food sources are best to concentrate on for hunting time attraction.

While most times you shouldn’t need to supply special bugging habitat … I would. Most of the time, mowed open areas or your whitetail food plots create excellent bugging habitat, but insects can make up over 80 percent of a poult’s diet! My suggestion would be to provide some wildflowers and an assortment of other pollinators. Besides attracting invertebrates, many of these species will also produce seeds relished by turkeys and other birds.

Oak, cherry, plum and crabapple trees should be fertilized and released. The same can be said for raspberry patches, grape vines and native plants like staghorn sumac. The most important of these are oak trees. Turkeys savor acorns just like whitetails do. In my view, turkeys don’t seem to mind as much whether the acorns are from a white or red oak, but any acorn-producing oak is a good one.

2) Cool, Clear, Water

Duh, got to have it! Let’s add reliable to that. They must have a consistent, reliable water source. The dew in the bottom of a boot print or a creek that dries up during a drought doesn’t cut it for turkeys. In fact, they prefer to roost near water. Just like you, they need it every day.

3) Housing

Here’s where a turkey’s habitat requirements become a bit more sophisticated than that of a whitetail. Turkeys require roost trees, nesting habitat, open areas and escape cover. Most often they will reside in timbered areas during the winter and utilize food plots, agricultural fields, meadows and other clearings during the summer – where they can find food, but also escape quickly to cover.

Mature timber of some kind is required for roosting. Tree height and structure is more important than species; however, oaks, pine, maple and cottonwood are some of the favorites I’ve seen them use. Here is where some managers maybe goofed. If they don’t have mature timber, what should they do? I have seen turkeys roost in maple trees no more than 12-15 years old, but mature trees are favored. As they say, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago … the second-best time is now."

Warm-season grasses, sometimes called bunch grasses, grow in thick clusters instead of spreading out to form a layer of sod. This type of growth allows for space between bunches; so your flock has nesting, foraging and escape cover all in one. In my view, these warm-season grasses are one of the most important habitat features; however, they can be tough to manage. They will require prescribed burning every three to five years, and the light, fluffy seeds are difficult to plant.

4) True Grit

A grit source is possibly the most overlooked habitat feature for attracting turkeys to a property. Managers are often missing grit, but don’t realize it. An old stream bed, a gravel county road or a wash-out on a ridge side can all be great grit supplies for your birds. They need these small pebbles to grind down food so it is more easily digested. If you don’t have this habitat feature, simply bringing in a couple yards of gravel and putting it out in several locations should suffice.

5) Sanctuary, security, safety, space, whatever you want to call it … leave them alone, idiot!

Obviously, we want to hunt turkeys, so we need to encroach into their territory sometimes, but protecting roost areas and nesting ground is especially important. They won’t tolerate much before they change something to avoid the disturbance and oftentimes moving to your neighbor’s property is all it takes – so give them some space.

Regrettably, this "safety thing" isn’t directed just at you and other humans. This means your dog, neighbors on a horseback ride and PREDATORS! You must keep your property relatively free of coyotes, bobcats and fox, but also nest predators like skunks, raccoons and opossums. It’s all but impossible to remove all predators, but it’s especially important for recruitment to concentrate your efforts just before nesting.

You must look at what turkeys need and on the other hand, things a turkey doesn’t like. The solution to more birds may be easier than you think. Over time, add desirable features and remove those that don’t benefit these magnificent birds. Just like all wild critters, they need food, water and cover – and what they don’t like is "pressure"! Give them these necessities and you’ll see and harvest more toms.

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

Have Co-op Cap, Will Travel

David Farnsworth, Alabama Farmers Federation, and his wife, Jan, recently went to China to visit their daughter, Beth Gregory; granddaughter, Stella; and grandson, Zane. They took a moment while in Kunming to don their Co-op and Gibbs Farms caps and pose for a photograph.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Salvias are a favorite of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Salvias for Flying Garden Friends

Salvias include many annual and perennial species that not only offer lovely flowers that go on for weeks but they are also favorites of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Start with the prolific autumn sage (Salvia greggi) with varieties that include several bright colors. This Texas native is a tough perennial that blooms year after year. About 3 feet tall by midsummer, if you keep the old blossoms trimmed so it stays fresh, it will bloom from spring until frost. Hummingbirds also love red pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), reliably perennial in South and Central Alabama. Enjoy the pineapple scent of the leaves in vases indoors. The leaves and flowers lend a pineapple scent to salads, too. It blooms in late summer and fall, just in time for hummingbirds migrating south. Indigo Spires is a hybrid with dark purple-blue flowers on long, arching flower stems that just keep on making new flowers. Give it room because it can grow 4 feet or taller and as wide. Trim the tips of the stems on young plants to encourage branching and more flowers. Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) is a large plant (4 feet) with fuzzy purple blooms in the fall. It’s a breath of fresh air as the summer wanes and looks great with other fall-blooming perennials such as goldenrod and swamp sunflower. Shop around. There are a dozen or more dependable salvias that in combination will provide your garden with blooms from spring until frost. The bees, hummingbirds and butterflies will love them. Check the labels for sun exposure as most need full sun, but a few require partial shade.

Give Mom Some Hummingbirds for Mother’s Day

The mom who says, "I don’t need anything," might enjoy a hummingbird feeder (or another one, it’s hard to have too many). Another option is flowers hummingbirds prefer, especially those that are perennial or reseed themselves so she has them next year, too. Some favorite flowers include Turks cap, hibiscus, red salvias, zinnia, petunia, bee balm, cleome and butterfly bush.

Check Your Mulch

For years, gardeners have been making a good habit of mulching around shrubs to keep down the weeds and help keep the soil cool and moist. However, there are cases where the mulch gets put on a little too heavily each time and builds up to a point where it becomes too deep and harms the plants. Check the mulch in your shrub beds. It should be 1 or 2 inches deep, no more. When you scatter fluffy mulch such as pine straw it may be 3 or 4 inches deep at the time, but should settle to no more than 1 or 2 inches. When mulch is too thick, it can pile up around the base of plants inviting rot or other problems. It can also create a barrier so adequate water and air do not reach the roots and you see a gradual decline of plants.

Purple queen makes a bright and beautiful ground cover in flower beds.

For a Spot of Purple

Purple queen, also called purple heart, is as bright as a flower, but never fades. Try this summer tropical in flowerbeds where the creeping purple stems can weave together as a ground cover or spill over the edge of a wall. They’ll do the same in a large container. Although it doesn’t mind places that are hot and dry, it also does fine in our high, summer humidity. Start with young plants sold in a garden center and space them at least a foot apart because they spread rapidly. About the only flaw of purple queen is its brittle stems; so handle it carefully and avoid planting near the basketball backdrop!

Big Tomato Plants

It’s getting easier and easier to make up for lost time in the garden with big tomato plants sold by Bonnie Plants. Look for them in large containers at your local Quality Co-op store. If you started late or you just want a tomato faster, you can buy these plants for your patio or to transplant to the garden where they will get larger. These usually bush varieties bear all their tomatoes within several weeks. Treat them extra carefully when transplanting. I’ve found that cutting away the container is easier than trying to slip the plant from the pot. You can leave the cage in place to support the plant and put another larger cage around it in the garden to accommodate new growth.

Early Summer Lawn Care

Once your brown lawn has turned green, and they did early this year, remember that is the signal to fertilize your lawn if you haven’t already done so. Zoysia, St. Augustine and hybrid Bermuda need a high nitrogen fertilizer, but not so for centipede. Look for centipede fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen and contains the extra iron needed to keep centipede a healthy green. Look for products containing slow-release or controlled-release nitrogen that feeds the lawn gradually and minimizes leaching.

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

It's a Wonderful Life

Demopolis attorney Tom Boggs spends part of his days in his firm’s extensive law library.

Demopolis attorney and farmer Tom Boggs believes the best is yet to come.

by Alvin Benn

Tom Boggs has never been one to focus on a single profession or project because he’s too busy, too inquisitive to see what’s around the corner.

At the age of 76, he’s still a busy lawyer, operates a farm, is a retired Green Beret officer, writes columns for two west Alabama newspapers, once was a Boy Scout official, attends two churches, teaches Sunday school and is a soloist in the choir at one of them.

"I’m also a pretty fair baritone if I might add," said Boggs, who, at the moment, is recovering from prostate cancer surgery and is confident it’s just a minor bump along life’s busy highway.

He hasn’t been down in the dumps over his physical situation because, once that’s been resolved, he’s got work to do at his farm where the cattle depend on him, fences need his attention and, of course, he’s got court cases to handle.

All of that for a man who wasn’t expected to make it at birth and surprised even his doctors after his slap-on-the-butt wake-up call.

Born at a Selma hospital where his weight barely registered on the lower end of the scale, he was all but given up on. One of the doctors on call worked to save his mother. The other one refused to give up and kept at it through the night, determined to save the baby boy.

Mother and child eventually made it and Thomas H. Boggs Jr. – given up as a goner at one point – just kept growing and matured into a prominent citizen known throughout Alabama.

"I amazed everyone by surviving," Boggs recalled. "When I was 16, weighed 170 pounds and played football for my high school team, I wrote my doctor a letter thanking him for pulling me through."

After high school, Boggs spent two years at what then was Livingston State College and now is the University of West Alabama. He eventually dropped out to go to work at a paper mill to make enough to pay for his tuition and other expenses.

The year was 1961 and the Berlin Crisis had Boggs in khakis with the Alabama National Guard. His good luck continued when the GI Bill was approved and helped him take care of his college concerns.

The Guard would become his second home and he rose in the ranks as few have done through the years – going from private to full colonel during a 37-year career in the military.

"I was considered for general, but, it didn’t happen," Boggs said. "That was OK, though, since I had a busy law practice to contend with."

During his long military career, Boggs became proficient in many fields, but excelled in jumping out of airplanes. He became a Green Beret officer making over 300 jumps and continued doing it until later in his career.

Tom Boggs with his grandchildren on an old-fashioned stile at Boxwood II, a favorite gathering place for family, friends, high school teammates, military buddies and church groups. First row, left to right, William Boggs, Jackson Boggs, Josh Boggs and Tom; middle, Caroline Harpe, being held by Sara Beth Boggs; and, top, Cooper Boggs.

Farming and the military have been important to the Boggs family. His dad served in World War II, owned a few acres and divided his time between it and his law practice.

Boggs looks forward to working on the family farm not far from his law office in Demopolis. With wife, Alice, by his side, helping as an equal partner, the two spend as much time as possible doing what’s needed.

He views farming as a "blessing and a stress reliever" after a full day at his law office. Now that daylight saving time has arrived, they have more time at the farm, only 10 minutes from his office.

They have 28 brood cows, at least that many calves and two bulls – one named Bryant and the other Nick. They add up to a busy farming operation.

Boggs couldn’t resist naming one of his brood cows Monica Lewinsky, the one-time White House intern whose sexual dalliances with then President Bill Clinton ended up with his impeachment, the loss of his law license and national disgrace.

Monica the cow "sure loved the bulls," Boggs explained. "She was very promiscuous and had at least 15 calves. I finally had to get rid of her."

When he’s not minding his livestock and mending fences, he finds other ways to keep the farm going. It’s basically a one-man operation, but he has Alice by his side throughout the day sharing agricultural duties with him.

"Nobody works for me," Boggs said. "I do it by myself, with Alice’s help, of course. In the winter, I’m at the farm before dark putting out the hay. Then I’m up early in the morning to do my chores so I can be at my law office by 7:30."

He’s been at it for the past 15 years and handles a lot of the basic things required at a cattle operation including inoculating and, at times, helping to deliver a calf if needed.

As if that’s not enough, he also finds time to bang out a column for two weekly newspapers in Marengo County. That serves as another stress reliever because it gives him a chance to write about living in a great country and enjoying all the freedom and other good things that go with it.

By his own calculation, he’s written more than 1,000 columns for Democrat-Reporter’s owner Goodloe Sutton in Linden. "Days Gone Bye" is the title of his columns and he makes them as local as possible.

He tries his best to keep his columns upbeat, but, at times, he delves into real-life situations such as his bout with prostate cancer.

"Every week for a heap of years as I have written this column, I realize more and more just how amazing living really has been, is now and I figure the best is yet to come," he said in a recent column.

"It is a marvelous thing to know and believe that right now as I am surrounded by scores of friends and family who raise me up in prayer, being a little surprised that a little illness has finally caught up with me after 76 years."

He ended that paragraph with "because of faith, good humor and those scores of folks, it won’t do me in for sure."

Boggs and Sutton grew up together and have enjoyed the aggressive give and take of their relationship – both are independent-minded men who aren’t above some gentle ribbing.

"Tom grew up being arrogant and boisterous and wanting to fight anybody anytime," Sutton said. "He loved the military and loves the South."

Boggs’s salary is made to order for Sutton because it’s zero. The publisher believes that Boggs’s audience is more than enough to keep readers buying the weekly paper.

In addition to being a senior partner of his Demopolis law firm, Boggs is an elder and lay preacher at Faunsdale Presbyterian Church. He’s also on call to speak at military events.

Among Boggs’s many friends is Sumter County veterinarian Ted Vaughan, who aptly describes Boggs as a man who is a patriot and values the importance of keeping a promise.

"Tom reminds us of the values our parents held so high," Vaughan stated. "He believes in a handshake being your bond. No written contract is needed as far as he’s concerned."

One of Boggs’s most recent columns mentioned mortality factors and his own situation, but ended with the title of one of his favorite films, "It’s A Wonderful Life." That’s how he views his own.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Looking For the Best Catfish?

May Lawn and Garden Checklist


If you haven’t already, plant warm-season Bonnie vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.

Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant are members of the nightshade family. They like similar growing conditions, but should not be planted adjacent to or in succession from year to year because they all are susceptible to the same diseases.

Plant sweet potato slips.

Sowing new lawns or over-seeding dead patches can still be carried out in May while the ground is moist.

Plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Stop planting bare-root trees and shrubs.

For best results, transplant perennials before they are 6 inches tall, and don’t disturb spring-bloomers until fall.

Gourds can be planted.

Plant a few gladioli corms every week from now until early July for continual summer cuttings.

Divide and plant waterlilies if not done last month.


Apply a high-nitrogen, summer lawn fertilizer to encourage a healthy-looking lawn.

To encourage flowering, a fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus is best. The fertilizer’s three main ingredients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). 10-10-10 means there is an equal proportion of each N-P-K.

Work lime in the soil around your hydrangeas to produce pink flowers or aluminum sulphate for blue blooms.

Fertilize azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias after they bloom with a fertilizer made for acid-loving plants.

Weed and fertilize pachysandra, ivy and vinca minor; once weed-choked, groundcovers are difficult to get right again. Also, thin out or take cuttings now to extend coverage elsewhere.

Fertilize bulbs after they bloom.

Lightly sidedress perennials with an all-purpose 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer. Avoid spilling the fertilizer on the plant, and use care not to damage the shallow roots when you cultivate it into the soil.

Many summer-blooming tropical plants such as hibiscus and mandevilla bloom on new growth. Fertilize to encourage more growth and flowers.

Be sure to use fresh potting mix in your containers – old soil has fewer nutrients and may contain harmful bacteria and fungi.

As the growth rate of your houseplants changes with the seasons, adjust your feeding schedule to provide additional food. Feed your plants a good all-purpose houseplant food at half the manufacturer’s recommended rates, increasing the proportion slightly to accommodate growth spurts.


Prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs soon after they bloom. Since they begin setting next year’s flower buds in late summer, it’s important to have them pruned and fertilized before then.

Remove the wilting seed heads from rhododendrons and azaleas so that the plant’s energy can go to foliage growth and next year’s flowers, rather than seeds.

Prune back any damage from winter.

Pines and other conifers can be kept to a compact size by pinching off the new growth candles.

Remove any reverted green shoots on variegated evergreens to prevent them reverting to a single color.

Remove any sucker growths from fruit trees as soon as they appear!

Pinch back leggy bedding plants to encourage side shoots. Pinching stops the terminal growth, thus resulting in bushier plants and more flower buds.

Deadhead perennials and bulbs throughout the blooming season.

Complete pruning of climbing roses to ensure a good supply of new wood for next year’s flower formation.

When you prune, pinch and trim, try rooting the cuttings to make more plants.


Make sure lawns and gardens receive an inch of water per week. Hand water new transplants until they become established.

Water your lawn in the morning to discourage fungus diseases.

Consider collecting rainwater for irrigation.

Mulching around the base of your plants will help them retain moisture around the roots.


Always follow label directions when using pesticides.

Address insect and disease problems as soon as you spot them.

In the vegetable garden, monitor for squash vine borers, flea beetles on eggplant and cucumber beetles. In the landscape, watch for bagworms, azalea lace bugs, leaf miners, camellia-tea scale, euonymus scale and aphids, of course. Remove azalea and camellia leaf galls when you spot them.

It is much easier to fight an insect infestation or disease in its early stages than to wait.

Hoe regularly between rows on hot days to make sure the weeds dry up and die.

St. Augustine lawns will likely begin to show chinch bug damage during late May.

Keep roses sprayed for aphids and other pests and diseases such as black spot.

Molehills are often a problem in spring and traps are the most effective way to deal with this problem.

Slugs and snails are out in full force right now … and they are ravenous! Be sure to take steps to control them now, before they have a chance to reproduce and devastate your garden.

The first flowers you see will be on weeds. Work to eliminate weeds, roots and all, before they have a chance to go to seed or you will be fighting them for years to come!

Using a selective lawn weed killer will kill the weeds, but not the grass.

Watch for poison ivy!

Examine conifers for the egg sacs of bagworms and remove before the eggs hatch.

Don’t let vines get out of control – remove or cut them back while they’re manageable.

Don’t apply sprays to fruit trees that are blooming or fruiting.


Take photos of blooming plants you enjoy and put them in your garden journal so you’ll know what to buy for your own garden!

Repot root-bound houseplants. If not repotting, remove the top inch of soil and replace it with fresh compost.

Visit a specialty plant nursery and explore the many varieties of plants available.

Add water lilies to your pond when the water temperature reaches 70.

Apartment dwellers with a patio that gets at least six hours of sun a day can easily grow peppers in containers.

Soon, those tomato plants will start to sprawl all over your garden. Stake or cage them now while they are still of a manageable size.

Give your clay and plastic pots a boost on sunny patios. Elevate pots onto boards to lessen the damaging effects on plants from heat radiated off the hot concrete.

Protect azaleas and rhododendrons from too much light. These shade lovers appreciate a home that only gets morning sun or filtered sunlight.

Got mums? From now until the beginning of July, you can make chrysanthemums bushier and more productive if you pinch half an inch off each stem when they’re 6-7 inches high.

Promptly remove spent flowers from any plant unless your intent is to harvest the seeds. It consumes the plant’s energy to produce the seeds and, in many species of plants (especially annuals), removing the dead flowers will promote further blooms.

May is a good month to repair your lawn. Fill in the bare spots by slightly loosening surface of the soil and sow a good quality lawn seed over the area evenly. Tamp the seed in gently and water. Keep the patch moist by covering with light mulch of lawn clippings.

Work rain-compacted soil around plants and flower beds to provide aeration. Use shallow cultivation to prevent root damage.

Clean out pond filters.

Frequently turning your compost pile(s) will transform garden waste into flower food much faster.

Harvest vegetables when they’re young and tender.

If the weather is dry, you can treat fences, sheds, etc. with wood preservative and stain.

Maintain a 3-4 inch gutter around the lawn edge. This will prevent grass from creeping into borders.

Pond fish will need feeding - a little and often is best.

Put supports in place now for tall herbaceous plants or those with heavy blooms before they are too tall.

Remove dirt and algae from walls, paving and patios.

Setting your mower for a higher cut during the spring months will help the grass grow in fuller and help choke out the weeds.

Remember, birds are still nesting. Keep the feeder full!

No Excuses!

by Glenn Crumpler

There is just something about the spring season on the farm that makes life better. I love waking up to the cool dew of the morning, drinking a hot cup of coffee and watching the sunrise as I listen to the roosters crow, the goats bleat, the Purple Martins sing and the cows lowing in the distance. I smell the fresh-turned dirt from the neighbor’s field. The trees are budding, spring grass is growing, and the wildflowers and clovers are starting to color the landscape of the pastures. Everything is fresh, everything is new! It seems that all of creation is coming to life.

On this particular morning, the sun is coming up, but I can still see the moon on the horizon gently disappearing, taking the slowly fading stars with it. It has been a beautiful night and it is going to be a beautiful spring day. The time just changed, so now the days will be a little longer. Every day now brings new growth, new life and a greater beauty than the day before. Buds are now turning to leaves and all the trees are getting a green tint. Pollen from the pines is turning everything yellow (OK, there are some drawbacks to spring), but, overall, creation is just beautiful and amazing.

Just last week, Lisa and I spent a few days at the beach in Destin celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary. It was cool and windy the first two days at the beach as it often is in the spring, but it was beautiful all the same. The last day, however, was absolutely beautiful and perfect. Two of our children and five of our grandchildren were able to join us on this beautiful day and we enjoyed each another, the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the ocean and especially enjoyed the sunset over the bay that night. Nothing in nature (other than the birth of a new baby) could be more beautiful than sunsets on the beach. However, a sunset and the night stars in the open desert like I experienced in the Middle East in October is a very close second.

There are so many more amazing and beautiful things in creation that leave me in a state of awe. Sunrises, sunsets, moon phases, high and low tides, the position of the stars and so much more in creation are so exact in their detail that they can be predicted to the second, years in advance. The whole process of conception and birth are remarkably amazing. The changing of the seasons is sure and absolute. The laws of gravity are certain and undeniable. The uniqueness of each person, each fingerprint, each set of DNA is beyond our ability to comprehend or duplicate. All of creation, without exception, points to the creativity, power, awesomeness and love of a Creator God who loves us so much that He would create and sustain all this for our enjoyment and benefit. All of creation points to God and His love for us.

I am reminded of the passage in Psalm 19:1 (AKJV) that says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." We are indeed surrounded by fantastic displays of God’s craftsmanship! No one can ignore the fact of God’s creative sovereignty.

Romans 1 tells us that all of creation points to Him, His eternal power and to His Godhead. There is no logical denying that God is the creator and sustainer of all that has been created. However, this passage goes on to tell us that, since everything we see and experience in creation points us to God and His Lordship, we are without excuse for not knowing Him and for not glorifying Him as God.

Romans 1:18-32 tells us the consequences of what will happen when we reject Him and make idols out of things that He himself created, whatever that may be: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."

Despite the knowledge of God revealed to each of us through creation, most people fail to act on it. They neither glorify Him as God nor give thanks to Him, the two things we must do if we believe God to be God. Those who fail to recognize God as supreme and worthy of our praise and thanksgiving will inevitably put something or someone in God’s place. The connection between idolatry and immorality is that when we put someone or something in God’s place we are free to follow our own sinful passions, because we have no outside god to account to. What we do with God has a lot to do with our own personal character and lifestyle because we are actively choosing a lifestyle and are not being taken captive against our own will. Instead of looking to God as the Creator and sustainer of life, we see ourselves as the center of the universe and so we invent "gods" that are conducive to our own selfish plans and desires. "It is a great honor for man to be created in God’s image. It is a great dishonor that man has made God in the image of man." (Matthew Henry; "A Commentary on the Whole Bible")

Our first sin is that we reject God; next, we make up our own ideas of what a god should be and do; then we fall into other sin (all the sins mentioned previously and then some). Then we grow to hate God and encourage others to do so. Even though we know that our lifestyles are deserving of death, we not only live those lifestyles but we approve of others who do so.

God does not cause this steady progression toward evil. Rather, when we reject Him, He allows us to live as we choose. God gives us opportunity to experience the natural consequences of our sin. Once caught in the downward spiral, no one can pull themselves out and save themselves. As sinners, we must trust Christ alone to put us on the path of salvation.

Christ is the only hope for you and for me, and He is the only hope for our country and for the world! God has revealed Himself to us in creation, in His written Word and through the life of His Son Jesus. We are indeed without excuse if we do not allow Him to be Lord of our lives!

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

Oh No! Power Out?

A guide to refrigerator safety when you don’t have electricity.

by Angela Treadway

Storms have been plentiful lately causing the power to go out and stay out for hours. Have you had one of them? If not, you will sooner or later; let’s go through a refresher course as to what is good to do and what it not good to do to keep your foods safe. Here is what you should know, in case your fridge and freezer lose their juice.

Refrigerator Safety: The Essentials

Here are the basics of fridge safety, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If the power is out for less than two hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

If the power is out for longer than two hours, follow these guidelines:

  • Freezer section: A freezer that is half full will hold food safely up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
  • Refrigerated section: Pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food with a temperature of more than 40.

The magic number there? Two hours. Yep, after two hours, either transfer the stuff in your fridge to a cooler or a working refrigerator. Don’t mess with spoiled food; it’s not worth getting sick.

What to Throw Away and What to Keep

OK, so your fridge has been without power and above 40 for more than two hours. Is anything safe to keep?

Yes, some condiments and foods are OK to keep; although meat and most dairy need to go. Here’s a very helpful and handy list from on what to keep and what to toss:

Solving Odor Problems in Your Refrigerator or Freezer

If food has been allowed to spoil in a refrigerator or freezer, the strong odors associated with food spoilage may be extremely difficult to remove.

The first step is to clean the appliance with a gentle household cleaning solution and water. Use a bleach solution (one tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water) to rinse inside surfaces. While the unit is unplugged, leave the door open for a day or two to air it out. Spray disinfectant around hinges, locks and into any openings. If the odor remains, try one of the following methods:

  • Place trays of activated charcoal, clean kitty litter or baking soda on the shelves of the refrigerator or freezer. Run the appliance empty for two or three days. Activated charcoal can be purchased from stores selling aquarium and terrarium supplies.
  • Place freshly ground coffee on cookie sheets in the refrigerator or freezer and close the door. Again, run the appliance empty for two or three days. A slight coffee odor may remain, but will disappear after washing and rinsing.
  • Pack each refrigerator or freezer shelf with crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle the newspaper with water. Allow the refrigerator or freezer to run for approximately five or six days. This method is time-consuming, but effectively removes strong odors.
  • Several commercial products are available for removal of refrigerator and freezer odors. These products may be purchased at hardware, grocery, discount and variety stores.

If the unit has been off several days, it is possible the odor has gone into the insulation. If the odor has penetrated the insulation, much work is needed to get it out. An air compressor might be needed to blow air into this section of the unit. If the previous methods do not satisfactorily take care of odor problems, it may be that drippings from meat or fish leaked into the insulation. This problem would require service by a refrigerator technician, who may have to remove the liner and replace the insulation.

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

PALS: Putting a Lid on Litter

Pearl Haskew Elementary learns how to keep Alabama’s roadways clean.

by Jamie Mitchell

Mobile’s Alfa Women’s Committee Chairperson Debbie Freeland recently helped PALS schedule a visit to Pearl Haskew Elementary in Mobile County. I met all day in the library with groups of second- and fourth-grade students telling them about the importance of keeping Alabama’s roadways litter free!

In our sessions, the students learned about littering statistics. They learned that 50 percent of litter is unintentional and 96 percent of unintentional litter is done by males. We discussed how debris from trucks highly contributes to this number. The students made a pledge to spread the word to family members with trucks to use a tarp when hauling large loads. They also agreed to encourage drivers to keep a bag in the car or truck for any stray wrappers that might become unintentional litter.

Another part of my presentation focused on recycling, and Pearl Haskew Elementary is already recycling paper and cans. Way to go! The students also heard about our annual statewide poster competition and all seemed very eager to participate when they heard the winner receives $250!

Many thanks to Freeland for helping set up this wonderful day at Pearl Haskew! We are so excited to have your students involved in the Clean Campus Program!

Any schools interested in becoming a part of the Clean Campus Program may call me at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at They can also look us up online at to sign-up online.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Poor But Rich Is What Some Folks Can’t Understand.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Are you ready to pull your hair out yet?

Since I retired from my more than 30 years as an investigative reporter a few years ago, I’ve striven to stay as far away from politics as possible.

I still pray for our leaders and I certainly try to stay as informed as I can because I believe it is our God-given responsibility to make wise choices from the local all the way to the national levels. As I sit here on my little homestead, it is sometimes almost too easy to isolate myself and my thoughts from what’s going on in the outside world.

But, sometimes, there are statements made by some of the candidates that make you want to scratch your head, squinch your eyes and wonder if you just heard what you thought you heard.

One such statement lately, at least I feel, qualifies to be in that head-scratching, eye-rolling, what-in-the-world-was-he-thinking category.

The candidate made the statement that he didn’t feel anyone had experienced REAL poverty except a certain group of people.

Fronia Dover Windsor


In my nearly 64 years of expertise, I’ve seen poverty across all age groups, all races, all sexes, all religious denominations – in my most humble evaluation, poverty strikes some who have almost literally "worked their tails off" to others who "wouldn’t hit a lick at a snake," a couple of phrases from my rural South.

I think what that particular candidate, and many others who are isolated above and away from normal folk, misses is that even if poverty, hopefully at least temporarily, is someone’s lifestyle, it is their state of mind – and the state of their hearts – while in that situation that makes all the difference!

My great-great-great-grandmother traveled to Alabama via covered wagon when her well-to-do Illinois family didn’t like her young boyfriend. So they eloped and set out with some of his family for a better life in the foothills of the Appalachians.

They’d travel for a while, then stop in a community to work for a season or two, and began to have little ones as the years progressed.

Along the way that great-great-great-granny also began experiencing something that has plagued many of the females in my mama’s side of the family for decades: she began to lose her sight!

But did she sit in the wagon, hungry, cold, often-pregnant and cry "woe is me!" Nope! She cooked their meals over an open fire and was the soul who kept her little family together!

From my mama’s written records, "After they got to Alabama, she was totally blind, but she did her own cooking, sewing and everything else .... She would keep the kids for the others to work in the fields and have their dinner ready for them when they came home.

"One day when they were all in the fields, she had to go to the outhouse. They had been digging a new well and she fell in. It didn’t hurt her, but she had to stay in that well until they came in from the fields and heard her!"

One of her daughters, Sofronia (Fronia) Dover married Mark Windsor.

Here’s another bit from my mama’s writings, "Grandpa must have been in ill health all the time because Granny worked all the time to make a living. She took in washing for people. She’d stand out in all kinds of weather at a spring and wash for people (using a big, black, iron wash pot to boil the clothes she stirred with an oak paddle to make the lye soap dissolve).

Jim and Vennie Windsor Inmon – Vennie, the youngest child of Fronia Windsor, was the one whose then-long hair was caught in a loom!!!

"Sometimes she would heat a rock to stand on to keep her feet warm.

"Mama and Uncle Will (two of Fronia’s kids) worked in the cotton mills in Alabama City (Gadsden) when they were just little kids. There were no child labor laws then. I remember mama [my Granny] telling about getting her long hair tangled in one of the looms and it was about to throw her into the machinery when somebody fell against the belt and knocked the belt off, saving her."

My Granny, the girl with her hair caught in the loom, got married at the ripe old age of 14. Jim and Vennie Inmon went on to have seven kids of their own.

At first, they lived in a little cabin that was half logs and the other half a canvas tent! Then they lived in a tent; they moved regularly as Grandpa worked with a crew building roads in and around what is now Snead.

Later he worked for a dairy and then sharecropped with the family moving almost every year. But those seven kids didn’t have bad memories, although they were certainly living in poverty! Grandpa always hung a tire swing and Granny always planted flowers around a neatly swept sidewalk area. There were pet cats and kittens and once even a pet goat trained to pull the kids in a cart throughout the neighborhood!

Then the Depression of the 1930s hit. My mama always loved to watch the Waltons on TV, BUT she noted the Waltons were rich because they had such a nice house, running water, electricity and even a phone!

But, through it all, they all KEPT WORKING and kept trying to better their lives!

My Granny eventually sold enough flowers that she was able to open the first florist shop in Blount County and they paid cash to build a wood house right on Alabama 75 near downtown Oneonta.

And every one of their kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and on down the line to hundreds of descendants now, kept working as well.

Some are well-off by today’s standards; others have had times when they just got by financially. But while some of us may have lived in what some would consider poverty, there has been a difference.

One of my pastors now has a ministry that regularly goes to Nicaragua where TRUE poverty can be seen almost everywhere. And I lived for a time in South Dakota near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where, again, TRUE poverty is on every corner. And there are instances of older folks, disabled folks and more who are living in poverty because of no fault of their own.

But I feel – and mind you – these are just the reflections of a simple homesteader in the foothills of the Appalachians – when folks I know about experienced poverty here in this wonderful country, there has never been desolation and long-term despair.

There are no governments or other charitable programs that will result in long-term solutions if the main foundations of a contented life are not there: a faith in Christ alone and that all-American spirit of working hard each day.

That may sound overly simple, but, like I said, that’s just the opinion of this simple gray-haired homesteader – who continues to work hard each day.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a small Blount County homesteader and can be reached by email at

Preserving Our Natural Resources

Alabama Soil & Water Conservation Committee launches a new initiative to promote conservation on private lands.

Release from the Alabama Soil & Water Conservation Committee

Against the backdrop of the Alabama River at the Union Station Train Shed, the Alabama Soil & Water Conservation Committee launched a new initiative to continue its mission of conserving Alabama’s natural resources: Conserve Alabama.

Conserve Alabama is a campaign to increase awareness and engage a greater audience of those who believe in the noble endeavor of conserving our natural resources so future generations can enjoy the same Alabama the Beautiful we know and love.

"Whether you live in rural or urban Alabama, you rely on natural resources and you play an important role in their future," said Frank Nalty, SWCC Chairman.

For 76 years, SWCC has promoted healthy soil, sustainable forests, drinkable and fishable water, and clean air by connecting those who use and work the land to education, technical know-how, and resources that assist in conservation efforts and enhance their stewardship.

"Ninety-three percent of the land in Alabama is privately owned, so the greatest responsibility of stewardship is on farmers and landowners," said Charles Holmes, SWCC Board Member and Perry County farmer.

Conserve Alabama seeks to increase support for conservation efforts on private land, conservation education, small and urban farms, and the farm-to-table movement across Alabama.

"As a timberland owner, I’ve always been conscious about how what I do on my land impacts all Alabamians, but we’re facing a new and pressing challenge. As farm land shrinks, urbanization spreads and our population grows, we have to be even better stewards of our resources. It’s going to take all of us supporting conservation efforts so we can provide for future generations," Nalty said.

Alabama used to boast about 8 million acres of cropland. Today, that number has dwindled to about 3 million.

"We’re fortunate in recent years to see a reignited interest in knowing where your food comes from and how it was grown. Through Conserve Alabama, we want to tap into that interest and help people become more aware of how conservation impacts us all," said Dr. William Puckett, SWCC Executive Director.

"Without healthy soil, we couldn’t grow food and fiber, Alabama’s agriculture industry would not be the $70 billion economic driver it is, and we would not be able to sustain a population. Conservation is truly at the foundation of it all," Puckett said.

SWCC is organized into 67 conservation districts, one in every county, governed by a guiding principle of conservation from the ground up and a board of five volunteer supervisors who assess and direct conservation efforts in their district.

A District Administrative Coordinator in each district serves as the connection between the land user and the services and resources available.

Conservation districts work hand in hand with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to secure funding and technical assistance for landowners and farmers.

The Conserve Alabama launch event included a dozen educational displays, including an Ag in Action trailer, Soil Tunnel and Rainfall Simulator demonstrating proper conservation practices and educating about natural resources. E.A.T. South from Montgomery, Oakview Farm from Wetumpka and Eastaboga Bee Company also set up displays. Sixty students from Reeltown and Horseshoe Bend Elementary Schools attended the event along with many others from across Alabama.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange delivered welcoming remarks.

Support local conservation efforts by visiting

Ready to Learn and To Serve

“I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to farm,” says Jeff Sims of Talladega.

Talladega farmer Jeff Sims is the newest AFC board member.

by Cecil Yancy

The newest board member of Alabama Farmers Cooperative didn’t come to the lifestyle or the vocation in the usual way. But as a first-generation farmer, Jeff Sims of Talladega has learned that a lot of listening and plenty of hard work lead to blessings in the field and in life. Sims, 51, comes to the AFC board after serving 16 years on the Talladega County Exchange board.

Returning home after a stint at Auburn University, Sims was a young man in search of direction.

"I came home with really no direction as to what I would do," Sims recalled. "My grandfather, who was in the cattle business, asked me if I’d work for him. That decision turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made."

At the age of 22, Sims started working for his grandfather, baling hay and doing chores related to cattle production.

"Over a two-year period, I saw where I enjoyed this way of life," Sims said.

It wasn’t long before Sims’ grandfather co-signed a note for $5,000 that allowed the young man to purchase his first set of momma cows.

Over the next eight years, Sims built up quite a herd.

Then came the pivotal decision that set him in the direction he now walks today.

With help from his mother and father, Sims purchased the first 300 acres of land where he now farms.

"I was 30 at the time," Sims said. "I sold what cows I had and changed directions. I was going to become a row-crop farmer."

With no row-crop knowledge to speak of, Sims borrowed a planter, a sprayer and a combine and planted 300 acres of wheat.

"I didn’t know how to tend it," he recalled. "So it grew up on me and it was a complete failure."

Today, that humble 300 acres is encompassed in the 2,700 where Sims now grows corn, soybeans and wheat in Talladega County at Shadow Creek Farms.

After that first year, "I became real good at asking questions of the farmers in the community. Some of the local farmers helped me with the basics. I’m indebted to them still."

Sims credits his success to the Good Lord and counts himself one of the lucky ones who are able to farm.

He and his wife, Leigh Ann, have two sons, Taylor, 20, a student at Troy State University; and Tyler, 11, a sixth-grader. Sims is chairman of the deacons and teaches Sunday school at Hepzibah Baptist Church just down the road from where he farms. Sims is a natural storyteller and often incorporates biblical metaphors into his speech.

"Just like most things in life, the diamonds, rubies and gold aren’t found on the surface," Sims said. "You have to dig and work to find all of the hidden truths and knowledge."

In some ways, that’s how he continues to approach the vocation of farming.

"Being a first-generation farmer comes with disadvantages as well as advantages," Sims believes. "One of the disadvantages is that I couldn’t ask my father what I needed to do. It was a big learning curve."

One of the advantages of being a first-generation farmer, however, is flexibility.

"The flexibility has allowed me to get through the changes in agriculture," Sims said.

As an example, Sims stopped growing cotton in 2004 following several years of low prices.

Sims views his election to AFC’s board with much the same outlook as when he began farming: An opportunity to learn and serve.

"Alabama Farmers Cooperative fills an obvious need for farmers who need supplies at good prices," Sims said. "We’re real fortunate to have a cooperative like AFC.

"This AFC board selection has really humbled me. I feel fortunate and blessed and I plan to try to do the best job I can. I have a wonderful opportunity to learn and, hopefully, with time, will become a good board member to help the farmers of Alabama."

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

Responsible Ag

Steve Hodges and Marshall Farmers Co-op are recognized with award.

AFC President Rivers Myres presents the Responsible Ag award to Steve Hodges.

Congratulations to Steve Hodges, general manager of Marshall Farmers Co-op, right, and the employees in Arab for completing the Responsible Ag program audit. He was presented the award by Rivers Myres, AFC’s president.

He agreed to be the first in the AFC system to perform the RA audit. Hodges was audited by Roger Waller, with AGRI-AFC, in February and was able to complete all corrective actions within the given time frame.

We want to give a BIG thank you to Hodges for allowing the auditing team to come in and learn while going through this evaluation. The team was able to learn the computer program and see step-by-step how the audit would go for the participants.

If you have any questions about the process, please contact Steve Hodges at 256-586-5515, Sharon Cunningham at 256-303-4071 or, or Roger Waller at 251-513-3109.

School's Out for Summer!

Not Quite, For Many Ag Teachers

by Michelle Bufkin

That’s the best part of being a teacher? Most people would jokingly answer June and July, more commonly known as summer break. This is not the case for most teachers these days, especially agriscience teachers. These dedicated educators spend what is normally a break preparing for the coming year or working with their students.

"Summers are extremely busy for ag teachers. We do not have the typical summer break that everyone imagines. In many cases, the summer is the busiest time of the year for ag teachers," explained Michael Hutto, agriscience teacher at Ariton High School.

Most teachers spend the majority of their summers doing various activities such as State FFA Convention, fundraising, workshops and overseeing SAEs.

Agriscience teachers attend a variety of workshops during the summer.

Ashley Holmes, ag teacher at Falkville High School, explained that last summer she attended seven professional development workshops, the majority of which were three days long. That accounts for almost three weeks of her summer break.

Teachers do not just attend these programs for fun but to learn things they can pass on to their students. Every five years, teachers have to renew their teaching certificate. One requirement is to complete 50 professional development hours within those five years. There are always a variety of workshops to attend, some seeming more normal than others.

Caleb Beason, ag teacher at Haleyville Center of Technology, said that he attended a hunter safety workshop over the summer. He did this so he is qualified to teach a hunter’s education course in the fall, so his students can get hunting licenses. Beason also attends Beef Quality Assurance and Pork Quality Assurance workshops to be certified for those and can help his students become certified as well.

Workshops are not the only summer activity in ag teachers’ planners. Many work on fundraising ideas for their chapter. Fundraising is an important part of any FFA program; funding is absolutely vital to keeping an active program.

Hutto spends a lot of his summer working on fundraising for the National FFA Convention.

"It is my goal to provide all of my officers the opportunity to attend the National FFA Convention annually, for free," Hutto explained. "Our chapter does this by hosting a local golf tournament."

Ag teachers also use their summer break to check in on their students’ supervised agricultural experiences. Some teachers do this just to check the student’s progress and others do so to decide who should complete the proficiency award application.

Beason recalled last summer when he spent an entire day with a student at his recycling center business.

"He showed me that he knew how to do everything: from running the forklift to the entire business," Beason said.

He also worked another entire day with a student who owned cattle, watching him interact with and examine the cattle.

Ag teachers expect and hope their students will work over the summer as well. Most ag teachers agree that students should spend their summers gaining some kind of valuable work experience, whether it’s an actual job or working on their SAE. This will be helpful because all careers now expect some type of previous work experience.

"Students need to realize that a summer job doesn’t have to fall perfectly within their intended career path, but it will likely teach them skills that can prove beneficial to them in their future careers," Holmes said.

Along with working a summer job, some students serve as FFA officers and that requires work over the summer.

"I expect my officers to plan the Chapter Program of Activities and participate in leadership development that is planned by the chapter, district and state," Hutto explained.

Along with all of these things, Beason said he really just wants his students to push themselves.

"It doesn’t take much effort to be the best – to go the extra mile," Beason said.

This is solid advice that, in a world of people who feel entitled, needs to be remembered. Teachers and future employers will notice that extra effort and usually reward it.

"Stay in touch with teachers, administrators and friends who have inspired you the most. You may need them again one day," Hutto said.

Networking, especially in the agriculture industry, is incredibly important. It can help students get into college or even get a job in the future. This can be done over the summer through jobs or even just asking ag teachers for help.

All teachers strive to improve their students and make them better people, but agriscience teachers sometimes get more of an opportunity because of the interactive nature of their classes and organizations.

Ag teachers especially love to see their students succeed and become passionate about the industry we all love. They are so invested in their students that they are willing to work extra hard over summer break just to see students achieve their goals.

"The summer is certainly no break for an ag teacher in an active program," Holmes explained. "Last summer was my first summer as an ag teacher, and I realized that summers are almost, if not equally, as hectic as the regular school year."

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Some Like it Hot:

Alabama Red Okra gives some color to your garden and is still delicious. Okra is related to hibiscus making the blooms look similar.

Tips for a Successful Okra Crop

by Tony Glover

Okra is likely the most heat-loving vegetable we grow in the South. However, okra is an adopted Southern crop that likely originated in Africa from the area where present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea is located. Okra belongs to the same plant family as cotton (mallow or hibiscus family) and, like cotton, it requires a very warm soil for seed germination. If you plant okra seed before the soil has properly warmed it will often rot in the cool, wet soil. Therefore, the wise gardener will patiently wait for the soil to warm to 75. However, the impatient gardener may wisely help the garden soil to warm faster to get a jump on their neighbor.

Raised beds with lots of dark organic matter will warm faster by absorbing heat better. Also, covering the soil with black plastic mulch will increase the soil temperature considerably. Apply the mulch to the loosened soil about a week before planting and hope for sunny days. You can even get a better jump on the season by starting the seedlings indoors about three weeks ahead of transplanting to the garden. Just remember the warm soil is still a must. You may use a light application of liquid fertilizer at about half the recommended rate once the seedlings have sprouted. Regardless of whether you start seed indoors or not, it is a good idea to soak the seed overnight before planting.

In the absence of a soil test, before planting, mix in about 2 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer (or equivalent) per 100 square feet. Excessive nitrogen results in excess vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production. You may need very small amounts of extra nitrogen, but don’t use more than one ounce of 33-0-0 (diluted in warm water) per 10 feet of row at a time. This can be done every month as needed to maintain good plant color and new growth.

There are several good varieties available, but the most common and most popular is Clemson Spineless. You may also see Annie Oakley, Emerald, Lee, Jambalaya (hybrid variety that is earlier than most) or even a red pod form such as the heirloom variety called Alabama Red Okra. Most okra are not hybrids, meaning you can save your own seed from year to year very easily and expect the same kind of okra to come back each year.

Okra plants get quite large and they should be allowed some space to expand. Plant each about a foot apart in the row or plant seed about 4 inches apart and thin to a foot after the seedlings emerge. If you are planting in a raised bed at least 4 feet wide, plant two rows 2 feet apart. In late summer, when the plants are crowding each other, cut every other plant down to about 1 foot high and add a little fertilizer. Thin the regrowth to one or two stalks per plant. Once they start to bloom, repeat the process on the remaining plants. This method will greatly increase your production and keep the plants at a reasonable size for harvesting.

Okra does not have too many serious pests but you should be on the lookout for fire ants, aphids, Japanese beetles (in North Alabama) and stink bugs. There are very few materials for controlling fire ants in the garden, but the materials available are very safe. Visit and search the fire ant information to get a list of products you can safely use. Ants will often be associated with aphids since they take care and protect them to harvest the honeydew they secrete while feeding. For aphids, an application of mild insecticidal soap or even a strong stream of water may do the trick. Although Japanese beetles can do significant damage in a short time, the plants would likely recover without treatment. Picking them off and placing them in a container of soapy water works fairly well. Stink bugs and their relatives can become a problem late in the season. If you learn to identify the eggs and nymph stage, you can crush and pick them off before they build to large numbers.

Okra disease problems are mostly below ground; rotation is crucial to avoid a buildup of nematodes and pathogens in the soil. Avoid planting in the same bed or area more often than once every four years and learn how to rotate all your vegetable crops. Visit and search "Crop Rotation" in the publication search area for a garden rotation plan.

If you follow these tips, I think you will have great success with this unique vegetable that likes it hot.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "I washed Granny’s car and she offered to pay me with a Yankee dime. I told her I would much prefer foldin’ money!"

How is a Yankee dime different from other currency?

According to Wallace O. Chariton in his book, "This Dog’ll Really Hunt," a "Yankee dime" indicates a quick kiss. For others, the term is derogatory to people from the northern United States.

As the story goes, after the War for Southern Independence, Yankee troops would demand credit from the few remaining Southern stores and then hardly ever pay back as much as a "Yankee dime." Many Southerners still use phrases such as "He ain’t worth a Yankee dime" to describe someone who doesn’t pay his obligations.

From "The phrase is thought to have originated in Texas after the War for Southern Independence, but some believe it has older origins. A ‘Yankee dime’ refers to a kiss that is of a trifling nature such as a brief peck on the cheek. It is often used to describe an insincere show of affection in the nature of a perfunctory kiss. To say that something ‘isn’t worth a Yankee dime’ is typically a put down. Remember, all things Yankee were, and to some extent remain, out of favor in Texas since the end of the war."

STIMU-LYX Mineralizer Tub

by John Sims

It’s May and time to decrease some of the high-magnesium mineral products for the summer. Your Quality Co-op store has just the product for your summer mineral and vitamin needs: STIMU-LYX Mineralizer or STIMU-LYX Mineralizer w/IGR.

STIMU-LYX is Alabama’s premium, proven low-moisture tub delivery system. Mineralizer was developed to meet the needs of cattle grazing Southeastern forages (the right nutrients, in the right amount). Forages during the summer are higher in protein, so the need to supplement extra protein is not as great as in the winter. Mineralizer is also high in energy and has very high vitamin and mineral levels to assure your cattle cycle, breed and maintain body condition and immunity.

There are many advantages of using Mineralizer tubs:

  • No need for expensive mineral feeders.
  • Ease of moving mineral source between pastures.
  • Available with IGR for horn fly control.
  • Extreme palatability assures more of your cattle consume minerals and vitamins every day.
  • Improves forage digestion and utilization by improving rumen environment.
  • Wind Proof – Water Proof – Waste Proof

University research has proven that the STIMU-LYX delivery system increases herd participation in vitamin and mineral supplements as much as 30 percent. That’s 30 percent more cattle benefiting from vitamins/minerals and/or 30 percent more manure being treated for flies.

The average consumption per head, per day should be 0.25-0.5 pounds.

Provide a 200-pound tub for every 20 cows in the pasture.

Mineralizer does not contain salt, so free-choice salt must be provided.

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

Students Compete for Best in Beef at Annual Beef Cook-Off

“Best in Beef” winner Lucas Jones from Jemison High School.

Release from Alabama Cattle Women’s Association

Beef was in the spotlight as young culinary enthusiasts across Alabama convened at Carver High School in Montgomery on Saturday, April 2, for the 55th Annual Junior and Senior High School Beef Cook-off, sponsored by the Beef Checkoff program and Alabama CattleWomen’s Association. Forty students qualified to compete in this contest by winning their county cook-off with a delicious beef dish. Students participating are involved in either Family and Consumer Science or Culinary Arts at their high schools.

The "Best in Beef" winner was Lucas Jones from Jemison HS in Chilton County who prepared Honey Siracha Beef Kabobs. This winner was determined by judging the first place dishes from each division.

The following students were awarded top honors in their division:

Junior South

1st: Lucas Jones, Chilton County, Jemison HS, Honey Siracha Beef Kabobs|
2nd: Allison Sherman, Clarke County, Jackson HS, Alli’s Luscious Ribs
3rd: Grace Ellison, Baldwin County, Robertsdale HS, Surprise Burgers

Junior North

1st: Brianna Stutts, Blount County, Appalachian HS, Cheeseburger Eggrolls
2nd: Marshall Thomas, Etowah County, West End HS, Grandma’s Goulash
3rd: Travis Atchley, Calhoun County, Pleasant Valley HS, Juicy Lucy

Senior South

1st: Kayla Taylor, Elmore County, Holtville HS, Roast Beef Brisket with Savory Sauce
2nd: Ruben Cortes, Coffee County, Enterprise HS, Beef & Couscous Stuffed Bell Peppers
3rd: Megan Lange, Lee County, Auburn HS, Rosemary & Garlic Roast Beef

Senior North

1st: Jarrett Price, Chilton County, Thorsby HS, Smoked Flank Steak w/Chipotle Butter
2nd: Krissa Farmer, Morgan County, Austin HS, Stuffed Flank Steak
3rd: Remota Harris, Madison County, New Century Tech HS, Taco Soup

The Co-op Pantry

We are so fortunate to have Janet Crow, a cook of renown, who has her own Facebook page, Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen, and has published several cookbooks. I urge you to check out her Facebook page and see what you have been missing. Now Appalachian cooking is as much a part of my heritage as sweet iced tea, so I was hooked the first time I came across her page and have been a devoted reader ever since. Not only is she a fantastic cook but she has an incredible story to share with us this month.

"Cooking has been a part of my life since I was old enough to stand on a kitchen chair and stir a pot, helping my grandmothers in their kitchens as well as in Mama’s. I grew up around true Southern cooks and real Southern food. The lessons they taught me in the kitchen have been treasured in my memories and in my own kitchen.

"Mama and Daddy were also big influences on my learning how to cook. Sitting down to suppers of fried salmon patties, hot biscuits and gravy, and a glass of sweet iced tea was enough to make any young girl want to learn how to cook. Mama had her specialties just as much as Daddy did and I am happy I learned many of them. It makes being away from home easier when I cook one of these meals because the memories of sitting at the supper table with my family are closer when I fix the meals I grew up with.

"Born in 1965, I was raised in Dallas, Georgia, about a rock-throws distance down the road from one set of my grandparents. My other grandparents lived in Tucker, Georgia, which made it harder to spend time with them. But when we would go to visit, I can remember it feeling like we were going on vacation because the drive, back then, seemed to take forever. Eventually, they did move closer ... right next door as a matter of fact; so visiting with them became a whole lot easier.

"My Papa Rackley was a farmer and he grew just about everything you can think of in his garden. When summer rolled around the family would gather underneath big ole shade trees in their yard to help shell peas, string beans and shuck corn along with so much more. He planted enough for the whole family and sold some to help pay the bills. One of my favorite memories of those times is the first time he let me ride on his lap, helping to steer the tractor as we headed to the bottoms to pull corn. He would shuck one right in the field, take a bite of that fresh corn and then share it with me. I would then ride in the back of the trailer he was pulling, sitting right on top of the corn that had just been pulled.

"Papa Hembree also had a green thumb for gardening and when they moved next door he planted a pretty nice size one for him and Nannie. I can still see him out in that garden tending to all the vegetables he had planted and Nannie cooking them up for supper.

"I am a wife, mother of two and grandmother of four, two boys and two girls. Eventually, the hustle and bustle of a growing city became more stressful than peaceful. I liked the small town feel Dallas used to have and missed that; so my husband and I chose to move to where he grew up in West Virginia in 2006. The town we now live in reminds me of my childhood with dirt roads, kids playing outside till dark, and just an overall simpler and slower pace of life.

"In December 2012, I was diagnosed with stage 3 vulvar cancer and I am happy to say that I am currently three years into remission. My cancer diagnosis truly changed my life and how I look at life now. After three months of grueling chemo and radiation treatments, I was finally winning my battle. When I became strong enough, my husband and I took a much needed camping trip. As I was preparing our supper, campfire style, I had the thoughts of sharing my family recipes with others. That is when I started Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen on Facebook.

"My page grew rather quickly. Before I knew it, folks wanted me to write a cookbook so they didn’t have to copy and paste the recipes. With my mounting medical bills, I knew it would help to pay them down so I self-published ‘Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen ... Recipes From the Heart.’ That original cookbook has now turned into a series of five volumes. My heart has been overjoyed with the response, along with the continued prayers and support my kitchen followers give me every single day.

"I have been blessed in so many ways and I am humbled each and every day, not taking a moment for granted. Prayer, love and good ole Southern cooking is all one needs to feed the soul."

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


1 (12-ounce) package frozen cauliflower, thawed to room temperature
2 Tablespoons butter (not margarine), melted
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon my house seasoning (recipe provided)
¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly shredded

In a bowl, place cauliflower. Whisk together butter, oil, turmeric and house seasoning. Pour over cauliflower and toss to coat well (the turmeric will give it a hint of yellow color). Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and spread the cauliflower out on the pan. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Remove and toss cauliflower. Sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.

Note: If using fresh cauliflower, the roasting time will take a little longer till tender.


Garlic powder
Onion powder

Use equal amount of all ingredients. Combine and store in an airtight container.


1 bunch turnip greens
1 bunch mustard greens
3½ cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 smoked ham hocks
Good pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash greens three times in a sink full of water. Drain. Chop. Place in a large pot. Add water and bring up to a boil, cooking till they begin to reduce in size by half, about 15 minutes. Add bouillon cube, ham hocks and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. Uncover and remove ham hocks, allowing them to cool slightly. Pull meat off and return to pot. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Note: Depending on size of bunches, you may need a tad more water if you like a lot of pot likker. Mine completely filled a 5 quart pot before cooking.


Servings: approximately 3

3 strips of bacon, sliced
½ small onion, sliced
3 cups cabbage, chopped
½ teaspoon my house seasoning (recipe included)
¼ teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
1 cup uncooked egg noodles

In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in pan. Add onion to pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook onion for 1 minute. Add cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in boiling water for 7-8 minutes or until done. Drain noodles and set aside. Season cabbage with house seasoning, sugar and salt. Add noodles to skillet and toss to combine well. Top with bacon just before serving.

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


Makes approximately 2 dozen

1 cup sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg

In a bowl, mix all ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400° for 7-8 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan.


¾ cups warm tap water
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
¼ teaspoon sugar plus ¼ cup for later
2/3 cup milk
4 Tablespoon butter
3-3½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, add the water, yeast and 1/4 tsp. sugar. Allow to sit for 5-6 minutes, until foamy. Meanwhile, heat milk and butter for 1 minute 15 seconds in microwave. Remove and let cool 5 minutes. Add 1 cup flour, ¼ cup sugar and salt to bowl. Begin mixing on low speed to combine. Pour in milk/butter mixture and add 2 cups more flour. Mix for a minute or so. Check texture of dough. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour ... mine took 3¼ cups total. (The humidity in your area will make a difference as to how much more flour you use.) Let mixer work dough for 2 minutes.In a lightly floured surface, place dough. Form into a ball. Place in a lightly buttered bowl and cover with a clean towel. Let rise till double in size, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and knead a couple times. Roll out to a square and cut into 14 pieces. Lightly form each piece till rounded, or you can leave them square if you like. Place in buttered 9x13 pan. Cover again and allow to rise for 1 hour. Brush the tops with a little melted butter. Bake at 350° 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are golden.Note: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can easily mix this by hand.


Makes 10 patties

1 (6 ounce) can skinless/boneless pink salmon, drained
2 Tablespoons onion, diced
Good pinch each of salt and pepper
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon buttermilk
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Vegetable Oil, for frying

In a bowl, combine salmon, onion, salt and pepper. Stir in egg, buttermilk, cornmeal and flour. Combine well. In a medium-size iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat about ¼” oil. Drop by spoonful into hot oil and flatten out just a tad. Fry, in batches, about a minute per side or until golden brown. Drain on a paper sack or paper towel-lined plate.


6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups sugar
½ pound butter (not margarine), softened to room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour (sifted 6 times)
½ pint heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, use electric or stand mixer to beat eggs and sugar for 1 minute. Add butter and beat for an additional 3 minutes. Alternately add flour and whipping cream to the bowl, mixing well after each addition. Once all is incorporated, add vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Pour batter into a prepared (greased and floured) tube pan and place in a cold oven. Set oven to 325° and bake for 1½ hours. Remove and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out.

The FFA Sentinel: A Community of Service

West Morgan FFA members remove trees from Grange Hill Cemetery to prevent trees from damaging the grave sites.

West Morgan FFA sets an example for others.

by West Morgan FFA Members

A few years ago, the West Morgan FFA Chapter was inactive. Now, our chapter has performed many outside-of-school activities and outreach programs to better our community. We did them as a chapter because we believe we should make where we live the best it can be.

One of the activities our chapter took part in was a cemetery cleanup day. Grange Hall is one of the oldest cemeteries in the state. In the care and restitution of this burial place, we helped preserve and honor the men and women who fought for our country, and our local citizens who founded our city. These brave individuals paved a path for our freedoms and liberties, and caring for their final resting place is indeed an honor.

On Nov. 13, 2015, the West Morgan FFA Chapter teamed up with the local community to begin the cleanup. Our chapter of 30-40 members began the cleanup project at 8 a.m. and finished at 2:30 that afternoon. We will follow up this project during our spring visit.

We were divided into groups; each had a specific task or list of tasks. One group raked and removed leaves while another cleaned up the larger debris. We bagged all of the leaves to be burned later.

This activity was a community service in partnership with the town of Trinity. We placed the larger debris in the designated place and the city took care of disposal.

Other groups, along with our adviser, took down trees and limbs that were about to fall on graves. This group is much smaller because they are the more experienced with the tools used, including chain saws, limb saws, loppers, etc. Removing the trees and limbs allowed the grass to grow back to improve the landscape and grounds. This gave the lawn care crews a clear path to mow the grass as well as providing a clean pathway for visitors to view the gravesites.

Additional groups picked up flowers that have scattered on the ground and replaced them on graves.

We hope that by attending to the graves we are able to pay respect to those interred there.

After a hard day of civic improvements, West Morgan FFA members stop for a photo.

As an FFA chapter, we believe we should treat others like we want to be treated; and, by aiding in this community service, we honor our past citizens and aid our community by keeping the cemetery beautiful.

By helping with service projects, we want to set an example to other chapters who may currently be searching for projects based on community service. We hope our chapter can be a symbol for other FFA members who are interested in civic opportunities to improve their communities.

This article was contributed by the members of the West Morgan FFA Chapter.

The Weather

by Baxter Black, DVM

There is at least one thing that separates agricultural people from their office-working brothers ... the weather.

How often have you seen the local anchorman turn to the local weather girl and say, "Gosh, Marsha, that’s really good news! I’m sure getting tired of this rain!"

What’s he getting tired of? Having a soggy newspaper on the porch? Having to wear his galoshes from the office to the health club? Postponing the wearing of his new, all-season Nikes? He’s probably not gettin’ any tireder of it than the feedlot cowboy sloggin’ through the pens in hock-deep mud. Or the Iowa-range hog man slidin’ his feed wagon along the bank of the north pasture.

But somewhere, out beyond the cattle guard, a farmer’s standing at the edge of a quarter section of winter wheat, watchin’ it rain and smilin’.

A skiff of snow, a 2-inch rain, five days of hot and dry, a 4-foot drift and minus 25 wind chill factor are like person-to-person calls to someone whose livin’ depends on the weather. When the big city weatherman’s map has a yellow sun with a smiley face covering the Louisiana Purchase, you realize how far from nature some parts of our civilization have been removed!

Great skiing weather can often be translated to baby calves on the kitchen floor, frozen water lines and chopping ice. Gentle April showers can keep tractors out of the field, chronics in the sick pen and bankers in a frenzy!

Farmers and ranchers are students of the sky. They spend a lifetime lookin’ for a blue horizon or black clouds. It’s bringin’em luck; sometimes good, sometimes bad.

They watch the local weather like brokers watch the ticker tape. They meet at the town cafe with neighbors to see who caught a little of the squall that blew through. They watch pasture and planted fields wash away or shrivel and die. They see fertilized, prepared soil crack and blow away or turn to gumbo; all the time watchin’ the sky.

But, sometimes they win. The snow melts off, the fields turn green, the afternoon storms soaks the ground and the sun breaks through. They watch it come. They smell the weather changin’. They aren’t lookin’ at it through a window. They are truly a part of their environment. Maybe that’s why they don’t take it for granted.

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,

Trichomoniasis Update

Dr. Frazier’s Contribution to the Alabama Bull Buyer’s Guide

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Over the past dozen years that I have written this column, I have occasionally shared some of my thoughts on buying bulls. And while I may not be the person you want to talk to about breeds, bloodlines, genetics and such, I do consider myself a bit of an authority on the regulatory aspect of buying bulls. I also consider myself to be maybe not an expert but at least an authority on health issues involved in buying a herd bull. By now, a few of you there in the front row are thinking, "Dr. Frazier, don’t regulatory issues and health issues often overlap?" That is absolutely correct. And that is why I need to get this information out about purchasing herd bulls, especially if they are coming in from another state.

Trichomoniasis is a venereal disease in cattle caused by a small protozoa, Tritrichomonas foetus, and is spread from infected bulls to cows during breeding and causes infertility and early embryonic deaths. Often cows can develop immunity to the disease if rested sexually for four to five months, but the immunity is weak and the cows may go through the same fertility problems the next season if exposed to the organism again. It should be noted that the disease can affect 30-90 percent of the cows in a herd. The bottom line is that if you end up with a bull with Trich (that’s how we will refer to the disease and the organism from now on), it is an economic train wreck.

For example, you have 12 30-day breeding seasons each year (meaning you leave your bull or bulls in the pasture year-round). You have 30 cows and a bull that is positive for Trich. You normally calve most of your cows from January to April and sell in late September before the frost gets the grass. You normally sell 25 calves at 5-8 months old and they would average 500 pounds each. Here is what would happen with Trich – and I am going to be conservative. You have 12 calves born during your normal calving season, eight more calves born from May to June and five more born July to August. This only happened after you put another bull in with the herd after figuring out there is a problem. It doesn’t take a genius to know the late-born calves will not weigh nearly the 500 pounds they would normally average. Also, even with 12 30-day breeding seasons, your calves are so scattered out, you are going to lose a whole year on some of the cows if you want to continue to sell before the grass goes away in the fall. Sometime, when you are just looking for something to do, you can do some figuring and let me know how much money you can lose.

From a regulatory perspective, we have been in the Trich prevention business here in Alabama since 2012. Cattle industry leaders came to me and said some type of regulation was needed to deal with Trich. The western states have had regulations dealing with having bulls required to be Trich negative before coming into their states for several years. So we came up with a rule that mostly mirrors those in other states. Our rule requires bulls 18 months of age and older coming into Alabama to be negative less than 60 days before entry and have an official ID. There are some exemptions. Rodeo bulls; bulls being transported through Alabama, but not off loaded; bulls with a statement on the health certificate stating that the bull is a virgin bull and under 18 months old; and bulls consigned directly to slaughter.

That last part about bulls consigned directly to slaughter is possibly becoming a little bit of a problem. We have people come into the Alabama stockyards near the state lines. And we have farmers from Alabama carry bulls to stockyards in other states just across the state line. Those bulls are generally going to slaughter and fall under the part of the rule that exempts those bulls. However, in discussions with other state veterinarians, there is a concern about some of those bulls ending up on someone’s farm as a herd bull. That is a good opportunity to unplow a lot of the ground we have cultivated by putting our rule into place. I am letting you know that there may be some regulatory changes coming down the track that could affect Alabama farmers who are selling bulls at stockyards outside Alabama. That situation is evolving and the bottom line is that, if you are carrying cattle across state lines, it is your responsibility to know what the regulations are. We will likely be working with other states to be able to communicate about bulls that are diverted from slaughter. If you have questions, call me and we can get you pointed in the right direction.

Now, I want to address those of you who buy bulls at the stockyard on a normal sale day from the bulls normally headed to be harvested. Every chance I get, I like to remind people, when a bull is at the stockyard, there is a reason why he is there. I know some of you are thinking, "Why, I bought the best herd bull we ever had out of the bullpen." Well, good for you. I am proud for you. But I more often hear about the other side of the story. Someone buys a bull and he can’t breed cows because he has a broken penis. Or he was at the sale because he was infertile or sub-fertile. If a bull is completely infertile, you will know pretty quickly when all your cows are coming back in heat. If a bull is sub-fertile, he will get some or most of your cows bred, but may miss a few and eventually get them bred – maybe. Or the bull may bring in a disease like BVD he has contracted while comingled with other cattle. It may not even make him sick, but he can spread it to your cows and calves. And the BVD issue is another article for another day. And you could, until we figure out how to deal with it, purchase a herd bull with Trich. I am not saying I am 100 percent against you buying a bull out of the regular sale, just 99.9 percent against it. If you fall into that 0.1 percent when it could be OK, you need to make sure you have the bull checked for breeding soundness and Trich.

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

Weaner/Stocker Feeding Strategies

by Stephen Donaldson

It’s weaning time in Alabama. It’s time to wean those calves from our late fall and winter calving cows. Many producers chose to background or stocker those weaned calves and sell them for delivery 60, 90 or even 120 days out. It’s also time to decide the feeding options to use on those cattle. Many have used a commodity or a simple 50:50 commodity blend and some prefer using a complete feed to achieve added gain on those weaned cattle. With that in mind, let’s consider our management and all of the options we have in front of us.

First, consideration has to be given to whether the calves have been raised on our farm or comingled from several sources. If the cattle have been raised on our own farm or ranch, the calves can be fed the ration they will be grown on before weaning. If this is the case, the calves should transition easily onto full feed. If the cattle are purchased from several sources, producers should consider handfeeding CPC Jump Start to help with the stress of weaning, vaccinating and being started on a different feed source. Regardless of the source of the calves, plenty of good-quality hay and clean fresh water should be available at all times.

Those who chose to feed a commodity or 50:50 blend need to consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type program. Most producers feed these cattle with self-feeders and allow them to eat all they desire. Commodity blends tend to cost less than complete feeds, but this stems simply from the fact that they are not complete in their supply of nutrients for optimal gain. In addition, some metabolic problems such as bloat and acidosis can also accompany the free-choice feeding of commodities and their blends.

In contrast, complete feeds tend to cost more per ton, but have fewer of the metabolic problems associated with feeds lacking a complete nutrient profile. While complete feeds cost more per ton, many times they are actually less expensive when looked at as cost per pound of gain. Yes, most of the time complete feeds put on pound of gain for less cost. Less cost always equals more profit.

With the high value of cattle, death loss can be a factor with a profound impact on profitability. Losing one or two cattle to mortality can affect the profitability of your operation significantly. Likewise, cattle performing poorly because of a nutritional deficiency or metabolic issue can suck profits right out of your pocket.

These points were brought to light recently in a field trial in Alabama. One group of cattle were provided free-choice access to a SHP/DDG blend and gained 2.7 pounds per day with a cost per pound of gain of $0.97. A second group of cattle with similar genetics were provided free-choice access to CPC Grower. They gained 3.35 pounds per day with a cost of gain of $0.78 per pound. This increased efficiency and added weight gain resulted in additional profits of $83.07 per head. I don’t know about you, but that helps put extra beans on my table.

Additionally, cattle fed CPC Grower tend to be in more acceptable body condition than those fed blends. The mineral/vitamin component and the nutritional balance of the feed promote more lean body growth. Lean body growth has been recognized by feedyards to allow cattle to come in and perform at an acceptable level for them, also.

As you begin grouping your calves post weaning or putting groups of calves together, take a look at the CPC programs offered through your local Quality Co-op. These quality complete feeds should improve the cost of gain, cattle health and cattle condition on your operation. They should help maintain cattle health and acceptability to buyers. More and more buyers recognize the CPC program and the performance of the cattle grown on this program. The cattle adjust to the feedyard better and their performance is predictable.

Remember to get those calves started right. Consider CPC Jump Start to get your calves started off on the right foot. By getting these cattle started on feed, you will see less post-weaning weight loss and a quicker turnaround to positive gains. By using the CPC program, you should be able to see more profits and healthier, more desirable yearlings to offer cattle feeders.

If we can help, let us know.

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

Wet Spring Means Ideal Fly Conditions

Self-fed mineral supplements and blocks are a convenient and effective method for controlling horn flies.

by Jackie Nix

Weather forecasters are calling for El Nino weather patterns to continue through the spring, meaning wet and relatively mild conditions. Unfortunately, these are perfect conditions for the horn fly to propagate. Excessive horn fly populations can literally suck the profit out of your cattle operation! Biting flies reduce weaning weights, lower milk production and spread disease.

Growing calves are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of horn flies. Reduced weight gains of up to 30 pounds have been reported.

The horn fly alone is estimated to cause annual losses of between $700 million and $1 billion to the U.S. beef industry. Losses tend to be greatest in lactating cows and growing calves. The irritation and blood loss caused by biting horn flies can reduce calf weaning weights by 12-14 pounds and average daily gain in yearling steers can be reduced as much as 30 pounds during the grazing season. Horn flies also cause lowered sexual libido in bulls, resulting in reduced reproductive efficiency. Horn flies are also vectors for the transfer of diseases such as anaplasmosis, anthrax and mastitis caused by Staph. aureus.

Adult horn flies are dark gray and about half the size of the housefly. The life cycle is completed in 8-45 days depending on temperature and humidity. Horn flies tend to rest quietly on the back and shoulders of cattle until disturbed. Horn flies rarely leave their host except to lay eggs, to move to other cattle in the herd or when cattle enter buildings. Most feeding occurs along the underline of the animal and results in scabby, often bleeding, sores. Each fly is estimated to feed 20 times each day! Grazing time is disrupted, resulting in significantly reduced weight gains and daily production.

Horn flies survive the winter by remaining dormant as pupae in the soil. Adults emerge when temperature and moisture conditions are right. Horn flies emerge when average daily temperatures reach about 65 degrees for a period of at least two weeks. In the Southeast, flies may remain active year-round. In general, fly populations tend to peak in early summer and decrease as conditions become hot and dry. Methods of horn fly control are many and varied, but most rely upon chemical control.

Pesticide-infused ear tags have been widely utilized with success in recent years. However, this method requires the labor and stress of handling cattle twice – once to apply the ear tags, and another to remove the tags. Failure to remove ear tags as recommended has widely contributed toward development of pesticide resistance and has reduced the overall success of this method over time.

Sprays and pour-on pesticides can also be effective; however, they also require extra labor and handling of cattle. Another point is that they offer short-term control (one month or less). Therefore, in order for this method to offer optimum control, cattle must be handled and treated monthly throughout the fly season. Additionally, there is the fact that the applicator must handle these chemicals and the associated safety issues therein.

Some utilize backrubs laced with pesticides and oil. This method yields mixed results. It is difficult to get all cattle within the herd to properly utilize these rubs on a consistent basis. Additionally, labor is required to properly maintain these rubs to make sure they are not dislodged and contain effective levels of pesticides.

Adult horn flies spend their time almost exclusively on the animal, while the egg, larval and pupa stages are all in the manure pat.

However, one of the most convenient and effective methods of horn fly control involves self-fed mineral supplements and blocks. These supplements contain active ingredients that interrupt the horn fly life cycle, effectively reducing the overall population of horn flies. This method requires no additional labor and no cattle handling unlike the previously mentioned methods. Just provide free-choice supplementation to cattle as you normally would.

SWEETLIX branded minerals and blocks containing Rabon Oral Larvicide, Altosid IGR or Clarifly conveniently and effectively control horn flies. All three active ingredients act to disrupt the horn fly life cycle to prevent future generations of flies. Rabon, Altosid and Clarifly do not have slaughter withdrawal times and all can be fed to all classes of cattle including lactating cows and calves.

For best results, start feeding SWEETLIX branded fly control products for at least 30 days before the projected last frost and 30 days after the first frost. In some areas, these dates will overlap. Be sure to provide at least one mineral feeder or block per 10-20 head. Locate mineral feeders or blocks where cattle congregate (near watering, loafing or shade areas, etc.). Follow label directions on stocking rates and target intake. Increase or decrease the number of mineral feeders or change locations if necessary to adjust for proper consumption. Remember, Altosid, Clarifly and Rabon will not kill adult flies. Use of approved adulticides will be necessary to eliminate adult fly populations if these supplements are introduced after adult horn fly infestation is already established.

SWEETLIX offers a wide variety of fly control supplements available through your local Quality Co-op, including SWEETLIX Rabon Molasses Pressed Block, SWEETLIX 6% CopperHead IGR Mineral, SWEETLIX Pest-A-Side Pressed Block with Rabon, SWEETLIX Clarifly Fly Control Block and many others. Visit or call 1-87SWEETLIX to learn more about available options and how these supplement products can help improve profitability in your herd.

In summary, horn flies represent a costly drain on profitability. Fly control will be critical this spring due to ideal conditions for fly reproduction. Your local Quality Co-op can offer many tools for effective fly control, including the convenient, self-fed SWEETLIX fly control supplements.

Rabon is a registered trademark of Bayer HealthCare, LLC
Altosid is a registered trademark of Welmark International
Clarifly is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company
SWEETLIX and CopperHead are registered trademarks of Ridley USA, Inc.

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

What's Cooking in Guatemala?

Bringing delicious and healthy rabbit recipes to the table with Partners of the Americas Farmer-to-Farmer Program.

Sydne Spencer and one of the local ladies by an open fire stove.

by Sydne Spencer

I spent two weeks in Guatemala from January into February 2016 teaching people in rural areas about food safety as it relates to processing, preparation and nutritional value of rabbit meat. This was my first time to visit Guatemala and I enjoyed learning about their cultures as they did about my methods of meat rabbit preparation.

I volunteered my expertise with Partners of the Americas Farmer-to-Farmer Program, a U.S. Agency for International Development funded program generously supported by U.S. taxpayers. My assignment was part of a bigger project to introduce meat rabbit production into rural agriculture areas for female head-of-households where it can be an extra source of protein for mothers and their young children. Guatemala is a country where chronic malnutrition affects 80 percent of the population so any additional sources of protein are very beneficial.

I spent my first week showing mostly women how to humanely and safely process meat rabbits. Then I would prepare the meat along with vegetables using innovative recipes for meals that are healthy and high in protein.

I took it for granted these women would understand anything that can be done with chicken can be done with rabbit. These ladies had not considered that and were amazed to experience rabbit cutlets and rabbit vegetable soup using the bones to make consommé (broth) as the base. At other times, I walked around local villages visiting various women’s rabbitries providing positive feedback and making suggestions regarding opportunities for improvement and enjoyed local lunches.

Trainees holding their freshly harvested rabbit.

My second week was spent training the trainers (leaders in the national coffee industry) on much of the same. My husband, Robert, did training on fundamentals of meat rabbit production. The national coffee industry is interested in taking the initiative and introducing meat rabbit production as an additional source of protein for rural communities in the mountains where coffee production is dominant industry, but quality nutrition in diets is very lacking. By the end of training, the trainees were all excited about this viable alternative and, when they experienced the different ways of preparing rabbits, they were ready to put this project into action.

These two weeks were a very unique experience for me as I had never seen people living such fundamental lifestyles with no jobs and minimal incomes. I saw homes with no heat or air conditioning, the simplest of furnishings, and open air kitchens that only used open fires for cooking. Some of the households have gas or electric stoves, but choose not to use them as the open fires are preferred for cooking. Those modern appliances sit off to the side piled up with stuff and collecting dust.

I quickly developed an appreciation for all the things we take for granted in the United States. While my real job is a quality manager/engineer for one of the many defense and aerospace companies in Huntsville, I hope to retire someday and spend my time traveling the world while helping others.


Servings: 4-6

One rabbit, deboned
Seasoned flour

Beat all available meat with a meat mallet. Dredge rabbit pieces in flour. In a heavy skillet on medium-high heat, fry meat until golden brown and cooked through. Slice the fried pieces into strips and serve on salad or with tortillas.


Servings: 8-12

4 quarts salted water
1 garlic bulb, cloves peeled and crushed
1 rabbit, deboned (reserve carcass and giblets)
Vegetables, any assortment (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, sweet peppers, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, celery, squash, pumpkin)
Salt and pepper, to taste

In large cooking pot, bring salt water to boil. Add garlic, rabbit carcass and giblets into water. Cover and continue on a low boil for at least 2 hours. Coarsely chop the vegetables into large bite-size pieces and set aside. Cut the rabbit meat into small, bite-size pieces and set aside. Remove bones and giblets from the broth. Cut up giblets and return to broth if you want them in your soup, otherwise discard. Skim any floating fat or scum from the top of the broth and turn heat to high. Add veggies and meat to the broth. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Simmer at least another hour. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.


Servings: 4-6

Oil for sautéing
1 rabbit, deboned (use the bones for broth for vegetable soup)
2 medium onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
2 medium to large sweet peppers
1-2 small hot peppers, optional

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil to cover approximately ½ inch of bottom. Add onions, garlic and peppers. Turn as needed. While vegetable are sautéing, slice rabbit into thin strips. When onions are just translucent, add rabbit. Stir as necessary to prevent scorching vegetable, ensuring all meat gets cooked throughout. Season as desired (I just use salt and pepper to taste, but you could use red pepper, chili powder, etc.)

Serve with tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and/or salsa.

Synde Spencer is the wife of Robert Spencer.

What's Wrong With This Sheep?

By looking at the ewe’s whole body, you can see she is not doing well.

by Robert Spencer

The ewe you see in this picture is a Saint Croix Hair Sheep; she appears healthy in this picture, but died within a week of the photo being taken. She was the same breed, age, health, etc. as two others that became sick and died before I could get her to a vet and learn the cause of their demise. Despite our best efforts, she eventually died. I want to share this story for three reasons: (1) To share how difficult it can be to diagnose some illnesses (even the vet had difficulty); (2) To help you become familiar with the symptoms; and (3) To enable you to be successful at saving your animals should the same occur to your herd.

Situation: All three ewes had successfully lambed approximately one week prior to becoming sick. All had lambed on the same farm in 2015, and received the same feed, hay and grazing as in 2015. All appeared healthy, in good body condition and parasite free based on FAMACHA evaluations. Keep in mind, I was out of the country when notified that one of the ewes had any symptoms, that her baby had died and then she died. Within a day of my return, another one exhibited the same symptoms; her two babies died and then she died. When the third doe went down, I realized it was time to start bottle feeding her two lambs and hope the ewe would live until the weekend when I could get her to the vet. The lambs were saved and went on to a good home.

Symptoms: The symptoms were the same for all three ewes. The first few days, they stopped eating grain feed, kept a distance from the herd and slowly stopped lactating (without me realizing). By day three or four, they had trouble walking and, by day five, they were unable to get up or walk. Within the next day or two, they slowly expired. They consumed limited quantities of hay and water during the entire time.

Visit to Veterinarian: Much to my amazement, the third ewe made it to a Saturday when I could finally get her to a local veterinarian. I shared my story with the vet. She was as perplexed as I. She took the ewe’s temperature and it was below normal; no fever, no infection. She checked the ewe’s eyelids (as I already had done) and saw healthy red color, so not likely a parasite problem. The ewe’s other vitals were normal and there was no evidence of pain or broken bones. The vet asked me how long the ewe had been in poor body condition. I told her all three does had been in good body condition before going off their feed and rapidly losing body condition. She was perplexed and went to check with a colleague (multi vet practice).

Diagnosis: The other veterinarian came out to look at ewe, then went and talked with my vet. She came back and told me the diagnosis was post-pregnancy toxemia or ketosis – highly unusual in post pregnancy, normally occurs just before birthing. Being familiar with dairy goats, I knew they were vulnerable, but did not realize sheep were also vulnerable.

Treatment: The vet gave me two options: (1) For them to keep the ewe, treat her with intravenous feedings and rehydration, but it would be very costly and the ewe still might not live. (2) I take the ewe home after and injection of vitamin B complex, dexamethasone and 50 percent dextrose; along with a packet of rehydrating powder to be mixed with water and given orally several times a day. In an attempt to build her energy levels, I began administering a home remedy of molasses, corn syrup and vegetable oil (similar to propylene glycol). With this combination of treatments, I managed to keep the ewe alive a few more days.

Research: I did some Internet research and all the information was very similar. At Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s website,, I found: "Pregnancy disease is the most common metabolic disease of sheep. It affects improperly fed ewes in late pregnancy .… It is generally accepted that the basic cause of pregnancy disease is a carbohydrate metabolism disturbance that is associated with, or results in, low sugar levels, ketosis, depressed liver glycogen and fatty infiltration of the liver. The disease is usually fatal ….

Treatment of this disorder usually is unsuccessful. However, intravenous administrations of glucose may be effective in the early stages of the disease. However, glucose (200 mL twice daily) given in this manner is used up rapidly, and frequent injections are necessary. Administering propylene glycol as a drench (2 ounces three or four times a day) is a common treatment for affected ewes."

Success Story: While I was not able to save my three ewes, I learned about a deadly disease. A few weeks later, someone called me and had a ewe with the same symptoms. By following my recommendations, they were able to save the ewe and lambs.

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

“Go for It”...

A handy carry-all for your tractor

by John Howle

“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”
~ Mark Twain

If I take my family out to eat at one of our fine, local establishments (Jack’s), it’s not uncommon for one or two in my group to sneak in some device designed to pick up magical signals from the Wi-Fi world because Jack’s Restaurant boasts "free Wi-Fi." An added bonus to the Wi-Fi is the fact that Jack’s also continuously runs Fox News on the big screen in the middle of the establishment. For my family, this is an oasis where we can indulge in a seductive bath of technology, fried chicken, Fox News, milkshakes and the Big Jack Deluxe Burger.

The original Jack’s Restaurant opened in 1960 in Homewood and now operates around 120 stores across the Southeast. I bet you also didn’t know that Jack’s slogan is, "Go with it!" So the next time you have an urge to leave the comforts of the farm for fast food, Wi-Fi and a Fox News fix, just "go for it" and visit your local Jack’s Restaurant.

Hauling a 55-gallon drum of feed is easier with a carry-all.

This May, you may find yourself having to spray fence lines and carry rolls of barbed wire and other bulky items. Having a carry-all on the back of your three-point hitch makes the job much easier. I had a carry-all built for my small, 18 horsepower tractor for less than $200 and, if you follow the plan below, you can do the same.


20 feet of ¼-by-3-by-3 angle iron (for frame of carry-all and top link frame)

1 piece of sheet metal 28-by-16 ¾ (for carrying platform on top of frame)

2 Category I lift arm pins 3/4 inch

Metal Fabrication

Step 1: Saw off three pieces of ¼-by-3-by-3 angle iron 36 inches long. Next, saw a 24-inch piece of the same angle iron. These sections will serve as the bottom frame on which the carry-all rests. Using these four pieces of angle iron, lay them out in a rectangle with the 24-inch piece at the front, the two 36-inch pieces on the sides and the final 36-inch piece at the rear. The rear piece will stick out past the frame bars for two reasons. One, the longer rear piece helps protect your sprayer, and two, future additions can be bolted to this rear piece such as a small, fabricated blade to scrape gravel. Weld these four pieces together at the adjoining angles at a width of 24 inches and length of 36 inches.

Step 2: Saw two pieces of the 3-inch angle iron to be used for the lift arm braces. These two pieces should be 26 inches long. Place these two pieces vertically at the inside front corners of the carry-all frame; level and weld them into place. Once the vertical lift arm braces are welded, drill a 7/8-inch hole on the sides of each arm to accommodate the lift arm pins. These pin holes will be drilled 10 ¾ inches from the bottom of the arms. The lift arm pins can be secured in these holes on the sides of the lift arm braces.

This sketch shows the dimensions of the carry-all.

Step 3: Saw a 24-inch piece of 3-inch angle arm to serve as the top of the lift arm frame. Weld this piece into place.

Step 4: To create the top link connection, you can weld two short pieces of angle iron, 2 inches long to the top of the lift arm brace. Weld both pieces to the top center of the frame at a distance of 2 inches apart. These two opposite-facing L-shaped pieces will accommodate the top link pin. Finally, drill a 7/8-inch hole in each piece. The top link pin will slide through these holes. This will give you a pin on each lift arm and a top link pin to lift the carry-all with your three-point hitch. Once this top 24-inch piece is welded into place, you will have a vertical rectangle to match up with the horizontal rectangle that accommodates the carry-all platform or plate.

Step 5: Cut a 23-inch piece of angle iron to serve as a front brace onto which you can mount a battery box. This piece should run between each 36-inch carry-all frame and be mounted in front of the carry-all plate. The battery box will rest on this front brace.

Step 6: Using scrap pieces of angle iron, cut out pieces to create a 13-by-8 battery box, and weld this to the cross brace you installed in step 5. Some might opt for a store-bought battery box designed specifically for holding a battery in place.

Step 7: Grind and sand down any rough areas, and paint the carry-all with equipment paint of your color.

This has been one truly helpful implement around our farm. I have carried rolls of barbed wire, 55-gallon drums of feed to cattle, a 25-gallon sprayer to control brush growth on fence lines and 150-pound syrup tubs to the cows.

If you will be carrying a large spray tank, you might consider drilling holes into the frame. The holes will allow you to hook tie-down straps to the frame. This will ensure the sprayer full of liquids doesn’t move when going across rough terrain. For less than $200, you can have a carry-all that can handle many jobs around the farm.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

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