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November 2013

4-H Extension Corner: What’s Happening in Your Community?

What better way to learn about engineering and water than to see how the two go hand in hand? This group of budding 4-H engineers got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Wilcox County Power Plant and Dam.

by Chuck Hill

Several years ago, Alabama 4-H introduced a slogan: 4-H is Where You Live. That means the greatest impact of 4-H does not come from participation in national or state events. The real impact comes from clubs and communities in every corner of our great state. It comes from the dozens of dedicated volunteers and staff who are the "caring, committed adults" who do make a difference in the lives of young people.

A quick look around the state shows some wonderful examples of what is going on in 4-H where you live.

Wilcox County

Wilcox County Extension and 4-H wanted to make young people more aware of the power of engineering to change the world and change their lives. They held a two-day engineering camp for fifth and sixth graders, giving them some difficult challenges doing things like building boats and designing irrigation systems. It was a totally "hands-on" approach to learning where students didn’t learn rote answers; they discovered their own potential to look for answers.

How can you get your barge full of beans down a mighty river? These 4-H Innovators are testing the boat they designed to make sure it would float and carry its load.

County Extension Coordinator Pam Stenz, Regional 4-H Extension Agents Wendy Padgett and Susan Thompson, and James Miles, regional Extension agent in Home Grounds and Gardens, introduced the 4-H Innovators to pressing engineering issues facing our state such as the importance of water. That led to tours of a power plant and dam followed by the young people’s own water engineering challenge.

Other engineering challenges involved such real-life issues as the safe transportation of food from the field to the grocery store and the design and manufacture of ships and boats. Equally appropriate to Wilcox County and Alabama, the youth even used good engineering practices such as testing and the development of prototypes to design a machine that a farmer could use to accurately and economically plant seeds.

During this two-day engineering camp, students were encouraged to think outside of the box and create solutions to everyday problems.

"The students really enjoyed being engineers. With limited guidance and interference from the staff, this group of fifth and sixth graders used their imaginations to create wonderful designs they were very proud of. I hope we can continue to use this ‘hands-on’ approach to teaching during our monthly 4-H meetings in our local schools," Stenz said.

Walker County

This young 4-Her is participating in the Alabama 4-H Water Watch Aquatic Science program.

Hands-on science was also the theme of the 4-H Summer Exploration Camp in Walker County. In addition to the engineering activities and processes, the Walker County 4-H youth had an opportunity to revisit the timeless joys of getting their feet wet and playing with water critters. As a group effort led by county, regional and state cooperative Extension staff, young people learned about testing the safety of water through the outstanding Alabama 4-H Water Watch Aquatic Science curriculum.

Walker County has a history of mine engineering. Perhaps no engineers had such a “sweet” task as this duo challenged with mining chocolate chip cookies and reclaiming the crumbs.

Did you know the kinds of water animals that live in a stream are an indicator of how healthy the water is and whether it is safe for a community water supply or to irrigate crops? Water can be simply and scientifically evaluated by analyzing the different species of animals living in it. For example, a crawfish might tolerate a different level of pollution than some species of insect larvae. By testing the water (and getting to play with crawfish and turtles!), young people learned some very serious science.

To learn more about 4-H where you live, contact your county Alabama Cooperative Extension System office. There are wonderful learning opportunities for young people – and equally grand opportunities for adult volunteers.

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

A Moment of Silence Is Like Preg Checking a Bull

by Glenn Crumpler

It was probably mid-morning before we got everything set up, got the calves sorted off and started pregnancy checking the cows. My grandson Bryant, who was 5 years old at the time, watched us as we palpated the first few cows and he listened more closely than I thought as we talked about whether or not they were bred. Well, before long, the pen where we were turning the cows into was too crowded for him to be safe, so I sent him home. Later that day, Bryant returned just as we were palpating the last cows. He then watched as we ran a new herd bull into the chute to palpate and semen check him before turning him in with the cows to finish the breeding season. Just as the vet got about elbow deep into his work, Bryant quickly and eagerly asked, "Is he bred?"

My response was: "No son. Bulls don’t have babies." "Then why are you checking him?" he asked. From his perspective, I suppose that was a very good question! The process looked the same as what we did to the cows, but what we were hoping to find was much different. (If you do not know what is involved in palpating cows for pregnancy or bulls for breeding soundness, you can do a quick Internet search or call me and I will explain the process to you - then you will understand his question and where I am going with the rest of this story.)

As I write this article, it is 9/11/2013 - 12 years to the day since America was attacked by terrorists through the hijacking of four passenger planes, two of which destroyed the Twin Towers, one that flew into the Pentagon and the fourth (thanks to the bravery of citizens who found themselves in the midst of a horrible situation) crashed into a field in Pennsylvania before it was able to attack the White House. Thousands of Americans were killed in these attacks. Some lost their lives, some gave their lives, but every American and millions of other people around the world were forever changed as a result of these ruthless attacks and the aftermath that still follows. Today, as the world remembers the 12th anniversary of these attacks, the news channels are replaying the horrific accounts of that day and memorials are taking place all around the country, especially at the sites where the attacks occurred. The names of the dead are being recited. Family members are speaking about the love and the memories they have of those whom they lost. And, of course, all of the national politicians are gathering together on the steps of the Capitol to remember that day, to honor the dead and to lead the country in a "moment of silence."

As I sit here and watch each of the memorials being held at the specific sites and times that each plane crash occurred, and I listen to the political leaders in charge of each event lead the country in a "moment of silence," I cannot help but reflect back on that day in the cattle pens, and what Bryant must have been thinking when he asked me if the bull was pregnant.

If we were not looking for a calf in there, why were we elbow-deep up the rear end of a bull? Bryant had just seen us doing the same thing with all the cows searching for an unborn calf, so if we were not searching for a calf, why were going through what appeared to be the same motions on a bull? If we are not willing to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and call out to Him in prayer, why are we asking the nation to be quiet for a moment instead of asking them to pray? A "moment of silence" and a time of prayer may look the same on the outside, but the purpose, the audience and the results are radically different.

How is it that we as a country instead of boldly and openly praying to the one, holy, mighty, loving and just God for help, have allowed prayer to be reduced to just a mere "moment of silence"? The God whom our Founding Fathers boldly and proudly professed to be the God in whom we trust is the same God who created the heavens and the earth, who sent His Son Jesus to die for the sins of the world and to conquer death for us through His resurrection from death. He is the same God who sent us His Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us. He is the only One able to answer our prayers. He is our only hope. He is not just one of many gods; He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. Yet, somehow and for some reason, we have turned away from Him and have reduced prayer and communion with God to just a "moment of silence." What are we afraid of? What are we hoping to accomplish? Why are we going through the motions if we are not sincerely looking for help or answers? Why are we looking for help and answers in places where no help or answers reside? Back to Bryant’s question and reasoning, if we are not hoping to find a baby, why do we have our arms two feet up a bull’s butt?

That may be a little crude wording, but think about it. What exactly is it we expect to accomplish when instead of making our requests known to God as He invited and commanded us to do, we just stand still and be silent. We restrain from calling out to Him, refuse to even mention His Name or acknowledge His existence, and we surely dare not mention the name of His son Jesus lest we offend someone, yet we hope He or some other god will honor our "moment our silence" and bless our nation!

He has promised us, if we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear our prayers, forgive our sin and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) He has pleaded with us to cast our cares and concerns upon Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7) He told us through the writings of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-5, "I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men .... For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as ransom for all ...."

We cannot call ourselves Christians nor can we believe America to be a Christian nation if we continue to live in our sin and neglect and/or reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If we reject Christ, we reject God the Father, and we reject the power and leadership of the Holy Spirit. He will answer our prayers when we come to Him in repentance and faith, but He will turn a deaf ear to "moments of silence" rejecting His authority and Lordship.

It is time to wake from our slumber. During this season of Thanksgiving, let’s break the silence and call the nation back to PRAYER!

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

Accomplished TV Producer and Outdoorsman Brings Management Advantage to State Government

Charles “Chuck” Sykes (seated), named director of the state Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division earlier this year, reads a magazine on his favorite outdoor sports. Assistant Director Fred Harders lends his expertise whenever needed.

Chuck Sykes Looks Back on His First Year as Director of Wildlife and Fisheries

by Alvin Benn

Shifting from woods and streams where he produced a popular television show seen by millions to a government job in Montgomery hasn’t been an easy transition for Chuck Sykes.

He admitted he still wonders at times why he accepted the position, but is slowly adjusting to his new surroundings.

It’s been almost a year since he became director of an important division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the change has been quite an eye opener for him.

"I had no desire to take the job because I knew very little about it and, frankly, I didn’t want to know anything about it at first," said Sykes, who is director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Chuck Sykes and puppies planting food plots in Choctaw County. Syd is a 1-year-old male blue merle miniature Australian Shepherd and BES is a 9-year-old female red merle miniature Australian Shepherd.

No one had to tell him about the importance of the position because he already knew; when he assumed command, it was with the same enthusiasm he had always shown when responsibility came his way.

An Auburn University-trained biologist who spent more than a decade as a wildlife and land management consultant as well as a television producer, Sykes was familiar with the private sector, but wasn’t sure what it would be like in a coat and tie behind a desk most of the day.

He knew it would be a memorable change in his lifestyle so he decided to officially take the job on Dec. 28, 2012. It’s the most important day of his life - his birthday.

"I asked to start before the first of the year because I felt I could remember the anniversary," laughed Sykes, 42. "I knew it could either be a really good day or a bad one."

Growing up in Choctaw County, Sykes spent as much time as he could hunting and fishing. When he wasn’t in school, he’d be in the woods searching for deer and turkeys. If not there, he’d be next to a pond or creek, casting a line looking for the biggest fish he could find.

Little did he know, one day, he’d parlay his skills into a profession that earned him a national reputation.

"People in Alabama are very passionate about their college football and their hunting," he said. "But owning a rifle and killing a deer won’t make you a wildlife biologist."

Chuck Sykes, Roger Pangle, then AFC’s COO and now CEO, and Casey Shoopman while filming in South Dakota for an episode of “The Management Advantage.”

Casey Shoopman, editor/producer of “The Management Advantage,” DCNR Commissioner Gunter Guy and Chuck Sykes with a turkey they harvested in Lowndes County.

That came in the classroom as much as in the woods and much of Sykes’ life has been spent trying to educate people about the outdoors whether involving hunting, fishing or land management.

In 1999, he launched a full-service natural resource consulting company. Two years later, he created "The Management Advantage," a television program that lasted for 11 years.

Chuck Sykes, his dog BES and father Willie Sykes with a Choctaw County buck.

The show, a popular feature on "The Outdoor Channel," centered on educating the public about how to improve their properties for both game and non-game species instead of solely focusing on harvesting.

When the opportunity arose for him to become director of the state Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, it afforded him a chance to concentrate on his home state "and do some positive things for hunters in Alabama."

"The Management Advantage" has changed direction, too. It’s now available through the Internet and Sykes says not only is it "still viable," it’s attracting more interest than ever.

His business interests presented some initial concerns, but Sykes took care of that by accompanying his attorney to the Alabama Ethics Commission to work out any potential conflicts of interest.

"As long as I do not use my public position for personal gain, there is no conflict," he said. "There’s really no way to separate one from the other because people would constantly ask me about ‘The Management Advantage’ whenever they’d see me."

Chuck Sykes with a 200-pound feral hog he harvested in Choctaw County.

He quickly learned he had a lot to learn as director of a state organization that includes about 300 employees. In his private ventures, he and a few assistants pretty much handled operations.

"What I’m doing now has consumed just about all my waking moments," he said. "I didn’t have a clue about state operations, but it was nice to know I had the full support of the commissioner who hired me."

He referred to Alabama Conservation Department Commissioner Gunter Guy Jr. who is very pleased with Sykes’ management skills during his first year.

"Chuck has done an outstanding job for the department," said Guy, noting Sykes’ "expertise in wildlife management" couldn’t have come at a better time because it coincided with "major issues affecting hunters around the state."

Casey Shoopman, editor/producer of “The Management Advantage,” Chuck Sykes and Tim Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, bagged this turkey on one of their hunts.

Guy specifically mentioned the extended deer season now under way as well as the new Game Check program, one of the most dramatic hunting changes in Alabama in recent memory.

The new regulation requires hunters to report each deer and turkey harvest within 72 hours. Sykes believes compliance shouldn’t be a problem and details from the field will help "better manage our wildlife resources."

The reporting period initially had been 24 hours, but the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board and the Legislature agreed to lengthen that amount of time.

Sykes is still encouraging hunters to send in their reports quicker than three days "so we can get the most accurate data possible to make season and bag limit recommendations."

Guy said Sykes’ leadership skills have been "invaluable" to the department. The commissioner has been an occasional hunting partner with his new department head.

Fred Harders, who served as interim director of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and is now Sykes’ top assistant, echoed Guy’s sentiments.

"His technical expertise of dealing with wildlife has been very helpful, especially with these changes," Harders said. "Our hunters are going to have to get used to them and we’re doing our best to educate them about what they mean."

To do that, Sykes has prepared a four-page "explanation" about "misconceptions" involving the Game Check requirement now being implemented.

The first, and perhaps most important misunderstanding, he said, is the feeling by some hunters that the state instituted the Game Check program as a way to increase revenue for the department.

Sykes said that’s not true and pointed out that revenue from fines imposed by judges as a result of game and fish violations during the past 3 years accounted for less than 2.2 percent of the conservation department’s total budget during that time.

"The primary reason for implementing the Game Check system is to collect harvest information in Alabama so we can better manage deer and turkeys for the sustainable benefit of all Alabamians," he explained.

Sykes isn’t sure how many deer are roaming through Alabama, but estimates it’s in the "hundreds of thousands." Many states already have similar harvest checking systems in place.

Supervising a department with an annual budget of about $40 million is quite a departure from his days as a land management expert dealing with one property owner.

"When I was involved with that, I could handle it easily because I only dealt with one person, one piece of property and one set of problems," he said. "Now, I’m looking at the whole state as well as everything from rabbits to quail, deer and turkeys."

Those who have known Sykes for years never had any doubts he’d do a good job when he took over the department.

Tim Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Cooperatives in Selma, Demopolis and Faunsdale, has accompanied Sykes on many hunting trips.

"Chuck’s a phenomenal turkey hunter and knows just about everything there is to it," Wood said. "I think he can talk to a turkey better than Dr. Dolittle."

That’s high praise, indeed, from someone who knows that Sykes’ abilities will enhance the bottom line for cooperatives supplying hunters with all their needs.

"As far as the Game Check system is concerned, it’s important because we don’t have any hard information about what’s being killed in the state," Wood added. "This will give us a much better understanding."

Sykes certainly agreed with that assessment because "it’s critical we find out what inventories we have in this state. It’s hard to manage if you don’t know what we have."

When he assumed his new position, Sykes immediately initiated an open-door policy because "I want input from everybody since I’ve never claimed to know it all."

As his first year heads toward a conclusion, Sykes’ experiences could make for interesting reading if he ever decides to write a book.

"I’ve been involved in everything from budgets to seasons to bag limits," he said. "I’m also on a bunch of boards and go to a lot of meetings. That’s why I like to go out in the field to speak with our employees who spend their days there."

Sykes and his wife Susan live in Wetumpka. Susan enjoys the outdoors as much as her husband and helps with the family farm in Choctaw County whenever she has the chance.

Give him a choice of what game to hunt and he’ll quickly respond with "turkeys." He has three of them mounted and proudly displayed at his Montgomery office.

His pride and joy is not there, however. It’s "The Drummer," a name he gave to the turkey he hunted for 7 years before finally bagging him.

"It’s in a case at home," Sykes said. "I put him in it because of the respect I had for him during all those years I hunted him."

As for deer, Sykes says he’d much rather hunt them with a bow and arrow instead of a rifle because "it takes a lot more skill."

He may not have a lot of time in the near future to hunt deer or turkeys due to his new responsibilities, but, the first chance he gets, he’ll be back in the woods again - a place that has become like a second home to him.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Annual Ag Innovation Gathering Is Showcase for New Investor Opportunities

by Jim Erickson

If someone asked what are the "hot" industries that more and more venture capital firms are examining closely these days, chances are few people would include agriculture among their top five, or maybe even their top ten.

And that would be a big oversight, said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer and senior vice president for administration and finance at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The St. Louis, Mo.-based Center is the world’s largest independent research institute focused on plant science.

"Five years ago, there may not have been all that much interest in agricultural technology," he observed. "But we’ve tried to convince and show investors that agriculture represents a big opportunity. Whenever you have an industry facing major challenges – and feeding a growing world population is about as big as they come, you also have major opportunities.

"Venture capital firms that maybe never had thought twice about agriculture are now coming forth and are among the leading investors in the industry."

What has caused that change?

One factor has been the Ag Innovation Showcase, a gathering of innovators, investors and others from around the world involved in agricultural technology and its potential. The fifth showcase was recently held at the Danforth Center and, like the others before it, the event brought together thoughtful leaders focused on issues of predominant interest both to agriculture and society as a whole.

If the conference raises images of stodgy academicians and financial types droning on about esoteric minutia of their respective specialties, that, too, would be an erroneous assumption. From start to finish, the fast-paced event featured one mind-boggling discovery and thought-provoking discussion after another during its two-day run.

Boring speakers with nothing to say need not apply for a spot on the showcase agenda.

Networking breaks and opportunities for private, investor-innovator discussions added to the mix.

Months of planning and preparation go into the annual event.

Earlier in the year, details about the late summer conference go out to researchers and innovators around the world. Those interested in winning a spot on the program to tell about their latest advances are invited to submit application documents and a business plan.

"We had about 100 submissions this year," Fiorello said.

A geographically diverse panel of investors and entrepreneurs reviewed the information and ultimately settled on 19 applicants who were invited to make a presentation at the September conference.

Of those on the agenda, it was almost an even split between presenters from this country and overseas. Ideas and products ranged from plant and animal health, a variety of farming innovations, information technology and biological solutions to advances in renewable and sustainable practices.

One of the more intriguing presentations was from SenesTech, Inc., an Arizona firm that has developed a way to reduce rat populations without using rodenticides that are rarely cost-effective, can be lethal to humans and other animals, and harmful to the environment.

The company’s solution is a product that drastically reduces rodent fertility in a non-surgical, non-toxic and environmentally neutral manner.

The initial focus is on rats because of damage they do to crops, animal feed and urban infrastructure, and the deadly diseases they often transmit. But the product can be modified to target other species including mice, wild horses, dogs, cats, wallabies and other animals where humane population control is needed.

Among other innovations reviewed were:

A Canadian company’s patented technology converting properties of mustard seed into formulated soil fumigants and fertilizers controlling soil-borne pests and diseases and supporting soil health.

Technology to increase crop yields with biotech-based traits enhancing photosynthesis and carbon fixation in plants.

An Australian firm’s process to encapsulate ethylene gas into a powdered product that ripens harvested fruits in transit rather than in ripening rooms at the market where the produce is sold. The technology means fruit can get to market quicker, cheaper and in better condition.

A Dutch company’s system that manages irrigation with solar-powered, soil-moisture sensors. A system developed by two firms in the Netherlands for cultivating plants in a highly controlled environment more energy efficient than a conventional greenhouse. Water consumption and labor are minimal and pesticides are not used. The process has been used successfully in growing ferns and has been extended to growing green-leaf plants such as lettuce.

A Minnesota company’s LED lighting system designed to boost production in poultry, swine and aquaculture operations.

Since the showcase began in 2009, 95 percent of the companies making presentations at the event have found potential partners while four out of five presenters seeking financing have matched up with potential investors.

"Our success has turned some heads," Fiorello remarked, "and agricultural investment today is no longer limited to commodities and land deals.

"We anticipate there will be more conferences like this one spring up, but we have a head start and a track record.

"With our world’s population increasing and more and more people achieving a level of affluence enabling them to afford a better diet, how can we provide what will be demanded? The only way we can answer that is with science and innovation."

Avoid Pathogenic Party Crashers During the Holiday

by Angela Treadaway

Uninvited human guests during this holiday season may be irritating enough, but the worst party crashers could prove to be of the pathogenic kind - E. coli, salmonella and listeria, to name only a few.

Foodborne illnesses are no more common during the holiday season than at any other time of year. Even so, more food is prepared and consumed during this time of year, leaving the door open to all sorts of pathogens that may lurk on unwashed hands and countertops, and that ultimately may end up on the food you eat.

Following is a list of the more common bugs associated with foodborne illness along with their symptoms and common sources of human exposure.

Campylobacter Jejuni

Most often spread by exposure from raw or undercooked turkey and other poultry, Campylobacter Jejuni is now the leading cause of bacterial food poisoning. Because of its close association with poultry, it is a major source of concern during the holiday season. However, beef, pork, shellfish and unpasteurized milk also are sources.

Diarrhea, stomach pain, fever and nausea are the most common symptoms associated with this pathogen; vomiting is less common. Blood sometimes may be seen in feces. These symptoms may follow between one and 10 days after consuming the tainted food.

Symptoms typically last between two and five days, but seldom more than 10 days, though relapses can occur. Individuals with compromised immune systems may want to consult their physicians to determine if antibiotic use is appropriate.

E. coli O157:H7

Most Americans first became acquainted with this deadly pathogen in 1993 when several people, mostly children, died from exposure to the pathogen after consuming undercooked ground beef at a chain restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. Hundreds of others survived the ordeal after enduring days of excruciatingly severe nausea, cramping and bloody diarrhea.

Symptoms occur within two to eight days after exposure and include mild diarrhea to diarrhea with copious amounts of blood. Severe anemia and kidney failure are the complications most often associated with E. coli O157:H7.

While the pathogen is most often associated with undercooked beef, it can occur on almost any food that has not been adequately cooked or, in the case of raw vegetables and other uncooked foods, washed. Young children, a number of whom have died after contact with the pathogen, and elderly people are most vulnerable.

Listeria Monocytogenes

There has been quite a bit of hysteria about Listeria in recent years - and for good reason. It is a pathogen that is far more pervasive than salmonella and the potentially deadly E. coli 0157:H7. Listeria is linked to more than a fourth of all food-related deaths.

One thing that distinguishes Listeria from better-known disease-causing agents such as E. coli and salmonella is it can be found practically everywhere - in the air, on the ground, in water, in soil and even on people. Among foods, it is most commonly found in unpasteurized milk, soft-ripened cheeses and ready-to-eat meats such as hot dogs. Other sources of Listeria include raw and cold-smoked fish, raw meats and poultry, cooked poultry, fresh vegetables and ice cream.

Flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea or a stiff neck are common symptoms associated with listeriosis. Symptoms may appear at any point between three and 70 days after exposure.

While healthy people usually recover quickly and fully from exposure to Listeria, individuals with weakened immune systems often are not so lucky.

Pregnant women are also an especially vulnerable group.

Norwalk and Norwalk-like Viruses

The symptoms associated with this group of viruses, named after a city in Ohio, have caused misery throughout the world. They are most often associated with mollusks or any seafood contaminated with sewage or sewage-tainted water.

Common symptoms, which occur within a day or two after consuming tainted food, include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache and mild fever. The symptoms can last for as long as 60 hours, though they typically are not accompanied by long-term complications.

Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses account for roughly two-thirds of food poisoning outbreaks.


Salmonella, like Campylobacter, is another major concern during the holiday season because it is closely associated with undercooked poultry. Eggs are another major source of salmonella. Other sources may include raw meat, dairy products, pasta, shrimp, sauces and salad dressing.

Outbreaks also have been associated with close contact with pets such as turtles, terrapins, hedgehogs, dogs and cats.

Symptoms, which include diarrhea and abdominal cramping, typically occur within six to 48 hours after exposure and may be accompanied by fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Complications may include blood poisoning, meningitis and bone-joint infections.

The very young and old as well as immuno-compromised individuals are especially susceptible to salmonella exposure.

Though salmonella accounts for only about 10 percent of cases related to food poisoning, it is responsible for almost a third of the deaths associated with foodborne illness.

Staphylococcus Aureus

This ball-shaped bacteria, which often can be prevented merely by hand washing and other simple precautions, is responsible for an estimated 1.5 million outbreaks of foodborne illness every year in the United States. These bacteria manufacture a heat-resistant toxin that is even able to survive boiling. Exposure most often occurs when infected nasal secretions or untreated wounds on hands come into contact with food.

Vomiting can start as quickly as one to six hours after exposure. Symptoms may be intense, often resulting in hospitalization, though death is rare.

Staphylococcus presents a special risk during the holiday season mainly because of the large amount of finger food consumed during this time of year.

Source: Dr. Jean Weese, Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety specialist and Auburn University professor of nutrition and food science.

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.

Catching Up for Winter

by Herb T. Farmer

The other day I looked into my freezer and took inventory of the fruits and vegetables I had put up for winter.

I must admit I was more than a little disappointed. It isn’t that I had a bad year for farming herbs. There were just a few things that conflicted with the fruit and vegetable production.

Each year, I try to add a little more plantings of food-producing plants. I don’t necessarily do it because I need more food to live on. Rather, I like to try new veggies and I like to share what I grow with my friends and neighbors. When the weather is fair, some of my farmer friends stop by and brag about their personal gardens over a game of chess and a cup of coffee. It’s always fun to show off a four-pound eggplant or an unusual squash to these fellows.

This year, the squash borers, pickleworms and deer were fed very well here.

Open 24/7/365, the Farmers Market in Birmingham is the place to go to buy any quantity of fruits and vegetables.

A trip into Birmingham was months overdue, so I decided to visit some friends at the original farmers market on Finley Avenue.

The Jefferson County Truck Growers Association has operated the market for more than 85 years and that market is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

I remember going there as a child. In the wintertime, the farmers would hover around fire barrels to keep warm. They unloaded their produce from their trucks onto block tables and we would walk through the aisles and choose the best of what was available at the lowest prices in the United States because we were buying it directly from the farmers.

Not much has changed since then. I have been shopping there for more than 50 years. The farmers drive their trucks into sheds where they set up to sell their fruits and veggies. They are divided into categories. You know if you are buying from an Alabama farmer or farmers from out of state. There are even large warehouses located at the market where you can buy in bulk.

Bama Tomato Company is one of my regular stops when I travel to the market. There you can buy a case (or a dozen tractor-trailer loads) of tomatoes, potatoes and even bananas.

My excursion took me to Bama first. Production tomatoes were still around $8 per box for #2 canning grade, so I bought 300 pounds of them.

That may seem like a bunch of tomatoes to you, but I needed some for juicing. I drink a lot of tomato juice, hard and not. It takes at least a year for tomato wine to mature and it is one of my signature libations I offer my dinner guests. The cellar was running low on that spirit.

No worries. I’ll give you a recipe that will make this fine liquid treat in small quantities. Just remember I respect and use all spirit recipes to the letter. If you miss a step, you may not know for a few months or years how bad of a mistake it was.

At the farmers market, I also found some really sweet and large muscadines from Tennessee. I bought a half bushel for jellies and muscadine-hull cobbler.

I think I bought the last bushel of baseball-size, South Carolina peaches. I spread them out on the dining room table for a couple of days to let them fully ripen (ate a bunch that were maturing faster than most) and processed them for freezing. The fuzzy skins and pits were removed. Some of the peaches were halved, quartered or sliced for baking pies and cobblers. The rest were pureed and sugar-sweetened for homemade ice cream.

Amazingly enough, I found a farmer from Creola selling yellow summer squash in half-bushel boxes. I bought two. A bushel of yellow squash weights about 38-44 pounds. My two boxes weighed out at 40.5 pounds, so I blanched and froze 38 pounds and ate fresh squash for a week.

Out of the 100 pounds of small #1 red potatoes purchased, 35 quarts were pressure canned and the rest went into my fresh root storage bins.

Oh. I also bought some pumpkins from a friend from Cullman. I didn’t have a plant that produced anything worth cooking this year. I can hardly wait until Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pies are my favorite!

For me, preserving food starts in late June and goes right up to mid-November. We can’t grow everything, but we can shop smart.

Find your values at your local farmers market.

Top to bottom, the Squeezo is certainly the easiest way to juice tomatoes for wine. A primary fermenting bucket with about four-gallons of tomato wine must. The yeast has been pitched and it is working its magic!

Red Tomato Wine

4 pounds fresh, ripe red tomatoes
2 pounds granulated sugar
3½ quarts water
2 teaspoons acid blend
½ teaspoon pectic enzyme
1/8 teaspoon grape tannin
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1 Campden tablet, crushed
1 package Champagne or Montrachet yeast

Boil water and dissolve sugar. Wash and cut tomatoes into chunks, discarding any bruised or insect-scarred parts. Pour fruit and any juice from cutting into nylon straining bag in primary. Tie bag and squash the fruit. Pour the boiling water with dissolved sugar over fruit. Cover and allow to cool one hour. Add acid blend, tannin, yeast nutrient and Campden tablet. Stir, re-cover and after 12 hours add pectic enzyme. Wait another 12 hours and add yeast. Stir twice a day for 7 days. Remove nylon bag and allow to drip drain, adding drained juice to primary; do not squeeze bag. Siphon liquid off sediments into secondary fermenter, top up and fit airlock. Rack every 60 days until wine clears, then wait two weeks and rack again. Add stabilizer, wait 10 days, sweeten to taste with sugar water, then bottle. Wine will mature in one year and should be served chilled. Makes 1 gallon.

Let me know if you have questions about this recipe.

Remember to watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading.

For more information, email me at

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

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

Climb to Reach Your Goals

Eight Guidelines for Treestand Success

Most hunters feel you have some advantages in a tree stand over hunting from the ground - better sight, whitetails can’t see you as well and your human scent isn’t concentrated at the same level as a deer’s nose.

by Todd Amenrud

If you hunt whitetail, you probably own one or more tree stands. Whether you hunt with a bow or gun, more whitetail are tagged each year from a tree stand than by any other method. The type of tree stand you choose and how you use it will have a large impact on your success. Creating an effective ambush site may be more of an art than a science. Every setting is different and there aren’t any rules where there aren’t exceptions, but I’ve been lucky enough to have learned some general practices that lend a hand in most situations when placing a tree stand.

Nosebleed Territory

In most situations, you’re best to place your stand as high as you can without limiting your shot opportunities to a point. Anything above about 25 feet just doesn’t make sense. If you’re uncomfortable with heights, just go as high as you dare. Getting up the tree higher usually lets you see better, makes it more difficult for the deer to see you and, probably most prominently, your scent isn’t concentrated at their "nose level." If I had to pick a height, I would estimate most of my stands are 15 to 20 feet high - depending upon the tree and available cover.

Listen to the Breeze

Once you have your general area selected, pay heed to the wind and thermal current. I suggest mapping the wind direction each time you visit your locale and keep records. You want to remain downwind or crosswind of where you think the deer will be. That’s simple enough, but the wind currents also have a huge influence over when and where the deer will move. My first thought is: "Under what conditions will whitetail want to spend time here?" They aren’t going to spend a great deal of time in an area where they can’t use their nose efficiently. I want a buck to be comfortable with the site and the conditions before I decide on that location.

Be prepared in case they do swing downwind. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out they’ll do the opposite. I’m a big advocate of Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer system - I’ve seen these products fool a mature buck’s nose time and time again. It protects me from mistakes and from the unexpected. It’s not possible to be completely "scent-free" to a sense of smell as sophisticated as a whitetail’s; however, I am positive you can reduce odors to diminutive "trace levels" that even mature bucks will tolerate in close proximity. A simple way to put it is: if a buck does detect you, he thinks you’re 400 yards away rather than 40.


Look for trees that lose their foliage late like red oaks, or trees that never lose their cover like conifers. Using the available cover goes hand in hand with tree stand height - in bald trees, I’m likely to go higher than I do in trees with good cover. Search for clusters of trees or trees with a "Y" in the trunk to offer extra concealment. Do whatever you can to break up your human form.

The trend in tree stand sales is towards higher quality, more comfort and practical options. Customers are asking for powder-coated steel for no slip, adjustable shooting rails, leveling platforms, footrests, drink holders and even attachable lumbar supports like shown here.

Make Your Site Comfortable

The older I get, the more a comfortable vantage point makes sense. I can recall years ago a few hunts in stands leaning at an angle so severe I couldn’t have shot because I would have fallen out of the tree if I had to let go of it. One extra that has turned into a necessity for me is a platform that can be leveled. Mine has 60 degrees of adjustable leveling allowing the platform and the seat to be parallel to the ground even in a crooked tree.

When the time comes to do one of those "all day sits," I want a relaxing vantage point with a large platform and plenty of room to move around. Comfort is my most important consideration when purchasing a tree stand. Heck, now you can even get lumbar supports for your back that attach to the tree - now that’s what I’m talking about!

Easy Access

If you have a great spot but alert every deer within 400 yards by making a commotion while climbing your stand - poof, there goes your good spot! Make it so you can climb to your stand easily. Use enough tree steps or climbing sticks so you can scale the tree easily, safely and quietly.

The older I get the more I warm up to ladder stands. I’ve heard the claim that ladder stands are easier to see, both by deer and people. I would tend to agree that ladder stands are more difficult to camouflage, which generally makes them easier to see. However, I believe you can be just as effective while hunting out of any type of tree stand as long as you create an effective ambush site and a ladder stand can be placed and concealed in some cases where a regular portable stand cannot and they’re very easy to climb.

Safety First

What tree stand piece would be complete without mentioning the safety harness? Do I really use one? Absolutely - always. Has it saved me? Maybe - maybe not, but it has enabled me to make some shots I probably wouldn’t have made without it. While wearing a safety strap, I feel comfortable enough to lean out away from the platform - this gives me a much larger window to shoot around brush and other obstacles.

Snip That Hanging Branch!

Prepare your site to make the shot. What good does it do if you have a great location and a buck walks right past you within range, but you’re unable to make the shot? Take the time to trim some shooting lanes or "windows" where you can sneak an arrow through.

On the other hand, a mature buck can notice a lot of cutting and things that are out of place. I always wear clean rubber boots and trapper’s gloves when trimming lanes to reduce scent transfer and I carefully pick up the trimmed branches and pile them off the potential travel routes.

Blinded by the Light

Determine where the sun will be when you want to hunt your site. Do you like to look into the sun? Neither does a deer. In fact, we have a UV filter over our eyes, a whitetail doesn’t. This makes it especially difficult for them to see while looking towards the sun. Wind direction and cover are more important, but if you have a choice, position yourself "up-sun" from where you think the deer will be.

Tree stands are undoubtedly the most efficient method of hunting whitetails that we have. Granted, a good ground-blind set up can be every bit as lethal, but if you use these basic tree stand placement thoughts you’ll without a doubt put yourself closer to whitetails.

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.

Corn Time



FFA Members Statewide Participate in Chapter Officer Leadership Workshop

FFA members were able to participate in team building activities during the Chapter Officer Leadership Workshop.

by Kelsey Faulkner

The 2013-2014 Chapter Officer Leadership Workshops were held in each of the three districts in late July. These workshops were designed to equip chapter officers with the skills necessary to successfully lead a local chapter. The North District’s workshops were held July 24-25 at Albertville High School and Falkville High School. Students participated in two rotations that showcased six different workshops. These workshops were centered on one theme, "Duck Dynasty." In the first rotation, there were three workshops. Brittany Patrick, district sentinel, and Cody Maddox, district vice-president, led "How to Keep Your Ducks in a Row," focusing on leading a successful chapter. Ivy Harbin, district secretary, and Will Graves, district treasurer, followed with "Teamwork, Jack!" They focused on the need for teamwork for success. Next, Briana Bangs, district reporter, and Valerie White, district president, had "Duck Calls" that stressed the need for effective communication. After lunch, Cody Maddox and Ivy Harbin taught "How to Fly in Your Formation." This workshop was about keeping your chapter dedicated and focused. Then Bangs and Patrick discussed "The Importance of Your Quack," covering communication and appearance as chapter officers. Graves and White finished the day off with "The PHILosophy of Leadership." They talked about the qualities of a good leader. The two state officers in attendance, Alyssa Hutcheson and myself, led the group activities with the assistance of the district officers. This day would not have been possible without the planning and hard work of the district officers, advisory council members and Philip Paramore, the district specialist.

Kaleb Richard, South District FFA President from the Elba Chapter, explains how to be an effective leader to South District members at the Chapter Officer Leadership Workshop in Rehobeth.

The Central District’s workshops were held July 25-26 at Hale County High School and Central High School of Clay County. Students participated in six different workshops focusing on their own individual themes keeping in mind the overall theme "Survivor: FFA Edition." Each one of the Central District Officers led a workshop. District President Brittany Taylor helped students discover how to "become a tribal chief" while CJ Short, district secretary, helped students learn how to "build their tribes." Taylor and Short’s workshop focused on leadership, recruitment and partnership. Destiny Barthel, district vice-president, and Chase Roberts, district reporter, taught students to develop an outstanding Chapter Program of Activities as well as opening students’ eyes to the numerous opportunities available through FFA. Barthel and Roberts helped students "build a fire" to jumpstart their chapters and get them involved. District Treasurer Sarah Ledbetter and District Sentinel Logan Strock helped students learn how to "equip their tribe." Special thanks to the time and planning of the district officers, the central district advisory council members and especially the help of the Central District Specialist Chris Kennedy. Central District also wants to thank AIDT’s Bobby Jon Drinkard for speaking at the COLW held in Hale County.

The South District’s workshops were also held July 25-26 at Daphne High School and Rehobeth High School. The theme was "Suit Up for FFA" with a sports theme. District Treasurer Clay Tew started the day off with "Shoot for 3 with Your SAE," focusing on SAE involvement. Tristan Grey, district reporter, followed with "Serving up a POA," the importance of your Program of Activities. District President Kaleb Richard had "Step Up to the Plate and Lead." He discussed chapter officers’ responsibilities. Allison Butts, district sentinel, followed with "Touchdown for Teamwork," meaning working together as a team. Blair Hendricks, district vice-president, was out sick so the State Secretary Hayden Whittle gladly took her place. Whittle focused on "Make the Goal for Effective Meetings," stressing the need for parliamentary procedure in meetings. Then Robin Miller, district secretary, finished the day off with "5-6-7-8 We Love to Communicate." She focused on communication skills. To wrap up the day, the officers closed the workshop with a quiz bowl competition to review what was taught throughout the day. This event would not have been possible without the time and planning by the district officers, advisory council members and the help of the District Specialist Jacob Davis.

Students learned about proficiencies, degrees, career development events and supervised agriculture experiences. Overall, students learned valuable information that will help them as chapter officers.

Kelsey Faulkner is the Alabama FFA Reporter.

Growing for Past, Present and Future

Dianne and JDanny Cooper pause along the Auburn footpath in their backyard garden.

Feeling Connected in Backyard Green Space

by Ashley Smith

Working long hours in the field, we sure looked forward to dinnertime and taking a 15-minute nap before heading back out for the rest of the day," shared JDanny Cooper about his childhood experience working as the son of a Chilton County sharecropper. "Our days were long, starting early and working late. We grew peaches, dewberries and a variety of vegetables we sold in Birmingham at the Alabama Farmers Market on Finley Avenue."

As an adult, Cooper realizes those long days shaped him to become the person he is today. He does not farm these days but says he has to be growing something! His backyard at his Montgomery home grows a variety of lush, green plants. JDanny and Dianne, his wife of 43 years, encourage guests to relax while enjoying the environment. In talking with the couple, one quickly learns they take pleasure in their backyard green space and feel connected to past and present generations because of it.

Rambling pink roses grow along the Coopers’ fence, just one of the plants reminding him of his past and the generations of family before him. The roses he grows actually took root from clippings of a rosebush planted at the Cooper Family Cemetery in Marble Valley in western Coosa County. Family members from four to six generations ago are buried at the site. Because roses are propagated by a piece of the original to grow a new plant, Cooper’s rosebush is essentially the same plant. When looking at the delicate pink flowers, Cooper appreciates that someone lovingly planted irises, daffodils and the rambling rosebush in memory of loved ones at the family cemetery so many years ago. In addition to heritage roses, Cooper’s garden grows devil’s backbone and angel leaf begonia, both varieties of plants he propagated from plants once tended by his great-grandmother.

Although Cooper cultivates a number of plants with a rich history, he also grows "pass-along" plants given to him by friends and neighbors, plants to enhance the backyard bird habitat, and plants for beauty and consumption.

"We grow many of our blooming plants for the beautiful and amazing hummingbirds," Cooper said. "Dianne maintains feeders for them, too. They fly so close, even when we are nearby!"

JDanny Cooper holds an angel wing begonia rooted from stock from his great-grandmother’s plant.

Cooper carefully reads his monthly AFC Cooperative Farming News magazine for tips on caring for his yard. He clips and saves pages for future reference.

"I learned the best way to store my caladium tubers between late summer and the following spring by reading my AFC magazine," he claimed.

He shops at Elmore County Co-op in Wetumpka. Cooper’s connection to Quality Co-ops started years ago when he was a child growing up on that farm that once belonged to his great-grandparents.

"Besides peaches and vegetables, we grew dewberries. Those berries, as well as berries from 14 other local farmers, were the sole source of Bama Blackberry Jam for years," he related.

After they picked the berries, they put them in 100-gallon wooden barrels, which were taken to the Farmers Co-op in Thorsby and swapped for empty barrels so the process could continue. He wistfully revealed he wishes he could find one of those old barrels now.

Cooper’s pride and joy this past growing season was his banana plant. Close to 30 feet in height, this year’s plant grew the tallest in the 12-plus years since he has had it.

"When we moved to this house 3 years ago, I brought a piece of the banana plant with me from our other home," Cooper shared. "At the time of planting it here, the root was about the size of a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. That first summer it had four, maybe five, stems and leaves. Last summer the plant had many more and even produced bananas for the first time!"

Cooper attributes the number of banana bunches on this year’s plant to the high amount of rainfall Montgomery had this year. Bananas, which belong to the genus Musa, are native to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Now, however, bananas grow in more than 100 countries - primarily as a source of food. Bananas rate fourth among the main world food crops, following rice, wheat and maize in financial values. Generally speaking, the past summer’s climate – humid, rainy and muggy – proved perfect for bananas. The combination seemed to be just what Cooper’s banana plant needed.

"I told JDanny the plant was growing to Heaven!" Dianne laughed.

In addition to the amount of rainfall the plant absorbed, Cooper regularly watered it with rainfall collected in his rain barrels. He said watering 15-20 gallons of water per day is not too much during its growing season. Bananas love water, in the ground and from the air.

Left to right, the Coopers collect rainwater in rain barrels placed throughout their garden. JDanny Cooper’s banana tree is close to 30 feet tall and over 12 years old (three in their current location). It produced six stems of bananas this year.

Although in the past Cooper removed and composted all dead leaves from the plant, this past year he learned how the plant itself benefits from the leaves and the spent flower petals. In the past, he removed the brown leaves of the plant once winter arrived, but he discovered they provide protection during the chilly months. In the winter months, Cooper tells that the center of the plant, known as the corm, remains protected inside the stem under the layers of leaves.

"You cannot see life, but it is there!" he proclaimed.

Since banana plants produce suckers that are easily shared, banana plants are often "pass-along" plants. If you have received a baby banana sucker from a friend, go ahead and plant it. With proper tending and patience, perhaps it will grow and one day yield bananas!

Dianne and JDanny share their love of plants and the outdoors with their children and grandchildren. Dianne encourages their two granddaughters Caroline and Ella Cate to try gardening by planting tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and other vegetable plants.

"Ella Cate really loves gardening!" said Dianne about her granddaughter’s enthusiasm. "She loves to see things grow. We send texts back and forth as our garden plants grow and produce vegetables."

Dianne said both girls loved that their grandfather’s banana plant produced fruit they could eat for the past 2 years.

Whether growing plants that connect them with their past, nurturing "pass-along" plants shared from friends and neighbors, or by gardening with their children and grandchildren, Dianne and JDanny Cooper will surely pass along a green legacy.

Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.

Haitian Children Schooled in Sustainable Agriculture

Volunteers Lend Helping Hand with Teaching Rabbitry

A group photo of all the kids from the home with Robert Spencer.

by Robert Spencer

In August 2013, I spent one week in Haiti working with a faith-based group and children’s home outside of Port Au Prince. Healing Hands International, the sponsoring group, has been in the process of introducing sustainable food production in the form of vegetables and is now introducing rabbit production to Sonlight Children’s Home, a homeless children’s facility in Santo - a community located on the outskirts of the nation’s capital city. The purpose of my visit was to educate Roberta Edwards Aduate, the Home’s owner/manager, and the children living in the Home on the fundamentals of rabbit production, and to establish a small rabbitry.

Healing Hands International is a faith-based group based out of Nashville that conducts relief and mission work in Haiti. Their mission is to improve the lives of everyone regardless of religion, gender, age or race. Their goal is to empower people to sustain a better quality of life for families and communities, by equipping them with the tools necessary to improve all aspects of their lives. They engage volunteers by providing opportunities to share their time, talent and resources with those in need.

The people who made it happen (from left) are Robert Spencer, Anderson Pierre, Harry Hames and Gerard Michael Joseph (Papy).

My working relationship with HHI was initiated in March of 2013 when Harry Hames, director of Haiti operations with HHI, contacted me and explained their intent to introduce rabbits and inquired about my willingness to volunteer my services. HHI was well aware of the outreach work I had conducted in Haiti and felt I could play a valuable role. I agreed to help with the project by providing guidelines regarding the design of a simple, pole-barn shelter. HHI sent a group of people down in April to establish a concrete pad and shelter. Next, I shared designs for 12 rabbit cages and in June HHI sent a crew down to construct cages. During the last week in August, it was my turn to visit the home for educational and facilitation purposes.

Through colleagues in Haiti, I had prearranged for assistance with training and to acquire rabbits. Prior to the trip, while still in the U.S., Gerard Michael Joseph (Papy) and Anderson Pierre in Haiti were contacted to arrange for HHI to acquire 10 female rabbits and two male rabbits from producers in nearby Siebert. They also agreed to help with one day of training Aduate and the young adults from the Home. The sales benefited local producers in nearby Siebert that I had worked with in the past during collaboration with the Farmer to Farmer Program. Once the day-long educational component had been completed and the rabbits were in place, responsibilities were established.

The children are responsible for day-to-day care, upkeep and recordkeeping of the animals. They are also responsible for cleaning in and around cages with the intent of saving rabbit manure and vegetative waste to be composted for enhancing the soil in the home’s vegetable garden. Aduate will oversee the operation and provide guidance to the children.

She has been housing 20-25 children at her sprawling home for 17 years. The ages range from newborn to older teenagers, and they have been abandoned or are in need of a stable home. She houses, clothes, feeds, provides healthcare and educates them. If they want to go on to college, she tries to accommodate or find sponsors. Aduate is originally from the U.S. and had a very successful career in the banking industry, then came to Haiti on a two week mission trip and has remained there ever since.

Left to right, tying bundles of forages for rabbits. Kids busy naming rabbits. Even the very young are interested in the animals.

Outside of her home and with the sponsorship of HHI, she also feeds 150 locally malnourished children one to two meals a day with the help of at least one assistant and some of the older children from the Home. Currently, the primary sources of protein for all children - approximately 175 - are vegetables, rice and beans, and pasta with very little meat. The good news is the children receive adequate nutrition, the bad news is the children are very healthy so when she shows pictures of them people question the need for financial sponsorship.

On adjoining property, Aduate manages a small sewing operation sponsored by HHI that employs 6-10 women in a community offering no other job opportunities. These women make about $6 a day, slightly above minimum wage. They are eventually entitled to keep the sewing machines, and share the profits from sales of purses and children’s school uniforms they make. Most schools require children to wear uniforms so sales are almost guaranteed.

During the weeklong visit in Haiti, Hames was there to drive and showed me other facilities HHI had established and actively supports. There are several churches, children’s homes, schools, medical centers, etc. On a monthly basis, Hames and HHI take a purpose-based group down to address various needs including health care, nutrition, construction, dentistry, etc. As a result of my week in Haiti working with HHI and Sonlight Children’s Home, the following activities were accomplished:

Delivery of over $100 worth of assorted vegetable seed and a dozen sports caps donated by Scivally Grain of Taft, Tenn.

Seed will be utilized to maintain a year-round vegetable garden that will feed the 25 children at the home and 150 local children who receive one to two meals per day courtesy of the Home and HHI.

Group photo following training.

Purchase of 10 female rabbits and two male rabbits for breeding stock. Purchase price for the female rabbits in Haitian currency was 700 gourde or gouds each, and male rabbits was 500 gouds each; 43 gouds = $1. The does can be expected to produce two to three litters per year with six to eight kits per litter. Some will be kept for breeding replacement while most will be processed or sold for meat.

Taking several Extension publications (relevant to rabbits) to be used as supporting documents for educating the facility’s manager and the children regarding rabbit management and husbandry; those were left with the various groups he worked with.

Training and educational materials provided for 20 young people and two adults at Sonlight Children’s Home.

Approximately 170 children will soon have another source of quality protein on a weekly basis.

This was my 12th trip to Haiti in the past 6 years. While this was unique to the others, given my work with youth this time, it was every bit as rewarding knowing my help ensured 20-plus young people learned new skills and responsibilities, and 170-plus children will have an additional source of protein.

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

Has East Alabama Become Sale Headquarters for Beef Producers?

by Jack Tatum

It seems every time you pick up a beef magazine there is a sale in East Alabama. These sales can be for the commercial or purebred producer. With five sales already planned for 2013 and 2014, beef producers need to mark these high-quality sales on their calendars. These sales can help commercial breeders meet the consumers’ choice beef category.

Here is a list of the sales and the contact information:

Gibbs Farm

Selling over 140 SimAngus & Simmental bulls and 150 head of replacement females.

Sale date and sale facility: Saturday, November 9,on the farm in Ranburne. Sale time is 11 a.m. Website is Contact Gordon Hodges at 336-469-0489 or Doug Gibbs at 404-717-2264.

Southern Excellence Bull Development Group

A group of beef producers selling Simmental, SimAngus and Angus bulls from across the Southeast. Bulls are being developed at the Rick Whelan Farm on Hwy 77 in Wadley. Also, a select group of bred females will be sold. Sale date and facility: Saturday, December 14,at 11 a.m. at the Whelan Farm. Contact person is Rick Whelan at 404-473-6797. Website is

Lawler Angus Farm will hold two sales at the facility in Opelika.

Southeastern Classic Bull Sale Angus - Bulls from many Angus producers will be available for purchase at the sale. Bull sale date: Saturday, January 11, 2014, at noon.

Female Sale Date- Saturday, May 17,at noon. For more information on both the bull and female sales, contact Jarvene Shackleford at 662-837-1776 (cell) or

Eastern Elite Bred Heifer Sale

Selling 100 head of high-quality bred commercial females. Many were bred artificially.

Sale date and sale facility: Saturday, May 10, 2014, at the Clay County Stockyard in Ashland. Sale time is 11 a.m. Contact Michelle Elmore at 205-646-3610 or Jack Tatum at 205-316-8382 or website:

Next Step Cattle Company

A sale by 10 progressive breeders who have been developing and marketing their bulls through the Sunshine Farm Bull Development Program for the past 15 years. More than 100 head of SimAngus, Simmental and Angus bulls will be sold. Cattle are being developed at Next Step Cattle Co. Bull Development Center in Auburn. Sale date: Saturday, December 7, at 11 a.m. Contact Tommy Brown at 205-755-5431 or John Harrell at 334-524-9287. Website for Next Step is

Jack Tatum is a regional Extension agent and can be reached at 205-316-8382.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

New App Links to Plant Pros Help

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has partnered with seven other land grant universities to create an easy system for farmers, gardeners, landscapers and others serious about their plants to submit problems for diagnosis. The free app makes it easy to send digital photo samples of issues in the garden or field to an Auburn University diagnostic lab for diagnosis or identification. You can complete each form by responding to simple, customized questions. After entering a description of the problem and attaching corresponding photos, the sample submission is sent to the selected diagnostic laboratory. There is a fee for each submission. You may download the app for free from the iTunes store by searching Plant Diagnostic Submission App.

Pop-Up Winter Plant Storage

Camping technology has made its way into the garden by providing new pop-up greenhouses that literally assemble as easily as a tent. These provide a quick and affordable way to overwinter tender plants and start seeds early in the spring. The little greenhouses come in sizes as small as 3 x 3 to cover an individual plant, or as large as walk-in houses with a 5- or 6-foot height. We just ordered our second one measuring 8 x 10 feet. After years, plastic on the first one (cost about $120) finally began to tear, so we discarded it last spring. However, we are repurposing the snap-apart pieces of the frame as stakes in the garden, so it is still giving. It was well worth the cost. If you don’t want or have room for a permanent greenhouse, a greenhouse like this offers a good solution. An Internet search for pop-up greenhouses will bring up enough results to keep you busy browsing for a while. Look for ones with UV-resistant, ripstop plastic for maximum life. Storing the disassembled greenhouse out of the sun and weather through the summer will lengthen its life, too.

A Christmas cactus with a bright pink flower blooming over the holidays. (Credit: VallarieE, iStock)

Is Your Christmas Cactus Outside?

We often refer to Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus and Easter cactus interchangeably because it is hard to tell them apart. And to make matters more confusing, Thanksgiving cacti are often sold at Christmas, too. Christmas cactus has flattened leaves with rounded teeth on the margins. Thanksgiving cactus has pointed teeth. Easter cactus has pointed teeth with fibrous hairs in the leaf joints. Under normal conditions each will bloom close to its holiday, but the nursery trade can force these into bloom anytime by adjusting growing conditions such as length of day in a greenhouse, which explains why you may see them sold a little out of synch with the season. However, once you have these at home, they should bloom at the normal time in subsequent years.

These long-lived cacti are great patio plants and houseplants. They don’t need a lot of watering or care and have been known to live for decades. It is important to know they are short-day plants, which means they need nights of at least 14 hours long and daylight of only 8-10 hours for six weeks to initiate bloom. Outdoor lighting or room lights can disrupt the required dark period. If your plant is indoors under a lamp in a 72 degree room all year, chances are you aren’t seeing it bloom again. In addition, these cacti need cool weather (flowers won’t form when nights are above 68 degrees). So, if you keep your plant outside (in the shade) but bring it in when frost threatens, you should see it set little flower buds in a few weeks. The natural cycle of long nights and cool temperatures of fall should bring it into bloom. Just be sure to move it to a dark spot indoors on nights when frost threatens.

Making Leaf Litter

Each fall I get ambitious about raking, chopping and storing leaves to use in the garden throughout the year. We like to store a few bags of chopped leaves, or leaf litter, to add to our compost in the summer, a time when ingredients are mostly fresh green items from the harvest so there is not much dry brown material available. Chopped leaves are also great mulch for the vegetable garden. If you like what leaves can do for your garden, take a few hours to create a separate leaf heap (or bagged stash) in addition to the normal adding of leaves to your compost.

Plant clover in the bare spots of the garden in winter. It will add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil.

Cover Crop, Even in a Small Garden

Improving the soil is a given in gardening for we’ve all learned that a vegetable garden is generally only as good as the soil where it grows. With that in mind, we plant clover in bare spots of the garden for winter. The clover adds nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. It’s not too late to sprinkle a few clover seeds in your garden now. The plants sprout this fall and grow on any mild days between now and spring. We cut our clover way back to the ground after it blooms and dig planting holes through it as needed. By the end of spring, most of the clover has been turned into the soil.

Rosemary Christmas Trees

This is a good time to of year to buy rosemary that doubles as a Christmas tree for container decoration. Pots of rosemary trimmed into Christmas tree shapes make nice outdoor decoration you can leave in place or move to the ground in the spring. If you use these indoors, limit their visit to under a week, or the plants may not transplant to the garden well.

Extra pots have been repurposed here to create a homemade birdbath.

A Homemade Birdbath

As you can see, this birdbath is cleverly fashioned from clay pots simply stacked and nested in a logical fashion so they fit. This idea, observed on a garden tour, offers a good way to repurpose extra pots, or even slightly cracked ones if they can be held together with a wire wrap. The upside down pots nest well enough to provide a stable base for the upper bowl. There is also a little silicone involved in this project to plug the drainage hole in the bowl. And, there’s a little paint, too, whose use might even open up a little shelf space in your garage.

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

Hunting Seasons:

This small, leather-covered, wooden strongbox held old family momentos, including two bills showing purchases of powder and shot in November 1857 and 1860. The bills confirm hunting periods during the the late 1800s matched those of today.

First Custom, Practice and Tradition, Then Policy

by Corky Pugh

The small, leather-covered, wooden strongbox, hidden in the bottom of a family-heirloom cedar chest, has escaped my attention until now. The finely-crafted, but time-worn, box measures 10 inches wide by 5 ½ inches deep by 4 ½ inches high. The key is carefully tied with a strip of cloth to the brass handle in the middle of the curved top. Covered by layers of old cotton patchwork quilts, the little box has been safely tucked away like a time capsule. The contents offer a particularly interesting glimpse of the past.

Among the old tintype photographs and papers important to my ancestors for mostly unknown reasons, there are two bills listing several months’ worth of purchases at a mercantile store. Both are on the account of J. M. Ladd, my great-great-grandfather.

The bill from the year 1857 lists purchases from J. B. Powell & Co. beginning in the month of July. The 1860 bill tallies items bought from Powell & Howard for a full calendar year from January through December. One can only assume the intervening years must have been similar and, sometime in between, the proprietor Mr. Powell acquired a business partner by the name of Howard.

Both documents are written in quill and ink in the flowing handwriting of the day. The ordinary way of doing business in this bygone era is reflected in the purchases recorded by the storekeeper over the months, then tallied up and paid by the customer in total at the end of the period.

Indeed the "jot-‘em-down" store credit was the 1800s version of our plastic cards - just a lot less structured and more trusting of the customer.

The items purchased of Mr. Howard by my relative are quite revealing. Apparently great- great-granddaddy Ladd had somewhat of an affinity for tobacco and whiskey because there are several purchases of these items. The various and sundry purchases included everyday items such as a pocket knife, a handkerchief, a comb, coat buttons, a necktie, starch, shoes, nails, fabric and cinnamon. The most unusual purchase was a vial of laudanum and a bottle of cologne, both on the same day. Laudanum, a powerful opiate, could be simply bought across the counter in the days before narcotics laws.

However, the purchases that caught my eye most were for shot and powder. On November 27, 1857, the account lists "powder 35 cents and small shot 85 cents." By way of comparison, two pairs of shoes purchased about then cost $1.25.

Again, on November 6th of 1860, "powder and lt. shot" appeared on the documents, this time for the combined price of 63 cents. On the same day, "H. shot" (presumably heavy shot) was purchased for $1.30.

Bear in mind, this took place long before there were widely-established hunting seasons or game laws of any kind. Folks could just go out and shoot as many of any wild bird or animal as they wanted whenever the notion struck them. The idea that government should in any way regulate such matters was only beginning to occur to anybody in a position to do anything about it.

Yet the purchases of powder and shot took place in November. Was this a reflection of a custom formed in part by the cultural learning over time of the most desirable months to hunt in our part of the world? Perhaps the timing was driven of necessity or opportunity, with the work of laying-by crops done until the next year’s spring planting once again demanded time and attention.

At any rate, it is abundantly clear, at least in the case of my anecdotal ancestor, what he was doing in November and December. And an examination of old hunting literature reveals a like pattern for many, if not most, hunters.

Although there are now biological arguments for hunting at one time of the year and not another, wildlife science had not yet emerged as a discipline and would not for another three-quarters of a century or so. Most probably, custom and practice turned into tradition, eventually becoming formalized as public policy in the form of hunting seasons and related regulations.

Sometimes people forget that hunting seasons are the product of many decades of cumulative public sentiment combined with sound science.

An examination of available historical documents reveals the Alabama Legislature set the first closed season on hunting certain wildlife only in Mobile, Baldwin and Washington counties in 1854. These laws applied to deer, quail, turkey, American coot and other game birds in these three counties only. A general law forbidding stream poisoning to take fish was passed in 1856. In 1861, the year Alabama withdrew from the Union and joined the Confederacy, an act was passed levying a $100 fine on the illegal use of nets and seines within a quarter mile of where streams fed into the Tennessee River. Lauderdale County was exempted from the act.

Public sentiment alone drove these season dates and prohibitions. Wildlife science did not exist and there was no Department of Conservation or other state agency charged with management and protection of wildlife.

According to History of Conservation in Alabama, "Local laws were tried during this period to preserve the State’s wildlife, waters and forests. The hunting and fishing laws varied from county to county. Considerable confusion, conflict and inconsistency in conservation laws resulted. Many wanted to take game and fish at will and resented restrictions."

The Alabama Legislature eventually came to extricate itself from the political nightmare of setting seasons and limits by statute, and created the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to deal with such matters.

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

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for, go to the website at You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email

Is Feed Too Expensive to Feed?

... Maybe Sometimes, But Not This Year

by Jimmy Hughes

From time to time, I am asked a question that is both relevant and eye opening. I like to incorporate some of these questions into an article if I feel it is timely and would be of interest to our readers. I had such a question a few weeks back I would like to address at this time. I was at a recent cattle production sale and I was talking with several producers about the market outlook for cattle as well as recent cattle prices at board sales. One of the producers, attending the sale just to see cattle prices, made the following statement, "With feed so high, I can’t afford to feed my calves." When the statement was made, a few other producers seemed to agree with it, leading me to the point of this month’s article. Is feed too expensive to feed?

The normal answer you would get from someone who is in the feed business is "no, it’s never too expensive to feed." While that may not always be true, this year is very much a year it is not too expensive to feed calves.

The whole key to determining if it’s too expensive to feed calves is based on the selling price of the calf itself. While some years the price of feed may be low, but if the price of calves is low as well, then it may not pay to feed the calves and to just let your momma cow put the weight on the calves. Other years, the price spread between a lighter-weight calf and a heavier-weight calf may be so large that again it’s not as feasible to feed a calf to add extra pounds. There are years like this year where feed is moderately priced, calves are at record levels and the price spread between lighter calves and heavier calves is less than normal, making this the perfect year to feed your calves.

Let’s look at the cost of feed and the cost of calves to determine how much additional money a producer can make by the added weight on calves this fall. If we look at the current Alabama cattle market on number one quality steer calves, 600-weight steers are bringing an average of $1.55 per pound. Once we see what the value of the calf is, then we just need to determine what the cost of feed is and what it will cost to put a pound of gain on the calf.

The biggest consideration is selecting the feed that will put the lowest cost of gain on your calves. To determine this, you cannot look at the ton price of the feed but you will need to look at the cost per pound of gain of the feed. I am proud to say, at Alabama Farmers Cooperative, we have researched and collected data on thousands of calves over the past several years, and we are confident we know the conversion rates of the feeds we offer to producers.

The conversion rate is the amount of feed it will take to put a pound of gain on a calf. Knowing the conversion rates of the feeds are very important because this is what will give you the actual cost to put a pound of gain on a calf. If you are using a feed from another dealer, I would suggest you question that dealer about conversion rates and cost per pound of gain. If the dealer cannot answer these questions, I would suggest you consider another feed dealer or talk to a nutritionist, who can help you figure the conversion rates based upon the nutrient value of the feed.

I would like to give you the information on three different products we offer through your local Quality Co-op. The first is CPC Grower 13, the second is 13% pellets with Bovatec and the third is a soyhull/corn gluten blend. All three of the feeds are palatable and will add weight to your calves. The question is how efficiently do they add the gain and at what cost can a pound be put on my steer calves. We have data over several years that makes us confident the CPC Grower 13 will add a pound of gain to your calf for every 6 pounds of feed the calf consumes, 13% pellets will add a pound of gain for every 7.5 pounds of feed consumed and a soyhull/gluten blend will add a pound of gain for every 9.5 pounds of feed consumed.

With these numbers, let’s now look to see what you can give for each of these three feeds and still make money by feeding your calves. Again, a 600-pound number one steer is worth $1.55 a pound, so as long as we are putting a pound of gain on for a cost of less than $1.55 a pound then we are making money by feeding the calves. If you look at the CPC Grower 13% feed that converts at a rate of 6:1, you could pay up to $516 per ton for the feed to break even on adding weight to your calves; the 13% pellets, you can pay up to $413 per ton; and the soyhulls/gluten blend, you can pay up to $326 per ton. I assure you, in today’s market, all three of these feeds will cost less and in the case of the CPC Grower 13% Feed, much less than the break-even cost on the feed.

I hope you can see from this example that you can make a lot of additional profits this year by feeding your calves. I also hope you can see that while all three feeds will make you money, the two complete feeds will help you realize much more profit over the commodity-blended feed. I would encourage you to look at the opportunity this fall with record calf prices to realize even greater profits for your operation.

In addition, I would encourage you to consider products for your brood cow herd to help improve forage digestibility. With the rainfall we have experienced, most pastures have an abundance of standing forage that cows can consume and digest. There are products available to help them do this in a very efficient and profitable manner.

If you have any questions about feed or other products, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886 orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Kristi's Bullet

No one ever accused cattle of being the smartest creatures in the animal kingdom. They mostly just graze, ruminate, poop and sleep. Unlike goats, they are content wherever they are and don’t have a burning desire to get to some proverbial “greener pastures.” They don’t seem to have much of a personality either. But when kids spend lots of time with show animals and really get to know them, an animal’s distinct personality emerges. That happened with my friend Kristi’s show steer. And the temperament that came out wasn’t too pleasant. Her family raised registered Simmentals, so her father didn’t see any need to go buy an animal to show. They picked out a promising bull calf her daddy named Bullet because he used to be a “bull.” Usually castration has a calming effect on livestock – well, after the shock wears off. But not Bullet. He was always ornery and found ways to aggravate his young owner. He seemed to delight in lying down in the mud and muck, especially after Kristi had just washed him or was about to walk him. He learned to open the feed room latch and would tear up several feed sacks before littering the room with manure. Her ag teacher was afraid the steer would grow tall and slender, which is typical for that breed. That was not the kind of steer that placed well in stock shows back in the 1980s. So he encouraged her to pour on the feed. And it didn’t take long for him to start packing on the pounds. By the time he entered the show ring in Wichita County, Texas, he tipped the scales at a whopping 1,300 pounds. A far cry from the lean, muscular build her ag teacher had predicted. When show day arrived, Kristi was powdered and primped and dressed in a crisp starched shirt. Bullet had been washed, blow dried, combed and fluffed. She had never showed a steer before, instead opting for cheaper and easier to handle sheep. At that time, she was a five-foot tall, 90-pound, high school freshman. It would take a lot of effort to maneuver her big calf, even armed with a long show stick. She was also anxious about how Bullet would perform in the ring. She just prayed he was in a pleasant mood and wouldn’t be ruffled by all the other animals and the noise of the crowd. Her prayers were unanswered. It wasn’t easy to show him since he was so huge. She had to stand on her tiptoes just to get his head up. When the judge was at the far end of the ring looking at other contestants, Bullet behaved perfectly. But when he came over to them, the nervous steer balked and wouldn’t let Kristi lead him. Then, without warning, he plopped down unceremoniously into the sandy arena. She pulled and yanked on his halter, but he refused to budge. Desperate to get him up, she started poking and prodding him with the fiberglass stick which wouldn’t help her chances of winning a showmanship buckle. Ignoring the disapproving taunts of the onlookers, she whacked him squarely on the rump. He scrambled back to his feet about the time the judge was moving on to look at another contender. The exhibitors paraded around the ring a few more times. When they lined up at the end, Kristi managed to set the steer up and lift his head to show off his beautiful confirmation. She was smiling confidently at the judge, holding perfectly still when she felt something warm wrap around her tiny wrist. She glanced over and was horrified to find that Bullet had lolled his long tongue out and laced it around her arm. She dropped her show stick and tried to unwind it from her wrist. By that time, the audience was stifling back their laughter, or trying to. She had lost her composure and was so angry she was ready to butcher him herself. But when the judging was over, despite everything, Bullet had placed high enough to make the sale. She got enough money to pay down on her show animal for the next year. She wasn’t sure what it would be, just anything but a steer. n Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at

Midnight Skunk

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

There are several shocking ways to be awakened in the middle of the night - a baby crying, a child throwing up, the sound of goats on the porch or horses stomping in the front yard. Add to that list, the smell of a nearby skunk. Of course, there’s never a good time for that olfactory assault. My friend Melanie had that unpleasant experience the other night. She crept out of bed in the wee hours of the morning trying not to disturb her sleeping husband Mike. He wouldn’t have been much help since his eyesight is so poor. And by the time he put his contacts in, the skunk would have been gone anyway.

Since she lives far out in the boondocks and because it was dark, she didn’t bother dressing, but just slipped on her flip flops, grabbed a .22 and a flashlight. She followed her nose out towards the hen house. She was kind of nervous walking out there. She didn’t want to startle the skunk in the dark and get sprayed. It might be hard to explain to her boss why she had to miss work.

When she got out there, several chickens had already managed to push the door open enough to escape the midnight marauder. When she opened the door all the way, the rest of the birds fluttered out. Melanie shone the light on the perch, which was only a few inches off the ground. The skunk was right underneath. He turned to go back under the edge of the building where he’d entered, so she knew she must act fast. Wedging the light between her shaky knees, she lifted the gun to her shoulder and shot. Luckily, the smell didn’t intensify.

She turned and walked to the barn to grab a hoe to drag the skunk out of the hen house. She only hoped she’d be able to persuade the nervous chickens to go back inside and roost for the night. When she returned, she found the wounded skunk trying to crawl away. Once more she fired, that time hitting it in the head. She removed the dead animal and went back to relocate the flock of chickens huddled nervously in the barnyard.

When she got back to the house, all the lights were on. Mike met her at the back door. He’d been able to sleep through the skunk smell, but the sound of gunfire awoke him with a jolt. Finding Melanie missing was even more alarming.

"What in the world happened?" he asked as his scantily clad wife strode casually through the back door, gun in hand.

"Oh nothing," she said glibly, "just had to shoot a skunk in the hen house."

He heaved a sigh of relief and they went back to bed to attempt a decent night’s sleep. The smell of skunk still hung heavy in the house, but Melanie could relax knowing her chickens were safe for another night.

"Maybe we need a bigger dog," she thought to herself as she drifted off.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at

November Lawn and Garden Checklist


An inexpensive way to add more organic matter and nutrients to the soil is by planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops on beds that are fallow for the winter. Some varieties offered at most Co-op stores include Austrian field peas, crimson clover and hairy vetch. They will also slow down the leaching of nutrients caused by winter rains.

This is a good time to move landscape plants that need to be relocated. Get as large a root ball as possible and replant immediately at the same depth.

If you still want to plant garlic, do it as early in November as possible.

In very sunny windows (six hours of sun a day), grow herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, parsley, thyme and chives.

Plant amaryllis bulbs to bloom for Christmas. Choose a pot an inch or two larger than the diameter of the bulb and leave the top half of the bulb exposed above the soil line.

Plant pansies outdoors now and enjoy the flowers until late spring.

Plant paperwhite narcissus in two week intervals. Grow at least six to a pot for maximum bloom effect.

This is an excellent time to plant most trees and shrubs. Water well and apply a three-inch layer of mulch - being careful to pull the mulch a few inches away from the stem.

When buying shrubs, don’t forget the interest plants with berries can add to the landscape. Pyracantha, all kinds of hollies, nandina and beautyberry are just a few of the choices available for bright, winter interest.


This is a good time to do a soil test. The soil should be easy to dig and results will come back quickly so you can make adjustments needed for spring planting.

Dig in a little cottonseed meal around your hellebore (ex. Lenten rose) plants. Also, give them a top dressing of compost or shredded leaves.


When foliage turns yellow or translucent, cut back hostas to the ground. Refrain, however, from dividing or transplanting at this time; you’ll have better success if you wait until spring.

Do not prune fruit trees until March.

Broken limbs or branches may be pruned now for esthetic purposes, but leave the major pruning of your fruit trees until late winter or very early spring.

Cutting back peonies will prevent next spring’s flowers from getting gray mold.

Leave the chore of cutting ornamental grasses back until late winter or early spring which will provide extra habitat for birds as well as an extra food source in their seed heads.

Cut chrysanthemum stems to two to three inches from the soil once they have begun to die back.


Be sure your lawn and all of your permanent plantings get a good last watering. This will help your plants to be hydrated and healthy as they prepare for the cold and become dormant.

Disconnect and store rain barrels. Do the same for water sprinklers.

Drain water from garden hoses. To prevent kinking, store hoses on reels or coil and place on a flat surface.

Now that the heat is running, check houseplants frequently for water needs until you figure out what their winter schedule will be. They may need watering more frequently, or less frequently, depending on their location and the type of heating system.

Turn off your drip irrigation systems if you haven’t already. However, stay on top of the weather – if rain is elusive in the following weeks, irrigate as the soil becomes dry. Drought-stressed plants are more easily injured by freezing temperatures.

Prepare for winter rainstorms. Dig trenches to divert heavy runoff and add heavy rocks to the base of a raised garden bed to help stabilize it.


Clean and till the garden. Fall clean-up and tillage provide several benefits. Many plant pathogens overwinter in the garden on infected plant debris. Removal and destruction of the diseased plant debris reduces the severity of many diseases. Removal of the plant debris also eliminates hiding places for some insects and helps reduce insect populations. Additionally, a fall-tilled garden dries out and warms up more quickly in the spring, permitting earlier planting of cool-season crops.

Remove any dried up fruit from the orchard as well as fruit and leaves from the ground. Taking the time to practice good sanitation will pay off next year in reduced disease and insect problems.

It is also a good time to apply the first application of dormant spray to fruit trees (the first of three applications needed between now and about Valentine’s Day to get the job done while trees are dormant).

This is a good time to put out a suet feeder. This will keep birds active in your garden where they will continue patrolling for insects that may be overwintering somewhere in your garden.

Check camellias and azaleas for spider mites and treat with insecticidal soap if mites are found.

Plants brought in from outside need to be inspected. Perhaps you missed something in your first inspection. Take quick action if you spot insects to protect all of your other indoor plants.

If squirrels are inclined to dig up your tulip bulbs, sprinkle the area with red pepper flakes or just focus on daffodils, which are generally not bothered by pests.

Protect trunks of fruit trees from rabbit damage with tree wraps.

If the weather allows, hoe weeds before they take hold. Remember, every weed you eliminate now will be many less to have to deal with in spring.


Now, as the nights draw in earlier and temperatures drop, evening gardening becomes a bit unpleasant. Try not to put everything off until the weekend though or it will be sure to rain!

Keep a journal! Fill it with a list of your daily activities, comments and observations along with empty seed packets, plant tags, photographs, magazine articles, scale garden plans on graph paper, wish list, dried blooms, inspiration thoughts, websites you like, recipes, supplier notes, etc.

Kale, collards and turnip greens are even tastier after being exposed to a little frost.

Don’t pull up the broccoli after harvesting the central head. Plants will continue to form side shoots until temperatures dip into the teens.

Lettuce is hardy to about 25 degrees. Lightweight, floating row cover will often extend that to below 20 so you can continue to harvest much of the winter.

Remember to use the herbs still in the garden – parsley, rosemary, sage and chives should still be green.

If you’ve purchased gourds this year as decorations, plan to grow them yourself next year. They make great garden projects for kids.

Prepare beds now to allow for early plantings of English peas before the soil dries out enough to be worked.

Strawberries should be mulched in fall to prevent winter injury. Excellent mulching materials include clean pine straw, wheat straw and chopped cornstalks. Apply two to four inches of material. After settling, the depth of the mulch should be approximately one to two inches.

The seed of many annual, open-pollinated flowers and vegetables can be collected, cleaned from chaff or pulp, dried and stored in airtight container in a cool location. They can then be planted next season. Hybrids can be collected, but chances are they won’t have the same characteristics as their parents.

Before burying beds with mulch, use small bamboo stakes or markers where you’ve planted bulbs or late starting spring plants in the perennial garden to avoid disturbing them when you begin spring soil preparation.

Cover your compost heap or bin with plastic to keep the nutrients from being leached out by winter rain.

Camellias will soon be coming into bloom. First the sasanqua and later the popular camellia japonica. Select new varieties for a winter planting while in flower.

Lift tender bulbs like dahlias and gladiolus if you know they won’t overwinter in your garden.

Lightly mulch first year plantings of irises after a hard freeze. Mature plantings don’t require protection.

Mound soil or leaves around the base of hybrid teas and other grafted roses to protect the graft union from freezing.

Consider the Co-op when buying holiday gifts for your favorite gardeners!

All frost-sensitive plants should now be safely indoors for the season.

Winter heating dries the air out in your home considerably. Help your houseplants survive by misting them or placing the pots on a pebble-filled tray of water to ensure adequate humidity and moisture.

Give African violet plants in windows a quarter turn every couple of days to keep them shapely. Plants under fluorescent lights do not require turning, but they do need more food and water.

If soil has settled in raised beds, replenish now with compost, shredded leaves or a mixture of equal parts aged manure, top soil and compost. Don’t dig the new material in; just leave it on top for further composting over winter.

If annual pots are made of terra cotta (or other material that may freeze and break), it is a good time to clean them out and put them away for winter. Take out the soil and put it in the garden, compost, fill a hole in the yard that the dog dug, or save it in a large container or garbage bag for the spring. Wash the pots out and dip them in a 9:1 bleach solution to kill any hitchhiking critters or diseases.

Keep leaves for compost unless they are from allelopathic trees (producing chemicals that inhibit other species’ growth) like black walnut, hackberry, cottonwood, red oak or horse chestnut.

Proper care of hand tools prolongs their lifetime, prevents costly repairs and improves their performance. In fall, remove caked-on soil from shovels, spades, hoes and rakes with a wire brush or a stiff putty knife. Wash the tools with a strong stream of water then dry. Sharpen the blades of hoes, shovels and spades. Wipe the metal surfaces with an oily rag or spray with WD-40. Sand rough wooden handles, then wipe with furniture polish or linseed oil to prevent drying and cracking. Hang or store the tools in a dry location.

Clean power tools of all plant material and dirt including the underside of the lawn mower. Replace worn spark plugs, oil all necessary parts and sharpen blades. Clean the air filter. Start gas-powered equipment and let them run until out of fuel. Finally, store all tools in their proper place indoors. Store fuel only in approved containers.

With high winds a possible danger at this time of year, check trellises, fences and other garden structures to be sure they are secure.

Remove decaying plants and leaves from ponds. Stop feeding pond fish when temperatures drop below freezing for several consecutive nights.

While tending to the yard clean-up or enjoying a woodland stroll, keep your eye out for interesting seed pods, seed heads and colorful leaves that can be used in holiday decorating.

For only a few dollars you can feed an enormous number of birds. Their natural food sources have pretty much dried up by this time of the year. You don’t have to be a bird watcher to enjoy the feeling you get when you’ve helped out one of God’s creatures.

Peanut People

Planting Seeds of Awareness

One Student at a Time

Wheeler Foshee is one of the main reasons for the popularity of the Vegetable Production class. His enthusiasm and passion for the subject has students packing his classroom every semester.

by Anna Leigh Peek

It is a fairly safe bet to say Auburn University’s most commonly taken elective is HORT 2030 Vegetable Production. Anytime in a semester you step foot into Dr. Wheeler Foshee’s class, there will be a diverse group of students in the classroom; there will commonly be more non-agriculture majors than agriculture majors enrolled. By word of mouth during the past few years Vegetable Production has become a very popular class on Auburn’s campus. Foshee teaches two sections of the class in fall, spring and summer semesters, with each section of the class having anywhere from 30-90 students.

Foshee grew up in Red Level on a diverse farm including crops of peanuts, cotton, watermelons as well as hogs and cattle.

Students in the Advanced Fruit and Vegetable Production class gain experience in all areas of the growing cycle including planting.

"The summer after my fifth-grade year I was put to work hoeing cotton and working hogs." Foshee said. "It was hot and hard work daily from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m."

When Foshee was a junior in high school, his family was no longer farming.

"I was devastated, I had always wanted to be a farmer, and I had no plans to go to college," Foshee explained.

So after high school, he joined the U.S. Air Force. During his time in the Air Force, his commanding officer encouraged him to go to college and he did. Foshee attended Auburn University. After graduating and finishing his tenure with the Air Force, he went to Mississippi State for his bachelor’s degree and then after spending some time as a county Extension agent, he returned to Auburn to pursue his PhD.

Foshee is currently in his 10th year as a professor in the Horticulture Department at Auburn. His area of expertise is pest management, but after a retirement left the Vegetable Production class without a professor, Foshee stepped in.

Clockwise from above, the intermediate class sometimes even turns into a construction class as students may need to build and repair beds or, in this case, construct a fence. Muscadines grow well in Alabama, so Raymond Kessler and his students have built several one wire trellises to introduce students to this delicious fruit. Some students taking Raymond Kessler’s class may have never had to mow grass, but they learn in order to keep the gardens clean. Most of the plants are in raised beds with aisles between so they can be mowed.

"I had always wanted to teach, that is one reason I went back for my PhD, I love interacting with college students, helping and encouraging them both in school and life. It is a joy to teach at Auburn, we have great students."

Students who have had Foshee’s class would also agree that Auburn has great professors.

Vegetable Production covers many different vegetables from corn to okra, and from squash to eggplant. The students learn how to prepare for planting, and grow and care for vegetable crops. Students also learn about the vegetables and their life cycles, planting dates, different production methods, the nutrients each vegetable provides and soil requirements.

Left, Callan Freese and Maggie Ferguson, both students in agricultural communications, have been inspired to grow a garden after taking Vegetable Production. Right, students of all majors converge in this class. Both Raymond Kessler and Wheeler Foshee agree it is a great way to give students a glimpse of agriculture and to help students realize our food gets to the grocery store somehow, it is not automatic.

Emma Hill, a law school-bound senior at Auburn in Political Science, had heard a lot about Foshee and his class. She said it was Dr. Foshee’s reputation for enthusiastic teaching and her hunt for a less stressful class her senior year that led her to Vegetable Production.

Stephen Robertson, a senior in Supply Chain Management, took another Horticulture class previously, Food for Thought, and decided to try out another course in the department; he had met Dr. Foshee at church and decided to give his class a try.

Gain Thomas, senior in Sports Journalism, and friend Jake Durbin, a finance major, are currently enrolled in Vegetable Production and are learning a lot.

Elizabeth Wiggs, a junior in Elementary Education is enrolled in Raymond Kessler’s Intermediate Fruit and Vegetable Production class this fall. Shown here picking muscadines, she is taking the knowledge she is gaining through the class to apply to her future instruction. Two varieties of muscadines that Raymond Kessler’s class grows. Students take home the produce they grow, often learning to like new vegetables they may have never tried.

"I have enjoyed it," said Thomas. "I now know how to plant things!"

"I actually want to come to class every session," Durbin added.

Even Agriculture Communications majors Callan Freese and Maggie Ferguson have gleaned wisdom from Foshee’s class.

"I have been inspired to grow vegetables," Ferguson said.

Some students have enjoyed the class so much it has changed their career paths. Foshee even told of a young man who took Vegetable Production during his senior year of psychology and changed his major to horticulture.

Casie Spencer, a sophomore at Auburn, worked at Limestone Farmers and Giles County Co-ops this past summer to gain experience in the ag business world as she was an agricultural economics major.

"When I worked for the Co-op this summer, I realized I enjoyed helping people who came in the store solve their plant problems and trying to figure out what product was best to use - it intrigued me. I wanted to learn more so I could be more educated when helping the customers! I am taking several horticulture classes including Vegetable Production and through on-the-job experience and classes I have decided to change my career path," Spencer remarked.

Parents should not be alarmed as not all students who take Foshee’s class change their major.

"I want students in my class to have an understanding of food production; it is not automatic, it takes work," Foshee explained. "I hope at the end of the semester, if they have not learned anything else, they at least have a better appreciation for farmers and the work they do."

For students who still want more after Vegetable Production, Dr. Raymond Kessler teaches HORT 4250 Intermediate Fruit and Vegetable Production. Kessler, who attended Auburn, Mississippi State and the University of Georgia, joined the faculty at Auburn in 1995. His specialty is bedding plants; however, the professor who had been maintaining the garden was no longer able and there was no one to teach the intermediate class. For 4 years now, Kessler has been teaching the class every semester. Kessler referred to this class as the "hands-on class" and for good reason. There are no tests, projects to submit, etc. It is all gardening done in the on-campus gardens.

"I teach what I learned at home. I grow almost anything that can be grown in Alabama: blueberries, muscadines, persimmons, pomegranates, kiwi, blackberries, etc. The students are able to take home what they grow - they put in the work, they get to take it home," Kessler said.

Kessler’s goal with his class is to expose students to as many fruits and vegetables as he possibly can.

"I want to teach students enough so that they can use their half- or quarter-acre lot one day to grow food," Kessler added.

He uses raised beds as a production method; they are easy to build and they make it easier to control weeds.

"I have some students who come into my class and do not even know how to hoe a garden, I teach that," Kessler remarked.

Students also learn how to mow grass, use a tiller, prune vines, mulch, etc.

The intermediate production class is often hard to register for, it fills up so quickly. Elizabeth Wiggs, a junior in Elementary Education, is currently in Kessler’s class and she is finding ways to make it applicable to her coursework in Auburn’s College of Education.

"During my time at Auburn, I have developed an interest in plants. I took a dendrology class and then decided to give the Fruit and Vegetable Production classes a try," Wiggs said.

Wiggs, who lives in on-campus housing, enjoys her weekly class in the garden.

"I do not have a yard since I live on campus. I enjoy being able to combine my interest with my school work," she explained.

Wiggs is already putting her knowledge to use by helping students at local elementary schools in Loachapoka and Opelika plant gardens in hopes they not only learn how their food grows but will also learn to like some new vegetables.

Foshee and Kessler hope as professors that students know they can grow a garden without being a professional farmer. Both of these classes not only teach students what they need to know, but share with them potential career opportunities in agriculture they may have never considered. Students also have the opportunity to get out and do garden work that many have never had the opportunity to do.

"There is so much you can learn about life from vegetables," Foshee concluded. "I think it is good for students to get out and work outside the classroom."

The seeds of basic agricultural knowledge planted in the minds of their students during these two popular classes are excellent lessons in not only how to grow vegetables but life lessons about perseverance, crisis management and patience.

Anna Leigh Peek is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Positive Tips for Hunting Success

by John Howle

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether you are riding on the tractor or riding down the highway, chances are you are probably thinking. You may not be thinking about anything in particular, but you are still thinking. It is truly amazing what positive thoughts can do to make people be healthier, happier, friendlier and even more successful.

If you are thinking positive, the words that come out of your mouth will be positive, and ultimately your actions will be positive. I heard noted Christian speaker Joyce Meyer once say, "Anybody who can’t control what they think sure can’t control what they do." This November, when you have negative thoughts creep into your mind, see if you can purposefully change your thoughts to positive ideas. Remember, this is the month of Thanksgiving, deer hunting, ball games and brisk walks through the woods and pastures. This should give anyone positive thoughts.

Small Fires

During November, a small teepee fire can be an incredibly useful tool on the deer hunt. Since wildlife are familiar with the smell of fire through prescribed burning or individuals burning brush piles, they are unlikely to be alarmed by the smell of a small amount of smoke. Start with a couple of pieces of heart pine splinters and add small twigs in a teepee style.

The fire itself is comforting in that it can knock off the chill on a morning hunt. Since it’s a small teepee fire, you can also stand directly over the fire to warm yourself all around. Before starting your teepee fire, rake out all leaves from the fire area to prevent fire from spreading, and be sure to totally extinguish the fire before you leave.

In addition to warmth, the smoke from the fire makes determining wind direction much easier. If you see the smoke lying low and moving horizontally, you can expect rain soon. You can keep a lighter or match case with strike-anywhere matches handy as well as a few strips of heart pine in your pocket for a quick, easy fire.

The last and probably most useful reason for the fire is scent control. Once your clothes are saturated with smoke, most all human scent is covered up. This will also help prevent deer from winding you while on the hunt. If the wind changes direction and blows your scent to the deer, they might be able to smell your smoky clothes, but they are less likely to detect human scent, and the smoke smell won’t make them spook as easily.

Spraying a small amount of doe urine on the bottoms of your boots can sometimes lure deer right up to your stand as well as cover human scent.

Scent Spray

Once you’ve smoked up your hunting clothes, you still have to be concerned with the scent you leave behind while walking. Our boots can carry scents wherever we go in the woods, and this is not always wanted. I have found it useful to spray a small amount of doe urine on the bottoms of my boots before heading into the woods. The doe urine spray not only covers the scent of the boots, it can also act as an attractant for other deer. Plenty of times, I’ve had deer (both male and female) walk right up to my stand by following the trail I made with the scent of doe urine on the boots. You might want to remove the hunting boots before sitting down to supper, however. The rest of the family will thank you.

Never climb with a gun. Always raise and lower with a rope or strap.

Straps for Gun Safety

Climbing in and out of tree stands requires caution. One way to make hunting off the ground more dangerous is to attempt to get into the tree stand with a gun. A much safer way to get your gun into the tree stand involves the use of a strap for rope for raising and lowering the gun. Attach the strap to the gun before you climb. Once you are secured in your seat, use the strap to slowly and carefully bring the gun up with the barrel pointed toward the ground. When the hunt is over, carefully lower the gun to the ground before climbing down.

Resin-Rich Recon

Long-handled or extendable-handle pruners help clear shooting lanes and access roads without having to hold a chainsaw overhead.

While you are scouting the woods for deer or walking fence lines, also be on the lookout for heart pine stumps. The resin-rich remnants of the pine tree stumps can start a fire quickly whether you are starting a fire to stay warm or cook your harvest over hickory. Once you’ve located and pulled these rich pine stumps from the ground, you can take a chainsaw and cut the pine in short, perpendicular sections which makes splitting into smaller pieces with an axe much easier. These pine knots will keep for years giving plenty of fire-starting power.

High Reach Pruning

On your access roads while hunting or driving through wooded areas of the pasture, low hanging limbs can scratch your truck or damage the cab on tractors, not to mention knocking your hat off when riding on an open-top tractor. A set of extendable handle pruners can make the job of limb removal much easier than trying to hoist a chainsaw overhead. In addition, the long-handled pruners are handy when clearing shooting lanes for the hunt or higher-level limbs on the fruit trees in your orchard.

This November, take control of your thoughts and make sure they are positive. Everyone around you will see the positive difference and, believe me, you’ll feel better than you’ve ever felt.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Prattville Christian Academy Students Partner for an Unlittered Alabama

by Mary Stanford

Prattville Christian Academy and People Against A Littered State have partnered and are working together for an unlittered Alabama. The PALS Statewide Clean Campus Program is designed to promote a cleaner and healthier environment for all school campuses.

Monica Taylor, a third grade teacher at PCA, invited me to speak to the second and third grade students. The program theme "Don’t Drop It On Alabama" was enthusiastically accepted by the students. The message was clear: We need to take care of our earth.

We all know, whether it is deliberate or accidental, littering is a visual pollution. But while it is unpleasant to look at, the harm can be more than merely aesthetic. Not being good stewards of our earth and environment can adversely affect the safety and welfare of our state’s marine and wildlife environment. Marine animals mistake our trash for food, and will choke on it, or possibly die after ingesting it.

PALS Poster and Essay Contest awards a $250 scholarship to the first place winner, $750 second place and $500 third place; and a $1,000 scholarship for the first place statewide scrapbook contest. Alabama PALS is proud to offer all of these programs to all schools K-12.

The PALS annual Governor’s Awards for Clean Campus Program honors students who are making a difference in our world. It is so motivating and exciting to see this program develop and sustain stewardship and environmental awareness in our children.

If you would like to schedule a PALS program for students in your school, please call me or email at There is no cost for the program, and resources are available.

Product Reviews

(Just the Good Ones)

by Kenn Alan

This is a must read for the gardeners interested in making their soil healthier.

November is a productive month for us here at the Tomato Tower. All of the pine needles are falling around the neighborhood and some of the neighbors use them in their landscape while others move them to the street for municipal collection. Some of the good neighbors had rather send them away in bags or bins than have them on the street for a week or two.

I love those neighbors. Every day, before trash collection, I compete with another for collecting the bags of pine straw to use in our garden beds.

There is one other neighbor who I love most. My friend Arturo rakes his pine straw into piles and then loads it onto his truck. He then unloads it onto my main driveway for me to spread and use here. It’s cheaper and easier for him to do that than pack it into bags or collection bins. Pretty cool, huh?

It is hard to believe that plants are still blooming here with all of the unusual cool weather we have had so far this fall.

Let’s start the reviews with some of those plants.

The Proven Winners Supertunias have performed amazingly well this year, as well as the PW Torenias. They have bloomed consistently since early June.

I wasn’t sure if the pineapple sage was going to make it back in the summer, but when the weather got hot it started to grow. The Alabama-grown pineapple sage started blooming in September and is still providing food for the hummingbirds.

Left to right, Supertunia by Proven Winners stands up to the heat and chilly weather. The Proven Winners Torenia is a tough basket flower. The pineapple sage began blooming in September and is still providing food for the hummingbirds.

Hats are important in gardening. They are perhaps as essential as sunscreen and insect repellent. There are no particular brands of headgear we endorse here at the Tomato Tower, but we do recommend you shop for a hat with a wide brim, adequately ventilated and comfortable to wear. Hats with a removable sweatband are a plus, but try them on to see if the construction makes them easy to wear.

Did I mention sunscreen and bug spray?

I have to wear a paba-free sunscreen so it won’t irritate my skin. Most of the major brands make a formula that will work for you.

Some folks associate coco-butter and coconut oil with the beach and don’t want to smell like a beach-beauty with "skin as brown as burgundy wine" while they pull weeds …. Sorry. I drifted to summer, didn’t I? (Ode to Del Suggs.)

There are plenty of great sunscreens and sun blocks available with fragrances such as lavender, patchouli and unscented. By the way, you should be wearing them outdoors even when the weather is 35 degrees.

Insect repellent? Here, we have to protect ourselves from chiggers, mosquitoes and ticks. I personally use Cutter 40% DEET. The higher the DEET content, the better. Other folks here use OFF!, Repel and some of the wimpy, perfumey oils and sprays. No matter. I have found dozens of ticks on me this year.

Gloves? I like leather! Remember, gloves are tools, just like a hoe. There’s no substitute for the right tool.

Take these product reviews and go holiday shopping for your favorite gardener. Your local Quality Co-op is where to start, too!

If you have any questions or comments regarding the features discussed in this column, email me at

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

Quilting With Steel?

by Anna Wright

The Steele Quilt Company was formed by Nathan Winkler, pictured with his son, to combine the two unusual characteristics of steel and quilts.

Steel and quilts - one gives strength, the other warms. One is hard, the other is soft. Combined together they are the creative inspiration of new artist Nathan Winkler of Mentone. His business, The Steel Quilt Company was formed about 3 years ago and uses this unusual combination of these two items to create artwork that is inspiring people from all over Northeast Alabama.

A steel quilt is a piece of plywood in which repurposed barn tin is cut into small pieces and then assembled in the shape of a traditional quilt pattern block. In fabric quilts, many squares are sewn together to make the quilt pattern. For a steel quilt, just one block of a pattern is fashioned on the plywood to create a larger version of a fabric quilt square.

The process begins as he takes pieces of plywood of 1 to 4 feet. He then chooses his pattern and begins looking for pieces of steel to form his color palette. Using the wide array of colors from the rust in the steel, he creates a variation in the design as fabric does in a conventional one. Once the rust colors are chosen, the plywood is painted a solid background color.

Winkler uses the simple tools of hand shears and carpet tacks to apply the pieces of tin in to the pattern staying as close as possible to the original design. He has made over 100 quilts and each takes about eight hours to complete.

On a road trip to Iowa, Winkler began to take notice of the painted barn quilts hanging on barns and buildings throughout the rural area of the Midwest. These are painted in the form of quilt patterns onto plywood. Over and over again each one he saw began to make an impression on him.

For Winkler, there was only one thing he didn’t like about the barn quilts in the Midwest.

"They were just too perfect," he recalled.

Nathan Winkler places one of his steel quilt creations on the side of a building.

Those were painted, whereas steel quilts are formed from the rusted tin.

Winkler had accumulated several piles of used steel on his farm from his job with a metal company and a sideline business of dismantling old barns. With some free time on his hands, he decided to attempt the idea that would not leave his mind. He tried his first quilt pattern using old steel and was surprisingly pleased with the end result.

"I don’t have any training in art," Winkler said. "My mother or grandmother didn’t even sew."

The unrefined process of his art and the engaging story is what moves his clients to want a piece of his work of their own.

Unfamiliar with quilt patterns when he began, Winkler started doing research on the common patterns used in fabric quilting. One of his favorites is Jacob’s Ladder. This pattern uses small squares and triangles making the shape of a ladder. Interest in this pattern led him to what he believes is the real purpose to his art and that is his new fondness of the Underground Railroad Quilt Pattern series.

Drunkard’s Path is based upon a quilt pattern used by the Underground Railroad to warn runaway slaves not to take a straight path as they traveled north.

The Underground Railroad Quilt Pattern series is a sequence of patterns with hidden messages in them. Those messages provided information on safe houses, which direction to take next, etc. They guided slaves in the South to freedom in the North. Those on the Railroad recognized the messages and the quilts aided the slaves to safety.

The pattern that most resonated with him in this series is called the Drunkard’s Path. It conveyed to slaves on the railroad not to take a straight path as they traveled further north. For Winkler, that has been his path to his purpose as an artist. It hasn’t been conventional, but it is successful, and for him that’s enough to satisfy his work.

"It makes me happy to see others enjoy my art," he stated.

For Winkler it’s the beauty of the quilts that first attracted him, but the stories behind them have gripped him and changed his life.

"I grew up not completely understanding the significance of this time in history," he said. "My empathy to this culture changed as I began to learn and create using quilt patterns that were once used in urgency for the safety of people whose lives were at stake."

Winkler has spoken on the significance of the Underground Railroad series at the Hammondville Art Festival of Quilts and he hopes to see a Steel Quilt Trail formed in the Mentone area to further tell their story.

His art can be seen throughout Mentone, at Area 61 art studio in Chattanooga and on The Steel Quilt Company’s facebook page.

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

Same Song, Different Tune

Foreign Animal Disease Surveillance

by Dr. Terry Slaten

I suppose there are thousands of love songs that all have the same message - the singer loves the singee. It is the responsibility of the songwriter to figure out a way to convey that message in a way it has not been used before - or at least different enough not to infringe on copyright law. Sometimes, when I set out to write about foreign animal disease surveillance, I can feel for the songwriter trying to figure out how to say "I love you" for the 263,783rd time. Well now that I think of it, writing another article on foreign animal disease surveillance isn’t nearly that challenging. Nonetheless, it is such an important topic I feel obliged to keep the subject out there so we do not become complacent. That is because FAD, a disease we do not have here in the United States, could be potentially devastating because our herds and flocks have no natural immunity to those diseases. So if you are up for another FAD article, continue reading.

Each year we get requests from veterinarians and our laboratories to investigate diseases fitting certain criteria or that sometimes "just don’t seem like a normal disease." Most of these investigations occur with little or no fanfare. For the most part, the producer is visited by one of our FAD diagnostician-trained state or federal veterinarians. The veterinarian conducts an investigation consisting of an interview and usually taking blood or tissue samples. The whole thing is conducted with a small amount of inconvenience to the producer. Occasionally, there may be a stop movement placed on the animals until expedited test results can be reported. And while we try to make this seem like it isn’t that big a deal, it really is a big deal. With our whole economy tied closely to agriculture, FAD could have deep, long-lasting effects. Yet, almost always, the fallout from a producer not taking a shower for a week and not using deodorant would be far greater than being the subject of a FAD investigation.

An incident that occurred just before writing this column reminded me of just how seriously we and the federal government take even the possible threat of FAD. A preliminary test taken for a routine pre-slaughter avian influenza test required more testing and for the blood samples to be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The NVSL is the only laboratory that can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the follow-up tests on the samples. As it turned out, we were able to get the results on Friday before the poultry were to go to processing on Sunday night. Had anything gone wrong or had there been a need for more on-farm sampling to be conducted, it could have caused a stop movement on the poultry from that farm until it could be confirmed that all was clear. The broiler industry in Alabama had cash receipts of over $2.5 billion and accounted for 60 percent of Alabama’s agriculture income in 2012. As a result, when there is even a possibility of a threat to the industry, the tie does not go to the runner. We will always do our best to keep the producer from experiencing a hardship, but we will always err on the side of an abundance of caution.

As I mentioned, the two major avenues for us to look into potential FADs are generated from the private practicing veterinarian and our diagnostic laboratories. One of the criteria for us to look into is abortions in livestock. It is often difficult to diagnose the cause of abortions. In fact, when a cow, pig, goat or horse aborts, it is almost always the result of something else going wrong. Sometimes, the fetus becomes ill or dies and the mother expels it. Sometimes the mother or dam becomes sick and cannot maintain the offspring being supported in her uterus. The causes may be viruses, bacteria, toxins and the list goes on. One important fact is that abortions are not only associated with a number of FADs, but also are associated with brucellosis. And while brucellosis is not considered a FAD, most states are brucellosis free and we need strict surveillance to remain that way.

Anyway, while working through an abortion case recently, we were able to link the abortions to anaplasmosis, a disease we do not normally consider when there are multiple abortions. That is especially true when the brood cows are not showing signs of being the least bit sick. When we conduct a FAD investigation, we often may not find the cause of the problem, but we are usually able to rule out certain diseases that can be important in knowing how to deal with the disease problem.

Most of you reading this column are not veterinarians nor do you work in a diagnostic laboratory. But for those of you who are livestock and poultry producers, there is a job for you. If you are a commercial poultry producer, your company service person is on top of health problems in your flock and they are going to initiate looking into any significant health problems. If you are a non-commercial poultry or a livestock producer, you are the "boots on the ground," the first people to see disease processes that do not seem normal or are "just not quite the usual garden variety" disease. If you have diseases causing large die-offs (I cannot tell you a specific number of what constitutes a large die-off, but I do know that the higher the price of cattle, the fewer it takes to be considered large) and you cannot find out why, let us know. We also need to be involved with outbreaks when there are a large number of sick animals. That doesn’t necessarily mean when you buy ten 350-pound calves at the stockyard and five come down with a respiratory disease that we should be involved. But if you’ve been buying stockyard calves for a while and this doesn’t seem like your everyday shipping fever, call somebody - like your local veterinarian. We are also interested in animals showing signs of central nervous disease such as staggering, head pressing, circling, vocalizing and that sort of thing.

In veterinary school, we were told that if we see hoof prints, we should think horses, not zebras. But if you see hoof prints and never think about the possibility of zebras, you could get run over by a herd of black-and-white-striped animals with hoofs. If you play the odds, whatever disease you see will not be a FAD. However, if you play the odds too long, you will likely lose sometime. We are just asking you to stay alert to the possibility of foreign animal diseases.

Dr. Terry Slaten is the Asst. State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Setting Priorities

By Dr. Tony Frazier

It is unlikely that any of you reading this article have escaped the effects of the recent economic down turn. I occasionally hear that the country is climbing out of the hole we have been in economically for the past few years. I hope that is true. I would be happy if someone could tell me for sure that we have found the bottom of the hole. It seems whatever black ink we enter on one side of the page is cancelled out, and then some, by the red ink on the other side. I know for farmers input costs are at all-time highs. Fuel and fertilizer just keep going up. Throw in a kid or two in college and it makes for some interesting times economically. I am sure most of you have had to look at your available resources and try to set priorities. I have had to do the same thing. I have had to ask myself what activities fall under the State Veterinarian and where do those activities fall in order of importance. And as the old song says, “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.”

First, I looked at foreign animal disease surveillance. I was once at a meeting where someone asked why we spend money on things like foot-and-mouth disease surveillance. We haven’t had that disease in the United States since 1927. The answer seemed obvious to me anyway. We spend time and resources looking for FMD and other diseases because of the potential devastation they would certainly cause animal agriculture. The repercussions of us contracting FAD are far-reaching. Export markets would close down. Animal movement here at home would halt. Markets would plummet and the economy would take a huge hit. We continue FAD surveillance because diseases such as FMD and highly pathogenic avian influenza are alive and well outside our borders. The official website for the U. S. Customs and Border Patrol states, on a typical day, 1.1 million people enter the United States. And while that number seems awfully high to me, I will speculate that many of them are coming from countries where FMD or highly pathogenic avian influenza are common occurrences. So, FAD surveillance gets a “Priority One.”

Then I decided to look at collecting samples for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, incorrectly referred to as Mad Cow Disease. (The cows aren’t actually mad - maybe unhappy, but definitely not mad.) Our field personnel and our laboratory folks spend a great deal of time collecting, submitting and recording results of BSE samples. So I asked myself why we are continuing this activity when we have only had three cases of BSE found in the United States - ever. And only two of those were from native cattle. The first case actually was imported from Canada. Then I remind myself that we, the United States, must test at least 40,000 samples for BSE annually to be able to export cattle and beef to many countries. Therefore, when I realize how important the export market is to the beef industry in Alabama, BSE testing gets a “Priority One.”

Next, I looked at our National Poultry Improvement Plan Program’s mycoplasma testing and avian influenza testing of non-commercial flocks. That takes another large chunk of our time and resources. Those activities monitor non-commercial poultry flocks for Salmonella pullorum and other devastating poultry diseases. Those programs do two important things. First, they help protect the health of the non-commercial producer’s birds and open lines of communication between them and my office to pass important information. Second, it protects our commercial poultry industry. When I consider the commercial poultry industry in Alabama adds $10 billion to our economy and employs over 80,000 workers, I do not believe we can afford to let those programs go. So, they are also priority one.

Then I looked at our state meat inspection program. We typically mirror the federal meat and poultry inspection program. However, many of the meat establishments we work with are small, “mom and pop”-type plants. We work very closely with those meat facilities to assure all of the continual changes and new federal regulations are understood and adhered to. Also, I have been involved with food safety since I first started working for the state. Nobody has to tell me how important this program is - priority one.

Our diagnostic laboratory system certainly consumes a considerable amount of resources. I realize there are private laboratory systems existing out there. But as a state whose number one industry is agriculture, which includes the $10 billion poultry industry and the over $2 billion cattle industry, I believe it is vitally important we actively support animal agriculture as well as the veterinary community, whether they are in large animal, companion animal or small animal practice. Our laboratory system gives information that collectively is important to our industries to know what diseases are out there and the prevalence of those diseases. I cannot give the laboratory system less than priority one.

Finally, I decided there is one area we could assign a lower priority and maybe even get rid of all together. I realize we are government employees, but I thought we could either cut way down in the area of paperwork, or maybe even forget about it all together. Then I reminded myself that a lot of the paperwork we do is required by USDA to justify and track the money they provide us for entering cooperative agreement programs. Even though USDA Veterinary Services is closer to where the money is printed, they too are spread pretty thin. Therefore, to accomplish the work they have determined to be important to animal agriculture, they provide states with some money to accomplish, interestingly enough, their priorities. So again I have a priority one.

When I finally finished looking at everything we do, I realized our priorities have not changed. In fact, over the past few years, we have pared away everything we could and remain functional and effective. So while our resources have been dramatically reduced, our priorities remain the same.

I will mention one final “priority one” item as I close. One of the most important things I ever do is to be available to answer questions you may have. In my articles when I say, “If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call me,” I truly mean that. If you are a taxpayer, you pay my salary and I work for you. Not only do I feel a responsibility to be available to you, I really enjoy hearing from you. So if you have questions, please do not hesitate to call me. My number is 334-240-7253. It may take a little while since we are all having to do more and wear more hats, but I will do my best to get back with you.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Sleep Tight and Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

by Tony Glover

(Credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

How many of you were sent to bed or sent your kids to bed with the little ditty, "Good night – sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite"? I heard that all my life and have said the same to my kids never giving a second thought to the possibility that a bed bug may indeed be lurking in their bed. I grew up and have lived my entire life during a time when this pest was all but totally absent from the United States. I don’t know when I found out this pest was real and not an imaginary pest my parents made up. Unfortunately, now, once again, we may need to remember the advice of our grandparents to "sleep tight" to avoid being bitten by bed bugs. Our parents and grandparents likely remember the days prior to World War II and the scourge of bed bugs.

Why prior to WWII? Well, after WWII the miracle chemical known as DDT was widely used for the control of bed bugs and dozens of other pests of man and plants. Bed bugs were almost totally eradicated in the U.S. during the years prior to the elimination of this and other widely used related chemicals. The banning of DDT is not likely the sole or even primary reason for the rise in bed bug problems but was the reason for the original decline of the problem. Bed bugs would have become resistant to DDT over time as they have become immune to other chemicals used over the years.

The resurgence of the problem is likely due to several other factors. Other reasons include travel to areas where the problem is greater such as Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and parts of Europe. This fact plus the immigration of people from areas that are infested are very likely reasons for the problem we now see in the U.S. Another, contributing factor may be the reduced use of residual insecticides previously used to control roaches, ants and other household pests. The advent of bait controls for these pests have reduced the need for the harsher chemicals previously used in homes. That is a good thing, but even good things can have unwanted side effects.

For those who travel a lot, you can unknowingly bring bed bugs back in your luggage or clothing. One way to avoid this happening is to inspect your room for these small creatures and don’t stay in an infected hotel room. Don’t assume the critters are only in the cheap hotels. Bed bugs have been found in the nicest hotels, especially in the areas of the world mentioned earlier. First, look for rusty spots on the mattress cover, the bed frame and especially behind the headboard. In most hotels the bed’s headboard is mounted to the wall and slides off easily. Try to completely remove it and check that area well because that is a great hiding place that is seldom disturbed in hotels. Also, look at the bedside furniture carefully for these same rusty spots or for the bed bug itself. The insect itself is about one-eighth- to one-quarter-inch long and half that wide and is reddish brown.

Bed bugs seem to bring out a primal fear because they feed on humans by sucking their blood. However, they are not known to transmit any human diseases but the bite, although not painful, can be irritating or may even cause an unpleasant allergic reaction on the skin. Biting symptoms usually occur in clusters or lines because bed bugs often puncture their host more than once when feeding. Bite marks generally don’t appear until some days (usually 1-10 days) after the first time bites have occurred, depending on the host sensitivity. Mosquito or flea bites may be mistaken for bed bug bites. Mosquitoes may bite anywhere skin is exposed, but fleas generally bite near your ankles. Bed bugs, on the other hand, will bite on areas exposed during sleep time such as arms, legs, face, neck or shoulders. Vampires also like the neck area so look to see if there are one or two puncture wounds (just kidding). Lastly, "sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite" is still good advice.

For more detailed information and control options visit and search in the publications area for "Battling Bed Bugs."

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

Some Things Are Certain: Preparing Your Farm for Winter

by Robert Spencer

Winter follows fall, and that is always certain. Conditions may vary, but for most of us throughout the Southeast winter brings occasional freezing temperatures and complications such as frozen water lines, faucets and water troughs. Livestock needs sufficient nutritional intake to maintain body condition and temperature, and that resource may come in the form of stockpiled forages, quality winter forages, hay or supplemental grain feed. As manager of your farm, there are certain provisions to consider in order to ensure your farm and livestock are prepared for winter conditions and temperatures. Planning ahead minimizes the opportunity for stress and emergencies on those cold miserable days! Take the time to go over this checklist and consider the following issues and how to be prepared. While this checklist is designed for goat and sheep producers, it can be applicable to cattle and equine operations. The big question: how will you handle everything in case of extended temperatures below freezing?

Forage Availability

__ Do your pastures have adequate forage availability (stockpiling) for this fall and winter?

__ Are you able to utilize rotational grazing for additional forage? If not, now is the time to plan and implement. Rye and ryegrass are two favorites of mine.

__ Have you taken the time to establish some quality winter forages? If not, you still have time.

__ If no to any of the above, what is your back-up plan?


__ Do you have adequate amounts of hay to get your animals through winter and into early spring (into March & April)?

__ If not, what kind of back-up plan do you have?

__ Do you have "average" hay for maintenance animals (non-lactating or pregnant)?

__ Do you have high-quality hay for lactating, pregnant and young animals?

Soil Testing & Fertility

__ When is the last time you did a soil test on your pastures? If not recently, now is the time. Proper pH and soil fertility are essential to production quality for forages and nutrient availability as well.

__ Have your pastures been fertilized this fall to ensure high nutritional value forages? If not, have you made plans for supplemental feeds and feeding?

__ Have your pastures been limed this fall? Liming pastures contributes to forage production and quality ensuring forages are able to access nutrients from the soil, makes forages more palatable, and increases the likelihood for seed germination and forage production.


__ Do your animals have adequate shelter for cold and rainy conditions? While a simple pole barn is adequate for keeping animals dry, they need a way to get out of the wind when wind-chill is a factor. A three-sided shelter is ideal, especially when exterior walls provide protection for prevailing winds and weather (north, west and south).

Nutrient Planning & Special Needs

__ Do you have plans for supplemental grain feeding if necessary?

__ Do you have plans to address the nutrient requirements of lactating animals and young animals? What resources do you have for supplemental grain feeds?


__ Is water readily available despite weather conditions? Freeze-proof faucets are always a good idea. But, if left connected to water hoses, they hold water and are NOT freeze-proof!

__ Are water containers close to water sources? Are automatic water systems protected from freezing? If connected or left to sit in water, they will freeze!

__ How will you deal with water troughs freezing over? What is your back-up plan in case temperatures remain below freezing for several days? Are you keeping water hoses drained to avoid water freezing inside the lines?

Nursery & Kidding Area

__ Do you have a nursery area for nannies/ewes who may kid/lamb?

__ Is the area adequately enclosed to keep animals comfortable and protected from freezing conditions, wind and rain? Are you able to set up heat lamps if necessary?

__ Is there an area for young to get away from the adults and young goats?

__ Do you have the ability to set up supplemental heating if needed?

Creep-Feeding Area

__ Does your farm have continuous access to an area allowing young animals to creep feed with access to hay, feed and water?

__ If not, can you readily set up a creep-feeding area for the young animals? What type of feeding schedule will you establish for the young animals?


Soil test, pH and need for soil nutrient supplementation all affect soil fertility, seed germination ability and the capability for young vegetation to get off to a good start.

Now is the time to make all reasonable efforts to establish cool-season grasses and legumes (including clovers) for next year.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Boy, Minnie Lee shore got off on the wrong foot when she asked her new neighbor lady if she was expectin’ and she weren’t. They ain’t spoke since."

What do feet have to do with an introduction?

Getting off on the wrong foot means to make a bad start to a project or relationship.

This has the sound of an old expression from Shakespeare, the Bible or something similar. Shakespeare did use the notion of a "better" foot (which implies a wrong foot) in King John, 1595:

"Nay, but make haste; the better foot before.

O, let me have no subject enemies,

When adverse foreigners affright my towns

With dreadful pomp of stout invasion!

Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels,

And fly like thought from them to me again."

Richard Harvey, in "Plaine Perceuall the peace-maker of England," 1590, is the first to record the wrong foot in print: "Thou putst the wrong foote before."

Despite the implication otherwise in the phrase "put your best foot forward," we only have two choices, so if there’s a wrong foot there has to be a right one, too, and "get off on the right foot" is also in common use.

How did these phrases originate? Well, we don’t know. It may be that it comes from the long-standing preference people have for the right. Most people in all cultures are right handed and in English at least the bias is part of the language. We have right and left, and right and wrong tends to associate left and wrong. That association is built into the language in the way we have taken the Latin for left - sinister, to mean dark and suspicious. There are various disparaging terms for use of the left demonstrating this bias - cack-handed, goofy-footed, etc.

There is a suggestion that in ancient Greece it was considered unlucky to put the left foot on to the floor, or into one’s shoe, first. Brewer records this in his "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," 1898. I can’t find supporting evidence for that view, so I’ll just repeat what Brewer had to say here: "It was thought unlucky to enter a house or to leave one’s chamber left foot foremost. Augustus was very superstitious on this point. Pythagoras taught that it is necessary to put the shoe on the right foot first. ‘When stretching forth your feet to have your sandals put on, first extend your right foot.’ (Protreptics of Iamblichus, symbol xii.) Iamblichus tells us this symbolised that man’s first duty is reverence to the gods."

Another suggestion is the concept of a right foot and a wrong foot comes from the military, where in order to march in step soldiers all have to start with the same foot.


by Jimmy Hughes

With the abundance of rain during the summer, we are seeing a lot of pastures with a tremendous amount of grass for the fall. As the days shorten and cooler weather sets in, the grass matures and the quality and digestibility of the grass is reduced. There are products available that will cause the cattle to eat this mature forage and there are products to encourage them to eat the standing forage and will also increase the digestibility of that forage as well.

While some producers will consider the use of a "hot meal mix" as a way to encourage cattle to consume the feed, this practice will not improve the digestibility or utilization of this forage. The use of STIMU-LYX Low Moisture Tubs will not only encourage intake of the grass but will also improve the digestibility of the grass allowing cattle to actually receive more nutrients from the grass. STIMU-LYX Tubs will help cattle break down the cell walls of the grass to allow the nutrients to be absorbed. STIMU-LYX Tubs will encourage cattle to eat more grass as cattle will graze predominantly within 600 yards of the tubs. The protein and licking action generated from the STIMU-LYX Tubs will improve digestion and utilization of that grass.

If you want your cattle to just eat the grass, then feed a hot meal mix; if you want the cows to not only eat the grass but to get the most out of the grass, I would highly recommend the use of STIMU-LYX Low Moisture Tubs.

If I can be of assistance or answer any questions concerning low moisture tubs and grass utilization, please feel free to call me at 256-947-7886 or email me atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Stop Calf Scours Before It Stops You!

Approximately 61 percent of calf deaths are caused by scours.

by Jackie Nix

Calf scours causes more financial loss to cattle producers than any other health issue. Losses are not only reflected in lost calves and treatment costs, but also in reduced performance in surviving calves.

It is estimated 61 percent of calf deaths are caused by scours. Calf scours is not a disease per se but a symptom of one of a great variety of causes. Noninfectious causes of diarrhea include poor nutrition of the dam, inadequate colostrum intake, poor management and/or poor environmental conditions. Infectious causes include bacterial, viral and protozoan infections. Of the infectious agents, E. coli is the most common source of scours.

E. coli colonize within the gut by attaching to the finger-like projections within the intestines. Every animal carries E. coli, even you and I, and it is part of the normal flora of the gut. Calves are born with a sterile gut, but pick up E. colifrom the environment. When the amount of challenge exceeds the body’s ability to keep the bacteria in check, scours occurs. Traditionally, E. coli is controlled through a combination of management, sanitation and antibiotics.

It goes without saying that properly fed dams that have received proper mineral nutrition, particularly copper, selenium and zinc, will give birth to thriftier calves. This is partially due to improved quality and quantity of colostrum ingested by the calf to impart passive immunity. The mentioned minerals are key building blocks in antibody production. Additionally, these calves will be born with adequate supplies of these key minerals so their own bodies will have what they need for the development of their own immune system.

However, even the strongest immune system can be subverted when faced with overwhelming numbers of infectious invaders. Because E. coli is spread from animal to animal via manure, proper sanitation is a must. Provide a "clean" calving area if possible. Sunlight and fresh air are the best sanitation agents, thus calving in the open on clean, dry ground is preferable to a dark, damp stall. If you do calve inside, be sure to thoroughly disinfect calving areas and put down fresh bedding between calvings. Avoid over-crowding in barns and shelters and be sure there is proper ventilation.

Many producers utilize antibiotics in feed or milk replacers to prevent E. coli outbreaks, particularly when there have been outbreaks in the past. Use of antibiotics has historically served the cattle industry well. However, in today’s current production environment, there are times when use of antibiotics is undesirable, whether due to antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli or a desire by the producer to market organic or natural beef. Luckily, other options have emerged such as Bio-Mos.

Bio-Mos is a phosphorylated manna-oligosaccharide derived from a specific strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae capable of binding pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli that express a type I fimbriae. What does that mean in English? Simply, it means that Bio-Mos is a "sticky sugar" derived from yeast that binds to E. coliand doesn’t let go. Because E. coli has only one binding site, if it is bound to Bio-Mos, it cannot bind to the gut lining. If it can’t bind to the gut lining and is floating free, it can’t establish a colony and passes out harmlessly in the manure.

SWEETLIXnow offers Bio-Mos in two convenient, self-fed blocks.The 33.3-pound SWEETLIX 20% Protein Plus Mag Bio-Mos pressed block and the 200-pound SWEETLIX EnProAl 27% Protein Plus Mag Bio-Mos poured block both deliver recommended levels of Bio-Mos in addition to supplemental protein and a complete mineral and vitamin package with NRC-recommended levels of copper, zinc and selenium for a strong immune system. Extra magnesium is added as well to address the risk of grass tetany. These blocks are an economical means to deliver Bio-Mos to cattle along with essential nutrients in one convenient block. No messy, bulky feed bunks necessary. Cattle should consume 1-2 pounds of either product per head daily based on a 1,000-pound animal. Consumption of 1.5 pounds of either block will deliver 10 grams of Bio-Mos.

For additional information, please visit or or call your local Quality Co-op to ask for SWEETLIX by name.

Bio-Mos is a registered trademark of Alltech, Inc.

SWEETLIX is a registered trademark of Ridley Block Operations.

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.

Talking Turkey in His Corncrib Workshop

Donny Richards of Tennille community in rural Pike County crafts turkey calls that are so sweet and seductive a gobbler will almost come and sit in the hunter’s lap.

by Jaine Treadwell




When Donny Richards talks turkey, he chooses his words carefully.

And it only takes three words to describe the sounds of the hand- and custom-made turkey calls he crafts at his corncrib workshop at Tennille in rural South Alabama.

Richards has been making turkey calls for more than 10 years now.

He’s as much a storyteller as he is a professional at his craft.

Richards, or Mr. Donny as some folks call him, tells one story after another about "the hunt." And, to him, the only hunt is for wild turkey.

Richards likes to tell the story of how he got started crafting turkey calls that will almost bring a gobbler to sit on his lap, but for sure to the gun.

Richards’ efforts to craft a turkey call that would sound like a real turkey were fruitless. Until … the graveyard in rural South Georgia where his great, great, great-granddaddy was buried was rediscovered.

A huge cedar tree was growing out of his granddaddy’s grave - actually, out of his ancestor’s chest.

"The age-old cedar had been struck by lightning and had to come down," Richards said.

Clockwise from top left, the “Come Heah Tuh Me” box call was the first turkey call Donny Richards created. Richards’ box and pot turkey calls have brought celebrity status to their maker. A turkey call created from wood from “The Senator,” a cypress tree 3,500 years old. Richards’ pot calls have a variety of designs including turkey feathers and the old gobbler himself. The round call at left is Richards’ “Come Heah Tuh Me” turkey call sold all across the United States. Richards has been turkey hunting “seriously” for nearly 50 years. He knows and understands the language of turkeys. “Come Heah Tuh Me” pot calls are extremely popular. Names like “Sweet Lips” and “Sweet Thang” are an indication of their attraction to the opposite sex.

"The tree had been dead for so long the wood had cured. I used the bright red cedar to make a box call and, for the first time, I got the sound I wanted."

That’s the short of a long story and that’s about all that needs to be said about that.

Donny Richards could purchase a stamp for his “Come Heah Tuh Me” turkey calls, but he would rather his calls have a personal touch. He “signs” and personalizes his work with a wood burner.

Richards has come a long way since he first started making turkey calls, but he still gives credit for his success to the One he petitioned for help.

"My daddy gave me a .22 when I was 6 years old and told me to go to the woods," he recalled. "I’ve been in the woods ever since.

"I’ve always turkey hunted, but I didn’t get serious about it until I was 14. I’ve been serious about turkey hunting now for almost 50 years. But for about 40 of those years, I was looking for a call that would bring a gobbler almost running to me. But to do that the call had to be almost perfect. I spent a lot of time looking for and then trying to create the perfect turkey call."

Richards said many of the turkey calls on the market wouldn’t half fool a gobbler.

"You might as well have been yelling, ‘Come here to me, turkey. Come here to me!’" Richards said, laughing.

The seasoned turkey hunter set about creating the perfect turkey call. He knew it would be just about impossible. He couldn’t do it on his own.

"What you’re doing with a turkey call is reversing nature," he said. "In nature, the hen comes to the gobbler. We’re trying to get the gobbler to the hen. That’s reversing nature. To get a gobbler to come to the gun, the turkey call has got to be soft, smooth and seductive, like ‘sweet lips.’"

Through Richards’ years of experience in the woods, he had learned the language of the wild turkey. He understood it completely. He could recognize an old turkey from a young one. He knew the lost cry of a young turkey. He knew the sound that would bring a gobbler running to the hen … and to the gun. He just had to create those sounds.

"I couldn’t do it," he said. "So I prayed and asked the Lord to help me. Now, what I wanted to make was the perfect turkey call. That was a tall order. But I promised the Lord if he would help me, I’d give Him a dime out of every dollar I made."

Richards made that "perfect" turkey call. A call saying, "Come Heah Tuh Me," and it says it so sweet the gobbler comes running and sometimes the old boy will almost run over the hunter in its effort to get to that soft, smooth, seductive sound.

Richard’s first "perfect" turkey call was a box call and, once turkey hunters got wind of it, they beat a path to his door. Hunters from all across the country called and came and, to a one, they said Richard’s "Come Heah Tuh Me" turkey calls brought the gobbler running to them.

Donny Richards has created a turkey call that makes a sound like a hive of bees. The drumming sound is made by gobblers who desire the attention of a hen, but turkey predators keep him from gobbling.

That was nearly a decade ago. Today, in his corncrib workshop, Richards is making a variety of turkey calls - pot calls - and each one is 96 percent perfect.

"That’s the Lord’s part. My efforts are the other four percent," Richards said, with a smile. "These pot calls have, without a doubt, the sweetest sound you’ll ever hear. I make ’em out of a variety of woods from all around from Alabama and Georgia to Pennsylvania and Africa. I make the calls out of wood, glass, crystal, slate, aluminum and copper. The calls sound like every sound a turkey hunter could want."

Richards said every turkey hunter knows the sound he or she wants from a turkey call.

"They’ll listen and listen and say, ‘That’s the one,’" he said. "Turkey hunters don’t buy a call. They buy a sound. ‘Come Heah Tuh Me’ calls have the sounds any turkey hunter could want."

Some hunters have said that "Come Heah Tuh Me" calls are better than a real turkey because a hen’s voice will break while Richards’ calls are steady.

Knowing the language of turkeys, Richards realized that coyotes and bobcats have greatly reduced the wild turkey populations in some areas.

"The gobblers have gotten smart," he said. "They’re not gobbling to get their hens. They’re drumming – a sound that’s much like a beehive makes. So a gobbler can be 30 yards from you and you won’t know it. I wanted a call that made that drumming sound."

Richards’ "drum" call is the first call of its kind and he’s working to perfect another call that will invite turkeys to "Come Heah Tuh Me."

Richards’ soft, smooth, seductive turkey calls have made him somewhat of a celebrity. That’s if you call stepping in for Jeff Foxworthy a celebrity.

He is a regular speaker at Tall Timbers invitational turkey hunts in Georgia and his calls are the calls of choice for many of the top turkey hunters around the country.

Donny Richards is thankful that God has given him the talent and the ability to create the sounds of the wild turkey. He loves "the hunt" and his heart kind of swells every time a hunter calls and says, "Your call got me one!"

"Turkey hunting has brought me so much pleasure and the ‘Come Heah Tuh Me’ calls have given me a chance to meet so many people and build lifelong friendships," Richards said. "I’m not smart enough to make these ‘calls.’ I give all the glory to God. Like I said … I’m only four percent."

Donny Richards can be contacted at 3059 County Road 4421, Brundidge, AL 36010 or at 334-735-2452.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Tax Planning for Farmers

by Robert Page

As we approach the end of the year, farmers should strongly consider meeting with their tax preparers to plan their estimated 2013 taxes. During the many years of Extension’s Farm Analysis program, no farmer meeting was more important than the annual fourth-quarter, tax-planning meeting. That’s because these meetings were worth $10,000-$200,000 or more in federal and state taxes for commercial farmers. This year, with Extension’s Farm Analysis Program discontinued as of April 30, 2013, our former clients will be meeting with their accountants and tax preparers for this critical meeting.

Commercial farmers are planners and organizers. Someone farming over 1,000 acres has to be to get everything done. While most, if not all, commercial farmers work in agriculture because they enjoy the lifestyle, they also farm for money. During my years in the Farm Analysis Program, I’ve worked with farm clients with over $200,000 in annual losses and with over $400,000 in annual profits during the fourth-quarter, tax-planning meeting.

For the sake of this article, let us assume our client farmer is a sole-proprietor farmer filing a basic Form 1040 with a cash-basis Schedule F farm return. Each year, the meeting would have the same series of questions. These are the questions the farmer’s economist would have asked for the 2013 crop year.

What was the farmer’s year-to-date actual profit or loss as of a set date? In most instances, the farmer would select the end of October or November year-to-date as a starting point. This would mean all the farmer’s income and expenses would have to be posted into QuickBooks as of that date. Note to procrastinators:Having an October 31 or November 30 starting point would mean commercial farmers did not wait until January 2014 to begin entering 2013 income and expenses into their accounting records.

What was the farmer’s expected income for the one or two remaining months of the year?During some years, farmers were still harvesting crops in October. In other years, all the crops had been harvested and the farmer had a good idea of what their income would be for the last two months of the year.

What was the farmer’s expected expenses for the one or two remaining months of the year?With up-to-date QuickBooks records, the farmer and I could quickly see monthly averages for each expense line. We would discuss each expense to come up with a reasonable amount for the remaining one or two months of the year.

What equipment or other fixed assets had the farmer already purchased during 2013?These current year purchases would be added to the farmer’s Fixed Asset and Depreciation Schedule to determine an estimated amount of depreciation expense for the year.

Using this best estimate of the farm’s projected year-end income and expense, the farmer and I would prepare a projected amount of estimated federal and state taxes due for 2013. This tax estimate might be $0 tax due for farmers with a loss or a tax bill of $250,000 or more for farmers with large profits. Note: Extension Economist Steve Brown in Escambia County and earlier economists had developed an outstanding Excel-based tax program Brown updated each year for this task. All of the farmers in the state Farm Analysis program and current and earlier Extension economists owe a debt of thanks for Brown’s good work with this tax estimate/projection spreadsheet.

What amount of federal and state tax did the farmer want to pay for 2013?This is the point where tax planning really begins for the farmer. If the original projected amount of federal and state taxes due was not satisfactory to the farmer, what could they do to change the tax? Typically, the farmer had several options to lower their estimated tax bill before year-end.

The farmer could prepay for crop inputs needed for 2014. This option would pull 2014 expenses back into 2013 for larger expenses, and thus a lower tax bill.

The farmer could decide not to sell 2013 harvested crops and keep them stored until 2014. This option would push 2013 income into 2014.

The farmer could review the farm equipment and other fixed assets already purchased in 2013 and see how different types of depreciation would affect their 2013 estimated taxes. Some farmers might decide to fast depreciate some large pieces of equipment for maximum tax benefit in 2013 or look ahead to decide that the fixed assets would be depreciated over 5, 7, 10 or more years.

The farmer could decide to buy more equipment or other fixed assets in the last month(s) of 2013 so they could have additional depreciation for 2013 to lower estimated taxes.

The farmer could decide how much money to deposit in an individual traditional IRA or other retirement savings account to reduce individual taxes.

By changing amounts of these five typical options, the farmer’s estimated tax bill could be cut dramatically for 2013. However, the farmer also had to consider how profitable they expected the farm to be for 2014, 2015 and beyond. As planners and experienced farmers, cutting taxes too much in 2013 might lead to a higher tax bill in 2014 or 2015.

As a result of considering several different "what if" scenarios for these different options, the farmer could reduce farm income by hundreds of thousands of dollars for tax purposes. Thus, a four-hour annual meeting could save the farmer $10,000 to $200,000 in taxes.

Today, the former client farmers of the Farm Analysis Program will need to visit their local accountant to conduct this meeting for a preliminary tax estimate. However, I believe most, if not all of them, will say the time and cost of a preliminary tax planning meeting is money well spent. That’s because cash-basis farmers must record cash income or expense before December 31, 2013. After year-end, a farmer’s tax preparer is typically limited to options on depreciation to reduce 2013 farm income. If you and your farm are having a good year and expect to pay significant taxes for 2013, you should consider visiting your tax preparer for a tax planning meeting. It can save you money.

For more information about farm management and financial analysis, please contact your County Extension Coordinator or an Extension Specialist: North Alabama: Holt Hardin, 256-574-2143 or Robert Page, 256-528-7133; Central Alabama: Jamie Yeager, 334-624-4016; Southwest Alabama: Steve Brown, 251-867-7760.

Thanksgiving Is Time to Empower An Attitude of Gratitude

Jason, Rolley Len and Cason Kirk with the homemade smoker Jason made. The smoker might not be pretty, but it sure cooks great food!

by Christy Kirk

One day at church, someone said we should remember to pray during the good times instead of only praying when faced with dire circumstances. I realized I have been guilty of doing that a lot in the past. When faced with sickness or economic hardship, praying for strength and guidance is a natural reaction even for people who do not consider themselves religious. Then, once we are back on our feet, we forget how we were able to get there. Sometimes we get so accustomed to complaining about the smaller, bad things happening to us on a daily basis that we don’t realize how good our life is until we hear about someone else who is in terrible straits.

Just over 2 years ago, I was working at the Department of Agriculture & Industries when it was determined the department needed to cut 25 percent of its employees. It was an extremely difficult and stressful time for everyone. When I was told I was part of the layoffs, I was devastated. In moments like that one, it is easy to get lost in the feelings of despair, grief or confusion that naturally come with life’s stressful circumstances. Sometimes having your plans derailed points you in the right direction more clearly and reminds you of the things you should be thankful for.

Rather than thinking negatively about the turning points in my life, I try to imagine they are actually guideposts. Even though I loved my job at the department, I am now in a classroom, and I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this time in my life. I remind myself daily to be thankful for my health and the health of my family. It may sound cliché, but every day we get to spend together is a blessing. We take it for granted that our children, spouse and parents will be around infinitely, yet in our hearts we know it is not true. If you feel grateful for your family, friends or even your job, find a way to let it show.

One way to share your feelings is to gather around the table to eat with the people you care about. For many families, Thanksgiving weekend signals the beginning of the holiday season. Children start getting restless at school and parents begin to get ready for holiday travel and special activities. How do we keep Thanksgiving a special and meaningful holiday? As the holiday season approaches, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the stress going along with all of the celebrations. Thanksgiving always reminds me to be grateful for all the positive things happening in my life. Try viewing Thanksgiving Day as the first day of your genuine gratefulness for the life you have.

Consider Smoking Instead of Baking

Many families spend lots of time in the kitchen together: cooking, talking and eating. For some people, being tied to the kitchen hinders their socializing. If you are one of those people who doesn’t like being fixed in one place while everyone else mingles, maybe you should try smoking your turkey or Boston butt instead of baking. Cooking with a smoker can be extremely convenient. It is a little like using a slow cooker because you can put the meat in there to smoke while you do other things.

Smoked turkey is a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu. For the smoked turkey, Jason chooses a smaller bird, but he also fries turkey strips from a wild bird. He prepares the turkey for the smoker by rubbing it with olive oil and sprinkling it with salt and pepper. It is then placed on the rack inside the smoker. He lets it cook for several hours. Every so often, check the thermostat to ensure it stays around 220 degrees. Let it cook until it is the desired color. Then wrap the bird in tin foil and let the heat get up to about 300 degrees. Let it continue smoking until it reaches at least 160 degrees deep into the breast meat or higher than 170 degrees in the leg.

Although you can buy a smoker, homemade smokers can be made out of a lot of the things many farmers or outdoorsmen already have lying around their garage or workshop. All you need is a hollow container for the body, a tube or pipe for ventilation, and a stable base. Jason made a smoker out of two small air compressor tanks. He cut out a hole for a lid, made a place for a grate and made the base from jack stands in the scrap pile. For the fire, Jason uses pecan or hickory because that is what is around our yard.

Building your own smoker takes time, but it can be worth the effort. As you build it, know you are creating something that not only provides you with your next meal but you are also taking steps towards freedom to spend time with your loved ones during this special time of year. Although we never truly know for sure what tomorrow will bring or even if there will be a tomorrow, we can attempt to put our efforts into appreciating what we have today.

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

The Co-op Pantry

A sampling of Rozi Hartley's incredible carvings.

by Mary Delph

At a recent bridal shower and wedding, I was amazed at the centerpieces for the events - the most beautiful fruit carvings I have ever seen. Upon asking about them, I was informed that the artist was a lady named Rozi Hartley (pronounced Rosie). I immediately knew that she needed to be featured in the Co-op Pantry!

Hartley was born in Brazil, where she was raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother was the family cook. She related that her grandmother had one of those wonderful outdoor brick ovens (that most of us dream of) and she used it to cook most everything. Hartley laughingly said she wasn’t particularly fond of her grandmother’s cooking because she thought it was too bland. But, as an adult, she appreciates the fact she was raised to eat healthy, fresh food and isn’t fond of fast food or sweets.

Hartley explained that in Brazil a trip to McDonald’s would probably cost $25-$30. Even with the difference in the exchange rate, fast food is too expensive for most people. Another difference, in Brazil fresh food is very cheap and plentiful while canned and frozen products are cost prohibitive. Open air markets are common and the food is available year round.

Hartley moved to the United States and was living in Mobile when she found herself divorced and a single mom to her two daughters Rebecca, 12, and Sarah, 9. She had a good friend who lived in Hartselle, in Morgan County, and came for a visit. The town’s charm and warm, friendly people along with its low crime rate convinced her it was time to move.

Along with the move, she began a new business, Edible Designs by Rozi, based in Hartselle where she does very reasonably priced designs carved into fruits and vegetables. She has designs for showers, weddings, graduation parties, birthday parties and anything else you can think of. She loves the challenge of someone presenting her with an idea or a picture and turning it into a fruity work of art.

More of Rozi Hartley's designs.

I asked Hartley how she came to be a fruit carver and she explained, while she was working at a resort in Orange Beach, she watched an oriental lady carving fruit and became fascinated by the art involved. Fruit carving is believed to have originated in Thailand about 700 years ago. Hartley was fascinated and just started practicing and the rest is history. Let me add that Hartley is also an accomplished artist in acrylics and charcoal, so learning to carve fruit was just another medium with which to express her artistic talent.

Rozi is also active in her church, Hartselle First United Methodist, where she teaches Zumba. She also is the instructor at several other locations in Morgan County. She is dedicated to helping people become healthy by making exercising fun and she also helps them work out a nutrition program as well.

"You have to get your mind off food; that is the secret to making a diet work," she believes.

This 37-year-old mother of two looks about 25 and is in terrific shape. Wow, I am exhausted just writing about this dynamo!

Hartley, thank you so much for sharing your life and your art. While I won’t have any recipes this month, I am going to share photos of her creations. Hartley has provided her contact information and can provide you with a video of a simple design to guide you through the process. I am pretty sure she could be persuaded to give lessons if enough people asked!

Rozi Hartley
Edible Designs
410 Main St., Suite C
Hartselle, AL 35640

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

The Nightshade Family

by Nadine Johnson

By now, most of my readers are aware I attend the Senior Nutritional Center in Daphne. Often a remark at the lunch table prompts the topic for an upcoming column. Recently, we were served a mixture of vegetables.

As I started to eat, I remarked, "Somewhere along life’s way I have been told we shouldn’t eat more than one member of the nightshade family in one meal."

My seating companions were stunned. They had never before heard of the nightshade family.

I explained that potatoes (not sweet potatoes), tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are all nightshades. These vegetables were in the mixture we were enjoying. We’re all familiar with these nightshades as plants and as food. It seems arthritis sufferers experience more pain after ingesting these foods. Possibly we experience less joint pain by eating only one nightshade food at the time. (I found information online which indicates this is true.)

Nightshades are a rather large group of foods, herbs, trees, shrubs and even bedding plants with various uses. I’ll list a few.

Petunias are an annual bedding plant providing us with a wonderful scent as well as beautiful colors. It’s food for the soul and needs no other introduction.

Belladonna, which is also called Deadly Nightshade, means "beautiful woman." This very toxic herb has been used as a medicine, cosmetic and poison. Once women used it as eye drops to dilate their pupils and make them glamorous. (A foolish practice, but women will go to any extreme for the sake of "beauty.") At one time (and possibly still), belladonna drops were used by doctors to dilate pupils for eye testing. As a nurse, I was familiar with scopolamine and atropine. These are two medications derived from belladonna and used wisely by doctors.

Tobacco is a nightshade we are all very much aware of. I’m sure it has its good uses, but it also has its bad. There are many people who wish they had never used this very addictive and health-harming herb.

Morning glories are one of the most beautiful flowers on earth, even though they can become pests in some situations. Like petunias, morning glories are food for the soul.

Bittersweet is a common weed of the nightshade family. It is a twining, woody vine with purple flowers and red seeds. It is very pretty and also very poisonous. It adds beauty as a backdrop for a wildflower bed, but, please, watch children who might put these pretty seeds in their mouths.

Jimson weed is also called Datura and locoweed. This poisonous nightshade is evidently a native of North America, but it has spread worldwide. Even though it is a toxic plant beneficial medications are made from it. A few years ago, an ornamental variety of this herb was being displayed in many flower beds. This herb is also used in some religious rituals. About 35 years ago, we were entertained with the "Billy Jack" movies. I’ve always wondered if the hallucinogenic episodes Billy Jack experienced were triggered by ingesting locoweed.

There was an area where this plant grew in the pasture of the farm where I grew up. The livestock avoided the area. Even the hogs that would generally eat anything would not touch it.

This is just a sampling of the members of the nightshade family. Only a few are foods and a regular part of our diet. People with arthritis might want to be cautious about eating more than one nightshade in a single meal.

As always, I advise you to consult your physician before taking any herbal remedy.

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

Time for Satsumas!

by Ashley Smith

We’re okay if the temperature remains at 27 degrees," Dallas Hartzog shared. "If it drops to 23 degrees though, we will implement our cold warming plans."

Hartzog knows timing is vital to success. In any business the adage rings true, but is especially important in farming. In the management of Hartzog Family Farms, timing is key to survival and success for their satsuma trees.

In Houston County just off the beaten path of U.S. Highway 431, Hartzog and his family own and operate Hartzog Family Farms. Along with his wife Joann, three adult children and their spouses, Katie and Michael Hartzog, Connie and Tim Hartzog, and Susan and Rob Day, Hartzog manages the satsuma operation and thriving honey business. Grandchildren Joanna and Jacob Hartzog, and Jeffrey and Dallas Day help as well. Timing proves again and again to be important in the operation, from when the operation actually began, to growing and harvesting, and sharing and enjoying the fruits of their labor.

"Back when I worked for Auburn University’s Wiregrass Research and Extension Center, I realized at one point that retirement was only 5 years away for me," Hartzog recalled. "Although I looked forward to retiring, I wasn’t ready to just sit down. I knew I would need something to occupy my time so I started studying my options."

Michael (son) and Dallas Hartzog pause by a satsuma tree in the late summer. The green satsumas ripen to a bright orange by November.

Hartzog grew up in the farming community of Baker Hill in Barbour County. At Auburn University, he studied soil fertility and plant physiology, attaining both an undergraduate and a masters degree in agriculture. He spent his career championing the cause of farming in Alabama. Naturally, some type of farming would be a part of his retirement! When Hartzog and his wife visited a satsuma u-pick operation in South Alabama one November, his wife suggested they try to grow a few satsuma trees - thinking they could grow a few to keep her husband busy in his retirement years. Her timing proved quite punctual as Hartzog told her he already considered the small orange fruit to be the perfect crop for them to grow!

Satsumas first arrived in Alabama in the late 1870s. Because they seemed to thrive in Alabama’s Coastal Plain, more than 18,000 acres of satsumas grew between Mobile and Dothan by 1923. Severe freezes after the 1920s wiped out the once-booming satsuma industry; by the late 1950s, the satsuma industry was basically gone. The potential for a growing satsuma industry in Alabama emerged again in the early 1990s as Auburn University research teams developed new ways to protect trees in freezing weather.

Dallas Hartzog shows how each satsuma tree is irrigated as he explains the importance of a dedicated water source.

Convinced satsumas would grow on his property approximately 90 miles from the Gulf Coast, Hartzog planted a few hundred trees, which was just the beginning of the family satsuma operation. After 11 years in the business, Hartzog Family Farms currently grows satsumas on two orchard sites for a total of 10 acres and 800 trees. Trees are typically planted at 90 trees per acre, 15 feet between trees, 25 feet between rows. Currently only 500 of the 800 trees are in production.

The satsuma trees growing on the Hartzog farm were all grafted onto root stock of the wild trifoliate orange because the rootstock of that tree tends to be stronger than that of the satsuma. Additionally, the wild trifoliate orange, which becomes known as the parent tree for the satsuma, prefers acidic to slightly acidic soils, which are readily found throughout the southern portion of Alabama. Grafting is done at the seedling nursery before the trees arrive at Hartzog’s property. Most of the trees growing on Hartzog Family Farms are of the Owari variety grafted onto the wild trifoliate orange tree. Timing is critical in properly grafting the satsuma tree onto the parent stock.

While growing satsumas is not overly complicated, Hartzog reminds interested growers that there are no free lunches in this world. Before he planted any trees, he learned all he could about satsuma production. Because of studies by Auburn University and others, good information has been published and is available about the trees. The orchards must be monitored several times a week for pests or other problems. Pruning is done as needed. Weeds in the orchard must be controlled. Fertilizer must be applied.

Satsumas must be individually clipped from the tree during harvest before being boxed for purchase at the Hartzog Family Farm one-day sale.

"Satsumas require a specialized, customized blend of fertilizer," Hartzog stated. "We purchase all of our fertilizer at Headland Peanut Warehouse Co-op. The folks at the Co-op always do a great job of getting us exactly what we need."

Hartzog encourages others to consider satsuma as a crop after carefully learning about the commodity.

In helping the trees survive possible frigid winter temperatures, timing is everything. While it does not happen often, temperatures in the region occasionally dip into the 20-degree range. When that happens, Hartzog and his family know it is time to carefully watch the temperature gauge.

"Winter freezes kill new growth on the satsuma trees," Hartzog explained. "In a younger tree, critical temperature is 25-26 degrees; older trees maintain a critical temperature of 23 degrees. Temperatures at or below these markers indicate trouble for the trees."

Satsuma trees conservatively produce approximately 300 pounds of fruit annually.

So each tree can be properly protected, every tree has its own source of water. Spraying water onto the base of the trees during the icy cold temperatures prevents the trees from freezing. When water freezes into ice, heat is released; as heat is released, it warms the tree. The heat travels up the tree, thereby warming the tree above the critically dangerous point.

Irrigation comes from dedicated wells at the farm. In both winter and summer months, having a dedicated source of water has proven significant for tree health and survival.

Satsumas ripen in the late fall. Conservatively, mature trees produce about 300 pounds of fruit per tree per year. The bulk of the Hartzogs’ satsumas are enjoyed by many Alabama students through the school lunch program providing students with fresh fruit from an Alabama farm.

While satsumas may not yet be available in the fresh fruit section of the local grocery store, they can be purchased directly from Hartzog Family Farms. Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Hartzogs offer a one-day farm sale of their satsumas. Customers from Alabama, Georgia and Florida return each year to purchase the delicious, easy-to-peel fruit. As the satsumas ripen in the fall, the Hartzog family takes a team approach to prepare for and handle the one-day farm satsuma sale. Hours accumulate as family members spend time harvesting, packaging and readying 20-pound boxes for the sale. The actual sale day requires family teamwork to ensure a smooth transaction for customers purchasing the hundreds of boxes of satsumas. When he talks about the one-day farm sale, Hartzog excitedly shares his enthusiasm and appreciation in the fact the experience is shared by his wife, children and grandchildren.

One Day Farm Sale!

Saturday, November 23, 2013
6 a.m.-3 p.m. or until the fruit is gone!
20-pound boxes for sale - $20/box

Hartzog Family Farms
1633 Otis Buie Rd.
Webb, AL 36376

Hartzog recognizes and appreciates the fact that his entire family is involved in the satsuma operation. He claims everyone brings different strengths to the family business and in turn helps the operation grow and improve. He loves his grandchildren and is grateful for the opportunity he has had to spend time with them, sharing his work ethic and love of the land.

"If we can’t leave it better than we found it, what did we get here for?" Hartzog asked.

In so many areas of growing satsumas, timing is critical to success. For Hartzog and his family, farming and family time are the real successes of growing satsumas.

Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.

Turtle Trouble

by Baxter Black, DVM

What do horses, centipedes, geese, dogs and zippers have in common with Mike Tyson? They bite!

As a veterinarian I routinely find myself sticking my hand into some animal’s mouth, giving pills, floating teeth, removing foreign objects or tickling their uvula. Not long ago I plunged my arm in a cow’s mouth (she was in a chute) to confirm my diagnosis of "rattlesnake bite on the torus linguae (dorsal hump) of her tongue."

I carry a horse bite scar on the back of my arm from my teenage days trying to help a damsel in distress to bridle her equine! But it can’t hold a candle to my Louisiana friend Sammy who got bit on the ear by a yellow-bellied slider turtle. I guess it could only happen to a cowboy.

Pause a moment and try to picture how this could have happened. Was he using it to trim the hair in his ears? Did he mistake the turtle for a new smart phone? Was he listening to the turtle hum "Jambalaya"? Did someone tell him if he held it to his ear he could hear the ocean? Had he finally decided he wanted to pierce one ear like Harrison Ford and Formerly Called Prince?

None of the above. Sammy was heading out with his crew to work cattle. They were in a crew cab pullin’ a gooseneck with four horses. They turned down a back road and Sammy spotted a turtle crossing the road.

"Hey, Bryan, wanna turtle?" he asked.

"Shure do!" said his son.

He clammered out of the back seat, picked up the turtle, about the size of a salad plate, and climbed back in.

Back on the road, Bryan was being playful with his new pet.

He held it up by Sammy’s head and spoke in his best turtle-voice, "I’ve seen tectonic plates move faster than you!"

Sammy glanced in the rearview mirror just as the snapper clamped down on his right ear! He slammed on the brakes, howled and jack-knifed the rig! Sammy grabbed the turtle and pulled! Turt just mashed down harder! Sammy was turning the atmosphere blue!

"Here, maybe this will help," said his nephew and threw a 2-liter Big Cup of Mountain Dew on Sammy’s and the turtle’s heads!

"Do you think if you lay on the ground and I got the propane burner from the brandin’ pot …"


"I’ve got a shotgun in the …"


"They say," said Uncle Jeb, "if a turtle bites you, it won’t turn loose till lightning strikes … and there ain’t a cloud in the sky."

Although it was an awkward procedure, and had to be repeated several times, Uncle Jeb managed to pry the turtle’s mouth open with his alligator knife. Over the next two or three weeks the swelling went down, but not before the entire neighborhood was sporting bumper stickers proclaiming, "FREE SAMMY! FREE SAMMY! FREE SAMMY!"

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,

What Have We Lost?

by John Howle

While studying journalism at the University of Alabama’s Communications School, they taught us how to take pictures and develop the photos with chemicals in a dark room. One of the photos I captured was of my grandparents Fred and Pauline Howle.

I left the family farm in 1985 just long enough to get a journalism degree from the University of Alabama. For a farm boy who hadn’t been to town much, I was looking forward to escaping the hayfields for a while and seeing what university life was like. I had some cash in my pocket and my own checking account with just enough funds to keep the account open thanks to my parents.

Some of the boys I made friends with were telling me about the wonders of this thing called an ATM. They would simply walk up to this box that looked like a mail drop, punch a few numbers in and cash came out of the mail slot. I thought ATM stood for ALL THAT MONEY. My buddies had a good time watching me adjust to life off the farm.

While taking journalism classes, however, things were much more serious. The professors drilled it into our brains that any news we covered had to be totally objective and bias free. If we wrote a news article that showed any hint of our own opinion, we would receive a failing grade. It was important to show only the facts and let the reader make his or her own opinion. As I look at news broadcasts and cable shows today, I wonder what we’ve lost.

When we took our photography classes, each photo had to be developed by hand in various pans of chemicals in a dark room. Once you pulled the 8 x 10 piece of paper out of the chemicals, you could hang the paper to dry watching the image come alive before your eyes. Many of these black and white photos would be so crisp and clear you would buy a frame and hang them on the wall.

I took black and white photos of everything and everyone around our farm. I even took family portraits including ones of my grandparents Fred and Pauline Howle. I wouldn’t take anything for that portrait now they have passed on. It makes me wonder what we have lost.

I not only enjoy writing articles for AFC Cooperative Farming News, I like to read the magazine from cover to cover. When people ask me about this publication, I explain, "It’s kinda like Mayberry in print." Here, you have a slice of Americana within the pages, which are the last remaining stronghold of simpler times.

Speaking of Mayberry, my own kids often ask, "Why don’t we just turn off the news and watch Andy Griffith re-runs?" You know, there are plenty of times I do that. I once heard Andy Griffith say in an interview before his death that every episode had the same underlying theme and that theme was love. Even Otis, the town drunk, was treated with love and kindness, and the characters like Barney made concerted efforts to rehabilitate him.

Currently, most of the TV shows being pumped out of Hollywood like raw sewage offend the average person’s sensibilities. Take the new reality show, "Naked and Afraid." I stumbled across this show, and for an incredibly long five minutes, I figured out the whole show was about selecting a pair of total strangers, one female and one male, to survive in an extreme environment with only one item each for 21 days.

The man in this episode used a sharp stick to repeatedly stab a nutria (looks like a beaver without the wide tail) conveniently wedged in a hollow log that looked like it had recently been sawed open with a chainsaw. I’m quite sure the animal died of shock and embarrassment instead of blood loss.

If we’re going to have to select from shows like this, let’s at least make it interesting. Let’s drop two total strangers who are naked in the middle of a hayfield with about 1,000 square bales of hay and have them stack the hay into the loft of a barn during the month of August when temperatures get into three digits in Alabama. We would probably have to change the name from "Naked and Afraid" to "Naked, Afraid, Covered with Seeds, Scratched and Painfully Sunburned." I wonder what we’ve lost.

There is hope, however. In contrast to "Naked and Afraid," there is another reality show called "Duck Dynasty." Here is an example of the entertainment industry listening to the demands of the public for something with some level of morality. The show covers the everyday life of the Robertson Family as they make duck calls, raise families and keep their families God-centered.

Much like the "Andy Griffith Show," "Duck Dynasty" is a show that points out the humor in everyday life. In addition, both shows share the same underlying theme of love. The characters harass and pick on each other, but it’s all in wholesome fun.

The best part of "Duck Dynasty" is each episode ends with the family gathered around the table for prayer before sharing the meal. With the ratings of this show topping any show in history, it’s obvious the viewership is ready for a positive message with a positive family for a change.

Who knows, maybe we are ready to reclaim some of that innocence that we’ve lost. I would, however, be open to watching a reality show about people hauling square bales of hay. Of course, I would want them to wear clothes because it truly is a scratchy job.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

You DON’T Know How it Feels

by Suzy Lowry Geno

When I was a little girl in the late 1950s, I got excited every day when at 5 p.m. a 30-minute show of cartoons came on, alternating each day between the likes of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and others.

But I wasn’t bouncing up and down because I loved the cartoons so much. I was joyous because I knew my Daddy would be coming home from work during that 30-minute span.

Move forward more than five decades.

Now most every day in that same time period I look at the clock and I remember my husband Roy not coming home but GOING home. When you read this it will have been 15 months from when he died in the living room of our home, but I still remember each and every day when the clock starts striking five ...

He passed away as peacefully as possible and I am not overwhelmed with grief every day when I think of his going ... but every day I still think about it. My loss is still as real as the first day.

In her 1969 book "On Death and Dying," Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first categorized the five stages of grief that are now the worldwide model for counseling anyone "experiencing a significant loss."

Those stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

They can occur in any order and any of the stages can last any amount of time. What one person goes through in a couple of days may take another person years when confronted with the loss of a loved one!

So what do you do or say when someone you know is going through the stages following the loss of a spouse, child, sibling, parent, grandparent or any other family member or friend?

Especially now with the holidays upon us again. Will this Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s be especially painful for someone you know who has lost a loved one this year, or last year, or even a few years ago?

On farms, we are usually surrounded by births and deaths. But we do not need to be jaded when we see losses in our community where we can do simple things to help.

The worst thing you can do is distance yourself from that friend or acquaintance. Too many times when somebody experiences such a loss, we send a sympathy card or flowers when the death occurs and then try to sweep the entire thing under the rug because thinking about someone dying makes us, in a sense, confront our own mortality.

The person has died - is gone. Now the survivor should get on with his or her life, we think.

If we run into them in a local, big box store or even at church, we may pat them on the back, ask how they are doing, and then say the common phrase (which I am guilty of using far too many times!) of how "I know just how you feel!" then we rush on ...

(No, we DON’T know how they are feeling. Even if we have lost the same loved one as they have, like a spouse, EACH AND EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT! You don’t know the togetherness they shared, the life experiences, the tragedies, what went on through the years or even through brief days or months before a loss occurred.)

Your friends, neighbors and acquaintances may still be experiencing extreme grief or other problems and they may simply need to know that someone cares!

Ray, Pennie, Donald and Daniel Bickerstaff during a Christmas full of memories.

Pennie and Donald Bickerstaff lost their nearly 23-year-old son 6 years ago after a lengthy battle with cancer. Pennie herself has survived more than one bout with cancer and she has lost several other close family members to the same disease.

Even before Daniel’s death, she was honored by the American Cancer Society and others numerous times for her volunteer work of sharing her story with others as a way of encouragement: either one-on-one as a person faced a terminal illness or one-on-one with family members as they dealt with such a loss; or speaking to literally thousands on those experiences.

But then Daniel died - and suddenly it seemed as if Pennie and Donald and their other son Ray were alone in the wilderness.

Pennie and Donald are both strong Christians and they credit their faith with continuing to carry them through the valley of the shadow of death.

While she had ministered to thousands, it seemed there was no one willing to minister to her own family.

In a letter about her personal tragedy and triumphs Pennie now sends to others who have lost a child, she points out that some statistics show up to 80-90 percent of marriages fail after the loss of a child. She advises them to hold each other up, forgive each other and rely on God; "Your hearts are so broken and you are very fragile at this stage."

But Pennie also talks about not listening to "stupid" or "silly" comments folks sometimes make after such a loss.

"No one can tell you what you feel or should feel. Yes, our children are in Heaven, but that does not make the pain go away. You can hold true to God and He will give you comfort."

Pennie tells those with such a loss, "I wish I could give you some magic words to help you with your grief. I can only hold you and cry with you and pray for God to hold you up in His arms .... Each death is different and each one of us is different ...."

Pennie relates how she thought at first she might be losing her mind after Daniel’s death because of the way she felt and her forgetfulness. She even traveled to her medical doctor for tests.

"I thought I was going crazy. I could not remember names, places and I was repeating myself many times. But after speaking with another mother she told me it was normal for this to happen after the loss of a child."

She knew there would be no easy answers. She had been through close deaths before. But this was different. And she NEEDED to know others cared and she was surrounded by the prayers, encouraging thoughts and love of others during her trials.

But where were the others???

Pennie said she tried to "glue a smile on" and continue being "Pennie," but it was a mask to hide her grief. Deep inside she still needed others to lift her up.

She laments that too many times folks don’t try to help because they don’t know what to say or are simply busy in their own lives.

"Holding someone’s hand and praying with them counts for a lot, especially when you know the family well," Pennie explained.

But, even if you don’t know someone well, you can still let them know you are thinking about them, praying for them and caring for them.

A telephone call is nice, a card is even better, but a hug from a warm body can sometimes mean the difference in how a person gets through a troubling day.

Pennie tells other grieving parents, "The journey is so long and we search for the laughter again. Where did my joy go? Will I ever get it back? How long does it take to face people again? What do I do when I look around and see other moms with their child making memories?

"Each of these is a guessing game. It may take you months or years to find your smile. Joy WILL return, but no one can give you a specific time frame ...."

Pennie and Donald began their journey back by sharing their story with others, especially those losing children to cancer or others with terminal cancer.

"This is the one thing that really helped Donald and me begin to heal. Before I spoke I would ask God to give me the words of encouragement to share with families who, too, are battling this disease.

"Do I get weary of speaking to cancer patients or the family who has lost a child? YES. Sometimes I want to close my computer and not look at another sad story. But then God knocks on my heart, and asks, ‘Who was there for YOU?’ It was all these moms and dads who had been in our shoes that know what really goes on after you lose a child."

Pennie said the most important thing to do when somebody loses a child, spouse, parent or other loved one is to just make sure that person knows they are not forgotten - that they are NOT alone in their grief.

"Sometimes it’s just a simple thing like a hug and a short prayer," Pennie explained. "You don’t have to have a college degree or anything special to minister to someone, to make a difference in their life."

Pennie lives by these words she paraphrases from 2 Corinthians 1:4, He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be reached through her website at

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