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November 2014

4-H Extension Corner: Transformative Power of 4-H

Jared Fuchs is a 17-year-old 4-H Club member from Shelby County who found his passion for model rocketry and a love of teaching through 4-H.

One Young Man’s Story

by Maggie Lawrence

Dr. Tony Cook, a 4-H specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, has been teaching young people about science, space and technology since the mid-1980s. Cook will tell you that it is nearly impossible to tell which program will resonate with a young person.

That’s the way it was for Jared Fuchs, a 17-year-old 4-H club member from Shelby County who has been involved in 4-H for five years. He attended a rocketry workshop taught by Cook. A workshop that to Cook’s mind was like many he had taught before.

But that workshop captured Jared’s imagination. His mother, Sherri Fuchs, said that workshop created a passion for model rocketry in Jared, whose first experiences in 4-H were with the shooting sports programs.

"Within three months, Jared had started a rocketry club, and he taught at every club meeting," Sherri said. "He had never built or launched a rocket before, but that did not stop him from learning."

She added, while she and her husband wanted to instill a love of learning in all of their children, 4-H instilled a love of teaching in Jared.

"I see him teaching about aerodynamics and other topics in the rocketry club. I don’t know if he would have found that skill without 4-H."

Jared harnessed that teaching skill when he entered the National 4-H Council and HughesNet video contest called "Inspire a Future Scientist." He had to inspire others with a video that could be no more than 15 seconds long.

Jared’s sister discovered the contest and encouraged him to enter, which had a looming deadline. He admitted that he was in a bit of a time crunch to produce the video.

"I was kind of late to the party," said Jared. "I wrote, shot and edited the video over a four-day period.

"I knew that I wanted to sell the grandeur of science."

Jared combined video of NASA moon missions, shuttle launches and fast-paced urban scenes with still images of deep space. A straightforward narration track describes his passion for science. His 15-second video shows how science, from sub-atomic particles to the structure of the universe, explains who we are and where we are going.

Jared won the contest’s grand prize with his video.

After a panel of judges narrowed the contest to 10 finalists, the winner was selected through 18 days of online voting.

"We promoted my video and how to vote for it on social media like Facebook," he said. "The community response was amazing. It really surprised me how many people came out to vote for my video."

Jared, who is also active in the Civil Air Patrol, won a $1,000 cash prize and a trip to Washington, D.C, for the 4-H National Youth Science Day.

Sherri said winning the contest illustrates how 4-H impacts young people lives.

"The 4-H program opens doors and gives young people opportunities that you cannot find any place else," she said.

A senior in high school, Jared plans to study astrophysics, but is still deciding where he will go to college.

"I would love to work for NASA – maybe even be an astronaut," he said.

Maggie Lawrence is an Extension communications specialist.

A Closer Look at the Work We Do

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System

by Dr. Tony Frazier

As I write this article, we are approaching the end of fiscal year 2014. I was just reviewing some numbers for the year. When I was in private veterinary practice, I suppose I sat down and totaled the number of fecal exams, pregnancy checks, equine castrations and so on that I did. Any good manager needs to be able to analyze what they are doing, and know if what they are doing is justified profitably or for other justifiable reasons.

If you work for the government, it is important to be able to justify how you are spending the taxpayer’s money. I am a taxpayer myself, so I do not have a problem with reporting up the line what we are doing and how we are spending those tax dollars.

Anyway, to get back to the subject at hand, when I looked at the numbers coming out of our diagnostic laboratory system, I was pretty impressed at what we do to support the pet, veterinary, poultry and livestock industries. It’s not like it was a great revelation to me or even that some light came on that made me aware of the volume of tests, examinations and reports coming out of our veterinary diagnostic laboratories. We have all heard of the $700 hammers and other government waste that occurs. I just want you to know how well we spend your and my tax dollars at our diagnostic laboratories.

Collectively, our main laboratory at Auburn and the branch laboratories log in about 35,000 cases annually. Now, some of those cases may be a single blood sample that needs to be tested for a certain disease, but even the single blood sample will be tested for several different diseases. Some of these cases may be examining a biopsy from a lump your veterinarian took off your dog’s face. Many of those cases account for full necropsies (autopsies to the rest of the world) on dogs, cats, chickens, horses, cows, bulls and an occasional pet iguana or pet snake. Many of the cases involve multiple tests that take multiple personnel to help arrive at a diagnosis. We provide testing in the areas of microbiology, virology and molecular testing, toxicology, parasitology, serology (alone runs over half a million tests), clinical pathology and histology. Those are the main functions of the laboratories. But sometimes there may be a less common test that is needed and we have to package the sample and ship it to another laboratory that does perform the specific needed test.

There is a fair amount of work that goes into each case. Even with the single blood sample, someone in receiving has to open the box it was shipped in, make sure the information is correctly logged in and then make sure the sample gets to the serology section at the lab. In the serology section, even to run a single test on a single sample of serum, the reagents must be tested with controls at least daily – sometimes more often – to make sure our tests are accurate. While the results of some tests may be read immediately, many tests take some period of time before the results are final. All along the way, the paperwork must follow the sample to make sure the report is accurate as well as reported for the correct sample. If the sample is negative, the serum sample is often kept for a period of time in case other tests may be needed later for some reason. These animals are often dead and going back to collect more blood from them is simply not an option.

When a full necropsy is involved, the whole process often involves most sections of the laboratory and several people to be involved in a single case. Typically, whether a necropsy is performed at one of the branch labs or at Auburn, one of our veterinarians goes over the carcass with a fine-tooth comb looking for abnormalities that can be seen with the naked eye. Often samples are cultured to determine if a bacteria or fungus was involved in the sickness and death of the animal. There may be certain blood tests that can be performed at the branch laboratories that are sometimes sent to Auburn to be confirmed by a more specific test. Sometimes the necropsy points in a specific direction. Sometimes it points in a general direction. Sometimes nothing looks abnormal at all visually. On those occasions the histological examination, virology and toxicology tests become even more important.

Sometimes, this clinical history an owner gives us is that the animal seemed to have trouble breathing. When the lungs are examined during the necropsy, it may be obvious that the animal had bacterial pneumonia. Then maybe the microbiologist cultures the bacteria Manhiemia hemoliticafrom the lungs. That is the bacteria associated with shipping fever in cattle. Maybe the calf has just come through a stockyard or has experienced other stresses recently that may have contributed to pneumonia. We will do an antibiotic sensitivity test that helps us recommend the most appropriate antibiotic to us if other calves are diagnosed with pneumonia in close proximity to the one necropsied. Then our case may be closed. But maybe the calf had been in the same pasture for six months, lived a pretty dull life and there were no obvious stress factors that could have led to pneumonia. At that point, we work to find out if there is an underlying virus that may have been involved in the pneumonia or some factor that our lab may find that suppressed the immune system. With weaned calves selling for well over $1,000 each, that kind of information can be extremely valuable to the producer.

In other cases, where the carcass looks normal or near normal on the necropsy, the histological examination and other tests become extremely important. The word histology can be broken down into hist, meaning "tissue," and logos, meaning the "study of" – thus the study of tissue. To perform a histological examination, tissues are sliced very thin, stained and fixed on a microscope slide. The slide is examined carefully to determine if the tissue is diseased and, if so, what type of disease may be present.

Maybe we watch "NCIS," "CSI," "House," "MD" or other shows where the illness, diagnosis and treatment take place in an extremely formatted 60-minute time slot. I can assure you, it generally doesn’t work that way. And while we have been affected by budget cuts and work with less personnel than would be optimal, the approximately 50 or so employees of our diagnostic laboratory system are working hard to get you, your veterinarian or your neighbor an accurate diagnosis. We continue to work to make our turn-around time better. Still, when I see the approximately 35,000 cases, hundreds of thousands of tests and the number of people doing the job, I am satisfied we are doing our best to give the taxpayer his or her money’s worth.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

A Future in Cattle Farming

Chip and Kayla Cleveland started their cow-calf operation in 2006 with about 400 cows. (Credit: Kayla Lane Photography)

All They Needed Was a Plan

by Susie Sims

Farming has been a part of Chip Cleveland’s life for as long as he can remember. Chip recalls many weekends spent at his grandparents’ farm. After a couple of days of work and play, it came time for the highlight of the weekend – Sunday night.

His grandmother always fixed breakfast for supper on Sunday night as the family enjoyed the weekly installment of the "Wonderful World of Disney" on television.

Kayla Cleveland had less exposure to the farming way of life, but it was not foreign to her as her father and grandfather both had cattle.

Like many folks who grew up in Alabama, the Clevelands had fond memories of farm life and wanted that for themselves and their kids. The only thing standing in their way was a plan.

"When we got together I convinced her to go along with my master plan to farm," Chip recalled. "I realized that we both had to have a job in town to make that work."

Kayla is president of the Overhead Door and Fireplace Company in Millbrook. Chip is a partner with Cleveland and Riddle law firm in Prattville.

The Clevelands have two sons. Jake is a sophomore at Auburn University and Ford is a sophomore in high school. The couple tries to involve their sons in the farm operation as much as possible.

The calves backgrounding on the Clevelands’ farm perform well on CPC Grower feed. It has the minerals, the formula and the right blending already packaged.

When they first married in 2006, the Clevelands ran a cow-calf operation with about 400 cows.

"We calved in the fall and then we would sell the first Wednesday of August every year," Chip said.

Chip graduated from Auburn University in 1993 with a degree in business administration. He went on to law school at the University of Alabama. He graduated, passed the bar exam and began practicing law in 1997.

Even though Kayla had grown up around cattle, she still had a bit of a learning curve to tackle. She quickly realized that things had changed considerably since she was involved with cattle when she was younger.

Kayla recalled that Chip had taken her to a bull sale. She saw the bulls and ringmasters. She thought it all looked familiar, like a cow sale is supposed to look. Later, he took her to a board sale.

Expecting to see an auctioneer, ringmasters and lots of cows, Kayla was confused by what she saw.

"We went into this little room and I thought, ‘How are the cows going to get in here?’" she recalled.

When she asked Chip where the cows were, he explained they weren’t on site.

"I could not understand how they were going to have a sale with none of the cows there," Kayla laughed at herself.

She said that was the first of many lessons in modern-day cattle farming for her.

What prompted Chip to look at a different method of cattle farming was the realization that August to August is a long time to go without any cash.

"We’ve got to change something up because we still have to make payroll 12 months out of the year," Chip said. "We decided to do custom weaning and/or custom backgrounding."

Chip worked on his business plan and devised a way to satisfy everyone involved. Area producers liked that their cattle had a place for backgrounding, Kayla liked that she had money for payroll, and Chip liked that he was back in farming.

"We charge per head per day, and bill at the end of the month," Chip said. "This was good for us because it created cash flow. Our labor had secured employment, even in the winter months. It provides a service for cattlemen around us."

Chip implemented his plan by securing cattle from surrounding sale barns.

"We wanted to bring some cattle in – some calves – to teach them how to eat and drink. And then give them their vaccinations and shots, and then get them ready for the next step – being custom weaned," Chip said. "We have custom weaning for people in our own board sale. We also custom wean for anybody."

Once his plan was in place, Chip began working on the logistics of feeding the cattle. He fed a variety of soy hulls, cottonseed and corn gluten pellets. He even tried candy and Eggo waffles. Chip was trying to achieve a certain gain per head per day and it was exhausting him.

After meeting with Tim Wood at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma, Chip was turned on to CPC Grower feed.

"Grower is a feed that’s already put together, and we don’t have to worry about ordering all the commodities," Chip said. "That has made it easier for us from a management perspective; a little bit more cost to the product, but, if you look at the daily gain, it works out to your benefit."

Chip said Grower has done all the work for them. It has the minerals, the formula and the right blending already packaged.

"Lower feed costs in conjunction with higher cattle prices have made preconditioning or backgrounding even more profitable than in years past," said John Sims, feed specialist for Alabama Farmers Co-op.

If you would like to contact Chip Cleveland, you can call him at 334-303-2278 or email him at His address is 398 County Road 27, Prattville, AL 36067.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Farm real estate values hit new high

Farm real estate – including both land and structures - accounts for 82 percent of the total value of U.S. farm assets, according to the latest available data.

Worth $2.2 trillion, the real estate value comprises a significant portion of the U.S. farm sector’s asset base and any change in the number is a critical barometer of the farm sector’s financial performance.

Change in farmland values also affects the financial well-being of agricultural producers because farm real estate is the largest single component in a typical farmer’s investment portfolio and serves as the principal source of farm loan collateral.

After the 1980s farm crisis when farmland prices declined in response to rapidly rising interest rates and energy costs, farm real estate values have trended upward.

Despite expectations of lower farm income, U.S. farm real estate values have continued to increase this year.

Data show differences in farm sector’s share of food dollar

Data from USDA’s Economic Research Service show major differences in the farm sector’s share of food dollars spent on various products.

Comparing the bakery-products dollar with the red meat dollar highlights the larger role of processing and marketing costs for processed foods. For bakery products such as bread, crackers, cookies and other sweet goods processing costs were the largest cost component at 37.7 cents, a recent study showed. Farm production costs were one of the smallest components at 2.3 cents, a total smaller than packaging and advertising.

In comparison, processing costs made up 18.1 cents of the beef, pork and other red meat food dollar. Farm production and agribusiness costs of 26.6 cents were the largest cost component. Agribusiness includes the services and products used by farmers such as veterinary services and fertilizer.

Economic growth in developing countries is good news for farm exports

Developing regions account for an increasing share of global gross domestic product, a measure of total economic output. That’s good news for farm exports because consumers in developing countries tend to spend larger shares of their disposable income on food.

Relatively high rates of gross domestic product growth in developing regions, particularly China and other developing Asian countries, have boosted developing countries’ share of global gross domestic product from 21 percent in 1990 to 27 percent in 2000, and about 38 percent in 2014.

China and developing Asia together accounted for 34 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal 2013, while developing countries as a whole accounted for 65 percent.

USDA long-term projections for agriculture, which assume continued income growth in developing countries, indicate that developing countries will account for more than 90 percent of the growth in world imports of meats, grains and oilseeds over the next decade.

Dairy consumption gains driven by higher milk-fat products

U.S. consumption of dairy products is expanding, with the fastest growth occurring in products with relatively high milk-fat content.

USDA’s Economic Research Services estimates consumption of fluid milk and other dairy-containing products in two different ways: one based on the milk-fat content of the various products (milk-equivalent milk-fat basis) and the other based on the skim-solids (proteins, lactose and minerals) content of the products (milk-equivalent skim-solids basis).

Since 1995, commercial disappearance on a milk-equivalent milk-fat basis has grown twice as fast as disappearance on a milk-equivalent skim-solids basis. This pattern reflects increasing U.S. per capita consumption of cheese, butter and other products with relatively high milk-fat content, along with declining per capita consumption of fluid milk.

Irrigation data show better efficiency in water usage

While the amount of irrigated land in the West has increased by over 2 million acres since 1984, the amount of water applied has declined slightly as irrigation systems have shifted toward more efficient methods.

In 1984, 71 percent of Western crop irrigation water was applied using gravity irrigation systems that tend to use water inefficiently. A recent study shows farm operators now are using more efficient systems, with gravity systems accounting for just 48 percent of water for crop production while pressure-sprinkler irrigation systems that can apply water more efficiently account for 51.5 percent.

Much of the acreage using pressure irrigation systems included drip, low-pressure sprinkler or low-energy precision application systems. Improved pressure-sprinkler systems have meant a remarkably stable agricultural water use since 1984, as fewer acre-feet were required to irrigate an increasing number of acres.

Farm sector’s financial position remains strong

The rate of growth in farm assets, debt and equity is forecast to moderate in 2014, the result of an expected decline in net farm income, higher borrowing costs and moderation in the growth of farmland values.

The value of farm assets is expected to rise 2.3 percent in 2014, while farm sector debt is expected to increase 2.7 percent. Even with the expected slowdown in asset growth, the sector’s financial position remains strong due to the historically low level of debt relative to assets and equity.

The sector continues to be well-insulated from the risks associated with commodity production such as adverse weather, changing macroeconomic conditions in the United States and abroad, and fluctuations in farm asset values that may occur due to changing demand for agricultural assets. n

Ahead of the Game

Alabama leads most states in deer regulations.

by Corky Pugh

Alabama moved to prohibit the importation of deer, elk or other cervids decades before other states across the country adopted similar regulations to protect their native deer herds from devastating diseases carried by live animals brought in from other states.

Several years ago, there was a frenzied effort across America to stop interstate movement and importation of deer and like animals in the face of the spread of chronic wasting disease. This horrible, always-fatal disease wipes out deer and requires depopulating entire regions in order to stop the spread.

Thankfully, our state already had a regulation making it illegal to "possess, sell, offer for sale, import, bring, release or cause to be brought or imported into the State of Alabama … any of the following from any area outside the State of Alabama: any member of the family Cervidae (to include but not be limited to deer, elk, moose, caribou)."

Wildlife professionals in other states asked how in the world Alabama had the foresight to adopt such a regulation 20-30 years before anybody even knew about CWD. Nobody remained in the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division who knew the context in which the regulation was promulgated.

Upon inquiry, the answer to the question had nothing to do with disease.

Alabama’s ban on importation came about as a result of concern over canned hunts – when a hunter (if you can call them that) is guaranteed a specific animal. Those who remembered told of a man who left his big-city office, drove two counties away and climbed in a shooting house to kill a monstrous buck that had been released into a small enclosure.

This all took place in the course of a leisurely afternoon. And the "hunter" had his "trophy" on the wall of his office a few weeks later. He and the people he paid a large sum of money for the "hunt" repeated the exercise as his desire to adorn his wall grew over time.

This repugnant practice drove the adoption of the regulation, and demonstrates how inextricably linked the issues of disease, fair chase and other concerns surrounding captive wildlife really are.

A July 2014 Indy Star newspaper article titled "Missouri Veto Resonates Through Captive Deer Hunting Industry" stated, "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon last week dealt a blow to the deer breeding and fenced hunting industry in what’s being called a bellwether case in the national debate over how to regulate a practice linked to the spread of disease.

"Nixon vetoed legislation that would have transferred oversight of the state’s deer breeders from wildlife officials to Missouri’s agriculture department.

"‘Whitetail deer are wildlife, and they are also a game animal,’ Nixon wrote in his veto message. ‘Putting them behind a fence does not change that fact.’"

The Star article continued, "Operators of fenced-hunting ranches want to be regulated by agricultural officials to avoid tighter rules proposed by wildlife agencies. Many state wildlife agencies are concerned about the risk of spreading disease, especially the always-fatal deer ailment known as chronic wasting disease, as deer are shipped across state lines to be killed in the private preserves."

Once again, Alabama is ahead of lots of others. Through the years, there have been serious attempts by powerful special interests to move authority for regulating captive wildlife from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture and Industries. Each attempt has failed, in no small part due to the wise reluctance of Agriculture Commissioners, past and present, to buy into such misguided public policy.

Alabama was one of the first states to pass a law prohibiting canned hunts. In 2006, the Alabama Legislature, acting in response to outcry from the mainstream hunting community against web-based canned hunts, passed a bill making it unlawful to hunt or kill, or offer the opportunity to hunt or kill, game animals under conditions in which the animal does not have a reasonable opportunity to evade the hunter.

The statute further prohibits hunting or killing or offering the opportunity to hunt or kill any tame game animal, and reads, "The promise or guarantee of, or contract for, killing an individual tame game animal, shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this article."

Also in response to concern from the mainstream hunting community, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources later moved to close hunting within any enclosure capable of confining deer, where: "1) There exists or has existed any manmade point of access that allows deer to enter the enclosure, but restricts their ability to exit the enclosure, including, but not limited to, any manmade ramp, platform, funnel, maze or one-way gate; or 2) any bait has been placed so as to lure deer through any man-made opening into any such completed enclosure." The regulation closes the deer season for a period of 2 years after such devices are removed or such conditions no longer exist.

Maybe Alabama has historically been a little ahead of most because of the early, successful efforts to re-establish deer populations setting the state up to be among the first to deal with deer-related issues. Whatever the case, Alabama, acting through the elected members of the Legislature and through the authority granted by the Legislature to the Conservation Commissioner to promulgate rules and regulations for the best interest of the conservation and protection of wild game, has historically been a leader in protecting native deer populations and the best interests of hundreds of thousands of deer hunters.

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

Apple Lover’s Heaven

The trees at Steele Orchard are really loaded this year.

At Steele Orchard of Cullman County, like many small orchards, visitors can find unusual and rare varieties of apples not found in grocery stores.

by Keith Johnson

Not far off of Highway 157 in Cullman County and near an ancient battlefield from the War Between the States, where residents still sometimes find a cannon ball or other artifact, grows an orchard of apple trees. Fruit aficionados have been flocking to this little slice of apple lovers’ heaven for over 20 years.

Linda and Douglas Steele have been carefully tending these beautiful trees and slowly building a business that continues to delight customers starting in June when the early apples ripen until January when the last of the fall production is sold.

Linda said, when Douglas became disabled from his job at the post office, they realized they had to do something to continue to make a living. Douglas began to closely study orchard guidebooks. In 1985, they began planting their first trees. Each year they added more and more trees until the first trees started to produce. At first they sold to grocery stores in the area, but, as the chains began to centralize their distribution and purchasing, buyers were under pressure to purchase from giant suppliers that could handle the entire chain. Smaller producers like the Steele family were squeezed out.

The shop is full of apples this time of year.

So the Steeles began to consider selling directly to the customer and bypassing the chains. As it turned out, this was a great idea. People were thrilled to be able to buy directly from the farmer. They appreciated meeting the folks who produced their food and allowed them to teach their children and grandchildren where their apples come from and how they are grown.

Linda sees the same families year after year coming back and many times they are from out of state returning from a vacation so the stop at Steele Orchard is a tradition for them. She has watched a whole generation grow up over the years from her vantage point.

While Steele Orchard is in a pretty historic area that includes the Battle of Day’s Gap, the history of the Southern apple is fascinating in itself. Most people believe there are only about 10 or so varieties of apples because that is all they ever see in their grocery stores, but there are at least 800 varieties today. This is an astonishing number until you find out that pomologists say as little as 100 years ago there were thousands of varieties with about 1,800 in the South alone.

People are also surprised to find out that the South was a major producer of apples and how important they were to the economy. If we look in the stores in our own region today, we will find apples from Michigan, Washington, Chile and New Zealand, but virtually none from the South.

Once commercial orchards, both large and small, covered the South. Even today you can hike in the Smokies through areas that are the remains of large orchards often covering hundreds of acres. One such orchard boasted 500 varieties of apple trees.

How did such an apple cornucopia turn into an apple desert in such a short time? In his classic and fascinating book, "Old Southern Apples," Creighton Lee Calhoun tells the story of the rise of the apple and the golden age of the apple in the South which lasted from 1840 to 1900.

Calhoun tells how he went in search of the existing apple varieties that were on the verge of extinction hoping to preserve these apples for the future because 75 percent of Southern varieties were already gone forever.

Along the way he learned a great deal about Southern history and culture, for the history of a people’s food is their history as well. We may not all be interested in art, music or literature, but for some reason we all seem to be interested in eating.

In order to eat we must produce, and how we produce and prepare our food tells a great deal about us. Anthropologists always spend a great deal of time studying the food of any group of people they are studying.

If you are interested in the history of the apple in the South or which heirloom apples are now available, you cannot find a better book than Calhoun’s.

Calhoun discusses extinct varieties such as Alabama Beauty, Pine Stump, South Carolina Summer and Frazier’s Hard Skin, but he also encourages others to plant such rare trees still in existence as Winter’s Cheese, Smokehouse, Rebel and Morgan’s Christmas.

One thing is certain. You will never find these apples in your chain grocery store, but by visiting the small orchards like Steele Orchard you can find unusual and rare varieties as well as plenty of the more common ones. And you will be helping small farms and businesses thrive.

Linda and Douglas would be most happy to see you, so visit them and try their apples, homemade cider and apple pies. You can find their place by visiting their website or just call them at 256-734-5249.

Keith Johnson is a freelance writer from Morgan County.

Barreling Her Way to the Top

Chelsea Maness, Miss Rodeo Alabama 2014, strikes an attractive pose as part of her professional portfolio.

Miss Rodeo Alabama dreams of winning a national title.

by Al Benn

Horses have been a big part of Chelsea Maness’ life and she’s using that experience to see if equestrian competition can help her achieve a dream.

If it does, it will be in Las Vegas where she will be joining dozens of other young women who will be competing for the title of Miss Rodeo America.

Unlike many of the other contestants who have been involved in rodeo events since they were little girls, Maness, 21, has only been at it the past 3 years.

Her specialty is barrel racing and she competed in numerous competitive events as a member of the Troy University Rodeo Team.

Last June, she was crowned Miss Rodeo Alabama in San Antonio, Texas, and that title enabled her to represent her home state at the national event in Nevada. It begins on Nov. 30 and continues until Dec. 7.

Maness has been around horses before she was a toddler and learned how to walk, but, as she says, "I fell in love with the sport at Troy University."

Chelsea Maness has created quite a reputation for herself as one of Alabama’s top barrel racers.

She bypassed roping events and concentrated instead on barrel competition while her younger sister Carmen has made a name for herself as a roper at rodeo events.

Maness is willing to try just about anything when it comes to rodeos, but her only "ride" on a bull ended quickly. She became airborne shortly after the gate opened.

She said it happened 2 years ago when she hopped aboard a bull named Dallas and learned she wasn’t the boss.

"He came out of the chute, did one little hop and then I fell off," she said. "I figure I was on Dallas about half a second."

After she hit the ground, she said the bull "kinda kicked me," hurting her right hip and convincing her that she needed to keep racing around barrels.

"If I had stayed on a full second, I might have done better," she said, breaking into a smile. "But what happened that day let me know I didn’t need to do that."

Raised on a small farm in Wilcox County, Maness was introduced to horses when her parents gently lifted her aboard one of them on their farm. She was all of 9 months old. By the time she was ready for kindergarten, she already had her own horse and couldn’t wait to go for a ride every day.

Chelsea Maness, Miss Rodeo Alabama, left. and her sister Carmen have been riding horses since they were toddlers.

Horses were more than a hobby, but when she entered high school she also found time to play volleyball and become part of a championship dance team.

Through the years, she has competed in the Alabama Open Horseman Association as well as the National Barrel Horse Association. While a member of the Troy University 25 member rodeo team, she helped the squad win two regional titles.

Since being named Miss Rodeo Alabama 2014, she has become a featured speaker at events across the state. Recently, she spoke to students at the Cathedral Christian School in Selma where she spoke about her love of horses, competing, responsibility and the importance of religion in her life.

During her appearance at the school she went over one of her essays for the students – providing clues about her subject with her first words.

"She was born on a cold day in December in 1819 and has seen and heard so many different things," she began, leading the boys and girls to the conclusion that "she" was the state of Alabama.

Maness mentioned several of Alabama’s famous sons and daughters as well as the state’s involvement in the space race, one that involved building "rockets that put men on the moon."

She also talked about a disappointing moment when she learned Troy University would no longer be supporting a rodeo team, a decision she said "was very hard for us to accept."

Life’s ups and downs can be exhilarating and frustrating at times, she told the students, adding that "prayer is the answer at all times."

Maness uses biblical passages and scriptures to illustrate important points that she makes during her speeches. She believes it’s a good way to put things in perspective.

"Don’t ever give up on your dreams," she told the students who surrounded her for autographs when she finished her talk. "I’ve tried to have a positive impact on peoples’ lives and prayer has been very important to me. It can be for you, too."

Maness told the students about her desire to compete in Miss Rodeo America as well as the challenge she faced when she told her mother that it was a goal she felt she could attain.

"She said ‘No’ several times when I tried to convince her until she finally said ‘Yes’ as long as I could find a way to pay for it," Chelsea said. "I prayed real hard and everything has turned out just fine since that time."

One of the ways she was able to handle the financial requirements of such an undertaking was to help line up sponsors to help pay the freight. At last report, she has met that responsibility.

Becoming involved with horses at an early age has been a learning experience for her "because you share a special bond with an animal."

"Horses have their own personality," she said, referring to a comment made by someone years ago that "the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man."

Her pride and joy is her horse. The mare is named for entertainer Beyonce because "she’s the biggest diva I’ve ever met."

When she arrives in Las Vegas for the national competition, she and the other contestants will have to get used to other horses since they can’t bring their own mounts to the event.

Maness is the daughter of Steve and Renee Maness and is majoring in communications and public relations as she works toward a bachelor’s degree at Troy University.

That means she’s got several balls in the air at the same time as she handles academics, rodeos and promotes Alabama’s agricultural industries as well as equestrian competition.

All that hard work has paid off now that she is Miss Rodeo Alabama 2014 and her eyes are focused on the biggest prize of all – Miss Rodeo America.

If she doesn’t win, she knows she’ll soon be back home aboard Beyonce – a four-legged diva who brightens her day every time she hops on board.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Cody’s Black Tie Tire Roll

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Everyone enjoys remembering the "good old days" .... It doesn’t take but a couple of years for teenagers to start looking back with nostalgia on their high school days. When the realities of a demanding collegiate schedule, an eight-to-five job or a crying baby propels them headlong into adulthood, the shenanigans they pulled in high school start to look pretty great. The magic of the moment and mix of the people make those memories shine all the more.

One of my former students D’lin told me this story the other day, and I’m still laughing about the mental pictures it conjured up. It was a warm spring night, and she and a few of her pals had just enjoyed another small town prom, complete with sparkly dresses and homemade decorations. After the dance was over, several kids had driven to a neighboring town to go bowling, but not these diehard party animals. They had gone out to the gravel pit behind the metal building out in a pasture where many of our local dances are held. They opened the doors of one of the pickup trucks and cranked the music up loud. They were dancing and laughing – just enjoying being young and alive. One of the guys walked out into the darkness to find a tree to relieve himself. He spotted a big tractor tire, and that’s when he had a brilliant idea. Why not haul the tire up to the top of the 10-foot tall mound of rocks beside the gravel pit, get inside and roll down the hill? His friends thought that was a splendid idea.

Moving it proved to be a daunting task. It was heavy and cumbersome, and the hill was steep and rocky. But there were plenty of them to get the job done which ended up being half the fun. It took over a half an hour to get it into position. It was late, they were tipsy and laughing, and they kept slipping on the rocks. They finally got it in place atop the steep grade. They were so proud – whooping and hollering; they all toasted the night and themselves with clink of their longneck bottles.

Then they had to decide who would be the lucky rider. Never one to back down from a dare, Cody stepped forward and said he’d do it. What made the concept even more comical and ridiculous was the fact that he still had his tuxedo on from prom. Instead of renting one, like most kids do, he’d bought his tux and vowed that he was going to wear it all night, even though all the other kids had already changed clothes.

With music blaring and his friends chanting his name to give him courage, Cody climbed in, not pausing to hand his beverage off to a friend. He careened down the bumpy hill, bouncing over every rock as his fellow revelers cheered him on. When the tire reached the bottom of the pit, it circled a few times before finally coming to rest. Cody clambered out. He staggered around a minute, still dizzy from the ride. Everyone slapped him on the back congratulating him. Onlookers would have thought he’d had just jumped the Grand Canyon on a dirt bike. There were black marks all over his new tux. It was wrinkled and soggy from the drink he’d refused to relinquish at the beginning of the ride. D’lin had had the foresight to film the whole stunt with her smartphone.

After watching Cody’s perilous descent and remembering how hard it was to move the tire and the lateness of the hour, no one else volunteered to experience an ultimate redneck thrill. Only one other kid rose to the task, and that was a year later. But it was not nearly as dramatic or funny under tamer circumstances.

With the advent of the social media sites, funny pictures keep these memories alive. So the other day when I saw a dark blurry picture of a kid in a tux climbing out of a tractor that D’lin had posted on Facebook for Throwback Thursday, I just had to call and get the scoop.

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

Cooper Retires from Alabama Army National Guard

Command Sergeant Major Mitchell C. Cooper

For the past 40 years, Command Sergeant Major Mitchell C. Cooper has served this great country in the Alabama Army National Guard.

He completed Basic Training and AIT at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., where he trained as a Water Purification Specialist. He was then assigned to Det 1, HHC 151st Engineer BN, where he advanced to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He then transferred to the 2nd BN 152ndArmor. He served as Motor Transport Operator achieving the rank of Sergeant First Class. In 1995, the 152nd Armor was re-designated 2nd Battalion 117th Field Artillery. In 1996, he was selected as First Sergeant for the Service Battery 117th Field Artillery. In 1999, 2ndBattalion 117th Field Artillery was re-designated 1st Battalion and moved to Vincent, Ala. In 2001, the company was again re-designated the 440th Chemical Company where he served as First Sergeant. In October 2003, he was promoted to Command Sergeant Major of the 145th CBRN where he served until his transfer to the 31stCBRN Brigade HQ in February 2011, thus being the Brigade Command Sergeant Major.

Cooper is a 1974 graduate of Auburn University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocational Agriculture.

His military education includes Water Purification Specialist, Motor Transport Operator, Field Artillery Specialist, Chemical Operations Specialist, Small Group Leader Training Course, Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course, Advanced Non-Commissioned Officer Course, First Sergeant Course and The United States Army Sergeant’s Major Course.

Cooper’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Silver Hour Glass and "M" Device, Non-Commissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon w/numeral 4, Army Service Ribbon, Alabama Commendation Medal, Operation Desert Storm ribbon, Veterans Service Medal of Alabama, Faithful Service Medal and Active Duty Basic Training Ribbon of the State of Alabama.

Cooper officially retired from the Alabama Army National Guard Sept. 30, 2014.

Cooper has been married to Kaye Langley Cooper for 38 years. They have two children, a daughter Dana (Lance) Roughton and a son John (Casey). They have five grandchildren, Langley, Landon and Logan Roughton; and Kate and Luke Cooper. Cooper and Kaye reside in Wadley.

Corn Time

Cover It Up Or Fix The Problem?

by Glenn Crumpler

It all started with just a rotten door, a leaking window and a weak spot under the corner of the shower. Surely in a week or so, everything would be back to normal. Man, did we underestimate what we were in for; what was really needed to fix the problems, and all the obstacles we would face!

Whether it is working on your house or your life, there is just something about opening things up and looking on the inside and examining all the details. You see a little something here and a little something there. You know things are not quite right, but these are only little problems, little isolated things that are not too major and that you will get around to one day when you have the time and money. Chances are, nobody else even notices them, but you know they are there and will one day have to be dealt with. If left unfixed, they will only lead to more serious problems down the road.

When we open things up and are able to see the inner places usually covered up or hidden from our sight, we discover there are often even more problems that we have not seen ourselves. When we begin fixing one problem, we uncover another. That has certainly been the case with my "simple turned hair-pulling" fiasco!

However, Lisa and I have been trying to console one another by agreeing that if we had not fixed it now, it would have been worse in the future. However, just stating the truth does not take away the time, stress, energy, money and frustration of dealing with the problems now – but it will save us much in the long run.

I was recently privileged to do prison ministry in one of our state institutions. Most of my time has been spent working in "the yard" where the inmates gather for outdoor activities and lunch. Though we are encouraged when talking with the inmates not to ask too many questions about why they are there, I always do.

Most of the time, I have to ask directly, "How did you get here?" Some will try to just pass it off by saying something like they just did something stupid or they were set up, but as I continue to press them, they usually share what they really did to get them incarcerated. Their confession opens the door for me to ask them how they got started down that path of sin, crime, recklessness and disregard for the law and for others. I think this helps them and me to better understand the paths and the progression of sinfulness.

Just like rot in a piece of wood, the longer it stays in a wet environment, the more it rots. For wood to rot, it has to get wet and stay wet for an extended period of time. If it had just gotten wet one time and dried out, it may have been discolored, but it would not have rotted. In our case, the leak was just a seemingly insignificant and mostly hidden leak that was left unfixed for an extended time. The problem of the leak that rotted the wood progressed to the studs, through the sheetrock and eventually to the subfloor and even to the base of the cabinets. It was slow and gradual, but the small leak left unfixed over time did a lot of damage and led to much bigger problems than the leak itself.

Sin in our lives that is not recognized and/or not dealt with works in the same way and progresses, causing more and more damage – not only to ourselves, but to all those around us. After a while, it leads to even greater sin and has an ever increasing detrimental effect in our lives and our relationships. After a while, if we keep ignoring the sin, we may even get to where we do not even notice it, even though the effects are progressing and doing more and more damage.

Many of the inmates I mentioned who are locked up in the prison are there for sexual offenses and most of the others are there for drug-related charges. I find it very interesting that almost without exception, when the inmate finally shares the truth about how they got to be where they are, they said they never thought it would happen to them. Never would they have ever thought they would find themselves guilty of the offences they have committed. It started with just a social drink which led to more drinking, then to alcoholism, then to stronger drugs, then to loss of jobs and family, then to a life of crime to support their habit.

Without exception when the crime was sexually related (usually with a minor), when I ask at what point did pornography get into the picture, they can name the exact time. I would feel comfortable saying that every sexual offender I have met has had a history with pornography! It started out in secret without anyone else knowing it, but, just like the water leak that was not fixed, it rotted them to the core – even to the point that they would sexually abuse small children of both sexes.

Many of the men are very well educated, were business owners and professionals, and are capable of running most any business around. Except for the fact that they are child molesters, from what you see when you meet them, they would be the people you would pick to be your next door neighbors. They were decent, hardworking people who let sin creep into their lives and took them further than they ever dreamed of going, but all in the opposite direction from their dreams, their potential and the plans God had for them.

Whenever we become aware of sin in our lives is the right time to deal with it before it progresses. If we think we are sinless, then we really need to open things up and see what is hidden from our view, because we are all sinners.

Perhaps that is why the Psalmist wrote what he did in Psalms 139. He began by stating: "Oh Lord, You have searched me and known me." He goes on to acknowledge that there is nothing that God does not know about him and that there is no where he can go to escape God’s presence. But after going on and on about how God knows every detail about him, the writer concludes by asking God: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

He said God you have searched me and you know everything about me. Now I am asking you to search me and show ME what YOU see! Help me to see my own sin and offenses (known and unknown) for what they really are and help me to live a life pleasing to you. He is asking God to tear out the walls and let’s get started with fixing whatever we find, whatever the costs, so that in the end we will be pleasing and useful to Him.

He may never quit showing us more things we need to deal with, but if we desire to live honestly before Him, trusting in what Jesus has done for us, His grace will be sufficient to fix everything else!

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


Eager for Improvement

A favorite part of Elaine Troxtel’s work as a partner on the Angus cattle farm owned and operated by her and her husband Zane in Geraldine is caring for the baby calves. “It’s easy to transform them into pets with some tender loving care!” she exclaims.

DeKalb couple personify teamwork on their beef cattle farm.

Release from Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed

Zane and Elaine Troxtel of Geraldine are building a beef cattle farm that is on the rise, according to Drew Wright of the DeKalb County Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"This young couple is especially progressive, tremendously hard-working, and high energy," said Wright. "They are very much in touch with what is happening in their production specialty and always eager to make improvements."

The most current improvement the Troxtels have underway is a heavy-use pad for feeding their 40-head herd of top quality Angus cattle.

"Both Elaine and I are excited about the addition of a pad to our feeding operation," Zane reported. "We chose a concrete base for the pad because with it we can keep our cattle out of the mud and utilize water and equipment as needed to promote cleanliness. The pad will also yield a more efficient consumption of the hay we feed, and feeding will now be a pleasure instead of the dread of encountering a muddy mess at feeding time which can contaminate run-off water and can cause foot problems in our cattle."

The Troxtels are receiving technical and financial assistance from the NRCS through a cost-share EQIP program, Wright said.

Zane and Elaine Troxtel, who are beef cattle producers in Geraldine, have just completed a heavy-use pad for their feeding operation which will promote cleanliness – even in wet weather with muddy conditions – and will result in greater feed efficiency. The pad is a much needed improvement, according to Zane, and was done by the Troxtels with financial and technical assistance through the DeKalb County Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Troxtels personify teamwork. Both hold off-the-farm jobs, yet both share responsibility of running their top-notch farming operation. Both are graduates of Auburn University where they met and later married. Zane jokes that, at the time of their meeting, Elaine was about the furthest thing from a DeKalb County farm girl that you could find. Her background was "big city" and her family had moved around a lot during her lifetime, always in a suburban area. "Green as a gourd" about the farm and farming at the start of their marriage, Elaine has now developed into a full-fledged partner whom Zane trusts completely with handling day-to-day implementation and management decisions on the farm.

Zane works as the Food Safety Division Manager of QSI out of Chattanooga where he oversees quality assurance and handles USDA audits for the company. Not only is he on the road a lot, he works crazy hours.

"While I’m away, I never worry about things back on the farm. I know Elaine is competent and, should she encounter a scenario that she hasn’t faced before, she’ll call me or one of our neighbors who are professionals in the cattle business. I really can’t praise Elaine enough for her quick learning and her keen judgment," the multi-talented Zane noted.

Zane has engaged in beef cattle production since he was 12. In fact, the sale of the 38 head of beef cattle he had personally grown in his early years helped to finance his college expenses at Auburn where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Poultry Science and a master’s in Agricultural Education.

While he taught agriscience for a short while after his college graduation and enjoyed it, Zane could not escape his prime interest in raising beef cattle. Consequently, he launched the start-up of what is now a sizeable herd of Angus cattle, the breed he contends to be the No. 1 breed in the United States.

"In fact," according to Zane, "if you combine the registrations of the next seven leading breeds after Angus, that combination would still not match the numbers of Angus cattle."

Zane credited several big-time Angus breeders such as Richard Dyar, Banks Herndon and Tom Lovell with helping him learn the intricacies of being a successful Angus producer. He also learned a great deal about genetics at Auburn, especially from his hands-on livestock labs. He loved being exposed to the in-depth scientific research. He also learned about fixed-time artificial breeding that he is now putting into practice. Fixed-time artificial insemination uses a series of synchronized drug injections over a five-day protocol and costs about $16 a head plus the cost of the semen. The practice allows farmers to breed on schedule and to get more cattle bred on the first day of the breeding season.

The energetic Zane is also ambitious. When asked about immediate and long-term goals for his cattle business, this young farmer was quick with his responses.

"Currently I’m engaged in preparing for a big registered Angus bull sale at the farm of John and Randa Starnes and Randy Owens in Fort Payne on November 22, 2014. Along with Richard Dyar of Crossville, we plan to have around 55-60 Angus and Hereford bulls to sell. My dream has always been to be the largest cattle producer in DeKalb County," Troxtel exclaimed. "But for now I just want to be an active Angus breeder and become more involved in the county and state cattle organizations!"


New Website Promotes America’s Farmer-Owned Products and Brands

A growing number of consumers have shown increasing interest in knowing where their food comes from and in being supportive of farmers and local communities as reflected in the tremendous growth in farmers markets in recent years.

Now, a new website,, makes it easier for consumers and other potential customers to find great tasting products and brands from America’s farmers wherever they choose to shop. It also includes hundreds of fantastic recipes your family will love with those same products and brands.

America’s farmer-owned companies handle, process and market almost every type of commodity grown in the United States. This includes a wide range of consumer retail products and brands.

Many consumers might be surprised to learn the companies behind these products are farmer-owned cooperatives. And because they are farmer owned, the proceeds from their sales are returned to their farmer owners. This not only benefits farmers but local, as well as rural communities across the United States.

Helping increase consumer awareness when it comes to America’s farmer-owned products and brands is the goal of Farmers Market of America – a cooperative advertising platform that, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It’s also the focus of its ongoing "Choose Farmer Owned!" campaign.

"By choosing America’s farmer-owned products and brands, consumers not only get great taste and value," said founder Randall Jones, "they are also supporting America’s farmers and rural communities."

It’s also about being part of a larger community and a sense of connection, he added.

Bonnie Plants and SouthFresh Farms are among a variety of farmer-owned companies whose products, brands and recipes are featured on Find out more by going to the website and follow them on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

And be sure to look for and choose America’s farmer-owned products and brands wherever you shop!

Feed the Factory

by Stephen Donaldson

The beef industry has seen success the last few years like no other time in history. Record-low cattle inventory numbers and high demand for beef, both foreign and domestic, have been the recipe for record prices and profits. Even though cattle size has increased, the amount of beef marketed still can’t satisfy the market’s appetite.

Cattle genetics have improved significantly over the last few years. Growth rate, efficiency and mature size are all areas that have seen significant improvement over the last decade. With increasing animal performance, nutrient inputs must also increase. Just like any industrial factory, if you want more output you must increase your input. In the southeastern United States, the most common method to provide winter feed to a beef cow is dry hay. Most hay harvested in the Southeast isn’t of high enough quality to supply the required nutrients for the modern beef cow, especially if she is nursing a calf. The big increases that we have seen in mature cow size have dramatically increased the amount of nutrients required for her to just maintain body weight.

As stated earlier, the forages we have available in the Southeast simply don’t have the required nutrients to maintain larger modern cattle. For the most part, cattlemen do a poor job of harvesting hay for winter nutrition. Much of this is due to factors beyond the cattleman’s control. Weather, proper timing of fertilizer application, weed control and forage maturity at the time of harvest are all factors that dramatically affect the quality of hay available for winter feed. Additionally, forage varieties that thrive in the Southeast are, by nature, of poorer quality than those grown in the North and West.

So, we have big cattle that perform well and only average-to-poor forage to supply their nutritional needs. This seems to be a problem that isn’t fixable. The most practical solution to this problem is to supplement the cattle with a nutrient-dense supplement. This practice has been used by successful cattlemen for many years. In the past, whole cottonseed has been a favorite along with other readily available feeds such as whole corn, corn gluten pellets and soybean hull pellets, but all of those have certain limitations.

Realizing that common supplements of the past just don’t totally fit the bill, the staff of the Feed Department at Alabama Farmers Cooperative set out to create a beef cow supplement to help bridge the gap between the common hay fed to cattle and the nutrients required for them to reach their genetic potential. The feed must be one that can be fed to cattle being fed a diverse array of forages in different regions of the Southeast with varying climates and stresses. The feed must also contain ingredients that don’t change the rumen bacteria to those more suited for grain digestion rather than forage digestion. A nice blend of protein and energy to help those cattle lactate, maintain body weight and perform reproductively fits perfectly. A nice complement of minerals to further supplement the cattle’s free-choice mineral program is just icing on the cake.

By blending forage-based byproducts along with minimal amounts of starchy grains, we achieved a moderate protein, moderate-to-high energy, cow supplement that can move your cow herd up a notch in the performance category. This supplement, if used as recommended, should help cattle maintain body weight, increase weaning weights, and cows cycle and rebreed. The supplement is formulated to feed at the base rate of 5 lbs. per head per day. I say base rate because other factors such as cow body condition score when starting the supplementation, breed and size of the calf all play a role in the nutrients required by your cattle. This is where you must be the judge. You must evaluate your cattle and decide if the rate you are feeding is the right rate for you to achieve your goals. If the cattle are too fat, the rate may need to be adjusted down to around 3 lbs.; but, if they are thin, the rate may need to be adjusted up to 10 lbs. for a short period of time. Proper cattle management requires you as a cattleman to make judgment calls that ultimately help you succeed.

I challenge each of you as a cattleman to have a forage analysis completed on your hay. In my experience, most hay will fall short of the nutrient composition expected. So, in times of high cattle prices and moderately priced feed stuffs, maximize your production by providing high levels of nutrients for maximum profits.

As I have stated in an earlier article, develop goals and plan to reach those goals. Reach the goals you have with your brood cows by supplying plenty of good quality hay, free-choice mineral, a poured or cooked molasses tub, and top it all off with our 13% Beef Cow Supplement to put more money in your pocket and make everyone happier at your operation. In times like these, feed the factory for maximum output and maximum profit.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If I can help any of you, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">


by John Sims

The foundation of a feed or water trough needs to be level and placed on materials (graded aggregate base or concrete). The area around the trough for at least 10 feet should be protected from the heavy use of the cattle and gently sloped to prevent holding water. The preferred protective surface consists of a non-woven geotextile (fabric) material overlaid with at least 6 inches of graded aggregate base (crushed stone). Smaller graded aggregate base can be used on the surface if needed. All stone should be crushed limestone or granite that meets graduation requirements. If concrete is used, a thickness of at least 4 inches is required. The surface of the concrete should be roughened to prevent cattle from slipping.1

GEOTEX 801 is a polypropylene, staple fiber, needle-punched nonwoven geotextile produced by Propex, and will meet minimum average roll values. The fibers are needled to form a stable network that retains dimensional stability relative to each other. The geotextile is resistant to ultraviolet degradation and to biological and chemical environments normally found in soils. 2

GEOTEX 801 meets the requirements of the NRCS AL EQIP program for Heavy Use Area Protection – Code 561. It is available in 15-by-300 rolls and can by ordered at your local Quality Co-op. n


1Natural Resources Conservation Service, Watering Facility For Livestock, Alabama Job Sheet No. AL614

2Propex Geotex 801 product data sheet

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

Hands-On in New Hopewell

Scout work day involved cleaning out upstairs, painting the porch and cleaning the grounds of paint flecks. From front row, left, are Will Hudgins, Abigail Howle, Alex Holt, Hunter Couch, Eli McCormick, (back) Travis McCrary, Clayton Vaughn, John Howle, Jim Edwards, Harold Davis, Jake Howle and Andrew Brooks.

The historic schoolhouse in the community of New Hopewell has been restored from its state of disrepair thanks to Jake Howle, who decided to make the renovation the focus of his Eagle Scout Project.

by John Howle

Located just south of the Abernathy exit of I-20 stands the New Hopewell Schoolhouse built in 1927. The building is the last remnant of history surrounding this community in Cleburne County that once boasted cotton gins, general stores, a two-story hotel, a train station, a post office, and a lively economy boosted by timber and cotton harvests during the early 1900s.

Over the years, some of the planks and shutters rotted, the paint peeled and the historical structure was in desperate need of improvement. As a part of Jake Howle’s Eagle Scout Project, the schoolhouse was scraped, painted and renovated with help from folks in the local community.

Many historic sites in Alabama are undergoing the same fate. Lack of funds, lack of volunteer help and a lack of time are resulting in many of these structures across the state falling into disrepair. If you have old structures in your community that represent times gone by, there are ways to rally your community to preserve these landmarks.

Terry Benefield, with light shirt, directs inmates on the building of the hand rails.

Take Action to Preserve

In the case of New Hopewell’s schoolhouse, the first step was deciding what improvements could be made to the structure on a small budget and lead to long-term preservation of the structure. After determining the schoolhouse was actually owned by the local county (Cleburne), it was determined to seek advice on making improvements to the structure from County Commissioner Emmett Owen.

"I though it was a great idea," Owen said. "Right now, the only time the building is used is on voting day."

He suggested that improvements could be made to the structure, and others in the community could use the facility for events such as parties, family reunions and music gatherings.

Commissioner Owen led the charge to get approval from the remaining commissioners and probate judge, then, construction began. Using trustee inmates from the county jail, Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Benefield oversaw the replacement of rotting planks, window shutters, hand rails, and the pressure washing and scraping of the structure.

"We work all over the county," Benefield said. "Many of these inmates have construction experience, and we like to see them building and repairing things around the county."

Benefield brings the inmates to work details around the county with a van pulling a trailer carrying all the tools and equipment for workdays.

Once the rotted wood was replaced and the walls of the structure painted, the Boy Scouts of Troop 206 in Heflin, along with a handful of adult volunteers, scheduled a workday. The Boy Scouts painted the front porch, scraped paint from the windows, raked and removed paint flecks and debris from the grounds, and cleaned out three wheelbarrows full of dirt and dust that had accumulated upstairs.

When the schoolhouse was completed in 1928, the students met downstairs, and a brotherhood group called "the Odd Fellows" met upstairs for their regular meetings.

"The upstairs had been collecting dust since 1927," scout Andrew Brooks observed. "I guess that’s why it took us so long to clean it out."

History of New Hopewell

In 1903, a New Jersey company called the Vanderbilt Southwestern Railway and Mining and Timber Company built a railroad from Tallapoosa, Ga., to New Hopewell. The rail line was used for shipping timber to the North. The railroad line carried both passengers and freight. You could ride from Hopewell to Tallapoosa for less than a quarter, and for a little more change, you could travel to Atlanta.

Most of the town developed around the rail line. A two-story hotel was built to accommodate travelers, and coke ovens were built to create coke (a form of coal) that would be shipped North on the railroad line. In 1906, the land of New Hopewell was surveyed and lots were laid out for the town with a mayor, town council and policeman.

A late 1920s photo showing the Odd Fellows, a brotherhood who met upstairs in the schoolhouse.

When the timber dwindled, jobs began to run out and many people moved away. In the following 1930s and 40s, the roads remained unpaved, the old hotel was still standing, cotton gins and grist mills were in operation, the "Odd Fellows" were meeting upstairs in the New Hopewell Schoolhouse, and school children were taking classes downstairs.

Today, the old schoolhouse is the only remaining structure left from a once thriving community, but, fortunately for the intervention of a few dedicated volunteers, the structure will continue to stand and symbolize simpler days from our past. Inside the structure on the wall is a framed photo history of the New Hopewell Community along with a written description of the town as it existed in the early 1900s.

If you have historic structures in your community that you want to see preserved, talk with your local town council or commissioners about a preservation plan. Check with your local Boy Scout Troop for scouts who are earning an Eagle Scout, and check with your local authorities about work release programs to pull the project off. This is how communities work together to preserve their past.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Holiday Season is Sage Season

by Nadine Johnson

Sage, meaning safe or wise, comes from the word sauge and is described in this way by my dictionary: "Any of a genus (salvia) of plants of the mint family, having two lipped corolla and two stamens. Sages are cultivated for ornament (as the scarlet sage) and for flavoring (as the garden sage)."

There are a large number of plants which are referred to as sage or salvia. I have had the pleasure of growing a good many of these including purple spires, pineapple, clary, Jerusalem, Mexican bush, Victoria, chia, greggi, scarlet and garden.

This column is primarily about garden sage (Salvia officinalis) that is used to season our sausage and holiday dressings or stuffings. This herb is a native of Europe. It is now cultivated throughout temperate North America and has naturalized in more than one area.

I found it is easier to grow sage in containers here and protect it from heavy rainfall. Years ago, my grandmother grew sage in a corner of her garden. She tended it carefully in order to have this herb available for seasoning. She couldn’t easily pick up a container of prepared sage from the spice section of a supermarket as I can.

Sage contains elements which aid in food preservation and tend to retard spoilage. A person might possibly avoid food poisoning by adding this herb to foods that will not be refrigerated for a time. (This bit of trivia was more important before electricity became a common luxury.) This same seasoning might also prevent indigestion.

Since salvia, the generic name for sage, comes from the Latin word which means "to heal," we can see that this was once a popular healing herb.

Pliny the Elder, a Roman statesman/naturalist of the first century AD, treated snakebite, epilepsy, parasites and some women’s problems with sage. An early Greek physician considered it a diuretic as well as a curative for women’s problems. He also used sage leaves to bandage wounds.

To some ancients, sage was thought to promote longevity. In some cases, they even thought it could provide immortality. This reputation resulted in this age old proverb, "How can a man die when he has sage in the garden?"

This statement is credited to Winston Churchill: "We are happier when we are old than we are young. The young sow wild oats. The old grow sage."

My youth provides me with memories of hog killing and delicious homemade sausage, which of course contained sage. And, of course, Mother’s wonderful holiday chicken and cornbread dressing.

As you sprinkle sage into your sausage and holiday foods, try to remember that this health-providing herb can be used in moderation to season foods the year round. There is a possibility that this seasoning will strengthen your concentration, improve your memory and relax your nerves.

If anyone would care to share an old fashioned home-made pork sausage recipe, please send it to me.

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

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

You Can Still Plant Spinach

Spinach is one of those garden greens that can be finicky – slow to sprout and grow, but, once you get the first harvest, you’ll know it was worth any extra effort. Spinach, grown slowly through cool weather, tastes rich and sweet with a wonderful chewy texture. The plants are very cold hardy, so you can still sow seeds now directly in the garden. Soak seeds overnight to speed germination and be sure to keep the seeds watered. You can also start from transplants if available at your local Quality Co-op or garden center. In North Alabama, cover plants with a row cover or cold frame to encourage plenty of growth as the weather cools. Established plants withstand frosts down to about 20 degrees.

Curly parsley and pansies are an easy and reliable winter combo.

Fertilize Trees and Shrubs

You can fertilize trees and shrubs in late fall after all the leaves drop and the plants appear dormant. This is especially helpful to young trees you are trying to encourage as research shows fertilizer applied in fall is more effective in promoting growth than spring applications. Even though the tops are dormant, there is still activity going on underground in fall. Use a winterizer formula high in potassium and low in nitrogen, and do not be tempted to over apply.

Parsley in Pots for Winter

Don’t forget that something as simple as curly parsley makes great foliage in a container for the winter. The dark green leaves are great companions for cold-hardy flowers such as pansies and dianthus. Plant them soon and fertilize so the plants have some time to grow before it gets cold. Growth stops in mid winter when the high temperatures are below 45 or 50 degrees, but they will stay green and come back with each warm spell.

Give Old Blueberry Bushes a Good Pruning

Sometimes it’s hard to bring yourself to cut back a big plant such as a fruitful blueberry, but by removing the oldest canes, you encourage more branching. The more branches there are, the more berries you will have. First remove any branches that died in the summer or just look old and thin. Then cut two or three of the largest old canes at ground level and new ones will arise. Water and fertilize in the spring. Cut old canes again next year, if needed.

Protect Half-Hardy Herbs

Lemon verbena, lemon grass and pineapple sage need a little winter protection. After frost knocks these plants back, cover them in a fluffy mound of pine straw to protect from a hard winter, especially in North Alabama. You can trim the woody stems of lemon verbena and pineapple sage back slightly to make it easier to pile the straw over the plants, but avoid cutting them back within a foot of the ground until spring.

Fall is a good time to get ground covers planted so they can get a head start on spring growth. Mondo grass, such as the dwarf variety above, is one of the easiest and most dependable evergreen ground covers.

Plant Ground Covers Now

Fall is a good time to get ground covers planted so they can root and get a head start on spring growth. It’s also a little easier to keep the space weeded in winter when fewer weeds are sprouting. So if you’ve got an area where grass doesn’t grow well or that you’d simply rather not mow, this is a good time to fix it. Five of the easiest and most dependable evergreen ground covers include mondo grass, liriope, Confederate jasmine, Asian jasmine (South Alabama) and pachysandra (North Alabama). After several years, mowing renews these. Stay away from ivy unless it’s in a place where there are no trees or structures to climb, or you will have perpetual maintenance. Shore juniper and other low-growing junipers are also popular for sunny areas, but they can be tricky to keep weed-free and looking fresh.

Snapdragons are Happy Now

Planting snapdragons in the fall is always tricky because you want to get them in the ground early enough that they root before it gets too cold, but not so early that they suffer in late heat. Early November usually still offers good weather for a fall planting; so, if you haven’t already done so, go ahead and plant them for winter and early spring. Fertilize the plants with a product that contains a nitrate form of fertilizer as it is the most-readily available in cool soil. The plants will surprise you with how well they respond. If you haven’t grown snapdragons in a while, you will be surprised at how long the new varieties will continue blooming into the spring and even summer with increased vigor.

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

Living Fences

Pyracantha can be used as a free-form living fence or as a deterrent to intruders near a window.

by Tony Glover

People plant trees and shrubs for many reasons, but we may not often think of planting something as a security fence. However, there are many plants that could serve this purpose. Historically, mesquite and trifoliate orange trees have been used as living fences. Both of these have nasty thorns bad enough to keep livestock from penetrating through them and both can be quite invasive. Pyracantha may show up on some invasive plant list as well, but it certainly makes a great living fence for home landscapes.

Winter is often when I think of this plant because it has fruit that are very showy until the cedar wax wings and other birds clean them off. Pyracantha is a member of the rose family and, like its cousin, has an abundance of thorns. The thorns are needle-like and much larger and more painful to encounter than rose thorns. My dad always said nothing will keep determined intruders out, but pain will do a good job deterring "honest" folks.

Although pyracantha can be maintained as a 4- or 5-foot shrub, it would be better if you did not have to prune it very often due to the aforementioned pain. The ultimate size of most varieties will be about 10-by-10; so it does not take many plants to make a living fence. The plants can be planted somewhat closer for quicker fill, but remember to allow plenty of depth for them to spread. They are fast growers that are adapted to many soil types, except poorly drained soil.

Fall and winter is a great time to plant them. Dig the plant hole as wide as practical, but at least twice as wide as the root ball. To avoid the plant settling to a position deeper than desired, do not dig any deeper than the root ball. I always like to pull the plant from the container and wash off most of the bark from around the roots. This will allow you to spread the roots out laterally in the wide planting hole and will prevent air pockets which would develop when the bark slowly decays after planting.

The first year after planting pyracantha, you will need supplemental watering to get them well established, but once established they are pretty tough plants. Keep the area around the plants weed free and do not use weed eaters around the base. Three inches of mulch over the root system can go a long way in helping control weeds and retain moisture. Do not pile mulch thickly around the base of the plants.

Although pyracantha is not a native plant, it is widely adapted and the native birds and wildlife do love the fruit they produce. Pyracantha can also be used in floral arrangements to add a splash of color and a distinct texture. Most varieties have bright red berries, but there are some yellow- and orange-fruited varieties available.

If the standard-sized plant is too big for the area you have in mind, there is a compact selection called Red Elf. This might be a good choice for underneath a window to deter an intruder or peeping Tom.

Two serious problems on pyracantha are fire blight, a bacterial disease that can kill the plant, and scab, a fungal disease which causes defoliation and turns fruit a dark, sooty color. To minimize problems, choose disease-resistant selections such as Apache, Fiery Cascade, Mohave, Navaho, Pueblo, Rutgers, Shawnee and Teton. For further information on growing this useful and beautiful plant, visit

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

November Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Consider planting a "green manure" crop such as winter rye to help improve the organic matter in your soil. Don’t do any digging or planting if the ground is too wet or saturated.
  • Now that summer is over and so are summer flowers, it’s time to replace them with winter-hardy flowers for color. Pansies are the No. 1 choice for blooming bedding plants. They’re hardy, will bloom over a long season and come in a wide array of colors. Other bedding plants to plant now include snapdragons, calendula, ornamental kale/cabbage, and pinks or dianthus.
  • Plant a few bulbs in pots for forcing. Paperwhites, hyacinths, and early-blooming tulips and daffodils are good choices.
  • Continue to plant spring-flowering bulbs.
  • Some spring wildflowers can still be sown from seed in early November, including bluebonnets, Drummond phlox, rudbeckia and coreopsis. Sow into a bare, prepared soil, very lightly cover and water immediately to initiate germination.
  • If you purchased gourds this year as decorations, plan to grow them yourself next year. They make great garden projects for kids.
  • 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.
  • You can continue to transplant your perennials throughout the fall and winter, as long as they remain dormant.
  • This month and throughout the next several months will be good times to transplant trees and shrubs. At this time of the year, most ornamentals have entered into dormancy, and can be safely dug and replanted.
  • The key to transplanting is to dig a large root ball (get as much of the root system as possible). Equally important is getting the plant back into the prepared soil as quickly as possible to keep the roots from drying out.


  • Apply slow-release winter fertilizer to your lawn now, if you didn’t do so in September or October, with a lime additive if necessary.
  • Fertilizing should be stopped on trees and shrubs, unless leaves have been smaller than usual or displayed fall coloring too early, both signs of stress.
  • The time for fertilizing houseplants has come and gone. The reduced light of winter means they don’t need as many nutrients (or as much water).
  • What is alkaline and what is acid in soils? That refers to pH, which is incredibly important. Some crops like alkaline soil with a pH of 7 or above, while others like a more acidic soil with a pH of 6.5 or below. For instance, blueberries like pH of about 5 while asparagus prefer 6.5-7.5. You can pick up a soil test kit at your local Co-op or from your county Extension office.


  • 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. That will provide extra habitat for birds as well as an extra food source in their seed heads.
  • Cut chrysanthemum stems to 2-3 inches from the soil once they have begun to die back.


  • Drain garden hoses and sprinklers to store indoors for increased life. If you decide to leave them outside, unscrew them from the faucets.
  • 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. This is particularly true of evergreen plants. Also, moist soil stores more of the sun’s energy and for a longer time than dry soil. This energy is released as heat after the sun sets, and provides a degree or two of moderation.
  • 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.


  • Turn vegetable garden soil. Turning soil exposes many insect pests to winter cold, reducing their numbers in next year’s garden.
  • Safely store away pesticides subject to freezing.
  • Even on the cusp of winter, the need to weed continues. If you don’t deal with them now, they’ll be happy hosts for diseases and insects, as well as make seed for future populations.
  • Continue to watch for slug and snail damage throughout the garden, and take the necessary steps to control the problem.
  • Inspect trees and shrubs for bagworm capsules. Remove and destroy them to reduce next year’s pest population.
  • After leaves drop from deciduous fruit-bearers of all types – a dose of dormant spray will help protect them from diseases and insects. You’ll want to give them a second dose in December and a final one in February. Follow instructions to avoid damage.
  • Clean up debris and fallen leaves around fruit trees and remove any dried fruit from branches. For peach leaf curl on peach and plum trees, spray with lime sulfur after leaves fall. Apply sprays on dry days when rain isn’t predicted for at least 36 hours. Thoroughly cover the branches, stems and trunk as well as the ground beneath the tree.
  • Fallen rose foliage can give diseases a safe place to overwinter and create problems in your garden next year. Get rid of it!
  • Be proactive; get your deer protection in place. A combination of fencing and repellents is usually the best defense. As the native food supply dies off with the season, deer go looking for what’s left – and that’s often the evergreens and tasty tender shrubs in your backyard.
  • Protect trunks of fruit trees from rabbit damage with tree wraps.
  • Watch for scale insects on plants such as camellia, magnolia and holly. When found, spray with a lightweight horticultural oil (but not before a freeze forecast). Make sure to cover the underside of the leaf surface where scale hides.
  • Inspect tropical plants brought indoors for insects. Rinse plants every 2-3 weeks to help keep indoor bugs under control.
  • Terra cotta and ceramic pots should be stored in a protected area such as garage, shed or basement to prevent cracking. But before you put them away, brush them out and bathe them with a mild solution 1:9 parts bleach and water.


  • 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 or it will be sure to rain!
  • The success of any garden is the soil! If your other chores are done, devote your time to your soil. Add fresh manure so it can age over winter and early spring before it has contact with the plants. Work it into the soil a little. If you don’t have access to manures, then add composted organic material. Adding 4-6 inches of either is best. Your soil will be good to go, come spring.
  • 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.
  • Compost, compost, compost! A dead soil will liven up quickly with the addition of good compost. Aerate your compost by turning the material every few weeks or so with a pitchfork.
  • Clean out any remaining leaves from your garden pond and compost.
  • 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 you have deciduous trees, keep on top of the leaves. If you compost, shred the leaves before composting, or run a lawn mower over them. If not shredded, they will mat and take forever to decompose, making a slippery, gooey mass in your compost pile or beds.
  • Leaves from allelopathic trees (producing chemicals that inhibit other species’ growth) such black walnut, hackberry, cottonwood, red oak or horse chestnut should not be used in the compost bin.
  • If insects or disease infected your vegetables, do not compost them.
  • Cover your compost heap or bin with plastic to keep the nutrients from being leached out from winter rain.
  • If you plan to plant potatoes in late winter or early spring, fork lots of shredded leaves into your beds. Potatoes love leaves in their soil!
  • 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 or replace the air filter. Start gas-powered equipment and let them run until out of fuel. If fuel is to remain in power equipment, add fuel stabilizer.
  • With high winds a possible danger at this time of year, check trellises, fences and other garden structures to be sure they are secure.
  • Cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale in the ground actually grow sweeter with the arrival of 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.
  • Most lettuce is hardy to about 25 degrees. Lightweight floating row cover will often extend that below 20 so you can continue to harvest much of the winter.
  • Extend the harvest season of root crops such as carrots, leeks and beets by giving them a healthy layer of mulch.
  • Collect dried seedpods, grass stalks, seed heads and other dried plant materials for use in making flower or plant arrangements.
  • Leave a few of the seed heads on Rudbeckia, sunflowers and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Small birds such as chickadees and finches enjoy these seed.
  • Lift tender bulbs like dahlias and gingers if you know they won’t overwinter in your garden.
  • Now is a great time to dig up and divide grasses and perennials – the moist earth, shorter days and cooler weather, combined with the dormancy of the plants, makes this the least stressful time for them to go through this process. Make sure, once you’ve excavated the plant, to keep roots moist by keeping the plant in the shade and covering the roots with damp newspaper while you are working.
  • Remember to use the herbs still in the garden – parsley, rosemary, sage and chives should still be green.
  • 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.
  • All frost-sensitive houseplants should now be safely indoors for the season.
  • Give African violets 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.
  • Move houseplants closer to windows or to sunnier exposures if plants are dropping leaves. Don’t allow the leaves to touch the glass because they will freeze in winter.
  • 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.
  • Like ornamental plants, strawberries benefit from mulch protection. Clean straw is superior to hay as mulch because it doesn’t add weed seeds to the garden.
  • Mound soil or leaves around the base of hybrid teas and other grafted roses to protect the graft union from freezing.
  • Winter sun can scald newly planted trees. Protect them by wrapping the trunks with special tree wrapping tape, which you can buy at most Co-op stores.
  • Stop feeding pond fish when temperatures drop below freezing for several consecutive nights.
  • Clean out birdhouses, but put them back up. Small birds especially will huddle together in a house to keep warm. Consider putting up small houses high under the roofs of your porches so birds have a protected area to keep warm.
  • Scrub out bird feeders with a weak bleach solution and dry thoroughly before refilling with seed. Very few wild birds eat millet. Look for good quality seed that contains little or none of this filler.
  • Seeds for birds are usually plentiful in the fall, but insect eaters can suffer. Put out suet along with birdseed. Suet cake in a suet cage is an easy way to supply food for insect-eating birds like wrens and titmice.
  • Make sure wild birds have clean water.


Thomas Brown Paulk, Sr.

Thomas Brown Paulk Sr. passed away on Sept. 29, 2014. He was 91 years old.

The son of Livingston and Bonnie Paulk, Thomas was born in Union Springs in 1923 and worked at Bonnie Plants for more than 50 years until he retired as General Manager in 1986.

Thomas was a leader in the community throughout his life. He served on the Board of Directors of the American National Bank, the Board of the Department of Human Resources, President of the Little League Baseball Association, manager of a Little League team and President of the PTA.

Thomas was a member of St. James United Methodist Church in Montgomery for the past 11 years.

Prior to moving to Montgomery, he and his wife of 70 years, Hellen Gause Paulk, were active members of the First Baptist Church of Union Springs, where Thomas taught the Men’s Sunday School Class and served as a Deacon.

Thomas was an avid gardener and golfer, and he was a member of the Hole-in-One-Club.

He is survived by his wife, three children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, a sister and numerous nieces and nephews. Donations may be sent to Sardis Cemetery Fund in care of Hobbie Summerhill, P.O. Box 449, Union Springs, AL 36089.

Hiram Lewis King

Hiram Lewis "H.L." King, 83, of Athens, passed away on Friday, October 3, 2014, at home. H.L. was born May 22, 1931, in Limestone County and was a life-long resident and third-generation farmer there. He served on the Board of Directors for both Limestone Farmers Co-op and Alabama Farmers Co-op for over 50 years. He never met a stranger and was willing to help and mentor whoever he could in the farming community.

Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Betty King; one daughter, one son, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, two sisters, and numerous nephews and nieces.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Hospice Care of Alabama, St. Jude’s Hospital or to some other organization assisting those who are still living, but suffering – both people and animals.

Peanut People

Pecan Power

Always ranked high nationally for its pecan crop, Alabama is having a good harvest this year. Most of the state’s pecan orchards lie in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Alabama growers enjoy top pecan crop this fall.

by Maureen Drost

Alabama boasts much to be proud of when it comes to pecan farming. The state consistently ranks among the top six in the country with its average harvest of 10 million pounds.

With sandy loam soil and clay subsoil, Alabama has ideal conditions for growing pecan trees. Pecan scab is the major problem for farmers in this state, according to Doug Chapman, Limestone County Extension agent.

"The humid climate in Alabama can bring it on," he said. "Scab isn’t a problem in the West" because the region has an arid climate.

David Armistead greets a customer at the counter in the Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. The shop, which was founded in 1942, is located on historic Bank Street in Decatur. Featured at the shop are regular pecan halves and flavored pecans such as chocolate-covered and key lime pie. Pecan meal, often used in baking, is also offered.

After a bad year in 2013 because of drought, Lowndesboro farmer Matt Goff is excited about this year’s crop. Riverbend Farms, his expansive orchard of almost 500 acres, lies 30 miles west of Montgomery.

"Alabama growers will ship three to four days after harvest," he said.

That means about Oct. 25 pecans will start arriving in stores like Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. in Decatur and Priester’s Pecans in Fort Deposit.

Customers will find the Decatur shop on historic Bank Street. The company was founded in 1942 when Justin and Geneva Hawthorne opened it in November and December – only at the peak of demand.

Priester’s began informally in 1935 when Lee C. Priester sold pecans to a passerby. Today, a wide assortment of pecans, pecan pies, gift baskets and other products are for sale, making Priester’s the state’s largest homemade, gourmet candy company.

Both shops receive pecan shipments from South Alabama brokers.

Matt works Riverbend Farms with his father Bill Goff, a retired Auburn University horticulture professor whose focus was pecan research. The senior Goff worked on pecan research with Chapman at the Sand Mountain Experiment Station.

In addition to his Alabama farm, Matt owns a couple of orchards in Georgia and one in Mississippi. He also serves as president of the Alabama Pecan Growers Association.

Georgia always ranks No. 1 among the 15 pecan states. Others in the top six are New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma and Louisiana. In 2009, Alabama was fifth in the country for pecan production with 10 million pounds valued at $10,336,000. Many of the state’s orchards lie in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Today, at the Tennessee Valley Pecan Co., you’ll meet co-owner and manager David Armistead and find pecans for purchase in small quantities, plain or flavored, as well as in tins. Pecan meal, good for baking, is available, too. Coffee drinkers will find the shop has partnered with Decatur-based Java Jaay to sell the popular beverage.

Both the Tennessee Valley and Priester’s shops command a presence on the web, especially Facebook, and online sales are high.

Priester’s website features backdrop art of a small pecan orchard and the date 1935 displayed prominently with its products.

Lee C. Priester owned and operated a Texaco gas station in 1935 on a busy, main road between Mobile and Montgomery. The exact month and day are unknown, but the recorded story focuses on a salesman ordering and receiving a quantity of pecans from Priester.

From those humble beginnings, the business grew significantly over the decades, finally becoming the highly successful operation it is now.

Elliott the squirrel often appears in marketing for Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. Particularly beloved by children who visit the shop, he "lives" in a home underneath the 19th centurystaircase. Youngsters leave letters for Elliott in the pint-size mailbox outside his home, and in return they receive mail from him.

While Elliott captures the imaginations of children, one of the company’s loyal followers is young at heart at 96 years old. She buys pecans for health reasons – the omega fatty acids.

Elliott, by the way, is the squirrel in the logo for the Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. and the name of one of two varieties of pecans sold at the shop. "Desirable" is the second variety.

Armistead bought the business from the Hawthornes in 2011 with his brother Steve who lives and works in Nashville.

"We had known the Hawthorne family. They wanted to retire …. My brother and I knew the great history (of the shop) and its potential," Armistead explained.

Last fall after pecans were harvested and arrived in the shop, Armistead said, "the shop almost closed twice because demand was so high."

Pecans have long been popular here and across the United States, but in recent years China came into the market.

"Initially," Matt said, "the country ordered 2-3 million pounds per year. Now they’re buying 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. crop."

To keep up the pace, "growers (in Alabama) are planting orchards as fast as they can."

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.

Planning for the Future

Blount Museum Curator Amy Rhudy and Blount County Historical Society President Stanley Moss adjust items in the Blount County Museum’s military display.

at Blount Museum

by Suzy Lowry Geno

A wise man once said, "You can’t see where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been!"

Some local folks don’t have that directional problem thanks to the efforts of the Blount County Historical Society past, present and now future as they plan for the coming years of the Blount County Memorial Museum. They hope to use the several thousand dollars’ profit from a recent Estate Sale that was graciously designated for the Society as the seed money for a larger building just now in the planning stages.

As of press time, they weren’t certain if a new building will be built, if an existing building could be retrofitted or exactly what the coming years hold, but members say they just want to make certain Blount County and the state and nation’s histories are preserved. And even though they are not certain about a specific timetable yet, they know that planning is the most important first step, according to Society President Stanley Moss and Museum Curator Amy Rhudy.

That attention to detail is not surprising to those who know the history of the current small museum or the Society. The Blount Historical Society is said to be the oldest such historical group in the state - that seems fitting since Blount County is a county that is older than the state!

Dry Creek Gas Bash’s James Blakey with an antique kerosene pump he was installing in the filling station display at the Blount Memorial Museum.

John Hanby came through in 1817 and discovered the county’s rich ore deposits the year before Blount became officially a county. Settlers who followed soon discovered the land was rich in other ways and agriculture, especially the raising of row crops, cotton, cattle and now poultry, took advantage of the land’s rich heritage.

Throughout the years, county residents also responded whenever they were needed for military action. Blount’s Kelley Ingram was listed and has been honored across the nation as the first casualty of World War I.

During the 1950s and 1960s donations began to accumulate as folks wanted to build some type of permanent remembrance for the county’s veterans until around $2,500 was raised. When the idea for a "memorial museum" was discussed, area school children also began giving small donations.

Jo Akeman was on the original Historical Society Board instrumental in forming the museum in 1970 and remained an active member until shortly before her death in 2012.

She and Dr. Jack Avery once told me that one of the most important aspects of the current building was when alumni of Howard College in Birmingham bought bricks when the college was demolished in East Lake to move to its Lakeshore Drive location. (Howard College is now Samford University.)

Akeman remembered then, "The college was selling bricks and alumni would buy 25 to 50 and would have them around their home, some using them for patios and barbecues, that sort of thing. We asked them to donate the brick and many alumni did, donating them a few at a time."

Those historical bricks were used on the outside of the current building at 204 Second Street North in Oneonta, but, while it faces Second Street, it rounds out the block containing the Blount County Courthouse building as well as the courthouse annex which houses the Blount Board of Education.

The museum’s front flower beds often feature flowers donated by the Blount County Farmers Co-op and cared for by Blount’s Master Gardeners and Rhudy.

The Museum has always been known for its focus on genealogy and with the advent of computers that focus has skyrocketed. The museum also has on hand "hard copies" of more than 1,000 research volumes and more than 500 files on Blount family history.

All sorts of groups meet in the museum, but one of the most active is Operation Grateful Heart Blount County which meets on the third Wednesday of every month and is one of the most active groups of its kind in the state.

Through its actions and in honor of local veterans, an annual Veteran’s Day Parade is also sponsored by local groups with meetings usually held at the museum.

Displays of military uniforms past and present, medals and other military keepsakes are consistently on display.

The DAR meets each fourth Thursday. The Society meets often when they are not visiting historical locations. And all sorts of book signings, group meetings, historical reenactments and more - such as a recent genealogical meeting held just for homeschoolers – meet within the museum’s walls.

Rhudy and genealogist Lora Roberson work closely together to provide additional helps.

The small museum can now handle groups of slightly over 40, and Rhudy and Moss feel a larger meeting area, perhaps a conference room, and more storage would be essential in a new building. Currently, many permanent items have to be stored in other county buildings when they are not on public display. Having everything "under one roof" would make everything easier and ensure that historical items are kept in the best condition.

In addition to Chairman Moss, the committee overseeing much of the museum includes Margaret Hudson, Pam Dean, Stan Burnett and Susie Binder.

With a big focus in the county on agriculture, many of the nine exhibits that rotate each quarter have included things as varied as hit-and-miss engines, displays concerning Blount’s past in the dairy industry, and James Blakey’s current exhibit of service station and gasoline memorabilia.

Blakey hosts an annual Dry Creek Gas Bash on his Blount farm and he’s brought a sampling of country store items, gas pumps, pedal cars and other items for the museum display.

A big exhibit as the holidays approach is the Christmas Tree, decorated by the Rose Garden Club where donations of toys and clothing from the community are used to decorate the tree and then given to abused and neglected children through the Blount Department of Human Resources at Christmas.

The Museum’s hours are now 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.

More information may be obtained on the Museum’s Facebook page (designed and monitored by volunteer Zach Teal), or by phoning Rhudy at 205-625-6905 during regular hours.

Donations for a future building or for the Historical Society can be mailed to the Blount County Historical Society, P.O. 45, Oneonta, AL 35121.

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

Proficient in Pumpkin

Seven Easy Tips for Cooking with Pumpkin

by Shirley Camp

Right now the pumpkins and winter squash are ripe and ready. Pumpkin and winter squash are a rich source of vitamin A as well as fiber. Other nutrients you get from pumpkin include potassium, folic acid, copper, iron and riboflavin. One cup of cooked solidly packed pumpkin/squash has only about 80 calories!

While it is much easier to use canned pumpkin, you can use fresh pumpkin and squash that you have cooked and pureed for your favorite recipes. There are several varieties of winter squash available including butternut, Hubbard, turban, buttercup, acorn, banana, mammoth, sweet dumpling and pumpkin.

Follow these tips for easy and safe pumpkin cooking:

Choose pumpkin or squash with a bright colored skin, firm and heavy for its size, and with no damaged areas.Smaller pumpkins/squash may produce better products.

To use, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place it cut side down in a baking dish and bake in a moderate (350 degree) oven until the pulp is soft. Let it cool slightly and then scoop the flesh out of the shell. You can puree it in a blender or food processor to make a smoother product and it is ready for pies, pumpkin bread, cookies or other products made with pumpkin puree.

To freeze pumpkin, first rinse the outer rind with cold water. Then cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker or in an oven. Remove pulp from rind and mash. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, label container and freeze. Freeze in quantities that can be used at one time, for example, enough for one or two pumpkin pies.

Thaw pumpkin and squash in the refrigerator – not on the counter – before using.

To can pumpkin, you must can the pumpkin in chunks. Wash the pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch slices and peel then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Add the cubes to a saucepot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes, do not mash or puree. Pack the hot cubes into hot jars leaving 1-inch of headspace. Fill the jar to within 1-inch of the top with boiling hot cooling liquid. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure – 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.

When you are ready to use the pumpkin, drain off most of the liquid and mash or puree, and use as you would commercially canned pumpkin.

Check stored pumpkins occasionally and discard any that become soft or moldy.

Orange-Date Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large seedless orange, scrubbed and cut into 8 sections (peel left on)

1 large egg

1 large egg white

2/3 cup fresh unseasoned pumpkin puree

½ cup packed light brown sugar or ¼ cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking

¼ cup honey

3 Tablespoons canola oil

¾ cup pitted dates, chopped

3 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat 12 standard 2½-inch muffin cups with cooking spray.

Whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Puree orange sections in a food processor. Add egg, egg white, pumpkin, sugar (or Splenda), honey and oil. Process until mixed. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and dates. Stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts.

Bake the muffins until the tops spring back when touched lightly, 18-20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Shirley Camp is a retired University of Illinois Extension Educator.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "That Willie had been on the wagon for over a year and, all of a sudden, fell off. His wife has had him sleepin’ outside in the chicken house goin’ on two weeks now!"

Why is this man being punished for falling off of a wagon?

Suggested explanations of the origin of "on the wagon" focus on actual wagons that were used to transport people; for example, condemned prisoners who had taken their last drink in this life and were transported to the gallows by wagon. Another story has it that Evangeline Booth, the U.S. Salvation Army National Commander, toured the Bowery slums in a wagon picking up drunks and delivering them to sobriety. The phrase predates Booth’s work in New York, so that can’t be the origin. Although it isn’t far from the truth, but, as we’ll see below, no actual wagon rides were involved.

"On the wagon" was coined in the United States around the turn of the 20th century. The phrase began as "on the water-cart," migrated to "on the water-wagon" and finally to "on the wagon."

The late 19th century saw the emergence of several temperance organizations, notably The Anti-Saloon League founded in 1893 and The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union founded in 1874. These followed from the work of The Abstinence Society which had encouraged millions of men to "take the pledge." The Pledge wasn’t just a vague intention to avoid drink; it was a specific and absolute promise never to drink again and was taken very seriously:

"I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks except used medicinally and by order of a medical man, and to discountenance the cause and practice of intemperance."

Water wagons were a commonplace sight in U.S. cities at the time. They didn’t carry drinking water, but were used to damp down dusty streets during dry weather. Those who had vowed to give up drink and were tempted to lapse said they would drink from the water-cart rather than take strong drink.

The first reference to it that I’ve found in print is from Alice Caldwell Hegan’s comic novel Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, 1901:

"I wanted to git him some whisky, but hoe shuck his head. ‘I’m on the water-cart.’"

"Water-wagon" was soon used as an alternative and the distinction between the figurative phrase "on the wagon" and real water-wagons was made clear in this piece from The Davenport Daily Leader, March 1904:

"Peter Solle took a bad fall from the water wagon this morning. The water wagon was not that imaginary, visionary affair that is sometimes applied to he who signs the pledge, but was the real thing, all there and big as life."

Supplementation vs. Dystocia

Does supplemental feeding to pregnant heifers affect dystocia?

by Jackie Nix

With herd expansion in full swing and heifers being more valuable now than ever before, it makes sense to be concerned about dystocia in heifers. Injury caused by dystocia causes up to 80 percent of perinatal calf losses and is most common in first calf heifers. Excessive calf size can result in malpresentation due to the calf not being able to properly position itself in the birth canal or total fetopelvic disproportion requiring C-section delivery.

Calf size is a function of both genetics and maternal environment. We know that genetics plays a large role in calf size and thus use "calving ease" bulls to help reduce this risk, but what about nutrition of the dam? How many of you have heard "Don’t feed heifers during late pregnancy or you’ll have to pull calves" or "Feeding protein will cause monster calves"? Does supplemental feeding of heifers contribute to excessive fetal growth?

Over the last four decades, results are mixed when it comes to the question of prepartum diet and birth weight. Many studies found absolutely no correlation between prepartum diet and birth weight. Others found that nutrient intake during gestation did significantly increase birth weight. However, when researchers tracked both birth weight and dystocia scores, it was found that birth weight increased without affecting incidence of dystocia. In a study conducted at three land grant universities in three different states replicated over 3 years, the effects of body condition score on heifer reproductive performance was studied. They found that increasing heifer BCS score at calving resulted in increased calf birth weights, but without an increase in dystocia (see Table 1). So this means we can feed our heifers to hit a target BCS of 5 or 6 without worry of increased dystocia. The fact that the adjusted weaning weights on these calves were not statistically significant lends to the theory that body energy stores at calving don’t affect milk production, but rather that it is dictated by feed intake during lactation. So the moral to this story is that even if your heifers give birth as a BCS 4, you can feed them sufficiently to have their calves catch up with calves from contemporaries that calved at a higher BCS.

But here’s why you definitely *DO* want to supplement in late pregnancy. Heifers that calve in better body condition get pregnant sooner and ultimately have greater lifetime productivity (and profitability!). The heifers scoring a BCS of 5 or 6 at calving were documented to get pregnant sooner and overall more of them were pregnant at the end of the breeding season than those calving at BCS 4 (see Table 2). This result held true despite the fact that all groups were fed for weight gain during the postpartum period (as evidenced by there being no statistical difference in weaning weights). The take away is that even with extra feed in the postpartum period, the heifer can’t eat enough to fully replenish her energy reserves to get pregnant again quickly. Thus, to keep heifers on schedule to calve with the rest of the herd in the future, we need to manage their prepartum diet to have them calving as a BCS 5 or 6.

In summary, heifer nutrition and body condition at first calving is critical for future productivity. We need to target our heifers to calve at a BCS of 5 or 6 for optimum rebreeding. Don’t be afraid to supplement during pregnancy to make sure your heifers calve in good flesh. Download our free Body Condition Score app by searching your app store on your smartphone to receive this useful tool that can help you monitor BCS not only in your heifers but in the entire herd. SWEETLIX Livestock Supplements can help you maintain proper BCS with a wide variety of supplements available. The most popular options include the SWEETLIX EnProAl Poured Blocks coupled with SWEETLIX CopperHead minerals. Visit to learn more about these products or contact your local Quality Co-op for more information about availability.

SWEETLIX EnProAl and CopperHead are registered trademarks 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.

Tasty Time

The main highlight of the Expo is the tasting tent. There, guests get to sample different varieties of peaches, plums, figs, apples, watermelons, grapes, cantaloupe and pears.

Chilton County Farm, Home and Wildlife Expo showcases the best of summer.

by Anna Wright

The tastiest time of the summer is the first Saturday in August. Samples of peaches, plums, figs, apples, watermelons, grapes, cantaloupe and pears are offered to visitors under a big, white tent at the Farm, Home and Wildlife Expo, Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Chilton Research and Extension Center in Chilton County. More than 1,500 people attended the event that included something for all the senses and for all ages.

"The Research Center had previously hosted a general crops field day on the third Thursday in June each year," said Jim Pitts, superintendent of the Center. "Our crowds were growing. After meeting with our staff and Extension personnel, we decide to do a makeover of the whole event. Due to the time of year, it was not convenient for local growers to attend and too early to showcase the fruit being grown here. So we decided to change the name, date and focus."

The event planned for the targeted topics of interest as listed in the title: farm, home and wildlife. Many of the topics are not common to the research unit, but there is a tie to a credible expert within the Extension service or an experienced local. Events are going on at the same time all day with new programs beginning every 20 minutes. The most significant help for a successful event is always the 70 or so Master Gardeners who assist with food serving and tasting, picking figs the morning of the event and set-up of the ice cream area.

Dr. Frank Owsley, Extension animal scientist/associate professor, discusses food safety and cooking tips of pork. Afterwards, guests tasted some of the pork cooked during the demonstration.

With so much to taste, one could make a meal out of the day. Along with fruit, the Chilton County and Shelby County Master Gardeners served peach, cantaloupe and blackberry ice-creams, and blackberry lemonade – an Expo tradition. Patsy Ratliff, an award-winning pie maker, gave a presentation on making fruit pies successful every time.

It takes a little savory to cut the sweet, and that was provided by industry representatives of Alabama’s respective pork, beef, poultry and inland shrimp productions. Cooking demonstrations were given for each commodity and, of course, a tasting afterwards.

Backyard poultry is a growing hobby and Dr. Joe Hess with the Auburn University Poultry Science Department brought a pen full of day-old baby chicks for guests to see and hold. Hess spoke on starting a successful backyard poultry farm.

Tips were provided by Dr. Dave Han, an Extension specialist/associate professor of Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University, on efficient lawn care among the varieties of lawn sod grown at the Center. Eight lawn grass species are being grown to different heights. Visitors could see their progress and learn how to have an efficient and beautiful lawn.

The Alabama Beekeepers Association showcased a working beehive to teach visitors the interesting workings of honey production. There was a table with 10 jars of honey from different locations in the state, one even from a hive in the Ukraine.

Dr. Narvel Black, a retired dentist from Jemison, has raised Labrador Retrievers for many years. He had the dogs demonstrate hunting retrieval exercises as well as explained their help in locating illegal drugs.

The Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana presented their Raptor Trek program, a bird of prey program that brings several of these live birds onsite. Owls, hawks, falcons and an American Bald Eagle were onhand to the crowds’ delight.

Tony Wiggins, a retired game warden from Moundville, talked with visitors about encouraging purple martins to make their home near your house. He gave a talk on this bird’s importance to the South and their habitat. Of particular interest was the martin pole he developed to assist in gourd repair and clean out.

Wilford Calhoun, a volunteer from Tuscaloosa County, assisted participants in building bluebird houses.

Instead of taking kids to the farm for a field trip, the farm was brought to them. Always a treat for this annual event is the Dairy Cow Milking Demonstration, sponsored by the Alabama Dairy Association. Michalea Sanders with the ADA brought a dairy cow to educate the public on how she produces milk, and essentially answered the question of where does milk come from.

A new tool for bringing the farm to the kids is the Ag in Action trailer provided by local Farmers Federation organizations. It incorporates modern technology to give kids a virtual farm experience though interactive computer screens.

A FFA-sponsored goat show was held at the Expo in conjunction with the ALFA Meat and Goat division.

Tours of the Research Center were also provided. Tractor-pulled wagons took guests to parts of the Center to learn about the production of satsumas and blackberries grown in a hoop house, kiwi fruit, vinifera grapes, peaches and pomegranates. Another tour provided information on crape myrtle varieties, Chinese lotus, GMO sweet corn, sorghum and Virginia-type peanuts. The third trailer educated guests on Japanese persimmon varieties and cultural practices.

"We are always pleased with the positive feedback we receive from visitors and from our volunteers, for this event," Pitts said. "Our specialists do a quality job of providing concise and thorough information for guests."

The Home, Garden and Wildlife Expo was a taste of what is good in Alabama. Centrally located in the middle of the state, this event was a day full of new experiences.

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

The Co-op Pantry

Our new cookbook "Southern and Then Some More" will already be at the printers by the time you read this. As most of you know by now, it has been written in loving memory of Roger Pangle, AFC’s late president. We lost Mr. Pangle almost a year ago to pancreatic cancer. A portion of the proceeds from this book will go to cancer research and also to the United Way, an organization near and dear to Roger’s heart. The outpouring of people who want to help fight this dreadful disease has been astounding! So much so, that we are going to be able to help with our second charity!

This month our cook is Teresa Weber, an employee of our Farmer’s Cooperative in Live Oak, Fla., who is not only a phenomenal cook but a mom who has a son battling cancer. I am going to let Teresa tell her story in her own words.

"Ahhh, cooking! There is nothing quite so warm, welcoming and filled with love like cooking for friends, family and all who may find themselves at my table.

"As a youngster, baking was something that I really enjoyed and was rather good at consequently. I was usually asked to make ‘the’ birthday cake for the parties. Funny thing was, even though I loved doing it, if the cake was for a party, something always usually happened. It was uneven, burnt on some piece or the layers slipped. Finally, I had the perfect cake, placed carefully on the floor board of the car for safe travel only to have my friend jump in the back seat for the ride and his foot went right on the cake. For years after I refrained from party cakes ... lol.

"Over the years, not only have party cakes returned, I have had great fun experimenting with cooking. A few (thankfully, only a few) went to the garbage bin as the dogs would not even eat it. Like the time I grabbed the chili powder for my venison chili, but had inadvertently gotten cayenne pepper and put near half a jar into the pot. I wondered about the smell when it was cooking - it was so very spicy and one spoonful was enough to dump the whole potful in the sink hole and now I double check what spice I am about to use. I tend to cook by feel and smell. Recipes are just guidelines asking for my take on them, but taking on cayenne that day may not have been the best choice. ;)

"All of my children enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. The three still gather around the kitchen while I cook. They used to ask me for the recipe, but realized I never measured. They paid more attention. They will at times, when it has been a favored dish, be filming from their phones.

"Cooking is a time that my children and I get a chance to catch up on each other’s day, share laughs, talk about the trials of life and let love grow stronger with each moment. Now, the kids tend to do some of the prep work while I mix and blend. Truly, it is mixing and blending of lives, hearts and souls that make memories, very precious memories.

"My three children, Holly, Luke and Olivia (twins) and I lived in Costa Rica for 15 years and had some of the most wonderful experiences and many of those included learning about foods from other cultures and experimenting with ways to prepare them. Fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products were exceptional and became the basis for many wonderful shared meals.

"Holly is beginning a new life with her beau and fiancé. Olivia is in college majoring in Psychology and working at Publix. Luke is majoring in Mathematics and Anthropology.

"Luke became the resident chef for his dorm floor when he went to the University of Florida. Even after having to withdraw this past February when his cancer, Ewing’s Sarcoma, returned, his friends would wait for him to feel well enough to make a trip to Gainesville just to have him cook for them and share laughter. If he can win this battle with his cancer, he will return to UF in January.

"Ewing’s Sarcoma is a very rare and aggressive cancer, and unfortunately very little money is put into the rare cancers and treatments are still trials. We have spent countless hours in hospital. We have made some of the most wonderful friends in both patients and hospital staff. Sadly, we have lost far too many friends to this terrible disease.

"If you know of a family that has a child with cancer, please help. Mow their grass, fix that water pipe, take the other children out for a treat, and bring over a home-cooked meal with disposable plates and cups. Don’t call and ask what you can do because they usually do not know ... life has become overwhelming. Sometimes, it may be to simply listen to all that is going on which may or may not be about the cancer, but may be that the car ran out of gas, they forgot to pay a bill, and their Aunt does not understand why they are not planning a trip at Christmas. Who knows what the topics may be, but listening is all important. Slip a few dollars in their hand without anyone seeing because the cost is more than others realize. A coffee or a massage gift card is a good idea. Be creative. Give nothing that requires more work or energy for the parents. Keep all phone conversations short unless they ask to keep talking. Tell them you love them and are praying.

"You see why all those cooking in the kitchen as a family are so dear to me and have become very dear to my children. We have learned to savor every moment together, to savor every bite of food, and to savor each other in both our weaknesses and our strengths.

"Cook, experiment, enjoy, love, laugh, pray!"

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


10 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°. Put bananas into mixer and mix on medium until very soft. Add eggs and mix again. Add vanilla and sugar and mix well. Mix flour, baking soda, salt and spices together. If using nuts, dredge nuts in a couple tablespoons of flour mix. Slowly add flour mixture and mix. Add nuts and mix. Pour into well-greased bread pans and bake for 1 hour.

Note: Great with cream cheese.


Tall, thin glass jars like wine bottles
Good quality olive oil
Fresh garlic cloves, sliced
Fresh rosemary, bruised but still on stalk
Hot peppers, cut in half long ways

Take any or all of the spices and drop them into clean bottles. Fill with olive oil. Let set for days; then use like you would for savory dishes or salad dressings.


Kale, fresh, washed and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive Oil (I like to use Infused Olive Oil, recipe included)

Heat oil in an especially large cast iron pan or wok. Add kale and garlic and toss while cooking for approximately 2 minutes. Kale should NOT be well cooked.


2 eggplants
3 medium to large onions, sliced
3-4 cups cheese (mixture of cheddar, Monterrey jack, mozzarella or which cheeses you like best)
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil
Cracked Black Pepper (or coarse pepper)

Wash eggplant, slice into ½-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt and set aside to “sweat.”

Coat sides and bottom of large glass casserole dish with olive oil. (I use my Infused Olive Oil.) Pat eggplant dry. Make a layer of eggplant in casserole dish, then a layer of onion followed by a generous layer of cheese. Sprinkle well with cracked black pepper. Repeat this layering until dish is full. Top final layer of cheese with the Parmesan cheese followed by generous amount of cracked pepper. Bake at 350° until eggplant and onions are soft, cheese is bubbly and crispy brown on top.


5-6 ripe and/or slightly green mangos (can use a mixture of each)
2-3 red onions
3–4 Tablespoons fresh basil or mint
2 good sized limes squeezed for juice
Salt, to taste
3 Tablespoons (more or less) olive oil

Slice mangos and onions into slivers of about ½ inch thick. Mix together with ratio of 3 parts mango to 2 parts onion. Chop mint or basil and mix in with lime juice, salt and olive oil.


Beef roast, any kind you like
1 jar pepperoncini peppers
1 stick real salted butter

Place beef roast into crockpot. Pour entire contents of pepper jar over the meat. Place one stick of butter on top of roast. Cover and cook on low until tender. Great served with fresh hot bread over rice.


(Double Dried Green Plantains)
4 green plantains
Oil for frying

Remove skins from plantains and slice approximately 1 inch in width. Gently place plantain slices in small amount of oil in frying pan and cook until golden brown. Remove from pan and drain. Set aside until all are fried. Take a drinking glass and smash each fried slice flat. Now, gently place smashed plantain pieces into pan and fry again until golden brown. Remove to paper towel and salt to taste while hot.

Note: These are wonderful with refried beans as a dip!


2 cups margarine
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups old fashion or whole oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream margarine. Add both sugars and cream. Add eggs and cream well. Add vanilla. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Mix in oatmeal. Drop onto greased baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes.


2 pounds very fresh white fish, especially sea bass, cut into ½-inch cubes
1½ red onions, chopped
Big bunch of cilantro, chopped
½ cup Sprite
2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
Jalapeño, chopped (optional)

Mix all together in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (overnight is great). Serve in margarita glasses on a saucer with saltine crackers.


2 cups sour cream
½ -1 cup brown sugar
Approximately 4 cups green seedless grapes, washed and dried

Place sour cream in a bowl and add brown sugar slowly while whisking. Add sugar to taste. Let rest in refrigerator for about ½ hour or longer. Remove from refrigerator and whisk again. Add whole grapes and mix gently with spoon. Serve in dessert bowls. Can be garnished with mint.


1-2 cans or 1 cup fresh oysters
½ stick butter
1 liter milk (about 4¼ cups)
2 large cloves of garlic
1-2 Tablespoons seaweed
Black pepper
Hot sauce
1 egg yolk (bisque)

Drain oysters and save liquid. Sauté oysters lightly in butter. Add liquid and garlic. Heat. Add milk, seaweed, black pepper and salt to taste. Heat on medium while stirring. Do not allow to boil. Add hot sauce to taste and serve with saltines or oyster crackers.

Bisque: Before adding hot sauce, beat lightly one egg yolk and temper the egg with milk mixture (add small amounts of milk mixture to egg yolk and beat between additions). Incorporate egg and milk mixture into stew. Heat, but do not allow to boil.


1 liter fresh milk (about 4¼ cups)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
Dash of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ pat butter

Heat milk slowly, do not allow to boil. As milk begins to warm, add cocoa powder and stir with whisk. Add sugar, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and butter. Stir gently with whisk until just before boiling. Ladle into mugs and top with marshmallows or fresh whipped cream (recipe included).


Heavy whipping cream
Vanilla, to taste
Sugar, to taste

Put all into chilled mixing bowl and pack cold around the bowl (I use frozen veggies or frozen fruit to keep bowl cold) and mix on high until stiff.


Frozen puff pastry
Chocolate chips
Nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, macadamia)
Confectioner’s sugar

Lightly toast the nuts of choice in a frying pan, flipping often. Set aside.

Thaw puff pastry and cut into large squares of at least 4 inches. Lay flat and arrange chocolate chips and toasted nuts in a heap – approximately 1-2 tablespoons. Pull up corners of pastry and fold over each other in a “coin purse” fashion. Place all on a cookie sheet, not touching. Bake at 350° until golden brown. Remove and place on a serving dish and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm.


3 ripe plantains
A few Tablespoons butter, melted
Dry-type cheese (best is Latin “Cortijo” which is similar to Parmesan cheese, but any shredded cheese will do)
Remove skins from plantains. Slice in half long way and place in a greased glass dish. Drizzle with butter. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes.

NOTE: This is good with a meal or as a treat with a cup of coffee.


Fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries or peaches)
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, divided
2 Tablespoons dark run
1 store-bought angel food cake
Heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Take fresh fruit and clean and slice if needed. Place in bowl and cover with sugar and add rum. (Set aside a small amount of fruit for garnish.) Let set for several hours minimum, even overnight. Cut cake into three layers. Set cake down and take a long serrated bread knife and cut through while turning cake to keep even. Put 1 pint heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl and put cold packs around the bowl (can use frozen veggie or fruit packs). Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Beat until stiff. Place one cake layer on cake plate. Top with 1/3 portion of fruit mixture including juice. Then top with 1/3 whipped cream. Place second layer and follow same procedure with fruit and whipped cream. Garnish with set aside fruit and mint leaves. Store in refrigerator.


1 rack lamb ribs
10 cloves garlic
Black pepper
Rosemary leaves
Coarse salt

Mix ingredients and rub all over lamb. Seal in heavy duty aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 325°. Place ribs in foil in oven and bake until tender. Serve with mango chutney sauce.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2014 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook when it is published.
-- Mary

The Cool, Oaky Smell of November

During gun deer season, it’s a safe idea to walk the woods with at least a blaze orange cap for visibility, even if you are only checking fence lines.

by John Howle

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results." – Willie Nelson

There was a red-headed stranger from the city of New Orleans who came to town on an uncloudy day with Georgia on his mind. He told me the night life ain’t no good life, but it was his life. He then said it’s funny how time slips away. It’s just crazy.

He had left his girlfriend behind with her blue eyes crying in the rain, but was quickly on the road again. The stranger told me that his heroes had always been cowboys, but, ironically, he tells Mamas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys. As I pondered the words he said, seven Spanish angels carried him away. If you like Willie Nelson, the above paragraph will make perfect sense; if not, you’ll think I’m "crazy."

The cool, oaky smell of November is upon us, and gun season for deer is about to open. There are quite a few things on the list to cover before opening day begins. First, know the opening dates, license requirements and fees, and changes in regulations covering deer season. For answers to these questions, visit for more information.

For Your Safety

For your safety, make sure you meet the hunter orange requirements during gun deer season. This means wearing 144 square inches of hunter orange above the waist or a full-size hunter orange hat or cap. If you travel the woods during hunting season looking for a lost calf or simply hiking through the woods, I would advise wearing blaze orange during deer season if you live in an area where gun hunting is popular.

Get the Kids Involved

A great time to expose youth to deer hunting is during the special youth hunts scheduled the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the opening of gun season. Youth would include any child who has not had their 16thbirthday. This is a special opportunity to take kids hunting before hunting pressure has built up and the animals are more reclusive.

In addition to the youth deer hunts, taking kids on a squirrel hunt gives the youth a high percentage of success in harvesting game. During a squirrel hunt, you are on the move, and it’s exciting even to older youth. Finally, the squirrel hunt gives you an opportunity to scout for deer sign before the opening of gun season for deer.

Find the WD-40

We know there are hundreds of uses for WD-40 around the farm, but there are plenty of uses around the house, as well. Whether your kids get chewing gum in their hair or on the door panel of your truck, spray WD-40 on the gum and it will come off easily with the repeated process of spraying and wiping. For hair, spray WD-40 on the gummed-up hair and comb it out.

WD-40 also works well for removing cockleburs from your horse’s mane and tail, or your pet’s coat. The burr will slide right out. Finally, use WD-40 to remove those dead bugs from your grill that have been there since summertime.

Corn Cache

Don’t bushhog those standing stalks of corn this fall. Instead leave them standing. There are likely a few ears of corn left on the stalks, and the standing corn makes a safe-feeling travel corridor for wildlife. Once the ear of corn matures, it will droop causing the rain to run off instead of run inside the ear. This preserves the ear of corn until deer eat it.

Mr. Heater’s propane torch is ideal for melting ice from roads. Left, the torch can have a brush pile blazing in five minutes.

Mr. Heater Meets Mr. Brush Pile

One of the quickest and most environmentally friendly ways to get a brush pile burning is with a Mr. Heater handheld propane torch. You can order one from your local Quality Co-op, and the price ranges around 60 bucks. Simply connect the hose to a propane tank and make quick work of your brush piles. It is quite impressive to see how quickly a brush pile can be ignited with this product that works off pressurized propane being forced from the bell housing. You can adjust the flow or intensity of the flame with a dial on the handle.

Last winter, I used this product quite a bit during our ice and snow storms in Alabama where one morning my temperature gauge read -2 degrees. Oops, just destroyed another global warming argument. There is a patch of shaded road in front of my house that freezes easily and is slow to thaw out. I mounted a propane tank on the ATV rack and simply thawed out tracks where vehicles could get traction on these tricky spots.

I’ve also used this product to thaw icy patches from the front door steps. Although I’ve not tried it, online suggestions say you can burn/kill weeds around sidewalks and pasture fences; however, with dry, Bermudagrass pastures, this might not be such a good idea.

This November, replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and you’ll be "On the Road Again," and you won’t be an "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground."

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

The FFA Sentinel: Trained to Lead

2014-2015 Alabama FFA State Officer Team (from left) are Colten Farley, sentinel; Clay Tew, reporter; Cody Maddox, treasurer; Lacey Newman, secretary; Levi Colquitt, vice president; and Will Graves, president.

Alabama FFA State Officers learn to serve members through a variety of workshops, seminars and conferences.

by Clay Tew

What is an Alabama FFA State Officer? The role of an Alabama FFA State Officer can best be described as someone who "facilitates member success." State officers help promote FFA on a statewide basis and act on behalf of all members at FFA and other agriculture-related activities. State officers can be found at executive meetings and playing a role in determining the current scope and advancement of the Alabama FFA Association; motivating members across the state, providing leadership workshops and conducting chapter visits; participating in business and industry tours; promoting and sharing the value of FFA, agricultural education and agriculture in Alabama and the United States; planning and carrying out activities for the state leadership conference; attending statewide Career Development Events and activities; and participating in developing a statewide program of activities.

Retiring and newly elected State FFA Officers pose for a photo at the 2014 Alabama FFA State Convention.

Now you may be curious as to how one becomes an Alabama FFA State Officer! An Alabama State Officer must meet certain criteria to even be able to interview for a State officer candidate spot. First, you must have an FFA State Degree and second, you must have served as a Chapter Officer. The Alabama FFA State Officer interview process consists of an extensive application, a written exam on the history of FFA, and several interviews which consist of a personal interview, FFA history, current events, parliamentary procedure and committee’s choice. If you are considering becoming an FFA State Officer, ask yourself these questions: "Why do I want to spend a year of my life traveling around the state, communicating a message of agriculture and youth leadership to thousands?" and "Why do I want to wear the blue jacket that has ‘association’ on the back?" Search your heart, know its desires and be passionate about your yearning to truly serve.

2013-2014 Alabama FFA President William Norris, right, turns the chair over to 2014-2015 Alabama FFA President Will Graves.

So, if you make it to be one of the ones called out at the Alabama FFA Convention as one of the next six State Officer Team members, your life will change immediately and your summer will become the "best" summer you have ever had in your life! Just as soon as the convention comes to a close, you have a meeting with your fellow officer teammates and their parents. You soon learn what you will be doing over the next few weeks and year, and, believe me, it is truly an experience of a lifetime.

Our first time together as a State Officer Team was at State Officer Leadership Training Seminar which was held in Montgomery at the Drury Inn. We attended training sessions led by TRI leadership. We focused on team building as well as individual skill development. Our FFA State Officer Team, along with other leaders from FBLA, DECA, FCCLA, HOSA, TSA and SkillsUSA, prepared our goals for the upcoming year. It was great meeting other officers and building relationships. It was an awesome team building experience.

The Officer Team next met in Auburn the following week for a workshop designed specifically for our team and given the title "BLAST OFF!" This is a premier training opportunity provided by the National FFA Organization for our state officers. The Alabama FFA State Officer Team attended workshops on subjects such as diversity, character and how to best represent the FFA brand. We learned that being a leader is about influencing others to strive to do their best. A leader does not have to be someone who calls out orders, they just need to be the ones to motivate others to do the best job they can do. Not only were the workshops valuable but the time our team got to spend together bonding as a team and getting to really know each other brought us together as a "true" team.

Our next adventure together was to the National Leadership Conference for State Officers held for FFA State Officer Teams from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana at the FFA Camp in Raymond, Miss. We were met by an amazing staff who led us through valuable lessons and activities for the week. These lessons prepared our State Officer Team for the way we would work together for the upcoming year. By the end of the week, each team member knew exactly what their role in the team consisted of and how they would fulfil their position. Each team member had been properly prepared to take on their roles in leading the nation’s largest youth organization in their states.

Finally, it was the Alabama FFA State Officers’ turn to conduct the training. The District Leadership Conference was held at the 4H Center in Columbiana with all of the newly elected FFA District Officers in attendance. This conference was put on by our State Officer Team with each officer presenting a workshop to inform them about their upcoming year of service and to prepare them for their individual Chapter Officer Leadership Workshop. This also was a time for State and District Officers to bond together as a team and group. As District Leadership Conference and summer drew to a close, our challenge of meeting the needs of FFA members across the great state of Alabama took a firm hold on our lives. Being an Alabama FFA State Officer and a part of the team is a responsibility that the 2014-2015 Officer Team doesn’t take lightly. We are always available to speak at local FFA Chapter meetings, banquets, community events and agricultural meetings.

Please visit and contact a State or District FFA Officer to participate in your FFA activities.

Clay Tew is the 2014-2015 Alabama FFA State Reporter and is from the G.W. Long FFA Chapter in Dale County.

The Silent Partner

by Baxter Black, DVM

Her name’s on the note at the Valley Bank, boys;

Though she might have questioned the loan,

She signed her John Henry ‘neath yours on the line

And she will ‘til the kids are all grown.

Nobody’s counted the pickups she’s pulled

Or measured the miles she’s put on the rake,

Kept track of the pancakes or lunches she’s packed

Or the number of times she lay there awake

Praying her prayers for the man in her bed.

God only knows, ‘cause He’s keepin’ track.

She’s buildin’ up interest somewhere down the line

To use in a trade on your first cardiac.

She puts up with cows she knows you should cull,

Scourin’ calves on the livin’ room floor,

Tracks in the bathroom and mud on the sheets,

Flies in the kitchen from broken screen doors.

She patiently listens to stories you tell

Recounting the skill of your Blue Heeler mate.

She wishes, herself, if that dog was so smart,

You could teach that pot licker to open a gate!

She offers opinions that seldom sink in

‘Til time, oft’ as not, proves she was right.

But it’s darn hard to figger how she could’a known?

You’re not the only one who worries at night.

She’s old as the mountain and young as the spring;

Timeless in labor and wisdom and love.

Of all of God’s creatures that man gets to share,

The wife of a cowman was sent from above.

So lay there tonight when you go to bed.

Remember your partner, she’s tried and she’s true.

You’re lucky, my man, to have such a friend.

Take care of her, ‘cause she takes care of you.

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,

There is Something in the Air

This is a replica of the air gun used on the Lewis and Clark expeditions.

It’s time to re-evaluate your position on air-rifles. They aren’t just for kids anymore!

by Chuck Sykes

Like most kids growing up in rural Alabama, I began my hunting career with a Daisy BB gun terrorizing the local bird community. Over the years, I graduated to larger game like squirrels and rabbits with a Crosman .177 caliber pellet rifle. When I finally moved to the .22 caliber Benjamin, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of air rifles. I would find out about 30 years later, it was really just the tip of the iceberg.

I rekindled my love of hunting with an air gun about 5 years ago. I was approached by Crosman to showcase a couple of their air guns on our television program, "The Management Advantage." They sent a .22 caliber break-barrel, a .25 caliber bolt-action and a .117 caliber pistol for us to use. The pistol proved extremely efficient in dispatching animals on a trap line and both the .22 and .25 caliber rifles were more than suitable for squirrel hunting and even taking feral pigs in traps.

After I explained the variety of ways we could utilize their air guns, not only within the television show but also with our consulting business, the Crosman representative sent a .357 caliber rifle for me to try. The rifle was a bolt-action model (Benjamin Rogue) with a six-round magazine. Although I used a bicycle-style pump to fill the smaller caliber rifles, I used a scuba tank to fill the reservoir of the big gun. The rifle would hold approximately 3,000 psi and would shoot one-inch groups consistently at 80 yards.

Over the next couple of years, we became proficient in taking feral pigs with the air rifles. We removed more than 150 pigs from one property during a 10-month period with them. The foundation of the removal was corral traps, but we would also use the spot-and-stalk technique. The sound of the bullet impact is louder than the discharge of the rifle in most circumstances. Therefore, the air rifle provided us multiple-shot opportunities on groups of pigs we found outside the traps. Also, the reduction of noise associated with harvesting the hogs inside the traps aided greatly in the success of the trapping program.

Quite a few companies, as well as custom manufacturers, now produce large-caliber air rifles capable of harvesting a variety of big game. One custom manufacturer, Perry Bullard, lives in Autauga County. Bullard has built many air rifles for customers in calibers from 9mm to .45. He is an accomplished air gun hunter and has even harvested a bison with an air rifle he built.

Although utilizing air to power a projectile is not a new concept, technology has provided much advancement over the past 200 years. Here is a little history on air rifles. Lewis and Clark brought a Girandoni air rifle to America in 1803. It had a detachable butt stock made of cast iron that held 800 pounds per square inch of compressed air. They used a bicycle-style pump to charge the rifle. That rifle held 22 .46 caliber round balls and could shoot 40 times without having to recharge. According to many historians, the Girandoni air rifle is the one item that made the Lewis and Clark expeditions possible.

In March 2013, the Conservation Advisory Board passed the proposed seasons and bag limits in which air rifles .30 caliber or larger were added to the legal arms allowed to harvest deer. This went virtually unnoticed except by the few hunters like Bullard who had made the request. As an air gun hunter, I was definitely in support of the CAB allowing air rifles to be used during deer season. If I could harvest a 250-pound feral pig at 100 yards with one well-placed shot, I knew I could do the same thing with a deer.

Hunting with my air rifle during last deer season proved challenging and exciting. I tested several bullet types and weights before finally settling on a 148 grain hollow point that performed extremely well. I was able to harvest several antlerless deer as well as one mature buck, and I also let a few friends use my rifle to harvest their first deer with an air rifle.

There were a couple of huge positives I found using the air rifle. First, the noise reduction and no kick to the shooter were big advantages. For many hunters, especially new ones, the sound of the gun and the kick have negative impacts on personal enjoyment and shot placement. A loud gun that kicks has a tendency to make the shooter flinch, which decreases the enjoyment of shooting and the location of the bullet down range. A hurting shoulder and a missed target do not tend to inspire a new hunter to continue.

Second, the lack of noise was beneficial in securing second and third shots on pigs and in not spooking deer. One of the main reasons many landowners and managers do not harvest antlerless deer is the noise produced when shooting a rifle. The ability to harvest antlerless deer on food plots without spooking other deer in the area is a huge benefit.

Due to the success of using air rifles during the general firearms season, another request was made to the CAB at the March 1, 2014, meeting. Howard O’Neal, an avid air gun hunter from Calera, asked the board to consider allowing air rifles to be used during the muzzleloader season. As with the first request, I completely support the board’s decision to allow air rifles to be used during muzzleloader season. With an effective range of approximately 100 yards, it is basically a primitive weapon and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed during that season.

Don’t be surprised to hear more about happy hunters using air rifles to pursue and harvest deer and feral hogs this season. I know I’ll be in the woods with mine. Remember, they aren’t just for kids anymore!

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

Tickling Tines Tempts Trophies

There are pros and cons with real antlers. They definitely sound the best, but they can be cumbersome and require more movement to operate.

Rattling Throughout the Hunting Season

by Todd Amenrud

The crash and clank of antlers is a sound that most hunters hanker to hear - it means we are within a reasonable distance of two bucks that are sparing or fighting. However, few hunters know how to use these sounds to their advantage and "rattle-in" a buck of their own. Bringing bucks close by rattling can be a huge rush! Timing, herd dynamics and creating authentic sounds are all important if you wish to bring bucks within shooting range. Hopefully, after reading this, you won’t want to leave your rattling antlers at home any more.

To begin, we have the "chicken and the egg" dilemma – we need a buck to get the antlers, but we need the antlers to get a buck … that is, if you wish to use "real antlers." Luckily the hunting industry has filled that niche and we’re able to purchase synthetic antlers, rattle-bags, and numerous other plastic systems and trinkets that are supposed to sound like "two bucks’ antlers coming together."

There’s no question that, to my ears, real antlers sound best, but there are some keys to getting them to work consistently. In spite of this, if you ask me what I’ve had the best success with I would have to admit "a rattle-bag." Why, because I have it with me all the time – they are simply easier to carry. If I’m specifically heading out to "rattle in a buck," then I’ll bring my real antlers. They do sound best, but they can be cumbersome and noisy when you don’twant them to be. A rattle bag is, as a rule, smaller and can typically be silenced by wrapping it with a rubber-band or storing it in your pack. If something is skirting my position, it’s easily accessed and a crack on the rattle-bag can literally bring them in on a run.

A set of rattling antlers can easily be made from a pair of sheds. Drill a hole through the base of two antlers for a string or lanyard to fit through and saw off the brow-tines with a hacksaw. If you don’t saw off the brow-tines you’ll have a couple very sore thumbs after the first time you use them.

A rattle bag is almost as easy to make. Simply saw off 8-12 antler tines (or antler pieces of different shapes) and put them in a small cloth bag. Use a large rubber band or ponytail holders to wrap around the bag to keep them silent. A rattle bag requires less movement to use, but real antlers sound the most genuine.

Many whitetail hunters neglect to attempt rattling until just before the rut. Rattling works early in the season, too; however, bucks react for a different reason than the "testosterone-filled triggers" that draw their response later on. Rather than coming to the sound to protect territory or for a chance to earn the right to breed a doe, they are responding to be social with the other bucks or because they’re curious.

During early season, rather than smacking your antlers hard to imitate a knock-down, drag-out battle, you simply "tickle" them together lightly. Instead of an aggressive fight, you want to imitate "two brothers in a friendly arm wrestling match." Bucks spar with one another to see where they will rank in the breeding hierarchy later in the season – at this point they aren’t "fighting" to compete for territory or breeding rights, they’re checking each other out for social reasons.

When rattling during early season, use soft, social buck vocalizations to add realism to the scenario, and non-assertive smells like Golden Buck or Trail’s End #307 placed crosswind from your position as a confidence builder to draw them in if they decide to scent-check the area from downwind. A buck decoy with small antlers can also work well during this period and can be very exciting to use.

Traditional rattling – the type when they are responding for breeding and/or dominance reasons, requires several fine details to align before it works consistently. First, a balance to both the herd’s age structure and sex ratio will help dramatically. You want there to be a reason for bucks to come to the sounds you’re making. If there’s minimal competition amongst bucks, there’s no important reason for them to check out "two other bucks fighting," except possibly curiosity. When you have competition amongst the bucks, they want to be first on the scene to see if they can get in on the action. The more mature, "breeding class" bucks you have, the better rattling tends to produce.

Rattling has a chance to work all season long, but timing is important if you wish it to work well. As mentioned, it can work early in the season, but if you want it to work like you’ve seen it succeed on your favorite hunting programs, you want to time it before actual breeding and then again after – when the bucks are marking and defending territory.

While there is a chance for rattling to work all day long, it works best when bucks are already up on the move. The hour after sun up and the hour before sun down tend to be the best. However, during primetime you can expect action all day long.

I’ve heard "experts" explaining "how to rattle" on DVDs, and some can be very specific on the sequence you need to perform – "Rattle for two-and-a-half minutes, grunt, snort-wheeze, rake the branch, kick the leaves and then rattle for another two minutes." Give me a break! I’ve been lucky enough to witness countless bucks come together to spar and fight and every single one of them was different. My best advice is to picture in your mind what you believe two bucks coming together may sound like and imitate the sounds they might make.

If you’ve ever heard two mature bucks come together and fight, there are all sorts of sounds being made besides the actual crack of the antlers. You might hear leaves rustling, trees breaking, hoof-falls slapping the ground, aggressive vocalizations and countless other noises. I believe imitating these sounds adds realism to your set up.

Almost always bucks will swing downwind to scent-check an area to gather more information with their sense of smell and try to confirm that the situation is real. There are a couple tactics we can employ to combat this – one, use the buddy system. Have both a hunter and a person rattling. Both should bring their gun or bow because you never know when they will come straight in; but, by placing the hunter downwind of the caller, you are betting that the buck will indeed swing downwind to scent-check the setting and hopefully run smack-dab into the hunter.

The other method I like to use is to set up scent at my maximum confident shooting range crosswind from my position so when the buck drops downwind he’s drawn into the smell. The reason for "maximum confident shooting range" is because when the buck swings downwind, I want him to be drawn into the scent before he gets directly downwind of me.

One of my favorite techniques just before and just after breeding is to place out some Special Golden Estrus on a few Key-Wicks crosswind from my position – betting on the fact a buck will likely swing in downwind to scent-check the situation. The estrus smell works to add realism to a wide variety of possible scenarios. Obviously "doe in heat" vocalizations fit the smell perfectly, but aggressive buck sounds will also work. It could be two bucks coming together to fight over a doe just coming into estrus, so it fits a wide range of circumstances.

What makes a situation seem real to you? The more senses you pacify the more the condition seems real. So add other stimuli like scent or decoys to your rattling. Keep your ears open and listen to them spar and fight (along with other communications) for yourself - this is the best teacher. There’s no doubt that whitetails are social animals and rattling is one method we can use to draw them closer.

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.

Tribute to Tribal Land

Perdido River Farms of Atmore was recognized as the 2014 State Environmental Stewardship Award winner by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association at their fall board meeting in Auburn. Alabama Cattlemen’s President Woody Clark of Andalusia presented the award to Stephanie Bryan, Tribe Council Chair, and John English, farm manager. From left are: Tim Martin, Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority President and CEO; Billy Smith, Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve General Manager; Sandy Hollinger, Tribal Council Member; Garvis Sells, Tribal Council Member; John English, PRF General Manger; Stephanie Bryan, Tribal Council Chair; Keith Martin, Tribal Council Member; Woody Clark, ACA President; David Gehman, Tribal Council Secretary; and David Elliott, NRCS Tribal Liaison.

Perdido River Farms wins 2014 Environmental Award.

by Carolyn Drinkard

In rural Escambia County, just 8 miles northeast of Atmore, there lies a peaceful, pastoral scene reminiscent of days gone by. Cattle graze the lush, green fields and white egrets flitter and flutter for an occasional meal. Set at the headwaters of Perdido Creek, this tranquil sight is Perdido River Farms, a 2,928-acre farm owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the only federally recognized Tribe in Alabama.

Recently, Perdido River Farms received the 2014 State Environmental Stewardship Award from the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association at their fall Board meeting in Auburn. The farm was recognized for using sustainable, environmentally friendly methods to produce better beef, while also working to improve air, land and water quality.

Perdido River Farms is one of the largest cow/calf operations in Alabama. General Manager John English, along with five full-time employees and one part-time, seasonal helper, are all tribal members.

"We are constantly exploring ways to improve herd quality," explained English, "but we must also be good stewards of our land, our water and our air."

The farm has 1,200 head of commercial Angus-cross cows, bred to calve in the spring and fall. To provide better forage, over 816 acres of cropland have been converted to pasture and hay fields. Next spring, they plan to convert 160 more acres. The farm plants both bahiagrass and Bermudagrass as perennial forages. They are currently testing Red River and Quick ‘N Big crabgrass varieties for grazing productivity, and so far, the results look impressive. They also overseed pastures with legumes such as crimson clover to limit the amount of commercial fertilizer that must be used. PRF plants 610 acres with ryegrass and oats for winter grazing and pearl millet for summer grazing.

PRF has a goal of baling over 4,000 rolls of quality hay for winter feeding.

Rotational grazing and clean water practices increase the health and productivity of the livestock. English and his helpers have installed 146,227 feet of fencing to establish smaller rotational grazing areas. To provide enough quality water, they have built 62 watering facilities with heavy-use concrete pads. Because they have converted farmland to pastures, there are very few trees on the properties. To provide needed shade and cover for the cattle, they have built 39 permanent structures with heavy-use concrete pads. These practices keep cattle comfortable and stress-free, but away from sensitive areas such as wetlands and streams.

Good management of the land is vital to the farm’s success. Soil samples are taken every 2-3 years to get the most benefit from every acre of land and to ensure good nutrient management practices are working. With the Tribe’s environmental department, PRF monitors and treats invasive species like cogongrass, privet, Japanese climbing fern and Chinese tallow trees. The farm is now partnering with Auburn University to bring river cane back to the Reservation. Lost for over 200 years, this plant is historically and culturally significant to the Tribal community.

PRF has built 39 permanent structures with heavy-use concrete pads to provide shade, which will increase the health and productivity of the livestock.

To better market the cattle, PRF works directly with large-order buyers, taking bids by phone or fax. The cattle are sold by 50,000-pound load lots. This prevents stress and potential health problems associated with other marketing strategies. PRF also uses local livestock auctions to sell their cattle. Tribal members can purchase replacement cattle, as well. PRF prefers to purchase its replacement cattle directly from production farms, however. They breed replacement heifers at 2 years of age.

The Tribe encourages and supports youth programs that teach future generations about conserving resources while preserving their heritage. PRF provides a unique opportunity for Tribal youth to participate in 4-H Steer and Heifer Show programs. They help students select a calf out of the PRF herd and then house the calves in pens on the farm. Coming to the farm each day to water, feed and work with their animals, the students not only learn how to manage and take care of their own calves but they also learn about the day-to-day operations of the farm.

This past summer, the Alabama Junior Cattleman’s Grooming Clinic was held at PRF. The goal was to spark interest in learning about cattle and showing them in competitions. By hosting this event locally, PRF helped several PBCI students to attend. Many of these students will be showing their steers in the upcoming county, district and state shows in the spring.

PRF also welcomes a large number of visitors to the farm. David Elliot, the Tribe’s liaison with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, has an office at PRF and regularly holds meetings there. Other local, regional and national meetings also convene in the large conference room at the farm’s headquarters.

"The PRF staff wants people to visit and see that they are taking care of tribal resources," Elliot explained. "We have had over 16 tours this year. People want to see the most protected watershed in the Gulf Coast region."

"I feel like we work hard to be good environmental stewards of the land," English stated. "We are very proud of what we do here."

Perdido River Farms

5535 Poarch Road

Atmore, AL 36502

John English, General Manager

Phone: 251-368-0826

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

View From The Top

The beauty of the vista from the apex of Wolf Mountain is unexpected and spectacular, but the lore of the mountain and its geological and military signficance are just as interesting.

by Jaine Treadwell

Wolf Mountain? What in the world?"

Some people thought Wolf Mountain must be some kind of new business - a hunting shop, a video arcade, maybe even a restaurant or a taxidermist workshop.

Not many people knew anything at all about Wolf Mountain. Many still don’t, but those who have made the trek up the mountain have discovered a place of such beauty that it will take one’s breath away.

"You just don’t expect a place like this in Pike County," said Grady Reeves of Troy. "Wolf Mountain is located on the fringes of northeastern Pike County. The mountain is the highest point between Union Springs in Bullock County and the Gulf of Mexico. And, it might be the highest place below the foothills of the Appalachians in North Alabama. But, when you stand on the top of Wolf Mountain, you can see all around Pike County and into Bullock, Barbour and Montgomery counties – as far as the eye can see. It’s a beautiful sight and it’s almost unbelievable that there’s a place like this in Pike County – a place of such high elevation."

Left, Wolf No. 2 and Wolf No. 3 markers are set ground level on the mountain. Each one has an arrow that points to the next. That makes it easier to find the primary mark or to replace a marker that has been destroyed. Above, there are three brass markers on Wolf Mountain. Wolf No. 1 is set in a low stone pillar and is a mountain landmark. At sunset, the sunlight bounces off the pillar giving it a life of its own.

Reeves has a deep affection for Wolf Mountain because of its beauty and the local lore surrounding it. And, too, he has a personal kinship to the mountain.

"My great-great-great granddaddy homesteaded at the base of the mountain around 1820," Reeves said. "The mountain was originally called Dowd Mountain and the community that grew up around the base of the mountain was called Wolf Pit."

The community got its name from an event that happened that is a part of the local lore of the mountain.

"A pack of wolves was killing all the livestock in and around the community – cows, sheep, goats, pigs and I would guess even the chickens," Reeves said. "The men of the community came up with an idea of how to get rid of the wolves. They dug deep pits all around the base of the mountain and they baited the pits with raw meat.

"The wolves could smell the meat and they would come and jump in the pits after the meat. But, once the wolves got down in the pits, they were so deep there was no way for the wolves to get out."

Reeves said the men of the community would stand at the rims of the pits and shoot the wolves.

"They got rid of the wolves and people started calling the community Wolf Pit," he said. "Some of the pits are still out there in the isolated areas around the base of the mountain. The mountain was so associated with wolves that people started calling it Wolf Mountain instead of Dowd Mountain. In time, Wolf Pit community took on different names, but people still call the mountain Wolf Mountain."

Wolf Mountain holds a proud place in local lore, but it is also a place of geological and military importance.

In 1943, the mountain was designated as the site for the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey Reference Markers.

"Probably, Wolf Mountain was chosen because of its height," Reeves said. "The high elevation made the mountain an ideal location for the survey markers that mark key survey points on the Earth’s surface. They are used in geodetic and land surveying."

The surveys laid the basis for map-making in the United States and around the world, Reeves said.

The survey markers were usually set in groups for triangulation. The brass markers on Wolf Mountain are in a group of three.

Wolf No. 1 is set in a low stone pillar and is a mountain landmark. Wolf No. 2 and Wolf No. 3 are set at ground level.

"Each marker has an arrow that points to the next marker," Reeves said. "The arrows make it easier to find the primary marker or to replace one if it is destroyed. These markers were important in establishing the angles and distances between various points on the Earth."

Wolf Mountain played an important role in marking key survey points on Old Mother Earth, but, in and around Pike County, the mountain is better known for the community that once existed in its shadows and the wolves that could have "devoured" it.

The wolves are gone, but not forgotten. According to local lore, on the nights when the moon is full the lonesome howl of a lone wolf can be heard from atop the mountain. And, when the moon is only a slice in the sky, no man will venture into the darkness for fear of finding himself in the pits that were set for the wolves.

Wolf Mountain is now privately owned, but its story is a part of the local lore of Pike County and is worth telling, Reeves said.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Washington Co. Schools Kick Off School Year with No Litter Zones

Millry Elementary 2nd graders

by Jamie Mitchell

Washington County Schools have decided to partner with Alabama PALS to learn more about keeping our environment clean. To kick off the school year, the second graders from LeRoy, Chatom Elementary, Fruitdale, Millry and McIntosh all agreed to make their schools a "No Litter Zone." Each student agreed to work toward making their school and community a cleaner place to live. Each student received a green "Don’t Drop it on Alabama" wristband to remind them of their pledge to the environment.

Fruitdale Elementary 2nd graders holding “Don’t Drop it on Alabama” wristbands.

Washington County is not currently set up for regular recycling, so the students were challenged to start small with community recycling programs to collect and take to the nearest facility in Mobile. Each school received large recycling bins to practice sorting their paper and plastics. The students were very excited to begin a recycling campaign!

The students were also challenged to repurpose items that otherwise might get thrown in the trash. We discussed making "Trash to Treasure" with everyday items. They were shown examples of how to make beads out of paper, how to reuse a glass vase, and they even got to see a coin purse made out of a potato chip bag!

Chatom Elementary 2nd graders

Washington County second graders are definitely ready to start this school year more clean and green!! We can’t wait to see what all they accomplish!!

If a school near you is interested in having a Clean Campus presentation, have them contact me at 334-354-4214. We can’t wait to work with many more schools this year in our quest for a litter-free Alabama!

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

What are You Waiting For?

by Christy Kirk

"Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake." - Marie Ray

Fall has definitely been fun, but it has also been a whirlwind of activity. September saw Rolley Len and Cason adjusting to all-day school and making new friends. October has meant Halloween and creating spooky and kooky memories dressing up, baking and trick-or-treating. Very soon Thanksgiving weekend will mark the beginning of lots of family events on both sides. Like many people, as the winter holidays get closer, I get more reflective about my life, my family and where we are all headed together.

Have you ever asked yourself, "Do I have enough time to do all the things I want to do in life? If I were gone tomorrow, what would I want my children to remember about me?" Since last spring, five of my friends, relatives and coworkers have died from different causes. All five of them were within close range to my age and although two of them had ongoing health issues, all five deaths struck many people as being sudden and untimely. Seeing five families lose someone they love in the prime of life put a lot of questions in my head during the last six months.

All of these recent losses have made me think about the song "Live Like You Are Dying" by Tim McGraw. If you don’t have a sense of your own mortality, the words may not have any meaning to you. For me, the song became more and more meaningful with each person I knew that passed away this year. I want to be grateful for the life I have, and give my family the most I can while we are together because, although it sounds trite to say, it is true that life is short.

I have a lot to be grateful for and I want my children to feel the same way. This Thanksgiving I am going to make a pledge to try to do more. Not more work or more exercise, but more for my family. I want to focus on what is important to make daily joy and loving memories for Rolley Len and Cason that will last through the years. After all, they probably won’t remember how much money I made or how much I weighed from year to year, but they will remember the cuddles, kindness and care.

Since school started in August, I don’t always feel like I have enough time to spend with Rolley Len and Cason. Schedules get filled, both night and day, and I knew I had to find a way to carve out time for them. As we get closer to the winter holidays, it is clear that November is a great month for parents to find new ways to spend time with their children.

Whether you are trying out new turkey recipes with your son or teaching your daughter how to deer hunt, November is the perfect time to create memories. Try one of these turkey recipes, or create a new Thanksgiving turkey wrap of your own for your next meal. Show your love by sharing yourself with your family as soon as you can. Don’t wait for a better day or a longer weekend.

"Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for the wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting."

– Dr. Seuss

What are you waiting for?

Bacon Turkey

1 turkey breast, uncooked

1 pound thick-sliced bacon

1 bottle Zesty Italian dressing

1 bottle ranch dressing (Hidden Valley)

1 Tablespoon salt

1 Tablespoon pepper

1 Tablespoon garlic

Ranch dressing or cranberry dipping sauce (optional)

Rub turkey breast with salt, pepper and garlic. Place breast in a gallon Ziploc baggie. Pour Italian dressing into bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to grill, wrap breast in bacon connecting bacon by twisting ends together like a knot.

Place turkey breast on the grill over low heat. When bacon is crispy, use a meat thermometer to check turkey temperature. When ready, remove from grill, slice and serve with dipping sauces or make sandwiches.

Cranberry Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup jellied cranberry sauce

1/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons water

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Heat all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Strain through a strainer to remove lumps if needed.

Spicier Cranberry Dipping Sauce

1 cup jellied cranberry sauce

½ cup chili sauce

¼ cup orange juice

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Heat all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Strain through a strainer to remove lumps if needed.

Wild Buffalo Turkey Sandwich

Wild Buffalo Turkey for Sandwiches

2 cups cooked turkey, chopped and roughly shredded
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup hot sauce or wing sauce (we use Moore’s Wing Sauce)
Condiments: Ranch or bleu cheese dressing

Place turkey in a skillet. Add 3-4 tablespoons of water to skillet. Heat on medium-high. Stir and let turkey heat through. Add butter and stir until melted. Stir in hot sauce and coat turkey well, breaking up any larger pieces as you stir.

Scoop the turkey mixture onto your favorite roll or even a whole wheat tortilla. Add dressing to your taste.

Wild Buffalo Turkey Dip
(a wild twist on my favorite buffalo chicken dip recipe)

1½ cups cooked turkey, chopped

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (I use reduced fat and it tastes the same)

½ cup ranch dressing

¼-½ cup hot sauce or wings sauce

¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Use cooking spray to prepare a baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°.

Place turkey in skillet with hot sauce or wings sauce. Heat over medium heat.

Stir in cream cheese and ranch. Cook, stirring well until blended and warm. Mix in half of the cheddar cheese and let melt.

Transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese on top. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

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

Why Not Add Hair Sheep?

Hair sheep are small ruminants that do not require shearing and do well grazing grasses and legumes, forbs and browse. (Credit:

by Robert Spencer

For those of you who enjoy or are considering small animal production, why not consider adding hair sheep to your farm? Hair sheep are small ruminants that do not require shearing and do well grazing grasses and legumes, forbs and browse. So why are they called "hair sheep"? Their fibrous coats are more like hair than wool. While they can be sheared at the onset of summer, they generally do not need shearing and will shed off their minimal coats during the first half of summer. Since their coats are more like hair, the fibrous material is not worth collecting as a fiber product; they are solely intended to be meat animals. There are also many varieties and colors of hair sheep. The advantages include year-round breeding, a more vigorous small ruminant, faster grow-out rates (compared to goats) and year-round demand for the meat. Sound too good to be true? There is more to learn before making a final judgment.

Many of the hair sheep breeds originate from Africa and South America, which genetically makes them predisposed to being tolerant of heat and humidity. In all likelihood, their population growth rate in the United States now exceeds meat goats. Based on some of the information out there, hair sheep are more parasite resistant than goats or wool sheep. However, they tend to have the same flight instinct as many forms of livestock. The variety of breeds is quite interesting, and each has unique features, colors and advantages or disadvantages. Most common breeds and their features now found in the United States include:

Barbados Blackbelly – mature early, breed year-round and are prolific. While lacking the growth rate and muscling of conventional sheep breeds, they have value in crossbreeding programs to improve reproductive efficiency and parasite resistance.

Dorper (white with black head) – currently the fastest-growing, heaviest-muscled hair sheep breed. Dorpers are best adapted to hot, dry climates, where they are suitable as either a ram or ewe breed. However, they lack the parasite resistance of other hair sheep breeds and do not shed as well as other hair sheep, but their carcasses are superior to any other breed of hair sheep.

Katahdin – probably the best "all-around" hair sheep as it combines the best attributes of the Caribbean hair sheep with those of the traditional meat-type wool breeds. They are valued for not requiring shearing and tail docking, as well as their parasite resistance and reproductive efficiency. Katahdin ewes cross well with other breeds to produce superior market lambs.

Saint Croix – best known for their resistance to internal parasites. They are considered the most parasite resistant breed of hair sheep. Like sheep with similar origins, St. Croix are highly productive. They reach puberty early, breed back quickly and produce large litters of lambs. Drawbacks on this breed are their small size, slow growth and poor muscling, but, in crossbreeding programs, the St. Croix has much to offer with commercial meat animals.

The previously mentioned varieties are the more common breeds known in the United States; there are several other breeds which will be discussed during another opportunity. When evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each breed, make sure to consider the advantages of cross-breeding to gain hybrid vigor, improved growth rates and advantages for terminal markets. This strategy has well-served the cattle and goat industry.

In some of these breeds, you will notice parasite resistance is a common factor among hair sheep; this only applies to encounters with stomach worms. Like all forms of livestock, coccidian remains a gastro-intestinal parasite threat with potential to compromise the health of all young animals.

Another advantage of hair sheep is they do not require tail docking. Their tails are not thick and wooly as found in wool sheep, less messy.

By now you should be more familiar with hair sheep breeds and their advantages. Take time to identify some local farms with these animals, pay a visit or three, ask questions and decide if they might fit into your farm plan. You can find much more information on the Internet. The resource for this article was found at, more specifically

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

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