Sign up for email updates from Cooperative Farming News

Facebook Twitter Instagram
Home > Archives > November 2017

November 2017

4-H Extension Corner: Another Outstanding Year for Alabama 4-H

2016-2017 program year sees great gains in membership and participation.

by Donna Reynolds

Alabama 4-H had a banner year for 2016-2017. Total enrollment for the youth organization in the state was 184,021. That is a 27-percent increase from the previous year.

"Alabama 4-H has experienced tremendous growth over the past three years," said Dr. Paul Brown, associate director for Alabama Cooperative Extension System. "We have taken what we value from 100 years of 4-H in Alabama and have made it relevant for today’s youth. Our county 4-H teams work hard to provide active learning experiences for all youth ages 9 to 18."

According to the report, Alabama 4-H delivered in-school, after-school and enrichment programming in 705 schools to 141,138 youth. 4-H is present in 48 percent of all Alabama schools, an 11-percent increase from the previous year. An additional 42,883 youth are involved in out-of-school 4-H clubs, camps and educational programs.

Over 10,500 volunteers contributed 101,441 hours to 4-H programs in 2016-17. These hours are valued at $2.4 million.

"I am super excited about the results and the hard work of our agents in the field to achieve the enrollment summary data we have for the year," said Dr. Molly Gregg, assistant director 4-H program.

Numbers are up in almost every category:

  • Total 4-H club membership: up 9 percent to 46,086
  • 4-H enrichment participants: up 34 percent to 137, 925
  • 4-H membership in in-school clubs: up 14 percent
  • Female members: went from 75,091 to 93,575
  • Male members: went from 69,706 to 90,448
  • Hispanic youth: were up 25 percent to 13,367
  • Black youth enrollment: increased by 32 percent from 43,029 to 56,911
  • 4-H’ers from cities and suburbs: over 50,000 increased 65 percent or 22,252
  • 4-H’ers in central cities: over 50,000 increased 17 percent to 19,603
  • Native American membership: up 11 percent to 1,436
  • Enrollment in K-3: up 25 percent; 4-6 grades: up 50 percent; 7-12 grades: up 23 percent

"As a 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent, my feet are on the ground every day," said Izette McNealy, president of the Alabama 4-H Agents Association. "I see Alabama’s 4-H footprint getting bigger and it is exciting to see youth grow together as catalysts for positive change. I see it happening in urban neighborhoods, suburban communities and rural areas of Alabama. 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, and youth are learning to value one another – no matter their background."

In addition, 12 counties were named Centennial Youth Initiative counties in 2017. These counties include Barbour, Chambers, Clarke, Colbert, Franklin, Jefferson, Lee, Randolph, Russell, Tallapoosa, Walker and Wilcox.

The CYI program is committed to developing 4-H programs to increase access so more youth can participate in the program and to enhance the learning experiences available to youth in Alabama.

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

A Tricky Licking Branch

Mock Scrapes for Bucks

by Todd Amenrud

A buck is urinating down his tarsal glands into a mock scrape previously created (notice the Magnum Dripper hanging above). This is usually the last step in the process when a buck makes his own scrape.(Credit: Paul Marion)

Some call a "buck’s scrape" a "calling card to the does." I disagree; I feel a scrape’s primary function is to be a buck’s breeding-territory marker. And, it’s left for ALL of the deer in the area, especially the other bucks. From years of observing rut activity, I believe, when breeding actually gets underway, little attention is focused on scrapes. However, as an aid for hunters to learn about a buck and a contrivance to draw a buck close for a shot, scrapes are at the top of the list.

While bucks will make scrapes without a licking branch present to trigger the act, it doesn’t happen often. An overhanging branch, most often referred to as a "licking branch," is necessary 99.9 percent of the time to induce scrape activity.

Interrelating with the licking branch by chewing on and/or licking and scent marking it with his forehead and preorbital glands is almost always the first step in the process when a buck makes a scrape. The majority of scrapes are made underneath these licking branches that are usually about 5.5 feet off the ground. The actual ground scrape is made by the buck pawing the ground and whisking the leaves and dirt away. Then, the majority of the time, he will urinate down his hocks and over his tarsal glands into it. The order of these steps may vary from one buck to another, but most often it will occur in exactly this order.

Mock scrapes are a great way to entice bucks into an area, hold them there longer and bring them close enough for a shot. The best results I’ve had come from making a series of mock scrapes and using Magnum Scrape Drippers over them – my own fake scrape line, so to say. Magnum Scrape Drippers are heat-activated so they drip during daylight hours, conditioning bucks to show up during legal shooting light and stay in the area longer.

The new Super Charged Scrape Dripper will also be a new tool I will use this season. It has a higher output than the Magnum Dripper to replicate more deer traffic. The new Super Charged Dripper will operate for about seven to 12 days on 4 ounces of scent, where a regular Magnum Dripper will put out that same 4 ounces in about two to three weeks. Both have their place, in my view.

Hanging in the tree is a Magnum Scrape Dripper, a tool that drips scent during daytime hours conditioning bucks to come to the area and spend more time there. A new Super Charged Scrape Dripper is an option now. It has a higher output, simulating elevated deer traffic. (Credit: Paul Marion)

So where should you locate your mock scrapes? You can’t just go out to any overhanging branch and expect success. Concentrate on areas closer to bedding areas. You want to target where a buck is claiming – move in and make it look and smell like there’s a rival buck invading his turf. Look for areas with the largest scrapes, spots that contain numerous scrapes or clusters of scrapes, and scrapes you know have been freshened again and again. Once you locate an area with activity, try to duplicate the variables the local bucks prefer.

You can use a buck’s existing scrape(s). In the whitetails’ world, the same scrape may be utilized by many different bucks. However, more often than not I’ll make my own, trying to copy the specifics found with existing scrapes.

The actual mock scrape is best created with a sturdy stick found in the area. Try to make the scrape on flat ground (if possible) and make sure it is free from all debris.

I prefer to use numerous drippers, each on their own scrape, and possibly vary the scent in each. I believe with more than one mock scrape you’re increasing the chances that something’s going to be right with at least one of them to draw a response. I’ve used as many as six drippers and created over a dozen mock scrapes in an area about the size of an acre. My three favorite scents are Active Scrape, Golden Scrape or Trail’s End #307 used in the dripper.

Consistent with just about every successful mock scrape set-up I’ve had are mock rubs I also produce. With a pruner or wood rasp, I rake up as many 2- to 6-inch saplings as possible. A real intruder buck would typically also mark the territory in this way. On the rubs, and in various other places around the set-up, I use a scent called Mega Tarsal Plus. It’s a territorial intrusion scent. The illusion I want to create is of a foreign buck moving in on his breeding territory. Select Buck Urine is also used in several key places.

Most always, the first step in creating a scrape is a buck licking and/or chewing on an overhanging branch and scent marking it with his forehead and preorbital glands. This is obviously why it’s referred to as a “licking branch.” (Credit: Tony Campbell)

Timing is important for mock scrapes to work. I seem to have my best luck from the second week of October until the chase begins; then again after the peak of breeding and throughout the rest of the season. When the bucks are actively chasing and breeding, mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic. You want the bucks to be claiming and protecting territory.

When making a mock scrape, you must be cautious of scent transfer. Rubber gloves should be worn to avoid leaving unwanted smells behind. I actually like to hang my drippers on a higher branch above the licking branch if available. This keeps bucks from getting a good whiff of any foreign odors that may have permeated the dripper’s cloth cover.

Don’t expect your exact mock scrape(s) to get hit. Sometimes they may annihilate the actual mock scrape, but my goal is simply to draw them to the area during legal shooting light and hold them there for a longer period of time. I could care less if they touch my mock scrapes; I just want the shot opportunity.

A hunter should use all other information in conjunction with the mock scrapes. Know where the does are bedding, what the preferred food sources are, where your target buck is bedding and where he may have other scrape areas. Consider it all collectively before making your setup.

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.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

U.S. Public Sector R&D Spending in Decline

U.S. public sector funding for agricultural research and development is falling, both in absolute terms and relative to major countries and regions.

Between 1990 and 2013, the U.S. share of spending among nations with major public agricultural R&D investments fell from about 23 to 13 percent. This decline was driven by a combination of falling U.S. spending (lately mirrored in Western Europe) and rapidly rising spending in developing countries such as India and, especially, China.

Chinese government spending on agricultural R&D rose nearly eightfold in real (inflation-adjusted) terms between 1990 and 2013, surpassing U.S. spending in 2008 and more than doubling it in 2013.

In simple dollar terms, the decline in U.S. public sector funding has been more than offset by a rise in U.S. private research spending, but the two are not substitutes, as each tends to specialize in different kinds of R&D.

DDGS Exports to Vietnam Resumed

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have announced that the government of Vietnam has notified the United States that it will resume imports of American distillers dried grains.

In December 2016, Vietnam suspended imports of U.S. DDGS after reported detections of quarantine pests in U.S. shipments. Before the suspension, Vietnam was the third-largest market for U.S. DDGS, with exports valued at over $230 million in 2016.

The resolution of this issue also opens the way for corn and wheat shipments that were restricted due to previous treatment requirements.

DDGS are a coproduct of ethanol production and are used as an ingredient to provide protein and energy in animal feed. Between 2007 and 2016, annual U.S. exports of DDGS worldwide grew from $392 million to $2.16 billion.

"This is great news and I am pleased that the U.S. exporters will once again be able to ship DDGS to Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing global markets for U.S. agriculture," said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. "Expanding markets around the world can only help American agriculture."

Ag Exports Rebound in FY 2017

The value of U.S. agricultural exports is forecast at $139.8 billion for fiscal year 2017, up $10.2 billion from FY 2016, and following two consecutive years of declining export values.

The increase reflects improvement in the global economy, a lower value for the U.S. dollar, and stronger markets for several individual commodities including grains, feed and soybeans.

The initial FY 2018 forecast shows exports to reach $139 billion, still above FY 2016 levels, but slightly below current FY 2017 estimates.

The value of FY 2017 agricultural imports is forecast at $116.2 billion, up $3.2 billion from last year and the highest level on record. However, the initial FY 2018 forecast reveals a $700 million decline for agricultural imports.

The strong export increase and modest import increase for FY 2017 indicates the agricultural trade surplus will rise to $23.6 billion, up $7 billion from FY 2016. Agricultural trade surplus is expected to remain virtually unchanged in FY 2018 due to the nearly identical declines in the value of exports and imports currently expected.

Farm Sector Profits Expected to Rise

After three consecutive years of decline, farm sector profits are forecast to increase in 2017.

Net cash farm income for 2017 is forecast at $100.4 billion, up $11.2 billion (12.6 percent) from 2016. Net farm income, a broader measure of profits, is forecast at $63.4 billion, up $1.9 billion (3.1 percent) relative to 2016.

The stronger forecast growth in net cash income is largely due to an additional $9.7 billion in cash receipts from the sale of crop inventories. The net cash farm income measure counts those sales as part of current-year income while the net farm income measure counted the value of those inventories as part of prior-year income.

Despite the forecast upturn in these profit measures relative to 2016, levels will be below all other years since 2010 (net farm income) and since 2011 (net cash farm income).

Cash receipts are forecast to rise $14.1 billion (4 percent) in 2017, led by a $13.6-billion (8.4 percent) increase in animal/animal product receipts. Dairy, poultry/egg and hog receipts are up, reflecting expected increases in both price and quantity sold.

Cattle/calf receipts are up, reflecting expected increases in the quantity sold.

Overall, cash receipts for crops are forecast to remain mostly unchanged from 2016 as expected increases for some crops are offset by declines in others. Soybean, cotton and vegetable/melon cash receipts are forecast to rise, while fruit/nut cash receipts are forecast to fall.

Direct government payments are forecast to remain at just under $13.0 billion in 2017.

The 2017 forecast for farm-business-average net cash farm income is up by 5.8 percent, with the largest increases for farms specializing in dairy (up 42 percent), hogs (up 38 percent) and cotton (up 31 percent).

The only declines in average net cash income are for farms emphasizing specialty crops (down 15 percent) and other livestock (less than 1 percent).

Coffee Cheaper Now Than 30 Years Ago

The good news for the 62 percent of adult Americans who are coffee drinkers is that their cups of morning brew cost less today than it did 30 years ago, when adjusted for inflation.

Coffee lovers can take heart from the fact that in 2017 a 12-ounce cup of coffee cost, on average, 19.1 cents to brew at home.

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, a cup of coffee cost 12.2 cents in 1987. But when adjusted for inflation, that 12.2 cents is equivalent to 26.3 cents in 2017 dollars.

For those who prefer their daily joe with milk and sugar, add 3.1 cents in 2017 compared with 4.5 cents in 1987 in 2017 dollars.

Thus, the cost of a home-prepared cup of coffee has declined by just over a fourth during the past three decades. With that in mind, why not sit back and enjoy a second cup?

Food Insecurity Much More Common in Low-income U.S. Households

While 12.3 percent of all U.S. households were food insecure in 2016, the prevalence of food insecurity among low-income households was much higher.

Of the 13.9 million U.S. households with incomes below the Federal poverty line in 2016, 38.3 percent (5.3 million households) were food insecure. A food-insecure household is one with difficulty providing enough food for all its members because of a lack of money or other resources for food.

Of households with incomes below the poverty line (2.9 million households), 21 percent had low food security and 17.3 percent (2.4 million households) experienced very low food security, a more severe range of food insecurity where food intake of one or more household members was reduced and normal-eating patterns disrupted.

By comparison, 7.4 and 4.9 percent of all U.S. households had low and very low food security, respectively.

Technology Speeds Growth in Crop Yields

With less labor and land being used in production over time, U.S. agriculture depends on raising the productivity of these resources for growth.

A case in point is the average national corn yield that rose from around 30 bushels per acre in the 1930s (where it stood since USDA began measuring yields in the 1860s) to nearly 180 bushels per acre in the present decade.

This sustained growth in productivity has been driven by the development and rapid adoption of a series of successive biological, chemical and mechanical innovations.

Every few years, for example, farmers adopt the latest hybrid seed variety. These seeds are likely to have multiple genetically modified traits designed to protect the crop against pests and diseases or contain other valuable qualities such as resistance to the corn borer, a major insect pest of the crop.

Recently, the rapid adoption of tractor guidance systems has greatly improved the speed and efficiency of tillage and planting operations, as well as the precision of seed, fertilizer and pesticide applications. By 2010, such systems were used on 45 percent of corn-planted acres, with utilization on a rapid increase.

Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference

by Marlee Moore

From marketing and weed management to cucurbits and environmental controls, the Alabama Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Conference and Trade Show is fertile ground for producer education.

The annual convention is Nov. 16-17 at the Clanton Conference & Performing Arts Center in Clanton. Registration is $100. AFVGA Executive Director Mac Higginbotham called the conference a one-stop-shop for farmers to glean information and network.

"Alabama’s horticulture industry is booming in response to consumers buying more local fruits, vegetables and added-value products," Higginbotham said. "Our conference is a great opportunity for new producers and seasoned growers to share information and learn from industry experts."

Over 20 workshops will cover topics such as food safety, greenhouses, berry production, irrigation and pollinator management.

At the trade show, farmers can network with seed companies, machinery dealers, insurance agents, researchers and more. Keynote speaker Dr. Amnon Erez will discuss peach production issues to close the conference. Erez works at Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization.

Attendees can tour Boozer Farms, a diversified family operation in Thorsby, for an additional $15. Educational sessions will be recorded and available on flash drives for $25. Lunch Nov. 16 is provided courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

You can register at

Questions? Contact Higginbotham at

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

Alabama’s Rural Hospital Emergency

Will urgent intervention preserve lifesaving care at small hospitals, or is a medical desert on the horizon for many of the state’s rural residents?

by Alvin Benn

Wilcox County leaders George Alford, left, and John Clyde Riggs are working hard to save J. Paul Jones Hospital.

Country living can be wonderful until emergencies occur in rural areas without hospitals or clinics to provide lifesaving care.

It’s been that way for years in Alabama’s Black Belt region and positive changes often take years to materialize, if ever.

Wilcox County is a prime example of current medical problems confronting officials there, as well as throughout the affected area.

J. Paul Jones Hospital has treated patients for the past 60 years, but its days appear to be numbered and plans now are to convert it to an urgent care center and accompanying ambulance service.

The same situation confronts other small hospitals throughout rural Alabama and leaders are doing all they can to reverse a trend that has thousands of residents worrying every day.

When and if it happens in Wilcox County, up to 40 jobs may be lost in an area that already has, for many years, the highest unemployment rates in the state.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation last year, when rural hospitals close or drastically reduce their services, doctors tend to leave or it becomes more difficult for patients to see specialists.

The foundation report found that transportation was more of an issue for elderly and low-income residents, making them more likely to delay or avoid needed medical care.

Money or lack thereof once again has a hospital on the chopping block and George Alford is enough of a realist to know it may take Congressional intervention or some other form of financial assistance to keep it open.

Alford is chairman of the Wilcox County Hospital Board and recently led U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell on a tour of the facility.

"Alabama’s rural hospitals have been struggling for years, largely due to inadequate reimbursements, low volume and high operating costs," said Sewell, who grew up in nearby Selma and knows the importance of keeping them open.

According to the congresswoman, reimbursements for medical services that have already been rendered "are simply insufficient to cover operational costs at these facilities."

She said closure of the hospital in Wilcox County will create a "medical desert" in the region, forcing residents to travel 40 miles or more to the nearest open one.

Those who enjoy hunting and fishing look upon Wilcox County as a recreational paradise. If the hospital is forced to close, as is planned, the result could be devastating.

"The economy in this county is so bad it’s hard to support it," said Alford, who knows from personal experience just how important rural hospitals are.

He had just finished shaving and showering 16 years ago when he felt the first pangs he knew were signs of a heart attack.

Dr. Sumpter Blackmon and J. Paul Jones Hospital Administrator Elizabeth Kennedy have decades of medical experience in Wilcox County.

Alford was able to drive himself to the hospital in Camden, where initial treatment stabilized him for the subsequent trip to Montgomery’s Jackson Hospital about 80 miles away.

Accompanying him to the hospital was Dr. Sumpter Blackmon, who is looked upon by Wilcox County residents as a white-frocked angel.

"I can still remember asking for a ‘clot buster shot’ and telling Dr. Blackmon I wanted to see my children before I died," Alford said during a recent interview.

Blackmon did more than treat Alford on the spot; he accompanied him to the hospital.

The initial treatment he received at Wilcox County’s little hospital has provided Alford with a 16-year breathing bonus. Without it, he tells family and friends, he had his doubts that he’d have been able to survive.

"I can recite story after story about how important this hospital has been to the people of Wilcox County," Alford said. "Broken bones, stitches, snake bites … you name it, we’ve handled it."

Talk is one thing, but facts don’t lie when they are bolstered by specific details and Alford issued a statement to county residents about the impending closure possibility.

He noted that Wilcox County has a poverty rate of about 40 percent, an unemployment rate of 13 percent – the highest in Alabama – and a declining population of less than 12,000.

As a result, Alford said it is "nearly impossible for our small rural hospital to survive as it currently operates."

Between Oct. 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017, the hospital had charges of nearly $4 million involving the emergency room alone, according to Alford, who said reimbursements fell far below what is needed to stay afloat.

He backed that up with an illustration that should be easy to understand for those who watch their nickels and dimes.

"If you have an item for sale in a retail situation that cost you $50 and you are required to sell it for $5 to $10, you wouldn’t be in business very long," he said. "I believe these figures speak for themselves."

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, left, and J. Paul Jones Hospital Administrator Elizabeth Kennedy tour the facility that might have to close.

In a never-say-die effort by the Wilcox County Commission, a penny sales tax increase was approved overwhelmingly. But a projected economic lift of $550,000 unfortunately appears to be a case of too little, too late.

Losing $1 million a year is enough to give any manager a case of the blahs and Alford knew there wasn’t much of a solution after years of a downward spiral.

He had heard the claims of some in the county that it was a case of "crying wolf," but this was the real thing and there wasn’t much to do except fold the hospital tent and prepare to convert it to an urgent care facility.

Wilcox isn’t the only county in Alabama having the same hospital problems, but it’s doubly embarrassing because it is the home of Kay Ivey, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor earlier this year.

Ivey became Alabama’s leader as a result of her predecessor’s resignation. Since then, she has commiserated with Wilcox residents, especially when visiting friends back home.

Other than that, there isn’t much she can do to help her home county save its hospital; but if anybody can do it, Ivey is the one to do so.

Wilcox County residents would even provide the red ribbons on a Christmas present if it ever comes about.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Barns are Noble

by John Howle

"I was so naïve as a kid, I used to sneak behind the barn and do nothing." ~ Johnny Carson

This barn was designed to house mules on the lower level and hay and other feed in the loft. There is a creek directly to the right of the barn to provide easy watering for the livestock.

Barns have been around as long as farming has been an occupation in America. George Washington built an elaborate round barn where horses would run around the perimeter of the slatted floor in the upper level beating wheat seeds off the stalks to fall through wooden slats to the basement level to later be gathered for separating the seed from the chaff. This barn stands today at Washington’s farm in Mount Vernon.

Thomas Jefferson recognized the importance of barns as he saw our new country as a "nation dependent on citizen farmers for its stability and its freedom." Early barns on homesteads were designed to house the family’s milk cow and feed. It is sad to see many of the old-style barns of Alabama falling into disrepair. The few we see remaining, however, tell a descriptive story of the farmers who built and used them.

All of these barns were built with a specific purpose in mind and many barns were even considered more important than the family dwelling. One thing many of the older barns of Alabama had in common was being built near a water source. This made common sense for watering the livestock in the barn, whether it was a couple of family mules or the milk cow.

Hay and tobacco barns would often be built on higher elevations with plenty of sunlight. Finally, the traditional X we see on some of the old barn doors wasn’t for fashion, it was for function. This cross-bracing on the door helped prevent sagging and made the door itself stronger.

This is a roadside view of our old log barn before the roof was replaced.

In Alabama, if you go down any rural road, you’ll see the remains of old barns withering in our humid atmosphere. Most of the barns in Alabama were designed with a loft for storing hay or other feeds and a bottom level for housing livestock. I’ve seen quite a few barns cut into a hill where the farmer could unload hay or other feed directly into the top level by backing a wagon directly up to the door of the hay loft; the livestock would be on the lower level and enter from the downhill, slope side.

Today’s barn design depends on the individual. They may be equipment barns with welding equipment, tools and machinery or they may be simple structures designed to hold hay and other livestock feed. It would be great to see a few modern barns built to house the family milk cow and a couple of mules for plowing.

My ancestors in this picture had their family photograph taken 100 years ago in front of their log barn.

On our family farm, we have a log barn built over 100 years ago. To preserve the log sides, we replaced the tin on top and put in trusses to support the roof that was about to collapse. My ancestors were so proud of the barn that they had their family portrait taken in front of it instead of the house.

Right the Sight

November is here and firearm deer season is getting underway. One of the most frustrating things that can happen during a deer hunt is to have a trophy buck walk into range only to miss the shot on that one chance. It is possible that adrenaline caused you to miss the shot, but it’s also likely the gun scope is off.

The easiest way to sight in the rifle and not waste a ton of bullets is to set the target at 25 yards. This close distance allows you to roughly sight in your rifle in six shots. With your gun in a shooting vise to prevent any bobbling or movement, fire at the 25-yard target three times taking careful aim each time. With a sharpie, circle the three shots and put a large dot in the center of the three shots.

While the gun is still secure in the vise, adjust your windage and elevation until the crosshairs are on the dot in the center of the first, three shot group. Finally, fire three more rounds and, at this point, your rifle scope should be roughly sighted in for that trophy buck this fall.

Winter Prep

November gives us a clue that cold weather, even in Alabama, is around the corner and many things can freeze up. Here’s a general checklist:

  1. Make sure all fluids are out of herbicide and pesticide sprayers. The water in the hoses and wands can freeze and burst, ruining expensive equipment.
  2. Put some petroleum jelly in outdoor padlocks used to secure gates or barn doors. Moisture can freeze the locking mechanisms, but a little grease will prevent freezing.
  3. Make sure tractor tires have plenty of nonfreezing ballast inside them. The ballast prevents freezing and gives additional traction and stability on muddy or rough terrain.
  4. Make sure all exposed water lines around the farm are protected with insulation and a heat source to prevent freezing.
  5. Don’t forget to take care of your barn. November is a great time to fix any leaks and replace any rotten areas or rusted tin so your livestock and hay will stay dry and warm this winter.

This November, as you are traveling the roads of Alabama, take a long look at some of the old barns. See if you can decipher some of the stories they have to tell of Alabama’s rich, barn history.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

But I Didn’t Mean To!

by Glenn Crumpler

I remember so many times as my children were growing up, when they would accidently do something that seemed to me to be absolutely careless or perhaps even reckless, and all they could say was, "But, Dad, I didn’t mean to!" Even more recently, I have seen and heard the same from my grandchildren, especially Bradyn, who is 8 years old and who wants to spend every minute of every day with me.

I recently found the top of the septic tank cleanout pipe at the office had been sheared off. I knew either Lisa, my wife, had run over it with the lawn mower or Bradyn, knowing him like I do, had run over it with the four wheeler or his go-kart – even though he knew not to be driving back there.

When I asked him about it, he owned up to it (eventually), but was quick to respond, "But I didn’t mean to!"

When I asked him why he didn’t tell me about it, he said, "Because I knew I would get in trouble."

Just last week, I noticed a new dent in the garage door and the corner of the barn around the door. I also noticed orange paint at the scene – the same color as his go-kart.

When I asked him about it, he again confessed and again responded, "But I didn’t mean to! All I did was drive in too fast and I slid into it … but I didn’t mean to!"

Two weeks ago, Lisa backed into another car when she was leaving the printer’s office. This was about her fifth backing incident in the last three or four years and I have lost count of the times over the prior years.

This time, after such a history, in disbelief I asked her, "What were you thinking?"

She replied, "I don’t know, Glenn, but I didn’t mean to! It just happened."

My response through the years to my children and now to my grandchildren and to Lisa is, and has always been, "But you didn’t mean not to!!!"

There is a vast difference between doing something you didn’t mean to do – and planning to NOT do something you don’t mean to do! Think about it!

Take Lisa’s backing into ANOTHER car! It is one thing to just not be paying attention and backing up without looking behind you assuming there is nothing there. It is another thing to take the time to carefully look behind you before you get into the truck, and again in the rearview mirror before you put it in reverse – ensuring you do not hit the car or whatever is behind you! The first scenario caused her to do what she didn’t mean to do, the latter would have been an intentional plan to not do what she didn’t mean to do. That makes perfectly good sense to me and I did not mind at all telling her that!

But, to bring things a little closer to home, last week we were sorting and moving a lot of cattle from one side of the road to the other getting ready for our winter calving and feeding programs. Bordering the barn where we were loading out is a pasture where the first calf heifers are calving out. I pulled in, backed up to the chute, loaded up and then pulled out with load after load of cattle throughout the day without a second thought. Jack or Darrell was always behind me to guide me back, ensuring that I did not hit the barn on either side and we had blocked all the escape routes. We were being very careful.

Later that day, we noticed a particularly good heifer lowing for her calf (a heifer calf and one of our best so far this season). Before dark, we looked for her calf, but could not find it. That little girl was hiding good! The next morning, the mama cow was still walking the fence lowing. Something had to have happened to the calf. Jack, Darrell and Ben all searched the perimeters of the pasture with four wheelers and searched the woods and around the pond by foot, but found nothing. They even climbed up on all the hay bales looking to see if the calf may have been hiding there and gotten stuck.

There was no sign of coyote damage and we did not see any buzzard activity, but something had to have happened to the calf. It could not have just disappeared and it was too young to wander so far as to be out of range of her mother’s call. Suddenly, it dawned on Jack, because they could not find the calf anywhere else, perhaps he needed to look around the load-out area. Sure enough, that is where he found the missing calf just as dead as it could be!

At some point during the day between loads, the little heifer had crossed through the fence and hidden in the tall grass just across the fence from its mother, exactly where I had been backing the truck and trailer. Apparently, on one of the loads, I pulled out and missed the calf with the truck, but caught her just behind the shoulders with the trailer tires, breaking her back and killing her instantly. I knew baby calves often go through the fence to hide out, and even though I was driving right beside the fence where the heifers were calving, because I was in a hurry, I never thought to look for a calf there. I killed one of our best calves – but I didn’t mean to! Driving over a baby calf in calving season is a major NO, NO! It is just something that is unacceptable and there is no excuse for it! We all know to keep a special eye out for them because they hide so easily – even in the wide-open pasture.

Looking back, if I had just thought to look and had planned to avoid killing a newborn calf, I would have surely looked in the tall grass right beside the calving pasture before I drove the truck and trailer through there. I did not plan to run the calf over and kill it but I also did not plan to not run over the calf, even though I knew it was a possibility! If I had not been in such a hurry, if I had not been so task-oriented, I would have told everyone we needed to be on the lookout for baby calves that could be hidden by the grass, and we would have walked it before I drove it.

I have found that for myself, and for most Christians, falling into temptation and sin happens much the same way. In most cases, because we have been born again, we want to live our lives in a way that pleases God. Although we do not set out with a plan to sin, we do so because we do not plan to not sin! We are not ready when temptation comes our way because we have not adequately prepared ourselves for the spiritual battle we face on a daily basis.

The Bible warns us that we cannot trust our own heart and conscience. It teaches us about the schemes and tactics of the enemy who seeks not only to deceive us but to destroy us. It even tells us how to protect ourselves from the schemes of the enemy by putting on the full armor of God. We have to know the Word of God and apply it to our lives because it is our only offensive weapon. We have to know the promises of God. We must have an intimate relationship with God, walking with Him on a daily basis, and remaining close enough to Him to know and hear His voice. We have to seek His wisdom and His guidance every day in every decision. We must have accountability in every aspect of our lives. We have to keep growing in our experiential knowledge of God. We have to resist the enemy and our own selfish desires. If we neglect any of these things, we are not planning to not sin. We will inevitably find ourselves in sin, without excuse, and with nothing to say except, "But I didn’t mean to."

Concerning my neglect, saying "But I didn’t mean to" did not bring the calf I accidently killed back to life, nor did it reimburse the ministry for what she would have brought to our herd’s earning potential had she and her offspring matured and multiplied.

Concerning my sin, saying "But I didn’t mean to" to those I hurt with my sin, does not heal their hurt and does not restore my relationship with them, with myself or with God. Sin always has unintended consequences! Sin always hurts us and hurts others! Sin always divides: us from others, us from ourselves and who we want to be, and us from the right relationship with God.

But thanks be to God for His extravagant mercy and grace! He is always willing to forgive us, cleanse us and receive us back to Himself when we confess and turn away from our sin. He does not promise to remove all the consequences of our sin but He does promise to forgive us and to restore us to the right relationship with Him.

We can sin, not planning to, but our only hope to avoid sin is if we carefully plan not to!

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

Chef's Corner: Get Ready to Snap up Some Gator!

Farm-raised Southfresh alligator is healthy and delicious; however you prepare it.

by Brian Taylor

SouthFresh brand alligator is a farm-raised, grain-fed alligator from Louisiana. It is hand processed and triple tenderized for a great quality protein with wonderful texture. Our alligator is all-white meat and raised with sustainability in mind. Alligator is considered a healthy meat, as it is very low in fat while being high in protein. It can be grilled, fried, sautéed, blackened or smoked, and, yes, a lot of folks say it tastes like chicken!


Fried Alligator Bites

Yield: 4 (4-ounce) servings

1 pound SouthFresh alligator meat
8 ounces fish fry (such as Zatarans)
Oil, for frying
6 ounces horseradish sauce (recipe included)

In a skillet, heat oil to 350°. Prepare alligator by cutting into 1- to 1½-inch pieces. In a gallon zip bag, place meat and fish fry. Shake well to coat. Remove from bag and dust off excess breading. A few pieces at a time, place in hot oil. Fry until golden brown and floating, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plate.


Yield: 6 ounces

4 ounces mayonnaise
2 ounces prepared horseradish
Juice 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, combine all. Stir well.

Fried Alligator Po Boy


Yield: 4 sandwiches

1 loaf French bread, cut into four equal portions and split
2 ounces mayonnaise (tartar, horseradish, etc. are great, too!)
6 ounces lettuce, shredded
2 tomatoes, sliced
4 ounces dill pickle
Sliced red onion, to taste
1 recipe fried SouthFresh alligator

On baking sheet, place French bread. Toast in oven. Remove and coat with your favorite sauce. Layer other ingredients, topping with hot, fried alligator.


Blackened Alligator Quesadillas

Yield: 4 (8-inch) servings

1 pound SouthFresh alligator
3 ounces blackening spice (such as Blackened Redfish Magic)
1 each red, yellow and green bell pepper, sliced thin
4 ounces red onion, sliced thin
1 jalapeño, diced, if desired (removing membrane and seeds takes away most of the heat)
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
8 ounces shredded pepper jack or cheddar/jack cheese, divided
Pan spray or butter, for toasting

Cut alligator into 1- to 2-inch pieces. In zip bag, put blackening spice. Add alligator pieces. Shake to coat well. In a hot pan, place a few pieces at a time. Sear until outside has a nice crust and interior is cooked through, roughly 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on paper towel-lined plate. Reserve. Sear all pieces. To pan, add onion and peppers. Cook until softened, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan. On 4 plates, assemble quesadillas. Place a tortilla on each plate. Reserve half of cheese. On each tortilla, equally layer half of cheese, peppers and onions and alligator. Finish with remaining cheese. Place a tortilla on top of each. In buttered pan or griddle on a medium low heat, toast each until golden brown on the outside and cheese is melted, around 4 minutes.


Yield: 6 (6-inch) skewers (approximately, you can bulk up veggies to stretch it)

1 pound SouthFresh alligator, cut into 1½-inch pieces
1 pound favorite veggies (peppers, onions, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.), cut into 1½-inch pieces
6-8 skewers (if wooden, soak in water for at least an hour)
8 ounces marinade (recipe included)

In a large dish or pan, place alternately skewered alligator and veggies. When complete, pour marinade over skewers. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, not over 24 hours. When ready to cook, remove kabobs and let them come to room temperature. Heat broiler to 425° or grill to medium-high heat. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until alligator is cooked through.


Yield: 8 ounces

4 ounces olive oil
2 lemons, juice and zest
1 ounce (each) fresh herbs (or 1 Tablespoon total dry herbs) (basil, thyme, oregano, etc.)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1Tablespoon honey

In bowl, put all ingredients. Combine well.

Brian Taylor CEC, CCE is the corporate executive chef for SouthFresh Farms.

Chili season is finally here!

Whether with beef, chicken, turkey, or game there is nothing like a spicy bowl of chili to warm up a cool day.

by Christy Kirk

As Rolley Len, Cason and I walked into the house, we got the scent of a savory aroma. I was looking for the crockpot, but there was nothing on the kitchen counter, on the stove or even in the oven. It took me a few minutes, but eventually I found the treasure giving such a flavorful scent. There was a huge, freshly made pot of chili in the refrigerator. The time had finally come. Fall had officially arrived.

We love chili, but we don’t make it as often as I would like, mostly because we live in an area where fall comes late and winter doesn’t last very long. Although I could eat chili year round, my husband, Jason, firmly believes chili should not be cooked or consumed until the temperature drops below at least 70 degrees. He does have a point. Eating steaming hot, spicy foods in the summertime when you are trying to stay cool seems counterproductive.

One of the great things about chili is that there are so many ways to make it. According to the International Chili Society, chili has been around for hundreds of years; so people have had a long time to perfect the dish. As long as you have a meat combined with some kind of chili peppers and spices, you have a chili. The range of meats you can incorporate is almost endless: sirloin, chicken, turkey, hamburger or, of course, deer meat.

I found a recipe for Rocky Mountain Chili calling for elk meat. The directions for Rocky Mountain Chili are almost as simple as those for our own home recipe for deer chili. The biggest difference is in the number of ingredients and flavors. Although the ingredients list almost adds up to 20 items, many are spices and staples most families keep in their pantry.

I have used brown sugar in chili, but I have never experimented with flavors such as chocolate and coffee. It sounds like it would add a lot of depth to the flavor of the chili. What could be better than the flavor combination of chili, chocolate and coffee on a cold winter night?

As the temperature drops, our large pots and crockpots will be put to good use making batches of chili, both slow-cooked and quicker, shortcut versions. Either way, now that fall has finally made it to Little Texas, we will be having regular chili suppers as long as the weather stays chilly.


4 strips bacon, diced
5 pounds ground elk (or ground deer meat)
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
4 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons ancho chili powder
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 medium yellow onions, diced
6 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cups brewed coffee
2 Tablespoons bittersweet (70 percent) chocolate, broken into pieces
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
3 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until fat renders (about 5 minutes). Add meat and brown over medium-high heat (about 8 minutes).

Add brown sugar, cumin, chili powders, paprikas, coriander and salt. Stir to mix throughout the meat evenly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until spices are a deep brown (about 10 minutes). Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are just beginning to caramelize (about 10 minutes).

Add coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, chipotles and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.

Add beans and black pepper. Simmer uncovered for 30 more minutes. Stir occasionally.

(Recipe from Chowhound)


1 large onion, chopped
3 teaspoons minced garlic
4 Tablespoons salt (more as needed for taste), divided
1½-2 pounds ground deer meat
1½ (10½-ounce) cans beef broth
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1-2 cans kidney beans (we only use 1 can)
1 can tomato sauce
4 pours Louisiana Hot Sauce (more as needed for taste)
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

In a large skillet, combine onion, garlic, about 1 teaspoon of salt and deer meat. Brown meat. Drain when cooked through. In a large crockpot, combine meat mixture and remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 4-5 hours.


2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 bunches green onions, diced
2-4 pounds ground deer meat
1 teaspoon (each) crushed red pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper (if desired, ancho pepper, chipotle pepper)
1-2 Tablespoons cumin
1 Tablespoon (each) cocoa, cinnamon
4 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chicken broth
2 cans Great Northern beans or black-eyed peas
Juice two limes
1 can chopped green chilies
Cilantro, chopped
¼ cup (each) vinegar, brown sugar
White rice, prepared by package directions

In very large pot over medium-low heat, heat oil. Add onion. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add deer meat. Increase heat and brown until cooked through. Add peppers, cumin, chocolate, cinnamon, tomatoes and chicken broth. On low heat, simmer for 60-90 minutes. Add beans, lime juice, chilies, cilantro, vinegar and brown sugar. Heat through. Serve over white rice with choice of toppings.

Note: Because of my family’s busy schedule, we usually take as many shortcuts in the kitchen as possible. This recipe has a lot going on, but it sounds absolutely delicious. I plan to try it when we are on break over the holidays.

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

Controlling Fire Ants in the Fall

Now is the time to protect your lawn, landscape or pasture from unwelcome invaders.

by Tony Glover

Fall is a great time to check for fire ant infestation. Some will be easy to spot, but don’t forget to inspect piles of leaves, wood stacks and winter gardens.

Well, it is finally beginning to feel like fall – my favorite time of year. The temperatures are cooling down, the leaves are beginning to change colors, and we are spending a lot more time outside, enjoying our surroundings. However, many people this time of year have had the unfortunate experience of stepping into a fire ant mound that seemed to appear overnight. Needless to say, this can be a very unpleasant experience. The question on your mind may be, "Is now a good time to treat for these angry little nuisances?" The answer is a definite "yes." Now is a great time to rid your lawn or landscape of these unwelcome invaders!

"Fall is a great time to treat fire ants," Dr. Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Cooperative Extension Entomologist, said. "Fall temperatures are perfect for fire ant activity and foraging, making it an opportune time to put out fire ant bait."

While the warm weather is leaving and cooler air moves in, fire ants are still actively foraging. Fire ants look for protein-rich foods all year, but especially in the late spring and fall. Foragers usually continue searching for food until temperatures drop below 75 degrees during the day. Using treatment plans such as the Two Step Method can provide specific and continued control of fire ants in a cost-effective way.

Two Step Method

Step 1. Broadcast fire ant bait once or twice a year (spring and fall) to reduce colonies by up to 80 or 90 percent.

Step 2. Treat nuisance mounds or colonies that move into the bait-treated areas. Step 2 may not be needed in the fall.

Not only are fire ants a nuisance outdoors but they can wreak havoc indoors as well. Fire ants will be looking for a warm place to overwinter. Often, this means mounds inside the house or built against the foundation.

Double-checking door seals, pipe coverings and concrete foundations can help prevent a home invasion in the winter. For this problem, the first and most important suggestion is to treat fire ants in the surrounding landscape to prevent infestations near the home.

Fire ants can be more than just a nuisance outdoors when they invade pastures containing animals.

Be sure to inspect piles of leaves, wood stacks or winter garden (especially raised bed gardens) for fire ants. Outdoor temperatures determine the amount of activity present in a fire ant mound. When the temperatures are right, these places are all likely hiding places for fire ants.

Flanders said it is important to check for fire ants before carrying wood inside. A proactive approach to controlling fire ants in these areas would be best. This is also a time to consider slow-acting bait for continued control into the cold season. Treat the areas before piling up leaves to play in or for compost, treat your preferred firewood location and treat your garden with approved products before planting.

For increased success, controlling fire ants should definitely be a team effort. Working with neighbors or surrounding landowners can boost chances of making a dent in the population. Fire ant control is more effective when larger areas are treated. When an 80-90 percent control rate is acceptable, consider participating in a community- or neighborhoodwide treatment program. If the problem is widespread, a large treatment plan could be more effective than treating in small areas. Flanders said Extension professionals have developed a communitywide management program available for use and implementation.

For more information on controlling fire ants, please visit or

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

Corn Time



Festus and the Coon

by Baxter Black, DVM

Doc had escaped his busy Omaha practice and met his friend Stevo west of Eustace for a little sport.

"Ever hunted coon on one of these?" Doc asked as he jumped two mules outta the back of his pickup stockracks.

Billy and Festus were sensible mules who could handle most anything. The two hunters saddled up, sheathed their rifles and released the hound dogs.

It was good and dark by the time they set out across the open fields. The dogs were soon shiftin’ and sniffin’ through the creek bottom, checkin’ the brush and cottonwood trees.

Pretty soon they set up a racket down through the draws and off they went with the mule riders in hot pursuit. It wasn’t long ‘til the howls turned into a baying chorus. They had the coon treed!

Dismounting, they tied up the dogs and mules. The hunters turned their attention to a big elm tree.

"Willya shine the light up there, Stevo," Doc asked.

The coon sat on a limb 20 feet up. Doc brought him down with one shot.

It was a good-sized boar coon with a thick pelt. Doc put a slip knot around the coon’s hind legs and dangled him from the saddle horn.

They reorganized, released the dogs and were just fixin’ to mount up when the coon came back to life! He bit Festus’s flank!

Festus broke into 17 pieces! He went buckin’ and squealin’. The saddlebag burst open scattering sandwiches, skinnin’ knives, bullets, snuff cans, ear muffs, gloves and toilet paper into a tornadolike updraft. A canteen whizzed by Stevo’s head! He hit the ground.

Festus tore up half an acre of underbrush as Doc held tight to the halter shank. Festus managed to kick the coon and knock him out. He hung loose as the spooked mule danced around and Doc tried to calm him down.

"Bring my gun and shine the light!" Doc yelled.

He locked in a cartridge and was tryin’ to aim the shakin’ rifle when the coon struck again!

Festus bogged his head, brayed like a donkey and run flat over Doc! The hounds were circling the whirling dervish, barkin’ like house dogs and gettin’ kicked on a regular basis. The coon loosed his grip and swung straight up. The loop around his feet came loose and slingshotted him into the night sky.

Festus and the dogs slowed to a walk down the creek a ways. Doc picked himself up and took off behind them.

Stevo shined his flashlight around the scene. It looked like someone had drug a battleship through the woods. He picked up the salvageable litter and, as an afterthought, guided his beam into the tree above him. Two yellow eyes reflected in the flashlight. The coon sat in the crotch lickin’ his hind foot.

Stevo cocked an ear and listened to the ruckus on down the creek. He glanced back at the coon, gave him a salute and switched off the light.

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,

FFA Sentinel:The Unsung Heroes of Hunter Education

Agricultural educators play a key role for student hunters.

Agriscience students at Straughn High School are being instructed in safe shotgun handling and trap shooting.

by Andy Chamness

For the 180,000-plus hunters in Alabama, the time is nigh. Anticipations and hopes are high, food plots are being planted, and first-time hunters are being trained to be safe, responsible, knowledgeable and ethical outdoor men and women.

Alabama’s first cool snap of fall has come and gone. So has the noon start of hunting season by way of the mourning dove season, but it unofficially kicked off the rest of hunting season.

Now, the attention turns to the white-tailed deer. Once nearly gone from most parts in Alabama, the white-tailed deer has rebounded. This rebound is thanks in part to the scientific approach to managing the state’s resources by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the hunters and outdoor enthusiasts of Alabama.

It is opening day of Alabama youth gun deer season. It is a Friday and a quick change of clothes for father and son, a splash of cover scent and a quick check of the wind … oh, and one hurried walk to the tree stand. As an almost-perfect fall afternoon wanes, one 7-year-old nods off to dream of Ninja Turtles or some other superhero, but dad is ever vigilant, glassing the clear cut and listening to the sounds of nature. Almost dark, there is a rustle from the wood line.

Dad uses as quick a poke as possible to rouse the boy without alarming the deer.

Dad whispers, "Son. Son, there is a deer. Son, it is a buck! Wake up. Wake up."

The reply he gets, "Daddy, I want to go back to sleep."

Another more forceful poke and the reply, a little more clear, "Dad … what? Did you say deer?"

"Yes, son, a buck!"

Lane Chamness with his first buck. Lane is the son of the author.

Now with deliberation and without hesitation, the boy moves into position, wide-awake.

"Where is he?"

"There, by the persimmon tree!" exclaims dad.

"Where’s the persimmon tree?"

"Over there to the right!"

"I see him!"

"Shhhh! Get your rifle ready."

"Ready, Dad. I see him."

"Are you on him?"


"Right behind the shoulder."

"I know, Dad!"

"OK. On the count of three, squeeze the trigger. One, two …"



"Did I get him?"

"I don’t know."

Looking through the binoculars, the hunters search for the deer.

"Let’s wait until dark and get down and go look."

"I want to go now, did I get him?"

"Let’s just wait a few minutes."

The darkness begins to surround the hunters as they search through backpacks that have been packed for a while to find orange hats and vests. Flashlights come on. For what seems like an eternity to both hunters as they walk the almost 100 yards to the last known spot of their quarry, rounding a bend on the tree line, a glimmer, an eye shine, a few more steps, a white belly … euphoria, elation, serenity, joy, adrenaline … and this is just from the dad. As the hunters approach to examine the work of the day with a hug and high-five to see the most beautiful five-point buck the dad has ever seen.

"Remember, gun safety and all of those talks," dad says reassuringly.

"Yes sir," the boy says.

"I am so proud of you. What a shot!"

Hunter education is for all students. This young lady has a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa. She can see the large colorful rings on the target and made these shots under the supervision of her agriscience teacher at West End High School.

What does this story have to do with agricultural education and why is it in the "FFA Sentinel"? Well, there are two reasons. One, it is hunting season. Two, there are a lot of unsung heroes of hunter education. Agricultural education and FFA are two sides of the same coin. Agricultural educators or FFA advisors teach many varied agricultural subjects across our state, but one that is a perennial favorite to students is hunter education. Alabama agriculture teachers, with the support of and in conjunction with the Alabama DCNR, certify a new crop of hunters each and every year. To be exact, in 2016, 18,962 hunters were certified statewide.

Agriscience teachers across Alabama engage students by exposing them to not only the safety but the biology, anatomy and habitat of many of Alabama’s game and nongame wildlife. Debates are held regarding fair chase and good ethical behavior vs. irresponsible behavior.

The practicality of the science being taught through a hunter education course goes beyond safety to address land management and stewardship, the importance of our natural resources, and the reasons behind scientific-based management. Introduce a young hunter to the common sense science of good management and you will have a productive land manager who may one day row crop and raise cattle with deer on his or her brain, a doctor who owns a farm just to relax and enjoy nature, or a famous outdoor TV personality. Through agriscience classes in high school, those students were introduced to the idea and understanding of land management.

Hunter education is primarily focused on safety. According to the Alabama DCNR, there were 20 hunting incidents reported in the 2016-2017 hunting season. In the 1973-1974 season, there were 46 incidents; firearm accidents alone accounted for 43 of them. This shows a huge reduction in the number of incidents in Alabama. Only seven of the 2016-2017 season were firearm incidents.

Agriscience teachers are educating both their students and the public on hunting safely. In most agricultural classrooms and labs, the course is extended to further detail – often bringing in wildlife biologists and rehabilitators and conservation enforcement officers to speak to classes on changing regulations, laws, or to share personal stories or career experiences.

Alabama agriscience teachers attending the summer professional development workshop hosted by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Teachers are certified as Hunter Safety Instructors as part of this experience.

Yes, hunter safety and wildlife management play a part of FFA each year. The Wildlife Management and Outdoor Recreation FFA Proficiency Award programs showcase students who are engaged in a supervised agricultural experience project where they manage wildlife properties, work for a wildlife management company or land owner, research wildlife topics formally, and many other areas of outdoor recreation and wildlife management.

The Alabama DCNR annually hosts two professional development workshops for agricultural educators. These workshops update and train teachers on safety, sound management practices and prepare them for teaching hunter education by providing hands-on firearm, archery and tree stand safety. In Alabama, hunters born on or after Aug. 1, 1977, are required to take and successfully complete the hunter education course before they are permitted to purchase an Alabama hunting license.

Hunting safety starts early, as you can see from the opening story. Agriscience teachers play a significant role in the future of hunters, anglers and the preservation of Alabama’s natural resources. By exposing Alabama youth to the outdoors and showcasing safe, responsible, knowledgeable and ethical hunting practices, agriculture teachers are protecting our natural resources and encouraging young people to get out of the house and into nature.

The goldenrods are blooming and summer has faded to fall; that first frost is fast approaching. I encourage you to take the time to speak to your local agriscience teacher about opportunities to be a part of the school’s hunter education program and to possibly host a hunter education class for the community. What a great way to bring hunters, landowners and families in your community together. Be safe out there this season and remember to take the time to introduce young people to the outdoors.

For more information on hunter education and hunting statistics in Alabama or how you can become a volunteer hunter education instructor, please visit For additional information on Alabama FFA and the opportunities for youth through FFA, please visit

Andy Chamness serves as the Alabama FFA Executive Secretary and is a certified hunter education instructor and tree stand safety instructor.

Have a Safe and Delicious Holiday Season

Holiday Food Safety Facts

by Angela Treadaway

Food contaminated by bacteria, viruses and parasites can make you sick. Many people have had foodborne illness and not even known it. It’s sometimes called food poisoning and it can feel like the flu. Symptoms may include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Symptoms can start soon after eating contaminated food, but they can hit up to a month or more later. For some people, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, foodborne illness can be very dangerous. No one wants to spend the holidays in the hospital or, for that matter, feeling miserable. The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are as many as 13 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States every year. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented by using safe food-handling practices and using a food thermometer to check if your food is cooked to a safe internal temperature!

It’s always important to keep foods out of the danger zone, between 41 and 135 degrees to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. To do this, just keep hot foods hot, at least 135 degrees and keep cold foods 41 degrees or lower.

Preparing and serving holiday buffets

Do not let foods linger during preparation; cook them thoroughly and serve them promptly. Keep hot foods hot with warming trays, chafing dishes or crockpots. Keep cold foods cold by placing serving dishes on crushed ice.

Remember the two-hour rule, especially when entertaining with a large meal or buffet. Don’t let perishable foods linger for longer than two hours in the danger zone.

Keep replacement dishes of food hot in the oven or a pot; or cold in the refrigerator or a cooler during the buffet.

Do not add new food to a serving dish that has been sitting at room temperature for over two hours. Remember to change serving utensils as well.

Provide serving spoons and tongs for every dish served. Even finger foods such as cut vegetables, candies, chips/nachos and nuts should have serving implements to prevent contamination among guests.

Traveling with food

Wrap hot food in foil and heavy towels, or carry in insulated containers to maintain a temperature of at least 140 degrees.

You can store cold foods in a cooler with ice/freezer packs to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees or below. Full coolers keep their temperature better than partially full ones, so add extra insulation to fill unoccupied space. This will also prevent containers from sliding, falling over and leaking.

Eggnog and other recipes with raw or lightly cooked eggs

Be sure to handle and prepare these tasty treats safely. Commercial, ready-made eggnog is prepared using pasteurized eggs and does not require heating. Homemade eggnog may contain harmful bacteria if not prepared properly. Prepare homemade eggnog using pasteurized egg products, found in most grocery stores.

If you choose to make eggnog with whole eggs, be sure to heat the egg/milk mixture to at least 165 degrees. Refrigerate it promptly. Once steaming stops, divide large amounts into shallow containers so it cools quickly.

Precautions should also be taken with sauces, mousses and any other recipes calling for raw or lightly-cooked eggs. Use pasteurized egg products or bring egg mixtures to a uniform temperature of 165 degrees. All of these foods must be stored in the refrigerator.


Popular holiday beverages such as unpasteurized apple cider and other drinks made from unpasteurized apple cider may pose a safety risk because they may contain harmful bacteria.

Serve pasteurized ciders or bring unpasteurized cider to a rolling boil before serving. This is especially important when serving cider to children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Leftovers: Storage and Reheating

While it is tempting to leave turkey and other foods at room temperature for snacking after a meal, you should refrigerate all leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers to allow them to cool quickly. Once steaming has stopped, refrigerate. Leave the lid or wrap loose until the food is cooled to refrigeration temperature. Avoid overstocking the refrigerator to allow cool air to circulate freely.

Store any leftover turkey meat separately from the stuffing and gravy.

Reheat solid leftovers to at least 165 degrees. Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil, stirring during the process.

Use leftover turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within four days for best quality or freeze for later use.

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

Hay Analysis

by Jimmy Parker

As we approach late fall and early winter, I think we are all happy to see that we have a great deal more hay than we had at this time last year. It is also great to see pastures standing tall with stockpiled forages that will act a great deal like standing hay after the first frost, usually in October in many parts of Alabama. This summer and fall we have had abundant rainfall in most places and have grown a great deal of grass.

It seems, in most cases, that when we have a great abundance of tonnage we often see a decrease in quality. I have been fortunate to see several forage sample results this fall and they tend to agree. Forage quality across the board will be lower this year. I have seen one or two really good samples, but the majority have been below average, many to a point where cattle will lose weight – if that is all they have to eat, even during periods of simple maintenance when their nutritional needs are the lowest.

With these things in mind, some of the best money producers can spend is paying for a forage sample analysis. Find out what your hay has in it and if it will help you meet your goals or if you need to supplement your herds or flocks. Most livestock will need a bit of supplementation if their peak nutritional needs fall during the times of year when we are feeding hay or grazing lower quality forages.

Each different class of livestock and each stage of production within each class of livestock will have a different set of needs. They will need vastly different amounts of protein, energy and other nutrients. There are far too many factors to give specific recommendations in a short article, but I would be happy to go over those things with you on a case-by-case basis. What I can do here is give some general guidelines about what makes good hay and what makes hay you should throw in a ditch.

When I think back to the hay samples I have seen this year, they have ranged from 8-14 percent protein. Total digestible nutrients has ranged from 52-62 percent and acid detergent fiber values have, with a few exceptions, been in the mid- to high-40s. So, what does that mean?

I think we are all fairly familiar with protein and the range it generally falls in feeds. With predominantly grass hay, we think anything over 11 percent is really good hay, 7-10 percent is good enough for low production and maintenance, and when you get below 6 percent you will need a good deal of supplemental protein. Lactating females and young growing animals have the highest protein needs, as far as percentages go, and they are not the classes of livestock to skimp on. Do what you can to supplement the classes that need it most and use lower protein hays for animals with the lowest protein needs such as mature animals in a period of maintenance.

TDN is another thing you will want to take notice of. When compared to protein, it is less understood by most producers but that does not mean that it is less important. It is one of the most important numbers you will find on a report. It is a number we use to measure and discuss the level of energy in a feed. It is not calories and should be species specific to a degree, but it gives an indication of how much energy is available to your animal from the forage in question. Any hay testing in the mid-60s or above are considered excellent. I am afraid few hay samples will get there this year. Forages testing from 56-57 up to 62-63 are good and can be fed to most animals. Your highest producers will need more, but this will work well in most cases. Hay testing in the 40s and low-50s will need to be fed with lots of supplements if the animal in question has any chance to maintain body condition and give you the production numbers you are looking for.

ADF is the third number we will talk about today. That does not mean it is the third most important or less important than the other two. From a producer perspective, it is probably the least understood of the three. It gives an indication of forage digestibility that in turn will have an effect on intake, having a drastic effect on how much protein and TDN an animal is able to consume. Clearly, it warrants a closer look and an idea of what is good and bad.

Keep in mind that the lower the number is the better the digestibility is. (It is actually a measure of the parts of the plant the animal cannot digest, so high is bad.) ADF numbers under 35 are really good. Numbers ranging from 35 to 42 are OK and above 43 should be avoided if possible.

One thing to keep in mind is, as a plant matures, ADF values increase, and protein and TDN decrease. One key to keeping these numbers where you and your livestock can live with them is to cut the hay in a timely manner. If you let the hay get too mature, you will need to spend more money on supplemental feeds come winter or risk a number of problems associated with undernourished animals.

In summary, get your hay tested and let your local Quality Co-op help maximize your money by supplementing when, where and with the feed that makes the most sense and makes you the most money. The cost of the sample will pay for itself.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Here it is: broccoli, front and center. I thought it pretty enough to share.

Broccoli Bouquet

Vegetables are beautiful. They bring an awe-inspiring smile when we stop to study their form, colors and physiology carefully. These little miracles borne on stems provide us the sustenance of life. So one day I decided to put my broccoli side shoot in a pretty vase alongside the flowers.

A New Soil Test to Indicate Overall Quality

As science uncovers more about what constitutes good soil for gardens and crops, the Auburn University Soil Testing Lab is including additional tests to help provide a more complete picture of overall soil quality. Soil quality index testing goes beyond the routine soil test to include measures of cation-exchange capacity, micronutrients and metals, electrical conductivity, percent organic matter, ability to aggregate and respiration, an indication of microbial activity. To submit a sample, check with your local Extension office for test sample boxes and make sure to label the sample "SQI." This is critical for accurate results. Currently, a grant has been provided to defray costs of the $50 fee as the test is introduced. The free testing is available only to Alabama residents and will end when grant funds run out. Be sure the submitted samples are moist, but not soggy.

Wooden Dogwood

The idea of a pretty ornamental touch to your deck railing could be repeated in various motifs and in multiple deck sections or used once as an accent or on a gate. I’m sure wood carvers with skills to make a home and garden more beautiful can take an idea like this in many directions.

African violets are classic, blooming houseplants that can be found in a lot of different colors. They are easier to care for when planted in a self-watering planter.

African Violets

As a classic, blooming houseplant, African violets never go out of style. A happy plant blooms on and off in cycles throughout the year. For a violet to be happy indoors and to bloom well, it needs 12-14 hours of bright light; a spot 1-2 feet from a big east- or south-facing window is usually adequate. It needs eight hours of darkness to initiate blooms. Keep it in a room where the lights are not on late into the night. African violets grow in environments where most people feel comfortable such as typical indoor temperatures of 65-75 degrees. Fertilize it with a soluble African violet food, preferably one that doesn’t contain urea as a source of nitrogen because urea is known to burn its delicate roots. Dilute the fertilizers according to label rates or lower to help prevent salts from building up. Violets especially like self-watering planters so the water can seep up from a reservoir at the bottom of the pot. Regular watering from the top can promote root rot and cause leaf spot if the water is not room temperature. If you see a white crust building up on the surface of the soil, it’s probably excess fertilizer salts. To remove them, set a full watering can out overnight to allow it to reach room temperature and evaporate some of the chlorine. Remove the inner pot from its self-watering base and water from the top draining thoroughly to help leach the excess fertilizer out.


Known for its glorious, golden, fall color, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is from a prehistoric family of trees whose fan-shaped leaf patterns are found in fossils. It’s a long-lived, beautiful tree, but rather slow-growing, detracting from what should be great popularity. A young tree has a lanky, awkward shape and grows into a full, long-lived, shade tree with dependable, bright-golden fall color. There is nothing quite as majestic as a ginkgo-lined country driveway in the fall. It’s also a great specimen on the crown of a hill. Although it takes decades, a full-size tree canopy may reach 80 feet in height and about 30-40 feet wide. Some selections are smaller or more upright. One thing to be sure of is to plant only a male tree. Don’t buy random seedlings. Instead, look for male-only varieties such as Autumn Gold, Princeton Sentry, Gold Colonnade and others. Gardeners also love the tree because there is only one cleanup in the fall, as the tree sheds all of its leaves suddenly within a few days in late fall. Ginkgo grows in just about any soil type as long as it is well drained. Healthy trees are so long-lived you can count on them for your grandchildren!

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

In the Maker’s Hands

Perry Phillips is a maker. He made most of his tools and this horse he works on.

Perry Phillips puts a piece of himself into whatever he touches.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Terry Phillips is a man who works with his hands. Talented, passionate and blessed with boundless energy and vitality, Perry is a maker, a man who creates, builds and does good things.

Perry says he "leads a quiet life and attends to his own interests." A devoted family man, he has been married to Teresa for 44 years. They have three sons and nine grandchildren.

He is a spiritual man. He has preached for the past 46 years, the last 11 at Central Church of Christ in Monroeville. He has chosen to follow the words of the Greatest Maker to, "Go, make ..."

Perry grew up in New Site on a 50-acre dirt farm that sat on land which had previously been a Native American village. His father was one-quarter Native American, so he was taught to love and respect nature. His father always wanted his children to learn to do things for themselves, to be self-sufficient and independent.

"We didn’t have a whole lot, but we took care of what we had," he remembered.

Perry has a deep fascination for any kind of wood. He takes pieces of wood and fashions not only the practical but also the unique and whimsical. For example, he works with walnut to make clinging crosses. When placed in the hands of a Parkinson’s patient or someone in a comatose state, the small crosses seem to soothe and comfort.

He makes various trinkets for Teresa, who works at Farmers Cooperative Market in Frisco City. She proudly shows her jewelry, scarf holders, necklaces and even a dainty pill bottle.

He also makes many homemade musical instruments such as flutes (recorders), wooden musical spoons, Trossinger harps and Greek lyres, made from the antlers of the African antelope and the shell of the red-eared slider turtle. He recently made a kalimba, a thumb piano. To amplify the sound, he fashioned three different gourd resonators. When the kalimba is played inside the different gourds, the tonal quality changes.

These are only a small portion of the products made by Perry Phillips. He displays them at Farmers Cooperative Market in Frisco City. He often speaks to groups about his many unusual projects.

"When he gets a piece of wood in his hands," Teresa said, "I never know what will come out because he sees so many things."

Perry has a passion for learning new things. After studying the atlatl, an Aztec word that means "water," he built one. Thirty-thousand years before the bow and arrow were introduced, every ancient culture had some form of atlatl. The early Native Americans used the atlatl to kill the wooly mammoth. He makes these for slinging a 6- or 7-foot flexible dart that looks more like an arrow than a spear. Some atlatls can throw a dart 200 feet or farther.

Japanese craftsmanship intrigues Perry. After reading about tamo nets that are used to dip fish, he made his own. He also made a Tanago rod, a small rod Japanese hold in their hands to catch bitterlings, tiny fish that live in creeks or smaller bodies of water. In competitions, the Tanago fisherman who catches the smallest fish is the winner. He has also fashioned his own case for the rod.

He makes hobo handlines that owners can place in their pockets and take with them. He sells many of these to hikers and survivalists.

Perry prefers to use hand tools such as files, carving knives and a bow saw like the kind used before electricity. He has made many of his own tools. He does have some electrical tools such as a drill press for mounting bands, an angle grinder for removing rough shapes and a sander to knock off the rough edges.

"I treasure my hand tools," Perry said. "I like the old-timey ways of doing things."

Among Perry Phillips’ creations are, left to right, a salt dish made with American wild cherry and Perry’s Sweet Midget sling and hobo handline made from walnut.

In 2011, he read an article about using hand tools to make slingshots. Intrigued, he tried a natural fork slingshot first, but found himself drawn to smaller, more accurate pickle forks. (The name "pickle fork" comes from a part from a universal joint in a car.) He came up with his own design that he called "Sweet Midget" that was immediately welcomed by a niche market of avid enthusiasts looking for something unique. He sent his master to Peter Hogan, owner of Milbro Pro Shot in England. Hogan cast the design in brass, aluminum and bronze, and sent Perry enough of the metal slingshots for all of his family to have one.

Perry has gained a worldwide reputation as PawPaw Sailor, the designer of the Sweet Midget Pickle Fork Slingshot. The name, "PawPaw Sailor," came from his grandchildren. After watching "Popeye, the Sailor" cartoons, they began to call Perry "PawPaw Sailor." Amused, he used the name to promote his handiwork on social media.

Perry’s slings are very popular around the world. He chooses now to make a sling, post it and wait for customers to respond. His prices range from $25-$175, and he has sold some items in six seconds. His Facebook group, "Pawpaw Sailor Crafts," promotes his products worldwide. He also makes instructional YouTube videos, teaching others to make and shoot his pickle fork slings.

For his slings, he prefers exotic woods such as Ebony, the hardest and most expensive; Bocote, a highly figured wood from Mexico; Redheart, with appealing watermelon-colored red grain; and Purple Heart, from the rainforests of Brazil.

"Most of the woods I use are tropical woods," he said. "These have high-density, high-oil content and interlinked fibers, making them very strong because the fibers run both laterally and longitudinally."

Teresa and Perry Phillips have been married for 44 years. Teresa works at Farmers Cooperative Market in Frisco City, and Perry preaches at Central Church of Christ in Monroeville.

Perry explained that the best material for a slingshot band is natural latex rubber because it has better recovery. He prefers a type of latex used by physical therapists. He buys the latex in sheets and cuts it to the sizes he needs. When he first started, he would use old shoe leather for the pouch of the sling. He now buys kangaroo hide from a dealer who glues two pieces together to prevent stretching or wearing out easily.

In 2011, big corporations made most slingshots. Today, customers want custom-made products, tailored to their individual needs and preferences. For example, most shooters want to hold the sling in the same way every time.

"I make my design so the grip ensures the slingshot can be held uniformly in your hand every time," Perry explained. "When you close your hand around it, it will cradle the round palm of your hand and won’t turn or twist. It will be in the same place every time."

Slingshot field shoots are held throughout Alabama. One group of enthusiasts lives in and around Monroe County. The members set up targets, walk along a timber road and shoot. Competition is not as important as having a good time in the great outdoors. Many churches and youth organizations participate in this kind of shooting. There are also world-class shooters in Alabama, who compete online through videos.

Perry believes anybody can make a slingshot. He has no patents, because he wants to share what he does.

"The world today is too consumed by greed," he explained. "Everybody seems to want fame and fortune. I think that’s a shame."

Perry said his woodworking hobbies are a way to relieve stress.

"I do what I like to do," he explained. "When it ceases to be fun, I will quit."

Perry Phillips is a maker, who puts a piece of himself in whatever he touches. He creates with his hands and finds fulfillment in the fruits of his labor. In this maker’s hand, the world becomes a much more interesting place.

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

La Produccion de Jabon, Champu y Crema con Leche d

(The Production of Soap, Shampoo and Cream from Goat Milk)

by Robert Spencer

I am demonstrating to a group of students how to measure solids, liquids and oils.

The first concrete evidence of soaplike substance is dated around 2800 B.C.; the first soap makers were Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, as well as the ancient Greeks and Romans. While I don’t have that many years of experience, I do have 16 years of experience in making cold-process goat milk soap, shampoo and lotion. And I have done multiple trainings in Myanmar, Haiti and Guatemala.

In September 2017, I spent two weeks volunteering my time and expertise in the Quiche Department of Guatemala. Partners of the Americas Farmer to Farmer Program is the organization I volunteer with. This was my third time to do so in Guatemala. The Farmer to Farmer Program is a U.S. Agency for International Development initiative generously funded by American tax dollars. The project host was CEPROCAL and Save the Children Foundation.

The overall goal of this assignment was to provide economic opportunities for women in rural areas of Guatemala in small-scale production utilizing value-added agriculture products (oils, animal byproducts, herbs, vegetables and fruits), including goat milk for making skin-care products such as soap, shampoo and lotion.

A group photo of the students in Nebaj with their finished products.

The first week of training was conducted in Nebaj at a local CEPROCAL headquarters. Students in this class were field officers and technicians working for Save the Children. They would later be responsible for going into their respective communities and training clientele.

During these four days of training, the agriculture products used included goat milk, oils, lards (animal and vegetable), avocado, tomato, coffee grounds, aloe vera and flower petals. One of the objectives of this project was to utilize as many readily available agriculture products as possible while using the cold process for making soap and shampoo bars. The only heat involved was a small propane stove to melt the lard and solid oils (cocoa oil), and the chemical process among the sodium hydroxide, oils and liquids.

The strategy for the trainings was to educate, practice safety, demonstrate, let the trainees acquire hands-on experience while working in teams, and everyone have fun. Photos in my blog will verify that the strategy worked. It was inspiring to watch the trainees learn and implement the process, then take it further to packaging, labeling and presenting in team competitions.

Labeling and packaging is an important aspect of marketing. Here is an example of unique packaging the group used. The intricate packaging of their products won our group first place among the teams.

The second week of training was conducted in Cunen (also in Quiche Department). Trainees in Cunen were also associated with Save the Children along with a few of the local population. The goals, objectives, strategy and training agenda were the same, except due to upcoming holidays they had to consolidate the training into two days instead of four. The ingredients used were the same along with additional botanical products specifically beneficial (identified by local population) to skin and hair. Trainees in Cunen also readily adapted to the training and did outstanding jobs of the packaging, labeling and presenting in competitive teams. They really did an outstanding job in all respects.

This was the first time for me to experience using unrefined animal lard and it worked fine. The training also utilized vegetable lard so the students could compare; it, too, worked just fine.

Every time I do this in rudimentary conditions, I am always impressed with how well everything works, and really enjoy these opportunities and working with the people.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. You can contact him at

Looking Back to Plan Forward

Using the Five R’s to Start Planning for Next Year

by Max Runge

The 2017 harvest isn’t complete but we find our thoughts looking ahead to 2018. Is it too early to be thinking about next year? Not really, but before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there are a few things we need to do for our operation to properly finish this year. Review, rewind, renew, repair and reward. Investing some time and thought in these five R’s will provide a great start to next year.

First review the year. It’s easy to look back and think in general terms how the year went. Calling it good, bad or a mixed year is easy, but you need an honest and detailed description of the good, bad and ugly from the beginning of the year. Think about the weather conditions before and during the growing season and at harvest – not only for your area but across the state, region and nation. Was there an early warmup, a late cold snap, or periods of too much or too little moisture? Make notes of not only extremes but ordinary weather events as well. Were you able to plant crops early, late or on time? How were your fields and pastures compared to previous years as far as moisture, fertility and weeds? Did past problems seem better or worse? Did your equipment have or cause any problems? Are there any new concerns you want to watch? Once you have thought about these, write them down and save it. Ideally, you have made notes throughout the year, but now is the next best time for this task.

Next, it’s time to rewind. This goes along with the year in review but takes it a step further. If you could start the year over, what would you do differently and why? Is there more or different information that would have aided you in making a better choice? If so, is it something you can get? Knowing what additional information to collect will give you a jump-start in your decision making for 2018.

Renew is next. Renew can take several avenues. Let’s start with credit renewal because almost all other aspects of your operation depend on money. Talk with your credit source(s) about your situation and your year – whether it’s good or bad. Share the review and rewind thoughts you’ve put together as well as tentative plans for next year. Even if you aren’t ready to talk about specific loan amounts, communication with your lender will help everyone involved.

Land rental agreements need to be renewed as well. How did the terms of your current arrangement work for you and the landlord this year? Is it fair to both parties? Evaluate your situation and consider not renewing marginal, inconvenient or fields that are far away. Keep in mind you are making a business decision. There are still a large number of rental agreements that are oral or done with a handshake. It is recommended you have a written agreement for the benefit of all parties, and this is a good time to consider putting any unwritten agreements in writing. Communication with your landlord is needed so everyone understands your decisions and why you made them.

Repair is another undertaking that needs to be handled. Repair and maintenance not only helps extend the life of your equipment but will also help you avoid potential problems in the future. Take time to thoroughly inspect each piece of equipment and evaluate it. Are downtime and repair expenses getting to be too much for a particular piece of equipment? Could a new or new-to-you piece of equipment save time or money? If you invest in machinery, make sure it’s a good investment. This may also be a good time to start planning and budgeting for future investments a year or two down the line.

Reward yourself. Hopefully, there will be monetary rewards for your efforts, but you should make an effort to do something for yourself and those close to you who have supported your farming operation throughout the year. It’s important you take time to unwind and step away from the everyday stress of running your operation. Again, this doesn’t have to be big – but something you enjoy for a mental break.

A new year will be here before we know it. Make sure you complete 2017 with a strong finish by doing your review, rewind, renew, repair and reward.

Max Runge is an Extension specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

November Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Under row covers, plant cool-loving crops such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, peas, carrots, kale, radishes, mustard, turnips, beets and spinach.
  • If you still want to plant garlic, do it as early in November as possible.
  • Plant green manure such as rye over fallow vegetable beds to keep down weeds and enrich soil. They will also slow down the leaching of nutrients caused by winter rains.
  • In very sunny windows (six hours of sun a day), grow herbs such as rosemary, basil, mint, parsley, thyme and chives.
  • Set out new strawberries or move rooted runners early this month.
  • This is a good time to move landscape plants that need to be relocated. Get as large a root ball as possible and replant immediately at the same depth.
  • Now is the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. Before digging the hole, prepare the site by loosening the soil well beyond the drip line of each plant. Plant trees and shrubs at the depth they grew in the nursery and not deeper. Remove all wires, ropes and nonbiodegradable materials from roots before back filling. Apply a 2- to 3-inch mulch layer, but stay several inches away from the trunk. Keep the soil moist, not wet, to the depth of the roots.
  • When buying shrubs, don’t forget the interest plants with berries can add to the landscape. Pyracantha, all kinds of hollies, nandina and beautyberry are just a few of the choices available for bright, winter interest.
  • Sow seeds of poppies and larkspur for early spring color.
  • You can continue to transplant perennials throughout the fall and winter, as long as they remain dormant.
  • You can still plant spring-blooming bulbs (including tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths) in your garden. This late in the season, be wary of any bulbs with soft, mushy spots or that appear to be growing mold.
  • Plant amaryllis bulbs to bloom for Christmas. Choose a pot 1-2 inches larger than the diameter of the bulb and leave the top half of the bulb exposed above the soil line.
  • Plant pansies outdoors now and enjoy the flowers until late spring.
  • Plant paperwhite narcissus in two-week intervals. Grow at least six to a pot for maximum bloom effect.


  • Any unused, finished compost is best tilled under to improve garden soils.
  • Now is a good time to collect soil samples to test for pH and nutritional levels.
  • Reduce or eliminate fertilizing of houseplants until spring.
  • Dig in a little cottonseed meal around hellebore (Lenten rose) plants. Also, give them a top dressing of compost or shredded leaves.


  • After a hard freeze, cut back perennials and pull up annuals in the garden if you’re looking for a tidy winter appearance.
  • Mums can be cut back to within several inches of the ground once flowering ends. After the first hard freeze, apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of loose mulch such as pine needles, straw or leaves.
  • When foliage turns yellow or translucent, cut back hostas to the ground. Refrain, however, from dividing or transplanting at this time; you’ll have better success if you wait until spring.
  • Broken limbs or branches may be pruned now for aesthetic purposes, but leave the major pruning of 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 to provide extra habitat for birds as well as an extra food source in their seed heads.


  • As the days grow shorter, most houseplants use a bit less water than they like during the growing season. Instead of watering by schedule, occasionally probe the soil with your finger to see if they are moist or need a splash of water.
  • Be sure to shut off and drain any outdoor water pipes or irrigation systems that may freeze during cold weather.
  • Continue watering evergreens. Soils must not be dry when winter arrives.
  • Drain, roll up and store garden hoses on a warm, sunny day. It’s hard to get a cold hose to coil into a tight loop.
  • Disconnect and store rain barrels. Do the same for water sprinklers.
  • 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.


  • Fall tilling the vegetable garden exposes many insect pests to winter cold, reducing their numbers in next year’s garden.
  • To prevent insects or diseases from overwintering in the garden, remove and discard all plant debris.
  • Keep mulches pulled back several inches from the base of fruit trees to discourage bark injury from hungry mice and other rodents. If the problem continues, commercial tree guards or protective collars made of 18-inch-high hardware cloth will prevent trunk injury.
  • Fallen, spoiled or mummified fruits should be cleaned up and put in the garbage … not in the compost.
  • Once trees and shrubs go dormant, use horticultural oil to control scale and other insects. Be sure to follow directions on the product’s packaging.
  • This is a good time to put out a suet feeder. This will keep birds active as they continue patrolling for insects that may be overwintering somewhere in your garden.
  • Check camellias and azaleas for spider mites and treat with insecticidal soap if mites are found.
  • Plants brought in from outside need to be inspected. Perhaps you missed something in your first inspection. Take quick action if you spot insects to protect all of the other indoor plants.
  • If squirrels are inclined to dig up your tulip bulbs, sprinkle the area with red pepper flakes or just focus on daffodils that are generally not bothered by pests.


  • Keep a journal! Fill it with a list of your daily activities, comments and observations along with empty seed packets, plant tags, photographs, magazine articles, scale garden plans on graph paper, wish list, dried blooms, inspiration thoughts, websites you like, recipes, supplier notes, etc.
  • A dilute whitewash made from equal parts interior white latex paint and water applied to the southwest side of young fruit trees will prevent winter sun scald injury.
  • After a hard freeze, apply a winter mulch to tuck in your favorite perennials, shrubs and trees. Contrary to popular belief, applying winter mulch doesn’t help keep your plants warm. Instead, it keeps the soil from going through cycles of freezing and thawing that can happen on warm winter days.
  • If you see dust on houseplants’ leaves, rinse it off with room-temperature water in a sink or shower. Dust on leaves acts like a film on windows; it reduces the amount of light plants get and makes it harder for them to thrive.
  • Gather leaves to add to the compost pile or to shred and use as winter mulch. If you want to drastically speed up leaf decomposition, run them over once with a mower to finely shred them.
  • If you’re done using your tools for the season, clean them before storing for winter. Start by removing any soil or other debris stuck on the tool. Sharpen shovels, trowels and pruners to make them easier to use in the spring. Use sandpaper to smooth any wood handles starting to splinter; then give them a coating of linseed oil.
  • Remove grass and other debris from the underside of the lawn mower. Clean the air filter. Check the spark plug and change if worn. Start the lawn mower and let it run until it is out of gas. Sharpen the mower blade. Finally, store the lawn mower in a dry location.
  • Mulch strawberries for winter with straw. Apply straw loosely, but thick enough to hide plants from view.
  • Now is a good time to observe and choose nursery stock based on fall foliage interest.
  • Once you turn on the source of heating for your home, the air typically starts to dry (and the more you use the heat, the drier the air gets). Boost the amount of moisture in the air for tropical plants to prevent brown leaf tips and edges. An easy way to do this is to set the plants, in a group or individually, on a large dish of water filled with sand or pebbles and water. The bottom of each pot should sit on top of the sand or pebbles, just above the waterline (so the soil doesn’t stay wet and rot roots).
  • Stop feeding pond fish when temperatures drop below freezing for several consecutive nights.
  • Covering garden pools with bird netting will prevent leaves from fouling the water. Oxygen depletion from rotting organic matter can cause winterkill of pond fish.
  • Take steps to prevent garden pools from freezing solid in winter. Covering pools with an insulating material or floating a stock tank water heater in the pond will lessen the chance of ice damage.
  • After the first frost, tender bulbs should be dug up and stored in a cool, dark area.
  • Terracotta pots can crack in cold if they are at all moist. Empty them and store them upside down in a dry place.
  • Tie vines and cane fruits to their supports.
  • To prevent injury to turf grasses, keep leaves raked up off the lawn.
  • Make sure the bird feeders are full. They’ll appreciate everything you do for them during the cold winter months.
  • Consider the Quality Co-op when buying holiday gifts for your favorite gardeners!

Odds and Ends

by Dr. Tony Frazier

West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis Viruses

It was certainly a wet summer in Alabama. For the most part, that is a good thing. We are all thankful we did not see a repeat of the drought we had during 2016. I once heard a Texas rancher say a flood is a huge problem, but a drought will put you out of business. So we are happy there was plenty of rain this summer; however, there are a few negatives that come with a wet summer.

One of those problems is plenty of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, fire ants, armadillos, fleas and ticks are a few members of the animal kingdom of which I cannot think of any good they do for society. Along with a large mosquito population comes an increase in the risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses.

Both viruses were diagnosed in Alabama this past summer. A horse from Georgia arrived at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and tested positive for EEE. There were several horses in Alabama that tested positive for WNV. Some died, some recovered and some were euthanized.

Of the two viruses, EEE is by far the more dangerous. While humans are susceptible to the both viruses, they cannot catch the disease from a horse. However, if a horse in the area is positive, it should be of concern that the virus is in the area.

For us humans, about the best thing we can do is try to prevent mosquito bites. For horses, there are very effective vaccines to protect them from these viruses.

I realize, by the time you read this article, mosquito season will be about over. I just want to emphasize the need to vaccinate your horses every year.

Sometime over the next few weeks and definitely before next spring, please get with your local veterinarian and discuss an effective vaccination schedule. Then, if we have another wet spring or summer next year, your horses catching WNV or EEE will be one less thing you will have to worry about.

Helping During the Hurricane

Alabama mostly got through hurricane season without a tremendous amount of damage, although some spin-off tornadoes did some damage and destroyed some poultry houses. But our neighbors to the south in Florida, and to a lesser extent our neighbors in Georgia, were dealt a worse hand. It is tough to hear the people who are evacuating those states talk about not knowing what they will be going back to when the wind stops blowing. So many people want to do something, but do not know what to do. I am very thankful to report to you that the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries was able to play some part in reaching out to our neighbors at or close to the eye of the hurricane.

Ben Mullins, who is in charge of emergency programs here at the department, coordinated efforts to offer sheltering for horses and pets being evacuated from Florida and Georgia. The main equine shelter was at the Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery. We were able to coordinate bringing in feed and hay as well as contributing some to helping horse owners be more comfortable while they stayed with their horses.

In addition to offering housing to horses fleeing the hurricane, I waived the requirement for health certificates for that brief period of time so horse owners could cross the state line without having to go by their veterinarian and acquire a health certificate.

For several years, the ADAI has developed, exercised and refined our emergency plans for animal agriculture in our state. When the state of Alabama opens its Emergency Operations Center at Clanton, we have a seat at the table for agriculture, officially known as Essential Support Function 11. When we can help our neighbors, I am glad we can lend support. When we are in the path of the hurricane, we have a plan in place to deal with the hurricane the best we can.

Animal Disease Traceability

I just returned for a meeting to support the continued development of the National Animal Disease Traceability program we have been working toward over the past few years. It is easy to become complacent as long as we do not have an outbreak of a foreign animal disease or some disease we only deal with at some low level such as tuberculosis or brucellosis. But just like the time to prepare for a hurricane is while the sun is shining, the time to prepare for an animal disease outbreak is before it happens.

First, I would like for all of you who are aware of the animal disease traceability regulations in place both at the state and national level to raise your hand. Wow, that is a fairly small number! Okay, over the next couple of years we are going to make a very concerted effort to educate producers about the program. We will make every effort to not only be sure producers are aware of what our laws and regulations require but also why those regulations exist.

Many of you may not be aware that simply having a traceability program in place makes our export partners more likely to buy from us. An example of this is that while Japan stopped buying beef from the United States after our first bovine spongiform encephalopathy case, they continued to buy beef from Canada, despite multiple cases of BSE, because they had an active disease traceability program.

Stay tuned for a lot more information to come out about disease traceability over the coming weeks and months. We will define what the role of the government and the role of industry are, and how we will implement this.

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

PALS: Aiming High to Target Trash

Southside High School AFJROTC cadets fight litter in Selma.

by Jamie Mitchell

Alabama PALS would like to recognize the great work of the Air Force JROTC AL-961 from Southside High School in Selma! The cadets kicked off the new school year by having me speak to them about why their antilitter efforts are so important and other ways they can make a difference in their community. This group has been members of the Clean Campus Program for a few years, and they have even adopted 2 miles of county roads near their school.

At the direction of Lt. Col. Stephen Ruiz, the cadets are constantly looking for ways to improve the cleanliness of their campus and surroundings. This group does regular campus sweeps with their bags, provided by Alabama PALS, to ensure a litter-free campus.

They also regularly pick up the area they have adopted as a part of the Adopt-A-Mile Program. While recently cleaning their miles, a local resident stopped to thank them and provided them with water, sodas and chips. Lt. Col. Ruiz let us know the cadets came away realizing how appreciative the community is of their efforts.

The Clean Campus Program really is designed to create lifelong stewards of our environment and communities. It is our hope that students will hear the message, participate in the cleanups and communicate their findings to their friends and families. The students at Southside High School are the definition of the kind of stewardship we envision of those who are a part of the Clean Campus Program!

Are the schools in your community participating in the Clean Campus Program? If not, please visit our website at to learn more! The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools. Schools may sign up for the Clean Campus Program online or by calling 334-263-7737.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Rains May Result in Lower Quality Hay

Know how to assess the feed value of your cut forage.

by Jackie Nix

The good news is that Alabama had ample rain this summer. The bad news is that these rains may result in lower-quality hay this winter. In many cases, rains delayed cutting, damaged already-cut hay in the field or forced some to bale hay at improper moisture levels. If you harvested or bought rain-damaged hay this year, the questions now are, "How bad is the damage?" and "What is its feed value?"

Try to avoid feeding low-quality hay to calves, lactating cows and cows during late pregnancy. When in doubt, always provide a nutritional supplement providing protein and/or energy to help bridge any nutritional gaps.

How Over Maturity Affects Quality

Weather delays can sometimes set back hay harvests by weeks. This delay results in over-mature forages. While species variations exist, in general as a plant matures, it converts from a vegetative (leafy) state into a reproductive (stemmy) state. When a plant is in the reproductive state, its nutritional resources are focused on producing reproductive structures (flowers, stem, seeds, etc.) instead of leaves. Nutritional quality decreases due to an increase in indigestible fiber (stem) and decreased nutrient content (leaves). Indicators such as stem size and softness as well as the presence of seed heads or flowers can help to gauge forage maturity. Hay containing excessive numbers of mature seed heads will be relatively low in nutritional quality. Desirable hay contains an abundance of leaves and low amounts of seed heads and large stems.

How Rain on Cut Forages Affects Quality

Damage occurs through a variety of different avenues. First, rain will cause leaching of nutrients from the cut forages. Second, rain contributes to leaf shatter. And last, wet forages result in increased drying times.

Rain causes highly soluble cell contents to leach out of the plant. Unfortunately, these highly soluble components are highly digestible by the animal and include soluble carbohydrates and nitrogen as well as minerals and vitamins. Loss of soluble carbohydrates results in a reduction in total digestible nutrients. Because soluble carbohydrates are lost during leaching, structural fibers become more concentrated in the forage. These fibers are largely indigestible and thus reduce the overall digestibility of the forage. Hay digestibility may decline from 6 percent to as much as 40 percent.

Leaf loss also affects quality. The drier the hay, the more susceptible it is to leaf shatter. The force of the rain itself can cause leaves to shatter or fall off, but a more likely cause of leaf loss is due to increased handling caused by rain. Hay containing less than 30 percent moisture will be very prone to leaf loss when raked or tedded. This is especially true of legumes (alfalfa, clover, peanut, etc.).

Obviously, forages that have been rained upon require longer drying times. This can negatively affect quality by prolonging respiration. Respiration is a natural process that results in the breakdown of carbohydrates within the plant by enzymes found in the plant. This process occurs whether the hay has been rained upon or not. Respiration losses will occur until the forage moisture drops to below 30 percent. These losses are normally about 3-4 percent of dry matter. However, when the forage has been wetted by rain, this process is prolonged or begins again (when hay was previously below 30-percent moisture).

Weather delays can sometimes set back hay harvests by weeks. This delay results in over-mature forages.

How Baling at Improper Moisture Levels Affects Quality

Hay baled at 22 percent moisture or above will usually develop mold and undergo excessive heating. Molds on hay will certainly reduce overall palatability and nutritional content, but some varieties can produce toxic compounds. Extreme caution is advised when feeding moldy hay. Under normal conditions, the low-moisture content within properly cured hay will inhibit microbial growth and thus spoilage. However, wet hay (above 22 percent moisture) contains enough moisture to allow growth of anaerobic bacteria. Given proper conditions, enough heat (over 200 degrees) can build up to cause spontaneous combustion and hay fires. Even if hay does not ignite, excessive heat will damage proteins and reduce overall digestibility and palatability.

What do I do if I Have Rain-damaged Hay?

The first thing I recommend is to have all of your hay chemically analyzed. This will allow you to access nutritional quality and determine which groups of animals should (or should not) receive the hay. In the absence of a forage analysis, assume the quality is poor and feed to mature cattle (bulls and cows in the first half of pregnancy). Try to avoid feeding low-quality hay to calves, lactating cows and cows during late pregnancy. When in doubt, always provide a nutritional supplement providing protein and/or energy to help bridge any nutritional gaps.

What Types of Supplements Are Out There?

Nutritional supplements come in all shapes and sizes, and range from commercially produced tubs, blocks, cubes or pellets to natural feedstuffs known to be relatively high in protein or energy such as soybean meal or corn. Choosing which type is best for your operation will vary according to individual circumstances. In many cases, a variety of supplement products will best meet cattle’s needs.

SWEETLIX offers a wide variety of protein and mineral/vitamin supplements in many different forms to help cattle producers manage for deficiencies in hay supplies. If you have concerns about the quality of your hay and don’t have a forage analysis to confirm quality, it is best to assume the worst and at least provide protein supplementation to help rumen microbes to more efficiently digest stemmy forages. Self-fed, SWEETLIX EnProAl Poured Tubs offer convenient, waste-free, protein supplementation in a variety of formulas. Just choose the product that best matches your needs.

In summary, available hay may be of lower quality this winter due to a rainy summer. When feeding low-quality hay, nutritional supplements are necessary to maintain reproductive and growth performance. Protein supplements pay for themselves in added production when used properly in these situations.

For more information about the SWEETLIX line of protein supplement products for cattle and information to help you decide how they fit in your management situation, contact your local Quality Co-op representative or visit

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.

Searching for new members to the club!

Mentored hunting programs aren’t just for kids anymore.

by Chuck Sykes

Chuck Sykes, Syd, Keith Gauldin (chief of WFF’s wildlife section), Andrew Bell and John Dawson Bell after a successful dove hunt.

Alabama is not unlike the rest of nation when it comes to a dwindling number of hunters. The average age of hunters nationwide is growing older with very little recruitment. Unfortunately, many in today’s society don’t place as much importance on hunting as we do. Therefore, we must attempt to educate the public on why we do what we do and what benefit they too can receive by joining the club of hunters.

State agencies, nongovernmental organizations and many private citizens participate in programs designed to cultivate a new generation of hunters. Millions of dollars and countless hours are spent on this quest. Most of the programs, including Hunter Education, National Wild Turkey Federation’s JAKES, Ducks Unlimited’s Green Wings and countless others, focus on teaching kids the positive benefits of wildlife management with hunting activities at their core.

Many of these programs carry it to the next level by taking these youngsters on hunts. Classroom preparation is great, but nothing compares to time in the field. Despite the incredible investment in these programs, many of the kids are never recruited into the hunting fold. Constant demands on their time with soccer, dance class, school events, etc., take them away from time in the outdoors. More importantly, if their parent/parents don’t have the time, desire or finances to help them continue to grow as outdoorsmen and -women, it’s simply not going to happen.

I’m certainly not trying to pour water on the fire of introducing kids to the outdoors; these programs have had some success. However, through survey work on the various youth-focused hunts we have conducted, we have learned that most participants have parents who are hunters. Basically, we are preaching to the choir. While we plan to continue these programs because they are providing valuable opportunities for youths and their parents to spend quality time in the outdoors, we also plan on taking a slightly different approach this upcoming hunting season with our new mentored hunting program.

The concept is to focus on young adults ages 18-40; and, yes, I consider 40 still to be young! This concept is based on real-world experiences my staff and I have had throughout our careers. I can give one specific example of why I believe this model will be successful. Our division pilot, William Johnston, is in his mid-40s, married with two children, originally from Brazil, military background, owned a shotgun for home protection and had never hunted or purchased a hunting license.

Chuck Sykes, Syd, William Johnston and his son, Will, with the doves they harvested on Will’s first dove hunt.

During his tenure with Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, he has flown countless law enforcement missions searching for night hunters, poachers, baited fields, etc. He also assists our biologists conducting aerial waterfowl surveys, eagle surveys, bat surveys and many other biologically driven missions. He and I had spent quite a bit of time discussing hunting over the first two years of my employment, but it never occurred to me that he didn’t hunt. I falsely assumed that someone who worked for WFF either hunted or fished.

Over time, I could see through our conversations that he had the desire to hunt, but the idea of starting out hunting at his age seemed a bit overwhelming, and frankly embarrassing, for him. I had never really looked at it from his point of view. So, I had to do a little soul searching as to how to address the situation. I had to convey my knowledge of hunting to someone my own age in an encouraging and constructive way. I’ve done this for years with young novice hunters, but this one was different. The first challenge was to convince him that there are no stupid questions if you truly want to learn.

On numerous occasions over the next year, we discussed many different aspects of hunting, from firearm and treestand safety to habitat management to hunting techniques. He was like a sponge and, in September 2016, I carried him on his first dove hunt.

We took stands next to each other so I could coach a bit during the hunt. I think he ran through six to eight boxes of shells and harvested two birds. Several factors led to his poor performance. The main one was that his shotgun was basically a youth model for home defense and, also, he didn’t quite understand distance and leads. Luckily, the birds were flying well. As soon as I filled my limit, I went to his stand, let him use my gun and coached him on his shooting.

He was able to harvest an additional eight birds with the next six boxes. Though not yet proficient, he now understood how to judge the speed and distance of the birds and calculate his lead. I could see the sense of accomplishment in his eyes when we left the field that afternoon. I gave him a recipe and he was able to clean, prepare and feed his family what he had harvested. The photos posted on Facebook that evening of him preparing the meal and his family enjoying the cage-free and 100-percent organic food he provided were inspiring and rewarding. The comments received from his nonhunting friends and from coworkers were priceless.

In December, I carried him deer hunting and he was able to harvest his first deer. Just as with the doves, he cleaned, prepared and cooked fresh venison for his family. His journey to becoming a hunter was well on its way. He had been successful in the field and had purchased a hunting license, bought a new shotgun, rifle and scope and, most importantly, he carried his 21-year-old son, Will, on his first hunt during the 2017 dove season.

We at WFF are searching for people like William to register for our mentored hunting program that will take place on the Cedar Creek SOA this year. We will offer several opportunities for these newcomers to participate in one of the deer, turkey, rabbit or squirrel hunts that will be offered. These weekendlong programs will be a crash course in Hunting 101. Our staff will take each participant through a plethora of activities, including firearm safety, habitat analysis, treestand safety, game-processing and, finally, meal preparation.

We are going to attempt to create a quality hunting club environment like we experienced in our younger days. It is our hope this program will have the same impact on the participants as it did on William. The application process is available at under mentored hunts.

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

Shelling Peas ...

by Suzy Lowry Geno

John and Marva Hazelrig McRae

There’s a saying on Facebook that the world would be a better place if more folks spent long afternoons on the front porch snapping green beans.

Cleveland’s Marva Hazelrig McRae was instead shelling peas, but those little tasty morsels got her to thinking along those same lines.

Marva explained to her friends recently, "As I sat shelling peas this morning, I was thinking about my walk. My walk with God is a daily thing, minute by minute."

She went on, "Sometimes I forget He is with me and slip up and say something I shouldn’t or eat an extra piece of cake or cornbread. You know … do things I shouldn’t. We all do. We all sin. But how close is your walk?

"Just like this box of peas we shelled, or born, we are lumped into the human race. But how many of us separate ourselves – theologically speaking – from the others? Just like the other end of the pea box ...

"Folks are watching us. They know us as Christians. We are not perfect. I have to ask for His forgiveness every single day. Just think about this ... what we hear with our ears, spe

Marvin Hazelrig recently turned 84.

ak with our mouths and see with our eyes gets embedded in our brains. That is what we think on and soon that becomes how we live. We only have one flesh. So how can it do anything else?"

Marva, mother of twin boys, continued, "Most of us, not all but most, have children. Even if you do not have children, others are still watching you … even when we don’t realize it. Our children are drinking every word, every action, every moment we live in front of them.

"Are you telling your kids not to drink alcohol, smoke, cuss, overeat, to take care of the temple God gave them? Are you listening to vulgar music, watching TV programs and movies with sex and awful language? Are you looking at, talking to, texting someone other than your spouse?

"One drink leads to another, one high leads to another, too many extra bites lead to an unhealthy self and having someone else, even their picture or video, to lean on someone other than your spouse leads to affairs.

"Every single thing we do impacts our walk. When will we get that??? How is your walk? Where are you leading others? Your children? I don’t want John and Mason to not go to Heaven because of me or their daddy. They were lent to us, entrusted to us just for a short while.

"How are we living? Folks, there is no gray! It’s either black or white. The black is evil … and it’s hot and it’s forever!"

Marva said that it was just "something to think about" as she sat dividing the good peas from the bad.

In another recent devotion, Marva shared with friends that she was thinking along the same lines (about her kids).

"If they shouldn’t be seeing something, then more than likely I shouldn’t either! We all sin, every day. God is watching.

"He is with us every step, every day. Would you read, watch, say, dress, post, eat, waste, spend, drink or think the same way if HE was visible???"

Marva and her family often think about the things in this world as they work close to nature. Her dad, Marvin Hazelrig, began farming his rural Blount County acres with his uncle when he left the Army in 1954. Marvin recently celebrated his 84th birthday!

He and his wife, Lucy, operated a big farm stand outside their home for many years. They moved to the newer, storefront farm stand on U.S. Highway 231 in Cleveland in 1999.

Marvin; Marva; her husband, John; her brother, Mike; and his wife, Pam, now farm over 50 acres on three farms. They grow and sell peaches, apples, pears, nectarines, plums, blueberries, strawberries, figs, okra, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, zucchini, peppers, pumpkins, gourds, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and more! There are also a few cattle in the mix as well!

The farm and store are full family operations and you’ll never be sure which of the folks you’ll see when you visit. Store hours are seasonal with it typically closing around Thanksgiving with the last of the apple sales and reopening around April, on the honor system, with the first of the strawberries.

Sometimes there will be special announcement of weekend openings with special gift relishes or jellies.

But everything is family oriented!

The Hazelrigs have faced tremendous obstacles with the death of Lucy, illnesses of other family members and Marva has even faced trials of her own. But that’s when the spiritual side of life and the natural side of farming come together.

As you are planning and later enjoying your family’s Thanksgiving meal this month, reflect on Marva and her pea shelling ... and maybe think about your own life and your own influence just a little. I won’t ever look at a pot of peas the same again!

Be truly blessed this Thanksgiving during these simple times!

Suzy Lowry Geno is a Blount County freelance writer who can be reached through Facebook, Old Field Farm General Store, or her website,

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Boy, if you keep messin' wid me, you gonna end up cold as a wedge!"

How can someone be a cold wedge?

The phrase is currently used for almost all the many meanings of the word "cold": e.g., chilly, unfeeling, unconscious, dead. The earliest usages seem to be the last two:

"He knocked her down as cold as a wedge, and had her cuts fixed up ..." from "The Indian War of 1864" by Eugene Ware and "But, thank this rebellion! These resolutions are now ‘cold as a wedge’ – ‘dead as a mackerel.’" from "Address of Hon. Joseph Segar, on the War."

The dead usage takes us to one of America’s most famous writers, Mark Twain. In "Tom Sawyer" (Chapter 9), he has:

"Why, you two was scuffling, and he fetched you one with the headboard and you fell flat; and then up you come, all reeling and staggering like, and snatched the knife and jammed it into him, just as he fetched you another awful clip – and here you’ve laid, as dead as a wedge til now." Twain didn’t invent the phrase, however. A letter from a serving Confederate soldier to his father (in 1863) had: "When a Yank would show himself, someone would draw a bead on him and he would fall dead as a wedge."

So, even if we assume that dead as a wedge came first, why a wedge? Well, in "Coming Through – Voices of a South Carolina Gullah Community," from interviews collected in 1936, we have this explanation:

"What’s the deadest thing? ‘Dead as a wedge.’ ... If it has any life in it’ll sho be dead. So many hard licks would knock it out!" This refers to wedges used to split logs. It’s the best explanation I’ve found – there may be better ones.

The earliest use of an "as a wedge" phrase appears to be independent of the two above. It is "tight as a wedge" in "Rambles in the Mammoth Cave, During the Year 1844" by Alexander Clark Bullitt: "Halt, ahead there! I am stuck as tight as a wedge in a log!" And this sense seems to have survived, too; in or about 1961, Robert Heinlein wrote (of one of his books): " ... the story is now as tight as a wedge in a green stump ... "

The use of cold seems to have the original (and still extant) meaning of dead or unconscious and now is extended to other meanings.

Tansy and Turkey

by Herb T. Farmer

Tansy is now my new best friend around the garden and house.

Tansy: Tanacetum vulgare, aka: bitter buttons

About a year or so ago, one of my favorite gardening friends and I were discussing the destructive nature of the Japanese beetle and how it skeletonizes our roses and various other ornamental plants.

I told her I usually cut back (prune) my roses when I see the first sign of those buggers and let the nine-banded armadillos take care of the grubs in the ground. There’s minimal turfgrass here, so the ‘dillos do not do much noticeable damage.

By the time the roses begin to bloom again, the beetle population has moved on; probably to somebody’s yard with some of those beetle traps hanging around.

She suggested planting tansy as a companion plant to help keep the pests away.

Well, I’ve been growing a small patch of tansy for years, but mostly as a mosquito repellant and a salad seasoning. Additionally, I never actually studied the plant and its benefits. I do know it repels those MO-sqweetoes and the leaves can be eaten in moderation, as long as you are not allergic to some of the properties of the plant.

So, the research began. I read every seemingly credible article and statement regarding tansy. I also read many – too many – plagiarized, copy/paste articles about the plant and its benefits, taboos and mystical properties.

I knew it was poisonous to a degree, but I just wrote that off as similar to someone having an allergy to certain types of MSG. However, after reading the just junk on the internet, whoa, baby! I will be a lot more careful how I use the herb as both a culinary ingredient and an insect repellant.

The reason I grow tansy in a small patch on the farm is because it can easily become an invasive nightmare, and I certainly don’t need any more of those.

All of the data I found suggests the plant’s maximum height is 3 feet. Well, they must have got themselves some of them dorfs! (Dwarfs, for the non-Southerners reading today.) The tansy plants I allow to grow for seed harvest easily reach 5 feet, at least.

This little orange is a calamondin, and the tree is either in bloom or has fruit on it 12 months out of the year!

Unless there are a lot of requests for seed from other plantsmen, I will only harvest every two to three years. Leftovers from year to year remain viable at least 60 percent for three years, if properly harvested and stored.

Most of the tansy I grow on the farm gets cut to stump nubs (3 inches from the ground) when inflorescence begins, but before complete maturity.

Tansy has been used for things from flavoring sausage to treating skin infections; from increasing blood flow to enhance fertility or for abortifacients (used to induce termination of pregnancy) in female reproductive organs.

In fact, tansy has been used in preparing bodies for burial, keeping the unpleasant odor of decaying flesh tolerable, and as an ingredient in the recipe for funeral teacakes.

Well, I guess the best use for the herb in my garden will be for the occasional flavor on a salad and a decent mosquito deterrent. Of course, there will be more tansy grown and used here on the farm.

I plan on growing enough tansy to take cuttings every few days to place around the windows and doors in order to keep houseflies and gnats from coming into the home. My preference for a flyswatter (fly swat, fly flap, etc.) would be for it stay on the hook in the kitchen than for it to be used for actual pest control.

FYI, I will not be using tansy in my turkey brine this year because it might just cause a reaction to somebody. Well, if I share it with anybody, that is.

What’s for lunch when you nearly skip breakfast and only eat a banana? How about a savory salad, packed with protein?

One of the cool things about farming in Alabama is you can always go to the kitchen garden and pick something to eat.

If you’d like to make this lunch salad for breakfast, simply add some bacon and yellow corn grits. Instead of using a salad dressing, make a queso!

Today, it’s bibb lettuce and a tomato from a late crop of vines that volunteered in the compost area. To round out this lunch plate, I added pickled jalapeños, sweet yellow onion, dried cranberries, chopped almonds, slices of Parmesan cheese and three five-minute poached eggs.

That will probably hold me until my midafternoon feeding. Hmmm. I forgot to plan tonight’s supper. …

Now, let me tell you how I poached those eggs without a kitchen-cluttering, automatic egg poacher.

  • Use a small skillet, coated with oil, with a fitted lid, heated to medium heat.
  • When the skillet is hot, add 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.
  • Bring to boil.
  • Add eggs, cover and boil for four to five minutes.
  • Eat!

This Thanksgiving, remember what you are thankful for.

I eat my yard! You should eat yours, too!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

Testing the Fence

Southeast Alabama Bull Test raises the quality bar.

by Pam Caraway

The Southeast Alabama Bull Test delivered on its first-year promise in 2016: to provide high-quality bulls to area cattle producers.

The plan this year is to jump a higher fence.

"Everybody was pleased last year," said Michael McCart, who manages the bull test for R&K Farms owners Ronny and Jane Nicholson. "Buyers were really pleased with the condition of the bulls. The consigners were pleased. The sale was good."

Pleased, however, didn’t mean satisfied with the status quo.

"We really want to provide the best quality," McCart said. "So we encouraged our consignors to dig deep, to deliver the best possible bulls."

That meant starting with bulls available within about a 120-mile radius of Coffee County.

"We screened the bulls hard and we emphasized quality, quality, quality," he said. "If they didn’t meet our criteria, we just couldn’t accept them."

That began with the weight. Last year’s test started with some bulls in the 600-pound range. Bulls tested this year had to weigh at least 800 pounds.

"The beginning weight this time was around 900 pounds," McCart said. "That alone is going to bring your better bulls and your superior managers."

Weight, of course, isn’t the only consideration. The Southeast Bull Test looks for superior EPDs, sound feet and legs, excellent carcass and just all-around high performance.

"We had a lot of feedback from last year’s buyers," he reported. "They were very pleased with the condition of the bulls, even after they were turned out. And that goes back to the feed."

Feed is the Foundation for Performance

When it comes to inquiries about any changes in management such as feed, McCart grinned and responded, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."

A foundational practice for managing the test is feeding CPC Grower 13% R from Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. The recommended feeding rate on the CPC Grower label is 1-2.9 pounds per 100 pounds of bodyweight daily. The feed includes not less than 13 percent crude protein, 3.5 percent crude fat and 24 percent crude fiber, as well as calcium, salt, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin A. The active ingredient is monensin sodium, to prevent and control coccidiosis.

The feed was recommended by Brandon Bledsoe and Ben Courson of Opp’s Co-op.

"The service from the Co-op has just been phenomenal," McCart said.

R&K Farms and McCart, who also has a beef herd, have been feeding CPC Grower for three years, both as creep and post-weaning. In the bull test, CPC Grower is offered free choice.

"When the buyers looked at the bulls on the sale floor, they saw a lot of muscle definition," he recalled. "They weren’t fat. They were in superb condition. A lot of feed just puts on fat. This feed intensifies the natural muscle and bone. That’s what we like about it."

While acknowledging that genetic potential also impacts gain, McCart said this feed outperforms competitive products.

"This feed, as far as the performance, improved performance like no other feed I’ve used," McCart remarked.

Proof is in the replication. All the bulls on the test responded to the program.

"They’re like peas in a pod out there," McCart observed. "They’re a uniform set of bulls. They are superb in every way."

Disposition Counts

The days of the raging bull are gone. Nobody wants one on the farm and nobody wants their heifers to throw calves with poor dispositions. They’re not sought after on the farm or in the sale barn.

"Temperament is not a problem," McCart said. "I spend a lot of time in there among them on foot and on horseback. I touch them a lot. Disposition is something that’s very important to us."

Buyers at the 2017 Southeast Alabama Bull Test Sale can expect an even higher standard of quality than seen at the 2016 sale.

Take a Look Today

None of those involved in the new bull test program expect buyers to simply take their word on the exceptional attributes of these animals. The proof will be in the sale catalog that will include performance, gain and ultrasound data on each bull. The bulls were delivered July 1, began the test July 21, weighed and evaluated Sept. 14, and will be weighed and evaluated again Nov. 8.

"Any data somebody might need is available," McCart reported.

This year "is available" means online or in print. McCart takes a lot of pictures. Buyers look at those photos and can find the data they need online at or on the Facebook page by the same name, Southeast Alabama Bull Test.

For additional information or to request a catalog, here are the contacts:

  • Southeast Alabama Bull Test Sale, bull and female information: Ronney Nicholson, 334-403-0383; or Michael McCart, 334-806-5757,
  • Sale catalog request: Jane Nicholson, 334-282-2373,; or R&K Farms, 529 Davis St., Elba, AL 36323
  • Livestock marketing: Luke Mobley, 205-270-0999,
  • Catalogs will be mailed in late November.

Mark Your Calendar

The 2016 sale drew over 100 potential buyers for a standing-room-only crowd at the Coffee County Stockyard, 73 County Road 248, New Brockton, AL 36351.

The 2017 sale also will be held at the Coffee County Stockyard, starting at 1 p.m., Dec. 9.

Any producers interested in raising the quality of their herd will be there.

"These are the bulls that will increase the quality of a herd," McCart stated. "They’re adapted to this climate. They will perform well in the Southeast."

Pam Caraway is a freelance writer from Florala. She’s been writing about Southeast agriculture for over 25 years.

The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein

Where has this year gone? It is fall already, the weather is cooling at last AND it is coming up on Thanksgiving. This column features some yummy recipes that are very appropriate for this time of the year … not just Thanksgiving but any of them would go well with your turkey (or for leftovers)! Our recipe contributor for this month has asked to remain anonymous, but we thank her/him very much for sharing. Have a wonderful November!

In the December issue, we are going to feature pears and are looking for recipes for cupcakes, egg nog and fruitcake. Of course, any of your favorite Christmas recipes would be great.

For January, we will feature black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts, oatmeal and popcorn; and recipes for soups and spaghetti.

Get your recipes to us! We would love to include them in the Co-op Pantry.

If anyone is interested in being our cook of the month, please contact us.


2½ pounds baking potatoes
¼ cup warmed milk (more to consistency you want)
¼ cup butter, room temperature
Salt, to taste

Peel potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks.

In a 4-quart saucepan, place potatoes. Add enough water to completely cover potatoes. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. (You can also steam cubed potatoes until tender.)

Drain thoroughly. Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Break up or put them through a potato ricer. (A potato ricer breaks the potatoes into much smaller pieces, making for smoother mashed potatoes). Add remaining ingredients.

With an electric mixer, beat potato mixture on medium speed just until light and creamy. Or use a potato masher and mash by hand.

Note: Simple, but a staple during the holidays.


2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups frozen corn kernels
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen baby lima beans
1 cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion. Cook 3 minutes or until translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add corn, bell pepper, basil and beans. Cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth, sugar, salt and black pepper. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking 7-10 minutes or until liquid is almost evaporated. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar.

Note: Not a difficult recipe and worth your time if you’ve never had it.


1½ pounds yellow squash
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
¼ cup onion, chopped
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 large egg
1/8 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
10 buttery crackers, crushed (Waverly, Club, Ritz, etc.)

Heat oven to 350°.

In a saucepan, boil or steam squash until tender. Drain and dry.

In skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Sauté onions.

Remove from heat. Stir in everything except crackers and remaining butter.

Spoon into a 6x8 loaf pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, put crackers and remaining butter. Heat in microwave for a few seconds until butter melts. Mix together. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 30-35 minutes.


½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups cake flour (or other finely sifted plain flour)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe bananas, smashed
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. To bowl with sugar mixture, alternately add dry ingredients with bananas and cream. Add nuts. Grease and flour a bread pan (Baker’s Joy spray is much less messy if you spray in the kitchen sink). Bake for 45-60 minutes. Test with a toothpick at 45 minutes; then at 1 hour to make sure it’s done to your liking. Bake longer if needed. Be careful; no amount of butter can bring back the texture of overcooked banana bread.


3 cups leftover cornbread dressing (stuffing if you’re not from around here)
2 cups cornbread (leftover or freshly made)
½ cup celery, chopped fine
¼ cup onion, chopped fine
1 cup leftover giblet gravy (recipe included)
3 cups cooked chicken or turkey (shredded or chopped)
3-4 cups chicken broth, divided (canned or homemade)*

In a very large skillet, crumble dressing and cornbread. Stir in celery, onion and meat. Pour in giblet gravy and chicken stock, starting with 2 cups.

Heat over low heat; mash with a potato masher to break up cornbread and dressing. It should be moist, but not soupy.

Cover loosely and simmer until heated through. Add more chicken stock if it gets dry. This can be served with or without side dishes.

* To make canned broth better, stir in the drippings from pan the bird was baked in.


1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
Turkey or chicken neck, gizzard, liver and heart
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 sprigs parsley (1 teaspoon dry)
4 whole peppercorns
2 cups chicken or turkey stock, canned or homemade
2-4 Tablespoons plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons white wine or 1 Tablespoon dry vermouth

In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in ½ stick butter until translucent.

Add neck, gizzard, liver, heart, carrot, celery, parsley and peppercorns. Cover with stock. Bring to boil. Skim surface if foamy, lower heat and allow to simmer at least 30 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid. Dice meat from neck, gizzard, liver and heart, and set aside.

In empty saucepan over medium heat, melt remaining butter. Sprinkle bottom of pan with flour (the more used the thicker the gravy). Whisk it vigorously and thoroughly. Gradually add reserved liquid, whisking constantly until the mixture has thickened and is smooth.

Add reserved giblets. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine or vermouth. Bring to a simmer; serve while hot.

Note: This dish, made from leftover baked/stewed turkey or chicken, is even more comforting than the comfort food it’s made from! This is not low cholesterol, low calorie or low anything for that matter. If you like gravy on your dressing, try this one!


¼ cup cornstarch
2/3 cup raw cane sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (never use imitation), divided
1 cup flaked or grated coconut (don’t use presweetened), divided
1 baked 9” pie shell
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 Tablespoon refined (white) sugar

In top of double boiler over simmering water, combine cornstarch, cane sugar and salt. Using a large spoon with a flat bottom (mine is wooden), gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring constantly to avoid sticking, until mixture is thick enough to mound when dropped from a spoon. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, beat egg yolks. Stir a little hot mixture into egg yolks and blend well. Repeat several times until egg mixture is very warm. Don’t add too much hot mixture to the eggs at once or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs! Gradually stir all of egg yolk mixture into cooked custard and blend well. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from water and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and ¾ cup coconut. Place plastic wrap over surface of custard to avoid a skin forming and allow to cool.

Spoon into baked pie shell.


In a bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Add ½ teaspoon vanilla and cream of tartar. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gradually add white sugar until glossy. Spoon meringue over pie filling, spreading evenly to edge of crust to seal. Sprinkle with remaining coconut.

November Healthy Recipe


Serves: 4

4 cups fresh apple cider
2 oranges, cut into quarters
24 cloves
4 cardamom pods, crushed
2 Tablespoons honey
4 cinnamon sticks
Grated nutmeg, to taste

Into a pan, pour apple cider. To pan, gently squeeze juice from some orange quarters. Stud remaining orange quarters with cloves. Add to pan. Add rest of ingredients except nutmeg. Set nutmeg aside.

Heat mixture until flavors blend. Strain out solid ingredients. In a mug or cup, serve liquid warm with a little nutmeg on top.

Note: I love autumn along with Thanksgiving and Christmas! One of my favorite autumn and holiday beverages is Mulled Apple Cider. This recipe is totally natural, plus it tastes great. An added benefit of making it is that it makes your whole house smell fantastic while you are preparing it!

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

This Cowboy Stood Strong

Remembering Horseman and Humanitarian Brian Sumrall

Brian Sumrall lifts a rein for a close-up shot at a Southeast Stock Horse event in Headland, Feb. 2014. (Credit Saralyn Harder Photography)

by Jade Currid

Renowned western singer and cowgirl Adrian Brannan’s, a.k.a. Adrian Buckaroogirl, lyrics, "And you laugh at the old man in the beat up truck. Smile at the young couple with the kid who can already rope, but what you don’t see is the breed of man, who still stands strong to feed this land," conjure up an image of a beloved fifth-generation rancher who continues to wear a big ol’ cowboy hat in Heaven. He will have a smile on his mustached face and a twinkle in his eye. The legendary late Brian Sumrall of Batson, Texas, who was a steward of livestock and the land and a friend to many across the nation, would be the face you put on that cowboy.

Sumrall was a longtime member, clinician and former president of the Stock Horse Association of Texas, and served as a firefighter with the Houston Fire Department and as a senior captain with the Batson Volunteer Fire Department.

At only 39 years of age, Sumrall was killed in a tragic accident on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, when a pickup truck struck the rear of his large Kubota tractor as he was carrying out his final act of selfless service in the Earthly realm. He lost his life while delivering hay in an act of generosity typical of his nature to a cattle owner affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Rare and unparalleled are the words that Bubba Cathey of Winnie, Texas, used to describe Sumrall, who owned and operated SHS Cattle Company along with his wife, Rana, known affectionately as Miss Rana, and their 10-year-old son, Gavin.

"Brian was a brave, honest, genuine, dependable, caring and admirable husband, father, firefighter, friend, horseman, clinician and role-model who lived his life to serve others," Bubba disclosed. "For a man who wore so many hats, he was distinguished in all aspects of his career and life. To know Brian was to know greatness. Whether you knew Brian for five minutes or twenty years, there isn’t a doubt that he impacted you in a positive manner and truly touched your heart. Brian is the first man I’ve known to be a jack of all trades and master of all. I’m proud and honored to have known Brian and can say I, along with so many others, will strive to pass on the graciousness and kindness he shared here on Earth.

Brian giddily opens a box of supplies crucial to relief efforts in his hometown of Batson, Texas. The supplies were gathered by a remarkable group of Alabamians. This photo exudes the nature of a true cowboy Christmas … receiving much needed supplies in a timely manner ensured the survival of livestock in an urgent situation. (Contributed by Betty J. Harrison)

"To say it was an honor to accept the 18 wheeler of donations on Brian’s behalf is an understatement.

"Seeing Sumrall’s will and determination to serve people live on after his passing reassures me that God’s plan is much bigger than any we can dream up. Knowing that his passion for serving others is still in action illustrates just how bigger than life Brian was."

The Texas ranching industry, along with its time-honored traditions and values, needed an advocate after Hurricane Harvey spewed hellfire in epic proportions of rainfall and flooding not experienced in at least a century, and, Sumrall, with his booming voice, was the man for the job.

While orchestrating massive relief efforts for his hometown of Batson and helping other areas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, Sumrall made his intentions clearly known and rallied support for the ranching industry and western way of life with the stirring quote, "I am in a fight … to preserve my heritage, my son’s legacy, and the traditions and skills of my grandparents."

"Brian’s impact on the world around him was obvious through his Harvey relief efforts as people from all over the country reached out to Brian to make donations," Bubba revealed. "After Hurricane Harvey, Southeast Texas, as we knew it, was no more. What were once vast acres of green grass and cattle pasture, are now covered by several feet of water – leaving people homeless and their spirit broken; and leaving pets and livestock tired, confused and desperately needing assistance. Livestock were stranded without grass or food for several days and without higher ground to inhabit. As a horseman, cattleman and servant of God, Brian worked tirelessly to provide the community, friends and strangers alike, the opportunity and means to save their livestock, which for many is their livelihood. Brian assisted by helping to gather, load and deliver feed, hay, medicine and all materials in between to ensure the survival of livestock that so many people had worked their whole lives to obtain."

A vivid storyteller, Sumrall intertwined humor and heartwarming accounts of goodwill among the harrowing accounts of dealing with injured and dead horses and cattle, casualties of Hurricane Harvey’s wrath.

He worked around the clock in his role as a volunteer firefighter in his community as it was impossible to commute to his fulltime job as a firefighter in Houston amidst the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Harvey.

For five or six days, he was stuck in either a firetruck or a pickup truck executing relief efforts. During that time, he helped redirect around 2,500 vehicles as a result of impassable roads.

On an unforgettable Thursday night when the rain and floodwaters began to recede and he was standing at the four way completely exhausted, he witnessed the welcoming sight of West Texas cowboys hauling a half-top trailer behind an impressive rig.

"I leaned up in there, and I said, ‘Hey, are y’all used to working floods in Limestone County?’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I said, ‘Alright. Well, you boys can reach that bridge. It’s going to be dark soon.’ I sent them through and I’ll be dang that three days later they weren’t eating omelets at my house after dragging cattle out of the flood."

Sumrall divulged another account of an old-school farmer who had never been handed anything and had to be convinced to accept assistance with his 300 head of cows in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Sumrall said he wished to tell the colorful, yet touching story, to his grandchildren one day and asked if it could be placed in writing in a kind manner.

"I pulled up with a flatbed truck and knocked on the door. You would have thought the Jehovah’s witnesses were knocking on his door when he went to answer it," Sumrall relayed.

The wife of the farmer answered the door to tell Brian "to go on with that feed" he wanted to give to the couple to help with their cattle. Knowing the farmer was within earshot, he asked the wife to tell her husband to get his "bohunkus" outside.

"He called me an ugly word or an ugly derd. I said you need to get your cattle straightened out, and I got hay coming," he fondly recalled.

The farmer replied that he would whip his tail if he unloaded one sack of that dang charity feed.

"I said, ‘Well, you’re gonna get tired of whipping before I quit trying,’" he relayed.

Sumrall left the farmer and wife hugging each other and crying that day. The farmer soon returned the act of kindness by filling up all of the tractors at the relief point, saying it was the least he could do.

Betty J. Harrison, Chunchula, is an active participant in the Alabama Stock Horse Association and Southeast Stock Horse Association events, and one of many whose journey with horses has been inspired by Sumrall. She has been highly instrumental in garnering crucial support and supplies and serving as a voice for Batson relief efforts.

Harrison emphasized the importance of helping areas affected by natural disasters in the most effective manner.

Brian Sumrall embraces his son, Gavin, at the Heritage Days Classic in Liberty, Texas, Sept. 2014. (Credit: Saralyn Harder Photography)

"I also believe that places like Batson, and there are thousands of these little rural towns, are left out of the headline relief efforts," Betty said. "I understand the greater good, and where the most can be helped at a time. But if we ignore these small towns after this type of disaster then they will die. These people depend on the sale of cattle in the fall to make it through the winter and to have calves in the spring. The cattle they depend on either drowned or are now weak or sick. To ignore this threatens to eliminate the way of life for a lot of people. To know these donations go directly into the hands of these people in the form of medication or hay and feed means a lot to those of us giving."

Batson and nearby ranching and farming communities also affected by Hurricane Harvey face a long road ahead as it pertains to the rebuilding process. These areas will experience a hard winter in 2018 as hay crops have been damaged and forage has lost nutrient value as a result of the tremendous amounts of rain and flooding.

Harrison and others will continue with the relief efforts in Batson. Anyone interested in furthering their cause can send a donation through Paypal to the email address:

Most importantly, Sumrall wanted to convey that our great nation is more unified than we could ever imagine and, despite perceived differences and varied backgrounds, we are all more alike than not. He said Hurricane Harvey taught him that lesson.

His sentiments echo the lyrics from "This Cowboy’s Hat," sung by another great cowboy who also walks the streets of gold, the late Chris Ledoux. "Well, there’s always been groups of people that never could see eye to eye, and I always thought if they ever had a chance to sit down and talk face to face, they might realize they got a lot in common."

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Valu-Pak FREE Dog Food

by John Sims

Have you been looking for a dog food with more meat and less grain? You need to try Valu-Pak FREE dog food.

Valu-Pak FREE is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages.

This dog food line is FREE of corn, soy, wheat and gluten.

It contains two meat sources, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin.

We have feed with four analyses: 22-12, 24-20, 26-18 and 28-20.

Adult dog food requirements will vary depending on breed, environment, temperament and stress factors. Working or show dogs will require additional amounts of food, depending on their degree of activity or stress.

Puppies should start eating Valu-Pak FREE dog food at about 4 weeks of age. Feed should be kept before them at all times until they are 9 months old.

Pregnant and nursing dogs get the extra nutrition they require during gestation and lactation. Their food intake should increase during lactation.

Ask your local Quality Co-op store for Valu-Pak FREE dog food to help your dog be happy and healthy.

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

Vietnamese Coriander

by Nadine Johnson

Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum) is an excellent, easy to grow and always available substitute for cilantro. During the 1990s a friend brought me one of these plants from Tampa, Florida. Neither she nor I had ever heard of it before, but we were always glad to add a new herb to our collection. We could find no written information to help us learn about this plant.

I did what I often do under such circumstances. While keeping my plant growing, even multiplying prolifically, I waited for information to come to me. It did. About a year later, I received my copy of the Herb Society of America’s annual publication of "The Herbarist." It contained an excellent article about Vietnamese coriander written by Dr. Robert M. Bond of San Diego, California.

From Bond, I learned that herb was new in the United States. So new it was not listed in my copy of "HORTUS THIRD." The Vietnamese call it "rau ram." In Laos, it is called "phak pheo." It is a common herb used routinely in Southeast Asian cuisine and grown in their communities worldwide. Naturally, these people have brought their favorite herbs with them as they migrated to our country. Early immigrants from Europe did the same.

Vietnamese coriander looks very much like the ornamental plant we call "wandering jew." Some people compare it to smartweed. It has the same growth habits. I always grew some in a container protected from winter cold. During mild winters, my garden-grown plant sometimes survived.

Today, you will find information about this herb on the internet. Seed, plants and recipes are available. However, it is now referred to as Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata). It is not unusual to find plants with more than one Latin name.

You might find this herb locally. Whenever I go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, I always look at the beautiful display of Bonnie Plants herbs. However, I rarely see an unusual herb such as Vietnamese coriander offered.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb that grows to a height of 1-3 feet. It is a delicate plant with lacy foliage. Umbels of pinkish-white flowers ripen into coriander seed that we find on spice racks.

Cilantro (also called Chinese parsley) is the lacy, green foliage of the same plant. (Confusing, isn’t it?) The dried form can be found on the spice rack, very near cilantro, too. Of course, fresh, homegrown leaves give our recipes a much better flavor than the dried variety.

I am a bit shocked to find coriander listed as a medicinal herb. The FDA includes it in a list generally considered safe. The use of coriander began long ago, probably before records were kept. The early Egyptians considered it such a basic necessity that seeds have been found in some of their pyramids. Noted Greek and Roman physicians (Hippocrates, for one) prescribed it as a digestive aid and for gas remedy. In one culture, it was considered to be an aphrodisiac. It has other folklore medicinal uses.

Coriander’s main use is as a seasoning. It is an ingredient in curry powder. It is added to cakes, cookies and candy as a flavoring. In 16th century England, coriander seeds were used as the centers of hard candy. Queen Elizabeth loved these candies that have evolved into what we call "jawbreakers."

My growing days are over; however, memories are made of them.

As usual, I advise you to check with your physician before taking herbal remedies.

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

Woven Into the Fabric of Huntsville

A new book by Terri French explores the history of textile mills in northern Alabama.

by Maureen Drost

Perhaps it was inevitable that textile mills would abound in the South. Farmers planted a wildly successful cotton crop even before the use of the first cotton gin became widespread, producing some 750,000 bales of cotton. Just 20 years later, that total was an amazing 2.85 million bales.

By 1860, the region was the source of two-thirds of the world’s cotton. Fast forward to the early 1900s. Thanks to northern investment and local money, Huntsville would eventually have 10 textile mills in operation.

Huntsville author Terri French, in her new book, "HUNTSVILLE Textile Mills & Villages," says that by 1925 New England no longer dominated in the number of spindles in operation. The South held that title. With the advent of the Dallas Mill, the 10th plant for Huntsville, the city ranked second in the country. No. 1 was Lowell, Massachusetts.

"It appeals to local history buffs and people whose families lived and worked in the factories and mill villages," she said. "I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response to the book. At my first book signing, held at Lowe Mill, four children of a former mill-worker, whose photo is on the cover of the book, came to have their books signed. They were so proud of their father …"

The genesis of the book came from the publisher, Arcadia Publishing – The History Press, who wanted something written on local history.

Huntsville Cotton Mills was the first operation in the city. Constructed in 1881, the spinning mill lay on Church Street near the Memphis and Charleston Depot. Joshua Coons, a trained Rhode Island cotton spinner, was instrumental in starting the facility, and it became a predecessor of other mills. The Bell Factory Mill in Madison County was Alabama’s first spinning and weaving operation.

Dallas Mill would eventually have 50,000 spindles, 1,541 looms and 1,200 employees. Opening in 1892, the mill made bleached and brown shirting, and the widest sheeting made in the United States at that time.

Mill owners took care of their employees by building villages such as the one constructed for Dallas Mill. French describes in her book how the housing and amenities such as a barber shop, churches, a school and the local YMCA made for a better life than workers’ previous circumstances.

Wages were low, however, at about $14 a month, and workers put in 12-hour shifts. Children, some as young as 7, were employed in what was often a dangerous environment.

Stopping one machine stopped all the others, so management wasn’t inclined to cut off the equipment even if an accident was imminent. It only took a second of carelessness for an employee to lose an arm, hand or finger in equipment designed to tear and shred cotton fibers. Management wasn’t entirely at fault for employing children. Often parents insisted their employers hire the entire family.

In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act spoke to improving the lot of children.

French describes in detail the revitalization of some of the mills and related buildings. For example, Lowe Mill, incorporated in 1900 to make sheeting, ginghams and romper cloth, is now the largest privately owned arts complex in the country. The buildings include studios for over 200 artists, a small theater, fine art galleries and performance venues among other features.

Lowe Mill was purchased in 1945 after World War II by General Shoe Co. /Genesco Inc. and made the majority of the combat boots for U.S. soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.

Merrimack Mill opened in 1900. Today, the former village community center and store for the mill has been converted into a small playhouse. It offers performing arts opportunities and cultural arts to those with special needs.

The decline of textile mills in Huntsville began in the 1930s as workers’ frustration grew over the lack of progress in improving working conditions. Union membership rose and strikes became common. According to one source, the big walkout of 1934 was in Huntsville while another source says Gadsden had the first strike.

Historian John Salmond is quoted as saying that what happened wasn’t a strike at all but "a succession of individual walkouts instigated by local leadership." The walkouts or strikes, depending on which version of the story you accept, spelled bad news for Huntsville. The cotton mill industry struggled through the rest of the Depression. By 1955, the only mill still operating was Merrimack Mill.

Meanwhile, Huntsville’s economy was about to change. With the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I in 1957 and the formation of NASA in 1958, the space race began. Marshall Space Flight Center would bring the next wave of newcomers to Huntsville, a move that would dramatically alter the city once again.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville and is a retired newspaper journalist.

Back to
Tickets & Deals