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October 2013

3 Great Trees for Pleasing Fall Color

Black Gum tree.

by Tony Glover

It seems as if every year there is a time when we talk about how unusual the weather has been. As I write this article in mid-August, the temperature was a cool 68 degrees in the morning. Our office has been hosting an intern from Germany who was helping us pick bell peppers this morning at the Cullman Research Station. She commented to me that she wished she had packed warmer clothes because she was getting too cold in the morning air. I will be 53 years old when you read this article and I can honestly say I have never heard anyone say with a straight face in mid-August that they were too cold. We may eventually get a real dose of Alabama heat before our intern heads back to Germany, but I told her today she should feel very fortunate.

Most people assume the cooler temperatures will increase the chances for a beautiful array of fall foliage. Temperatures do play a role, but fall foliage color is really quite complicated and not easy to predict. According to U.S. National Arboretum, a wet growing season followed by a dry autumn filled with sunny days and cool frostless nights result in the brightest palette of fall colors. Changes in weather can speed up, slow down or change the arrival time of fall’s colorful foliage. We have certainly had a wet summer so all we need now is a dry autumn and some bright sunny days.

Sourwood tree

You may think a tree’s true color is green, but actually most deciduous species begin to show their true colors in autumn. According to the United States Weather Service NOAA, here’s why: "The four primary pigments that produce color within a leaf are: chlorophyll (green); xanthophylls (yellow); carotenoids (orange); and anthocyanins (reds and purples). During the warmer growing seasons, leaves produce chlorophyll to help plants create energy from light. The green pigment becomes dominant and masks the other pigments.

"Trees must replenish the chlorophyll because sunlight causes it to fade over time. As days get shorter and nights become longer, trees prepare for winter and the next growing season by blocking off flow to and from a leaf’s stem. This process stops green chlorophyll from being replenished and causes the leaf’s green color to fade.

"The fading green allows a leaf’s true colors to emerge, producing the dazzling array of orange, yellow, red and purple pigments we refer to as fall foliage."

Southern sugar maple tree.

The other critical factor is the species of tree because it has to have the true colors pleasing to look at. There are many great trees producing consistently pleasing fall colors that should be planted more frequently in Alabama. Listed here are three of my favorites. Why not plant one in your landscape this fall? Remember fall and winter are the best months to plant trees and shrubs.

The Black Gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) is a wonderful native species that tolerates a wide range of soil types, has beautiful red fall color, provides a good nectar source for bees and the female trees produce a small fruit that birds enjoy.

Southern sugar maple (Acer saccharum var. floridanum)looks similar to sugar maple, but is better suited for smaller spaces, hotter summers and poor soils.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum) is perhaps most commonly found on rocky wooded slopes in the Appalachian Mountains, often growing in combination with other heath family members (e.g., azaleas and rhododendrons) that share the same acidic soil preferences. In cultivation, it typically grows 20-25 feet tall with a straight, slender trunk and narrow oblong crown. Bees love this native tree and you will too. Plant where they will have afternoon shade and morning sun.

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

4-H Extension Corner: Modern 4-H Helps Open the World to Alabama Youth

by Chuck Hill

4-H has helped open a larger world to many Alabama youth. For generations of kids, the summer trip to Auburn and 4-H State Congress was their first major journey beyond the boundaries of Coffee, Winston or Marengo County. Visiting Auburn each summer was an enriching experience showing them that access to college was both possible and desirable. It allowed them to meet other kids from around the state and to encounter a relatively-wider range of young people.

Left to right, Remember National Congress? Today’s kids don’t share grandmother’s excitement about competing in the 4-H Frozen Foods Event. They have much more timely things in which to be engaged. Knowledge can take you far in 4-H. This year’s state 4-H Forestry Judging Team was from Pickens County. The 2013 State Champs placed second in the national invitational event held at Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Conference Center in Weston, WV.

For dozens of others, the "big show" was always Chicago. From the 1920s through the early ‘90s, the ultimate 4-H destination was National 4-H Congress. There was a tour of the Union Stock Yards during the International Livestock Exposition along with exhibits, demonstrations and a popular parade. It was an experience many 4-H veterans still relish as a life-changing event. Chicago was a world of possibilities radically different from what the kids had seen in Clio or Alabaster or Bayou La Batre.

Clockwise from top left, what did you remember about summer camp? The Alabama 4-H Center provides kids with an array of experiences that go far beyond finger painting and bean mosaics. Young people have opportunities for an array of experiences in 4-H. From pre-school Cloverbuds to senior 4-Hers, 4-H teaches Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery – all while having fun. 4-H Football Day is the largest, most high-profile event in Alabama 4-H. Attracting more than 1,000 young people to Auburn each year, it has also provided unique learning opportunities. Here, Mona Dominguez of the state 4-H staff teaches young football fans about the importance of invertebrates in the water system.

But 4-H has changed just as Alabama’s farms, families and youth have changed. What appealed to youth in the 1920s or the ‘50s didn’t have the same resonance with youth of the ‘90s. The massive Chicago National Congress evolved into a more intimate Atlanta undertaking focusing on service. And the "green wave" that once descended on the Auburn campus each summer is now a series of smaller, but equally enthusiastic waves.

The annual State Competitive Events Day remains a popular point on the 4-H summer calendar. The state winner of the renowned Chicken-Que event goes on to the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference in Louisville.

Twenty-first century Alabama 4-H youth still have wonderful and diverse opportunities to go beyond their own communities. Nationally, they can attend the condensed National Congress in Georgia each November. Held in Washington, the National 4-H Conference is the premier professional and leadership development event for 4-H members. For young people who are deeply involved in such activities as shooting sports and egg and poultry, their interest can lead them to national competitive events such as the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference in Louisville and National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational.

Statewide, one of the biggest, coolest, most-wonderful events is summer 4-H camp at the Alabama 4-H Center near Columbiana. 4-H summer camp alumni think they had fun "back in the day," but they would be blown away by the rich experiences today’s kids have. From state-of-the-art science labs to live introductions to Alabama flora and fauna (think snakes and owls), 4-H camp still retains that pure fun while kicking up the educational component many notches.

For several years, Alabama 4-H has hosted its largest, most high profile event: "4-H Football Day." 4-H Football Day draws more than a thousand young people to Auburn each fall to experience life on a college campus and to meet other young people. This youth football day concept has expanded to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s other university Alabama A&M as well as to Troy University. During the 2012 season, the Alabama A&M team visited Auburn, so both universities were able to join in a shared Football Day.

In statewide contests, a crowning recognition is Alabama 4-H Competitive Events Day. Although some states no longer hold statewide competitive events, Alabama has revised its contests to offer events on more contemporary topics such as digital photography. The traditional judging evaluation is now paired with a serious emphasis on educational discussions between competitors and judges. The 2013 4-H Competitive Events Day drew 136 competitors to the Alabama 4-H Center where they displayed their skill and knowledge in such fields as story-telling, quilting and birdhouse architecture.

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

A Chicken’s Right to Choose

by Glenn Crumpler

I noticed that something did not look right, but I was not expecting to see what I did. The hen had been sitting on 16 eggs for several days, but I was not sure when the chicks were due to hatch.

As I fed the other chickens, I passed by the nest hidden under some vines way out in the pine thicket. All the hens have a brownish/orange hackle (feathers around the head and neck), but what caught my eye was not only the discoloration of this hen’s hackle but also that she was continuously shaking her head in a very unusual way. As I slowly walked closer to her, I noticed that both eyes were closed and the reason she was discolored was because her entire head and neck were completely covered with ants. The ants were all over her, but her head and neck were completely covered. She must have been being eaten alive for some time because every time she would shake her head, she would slowly lower it until her beak almost touched the ground. It appeared she had taken about all the stings her body could withstand.

I tried to brush the ants off, but quickly realized that there were just too many for that to work. As I gently lifted her up, I saw that one little chick had hatched and a couple others were piping (pecking their way out of their shells). They, too, were covered with ants. The tortured hen would open her eyes just long enough to look at the eggs and try to knock off the ants climbing all over them, but there were just too many - thousands and thousands of ants on the hen, the chick and the eggs!

This was a desperate situation for the hen and the hatching chicks. Within just minutes the chicks would be dead and the hen herself could not take much more. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I did what I would not recommend, but what I thought was my only option. I called Lisa and told her to bring me a can of Raid Ant and Roach spray and a gallon of vinegar. I sprayed a circle around the nest with the poison and then I sprayed down the hen. I figured she was going to die anyway, so neither of us had anything to lose. I knew the poison would kill the hatching chicks, so instead I poured straight vinegar over them and the nest. That seemed to do the trick for a little while.

Early the next morning, I went to check on them again to see if anything was still alive. To my surprise, the hen was better, still ant infested, but still sitting on the nest. Five of the chicks had hatched and were still alive but the ants were back on them as well. My only option now was to move the hen, the chicks and the rest of the eggs, hoping I would not stop the hatching process. Moving them during the time they are hatching is not a good idea, but it was that or just let the ants eat them all alive.

To make a long story short, I sprayed the hen down again, gathered the chicks and the rest of the eggs in a bucket and moved them to another pen off the ground, hoping the hen would stay with the eggs on the new nest. Nine of the chicks finally hatched out and eight of them are doing just fine five days later.

What struck me about this incident was the hen’s willingness to stay on her nest, protecting the hatching chicks the very best she could - even though it was costing her an awful lot of pain and discomfort, and would ultimately cost her own life! She was literally being eaten alive, a slow and torturous death, but still she chose to risk and ultimately to give her life if necessary for the sake of her chicks. She may not be able to save them, but she would surely die trying. If the ants were to kill the chicks, they would have to kill her, too. She chose to endure discomfort, excruciating pain and even give up her life - just for a "chance" to give life to her babies.

Compare the choice of a chicken, a mere animal that is here today and gone tomorrow, having never been taught right from wrong and apparently has no conscience or moral compass to guide her, to the choices being made in our culture today and the comparison is tragic and staggering. From the time of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs Wade in 1973 through 2011, an estimated 55,772,015 unborn babies, children created in God’s own image, have been "legally" aborted (killed) in and outside the wombs of American girls and women. Add to that the estimated 1,200,000 babies killed in 2012 and 800,000 in the first half of 2013, and the total is over 57,572,015 innocent unborn babies who have been killed "legally" since 1973 in America alone!

The statistics are not only jaw-dropping, but are reflective of our moral depravity and our having turned away from God, from Biblical teaching and from lifestyles that value and promote the sanctity of life - all in exchange for convenience and self-comfort.

On average, reasons women give for choosing abortion are:

75 percent - having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities.

About 75 percent - they cannot afford a child.

50 percent - they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.

Only 12 percent - women included a physical problem with their health among reasons for having an abortion.

Only 1 percent (of aborting women) - reported they were the survivors of rape.

A mere chicken will chose to suffer and even to die for the sake of her un-hatched babies, but we, who still call ourselves a Christian nation, choose to kill our babies by the millions and to make that killing legal and acceptable, just because the baby would be an inconvenience. How far we have fallen! What a terrible price is being paid!

I cannot help but remember the promise and also the conditions God established for our forgiveness and for our restoration as a nation. He said, "If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chron. 7:14) It’s not too late. We still have time and we still have hope. But, our healing, forgiveness and restoration as a nation and as a Church are indeed conditional and dependent on us. God is patient and willing to forgive, but He will not hold back His judgment forever. He is a loving God, but He is also a just and holy God.

The chicken chose to give her life for her chicks. Jesus chose to give His life for us. I pray we will choose to give life!

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

A Co-op Kid

This is Sam Elliott, age 6, of Walker County. His parents are Bruce and Laurel Hudson Elliott, and his grandparents are Mark and Diane Hudson. Sam’s grandfather frequents the Walker Farmers Co-op – sometimes hourly! “We actually have two of these hats, a spare in case one gets dirty. I’m constantly washing them!!!” Laurel said.

A Heart for Art and Jerseys

Neal Halsey and his family own and operate a dairy farm in rural Pike County. They opened their Pike County dairy with Holsteins in 2000, but have transitioned to Jerseys.

Pike Co. Dairyman Loves Both

by Jaine Treadwell

Those who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line regard anyone who lives north of "the line" a Yankee.

So, when the Halsey family crossed the line and moved into Pike County under the cover of darkness with four "transfer" truckloads of "immigrants," a lot of eyebrows were raised and curiosity was aroused.

Actually, the Halsey family was from Michigan - the Midwest, not Yankee land. The trucks were loaded with 120 Holsteins that were "employed" by Son-NE Dairy and the bovines had come to work in the sunny South.

The Pike County Cattlemen’s Association commissioned Halsey to do the artwork for the sign at Cattleman’s Park on U.S. Highway 231 south of Troy.

The year was 2000. Neal Halsey and his family decided to make the move from the hinterlands of Michigan where winters are too often bitter cold to a place where the air is warm and the grass grows green more often than not.

The Halseys milked the Holsteins in Michigan that night, loaded them onto the trucks for the drive south and milked them in Pike County the next morning.

That’s how Son-NE Dairy came to the Sun-E South.

Clockwise from top left, The praying cowboy is one of Neal Halsey’s most requested metal works. Circular saws become works of art in Neal Halsey’s hands. Neal Halsey’s favorite metal art piece is of his border collie Jed who stood nose to nose with a battling bull and won.

"We came south because the cows can graze most of the year," Halsey said. "We’ve switched to Jerseys because they tolerate the heat better. The move was good for us and good for business."

While Neal Halsey is known as a good dairyman, he also has a reputation as quite a good metal artist and his work can be viewed on a daily basis all around the county and beyond.

Neal Halsey designed and created a 4x6-foot chandelier for a cattleman in Wetumpka. Each side has a different design. The metal artwork includes his signature – clouds, stars and the moon.

Halsey doesn’t think of himself as an artist but rather as a "hobbyist" who makes art.

"The way I look at things is: if it’s not fun, don’t do it," he said, with a smile.

So, the way Halsey sees it is that working cattle and making art with a plasma torch – a thin beam of electricity and air – are fun or he wouldn’t be doing either.

Not many people think getting up before sunrise to milk cows and coming back again in late afternoon to milk them again would be fun.

"If you love it, it’s fun … and I love it," Halsey said.

And not many people would have the talent to create metal art or want to accept the challenges of working in such an unforgiving medium.

"If you make a mistake with metal art, you either just go with the mistake or scrap the piece and start all over," Halsey said and added laughing that he has "gone" a lot of times.

Neal Halsey creates small pieces using horseshoes and horseshoe nails that are popular gift items for those who are involved in or appreciate the Western way of life. At right, Motion; far right, Cowboy Roping. Above, another of Halsey’s pieces.

Halsey does all of his metal work by hand, but much of the metal artwork done today is done by machines.

"Using a picture and a computer, you can get a picture perfect piece of metal art," Halsey said.

That’s okay for those who want cookie cutter art, but that’s not the fun way.

"Artwork made by machine is perfect - too perfect. The edges are as smooth as glass," Halsey said. "Mine’s not like that. You can run your finger across the edges and feel the little bumps. Those little bumps are my heartbeats."

Halsey has had a heart for art for as long as he can remember.

"As a little kid, I liked to draw all kinds of things," he said. "When I got older, I took a few art classes. And, with my family in the dairy business, I learned a lot about working with metal."

Halsey’s experience with metal combined with his artist talents was tailor made for metal art.

"What I like best is Western-type stuff," Halsey said. "That’s what I grew up with and that’s what I know and that’s what I enjoy."

For Halsey, there was a good bit of trial and error, but those first pieces – the trial and the error pieces – were, and are, treasures for his mom Marian.

"She gets the first of everything I do," Halsey said, with a smile. "Whatever I do, she likes."

And his mom is not the only one who appreciates Halsey’s talent. He specializes in custom work.

"People tell me what they want. I sketch it out and, if they like it, I go to work," he said.
Much of the artwork Halsey creates is for entrance gates for farms, cattle operations and ranches.

"I’ve done a lot of cattle and horses, cowboys and cowgirls," he said. "Of course, there are always trees and fences. And, I like to include clouds, the moon and stars. They are my signature on my artwork."

Halsey also does custom artwork on circular saws.

"I’ve done fishing and hunting scenes on saws," he said. "I do a lot of small pieces with horseshoes and horseshoe nails. Just fun pieces. People like small pieces for gifts.

He also does lamps and light fixtures and has done a 4x6-foot chandelier with different scenes on each side.

"That’s the biggest single piece I’ve done," he said. "The people were pleased with it and I had a lot of fun doing it."

Most of Halsey’s artwork is custom work so he doesn’t have a lot of his work "on hand."

But he does have one piece that money couldn’t buy because of the memory it holds.

"I had a six-month-old border collie that I was training to work cattle," Halsey said. "I got a call from a neighbor early one morning saying our bulls were out. I took Jed in the truck with me. When we got there, I didn’t know what he would do facing those huge bulls.

"Almost before I knew it, Jed had popped a bull on the nose a time or two, backed him down and put him in the pen. He did the work with me sitting in the truck. I knew right then that I had a good cattle dog."

Halsey said that’s what his art is all about – about things that are important to people – things identifying who they are and what they are all about.

And, for Halsey, his art is about what’s important to him and what’s fun.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Alabama Agriculture Comes Neatly Packaged:

Above, images on each side of the 24-foot Ag In Action trailer. It will be traveling throughout North Alabama beginning this fall to schools, events and Farm-City Week programs. Below, another side of the Ag in Action trailer. This project will be teaching elementary- to middle school-aged kids about Alabama agriculture beginning this fall.

Seen Soon at Local Schools

by Anna Wright

Picking corn, operating a chicken house, harvesting timber, gathering cotton and calling up cows will soon be an experience for school-aged children in North Alabama. This fall, a farming opportunity called Ag in Action will arrive at schools neatly packaged in a 24-foot trailer. Thanks to some out-of-the-box thinking by Farm-City volunteers who are zealous about teaching kids where their food and fiber come from, students will have a hands-on farming experience without leaving the campus.

Ag in Action is a mobile learning lab or ag simulator that will travel throughout seven participating counties. The idea stemmed from a casual conversation between Dewandee Neyman of Cherokee County and Sharon Groves from Etowah County who had both toured an ag simulator trailer (a trailer with information inside simulating the experience of agriculture) from another state.

"We began talking about how we wished Alabama had something similar to a mobile trailer that houses information about agriculture and can be taken to places where people can’t necessarily get to a farm," recalled Groves, who is secretary of the Etowah County Farmers Federation Board of Directors. "We began talking to members of the RC&D boards in our area and they were supportive in encouraging us to pursue this project."

Sponsors are listed on the back of the trailer. Many businesses and agencies were vital to the accomplishment of the Ag In Action trailer. The cab of a cotton picker will be the main hub of the hands-on farming experience. Students will sit in the seat and harvest virtual corn.

This 5-year, $30,000 project has been made possible by the support of many businesses and ag-related agencies in the area. Sponsors for this exciting venture include Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, Cherokee County Career and Technology Center, First South Farm Credit, Alabama’s Mountains Rivers and Valleys Resources Conservation and Development Council, Cherokee Gin and Cotton Co., Snead Ag, Alabama Farm Credit, Gilreath Printing and Signs, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Farmers Federations from Blount, DeKalb, Cherokee, Calhoun, Etowah, Marshall and St. Clair counties.

"Agriculture today is so much more than what the average person thinks about the stereotypical farm," explained Sarah Butterworth, education coordinator for the Etowah County Soil and Water Conservation District and Etowah County Farmers Federation. "It’s agronomy; it’s management; it’s using smart technology to grow and harvest more commodities with less money. This is something important the kids will be able to learn - that farming has evolved similar to other occupations have with the growth of technology."

Left, inside the Ag in Action trailer, students will see pictures to help them further understand today’s production agriculture. Right, photos taken from farms in North Alabama are seen inside the Ag in Action trailer. Students will see the agriculture produced in their county and surrounding areas once they experience this ag simulator.

Inside the trailer is the cab of a cotton picker that serves as the ag simulator. Students can sit in the cab and "pick" corn, cotton and soybeans. They can harvest timber and hay as well as work in a poultry house while looking into a TV screen simulating actually driving the equipment. When they look to the left or right, there are cotton and soybean fields as enlarged pictures pasted on the windows.

"As the kids ‘drive’ the tractor, we hope they have a lot of fun, but, more importantly, we hope the experience leaves an impression about how and where their food and fiber is produced," Butterworth said. "Students will have the opportunity to become a farmer and harvest virtual row crops through the magic of audiovisuals located inside the cab."

Also inside the trailer are learning labs which will teach kids about all areas in agriculture such as poultry, cattle, timber and various row crops. These stations will let kids touch different commodities and learn facts specifically about products grown and raised in Alabama. They will also get to visit local farms through videos and more.

"Another level of education with Ag in Action is to have members of the farming community to be the host of the trailer at each school and community event," Groves added. "This way the farmers and other people who are immersed in agriculture can be the direct source of information to the school kids who are learning about this part of our community."

Inside, the trailer is wrapped with photos of a field of cotton, soybeans ready to be harvested, the middle of a chicken house, cattle walking through a pasture, timber and baled hay all taken on farms in North Alabama.

"Our purpose is to bring agriculture to school students and reinforce that the food they eat is grown locally," Butterworth continued. "AIA is a farm being delivered to the school to educate."

AIA’s first stop is scheduled for the Etowah County Farm-City Week program on October 2 and 3. For those in one of the seven county project areas interested in hosting AIA at an event or school, they should contact their county representative listed on the AIA Facebook page.

According to AIA’s Facebook page, "Our belief is that we as an ag community need to ensure that the connection between the farm and urban and rural life is not forgotten, and that students know that their food and fiber come from local farms."

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

Alabama Fish Artists Recognized at International Awards Ceremony

Alabama first place winner for the Wildlife Forever Fish Art Contest in grades K-3, artist Vicki Wang.

Alabama first place winner for the Wildlife Forever Fish Art Contest in grades 4-6, artist Rachael Tao.

Alabama first place winners for the Wildlife Forever Fish Art Contest in grades 7-9, artist Chastin Hall
Grades 10-12, artist Heather Henderson, respectively.

from the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources

Recently, students from Alabama were recognized for their artistic ability at illustrating a fish species native to their state. First place winners in Wildlife Forever’s 15th Annual State-Fish Art Contest were celebrated during the organization’s annual awards ceremony and expo at the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Ga., July 12-13.

Attending the event were 142 students who had placed first in their home states, including four from Alabama. The international event was attended by students from 48 United States, Canada, India, Korea, Mexico and the Philippines. Each of Alabama’s winners illustrated their official state freshwater fish, the largemouth bass.

Alabama first place winners recognized at the event:

Grades K-3: Vicki Wang, Barbara Keel Art School, Auburn

Grades 4-6: Rachel Tao, Barbara Keel Art School, Auburn

Grades 7-9: Chastin Hall, Cleveland High School, Oneonta

Grades 10-12: Heather Henderson, Falkville High School, Falkville

In addition to Alabama’s first place winners, second and third place winners were chosen from the state, but did not attend the event.

Second place:

K-3: Jocelyn Wang, Barbara Keel Art School, Auburn

4-6: Issac Stubbs, Wetumpka

7-9: Jenna Moore, Trinity Presbyterian School, Pike Road

10-12: Christopher Carter, Indian Springs

Third place:

K-3: Grace He, Barbara Keel Art School, Auburn

4-6: Lee Farrow, Montgomery

7-9: Ethan Gentry, Trinity Presbyterian School, Montgomery

10-12: Laura Dube, AP Brewer High School, Somerville

The Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest encourages young artists to create an illustration of their state fish and a written composition about its behavior, habitat or efforts to conserve it. Entries are categorized by grade level: K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. Up to three winners from each state are selected and invited to the annual awards ceremony and expo.

In Alabama, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries has partnered with Wildlife Forever to promote the contest.

"The State-Fish Art Contest uses art as a medium for teaching conservation education," said Doug Darr, WFF Aquatic Education Coordinator. "Teachers can request information and a lesson plan specific to aquatic natural resources that includes a species identification section profiling each state fish, a glossary, a suggested list of quiz questions and student worksheets by visiting"

Wildlife Forever is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to preserving America’s wildlife heritage, with more than 70,000 members nationwide. Working at the grassroots level, Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states.

To view this year’s winning artwork, visit To view past and present winning artwork from Alabama students, visit and search for "State-Fish Art Contest." For more information about the State-Fish Art Contest in Alabama, contact Doug Darr at 334-242-3471 or by email:

An Open Letter

To Alabama Stockyard Owners and Managers

Dear Stockyard Owners and Managers,

Over the past 12 years that I have been State Veterinarian, there have been many challenges, issues and even the occasional emergency I have had to deal with. However, nothing has taken as much of my time and energy as the development of a way to trace diseased or exposed animals so we can respond to them quickly to minimize the negative effects on the animal agriculture community. I just think it is appropriate to tell you how much I appreciate your participation in the development of what is now known as the Animal Disease Traceability Program. For so many years, a traceability program did exist as part of the Brucellosis Eradication program. The role you played in that program was invaluable. The same is true for your role in the present Animal Disease Traceability Program.

From the time we discontinued testing in stockyards for brucellosis, we knew we were just one disease outbreak from a huge mess. That fact was made very clear to us when, in the spring of 2006, we found ourselves trying to find the origin of a red BSE-positive cow with no form of identification. The silver lining with the BSE cow is the disease is not considered to be contagious from cow-to-cow and the time it took sifting through stockyard records and interviewing producers was not terribly critical. If it had been a disease such as foot-and-mouth disease or even brucellosis, our inability to identify and trace exposed and diseased animals could, and most likely would, have been devastating.

When I think back to the middle of 2004 when we began work on some type of program to allow us to recognize, respond and recover from an animal disease event, we knew that traceability would be the key component. Without traceability, we would be doing the equivalent of closing the gate after the cows all got out. We saw a snapshot of that when the United Kingdom had to deal with foot-and-mouth disease back in the early 2000s. A low estimate of the animals euthanized during that outbreak was 4 million. The average estimate was over 6 million. And, by the way, the United Kingdom did have some sort of identification and traceability, but it was not one that worked well for rapid response.

When we began the discussion, there was always one thing I believed then as I do now. You, at the local stockyard, would be the key piece of the puzzle in whatever program we put into place. With that in mind, in January of 2005, we announced the beginning of an animal identification program at Cullman Stockyard with a lot of press coverage and optimism that we could accomplish that goal. And while some of you did not agree with the plan as it was first laid out, none of you argued that there was not a need to be able to trace animals for the purpose of disease response. Many of you stood with us as we pounded on the podium and told producers, no matter what their opinion was, the program would be mandatory in 2009. When that program was reeled back in and it was announced that not only would the program not be mandatory in 2009, but the USDA had never really said it would actually be mandatory, we all lost some credibility with producers.

Looking back, it seems we have the technology to trace animal movement through electronic identification devices and various computer programs, but the details in implementing that program get too complicated. In addition, producers were being told the government was just trying to get more information to give to the IRS to use against producers. In fact, there was a whole bunch of just plain wrong information being spread, some through ignorance and some to intentionally derail the program. I have been involved in the development of the program from the early days and I can tell you with extreme conviction that the government’s only aim is disease traceability.

There were claims the market would drive disease traceability. We were all told that when Farmer Smith saw Farmer Jones get a nickel a pound more for his calves because they have electronic identification, the next time the Smith calves arrive at the stockyard they will have electronic ID. While you stockyard owners and managers have worked with producers to bring a more uniform and more marketable product to the sale, there are still a significant number of producers who bring calves to market with horns and testicles, costing the producer a nickel to a dime a pound on price. That number is significant enough to show us that disease traceability cannot be driven by receiving a premium if you participate. Some things must be mandatory. Do you think everybody would buy car tags if it were not mandatory?

Anyway, after representatives from the cattle industry approached me a couple of years ago asking that a Disease Traceability Programbe developed and made mandatory in the State of Alabama to protect the industry, you have worked with us to see the education of the producer and the implementation of the program succeed. We began with pilot programs in a few of your stockyards by tagging adult cattle with the old silver metal ear tags. Then more of you began to participate. Finally, when the USDA rolled out their disease traceability program, Alabama already had the train rolling down the track.

There are still some wrinkles to be ironed out as the Animal Disease Traceability Program matures, but we are in far better shape to respond to a potentially devastating disease outbreak than we have been for most of the past decade. It seems like I have attended many meetings and made countless phone calls as we have got to where we are today with Animal Disease Traceability. I want you to know I have made it a point at every opportunity to let the USDA and the rest of the country know that the success of the program, at least in Alabama, would be dependent upon the participation and support of the stockyards. I am writing you today that, nationally and regionally, we are noted for pulling together and getting our program off the ground. I just wanted to thank all of you in an open letter for your recognizing the importance of being able to trace animals for the purpose of disease response. If I can ever be of assistance to you on anything, please do not hesitate to call me.


Tony Frazier, DVM, State Veterinarian

Archery for the Entire Family

by Stuart Goldsby

The fast-paced world of youth sports begins with "T-ball" and "Pee Wee" football and typically ends with high school league play. It’s not uncommon for parents to run from one field to the next searching for the right place to be. Family members routinely pass in the driveway in vehicles brimming with uniforms and equipment to suit the current seasonal activity. Many times, both parents and children are split on different fields. While children take to the fields, mom and dad sit as spectators in the stands cheering them on.

The world of archery offers one answer to the division of family time. Conducive to the family in search of spending more time together, this outdoor sport provides opportunities not offered by traditional sports. With archery, participation can include the very young and those of a more seasoned age. This all-inclusive family activity also offers accessibility for the most physically and mentally challenged. Manufacturers and retailers understand this, and now make archery equipment to suit any and all user types.

Whether your interest is Olympic-style archery with long distance precision, or 3-D field archery as a warm-up to hunting season, archery can accommodate. Most importantly, archery brings families together onto the field in a safe, wholesome and challenging activity. In addition to being very safe, archery can take on golf-like precision, baseball mental acuity and football stamina. Family members can begin with the most modest equipment and the least of expectations as a way to find fun in a sport they can participate in for the rest of their lives.

Looking for a place to shoot? Visit one of the community archery parks located throughout the state. Locations are listed at Furthermore, many city park and recreation facilities offer after-school programming or summer camps for archery. In addition, archery retailers can often help get you in touch with local archery clubs, archery instruction and more. And for youth, the Archery in Schools program is offered in many schools throughout the state. Participants in that program also have the opportunity to compete in regional, state and national tournaments.

Join the fun. Give archery a try.

For further discussion or information about programs presented by the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries please contact Stuart R. Goldsby at 256-737-8732 or

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit

Stuart Goldsby is a Regional Hunter Education Coordinator with Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Bamboozle Mr. Snooty with Fake Scrapes

The initial focal point of a scrape isn’t on the ground - it’s actually the overhanging branch - often referred to as a licking branch. A buck will deposit scent from his forehead and preorbital glands on it along with often chewing on it. (Credit: Tony Campbell)

Mock Scrapes for Mature Bucks

by Todd Amenrud

Using a buck’s scrapes as the focal point to get close enough for a bow shot is a proven tactic from late September through December. However, without the use of a trail camera or a Magnum Scrape Dripper, it might be difficult to determine when a scrape is being hit. A good number of scrapes are made and seldom freshened again, and a good majority of scrapes are made nocturnally. Knowing which scrape areas to target and when to strike are keys to hunting scrapes effectively. Mock scrapes can often assist in deceiving a mature buck into making that one, fatal mistake.

Mock scrapes are a great way to entice bucks into an area. My best luck comes from making a series of mock scrapes and using Magnum Scrape Drippers over them - my own fake "scrape-line" so to say. The Magnum Drippers are heat activated so they drip during daylight hours. This conditions bucks into showing up during legal shooting light and hanging around in the area longer. This method is tried and true for targeting bucks pre-rut and again post-rut.

Targeting the right area is important. You can’t just target any overhanging branch and expect to create a successful mock scrape. For a buck, a scrape doesn’t actually begin on the ground - it starts with the "licking branch" hanging over the scrape area – usually about five to six feet high. So obviously the site must have at least one branch the correct height. I suggest targeting areas already being used by your target buck. Other good spots tend to be funnels connecting wood lots, secluded food plots or areas you know to have been good scrape areas year after year.

I tend to pay less attention to scrapes made on field perimeters and concentrate on ones closer to bedding areas. You want to seek an area your target buck is claiming as his, then push in and make it look and smell like there’s a rival buck moving in on his turf. Look for the areas with the largest scrapes, spots containing numerous scrapes or clusters of scrapes, and scrapes you know have been freshened again and again.

You can sometimes use a buck’s natural existing scrape and make it appear like another buck is moving in and taking over his “scrape-claimed” territory. Try to choose areas with the largest scrapes, spots containing numerous scrapes or clusters of scrapes, and scrapes you know have been freshened again and again.

Once I find the area, I search out the same type of tree with the same height overhanging branch the buck originally approved of. Try to duplicate the variables the specific buck you’re after preferred – the height of the branch, the same type of tree, etc. You can actually use the buck’s existing scrapes - in the whitetail world the same scrape may be utilized by many different bucks. However, more often than not I’ll make my own scrape, trying to copy the specifics found with the buck’s existing scrapes.

The actual mock scrape is best created with a sturdy stick found in the area, or a rake can make very fast work of this job. However, just as with any gear you use in this process, the rake must be as free of foreign odor as possible – don’t select a rake that’s been hanging near your vehicle’s exhaust in your garage and expect to fool an animal with the sense of smell of a whitetail. Try to make the scrape on flat ground (if possible) and make sure it is free from all debris. Again, be careful not to transfer human scent to the spot. Clean rubber-bottomed boots and gloves should be worn to reduce scent-transfer.

After collecting data at locations using both mock scrapes and natural existing scrapes without drippers, there’s no question your odds are significantly better at scrapes, or scrape areas, with Magnum Scrape Drippers. This wasn’t conducted as a scientific study, but I would say your odds are at least double when using dripper(s).

I prefer a set-up that initially varies the scent used in each. I believe with more than one "mock" you’re increasing your 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 as many as a dozen mock scrapes in an area about the size of an acre. My two favorite scents are Active Scrape and Trail’s End #307 used in the dripper. However, you can use any liquid scent as long as it will flow through the dripper.

The idea is to let your drippers freshen the site for you by dispersing scent during daylight hours, conditioning bucks to show up earlier in the day and spend more time at the site. If I check the spot before I hunt it and see a preference is shown towards one scent over another, I will change the rest of the drippers to that scent. Use your best judgment. If the site is smoking hot with fresh sign, back out and hunt the spot as soon as the conditions permit. If you want things to "build" for a while, then refresh the drippers with new scent.

Heat-activated Magnum Scrape Drippers are designed to drip scent during daytime hours, conditioning bucks to show up earlier and hang around longer.

Consistent with just about every successful mock scrape set-up I have are the "mock rubs" I also suggest creating. With a pruner or wood-rasp, I "rake" up as many two- to six-inch saplings as possible. A real intruder buck would also mark the territory in this way. If the bucks in the area aren’t rub-crazy, don’t go overboard. On the rubs, and in various other places around, I use a scent called Mega Tarsal Plus. This scent could be classified as a territorial intrusion scent. The illusion I want to create is that a foreign buck has moved in on his breeding territory. Select Buck Urine is sometimes also placed out at several key places in the area.

Timing is critical for mock scrapes to work consistently. In the Midwest, I seem to have my best luck from the second week of October through the first week of November, and then again after Thanksgiving and into the first part of December. When the bucks are actively chasing and breeding, mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic. You want the bucks to be actively protecting breeding territory.

As mentioned, when creating your set-up you must be cautious of scent-transfer. Rubber gloves should be worn to avoid leaving smells on the overhanging branch. Elbow length trapper’s gloves work perfectly for this. Super Charged Scent Killer should be sprayed on your boots and clothing to help reduce odors before you access the site.

Another little secret is to hang your drippers on a higher branch above the interaction branch. This keeps them from getting a good whiff of any foreign odors that may have permeated the dripper’s cloth cover. I like to pull down a higher branch with my pruner and hang the dripper on it - just make sure the scent will drip into the scrape. It’s OK if some of the scent also hits the licking branch, too; I haven’t seen this influence results at all.

Don’t expect your exact mock scrape(s) to necessarily get hit. Sometimes they may interact directly with your creation, sometimes they don’t. However, my goals are to simply draw them to the area during legal shooting light and hold them there for a longer period of time; I don’t care if they touch my mock scrape as long as I get the shot.

A hunter should use all other aids and information in conjunction with scrapes. Know where the does are bedding, what the preferred food sources are at that time, where your target buck is bedding, and where he may have other hot scrape areas. Take in the "big picture" of the whole area and use all of the scrapes in relationship with other factors before making your set-up.

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.

CAMGA “Lunch & Learn” to Highlight Planting and Growing Garlic in Our Gardens

With more than 15 years of experience in growing garlic here in the River Region, Central Alabama Master Gardeners’ Association member R.C.Arceneaux, Deatsville, will be the presenter at the October "Lunch & Learn" on Wednesday, October 9. The L&L will be held at the Alabama Cooperative Extension Services facility on Queen Ann Road just off Route 14 on the west side of Wetumpka. The program will begin at noon and end at 1 p.m.

Arceneaux will cover fall planting, harvesting in late May or early June, planting the cloves (depth and spacing) and signs the garlic is ready to harvest. Details on how to dry the garlic, which varieties do best here and where to find quality bulbs for planting will also be included. Probably unknown to most of us is that there are more than 600 varieties of garlic and the taste and size of the same variety grown here in the River Region can have a different taste and size when grown in West Texas or California.

L&L is a free program offered by CAMGA. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own Lunch and Learn about gardening during their lunch hour. Beverages are provided at no charge.

Since the first L&L in Wetumpka in January, the events have featured pruning techniques, starting plants from seed, soil testing and making your own potting soil, raised bed gardening and home veggie gardens as well as houseplants and growing and using herbs, all about hydrangeas, heirloom gardens and more. The L&L series, attracting 30-50 attendees each month, will continue on the second Wednesday of each month. Additional subjects for the year include sessions on recycling yard and kitchen waste, using natural materials from the landscape with which to decorate for the holidays, etc.

For more information, call 334-567-6301 or visit the Extension office in Wetumpka.

Co-op Managers Recognized for Superior Performance

Pacesetter Awards are given every year at the annual Co-op Manager’s Meeting. Awards are presented for total dollar purchases, for total percentage increase and some presentations were based on other information collected during AFC’s fiscal year 2012-2013.

The AgriSolution awards were presented to Bae Lamastus, Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op, for Extra Mile Award; by Val Ivey, manager of Proprietary Products; and Jamie Vann, Madison County Co-op, for Million Dollar Club. Not pictured is a representative from Marshall Farmers Co-op for Extra Mile Award. The Animal Health Sales awards were presented by John Sims, AFC Sales Rep to Colin Morris, manager of Goshen Farmers Co-op, for Largest Percent Increase; Steve Lann, general manager of Marion County Co-op; David Tierce, manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op (Crossville) and Bud Murdock, manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op (Rainsville).
The BioLogic awards recipient was Lloyd Nelms, manager of Jackson Farmers Co-op (Stevenson) for Largest Percent Increase, presented by Austin Delano. Not pictured are representatives from Pike Farmers Co-op and Elmore Farmers Co-op. Bonnie Plants awards were presented by Stan Cope to Jay Jones, manager of Headland Peanut Warehouse, for Largest Percent Increase, and Bill Jones, general manager of Talladega County Exchange. Not pictured is a representative from Morgan Farmers Co-op.
The Crop Nutrient Sales awards were presented to Keith Griffin, general manager of Madison County Co-op; Barry Long, Farmers Co-op Live Oak/Madison; and Jay Jones, manager of Headland Peanut Warehouse, presented by Chris Carter, AFC’s Crop Nutrient Department. The Crop Protection Products Sales awards were presented by Johnny LeCroix, Products Director of Crop Protection Products, and to Brit Christopher, Limestone Farmers Co-op and Ronnie Neely, general manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op.
Pat Chesnut (center), vice president of Co-op Financial Services, present the Largest Dollar Increase John Deere Credit award to Keith Griffin, general manager Madison County Co-op, and the Largest Dollar Volume John Deere Credit award to Earl Curl, general manager of Farmers Cooperative Inc., Madison, FL. The Feed awards were presented by David Riggs, AFC manager of Feed, to Wayne Gillam, general manager of Tuscaloosa Farmers Co-op, for Largest Percent Increase, Steve Lann, general manager of Marion County Co-op, and Bill Jones, general manager of Talladega County Exchange, for Sales.
The Feed Ingredient Sales award were presented by Phil James, AFC director of Feed Ingredients, to Lamar Stone, general manager of Altha Farmers Co-op, for Sales; Bud Murdock, manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op, for Largest Percent Increase; and to Tim Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, for Sales. The Hardware Sales awards presented by Jerry Ogg, AFC director of Hardware, to Jay Jones, manager of Headland Peanut Warehouse, for Largest Percent Increase and David Tierce, manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op, for Sales. Not pictured is a representative from Randolph Farmers Co-op.
The Lawn and Garden Sales awards presented by Susan Parker, director of Lawn and Garden; to Colin Morris, manager of Goshen Farmers Co-op, for Largest Percent Increase; Steve Lann, general manager of Marion County Co-op, and Robbie Neal, Lauderdale County Co-op, for Sales. The Professional Products awards were presented by Drew Rochelle, Agri-AFC, to Larry Murphy, manager of Lauderdale County Co-op, for Sales; by Steve Sanderson, sales manager of Professional Products, and Ronny Neely, general manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op, for Largest Percent Increase. Not pictured is a representative from Blount County Farmers Co-op for Sales.
The Seed Sales awards were presented to Rance Welborn, Lauderdale County Co-op, for Largest Percent Increase; Celena Cole Lann, manager Limestone Farmers Co-op, and and to Ricky Aldridge, manager of Walker Farmers Co-op, for Sales by Grady Congo, Agri-AFC seed manager. The Tires, Batteries and Accessories Sales awards were presented by Jerry Ogg, director of Hardware, to Todd Smith, manager of Hartford Farmers Co-op, for Largest Percent Increase; Steve Lann, general manager of Marion County Co-op, and Brandon Walls, manager of Madison County Co-op.
Jimmy Zorn, manager of West Geneva Co-op, was the recipient of the special Turn Around Award presented by James Fudge, vice president of Management Services. The Excellence in Safety & Risk Management Awards were presented by Marie Cook (front row left), AFC’s Safety Director, to Todd Smith, manager of Hartford Farmers Co-op; Steve Lann, general manager of Marion County Co-op; Celena Cole Lann, manager Limestone Farmers Co-op; Chris Casey, Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op; Jessica Steward, Winston Farmers Co-op; Ricky Aldridge, manager of Walker Farmers Co-op; Lloyd Nelms, manager of Jackson Farmers Co-op; and Jimmy Zorn, manager of West Geneva Co-op.

Corn Time


Dealing with Breast Cancer

A Personal Journey

by Nadine Johnson

In recent months, I’ve had a good many calls requesting the column I wrote about my own cancer. Here it is.

On July 5, 2001, I became a member of the growing group of mastectomy victims. A few weeks before, a prominent mass had been detected on a manual examination. This small lump was also visible to the naked eye. Mammograms, ultrasound and iridology all confirmed my suspicions that this would prove to be cancer. At first, I experienced a short period of apprehension. This was followed by a very serene attitude which, until this day, I continue to maintain.

The pathology report read, "Biopsy, mass left breast: Infiltrating ductal carcinoma." This report further stated that no cancer cells were found in the tissue surrounding the small tumor. I was given the option of two types of surgery. I could have an axillary dissection (removal of lymph nodes leaving the breast intact). However, I chose to have a modified radical mastectomy (removal of the breast) since I felt this was the safest procedure.

Before it was ever proven that my tumor was malignant, I told my family physician and my surgeon that I planned to follow all of their recommendation regarding treatment. I also told them I would be using herbs and other natural remedies known to combat cancer. On my first visit with my oncologist, I told him the same thing. They voiced no objection to my use of natural products even though they couldn’t advise me on which products to use.

My oncologist said, "I will give you the same advice I would give my own mother. Chemotherapy is available to you if you request it. However, since you have stage 1 cancer, I do not feel chemo is necessary. I believe the proper treatment for you is the medication called Tamoxifen."

I took this oral medication for 5 years. I was monitored on a regular schedule by my oncologist, of course. Although the future is not ours to see, my prognosis was and still is good.

As soon as I thought I had cancer, I began to take two capsules of E-Tea twice daily. I also began to take two capsules of Pau d’ arco twice daily. These are the two natural products I hope to take daily for the rest of my life.

E-Tea contains burdock root, sheep sorrel herb, turkey rhubarb root and slippery elm bark. The formula comes from an old Native American remedy.

Pau d’ arco grows in South America. It is reported that South American Indians use this herb to fight tumors. It is further reported that research in Brazil and the University of Illinois shows Pau d’ arco contains substances highly effective against cancer. Today, I only take one capsule daily of each of these two products.

Before I began taking E-Tea and Pau d’ arco, I had a number of small dark spots on my lower arms. These spots resembled freckles, but had a roughness like warts. (I assume this was tiny skin cancers although this was never confirmed by a doctor.) Before I began taking Tamoxifen, these rough spots had disappeared and been replaced by tiny smooth white scars. They have not grown back.

You never know when the following information might be needed by you or someone you know. I suggest you read it and keep it on hand.

The American Cancer society recommends all women ages 18 and older, and those who are sexually active, receive a Pap smear yearly. At the physician’s discretion, this test can be done every 3 years after three consecutive normal test results. Women 20-39 should receive a clinical breast exam every 3 years, and women 40 and older should receive a clinical breast exam and mammogram each year.

The Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is a program of the Department of Public Health that provides free breast and cervical exams to women 40 and over who are uninsured or underinsured. Women who qualify for this program receive a Pap smear, pelvic exam, clinical breast exam and mammogram if age 50 or older. If there is a cancer diagnosis, treatment services are available through the Alabama Medicaid Program. For more information about enrollment in this program, call toll free 1-800-227-2345.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. In 2000, it was estimated 192,200 new cases of breast cancer would develop and 40,200 women were expected to die. In Alabama only, 2,900 women were expected to develop breast cancer and 600 were expected to die. A woman’s best protection is early detection. (Note that 2001 was the year of my cancer.)

I must add one other warning by telling my daughter-in-law’s story. In the early1990s, this young woman developed a problem with her breast. During a year’s time she had several manual exams, mammograms and ultrasounds. No problems were ever detected. Finally she said, "THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY BREAST AND I KNOW IT!" On her request, a needle biopsy was done and cancer cells were detected. She had a mastectomy and it was discovered that her whole breast was pre-cancer cells. She followed all the recommendations of mainstream medicine and takes the same natural products I take. At this time, she and I both appear to be in excellent health. I tell you this so you, too, will be persistent as she was if you should have a similar situation.

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

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

Document the Does and Get Wise with Wire

Homemade steel carryall made for less than 150 bucks.

by John Howle

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” – Proverbs 14:23 (NIV)

We’ve all heard a lot of "talk" coming out of the federal government, but we haven’t seen the actual "work" involved with solving economic problems like an ever-increasing national debt, putting Americans back to work or holding government officials responsible when they are involved with each new scandal of the week. If a farmer sat around the breakfast table and only "talked" about the new fence he planned to put up or "mused" over the herd of cattle that needed worming, he would soon enter a world of poverty. Maybe a farmer could suggest we have a "national discussion" to bring public awareness to the fact he needs to fertilize his pastures without committing himself to the work of actually applying the nitrogen, potassium and phosphate to the fields to make the grass grow.

The spray holder holds a battery on front, the sprayer in the middle and you can raise the holder to attach a spray boom.

Running a successful farm, business or country requires hard work. There’s no way around it. It might sound good to the ears of some to be able to give smooth speeches, optimistic oratory or motivational musings, but without the hard work required to get results, poverty, not profit, lies ahead.

Frame for Sprayer Makes Great Carry-All

I like to see equipment used for double duty. Take the hammer, for instance. You are able to drive nails with one end and pull them out with the other. I sketched out a plan to build a holder for my 25-gallon sprayer made by Agspray, a Co-op supplier. I knew I wanted it to be a frame that would hook to the three-point hitch of my tractor and I knew I wanted it to be lightweight enough to load the implement into the back of a truck by myself. Using quarter- inch angle steel, I had a local metal fabricator weld the frame, create the top link attachment, and reinforce and drill the sides of the frame so the lift arms could attach with pins.

The carry-all not only carries a 25-gallon Agspray sprayer but can also carry heavy items around the farm.

I had the fabricator weld a flat piece of sheet metal on the base to hold the sprayer, and he welded a smaller section of sheet metal to hold the full size battery that powers the motor on the sprayer. If the implement did nothing but carry the sprayer, it would be a handy implement. However, the implement makes a great carry-all.

By having a wide platform, the holder/carry-all can haul a 55-gallon drum full of corn or heavy objects such as a tub of syrup for the cattle. Multiple posts can be laid across the frame or a 300-foot roll of field fence can be carried with ease. Parts and labor came in under $150.

Document the Does’ Locations

Deer season is quickly approaching, and you might be thinking about harvesting a mature buck. Here are a couple of tips. Look for the natural food sources at the beginning of the season such as heavy white oak acorn producers. The deer will work these areas regularly during the early part of the season. Chances are you may spot a few does browsing upon these acorns, but maybe you haven’t seen a buck yet.

Keep your eyes on the travel patterns of the does and the areas they bed and hang out. It won’t be long until the bucks will begin visiting these areas. You’ll be ready for the mature bucks once the rut comes in. Document the areas you frequently see does and, chances are, the bigger bucks won’t be far behind.

Left to right, Document where you see does during the early season and you will know where the large bucks will be when the rut comes in. Keeping a short section of electric fence wire in your chore coat can aid in making many easy fence repairs.

Get Wise, Bring Wire

There are plenty of times you may have to fix the fence where a tree has fallen on the fence or the wire came apart. Keeping a small coil of electric fence wire in your bag comes in handy when you need a short section of wire to mend a fence. Unlike barbed wire, the electric fence wire bends easier and, since there are no barbs, you can carry it easier without snagging clothes or hanging it on everything in your path.

Recently, I was checking the fence lines and discovered a multitude of pine trees that had fallen down on the fence in various places in the woods. I had the smooth, electric fence wire and used it to make multiple repairs. On one section, all the strands that were nailed to a tree stump were lying down because the stump had rotted out.

Once I realized there was a nearby live tree to nail to, I knew I could attach to this tree without going to the house to get posts. The only problem was the strands wouldn’t quite reach the live tree. I started a staple in the live tree and drove it about halfway in. I then used a section of electric fence wire and attached the barbed wire strands to the half driven staples with the wire. By only driving the staple in half way, you can loop the wire through the eye of the staple and drive the staple flush with the tree once you have looped the wire through a couple of times.

This October, be sure to do more hard work and less idle talk. This will help your farm run more smoothly, and maybe our leaders in Washington can learn from your example. n

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.


Early October in the Garden

The good rains we had this year promoted bacterial leaf spot that has been difficult to control.

by Kenn Alan

Sometimes figuring out whether a growing season has been good or bad is a toss-up. The flowers and veggies performed great! Unfortunately, the weeds performed equally well.

In Alabama, even in October, there is still a lot of great gardening enjoyment to be had.

In the past few years, the growing season for annual flowers and vegetables has been cut short by lack of rainfall rather than cold weather.

2013 brought us enough hydration to keep everything alive. Rain barrels stayed full. Unfortunately, when some of the rains came, ripening tomatoes on the vine couldn’t grow fast enough and the skins split. Summer squashes rotted on the vines and there just wasn’t enough air circulation to keep the fungi off of the eggplants.

Clockwise from left, mulberry weed is the worst weed in the Tomato Tower gardens. We call it armpit weed because the flowers and seeds grow in the pit of the leaf stems. Chamberbitter or gripeweed produces seeds on the undersides of its leaves. Cloudless Giant Sulphur larvae on senna. These plants should be managed by removing seed pods. Remember, the beautiful yellow butterflies use this as their host plant.

Generally, the drought-tolerant plants thrive without problematic pathogen issues. When the zinnias get leaf spot, we harvest them. In a week or so, they’re beautiful and blooming again. That was the case this year; except with all of the rain, the leaf spots never completely went away.

Battling weeds is still a nightmare! With a month and a half of flower production and pepper harvests left, it is a constant fight with the usual nemeses.

In the past 3 years, we noticed that one of the annual weeds that is a problem all over the Southeastern United States survived the winter and constantly produced seeds. Mulberry weed (Fatoua villosa) grows in a variety of soils and soilless conditions. It produces flowers within a few days of its germination, followed by seeds that drop almost immediately. Mulberry weed invades row crops and field production as well as home gardens and lawns. It is extremely difficult to control without herbicides and pre-emergent herbicides. The only organic controls are manually extracting the plant from the taproot and burning it and/or heavy mulching the raw ground to smother germinated seeds. It is unknown, though, just how long mulberry weed seeds remain viable.

Clockwise from left, ornamental pepper “Black Pearl” is still producing beautiful edible hot fruits. NuMex Twilight ornamental pepper is a favorite here at the Tomato Tower. Another hot edible, this chili produces purple, yellow, orange and red fruits. Sangria is an ornamental pepper that produces purple to red fruits from June until frost. It is a hot chili, but we grow this one as a bedding plant.

Gripeweed is aptly named. Another name for this fast-spreading noxious weed is chamberbitter (Phyllanthus urinaria). Some folks confuse this with another weed with similar leaf arrangements, mimosa. Gripeweed produces seeds on the undersides of its leaves.

The other big bad weed we battle every year here at the Tomato Tower garden is senna (Senna hebecarpa). The war with this noxious weed is a bitter sweet one though. This legume is the chief host plant for the Cloudless Giant Sulphur butterfly (Phoebis sennae). We try to pull all but a few sennas, and keep the seed pods plucked on those that we spare. One small senna plant can produce hundreds of seeds in their bean-like pods.

All in all, 2013 has been a very good season for most of the plants here in the garden beds.

Last month, I mentioned I would tell you a little bit about my used garden tool collection. For what it’s worth, I love a bargain. I began collecting garden tools more than 30 years ago and the collection is quite large now.

A friend of mine used to say, "There’s no substitute for the right tool."

He was right, too! There aren’t many duplicates in the tool collection, but there is certainly diversity.

Key elements you should know when you shop for tools is how much a tool costs new and what is the price range among sources. Also, you should be aware of when and where tools were made and which ones are the best. When you have that knowledge then you will know when you have a good deal.

Now, it’s time to shop. I have my favorite dealers I shop for certain things. My favorite marketplace is a garage sale. Sometimes you can buy good, vintage tools for pennies on the dollar. When some vintage garden tools (hoes, rakes, etc.) were made, they sold for a dollar or two. Now, those tools are worth more than the ones made today. If a tool is properly cared for then it should last you a lifetime. Look for well-cared-for tools when you shop for used equipment.

There will be more on this subject later.

I want to thank everybody who stopped by the DeKalb Farmers Co-op tent last month at Boom Days in Fort Payne. It is always great to meet the Home Grown Tomatoes readers.

Enjoy the fall!

If you have any questions or comments regarding the plants discussed in this column, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'; document.getElementById('cloak98570').innerHTML += ''+addy_text98570+'<\/a>'; //-->

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Fall Deworming Even More Important After a Wet Summer!

Figure 1. Basic Life Cycle of Common Gastrointestinal Nematodes of Cattle. (Credit:

by Jackie Nix

Internal parasites create an economic burden on cattle producers. Internal parasites in cattle reduce feed intake, reduce average daily gain and alter the animal’s immune system. Expensive nutrients fed to sustain cattle are diverted to sustain the parasitic organisms instead. Parasitism is classified as either clinical or subclinical. Clinical parasitism means the body is overwhelmed to the point that disease symptoms are present (anemia, edema, diarrhea, rough coat, etc.). These symptoms are easier to see and treat. However, if one waits until clinical symptoms appear, the damage has already been done and the animal has been inefficient for quite some time. Subclinical parasite infections do not show outward disease symptoms, but the animals are less productive (lowered milk production, reduced weight gain, altered carcass composition, reduced conception rates, etc.). The time to deworm is in the subclinical stage before major damage has been done and money has been lost due to poor productivity.

In general, younger animals and animals under stress are more likely to be negatively affected by parasites. Mature cattle acquire some degree of immunity. However, mature cows near calving time are very susceptible to parasites as their own immunity is suppressed due to the pregnancy. Also, bulls are more susceptible to internal parasites than cows.

Figure 2. Infective larvae found in a drop of dew.

The Life Cycle

In order to control internal parasites, one must understand their life cycle and how they are transmitted to cattle. Luckily, most of the economically important internal parasites (roundworms, stomach worms, barberpole worms, etc.) have similar life cycles (Figure 1). The adult nematodes mate and produce eggs within the host. These eggs pass out of the gut in the feces. The eggs hatch, and the larvae go through several stages before they reach the infective stage. This infective stage migrates from the manure pat onto moist grass (Figure 2) where it is consumed by the host; then the larvae mature into adults, completing the life cycle. It is important to note that these larvae need moisture (from rain or dew) and soil temperatures of 55-85 degrees to swim up the blades of grass. As the grass dries, the larvae move back down into the soil. Cattle do not pick up larvae from dry pastures. Thus, the warm, wet conditions we’ve experienced this summer have been ideal for internal parasite transmission.


Control of internal parasites is a never-ending battle entailing a combination of pasture management and strategic use of anthelmintics. Control should be aimed at reducing exposure to infective larvae and disrupting the lifecycle. Control practices include the following:

Figure 3. Self-fed Safe-Guard 20% Protein Dewormer Blocks offer a deworming option that doesn’t involve running cattle through chutes. This could be an ideal method for heavily pregnant cows or producers without access to chutes or working facilities. Carefully read label directions or consult with your local veterinarian to see if this method is right for you.

Move susceptible cattle to "clean" pastures. Clean pastures are those that haven’t been grazed by other cattle for at least 12 months since larvae can survive for up to a year in pastures. Rotating pastures with other species (horses, sheep or goats) also acts to clean pastures as these parasites are species specific. When the larvae are ingested by anything other than cattle, they will die harmlessly in the gut.

- Do not over-stock pastures. Over-stocking pastures forces cattle to graze closer to the ground and thus pick up more larvae.

- If forced to use pastures that aren’t "clean," refrain from turning cattle out on new grass until the dew dries.

- Strategically use dewormers, especially prior to calving and/or moving to new pastures.

- Periodically have fecal egg counts conducted to assess if your current deworming program is effective.

- There are many anthelmintic products on the market to choose from. When choosing a dewormer, consider the following:

- Production status of animals to be treated (cow vs. calf, beef vs. dairy)

- Product efficacy for the desired parasites

- Ease of use

- Slaughter/milk withdrawals

- Cost

With all of the above in mind, consider use of the Safe-Guard En-Pro-Al Molasses Dewormer Blocks or the Safe-Guard 20% Protein Dewormer Blocks in the coming fall months (Figure 3). Both utilize the active drug ingredient fenbendazole, labeled for the removal and control of lungworm, stomach worms, barberpole worms, brown stomach worms, small stomach worms, intestinal worms, hookworms, thread-necked intestinal worms, small intestinal worms, bankrupt worms and nodular worms. These are the only self-fed dewormer blocks on the market.

Self-fed delivery of dewormer has many advantages over other delivery methods. First of all, drenches, injections and pour-ons require cattle be worked in a chute. Not every producer can afford to purchase expensive catch gates and chutes. Also, there are inherent stresses placed on both cattle and humans when cattle are worked, especially when cows are in late pregnancy and/or temperatures and humidity are high. Lastly, there is the safety issue of working cattle in close quarters, especially when utilizing inexperienced help.

To learn more about these two self-fed dewormer options, visit to view the product label or ask for them by name at your local Quality Co-op.

In summary, the warm, wet summer we have just experienced has provided ideal conditions for the transmission of internal parasites. Control of these internal parasites will depend upon a combination of pasture management and strategic use of dewormer products. No matter which anthelmintic product you choose, deworming cattle this fall will be critically important to maintain productivity over the winter. Consult with your local veterinarian to determine the anthelmintic program that is best for your situation.

Safe-Guard is a registered trademark of Merck Animal Health.

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.

Fall Recalls Cherished Memories

by Corky Hugh

What a wonderful time to be alive! The air has that little hint of fall, leaves are taking on some color and those of us who hunt and fish are feeling all kinds of urges to get outdoors.

Cooler water temperatures mean fish are becoming more active. After long, hot, summer "dog-days," it’s time to get on the water and see if the bass or crappie will cooperate.

Hunting season has arrived and small-game hunters have taken to the woods and fields. Archery deer hunters are all set for their time in the woods.

For many of us, this time of year brings back cherished memories of outdoor experiences from the past. I remember the first squirrel I shot as if it were yesterday. I was all of 9, and, after years of tagging along with my grandfather, watching and learning, the day finally came when he actually allowed me to kill one myself. The squirrel was hopping from right to left along a big limb on a shagbark hickory in the hollow behind Babe Kennedy’s barn.

The new, single-shot 20-gauge Winchester, a gift for Christmas, was loaded with a Remington high-brass #6 shell. All these years later, I clearly remember the shot, experiencing for the first time in my life the remarkable absence of felt recoil when shooting at game. What a stark contrast to the shoulder-bruising, cheek-slapping practice shots I had been taking at paper targets, coke cans and pinecones!

Old memories such as these are often crystal-clear as if they happened yesterday. Specific details of hunting and fishing experiences are recorded in great detail - as only the mind of a hunter or angler can record them. How do we remember so vividly for so many years the exact details of individual encounters with specific fish or game animals? And why?

Maybe this extraordinary level of recall is a primal part of the human psyche, a vestige of a time when sustenance depended on hunting and fishing success. Some would argue that we’re simply so passionate about our outdoor pursuits we choose to remember all the details.

Whatever the case, if you had asked Billy Stimpson on his 91st birthday to give you the particulars of his first successful turkey hunt when he was only 9, he would have recalled them in great detail some 82 years later. Daresay, there are few things Billy or anybody else could remember that way for 82 years.

Of course, we all tend to forget (maybe even repress) the unsuccessful, boring, uneventful days spent afield. This is why some people, bless their hearts, moan and carry on so about the way things used to be. Perpetuating the myth of the good old days, they are quick to tell all who will listen, "We don’t have near as many (fill in the blank) as there were back then."

In fact, game populations are in much better shape now than when Billy killed that big gobbler 82 years ago. With the exception of quail – which have declined due to changing land use practices – every hunted species is far more abundant now due to science-based management practices and effective law enforcement protection.

For 75 years, hunters have paid for this management and protection through their hunting license purchases and federal excise taxes collected at the manufacturers’ level on hunting arms and ammunition. The passage of the Wildlife Restoration Act in 1937 set in motion this highly-successful user-pay funding mechanism that has substantially benefited all of society through ensuring there are abundant and healthy wildlife populations.

As Tom Kelly puts it, "The good old days are right this very minute."

So get out there and enjoy the remarkable opportunities we have in today’s outdoors. Please be sure to share our outdoor heritage with a young person. Like Billy, they’ll remember the experience vividly for a lifetime.

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

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

Farm Income Forecast Reduced by Larger Than Expected Harvests

by Jim Erickson

United States farmers will receive $120.6 billion in net income this year, up 6 percent from last year, according to USDA’s latest forecast.

After adjusting for inflation, the income figure is the second-highest amount since 1973 with only 2011’s inflation-adjusted income being higher.

However, the number is down from USDA’s estimate earlier this year, reflecting larger harvests that will mean lower prices and reduce projected farm income.

The net income forecast "is a testament to the resilience and productivity of U.S. farmers and ranchers and a further sign of the positive momentum they have achieved over the past 5 years," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

According to USDA, net cash income is expected to decline by more than 10 percent from 2012. Unlike net farm income, the net cash figure does not account for capital consumption, change in inventories and non-money income.

Substantial year-end crop inventories that lift the 2013 net farm income forecast are not reflected in net cash income.

Other highlights in the forecast include:

The value of livestock, dairy and poultry production is expected to increase 5.2 percent in 2013, reflecting large gains in broiler and milk sales. The average annual price for broilers is expected to rise almost 11 cents per pound in 2013 while milk receipts are projected to exceed the previous high set in 2011. The annual price of milk is expected to be $19.70 per cwt., $1 higher than 2012 and the second highest on record. Milk production should be about 1 percent above last year. Other livestock categories are forecast to change only slightly from 2012.

Cotton receipts (lint and seed) are expected to decline in 2013 from their record 2012 level, reflecting large declines in both the supply of and demand for cotton. A decline in cottonseed receipts will be mostly offset by an expected rise in open-market sales of lint. U.S. cotton sales are especially dependent on world demand for U.S. output, and that demand has been dropping sharply and reducing exports.

The value of crop production (the sum of cash receipts, value of inventory adjustment and home consumption) is expected to rise in 2013 despite an anticipated $12.4-billion drop in 2013 crop cash receipts. The USDA explains this is due to a very large 2012-13 increase predicted in the value of inventory adjustment for crops, led by corn and soybeans. The increases in end-of-2013 inventories for both commodities more than offset the negative impact of lower expected prices.

Lower corn receipts reflect an expected fall in 2013’s average price from its record high in 2012. The forecast price decline more than offsets the anticipated increase in quantities sold in 2013 with that number expected to be the third highest on record.

While both U.S. soybean production and use are predicted to increase in marketing-year 2013, expectations for lower soybean receipts reflect lower prices that will more than offset a slight gain in quantities sold.

Value of peanut production is expected to drop 38 percent in 2013, reflecting both lower prices and quantities sold.

Food grain receipts should remain relatively stable. A forecast decline in the price of wheat in 2013 will be mostly offset by an increase in quantity sold. Rice receipts are expected to remain stable due to higher prices and lower sales.

Vegetable and melon receipts are expected to be up 17 percent in 2013, mainly due to higher prices, except for dry beans. While sales of dry beans should increase, a forecast price decline will mean lower dry bean receipts.

Large production gains are expected for peaches, prunes and plums in 2013 with more modest increases expected for apples, pears, strawberries, grapefruit and lemons. Large declines are forecast in avocado and sweet cherry production with smaller but still substantial declines in orange and almond output.

The projected increase of $13.1 billion, or 3.8 percent, in total farm production expenses in 2013 continues a string of recent annual increases interrupted only in 2009. In total, expenses are expected to reach another nominal record high of $354.2 billion. In inflation-adjusted dollars, 2013 production expenses are also a record. However, the anticipated rise this year is less than half of the $28.5-billion rise in 2012. A steady increase in prices, rather than higher quantities of inputs, has been the biggest factor in rising production expenses since 2003.

Feeding the Family with Pond and Pole

Rolley Len, Cason and Jason love to fish as much as they love to eat fish.

by Christy Kirk

When it is time to plan what your family will have for dinner, some of you will be walking down to your pond with a fishing pole rather than going to your freezer. Having fresh fish from your backyard is truly one of the best things about living in the country.

Our pond has bream for bait and to eat. It also has bass. Rolley Len and Cason love to fish as much as they love to eat fish. When Jason suggests they "come on with me down to the pond," the kids don’t hesitate. Grabbing shoes and bug spray, they take off for the pasture. Even when they don’t fish with their own poles, they can spend a lot of quality time watching Jason or Paw-Paw RJ.

Stock your pond with your favorite fish and bait fish and get ready for years of good eating right out of your backyard. Sometimes fish hatcheries will bring fingerlings to your local Co-op. These are small fish used to stock your pond. On certain days of the month, companies bring grass carp, bream, bass and catfish.

Farm ponds and any other type of small lake need to be managed properly if you want to use them for fishing. Ponds can get overrun with bass or any type of fish if you don’t manage the population, so you need to be sure to thin it out throughout the year. Managing a pond includes liming and fertilizing the water. Another way to manage it is by shocking the pond, which local pond management companies can help you do. The purpose of shocking the pond is to estimate how many fish are in the pond and how many need to be removed to keep the pond regulated.

Bream, bass and catfish can be caught and kept at different sizes depending on your use for them. When Jason catches a bass that is 2 pounds or under in our pond, he keeps it to eat. A common goal for bream fishermen is to have a 1 pound fish, but Jason enjoys eating a whole medium size brim that is 9-12 ounces. Grass carp should be replaced every 7 years because that is when they typically reach their maximum size.

Jason cleans the fish and then places them in gallon plastic jugs with the tops cut off. You can use clean milk jugs or juice bottles. After he puts the fish in the jug, he covers them with water and then freezes them. The fish will last over a year frozen like this.

We often have friends and family who fish in our pond. If you share your pond with others, before they fish explain to your guests what they can keep and what should be returned to the pond. Make sure they know to write down what kind of fish were caught, how many of each kind, and the weight and the length of what they catch.

Be sure to protect your investment in your property by working to prevent infestation of beavers, otters or a large turtle population. Beavers will make holes in your dam and will also cut down trees on them for their own purposes causing damage to the dam. Your dam should be clear of trees to help prevent this from happening. Too many otters or turtles in your pond can cause a drop in your fish population.

With some planning, ponds can be an efficient way to feed your family for years. If you manage your resources wisely, it can be one of the most truly productive assets for you. Bass are biting year round in Alabama, so find a public lake or river, or, even better, stock your own pond, so anytime you want fresh fish all you have to do is walk into your backyard for your next meal.

Bass can be cooked many ways including being battered in seasoned cornmeal and fried. That is how Jason cooks bream; however, Jason prefers bass grilled.

Grilled Bass

Heat the grill to 325-350°. Season the bass with salt and pepper. Melt 1 stick of butter for basting. As the bass grills, baste it with the melted butter. Grill on each side; time will depend on the thickness of the fish.

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

Fields to Chair Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Department at Auburn University

Deacue Fields

by Jamie Creamer

Deacue Fields, an agricultural economist who joined the Auburn University faculty in 2002, was named chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology effective August 16.

Fields, who came to Auburn as an Extension economist and assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 2007 and recently attained professor status. A Louisiana native, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge in 1993, his master’s from the University of Missouri in 1995 and then worked for almost 3 years at Florida A&M University as an assistant professor and director of A&M’s small-farm outreach program. He returned to his home state in 1998 to complete his Ph.D. in ag economics at Louisiana State University.

At Auburn, Fields’ research has focused on consumers’ food preferences and on the economic impact of Alabama’s horticulture industry, and, earlier this year, he completed a comprehensive analysis showing agriculture and forestry dominate the state’s economy. His classroom responsibilities include teaching senior- and graduate-level courses in agribusiness management and coordinating an internship program he was instrumental in establishing for undergraduates majoring in agricultural economics, and, in his Extension role, he coordinates the Alabama Farm Economics and Agribusiness Management Team and works directly with the Commercial Horticulture Team.

Fields said, as department chair, his priorities will be to encourage multidisciplinary collaborations, to develop a plan to justify refilling faculty positions vacant due to retirements, and to develop an identity for the department that will attract students to the program and fortify relationships with departmental alumni.

A lifelong passion for agriculture and rural America led Fields to apply for the department chair position.

"My parents and their ancestors were all involved in some aspect of agriculture, and I was reared on a farm in a rural community where I was involved in and surrounded by agriculture," Fields explained. "My interest has always been to learn and share educational information to support agriculture and rural life. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead our faculty as we work to strengthen production agriculture and rural Alabama."

He succeeds ag economics professor Curtis Jolly, who has served as department chair since 2005 and will return to his faculty position in the department in August.

Fields and wife Dana are the parents of Caleb, 11; Cade, 9; and Collin, 6.

Jamie Creamer is a communications specialist at Auburn University.

Focus on Nature’s Beauty

Sedum “Mr. Goodbud” performing very well in the garden.

by Herb T. Farmer

If there is anything I love more than farming, it sure has gone unnoticed by me all of my life. There are so many wonderful aspects to this way of life I certainly can’t imagine doing anything else.

Oh, there are some trials and hassles, frustrations and the like, but those things go with any profession. They are the same, only different. I choose this life, because it is what I enjoy and it makes me feel good overall.

Last month, I took leave of my writing duties here in order to take care of some serious farming business. Every now and again one encounters extra duties on the farm. The duties did not necessarily build up from procrastination, but from Mother Nature advertising her presence and creating critical mass.

Left, Gulf Fritillary and stink bug on zinnia flower. Above, Cloudless Sulphur butterfly on petunia flower.

Here’s the bad and the good of what I am talking about.

When the spring storms brought down several trees, they left me to take care of cutting down the trunks and cutting the limbs and brush into manageable pieces, so I could move them by myself. Well, that happened on four different occasions. The storms didn’t all blow through and knock down the seven large trees on the same day.

The good thing is it gave me more sunlight in an area I had planned for years to clear because some of the trees were showing rough ageing issues.

From left, Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies have the most beautiful shade of blue on the bottom of their wings. Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly on zinnia flower.

I thought of how good it will be to see which wildflowers would pop up in the new landscape.

The bad part was that most of the wildflowers that popped up came in the form of weeds and invasive vines.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies enjoy the butterfly bushes.

Fortunately for me, there were a couple of kids from down the road a way who decided to put off college until next spring. One of their fathers is a good buddy of mine. These two young men had been best friends since they were 8 years old and had planned all their lives to spend the summer after high school graduation touring Europe. My friend’s son had an auto accident and finished his diploma in the hospital and his best friend decided to wait until they could follow their dream together.

Their names are Elvin and David.

These fellows wanted to earn some extra money and I put them to work. For a few weekends, they even camped out on the farm. I provided them with food and hot showers … and good, fair wages.

We got the farm looking good in a few weekends and now I am back to normal.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies are in abundance this year.

During the last month or so, there were the usual seasonal changes. The annual flowers are starting to wane. The dahlias are putting on their last blast of colors and the sedums are showier than ever.

One other thing that I enjoy so much about early autumn is all of the butterflies and spiders that come to the flowers. It seems like this year the creatures have been more plentiful.

It’s a good thing, I guess, because I kind of enjoyed having the extra company around for a few weeks. Now, it’s just me and the dog … and the cats … and the chickens. As for the young men, they are taking advantage of this season in Europe. They are going to spend Halloween in Edinburgh, Scotland. My hat’s off to them! Thank you, Elvin and David, for your fine work and the delightful company.

As for me, well … you know where I’ll be on Halloween. It’s the holiday that really gets me going!

Maybe next year there will be some wildflower surprises where the trees once stood.

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

Thanks for reading.

For more information, email me at

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

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

Formax Grazing Minerals

by Jimmy Hughes

We are coming upon the time of year to be aware of the potential of grass tetney if your cattle will be grazing lush green forages in the coming months. Grass tetney is caused by a build-up of potassium nitrates blocking absorption of magnesium in the cow’s system.

Cattle suffering from grass tetney will be lethargic, have poor balance and be nervous. Cattle will eventually go down and will be unable to stand. Cattle at this point will need immediate attention or they will die as a result of this nutritional disorder.

The easiest way to prevent this is to supplement with a high magnesium product at least 28 days prior to grazing lush green forages. Formax Grazing Minerals are excellent supplements that will provide supplemental magnesium to your cattle.

Formax Grazing Minerals come in one of three formulas depending on the type of supplement desired. The Grazing Bronze is a more economically priced, high magnesium supplement while Grazing Silver and Grazing Gold are well-fortified, high magnesium minerals. All three minerals will provide the supplemental magnesium to prevent grass tetney. These products are very palatable and will encourage consumption and adequate intake on a daily basis.

Your local Quality Co-op will carry the Formax line or other high magnesium supplements to meet your needs.

If you need additional information or have additional questions, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886 or

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

How's Your Garden?

Enjoy a green smoothie made from the greens in your garden.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Drink Your Garden

Gardeners who know it’s good to eat their greens are now sharing company with folks who drink their greens. I was first introduced to a blended green smoothie made of kale, cucumber and ginger a couple of years ago at a farmers market stand in San Diego. Today, I see green smoothies increasingly appear on menus, in cookbooks and as part of nutritional programs. At retail, green smoothies can run about $4-$7 each, but making your own is easy, especially in fall, winter and early spring when the weather is perfect for growing your own greens. Our winter garden is nothing but greens; this year we may even plant a few dandelions to try. We use the mildest flavored greens such as spinach and kale (not mustard greens), along with a little of this and that such as lettuce, mint, parsley and stevia leaves (for sweetness). In the winter, when the collards are sweet, we use those, too. Add apple, kiwi or mango for sweetness and fruity flavor, too. A look at the foods section of a good bookstore or a health food store will introduce you to books containing recipes. Online, try; they even have an app for easy access at the grocery store.

If you are lucky, you might bring in some lacewings when you move plants indoors for the winter. They can help control any aphids or mealybugs that come inside with the plants as well.

Green Lacewings

The time to bring houseplants indoors is approaching and one thing I often find is that whatever is on my houseplants is likely to come in with the plants. For that reason, inspect your plants carefully to be sure they are free of aphids, mealybugs or mites; three common pests of houseplants. If you’re lucky, your plants may have beneficial lacewings on them; the larvae, also known as ant lions, will eat aphids, mealybugs and mites. One winter we had a few lacewings living on our houseplants indoors, keeping up with whatever aphids or mealybugs were multiplying on them. In the garden, adults are most abundant in the fall, so now is a good time to look for them. The adults are active at night, feeding on nectar, pollen and honeydew excreted by pests such as aphids and mealybugs; we occasionally see one resting on our glass door under the porch light. Since lacewings overwinter as adults in protected areas, you may find some on your houseplants this winter. If you do, consider yourself lucky and make sure to move the plants outdoors in the spring so they can get out and start the next generation.

When your okra pods start getting tough, use them to create a fall arrangement in a tall vase.

Last of the Okra

When your okra pods start getting tough because they grow more slowly in the cooler weather, let them develop and get really big. Then you can cut the stems to use in fall flower and foliage arrangements. We put our cut stems in a tall pottery vase on our front porch last winter and it became a conversation piece. Mature okra pods will dry on their own; all you have to do is cut the stems and keep them out of the rain. Those of you who save seeds already know the drill, but as an alternative to hanging them in your garage, try putting them on your table!


Perennials are a good solution for gardeners looking for flowers that come back year after year. Although they don’t bloom as long as annuals, they are helpful to anchor flowerbeds and provide some color you know will always be there. Ideally, you can mix annuals and perennials in a bed so the annuals carry the show while the perennials come in and out of bloom in their season. Folks not familiar with garden terms could be easily confused by the term annual because the name makes it sound like something that comes back annually. However, the term annual refers to the plant’s life-cycle being over in a year - well-known examples are impatiens and pansies. Perennials are plants that die down in their off-season, but come back year after year - well-known examples are iris and daylilies. Today’s market for perennials is full of new and exciting choices. Since fall is the ideal time to plant, now is a good time to buy perennials. They will get a good start because the ground is still warm enough to encourage roots and the weather is mild enough the plants aren’t stressed. Just be sure to water during dry periods until the plants become established.

eBird Weekly Bird Casts

Are you a bird watcher? Do you want to know more about bird migrations in the region, maybe connect to other bird watchers? Check out Cornell University’s Among many other things, they feature a weekly birdcast this fall providing a regional forecast and analysis of bird migration at

Left to right, Swamp sunflowers are just one example of perennials to anchor a flowerbed. Double cropping can save space in your garden. Here fall lettuce is planted at the base of tomato plants that will be ending their season soon.

Making Space in a Small Garden

No matter whether you measure your garden in acres or square feet, double cropping saves space and maybe some work along the way. Consider setting out lettuce transplants at the base of your tomato plants, which will be ending their season in a few weeks. The lettuce, which stays low, will be growing vigorously. By this time tomato plants have often lost many of their lower leaves, but, if not, you can prune them up to let in some light for your lettuce. If we have a hot spell, the little extra shade from the plants might be just enough to keep your lettuce plants from bolting, too. n

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

If We Do Not Share Them, They Will be Lost

Colorful dyed yarns on the Huntsville Guild’s display table.

5th Annual Alabama Fiber Gathering

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Why do you go to all the trouble of weaving a basket when you can get a free plastic bag at the store?"

That’s just one of the questions Daniel Hessler, Brindley Mountain Craftworks, says he hears often from those who don’t understand the art and tradition of crafting baskets from naturally grown Alabama vines and other barks and woods.

As one of the demonstrators at the Fifth Alabama Fiber Gathering held August 10 in Cullman, Hessler noted, while it’s important to continue to teach and pass on the old traditions, "I like the doing."

Using a variety of items "just growing like weeds in your yard or woods," Hessler showed how paper mulberry bark "is good for lashing," and how kudzu vine and wisteria can be used not only for lashing but for the "ribs" of different-shaped baskets.

"Whenever you make a basket, there are hundreds of ways to approach it," he explained, acknowledging there is usually no set wrong or right way to complete a project.

Left to right, Daniel Hessler, Brindley Mountain Craftworks, demonstrated vining basket techniques. Some of Daniel Hessler’s vine baskets displayed on the Huntsville Fiber Guild’s table.

Humidity, temperature and the items at hand can all make a project turn out completely different than what you had planned, but still beautiful and useful.

About 5 years ago, Hessler watched a man making split oak baskets at the Chicken and Egg Festival "and that started me thinking." A little later he attended a workshop at a local library taught by Crystal Kitchens and Hessler was on his way as a basket maker.

Clockwise from left, Cindy Dolan from the Mobile Bay Guild, who traveled the longest distance to the Fifth Alabama Fiber Gathering in Cullman, sits behind her double-treadle spinning wheel displaying some of her art bats made from several different types of wool or hair fibers. Empire resident Intha Rafadin, Cullman Fiber Guild, demonstrated spinning Jacobs Sheep’s wool with her drop spindle. David and Vicki Dodd of the Desoto Guild, Gadsden, examine hand-dyed scarves from the Huntsville Fiber Guild.

He echoed many in attendance at the Gathering who create a wide variety of crafts when he noted, "When I make a basket it just makes me happy."

Candy Dolan, who traveled the farthest from the Mobile Bay Guild, sat behind one of her double-treadle spinning wheels and told of her often unconventional ways of obtaining help in her craft. She and her husband love to attend estate sales.

At one she not only found a valuable spinning wheel for a bargain price but was also able to obtain a good quantity of silk, mohair, curly lock, camel, dog hair and other fibers to spin.

Left to right, Crystal Kitchens, a member of both the Huntsville and Cullman Fiber Guilds, demonstrates continuous weaving on a rectangle loom which she crafted herself. Inset, Kitchens hands deftly wrap yarn on her rectangular loom.

Since often there was not enough of one type to make a large quantity, she has been experimenting in spinning art bats, mixing colors and fibers for interesting yarns.

Dolan is working on improving her spinning by "pulling the colors better" so there is not as much "barber poling" (or twisting) of the colors.

Birmingham Fiber Guild member Emily Levitan knits fine wool.

She’s also worked on core spinning where a single spun wool is in a bowl at her feet then carefully plied with an art bat to make an inner "core" of wool which makes the spun yarn stronger.

Dolan is an "unusual spinner" in that "I don’t want to weave it or knit it. I just want to spin the yarn," causing several to note her yarn could be easily marketed to those who don’t have the time to spin all they need for their knitting or weaving projects.

The first spinning wheels were believed to have evolved from crude wheels in India up to 1,000 years ago with the idea being spread and refined as it spread across Europe. The early spinning wheels of United States’ history were often "walking wheels," where the housewife (or sometimes the husband!) walked many miles back and forth as the hand turned the large wheels to make the yarn or thread before knitting it into warm socks (wool) or weaving it into cloth for suits and clothing such as linen, flax, cotton and other combinations such as lindsey-woolsey.

Treadle wheels were developed, possibly as early as the 16th century, with Carol Kroll’s The Whole Craft of Spinning noting the majority of them were of the "Saxony type" with the wheel to the right side of the spinning mechanics and the treadle beneath the drive wheel. Parlor wheels with the spinning parts located above the drive wheels were also popular because they took up less space.

Intha Rafadin, from Empire and a member of the Cullman Fiber Guild, demonstrated spinning with a drop spindle, a method of spinning that goes back even further in history as being an easy portable way to spin without a bulky or sometimes expensive spinning wheel.

It is believed some forms of hand spinning were done as early as 12,000 years ago in North Africa and 15,000 years ago in Asia.

She enjoys spinning Jacob’s wool in its original color because she can make it as thick or as thread-thin as she’d like for whatever project she is spinning the yarn for.

Left to right, Patience is indeed a virtue as Lyna Rizor, Huntsville Guild, shows a continuous welt on triangular and square miniature looms. Huntsville Guild member Christina Bailey and the small fashionable purse she wove.

Noting she uses a homemade drop spindle and her wool cards "are actually two dog brushes," Rafadin is a prime example of not letting expense keep you from a craft you love.

While she has numerous goats and makes soaps and other projects from their milk, she is hoping soon to get at least one sheep for the wool, as she currently buys raw fleeces, then picks, washes and cards them before spinning.

Rafadin makes beautiful shawls on a triangular loom.

"I get into a zone when I’m spinning," Rafadin explained. "When I’m working at home, time stops for me. I’ll be spinning along and look at the clock and it will be 11 p.m. and I’ll wonder where the night went because I’m enjoying myself. It relieves stress."

Crystal Kitchens, a member of both the Huntsville and Cullman Fiber Guilds, was one of the kingpins behind the all day Saturday event held at the North Alabama Agriplex Heritage Center in Cullman.

"The purpose of the Cullman Fiber Guild is to encourage and assist folks who are interested in fiber arts. The fiber arts include spinning, weaving, dyeing, basket making, knitting, crocheting, felting, lace making, sewing and more," she noted.

"A fiber guild can help keep handcrafts from earlier centuries alive in the 21st century. We have to make an extra effort to learn and practice the handcrafts those before us used daily."

Kitchens says the Cullman Guild is currently still in its infancy. In 2009, the Alabama Fiber Gathering was held at Peinhardt Farm in Cullman and that summer she taught a triangle loom workshop. The following year several more workshops were held.

Those workshops just continued and grew into the current Cullman Fiber Guild.

In addition to the Cullman and Mobile Bay Fiber Guilds attending the Alabama Fiber Gathering, there were members from the De Soto Fiber Guild in Gadsden (which is said to have an extremely active tapestry group section), the Huntsville Fiber Guild, the Birmingham Fiber Guild, the West Alabama Fiber Guild at Tuscaloosa and others. Attendees were from Mobile to Tennessee.

Kitchens demonstrated weaving on a rectangular loom, which she made herself from wood pieces and finishing nails! She noted she often makes looms because when teaching workshops she may need eight to ten identical looms to teach on.

"They may not be pretty but they serve the purpose," Crystal laughed.

Other formal demonstrations were Bobbin Lace by Carol Timkovicj and twined bag on a frame by Lisa Williams and Monica Moore.

But informal demonstrations and projects were "all over the house" with Walter Moore, West Alabama Guild, making hemp rope dolls, Lyna Rizor, Huntsville, doing continuous welt on miniature looms, Emily Levitan, Birmingham Guild, knitting and many others.

Displays included hand-dyed yarns, aprons, fabric bowls and hand-dyed scarves.

Rafadin may have expressed the feelings of many at the gathering when she noted, "Projects come to me in my dreams sometimes. I’ll pull out the fibers I have on hand, card it and spin it. It may be a year before the actual project begins to take shape, but it is a wonderful process.

"It’s just something that is a part of me. It goes with me wherever I go."

For more information on the Cullman Fiber Guild, contact or, or the Huntsville Fiber Guild at P.O. Box 1562, Huntsville AL 35807, or

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be reached through her website at Information on ordering her newly released book "Simple Times at Old Field Farm" is also available on her website. The book is a collection of Suzy’s articles, many of which appeared in AFC Cooperative Farming News.

Jack-O-Lantern Farms

Steve Carpenter shows off some of this year’s pepper crop.

Certified Naturally Grown Produce The Hydroponic Way

by Anna Leigh Peek

Typically farmers are thought to have an occupation where they play in the dirt, but not Steve Carpenter. Steve and his wife Connie’s farm Jack-O-Lantern Farms grows fruits and vegetables hydroponically - meaning the plants are grown without soil. The term hydroponic is derived from Greek "hydros," water, and "ponos," work; it is also commonly referred to as aquaculture. As the world becomes more and more populated, scientists are looking to hydroponics as a potential way to grow food in urban areas.

Carpenter grew up on a row crop farm in Tuscumbia. When he got older, he worked for the railroad for a while before returning home to the farm. Their farm then focused on pumpkins and winter squash; but as the economy took a turn for the worse, they had to do something different.

"When money gets tight, people can do without pumpkins," Carpenter explained. "We then started looking at growing vegetables."

Clockwise from right, peppers are pictured here growing in the greenhouse. They grow on wires and eventually become so thick Carpenter calls it the “Pepper Jungle.” Tomatoes are grown in both the greenhouses and a traditional garden; the greenhouses allow for fresh tomatoes all year. Some herbs are grown in the greenhouses by Steve Carpenter’s wife Connie. Pictured here is basil.

Carpenter, who was on the State Farmers Market Board, said they were looking for ways to help small farms and he mentioned to the board he wanted a greenhouse. Through speaking to several people in 2004, he was able to go from a small greenhouse at his home to leasing a greenhouse from TVA in Sheffield. The greenhouses were built in the 1950s for soil testing, but had not been used in recent years.

The bucket system has an irrigation system that waters, based on heat and sunlight, 2-12 times a day.

The first year in their new location, they planted 470 tomato plants and 300 heads of lettuce hydroponically. Today, they still have 470 tomato plants and grow about 5,000 heads of lettuce a month. Tomatoes, according to Carpenter, are one of the more labor-intensive crops he grows. For two people it is about a 40-hour-a-week job. Because of the ideal conditions he is able to provide the crops, Jack-O-Lantern Farms is able to produce two crops of tomatoes each year and eight crops of lettuce. Since there are no cool nights in the greenhouse, plants are allowed to flourish.

According to Carpenter, "Growing vegetables hydroponically means there is less insect and disease pressure; but, if there is a problem, it is huge because the problem can spread so easily."

No pesticides, herbicides or synthetic nutrients are used in the greenhouses and they produce Certified Naturally Grown Produce.

Carpenter works very closely with two other hydroponic growers in the state and has learned a lot from them. Even though their operations are similar, they are still different: "Each grower has different nutrient mixtures they use because of the different day length in their area and the temperature difference."

Like all forms of agriculture, some days are challenging.

"There were some days where I wanted to take a wrecking ball to this place the first 3-5 years we were here in operation, but it has gotten better, we have finally figured out what works for us," Carpenter explained.

Clockwise from top left, the lettuce still develops a root structure even though there is no soil. The water includes minerals the lettuce needs that is specific to their geographic area. Jack-o-Lantern Farms produces 5,000 heads of lettuce a month and they grow four different varieties. Steve Carpenter shows the Styrofoam boards on which the lettuce rests while growing; the roots go through a square hole into the water and mineral solution below.

Carpenter grows four varieties of lettuce and uses several different systems to grow his produce. His bucket system is set up on a drip irrigation system; it is watered at least twice a day, but no more than 12 times depending upon the temperature. His stacker system allows 20 plants to be grown in an area one plant would typically grow.

Steve Carpenter opens his farmer’s market three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – to provide the freshest produce to the Shoals area.

The lettuce Carpenter grows is in a water and mineral solution. The heads of lettuce rest on top of Styrofoam sheets and the roots dangle through a hole into the water. The bucket system and stacker system utilize vermiculite and perlite, a growth medium used instead of soil; you often see these white granules in potting mix. The vermiculite and perlite are great because they can be sterilized to kill disease after each use. Bumble bees are used as pollinators in the greenhouse and pollination occurs as needed throughout the year because of the greenhouses’ temperatures.

"It is much harder to keep the greenhouses cool enough in the summertime than it is to warm them in the winter," he remarked.

The system Carpenter is using has its place. His 35’x 100’ greenhouses hold what one acre of land would hold. He believes these greenhouse systems would be well suited for urban areas.

"The United States is behind," he said. "European countries have gardens and greenhouses on roofs trying to use every space they can."

As water use becomes tighter for agriculture, hydroponic may be looked to as it uses two-thirds less water than a field would.

"In the greenhouse setting, you do not look at the acre, but you judge your productivity by the square foot," Carpenter explained.

From left, Beth Sockwell chooses from a basket of okra at Jack-O-Lantern Farms. Beth says she frequents the market and loves the variety of produce they offer. Susan Young of Sheffield picks out some lettuce at the Tuesday afternoon market.

Steve and Connie not only grow hydroponically grown crops, but they also grow crops in traditional ways - out in a garden, in the soil. They have added the field-grown crops in the last few years in order to offer more produce. They have also added hogs, cattle, 150 free-range laying hens and very recently broilers. They sell their products three days a week at their farmers market on Garage Road in Muscle Shoals. They also wholesale to some of the Shoals’ best restaurants: 360 Grille, Claunch Café and, their largest customer, City Hardware. Restaurants can email or even text Carpenter and they can have fresh produce at their door in 20 minutes.

"People are very interested in our produce," Carpenter said. "We had our first hydroponics field day 2 years ago and we had 35 in attendance. This year, our third, we had 125 people come.

"We have anywhere from 100-500 people come to the market three days a week."

Whether or not hydroponics becomes a popular production method across the country, Steve and Connie Carpenter have found a way to make it work in the Shoals.

You can find Jack-O-Lantern Farms online at, on Facebook and you can follow them on Twitter (@jolfarm).

Anna Leigh Peek is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Lawrence Co. High School Teacher Selected For Outstanding Agricultural Educator Award

Robby Vinzant

by Erica S. Pippins

Robby Vinzant, an agricultural educator at Lawrence County High School in Moulton, has been selected as the 2013 Region V Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher by the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher award winners are agricultural educators who are at the pinnacle of their careers, conducting the highest-quality agricultural education programs. The award program, sponsored by Toyota as a special project of the National Future Farmers of America Foundation, recognizes leadership in civic, community and professional activities. Award winners are innovators and catalysts for student success in agricultural education.

Vinzant, who teaches Agricultural Communications, AgriPower Mechanics, AgriScience 8 and Horticulture, has been a member of the Lawrence County High School faculty since 2009.

"I am truly honored and humbled in receiving this award," said Vinzant, who is also thrilled about the accomplishments of Lawrence County High School’s FFA Chapter and Poultry Career Development Events Team. Both will go on to compete in their respective divisions at the National FFA finals in Louisville in October.

"I am most proud for my students, community, and AgriScience and FFA teachers in Alabama," he said.

Vinzant competed against Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher award winners from surrounding states – Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia – for the opportunity to be named the 2013 Region V NAAE Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher. As regional winner he will receive personal use of a Toyota Tundra pickup truck for 2 years, an expense-paid trip to attend the 2013 NAAE convention and an invitation to a special awards dinner held in his honor.

NAAE is the professional organization in the United States for agricultural educators. It provides its members with professional networking and development opportunities, professional liability coverage, and extensive awards and recognition programs.

Erica Pippins is with the Alabama State Department of Education.

Marbury Beta Club Learns to be Green

by Mary Stanford

The students at Marbury Beta Club wanted to make a difference at their school and in their community. It is an honor to be selected for the club, and living up to the high ideals of leadership is a challenge.

Under the leadership of Traci Evans, I was invited to speak with the students about Beta Club and learning to be green. People Against A Littered State and Marbury Beta Club partnered together because they saw a need to be good stewards of their environment. PALS is happy to partner with Marbury Beta Club and will supply any tools needed to implement their environmental programs.

Students are presently recycling and look forward to more projects focusing on creating a cleaner and better environment for their school. Marbury students learned what their individual carbon footprints were. Some were very surprised about how their everyday activities contribute to carbon dioxide levels. They plan on having a "Cleanup Day," and participating in other environmental projects.

PALS’ motto is "Don’t Drop It On Alabama." If your school or club would like to be part of the PALS Clean Campus Program, please email me at

Mary Stanford is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

October Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Cool-season vegetables from Bonnie should be available so tuck in a few you haven’t tried before.
  • You can plant garlic now for next year’s harvest.
  • Transplant any perennial seedlings you may have started earlier in the summer. If transplanted now to their permanent location, small plants will get a jump start and reward you with strong, healthy growth earlier next spring.
  • Ground covers are important for erosion control, as a low-growing accent in the front of a border or as a way to compensate for grass that will not grow under a shade tree. Choose hardy ferns, mondo grass, liriope, ajuga or periwinkle. Be sure you know which ground covers like sunny sites and which ones prefer shadier conditions, and you’ll be rewarded with lush growth and good coverage.
  • Many cool-season annuals can be planted this month - pansies, violas, snapdragons, alyssum, dusty miller, calendulas, poppies and nasturtiums are great choices. If we have an Indian summer with higher temperatures, be sure to hold off until things cool off a bit.
  • October is a great month to shop for trees and shrubs as they’re showing their true colors at the nursery. Planting can take place now and over the next several months, letting strong, healthy roots develop over the winter.
  • Overseed bald patches or whole lawns as needed.
  • Tulips need a cooling period to gain energy to regenerate from year to year and don’t work very well in our gardens (zone 7a to 8) … the weather simply doesn’t typically get cold enough. Try instead daffodils, bearded irises, muscari, hyacinths, spider lilies, oxblood lilies, crocuses, alliums and anemones.
  • Pot bulbs for indoor forcing.
  • October is the perfect time to plant wildflower seeds if you want a little natural accent in your garden or if you are aiming to create a wildflower meadow or prairie. Plant Southern varieties only if you expect them to re-seed.
  • Plant a cover crop in the vegetable or other annual garden.


  • Fertilize azaleas and rhododendrons to promote good blooms in the spring.
  • Holly plants with a heavy set of fruit often suffer a fertilizer deficiency. An application of complete fertilizer late this month can be helpful and provide a head start next spring.
  • Your lawn will be happy for a dusting of fertilizer now to help roots gain strength before the spring growing season.
  • Scatter a slow-release fertilizer (formulated especially for bulbs) on top of the soil after planting or transplanting bulbs. Remember to scatter this fertilizer over other beds of bulbs as well.
  • Feed houseplants now and not again until March. Do not feed dormant houseplants.


  • As frost browns perennial foliage, prune it to the ground - except for plants with seeds that you want to leave for birds.
  • Take hardwood cuttings.
  • Take cuttings from perennials to root indoors over the winter.
  • Prune berry vines by removing the vines or canes that fruited, leaving this summer’s new growth to put out berries next season.
  • Stop trimming hedges – the flush of new growth can be killed by freezing weather, which can harm the entire plant.
  • Cut back long "whips" of roses.
  • Trim off dead and broken branches from trees and shrubs.
  • Prune fall-flowering shrubs just after bloom.
  • Hold off on other pruning jobs until the plants go dormant. Ideally, make more thinning cuts and fewer heading cuts to reduce new growth.


  • Continue watering gardens, shrubs and trees if rainfall doesn’t reach an inch or more every week or 10 days. It’s easy to forget about watering duties in the middle of fall, but proper moisture now is key to your plants’ successful survival over the cold winter months. Check the moisture of all plants - especially those in dry, sheltered areas such as under eaves and around tall evergreens.
  • Reduce watering of indoor plants.
  • When watering duties are finished for the season, drain the garden hose, coil it up and, for the longest life, store out of the elements.


  • Clean up all debris left in beds and under trees. Compost what you can and dispose of the rest. If you see bugs, fungus or other sorts of plant illness, get the plant debris out of the yard entirely. Burn it if you can. With many plants, fungal infections and plant diseases start in leaf litter. Clean is good.
  • Slugs don’t slow down as the weather gets cooler; in fact, you’ll likely find them at all life stages in October from eggs to youngsters and adults. Take whatever measures you prefer - salt, slug bait, saucers of beer, boot heel or brick - to eliminate slugs. It’s best to catch them at early stages to stop the reproduction cycle.
  • Scale insects on broad-leafed evergreens like camellias, gardenias, holly and euonymus can be effectively controlled by spraying with dormant oil. Do not use oil spray if temperature goes above 80 degrees.
  • Check for aphids and caterpillars on fall flowers and leafy vegetables.
  • Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs. This will eliminate the spring hatch from over-wintered eggs.
  • If you haven’t been keeping up with your weeding, you’re going to find it’s more work letting them go then trying to catch up. If you allow them to go to seed, you’ll have hundreds in the place of the one you "coulda, woulda, shoulda" pulled. Also, remember weeds serve as homes for pests and bugs.
  • Broadleaf turf weeds that make fall growth - including dandelions, field bindweed, chickweed, shepardspurse, henbit, ground ivy and violets - can be controlled most effectively anytime in October or early November. Ask about solutions at your local Co-op store.
  • Once a hard freeze has beaten down your garden, remove the leaves from any black spot-affected roses, as well as any mulch that might have remnants of those infected leaves, and throw them into the garbage (NOT the compost - you do not want to spread it throughout the garden next year). Bite the bullet and add new winter mulch.
  • Erect physical barriers around woody plants and trees if rabbits, rodents or deer are a problem. Metal mesh (1/4 inch) hardware cloth is good for this. Pull mulch away from trunks to discourage rodents from making a winter home there.


  • In your garden journal, make notes of successes and failures in the garden to use as reference for next year.
  • Edit plantings. This is an ideal time to remove any plant not holding up its end of the bargain. Take out the old, the ugly, the sick and anything that sucks up more of your life and garden space than you want it to take. You know which plants those are. It’s okay. If it makes you feel better, find them a new home. Otherwise, ditch them and try something new.
  • Now’s an ideal time to start a compost pile if you don’t already have one. The combination of spent plants from the garden, excess fallen leaves and grass clips from the final, shorter cut of the season make a perfect compost blend. Be sure to have extra soil available so that each six-inch layer of leaves may be covered with a couple of inches of soil. Always wet the layer of leaves thoroughly before adding the soil. Add about one pound of a complete lawn or garden fertilizer to each layer of leaves to provide the necessary nitrogen for decomposition. If possible, cover your compost to keep cold rains from stopping decomposition.
  • Till the garden at the end of the season and add organic matter such as manure or compost to improve the soil structure. Late-fall tilling can help control insects such as corn borer, corn earworm, cucumber beetle, squash bug and vine borer because it exposes overwintering insects to winter conditions. It also makes spring soil preparation easier.
  • Rake or shred tree leaves, especially large ones like maple and sycamore, to prevent them from matting down and smothering grass.
  • Continue to mow the lawn if necessary.
  • After a light frost, dig sweet potatoes and cure them for two weeks in a warm location. Then store in a cool, dry location for longer keeping.
  • Divide perennials. Transplant or share your divisions of wood ferns, cannas, Shasta daisies, bearded irises, violets and daylilies. Over time these plants create larger spreading growth that can crowd out other plants and lead to decreased blooms.
  • If you have saved seeds of your favorite plants, allow them to become air dry then place them in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Be sure to label each packet carefully. Remember, seed from hybrid plants will seldom resemble the parent plant.
  • Before the first frost either ripen green tomatoes in a brown paper bag or lift the entire plant and hang upside down in a warm spot to ripen.
  • Asparagus top growth should not be removed until foliage yellows. Let the foliage stand over winter for insulation and moisture retention.
  • Harvest peanuts.
  • Harvest pumpkins and winter squash before frost, but when the rind is hard and fully colored. Store in a cool location until ready to use.
  • Carefully harvest material for dried arrangements at this time. Choose cockscomb, flowering artemisia, statice, gomphrena, mature okra pods and others to enhance fall and winter bouquets.
  • At the end of the month bring houseplants inside – the colder it gets, the greater the shock they will experience.
  • Get Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti ready for well-timed holiday color. Give them a daily dose of 10 hours of bright daylight or four hours of direct sun and 14 hours of night darkness. They’ll need a cool environment of 50-60 degrees. Buds will drop if you allow night temperatures to go above 70 degrees. Let them dry out between waterings.
  • Aerate lawns now while grass can recover easily; if you core aerate, make cores three-inches deep, spaced about every 4-6 inches. Break up the cores and spread them around. If your lawn needs it, thatch and follow with a fall or winter fertilizer.
  • Prepare new beds now for planting next spring. The soil is usually easier to work in the fall and fall-prepared beds allow for earlier plantings in spring. Remember, the more you do now not only makes your garden look more tidy through the winter but it also makes it much easier to work next spring.
  • Stock up on firewood.
  • Strawberry plants need protection from winter extremes. Apply winter protection when plants are dormant, but before temperatures drop below 20 degrees.
  • Sharpen any tools that need it. Apply lightweight oil to a rag and wipe all of the metal on your garden tools to prevent rust. Vegetable cooking oil works fine for this task. Scrub wooden or fiberglass handles to remove dirt and debris. Sand any rough spots to reduce splinters. Use a furniture paste wax on the handles or wipe with linseed oil to keep the wood from drying out. Properly dispose of oily rags to avoid spontaneous combustion.
  • Clean and store your clay pots. Moisture and extreme temperature fluctuations in the coldest part of the winter can result in the death of many of a good pot. Empty them, compost the soil, hose them out well and store them dry in a covered shed or garage. Take care not to nest "sticky" pots. You don’t want to break them pulling them apart.
  • Natural feeds will be getting even scarcer soon. Keep the bird feeders full!

Peanut Patch Growing Scholarships

(From left) Headland High FFA Advisor Tracy Scott with 2012 scholarship recipients Josh Jones and Leigh Anna Money. Josh and Leigh Anna were the first students to receive scholarships due to the success of Headland High School’s first peanut patch.

Supporting Local Headland Students

by Ashley Smith

Fishing at the lake, tailgating at your favorite football game, waiting for the birds to fly in on the dove field or snacking before supper – for most occasions in the South, peanuts prove to be a tasty and easy snack. Half of the peanuts grown in the United States grow within a 100-mile radius of Dothan. In Henry County, just a few miles north of Dothan, peanuts are the crop most often planted. Headland High School, located in Henry County, ranks peanuts as their number one crop, especially when it comes to raising money for their new scholarship program.

In the fall of 2011, Headland High School’s agriscience teacher and FFA Advisor Tracy Scott considered various projects to pursue as a positive learning experience within the field of agriculture. With just the right project, Tracy hoped the students would be able to gain firsthand agricultural knowledge while also finding a way to turn a profit. His thought was that profits from the project could be used for college scholarships for the students. Because of the school’s geographic location, growing peanuts for the project seemed logical.

(From left) Headland High FFA Advisor Tracy Scott with 2013 scholarship recipients Amanda Henry and Beth Tew.

The Headland High Peanut Patch grows profits for student scholarships through the very generous collaboration of many people. Scott realized, in order for the collaboration to be successful, a number of folks would need to be involved. In response to the requests, many charitable people volunteered time, services and the necessary supplies to make it work. The Red Star Yeast plant located alongside U.S. Hwy 431 provides a 10-acre field for planting and another 10-acre field for yearly crop rotation. Peanut seed is acquired from Birdsong Peanuts with help from the Headland Peanut Warehouse Co-op, who also donated fertilizer. BASF donated herbicide. Kirby Shelley of K & E Farms, the adjacent property, provides equipment, tractor time, and labor to get the initial planting and final harvesting accomplished. He also provides application of the fertilizer and herbicides.

"By teaming together, the peanuts get planted, tended to, harvested and delivered," Scott said. "This project is about educating the kids and raising money for scholarships for them. With proceeds being 100 percent, it is a win-win situation!"

Scott explained that the project is still in the early, grassroots stage; he plans to get students more involved in both a safe and educational way. The Headland High Peanut Patch is only in its second year as the first crop was planted and harvested in 2012.

"This type of project really provides a good opportunity for students to understand the big picture about farming," Scott shared.

Headland High FFA officers (from left) Colby Chestnut, Kirk Bradshaw, Ty Woodham and Lorin Hicks look over the 2012 peanuts after vines have been inverted and windrowed.

From soil types and why the peanuts seem to prefer the sandy, loose soil found in Henry County to plant growth and production, all the way to harvesting and how everything in between affects productivity, students have the opportunity to glean hands-on knowledge.

Profits directly relate to the productivity of the peanuts and to the amount of money raised for the school’s scholarship fund. In 2012, the peanut patch yielded 51,319 pounds.

"Growers experienced outstanding yields in peanut crops last fall," Scott stated. "Weather cooperated last year. This year, we have had a lot of rain."

Combined with good quality and prices, Headland High’s first crop year was definitely counted as a success as $10,000 was fundraised for the college scholarship fund. At the time of printing, productivity information for the 2013 harvest was not yet available.

Working with the Auburn University Wiregrass Research and Extension Center located in Headland provides students with an even greater opportunity to broaden their education horizons. Although the research center leads agronomic research in farming cattle, cotton, corn and small grains, the center focuses heavily on peanuts. Partnering with the research and Extension center allows students to see and understand the latest agricultural technology as well as what is new in chemicals, seed variety, soil fertility and more. Expanding horizons and providing opportunities to students is important, not only to Scott but also to this farming community.

In the spring of 2013, as the new peanut crop was being sown, 2012 profits provided scholarships to Headland High School seniors Amanda Henry and Beth Tew. Both are enrolled at Wallace College in Dothan this fall. In the spring of 2012, Josh Jones and Leigh Anna Money received FFA scholarships through the Headland High School agriculture program. Josh will begin studies at Auburn University later this year while Leigh Anna started at Auburn this fall; both will be majoring in agriculture education.

"Working together, we are building a scholarship fund to support our local students," Jay Jones, Headland Peanut Warehouse manager, excitedly said. "We are proud to support such well-deserving students."

With continued community collaboration and generosity, Headland High Peanut Patch is sure to grow the scholarship funds for future students.

Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.

Peanut People

Pulverizing Pumpkins

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

I don’t know what it is about boys, but they love to blow things up. When my dad and his brothers were growing up, they found a stick of dynamite in an old abandoned mine and blew up a dead tree on the edge of the small town where they lived. When my son was little, he and his friends would poke firecrackers in ant mounds, light them and watch the obliterated ants rain down on the grass. They’d get an extra bang out of placing those firecrackers under coffee cans and lighting them, too.

When some of our city friends would lend their sheltered young’uns to us for a week’s worth of rural education, they usually sent them with clear instructions. There was to be no use of firearms, even toy guns. They felt it promoted violence. Even after I cautioned my little boy they couldn’t play with toy pistols or water guns, I’d usually find an amusing sight out the back window. Those little city kids would pick up some sticks and in no time be running around the backyard playing cowboys and Indians with their pretend weaponry.

My teenage son has been recently exposed to a product akin to dynamite called Tannerite. He assured me that it’s perfectly legal and can be purchased without a license. Some munitions aficionado, probably my brother, demonstrated the wonders of this magical substance. In and of itself, it is not explosive, but when placed inside an item and then shot with a gun, it will detonate. Since that magical moment he has blown up countless water bottles, coke cans and rotten watermelons. His latest and favorite targets are pumpkins. Lucky for him, they are plentiful this time of year. While other moms and kids are carving cutesy or scary faces into the firm orange vegetables, my son and his friends are lining them up and blowing them to smithereens.

Last weekend, he and a buddy, actually one of my daughter’s ex-boyfriends, had a great male-bonding experience. They drove to the local grocery store and bought a dozen pumpkins, grinning with glee to think of their imminent demise. They’d take a pumpkin, cut the top off and place a pouch of the white powdered Tannerite inside. They found a solitary wooden fence post in an open field behind the house and set the pumpkin atop it. They loaded their .22 rifles and walked back 20 or 30 feet and started firing. Part of the fun of the game was not knowing exactly when the explosion was going to come. Invariably it would take more than a couple of shots for the bullet to find its target. And when it did, the pumpkin would be instantly vaporized.

The boys would whoop and holler and high-five each other, feeling as much manly pride as a young caveman when he spears his first wooly mammoth. Then they’d start the process all over. After blowing up a few, they decided to videotape the process, which was a good thing because it didn’t take long to blast through their stockpile. So even after all the smoke had cleared, they could relive the event, and then share it with their like-minded buddies via the social media websites.

I got to view the video the next day. And as silly as I initially thought the whole thing was, I had to admit, it was pretty cool to watch. I mean, one second there’s a bright orange shiny pumpkin perched on a post - set starkly against a brilliant blue sky, the next second there’s a faint boom. And then there’s a momentary puff of orange powder hanging in the air, then nothing.

"Isn’t that awesome, Mom?" my son asked excitedly as he showed the clip to his father and me.

I had to agree.

And to cap off that wondrous day, he and his buddy spent the rest of the evening until long after midnight trying to rid the county of the overpopulation of raccoons and possums. Oh, to be a boy in rural America! Times may have changed, but I don’t think Tom Sawyer has anything on my boy.

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

Shepherding Rural Life

Liz Reid loves the autumn and her painting of a big pumpkin she grew behind her house sets the tone for the season.

by Alvin Benn

Liz Reid was a city girl who loved the country, so she used her artistic talents to combine both lifestyle settings.

For the past several years, she has lived in the Butler County crossroads community of Garland which is famous for being the birthplace of Hank Williams – the undisputed king of country music.

One of Alabama’s most popular painters, Reid splits her time by creating beautiful works of art when she’s not outside feeding her two sheep and seven dogs or when she’s not checking on her vegetable garden.

"You can call me a shepherdess," she said, with a big smile, as she headed outside her house to make sure "Bo" and "Peep" were okay after another downpour soaked the area. "I just love living here."

Liz Reid gives “Peep,” her “baby” sheep, some chips to munch on during a respite from the rain at her Butler County farm.

At the age of 55, Reid has prepared to greet the autumn season by moving to another location just down the road, one where Williams was born 90 years ago.

She and her husband Troy, a machinist and musician whose specialty is the steel guitar, are preparing for the new season by sprucing up their new abode when they can find the time away from their day jobs.

In her case, it’s painting, conducting art classes and spending time outside in all kinds of weather. Her future plans include buying a horse or two.

Married 6 years with five children between them from previous marriages, the two expect to have more time to prepare for their senior years by restoring their new "old" house.

Reid grew up in Opp and went to the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla. Three years later, she was back home - utilizing her artistic talents to make a living.

It came in handy because, several years later, she was a single mother raising three boys. Her paintings went a long way in paying for their upbringing.

"My high school art teacher could see the abilities I had and suggested I go to Ringling," she said. "I have always loved art and creating things with my hands. That includes sewing, sculpting, stained glass and working with clay."

Butler County artist Liz Reid doesn’t count sheep, but she does take time out from her painting efforts to feed “Bo” (right) and “Peep” who have been her “babies” since she brought them home 3 years ago.

It wasn’t long before she developed a reputation in her hometown. She became known by many as "The Artist" in Opp. One look at the studio in a big room off to one side of her house and it’s easy to see how that reputation developed.

Walls and easels are filled with watercolors and oils resulting from hundreds of hours spent creating a backdrop provided for her by her beautiful surroundings.

It didn’t happen overnight, of course. As with most painters, trial and error often precedes satisfied completion.

She went to a lot of arts and crafts festivals and, in some cases, headed back home without doing much, if any, business.

"You work hard and then spend hours at them only to sell one or two pieces if you’re lucky," she said. "Other times, you can’t keep up with the business because what you bring sells out quickly."

Outlets are invaluable for artists, be they painters, sculptors or photographers, and Reid has a good one in the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center in Camden.

Sulynn Creswell directs the Wilcox County facility and looks forward to new paintings provided by Reid, especially now that autumn is right around the corner.

When she’s not caring for her two sheep, seven dogs and birds, Liz Reid of Garland spends her days painting in a studio at her house.

"Liz has a relaxed style of painting and always provides us with works that have vibrant colors," said Creswell. "She paints things that are common to life, but brought to life in a different way and that’s what people want to see."

Autumn means pumpkins and Reid came up with a big bright one that didn’t take her that long to paint. Her brush skimmed across the canvas and produced a seasonal delight for customers to consider buying.

Living in the country allows Reid to focus on painting while, at the same time, caring for her sheep, dogs and gardens. It’s a way to relax after hours of artistic concentration and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

"As a girl, I’d go with a friend to her family’s farm in Covington County," she said. "We’d gather eggs, feed the cows, go fishing and bundle up under heavy quilts on freezing-cold nights. It was so much fun and something I’ve never forgotten."

When she was at the Ringling school, she learned lessons to augment what she already knew. She also was confident enough in her own abilities to provide for her family if it ever came down to that possibility.

Liz Reid had fun painting this cow she named “Ginger” and showing it to her young art students.

"I’ve always made my living painting," she said. "It’s just been a part of me. I can’t think of any other explanation."

Now, about "Bo" and "Peep." They are 3-year-old Babydoll sheep bought after Reid went online to check out what she wanted. It wasn’t long before she found what she was looking for and, within a year, had an offspring that "Peep" produced.

In addition to lots of grass for the sheep to munch on outside the Reid house, their owner makes sure she picks up plenty of nutrients from Quality Co-op, Inc., in nearby Greenville or Andalusia Farmers Co-op.

She also has a special "dessert" for her "babies" when they’ve had their fill of grass. It’s animal crackers, those sweet cookie treats all youngsters seem to enjoy – be they of the two- or four-legged variety.

"Bo," who weighs about 120 pounds, and "Peep," about 20 pounds less, can hear her coming because she rattles the bag and they head in her direction. It isn’t long before they gobble up all she brings, hoping she’ll have more before long.

Reid kept her eyes on "Peep" when she was expecting, but it was an easy delivery, one that "Peep" handled by herself. "Grandma" Reid named the baby "Jubilee" and found a good home for him when he got older.

"Jubilee was born around Easter and we used him in the Easter pageant at our church," Reid said. "You can get attached to your sheep real fast and I have with my three."

An experienced shearer gave "Bo" and "Peep" their initial haircuts the first year, but Reid eventually learned how to do it herself after watching him at work.

"They’ll lie down and let you do it because once they get on the ground, it’s hard for them to get up," she said. "They don’t like hot weather, the kind we had this summer, and look for as much shade and water as they can find."

Add rain, lots of it, during the summer season - weather that had the sheep looking for shade from the sun and something overhead to protect them from storms.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Small Scale Timber Tips

The immense weight of a loaded log truck can create huge ruts that need to be smoothed out after the job is done.

by John Howle

Let’s say you own just a few acres of land and want to sell the timber off your property. Maybe you want to make a little profit from the timber or just want to clear a few acres to raise goats, sheep, a horse or a milk cow. When you’ve talked with local timber buyers, the usual response is, "You’ve just don’t have enough timber to make it worth moving our equipment for set-up." There are ways to get around this dilemma.

Combined Efforts

Talk with your nearby neighbors to see if they are also interested in selling timber. If they live close enough to you, it’s possible their timber acreage combined with yours would make it worthwhile for a timber buyer to come in, set up and harvest timber.

"It costs us over $1,000 to move our equipment and set up on a new site," explained Michael Chupp with Foothills Timber Company. "You have fuel and wages to pay while you are moving the equipment, and this is time when you are not hauling logs and timber to market."

Once you have a timber buyer who is willing to handle your small patch of timber, be clear on the details. Is there a small stand of hardwoods you wish to save among your pine stands? Do you plan to totally clearcut your property for pasture? Typically, if you only have a small acreage of timber to harvest, the harvesters are going to want to take most of the stand, but may be willing to leave your hardwoods or wildlife acorn producers.

Michael Chupp walks pine logs in front of the delimber that creates large piles of limbs and debris.

Consider the Impact

Consider your access to major roads. Logging trucks and skidders take a large area for setup and entry into the road. The immense weight of a loaded log truck can create large ruts in the property and there will be much debris left behind once the harvest is complete.

Fortunately, modern feller bunchers or skidders that cut and haul the trees have innovations allowing the operator to cut the tree quite close to the ground leaving very little stump height. If you communicate with the operator and ask them to cut the trees as low as possible, you’ll have less stumpage to deal with when converting the area to pastureland or hayfields. In addition, the operator can cut, carry and drop the trees in concentrated areas making cleanup later much easier.

Keep in mind the landscape will look dramatically different once the harvest is complete and there will be plenty of limbs and other debris left behind.

"It’s gonna look like someone dropped a nuclear bomb once the logs have been loaded and the limbs and stumps are left behind," Chupp said. "A good skidder operator can fell the trees and keep the limbs in a concentrated area as well as smooth up the landscape when they leave."

A feller/buncher can cut, carry and drop trees in one concentrated area.

Keep What You Earn

Once you receive the check for your small patch of timber, your first reaction might be pleased satisfaction. However, as you look across the patch you’ll see plenty of limbs, stumps and debris that have to be taken care of. Be aware that you can spend your entire timber paycheck if you get in a hurry to remove all the debris and stumps. It’s an expensive proposition to bring in a dozer operator to dig up the stumps.

There is, however, another cheaper method, but it requires work and a willingness to let time take over. Many of the pine stumps will rot within 3-4 years and the land can be cleared with nothing more than a tractor scrape blade or front end loader. The work consists of a willingness to stack limbs in piles that can be burned or, if you elect to let time take over, the limbs will also rot in a couple of years and the brush piles can be spread out over the small pasture.

While you are waiting for the stumps and brush piles to rot, you can spray the open timberland with Remedy or any brush control chemical available at your local Co-op to keep woody brush from coming back. Sprayers and other brush control equipment can also be purchased from your local Co-op as well. Pine rots quickly, and this is to your advantage when creating a small pasture.

Left to right, a sprayer with an herbicide such as Remedy, a woody brush killer, can be purchased from your local Co-op. Below, you can turn your scrape blade backwards and use it as a miniature bulldozer blade. You can do quite a bit of finishing work with a heavy-duty scrape blade. Piling brush is a great way to instill a work ethic in the younger ones.

Times Have Changed

There are probably some readers who remember clearing forest to make new ground pastures or crop fields. This was an incredibly labor intensive proposition. Once the logs were harvested (by chainsaw or by hand) the limbs were stacked (by hand), burned and mule-drawn equipment was used to smooth the property for cultivation.

The old way still works. I’ve even used the job of stacking limbs to help in the work ethic and character building of my children. In addition, a chainsaw, small tractor, scrape blade and brush-control chemicals have helped in the process of getting forested land ready for cultivation.

If you take the cleanup in small chunks just doing a little bit each week, you can see progress and take more pride with truly working the land by hand. Modern bulldozers and specialized landscape machines are great because they can clear the land in very little time, but they are also expensive. If you have time and don’t mind a little hard work, you can do much of the job by hand.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "You know grandpa hit hard times and sold that 40 acres on the lake for a little bit of nothing. You go and try to buy a tiny sliver of it now and you’ll pay an arm and a leg."

How does one use an appendage to purchase something?

To pay an "arm and a leg" means to pay a large, possibly exorbitant, amount of money and is one of those phrases ranking high in the "I know where that comes from" stories. In this case, the tale is that portrait painters used to charge more for larger paintings and that a head and shoulders painting was the cheapest option, followed in price by one which included arms and finally the top of the range "legs and all" portrait. As so often with popular etymologies, there’s no truth in that story. Painters certainly did charge more for large pictures, but there’s no evidence to suggest they did so by limb count. In any case the phrase is much more recent than the painting origin would suggest.

It is in fact a United States phrase coined sometime after WWII. The earliest citation found is from The Long Beach Independent, December 1949:

"Food Editor Beulah Karney has more than 10 ideas for the homemaker who wants to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and not have it cost her an arm and a leg."

"Arm" and "leg" are used as examples of items that no one would consider selling other than at an enormous price. It is a grim reality, around that time, there were many U.S. newspaper reports of servicemen who had lost an arm and a leg in the recent war. It is possible the phrase originated in reference to the high cost paid by those who suffered such amputations.

A more likely explanation is that the expression derived from two earlier phrases: "I would give my right arm for ..." and "[Even] if it takes a leg," both coined in the 19th century. n

Studying Livestock Behavior Minimizes Forage Damage

by Robert Spearman

Anyone who has spent time observing livestock grazing or browsing knows animals have certain tendencies. They tend to select vegetation that is tender, nutritious and palatable – pretty much common sense. Some animals find a "sweet spot" and overgraze it to the ground, which makes it difficult for the forages to recover. When they have little variety to choose from, they take what they can find including poor-quality forages and sometimes ingest toxic plants. They tend to seek shade during times of heat and direct sunlight, and spend so much time there they trample vegetation into the ground to the point it cannot recover. Dense traffic areas occur around hay racks, watering facilities and mineral feeders where they become central gathering points; then vegetation becomes trampled and soil becomes compacted or rutted from foot traffic. These damaged areas tend to become wet and muddy which can lead to soil erosion and nutrient run off into our water systems and a source of foot problems for livestock.

Through proper management, utilization of grazing strategies and development of grazing systems, farmers can avoid previously mentioned damaging situations and protect our natural resources at the same time. With this same initiative, they can increase forage productivity to the point of prolific pastures, minimal reliance on fertilizer and year-round grazing with minimal reliance upon grain feeds and hay. Through proper management and use of grazing systems, animals are moved on a regular basis to fresh pastures, never spending too much time in one area, and animal demeanor tends to improve.

Grazing Systems

Development of an effective and efficient grazing system requires research, time, effort and willingness to readjust plans as needed. To begin with, find a map of your property on Google Earth, visit your local USDA Service Center and get a map of your land, then compare the two and study the lay of your land to determine potential areas to be fenced into paddocks, access points for water and shade, and the possibility of any sensitive areas that need to be fenced from livestock traffic. Your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office has technicians who can assist you with this and help develop a set of plans. Let us briefly familiarize ourselves with types of grazing systems. Yes, there are hybrids of each one of the following, but these are the primary types.

Continuous grazing – This is what was pretty much described in the very first paragraph. Animals are allowed to graze whole pastures throughout the year. They may over-graze or under-graze certain areas, trample down riparian buffer zones, spend too much time in areas with shade or water, and destroy sensitive areas, causing erosion and contaminating waterways. No control, high presence of weeds and limited inventory of quality forages.

Rotational grazing – Large pasture areas are divided into paddocks for controlled grazing by utilizing appropriate fencing. Animals are allowed to graze one area at a time and moved to new paddocks when average forage height approaches 8 inches or less. Any time pastures are overgrazed, forage quality and root depth decreases, and gastrointestinal parasites are more easily ingested.

Strip grazing – Through use of strategically placed fencing (including temporary fencing), animals are temporarily allowed to graze a narrow strip then moved to another strip while being fenced from previous accessed area. Again, never allowing animals to overgraze these areas.

Creep grazing – Through the use of appropriate fencing, younger animals with higher nutrient needs are allowed to graze quality forages before adults are allowed access.

Mixed-species grazing – Goats, sheep and cattle all have different grazing preferences and quality needs. Allowing a few goats or sheep in with cattle promotes a more comprehensive grazing strategy and reduces problems with weeds. This is also very beneficial in reducing problems with gastrointestinal parasites.

Mob grazing – A variation on strip grazing, but an intense number of animals are in an area for a short amount of time. It has its role for reclaiming overgrown areas.

As previously mentioned, there are several other grazing systems, but they tend to be slight variations or hybrids of these systems.

Grazing Terminology

Stocking rate – The number of animals stocked per pasture unit for a specific period of time.

Stocking density – Number of animals per unit of land, sometimes broken down into animal units (pounds of animals).

Seasonal stocking – Stocking rate varies depending on seasonal availability of forages in pastures. Moisture, sunlight, drought, forage types and growth are all factors in forage availability and stocking time frames.

Therefore, stocking rates will vary as deemed appropriate.

Where Can You Learn More?

Search the Internet for relevant information; you may become overwhelmed with what is out there. Attend workshops hosted by our three land-grant universities, Cooperative Extension Systems and other agricultural-based organizations. There are plenty of relevant books and magazines, and many other resources.


Strategic planning and development of grazing systems can result in healthy, productive pastures essential to healthy, prolific livestock. An efficient and effective grazing system with quality forages insures pasture sustainability and meets animals’ nutrient needs, increases the likelihood of animal health and productivity, and lowers production costs while increasing the likelihood of profitability.

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

Teamwork On The Farm

by Baxter Black, DVM

JB and Deb are one of those couples who form the backbone of agriculture. They have a diversified operation including livestock, loans, machinery and kids. There are times when it seems they can read each other’s minds.

They were coming back across the pasture, her walking, him riding the Polaris Ranger.

"Hop up here, Darlin’," he invited.

She hopped up and put her arm around his shoulders as they bumped along a two-track dirt trail. A skunk wobbled out of the grass and onto the trail.

Deb felt rather than saw JB smile.

"Don’t you be thinkin’ what I think yer thinkin’," she said flatly.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"You know what I mean … runnin’ over him. Don’t you even be thinkin’ that."

"Aw," he said, "How can you think I’d do something as dumb or insane or stupid as runnin’ over a skunk!"

"Ya know," she said, "That’s what I told my mother when she asked if I was gonna marry YOU!"

JB sped up just enough to catch the skunk. He jumped off, grabbed a shovel from the back of the Ranger and took out after the skunk. He was stumbling in his rubber boots over the rough ground, but was athletic enough to wield the shovel. It clunked the ground, bounced back and thumped the skunk!

In the Compendium of Skunk Thumping, one would learn that skunks are of the Order Carnivora (which includes mongooses, hyenas and walruses) and I quote, "If you encounter a skunk, back away slowly and quietly … be careful not to frighten them … an extremely fetid liquid …."

If a person is close enough to thump a skunk (an arm’s length plus 4-foot shovel handle), it is reasonable to assume this person would be within the range of this sub-family Mephitinae member. It has been shown that skunks can spray 20 feet, weather permitting, and be accurate at 10 feet. This certainly includes JB’s position in space at that moment.

JB took the full load; according to The Skunk Authority that would be approximately a tablespoon of musk. Now, a tablespoon doesn’t sound like much. Picture Mary Poppins singing, "… a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down …" But the skunk’s "extremely fetid liquid," a nasty combination of chemicals that also lend aroma to decomposing flesh and feces, reacts slowly with water to activate. Thus, the more you try to wash it off, the more you activate the smell!

JB’s coveralls took the brunt of the attack. He was able to continue wearing them due to that odd protective device called olfactory fatigue; the receptors of skunk odor that quickly shut down in self-defense. Actually he wore them until Deb’s head cold cleared up, then she burned them.

They also have rattlesnakes in eastern Colorado in addition to skunks. JB has a little flat-blade scoop up against the frame of their backdoor for Deb, the accepted method of rattlesnake protection on the farm.

"He’s always lookin’ out for me," she said while affectionately patting his arm.

He blushed, shuffled his feet, "Aw, shucks," he said.

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,

The Co-op Pantry

You have to have Kathy at the Blount County Farmers Co-op as your cook of the month," one of the ladies in our office told me. "She is a wonderful cook and such a sweet person."

I am happy to say Kathy Harris has agreed to share recipes and her story with us this month.

Kathy has worked at Blount County Farmers Co-op for 7 years. She started as a sales associate and then moved to her current position as the bookkeeper.

Kathy and her late husband Wade have one son Bryan, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, pursing a degree in accounting. Kathy laughingly stated that she also has a fur child, a German Shepherd named Sasha, who has a very lively personality.

Kathy and Wade married when he was 18 and she was 19. Their marriage lasted almost 30 years. Kathy sadly informed me that she lost her sweetheart when Wade passed away 4 years ago.

Kathy is an active member of the Mount Carmel FCM Church where she serves as church secretary, cleans the building when it needs it and helps supervise youth activities.

When I asked Kathy what got her interested in cooking and who taught her, Kathy told me her mom Nellie Beasley and her older sisters Jeanette Rogers and Brenda Wilson taught her to cook. She learned to cook plain and healthy food to serve to her family. Kathy related one of her fondest cooking memories is baking cakes with her sisters.

"My sister Brenda and my brother Benny would argue over the kind of cake. He wanted chocolate and she wanted cherry. Also, my cousins taught me to make cobblers when we all were visiting with my Grandmother," Kathy recalled.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Kathy really doesn’t watch cooking shows or read a lot of cooking magazines preferring to collect recipes from friends and online. She is an innovative cook; she can look at a recipe and immediately tell what to add to suit the dish to her taste, so most of her recipe collection has been personalized to suit her family’s taste.

Kathy laughingly said the reason she loves cooking so much is because she enjoys eating good food. She cooks for a lot of church dinners and family gatherings, and enjoys every minute of both the cooking and eating.

Kathy is such a humble person.

"I don’t really have anything interesting to tell," she commented.

She not only has something to say, she shared her life and some wonderful recipes with us this month that are tasty and easy to prepare. Thanks, Kathy!

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


½ cup butter
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
2 (10-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
2 (4.5-ounce) jars mushrooms, sliced and drained
1 (15-ounce) can English peas, drained
1 (15-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (10 ¾-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (3 7/8-ounce) jar black olives, sliced and drained
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 (8-ounce) packages sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 (7-ounce) packages vermicelli, broken into 2-inch pieces, cooked and drained

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 4-quart baking dish.

In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add pepper and onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, broth, soup, olives, salt and pepper until combined. Add cheese, stirring until melted. Add vermicelli, tossing gently to combine. Spoon into prepared dish and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.


4 packages lunch ham
1 bell pepper
1 small onion
Shredded cheese
3 eggs
2 packages crescent rolls

Chop up ham, bell pepper and onion. Add half of the cheese and mix in eggs. Spread out the crescent rolls in a pan and pour the mixture on top. Sprinkle the rest of cheese on top. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes.


1 (16-ounce) bag frozen turnip greens
2 can beans, either great northern or pinto
1 pound sausage
1 box Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a large cooking pot. Cook until the greens are tender and the sausage is done.

Note: I always brown my sausage first.


3 pounds grapes, washed and drained
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons sour cream
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans, crushed

Place grapes in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, extract and sugar. Pour over grapes and toss. Top with brown sugar and pecans


1 medium can crushed pineapple
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1 (12-ounce) container whipped topping, thawed
8 ounces small curd cottage cheese
2 small boxes orange Jello

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate.


2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese
2 cups sharp cheese, shredded
1 Tablespoon onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash salt
Dash cayenne pepper
Pecans, chopped

Mix cheeses until blended. Add onion, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt and cayenne. Mix thoroughly and roll in pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


1 (16-ounce) package Oreo cookies, crushed
½ cup margarine, melted
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 (16-ounce) package whipped topping, thawed
1 (6-ounce) package chocolate pudding mix
3 cups milk

Combine cookie crumbs and margarine in a bowl, mixing well. Press half the mixture into a 9x13-inch dish. Combine cream cheese, sugar and whipped topping in a mixer bowl and mix until smooth. Spread over crumb layer. Combine pudding mix and milk in a bowl and mix until thick. Spread over cream cheese layer. Sprinkle with the remaining cookie crumbs.


1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup raisins
2 eggs
2 cups flour
Dash salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups cornflakes
1 cup oats
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans

Preheat your oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients. Drop 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie on a sprayed cookie sheet. Leave two inches between each cookie. Bake for 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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

The FFA Sentinel: Chilton County FFA Members Tour Local Agricultural Industry Operations

Chilton County FFA members were provided a “hands-on” tour of how a sod farm operates at Mims Sod Farm.

by Landon Lowery

Four agriscience departments from across Chilton County participated in the first annual Chilton County Agricultural Tour on July 18, 2013. Seventeen students representing Maplesville, Thorsby, Chilton County and Isabella High Schools visited four prominent farming operations across the county.

The students started their day at Joe Mims’s sod farm in Thorsby. Mims informed the students of the steps required to operate a successful sod farm and the various types of equipment and skill sets a person needs to produce quality sod grass in Alabama. Once the tour of the sod farm was completed, students had the opportunity to step back in time and see the antiquated tools of yesteryear. The many antique tractors Mims has diligently restored were a great way of showing the students the tools farmers had to use and the technological progress farming has made over the years.

Chilton County FFA members given a “behind-the-scenes” tour of Burkhalter cattle facility.

Our next stop took us to the south end of the county to visit one of Parnell Inc.’s logging operations. The students were surprised to be face to face with a multi-million-dollar logging operation. As we stood and watched trees falling and then being skidded to the loader, many of the students had conversations with the crew foreman Jeff Parnell. He explained that forestry was the largest industry in Alabama and many of the students were amazed at the cost of operating just one of the seven crews Parnell Inc. has working at a time. With the average cost of each machine being $300,000 and fuel averaging 100 gallons per day per machine the logging operation easily had the highest input cost of all the farms we visited. Justin Stringfellow, the forester on site, took the opportunity to discuss what degree a person needs to become a forester and what the job requires.

Agriscience teachers from Chilton County are discussing the harvest of timber at a logging site being operated by Parnell Inc.

After stopping for a quick lunch, our next stop landed us on a cattle operation off Enterprise Road. The Burkhalter Farm in Clanton has been in operation for many years raising Sim-Angus cattle. Their operation raises over 100 calves a year to be sold at specialty sales around central Alabama. The Burkhalters discussed how they started improving the genetics of their cattle through the Beef Cattle Improvement Association. Burkhalter explained how the BCIA’s mission - to promote, educate and facilitate the use of performance data, recordkeeping and marketing opportunities for BCIA members, while providing a leadership role to improve the Alabama cattle industry – has improved his cattle herd and has allowed him to make more money at the end of the year.

Last, but certainly not least, we loaded our bus again to head to the last stop of the day. We made a quick detour by Todd’s Produce for ice cream and to meet owner Hal Hays. Once our ice cream had settled, we went to Hays’s house to see his greenhouse tomato facility and some new innovative ways to grow produce. Hays explained that his greenhouses were just a hobby, but they were becoming more and more popular. The greenhouses control many of the pesky problems farmers encounter, especially this year with the amounts of rain farmers are seeing, while making it possible to produce vegetables at a much earlier date than conventional farming can accomplish. His greenhouses afford him the ability to control water, heat, cold and, to a certain extent, pests.

The agriscience students and instructors from across the county would like to thank each and every farmer we visited for sharing their hospitality and knowledge. As a teacher, I learned many great things throughout the day and I know the students did as well. Again, thanks to everyone who made this possible and we will be looking forward to visiting a new set of farms next year.

Landon Lowery is the Isabella FFA Advisor.

Updating Old Family Recipes

by Angela Treadaway

We all have old recipe books and recipes that have been around for years, but are they safe to use? Many of the ways food was handled or preserved in the past are no longer recommended. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, the four most serious foodborne pathogens are E. coli, salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter jejuni. Other than salmonella, these bacteria were not known as a threat to food safety until recently. Some of the bacteria are new and some of them have just developed into stronger strains.

Americans have become more cautious after several instances of foodborne illness causing the deaths of individuals made the headlines. There are many unsafe recipes in magazines and on the Internet. Canning recipes should be from 1989 or newer. When in doubt about a canning recipe, compare it to modern recipe instructions or contact your local county Extension office. The following are some critical food safety points on a recipe that should be checked and updated if not correct.

Oven temperatures should be no lower than 325° F for cooking meats, poultry or casseroles containing meat or poultry. At an oven temperature lower than 325°, it takes a long time to get the temperature of the meat or poultry high enough to kill bacteria or prevent the growth of more bacteria. Once the food is thoroughly cooked, the bacteria should be destroyed and the oven temperature may be lowered to keep foods hot until serving time.

Eggs should be thoroughly cooked until the whites and yolks are firm. If a recipe is not to be cooked and it calls for uncooked or partially cooked eggs, do not use it unless commercially pasteurized eggs can be used to reduce the risk. Eggs that have not been pasteurized should be cooked to 160°. A soft custard mixture will coat a metal spoon, or a knife inserted into the center of a baked custard or quiche will come out clean when the eggs are cooked to the proper temperature. The milk, sugar and egg base for homemade ice cream and eggnog can be heated to 160° then chilled before adding the other ingredients to make the recipe safe to use. Heating the eggs to this temperature will destroy the bacteria present in the raw eggs.

Meat and poultry need to be handled with care to ensure any bacteria they have come in contact with are destroyed. This is even more critical for ground meat products. The inside color of the meat is not always an accurate indicator of doneness. The only way to ensure the internal temperature of the meat is high enough is to use a thermometer. The following chart shows appropriate temperatures.

Ground beef, veal, pork, lamb ----- 155°

Ground chicken or turkey ---------- 165°

Beef, veal or lamb roast or steaks - 145° (rare) … 160° (med) … 170° (well)

Pork chops, roast, ribs -------------- 160° (med) … 170° (well)

Ham, fresh (raw) -------------------- 160°

Ham, cured or fully cooked -------- 140°

Whole chicken or turkey ----------- 165°

Poultry breast, thighs---------------- 165°

Stuffing (cooked separately) ------- 165°

Meat or poultry should not be partially cooked unless it is to be finished cooking in another way immediately. Meats and poultry should be completely cooked before being added to other ingredients in a casserole. If the meat is to be marinated, do so in a covered glass container in the refrigerator. Do not use marinade on cooked food that has been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Do not baste cooked meat with a brush that has been in contact with raw meat or poultry.

There are many unsafe recipes in circulation. Check the oven temperatures, for raw eggs and to see if the directions for handling meats or poultry are safe. When using old canning or pickling recipes, compare them to current recommended practices to see if they are safe or, even better, get current recipes from your local county Extension office.

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.

Will Hay Alone Meet the Winter-Feed Needs For Your Brood Cows?

by Jimmy Hughes

As we enter into late summer, I hope hay is plentiful at your farm and you’re preparing for that last cutting before fall. I always enjoy traveling this time of year as harvest begins and producers realize the fruits of their labor.

Cattle are designed to utilize forage as the base of their nutritional program. The ability to take this forage and turn it into a usable product is what makes the ruminant’s digestive system so unique.

Alabama producers have the ability with normal rainfall to produce more than an adequate amount of forage for their operations. This combination is what makes cattle production so popular throughout the Southeast. The abundance of forage sometimes gives producers a false sense of security as they try to meet the nutritional needs of their animals. Producers who have an abundance of hay have a tendency to try to feed hay alone to maintain their brood cow herd. While in certain stages of production and with a higher-quality hay, this might be possible, but in most cases it is not.

While all cattle feeding programs begin with hay or other forages, it’s a must to know the quality of that forage. This is even more important when prices are high to insure you do not over supplement your herd. This can easily be done by pulling a hay sample from each cutting and sending it to a forage-testing lab for a forage analysis. You will need to randomly select samples from throughout your hay crop and request a basic hay sample. Your county Extension agent or local Quality Co-op can assist you in selecting a forage lab to send your samples. This will provide you with the protein, energy and fiber values of your hay. With this information in hand, you are now ready to determine your supplemental feeding needs for the winter.

What you need as part of the equation is to determine the nutritional requirements of your herd. This is done by establishing the stage of production your herd will be in during the feeding period and the nutritional requirements of the animal at that stage of production. Will you have cow/calf pairs (small calves, large calves), bred cows, bred heifers or a combination of cows in different stages of production? Having a combination is the most difficult to plan for because each stage has different nutritional needs. Remember, with a number of cows in different stages of production, you must feed for the cows with the greatest nutritional needs (cow with large calf) so these cows can reach desired production and reproductive performance. The cows’ nutritional requirements can be found on the Internet, from your county Extension agent or I will be more than happy to help you as well.

After you establish your hay quality and your cattle’s stage of production, you can determine if hay alone will meet your winter-feeding needs. The average quality hay in Alabama will be 8 percent protein, 46 percent total digestible nutrients as a measure of energy, .29 percent calcium and .20 percent phosphorus. A 1,100-pound cow will consume an average of 2.5-3.0 percent of her body weight in hay on a winter day - around 27.5 pounds of hay a day to provide her 2.2 pounds of protein, 12.6 pounds of TDN, .08 pounds of calcium, and .055 pounds of phosphorus. The average 1,100-pound cow with a fall-born calf has a daily requirement of 2.5 pounds of protein, 15 pounds of TDN, .90 pounds of calcium and .60 pounds of phosphorus. A growing bred heifer will have similar nutrient requirements because of the need for growth, but will intake less hay due to size of the animal and her capacity to hold large amounts of forage. A bred cow in good condition will require 2 pounds of protein, 11 pounds of TDN, .60 pounds of calcium and .40 pounds of phosphorus. A producer must also take into account these requirements will increase during extreme weather conditions of below-freezing temperatures, rain, snow/ice or wind.

As you can see, average quality hay will not meet the nutrient requirements of your cattle. If your hay is above average, you can reduce the need for additional supplementation, but the need for a complete mineral and vitamin program still exists. Trace mineral salt will only meet the cow’s requirement for salt and will leave her lacking in minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, selenium, iron, and vitamins A, D and E. This can lead to reproductive failures and immunity deficiencies. It is always recommended that a complete mineral and vitamin mix be provided on a free-choice basis for your cattle.

This is also the time of the year to start providing a high magnesium mineral as a preventative to grass tetney. Grass tetney is caused by a build-up of potassium nitrate that reduces magnesium intake on lush cool-season grasses. A high magnesium mineral should be provided at least 30 days prior to the grass tetney season.

Now that you have established the quality of your hay and the requirements of your cattle, you must select a supplement based on cattle requirements, convenience, quality, cost and performance. As producers, we sometimes concentrate too much on cost per ton and do not spend enough time looking at cost per head per day and what we get nutritionally from the feed. While some products such as soyhulls and corn gluten are reasonably priced on a per ton basis when compared to complete feeds, the cost to feed them to meet the daily requirements of your cattle may not be so reasonable. If it takes 10 pounds of Feed A to put on a pound of gain and 7 pounds of Feed B to put on a pound of gain, which is the best value for your money? I would also encourage you to select products best fitting your situation. If you are forage based and try to just feed hay, I would encourage you to look at a product that will improve the digestibility of that hay. In this case, a low-moisture tub may be the best solution to your supplementation needs.

This is also the time of year to think about implementing winter grazing into your program. Most producers will drill ryegrass or a ryegrass/clover mix during this time of the year. The use of ryegrass can be very effective in helping you save money, reduce hay needs and maintain good body condition while helping the cows produce more milk. I have had several calls this summer from producers who want to implement an intensive grazing program to allow them to feed little to no hay during the winter months. While intensive grazing requires a more detailed management program, the benefits are equally rewarding.

I hope you will spend some time in the coming months determining your very best option to winter supplementation. If I can answer any questions or be of any help in this decision-making process, please contact me at 256-947-7886 or

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

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