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October 2015

4-H Extension Corner: Leaders in Forestry and Wildlife

The Alabama 4-H Forestry Judging team from Pickens County placed third at the 36th Annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational. Team members are (from left) Beth Gibbs, chaperone; Ginny Grace Gibbs; Mollie Watkins; Lydia Abernathy; Amber Watkins and Sam Wiggins, coach.

Alabama 4-H teams place in top 3 in national contests.

by Donna Reynolds

Two Alabama 4-H teams recently placed in the top spots at national competitions.

The Alabama 4-H Forestry Judging team placed third among 14 state teams at the 36th Annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational held at Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, W. Va.

Representing Alabama were Ginny Grace Gibbs, Mollie Watkins, Lydia Abernathy and Amber Watkins from Pickens County. Abernathy was the sixth high Overall Individual in the competition. The Alabama team placed second in the Forestry Bowl event and third in the written exam.

The Alabama 4-H Wildlife Judging team won second place at the National Wildlife Habitat Education, held at the Alabama 4-H Youth and Development Center in Columbiana. Wildlife teams from 12 states competed at the event.

The Lee County 4-H team represented Alabama at the event. Team members include Lisa Barron, Polly Barron, Nathan Gullat and Gavin Rankins. Rankins also won first place high Overall Individual.

"We are very proud of our Alabama 4-H Forestry team and 4-H Wildlife team, and their accomplishments at the national contests," said Dr. Molly Gregg, Alabama Extension assistant director for 4-H. "Alabama 4-H has a long history of excellence at these events and our teams from Pickens County and Lee County continued that tradition."

The 4-H Wildlife Judging team from Lee County won second place at the National Wildlife Habitat Education. Team members are (from left, front) Lisa Barron; Polly Barron; Sherry Barron, coach; (back) Gavin Rankins and Nathan Gullat.

Alabama 4-H Forestry Judging teams have won the National Forestry Invitational 18 times with Alabama 4-H’ers winning 14 high overall individual awards since 1980.

Alabama 4-H Wildlife Judging teams have won the National Wildlife Habitat Evaluation contest eight times and placed second eight times since 1989.

Wildlife Habitat Education Program is a hands-on natural resource program dedicated to teaching wildlife and fisheries habitat management and species identification to youth ages 8-19 through 4-H or FFA organizations. Studying a science-based manual, participants learn wildlife terms and concepts, habitats and how to judge their quality, habitat management practices and damage management.

The National 4-H Forestry Invitational is the national championship of 4-H forestry. The Invitational helps youth develop an appreciation for the importance of conserving forestland as a source of products, benefits and services necessary for quality living. 4-H foresters learn citizenship and leadership skills as well as practical forest management skills through participation in the 4-H Forestry Invitational. By learning these skills, young people will be better prepared to own forestland or deal with environmental issues in the future.

Alabama 4-H is the youth education program arm of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. More than 120,000 young people participated or were enrolled in Alabama 4-H programs in the last year.

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



A Helping Hand

To Bring Home the Next Meal

by Christy Kirk

Children don’t always understand what it is that their parents do for work. Sometimes young children may not even make the connection between the job you go to every day and the meals you put in their lunchboxes and on their plates. As Rolley Len and Cason get older, Jason and I talk to them more and more about how money is earned and where it is spent. We try to explain what it means to have a job, to keep up health and home, and how to make it all last so you can enjoy it.

As adults, Jason and I know our regular jobs and the additional side work we do are necessary to provide for our family now, and also to plan for what is yet to come. Nothing is ever certain, so we work today knowing we also must be ready for any hurdles we could face as a family in the future.

Rolley Len and Cason have both already expressed their interest in various careers, but Cason has revealed an unexpected interest in renovating houses and "picking." Every time we pass an older vacant house, he describes how he would fix it up from start to finish. He explains what abandoned contents he would keep to sell or donate as if he has years of experience culling old houses. Then he goes on to explain all the steps of preparing the house for a new family from clearing out spiders to repairing the roof.

Many people say that one of the joys of having children is to be able to see the world through their eyes. That could not be truer than when I hear Cason talk about his plans to do hands-on work restoring houses. Knowing he isn’t afraid of hard work makes me proud and is a reminder that he is his Daddy’s son. Jason has always been skilled at building and making sure what he builds is just right, even if it takes extra time. So it also makes me very joyful when Cason is able to lure his Daddy away for a break from whatever he is working on to hunt, fish or explore for a while instead.

Cason’s desire to hunt for his own food combined with his interest in hard work means he is likely going to be helping Jason for years to come at our house, the farm and the hunting camp. As bow season has approached, the timing has been perfect for him to show his skills by helping Jason prepare the hunting camp for a while.

Preparing for hunting season is a lot of hard work that needs to be done in a fairly short period of time. They have to plow firebreaks and get the green fields ready before the end of September. The camp itself has to be cleaned thoroughly and stocked with supplies to get ready for all the hunters visiting throughout the winter. In the woods, there is more to be done. Cameras must be checked, batteries changed and new camera cards inserted. Stands must be cleaned out and checked for safety.

This year Cason is old enough not only to help with more of the cleanup but also to understand how the time and work put into preparing the hunting camp relates to bringing home our family’s next meal.

Mother-in-Law Goulash

Mother-in-Law Goulash

1 pound ground deer meat (turkey or beef may be substituted)

Garlic powder, to taste

Salt and paper, to taste

5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in small cubes

2 Tablespoons oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1 can tomato sauce

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, drained

Season ground meat with garlic powder, salt and pepper while browning in a skillet. Drain and set aside. Place potatoes into a large, deep skillet with oil and cook over medium heat until halfway cooked. Add onions and bell pepper to potatoes. Continue cooking, stirring frequently. Add tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce and stir. Add browned meat. Add beans. Allow the flavors to blend as it simmers until ready to eat. Salt and pepper to taste. Hot sauce is optional.

Note: Jason’s mother would make this goulash for their family to eat at the hunting camp. It is very hearty, easy to make and can simmer until the hunters return from their stands.

Traditional Goulash

1 pound ground deer meat

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 Tablespoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 pound macaroni

1 cup cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Brown meat with onion and pepper. Add garlic salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Boil macaroni while meat mixture simmers for 10 minutes. Drain macaroni after 9 minutes of boiling. Return macaroni to pot, add beef mixture. Serve with cheese on top.

Tex-Mex Goulash

1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni

1 pound ground deer meat

1 onion, chopped

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 cup frozen corn

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Cook macaroni according to package directions then drain. In a soup pot over medium heat, cook beef and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered 3-4 minutes, or until heated through. Add macaroni to meat mixture, stirring to combine. Serve with cheese on top.

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



AFGA Conference

Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers meet for their annual Conference and Tradeshow on November 19-20, 2015.

In 2014, fresh market vegetable and melon production in Alabama was valued at more than $20 million, an increase of more than 25 percent over 2013. As Alabama growers look to improve production and their bottom line, the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Fall Conference will give producers the most recent information and research. The AFVG Conference and Tradeshow will be held November 19-20 at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center in Chilton County.

Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, an entomologist and commercial horticulture program coordinator with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said fruit and vegetable producers are a valuable part of the state’s economy.

"We want to reach them with the quality farming information that they need," Majumdar said. "We hope that holding it on a Thursday and Friday in a more central location will make attending the conference easier for producers."

Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and followed by a general session at 8:30 a.m. The second day of the conference and trade show opens at 7:30 a.m. and will end around 2:30 p.m.

The conference will feature farm tours on the first day for hands-on learning experience followed by educational sessions the next day for in-depth information. A producer networking session and equipment swap are also highlights of this event providing unparalleled networking opportunity for all participants. Also, experience the latest technology and farm equipment from many exhibitors showcasing their products and services. An agenda is available online and registration is open at www.aces.edu/dept/associations/afvga/2015FallConfe.... All major credit cards are accepted through the online system. Ten pesticide points are available for the entire event.

On Thursday, producers will tour the fruit farm operation at Petals from the Past as well as visit the Chilton Research and Extension Center to learn more about ongoing research into fruit production in orchards and high tunnels, plasticulture production of vegetables and strawberries, and pest management.

Workshops Thursday afternoon and Friday morning will address topics including pest management in sweet corn and squash, controlling vegetable diseases and new ways to market products.

"Dr. John Clark, a plant breeder with the University of Arkansas, will be one of our featured speakers," Majumdar said. "He has done extensive research in breeding improved blackberries, blueberries and peaches that should really interest many Alabama producers."

Other keynote speakers will include Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and Alfa President Jimmy Parnell.

"We are working hard to invite the best possible speakers to deliver information that goes beyond any other conference for fruit and vegetable producers," said Ann Chambliss, AFVGA Conference Coordinator. "This fall’s conference offers a different agenda by introducing farm tours. These tours will showcase the latest technology and innovative farm practices to benefit new and experienced producers at the same time."

The conference is geared toward commercial producers, but Majumdar added that anyone interested in learning more about fruit and vegetable growing would benefit from attending.

Registration cost is $100 for the first member and $75 for the second member. The trade show cost is $300 per booth with two people.

Register today as a participant for a wonderful training and networking experience. Exhibitors are also invited to participate in the tradeshow for an unbeatable interaction. For exhibition queries, please contact Ann Chambliss (thameae@auburn.edu) or call 334-707-4923. For sponsorship or general registration questions, please contact AFVGA Executive Secretary Jackie Cooper (jjcoop61@bellsouth.net) or call 334-728-4117. For more information, visit the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association website at www.aces.edu/go/560.




Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

$4.9 million in funding announced for Alabama projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $4.9 million in new funding for projects designed to protect public safety and health, improve water and wastewater infrastructure, and create expanded economic opportunities in rural Alabama.

The investments "are vital to protect public health and safety, and improve the economic well-being of the state’s rural residents," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. "USDA is proud to work with Alabama’s state and local leaders to make these projects a reality."

The funding includes grants and loans for some 25 projects around the state, ranging from a $683,500 loan and a $50,000 grant to renovate the natatorium at Wilcox County High School to a $391,100 loan and a $41,000 grant to the Lowndes County Commission to upgrade and replace equipment for the emergency 911 system not currently in operation.

Other project funding includes an $89,000 grant to the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama to provide technical assistance for faculty and nursing students partnering with KidCheck Plus to provide health screenings to children in Perry and Dallas counties and a $81,219 grant to Cottage House Inc. to purchase a refrigerated truck and pallet jack to help 20 small minority growers transport their produce to processing plants.

School Breakfast Program participation growing

Participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program has more than doubled since fiscal 1996 and now provides nutritious morning meals to students at almost 90,000 schools and residential child care institutions.

Some 13.5 million U.S. children participate on an average school day and federal expenditures for SBP were $3.7 billion in fiscal 2014.

Since the program was permanently authorized in 1975, it has targeted low-income students. In fiscal 2014, 85 percent of breakfasts were served for free or reduced price, based on household income, up from 81 percent in 2006. This increase likely reflects more children qualifying for free breakfasts and choosing to participate during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath, as well as policy changes that simplified access to the program for low-income students.

Drop in livestock prices to affect net farm income

Net farm income is forecast to decline for the second consecutive year, after reaching recent historic highs in 2013.

NFI is expected to fall nearly $33 billion (36 percent) from 2014’s estimate to $58.3 billion in 2015. The 2015 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, and $29.1 billion (in real terms) below the 10-year average.

Crop receipts are expected to decrease by $12.9 billion from 2014, led by a projected $7.1 billion decline in corn receipts and a $3.4 billion decline in soybean receipts. Livestock receipts are also expected to decline, with the largest decreases expected for hog and dairy receipts. Total production expenses are forecast to fall by $1.5 billion in 2015, the first decline since 2009.

Government payments are projected to rise 16 percent ($1.6 billion) to $11.4 billion in 2015.

Despite the decline, Vilsack described the forecast as "heartening for all Americans.

"The past several years have seen unprecedented highs in farm income, and despite the fact that farm income is forecast to be down from record levels, (the income projections) provide a snapshot of a rural America that continues to remain stable and resilient in the face of the worst animal disease outbreak in our nation’s history and while the western United States remains gripped by drought.

"Thanks to its ability to be competitive through thick and thin, American agriculture remains fundamentally sound, supporting and creating good-paying American jobs for millions."

Poultry consumption rising in Middle East, North Africa

Meat consumption is correlated with income around the world, and the Middle East and North Africa region is no exception.

While income levels vary widely across the region, income growth continues to outpace the world average with implications for MENA’s future meat demand, particularly poultry. Per capita meat consumption has more than doubled from around 12 kilograms in the 1990s to about 24 kg in 2010, and USDA’s Baseline Projections suggest this growth will continue well into the future.

As with other commodities, the growth of poultry consumption has exceeded gains in domestic production and leading to rising imports. MENA is now the largest regional importer of poultry products in the world.

Domestic meat production is also growing rapidly; regional poultry production grew by nearly 5 percent annually from 2000 to 2011, leading to growth in demand for animal feeds, primarily corn and soybean meal.

Dairy product prices are declining

U.S. domestic wholesale prices of nonfat dry milk have declined from a record high of $2.090 per pound in March 2014 to $0.837 per pound in July 2015, the lowest price since May 2009.

International export prices for skim milk powder are also declining, reaching $0.792 per pound in July for Oceania and $0.851 per pound for Western Europe. Since the U.S. market for nonfat dry milk is highly dependent upon exports (52 percent of production was exported in 2014), domestic prices track closely with international prices.

The domestic wholesale price for dry whey, which is also highly dependent on exports, fell from 42.5 cents in June to 39.4 cents in July, the lowest level since January 2011. Domestic prices for butter and cheese have not fallen as much since those markets are not as dependent upon exports.

The declining prices reflect weak global demand, particularly from China, and the Russian import ban on dairy products from major producers.

With lower dairy product prices, milk prices are also declining, with the all-milk price currently forecast to average $16.75-$16.95 per hundredweight in 2015, down from an average of $23.97 in 2014.

Stacked varieties of GE corn show major growth

U.S. farmers have embraced genetically engineered seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction. However, the adoption of corn varieties with both herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits – referred to as stacked – has increased sharply, reaching 77 percent of planted corn acres in 2015.

Conversely, use of corn with only the insect-resistant trait dropped from 27 percent of planted corn acreage in 2004 to 4 percent in 2015, while corn with only the herbicide-tolerant trait dropped from 24 percent of planted corn acreage in 2007 to 12 percent in 2015.

Generally, stacked seeds tend to have higher yields than conventional seeds or seeds with only one GE trait.

Getting kids to eat what’s good for them

USDA’s National School Lunch Program has updated its nutrition standards to include more fruit, whole grains and a healthier mix of vegetables. However, the challenge of persuading kids to eat what’s good for them remains.

Recent research in psychology and cognitive cues in decision-making is showing that one answer may be simple, low-cost nudges that promote acceptance of healthy foods.

For example, research funded by USDA’s Economics Research Service at Cornell University leveraged a principle called "confirmatory bias" that says higher expectations for a product lead to a more positive response. The researchers found that giving carrots an attention-getting name such as X-ray Vision carrots increased the percentage of elementary students eating that vegetable from the lunch line.

The research showed between 12 and 15 percent of children ate carrots with no name or called Food of the Day, while 35 percent of children ate the X-ray Vision carrots.

With more than 30 million children eating school lunches each day, implementation of the research has the potential to improve children’s diets, researchers believe.




Cascara Sagrada

by Nadine Johnson

Cascara sagrada is a small tree of the buckthorn family that grows in the northwestern part of the United States. It thrives in rich moist soil. This valuable herb is rarely, if ever, found in an ordinary herb garden.

When early Spanish explorers arrived in what in now northern California, they learned about cascara sagrada. Native Americans drank a tea made from its bark to treat constipation. Since constipation has always been a common, worldwide problem, the Spanish realized they had made a valuable discovery.

Cascara sagrada is Spanish for sacred bark. Sacred bark is certainly an apt name for this herb that has been an answer to many prayers.

According to my reference resources, cascara sagrada is not habit-forming. Its use increases secretion of digestive fluids and stimulates the peristaltic action of the colon. It is especially well-suited for the elderly. In some cases, it will restore tone to the relaxed bowel.

Cascara sagrada entered the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1890. As far as I know, it remains there to this day. This is just one of the many herbs that today’s mainstream medicine recognizes as a valid health-providing substance.

As a nurse, I administered cascara sagrada in the form of a nasty, thick, dark-brown substance. Most often it was mixed with Milk of Magnesia. As an herbalist, I’ve learned a much milder form of this herb can be taken in either tablets or capsules. Often it is found in a mixture of other herbs targeted toward the normal cleansing of the intestines.

This herb is also a tonic for the liver and gall bladder as well as the intestines. Of course, it is recommended we eat a high-fiber diet, drink plenty of liquids (especially water) and exercise more in an effort to eliminate a constant need for laxatives.

Growers peel the bark from the trunk and branches of the cascara sagrada trees. After this, the trees will die. However, if the tree is cut down leaving a bark-covered stump, a new tree will grow from the old roots. Cascara bark is then dried and stored to age for at least a year before use.

Pregnant women, nursing mothers, people with ulcers, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids or others gastrointestinal problems should not take cascara sagrada without first consulting their physician.

(I always warn that you should consult your healthcare provider before taking any herbal products. This is especially true for pregnant and lactating women.)

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



Corn Time




CowPokes




Earl




Fade In, Fade Out

by Herb T. Farmer

Harvest time!

This is the time of year I appreciate the most. It’s the time of year when the days start getting shorter and the daily chores are done before six o’clock in the evening.

Most of the canning is done and put away. The seasonal house painting and repairs are complete and ready for winter and the next year. All of the vehicles have been serviced and ready for another cold season.

Yes. This time of year in the gardens is like a miniature spring and there isn’t much maintenance to do. After all, about the only things newly planted are brassicas like cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Oh, I forgot the dozen or so varieties of lettuces.

There are a few leftover pumpkins, acorn squashes and butternuts. The chili peppers have all but completed their production, as have the late tomatoes.

Ornamental peppers from the gardens are placed into pots and brought inside for the winter.

Over the next few days I will pull up the tomato plants and send them to the compost pile. The chili peppers will be pulled up as well. I usually save one or two of each unusual variety in pots in the greenhouse until the next year. Those are generally expensive hybrids I’ve had difficulty growing from seed.

I also save ornamental pepper plants to bring into the house. With a little supplemental lighting, they can add lively color to your home.

With the daytime temperatures still warm and sunsets ranging from about 6:30 to 6 p.m. this month, I enjoy working until the sun is far in the western sky. Then it’s time for a big glass of cold water, the front porch rocking chair with a cat in my lap and a glass of wine.

Temperatures fall off more rapidly from daylight to dark in October. It’s time to watch the sunset and cool off naturally while recollecting what accomplishments were made today and wondering what tomorrow will bring.

The Brown Select satsumas and the Meyer lemons are ripening. Fuyu Japanese persimmons are almost ready to pull from the trees and there are dozens of ridged luffas on the vines waiting on the first frost.

During the month of October, I think I’ll spend more time working on a couple of invention improvements. My old gas-powered generator finally died from overuse. I have an old lawnmower motor and an alternator from a truck that was scrapped a while back, so I think I’ll build a generator from those and a few other parts. You can see it when I’m finished.

Also, I’ve been itching to try out my hand at building a wind turbine and battery bank to power some of my electrical lighting here on the farm.

Anytime I get the chance to make something from scrap and it saves me money on utilities, it really gets me going!

Later this month, I’m going to rebuild my blacksmithing forge. It never really gets hot enough to do any forge welding or drawing out for knife making. About the only thing it’s good for is heating and bending soft steel.

I think I’ll build one with a solar-powered blower so I can get white-hot steel bars.

Well, it’s almost suppertime. I’m too wound up thinking about my forge project to fool with cooking tonight, so I think I’ll warm up some soup and cornbread. There’s always soup in the freezer and a cake of cornbread around here.

It looks like it’s going to be turkey rice and veggie soup tonight!

I put this up back in June after I roasted a turkey. The turkey carcass and pan drippings were cooked in water on the stovetop for an hour or so and allowed to cool. After that, most of the bones were removed and the rest was refrigerated overnight to allow the fat to rise and solidify for easy removal.

I found this lonely, little yellow pear lost among the gripe weed. It sure was tasty!

After the fat cake was removed, the rest of the bones were picked and removed and more turkey meat was added to the already stocked turkey stock. A couple of small cans of chicken broth were added along with carrots, celery, onion, garlic and sweet peas. Salt and pepper to taste. I made a pot of rice.

When the turkey soup was done, I added the rice, stirred and served, freezing the rest. At least that’s what I did. Enjoy!

As the sun faded in last summer, it’s time for the old sun to fade out and rest.

The full moon for this month occurs on October 27. Hallowe’en falls on a Saturday this year. And remember to set your clocks back that night, because Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, November 1.

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at farmerherb@gmail.com. I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

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




Falling Stars

by Glenn Crumpler

The heavens are a beautiful, miraculous and astounding creation. One of the greatest benefits of living in the country is being able to look out in the dark nights and see the beauty and majesty of the moon and the stars.

The night sky reminds me of the greatness of God’s power, but it also reminds of His love for each of us. When you think about it, God did not need to create the heavens for His benefit – just as He did not need to create the oceans and beaches, a beautiful waterfall, the forests, rainbows, butterflies or the mountains. The God who created and sustains the heavens and the earth loves you and me so much that He would create such things just to bless us and to show us His majesty!

As I write this (in mid-August), we just experienced two nights of meteor showers that superseded anything like it in recent years. It was the result of pieces of the Swift-Tuttle Comet passing through the earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 133,000 mph causing them to burn up upon entry. In the right place at the right time, you could observe over 100 meteors or falling stars per hour in the night sky.

It was quite a sight! There was no moonlight so it made the stars appear much brighter than usual. The sky was crystal clear. Lying down on the ground, I saw thousands of stars shining as radiantly as I have ever seen them. It had been a very hot and humid week, but this particular morning there was a cool, gentle, north breeze that put a slight feel of fall in the air. Everything was as quiet as could be at 3:30 in the morning except for the distant lowing of a cow.

As I lay there, I began to see first one, then another, and soon a series of falling stars streaking through the celestial canopy. They traveled in different directions, some brighter and longer than others, but all uniquely beautiful.

The Bible compares the numbers of the stars in the heavens to the grains of sand on the seashores. Who can count them? Yet, the Bible also tells us that not only did God create them but He has counted them, put them all in their place and named each one (Genesis 1, Psalms 8, Psalms 147). I wonder what He thinks when He watches one of them fall!

This brings me to my last thoughts as I watched the recent meteor shower. The Bible teaches that in the last days there will be a great falling away from the faith. We see this in our world and even in our own culture like we never have before. How many "stars of the faith" are in danger of falling away from right relationship with God? How does God feel when they fall? Could I be one of those who fall away? Could I be one who causes others to fall? What can I do to prevent it?

When I say "stars of the faith" you may think that I am referring to some TV evangelist, but actually I am thinking about everyday-professing believers like you and me. We all have a tendency to drift and, if we are not careful, are in danger of falling away from the right relationship with God. It could be that we completely fall away from our faith in Christ or it could be that we just become so anemic in our faith that our light no longer shines into a dark world.

There is always someone who is looking up to us as their spiritual "star" or mentor. How are they affected when we fall away or grow cold? Just like the star in the heavens, there was a time when we were in the center of God’s will letting our light shine before man, but now, somehow, we are streaking across the sky in a nosedive of complacency, compromise, hopelessness, discouragement or sinful self-destruction. How did we get into this kind of shape? Will our witness that they remember be the many years we were faithful and fruitful for the Kingdom, or the last days when we lost hope or stepped into a lifestyle of sin and fell away? Will the last words we hear the Lord say to us be, "Well done my good and faithful servant" or "Depart from me I never knew you"?

As terrible as it would be to fall away from the faith, I think it would be even a greater tragedy if along the way we caused others to stumble or fall away because of our own sinful actions or words. Jesus addressed this very thing, "Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves!" (Luke 17:1-3 ESV)

In a sense, little ones can mean children. In another sense, it can mean anyone who is growing or who could be growing in their faith and who is under our care or our circle of influence. This could be anyone who is watching us and who is influenced by our faith or the lack of it. We are all witnesses whether we want to be or not. The only question is whether we will point others to faith in Jesus or away from Him. If we allow ourselves to drift away and fall, we will inevitably bring others down with us! It is one thing to drive off of a cliff, but it’s something else to drive off a cliff with passengers!

The Lord knows us and everything about us – nothing is hidden from His sight. Jesus himself was tempted in every way. Though He remained sinless, He understands our temptations, but has also promised to deliver us from our temptations if we walk with Him. He is faithful and able to keep us, sustain us and deliver us from every evil that comes our way. Even when we find ourselves falling away from Him at the pace of a shooting star, He is reaching out and holding on to us so that we can be restored the very moment we confess our sin and return to Him! Yet, He warns us to "pay attention to ourselves" and to walk closely with Him. This is the only way we can guard against falling away or causing others to fall. If we stay fresh in Jesus, we can rest knowing that He is faithful to hold on to us and to sustain us until His return.

Father, thank You for loving and caring enough for me to know everything about me at any given moment. Thank You, Holy Spirit for exposing to me what I either cannot or do not want to see about myself. Thank You for drawing me back to Jesus – even when You have to catch me in a freefall. Thank You, Jesus for dying in my place for my sin so I can have hope and peace in this life and the assurance of everlasting life. Forgive me for the times I have caused others to stumble or fall away from You. Restore them, dear Father, just as You restore me. Help us all to finish strong and to live our lives to bring You the honor and glory that is Yours alone. Empower and embolden us so that when we meet You, we will have passengers! Finally, thank You for the beauty and the majesty of Your glorious creation that points us back to You.

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




Farming and Football

Tim Wood, general manager of the Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, enjoys wearing his Auburn University varsity jacket. On a wall next to him is a framed image of a War Eagle.

by Alvin Benn

Autumn is here and that means two of Tim Wood’s favorite activities – farming and football.

Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Cooperative, learned the basics of agriculture on his family’s farm long before he became a linebacker for Auburn University.

Farming can be exhausting, especially at harvest time, but not nearly as painful as broken bones and concussions often associated with gridiron collisions when two Southeastern Conference teams go at it.

Those days are far behind him now. His family’s farm is but a distant memory and he no longer has to deal with the likes of Herschel Walker and other bruising runners smashing into him on Saturday afternoons.

He doesn’t miss those days because he’s too busy as director of one of Alabama’s largest farming cooperatives that includes locations in Selma, Demopolis and Faunsdale.

At times, though, he still thinks back to games on the Plains when millions of football fans around the country watched him and his Tiger teammates play on national television.

Major college football didn’t seem possible when he played at Morgan Academy, a small private school in Selma, but he was good enough to attract attention from Iowa State and he was flown to the Midwest, courtesy of the Hawkeyes.

Auburn’s Tim Wood, no. 34, focuses on an Alabama runner during an Iron Bowl game.

The long distance from Iowa to Alabama was one negative, but that wasn’t the only problem. Soon after his March arrival in Ames, it began to snow – scratch Iowa State.

Good fortune began to smile on him when he got back home and learned that a potential prospect from Tennessee backed out, leading Auburn to offer him its last football scholarship.

Not taking a potential scholarship offer in Iowa proved to be one of the best decisions he ever made and he still thinks about that distance and the snow.

"If it wasn’t a miracle, it was darn close to it," said Wood, 56. "There are moments in life that define you and that sure was one of them."

When he got back home from baseball practice at Morgan Academy, his big smile said it all.

"My dad and my brother Mike were on a tractor getting ready to plant cotton. When I told ‘em about the scholarship, they were pretty happy. Mike started dancing."

George Wood is a man of few words and knows how to control his emotions. His reaction to the good news was summed up in three words, "Ain’t that good." It was more of a statement than a question.

Tim Wood and his large family took in the Auburn-Alabama game last year.

During his first major scrimmage, Wood was a defensive back when future NFL receiver Byron Franklin caught a pass over the middle and headed right at him.

"I saw the play developing and I hit him square in the face with my helmet," said Wood, who remembers one of his coaches exclaim, "Boy, you can play for me."

Wood had to delay his playing days for the Tigers because, during conditioning drills, another player rolled up on his left ankle, tearing ligaments that sent him to a hospital for surgery.

His recuperative powers were always strong and he was able to play during his sophomore year, picking up a football letter in the process. The Tiger team that year included three superstars – William Andrews, James Brooks and Joe Cribbs.

By the time he was in his junior year, Wood was moved to linebacker and was involved in one of the most embarrassing plays of his collegiate career. Tennessee was the opponent that day.

Tim Wood, Central Alabama Farmers Cooperative General Manager, chats with Faye Shumate, an employee of more than four decades, outside the Selma facility.

"Their quarterback throws a down-and-out pass and I’m in perfect position to intercept and maybe score when the ball goes through my hands and hits me in the face mask."

A record crowd of 57,000 witnessed what appeared to be an interception in the making and began to yell as the ball sailed toward Wood’s waiting arms. Anticipatory cheers soon changed to groans in the stands.

"If there had been a hole in the field, I’d have jumped into it," said Wood, who also noted that Tennessee won the game in a 42–0 rout.

Mike tried to ease Tim’s mortification by telling him, "If you had made the interception, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because you’d just have lost 42–7."

More injuries followed including a broken left hand, requiring additional surgery. Pins were placed in the hand and a soft cast helped him see more action.

The WoodLands Camp 37th Annual A-Club Deer Hunt was hosted by Tim Wood. WoodLands Camp members are (from left) Tim Davis, Allen Finlayson, Tim Wood, Chet Norris, Mike Shirey, Bob Harris, Bishop Reeves, David Ammons, Dennis Rogers and Bob Jordan.

Wood came face-to-face with Herschel Walker in 1980 when the heralded Georgia freshman turned bulldozer in front of Wood as he prepared to tackle him.

"The hole opened up and I hit him dead center of the chest at the line of scrimmage," said Wood, who soon learned what it was like to be hit by a two-legged freight train. "I said to myself, ‘My God, what was that!’"

Wood felt like he had just run into a 100-year-old oak tree or hit a piece of steel.

"This freshman just ran over me," he said. "It was like I never even hit him."

It was to be the first of two collisions with Walker and, again, he came out on the losing end.

Tim Wood receives his 25-year certificate from then-AFC President Tommy Paulk at the organization’s annual meeting five years ago.

"That time I hit him in the backfield and his knee hit me in the middle of my helmet," Wood said. "It was like he just hit me with a baseball bat. Everything went white and I dropped like a dish rag."

Wood staggered to the sidelines and sat on the bench after the collision. In an understandable daze, he didn’t know where he was, how he got into the stadium or where he lived.

His senses returned by the time the second half began and he played with an obvious concussion, even tackling Walker at one point as Auburn held him under 100 yards rushing.

At 6 foot and 215 pounds, Wood was far from one of the biggest linebackers in the SEC, but he lettered in three seasons with Auburn and his grit in the face of painful injuries made him a fan favorite. He kept coming back for more, refusing to leave the team.

"You push yourself through adversity and that includes two- and three-a-day practices in temperatures over 100 degrees," he said. "What I didn’t like was hearing a teammate moan and groan and say we were about to lose a game. I didn’t want to play with him again."

There are limits to everything, however, and Wood didn’t need to be reminded that agonizing injuries followed by treatment and recovery through rehabilitation can test anybody’s resolve.

"When I was faced with more surgery and rehab after that, it was just too much," he said. "I knew it was time to move on with the rest of my life, but I’ve never regretted for a moment my years playing for Auburn."

Wood has a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences at Auburn and, for the past 30 years, has been deeply involved in directing the Co-op in Selma.

In 1993, he received the E.P. Garrett Award presented to the best Co-op manager in Alabama. In 2004, he was named Dallas County Cattleman of the Year.

His support of agriculture in Alabama is well known and Richard Guthrie, retired dean of the College of Agriculture, sings his praises, calling him "a great manager" within the Quality Co-op family.

"Tim’s business is booming and, most of all, he’s been a good friend and an outstanding supporter of our ag alumni program at Auburn," Guthrie stated.

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell says Wood’s business success has been based on "relationships he’s built with farmers and members of the community."

"Tim is a respected leader who is able to bring people together to get things done," said Parnell, adding he appreciates his friendship as well as his dedication "to his family and our farmers."

Wood and the former Susan Jones of Selma have two daughters and are involved in numerous community organizations including one that provides meals for underprivileged children.

The winner of numerous awards for athletic and management prowess, Tim is happy to have received one of his proudest accomplishments – Auburn’s decision to finally acknowledge his "hometown."

He grew up in the tiny unincorporated community of Polk, located 13 miles from Selma and named for President James K. Polk.

"I love living in Selma, but kept trying to have Polk listed as my hometown in the football brochure during my first years at Auburn," he said. "They finally did it for me when I began my final season."

Wood may not have gained All-America recognition or a draft to play professional football, but he has one distinction that may never be topped.

He’s the first and probably the last Polk resident to play for a major college football team.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Food Safety Begins on the Farm

by Jackie Nix

I want to touch on a topic that should be near and dear to us all – food safety. As livestock producers, we need to remember that, in the end, we are producing food for human consumption. In doing so, it is our responsibility to carefully adhere to all guidelines regarding drugs and pesticides used in our animals. Not doing so could put the safety of the food we are producing in jeopardy. Additionally, the negative publicity generated could negatively affect the market for everyone for months or even years afterward.

Understand that there are a very limited number of drugs and pesticides cleared for use for livestock, with no new ones coming down the pipeline in the near future. With this in mind, we need to use those currently in our arsenal as judiciously as possible to prevent unintended contamination of meat, milk or eggs, or the development of resistance to said drugs or pesticides.

Responsible drug use becomes even more important in light of the new FDA rules regarding veterinary feed directives for feed-through antibiotics that will take effect December 2016. Starting then, livestock producers will need veterinary oversight in the form of VFDs for targeted drugs with dual-use in animal and human medicine.

To use feed-through drugs and pesticides safely:

Choose a drug or pesticide labeled for efficacy against the specific disease or parasite required. For instance, do not assume that all deworming drugs are effective against all of the various species of parasitic worms. Do research to find which are effective against the targeted disease organism.

Consult a veterinarian before giving livestock multiple drugs and/or pesticides, especially from different sources (i.e., medicated feed, medicated mineral and injectable drugs). There could be negative interactions for either the animal or the resulting food product for which you are unaware.

Carefully read and follow the label directions concerning target species and production group, dosage amount, dosage length and withdrawal times. If the label says to administer for five days, don’t stop at three. On the flip side, don’t feed medicated feed when it is not needed or to un-labeled species.

Monitor intake of medicated feed or supplements to assure that livestock are consuming the proper dosage of active ingredient. While it is impossible to accurately measure individual intake, you can get a pretty good average by measuring intake for the whole herd in a given time period and dividing by the number of animals fed. If the intake does not match expected intake rates, make management changes such as increasing or decreasing the number of blocks offered. Consult your feed manufacturer for more information on how to increase or decrease daily intake.

Starting in December 2016, consult a veterinarian and obtain a veterinary feed directive for use of restricted feed-through antibiotics (penicillins, cephalosporins, quinolones, fluoroquinolones, tetracyclines, macrolides, sulfas and glycopeptides). Your vet will give copies of this VFD to you and to the place you choose to purchase your medicated feed or medicated feed premix for on-farm mixing.

Remember that all off-label use of feed-through antibiotics is strictly illegal. Follow all product label directions for use exactly as stated. Always follow instructions indicated in the VFD. For instance, if the VFD says to feed a medicated feed for 30 days, you cannot stop at 20 just because you ran out of feed.

If in doubt about the amounts or length of time in feeding medicated feeds, contact your veterinarian and/or the technical department of your feed manufacturer or drug manufacturer. Any of these should be able to give you information to assist you.

Remember, like it or not, the public at-large watches what we do as an industry. If we want to avoid burdensome oversight and regulations, we need to govern ourselves to use available drugs and pesticides safely and effectively. To learn more about the upcoming VFD rule changes, visit www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ ucm378100.htm or contact your local feed dealer or veterinarian.

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at jackie.nix@ridleyinc.com 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.



Giants of the Gulf

No strangers to the Alabama saltwater record book, the father-son duo of Tyler and Marcus Kennedy have two entries each on the list. Tyler’s latest entry is a 68-pound 7-ounce snowy grouper.

Alabama's saltwater anglers continue to set records.

by David Rainer

Judging by the number of record fish caught in the past year and a half, it appears Alabama’s saltwater fishing is doing just fine.

Ten records were established in 2014, and five more have been established in 2015 with several months left to fish.

One of the most impressive fish that made the record book was a snowy grouper caught by Tyler Kennedy of Mobile in 2014. That fish weighed 68 pounds 9 ounces. The world record is 70 pounds 7 ounces.

Another record set in 2014 was a king mackerel caught by Jeremy Goldman during last year’s Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. That fish was a dollop of fish slime away from 70 pounds. The official weight was 69 pounds 15.84 ounces.

The cubera snapper caught by Brett Rutledge of Mobile was another impressive 2014 catch at 84 pounds 9 ounces. Also on the big fish list was a jack crevalle caught by Joseph Condry Pope IV of Alabaster that weighed 40 pounds 2 ounces.

Others on the 2014 record listed included a 5-pound Darwin’s slimehead (aka big roughy) caught by Lance Smith of Lithia Springs, Ga.; a scorpionfish caught by Ike Farmer of Salem that weighed 4 pounds 4 ounces; a sharksucker caught by Dylan Andrew Bauman of Spanish Fort at 5 pounds 13.2 ounces; a great northern tilefish caught by Dick Paul of Pensacola, Fla., at 35 pounds 5.6 ounces; a tomtate caught by Lauren Ogle of Muncie, Ind., at 1 pound 4.6 ounces; and a whopper of a big eye tuna caught by Bobby Abernathy of Merryville, La., at 236 pounds.

The first fish to make the record book in 2015 was a 13-pound 9-ounce monster of a sheepshead caught by Branden Ryan Collier of Irvington.

Dad, Marcus, added a horse-eye jack that weighed 22 pounds 7.2 ounces.

Other fish to make the book in 2015 included a huge bull shark caught by Jeff Moore of Birmingham that weighed 448 pounds 4 ounces; a blue angelfish caught by Natalie Parker-Beach of Fairhope at 2 pounds 10.6 ounces; and a cutlassfish caught by John Robert Frain of Cumming at 3 pounds 5 ounces. A horse-eye jack caught by Marcus Kennedy of Mobile that weighed 22 pounds 7.2 ounces caught this July is the latest addition to the record book.

"The fact that we continue to set state records in many categories, both inshore and offshore, just shows what a good fishery we have in all our waters in Alabama," said Chris Blankenship, director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division. "We set records on inshore species like jack crevalle and sheepshead. Then we had the offshore fish in the bigeye tuna, king mackerel and snowy grouper."

Blankenship said several species that made the record books in 2013 and 2014 were deep-water species that indicated somewhat of a shift away from the traditional reef-fishing activities for species like red snapper and triggerfish, both of which have limited seasons now.

"I think people were doing more deep-dropping to catch species like the tilefish," he said. "I think people are branching out into the deep water to fish the edge of the shelf. We’re seeing some species that weren’t as popular in years past.

"But at the end of 2014 and into 2015, the record fish we’re seeing are more of the traditional species. A 13-pound sheepshead is a fine catch, and that came from just off Dauphin Island. You could see the boat ramp from where that fish was caught."

There was also one application for record-fish status that was rejected earlier this year. An application was submitted for a yellowedge grouper, but the state record fish committee denied the application, determining the fish was a scamp, another member of the grouper family.

"The state record fish committee is made up of scientists, local fishing guides and communicators who are very knowledgeable about the fish," Blankenship said.

When someone submits an application for a state record fish, the rules that apply are: The boat has to leave and return from an Alabama port; the fish must be weighed on certified scales and be witnessed; and photos of the fish must accompany the application for verification purposes.

Another requirement is, if the species can’t be verified by the photos submitted, the fish must be kept frozen for 14 days for possible inspection.

"In the particular case of the yellowedge grouper, Dr. Bob Shipp and Dr. Will Patterson felt sure it was a scamp and not a yellowedge," Blankenship said. "The fish was not saved for inspection, so the application was denied.

"That shows the state record fish committee worked the way it was supposed to, that records are awarded to those who are deserving and meet all the criteria."

The special red snapper season in Alabama waters for the month of July recently concluded, and Blankenship was a little surprised by the results.

"The state red snapper season was viewed very positively by the fishing community," he said. "We didn’t have as much participation as I thought we would. But during the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo and the Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament, I did see a lot of red snapper weighed. It was definitely enjoyable to see people enjoying fishing in state waters during the rodeos."

Blankenship said one theory for the lack of participation in the state red snapper season was the enforcement issue regarding the state waters limit. Alabama enforces a state waters limit of nine miles, while federal officials enforce a three-mile limit.

"I think some people were apprehensive about taking the risk between three and nine miles," he said. "I do think that was a big part of it. And we don’t have a huge red snapper population in state waters. The bulk of the snapper population is outside that nine-mile limit.

"But we did see some nice triggerfish catches during the state season. Although triggerfish weren’t part of our Snapper Check system, our biologists and enforcement officers saw a lot of triggerfish come in to the docks. I think the population of triggerfish has really rebounded the last couple of years. With the federal management of triggerfish, it has kept down people’s access to that fishery as it rebuilds. The federal system takes a couple of years to catch up with what’s being seen on the water. The population of triggerfish offshore and in state waters has really picked up."

Amberjack season re-opened on August 1, which gives anglers one of the more popular species to catch while red snapper season is closed.

"Here at Marine Resources, we’re trying to build reefs that are more productive for species like amberjack," Blankenship said. "We put 25 foot tall pyramids down two years ago. We sunk a 70-foot boat off Dauphin Island. We sunk a rig as part of the Rigs to Reefs program south of Dauphin Island. We’re increasing habitat for species other than red snapper. We’ve built some great habitat for amberjack so our fishermen will have opportunities to fish for other species while red snapper and triggerfish are closed."

David Rainer is with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.



Have a Plan

Envision Your Farm’s Destination

by Robert Spencer

In the past few years, I have observed more potential or new farms with limited knowledge on how to get started, what resources are necessary and how much work is involved. Taking over a farm or starting one from scratch can be a challenge, having a plan should reduce mistakes and road blocks. Having a plan is like having a road map (paper or electronic); it shows the traveler how to get from point A to point B, helps focus on the intended destination and, if traveler gets lost, how to easily navigate their way back onto an intended path. A farm plan helps potential or existing farmers envision where they are going. It also can be used as a document to show others an intended plan for the farm vision; this can be beneficial when seeking outside funding or investors. The process of developing a farm plan does not need to be formal, and can be modified as needed. This article will focus on small-scale livestock production.

To start at the beginning is good, but you need to know your destination so a line can be drawn from point A to point B. Ask yourself: Are you going to raise livestock with the goal of being profitable and what are your marketing options, or do you plan to be a hobby farmer that basically enjoys farming? Is your goal to make money with registered animals, brood stock and/or production (meat, dairy, fiber) animals?

Learn potential markets – Search the Internet to see about marketing breeds of livestock in which you are interested, talk with other farmers and visit some of these markets as you discover them.

Research potential investment – Develop an idea about what you want to do based on conversation, Internet research, farm visits and enterprise budgets (from your local Extension office or online). This will help you acquire a better concept of what you do or do not want to do, and what kinds of expenses and revenues can be expected.

Set goals and objectives – Based on what you learn, decide on your target and how you plan to get there. You may be surprised at challenges.

Assess and evaluate resources – Land, animals, buildings, fencing, water, supplies, animal husbandry, etc. will be essential. Time and money are all it takes and can be costly.

Financial planning – Based on your research and enterprise budgets, determine if this financial investment is affordable for you or not.

Develop a skill-set – If you are not knowledgeable on your potential enterprise, then take time to learn. Attend workshops, visit similar farms, search the Internet for information and try to find a similar farm to get some experience.

Exit plan – Develop an exit plan in case things do not work out or someone else needs to take over for you. This will be your back-up plan in case things do not work out.

Decision time – Based on what you have learned, is this what you want to do or should you revise your ideas?

Develop your marketing plan – Whether for hobby or as a business, you need to know fair-market price, expenses and potential for returns. Be careful about setting lofty expectations.

Move forward – Once you have done all of the aforementioned and are comfortable with the concepts, make plans to move forward at a modest pace, and grow your operation as resources allow.

Review and adjust plan – From time to time look at your plan and see if progress is being made and adjust as needed. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes and learning from them as long as they are affordable.

Now that you have an idea how to draft a simple farm plan, take the time to draft it. Doing so will provide direction towards your goal, and offer something to share with family members so they can visualize your intentions. This can be done on paper, electronically or any combination. I hope this helps you better achieve your goals with minimal stress.

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



How to Reek the Right Way ...

A huge influx of testosterone surges through a buck’s body during late-August and early September. Their antlers will harden and velvet peal from their crown. Contrary to what some believe, they are ready to breed at this point. (Credit: Mikael Males)

Early Season Scent Strategies

by Todd Amenrud

In the whitetails’ world, the period during early season (late August through October) is about being social with other deer and preparing for the upcoming rut and then winter. The does will bring their fawns into communal feeding areas where they will eventually be introduced to the other doe/fawn family groups in the area and the bucks will be mostly social with other bucks in the area.

As most know, smells play an important role in basically all aspects of a deer’s life and using scent is one of my favorite ways to lure early season bucks into range. Knowing their social structure and understanding the needs of the animals during this time is a key to consistently producing results with scent.

Many feel they shouldn’t use scent until just before the rut, when actually early season can be the easiest time to draw a response. Whitetails are amazingly curious animals. You just need to know what smells they favor at which times and how to dispense them so the encounter ends up in your favor.

You may see bucks and does feeding side-by-side in an agricultural field, but, for the most part during early season, they are primarily social only within their own sex groups. Testosterone is a "scoundrel" that will soon goof that up, but, for this short time, this is the case. Knowing this to be true, it makes the best sense to use "buck smells" to attract bucks and "doe smells" to attract does or fawns. This is obviously applicable only to "deer smells" (scents that actually come from deer such as urine, glandular lures or musk-type smells). This is not the case for curiosity smells or food lures – these scents have the potential to work on any deer at any time.

A Magnum Scrape-Dripper allows you to freshen a set-up location day after day without physically having to enter the area and leave human scent behind. It discharges scent during daytime hours, conditioning bucks to show up early and hang around longer. Mature bucks will feel an urge to claim, mark and defend breeding territory earlier in the season than younger bucks. This is one reason why mock scrapes can work well early in the season.

When it comes to older bucks, they may, or may not, be social with the other bucks. Sometimes older bucks can become very reclusive animals. They really don’t need this communal contact like it seems younger bucks more often crave.

During late-August and September, dramatically increased amounts of testosterone start flowing through the buck’s body and, contrary to what some believe, from this point on "he is ready to breed." The further South you go, the later this seems to happen and it will be spread out over a longer period so we have more of a margin for error in the South. Divergent to what some may say, it’s actually the does that control when breeding will take place. Bucks will remain social with the other bucks until the does exhibit signs of coming into estrus.

Although, I’ve had a positive reaction to estrus lures during early season, it’s probably not a good tactic to employ on opening day. Typically, when it comes to "deer smells," you want to use the odors when they would naturally occur anyhow. If you are specifically after a mature buck, stirring things up with some Special Golden Estrus may be a tactic you wish to try, but, for most "early season instances," you are probably better off with plain urine, food smells or a curiosity scent like Trail’s End #307.

There are many ways to dispense scent during this period, but two of my favorite tools are a Pro-Drag and a Magnum Scrape Dripper. The Pro-Drag is the best tool I have found to create a scent trail with because it holds a lot of scent and it’s easy to control. You can use any type of liquid scent when making a trail, it doesn’t have to be a "deer smell," you are alright to use food lures or curiosity scents, too.

During early season, I’ve had very good luck with scents such as Trail’s End #307 and Select Doe Urine. There’s no doubt that if I had to only pick one it would be Trail’s End #307; however, I’ve had many positive early season encounters with just plain buck urine or doe urine. Food smells like Scent Storm Apple or Scent Storm Acorn Cover Scents will also work. These are sold as cover scents, but they are also pleasing, attractive food scents to whitetails.

When testosterone begins to enter the picture, mock scrapes can be a very effective tactic. Typically mature bucks will feel an urge to claim, mark and defend breeding territory earlier in the season than younger bucks so this can be just the ticket to draw a response from one of the big boys in your area. Mock scrapes are also the best spot I have found to take an inventory of the bucks in your area with your trail cameras once hard antler occurs. You won’t see many does, but you’ll get to see what you have in the area for bucks.

The Magnum Scrape-Dripper is a great tool for dispensing any type of liquid scent. This device is heat-activated and will drip only during daytime hours, conditioning deer to showing up during legal hunting light. It doesn’t have to be used just at mock scrapes; it works great at dispensing all kinds of scent such as food lures or curiosity scent.

The Magnum Scrape-Dripper can operate for two to three weeks on one fill up. Actually, you don’t want to "fill it up." It works because of the air pocket left inside. The Magnum Dripper will hold a full 4 ounces of scent! This unit refreshes your scent set up during legal shooting hours so you don’t have to. When you’re ready to hunt, the site is pristine, void of human scent and "primed" for you to hunt.

Around opening, and for the following couple weeks, a scent trail of Trail’s End #307 can be "killer." One reason why this lure is so effective is because it appeals not only to a whitetail’s curiosity but also to their sense hunger and desire to repopulate – you really can’t go wrong. If you do catch them in their dependable summer patterns, move fast; however, with testosterone entering the picture and the does soon to show signs of coming into estrus, things will change very fast.

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.



How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Healthy Soil is Alive

A healthy soil is alive with fungi, bacteria and other microbes that help to unlock nutrients and work in symbiosis with plant roots to feed them and protect them from problems. While we once viewed soil and plant nutrition on the basis of chemical analysis, emerging science shows that many organisms supply all the nutrients your plants need when they are in the right balance and the soil is full of organic matter. To learn more about how important it is to encourage all this life in your soil, search online using the topic "soil food web." As a part of this approach to soil health, it is important to have a healthy compost pile and limit the use of fertilizers high in salts that harm microbes.

Mystery Fragrance

Eleagnus can spread to places where it is not welcome. (Credit: John Reuter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org)

What is that sweet smell that wafts by in drifts, but you can’t find a flower anywhere? It’s probably the blossoms of a nearby thorny elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens), also called thorny olive, silverthorn and spotted elaeagnus. If you look closely under the leaves, you will find a tiny white flower with a surprisingly powerful, sweet perfume. Often planted as a quick-growing, dense evergreen screen, this plant blooms each fall with a wonderful perfume that is carried over a long distance, as is jasmine and magnolia. Thorny elaeagnus was introduced from Asia for tough landscape jobs such as roadsides because it is very tolerant of almost all growing conditions except wet soils. However, it is becoming a nuisance plant, spreading to places where it is not invited. Tolerant of sun or shade, this elaeagnus will grow in the woods as well as sunny roadsides, adding to the list of non-natives that can become problems in our natural habitats. It is on the invasive plants list of Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and other states. You can learn more about it at invasive.org for a reminder that just because something smells good doesn’t mean it can’t stink!

Cabbage Caterpillars

Cabbage caterpillars such as these cabbage loopers hatch from eggs and start out very small, growing larger as they eat holes in your cole crops.

Caterpillars will feast on the leaves of cabbage and its relatives – broccoli, collards, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts – that grow so well in our fall gardens. When caterpillars invade, they will quickly chew holes in the leaves, rendering cabbage plants nearly useless and doing plenty of damage to other cole crops. Watch for cabbage loopers, velvety-green cabbageworms and cross-striped cabbageworms. The green ones camouflage themselves very well. To control the pests, use Dipel or other caterpillar killers containing Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt takes a few days to kill the caterpillars, but it won’t harm beneficial insects. Make sure the dust or spray gets down into the head and tight leaves where pests hide; and it is easier to apply a spray to the underside of the leaves. This is not a contact spray – the caterpillars have to eat it to be effective – so it’s not important to cover each pest with spray or dust. Just try to get it in areas where they are feeding.

Encouraging Bees and Other Pollinators

One way to make sure your garden is full of bees and butterflies next year is to plant perennial flowers that serve as either sources of nectar or food for larvae. Fall is an excellent time to plant these perennials that include several types of milkweed (Asclepias species), bee balm (Monarda species), oregano, coneflowers (Rudbeckia sp.), indigo (Baptisa australis), sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora) and many types of perennial salvias. Even dandelions, the bane of a manicured lawn, provide one of the first early sources of nectar in spring before other blooms appear. Learn more about how to identify the many types of pollinators and plants that encourage their presence at www.pollinator.org.

Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program

Now is the time for third-grade teachers to register their classes for Bonnie Plants’ 3rd Grade Cabbage Program and a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship. These are giant cabbages capable of growing to 50 pounds! Cabbages are delivered to participating schools at the right time for planting. Students can grow them at home or at school. Teachers pick a class winner and submit the student’s picture to Bonnie Plants website to be entered in a random drawing to choose the state winner. This is a great program that introduces youngsters to gardening! For more information to share with your favorite third graders or their teachers, visit bonniecabbageprogram.com.

Cool Season Veggies

There is still time to set out transplants of lettuce and other cold-hardy, leafy, cool-season vegetables. Collards, kale, mustard and lettuce are staples of the fall garden that last well into winter. The dark-red leaf lettuces are the most cold-hardy of the lettuces; although all will tolerate at least a light frost if properly hardened. Be ready to protect all your leafy greens from the first frosts, particularly if the weather has been warm and then makes a sudden drop.

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




Hungry for Grandma’s Cooking


Wenona Moorer, owner of GrandMother’s House restaurant, serves one of three courses she created on the popular Food Network show “Chopped.” Representing the South, she placed second out of four entrants. The other three were from Boston, Utah and California. All four participants were grandmothers in keeping with the theme of the episode. It was the first trip to New York City for Wenona and her husband, Milton.

Customers can find all their favorite homemade dishes at Wenona Moorer’s restaurant in Owens Cross Roads.

by Maureen Drost

Hungry for big helpings of Grandma’s cooking? You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving or go "over the river and through the woods." Just travel a bit off the beaten path in Madison County, and you’ll find all your homemade favorites – chicken and dressing, country fried steak, pot roast, creamed potatoes, fried okra, field peas, corn muffins, fried catfish - and an abundance of other foods including homemade desserts.

What you’re looking for is GrandMother’s House Restaurant. Set in an almost 90-year-old family farmhouse off Old Highway 431 in Owens Cross Roads, owner Wenona Moorer and her staff serve guests Wednesday through Sunday.

"This (restaurant) smells just like my grandmother’s house," said a friend who recently joined me for lunch. Moorer expressed that same sentiment in regard to the restaurant.

Originally the family home, GrandMother’s House was constructed almost 90 years ago. Wenona Moorer was born in what is now a small dining room off the waiting area. Additional space for the kitchen and storage area was later added. In the dining room to the right of the waiting area is a large mural of a farm in autumn.

The chicken livers I ordered that day were tasty and not greasy or overcooked. My friend Jayne pronounced the chicken tenders as some of the best she’d ever eaten. Two sides were plenty for each of us, but if you’re really hungry you can order three. We both enjoyed the creamed potatoes. Since we already felt full, but wanted to try a dessert, we split a serving of banana pudding between us. It had a creamy texture and quickly became a favorite of mine.

The lemon icebox pie is also quite good. I chose it for dessert on another occasion. If you’re a sweet potato fan, be sure to order the casserole. The wonderful sourdough bread served before your meal with honey butter is made fresh daily.

Moorer is an avid reader of AFC Cooperative Farming News and always reads the columns of "The Herb Lady" and "Herb T. Farmer." A gardener, she began growing wild azaleas after reading an interview in the magazine with two Auburn University professors. Intrigued by what she read, Moorer phoned and asked if they had any seed she could buy. They sent her some at no charge. She’s been nurturing the tiny azaleas in her greenhouse, and they’re a few inches tall now.

The success story of GrandMother’s House, now just over 8 years old, is one of prayer, persistence and hard labor. Moorer’s husband Milton was still working fulltime, and she raised and showed horses.

"I was praying one day, and the Lord spoke to me," she said, about opening a restaurant.

She felt puzzled. A responsible renter lived in the house, so she prayed, "Is this what you really want?" The answer to that question came from the renter who soon told Mrs. Moorer she wanted to buy a house. Despite many setbacks the building was eventually transformed into a restaurant. Filling each room is family-owned antique furniture once belonging to relatives – decades old, black-and-white family photographs, old mirrors of various sizes, a mural depicting a farm scene and even a family member’s large arrowhead collection. The carefully chosen décor speaks to a personal touch and portrays a rich family history.

Moorer’s ancestry is linked to John Hunt, the founder of Huntsville. The house which is now the site of the restaurant was built in 1928 by George and Vinnie Craft, her grandparents. Ezechiel Craft, forefather of the Craft family, lived in Claiborne County, Tenn., before moving to this area in 1808. He knew John Hunt, who also lived there at the time.

In 1820, Craft began serving as Justice of the Peace. Three years later, he became the first member of the Madison County Commission.

For Moorer, being a grandmother has brought her some national attention. In an unexpected and exciting turn of events, Moorer won the opportunity to participate in a Food Network presentation of "Chopped" in New York City. The popular show features chefs vying to pass muster with the judges as they create a three-course meal from a selection of ingredients unknown to the cooks before the show.

The theme of this episode was "Grandma’s Cooking," and Moorer represented the South. The other three participants were from Boston, Utah and California.

"It was a chance if a lifetime," she said.

Putting her skill and passion for cooking to work, she created Mock Crab Cakes as an appetizer; hamburger steak, sweet potato fries and sautéed green beans as the main course and sides; and, for dessert, oatmeal cookies with melted ice cream. She decorated the dessert plate with strawberries and drizzled chocolate.

Back at home in Alabama, she names her customers as the favorite part of this business adventure with GrandMother’s House.

"We have such good customers, and we want everyone to feel like they’re going to grandma’s."

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



In the News at AFC

Leslie Retires from Cherokee Co-op

General Manager Larry Leslie, right, recently retired after 35 years at Cherokee Farmers Co-op. Along with gifts and accolades from many admirers, Larry received a plaque for his service presented to him by the incoming General Manager Andrew Dempsey.

Salcido Awarded All Star of the Year

Susana Salcido is presented with the 2015 All Star of the Year Award by AFC President and CEO Rivers Myres.

Once a quarter, an AFC panel selects an All-Star award winner from nominations provided by Co-op store managers and personnel for that period. Once a year, the All-Star of the Year is selected from among the quarterly winners.

This year the All Star of the Year Award was presented by AFC President Rivers Myres, right, to Susana Salcido, HR/Tax Administrator.

Susana was nominated by Jay L. Moorer, Bonnie Plants station manager. Here is what he wrote:

I would like to nominate Susana Salcido for the 2015 All Star Award. Susana has given assistance in many areas of the AFC Divisions. She always has a willingness to help and to find out information to help you accomplish your job at-hand. Susana spent hours working with my H2A workers, a lot of days past 5. She also helped me with translating when I had employee issues. This kind of attitude would be welcome on any team, I’m glad to have her on ours. And for these reasons, and many others, I would again like to state my nomination for the 2015 All Star Award to Susana Salcido.




Is Cattle TB Catching Fire Again?

The west is on fire, the stock market is falling and bovine tuberculosis will not go away.

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I don’t much like reality TV shows. Reality is often just too stressful. Maybe that’s the attraction to those TV shows. People want to know that everybody else’s lives are also stressful. Give me a good Westernor comedyof something that doesn’t even resemble reality. Watching the evening news is enough reality for me. As I write this article, I just heard them say that one of the wildfires in Washington may burn until snow arrives. The stock market has seen the biggest correction since 2008. There is one thing that pretty much doesn’t get any airtime on the national news, although it has been reported in local papers and on the news in Texas and Michigan. That news is that animal agriculture officials are dealing with bovine tuberculosis, also known as cattle TB.

Alabama became bovine tuberculosis free back in 1981. We continued to have reasonably strict cattle TB import regulation for a long time after that. But, as most states became bovine tuberculosis free, everybody sort of relaxed their import requirements. Over the past few years, there has been a nagging refusal by this disease to go quietly into the night. Mostly found in dairy cattle, but occasionally beef cattle and Mexican roping steers, some states have once again tightened their import regulations. We have not gone to that length, but, at this point, we have our antennas up and one eyebrow raised as we remain aware that we cannot just go to sleep and forget about cattle TB.

In 2015, there have only been four cases of cattle TB confirmed, in spite of strict trace back and investigation of possible exposed cattle. Back in January, there were two dairy cows in Texas confirmed positive. In April, there was a dairy cow from Michigan found positive. Then, in late July, a beef animal from a small herd in Michigan tested positive. For a program that began about a hundred years ago as the State-Federal Cooperative Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Program, I would say that has been pretty successful. Could you imagine if they developed a strep throat eradication program and a hundred years from now we had only four cases in a year? That would certainly be considered a success. But a friend of mine once corrected me when I said it was something like comparing apples and oranges, he said my comparison was actually more like comparing apples to washing machines.

I suppose the comparison between cattle TB and human strep throat, so far as eradicating the disease, would be kind of a stretch. Actually, for many years, the cattle TB program focused on test and slaughter. We could not, nor would we want to, test and slaughter humans who had strep throat. I think I had it a time or two when I was a kid. Anyway, in the 1960s, surveillance for cattle TB at slaughter facilities became a key component of the program.

Interestingly, the eradication program, begun in 1917 with the appropriation of $1 million, was a result of the human medical community, the veterinary community and the cattle industry pressuring the government to do something about the disease. I can’t really say since we sometimes forget how some of these diseases affected humans and livestock. The fact is that most of us can’t really remember when diseases like TB and brucellosis were wreaking havoc on cattle, with other livestock also affected. In addition, there was the public health threat as humans were frequently affected by these diseases.

If you research it, you will find cattle TB is not a huge deal in most developed countries. Yet in many underdeveloped countries, the disease is still a formidable threat to cattle and humans. One common way disease is transferred among cattle is when calves nurse infected mothers. Raw or unpasteurized cow’s milk is a common source of human infection. Other ways cattle TB is transferred between animals is common feed and water troughs. Research has shown that Mycobacteria bovis, the causative agent of the disease, can survive for over two weeks in stagnant water. And while cattle and swine are the most susceptible species for bovine tuberculosis, many other species can become infected. That became quite a problem several years ago in Michigan when the disease got pretty well-established in the wild deer population. Then it became a viscous circle of cattle infecting deer and deer infecting cattle.

Cattle TB can affect many different systems in the body. It could be inhaled and mostly cause problems in the lungs. It could be swallowed and cause problems in the intestinal tract. It can even infiltrate the uterus and mammary tissue. Unfortunately, there are really no signs of the disease early in the infection. Later, the disease will likely cause the cow to waste away as well as develop a cough or wheeze if the respiratory tract is involved.

We still have a few herds in the state that maintain TB Free Accreditation. That means they do a complete herd test every year. However, our main source of surveillance is at harvest, when cattle go to slaughter. Our state meat inspectors and veterinary medical officers are aware and on the lookout for anything that may look like tuberculosis.

We generally have the ability to trace animals from the processing plant to farm-of-origin in case we need to perform herd tests. There are other situations when testing cattle from an exposed herd could be a little difficult … or at least take a lot more work than might be necessary if feeder calves were properly identified. Imagine a situation where a stocker buyer is buying black and red calves and baldies. He may end up with 300 black baldies with no identification. Then we find out one of the black baldies he bought originated from an exposed herd and must be tested. Instead of finding the single calf that came from the exposed herd, we would have to test all 300. You can expect, somewhere down the road, we will probably have to tag feeder calves so they can be traced in such a situation.

Not long ago, one of the local morning news programs was at the scene of a fire they had reported on the 10 o’clock news the night before. Everyone thought the fire was out and went home about midnight. The next morning, the reporter stood in front of a completely burned structure. The problem was that there was a smoldering hot spot that had not been noticed before the firemen went home. We are trying to make sure we don’t let smoldering bovine tuberculosis catch fire again.

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



Living History


Museum Director Kerry Dunaway and Grove Hill Chamber Director Cheryl Horton participate in the festivities.

Excitement mounts in Grove Hill as Pioneer Day approaches.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Excitement is mounting as time draws near for the 18th annual Pioneer Day. October 31, thousands from all over Alabama and surrounding states will converge on the small town of Grove Hill to participate in the yearly living-history festival. Sponsored by the Clarke County Historical Museum, the event grew out of a desire to preserve the heritage and old ways of the early settlers of Clarke County. The festival seeks to pass on these traditions and lifestyles to younger generations.

All festival events are held on the grounds of the Clarke County Museum, located at 116 Cobb Street. The Museum itself is housed in the old Alston-Cobb Home, an 1854 plantation plain-type home that was saved from demolition and restored by the Clarke County Historical Society. Another point of interest is an 1830 two-pen log cabin, known as the Mathews Cabin. Nearby is an early 1900s corncrib restored with wood that came from Fort Turner, a fort used in the 1813 Creek War. Also, the Creagh Law Office is nearby. This facility, now used by the Grove Hill Chamber of Commerce, was built in 1834 and used as an attorney’s office.

In 1998, Clarke County Museum Director Kerry Dunaway was looking for a means to keep the area’s old-timey ways alive. With help from the Clarke County Historical Society, Dunaway came up with an idea to teach living history that people could participate in. The group decided to sponsor a festival that they termed "Pioneer Day." The first event drew about 200 people, but it has grown each year and now attracts thousands.

Blue Herron, left, has been educating visitors on Creek Indian hunting practices since 1998.

The free event is unlike any other in Southwest Alabama. Costumed re-enactors demonstrate early life in Southwest Alabama with hands-on exhibits for both adults and children. The festival’s participants are professionals who do this for a living. They set up camps on the Museum’s grounds, making each area look like the early 1800s. The costumes are authentic, and the demonstrations are interactive. Visitors can actually sit in an area and become part of that re-enactment.

Demonstrations run simultaneously throughout the day from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Some of the demonstrations include soapmaking, blacksmithing and forging, bow and arrow making, candlemaking, flint knapping, basketweaving, butter churning, wool spinning, chair caning, ropemaking, dough-bowl making, quilting, rug hooking, primitive fire building, corn shelling, clothes washing, Native American finger weaving, old-fashioned oak shingle making and Indian pottery making.

One demonstration, unique to Clarke County, is saltmaking. Clarke County sits on a salt dome, but unlike other areas, where salt must be mined, the salt flows freely from artesian wells. The water from these wells has more salinity than the Gulf of Mexico. Three gallons of water from these wells would produce one gallon of salt. Since salt was necessary for preserving meat, people came from all over the Southeast to make their salt. In the 1860s, this area was one of the top sources for salt. At one time, over 7,000 men worked at three different salt works in the Jackson area. Although the Museum has a permanent salt exhibit set up at all times, visitors to the festival will be able make their own salt from water extracted from the local wells.

A big draw at the festival is the cooking demonstration. Re-enactors set up chuck wagons and cook over campfires, like people did in the 1850s and ’60s. Homemade campfire pies are the biggest draw here, but many other foods are cooked and sold on site. Seats are available in this venue, and some visitors stay at this event all day.

One popular event returning this year is the Creek Indian Hunting Camp exhibit. Blue Heron will show how Indians lived and the clothing these early inhabitants wore. He will demonstrate how to throw tomahawks, tan different animal hides, build fires and make weapons.

Huhsosah Tallahassee Traditional Creek Stomp Dancing will again be taught on the premises. The teachers will explain each step and what the movement means in their culture. Then they will teach the dance to willing participants.

Winky Hicks and Frontier Bluegrass will be on hand to provide live music.

The Museum always plans a special new exhibit each year. This year, they will showcase the "Dead Towns of Clarke County." On display will be artifacts from towns that no longer exist. Some of these towns include Alameda, Nealton, Choctaw Corner and Suggsville, at one time was the largest town in Clarke County and had the first newspaper in this area.

Two other popular attractions are the antique tractor show and the hit-and-miss engines exhibit. Dunaway says there is still time for participants to register for these events.

There will be many events designed just for kids. A Barnyard Petting Zoo will be open, with many farm animals for the kids to enjoy. Both kids and adults can participate in an assortment of old-fashioned games, free of charge.

Local musician and instrument maker, Winky Hicks, and Frontier Bluegrass will again be on hand to provide live music. Some of the best local cooks in the area will have homemade baked goods for sale. In addition, the Grove Hill Lions Club will have general concessions for those who want something other than period food. Hot chocolate, coffee and water will be available throughout the venues. There will be plenty of seating for everyone. Also, ample parking is easily accessible for all visitors.

Dunaway is proud of the festival and what it now means to this area.

"When we began this event in 1998, we had no idea it would grow to become what it has," Dunaway said. "Not only have we saved old-fashioned skills from extinction through apprenticeships but also both adults and children leave the event with a first-hand, personal experience. We are taking history out of books and bringing it to life."

The Clarke County Museum invites everyone to come to Pioneer Day and experience living history at its best. There is definitely something for everyone!

For information about the festival, contact the Clarke County Museum at 251-275-8684 or by email museum@clarkemuseum.com; visit their website at www.clarkecountymuseum.com; or find them on Facebook. Their address is P.O. Box 388 or 116 W. Cobb Street; Grove Hill, AL 36451. You can also call the bookstore at 251-275-2014.

For information about places to stay in and around Grove Hill, call the Museum or the Grove Hill Chamber of Commerce at 251-275-4188.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.



Moultrie 30 Gallon Easy-Lock Tripod Deer Feeder

by John Sims

Looking to ease the strain of filling your deer feeder? Moultrie’s Easy-Lock deer feeder is the best solution. Standing less than 6 feet tall, the Easy-Lock is easy to fill and has a capacity of 200 pounds.

New quick-locking design assembles quickly and easily with no tools required.

The programmable, digital timer can schedule up to six feedings a day, and dispense feed at intervals of 1-20 seconds.

Other features include feed level estimator, battery level monitor, varmint guard, metal cone and spinner, and camera mounts that allow for up to three game cameras to be attached.

Your local Quality Co-op store offers several quality feeds for your deer:

Big Buck Blend 16 Point

Big Buck Blend 20% Rack Developer

MaxRax 16% Pellet

MaxRax Plus 17% Pellet

MaxRax 20% Doe and Fawn Pellet

MaxRax 16% Textured Breeder Fall/Winter

MaxRax 18.5% Textured Breeder Spring/Summer

Locate a store near you at www.alafarm.com.

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



October Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Plant container-grown or balled-and-burlapped trees and shrubs (hold off on bare-root trees and shrubs until late winter). Be sure to keep them well-watered.
  • Pot bulbs for indoor forcing.
  • Sow ryegrass for a green winter lawn or to prevent erosion of bare soil. Use 8-10 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.
  • After you have finished harvesting your summer vegetables, plant a cover crop for the purpose of plowing under next spring. These nitrogen-producing plants will provide good organic matter and food for your garden crops next year, as well as helping to control weeds over the winter. Some varieties to consider are hairy vetch, common vetch, certain white clovers, crimson clover, Austrian winter pea, caley pea, wheat and annual ryegrass.
  • Autumn is the ideal time to plant clematis vines.
  • Broadcast wildflower seeds to establish a meadow.
  • Continue to plant autumn garlic bulbs and onion sets for a bumper crop next summer.
  • Fresh turf can still be laid now. Autumn rains should ensure the turf settles successfully.
  • If you want to continue your home vegetables into this fall and winter, it’s not too late. The autumn veggies that fall into the semi-hardy category are leaf lettuces, beets, rutabaga and cauliflower. Those that are HARDY for our area include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, onion, radishes, spinach and turnips. Check with your local Co-op store for seed or Bonnie plants.
  • Most spring-flowering bulbs should be in the ground by the middle of this month, with the exception of tulips that can be planted through November.
  • Now is the perfect time to plant a strawberry patch for cropping next year.
  • Once plants are dormant, it is a good time to lift and relocate any plant you want to move.
  • Sow late spinach to overwinter; it will resume growing in spring.

FERTILIZE

  • Get your soil tested and add amendments as needed.
  • 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.
  • Reduce feeding houseplants (do not feed dormant houseplants).
  • October is a good time to make an application of a fall or winter-type lawn fertilizer.
  • When beans and peas finish cropping, simply cut the plant away at ground level, leaving the roots in the soil. These crops fix nitrogen that is slowly released into the soil as the roots break down.

PRUNE

  • Take cuttings from perennials to root indoors over the winter.
  • Hardwood cuttings can be taken now from deciduous shrubs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Clear overhanging plants away from pathways to maintain access routes throughout the garden.
  • Cut back perennial plants that have died down or alternatively leave the dead foliage in place for overwintering wildlife.
  • Cut back yellowing asparagus foliage to within an inch of the ground.
  • Prune climbing roses and rambling roses once they’ve finished flowering and tie up the stems before autumn winds cause damage.

WATER

  • One of the major reasons why some plants do not make it through winter’s cold weather is because the soil is too dry. It is very important to take time and check that all plants have sufficient soil moisture. Be especially careful to check the plants under the eaves of the house and under tall evergreens and other areas where the soil tends to dry out quickly.
  • Reduce watering of indoor plants.
  • Drain and store garden hoses and sprinklers when not in use.

PEST CONTROL

  • 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.
  • Scale insects on broad-leafed evergreens like camellia, gardenia, holly and euonymus can be effectively controlled by spraying with dormant oil. Do not use oil spray if the temperature goes above 70 degrees.
  • Check for aphids and caterpillars on fall flowers and leafy vegetables.
  • Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs. This will eliminate the spring hatch from overwintered eggs.
  • Broadleaf turf weeds that make fall growth – including dandelions, field bindweed, chickweed, shepherd’s-purse, henbit, ground ivy and violets – can be controlled most effectively anytime in October or early November. While some weeds are not killed with herbicides, fall treatments cause them to go into the winter in a weakened condition, making them more susceptible to winterkill.
  • If your greenhouse is fairly empty, now is a good time to clean and disinfect it. This allows more light in and prevents pests and diseases from overwintering.
  • Invest in bird baths and bird feeders this autumn. Birds are gardeners’ friends and will keep pest numbers down.
  • One last effort at weeding will help to improve the appearance of your garden throughout the winter. Any weed that you can eliminate from the garden this fall will possibly prevent thousands of weed seeds from sprouting in the garden next spring!
  • Sweep up debris and fallen leaves that harbor overwintering fungal spores and provide hiding places for slugs and snails.
  • The fall rains have once again gotten slugs and snails moving through the garden. One last application of slug bait will eliminate a lot of slugs and prevent them from reproducing again this fall. Result: Fewer slugs next spring ....
  • Wrap glue bands around the trunks of apple trees to trap winter moth females whose caterpillars shred spring flowers.

ODD JOBS

  • In your garden journal, take stock of this year’s garden and make a few notes or sketches for next spring. Reflect on what grew well, what failed miserably and what changes you will make next year. You will be surprised at how useful these notes can be when you start ordering seeds and plants for next year!
  • Make a note of plants displaying outstanding fall colors as you drive along city streets and the surrounding countryside. You may wish to incorporate some of them into your own landscape.
  • Cacti and other succulents such as jade plants and sedums do best in a sunny south or west window during the winter. They can tolerate cool temperatures, but you may want to move more tender foliage plants away from cold windows.
  • Harvest seeds from annuals and perennials.
  • Stock up on firewood.
  • 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.
  • After a light frost, dig canna, glads, dahlias and other tender bulbs for winter storage.
  • Prepare the compost pile for winter. Add new materials and turn.
  • Garden tools add up to a large financial investment. Bring inside and clean them off. With proper care, quality tools can last a lifetime.
  • A last mowing can be made this month before leaving your lawn for the winter.
  • After tidying borders, mulch with bark chips, well-rotted manure, leaf mold or straw to insulate plant roots for the winter and keep weed growth in check.
  • Clean and put away empty containers and garden ornaments.
  • Clear up fallen leaves regularly to allow light to the grass.
  • Dig up sweet potatoes before winter rains cause them to split and rot.
  • Harvest and dry or freeze herbs for winter use.
  • Harvest squashes and pumpkins before the first frosts. They will quickly turn mushy if left outside!
  • If you don’t have room to hang whole plants but you want to ripen green tomatoes indoors for winter eating, you should first pick the green tomatoes off the vine, BEFORE they are hit by a frost. Inspect and wash under cool running water, blot them dry with a clean towel then allow them dry completely. Remove any damaged, soft or spotted fruit. You will need a flat, wide container with an absorbent layer of paper towels to spread the tomatoes out. The container should be liquid proof, or made of a thick absorbent material (like thick cardboard) so it will contain any liquid from tomatoes that rot. Liquid from rotting tomatoes will cause the other fruit to rot. No tomato needs to be touching another one. Ideally, there should be about two inches between each fruit. Store the box of green tomatoes in a cool (50-65 degrees), dry area. An unheated basement, insulated garage or enclosed porch would work very well. If the temperature is on the cooler end, say 50-60, ripening will be slower and you could have some into January. Temperatures in the 60s will cause much more rapid ripening. High humidity causes more rot. Check the tomatoes at least every week. Remove any that are 50 percent or more red, and let them finish ripening on your kitchen counter.
  • Lift and divide any overcrowded herbaceous perennials whilst the soil is still warm.
  • Dig dahlias tubers, begonias tubers and gladiolus corms to store dry over the winter months. Remove the dead foliage before storing them.
  • Mark your perennials with permanent tags, or create a map showing their locations so you’ll know where and what they are when they die back at the end of the season. This will help you to avoid digging up something you intended to keep when you plant bulbs and plants this fall and next spring.
  • Mid-month, move tender plants into the greenhouse to protect them from early frosts. Make sure there is enough space between them to keep them well-ventilated and reduce the risk of disease.
  • Periodically clean bird feeders and baths.
  • Think about an electric de-icer for the birdbath. If you’re in an area that freezes and you don’t have a de-icer, turn your birdbath over to keep it from cracking.
  • Protect autumn cauliflower heads from frost by wrapping the outer leaves around them and securing with string. Alternatively use a cloche or fleece.
  • Put nets over pondsto prevent leaves falling into them.
  • Reuse spent compost from annual container displays as a mulch on the garden.
  • Thin the radishes, carrots and turnips you sowed last month; then sprinkle the bed with one inch of compost.
  • Use the last of the dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservative before the winter arrives.
  • When you harvest your cabbages, leave the root in the ground and make a cut across the stem to encourage a flush of smaller leaves.


Overseeding Lawns


Winter ryegrass in overseeded Bermudagrass

You may want to think twice.

by Tony Glover

In the fall, I often get this question. "My lawn looks terrible; so I was thinking of overseeding with ryegrass. Do you ever recommend overseeding lawns and, if so, how do you manage overseeded areas?"

My answer does not always make the questioner happy. Overseeding with a cool-season grass like ryegrass can make your lawn look very nice in the winter, but there are some legitimate concerns. The reason most folks overseed their lawns is because warm-season grasses lose color and slow their growth in the fall and may go into dormancy after the first frost and are usually brown until spring. However, up until the first killing frost the grass will continue to produce food reserves that help the plant overwinter better and recover from summer stress. Planting a cool-season grass in the fall, or overseeding, is never good for the warm-season grass.

If you were not able to keep your grass well-watered and actively growing all summer, you may want to think twice about overseeding. Most of Alabama had some good rains in late August so that is a plus. However, your warm-season grass is often stressed because the winter grass may be planted well before the permanent grass goes dormant in the fall. Planting in early October may reduce this issue somewhat, but it reduces the time for establishment in the far northern parts of the state which might get cold in October. You may want to delay fertilization until later in October because, if you fertilize too early, the warm-season grass also uses those nutrients that may encourage weak growth far too late into the fall setting the grass up for winter damage.

Another reason overseeding can be problematic comes next spring, when the warm-season grass is breaking dormancy and starting to grow. If an overseeded grass is present, it competes for light, water and nutrients with the underlying grass, and can set back the growth of the warm-season grass significantly compared to non-overseeded lawns. For this reason, it is very difficult to achieve good results year in and year out when overseeding zoysiagrass (especially Emerald zoysiagrass), St. Augustinegrass or centipedegrass. These grasses are relatively slow growing and do not recover from overseeding nearly as well as Bermudagrass. Bermudagrass, with its aggressive growth, best tolerates yearly overseeding, but is still stressful even under the best conditions.

Despite all the negatives, I can think of at least a couple reasons to consider overseeding. If you are putting your house on the market during the winter, this can be an inexpensive way to make the lawn look nice and increase the curb appeal. Another reason is if there is a need to have a lush beautiful lawn in early spring for an April or May wedding or other outdoor event. If you have decided to overseed for this or other reasons, let me give a few tips to help you succeed.

The best time to overseed is late September to early October, or at least when the average day time temperatures are below 80 degrees. Before sowing the seed, you should mow the lawn as closely as possible without scalping. A shorter cut than usual will make it easier for the ryegrass seeds to fall to the soil. If the lawn has a heavy amount of thatch, it is good idea to dethatch the lawn before overseeding. Be sure to rake all debris off the lawn. Plant about 5-10 pounds of ryegrass (either annual or perennial) seed per 1,000 square feet. Use a mechanical spreader for best results. Apply half of the seed walking in one direction, then the other half walking at a right angle to the first.

Be sure to irrigate the newly planted seed lightly but frequently for the first three to five days until the seed has germinated. But be careful not to overwater because it encourages disease problems to develop. Begin mowing the ryegrass as soon as it reaches 2-2.5 inches in height. The grass should be maintained at about two inches during the winter. Be sure that the lawnmower blades are sharp, especially when mowing young ryegrass. A dull mower could rip the seedlings out of the ground. Mow often enough that you do not remove more than one-third of the leaf blade at any one mowing.

Fertilizer may be applied to help the ryegrass maintain color. Apply fertilizer at the rate of one-half pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet after the second mowing, and then monthly at the same rate as long as the temperature is above freezing. Discontinue fertilization in February in preparation for transition back to permanent grass unless you need it to be perfect for that outdoor wedding in May.

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



Pals: Waste Less - Recycle More


Autaugaville Elementary kicks off the school year by partnering with Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program.

by Jamie Mitchell

Autaugaville Elementary is kicking off this school year by partnering with Alabama PALS’ Clean Campus Program! The school has already been participating in a new countywide recycling program and has contributed several tons of material to be recycled. Each year we will look forward to seeing this number grow as the students and faculty reduce waste and recycle more!

The students were very attentive as Autauga County’s Solid Waste Officer John Paul O’Driscoll informed them about exactly where their recycled materials go. After being sorted at the Correctional Facility, the materials are baled and sold to paper mills and plastic manufacturers. Many of the materials stay right here in Alabama and get a new life as a new product instead of ending up in a landfill.

After O’Driscoll did his report to the students, I gave my presentation on the lifecycle of a piece of trash. They learned that a plastic bottle can end up in a landfill, at a recycling facility or as a piece of litter. We discussed how long it takes a plastic bottle to biodegrade on its own and how littering is the worst possible outcome for a piece of trash. Autaugaville’s Principal Lesia Robinson also spoke and encouraged the children to continue their good work with their recycling program.

Great work on Autaugaville Elementary for their commitment to being a Clean Campus School!

If you think a school near you would be interested in joining the Clean Campus Program or might like to have me present the 30-minute program on keeping Alabama more beautiful, just have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at Jamie@alpals.org.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.



Piggy Patch Farm

Sally and Gary Stricklin at Piggy Patch Farm.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Any time Sally Smith Stricklin had a pencil or a crayon in her hand as she was growing up, she always drew a picture of a winding driveway, neat brick house and a large red barn.

And all during that same time she ALWAYS thought about cute baby pigs!

Her grandfather Harold Tuck had a big farm in the Wynnville Community of Blount County with chickens, pigs and more.

"When I was really little, I’d go with him to feed the pigs and he’d always catch a baby pig for me to hold," Sally recalled.

She grew up in rural Blount, the daughter of Wayne and Doris Smith. Beginning when she was about 8, one of her dad’s friend’s raised commercial hogs for sale. Oftentimes there were too many piglets for one sow to raise so Sally enjoyed taking over and bottle feeding those little ones.

But life called and Sally put her farming dreams on hold. She owned a beauty shop for more than two decades.

Bud weighed only 4 ounces when he was born. The pen in the photo illustrates just how small he was! Now Bud is one of the breeding males at Piggy Patch Farm!

Then a few years ago her life was turned upside down when she fought a major illness herself and lost her son.

As she was fighting back to normalcy, a mutual friend introduced her to Gary Stricklin "and the rest is, as they say, history," she laughed.

The couple dated for a few years and got married just this August!

Gary, who serves as Blount County Commissioner for District 4, lived on a farm - you guessed it - complete with winding driveway, brick house and big red barn! His wife had passed away about 20 years ago and the big barn was where his children raised cattle to show in farm programs through school.

So how did miniature pigs get into that cow barn?

"A few years ago, Gary asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told him a miniature pig," Sally explained. "He didn’t believe me until he asked my daughter and she assured him that’s what I really wanted."

So Gary and her daughter began a pig search and found what was supposed to be a mini pig. Henry was small and lived in the house until he started growing and growing and growing. He now lives outside and helps tend to the mini pigs, but weighs about 200 pounds - definitely not a mini pig who are SUPPOSED to get no bigger than 20-30 pounds!

So while they loved Henry, Gary and especially Sally began to thoroughly research mini pigs! They soon learned that some breeders would tell you just about anything to sell you what is supposed to be a mini.

"You need to ask the breeder if you can visit the farm, see the parents and see other pigs. If they won’t let you visit, then you better start asking questions because something is likely wrong!" Sally explained. "If they are a reputable mini pig breeder, they will be gladly answer all your questions and will want you to visit!"

Gary did his part by sectioning off half of the barn into little pig kennels where each pig would have an indoor and outdoor area. There’s also a nursery section where mama pigs can relax for about two weeks while awaiting the birth and spend an additional two weeks after the piglets arrive, before returning to her own kennel with her new family.

Sally currently has six males and six females that she uses in breeding. They are a mixture of breeds bred down to assure that the babies remain small.

At 4 ounces, Bud was the smallest pig ever born at Piggy Patch, but did well! He is now one of the male breeders.

The pigs enjoy small wading pools, being played with, being sprayed with the hose and all sorts of other activities!

"They are really easy to train," Sally remarked. "They ‘talk’ with their eyes a lot of times. They can get their feelings hurt. They have a full range of emotions. You can train them to use a puppy pad, a litter box or to go outside.

"They provide a lot of entertainment because they love to play, but they also can provide a lot of love."

Whether to have the females fixed is up to the buyer. But Sally noted that males must be neutered or in a few months "they will be acting like hormonal 16 year olds!"

It takes a specialized vet to spay or neuter the mini pigs because it is better to be done while the piglet is "under gas," Sally explained, because other anesthesia are too strong and may make the pig go under too much, while anything given in a vein is hard to complete with such a small pig.

But other medicinal needs are easy to take care of as "whatever you give to a 2- to 3-year-old child, you can basically give to a pig. The vet told me a pig’s digestive system is more like a human’s than any other animal’s. You can give them Gatorade if they need electrolytes, etc."

The Piggy Patch website gives loads of information about the tiny piggies: "Micro mini pigs are popular for a great number of reasons. Due to their intelligence, they make amazing pets. They are also very affectionate and loving.

"Mini pigs are very clean and have very few health problems. These non-allergenic creatures do not shed and are not likely to get fleas.

"Teacup mini pigs love to romp and play and usually get along great with children and make outstanding pets when given the proper TLC.

"If you are thinking about keeping a pig as a pet, PLEASE carefully consider whether your home and garden environment will allow for you to properly cater to its needs.

"Potential owners should make sure they have the time, finances and facilities required, as well as a veterinarian lined up to provide proper care," the website concludes.

It’s hard to resist the little minis, such as Freckles who takes a bottle and also enjoys a pacifier!

"We can assure you that our minis won’t get any bigger than 20, perhaps 30, pounds if they are fed correctly," Sally said.

While the website continues with instructions on feeding, bath time, nap time and training, each piggy comes with its own blanket and toys AND a "Piggy Patch 101" book!

Piggy Patch pigs range in price from $400-$600 each and there is usually a waiting list. The farm is located in the Five Points area near Cleveland in Blount County, but the best way to reach Sally and arrange a visit to the farm is through their website at www.piggypatchfarm.com.

There you’ll also see their great new logo featured on tee shirts and the website designed by Patti Moss Williams at PMW Communications.

As of August 1, Piggy Patch had sold 24 pigs this year, but a litter of 11 was born the night before this interview!

"We’re a growing success story," Sally said. "Sometimes you just have to sit back and watch and see how God works!"

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



Plants From the Past Become Florals of the Future: Weathering the Economic Storm


Walter Bennett, left, grows the succulents in the greenhouse of Bennett Plants, and Bill makes the planters constructed of lightweight cement and cedar.

Succulents grown by the Bennett brothers of Heflin provide a unique product for home and garden stores, as well as their retail website.

by John Howle

If you have walked through a garden-supply store or gift shop and witnessed a thick-leaved, floral arrangement in a unique cedar photo frame or incredibly lightweight cement planters, chances are Bill Bennett of Heflin built them. In an attempt to provide off-season products as unique gifts in home and garden stores, Bill began experimenting with different floral arrangements grown in the greenhouses he operates with his brother Walter. Working as a team, Walter grows the plants for the floral arrangements, and Bill designs and builds the decorative planters.

The plants Walter cultivates and grows are known as succulents. They require very little water, store their water in their leaves and have the same heartiness as cacti.

"These succulents are plants that are easy to care for and drought tolerant," Walter explained. "These are old-timey plants like your Grandmother would have grown such as hen and chick, string of pearls and donkey’s tail."

Since succulents store water in their leaves, they have a thick, cactus appearance without the spikes. Aloe would be an example of a succulent. Bill chose these plants for floral arrangements because they require almost no time and effort to care for by the customer.

Some of the planters filled with succulents that are easy to care for, store water in their thick leaves and the eye-catching arrangements make for great conversation pieces.

Searching for a niche market that would diversify their greenhouse operation, Bill began experimenting with various designs for decorative planters. In his woodshop, Bill creates cedar boxes with a frame around the planter to house the plants. Coming up with the lightweight cement planters was a much bigger challenge.

Bill walked into the greenhouse one day and said, "I been thinking about going into hyper-tufa."

Walter responded with, "Hyper-what?"

Basically, this is a lightweight cement that has been used in the floriculture business for years.

"It’s light because there’s no heavy aggregates like you would find in commercial cement," Bill said. "I spent a year mixing blends that would hold up in the greenhouse through the growing season before we went public with the product."

Since the heavy aggregates are missing from the cement, the challenge for Bill was to come up with a mixture to create a pot that was strong enough to withstand the expansion of growing roots systems, but still maintain the lightweight properties.

Once Bill had a lightweight cement product for planters, Walter then had to adjust his soils and the chemical makeup of the cement and the soil.

"I noticed when we were testing that the pH was real high in the cement planters," Walter said. "I spent six months developing techniques to lower the high lime content, and now the planters and plants we send out are balanced and virtually maintenance free."

"During the growing off-season, we make 25,000 pots to house the plants we grow for our wholesale customers," Bill said. "We went retail in September with the launch of our retail website www.bennettplants.com."

They can sell their products anywhere in the United States with the addition of their retail website.

Bill makes the cedar box planters in his family barn that has been on the property for three generations. The old barn was converted from a cattle barn to a workshop in one half and his living quarters in the other half. The greenhouses are located about two miles away at Walter’s house.

The Bennett brothers in Cleburne County have seen their greenhouses weather economic storms since the 1980s when their father started a hydroponic tomato operation as an attempt to make some money on the family farm. After surviving through the economic woes of 2008, the Bennetts, like many of the independent garden centers they sold to, had to learn to adapt and specialize in a tough economy to stay in business.

Walter, the older brother, had been deeply involved in contract growing for stores such as Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart. Bill worked for various greenhouses and owned a garden center for eight years.

"Our partnership started six years ago with contract growing for large greenhouses," Walter said. "Bill joined me because, at the time, we were working full time with full greenhouses, and I needed the help."

When 2008 rolled around, many of the greenhouse growers suffered because of the recession and, over the course of the year, many went out of business. Finding a niche market and creating a product that could weather the economic storms led Bill and Walter to grow the succulents as well as design the decorative planters to hold them. Past customers for the Bennett’s floral designs range from wedding planners as gifts for wedding guests, Mother’s Day, birthdays and graduation gifts. The products the Bennett brothers sell range in price from $3.99-$79.99 retail.

The experiences the Bennett brothers learned from their father in the early days of hydroponic tomatoes have served them well in this new venture. Walter is the greenhouse grower and greenhouse manager. Bill is in charge of sales and office management.

"We have one fulltime employee and, during the busy season, we hire up to five employees," Bill added.

If you want a unique product that is easy to grow and makes a great table setting, visit www.bennettplants.com for more information.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



Preserving Potatoes

from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Not known for their fragility, potatoes are a robust, starchy tuber in the nightshade family (along with fellow Solanaceae family members’ tomatoes, eggplants and peppers). Potatoes pack a nutritional punch, weighing in with substantial amounts of potassium, fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, magnesium and, a lesser but still notable amount, iron.

It’s easy enough to store fresh white potatoes for up to two months in a cupboard kept at 50-70 degrees (sweet potatoes last only two to three weeks). But what if you want them to last even longer?

Interestingly, storing white potatoes in a refrigerator is likely to diminish their quality, and they are expected to last only one to two weeks there. Alternatively, you could cook and mash them, stuff them or scallop them for freezer storage, but, again, they will retain best quality only for a few weeks in the freezer.

Drying is an option for making potatoes last longer. Wash, peel, then cut potatoes into quarter-inch thick shoestring strips, or cut into eighth-inch thick slices. Steam blanch the prepared pieces for six to eight minutes or water blanch them for five to six minutes. Drying time will be eight to 12 hours in a dehydrator and up to twice as long in an oven, depending on circulation. If you dry sweet potatoes and want to rehydrate them for a recipe, combine each cup of dried pieces with 1.5 cups water and let them soak for 30 minutes.

As for canning potatoes, the USDA recommendation is to peel potatoes before canning. That style of preparation is how the research was carried out to determine the recommended process. Different assumptions might be needed in assessing just how many spores of C. botulinum or other bacteria might be present at the start of the process and what amount of heat might be needed to meet standards for the risk of possible survivors. Also due to safety concerns, it is important to use potatoes that are only 1-2 inches in diameter if you are canning them whole. These are sometimes described as "new" potatoes; the idea is to use less mature, smaller potatoes that tend to be less starchy than older, "grown-up" potatoes.

White potatoes for canning should be the waxy or boiling kind. Different types of potatoes have different amounts and types of starches and they react to heating differently. You want a potato that keeps its shape and texture well after a lot of heating, not one that falls apart and becomes fluffy after cooking – ones better for mashing. Most red-skin potatoes are lower in starch than baking potatoes and work well for canning. Many white, round potatoes with thin skins fall into this category with red-skin potatoes, too. Russets are not good for canning, but are good for baking (they have a high starch content). Yukon Gold may not be the best potatoes for canning. While they seem good for boiling, they do tend to fall apart when overcooked.

Sweet Potatoes can be slightly larger, but medium-sized potatoes should be cut to fit in the jar in uniform-sized pieces. Note that the sweet potato pressure canning process time is significantly longer than for white potatoes.

Sweet potatoes can have a sugar syrup for canning, if you like that style. But otherwise, all potatoes – white or sweet – should have fresh, boiling water prepared to pour over the preheated potatoes. Do not use the cooking liquid. That cooking water contains a lot of starch that comes out of the potatoes and the process time was determined using fresh boiling water to cover. The added starch can create a safety problem by slowing down heating of the potatoes in the canner, and it also creates a very unappealing pack with possible masses of gelled or congealed starches around the potatoes. If you have spoilage, this makes it very hard to see the signs of some spoilage.

Preparation for Canning White Potatoes

Quantity: An average of 20 pounds is needed per canner load of seven quarts; an average of 13 pounds is needed per canner load of nine pints. A bag weighs 50 pounds and yields 18-22 quarts – an average of 2.5-3 pounds per quart.

Quality: Select small to medium-size, mature potatoes of ideal quality for cooking. Tubers stored below 45 degrees may discolor when canned. Choose potatoes 1-2 inches in diameter if they are to be packed whole.

Procedure: Wash and peel potatoes. Place in ascorbic acid solution to prevent darkening. If desired, cut into half-inch cubes. Drain. Cook two minutes in boiling water and drain again. For whole potatoes, boil 10 minutes and drain. Add one teaspoon of salt per quart to the jar, if desired. Fill jars with hot, prepared potatoes, leaving no more than 1-inch headspace. Cover hot potatoes with FRESH boiling water, leaving 1-inch headspace and covering all pieces of potato.

Dial Gauge Pressure Canner: Pints, 35 minutes; quarts, 40 at 11 pounds of pressure

Weighted Gauge Pressure canner: Pints, 35 minutes; quarts, 40 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure

***C botulinum spores are a real threat in IMPROPERLY, home-canned vegetables. Please only use USDA-recommended recipes for doing any type of home-canned vegetable. If you are interested in learning more about home canning, check with your local County Extension Office to see when the next Food Preservation class will be offered in your area, or go on our website at www.aces.edu/foodsafety/ and find a location near you for the next class.

This information was taken from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, operated by the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, and all of their information, same as the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, is researched-based and from the USDA.



Reproductive Health Checks … The Foundation for Deer Management

After two years with the February season shift, it’s time to evaluate the program.

by Chuck Sykes

Jennifer Weber, attorney for the Department of Conservation, harvested her first deer in Lowndes County Feb. 10.

With bow season just around the corner, I thought it was a perfect time to evaluate the past two years of the February season shift. When preparing to write this month’s article, I took a minute to go back and review an article Chris Cook wrote last year explaining the process that lead to the first February season shift. The basis for the season shift was data collected during spring and summer reproductive (fetal) collections.

Hunters in the southern portions of the state had asked Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries to look into extending the season into February. The hunters felt that the majority of the rut took place after the close of the traditional season on the last day of January. For WFF to shift the season into February, data had to be gathered to determine the peak conception date in a given area. The best scientific way to obtain this data is to harvest antlerless deer during late spring and early summer, perform a necropsy and measure the fetus to determine the date of conception.

Since the inception of the fetal collection program in 1995, more than 3,200 deer have been collected at 320 locations in 66 counties. The WFF biologists have worked tirelessly over the past three years to fill in many gaps throughout the state with data. As the old saying goes, "Been there, done that and got the t-shirt." I’ve participated in the collection process for the past three years, and there isn’t anything pleasant about sitting in 90-100 degree heat and fighting mosquitos and wasps while attempting to shoot a doe. Once the deer is down, then the real work begins. Dragging, weighing and aging the deer then performing a necropsy at midnight with sweat running down your nose is not for the weak minded or weak stomached!

The line that was drawn for the 2014-2015 season is the most accurate delineation point we could find. Please remember, we will never be able to set a line that is going to make everyone happy or that will 100 percent define the peak rut dates. However, the line was based on the best available data and major river and road systems that hunters can easily identify.

Whether you agree philosophically with the February season or not, it’s very difficult to dispute the biological data. For example, we sampled two properties on the Montgomery and Lowndes county line during the summer of 2013 and 2014. The average date of conception for the two properties was Feb. 2. Perhaps it was an incredible coincidence that on Feb. 2, 2015, a 165-inch buck was taken while chasing a doe on one of the properties. But, I’m betting on science.

Since GameCheck participation was less than 3 percent, we had to rely on our field observations and reports from hunting lodges and several processors to judge the success of the February season as far as mature bucks being taken. About 50 percent said it made a difference and 50 percent said it didn’t. Weather played a big part during both seasons. February 2014 was hot and deer movement was sporadic. February 2015 had good weather and movement seemed much better.

In addition to the example I mentioned, I know of quite a few hunters who had great successes during this past February season. I was fortunate enough to guide a friend and co-worker on February 10. We saw more than 20 deer that afternoon and at least half of them were bucks. We watched one nice 5-year-old chase does in and out of the plot all afternoon. Just before dark, she decided to take a shot at one of the adult does on the plot. With one well-placed shot, she harvested her first deer. It was a great way to end my first February season.

Many of the processors said the second week of December was the best week they had in terms of deer numbers. Any guesses why? I’m betting the 10-day closure reduced the pressure on deer, and the second week in December was just like opening week all over. This should tell hunters something. I feel just as many bucks can be taken before the rut if the hunting pressure is managed. I’m not going to say that bucks aren’t typically more active during the pre-rut and rut times. But, if hunting pressure is not managed, those bucks will probably be active during nighttime hours only.

I’ve talked with many hunters over the past two years who have participated in the February season. About 50 percent say it’s the best part of the season, and about 50 percent say they could not tell any difference. Wildlife should not be managed by a one-size-fits-all or cookie-cutter program. Therefore, WFF biologists are looking into developing programs that will more appropriately address the site-specific deer management needs of wildlife managers all over the state. In addition, WFF will continue to gather deer reproductive data in an attempt to map the conception dates throughout the state completely. We understand that we will never be able to make all hunters happy. But, if we base our management strategies on science not emotions, the resource will be managed properly and will flourish.

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



Setting the Pace


Lamar Stone, left, Altha Farmers Co-op, was the recipient of the special Turn Around Award presented by Rivers Myres, AFC’s CEO.

Pacesetter Awards are presented at the annual Co-op Manager’s Meeting.

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 2014-2015.

For Accu-Field, (from left) the award for Top Growth >15,000 Acres was presented to Chris Casey, Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op, by Amy Winstead, director of Ag Technologies, and awards for Precision Ag Top Volume to Jeremy Williams, Limestone Farmers Co-op, and Top Growth < 15,000 Acres to Chris Duke, Talladega County Exchange. The Animal Health Highest % Increase award was presented to (from left) Lance Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op, and for Sales to Dale Spain, Colbert Farmers Co-op, and Perry Catrett, Luverne Cooperative Services, by Eddie Roberts, vice president of Feed, Farm and Home.
The BioLogic Highest % Increase award was presented (from left) by Bobby Cole, president, to Scott Hartley, Taleecon Farmers Co-op. Sales awards were also presented to (not pictured) Pike Farmers Co-op and Central Alabama Farmers Co-op. Bonnie Plants Sales award was presented (from left) to Amy Milliron, St. Clair Farmers Co-op, by Stan Cope, president. Sales award was also present (not pictured) to Cherokee Farmers Co-op and for Highest % increase to Colbert Farmers Co-op.
The Crop Protection Products Sales awards were presented by (from left) Johnny LeCroix, products director of Crop Protection Products, to Brit Christopher, Limestone Farmers Co-op, and Jay Jones, Headland Peanut Warehouse Co-op; and Lance Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op, for Highest % Increase. The Crop Nutrients awards were presented by (from left) Chris Carter, AFC’s Crop Nutrient Department, for Highest % Increase to Lance Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op; and for Sales to Jay Jones, Headland Peanut Warehouse Co-op, and Keith Griffin, Madison County Co-op.
The Feed Sales awards was presented (from left) to Steve Hodges, Marshall Farmers Co-op, and Central Alabama Farmers Co-op (not pictured) by David Riggs, AFC manager of Feed, and for Highest % Increase to Lance Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op. The Feed Ingredients Sales awards were presented (from left) to Brandon Bledsoe, Opp’s Co-op, by Phil James, director of Feed Ingredients, and to Central Alabama Farmers Co-op (not pictured); and for Highest % Increase to Cole Gilliam, Tuscaloosa Farmers Co-op.
The Hardware Sales awards were presented (from left) by Derrick Reyer, director of Hardware, to Eric Sanders, Blount County Farmers Co-op, and also presented by Jerry Ogg, director of Hardware and TBA, to Amy Milliron, St. Clair Farmers Co-op, and for Highest % Increase to Farmers Co-op, Inc. (not pictured). The John Deere Credit awards were presented by Joe Sumrow, account manager, for Largest Dollar Volume and for Largest Dollar Increase to Keith Griffin, Madison County Co-op.
The Lawn and Garden Sales awards were presented to (from left) Robbie Neal, Lauderdale County Co-op, and Wendell Walker, Lauderdale County Co-op; by Susan Parker, director of Lawn and Garden, and for Highest % Increase to Amy Milliron, St. Clair Farmers Co-op. The Professional Products awards were presented (from left) by Steve Sanderson, sales manager of Professional Products, to Russell Lassiter, Andalusia Farmers Co-op, for Highest % Increase; and for Sales (not pictured) to Elberta Farmers Co-op and Calhoun Farmers Co-op.
The Seed awards were presented to (from left) Lance Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op, for Highest % Increase; and for Sales to Jamie Vann, Madison County Co-op; and Atmore Truckers Association (not pictured) by Grady Congo, Agri-AFC Seed Manager.

For SouthFresh, Sales awards were presented (from left) by Mark Lamb, president, to Lance Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op, and Atmore Truckers Association (not pictured); and for Highest % Increase to Lance Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op.
The TBA Sales award were presented (from left) to Steve Lann, Marion County Co-op; and Celena Lann, Limestone Farmers Co-op, by Jerry Ogg, director of Hardware and TBA, and for Highest % Increase to Pete Blackwell, Florala Farmers and Builders Co-op, presented also by Derrick Reyer, director of Hardware.
For WinField Solutions, Sales awards were present (from left) to Ricky Wilkes, Coffee County Farmers Co-op, by Johnny LeCroix, Products Director of Crop Protection Products, and to Austin Crocker, Madison County Co-op; and for Highest % Increase to Morgan Farmers Co-op (not pictured).
Not pictured: The Excellence in Safety & Risk Management Awards were presented to Andalusia Farmers Co-op; Blount County Farmers Co-op; Calhoun Farmers Co-op, Piedmont; Cherokee Farmers Co-op; Colbert Farmers Co-op, Leighton; Cullman Farmers Co-op, Holly Pond; DeKalb Farmers Co-op, Albertville; DeKalb Farmers Co-op, Crossville; DeKalb Farmers Co-op, Rainsville; Elberta Farmers Co-op; Farmers Co-op, Frisco City; Florala Farmers & Builders Co-op; Hartford Farmers Co-op; Jackson Farmers Co-op, Scottsboro; Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op; Lauderdale County Co-op, Florence; Lawrence County Exchange, Moulton; Limestone Farmers Co-op, Athens; Limestone Farmers Co-op, Pulaski; Madison County Co-op; Marshall Farmers Co-op, Arab; Mid State Farmers Co-op; Morgan Farmers Co-op, Hartselle; Opp’s Co-op; Pike Farmers Co-op; Randolph Farmers Co-op; Taleecon Farmers Co-op; Talladega County Exchange; Tuscaloosa Farmers Co-op; Walker Farmers Co-op; and West Geneva Farmers Co-op.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: “Yea, I have an ax to grind with that boy who took my place at the mill. I’ze told he’s the one told the foreman about me sleepin’ behind the steam room!”

Why would one sharpen an ax to see a former co-worker?

"Sharpen an ax" means to have a dispute to take up with someone or to have an ulterior motive/to have private ends to serve.

The phrase, in its "having private ends to serve" meaning, is commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Other opinions point to another author who, like Franklin, lived in Pennsylvania – Charles Miner. It is difficult to trace the origin, as both men wrote and printed cautionary metaphorical tales concerning the sharpening of axes.

Franklin sent a story called "The Whistle" to a friend in 1779. This concerns a child who paid more than he should have for a whistle and later regretted his lack of caution. Franklin’s autobiography, written between 1771 and his death in 1790 and first published in 1791, also contains an anecdote concerning a man who asked a smith to sharpen his ax especially well and ended up doing the work of turning the grindstone himself. Neither story mentions the phrase "an ax to grind."

Miner appears to have written a text called "Who’ll turn Grindstones?" that does explicitly mention "an axe to grind," but is similar enough to Franklin’s earlier stories for some to suggest that Franklin was the real originator of the phrase. I say appears to have written as the first publication of Miner’s story is an anonymous piece in the Pennsylvania newspaper The Centinel, November 28, 1810, under the same title. This is listed as being reprinted from the Luzerne Federalist. Miner was co-founder of the Federalist, so it’s reasonable to assume he was the author. The story is a cautionary fable concerning the author’s recounting of an incident from his youth, where a passing stranger takes advantage of him and, by flattering him, dupes him into turning a grindstone to sharpen the stranger’s axe. Miner then uses"having an axe to grind" as a metaphor for having an ulterior motive:

"When I see a man holding a fat office, sounding ‘the horn on the borders’ to call the people to support the man on whom he depends for his office. Well, thinks I, no wonder the man is zealous in the cause, he evidently has an axe to grind."

The story is published again in 1812; this time under Charles Miner’s name and with a slightly different text:

"When I see a merchant over-polite to his customers ... thinks I, that man has an axe to grind."

So, whether or not we view Miner as cribbing his work from Franklin, it seems that it was he who first put the phrase into print.

The meaning that is usually given to the phrase in Britain is "having a dispute to take up or point of view to express."Again, it isn’t easy to trace the source of this usage. It may be that it migrated from the United States. The sense of "having an agenda" is common to both versions of the meaning and it doesn’t seem likely that the two versions of the phrase arose independently.

James Joyce used the phrase in "Ulysses," apparently with that "British" meaning although, as ever with that particular work, rather difficult to interpret:

"Skin-the-Goat, assuming he was he, evidently with an axe to grind, was airing his grievances in a forcible-feeble philippic anent the natural resources of Ireland or something of that sort ...."



Steering Her Life


Ashlyn Ruf will show her Angus-Maine steer in the upcoming Alabama National Fair.

Ashlyn Ruf knows the farming way-of-life. She is planning to compete in the steer competitions at the 2015 Livestock Expo.

by Susie Sims

Ashlyn Ruf will compete in the 2015 Livestock Expo held at the Alabama National Fair in Montgomery. The competition will be Oct. 20-Nov. 8.

While heifer shows are quite common, steer competitions are not. Ashlyn, 15, will show her steer only three or four times during the season because there are only a few competitions within travelling distance with a steer category.

Last year Ashlyn placed fourth with her steer entry. She and her dad, David, did some research and tried to find an animal that would compete more strongly this year. They travelled to Oklahoma to purchase a steer and heifer for this year’s competitions. In keeping with their research, they went with an Angus-Maine cross this time.

Of course, it’s not all about the animal. Ashlyn is also judged on showmanship. She works with her heifer and steer for about two hours each day.

Ashlyn admits she is very particular about her animals and her barn. She likes order and claims that character trait came from her father.

"I told her if you want to be a winner you have to look like a winner," David explained.

This is the third year the Ardmore High School sophomore has competed in the Alabama National Fair. She participates through the local 4-H Club with the Limestone County Extension System.

Ashlyn said each judge will give directions on how the competitors are to enter the arena. She likes to get her bearings in the arena before the show.

"I like to go in there and look around," Ashlyn stated. "That way I already know where to go and what to expect when it’s my turn."

She said judges like to see the animal from all sides and see the animal and handler walk together. When set in the profile view, the animal’s back feet should be staggered while the front feet are squared up. Its head should be up in this pose.

Ashlyn said steers can only be shown one season. Heifers may be shown until they are over 2-years-old.

Preparing for a show takes months of work. She feeds her animals, brushes them, washes them, sprays them for flies and then she cleans their stalls.

She spends time with the animals so they are accustomed to her and feel safe near her. This can have a calming effect during shows. Ashlyn also leads the animals in practice for the shows so they will be used to the actions.

Farm Family

David Ruf, left, is a loyal customer of the Limestone Farmers Co-op in Athens. Britt Christopher works as an outside salesman for the Co-op.

The Ruf family has been an integral part of the farming way-of-life in Limestone County for multiple generations.

Ashlyn knows no other way-of-life. Her great-grandfather and grandfather were both on the board of directors for Limestone Farmers Co-op. Her father, David, sees the Co-op as an integral part of their operation.

John Curtis is manager of Limestone Farmers Co-op that is headquartered in Athens and operates facilities in Pulaski and Lynnville, Tenn.

David grows about 1,000 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans. He started in the chicken business almost five years ago. He has mega poultry houses containing close to 168,000 chickens. In addition, David also raises beef cattle.

Ashlyn Ruf got a 1949 John Deere Model A for Christmas from her dad, David. Here they are with both of their “babies.”

He custom cuts/rakes/rolls hay and custom combines.

Ashlyn is secretary of her local 4-H Junior Leaders, on the livestock judging teams for 4-H and FFA, an officer in FFA and is active with the Mt. Zion Church of Christ.

David and his wife, Allison, have a younger daughter, Avery, 10.

Contact Info

Persons with questions may email David at davidruffarms@charter.net or call him at 256-777-4629.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.



Stop, Look and Listen

by Baxter Black, DVM

The sun had already set when Joe finally called home.

Janie said, "Joe, where are you? We’ve got company coming!"

Joe sighed, dug another cinder out of his hair and said, "Sweetie, I’ve had a bad day."

That morning at daylight, they unloaded their horses in the big Texas Panhandle pasture to gather the steers. Joe reluctantly let his friends come on the gather in their helicopter, but, as the morning progressed, he was learning to appreciate its value. It could zip up a draw, check the next rise and push ‘em like a spatula in a pan full of Jimmy Dean sausages!

As they approached the tunnel that would take the cattle under the Santa Fe railroads tracks, Joe held ‘em up, waiting for the train. It soon rattled through in the cool November fog. Knowing there wouldn’t be another train for a while he started the steers.

In a few minutes he noticed that some of the steers had climbed through the fence and were casually socializing on the tracks above him – cow-shaped silhouettes in the mist.

Riding up, Joe saw that the fence had come down. He kicked himself for not checking earlier, but they’d come in a different way. He spurred his horse Freckles up the side of the roadbed, went down the tracks south and brought the steers back. The helicopter came in from the north and they sandwiched the critters over the crossing.

A whole bunch was milling around on the tracks when Joe saw the helicopter suddenly rise straight up! A rotating beam shone through the mist. An eerie feeling shivered down Joe’s neck. There was no sound. Then, like a whale breaching out of your Grape-Nuts Flakes, a locomotive burst outta the fog!

Joe pulled Freckles hard down the side! He tangled in an old fence at the edge of the cinders. Joe came off in the rat’s nest of wire! The horse panicked and ran straight at the onrushing train draggin’ several yards of wire and Joe!

The hysterical horse got sideswiped by a flatcar! Skimmed him from hip to shoulder and tore the fender and stirrup off the saddle! Scuffed the seat up some, too. Joe’s boot came loose before he hit the crossties and he rolled away from the roaring train.

No cattle were killed, Joe was black and blue for 10 days, they had to Pine Sol the helicopter cockpit and Freckles healed up. Although they don’t call him Freckles anymore. Now they call him Santa Fe!

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, www.baxterblack.com.



The Co-op Pantry

Well, fall is here and I haven’t done a column of my own in several months, so I thought I would catch you up on what has been going on. I want to say thank you to all the readers who called and emailed me when I was so ill from complications from the flu earlier in the year. My darling family has expanded by two wonderful rescue dogs, Mia, a Husky, and Stony, a Pitt/Doxy/Beagle/Jack Russell mix. They are both trips! Stony is a puppy and requires lots of running and playing and loving, and he pounces every time one of us goes outside. Mia is just a mellow, happy-go-lucky, middle-aged lady and Rosie, our inside dog is also a Husky, thinks she is a lap dog at almost a 100 pounds! Right now this crazy dog lady has no room to move or breathe inside or out without a warm nose and sloppy kisses.

Like most of you, my husband and I are tied down by work and we also have a teenaged daughter, but we were fortunate enough to be able to go on our first real vacation in about five years and it was wonderful. We stayed a good bit of the time in Michigan, my home state. It was the first time since I was 12 that I had gotten to go back. We also got to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I realized that Michigan is still beautiful and still my first home, but Alabama is about as far north as I want to live. As much fun as we had, it was wonderful to get back home. Life is good!

Now on a food related note, October is one of my favorite months and, although we don’t do Halloween (no kids anywhere around us), I do love pumpkins. They are so much fun to use in decorations, to carve and, of course, you can always go Punkin Chunkin! There are several places across the state where you can participate, just look up the locations and find one close to you. Of course, eating pumpkin is my favorite thing to do!

This month’s recipes are dedicated to the mighty pumpkin. There are probably over 20 varieties I can think of offhand, some good for eating, other strictly intended to be carved and let’s don’t forget the ones that are grown for all the "Biggest Pumpkin" contests around the country. We are mostly going to focus on the smaller ones or pie pumpkins for our recipes.While I have seen people cook with the larger ones, the taste just isn’t as good.

None of these recipes originated with me and by now I have no clue who even gave them to me, but they are all yummy!

Remember, don’t throw away the seed when you carve your jack-o-lantern or the jack-o-lantern itself when Halloween is over! They make good food for deer and birds. Deer love the flesh and birds love the seeds! Cut the jack-o-lantern into fourths and place them away from your house for the deer (if you have the room and live in a rural area). The seeds can be placed in a birdfeeder almost anywhere.

Most important, as fall begins, get your flu shot. That is what set off several months of illness for me earlier in the year; I got the flu and then developed bacterial respiratory infections. I am allergic to conventional flu shots and until this year I have never been able to take one. There is now one on the market I can safely take and I will be doing so. If you have also had this problem, talk to your doctor to find out about the new vaccine and then get the shot, eat right, exercise and take good care of yourself!

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

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Pumpkin, small

Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Rinse off the pulp and drain. Spread seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Oven-dry seeds in an oven at 325° for 1 hour. Remove the parchment paper. Drizzle seeds with cooking oil. And sprinkle with salt.

Note: This is one recipe that will allow you to utilize your jack-o-lantern pumpkin. You are going to have to scrape the seeds and stuff out anyway, so put those seeds to good use!

PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE

½ stick unsalted butter, plus more for baking sheet

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup honey

1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed, dried, toasted and shelled

Butter a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper (my preference). Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and honey. Cook mixture; don’t stir until it achieves a medium-amber color, approximately 6 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 280°. Stir in pumpkin seeds and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully pour mixture on baking sheet and let it cool completely. Break into chunks and go to town.

Note: The liquid is EXTREMELY hot! Please be very careful with it.

GUMMY WORM POPCORN TREATS

18 cups popcorn, popped

Butter

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

½ cup light-colored corn syrup

1 teaspoon vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon vanilla

Gummy worms

Remove all un-popped kernels and discard. Put popcorn in a greased 17x12x2 roasting pan. Keep popcorn warm in a 300° oven.

Butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Combine sugar, water, corn syrup, vinegar and salt. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils, stirring to dissolve sugar (about 6 minutes). Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate rate, stirring occasionally, until thermometer registers 250° (about 20 minutes).

Remove from heat; remove thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Pour syrup mixture over the hot popcorn and stir gently to coat, adding gummy worms. Cool till the popcorn mixture can be handled easily. With buttered hands, quickly shape the mixture into 2-inch balls. Wrap each popcorn ball in plastic wrap. Makes about 20.

PUMPKIN COOKIE BARS

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup whipped cream cheese frosting (from 12-ounce can)

Pre-heat oven to 375°. Spray 15x10x1 pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add pumpkin, flour and spice; beat until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Press dough in pan with greased hands. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 hour.

In small, microwave-safe bowl, heat frosting uncovered on high 15-30 seconds, stirring once, until melted and smooth. With fork, drizzle frosting over bars. Let stand until set, about 10 minutes. Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows.

HALLOWEEN POKE CAKE

1 box moist white cake mix, plus

required ingredients on box

1 cup boiling water

1 (4 serving size) box strawberry-

flavored gelatin

1 container fluffy white canned frosting

2 (0.68-ounce) tubes red decorating gel

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Spray bottom only of 13x9 pan with cooking spray. Bake cake as directed on box. Cool in pan on cooling rack 20 minutes. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over gelatin; stir until gelatin is dissolved. Poke warm cake every inch with wooden skewer halfway into cake, twisting skewer back and forth. Pour gelatin over cake, allowing gelatin to fill in holes. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Frost cake with frosting. Drizzle red decorating gel over frosting. Store covered in refrigerator.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions The holiday season is upon us and I am looking for cooks with fabulous recipes! I’m looking for Thanksgiving and Christmas family favorites, new dishes that are becoming family traditions and desserts. I would love to see people submit recipes reflecting their ethnic heritages as well. We are all different and wonderful in our eating traditions. You will also get a free copy of “Southern And Then Some More” free for participating. So, send those recipes in. You can contact me at 256-308-1623 ormaryd@alafarm.com.

HALLOWEEN MICE

4 (1-ounce) semi-sweet chocolate

baking squares

1/3 cup sour cream

1 cup chocolate wafers, finely crushed

1/3 cup additional chocolate wafers, finely crumbled (for dark mice)

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (for white mice)

24 silver dragées (those small silver,

edible balls you find in the baking aisle)

24 sliced almonds (for ears)

12 licorice, strings (for tails)

Melt the chocolate. Combine with sour cream. Stir in chocolate wafer crumbs. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Roll by level tablespoonful into balls. Mold to a slight point at one end (the nose). Roll dough in confectioners’ sugar (for white mice) or in chocolate wafer crumbs (for dark mice). On each mouse, place dragées in appropriate spot for eyes, almond slices for ears and a licorice string for the tail.

Note: I suggest Twizzlers that can be easily pulled apart. Kids and adults alike will love them.

PUMPKIN BUTTER

3½ cups pumpkin guts (not the seeds, rind or the yucky stuff, but the flesh), pureed

¾ cup apple juice

2 teaspoons ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Toss all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the mixture has thickened, making sure to stir frequently. Transfer thickened mixture to another vessel and chill until you’re ready to serve.

PUMPKIN PUREE

Pumpkin

1 cup water

Cut pumpkin in half. Scoop out seeds (save to roast or feed to birds) and guts. Place pumpkin cut-side down in a baking dish with water. Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes or until fork tender. Scoop out flesh and puree in a food processor.

PUMPKIN BREAD

1 cup walnuts, chopped
3½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin puree (recipe included)
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 8x4 loaf pans. Spread walnuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Toast for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add pumpkin puree, oil and coconut milk. Mix until all of the flour is absorbed. Fold in flaked coconut and toasted walnuts. Divide the batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cover loaves tightly with foil. Allow to steam for 10 minutes. Remove foil and turn onto a cooling rack. Tent loosely with the foil and allow to completely cool.

Note from Mary: Sush and don’t tell anyone that this is a vegan dish!

PUMPKIN CHILI

2 pounds ground beeF
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
1 (46-ounce) can tomato juice
1 (28-ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes with juice
½ cup pumpkin puree (recipe included)
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 Tablespoon chili powder
¼ cup white sugar

In a large pot over medium heat, cook beef until brown; drain. Stir in onion and bell pepper. Cook 5 minutes. Stir in beans, tomato juice, diced tomatoes and pumpkin puree. Add pumpkin pie spice, chili powder and sugar. Simmer 1 hour.

PUMPKIN PIE SMOOTHIE

1¾ cup Pumpkin Puree (recipe included)
1 ripe banana
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup pear juice
2 Tablespoons pumpkin butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Slightly chill the first five ingredients. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Should your smoothie be too thick, just add a little bit of water at a time until it is just right.



The FFA Sentinel: Preparing for Leadership


Alabama FFA State and District Officers attend DOLC at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana.

by Breann Noles

On July 7, Alabama FFA’s state and district officers met at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana for District Officer Leadership Conference. There the North, South and Central District Officers learned valuable skills from the 2015-16 Alabama FFA State Officer team. Each workshop began with opening ceremonies. Both the state and district officers were able to show off their speaking skills during this time. During the last session, each state officer picked a district officer to take their spot to perform opening ceremonies. The Central District had three officers selected during that session. These officers were Torran Smith, president’s part; Rachel Hollingsworth, vice president’s part; and Ben Castleberry, secretary’s part.

The workshops ranged from parliamentary procedure and Internet awareness to speech development and effective communication. Three workshops stood out to me, though. State Sentinel Whitney Hamby did a workshop titled "Why We Serve." It wasn’t just about why to serve in FFA, it was why serve in general. What I took from this was: "Do we serve to help others or do we serve to help ourselves?" Perhaps that is a question every member who has put on an FFA jacket has asked themselves? Maybe we serve because FFA is the country’s foremost leadership organization or because of the leadership and competitive opportunities it provides. Of course, FFA is a grassroots organization with the most impact at the local level. That is where service is the most valuable. FFA is, after all, a service organization designed to give back to the local communities across the state and nation. That is why FFA lives to serve.

Our 2015-16 State Reporter Ivy Harbin spoke on agricultural issues. In each workshop, we were constantly challenged by different activities. In Harbin’s presentation, each district had to perform a skit related to one of the following topics: Why we need ag teachers, illegal immigration and genetically modified organisms. This activity allowed the district officer teams to explore current agricultural issues in which many agriculturists face each day.

Following Harbin’s presentation was State Treasurer Anna Pollard. Her workshop on accountability focused on explaining what kind of leaders we are and that leadership comes in many styles and forms, but good leaders effectively communicate the message of the organization they represent.

State President Wade Gossett presented the district officers with a workshop on parliamentary procedure while Cassidy Catrett, state secretary, explained the importance of watching what we post on social media. In her presentation, Catrett showed a photo that had been posted from many years past and used it to demonstrate how, once something is available online, it is often difficult to remove it.

After her session, the District FFA Officers realized that nothing on the Internet ever goes away and how important it is in a leadership role to be responsible in both reality and virtual reality.

Last, and certainly not least, was State Vice President Jordan Stowe’s presentation on communication. It is so important that you talk to your fellow officers, teammates or anyone else to spread the news of your local FFA chapter and all of the many wonderful things you are doing for your school and your community. Communication is key!

We didn’t just attend workshops, however. We also had a little time to goof off. In our free time, some of us relaxed in the hammocks, some walked around and took in the scenery of the camp, and some of us worked on our opening ceremonies.

On our last night, the state officers took the district officers to different spots around the camp and provided some time to reflect on everything we had covered over the past couple of days that helped us to grow closer as a team/family.

We all had to pack up and say our goodbyes as the fun sadly ended. I think it’s safe to say we all had an amazing time and learned an immense amount of knowledge. The good thing was we were all ready for our year as district officers and ready to serve our districts at the Chapter Officer Leadership Workshops!

The North, Central and South Districts held their COLW between July 14-16. This is an opportunity for the District Officers to take what they have learned in their training and pass that knowledge on to officers in the local FFA chapter. FFA chapters from each district came together to learn the skills needed to have a successful FFA chapter.

Statewide, 552 FFA members and advisors were present at the six COLWs held across the state.

For the Central District, COLW was held at Pell City High School and Wetumpka High School. The Central District had 192 members and guests present.

The Central District FFA Officers’ theme was "Grow All Out" and we certainly did! The team presented four workshops: "Starting with the Roots" by Torran Smith, president, and Abbi Lipscomb, sentinel; "Branching Out" by Rachel Hollingsworth, vice president, and me; "Product of Our Toil" by Ben Castleberry, secretary, and Kendall Holmes, treasurer; and "Harvest the Experience" by Anna Pollard, State FFA Treasurer, and Whitney Hamby, State FFA Sentinel.

In "Starting with the Roots," Smith took the parliamentary procedure presentation Gossett had done at DOLC and put his own spin on it. Lipscomb challenged the members to give a short speech on anything in the room and gave them pointers on how to present their speeches for future reference.

In "Branching Out," Hollingsworth told her FFA story and how she became a leader and inspired members to become more capable leaders. I spoke to the members about membership recruitment and touched on leadership skills.

Castleberry presented SAEs and the importance of agriculture in our state and country, while Holmes explained CDEs in "Product of Our Toil."

The North and South Districts also presented similar trainings for the FFA Chapter Officers representing their districts. What an awesome opportunity District Officer Leadership and Chapter Officer Leadership Workshops were. To have the opportunity to inspire and meet new FFA members and make new friends that all share similar goals and have the desire to go back to their communities and serve. That is what FFA is all about.

I’m looking forward to a great year as your Central District Reporter.

Breann Noles is the Central District Reporter from the Woodland FFA Chapter.



This Ride ... a Lifelong Journey


Paul Dietz provides a cow working demonstration at one of his clinics. Instructions will be available at the Paul Dietz Cow Work Clinic in November.

Paul Dietz will share his wisdom at Horsemanship Clinics scheduled for November in Little Texas.

by Jade Currid

True horsemanship is a lifelong journey of not only learning how to better communicate and become one in the dance with your equine partner but of engaging in a continuous process of self-discovery.

Legendary horseman Buck Brannaman said, "All your horses are a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you won’t like what you see, sometimes you will."

One of the great students of the horse, Buck Brannaman protégé Paul Dietz, who is based in Arizona, will share the wisdom he has gained through working with horses and people worldwide at two clinics Nov. 6-9 hosted by Stephen and Kristen Freeman of Old South Equine in Little Texas, a pleasant community in Macon County and a short drive from Auburn.

Paul Dietz addresses the participants at one of his clinics. (Credit: Communications Specialist Isabel Hughes)

A Horsemanship Clinic will be held Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-noon. A Cow Work Clinic will be held Saturday and Sunday noon-4:30 p.m., and Monday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Each clinic will be $575 plus $50 cattle fee for the Cow Work Clinic. This will cover all arena and stall fees, and a bar-b-q dinner Saturday night. A discount will be given to anyone participating in both clinics.

"He treats every student and horse with respect and humility," relayed Isabel Hughes, a communications specialist, NLP Master and personal coach in Germany who has hosted some of Paul’s clinics. "Each student leaves with a concept for his or her future training that can also be developed because the journey never ends. It opens your mind, body and soul, and our horses will appreciate our dedication and our decision to go on that journey."

Humility is an essential trait of a teacher who guides horses and people.

"So, we were very glad to have him come to Germany," Hughes continued. "He makes one feel the softness that one wants to teach to the horses. His calm and quiet method of showing us and our horses a hundred times over and over and over again, makes him one of the best teachers I have ever met. Every horse and owner who participates in the clinic will receive their individual training."

Humility in working with horses entails realizing that each horse is different, and you have to be willing to change and even throw out your old beliefs on any given day to understand and communicate with the horse, Dietz explained.

"It’s the same with people," he said. "You have to get to know each person and read them to try to tap in and help them from where they are."

Dietz does not employ a fancy definition for the philosophy or set of methods in his arsenal.

Helping horses in any way he can is his business.

"I don’t have a system per se; it’s about getting to the horse’s feet and mind, and, like any partnership, this takes time and understanding," he said. "A partnership is never built over a weekend. It always continues to grow."

The clinics will offer colt starting, horsemanship, cow work, ground work and foundation classes all taught by Dietz over the course of four days.

"People who ride in one of the clinics will experience a unique view coming from someone who is not a salesman pushing a product; Paul genuinely wants to help horses and people," Freeman related.

He especially enjoyed the cattle work and ranch roping clinic held at Old South Equine last year.

"He helped me to slow myself down enough to make sure I was clearly communicating what I wanted to my horse and that my horse understood his job," Freeman said.

Many in the modern day and age expect a miraculous change in a small amount of time and desire the quick fix, and that same attitude is encountered in the horse world.

An individual who pays attention to the small details and stores up on the virtue of patience tends to see better and enduring results over the long run in all aspects of life.

The "little things" have had a major impact on Dietz’s life.

"It is more like looking through a microscope rather than a telescope," Dietz divulged. "I am still working on the journey I started on, and I don’t know how it ends up for me. I never intended to do clinics; I just wanted to be a better hand. Maybe it was all the things I struggled through learning or the patience it taught me that helped me to become a teacher to people as well. Other than the greatest lessons in humility and patience, my personal growth is just that."

Dietz teaches vaquero horsemanship principles. The vaquero culture, traditions and style of horsemanship that has emerged in North America originated on the battle fields of medieval Europe.

Spaniards introduced the foundation of vaquero horsemanship in Mexico and California.

"This riding style is a fine art that takes the time to develop the horse from the beginning stages of his first time being ridden all the way to achieving the ultimate goal of him being a finished bridle horse," Freeman explained. "If done correctly, vaquero horsemanship ensures that no steps are missed in a horse’s development."

Equestrians and horses of all disciplines are encouraged to attend the clinic.

"I have trained dressage horses, working cow horses, jumpers and polo players," Dietz revealed. "It doesn’t matter. They are just labels, and I feel when we label we disable."

A dressage horse and rider can use maneuvers inherent to their discipline to complete a job on the ranch and track a cow.

Therefore, a cow working class would enable a dressage horse and rider pair to connect the maneuvers they have learned with a purpose, Dietz explained.

A rider who is able to gain control of the horse’s feet and understand how to develop a soft connection with the horse has limitless options on what can be accomplished, Hughes emphasized.

"Be it cow work or competition, reining or pleasure, it does not matter; it all relates to having control of the feet," she said.

Dietz’s approach to teaching has benefitted Hughes in her work as a personal coach and NLP Master as well as a teacher of languages.

"His mental preparation for each and every lesson, class, workshop, demonstration or clinic is nothing less than phenomenal and relates to the way I work with my clients," she noted. "He would never ever put his ego in the way or think he is better than anyone else. He has the opinion that we can learn from each other every time, and, therefore, we are on the same level of thought."

If the journey was about perfection, it would not be fun, she stated.

"So I know now that I am on the right path, and that I have found a true horseman in Paul Dietz," she continued.

For more information on how to enter one or both of the clinics presented by Paul Dietz Horsemanship, contact Stephen or Kristen Freeman of Old South Equine at oldsouthequine@gmail.com or 334-444-6183.

"Whether you have a foal that needs starting, an older trail horse, a highly accomplished ranch horse or a horse that you just can’t seem to take to that next level, Paul can help you reach your goals of improving your horsemanship, knowledge and refining your communication with your horse," Freeman said with the utmost confidence.

Resources:

www.californiabridlehorse.com

www.abc.net.au

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Veterinary Feed Directive Update

by Stephen Donaldson

August 25, the Farm Foundation held a meeting at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. The purpose of the meeting was to help everyone better understand the new regulation posed by the Food and Drug Administration. The new rule that will ultimately affect how each one of us feeds medicated feeds will take effect in December 2016. The primary purpose of the new rule is to limit the use of medically important antibiotics used in animal feeds. The claims on antibiotics used for growth and feed efficiency will be gone. It will also require a prescription, veterinary feed directive, be issued by a veterinarian before producers can feed medicated feed to livestock or poultry.

One of the issues stressed the most was the extra-label use of medicated feeds. While many veterinarians have felt they could write a prescription for an antibiotic to be fed in a method not directed on the medication label, the FDA representative made it clear that this has never been and will continue to be not permitted. The only way an antibiotic can be used in a method not on the label is if that antibiotic is in injectable or water soluble form. Again, extra-label use of feed-grade antibiotics is not permitted.

The most abused noncompliant extra-label use I have observed is the recommendation by veterinarians to feed chlortetracycline to cattle to help prevent foot rot. This practice has been and will continue to be prohibited, even with a veterinarian’s prescription.

A second point highly stressed was that there will be guidelines to dictate the veterinarian, client and patient relationship. The VCPR just mentioned will be defined and, before a VFD can be written, this relationship must exist. Currently, Alabama doesn’t define this relationship and we would be required to meet the definition as defined by FDA. One of the basic premises to this relationship is that the veterinarian has an intimate working relationship with the client and understands the management practices being imposed on the animals (patients). Without this knowledge, the veterinarian has no basis on which to write a VFD.

In Alabama, this could be a major roadblock in prescribing antibiotics used in animal feeds. In many areas, there are shortages of large animal practitioners and many veterinarians who do work with large animals don’t have a working knowledge of medicated feed formulation. This isn’t to say they can’t do this competently, but it isn’t included in their daily routine. I also worry about how the costs will be passed on to producers and if the costs will adversely affect profits.

The abundance of the new paperwork required to comply with this rule will also potentially affect the costs of medicated feed. More recordkeeping and people will be required to meet the requirements of the new rule. I also feel that some feed manufacturing facilities will no longer mix medicated feeds. Milk replacers could be one of the products affected the most because the neomycin used for growth promotion and feed efficiency will be gone and producers will be required to get a VFD before the antibiotics can be added to the milk replacer for therapeutic use.

Most of the regulatory checks will be conducted at the feed mills. FDA already has a relationship with the feed mills and it will be the most practical place to conduct regular checks. However, it wouldn’t be out of the question for FDA to do monitoring at both the farm and veterinarian.

Most on-farm mixing of medically important antibiotics will stop. If farmers want to mix Type A Medicated Antibiotics (example, CTC 50), they must first notify FDA of their intent to mix feeds containing these drugs and follow the same protocols that apply to commercial feed manufacturers. Farmers can blend Type C medicated articles (example, Aureomycin 4g crumbles) on farm without notifying FDA, but these usually are at a much higher cost per unit of medication than their more concentrated counterparts.

I know this is about as clear as mud, but what is clear is the way we feed and mix medicated animal feeds will change. We will lose the ability to mix medically important antibiotics for feed efficiency and growth promotion. It will require more planning and a relationship with a veterinarian to feed these antibiotics for disease prevention and control. It will change dramatically the way the medically important antibiotics are mixed and fed on the farm. These changes will take place in a little over a year; so we have time to adjust to these regulations to make them fit our production practices. As always, stockmen will adjust and persevere.

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



Who Are Alabama’s Hunters?

The natural human tendency is to believe that everybody else is like us.

by Corky Pugh

Just who are today’s hunters in the state of Alabama, anyway?

Because hunting occurs in out-of-the-way places, sometimes it’s difficult to see who is out there pursuing wild game in the fields and forests. Wildlife professionals who are in daily contact with hunters have a pretty clear picture, but even they are prone to see the more avid participants more frequently.

Hunters come from all walks of life: wealthy and poor, mill owners and mill workers; doctors, lawyers, janitors, construction workers, preachers, teachers … people of every vocation.

Hunting crosses all social, economic and racial lines. As hunters, we are all bound by a common love of outdoor pursuits.

According to economist Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates, the vast majority of Alabama hunters are not advantaged economically, educationally or otherwise. Southwick conducted a detailed analysis of Alabama hunters and concluded that five out of 10 resident hunting license buyers have a median household income of $47,000 or less. According to Southwick, one-third do not have a high school diploma.

Because hunters come from all walks of life, the demographics that Southwick reported should not be all that surprising. After all, there are a lot more mill workers than mill owners. There are a lot more members of the congregation than preachers.

Sometimes, though, it’s difficult for folks, bless their hearts, to get outside their own circumstances. The natural human tendency is to believe that everybody else is like us.

Thankfully, the ranks of hunters are not so few as only the upper crust of society. If that were the case, there would be a lot less hunters. And less hunters means less people to pay for management and protection of wildlife resources enjoyed by all of society.

Every hunter counts the same in terms of the licenses they buy and in terms of the three-to-one federal match that Alabama receives under the Wildlife Restoration Program. These matching dollars, derived from excise taxes on firearms and ammunition, and paid at the manufacturers’ level, are apportioned to all the states annually.

Each state’s apportionment is based essentially on the land-mass of the state and the number of licensed hunters. If Alabama’s number of licensed hunters goes down, then that share of the federal match simply goes to all the other states.

How did Southwick arrive at the characteristics of Alabama hunters? The Alabama Wildlife Federation very graciously paid $10,000 for Southwick to conduct a detailed analysis of Alabama’s hunting license database using Tapestry, a state-of-the-art demographic profiling tool. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation had previously funded the same analysis of Alabama’s licensed anglers.

Tapestry describes the expected lifestyle of an individual based on where the individual lives. Residential areas in the United States, broken down to the city block level, are divided into 65 segments based on demographic variables such as age, wealth and income, occupation, ethnicity, family status, education and consumer behavior.

The highest percentage of Alabama hunting license buyers (29.3 percent) are from a segment called Southern Satellites, characterized by single-family rural homes that are politically conservative and with preferences for country music, NASCAR and watching television. The median household income is $37,000, and their median net worth $51,000. About one-third do not have a high school diploma. These neighborhoods are dominated by a single manufacturing or construction industry.

The second highest percentage of resident hunting license buyers (13.4 percent) are from the Tapestry segment Midland Crowd, characterized by people living in rural new-housing developments that are politically conservative and pet lovers with preferences for pickup trucks, cell phones and the Internet. The median household income is $47,000. About 80 percent have a high school diploma. Workers are employed in blue collar occupations.

The third highest percentage for resident hunting license buyers (8.1 percent) came from the Rural Bypasses segment with a median household income of $26,800. Almost 40 percent have no high school diploma. About one-third live in mobile homes.

The percentages of hunting license buyers in the remaining tapestry segments were single digits.

Is Alabama unique in this regard? No. These demographics are fairly representative of hunters across the nation. Most are hard-working, middle-class people. Construction is the single most prevalent occupation of hunters, explaining why hunting participation goes up when the economy is poor and housing starts are down.

What about hunting license buying behavior?

Comparisons of several successive years of hunting license data reveal that only four out of 10 Alabama hunters purchase a license every year. Does this mean people are hunting without a license that much? No. They simply are not participating, due to constraints of time, money or a place to hunt.

Ninety-two percent of Alabama hunters are residents of the state. Eight percent are non-residents. As far as non-resident hunters coming to Alabama, one-in-three are from Florida.

The economic impact of hunting in Alabama is $1.8 billion annually, based on $1.2 billion in direct expenditures. According to the "National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation," 535,000 hunters participate annually in hunting in Alabama, spending $357,045,000 for equipment and $404,965,000 for trip-related expenses such as food, transportation and lodging.

Plain and simple, a lot of money is spent on hunting in Alabama by lots of people. Not everybody spends the same amount. Some spend a lot; most spend a little. Given what we know about Alabama hunters, most will participate in short hunts of a day or less, close to home.

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 huntingheritagefoundation.com. You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email corkypugh@mindspring.com.




“Two By Two” to the Petting Zoo


Stephanie and Charles Jones stand outside one of the two poultry houses that once held thousands of chickens before becoming the Two BY Two Petting Zoo.

Stephanie and Charles Jones follow God’s plan for them as they care for their animals and share them with the community.

by Jaine Treadwell

Animals bring a unique kind of joy to those who love them.

Stephanie and Charles Jones have always known that kind of love. So, when the Enterprise couple closed the doors to their poultry operation of 30 years, they knew they would remain on the sprawling farm that had been in Stephanie’s family for four generations.

"We didn’t know what we would do but we knew we didn’t want to leave the farm," Charles said. "We talked about different options, but we always came back to the farm."

They always knew their answer would be found in prayer. They continued to pray about their situation, knowing God would answer their prayers.

The colorful silver pheasant always attracts visitors to its pen and it knows how to strut.

The couple loved animals, from the sad-eyed cows to the strange-looking llamas and alpacas that had the run of the farm.

"We call the llamas and alpacas our yard ornaments," Stephanie said, laughing. "We loved them and every other animal on the farm. We couldn’t help ourselves. We knew we belonged on the farm."

The vacant "chicken houses" loomed large on the farm. There was no way to get away from them. They stood side-by-side like two lonely sentries.

And, it was there on that hillside that God revealed His plan for the couple.

"God spoke to me and said, ‘Use what you have and, if you work together in love, I will bless what you do.’ That’s when we knew what to do. We already had a farm with lots of animals and a big empty building. We could use what we had and we had enough animals to start a farm-animal petting zoo and a building to house them. We had all we needed for an under-one-roof petting zoo. God had answered our prayers."

Almost immediately, Charles began to design the pens for the animals and, oddly, the pens for birds were constructed first.

Ricky Wilks, center, Coffee County Farmers Co-op’s store manager, is a frequent visitor to the Two BY Two Petting Zoo in Enterprise. Stephanie and Charles Jones, who own and operate the zoo, said the support and advice from Ricky and the Co-op staff have helped make the zoo a success. The couple purchases feed, fertilizer and other products and materials from the Enterprise Co-op.

"We already had a variety of farm animals for our petting zoo, but we didn’t have any birds because, in the poultry business, you can’t have birds because of diseases birds sometimes carry," Stephanie said. "But, word was out that we were going to have a petting zoo in the chicken house and people started bringing us feathered friends – from parakeets to guineas from doves to turkeys. We had so many birds that Charles had to keep building one pen after another."

The pens for the farm animals went up rather quickly. The area in center of the long building was enclosed as a lobby and, in 2009, the petting zoo was set to open.

"We named our petting zoo Two BY Two Petting Zoo and most people think because that comes from the Bible where Noah brought the animals in two by two," Stephanie said. "But, really, the two by two comes from the two poultry houses standing side by side and us working together ‘two by two’ to make a success of our petting zoo."

Bubbles, the zebu bull, is a favorite with children and adults. Bubbles could qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest zebu bull.

All of the animals at the Two BY Two Petting Zoo are under one roof.

Right up front are the pony rides, which are a priority for all children.

The farm animal pens open to an outside penned area where the animals can go to roam around. But when the zoo has guests, the farm animals make a beeline inside.

The farm animals enjoy the attention they get from the kids, and adults, too.

"The children enjoy getting to actually touch the animals and talk to them," Stephanie said. "Many children who come to the zoo have never been close to a farm animal and some have never seen the different animals we have. Every pet in the zoo, except the birds, has a name and children quickly identify with them."

The birdcages line one long wall of the building. The more common birds include pigeons, doves, yard chickens, parakeets, cockatiels, turkeys, peacocks and pheasants. Then there are "stranger" ones such as the Swimhoe pheasants and Silkie chickens.

Along the other wall, visitors to the zoo may pet donkeys, llamas, sheep of different breeds, a zebu bull, alpacas, goats of different kinds including an angora goat, miniature donkeys, rabbits, pigs and pot-bellied pigs. The favorite among the pigs is Wilbur, the mule-foot miniature pig.

The zoo has photo boards that depict farm life. Visitors have their photographs taken as souvenirs. Stephanie, Margaret Ross and Charles showed how it’s done.

"One of the most interesting animals we have is the zebu bull," Stephanie said. "You don’t see many of them and what’s even more special about this one, Bubbles, is that he could qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest zebu bull. The one that holds the record now is 27.5 inches and Bubbles is smaller. We are going to check into that."

Stephanie and Charles Jones continue to add animals to their zoo and find ways to enhance the fun.

"We have photo displays where you can put you head into a farm scene and people of all ages enjoy that," Stephanie said. "Of course, you can bring your camera and take all the pictures you want. At the other end of the building, we have a place that is available for parties of all kinds and we decorate for the seasons."

Stephanie and Charles, their two daughters and their families invite everyone who loves farm animals and feathered friends to experience the joy only animals can bring by visiting Two BY Two Petting Zoo.

The zoo is open by appointment Monday through Saturday after 10 a.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Group rates are available and include churches, school groups, clubs and organizations.

The Two BY Two Petting Zoo is a division of Whigham Farms. The zoo is located 3 miles from downtown Enterprise at 231 County Road 540. For more information, call 334-464-0543 or visit online at www.twobytwofarms.com.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



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