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September 2013

Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Great Things Are Taking Place in 4-H!

by Chuck Hill

No matter where you look across the state of Alabama, there is always something exciting and interesting going on in 4-H. From day camps to interest clubs, young people are engaged in hands-on learning matching their interests and helping to prepare them for their future. 4-H club members are involved in their communities, mastering new abilities and developing the skills such as teamwork and problem solving that will serve them well in youth and as adults.

Clockwise from top left, the Black Creek 4-H Arrow Slingers represented Alabama and Alabama 4-H at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational in Grand Island, Neb., in June. From left: Kacey Farmer of Sand Rock, Tanner Stimpson of Black Creek, Brett Bowen of Collinsville, Andrew Fricks of Geraldine, Noah Thrower of Black Creek, Michael Glenn of Black Creek, Casey Blackwell of Black Creek and Bethany Roberts of Cedar Bluff. Brett Bowen, a member of the Alabama 4-H State Champion Compound Archery Team, placed 11th in the 3-D event on day 3 and was the 15th overall individual in compound archery at the 4-H National Championship. Casey Blackwell, Etowah County’s Black Creek 4-H Arrow Slingers, competes in Hunting Skills at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational. He was awarded 8th place in the General Hunting Skills event.

Sometimes those new abilities take them to the national stage. For example, Etowah County is the home turf of some incredibly skilled and knowledgeable archers. The Black Creek 4-H Arrow Slingers were among 540 youth from 35 states who competed at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational in Nebraska in June. The Arrow Slingers tested their skills in the disciplines of Compound Archery and Hunting Skills – and came away as the 10th-best team in the country.

The Alabama 4-H champion compound archery team – Brett Bowen, Tanner Stimpson, Noah Thrower and Kacey Farmer – walked away with a 7th place finish at Nationals. After three days of archery events, Bowen and Stimpson finished 15th and 19th in overall individual competition.

Left to right, you never know who will show up at the New Brockton Elementary 4-H Drama Club. When the group celebrated “Follies of the Past,” they were honored to have Louis Armstrong take the stage. Below, what theatrical production is complete without sharks, pirates, lobsters and maybe a surfer dude? 4-H theater arts programs help young people develop such important life skills as self-confidence and problem solving.

The Hunting Skills team – Casey Blackwell, Andrew Fricks, Michael Glenn and Bethany Roberts – took 8th place honors at the invitational. This event tested the group in an array of skills and knowledge including 3-D archery, small bore rifle and sporting clays. In addition, their knowledge of wildlife, game management, hunter decision making and general hunting skills were all put to the test. Casey Blackwell chocked up an 8th place individual finish for his abilities in general hunting skills.

Regional 4-H Agent Michael Dillon was notably proud of the group: "The state of Alabama and the Alabama 4-H Program could not have been represented by a finer group of young men and women. Amidst all the adversity, they displayed the utmost level of good sportsmanship and character on and off the field of competition."

Terri June Granger and Noah Lee were selected as Houston County’s outstanding 4-H participants. Here they are pictured with 4-H Agent Sheila M. Andreasen. Both young people are involved in a range of 4-H and community activities.

If some 4-H experiences are played out by Alabama young people on the "national stage," other events take place on a smaller, localized stage – but have the same impact of Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery. That is certainly true with the 4-H Drama Club at New Brockton Elementary School. This Coffee County group exemplifies the old adage, "If it isn’t fun, it isn’t 4-H."

Five years ago, Alabama Cooperative Extension Agent Assistant Peggy Stroud saw a need for more performing arts in her local schools and community. Based on university research and personal experience, Stroud saw the benefits of the arts in building creativity, intellectual growth and self-confidence.

Working with Mrs. Chris Sutley, director of the after-school program at New Brockton Elementary, and supported by the Twenty-First Century Grant Program, the duo created a 4-H Drama Club. Sutley chose twenty 4th-6th graders to participate. Stroud, with help from volunteers (including a 75-year-old former professional actor and dancer), began to work with the students. For two 8-week periods each year, the young people learn self-confidence, self-expression, communication, responsibility and life skills.

The group has performed several productions and participated in local parades. They have taken their shows beyond New Brockton Elementary to members of the Coffee County Retired Teachers Association, the Coffee County Board of Education and Senior Adult groups. The popular "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was the group’s latest artistic triumph.

"The children have done excellent performances," Stroud said. "It has been a very successful and rewarding endeavor. Students enjoy the learning experience, and Sutley, the New Brockton Elementary School Principal, teachers and their parents are delighted with the program and are very supportive."

Meanwhile, in Dothan, individual young people are being cited for their dedication and achievement in the Houston County 4-H program. Terri June Granger, a high school freshman and a member of Pathway 4H Club and the Houston County Horse Club, and Noah Lee, a freshman member of Pathway 4H, Cluck A Lot 4-H Poultry Club and the 4-H Horse Club, have been recognized by the Dothan Rotary Club as the county’s two Outstanding 4-H Club Members for 2012-2013. Both of these young people are involved in a wide array of 4-H opportunities, making their club, their community and their world a better place.

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

Homeplace & Community

Alabama Voices

Speaks to 300 Years of Ag

Interactive Exhibit to Open Early Next Year in State Archive

by Alvin Benn

A multi-million dollar state exhibit opens soon in Montgomery with agriculture as the centerpiece.

It’s all part of "Alabama Voices," a $7 million, 10,000-square-foot project that is rapidly taking shape in the West Wing of the state Department of Archives and History building across the street from the Capitol.

Left to right, Debbie Pendleton holds a sketch of what the new exhibit at the Alabama Department of Archives and History will look like when completed. Daniel Pratt’s early cotton gin will be placed in the agricultural section of the new state Department of Archives and History exhibit.

Scheduled to open early next year, the state-of-the-art exhibit will be more than a static museum where visitors stand and stare – it will have a much more interactive, dimensional feel and allow those who visit to be a more integral part of what they are seeing.

Families will have a chance to experience what it must have been like to live in Alabama before statehood and in the following decades and to use plow and mule power to plant, harvest and weigh cotton for shipment to anxious buyers around the world.

Georgia Ann Conner tries her hand at some “indoor plowing” at the state Department of Archives and History.

The exhibit, in effect, will be a huge time machine transporting visitors back to the past – back to Alabama’s birth and growth.

"We want to tell the full range of the Alabama experience over a 300-year history, especially the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy, politics and the daily lives of Alabamians," said Archives Director Steve Murray.

The best announcement of all, perhaps, is the funding. All those millions needed for the exhibit have been provided by private donations – corporations, foundations and individuals, thus relieving taxpayers of footing the bill. Their names will be announced soon.

When visitors enter the exhibit, they will be greeted by a large diorama focusing on an agricultural scene carefully put in place on a platform.

It will contain a chronology of Alabama’s evolution including the rush for property when settlers arrived from the Carolinas looking for land.

Some were successful with plenty of help along the way while others had to settle for something much more challenging and spent decades taming the territory, Murray said.

The diorama depicts how some settlers wound up with large tracts of land perfect for cotton plantations while most persevered with smaller parcels resulting in small family farms that became the heart, soul and backbone of rural Alabama.

Clockwise from top left, Rachel Datcher, a midwife in Shelby County. Two African American girls washing laundry. Weighing cotton on Lee Street in Montgomery. Soybean crop on the farm of William Goetz in Foley. (Credit All Photos: Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery)

Murray said the exhibit doesn’t overlook Alabama’s first settlers – Indians, trappers and others who hunted, traded and lived simply off the land until railroads came along to help the state join the Industrial Revolution.

"We haven’t forgotten the forest products industry or textiles either," Murray added. "None of this would have happened without agriculture."

This buggy was traded for a car years ago, but has a new home at the state Department of Archives and History’s new exhibit that will be opening soon.

Former Archives Director Ed Bridges, a visionary who spent 30 years as director, guided the project before his retirement last year. He knew it would take much more than money and space to bring the idea to fruition.

Teamwork, as it must be in any successful venture, was involved from the start of "Alabama Voices" which includes a collaborative effort from archaeologists, artists and fabricators to name just a few.

One of the biggest advantages of having the exhibit at the state Archives is its vast collection of all things Alabama, and Murray, who has easily assumed the role of director since Bridges’ retirement, pointed that out.

"We are able to present the experiences of Alabamians in multiple ways – through public records, private manuscripts, photographs, maps and more in addition to the artifacts visitors expect to see in a museum," he said.

The exhibit relies as much as possible on the Archives’ vast collection including more than 800 artifacts and hundreds of images. They are a small fraction of what the Archives has within its walls.

"Our goal is to tell the story in a compelling and beautiful way," said Murray, who leaves no doubt that it is being done because "this project brings together a terrific team of national talent and in-state expertise."

Debbie Pendleton, one of Murray’s top aides, is effusive in her praise for the project and lights up whenever she begins to talk about what it will be like once the final details are completed and the exhibit opens.

This dinner bell and large tree saw will be featured in the “Alabama Voices” exhibition.

"Our young visitors will become part of a 19th century farm with visions of animals, chicken coops, cast iron pots for doing the laundry and Alabama’s red clay," she said. "We’ll have interactive items later in which rural life will be shown."

Artists who create mounts for items in the diorama are working hard to finish in time for the grand opening. Some of the unique items are housed in the basement of the Archives building, just waiting to be moved to the second floor of the West Wing.

"We have a buggy that was traded in for a 1950s car," she said, pointing to a vehicle that, in its day, was an important part of family life.

Also ready for the exhibit are old pianos, huge saw blades once used to cut trees, a plow, roll-top desks, frames and many other items that will become a part of the diorama in a few months.

One of the most striking items in the basement is a large iron scale used to hang and then weigh bales of cotton. It is believed to have come from a Weil Brothers’ cotton operation.

A family in east Alabama cleaned out a barn and found more than 50 plow handles and they’ve found their way into the exhibit, said Pendleton, who also mentioned a dugout canoe and even texture to resemble mud.

Alabama is the first state to create and expand on an Archives building that has become the envy of America. It has devoted more than a century to collecting its treasure trove of Alabama history.

PRD Group, a Virginia-based company, provided the exhibit design and relied heavily on all the Archives has to offer.

Previous projects by PRD Group included state history museums in Texas and Virginia, the American Civil War Center and other projects for the Smithsonian Institution.

Another Virginia-based firm specializing in exhibit cases, lighting systems and graphics also played an important role in the Alabama project.

D&P recently finished installing items at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and also is working on the 9/11 Memorial in New York.

The theme of the exhibit couldn’t be unveiled in a more timely fashion given the release of a study showing the economic importance of agriculture to the state.

A lengthy study revealed agriculture and forestry contribute $70.4 billion annually to Alabama’s economy and account for 22 percent of the state’s workforce.

All the more reason for the Archive exhibit to focus on agriculture and forestry.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Co-op Matters

Annual Couples Conference Goes to Orange Beach

Brandon and Nicole Dillard, Hartford Farmers Co-op

There were 26 young couples sponsored to the 2013 Alabama Co-op Couples Conference, a three-day conference where participants had an opportunity to learn how cooperatives affect their everyday life. The conference was hosted by the Alabama Council of Cooperatives. The 38th annual conference was held at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach. Four of these couples were sponsored by their local Quality Co-op. Other sponsors included Alabama Ag Credit, Alabama Farm Credit, Southern States, First South Farm Credit, Dairy Farmers of America, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative and Alabama Rural Electric Cooperatives.

Couples sponsored by their local Quality Co-op are pictured. Not pictured are Brandon and Shannon Moore, Madison County Farmers Co-op.

Ray and Laura Hart, Franklin County Co-op Bryan and DeDe Monk, Central Alabama Farmers Co-op
Home Grown Tomatoes

Autumn is the Time for Salad Greens!

Two great reads to help prepare your thoughts for gardening in 2014.

by Kenn Alan

There’s always something to grow in the garden in Alabama! Right now is the time to plant your fall crops.

September brings the beginning of the end of our summer chili pepper crops, our zinnias and sunflowers for cut flowers, and basil for pesto making.

But this is the month for changing our garden and having fun. With the cooler evenings becoming more plentiful and the daylight still extending our gardening time, we can spend more quality hours preparing our beds for fall veggies.

I just started some carrots in containers and beds. This fall we’re trialing an Asian variety called Kuroda from Botanical Interests and a Ferry-Morse carrot called Red Cored Chantenay in beds. Renee’s Garden’s Round Romeo worked well in the summer, so we’re planting it again for the fall.

Since we had crop failure on our parsley earlier this year, Italian "Gigante" seeds are sown directly in beds along with Dukat Leafy Dill.

Here are a few of the seed varieties we planted here at the Tomato Tower for the fall.

Also, we love lettuces so much here at the Tomato Tower we planted more French Red Leaf Redina and Jade Gem in containers. As the heads grow, they are thinned and transplanted to borders in alternating colors.

Garnet Giant and Red Giant mustard are favorite salad greens (well ... reds) and they also taste great sautéed with mushrooms for burgers.

Bonnie Plant bunching onion sets are replanted this month to have a cool-season crop for salads and snacking. Guardsman bunching onion seeds are sown between the sets for an even later crop that produces, usually, through December.

Gourmet Blend beets and Turga parsnips round out the root-crop planting.

Mesculin mix, slow-bolt cilantro, Italian Cameo basil and Pot of Gold container chard are planted along borders for added color and intrigue.

I had great success again this year with creating more savory plants, so there are about 38 of them being transplanted to an area of the garden to create a 12-inch tall hedgerow.

Thanks to a growing herd of deer and more chipmunks and armadillos, the gourd garden had a success rate of almost 1 percent. The only surviving vine with a fruit on it ended up with a borer, so I pulled it up and will try planting again next spring. Grr!

Stop by the Quality Co-op tent at Boom Days 2013 and say hello. I’ll be there along with the fine folks from DeKalb Farmers Co-op.

Let’s get ready to save some seeds! For your reading pleasure, "SavingSeeds,PreservingTaste" by Bill Best gives insight on how and why seed selection from heirlooms is so fundamental for preserving taste as well as size and texture.

It is almost seed catalog time and this title comes to mind. I just finished reading "America’sRomancewiththeEnglishGarden" by Thomas J. Mickey. Mickey gives insight on how nursery and seed catalogs of the late 1800s had such a strong influence on our gardening styles and techniques. It’s a good read from Ohio University Press.

Speaking of English gardens, I am reminded of a story told to me by English gardener extraordinaire and former English bobby Michael Shadrack. He and his wife live in New York these days and they decided to holiday in East Anglia in the U. K. a few years ago. It was Christmas time and the height of the inflatable lawn ornament craze (giant snowmen and Santas, etc.).

Michael told us that the English garden for pleasure and satisfaction like Americans do, but English gardens are created with the focus on the homeowner’s perspective and not the view from the street.

He and his lovely wife Kathy went motoring one evening to see the decorations and it seemed that all they saw were the backsides of Santas, snowmen and carolers!

Come see me in person on Saturday, September 21, at Boom Days in Fort Payne! I’ll be there with our friends from DeKalb Farmers Co-op stores and with artist Lisa Opielinski. Please stop by and say hello!

This is a photo of me using the scuffle hoe to weed around tight plantings of chili peppers and flowers.

Boom Days is a fun festival filled with great music, art and food. Go to for more information.

Great gadgets for your garden this month. For fine point pruning and snipping flowers, I have found I like a good pair of ergonomically designed pruners.

Weeding is easier with the scuffle hoe. It only makes sense to use the forward action of hoeing to cut weeds, too. The push and pull action cuts my weeding time by up to 70 percent. Ask your local Quality Co-op store for these great gadgets.

Next month we’ll talk about my used tool collection, where I bought them and how you can find vintage garden gadgets cheap!

Happy Autumnal Equinox and I hope to see you at Boom Days!

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

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

Product Spotlight

BBB Rack Developer

by Jimmy Hughes

Even though it’s just August and the heat and humidity are at their normal unbearable state, fall is coming and the thought of deer hunting on crisp, cool days will soon become a reality. With the thought of wanting bigger deer with larger racks on most hunters’ minds, you must remember it takes proper nutrition to accomplish this.

We are proud to announce that Big Buck Blend Rack Developer has been reformulated and is now available at your local Quality Co-op. Big Buck Blend Rack Developer 20% is a deer feed designed to produce bigger deer. This high-quality 20% deer pellet contains protein, energy, minerals and vitamins in a highly palatable form deer readily consume. It not only contains the energy needed for body condition and protein needed for growth and rack development but also the proper levels of minerals and vitamins in the proper ratio to provide the deer with a greater opportunity to meet its full genetic potential for the horns all hunters are looking for.

This feed contains Mintrex Chelated Mineral Technology. The chelation process improves absorption and utilization of critical trace minerals especially during stressful times of the deer’s life.

It also contains GHP2, a microbial product that promotes gut health and leads to better utilization of feed and forage.

If you are looking for a way to supplement your deer and not just baiting them, give BBB Rack Developer 20% or one of our other high-quality deer supplements a consideration.

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

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Farm & Field

Beef Cattle Outlook

Ample Reasons for Optimistic Industry Future

by Jim Erickson

A quick look at some major trends in the U.S. cattle industry could lead to a pessimistic assessment of the future:

On Jan. 1 this year, the U.S. cattle inventory stood at 89.3 million head, the lowest level since 1952 and well below the more than 130 million head in 1975 when cattle numbers peaked. Even more significant, the size of the U.S. cattle herd has fallen in 14 of the past 16 years. In Alabama, where beef cattle production ranks second behind broilers in cash receipts, the situation was somewhat better – an increase of 1 percent in cattle numbers to 1.22 million from 2012 to this year.

The number of U.S. farms with beef cows has declined an average of 1.2 percent yearly since 1986.

Based on current trends, U.S. farmers will produce more pork than beef next year for the first time since 1952. Poultry production leads both pork and beef output by a wide margin.

However, other trends strongly suggest all is not gloom and doom for the nation’s cattle producers and, while nothing is guaranteed, there is ample reason for optimism about the industry’s future.

Cycles and trends in U.S. cattle production, a look at what’s ahead and opportunities that can help lead to improved bottom lines for producers, were explored at a recent agricultural economics seminar at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Providing a review of the industry’s trends and cycles was Dr. Ron Plain, who holds an endowed chair in the university’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

On the good news side of the ledger is the fact carcass weights have increased steadily from 650 pounds in 1960 to more than 825 pounds today. In addition to animals being heavier, they are producing much leaner beef due to improved genetics, nutrition and management, Plain said.

While many consumers may not realize it, beef has become a better bargain. From 1960 to 2012, the deflated average retail price of beef decreased 20 percent, he observed. The pricing sword is a two-edged one, of course, because the deflated average farm price of cattle has declined almost twice as much – 39 percent—during that period.

At the same time, competition for the consumer’s protein dollar also has stiffened as the deflated average retail prices of pork, chicken and turkey have declined by 24 percent, 57 percent and 62 percent, respectively, Plain noted.

The U.S. ranks first worldwide in beef production, but now is in fourth place among top beef exporting nations, falling behind India, Brazil and Australia, in that order. But when it comes to imports of beef, the U.S. again this year is in first place, Plain pointed out.

Stepping back for a "big picture" look at the nation’s position with respect to food availability, Plain quoted a Chinese proverb, "A country in which food is plentiful has many problems. A country without food has only one problem."

Quoting a fellow economist’s advice, "To fix it, you have to understand it," Dr. Glynn Tonsor, associate professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University, emphasized the importance of knowing what beef demand is all about. Beef demand is not per capita consumption, he stated, but instead is the quantity of beef consumers will purchase at a given price.

Recent strength in the domestic beef sector has been somewhat surprising, he said, adding that having optimism about the future is rational if the industry responds with efforts targeting consumer priorities.

A 2013 study of those priorities strongly suggests the industry should focus on food safety and product quality. Both issues have a major impact and can be influenced by industry actions. Price also is important, but influencing it is more difficult, Tonsor observed.

The next most important factors are nutrition and health issues.

Looking beyond the domestic market, developing nations can and should be targeted because their growing populations and disposable income will mean an expanding market for meat products.

Taking advantage of those markets won’t be easy, however. African and the Middle Eastern markets are growing, but those nations arguably are the least understood, Tonsor said. The Chinese market also is expanding rapidly, but the U.S. doesn’t enjoy the access to it that Canada does.

"Know your comparative advantage and also be aware of production costs and sales prices," he urged. "Recognize this isn’t your father’s world anymore and manage accordingly."

Expanding on the management angles, Dr. Justin Sexten, an Extension specialist in beef nutrition, noted that overall returns from a calf crop are affected by reproductive efficiency, calf health, growth rate and efficiency, all of which translate into pounds available for sale. Factors influencing the price received are production management, cattle characteristics and marketing skills.

"In many operations, morbidity and mortality prevention are the greatest opportunity for animal performance improvement," Sexten said.

Among his specific tips were:

Separate calves by age to prevent pathogen transmission from older to younger calves.

Move pregnant cows to new calving pasture to minimize pathogen load and exposure time.

For optimum reproduction, manage cows to have a body condition score from 5 to 7 at calving, unless abundant nutrients are available after calving.

Creep feeding is beneficial when performance is limited by the quantity and quality of forage and by milk production.

Sexten also pointed to the value of preconditioning and the use of technological tools (de-wormer, implants, fly control and ionophores) to boost average daily gain in stockers.

Another opportunity for boosting beef production returns is through improved forage management practices, said Dr. Rob Kallenbach, Missouri professor of plant science.

"High feed grain prices make the value of forage greater," a situation presenting "an opportunity for good forage managers to add value to livestock," Kallenbach concluded.

Your Next Meal From the Wildside


Cason makes a crawfish dance that was part of a Low Country Boil.

Versatile, Fun Cajun Delicacy

by Christy Kirk

When my family lived in Anniston, my parents would take my sister and me on day trips every now and then. They packed the car with blankets and a picnic, and drove deep into the woods. For us, the woods meant the Talladega National Forest. I remember riding in the backseat while our mom and dad found the best spot to set up camp. I am pretty sure dad had pre-scouted the locations because somehow we always ended up next to a picturesque creek with plenty of shade. My sister Jenny and I never got bored, even without toys, books or technology. It is amazing how children can find something to do or get into with a little time and imagination.

We enjoyed the peaceful surroundings and being enveloped in such a beautiful, natural environment, but we once had an encounter with wildlife we had not previously experienced: crawfish crawling along the creekbed. Although we had been to New Orleans many times and eaten a lot of local cooking, my sister and I had never seen live crawfish. Once my parents explained what they were, my sister and I caught a few to "play" with. I have caught my fair share of frogs and lizards as a mama, but I definitely don’t think I would be able to handle live crawfish now, although I would encourage our kids Rolley Len and Cason to catch them.

There are not many places left in Alabama where you can go and harvest enough crawfish to feed your family, but there are other ways to get the Cajun delicacy. Whole crawfish and tails are sold frozen in some grocery stores, but there are also aquaculture farmers who produce them for live crawfish boils and festivals.

Festivals are a great place to try crawfish because you also get a taste of Cajun culture. Besides great food, most events will have Zydeco bands and crafts or artwork. Some festivals even have pools of live crawfish for children. Mobile has an annual festival, and Huntsville hosts the Heads-N-Tails Festival in the spring. Faunsdale, near Selma, has held an annual crawfish festival in May since 1991. You can find information about festivals near you by searching online.

Many people use smaller crawfish as live bait for bass or catfish. To find them, look for wet areas like ditches on the side of a dirt road or creeks. It takes crawfish 90-120 days to mature and get to the size you would want for eating, but they can get to the size of a penny in about two weeks. This is the perfect size for bait. Seine the ditch to get the crawfish or put out minnow baskets in shallow water or branches. Jason uses an old washing machine tub to catch crawfish by covering the open end with a screen and placing it in a shallow area of the pond. Jason said that growing up this was the main way he collected bait. Be sure to tell children to pick them up by the tails so they don’t get pinched.

Easy Low Country Boil

You will see that crawfish can be fun for kids as well as delicious. When Cason saw the heap of crawfish, shrimp, corn, sausage and potatoes on the dinner table, he immediately grabbed two crawfish to make them dance. Not being able to decide what they actually were, he called them both "bugs" and "crabs." Before we showed him how to eat one, he took a chomp of one still in the shell getting a mouthful of claw. He was undeterred and ready to try again.

Crawfish are as easy to cook and as versatile as shrimp. Jason and I like them in étouffée, fried, sautéed or in a boil. Children who love shrimp will most likely like crawfish as well. Putting crawfish on the menu for your next meal is easy. Even if you can’t gather them yourself, you can still buy locally from an aquaculture farmer or your grocery store.

Crawfish Pies
(From my aunt Judy Rhodes)

2 prepared pie crusts

¼ cup butter, divided

1 cup onion, chopped

½ cup bell pepper, chopped

½ cup celery, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

1½ teaspoons salt

1 pound crawfish tails, peeled and cooked

2-3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup broth with ½ teaspoon liquid crab boil (such as Zatarains)

Sauté onions, garlic, celery and bell peppers in 1 tablespoon butter until soft, add salt then set aside. Melt remaining butter on medium heat. Slowly stir in flour (to make roux) until brown (the color of peanut butter). Add onions, garlic, celery and peppers, mixing well. Heat mixture until it is bubbling hot. Add crab boil to broth. SLOWLY add broth mixture stirring constantly. Do not let it boil over. Remove from heat and let it cool completely.

Roll out pie crust and cut each crust into four pieces.

When mixture is cool, spoon onto crust. Fold crust over and crimp the edges together with a fork. Cut slits in the top, place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until brown (about 15 minutes).

Note: To make it spicier, just add more crab boil to your broth.

Easy Low Country Boil
(for live or frozen pre-cooked)

Prep for live crawfish:

First, rinse the crawfish well while still in the bag. Then put them all in a large tub of cool water. This will help remove more external dirt and also allow the crawfish to naturally purge waste. Swirl them around to help remove dirt. Then place a small number of them in a colander and rinse them off with cool water. Do this for all of the crawfish, empty the dirty water, refill with fresh cool water and repeat this process until the water is clear (5-8 times). As you rinse, remove any debris and dead crawfish from the batch.

Prep for frozen crawfish:

Run warm water over the frozen crawfish to help thaw them. Let them sit for about 10 minutes before adding them to your boil.

For the boil:

Whole red potatoes

Link sausage (like Conecuh)

Whole crawfish

Large Gulf shrimp

Frozen corn on the cob

Crab boil seasoning (we use Louisiana’s Cajun Land)

Fill a large pot with water and add potatoes; bring to a boil. After 8 minutes, add sausage and live or frozen crawfish; bring to a boil. After 5 minutes, add shrimp; bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Add corn and the amount of seasoning you want. Let soak for 15 minutes. (The cooling allows the shellfish to soak up the spices.) Drain with a colander and serve in a heap on a table covered with butcher paper.

For more information about how to create and develop a crawfish farm, visit

Links to crawfish festival information:



Birmingham area,

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

Homeplace & Community

Determination Pays Off for Miss Rodeo USA

Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry is an outstanding representative of the rodeo industry and a true role model.

by Jade Currid

Crowned the 50th Miss Rodeo USA on January 20, 2013, in Oklahoma City, Okla., during the International Finals Rodeo, Lauren Terry is not dazzling because her veins are made of glitter but because they pulse with determination, grit and try.

A road paved with hard work, sweat, equines and dreams led Terry to the ultimate goal in a rodeo queen’s journey: winning her current title.

It is common for many young girls to entertain fantasies of becoming royalty and owning ponies.

Terry began making her own visions a reality at an early age.

She started competing in barrels when she was only 4 years old, and, upon graduating to a larger pony, she began showing Western Pleasure, a discipline she showed in for 10 years.

She credits her Western Pleasure showing experience for teaching her proper facets of horsemanship and instilling her with responsibility and dedication.

In 2004, the last year for her to show her pony Choctaw, she had a strong desire to win the State Champion title in Pony Western Pleasure.

The State Show was in Montgomery in September during blazing hot weather and Terry was in the mindset to have fun, but her father Keith Terry let her know how critical it was for her to focus and diligently ride her pony at the show.

Full of grace and beauty, Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry carries the American flag at a rodeo.

"Of course, my dad was like you’ve got to ride both days all day long, and so it’s hot and I’m out there on this pony and I want to go play with my friends," she said. "He said, ‘No, if you want to win this, you’ve got to ride this pony.’ I came out of the class a champion and it showed that putting hard work and dedication into something does pay off."

The victorious young equestrian not only emerged out of the pivotal Pony Western Pleasure class with a championship title, but with the valuable lesson that pouring your energy, efforts and time into your passion is rewarding.

She said the experience taught her she had to work harder for something she really wanted in life.

Rodeo has been a way of life for Terry from the start.

IPRA manager Dale Yerigan presents Lauren Terry with her saddle at the IFR banquet.

"I’ve competed in rodeo pageants since I was 10. I’ve been involved in rodeos all of my life. My family owns and operates Iron Rail Arena in Moulton where we host an annual rodeo each year along with some high school and 4-H events."

Her background has provided her with beneficial behind-the-scenes rodeo knowledge.

"I’ve seen the production side of things and I’ve seen what goes on and know what it takes to put on a rodeo," she said.

Winning the title she took to Miss Rodeo USA, Miss Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo, in 2012 was a huge milestone for Lauren.

She said that title meant a lot to her because she had been competing for a rodeo queen title at the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo since 2007; not only is it close to home but like her other home.

Terry sings high praise for those affiliated with the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo.

"Being among some of the greatest people in the state of Alabama was just awesome," she said. "They were a great support group. I probably had the biggest support group out in Oklahoma out of any of them … not just my family but the Limestone Pageant Committee. They just helped me out and were behind me 100 percent."

Clockwise from above, Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry visits with a young girl. Lauren has a positive influence on the younger generation. Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry, Miss ACRA Callie Newman and a fellow rodeo queen enthusiastically ride stick horses with young cowpokes. Lauren is an outstanding role model. Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry and two young cowpokes are all smiles.

In 2011, Terry had the honor of being the first recipient of the Martha Legg Spirit Award in the Limestone Sheriff’s rodeo pageant, which she said meant more to her that year than winning the title did.

Terry describes the namesake of the award as a pistol in her eighties who judges the chopped Sheriff’s Rodeo Pageant each year.

She said Martha is an amazing lady who she hopes to be like one day.

Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry presents world champion barrel racer Terri Alexander with a buckle for winning a round at the 2013 NFR.

"She has helped so many girls in rodeo queening and in life, and she is a great influence," Terry said.

When Terry met Dakota Missildine – an outstanding Alabamian, 2009 Miss Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen and former 2010 Miss Rodeo USA – at the rodeo, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

She said Dakota is like an older sister to her who sparked her fire to compete for the Miss Rodeo USA title.

A little over a decade after entering her first pageant, she is influencing young minds positively through her reign as Miss Rodeo USA.

Among her queen duties, she visits schools promoting her meritorious platform, "Roundup Respect," emphasizing to students the importance of showing everyone respect.

Her desire to teach young people about respect and aim to instill that trait into them stems from her belief that it is a strong asset to possess.

"If you don’t have respect, you are not going to get very far in life," she said.

Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry and Elmer, the Montana Silversmiths mascot, are a dynamic duo bringing joy to those they meet.

She is a firm believer that teaching children respect begins at home, but feels many have not had the strong rearing she was fortunate to have.

"I feel like not only is our country lacking respect but our communities, too," Terry added.

She has had the fortune of seeing her teaching come to fruition.

After visiting 19 schools while in Oklahoma, Lauren was at a bullriding event when a girl ventured up to her. When Terry asked if she would like an autograph, the girl replied with an informal, "Yeah."

A couple of other girls standing nearby who were in one of the classrooms Terry had visited overheard their friend’s reply and were quick to correct her.

"No, you say, ‘Yes ma’am,’" they said. "She taught us that the other day."

Terry related that witnessing this made her feel like she was able to break through to someone and that students were listening.

Her advice for young women who would like to enter a rodeo queen contest is to go for it.

"Maybe they think that’s not something they can do, but I always tell them as long as they chase their dreams and they follow them they can accomplish something," she said. "All you have to do is set your mind to it and you can do whatever you would like to do."

Competing for the Miss Rodeo USA title was not a cakewalk and consisted of late nights, early mornings, surprise elements and tough challenges.

"When we started the week off, they took our cellphones and laptops. We had no communication with the outside world," she recalled.

Terry said that parents could watch the contestants compete, but could not wave or talk to them.

Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry has been around rodeo all of her life. All cowgirl, she demonstrates her horsemanship skills.

"You could see your parents there and you knew they were there supporting you, but it was hard not to be able to walk up and hug them or give them a small wave or something," Terry said.

An unexpected saddle exercise did not unseat her.

"You had to bring a horse out of the stall. It was like a mock setting. Then you had 10 minutes to get this horse ready for grand entry and they had messed some things up on the saddle, the headstall and the breast collar. So you had to check this horse over and fix these things … which was one of the easier interviews for me, but I was so nervous beforehand because I did not know what they were about to do," she explained.

While preparing for the Miss Rodeo USA Pageant, Terry also juggled her studies at Auburn University and work.

Her mom Marsha would send her an impromptu question via email daily to help keep her mind refreshed before the competition, and Terry kept up with current events.

Before taking a year off from school to fulfill her reign, she was involved in the Auburn Young Farmers organization and Auburn’s Collegiate Young Cattlemen and Cattlewomen’s Association.

In addition to being crowned as Miss Rodeo USA, Terry garnered other honors during the IFR in Oklahoma, including being chosen as Miss Congeniality and receiving the People’s Choice Award.

Just knowing the other contestants chose her as Miss Congeniality is significant to her.

One of her most memorable experiences during her reign was making an appearance at the 55th Southern Livestock Expedition rodeo.

"I remember growing up and watching those girls in the arena do the opening ceremonies and carrying the flag. It was really awesome to be able to do that this year," she said.

Riding along with her sister Kaitlin, the current 2013 Jr. Miss Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen, at the event was a dear moment.

"That was a great experience to be able to give back, when it’s something I’ve watched for so long," Terry said.

She views her Miss Rodeo USA title as an accomplishment, a job and something she is very passionate about.

"I love rodeo and I love being able to be the spokesperson for the IPRA and helping to promote rodeos each weekend," she said.

After her reign, she plans to return to Auburn University to finish her two semesters and obtain her Animal Science Production Management degree.

She aspires to open a slaughter house for pork and beef one day.

"I would like to provide the public with fresh meat," she stated.

Being Miss Rodeo USA is more than a title or a crown. It takes a special lady to fill the role entailing being an excellent horsewoman and promoting the rodeo industry, being an articulate spokesperson, upholding the ideals that have made our country great, serving as a role model and leaving a trail of inspiration and high standards, and, most importantly, making someone’s day just a little brighter.

"I enjoy making new friends and seeing people smile," Miss Rodeo USA commented on meeting many new faces while serving in her role.

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Farm & Field

From Hayfields to Football Fields

Blake Poole loves walking through a herd of cattle.

AU Student-Athlete Named “Mr. College of Agriculture”

by John Howle

When he was growing up on a farm in Haralson County, Ga., he loved walking through his family’s cattle herd. At the time, hauling square bales of hay was the only thing he didn’t like about farming. Nowadays, he says the hayfields were a piece of cake compared to the training involved in playing football at Auburn University.

At 24 years old, Blake Poole has been on many fields ranging from hayfields to the track field and Auburn’s football field. While getting an agricultural leadership major and political science minor at Auburn, Poole is no stranger to hard work. A typical day for him begins at 4:30 a.m. with workouts with the team. After his college classes, it is on to his 30-hour-a-week job working with Dr. Foshee, professor of vegetable production and research at Auburn. Poole spends his time at this job planting and staking tomatoes and helping with the hands-on part of research.

"Dr. Foshee has been a wonderful mentor for me," Poole said. "He’s kinda like a Dad away from home."

Getting up at 4:30 in the morning for Auburn football workouts makes for a long day, but Blake Poole says it is a rewarding experience.

Poole goes to experiment stations and helps with the planting of tomatoes and a variety of vegetables for research.

"We test for herbicides, bacteria, fungicides and bugs," Poole explained. "It’s great working with Dr. Foshee and his staff, and getting paid to do it."

Poole’s strong work ethic and grateful attitude towards his professors and coaches and his friendliness towards his classmates got him the cherished title of "Mr. College of Agriculture" at Auburn this past year.

"The College of Agriculture is like one big family," Poole said.

If you walk across the Auburn campus with Poole, it doesn’t take long to realize that just about everyone on campus knows him, and he also has an uncanny ability to remember just about every name of every person he meets. I mentioned to Poole that his skill would come in handy if he ever goes into politics, and he said that is exactly what his ultimate goal is.

Blake Poole enjoys farm life and wants to make the family farm strong through future legislation.

"I’d love to go back home and start a cattle farm when I graduate," Poole remarked. "Eventually I want to go into politics and be a voice for the farmers."

Poole would love to see the family farm make a comeback and farmers be able to make a good living off the land without so much government regulation.

Poole’s family has been involved with farming for generations.

"My great-granddad moved to Haralson County, Ga., where he built outhouses and farmed," Poole said. "My Dad currently bales and sells hay, and is the Haralson County Commission Chairman."

When he was a boy, Blake Poole didn’t enjoy hauling square bales of hay, but he loves it now and says it’s easier than the drills that prepare him for football games.

Poole eventually wants to be an advocate for farmers to have more independence outside of government regulations and bring joy back to farming.

"Our government is getting too big," Poole said. "Nowadays, a family farm has to be so big it looks more like a commercial operation than a family farm."

Poole is the first to tell people that his political views are conservative.

"The EPA puts so many restrictions on modern day farms that it’s hard to make a living at just being a farmer like my grandfather was," Poole stated. "Between property taxes, regulations and inflation, farming is tough on anyone, especially those who are young and wanting to get started in the business."

Poole’s goal is to help change that through legislation and working for the farmers in addition to raising Santa Gertrudis cattle on his own farm.

While Poole looks forward to graduating next spring, he loves his time on the Auburn football field playing safety as number 32.

"I wouldn’t take anything for my youth when Dad and Granddad had me hauling those square bales of hay because it gave me a strong work ethic and made me tougher," Poole said. "Playing football at Auburn has been a great blessing, and the drills and tough work have taught me to be a man."

Blake Poole spends every moment he can studying cattle breeds and options for raising cattle on the family farm.

Poole sometimes stands out as one of the few black men when he works at cattle sales around the area with the Bit and Bridle Club.

"I know I sometimes stand out because, percentage wise, there’s not a lot of black men entering the agricultural field," Poole remarked. "But it’s OK because God has given me a vision, and I look at people’s hearts instead of their skin color."

Currently, there are grants and low-interest loans available through the Farm Services Administration that comes under the umbrella of the USDA.

"I’m currently looking into programs offered through the USDA so I can get the cattle operation started," Poole explained. "To encourage more minorities to get into farming, organizations such as FSA can help."

Meanwhile, Poole plans to put in the hard work necessary to be successful on Auburn’s football team. His hard work has already paid off. Poole has received a full scholarship for his senior year.

"I don’t play for me, I play to honor God and be a role model for youth," Poole said.

This fall, whether you see Blake Poole in the hayfield or playing safety on Auburn’s football field, you can be sure he will be working hard. Poole loves to talk about farming and can be reached at

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Co-op Matters

From the Garden ...

Corn, Corn, Corn
Pike Co-op Employees
Grow Tall Stalks
Belgian Transplant
Proud of First Tomatoes
Felix Jackson and Shawn Hughes, employees at Pike Farmers Co-op, planted some Hickory King corn in a plot next to the store. With the plentiful rainfall this year, the corn grew tall stalks. By the end of July, they had to use a ladder to reach some of the ears of corn. The largest ears were as long as 13 inches. Philippe Mahieux with AFC’s Computer Services grew his first tomatoes since moving to the United States from Belgium in 1985. They were the Bonnie Better Boy variety.
From Pastor to Pasture

Got to Leave Right Now!

What Do I Take With Me?

by Glenn Crumpler

Most of us have faced this dilemma at one time or another in our lives. A loved one has been seriously injured, become critically ill or even died, and we have to get home now. Perhaps a fire, hurricane, tornado, flood waters or another natural disaster is bearing down on us and we have to act quickly to get ourselves and our families to safety. The possibilities are limitless, I suppose, but, at some point, we will all face this situation where we have to drop whatever else we are doing, leaving everything else behind except what is absolutely necessary for our journey and survival.

I live in the Gulf Coast region of the United States where hurricane season usually starts this time of year and runs for several months. We learn to watch every tropical depression approaching the Gulf of Mexico to see if it will develop into a tropical storm. If it does, we really pay close attention and track it to see where it is headed and if it is strengthening to potentially reach hurricane force. As soon as it becomes a full-fledged hurricane, we start making emergency preparations to either wait out the storm and see if we survive or to evacuate to avoid the destructive-force winds, flood waters and tornados that usually come with it.

We are instructed and reminded time and time again by emergency personnel and first responders to have an evacuation plan and an emergency preparedness kit ready so we can leave on a moment’s notice or at least be self-sustaining if we lose power, running water, banking capabilities, access to gasoline, groceries, etc. When these storms or natural disasters come, it could be weeks before utilities are restored, debris is removed and it is safe to return home - if you have a home still standing to return to. I know the same is true in areas out West where wild fires and mudslides can happen at any time and where there is very little time to prepare to evacuate.

I ask you to play along with me in your mind and try to place yourself in one of these emergency evacuation situations. You choose whatever scenarios you can relate to, but, remember, you immediately have to drop everything you are doing, leave all of your possessions, neighbors, family and work behind. "ALL" that you can take with you is what you have already packed and prepared in advance to take with you at a moment’s notice – everything else will have to stay behind. No matter how valuable or important the possessions, relationships, property, business or assets, everything else will be left behind, expecting it will be destroyed by the disaster. What would you take with you? Are you packed and ready to go as if your life depended on it? Is there anything left undone? Is there anyone you love that is not prepared to leave with you right now to avoid the coming disaster? If you are not ready now, if your family is not ready, if your neighbors and other loved ones are not ready to leave right now - and the deadly disaster is surely and quickly approaching, what must you do to be ready yourself and ensure they are properly warned and also prepared to go? If they are not ready, you may never see them again! Please pause here and think these questions through before you continue reading.

It can be scary and stressful to imagine having to leave everything and everyone you love behind in an instant, knowing that whoever and whatever is left behind will likely be lost. It is, however, a scenario you and I will personally face and urgently need to be getting ready for right now! It also begs the question: If all that will survive the coming disaster is what I can take with me, what can and should I be investing my time, effort, money and life into that will survive the coming destruction?

In Matthew 24, Jesus taught about the signs of the end of this world when He will return to gather His own and to judge the world. If you read this chapter, you will see the signs are evident that we are in the last days and His coming is in short order. He tells us no one knows the day or the hour of His return, but God the Father; but the signs point that the time is near -it could be at any moment! We had better be ready! We had better warn those we love and others we do not want to see destroyed to get ready also!

Jesus said that as it was in the day of Noah when the floods came and destroyed all of life that was not prepared for the storm, so it will be for those of us who are not ready when He returns. "For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark: and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him."

I Corinthians 15 tells us His coming will be "In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye." If we are not ready before He comes, we will not be ready when He comes! Just like the hurricane, mudslide or the tornado, once He gets here it will be too late to prepare! His salvation and his judgment will be swift, but our preparations now will determine which one we and others will face.

Psalms 49 tells us that no amount of wealth, prestige, success, recognition, memorials or possessions will be able to save us or earn us merit. None of those things can be taken with us when we go - they all will either be destroyed or left behind.

So, what can we take with us? The Bible is clear that all we can take with us is our salvation (if we have turned to God in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ), what we have invested in the Kingdom’s work, and the souls of others we have led to faith in Jesus Christ.

Time is short! What and who will you take with 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

Homeplace & Community

Green Tomatoes

Fried Isn’t Your Only Choice

by Jane Frobose

If cooler temperatures are threatening the remains of your tomato crop, here’s good news. You can do a lot with tomatoes, even if they aren’t ruby red! Though tomatoes are best when they are vine-ripened to a dark red, you can salvage and enjoy them when they are only partially red or even when they’re still green. You also can extend the harvest season. Protect tomato plants against early fall frosts by covering the plants in the evening when frost is predicted. Cover with burlap, cardboard boxes or old sheets. Remove coverings during the daylight hours. You also can use plastic sheeting, but if the plastic touches the plant, injury will occur. A better alternative may be to construct a temporary plastic greenhouse over the plants. Support the plastic so it doesn’t come in contact with the foliage. Ventilate to prevent excess buildup of heat during the day.

Later, when frosts occur regularly, there will not be enough ground heat to prevent freezing within the shelter. During the fall when frost is likely, mature green fruit can be picked and will develop a red color when kept in a fairly warm, dry place. When you harvest, remove the stems from the tomatoes. Wash and dry them before storing. Be careful not to break the skins. Separate the green tomatoes from those showing red. Place green mature tomatoes in a room where the temperature is 60-70 degrees F. The tomatoes will ripen over a period of two to four weeks. Sunlight is not needed to ripen green-ripe tomatoes, so don’t bother to put them on window sills. They ripen satisfactorily in the dark. Generally, tomatoes store best at 55-60 degrees in moderate humidity and with good air circulation. Check tomatoes once a week to monitor the ripening. Remove the ripe ones and any that have begun to decay. Store ripened tomatoes in a basement storage room up to one month. You also can wash the mature green fruits in a weak solution of household bleach and then wrap in paper to store and ripen. Or, some people pull up the vines just before frost and hang them in the basement or garage to ripen. The fruit is in the "mature-green" state if the tissues are gelatinous or sticky when the tomato is cut and if the tomato interior is yellowish. Immature green tomatoes don’t ripen satisfactorily. To check your judgment of mature green, cut a tomato in half. If the pulp filling the compartments is jelly-like, it is mature green. The seeds are dragged aside easily by a knife and not cut through. In immature green tomatoes, seeds are easily cut through and the jelly-like pulp has not yet developed.

Usually you also can recognize the mature green ones by their glossiness and more whitish green color. "But what do I do with green tomatoes?" If you’re near the Whistle Stop Cafe, fried green tomatoes may be the order of the day. But for a more heart-healthy approach, try some of these suggestions.

Broiled Green Tomatoes with Cheese

Celery salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Bread crumbs, finely ground

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten well and diluted with 2 Tablespoons water

Wash green tomatoes. Drain and dry. Cut tomatoes crosswise into halves and slice a small piece off the tops and the bottoms. Sprinkle with celery salt and pepper. Combine bread crumbs and cheese. Dip tomato halves in bread crumb mixture. Dip in egg-water mixture. Dip again in bread crumbs.

Place breaded halves on a greased pan in a moderate oven, 375 degrees and bake until they are nearly soft.Place under broiler, turning once, until they are brown.

Green Tomato Pie

In many American homes the beginning of fall is heralded by a green tomato pie. Made with the fruits saved from the first frost, it is a delightful dessert.

4 or 5 really green tomatoes (2½ cups coarsely grated)

Pastry for an 8-inch 2-crust pie

1½ cups brown sugar

3 Tablespoons flour

Rind of l lemon, finely grated

6 Tablespoons lemon juice

½ cup golden raisins

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ cup candied ginger, minced

Put tomatoes through a coarse grater or a food processor’s large shredder. Put in a colander and let drain overnight. Prepare double pie crust. Line 8-inch pie pan with half. Roll out second half and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients with tomatoes. Place in pie shell and cover with top crust. Prick holes in crust.Bake in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Green Tomato Salsa

Green Salsa Dressing

A variety of Mexican salsa, this dressing can be used as a topping for beans and rice, or mixed with beans to make a salad. Makes 1 2/3 cups.

1 cup green tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 fresh jalapeno pepper or

chili pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 scallions, green and white parts, cut into l-inch lengths

1/3 cup water

2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine green tomatoes, pepper, garlic, scallions and water in a 4-cup glass measure or small microwave safe mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave at High for two minutes. Let stand one minute. Pick plastic to release steam. Remove from oven and uncover carefully. Scrape into a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Green Tomato Salsa

A good way to use unripe tomatoes at the end of the season.

5 medium green tomatoes

2 jalapeno peppers

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Stewed Green Tomatoes

Delicious as a side-dish when served with a hearty meat entree. 4 servings.

2 Tablespoons onion, minced

2 Tablespoons vegetable margarine

2 cups green tomatoes, sliced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped(garnish)

Sauté onions in margarine in sauce pan until light brown. Add green tomatoes. Stir and cook tomatoes slowly until tender. Season with remaining ingredients except parsley. Garnish with parsley.

Jane Frobose is with Colorado State University Extension, Denver County.

On the Edge of Common Sense

Hay Fever and Cars

by Baxter Black, DVM

In searching for a cause to explain the increase in "hay fever" incidence in humans, some scientists have postulated it might be the increase in the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. Hmm?

In their defense, scientists are allowed, even encouraged, to speculate. In this case, their reasoning is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide has increased in our atmosphere. CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere. The increase in temperature causes more plants to grow. The more plants that grow, the more pollen they produce. THUS … the more you drive the more you sneeze!

We read their speculations in the newspaper, therefore … we think it is true! We tell our friends, our family, our children, columnists write about it and carnival barkers concoct miraculous cures for it. It becomes common knowledge and a celebrity endorses it, when, in fact, no one has ever scientifically proven it to be true.

It is the same scenario driving the "climate change/global warming" controversy, the "alternative medicine" controversy and the "origin of the universe" controversy.

I remember a big story when "experts" were proclaiming red meat caused colon cancer. They based their conclusions on this reasoning – Fact: Americans have more colon cancer than Japanese; Americans eat more red meat than Japanese. Therefore, red meat causes colon cancer.

Mathematicians are able to calculate the statistical significance of a conclusion of an experiment. It is expressed as the P value. The lower the number, the more likely the conclusion is valid. When claims are made expressing a product will do what it says on the label, it must be demonstrated in trials or tests that are statistically significant. If the product is a medicine, dewormer or feed additive, for instance, it must satisfy the FDA’s stringent requirements through repetition that the product will do what it claims. Those are the rules true science adheres to.

Well, obviously, broad proclamations by scientists of their time have been made since the beginning of curiosity. The earth, the sky and the universe offer enough puzzles to keep us busy forever. They continue and the "hay fever/fossil fuel" speculation is just that - scientists pondering and dreaming. But this is how miraculous discoveries are finally made, studied and eventually one in a million is proven to be true.

Eventually the colon cancer incidence in Americans vs. Japanese was not shown to be caused by eating more red meat; there were too many variables. Today many claim the lower incidence is related to the Japanese fish diet high in cod liver oil … but it still remains conjecture. As for our good scientist’s proposition about driving your car as being the cause of hay fever, how ‘bout this for an alternative theory: In 1970, the world population was 3.7 billion. Today the world population is 7 billion … twice as many. Humans inhale oxygen made by plants. Plants absorb CO2 made by humans. Thus, the blame for hay fever could be the increased number of people exhaling CO2 that the plants then use to grow and generate pollen.

This hypothesis allows for other factors such as athletic humans who generate fractionally more CO2 then sedentary humans … suggesting that jogging, basketball and playing tennis may be the root cause of hay fever. Every workout gym would be required to post warnings declaring, "Exercise causes hay fever and pollination! Breathe with Caution!" Ah Choo!

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,

How's Your Garden?

Oxalis, a perennial in Alabama, is tolerant of neglect and abuse so it makes a good addition to any garden. In addition, it does well in shade.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

This Calculator Measures Sun’s Rays

Our backyard is shaded by neighbors’ trees part of the day, so I’ve often wondered if we get enough sun to bring out the potential of our vegetables. To help us rely less than on a guess, my husband ordered a clever little tool called a Suncalc (made by Luster Leaf) that measures the amount of accumulated solar energy in a spot. Easy to use, you just put it in place very early one morning and remove it after dark. At $25 or less, this is a great little tool that has helped us identify the sunniest areas of our garden and we recommend it to anyone who would like to do the same.

Oxalis is Tough

One of the most impressive little plants in our garden is a beautiful little oxalis. There are several on the market you can find by shopping the bulbs section of your favorite garden center or from bulb specialists online. What I have found most impressive about this plant, beyond its beauty, is tolerance to neglect and abuse. I unknowingly moved a piece of it to another part of the garden, where it came up anyway - no matter how I might have chopped the roots getting it there. Oxalis is a perennial in Alabama and the foliage is semi-evergreen in the mildest parts of the state. You can buy plants in pots or you can start oxalis from shriveled tubers in the fall. There are several species and colors including very striking purple-leafed types. These are easy to plant and ignore. They like shade, which is good news for adding flowers to a wooded garden.

A grouping of peppers can make a simple, yet beautiful centerpiece.

Onion Sets for Scallions

Fall is the time to set out onion sets for a crop of scallions. Because most sets are long-day storage varieties, don’t expect a big crop of bulbs from them, but they are a good way to grow lots of scallions for winter and spring. For bulbing onions, either start from seeds or transplants.

Peppers as a Centerpiece

Now is the time when pepper plants start loading up with fruit, especially the hot peppers. With hot peppers, the abundance of peppers is a beautiful sight you can also use to make a simple beautiful centerpiece such as this simple grouping on a platter for a few days before cooking.

Mint Plants Need Their Own Refreshing

Give mint a trim and a shot of liquid plant food to watch it recover from the summer doldrums. The tender new stems in fall add great flavor to lemonade, tea or atop fresh fruit. Simply trim back about a third of the plant to encourage new growth as the nights cool.

Tame Sweet Autumn Clematis

Our native clematis has always tempted me with its great fragrance, but it can be such a runaway nuisance. One gardener I visited in Norman, Okla., solved this problem by giving it a tall trellis on which to run. The trellis created a wall of green that was also a great backdrop for grasses and flowers.

Clockwise from left, Trim mint as nights begin to cool. The tender new stems add great flavor to drinks or fruit in the fall. Use a tall trellis to train clematis so it doesn’t become a runaway nusiance. Gaillardia, as well as zinnia, marigolds, morning glory and more, will restart each year if seed heads are clipped and stored in a sealed plastic bag to store over winter.

Collecting Seeds

Some annual garden flowers restart themselves from seed from year to year if you encourage them. Easy ones such as zinnia, cosmos, marigolds, morning glory, gaillardia and sunflowers should have seed heads on them now that you can clip and store in a sealed plastic bag to scatter on the ground in very early spring. Many of these will reseed on their own if you leave the seeds to fall on the ground, too.

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

Feeding Facts

New Deer Regulations for Alabama

by Jimmy Hughes

As fall fast approaches and with football season about to kick into full gear, it won’t be long until hunters prepare for the winter deer hunting season. With this in mind, some new regulations and laws have been established to regulate the legality of using feed or attractant as a way to lure deer. I want to take this opportunity to inform you about the new regulations as a way to hopefully give you some information as you make decisions concerning this.

As always, from a nutritional standpoint, I do believe there is a difference between supplementing deer and baiting deer. I am a proponent of the use of deer feed to provide all the needed nutrients for the deer to reach its full genetic potential. These nutrients are protein, energy, minerals and vitamins.

If, as a hunter, you manage the nutrition of your deer, you are much more likely to improve the quality of your deer leading to bigger deer and larger-racked deer in your area. In my opinion, the use of corn is not a supplement but an attractant. While corn is high in energy, it is low in protein and does not contain the needed amounts of minerals or vitamins to meet the requirements for deer on a daily basis.

With all this said, let’s look at the new regulations and some possible questions concerning these regulations. The law, which has really not changed but has been clarified as it applies to the hunting of deer and feral swine, states that there shall be a rebuttable presumption that any bait or feed located beyond 100 yards from the hunter and not within the line of sight of the hunter is not a lure, attraction or enticement to, on or over the area where the hunter is attempting to kill or take the deer or feral swine. For the purpose of this regulation, "not within the line of sight" means being hidden from view by natural vegetation or naturally occurring terrain features. This regulation shall not apply on public lands.

With this law come several questions concerning what is legal and not legal as far as definition of the law is concerned. Some of the more common questions as well as answers are as follows:

Does the law make it legal to hunt over bait? No. The law still prohibits the taking of protected game animals by aid of bait. The new regulation clarifies the enforcement of the law in establishing where one may place supplemental feed in relation to the hunting area.

I have placed my feeder 200 yards straight away from my stand. Is it legal to hunt here? Not if the feeder is visible. The regulation states the feeder must be beyond 100 yards and not within line of sight.

If I put the feed behind a tree which blocks the line of sight at a distance of 101 yards will it be legal? Not necessarily. If it is apparent to law officials that the hunter is actively attempting to take deer attracted to feed and the officer can offer supporting evidence, then the hunter is subject to arrest. I would suggest, as a hunter, you remove any marginal-type situations.

Does the new law specify the type feed that can be used? Although I was vocal in the need to specify that the feed be a complete feed offering high-quality protein, energy, and minerals and vitamins, the law does not state a specific feed type or method of feeding.

If I have supplemental feed further than 100 yards away and out of the line of sight, can I retrieve a deer harvested closer than 100 yards from the feed? Yes, the regulations only address the distance and visibility between the hunter and the feed.

If I walk by the feeding station on my way to the stand, but don’t attempt to take a deer, am I legal? Yes, you would be considered legal, but, at the same time, you do not want to give the appearance to any officer that you may be hunting when you go by the station. I would suggest you either change your route or at the least unload your firearm.

Can I spread corn out in deep grass beyond the 100 yards? No, the intent of the law is to regulate where persons can place feed. Remember the feed site should never be within the line of the sight of the hunter.

Does this law apply to private and leased properties? Yes, property leased by individuals for hunting purposes is considered private for the purpose of this regulation. National Forest Lands, Wildlife Management Areas and those properties open for public hunting are not covered under the new regulations and supplemental feed should not be placed on these properties.

I hope this cleared up some questions you may have concerning what is legal and not legal as far as baiting is concerned. The best approach is to use common sense and try not to circumvent the spirit of the law. The regulation is very simple: 100 yards away and out of your line of sight. Any attempt to "push the envelope" on this could still lead to issues with officials.

Again, if you are looking to supplement your deer in a proper manner, I would suggest you consider a complete feed to meet the needs of your deer for all nutrients. Your local Quality Co-op carries a full line of deer feed and supplements. If you need additional information or would like to talk with me, my number is 256-947-7886 and my email is

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Homeplace & Community

NuSprint Turf Annual Ryegrass Fine-Tuned for Homeowners and Landscapers

Sitting alongside the Santiam River in Lebanon, Ore., lies OreGro Seeds Inc. research farm. Director of Research Matt Herb is a former agriculture educator turned plant breeder.

According to Herb, "Consumers would be surprised where we find the genetics for the grasses they use for their lawns and pastures. Some new varieties originated from plants I’ve dug out of old cemeteries in the South and pastures planted decades ago."

In the natural environment -- untouched by man, plants naturally self-select to survive disease and drought pressures. Herb has used these genetics to breed 42 OreGro varieties including NuSprint Turf Annual Ryegrass.

Over the course of 7 years, he has carefully selected NuSprint from a pair of ryegrass plants. The first plant is a dense-leafed, dark-green annual ryegrass found along a country road in Lebanon. The second plant, a perennial ryegrass, he found in a heavily grazed, dry-land pasture in central Oregon. Both plants had turf characteristics, but they lacked the fine-tuning homeowners and landscapers look for in today’s turf products.

The first year, Herb allowed the seeds from both plants to cross pollinate in isolation. The next generation showed lawns such as annual ryegrass, but each plant had a dark-green color, dense crowns and the fine texture of the parent perennial ryegrass plant.

"It was a unique situation, annual ryegrass isn’t supposed to look like that. Annual ryegrass should have large, wide leaves with a pale-green color like a forage grass. This has all the appearance of a turf!" he said.

Concerned about uniformity and the potential for these new plants to revert back to their forage-type ancestors, he conducted 6 more years of plant selections and cycles. When a breeder is conducting plant cycles, he has to know exactly what the producer would like the end result to be. What we have now is one of the first turf-type annual ryegrass varieties of its kind to be marketed in the United States.

The benefits of NuSprint Turf Annual Ryegrass over a perennial ryegrass are twofold. NuSprint is much faster to establish than perennial ryegrass and has quicker spring transition to allow the warm-season turf to take over. NuSprint has all of the fine qualities of a turf perennial ryegrass -- dark green color and finer leaves -- for a fraction of the cost.

NuSprint Turf Type Annual Ryegrass is distributed throughout Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia by Agri-AFC. For more information or to check availability, please talk with your local Quality Co-op store or contact the Seed Department of Agri-AFC in Decatur at 256-560-2848.

The Herb Lady

Pain Relief

by Nadine Johnson

When Shirley and I met, we bonded quickly and became great friends. We both attend the Daphne Senior Center and Eastern Shore Baptist Church. We sit together as a rule.

Soon she learned of my strong interest in herbs and my improved health from taking alternatives.

One day she said, "I’d like to share a health problem with you."

Now she has given permission for me to share the story with my readers.

In late 2009, Shirley slipped in the shower. She hit the shower wall with her shoulder. The result was (in her words) "a pain which wouldn’t quit." Several days later, she saw a physician who is a known shoulder specialist. A MRI was performed. On receiving this report, her doctor stated that her rotator cuff was severely damaged and could not be operated on.

On her doctor’s recommendation, Shirley received treatment by a therapist. After a reasonable length of time, she discontinued therapy. There was no improvement at all. She then attended a gym for daily workouts which helped somewhat. Applying Icy Hot gave a bit of relief. She had healed, but was not relieved.

In October 2012, she told me this story and asked, "Do you think there is an alternative product which might help me?"

Together we reviewed several products. She decided to take one which looked promising. These words are written on the bottle, "Provides nutrients for proper structural system function vital for bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and skin."

She began to take this in November 2012. After several days, she detected a wee bit of improvement. Soon she was a bit better every day. After six months her pain was gone.

She happily stated, "It’s been a long time since I felt this good. I can finally raise my arms above my head -- all the way up, again."

She is now taking the fourth bottle of this supplement and plans to take it for the rest of her life. She also plans to continue her exercises at the gym.

Isn’t it amazing that a simple mixture of vitamins, minerals and herbs can provide this kind of relief! (The primary herbs are horsetail, papaya fruit, parsley, pineapple, valerian and licorice root.)

It is advisable to consult your doctor before taking any herbal remedy.

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

Youth Matters

PALS and Billingsley School Celebrate Earth Day

by Mary Stanford

PALS and Billingsley School celebrated "Earth Day" with the motto "Don’t Drop It On Alabama." Tammy Tindol, a gifted teacher at Billingsley, invited me to be part of their Earth Day celebration. Alabama PALS partnered with the school as part of the Clean Campus Program. I spoke with the students about the importance of keeping their school and community clean. The program offered an opportunity for students and faculty to be recognized for future efforts.

An educational program was presented and students participated in an activity.

The purpose of the Clean Campus Program is to implement litter education and involvement in school and community cleanup efforts.

Students learned they can make a difference. Billingsley has a greenhouse and will be using PALS as a springboard for implementing litter education in their school. All the students took an Alabama PALS clean campus pledge.

If you would like a visit from PALS, call 334-224-7594 or email

Mary Mitchell Stanford is PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Our Outdoor Heritage


by Corky Pugh

Putting things in perspective involves a proper evaluation with proportional importance given to the component parts. Also, according to Webster, perspective means "the relationship of the parts of a whole, regarded from a particular standpoint or point in time."

Our point in time, September 2013, is one from which most of us have a difficult time imagining what it was like when there were no deer or turkeys pretty much anywhere. And this was the case not that many years ago. What if you went hunting and couldn’t find so much as a track? That’s what your father or grandfather did.

The relative abundance we now enjoy is easily taken for granted. We have raised a generation who does not have a clue, and it’s not their fault. It’s our fault because we haven’t taught them any better. Many folks, hunters and non-hunters alike, have no idea you and I and the hunters who have come before us have paid for wildlife restoration in America. Our hunting license dollars, matched three-to-one with federal excise taxes collected at the manufacturers’ level on sporting arms and ammunition, have paid for management and protection of wildlife resources for 76 years.

When people take things for granted, they tend to neglect them. Taking wildlife abundance and related hunting opportunities for granted does not bode well for the future. Aside from the direct enjoyment by hunters of abundant and healthy wildlife populations, there are considerable economic and societal benefits to everyone.

How easy it is to simply sit back and enjoy the present. Our present-day hunting opportunities are the best in history, and anybody who tries to convince you otherwise just doesn’t have their facts straight.

Tom Kelly, in a recent "Short Spurs" article in TurkeyCountry, the official magazine of the National Wild Turkey Federation, noted, "With the single exception of quail, and there are some recent signs of real hope in quail production, the populations of game birds and animals in North America are in better condition now than they have been at any time during the last 55 years, and yet the number of hunters continues to diminish."

Before anybody jumps to conclusions about cause and effect, hunters are the reason there are now abundant wildlife resources. The admittedly self-serving purpose of perpetuating sustainable populations of huntable wildlife is what drove the adoption of public policy in the form of the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937. This historic Congressional Act established the funding mechanism whereby hunters’ purchases of guns and ammunition (and later archery equipment) provided a tax base for matching state hunting license dollars to pay for management and protection of wildlife resources.

Because every hunter counts the same – we all buy one license and get counted once for the three-to-one federal match – it is critical to keep the base of hunters strong and broad.

Tom’s incisive, first-hand observations about the difficulty of recruiting new hunters into our ranks, given the realities of city life and young people’s busy schedules, are spot-on. He wrote of his own personal difficulty in passing the hunting heritage along to twin 8-year-old grandchildren who reside in Washington, D. C.

As he puts it, "You can’t make kids like something by edict, but we have got to figure out a way to bring new players into the league."

NWTF’s current focus, "Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.," is a laudable move in the right direction. This two-pronged initiative recognizes that for wildlife to thrive, suitable habitats must be sustained, but participation in hunting must also be perpetuated. As a leader among hunting organizations, NWTF has set an example that, if followed by all, can make a real difference.

But there are many factors at play, not the least of which are unnecessary regulations and divisiveness within the community of hunters.

As Kelly puts it, "What bothers me in our society is we seem to be willing to wear leather shoes and eat steak in perfect contentment, so long as somebody else butchers the steer. We are also a society that constantly comes up with more and more ground rules designed to harass hunters and hunting. Hunting seems to be a sport dying of neglect, while at the same time the game being hunted continues to increase in a manner that would have seemed impossibly optimistic 50 years ago."

So what can you and I do about all of this?

First of all, make a commitment to take a younger person hunting this season. And commit to do this in a way that recognizes the realities of today. An extended trip into the wild may not be what today’s 9-year-old is particularly interested in. But a couple of hours chasing squirrels or sitting in a deer blind together may be something you both remember fondly forever and that sparks a life-long interest in hunting. Remember how you got started? Who was the special person who first taught you?

While you’re spending time together, explain the history of wildlife restoration to the kid. The story is simple – hunters pay for wildlife. And it’s a good bet they’re not learning it in school.

Pay attention to the creep factor in laws and regulations dictating what you can and cannot do while hunting. Sometimes incremental, sometimes shockingly abrupt, these shifts in public policy are driven by a range of factors, some product-based, some by over-zealous bureaucrats and some by well-meaning folks who think more rules and regulations are "good conservation." Anything that reduces hunter opportunity or imposes unnecessary requirements bears watching, especially in this era of relative abundance. In like fashion, anything throwing caution to the wind – especially in terms of public support for hunting, or, worse yet, ignores the standing body of science – should be suspect.

Practice and preach tolerance and respect for fellow hunters. According to Kelly, "All hunters are in this together no matter what we hunt, and we have no room to fight among ourselves."

For those who have read Kelly’s writing for the past 40 or 50 years, you understand he has not always felt this way. But his new understanding of the importance of unity among the community of hunters is one we would all benefit from.

Corky Pugh is theexecutive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

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

Through the Fence

Pig Pen Motivation

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

There’s nothing like working in a filthy pig pen to help a guy contemplate a life change. All possible options that were unclear before suddenly come into sharp focus. It’s like the Biblical story of the prodigal son. After he’d blown his half of his daddy’s fortune, he knew he needed to do something different. It wasn’t until he was knee-deep in mud and pig manure that he was able to formulate a plan.

A similar scenario happened to my daughter’s friend Reed when he was a young man fresh out of high school. He wasn’t ready to start college and didn’t have any promising job leads. So the best option for him was military enlistment. He was excited about his future, but the Air Force wasn’t quite ready for him to begin his training and gave him a deferred entry. He had several weeks to say good-bye to his friends and twiddle his thumbs. But he had to make a little money, so his buddy got him a job on a pig farm in Oklahoma.

It was actually more like a factory than a farm. There were two gigantic barns housing a thousand pigs each. Depending on their size and weight, there were about 10-15 pigs in each 8x10 pen. The pens had expanded metal grates for floors so all the pee and poop would eventually fall through and get hosed down. Even though the cleaning was done regularly, there was always a thick layer of stinky slimy excrement in the pens. The acrid smell of ammonia was enough to singe one’s nose hairs.

Since pigs are very susceptible to disease, the workers had to take extraordinary measures to ensure no harmful microbes entered the facility. The men had to enter a sealed room and undress. From there, they proceeded to a communal showering area where they washed with high-powered antibacterial soap. Then they would exit on the opposite side and suit up in sterile, disposable garments.

Reed’s job was to administer an array of vaccines and other medicines to the pigs. He held the syringe in one hand and a colored grease marker in another — to make sure no animal was double dosed. The first shot was always easy since the pigs were still calm and sleepy in the mornings. But after that, it was mass chaos. The first pig began squealing and the rest of them within earshot began to panic. They’d all scamper to one side of the pen and huddle closely. Then the pig on the bottom of the pile would get claustrophobic and start squealing and scrambling to get out from underneath the weight of his pen mates. Reed would grab another pig, give it a shot and the panic would escalate another notch. In a few moments, the noise would reach an ear-splitting pitch.

It was hard enough to hang on to a hysterical, wriggling pig, but the slick floor made it even more difficult. Even with sharp, cloven hooves, it was hard for the pigs to get much traction. The little guys weren’t as bad, but trying to give a shot to a four-month-old pig weighing well over 100 pounds was a different story.

Beginning at 6 in the morning until mid-afternoon, Reed would go from pen to pen repeating the procedure — grab an unwilling pig, inject the premeasured medicine from a syringe gun, mark it, let it go and grab another. By the end of his shift, he’d be exhausted, frustrated and covered from the knee down in dirt, sweat and pig goo.

One day towards the end of the afternoon, he accidentally jabbed himself in the leg with the huge needle designed to penetrate thick pig skin. Luckily he didn’t pull the trigger. But that day he looked around and knew it was time for a change. It was only a few more days until he would begin boot camp. He actually looked forward to being rudely awakened in the predawn hours and running in full combat uniform. Compared to what he’d been doing, that was going to be pleasant.

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

Homeplace & Community

Preserving the Past to Educate the Future

by Anna Pitts Wright

Speckled throughout the rural landscape of Skyline in Jackson County are a handful of sandstone buildings. Unknown to many, these structures represent a time and place in history. "Skyline Farms Colony" was formed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program in 1934. For Depression-stricken tenant farmers, this program offered 40 acres and a mule, membership in a co-op supply store, a home with an outhouse, healthcare and the opportunity of an education for their children. This colony was expected to be one small spark to help ignite the country’s recovery from the Great Depression.

Left to right, the Rock Store was once the commissary for Skyline Farms. Today it houses the Skyline Farms Heritage Association Museum. Made of locally quarried sandstone, it is on the State Historical Registry and the Association is working to make it a part of the National Historic Register. A plaque is masoned into the sandstone of the store. It is in close proximity to the Rock Scool. They both contributed to encouraging the community. (Credit All Photos: Skyline Farms Heritage Association)

Before the first seed was ever planted, Skyline was just 18,000 acres of coal mining and timberland. Many local men were employed as road workers to cut a road from Scottsboro up the mountain to where Skyline is today. In 1934, Jackson County Probate Judge J.M. Money made a phone call to his U.S. senators to let them know a section of land on Cumberland Mountain was for sale. He and other representatives from the area drove to Montgomery to talk with the Federal Emergency Relief Administration about the opportunity for their county to benefit from the New Deal. The ample farm land and availability to the future TVA made Skyline and Jackson County a perfect fit.

Skyline Farms Colony consisted of more than 200 farmers. They took a chance on this new program by agreeing to a 40-year loan at a 3 percent interest rate. This program was not a hand out. Families had to work to clear their land, help build their homes and farm the land.

Clockwise from above, artifacts donated by locals are arranged in the museum to further tell the story of Skyline Heritage Farms. Middle Tennessee State University has helped the Skyline Heritage Farms Association organize all the artifacts in the museum. The commissary now showcases artifacts used during the time of the Skyline Farms colony.

Not just the farmers benefited from this colony. FDR wanted the communities to thrive so morale would be lifted, and community was a very important part of the farming colony. Other people were employed at the commissary, in the doctor’s office, as carpenters who built furniture for homes, in the school, as road workers, at the cotton gin and as recreation leaders. Musicians and square dancers entertained the members of the colony. A group of musicians and dancers were invited to the White House to perform for the Roosevelts during a party.

Education was one of the most successful features of this colony. The school building began construction in 1936. Skilled masons were hired to build the school while teaching workers the trade of masonry. Two years later, the school was opened and about 420 children were in attendance. Today, a portion of Skyline Elementary School still uses the sandstone part of the school.

The Rock School is a part of the Skyline School campus and was built in 1936. Education was one of the great benefits of the farming colony.

Architect W.H. Kessler designed some of the locally quarried sandstone homes, school and other buildings in the colony. Sandstone chimneys, foundations and even complete houses peek through the landscapes today as evidence of those colony homes build in the 1930s.

The Skyline Farms Heritage Association is a grassroots group primarily devoted to the preservation of the original buildings used in the colony. They are using their time and energy to preserve the historical legacy the farming colony has had on their local town.

Today, their main project is preserving what locals call the Rock Store from weather damage. The store was once the commissary of the farming colony and was the main hub of life for families in Skyline in the 1930s. The store now serves as the Skyline Farms Heritage Museum. A warehouse and cotton gin were both located behind the commissary. With help from Middle Tennessee State University and Northeast Alabama Community College, the association has organized and arranged artifacts donated by locals to tell the story of the farm colony. The museum is open in the spring and summer on a biweekly basis and by appointment at any time during the year.

One of the future plans includes buying the rock building across the road from the Rock Store. This was the farm manager’s office, and where farmers went to sign up for the program and get loans to plant their crops. Financial support and grants are helping the association reach this goal. The commissary is on the Alabama Historic Registry and the colony as a whole is in the process of being put on the National Historic Register.

The farm colony was in operation for about 10 years, closing at the end of WW II. Only two farm families WERE ABLE TO PAY off their loans while others moved on to jobs in larger cities. Skeptics say the program did not fulfill its economic promises. HOWEVER, children were educated, hope began to be restored and a community was formed as a result of this plan.

The Great Depression left deep trenches in the lives of the Appalachian people in Northeast Alabama. These buildings are witnesses to the efforts of a farming colony that began here almost 70 years ago and, what seems ordinary today, were at one time the hope of a new and successful life for farming families in Jackson County.

To learn more about Skyline Heritage Farms, contact Deborah L. Helms atgracedlh@yahoo.comor visit the Skyline Farms Heritage Association’s Facebook page. n

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

Farm & Field

Rebuilding a Farm in Shambles

Deborah and Wade Pepper sit on the front steps of the house they built after the tornado on April 27, 2011, destroyed their former home.

Two Years Later: A New Normal

by Anna Leigh Peek

It has been 2 years since the destructive April 27, 2011, tornadoes and people are still asking Wade Pepper of Limestone County if life is back to normal.

"Life will never be that normal again," Pepper said. "We had to find a new normal."

The April 27 tornadoes came through Limestone County leaving Wade, his wife Deborah and two sons Grant and Jared without a house and their farm in shambles.

The storm left such a mess at the Peppers’ Farm it was difficult to find tools and parts. This is right by where their equipment sheds used to be.

This was not Wade Pepper’s first experience with tornadoes. He was a senior in high school when the 1974 tornado outbreak plowed through eastern Limestone County only about a mile from the 2011 path. In 1974, Wade said, before they went to church, they had heard on WHNT that a tornado had hit Courtland, which is in Lawrence County, but went on to church since it was Wednesday evening. He would never forget his father Mason was leading singing that night at Corinth Church of Christ and they had sung halfway through one song before the power went out. They then decided to say a prayer and dismiss services so people could go home. The storm that night damaged the Peppers’ roof, equipment sheds and destroyed every one of their peach trees.

Thirty-seven years later, our forecasting abilities are much better. Before the April 27 tornadoes, Wade had begun watching the Weather Channel before the outbreak occurred. Five days before Greg Forbes on the Weather Channel predicted there was a 7/10 chance that North Alabama would have a severe tornado event on Wednesday, April 27.

What was left of the Pepper house after an EF4 tornado went through the area.

"I usually do not get nervous about storms, but for some reason this time I was," Pepper recalled.

April 27 arrived and Pepper woke up early because he had a new combine being delivered from Princeton, Ind. Wade and his sons had gone to Indiana a few weeks before to look at it and it was to be delivered that day.

"I got up at 6 o’clock and started calling them to try to stop them from delivering the combine because the weather was not looking good," Pepper said. "I did not reach anyone until around 7 and they said it was already on its way and would be at my farm around lunchtime."

Sure enough, the combine was delivered to the farm at 12:30 and at this time Pepper called his insurance company to make sure it was insured and by 4:30 that afternoon the combine was destroyed.

The tornado that went through the Pepper Farm had already crossed the Tennessee River and went through the Tanner community before hitting Harvest. Pepper and his family were in his mother’s basement and had no idea a tornado had even hit.

"The news stations were telling about tornado warnings, but there was no urgency in their warnings," Pepper said.

Forty-five minutes after the storm went through, one of Jared’s friends who was in Florida texted him. She had heard about their house.

Clockwise from above, the shop area of Pepper Farms after the storm. All of the farm trucks sustained major damage and were unable to be used for the wheat harvest.

"His friend who was in Florida knew more than we did," Deborah said.

It was at this point Wade and his sons went to see what awaited them at their house, which was only about a mile away.

Wade and his sons were not able to get to their house and had to drive through a field to get there.

"When we got there it was so eerie and quiet, the only thing we could hear was sirens in the distance," Pepper recalled. "Nothing was moving and houses within sight were wiped clean off their foundations."

This is the combine that was delivered the morning of the tornado. Thankfully it was added to the insurance only a few hours before the storm hit.

Their house was all but gone and their farm equipment sheds were nowhere to be seen. Friends, family, church members and even strangers began to show up and start looking for things to save like pictures and keepsakes, and the rain began to pour.

"We picked up clothes, shoes, anything we could find and threw it in people’s vehicles," Deborah said. "Jared was even able to find my wedding ring in a jewelry box."

The next day as light dawned, the extent of the destruction became even more evident. Wade, being a farmer, needede to finish planting corn and start planting soybeans, but the planter was not usable and neither was the tractor. Another local farmer Andy King took the planter and fixed it before the ground dried up and many other local farmers offered tractors and equipment for them to get their crops in the ground.

"I knew if I didn’t get a crop in the ground I would not have anything to harvest in the fall, so that became the big priority," Wade explained.

He was so humbled by the help other producers in the area offered.

"I even had a man call me from Woodville, over 50 miles away, whose name was Junior Neil. He offered to bring me a tractor and planter after just seeing my farm on the news," Pepper said. "He did not know me from Adam and was willing to help me; it meant a lot."

The new combine Wade had received that morning was blown and rolled approximately 150 feet. One side of the sheet metal was found in a house across the street. There was wheat to be cut, then cotton to be planted. Wade said over 100 people from church and the community went through his wheat fields and picked up debris.

Wade believes, "If it would not have been for them performing that task, I would have never been able to put in a cotton crop that year."

The thing that amazed Wade and Deborah the most is how much people showed kindness to them.

"We literally had people giving us the coats off their backs after that tornado hit, the kindness came in all forms and it came from so many people. We have tried to thank everyone, but so much was done we do not even know about," Wade stated.

Crops were put in and work continued on other areas that needed it.

"We were still sifting through debris and looking for tools," Wade added. "And on July 1 we began rebuilding our equipment sheds and on August 1 began building a house."

They both hate that the tornado happened, but Wade said, "It was a learning experience. We were able to see the good in our community, fellow farmers and just people in general.

"We take so many things for granted; we woke up on April 27 in a warm bed with a hot breakfast and the next morning we could not even find two matching shoes. People were so generous and gave back to us in ways we could have never imagined; it has been good to see it and it has challenged us to do the same for others."

When asked if he could offer one piece of advice he learned from the ordeal, Wade answered, "One thing I would say is when someone you know has a disaster, try to understand and don’t try to tell them your story. I have been guilty of that myself and now, being on the receiving end, I know what it feels like."

So at Pepper Farms, things are not back to normal pre-April 27, 2011, but the family is working to find a new normal and are continuing on in eastern Limestone County.

Anna Leigh Peek is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Talkin' Huntin'

Rubbed the Right Way Comprehending Whitetail Rubs

Much can be learned by examining rubs. Here, you can see gouged trees a fair distance away from the main rub tree indicating some decent tine-length.

by Todd Amenrud

Back in the "olden days," we needed to learn how to "read signs" to determine deer movement. Learning how to examine and then interpret the meaning of rubs, scrapes, beds, tracks, trails and even droppings was vital for consistent success. Now, instead, we just stick up a camera. Don’t get me wrong, I believe trail cameras are one of the most important pieces of technology to hit our industry in the past 30 years, but the best hunters will use the data collected from trail-cam photos in correlation with what they learn from physical signs. Rubs are one of the best forms of tangible signs that can help put you close to a mature buck. While rubs can’t tell you everything about the buck that made them, they can divulge to you more than other forms of sign, and, when used in union with other markers, they can help to make you deadly.

During the late summer, very increased amounts of testosterone start flowing through a buck’s body. This triggers the blood flow to be shut down to the antlers; they calcify and harden, and the velvet dries and is either rubbed off, falls off or is even eaten off by other deer or birds. As soon as this happens, bucks begin making rubs. These suitably named sign-post markings are one of the best scouting aids hunters have to learn about a buck’s habits.

While you may see a piece of velvet hang on to the antler for some time, for the most part it is shed over a relatively short time frame, usually 24 hours or less. If it isn’t rubbed off or doesn’t fall off, it is sometimes eaten by other deer or birds.

Why does a buck make rubs? The transformation happens suddenly. One day you’ll observe a passive animal and the next day he’s changed into an aggressive beast. Not only will they immediately begin making rubs, but they will start to spar with the other bucks and exhibit other more aggressive behavior after this tremendous testosterone transformation. So testosterone is the cause, but marking territory is the main reason.

The "rub" most whitetail aficionados recognize (the scraping or gouging on a tree or sapling) is probably made for several reasons. One, and probably the most important, is to mark territory - not only visually but by scent as well. A buck will rub his forehead or preorbital gland on the tree. This tells other deer in the area exactly which buck made the rub. The first visible rubs in an area are usually made by the older bucks in the region. Bucks make these types of rubs from the time they shed their velvet all the way through the hunting season and on until a short time before they shed their antlers.

I’ve witnessed bucks make rubs in the presence of other bucks in a sort of aggressive act. At that moment, it’s all about body language and posture, but also it’s about the signpost left behind.

Mother Nature ensures this feat also helps build up their neck muscles. So when they spar with one another to learn where they will rank in the breeding hierarchy, nature ensures that for the most part only the strong survive and perpetuate. With a balanced herd, the older, dominant, "breeding-worthy" bucks will do the majority of the breeding, thus the better genetics will be passed along.

Regardless of why the rub is made, they make an excellent way to learn a buck’s travel patterns. Following their daily movements and then ambushing them along one of these "rub-lines" is a proven tactic for harvesting trophy bucks.

When you come across a good density of rubs, it usually means you’ve found an area where a buck is spending a good deal of time. There are different names for these bedding areas, but they’re definitely spots we’re trying to find. Whitetails will often have a number of secure areas and many travel routes to and from them. They may change secure areas and travel routes depending on time of year, the availability of cover, pressure and food changes during the course of the season.

Often referred to as a “rub-line,” sometimes you can see a definite travel corridor by following the rubs.

Once located, a buck’s "bedroom" is a reliable starting point to begin the hunt. Food sources, travel routes and other factors are not as dependable. They pick these spots for a reason. If not pressured, or if the conditions don’t change drastically, they’ll typically go back to these spots day after day.

Not only do rubs help us to identify a buck’s bedding areas, they can help us to determine which routes he’s taking to and from the spot. Direction of travel should be easy to tell - if a buck is traveling north, he’s facing the south side of the tree, so the rubs should be on the south side of the tree. This, in turn, can help you resolve which travel routes he’s using to and from the location. Combine this with a little common sense and which area features are in each direction, and it can help you make a guess on when he’s using those routes. Taking it a step further – now bring in a trail camera and you’ll know for certain what he’s doing.

Different deer have different personalities. Some deer seem to love to rub on trees and others don’t do it as often. The number of rubs most often correlates with the age and breeding status of a buck as well as the buck-to-doe ratio in the area. Sometimes the amount of rubs can also depend on the type or size of the trees in an area. If there aren’t many trees of the right size or type, obviously you won’t see as many rubs.

Size of the buck can be told, too. You’ve all heard, big deer rub on big trees - small deer rub on small trees. For the most part that’s true. However, big deer will also rub on small trees, but small deer seldom rub on big trees. If the rub is on a small tree, how high it is off the ground is a good indication - the higher off the ground, typically the bigger the buck … unless the tree was so skinny a smaller buck could have pushed the tree over and worked up the tree that way. You may also notice scrapes or gouges in nearby trees, giving you an idea of tine-length.

Once I’ve found out where a buck is spending the majority of his time, I try to put very little pressure on that spot. If you spook him from his secure spot, you may have blown everything or at the very least you’ll have to start over from scratch. Some bucks will tolerate very little before vacating the area.

Rubs are one of the best physical scouting aids we have. Sure, trail camera photos are what most people rely on, but, aside from an actual animal sighting, you can gather more information from a rub than most other forms of physical sign. Rubs could lead you to a buck this fall.

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.

Lawn and Garden Checklist

September Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Time to plant Bonnie cool-season vegetable plants. Broccoli, collards and cabbage plants should be available at your local Quality Co-op.
  • Plant radish and lettuce seeds every couple of weeks for a continual harvest.
  • Pot up some mint and parsley for the kitchen windowsill to use through the winter.
  • The end of this month is the perfect time to start planting garlic and onion bulbs for cropping next year.
  • Sow green manures such as mustard, clover and ryegrass on uncultivated areas to improve soil and keep weeds down over winter.
  • Plant hyacinth and amaryllis bulbs for forcing to ensure a crowd of colorful blooms at Christmas. Perfect for a homemade Christmas present!
  • Fill gaps in borders with autumn-flowering plants such as sedum and chrysanthemum to extend the color to the end of the season.
  • Now is a good time to plant woody ornamentals because they have time to establish themselves before the spring.
  • Plant out any biennial plants sown earlier in the year or, if you didn’t have time, you can buy plants now. These include sweet William, hollyhock, malva, lunaria, ornamental allium and biennial wildflower selections.
  • September is a good time to plant new perennials as the soil is still warm, but there is generally more rainfall.
  • Divide and replant perennials and bulbs that have become overcrowded or too large.
  • Try autumn-sowing hardy annuals for bigger plants next year.
  • Before planting fescue seed, wipe out weeds with a fast-acting but short-lived weed killer. Use glyphosate (Roundup, etc.) now; you can seed in 7 days.
  • After a long summer of open views to your neighbor’s backyard, now could be the ideal time to create a privacy screen so you and your family can enjoy an isolated outdoor space. Try planting a few evergreens – the cooler temperatures of fall are ideal for these types of plants.


  • September is a good time to begin pH correction and to find out what nutrients are needed in your soil. If you haven’t had a soil test done, it’s not too late.
  • When beans and peas finish cropping, simply cut the plant away at ground level, leaving the roots in the soil. These crops fix nitrogen which is slowly released into the soil as the roots break down.
  • Bermuda lawns sometimes, but not always, benefit from a "winterizer" fertilizer application. Do it now when growth has slowed, but before frost turns the grass brown.
  • Time for the first application of fertilizer on fescue grass. This cool-season turf needs fertilizer in September, November, February and April.
  • Do NOT fertilize shrubs. Late-season nitrogen can reduce cold hardiness of woody plants.
  • Fertilize salvia and chrysanthemums with liquid plant food. They will reward you with lots of blooms later this fall.
  • Strawberries are forming next spring’s flower buds now. Fertilize, weed and water as needed.
  • Continue to feed and deadhead your hanging baskets and container plants - they will often keep going until the first frosts.


  • It’s important to pinch suckers from your staked tomato plants. This will concentrate the plant’s energy into producing more fruit. Caged plants don’t need suckering.
  • Keep deadheading annuals and perennials to extend their performance.
  • Lightly trim back the tropical hibiscus kept outdoors for the summer. Make plans for where you’ll place it indoors in bright light.
  • Put your tree-pruning shears and hand pruners away for the year. Unless you see a dead branch, pruning your shrubs or trees should be over until next spring. Pruning now could stimulate new growth that would be too tender to survive an early deep freeze. You may also be cutting off next spring’s blooms such as azaleas and camellias.
  • Stop deadheading roses and allow hips to form. This helps roses slow down and prepare for dormancy.


  • Now is a good time to think about putting in a drip irrigation system if you don’t already have one.
  • Some vegetables such as cucumbers or eggplants become bitter if under-watered during peak growing times.
  • With new transplants, be sure to water deeply (not lightly) every morning.
  • Reduce watering for established shrubs and trees so they can harden off in preparation for winter.
  • Don’t allow plants with green fruit or berries to suffer from lack of moisture. Hollies will frequently drop their fruit under drought conditions.


  • Insects can be a problem with all of the cabbage family crops. A weekly application of Bt bacteria spray will prevent cabbageworms (Bt is a natural, non-pathogenic bacterium found naturally in the soil). Use insecticidal soap for aphids if needed.
  • Slugs make a comeback in cooler weather and have a second smaller breeding season; so keep the slug baits at the ready.
  • Apply milky spore disease in early September while grubs are most damaging. You probably won’t have to re-apply for 20 years or more!
  • Add organic matter to all planting areas. Be sure there’s an inch-thick layer of mulch on your garden beds to control weeds.
  • Did chickweed and annual bluegrass (poa annua) run rampant in your lawn last spring? Now’s the time to put out a pre-emergent weed preventer on lawns you’ll not overseed this fall.
  • Spot spray the broadleaf weeds in your lawn with a herbicide labeled for their control.
  • Cover your brassicas/cole crops with netting to prevent birds from making a meal out of them.
  • Dispose of diseased plant material … don’t compost it as the spores may remain in the compost and re-infect your plants.
  • This summer many gardeners had good crops of peaches and plums, but also a lot of disease and insect problems. To reduce problems next year do a good job of removing all plant debris - get mummified fruit out of the plant and pick up everything on the ground.
  • Clean out your greenhouse to reduce the risk of pests and diseases as you prepare to over-winter your plants.


  • Withhold water from amaryllis bulbs and give them a rest (dormancy). Leave them for at least a month before watering and breaking dormancy.
  • Gather all your garden tools and wash off all the dirt to prevent rust. The soil itself doesn’t cause rust, but the moisture it traps can wreak havoc on your tools. Sharpen the blades of pruners, spades, shovels and hoes, too. Remember, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
  • Clean up your perennial bed. If you’ve got seed heads that might be appealing to birds in search of a meal, leave them be. Mound mulch or leaf litter around tender perennials to offer some winter protection from dropping temperatures and the wind. Remove weeds and mark the location of those perennials that die back so you’ll be careful around their new growth come spring.
  • Do you want fig trees to share with friends or to donate to your Master Gardener group for a plant sale? As leaves naturally fall from chosen half inch in diameter limbs, place the limb through the center drainage hole of a small gallon pot used in the nursery trade. Fill the pot with either garden soil or some other medium that will retain a bit of moisture. Secure the pot with cloth strips, hemp rope or, heaven forbid, duct tape. When leaves emerge next spring, tug on the container. If it is firmly attached, the pot is full of roots. Either lop or saw the limb off at the base of the pot and, voila, you have a new plant.
  • Don’t neglect the roses. Re-blooming varieties will rebound in the cooler weather and give nice blooms in the fall if kept healthy.
  • Feed hummingbirds. You can place feeders in a location that is easy to see from your favorite chair, inside or out.
  • Harvest herbs and store in a cool, dry place.
  • Help your pumpkins ripen in time for Halloween by removing any leaves shadowing the fruits.
  • If you have clay soil, now is the best time to improve it before it becomes too wet. Incorporate organic matter such as well-aged manure, leaf mold or compost.
  • If you must move peonies or if you want to start some new division, you can do that now. Peony plants should have two to three eyes (the small red points on the root).
  • If you use your greenhouse as a grow house and not just a conservatory for houseplants, don’t forget to remove shading towards the end of the month so the plants receive the maximum amount of light.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have pecan trees, be sure to pick up the pecans before the squirrels do! If your back protests to all that bending, look for a handy pecan picker-upper at your local Co-op store. It’s a wire cage that helps you capture a dozen or more nuts before needing to dump them into your bag or bucket.
  • You can’t live in the South without trying a muscadine: Pop it in your mouth, suck the pulp out of the skin, enjoy the juice, then spit out the skin and seeds. What a delicious mess!
  • Lawns could use preparing now for next spring. Aerate and thatch if the soil is compacted. This will allow the soil to drain better and give the roots much needed oxygen. Seeding can be done as well as fertilizing.
  • Make compost! Compost requires a carbon source (brown stuff) and a nitrogen source (green stuff). The challenge during autumn is finding enough green to mix with the abundance of leaves (brown). Cattle and horse manure are considered a green regardless of what color the end product is! Mix aged manure with your leaves this fall and watch the magic!
  • Propagate limber-limbed hydrangea, grape, blackberry and forsythia plants by placing a thin branch on the ground and partially covering it with soil and a brick.
  • Remember all those daffodils you admired in your neighbor’s garden this past spring? Experienced gardeners buy their spring-flowering bulbs now, while the selection is good, for planting later in October and November.
  • Start the autumn cleanup. Remove any old crops that have finished and clear away weeds to leave your plot clean and tidy. To avoid erosion or soil compaction either mulch or sow with a cover crop.
  • The last week of September into the first part of October is a good time to prepare your indoor plants that have been outside for the summer to come back inside. Even without the threat of frost, many don’t like night temps lower than 45-50 degrees. Hose off leaves and inspect/spray for insects.
  • When the time comes, hardy as well as non-hardy water lilies can be stored indoors at 50 degrees in moist sand that is not allowed to dry out. The basement is an ideal place to store these.
  • Prepare greenhouse for cooler weather. Clean up used pots, benches and growing surfaces with 10% bleach solution. Repair leaks and cracks. Test heating and ventilation systems, and repair if necessary.
  • Clear pond weeds and net your pond in anticipation of autumn leaf fall.
  • Make entries to your garden journal. Scribble rough sketches of your flower borders and vegetable plot to help plan for next year. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t!
  • Join your local Master Gardener group. It’s amazing what you can learn and, better yet, what you can teach others!
  • Feed the birds!
Simple Times

She Considers ... Olivia Brodock

Olivia Brodock, 22, shares her experience and wisdom through her books and blog “I don’t want easy.”

by Suzy Lowry Geno

There is always an easy way, a more convenient path. You can buy your food already cooked, your clothes already made and your vegetables already grown. You can have other people teach your children, other people clean your house and other people mow your grass. And sometimes it’s worth it.

"But in our mad dash to efficiency, we have lost the sense of satisfaction we have to earn by taking the long way. Somewhere in our upside-down thought processes, we have accepted a corporate office in exchange for our long summer days tending our gardens and minding our proverbial castles."

Olivia Brodock continues in her blog post called "I don’t want easy."

"We’re so invested in hyper-productivity, in making things go faster or making the impossible possible that the simple, the slow beauty of life, which is meant to be savored, is swept aside.

"A simple life where your days’ labors are rewarded with a ripe tomato, the clean haven of a home and a few wildflowers in a Mason jar.

"Our souls need the struggle of pulling weeds, we need a little sunshine ... we just need time to process. We need that little wooden swing under the big oak.

"We are designed to invest blood, sweat and tears into our homes, into our families. When we don’t, we lose touch of what we are working for, what we protect, what we live for, who we are."

Some may say Olivia is a "throw back" - someone who should have been born 100 years ago. Her emphasis is on faith, family and home. But then you have to account for the fact she blogs once or twice a week on her website and keeps her friends updated regularly on Facebook, and who realizes she wouldn’t quite fit into a covered wagon with Laura Ingalls Wilder, either.

So what happened to Brodock? Folks who read her many posts and her books are often shocked to learn she is now the ripe old age of 22.

Where did she get this wisdom? This knowledge?

"God has been very gracious to me," Brodock explained, noting the example of her parents first of all. (Her parents utilize the website "Teaching Good Things" and are known for seminars, tapes and books teaching life skills for those in Christian homes. They’ve homeschooled all their children - Olivia, her sister and brother, AND the three wonderful youngsters they recently adopted!)

But many other life experiences have shown her just how important a Christian home can be and how Christian homes are the foundation of our nation.

When Olivia was 18, she received a call from a friend dying of cancer, needing help with her 12-year-old daughter, who was homeschooled.

"She died two weeks later and I had to almost instantly step into the mother role. I was responsible for all meals, her schoolwork, everything. It was really intense. It taught me how nothing really prepares you for something like that. How girls need to know how to do all things around the house, but, more importantly, how tending to your home IS a ministry, a great ministry."

After spending 2 years helping in that home, Olivia has learned through many other experiences. She is a volunteer counselor at the local pregnancy crisis center, teaches cooking classes, has written books and has, along with her family, a 5-year plan where they hope to buy larger property, cater more events and have a "wedding barn" for special occasions.

Olivia’s latest book, "No More Wasted Years," is aimed toward young women from about 18 through their early 20s on how they can minister during their single years and prepare for a lifetime of service. Through that book and her website, she encourages young women to "embrace the mission field of the home."

But the book (whose first printing sold out in the first couple of days and is now into additional printings) also includes many insights into the importance of Christian homes in our nation and how we must get back to our basics. She shows insight well beyond her years in paragraphs such as these talking about the current state of our economy and our nation in general:

"Hitler understood what most of us don’t get! The most dangerous enemy to tyranny, socialism and other opponents is a thinking citizenry, a wisdom-seeking and discerning people. Should it surprise any of us that the farther we drift from wisdom the deeper we sink into socialism? No, it should not, but here we are, sinking.

"What can we do about it? We can seek wisdom and we can study history to see what has and hasn’t worked in the past. We can study philosophy to help us understand the great writers, primarily the Scriptures, to comprehend the big picture and our place in it. We can return this country to the place where Godly thinking wise men live free.

"If you are willing to stand for your country, then patriot, be prepared to be afflicted, to suffer, to be unjustly persecuted and, at the same time, count it all joy. Knowledge is not wisdom and they cannot be interchanged ... wisdom is the ability to discern what is true, right or lasting ...."

Olivia also talked about how cooking great dishes in a commercial kitchen and serving them to people you’ll never meet again may not make you a great chef but "nourishing my family in the realm of my father’s home, it is said that I am wasting my talent."

She also noted going to school to become a CPA and managing books for other people made her a "career woman," but keeping the books for her dad’s business and her own businesses also is often looked down upon as "wasting my life with training down the drain."

Taking care of others’ children makes you a "career nanny," but staying home and taking care of family members or your own children also often results in the label of "wasting your life."

She noted, in Karl Marx’s plan of feminism, the idea was to make women feel useless in the home until they were working outside the home, bringing home a paycheck, as a way of "destroying the family."

When families are destroyed, the plan went, then local churches were destroyed, followed by communities and then countries ....

She encourages young unmarried women as being "much like soldiers during peacetime, trained and ready, but that war isn’t on yet. Sometimes God gives these young women a mission such as my time as a governess .... Preparing to raise a new generation of leaders is no small task; I hardly think you can over prepare."

But, through it all, Olivia stresses in her book that we should all strive to do whatever we’re doing in life according to God’s plan by "doing our best."

"How much more successful would we be if our only goal was to do our best?" she asked.

Olivia concluded her "I don’t want easy" blog post by noting, "It’s all connected to our homes and what we invest there. Sit back after a day of working around the house, just as the sun starts going down, take in all the accomplishment, enjoy that ripe tomato, swing a while. That sense of fulfillment, the wave of gratification, it can’t be bought. It can only be earned ...."

Olivia can be contacted and her book ordered through her website at

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

The Herb Farm

Sometimes I Just Need to Rest

Storms knocked out a few trees last spring and the weeds took over quickly. Vines, weeds, saplings ... all seem to be a little worse this year.

by Herb T. Farmer

Dear friends,

I had to take some time off to rest a little. Oh, I’m okay health-wise. There are just too many new chores that need tending to right away.

When you are a farmer, you are also a tractor mechanic, small engine repair man, appliance serviceman and laundry boy.

In addition to all that, the weeds and vines have been enjoying the sun and rain combination this year. I may have to hire a helper for this.

I did at least take the time to pickle some sweet and hot chow-chow. Want the recipe?

Sweet and Hot Chow-Chow

4 large sweet banana peppers

1 large red bell pepper

4 jalapeño peppers

2 cowhorn peppers

8 cloves garlic

1 Tablespoon whole black pepper

1 Tablespoon whole allspice

½ cup white vinegar

1 cup water

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons pickling salt

Some things can’t wait until the other chores are done. Processing peppers and other bounty from the garden needs to be taken care of right away to ensure the freshest foods.

Chop all peppers into ½" pieces and place into 1-pint Mason jars. Heat water, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic and other spices to boiling point.

Pour hot spiced liquid over peppers in jars. Place in hot canning water bath and process. Let them rest for two weeks before serving.

Please forgive my absence this month.

I will return in October.

Until then watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at

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

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "They still plannin’ on baptizin’ that drunk, gamblin’ scoundrel Hemmit Machobsen on fourth Sunday. Since he stood up ‘fore tha congregation and announced that he’d ‘seen tha light’ and repented and all, I ‘spect most folks in these parts’ll show up to see him get dunked. I know me and my family’ll be there, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise."

Where does the saying "God willing and the creek don’t rise" come from?

An item that has been floating around the Internet claims the expression "God willing and the creek don’t rise" referred to the Creek Indians, not a body of water. It mentions Benjamin Hawkins of the late 18th century who was asked by the U.S. president to go back to Washington. In his reply, he was said to have written, "God willing and the Creek don’t rise." Because he capitalized Creek, it’s asserted he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe and not a body of water.

Every researcher who has investigated the expression has dismissed an Indian connection as untrue. The tale is widely reproduced and believed nevertheless.

The written record dates the saying from about the middle of the nineteenth century (Graham’s American Monthly Magazine, June 1851). Then there’s a long gap in the record before it began to appear again in the 1950s. None of them capitalizes creek, which suggests they didn’t have the Creek people in mind. In fact, virtually all the examples found in books and newspaper archives down to the present day are in lower case.

That argues for a more mundane origin: the old-time difficulties of travelling on dirt roads that forded rivers and streams such that a sudden storm could cause water levels to rise without warning and render the route impassable. "If the creek don’t rise" was a whimsical way of saying the speaker would carry out some task provided no figurative obstacle were put in his/her path. It can be summarized as "if all goes well." It’s a more conditional statement of intent than "come hell or high water."

The saying has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson among others on the usual principle that attaching a famous name to a story validates it. Mentioning Benjamin Hawkins is a masterstroke since he was the General Superintendent for Indian Affairs between 1796 and 1818 and was principal Indian agent to the Creek nation; he became so close to its people that he learned their language, was adopted by them and married a Creek woman. Who better to write about the risks of the Creek rising in revolt?

But if the supposed letter was ever written, it doesn’t now exist in any archive any researcher has so far found (his letters have been published). It must surely be the creation of a fertile modern mind desiring to put the flesh of evidence on the dry bones of outright invention. And even if it did, the initial capital letter would mean nothing, as at the time it was still common practice to capitalize all nouns.

Homeplace & Community

The Co-op Pantry

My husband Steve and I have been planning to remodel our dated (think 1960s copper tone) kitchen for the last 15 years. Apparently, 2013 is the year. I came in from work recently and found I had no cabinets, appliances or flooring left. New appliances were sitting in our bedroom. My old pantry had been gutted and the contents neatly stored in the linen closet. So goes life at my house!

On the plus side, I was given carte blanche on what I wanted for my new pantry. All my shelving and cabinetry were custom designed and built by the aforementioned husband and put in place. Things were looking good as I got the food out of the linen closet and then Steve started shoving all the pots and pans from the demolished cabinets into it as well. My Siberian Husky Rosie is apparently under the delusion that this is her new den and has to be removed every time we don’t get the doors fastened completely. This too shall pass and hopefully by the time you read this, my life will be back to a normal level of chaos.

Skillet Biscuits

Having to restock my pantry after not having one for several weeks (I didn’t say my husband worked fast, just very well) caused me to stop and think about those indispensable items in a well-stocked pantry. I am going to supply a basic list, along with a few recipes, that can be modified to work for any household. This list works for my household; come up with one personally designed for your family.

A good rule for stocking a pantry is to have enough supplies on hand to feed and water everyone in your family (including pets) for at least three days without a trip to the grocery store. Since I, and most of my readers, live in Dixie Alley, we have most likely lost power for longer than that during storms and tornados. That being the case, you may want to try to plan for two weeks, money and space permitting. This does not all have to be done all at one time. You can create an adequate pantry over time by just spending an extra $5-10 per month. Or, if you need a can or package of something, just buy two and store one. You will have a full pantry before you know it!

The biggest rule for the perfect pantry is: Check your dates, continually bringing the oldest can to the front, so you use the older cans before their use-by dates. Remember, if your family won’t eat it, don’t buy it – it will just be a waste of time, money and storage space.

Non Food Items

Disposable bowls, cups, plates and flatware
Duct tape (temporary fix for everything from leaky pipes to holes in the walls – don’t even ask)
Garbage bags
Liquid hand sanitizer
Manual can opener
Mousetraps (Another story you don’t want to ask about!)
Paper towels
Toilet Paper (if not stored in bathroom/ linen closet)

Food Items

1 carton of shelf stable milk (I prefer Parmalat which is available in both 2% and whole. Remember, once you open it, it has to either be used or refrigerated just like regular milk.)

Apple sauce

Baking powder

Baking soda

Beans, canned (Whatever variety your family will eat. If you want to use dried beans, seal in an air tight container.)

Beef jerky

Bouillon cubes (all flavors)

Bread crumbs

Canned meats (chicken, beef, ham, salmon, Spam and tuna)

Canned tomatoes (in every form your family will eat)

Canned vegetables


Chicken & beef broth

Chocolate chips (milk, dark and white)



Coffee creamer

Container of Parmesan cheese, Velveeta, Cheese Whiz or other shelf stable cheese

Corn starch


Crackers (will usually keep for 6-9 months unopened)

Easy to prepare boxed deserts

Evaporated milk

Flour (I would advise keeping a supply of both plain and self-rising)

Fruit juices (having some of the single-serving packs on hand is great)

Fruit (canned or dried)

Gator Aide or Powerade

Granola bars

Gravy mixes

Jellies & jams

Jiffy or other brand muffin mix

Mayo or salad dressing

Mustard (both regular & Dijon)

No bake pie crusts and fillings

Noncaloric sweetener (Even if you don’t use it yourself, in all

probability, someone will visit who will need/want it.)


Nuts, assorted cans

Pancake mix (I like the kind you just add water to!)

Peanut butter

Pet food (only if you have a pet, of course!)

Powdered milk

Prepared salsa


Pudding packs

Ramen noodles (The sauce packets con- tain MSG and are used very seldom at my house, but they keep well.)

Rice (white stores longer than brown)

Rolled oats

Salt (I personally stock table salt, sea salt and kosher salt)

Sauces (BBQ, Tabasco, Worcester- shire, soy, etc.)

Shortening and cooking oils (I use olive oil to cook with, but I would advise keeping Crisco or lard on hand for emergencies. It will store for a couple of years unopened. An extra can of cooking spray is always a plus.)

Snacks of all variety (cookies, chips, crackers, fruit rollups, etc.)


Spaghetti sauces

Spices (all you normally use to cook with)

Sugar (granulated, brown and powered)



Vinegar (both white and apple cider)


A serious pantry issue is – gasp - rodents! No matter how tightly you think you have your house sealed, they seem to be able to flatten themselves to fit through the most miniscule opening. Among their favorites are sugar, flour and cornmeal. Popcorn is also very attractive. Store your bulk food in heavy plastic or glass containers and seal tightly. Those popcorn tins all of us receive are excellent for storage containers.

A pantry of whatever size you have available is the heart of your cooking. Whether you have gotten the one you always wanted, have converted an unused closet or have a simple set of shelves stashed out of sight, your cooking directly reflects what you have in your pantry. Anyone can have a couple of weeks to buy food, plan the meal and cook it to perfection. It takes a real cook to dive into the pantry on a half hour’s notice and turn out a perfect meal.

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

Hot Chocolate Mix

3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1½ cups cocoa powder
1½ cups white chocolate chips or finely chopped white chocolate
¼ teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pulse the ingredients through food processor until chocolate is finely ground. (You may want to break this down into two or more batches.) Store the dry mix in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To make hot cocoa, put 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup of hot milk. Top with whipped cream or miniature marshmallows, if desired. Makes about 20 servings of hot chocolate

Note: Makes a great Christmas gift! Just put in a pretty container (airtight) and decorate with ribbon.

Skillet Biscuits

2 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup dry milk
¾ cup water

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in shortening. Make a well in center and add water a little at a time. Knead in bowl for about half a minute. Lightly grease and preheat skillet to about medium heat. Pinch off dough in balls about the size of a large marshmallow. Form into flat disks and fry for about 5-7 minutes per side. Don’t make the biscuits too big or they will burn on the outside before they are done on the inside.
Note: These biscuits only need water and a source of heat to bake and everything else can come from your well-stocked pantry.

Ramen Noodle Casserole

3 cans vegetables (any you like)
3 packages Ramen noodles, any flavor

Drain liquid from the cans into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add noodles and sauce packets. Stir until noodles are soft. Add veggies and heat thoroughly. This will take less than 10 minutes and will feed about 4 people.

Note: You can mix and match the Ramen flavors and different veggies to get several different meals out of these very simple ingredients.

Greek Pasta Salad

1 (12-ounce) bag tri-colored spiral pasta
1 (15-ounce) can three bean salad (with liquid)
1 (4-ounce) can black olives (drain liquid)
5 or 6 artichoke hearts cut into bite-sized pieces (keep ½ teaspoon oil from artichokes)
Feta, Parmesan or Romano cheese

Cook pasta according to directions. Add rest of ingredients. Sprinkle with a dash of cheese.

Rice and Beans

2 cups rice
2 large cans red kidney beans
1 small can small navy beans
1 (48-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
Chili powder, optional
Garlic, optional

Cook the rice. Add rest of ingredients and simmer until it’s hot or until you’re ready to eat. Stir and add a little water as needed. Season with chili powder and garlic.

Easy Beef Soup

1 can corned beef
1 large can tomato juice or V8
2 cans Veg-All
1 can shoepeg white corn, partially drained
1 can diced tomatoes

Mix all in saucepan and simmer for at least half an hour.

Black Bean Soup

3 cans black beans
1 or 2 cans Rotel tomatoes with green chilies (depending on how spicy you want the soup to be)
1 Tablespoon cumin powder

Puree one can of black beans in a blender until smooth. Mix all ingredients in a pot on the stove or crock pot until heated through. If possible, serve with sour cream or guacamole.

Green Bean Casserole

1 (10.75-ounce) can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
¾ cup Parmalat
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cut green beans, drained
1-1/3 cups French’s Original or Cheddar French Fried Onions, divided

Mix soup, milk and pepper in a 1½-qt. baking dish. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup onions. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until hot. Stir. Top with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes until onions are golden.

Tip: You may substitute canned green beans with 4 cups fresh, cooked cut green beans.

Easy Beef Soup

1 can corned beef
1 large can tomato juice or V8
2 cans Veg-All
1 can shoepeg white corn, partially drained
1 can diced tomatoes

Mix all in saucepan and simmer for at least half an hour

Taco soup

1 can kidney beans
1 can green beans
1 can corn
2 cans tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
Dried onion
Dried garlic
1 package dried taco seasoning

Mix all in pan (including all juice). Simmer 15 minutes.

Shelf Stable Chicken Helper

(Substitute this for the box directions)
1 (12.5-ounce) can cooked chicken, drain and reserve broth
½ cup of broth (from the can, add water if needed)
1½ teaspoon olive oil
2 cups milk (2 cups water + 1/3 cup powdered milk)
Sauce mix from box

Combine chicken, broth, oil, water, dry milk powder and sauce mix in skillet (you’ll need to use a whisk to combine everything). Add in uncooked pasta and stir. Heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; cover and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender. Remove from heat and uncover (sauce will thicken as it stands).

Pasta Fagioli

½ onion
Olive oil, divided
Dried oregano, divided
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 cup ditalini pasta
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Sweat onion in olive oil with dried oregano. Dice the onion into small uniform pieces. Heat a pan over medium heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to pan. Coat pan with oil by swirling it around. Let oil heat for a few seconds. Add diced onion to the pan with ½-1 teaspoon of oregano. Stir constantly and don’t let the onion brown. The pan should barely sizzle, no loud sizzling or popping. Cook until onions are translucent, 5-10 minutes.
Add beans, tomatoes and pasta. Mix all ingredients and simmer for about 10 minutes, adding water to make desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper and more oregano if desired. Dish is done when the noodles reached the desired degree of softness.

The World’s Easiest
Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 bag egg noodles, cooked
2 cans mushroom soup (may use one cream of celery in place of one cream of mushroom)
1 (5-ounce) can tuna (in oil is better)
½ can peas
Onion flakes and garlic powder, to taste (optional)

Mix all together. Heat thoroughly.

Note: A little garlic power along with the onion flakes makes this a standout dish!

Chicken Pot Pie

1 can Campbell’s cream of chicken soup
1 can mixed veggies
1 can Swanson white breast chicken meat
1 ready-made pie crust (not frozen)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Put soup in bowl. Add vegetables with liquid. Break up chicken with a fork and add to mixture. Add salt and pepper. Mix. Place pie crust in pie dish. Pour in chicken mixture. Bake in oven at 400° for 25-30 minutes.

Smothered Green Beans

2 Tablespoons margarine or butter flavor Crisco
1 jar real bacon bits
1 packet onion soup mix
4 cans cut green beans
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste

Put margarine in bottom of pan with bacon bits and dehydrated onion. Sauté for a few minutes. Add 2 cans of green beans without juice and 2 cans with the juice. Cook until wilted and smothered. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Sirloin Burger Meal

Campbell’s Sirloin Burger soup over mashed potatoes or white rice. It really is that easy! Make either rice or mashed potatoes and ladle the soup on top!

Add a salad if needed and prepare one of your boxed deserts and you will turn out a delicious meal and look like a cooking maven as well!

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

The FAA Sentinel: A Great Year for Southern Choctaw FFA

Southern Choctaw FFA members proudly display their banners and awards received at this year’s FFA Convention.

by Mikaela Utsey

Southern Choctaw High School, seated in the little town of Gilbertown, has an FFA chapter that is very active, and the chapter is a huge impact on the community throughout the years. As the 2012-2013 school year began, a loaded Program of Activities was planned in the hope of bettering the members and chapter as a whole. Tons of enthusiastic students piled in Mrs. Jena Perry’s room, the chapter advisor at SCHS, prepared to get involved with the duties of the chapter and watch it grow. When time came to pay FFA dues, there were over 80 people who joined. That’s a large amount considering none of the members actually live on a commercial farm! With a high amount of participation and enthusiasm, SCHS FFA excels in helping their community and spreading the word of how important agriculture is to everyone.

Southern Choctaw FFA members designed and built a storage shed for the Gilbertown Sports Complex.

An annual big event in SCHS FFA’s Program of Activities is Ag Day. Ag Day is an experience like no other for younger kids, usually fifth and sixth graders, to venture out of the classroom and learn about agriculture and its importance to the community as well. It’s like a regular school day, but it is outside, has better food and is LOTS more fun! Participants are broken into groups and labeled as different creatures and things of nature: deer, turkeys, pigs, cows and trees. During the day, kids go from station to station on a timed schedule. Some stations include forestry, poultry, soils, teamwork and germs. Most kids enjoy the petting zoo best. Some of the members bring their critters (with permission) on campus to show and tell the kids about each one. Ag Day is a great way to enjoy some fun in the sun, look at animals, dig in the dirt, see how old a tree is, play games, make a soil sundae and, most important, EAT.

Another event in the chapter’s Program of Activities is FFA Week. FFA Week is a time most members love because they know getting out of class is a sure thing! For five days, members do something different. For example, Monday: Community Service Day; Tuesday: teach at Southern Choctaw Elementary School; Wednesday: Teacher Appreciation Luncheon; Thursday: Drunk Driving Program; and Friday: FFA Cookout.

Southern Choctaw FFA members packed food for the Rally Against Hunger at the FFA Convention in Montgomery.

Community Service Day is an event where flowerbeds are weeded, flowers planted, grass cut, sticks picked up, etc. This year, SCHS FFA built a better equipment shed for the Lady Indians Softball Team.

Members who are well disciplined and active in this chapter go to SCES and teach the second graders a prepared lesson about topics related to agriculture such as beef, poultry and forestry.

When the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon takes place, a few of the chapter’s members, with love, prepare food for the faculty and staff at SCHS. This year’s tasty meal consisted of ranch potatoes, Red Lobster biscuits, butter beans, grilled chicken, brownies, cookies, Mrs. Perry’s 10 Minute Banana Pudding and, of course, ice cold sweet tea. Yummmm!

The Drunk Driving Program is an educational, yet realistic, way to see the danger of drinking plus driving in the same equation. Members were put in a group and had a certain time to report outside to the front of the school. Once outside, one by one, each person drove a golf cart, avoiding the cones symbolizing people around the loop with a different pair of goggles each time. The blur was stronger each time the goggles were changed and every cone knocked down represented a human who was killed. Sheriff Jimmy Huckabee and Chief of Police David Dunn of the surrounding areas supervised this program.

Finally, the FFA Cookout! The Friday of FFA Week is most likely always the day when the cookout is held. This cookout is only for SCHS FFA members who have paid their dues. It’s a special treat of food, fun, sun and games. Abby Himburg, State FFA treasurer, and Hayden Whittle, South District FFA secretary, attended this year’s cookout. They brought with them many pieces of advice and games for members to participate in. SCHS FFA would like to thank Abby and Hayden for their time and effort in making the cookout an even better event!

In the early spring, the students competing for various Career Development Events took a trip to the campus of Auburn University to attend the annual Spring Judging Clinics to help study and learn more about their CDE in anticipation of the South District Eliminations. All the work and studying paid off. Many of their teams placed at District Eliminations, Scrapbook, Forestry and Poultry just to name a few.

Even in the midst of stress and all the studying, members still make time to build and finish projects for people. They have built toy boxes, dog houses, troughs, drawers, shelves, doors, jewelry boxes, benches, picnic tables and much more. They stay busy all year, but each item is made to perfection to please the customer.

After success at District, they traveled to Montgomery and participated in State Competition and attended the 85th Annual State FFA Convention. Five teams from SCHS competed at the state level: Forestry, Horse Judging, Poultry, Agricultural Mechanics and Small Engines. Out of the top four teams in the Poultry Career Development Event, SCHS placed second! One morning while at the convention, members of SCHS FFA participated in the FFA Rally Against Hunger event. They first went through a mini-training session and then were released on their own. Forming an assembly line, they packed bags of rice and vegetables filled with vitamins and minerals that could feed a family of approximately six. Doing this helped others and also was a way to fulfill the meaning of the "Living to Serve" line in the FFA motto. Before leaving the convention, they were recognized for being one of the top five chapters in Alabama.

Southern Choctaw High School FFA had a great, eventful 2012-2013 school year. They would like to thank all of their sponsors for helping the chapter grow and accomplish their goals for the school year! Some sponsors include:

  • Mid-Star Timber, Toxey
  • MDI, Silas
  • Drs. Britt Morris and Jimmy White, D.M.D.s, Butler
  • The Clinic P.C., Toxey
  • Phillips Funeral Home, Gilbertown
  • The Village Shoppe, Gilbertown
  • The Olive Branch, Gilbertown
  • Choctaw County Farmers Federation, Butler

All the activities done by this chapter would not have been possible without such awesome supporters!

Mikaela Utsey is a Southern Choctaw High School FFA officer.

Homeplace & Community

The Feather Lady

Shirley Blankenship paints on feathers in her studio at her home near Troy.

Creates Art on a Small but Complex Canvas

by Jaine Treadwell

Shirley Blankenship is known as "The Feather Lady."

That title could be a bit misleading. It might cause one to picture Blankenship with a stole of feathers flung around her neck or parading in a sassy feather dress or as the custodian of a flock of feathered friends.

But even so, Blankenship wears the title proudly, for she has earned it over a period of 15 years in the world of art.

She is a painter, but the Feather Lady’s canvases are feathers. She paints in such detail and with such depth of feeling that her artwork has won ribbons, awards and "Best of Show" recognition at art shows and festivals in several states.

Blankenship paused to give thought as to how she ventured into the world of art and feathers.

Her home is and has long been in Pike County. But she was born in rural Geneva County where her dad was a sharecropper and his dad before him.

"Like most all sharecroppers, we moved a lot to make things better," Blankenship said. "I’m not sure you would call my dad an artist but he could draw anything. He would draw pictures for my brother Donnie and me. Some of the pictures were for us to color. And, he made our toys, so I guess he was an artist."

Blankenship inherited her dad’s talent and love of art. The family had moved to Pike County, again to make things better, and her teachers at the Goshen schools recognized her talent.

Shirley Blankenship attempts to capture animals’ sense of being in their eyes on the feathers she paints.

"In elementary and high school, I put up the bulletin boards, designed programs and decorated the stages," Blankenship said. "I was not the smart girl but I could draw."

Blankenship didn’t think of herself as an artist, just a girl who could draw.

This sign was used when Shirley Blankenship sold her feather artwork at craft shows and festivals. Now it accompanies her artwork while it is being displayed at various locations.

She was married with children before she had any idea that she might be able to make a few dollars "drawing" things.

An advertisement in a "funny book" caught her eye.

She responded to the ad with a drawing and some other requested information.

She anxiously awaited a response, but days, weeks and even months passed.

"It had been a year and I’d even forgotten about it when a man knocked at my door," Blankenship said. "He was from the Art Institute Schools and he said I had scored high on the quiz and had qualified for the school."

Blankenship was working and had the money to pay for the school.

"That school opened doors for me," she said. "That was the first time I realized I could make money with drawing."

Blankenship’s art was practical. It was what she could do to make a few dollars.

Shirley Blankenship is intrigued by wildlife scenes.

"I started out painting signs and doing charcoal and pencil portraits," she said. "I painted numbers on peanut wagons and numbers and names on trucks. I painted real estate signs and other signs. As for portraits, I drew a lot of children and homes. I drew what people wanted."

Just by chance, Blankenship entered an art show at Goshen High School.

"It was just a charcoal drawing of a building, but I liked it," she said. "When people started bringing in their artwork, it was real artwork and I thought, ‘What am I doing bringing this?’ I was embarrassed."

To her surprise and delight, Blankenship won the art show. It was her first art award, but there would be many more in the coming years.

She was able to share her talent with children in the Indian Education Program at the smaller elementary schools in the county – Springhill, Shellhorn and Goshen.

"I taught art and learned a lot about the Indian culture," Blankenship said.

During that time, Blankenship just happened to see a magazine photograph of a painting on a feather.

She was fascinated that anyone could paint something so captivating on something as small and "simple" as a feather.

Around that same time, Blankenship and her husband, Keith, opened The Eagle Feather at the Pioneer Village near Troy. In their gift shop, they sold items related to the Native American culture.

Blankenship combined her love of art with her deep appreciation of the Native American culture and her fascination with feathers.

"Feathers are a rather complex canvas," Blankenship said. "They have a shaft down the middle and the barbs above the shaft go one way and those below go the other way. Often, the feathers don’t cooperate."

Working with a sometimes obstinate canvas can be a challenge but it’s one that Blankenship welcomes.

"Sometimes I do what I want to do and, other times, I do what the feather will let me do," Blankenship said. "I used acrylic paints and small brushes. Mainly, I use turkey feathers and those of other domestic birds. Macaw feathers are some of my favorites because of the color.

"At first, I ordered feathers, but didn’t like working with them. So, I collected my own. People bring me feathers, sometimes bags of feathers, but I have to be careful because it’s against the law to sell certain kinds of feathers including those of migratory birds and birds of prey."

Blankenship has a big bag of awards she has won with her feathered art. But shows got rather expensive and had more rules than not. So, she "retired."

But she missed the quiet times in her studio when she would transform a turkey feather into a work of art. She missed being that girl that could draw.

So, Blankenship is once again making art. She’s not doing shows anymore, but she is taking special orders and has her work on display at Vintage Treasures Antiques and More in Ozark.

And, as long as old men sit and talk about the weather and as long as birds have feathers, she’ll be transforming them into works of art.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Howle's Hints

The Truth About Potatoes

by John Howle

“Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it.” Emily Dickinson

Truth truly is becoming a rare thing today. Just turn on the news and become amazed at the ability of national politicians as they artfully and delicately tell baldface lies in the form of half truths, insinuations and vague hints at the truth. It’s almost like, if you do finally make it to Washington, you’ve reached the Olympics of lying. All those years of practice have finally paid off, and you’ve got that once in four years chance to win the gold in the lie-athalon.

Counter-clockwise from above, Abigail Howle shows her potato patch at its peak. Freshly unearthed potatoes. New potatoes made fresh.

American writer Emily Dickinson hit upon something that should be an epiphany to those in Washington. Namely, telling the truth is the best thing for all parties involved. I always tell my own children, "Whatever you did, just tell me the truth. The truth is always better than a lie." Even the Bible says it so well in John 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

The Truthabout Potatoes

Paddling and canoeing are great exercises to stay in shape.

Potatoes have always been a staple in the American diet. So many times we hear the phrase, "I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy." Potatoes are useful for more than going with meat. If you’ve made stew or soup and accidentally poured too much salt in the mixture, add a couple of halved potatoes to the stew and these tubers will draw the extra salt out of the meal.

If you get a bee or wasp sting, cut a potato in half and apply to the sting site. The potato will help draw the pain of the sting away. Oh, I forgot to mention. Potatoes are just plain delicious. If you love French fries, you can cut raw potatoes and slow fry them in olive oil until they are a golden brown, and you have a much healthier option to fast food fries.

My wife found a half of a plastic sack full of potatoes that had begun to sprout, and she sat them on the back porch to be thrown out. Not wanting to throw anything away, I asked my youngest daughter Abigail if she wanted to start a potato patch. She agreed and we cut each sprouting potato in half. With a bulb planter, we made 12 holes in a tilled area and planted the 12 half potatoes with the sprouts or "eyes" already growing.

A live animal cage is ideal for holding your catch of catfish.

It wasn’t long until the potato plants popped through the ground, turned green, then turned brown and were ready for harvest. We dug up the new potatoes and feasted for two days on delicious, fresh potatoes raised from potatoes meant to be thrown away.

Here’s the New Potato Recipe Abigail got from her grandmother Ann Howle:

Put three cups of water in a pan. Peel about four medium-sized new potatoes. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper. One teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon butter. Cook until potatoes are tender.

Next, mix 1/3 cup flour with one cup milk and blend well with a fork until all lumps are gone. Add flour mixture to the cooked potatoes and continue to stir. Make sure all flour is well blended. Continue to stir and boil for three minutes. If your mixture is too thick, add a little water to thin it down. Serve with your choice of meat and green beans.

Catfish Cage

Speaking of meat to go with your potatoes, catfish is a fine entrée for any family. A live animal cage makes an ideal fish holder that will protect the fish from being eaten by turtles. Simply tie a short length of rope to the cage and every time you catch a catfish from the farm pond you can store the fish in the cage. If you decide at the end of the evening you want to release the fish, simply open the door and let them out into the big water. Otherwise, the cage helps keep the fish fresh and protected until you are ready to clean them.

Canoe for Your Cardiovascular

With hunting season getting near, staying in shape is essential. A great way to get exercise is paddling a canoe on the river. This time of year, if the water level is adequate, you can get a good workout on a half-day float. Just about any county in Alabama will have access to a lake, river or stream, and a canoe is a fine way to travel silently and see plenty of wild game.

For a little fun, take the entire family and teach the youngsters the basics of maneuvering a water craft by the use of paddles. It doesn’t take long to see them master the techniques of turning, backpaddling, stopping or speeding with a canoe. Be sure to have flotation devices on each member in your party.

Whatever you do and wherever you go this fall, be sure to tell the truth and demand those you know do the same. This alone will make us a better country.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Homeplace & Community

Top 4 Reasons to Shop at Your Local Farmers Market

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

by Angela Treadaway

The Alabama farmers’ market program offers a way for farmers to provide locally grown produce, baked goods, flowers and other agricultural products to the public. The program helps assure the consumer a high-quality product at a reasonable price and a fair profit for the producer. There are a million good reasons to shop Alabama farmers’ markets. Here are the top four we came up with:

Tasty food. Locally grown food tastes better. Local produce is picked at its peak and travels only a few miles to get to the market. Fresh fruits and vegetables always taste better than those traveling thousands of miles to get to you.

Nutritious food. The shorter time from harvest to market means fruits and vegetables will still be loaded with nutrients when they reach your dinner table.

Support local families. Wholesale prices for fruits and vegetables sold to large markets are generally very low. By cutting out the middleman, farmers receive retail prices for their produce which helps ensure they can stay in business.

Build community. When you buy produce directly from the farmer, you maintain a connection with where your food comes from. You can ask the farmer what variety it is, how it was raised, if commercial pesticides were used, etc. Local farm families are proud of what they produce and will usually have some great recipes to share with your family.

Wherever you see an Alabama farmers’ market, stop in to see what might be good for dinner, get good and nutritious food, support local families and build community ties.

For more information on food safety or storing fresh fruits and vegetables, contact your local county Extension office. To find a farmers’ market in your area go to

Tomato Basil Bruschetta
(from University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension)

Makes approximately 12 pieces of bruschetta

Enjoy fresh and flavorful tomatoes in this quick and easy version of a tomato bruschetta recipe! It’s great as a snack or an appetizer and is loaded with nutrients. This recipe makes approximately 12 pieces of bruschetta, depending on whether you add the topping to the bread or people serve themselves.


8 ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ red onion, Spanish onion or

sweet onion, chopped

6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper, to taste

1 loaf Italian or French-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil and olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Arrange bread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake about 5-7 minutes until it begins to brown slightly.

Remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter. Serve the tomato mixture in a bowl with a serving spoon and let everyone help themselves. Or place some on each slice of bread before serving. If adding the tomato mixture yourself, add it at the last minute or the bread may become soggy.

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

Farm & Field

Wet Weather Increases Risk of Foot Rot

Despite our best efforts, with rainy seasons like this year, standing water in pastures can cause foot rot in cattle.

by Jackie Nix

The incessant rains we’ve had these past months have created a problem we haven’t seen in recent years – standing water. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, cattle have to stand in this water resulting in more cases of foot rot. Why should you care, you ask? Lame cows won’t eat enough and thus won’t make enough milk for calves, and lame calves won’t graze either - resulting in further reduced weight gains. Lame bulls will not travel to seek out females in heat - meaning more open cows at the end of breeding season.

Why Does Wet Weather Cause More Foot Rot?

Foot rot is caused by anaerobic bacteria that cannot penetrate intact healthy hoof tissue. However, when cattle continually stand in water and mud, their hooves soften, just like your fingernails after a long bath. Softened hooves are less impervious to punctures and abrasions, thus giving the foot rot bacterium a route into the hoof. Therefore, we see more foot rot in herds exposed to long periods of wet weather.

Signs of Foot Rot

Foot rot is first characterized by swelling between the toes. Eventually the skin splits open to reveal necrotic, foul-smelling tissue. The affected foot will be warm to the touch. Cattle often run a temperature and appear lethargic. The initial reddening of the skin is sometimes known as foot scald. If left untreated, the infection may progress up the foot into the joints, tendons and bone. If this occurs, the animal rarely recovers.

Other conditions causing lameness are often misdiagnosed as foot rot. These include sole ulcers and abscesses, sole abrasions, cuts, punctures and laminitis. Cattle grazing endophyte-infected fescue pastures that have developed fescue toxicity experience a loss of blood circulation to the feet causing lameness, and are sometimes misdiagnosed as having foot rot. For these reasons, it is important to examine the affected animal(s) closely to confirm the problem is in fact foot rot.


Contagious foot rot is mainly spread by infected animals. The bacterium travels from the infected animal to the soil to non-infected animals. These bacteria can survive in the soil from 1-10 months and even longer within the hoof tissues. Problems are usually introduced into a "clean" herd by purchase of an infected animal, mixing "clean" animals with infected animals or by using a facility such as a sales barn after infected animals. Humans can also spread the disease on their boots or vehicles.


Do not purchase animals from herds showing signs of lameness. Always quarantine new animals from any source before introducing them into your herd. If you observe signs of lameness, clean and examine the foot to establish if you are dealing with foot rot. In mild cases, topical application of zinc sulfate solutions or other acceptable treatments may be all that is necessary. In severe cases, antibiotics may be in order. Consult your local veterinarian for more information about diagnosis and treatment. Cattle displaying chronic foot rot symptoms should be culled, as they will act as a reservoir for the foot rot organisms for the entire herd.

Management practices that help reduce hoof damage can help to reduce the incidence of foot rot in your herd. Maintain good drainage in and around watering and feeding areas. You may also think about placing concrete pads in these areas to reduce the amount of mud. Do not utilize sharp gravel in travel lanes. Proper mineral nutrition, especially zinc and copper, can also help to improve hoof integrity and strength, and reduce the incidences of foot rot.

Role of Zinc and Copper in Hoof Integrity

Zinc is a critical nutrient involved in maintaining hoof tissues including, but not limited to, stimulating growth, production of keratin (the part that makes the hoof hard), improved wound healing and improved cellular integrity. Zinc-deficient cattle exhibit increased claw and hoof disorders as well as skin disorders and poor wound healing. Improved zinc nutrition has been proven to improve hoof health in deficient animals.

Copper is required for healthy claw horn tissue as well as antioxidant activity. Copper deficiency decreases the structural strength of hoof tissue. Copper deficiency also results in decreased immunity, infertility and decreased growth.


Natural deficiencies in Alabama soils as well as high levels of antagonists make proper supplementation of zinc and copper extremely important for all cattle in Alabama. Cattle producers who have observed lameness in their cattle should consider use of one of the SWEETLIX CopperHeadline of mineral supplement products.

All CopperHead supplement products deliver enhanced levels of copper as well as balanced levels of zinc and other essential minerals and vitamins. The CopperHead line of mineral supplements contains organic forms of zinc, copper, manganese and cobalt for optimum bioavailability. SWEETLIX CopperHead supplements also have the added advantage of RainBloc for improved resistance to moisture.

In summary, foot rot increases during prolonged wet weather. There are many management practices you can employ to reduce the incidences of foot rot on your farm. Included among these is proper supplementation of zinc and copper. Many Alabama cattle show deficiency symptoms including discolored hair coats, slowness to shed winter coats, depressed immunity, decreased conception rates, increased days open and hoof problems. If your cattle experience any of these symptoms, you should use of one of the SWEETLIX CopperHead line of mineral supplements to help enhance copper and zinc nutrition. Ask for CopperHead by name at your local Quality Co-op, call 1-87SWEETLIX or visit to learn more about these and other Sweetlix® supplement products for cattle.

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations ( You can contact her at or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife. References available upon request.

The Magic of Gardening

What is Making Holes in My Lawn?

by Tony Glover

There are a number of possibilities that come to mind, but with a little detective work you should be able to figure out the mystery. There are three things to think about to help determine the cause: time of year the hole appeared, the general location and the size of the hole.

If the hole is small, just remember that "small" is a relative term. For instance, if you see holes the size of a pencil appearing as pokes in the soil with no loose or mounded soil around them, these are likely caused by birds. Remember, "the early bird gets the worm," but he often has to poke a hole to retrieve the critter.

If, on the other hand, the small holes have a one-inch pile of granular pellets around them, the culprit is likely earthworms. These holes are more common in spring or fall, especially when rainfall has been plentiful like this year. In addition to earthworms, there are many insects that overwinter in the soil as they complete their transformation from larva to adult. In the spring and summer, you may see nickel-size holes from where they have emerged. Examples of these insects would include Japanese beetles and June beetles. Cicadas may also burrow into the ground as young nymphs and overwinter feeding on tree roots and emerging in the spring or summer as adults.

Solitary wasps will be very active in the late summer and fall as they deposit eggs. The holes are generally less than half-inch wide and may have a small (two-inch or less) mound of loose soil around the hole. Their holes are most often found in areas of the lawn where the turf is sparse to non-existent. These wasps are considered beneficial and usually harmless to humans, but are often deadly to other insects or spiders. Most solitary wasps have stingers, but seldom use them on people.

A common solitary wasp called a cicada killer creates up to a one-inch diameter hole into which they drag paralyzed cicadas. Excess soil thrown out of the burrow forms a regular, U-shaped mound at the entrance. Since colonies of burrows are common, infested lawns usually contain several mounds that can smother the grass. They prefer areas where the soil is exposed because of poor turf growth.

Cicada killers will overwinter as larvae in the soil feeding on the cicada provided. Pupation occurs in the spring and the adult emerges in mid-June to early July. Emergence continues throughout the summer. Females feed, mate and dig burrows for several weeks before preying on cicadas.

If your soil is prone to wet conditions, crayfish are a possibility to consider. They make two- to four-inch high towers made of balls of mud, with a one-inch-wide entry hole in the top. You seldom see them coming and going because they are nocturnal critters.

Generally speaking, larger holes are probably due to mammals of some sort. The most common culprits are voles, moles, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, skunks, raccoons, groundhogs and the dreaded armadillos.

Voles are small rodents sometimes called field mice. They create surface runways and underground tunnels and they feed on many plants. They are more likely to be in shrubs or flower beds than lawns and their entrance holes are one to two inches. Moles, on the other hand, are often found in turf areas where their runs may be just beneath the turf to several inches deep depending on moisture conditions and insect position. They feed primarily on earthworms and other soil insects. Their holes may have "mole hills" near the entry point of two inches or more in height.

In the fall, squirrels are often busy burying nuts in the lawn. These holes are typically two inches or more in diameter and do not normally have a mound at all. Other times of the year, you may find holes where the buried nuts are excavated. Those not found often sprout as small seedlings the next year. Chipmunk holes are usually found near old tree stumps, brush piles and other out-of-the-way places and are about two inches wide. Rat holes can also be found in these types of places, but are generally larger at up to three inches across.

If the holes are larger than that, I would strongly suspect one of the larger mammals. Skunk and raccoon holes may be found in lawns or garden areas where they are digging for grubs and other insects. The holes are usually cone shaped and three to four inches wide. However, they may dig up a larger area if they find a lot of food. They have even been known to peel away newly laid sod to find insects. Armadillos also eat soil insects and dig shallow holes, sometimes disturbing areas several feet in diameter.

Lastly, I will mention groundhogs that can make an entrance hole up to one foot across and usually leave a large mound of dirt at the entrance. Their burrows are found in out-of-the-way places and not in the lawn areas.

Figuring out what is causing the hole is the first step to managing the problem or deciding if the problem is really a serious concern at all. Visit the Alabama Cooperative Extension System website at for further information.

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

From the State Vet's Office

With Lepto What You Don’t Know Could Be Hurting You

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I suppose, when we think of bacteria in general, we have sort of a negative impression. But all bacteria are not all bad. Bacteria are necessary in making yogurt, cheese and buttermilk. Without bacteria, road kill not eaten by buzzards and coyotes would take a long time to decompose. We have "good" bacteria living on our skin that helps keep the bad kind of bacteria away. Another important function of bacteria is the normal flora (bacteria that normally reside) in our gut helping with digestion and keeps the bad kind of bacteria from taking over and causing diarrhea and other unpleasant things. So it is good to know that all bacteria are not all bad all the time. However, that is not the case with the bacteria, Leptospira.

The bacteria, Leptospira, commonly referred to as lepto, has absolutely no redeeming qualities that I can think of. In fact, I believe fire ants do more for the good of mankind than lepto. Leptospirainterrogansis a bacteria with many serotypes and can be found worldwide in areas with warm, humid climates. It has, at times, proven to be a very economically costly disease. At other times, it quietly eats away at profits pretty much unnoticed. It causes problems in most mammalian species, but usually the problems are subclinical — meaning not ill to the casual observer. In veterinary medicine, there are routine vaccination programs in dogs, brood cows and swine. There is currently no approved vaccine against lepto for horses. The problems caused by lepto range from anemia, reduced milk production, abortions, fevers, kidney disease, infertility and in horses a condition called "moon blindness." Let me re-emphasize abortions listed in the previous sentence. When abortions occur in livestock and even occasionally in pets, lepto is often on the "rule-out" list.

Most animals harboring the lepto bacteria are certainly not obvious to the owner or producer unless they are exhibiting the signs previously mentioned. And even some of those problems can be a little bit evasive. After all, unless you are doing research, how do you tell if a beef cow’s milk production is reduced by 10 percent? There are, however, times when a cow may completely stop producing milk. That does become a little more obvious. Abortions are also a little hard to not notice. Lepto frequently causes abortions in cattle and swine, and less frequently in horses. In both, decreased milk production and abortions, there are many things that can cause them with lepto being only one cause. Lepto is also a cause of a common type of anemia called hemolytic anemia occurring when the red blood cells become abnormal and are destroyed by the body. There are six or seven other causes about as likely as lepto to cause this type of anemia. Besides, if the anemia is mild, it only results in reduced production. Of course, if the anemia is severe enough, the animal will die.

Diagnosing diseases like leptospirosis can be, and usually is, a little difficult. Some studies conducted at harvest facilities have shown 30-65 percent of cattle from certain areas of the country will show positive for antibodies to the bacteria. And only about 5 percent of those cows testing positive will ever actually have health problems.

If you have a cow that aborts or has a sudden loss in milk production and she tests positive for antibodies to lepto, what does that mean? It may mean the cow has been vaccinated. It may mean the cow has been exposed to the leptospira bacteria, developed an immune response and fought off the disease. Or it could indicate the cow has an active infection causing the abortion or decreased milk production. Sometimes your veterinarian may have enough other pieces of the puzzle to pin the blame on lepto. In most cases, it is advisable to collect a sample to be tested at the time the illness or abortion occurs and then take another in a couple of weeks to see if there is a noticeable change in the antibody level. The two serum samples may be necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.

"Moon blindness" or periodic ophthalmia in a horse is likely caused by a reaction between the horse’s immune system and the lepto bacteria. There may be other causes for "moon blindness" in the horse, but the evidence implicating lepto is extremely strong. The condition results in the entire eye becoming white or pale blue. It is usually treated with topical corticosteroids and possibly antibiotics given internally. The disease tends to go away, but recurs from time to time.

If you refer back to the first paragraph, Leptospirainterrogans has many serotypes. Some of the common serotypes in our area of the world are icterohemorrhagica,bratislava, hardjo,pomonaandgrippotyphosa.(I’m not sure who came up with those names). These different serotypes are found in different maintenance hosts such as raccoons, opossums, rats and other wildlife. And all serotypes do not affect all species of mammals. Because of this, lepto can be a very difficult disease to manage and prevent.

I think the absolute most important thing you as the reader need to retain from this article is, when incorporating lepto into a vaccination program, diagnosing the disease or treating problems caused by lepto, it is critical you work with your veterinarian. It is sometimes important to know the specific serotype causing the problem. One study reported, if you use a vaccine containing five or more serotypes, immunity to the serotype hardjo may reach an effective level.

As I mentioned earlier, it may take several pieces of the puzzle to be sure lepto is causing health problems in your animals. I remember watching an episode of "Columbo" years ago. The famous cigar-smoking detective was having a hard time cracking the case because he could never find the murder weapon. Finally he figured it out. The culprit was using a block of ice to bash his victim’s skull in (sorry for the graphic wording, but I am trying to make a point). When the ice melted, there was no longer a murder weapon to be found. Lepto is a little like that. Soon after an animal dies, the bacteria are no longer around to be cultured. Consider, along with the fact it is not very practical to get a second blood sample from a dead animal two weeks later, it can be a difficult diagnosis to make. Your veterinarian should be able to put together enough pieces of the puzzle to advise you correctly.

The Business of Farming

Working Through an IRS Audit

by Robert Page

When a farmer goes to the mailbox, finding a letter from the Internal Revenue Service is generally not a pleasant surprise. Reading that your tax return has been selected to be audited may set off alarm bells, even if you are confident your return was very carefully prepared and is correct. In this month’s and next month’s column, we will be discussing farm tax audits.

Even if you are confident your return is correct, you and/or your tax preparer will have to answer IRS or Alabama Department of Revenue auditor questions.

As accountants, we are often asked questions such as (a) why was my return selected or (b) how do I prepare for a tax audit? Generally, the answer to the first question is something in the return raised a red flag the auditor wants more information on. The second question is easier to answer because the auditor will send the taxpayer a list of documentation needed for the audit.

Using the IRS Farmers Audit Tax Guide as a reference, here are IRS examples of Information Document Requests your auditor may ask for:

Hours worked on the farm, including spouse

Detailed depreciation schedule

Records of all loans and repayments

Grower statements and other primary income records

Deferred Payment contracts, if applicable

Crop maps with acres, types of plants and year of planting

Crop reports including insurance damage reports

Copies of previous and subsequent years tax returns

Copies of shareholder or partner returns

The working trial balance (your accounting records)

Listing of all related entities including ownership percentage and business relationship

After reading this list and considering whether you could put your hands on this information, also remember these documents could be for a tax return filed 1, 2 or even 3 years ago. So, it is important to keep all the supporting documents for your tax return for at least 3 and preferably 5 years after they have been filed.

As to why your return was "flagged," the IRS Audit Tax Guide suggests under-reporting farm income is a likely reason for the audit. According to the Farmers ATG Guide, farming may lend itself to under-reporting income for the following reasons:

Most income is received from non-information-return sources (no 1099 on most income).

Crops are not sold on a daily basis.

Books may be very elementary (e.g. a single entry system).

There may be a lack of internal control since the farmer is responsible for receiving, recording and depositing income.

While these points would appear obvious to most farmers, your auditor may have little or no knowledge of farming and this may be the first farm audit he/she has conducted. Therefore, some of the questions may appear somewhat curious to an experienced farmer or tax preparer. In next month’s article, we will cover more on the questions the auditor will ask and some of the reasoning behind the questions.

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

For What It's Worth

Year Round Forage

by Robert Spencer

In March of this year Tuskegee University held a professional development workshop, "Sustainable Year-Round Forage Production and Grazing/Browsing Management in the Southern Region." The four-day program was made possible through a Southern SARE grant. It was a great combination of classroom, hands-on and field training. The event was organized by Drs. Uma Karki and Nar Gurung, and staff. They did an outstanding job of putting together a quality program designed to train outreach, Extension and government assistance professionals in sustainable practices to be shared and to benefit small and large ruminant producers. I hope this type of training will be made available on an ongoing basis to other professionals and producers. The gist of their program was through best management and production practices producers can produce quality forages on a year-round basis making ruminant production sustainable. Otherwise, ruminant production will continue to repeat mistakes with high-cost inputs and low-efficiencies management. Over the next year, I plan to share much of the same concepts and strategies taught during this training. My hopes are you and your operation will benefit from this sharing of information.

The concept of year-round forage grazing and browsing management requires a broad-minded approach. There is soil-nutrient quality, various types of seasonal forage and browse vegetation, management, economics and environmental concerns. The approach can appear overwhelming and costly. But without it forage production will suffer and with it a sustainable approach can be readily implemented and managed with a practical and economically feasible approach. As we put a manageable program together, keep in mind there are dynamic and changing situations; therefore, we must remain flexible to adapt and improvise as necessary.

Nutrient requirements

The first step is to identify stage-of-production requirements for our livestock. We can then begin making plans to match forage variety and quality to meet these requirements. These are ranges, but they give us a general understanding of basic nutrient needs that will include protein, total digestible nutrients, and macro and micro nutrients. Two rules: (1) All forages and hay should have greater than 50 percent TDN; testing can show what is available. (2) Quality, year-round forages and hay have limited macro and micro nutrient (minerals) availability and producers must provide supplemental minerals offering a variety of minerals including copper and selenium. Basic ranges of protein requirements for: cattle, 8-14 percent; sheep, 8-14 percent; and goats, 10-16 percent. These are significant ranges; variations are based on low-end maintenance animals (not lactating, pregnant or breeding), medium-range production animals (breeding or pregnant animals) and high-end lactating animals (producing milk for young or dairy).

Soil pH and management

Soil testing and pH are important because they determine soil nutrient levels and nutrient availability. A pH of 6.5-7 is ideal. Anything above or below can result in poor plant development and productivity, limit soil fertility, restrict or bind up nutrient and mineral availability normally absorbed into forages; all of which negatively affect your animals.

There is no shame in having poor soil conditions; it is quite common in the Southeast, given our soil types. The shame is failing to conduct soil sampling and failure to address those needs. Better to know what you have and what is needed than to not know at all.

For years, forage experts at Auburn have suggested lime application (where necessary) is the most economically practical application of soil nutrient management. A study in Tennessee revealed their soils have excessive sulfur content, which affects soil pH and binds up copper, selenium and other essential minerals. Our soil conditions are likely similar. Contact your local Extension office and experts or Quality Co-op to acquire information on how to conduct soil sampling and testing.

Year-round forages plan

Take time to develop a year-round, quality forage program that varies to meet the needs of your livestock, based on stages of production (maintenance, breeding and lactating). Understand there are cool-season (fescue, orchard and Bahia grasses, and clovers), warm-season (crab grass, sericea lespedeza and soybean), and cold-season (rye and rye grass, chicory and rape) forages. Note, many of the forages I have listed are legumes that help "fix" nitrogen into soil, minimizing needs for additional soil supplementation. Do not limit yourself to my limited suggestions. There are many alternatives.

Keep in mind Alabama climate conditions range from south to north; soil, seasonal and vegetative compatibility/conditions will vary. Contact your local NRCS or Extension specialist to develop a comprehensive nutrient management strategy addressing soil, forage and grazing quality. Use a chart or table as a layout for seasonal planning with the focus on legumes, grasses and forbs (in that order); document results from annual soil testing to vary improvement or needs.

The Tuskegee training reinforced concepts I have been promoting for the past year: In order to make goat, sheep and cattle production sustainable, we must focus on being producers of quality, year-round forages, and livestock/meat production will be a byproduct of quality-forage production. Supplemental grain-based feeds, health and reproductive management, and marketing strategies play an important role in meat production, but it all begins with testing and plans for sustainable, year-round, forage-based production and management.

For the most part, we are producing meat animals destined to enter the food chain. After all, as an industry, isn’t it best we can assure the public we are doing our best to produce a consumer-safe, grass-fed meat product free of hormones, chemicals and other contaminants?

Watch for next month’s column when I talk about various forage-management strategies and planning.

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

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