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September 2014

4-H Extension Corner: Camp Connection

Camp Ft. Clover allows youths to build lasting friendships and build a network of support for their journey as military kids. All campers from the 2014 Camp Ft. Clover are pictured here.

Operation: Military Kids & the 4-H Military Partnership work together to give military kids the opportunity to connect with each other.

by Rachel Simpson

The Operation Military Kids program provides support for Alabama’s military youths. According to data from the Department of Defense, Alabama alone has more than 23,000 military youths.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System recognized the need to support these youths and created the connection with Operation: Military Kids. Part of a national emphasis supported by the land grant universities across the nation, the OMK program recognizes that military youths "are heroes, too."

In Alabama, the program is based at Auburn University and implemented through ACES and Alabama 4-H. Military youths include those who have a parent, guardian or sibling who serve. All military youths are faced with unique challenges of having a family member deployed due to the current military conflict, but since the National Guard and Army Reserve youths often do not live in close proximity to a military installation they do not have access to the resources found there. Because of this, the OMK program was originally created to serve National Guard and Army Reserve youths; however, equally important are the active-duty Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or another in a series of multiple deployments, OMK’s goal is to connect all military children and youths with local resources to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being.

Alabama OMK and the 4-H Military Partnership give the youths opportunities to attend camps, including a weeklong camp at YMCA Camp Chandler in Wetumpka named Camp Ft. Clover. Held each year in June, military youths from across the state enjoy archery, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, jumping on the Aquatramp, doing arts and crafts, swimming, and taking on the 30-foot pamper pole challenge. Through teambuilding and caring adult partnerships, Camp Ft. Clover provides youths with opportunities to foster lasting friendships and build up their resilience to the challenges they may face as a military youths.

This year, Alabama OMK also sponsored a camp for youths of Army National Guard and Army Reserve youths to Dauphin Island. The four-day trip included visits to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium, a tour from the Dauphin Island Coast Guard where the youths were taken out in the cutters, and an ECO boat ride down the Gulf Coast where youths were able to touch marine life and feed seagulls. The trip also included stops in Pensacola to see the Blue Angels fly at the Naval Aviation Museum, and in Mobile for a tour of the USS Alabama.

These camps allow youths to concentrate on simply being kids, and escape from the unique stresses of being a military kid, often one with a loved one deployed.

Alabama 4-H and OMK encourage military youths to join or create new military 4-H clubs, and take advantage of all the fun and learning found with 4-H membership. Alabama 4-H has grant funding available to support these military 4-H clubs for youths on and off installations. This is possible through support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 4-H National Headquarters; U.S. Army Child, Youth and School Services; U.S. Air Force Child and Youth Programs; U.S. Navy Child and Youth Programs; and Auburn University’s Alabama Cooperation Extension System 4-H Program though grant funding at Kansas State University.

The Alabama Operation: Military Kids partnership is a shared initiative of the U.S. Army Child, Youth & School Services and is funded by the Army National Guard and Army Reserve in collaboration with ACES.

If you are interested in more information about Alabama 4-H/OMK, contact Rachel Simpson, OMK Coordinator for Alabama 4-H, at 334-844-2294 or

Rachel Simpson is the OMK Coordinator & Military Liaison with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

A Common Thread

Thomasville’s Cozy Quilters.

Thomasville’s Cozy Quilters combine their artistry with a dedication to helping others.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Quilting is deeply woven into the fabric of American life. Whether telling a story, preserving a moment from the past, expressing a deep emotion or commenting on social issues, a quilt reminds us of special moments in our lives. This was certainly evident recently at the Thomasville Civic Center when the age-old artistry of quilting took center stage at the annual Hometown Celebration. The Cozy Quilters paid tribute to their popular craft with over 110 exhibits, showcasing the talent and ingenuity of their artistic members.

The guild started in 2004 when Debbie McClure pondered the idea of opening a quilt store in Thomasville. When things didn’t work out, she started a quilting club instead. At first, the club had only five members, but now has over 56 members. (Credit: Amanda Walker)

Quilting is a community art, attracting both young and old, as seen in the large crowds attending the show. Marie Slade, who serves as vice-president of the Cozy Quilters, coordinated the event showcasing quilts, wall hangings, crocheted and knitted items, and a boutique with handmade items for sale. Each display featured personal information about the piece and its maker. The quilters also had many interesting stories to share with those who stopped at each station.

Vintage quilts, art quilts and original quilts hung among the cherished antiques in the Safford Room of the Civic Center. At the entrance was a "Thomasville" quilt, created by Runelle Reid, Marie Slade and Ramona Kelley. Framed in Thomasville’s colors of maroon and gray were photographs of people and events that had impacted Reid’s life. Marie Slade designed the quilt top and Ramona Kelley helped with the quilting. Guests stopped to look closely at the pictures and share stories about the people and places in the photographs.

Another piece that captured much attention was one made by Marie Slade. Wanting to protect the dresser scarves and doilies that her mother had lovingly embroidered and used in their home, Slade looked for a way to preserve these priceless family treasures. She designed a quilt that framed the heirloom pieces, preserving them forever for her daughter Alissa.

Diane Fendley comes from a long line of quilters, so she took great pleasure in sharing some of her family treasures. One was a creation called "Umbrella Ladies." Diane’s mother-in-law Fay Fendley had made all of Diane’s maternity tops when she was expecting her son. Years later, "Miss Fay" took the tops and made Diane the "Umbrella Ladies" quilt. Her great aunt Alice Cassity made another heirloom quilt. Cassity had once worked at Solomon Brothers Shirt Factory in Thomasville. The company, which closed years ago, would give scraps to its employees, so Mrs. Cassity took some of the old shirt-factory scraps and made a Star quilt, leaving a priceless memento for her family.

Jenny Davidson’s talent and creativity were evident in the incredible crocheted crèche and colorful dolls that she made. Davidson also shared a state quilt her aunt had started in 1970. Five family members had worked on the quilt before Davidson finished it this year. On the back, she embroidered the names and dates that each relative who had worked on the quilt. The artistry displayed in all the quilters’ exhibits was amazing.

The popular show featured the work of the Cozy Quilters, well known throughout South Alabama not only for their beautiful creations but also their charitable and community service activities. The guild started in 2004 when Debbie McClure pondered the idea of opening a quilt store in Thomasville. When things didn’t work out, she started a quilting club instead. At first, the club had only five members, but this soon changed. The club now has over 56 members. The City of Thomasville originally gave the group one meeting room, located in the old Thomasville Elementary School building. Now, the group has grown so much they need two rooms.

The goal of the Cozy Quilters has always been to serve and educate the community through quilting. Their "community" now spans five counties. When the group decided to make adult bibs, wheelchair caddies and lap robes for nursing-home and assisted-living residents, they supplied enough for all the patients in the Thomasville, Jackson and Camden facilities. Another project found them making baby items for the ALPHA Pregnancy Center in Jackson and the Grove Hill Hospital. They have also created pillowcases for the Children’s Advocacy Center in Grove Hill. When one member visited the local Dialysis Center and realized that patients did not have pillows to support their arms, the CQ made both pillows and pillowcases for each client. After over 50 defective electric blankets were donated to the Thomasville Healthcare and Rehab Center, the club lovingly removed all the electrical wiring and made coverlets for each resident.

The CQ has donated quilts to fundraising efforts for the ARC of Clarke County and the Southwest Alabama Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. They have also worked with the Clarke County Department of Human Resources at Christmas, filling boxes with lap robes and personal hygiene items for seniors. Amazingly, individuals have donated the materials and supplies for most of these projects.

The Quilts of Valor project, for families of fallen soldiers, has been one of their most inspirational activities. When Thomasville native Drew Knight and three other Coast Guard members were killed in a helicopter crash in Mobile Bay, the CQs created a special quilt honoring Knight and presented it to his parents. At their show in June, this quilt was displayed in a moving, patriotic setting. It was possibly the most photographed exhibit in the show.

The Cozy Quilters’ outreach and generosity have extended far beyond Clarke, Choctaw, Washington, Wilcox and Marengo counties, however. For example, they have quilted pillowcases for Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Mobile, for Harriet’s House in Demopolis and for tornado disaster victims in Tuscaloosa. If they hear about a need, they delight in finding a way to help.

Like the quilting bees of old, the gatherings of the CQ promote a sense of community and fellowship.

"Our meetings are on-going learning opportunities," explained McClure, who serves as the president of the club. "We meet every first and third Tuesday, and have a demonstration of the ‘block-of-the-month.’ Each member teaches the others. Also, we have a planning committee that meets on Mondays to make the project kits. Each member then takes a kit and completes that project."

The group also visits other quilt shows and enjoys something they call Shop Hopping. Occasionally, they will have a Midnight Madness event on a Friday night or an All Day Quilting on a Saturday.

The quilters’ way may seem out-of-step with our fast-paced technological world, but, in fact, their art is thriving. The CQ has embraced the Internet in ways unheard of in the past. With a keystroke, modern quilters share patterns, designs, techniques, tutorials and videos, creating a faster way to communicate and interact. Some CQ use the Electronic Quilters programs to design their own quilts, comfortably working with their iPads and smartphones. The CQ also has a Facebook page.

Quilting is indeed woven into our American way of life. It embraces many genres, takes many forms and gives artists a canvas to show how differently each of us see, feel and interpret things. Ask any one of the Cozy Quilters why she loves quilting and you’ll get a different answer from each one. But they all can agree on one thing: they delight in creating something that brings joy to others!

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Processed Products Dominate U.S. Poultry Production

The U.S. poultry industry has grown considerably during the past 50 years, but major internal changes also have occurred and have spurred production even more.

In the early 1960s, more than 80 percent of broiler production was marketed as whole birds, and only 2 percent as further processed products. Recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service show only about 12 percent of production now is being marketed as whole birds, as output shifted to cut-up parts (42 percent of production) and to further processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets and tenders, and chicken sausages (46 percent of production).

The shift to cut-up and processed products spurred growth in demand for chicken, which in turn brought about production increases. Different products come from birds of different sizes, and changes in demand composition have shifted production toward larger birds for processed products.

Smaller broilers are usually marketed bone-in (whole or cut into parts) to the fast-food and food service sectors while intermediate sizes are normally marketed to retail groceries in tray-pack or bagged forms.

The largest birds can be sold whole as roasters, but are also marketed deboned and processed into parts and value-added products. Growing and processing birds of such widely varying sizes requires tight coordination between the hatchery, grow-out, slaughter and processing stages.

Rising Stocks Weigh on World Cotton Prices

USDA projections indicate that world cotton stocks will rise for a fifth consecutive season in 2014/15 (August/July marketing year), leading to continued downward pressure on global cotton prices.

Global ending stocks are now projected at a record 102.7 million bales for 2014/15, nearly 4 percent above 2013/14.

Cotton stocks increased over the past several seasons after relatively high cotton prices led simultaneously to higher global production and slowed growth in cotton mill use. The rise in global stocks has largely occurred in China due to government policies, including national reserve purchases that have supported global cotton prices by effectively keeping supplies out of the marketplace.

Stocks in China at the end of 2013/14 are estimated at 60.3 million bales, or 61 percent of global stocks, and are not projected to change significantly in 2014/15. Cotton prices jumped to average $1.65 per pound in 2010/11 in response to tight global stocks, but have weakened since.

As a result, the world cotton price is expected to decrease from an average of 92 cents per pound during 2013/14 to about 80 cents per pound in 2014/15.

Global Corn Ending Stocks Expected to be Highest in 15 Years

Global corn stocks are forecast to rise to the highest level in 15 years by the end of 2014/15 (September/August), leading to downward pressure on U.S. and global corn prices.

Stocks fell to relatively low levels during 2003/04-2006/07 before the 2008 spike in world commodity prices. Now, they are forecast to reach 188.1 million tons in 2014/15, just 3 percent below the recent high of 194.4 million tons in 1999/2000.

Since 2008/09, world corn production has exceeded total consumption in 5 out of 7 years. In addition to the United States and China, the two largest global producers and consumers of corn, production and stocks have been generally rising in Brazil, Russia and Ukraine, countries that are also playing an expanding role as corn exporters. With a second consecutive above-trend corn harvest forecast for 2014/15, the United States is expected to account for most of the 8-percent increase in global corn stocks forecast in 2014/15.

With growing inventories, the U.S. season average farm price of corn is expected to decline to $4 per bushel, down 10 percent from $4.45 per bushel in 2013/14, and 42 percent from $6.89 per bushel in the drought year of 2012/13.

Coverage of Federal Crop Insurance Programs Is Expanding

Producers of corn, soybeans and wheat, the three largest crops produced in the United States, are the largest consumers of Federal crop insurance, although producers of other crops are a growing share of program enrollment.

In 1997, corn, soybeans and wheat crops accounted for 80 percent of all acres enrolled in the program. Including cotton and sorghum raised the share to nearly 90 percent.

With new types of policies being offered and more crops added to the program, the share of enrolled acres attributed to these major crops fell to a total of 75 percent as participation in the Federal crop insurance program continued to rise. Pasture, forage and range land have accounted for the bulk of recent gains in enrolled acres, expanding from zero in 1997 to 48 million acres in 2012.

Apply Now for USDA Organic Cost Share Programs

Press Release from the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries

Growers and handlers of organic agricultural products now can recover part of the cost of their USDA certification. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries will be allocated $17,000 to reimburse producers and handlers who either obtain or renew their organic certification in the federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2014. The reimbursement covers 75 percent of certification costs, up to a maximum of $750.

The Organic Certification Cost Share Programs reimburse eligible organic crop and livestock producers and handlers for a portion of their organic certification costs. The programs consist of the following two programs authorized by separate pieces of legislation: the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program authorized by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, commonly known as the Farm Bill, and the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program authorized by the Federal Crop Insurance Act of 2001.

"We encourage organic producers to participate in this program and hope it will help them recoup some of the expenses associated with becoming a USDA-certified-organic operation," Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan said.

The ADAI will administer this noncompetitive grant program by processing applications for cost share funds, and USDA will reimburse them. USDA distributes funds on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted. Organic operators typically submit a one-page application form, a W-9 Tax Form, proof of certification, an itemized invoice of certification expenses and proof of E-Verify to ADAI. The ADAI reviews the application and then may reimburse the operator for 75 percent of the cost of certification, up to a maximum of $750 per category of certification per year.

All farmers, ranchers and handlers who have received organic certification or a renewal of certification from an accredited certifying agent between October 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014, are eligible to participate. Farms transitioning to organic production are not eligible. Most certification-related costs are eligible for reimbursement. Organic producers and handlers may be reimbursed for expenses paid for first-time organic certifications, as well as renewals of certification.

Eligible costs include: application fees, inspection costs, travel/per diem for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments and postage. Ineligible costs include: equipment, materials, supplies, late fees and inspections for transitional certifications or due to violations of NOP regulations. The Organic Certification Cost Share Program reduces the cost of organic certification in accordance with the Agricultural Marketing Service aim to strengthen market support for U.S. agriculture.

Applications will be accepted through September 30, 2014. Application forms and additional details can be obtained by calling Hassey Brooks with the ADAI at 334-240-3877 or by emailing to If you are seeking organic certification, you can find information on the process for certification at

Artist of Note

Bonnie Holland has received national and international acclaim as a botanical artist. Now, she is creating art using embroidery thread.

Pike County’s Bonnie Holland is overcoming obstacles with forward thinking.

by Jaine Treadwell

For more than a decade, Pike County artist Bonnie Holland was on the fast track.

Everything she touched seemed to come up roses.

Holland had received national and international recognition for her botanical art and had penned two award-winning cookbooks. She had written her memoirs and she had more ideas taking root in the creative recesses of her mind.

Then, about 3 years ago, life threw her a curve. She was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, a condition that affects some polio survivors years after recovery from an initial acute attack of polio.

"I knew it could happen," Holland said, with a smile. "The Salk vaccine came a year too late for me. I contracted polio when I was 9 years old and will probably be among the last generation that will be affected by post-polio syndrome."

As a child, Holland suffered paralysis on the right side of her body and, with years of "therapy and tender, loving care," she was able to walk again by age 15.

"By the time I reached young adulthood, unless someone knew I’d had polio, they couldn’t tell," she said. "I was blessed. I still am."

Holland said, with post-polio syndrome, there is a gradual weakening in the muscles that were previously affected by polio.

Post-polio syndrome has challenged Bonnie Holland, nationally acclaimed botanical artist, to find an alternative way to make art. Although she spends most of her day in a wheelchair due to the weakening of the muscles, her fingers are not affected. She is creating note cards with embroidery thread as the medium.

"It came on slowly. For a while, the effects were mild. Then, I got where I just couldn’t stand for long periods of time," Holland said. "But my muscles continued to weaken until I was in a wheelchair most of the time. Now, just about all of the time."

Holland said, at first, the muscles affected by post-polio syndrome tighten and will not relax.

"Then they atrophy and nothing can be done about it," she said. "That’s why I’m in the wheelchair – to protect what I have left. Now, the muscles in my throat are affected, making it harder to speak. But I have way too much to be thankful for to let this get me down. I won’t let it."

Holland faced the onset of post-polio syndrome the same way she faced polio as a child, with optimism and the determination "to just keep going and see it through."

But, as the effects of post-polio syndrome became more taxing, Holland found her botanical artwork more demanding than she had thought it would be.

"Botanical artwork takes a lot of organization," she said. "There’s so much in the way of inventory. There are files and files of pressed flowers and there is a lot of activity involved in the artwork. It is very demanding and I was finding it more difficult."

Holland found herself in an uncharacteristic frame of mind.

"I was getting outdone with myself," she said. "I didn’t feel like I was being productive. I wasn’t being productive. That was not the way I had lived my life and that was not the way I wanted to live my life."

Holland had never been one to "follow the leader." She had always been forward thinking. She was not in her comfort zone.

"Then one morning, I was sitting in my wheelchair and reached over and picked up a blank note card and some embroidery thread that was on the work desk," she said. "I realized that God was sending me a message like he had done so many times in my life. I began to imagine what I could do with note cards and embroidery thread. That was another beginning."

Holland’s extremely successful career as a botanical artist began with note cards decorated with pressed flowers. From those cards grew a flourishing botanical art business featuring framed artwork created from funeral and wedding flowers.

She got God’s message - "Do what you can with what you have."

"Even though my muscles were being affected, there was something I could do," Holland said. "I just had to decide what it was."

Holland began to envision note cards, not with pressed flowers but with colorful, intricate, geometric designs made from DMC embroidery thread.

"I start with a simple geometric shape," she said. "Then, I start drawing lines and expand the design and see how it develops."

She then takes a needle and punches holes along the pattern lines. She threads the needle and connects the "dots" with an array of colorful threads.

"I have boxes and boxes of embroidery thread so I never run out of colors, and ideas for the designs keep coming," she said. "I’m working on an idea to mimic hummingbirds. But right now, I’m doing cards for Christmas with red, white and green thread and I’m inspired by them. To me, they are so beautiful."

The designs range from simple to very complex. But no matter which, the embroidered note cards are works of art.

"It’s such a blessing that I can do this," Holland said. "Even with the adverse effects of post-polio syndrome, I can continue making art because my fingers are not affected. I can design and make cards throughout the day. It gives me something productive to do. And, if I can’t sleep at night, I can get up and work because everything I need is right at hand."

Holland continues to do botanical artwork, but on a limited basis. Her husband Gene assists her with the mobility challenges inherent in pressing flowers and designing compositions.

But embroidered note cards, she can do in the rush of the day or the quiet of the night.

"Nobody else is doing this," Holland said. "Folk artists make art out of whatever is available to them. That’s what I’m doing now. I guess I’m a folk artist in the truest sense of the word."

Holland’s artwork is available at her home studio on Highway 29 midway between Troy and Luverne. For appointments, call 334-566-5700.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Bringing U.S. Catfish to You!

Southfresh’s new food trailer will introduce people to the catfish industry as well as offer good food.

SouthFresh unveiled their new Catfish Food Trailer at AFC’s Booking Show July 8, 2014, in Montgomery.

Designed to tell the story and promote the largest U.S. aquaculture industry, the SouthFresh USA Catfish Food Trailer will be used for AFC promotional events, fundraisers, customer events and trade shows. The trailer will not only get more people eating our great-tasting, homegrown catfish, but will educate and bring awareness of the U.S. catfish industry.

Along with being America’s prime aquaculture species, catfish is an excellent source of protein and a sustainable, renewable resource providing careers and employing thousands in the state of Alabama.

SouthFresh has launched its new Catfish Program in Quality Co-op stores, offering glass-door, stand-up freezers and deliveries of SouthFresh catfish products and hushpuppies to the Co-op stores.

Carolina on Our Mind

Rolley Rhodes, Christy’s grandfather, was born in North Carolina in 1888. Rolley Len is his namesake.

Family Time in Cherokee

by Christy Kirk

Carolina has been on our mind - North Carolina, specifically. My husband Jason and I both have ties to the state from our childhood and beyond. My family history traces back to North Carolina on my father’s side, and we also visited the state a lot in the fall and winter months. Jason’s family went to River Valley Campground in Cherokee at the end of every summer for years. Jason and I visited in summer and winter together before the children were born, but, as sometimes happens when you have babies, we got busy and have not been back to the mountains, yet. This past spring, Jason’s mother decided it was time for all three of her grandkids to continue the tradition.

Between the nine of us, children included, school and work schedules were consulted and a date was chosen. It would be a long weekend at the end of July with a pop-up camper and two tents next to the water. Rolley Len has been especially excited about the trip north.

She came to me one night and exclaimed, "We are going to sleep in a tent, ride inner tubes down the river and see REAL Indians!"

Rolley Len has always shown an interest in hearing stories about the past, especially from her namesake, Pawpaw R.J. Her first name originated in 1888 when my grandfather Rolley Rhodes was born in North Carolina. I assumed that my great-grandparents had intended for my grandfather to be named after the city of Raleigh, but I have never heard for sure. My Grandpa Rolley’s grandmother was Cherokee.

My father spent time in Cherokee during his childhood and visited relatives who lived there. His mama and daddy would load him and his sister and two brothers into the back of a pickup (with a mattress in the back) and drove from Woodland to Cherokee, N.C., to visit family. Although my own Cherokee family is now limited to my immediate family, I still want my children to have an understanding of what life was and is like for Native Americans.

I realize, even though Rolley Len’s mother and pawpaw are "real Indians," we don’t really count because we don’t live a Native American lifestyle. While visiting Cherokee, Jason and I took the kids to the Cherokee Bonfire on the Oconaluftee River. The experience included storytellers and dancers in Cherokee ceremonial dress of the 18th and 19th century. For so many children, and some adults, what they imagine may be completely different from reality. Being able to see and hear the stories and dances had a huge impact on Rolley Len and Cason’s understanding of what Native American life was like.

One thing familiar to us in the South is that most of the foods Native Americans ate are what we eat now every day. Besides deer, fish and turkey, they relied on locally grown vegetables, fruits and nuts. The importance of corn to Native Americans can be seen repeatedly in stories told throughout the United States and South America. White and yellow corn have prominent roles in creation myths of how the world came to exist and origin myths of the first man and woman on Earth. Today, corn and cornmeal continue to be staples in our Southern diet.

This month, in honor of our trip to Cherokee, I am sharing four recipes with you that have cornmeal as a key ingredient. All of the recipes have Native American roots and, if you love cornbread as much as my family does, try one of them at your next meal.

Bean Balls (like a veggie-"meatball")

2 cups brown beans

4 cups cornmeal

½ cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Boil beans in salted water. In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour and baking soda. Drain beans and reserve the bean juice. Add beans to dry mixture. Add enough of the bean juice to mixture so that you can knead together into a stiff dough. Roll into balls and drop into a pot of boiling water. Reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Squash Bread (like a misshapen hush puppy)

2 summer squash, diced

1 cup cornmeal

1 egg

¼ cup buttermilk

¾ cup water (reserved from water used to boil squash)

Boil squash in a pot. Drain water, but reserve ¾ cup. Return reserved water to pot of squash. Add cornmeal, egg and buttermilk to the pot and mix well. Drop spoonfuls into hot oil and fry until golden brown.

Cornmeal Drop Cookies

¾ cup margarine

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cup flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup raisins (optional)

Cream together margarine and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and blend together well. Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and raisins. Mix well. Drop by tablespoonful on a greased cookie sheet. Cook at 350° for about 15 minutes.

Fried Green Tomatoes

4 large green tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper, to taste

2 cups cornmeal

Cooking oil

Slice green tomatoes into ½ inch slices (or thinner) and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes, then blot with paper towels and sprinkle with pepper. Dip each tomato slice into cornmeal coating each side.

Heat oil in a large skillet. When heated, add tomato slices to oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Note: My mother-in-law cuts her tomato slices thinner than ½ inch and the end results are crunchy deliciousness.

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

Century Poly Hay Feeders

by John Sims

This month’s product spotlight is on poly hay feeders from Century Livestock Feeders Inc. We have all used metal hay rings for years and have great success improving the amount of forage our livestock can consume. Metal feeders rust or get bent and become unusable over time. Polyethylene pipe seems like a perfect material for building hay feeders that will not bend or rust.

Polyethylene pipe was developed back in the early 1950s by Phillips Petroleum Company. Polyethylene is lightweight, yet extremely tough and durable. It is also chemically inert, is not brittle, and flexes and bends to absorb impacts. These products can be used in extreme cold to extreme hot climates. The pipes are tested from -180 to 260 degrees so you can count on them no matter where you live. The pipe is protected from degradation from the sun caused by ultraviolet rays by the addition of finely divided carbon black. This makes the life expectancy of these feeders in excess of 50 years! The ends of the pipe are heat fused using a butt-joining fusion system that is the standard for polyethylene pipe. Both tension and pressure tests prove that this joint is stronger than the pipe itself.

Century Feeders are warranted for 7 years from date of purchase for the original purchaser. That is a big deal, compared to little or no warranty for metal feeders.

As one salesman told me, "They are warranted pretty much against everything except front end loaders and fire."

The rings come with stainless steel bolts for assembly, further adding to their long life of service on your farm.

The standard feeder stocked at most Quality Co-op stores is made of 2-inch pipe for the rings and 3-inch pipe for the legs. It measures 8 feet in diameter and is 46 inches tall. This lightweight (approximately 100 pounds) yet very durable hay ring will make a great addition to your hay and supplement program for this fall. If your local Quality Co-op does not have this feeder in stock, they will be glad to order it for you.

Thank you for your business and give these hay feeders a try this fall. I am sure you will enjoy years of service from them.

If you have further questions about these products, feel free to contact me at

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

Controlling Those Dang Flies

House flies develop through four stages: egg, larvae, pupa and adult fly. (Credits: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,

by Tony Glover

If you ever watched the movie "The Fly," you know you should "be afraid - be very afraid," which is the most famous quote originating from that movie. However, the common house fly, Musca domestica, has been buzzing around homes pestering people since Adam built the first house – hence the name "domestica." Maybe fear is not the correct response but concern is appropriate. In addition to being a great nuisance, they can carry disease-causing pathogens as they land on your potato salad at your tailgate party.

To understand control, you need to know a little about their life cycle. House flies develop through four stages: egg, larvae, pupa and adult fly. They prefer to eat and lay eggs in animal waste and other decaying organic matter. A female fly can lay up to 500 eggs in batches of 75-100 eggs each. Eggs hatch in a day or two, depending on environmental conditions, mostly temperature. Larvae (sounds better than maggots) feed and develop on any moist organic matter. Before they mature to pupate, maggots crawl away from their food source to a cool and dry place to undergo this transformation.

The adult flies later emerge from the pupa and fly away in search of food and suitable egg-laying sites to start the whole process over. Flies have a sponge-like mouth that absorbs nutrients from moist organic matter. Our food can be contaminated by flies as they regurgitate digestive juices and drink it up. An adult fly can live for two to four weeks.

For most effective control, target the larval stage by eliminating the moist, exposed organic matter (particularly animal feces and rotting food) in and around your home where they feed and develop. Garbage should be kept in sealed bags inside of covered garbage cans. Garbage cans should be located as far away from your home as possible. Place animal food away from entry points of your home and only place the amount of food needed for a short period of time into their food dishes.

If only a few flies are buzzing inside your home, the old-fashioned fly swatter still works well. Mr. Miyagi’s method of using chop sticks in the Karate Kid movie is a little inefficient, but I have to admit when I was a kid my brother and I would try to catch them in our hand. We would pretend we had caught one and then act like we were eating it to gross out little girls. I am not sure why I am telling you that but I want to assure you I no longer do this … very often. Well, maybe a couple times to my daughters when they were young, but that’s all.

Don’t forget to check for entry points. Sealing holes and cracks around windows, doors and roof eaves are good for reducing your power bill, but has an added benefit of reducing flies in the home. Some commercial products to consider include ultraviolet light traps, disposable fly traps and sticky fly paper strips or ribbons.

Introducing toxic chemicals into your home is never a good idea. Pesticides should be used only in extreme cases to knock down a large invasion. Bait products available at your local Quality Co-op can be applied outdoors around dumpsters and garbage cans and where decomposing organic matter is found. Appropriately labeled insecticides can be applied to outdoor surfaces where flies rest such as the outside surfaces of barns, stables, houses and screens. Killing house flies does require vigilance, but don’t "be afraid" to try.

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

Corn Time


Date Labeling Confusion

Use these guidelines to determine food safety and avoid food waste.

by Angela Treadaway

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that about 133 billion pounds of food is wasted annually. This loss has an estimated $161.6 billion in retail value. That’s $523 worth of food per person per year!

Unfortunately, in the United States there is no uniform system used for food dating. Some of the dates you might see include:

A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. For best quality, you should buy the product before this date.

A "Best if Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

These dates cannot be relied upon as an indicator of food safety because there are too many variations in transportation and storage conditions. If foods are mishandled, foodborne bacteria can grow and cause foodborne illness – before or after the date on the package. For example, if hot dogs are taken to a picnic and left out several hours, they will not be safe to use later, even if the date hasn’t expired.

Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the "pack date" (the day that the eggs were washed, graded and placed in the carton). Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. When a "sell-by" date appears on a carton bearing the USDA grade shield, the code date may not exceed 45 days from the date of pack. Always purchase eggs before the "Sell-By" or "EXP" date on the carton. For best quality, use eggs within three to five weeks of the date you purchase them. The "sell-by" date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs are perfectly safe to use.

Infant formula is the exception to the rule. Federal regulations require a "use-by" date on the product label of infant formula under FDA inspection. If consumed by that date, the formula must contain not less than the quantity of each nutrient as described on the label. Also, if stored too long, liquid formula can separate and clog the nipple.

Because of the confusion over code dates, use by dates and expiration dates, some food manufacturers use a closed dating system such as a Julian date. A Julian date usually indicates the day of processing using is a three-digit number corresponding to the day of the year. Most consumers are unaware this three- digit number corresponds to a date and thus pay it no attention on the package.

Since product dates aren’t a guide for safe use of a product, how long can the consumer store the food and still use it at top quality? Follow these tips:

Purchase the product before the date expires.

If perishable, take the food home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly. Freeze it if you can’t use it within the recommended time frame.

Once a perishable product is frozen, it doesn’t matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.

Follow handling recommendations on the product.

Consult the Alabama Cooperative Extension System publication "Better-Safe-Than-Sorry Food Storage Chart" for a detailed list of food storage times.

For more information, contact your local county Extension office and ask to speak to a regional agent in Food Safety.

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.

Doing Our Part to Make Food Safer

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I came to work for the State of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries right when a major change in the way meat was inspected was being put into place. In 1993, there was a large E. coli outbreak caused by hamburgers sold by the Jack in the Box fast food chain. To make matters worse, the strain of E. coli was the 0157H7 strain that was far worse than your regular generic E. coli strains. This particular strain of E. coli was often responsible for the kidneys shutting down, often resulting in death. The hamburger patties traced back to the outbreak involved 11 lots produced on November 29-30, 1993. Seventy-three restaurants in four states, California, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, were involved in the recall and outbreak of the E. coli 0157H7. In the outbreak, over 500 people became ill by at least developing bloody diarrhea, with over 170 hospitalized and four deaths. At that point, government officials decided it was time to use all the tools we had available to reduce the risk of foodborne illness as low as possible.

The resulting change in meat inspection went from using the senses of sight and smell to detect whether meat or equipment was clean and sanitary to the implementation of HACCP and the Pathogen Reduction Regulation. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. HACCP is a process that breaks down a processing procedure and looks at each step to determine if contamination could occur and, if it did, what could be done to control it. HACCP was actually developed by NASA to make sure the food the astronauts consumed was free of pathogens. If you are like me, you can see the wisdom in taking every precaution against the astronauts developing a case of diarrhea while in space. Anyway, that’s all it took to sell me on the principle of HACCP.

The regulation that called for the implementation of HACCP also called for microbiological testing of product and the environment, including equipment. Testing for pathogenic bacteria or microorganisms is a way to find out if your HACCP plan really works. It is important to note, just because a surface looks clean, it may not be free of bacteria. I tried to look up how many bacteria could fit on the head of a pin. The answers I found ranged from around 500 to over a million organisms. The sources were not that reliable; however, they were on the Internet and if it’s on the Internet, it has to be true. Well, the point is that bacteria are so small you can only see them under a microscope, so I know a huge number could fit on the head of a pin. It is through testing for organisms that we are able to know the cleaning program a meat facility has in place is actually working.

There is an old saying, "If you don’t want to find something, don’t look for it." In the meat industry, that is certainly not the case. They, along with inspection personnel, are constantly looking and testing for something we had rather not find. That is pathogenic organisms - bacteria that make people sick. We know, if it is there, it had better be found before it gets into commerce. Having said that, part of each meat establishment’s HACCP plans include a recall plan so that if any lot or day’s production of meat needs to be recalled, there is already a plan in place. Most of the plants we deal with simply hold the meat until the test comes back negative.

Notice I said most plants we deal with - with the emphasis on "we." It has been a few years since I have written about food safety. Some of you may not know that the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has a meat inspection program. The program was established in the late 1960s and has provided service to generally smaller, often "mom and pop," plants that certainly have their place in the communities across Alabama. We also provide inspection to some of the small-to-medium plants across the state.

The USDA covers the large poultry processing facilities as well as some of the larger red meat plants scattered around. We do cover some of the smaller plants that are under federal inspection. When we are performing inspection in those facilities, we report to USDA, Food Safety Inspection Service. An establishment with a federal grant of inspection has the ability to ship their product across state lines or even out of the country. Plants operating under a grant of "state inspection" are not allowed to ship across state lines. Don’t ask me why, though. Several years ago, I was watching them discuss state versus federal inspection.

The man being interviewed was clearly misguided when he told the host, "If these state-inspected establishments want to sell across state lines, let them apply for and be granted federal inspection."

Well, that is an argument that has been going on long before I got here and will continue long after I have moved on. For the record, however, we operate out of the same regulations that the federal inspectors do. In fact, we are reviewed regularly to make sure we are complying with the USDA, FSIS rules. They review records as well as establishments. And you can bet they have a vested interest because the federal government pays for half of the expense of the program if a state chooses to have one.

The state meat inspection program falls under my umbrella. It consists of three veterinarians and 24 inspectors, including three field supervisors and is directed by Dr. Neeley Barrett. We have one compliance officer who covers the real estate from Tennessee to the Florida line and the Gulf Coast and from Mississippi to Georgia. To support the program, we only have one administrative assistant who keeps all the chainsaws that are being juggled in the air. These people, who are the meat inspection program, are an exceptional group. I always hear about the stereotypical government employee who is always looking for quitting time and counting days to retirement. I imagine those folks do exist, but not here. This group is very professional. They know their jobs. They represent Commissioner McMillan and the State Veterinarian well. But, most important, they are out there doing our part to make your food safer.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Dove Season Extended

by Chuck Sykes

Dove season will officially kick off the 2014-2015 hunting season for many Alabama hunters, and dove hunters will have more opportunity to enjoy their pastime this season. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approved a 90-day season as opposed to the 70-day season in place last year, giving hunters 20 more days in the field. Mourning doves are migratory birds and their management is strictly controlled by the USFWS. This year they allowed State wildlife officials to set their season within a Sept. 1-Jan. 15 framework, with a maximum of two zones and three season splits per zone.

The Conservation Advisory Board approved the following dates for Alabama’s dove season this year:

North Zone – Sept. 6-Nov. 9
Dec. 7- Dec. 31

South Zone – Sept. 20-Sept. 28
Oct. 11-Oct. 26
Nov. 12-Jan. 15

The highly social aspect of dove hunting makes it a great way to introduce kids or first-time hunters to Alabama’s great outdoors, and individuals who have not hunted in several years will appreciate an invitation to a good dove shoot as well! It is critical that Alabama’s avid hunters do their part to invite kids and adults who may not hunt every year to be more involved in our rich hunting heritage. Anyone who dove hunts knows how much fun it can be. There is a lot of interaction with other hunters and everyone wants everyone else on the field to have a good time. With this in mind, the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries sponsors special youth dove hunts throughout the state each year to give adults and youth participants quality time together enjoying Alabama’s great outdoors. Visithttp:/ for more information about these special dove hunts.

Dove hunting doesn’t require a high degree of discipline or extravagant equipment to have a great time. For instance, like to talk? Great! No need to worry about whispering here. You can talk to the person next to you without fear of reprimand or scaring away the game. Like to sleep in? No problem! Most dove shoots don’t get started until 2-3 p.m. Stomach growling? Feel free to grab a snack. The smell won’t chase away the birds one bit. Have a hard time sitting still? No worries there; you can fidget all you want without fear that the slightest movement might mess you up for the day. You can even walk to the next stand to talk to your neighbor if things are slow.

Dove hunting is also less secretive than other forms of hunting. Ever have another turkey hunter hem haw around about where they saw that big gobbler yesterday? That won’t happen on a dove field. On a dove field, other hunters will give you a heads up when doves fly in your direction to make sure you see them and have an opportunity to shoot them - or at least shoot at them as the case may be. Some of the fun at the end of the day is hunters ribbing each other about the ones that got away, or what an incredible shot someone made.

Many dove hunters in the past have worried about being legal due to variable interpretation of federal regulations. The USFWS allows for hunting doves over or around normal agricultural operations. Because these practices vary considerably among states, the USFWS defers to individual state Cooperative Extension Systems as the experts for establishing these standards. Last year, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System established new guidelines for planting top-sown grains such as wheat. The guidelines state, depending on the application, winter wheat can be top-sown from Aug. 1-Nov. 30 statewide at a rate of up to 200 pounds per acre. According to the USFWS, doves can be hunted over top-sown wheat planted for wildlife food plots, cover crops, agricultural crops and supplemental livestock grazing as long as the plantings are in accordance with the Extension guidelines.

However, the best dove fields are those planted in the spring or summer. Browntop millet, dove proso millet, grain sorghum, sesame or sunflowers are some crops beneficial to mourning doves. Planting portions of large fields in different grains and varying the planting dates will help attract doves early and hold them throughout much of the hunting season.

Once these plants mature, mowing, disking, or burning them will make the seeds accessible to doves on the ground. Doves prefer seeds that can be easily found on open, bare ground with very little debris. If you plan to have more than one hunt, it may also be beneficial to knock down only portions of the standing plants within each field at one time, allowing the rest of the field to be managed just before hunts conducted later in the season.

Doves are also attracted to commercial agricultural fields planted in corn, soybeans and peanuts. These crops should be harvested at least two weeks before planned hunts to allow doves time to locate the food before the hunt begins. Again, shooting opportunities may be extended by leaving portions of the field unharvested so they can be harvested later in the hunting season. For more detailed information about plantings for doves, visit ACES’s website for guidelines: If in doubt as to the legality of any dove field, contact the appropriate District Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office before the season begins.

Don’t forget about safety while hunting on a dove field! Never shoot at low-flying birds, keep the muzzle of your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times, always wear eye and ear protection, and take plenty of water for you and your four-legged friends.

Dove hunting is a great way to spend quality time with family and friends in the outdoors. If you have never tried dove hunting give it a shot this year (pun intended). And if you are a die-hard dove hunter who goes every year, make this the year you take someone new with you. You are guaranteed to make memories that will last a lifetime.

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


Gee Whiz! More Storage And Patch Those Leaky Boots

by John Howle

“We are never defeated unless we give up on God.” – Ronald Reagan

Evidently, there are many American citizens who feel defeated in the country today. I recently listened to polls that were taken from Americans about the current status of the country. Of the three polls taken, it said a majority of Americans feel America’s best days are behind her. A majority of Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, and the third poll showed that most Americans feel the government can’t be trusted and is out to get them.

In the year 2001, gas and diesel prices ranged around $1.50 per gallon. Now, those prices have tripled; and, when we fuel up … when no one is looking, we lift the hose on those gas pumps to get that extra three cents of gas out of the line being careful not to let any drip on the ground. We still accept those flimsy excuses from the government that the violence in the Middle Eastern countries is driving the cost at the pump higher. Deep thinkers stop and say, "Wait, there’s always been violence in the Middle East."

As prices for goods and services increase, entitlement rolls get bigger, the borders of the country become more porous and the national debt continues to climb, it is important to remember that this is a country founded on biblical principles with the founding fathers continually referencing placing their faith in God - and seeking God’s will in the establishment of this Union. We have been a country truly blessed by God, and we’ve been reaping the freedoms of those who came before us and sacrificed so that the next generation would have it better.

A rubber worm can be melted into punctured holes in rubber boots or waders giving them a little extra life. There’s also a product called Shoe Goo that can be used to accomplish the task.

If we go back to the original biblical principles this country was founded upon, we would see the healthy being required to work and take care of their families. We would see the national debt go away because we would "owe no man a thing." We would see the poor being fed and given a hand up - not a hand out. Finally, since we are taught to give 10 percent of the earnings we’ve been blessed with back to God in the form of tithes, why should we have to pay more than that percentage to the government?

We continue to be a country blessed by God, but we don’t need to take those blessings for granted. Leaders should be held accountable to biblical principles including honesty; each citizen should exercise their right to vote in a wise and prayerful manner; and we should use our blessings to help others who are in need. It’s not complicated. Like Reagan said, if we give up on God, we will be defeated. To remain blessed, we have to remember we have victory in Jesus.

New Rubber for Old Boots

Having a waterproof pair of rubber boots around the farm is essential, and if you are a duck hunter, waterproof chest waders make the hunt possible. However, one small hole or dry rot crack can ruin the waterproof quality of the boots. Instead of throwing those boots away, try repairing them. There’s a product on the market called Shoe Goo that will seal the holes on rubber boots making them waterproof again. If you really want to go self sufficient, you can also use a lighter and rubber fishing worm to make the repairs. Simply hold the rubber worm over the flame allowing the hot goo to drip into the holes of your boots. If you want to smooth out the area, while the goo is still hot, use an ice cube to smooth out the fresh rubber goo before it hardens.

A couple of gee whiz plow teeth can be attached to the barn wall to hold ladders or metal T-posts.

Gee Whiz, More Storage

If you have a few remnants of the mule plowing days, they can serve you as storage for modern day. A gee whiz plow was used to plow the middles between cotton and corn, but the plow teeth can be attached to the barn wall to store longer items such as ladders or metal T-posts. The plows are long and curved with two bolt holes. Simply drill a couple of pilot holes into your barn posts, and attach the plow teeth to the wall with lag bolts. Make sure you don’t mount the gee whiz teeth at head level for safety purposes. Waist high is an ideal height.

Privet Hedge: Thanks, China

It is considered one of the top 10 invasive species of weeds in Alabama. You are most likely to see it growing along fence rows where birds will land on fences to spread seeds through their droppings. According to Mississippi State University’s Extension Agency, Chinese Privet was introduced in 1952 and, since then, there’s not hardly a fence in Alabama that is safe from this takeover. Mixtures of 2, 4-D and Remedy are usually the best control techniques for this exotic shrub, which is highly aggressive in growth. Your local Co-op can provide you with the right chemicals for control of this woody growth.

This September, remember your blessings and don’t give up on God. Bringing biblical principles back into the country can make a world of difference in our country’s health.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Gettin’ Back to My Roots

“What am I?” Look beyond the flower. Last month the WAI was two spider bites on my leg.

by Herb T. Farmer

Looking back on the many things I have seen in my years, sometimes it’s hard to process the breadth of it all. Is it just me or are we all really connected by two things: music and gardening?

Thinking back to a more energetic time in my life, I recalled some of the music I listened to while I worked the vegetable patch. It was only a small patch and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Back then, there was this one song that would pick me up when I felt blue, alone or confused. "Keep on Smilin’" by Wet Willie was and is still a deeply philosophical song that pretty much dictated how I felt back then, and it gave me the encouragement I needed to continue.

There’s this one line in that song … "Are you a farmer? Are you a star?" that made me smile, and it still does.

I followed that band around the South whenever I could afford time off from work and had travel money to watch them make audiences shake and dance. They moved people with their positive, upbeat music. They moved me. I wore out one 8-track and bought a second one of their third album so I could listen to it on my makeshift outdoor stereo.

Jimmy Hall and Donna Hall Foster of Wet Willie (Credit: Keith Necaise Photography)

The folks in the band were just regular folks when you got around them while they weren’t working (performing). Most of the band members were from Alabama. Brothers Jimmy and Jack Hall and sister Donna Hall Foster are from Mobile. I believe their whole family has the music gene.

Recently, I spoke with Donna about gardening and flowers and stuff. She told me about how she became interested in the beauty of it all.

Donna’s late father Jack (Pop) was an avid gardener who loved flowers. He would build the beauty of his planting beds by sometimes transplanting native wild plants from the woods to his yard. She gleaned from his knowledge, paying attention to every detail.

Donna says her love for the pastime also comes from her mother’s love of the same. Momma Hall (Nanny) can not only play the piano and sing but gardens as well.

Her signature flower is the pansy. Donna says pansies, Johnny jump-ups and other violas are such happy flowers with their little faces. It’s hard not to smile back at them.

Queen Ann’s Lace is another of Donna’s favorites. That is one wildflower that, when in the right setting and nature has planted the seeds in bulk, makes a beautiful picturesque display.

Typical close family gathering with Nanny Hall leading the music on her piano and singing her favorite Southern gospel songs.

I asked Donna about what is doing well and not so well in her garden this year. She said she has had trouble with Gerbera daisies in the past and this year is no different. I explained that I have the same problem. She said her bell pepper plants have produced tremendously this year. So much so, she has had plenty of fruits to share with friends and family.

We share an appreciation for one of my favorite flowers. Zinnias grow easily here at the farm and Donna made me promise to send her some seeds. Pop and Nanny grew zinnias at their home in Mobile and it was one of their favorites. Zinnias attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and American goldfinches.

It’s not unusual for the family to get together on the weekends. Donna and her sisters do a lot of the cooking. I asked her what her most requested recipe was. She said taco salad for a Mexican dinner and Nanny’s chicken and dumplings. Bisquick is the only substitute she uses in Nanny’s secret recipe.

We talked for the longest, catching up on garden talk and where the band will be playing. Brother Jimmy is on tour with Jeff Beck, co-headlining with ZZ Top. Stan Foster, Donna’s husband, still tours with his band, Rollin’ In the Hay, and also plays with other bands all over Mobile and Baldwin counties. Donna, with her dynamic voice, performs all over the southern counties from Mississippi to northwest Florida.

Wet Willie will get together for a performance this month in Fort Payne at Boom Days on September 20. I am certainly going to see them then. The whole gang will be there. My friends, Joyce Ramos and Ronny Neely (general manager) from the DeKalb Co-op stores, will be at Boom Days featuring one of the coolest grill inventions I’ve ever seen. Traeger grills are fired by wood pellets and … well. Just stop by their booth and let the experts explain how they work. But, take it from me, my Traeger cooks up a fine barbecue butt!

Speaking of DeKalb Co-op, I was talking with Ronny the other day and told him that Wet Willie was headlining at Boom Days. He said he hadn’t seen them in years and he and his wife Susan would definitely be there for the show.

I really wanted to get down to Mobile and take some pictures of Donna and her garden, but time did not permit. I called upon my friend Keith Necaise to see if he had any pictures of Donna I could use for this article. He generously offered one of Jimmy and Donna taken in Mobile last December at a Christmas party. Keith is an event photographer from Mobile who also shoots architecture, nature, landscapes and, of course, gardens. Look for him on Facebook.

The rest of the photographs here are provided courtesy of Donna Hall Foster, Buddy McQuillen, Cindy Hall McQuillen and Melissa McQuillen. Thank you!

That’s all I have time for today, but I’ll be back in October with some spooky Halloween recipes and some ideas for seasonal floral arrangements.

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at

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

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

Honoring the Garden Lady

Left to right, Jay Conway, 4-H regional Extension agent in Cullman County; Luci Davis, JMG State Coordinator; Cindy Tubbs and Tony Glover, Cullman County Extension Coordinator, when Cindy was awarded the honor of induction into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame.

Cindy Tubbs Inducted into Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame

by Casey Whitaker

Volunteers play a vital role in the success of the Junior Master Gardener program here in Alabama. A long-time volunteer, Cindy Tubbs, received a special honor this past spring. She was inducted into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame. This honor goes to volunteers, Extension employees or donors to 4-H who have contributed either their time or money to improve the lives of the children of Alabama.

Ask the children in Cullman County who Cindy Tubbs is and they will tell you she is the "Garden Lady." For the last 8 years, Tubbs has been the driving force for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Junior Master Gardener program in Cullman County.

"I’m blessed to work with children and the garden," Tubbs said. "Junior Master Gardener is a constant in my life and I’d never dream of giving it up."

Junior Master Gardener

Tubbs started as a Master Gardener before bringing her passion for gardening and children to the JMG program in 2006. She began volunteering at the Childhood Development Center in Cullman County and has since helped organize programs in four Cullman County schools and two homeschooled groups helping about 250 young people every week throughout the school year.

Luci Davis, JMG state coordinator, said having an experienced Master Gardner is a benefit Tubbs brings to the program.

"Teachers often don’t have the training in horticulture and, if they’re not avid gardeners themselves, they are often intimidated by the garden and using it as a teaching tool," Davis explained. "Master Gardeners can come in and assist teachers in those areas that are out of their comfort zones."

The program aims to meet with children once a week for about an hour during the school day to provide a love of gardening and an appreciation for the environment through hands-on learning experiences. Tubbs has taken on the responsibility of creating lesson plans that reinforce what the children are learning in school and organizing materials for the volunteers every week.

Growing Knowledge

Getting children to put down their "gadgets" and step outside is something Tubbs hopes the program will encourage.

"They need to open the front door and use their five senses to soak up nature," she said.

The program curriculum outlines include plant growth and development, soils and water, and landscape horticulture, but Tubbs takes the lesson a step further to show the children the big picture – the farmer.

"I use the garden to stretch the role of the farmer, to teach the children to appreciate the farmer," Tubbs said. "I tell the children if it weren’t for plants and farmers we wouldn’t have this."

Although JMG is designed to teach school children to appreciate their environment, the values commonly trickle over to their families, a side effect Tubbs is more than all right with.

"It not only opens the youths’ eyes but the eyes of their families," she stated. "It gets them aware of farming, gardening and how to make healthy food choices."

The Future

As for the future of JMG, Tubbs hopes every school will have an outdoor classroom providing the children with a space to grow as a gardener and as a person.

"With an outdoor garden area, the youth can get out there and get their hands dirty," Tubbs said. "It will give them the opportunity to put what they learn in the classroom to use."


Davis and Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Agent Jay Conway nominated Tubbs to be inducted into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame because of her unique dedication.

"She works effortlessly to make the program strong, has a true passion in teaching children about gardening and does all this without asking for anything in return," Davis said. "It was time to recognize all the hard work and time she puts into making Cullman County have one of the strongest JMG programs in the state."

Conway added Tubbs’ dedication is what makes her a special volunteer.

"It’s amazing the amount of time and effort she puts into what she does," he said. "It’s unusual to find a person who volunteers that long and is so involved. Junior Master Gardener is one of the best programs in the state because of Cindy."

Although aware of her nomination, Tubbs wasn’t getting her hopes up.

"I always thought you had to be older and be involved for a long time to be inducted," she said. "But when I got the letter back saying I had been accepted, I was absolutely thrilled and honored."

Being one of the youngest and the first inductee from Cullman County, Tubbs said it is all the more reason to continue her hard work.

"It gives me the extra punch to do even more," she said.

Casey Whitaker is a student writer for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Feathered Insect Control

In the ecology of a garden, birds can play a big role in keeping insects in check. Folks who grew up in the country know the value of purple martins, whose diet includes many flying insects such as flies, grasshoppers and mosquitoes. In any garden, city or country, chickadees and tufted titmice become summer pest-control champs because much of their summer diet consists of insects. They’ll eat moths, caterpillars, flies, beetles, aphids, leafhoppers and treehoppers, all of which can waste a garden. I don’t mind sacrificing a few tomatoes or blueberries to the birds in exchange for their helping me keep the pests under control. This spring I noticed very few cabbageworms in the garden, but did see cardinals flying in and out of the crop. The little green caterpillars they found must have been like sirloins to the baby robins in the nest. In the summer, nuthatches will feed on ants, beetles, insect eggs, caterpillars and cocoons. Watch the birds in and out of your summer garden patch and weigh their pecking of fruit against their potential pest control contributions. I’ve noticed that during times of drought, the tomatoes in our garden become a source of water for birds (and squirrels). If I run an oscillating sprinkler at a low height for a little while in the morning, they will get their water from that instead of the fruits.

Using bricks to create a giant house number within a stone wall could be useful on large and rural properties.

You Can’t Miss This Number

Spotted in Austin, Texas, this stone wall is a base for a giant house number created with bricks. The 4-foot wall identifies the house very clearly and contributes to the larger landscape as you pull up to the house. Close to the curb, there is no missing this address! Even though this was spotted in an urban neighborhood, it’s an interesting treatment that could be useful on large and rural properties, especially at a distance from the road.

A Good Shovel is Worth Every Penny

Even though we may have a shed full of tools, it always helps to take inventory of what we’ve got, what’s really good and what’s not. One of my pet peeves is a cheaply constructed, poorly designed garden tools, especially shovels. A good tool does part of the work for you. A poor one just makes it harder. So, if you’re looking at your tool shed, or helping stock one for a loved one this Christmas, here are some pointers. A shovel needs a sharp edge and some weight so that it actually cuts into the ground. The shank should be bolted firmly to a fiberglass or hickory handle well up the length of the tool. (If you are prone to breaking handles, look for tools with steel handles, an outgrowth of the pro models.) Look for shovels with a solid shank for extra strength. Many older shovels were just simply molded around the base of the handle where they end up collecting soil and moisture that can cause a wooden handle to rot and or the spot breaks under pressure. Short-handled shovels with a T- or D-handle grip are great for moving small plants and digging holes. The T or D shape gives you a good place to grip when digging. A digging shovel needs a good shoulder for you to rest your foot while pushing the blade into the ground. When shopping, wear your digging shoes and test the various designs to find one that feels comfortable to you. Once you buy a good shovel, it will last for years, maybe even a lifetime of normal garden maintenance.

Spider lilies, with their red blossoms on naked stems, seem to pop magically out of the ground this time of year, especially after rain showers.

Spider Lilies

Rain showers this month always bring out the old-fashioned spider lilies, Lycoris radiata, with their red blossoms on naked stems that magically pop out of the ground. I love the charm and surprise of these flowers. You never know if and when they will bloom. After the flowers fade, narrow, strap-like leaves also appear from underground in fall and remain through the winter. These leaves are what renew the plant’s energy to bloom again next year, so never mow or cut them back. Let the leaves grow until they yellow in the spring. In the right place, spider lilies live a long, long time. These are plants that get passed down through generations. If you don’t have a friend to dig and give you any, you can buy bulbs to plant now. The bulbs are generally only available at this time of year. If you buy bulbs, plant them in a sunny spot where there is moisture, but also good drainage.

Coffee Grounds Measure Up

We gardeners are always adding leaves and other organic matter to our soil, including kitchen scraps and the grounds from our coffee pot. Collecting coffee grounds from coffee shops has become a habit in some areas since Starbucks began advertising free grounds for gardeners several years ago. When Sunset magazine sent some Starbucks coffee grounds to a lab for analysis, they got some nutritional information to share with gardeners. The pH of the grounds was 6.2. NPK results were: nitrogen, 2.28 percent; phosphorous, 0.06 percent; and potassium, 0.6 percent. The grounds also contained trace amounts of magnesium and copper. The carbon nitrogen ratio is 24:1, so there is plenty of carbon available to feed the microorganisms as they break down the grounds. Amending soil with coffee grounds by up to 35-percent volume was found to improve soil structure over the short and long term. So there you have it, a little scientific measurement to quantify what you already knew! So go brew and strew.

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

Hunters and Birdwatchers

by Corky Pugh

The history of wildlife conservation reveals a strong collaboration between hunters and birders from the very beginning.

The neon-blue little bird lit on my friend Jacob’s shotgun barrel. He and I sat side-by-side, decked-out in camouflage head-to-toe. We were turkey hunting together, hoping to call a gobbler within shotgun range in the edge of a strip of mixed hardwoods between a pine plantation and a beautiful creek bottom.

Neither of us moved a hair when the stunningly blue, two-inch bird lit. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the look of astonishment on Jacob’s face.

"Indigo bunting," I muttered under my breath.

The bird perched on the vent rib of the Mossy Oak-finished gun barrel for probably 20 seconds, and flittered away.

Wide-eyed and incredulous, Jacob said, "I can’t believe he did that."

Often, people think of hunters and bird watchers as totally different people. Sometimes they are, but, more often than not, these two types of wildlife enthusiasts are very much alike. In fact, sometimes we are one and the same.

The famous birder and artist John James Audubon was first a hunter. The Audubon Society, a long-standing organization of birdwatchers, is named for Audubon. Many of today’s birdwatchers probably don’t know that Audubon shot and killed the specimens he painted the likenesses of.

The common thread that binds hunters and birdwatchers is a fascination with nature, especially the feathered denizens of fields and forests. Some of us want to simply observe these fascinating creatures with their brilliant colors, beautiful calls and constant motion.

Others of us want to kill those that are legal game, take them home and eat them.

While many birdwatchers are not hunters, some are. Almost all hunters are birdwatchers. Think how many of us have bluebird boxes on green fields or bird feeders back at the house.

According to the most-recentNational Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, there are 535,000 people over the age of 16 who hunt each year in Alabama. The same document reveals that there are 1,079,000 people over the age of 16 who engage in wildlife-watching annually in our state.

What the Survey does not yield is what sort of overlap there is between the two recreational activities. In the same way that many of us are both hunters and fishermen, many of us are also wildlife watchers.

The Survey captures a statically valid snapshot of participation in all three wildlife-associated activities. The wildlife-watching activity is categorized into "Residential" and "Non-Residential." Residential activity is defined as engaging in watching wildlife around one’s home, for example the hummingbirds buzzing around the feeder on the patio. Non-Residential is defined as travelling 10 or more miles from home to engage in wildlife watching such as going to Guntersville State Park to view the eagles on Eagle Awareness Weekend.

The stereotypical caricature of a birdwatcher as a not-very-macho individual, as contrasted to the stereotypical-macho hunter, is highly misleading. President Teddy Roosevelt, the "Rough Rider," was both an avid hunter and consummate, lifelong birdwatcher. If the truth be known, even the toughest of hunters are fascinated with birds encountered afield.

Turkey hunters in particular are acutely aware of birds. The call of the barred owl is the most commonly used locator call when after a gobbler. The best turkey hunters have mastered the "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all?" owl call as a way to stimulate a gobble from a roosted turkey before daylight.

Crow calls are an old standby to get a turkey to gobble later in the day, and even the bizarre cry of the pileated woodpecker has grown in popularity as a locator call. But most turkey hunters just enjoy watching birds. Maybe it’s the springtime, in-the-woods-at-daybreak awakening that begins with the call of a cardinal that leads to this affinity.

Tom Kelly has written extensively about turkey behavior based on a lifetime of observation. Perhaps his most revealing observations came, not as a result of watching turkeys in the woods but, rather, as a result of watching birds around a feeder out the kitchen window.

The most revealing observations deal with how flocks of birds remain in constant motion until something suspicious appears within view of one or more members of the flock. At that point, the bird or birds that see the potential threat stand erect and motionless. If the object of suspicion lingers, eventually all members of the flock will stand in such a way.

The same behavior occurs in wild turkeys in fields that occurs in songbirds on the patio. This provides food for thought about the unpredictable responses of turkeys to decoys, especially those with an upright posture.

The history of wildlife conservation in Alabama and across the nation reveals a strong collaboration between hunters and birders from the very beginning. In the early 1900s, the hunters who led the conservation movement enlisted the support of birdwatchers and all nature-lovers in a massive campaign to save wildlife populations from extinction.

Remember there were practically no deer or turkeys to rally people around. So songbirds were at the heart of the campaign. Alabama was on the forefront of this educational effort with such innovative approaches as the publication of Bird Day Books to be used in the schools of the state for a course of study about wildlife conservation on a particular day each year designated as "Bird Day" by the State Superintendent of Education.

This early collaboration came as a result of John Wallace, the first Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Game and Fisheries (now Department of Conservation and Natural Resources), reaching out to the Superintendent of Education with the offer of furnishing the books. Wallace spent the bulk of the Department’s meager budget for printing the books. But Wallace wisely knew that,"a conservation ethic must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of the people."

Wallace died after a few years in office, but thankfully the cause of conservation in Alabama was carried forward by Commissioner I. T. Quinn, who continued the Bird Day Book initiative for years. At the state and national level, the growing wildlife conservation movement evolved into a massive collaborative effort between wildlife enthusiasts of all walks, even the Lady’s Garden Clubs.

During the fight for passage of the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, responsibility for guiding the bill through committee fell to Congressman Scott Lucas (Ill,), who reportedly did not push the bill aggressively. Carl Shoemaker, dubbed the "father of the Pittman-Robertson Act," sent telegrams to all the garden clubs and women’s groups in Illinois, urging them to contact Lucas on the matter. A few days later, Shoemaker happened to meet Lucas in the hall outside the congressman’s office. Shoemaker wrote of the meeting, "He (Lucas) threw up his hands and exclaimed, ‘For God’s sake, Carl, take the women off my back and I’ll report the bill at once.’"

History holds a valuable lesson for us. Anti-hunters and other misguided preservationists who don’t understand the wise-use conservation ethic are quick to seek out wildlife-watchers as allies. Thankfully, most birders are grounded enough in nature to see through efforts to co-opt them into a campaign to do away with hunting. As hunters, we should embrace birders.

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

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

Joe’s Close Call

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Country dogs are more than pets. They are good friends and valued working partners in the family. They help patrol the property keeping it safe from unwanted intruders, whether animal or human. They spend their days riding in the back of pickups, working livestock, eating disgusting things found in the pasture and rolling around in road kill. Ranch life can be dangerous for dogs, though. There are rattlesnakes lurking under rocks and water moccasins in the creeks. There are snares and poisons set out by ranchers to catch the ever growing population of predators. We love our dogs and, because our lives are so intertwined with them, we’ll go to heroic measures to save them.

The other day, one of my junior high students Cade was out enjoying the day with his big brother Cory and a few of their many dogs – Joe, Wade and Junior. They have several small ponds on their place, a large pond and a big trash pit, where they enjoy exploring. Their trash dump is quite interesting since their granddad Willard travels the state going to estate sales and auctions picking up things for his makeshift automotive museum. And all the discarded items that he can’t resell or use end up there.

That day was similar to many others they’ve spent – the two boys laughing and talking, and the dogs running around marking their territory every few minutes. Suddenly, a rabbit jumped up out of a clump of grass. All three dogs took off after it and chased it into a hole. After that, they decided to go for a swim, all but Junior. He’d had all the excitement he could take for one day and had scampered back to the house.

Cory and Cade were preoccupied with their conversation and checking out the latest contribution to the trash heap. All of a sudden, they heard a strange and disconcerting noise. It was the sound of a dog choking. They looked down at the big pond and saw Joe stagger out of the water, hacking and sputtering.

"Oh, my gosh! Help him, Cory, help him!" Cade yelled at his brother.

He adored Cory, who is 10 years his senior. In his young mind, if anyone could "leap tall buildings in a single bound," it was Cory. So surely he could rescue a drowning dog. Before the words were out of his mouth, Cory was flying down the embankment towards the struggling dog. By the time he reached him, Joe had stopped hacking and had fallen over. Joe lay still as death on the rocky edge of the pond, his wet fur glistening in the late afternoon sun.

Cade made his way down the slope, wiping terrified tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand. In a frantic attempt to save their beloved dog, Cory was trying a crude version of CPR. He was pounding the chest of the limp dog and then waiting to see if he’d respond. He did this several times without result. By this time, both boys were crying. Cory took a break and heaved a sad sigh. He looked over at his brother.

"I think we’ve lost him, Cade."

All of a sudden, Joe coughed and roused up a bit. He rolled his head over to the side and spat some water out and coughed some more. The boys’ stunned surprise turned to sheer joy, when Joe attempted to get back on his feet. He was breathing heavily. He continued hacking and spitting water out. But he was so exhausted from the ordeal that he could not stand on his trembling legs.

Realizing Joe was going to live, Cory and Cade laughed and whooped and gave each other high fives. Code praised his big brother for the heroic attempt to save their good dog. Cory confessed that no matter how much he loved him, he wasn’t going to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a dog. The older boy lifted the weak dog up and laid him across his shoulders, and they walked back to the house.

The next time the dogs headed down to the ponds, Joe stayed on shore. One close call was all he could handle.

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

Lassoing Opportunity

Trey Gargis competed on one of the 400 roping teams at the 2014 NHSFR. He shows his roping style in competition. (Credits: Jennings Rodeo Photography)

Colbert Farmers Co-op’s Trey Gargis makes roping team in National High School Finals Rodeo.

by Maureen Drost

A third-generation team roper, Trey Gargis of Tuscumbia won the opportunity of a lifetime and competed this summer in the 2014 National High School Finals Rodeo.

The high school senior was one of only four students in the Tennessee rodeo circuit to travel to Rock Springs, Wyo., where 1,600 male and female teens vied for top honors.

The largest such event in the world, the National High School Rodeo drew youth from 41 states plus Canada and Australia.

Trey is the son of Amy and Jeff Gargis, and works part-time with his dad at Colbert Farmers Co-op in Leighton. Jeff is assistant general manager at the Co-op.

Trey competed on one of the 400 two-person teams in team roping during the week-long rodeo starting July 19. While he didn’t place, it was his second year to attend and he considers it a valuable experience.

Trey Gargis with his parents, Amy and Jeff, at the 2014 National High School Rodeo. Credits: Jennings Rodeo Photography)

After he graduates from high school, he plans to study agriculture and hopes to receive a scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Martin and participate in their rodeo program. In June, the UT at Martin team won the national men’s championship with 755 points.

One financial opportunity for Trey could come from the National High School Rodeo Foundation that awards thousands of dollars in scholarships annually to its members.

"It’s a huge experience and an honor to go (to the National High School Rodeo)," said Amy.

With two rodeos each day, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m., the atmosphere in Rock Springs was "like nothing you’d imagine," said Trey. "There were lots of people there and a lot of pressure.

"You got to meet people from different places. I met a guy from Australia last year. and we’re still friends."

Team roping emerged out of ranch chores of the past. Today, timed competitions still rely on the skill and cooperation of cowboys and their horses as they work with steers. The goal is to immobilize an animal that’s too big for a lone cowboy to handle by himself.

For those not familiar with rodeos, here are a few details on the fast-paced challenges posed to team roping:

One rider, the header, starts out from the left side of the steer with the job of first roping the steer by its horns or around its neck. After he’s roped the steer, he turns it, giving the second rider, the heeler, a shot at roping the back legs.

When the heeler makes the catch, the header stops his horse, turns to face the heeler and the steer is stretched a bit between the horses. The timer is then stopped, and the time is recorded.

Trained Quarter Horses are typically ridden by the cowboy teams.

Steers usually weigh between 350 and 500 pounds.

Two Oklahoma youths won the team roping finals this year at the National High School Rodeo. Other events included tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, pole bending, bareback riding, barrel racing, breakaway roping, goat tying, bull riding, girls cutting and boys cutting.

To prepare for team roping at the national level, Trey must practice plenty of self-discipline and spend 12 months in training. He has to care for his horse and, as with other sports, he has to maintain his grades.

"I rope three times a week all year long," he said. "I compete on weekends at other rodeos."

To prepare his horse, Trey must keep him healthy and ride him often.

He gives credit to his father for teaching him the basics. Trey’s parents were both team ropers.

"I’ve gotten a lot of support from my mom and dad," Trey said.

As the head of Team Roping events in Tennessee and an alternate for the board of the Tennessee High School Rodeo Association, Jeff Gargis remains highly involved. Trey serves as secretary with the Student Officers.

Officers and board members are elected and live in Mississippi as well as Tennessee and Alabama.

Both parents traveled with Trey to the national championship, driving 27 hours to reach Rock Springs.

"One thing about the rodeo – we are family," said Amy. "We’re very blessed to be a part."

Besides participating in the national rodeo, Trey received a surprise bonus, according to his mother.

Trey was chosen as one of five from the 1,600 teens to model rodeo clothing. A number of professional photos have already been shot.

"I highly recommend the high school rodeo experience," Trey said. "You get a good feeling for the professional level."

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.

Let It Rain

Proud partners, from left, are Jay Grantland, Marcus Garner and Mike Roden.

Rainwater catchment system installed at Extension’s Small Ruminant Outreach Center

by Robert Spencer

The Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council recently provided and installed a rainwater catchment system on the barn of the Small Ruminant Outreach Center at the Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station in Hazel Green. This will help with future expansion on the concept of Alabama Ethnic Food Security Network, a component of this project, and utilize a natural resource that is recognized as being organic. The next phase is to plan and implement several types of gardens with specialty vegetables. The barn did not have any type of rainwater control or catchment system and rainwater was falling directly onto the ground and starting to erode immediate areas surrounding the barn. The Small Ruminant Outreach Center is an Extension-led project with intent to showcase best management practices and options for sheep and goat production. The rainwater catchment system provided by the AMRV RC&D is considered a partnering educational component that will demonstrate sustainable agriculture.

AMRV RC&D provided the materials, labor and installation at no cost to Extension. Mike Roden, executive director, and Jay Grantland, projects manager, with AMRV RC&D delivered the materials and did the majority of installation. Marcus Garner, urban regional Extension agent, and I assisted during the four-hour installation process. The catchment system including a 1,100-gallon plastic tank and installation has a value in excess of $2,500, not including labor.

Based on one inch of rainfall, the accumulation of rainwater for this one section of roof is 935 gallons.

Water is a natural resource that tends to be in short supply and a matter of dispute in some regions of the United States. Rain provides a natural way of watering vegetation, but occurs inconsistently. Rainwater is an organic way to water vegetables, but availability is dependent upon the weather. Harvesting rainwater is a practice that has been around for centuries; cisterns have been utilized to collect rainwater for household use. In situations where water sources are limited, the ability to establish and utilize a rainwater catchment system for irrigating vegetables and fruits has significant benefits. The capability to capture or harvest rainwater and disperse as needed for watering vegetation is considered organic, reduces vulnerability to rainfall variations, and reduces costs and reliance associated with public water. Capturing rainwater rather than allowing it to gain momentum from the roofs and directly wash onto the ground eliminates the potential for soil erosion and nutrient run-off.

Capturing or harvesting rainwater from roofs of buildings is a fairly simple process. It requires a sloped roof, rainfall, some type of gutter system to catch the rainwater from the roof, a drain pipe, and a plastic vat or barrel to hold the water until needed for irrigation.

The generosity of Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council and staff is greatly appreciated; the rainwater catchment system lifts this facility to a whole new level. RC&D Councils throughout Alabama have always been great supporters of Extension, and champions for natural resources, education and agriculture!


Rainwater Harvesting, Wikipedia http:/, Retrieved July 21, 2014.

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

Meet Stephen Donaldson

AFC’s New Animal Nutritionist Introduces Himself

by Stephen Donaldson

"What reason and endeavor cannot bring about, often time will." – Thomas Fuller

These words are very true and represent much of my philosophy of vocation and life in general. As I begin this new opportunity to work with the fine people at Alabama Farmers Cooperative, I hope that time will bring us to understand the best ways we can reach a certain goal. Time is the one commodity that is decreasing, never to be replenished. Yet time has also taught us lessons we can use to help reach our goals. It’s time I hope I can use to help each producer using AFC feeds to reach their goal.

I was born in Birmingham, and, at the age of 7, my family moved to a small farm in Cullman. Originally, we were a diversified farm with cattle, hogs, grain and produce. Over time, our operation evolved into one that consisted of commercial layers and beef cattle. The many experiences I had during this evolution have given me some knowledge I hope can be applied to each of your situations to help reach your production goals.

My love for production-animal agriculture grew through experiences showing hogs, sheep and cattle. The daily responsibilities associated with each of these projects and the competition at the shows forces one to dig for knowledge to gain every possible advantage. During this time, our family expanded more into animal agriculture by building commercial layer houses and starting a cattle back-grounding operation. These labor intense endeavors further built my love for production animal agriculture and carried on through my years in high school.

There was no question that my next step would be to attend Auburn University and major in Animal Science. The department was chock full of excellent professors and their wisdom imparted to students was invaluable. We were taught about different production systems from across the United States. Production systems that could be adapted to our state and regions. The diverse experiences of these professors further heightened my interest to learn all I could about animal nutrition.

After graduating from Auburn University, I attended the University of Georgia and received a M.S. degree in Animal Science with emphasis in Ruminant Nutrition. While there, I also had the opportunity to work with many fine professors. My committee consisted of gentlemen from Kentucky and Texas and included one of the finest forage specialists in the country. My research centered on improving performance of steers grazing wheat pasture by supplementing their diet with ingredients containing high levels of rumen escape protein.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System would be the next stop in my time journey. I was the livestock specialist in Limestone County for a brief period of time. While there, I enjoyed trouble-shooting problems with producers. There are a wide range of challenges for production agriculturists and they must be quick on their feet to seize opportunities or avert disasters. My time was cut short in this enjoyable job as circumstances dictated that I return home.

After moving home, my first job was to help my brother Tim build the facilities that would house the North Alabama Bull Evaluation Center. My family has developed bulls for the Alabama BCIA since 1991. We are responsible for the daily care and nutrition of the bulls tested at the center.

Our current operation consists of 125-head cow-calf operation, a 2,400 sow operation and a small feed mill manufacturing swine and poultry feed. My mother, brother and I are all partners in our farming operation. Our families are integral parts of the operation and each member shares with unique responsibilities. In our opinion, family is the ingredient that makes each part of our operation work. The support of my wife Jackie has been the spark keeping the fire going and helping to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

I have struggled writing this article to introduce myself to you. I feel it is unimportant where I have been and the experiences that I have encountered. The important factor we need to remember is that time feeds knowledge and it’s the way we apply that knowledge that affects the outcomes of each of our own production programs. I hope the time I have spent in this industry and the diverse production programs I have been associated with can offer each of you some advice that will make each of your operations extremely fulfilling and successful. I look forward to the time we spend together to overcome the challenges facing us daily in our farming operations.

If I can help any of you while serving as the nutritionist for the Feed, Farm and Home Division at AFC, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 or

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Obituary: Anderson’s Peanuts’ Dennis Finch Passes

Dennis R. Finch of Samson passed away Sunday, July 27, 2014. He was 64. Finch was born in Geneva County on October 8, 1949, to the late W.R. "Willie" Finch and Wilma Brewer Finch. He was also preceded in death by two brothers, Cyrus Smith and Michael A. Finch; and brother-in-law George "Bubba" Sims. He was a longtime and faithful member of the Samson First United Methodist Church. Prior to his retirement he spent 40 years in the peanut industry, the last of which as AFC Vice-President and General Manager with Anderson’s Peanuts.

Survivors include his wife of 43 years, Diana D. Finch; two sons, four grandchildren, two sisters and a brother.

Pals: Troy Elementary Students Add PALS to a Special Learning Experience

Troy elementary students spent the day at Troy University for the 2014 Groundwater Festival.

by Mary Stanford

Troy elementary students had a day of fun and learning. They spent the day at Troy University and visited different stations.

PALS was part of their learning experience and something they can use by being good stewards of their environment. The students learned about littering, recycling and their carbon footprint. Students and teachers were shown how littering affects the marine and wildlife environment. These creatures can become "endangered" by being tangled up in litter and cannot move.

The purpose of the "clean Campus Program is to implement litter education and involvement in community and campus cleanup efforts." It is a springboard for implementing litter education in Alabama school systems. This will promote a cleaner and healthier environment for all Alabama campuses, and presents an opportunity for students and faculty to be part of having their respective schools recognized for their efforts.

PALS has a Poster and Essay Contest with the first place winner receiving $250 and an invitation to attend the Governor’s Awards. Participating schools can also qualify to nominate themselves for the State Award. The first place school receives a scholarship of $1,000, $750 second place and $500 third place. The State winner will also be presented with signs to be displayed at their school.

Alabama PALS looks forward to having the opportunity to work with your school. Contact Alabama PALS at 334-263-7737.

Mary Mitchell Stanford is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Peanut People

Property Recovered

ARCU Agents Tim Mathews, left, and Jay Whitehead actively worked on the recent stolen equipment case. They recovered nearly $500,000 worth of equipment, including the skid steer pictured.

Rural Crime Unit recovers nearly $500,000 in stolen farm equipment

by Mary L. Johnson

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Agricultural and Rural Crime Unit recently recovered 11 pieces of farm equipment totaling $489,041 in value. The equipment was reported stolen from Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

ARCU agents arrested Jody D. Morgan, 53, and Steven Ray Parker, 38, both of Albertville, for receiving stolen property first-degree. Both men were booked at the Etowah County Detention Center with additional charges pending in Marshall County. Parker has been released on bond, and Morgan is still being held at the detention center.

"Our agents worked diligently, alongside local law enforcement, to break this case," said ARCU Commander Gene Wiggins. "A case like this will make criminals think twice before they bring stolen equipment across the state border and try to resell it. We want thieves to know Alabama is closed to that kind of business."

Equipment recovered included tractors, skid steers, trailers, a backhoe and wood chipper.

Over the past 12 months, ARCU agents have investigated more than 100 cases and recovered more than $2 million in stolen property.

ARCU partners with local law enforcement to investigate agricultural and rural crimes including theft of farm animals or equipment, fraud and agroterrorism. Under a directive from Governor Robert Bentley, ARCU was the first unit established as part of the consolidation of state law enforcement agencies and works directly out of the Office of the Secretary of Law Enforcement.

Many counties have offered rewards to those who can provide leads tied to these cases. In addition, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association offers a $1,000 reward to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone caught stealing cattle from one of its members’ farms.

To report a rural crime or provide a tip, call 1-855-75-CRIME.

Mary L. Johnson is director of News Services for the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Seeds, Soil and Sunlight

Students use teamwork to make the garden a success.

Collinsville fourth graders get practical experience with math, reading and science by creating a garden.

by Anna Wright

Fourth graders at Collinsville School in Collinsville are meeting state educational standards in math, reading and science by way of a small garden located in a previously unoccupied area of the school’s campus.

Teacher Lori Owen was inspired to organize a plan for a small garden for her class and the other two fourth-grade classes while attending an Alabama Agriculture in the Classroom workshop in 2013. Other teachers at the meeting reported an overwhelming improvement in classroom morale and participation from their students who work in the garden. Deep Roots of Alabama, a non-profit organization created to teach individuals how to grow their own food, explained to the attendees of the conference that they could offer garden organizational tips as well as meet with the students several times during the year to talk about different gardening practices. Later, Owen was inspired by a speech from Dr. Thomas Bice, Alabama Education Superintendent, at an Environmental Education Conference about the impact gardening has on the educational process. That was all she needed to realize this project would be great for her class.

A fourth grader learns about compost using mushrooms.

Owen sent a text to Collinsville School PTO President Michelle McPherson to see if there would be any support to raise the funds to have Deep Roots come to Collinsville. Within a few days, McPherson had started selling doughnuts to help raise the $600 needed for the project.

"The support was there from the start," Owen said. "The administrators, other faculty members, parents, students and the community were very supportive from the beginning."

Deep Roots visited the fourth-grade classes three times throughout the year, and conducted different activities that used classroom information in a real-life environment. They first decided how to lay out the raised beds and determined how much mulch they needed. By using area and perimeter math formulas, students problem-solved together and were able to set up the garden correctly. Students learned how to mix different elements to make the perfect soil for their specific vegetable plants. They sorted through seeds by looking at characteristics of size, shape and color before they began growing their seedlings in small cups. These were later transplanted into the garden.

Local physician Dr. Frannie Koe donated a significant amount of funds and was an encouraging support for the efforts of this project.

"I see teaching students the simplicity of growing their own foods as a way to promote better health and sustainability," she said. "With childhood obesity on the rise, the simple method of seed plus soil can hopefully start to alter the unhealthy eating habits that many of these kids have."

The garden consists of two raised, wooden beds and three beds made of cinder blocks. Students participated in the whole process, from seeding to harvesting within the school year. Each fourth-grade class had a rotating garden-chore schedule for each week so that watering, weeding and harvesting were all completed and the garden was in a neat condition.

Planting lettuce as a cool-season crop yielded a yummy salad for all to enjoy later in the school year.

Russell Cave, a National Monument Park in Bridgeport, donated recycled plastic-landscaping boards. These boards outlined the entire bed area making it an attraction to the school. Thanks to the school’s shop class, this job (which was too big for fourth graders) was a opportunity for those willing students.

Lowe’s Home Improvement Store in Fort Payne partnered with the teachers through their Lowe’s Heroes Program. They provided mulch and material needed to set out the additional three beds. This program offers funds and volunteer support in areas improving the communities they serve. She plans on using this partnership to further expand this garden project in the future that includes a butterfly house near the existing raised beds.

The JMG program, incorporated with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System Program, awarded Owen a $100 grant for garden supplies, as well.

Students in other classes became curious about their garden and wanted to know what all was being grown. Owen said there are plans for other classes to use the garden as it grows.

"I don’t think we realized how much our students would enjoy the garden," Owen recalled. "We began to see more students engaged in the gardening learning process. They were excited to see what was changing out there and many students took the experience home and began their own gardens."

Pizza is the universal favorite of all kids. Using herbs and vegetables from their garden, they made their own pizza in the school’s Home Economics department. The universal non-favorite of most kids is salad, but by using lettuce and radishes they had grown, with a splash of Ranch dressing, many of the kids were enjoying every hard-working bite.

"Giving them ownership in the garden and letting them invest their time by watering and even weeding provided them with a sense of pride for their work," she explained.

Parents of her students were very supportive and even organized how to take care of the gardens over the summer break.

"Seeing the classroom standards met out in the garden made the circle complete," Owen said. "It is rewarding, as a teacher, to see the garden bring out excitement for learning in my students."

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

September Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Autumn is a good time for starting a fresh round of Bonnie cool-season and overwintering crops such as broccoli, collards and cauliflower.
  • Dig up and divide or transplant crowded perennials. New and replacement perennials should also be planted this month.
  • Plant perennials from seed by scattering them in an open bed or in individual rows. In the spring, the seedlings can be moved to more permanent locations.
  • Direct sow seeds of lettuce, greens, onions, peas, beans and broccoli.
  • Scatter the seeds of wildflowers in open beds this month so the young seedlings will get an early start next spring.
  • Divide peonies now. Replant in a sunny site and avoid planting deeply.
  • Fall is an ideal time to shop for and plant new trees and shrubs. They’ll have a chance to establish roots over the winter, and at nurseries you’ll see the beginnings of true fall colors.
  • For swatches of fall color, plant mums, winter pansies, and flowering kale and cabbage.
  • Herbs such as parsley, rosemary, chives, thyme and marjoram can be dug from the garden and placed in pots now for growing indoors this winter.
  • Pot up some spring-flowering bulbs for indoor color during the winter. Store the pots in a cool, dark place until new growth emerges from the soil, and then move them to a bright window.
  • September is one of the best months of the entire year for seeding or sodding new lawns.


  • Now is the time to test the soil in your planned beds for plant nutrients. Soil tests usually take 10 days, so test now. It is important to till in the lime needed (if any) for faster soil pH adjustment. You may also sample your vegetable garden now if you do not plan to add more fertilizer for late crops.
  • Till or spade-in organic matter such as manure, compost and/or leaf mold to improve garden soils.
  • Fertilize roses one last time.
  • It’s time for an application of fertilizer for fescue and other cool-season grass lawns. DON’T fertilize warm-season grass lawns late in the fall!
  • Poinsettias should be given an application of a 0-10-10 fertilizer this month and again next month to help encourage the development of flower buds. Feed your poinsettia every two weeks with a high-nitrogen fertilizer once color has begun to show.
  • Stop fertilizing your trees and flowering shrubs to allow this year’s growth to harden off before winter.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs with bone meal or a good bulb fertilizer.


  • Pinch growing tips of gourds and pumpkins once adequate fruit set has occurred to redirect energy from the vines into fruit ripening.
  • Continue to remove dead flowers and seed heads from annuals to promote continuous blooming as long as the season permits.
  • Stop deadheading coneflower seed heads now to allow goldfinches and other seed-eating birds to enjoy the harvest.
  • Prune to remove any diseased and dead rose canes.
  • Root-prune wisteria that doesn’t bloom.
  • Take cuttings of begonias, geraniums, solenstemon (coleus), etc. to grow as houseplants or for next spring’s planting.


  • For recently planted large shrubs or trees, leave a hose trickling around the base for an hour. The same goes for established plants in dry periods - camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas will abort next season’s flowers if they get too dry. Reduce watering for other established shrubs and trees so they can harden off in preparation for winter.
  • Should September turn into an Indian summer, remember to keep watering thoroughly once or twice a week rather than little and often. Containers and hanging baskets need watering every day.
  • Some vegetables such as cucumbers or eggplants become bitter if under watered during peak growing times.
  • Now is a good time to think about putting in a drip irrigation system if you don’t already have one.


  • Catch weeds now, before they flower. If their seeds have a chance to spread, it means more time on your hands and knees in the future.
  • Caterpillar damage is at its height in autumn. While many of the less damaging leaf eaters can be ignored because the leaves are going to fall off soon, tent caterpillars can do extensive damage if ignored. A large population can kill major branches of mature trees. Visit your local Co-op store for recommendations on insecticidal sprays that can keep the populations low.
  • Continue watching for problems with brown patch and dollar spot in warm-season grasses, especially if you had problems with one of them last year.
  • Brown spots in your lawn may signal that grubs are present and feasting on grass roots. To determine if grubs are the culprit, pull on the brown grass. If it pulls free with no roots, carefully dig and lift a section to check for c-shaped grubs. Learn about dealing with grubs from the folks at your local Co-op store. It’s worth trying to control grubs this fall because in spring they’ll continue their underground lawn destruction.
  • Half the tomato-disease battle in a vegetable garden is sanitation. As tomatoes end their production, remove them from the garden and send them to the landfill. Many diseases will overwinter on old, infected leaves and stems.
  • If September is rainy, begin raking leaves as they fall and grass clippings as you mow; otherwise, they’ll form mucky hide-outs for pests.
  • Nutsedge or "nutgrass" is very difficult to control. There are two main types in our area - purple and yellow. You must identify which you have before you begin treatment. Herbicides must be applied when the nutsedge is actively growing, which means decent soil moisture and warm conditions.
  • Sketch out where you planted various vegetables in your garden. This will come in handy next spring when you plant, so you can rotate your crops to help prevent disease.
  • Yellow jackets become intensely active in late summer and early fall. Adult insects sip nectar from flowers and feed on the juice of damaged fruit. Yellow jackets are beneficial insects preying on caterpillars and soft-bodied insects such as aphids or immature scale insects. If possible, avoid destroying nests unless they pose a real threat to your family.
  • Slugs and snails lay up to 60 percent of their eggs in fall. The arrival of fall rains marks the start of egg laying. Young hatch in 10-21 days, mature in as little as 40 days, and then overwinter to begin feeding in early spring. Check the edges of your lawn and underneath sticks and stones for signs of eggs. They come in nearly translucent clusters of 50 or so. Nip this problem in the bud now!


  • Use your garden journal. Record planting dates for seeds and plants, transplanting dates, source and cost for plants and seeds, any guarantees or warranties, photos, drawings, weather particulars such as rainfall, frost dates, etc., plant characteristics, date of germination, date they emerge in spring, appearance of blooms, date of harvest (for vegetables) or cut flowers taken, date and type of fertilizer or other chemicals applied (and to which plants) … anything you want to note. You’ll be amazed at what this tool will be worth in years to come.
  • Photograph your gardens and containers for a record of the year’s triumphs and frustrations.
  • Begin readying houseplants for winter indoors. Prune back rampant growth and protruding roots. Check for pests and treat if necessary. Houseplants should be brought indoors at least one month before the heat is normally turned on.
  • Aeration: fall is a great time to aerate cool-season lawns such as fescue. Warm-season lawns (centipede, zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine) should be aerated in the spring and summer.
  • Harvesting fruits and vegetables is the best part of growing them. Although most are best when eaten fresh on the day they’re picked, you can extend the season by freezing, drying, storing, or canning. Don’t be timid … try it!
  • Collect seed from perennials and annuals. If you don’t know if a plant is a hybrid, you can still collect and save seed, but just be aware you probably won’t get the same plant from these seeds.
  • Continue to aerate and moisten compost piled to speed decomposition.
  • Continue to cut flowers for drying: yarrow, strawflower, gomphrena, cockscomb, etc.
  • Cure winter squash for storage. Place in a cool, sheltered shady spot for about one month.
  • Dig and store tender bulbs such as dahlias, caladiums and tuberous begonias.
  • Harvest peanuts as soon as shells become hard.
  • It’s time to buy your spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocus. Don’t plant them yet, but wait for cooler weather. Store them in a cool place where temperatures will be around 60 degrees or a bit lower.
  • Mark your perennials with permanent tags or stakes, or create a map showing their locations so you’ll know where and what they are when they die back at the end of the season. This will help you to avoid accidentally digging up something you intended to keep when you work in the garden later this fall and next spring.
  • Over ripening is a problem in September, so check fruits and vegetables regularly. Be sure to harvest them if they look, feel and/or taste ripe and ready.
  • Pick herbs for drying or freezing.
  • Seasonal loss of inner needles on conifers is normal at this time of year. It may be especially noticeable on pines.
  • Starting about midmonth, the time is ripe for "seasoning" poinsettias and Thanksgiving and Christmas cactuses. Give them a daily dose of 10 hours of bright daylight or four hours of direct sun, plus 14 hours of night darkness. Cactuses need a cool environment of 50-60 degrees, while poinsettias prefer a warmer 65-72 degrees.
  • The birds will soon begin their winter migrations. Give them a helping hand by continuing to provide food and water for their long journey. No one likes to travel on an empty stomach.


Shadow Big Puppy Geno

by Suzy Lowry Geno

I have fallen in love.

He’s attentive. Patient. Protective.

He understands my need for all these farm animals and he’s right there ready to help with each step I take as I do my chores!

He eats EVERYTHING I prepare for him and never complains about the menus!

He doesn’t mind that I am basically a messy person and he would rather me be wearing jeans and boots than skirts and high heels!

He’s still just a little bit smelly, but I can overlook that for the time being because he overlooks all my faults.

I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with a male of his type because, after all, from the time I was little I was always known as a "cat person."

But now this huge male dog that is bigger than some of my pygmy goats has waltzed into my life and captured my heart!

He looked like a tall skeleton as he roamed the highway in front of my farm. He basically kept within a two mile area between a small cemetery and the old mining community of Taits Gap.

Rescue groups tried to catch him, and one friend was almost run over as she tried to minister to him, but he didn’t trust anybody.

No humane trap could contain him. He was just too big.

Folks left feed at various spots on the side of the road trying to keep him from starving.

I put him on the local radio Swap Shop and on Facebook as we searched for his previous owners.

Several folks called about him and a couple even came to see if this was their missing dog, but none claimed him.

The weeks dragged on and he looked even more pitiful. He would stand in the highway at the end of the driveway to my little general store and listen to the roosters crowing with a faint smile on his face.

My heart was breaking for him, but I was afraid to feed him here on the farm because I didn’t know how he would react to my free-range chickens and ducks and all my goats and other animals.

I had a little hen that hatched three small chicks in a plastic box in the corner of my house’s front porch.

I woke one morning and the big dog was lying on the cool concrete with the little hen and her chicks happily beside him! He ate a little feed I provided him that day, but he wouldn’t let me come near him.

The second morning he was again sleeping beside the little hen and her family. I called him and he came around to my carport and ate again and drank the clean fresh water I left out.

From then on my carport was his home. But days went by and he still wouldn’t let me touch him.

Finally one day he simply walked up to me and placed his giant head against my hand for me to pet him!

Many people thought he had the mange because most of his hair was falling out and his skin looked awful. But I carried photos to Dr. David Standridge and he believed the main problems were from fleas and malnutrition.

A local dog rescuer provided his first flea pill; someone else helped buy the high-quality, high-fat, high-protein dog food he needed; and Standridge prescribed an antibiotic and a steroid.

The first two weekends he was here, there were terrible thunderstorms and he was not happy as he cowered on the carport.

So I sat with him till the wee hours singing lullabies that my kids were rocked to for many years .... He would lie at my feet and "smile" at me thumping his tail on the cool concrete floor.

He’d get this puzzled look on his face as if to say, "Bless her heart. She can’t sing, but I know she’s trying to help me!"

I called him "Big Puppy" because he would make little whiny noises like a puppy when he needed attention.

He didn’t do much those first few days but eat and sleep sleep sleep.

He’d been here about a month when he came around the house and walked with me through all my morning chores. He matched every step so I told him he was like my shadow. So his name officially became Shadow Big Puppy Geno.

Shadow looks to be a Great Pyrenees, a breed of dog I had planned to get when we ever finish fencing our bigger pasture here on the farm.

According to Wikipedia and the Internet site for the American Kennel Club, what we call a Great Pyrenees in North America should not be confused with the Pyrenean Mastiff.

The Great Pyrenees developed in the region around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain with the first descriptions of the dogs dating back to 1407!

While males grow to 110-120 pounds and 27-32 inches, and females to 80-90 pounds and 25-29 inches, according to the Great Pyrenees Club of America, the Great Pyrenees is naturally nocturnal and aggressive with any predators that may harm its flock. "However the breed can typically be trusted with small, young and helpless animals of any kind due to its natural guardian instinct."

Shadow now walks regularly through my free-range chickens and ducks as well as my son and his wife’s turkeys and other animals who "visit" from their area here on the farm.

He has rubbed noses with some of the pygmy goats through their fence.

There’s also a special rooster Doc, who belongs to my son and his wife, who regularly visits with Shadow on my carport and who eats with him out of his bowl!

He especially loves small children if they approach him quietly.

Shadow has gained weight and his hair is beginning to grow back in. He still has some rough spots and he refuses to let me cut the matted hair around his behind, giving him the look of a hula dancer when he walks!

A Great Pyrenees is said to live normally for 10-11 years. I have no way of knowing how old or young Shadow is.

A neighbor remarked that it would be "so sad" if I cared for Shadow and then he died soon of old age.

That would make me sad. BUT I cherish each moment and each day I have with this big furry fellow!

I have written this before, but I believe it even more now: "We are told that we need to be careful in this life because we may be ‘entertaining angels unaware.’ Sometimes in my fleeting thoughts I wonder, just for a minute, if some of those ‘angels’ might just be wearing fur ...."

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

Shrimp Harvest

Greene County shrimp farmer Dickie Odom casts a net into one of his ponds to sample the occupants.

A new fall tradition in the Black Belt, saltwater shrimp are harvested and sold for only four months; customers line up to buy.

by Alvin Benn

September signals the arrival of autumn and that means two things in Alabama – football and cotton.

In recent years, however, something on a much smaller scale has been added to the fall lineup, one that involves microscopic "animals" better known as shrimp.

The tiny crustaceans made their debut in Alabama’s Black Belt region in 1999, taking advantage of saltwater locations far from the Gulf of Mexico where they are fishing staples.

William "Dickie" Odom, one of the pioneers in the fledgling Black Belt shrimp industry, was eager to take the plunge and has never regretted his decision to move into something new in his region.

Odom and Rafe Taylor decided to see if two of their catfish ponds could accommodate shrimp. It wasn’t long before their trial bore fruit … or, in this case, shrimp.

The Odom family has operated successful automotive and catfish farming businesses for years, but the prospect of raising shrimp in an area better known for catfish had Dickie chomping at the bit to see if he could tackle that, too.

"I saw it as a challenge," he said, during an interview at his house just off U.S. Highway 43 not far from Demopolis. "I sell my shrimp to the public, but not in a large volume."

During the past 15 years, his shrimp have become so popular that two weeks beginning in late September have him and his staff working overtime to meet the public’s demand.

Dickie Odom holds several young shrimp in his hands.

"It’s bumper to bumper with people from all over the state lined up to buy our shrimp, but we handle it so well that customers don’t have to wait long," said Odom. "The demand for our shrimp is fantastic."

Most of their customers have made the trip to Boligee part of their autumn schedules, said Odom.

Getting to the "bottom" of Odom’s shrimp enterprise involves a well that is 650 feet deep and produces water with 5 parts-per-thousand salinity as opposed to seawater with about 35 parts per thousand.

"When we bring the ‘baby’ shrimp here from Florida, our saltwater levels slowly help them become accustomed to their new ‘neighborhood’ so to speak," said Odom.

His average annual shrimp production has been about 35,000 pounds, but Odom said his total has been close to 50,000 pounds at times when harvesting begins.

At the age of 64, he knows he doesn’t have that many years left to raise shrimp, but he looks forward each day to taking care of them as well as the catfish slowly growing in ponds covering 200 acres of his property.

Saltwater shrimp in the heart of Alabama’s often dry cotton and cattle country might be difficult to comprehend, but that isn’t the case, according to Gregory Whitis of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Salt water from a 650-foot-deep well is pumped into a pond on Dickie Odom’s farm in Boligee.

At one time, eons ago, today’s Gulf Coast beaches once reached into central Alabama and brought with them plenty of saltwater in some areas.

"Inland marine shrimp farming in Alabama is possible because of the presence of two deep ancient deposits of underground saltwater known as saltwater aquifers," said Whitis, who has written a three-page report on the subject.

The success of catfish production in the same area was an indicator that it could welcome the addition of shrimp to the same locale, said Whitis.

There were problems in the initial Black Belt shrimp project, according to Whitis, who said Taylor’s first pond suffered a complete loss "when heavy rainfall diluted the pond’s saltwater."

Odom prepares his annual shrimp business by driving all the way to the Florida Keys, hauling a refrigerated trailer behind his truck. It’s a long trip, but Odom’s mind is focused on his nearly invisible "passengers" on the way back home.

Whitis has special praise for David Teichert-Coddington, an aquaculture specialist with the Extension System who once worked and conducted research on commercial farms in Honduras.

He could see Alabama as a potential area to raise saltwater shrimp and eagerly set out to prove his contention.

Teichert-Coddington retired from Auburn University in 2000 and bought some land in Greene County along with Rudy Schmittou, another retired AU professor.

The two eventually built 32 acres of shrimp ponds and drilled two 650-foot-deep wells. They then filled the ponds with diluted seawater, but the shrimp began to die, something they discovered was related to water chemistry.

It’s been 15 years since the Black Belt aquaculture experiment began and, through trial and error of those involved, it’s become so successful that the word has spread throughout the state, especially during shrimp harvest time.

Raising shrimp is not only time-consuming, it’s also expensive. Whitis said the average start-up cost for a shrimp farm of up to 50 acres is about $10,000 per acre. Most of the money is invested in pond construction.

Dickie and Brenda Odom know their hours will be long and laborious once the harvest begins, but they don’t mind because many of their customers have become friends who travel long distances to pick up their shrimp.

Some purchase their shrimp to sell them later, but the Odoms know most are loyal customers who buy theirs for home consumption or to share with friends and relatives.

It can take up to 20 workers to bring in the harvest, but the Odoms handle the sale end of it without any problems.

"We have some regular customers from as far away as Tennessee and the Gulf Coast," Brenda said. Each pound contains 16 to 20 jumbo shrimp with an average length of up to 8 inches, said Odom.

"We harvest for four weeks and during that time we have three public sales," he said, adding his shrimp sells for $5 a pound.

Odom said the business for fresh shrimp doubles every year "and we have to build into the future to meet that demand.

"Most of our customers have primarily been from Marengo, Greene, Sumter and Hale counties," he said, noting that "one buyer was a shrimp boat captain from Bayou LaBatre."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Sometimes You Ask Yourself, Why?

by Baxter Black, DVM

Jeff needed a workin’ pen for his little herd of cows. He decided all he needed was some panels and a head gate. He rounded up some 16-foot panels of continuous fence, a metal head gate and two 8-foot posts.

Part of his intention was to involve his family with the cow project. Let them get a sense of what it takes to raise and manage cows. To teach them by example about work ethic and Christian behavior. Jeff was qualified; he was a dealer for one of those companies that sell cattle handling equipment. Of course, he decided he could cut costs and labor because he knew the short cuts. He only had 20 cows, so a second-hand head catch would work. Some of the panels were damaged at the store, he could use them. On roundup day he was ready.

With his three kids, the oldest nine, and his wife, they made the cattle drive and herded them into the corral. He had patched together a short alley parallel to the fence that directed the cows to the head gate. Jeff had driven 2 eight-foot wooden posts into the soil with his tractor. The head gate was wired to the front of the posts, and the ends of the foot-long horizontal connecting rods were wired to the inside of the posts.

The first cow into the alley was the out-of-control renegade cross-bred that stands back in the corner and glares at you! Jeff had not thought a "sweep" was necessary; in his dreams he thought they could just put a bar behind the cows as they came down the alley. This meant directing his children to scare the cows and push them up. They were screaming, banging pots and pans, cracking plastic whips and waving an empty dog food bag!

Jeff was trying to get the bar behind the cow, then race up to the head gate to catch her, then back to push, then back to catch her … the cow banged into the head gate head-first! It was closed. Jeff ran forward to open the gate. The cow backed up. Jeff closed the gate and ran back to push her up. She beat him to the head gate again … banging it over and over! Each crash bent the posts further and further forward till they were at an angle!

This managed to create a triangular space between the posts and the panels on both sides. The cow wedged her head into the space, enlarging it bigger and bigger making room for one foot, then the other. Jeff, wearing his chaps and spurs and wielding a chunk of black plastic pipe, was valiantly trying to contain the beast. Alas, the aforementioned cow created her own side exit and bent the 16-foot panel of continuous fence to a screeching 90 degrees allowing her to make her escape.

The family watched in awe. Jeff was mad, he mumbled something and the kids froze!

The middle child said, "Dad …?"

Jeff looked at his family and the concerned expressions on their collective faces. He took a breath and sighed.

He waited for them to say, "… Are you alright? ... The cow’s running away! ... Your shirt is torn! ..."

He waited.

"Dad," said the kid, "You said the ‘S’ word!"

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,

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "You know that Earl was desperate to save some money on his electricity bill when he decided to mail order a $50 newfangled solar-powered clothes dryer. He realized he’d been Shanghaied when a clothesline and pins were delivered."

Was this man living in Shangai?

Shanghaied means to induce or compel someone to do something, especially by fraud or force.

Until 1915, forced labor was widely used aboard American merchant ships. A person conscripted to such work was said to have been shanghaied when coercive techniques such as trickery, intimidation or violence were used. Once a man signed on for a voyage, he had to complete the full round trip. The longest trip was to Shanghai for tea and other trade goods so it is thought the original use would be "he shipped out to Shanghai." It was far away, the name sounds exotic and the man would not be back for a year or longer.

Tackling Youth Cancer

Luke Dantzler and his mom Teresa Weber.

Farmers Cooperative employees hold fundraiser for sales associate’s son.

by Pauline Fletcher Cogdill

Last April, Barry Long was instrumental in making a good investment for Farmers Cooperative in Live Oak, Fla., by hiring our sales associate, Teresa Weber. Teresa has a positive, insightful attitude and works very well with our employees and patrons. She is a natural fit for the Co-op with her strong work ethic, outstanding communication skills and her love of horses. In fact, she loves all creatures. Also, she is bilingual, which has been a big asset for many of our patrons. Se habla espanol.

In 2009, Teresa left Costa Rica after 15 years of working with property investment and management as well as continued equine management, training and breeding programs.

Teresa’s decision to come back to the United States was because her son Luke Dantzler was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma and she knew she had to take him to the best qualified doctor she could find for his treatment.

Teresa, Luke and Teresa’s daughter Olivia headed for San Diego, Calif., for some additional tests. Luke’s diagnosis was so grave in San Diego, she was advised to take him to a hospital that specialized in Ewing’s Sarcoma. The end result was she rented a car and they drove (he was too ill to fly) to Gainesville, Fla., since the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital was known to be making great strides in pediatric cancer patients. After 1.5 years of chemo and radiation, Luke was released and continued on with his education. Luke graduated from high school as valedictorian with straight As even after missing 2 years of school due to his cancer, and everything seemed to be going along quite well.

Luke entered the University of Florida in 2013 with a scholarship and is majoring in Mathematics and Anthropology. Of course, he was maintaining straight As again until this past February when he noticed a spot on his head and it was not good news – his Ewing’s Sarcoma was back, this time on the brain. Now Luke will continue going to Gainesville and Jacksonville for the next eight weeks for daily radiation and rounds of chemo. He will then continue another six months of chemo at Shands.

(From left) Luke Dantler with his sisters Holly and Olivia Weber.

Luke’s sisters Holly and Olivia will maintain the farm while Teresa and Luke are traveling back and forth to Gainesville and Jacksonville for his treatments. Her children are very resourceful in doing whatever they have to do – from taking care of injured animals to running the household. Olivia, Luke’s twin sister, attends Sante Fe College and works part-time at Publix as well as helping care for their horses, goats, dog, and chickens. All of Teresa’s children are multilingual. In fact, Olivia also took Mandarin in school, and Luke is fluent in sign language. Holly has elected to stay home and do whatever farm, animal and home chores are necessary to keep the household running smoothly while Luke is in treatment. When she can slip away, she is farm sitting for others.

Luke has always desired to help other people, and he does just that as an ambassador for Shands Children’s Cancer Hospital. Teresa and Luke have addressed numerous doctors, benefactors and dignitaries to gain their support for the children’s hospital at Shands.

Farmers Cooperative’s General Manager Todd Lawrence knew the expenses for Teresa would be overwhelming and decided Farmers Cooperative would have a fundraiser for Luke June 18. It was a very successful event with so many members of our community supporting Teresa and her family. And, we would like to express our thanks to so many individuals who worked many hours to make the lunch a great success. Employees and their families served, baked brownies (lots of brownies) and packaged the lunches. Damon Wooley smoked the delicious pork that so many people enjoyed. There was such an outpouring of so much support from businesses, government entities and so many individuals that we could not begin to thank everyone for their generosity to Luke. We appreciate all your efforts in whatever capacity you worked, donated or just offered your good thoughts for the Weber Family.

However, the core of planning and organizing this event would not have even appeared to be such an easy job without those Shick Sisters: Karen Fraley and Kim Hammock. Kim had the bags for delivery marked and ready to go, and everything ran as smooth as silk. Teresa’s lovely daughters also worked kitchen detail from making sandwiches to the final cleanup.

While Teresa has many uncertainties ahead of her, one thing she is sure of now is that she and her family are members of a large cooperative family.

Teresa would like to share the following Costa Rican inspired recipes she makes for her children and they always want seconds and more.

Mango Salad

5-6 ripe and/or slightly green mangos (I use a mixture of each)

2-3 red onions

3-4 Tablespoons fresh basil or fresh mint

Fresh squeezed lime juice (2 good-sized limes)

Salt, to taste

3 Tablespoons olive oil, more or less

Slice mangos and onions into slivers of about half-inch thick. Mix together using a ratio of 3 parts mango to 2 parts onion. Chop the mint or basil. Mix all with lime juice, salt and olive oil.


2 pounds very fresh white fish, especially sea bass, cut into ½-inch cubes

1½ red onions, chopped

Big bunch of cilantro, chopped

½ cup Sprite

2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice


Jalapeno, chopped (optional)

Mix all together in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (overnight is great).

Serve in margarita glasses on a saucer with saltine crackers.

Pauline Fletcher Cogdill is general office and credit manager for Farmers Cooperative in Live Oak.

Tei Fu Lotion

by Nadine Johnson

When I get aches and pains, I reach for my tube of Tei Fu Lotion. Thankfully my aches and pains are few and far between these days, but in the past I have had my share of them. Tei Fu is also available in essential oil, but I prefer the lotion.

I am going to quote to you the prepared data that I have been supplied with:

"Stimulating aromatic oils which are antiseptic and mood enhancing. Used topically for muscle and joint pain relief. Also used on insect bites, sore teeth and cold sores/fever blisters.

"Use several drops rubbed on the temples or back of neck to relieve headaches or motion sickness. Rub under the nose to clear sinus congestion or stimulate alertness. The shape of the little bottle of clear oil allows you to ‘knock back’ a single drop as a mouth freshener.

"The squeeze bottle of lotion is just right for a muscle rubdown. It is greaseless and may be used over a large area of the body.

"This formula was developed by a noted Chinese herbalist. It is based on a formula developed over 1,000 years ago during the Tong Dynasty.

"It is very stimulating. Only small amounts are needed. Young children are very sensitive so be very careful."

Recently I had occasion to sit watching people walking. It was obvious that many of them were in pain.

I said to myself, "I’m going to tell them what helps me."

I have a bunion on one foot (I have old, worn-out nurse’s feet). Most of the time, this bunion does not give me any trouble. However, at times it hurts just enough that I can’t ignore it. Not bad enough to need pain medicine but just enough pain to keep me awake. On those occasions, I reach for my Tei Fu and rub a tiny dab on my foot. Then I forget the foot and go to sleep.

If I am very tired or stressful for any reason, I rub the back of my neck with this wonderful formula. I relax. On rare occasions, I’m threatened with a cold or sinus. On these occasions, I rub the bottom of my feet as well as my neck and temples. Of course, I’m very careful not to get this preparation in my eyes.

I do not believe this will cure problems like arthritis, but it certainly relieves much of the pain. When I was 55 years old, I suffered much pain. Thankfully I combined alternatives with main-stream medicine and enjoy much improvement. When I first did this, I was scared to death. I consider that I gambled and won.

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

The Co-op Pantry

Edward, Julia and Gunner William Pope (Gunner was born May 19 and weighed in at 9 pounds 4 ounces!)

This may go on record as being one of the shortest stories from one of my cooks of all time, but for the most wonderful reason on Earth as you will hear and see!

"My name is Julia Pope and I was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but moved to the Huntsville area when I was 7. I currently live in Madison with my husband Paul, who is the assistant controller-wholesale for Agri-AFC, two dogs, a kitty cat and our baby boy who is due in two weeks!

"Growing up, my mother hated cooking. While she was very good at it and could whip up the most delicious dinners, she worked as a full-time RN and was usually too tired to cook when she got home from work. This was when I started learning how to cook and helped prepare some of the family meals.

"For the most part I learned by reading recipes and observing my mother on the occasions when she did cook. When I grew up and found myself a newlywed, it became important that I expand my recipe collection. I started experimenting a lot with recipes given to me from friends and ones handed down from my family.

"I have a collection of recipes I have gathered from the Internet, cookbooks, friends, etc. I would by no means consider myself to be a master chef, but I am learning every day and relish cooking nutritious meals for my family to enjoy."

At the time we did this, Julia was literally sitting around waiting to go into labor so we certainly appreciate her taking the time to share her life and recipes with us this month.

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


1 (8-ounce) bar of cream cheese,softened

½ cup butter, softened

¾ cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

¾ cup pecans, finely chopped (optional)

Pretzels, graham crackers, short bread cookies, etc. (your choice)

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add brown sugar, powdered sugar and vanilla; continue to mix until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve with pretzels, graham crackers, short bread cookies, etc.


1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

3 heaping Tablespoons cocoa

½ cup milk

2 egg yolks

3 Tablespoons butter, softened or melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pie crust, unbaked

Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl, mix the first 7 ingredients. Pour into pie crust. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.

Note: This recipe is a family recipe of Addie Rosenblum, who was kind enough to share it with me.


½ cup butter

1¾ cups sugar

½ cup milk

4 Tablespoons cocoa

½ cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups old fashioned oats

Melt butter, sugar, milk and cocoa in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil for 1½ minutes.

Turn burner to low and add peanut butter, vanilla and oats. Stir until well combined. Drop by tablespoons on wax paper to cool.


2 (20-ounce) cans crushed pineapple, drained and reserve the juice

3 Tablespoons reserved pineapple juice

½ cup sugar

3 Tablespoons flour

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Place pineapple in casserole dish. Whisk together juice, sugar and flour. Pour over pineapple. Add cheddar cheese. Cover with crackers. Drizzle butter over all. Bake for 40 minutes.

Note: This recipe is a version of the pineapple casserole found at Ms. Mary Bobo’s Boardinghouse and Restaurant in Lynchburg, Tenn.


1 cup soy sauce

¾ cup water

½ cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon honey

1 dash lemon juice

4 pork chops

1 cup ketchup

½ cup cocktail sauce

¼ cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1½ teaspoons ground dry mustard

In a saucepan over medium heat, mix the first five ingredients. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Place pork chops and soy sauce mixture in a Ziplock freezer bag, refrigerate for 3-6 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°. Drain pork chops and arrange them in a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Mix remaining ingredients and pour over pork chops. Continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork chops reaches 145°.

Note: This recipe was from I had no recipes for pork chops and this was the first one I stumbled upon that sounded appetizing. I was very happy with the results and everyone I have made it for have many compliments about the dish.


2 cups cheddar cheese (can’t be too sharp), thinly shredded

7 ounces diced pimentos, drained



Mix cheddar cheese and pimentos. Add mayonnaise and mustard to desired taste and consistency. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.Serve with crackers or on bread as a sandwich.

Note: This was how my mother-in-law used to make her pimento cheese. I have personally never been a fan of pimento cheese, but I love this recipe. I get constant requests to bring it to gatherings.


2 (8-ounce) bars cream cheese
2 cans shredded chicken
1 cup ranch dressing
Cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

In a skillet over medium heat, melt cream cheese. Add chicken, wing sauce and ranch dressing. Once melted and well combined, pour into a serving bowl. Cover with cheddar cheese if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: This recipe is great for football season. There are varying versions of this recipe; however, this is the version that always seems to get the most feedback!


1 large white onion, chopped

½ stick butter

4-5 cooked chicken breasts, shredded

5 cans white kidney beans

1 can Ro*tel

1 can cream of chicken soup

2 packages McCormick White Chili Seasoning

3 Tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

5 cubes chicken bouillon with ¼ cup water

Sauté onion in butter. Set aside. In a 4-quart saucepan, mix soup, Ro*tel, seasonings and bouillon broth together over medium heat. Add beans, onions and chicken to the saucepan. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve with corn bread and favorite chili toppings.

Note: This recipe was from Melissa Knight, who was kind enough to share it with me one very cold winter!


1 (6.5-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

½ cup Romano cheese, grated

1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped

5 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1 French baguette, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices

Preheat oven broiler. In a medium bowl, mix artichoke hearts, cheese, onion and mayonnaise. Top baguette slices with equal amounts of the artichoke heart mixture. Arrange slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet.

Broil for 2 minutes, or until toppings are bubbly and lightly browned.

Note: I found this recipe on and it has been a huge crowd pleaser. Great for dinner parties!


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

¼ cup water

1 (7-ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped mushrooms

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Spray crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken breasts in crock pot. Combine dressing mix and water in a small bowl. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with garlic. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, whisk cream cheese and cream of chicken soup together in a bowl. Pour over chicken; stir in mushrooms. Cover and cook on low for an additional hour. Spoon over favorite cooked pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.


1 bag tortilla chips, crushed, divided

1 bag cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

1 (8-ounce) container sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 large can chicken, shredded

1 can chopped green chilies

Preheat oven to 350°. In a casserole dish, place enough tortilla chips to cover bottom. Top cheddar cheese until well covered. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix sour cream, cream of chicken soup, chicken and green chilies. Leave on heat until heated all the way through. Pour mixture over chips and cheese. Top with another layer of tortilla chips and cheddar cheese. Put in oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted to one’s desire. Serve with a side of corn and warmed flour tortillas.

Note: This is a family recipe I brought to our marriage. My mother’s college roommate (Susan) created it while they were in college and it was always a go-to dinner for us while growing up. It reheats beautifully as well so it makes great leftovers!

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


The FFA Sentinel: Enterprise FFA Shines

All 25 banners the Enterprise High School FFA Chapter won at district and state competitions this year.

High School FFA members received
several honors at state competition.

by Carley Omenhiser

Reprinted with permission from The Southeast Sun

Members of the Enterprise High School FFA came home from the 86th annual Alabama State FFA Convention in Montgomery June 3-6 with several new banners commemorating their achievements during the event.

Forty-two students participated competing in floriculture, aquaculture, parliamentary procedure, poultry judging, prepared public speaking, agriculture mechanics, meats evaluation and small engines.

The EHS String Band and Quartet also competed during the convention.

Agriscience instructor Jerad Dyess said the teams found great success at the convention where the aquaculture team took home top honors and Ashley Greenwood received the award for being the top scorer in the contest.

The EHS String Band placed second in the state and the parliamentary procedure placed fourth in their competition.

Many other honors came to the Enterprise FFA Chapter while at the convention. Nine EHS students took their supervised agricultural experience projects and applied for proficiency awards.

Supervised agricultural experience programs are career-based projects that members conduct at home or at a job that are supervised by parents, employers and their FFA advisors.

Dyess said the SAE program allows students to take on new responsibilities as they learn new skills and explore numerous career options.

Hunter Reynolds placed first in specialty crop production for his work with pecans while Daniel Spann also placed first in landscape management for his project done while employed with Lucky Lawn.

Dakota Dalrymple also received second place honors in diversified crop production, Laura Poklinkowski for vegetable production and Joshua Waters for fiber/oil crop production.

Third place honors were earned by Paxton Peacock for swine production and Cody Gatlin for agriculture mechanics.

Fourth place honors were earned by Aeriell Cashin for plant systems and Edgar Martinez for diversified livestock production.

"Two of our members took their SAE one step further and entered their projects into Alabama’s Agriscience Fair," Dyess said. "Ashley Greenwood’s work with aquaculture and Aeriell Cashin’s work in plant science each received first place honors and will represent Alabama at the National FFA Convention in October."

Enterprise also took top honors in the State FFA’s Crime Prevention Award program. This award is given to the chapter that takes measures to set up programs to educate the community on preventing crime, especially rural farm equipment theft.

EHS FFA members educated their school and community about the Rural Property Protection Program, which marks farm equipment with a code that is unique to each individual.

"We also shared this information on the Top of the Morning show with Charlie Platt," Dyess said. "(Police) Chief (T.D.) Jones and Sgt. Billy Haglund of the Enterprise Police Department as well as Sheriff (Dave) Sutton of the (Coffee County) Sheriff’s Department assisted us in this contest."

EHS was also the recipient of the 2013 National Superior Chapter Award, which Dyess said is given to several of the best chapters in the state based on the chapter’s program of activities.

EHS also had 14 members receive their State FFA Degrees this year.

"This is a tremendous honor that few students achieve," Dyess said.

Members include Maggie Bentson, Ivy Bright, Aeriell Cashin, Sierra Chastang, Ashley Greenwood, Courtney Jester, Morgan Lentz, Chance Love, Chandler Martin, Laura Poklinkowski, Hunter Reynolds, Caylex Strickland, Trisha Truong and Jessica White.

Students participated in several other activities during the three-day convention, including leadership sessions with motivational speakers and National FFA Officer Jackson Harris of Eufaula.

The EHS String Band got the opportunity to entertain guests before a Montgomery Biscuits baseball game, which the entire EHS group also got to attend.

EHS was also selected as the host chapter for New York State FFA President Ashley Willits.

"The Enterprise FFA members thoroughly enjoyed being able to experience their convention with Willits by comparing the differences in the New York and Alabama associations as well as the different cultures in the North and South," Dyess said. "Overall, this convention was an exciting time that marked great successes by our students and ended our competition season with 25 banners. As we say goodbye to our seniors who worked so hard this year to make it a success, we welcome the leadership of a new slate of officers. They have huge shoes to fill, but we know they are up to the task."

The following is a list of student accomplishments of this year’s Alabama FFA Convention:

Career Development Event Teams:

1st Place Aquaculture - Ashley Greenwood, Trisha Truong, Ashley Yelverton and Kyler Bright

2nd Place String Band - Christy Goodwin, Ashley Gibson, Trisha Truong, Sarah Mentzer, Jentry Chesnut, Brian Ammons, Travis Carr and Jacob Jones

4th Place Parliamentary Procedure - Lacey Sullins, Madelyn Adkins, Emily Steinwinder, Daniel Terry, Lindsey Jensen, Morgan Russell and Collin Robinson

Proficiency Award Winners:

1st Place Specialty Crop Production - Hunter Reynolds

1st Place Landscape Management - Daniel Spann

2nd Place Diversified Crop Production - Dakota Dalrymple

2nd Place Vegetable Production - Laura Poklinkowski

2nd Place Fiber/Oil Crop Production - Joshua Waters

3rd Place Swine Production - Paxton Peacock

3rd Place Ag Mechanics Design and Fabrication - Cody Gatlin

4th Place Plant Science - Aeriell Cashin

4th Place Diversified Livestock - Edgar Martinez

State Degree Recipients:

Maggie Bentson, Ivy Bright, Aeriell Cashin, Sierra Chastang, Ashley Greenwood, Courtney Jester, Morgan Lentz, Chance Love, Chandler Martin, Laura Poklinkowski, Hunter Reynolds, Caylex Strickland, Trisha Truong and Jessica White

2014-2015 Officer Team:

Student Advisor Laura Poklinkowski, President Trisha Truong, Vice President Ashley Greenwood, Secretary Ashley Yelverton, Treasurer Brian Ammons, Reporter Caylex Strickland, Sentinel Jordan Stowe, Chaplain Jentry Chesnut and Historian Hannah Reynolds.

Carley Omenhiser is a writer for The Southeast Sun.

The Magic of DNA

Dr. David Weaver is a professor at Auburn University.

Understanding GMO

by Michelle Bufkin

One of the more controversial debates currently in the agriculture industry is the use of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. I use the term "debate" lightly: when I searched the word GMO on the Internet, ten posts appeared (not including Wikipedia) that pertained to GMOs; nine of those ten were against their usage. Ninety percent of the articles that a consumer reads when they Google the term GMO are negative, yet around ninety percent of field corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States are GMOs. So, how does that work? The main reason is because consumers do not understand GMOs - how they are made, the advantages to using them and if they are safe.

The technology surrounding GMOs can be a little difficult to understand, especially if someone is not from a scientific background.

Dr. David Weaver, a professor in the Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Department at Auburn University, explained it incredibly well when he used this analogy: "To me wireless Internet is magic; I admire people who can do that kind of work and I trust them completely because I know they know what they are doing. DNA is the same way, it seems to be magic."

A lot of people are still confused about how GMOs are created; Weaver explained the process, in use commercially since 1995, in a very understandable way. There are bacteria that live in the soil. I could go outside, excavate a soil sample, and isolate the bacterium they utilize, agrobacterium. If a plant is wounded, this bacterium travels inside the plant and injects DNA that takes over, causing the plant to produce food that only the bacteria can consume. This happens all the time; one example in nature is a disease called crown gall that produces a large canker on the stem of the tree. What scientists have done is take that bacterium and remove the piece of DNA that causes this disease and put DNA for some other trait in. They then co-incubate the bacterium and the plant together and the bacterium will inject its DNA into the plant, just as the bacterium would do in nature if the plant was injured. In the case of cotton, they put a gene coded for a protein that, when expressed, kills a type of insect that feeds on the cotton. It is a very specific, toxic protein, but only toxic to a certain type of insect.

Another type of GMO is a gene that protects plants from glyphosate, or Roundup. Roundup is non-discriminatory; it will kill any green plant, but is harmless to animals and humans. When scientists place a gene that resists Roundup in a plant, farmers can spray the herbicide killing all of the weeds and salvaging the soybean crop.

Even though some people would like you to think there are none, there are advantages to using GMO crops or else farmers would not pay the high price tag for them. One of the main advantages in utilizing GMOs is they drastically reduce the amount of herbicides and insecticides used in the agricultural industry.

"At one time, over half of the insecticides used in the whole country were used on one crop, cotton," Weaver said.

Because of GMOs, that is no longer occurring. With this technology, we can control target insects without killing all of them. Previously, insecticides would kill every insect out there, and then stay in the environment for an extended period of time. With the use of GMOs, that is not happening nearly as much. Anyone who has grown sweet corn in Alabama in the past knows how difficult it was to keep worms out.

"You had to spray it every three days, as soon as it started silking until harvest. And because of weather or other things, it was almost impossible to spray enough to keep the worms out," Weaver added.

Thanks to GMO technology, Auburn University Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Club sells some of the most delicious corn without having to spray it at all.

Another advantage Weaver discussed was conservation tillage that manages crop debris by plowing less. He says, if farmers do not plow and control weeds by spraying Roundup, they do not disturb the soil, which in turn improves organic matter and the soil structure. It increases the soil’s water-holding capacity, so farmers do not have to worry about short periods of drought. Also, conservation tillage, made easier by the use of GMOs, collects organic matter in the soil - carbon; this takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere so it cannot cause climate change.

The final issue people are worried about with GMOs is food safety. As stated earlier, the only commercially produced GMOs are corn, soybeans and cotton. One of the main ways soybeans are eaten in the United States is through vegetable oil. Vegetable oil outsells all the other oils put together. Weaver explained that vegetable oil is a mixture of fatty acids and those fatty acids contain none of the products the plant expresses to make it resistant to Roundup.

The only GMO that we, as consumers, eat as part of the protein product produced is corn. But Weaver explained why we still should not be concerned.

"To be commercialized, GMOs must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide. They have to be demonstrated through hundreds of tests over years to prove their safety. Then they must go through the Food and Drug Administration, who has a very low tolerance for anything that might remotely be harmful. These products have been examined to prove they are safe, and research continues to prove it. There has not been one single case of someone dying from consuming a GMO product," Weaver stated.

People are afraid of GMOs because they are "unnatural" and it is not nature’s way.

"We’ve genetically modified plants since we started domesticating them about 8,000-10,000 years ago. As soon as we domesticated a plant, took it out of its natural environment and started to select it for our purposes, we changed it. It’s not the plant it was in the wild," Weaver counteracted.

At some point and time, people will have to accept the technology, because there is data showing we are increasing our food production at an increasing rate with the use of GMOs - which is necessary if we are going to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Top Honors for Brantley High School FFA Livestock Judging Team

Brantley High School FFA Livestock Judging Team are (from left) Trent Warrick, holding photo of Brian Compton, who was at Boys State and could not attend the awards ceremony; Cameron Catrett, holding the team plaque for State FFA Winner for Livestock Evaluation Career Development Event; Cassidy Catrett; Matthew Hudson; and Woody Clark, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association President.

The Brantley High School FFA Livestock Judging Team took top honors in the 2014 state FFA competition held earlier in June. They will now represent Alabama in the National FFA competition in Louisville, Ky., the last week in October. Team members are Matthew Hudson, freshman at Faulker University; Brian Compton and Trent Warrick, seniors; Cassidy Catrett, junior; and Cameron Catrett, freshman.

The objectives of the National FFA Livestock Evaluation Career Development Event are to:

A. Understand and interpret the value of performance data based on industry standards.

B. Measure students’ knowledge in the following categories:

  1. To make accurate observations of livestock.
  2. To determine the desirable traits in animals.
  3. To make logical decisions based on these observations.
  4. To discuss and to defend their decisions for their placing.
  5. To instill an appreciation for desirable selection, management and marketing techniques.

C. Develop the ability to select and market livestock that will satisfy consumer demands and provide increased economic returns to producers as well as meet the needs of the industry.

D. Become proficient in communicating the terminology of the industry and the consumer.

E. Provide an opportunity for participants to associate with professionals in the industry.

F. Utilize current technology as it relates to the livestock industry.

Unscrupulous Pilfering of Property

Five Tips for Preventing Trespassing

by Todd Amenrud

Nothing can ruin a hunt, or sometimes even an entire season, faster than a trespasser. One of the biggest bucks I’ve ever come close to was heading into a shooting lane on my home property in Minnesota and I was just ready to come to full draw when the buck stopped and looked off intently at what I was about to find out was a trespasser. Perfect timing … right? The buck bolted off and I never saw him again.

Why do some people think they have the right to break the law and trespass wherever they please? Most law-abiding property owners can’t imagine why these unethical "hunters" (for lack of a better term) would break the law and take the chance of losing their hunting privileges, or why they would steal from the property owner. We’re almost ready to begin a new hunting season, something every hunter looks forward to all summer long. Protect yourself from trespassers and prevent an intrusion or poaching from ever happening in the first place with a little preventive maintenance.

That Dog Bites

You must prosecute! You must let it be known that there are consequences for breaching your borders. Maybe you let your neighbors or other people on your property, but those who aren’t supposed to be there need to know it! Once the word gets out that trespassers will be charged, this should have a significant impact on others. Use trail-camera photos of trespassers for evidence. In most states, all you need is a clear, identifiable photo of the trespasser in the act as evidence to prosecute.

When you catch someone on your property during hunting season, what do they always tell you? "I’m tracking a wounded deer." They say this because in most states it is legal to follow a wounded animal across a property border to try and recover it. The problem is that habitual trespassers have learned this defense and use it for an excuse to go wherever they please.

The first step is to debunk the claim. But once they’re exposed what should you do? When I catch someone I’m usually so angry my brain just shuts off – I want to tell the trespassers what I think of their unscrupulous actions and get them off the property as fast as possible. Use phone cameras or write things down and get vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers. Calling the Department of Natural Resources or police is also an option if you have a phone signal and aren’t miles away from a station. Rather than thinking about "evacuation," you need to think about "prosecution."

Maybe They’re Just Illiterate

Clearly and legally post your property with signs. I like to have one every 50 yards along my borders. I also own property in Ontario, and there all you need is a "red dot" to indicate "no trespassing." It’s easy to walk my border with a can of spray paint and a stencil. Regardless, make sure there is no excuse. Every so often, you’ll get obtuse offenders who are bold enough to violate your markers regardless, but that’s exactly why it’s important to prosecute.

If the "Cat" Can’t See the "Mouse"

Plant screening borders so people cannot see into your property. Use a combination of trees, shrubs and warm-season perennial grasses – or whatever types of trees and plants are readily available in your area that will work to create a visual barrier.

It’s important to put some thought behind this because certain plants lose their foliage during various times of the year. You also have to consider as things grow they may elevate too tall so they are no longer a barrier after a few years. So make sure you consider both seasonally and for the long term, and both horizontal and vertical growth.

Trees are a must for permanent barriers. Conifers are my favorite for several reasons. Obviously they are thick and green all of the time, hence the reason they are often referred to as "evergreens." I also like them because only a few are attractive to whitetails so, if you choose the proper varieties, they really don’t provide much for food value. The last thing I want to do is attract whitetails to my property border.

Plant a combination of evergreens and deciduous trees. Configure your barrier keeping in mind, a few years from now your barrier may be 10 feet above the ground and no longer serving as a visual screen. Stagger your plantings so people traveling along your border can’t see into your property from any angle. I suggest traveling your borders yourself with a friend and flag the vulnerable areas. Annuals like corn, sorghum or millet can provide fast screens for one season and can supplement your tree border until it fills in enough to do its job.

Just Shut-Up!

Do you like to boast when you harvest a nice buck? What about if you have loads of deer feeding in your food plots, don’t you like to tell others about it? You must be cautious who you brag in front of. Word of a huge buck or lots of deer will travel fast. It’s amazing … for some reason "antlers" can make normally principled people do unethical, stupid things.


Carry a disposable camera in your pack. Your trail cameras are stationary monitors, but what happens when you run into someone in person? Walk straight up to them and say "hello" and snap their photo. Now you have proof! This, and a name or license plate is all you need to prosecute. If they won’t give up a name, follow them to their vehicle to get the license plate. Find their vehicles and take photos of them. Gather and document as much information as feasible. Then prosecute them! No excuses, no exceptions.

As said, all you need is a clear, identifiable photo of the trespasser in the act. The problem is coming up with an "identifiable" photo. Most trail cameras will take a clear photo during daylight hours if a person will stand still and pose for it. To take a clear photo of a person that means you need to mount the camera in a spot to see their face. That usually means – if the camera can easily see them, they can clearly see the camera. Who wants to lose their $400 trail camera to a trespasser who just got their photo taken?

For that reason, I have started using more cameras on the trails and access points. Concentrate on obvious parking spots, creek crossings and pinch-points along trails or gates that people use with vehicles. A license plate is easy to see and trace as opposed to trying to make out a face in a blurry, low-res photo. Make sure to set your camera on its highest resolution so when you zoom in on the license plate you can easily read the numbers.

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.

Urinary Stones Don’t Have to Happen

by Jackie Nix

Urinary stones are caused by dietary mineral imbalance. Excess phosphorous or excess calcium are the most common causes. Stones often lodge in the bend in the penis called the sigmoid flexure, or at the small tip of the penis called the pizzle. The "typical" goat affected is a wether fed a high-grain/low fiber diet. People who think that bucks are immune have a false sense of security. Stones also occur in intact males and females. Stones rarely occur in commercial goats raised on pasture with limited supplemental feed, meaning that urinary stones are largely a management problem.

Symptoms of Urinary Stones

Goats with urinary stones may show abdominal discomfort or other signs of pain, straining to urinate, drops of bloody urine or crystals on the hairs around the prepuce. Advanced cases may result in rectal prolapse in straining to urinate (often confused with constipation) or water bell from ruptured urethra or bladder. Death will likely follow if the bladder ruptures.


Most cases of urinary stones require veterinary assistance. If urinary output is totally blocked, the prognosis is not good, even with surgery. Many goat producers use a feed additive (ammonium chloride) to help acidify the urine. These additives make the crystallized stones more soluble so the goat may be more likely to pass them. This treatment is preferable while the goat is still urinating readily. Ammonium chloride must be fed at a rate of 1-2 percent of the dry matter intake to be efficacious. Dry matter intake on a 150-pound wether is roughly 4 pounds, meaning the animal needs to ingest 0.04-0.08 pounds (0.64-1.28 ounces) of ammonium chloride per day. Most people do not feed enough ammonium chloride to meet this standard. Even the directions on commercially available ammonium chloride are vague and don’t give an exact feeding rate. The same goes for many feeds containing ammonium chloride. Contact your feed manufacturer to find out how much ammonium chloride is contained in the feed and how much feed needs to be consumed to deliver proper levels. The main thing to remember is that ammonium chloride will do nothing to remedy the underlying mineral imbalance in the goat’s diet causing the stones in the first place. Be sure to make adjustments to the diet to correct imbalances to properly "treat" urinary stones for the long run.


The key to prevention is a properly balanced diet. An ideal calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in a goat’s diet is 2:1 to 2.5:1; however, goats can tolerate a diet up to a 5:1 calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. When figuring out the calcium to phosphorus ratio, be sure to include water into the equation. This is particularly important for hard water. The biggest problems occur when there is more phosphorus in the diet than calcium.

Novice goat owners who have not had their ration "balanced" should limit the amount of grain and alfalfa hay fed to avoid problems. As a rough rule of thumb, a 100-pound goat should receive a maximum of 1 pound of grain or commercial feed per day. For those who are truly new to goats, I highly recommend using a commercial feed manufactured by a reputable company as this will be properly balanced and the nutrient levels will be known each time. A homemade mixture is not going to be nutritionally balanced and the nutrient content will vary. Please note that feed should be actually weighed at least once to get a good estimate on proper portions (don’t rely on the listed weight on a coffee can since feeds and coffee have different densities.). Additionally, try to utilize grass hay or grass-mix hay for males rather than alfalfa hay or other legume hays. Feed grains or commercial feeds split into twice a day feedings and allow grazing in between feedings. Also, always provide plenty of clean, fresh water. Check water tubs often for fecal contamination, debris or any other factor that would reduce water intake.

While a properly balanced mineral supplement is important, be aware that a mineral cannot make up for a drastic imbalance in the rest of the diet. Minerals can help with slight imbalances, though. For grass-based diets or diets including significant use of grain feeds it is important to provide a complete mineral supplement with more calcium than phosphorus. SWEETLIX offers several supplements with a 2:1 ratio such as the SWEETLIX16:8 Meat Maker Goat Mineral, SWEETLIX16:8 Meat Maker with Rumensin, SWEETLIX Meat Maker 20% Pressed Block, SWEETLIX Meat Maker Roughage Balancer Tub or the SWEETLIX All Purpose Goat Pail. For alfalfa-based diets, the SWEETLIX Caprine Magnum-Milk mineral with a 1:1 calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is available to help offset the higher calcium levels in alfalfa.

In conclusion, urinary stones can be a problem in goats. Male goats are most likely to exhibit disease symptoms; however, females form urinary stones, too. Urinary stones are caused by mineral imbalances in the diet. Improper feeding by humans is a primary cause for urinary stones. Therefore, goat owners should have an understanding of the overall calcium to phosphorus ratio in their goats’ ration. This ratio is ideally 2:1 (2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus). If you are a novice to goat nutrition, the best bet is to offer a grass-based diet with commercial feed supplements only given on an as-needed basis. SWEETLIX offers several quality supplement products that will not only provide the correct balance of calcium and phosphorus but also provide the recommended levels of vitamins and minerals, including copper and selenium, goats need to stay healthy and productive.

For more information, call 1-87SWEETLIX, visit the SWEETLIX website at or "like" us on Facebook to learn more about these supplement products. Ask for SWEETLIXMeat Maker Supplements by name at your local Quality Co-op.

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.

What Will Your Legacy Be?

by Glenn Crumpler

When thinking about your legacy, it is important to think beyond just the next generation or two, but to consider your legacy in the view of what you will leave behind that will have eternal significance. What impact are you making in this life that will last forever, long after this life and this world have passed away? How will your life be remembered and what will you be recognized for not just at your funeral but for a thousand or even a million or billion years from now when everyone you know will be long passed into eternity? That question does lead to some deep thinking, doesn’t it?

I was recently reading information from an organization encouraging members to "leave their legacy behind" by having their names engraved in granite pavers and flower pots along a walkway leading up to the organization’s office. This reminded me of a man I once knew who was obsessed with having his name engraved in huge bold letters in the impressive granite gateway entrances to every property he owned (which was a lot of properties). Everywhere you went in his county, and surrounding counties for that matter, you saw magnificent granite gateways that had his name engraved in huge letters on large granite stones, even if the gateways only led to a vacant pasture or woodland.

I personally knew this incredibly materially wealthy man and even had opportunities to talk with him about his physical and spiritual life, and his many financial accomplishments. He was a very friendly man and would talk to anybody. He loved to entertain and he received a lot of recognition for doing so. The last time I spoke with him before he died at an early age with an incurable disease, he was doing all he could to make a name for himself. His hope for leaving a legacy was to put his name everywhere he could and to have as many people as possible remember him. Putting his name everywhere, engraved in granite, would surely last for a long time. It would at least lead people in the future to ask who that person was whose name was everywhere – but what good is a name on a rock if the impact of the person’s life behind the name does not outlive the rock?

I often wondered how lonely this man who had everything money could buy truly must have been, even though he was rarely alone. He wanted so much to be loved, but a deep resentment toward some who professed to be Christians but who had hurt him so badly, left him living a life of resentment toward God and Godly pursuits. Instead, he tried to make his own legacy in his own way – grasping for ways to leave something behind that would outlive him. I have met many men since then who seem to be taking the same approach, investing so much money in and so much value on all the recognition, awards, plaques, bronze sculptures and granite stones they receive in this life bearing their names … as if they really expect these things to a leave a legacy that will actually have any eternal significance or value.

King Solomon is a good example in Scripture that tried this approach. Second only to Jesus of Nazareth, King Solomon was probably the wisest man to ever live and was undoubtedly one of the richest materially. He is believed to be the author of three books in the Bible: The Song of Solomon, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The Song of Solomon represents Solomon as a young king – virile, energetic and full of zeal for God. Proverbs seems to represent Solomon’s mature years as a king – the height of his literary output, scientific inquiry and kingly stature [1 Kings 4:20-34]. And Ecclesiastes represents Solomon’s reflective, sunset years when he looks back and summarizes.

Somewhere along the way, Solomon set out on a journey to find meaning – in money, possessions, wisdom, being king, his works and accomplishments, and being smarter than anyone else. Perhaps his most blatant attempt for meaning is recorded in 1 Kings 11:3: "And [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses and three hundred concubines." (David Jeremiah Study Bible: Worthy Publishing).

Solomon’s conclusion: Pursuing ultimate meaning in wisdom, position, power, material possessions, recognition and works does not bring lasting satisfaction. Not one of these pursuits on its own gives meaning to life. Solomon called all these things "vanity" – just a vapor or a breath that have no eternal significance in themselves. Pursuit of these things for the pleasure they bring or the power and prestige that comes with them is all in vain.

At the end of his life, when he reflected back on all the possessions, wisdom, wealth and power he had accumulated, he said the secret to living a successful life and leaving a legacy of eternal significance is to "… Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NKJV)

The one who fears (or loves) God recognizes that He gives meaning to every area of life and that no area of life has meaning apart from Him. David Jeremiah went on to comment on the lessons from King Solomon: "Life is like the blink of an eye compared to the scale of eternity." Life certainly does have meaning – God created it and uses it to accomplish His purposes. But the brevity of our years is a strong reminder not to seek ultimate meaning in things that are "here today and gone tomorrow." It is the reason Jesus counseled against laying up treasures on earth as opposed to heaven. (Matthew 6:19-20)

I have sat by the side of many people who were lying in their deathbed facing their final days and taking their final breaths. Never once has anyone, when reflecting on their life’s regrets or successes, ever said that they wish they had collected one more award, had produced or acquired one more great cow, or had completed one more business deal. Without exception, when facing the end of life, people voice their regrets concerning the time and opportunities they missed spending time with their family, building their relationship with God and, most importantly, having not properly invested their time and resources in things that would have had eternal value. They tell me that their jobs, large houses, cars, boats, their names being carved in granite and everything else material they spent their life seeking – are all vanity and without meaning when compared to what is most important at the last moments. "What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

Some people try to avoid thinking about, talking about or preparing to die, hoping or thinking that it will not happen or, if it does, it will not be anytime soon. Solomon teaches us to approach death differently by recognizing that it is coming and, because it is, we should live differently. We should embrace every day that God gives us and live it to the fullest, investing it in what will outlive us and outlive the world as we know it. We should live preparing to die.

I refer often to a line by C.T. Studd, "Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last."

What will your legacy be? What will you leave behind for others to follow? I hope it’s more than having your name on a rock!

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

Young Alabama Couples Attend Co-op Conference

There were 28 young couples sponsored to the 2014 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 39th annual conference was held at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach. Eight of these couples were sponsored by their local Quality Co-op. Other sponsors included Alabama Ag Credit, Alabama Farm Credit, First South Farm Credit, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative and Alabama Rural Electric Cooperatives.

Jason and Bridget Fields, Lawrence County Exchange Drew and Leslie Gallman, Talladega County Exchange
Greg and Tiffany Jenkins, DeKalb Farmers Co-op. Jacob and Brandy Kadle, Cherokee Farmers Co-op.
Ben Lauderdale and Stephanie Brock, Limestone Farmers Co-op Mark and Beth Love, DeKalb Farmers Co-op
Stacy and Tracy Sanders, Hartford Farmers Co-op. John and Valerie Snodgrass, Jackson Farmers Co-op.
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