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September 2015

4-H Extension Corner: A New Era

Dr. Paul Brown, Alabama Extension associate director, presents Bibb County Commission Vice-Chairman James Kelly with the Alabama 4-H Crystal Clover.

Six counties get an additional 4-H agent.

by Donna Reynolds

Six more counties in Alabama now have a full-time 4-H staff member serving their youth.

Bibb, Dale, Fayette, Marion, Pike and Shelby counties have earned the Centennial Youth Initiative Designation from Alabama Cooperative Extension System in recognition of their 4-H teams’ efforts to transform and revitalize 4-H. The designation will provide a full-time Alabama 4-H Foundation agent in each of the six counties. The positions are funded by Alabama Extension and the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation.

Paul Brown, Alabama Extension’s associate director, said the distinction was earned because of excellence across the 4-H programming spectrum. Areas of excellence are:

  • Forming unified Alabama 4-H team and program;
  • Using consistent research-based curriculum resources;
  • Diversifying delivery modes tailored to today’s youth;
  • Promoting plan-of-work development and teamwork at all levels; and
  • Aligning staff and position assignments to support program resources and delivery modes.
Marion County 4-H’ers receive medallions from County Commission as Scott Goodwin, Winfield City middle school principal, and Ann West, Marion County Schools assistant superintendent, look on.

Alabama Extension and the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation made formal presentations of this designation at a county commission meeting in each county. During each ceremony, the Alabama 4-H Centennial Youth Initiative Crystal Clover was presented to the county commission as were medallions of excellence to the county 4-H team members recognizing their accomplishment.

"The dedication the Extension professionals have shown when working with 4-H in these counties is very impressive," said Dr. Gary Lemme, director of Alabama Extension. "They have accomplished a lot and fully exemplify the standards of excellence set for this award."

During the Bibb County presentation, Matt Hartzell, Alabama Extension coordinator for that county, said he is extremely grateful for the collaboration, support and contributions leading to this important achievement.

"We appreciate our valued stakeholders in the county and the growing number of 4-H youth participants and volunteers who have made this achievement possible," Hartzell added.

"As a learn-by-doing program, 4-H is filling a void in the early 21st century by helping young people adopt skills and behaviors that will serve them and their fellow citizens well. Whether it’s learning about recycling, the outdoors, planting a small garden, raising chickens, retaining meaningful employment or living healthier lives, Bibb County youth have more opportunities to learn to improve their lives and those around them."

In Marion County, Lisa Murphy, Alabama Extension coordinator for the county, said, "This new era of 4-H youth development will create opportunities for future generations through contemporary learning experiences that emphasize character values, goal setting and personal exploration."

There are more than 1,600 youth involved in 4-H programming in Marion County.

Andrew Thompson is the new 4-H Foundation agent assigned to Dale County. He said there is no limit to the benefits 4-H is able to offer youth, and he is confident that every youth is capable of finding at least one area of interest within the diverse programming areas of 4-H.

At the Fayette County Commission meeting, Warren Griffith, Extension coordinator, said, "By diversifying our delivery methods, we’ve been able to reach more than 1,500 youth and almost every household in the county.

"4-H has a lasting impact on youth and I am excited about the possibilities this will bring to our county."

There are more than 1,400 youth involved in 4-H programs in Dale County. Tommy Agee, Extension coordinator, said obtaining the CYI designation has better equipped his staff to go out and reach many more youth through 4-H and youth development.

"We have to remain relevant to youth and, if we do this, there will be a huge positive impact on the youth in Dale County."

In Shelby County, Extension Coordinator Ricky Colquitt said, "Our goal is to make a positive impact in the lives of young people, and this award will further enhance our ability to achieve that goal. Having a full-time 4-H Foundation agent will make a huge impact on the number of 4-H youth activities we can offer as well as the number of youth we can reach."

Shelby County currently has more than 1,200 youth involved in 4-H.

Earlier this year, Baldwin, Cherokee, Escambia, Etowah, Mobile and Washington counties were designated as CYI counties.

Brown said that Extension’s goal is to help every county earn the Centennial Youth Initiative Designation and to have a full-time 4-H Foundation agent working in each.

More than 120,000 young people participate in 4-H programs in Alabama.

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

A Super-Sized Tailgate Party

This is the 2014 Roundup entrance and first few food booths and exhibits, shot from across the pond at Ag Heritage Park. The main entrance to Ag Roundup is at 620-A South Donahue Drive, between Ham Wilson Livestock Arena and Ag Heritage Park’s Alabama Farmers Pavilion.

The 2015 Fall Roundup and Taste of Alabama Agriculture is set for Auburn’s Homecoming weekend.

Edgar Vinson, left, research associate in the Department of Horticulture, dishes out helpings of the collard greens he’s cooked for his department’s popular food booth.

Auburn University’s 2015 homecoming celebration and football game are set for Saturday, Oct. 3, and so is the 36th annual Fall Roundup and Taste of Alabama Agriculture. The latter will take place at Ag Heritage Park and will get underway four hours before kickoff of the Auburn-San Jose State game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Game time will be announced in September.

Ag Roundup, co-sponsored by Auburn’s College of Agriculture and the Auburn Agricultural Alumni Association, is a super-sized tailgate party where, for $5, you can sample a wide variety of foods grown and/or processed in Alabama. Typical fare runs the gamut from fried chicken, fried catfish and corndogs to edamame, satsumas and collard greens with sweet potato fries.

In addition to the food, Ag Roundup features children’s activities, informative exhibits, and live and silent auctions to raise money for College of Agriculture scholarships. Musical entertainment at this year’s event will be provided by Jessie Lynn Nichols, an agricultural communications major from Prattville.

All activities will be set up on the South Donahue Drive side of Ag Heritage Park, with the main entrance located between the Ham Wilson Livestock Arena and the Alabama Farmers Pavilion. The $5-per-person admission fee is payable at the gate; children 6 and under are admitted free. Ag Roundup will close an hour prior to kickoff.

Ag Roundup began as a way to increase public awareness of agriculture and the major impact it has on Alabama’s economy, and through the years, the event has become a favorite homecoming tradition for hundreds of Tiger fans.

David Cline, Extension specialist in Auburn’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, serves fried catfish to a 2014 Ag Roundup attendee. Byron Smith, AFC’s management services specialist, is frying up samples of farm-raised catfish.

"Last year’s Roundup drew a record crowd of just over 3,000 and gate receipts and auction proceeds generated more than $21,000 to be used for student scholarships in the College of Agriculture," said Amanda Martin, student recruitment and alumni relations coordinator in the college. "Our hope is that 2015 will be even bigger."

For more about Ag Roundup, contact Martin at 334-844-8900 or, or visit the website at

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Child-poverty rates climb in rural counties

According to the official poverty measure, one in five rural counties had child-poverty rates over 33 percent.

Child-poverty rates varied considerably across nonmetropolitan (rural) counties, according to 2009-13 county averages. However, child poverty has increased since the 2000 Census and the number of rural counties with child-poverty rates of over 33 percent has more than doubled.

Improving young adult education levels tended to lower child-poverty rates over the period, but increases in single-parent households and economic recession were associated with rising child poverty. During the same measurement period, metropolitan counties had average child-poverty rates of 21 percent.

Food, beverage operations employ 1.5 million nationally

The U.S. food and beverage manufacturing sector employed about 1.5 million people, or just over 1 percent of all U.S. nonfarm employment.

Figures from 2013, the latest period for which data is available, show that within the U.S. manufacturing sector, food and beverage manufacturing employees accounted for the largest percentage of employees (14 percent). In over 31,000 food and beverage manufacturing plants located throughout the country, these 1.5 million workers were engaged in transforming raw agricultural materials into products for intermediate or final consumption.

Manufacturing jobs include processing, inspecting, packing, janitorial and guard services, product development, recordkeeping and nonproduction duties such as sales, delivery, advertising, clerical and routine office functions.

Meat and poultry plants employed the largest percentage of food and beverage manufacturing workers, followed by bakeries and fruit and vegetable processing plants.

U.S. share of Middle East, North Africa corn imports has dropped

The Middle East and North Africa region accounts for a significant and growing portion of worldwide food and feed imports, but the U.S. share of that expanding market has declined.

Growth of the region’s livestock sector, particularly poultry, has boosted demand for feed, driving steady growth in corn consumption over the past 20 years. Given the disparity between MENA’s limited corn production capacity and its growing demand for livestock feed, corn imports have steadily risen, except for a temporary drop in 2009 associated with the spike in global food prices.

The U.S. share of the region’s corn imports has declined from about 70 percent during the mid-1990s to around 10 percent in recent years. Analysts say the drop is due to reduced U.S. exportable surpluses, higher U.S. prices following the 2012 U.S. drought and increased competition from other suppliers.

Major U.S. competitors in the MENA corn market include the Ukraine and Russia that enjoy transport cost advantages to the MENA region, but can experience frequent weather-induced fluctuations in production.

The leading destinations of MENA-bound U.S. corn are Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Farm inputs show major shifts as output grows

U.S. farm output more than doubled between 1948 and 2011, while aggregate agricultural inputs increased by just 4 percent. However, the composition of agricultural inputs shifted considerably, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Between 1948 and 2011, labor use declined 78 percent while total land input dropped 26 percent. The agricultural sector’s consumption of intermediate goods (such as energy, agricultural chemicals, purchased services and seed/feed) grew by 140 percent, while capital inputs (equipment, buildings and inventories) increased by 65 percent.

The shift in the input mix away from labor and toward machinery and intermediate inputs reflects trends in relative prices that dropped significantly relative to labor between 1948 and 2011. After 1980, the use of capital inputs fell, while the growth in intermediate inputs slowed considerably.

Total agricultural input use fell by 15 percent from 1980-2011, even as output continued to grow.

Genetically engineered seeds popular despite higher cost

U.S. farmers overwhelmingly have adopted genetically engineered seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher prices.

Herbicide-tolerant crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control.

Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis producing a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. Stacked seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits, and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds.

In 2015, adoption of GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance or stacked traits, accounted for 94 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties) and 92 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States.

Wheat flour consumption stable in recent years

Despite a long-term downward trend, U.S. per capita wheat flour consumption has been relatively stable in recent years and is estimated in 2014 at 135 pounds per person. The consumption figure is unchanged from 2013 and is down just three pounds from the recent peak in 2007.

The 2014 estimate is down 11 pounds from the 2000 level when flour use started dropping sharply, partially due to increased consumer interest in low-carbohydrate diets. From the turn of the 20th century until about 1970, U.S. per capita wheat use generally declined, as strenuous physical labor became less common and diets became more diversified.

However, from the early 1970s until the late 1990s, wheat consumption trended upward, reflecting growth in the foodservice industry and away-from-home eating, greater use and availability of prepared foods for home consumption, and promotion by industry organizations of the benefits of wheat flour and pasta product consumption. During this time, the domestic wheat market expanded on both rising per capita food use and a growing U.S. population.

Relatively stable per capita flour use in more recent years means that expansion of the domestic market for U.S. wheat is largely limited to the growth of the U.S. population.

CRP applications now being accepted

Farmers and ranchers now can apply for financial assistance to help conserve working grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while maintaining the areas as livestock grazing lands.

The new application period began Sept. 1 and the Farm Service Agency will accept applications on an ongoing basis with those documents scored against published ranking criteria and approved based on the competiveness of the offer. The end of the first ranking period will be Nov. 20, 2015.

Part of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program, the federally funded program has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance.

USDA estimates CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.

A record 400 million acres and 600,000 producers and landowners are currently enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs. Now celebrating its 30th year, the Conservation Reserve Program is viewed as one of the most successful conservation programs in the nation’s history.

Agricultural Mission: Belize

Tracey and Paul Sims thought they were living the American Dream until they travelled to a small mountain village in Belize and found the true meaning of life.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Tracey and Paul Sims were living the American Dream! Their children were grown, they both had good jobs, they had bought a small farm, and now they were able do some things they had always hoped to do. But for the Simses, something was missing. Their search to find answers would take them on a mission trip to New Mexico. While there, the Simses made the decision to commit their lives to full-time ministry. However, even after their decision, they were still perplexed. Where were they supposed to go? And what kind of ministry were they being led to start?

A year later, while on a mission trip to Belize, they found the final piece of their puzzle. They met a man who had served as a minister for 17 years in the tiny village of Progresso. His name was Maurisio Sedacy and he had been praying for God to send someone to help him. Sedacy longed to minister full time in his church, but, because he had to support his 14 family members, he was forced to travel many miles to the thriving resort area to work three weeks out of the month. When the Simses heard other parts of his miraculous life story, they felt a need to return to Belize to help him.

The Simses sold their small farm and paid their own way to Belize. Although they were not sponsored by any Mission Board, they did stay with a missionary couple in San Lazero until they could build a home in Progresso. Each day, the couple travelled 30 difficult miles to Progresso to work on their home. Gas at that time was $6 a gallon in Belize.

"It was the rainy season, the roads were bad and, many times, we could hardly get to Progresso," Paul explained, "but this was what we were supposed to do, and God provided a way."

Paul Sims uses his tractor to help remove rocks from a field cleared for planting. The tractor has proved to be invaluable, as rock removal takes months when done by hand.

Building their own home would open many doors for Paul to use his carpentry skills to help some young men in the village who wanted to work. He showed the workers how to use his tools, measure and cut the boards so they would be straight. This was hands-on learning for the young men, who were eager to gain a skill. Paul even constructed his own water storage system and used a formula from the Internet to purify the water for drinking.

Belize is known for its beautiful beaches and luxurious resorts on the coast. Farther inland, life is very different in the remote villages. The men often have to leave their homes and travel to other areas for jobs because the meager amounts made from farming cannot sustain a family.

Paul recognized immediately that he could help the villagers with farming. One of the most difficult jobs for these farmers is clearing the rocky land for planting. In Progresso, clearing can often take more than three years. After cutting the trees, the foliage must be dried and burned. Then, the villagers pick up the thousands of rocks by hand. These sharp flint rocks, similar to the ones used by the Mayans to make weapons, are found everywhere. The rocks damage tires and cut the feet of barefooted children working in the fields.

Paul Sims drops a “bucket” into the well for fresh water. Paul designed and built this water system. He also found a formula for purification on the Internet and made his own purification system. He was careful to teach his techniques to the young villagers who helped him.

Fortunately, Paul had shipped his tractor, bush hog, plows, tools and other farming implements to Belize. The tractor has proved to be an invaluable tool, especially with rock removal. Paul has also used the tractor to bush hog for the school and community, as well as lifting residents to pick coconuts.

Farmers plant mainly corn and beans. The corn is either white or yellow, and red and black beans are a staple. Their planting techniques resemble those used in early America. Everything is done by hand because the villagers do not have modern equipment. All family members help with planting. Older members use a stick to poke holes in the ground, and children drop seeds, held in Clorox jugs that have been cut in half. Farmers never cover their seeds. Instead, they wait for the rains to come and wash soil over the seeds. Also, crop rows are never straight.

Belize has a year-round growing season. Even though the rainy season runs from June until December, planting is done during the dry season because the market is better. Since there is very little rain during the dry season, farmers have to irrigate. This means a well must be drilled through the hard flint rocks to provide water for the crops.

With the help of a nearby Mennonite Community, Paul has helped drill two wells for irrigation. The Mennonites use an older drill that drives and beats through the rocks. The process is slow and labor intensive. Sims now has plans to build an above-ground tank for water storage. He will also construct a gravity-fed, drip irrigation system.

Chickens are another important food source for the villagers. For years, Paul had hatched and raised poultry as a hobby. To increase production, he bought an incubator and taught some of the villagers how to use it. He is now trying to get more incubators donated so the villagers can increase production and profits.

In addition to farming and carpentry, Paul has taught welding and mechanics to many young men in the village. Most have only an eighth-grade education, so learning a practical skill helps them to be able to make a living for themselves and their families. Some of these young men are now studying to become church leaders.

Even though the villagers raise sugar cane, the Simses noticed the cane growers do not make syrup. These growers take the cane many miles away to a refinery that makes sugar and rum. Paul decided that teaching the villagers to make syrup and sell cane could be another source of food and income. While the Simses were in the United States, someone gave Paul an older cane mill; however, the bearings were so stripped, he has been unable to get it to work. He now hopes that someone will donate a workable mill, so he can teach villagers to extract and sell juice, as well as make syrup and various other syrup-related products. This would add still another cottage industry to the village.

Tracey has been just as involved as her husband. She works in a women’s ministry that includes widows who have children and abandoned mothers who get no government assistance. Tracey has helped the women find crafts they can make and sell to help support their families. One of her ministries involves crocheting. One young woman, who was quite skilled in crocheting, helped to teach the others. Tracey showed the women how to make goods that would be more desirable to customers in the United States. For example, purses, bracelets, key chains, headbands, ponytail holders and flower rosettes were quick-selling items. Tracey convinced the women to use Alabama and Auburn colors, as well as colors of local high schools around Thomasville. When the Simses returned to the United States in June, they quickly sold the popular products and distributed the profits to the craftswomen.

"For these young women, that money can be the difference between their baby having milk or their children having food," Tracey explained. "They are hardworking people, but they do not know how to market their goods. Some are very skilled at their crafts, but they just need a helping hand."

This small cottage industry has proven to be very successful for the women.

Tracey also works with puppet ministries and church drama presentations. She writes, produces and directs church productions while sewing the costumes and scavenging thrift stores for usable clothing. She also helps with the music and conducts Bible schools in Progresso and San Lazero. Often, the Simses will have over 150 children coming to their summer youth programs.

Belize is the only Central American country where English is the official language, but residents speak a mixture of Creole and Spanish. The Simses are still working on their language skills.

"Not being able to speak the language makes the simplest task so difficult," Paul explained.

The Simses have been called on to work in many community and school activities in Progresso. They often take sick people to doctors who are many miles away. On numerous occasions, Paul has used his vehicle as an ambulance.

Now that they are sponsored by the Methodist Protestant Church, the Simses plan to stay four years.

"Our goals are to teach, to show and to equip the people to do everything for themselves," Paul stated. "We want to prepare them so we can turn everything over to them."

Tracey says that she has learned so much from her experiences.

"I have learned that everything is for a season," she said. "It has taught me patience, but going to a foreign country has also taught me to appreciate things I took for granted before."

In their search to find true meaning in life, Paul and Tracey Sims found a renewed sense of purpose in a small mountain village in Belize. But in their journey, they strengthened their faith and gained an even greater understanding of what the American Dream really is.

"People don’t realize how great this country is until you live outside of it," Paul explained. "These people have so little, yet they are so grateful for anything, no matter how small it is."

You can contact the Simses at To help the Simses in their ministries (please specify the ministry): "Paul and Tracey Sims’s Progresso Agricultural Project" or "Paul and Tracey Sims’s Woman’s Ministry," 31 Cammock Drive, Grove Hill, AL 36451.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Alafarm Dog Food

by John Sims

Alafarm Dog Food is a line of products made specifically for Quality Co-op stores to meet the nutritional and performance requirements demanded for our dogs in the Southeast. There is a formula to fit every age and lifestyle of your pet. Alafarm feeds are highly digestible, energy and nutrient dense, and contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals your friend needs for a healthy and productive life.

Alafarm Puppy: This 30 percent protein, 20 percent fat ration is specifically formulated to help grow your puppy with excellent levels of nutrients its young bones, teeth and muscles need during the first year. Added Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids aid in reducing inflammation and promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. Contains no soy or wheat midds! This highly digestible, nutrient-rich feed also makes a great senior feed for your older animals.

Alafarm Maintenance Adult: This 21 percent protein, 8 percent fat ration is designed to economically supply the required amino acids and nutrients your mature dog needs at various stages of activity.

Alafarm Premium Adult: This 26 percent protein, 18 percent fat ration is formulated to provide high protein and sustained energy to animals under stress. It is fortified with the correct levels of nutrients for growing, working or lactating animals. Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids have been added to aid in reducing inflammation and promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. Contains no soy or wheat midds!

Alafarm High Energy: This 24 percent protein, 20 percent fat ration is formulated for the extreme athlete with very high energy and stamina requirements. Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids have been added to aid in reducing inflammation and promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. Contains no soy or wheat midds!

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

Avian Influenza Knocking at the Door

Strict biosecurity is essential.

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I suppose "knocking at the door" is not really a term that applies to viruses. Actually, there is no door at the state line to keep viruses out. If it was that simple, when the avian influenza virus knocked, we would just act like we weren’t home and not answer. Eventually, the virus would just decide to not come into Alabama. Unfortunately, it is pretty much impossible to stop migratory waterfowl that may be carrying the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus from flying over our state. So we are going to ramp up our biosecurity efforts.

If you watched much news this summer, you most likely heard discussion about the "bird flu" and that federal and state animal health officials expect it to return to the United States this fall when waterfowl migration gets back into gear. The first case of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus was confirmed in the state of Washington back in December 2014. The last confirmed case was June 17, 2015, in Iowa, a state hit particularly hard during that outbreak. According to USDA reports, nearly 32 million of the 48 million birds affected nationally were in Iowa. It has certainly affected the table-egg industry. I can only imagine how devastating it would be if the virus gets any kind of foothold here in Alabama. To be honest, I sometimes lie awake at night thinking about it.

I know I have written about avian influenza or "bird flu" quite a bit recently, mostly to expand on the 30-second to one-minute sound bites you get on the news and also to put Alabama’s perspective on what is going on nationally. But I want to use most of my time in this column discussing biosecurity, our best weapon since we can’t stop migrating waterfowl from flying over our state. Additionally, the principles of biosecurity can be used not only to help prevent the introduction and spread of bird flu but also applied to livestock operation, or even keeping the family dog from getting mange from some stray dog passing through the community. Today, we are mostly going to focus on reducing the risk of avian influenza in poultry using strict biosecurity.

First, make sure you do not bring the virus to your poultry house, chicken pen or other enclosure where poultry are kept. I suggest you always have a disinfectant foot bath at the entrance of these enclosures. It is also a good idea to have a specific pair of shoes you wear when entering the areas occupied by poultry. It is not uncommon for people to track viruses from one place to another on their shoes. I can remember when I was in private practice, we would occasionally see some little Yorkshire Terrier the owners swore never went outside, but would have parvo. The only way the dog could have gotten the virus was for the people in the house to have tracked it in. Migratory waterfowl can carry the virus and never get sick. They can excrete huge numbers of virus particles in their feces. I realize you may never see a duck on your property, but birds flying over could leave a fecal sample they drop from the sky if the urge hits at the right time. For sure, do not go to another poultry farm and stroll in with your poultry like you were going to Walmart. It could introduce diseases, not just bird flu.

The second step is to make sure your poultry do not drink untreated surface water from ponds, lakes, streams, etc. Obviously, this is for backyard poultry producers. If you are a commercial producer and this is your source of water for your poultry houses, you have concerns other than avian influenza. Sharing water sources that could be potentially contaminated with germs from infected animals is just not a good practice. If you saw someone sneezing, coughing and blowing snot out of their nose, and set a glass down, a glass they had been drinking from, you wouldn’t likely pick it up and start drinking from it. Well, it’s the same principle.

Next, clean up outside feed spills. This could not only attract migratory waterfowl, but it just increases all kind of vermin and undesirables. Feed spills outside poultry houses can attract rodents, possums, raccoons and flies. They can all carry bacteria that may be passed on to the poultry inside the houses. It is a formidable job to keep poultry healthy without attracting problems.

Another step is to do everything possible, within the law, to keep waterfowl from occupying a pond on your farm or one on a nearby neighbor’s. I realize this could be very difficult, especially for those who have ducks that are normal residents of the farm. I don’t want ducks to be cast in a bad light, but it is almost certain, if we get avian influenza into our state, it will be from migratory waterfowl. The USDA epidemiologists have determined the migratory waterfowl carriers have come here from Europe, where a couple of strains of the virus have been circulating for a while.

Again, this is another one intended for noncommercial poultry. If possible, keep your poultry in a bird-proof enclosure. For purposes of biosecurity, free-roaming birds are (pardon the pun) sitting ducks. Notice I said free-roaming, not free-range. I am aware of several free-range operations with birds in enclosures they can roll across their pastures. That protects the chickens from predators as well as concentrating the manure to fertilize the land. But even free-range birds in enclosures are more vulnerable to the virus if migratory waterfowl are on the property.

If you are a noncommercial producer, make sure, if you purchase chicks, they are from reputable hatcheries that participate in some type of program monitoring for avian influenza. Government animal health officials will be doing everything possible to make sure chicks or other poultry are shipped from an area where avian influenza has not been diagnosed. Still, it is a good idea to never buy from an unknown source. This includes buying from someone in the Walmart parking lot.

And finally, if you happen to be a missionary or travel abroad, do not come in contact with poultry for at least a week after you return home. Several years ago, I spoke with the lab director at the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Facility. He believes viruses that could be devastating to our poultry and livestock industry are being unintentionally brought into our country, but are not making it out to the farm because a large percentage of the people travelling are urbanites and not farmers.

From my perspective, it is up to the poultry producers to put strict biosecurity measures in place and make sure to follow those measures. Then, if we do get a confirmation of a positive case of bird flu, it is no less than critical that every precaution be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. It is difficult to implement a strict biosecurity program, but it is even more difficult to teach the migrating waterfowl to not fly over Alabama.

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

Both Hands

Bro. Eric and Rebekah Hixon family before the addition of Mariam and Naomi.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Mark Twain once said, "The most important days in a person’s life are the day they were born and the day they find out why."

J.T. Olson says that second day in his life came in 2008 when he left his "regular" job to start the Both Hands project full time.

So what in the world is the Both Hands project and why would I be writing about it in an article that deals primarily with the simple life?

Fast forward to the summer of 2015, this private, almost-hermit-like-sometimes widow’s farm was overrun with 45 of some of the most energetic children, teens and adults you’ve ever seen! An army of workers had descended on my 15 acres with hammers, ladders, paintbrushes, rakes, weedeaters, cleaning cloths, shovels, wheelbarrows and that all-important Phillips-head screwdriver at 8 a.m. on a hot, but breezy, Saturday morning!

I admit I had my doubts and my reservations! Why did they pick me and what in the world would they do here?

My widow’s farm was overrun with 45 of some of the most energetic children, teens and adults you’ve ever seen as the volunteers from the Both Hands project spent five days working around my farm.

It started simply enough. One of my pastors, Bro. Eric Hixon, sat on my tiny general store’s front porch one morning and asked if I’d consider being a part of a Both Hands fundraiser to help in his family’s adoption of two more children from China: Naomi, 10, and Mariam, 3.

He explained the Both Hands ideals as being "pure and faultless religion in this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, as told about in James 1:27."

Workers would work a certain amount of time at my home and would seek donations or pledges from folks who would donate money toward the adoption process.

The Both Hands idea came to Olson like this, as he explains on the Both Hands website: "Almost 10 years ago, I served on the board for Bethany Christian Services in Nashville and was responsible for an annual golf tournament where we sent letters asking for sponsorship while we golfed. A few days before the event, my friend sent my sponsorship letter back to me and scribbled on it, ‘J.T, if you were working on a widow’s house, I might sponsor you, but you’re just golfing. Nice cause.’ I’ll admit I was a bit surprised, but I called him and we had a good laugh about it. His idea never left me. A few years later, my friend came up to me in church and told me he was adopting four orphans from Moldova. Since I had adopted, I knew how expensive it would be. I asked how much he needed to raise. He replied, ‘About $65,000.’ He had no clue how he was going to do it, but he knew it was God’s calling.

"Long story short, we gathered about a dozen of our friends and found a widow’s home to work on. All of us sent out letters asking for sponsorship while we worked, with the proceeds going towards my friend’s adoption. We ended up raising about $55,000. It wasn’t long before another friend asked us to do a project for his adoption.

"Fast forward 6 years and I think our numbers say it all. I left my job to start Both Hands full time.

"We are not all called to adopt, but we can all play a role in serving widows and orphans. A Both Hands project works in the same way as a marathon or a golf tournament. The only difference is, instead of playing, we’ll be working on a widow’s home! We think that’s pretty cool!"

More specifically about the Hixon’s Both Hands project, Olson explained, "Both Hands is committed to fundraising for its operating expenses through private donors and grants, so NO FUNDS RAISED by a family and their team are deducted for Both Hands’ administrative expenses. The supplies used to work on the widow’s home are donated. The money you send will help two orphans become adopted into a forever family. The widow benefits, two children are brought closer to home and a group of volunteers spend the day serving others."

Bro. Eric and his wife, Rebekah, are quick to point out they aren’t perfect parents; they don’t have all the answers and they still make mistakes. But they feel like adoption is a "calling" and, as another adoptive mother in our congregation explains, she is blessed by Bro. Eric’s saying, "We don’t adopt on our ability. We adopt on faith."

The majority of the 45 who came to my Old Field Farm that day are members of New Covenant Baptist Church, where I am a member (and where Bro. Cliff Cook is the other pastor along with Bro. Eric), but there were some folks from two other churches as well.

While I have grown children who try to help me as much as possible, they have families and responsibilities of their own, so there were many things at my home that were neglected during my husband’s lengthy illness and then death three years ago.

Some things seemed pretty simple, but, unless you have the right tool and the know-how, they can get quite complicated for a chubby, gray-haired homesteader!

The storm windows required a special tool to undo the screws to take them down so the windows could be freed of spiderwebs, and then washed inside and out before the storm windows were reinstalled!

There were boards reaching from the front of my house to the tip-top of the roof where the metal roofing was attached, but one particularly vital board was rotten. The roofing was unscrewed, the board replaced with a new one, repainted and then the roofing reattached. Similar boards on the front and end of the house were likewise replaced and painted!

Where bushes and weeds of untold origins threatened to overtake various areas such as my back porch and a nearby power pole to which all my electrical service is connected, folks with weedeaters, swing blades and chompers not only cut the dreaded and snaky foliage but carted it away in wheelbarrows or dragged it to a huge pile that my son later burned!

My house and farm looked like a different place by 4:30 that Saturday afternoon!

The donations were still out when I wrote this article, so I’m not sure how much money was raised on that particular day. I know there have been yard sales, cake sales and other fundraisers during the last few months.

One thing I do know is, by the time you are reading this, we believe the Hixons will be back from China with Naomi and Mariam!

And I do know that my simple life was blessed beyond measure by my tiny part in all of this!

If you would like more information about the Both Hands Foundation, you may contact

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

Corn Time

Couples Conference

There were 28 young couples sponsored to the 2015 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 40th annual conference was held at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach. Six of these couples were sponsored by their local Quality Co-op. Other sponsors included Ag First, Alabama Ag Credit, Alabama Farm Credit, CoBank, First South Farm Credit, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative and Alabama Rural Electric Cooperatives.

Brad and Laura Creswell, DeKalb Farmers Co-op Devin and Ivey Dean, DeKalb Farmers Co-op
Lance and Kara Ezelle, Morgan Farmers Co-op Justin and Nicki Jo House, Atmore Truckers
Joseph and Holly Wood, Talladega County Exchange Jacob and Brandy Kadle, Host couple, Alabama Farmers Cooperative



Easier To Lead Than To Drive

by Glenn Crumpler

I remember when I was about 18 years old working on a construction site trying to push a wheelbarrow full of dirt through a sand bed. As I struggled and wobbled through the sand with the heavy load, the contractor I worked for looked at me and said, "Even a jackass has sense enough to pull!" That is all he said and that was all he needed to say!

Well, I have often remembered that lesson even though it was a little humiliating at the time. Not only is it smarter and easier to pull than to push a heavy load, it is also easier to lead than to drive. This is especially true when handling cattle.

We have learned that if we spend a little quality time with the cattle, especially new cattle, slowly, quietly and patiently easing around them, giving them a little feed to attract and calm them, and softly calling them with our special call, they will soon equate our presence with a positive experience they look forward to. Every time we visit them, as we begin our approach into the pasture, we call out to them loudly with the special call they soon learn to equate to our presence and the expectation of feed or a new patch of grass. They soon get comfortable with us and will follow us wherever we go – even when the treat is not provided. Every time we visit them and every time we move them from one pasture or paddock to another, we use the same call with the same rhythm that is consistent and distinguishable. They know, when they hear our call, something good is usually about to happen. Jack or I can step outside, right now, and sound the call, and cows will start mooing in every pasture! They know our voice, they know us!

In our environment, one man the cattle know with a single bucket of feed can do more with the cattle, and do it easier and quicker, than several men on horses, trucks or four-wheelers they do not know. We can move them from pasture to pasture, we can call them into the catch pen, or we can lead them across the road or even down the road whenever we need to.

I remember an occasion years ago when Jack and I rented a place several miles from home. By the time we got the call that our relatively new herd of cows were in the road, they had already strayed a half mile or so from the pasture. With just one bucket of feed, we called them with the familiar call and led the whole herd back down the road and through the gate back into the pasture. If we had had to drive them, they would have scattered like a covey of quail and we would still be rounding up strays!

Just recently we helped some friends gather up their cattle for working. The pasture was not cross-fenced and there was a large area of woods right in the center. The catch pen was on a hill in the middle of a fence row with no way of crowding or guiding the cattle to enter the pen. We felt sure there would be trouble when we drove into the north end of the pasture and watched the cattle on the south end head for the woods! As soon as they saw us, they headed the other way. Had there not been fences, they would not have stopped until we quit pursuing. Out of desperation, Jack tried to call them with the same call we use on our cattle, but they did not know his voice and the call meant absolutely nothing to them, so they just ran all the harder. After 30 minutes or so of herding them on foot and with motorized vehicles, running back and forth to cut off the escape routes, we finally drove them into the pen.

While this approach worked, it was a onetime shot! If they had gotten away, we would have most likely had to wait until another day to do what needed to be done that day. We were stressed, the cattle were stressed and you can bet they will be even harder to catch the next time. With just a little bit of consistent conditioning to build trust and relationship, the cattle would learn to follow instead of having to be driven. One man could most likely do in 15 minutes what it took four of us to do in 30 with much less stress for both us and the cattle.

While the principle "it is easier to lead than to drive" is true when it comes to cattle, it is also true when it comes to dealing with people, whether it is leading a large group or raising children. It is also the way God desires and has set in place to relate to us as His children. He desires to spend enough quality time with us and us with Him, so we get to know Him and know His voice. As we spend time with Him and learn to follow and be led by Him, we learn He is a trustworthy, capable and loving Shepherd whose desire is to bless us and not to harm us. Wherever He leads us will be a place where we will experience His presence and blessings, though the journey may be hard and seem uncertain. Whenever we stray and find ourselves outside His will, He is the One who seeks us out and wants nothing more than to lead us back to where we need to be. The more we spend time with Him and follow Him, the better able we are to distinguish His voice from all the others who are calling out to us - most of whom desire to do us harm.

Jesus said in John 10 (NKJV), ".... He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. And when He brings out His own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of the strangers …. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."

The most used Bible verse at funerals is the 23rd Psalm. This whole passage deals with the Lord being our Shepherd who leads us, who restores our soul, who makes us righteous, who protects us from our enemies, who comforts us, who showers us with goodness and mercy, and who prepares a place and a way for us to dwell with Him for all eternity!

I do not know about you, but I am glad I belong to the Good Shepherd who lovingly leads me instead of driving me with the crack of a whip! I am glad I can rest knowing that wherever He leads me will be the best for me. I can have peace knowing He has gone before me to make sure everything I need is along the way, He has already provided! I am glad I know, whenever I stray and get lost along the way, and I will, that He will lovingly and faithfully seek me out and restore me! Lord, help me to know Your voice and give me the faith and the will to willingly follow You.

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

Extreme Makeover: Up for Adoption

Although Tango kicked Josh Hellums three times when he first got him, now the animal is gentle and well-accustomed to being touched. Hellums asserted that now anybody can ride him.

Trainer Josh Hellums will be one of 50 competing in the national Extreme Mustang Makeover event this month, which culminates with the adoption of the horses in the competition.

by Susie Sims

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for more than 50,000 horses in its care. The animals are in need of adoption by people who will care for them. In an effort to publicize this need, the Mustang Heritage Foundation has several programs designed to initiate adoption. One such event is the Extreme Mustang Makeover.

This year’s Extreme Mustang Makeover scheduled 10 events around the country. The 10th and final event will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 10-12. Fifty trainers will be showcasing their assigned mustangs. Among them will be Josh Hellums, one of two Alabamians competing in the event.

Hellums, 32, is from Cherokee in Colbert County in northwest Alabama. He is employed by Lee and Caren Reaves. Caren is a self-described horse fanatic. She currently has four other mustangs and 15 horses on the Reaves Ranch.

During the selection process, Hellums was paired with "Tango," a 6-year-old American Mustang gelding that stands just over 14 hands high. Tango was found with his herd in the Muskrat, Wyo., area. He is the property of the BLM and will be available for adoption after he competes in September.

All animals acquired through the BLM have a tattoo or brand that tells their stories such as herd information, etc.

Hellums picked up Tango from a BLM holding facility in Jackson, Miss., May 1. In the competition, trainers and horses are paired through a drawing. The animals come from various herds in Wyoming, Nevada, northern California and other areas.

As part of the Makeover, Hellums has 100 days to prepare Tango for the competition. In the preliminary rounds, some of the requirements are that mustangs must withstand touch from head to hoof, must be loaded into a trailer, and must be ridden and handled accordingly. These are the basic necessities for the animal to be adopted out after the competition.

The top 10 qualifiers will compete in a freestyle round. Trainers can display their skills and their horses’ abilities by preparing tricks or stunts.

Following the competition, the trained mustangs will be offered at auction. Last year Hellums saw a range of $1,200-$7,000. Monies raised at auction benefit the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

This upcoming event will be Hellums’ first time to compete, though not the first mustang he’s trained.

"It’s been an experience for sure," he said. "I’ve had a blast doing it."

Hellums said Tango kicked him three times when he first got him. Now the animal is gentle and well-accustomed to his touch.

"Anybody can ride him," Hellums asserted. "He likes to be petted and rubbed on."

To demonstrate how laid-back Tango is, Hellums cracked a whip several times directly behind the horse. The animal never flinched.

He has worked with Tango tirelessly over the summer and is pleased with the mustang’s progress. Now that the initial gentling of Tango is over, Hellums is free to focus on the fun stuff.

Tango is calm enough that he can practice his tricks and stunts for the freestyle portion of the competition. Hellums is tight-lipped with specifics about what we will see from Tango at the competition.

Tango’s diet consists of oats, alfalfa hay and Bermudagrass. He has gained weight since being in the care of Hellums. It took almost two weeks before Tango would eat grain, recalled Hellums. Tango has adjusted to his domesticated life.

A typical day for Hellums and Tango involves morning and evening rides lasting for 30 minutes to an hour each. Tango is a great trail rider, lacking the hesitation most domesticated horses display on changing terrain.

"He’s probably the best trail horse I have ever ridden, because it’s natural to him," Hellums explained. "He came from the mountains of Wyoming."

The American Mustang has an unclear past. According to Hellums, many people believe the mustang was brought to America by Spanish explorers and settlers. He noted, however, that now some historians are trying to prove that Native Americans were using the mustangs long before the Spanish arrived.

The mustangs come in all colors and sizes, though many of them are smaller than popular show breeds. The herds were probably infiltrated by outside breeds at some point, but have been left untouched for generations. One major difference between mustangs and domesticated horses is that most breeds of horses were designed by man and have been selectively bred for certain characteristics and purposes. Mustangs, however, have been designed by nature.

In a nod to domestication, Hellums shoed Tango’s back hooves because they were starting to splinter. The animal’s front hooves, however, were in good shape. Hellums admitted it wasn’t an easy task to shoe the horse.

"When I first got him, he was like a deer in a pen," Hellums recalled. "But in eight days I was on his back. He took to it like a duck to water."

The Fort Worth competition will offer a $20,000 pay-out to the winner. Second place will earn $10,000 and third will garner $7,000.

Persons interested in more information may visit the Extreme Mustang Makeover’s Facebook page or the website

You may contact Reaves Ranch via email at or call 256-762-9248.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Fall is for Planting

by Tony Glover

It may not seem like it yet but fall is just around the corner. The last couple of years I have seen and heard of people losing both trees and shrubs from a combination of weather, stress and pest problems. This summer, I have had numerous calls about crape myrtles and young trees being infested with ambrosia beetles and quickly dying as a result.

Whether you are replacing lost trees and shrubs or maybe adding to your existing landscape, now is the time to start planning and looking for the plants you want. In the South, we can plant all year, but fall and winter are the best times to plant most trees and shrubs. Planting at the correct time of the year is a good first step, but planting correctly is just as important.

One myth about planting woody perennials, shrubs and trees is that you should treat the root ball with kid gloves. Actually, they would benefit greatly from a more vigorous treatment. There are several reasons for this, and surprisingly some of the harshest techniques result in the healthiest plants.

A study of root systems after four years in the ground:
This is what happens, above, if the roots are not washed and straightened ... versus below, how the roots look if washed and spread properly.

Containerized materials often have serious root problems. For instance, they may be pot-bound due to growing too long in the pot. Pot-bound plants will have circling root systems. If not corrected, the roots will become woodier and more troublesome the older they become. Eventually these circling roots may even girdle the plant and that can lead to the early death of otherwise healthy trees and shrubs. Circling roots and other misshapen roots can often be corrected by selective pruning or untangling and spreading them out.

It’s important to realize that roots respond to pruning in much the same way as the top of the plant. Pruning, whether on top or bottom of the plant, induces new growth. Roots pruned at transplant time, especially those that are excessively long or misshapen, will respond by generating new, flexible roots that help them establish in the landscape. It is vital that these new transplants are kept watered during this time and through the first summer after planting. Fall is cooler than summer, but it can be our driest season. Remember, even though the top of the plant is not actively growing, the roots will continue to grow all winter long. Water a little every day and over time increase the volume and decrease the frequency to a couple of times a week in the absence of rain.

A second problem with containerized plants can also be avoided during your root inspection.

In general, the medium in the container is a soilless mix with a large proportion of organic matter (usually pine bark). If transplanted with this bark around the root ball, this material will inhibit root development outside the planting hole. Furthermore, the porous texture of this planting medium will often lose water more rapidly than the surrounding native soil, resulting in increased water stress. It is much better for root establishment to remove as much of the potting medium as possible before the plant is installed.

I like to pull the root ball apart and gently wash the loose material off the roots. This may seem counterintuitive, but I assure you that research backs me up. Don’t throw the material away, but rather use it as topdressing over the soil along with about two to three inches of mulch. Don’t mound the mulch against the trunk, but leave a few inches of unmulched or very lightly mulched area before starting your mulch ring.

When digging the hole, I believe, as the car commercial used to say, "Wider is better." The hole needs not be deeper than the depth of the root system, but a wide area that is loosened to allow for easier root spread is advisable. Do not set the plant deeper than it was growing in the container. A better approach would be to perch it slightly higher to allow for some settling. However, don’t leave any roots exposed.

Lastly, in most cases, the soil within the planting hole should not be amended, but just loosened and placed back in the hole it came from. Organic soil amendments will likely do more harm than good, unless you have a deep, sandy soil. If your soil has a heavy clay content, adding a soil amendment to the hole could be the kiss of death. Water will percolate into the looser soil-amended hole, but it will not drain out very well. The roots will start to die, causing the plant to wilt and causing you to think the plant needs more water. That’s why, when someone calls me to ask why their newly planted tree or shrub just wilted and died, I may sound like Hank Kimble from "Green Acres." Hank was the county agent who always made seemingly contradictory and non-committal statements. He would say, "Well, your plant had too little or possibly too much water." Since the symptoms are the same, it is impossible to tell without an examination of the root system, but proper planting can avoid the need to ask the question.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has a great new publication, "Establishing Woody Ornamentals, ANR-0410," I wrote last year that you can get from your local County Extension office or online at

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

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Daffodils that Multiply in Time

This beautiful field of daffodils at Bonnie Plants’ headquarters in Union Springs is a testament to how they can multiply. Not bothered by rodents or deer, certain daffodils will naturalize in areas where they get enough light and the foliage is not mowed down until it yellows in late spring. This time of year, you may buy them by the dozen and plant according to the spacing on the package. If you get really enthusiastic and order by the hundreds (they are often sold that way by bulb houses online), be sure to choose varieties that are likely to come back and even multiply. One of the best for naturalizing is Hoop Petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium) that spreads by seed. Most just multiply by making more bulbs. Some of the tried-and-true varieties for Alabama include Barrett Browning, Butter and Eggs, Cheerfulness, February Gold, Jack Snipe, Ice Follies, King Alfred, Mount Hood, Tête-à-Tête, Thalia, Twin Sisters, Unsurpassable, Spellbinder and Carlton. Because some daffodils are better suited to our warm climate, it’s best to choose those that are proven instead of judging from pretty pictures in catalogs. Buy bulbs now and hold them in a dry, cool place such as a dry basement until you are ready to plant.

Bag Extra Leaves for Later

After several summers without chopped leaves to dry out the compost pile or to use as mulch in the garden, I figured out the best way to have a summer supply is to stockpile a few bagfuls in the fall. Leaves are high in carbon to help balance the many wet "greens" of summer such as many seasonal fruit and vegetable scraps that are higher in nitrogen. We have a leaf chopper that fits over the top of a big, lined garbage so it is easy to chop the leaves before bagging them. Chopping has several advantages: we get more leaves in a bag, the little pieces break down more quickly in a compost pile, and they are easier to spread around plants as mulch.

Greens planted now will be ready for harvest in the fall and winter.

Plant Fall Greens Now

Now is the time to plant salad greens, winter-hardy herbs and cooking greens for fall and winter harvests. Begin with transplants of arugula, broccoli, lettuce, kale, collards and bok choy for a quick start. Turnip greens and mustard greens are easy from transplants or seed. All of these grow well in containers and small beds, so they can be grown just about anywhere. To add color and peppery flavors to your salads, also consider more unusual greens such as radicchio, red mustard, red kale, endive, nasturtium, mizuna, cress and tatsoi. Good, cold-hardy culinary herbs for winter are rosemary, cilantro, sage and parsley. Plant plenty of cilantro and parsley because it grows much more slowly in the cold weather than it does in the spring. One advantage to planting cilantro in the fall is that it stays low and leafy, unlike the way it stretches up to flower in the spring, so it yields a lot more harvests.

Free Pine Needle Mulch

Free mulch is everywhere in Alabama. As pine trees drop needles, gather the pine straw into bags to use as good, clean mulch for your shrubs, flowers and vegetables when you need it. Even if you have no pine trees on your place, neighbors may be happy to let you rake theirs. Store the needles in black plastic bags sealed tightly and stored where they can stay dry.

Rose Refresh

You can encourage a last flush of flowers in many reblooming roses by snipping off dead blooms, hips and dead stems this month. If they have a lot of disease, spray with a rose fungicide labeled for mildew and black spot. Sprinkle timed-release fertilizer around the plants and freshen with a clean layer of mulch. If your plants have dropped a lot of diseased leaves, raking away the old mulch and leaves will help keep the disease from building up in the soil. Water during dry weather, but avoid overhead sprinklers that encourage disease; hopefully, you already have soaker hose or a drip line set up. In a few weeks as the air gets cooler, the roses will flush out with new blooms that are happy to see fall.

Weed Control

Watch for cool-season weeds that start sprouting now. Annual bluegrass and henbit are two of the most common. The cleanest way to get rid of them is with some therapeutic hand weeding. However, if you need to use a weed killer on areas too large to weed by hand, consider spot spraying, treating just the areas that are weedy. Because weed killers are specific to broadleaf or grassy weeds, check with your local Quality Co-op or your regional Extension office if you aren’t sure of which product to use. To get accurate recommendations, it helps to have a picture or know the name of the problematic weed.

Hummingbirds are busy feeding in preparation for migration.

Watch for Hummingbirds Headed South

Hummingbirds migrating through Alabama are stopping to eat as much as they can in preparation to fly south. Before they make the 18-hour nonstop flight across the Gulf, each tiny bird doubles its body weight to provide the extra energy needed to make it to shore. To do this, the birds must eat continuously before their journey. Nectar flowers are great attractants and provide some nectar, but hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water help the birds get more food in a concentrated way. Their diet of insects will provide most of the vitamins and protein. To learn more about hummers and enjoy speakers, workshops and tours with other bird enthusiasts, consider attending the Alabama Coastal BirdFest in the Mobile area September 30-October 3. Learn more about the event at

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

Jam Packed And Jammin’

Tiger swallow-tail butterfly on butterfly bush “Nano Blue.”

by Herb T. Farmer

"Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day ...."

– Earth, Wind and Fire

Hey, folks! I’m just singing my favorite song about September while I sort through my notes about the summer. By the way; summer ends Wednesday, September 23, 2015, at 3:22 a.m. CDT as that is the Autumnal Equinox.

Earth, Wind and Fire rocks!

Let us start with something that really gets me going. Let’s start with some hate mail I received in July from a reader. He wrote to me regarding my opinions on turfgrass lawns. He went on to complain that my photographs never show "beautiful" grass and my column doesn’t offer any suggestions on turfgrass care. Another of his complaints was that if I were truly all about herbs then I wouldn’t write about general gardening, so I should write about all aspects of gardening.

Since he didn’t sign the email, I have no idea who to address this response to and I won’t publish his email address. But, you know who you are, and I thank you for reading "The Herb Farm."

Well, sir, I do write about some general gardening techniques, but they mostly reflect my personal experiences. I have only a small patch of centipede grass and that is all I want. Turfgrass maintenance is a money-sucking time drain, and for what? A patch of green?

I’m sorry, but that just seems impractical, if not unethical to me!

Why not plant food instead of grass? Or, plant herbs and flowers to at least support the pollinators.

I allow beekeepers to place a few hives around my property. They will come over this month and rob the hives for honey.

You want to grow grass? Grow ornamental grasses that require only a little nitrogen and very little water. There is a plant we used to call "grass," but it isn’t really in that family at all. In fact, it is in the same family as a hackberry tree and hops. It’s also referred to as "herb" and it is an herb. It’s a medicinal herb. It’s also a culinary herb. Perhaps you should grow some of that!

If you still insist on growing turfgrass, then this is your month to apply poisons and fertilizer. Oh, remember to waste water during this dry time of the year. All for a green patch …. My centipede usually turns brown this time of year because I do not water it!

Still listening to EW&F mixed with Ohio Players and War.

This month I will remove all the flowers from my hanging baskets and save the ones that will be maintained over the winter for propagating in the greenhouse for next year. The baskets will be refilled with fresh potting soil in order to grow lettuces and various other cool-weather crops.

Planting spring bulbs is best done between now and next month.

A good friend from Belgium sent me a large box of miscellaneous bulbs that were culls. They’re not culls because they are underdeveloped or otherwise bad. No. These bulbs were culled in the processing house. When the packagers drop bulbs on the floor, they are left there until the end of the day, then swept up and boxed. Because they package several types of bulbs in several colors, his company won’t risk getting the wrong product in the packages.

Dehydrating bananas with a dusting of cinnamon for a tasty twist to the snack.

Hopefully, in the next two or three years I will be able to expand my bulb gardens here on the farm.

This month the beekeepers will come over and rob their hives for honey. I get a honey share and free pollination for letting them place a few hives around my property. Hopefully, next year I will have a couple of new hives of my own.

This year I canned a little less than usual. Still, I put up tomatoes (of course), chili peppers, potatoes, yellow squash, okra, pink-eye peas, and various relishes and sauces.

I also dehydrated peaches, apples, tomatoes, peppers and bananas; and juiced blueberries, blackberries and tomatoes for wine production later.

There’s still a lot of putting up to do this month, but I will at least take off on the third weekend (Sept. 18-19) to travel to Fort Payne for their Boom Days Heritage Festival ( My friends Ronny and Joyce from DeKalb Farmers Co-op will be there and it’s always great to see them.

There will be lots of good, free entertainment with Delbert McClinton, The Swampers, Norman Blake and others. This year the event was awarded the Alabama Bureau of Tourism’s Event of the Year! I hope to see y’all there!

How about a quick suggestion for supper tonight? It’s breakfast for supper! (And leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.)

Skillet of Dean’s sausage, a product of Attalla, for supper! It is truly the best tasting sausage.

Every now and then I just want some comfort food in the evening. Tonight it’s biscuits and gravy, eggs and Dean’s Country Sausage with sliced tomatoes and a half cup of coffee! (Royal Cup – I always try to buy Alabama products!)


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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

Joy in the Outdoors

by John Howle

"But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?" – Job 12:7-9 NIV

September is a great time to be in the woods observing God’s creation. The wildlife we harvest and the fish we take make us realize that we are dependent upon God’s blessings to keep ourselves fed. In addition to meeting our creature comforts, God gives us beauty in the outdoors that positively impacts all our senses.

Smelling fresh pasture grass, tasting honeysuckles, hearing birds sing and toms gobble, or feeling the warmth of a newborn calf remind us that God is not only our creator but He’s a creative creator as well. The fact that wildlife survive year-round off the woods and waters of a state that is truly blessed with abundant natural resources makes any outdoorsman happy to live and hunt in Alabama.

Hunt the White Oaks

White oak acorns are the bread and butter of the deer herd. If you find prolific acorn producers in the woods this time of year, you are certain to see white-tailed deer. The abundant rains of this past April and May have resulted in a bumper crop of white oak acorns for most of Alabama.

Identify these trees now so you can find productive travel corridors for hunting as the deer feast on these acorns this fall. Even after the acorns have been cleaned up, deer will often continue to use these travel routes because they are creatures of habit, and there will be occasional late acorns drop from the trees. If you keep your eyes on the doe herd in these areas, it won’t be long before you see the bucks come out during the rut phase of breeding season.

A spray bottle filled with fly control and mineral water will help keep the flies off your cattle during the end of fly season.

Homemade Fly Sprayer

There are still plenty of flies pestering cattle this time of year. You can purchase a heavy duty, handheld spray bottle from any hardware store that will spray a stream of 10-12 feet to easily administer fly spray solution to the backs of cattle.

I mix a solution of Lintox and mineral oil that has an oily consistency allowing the solution to stick to the backs of cattle. The mineral oil won’t harm the spray bottle, and it is safe for cattle. The mineral oil will allow the solution to stick to cattle for a few days between treating. Ask your local Co-op for the best insecticides for cattle in your area.

Tap it Before You Turn it

It’s a frustrating experience to attempt to loosen a Phillips head screw only to have the screwdriver round out the head making it virtually impossible to loosen the screw. First, make sure before turning that the Phillips screwdriver is the correct size. Next, place the screwdriver into the screw head and hit the screwdriver handle with a hammer to seat the screwdriver tip into the screw head.

This will prevent slipping and rounding of the screw head. This is especially helpful when removing tight screws. For final added insurance against slippage, spray a touch of WD-40 or Break-Free cleaner and lubricant to the screw head.

Call the Co-op

If you find out your soil test report recommends lime and fertilizer on your pastures or food plots, your local Co-op is the best resource for putting out bulk quantities of lime and fertilizer. The spreader truck can put out bulk lime that is much cheaper than pelletized lime.

If your access roads to food plots are too narrow for a spreader truck, it is well worth the money to widen these access roads and get them in good shape so a spreader truck can enter. Many food plots in Alabama require as much as three tons of lime per acre to neutralize the acidic soils that grow pine trees so well. Making room for the spreader truck will save you money in the long run.

Comfortable chairs, plenty of water and good conversation make up a traditional dove shoot.

September Dove Shoots

September dove shoots herald the opening of hunting season, and they are a great way to get youth involved with the outdoors. Make sure you have comfortable seating and plenty of water, since there can often be a lot of downtime between birds flying over. This downtime is an ideal opportunity to talk with your friends or family members who shoot with you.

To increase your chances of harvesting birds, go to the field a few days before and put up some dove decoys. If there is no nearby fence on which to clip your decoys, you can dig a post hole and put a sapling tree with limbs into the hole and place the decoys on the limbs once you’ve removed the leaves. Remember, it’s not about the doves you harvest but the time you spend together.

During this upcoming hunting season, don’t be afraid to turn the cellphone off and just simply let yourself be overwhelmed by God’s creative design we commonly refer to as the Alabama outdoors.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Learning Through Collaboration

During the Jackson County Farm Tour, Phillip Wilborn, far right, shows forage varieties and opportunities for improvement in one of his pastures.

by Robert Spencer

During the months of May and June, a series of nine workshops and farm tours took place in six North Alabama counties this year. The events were led by Alabama Cooperative Extension System, made possible by an education grant from Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council and supported by local USDA Service Centers, including Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency offices. Target audiences were small-scale and limited-resources farmers and potential farmers. The goal was to focus on farm sustainability and diversification as a strategy for risk management. Objectives utilized combinations of workshops and farm tours addressing corresponding areas of interest on a county-by-county basis. All this occurred through collaboration of the aforementioned agencies, support of local farms, the interest of local audiences, and has the potential to take place in other counties.

Activities were held in Jackson, Lawrence, Cullman, Morgan, Limestone and Madison counties. Topics for these events included meat and dairy goats, recordkeeping, year-round quality forages, wool and hair sheep, backyard poultry production, soil and water conservation, FSA farm programs, and NRCS conservation and technical assistance programs. The concept for this series of programs came about through several meetings between Mike Roden, executive director with AMRV RC&D Council, and me. Then Roden recruited participation through local USDA Service Centers and respective agencies. Local farmers and potential farmers benefited from this collaboration. Almost one-third of attendees did not farm, but plan to do so.

During the Limestone County Farm Tour, Pic Roberson, coveralls, shows a mineral feeder for his wool sheep. During the Madison County Farm Tour, Mike Prevost, brown pants, talks about his portable chicken and chick facilities.

So what does this mean to farmers in other counties? This opportunity is available to you as well. Such events can be held at a location convenient to you, without driving a long distance for extensive amounts of time, and are very affordable. It only requires you to contact your local cooperative Extension office with such a request, your participation and support, and/or contact me at or 256-372-4983. County Extension offices are generally found in county seats of each county; or by visiting, selecting the "Offices" tab and then the "County Offices" tab.

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

Meet the James Brown of Alabama News

Al Benn was bureau manager for United Press International and helped in coverage of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. He has written at least 50,000 Alabama stories over the course of his career, including those on the civil rights movement, Alabama football and the space race.

Alvin Benn has been reporting on history ... and living it ... for the last 50 years.

by John Archibald, reprinted with permission

There were times Alvin Benn wondered what the h--- he’d gotten himself into.

Such as the time he and a couple of press pals found themselves in a rural Alabama state park in 1965, tires slashed and surrounded by "Kluxers" at a rally held to raise cash for the killers of Viola Liuzzo.

He was just a Jewish kid from Pennsylvania Amish country, after all, a guy who might have grown up to sell furniture if it weren’t for a decision – or lack of one – here or there. He was a guy who thought he’d be happy as a history teacher. But instead, he found himself in rural Alabama.

Watching it. Reporting it. Living it.

Benn, a cub reporter for UPI when he found himself in that state park mess, escaped with only shaken nerves and a hangover. As it happened, KKK Grand Wizard Bob Creel figured the white hoods were under enough scrutiny, so he took off his pointy hat, passed it around and scraped up enough KKK cash for new tires.

"I’m glad it turned out that way, or we wouldn’t be here for this interview right now," Benn said.

But it did, and over the next few hours an uneasy Benn - and two photographers with him - found themselves drinking in a bar with the very three guys charged with killing Liuzzo after the Selma to Montgomery march.

Al Benn, right, worked for The Decatur Daily in 1967 when he interviewed George Wallace – a year before he campaigned for president as an independent candidate.

His bosses put out a missing persons alert, and his wife Sharon nearly had a conniption.

"I’m sure she wondered what she had gotten herself into," Benn said.

And it wouldn’t be the last time.

Benn – the James Brown of Alabama journalism for the last 50 years, the Hardest Working Man in the News Business – has been everywhere across this state.

Maybe it was his military precision, for he spent six years in the U.S. Marines before picking up his pen. But through the 1980s and ‘90s, after Benn took a job in the newly created Selma Bureau of the Montgomery Advertiser, he often had five bylines a day. Day after day.

He figures he averaged 1,200-1,500 stories a year through those times, which is astounding even if you didn’t know he was putting 50,000 miles a year on his car. He didn’t cover the Black Belt, he smothered it, sometimes writing stories from Selma, Demopolis, Linden, Camden and God Knows Where, all in the same day.

For decades. Oh, the things he’s seen.

He watched Joe Namath suffer his first knee injury – it gave out on a roll-out to the right with no contact.

He covered the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gov. George C. Wallace. He covered the space race in Huntsville with Wernher von Braun. He covered Alabama football under Paul "Bear" Bryant.

"You don’t realize what you are doing – you’re just doing your job trying to meet a deadline," he said. "And then all of a sudden years go by and you realize you’ve covered some of the most momentous moments in American history."

He would talk to King one day, and Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor the next. Benn once asked Connor what he thought of King winning the Nobel Prize.

"Boy, they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel," Connor said.

The nuggets he recalls are historical gold. Like when he wrote of a near riot in the Birmingham streets in the ‘60s, and was called out the next day by King’s aide Hosea Williams.

"That wasn’t a riot," Williams said. "The riot is gonna be tonight."

It was exciting, and dangerous, and different every day.

Benn was picked out and picked on by thugs who blamed the press for societal change in the ‘60s, and he has been saved by cops who simply left doors open so he could slip into a safe place. He is still saddened by the killing of Willie Brewster in Anniston, a man shot for no other reason than his skin color.

He talked to Brewster before he died, and still recalls the pain of his widow, Lestine, crying, "Don’t leave me Brewster" into an open casket.

Benn covered Alabama for decades, in the process writing the history of some of the nation’s biggest events. See what he says about that history now.

So many stories, so many days. So much running, driving. All for the deadline, all to beat the other guys to the story.

On the day of the Selma to Montgomery March, Benn was in Birmingham. Kluxers there hoped to distract attention from the march by leaving lockers full of explosives in black neighborhoods.

Benn was there, running through the streets of the neighborhood called Dynamite Hill, racing an AP writer to the nearest pay phone. He tripped and fell, losing both his scoop and his dignity. When a homeowner walked out with a shotgun, all Benn could do was throw up his hands and yell, "I’m a reporter."

Benn, now 75 and still writing columns for the Advertiser and AFC Cooperative Farming News, thinks now about decisions, those made and those unmade, that make us who we are. It is rarely where you think you’ll be.

"We just don’t know what’s going to happen," he says.

But he feels as if angels have hovered over both his shoulders all this time. When he met his wife. When he served six years in the Marines between Korea and Vietnam. When he did not get into a teacher’s college.

If he had gotten exactly all he wanted, he would have spent life standing in front of a chalkboard talking about history. Instead of living it. Instead of seeing it. Instead of writing it.

And you know what he’d be saying then.

What the h--- did I get myself into?

John Archibald was "doing Alabama" for the month of June, writing 31 stories from 31 places in 31 days. Follow his journey and help him out. Send story suggestions to Follow on Twitter @JohnArchibald (#ArchiBama) and on Facebook (John Archibald).

New Opportunities in Livestock Feeding

by Stephen Donaldson

In December 2016, livestock producers will find they have new opportunities in their feeding programs. The opportunities will arise from the FDA-implemented Veterinary Feed Directive. This new law will more closely monitor and regulate many antimicrobials currently being added to livestock feeds – more specifically, any added to feeds being fed to animals that will be consumed by humans. This also includes both birds that produce eggs for consumption and dairy animals.

This new law requires a veterinarian be involved when an antibiotic is fed to livestock. The veterinarian is required to inspect the livestock and make a diagnosis. After this initial diagnosis, the veterinarian can only issue a Veterinary Feed Directive and direct the producer how to feed a medicated feed. The producer can then submit this VFD to a manufacturer. The manufacturer can only make and deliver the medicated feed after receiving the VFD from the producer.

The primary concern centers on the beneficial human antibiotics that are being fed to livestock for the use of growth promotion and feed efficiency. The clinical use of these antibiotics to treat disease shouldn’t be affected. The biggest change will come in how producers procure feed with the antimicrobial in it. Remember, it must follow the path of veterinarian to producer to feed manufacturer. Some drugs that are important to the beef industry shouldn’t be affected. Specifically, the ionophores should not be affected. Drugs that are affected by the VFD will most likely be chlortetracycline, florfenicol, hygromycin B, lincomycin, neomycin, nicarbazin, oxytetracycline, penicillin, sulfadimethoxine/ormetoprim, tilmicosin, tylosin, sulfamerazine, sulfamethazine and virginiamycin. The claims on these drugs for growth promotion and feed efficiency will be or already have been removed.

A VFD will be required for each use of a drug. The VFD will have three parts that must be maintained for two years by each of the parties (veterinarian, producer and feed mill or distributor).The form will be specific to the species, class, drug, and amounts and indications for use.

The new regulations will affect every segment of livestock production. The additional paperwork and oversight will significantly affect the amount of medicated feed used in livestock production. The redundancy of three different parties looking over the VFD should help cut down on errors and stop extra-label use of an antimicrobial.

Extra-label use is another area the new regulation will all but stamp out. Many times these antibiotics are used in blanket treatments to try to stamp out acute problems that would be better treated by individually treating each animal. Producers who use blanket coverage are not judiciously using these antibiotics. The increasing resistance of microbes to these drugs prompted the FDA to implement the new VFD rules.

It is my understanding that a VFD must be issued for each group of different class of livestock. In other words, a single VFD can’t be issued to a farm feeding multiple classes of livestock. The VFD must be issued to each group and class based on the diagnosis by the veterinarian and the prescribed drug must have a treatment use for the diagnosed problem. So stocker operators could require multiple VFDs be written for cattle they are grazing if the cattle are in multiple groups.

As I stated earlier, this is going to be a cumbersome process, but ultimately could be one with a positive impact on our industry. It could make consumers almost immediately feel better about any concerns they have about livestock being fed antibiotics. The perception of antibiotics being abused in production agriculture should disappear as soon as the VFD is implemented.

The new rules should make livestock operations more efficient. They will require livestock owners to be more diligent in managing their animals. Closer attention must be paid to the daily health of livestock and problems be addressed much quicker. More natural methods of treating ailments will come back into use. Facilities will improve to ensure livestock health is maintained at the highest level. They will increase the use of natural inhibitors and additives to achieve production and efficiency goals.

The new rules could actually decrease efficiency enough to adversely affect the supply of meat on the market. This could increase price and ultimately profitability. Additionally, it could reopen some export markets that would increase livestock demand.

Finally, we can sit around and whine and complain about new rules we must function under or we can embrace them and use them to our advantage. I prefer to look at the glass half-full and use these rules to improve my management and improve my product. I hope the industry will embrace the new rules and, as it has in the past, meet the new challenge and keep producing a good and wholesome product efficiently.

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

Pals: Taking Campus to New Level

Lakewood Elementary implements rotating maintenance schedule and recycling program.

by Jamie Mitchell

Lakewood Elementary is taking their Clean Campus Program to a whole new level! Lakewood is a science magnet program in Phenix City that has already implemented a rotating campus maintenance schedule and recycling program. They also have a very impressive outdoor classroom area and participate in several citywide cleanups.

This past school year, Lakewood had me come speak to their students about litter prevention, recycling and turning "trash into treasure." I spent time going over primary litter sources and how unintentional litter constitutes up to half of the litter we see on our roadways. The children also learned that individuals can be fined up to $500 for littering.

Later in the school year, Lakewood had an Environmental Day, and they invited me back to help the students actually turn some trash into treasure. Ten classes of third graders rotated through the cafeteria and made wallets out of Capri Sun pouches and duct tape. The students got to witness firsthand how easy it is to create something new out of what would otherwise be thrown in the garbage.

Congratulations to Lakewood Elementary for all of their environmental efforts!

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

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Peace, Love and Animals

Shelter offers hope and future to the homeless pets of Limestone County.

by Cathy Oakley

As the owner of Bark Avenue Pet Resort, I was often approached by shelters in the northern states to board dogs they would pull from the local Limestone County Animal Shelter until they were able to get them on transports up to their shelters. As this was happening more and more, I started questioning the reason for this. Sadly, our county shelter is a kill shelter and there were not any safe shelters in Limestone County. The dogs being pulled were going to no-kill shelters in order to be saved. I knew then that something had to be done. It was time for a change.

That is when I met Brandy. She was the local connection for transporting dogs from the Limestone County Animal Shelter to me and then picking them up to meet the transport. She was just as inspired as I was to start a no-kill shelter for Limestone County. As luck would have it, I have this wonderful old barn sitting behind my boarding kennel that was empty. It had dirt floors, a leaky roof, holes in the walls and very little electricity; but it would house dogs! So we filed for our legal papers to become a rescue and pulled our first six dogs from the Limestone County Animal Shelter and Peace, Love and Animals began!

Left to right, Deacon and Dexter

It was Feb. 2008 when the ball really started. Times were really hard in the beginning. There was no heat or air in the "barn." No money because no one had heard of us. We all scrapped our pockets to buy dog food and pay our vet bills. We begged for crates to house our dogs in. Because the barn had dirt floors, we would put the crates on wood pallets to try and keep the dogs clean. Because the roof leaked, we covered the crates with tarps when it rained. In the winter, we would put so many blankets in the crates that you could hardly see the dogs!

But we beat the streets and got our name out there, and soon things begin to happen. I almost fainted the first time a local television station came out and wanted to do a story. Our first great thing was the new roof. We were so proud! Soon the concrete floor and insulation for the walls and better electrical work were installed. You never know how to appreciate things until you get down on your hands and knees in the dirt and sweat. Little by little we are becoming a real rescue! Hallelujah, we now have running water! And then the biggest and best addition that we all danced in the streets over was getting the central unit installed. Now our sweet babies will be forever warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Although our building is still not completely finished, we are to a point where the dogs are comfortable and our work is much easier. All of this has taken years to get to this point and thousands of dollars. Thanks to wonderful donations from those who believe in what we stand for … offering hope and future to the homeless pets of Limestone County.

When a dog/cat comes in to PLA, our first priority is to ensure it is healthy. We have treated many illnesses from heartworms, hernias, dental repairs, broken bones, cancer surgeries, eye surgeries, amputations, hip surgeries and even mastectomies. All pets will be fully vaccinated and spayed/neutered before being adopted. All dogs are micro-chipped and heartworm tested. Our promise to these pets is to find their forever-home. Healthy, happy pets are more likely to remain in a forever-home. We do not alter the price of any pet’s adoption fee regardless of what we have spent on that pet. An adult dog’s adoption fee is $150. Puppies are $165 due to the fact they get more vaccines than adult dogs. Cats are $100. We rely on donations to absorb the additional vet expense.

There have been hundreds of absolutely wonderful animals pass through the hearts of PLA. One that will always top the list in a very BIG way was Deacon. He came to us from Tuscaloosa. He was a wandering stray in the middle of the summer heat. He was quite popular and even had three stories on our website. Deacon was a Great Dane with more illnesses than you can count. Every illness should have taken his life, but he was a fighter! Deacon’s journey was more than incredible and he was one incredible dog. When it can time to put him up for adoption, the applications poured in. It took weeks for us to choose that just-right home, but we did. And Deacon is living the royal life he deserves as the King of Memphis, Tenn.

Not every dog that comes to PLA is perfect but that doesn’t mean we love them any less. They deserve that perfect forever-home, too. Dexter came to us as a tiny, discarded puppy. He was considered a "tripod" because one of his front legs was severely deformed and useless. But Dexter was strong in spirit and melted our hearts. We chose not to amputate the leg as we began to see shoulder movement and he would use the tiny "hook" of his leg to catch toys and treats. As Dexter grew, so did his ability to act as a normal dog. Prayers were soon answered when an application from a therapy dog trainer wanted to adopt our Dexter. She also trained special needs dogs. We knew this would be the perfect home for our special little man. But this was Massachusetts! Would Dexter like the snow? So two of our volunteers drove him up there and, YES, Dexter loves the snow …. LOL.

Since PLA began our journey in 2008, we have adopted over 600 pets into homes. It is a difficult journey. There are hundreds of animals out there and never enough room. We never see the zero balance on our vet bill. The hours in the day are always very long. We are always dirty, smelly and sweaty and covered in poop. You have good days and you have bad days. It breaks your heart when you have to hold a precious animal as it takes its last breath of life. But that’s rescue. Why do we do it? There’s nothing like the smell of puppy kisses or snuggling your face in the fur of a tiny kitten. Rub the head of an aging dog as they rest across your leg and feel the peace it gives your heart. Watch the birth of newborn puppies or the "happy tail" going out the door when they are going to that forever-home. Why do we do it? We are offering hope and future to these homeless pets of Limestone County.

Please visit our website at to find out more about our rescue. You can read about Deacon’s journey and see our adoptable pets. Our rescue is non-profit and operates completely on donations. If you would like to help PLA, donations can be made via Paypal on our website or by mail to Peace, Love and Animals; 19135 Nuclear Plant Road; Tanner, AL 35671 or call 256-233-4343.

Please remember to spay and neuter your pet! Opt to Adopt!

Cathy Oakley is the director of Peace, Love & Animals.

September Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • After you have finished harvesting your summer vegetables, plant a cover crop of clovers, cow peas, soybeans or vetches for the purpose of plowing under next spring. These nitrogen-producing plants will provide good organic matter and food for your garden crops next year, as well as helping to control weeds over the winter.
  • As the weather cools, perennials that have overgrown their space or become crowded should be dug and divided or moved to a new area of the garden.
  • Fall is an excellent time to shop for trees and shrubs. Fall planting encourages good root development, allowing the plants to get established before spring.
  • Now is a great time to plant garlic.
  • Plant fescue seed, protecting the seed with straw and keeping it moist for two to three weeks.
  • 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 a good time to plant peonies for next spring’s blooms. Make sure to put in well-drained, loose soil and don’t plant deeply – just an inch or so beneath the surface. Choose early blooming varieties that do better in summer heat. These big bloomers like morning sun with some shade in the afternoon. If you already have peonies that need dividing, do that now.
  • September is one of the best months of the entire year for seeding or sodding new lawns.
  • Set out Bonnie cool-weather vegetables.
  • Winter pansies, ornamental kale and cabbage can be planted now to give a little color to the garden when summer flowers have faded away.
  • You’ll start seeing spring-blooming bulbs on sale now. Buy them, but don’t plant until October or November. Keep them cool and dry in the meantime.
  • Divide and transplant top-setting (Egyptian) onions now.
  • Scatter the seeds of wildflowers in rows or in open beds so the young seedlings will be ready to be transplanted into their permanent spot next spring. Only plant seed varieties or mixes suited to the Southeast. Soils should be lightly cultivated prior to planting.


  • Do not fertilize zoysia, centipede or Bermuda lawns until next spring, allowing them to prepare for dormancy.
  • Begin fall fertilization of cool-season lawns now. Three light feedings made on a holiday schedule – approximately Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving – work better than one single heavy application.
  • Stop fertilizing trees and flowering shrubs to allow this year’s growth to harden off before winter.


  • Deadhead perennials past their blooming season, cut off browned foliage and neaten beds for fall.
  • If you shear lavender early in the month, you may catch another round of blossoms.
  • Prune cane fruits such as raspberries and blackberries.
  • Prune holly, loropetalums, and gardenias. Do not prune camellias, azaleas or forsythias.
  • Prune out dead or diseased wood from trees and shrubs. Hold off on major pruning until midwinter. Pruning now may stimulate tender growth prior to frost.
  • Pinch growing tips of gourds and pumpkins once adequate fruit set has occurred to redirect energy from the vines into fruit ripening.
  • Stop deadheading coneflower seedheads now to allow goldfinches and other seed-eating birds to enjoy the harvest.


  • If you water your lawn, do it deeply (one inch) once a week, not every day. Short, frequent watering encourages shallow roots that can lead to disease and little drought tolerance.
  • Keep watering vegetables that are still producing. Remember the inch-a-week rule if there is no rain. 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.
  • Don’t allow plants with green fruit or berries to suffer from lack of moisture. Hollies will frequently drop their fruit under drought conditions.


  • Use insecticides wisely. Apply the proper product just when and where needed and use dosages according to the package directions.
  • Flare-ups of spider mites have been reported during dry weather on tomatoes and other vegetable crops. Spider mites are tiny and often overlooked or misdiagnosed as a disease. Infested leaves have fine webbing on the leaf undersides. Tomato leaves damaged by spider mites usually have yellow blotches, while bean leaves show white stipples from mite feeding. Pumpkins can tolerate moderate levels of mites, but watermelons are more sensitive to injury from mite feeding.
  • Weeds have a field day this time of year. Keep on top of them by hand pulling the day after a good rain.
  • Many four-legged critters are looking for extra food to eat and store for winter now. Repellents are helpful; there are odor and taste types available. Be prepared to try more than one type and to alternate several kinds since animals can get used to a constant odor or taste and learn to ignore it.
  • Slugs are starting to lay new eggs right about now. 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, with each egg about the size of a dried pea.
  • 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.
  • If you have a St. Augustine lawn, be on the lookout for chinch bugs and apply control, the sooner the better.
  • Continue a disease-spray schedule on roses, as blackspot and mildew can be extremely damaging in September and October. Check with your Co-op store for recommended products.


  • There’s plenty of gardening left since frost generally doesn’t arrive until late October to early November.
  • Overripening is a September hazard, so check fruits and vegetables regularly. Be sure to harvest them if they look or feel ripe to encourage further production.
  • Harvest herbs in late morning after the dew dries on the leaves. Flavors are most concentrated just before plants bloom.
  • Christmas cactus can be made to flower by supplying 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness and cool nights (55 degrees) for a month, starting in mid-October. Keep plants on the dry side for a month prior to treatment.
  • Begin stocking up gardening supplies before they are removed for the season from retailers’ shelves. Pots, potting mixes, fertilizers and other products may be harder to find later in the season.
  • Continue to turn your compost pile. Moisten if needed.
  • The birds will soon begin their winter migrations. Give them a helping hand by providing them with some food and water for their long journey. No one likes to travel on an empty stomach. Clean your bird feeders and bird bath. Keeping them cleaned on a regular basis is important for birds’ health.
  • Although most fruits and vegetables are best when eaten fresh on the day they’re picked, you can extend the season by freezing, drying, storing or canning.
  • Begin readying houseplants for winter indoors. Prune rampant top growth and any roots protruding from drainage holes. Closely inspect leaves and stems for pests and treat if necessary.
  • Check your mulch and renew if needed. Remember to keep it away from the trunk or main stem of your plants, and don’t apply more than about three inches – any deeper and it will be difficult for water to reach your plant’s roots.
  • 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, cannas and tuberous begonias.
  • Divide and move perennials.
  • If the lawn needs thatching, it can be done during the early fall.
  • In the South, summer’s lovely orange blooms from the butterfly weed will now begin to display their showy, silky seedpods. A native perennial, it can thrive in poor soils. Though they do not transplant easily, the butterfly weed is a prolific self-seeder. In fact, you may want to pick the seed pods before they take over available real estate and share them with friends.
  • 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.
  • Once the tops of onions have withered, the bulbs should be lifted and dried in a warm, dry, sunny location for about 10 days. Then they should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place.
  • Photograph your gardens and containers for a record of the year’s triumphs and frustrations.
  • Replace mulch under rose bushes. You’ll prevent disease next spring.
  • This is an ideal time to harvest and spread compost from your home bins before most of the fall leaves start coming in. Remember, even a relatively small amount (a half-inch covering of the soil) brings great benefits by enriching microbial life in the topsoil.

She’s a STAR

Cassidy Catrett was selected as one of six District Star Farmers to compete for the overall title of State Star Farmer. Cassidy’s Beef Production Supervised Agricultural Experience and presentation earned her the title of State Star Farmer 2015. Will Graves, the 2014-15 Alabama FFA State President, congratulates Cassidy on her selection.

Cassidy Catrett received multiple awards at the State FFA Convention and credits her parents with her success.

by Jaine Treadwell

No matter where Brantley High School rising senior Cassidy Catrett’s career takes her, she will always have a herd of cattle; if not in her backyard, then just across the fence.

"Being involved in FFA has given me a passion for something," Catrett said. "All of the time and effort I’ve put into FFA have been worth it. Absolutely.

"I don’t know where I’ll be after college, but cattle will always be a part of my life."

Catrett’s dad, Perry, is the manager of Luverne Cooperative Services and has been dealing with commercial cattle for as long as she can remember.

"I just liked being around cows," she said. "When I was in the fourth grade, we had the opportunity to join 4-H. The lady who was in charge of 4-H asked if anyone was interested in showing cows. I said I was. I told my parents and they were all for it. I could not have done all the things and accomplished all the things in 4-H and FFA that I have without the help and support of my parents."

Cameron Catrett, Cassidy’s sister, won the State Creed Speaking Career Development Event and will represent Alabama in the national contest held in conjunction with the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky., in October. Pictured with Cameron is Mark Andrew, Brantley FFA Advisor.

The pinnacle of Catrett’s FFA experiences came at the 87thAnnual State FFA Convention when she heard her name called as the 2015 State Star Farmer, the top award at the State FFA Convention.

Six District Star Farmers compete for the overall title and one is honored as State Star Farmer.

"To be eligible for the State Star Farmer award, you have to have earned or invested at least $1,000 in showing cattle," Catrett said. "For the convention, the District Star Farmers have to have a video about their program. I worked really hard on my video and my sister, Cameron, helped me to make sure my voice was strong and clear. I talked about the different accomplishments of my program and about my experiences in agriculture."

Catrett said, as she watched the other videos, she recognized ways that she could help her younger sister make her video better when it is her turn to compete.

"That’s what I was thinking about. I didn’t think I would win, so when my name was called, I was shocked," Catrett stated. "But it was such an honor for me and for my family because they were a big part of this award."

In the closing session of the 87th Annual State FFA Convention, the 2015-16 State FFA officers were elected and installed. They are (from left) Sentinel, Whitney Hamby, Ohatchee; Reporter, Ivy Harbin, West Limestone; Treasurer, Anna Pollard, Jacksonville; Secretary, Cassidy Catrett, Brantley; Vice President, Jordan Stowe, Enterprise; and President, Wade Gossett, Hokes Bluff.

The State and District Star Farmer Awards were not the only awards and recognitions Catrett received at the Annual State FFA Convention.

She earned the State FFA Degree in recognition of outstanding achievement in Supervised Agricultural Experience development, leadership and scholarship.

"That award is for doing your best all the time and for showing leadership abilities," Catrett explained.

She was also the recipient of the MK Heath Animal Health Award.

"To be eligible for the Animal Health Award, you had to turn in an essay about your health-care practices and include your injection and vaccination schedules and sanitation practices," she said.

A highlight of the convention for Catrett was when Cameron won the State Creed Speaking Career Development Event.

"Cameron will represent Alabama at the national contest at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky," Cassidy said. "The Creed Speaking Event is for grades seven through nine. I never competed in it. I was so happy Cameron won."

At the closing session of the State FFA Convention, the State FFA officers for 2015-16 were installed. Catrett was elected and installed as the State FFA Secretary.

"This was the first time I had run for a state office," Catrett said. "My duties as state secretary will include keeping records and taking the minutes at executive committee meetings. We have two executive meetings scheduled and we could have more."

Catrett is looking forward to her senior year at Brantley High School where she is the drum major for the band and is a member of FFA, Health Occupations Students of America, the Key Club, Future Business Leaders of America and the National Honor Society.

She plans to attend Mississippi State University and earn a double major in animal science and poultry science. Her future goal is to become a veterinary pharmacist.

Cassidy’s parents are Perry and Angela Catrett of Brantley.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Simplify Meal Planning

by Christy Kirk

If you have school-age children, August and September can be two of the busiest months for families. Once school starts, it seems like life is in fast forward with no pause button. Sometimes the preparation it takes to get your children ready for the next day of school is so overwhelming that it can be hard to find the quality time you need with your family.

Spare time is spent laying out clothes, packing lunches and snacks, and checking homework. Although it can be hectic, I have actually always enjoyed the evening rituals of getting everything ready for them, but then there is also the added nightly pressure of organizing and preparing a healthy, delicious dinner everyone will love, or at least eat. When your schedule is tight, meal planning can be difficult.

Last year was the first time Rolley Len and Cason were in school full time. Because of my work schedule, they also had to stay at school a little later in after-school care. Mornings gave me a feeling of urgency: waking up way too early, doing the car-line drop-off, rushing to my school, picking up from extended day and hurrying home to start dinner later than I would like.

Throughout the school year, we ate fresh vegetables and fruit. We also ate what Jason had killed and caught. But because of time constraints I found myself throwing together unusual combinations based on what was already in the pantry or thawed from the freezer. Although the meals were healthy and filling, they didn’t always make sense. When you are short on time or resources, you do what you have to do to get everyone fed as quickly and efficiently as possible while keeping within your family budget.

Over the months, homecooked meals turned into more and more crockpot fast food, microwaved pastas and hot dog suppers. By the end of the year, I made a promise to myself that I would do better this year. I wanted more time as a family and healthier meals.

Over the summer, our schedules changed and Rolley Len, Cason and my schedules are in synch now because we are within the same school system. I have been taking a few minutes each weekend to actually plan a rough idea of the next week’s menu. Many of the recipes I am using allow me to use leftovers from one meal for our next meal, which is really important when you are trying to save money and simplify your life. Most are quick and easy, or they can be cooked while we are at school.

Here are a few stress-free recipes you might want to try if you are also trying to streamline your schedule and get back to having more quality time with your family.

Crockpot Deer Meat Lasagna

1½ pounds ground deer meat

1½-2 (16-20-ounce) jars spaghetti sauce (orhomemade)

1 (20-ounce) container cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, divided

3-4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1 box lasagna noodles (uncooked), divided

Brown the meat in a large skillet; drain if needed. Pour spaghetti sauce over browned meat.

Once mixed and warmed, spoon a cup of the meat sauce into the bottom of your crockpot. Layer lasagna noodles on top of the meat mixture (you will have to break them to fit). Cover noodles with some of the cottage or ricotta cheese. Cover with some of the mozzarella cheese. Start layers over: meat sauce, noodles, cottage/ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese (reserve a little to finish). Cover the uncooked noodles with sauce or they will not cook.

Cook on low 4-6 hours. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese when finished and let it stand 10 minutes before serving.

Foil Meatloaf with Veggies

1½ pounds ground deer meat (with some fat added)

1 package onion recipe and dip soup mix

1 egg

¾ cup milk

2/3 cup ketchup, divided

½ cup plain bread crumbs

1 (1-pound 4-ounce) bag refrigerated new potato wedges (or fresh cut potatoes)

3 cups ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots

Heavy-duty foil and cooking spray

Heat your gas or charcoal grill. Tear six sheets of heavy-duty foil and spray with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix meat, soup mix, egg, milk, 1/3 cup ketchup and bread crumbs. Shape into six equal loaves. Place one loaf on each foil sheet and top each with about 1 tablespoon of ketchup. Place about ½ cup potatoes and ½ cup carrots around each meatloaf.

Wrap the foil by joining two edges in the middle of each loaf. Seal the edges tightly with a ½-inch fold. Fold again allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.

Place packets on grill. Cover the grill and cook over medium heat 25-30 minutes, rotating packets ½ turn after 15 minutes. The meatloaf will be ready when the vegetables are tender and a meat thermometer inserted in center of loaves reads 160°. Remove from grill and cut a large "X" across top of each packet. Carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.

Easy Turkey Crockpot Stew

3 cups fresh baby carrots

6 cups peeled russet potatoes, cut into 1" cubes

6 stalks (1½ cups) celery, cut into 1" pieces

1 cup onion, sliced

2 pounds (about 2) boneless, skinless turkey thighs, cut into 1" pieces

2 (12-ounce) jars roasted turkey gravy (or make your own before making stew)

Spray 4- to 5-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Layer all vegetables in slow cooker and top with turkey. Pour gravy over turkey. Cover and cook on high setting for 4 hours or on low setting for 8 hours. Stir just before serving.

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

Small Game Hunting … The Starter Sport

Most hunters who are 40 years old or older started their hunting careers chasing small game, not deer or turkey.

by Chuck Sykes

Squirrel Season Extended

The Conservation Advisory Board, based on recommendations from Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries biologists, extended the squirrel season by 15 days for the upcoming season. Squirrel season will begin on September 15, 2015, instead of October 1 as it has for the past decades. The breeding biology of the squirrel prohibited extending the season into March as some hunters have suggested.

When I was a small child, I was very fortunate to live in an area with both deer and turkey. Don’t get me wrong, the populations were small compared to today’s, but they were there nonetheless. I enjoyed sitting with my father in a box stand overlooking a food plot and also riding horses on deer drives, but some of my most fond childhood memories are of squirrel hunting.

Many life lessons and hunting lessons can be learned by squirrel hunting. I remember getting up before daylight and riding deep into the Tombigbee River swamp to Hickory Nut Ridge for a morning squirrel hunt.

Lesson 1: You can’t kill squirrels if they aren’t there. Why pick Hickory Nut Ridge to hunt? A quality food source, of course. In early October to late November, squirrels are packing away mast for the hard winter months ahead. An abundant crop of hickory nuts meant plenty of squirrels in the area to hunt.

Lesson 2: Patience is indeed a virtue. I was taught to sit very still at the base of a big tree and watch the surrounding treetops for movement just after daybreak. You never go running after the first squirrel you see because if that one gets away, you have given away your hiding place for nothing. Always wait until you get a bead on two or three before you make your move. In other words, plan ahead and have several options available to you before making a move. Be strategic in your thought process.

After the February 28 Conservation Advisory Board meeting, this crew went on an afternoon squirrel hunt on Commissioner Guy’s property. From left are: Joey Dobbs, Conservation Advisory Board member; Chris Greene, Assistant Chief of Fisheries with his dog Ernie; Pete McCoy; Keith Gauldin, Chief of Wildlife; Chris McCoy; Gunter Guy, Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and Chuck Sykes with his two dogs BES and Syd.

Lesson 3: Safety first. Always know what is behind the target and don’t take marginal shots. You never want to simply wound an animal, and ammunition costs money. If you pull the trigger, be confident you have a clear shot and that you can recover the animal. Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are hunting with others.

Lesson 4: Have fun. Enjoy the beauty of the sunrise and the sights and sounds of the woods coming alive in the morning. Harvesting animals should only be a small portion of the overall hunting experience. Spending time with family and friends in the field is the most important part, and always try to leave the woods better than you found them.

The best part of those early morning squirrel-hunting trips occurred a couple of hours after daylight, once the wind picked up a bit and the squirrels stopped moving around. That’s when the vine shaking took place. What a great experience for a young hunter, taking a leisurely stroll through a beautiful hardwood bottom, not having to remain quiet or still, and pulling on vines in an attempt to force a snoozing squirrel to leave the safety of the nest.

We were able to take our limits of bushy tails on many mornings by simply walking around and shaking vines. As I matured as a hunter, vine shaking was replaced by spot- and stalk-squirrel hunting. But, it is really hard to walk by a tree with the perfect vine connected to a squirrel nest and not give it a hardy pull.

At almost 45, I continue to enjoy squirrel hunting with friends. Typical hunts now include a good dog, an air rifle, binoculars, gloves and safety glasses.

Once the dog trees, binoculars help us find a squirrel stuck to the side of the tree. If we are successful, the hunter shooting an air gun or .22 rifle gets the first shot, but we always have at least one shotgunner standing ready to finish the job if the squirrel bolts. Despite the fact that a good dog can keep you busy most of the day, we still never pass up the opportunity to just shake a few vines as we walk.

To this day, the fun and fellowship of a squirrel hunt takes me back to my youth. Back when times were simpler. Boone and Crockett scores didn’t mean anything. The whole objective was to go to the woods and just have fun. It’s nice to go back to those times. It’s always important to invite a kid or a first-timer squirrel hunting. But, don’t leave out the seasoned veterans. A good day of squirrel hunting can rejuvenate the spirit and help remind us all of why we started hunting in the first place.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "That Barlow came home last week drunker than Cooter Brown. He got in an argument with his wife and ended up sleeping in his car. As a matter of fact, I think he’s still sleeping in his car!"

Who is "Cooter Brown"?

According to Wikipedia, "Cooter Brown" is a name used in metaphors and similes for drunkenness, mostly in the southern United States. Cooter Brown supposedly lived on the line dividing the North and South during the American Civil War, making him eligible for military draft by either side. He had family on both sides of the line, so he did not want to fight in the war. He decided to get drunk and stay drunk for the duration of the war so he would be seen as useless for military purposes and would not be drafted. Ever since, colloquial and proverbial ratings of drunkenness have been benchmarked against the legendary drinker: "as drunk as Cooter Brown" or "drunker than Cooter Brown." However, this report lacks authentication.

Another version of the Cooter Brown story: Cooter Brown was a half-breed (half Cherokee, half Black) who lived in South Louisiana on a small plot of land given to him by an old Cajun fur trapper. Cooter lived alone in the old Cajun’s shack. When the Civil War broke out, Cooter didn’t want to choose sides, because he didn’t know who might win. He didn’t like people much and was fearful of either side. Because of this, Cooter, who was a heavy drinker anyway, began drinking all the time. Cooter always dressed like an Indian so as to confirm the fact he was an Indian and not black and, as such, he was a free man. Whenever soldiers (Yanks or Rebels) showed up in the area they would always find him drunk. Often times he’d offer the soldiers a drink. Word began to spread about the crazy, drunken Indian named Cooter Brown. By the time the war ended, Cooter couldn’t stop drinking if he had wanted to. One night his shack caught fire and burned completely to the ground. When locals investigated the burned site the next day, there was nothing that remained of Cooter’s body. They surmised that old Cooter had so much alcohol in him that he had just burned up. Since then, Cooter Brown has been synonymous with inebriety.

Step Back in Time

Betty Anderson has turned her late father’s shoe shop into a museum in downtown Camden.

This rural cobbler shop is a tribute to bucolic life, necessity, community and activism.

by Alvin Benn

Joe Anderson picked cotton, swept floors and did whatever else he needed to do to provide for his growing family.

Along the way he learned how to repair shoes and, little did he know at the time, it would become a way of life for him as well as a necessity for local residents who depended on his business. The reason why? It was the only one of its kind in Camden and Wilcox County at the time.

Joe’s been gone for several years, but his impact on the people of Wilcox County as well as the center of government and business remains strong because of his devoted daughter.

The shoe repair shop closed with Joe’s death at the age of 88, but the building remains open. Instead of shoes, it’s become a showplace of sorts to provide visitors with a taste of a bucolic way of life in the Deep South many years ago.

Betty Anderson returned home from New York City more than a decade ago to turn her dad’s shoe repair shop into something special – a museum that includes equipment and leftover leather that seem to be waiting for Joe to take his seat and use it beneath a dusty Singer sewing machine.

"People come by here from all over the world to see my father’s shop," Betty said. "I’m not selling anything either. I just want them to see what it was like when he helped people throughout Camden and other places in Wilcox County."

Joe Anderson is pictured as he looked inside his shoe shop in Camden.

The Andersons were country folks, farmers who used what land they might have then possessed to grow the necessities of life.

Deer were and still are plentiful in Wilcox County, and they provided the family with plenty of meat. Other wildlife, including turkeys, also wound up on dinner tables throughout the county.

Joe’s death continues to be felt by local residents, especially those old enough to remember how they depended on him to keep their shoes in good shape.

Camden doesn’t have a shoe store, necessitating trips to Selma 40 miles away to buy a pair or find somebody who can repair what they wear.

During the voting rights movement of the 1960s in Alabama’s Black Belt region, the Andersons and others in the county were deeply involved in efforts to register to vote.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. picked Wilcox as one of several regional counties for rural locations to focus attention on voter inequities.

A photo of Joe Anderson rests atop one of his shoe repair machines.

The Gees Bend community was one of them, an isolated area on the other side of the Alabama River separating them from Camden.

White officials trying to discourage the voting rights demonstrators closed the ferry connecting the two communities. That required people in Gees Bend to make a long trip around the river to get to Camden where they did most of their shopping.

If those in political control of Wilcox County thought cessation of ferry service would halt or drastically curtail protests for voting rights, they were wrong. It just increased participation, with demonstrators of all ages marching for equality.

Ferry service reopened several years ago with important officials from Alabama and Washington on hand to celebrate the event. It was a festive occasion and residents on both sides of the river took part.

Joe became a leader in the voting rights movement and in a written review of those days – one he framed and put on a wall in his shop – he mentioned King’s importance.

"As a result of his leadership, we as a people won our right to register to vote," he wrote. "He gave us courage to hope for a better day and not to be fearful to obtain what was rightfully ours – the right to be treated equally and fairly."

Joe Anderson may not have gone far in school, but his wisdom was sought by those who got to know him during times of trouble.

He and his wife, Marie, helped lead the movement, transporting activists, feeding them, washing their clothes and offering advice when it was sought.

Before Joe became involved in the repair business, he worked at a barber shop where he shined shoes, cleaned the floors and filed away mental lessons of a time when segregation limited him from employment.

"Many whites would not hire us during that time and fear was a tactic often used to keep blacks from challenging the ways of the segregated South and Jim Crow laws," he wrote in his remembrance of a difficult time in Alabama’s Black Belt.

Joe had one advantage over most of Wilcox County’s black residents because of his shoe repair business. His was a vital service to just about everybody – from children to senior citizens and, best of all, for people of all ethnic backgrounds and colors.

He lived long enough to see discriminatory laws changed in the predominantly black county and his daughter is doing her part to keep his memory alive.

Before he died, he let people know that "I have been in the shoe repair business for 40 years and I’m going to stay here as long as my hands, feet and eyes allow me to work."

The father of eight children, he wasn’t afraid to get his fingers dirty or gnarled as he leaned over his sewing machines to repair shoes.

Today’s technological advances have almost made those machines, once considered necessities in rural America, something from the distant past.

"When people see this equipment, they stand there and stare at them in amazement," Betty said. "I could probably sell them, but that’s not what I plan to do. This is my dad’s shop and I’m going to keep it open, even if it doesn’t have anything to do in repairing shoes today."

One of Joe’s reminders of the past is a tattered bale of cotton. A metal washtub is propped next to it for good measure.

As a young man, he spent a lot of time in the cotton fields of Wilcox County. The pay wasn’t all that good, but it sure beat not having any job.

As he grew older and more in-demand in Wilcox County, he discovered he had mastered something pretty special.

"I learned that repairing shoes and operating a business connected to it were honorable traits."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Stupid Questions

by Baxter Black, DVM

Who said, "There is no such thing as a stupid question?"

Is that cow really angry with me for messing with her cute little calf or is that just a defensive posture she assumes because it is expected of her?

Did Dad rope that front foot on purpose?

I had a pickup like that. Have you tried choking it?

How come the first calf in the crowding alley is turned backwards?

Did the mill make a mistake, or did you really recommend taking all the grain outta the finish ration?

I’ve never seen a horse do a complete back flip. Did you teach him that?

This Elko is quite a place. Which one of you guys is a cowboy poet?

Why didn’t you quit before you took that last drink?

That dog in the gate ... is he yours?

That’s a great tattoo. Were you drunk?

You don’t see too many left-handed team ropers. You a heeler?

Does the NO TRESPASSING sign mean I can’t hunt on your place?

Didn’t you know that wire was hot?

It worked on the scouring pigs, didn’t it? See, I feel better already.

Sure I can run one of these. How do you start it?

Nice dismount. You with the circus?

Is the Forest Service upping your AUMs this year?

Do you mean to tell me not one of you top hands can milk a cow?

Fifty dollars on a pair of threes! Were you bluffing?

Hello ... did I wake you?

That’s gonna need stitches! Does it hurt?

How could you possibly have missed that last steer? We would’ve won $1,500!

I didn’t know you could put a book of cowboy poetry as a ranch expense?

Did the packer buyer pay you more when you told him they weren’t branded?

Didn’t you hear me yell "IN!" on the black baldy and "BY!" on the other three?

Were you scared? Better go back to the house and change.

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,

Tailgating Treats ... Go Home Healthy

Don’t let cooler weather fool you; it’s still important to be safe when handling food.

By Angela Treadaway

With the arrival of fall comes football season. What’s more fun than gathering with friends for a tailgating party?

However, don’t let cooler weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to consider the possibility of foodborne bacteria spoiling your party. Be proactive and follow a few simple procedures for safe food handling - then you’ll be sure to go home healthy from a fun day with friends.

Before, during and after preparing your food, be sure you wash your hands, lathering them with warm soap and scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. Set up a large drink container with a spigot as your water source.

Include moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for guests to use.

Keep two separate insulated coolers: one for drinks and one for food. This will keep your food well chilled since the drink cooler is likely to be opened more frequently. Place coolers in the shade and cover them with blankets to help hold in the cold temperature.

Place cold and frozen foods into coolers. Don’t assume your cooler can chill foods adequately if the food is at room temperature prior to packing.

Pack foods in reverse order so the last ones packed will be the first ones used, allowing food at the bottom to stay chilled longer.

Meat and other similar raw foods should be packed in sealed plastic bags or containers in a chilled, insulated cooler. This will prevent contamination of other foods from leaking juices. Store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods.

Take meat out of the cooler just in time to place on the grill. Never place cooked meat, fish or poultry back in the container the raw meat, fish or poultry was in. Use a clean pair of tongs and a clean plastic plate or platter when removing the cooked items from the grill. When marinating meat, fish or poultry, discard the leftover marinade after you place the items on the grill. Never use this marinade on the cooked item.

Use a meat thermometer to judge the safe internal temperature of meat and poultry over two inches thick (145 degrees or higher for steaks and chops, 155 degrees for ground meat and 165 degrees or higher for poultry). For meat or poultry less than two inches thick, look for clear juices as a sign of being done.

Use separate cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination of raw and cooked foods. Wipe them clean with paper towels at the barbecue and toss them in your dishwasher to sanitize when you return home.

Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, sandwiches with mayonnaise and salads should not be kept at temperatures above 40 degrees for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90 degrees or higher, food should be left out for no longer than one hour.

If deli or takeout foods such as fried chicken, potato salad or coleslaw are on the menu, make sure they are eaten within two hours of pickup.

Hot food should be kept at 140 degrees or hotter until served. Try wrapping your hot casserole or other item in several layers of aluminum wrap, followed by newspapers and a towel.

Cover all food with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or lids, or keep foods and supplies in their original packaging to prevent contamination.

If you’re not sure if food is still safe to eat, resort to the rule: "When in doubt, throw it out."

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.

The Co-op Pantry

We are honored this month to have a fantastic professional cook and business owner. When our local doughnut shop closed, we were distraught, but not for long. Our cook for this month and her business partner quickly came in and are breathing new life (and food) into our old favorite! I think I gained 10 pounds just standing there looking at the display cases and smelling all the divine smells come from the kitchen. I think the best way to do this is to just let our cook tell her story in her own words.

My name is Juanita Healy and I was born and raised in Cullman (Fairview actually), lived in Huntsville for 13 years and have lived in Decatur for the last 11 years.

I grew up in a blue-collar family. My dad was a sheet-metal worker and, from my teenage years, a minister. My mom, for the most part, was a hard-working, stay-at-home mom who cooked, canned and froze the vegetables they grew in our extra-large garden. She was very involved in her church and in school activities as long as my sister and I were in school.

Both of my parents are now deceased as is my husband, Edward Healy, and one daughter, Brooke Hill. I have one living daughter, Paige Norris; two deceased stepchildren and four living stepchildren. I have a total of 21 grandchildren – including my step-grandchildren!

I was in the kitchen from an early age, helping my mom prepare meals and all the work associated with growing up in the South with huge gardens!! Picking vegetables, shelling peas (or as my youngest granddaughter calls it unshelling peas) and beans, etc. My favorite is still vegetable soup! Mom always loved to bake and passed that love to me! She loved baking and candy making for the holidays and giving homemade goodies!

Both of my grandmothers were also great cooks and I have a huge collection of recipes that have been handed down for generations, many in their original handwriting.

My husband used to tease me that I read cookbooks like most people read novels and I do love them, and have more than I can count! I’m always looking for something new and figuring how to make it my own recipe!

My specialty is cheesecakes -all original recipes - and I am continuously looking for new ideas, new flavors. My grandchildren love suggesting new flavors and trying them out!

The love of cheesecakes led to the opening of our business, "Keep Your Fork Café and Cheesecakes by Juanita." For years, I have baked cheesecakes for friends and family, and a few months ago, with encouragement from friends, I launched a "Cheesecakes by Juanita" Facebook page and the results were mind-boggling! We had over 200 "likes" and six orders in the first two hours - three of the orders from restaurants. Thus was born the need for a commercial oven and baking space.

I had no idea how I was going to make this happen because it is an expensive endeavor, but my long-time friend Donna Robertson stepped to the plate! As the two of us like to say, and firmly believe, it is a God thing! Everything just fell in place with remarkable speed and, in less than two months, we went from a Facebook page to an operational restaurant.

September is National Ovarian
Cancer Awareness Month!

Please see your doctor if you haven’t already been this year, especially if you have these symptoms (provided by the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund):

- Don’t feel like eating or feel full very quickly;

- Have a personal or family history of cancer, especially breast or ovarian;

- Are over the age of 55; or

- Have had endometriosis.

None of these symptoms mean you have ovarian cancer, but ladies (and concerned menfolk) get yourselves checked out and discuss these issues with your physician!

The name of the restaurant, "Keep Your Fork Café," comes from a story I have long loved. (I will try to make this short!) A dying lady tells her pastor that she wants to be buried with a fork in her hand. To his confused reaction, she explains that she grew up going to church dinners "on the ground" and when you were told to "keep your fork," you knew the best was yet to come.

Donna and I truly believe this and the restaurant has given us an opportunity to share the story and our love of cooking (especially cheesecakes!).

I am also co-chair of the Brooke Hill Ovarian Cancer Foundation along with my younger daughter. The organization was formed on the day after Brooke’s death from ovarian cancer. She had longed to spread the word about the symptoms and treatment of ovarian cancer, but the toll of her cancer and treatment did not permit her to do so. The organization sponsors two annual events: Touch of Teal, a cocktail party and art auction, and The Brooke Hill Run for Ovarian Cancer Awareness, a wonderful tool for spreading awareness. The Foundation has raised funds for ovarian cancer research done through the UAB Oncology/Gynecology Department. We are most blessed knowing that lives have been saved because of Brooke’s passion to spread the word about the symptoms and diagnosis of this disease. Once referred to as the "silent lady killer," we now know that it is NOT silent, you just have to be aware of the symptoms and proactive in seeking treatment.

Hope you enjoy the recipes and please stop by to see us at Keep Your Fork Café, 224 Moulton St. East, Decatur!!

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


2 boxes shoe peg corn (frozen, in butter sauce; thawed)

1 can diced water chestnuts

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

¾ cup mayonnaise

1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

¾ stick oleo, melted

Mix first four ingredients. Pour in baking dish. Combine crackers and oleo. Put on top of corn mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

1 (28-ounce) can fruit cocktail, drained

1 bag miniature marshmallows

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Lemon juice, to taste

½ cup red maraschino cherries, chopped

½ cup green maraschino cherries, chopped

Soften cream cheese and combine with mayonnaise. Add other ingredients. Pour into 9x13 pan. Freeze. Remove from freezer a few minutes before serving.


1 pint sour cream

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 small can diced green chilies

1 onion, diced

Rotisserie chicken, shredded

12 flour tortillas

1 (8-ounce) package cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

Mix sour cream, soup, chilies, onion and chicken. Place small amount of mixture into each flour tortilla with a little cheese, roll up and place in 9x13 pan. Pour remaining mix over rolled enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.


1 round loaf dark rye bread

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream

2 cups mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons dehydrated onions

2 Tablespoons parsley flakes

2 teaspoons Beau Monte seasoning

2 teaspoons dill weed

Slice top off bread and cut into cubes, scoop out bread and break into bite-size pieces. In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients and chill at least 4 hours (overnight is best). Spoon mixture into hollowed-out bread and serve with bread pieces.

Note: HUGE hit at parties!


1 cup sour cream

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 cups red grapes, halved

2 cups green grapes, halved

½ cup toasted pecans, chopped

Combine sour cream, cream cheese and brown sugar. Toss with grapes. Top with pecans and chill.

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 2015 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. -Mary

The FFA Sentinel: “Banner, Banner, on the Wall …”

FFA member Trevor Starbuck receives a proficiency award in his respected area of Small Animal Production. Unfortunately, Trevor lost his life not long after state convention in a horrible car accident. Our regards are with his family at this time.

by Ivy Harbin

Banner, banner, on the wall, who’s the greatest of them all?" For FFA members of Alabama this question is answered the first week of June each and every year, and is a wonderful way to begin our summer. Our National Blue and Corn Gold Banners are the sought-after prizes for Alabama FFA members and advisors. A first-place banner means advancement to the National FFA CDE competitions. Banners, though an important part of the state convention, are not the only awards and activities. The 87th Annual Alabama FFA State Convention, June 9-12, 2015, had much more in store for all of its attendees.

Alabama FFA is home to the largest state convention of Alabama’s Career and Technical Student Organizations. FFA state convention combines specialized entertainment with education as well as rewarding those who have achieved the uppermost honors of placing at the state level in their respected competitions. This year’s convention entertained the theme of "Go All Out." I can confidently say that this theme was more than achieved by the over 2,000 members, advisors and guests present.

Many of us began our week in Auburn competing in Career Development Events. CDEs are competitive events where FFA members showcase the skills learned through their Agriscience Education classroom experience and their Supervised Agricultural Experience project. CDEs range from Public Speaking to Veterinary Science. Twenty-three CDEs are conducted at the state level. From Auburn, we made our way to downtown Montgomery to complete our convention. One of the many highlights of each year’s convention is the Career Show composed of various booths hosted by agricultural-related companies and individuals. Members and guests can spend the time between sessions networking with various companies, and even catching some lunch when needed.

Jessica Miller from Scottsboro FFA received her State Degree at this year’s state convention. She is pictured with her ag teachers Cameron Mitchell and Drew Benson.

FFA had some great entertainment from the FFA String Band and Quartet winners. These competitions always deliver much more than what is expected, and show the true spirit of Alabama FFA. Although there is not a national contest for these particular competitions, members of these groups are given the opportunity to participate and perform in the talent competitions at the National Convention.

This year’s convention had a special guest and keynote speaker: former Miss America contestant Jane Jenkins Herlong. Alabama FFA was truly honored with her presence at our state convention. Her inspiring speech filled with stories of her life and journey to represent South Carolina as a Miss America finalist were heartwarming and comical. Her message was directed to FFA members as a reminder that if you set your mind to something and work hard you can achieve great things. Herlong definitely brought down the house, and left us all singing her version of Disney’s classic "Frozen" song titled "Let it Grow."

Jane Herlong, former Miss America contestant, and FFA member Ellise Kyle celebrating Jane’s wonderful speech.

Another great speaker was our very own Will Graves, 2014-2015 State FFA President. Each year our Alabama FFA State Officer Team provides keynote addresses in the form of a retiring address. Graves’ Forrest Gump-themed speech on Friday morning brought laughter as well as tears as he reflected on the past year and his term as Alabama FFA President. He has definitely raised the bar for retiring addresses, and was a true natural on stage. This was the perfect retiring address to end state convention and was overall a wonderful way to end a wonderful week.

What a wonderful time we all had, and I believe I can speak for everyone that the week was a huge success, filled with laughter and great friendships. To me, state convention will always be a coming home and a reunion of great friends I have made throughout my time in this great organization.

Be sure to visit our Alabama FFA website at and check out our links and video testimonials presented at the 2015 Alabama FFA State Convention.

Ivy Harbin is the 2015-2016 Alabama FFA State Reporter and is from the West Limestone FFA Chapter.

Then and Now

A Wildlife Restoration Success Story of Unequaled Proportions

by Corky Pugh

In September 1939, early substantive efforts to quantify wildlife resources and related hunting activities in Alabama ranked deer next-to-last, followed only by raccoons. Wild turkey were right ahead of deer, followed by fox, opossum, cottontail rabbit, mourning dove and gray squirrel, and bobwhite quail was number one.

Now, deer are the most popular game animal, followed by dove. Quail hunting has declined, but may be on the rebound as quail numbers seem to be improving in some places.

One of the First Studies

"The Status of Game Birds and Mammals in Alabama," issued by the State of Alabama Department of Conservation under the leadership of Walter B. Jones, director, was one of the first studies published after the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act 78 years ago. The research by Frank Selman Arant was published by the Alabama Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit (still in existence today), Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), American Wildlife Institute (Wildlife Management Institute) and U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Biological Survey (now U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Wildlife Science in its Infancy

Wildlife science was in its infant stages, and courses of study in wildlife biology were just emerging. Assessing the status of populations of wild animals was as inherently difficult then as it is now. Survey research based on personal observations was the best "science" available.

Arant worked for the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit in Auburn, one of 10 such units initially established across the country. The Co-op Units were the brainchild of Ding Darling, prominent wildlife conservationist and first Director of the Biological Survey.

According to Arant, in 1939, "Game is fairly plentiful in Alabama, but there are no exact records to show the relative numbers of the various species or to indicate the recent trend in the populations of game birds and mammals. In order to procure preliminary data on these animals, a survey was conducted during the winter of 1937-38."

The "Method of Procedure" in conducting the survey was to send a questionnaire to each game warden, teacher of vocational agriculture, county agricultural Extension agent and 4-H club leader; and to the principal dealers in sporting goods in Alabama.

Each person was asked to give information as follows:

1. To list in order the five most important game species in the county in terms of the number of people who hunt them and number of animals taken.

2. To give the occurrence and abundance of 18 species of game birds and mammals by indicating whether each species was abundant, common, scarce or absent in the county.

The relative importance of the 18 game species, in terms of the number of hunters and the number of animals taken, varied somewhat in different counties, but the bobwhite quail and the gray squirrel ranked high in every county. It is interesting to note that the wild turkey and white-tailed deer, rated low throughout the state as a whole, were important in a few restricted areas.

Bobwhite Abundance and Agriculture

Arant reported the bobwhite quail as common throughout the state and abundant in 45 counties.

"The bobwhite quail extended its range and increased greatly in numbers with the coming of the first crude agricultural development (Stoddard, 1932). This increase resulted from the creation of a more favorable environment. The quail is a farm-game bird; it is adapted to border areas adjoining open land, brush and woods. The clearing of lands and establishment of small fields provided excellent conditions for the growth of wild leguminous plants that furnished food for the birds. As agricultural development proceeded, the fields became larger, clean culture and their borders were practiced, and, as a result of these and other practices, the quail population has decreased in many localities," he observed.

The gray squirrel, identified by Arant as the most important game mammal in Alabama, was reported as being surpassed in abundance only by the rabbit and opossum. The squirrel was considered abundant in 59 counties and common in eight.

Deer and Turkey Nearly Extinct

According to Arant, writing in 1939, "The white-tailed deer has probably decreased as greatly in numbers as any other game species in Alabama, with the exception of the passenger pigeon that is now extinct. The deer was numerous throughout the state in pioneer days, but decreased rapidly and has been scarce in a majority of the counties for many years. In this study, it was reported to be practically extinct in the eastern half of the state. It was considered common in all southwestern Alabama counties from Hale to Baldwin inclusive (scarce in Monroe and Wilcox) and also abundant in Fayette, Winston and Lawrence counties in the northwestern part of the state. It was recorded as occurring in a total of 29 counties, but abundant in only six and common in eight."

The wild turkey, characterized by Arant as one of the finest of all American game birds, had "decreased in numbers in Alabama until it ranks seventh in importance among game animals according to reports received in this investigation. It was considered abundant in four counties, common in 12, scarce in 45 and absent or nearly so in six."

The four counties reporting abundant turkeys were Lawrence, Sumter, Washington and Baldwin.

Present-day Relative Abundance

Now, in September 2015, we enjoy abundant populations of deer and turkeys once unthinkable. Every species of resident game animal is more abundant than in the 1930s with the exception of quail. And the very habitat changes described by Arant are undoubtedly what led to the decline of quail populations.

Much more is known about wildlife management now than in the 1930s. Highly capable professionals staff the agency of the State of Alabama responsible for management and protection of wildlife resources.

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

Weight Loss

by Nadine Johnson

As an herbalist, the question I am most often asked is, "What can you recommend for weight loss?" My standard answer has always been, "No product you take will be successful unless you control your diet." This fact remains, but I have good news for you dieters!

Not so long ago I received an unsolicited package of a product called Stixated. I put it on a shelf to gather dust. Time would change this, but here I’ll detour and tell you my story.

For a good many years I weighed 200 pounds. Nothing I did changed this. I simply ate a regular diet. (I am not diabetic.) About six years ago, I mysteriously began to slowly lose weight. There was no change in my diet or my health. All was good. I actually lost 40 pounds. Evidently something caused my metabolism to alter my use of foods. I love sweets. During this time, I enjoyed consuming them.

About a year ago, I realized my weight was easing up again. I tried to stop what I call "the afternoon nibbles." I couldn’t – I was hooked. I would eat a cookie and promise myself I wouldn’t eat more. It didn’t work. I kept going back for more. I wanted to stop this weight gain and never go back to 200 pounds!

There sat the Stixated – gathering dust. One afternoon instead of eating a cookie I enjoyed a glass of Stixated. Hoorah! I stayed out of the cookie jar. I had no desire to nibble at all that afternoon. At long last I have found a product that can possibly help control my diet and aid in weight loss.

The two main ingredients in Stixated are chromium (picolinate) and garcinia cambogia fruit rind extract. Other ingredients include natural fiber and fruits. The Kool-Aid-like substance comes in individual packets that are easily dissolved in a glass of water. It tastes good. Exceptionally good!

Chromium is a natural element in our bodies. Sometimes we need to supplement it by taking extra. One source says, "It is critical in the regulation of blood sugar." My deceased brother was a severe diabetic. He craved and could not resist eating sweets. I’ll always wonder if he could have controlled this craving with Stixated.

Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit. Where it is available, it is used in cooking. I do not believe it is available in our local markets. (I hope I’m wrong.) Stixated has proved to me that it is very worthwhile in diet control.

I’m hoping this solution to my "afternoon nibbles" will prevent more weight gain. The fact remains, to control our weight, we must control our diet.

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

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

Will You Take a Chance?

Guard dogs watch over some of the 55 goats at Humble Heart Farms in Elkmont.

Humble Heart Farm is running a contest ... write an essay and win a farm.

by Michelle Bufkin

Starting, owning and operating a farm is expensive. There are two main things keeping people from owning farms – opportunity and finances. An Elkmont couple is helping one lucky person dodge these setbacks, and have a successful goat dairy farm and creamery. How is that? By having an essay contest, with the farm as the prize!

The essay topic is not a difficult one; it simply asks why you or your organization is the perfect fit to continue the farmstead goat cheese tradition. The winner of the contest will receive the farm, worth an estimated $350,000, a debt-free house, 20 acres of land, 55 goats, a dairy and cheese-making building with equipment, recipes and training; and $20,000 to go toward operating expenses.

"Not to say they won’t have struggles or stuff to figure out, but they are going to start with a product that has a following," Leslie Spell said. "They can pick it up and start running and I am so excited to see where they take it."

The contest has an entrance fee of $150, to help toward operating expenses. The contest opened on May 1 and closes October 1, 2015. The winner will be announced by October 15 and ownership will be transferred to the winner by November 1, after the proper training. The contest must have at least 2,500 essays for a winner to be chosen. This contingency assures that the new owner will have the $20,000 starting cost and cover the rest of the mortgage, so the house will be truly debt-free.

Paul Spell gives a tour of the dairy to visitors.

Paul Spell, 63, and wife Leslie, 55, have been running Humble Heart since 2006. Why a goat dairy? Paul explained that they wanted something to do with their 20 acres, and Leslie had read that the consumption of goat cheese was increasing.

"Besides my wife is only 5-foot-2 and goats are a lot easier to handle than cattle," Paul explained.

All kidding aside, they have created an extremely successful business, with quite a following. Humble Heart now has 55 goats they milk two times per day from February to November.

Humble Heart makes fresh, all-natural goat cheese in more than eight different flavors. A few of their goat cheese flavors are Garden Herb, Raspberry Chipotle, Barbecue Mesquite, Rio Grande, French, Honey, Tuscan and Mediterranean. Rio Grande is one of their more popular cheeses. You taste chipotle, garlic, onions and tomatoes before the heat from the jalapeño pepper provides a kick. They also sell goat cheese salsa – from mild to hot, goat cheese cheesecakes and frozen desserts.

So why get rid of such a successful dairy? Paul explained that they have missionary friends in Costa Rica who want to have a self-sustainable goat dairy, but are struggling. Everything is done by hand; they have no equipment and are making rookie mistakes. The Spells wanted to help, but realized most of their money was tied up in their own farm.

"We tried selling our farm the traditional way, but investors who did not care about farming were the only ones who could afford it," Paul said. "Debt is one of the worst things you can have as a farmer."

To prevent another farmer’s debt and to prevent their goat dairy from ending up in uninterested hands, they thought of something else. The Spells had seen a similar essay competition done by a bed and breakfast, and decided, "Why not?"

The Spells sell their goat cheese products at numerous farmers markets in the Tennessee Valley and to local restaurants in their area. People can also buy the cheese when they visit the farm for tours or Family Fun Days. At Family Fun Days, the Spells work hard to show people, many of whom have never seen a dairy, where their cheese comes from.

"Family Fun Days involve a lot of work, but are extremely rewarding," Leslie said.

Families can see the cheese being made, taste test it and bottle feed babies, depending on the time of year! Humble Heart always tries to bring in something different and new at the Family Fun Days to keep people coming back and keep them involved with their local farmers.

Paul’s favorite part of owning a goat dairy is "seeing the faces of people who have never tried goat cheese before. If they taste it, they find that it is actually very good." He went on to credit Leslie, who comes up with really great flavors. The Spells are hopeful this contest will provide Humble Heart Farms with a loving, dedicated and interested owner who will continue the tradition, while adding more original ideas. The couple hopes the farm will change someone else’s life, like it changed theirs.

Paul and Leslie’s advice to their Facebook friends was, "If you never leave where you are, you’ll never live the life you’re destined for."

Take this advice and start the essay that could change your life today!

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

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