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Sharing the Sands

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Dedicated Volunteers Make Local Beaches Sea Turtle Friendly

By: Gabriel Tynes

They are often the first people on the beach every summer day — a small army of volunteers armed with cell phones, trash bags and cameras, patrolling the sand between Fort Morgan and Orange Beach for signs of endangered life. Some of them walk for their health and others do it for the friendship and camaraderie. However, the object of their mission is often nowhere in sight.

The Share the Beach program brings volunteers together to comb the sand for sea turtle nests every morning between May and October, which is turtle nesting season. They look for the tell-tale tracks females leave behind as they drag themselves from the sea in the middle of the night to lay as many as 160 eggs.

If a nest is discovered, volunteers will make a phone call to area professionals, who evaluate it for its likelihood to hatch. Often, the nest is moved slightly inland to prevent it from being washed away or trampled, and it is clearly marked and covered with a screen to help keep out predators. The incubation period lasts around 55 days, after which about 65 percent of the eggs are likely to hatch.

Making Their Home

While the program has uncovered encouraging information, organizers say it is still too young to provide many clues about the overall welfare of the state’s sea turtle population.

According to Kelly Reetz, a naturalist at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, volunteers have identified at least 15 sea turtle nests along Alabama beaches as of this past June. In 2006, there were 46 — eight more than they found in 2005.

“It has been fairly productive lately,” Reetz said in June. “Our first turtle this year was a Kemps Ridley, one of the more scarce species, so we were especially excited about that.”

Although several species of sea turtles live and breed in the Gulf of Mexico, the loggerhead is by far the most frequent turtle to grace Alabama sand. In fact, as many as 95 percent of the nests discovered in recent years have held loggerhead eggs. 

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“I don’t know if that is saying something about the numbers of other species or the wider range of the loggerhead,” Reetz said. She also emphasized that Alabama is on the western-most end of sea turtle nesting areas in the United States, and therefore sees less variety in nesting turtle species.

Indeed, Alabama records far fewer turtle nests each year than other coastal states like Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. But that doesn’t make the local habitat any less important to their survival.

“I think if the turtles just stopped nesting here altogether that would indicate something about our effect on the environment,” Reetz said. “But from what I’ve seen, mother turtles are resilient, and they will nest just about anywhere there is sand. What you have to worry about are the hatchlings.”

Baby Steps

Reetz said a major problem with human encroachment onto turtle nesting grounds is that lights from nearby developments can confuse the hatchlings, and lead them to travel in the wrong direction, often toward their death.

“Instinctively, the hatchlings are looking for the flatness of water and the light from the moon and the stars,” she said. “Imagine being less than one inch tall and looking behind you to see dunes that look like mountains. Meanwhile, in the other direction, there is the moon and the stars and the sea and it should be enough to get you to go into the water.” 

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Reetz said in the areas where the dunes have been flattened and high-rise condos have created an artificial sky, turtle hatchlings are prone to wander in the opposite direction than they need to go. Reetz remembers one occasion when she was called to a condominium complex where a nest full of turtle hatchlings and fallen into a swimming pool and storm drain.

“There was a pelican there just having its way with them,” Reetz said. “When you see something like that, you really realize how helpless they are.”

A Helping Hand

While the volunteer program has reduced such incidences to a minimum, sea turtle welfare ultimately depends on cooperation from several different parties. For its part, Baldwin EMC turns or shades street lights along Fort Morgan and West Beach roads where sea turtles have been known to nest in the past. Other organizations promote habitat conservation or the use of special devices to help exclude sea-going turtles from fishing nets.

Second-year Share the Beach volunteer Sandi Caudill walks a portion of Gulf State Park every Friday along with her husband and three others. Together, they have discovered two nests this year — both loggerheads. They believe they are really making a difference, and are excited about witnessing the hatching of their two nests, which are due sometime this month.

“That is when you know what you’re doing matters,” Caudill said. “The entire process is satisfying, but being able to see the hatchlings crawl toward the water will be the most fulfilling part of it. Without volunteers, many of the eggs wouldn’t stand a chance.”

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Although total population figures are a mystery, all sea turtles remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, which makes it a felony to disturb nesting females, their eggs, or their hatchlings. Anyone who spots a beached or nesting turtle should call state wildlife authorities. Meanwhile, Share the Beach is always looking for willing and reliable volunteers, and anyone wishing to contribute may call 866-Sea-Turtle.

Dried Peaches

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Fried hand pies are a delicious and portable way to eat your peaches. Use this recipe for dried peaches any time you want to make peach filling for fried pies. Thanks to Betty Brewer for this submission to the magazine.

Ingredients:

  • 15 pounds peaches (do not peel)
  • 5 pounds sugar
  • 1¾cups vinegar (apple cider)

Directions:

  • Cook over low heat until thick enough for pies. Put in jars and seal.

Betty Brewer, North Alabama EC

Trigger Happy

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The tasty triggerfish is found around reefs in the gulf

By: Gray Finch, August 2007

The one fish that always seems to draw a curious and confused look from a novice saltwater fisherman is the triggerfish. It looks nothing like any of the other species, so the first question is, “what is it? and the second is, “is it good to eat?”

The gray triggerfish is easy to identify and is appropriately named. This solid gray fish can be found as far north as Canada and stretches south towards Argentina. It is one of the most common fish in the ocean and can usually be found around any hard structure. Gray triggers usually measure around one foot in length, but the world record fish grew to a weight of 13 pounds, 9 ounces.

Three dorsal fins offer clues to its name. When triggerfish are in danger, or on alert, their three dorsal spines will lock into a vertical position. This is thought to be a defensive system that works to either lodge the triggerfish into heir coral retreats or makes them impossible for predators to swallow. The only way to release the rigid set of spines is by pulling down on the third spine, using it like a trigger.

The unique mouth is narrow and fitted with strong jaws with chisel-like teeth that can crush shellfish and barnacles. They are even more adept at delicately stealing bait from your hook. The mouth of a triggerfish also commands some respect. Even though the mouth opening is relatively small for a fish its size, the trigger’s teeth are easily able to bite the tip off a finger or a chunk out of a hand. Smart deckhands tend to keep the mouth away from their hands and body when removing hooks.

Triggerfish are considered wreck fish and are typically found hovering over deep water reefs that are around 80 feet and greater.

Fishing for triggers is commonly done with bottom-fishing bait rods equipped with single- or double-hook rigs. Cut squid or small chunks of tough fish are usually the best choices for bait, simply because they stay on the hook while getting pecked by a hungry school of triggers.  The bite is very subtle and requires a fisherman with sensitive hands and a strong hook-set. Hauling up two grown triggers from 100 feet of Gulf water is quite a chore. When triggerfish are lifted over the rail, they are a welcomed sight on any bottom-fishing expedition.

With harsh limits and seasons being placed on red snapper, the triggerfish has quickly found a place of honor on bottom-fishing charters. They are plentiful and are considered excellent eating for any method of cooking. Their leathery protective skin makes them hard to clean, but the prized white meat of the trigger is well worth the effort. Experienced deckhands have no problems dealing with cleaning a tasty trigger.

Pecan Stuffed Meatloaf

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If you haven’t made a stuffed meatloaf before, then you’ll love this technique. This version uses fresh pecans for the stuffing, adding a nutty richness to the dish. Thanks to Shirley Johnson, our “Cook of the Month” from June 2006 for this recipe from the archives.

Pecan Stuffing

1 egg slightly beaten

1/4 cup oil

2 cups whole-wheat bread crumbs

1/2 celery, chopped

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup meat stock or water

1/2 cup pecans

Combine all ingredients together and set aside.

Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1/2 cup bell pepper

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt to taste

1 cup white bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

Combine beef with bell pepper, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, white bread crumbs, milk and egg. Mix thoroughly; place half of mixture in bottom of greased loaf pan. Spread pecan stuffing on top of the meat mixture. Arrange the second half of the meat mixture on top of the stuffing. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

Playing it Safe in the Storm

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It’s Summer, and that means storms. A summer storm can pop up at any time, and most of the time they are unexpected. Whether they are severe or small, be prepared to battle nature’s summer fury with these safety tips. You might just find a tip that could save your life.

We want to encourage our cooperative members to be cautious and think of safety during summer storms. Beware of flooded areas caused by heavy rains — water and electricity do not mix. Below is safety advice to use following a summer storm:

Flooded Areas — Be careful when attempting to walk in flooded areas and remember that submerged outlets or electrical cords could energize water.

Wet Electrical Equipment — Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers. Electrical parts can pose a shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire.

A qualified service repair technician should recondition electrical equipment that has been wet. Certain equipment will require complete replacement, while a trained professional can recondition other devices.

Portable Generators — Take special care with portable electric generators, which can provide a good source of power, but if improperly installed or operated, can become deadly. Do not connect generators directly to household wiring. Power from generators can back-feed along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including line workers making repairs. A qualified licensed electrician should install your generator to ensure that it meets local electric codes.

Other tips include:

  • Make sure your generator is properly grounded
  • Keep the generator dry
  • Make sure extension cords used with generators are rated for the load, and are free of cuts, worn insulation, and have three-pronged plugs.
  • Do not overload the generator
  • Do not operate the generator in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly, which can be deadly.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interruptor (“GFCI”) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to installs and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.

Wanda’s Peach Cake

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A classic peach cake recipe from Wanda Stinson that would be a perfect finish to any meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks sweet cream salted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon almond flavoring
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 cups ripe but firm peaches, diced
  • 1 3-ounce package apricot or peach Jell-O, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray tube pan with cooking spray. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add flavorings. Sift flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream to the creamed butter mixture. Fold in peaches and ½ of the dry Jell-O. Spoon into pan and bake for 60 minutes or until done.

For glaze:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 12-ounce can peach soda (I use Faygo)
  • 2 or 3 peaches, peeled and sliced
  • ½ package of reserved Jell-O package

Put sugar, butter and soda in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peaches and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon and set aside to use for garnish on the cake. Add the Jell-O, stirring to dissolve, and cook two minutes. Leave cake in pan and punch holes in cake with a thin knife. Pour glaze over cake slowly so it will absorb. Save a small amount for the top of the cake. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Invert on a cake plate. Garnish with reserved peaches and remaining glaze.

Wanda Stinson, Pioneer EC

Is Your Home Wired For Fire?

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Home fires are the third ranking cause of accidental death and injury, following close on the heels of automobile accidents and home falls. Statistically, each American family can one day expect the fire department to respond to a fire in its home.

The major cause of home fires is not smoking in bed, lightning, spontaneous combustion, nor flash fires in the kitchen, but bad wiring and malfunctioning electrical appliances.

Do-it-yourselfers will all to often tackle major household wiring jobs without knowing enough about electricity or the national and local electrical codes. Proud of their handiwork and the money saved by not calling an electrician, these people will unknowingly endanger their families and fortunes. Insurance companies will not pay claims for fire damage if it’s found that electrical codes were violated.

It really pays to hire only qualified electricians to repair or renovate household wiring, just as it pays to have older homes inspected by qualified electricians or city or county inspectors. And it really pays to have repairs made on electrical appliances as soon as they are discovered.

Considering the number of electrical fires, too few people realize how serious sparking or asking electricity can be. It’s a good time to take a good look at your home and correct any problems that could contribute to national fire statistics. Fire prevention is cool. Fire fighting isn’t.

Spicy Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

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Fresh gulf shrimp and pineapple work great together in this dish from Mildred C. Fortner of Baldwin County. See more recipes from our archives here.

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked Jasmine Rice
1 20-oz can pineapple tidbits, undrained
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 cups medium-sized fresh shrimp, unpeeled
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

Prepare rice according to package directions and set aside. Combine pineapple and next 3 ingredients in bowl and set aside. Peel shrimp, de-vein and saute in tablespoon hot oil for 3 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside. Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

Stir in rice, soy sauce, and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly heated. Fold in pineapple mixture and shrimp. Combine until thoroughly heated.

Makes 4 servings.

It’s A Ringer

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By: Stephen V.Smith

The sound of metal striking metal echoes through the woods. It’s a familiar sound, heard in backyards and public parks throughout Alabama, especially on weekends and holidays.

As is often the case, this clanging is accompanied by laughter and friendly conversation. A crowd of various ages, genders and races is gathered at a place called Jim’s Courts, participating in the traditional sport of horseshoe pitching.

An ancient recreational competition whose American roots go back to the founding of the country, horseshoe pitching is growing in popularity in Alabama. Younger people are becoming involved in tournament play, along with more women.

“It’s good exercise, and it’s a relatively cheap sport,” says Jim Harris, who owns Jim’s Courts on Lake Guntersville near Scottsboro.

Harris built a total of 11 regulation courts next to his home in the early 1990s, shortly after retiring from PPG Industries in nearby Huntsville. His courts are surrounded by trees. “I like the shade,” he smiles. Nearby, what was once a camper shed now houses indoor courts for play during cold or wet weather.

The passion Harris has for horseshoes began with a walk in the park.

“I was never around it,” Harris explains. “I was walking at Braham Springs Park in Huntsville one day in 1977 and saw some guys pitching. I got interested, and started playing with them.” In the following years, Huntsville hosted the World Tournament three times, bringing the best pitchers from around the globe to Alabama.

“When I saw those world-class pitchers, that’s when I really got sold on horseshoes” says Harris. Harris is secretary/treasurer of the Alabama Horseshoe Pitchers Association (AHPA). The group, chartered in 1964 by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America, seeks to promote organized horseshoe pitching at local and state levels. Jackie Gary of Albertville is the association’s president.

“This is a good, clean family sport,” says Gary, who pitched horseshoes growing up and has been pitching in tournaments for the past 12 to 14 years. “You can bring your momma, your sister, the preacher, and all the deacons,” he laughs.

Horseshoe pitching is a relatively simple sport that has changed little through the years. It involves throwing a metal horseshoe – a modified version of the device used to protect the hoofs of horses from wear and to improve traction of the animal – toward a stake some 40 feet away.

A game consists of two contestants, each taking turns pitching their two horseshoes towards a metal stake in the middle of a clay pit. The clay, which must be watered and turned before each game, stops the horseshoe where it hits. When the horseshoe comes to rest while encircling the stake, it is known as a “ringer.”

The Alabama association uses the cancellation scoring method. If the first pitcher scores a ringer (worth three points in tournament play), it can be cancelled by a ringer thrown by the second pitcher. One point is awarded for the closest horseshoe to the stake, provided it comes to rest within six inches of the stake. Forty points wins a game.

Throughout the spring and summer, the state association routes tournament play around courts in Gadsden,Huntsville, Montgomery, Eclectic, Lacey Springs, and Lake Guntersville. Although organized pitching in Alabama began in the southern part of the state, Montgomery is the southernmost tournament location today.

With its low cost of participation, competitive spirit, and family-friendly environment, it is no wonder horseshoe pitching is growing in popularity in Alabama. To learn more about the sport, visit http://www.alhorshoes.com/.

Peach Crescent Roll

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A great recipe from Cullman’s Edna Watts for a quick, delicious peach-based snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • Cook on medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
  • 2 peaches, quartered
  • 1 package crescent rolls

Directions:

Roll one quarter peach in each crescent roll. Put them in a casserole dish and pour the sugar/butter mixture over the peaches and rolls. Bake at 350 degrees until brown. (Recipe is easily doubled.)