According to a recent poll taken by Calm, which bills itself as “the #1 app for meditation and sleep,” if you are plagued with insomnia, the best cure is to watch golf.
Calm’s pollsters handed a bunch of folks a list of 10 popular sports and asked them to pick the “dullest, most sleep-inducing one to watch.” Golf won. Big.
Not that I’m surprised.
Watching golf reminds me of what Oscar Wilde observed about foxhunting, “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.”
This attitude toward golf, golfing, and golfers left me ignorant of the game and unprepared for an opportunity that came my way when I was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Georgia.One bright spring day, a student from Augusta who was failing my class offered me two tickets to the Masters – shamelessly trying to influence his grade. Since I knew nothing of the Masters and had no desire to drive a couple of hundred miles to see men knock a little white ball into a hole, I turned him down. Later I learned, to my dismay, that I could have sold the tickets and covered my tuition for the next year.
This did nothing to change my opinion of golf, but it did imprint the Masters on my mind so that every spring I turn on the TV to catch a glimpse of the azaleas and the manicured greens. Then I remember this is golf, and I change the channel to something exciting, like “Storage Wars.”
So, you can imagine how little attention I was planning to pay when a few years ago the Masters became the center of a rip-roaring controversy that contained in it all the elements of a good old-fashioned Southern culture clash.
Here’s how it unfolded.
The National Council of Women’s Organization discovered that the Augusta National Golf Club, the organization that hosts the Masters, did not admit women to membership. A woman could play as a guest, but not on her own. Outraged at this, the chairwoman ofNCWO asked for the policy to be changed. “Hootie” Johnson (gotta love the name), chairman of the Club, said “no.”
Not one to take “no” for an answer, the chairwoman sent letters to CEOs of major corporations that sponsor the tournament asking them to drop their sponsorship or face a boycott from NCWO members. Hootie responded, “Let ‘em. The Masters will go on anyway.”
The NCWO, unable to move Hootie, tried to get CBS to cancel the broadcast. CBS, knowing FOX or ESPN II or maybe the History Channel would move quickly to fill the breach, politely declined.
Finding the controversy as boring as the game itself, a local wit suggested that the protestors should ignore Hootie and visit Hooters, which was just down the block. The NCWO, I am told, was not amused.
The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why women would want to hang around with a bunch of men who, according to golf historian Herbert Warren, “stand under the great trees at Augusta National Golf Club on fine spring days” and talk about golf.
Meanwhile the men of the Augusta National membership committee did what men have historically done when women want something – they caved in. Women joined the club.
But I missed it.
I was taking a nap.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Though it can be fleeting, our state’s strawberry season surely is sweet.
BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY | STYLING/PHOTOS BY BROOKE ECHOLS
Due to our state’s size and varied growing zones, strawberry season across the entirety of Alabama can last for several months, beginning in the southern section and spreading to the north. But in each specific spot, it’s rarely that long. Some years, it’s only a scant few weeks. But no matter its duration, it’s always greeted with enthusiasm. The ruby gems are a sign that winter is really over and spring is in full swing. Plus, they herald more good things to come; as one of the first fruits to arrive each year (peaches and other berries come later), their heady scent and juicy, candy-like flavor whet our appetites for the abundance of fresh produce that later spring and summer will bring.
Fervent fans of the fruit have likely been dreaming of their first bite into the season’s inaugural ripe strawberry since sometime in early February, when Valentine’s Day paraphernalia resembling the berry’s plump, curved shape brings them back to mind. Their appearance’s similarity to hearts is no coincidence to those who truly love them.
And for the wholly devoted, not just any ole strawberry will do. A perfect strawberry should be shiny and cardinal red. It should carry slightly lighter shades of this exterior hue inside; there should be very little flavorless white core. It should be soft but still a bit firm between the teeth, and it should flood the tongue with simple sugar and a tiny tang at the end of the taste.
Even an average strawberry is a treat eaten straight out of hand, but if you’d like to incorporate them into your cooking, we’ve got you covered with these reader-submitted recipes.
Cook of the Month
Arneather Gaines, Black Warrior EMC
Strawberry Jam Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped pecans
1 eighteen-ounce jar strawberry jam
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch round cake pans. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture well after each addition. In a small bowl, stir the baking soda into the buttermilk. Set aside. In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients; mix well. Fold in the pecans and 1/4 cup of the jam. Set the remainder of the jam aside. Mix well. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of each layer comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Cool the layers in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then unmold the layer on wire racks to cool completely. After the layers have completely cooled, transfer each layer, one at a time, to a serving platter. Spread the remaining strawberry jam between each layer and on top of the cake’s edge. Garnish the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar. (I sprinkle confectioners’ sugar between the layers as well.) Makes one 9-inch cake.
1 pack graham crackers, crushed
5 and 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
8 ounces cream cheese
2 and 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup frozen strawberries, blended
Crust: Mix together melted butter and crushed graham crackers. Pat into 9-inch pan.
Filling: Blend cream cheese. Add butter, honey and vanilla. Then mix in blended strawberries (don’t blend them in though). Pour filling into crust and freeze overnight. Top with a strawberry after it’s frozen. Cook’s note: Don’t put in the refrigerator. This cheesecake thaws very quickly.
Caleb Pittman, Joe Wheeler EMC
Strawberry and Satsuma Salad
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 satsumas (clementines or oranges can be substituted)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
2 and 1/2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 ablespoon finely chopped fresh mint, plus a sprig for garnish
Place strawberries in a bowl. Peel and separate the satsuma pieces from 3 of the satsumas and add to the bowl with the strawberries. Over a separate small bowl, squeeze the juice from the remaining satsuma. Add the lemon juice and brown sugar to the freshly squeezed satsuma juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the strawberries and satsuma segments and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with fresh mint. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Olivia Vacalis, Baldwin EMC
Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup strawberry preserves
½ cup flaked coconut
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add butter and vanilla; stir until crumbly. Set aside 1 cup. Press remaining crumb mixture evenly into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan. Spread preserves over crust. Combine coconut and reserved crumb mixture, sprinkle over preserves. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until coconut is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 3 dozen.
Mary Lindley , Joe Wheeler EMC
2 cups fresh strawberries, crushed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 tablespoon grated dark chocolate
Fresh lemon balm, optional
In a large bowl, combine strawberries, sugar and lemon zest. Fold into whipped cream. Spoon into decorative glasses and garnish with grated chocolate and lemon balm sprigs, if desired. Serves 4.
Linda Persall, Cullman EC
Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake mix
2 twelve-ounce cartons Cool Whip (lite or sugar free works best)
1 pint to 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced (or 16-ounce bag frozen sliced strawberries)
Toasted pecans, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
¾ – 1 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of strawberries)
3 egg yolks (whites used in cake)
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare cake mix according to package directions, reserving egg yolks for custard. Custard: combine flour, sugar and salt in double boiler. Beat egg yolks, add in milk and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened (not quite as thick as for banana pudding.) Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat. Cut cake into bite size pieces and place one half of the cake in the bottom of a trifle dish. Place half of the strawberries on top of the cake and pour half of the custard on top of the strawberries. Spread one container of Cool Whip on top of mixture. Sprinkle half of the toasted pecans on top of the Cool Whip. Repeat for second layer.
Martha Belser, Tallapoosa River EC
Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling later
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 jumbo eggs (or 3 large)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
14 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Set oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-inch spring form pan. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt: set aside. Cream the soft butter and sugar together in a stand mixer for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl a couple of times. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla. Stir the sour cream and buttermilk together and then add the flour to the mixing bowl alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until combined, but don’t over mix. Fold in the strawberries and turn into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top. Sprinkle the surface of the cake liberally with granulated sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake no longer jiggles in the center and the top is golden and slightly crackled. You can insert a toothpick in the center to test. Let cool briefly, and then unlatch the spring and remove the outer ring. I like to run a spreading knife along the edge first to loosen any parts of the cake that are sticking to the pan. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.
Marsha S. Gardner, Baldwin EMC
Strawberry Velvet Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup vegetable oil
13-ounce box strawberry Jell-O
½ cup boiling water
5 ounces frozen strawberries in syrup (1/2 of a 10-ounce carton, thawed)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
18-ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ stick butter, softened
1 sixteen-ounce box confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon strawberry extract
2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
Combine cake mix, eggs (one at a time) and oil. Beat on medium speed until well blended. To the side, mix Jell-O and boiling water. Stir until dissolved and add to cake mixture. Mix well and fold in strawberries and extract. Pour into a greased tube or Bundt cake pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool before frosting.
Place the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and strawberry extract in a large mixing bowl and beat with mixer until smooth. Fold in strawberry preserves and stir until well blended. Add a bit of red food coloring to the frosting, if you desire. Frost cake and serve.
Mary McGriff, Cullman EC
Easy Strawberry Pie
1 fourteen-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 lemons, juiced
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces Cool Whip
1 ten-inch pre-baked pie crust or 2 8-inch pie crusts
Combine condensed milk and lemon juice in a bowl and blend well. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in the strawberries and pecans. Fold in the whipped topping. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill, covered, until set. May prepare the day before and freeze. Yield 6-8 servings.
Celeste Spivey, Pea River EC
Fresh Strawberry Cake
1 box white cake mix
1 package strawberries, washed and thinly sliced
1 pouch strawberry glaze
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
16 ounces Cool Whip, thawed
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup white sugar
Bake white cake mix according to the directions on box. Let cool. Using a piece of kitchen twine horizontally cut the two layers in half so you have 4 layers. In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese, cool whip and both sugars. In a separate bowl, mix sliced strawberries and glaze. Begin assembling the dessert with a layer of cake, top with cream cheese mixture, then strawberry glaze. Repeat process with all cake layers. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Kisha Cantrell, Tombigbee EC
Keep ‘em sweet & sound
Strawberries are a delicate fruit, so the key to keeping good ones just right is careful consideration when handling and storing them.
Store them in the fridge (unless you are using them within one day).
Keep the stems on until right before eating. This will prolong freshness.
Don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Any water left on strawberries will bring on mold.
Be on the lookout for overly ripe or already spoiled berries in your bunch. If you find any, discard them. They’ll make the rest of the strawberries spoil more quickly.
Send us your recipes for a chance to win!
Themes and Deadlines
July: Grilling | April 5
Aug.: Weeknight Suppers | May 10
Sept: Onions | June 14
3 ways to submit:
Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Please send us your original recipes (developed or adapted by you or family members.) Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
To be eligible, submissions must include a name, phone number, mailing address and co-op name. Alabama Living reserves the right to reprint recipes in our other publications.
Q: Is it true that turning lights off and on uses more energy than just leaving them on?
A: Not true. Turning off lights definitely reduces energy use. Turn off LED and incandescent bulbs every time you leave the room. The situation is a little different with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Turning them off does save energy but can shorten the life of the bulb. The rule of thumb for CFLs is to turn them off any time they won’t be used for 15 minutes or more.
Q:Would replacing my old windows with new, more efficient ones really cut my energy use in half?
A: No. While replacing inefficient windows with new, energy efficient windows can cut the heat loss through windows in half (or more), windows typically account for only about 25 to 30 percent of your space heating costs. The amount of energy you use for heating and cooling is likely one third to one half of your total energy use, so replacing your old windows might only reduce your total energy costs by about 10 percent. When you consider the high cost of new windows, you may not recoup your investment for 15 or 20 years, or even longer.
Q:Burning wood in my fireplace should save on my heating costs, right?
A: Possibly, but certain conditions need to be met. The wood should be dry and burned efficiently in a properly-installed, properly-placed, high-efficiency wood stove or fireplace insert. Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll lose as much heat through your chimney as you’re distributing throughout the house.
Q:My kids claim using the dishwasher is just as efficient as washing dishes by hand. Are they right?
A: Yes – in fact, it’s usually more efficient! Properly used dishwashers actually use less water while doing a better job, and as a bonus, they will save you more than 200 hours a year. For maximum energy savings, make sure your water heater is set to about 120 degrees and use the most efficient wash/dry settings.
Q:I’ve heard it’s better to heat individual rooms with an electric space heater and keep the doors closed to trap the heat. Is this true?
A: It’s possible to save money with an electric space heater if you use it only a few hours a day and reduce your home’s thermostat setting by a couple degrees. Space heaters can cause fires, so they need to be used wisely and should never be left unattended. Which brings us to the question…
Q: Should I close the vents in rooms that aren’t being used?
A: Most experts advise against this because closing supply registers forces your furnace or A/C unit to work harder. They advise keeping all your vents and doors open. If your system supplies too much heat to some rooms and too little to other rooms, you should talk to a heating and air conditioning professional about modifying your ductwork.
Q:Does the age of my home determine how energy efficient it is?
A: Newer homes tend to be more efficient because energy codes have improved, but every home can have hidden energy issues, no matter its age. If you want to evaluate the efficiency of your home, it’s best to schedule an energy audit with a professional.
Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
What if you could buy excellent plants for your garden and plant your dollars in a worthy cause? You can if you shop at one of the many charity plant sales that sprout up across the state this time of year.
Each of these events, typically hosted by local civic, garden and conservation groups, offer unique inventories of plants (and sometimes gardening supplies) which may include shrubs, trees, annuals, perennials, bedding plants, hanging baskets, native plants, ferns, vegetables, herbs and more.
Take the recent Lee County Kiwanis Club’s Annual Azalea Sale, which did a booming business back in early March despite intermittent downpours of rain. According to Steve Eden, who has chaired the event for all its 32 years, the Kiwanis sale is put on by a cadre of hardworking Kiwanians dedicated to providing plants for gardeners and funding for local charities.
Their dedication pays off for the 10 or more local causes, ranging from children’s charities to the area food bank, that benefit from the club’s hard work and generosity. It’s also paid off in customer support. “We have a loyal following of repeat customers, many of whom have come every year since it began in 1987,” Eden says.
What’s the draw? “Quality plants,” says Eden, who noted that the azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, roses and other plants in their sale are sourced from Alabama growers, which ensures that the plants are healthy and well-suited for local growing conditions.
What’s more, customers have access to on-site experts like Eden (a professional landscape contractor), the Lee County Master Gardeners and the horticultural staff at University ACE Hardware, which hosts the event in their parking lot.
Other sales are conducted in support of public gardens, such as the Friends of the Birmingham Botanical Garden’s 50th Anniversary Spring Plant Sale set for April 12–14 in Brookwood Village. According to Mindy Black, director of communications and marketing with the Gardens, this sale is their largest fundraiser of the year, grossing more than $250,000 each year.
Proceeds benefit educational programming, such as BBG’s Discovery Field Trips, which bring more than 8,000 Birmingham City School students to the Gardens each year, and also support the day-to-day operations of the Gardens. “At the same time, the sale celebrates a real passion for gardens, plants and the environment,” Black says.
Looking for a sale in your area? Keep an eye out for announcements in area newspapers or other community calendars and newsletters, or check with local public gardens, Alabama Cooperative System Extension offices, Master Gardeners or conservation associations or garden clubs. If you miss this year’s spring sale season, take heart. A number of these groups also host fall plant sales!
Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at email@example.com.
Keepers of white-tailed deer records list two different categories for antlers: typical and non-typical. However, some non-typicals look even more non-typical than most!
While hunting with his father Clinton Walston of Fyffe, Eli Walston shot possibly the buck of his lifetime at the ripe old age of 9 years old. They hunted on the Sapp Family farm next to property owned by Eli’s grandfather.
“We were out of school that week so my dad and I decided to go hunting for a couple hours before dark,” Eli recalls. “About 30 minutes before dark, we started walking back to the truck. The driveway is about 450 yards long. About halfway to the end of the driveway, I was looking through the binoculars and told Daddy I spotted a deer, but he didn’t believe me. He got out of the truck, looked thought the scope and then asked me if I wanted to shoot it. It was the biggest deer I ever had a chance to shoot.”
Already an experienced hunter with a 6-point buck to his credit, the young sportsman propped a .308 rifle on the truck tailgate and fired at the deer 252 yards away. When retrieving the 8-point buck, they didn’t notice anything unusual about it and brought Eli’s deer to a taxidermist. When they picked up the skull mount later, the taxidermist pointed out two small objects protruding from the top of the deer’s upper jaw.
“When we picked up the deer, the taxidermist told us it had fangs,” Eli says. “We never noticed that before. The taxidermist said he had heard about deer like that, but had never seen another one. The taxidermist looked on the internet and said that only six other deer like that had ever been killed in the United States — six does and a spike buck. Mine was an 8-point, so it was the biggest deer like that ever recorded.”
Eli dubbed the fanged “vampire” deer “Buckcula.”
“I’ve been hunting since I was about 6 years old and never saw anything like it either,” echoes his father. “We bring it to hunting shows sometime and it always creates quite a stir.”
Gary Chamlee, a Walston family friend from nearby Rainsville, never saw another fanged “Buckcula” either. But he bagged more than his share of antlered oddballs while hunting his own property in DeKalb County. This list includes a 7-point antlered doe. Very rarely, a whitetail doe with an imbalance of hormones grows antlers just like a buck.
Another big-racked buck taken on that property really sticks out. By that, I mean this weird buck had about 10 inches of antler sticking out from under its left eye.
“I’d get a game camera picture of it every now and then,” Chamlee says. “I hunted that deer pretty hard for a couple years, but I didn’t realize that that horn was there. In photos, it looked like he was sticking his tongue out. I was sitting in a ground blind and killed it with a bow. Nobody could explain to me why it had a 10-inch antler sticking out from under its left eye.”
Deer commonly grow deformed antlers for various reasons. Sometimes, deer suffer antler deformities stemming from genetics, maybe nutritional reasons or perhaps because of an injury. Unlike a cow with true horns, white-tailed deer shed their antlers each spring and regrow new ones by early fall. A deer that grows weird antlers one year because of an injury tends to repeat that pattern each year.
Chamlee mounted the “stick out” deer’s head and entered it in the Alabama Whitetail Records book. He also takes it to outdoor shows where it always attracts considerable attention.
“That deer dropped four inches from every point from the previous year,” Chamlee explains. “It was actually trying to grow another section behind that one. I guess it was pulling calcium out for that piece of antler to grow.”
On the same property, Chamlee bagged an odd deer sporting the usual pair of antlers on either side of its head. On this one, though, a third antler grew in the middle of its head.
“This property must have odd genetics,” Chamlee theorizes. “Some really neat deer came off this property. This deer had a 4-inch horn growing out of the middle of its head like a unicorn. I also killed an 8-point buck in velvet with what they call ‘devil points’ that stick straight out about an inch long. I never know what I might shoot on that property.”
John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.
Providing food to a community in need is a challenge the volunteers of Manna House in north central Alabama have been meeting since 2004.
But keeping up with the growing demand for the nutrient-rich, flavorful greens prescribed for those going through medical treatments, like chemotherapy and dialysis, required a new approach, and perhaps a bit of divine intervention.
As the director of Manna House, Fran Fluhler’s mission for the past 15 years has been to make sure the resources to feed those in need are available. While donated food goes a long way toward supplying what’s needed, it’s always a challenge to find a ready supply of fresh lettuce for more than 3,000 salads each week. “It’s expensive to buy that much lettuce, so we decided there had to be a better way to have a more consistent supply at an affordable price,” Fluhler says.
A better way presented itself when their supplier, a grower of hydroponic lettuce in Flatrock, went out of business. As the search for a new supplier started, a conversation with Gary Jordan, a Manna House volunteer and former industrial maintenance technician, led to the idea they could do it themselves.
“When Gary brought it up it was like an answer to our prayers because we needed someone with that passion and desire. He feels called to not only feed people but to teach others how to as well,” Fluhler says. Soon after, Jordan spent a week in Florida at Hydroponic Gardening Bootcamp with Chester Bullock, the owner of Hydrostacker. “Chester has been very gracious, giving his time at no charge to come up and help us get everything started,” Fluhler says.
What they started is Manna House’s Fields of Green Hydroponic Garden. Jordan and his group of mostly volunteer workers have transformed an abandoned machine shop in Lacey’s Spring, a small community in northeastern Morgan County, into a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art indoor hydroponic garden capable of producing around 20,000 heads of lettuce every month.
“We will plant them in a staggered rotation of 5,000 heads harvested each week, giving us a constant supply throughout the month,” Jordan says. Abundant supply is only one of the benefits of the growing system; freshness and flavor are the real advantages.
“We pull the entire plant, roots and all, immerse them in cool water, and deliver them locally within 24 hours,” Jordan says. This method preserves the nutrients in the lettuce while keeping it fresh longer. “The plants are grown in a sterile media within a controlled environment, without being touched by human hands from seed to delivery.”
Everything used in the process is all natural and non-toxic. “You can pick it and eat it right there,” he added.
Not only did they find an affordable location with the room they needed, but there is also a workforce ready to learn a new trade. “We found in Lacey’s Spring a lot of really great, hard-working people who were willing to learn a new skill set for better jobs,” Fluhler says.
Jordan has made training and education part the mission of Fields of Green from the start. “I want to teach people that indoor hydroponic farming is what farms are going to look like in the future,” he says, “and I think we can train people to go into the workforce in this growing industry.”
Their goal is to teach other non-profits, schools and even families to grow food in an economical, sustainable way. When fully operational, Jordan expects to employ as many as 15 local workers.
The power of partnerships
Plants need three things to grow hyrdoponically: water, nutrients, and light – lots of light. When farming indoors, the light comes from electric lamps, which in this case means 1,300 LED fixtures using 105 watts each, equating to an annual usage of around 1.2 million kWh.
To help them figure out the most efficient way to power their new endeavor, they called their local electric cooperative, Joe Wheeler EMC. “We really appreciate Joe Wheeler EMC. They have just been great to work with,” says Fluhler. “We are great at feeding people, but when it comes to electricity, that’s beyond our capabilities, so we called the experts.”
After assessing the electrical needs of the grow house and consulting with Jordan about upgrading to more efficient equipment, Joe Wheeler EMC contacted the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the cooperative’s electricity provider, recommending Fields of Green as an optimal candidate for the EnergyRight Solutions for Business + Industry program. This program offers financial assistance to help reduce the cost of implementing smart energy technologies.
These incentives are provided through local power companies like Joe Wheeler EMC in partnership with TVA. The Manna House project qualified for an incentive payment of $119,574, greatly offsetting the startup cost of the growing operation and helping them get up and running faster.
“Investing in emerging electric technologies can reduce the carbon footprint, increase productivity, enhance brand image and improve bottom lines. Indoor agriculture provides growers the ability to deliver fresh produce year-round in any location,” says TVA Program Manager Claire Jackson.
“TVA’s EnergyRight Solutions for Business + Industry now offers incentives for smart energy technologies that support indoor agriculture. Incentive programs like these can help businesses like Manna House realize their goals,” Jackson says.
Once Joe Wheeler EMC contacted TVA, The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) was invited to provide additional support with its past experience, and ongoing research, in lighting, HVAC, water heating, buildings, end-use devices and specifically indoor agriculture, which EPRI has been researching intensely since 2013.
Thus far EPRI has provided Manna House with additional ideas to reduce their energy usage, some suggestions about techniques they may be able to use to maximize or increase their crop yields, and the lab evaluation of the performance and spectral output of the LED fixture used by Manna House to assure compliance with specifications. EPRI’s lab measurements show LED fixtures consumed the power it claimed and had the claimed spectral output with significant portions of red and blue spectrum light being emitted.
The partnerships with TVA, EPRI, and Joe Wheeler EMC are helping Fluhler, Jordan and the volunteers fulfill the original mission of Manna House – to feed those in need. They will be fully operational by the last week of April, supplying the charity with fresh lettuce and selling the rest to local stores and restaurants, raising money to put back into the operation of the garden. The target date for the grand opening of the Fields of Green Garden is the last Saturday in April depending on the current crop development.
Few, if any, people know Alabama’s rivers, streams and lakes better than Bill Deutsch. He has spent more than 30 years investigating and protecting the state’s 130,000 miles of waterways as an aquatic biologist in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. For 21 of those years, he served as director of Alabama Water Watch, a community-based water monitoring program Deutsch cofounded in 1992.
Over those years he gathered stories — his own and those of thousands of other Alabamians who, as he said, “know and love their local waterbodies.” When he retired from Auburn in 2013, Deutsch began using those stories to chronicle the human and natural past, present and future of our waterways. That book, Alabama Rivers, A Celebration and Challenge, came out in 2018 to critical acclaim. Since then, Deutsch has kept a busy speaking schedule talking to diverse groups concerned about Alabama’s water resources and to the students in his Auburn University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course on Alabama rivers.
Here, he answers a few questions about what makes water special — and at risk — in Alabama. — Katie Jackson
What spurred your interest in water?
When I was a child, my father dug me a pond that was about the size of your kitchen table. He literally hand-made me a net and we went to the local ponds and streams to collect crayfish and little fish to stock the pond. About that time, my father also gave me a can of rust remover to clean up my bicycle. One day when I was away, a neighborhood kid came over to our yard and poured the rust remover into the pond, killing everything in it. That was my first up-close and personal ecological disaster — but it was a formative moment. When I retold this story once at a Water Watch meeting, a woman came up to me and said, “I am so glad that kid poured the rust remover into your pond. It’s put you on a 50-year vendetta to clean up the world’s water.”
What are the greatest threats to our water resources?
This question has been recently kicked around by some of my friends and colleagues as we receive calls from reporters. There are answers regarding three areas: water quality, water quantity and flow, and people and society. Water quality is affected by sedimentation, excess nutrients and toxins. Water quantity and flow are affected by storm water runoff and large dams that obstruct fish migrations, change the river substrate and disrupt the life cycles of aquatic organisms. People and society affect our water because of a lack of awareness and concern about how rivers work and the valuable ecological services they provide, outright arrogance and greed and a lack of political will and leadership that could lead to sensible restoration and protection of our rivers.
Do you sense a new awareness of our waterways among the general public?
I’d like to think that there is. If you wind the clock back just 30 years, which isn’t that long ago, there were no organizations like the Alabama Rivers Alliance, Alabama Water Watch and the eight River Keeper groups. When you think about what the last quarter century has done — tens of thousands of people have been contacted and more diverse groups are joining the conversation. More than 10,000 kids were reached just last year through the 4-H Water Watch program. Many more children were taught how to kayak and be safe and comfortable on the water through the River Kids program of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. I think these groups are gaining more credibility in their communities, and I am encouraged, but we’ve got a long way to go.
What are the most important things citizens can do to help protect our water resources?
My book addresses “Seven Challenges” that citizens and policy-makers alike can use to protect our water: 1) keep learning about rivers, 2) expand river education programs, 3) make water conservation a way of life, 4) support river organizations, 5) promote good water policy, 6) develop a personal river ethic and 7) get out on the water to experience and enjoy Alabama’s wonderful rivers!
Is there one fact about water that people should know, or a fact that can connect us all to water in a more personal way?
Alabama is a river state! The book addresses “Seven Celebrations” that summarize much of what is special about our rivers. Alabama rivers are: full of life, with more types of fish, turtles, mussels, snails and crawfish than any other state; ancient and physically diverse; beautiful, mysterious and spiritually enriching; an intimate part of Alabama’s history and culture; key to the state’s economy, past, present and future; precious and the source of vital ecological services such as breaking down pollution and mitigating flooding and drought; and lastly, vulnerable and need our care!
I know you’re in great demand for speaking engagements. Where can people hear you or how can they contact you?
The book’s website, alabamariversbook.org, has information on upcoming talks and a link to schedule future talks. You can also schedule me through the Alabama Bicentennial Commission’s Read Alabama program at alabama200.org/discover/read-alabama-200.
Atmore may be best known today as the home of the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, which towers above the landscape off Interstate 65.
But the locals – and increasingly, travelers too – know that there’s another draw, one that has brought a new focus to Atmore’s downtown area.
Gather Restaurant, built on the site of a Pure Pep filling station, celebrated its one-year anniversary in October. Its owners, husband and wife team Chris and Beth McElhaney, are natives of the area and are proud that their little restaurant – it only seats 76 patrons – has helped breathe new life into downtown.
“We’re getting some attention from out-of-towners who say, ‘Gather is what’s drawing us to Atmore,’” says Chris, the executive chef. Other businesses are stepping up and sprucing up, he says, and the city is working to secure grants to continue revitalization projects downtown. “I know we’re not the main reason behind that, but we are a part of that. Makes us feel good about what we’re doing, and what we’re bringing to the community.”
What they’re bringing is a simple, straight-forward approach to food – Southern classics with a modern twist. The menu is traditional, filled with familiar foods and minimal ingredients.
“We’re not trying to hide anything with a bunch of ingredients or sauces or garnishes,” Chris says.
The signature dish is likely the ribeye (it’s also the best-seller), seasoned simply and expertly cooked. But the fish of the day is a close second, served with pimento grits, green beans and shrimp sauce.
The Un-Smashed Burger may be the tastiest-looking, and potentially intimidating, dish. The eight-ounce patty is smothered in cheddar, bacon, fried jalapenos and homemade barbecue sauce, served with fried pork skins and what they call “pimento cheez whiz,” a dipping sauce that’s a perfect complement to the cheese oozing off the burger.
Want more? Add an egg, grilled onions, fried mozzarella, blue cheese … pile it on.
Perhaps the most talked-about item on the menu: Chef Chris’ Original Brussels Sprouts. Don’t turn up your nose yet. “That’s our No. 1 appetizer, and it’s phenomenal,” Beth says.
Chris flash-fries the tiny cabbages and tosses them in a honey balsamic sauce with shaved red onion, and tops them with pork belly. “We have so many people who say, ‘We hate brussels sprouts, but these have been just life-changing,’” Beth says.
As if on cue, a couple of patrons stop by to tell Chris and Beth how much they love them. “I’m a convert,” the man says, and his wife nods in agreement.
The road back home
Chris and Beth grew up in the same small town of Bratt, Fla., just across the state line from Atmore. They were high school sweethearts and lived just a mile apart. Their families still live there and help out with the six McElhaney children, ages 4 to 13.
Both were in college when Chris made a decision that would completely change his career path. He was just a few months shy of earning an engineering degree from Auburn when he decided to go to culinary school at Johnson and Wales, then in Charleston, S.C. He worked with award-winning chef Frank McMahon, who became a mentor.
Beth and Chris started their career in restaurants — New Orleans, Mobile, elsewhere. “Through all of our travels, we kind of came back through (Atmore),” Chris says.
Turns out, the place they kept coming back to was where they needed to be.
Nearly 20 years, several jobs and a few disappointments later, the couple partnered with Rob Faircloth of David’s Catfish restaurants to open Gather in Atmore. About six months in, Faircloth offered the couple the chance to buy him out, and since July 2018, Gather has been all theirs. And they couldn’t be happier.
“We feel like we made a good decision,” Chris says. “Since July, it’s just been growing. People are driving here from Birmingham. Not because they’re passing through. Now, they may be going to the casino, but they’re coming here to eat.”
Beth agrees. “We’re getting people from Mobile and Pensacola. It’s truly a blessing.”
Making the most of small space
The intimacy of the restaurant is evident. The kitchen is open, which Chris likes, because it’s both an education and entertainment for the patrons. But it is a small space, especially when the staff pumps out 100 dishes in an evening.
A side patio with garage doors is open in nice weather. And the cozy brick-walled bar area was the original gas station. Both areas are small, but the McElhaneys have no desire to expand the footprint.
But they would love to open other locations.
“I think with lots of prayer, that will happen in the next few years. We’ve actually had people bring different offers to us,” Beth says. “That’s flattering, it really is. So definitely, that’s there in the back of our heads.”
Chris handles the kitchen, while Beth works in the front of the house and also does all the baking. She started baking just a few years ago, doing it for other restaurants; now she bakes for Gather only, sticking to the simple, Southern-style formula that Chris uses for the savory dishes.
“I have lots of my grandmother’s recipes,” she says, and makes such familiar favorites as red velvet cake, lemon ice box pie, and the decadent pecan pie cheesecake – a pecan pie on top of a Graham cracker crust, topped with a brown sugar cheesecake and covered with caramel sauce and whipped cream.
“I guess the best compliment you can get is people who say, ‘It feels like I should be here. It’s just a good atmosphere,’” Chris says.
Most recent Alabama data find one in every 10 Alabama adults, or 306,000, suffer from asthma. The data also show more than 12 percent of Alabama children are living with the chronic respiratory disease at some point in their lives.
Unfortunately, these children live sheltered lives trying to avoid the triggers that can induce an asthmatic episode. Summer camp was not an option for these children – until Camp WheezeAway opened.
“Camp WheezeAway is one of the longest-running asthma camps in the country. It’s a memorial camp dedicated to Patsy Ruff, who was the world’s first successful double lung transplant in 1987,” explained Dr. Amy CaJacob, a pediatric allergist/immunologist and the camp’s medical director.
“Patsy had asthma, COPD and was a smoker for 22 years. One of the things Patsy wanted was a camp for kids because when she was growing up with asthma, she couldn’t go to a summer camp like her friends. She really wanted kids with asthma to have a normal summer camp experience that she never had, and that’s what we try to do at Camp WheezeAway.”
Education as well as fun
Camp WheezeAway is celebrating its 28th anniversary this year and is free to qualified applicants – youngsters ages 8 to 12 suffering from persistent asthma. Applications are due by May 1, and the camp is May 26-31 at YMCA’s Camp Chandler.
CaJacob explained the importance of education about asthma and how to handle its limitations is as much a part of the camp as having fun. Asthma affects nearly 25 million people of all ages and races. An estimated 7 million children have asthma, a chronic disease caused by inflammation of the airways in the lungs.
During an asthma attack, the muscles around the airway constrict, the lining of the airway passages swell, and the lungs produce excess mucus making breathing difficult, which can lead to coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
“Every year at camp on the last night we have a smokeless campfire at night after dinner,” she says. “We wheel around an oxygen tank and talk to the kids about the dangers of smoking. We tell them the story of Patsy Ruff, her surgery, and how the camp began. All the campers are at that age where they may want to experiment with smoking, and they are going to be making their own decisions about their health or possibly succumb to peer pressure about smoking. They need to understand how their decisions will affect their health.”
If you think asthma education is boring, think again. CaJacob and the staff of medical volunteers find new ways each year to make it as interactive and fun as possible for the campers – even if it involves grossing out some of the kids.
“We don’t want to bore the kids during the education section. The project I do every year is, well – we make mucus. It’s so messy, but the kids love it! The girls not as much as the boys, though,” she laughed. “We’ve done skits of how to avoid asthma triggers where the kids dress up as ragweed or cigarettes and a rescue inhaler. Sometimes it’s just hands-on training so they can learn how to use their inhalers.”
Camp co-founder Brenda Basnight said one of the best things about Camp WheezeAway is that it is a huge boost to a camper’s self-esteem and confidence. At school, they are often singled out for being different because they cannot take part in outdoor activities or physical education classes.
“The best thing I hear from these children is that at this camp, they’re not different. Everyone at this camp has asthma, and everyone at this camp takes medicine. No one makes fun of anyone, and the children don’t feel singled out for their medical condition,” Basnight says. “The camp really helps to build their self-esteem and confidence.”
Because many of the campers are prescribed medications for their asthma and told when to take it, they may not understand why they need that medication. According to Basnight, each camper leaves with a full understanding of their medication and how to use it.
“We make sure the children understand their medicine. Why they need it, what to do with it, when to do it, when they need extra medication … And, everyone has a plan of action when they leave so we know they fully understand the disease and their medications when they leave us,” Basnight says.
Being allowed to be normal
All in all, the campers get a well-rounded experience. From shaving cream battles, kayaking and horseback riding to rock climbing and archery – and anything you can think of doing in the lake – plenty of emphasis is placed on kids with asthma being normal kids.
In many instances, Camp WheezeAway is a camper’s first sleepover outside the home. Because campers are not allowed cell phones, CaJacob assures parents they should not worry. A mother herself, there are plenty of times when she shrugs off her physician’s coat for her mom hat.
“For a lot of our campers, it’s their first time away from home, and we get a lot of homesickness that first night. Part of my job is doctoring that week, but a lot of it is just being a mom! That first night the kids can’t sleep or have tummy aches, but when they settle in and start having fun, everything is just fine! Campers aren’t allowed cell phones, but we take plenty of photos and stay in touch with parents by sending them photos of the activities,” CaJacob says.
Camp WheezeAway operates solely by donations. No qualified child pays to attend Camp WheezeAway. All staff, including medical staff, are strictly volunteer. For more information regarding selection or medical qualifications and limitations, contact Brenda Basnight, CRT, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations are appreciated and can be made online at ymcamontgomery.org/camp/wheezeaway.n
In April 1865, 4,000 Union Army soldiers under Gen. Benjamin H. Grierson approached Eufaula, a port town on the Chattahoochee River. Many southern cities had already burned down during the Civil War. The people of Eufaula, relatively untouched by the war so far, braced for the worst. Generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnson had both recently surrendered the two largest Confederate armies, ending the war and sparing the town.
Consequently, many historic mansions and other buildings in the town built on high bluffs along the Chattahoochee remain intact. With the largest historic district in eastern Alabama and second largest in the state, Eufaula has more than 700 buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Six former Alabama governors plus Admiral Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had all lived in the town named for the Creek word describing high bluffs.
Each year in April, the people of Eufaula celebrate how they escaped the devastation suffered by so many other Southern communities by opening their historic homes to visitors during the Eufaula Pilgrimage. Presented by the Eufaula Heritage Association, the 54th annual Eufaula Pilgrimage will run April 5-7.
“The great tradition continues as we prepare for another Eufaula Pilgrimage,” proclaims Jack Tibbs, mayor of Eufaula. “We’re excited to see old friends and make new ones as visitors come to enjoy our beautiful city. This year, the Pilgrimage should be better than ever with great shopping opportunities, restaurants, antique shows and much more. We look forward to seeing you this spring in beautiful Eufaula.”
Each year, approximately 7,000 visitors head to the town of about 13,000 residents to tour the participating historic homes and experience other events. In 2019, the Pilgrimage will open 12 homes to the public, some during daylight hours and some for nighttime tours.
“In 1965, 100 years after the Civil War ended, the Eufaula Heritage Association was formed to prevent the loss and destruction of the town’s historic treasures,” says Pam Snead, the association executive director. “The association purchased the Shorter Mansion and started the Eufaula Pilgrimage as a way to raise funds to maintain the mansion. We held the first Eufaula Pilgrimage in 1966. This is the longest running home tour in the state. Besides the Shorter Mansion, all the other homes open to the public this year are privately owned except for Fendall Hall, which is owned by the state.”
Many Pilgrimage events occur at the Shorter Mansion at 340 N. Eufaula Ave., one of the main roads through town. The mansion dates back to 1884 when Eli Sims Shorter of Macon, Ga., built it as a more humble home than the elegant mansion that stands today. In the early 1900s, an extensive renovation turned it into a Greek Revival mansion. The mansion appeared in several movies, most prominently, the 2002 film “Sweet Home Alabama” with Reese Witherspoon. Besides the hosting location for the Pilgrimage, the mansion also serves as a museum.
Construction on Fendall Hall began in 1856. During the Pilgrimage, evening visitors to the antebellum mansion can watch local citizens dressed in period clothing talking about the families that owned Fendall Hall during a candlelight tour. Among the other characters, re-enactors play Anna Beall Young Dent, the second owner of Fendall Hall, and her husband, Capt. S.H. Dent, a Confederate war hero during the Civil War.
“It takes the entire town to put on the Eufaula Pilgrimage each year,” Snead says. “Besides the people who open up their homes to the public, we have about 700 volunteers. Many young ladies wear antebellum dresses. Everyone puts in a lot of time and effort to get everything just right. In some homes, the architecture is the most important thing. In other homes, it might be the antique furnishings or the history of the building, but they all have great histories.”
During home tours and other events, musicians play instruments such as fiddles, flutes or dulcimers. At the library, children dress up like historical figures and talk about their characters. People can also enjoy the outdoor art show on the Randolph Street median, which runs parallel to Eufaula Avenue. Visitors can also participate in afternoon teas at the mansion, an antiques show, photo exhibits and other activities.
“We always invite a featured speaker to make a presentation at the Eufaula Pilgrimage luncheon,” Snead says. “This year, Megan Larussa, a stylist from Birmingham, will be teaching the women different ways to dress with ease. The luncheon takes place on April 6 at the Eufaula Country Club. On the Sunday of the Pilgrimage, we always hold a brunch at the Shorter Mansion to give our visitors something good to eat before they head home. It’s a wonderful meal.”
Another point of interest
Many people stay at Lakepoint Resort State Park just outside of town. People could stay at the park lodge, which offers hotel-style rooms, a first-class restaurant and many other amenities. Some visitors prefer to rent a cabin or lakeside cottage. Others like staying in recreational vehicles parked in the campground. For state park information, see alapark.com/lakepoint-state-park.
The park sits on Lake Eufaula, one of the best fishing lakes in the nation. Created by a dam on the Chattahoochee River, Lake Eufaula spreads across 45,181 acres spanning part of the Alabama-Georgia border. Officially called Walter F. George Reservoir, the impoundment provides outstanding fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, bream and other species. Some bass exceed 10 pounds.
People who can’t make the spring Pilgrimage might consider visiting Eufaula on Dec. 7. Each year since 2005, the town has held a one-day Christmas Tour of Homes. This year, it will feature six historic homes.
“It’s absolutely beautiful!” Snead says. “It’s been a huge success for us. Besides the home tours, we’ll have a wonderful lunch at the Shorter Mansion. Everything will be beautifully decorated for the holidays.”
People can purchase tickets for the various events and activities. For complete schedules and other information, call 1-888-EUFAULA (888-383-2852) or visit eufaulapilgrimage.com.