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Don’t be misled by false Medicare or Social Security ads

Online and otherwise, there’s a lot of information out there, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell what sources are credible. With millions of people relying on Social Security, scammers target audiences who are looking for program and benefit information.

The law that addresses misleading Social Security and Medicare advertising prohibits people or non-government businesses from using words or emblems that mislead others. Their advertising can’t lead people to believe that they represent, are somehow affiliated with, or endorsed or approved by Social Security or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Medicare).

People are often misled by advertisers who use the terms “Social Security” or “Medicare.” Often, these companies offer Social Security services for a fee, even though the same services are available directly from Social Security free of charge. These services include getting:

  • A corrected Social Security card showing a person’s married name;
  • A Social Security card to replace a lost card;
  • A Social Security Statement; and
  • A Social Security number for a child.

If you receive misleading information about Social Security, send the complete ad, including the envelope, to:

Office of the Inspector General

Fraud Hotline

Social Security Administration

P.O. Box 17768

Baltimore, MD 21235

You can learn more about how we combat fraudulent advertisers by reading our publication What You Need to Know About Misleading Advertising at

You can also report Social Security fraud to the Office of the Inspector General at

Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at

The healing power of nature

Flower photos help daughter connect to mom with Alzheimer’s

By M.J. Ellington | Photos by Elmore DeMott

This pink dogwood blossom, shot in rain in Florence, took hours of waiting for just the right light and shows results of being patient, something that Elmore DeMott recommends for even novice photographers.

What started out as a trip of curiosity to take a few photographs led one Alabama woman to a professional career as a nature photographer.

The career, in turn, led Elmore DeMott to a personal commitment to capture an image of a different special flower each day to share with her mother, Elmore Inscoe, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

The convergence of DeMott’s sophisticated nature and plantation burn photographs and “Flowers for Mom,” her ongoing daily photographic gift to her mother, will be on display in September at a Tuscaloosa art gallery. Proceeds from sales of her work will benefit Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a nonprofit that advocates for clean water.

DeMott began photographing one flower each day as a way to have a daily personal connection with her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. The result is a topic that draws on Inscoe’s fond memories but also acts as a link to today through her daughter’s work.

DeMott said the discipline of achieving the perfect image of a new flower each day for her mother has been a challenge, but she said the impact on people outside her family has been a wonderful surprise.

“Never did I dream that ‘Flowers for Mom’ would be so far-reaching. People literally send me pictures and ideas from all over the world,” DeMott says. The daily contact with her mom is important and the search for a different flower, a different angle, the perfect light in which to photograph have made DeMott look at things differently now.

“Much to the chagrin of my youngest daughter, I like to set a background as much as the foreground. So doing can take a photo from average to amazing. Unlike furniture, one cannot move a tree, so there is a lot of luck involved in having things that will line up and give a great background,” DeMott wrote in a “Flowers for Mom,” blog post on her website. The particular flower she refers to in the post is a bright pink dogwood tree blossom captured in the rain.

Foxglove at Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum, property that DeMott’s outdoors-loving parents bought and developed outside Wetumpka.

Gleaning from the gardens

DeMott’s mother is an outdoorswoman from Montgomery who, with her husband, Jim Inscoe, bought and expanded the private Jasmine Hill Gardens near Wetumpka. The previous owners designed their garden as a private tribute to the flowers and statuary of Greece.

The Inscoes expanded the gardens and opened them for public access. Mrs. Inscoe also taught her daughter the art involved in taking care of and arranging beautiful flowers so much a part of the gardens.

Now, DeMott says her father, the family flower expert, gives her ideas for her mom’s flower photos and suggests places where she might want to check for a blossom. “It is fun now to walk through Jasmine Hill with my father. It gives me the greatest joy to talk about flowers with him in a positive way,” she says.

DeMott said she is touched by the feedback she gets from others. “In a positive way, it has been a beautiful thing to share through flowers, through art and speaking about the challenges our family is going through with Alzheimer’s disease,” DeMott says. “No matter what your hardships, you can share through flowers.”

How the girl who grew up in a nature-loving family evolved from a Vanderbilt University math graduate and banker into a photographer – who chronicles images in nature with a different angle – is a story with twists and turns that come together as art.

“Nature photography has always been my favorite because I’m outside,” says DeMott, who loved spending time outdoors on the property her family owned in Elmore County. One day, her husband, Miles DeMott, suggested she go with him to a controlled plantation burn and take her camera.

Before long, DeMott’s early photo exhibits of pine trees and her controlled burn fire shots began to take their place in gallery showings, and her career as a nature photographer took off. The controlled burn photographs, sometimes printed on aluminum, give a dramatic shimmering backdrop for the orange flames licking the undergrowth beneath towering pine trees.

DeMott still loves photographing pine trees she remembers from childhood. She and her husband are co-authors of a book of her pine tree photographs, “Chulee – Spirit of the Pine Tree.”  She also drew on the experiences as a member of a quail-hunting family for the dramatic images in her controlled fire burn photographs.

Decades ago, the men in the family and their friends went quail hunting. In that era, women did not hunt quail, but the practice has opened for women in recent years, she says. Burning the undergrowth on quail plantations enables hunters to walk without obstacles, see clearly where they are going and enjoy nature. The controlled burns remove undergrowth that could catch fire rapidly with more damaging results if the source were from natural causes.

DeMott said she hopes her photographs encourage people to take time to see the beauty in nature as a way to rejuvenate. “Beauty is all around us. Seek it,” she says.

For information about Elmore DeMott’s photography: For information about Jasmine Hill Gardens outside Wetumpka:

Rose from a friend’s garden photographed in Montgomery.

“Flowers for Mom” will be the focus of a fundraiser from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at Harrison Galleries, 2315 University Blvd., Tuscaloosa.

The public is invited to the fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit Black Warrior Riverkeeper, which works to protect the endangered habitat along the Black Warrior River and its tributaries in 17 counties. The exhibit will be at the gallery through Sept. 21.

Land trust helps preserve north Alabama’s natural spaces

By Aaron Tanner

North central Alabama is a diverse natural area, with an abundance of caves, sinkholes and plants and wildlife unique to the region. But this part of the state has also rapidly exploded in population.

The Land Trust of North Alabama is a non-profit dedicated to conserving natural resources and preserving vulnerable land for people in the Tennessee Valley. Since the late 1980s, when the organization was formed to prevent the west side of Monte Sano Mountain near downtown Huntsville from being lost to sprawl, the Land Trust has preserved more than 7,000 acres of land in five counties throughout North Alabama, along with creating more than 70 miles of public trails.

“As our city grows, we need to be responsible about how we grow in order to save the beautiful natural spaces we have,” says Melanie Manson, marketing director for the Land Trust of North Alabama.

A portion of the acreage owned by Land Trust of North Alabama is held strictly for conservation value. But seven Land Trust preserves are open to the public, each offering unique natural features along with different amenities for people to enjoy. Currently there are seven nature preserves, all located in Madison County, owned by the Land Trust of North Alabama. Each preserve offers hiking trails with varying levels of difficulty.

These preserves receive visitors locally and from outside of North Alabama who are often unaware of the outdoor activities offered there. “North Alabama offers different terrain and unique natural features that can’t be found in other parts of the state,” Manson says.

Those who visit Land Trust public preserves can easily visit other nearby natural attractions, such as the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Monte Sano State Park and Bankhead National Forest.

To maintain the preserves, a land manager and two land stewards continually monitor Land Trust properties for problems, along with hundreds of local volunteers who pick up litter and build trails. Besides maintaining the properties, Land Trust staff and volunteers also host educational programs.

“The purpose is to see nature firsthand and hopefully better understand its value,” Manson says. Adults and children can participate in a hiking series each spring and fall while also learning about the history of the area.

Although having a Land Trust membership, which funds the maintenance of the properties, is not required to access the preserves, some perks of membership include discounted tickets to Land Trust events, discounts at local businesses and access to a smartphone app that tracks your location along the trails.

Yearly fundraisers are held at Three Caves on Monte Sano Nature Preserve, including a concert series in the summer and a dinner and auction event in September.

Several new projects are in the pipeline, including the opening of an eighth public preserve near Gurley and future plans to turn a donated former farm in Jackson County on Keel Mountain into a public preserve. 

The Land Trust is also partnering to build the Singing River Trail, an extensive regional walking and biking trail along the Tennessee River that will link communities in Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties.

Overall, Manson is pleased with the cooperation between the Land Trust and organizations at the local, regional and state levels to provide residents opportunities to participate in an active lifestyle by being out in nature. “We believe that if people explore the outdoors and experience nature, they will appreciate the importance of preserving it,” Manson says.

Land Trust Preserves are open from dawn until dusk daily and are free. Visit

Discovering (and protecting) Alabama

Dr. Doug Phillips is arguably the most passionate and vocal conservationist in Alabama. He’s an educator and an outdoorsman, and he’s become a familiar face as the host of “Discovering Alabama” for more than 30 years. He didn’t plan to be the face of the program, which is broadcast by Alabama Public Television and has won three Emmy Awards. He originally was going to be a consultant, but he is in his element in the backwoods of Alabama, and relishes the opportunity to educate viewers about the state’s natural heritage and biodiversity. – Allison Law

What got you interested in conservation?

The show we did on the Locust Fork River is a journey back to my childhood home, which was miles down a dirt road. It was just miles of woods and streams and countryside. I roamed it all and claimed it all and bonded with it all.

I went off to West Point, and that was a culture shock. From a country boy to New York. I was desperate to get back to Alabama. I was fortunate to get back and get into graduate school and get a Ph.D. in educational research, where I could really start making a difference in educating about Alabama’s natural wonders and environmental protection. That was still way back when, when the politics was not on the environmentalist’s side.

You didn’t start out with the TV show?

I started out developing school programs. We ran extended teacher environmental camps and worked with schools to adjust their curricula to get more environmental learning in there. I was literally taking teachers down the rivers, up the mountains and into the wilderness.

One of those teachers said to me, as I recall, “this is so inspiring. Now we see how to make connections between our math and our science with the real world, in an exciting way. But you’re going to be leading little groups of teachers forever. You need to start a TV show.”

If I heard it once, I heard it at least half a dozen times, when I would hawk the idea, “who would be interested in that?” It wasn’t a hunting or fishing show.

(But a) little film crew went out with me, and we shot a bunch of (footage) and put it in the pilot. Alabamians saw it and said, “Wow, what a wonderful state.”

Talk more about the show and its relationship to education.

We will soon be in our 35th year, and have now joined among the longest-running TV series in TV history. That’s an Alabama TV show we’re talking about. We’ve limped along – you don’t have a lot of money sometimes. But at this point, we have almost 100 shows on every aspect of natural diversity in Alabama.

All of those shows are with teacher guides I write to go with them, and they are correlated to support the academic requirements in this state, in science, math, and we try to cover the arts. Certainly environmental science. Geography, history. I’ve been in this business for a while, and I can tell you, we’re the only show that does it this way.

Has the show has given you a platform to do public speaking?

Yes. I welcome the chance to bring thoughtfulness and substance to this whole topic of our natural heritage and our environment and how we can improve education, because we’re in trouble.

People ask me, what’s the biggest environmental threat in Alabama? They think I’m going to say, all that litter. I have to dismiss that. Litter can be picked up.

The biggest long-term threat is loss of our rural countryside. Because when that’s gone, there goes your watershed protection, your biodiversity.

Look at Atlanta, look at Houston. I ask my audiences, if that kind of growth and change comes here, what’s this state going to be for your children and grandchildren?

Some of my political enemies, although they’re friendly enemies, they disagree with me. “All the growth we can get is what we need.” They have their reasons, and they’re not bad reasons. But thinking long-term, where’s that going to take us, people?

What should we do? Get serious about long-term planning, and connect education to the land.

Are you hopeful for the future of Alabama’s environment and its natural heritage?

Depends on what side of the bed I get up on. (laughs) There’s a lot of wonderful new environmental awareness and leadership going on in Alabama today. But I realize that the culture is becoming cognitively disconnected from the land. When you combine that with this profit-driven need for growth, it’s just gotten out of hand in so many places.

Alabama has got to quit being ashamed of ruralness. I’ve seen this in some people, who are sort of subconsciously equating our ruralness with ugliness.

I tell people, do not equate backwoods with backwards. Ruralness and backwoods is putting us ahead of other regions that have lost all of this.

Making the most of moss adds landscape interest

If you’ve got moss growing in your landscape, don’t think of it as an enemy. Think of it as a gorgeous, low-maintenance friend.

Mossy spots in a yard usually occur in areas that are too shady, wet, acidic and/or compacted to support turf, groundcovers and other ornamental plants. Those spots are, however, prime habitat for mosses, which are ancient (thought to be 500 million or more years old), primitive plants capable of living in some of the most challenging environments, even desert and arctic locales. They’ve also been used by gardeners for centuries to create exquisite botanical settings — think the serene lushness of Japanese gardens.

I’ll resist my natural nerdy urge to go into the scientific reasons that moss is amazing, though it’s a fascinating story worthy of further study if you are interested. Suffice it to say that mosses are non-vascular bryophytes that, despite the fact that they lack true leaves, branches or roots, are able to draw nutrients and moisture from even the harshest of environments.

Because of this, mosses can grow in places that other plants cannot, including on trees, rocks, bricks, concrete and compacted soils. They can also withstand periods of drought and cold, often becoming brown and desiccated in hard times only to rejuvenate once moisture and temperature conditions improve.

If you have moss “problems” in your yard or need a low-maintenance option for a shady, moist area of the lawn, a soft carpet for a rocky ledge, an edging for stepping stones or a novel idea for a “container” garden (pots, table-top rocks, terrariums and more), moss is your friend, one you should protect rather than fight.

This can be done by nurturing an existing patch (obviously moss already likes that area) or readying a new moss-friendly space by removing grass, weeds and plant debris, such as fallen leaves, from the area to expose bare ground. Existing moss will begin to spread (it reproduces through spores and division) in the area, or you can transplant new mosses into the space. 

If you’re transplanting moss, which is best done in the fall and spring, you’ll need to water it regularly for the first few months. You may also want to cover the area with lightweight landscape netting to hold new plugs in place and protect them from yard critters that might disturb them before they become established.

Once moss has a foothold — which may take a year or longer as moss is a meditative, slow-growing creature — just keep the area clean and moist (especially during extended periods of dry weather). Moss requires no mowing or pesticides and little-to-no fertilizer, though you can boost moss growth by using a light dose of an acidic fertilizer or a drench made from equal parts water mixed with buttermilk, powdered milk or yogurt.

So where do you get moss? Moss spores naturally float in on air currents or in water droplets, but transplants of moss can also be gathered from existing patches in your own yard or (ask permission first!) from the yards of your friends, family and neighbors and even from nursery greenhouses. Collecting moss from the “wild” is discouraged because doing so can damage or destroy natural ecosystems and, because your yard may not provide the proper growing environment, it may not survive the transplanting process.

If you can’t find a free source, purchase moss from specialty growers (look online for suppliers) who can also offer guidance on the proper choices for your specific growing conditions.

Many books and online resources are available on moss gardening, and public gardens and garden centers and organizations often host moss gardening workshops, too. One fabulous resource is the website of Moss and Stone Gardens (, an amazing place in Raleigh, N.C., where moss gurus David Spain and Ken Gergle illustrate just what can happen if we embrace moss as a friend — a gorgeous, undemanding friend.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at

Do skylights bring sky-high energy bills?

Well-placed skylights can brighten rooms that lack daylight. Source: NREL/DOE

By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

Q: Our kitchen and dining rooms are in major need of some natural light. We’ve been thinking about installing a skylight, but we’re wondering if that will increase our energy bills. Can you provide any advice?

A: Skylights can bring a little of the outside world indoors and make your living space more livable—when they are installed correctly. But they can also impact your energy bills and comfort level, so you’re taking the right steps by doing some research ahead of time.

One downside of skylights is they can add heat to your home during the summer and heat loss during the winter. The amount of impact depends upon a number of elements, including the skylight’s energy rating, size, placement and quality of installation. You can check its energy efficiency by looking at the skylight’s NFRC Energy Performance Label, which shows four important pieces of the energy efficiency puzzle:

  • Insulation value (U-Factor)
  • Ability to transmit solar heat (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient)
  • Ability to allow light to transfer (Visible Transmittance)
  • Air leakage.

Finding a unit with the best ratings in all these categories will help maximize your skylight’s energy efficiency and performance. It’s probably worth spending a little more on a better product, since professional installation takes up the lion’s share of the cost of installing a skylight into an existing roof. That said, even the best skylight has a much lower insulation value than a properly insulated attic.

Just as important as finding the right skylight is determining the proper size, number and placement. You want adequate light, but too much can make a room less functional on a bright day. Skylights on a steep, north-facing roof will reduce the unwanted solar heat gain in the summer, but this also reduces the desirable solar heat gain in winter.

Ultraviolet (UV) light can cause furniture finishes to fade. This can be minimized by making sure your skylight has high-quality glazing or by applying a special film to the skylight.

Proper installation by a knowledgeable professional is essential to avoid all-too-common problems. One serious issue is water leaks—a problem often caused by improper exterior installation on the roof. Flashing must be installed correctly to be effective for the pitch of the roof and the type of roofing materials.

Another potential problem area is the skylight shaft that transmits the light into the living space below. Inadequate or poorly installed insulation is a source of heat loss and can cause ice dams that allow water to find its way into the home. Air leaks in the shaft can also cause these types of problems. Moisture problems can cause condensation build-up inside the home, resulting in mold, mildew and rot (especially in bathrooms).

An alternative option to the regular skylight is the tubular skylight. A small skylight on the roof is connected to a flexible tube that runs through the attic to a room below. This system provides a diffused natural light. The tube is much smaller than a skylight shaft and is easier and less expensive to install. The tube has less heat loss and is less leak-prone. Tubular skylights can fit into spaces that a traditional skylight can’t, and can be a better choice in rooms with high moisture, like bathrooms, saunas or indoor swimming pools. 

As you consider your options, it may be worthwhile to think back to your goals. Perhaps you can gain more light in these rooms without installing a skylight by trying these steps:

  • Paint the room a lighter color.
  • Hang mirrors.
  • Replace heavy window coverings with lighter ones.
  • Add indirect lighting such as upward-facing pole lamps.
  • Trim any trees that shade the windows.

If you’ve done your research and decide to move forward with new skylights, I hope you will consider buying the best product your budget will accommodate––and find a contractor with experience and solid references to provide the installation. Good luck!

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on skylights, please visit:

Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Write to for more information.

Alabama Bookshelf

In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to bookshelf@alabamaliving.coopDue to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive.

Coastal Alabama Retirement Guide and Coastal Alabama Economic History, both by Mark Fagan, BookBaby (publisher), $30 and $40 respectively (travel) The retirement guide summarizes the factors important for retirement destinations and includes detailed information on such topics as climate, housing, health care and more. It includes a general description of coastal Alabama, including a brief description of each municipality.

The economic history book could be used as an educational resource on the history of coastal Alabama, as well as a guide to historical tourism. This book resulted from the author’s research into the history of Mobile and Baldwin counties, and became so detailed that it deserved treatment on its own as a resource for people who love coastal Alabama’s history. Author Fagan is professor emeritus at Jacksonville State University and also wrote “The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Its History and Economic Impact.” He has researched retiree migration and retirement communities for more than 30 years.

Alabama Lore, by Wil Elrick, Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, $23.99 (Alabama folklore) Alabama is a weird and wonderful place with a colorful history steeped in folk tales passed from generation to generation. Author Elrick, who is from Guntersville, explores the history behind some of the Cotton State’s favorite tales.

Treeborne, by Caleb Johnson, Picador, $26 (novel) Janie Treeborne lives on an orchard at the edge of Elberta, Ala., and in time, she has become its keeper. Elberta has seen fierce battles, violent storms and frantic change – and when the town is once again threatened, Janie realizes it won’t withstand much more, so she tells the story of its people. As the world closes in on Elberta, this debut novel from Johnson, who is from Arley, Ala., lifts the veil and offers one last glimpse.

Alabama Founders: Fourteen Political and Military Leaders Who Shaped the State, by Herbert James Lewis, The University of Alabama Press, $24.95 paperback (Alabama history) While much has been written about the significant events in the history of early Alabama, there has been little information about the people who participated in those events. The book examines the lives of those who opened Alabama for settlement, secured its status as a territory in 1817, and helped lay the foundation for the political and economic infrastructure of Alabama in its early years.

To Raise up the Man Farthest Down: Tuskegee University’s Advancements in Human Health, 1881-1987, by Dana R. Chandler and Edith Powell, The University of Alabama Press, $39.95 (Alabama history) Though the university’s accomplishments and devotion to social issues are well known, its work in medical research and health care has received little acknowledgment. Tuskegee has been fulfilling Booker T. Washington’s vision of “healthy minds and bodies” since its inception in 1881. This book documents the school’s medical and public health history with rich archival data and never-before-published photographs.

A Gathering Misery, by Rocky Porch Moore, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, $15.99 (Southern Gothic, horror) Deborah Ballard is pushed away from July Mountain by her grief-stricken parents into the overbearing arms of the grandmother who has vowed to straighten her out. In this sequel to Clemenceau’s Daughters, family secrets reach beyond the grave to ensnare Deborah in a haunting cycle of cruelty. The author lives in Foley.

Looking for good barbecue? Safety pros are in the know!

Most publications get professional foodies to compile lists of favorite restaurants. But we think we have an even better source: The safety staff of the Alabama Rural Electric Association, which publishes Alabama Living.

Why? Our safety guys are always on the road, traveling to provide training and guidance to our 22 member cooperatives and some municipal electric utilities.

Among the staff’s many duties: They conduct monthly in-house safety meetings, crew visits and facility inspections at your local co-op; they train your co-op’s employees on everything from CPR to hazardous materials to pole-top rescue; they work with co-op managers and CEOs to provide updates and interpretations from such national regulatory groups as OSHA and DOT; and they coordinate power restoration assistance after weather-related events.

These jobs keep them moving all over the state of Alabama, from the mountains of the northeast to the Black Belt to the Wiregrass to the Gulf Coast. And as you might expect, it means a lot of eating on the road!

We asked them to tell us their favorite barbecue places around the state, just in time for football season tailgating. Of course, we can’t list every great barbecue joint in Alabama, so drop us a line and let us know your favorite (and why!).

Send those by mail to Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124, or via email to

– Allison Law

Michael Kelley

Director of safety, loss control and regulatory compliance, AREA

Home base: Wetumpka

Favorite barbecue place: Mud Creek Bar-B-Que, 804 County Road 213, Hollywood, AL 35752; 256-259-2493

Billy Carver and his brother-in-law, Gerry Teal, own and operate Mud Creek, which features a barbecue sauce that is Carolina style – meaning it’s vinegar and mustard based, as opposed to the more ketchup- or molasses-based sauces. It’s off the beaten path in Jackson County, but is known by locals and travelers alike for its great food and friendly service.

Safety man says: The hush puppies are a must-try side item, and the barbecue sauce is “the bomb.”

Eric Turner

Safety specialist, AREA

Home base: Cullman

Favorite barbecue place: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, 2520 Danville Road SW, Decatur, AL 35603, 256-350-0404; and 1715 6th Ave. SE, Decatur, AL 35601, 256-350-6969

Big Bob Gibson’s was founded in Decatur in 1925 by Bob Gibson, an L&N Railroad worker who honed his cooking skills on the weekends in a hand-dug barbecue pit. In addition to the delicious smoked meats, the restaurant became famous for its original white sauce. Today, five generations of pitmasters have earned 15 World BBQ Championships and five Memphis in May World BBQ Grand Championships. And the restaurants now feature a signature red sauce in addition to the peppery white sauce served on the barbecued chickens; both sauces are widely available in stores.

Safety man says: “They have the best smoked turkey that I’ve eaten anywhere. I’m not a huge pork fan so I base my restaurants on the turkey. Their white sauce is I believe a world champion winner.”

Jeff Whatley

Training and safety coordinator, AREA

Home base: Grady community

Favorite barbecue place: SweetCreek Farms, 85 Meriwether Road, Pike Road, AL 36064; 334-280-3276

SweetCreek was also our Worth the Drive feature in August! In addition to the pulled pork, the restaurant serves smoked chicken and St. Louis-style ribs.

Safety man says: “All meat is cooked over pecan wood for a mellow smoke taste. You can smell it when you get out of the truck. Homemade sauce combines sweet and savory. Everything is fresh and homemade. Favorite sides are jalapeno-based swamp slaw and broccoli salad. Finish it off with homemade ice cream and cookies.”

Buster Bishop

Training and safety coordinator, AREA

Home base: Billingsley

Favorite barbecue place: Jim’s B-B-Q, 3657 U.S. 82, Billingsley, AL 36006; 334-366-4284

Jim’s is still family-owned and operated since it opened in the 1970s, and is likely best known as the place to stop on the way to and from Tuscaloosa for Alabama home football games. Owner Jeannette Hughes told that employees put in 18 hours a day when Alabama plays at home.

Safety man says: The smoked pulled pork in their sandwich is piled high and “yum yum. The vinegar sauce is outstanding.”

How do you ‘cue?


We’ve all got our own preferences, so feel free to have your barbecue your way.

Pork, beef or chicken? Ribs or other cuts? If other cuts, pulled, sliced or chopped and then tucked between a bun or mounded on a plate? Dry rub or sauce? And on the sauce: thick or thin? Spicy, sweet or tangy? Yellow, red or Alabama white?

     Despite multiple differences, some substantial, some subtle, in the styles and schools of barbecue served across our region, as a general food category, it’s firmly rooted in the South’s culinary consciousness. But there are internal debates down here. Some purists insist if it isn’t cooked low and slow over hardwood coals, it isn’t authentic barbecue. Some folks believe if it isn’t pork, it can’t be called ‘cue. But most of us enjoy it — or at least its signature tastes — almost any way we can get it.

     Barbecue’s flavors have made their way far beyond traditional proteins to be found on shrimp and grilled fish. Heck, they’re no longer confined to meat. BBQ potato chips or nachos, anyone?

     And while truly GREAT barbecue can be a bit elusive, and no matter where your allegiances lie, it’s hard to find bad barbecue simply because there’s so much of it.

     In Alabama, we’ve got plenty of contenders when it comes to restaurant barbecue, from big-name chains to ramshackle shacks pumping out savory scented, siren-song smoke. And in the barbecue game, “amateurs” compete with the pro pitmasters, sometimes at events and often, just in spirit; plenty of home cooks swear (and their friends and neighbors stand by their stories) that their sauce reigns supreme and their ‘cue is championship-grade.

     Some of our own readers have shown themselves to be quite confident in their barbecue skills by sharing their prized recipes. Try one or two, and feel free to add your own takes or twists. The only real rule when it comes to barbecue? Cook and eat what you like.

Cook of the Month:

Glenda Weigel, Baldwin EMC

Glenda Weigel had her first introduction to barbecue shrimp on a trip to New Orleans more than 20 years ago and thought the flavor combo was spectacular. She’s been making her barbecue shrimp ever since. It’s become a fixture in her kitchen, thanks to its delectability and its versatility. “Everyone likes it; it’s so good,” she says. “And you can make it any time of year. It’s really season-less. It’s just as good in the summer as it is at a Christmas party, and it does make a great party food.” It’s also pretty simple to make. “It’s so easy, anyone can do it, even your husband!” she says.


Barbecued Shrimp

  • 24 large shrimp (shelled, deveined, tails left on)
  • 24 slices bacon
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • Remove shells and butterfly the shrimp. (Cut down the back and open up. Devein, but leave the tail on as a handle.) Place a piece of onion on the shrimp. Fold it up and wrap a piece of bacon around it, and secure it with a toothpick. Fix the rest of the shrimp in this way. Mix the remaining ingredients together to make a New Orleans-style BBQ sauce. Pour this over all the shrimp. Leave in this marinade for one hour. Turn shrimp a couple of times while in marinade. Barbecue over medium fire until the shrimp are cooked and the bacon is crispy.


Smoked Fattie

  • 1 pound premium bulk pork breakfast sausage
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ rub of choice, divided
  • 1 1-gallon seal-top bag
  • 1 7.5-ounce cream cheese with chives, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons green or red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

Prepare grill for indirect cooking or smoker at 250 degrees. Remove sausage from wrapper and place in the seal-top bag. Using a rolling pin, begin flattening the sausage to completely fill the bag and return to the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to re-chill. Sauté onions and pepper in butter/oil until soft. Remove the sausage from the refrigerator, open the top, and with a sharp pair of scissors, cut down each side of the bag but leave it in one piece; this helps in rolling. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of BBQ rub evenly over the sausage. Spread cream cheese over the sausage to within about ½-inch of the edges. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and vegetables over the cream cheese. Using the plastic bag, roll the sausage into a roll like a jelly roll. Be sure no plastic is left on the sausage. Sprinkle the remaining BBQ rub on the outside of the roll. Place sausage roll in the smoker/grill and cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Allow to rest, covered, for 20 minutes before slicing.

Elmer Vick

Baldwin EMC

Satisfying Succulent Southwestern Barbecued Pork Ribs

  • 3-4 pounds pork ribs, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1-2 onions, sliced
  • 1 cup green peppers, chopped
  • Hot chili peppers, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup root beer

Place ribs in a pan and season with salt and pepper. Brown in 450-degree oven. Cover with onions and peppers. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat. Cover tightly and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Baste occasionally. Uncover for the last 15 minutes to brown.

Lexi Turnipseed

Dixie EC

Spicy BBQ Pork Chops

  • 1/3 cup hickory barbecue sauce
  • 1/3 cup steak sauce
  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 6 bone-in pork chops

Mix liquid ingredients and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. Grill covered until temperature reaches 145 degrees, brushing with sauce frequently. Let stand 5 minutes and serve.

Debbie Headley

South Alabama EC

Alabama’s Own

In addition to some of the storied barbecue institutions that are home-based here, our state has another claim to barbecue fame: Alabama white sauce. This tangy, mayo-based liquid goes well with almost anything, but bathe some slow-smoke-roasted chicken with it, and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Sources trace its roots back to North Alabama, where Bob Gibson is said to have first concocted it in Decatur in 1925 when he opened Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. Its popularity and use have grown and spread alongside the fame of the restaurant and that of current pitmaster and chef Chris Lilly, husband to Big Bob’s great granddaughter, and a member of the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

Aunt Masa’s Soul Sauce (Barbecue Sauce)

  • 1 10-ounce can Heinz ketchup (do not substitute)
  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 pint Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and simmer until the desired consistency. Put into pint canning jars and either refrigerate or process in water bath canner for 20 minutes. This BBQ sauce is great on anything that you barbecue or would normally add BBQ sauce to.

Marsha S. Gardner

Baldwin EMC

Al’s BBQ Sauce

  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 8  or 10-ounce tomato sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4-6 shakes hot sauce
  • 20 ounces ketchup
  • 10 ounces Heinz 57
  • 4 ounces liquid smoke
  • ½ cup honey
  • Spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes

Combine all ingredients. Bring to a slow boil. Simmer 15 minutes. Cool. For ¼ chicken, BBQ 45 minutes; ½ chicken, BBQ 90 minutes. Cook’s tip: For a dark sauce, substitute A1 Sauce for Heinz 57. For Texas chicken: Make a sop of 50 percent vinegar, 50 percent oil and a good shot of pepper. Sop chicken until 20 minutes before done. Then add BBQ sauce.

Sandra Largen

Central Alabama EC

White BBQ Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Mix together and use for basting. Great on chicken. Cook in oven or open grill.

Betty Moore

Franklin EC

Coming up in October… BBQ!

It’s time to spice up our recipe selection and you could be a winner! We are looking for fresh, creative recipes from readers just like you. In addition to our monthly Cook of the Month prize, beginning in January, all cooks who submit a recipe will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket full of Alabama Living merchandise. Take a look at our upcoming themes and send in your favorite recipes today!

Themes and Deadlines

November: Nuts | Sept. 8

December: Party Foods | Oct 8

January: Protein Packed | Nov. 8

Submit your recipe here.

Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.

Small game animals are a great introduction to hunting

Steven Felsher, Brett Pratt and Chester Thompson look for squirrels in a grove of towering white oaks. Squirrels like hardwood trees that produce abundant nuts. Photo by John N. Felsher

By John N. Felsher

Many young sportsmen begin hunting by accompanying a father, grandfather, other relative or friend looking for small game. Young hunters usually see more game and fire their guns more often when hunting small game than when sitting still and quiet for long hours in a deer stand. Following behind an experienced hunter, youngsters also learn valuable woodsmanship and stalking skills.

“Small game hunting provides a great opportunity to engage new hunters in active pursuit hunting methods without being confined to a shooting house often associated with deer hunting,” says Steve Barnett, an Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division biologist. “Roaming the woods for small game with a mentor hones woodsmanship skills and provides an outdoor classroom for plant and animal sign identification as a bonus.”

In Alabama, squirrel and rabbit seasons run concurrently. They open on Sept. 15 and run through March 3, 2019. People can bag up to eight rabbits and eight squirrels per day.

“Most regions of the state have good, stable numbers of rabbits and squirrels,” Barnett says. “Areas managed for mast producing hardwoods such as oaks provide some of the best habitat for squirrels. Open habitats such as fallow fields, new clear-cuts and brushy openings are havens for rabbits.”

When looking for squirrels, move slowly through forests. Take a few steps, then stop, look and listen. Watch trees for movement or anything unusual. Periodically, sit on a log or lean against a tree to listen for claws scratching on bark, objects dropping or branches shaking. Also listen for barking squirrels.

Many sportsmen hunt squirrels in teams, an excellent idea with accompanying youngsters. When teams detect a squirrel, but can’t quite locate it, one person can remain motionless while the other walks around the tree. Squirrels frequently try to keep tree trunks between themselves and danger. If the squirrel reacts to the person walking, it might present a shot to the other sportsman.

For fox squirrels, sportsmen might head to Oakmulgee or Blue Spring Wildlife Management Areas. One of the oldest and perhaps the most scenic WMA in the state, Oakmulgee covers 44,500 acres of Bibb, Hale, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties about 25 miles southeast of Tuscaloosa. Part of the 392,567-acre Talladega National Forest, the habitat consists mostly of hills covered in mature open longleaf pine forests with periodic upland hardwood forests and swampy drainages. People can also hunt the surrounding national forest.

Blue Spring WMA covers 24,783 acres of pine flatwoods periodically dotted by hardwood strands in the Conecuh National Forest near Andalusia. Other WMAs that offer good squirrel hunting include Black Warrior near Moulton, Barbour near Clayton, the Jackson County WMAs, James D. Martin-Skyline near Scottsboro, Upper Delta by Mobile and William R. Ireland, Sr.-Cahaba near West Blocton.

Since the seasons run concurrently, many people lump squirrel and rabbit hunting together. True, squirrel hunters occasionally kick up a cottontail while walking along the wooded edge of field or jump a big swamp rabbit in a hardwood thicket, but people hunt squirrels and rabbits in completely different ways.

Most people use trained beagles to flush rabbits from impenetrable thickets. When a rabbit bolts from cover, shooters must react fast. Difficult, but not impossible, some hunters bag rabbits without dogs by taking turns smashing through thickets, kicking grass clumps or fallen logs as others watch for anything that might run out. Chokepoints that limit where rabbits can run, such as openings in fences or narrow strips of high ground in a flooded wetland, also make good places to hunt rabbits.

Many WMAs across the state allow rabbit hunting. Some better ones include Choccolocco near Heflin, the Jackson County WMAs, Lowndes near White Hall, Sam R. Murphy near Guin and Skyline. For the best chances at bagging a swamp rabbit, visit the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

“There are ample hunting opportunities on all WMAs that have rabbit and squirrel seasons,” Barnett says. “Most areas are underutilized for small game.”

In addition, several Special Opportunity Areas will hold small game hunts. Fred T. Stimpson SOA in Clarke County will hold special youth squirrel hunts. Other rabbit and squirrel hunts will be held in Cedar Creek and Portland Landing SOAs in Dallas County and Uchee Creek SOA in Russell County. For details, see

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.