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Beautiful but dangerous: Take care with fireworks this holiday

Sparklers aren’t safe for small children. They burn at very high temperatures—up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt some metals—and can easily set clothes on fire. (CPSC)
Sparklers aren’t safe for small children. They burn at very high temperatures—up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt some metals—and can easily set clothes on fire. (CPSC)

What would the Fourth of July be without cookouts, baseball games, and pyrotechnic displays in the night sky? But it’s easy to forget that fireworks are dangerous explosives, and carelessness could have deadly consequences.

Every year, thousands of people are injured by fireworks—8,600 in 2010 alone, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The agency also reports that three people died the same year.

The federal government has banned sales of the most dangerous fireworks to consumers, such as cherry bombs and M-80s. But sparklers, firecrackers, and other smaller fireworks remain legal in Alabama.

To help make sure your holiday celebrations don’t end with a trip to the emergency room, follow these safety tips from the CPSC:

  • Sparklers aren’t safe for small children. They burn at very high temperatures—up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt some metals—and can easily set clothes on fire.
  • Ignite fireworks in a clearing, away from power lines, homes, other structures, dry leaves and grass, and other flammable materials. Never light them in any type of container.
  • Keep a bucket of water handy in case of emergencies and for fireworks that fail to ignite or explode.
  • Check instructions for storage, but generally keep fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Do not place any part of your body directly over fireworks while you’re lighting them, and immediately move away as soon as the device is lit.
  • “Homemade” fireworks kits are illegal. Never try to make your own.
  • After fireworks have completely burned out, soak them with a hose before throwing them in the trash to help prevent fires.

The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate, but we urge you to use caution with fireworks—and always look up for power lines before you shoot anything skyward.


American Village interpreters bring history to life

By Miriam Davis

Historical interpreters at the American Village are the people who put the drama into history. “We have an extraordinary and passionate staff,” says Tom Walker. “They have skill, knowledge and a commitment to conveying the nuances of their characters to the public.”

The job can be terrifying. A curious student might go off script and ask about a historical detail that the character would know. So the interpreters must constantly study both the period and their characters to be prepared.

William Stewart has a degree in theatre from Birmingham-Southern College, with a minor in history. He also spent many years in the business world. This background ideally suited him for his job as the officer for interpretive programs.

As Patrick Henry, he gives one of the most famous orations in American history. But not only does Stewart infuse “Give me liberty or give me death” with the same revolutionary fire with which Henry delivered it, he also wants to make sure the audience understands why it was given. Speaking at the Virginia Convention in March 1775, Henry was trying to convince the delegates to arm the colony.  The resolution passed and war broke out a month later. Henry “was a very polarizing character,” says Stewart. “He was “charismatic. People either hated him or loved him.”

Leslie Johnson has been bringing Harriet Tubman to life at the American Village for more than four years. What is important about her portrayal of the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad is not just getting the facts correct, she says, but getting the story right. “I want them to gain a greater appreciation for people who did things that weren’t typical,” says the Samford University graduate. “I want them to understand that some people were faced with decisions that might get them killed.” History wasn’t her favorite class in school, she admits, but now she’s dedicated to making young people realize that freedom really isn’t free.

One of Rush Brunson’s most popular roles is that of Dr. Joseph Warren, a Boston physician and American spy. Brunson does a participatory vignette with schoolchildren in which they receive information from a secret informant.  “The kids like it because it’s in the dark and we don’t know who it is,” laughs Brunson, also a theatre graduate from Samford University.  When the informant warns them that the Redcoats are going to seize the colonists’ gunpowder at Concord, they get to deliver a secret message to Paul Revere’s wife Rachel.  “The kids have a lot of fun with that,” says Brunson.

None of the historical interpreters would be very convincing without the efforts of Nancy Moore, director of costuming.  She makes many of the costumes herself, using historic patterns to make the clothes as authentic as possible. She learned to sew in high school and honed her skills working in the costume shop at Samford University while she was getting a theatre degree.  “For the past 15 years I’ve just been doing it, making mistakes, and keep figuring it out.”

Alabama gardens: Building a strong garden foundation


By Katie Jackson

Summer gardening is going full tilt this time of year, and just harvesting the fresh fruits and vegetables that are ripening or performing all those summer gardening chores is keeping gardeners plenty busy.

Among those chores is making sure plants are getting all the nutrients they need to be beautiful and productive. Vegetable gardens and lawns, in particular, may need an extra boost of nutrients to keep them growing and producing. But before you toss out any fertilizer, make sure it is truly necessary and that the one you choose contains the proper types and amounts of nutrients for your plants.

A good way to judge if your plants need an application of summer nutrients is to watch them for signs of fertility problems, such as stunted growth or leaves that are becoming pale, yellow, discolored, mottled or spotted. If you see any of these signs or notice issues such as blossom end rot in your tomatoes, you’ll likely need to add some extra nutrients to your soil.

Once you’re sure that your plants truly need that extra boost, pick a fertilizer that really fits your plants’ needs. Both organic and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers are available—from commercially produced granular and liquid formulations to natural sources such as composted manure, fish emulsion and bone meal. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so do a little research or get some expert advice before you select one to use.

Regardless of the type you choose, be careful to avoid over-application of any form of fertilizer. This will save you money and help prevent runoff of excess fertilizer and nutrients into water supplies.

The very best way to know your soil’s fertility needs is to know your soil. One of the best ways to find out what your soil may need is to get it tested. Soil tests are laboratory procedures that measure the presence and availability of vital plant nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium as well as other secondary and micronutrients. The tests also measure other components or characteristics of soil, such as acidity (pH) and organic matter content.

The results of these tests will typically come with recommendations about what specific nutrients and amendments your soil may need, which is a great starting point for building better soils. With that knowledge in hand you can not only deal with any immediate problems, but you can also develop a long-range plan to continually improve your soil by adding organic matter, specific nutrients and nutrient-rich cover crops in the off season.

Though fall and early winter are considered ideal times to get a soil test, there’s nothing wrong with doing one now or at least spending some time figuring out which areas of your lawn and garden need to be tested later this year. And if you’re about to break ground on a new bed or garden area, it’s helpful to start off with a soil test so you’ll know just what it needs before you put in a single plant.

Soil test kits are available from local Alabama Cooperative Extension System offices or directly from the Auburn University Soil Testing Laboratory ( These kits contain directions for taking and shipping soil samples. Follow the directions closely and make sure to fill out the entire test form, including information about the types of plants you intend to grow or already are growing in that area of your yard so the recommendations can be tailored specifically for those plants’ needs.

Of course fertilizer and soil are not the only factors that can make or break your lawn and garden this summer. Proper watering, weeding and pest management are also vital. For help with any or all of these issues, take advantage of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s many resources.

You can find a plethora of helpful information by searching the Home and Garden section of Extension’s website at There you will find a wide range of publications such as Home Lawn Maintenance (, The Alabama Vegetable Gardener ( and my favorite go-to publication for sustainable home landscapes, Alabama Smart Yards (

If you’re not so Web savvy, call or stop by your local Extension office for advice or copies of publications or get expert advice tailored for your specific area of the state by calling the toll-free Master Gardener helpline at 1-877-252-GROW (4769).


July Gardening Tips:

Be on the lookout at garden centers for deals on earlier season plants or out of season tools and equipment.

Plant a cover crop in bare or unplanted areas of the vegetable garden.

Protect yourself from the sun and pests by wearing sunscreen, bug spray, a hat and a light-weight, long-sleeved shirt.

Clean up fallen fruits under fruit trees and bushes so you won’t attract pests and promote possible disease problems.

Refresh mulch around shrubs, trees and in garden beds to help retain moisture in the soil, keep roots cooler and suppress weeds.

Plant heat-tolerant annual and perennial flowers.

Divide irises and other over-crowded perennials.

Remove (deadhead) fading flowers from annuals, perennials and summer-blooming lilies.

Water lawns, landscapes, container plants and vegetable gardens as needed.

Keep an eye out for insect and disease problems in the lawn, landscape, garden beds and on potted plants.

Keep birdbaths and hummingbird feeders filled with clean, fresh water or sugar solution, respectively.


Adjust your activities to avoid heat illness


By Dr. Jim McVay 

Do you have a good understanding of how to prevent heat illnesses?

Heat-related illnesses occur when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. Heat illnesses can lead to death. According to the Center for Health Statistics of the Alabama Department of Public Health, the total number of heat-related deaths in Alabama in recent years ranged from 7 in the years 2012 and 2013 to 125 in the record-breaking heat wave of 1980.

Many Alabamians have become familiar with the heat index and have learned to anticipate how hot it will feel when the relative humidity is taken into account. The heat index is what the temperature feels like to the human body when the relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.

People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating is not enough and their body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Everyone needs to adjust their activities and be alert to the warnings that may signal help is needed. Individuals with heart problems, poor circulation, diabetes, a previous stroke, or obesity are at greater risk of becoming sick in hot weather. The risk of heat-related illness may increase among people using medications for high blood pressure, nervousness or depression.

Heat stroke, sometimes called sunstroke, is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

First aid recommendations are to get the person to a shady area, cool rapidly in a tub of cool water, place in a cool shower, spray with cool water from a garden hose, or, if the humidity is low, place in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously. Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the person’s body temperature drops to 101 to 102 degrees F.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. A person with heat stroke is likely to be unconscious or unresponsive, so he or she cannot safely consume any liquids. Under no circumstances should you give any alcohol to a person with heat stroke or any heat illness.

In a typical Alabama summer, it’s wise to follow these preventive measures to avoid heat illnesses:

  • Drink more water, and avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine. Also avoid overly sugared beverages. Drink water even when you’re not thirsty.
  • Limit the time you spend outdoors to the early morning and evening hours when the temperatures are cooler. This is the time to exercise or do other outdoor tasks such as gardening.
  • When temperatures are extreme, stay indoors, ideally in an air-conditioned place.
  • Dress appropriately by wearing loose-fitting, well-ventilated, and thin clothing in light colors. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
  • Take a cool shower or bath, and reduce or eliminate strenuous activities during the hottest times of the day.
  • Check on elderly relatives, neighbors, and friends.
  • Never leave pets or people in parked vehicles.
  • Make sure pets have plenty of water to drink and shade to cool off.

Information is also available at

Living history: Teaching the value of liberty at the American Village

The historical interpreter portraying Dolley Madison gazes upon a reproduction of the portrait of George Washington that she was responsible for saving during the War of 1812.
The historical interpreter portraying Dolley Madison gazes upon a reproduction of the portrait of George Washington that she was responsible for saving during the War of 1812.

By Miriam Davis

“Make ready!”

It’s not the sound of real gunfire, but the shouting of 30 or so high school students who fumble with their musket stand-ins – broomsticks – as they learn to drill and fire as part of the First Rhode Island Regiment.

The students are participating in a school program at the American Village Citizenship Trust. Established in 1999, the American Village is the brainchild of its founder and CEO Tom Walker. In the late 1980s, he developed the idea of a place where young people, as well as the general public, could cultivate a sense of ownership of their government by learning about citizenship and patriotism.

Walker, a self-described “history and political junkie,” says, “We have a great blessing of liberty in our country, but it’s difficult to maintain a sense of ownership of the civic system.” He thought that people needed reminding of “who we are and the things we believe in, of our shared values, and our shared experiences.

“We’re in an era in which we do a great job defining how we’re different from one another,” says Walker, “But it’s the idea of liberty that has always united us. When the national soul is contested as after 9/11, you see Americans coming together and reminding ourselves how valuable liberty is and remembering our kinship with one another.”

For young Americans, history need not be dry, dusty facts. “Young people respond to authentic stories,” he says.

A lawn view of Washington Hall at the American Village.
A lawn view of Washington Hall at the American Village.

The American Village campus sits on 183 acres in the gently rolling green hills of central Alabama, just outside Montevallo. The atmosphere has a colonial feel. In fact, many of the buildings are replicas of actual historical buildings. The administrative offices are located in a replica of the house in Philadelphia used by Presidents Washington and Adams before the capital moved to Washington, D.C. The Lucille Ryals Thompson Chapel, where a community Thanksgiving service is held every year, was inspired by the Bruton Parish Church of Williamsburg, a church attended by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Patrick Henry.


What does it mean to be an American citizen?

Between 30,000 and 35,000 students come here each year, from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. It’s not meant to be a museum, but living history, a place of ideas where visitors are made to think about “What does it mean to be an American citizen?”

Leslie Johnson portrays Phillis Wheatley, a former slave who became a renowned poet.
Leslie Johnson portrays Phillis Wheatley, a former slave who became a renowned poet.

The Village answers this question with dozens of different programs suitable for students of all ages. The programs consist of a collection of “vignettes” – episodes acted out by the costumed re-enactors called historical interpreters in which visitors often take part.

“Presidents’ Days” is designed for kindergarten through third grade. Kids play “Choose Your George,” a game show hosted by Martha Washington and Queen Charlotte of England in which participants cast their vote for who they’d rather have rule them: George Washington or King George III. Thankfully for the Republic, Washington usually wins.

The popular Thanksgiving program features Massasoit, or Yellow Feather, the chief of the Wampanoag who befriended the Pilgrims in Massachusetts. In the Colonial Christmas, children learn about how past presidents celebrated Christmas in the White House.


Teaching through hands-on participation

The centerpiece of the American Village’s educational programs is “Liberty,” which tells the story of how Americans gained their freedom from Great Britain. Participants get to stage a Stamp Act Rally, debate serious issues at a Constitutional Convention, enlist in the Continental Army, and take lessons in musket drill.

Today’s program is special. “Freedom Quest” was designed to honor Black History Month. The students are from George W. Carver High School in Birmingham, and are predominantly African-American. Their experience begins when they are transformed into a group of escaped slaves led by a rifle-toting Harriet Tubman, played by Lesli Johnson. In an encounter with a slave-catcher, one of their number must read from the Bible to trick him into believing they are free blacks; it was illegal to teach a slave to read. When they successfully arrive “up North,” Johnson stays in character to address the group: “Slavery must collapse. Thus, the action you have taken to make yourself free is just one more nail in slavery’s coffin. Well done.”

Next, the students become part of the Continental Army of General Washington. Chris Long, portraying Christopher Green of the Continental Army, urges them to join the First Rhode Island Regiment: “If you are an Indian, a mulatto, an indentured servant or even a slave, you now have the right to join the Continental Army and fight for our freedom.” For the soldiers of the regiment, he makes clear, it’s not just about the freedom of the nation, it’s about their own personal freedom. That’s what leads to instruction on how to fire a musket. After a bit of drill, Long jumps forward in time to congratulate them on their accomplishments during the war. He concludes by telling them that many of the Revolutionary soldiers, some of them African-American, were teenagers just like themselves: “They marched, they fought, they bled; some died. They died in pain, far from home, to bring you your freedom.” The experience has the intended effect. One student says, “Now that I realize what they had to go through, I’ll value my life and my freedom more.”

An interpreter prepares to fire his musket at the American Village.
An interpreter prepares to fire his musket at the American Village.

The American Village is open to the public 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays for public tours. On patriotic holidays such as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, it really comes to life. It’s all “fun, food, and fireworks,” says Melanie Poole, director of marketing and communications.

Visitors can wander through the campus watching the vignettes put on throughout the day. They can listen to Ben Franklin read the Declaration of Independence, Patrick Henry give his famous “Give me Liberty or give me death” speech, or Abigail Adams talk about being the wife of one of the Founders. Re-enactors fight the battle between Patriots and Redcoats at Concord Bridge. Visitors can play eighteenth-century games, learn about proper Colonial etiquette, or observe costumed dancers at an Independence Ball in Liberty Hall. At dusk, the Montevallo Community Band plays a patriotic musical tribute while fireworks crackle overhead.

In February of this year, the National Veterans Shrine and Registry of Honor opened on the grounds of the American Village. According to Poole, it is dedicated “to those of every generation who’ve served and sacrificed for the American people.” Its animating spirit is the idea is that veterans are individuals, each one someone’s son or daughter, each with a different story to tell. The Registry of Honor is a website on which vets or their family members can register. They can give the branch and dates of service, and upload photos and videos. The registry produces an individual video for each vet so that at computer kiosks in the shrine, a short movie about the vet’s service is available.

As he left Independence Hall at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What have we got – a republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic,” Franklin is supposed to have replied. “If you can keep it.”

The job of the American Village is to see that we do.


Miriam C. Davis is a research associate in history at Delta State University.


Seed savers: Stoking a passion for old-fashioned plants

Polecat peas (left) and Mattie Rembert okra seeds (right)
Polecat peas (left) and Mattie Rembert okra seeds (right)

By Gail Allyn Short

Albertville resident Charlotte Hagood says her obsession with heirloom plants began in 1976 when the newly married, former journalist started a small flower garden at her Birmingham home.

Seed sharing had always been a tradition in Albertville where she grew up, she says, and it was during a visit back home when her mother’s next door neighbor gave Hagood a packet of old-time Larkspur seeds.

“You couldn’t get this strain at the store,” says Hagood, “and it was the custom to get seeds from a neighbor and to save your seeds to plant the next year and share them if anybody needed any.”

Since then, Hagood’s passion for old fashioned plants has blossomed into an effort to preserve heirloom produce and flowers. She and longtime friend Dove Stackhouse and her husband, Russell Stackhouse, are the founders of the Sand Mountain Seed Exchange, where since 2006 they have worked to perpetuate and share heirloom seeds that families around Alabama have passed down from generation to generation.

Stackhouse, who with her husband operates the 15-acre Whirlwind Farms in Geraldine, Ala., says she started saving heirloom seeds back in the late 1980s after joining the Seed Savers Exchange, a national, nonprofit organization that saves and shares heirloom seeds across the country.

Charlotte Hagood, left, holds a Zucchetta Rampicante squash and Dove Stackhouse cradles a Cucuzza squash, both grown from heirloom seeds.
Charlotte Hagood, left, holds a Zucchetta Rampicante
squash and Dove Stackhouse cradles a Cucuzza squash,
both grown from heirloom seeds.

“I became interested because I’m part Native American,” Stackhouse says, “and I wanted a way to preserve my own food and learn what the natives produced. I wanted to produce it from my same seeds every year because whatever they grew, I knew would be adapted to this country, especially this area, and that it would be the best tasting and easiest to preserve.”

Heirlooms are species of vegetables, fruits and flowers that have been passed down for several generations. They are the plants many Americans once grew and ate such as the Purple Hull Pink Eye and the Blue Goose cowpeas, Black Knight lima beans, Alabama Red okra, Old Virginia tomatoes and the Early Flat Dutch cabbage, a vegetable that was introduced in the United States in the late 1800s, according to the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange online catalogue. The book, The Heirloom Life Gardener, states that more than 100,000 different kinds of heirlooms exist worldwide.

Heirloom flowers and produce are not commonly found in most stores and backyard gardens today. That is because many large agribusiness companies have opted to breed hybrid and genetically modified plants. Hybrids and GMO plants generally produce higher yields and are more durable so foods can be packaged, shipped and stored on grocery shelves and in homes for longer periods of time. In addition, many seed companies no longer sell the old-time varieties, Hagood says.

Hagood and Dove Stackhouse say that before they met, they each became interested in finding and keeping heirloom seeds and began attending seed saving conferences. After meeting at one conference in 2000, Hagood says they struck up a friendship and started comparing their seed collections.

Jars of heirloom seeds
Jars of heirloom seeds

“Once [Dove] saw my seed collection in a couple of refrigerators that were packed with quart and pint jars full of seeds, she said, ‘you have more seed than you will ever be able to maintain yourself. So I’ll help you organize and start getting the seeds out into the community,’” Hagood says.

“The Sand Mountain Seed Bank was founded as a way to not just collect seeds and get stories about seeds, but to get them back out into the community so other people could grow them,” Hagood says.

Until 2010, the Sand Mountain Seed Exchange had a paid membership where people could order heirloom seeds through the mail, Hagood says. Today, because of their schedules, Hagood and the Stackhouses mostly grow heirloom plants on their properties and trade the seeds at festivals and at seed exchanges around the state.

They also meticulously document their seed collections. So far, Hagood and Stackhouse say they have harvested, processed and catalogued close to 300 varieties of heirloom seeds from around Alabama, including seeds for heirloom tomatoes like the Jeff Davis, Cucuzza squash, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, October beans, which is an heirloom variety once commonly grown in the Appalachians, and nearly 20 varieties of summer peas.

Among the hardest heirloom seeds to find in their collection are the citron melon seeds, especially those from south Alabama, Stackhouse says.

“The citrons were the ones slaves often planted in the cotton rows to refresh themselves,” she says. “But now cotton is so heavily sprayed that they’re getting harder to find just growing wild out there.”

The process of harvesting and preserving heirloom seeds varies with each kind of plant, Stackhouse and Hagood say. The seeds, however, have to be dried before placing them in Mason jars for storage in the refrigerators or freezers.

For every batch of seeds they receive or purchase, they write down the names of the seeds, the dates they obtained them and the names of the families that originally grew the plants. Hagood and Stackhouse say they also record when they plant the heirloom seeds in their own gardens.

The work, says Hagood and Stackhouse, is the best way they know how to help protect, preserve and remember a part of Alabama’s agrarian history.

“It was a choice of either figuring out how to send it to the next generation or it dies,” says Stackhouse. “We couldn’t let it die.”


Outdoors: There’s more than red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico

Jeff Strane fights a big one while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Jeff Strane fights a big one while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

By John N. Felsher

The federal government only allowed Alabama anglers to fish nine days in June for red snapper this year, but offshore enthusiasts can find much more to catch in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the smallest coastline on the Gulf, the waters off Alabama teem with a variety of fish because the state created an extensive network of artificial reefs. These artificial reefs create fish-attracting habitat where once only a flat, mud bottom provided little structure.

“No doubt, snapper are really important fish for the Alabama coast, but we catch a lot more than just red snapper,” advised Mike Thierry with Captain Mike’s Deep Sea Fishing in Dauphin Island. “We always keep a cobia rod and a live bait ready in case we see a cobia. We also run into sharks quite often. We’ve caught some in the 400- to 500-pound range. In 2012, we caught and released three tiger sharks in one day.”

Besides red snapper during the very brief season, anglers off the Alabama coast may fill fish boxes with several other snapper species including lane, mangrove, vermilion, also called beeliner, and other snapper species, usually with far less restrictions. Mangroves frequently enter water less than 20 feet deep just off the coast. During the season, anglers fishing reefs might also catch triggerfish, amberjack and several grouper species.

“When not fishing for red snapper, we go for king mackerel, beeliner and mangrove snapper,” recommended Curtis Bush of Max Drag Charters in Orange Beach. “For beeliners, we use smaller hooks and smaller squid pieces than when fishing for red snapper. Beeliners are usually a bit farther out around natural bottoms. If we go out 30 miles, we might also catch grouper, scamp, maybe even tilefish.”

While bottom bouncing baits around reefs, set out a drift line. Without adding extra weight, attach a bait chunk or live baitfish to a hook and toss it behind the boat. Stick the rod into a holder and engage the reel clicker so that it makes noise when something pulls the line. The bait hangs high in the water column, perhaps enticing passing king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, sharks, cobia, barracuda and other predators. Depending upon the location, a drift line might even attract a sailfish, blackfin tuna, yellowfin tuna or wahoo.

“Frequently, we’ll throw out a drift line to target king mackerel and other fish,” explained Bryan Daniels with Brian Daniels Guide Service in Orange Beach. “It’s not hard to catch 10 to 12 different species in one day, especially in the deeper water. In the summer, we don’t really target cobia, but we catch them as a bonus if one shows up.”

Highly mobile cobia roam the Gulf and can appear instantly anywhere and vanish just as quickly. Sometimes, cobia hit drift lines, but more often, these curious fish appear on the surface near the boat. After spotting a cobia, toss a bait beyond it and run it past its nose. If it doesn’t hit reactively, tease it. Every time it comes for the bait, snatch the temptation away until the cobia can no longer stand it and smashes the morsel.

Some anglers use balloon rigs to hold live bait at predetermined depths. Almost like using a bobber to fish for bluegills, tie a balloon to the line and release it so that it drifts with the current away from the boat. Sometimes, anglers may set out several balloon rigs to fish at different depths with varied baits.

After leaving the reefs, many anglers troll an assortment of spoons, deep-running plugs, jigs, live baitfish or fresh bait to entice mackerel, cobia, wahoo, mahi, tuna and other species. Some anglers maximize their time by trolling when transitioning from one reef to another. Trolling can also reveal a secret honey hole. Trolling with deep-running plugs or downriggers can put big grouper or amberjack into the boat.

“If I find a good rip or weed line, we’ll put out a trolling spread to see what’s there,” said Jason Domangue with Movin’ On Up Charters  in Dauphin Island. “We might find some king mackerel or get lucky and catch a wahoo. We’ll also keep an eye out for tripletail, cobia or mahi.”

While trolling or moving from place to place, also watch for targets of opportunity. Cobia, mahi and tripletail, also called blackfish, frequently drift with floating debris or hang around channel buoys and cruise weed lines. Anglers might also see some diving birds that could indicate a school of predators chasing baitfish.

Despite stiff regulations and reduced limits for many species, anglers can still load a boat and enjoy a great day on the water if they remain flexible. Bring an assortment of rods and baits for any opportunity that may arise. The right “bonus” fish can turn an otherwise humdrum day into a memorable experience.

For more information on saltwater creel limits see

George Washington Carver’s Legacy celebrated in newly renovated museum

A display tracing George Washington Carver's steps. Courtesy NPS Photos
A display tracing George Washington Carver’s steps. Courtesy NPS Photos

By Marilyn Jones

It’s whisper quiet in the museum as I pull open large windowed doors to what used to be the campus laundry. The century-old brick building served Tuskegee Institute students and faculty in a utilitarian way for decades until, in 1941, it was turned into a museum to honor George Washington Carver; a memorial to what can be accomplished with intellect, imagination and integrity.

The museum was closed for several months while undergoing renovation by the National Parks Service and reopened this spring. It now features new exhibits, an accessible information desk, a new elevator and an expanded bookstore.

Although Dr. Carver was born in Diamond, Missouri, he arrived in Tuskegee as a young man in his mid-30s and lived in this college community until his passing at the age of 78 in 1943. He brought international prestige to Alabama and Tuskegee Institute (now known as Tuskegee University).

Booker T. Washington, principal of the institute, recruited the very best to teach at the school. Dr. Carver’s arrival in 1896 marked the beginning of decades of work that would help agriculture and form the basis of how Americans farm today.

Before Tuskegee

The Jesup wagon evolved into a motorized version in the early 20th century. Photo by Marilyn Jones
The Jesup wagon evolved into a motorized version
in the early 20th century. Photo by Marilyn Jones

Dr. Carver was born circa 1864. There are conflicting stories as to how young George and his brother James came to be raised by their former owners Moses and Susan Carver, but the childless couple took the boys in and raised them as their own after the Civil War.

Unable to attend school because of their color, Mrs. Carver taught both boys how to read and write. Later young George moved throughout the Midwest seeking more education, finally enrolling at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in 1890. There he majored in art, but a teacher convinced him to transfer to Iowa State College to study agriculture. By the time he completed a master’s degree in agriculture in 1896 — the year he accepted an offer to head the agricultural department at Tuskegee Institute — Dr. Carver had impressed the faculty as an extremely talented student in horticulture and mycology (the study of fungi).

Exhibits Tell the Story

The museum addresses many chapters of Dr. Carver’s life and celebrates his achievements.

His research included methods of crop rotation and the development of alternative cash crops including peanuts, soy beans, sweet potatoes and pecans for farmers in areas heavily planted with cotton. This helped struggling sharecroppers, many of them former slaves, faced with harsh conditions including the devastating boll weevil. The development of new crops and diversification of crop use helped stabilize their livelihoods.

One of Dr. Carver’s innovations was the Jesup Wagon, a mobile classroom designed to bring his lessons to farmers. It was named after New York financier and Tuskegee donor Morris Ketchum Jesup.  Carver also published bulletins and gave demonstrations on diverse subjects, including native clays for paints and increasing soil fertility without commercial fertilizers.

The scientist and teacher developed more than 300 uses for the peanut, more than 100 for the sweet potato and many others for the soy bean. The hundreds of products he invented included plastics, paints and dyes. Peanuts especially appealed to him as an inexpensive source of protein that did not deplete the soil as much as cotton did.

In 1920, Dr. Carver’s work with peanuts drew the attention of the Peanut Growers Association, attesting to the wide potential of peanuts. The following year, he testified before Congress in support of a tariff on imported peanuts. With the help of Dr. Carver’s testimony, the tariff was instituted in 1922.

On display are a Jesup wagon and a later motorized version; items from his laboratory; photographs and honors; and his artwork. The museum helps tell the story of Dr. Carver’s life and work as well as illustrate the situation farmers found themselves in after the Civil War.

Dr. Carver’s Later Years

By the late 1920s Dr. Carver had stopped teaching, but he continued to advise peanut producers and other farmers. He was one of the most famous African-Americans of his time, and one of the best-known African-American intellectuals. By the time of his Congressional testimony Dr. Carver was known internationally in political and professional circles as well.

President Theodore Roosevelt sought his advice on agricultural matters. In 1916 he was made a member of the British Royal Society of Arts — a rare honor for an American. Dr. Carver also advised Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi on matters of agriculture and nutrition.

Dr. Carver used his celebrity to promote scientific causes and wrote a syndicated newspaper column while touring the nation speaking on the importance of agricultural innovation, the achievements and example of Tuskegee, and the possibilities for racial harmony in the United States.

Dr. Carver never married. He died on January 5, 1943 after falling down the stairs at his home and left his entire life savings to the museum and the George Washington Carver Foundation. He is buried next to Booker T. Washington on the Tuskegee University grounds.

His epitaph reads simply: “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

If you go:

The museum is part of Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. There is no admission charge. For more information, check the website


Alabama Recipes

Italian cooking

Olive oil, pesto, tomatoes, basil, sauces, mozzarella, pasta; hungry yet? The simplicity and freshness of ingredients is the heart of Italian cuisine. There are hundreds of diff event shapes of pasta including penne, macaroni, spaghetti, linguini, fusilli, lasagna, and many more varieties which are filled with other ingredients like tortellini and ravioli. Purchase an authentic Parmesan cheese block or wedge and grate it yourself. Your tastebuds will thank you!

Mary Tyler Spivey



Cook of the Month

Chicken Piccata

Rena Smith, Tallapoosa River EC

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
Flour for dredging
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Salt and pepper each piece of chicken before dredging in fl our. On medium heat fry the chicken in 4 tablespoons of butter and 6 tablespoons of oil, 3 minutes per side. Set fried chicken aside on a plate. Add lemon juice, chicken stock, and capers to the pan of chicken drippings and bring to a boil. Return chicken to the pan and simmer 5 minutes. Place chicken on a platter. Add remaining butter to the sauce in the pan and whisk until butter is melted. Pour sauce over chicken. Garnish with parsley, if desired.




Easy Tiramisu Pie

48 vanilla wafers, divided
1/4 cup brewed strong coffee, cooled, divided (the stronger, the better)
4 ounces (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 package (3.4 oz.) JELL-O french vanilla flavor instant pudding
1 8-ounce tub whipped topping, thawed
1 ounce baker’s semi-sweet chocolate, grated

Arrange 36 wafers on bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons coffee. Beat cream cheese in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Add dry pudding mix; beat 1 minute. Gently stir in 2 cups whipped topping. Layer half each of the pudding mixture and grated chocolate in crust; cover with remaining wafers. Drizzle with remaining coffee. Repeat layers of pudding and chocolate. Top with remaining whipped topping. Refrigerate 3 hours.

Martha Black Handschumacher-Arab EC



Lasagna Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 package lasagna Hamburger Helper dinner mix
5 cups water
1 14.-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 7-ounce can whole kernel corn (do not drain)
2 tablespoons grated
Parmesan cheese
1 small chopped zucchini (optional)

In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, cook ground beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add contents of dinner sauce mix, water, tomatoes, corn and cheese; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lasagna noodles (you can break in half) and zucchini. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Serve immediately. May sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.

WM. J. Peyregne, Pea River EC



Spaghetti Pie

8 ounces spaghetti
1 pound lean ground chuck
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 jar spaghetti sauce
2 tablespoons oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 16-ounce carton cottage cheese
1 package mozzarella cheese slices

Cook spaghetti and drain. Brown ground chuck with onion. Add the jar of spaghetti sauce and simmer. Mix the cooked spaghetti with oil, eggs and Parmesan cheese. Spread the spaghetti mixture into a 13x9x2- inch pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Then you will add the beef mixture and top with the cottage cheese. Put the mozzarella cheese slices on top of this mixture. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Cindy Garrett, Marshall DeKalb EC


Slow Cooker Lasagna

1 pound ground beef
1 (12 ounce) oven ready lasagna noodles
1 onion, chopped
1 (16 ounce) cottage cheese small curd best
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1 6-ounce tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano

In skillet brown meat with onion and garlic. Add tomato sauce, paste, salt and oregano stir until mixed and heated through. In a large bowl combine cottage cheese, grated Parmesan cheese and shredded mozzarella cheese. Spray crockpot with cooking spray for easier cleanup. Spoon a portion of meat mixture onto the bottom of cooker. Add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (might have to break them to fit). Top the noodles with a portion of cheese mixture. Repeat layering of sauce, noodles and cheese. I top it with italian seasoning or parsley for color. Cook on high for 3. hours in my cooker. All cookers are different, so first time might want to watch closely.

Michelle Hicks, Clarke-Washington EMC