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Power Pack: July 2015

Half a century of help with Medicare

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law with these words: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime.”

For 50 years, the Medicare program has provided essential health care services for millions of people who are age 65 or older, disabled, or have debilitating diseases. Without Medicare, many people would not be able to pay for hospital care, doctor’s visits, medical tests, preventive services, or prescription drugs.

Your Medicare card is the most important piece of identification you own as a Medicare beneficiary since medical providers will request it when you seek their services. If you need to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged Medicare card, you can do it online with a my Social Security account at Requesting a replacement card through my Social Security is safe, convenient, and easy. Going online saves you a trip to your local Social Security office or unproductive time on the phone. Request your replacement Medicare card the easy and convenient way — online — and you’ll get it in the same amount of time as you would if you applied in an office or over the phone — in about 30 days.

Fifty years ago, Medicare didn’t have as many options as it does today. As the largest public health program in the United States, Medicare includes four parts to keep you covered:

  • Part A is insurance that covers inpatient hospital stays, outpatient care in nursing facilities, hospice, and home health care.
  • Part B includes medical insurance for doctor’s services, medical supplies, outpatient care, and preventive services.
  • Part C is a Medicare advantage plan that allows you to choose your health care coverage through a provider organization. You must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C. This plan usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage and may include extra benefits and services at an additional cost.
  • Part D is prescription drug coverage. There is a separate monthly premium for this plan; however, people with low resources and income may qualify for the Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs from Social Security. Visit to see if you qualify.

A recent survey to Medicare beneficiaries asked: Why do you love Medicare? One person stated, “It gives peace of mind not only for seniors, but for veterans and disabled as well.” Another satisfied recipient replied, “I most likely wouldn’t be alive today without Medicare.” These are just two of the millions who endorse Medicare’s half-century strong success story.

For more information about Medicare, visit

As Medicare celebrates 50 years, Social Security commemorates 80 years. Learn more about Social Security’s 80th anniversary at


Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by e-mail at


Linemen from across the state gathered June 1 at the Capital for Alabama Lineman Appreciation Day. Photo by Michael Cornelison

State’s electric utility linemen honored for their service at Capitol ceremony

Alabama’s electric utility linemen often work long hours, doing potentially dangerous work in remote areas. And they are always on call, 365 days a year.

To honor their service and hard work, the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA), with help from Alabama Power Company and the state’s municipally owned electric utilities, sponsored the second Lineman Appreciation Day on June 1.

Linemen from all over the state came to the state Capitol to be recognized. Cullman Electric Cooperative president and CEO Grady Smith gave a heartfelt and personal talk, recalling his early career as a lineman. Alabama Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director Art Faulkner talked about the role of linemen in times of disaster, and AREA director of safety Michael Kelley, himself a former lineman, gave his perspective on the work and service of Alabama’s linemen.

State Rep. April Weaver, R-Alabaster, was the sponsor of the 2014 resolution that created Lineman Appreciation Day. She recalled her grandfather, who was a lineman, and what his work meant to her. Members of the local media covered the event, and all linemen were invited to AREA afterward for lunch and cake.

Visit to see more photos and video from the ceremony.


Keeping your home clean helps protect your family

All of us want our homes to be a healthful environment for our families, and it’s easier to keep allergies and infections at bay by being aware of potential sources of illness. Good cleaning practices and safe food handling help keep your home from becoming a trigger for allergies or a source of infection.

Year-round allergens typically come from an indoor source. The most common types are dust, mold, and pet hair or dander. Dust mites thrive in mattresses and bedding. When their droppings and remains become airborne, your natural filtration system feels under attack. Also, mold fungus flourishes in dark, damp areas, so be sure to clean often. Many people are allergic to a protein found in pet dander or saliva. Some simple actions such as washing clothes frequently may help, depending on what particular allergies you have.

In the bathroom

In the bathroom, routinely clean and disinfect all surfaces. This is especially important if someone in the house has a stomach illness, a cold, or the flu. Experts make a distinction between cleaning and disinfecting. While cleaning removes germs from surfaces, disinfecting actually destroys them.

Cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and most of the germs is usually enough, but sometimes you may want to disinfect for an extra level of protection. Disinfectants are specifically registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and contain ingredients that destroy bacteria and other germs. Check the product label to make sure it says “Disinfectant” and has an EPA registration number.

In the kitchen

In the kitchen, foodborne illnesses can make your family very ill. Those at greatest risk are infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Clean surfaces before, during, and after preparing food—especially meat and poultry. Use paper towels that can be thrown away, cloth towels that are later washed in hot water, or disposable sanitizing wipes that both clean and disinfect.

Sponges are especially problematic, because they hold moisture and can spread unsafe bacteria. The preferred method to clean them is by mixing 3/4 cup of bleach with one gallon of water, then soaking the sponge for five minutes. Sponges also can be cleaned with a regular dishwasher load on “heated dry” setting.

When preparing food, wash hands and food contact surfaces often. That’s because bacteria can contaminate cutting boards, knives, and food preparation surfaces. Rinse all fresh fruit and vegetables under running water, and use different cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables.

Cook food long enough and at a temperature high enough to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Cook poultry to at least 165 degrees F, ground meat to 160 degrees F, and steaks and chops to 145 degrees F. Don’t rely on color alone; hamburger meat can turn brown before it’s safe to eat. Minimizing the time foods are held in the hazardous temperature zone will lessen the chance of acquiring a foodborne illness, so refrigerate foods promptly.


Jim McVay, Dr.P.A., is director of the Bureau of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease of the Alabama Department of Public Health.


Auburn student is summer intern


Alethia S. Russell, a senior at Auburn University, is working on the staff of Alabama Living as an intern this summer. Russell, who will graduate in August with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, is helping write articles, design advertising campaigns and performing other communications-related tasks during her internship.

A native of Gadsden, she is active in her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, and has helped with orientation of new students and as a parent counselor during Camp War Eagle.

Safe @ Home: After the storm

A crew from Central Alabama EC works to clear trees from a closed section of highway in Houston County in April. Photo by Allison Griffin
A crew from Central Alabama EC works to clear trees from a closed section of highway in Houston County in April. Photo by Allison Griffin

Staying safe around electricity after the storm

By Allison Griffin

When the fierce winds of a major storm begin to die down, line crews from Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives are already in motion, preparing to head out into areas littered with downed trees and power lines to restore power your homes and businesses.

After the storm has passed and the power’s out, it’s tempting to set off in the car and look at damage. But if local law enforcement or elected officials have asked motorists to stay off the roads, there’s a reason.

Michael Kelley, AREA’s director of safety, took me to the Wiregrass Electric Cooperative area in late April after unexpectedly strong storms broke more than 60 power poles and left nearly 13,000 without power in Houston and Geneva counties.

It was gratifying to see the cooperative spirit at work as linemen from other Alabama co-ops came to help the Wiregrass crews, who were working day and night to clear roadways and reset poles.

But sightseers can hamper workers. “We understand that it’s hard for people to get information during a disaster, to find out which roads are closed and which ones are open,” Kelley says. “Still, obeying road closure signs and law enforcement is important for line worker safety.” In general, the safest place to be during times of disaster is at home.

On that April trip, Kelley and I saw several lines that were hanging low across the road, which can be more dangerous than ones on the ground. He says a vehicle with a ladder rack, for example, can grab a low-hanging line and pull a worker off a pole. Or a low-hanging line may still be energized.

Alabama’s “Move Over Act,” which requires motorists to vacate the lane closest to an emergency vehicle or slow to a speed that is less than 15 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit, also applies to utility workers and their vehicles.

Other questions and answers from Kelley:

What if I encounter a downed power line?

• Do not attempt to move a downed line, or anything that is in contact with the line.

• Be aware of where the line is, and always maintain a safe distance away from the wire – at least 10 feet.

• Report a downed line to your local utility. If it’s on fire or sparking, call 911.

• When you call, have a street address available, or in a rural area, either a mailbox number or a mile marker.

What if my car contacts a power pole or a downed line?

• Stay in the vehicle if at all possible and call for help. The only time you should exit the car is if it is on fire, or there’s a danger that it will be engulfed in water.

• If you must leave, jump with both feet together and avoid contact with the car and the ground at the same time, in case the car is “hot.” You do not want to be a path of electricity from the car to the earth. Shuffle away from the car.

Other safety reminders:

Keep a basic disaster supply kit at home. Even if power is restored quickly, hazardous conditions may keep you from leaving your home. A few basics include three days’ worth of non-perishable food and a gallon of water per person per day for three days. Find a complete list at

If you have a generator, make sure you have enough gasoline on hand to run it. And make sure it’s properly set up away from the house and garage, and only plug in appliances directly to the generator. Use extension cords that are large enough to carry the electrical load that you will put on the generator.

Alabama Gardens: Terrariums

 Terrariums are easy, fun project for summer – or any time

 By Katie Jackson

Back in April I had the pleasure of giving a program to a gathering of Alabama Rural Electric Association spouses, a charming group that listened attentively as I waxed on and on about how everything old really is new again. Case in point: terrariums.

I’m old enough to remember back to the 1970s when terrariums were all the rage. And nowadays they, like macramé and fondue, have made a comeback, so I took a stroll down memory lane and tried making one for myself.

Not being a particular adept DIYer (do-it-yourselfer — my daughters and I have a long-standing joke when we see something cute in a store: we could make that ourselves … but we won’t), I wasn’t sure how well this project would work for me. But it turned out to be such fun, and it is a perfect indoor project for this time of year.

For those who don’t know, terrariums are little gardens first developed in the mid-1800s by botanist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, who was actually studying insects in glass jars when he discovered that a fern spore in an unattended jar had germinated and was thriving even though the jar was closed. This discovery not only proved to be a great system for transporting plants across long distances, it also became all the rage in Victorian times.

A closed terrarium works by creating its own microenvironment within a clear glass container, which allows sunlight to enter but also traps the moisture created by the plants and soil to create a self-watering system within the containers. Open terrariums work similarly, though they may require more frequent watering to keep them moist and thriving.

Closed terrariums work best for tropical plants that thrive in humid, protected environments, such as ferns, mosses and orchids. Open terrariums can be used for a variety of other plants such as cacti and succulents that prefer dry, arid conditions or herbs and other hardy, small plants.

To create your own terrarium:

  • Choose any clear glass container — from canning jars to a fish bowl to any decorative glass container that strikes your fancy.
  • Cover the bottom of the container with an inch of pebbles, small rocks, or marbles to create a drainage system for the plants’ roots.
  • Top the pebbles with a thin layer of activated charcoal or perlite.
  • Top that with a layer of sterile potting soil (or cactus or orchid soil mix if you’re using these plant species) that is deep enough to comfortably cover and nestle the roots of the plants you are using.

Once you’re through planting and arranging the terrarium, add enough water to the container to moisten the soil mixture, then cover the container if you’re making a closed terrarium. Set the terrarium in a spot where it gets plenty of filtered sunlight. Open terrariums can be exposed to more direct sunlight, but closed terrariums can overheat if they receive too much direct sunlight.

Check the terrarium once a week or so to make sure the soil is relatively moist and add a sprinkling of water if needed. A good sign that you need to add additional water to a closed terrarium is a lack of condensation on the surface of the glass or signs of wilting in the plants. If a closed terrarium is beginning to develop mold on its sides, leave it open for an hour or so to let some of the condensation escape.

Other than that, there is little maintenance required for terrariums and they truly are easy and fun to make, so much so that you may want to create a whole collection of them in different sizes and styles. After all, you’re only limited by your imagination.

Making your own terrarium takes just minutes, once you’ve assembled all the ingredients: a clear container, pebbles, perlite, soil, seeds (or tiny plants) and water.

Photo by Allison Griffin



JACKSON, KATIE Gardening 2013

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

Alabama Outdoors: Primitive predators

Tim Fey shows off a bowfin he caught. Photo by John N. Felsher
Tim Fey shows off a bowfin he caught. Photo by John N. Felsher

Primitive predators are always on the prowl

By John N. Felsher

At the drop-off edge, a cloud of brown silt suddenly erupted as a huge green head snatched the bass lure, throwing spray into the air as if someone threw a brick into the water. The powerful fish headed deeper into the channel, straining the line nearly to the breaking point.

“I think we got this tournament won,” the angler shouted enthusiastically to his partner. “Get the net. This one’s a monster. It must be … nuts, another mudfish! Never mind the net.”

Many anglers give a similar reaction when a mudfish or bowfin strikes. Anglers also call them grinnel, dogfish, cypress trout, cottonfish (because of the texture and flavor of its meat) and many other names unfit to print. Although some people eat them, many people describe the flavor of bowfin as something akin to eating wadded cotton soaked in swamp mud. Louisiana Cajuns call them “choupique,” an Anglicized version of a French translation of the Choctaw Indian word “shupik,” meaning mudfish.

No matter what anyone calls them, these amazing fish date back to the Jurassic Period about 150 million years ago. The only surviving representative of a primitive order, these fish witnessed the extinction of the dinosaurs and the giant mammals of the Ice Age, yet they remain unchanged. They survive because they can live practically anywhere and often inhabit the most stagnant waters.

Their swim bladders can serve as primitive lungs, allowing bowfins to breathe air and live in the foulest places. Bowfins can remain alive for long periods out of the water as long as they remain moist. People sometimes find them alive in semi-dried ponds resembling little more than mud puddles after a drought or when a falling river drains backwaters. Farmers even reported plowing them up alive in wet fields after floods.

“Bowfins can live in muddy backwater areas without much oxygen much better than most other species,” says Chris Greene of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries in Montgomery. “Bowfin is a native fish found throughout Alabama. They are more common in swampy backwater areas with a lot of shallow vegetation throughout the state.”

Although most anglers hold them in low regard because of their unsavory reputation on the dinner table, these large aggressive prehistoric predators can provide incredible sport, particularly on light tackle. Long and cylindrical with a rounded tail and an exceptionally long dorsal fin, a bowfin looks similar to an eel, but thicker with greenish-brown scales and a huge head with a mouth full of sharp teeth. Vicious predators, bowfins eat almost anything they can catch and frequently devour small fish, crawfish, frogs, salamanders, snakes and small animals, but few people intentionally fish for them.

“Bowfins hit hard and can put up a good fight, but are not normally targeted,” Greene says. “They can grow pretty big. It’s not uncommon to catch bowfins in the 5- to 10-pound range all across Alabama. Anglers mostly catch them by accident while fishing for bass or something else. Some archers target them in backwater areas.”

A bowfin may grow about 12 inches in its first year and live more than 30 years. The world record topped 21 pounds. Some larger specimens exceed three feet in length.

Big bowfin can challenge any type of bass tackle and may hit anything that might tempt a largemouth bass. Bass anglers catch them on spinnerbaits, crankbaits and Texas-rigged plastic worms. Bowfins also hit jigs dropped into thick cover, particularly around weeds or wood. Crappie anglers often catch them on live shiners. Bowfins might even hit nightcrawlers and other baits used by anglers targeting bream or catfish.

Since they can breathe air, bowfins thrive in rivers, quiet swampy backwaters, shallow ponds and lakes full of submerged aquatic vegetation all across the state. Flowing with muddy rivers and laced with numerous backwater bayous, creeks and sloughs, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta creates the perfect habitat for bowfins and probably holds the largest population in the state. Bowfins also thrive in the Alabama, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and the Tennessee river systems among other places.

Almost any warm, sluggish creek, bayou, canal or reservoir in the state probably holds a population of these fierce living fossils. After fighting one, release it to fight again tomorrow.


John N. Felsher is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Semmes, Ala. He co-hosts a weekly outdoors show that is syndicated to stations in Alabama. For more on the show, see Contact him through his website at

Mahlon Richburg

Lee County farmer Mahlon Richburg makes rounds every morning to feed his cows. Photo by Lacey Rae Sport
Lee County farmer Mahlon Richburg makes rounds every morning to feed his cows. Photo by Lacey Rae Sport

A day in the life and a life of dedication

By Lacey Rae Sport

The red barn in the background is weathered, its tin roof discolored. A late summer sun is outlining the barn and its surrounding trees as the breeze ruffles through the branches.

His jeans are worn but his light blue and green striped shirt is pressed to perfection. He places his sunglasses on his head to reveal bright eyes, set in tan skin, slightly crinkled from sunny days and countless smiles.

Hearing his voice, the cows shift towards the fence. Every morning and every afternoon, Mahlon Richburg makes the rounds to feed his cattle.

The 63-year-old leaps onto a nearby trailer where cotton seeds are piled as high as Richburg is tall. With one effortless swoop he fills a bucket. He walks through the gate to feed the cows, leaving it open behind him.

As the seed echoes in the metal trough, the cows eagerly push their way up to it. Standing comfortably in their midst, he casually reaches over to pat a heifer’s back. She has a shiny black coat like the rest, except for one pink bald spot about the size of a man’s hand.

When she was a calf, Richburg explains, she was caught in a green briar bush that scraped and scarred her back.

He had to nurse the calf back to health. For weeks he picked her up in the pasture, carried her to her mother, and helped her milk. Although he claims no partiality toward any one of his cattle, this yearling is alive only because of Richburg’s care and dedication.

Not only is he dedicated to his cattle, but, for decades, he was dedicated to his students. Richburg, or “Burg” as they called him, taught Agriscience Education at Auburn High School before retiring in 2013.

He talks about his former students like most people talk about their grandchildren, with detailed descriptions and an air of pride.

Ethan Stanley, a former student, says Richburg was the most memorable teacher he ever had.

“Burg had a way of making his students want to work hard at what they do,” Stanley says. “[Hard work] is a virtue that is very prevalent in agriculture and definitely was so in his classroom. He made you want to figure out how to do things right.”

Another former student, Tiffany Godfrey, says, “Burg is still to this day my biggest inspiration. He encouraged me to be the best I could be.”

She remembers how Richburg went to Hardee’s for a $1.72 cinnamon raisin biscuit and coffee every morning. He still continues that tradition. Occasionally, he sees former students and remembers each one.

Driving through another pasture, he points out different cows. They do not have names, only numbers. Nevertheless, Richburg can spot one 100 yards away and immediately recognize its number, as well as its mother’s number and calf’s number.

Richburg’s voice is gentle. His words, dripping in wisdom, come straight from experience. Although retired, he is still teaching.

Before starting his career as a teacher, he earned his degree in agricultural education at Auburn University. Richburg moved to Auburn in 1969 to attend the university after graduating from Luverne High School and never left the area.

While sitting in a freshman English class one day, he met his wife, Mary. According to Richburg, he was trying to watch workers fill in the horseshoe in the stadium through the window, but there was a girl in the way. “And, as Paul Harvey says, ‘You know the rest of the story.’”

They were married in 1972.

Mary was an elementary teacher for 17 years before becoming a counselor in Auburn public schools for 23 years. She retired in 2013 as well.

“I said, ‘Well, you know I’ll do this four or five years then do something else,’” Richburg says about his teaching career. “Forty years later we retired from education.”

Through an open patch in the trees, the sunlight shines through his truck windows as he enters the third pasture.

“Bingo,” Richburg says.

There is a newborn standing under its mother, only a few hours old. Of course he knew the mother’s number before he walked up to her. Holding the fuzzy, black calf between his legs he quickly tagged its left ear.

Surprised by the piercing it bucked and bellowed. Richburg held on and talked to him until he calmed down, then let him go back to his mother’s side.

Exiting the fields, he locks the metal gate behind him. He drives back to the barn, a darker red now that the sun is setting. Tomorrow morning after breakfast at Hardee’s Richburg will start his routine again.

As Paul Harvey says, “You know the rest of the story.”

Alabama Bookshelf: July 2015

Each month, we offer a summary of recent books either about Alabama people or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions and events to


Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee, HarperCollins, July 2015, $27.99

This newly discovered novel is the earliest known work from Monroeville native Harper Lee, who penned the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. According to the publisher, it was originally written in the mid-1950s and was the first novel Lee submitted to the publishers (before TKAM).

Its discovery in late 2014 set the literary world on fire.

“I was surprised by the announcement on Feb. 3 of a second novel to be published. Not that there is a second novel, but what it is,” said Nancy Anderson, associate professor of English at Auburn Montgomery who has extensively studied Lee and TKAM. “I expected a second novel to be ‘The Reverend,’ the nonfiction novel about the series of murders in Alexander City in the 1970s.” Lee traveled to Alexander City in the late 1970s to research that book, but no manuscript has ever been found.

Anderson, like other TKAM scholars and readers alike, is eager for the new work’s release, but hopes readers will put the new book in the proper context.

“I do hope that readers and reviewers remember that it was a first draft of TKAM, even if the publisher has labeled it ‘a sequel.’  It is a sequel in chronology — Jean Louise returning to Maycomb in the 1950s to visit her father.  Harper Lee has called it ‘the parent’ rather than the sequel.”

Harper Lee
Harper Lee

Anderson also hopes the new book will shed light on questions raised by TKAM.

“For example, readers have always wondered how old Jean Louise is when she is recalling her childhood in TKAM.  Now we may have the answer to that question: if ‘Go Set a Watchman’ is the plot rewritten for TKAM, perhaps this is Jean Louise in the 1950s recalling her childhood,” Anderson says.

She’s tempering her excitement with a small dose of reality. “I am excited about the release and cannot wait to read it, but I am also being realistic in reminding myself not to expect another TKAM.”


Mildred Budge in Embankment, by Daphne Simpkins, Quotidian Books, January 2015, $11.50

This second full-length Mildred Budge novel follows the retired school teacher and full-time church lady as she leads her fellow church members to safety after the car in which they were traveling wrecks on a desolate road. The journey is not just a physical one; she experiences new spiritual adventures as she continues to “work out her salvation” within the context of friendships and church relationships.


In the Land of Cotton: How Old Times There Still Shape Alabama’s Future, by Larry Lee, NewSouth Books, Spring 2015, $7.95

The early 19th century was a time of prosperity in Alabama, thanks in large part to the bountiful cotton that fed the hungry mills of England. But the cotton culture valued manual labor over a keen mind; this mentality, the author says, trapped thousands of Alabamians in a cycle of poverty and lack of education. Author Lee is an expert in rural development who is interested in education issues.

Alabama Recipes: Sandwiches

When you think of a summer sandwich, what comes to mind? A juicy Alabama tomato, sliced on white bread with mayo, just says “summer” to us. And how about a glass of iced tea (sweet, of course) to wash it down? Photo by Michael Cornelison
When you think of a summer sandwich, what comes to mind? A juicy Alabama tomato, sliced on white bread with mayo, just says “summer” to us. And how about a glass of iced tea (sweet, of course) to wash it down? Photo by Michael Cornelison

The Merriam-Webster definition of a sandwich is “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between.” Such a simple thing, but with oh so many possibilities. From a simple deli turkey sandwich to a gourmet panini, one can make almost anything into a delicious sandwich. I hope you’ll find some inspiration from our reader-submitted recipes. Don’t forget to send your favorite recipes for our upcoming themes!

Upcoming recipe themes and deadlines are:

August Cool drinks June 15
September Tailgating July 15
October Homemade candy August 15

Submit your recipes here, email to or mail to: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook for updates throughout the month.


Mary Tyler Spivey is a graduate of Huntingdon College
where she studied history and French but she also has a
passion for great food.

Contact her at


Cook of the month:

Katye Delashaw, Dixie EC

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich

  • 4 medium green tomatoes
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 4 slices of Swiss cheese
  • Ranch dressing
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Flour
  • 8 slices of ciabatta bread

Slice green tomatoes 1/4 inch thinck. Salt and pepper each side. Let sit for 15 minutes. Fry bacon, drain and break slices in half. Coat green tomato slices in flour. Fry in vegetable oil until golden brown on each side. Place fried green tomato slices on slice of toasted ciabatta bread. Top with slice of Swiss cheese and strips of bacon. Coat top slice of ciabatta bread with ranch dressing. Place on top, dressing side down. Makes 4 sandwiches.


Jalapeno Popper Sandwich

  • 4 slices bread
  • 2 slices of Big Slice Jalapeno Cheese Slices
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cheese singles
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup finely crushed pretzels
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided

Fill bread slices with jalapeno cheese slices, sliced jalapeno peppers and cheese singles to make 2 sandwiches. Whisk egg and milk in pie plate until blended. Dip sandwiches, 1 at a time, in egg mixture, then in pretzel crumbs, turning to evenly coat both sides of each sandwich with egg mixture and crumbs. Melt 2 teaspoons butter in medium skillet on medium heat. Add sandwiches; cook 2 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Add remaining butter to skillet; turn sandwiches. Cook 2 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown and cheeses are melted.

Jackie Harbin, Arab EC


Meat and Nut Rolls

  • 11/4 pounds ground round
  • 1 pound tube hot breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean brand recommended)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can water
  • 1/3 cup sliced black olives, cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 packages sub rolls, Cobblestone Mill recommended

In a large skillet or pan, brown ground round, sausage and onion together; drain. While the meat is draining, wipe out the pan. Over medium heat, put pecans, soup, water, olives and spices in the same pan and stir to combine. Add the meat mixture and heat through. Turn off heat, leaving pan on stove eye. Cut bread rolls in half and scoop out the middles. Fill bread shells with meat mixture and place cut side up in a baking dish. Put in a 350 degree oven until hot – 20 or 30 minutes. Enjoy! Freeze the remaining sub rolls for the next batch.

Sandra Lee, Baldwin EMC


Stuffed Sub Supreme

  • 2 large loaves of uncut French bread
  • Sliced cheese, your choice
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, cooked
  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked
  • One onion, cooked
  • Bell pepper, cooked

Cook sausage, beef, onion and pepper together.  Drain any grease.

Cut loaves in half lengthwise.  Hollow out and save soft inner parts for another use (like dressing or bread pudding). Line tops and bottoms with slices of cheese. Fill bottoms with scoops of meat/onion/pepper mixture.  Place tops on. Wrap in foil.  Bake on baking sheet at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Slice and serve. You may wish to bake only one and to freeze the other or share it as-is with someone who needs a quick meal.  These sandwich subs go well with a pot of soup or a large salad.

Jennifer Dansby, Covington EC


The Ultimate Catfish Cheese Sandwich

  • 4 5-6-ounce U.S Farm-Raised Catfish fillets
  • 11/4 cups of your favorite spicy catfish breader
  • 3 jumbo eggs
  • ½ cup of ice-cold dark beer
  • ½ cup of buttermilk
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • 8 slices of Texas toast
  • 16 slices of pepper jack cheese
  • Jalapeno Tartar Sauce
  • ½ cup pickle relish
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon garlic
  • ½ cup seeded jalapenos
  • 2 cups light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon for juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Make the tartar sauce first so it can mellow in the refrigerator. Place pickle relish, onion, garlic, and seeded jalapenos in a food processor and finely chop. Drain off any liquid. Add this to mayo, mustard, juice and zest from the lemon, black pepper, dill, and sugar. Stir thoroughly until smooth and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make batter by mixing 1 cup of breader with eggs, beer and buttermilk. Batter should be drippy not stiff. Coat fillets in dry breader on a plate and then dip in the batter. Place battered fillets in hot oil (375 degrees) Temperature is critical; if it’s too low fillets will be greasy, not crispy. Fry for 8-10 minutes until brown. Fish will float partly out of the oil when done. While fish is frying, toast bread lightly in toaster and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Place two slices of cheese on each piece of toast and cook in oven until bubbly. Drain oil off fillets on paper towels. Place fillets on cheese bread, spread chilled tartar sauce over fillets and top with second piece of bread. Add slice of tomato and lettuce if desired.

Gregory N. Whitis state specialist/Extension aquaculturist
Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Worth the Drive: Five Points Dairy Bar


Step back in time at Five Points Dairy Bar

By Jennifer Kornegay

In 1931, the infamous trial of the “Scottsboro boys” contributed a dark chapter to our state’s story and put Scottsboro, Alabama, in a harsh spotlight. But it’s shaken off that past, and today is a thriving little city.

More than 1 million visitors a year flock to find treasures at Unclaimed Baggage, a store that sells the contents of forever-lost luggage at discount prices. Folks also search for old, odd and just plain interesting items at one of the country’s longest-running trade days, held for almost a century on Sundays around Jackson Square. Anglers and boaters enjoy the bountiful population of big bass and sparkling waters of Lake Guntersville.

But there’s more to this spot in the northeast corner of Alabama than history, unique shopping opportunities and lake living. It’s got a sweet side too, and you can get a cold, creamy taste of it at Five Points Dairy Bar, an ice cream stand founded in 1941 that still looks pretty much like it did when walk-up lunch counters and “dairy bars” were a common sight across the American landscape.

Giant cones with swirls of vanilla soft serve and a vintage snowman signal passersby from the flat-top roof, which shades the order window, a few chairs and a hot pink picnic table. Duck under it to escape the heat and give the menu board a read. Craving a juicy cheeseburger? A fried bologna sandwich or a patty melt? You know you want a sundae or maybe a banana split, too. How about an old-fashioned float? When you’ve decided, approach the window and a friendly face will greet you as it slides open. “What’re you having?” it will ask.

The Dairy Bar is a popular spot and has been since it opened more than 80 years ago. Darryll and Loria Carroll Flowers are the current owners and have been running it with the help of their daughter Amanda for the last two years. “The place has such a history behind it,” Loria says. “We have one couple, and they’re in their late 70s, and they come here from Birmingham every few months. The man proposed to his bride decades ago on a bench we still have sitting out front.” She has her own fond memories, too. “I remember coming here as a kid, and then there was seating inside. The original solid cedar cooler is still here.”

Others reminisce about being brought to the barbershop that once occupied the small building next to the Dairy Bar. “They’ll tell me that their parents promised them a Dairy Bar ice cream cone if they behaved during their haircut,” Loria says.

“Our cheeseburgers are our best seller,” she adds. I get fresh beef ground every day, and your burger is made when you order it. I never use frozen meat, and we never make them ahead.” So be prepared to wait 15 minutes or so for yours.

If you didn’t order an ice cream treat before, and even if your stomach is telling your brain that it is satisfied, walk back over to the window, knock on it if you must (but you shouldn’t need to alert the attentive staff), and order a blueberry milkshake.

It’s not the best seller – that’s the peanut butter shake made with the Dairy Bar’s recipe hailing back to 1952 – but it’s divine. Plump blueberries are blended with soft-serve vanilla ice cream and milk to create a thick shake that’s not too sweet but packed with a blast of pure berry freshness.

If you go for a banana split, you’ll find it topped with “wet walnuts,” something Loria explains most places don’t do anymore. “We soak the nuts in syrup,” she says. “It’s a great addition.”

There’s even ‘50s music playing under the overhang, and a black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe stuck to one of the windows, completing the trip back in time. “It’s just a special place that has been a part of a lot of people’s lives,” Loria says. “And a new generation is loving it now.”


Jennifer Kornegay is the author of a new children’s book, “The Alabama Adventures of Walter and Wimbly: Two Marmalade Cats on a Mission.” She travels to an out-of-the way restaurant destination in Alabama every month. She may be reached for comment at

Enjoy state’s official fruit while at its peak


By Alethia Russell

June and July are prime picking season for a fruit that’s rooted in our Alabama hearts: the blackberry.

Although the origins of the blackberry are unknown, it is believed it originated in Asia, Europe or North or South America. Most of the berries we consume in the Southeast are grown from a breeding program based at the University of Arkansas and other universities in the Southeast. Once these seedlings go public, nurseries and home gardeners can take up the hobby of raising these beauties to their peak.

Blackberries are not widely grown in the state, but Alabama’s legislature declared the blackberry as the state fruit in 2004, at the request of Fairhope Elementary School faculty and students. Teachers Susan Sims and Amy Jones noticed Alabama laid no claim to a fruit of its own like our neighboring states, and set out to fix that. They researched the fruit and received the backing of then-Sen. Bradley Byrne and State Rep. Randy Davis to help push it through the Senate. (Alabama’s official tree fruit is the peach, recognized as such in 1949.)

The good news is that you can grow them yourself in your backyard garden. The health and wellness benefits blackberries provide are more than enough incentive to invest. Blackberries are low in sodium and calories, and are rich in bioflavonoids and Vitamin C. The dark color of the fruit indicates it has one of the highest levels of antioxidants in fruit. Tea drinkers use the leaves of the fruit for added flavor or as a therapeutic drink. Just mask the bitterness with a little honey and sip away. The leaves have also been used to treat gum inflammation.

The plant has proven to be a low maintenance and attractive addition to vegetable gardens, according to Jason Powell, co-owner of Petals from the Past Nursery in Jemison.

“You can grow blackberries without a lot of fuss,” Powell says. “So we have a lot of home gardeners who like to grow them in their gardens because you don’t have to deal with a lot of spray programs. If you can give them sunshine, and plant a good variety and fertilize twice a year, you’re good.”

Blackberries should be planted in early spring, preferably one month to one month and a half before the last frost of the winter. It prefers acidic or neutral soil for growing. Soil pH should range from 5.5 – 7.0. Pests can build up in soil over the years, so avoid planting blackberries in an area where other brambles have grown to prevent contaminating the plant. These plants will not produce fruit the first year, but with proper maintenance they will produce fruit the following year. Gardeners should fertilize as early as possible in the spring and maintain the bushes with trellises. With proper growing supervision, a blackberry bush can last anywhere from 15-20 years.

Here are a few tips for growing blackberries at home:

Blackberries are self-fruitful: This means you can plant one variety of blackberry and there’s no need for another plant for cross-pollination.

Fertilizer is important: Blackberries need proper soil nutrients to grow. Alabama soil typically cannot provide these nutrients on its own. Proper fertilizing and maintaining mulch around the base of the plant will keep weeds and grass from sapping nutrients from your berries. Also avoid planting in sandy or heavy clay soil.

Walking on sunshine: Blackberries require a minimum of five hours of sunshine per day. Water them once or twice a week as needed to maintain moisture and sun balance. Be sure to give them at least an inch of water in drier periods.

Growing Room: The easiest way to grow blackberries at home is in a standard 10-foot row with a trellis. Blackberry bushes are naturally climbing plants.

Know what you grow: Blackberries are also referred to as caneberries, bramble, brambleberries, etc., because they grow in thorny and thornless varieties. But they are also classified by what type of bearing they produce. Primocane bearing varieties grow the canes and fruits on the same cane during the same year. Jim Pitts, director of Chilton County Research and Extension Center, suggests that the Natchez variety is the best non-thorny variety suitable for home gardening. Visit your local hardware store or nurseryman and ask about the variety best for your gardening needs.

After all your hard work, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. When your berries begin to ripen, try to pick them every three to six days and enjoy them alone or in pies, jams or jellies. If not, the birds will have fun eating your berries.

Alethia Russell, a senior at Auburn University, is a summer intern for Alabama Living.

Magic Blackberry Cobbler

1 stick butter

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup milk

1 quart blackberries

3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 2 quart baking dish melt butter in oven. Remove from oven. In a separate bowl mix flour and 1 cup sugar until well blended. Add milk and mix until blended. Pour this mixture over butter but DO NOT STIR. Pour blackberries over this mixture but DO NOT STIR. Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar over berries but DO NOT STIR. Bake, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes. It should be brown when done. Serve warm.

Kimberly Baugh, North Alabama EC
From the Alabama Living recipe archives. See more recipes here.

Reclaiming history

An undated photo of the Birmingham Black Barons, one of the most successful baseball teams in the Negro Leagues. Photo courtesy of the Center for Negro League Baseball Research
An undated photo of the Birmingham Black Barons, one of the most successful baseball teams in the Negro Leagues. Photo courtesy of the Center for Negro League Baseball Research

Negro Southern League Museum will honor baseball’s past

By Ryan Whirty

It’s been a long, long wait, but on July 4 — the most American of holidays — Birmingham resident and former Negro Leaguer Ernest Fann will finally get to see the story of segregation-era, African-American baseball come to life.

That’s when the state-of-the-art, interactive, multimillion-dollar Negro Southern League Museum that’s been in the works for five years will, at long last, hold its grand opening. After years of budget delays and controversy surrounding its possible competition with the long-established Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, the project sponsored by Birmingham Mayor William Bell will come to fruition.

“I’m very excited,” says Fann, a native of Macon, Ga., who settled in Birmingham after his playing career. “It took so long. There’s no museum that can tell the story of black baseball like it really was than this place. It’s going to be amazing. People will get to see the long history of the Negro Leagues, and I’m very glad to be a part of it.”

Home-grown talent

Alabama has actually played a major role in the history of African-American baseball. The state’s largest city was home to one of the Negro Leagues’ oldest, most storied franchises, the Birmingham Black Barons, which for decades was the deep South’s black baseball jewel. The Black Barons won multiple Negro American League pennants with rosters that featured dozens of African-American hardball stars, including, in the late 1940s, a young prospect named Willie Mays.

The area was also the home of arguably the country’s best, most talent-laden and vigorously competitive urban industrial leagues, which launched the professional baseball careers of dozens of African-American players.

“There’s more to the history of black baseball than just the Negro Leagues,” says Dr. Layton Revel of the Center for Negro League Baseball Research, who personally donated tens of thousands of artifacts and pieces of memorabilia to the new museum.

“A lot of the industrial teams were proving grounds for players. What we’re saying is that it’s an important part of the history. You can’t forget the grass roots, where these guys started.”

But it wasn’t just the Magic City that featured prime black baseball in the decades before Jackie Robinson broke the Major League color barrier. There were also squads like the Montgomery Grey Sox and the Mobile Black Shippers and Black Bears.

In fact, Mobile turned out to be a key locus of African-American hardball activity, not only by hosting such quality semipro teams like the Bears and the Shippers, but also serving as the hometown of the one and only Leroy “Satchel” Paige. Paige was the first Negro Leaguer inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, who many baseball historians consider the greatest pitcher in the sport’s history, black or white, regardless of time period.

Paige grew up and earned his spikes in Mobile with another Negro League legend from the city, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, one of black baseball’s most colorful, versatile, active and longest-living personalities.

Radcliffe, who died in 2005 at the age of 103, earned his nickname by catching one end of a doubleheader, then pitching the second game on the same day. When asked by author Brent Kelley in 2000 whether he considered himself a pitcher or a catcher, Radcliffe’s answer probably echoed the feelings of countless Negro Leaguers. “It didn’t make no difference,” he said, “just so we won.”

Alabama also gave birth to several other Negro League greats and Baseball Hall of Famers, like hulking power hitter George “Mule” Suttles. Then, of course, there were the two ’Bama natives and home run kings who began their careers in the Negro Leagues before moving on to greatness in the Majors — Mays and Henry Aaron.

But a slew of other, less-heralded Negro League legends came from the state, from both major cities and tiny towns scattered across the landscape.

One was Birmingham native William “Dizzy” Dismukes, who enjoyed a lengthy, storied pitching career that began in 1910 and extended into the 1940s. Later in his baseball life, Dismukes became a wily, successful manager, a prominent sportswriter in the African-American press and a scout for the New York Yankees.

Just a few years before Dismukes got his start in the top levels of the game, C.I. Taylor founded one of Birmingham’s first professional blackball teams, the Giants, who featured the playing services of C.I.’s three equally talented brothers — “Steel Arm” Johnny, “Candy” Jim and Ben. The quartet of siblings would move on from Birmingham to become the Negro Leagues’ “first family” for 20 years.

Other talented Negro Leaguers from Alabama included first baseman Lyman Bostock Sr. of Birmingham; catcher Otha Bailey Sr., from Huntsville, one of the best defensive backstops in the game in the 1950s; utility player and manager Tommy Sampson of Calhoun; pitcher Eugene Scruggs from Meridianville; Birmingham infielder Henry Elmore; outfielder and Fairfield native Jake Sanders; and the sterling infielder Lorenzo “Piper” Davis, whose famed nickname came from his hometown of Piper and who became the first African-American signed by the Boston Red Sox organization.

There was Montevallo native Clifford DuBose, a third baseman and outfielder who competed for the Black Barons and Memphis Red Sox and whose attitude toward the game symbolized the feelings of the thousands of African Americans who suited up in the Negro Leagues.

“That was such a big thing going for him,” said his brother, Glover DuBose, of Clifford’s time in the Negro bigs and beyond. “He was always a baseball man. That was his passion, baseball.”

For all of these teams and players — those famous or forgotten, honored or unsung, big-city boys and small-town kids — Revel said it’s only natural that the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama play host to a brand-new black baseball museum.


Making a dream a reality

The fact that the project has survived several funding hiccups points to the determination of those involved, including the dozens of players who gather in Birmingham each spring for an annual Negro Leagues reunion and who, like Fann, have eagerly and patiently awaited the realization of the facility.

But financial difficulties weren’t the only problematic facets of the project. When Revel and city officials first announced the creation of the effort, representatives from the existing Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City expressed concern that the Alabama institution would constitute a rival that could possibly draw attention, visitors and business away from the NLBM.

But since then, any conflicts between the two facilities appear to have been smoothed over, thanks to assurances from Bell, Revel and others that the new Birmingham museum would serve a totally different purpose than the NLBM, which is much more national in scope than the Alabama-based facility.

The new museum has been funded by a mix of charitable fundraising, private donations and public funding — the Birmingham City Council, for example, approved a $2.8 million appropriation to the effort last year.

Through it all, everyone involved in the museum and the annual reunion has said the facility and festivities come down to one thing — celebrating the courage, passion and playing abilities of the men (and occasionally women) in Alabama who populated all levels of African-American baseball for over a century.

“You set a standard that sent other players on to the Major League,” Bell said at a news conference last year while surrounded by former Negro Leaguers. “This is a great day, just the beginning.”

Bell made those comments as the fifth annual Negro Leagues reunion was getting underway last year. This year’s event was held May 25-27, and like clockwork, Ernest Fann was in attendance, even volunteering to chauffeur some of his colleagues around the city.

Fann said he’s encouraged by all the youngsters who attend the reunions and get a chance to talk with former Negro Leaguers about the players’ experiences on and off the diamond.

“It’s good for them to know who we are and what we did,” he said. “It’s a good chance to educate the kids.”

Meanwhile, Revel said undertaking the museum project, as well as holding the yearly reunions, is important to do now because, as the former players get on in years and pass away, memories of and connections to the Negro Leagues dwindle and fade.

“Every year we’re just trying to do more as [the players] age, and we have lots of players from Birmingham,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to do this while they’re still alive, so we can interview them and talk to them. And they’re not just passing away, but for many of them their health is such that they can’t [relate their stories]. If we’re interested in Negro League baseball, now is the time to do it.”


New book looks back at Negro Southern League

The Negro Southern League became a valuable feeder of young players to the Negro National League and Negro American League, giving starts to future baseball legends Leroy “Satchel” Paige and Willie Mays.

Now, The Negro Southern League: A Baseball History, 1920-1951, (McFarland and Co., 276 pages, $39.95) by retired journalist and freelance writer William Plott of Montevallo, tells the story of this minor league, which sent a number of players – some found in cotton fields, some in steel mills — on to the higher level of pro baseball.

The league gave a home to professional baseball in cities that couldn’t support teams at the Negro National League level, with teams in New Orleans, Montgomery, Nashville, Pensacola, Knoxville, Jacksonville, Birmingham and Atlanta. During its history, more than 80 teams were members of the league, representing 40 cities in a dozen states. In the end, only four teams remained, operating more as semipro than professional teams.