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Alabama Gardens: Moon phase planting


Moon phase planting guides generations of gardeners

Katie Jackson

There was a full moon the other night, one so big and bright that I could almost read by it and it reminded me that my father had given me a copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac for Christmas that I had not yet read. So I pulled it out and under lamplight (I’ve reached an age when moonlight requires a little extra help if I really want to see the pages) I began to thumb through it.

I love farmer’s almanacs of all kinds because they are chock full of interesting information that ties back to days of yore. But the information that I find especially intriguing is the advice they offer on planting by the moon and signs, age-old practices of using the phases of the moon and the Zodiac to determine the best time to plant crops and perform other agrarian activities—even mowing the lawn.

While there is much debate about how scientific and effective it is to use the moon and astrological signs as guides to planting and planning our gardens, there actually is some science behind the practices. After all, many of these practices were developed generations ago through close observation of seasonal changes in light, temperature and other forces of nature. Plus, the gravitational pull of the moon does affect tides so it stands to reason that, as the moon waxes and wanes, so does the availability of water in the soil and in the plants themselves.

While planting by the signs is different and somewhat more complicated to figure out than planting solely by the moon, both use the basic guideline that above-ground flowers and vegetables should be planted as the moon is waxing—from the day the moon is new to the day it is full. Underground crops such as bulbs and root vegetables should be planted as the moon is waning—from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again.

Want even more precision in the planting schedule? Each quarter phase of the moon cycle is also said to be better suited for certain crops or chores: leafy crops are best planted during the first quarter moon cycle, seed-containing crops such as tomatoes and beans should be planted during the second quarter, root crops and perennials should be planted during the third cycle and nothing should be planted during the fourth cycle, though this is an ideal time to weed, mow and treat for pests.

These guidelines only scratch the surface of the many nuanced practices that can be applied to our gardening calendars, including the tradition of planting summer vegetables on Good Friday (April 3 this year), so as you’re planning your 2015 garden, it may be fun (and possibly productive) to study up on these time-honored traditions. Get a copy of the Old Farmers or a similar annual almanac or do a little library or Web research (I found a particularly easy to follow guide at and try it for yourself.

If you’re truly wanting to be scientific about it, create your own experiment by planting part of your garden by the correct phases of the moon and another part by the incorrect moon phases and see what happens. And send me your results or any specific garden lore you’ve followed or heard through the years. It could plant the seed for a future column!

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

March Gardening Tips

  • Remove winter mulch from garden beds as the plants show signs of new growth.
  • Divide and transplant summer-blooming perennials and fertilize established ones as soon as new growth appears.
  • Transplant shrubs and trees early in March.
  • Add any amendments (composted or processed manure, peat moss, compost, etc.) into your garden soil.
  • Plant green peas, snow peas, asparagus, horseradish and artichokes early in the month.
  • Plant eggplant, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, leeks, onions, early potatoes and radish seeds.
  • Plant strawberries, blueberries, grapes and fruit trees.
  • Sow seeds for tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and other spring vegetables.
  • Prune or pinch back leggy house plants and begin fertilizing them with a diluted solution of plant food.
  • Begin weeding garden or flowerbeds as soon as weeds emerge.
  • Clean out birdhouses and feeders.

Music festivals

3Hangout Festival 2014
The Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores drew nearly 40,000 fans in 2014.

Outdoor festivals offer music for every taste

By Allison Griffin

Scores of big-time music acts will enjoy the South’s heat and hospitality this spring and summer, so music-lovers should start saving money and making travel plans now for this year’s music festivals.

No matter what your taste in music, there’s sure to be a day or two (or more) that you’ll be looking forward to. In fact, the tough part may be deciding which festival (or festivals) to attend. Below is a roundup of some of the festivals in driving distance of many Alabama locations. Some that are later in the year have yet to announce their lineups; and keep an eye on the websites in case lineups or times change.

➢ Sweetwater 420 Fest, Atlanta: April 17-19. This music and craft beer event will take over Centennial Olympic Park with a diverse lineup; headliners include Snoop Dogg, 311, Thievery Corporation, Primus, Cage the Elephant, moe., Gov’t Mule, Beats Antique and more. A three-day general admission pre-sale wristband is $55, and regular price for three-day GA is $75.

➢ Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans: April 24-May 3. This cultural feast, set over two weekends, brings together musicians, cooks and craftspeople, and draws about 400,000 visitors each year. The headliners feature established artists and today’s hitmakers: Elton John, The Who, Jimmy Buffett, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, No Doubt, Keith Urban, Pitbull, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, T.I. and Chicago, among them. Single-day tickets are $58 in advance, $70 at the gate.

➢ Toadlick, Dothan: April 23-25. Country music legends Alabama and Hank Williams Jr. headline this festival at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds; also on the bill are Lee Brice, Bret Michaels, Styx and Ronnie Milsap. As for lodging, some RV sites are available, but in the spirit of the true festival experience, there is unlimited primitive camping. General admission tickets are $109 through March 1 and increase to $119 thereafter.

➢ Shaky Knees, Atlanta: May 8-10. This indie- and alt-rock festival has grown in popularity in its first two years, and the third promises more big acts: The Strokes, the Avett Brothers, Wilco, Pixies, Social Distortion, Ryan Adams and Tame Impala play this event at Central Park, in the Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta. Three-day advance tickets are on sale now for $199; single-day tickets at $99 are coming soon.

➢ The Hangout Music Fest, Gulf Shores: May 15-17. The beachfront festival, now in its sixth year, has grown exponentially; the 2014 festival sold out, even after the attendance cap was raised to 40,000 people. Foo Fighters, Zac Brown Band, Beck, Skrillex, My Morning Jacket, Foster the People and Paramore headline this year’s beachfront party. General admission tickets are $249 for three-day access.

➢ Shaky Boots, Kennesaw, Ga.: May 16-17. This sister festival to Shaky Knees brings an impressive roster of country stars for its inaugural event: Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, the Band Perry and Alabama’s own Jason Isbell will take the stage at the KSU Sports and Entertainment Park in Kennesaw, just north of Atlanta. General admission tickets are $95 per day, and $169 for two-day advance tickets.

➢ Counterpoint, Rome, Ga.: May 22-24. The music and arts festival features a variety of electronic dance music and jam band acts, with a few R&B and hip-hop acts as well. Headliners this year are Widespread Panic, Zedd, The Roots, Kygo, Knife Party, Dillon Francis and Zeds Dead. New this year is a midway featuring carnival rides, a game center, arts village and more. Advance three-day passes are $175.

➢ Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Manchester, Tenn.: June 11-14. This year’s lineup features a mix of old and new, with headliners Billy Joel, Mumford and Sons, Deadmau5, Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes and Florence + the Machine. Four-day general admission tickets are on sale now for $324.50 plus fees.

➢ Rock the South, Cullman: June 19-20. Brantley Gilbert, Travis Tritt, Dee Jay Silver, Corey Smith and Tyler Farr lead the lineup at this country music festival held at Heritage Park in Cullman. Organizers estimate last year’s event brought more than 30,000 people to the city over two days. Ticket prices aren’t yet listed on the event’s website.

➢ Gulf Coast Jam, Panama City Beach, Fla.: Sept. 4-6. Nicknamed “Country on the Coast,” this year’s lineup hasn’t been announced.

➢ BayFest, Mobile: Oct. 2-4. Lineup is yet to be announced for this downtown event;

Alabama Bookshelf March 2015

Each month, we offer a summary of recent books that are either about Alabama people or people with Alabama ties and/or written by Alabama authors. Email submissions to

Driving the King, by Ravi Howard, Harper Books, January 2015; $25.99 hardcover


This novel explores race and prejudice in 1950s America, as witnessed by famed singer Nat “King” Cole and his fictional driver and friend since childhood, Nat Weary.  Told through Weary’s perspective and alternating between past and present, the book reimagines the civil rights era, using Cole (who was actually born in Montgomery) and his real-life fame to tell a story of loyalty and friendship.

A Home for Wayward Boys, by Jerry Armor, NewSouth Books, January 2015; $24.95


Armor’s book recounts the creation of the Alabama Boys’ Industrial School, a residential facility that worked to rehabilitate troubled boys through compassion, common sense and Christian faith. The school was the vision of reformer Elizabeth Johnston, who rallied women around Alabama to persuade the Legislature to establish the school in 1900.

Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts: Commemorative Edition, by Kathryn Tucker Windham, University of Alabama Press; $29.95

Ghosts Jeffrey

Noted storyteller, folklorist and radio personality Windham died in 2011; this new edition returns the Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts to its original format in jacketed cloth full of original, black-and-white illustrations. Jeffrey has entertained generations of Alabama children, and students everywhere have been thrilled by Windham’s legends.

Anchors of Faith, by Martha Dickson, NewSouth Books, Fall 2014; $27.95


This pictorial overview of 145 mostly late-19th century wooden churches in southern Alabama, Mississippi and Florida will add to the understanding of religious faith in the rural South through architecture. These churches embody the spirit of their builders and help the modern reader understand their history, from their founding to their current state.

Consumer Wise: Indoor Lighting

LED styles

Efficient indoor lighting for your home

By James Dulley

<span style="color: #ff6600;">Q: We are remodeling some rooms in our home and need new lighting options. I always used 60- and 100-watt bulbs, but they are difficult to find now. What new types of lights are best to use?

<span style="color: #3366ff;">A: The standard high-wattage incandescent bulb technology is certainly not illegal, but it does not meet the current energy efficiency standards. Also, the bulb life is very short when compared to newer-technology standards, so the overall cost of using the older bulbs is high.

The wattage of a light bulb refers to how much electricity it consumes, not how much light it produces. The amount of light is measured in units called lumens. A 60-watt incandescent light bulb produces about 800 lumens of light and a 100-watt bulb about 1,600 lumens.

Today, your primary choices of bulb are halogen, CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) and LEDs (light emitting diodes), which I listed in the order of increasing efficiency. For many home applications, LEDs are the best choice even though they cost more initially.

Halogen bulbs are basically incandescent bulbs with halogen gas around the filament to improve efficiency enough to meet efficiency standards. CFLs are much more efficient, using only about 25 percent as much electricity as incandescent bulbs to produce the same about of light – and they last 10 times longer.

Today’s CFLs have improved when compared to the original versions. Instant start models are available, and some are dimmable using a standard dimmer wall switch. The types of phosphor layers on the inside surface of the bulb determine the light quality and color.

CFLs can produce true full-spectrum (simulates natural sunlight) light quality and can be purchased with warm white, cool white and daylight color temperatures. Many people objected to the cool white (bluish) color temperature of the early CFLs – they wanted something that mimicked the color of incandescent lamps (warm white). Daylight lamps have an even higher color temperature, and they produce more accurate colors and are good for tasks such as reading and painting.

LEDs are the newest and most efficient light source available and provide an excellent payback. A 12-watt LED produces as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. The LED bulb should also last a minimum of 20,000 hours. Most of them are dimmable, work well at cold temperatures and reach full brightness immediately.

LEDs gradually get dimmer over time. When a LED is rated for 20,000 hours, its output will stay above 70 percent of its original brightness for that time.

If you have been using incandescent bulbs, you are probably accustomed to a yellowish light quality. This is called the “color temperature” of a bulb. Incandescent bulbs are in the 2700-degree K range. The whiter “daylight” LEDs and CFLs are in the 4,000- to 5,000-degree K range. Most people grow accustomed to the whiter light and prefer it. The color temperature is listed on the packaging.

CRI (color rendering index) is another quality of the light bulb to consider. A higher CRI makes objects in a room look more like they would look under natural sunlight. A CRI above 80 is considered adequate for homes, but 90 or above makes everything look better and doesn’t cost much more.

There are four general types of lighting uses – ambient, accent, decorative and task. Ambient lighting is for general illumination with comfortable brightness. Accent lighting can create a mood in the room or highlight areas or objects. Decorative lighting is when the light itself is the object, such as a chandelier. Task lighting is for reading or doing a specific activity.

For effective lighting in your new rooms, install several grouped circuits with dimmers to control and vary the lighting schemes. For example, choose high-CRI bulbs over a dining table to enhance the appearance of food. An overhead high color-temperature bulb above a chair would be good for reading or other tasks.

For existing rooms, where it may not be easy to rewire or add circuits, switch to LEDs in most fixtures, and install dimmer wall switches. There are many new types of LEDs available to replace almost any incandescent bulb. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs do not lose efficiency as they are dimmed.

The goal for lighting efficiency is to use as little lighting as needed. Where you do not have a wall switch, such as with a table lamp, install a three-way socket and use a new three-way LED. Add a four-bulb lighting kit to a ceiling fan with a switch to allow you to switch on fewer than all four lights.

Remember to turn off lights when you leave a room. A rule of thumb for CFLs is to switch them off if you plan to be out of the room for 15 minutes or more. Switching them on and off more often will shorten their life. Contrary to popular belief, with the new electronic ballasts, “switching” does not use a large amount of current each time they’re switched on.


Work zone safety

Motorists urged to drive to survive near work zones

By Michael Kelley

Roadway construction zones have become such a familiar sight to Alabama drivers that most of us often pay little attention to pleas for caution.

But these areas can be deadly: Alabama had 22 fatal crashes in work zones in 2013, and 23 fatal crashes in 2012, according to data from the Alabama Department of Transportation.

In an effort to make drivers aware of work zones, several Alabama groups are participating in National Work Zone Awareness Week March 23-27. The annual spring campaign is traditionally held at the start of the construction season to encourage safe driving; this year’s theme is “Expect the Unexpected.”

“This awareness is important for both the motorists passing through the work zone and the workers doing the work,” said John McCarthy, chairman of the Alabama Struck-By Alliance.

The Struck-By Alliance is a voluntary group of businesses and governmental agencies, all of which have an interest in safe travel along the highways in the state. Participating in the Alliance, among others, are the Alabama Associated General Contractors of America, the 3M company, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), Alabama Power and the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives, which publishes Alabama Living. (Utility crews do much of their work on road rights-of-way.)

The Alliance sponsors field activities, such as stand-downs (where employers take a break during the work day to discuss safety with employees), and office functions, such as training classes and poster presentations.

Drivers might be surprised to learn that most work zone fatalities are motorists and their occupants; only about 10-15 percent of fatalities are workers and other non-motorized users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians.

To further heighten awareness, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which includes the state troopers, partners with ALDOT on work zone safety. ALDOT will often request trooper presence in construction zones — either to sit with their lights on, or in a marked car to slow traffic down, said Sgt. Steve Jarrett, spokesman for ALEA. If speeding becomes a problem they’ll ask for enforcement.

“You should see signs saying that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present (in construction zones),” Jarrett said.

Speed limits are reduced for a variety of reasons: the roadway may not be up to standard; there may be uneven lanes or lane closures; or there may be heavy equipment moving in and out of the area. “It’s not just for the safety of the workers; it’s for the safety of the motoring public as well,” Jarrett said.

“I get asked a lot, if the workers are not there, is the speed limit still reduced?” Jarrett said. “The bottom line is, if the speed limit is posted in black and white, that is the speed limit.”

The good news is that the numbers of work zone crashes and work zone fatalities has been decreasing for many of the past several years, McCarthy said. “We think that increased training of workers and increased awareness of the road users, through events such as National Work Zone Awareness Week, have been important in achieving this result,” he said.


  •  Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment, and workers.
  •  Be patient. Traffic delays are sometimes unavoidable, so try to allow time for unexpected occurrences in your schedule.
  • Obey all signs and road crew flag instructions.
  • Merge early and be courteous to other drivers.
  • Use your headlights at dusk and during inclement weather.
  •  Minimize distractions. Avoid activities such as operating a radio, using a handheld device or eating while driving.

Source: Safe Electricity

Alabama Recipes: Peanut Butter


We go through a lot of peanut butter in our household. From peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to cracking open a few roasted peanuts for a snack, we love eating peanuts!

Here are some fun peanut facts:

  • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • By law, any product labeled “peanut butter” in the United States must be at least 90 percent peanuts.
  • Peanuts account for two-thirds of all snack nuts consumed in the USA.
  • The average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he/she graduates high school.
  • Former President Bill Clinton confessed that one of his favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and banana; it’s also reported to have been the favorite of Elvis Presley.
  • Sixty percent of consumers prefer creamy peanut butter over crunchy.
  • In 1938, George Washington Carver spoke to the first National Peanut Festival held annually in Dothan, Ala. Dr. Carver introduced peanuts to the Wiregrass and they saved the area after boll weevils destroyed cotton crops.
  • March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, so let’s celebrate by preparing one of the recipes in this issue.

Sources: National Peanut Board,, National Peanut Festival

Submit your recipes here and 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

Peanut Butter Pound Cake with Peanut Butter Glaze


Pound Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a bundt pan with non-stick spray or grease and flour. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Cream in peanut butter until smooth and well incorporated. Add eggs one at a time. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk and vanilla to creamed mixture, beating after each addition until combined. Pour into bundt pan and bake 75-85 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes before removing and cool completely before frosting.

Cream peanut butter, vanilla extract and corn syrup. Slowly add powdered sugar and add one tablespoon of heavy cream one at a time to mixer. Add more cream if necessary. Pour and spread over cooled cake. Frosting needs to be thick but spreadable.

Shari Lowery, Pioneer EC


Peanut Butter Bon Bons

  • 2 cups chunky peanut butter
  • ½ cup margarine
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 package butterscotch morsels
  • 1 bar paraffin

Mix Rice Krispies and powdered sugar together in a large bowl and set aside. Melt peanut butter and margarine together and mix well (can do on top of stove on medium heat or in microwave). Pour over cereal mixture and mix with hand. Roll into balls, stick a toothpick into each ball and refrigerate about an hour. In a double boiler, melt package of butterscotch morsels and one bar paraffin in top of double boiler, stirring well. Dip balls one at a time into butterscotch mixture until well coated and place on wax paper. When finished dipping all balls, remove toothpicks. These have become a family tradition every Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Nanette Stinson, Central Alabama EC

Peanut Butter Candy

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 box (16-ounces) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 package (12-ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Blend butter and peanut butter in a large bowl. Work in the powdered sugar and cracker crumbs with a wooden spoon until combined thoroughly. Press into a 9×13 inch pan. Set aside. Melt chocolate pieces in microwave or double boiler, watching carefully to make sure the chocolate does not get too hot. Quickly spread melted chocolate over the top of the peanut butter mixture. Chill until firm, but not too cold. Tastes like Reese’s candy!

Elizabeth Davis, Tombigbee EC

Peanut Butter Popcorn

  • Popcorn
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey or corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Kosher salt

Pop enough corn to make 2 quarts. Cook the sugar and honey (or corn syrup) to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over the popcorn, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, stir and enjoy.

Lorena Wilson, Black Warrior EMC

Peanut Butter Cream Dreams



  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk


  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup almonds (thinly sliced)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 2 apples (blend to applesauce-like consistency)


For crust: Put 19 muffin cup liners in two muffin pans. With a fork, combine oatmeal, butter, brown sugar and almonds. Add the applesauce; mix well. Press crust into 19 muffin cups. For filling: Beat cream cheese well, then beat in peanut butter. Add eggs, vanilla, honey, and brown sugar; combining well.  Add the milk and mix until creamy. With a spoon, place filling into muffin cups on top of crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. When done, let cool before removing from the pans. Garnish with sliced almonds if desired. Makes 19 cupcakes.

Carissa Pittman, Joe Wheeler EMC

“Two” Easy 2-Minute Peanut Butter Fudge

  • 1 container prepared cream cheese frosting mix
  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

Remove top and wrapping from frosting mix; microwave for 1 minute. Stir frosting mix with peanut butter.  Spread in wax paper-lined dish; chill until firm. It only takes two ingredients and two minutes.

Mary F. Haga, Arab Electric Coop

Peanut Butter Fruit Dip

  • 2  5.3-ounce containers vanilla Greek yogurt (or 1 slightly heaping cup)
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to blend until smooth. Serve with fruit (bananas, apples, raspberries or strawberries). Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.

Tracy Sutley, South Alabama EC

Peanut Butter Squares

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup  white Karo syrup
  • 6 cups plain cornflakes
  • 2 cups peanut butter

Put sugar and syrup in pan. Heat until sugar is melted, then add peanut butter; stir until well mixed. Do not over heat.  Pour mixture over cornflakes while mixing well and smooth out on wax paper. Note:  Have corn flakes in large bowl to mix up and a shallow baking pan 10×15-inches or larger covered in wax paper before starting.

William Ring Sr., Tallapoosa River EC

Peanut Butter Cake

  • 2 boxes Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix
  • 6 large eggs
  • 11/3 cups water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • Baker’s Joy cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Soften butter to room temperature.  Spray four 9-inch cake pans with Baker’s Joy cooking spray.  Blend dry cake mix, water, butter, eggs and mashed bananas in a large bowl at low speed until moistened.  Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes.  Pour batter into cake pans and bake immediately.  Check for doneness after baking for 25 minutes. You will want your layers to be golden brown.  Do not over bake your layers.  Allow layers to cool before frosting.


  • 2 boxes of powdered sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups Jif creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift sugar.  Add butter and cream cheese and mix well.  Add peanut butter and vanilla and continue to mix.  If too stiff, add a couple of drops of milk.  Place frosting between layers and on sides of top of cake.

This recipe was originally created by my late mother-in-law, Mrs. Othel Herring.  She created the recipe to enter in the National Peanut Festival.  She never entered the recipe but it was a family favorite.  It also was the cake that she would bake for me for my birthday.  It is now the cake that I bake for my husband Phillip’s birthday.

Dianne Herring, Wiregrass EC

Reese’s Peanut Butter Pie

  • 2 pints heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large container Cool Whip
  • 1 large box instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 bag miniature Reese’s cups
  • 2 graham cracker pie shells

Whip heavy whipping cream with chocolate pudding mix (dry). It will stiffen, then fold in Cool Whip and whip until creamy. Crush up desired amount of Reese’s cups and fold into mixture. Spread into pie shells and sprinkle a few chopped Reese’s cups on top. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Wanda Johns, Marshall-DeKalb EC

Alabama Outdoors – March 2015

Fishing to fight hunger

Daniel Felsher shows off a bass he caught while fishing a river backwater. Photo by John N. Felsher
Daniel Felsher shows off a bass he caught while fishing a river backwater. Photo by John N. Felsher

Bass tournament series raises money for food program

By John N. Felsher

Alabama anglers will venture forth this year to not only find big fish and win cash prizes, but also to help their neighbors during the inaugural Delta Rendezvous Bass Tournament Series.

The series features seven bass tournaments conducted from March 21 through Sept. 19. (For the complete schedule, see Like most bass tournaments, each event will feature anglers competing to catch the biggest fish. However, this series goes well beyond bragging rights and prizes. These tournaments will help feed hungry people through Alabama Hunger Relief.

“The tournament series is a fun way to raise money for a good cause,” says Alan White with AHR, who is also publisher of Great Days Outdoors magazine. “All proceeds from the tournaments will go toward AHR, which raises money to pay to process deer meat donated by hunters. We distribute that meat to food banks in our program.”

In 2014, AHR processed more than 2,500 pounds of donated venison, giving the meat to 10 different food banks in Alabama. To pay for that, AHR organized several fund-raising events including saltwater tournaments and charity dove hunting events. In May 2014, AHR organized the Delta Rendezvous, an all-day event that featured four simultaneous fishing tournaments, archery shooting, seminars and other events.

Jeff Bruhl shows off a bass he caught on a jig and craw while fishing the delta marshes. Photo by John N. Felsher
Jeff Bruhl shows off a bass he caught on a jig and craw while fishing the delta marshes. Photo by John N. Felsher

“The idea for the bass tournament series came to us when we held the Delta Rendezvous,” White says. “During the Delta Rendezvous, we raised the most money from the bass tournament. Therefore, we decided to concentrate on bass tournaments this year.”

Teams pay $100 to enter each event. The top 20 percent of anglers entered in each event will take home cash winnings. In addition, teams accrue points based upon how they finished in each event. Teams with high point totals after the August tournament will qualify for the series championship, slated for Sept. 19.

Each tournament will run out of Live Oak Landing on the Tensaw River near Stockton under the supervision of tournament director John Hall. Competitors may only use artificial baits to catch largemouth or Kentucky spotted bass. Each team may bring in up to five bass per event, each at least 12 inches long. Each public weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m.

“All the weigh-ins will be free and open to the public,” says Wayne Miller with Mobile-Tensaw Delta Guide Service in Satsuma. “It’s a lot of fun to bring the family, especially children, down to the weigh-ins to see the fish. I encourage anglers to come down to the weigh-ins and talk to the competitors. People can learn a lot of tips.”

Anglers may fish any public waters they can reach from the landing, as long as they return in time to weigh and release their fish alive. Second in size only to the Mississippi River Delta, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta spreads across 250,000 acres of bayous, creeks, lakes, swamps, marshes and estuaries near Mobile.

From Live Oak Landing, anglers can head north to the Alabama or Tombigbee rivers. The Alabama merges with the Tombigbee near Mount Vernon, creating the Mobile River. The Tensaw River breaks off from the Mobile and flows through Baldwin County. Near where the rivers enter Mobile Bay, several shallow grassy lakes can offer good fishing.

“A tremendous number of tributaries feed into the Alabama River,” Miller says. “Anglers catch quite a few spotted bass in streams to the north. Some lakes off the rivers can provide good fishing. From the landing, anglers can also easily run to the marshes down around the Mobile Causeway.”

Almost anywhere in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta could produce excellent fishing at times. The delta doesn’t usually produce monster bass, but people can often find great numbers in very fertile habitat. For the biggest fish, anglers typically head north to fish numerous cypress-lined lakes, backwater streams and major river channels.

“The diversity of the delta is one of the phenomenal things about this fishery, but it’s not a trophy fishery,” Miller says. “Based upon data from the tournament trail that I ran for 16 years, it typically takes between a 3- and 4-pound average to win spring tournaments. Typically, it takes a 4.5- to 6.5-pound fish to win the big bass title. The biggest bass I’ve ever seen in any of my tournaments was an 8.5-pounder.”

People can also help by making tax-deductible donations to AHR anytime they wish. The organization especially needs product donations to give away as door prizes during the tournament. To donate or volunteer to help, call 251-423-1857 or send an email to

“We hope for great participation from our bass fishing community and greatly appreciate any help in raising money to feed the hungry right here in Alabama,” White says. “Alabama is No. 2 in the nation in food insecurity. That means we have some work to do. We appreciate any donations we receive.”

For more information on this tournament or Alabama Hunger Relief, call White at 800-597-6828. Online, see or the Delta Rendezvous page on Facebook.

John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer and photographer who lives in Semmes, Ala. He’s written more than 1,700 articles for more than 117 magazines. He co-hosts a weekly outdoors radio show. Contact him through his website at

Worth the drive – Turn

Take a ‘turn’ for the better in Notasulga

Homemade mustard sauce delivers the bite to temper the ribs’ sweet sauce at Turn Baby Turn. Photos by Jennifer Kornegay
Homemade mustard sauce delivers the bite to temper the ribs’ sweet sauce at Turn Baby Turn. Photos by Jennifer Kornegay

By Jennifer Kornegay

“Beep beep!” A pickup truck’s horn and Bill Strong’s, “Hey hey!” in reply broke the country quiet. I was sitting at one of two tables under the overhang in front of Bill’s barbecue restaurant/package store, Turn Baby Turn, in Notasulga. I was trying to concentrate on Bill’s explanation of what makes his ‘cue “the best in Alabama,” but the intoxicating scent of smoked pork kept coaxing my attention back to the ribs cozied up to two slices of white bread in the styrofoam box in front of me.

“Uh huh.” “Ok,” were the only answers I could get out in between bites of meat so succulent and soft, I didn’t even need to use my teeth to free them from the bone. When Bill first brought me my ribs, I was puzzled by what looked like nacho-cheese swirled on top of them. He noticed the question on my face.

“No, it’s not cheese,” he said. “It’s my mustard sauce.” He wouldn’t share much more than that, but the bright yellow-orange addition didn’t need any justification. It delivered the bite needed to temper the sweetness of the thick, ruby-red sauce clinging to the ribs.

Bill Strong says when the light is green, he’s open for business.
Bill Strong says when the light is green, he’s open for business.

“You can taste the smoke, right?” he said. “Yes,” I said, with my mouth full. Any attempt at table manners had already vanished when I realized I had a dot of mustard sauce on my nose and a smear of the red sauce on my cheek, and there was no reason to clean up yet since I still had two ribs left.

Bill kept chatting about his special method, nodding to a massive drum grill and smoker that he’s outfitted with a rotisserie rod. “That’s what the name’s for, Turn Baby Turn, ‘cause I rotisserie all the meat,” he said. “It cooks it all evenly.”

That includes ribs, pork butt and whole chickens. I’d made it through the ribs and was starting on the rib tips, little pieces of deliciousness whose thin dark bark concealed a pink center, when he instructed me to follow him to his woodpile in the back.

“This is pecan, this is pecan, that’s pecan,” he said, pointing to six-foot-tall pyramids of log stacks. “That over there is oak, and sometimes I mix some of that in.” The pecan is best, though. “I like its taste a lot,” he said.

So does everyone else lucky enough to have heard about Turn Baby Turn or just stumbled upon it while driving.

When I sat back down, Bill had customers to tend to. He kept running back into the kitchen to get their plates made while fielding phone calls for pick-up orders. “You want the pineapple cole slaw with that?” I heard him ask.

“Tell them they do!” I yelled. I’d just had my first taste of this fruity take on a traditional side and felt sure whoever was on the other end of the phone would like it as much as I did.

“Folks seem to enjoy what I’m doing here,” he said as he walked back out with a handful of desperately needed napkins. “I think they can tell that I do it for the passion, not the paycheck.”

Those folks include football players and coaches from nearby Auburn University. “Yeah, they come in,” he said. “And they can eat!”

I looked at my now-empty box and wondered if I’d done as much damage as a giant 20-something athlete. I thought I probably had when Bill added, “So can you!”

I finished my can of Coke and made good use of the pile of napkins Bill had brought out as he led me to one more point of pride.

“This here is how people can know for sure I’m open,” he said. An over-sized traffic signal is mounted to the wall of the store. “When that light is green, you come on in, and I’ll get you fixed up,” he said.

Green means go, and you should go to Turn Baby Turn where green also means good food. Here’s hoping there’s a green glow on Highway 81 for many years to come.

Legislative session

Photo by Rob Hainer
Photo by Rob Hainer

Long-term solutions needed for state’s General Fund

By Lenore Vickrey

Alabama’s lawmakers return to the state Capitol to begin their regular legislative session on March 3, and if news reports about the issues they will face sound somewhat familiar, you’re not imagining it.

Legislators were told in their orientation session in January that the state’s General Fund, which pays for prisons, Medicaid and public safety, faces a deficit of more than $256 million. Without a long-term answer, officials say that number will likely more than double in the coming years, up to $700 million.

In past sessions, lawmakers have not been willing to approve permanent solutions, instead preferring to borrow from the state’s Rainy Day Fund or cutting back on services. In recent weeks, Gov. Robert Bentley and various legislators have floated their own proposals to deal with the budget shortfall. Without giving specifics, Bentley told a gathering in Mobile that he’s looking at possible tax increases, which caught many off-guard. He’s also said gambling is not on the table, although during his campaign he’d mentioned a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians or a lottery as possible measures.

“The idea is to fix it (the General Fund deficit) once and for all,” says Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, “but it will be difficult to do. People like to talk about education and good roads and bridges. When you talk about Medicaid, and prisons and mental health, it’s not something they want to deal with.”

Clouse says legislators are waiting to hear what Bentley proposes in his budget the day after they convene. He speculated the governor could propose some broad-based revenue measures that would eliminate certain corporate or individual tax deductions such as FICA, increase the tax on tobacco products by 20 to 30 cents per pack, and erase the state tax exemption on defined retirement benefit plans.

One of the biggest issues lawmakers must deal with, Clouse says, is funding for the state’s prison system. The Alabama Prison Task Force released a list of proposals in January that would reduce the state’s inmate population by 4,500 prisoners and controls costs by reducing or stopping recidivism (repeating criminal behavior), having shorter sentences and hiring more parole and probation officers. Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, has said the task force’s proposals will be packaged as one bill for introduction in the session.

“These are designed to keep the feds off our back,” says Clouse. “They are hard decisions, but you can’t just throw away the key.”

The legislative session runs March 3-June 15. For information concerning legislation specific to your cooperative, contact Sean Strickler at 

Sweet Shoals Music

Legends look back on their place in music history

| Watch Spooner Oldham’s acceptance speech at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame |

Interviews by Michael Cornelison

“I am music and all I thought about was music, starting when I was 15,” says bass guitarist Donnie Fritts.  Photo by Michael Cornelison
“I am music and all I thought about was music, starting when I was 15,” says bass guitarist Donnie Fritts. Photo by Michael Cornelison

The Shoals area of northwest Alabama, with the broad Tennessee River flowing through its rolling hills, has been a fertile ground for soul-filled rock ‘n’ roll since the early 1960s, producing an array of outstanding music that retains its magic, even today.

Contemporary music legends – Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding and Lynyrd Skynyrd, just to name a few – ventured to this remote part of the state to try to capture its Southern magic in sound, provided in part by the songwriters, session musicians and production technicians who worked not for fame or fortune, but for the love of the craft.

While its golden era may have faded, the music studios of the Shoals continue to draw tourists and musicians alike today, buoyed by the success of the recent documentary “Muscle Shoals.”

Today, Southern rock ‘n’ soul is alive and well, and the last 50-plus years of music history still echoes within the walls of the legendary FAME Studios, started by music industry powerhouse (and rural Franklin County native) Rick Hall.

The competing Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, founded by the “Swampers” (FAME’s second house rhythm section) at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, was immortalized by the 1969 Cher album of the same name. After the “Muscle Shoals” documentary was released in 2013, Beats Electronics offered a project in partnership with the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation to preserve the rich history and culture of the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound. (The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation purchased 3614 Jackson Highway last year.)

Alabama Living art director Michael Cornelison drew upon his ties to the area (his father, Reuel Cornelison, is also a Shoals musician) to interview three of the many veterans of era; he sat down with Donnie Fritts, Mickey Buckins and Spooner Oldham, all natives of the area, to reflect on their life as Shoals musicians.

What follows is an edited transcript of the interviews with Fritts, Buckins and Oldham, each conducted separately in the Muscle Shoals area in 2014.

AL: How did you get started playing music?

Spooner Oldham: My dad had a band and they played around these parts. A lot of people still remember the old-timers, you know. I don’t know if they had a name to the band, I never have known that. I just remember being a toddler and all of them would get together. Dad played violin and sang tenor. The three sort of sang together, you know, harmonies.

AL: Was it country? Bluegrass?

Oldham: Well, it was all that. It’s hard to describe even today, because they did sort of Appalachian, a little Western Swing, a little of the Louvin Brothers, Delmore Brothers songs, so it was a little odd mix they had going on. But I remember, as a toddler, hearing them practice in the yard in the summer and in my grandmother’s living room when it wasn’t warm enough to go outside. So my ears got full of music pretty young and I didn’t realize, most of my life, that everybody didn’t have a band in their house. I think that kind of helped my consciousness to keep staying around music. I guess being around it so much, I felt I needed to continue doing that.

Donnie Fritts: I was already starting to play music when I was about 15. Different little bands, playing drums back then; and I met Tom Stafford (one of the founders of FAME Publishing) right there at the Shoals Theater. He was the assistant manager – I go to movies all the time, I mean every movie that comes out – and I talked to ol’ Tom and we got to be good friends. We kept talking about starting a publishing company, and I’m only 15 years old, but that was his dream, you know, to get a publishing company and a studio. What those talks that he and I had, that was kind of like the seeds of what would become the studio right down here on the corner above the city drug store.

A young Bo Bice, center, got encouragement at a Songwriter’s Showcase from Mickey Buckins, left, and showcase organizer and musician Jerry McGee. Bice later went on to become runner-up on “American Idol,” finishing behind winner Carrie Underwood, in 2005.
A young Bo Bice, center, got encouragement at a Songwriter’s Showcase from Mickey Buckins, left, and showcase organizer and musician Jerry McGee. Bice later went on to become runner-up on “American Idol,” finishing behind winner Carrie Underwood, in 2005.

Mickey Buckins: I was in the high school band. I was a trumpet player, and was piddling around with some rock ‘n’ roll bands. Just trying to get my musical thing going, I stayed in the high school band through the ninth grade. I got a chance to get involved in the studio. … Man, you know, that was it for me as soon as I got in that studio and saw what was going on. I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I got the job with (Rick Hall at FAME Studios), just starting out as an assistant. Doing anything and everything that needed to be done. I just worked my way up the ladder to assistant engineer and then I became chief engineer. I managed a publishing company, I was the production coordinator, production manager years later, staff songwriter and session player.

AL: Are there people you have worked with who really stand out?

Oldham: Not really. They were all wonderful. … You know, each recording had its special moment for me. … (Singer/songwriter) J.J. Cale, I loved him. He’s dead now, but I got to work with him while on three or four albums. I went on tour with him. … I think my first tour I did, I didn’t really want to do a tour, but in the ‘70s, I think it was, things changed. Record labels were signing bands who wrote their own songs … and studio work as a session player, like me, basically there was lesser work. So what do you do next? If you want to stay in it you keep going. I got offered a gig, and I tried touring. I did a Linda Ronstadt tour, and then the next one Richard Betts, the next one was Joe Cocker, next was Bob Dylan, next was Neil Young and I finally adapted to the scenario.

Fritts: I have been very lucky, very blessed to have songs cut by my very (favorite) artists: Ray Charles, Bobby “Blue” Bland, The Stones, (Bob) Dylan cut one of my songs. All these great artists. Dusty Springfield cut (“Breakfast in Bed”).

Buckins: Well, that’s a long long list. Being in the studio with Otis Redding, and that was very short lived … I was singing all these Otis Redding songs, and all these great R&B songs and here I am in the studio with Otis. Just to be in a room with Otis Redding was just more than I could hardly stand, it was just an unbelievable experience.

AL: What’s it like, having people you look up to recording your songs?

Fritts: I can’t even describe. I mean, ‘cause Ray Charles was my idol; still is. He was the guy that always said – well, ‘cause there’s no way in hell I could be even a million miles close to this guy in talent, but I always said, “I want to do the same thing this guy is doing somehow, you know.” I mean even at an early age. Then in 1978, he cut a song that I had a part of. To this day, it was like the best thing that ever happened to me as a songwriter; and still is the best thing that’s ever happened to me as a songwriter.

AL: What song was it?

Fritts: It was a song called “We Had It All,” but that’s the one that Keith, with The Stones, when The Stones cut the song he sang it. It just came out about two years ago. He cut it back in ’78 … ’79, I think, but for some reason they didn’t put it on the record they recorded. I don’t know Keith Richards, but we exchanged ideas with one another through friends and stuff, but he’s always said that’s his favorite song and it meant a lot to him at the time. When he cut it, he was going through divorce or separation or whatever, but a lot a lot of people cut that song. … I wrote a lot of songs, got a lot of songs cut by really great people which is a great honor that I’ll never take for granted.

AL: I’m sure you come across things that come over the radio that you’ve played on, or been a part of. What goes through your mind? Does it take you back?

Oldham: I’m such a sound-oriented person, I think. The music, the sound, sort of can rejuvenate my spirit or bring it down, whatever the mood is. If I hear something on the car radio that I did 30 years (ago) and it sounds good to me still, I still enjoy it. I’m just all about sound. It’s not really ego or personality so much. I like what I’m hearing in its entirety. Fortunately, a lot of the stuff recorded on tape still sounds really good.

AL: What’s your reaction when you hear those songs?

Buckins: Aw man, I remember so well. When I hear a song that I’ve played on, I can pretty much just see the scene in my mind. I can see the studio, I can see the artist, I can see the players, circumstances and just kind of how it felt. You know, and most of it is real good, positive, great feelings. Just very few of them were not real pleasant experiences, I must say, and that says a lot. You really go through a lot as a session player; you play very long, especially if you play a long time for a lot of years, you’re going to go through all ups and downs, the goods and the bad. You just go in and do your job. You’re paid to like what you’re doing, you’re paid to play. For the most part it was all wonderful.

AL: What do you think it is about this area that has produced so many talented musicians? Why not somewhere else?
Spooner Oldham, songwriter and keyboardist, after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Photo courtesy Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Spooner Oldham, songwriter and keyboardist, after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Photo courtesy Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Oldham: Well, it’s hard for me to evaluate that. My experience is I know what happened to me. I was just around a lot of great musicians, a lot of great recording engineers, a great recording studio and all motivated to do the same thing. Let’s get this thing off the ground, you know, let’s fly this sucker. There were a lot of musicians, I mean as a youngster. There was Terry Thompson, he’s one of the most heroed guitar players ever here. Any guitarist that ever heard him will tell you the same. He died at 27. So, you know, I’m saying people got started early and they played great.

I was fortunate enough to be around all those great players that I could find, if they could find me. So it was just a family situation. We all knew each other, all wanting to do something similar — play. A few of us wanted to write songs, but not many. You’d just get in bands, or play on recordings if you had the opportunity, you know, The studio and Rick Hall, he had a lot to do with it and forming a studio and place to go, so that helped. If you hadn’t had that back in those days, it would’ve taken a lot longer. And a good facility too. Not only a place, but it was a wonderful recording facility. It had top grade microphones and speakers, it was the best.

Buckins: I think it’s a spiritual thing. It goes way back to the Native Americans, the singing river. It’s the land. It’s the mud. It’s the river. It’s the people. It’s where we’re located. There’s great music all around us, you know, from the Mississippi Delta and Memphis to Georgia up into Tennessee.

As far as the players go, we all were so eclectic. I mean, we all loved every kind of music and the mixture of ability of all the players from around here were not limited to any one style.

Fritts: I’ve been asked that all over the world. I’ve yet to come up with a good answer. I don’t know how we got that many talented people in this little bitty area. It ain’t like we’re in New York, this is a very small area; but you came up with a bunch of really talented people who are committed to doing it. … You’ve got to be totally committed to it. So, that’s the way we were. I didn’t go out and play, I never did that s***. I was music and all I thought about was music starting when I was 15.

AL: What advice would you give to kids who say, “I want to be there someday”?

Oldham: Come on down. It’s where your heart is, it’s not where you live. If your heart is in the right place, you can do well here. If your heart’s not in the right place then stay where you are, because you won’t be welcomed. Yeah, like I said, the elements are here for anybody to do well. Good studios, good players and good songwriters. Or if you want to write your own song, you can find a place to do that around here with no problem. Maybe even somebody will write with you if you have that missing in your life.


The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, known as the 3614 Jackson Highway Studio in Sheffield, is open for tours from 10 a.m.-2 p.m Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Call Bonnie at 256-394-3562 for more information, or log on to

FAME Music Group, 603 E. Avalon Ave. in Muscle Shoals, is open for tours at 9 a.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday. No reservations needed. Call 256-381-0801 or log on to

If you’re planning a music-themed trip to northwest Alabama, be sure and make another stop.

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame, 617 Highway 72 in West Tuscumbia, is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For information, call 256-381-4417 or log on to