March 2022 Clarke-Washington

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Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News March 2022



Going wild in the garden Creating a wildlife-friendly landscape

Irish food

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Manager Steve Sheffield Co-op Editor Sarah Turner ALABAMA LIVING is delivered to some 420,000 Alabama families and businesses, which are members of 22 not-for-profit, consumer-owned, locally directed and taxpaying electric cooperatives. Subscriptions are $12 a year for individuals not subscribing through participating Alabama electric cooperatives. Alabama Living (USPS 029-920) is published monthly by the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and at additional mailing office. POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to: Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014. ALABAMA RURAL ELECTRIC ASSOCIATION

AREA President Karl Rayborn Editor Lenore Vickrey Managing Editor Allison Law Creative Director Mark Stephenson Art Director Danny Weston Advertising Director Jacob Johnson Graphic Designer/Production Coordinator Brooke Echols

Going wild in the garden

Anyone who gardens, or even putters in the yard, knows that the simple act of gardening provides many benefits – fresh air, exercise, stress relief and access to fresh foods to name a few. But they may not realize those simple acts can also help save the world, especially the wild world.

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VOL. 75 NO. 3

MARCH 2022

Baby animals

If there’s anything cuter than a baby farm animal, we don’t know what it is. Just see for yourself.


Storytelling power


Taste o’ the Irish

Author and educator Marlin Barton has witnessed firsthand the transformative power of stories. St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to treat your family to some hearty Irish fare.



340 TechnaCenter Drive Montgomery, Alabama 36117-6031 1-800-410-2737 For advertising, email: For editorial inquiries, email: NATIONAL ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE:

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D E P A R T M E N T S 11 Spotlight 25 Around Alabama 28 Outdoors 29 Fish & Game Forecast 30 Cook of the Month 38 Hardy Jackson’s Alabama ONLINE: ON THE COVER

Look for this logo to see more content online!

Abby Grace and Lucas Thomas of Alabaster help their mother, Tiffany, pick the perfect tulips at the American Village Festival of Tulips in Montevallo. Details, page 10. PHOTO: Mark Stephenson


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2022 Youth Tour winners selected Office Locations Jackson Office 9000 Highway 43 P.O. Box 398 Jackson, AL 36545 (251) 246-9081 Chatom Office 19120 Jordan Street P.O. Box 453 Chatom, AL 36518 (251) 847-2302 Toll Free Number (800) 323-9081 Office Hours 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Friday (Drive-thru Hours)

Payment Options Mail P.O. Box 398 Jackson, AL 36545 P.O. Box 453 Chatom, AL 36518 Office During normal office hours at our Chatom and Jackson offices. Phone (855) 870-0403 Online Night Deposit 24/7 at Jackson & Chatom

Clarke-Washington EMC has a long history of supporting youth programs across our four-county service area in Clarke, Washington, Wilcox and Monroe counties. Since the inception of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour Youth Program in the 1950s, more than 50,000 high school students from across the United States have made the trip to Washington D.C. to tour our nation’s capital and visit the many museums and monuments. As you look through the pages of this month’s magazine, you’ll see pictures of our Youth Tour participants for 2022. Our Youth Tour program is a wonderful opportunity to promote Clarke-Washington EMC and the cooperative form of business to students across our service area. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. Students are asked to write an essay on an assigned topic related to our business and participate in an interview before a panel of judges to be chosen to attend the Montgomery and Washington D. C. Youth Tour events. Unfortunately, like so many other things over the past two years, the Youth Tour events have not been spared from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We learned only a few days after selecting our 2022 Youth Tour students that the Alabama co-ops will not be participating in the Washington

Youth Tour this summer. However, students will have the opportunity to join others from across Alabama and participate in the Montgomery Youth Tour, which will be conducted March 15-17. It will allow our students to learn more about electric co-ops, the state legislative process and visit historical sites in Alabama’s capital city. This will mark the third year in a row that the we have not been able to participate in the Washington Youth Tour due to the pandemic. We will present the Youth Tour winners with scholarship money to be used at the school of their choice in lieu of not being able to participate in the Washington Youth Tour. We had an outstanding group of students again this year representing nine schools across our service area and I’d like to personally thank each of them for participating. I hope and pray that this marks the last time the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour will be impacted by the pandemic. Thanks for your support of our youth programs and I hope you have a good month.

Steve Sheffield General Manager

CWEMC App Available from the App Store and Google Play Bank Draft CheckOut Pay where you shop at any Dollar General, Family Dollar, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and Walmart. 4 MARCH 2022

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Youth Tour Contest 2022 Zach Baggett

Aja Barnes

Fruitdale High School

McIntosh High School

Estella Becton

Lauren Coaker

Millry High School

Jackson Academy

Eleven students were chosen to interview for the honor of being a Clarke-Washington EMC Youth Tour delegate. Juniors from each high school in the Clarke-Washington EMC area were asked to submit an essay and the top two students from each school were invited to interview with a panel of judges on Tuesday, January 25. Aja Barnes of McIntosh High School; Lauren Coaker of Jackson Academy; Reanna Johnson of Clarke Prep and Madeline Sanderson of Millry High School were chosen to represent Clarke-Washington EMC at the Montgomery Youth Tour on March 15-17. All of the students who were selected to interview were outstanding and represented their schools very well. Congratulations to each student selected to participate in the 2022 Clarke-Washington EMC Youth Tour.

Delaney Davis

Maddi Everett

Reanna Johnson

Monroe Academy

Leroy High School

Clarke Prep

Lexie Lowe

Nathan Newton

Madeline Sanderson

Luke Stephens

Washington Co. High School

Leroy High School

Millry High School

Thomasville High School

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Surge Protection 101 A power surge is an unexpected increase in voltage, and it can occur from a variety of sources. Regardless of the cause, power surges can majorly damage electronic devices and equipment in your home. Let’s take a look at common causes of power surges and how you can protect your sensitive electronics.

One of the most common causes of a power surge is lightning. Most of us have experienced this during a severe thunderstorm. When lightning strikes an electrical system, the excess current must be channeled somewhere––unfortunately in many cases, it’s sent through a home. Your best bet is to unplug all unused devices and electronics during severe thunderstorms. Another common cause of power surges is electrical overload. This happens when devices or appliances are plugged into an outlet that can’t handle the required amount of voltage, or if multiple devices are plugged into one outlet through an extension cord. If you’re experiencing power surges due to electrical overload, it’s time to call a qualified electrician to evaluate your home’s circuits and

electrical needs. Faulty wiring in a home can also cause power surges. Damaged or exposed wires can cause spikes in voltage, creating a potentially dangerous situation. If you notice signs of faulty wiring, like visible burns on outlets, buzzing sounds from outlets or frequently tripped circuit breakers, your home may be due for electrical wiring repairs and updates. Surges can also occur after a power outage. Sometimes, when electricity is being restored and reconnected, it’s common to experience a quick surge in current. Similar to advice for a surge caused by lightning, it’s best to unplug sensitive electronics during the outage––then wait to plug them back in after power is fully restored. Aside from unplugging devices when you suspect a power surge, there are two ways you can take additional precautions to protect electronics in your home. Point-of-use surge protection devices, like power strips, can protect electronics during most surges. But remember, not all power strips include surge

SURGE PROTECTION Keep your electronic equipment safe.

A power surge is typically caused by lightning, changes in electrical loads, faulty wiring or damaged power lines. Install power strips with surge protection to protect sensitive equipment. • Easy to use (just plug them in) • Protect electronics plugged into the device • Must be replaced over time or after a major surge event REMEMBER: Not all power strips offer surge protection. Carefully read the packaging labels when purchasing. 6 MARCH 2022

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protection, so read the packaging label carefully before you buy, and don’t overload the power strip with too many devices. You can also install specialized electrical outlets that offer additional surge protection. Talk to a trusted electrician to learn more. Another option is a whole-home surge protector, which can help protect your home from larger, more powerful surges. In most cases, whole-home suppressors are connected to your home’s service panel and include features like thermal fuses and notification capabilities that indicate when a device has been impacted by a surge. Whole-home surge protection prices vary based on the size of the home and suppressor. Whole-home suppressors should always be connected by a licensed electrician, so consider the cost of installation as well. Occasional power surges are inevitable, but by unplugging devices when you think a surge may occur and using additional levels of protection like power strips or whole-home suppressors, you can better safeguard your sensitive electronics and devices.

Energy Efficiency Tip of the Month When was your cooling system last serviced? Most manufacturers recommend an annual tune up for your home’s cooling system. March is a great time to schedule this service so you can beat the summer rush when the pros are busiest. A qualified professional can check the amount of refrigerant, accuracy of the thermostat, condition of belts and motors and other factors that can greatly impact the efficiency of your system. Source: Dept. of Energy

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You play an important role in helping Clarke-Washington EMC restore power. We need your help. Clarke-Washington EMC’s outage system uses caller ID to quickly identify your account and service location, but it only works if we have your correct phone numbers. Lack of a correct phone number means a slower response and repair times. For example, if you call us to report an outage, our automated system recognizes your phone number and can determine the particular service address from which you are reporting an outage. Once you give our system a response, your outage is reported. This only works if your phone numbers are linked to your service address. We ask that you make sure all of your phone numbers are listed with your account so we can better serve you. MARCH 2022 7

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ALABAMA GARDENER’S CALENDAR Information provided by The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. Find more at

March Fruits and Nuts • Continue strawberry and grape plantings.

Lawns • Plant bermuda, zoysia, and centipede in south Alabama.

• Bud apples and peaches.

• Seed bluegrass and grass mixtures in northAlabama.

• Start planting blackberries. Remember, if weather conditions prevent prompt planting, heel the plants in by placing the root system in a trench and covering the soil. Shrubs • Fertilize shrubs (except azaleas and camellias) according to a soil test. • Late plantings may be made, particularly if they are container-grown. • Watch shrubs for harmful insects.

• Fertilize established lawns. Roses • Watch new growth for aphids. • Begin a spray or dust program. • Begin fertilizing. Annuals and Perennials • Tender annuals may be planted in south Alabama.

Bulbs • Plant gladiolus every 2 or 3 weeks if a long blooming season is desired.

Vegetable Seed • Plant hardy crops recommended for January and February.

• Plant tuberous begonias in pots. Plant dahlias.

• After danger of frost is past, plant tender vegetables.

Miscellaneous • Check and repair sprayers, dusters, and lawn mowers.

Vegetable Plants • Plant cabbage, onions, lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts in north Alabama; plant tomatoes and peppers in lower South Alabama.

• Control lawn weeds with chemicals. • Delay pruning of fruiting shrubs such as cotoneasters, pyracanthas, and hollies until after flowering.

• Check garden centers for bedding plants.

April Fruits and Nuts • Season for strawberry planting continues. • Start spray program for all fruits. • Plant raspberries and blackberries and continue budding apples and peaches. Shrubs • Prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering. • Fertilize azaleas and camellias. • When new growth is half completed, spray all shrubs with a fungicide.

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Lawns • Planting continues. • New lawns may need supplementary watering. • Also, fertilize at 3- to 6-week intervals. • Keep ryegrass cut low, particularly if overplanted in bermuda lawns. Rose • Watch for insects and diseases. • Keep old flower heads removed. • Plant container-grown plants from nurseries or garden centers.

Annuals and Perennials • Plant early started annuals or bedding plants from nurseries or garden centers. • Divide mums or root cuttings. Dig and divide dahlias. Bulbs

• Plant gladiolus, fancy-leaved caladiums, milk and wine lilies, and ginger and gloriosa lilies. • Feed bearded iris with superphosphate and spray for borers. • Avoid cutting foliage of narcissus or other bulbs until it has turned brown naturally.

Miscellaneous • Spray camellias, hollies, etc., for scale insects. • Carefully water new plantings of shrubs and trees. • Pinching out tips of new shoots promotes more compact shrubs. Vegetable Seed • Plant tender vegetables such as beans, corn, squash, melons, and cucumbers. • Plant heat-loving vegetables in lower south Alabama. Vegetable Plants • Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes, and parsley

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| Alabama Snapshots |

Baby farm animals

Kudzu. SUBMITTED by Hannah Wyatt, Highland Home. Lilly loving on her baby silkie chick Gracie. SUBMITTED by Natasha Lambert, Foley. Sawyer and Papa’s baby Katahdin sheep. SUBMITTED by Hayley Prince, Scottsboro.

Winter grew up to become the Grand Champion Prospect Pig at the National Peanut Festival in Dothan. SUBMITTED by Alyx Johnson, Woodland.

Gizmo loves to have his photo taken. SUBMITTED by Kelly Elrod, Bremen.

Roberta. SUBMITTED by Annette Cobb, Boaz.

April theme: “School Awards Day/Field Day” Deadline to submit: March 31. Include your social media handle with photo submissions to be featured on our Facebook and Instagram! Alabama Living

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Online: Mail: Snapshots P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Aliya, age 4, loves all of our animals but Kippy is extra special to her. SUBMITTED by Kelsi Dykes, Evergreen.

SUBMIT to WIN $10! RULES: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at and on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to have photos returned. MARCH 2022 9

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Spotlight | March State Archives releases Food for Thought series schedule

Tulips take over at American Village in Montevallo This month’s cover on many of our magazines was taken last year during the Festival of Tulips, an annual event at the American Village in Montevallo. Tens of thousands of tulips, including 40 different varieties and blends, were planted in early December 2021 for this year’s floral show. Of course, forecasting any kind of horticultural activity is a gamble when Mother Nature is in charge; as this issue was going to press, everyone was anxiously awaiting the blooming season. They generally start blooming in mid-February; the festival begins when at least 20 percent of the plants have bloomed and continues as long as the flowers are blooming. Take a stroll through the field and pick tulips to take home, for $2 each (including flower and bulb). Bring your family, and don’t forget your camera! For the latest updates, follow the American Village page on Facebook or visit

Find the hidden

For the first time in a while, we didn’t get any wrong answers to the dingbat contest last month, as more than 800 of you found the penny with Abraham Lincoln’s profile hiding in the tire hub on Page 12 in the February issue. Myrtle Lee Dawson of Brewton wrote us that she’s looked for the dingbat every month and this was the first time she’s spotted it. “I saw it as soon as I turned the page,” she wrote. “I surprised myself.” Wanda Monk of Vinemont told us she has some vision problems and was having trouble locating the penny, so she handed the magazine to her husband Danny. He found it. “It looked easy when he showed me,” she said, telling him, “You show-off. Ha!” Susan Needham of Hanceville noted that “It would take a of those little dingbat pennies to lug that rack of tires.” Congratulations to Paula Hoover from Hanceville, our randomly drawn winner of a prize package from Alabama Rural Electric Credit Union. This month, we’re hiding a basketball in recognition of March Madness, the official name for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. We hope you get a slam dunk!

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Whereville, AL

Sponsored by


By mail: Find the Dingbat Alabama Living PO Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124 By email:

The Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) has announced its 2022 schedule for the popular lunchtime lecture series, Food for Thought. Lectures are held at 12 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Programs are presented both in person at the Archives’ building in downtown Montgomery and via the Archives’ Facebook page and YouTube channel. Among this year’s scheduled programs: March 17, “Leila Seton Wilder Edmundson: ‘Cotton Queen’ and Politician,” presented by John Allison; April 21, “Threads of Evidence: Investigating the Origin of a Confederate Flag Remnant,” by Ryan Blocker and Georgia Ann Hudson; May 19, “The Education of Julia Tutwiler: Training for Leadership,” by Paul M. Pruitt Jr.; and June 16, “The Invisible Histories Project,” by Joshua Burford. For more information on these and other lectures, visit or call 334-242-4364.

Identify and place this Alabama landmark and you could win $25! Winner is chosen at random from all correct entries. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. Send your answer with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative. The winner and answer will be announced in the April issue. Submit by email:, or by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124. Please help us! We need our readers to submit some landmarks for us to feature. Look for something unique, interesting and identifiable; if we run your photo, you’ll win $25! February’s answer: The Wakefield Plantation at Furman, Ala, is a beautiful antebellum home built in a one-ofa-kind Steamboat Gothic style in the 1840s. The nearly 6,000 square feet of living area consists of 12 rooms and 12 fireplaces, and unique porches on all sides. John Gulley started construction of this home around 1840 and depleted his financial resources by the time it was completed seven years later. The construction cost was $12,000. The home – a private residence – will be featured during the annual Wilcox County Historical Association’s Tour of Homes on March 26; see more on Page 25. (Thanks to Rural SW Alabama for the photo and information.) The randomly drawn correct guess winner is Chesteen McWhorter of Cullman EC.

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March | Spotlight

Take us along!

We’ve enjoyed seeing photos from our readers on their travels with Alabama Living! Please send us a photo of you with a copy of the magazine on your travels to: Please include your name, hometown and electric cooperative, and the location of your photo and include your social media handle so we can tag you! We’ll draw a winner for the $25 prize each month. Vanieca Akins and Amy and Marvolene Holloway took their magazine to River Valley Camp Ground in Cherokee, North Carolina. They are members of Tallapoosa River Electric Cooperative.

Letters to the editor E-mail us at: or write us at: Letters to the editor P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Thankful for article

I want to thank you again for publishing the article about Magic Moments (January 2022)! We have received incredible feedback and have had numerous people reach out wanting to get involved as a result of it. I truly can’t thank you enough for including us!! I have been contacted by people from North Alabama down to Mobile! If I can ever do anything for you, let me know!! Sandy Naramore, Executive Director, Magic Moments

Trouble in a small town

Jackie Henley of Prattville, a member of Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, carried her magazine on a trip to Crescent Beach, Florida.

Kathy Laney and her mother, Ivonell Sellers of Cullman, traveled to the Petrified Forest in Arizona last summer. They are members of Cullman Electric Cooperative.

Dave and Gerdy Wyatt, members of Baldwin EMC, travel every year to Colorado where they like to visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. “There are wonderful trails for hiking and of course the Visitor Center, with displays of many 34 million year-old fossils,” writes Gerdy. “This picture shows a 34 million-year-old petrified redwood tree stump.” Alabama Living

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I cannot speak for Greenville, Monroeville or Butler, Alabama (“Looking for a Third-Float Girl,” Hardy Jackson’s Alabama, February 2022), but a trip south to Mobile was not necessary to find trouble in Thomasville, Alabama. My Great-Aunt Jodie Jackson knew where Lucifer hung out and often warned me to stay away from the corner of West Front Street and Noble Avenue. That was the location of Clay’s Amusement Center, a slick name for the city pool hall. The musical Professor Harold Hill had nothing on Aunt Jodie. Hill was a con man and Jodie was a Southern Baptist. I ventured downtown often while visiting my Aunt, but never entered the Amusement Center. I did stand outside its only door some Saturdays, trying to catch a peek of the Serpent during all the comings and goings, but all I ever saw was men in overalls and spit cups placing silver on the table rails. Clay’s Amusement Center is long closed now and many, many years ago I came to understand what Aunt Jodie meant. Charlie Runnels, Mentone

State encourages employers to hire more veterans Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington are encouraging Alabama employers to hire veterans by applying to and participating in the HIRE Vets Medallion Award Program, an official program of the U.S. Department of Labor. The application period runs through April 30, 2022. These awards are the only federal-level veterans’ employment awards that recognize a company or organization’s commitment to veteran hiring, retention and professional development. In 2021, 37 Alabama companies received the HIRE Vets Medallion Award, and 849 employers were recognized nationally. The award is based on several criteria, ranging from veteran hiring and retention to providing veteran-specific resources, leadership programming, dedicated human resources and compensation and tuition assistance programs, with requirements varying for large, medium and small employers. There is no application fee. To learn more, create an account or update an existing account for the HIRE program, visit or visit one of the 55 Alabama Career Centers. MARCH 2022 11

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Going wild in the garden:

Why and how to create a wildlife-friendly landscape

Plants that produce berries, nuts, insects, pollen and nectar help feed the birds and butterflies that populate our yards. Those animals are part of the food web and, thus, help connect and sustain the Earth’s circle of life. PHOTO BY DOUG TALLAMY

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By Katie Jackson


nyone who gardens, or even putters in the yard, knows that the simple act of gardening provides many benefits – fresh air, exercise, stress relief and access to fresh foods to name a few. But they may not realize those simple acts can also help save the world, especially the wild world.

Alabama Living

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Entomologist and conservationist Doug Tallamy has been exploring and explaining those connections for more than three decades in his job as a University of Delaware professor and researcher. His work, which includes studying issues such as the impact of native versus nonnative plants on interconnected wildlife species (caterpillars and chickadees, for example), led Tallamy to write Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. This award-winning book focuses on the whys and hows of gardening for nature and, since its publication in 2007, has made Tallamy a guru in the growing movement toward more nature- and wildlife-friendly gardening. And that movement has never been so important as it is today. “We are in a global wildlife extinction crisis,” says naturalist and media star David Mizejewski, spokesperson for the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program and author of the popular how-to book Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife. “More than a million wildlife species worldwide are endangered,” he says. “In the U.S. alone, some 12,000 animal species are experiencing rapid population declines and one-third of all native wildlife species are at an increased risk of extinction in the coming decade.” Among these species are beloved yard and garden visitors such as birds and butterflies as well native bee species, which play essential roles in crop pollination. These statistics are disturbing not just because they represent the loss of irreplaceable wildlife populations but also their dilemma may be a harbinger for the future of humankind, which also relies on healthy ecosystems. Humans are also connected to nature cognitively, says Michelle Bertelsen, an ecologist with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center in Texas. “We have evolved and learned to think by interacting with the natural world forever and ever and ever,” she says. “That doesn’t stop just because we may live in cities.” And it is a connection many humans have come to appreciate during the past two years of the global COVID-19 pandemic. “People have sought solace in nature during these tough times,” Mizejewski says, and many found it in their own yards, especially at the peak of COVID-19 shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. While concerns about and connections to nature are increasing, they are also a source of frustration. “Everybody on the planet requires healthy ecosystems,” Tallamy says. But, he addd, when faced with stark statistics about the decline of wildlife and ecosystems “most people feel absolutely powerless. The Earth is huge and what can one person do?” A lot, agree Tallamy, Mizejewski and Bertelsen, and it all begins in the landscapes that surround us. “How we choose to manage and care for our own piece of earth is a powerful way to help out these declining populations,” Mizejewski says. “Sure, what we do in our backyards is not going to save polar bears, but it can make a huge difference for the endangered Monarch butterflies and the birds and wild bee species that really need our help.” “There is a central role that Joe Public can play because Joe Public owns the country,” Tallamy adds, explaining that while public parks, preserves and wilderness areas provide vital habitat for wildlife, they alone cannot save these species. However, on the 78 percent of U.S. land that is privately owned, wildlife-friendly management can have huge impacts on these animals and the overall health of the planet. MARCH 2022 13

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That kind of impact can occur anywhere and on any piece of land, from large rural fields to medium-sized suburban yards to tiny urban greenspaces. According to Bertelsen, studies have shown that putting small strips of pollinator habitat between rows or on the edges of agricultural land can greatly benefit pollinators, which in turn benefits the crops. The same can happen in our yards. “It’s amazing how much impact a small pollinator garden can have,” Bertelsen says. “Even tiny islands (of wildlife-friendly real estate) in cities can help these species out so much. A little bit really does go a long way.” And when numerous people in the same vicinity and eventually across the globe provide wildlife habitats, such as pollinator gardens, the impact grows exponentially. So what exactly is a wildlife-friendly landscape? According to Tallamy, it’s a landscape that contributes four components to the local ecosystem: it supports a diverse population of pollinators, supports the greater food web, sequesters carbon and protects and manages watersheds. And many of these functions, says Mizejewski, can be accomplished by providing wildlife with four basic needs: food, cover, places to raise young, and water. Top: Planting with an eye toward wildlife can bring color to any yard, not just through flowers and leaves but also through the stunning array of birds, butterflies and other creatures that come to feed on these plants, such as this goldfinch feasting on the seeds of a purple coneflower. PHOTO BY KATHY DIAMONTOPOULOS; COURTESY OF AMERICAN MEADOWS

Middle: Plants form the foundation of a wildlifefriendly garden, especially when a diverse selection of densely spaced native plants are used. Every region of the country has plants unique to their local environment, plants that evolved in conjunction with the insects and other animals native to the area. Depending on which plants are chosen, wildlife-friendly gardens can range from formal, manicured gardens to more natural designs, such as this nectar garden, and everything in between. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

Bottom: Monarch butterflies, one of some 12,000 U.S. wildlife species currently experiencing alarming population declines, benefit greatly from wildlife-friendly gardening practices. By providing Monarchs and other insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals with four basic needs – food, cover, water and a place to raise their young – home gardeners even in big cities can help avert a wildlife extinction crisis. In the process, their landscapes become living, thriving ecosystems that benefit all life on the planet. PHOTO BY VAL BUGH; COURTESY OF THE LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

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“All wildlife, whether they’re in the wilderness or in our gardens, need these things,” Mizejewski says. As they create a food web, they also create an ecosystem that supports all life in the area. “It’s a circle of life thing.” It just so happens that the primary foundation of any ecosystem is the very thing that makes a garden a garden – plants. But not just any plants. “The most important thing (about gardening for nature and wildlife) is to pick the right plants,” Mizejewski says, “and those are going to be plants that are native to your region, plants that have co-evolved with wildlife and that wildlife needs to survive.” Native plants, in fact, can provide three of the four basic circle-oflife needs – food, shelter and nesting/birthing sites. Just add water and you have a wildlife-friendly habitat. And going wild doesn’t mean that yards and gardens have to look wild. “It’s a common misperception that a wildlife-friendly or natural garden equals a messy garden,” says Mizejewski. “You can have a beautiful, magazine photo-worthy garden space that is also extremely beneficial to wildlife.” For wildlife species to survive, they must have sources of food, water, cover and a place to raise their young. Provide those four ingredients and you can help support generations of wildlife families, such as this white-eyed vireo feeding its babies. PHOTO BY DOUG TALLAMY

Small changes, big impacts By Katie Jackson


hen it comes to gardening for nature, big changes come in small packages and work best when approached with baby steps. That’s the message that ecologist Michelle Bertelsen, naturalist David Mizejewski and entomologist/conservationist Doug Tallamy all try to emphasize whenever they share their passion for nature-friendly gardening, especially when they’re talking to folks who are new to the concept. “Developing a wildlife-friendly landscape only becomes scary and un-doable if you think you have to do it all by tomorrow,” Tallamy says. Instead, he suggests approaching it with an eye toward one or two of the four components of a healthy ecosystem (supporting pollinators, supporting the food web, sequestering carbon and managing the watershed). “Look at your property and ask yourself, ‘Which one of these can I do better?’ Almost everyone can do at least one of those better,” he says. “Think of it as an ecological hobby: I’m going to improve the ecological integrity of my property a little bit each year.” All three experts encourage the idea of starting in a small and specific area of the yard or garden rather than trying to makeover the entire yard. This saves time, money and allows gardeners to learn as they go.

They also all agree that the basis of any nature-minded landscape is the use of native plants, which are suited specifically to local environments. Because these plants evolved with local wildlife species, they will provide almost everything local wildlife needs to thrive. And once established, native plants can also help lower maintenance demands in the landscape. “There’s no garden in the world that is ‘no maintenance,’” says Bertelsen, “but you shouldn’t have to water and fertilize native plants as much as you do nonnative species.” It’s also important to plant natives densely and diversely. Filling a space with lots of compatible but different plant species is ideal. “The more plants you have and the bigger the grouping of them, the more likely you’re going to support wildlife,” Mizejewski says. Reducing the amount of land dedicated to a lawn can open more space for wildlife-friendly native plants and lower lawn

care maintenance costs. However, lawns are often happy places for many homeowners, so there’s no need to eliminate lawns entirely. Just replace under-utilized areas of the lawn with native plants. It’s also important to assess a site’s growing conditions including its soil profile (run a soil test for this), moisture levels (determine if the area is naturally wet, dry or somewhere in between) and lighting conditions (shady or sunny, for example). “The key to all native gardening is matching the plant to the conditions rather than matching the conditions to the plant,” Bertelsen says. “Really, it’s the same as it would be for any kind of gardening.” Armed with an understanding of local conditions, gardeners and homeowners can explore the choices of native plant species suited for their sites and find plants that also appeal to their goals and personal styles. Once gardening for nature becomes second nature, homeowners can expand their efforts across the yard and, quite possibly, become the envy of the neighborhood. “If you choose the right plants, your yard can look just like your neighbor’s, only yours will be supporting nature and wildlife whereas your neighbor’s yard might not,” Mizejewski says. That’s something to aspire to. Research conducted at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas has shown that a mixture of low-growing native grasses can be used as a substitute for lawn turfs. These native grasses, similar varieties of which exist in every region of the country, require less mowing, watering and fertilizing. PHOTO COURTESY OF LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

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Annual Folklife Festival Saturday, April 2 9 AM - 4 PM

1392 Whiddon Mill Rd • Tifton, Georgia • 229-391-5205 •

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| Alabama People |

Marlin Barton

The power of storytelling Stories can change lives. Just ask author and educator Marlin Barton (, a man who has witnessed firsthand the transformative power of stories. Barton grew up in Montgomery and Forkland, Ala., hearing stories read and told by family members and neighbors. Those stories helped a very young Barton overcome a learning disorder and go on to become an award-winning short story writer and novelist with six books to his name and a seventh on the way. Stories are also at the heart of his work teaching creative writing to graduate students at Converse College in South Carolina and to teenagers at Alabama’s Mt. Meigs juvenile correction facility. He sat down with us recently to talk about his personal story, the life-changing power of sharing stories and his writing. – Katie Jackson How did your childhood experiences influence your love of words and writing? My mother read to me constantly. And my grandmother was a big reader, too, so if you can inherit a love for reading that’s where mine came from. I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was in kindergarten and began doing a therapy called “patterning” to rewire my brain. Every day while my mother was patterning me, she would read to me just to pass the time. It worked. I was on the program for only about 18 months. What were other influences from your childhood? My grandfather in Forkland, at the fork of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers in Greene County, had a general store that sold everything from overalls to pump handles to buckets of lard, but people also came there to socialize. He had chairs in a front window and a little space heater where they would sit and talk, and I would listen. When my cousins came to visit, my father and grandfather would tell stories, too. I’m sure that listening to all those stories is part of what made me a writer. Do those childhood experiences and stories ever end up in your books? Yes. I think place shapes us and my fiction is pretty much set in a fictionalized version of Forkland. The two places – the imaginary and the real one – aren’t exactly the same, but there are certainly a lot of similarities.

Children of Dust, your latest novel, is a story about race, gender, relationships and a mystery that spans five generations of a rural Alabama family. Is any of it based in your own family’s history? The husband and wife in the novel are based loosely on my great-great grandparents and I’ve drawn from a lot of family stories, history and lore. In addition to teaching graduate-level creative writing, you’ve also spent 25 years teaching writing to juvenile offenders through the Writing Our Stories (WOS) program (www.writersforum. org/programs/stories.html). What’s it like working with such a diverse range of students? I enjoy teaching in the low-residency MFA program at Converse College because I get to teach writing at a higher level. But sometimes I feel like the most important work I do is teaching in the Writing Our Stories program. We work to help students become better readers and writers, but we also feel the program has therapeutic value because they write about things they’ve been through, and they’ve been through some very difficult troubles. And when they see their work in print and get to read it to an audience, they feel a great sense of pride. A lot of these kids have been told or feel like they are no good, but when they hear praise and applause it makes them feel better about themselves. Does your own background come in handy as you teach? When I work with kids who have reading and writing problems, sometimes I recognize they are dyslexic or have a reading disability, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of language. Early on (with WOS) one of my students wrote a poem and I couldn’t read it, so I asked him to just tell me what he wrote line-by-line, then I wrote down what he said. By the time he got to the end of the poem, I could see he had an innate sense of metaphor and he ended up writing some great work. I suppose my childhood did help prepare me to work with that kid (and others). I know this is like asking if you have a favorite child, but do you prefer writing short stories or novels? I’ve written three novels and as soon as I had the idea for each of those books, I knew immediately they were bigger than a short story. They were going to be longer and more complex. But I really think of myself as a short story writer first and foremost. Short stories are still my first love. PHOTO BY DANNY WESTON

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Do you know someone who’s worthy of an “Alabama People” interview? Tell us at

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| Worth the drive |

Bella’s offers upscale dining with a romantic flair Story and photos by Allison Law

The Colby Building, named for owner Robin Thagard’s son who died in 2004, houses Bella’s Ballroom as well as Bella’s Fine Dining restaurant.


t’s hard to miss The Colby Building in features more than just Italian dishes). Chef historic downtown Dothan. Built around Michael Horne hand cuts all the ribeyes 1937, the three-level former J.C. Penand filets; Thagard says his steaks are the ney department store dominates this part best in the state. Other favorites include of North Foster Street; its large plate glass shrimp scampi, chicken marsala, and the windows offer a peek into Bella’s Ballroom, side dishes, including the gourmet mac ’n’ a high-end event venue that can accommocheese and fresh roasted vegetables (those date 300. who don’t like Brussels sprouts will change But continue around the corner and their minds when they taste Horne’s, you’ll find the entrance to Bella’s Fine DinThagard says). ing, which has become the place to go in “We don’t have an extravagant menu, but the Wiregrass for virtually every kind of what we do, we do excellent,” Thagard says. celebration (“If you’ve been married, you’ve “Consistency is probably the most important part of the business.” been on a date here,” says owner Robin Thagard). Each night, many of the patrons are celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other life event. “We get tons of proposals here,” Thagard says. Inside the spacious restaurant are dining areas on different levels, plus two full bars and four private rooms available for rent. The look throughout is muted, with dark walls and candles on each table to set the romantic mood. Thagard describes the style as a bit of New Orleans, jazz style and very urban. The decor is eclectic; chandeliers, a favorite of Thagard’s, are everywhere, as are unique finds from her travels as well Among the favorite appetizers are the bacon wrapped as Facebook Marketplace. shrimp and housemade bruschetta. Of course, the food is the centerpiece Thagard has always been an entrepreof any dining experience, and Bella’s has neur but had long resisted getting into the won numerous local and regional awards restaurant business. Then, as often happens, as an Italian restaurant (though its menu life changed in a way she didn’t expect.

Bella’s Fine Dining

111 West Troy St. Dothan, AL 36303 334-699-3448 Dothan Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. l Wednesday-Saturday; call for information about private events at other times. Weekend reservation recommended. Have an idea for a great restaurant we need to visit? Send us the details at 20 MARCH 2022

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A new venture

Thagard’s dad was in the military, and she grew up in Ozark. She had been in business for herself for several years when an acquaintance called and said, “Buy my restaurant.” She initially said no but felt called to take it on. She opened that Ozark restaurant on June 9, 2008, which was the birthday of her son, Colby, who died in an accident in 2004. She named the restaurant Colby’s in his memory.

Two years later, she was asked to open a restaurant in a leased space in the Dothan building she now owns. That restaurant opened on Colby’s birthday – June 9, 2010. Then, the owner of the historic Dothan building passed away, and Thagard bought the whole building and started renovations in 2012. She bought it on June 9, and of course, she named it The Colby Building. (Bella is her daughter’s nickname.) Colby’s presence, whether in name or spirit, is always around.

‘An experience’

A meal at Bella’s is an experience, Thagard says. “Not just a food experience. It’s the food, service, ambiance. You’re going to know that you’ll be taken care of. When you leave, you’re going to want to come back.” After 10 years, Thagard feels like Bella’s has kind of arrived, and for her, Horne and much of the staff, they’re like family, and Bella’s is home. She has no plans to start opening for lunch and will continue to operate without a kids’ menu (splurge on a babysitter on a date night at Bella’s). After COVID, the restaurant went from six nights a week to four, and that, too, is likely a permanent change. But that’s not to say that Thagard’s vision for her businesses won’t evolve. Next up is a rooftop bar, Thagard says, because she needed to put in a new roof anyway. “Why not spend the extra money and do it?” The bar, which will have a view of Foster Street, will likely happen this year. And the entry to the restaurant has been renovated to eventually offer to-go charcuterie items, including Horne’s steaks. Neither she nor Horne are going anywhere, she says. “When you feel called to be somewhere and do something, you don’t want to be anywhere else. Michael says the same thing! I’m not ready to retire yet. I’ll hang out for a few more years, if the Lord allows me.”

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| Consumer Wise |

Get your ducts in a row By Miranda Boutelle

Q: A:

My HVAC system is a mystery to me. What can I do to maintain it and keep my home comfortable year-round?

For most people, the inner workings of the HVAC system are out of sight, out of mind. The system is ignored until something goes wrong. Understanding the basics of how a heating and cooling system works will help you create a more efficient, comfortable living space. To get started, let’s go over how it works. If you have a forced air system, you have ducts. A forced air system consists of the equipment that heats or cools the air and the ductwork that moves it around the home. Your furnace, or air handler, has a fan inside that pushes the heated or cooled air through the supply ducts into the rooms. The return ducts bring air back to the furnace to be heated or cooled again and sent back through the home.

A forced air system consists of the equipment that heats or cools the air and the ductwork that moves it around the home. Your furnace fan pushes the heated or cooled air through the supply ducts into the rooms. The return ducts bring air back to the furnace to be heated or cooled again and sent back through the home. INSET: Holes, cracks or gaps in your ductwork cause leakage. This wastes energy and money by heating or cooling spaces you don’t use. You can hire a professional to test your ducts for leakage with specialized equipment and seal your ducts. GRAPHICS COURTESY DUY MAI, PIONEER UTILITY RESOURCE

This continuous loop of supply and return is susceptible to inefficient practices and leakage. Here are some steps you can take to keep your system running efficiently and maintain a comfortable living space.

Check your vent dampers

Make sure the air you paid to heat or cool is freely moving through the home. Miranda Boutelle is the director of operations and customer engagement at Efficiency Services Group, which partners with electric utilities to provide energy efficiency services to members. She writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. For more information, visit

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I wish vents were made without dampers because the feature creates the misconception they should be closed. Closing registers does not save energy. It can cause your system to work harder, shortening its lifespan and increasing duct leakage. If you don’t do anything else after you read this, do check that your supply register dampers are open and not blocked by furniture or rugs throughout your home. This is easy to do and costs nothing.

Seal your ducts

If your ductwork travels through an attic, crawl space or other unconditioned—not heated or cooled—space, it could have holes, cracks or gaps that cause duct leakage. This wastes energy and money by heating or cooling spaces you don’t use. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 20% to 30% of the air moved through duct systems is lost due to duct leakage. You could have the most efficient heating or cooling unit available, but if your ducts leak, you are wasting energy. In addition to wasted energy, leaky ducts can cause air-quality issues. Leaks in the return ducts can pull air into the ducts from surrounding spaces, through the furnace and then deliver it into the home. This can introduce dust, dirt, insulation particles and other gross stuff that is in your attic, crawl space or walls. Sealing ducts can be difficult because they are hidden behind the walls, floor and/or ceiling. Attics and crawl spaces can be hard places to work. You can hire a professional to test your duct system for leakage with specialized equipment and seal your ducts. If you seal ducts yourself, do not use duct tape. I know it is hard to believe, but duct tape dries out quickly and loses its adhesion. Seal with metal tape or duct mastic specifically designed for the job. One relatively easy place to seal is where the duct meets the floor, wall or ceiling. Remove the registers and look for cracks or gaps around the edges. Remember to wear gloves to protect your hands.

Change your filter

The filter is on the return side of the duct system. It could be in the return registers or in the furnace. Checking your system’s filter regularly and replacing it when dirty can help you improve your heating and cooling efficiency. When it comes to filters, my philosophy is buy cheap and replace often. I don’t know about you, but I have a much more difficult time throwing away a $20 filter than a $5 filter. Save by buying filters in bulk or set up auto ship for every three months. In most cases, filters are designed to protect the furnace, not improve air quality. If you are worried about your home’s air quality, getting the ducts cleaned and sealed can help. Add an air purifier if you need additional air filtration. Look for Energy Star-rated models. Now that you know the inner workings of your HVAC system and what it needs to run efficiently, you can improve and maintain the comfort in your home year-round.

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Defend against scammers who target your Social Security benefits


cammers are always finding new ways to steal your money and personal information by exploiting your fears. The most effective way to defeat scammers is to know how to identify scams and to ignore suspicious calls and emails. One common tactic scammers use is posing as federal agents or other law enforcement. They may claim your Social Security number is linked to a crime. They may even threaten to arrest you if you do not comply with their instructions. Here are three things you should do: • Hang up right away or do not reply to the email. • Never give personal information or payment of any kind. • Report the scam at to immediately notify the law enforcement team in our Office of the Inspector General. You should continue to remain vigilant of phone calls when someone says there’s a problem with your Social Security number Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at


or your benefits. If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter explaining your rights, payment options, and information about appealing. There are a few ways you can identify a scam call or email. Remember that we will never: • Threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee. • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment. • Require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card. • Demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem. • Send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email. If you do not have ongoing business with our agency, it is unlikely we will contact you. Again, if you get a suspicious call claiming to be from us or law enforcement about Social Security, you should hang up and report it right away to our Office of the Inspector General at


Across 1 Springtime bush plentiful in Alabama 5 Spring flowers in a popular van Gogh painting 9 Observe 10 Catnip and peppermint, e.g. 11 Blooms 12 Is able to be included 13 Tree with pinkish flowers 17 Football position, for short 19 Shrubbery 21 Character in a Christmas special, often 23 It’s essential in photosynthesis 24 Annual period, abbr. 25 Perennial plant with purplish-green flowers, 2 words 30 ___ down, what you might have to do after working hard in the garden 31 Turning over the soil 33 Bulbed spring flower 36 Ventilate 37 Johnny-jump-up, e.g.

by Myles Mellor

22 Fragrant funnel-shaped flower, originally from South Africa 26 Old horse 27 Dark green color 28 Little drink

29 32 34 35

White-tailed animal Chill 180-turn in the road Well-liked

Down 1 Large spreading tree 2 Last letter 3 Oxygenate 4 Comfort 6 Brazilian city 7 Lady referred to 8 Scarf 11 Just cut, at a florist 12 Spring plant with bright yellow bell-shaped flowers 14 “___ stop, wet day, she’s there I say...” The Hollies 15 Golf course maker, Pete 16 Cucumber in slang 18 Dental-drill part 20 Garden Club contest, e.g. 24 MARCH 2022

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March | Around Alabama rides, BIMO the magician, arts and crafts, raffles and more. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Pier 7 Road in Gantt. 334-508-2797.

2 Sculptors from around the world participate in the Magic of Marble Festival in Sylacauga each spring.


Prattville Wilson Pickett Music and Arts Festival, Pratt Park. Art from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and music from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entertainment stage, food vendors, children’s activities and an artists’ village, featuring local and regional artists representing a variety of media. Free.


Orange Beach 48th annual Festival of Art, Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach, 26389 Canal Road. More than 100 artists work in a variety of media, plus culinary art, live music and kids’ art. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Free.



Fairhope 70th Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival. Artists from all over the U.S. come to picturesque downtown Fairhope for this free event. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Children’s tent, live entertainment and food vendors will be on site.


Elba “Shakespeare in Jazz: All the World’s a Song.” The Daniel Kelly Quartet featuring Frederick Johnson presents this participatory celebration of Shakespeare’s work. 7 p.m., Elba High School. Event is part of the Coffee County Arts Alliance season.

Fort Deposit Calico Fort Arts and Crafts Fair, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Outdoor show on six acres features more than 100 exhibitors. Admission is $5 adults, $2 for ages 2 to 12. Proceeds benefit community projects.


LaFayette 26th annual LaFayette Day for Valley Haven, downtown on the square, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT. Musical entertainment, barbecue, craft booths, car show (including street rods, antique cars and trucks and tractors) and a motorcycle ride that leaves at 9:30 a.m. from parking lot next to Greene’s Super Drug. Benefit for Valley Haven School. 334-219-1890 or 334756-2868.



Loxley Baldwin County Strawberry Festival, Loxley Municipal Park, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Carnival, car shows, music, crafts, more than 160 vendors and special strawberry shortcakes. All proceeds benefit Loxley Elementary School and ARC Baldwin County Inc.

Sylacauga Magic of Marble Festival. This annual event celebrates the magic of marble through its artistic, commercial and industrial applications. Sculptors will begin carving on April 5 at Blue Bell Park on North Norton Avenue each day until the end of the festival. Marble quarry tours will also be available (registration required).


Guntersville 61st annual Art on the Lake, along Lake Guntersville. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Fine artists and craftsmen from throughout the Southeast and beyond are featured. Food vendors, outdoor games and rides and a bake shop. $2 for ages 13 and older; event is rain or shine. Call or verify events before you make plans to attend. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some events may change or be canceled after press time.

To place an event, e-mail or visit You can also mail to Events Calendar, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124; Each submission must include a contact name and phone number. Deadline is two months prior to issue date. We regret that we cannot publish every event due to space limitations. Like Alabama Living on facebook

Follow Alabama Living on Twitter @Alabama_Living


Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo, Channel Lee Stadium. Arts and crafts, concessions, snake handling and snake demonstrations, live music, children’s rides, a beauty pageant and a 5K race are among the activities. Musical guests include Sawyer Brown on Sunday and Joe Nichols on Saturday.


Furman Wilcox Historical Society’s Tour of Homes. Tour includes eight homes and two historic churches. Registration is at the Furman Methodist Church, circa 1882, both Friday and Saturday. Ticket holders can have breakfast Saturday morning at The Brittany House Antiques at Oak Hill. Keynote speaker is P. Allen Smith, one of America’s most talented garden designers.



Eufaula 55th annual Eufaula Pilgrimage and car show. This historic tour of homes is the oldest in Alabama; order tickets by calling the Shorter Mansion at 334-6873793.

Call or verify events before you make plans to attend. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some events may change or be canceled after press time.


Gantt Festival 7, a free event designed to bring the community together. Live music, car show, food, kids’ activities, horse and buggy Alabama Living

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Raising a puppy, part two:

A healthy body I

tell clients that a puppy’s first visit is not about giving vaccines, flea pills and heartworm preventatives. It is talking about how she will look and function when she is 14 years old. It is about health! So, what is health? There is no one clear definition. In one Canadian study, good health was defined as an extra seven years of independent living for a human. How do we translate this information to our dogs? We really cannot. I guess we can define it as a mostly active life with minimal disease. Now, how do we achieve this? Four factors come into mind: Genetics, nutrition, exercise and a stress-free life. Regular readers already know I am a staunch supporter of mixed-breed dogs and I am slightly against commercialization of our treasured companions. Mixed-breed dogs (mutts) have reduced chances of several breed-specific diseases. So, head to the shelter to find your next best friend with broad genetic makeup! The next big factor is nutrition, my favorite topic! As they say, we are what we eat. Folks usually ask, what’s the best food to feed? My answer is that I don’t know. I am not being facetious – it is an honest answer. We cook for our three dogs. They get separate breakfast, lunch and dinner. I understand that it is difficult for most people to cook meals for their dogs. For store-bought food, I cannot recommend any specific brand, but I have some suggestions. Go to a pet store and read the ingredients of their cheapest food and the most expensive food and buy something in the middle of the price range. I also ask people not to stick to one kind of food throughout their dog’s life. If possible, switch between different manufacturers especially in these days of numerous dog food recalls. Then comes the question of how much to feed. Again, my answer is I don’t know! In general, till the puppy finishes growth, Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Care near Geraldine, Alabama. To suggest topics for future discussions, email him at

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keep them a little “chubby” and then when the growth is complete (bigger dogs take longer; smaller dogs, not so long), keep them a little skinny. There are numerous animal and human studies that have demonstrated long-term health benefits of calorie restricted diets (but not starvation). Gauging food volume depends on their activities. The days they run around a lot, give them some extra, and less on the lazy days. When they reach their senior years, don’t keep them very skinny as I start to worry about muscle loss. Then comes the question of human food. My answer is I love giving my dogs human food, but I don’t think hot dogs are very desirable human food. I request that people don’t feed their dogs table scrap. However, sharing your steamed veggies (a variety of them) is great; just hold the butter and bacon fat. Many of my clients feel like they are doing their dogs a favor by giving them extra protein, like chicken and eggs. With modern quality dog food, I don’t think our dogs are protein deficient. I think what they need is fresh fruits and veggies (steamed or sauteed). A common concern is about toxic food – another difficult question. I feel like grapes, raisins and Xylitol (a sweetener substitute, also known as birch sugar) are absolute no-no’s. However, I don’t hesitate to give my dogs a tiny bit of chocolate or cook their food with a little onion and garlic. This second group falls under the dose-dependent category. Too much dark chocolate can be a real problem. At this point, one can easily ask, do dogs really need to have chocolate? Well, the dogs might say, do humans really need to have caviar? Just little luxuries in life! There are long lists of human food items that are supposedly “toxic” to dogs. Well, I am a contrarian. I don’t see any issues with ripe avocados, ripe tomatoes, and so on and so forth. I am, however, opposed to giving them processed meat products like lunchmeat, as well as fats like bacon grease, chicken fat, etc. Anyway, before giving your dogs anything other than just plain old dog food, you should consult with your veterinarian. Next time, we can talk about toys, play time and fenced areas to finish up this discussion.

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| Outdoors |

Prescribed fires can breathe life into habitats


eriodically we see raging wildfires on the news. Some people McGuire described fire as “management by subtraction.” Fire have seen forest fires up close. Nobody wants to see trees clears out undesirable growth and eliminates ground debris. That burning, but a lot of good can come from a forest fire. opens the ground for new growth as more sunlight hits the dirt “There’s good fire and bad fire,” says John McGuire, a wildlife where thick vegetation formerly crowded out other plants. In biologist from Auburn and the Alabama prescribed burn manbare dirt touched by sunlight, new sprouts shoot up. Deer, rabbits ager for Tall Timbers Research, a research and land conservanand other animals love to eat those succulent new shoots. cy group. “A good fire is one burned for very specific objectives, “People can burn habitat and manage a deer population quite such as managing wildlife habitat. For the first week or two after well,” McGuire says. “Deer don’t eat pine straw. Through lack of a burn, the earth may look blackened and scorched, but quickly burning, many forests just become shrubs, pine and pine needles thereafter, everything starts to green back up and wildlife follows with little food for deer. Fire manipulates not only the structure of behind. I often seen turkey out the day after a fire burns. They the habitat, but also the food sources available for wildlife. With might have young poults with them who need protein for feathfire, we can create a mosaic of different food types for wildlife. I’ve er development so they are in that blackened area looking for seen native plants come back within a week after a fire.” scorched insects. I’ve seen During a prescribed fire, deer feeding in the middle of most terrestrial animals a burned area.” like deer and rabbits simply For eons, forests across the move away from the danSoutheast depended upon ger and return afterwards. fire to stay healthy. A preBirds and insects fly away. scribed fire under the right Frequently, birds perch at conditions for management the edge of a fire waiting to purposes does considerable snatch insects driven from benefit. Many plants need cover by the flames. Arboperiodic fires to survive. real animals like squirrels, Some seeds only sprout after raccoons and opossums can a fire. In addition, fire puts hide in tree holes. back nutrients into the soil. “Very rarely are animals That encourages new plant killed in a prescribed fire, growth. especially big animals like “We have a very long hisdeer,” McGuire says. “Most tory of burning in the Southsouthern animals are well east, either from manmade adapted to fire and run away. fires or those that started Turkeys run away. If a nest naturally, like from lightgets burned up, a turkey will ning,” McGuire says. “Many A worker stands by so a prescribed fire doesn’t get out of control. Periodic renest. It’s the same with native bean plants that are controlled burning can enhance the habitat for many species of wildlife including many other bird species. PHOTO COURTESY BRIAN WEIBLER, TALL TIMBERS RESEARCH great food for wildlife thrive doves, quail and deer. Gopher tortoises go in their in burned over areas. They burrows. Sometimes, a small add atmospheric nitrogen back into the soil. Longleaf pines, the animal might get trapped, but the benefits to the habitat overall is state tree of Alabama, become established on bare mineral soil better for the species.” created where fire recently passed through. Other tree species, People can’t just toss gasoline into some bushes, throw in a like shortleaf pine, resprout vigorously following a fire. Pitcher match and hope for the best. Some landowners break large tracts plants and cane also do well in fire-dependent environments.” into smaller sections and only burn a fraction of it each year. Animals also depend upon fire. For instance, bobwhite quail Before starting a burn, land managers must develop a plan and need a ground disturbance to thrive. They require open ground apply for a burn permit from the Alabama Forestry Commission beneath cover for rearing their young and canopies overhead to ( hide them from avian predators like hawks. When vegetation and Fortunately, landowners can find help from many state, federal ground clutter become too thick, small quail cannot get to their and private sources like such conservation groups as Quail Forseeds to eat or move around easily. ever,, or the National Wild Turkey Federation, Most such groups can offer technical advice. Some might even provide funding assistance. John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer who lives in For starters, contact the nearest Alabama Department of Semmes, Ala. He also hosts an outdoors tips show for WAVH FM Conservation and Natural Resources wildlife office or visit outTalk 106.5 radio station in Mobile, Ala. Contact him at j.felsher@ or through Facebook. For Tall Timbers Research, call 850-893-4153 or visit

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| Alabama Recipes |

Food o’ the Irish W

ith St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 just around the corner, it’s a good time to think about preparing some traditional Irish dishes for family and friends. While our local stores may promote corned beef and cabbage for the classic Irish supper, there are a variety of other Irish-themed dishes to try, courtesy of our readers, that will make you want to celebrate the day from breakfast to dessert, topped off with a chilled glass of Irish cream. After all, as an old Irish proverb says, “Laughter is brightest where food is best."

Dublin Coddle

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Photo by Brooke Echols

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Cook of the Month:

Janice Bracewell, Covington EC


Brooke Burks


abbage is a staple in lots of recipes that celebrate the heritage of St. Patrick’s Day. Many of the recipes that are steeped in Southern tradition are also ones that came over with the Irish when they settled in our region of America. Our cooking is steeped deeply in the history and tradition of our ancestors. That’s why I love it so much. We can see and feel history in the recipes that are handed down through the generations. This recipe takes cabbage (in ample supply this time of year) and changes it a bit by frying it in bacon grease. We then make it a real Southern recipe by putting it in a casserole!

Fried Cabbage Casserole 1 4 1/2 1/4 1 1/4 1 1/2

medium head of cabbage, chopped tablespoons butter pound bacon, cut up into small pieces cup mayonnaise can cream of celery soup cup milk cup shredded cheddar cheese cup French-fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a Dutch oven, fry bacon in butter until brown and crispy. Remove and drain. Place cabbage in bacon grease, cover and cook over low to medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Turn off heat. Add in bacon, mayo, milk and cream of celery. Mix well. Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish. Spread evenly and top with cheese and fried onions. Bake 45 – 60 minutes until onions are browned and cheese is melted. Photo by The Buttered Home

anice Bracewell, a “converted Yankee” from Boston who’s lived in her adopted home of Andalusia for many years, enjoys making her Irish Boiled Dinner as one of many “diversified dinners” she and her family enjoy. “I’m of Italian descent,” she says, “and even though my mother Janice Bracewell was Italian I got this recipe from my mother.” She and greatuses two pans to make the dish, corned beef in granddaughter one and the cabbage in another, and she doesn’t Harper Rose Bulger always add the turnips because not everyone likes them. With or without turnips, the combination of corned beef brisket and vegetables “makes a good hearty meal, especially on a cold day,” she says.

Irish Boiled Dinner

Photo by Brooke Echols

3-4 pound corned beef brisket 8 small onions 8 medium carrots 2 turnips, cubed, if desired 4 potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered 1 medium green cabbage, cut into wedges Caraway seed Place brisket in large cast iron pan or Dutch oven; cover with cold water. Cover tightly; simmer 3-1/2 hours or until tender. Skim fat from liquid. Add onions, carrots, turnips and potatoes. Sprinkle with caraway seed. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove meat to warm platter. Add cabbage; simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Serves 8.

Cook of the month Send us your original recipes and you could win $50!

Recipes can be developed by you or family members. You may even adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Chosen cooks may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year. To be eligible, submissions must include a name, phone number, mailing address and co-op name. Alabama Living reserves the right to reprint recipes in our other publications.


Alabama Living

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3 ways to submit:

Themes and Deadlines:

Online: Email: Mail: Attn: Recipes P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

June: Summer Salads | March 4 July: Cobblers | April 1 August: Peppers | May 6

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Homemade Irish Cream + Irish Shortbread Cookies Irish Cream: 1 cup heavy cream 1 teaspoon instant espresso 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder 1 cup Irish whiskey 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk Shortbread: 8 ounces butter, softened 1 teaspoon vanilla ½ cup sugar 1¾ cups flour ¼ cup cornstarch Irish Cream: Mix 1 tablespoon of the cream in a bowl with the espresso and cocoa powder until smooth. Add the remaining cream and stir. Add the whiskey, vanilla and condensed milk. Stir until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bottle. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to use it. For the Shortbread: Mix the softened butter and vanilla in a bowl until smooth. Add the sugar. Mix. Add the flour and cornstarch. Mix well. Empty mixture onto a floured countertop or cutting board. Knead for 30 seconds until dough forms into a ball. Lightly flour your rolling pin and roll out the dough so it's ¼-inch thick. Cut with shamrock-shaped cookie cutters and place on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Knead dough scraps together, roll, and cut out more shamrocks, until dough all used. Place pan in refrigerator, uncovered, for 1-10 hours. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator. Bake for 12 minutes, or until light golden brown. Robin O'Sullivan Wiregrass EC

Homemade Irish Cream

Crispy Roasted Potatoes 6–8 medium red potatoes, skins on 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup chopped red onion Salt and pepper to taste Parsley for garnish Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Boil potatoes whole in salted water until a toothpick can go all of the way through. Do not over boil! After potatoes have cooled, cube the potatoes to bite-size pieces. Spread in an even layer on a greased sheet pan with chopped onions. Drizzle with olive oil and mix well to distribute oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix again lightly and spread back into a single layer. Bake in 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until Crispy Roasted Potatoes crispy and brown. Instant Pot Rosemary The Buttered Home

Dublin Coddle 1 16-ounce package of bacon, chopped 5 bratwurst 1 large onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 beer 3 cups new potatoes, peeled and quartered 3 cups chicken broth 1/4 cup parsley Salt and pepper, to taste

Beef Stew 2 1 4 3 2 1/2 3 1 1

pounds stew beef envelope French onion soup mix cups water potatoes, peeled and cubed cups carrots, peeled and chopped yellow onion, diced celery stalks, diced cup sliced mushrooms sprig rosemary Salt and pepper to taste

Add first three ingredients to Instant Pot and stir well. Set Instant pot to manual or pressure cook for 45 minutes. NPR or release pressure naturally for 10-12 minutes. Release vent to allow any remaining pressure to escape and open lid carefully. Add in vegetables, salt, pepper and rosemary. Stir and place the lid back on and set for 15 minutes to manual or pressure cook. NPR again and enjoy!

In a large pot cook the chopped bacon over medium high heat until golden brown, remove to a paper towel to drain. Add bratwurst, browning on all sides and remove to a paper towel. Add onions and sauté for 4 minutes. Put in the garlic, cooking for 2 minutes. Pour in the beer and continue cooking the onions down 2 more minutes. Add potatoes and chicken broth, cooking until The Buttered Home potatoes are soft. Add parsley, bacon and bratwurst back to the pot. Bring everything together and cook for 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve. Kirk Vantrease Cullman EC

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| Our Sources Say |

The net zero transition U

nless you have avoided political news and social media, you know the cornerstone of every Biden Administration initiative is the transition to “Net Zero” by 2050. The Administration has mandated that every government action must be evaluated upon its carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions and its contribution to reducing emissions to net zero by 2050. It is no longer good enough for government actions to help people, provide jobs or build infrastructure - these actions now must contribute to the net zero goal. In January, McKinsey & Company, a respected global research firm, produced a comprehensive report titled, “The net-zero transition: What it would cost, what it could bring.” The report is more than 200 pages. The preface to the report contains a sobering statement (or maybe a warning). “At present, though, the net zero equation remains unsolved: greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and are not counterbalanced by removals, nor is the world prepared to complete the net-zero transition. Indeed, even if all net zero commitments and national climate pledges were fulfilled, research suggests that warming would not be held to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, increasing the odds of initiating the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, including the risk of biotic feedback loops. Moreover, most of these commitments have yet to be backed by detailed plans or executed.” Such a statement means that, although a number of countries have made commitments to hold greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, those commitments are merely empty promises, and almost nothing is being done to reach net zero. There are no plans by the world’s governments to achieve net zero. Other than the United States and a few other countries closing coal-fired electric generating plants, there is little preparation or effort toward net zero commitments. Also, the report cites research suggesting that, even if all the net zero commitments were completed, limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees C from pre-industrial levels likely would not be achieved. The report anticipates capital spending of $275 trillion on physical assets for energy and land-use systems in the net zero transition between 2021 and 2050. Although much of the spending will be required in early years, averaging $9.2 trillion per year, an annual increase of as much as $3.5 trillion from today. To put this increase in comparative terms, the $3.5 trillion is approximately equivalent, in 2020, to half of global corporate profits, one-quarter of total tax revenue, and 7 percent of global household spending. The transition would require the single largest investment made in any industry in history, and could result in a loss of about 185 million jobs, mostly in the fossil fuel extraction and pow-

er sectors by 2050. That loss could be offset by a gain of about 200 million jobs, including jobs in operations and construction of physical assets, renewable power, hydrogen, and biofuels, says McKinsey. It is important to recognize the U.S. total workforce in 2020 was about 165 million workers. More sobering is the report’s projection that the scale of workforce reallocation may be smaller than that of other trends, such as automation. Again, no small feat to reorganize, retrain, deploy, and employ a workforce larger than the current total U.S. workforce. The report also predicts the global average delivered cost of electricity would increase by about 25% from 2020 until 2040 and still be about 20% higher in 2050. Global electric prices would then decline from that peak back to 2020 levels, although the pricing would vary across global regions as the power sector builds renewables and transmission and distribution capacity. However, the report warns that near-term cost increases could be significantly higher if grid intermittency issues are not well managed. These changes are not nearly comprehensive of all that will be required to achieve net-zero. The report states major systemic changes must be made in the carbon-emitting energy and landuse systems: power, industry, mobility, buildings, agriculture, forestry, and waste. That means we all will have to make significant changes in our jobs, and our lives — the energy we use, the food we eat, the transportation we use, how we travel, and the freedoms we have. Most importantly, the report acknowledges no exploration of the critical question of who pays for the transition. It establishes that such a move will require collective and global action, particularly as the burdens of the transition would not be evenly felt. The prevailing notion of enlightened self-interest alone is unlikely to be sufficient to help achieve net zero, and the transition would challenge traditional orthodoxies and require unity, resolve, and ingenuity from leaders. This means all the governments and world leaders must work together to achieve such ambitious goals. That includes the governments that are currently threatening to invade neighbors and disrupting global commerce. With all due respect to those that see net-zero as the only path to an inhabitable world, the chances of world leadership doing anything other than messing this up and disrupting everyone’s lives are less than my chances of jumping to the moon. We would be better advised to spend our time on issues that make sense, actually help people, and to invest in nuclear power, the only practical net zero solution. I hope you have a good month.

Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.

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Alabama Living

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| Hardy Jackson's Alabama |

Illustration by Dennis Auth

Under the Big Top


elma. Summer. 1949. I had just “graduated” from Mrs. Elder’s kindergarten and was scheduled to start first grade at Byrd School when I woke to the news. While I was sleeping, the circus came to town. On a siding in the railway yard, roustabouts had unloaded crates of circus cargo, including cages in which exotic animals paced and pawed. Then, when everything was in place, a line formed and the whole kit-and-caboodle paraded along Broad Street to announce their arrival. We were ready. Word had spread and it seemed like everyone who lived between Marion and Montgomery turned out. My Daddy hoisted me upon his shoulders so I could see. What a sight it was. Lions and tigers, monkeys doing tricks, acrobats on horses, clowns packed into tiny cars, and elephants walking in single file, trunk holding the tail of the one in front. It was a marvel I remember to this day. Crossing the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus bridge, the parade stopped at what had been a cotton field, and there they set up the Big Top. Once everything was in place, they invited us to come and see. We did. The crowd entered the grounds through the Midway, an avenue Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is retired Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at

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of entertainment that lured us toward the main tent. There were games of chance where guys paid and played in hopes of winning a Kewpie Doll for the girl of their dreams. There were “curiosities” like the “Dog-Faced Boy”, whose snarling scared the little kids. There were bumper cars and a “Tilt-a-Whirl” that was good for at least one throw-up from the kid who ate too much cotton candy. All that and more but none of it, the voice over the loud speaker assured us, could compare with what awaited us under the Big Top. So, we paid again and in we went. The voice was right. Inside we saw “daring young men on the flying trapeze,” along with young women just as daring. We saw bareback riders nearly falling off, but always recovering. We saw knives thrown dangerously close to scantily-clad beauties, and we saw a marksman who never missed. No wonder boys dreamed of running away and joining the circus. What I did not realize at the time was that I was seeing a part of Americana that was already fading away. Traveling shows that entertained small town folks like us were falling prey to rising costs and enforced regulations, especially where animals were concerned. The bigger shows moved to bigger cities with arenas that hosted everything from hockey to basketball to Barnum and Bailey (which stopped presenting its circus shows with animals in 2017). As for the smaller shows, a few have hung on and if you want one for your town or event, just search online for “traveling circus” and check them out. And if you invite a circus to visit your town, let me know. I’d like to see one again.

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