February 2023 Clarke-Washington

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February 2023 Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News Let’s play pickleball! Decadent desserts ClarkeWashıngton ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORP.


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.

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alabama Living, P.O. box 244014 Montgomery, alabama 36124-4014.


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Cut roses are perennial favorite gifts for Valentine’s Day, but if you’re looking for a truly perennial gift of love, consider the rose bush.

Our readers love to create things out of wood! Check out some of their creations on our Snapshots page.

Record setter

A Fruitdale father and son fishing trip turned out to be one they’ll never forget.

Decadent desserts

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to make a rich, indulgent dessert for your significant other. We’ve got three pages of reader recipes for you to choose from!

Jim Young, president of the Opelika Pickleball Club (wearing his finest pickleball fashions), returns a shot during a game of the increasingly popular

26 30 VOL. 76 NO. 2 February 2023 DEPARTMENTS 11 Spotlight 25 Around Alabama 26 Outdoors 27 Fish & Game Forecast 30 Cook of the Month 38 Hardy Jackson’s Alabama ONLINE: alabamaliving.coop 28 February 2023 3 WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! ONLINE: www.alabamaliving.coop EMAIL: letters@alabamaliving.coop MAIL: Alabama Living 340 Technacenter Drive Montgomery, AL 36117
ages and abilities. See more, Page 12.
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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)

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P.O. Box 398 Jackson, AL 36545

P.O. Box 453 Chatom, AL 36518


During normal office hours at our Chatom and Jackson offices.

Phone (855) 870-0403

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Cold weather drives electric usage

As I was writing this column last month, I referenced how warm it was at the time. I had no idea that the weather would make such a drastic swing and we would be dealing with near, if not, record cold temperatures over the Christmas holidays.

Extreme weather, either hot or cold, can really test an electrical distribution system and its employees but I was extremely proud of our system and employees as we endured the extremely cold weather. Our employees and consulting engineers spend a lot of time and effort to try to build a system that can handle extreme weather. We

have been doing long range work plans for many years to prepare for the recent circumstances we faced.

And, immediately prior to the arrival of the cold weather, our employees began checking regulators and other special equipment to make sure we were as ready as we could be at such a late hour.

Our AMI system also played a key role in helping us monitor voltage in real time as the extremely cold weather placed a tremendous load on our system. Fortunately, our system held up well from a voltage standpoint. Of course, we dealt with quite a few outages from the strong

4 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop

and gusty winds that ushered in the cold weather. We were also very fortunate that our power supplier, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, was able to meet the needs of its members without having to implement rolling blackouts as many other power suppliers were forced to do.

Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions like those we experienced over the Christmas holidays can cause an increase in your power usage resulting in a higher bill than expected. If you need help understanding your usage, feel free to call our Billing Department and we can use our Meter Data Management (MDM) system to provide a graphic like the one listed below of your usage during the recent weather event.

We understand an unexpectedly high bill following a holiday can be difficult to pay. That’s why we work with the Community Action Agency and other agencies across our four county service

area to help our members receive assistance with their bills. If you need supporting documentation to apply for assistance or if you need to make payment arrangements, please do not hesitate to contact our Billing Department.

The graphic below is of my personal account during the recent weather event. The blue line represents the temperature and the red bars represent usage. As you can see, as the temperature went down, my usage went up. Feel free to contact our Billing Department if you would like to see the same information for your account.

Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 5


If you are a K-12 educator interested in teaching your students more about energy, EMPOWER is for you. This Energy Education Workshop provides an exciting opportunity to learn about electric generation and distribution, with a focus on energy education and fun ways to integrate it into your classroom, using curriculum designed for your students.

Other benefits:

- Continuing Education Credits for each participant who completes the workshop.

- Excellent materials, including a NEED Science of Energy Kit, a class-set of NEED Energy Infobooks (at grade level), access to all NEED Curriculum Guides and supplemental resources.

- Opportunities to network with fellow educators.

Learning about Energy can be Energizing!


FEBRUARY 10, 2023

*limited availability


JUNE 4-7, 2023


Are you graduating from high school this spring? Are you a dependent of a member of Clarke-Washington EMC?

If so, you are eligible to apply for a scholarship from the Electric Cooperative Foundation. Clarke-Washington EMC has joined other cooperatives throughout the state of Alabama to create the Electric Cooperative Foundation. This spring the foundation will be awarding scholarships across Alabama for students to continue their education at post-secondary and vocational schools.

For more details about this scholarship, obtain a copy of a scholarship application from your high school guidance counselor, visit cwemc.com, or call: Sarah Turner, Clarke-Washington EMC (251) 246-9081.

Don’t wait; applications with all required attachments must be received no later than February 17, 2023. (NO POSTMARKS)

| Clarke-Washington EMC |
6 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop


As discussed in the November issue of Alabama Living, the results from the recent member satisfaction survey will be broken down for you to understand.

Clarke-Washington EMC received a Cooperative Attitude and Performance Score (CAPS). CAPS was developed as an industry-specific benchmarking tool to help cooperatives gauge performance in service areas deemed most important by cooperative members. In future surveys, CWEMC’s CAPS can be trended and compared with other cooperatives nationwide.

Variables such as trustworthiness, being well-managed, and caring about members were weighted based on their respective importance to members. The co-op’s performance in these three areas, determined by questions within the satisfaction survey, is then weighted and combined to determine its score, known as CAPS.

Clarke-Washington EMC scored a CAPS of 87 and ranked highly on trustworthiness. At least 87% of members are somewhat or very satisfied in the performance areas measured.

Clarke-Washington EMC offices will be CLOSED Monday, February 20, 2023 for our Annual Employee Training. IF YOU EXPERIENCE AN OUTAGE, CALL 800-323-9081.
Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 7

5 Ways to Save During Winter

Winter weather typically means increased energy use at home. Keep your bills in check with these tips to save energy— and money!

Mind the thermostat. If you have a traditional heating and cooling system, set the thermostat to 68 degrees or lower. Consider a smart or programmable thermostat for additional savings. Get cozy. Add layers of clothing for additional warmth, and snuggle up under your favorite heavyweight blanket.

Don’t block the heat. If your air vents or heating elements (like radiators) are blocked by furniture or rugs, your home isn’t being adequately heated.

Take advantage of sunlight. Open window coverings during the day to let natural sunlight in to warm your home. Close them at night to block the chilly night air.

Block air leaks. Seal windows and exterior doors with caulk and weather stripping to improve indoor comfort and decrease the amount of energy used to heat your home.

8 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop

My husband loved to build things out of wood. He built houses, churches and trains. I’m so proud. SUBMITTED by Nyoka Chandler, Guntersville.

I made this for my grandson. My first time building a rocking horse. SUBMITTED by Ray Bell, Newville.

I’ve been wood carving for about 30 years. SUBMITTED by Jerry Cochran, Summerdale.

Stephan H. Scott made this boat from a pine tree that fell on our property after a storm and named the boat after his grandmother. SUBMITTED by Marilyn Scott, Elberta.

One of my ancestors whittled this. All of it is one piece - no pieces of it are separate. SUBMITTED by Rhonda Mosley, Andalusia.

A friend of mine did this woodburning of my dog, Gypsy, from the included picture. SUBMITTED by Susie Burgess, Hartselle.

My Daddy made heart shaped jewelry boxes out of cedar for every female in his family. SUBMITTED by Joyce Pickett, Fitzpatrick.

| Deadline: February 28

Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 9 April theme: “Our Linemen”
| Alabama Snapshots | Online: alabamaliving.coop | Mail: Attn: Snapshots, P.O. Box 244014,
AL 36124
RULES: Photos submitted for publication may also be published on our website at alabamaliving.coop 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.

Co-ops respond to devastating severe weather

Numerous strong to severe thunderstorms cut through central Alabama on Jan. 12, and several of those storms spawned significant tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. An EF3 tornado that tracked from Autauga County into western Chambers County had a longtrack path of over 76 miles and was at least 1,500 yards wide; this tornado caused seven fatalities and 16 injuries.

This storm left more than 9,000 Central Alabama EC members without power, and the co-op needed to replace more than 300 poles. Several sister co-ops responded to help Central Alabama with the restoration of power: Dixie EC, Marshall-DeKalb EC, Tallapoosa River EC, Baldwin EMC, Clarke-Washington EMC, Cullman EC, Coosa Valley EC, Black Warrior EMC and Wiregrass EC sent a total of 85 men as well as trucks and materials to the affected areas in Central Alabama’s territory. They were in place by the morning of Jan. 13, and all were released by the evening of Jan. 15.

But several co-ops had their own damage to contend with. Black Warrior EMC, Pioneer EC, Southern Pine EC, Clarke-Washington EMC, Joe Wheeler EMC, South Alabama EC, Pea River EC and others saw large-scale outages from the band of storms that tore through Alabama.

Alabama’s co-ops always stand ready to help sister co-ops both in-state and across the Southeast after a devastating weather event.

Civil rights icon’s medal on display at Archives

The Presidential Medal of Freedom that was presented to Alabama attorney Fred D. Gray on July 7, 2022, is now on display in the ADAH’s main lobby and will be on view through February 2023. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Born in Montgomery on Dec. 14, 1930, Gray graduated from Alabama State College (now Alabama State University) at the age of 17 and enrolled at Western Reserve University Law School in Ohio. The young attorney returned to Alabama determined to contest the legality of segregation laws. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he represented Rosa Parks and served as legal advisor for the Montgomery Improvement Association and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., its president.

Gray was lead counsel in the landmark 1956 case Browder v. Gayle, which overturned segregation on public transportation in Alabama. Building on this precedent, Gray challenged inequality in dozens of cases over the next several decades. He continues to practice law today at the age of 92. Gray has been a trustee of the ADAH since 2003.

“We have made substantial progress but the struggle for the elimination of racism and for equal justice continues. I hope this award will encourage other Americans to do what they can to complete the task so that all American citizens will be treated the same, equally and fairly, in accordance with the Constitution,” Gray says.

Learn more at archives.alabama.gov

Alabama State Parks receive grant for Chewacla State Park

The State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) was recently awarded a $20,000 Hearts of STIHL grant from STIHL, Inc., to be used for the removal and management of invasive plant species at Chewacla State Park in Auburn.  The Hearts of STIHL grants are awarded to support programs that prioritize responsible forest management practices, sustainability, conservation and environmental education programs. The grants are managed through the America’s State Parks Foundation and awarded to state parks in six regions of the U.S.  “Invasive plants are a threat to native ecosystems throughout the country,” says Tasha Simon, Natural Resources Supervisor for Alabama State Parks. “Since Alabama is one of the most biologically diverse states in the U.S., managing that threat to our native species is very important.”

The grant will fund the purchase of equipment and herbicides to reduce the amount of Chinese privet and tallowtree, thorny olive, wild taro, water hyacinth, kudzu and other non-native plants at Chewacla. The funding will also support educational signage and print media about the restoration of native habitats within the park.

For more information about the Hearts of STIHL program, visit stihlusa.com/community/hearts-of-stihl/

10 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop Spotlight | February
President Biden presents the Medal of Freedom to Alabama attorney Fred Gray in July 2022. OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY ADAM SCHULTZ A crew from Coosa Valley EC resets a pole in the Old Jasmine Hill Road area of Wetumpka on Jan. 13, the day after an EF3 tornado plowed through the Central Alabama EC service territory. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOMMY GILES The Chewacla Invasive Plant Working Group has been crucial in long-term efforts to remove and control non-native plant species at Chewacla State Park. PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA STATE PARKS

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: mytravels@alabamaliving. coop. Be sure to include your name, hometown and electric cooperative, and the location of your photo.We’ll draw a winner for the $25 prize each month.

Find the hidden dingbat!

When we make finding the hidden dingbat what some might consider too easy, our readers love it! Thanks to the more than 400 folks who sent us the correct location of the New Year’s party horn blower, riding atop the extreme cookies and cream milkshake on Page 16. “Good thing my favorite drink is a milkshake!” writes Diana Burell of Monroeville.

Gayle Ashworth of Guntersville, a member of Arab Electric Cooperative, would agree. She was inspired to write us a poem:

While reading “Alabama is as easy as A, B, C”

And reading all the articles from A to Z

I found that Y is not just for y’all, it’s also for ‘yummy’!

Which is what those extreme milkshakes on Page 16 would be to my tummy!

They look so delicious with all their toppings extreme, I’d even love one with a New Year’s party horn blower stuck in my whipped cream!

We love that Pamela Maten of Gilbertown, a Black Warrior EMC member who is a librarian, shares the dingbat contest with her young library patrons and lets them search for it. “They proudly showed it to me when they found it!” she writes. And we’re proud of the determination of 11-year-old Charleigh Mason of Rainsville, who drew a photo of the milkshake and told us if she wins, the $25 prize will go towards her new car fund. Never hurts to start that fund early, Charleigh! Tom Mullican of Decatur found the dingbat on his first try. He writes that he would have tried sooner “but was too embarrassed to ask, ‘What’s a dingbat? Then I read the instructions. I just turned 68, proving one’s never too old to learn, I hope!” Absolutely not, Tom, so keep entering every month!

Congratulations to Katelyn Maten of Gilbertown, our randomly drawn winner of a $25 gift card from AlabamaOne Credit Union. This month, we’ve hidden some Mardi Gras beads. (Mardi Gras begins Feb. 21.) Good luck, and let the good times roll!

Sponsored by

Whereville, AL

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, if applicable. The winner and answer will be announced in the March issue.

Submit by email: whereville@alabamaliving.coop, or by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124. Do you like finding interesting or unusual landmarks? Contribute a photo you took for an upcoming issue! Remember, all readers whose photos are chosen also win $25!


answer: This group of large stones is in the Civil Rights Memorial Park, located at the base of the southern end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The small fence surrounding it resembles the bridge. On the center stone is the verse from Joshua 4:21-22. (Photo by Allison Law of Alabama Living) The randomly drawn correct guess winner is Kathy Sexton of Black Warrior EMC.

Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 11 February | Spotlight
We love this photo of Heath and Ashton Thayer of Bay Minette, young members of Baldwin EMC, who enjoyed a visit to at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Elberta. Linda Floyd, a member of Sand Mountain EC from Langston, traveled to MSC Ocean Cay Marine Preserve in the Bahamas, part of the Bimini district. We’re glad Paul Brantley of Sardis City, a member of Cherokee EC, didn’t get blown away when he visited Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Phil & Misty Taylor of Ohatchee, members of Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative, visited the King Kamehameha Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii, with their favorite magazine.

Let’s play (pickle) ball!

Popular sport has fans from age 8 to 80

Julie Lin plays a game at the Opelika SportsPlex.
12 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop

Doors open early at the Orange Beach Recreation Center – 8 a.m. By 9 a.m., courts are full. By 10 a.m., without a reservation, you wait in line. Tennis you say? Oh please, that is so yesterday.

These are the faithful, the dedicated, the legions united by pickleball, the thrill of the dill. “If I unlocked the doors at 7 a.m., they would be in here at 7 a.m.,” says Brenda Langston, pickleball attendant at the Orange Beach Recreation Center, which is served electrically by Baldwin EMC.

She unlocks the doors and a steady stream of enthusiasts enter to take the courts. One player rushes by, laughing, “Pickleball is not just a sport, it’s an addiction.”

Indeed, the game of paddles and perforated plastic balls is one of America’s fastest growing sports. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, 4.8 million people are currently playing – doubling the number of five years ago. Alabama is no exception.

Johnathan Langston, Orange Beach Recreation Center’s director, says that since 2015, the center has logged 35,281 pickleball players here. The statistic would have been even larger had the complex not shut down during Covid months.

“In our center, pickleball is played more than all other sports combined. It is the biggest recreation program in Orange Beach’s history,” Langston says.

On today’s visit, 50 players are expected. In January with the arrival of Northern snowbirds, numbers swell to 100.

The beachside town is not alone in its passion for smacking

a plastic ball with holes in it. Alabama is in a pickle – in a good way. Take the Opelika Pickleball Facility for example, one of the largest in the state.

Adjacent to the Opelika SportsPlex, the canopy-covered site features 24 courts and LED lighting, available 24 hours daily, Wednesday through Monday. Tournaments here have seen 800 participants.

As for everyday play, Opelika Public Relations Coordinator Laura Leigh Chesser notes, “I’ve seen severe weather and rainstorms with people playing pickleball here like nothing is going on. Anything short of a monsoon, our people will play pickleball.”

Though it appears to have erupted in popularity overnight, pickle ball passion is not new. The game is almost 60 years old. In 1965 the late Joel Pritchard and two friends returned to his Bainbridge, Washington, summer home after a day of golf. Pritchard found his family bored with nothing to do. With help from two friends, he experimented with paddles, nets, racquets, and various balls to devise a family version of scaled-down tennis. One theory of how the game derived its name: During play at the impromptu net, the family’s dog kept chasing the ball. The dog’s name was “Pickles.” The rest is history.

Incidentally, the late Joel Pritchard had other accomplishments. Post pickle, he served in the U.S. Congress and later, as his state’s lieutenant governor. Outside of Washington, few know of his public service. However, everybody knows his game, some say named for the family’s pet.

This pickleball tournament at the Opelika SportsPlex in December attracted 130 players. PHOTO BY JULIE BENNETT The 8 a.m. pickleball players at the Orange Beach Recreation Center take a break from play.
Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 13

Spreading eastward

From the Pacific Northwest, pickleball spread. “A California tennis pro told me about it six years ago,” recalls Wade Brown, Wynlakes Country Club’s director of tennis. “My California colleague insisted, ‘You guys need to look into this! I am teaching more pickleball than I am tennis lessons!’”

Brown did his research. “Initially I considered pickleball to be like racquetball – a fad that fell off the face of the earth. But after studying and seeing how popular it had become in other areas, I realized pickleball is here to stay.”

He also credits country club members. “Many in our membership have resort homes in other areas,” Brown says. “They saw pickleball in their travels and returned to Montgomery, questioning how come we cannot have it here?” They do now.

Within a decade, Wynlakes Country Club, which is served by Dixie Electric Cooperative, grew from makeshift taped lines on a spare tennis spot to today’s service, including exclusive pickleball courts. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Brown says. “We recently had 36 Indiana businessmen fly in; 26 of them wanted to play pickleball.”

When questioning the popularity of the sport, answers are as diverse as those who play it.

“Pickleball is a fairly simple game to play,” says Steve Lloyd, a pickleball pioneer of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. “Lots of people play because it’s easy to learn and anybody can play it, from children to people in their 80s.”

Here is a pickle primer condensed in a paragraph: Like tennis, pickleball is a game for two or four players. One serves underhand and across the court. After the ball bounces once, the opponent smacks it back. The volley begins.

Complete rules can be easily found online or learned from other players. Other players also love to help newbies. For at one time, they, too, were new, just as a pickle was once a cucumber.

“Don’t be scared,” says Jim Young, president of the Opelika Pickleball Club, with a current membership of 471. He advises the novice, “Once the basics are explained, you can be on the court in 5 to 15 minutes. Initially, you won’t be as good as experienced folks, but you will catch up.”

Young says, “I’ve been surpassed by players I taught and I’m happy for them. It doesn’t discourage me.”

Lloyd agrees. “Start with others who have never played,” the Orange Beach Recreation Center veteran notes. “You will be surprised at how fast you catch on.”

Working up a workout

The play is fun but make no mistake – this is a workout. “I had heart issues and for me running a treadmill was not motivating. Pickleball is fun exercise and also improves your hand and eye coordination,” says Lloyd, who is a competitive 72-year-old.

Brenda Langston agrees. “I recently had a pickleball player thank me. He said, ‘Before pickleball, I was on my way to becoming a couch potato.’”

The game is perhaps the most social sport in existence. Brown adds, “You can learn how to play in 20 minutes and be out on the courts. The only thing easier than learning the game is finding someone to play it with you. Everybody will.”

“You meet tons of people,” adds Mel Hopper of Orange Beach and a pickleball player of five years. “It is fun. The game can be competitive, a social occasion to be with friends, or both.”

Pickleball lends itself to socializing, as the court (44 feet by 20 feet) is much smaller than a tennis court (78 feet by 27 feet). Play-

Yvette Scarborough plays at the Opelika SportsPlex in December. PHOTO BY JULIE BENNETT Gail Woodall shows some concentration during a pickleball match at the Opelika SportsPlex.
14 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop
Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 15 Licensed and Insured New Right of Way clearing Reclaiming Existing Right of Way Forestry Mulching (334) 818-0595 htcompanyllc@gmail.com

ers are closer together, the volley is slower, and you tend to talk, getting to know each other.

“That’s the beauty of it,” says Bernie Gilliam, tennis and pickleball coordinator for Gulf Shores. “Grandparents can play the game with their grandkids.” Locally, they can play on state-of-the art courts.

As of this writing, Gulf Shores was set to debut its new $780,000, 12 lighted pickleball courts. The site, part of the Gulf Shores Sportsplex, is open seven days a week, from sunrise to 10 p.m. “The demand is great,” Gilliam adds. “A mix of residents and tourists will use the new facility.”

Municipalities are seeing fiscal benefits too. “Opelika is one of the nation’s top pickleball destinations,” says Jim Young. “The city has invested a lot. The economic impact we give back to the city, state, local taxes, and our merchants in 2022 could be over $1.25 million.”

Fun, competitive, social, health benefits, fiscal opportunities, and more, whatever the reason, thousands are seizing paddles. Based on 2022’s growth, pickleball data indicates huge expansion statewide with new courts and new players.

There is power in the pickle. For in Alabama, pickleball is a game we relish.

16 FEBRUARY 2023
Bill Flick during a match at the Opelika SportsPlex. PHOTO COURTESY OPELIKA PARKS AND RECREATION Tom Melborn, Mel Hopper, Joan Booker, and Steve Lloyd, who play at the Orange Beach Recreation Center, are ready to compete (and have some fun too). PHOTO BY EMMETT BURNETT

Pies, pigs and more: Bakery

gives Clanton popularity beyond peaches

The Chilton County city of Clanton is well known for its peaches, and for its shops right off Interstate 65 that welcome weary travelers with produce, jams and jellies, ice cream and just about anything else you’d want to eat.

But now, Clanton may become known for the sweet treats and tasty breakfast foods served up at Pies by Mike, the family-owned bakery and coffee shop that’s been open in its location on Lay Dam

Road since 2020. The bakery’s slogan, “incrediliciously good,” is a little hard to pronounce, and owner Mike Graham admits he sort of made it up. But it seems to fit the character of the place, with rows and rows of delectable pies available whole or by the slice, served up with its own blend of coffee.

Mike says he’s always enjoyed cooking, and he started making the Tollhouse pie years ago when he and his wife, Alice, had

18 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop | Worth the drive |
The pecan pie, and left, and the Tollhouse pie are the top sellers at Pies by Mike. PHOTO BY BROOKE ECHOLS
Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 19

friends over. Many friends told him for years that he needed to sell the pies, but he never gave it a serious thought.

Then in 2014, the Alabama Cottage Food Law took effect, which allowed individuals to produce certain foods in their homes to sell to the public. A class was offered in Clanton, so Mike took it and became certified.

Mike started out small – he’d make several kinds of pies and take samples to local businesses, asking if they’d like to buy a pie. The first year, he sold 268 pies; the next year, that number doubled. And it kept growing.

“We had to decide, do we want to scale it back, or get out of the house?” The Grahams took the leap and rented a small former cafe for its commercial kitchen; eventually, they began serving 15 restaurants. Mike hadn’t planned on entering the retail business, but when the landlord decided to sell the property, the business had to move.

They moved to the current location on Jan. 22, 2020, with a grand opening on March 14, 2020. Just a few days later, Covid began to shut down restaurants and businesses, changing life for all of us.

“During Covid, if we had stayed in the same location (the little cafe), I don’t think we would have survived it,” Mike says. “All we had pretty much was wholesale. During Covid, we lost all but two of our restaurants.

“Alice is quick to point out, the good Lord was looking out for us.”

Moving forward

Now, retail has far surpassed the wholesale operation, though Pies by Mike still services several stores, either at the holiday sea-

son or year-round, with anywhere from one or two pie flavors to several, depending on the location.

“That was just a huge blessing that we got here,” Mike says. “The Lord has really blessed us. The community has gotten behind us.”

The bakery has a stable of about 25 sweet pies, though not all are available every day. There are all kinds, including pecan (the best-seller), tollhouse (a close second), key lime and pineapple cream (which run neck-and-neck for a distant third). Also on the menu, depending on the day, are fudge (one of Mike’s personal favorites), lemon mousse, peanut butter, pina colada, pumpkin, strawberry banana and strawberry cream, among others.

On this particular weekday, there were eight different flavors; sometimes they’ll have as many as 10 or 12, or as few as four or five, depending on the wholesale orders and other factors.

Pies by Mike also offers gluten free and diabetic-friendly pies, but those must be pre-ordered.

The “Southern breakfast pies” (Mike acknowledges they’re basically quiches, but he likes the sound of his better) are available in bacon, ham or sausage, whole or by the slice. Quilted pigs (Mike’s take on “pigs in a blanket, with fewer syllables”), Conecuh bites and sausage bites almost always sell out.

Mike realized they needed a special blend of coffee to serve at the eatery (Alice thinks it’s pretty funny that Mike doesn’t even drink coffee). They invited some “coffee snobs” in to help taste test, and after some customer voting and back and forth with the roaster, they settled on a blend. It’s sold at the store by the bean or ground, in half-pound or pound bags.

Asked about expansion, Mike is hesitant. “I’m not going to say never, but right now I just want to get enough staff on hand that can expand our hours a little bit.” Pies by Mike is open on Tuesday afternoons from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; a goal of Mike’s is to start opening on Saturdays to catch the beach traffic along the interstate, but as it is for most businesses, the key is finding the right people to work, who understand good customer service and enjoy working with the public.

“We’re extremely friendly here,” Mike says. “People come in, they’re going to be welcomed.” As if on cue, a customer walks in, eager for a sweet treat.

20 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop
1015 Lay Dam Road, Clanton, AL 35045 205-755-7854
Hours: 1 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday-Friday closed Saturday-Monday Clanton l
Alice and Mike Graham started Pies by Mike in its current location in March 2020 – just before the Covid pandemic began. Pies by Mike
Pies by Mike sells its own blend of coffee, by the half-pound and the pound. PHOTOS BY ALLISON LAW Pies by Mike also sells popular breakfast foods, like these “quilted pigs,” on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings beginning at 7 a.m. PHOTO COURTESY PIES BY MIKE

Energy-efficient farming equipment

Q: Are there ways to reduce energy use on a farm?

A: The importance of farms cannot be understated. Farmers feed our families and keep the country running, but the business brings many challenges, including risk and uncertainty. Finding ways to use less energy can reduce costs and result in energy savings for years to come.

When looking to improve farm efficiency, consider the following areas:

Motors and pumps

Because motors and pumps account for a significant amount of energy use on a farm, replacing inefficient motors with efficient models can save energy and reduce costs. Adding variable frequency drives (VFDs) allow you to vary the frequency and voltage supplied to the motor or pump to adjust the motor’s speed. This saves kilowatt hours and reduces load by only operating at the needed capacity. VFDs can be used in place of a phase converter, which allows use of three-phase power equipment where there is only access to single-phase power.


Upgrade irrigation equipment to use less water, which means less pumping and reducing the amount of water and energy consumed. The goal is to get the right amount of water where it is needed. This can be accomplished by reducing evaporation through system design and fixing leaks in the system. GPS and geographic information system technologies allow for more specific irrigation targeting. Monitor and test systems regularly to ensure maximum efficiency.


The longer lights are on, the higher the potential for savings. Prioritize replacing incandescent or fluorescent exterior lighting on photocells or lights that stay on all night. LED lights last two to four times longer than fluorescents and 25 to 35 times longer than incandescents. That means less frequent replacement, which saves on materials and labor costs.

Heater controls

In climates where engine block heaters are used to keep vehicle engines warm enough to start, adding engine block heater controls with temperature sensors and timers will reduce electricity use. To keep water from freezing on farms with livestock, save energy by using stock tank heaters with thermostatic controls, which operate only when needed instead of running constantly. Insulated stock tanks may eliminate the need to heat water.

Emerging technology

New farming technologies that offer efficiency possibilities include electric tractors, space heating and water heating. Equipment with information technology capabilities can aid efficiency by monitoring conditions and automating farming tasks. As with home efficiency practices, consider the equipment used most and the savings potential from upgrading or modifying existing equipment.


About 80% of U.S. farms are located in counties served by electric cooperatives. Check with your local electric co-op to see if they offer rebates on farming equipment and energy-efficiency projects that help reduce energy use.

Improving efficiency on the farm can result in less energy use, lower bills and improved farming success during challenging financial times.

22 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop | Consumer Wise |
Miranda Boutelle is the vice president of operations and customer engagement at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. She also writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. Finding ways to use less energy can reduce costs and result in more efficient farming practices for years to come PHOTOS COURTESY BONNEVILLE POWER ADMINISTRATION Irrigation equipment can be upgraded to use less water, which means less pumping and reducing the amount of water and energy consumed. Variable frequency drives allow you to vary the frequency and voltage supplied to the motor or pump to adjust the motor’s speed.
Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 23

Help someone you love apply for Social Security… and more

This Valentine’s Day, take time to remind your loved ones that Social Security helps people in all stages of life. We provide easy and convenient ways to learn about and apply for benefits. Using our online services, you can assist friends and family members to:

Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Check if the person you are helping qualifies for SSI – and also apply – at ssa.gov/ssi.

Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. When the unexpected happens and a loved one can no longer work due to a serious medical condition, our disability benefits can be a lifeline. Find out more at ssa.gov/benefits/disability

Create a personal my Social Security account.

If your loved one is planning for retirement or interested in estimating their future benefits, they can create a free and secure my Social Security account at ssa.gov/myaccount and view their Social Security Statement.

Check the status of a pending application for benefits. Checking the status of an application is quick and easy with a personal my Social Security account. If you don’t have an account, you can create one at ssa.gov/myaccount.

Appeal a decision for benefits.

If someone you know was denied Social Security benefits or SSI, they can request an appeal. We provide information on how to appeal decisions for both medical and non-medical reasons at ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html

To discover more ways you can assist others, please visit ssa. gov/thirdparty/ 

24 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop SOCIAL SECURITY Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at kylle.mckinney@ssa.gov. Answers on Page 37
February crossword
Across 1 It’s known as Alabama’s most romantic town 6 Layer of a wedding cake 9 Before to a poet 11 Often romantic music 12 Lighting for a romantic dinner 13 Gala 15 Tango and salsa, for example 17 Frequent meeting place for a date 19 In February they contain romantic messages 21 Eternal jewel 23 Toyota SUV 24 “Roses are red” begins one 27 Quiet small town getaway atop Lookout Mountain with a wedding chapel 30 ____ Gatos or Angeles 31 Where you can visit the Noccalula Falls Park and Campground 35 Night sky sparklers 36 Black tea 38 Saint who gave his name to February 14th Down 1 Alabama town which boasts McFarland Park with a floating restaurant 2 Cocktail addition 3 Romantic symbol 4 Light kiss 5 Historic period 7 “___ treat!” 8 Romantic flowers 10 New Age Celtic singer 14 Corn piece 15 Takes the car out 16 Sweet romantic gift 18 First man in the Bible 20 Lady deer 22 Prepare for a romantic date, perhaps- 2 words 25 Strange 26 Lady on a runway 28 Not that either 29 “___ does not wither her or custom stale her infinite variety” Shakespeare 32 Relaxing destination for a romantic weekend 33 Barely get, with “out” 34 Negative prefix 37 He phones home.


4 Millbrook The Millbrook Revelers Mardi Gras Festival and Parade. Festival grounds open at 9 a.m.; parade begins at noon. More than 60 vendors will be on site, with fun rides for children of all ages. The parade staging is at Mill Creek Park on Main Street; the theme for the parade is Laissez les bon temps rouler, or “let the good times roll.” MillbrookRevelers.org

4 Orrville Road to Freedom Wagon Tour at Old Cahawba, 10-11 a.m. One hundred years before the 1965 Voting Rights March in nearby Selma, a brave community of recently emancipated African-Americans gathered around an older courthouse in Cahawba. These 19th century “foot soldiers” exercised their right to vote and – for a brief time – gained political power. This wagon tour tells the story of Cahawba’s African-American majority and traces their path from slavery to freedom. $10. Search for the Old Cahawba page on Facebook.

11 Mobile USS Alabama living history crew drill. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. See history come to life when WWII re-enactors tell the stories of the original crewmen of the battleship USS Alabama and submarine USS Drum. Presentations and demonstrations throughout the day. Be on deck at 1 p.m. when the “call to battle stations” is sounded. All activities are included in the day’s admission. USSAlabama.com


Around Alabama


Chatom 35th annual Indian Artifact and Collector Show, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Chatom Community Center, 222 Dixie Youth Drive. Free admission. No reproductions, fakes or illegally obtained artifacts allowed. Display tables $10; dealer tables $25. bimbokohen@outlook.com

25-26 Decatur Greater Morgan County Builders Association Home and Garden Show, Ingalls Harbor Pavilion. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The latest trends in custom home building, remodeling ideas for every room in your home, home decoration, landscaping and more. 256-318-9161.


Andalusia Meredith’s Miracles Cookies with Characters, Covington Center Arena and Kiwanis Building. More than 90 characters will be on hand to greet fans, with souvenirs, photos, jumpy houses, princess carriage rides, limo rides and more. Saturday has two shows, at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Sunday show starts at 3 p.m. Event is a fundraiser for Meredith’s Miracles, a non-profit organization that helps families financially during medical emergencies. For online tickets, visit CookiesWithCharacters.com


3 Montgomery Alabama History Day, Auburn University at Montgomery, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each fall and winter, middle and high school students statewide research historical topics of interest. They present their findings in the spring at history day, as papers, documentaries, websites, dramatic performances or visual exhibits. Registration deadline is Feb. 13. AlabamaHumanities.org


Winfield The Pastime Theatre 2023 concert season kickoff. 1052 U.S. Highway 43. American country music singersongwriter Mac McAnally takes the stage at 7 p.m.; tickets are $30. A pre-show dinner at 5 p.m. is available, but reservations and payment are required; dinners are an additional $25. For more on the 2023 season, search for The Pastime Theatre on Facebook or call 205-487-3002.


Orange Beach 31st annual Orange Beach Seafood Festival and Car Show, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wharf. Food, 100 artists from throughout the South, music for the whole family on two stages, kids’ zone with activities and car show featuring antique, classic and hot rod vehicles all along Main Street. Free. OrangeBeachAl.org


Dothan Spring Farm Day at Landmark Park, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy the sights and sounds of life on the farm in the 1890s. Try your hand at churning butter, plowing with horses and mules and other farm chores. Arts and crafts, wagon rides, music, antique tractors, kids’ activities, farm animals and food vendors. Adults $10; seniors and military $8; kids $6; park members and children 2 and under free. LandmarkParkDothan.com


Greenville Alabama Medieval Fantasy Festival, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 4776 Fort Dale Road. Pageantry and history come to life with hundreds of costumed characters recreating a 9th century village. Enjoy music, comedy and theatre, food and drink, handmade arts and crafts, historical artisan demonstrations and games. Almff.com

To place an event, e-mail events@alabamaliving.coop. or visit www.alabamaliving.coop. 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.

Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 25
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Watch history come to life as WWII re-enactors tell the stories of the original crew of the USS Alabama and submarine USS Drum on Feb. 11.

Prehistoric armored beast

Angler lands new state record toothy predator

For Keith Dees and his 15-year-old son, Huntley, of Fruitdale, Ala., what had already been a good day on the water turned into a morning they will never forget.

They had landed 18 bass with some approaching three pounds and a few large redfish when they decided to try one more spot in the Raft River in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta outside Mobile. Working a ChatterBait near a shoreline, Keith Dees’ 15-pound test line simply went slack. Then, it started moving in a contrary direction.

“I thought another big redfish hit,” Keith says. “I was reeling as fast as I could. As it went by the trolling motor, I could see something big under the water, but I had no idea how big. We followed it with the boat. I just wanted my $20 lure back.”

Keith fought the unseen fish on a 7-foot medium action bass rod. After about 30 minutes, it came to the surface to take a gulp of air. The beast pulled out about 75 yards of line and then stopped. Keith used the trolling motor to catch up with it and take in line. They kept repeating this procedure for a total of 2.5 hours.

“The fish took out line, but never left about a 200-yard circle,” Keith recalled. “When we finally saw the size of the fish on the line, we went nuts, but we still had no idea just how big it was.”

Dating back more than 100 million years, garfish witnessed the extinction of the dinosaurs and still survive unchanged. With a broad head, a snout full of sharp teeth and interlocking scales for armor, an alligator garfish looks something like a legless alligator. A garfish can breathe both air and water. It can live in either fresh or salty water, allowing the species to thrive in places where other fish could not survive.

Keith continued to battle the leviathan. Whenever they could get close to it, the armored predator swam away. Finally, the fish looked exhausted and stayed near the surface. With no net large enough or a gaff to bring the behemoth aboard their 20-foot bass boat, the team tried to lasso it with a rope noose. However, the rope floated so the fish simply swam under it.

“Finally, I thought of using one of my heavy bass rods with a big hook on it like a gaff,” Keith says. “With the fish swimming alongside the boat, Huntley takes my rod and reels the weight all the way to the tip and hooks the fish. I figured my $500 custom rod would break, but the fish flopped sideways and then just hovered there before going back down. When it came back up, we finally got the rope around him. My adrenaline was running and I just pulled him in.”

The toothy torpedo measured 84.5 inches, or slightly more

than seven feet long with a 35.5-inch girth. Alabama state law allows each person to keep one alligator garfish per day.

“We brought the fish home and put it in an old swimming pool to keep it alive and preserve the weight,” Keith says. “Where can someone put a 7-foot-long fish? I thought it probably weighed about 100 pounds, but we didn’t have anything to weigh it. I called a friend who has some deer scales. The first set of scales went to 175 pounds. We weighed it again on another set of scales and it weighed 165 pounds. I looked up the state record.”

As listed by the International Game Fish Association, the official all-tackle world record alligator gar weighed 279 pounds. It came out of the Rio Grande River, Texas, in 1951. However, some huge fish caught in nets or trotlines weighed close to 400 pounds and measured more than nine feet long.

When Keith found out he had a possible state record, he contacted Tommy Purcell, the state fisheries biologist over South Alabama, to see how to submit a record. They weighed the giant fish on certified scales and it officially weighed 162 pounds.

In early January 2023, the state certified Keith’s monster fish as the new state record alligator garfish and the largest freshwater fish in the Alabama record book. Previously, Richard Johnson held the Alabama record for alligator gar with a 151.75-pound fish he pulled from the Tensaw River in August 2009. Michael Houseknecht landed a 151-pound, 5-ounce alligator gar in the Tensaw River in August 2004.

The next largest non-gar freshwater fish in the Alabama record book, a blue catfish, weighed 120.25 pounds. It came from Holt Reservoir near Tuscaloosa in 2012.

26 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop | Outdoors |
John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer who lives in Semmes, Ala. He also hosts an outdoors tips show for WAVH FM Talk 106.5 radio station in Mobile, Ala. Contact him at j.felsher@ hotmail.com or through Facebook.
Keith Dees and his 15-year-old son, Huntley of Fruitdale, Ala., show off the new state record alligator garfish they caught in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta near Mobile. PHOTO COURTESY OF KEITH DEES


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Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 27
2023 EXCELLENT TIMES MOON STAGE GOOD TIMES FEBRUARY A.M. PM AM PM We 15 6:42 - 8:42 7:06 - 9:06 1:09 - 2:39 1:33 - 3:03 Th 16 7:30 - 9:30 7:54 - 9:54 1:57 - 3:27 2:21 - 3:51 Fr 17 8:18 - 10:18 8:42 - 10:42 2:45 - 4:15 3:09 - 4:39 Sa 18 9:06 - 11:06 9:30 - 11:30 3:33 - 5:03 3:57 - 5:27 Su 19 9:54 - 11:54 10:18 - 12:18 4:21 - 5:51 4:45 - 6 ;15 Mo 20 10:42 - 12:42 11:06 - 1:06 NEW MOON 5:09 - 6:39 5:33 - 7:03 Tu 21 11:30 - 1:30 11:54 - 1:54 5:57 - 7:27 6:21 - 7:51 We 22 NA 12:42 - 2:42 6:45 - 8:15 7:09 - 8:39 Th 23 1:06 - 3:06 1:30 - 3:30 7:33 - 9:03 7:57 - 9:27 Fr 24 1:54 - 3:54 2:18 - 4:18 8:21 - 9:51 8:45 - 10:15 Sa 25 2:42 - 4:42 3:06 - 5:06 9:09 - 10:39 9:33 - 11:03 Su 26 3:30 - 5:30 3:54 - 5:54 9:57 - 11:27 10:21 - 11:51 Mo 27 4:18 - 6:18 4:42 - 6:42 10:45 - 12:15 11:09 - 12:39 Tu 28 5:06 - 7:06 5:30 - 7:30 11:33 - 1:03 11:57 - 1:27 MARCH A.M. PM AM PM We 1 5:54 - 7:54 6:18 - 8:18 NA 12:45 - 2:15 Th 2 6:42 - 8:42 7:06 - 9:06 1:09 - 2:39 1:33 - 3:03 Fr 3 7:30 - 9:30 7:54 - 9:54 1:57 - 3:27 2:21 - 3:51 Sa 4 8:18 - 10:18 8:42 - 10:42 2:45 - 4:15 3:09 - 4:39 Su 5 9:06 - 11:06 9:30 - 11:30 3:33 - 5:03 3:57 - 5:27 Mo 6 9:54 - 11:54 10:18 - 12:18 4:21 - 5:51 4:45 - 6 ;15 Tu 7 10:42 - 12:42 11:06 - 1:06 FULL MOON 5:09 - 6:39 5:33 - 7:03 We 8 11:30 - 1:30 11:54 - 1:54 5:57 - 7:27 6:21 - 7:51 Th 9 NA 12:42 - 2:42 6:45 - 8:15 7:09 - 8:39 Fr 10 1:06 - 3:06 1:30 - 3:30 7:33 - 9:03 7:57 - 9:27 Sa 11 1:54 - 3:54 2:18 - 4:18 8:21 - 9:51 8:45 - 10:15 Su 12 3:42 - 5:42 4:06 - 6:06 DST 10:09 - 11:39 10:33 - 12:03 Mo 13 4:30 - 6:30 4:54 - 6:54 10:57 - 12:27 11:21 - 12:51 Tu 14 5:18 - 7:18 5:42 - 7:42 NA 12:09 - 1:39 We 15 6:06 - 8:06 6:30 - 8:30 12:33 - 2:03 12:57 - 2:27 Th 16 6:54 - 8:54 7:18 - 9:18 1:21 - 2:51 1:45 - 3:15 Fr 17 7:42 - 9:42 8:06 - 10:06 2:09 - 3:39 2:33 - 4:03 Sa 18 8:30 - 10:30 8:54 - 10:54 2:57 - 4:27 3:21 - 4:51 Su 19 9:18 - 11:18 9:42 - 11:42 3:45 - 5:15 4:09 - 5:39 Mo 20 10:06 - 12:06 10:30 - 12:30 4:33 - 6:03 4:57 - 6:27 Tu 21 NA 12:06 - 2:06 NEW MOON 6:09 - 7:39 6:33 - 8:03 We 22 12:30 - 2:30 12:54 - 2:54 6:57 - 8:27 7:21 - 8:51 Th 23 1:18 - 3:18 1:42 - 3:42 7:45 - 9:15 8:09 - 9:39 Fr 24 2:06 - 4:06 2:30 - 4:30 8:33 - 10:03 8:57 - 10:27 Sa 25 2:54 - 4:54 3:18 - 5:18 9:21 - 10:51 9:45 - 11:15 Su 26 3:42 - 5:42 4:06 - 6:06 10:09 - 11:39 10:33 - 12:03 Mo 27 4:30 - 6:30 4:54 - 6:54 10:57 - 12:27 11:21 - 12:51 Tu 28 5:18 - 7:18 5:42 - 7:42 NA 12:09 - 1:39 We 29 6:06 - 8:06 6:30 - 8:30 12:33 - 2:03 12:57 - 2:27 Th 30 6:54 - 8:54 7:18 - 9:18 1:21 - 2:51 1:45 - 3:15 Fr 31 7:42 - 9:42 8:06 - 10:06 2:09 - 3:39 2:33 - 4:03

February: The month to fall in love with roses

Cut roses, the most universal floral symbols of love, are perennial favorite gifts for Valentine’s Day, but if you’re looking for a truly perennial gift of love, consider the rose bush.

Roses, which fossil records indicate have existed for at least 35 million years, have stolen hearts since time immemorial. Charmed by their fragrant and flagrantly gorgeous blooms, humans began cultivating roses 5,000 or more years ago for use as ornamental and medicinal plants and to use their scents and flavors in perfumes, foods and drinks. Roses also took root in myths and legends and became symbols of love, passion, perfection, beauty and, depending on their color, other human emotions and qualities.

Today roses are the most popular flower bestowed on Valentine’s Day, which is why some 250 million cut roses flood the world market each February. Garden retailers also have an abundant supply of bare root and potted roses in stock ready for late winter and spring planting.

Thanks to eons of evolution and cultivation, that selection includes hundreds of rose species and thousands of rose hybrids encompassing a wealth of diversity in plant and bloom sizes, shapes, colors and forms. According to Alabama’s own Redneck Rosarian (AKA Chris VanCleave), that means everyone can find a rose to love.

VanCleave’s relationship with roses began when he was a child helping his mother tend her rose garden, which became a source of solace and therapy for them both after the sudden death of his father. VanCleave carried that sense of respite and refuge into adulthood and, combined with his a passion for creating fetching landscapes, he has become an internationally adored rose expert.

“In a hectic world, there is something therapeutic about digging in the soil and creating beautiful blooms for all to enjoy,” he said.

While roses are near and dear to VanCleave, some gardeners are wary of planting them because of their reputations as demanding, exacting plants, especially when it comes to managing disease issues. However, thanks to the many hardy, disease- and drought-resistance varieties now on the market, VanCleave said it’s easy to love—and grow—roses.

move on to growing relatively low-maintenance shrub and old garden roses (which produce multiple blooms per stem and come in many different bloom types), medium-maintenance floribunda roses (which also produce multiple blooms per stem and multiple bloom types) and higher-maintenance hybrid tea roses (the classic florist-type roses that produce a single rose per stem).

Can’t quite decide? Take some time this year to see roses growing in public gardens or attend rose shows and tours. (Alabama has five rose societies—Wiregrass, Gadsden, Huntsville Twickenham, Ramer and Birmingham— that hold annual rose shows, tours and other educational events.)

According to VanCleave, the key to success with roses, aside from planting them in a well-drained soil with access to sufficient sunlight, is to choose roses that match your level of time commitment. “The more time you have, the greater your success will be with roses that require more maintenance,” he said.

For novice or busy gardeners, that may mean starting with easy-care shrub roses such as Drift®, Knock Out® or OSO Easy® selections. “They basically need an annual haircut (pruning) and weekly watering if it doesn’t rain,” VanCleave said.

Gardeners focused on sustainable practices can look toward native and naturalized rose species or Earth-Kind® roses, a collection of roses selected by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service with the goal of reducing chemical and water use in the landscape.

As gardeners gain experience with roses, VanCleave said they can gradually

You can learn more about roses through VanCleave’s Rose Chat podcast and his website, RedneckRosarian.com. (He also appears quarterly on Birmingham’s Channel 6 Good Day Alabama program.) Information is also available through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, The American Rose Society, Heritage Rose Foundation and American Garden Rose Selections organizations.

And whether you plant them this year or not, you should definitely take time to appreciate—and smell—the roses that will be wooing and wowing us here in Alabama throughout the spring, summer and into the fall.


 Plant dormant fruit and nut trees.

 Plant shrubs, roses, hardy annual flowers and summer- and fall-blooming bulbs.

 Prune hybrid tea roses and summerand fall-blooming shrubs.

 Avoid pruning early blooming shrubs.

 Sow seed or plant transplants for leafy greens, root crops and early peas.

 Finish ordering summer vegetable and flower seed.

 Begin prepping garden soil and equipment for the coming season.

28 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop | Gardens |
Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com. When planting rose bushes, choose varieties that match your level of time commitment.
Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 29

Decadent Desserts

When we first came up with the idea of “Decadent Desserts” for our February recipe pages, we assumed many of the recipes submitted would be for dishes made of chocolate. Apparently “decadent” doesn’t necessarily mean it must contain chocolate, but it does usually translate as rich and indulgent. We hope you enjoy trying these luscious dessert recipes, which ranged from those using caramel to butter to heavy whipping cream, and yes, cocoa, and of course, a fair amount of sugar. Whatever dessert you make for your Valentine, may you be rich in the things that can’t be cooked in a kitchen: the love of family and friends. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Alabama Living!

Blueberry Bread Pudding

2 cups sugar

2 cups fresh blueberries (fresh is best but can use frozen )

3 large eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla

4 cups heavy whipping cream

1 package white chocolate baking chips

1 16-ounce loaf French bread, cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine eggs, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla. Stir in blueberries and white chocolate chips. Stir in French bread cubes and let stand until bread is softened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, until knife in center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

| Alabama Recipes |
Food styling and photos: Brooke Echols

Cook of the Month: Karen Turnquist, Cullman EC

Karen Turnquist of Vinemont enjoys sending us recipes every month, but she was especially happy to learn she’d won Cook of the Month honors for February. She lost her husband in December 2021, and the months since have been hard, she says. “I’m so happy to learn that I won,” she adds, “because he’s all I’ve had on my mind all year.” Karen got the recipe for Hummingbird Cake from her mother, who was an avid baker in Texas who baked the wedding cake for Karen and her late husband. “My mom baked all the time, and that cake was her wedding gift to us.” Karen remembers the first time she ate a piece of Hummingbird Cake: “I loved it, because of all that’s in it.” The cake, loaded with sugar, pecans, pineapple, bananas and topped with a cream cheese icing, is a favorite for special occasions. “It is rich,” she says. We’d agree, but that’s why it fit so perfectly into our February category of decadent desserts. If Karen’s name is familiar, it’s because she won first place in our Christmas Cookie Contest in 2021 for her “Big Soft Ginger Cookies.”

Hummingbird Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs, beaten

1½ teaspoons vanilla

1½ teaspoons oil

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, with juice

2 cups bananas, chopped

1 cup pecans, chopped

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, add beaten eggs and oil. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not beat; stir in vanilla, pineapple and pecans and bananas. Put in a well-greased and floured bundt pan. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.


8 ounces cream cheese

1 stick butter

1 16-ounce package powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pecans, chopped

Combine cream cheese and butter, add powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Frost cake and sprinkle pecans on top. Refrigerate cake.


June Burgers

Deadline to enter March 3

More upcoming themes and deadlines:

July: Tomatoes | April 7

August: Pears | May 5

Visit our website: alabamaliving.coop

Email us: recipes@alabamaliving.coop

USPS mail: Attn: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Cook of the Month wins $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 FEBRUARY 2023 31
up next...
Hummingbird Cake

Black Forest Cake


1¾ cups white flour

¾ cup cocoa powder

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup oil

2 cups white sugar

2 eggs


½ cup white sugar

2½ tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups tart cherries (canned or frozen, if thawed first)

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Whipped cream (homemade or store bought)

1/3 cup chocolate syrup

Mix the cake ingredients in a large bowl. Divide between two 8-inch cake pans. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes, then cool completely. Meanwhile, stir sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined. Add cherries and toss. Stir in butter and almond extract. Set aside. Slice both 8-inch cakes in half horizontally. Place one onto a plate or stand, then drizzle the top with half of the chocolate syrup. Top with the other half of that cake round. Add on cherry filling (reserving 1/4 cup), spreading across top. Place another cake round on top of cherry filling. Drizzle with the remaining chocolate syrup. Top with the remaining cake round. Spread whipped cream over the entire cake. Use extra cherry filling to decorate top of cake.

Peach and Pecan Custard Pie is certainly what tastes like a decadent dessert and we have it for every special occasion here at The Buttered Home. Trust me when I tell you that while a custard pie isn’t all that sweet, the addition of pecans and peaches take this custard to another level. It becomes everything we would want in a decadent pie: sweetness without heaviness! thebutteredhome.com.

Kay’s Caramel Cake

1 box Duncan Hines cake mix

Use one box of Duncan Hines golden cake mix. Bake as directed on the box. Makes 2 layers.

Caramel Icing:

21/4 cups sugar, divided

¾ cup evaporated milk

11/4 sticks butter

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1½ teaspoons vanilla

Caramel Icing: Brown 1/4 cup sugar in heavy pan. Remove from the eye of the stove. Add butter and mix well. Then add 1 cup of sugar and mix well. Put back on the heated eye of the stove. Add evaporated milk and bring to a boil. Add another cup of sugar and let boil until a soft ball forms in ice water. (Soft boil stage on candy thermometer, about 15 minutes.) After reaching the soft ball stage, remove from heat and add 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and 1½ teaspoons of vanilla. Beat well with a whisk, about 10 minutes. When the icing starts to dry on top, start icing the cake. Ice the first layer edges before placing the 2nd layer on top of the first layer. Ice top and then edges. Cool cake at least 15 minutes and then remove from the pans. Recommended: use baking spray with flour to grease pans.


Peach and Pecan Custard Pie

½ cup pecan halves

Pie crust

2 eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 cups sliced peaches, fresh, frozen or canned

Pinch of salt

¾ cup low-fat Greek yogurt

1 cup sugar

¾ cup lowfat milk

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, add sugar, milk, yogurt, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Fit a standard pie plate with pie crust. Place all but a few peach slices and pecans, reserving some for the top, in the pie crust. Pour custard mixture over. Add reserved peaches and pecans directly to top of pie. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and tent edges if needed. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-60 minutes more until a knife comes out clean in the center after testing. Cool for one hour.


The Top 3 Considerations When Buying Hunting Land

If you’re a hunter who has leased a piece of hunting land, you’ve probably considered buying your own. The right piece of hunting land will bring years of enjoyment and memories for you and your family. But it’s a big step, and you don’t want to make mistakes. If you’re thinking about buying hunting land, it is important to work through a few considerations before signing your name.

1. What is your purpose in buying land?

Do you want to use your new land only for hunting, or more? Do you want to create a weekend getaway with a hunting cabin or camp? Will you lease plots for extra income? All of these considerations impact the importance of location and accessibility, such as for ATVs, trucks, or heavy machinery, in your buying decision.

2. Do you have the right realtor?

Finding a land realtor who specializes in hunting land and who knows the area you’re looking in will benefit you immensely. Your realtor plays a vital role in helping you find, evaluate, and purchase the perfect property for you and your family. They should be someone who welcomes your questions and gives you thoughtful answers. If they brush off your questions or discourage you from asking questions instead of helping you learn, look elsewhere. Our Alabama ONE Ag Services TEAM works closely

with land realtors and will help you find the right fit.

3. Who are your neighbors?

When buying land, many people forget to look beyond the plot property lines. Your neighbors can have a significant impact on how you’ll need to manage your land. Walk the property lines to find out if there are any barking dogs, noisy neighbors, or busy roads. Do your neighbors hunt and, if so, what? Are they trophy hunting or filling their freezer? Some neighbors may object to hunting and take steps to disrupt it. The more closely in agreement you and your neighbors are, the less likely you are to have issues with each other down the road, which will make it easier for you to manage and enjoy your hunting land.

You’ll enjoy the right piece of hunting land for years to come, and it can be a place for generations of your family make memories. The three topics above are the key points to consider as you look for the right piece of land. However, these aren’t the only ones you should focus on. Visit our blog at alabamaone.org/huntingland to download a 10-point Hunting Land Score Card to help you evaluate each piece of property, or reach our dedicated Land & Ag Lending Team at 205-609-8338 for more information on financing land, agriculture, or equipment.

Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 33
34 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop

The future

My article last August discussed the need for a definitive plan if there is any hope of reducing carbon emissions from electric power plants. A forced, unplanned, uncoordinated movement to meet net-zero carbon emissions by any date will certainly result in unreliable electric service and higher costs for electric consumers.

Unfortunately, rolling blackouts in Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)’s service area over Christmas break, and the resulting discussions and accusations, moved us closer to a chaotic, uncoordinated transition of the electric grid.

Like most electric utilities, TVA has maintained 99.999% power reliability for many years. However, the arctic blast that hit the southern U.S. resulted in very high electric usage and demand for TVA on Dec. 23-24. TVA had its third-highest all-time peak demand on Dec. 23 at 33,425 megawatts (MW)s.

As TVA’s demand grew, some of its coal-fired and natural gas generation units failed due to extreme weather-related conditions. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates TVA had more than 3,000 MWs unavailable because of outages and was as much as 7,000 MWs short of meeting its peak. Because of its inability to meet demand, TVA directed its local power distributors’ customers across its seven-state service area to cut 5% of their firm electric load for two hours on Dec. 23 and 10% for periods on Christmas Eve.

TVA announced an investigation of the problems that caused the capacity shortfalls. Preliminary indications are that cold temperatures and high winds damaged several of TVA’s protective structures at the Cumberland coal plant and several gas-fired combustion turbines used for peak periods. A directive to cut firm load is standard operating procedure for electric utilities facing a capacity deficiency.

Most of the TVA distributors have never experienced rolling blackouts, and the pushback TVA is receiving has been harsh on many fronts. As expected, the problem of failing coal and natural gas generators provided an opportunity for environmental groups to demand TVA move more quickly toward renewable energy.

Southern Environmental Law Center Tennessee Office Director Amanda Garcia stated: “(TVA)’s coal and gas plants failed us over the holiday weekend. People across the Tennessee Valley were forced to deal with rolling blackouts, even as temperatures plunged into the single digits. Despite this obvious failure, the federal utility is still planning to spend billions on building new gas plants and pipelines.”

In another widely quoted release, Amy Kelly, the Tennessee representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign,

stated: “Fossil fuels are not the answer.” Kelly urged TVA not to proceed with an environmental assessment to replace the Cumberland Fossil Plant with natural gas-fired combined cycle plants until the six new directors for the TVA board have had a chance to study the issue. She also stated: “TVA needs to step up its energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy offerings so it isn’t a tagalong, but a leader in the 21st Century.”

Ms. Garcia’s and Ms. Kelly’s statements and recommendations are the normal rhetoric indicative of their organizations, though they gained traction because of TVA’s December difficulties. But, they are just wrong.

Some years ago, the majority of TVA’s generation fleet was coal-fired. It is now just 19% coal and 26% natural gas. Retired coal generation was replaced by natural gas and renewables – primarily solar. While a portion of TVA’s fossil generation failed in December, its renewables – aside from hydro – were non-existent. TVA’s generation problem is not that it hasn’t replaced enough fossil-fired generation with renewables, but too much. And now, the Sierra Club and the SELC, through Ms. Garcia and Ms. Kelly, want less fossil-fired generation and more renewables.

Amanda Garcia is a SELC environmental lawyer, whose career has been centered on litigating environmental matters. Amy Kelly is a community developer and organizer with the Sierra Club, whose primary career has focused on environmental activism. They have no utility experience. Their recommendations are pure nonsense to people who operate electric utility systems. We know how silly it is to shut down generation that can be dispatched when needed (despite the inevitable operating difficulties of all machines) and replace it with intermittent renewables. To think that TVA could have covered its December demand with more renewables is beyond absurd.

The world will never be completely powered by renewable energy. It is too intermittent, and solar and batteries do not support the rotating mass of the electric grid. A serious plan that protects electric reliability and affordability, not biased, uninformed rhetoric from environmental activists, needs to be the focus of a seamless transition to a more carbon-constrained electric generation fleet.

This environmentalist position reminds me of the lyrics to a Ryan Bingham song, The Poet.

And as I keep walkin’

People keep a-talkin’

About things they’ve never seen or done

Without a serious plan free of uninformed rhetoric, the Christmas Eve rolling blackouts are our future.

I hope you have a good month.

36 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop | Our Sources Say |
Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.

How To Place a Line Ad in Marketplace

Closing Deadlines (in our office):

April 2023 Issue by February 23

May 2023 Issue by March 23

June 2022 Issue by April 25

Ads are $1.75 per word with a 10 word minimum and are on a prepaid basis; Telephone numbers, email addresses and websites are considered 1 word each. Ads will not be taken over the phone. You may email your ad to hdutton@areapower.com; or call (800)410-2737 ask for Heather for pricing.; We accept checks, money orders and all major credit cards. Mail ad submission along with a check or money order made payable to ALABAMA LIVING, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124 – Attn: Classifieds.


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Business Opportunities


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GROW MUSCADINES AND BLACKBERRIES , half dollar size – We offer over 200 varieties of Fruit and Nut Trees plus Vines and Berry Plants . Free color catalog. 1-800-733-0324. Ison’s Nursery, P.O. Box 190, Brooks, GA 30205 Since 1934 www.isons.com

Alabama Living FEBRUARY 2023 37 | Classifieds |

Reflections on downsizing

The dogs didn’t know what to think.

There we were, packing up stuff and carrying it out.

They were certain that we were going somewhere and they feared they would be left behind.

But we weren’t leaving.

We were downsizing.

It all started back when we cleaned out my deceased parents’ house. As load after load of “stuff” went to the dumpster, my wife noted that when we got home, we should do the same, so that our children would not have to face the task we were facing.

Though it was pleasant to imagine irritating my children even after I had passed on to my reward, I kept quiet and hoped that she would drop the idea.

She didn’t.

Not long after we got back, the downsizing began.

We started with my books.

For a teacher, which is what I was mostly, books are our life blood. We read them. From them we get the ideas and information that we use to dazzle students and colleagues.

But I was retired. There were no more lectures, no more colleagues or students to dazzle.

So, we (she?) decided that if a book has not been consulted in the last year, out it goes.

Not to the trash, but to some organization’s rummage sale. There it will be bought by someone who, in the fullness of time, will donate it as I was doing.

Onward I went; and as I dug deeper, I realized that the hoarding gene that afflicted my parents was passed on to me.

Daddy saved National Geographic. I saved Smithsonian.

I also saved manuscripts of my books and articles, as well as the notes that were the basis on which the books and articles were written. Reams of paper revealing the process which turned the blank page into a rough draft into the finished product, which was duly sent to the publisher.

Will someone, one day, want to study how I did it, just as today scholars study manuscripts left behind by literary giants like Faulkner and Hemingway?


Quickly our recycle bin filled and we had to borrow our neighbor’s. What was not recyclable was black-bagged for the trash.

At last it was done.

Then I was left to reflect on what was gone and what remained. So much of it could have, maybe should have, been thrown out long ago, but throwing out is hard – until you get started.

Once begun, it gets harder and harder to stop.

I hope our children appreciate what we have done. You think?


38 FEBRUARY 2023 www.alabamaliving.coop | Hardy Jackson's Alabama |
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hhjackson43@gmail.com Illustration by Dennis Auth

Wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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