Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News February 2018
Tallapoosa River ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE
Hunting with hawks Career academies prepare students Reader memories: My favorite teacher
Manager Louie Ward Co-Op Editor Kevin Hand 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.
Career academies From sports medicine to automotive engineering and performing arts, Alabama’s career academies are motivating students with personalized learning.
VOL. 71 NO. 2 n FEBRUARY 2018
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Worth the Drive
A visionary Alabama program is seeking to identify genes that will help prevent cancer, heart disease and genetic problems.
A Clanton restaurant specializes in Italian comfort food with old-world family recipes.
Use the cold month of February to further your education of all things garden. Master Gardener classes could be for you!
D E PA R T M E N T S
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In this issue: Page 11 Page 28
11 Spotlight 30 Gardens 29 Around Alabama 32 Outdoors 33 Fish & Game Forecast 34 Cook of the Month 46 Hardy Jackson’s Alabama ONLINE: alabamaliving.coop ON THE COVER: A red-tailed hawk
spreads its wings in flight. Hawks like this are used by hunters to go after squirrels in what is dubbed the “Sport of Kings.” Read more on Page 32. PHOTO: Kathleen Brown FEBRUARY 2018 3
TallapoosaRiverElectricCooperative Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. P.O. Box 675 15163 Highway 431 South LaFayette, AL 36862
Board of Trustees C.B. Parker, Jr. President District 6 - Daviston
John Adcock Vice-President District 2 - Woodland
Bruce Boswell Secretary/Treasurer District 1 - Seale
Rusty Robinson District 4 - Seale
Phillip Bryant District 7 - Opelika
Jeff “Bodine” Dodgen District 5 - LaFayette
Mary Ann Walker District 3 - Opelika
To pay your bill online: Go to www.trec.coop and click “Payment Options.” Save time and money! In case of POWER OUTAGES day or night CALL... 1-877-456-8732
Time to brag for a bit Louie Ward Manager of Tallapoosa River Electric In many Biblical passages, we are taught to abstain from pride. I certainly find many ways those references are true. But what about being proud of our kids or being proud of our employees? Anyway, I am a very proud parent. I love my kids, all of them, step kids and biological kids more than words can say. In my opinion they are the best! I will always love them, no matter what. I hope you feel the same way about your kids. I am also a proud boss. I love my employees. In my opinion the employees of Tallapoosa River Electric Cooperative are the best! Now, am I wrong to be proud of my kids or the Cooperative’s employees? I sure hope not. With that said, I try to be too bold in my bragging, but I need to brag on the Cooperative’s employees for just a minute. In recent months, we have had two serious weather events, Hurricane Irma which I told you about in November. The other was winter storm Bernie that recently dropped about eight, that’s right 8, inches of snow on Clay, Randolph, and Northern Tallapoosa Counties. In response to the snow Bernie left behind, the Cooperative’s employees worked three exhaustive days to restore power where trees could not handle the weight of snow on their branches. In response to the snow, we brought all available employees in to work the affected areas. I was in the field with many of them and witnessed first-hand how hard they worked. I am both proud and thankful for all of the Cooperative’s employees. They are an incredible group of men and women who work tirelessly to provide you with electricity. On another note, winter is nowhere near over.
I have no idea whether there will be six more weeks of winter after the Punxsutawney Phil, the ground hog, looks for his shadow. I want to remind you that if you use electricity for any type of heating in your home that spurts of cold weather can run up your electric bill. For example, an electric heater, almost without exception costs you about 16.5 cents per hour to run. I know that sounds insignificant, but using one space heater for 5 nights out of a month can cause your bill to go up $8.25. That may not sound like much, but if you use an electric space heater for supplemental heat, not only does the space heater cost you money to run, but whatever other form of heat you use is almost certainly running more also, thus running up your cost of heating even more. Bear with me just a little longer, I want to provide a little more illustration. If you have an electric furnace of average size, those same five nights could cost as much as $60 more on your bill. While a heat pump may easily add $25 to your bill. Remember, in all of these examples, I am simply talking about five cold nights. I am not including days or the other 25 days of the month that the heat will run. Please be aware of the added cost to heat your home no matter what type of heat source you utilize. I know many of you are on tight budgets and an unexpected increase in your electric bill brings a hardship on you and your family. Should you have questions about the potential operating cost of your heating system, please call us and we will try to help you understand what it costs to heat your home. See you next month!
Energy Efficiency Tip of the Month
Consider insulating your hot water pipes. Doing so can reduce heat loss, allow you to lower the temperature setting and save an additional 3 to 4 percent per year on water heating. Source: energy.gov
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| Tallapoosa River |
TREC Pays Its Share
Clay County - Wanda Brushwood, TREC Manager of Consumer Accounts, and Revenue Commissioner Ronald Robertson
Lee County – Trustee Mary Ann Walker and Revenue Commissioner Oline Price
Taxes Paid By County BARBOUR COUNTY $2,641.85 CHAMBERS COUNTY $181,456.04 CLAY COUNTY $81,696.98 CLEBURNE COUNTY $1,024.16 LEE COUNTY $149,406.76 RANDOLPH COUNTY $85,795.76 RUSSELL COUNTY $170,331.84 TALLAPOOSA COUNTY $38,330.00 TOTAL $710,683.39
Randolph County – Wanda Brushwood, TREC Manager of Consumer Accounts, and Revenue Commissioner Pamela Taylor Alabama Living
Tallapoosa County –Wanda Brushwood, TREC Manager of Consumer Accounts, and Revenue Commissioner Eva Middlebrooks
Chambers County – Trustee Jeff “Bodine” Dodgen and Beth Abney, Personal Property Appraiser FEBRUARY 2018 5
POWER IS PRODUCED
| Tallapoosa River |
With solar energy systems, sunlight is collected by photovoltaic panels. An inverter converts the energy from direct current (DC)Bypower to alternating current Anne Prince In this case,inside “battery (AC) power, which is used homes.storage” does not refer to the drawer
Residential battery storage is the energy trend to watch
BATTERIES ARE INCLUDED
DEDULCNI ERA SEIRETTAB
POWER IS STORED
The electricity generated by the solar POWER IS PRODUCEDpanels is used to power the home, and any excess electricity can be routed to the battery storage system.
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for more renewable energy options. But intermittent power where you put the extra AA batteries for your flashlight! from wind and solar sources creates a need for energy storage. Instead, it refers to an emerging energy trend. Batteries and This is where batteries come into play. An increase in research battery storage are evolving much like the way LED bulbs and and development in this energy sector is being driven by EVs lumens have transformed how we light our homes. and renewable energy trends. While the current focus is pridriving battery storage? battery storage allows consumers marily on commercial applications, impact TheWhat’s emerging trend of residential to store power generated by solar the panels, windon residential Rooftop solar costs are dropping, and community solar use will eventually follow. We can see improvements in the turbines andincreasing other typesinofpopularity. renewableInenergy options are 2017,systems. wind and solar energy eﬃciency of lithium-ion batteries. For example, phone, electricity generation set a record by exceeding 10 percent of computer and other types of batteries/charging stations are U.S. energy generation, according to the Energy Information holding their charge longer and powering more energy-inAgency (EIA). News in the automotive world was dominated tense devices. There are hundreds of lithium-ion batteries, all by announcements of major automakers stepping up pro- of which have different capabilities and voltages. Does better battery storage mean you can go “off the grid” duction of electric vehicles (EVs), or in some cases, phasing out gas-powered engines altogether. As EVs gain popularity, now? With solarstations energy systems, sunlightup is in places of business and in While consumers using rooftop solar or other renewable charging are popping energy sources have the most to gain, it’s not as easy as you other public spaces. panels. An collected by photovoltaic So, what doesthe this all mean? Consumers are clearly looking would think to go off the grid completely. Powering the averinverter converts energy from direct
Consumers can use the stored power when they need it, for current (DC) power to alternating current example, during a power (AC) power, which is TTERIES used inside homes. BA BATTERIES ARE INCLUDED ARE outage or times when energy The The emerging emerging trend of residential trend battery storage ofallows residential consumers to store power battery generated by solar storage panels, wind allows c turbines turbines and other and types of other renewable energy types systems. of renewable energy systems. demand is high.
POWER IS STORED
POWER POWER IS PRODUCED IS PRODUCED The electricity generated by the is solar With With solar solar energy systems, energy sunlight is systems, sunlight collected collected by photovoltaic by panels. photovoltaic An panels. An panels is used to power the home, and inverter inverter convertsconverts the energy from direct the energy from direct any excess electricity can becurrent routed to the current current (DC) power (DC) to alternating power current to alternating (AC) (AC) power, power, which is used inside which homes. is used inside homes. battery storage system. POWER IS STORED
The electricity generated by the solar panels is used to power the home, and any excess electricity can be routed to the battery storage system.
6 FEBRUARY 2018
Consumers can use the stored power when they need it, for example, during a power outage or times when energy POWE demand is high. The electric POWER IS USED panels is us
Consumers can use the stored any excess power when they need it, for battery stor example, during a power outage or times when energy demand is high.
age consumer’s home, including HVAC systems, lights, appliances and the big screen TV, requires a tremendous amount of energy. Significant weather variation is another complicating factor. Going off the grid would require a solar array coupled with battery storage that is properly sized based on your energy consumption. Because battery storage technology is evolving and battery banks are not widely available, it is still not yet cost-effective for the average consumer to purchase. However, the energy advisors at your electric cooperative are knowledgeable when it comes to energy eﬃciency and energy choices. Talk to us about programs that can help you save energy and money. If you decide to purchase an EV, let us know; your current electric service was designed and sized to meet consumers’ demands when the power lines were originally established and connected. We can also tell you about ideal charging times, like during off-peak hours, which helps conserve energy. As our energy needs evolve, look to your electric cooperative for the information about energy trends and how to save energy.
DO NOT TAMPER WITH YOUR ELECTRIC METER
Meter tampering can result in electric shock, is illegal and increases electricity rates for other co-op members.
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DECUDORP SI REWOP
| Tallapoosa River |
Anne Prince writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-proﬁt electric cooperatives.
DEDULCNI ERA SEIRETTAB
break a meter seal. DEDULCNI ERA Never S E I R ETTAB Never open a meter base.
TREC Donates to Relay For Life
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DEROTS SI REWOP
Never remove a meter or alter an entrance cable in anyDEmanner. CUDORP SI REWOP si thgilnus ,smetsys ygrene ralos htiW
nA .sleor napsuspect ciatlovotothat hp yb someone detcelloc If you know has tcerid morf ygrene eht strevnoc retrevni tampered with their meter, please contact tnerruc gnitanretla ot rewop )CD( tnerruc .semoh edus isni immediately. desu si hcihw ,rewop )CA(
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Back row, from left, TREC trustees Phillip Bryant, C.B. Parker Jr., Bruce Boswell, Rusty Robinson, DJeff EROTS SI REWOP “Bodine” Dodgen and Johnny Adcock. Front rrow, alos eht yb detareneg yticirtcele ehT dna ,emoh eht rewop ot desu si slenap trustee Mary Ann Walker and Kimberly Myers, derots eht esu nac sremusnoC ht ot detuor eb nac yticirtcele ssecxe yna community manager, American Cancer eSociety. .metsys egarots yrettab
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rof ,ti deen yeht nehw rewop rewop a gnirud ,elpmaxe ygrene nehw semit ro egatuo .hgih si dnamed
Relay For Life is a unique fundraising event that allows participants from all walks of life– including patients, medical support staff, civic organizations, churches and community volunteers– to join together to fight cancer. Relay For Life reminds us that progress has been made in the fight against cancer and that everyone who participates is making a difference. This year TREC made donations to the American Cancer Society at local chapters in Lee, Chambers, Randolph, Clay, Russell, Tallapoosa and Barbour counties. Alabama Living
DECUDORP SI REWOP
FEBRUARY 2018 7
| Tallapoosa River |
8â€ƒ FEBRUARY 2018
| Alabama Snapshots |
ice Heather and serv Davis, Deatsville.
ITTED BY Heather dog, Mushu. SUBM
Elijah Gaige Mendez and his service dog, Emma. SUBMITTED BY Chris Mendez, Dothan.
MacKenzie, a se nior at Auburn High School, an Maddie. SUBM d service dog ITTED BY Kristy Morgan, Auburn .
Joann Heda with her mobility service dog, Rebecca. SUBMITTED BY Joann Heda, Homosassa, Florida.
Submit Your Images! April Theme: “Country Roads” Deadline for April: February 28
SUBMIT PHOTOS ONLINE: www.alabamaliving.coop/submit-photo/ or send color photos with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Photos, Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124 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 www.alabamaliving.coop and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos. Alabama Living
FEBRUARY 2018 9
| Power Pack | SOCIAL SECURITY
Reaching retirement age? Here’s what you need to know
very birthday deserves celebration, but some seem a little more special than others. Think of a baby’s first birthday. Sweet 16. The “Big 4-0.” Then, before you know it, along comes 65. This last milestone is especially important to retirees. For nearly half a century, American workers looked to 65 as the age at which they could stop working and finally reap their full retirement benefits under the Social Security Act of 1935. Today, however, the full retirement age is now 66 or 67, depending on when you were born. In 1983, Congress changed the law to increase the retirement age gradually over a 22-year period, citing improvements in the health of older people and increases in average life expectancy. To find out your full retirement age, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/ ageincrease.html. If you’ve contributed enough to the SoKylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
cial Security system through payroll taxes, you still can claim your retirement benefits at 65 — or 62, 63, or 64, for that matter — but your monthly payments will be permanently reduced. For help deciding which age is right for you to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, read, “When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits” at socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf. We have also made applying for benefits easier than ever. You can do it online! To apply for benefits, please go to www. socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits. That said, age 65 should still factor in prominently as you prepare for retirement and a stable financial future, because that’s when most American workers first become eligible for Medicare health insurance coverage. To see if you’ve earned enough credits through work to qualify for Medicare at age 65, view your Social Security Statement online using your personal my Social Security account. Create or log on to your account at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits before age 65, we’ll automatically enroll you in Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (supplemental medical insurance) effective the first day of the month you turn 65. Watch your mailbox a few months before your birthday for your Medicare card. Otherwise, three months before your 65th birthday, you can apply for Medicare Parts A and B online at socialsecurity. gov/applyforbenefits. Your Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare starts three months before your 65th birthday month and continues for three months after. To learn more about Medicare enrollment and coverage, please visit socialsecurity.gov/medicare. To learn more about Medicare coverage, visit medicare.gov. Social Security is with you through life’s journey, on your first birthday and the many more that follow. Learn how we help you and your family secure today and tomorrow through our financial benefits, information, and planning tools at socialsecurity.gov.
Genomic testing holds exciting potential for disease treatment
ulation from all 67 counties. Participants labama has implemented a visiontypes. A small percent identified with a must be 18 or older and will receive extenary and innovative investment in the medical condition believed to have a genetic cause that has not yet been identified future of its residents’ health status by sive education about the program. Test will be invited to participate in more extenawarding $2 million per year for a fivefindings will not be released without the participant’s approval. Testing involves the sive whole genome sequencing. year program. The Alabama Genomic collection of a blood sample. Given the poor health status of AlaHealth Initiative (AGHI) aims to unlock bama’s population, identifying possible A list of 59 genes identified by the the human genome by identifying specific risks for major health conditions in time American College of Medical Genetics and genes to allow for preventing and treating to prevent these conditions from emergGenomics (ACMG) is being used in this disease, including certain types of cancer, ing, or to decrease potential heart problems and genetic disorders. This is one of the first impact through early interMore testing participation is needed from African vention, holds much promise. statewide initiatives of its kind Alabamians and males and residents of rural counties. in the United States. Alabama residents have the second highest cardiovascular This initiative involves colinitiative. These genes are known to be diseases death rate among all 50 states, laboration between the UAB School of associated with an increased risk for canwith the death rate being more than 17 Medicine and the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville to conduct cers, cardiovascular diseases, and genetic percent higher in rural counties. They also genomic testing of approximately 2,000 disorders. The genes are being identified have the seventh highest cancer death rate because there are actions that you and your Alabamians each year. Participation is among all 50 states, with the death rate physician can take to help prevent or defree and is being sought to closely reflect being over nine percent higher in rural tect early onset of their associated diseases. the age, gender, race, ethnic and sociocounties. Genomic testing holds exciting economic composition of Alabama’s popOther genes could be included later. potential to identify individuals with increased risk where prevention can have The AGHI also will use data from testa very positive health status impact. For ing to better understand the role that genes Dale Quinney is executive director of additional information on the AGHI, visit play in health and disease. It is estimated the Alabama Rural Health Association, 1414 Elba Highway, Troy, 36081. that 1 to 3 percent of those tested will test the program’s website at uabmedicine.org/ positive for one or more of the 59 gene aghi or call 855-462-6850. 10 FEBRUARY 2018
February | Spotlight This Month In
ALABAMA HISTORY Honoring Our People
February 1, 1956
Autherine Lucy enrolled at the University of Alabama for the second time. Lucy became the first African American to enroll at the university in 1952, but was denied admittance when administrators discovered her race. After a three-year legal battle, she successfully attended class for the first time on February 3, 1956. On February 6, however, a large, hostile crowd of angry protestors forced her to ﬂee from the university hidden in the backseat of a patrol car. That night, the university’s board of trustees voted to expel Lucy out of concern for her own safety and upheld the expulsion until 1988. Lucy later returned to the university and completed a master’s degree in education. http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2489
Nation’s ﬁrst 911 call was answered in Haleyville Today, we take for granted that calling 911 will connect us with our local emergency responders. Fifty years ago, such a system didn’t exist, but Alabama has a prominent place in the system’s history. The first 911 call was placed by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite from the Haleyville, Ala., City Hall, to U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill at the city’s police station on Feb. 16, 1968. The call was an attempt by the Alabama Telephone Company to be the first to implement the 911 system, which occurred only 35 days after AT&T announced plans to use 911 as a nationwide emergency number. Bevill reportedly answered with “hello,” and the red phone on which the call is made is now in the lobby of the Haleyville City Hall. The city holds a 9-1-1 Festival each year. This year’s event is June 1-2. (Information from Alabama 200, via Alabama NewsCenter.)
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 by Feb. 7 with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative. The winner and answer will be announced in the March issue.
Contribute your own photo for an upcoming issue! Send a photo of an interesting or unusual landmark in Alabama, which must be accessible to the public. A reader whose photo is used will also win $25. Submit by email: email@example.com, or by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124.
JANUARY’S ANSWER Sitting high atop Sand Mountain, the Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff is a bed and breakfast with a lovely view of the Tennessee River. The Lodge, completed in 1995, features several guest rooms for rent as well as a dining room and comfy sitting areas. It’s part of the Gorham’s Bluff community in Pisgah, which also features cottages for rental. (Landmark suggested by Charlotte Graves of Sand Mountain EC) January’s winner is Susan Koleff of Sand Mountain EC.
FEBRUARY 2018 11
Career academies motivate high school students with personalized learning By Minnie Lamberth
n May 2013, when Gary Minnick was serving as a principal within the Shelby County School System, he had an opportunity to travel with an eight-person team to Reynoldsburg, Ohio, to see a high school the U.S. Department of Education identified as a demonstration site for innovative and personalized student learning. High school students in Reynoldsburg can choose one of four college/career academies that align with clusters of careers important to the local economy. More importantly, they also reflect the student’s personal interest. A health sciences academy, for example, is geared around the overall theme of health sciences
careers yet offers multiple pathways for students to prepare to go to work right out of high school or pursue degrees at community colleges or universities with a head start in their field of interest. The trip to Reynoldsburg, Minnick says, “struck a chord in me and everything I believe about how education should work. We
All 12 high schools in the Mobile County Public School System have career academies that offer hands-on opportunities in a variety of career fields. Every high-schooler must be in an academy, but not all schools offer the same ones.
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needed something to motivate students.” As Minnick explained, if he can get students locked in to the idea that what they are studying is preparing them for what they want to do in life, they will stay in school. “The key for me is high school is all about motivation,” Minnick says. Shortly after his visit to Reynoldsburg, Minnick took a step to make this vision a reality when he was named principal of Boaz High School, a member of Marshall-Dekalb EC. From his perspective, he saw a city system with one high school as an easier model to work within to establish career academies than a larger, multiple high school system. After he came on board in July, Minnick began a deliberate process to determine “where the school needed to go to help students get the most out of their education.” He started with the school’s teachers. “My emphasis as a principal is, people support what they help create,” Minnick says. “We needed buy-in from everybody.” Over the next seven or eight months, the school began moving in the direction of creating career academies. Teachers studied the data provided by Regional Workforce Development Councils related to what jobs would be available in this part of the state, and they devised their pathways based on that data. “We had a strategy. We wanted ours to be research-based,” Minnick says. By spring of 2014, the school was ready to establish three career academies, and students would choose their preference from these three. The BELLA Academy is focused on students interested in business, education, law and liberal arts programs. Within that acad- Students in the health sciences academy at Boaz High School learn about infection control and emy, there are a number of pathways that how to use PPE (personal protective equipment). After graduation, they’ll have a head start students can pursue, ranging from business toward high-demand careers in health care. finance to performing arts. Students also have the option to take business or law pathways through dual of eighth grade, they and their parents will have decided which enrollment with nearby Snead Community College. pathway they want to choose.” In the ninth grade, they enter the Within the H3 Academy, students can begin to prepare for academy of their preference. high-demand careers in health sciences, human services, and the What if they change their mind later? “If they find out they hospitality and tourism fields. Specific pathways within the acaddon’t like a particular pathway in high school, I have done them emy range from culinary to sports medicine. The E-Stem Acada tremendous service,” Minnick says. Students and parents will emy reflects the high-demand disciplines such as environmenhave saved the thousands of dollars in tuition they would have tal science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Pathways paid in college to find out the same information. Regardless, they include computer information science as well as environmental receive their high school diploma, and the educational prepanatural resources. ration assists but doesn’t preclude the jobs or college plans they “We ended up with a dozen pathways on our campus,” Minnick pursue. says. However, if students don’t see what they want at Boaz High The academies are still new enough that a class of students School, they can choose from eight career technical pathways at hasn’t completed the full five-year program, yet Minnick is Marshall Technical School or explore dual enrollment with Snead pleased with the progress. “We’re asking our kids to take on highState. In addition, Enterprise State Community College has a er challenges, and they’re accepting the challenge,” he says. nearby satellite campus and offers programs. Farther south, the Mobile County Public School System Exposure to career academies begins in eighth grade through (MCPSS) is an example of how a county system with multiple a preparatory course. “It’s designed for students to examine the high schools has incorporated the academy concept to deliver edcareer clusters and see the pathways that are available,” Minnick ucation. “All 12 of our high schools are wall-to-wall academies. says. Students also tour the high school. “Our target is by the end Every student must be in an academy,” says Larry Mouton, assisAlabama Living
FEBRUARY 2018 13
tant superintendent of workforce development for MCPSS. In Mobile, students begin the process in a ninth grade Freshman Academy, where they learn about the available academies. “For the next three years they take courses in their pathway,” Mouton says. Each high school has multiple academies, but because they are designed and implemented by the school, not all high schools offer the same ones. However, if students are zoned to a school that doesn’t have the pathways they want, they can transfer to a school that does. In addition, internships are offered during the summer between junior and senior year that correlate with the student’s academy. Among the aspects that make academies so successful, Mouton says, “It’s a way for business and industry to talk to students who have a shared interest.” In the past, if he told students an engineering firm was coming to school to talk to about engineering, hundreds who didn’t have an interest might come to hear the talk just to get out of class. At a school with an engineering academy, the firm can talk to students who have already expressed an interest. “It gives business and industry a conduit to get into the classrooms and talk to the students and directly impact the workforce in our area,” Mouton says. As business and industry meet students and develop relationships, he adds, “this will facilitate their success when they graduate.” Mobile County’s academies have been in place long enough to see improvement in student motivation. For example, at B.C. Rain High School, Mouton says, “When started five years ago, the graduation rate was somewhat over 50%. This year we anticipate they’ll hit a 90% graduation rate.” As students see that they’re in a pathway to success, Mouton said they better understand the value of what they do in the classroom. “Our goal is to make sure every child has a pathway to a quality graduation,” Mouton says. Top photo, Dillon Cahela, Mia Estrada and Sandy Lopez Mendez helped grow rainbow Swiss chard in the Boaz High School aquaponics class. The class’ Swiss chard has been served by the high school culinary program and a local restaurant. The class has also successfully grown tomatoes, herbs and several varieties of lettuce. Bottom photo, Students in the HVAC program at one of Mobile County’s career academies receive hands-on instruction in their career field, but also make connections with leaders in business and industry in their respective communities.
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FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 15
My favorite teacher Readers share memories of those who inspired them
They’re more than just instructors and paper-graders. Most of us can recall at least one special school teacher who not only made learning fun, but opened our eyes to new worlds in science and math, piqued our interest in literature and music, and inspired us to reach farther and do better, in school as well as life. We asked readers to send us stories about their favorite teachers, and to share with us how these educators shaped their minds and attitudes. They’re role models as well as teachers, and their lessons go far beyond the classroom. Below are the responses we received; perhaps you’ll think back on your favorite teacher, and say “thank you” to the educators of today. – Allison Law (some responses edited for length and clarity)
My mother, my teacher
Making English enjoyable
My favorite teacher was my mother, Gladys Brasher. My mother had finished high school and one year of college and was teaching school at age 16. She taught all five of her children and many of her grandchildren, and gave each child her time. She never learned to drive, so she rode the school bus to school each day. She finished college, raised five children and never complained about being tired. She took time with each child she taught. She loved all of her students. Even today, now that she has been gone for 23 years, people will come up to me and tell me how much she meant to them and how much she helped them in school. After she retired, she continued to help her grandchildren with homework.
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Creighon, a seventh-grade English teacher at Baton Rouge Jr. High, in 1959. We, as new students, had been warned of this woman’s strict and tough attitude. Let me assure you, it was all true. On the first day, Mrs. Creighon stated no one in her class would fail. We would all participate in her activities, turn in all homework, and not be late for class. The only excuses accepted for being absent was a note from a doctor or there was a death in the family. We had to make up our minds, right then and there, what our intentions were. If we had no intentions of following her rules, she said to get out now and don’t come back. Who would dare to walk the halls without a pass? We knew from day one what was expected of us. Because of this woman, English was my favorite and best subject throughout the rest of my education. She didn’t mind helping and working with us, individually. We would get that special attention, if we needed it. We realized, too, not all of us were on the same learning level and our teacher helped each of us. Mrs. Creighon made English easy and enjoyable.
– Barbara Smith, Vandiver
Life is a highway My favorite teacher was Ms. Dianne Milliose, who taught fifth grade at the elementary school I attended in Temple Hills, Md. She was strict and firm, but fun. She would jump rope with us at recess. She taught you to strive for more than 100 percent. When I moved to Alabama, my favorite would be my 11th-grade teacher, Mr. Byrd. He would always find ways to remind me that learning comes from interest and a burning desire and passion. Some of his other lessons: Life is a highway, with many turns, many obstacles, many distractions. Stay focused and alert. A reward is earned, and respect is earned. Not to give in, but learn when to bend. – Patricia Baggett, Uriah 16 FEBRUARY 2018
– Alice P. Dunbar, Robertsdale www.alabamaliving.coop
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 17
Class was over when he said so During my school career, I had many special teachers. When I think of one who stands out, I think of Mr. Billy Oliver of Holly Pond, Ala. Mr. Oliver, or Coach Oliver as he is still known, touched the lives of many during his tenure with Cullman County Schools, serving in many positions as an educator, coach, principal, and eventually over the transportation for the county. While at Holly Pond School, Coach Oliver taught science classes and coached football, girls’ basketball, and track. Coach Oliver gave countless hours of his time and himself to make a difference in the lives of many young people. As a family man, his family was always there to support the functions he was involved in. They were not only there to support him. But they were there to support the students he cared so much for. Coach Oliver continues to take an interest in his students past their high school careers. As I began my teaching career 25 years ago, Coach Oliver was there to encourage me and often offered help many times. His encouragement from the past to this day has meant a lot to many. Coach Oliver had a specific rule in his classes. Class was not over when the bell rang; it was over when he told you it was time to leave. Coach Oliver delivered to me the only paddling that I ever received in my school career for getting out of my seat when the bell rang. One time and I did not do it again. Today, Coach Oliver serves as the mayor of our town. Though he is busy with his responsibilities as the mayor, he is never too busy to lend a hand or and encouraging word. The lessons that I learned in and out of the classroom from Coach Oliver made a difference in my life along with many others. – June Wood, Holly Pond
Salt and pepper shaker memories I felt the need to tell about my first-grade teacher in 1960, Mrs. Wilson. (I was born and raised in West Texas.) She also taught three of my siblings. She could use that paddle very well. I bought her a Christmas present that year. It was salt and pepper shakers shaped like a spoon and a fork. As the years went by I became a nurse and still lived in the same town. I got a call one day to see if I would consider cleaning and cooking for her and her husband. I took on the challenge twice a week. Loved them dearly. Did this for them until they both passed away. I lovingly became the proud owner of the salt and pepper shakers from her family. One of my most cherished possessions. Hopefully my granddaughters will consider it one of their prize possessions also. – Shirley Grimes, Marbury 18 FEBRUARY 2018
Creating a passion for learning Growing up in northeast Alabama on Sand Mountain, it did not occur to me that we were of the lower economic class. The four-room wooden schoolhouse with a pot-bellied stove for warmth and an outhouse down in the hollow should have given it away. But I had not one but three of the most amazing teachers ever to set foot in any classroom. Miss Emma Hales taught me in first and second grade where both classes were in one room. With few books, limited materials, and a vivid imagination, Miss Emma would take us to all parts of the world. The husband and wife team of Junior and Ina Carlyle continued that enthusiasm in third through sixth grades and made us feel we could conquer anything. Mrs. Carlyle convinced us that we were the greatest actors on the stage, confirmed when our little school placed in the top three at the annual 4-H County Talent contest every year. To Mr. Carlyle it mattered not whether your dad had a paying job or whether he was a sharecropper, everyone was the same. Many times he would pile us all on a flatbed truck to visit neighboring schools for a friendly softball match. Few days go by that I do not recall something one of these outstanding educators taught me. Their influence has carried on through their students and through the hundreds who have been in my own classroom. Their influence created the passion for learning I continue to embrace. – Nancie Ellis Nesbitt, Pelham
History came alive My favorite teacher was Mrs. Kate B. Hendley. She was a loving, caring and inspiring teacher. Mrs. Hendley taught me in grades 4, 5 and part of 6 at Cowarts Elementary, a three-room school in Cowarts, Ala., 1959-1961. She was soft-spoken, kind and friendly, yet she was firm. A student knew to listen to her, but when we did something wrong, she not only scolded us, she told us why it was wrong. When we did a good job or deed, she praised us. In the mornings, Mrs. Hendley would let us take turns leading the pledge to the American flag, reciting a Bible verse, praying and leading the class in a song. Too, we got to ring the bell by pulling a large rope to begin and end school, recess and lunch. Mrs. Hendley was a caring person. On my last day in her class, she pulled me aside and told me to always be honest, to be kind to others, to brush my teeth after meals, to keep myself and my belongings clean and to eat an apple every day! She was an inspiring teacher. Most mornings she would read a chapter of a storybook to us. There was a double-door bookcase filled with biographies of our forefathers and other historical figures. I read them all. Mrs. Hendley made Alabama history come alive. We learned the state song, bird, flower and all 67 counties. When it was rest time, our heads on our desks, Mrs. Hendley would be hand-sewing while listening to records of Perry Como singing or a Yankees baseball game on the radio. To this day, I’m thankful for Mrs. Hendley and the good influence she made on my life. I love to read, sew and listen to ball games on the radio. – Kathy Granger, Enterprise
Without discipline, there is no learning Ms. Jesse Draper of Raleigh, N.C., was my first grade and favorite teacher, counting all education levels through a master’s degree. Why? She was a very strict disciplinarian and I was a “handful” if there ever was one. Folks today would not approve of her disciplinary actions, including holding my chin with a very long thumbnail and taking my chin to the floor while telling me “Don’t do that again.” No surprise that I didn’t do “that” again and the class continued without further interruption from me. I learned from her that without discipline, there is no learning. Ms. Draper devoted just about her entire adult life to teaching young children and lived to be 100 years old. In her later years, we became friends and I am so thankful that I was able to say “thank you” to her personally before she passed. Our entire education system, including parents and lawyers, could learn a lot from Ms. Draper. I certainly did. – Linwood H. (Woody) Snell, Jr., Colonel (USAF Retired), Lake Jordan www.alabamaliving.coop
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 19
Book program brings great stories to Alabama children By Lori M. Quiller
Dr. Marsha Raulerson
r. Seuss said it best in his book I Can Read with My Eyes ter foundation for a lifetime of learning. Dothan pediatrician Dr. Shut! “The more that you read, the more things you will Michelle Freeman realized early on in her career the value of the know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And, Reach Out and Read-Alabama program. that’s a primary mission for about 300 Alabama pediatricians and “It creates a library of books for the child, many whom otherwise Reach Out and Read-Alabama. would not have access to books,” Freeman says. “It also gives me an Reach Out and Read-Alabama has helped put more than 1.6 opportunity as a pediatrician to emphasize to parents the impormillion books in the hands of Alabama’s children. Most of these tance of reading to their child. Not only does this help from an edchildren are in lower income households and books are a luxury the ucational level, but it also encourages parents to spend quality time family often cannot afford. But, the gift of a book is more than the with their children. But seeing the joy on the face of a 3-year-old gift of adventure – it’s an opportunity for bonding between parent child when they receive their book at their check-up is priceless!” and child. Dr. Bruce Petitt of West Alabama Pediatrics in Tuscaloosa agreed Eleven years ago, Brewton pediatrician Dr. Marsha Raulerson the Reach Out and Read-Alabama partnership helps not only reinhelped launch Reach Out and Read-Alabama, incorporating books force the bond between family members but also strengthens the into pediatric care and enphysician-patient relationcouraging families to read ship. aloud together. “Our patients and their “We’ve given out truckfamilies have loved getting loads of books to our paa book at their check-up tients,” Raulerson says. “I and look forward to seeing give a book to every child which book they’ll get at for every visit, no matter their next visit. It’s a great what the age of the child. opportunity to praise the My community probably child’s emerging reading contributes about $10,000 skills and to discuss how a year so we can buy new reading plays a role in opbooks because every patimal development,” Petitt tient can have a new book.” says. In fact, no child who visReach Out and Read-Alits Raulerson’s clinic leaves abama provides new and empty-handed. The books gently used books to the she chooses for her patients more than 67 medical pracare not only age-approtices and clinics across the priate, but also story-ap- Dr. Marsha Raulerson reads to a couple of young patients in her Brewton practice. state that participate in the propriate to each patient’s program. The program, PHOTO BY LORI QUILLER particular situation. The which is an arm of the majority of her patients have special needs, and each book is inAlabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, holds tended to give her patients hope. fundraisers and creates partnerships with volunteer organizations “In Alabama, about 91 percent of our children receive their such as the Montgomery Chapter of Public Relations Council of medical care from either their pediatrician or family physician,” Alabama (PRCA). explained Reach Out and Read-Alabama’s Statewide Coordinator “We created Change for a Child earlier this year as a way for our Polly McClure. “The way Reach Out and Read works is to use those members to donate money during our monthly meetings and felphysicians and medical professionals to introduce the importance lowship activities,” says Megan German Hughes, president of PRCA of reading to their children and their parents.” Montgomery. “We have these wonderful memories of our favorite According to the 2017 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, pubbooks from our childhood and wanted to be part of the program lished by VOICES for Alabama’s Children, about 34 percent of chilproviding these lifelong memories for children in Alabama. It’s an dren under the age of 5 live in single-parent households and about honor to be part of the Reach Out and Read-Alabama program and 27 percent live in poverty. Reach Out and Read-Alabama works to bring adventure and continuous learning opportunities to our famfill some of the gaps a struggling, single parent may face in the early ilies here in the River Region.” To learn more about Reach Out and Read-Alabama, make a development of their child. donation, or to partner with the organization, visit http://www. By “prescribing” books to children and encouraging families to roralabama.org. read together, children acquire early language skills and build a bet20 FEBRUARY 2018
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 21
| Alabama People |
Space center leader wants students to shoot for the stars One of the world’s most exceptional educational resources in the realm of science and space exploration has its home right here in Alabama, and its CEO is a woman who is herself an Alabamian. Deborah Barnhart, Ed.D., has had a distinguished career spanning three decades in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. For the last seven years she’s been the CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, home to the renowned U.S. Space Camp, U.S. Space Academy, Aviation Challenge and Robotics Camp. She’s been at the helm of the Space and Rocket Center for seven years, but it’s not her first job there. As a college senior in 1973, she helped with media, advertising and writing. She returned in 1977 to help with media when the space shuttle was flying into Huntsville on the back of a 747. She joined the Navy and returned to Huntsville in 1986 and served as director of Space Camp until 1990. She took over leadership of the center on the last day of 2010. The center contains one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia anywhere in the world. It is the state’s No. 1 tourist attraction, and expected to have 700,000 visitors by the end of 2017. We asked her to talk about the center’s educational mission and how it serves the people of Alabama, both the current generations and the ones yet to come. – Allison Law You get participants from around the world, but do you actively market and recruit participants from Alabama? Oh, yes. We have two really important special programs. Every legislator in the state is allowed to send a boy and a girl in middle school through our Space Academy, which is a Space Camp program. We found that plenty of students were coming from the (metro) areas, but we (weren’t getting) children in the Black Belt and Wiregrass. So this program allows us to bring two students from every legislative district every year. We also have a program that allows us to send a teacher from every school district on scholarship every year to the teacher’s program. Space Camp is probably the bestknown of the camps, but talk about the other camps you offer for students. Space Camp opened in 1982, and 800,000 alumni later it continues to grow. A few years after we opened, there was an extraordinary interest in people becoming pilots so they could perhaps become 22 FEBRUARY 2018
astronauts. So we started a second program called Aviation Challenge, which is still operating today. It’s like Space Camp, but like “Top Gun.” They have jet cockpit simulators, and they go down the slide wire as if they’re splashing into the ocean. It’s sort of a military experience to introduce students to the world of aviation. Then a few years ago, we started Space Camp Robotics, which is very different than the other types you see. Our program allows the student to build and (maneuver) an airborne robot, like an unmanned aerial vehicle, a (more traditional) terrestrial robot, and an underwater robot. We’re trying to demonstrate the crosscutting nature of robotics. We’ve done two pilot programs for the establishment of U.S. Cyber Camp, because cyber cuts across every industry in every aspect of our lives these days. We brought Alabama students in for our beta tests, and we will be opening that full-scale cyber camp in the summer of 2018. Let me say a little bit about who comes to our programs, if that’s OK. Yes, please do. We’ve talked about Alabama, and that’s appropriate because I’m a commission of the state of Alabama, and my first responsibility is to serve the people of Alabama. But of course everybody’s interested in space, and our students typically come from at least 70 countries a year and all 50 states. It’s a reflection on the prowess of Alabama, on the accomplishment that has come out of Alabama and the world’s respect for Alabama, for our technology. They’re sending their young people here to look at our programs and learn from us. You inherited some ﬁnancial challenges when you took over at the center, but it’s now on much more solid footing. We are one of only 0.5 percent of museums in the world that are self-sustaining on our own revenue. The money we spend on operations, we earn on operations. We do, of course, have gifts, and we do have a foundation whose purpose is to provide money for educational programs at the Space and Rocket Center, but all that is below the line. We do receive funds from the Alabama Education Trust Fund. Every dollar of the money that we receive from the state goes to a scholarship amortization for either a field trip for children coming from Alabama schools, an Alabama child or school group going through Space Camp, or for an educator who goes through our Space Academy. So every bit of that money that comes from the state goes back into scholarships for an Alabamian. www.alabamaliving.coop
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 23
| Worth the drive |
Go with us as we visit Bertolone’s at alabamaliving.coop!
Bertolone’s brings Italian comfort food to Clanton I By Allison Law, photos by Mark Stephenson
t was family that brought Sonia Bertolone into the restaurant business. Even as a child she was in the kitchen, cooking and learning old-world recipes from her Italian parents, Joe and Elvira. The Bertolone family moved from Italy to Gilroy, Calif., in 1977, when Sonia was six. They opened a restaurant called Joe’s Italian, which would become a landmark in the small California city that prides itself on being the “garlic capital of the world.” Many years later, after Sonia’s sister left California and moved to Alabama, the Bertolone family followed in 2008. They opened a new Joe’s Italian restaurant in the Birmingham suburb of Alabaster, which they operated for several years. But Joe’s death in 2013 had a dramatic effect on the family. “Dad was the glue that held the siblings together,” Sonia says. “Without him, and Mom just grieving so terribly, we just kind of fell 24 FEBRUARY 2018
Top: Bertolone’s specializes in Italian comfort food, with such familiar specialties as spaghetti and meatballs, cannelloni and artisan pizzas. Above: Sonia Bertolone, right, continues the tradition of family business with her mom, Elvira, seated, and her daughter, Francesca.
apart a little bit.” Joe’s Italian was doing well at the time, but with such a loss in the family dynamic, they decided to sell the restaurant, including the intellectual property. Sonia took a much-needed break from the long hours required to run a successful restaurant. “I just really needed to kind of grieve,” she says. But the business is in the blood. Cooking and running a restaurant is all she’s ever done. So a little more than a year later, she decided to open a new place. Bertolone’s Italian Cafe in Clanton specializes in Italian comfort food, but with tweaks and alterations from the recipes she created at Joe’s Italian. Business was slow at first, but it gave her time and opportunity to experiment. “The first six or seven months we were open, we were so slow we were just like, ‘OK, well, what if I do this?’ Let’s just see if we can make it better.” www.alabamaliving.coop
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 25
Above: The interior of Bertolone’s features a picture on the wall to the right of Joe Bertolone, who was the heart of the Bertolone family; he died in 2013. Below left: The exterior of the restaurant, which is in downtown Clanton. Below right: A red velvet cheesecake is made in-house by one of the three full-time bakers.
A big part of making that better food at Bertolone’s is quality ingredients. As an example, she points to the mozzarella cheese they use, which is all natural from Wisconsin and more expensive than other commercial cheeses. “We’ve always built the business on a higher-caliber ingredient to start with.” The menu features the Italian specialties you’d expect – chicken parmigiana, fettucine alfredo and lasagna, all with house-made sauces. But there are also custom, handmade pizzas (“Papa Joe’s Special” is a best seller, with pepperoni, salami, ham, sausage, onions, olives and mushrooms) and hand-crafted calzones (their dough is “legendary,” Sonia says). And three full-time bakers produce an array of cakes, pastries and sweet treats. She pulls from her memories as well. The cafe serves cannelloni – ground beef mixed with carrots, onions, celery and 26 FEBRUARY 2018
mozzarella cheese, rolled in a pasta sheet and topped with meat sauce and Alfredo sauce. “That is my memory growing up – being 8 or 9 years old, coming home from school, my mom would pull cannelloni out of the oven, and that is just my warm and fuzzy right there, so I love it.” Her mom, known to staff and customers as “Nonna” (Italian for “grandmother,”) is still a fixture at the restaurant. She uses a cane but is still baking cakes and making cookies. And there may be another Bertolone in the business. Sonia’s 12-year-old daughter, Francesca, is “a natural at it,” her mom says. “She likes to be the boss, so I tell everyone I’ve got a little mini-manager.” The restaurant is doing well, so Sonia is looking ahead to the next step, which includes growing her catering business.
“It’s a challenge to me right now. So we have 700 people to serve, how are we going to do it off-site?” And she’s in talks with a food vendor about the possibilities of making cakes that can be sold to other restaurants. She’s also working with an Atlanta-based company to manufacture and mass-produce her sauces. Such steps are right in line with what her dad, Joe, always wanted – “bigger things,” Sonia says. Bertolone Italian Café 605 Second Ave. North Clanton, AL 35045 205-755-5533 Hours: 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday; 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. FridaySaturday (closed Monday) www.bertolones.com
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February | Around Alabama
Orange Beach, 26th Annual Orange Beach Seafood Festival. Crafters, seafood, kids activities, live entertainment and car show. Festival is the primary fundraiser for the Orange Beach Sports Association raising funds for youth sports. The Wharf, 23101 Canal Road. Alwharf.com
Montgomery, Annnual Jewish Food Festival at Temple Beth Or, 2246 Narrow Lane Road. Featuring traditional Jewish meals and treats avaliable for purchase and a gift shop. For more information, visit templebethor.net or call 334-262-3314.
Andalusia, “Our Story, Our Song: A Conference on Congregational Song,” a three-day
conference of lectures, classes, workshops and singing. Lectures will be held in various locations in Andalusia, and will cover a range of topics. Preregistration is requested, so adequate music can be ordered for the adult choral workshops. The conference seeks to renew interest in church choral music, especially congregational singing, by promoting a scholarly study of this and related subjects. For more information, visit www.lbwsings.org or search the name of the conference on Facebook.
Selma, Bridge Crossing Jubilee. Annual event to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” as part of the march from Selma to Montgomery. For full schdule of events and ticket prices, visit selmajubilee.com.
Crossroads Theater in Pike Road presents “In Her Own Fashion” by Dolores Hydock, above, Feb. 10.
Orange Beach, 26th Annual Alabama Lifestyles Expo at the Caribe Resort, 28103 Perdido Beach Boulevard. Lifestyle Expo features exhibitors with information about Alabama and the Gulf Coast-community living, food samples from local restaurants, things to do and see and other aspects of visiting the Gulf. Free admission and parking. alabamaadvantage.com
Decatur, Carnegie Carnival. Mardi Gras-style celebration promoting art and creativity, family fun and downtown revitalization in downtown Decatur for the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, CASA of North Alabama and Animal Friends Humane Society. Features Carnival Frolic half marathon, children’s parade and kid’s carnival activities, dog parade and Main Parade at 6 p.m. Alison@carnegiearts.org
Gulf Shores, GCAA Art Market. Features original art by local and regional artists. Paintings, wood crafts, jewelry, photography, pottery and metal art. 309 East 21st Ave. 251-9482627
Montgomery, Winter Animal Enrichment Day at the Montgomery Zoo. Join the Montgomery Zoo as they provide new, creative and behavior-stimulating enrichment items for the animals. More than 20 species will particpate in the event which provides the animals with both mental and physical exercise. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For zoo admission and more information, visit montgomeryzoo.com.
Pike Road, Crossroads Theater presents “In Her Own Fashion,” a story play by Dolores Hydock. The funny, irreverent story of Ninette Griffith, a fashion coordinator for Loveman’s Department Store in Birmingham in the 1950s and 60s. Pike Road Town Hall, 9575 Vaughn Road. Tickets $20. 7:30 p.m. 334-272-9883, patty@ pikeroad.us. Enterprise, The King of Pop- A Michael Jackson Tribute Concert. Direct from Las Vegas, Jalles Franca portrays Michael Jackson for the tribute concert. From glitzy jackets to white t-shirts, Franca presents many of Michael Jackson’s favorites. Coffeecountyartsalliance.com, 334-4062787.
Dothan, Astronomy Night at Landmark Park. View stars and planets through telescopes and binoculars. Enjoy a starry hayride, nightwalks, planetarium programs and snacks. Reservations required. $4 for members, $5 for scouts and leaders in uniform, $7 for nonmembers. Free ages 5 and under. 334-794-3452, landmarkparkdothan.com
Centre, Crappie USA returns to Weiss Lake for an opportunity for anglers to compete for cash, prizes and a chance to advance to the 2018 Cabela’s Crappie USA Classic. Pre-tournament seminar will be Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. at Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, 801 Cedar Bluff Road. For prices and registration, visit crappieusa. com.
Mardi Gras Around Alabama Feb. 3
Butler, Mardi Gras Parade and Block Party, butleralabama. org, 205-459-3795 Fairhope, Mystic Mutts of Revelry Parade, cofairhope.com Millbrook, Mardi Gras Festival and Parade, 334-799-1801, millbrookrevelers.org
Auburn, Mardi Gras Parade, 334-750-7340, krewdetigris. com Foley, Mardi Gras Parade, 251-943-1200, visitfoley.com Huntsville, Mardi Gras Parade, 256-534-7014, mardigrashuntsville.com Talladega, Mardi Gras Parade and Gala, 256-362-9075, talladegaritz.com Wetumpka, Order of Cimarrón Mardi Gras Festival, 334424-2867
Gulf Shores, Lulu’s Mardi Gras Boat Parade, 251-9675858, lulubuffett.com
To place an event, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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FEBRUARY 2018 29
| Gardens |
The ‘love to learn’ month in the garden
f you long for some gardening love this February, use these cold, hard-to-garden-in days to further your education, and perhaps kick off a whole year—maybe even a lifetime—of garden learning. The options are many and varied. One exceptional opportunity is to become a Master Gardener, which affords the chance to be both a learner and a teacher. The nonprofit Alabama Master Gardener Association works through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to provide continuing education opportunities and offer horticultural help to others through volunteer and community service programs. Becoming a Master Gardener requires 50 hours of instruction focused on gardening practices and pest control, and 50 hours of approved volunteer service. It’s a commitment, but it’s a commitment that keeps on giving—to you and to others. There are some 35 local Master Gardener associations throughout the state and many are enrolling for upcoming classes. Go to http://mg.aces.edu/ or contact your county Extension office to find out more about the programs. If you want to help cultivate a new generation of garden lovers, consider volunteering with, or enrolling your youngsters in, the Alabama Junior Master Gardener program, which is also coordinated through Alabama’s Extension System. To learn more, go to www.aces.edu/junior-master-gardener/index.php. I often cite the Extension System as a go-to resource for gardeners for good reason. This more than a century-old organization provides exceptional resources that can help answer virtually any gardening question, resources that are science-based and specifically targeted toward Alabama’s gardening needs. Go to www.aces.org to find contact information for your local Extension office and also access Extension’s plethora of online materials.
Public gardens, local nurseries are resources
Alabama’s public gardens are yet another great source of garden learning. Located throughout the state, these gardens and arKatie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at email@example.com.
30 FEBRUARY 2018
boretums offer chances to wander through some of the nation’s most beautiful plant collections and participate in workshops on a wide range of subjects. A list of most of these gardens can be found at https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_botanical_gardens_and_arboretums_in_Alabama. Local nursery and garden centers also often offer workshops on everything from plants to gardening projects to culinary or food preservation classes. If you’re not familiar with your local nursery and landscape businesses, check out the membership list of the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association’s website (https://alnla. org) for some options. Yet another resource for gardening events is the Alabama Tourism Department (http://alabama.travel/), which provides an online calendar of events that include flower shows, garden tours and other garden and outdoor educational and recreational opportunities. It can also help you find garden-related travel experiences in the state. And still another option is to join a gardening club or plant society. These organizations range from plant-specific groups (ones that focus on wildflowers and native plants or on cultivated species like camellias, roses and orchids, to name a few) to those with a more general gardening focus. The Garden Club of Alabama’s website (http://gardenclubofalabama.org) provides links to all the official garden clubs in the state or do an online or library search for Alabama garden clubs and plant societies to find ones that pique your interest.
Finally, never underestimate the knowledge of your gardening friends, relatives and neighbors. These seasoned gardeners have so much experience to offer and most of them will relish the chance to share it with you. Oh, and if you’re thinking of gardening as a career, a great resource is the Alabama Green Industry website at www. alabamagreenindustryjobs.org. It has information on career options and on community and four-year colleges that offer horticultural degrees. You can also use this short, chilly, lovelaced month to tuck in and read books and magazines and explore the many resources that may help deepen your love of gardening—and learning. What a great Valentine gift to yourself and your garden!
February Tips Start seed for warm-season vegetables and ﬂowers. Plant roses and other shrubs and hardy perennials. Start preparing beds for spring and summer crops. Plant dormant fruit, nut and ornamental trees. Prune summer-ﬂowering shrubs now, but delay pruning spring-ﬂowering shrubs until after they bloom. Order seed for the spring and summer garden. Give plants, seeds and gardening supplies to your Valentine. Do maintenance work on lawn and garden equipment.
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 31
| Outdoors |
Ancient practice gives ‘bird hunting’ a different meaning John Ortino, falconer from Alabaster.
erched high in a tree, the predator missed little, but even a hawk’s eyes couldn’t see through wood. Cleverly, the squirrel maneuvered to keep the tree trunk between itself and its feathered stalker perched in an adjacent tree. When a person moved under the tree, the squirrel jumped into a leafy nest. This tactic might save a squirrel from a human hunter, but not a hawk. The sharp-eyed raptor immediately noticed the movement and pounced, tearing apart the nest to drag out its prey. Dubbed the “Sport of Kings,” hunting with birds of prey dates back at least 4,000 years. The sport came to North America with 16th century Spanish conquistadors
John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.
32 FEBRUARY 2018
and thrived all through the colonial period. Today, about 4,000 licensed falconers, including 60 or so in Alabama, still practice their hobby in the United States. “Originally, falconry was a way to put food on the table,” explains Michael Moore with the Alabama Hawking Association (alabamahawkingassociation. com). “Kings kept falconers who took care of their birds and flew them when the king wanted to hunt. We’re trying to keep the art of falconry alive and pass it on to the next generation.” Many people today use the term “falconry” to describe any type of hunting with raptors. The word comes from the use of peregrine falcons, the fastest animal on earth, to hunt birds. Fairly common in Alabama at times, peregrine falcons can exceed 200 miles per hour when swooping down on prey. Falcons typically hunt open ground where they can easily spot flushing birds. In densely wooded Alabama, however,
PHOTO BY JOHN N. FELSHER
most people use red-tailed or red-shouldered hawks and go by the term “hawkers.” “Red-tail hawks naturally prey upon squirrels in the wild,” says Mark Wetzel of Daphne. “When hunting with any bird of prey species, it’s best to fly that bird after what it would normally catch for itself.”
Hawks must be captured first
Hawkers can’t just buy a bird from the local pet shop and start hunting. They must capture and train their own hunting companion. After catching a wild bird, hawkers must gain its trust through food. Once a raptor learns that taking food offered by a human is easier and more dependable than hunting for itself, it keeps returning to its handler, even when released to hunt. “A wild hawk could fly off at any time, but it’s about building trust in the bird through feeding it,” described Moore from Vineland. “When we release a bird, it follows us through the woods fairly closely. The person actually flushes the game so www.alabamaliving.coop
the hawk can see it. When hunting squirrels, we’ll shake vines to make them jump.” After catching a squirrel too heavy to lift, a hawk flies to the ground with it. The person rushes to the bird to keep it from devouring the animal and prevent a stillalive squirrel from injuring the bird with its sharp teeth. If a bird eats too much, it won’t fly or hunt. The hawker rewards the bird for the kill with a piece of the animal, but lets it fill its belly after a good day afield. Some people use owls instead of hawks, but must capture and train them the same way. Naturally nocturnal, owls typically locate game with their incredible hearing. Rather than fly along behind humans, an owl usually remains perched on its handler’s thick leather glove until it hears something interesting. “Hunting with a great horned owl is a lot different than hunting with a hawk,” Wetzel clarified. “An owl is much more sensitive to noises while a hawk is much more visually oriented. An owl is a lot quieter when stalking its prey and can fly silently.” Before hunting with any bird of prey in Alabama, a prospective hawker must obtain a falconry permit and go through
a certification process. This includes becoming an apprentice to a general or master falconer for two years and passing a written exam. In Alabama, hawkers enjoy more days afield than traditional hunters. For most sportsmen, the 2017-18 squirrel and rabbit seasons end March 4, but hawkers can hunt through March 31. Some state parks even allow falconers to hunt small game where others cannot. All other bag limits and laws apply, except falconers also get an “oops” clause. A bird doesn’t know game laws or dates. Therefore, if a bird grabs something illegal or out of season, the hawker can let the bird eat it, but cannot take it. “After working with a bird, a handler learns to read a bird and predict what it might do next,” Wetzel explained. “We built a bond of trust, but the birds do not love us or have any affection for us, no matter how much we have for them. We bribe them to come back with food, but it’s a lot of fun for me.” For more information on Alabama falconry permits and laws, see www.outdooralabama.com/resident-commercial-hunting-licenses. Michael Moore of the Alabama Hawking Association. PHOTO BY JOHN N. FELSHER
Tables indicate peak fish and game feeding and migration times. Major periods can bracket the peak by an hour before and an hour after. Minor peaks, half-hour before and after. Adjusted for daylight savings time. Minor
1 07:46 2 08:16 3 08:46 4 09:16 5 09:46 6 03:31 7 12:31 8 04:16 9 07:46 10 09:31 11 10:16 12 10:46 13 11:16 14 11:46 15 07:01 16 07:16 17 07:31 18 08:01 19 08:16 20 02:31 21 03:01 22 03:46 23 02:01 24 08:16 25 09:31 26 10:16 27 11:01 28 11:31
12:46 01:31 02:01 02:31 03:01 10:16 10:46 11:46 04:46 05:16 05:31 05:46 06:16 06:31 12:01 12:31 12:46 01:16 01:46 08:46 09:16 09:46 10:46 03:31 04:16 05:01 05:31 06:01
01:01 01:46 02:31 09:01 10:16 ---12:46 02:01 02:46 03:31 04:16 -12:16 12:46 01:31 07:46 08:31 09:46 11:31 --12:31 02:01 03:16 04:16 05:01
06:31 07:16 08:01 03:31 04:31 05:46 07:16 08:31 09:16 10:01 10:31 11:01 11:31 05:01 05:31 06:16 07:01 02:01 02:46 03:31 04:31 05:46 07:16 08:31 09:31 10:31 11:16 11:46
MAR. 1 -2 07:01 3 07:31 4 07:46 5 08:16 6 02:31 7 02:46 8 12:01 9 -10 11:01 11 09:46 12 10:16 13 10:31 14 11:01 15 11:31 16 -17 06:31 18 06:46 19 01:01
06:31 12:31 01:01 01:31 02:01 08:31 08:46 09:16 09:46 04:31 04:31 04:46 05:16 05:31 05:46 06:01 12:01 12:31 07:01
12:01 12:46 01:16 08:01 09:01 10:01 ----01:16 02:46 03:31 04:16 05:01 12:01 06:16 07:01 07:46
05:46 06:31 07:16 02:01 02:46 03:31 04:31 05:46 07:16 08:31 09:16 10:01 10:31 11:01 11:31 05:46 12:31 01:01 01:31
PM Minor Major
FEBRUARY 2018 33
| Alabama Recipes |
HOT STUFF Bringing the sizzle, just in time for Valentine’s Day BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY FOOD/PHOTOGRAPHY BY BROOKE ECHOLS
“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” While this phrase is rarely referring to an actual kitchen or a literal rise in temperature, it has its basis in fact. Cooking makes things hot (including the spaces surrounding its activity, and during winter, that’s not a bad thing). But with this month’s reader-submitted recipes, you don’t have to be anywhere near the kitchen to feel the burn. These dishes are packing heat in another sense. Thanks to fresh peppers, dried chilies and other seasonings, they’re full of ﬂavor and spice. Some like it hot; they get a kick out of a little singe. Testing the limits of what our tongues can take has actually gotten pretty popular. Just look at the hot sauce market. With names like Wild Fire, Devil’s Tongue and Sudden Death (plus labels picturing ﬂaming skulls), some brands make no attempt to hide the pain their ingestion will cause, and yet, people buy them. Other people find zero pleasure in the discomfort that can come with super spicy foods and choose to keep their plates and palates on the mild side. No matter what camp you fall into, remember, you can adjust any recipe to be less fiery by reducing (or leaving out) its blaze-bringing ingredients. Or, you can turn up the temp by adding even more. Whatever you do, don’t shy away from these dishes. Intense and intensely satisfying, they’ll warm you from the inside out, and their tastes are worth the risk of a little heartburn.
5-Alarm Spicy Wings
34 FEBRUARY 2018
Buﬀalo Chicken Egg Rolls
Dark chocolate spiced up with chili peppers may sound odd, but the duo is a taste-match made in heaven. (And the combo might just spark some extra romance this Valentine's Day!)
1 package egg roll wrappers 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts Sweet Baby Rays Buffalo Sauce 1 cup mozzarella (more if you like it cheesy) 1 package dry ranch dressing mix Peanut oil for frying Buttermilk ranch dressing (for dipping) Boil chicken until tender and easily shredded. Shred chicken and add to a medium bowl, add mozzarella cheese and half of the dry ranch packet, then add enough buffalo sauce to coat well. Add about a tablespoon of chicken mixture to middle of an egg roll wrapper. Dip the edge of a paper towel in water and go around all edges of the wrapper, then fold it like an envelope. Either deep fry at 350 degrees for a couple minutes until they are nicely browned and crisp, or fry in a couple of inches of oil in a cast iron skillet, turning to brown all sides. Serve with buttermilk ranch dressing for dipping.
Cook of the Month: Sandra Rhodes, Central Alabama EC
Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls
Sandra Rhodes first made her Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls a few years ago when she had some leftover buffalo chicken in the fridge, a common occurrence because she and her family love the dish. “We eat a lot of buffalo chicken and use it all kinds of ways,” she said. “We had some buffalo chicken sandwiches for dinner, and I figured I’d use the leftover chicken to make myself lunch the next day.” She realized she was out of buns. But she did have some egg roll wrappers. And some cheese and a packet to make Ranch dressing. “So I really just threw it all together,” she said. She loved it, so she made it again for her husband and son. “It was a hit. The combo of the crunch, the spice and the gooey cheese is great,” she said. She stressed that you can make it less spicy if you want, using a milder buffalo sauce. But in her house, they usually make things hotter. “My husband likes super-spicy food, so we even kick it up some. You can add chopped jalapeños, substitute pepper jack for the mozzarella and use a really fiery sauce,” she said. FEBRUARY 2018 35
Southwest Breakfast Casserole
Slow Cooker Beef-Chorizo Taco Chili
1 package hot Italian sausage, casings removed 1/2 sweet onion, minced 1 green bell pepper, minced 2 cans Rotel, undrained 8 fajita size flour tortillas, torn into pieces 2 cups shredded colby-jack cheese or cheddar 6 eggs, beaten 11/2 cups milk 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoonful garlic powder 1/4-1/2 teaspoonful cayenne pepper, optional Black pepper, to taste
1 pound ground beef 1 pound fresh chorizo sausage, casings removed 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes with peppers 2 14-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped 1 6-ounce can tomato paste 2 cups bell peppers, sliced 1¼ cups yellow onion, diced 1 cup frozen sweet corn kernels 1 packet taco seasoning 1 tablespoon chili powder 2 teaspoons smoked paprika 1 teaspoon cumin Kosher salt and pepper, to taste 3-4 cups beef stock Optional toppings: sour cream, sliced jalapeno, lime, avocado, shredded cheese and corn chips
Cook sausage, pepper and onion in a skillet, breaking sausage into small crumbles and cook until vegetables are soft and sausage is cooked through. Drain fat if needed. Return sausage mixture to pan and add Rotel. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid has been reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until combined. In a 9x13-inch dish layer half the tortilla pieces to cover the bottom. Top with half the sausage mixture then half the cheese, and repeat layers one more time. Pour egg mixture over the entire casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees and remove casserole from the refrigerator. Bake covered for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until cooked through and bubbling around edges. Emily Nebrig Joe Wheeler EMC
In a large skillet set over medium heat, add ground beef and chorizo sausage (casing removed). While breaking up the meat, cook until no longer pink. Remove meat from pan and drain on paper towels to remove grease. Add cooked meat to a large slow cooker along with diced tomatoes, black beans, jalapenos, tomato paste, bell peppers, yellow onion, corn, taco seasoning, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, kosher salt and pepper. Stir together. Start off by adding in 3 cups beef stock, and cook on high heat for at least 6 hours. The chili should not get dry but if it does, simply add more stock a little at a time. Serve with various toppings: sour cream, sliced jalapenos, lime, avocado, shredded cheese or corn chips. Nancy Repking Baldwin EMC
Jen's Salsa 2 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes, drained 1 16-ounce jar sliced jalapeños, drained 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 large onion, quartered Salt and pepper, to taste
36 FEBRUARY 2018
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend to desired consistency. Serve with chips and enjoy. Cook’s note: If you want a thicker salsa you can add a can of tomato paste. Jennifer Turner Wiregrass EC
5-Alarm Spicy Wings 1 package chicken wings, sections or whole 1/2 cup Sriracha hot sauce 1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce 1/2 cup Tabasco sauce 1/2 cup Zatarains Cajun sauce 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 stick of butter 24-ounces cooking oil Wash chicken and split into sections if whole. Heat oil to 300 degrees in a deep fryer. Drop chicken pieces into oil, cooking for 12 minutes. While chicken is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan, then add all sauces and cayenne pepper. Once chicken is done, drain grease off chicken. Toss the chicken in the sauce mix. Preheat oven on 400 degrees. Once all wings have been tossed, place in oven for 15 minutes. Halfway through, toss with remaining sauce. Once they are done, enjoy with some ranch dressing and celery sticks. Sharlene Parker Baldwin EMC
Hot Corn 3 7-ounce cans white shoepeg corn, drained 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened 1 stick butter, melted Salt and pepper, to taste Jalapeno peppers, sliced (to taste) Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until heated through. The more jalapenos you add, the hotter the dish is. Peggy Key North Alabama EC
Calling all home cooks! It's time to spice up our recipe selection and you could be a winner! We are looking for fresh, creative recipes from readers just like you. In addition to our monthly Cook of the Month prize, beginning in January, all cooks who submit a recipe will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket full of Alabama Living merchandise. Take a look at our upcoming themes and send in your favorite recipes today! (see rules below) Online: alabamaliving.coop Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Congratulations to Sharlene Parker of Baldwin EMC! Your Alabama Living gift bag is on its way. Keep those recipe submissions coming!
Themes and Deadlines April: Bread | Feb. 8 May: Junior Cooks | March 8 June: Heirloom Recipes | April 8
Coming up in March... Honey!
Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win â€œCook of the Monthâ€? only once per calendar year. One gift basket winner will be drawn monthly at random and each name will be entered only once. Items in basket may vary each month. 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.
FEBRUARY 2018 37
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| Market Place |
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 39
| Consumer Wise |
Do radiant barriers really make a difference? By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen
I’ve heard that installing a radiant barrier in my attic could save me a lot of money on my energy bill. What exactly is a radiant barrier, and does it really make a difference?
Unwanted solar heat gain is reflected out of the home during the summer.
A radiant barrier reflects radiant heat and can be used to keep heat in a home during the winter and to keep heat out in the summer. To understand the value of a radiant barrier we need to consider the three different ways heat travels. Convection is air movement from hot to cold. This happens through openings in your home, like doors, windows, vents and air leaks. Conduction is heat traveling through a solid material, such as the sheetrock and framing of your home. This can be minimized by insulation. Radiant heat loss is a transfer of heat from the sun, or when a warmer material transmits infrared radiation to a colder material. Radiant barriers are designed to reflect this type of heat loss. Radiant barriers often look like aluminum foil. Sometimes the foil is fastened to oriented strand board or foam board, but the foil will only reflect radiant heat towards an air space of at least one inch. If the foil is in contact with a solid material, it conducts excess heat into that material. A common location for application of radiant barriers is the attic; radiant energy from the sun is sent back out of the roof before it can heat the air and insulation in your home. It is commonly sold as a roll of shiny, aluminum material and is usually mounted on the underside of the framing that supports the roof. The radiant barrier is only effective in reflecting radiant heat, not as insulation or as a wrap to block air loss, but it can be very effective at its intended purpose. Even something as thin as a sheet of aluminum foil can reflect 95 percent of the radiated heat back through the roof if it’s installed properly, with an air gap between itself and the roof. While other solutions such as an attic fan try to remove the heat once it has accumulated, the radiant barrier stops the heat from building up in the first place. The net impact of a radiant barrier depends on whether you live in a hot or cold-weather climate. For example, homes that were retrofitted with attic radiant barrier systems in Florida were able to reduce air conditioning energy use by about 9 percent. In colder climates, the radiant barrier that reflects unwanted heat outside of the house in the summer will also be reflecting heat away from the Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to email@example.com for more information.
40 FEBRUARY 2018
Radiant barriers can only be effective at reflecting radiant heat.
house in the winter. In other words, the cooling bill may decrease but the heating bill may increase. So, is a radiant barrier in your attic a good investment? Sometimes. You need to do a little research, as savings vary in each situation and there are many inaccurate claims made about the cost savings they bring. In a warmer climate, a home with a large cooling load and a roof that is fully exposed to the sun, an attic radiant barrier could be a cost-effective measure, and it could make your home more comfortable. Products are getting better all the time, but even then, your expectations need to be realistic. It’s a good idea to compare an investment in an attic radiant barrier to other energy efficiency investments, such as improving your attic insulation or sealing air leaks around doors and windows. Of course, the best way to compare your energy efficiency opportunities is to schedule an energy audit of your home. Start by talking to your friendly energy advisors at your local electric cooperative.
Foil is placed under the framing supporting the roof, reflecting unwanted radiant heat upward and out of the home. REFLECTIVE INSULATION MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL
This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on radiant barriers, please visit: www. collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips. www.alabamaliving.coop
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FEBRUARY 2018 41
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 43
| Our Sources Say |
What have we learned?
owerSouth invests resources into economic development in Alabama and the Florida panhandle. Economic development, new jobs, and better-paying jobs are the lifeblood of communities. We know it, you know it, and local leaders know it. If an economy (especially a small economy) is not growing, neither is the community. To build stronger communities and cities, we need more and better jobs. Local leaders often ask what can be done to make their communities more desirable to expanding businesses and attract more and higher caliber jobs. There is no one single answer or simple solution. The most important factor for a community in attracting jobs and growing an economy is a skilled and educated workforce. To build better workforces, we must improve education -- especially elementary and secondary education. As a state, we trail the field. And, I don’t mean we are just a little behind. We are so far behind we can’t see the front. Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Auburn, the Montgomery private schools and a few other state school systems provide quality educations. However, the Montgomery County Schools (with the exception of their successful magnet program), the Birmingham City Schools, the school systems across the Black Belt, and other school systems in the state are total failures by any objective standard. Those schools are simply not preparing our young people for successful careers and are not providing our communities with an educated workforce. If you ask people what they think about the education level in their community, they usually say, “It is good, I think it is getting better,” or “Well, the schools are better than when I was a kid.” If you ask teachers or school officials, the answers are, “We don’t get any parental support. They don’t help their kids at home,” or “There is not enough money to do what needs to be done.” We tend to measure ourselves against ourselves or against neighboring states. We take comfort in the fact that education is getting better or is better than our neighbors. But how do we compare not just with neighboring states but with the rest of the world? The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures reading ability, math and science literacy, and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries every three years. By PISA’s standards, the U.S. is not
doing so well. In the PISA’s 2015 study, the U.S. placed an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science and reading. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, ranked the U.S. 30th in math and 19th in science among its 35 members. Among other states, Alabama ranks from 44th to 46th in education, dependent upon different studies. We take pride in being better than Mississippi; however, according to the studies, we aren’t. We are better than New Mexico and Utah, but Mississippi and Arkansas are better. Massachusetts is ranked first among states by most studies. If it were treated as a separate country, it would be ranked 9th in the PISA study. If Massachusetts, the highest ranked state, is 9th in world, how high would Alabama, the 44th ranked state, be? Alabama trails most states and the rest of the world in education. China, Germany and Hong Kong are better, but so are Poland, Estonia, Denmark and most of Europe. We are behind, but what do we do? First, as with most problems, we have to get beyond denial. We have to recognize our education system is broken and get serious about changing it. Our education system is so inadequate we need to start over. We need to study other states and countries that have improved education and implement the changes they have made. We have to commit more resources, competent people and money to improving education. The State Legislature and Administrative Branch must take responsibility for our deficiency. They must embrace education as the most important issue for the success of Alabama. They must insist local governments commit the necessary resources to improve the state’s education system. They must provide funding to improve education. Parents must be engaged in the process. Educators must be held accountable. Educating our young people is the most important thing we can do for the future of Alabama. We must improve education to provide jobs that will keep our young people home and keep our communities viable. We, as individuals, must hold community leaders, politicians and administrators accountable for improving education. If we are not relentless in demanding better education, we will continue to be behind, and our communities will continue to suffer. I hope you have a good month.
Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative
44 FEBRUARY 2018
FEBRUARY 2018â€ƒ 45
| Hardy Jackson's Alabama |
Illustration by Dennis Auth
Bigfoot and King Hal
grew up in Clarke County, squeezed between the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers. In the southern end of the county, where the rivers converge, are swamps that would do the Amazon proud. Knowing how things are different there, I was not entirely surprised when news reached me that in the vicinity of Gainestown, a hairy “creature,” eight feet tall, was abroad on the land, terrorizing pets, ransacking garbage cans, and making a general nuisance of itself. Gainestown, for those unfamiliar with southwest Alabama geography, is just north of all those swamps. According to the person who claimed he saw it – he was visiting from Texas, which may or may not be significant – the giant weighed around 800 pounds, had 16-inch feet, five-foot long arms, and “smelled of cheese gone bad.” What else could it be but a Bigfoot? Bigfoots (or should that be Bigfeet?) are pretty popular these days. Where once they were confined to Canada and the Pacific Northwest, they have apparently migrated and are popping up all over. Even Florida has the “Skunk-Ape.” So why not Alabama?
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University and a regular contributor to Alabama Living. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
46 FEBRUARY 2018
And I am here to tell you that if a Bigfoot sets up shop in our fair state, the swamps south of Gainestown would be the place it would go. Where the rivers join is a jungle broken only by an occasional lake left behind when the streams changed course. It is so impenetrable that back before the Civil War a runaway slave named Hal found his way into the middle of it. There he created a haven for other runaways and ruled it as their “king.” It took a small army to dislodge them. Today all that remains of Hal is the long, meandering body of water that bears his name – Hal’s Lake – and the stories that are still told of how Hal really didn’t die in the fight, that he took to the swamps, and that he lives there still. Or maybe his spirit lives in Bigfoot. Or maybe he became Bigfoot. Who knows? I only know that down in the forks, in a land where the earth moves under your feet, where there are still more deer and bear and hogs than humans, where you can catch fish that look Jurassic, and where once, as I sat in a boat waiting for a bite, a bush suddenly erupted with colorful birds that, to this day, I cannot identify. In a land like that, anything is possible. It is beautiful country, unchanged for centuries. It is country worth seeing. But if you go down there, and smell cheese gone bad, beware. You may be where you ought not to be and if you are, Bigfoot might get you. www.alabamaliving.coop