May 2024 North Alabama

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Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News May 2024 A taste of Egypt in rural Alabama Alabamian’s ‘smart’ golf ball North Alabama Electric Cooperative

North Alabama Electric Cooperative

“Making Electric Energy available to its members at the lowest cost, consistent with sound economy and good management since 1940.”

ALABAMA LIVING is delivered to some 420,000 Alabama families and businesses, which are members of 22 not-for-profit, consumer-owned, locally directed and taxpaying electric cooperatives. Subscriptions are $12 a year for individuals not subscribing through participating Alabama electric cooperatives. Alabama Living (USPS 029-920) is published monthly by the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and at additional mailing office.

POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to: Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014.


AREA President Karl Rayborn

Editor Lenore Vickrey

Managing Editor Allison Law

Creative Director

Mark Stephenson

Art Director

Danny Weston

Advertising Director

Jacob Johnson

Graphic Designer/Production Coordinator

Brooke Echols


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Montgomery, Alabama 36117-6031


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American MainStreet Publications 611 South Congress Ave., Suite 504 Austin, Texas 78704


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for this


For 25 years, Fred Hunter has been telling the stories of Alabamians from all walks of life through his popular show, “Absolutely Alabama.” Recently he began a new chapter in retirement, but he’s still telling stories.


Mom’s little helper

Moms and grandmoms love to get help in the kitchen, the garden, and anywhere little hands want to be involved.


‘Smart’ golf ball

Fairhope’s Brian Heaton invented a golf ball so smart that it won the Best New Product at the 2023 PGA Show.


Cinco de Mayo

Literally the fifth of May, this day has become a popular reason for Americans, including our readers, to celebrate the cuisine of Mexico.

16 34 VOL. 77 NO. 5 MAY 2024 DEPARTMENTS 11 Spotlight 29 Around Alabama 34 Cook of the Month 40 Outdoors 41 Fish & Game Forecast 46 Cup o’ Joe ONLINE: 20 MAY 2024 3 WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! ONLINE: EMAIL: MAIL: Al abama Living 340 Technacenter Drive Montgomery, AL 36117 Greensboro’s tiny downtown is home to Abadir’s, Sarah Cole’s unique food business that combines the tastes of Middle Eastern and Southern cuisine. Story, Page 12. PHOTO: Jennifer Kornegay FEATURES
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Feathered finds

Local sites draw bird enthusiasts

Bird-watchers often talk about their “spark bird,” the species that hooked them. It might be a brightly colored favorite or a majestic bird of prey, but for avid birder Joe Watts, it was the common eastern towhee.

It was the first bird Watts knew how to identify, and he was proud that he could do so. A regular visitor to Alabama backyards, the towhee is a large sparrow marked by black and white feathers with warm reddish-brown sides. Eastern towhees commonly scratch in the dirt for worms and are known for their distinctive call.

“Its song is ‘drink your tea, drink your tea,’ so it’s a quintessential Southern bird,” Watts says.

Watts is a consultant on the Alabama Birding Trails, established through the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development with the Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The eight birding trails highlight the 430 bird species documented in Alabama. The trails include 280 sites — nine in Jackson County and seven in Marshall County.

Watts says it is amazing that the smallest birds can travel great distances, some flying from South America to the Arctic Circle during their migration. Bird-watchers, meanwhile, do not have to go far from home to see a variety of birds.

While Northeast Alabama bird-watchers regularly visit parks and wildlife management areas, you likely can observe migratory birds in your very own backyard. Watts suggests looking for them along the edges of woods where birds seek refuge as they search for food. Interest and a good pair of binoculars are all that’s needed.

“I think it’s a way to let everybody enjoy nature and get outside,” Watts says. “I love to hear the bird song. I love to see a new bird. I love to see a bird that I see every day. It’s a spark of joy.”

The All About Birds website, through the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, can help identify bird species. Cor-

nell also provides eBird, a database of bird observations. The Alabama Birding Trails website has a link to the eBird database for each site on its trails.

Visit for specific county and site information.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Graham Farm and Nature Center

Located in Estillfork, cerulean warblers have been spotted at the nature center, eastern bluebirds nest on the property and a variety of hawks are year-round residents. Look for loggerhead shrikes hunting along fence rows.

4 MAY 2024
ABOVE: Scarlet tanager is among the species you may see at Russell Cave National Monument, one of the sites on the Alabama Birding Trails. RIGHT: A hummingbird spreads its wings. Jackson County has nine sites on the birding trails, while Marshall County features seven.

Guntersville State Park

Considered a premier birding area for Northeast Alabama, bald eagles and waterfowl can be seen in the winter. Migration times bring warblers, vireos, tanagers and grosbeaks to the park’s woods. Great blue herons and great egrets nest on the lake’s islands.

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area

LEFT: A broad-winged hawk sits on a powerline perch. Alabama is home to 430 documented bird species.

BELOW: A palm warbler is commonly seen at sites along the North Alabama Birding Trail.

Skyline Wildlife Management Area

Roy B. Whitaker Paint Rock River Preserve

Spring, summer and fall are the best seasons for birding at the preserve — once a working farm now owned by The Nature Conservancy. Grasslands attract grasshopper sparrows and scissor-tailed flycatchers. The woods provide nesting sites for great crested flycatchers and red-eyed vireos.

Spring brings yellow-breasted chats, field sparrows, indigo buntings and prairie warblers. Skyline is also home to the state’s only population of ruffed grouse, whose drumming might be heard during the spring.

Stevenson Town Park

Bordering Crow Creek, the park provides opportunities to see common loons, horned grebes, herons and other shorebirds. Spring, fall and winter are the best seasons for birding. n

American coots and common moorhens can be seen throughout the year along with wading birds, like great blue and green herons. The wildlife management area was the hatching site that first reintroduced bald eagles to Alabama’s Tennessee River Valley.

North Sauty Creek/Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge

North Sauty Creek hosts a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds during migration times and in the winter. The nearby Sauta Cave is home to endangered gray bats. In the summer at dusk, the cave has the largest emergence of bats east of the Mississippi River. Songbirds include summer tanagers and prothonotary warblers.

Russell Cave National Monument

Summer and scarlet tanagers, as well as yellow-billed cuckoos, can be spotted along the boardwalk and nature trails at Russell Cave, where spring and fall are the best times for bird-watching. Warblers and vireos also appear during migration times.

Alabama Living MAY 2024 5
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOE WATTS A Carolina wren is among the birds commonly seen in Alabama. The Alabama Birding Trails features 280 sites.

Paint Rock Valley Communiversity

Former high school to house educational outreach program

The term “communiversity” is being used to describe the future of an innovative school that blends the Paint Rock Valley community and Alabama A&M University. Closed in 2018, the former Paint Rock Valley High School building will eventually house educational outreach programs offered by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, also known as ACES.

“We look for those small communities where it’s very hard for them to participate in programs, especially if they are offered far away from those small communities,” says Majed Dweik, vice president of research and economic development at Alabama A&M University. “Being in that community and having that physical presence, it will allow us to have better interaction with that small community, so they don’t feel they’re lost or forgotten.”

Last year, the Jackson County Board of Education transferred ownership of the historic Paint Rock Valley High School to AAMU. It was one of the largest nonmonetary gifts in the university’s history.

Joining forces

Plans for the campus are part of the Paint Rock Valley Collaboration Project, a joint effort between the Jackson County Board of Education, AAMU and ACES, along with the Graham Farm and Nature Center, the Jackson County Commission and Singing River Trails.

Dweik envisions a future at Paint Rock Valley High School that includes extension programs offered by ACES on behalf of the state’s two land-grant universities, AAMU and Auburn University. Such programs might include youth outreach, small business and community development as well as forestry and agricultural research, he says.

“Paint Rock really is a special site. It is special to the community,” Dweik says.

Paint Rock Valley High School opened in 1935, built with stones carried to the construction site by residents wanting more opportunities for the children in the region. When the school closed in 2018, it was serving 73 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade.

Taylor Myers is the new facilities and operations coordinator for the Paint Rock Valley center. Having studied fruit and vegetable production at Auburn, Myers lived in the Paint Rock Valley area while doing research for his master’s degree in sustainable communities. With his background in small-market farming, Myers hopes the facility can promote urban agriculture and market-style farming through education and demonstration.

“There’s just an amazing opportunity here for Alabama A&M, the extension and for the community,” he says.

Breathing new life into old buildings

Myers is excited the former school campus has a future, and the surrounding community will be able to use the historic school building. He will interview people in the community to gather history about the school and the Paint Rock Valley area.

“I think the community is highly invested,” Myers says. “Alabama A&M is choosing to invest in this community and invest in this facility.”

6 MAY 2024

The time frame for opening the center depends on when renovations can be completed to bring the buildings into compliance with current codes. Along with the original main school building, other buildings housed the school’s gym and vocational programs. The school’s library, built in the 1990s, could be the first to reopen as it is the newest building on the 8-acre campus.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Graham Farm and Nature Center is 2 miles from the Paint Rock Valley

campus. Nita Graham Head, the previous owner of Graham Farm who donated the property to ACES, was a graduate of Paint Rock Valley High School.

Themika Sims, director of Graham Farm, says the two entities will work in tandem on programs for the community, the region and the state. The Paint Rock community’s involvement in the facility is just as important as the collaboration between the other parties, he says.

“What we’re doing now is researching what schools at Alabama A&M are inter-

OPPOSITE: The former Paint Rock Valley High School library building is among those on the school campus.

LEFT: The Jackson County Board of Education transferred ownership of the Paint Rock Valley High School campus to Alabama A&M University in 2023.

ested in bringing their programs there,” Sims says. “We know for certain that forestry is interested, because one of the reasons that this happened is because of the location of the school to the Graham Farm and Nature Center.”

Jackson County Board of Education President Chad Gorham is also excited about the possibilities for Paint Rock Valley and for students from Jackson County and beyond to experience the facility. The school board, Gorham says, is thankful that the history and legacy of Paint Rock Valley High School will live on.

“Paint Rock Valley is such a special area full of beautiful and unique plants, animals and vegetation,” Gorham says. “Members of the Jackson County Board of Education hope that Paint Rock Valley Communiversity becomes a destination for learning and exploring for students and citizens all across Alabama.” n

The school buildings, including the gymnasium, will undergo renovations before Alabama Cooperative Extension System brings its programs to the community.

Alabama Living MAY 2024 7

Asalute to seniors

Trevor Baugh

Trevor Baugh is the son of Sherrie and Travis Baugh, a lineman at North Alabama Electric Cooperative.

Trevor is a senior at Grant’s Kate Duncan Smith DAR High School. He is a member of Honor Society, FFA, Historical Society and FCA. He has played varsity football for four years and was co-captain his senior year, earning 2023 Class 4A All-Region 8 Team honors. Trevor’s classmates voted him as class favorite, most athletic and best hair.

After graduation, Trevor plans to attend Calhoun Community College where he will train and follow in his father’s footsteps as a lineman.

Jaslynn Wilkinson

Jaslynn Rain Wilkinson attends Skyline High School and is the daughter of Akisha and Jason Wilkinson, a fiber lineman with NAEC.

Jaslynn has two older siblings. The 17-year-old likes to spend time with her family, play basketball, nap and learn about psychology. Dr Pepper, Zaxby’s, Lululemon and mint green — her favorite color — are a few of her favorite things.

While attending high school, Jaslynn has been dual enrolled at Northeast Alabama Community College. She is set to receive an associate of science degree this summer with a focus on child psychology. With her associate degree in hand, Jaslynn plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree and then hopes to go to UAB to finish a master’s degree and doctorate in child psychology. Her goals are to open her own clinic, serve as a foster parent for a large number of children and eventually start a family of her own.

Mary-Katherine Patton

Mary-Katherine Patton is the daughter of Steve and Angie Patton. Steve is a foreman at NAEC.

Mary-Katherine is a senior at North Sand Mountain High School and attends Ebenezer Baptist Church in Bryant. She is a member of FCCLA, Senior Beta, PRIDE, Science Club, FFA and the varsity softball team. Mary-Katherine plans to attend college to earn certification as a pharmaceutical technician. n

8 MAY 2024

Isabel loves helping grandma, Krista Helms, make cupcakes for papa Rick and her mommy. She loves eating them, too. SUBMITTED by Wiliam Helms, Valley Head.


Brooks, 1, helping out on his great grandparents’ farm in Megargel. SUBMITTED by Audra Wilson, Monroeville. RULES:

July theme: “Dog Days of Summer” | Deadline: May 31 Online: | Mail: Attn: Snapshots, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124
Photos submitted for publication may also be published on our website at and on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to have photos returned.
Oakley went to get her first haircut and she wanted to help. SUBMITTED by Stephanie Tilley, Union Grove.
| Alabama Snapshots | Mom’s little helper Alabama Living MAY 2024 9
My daughter Kaylee Bonner, 6 years old, helping me make cornbread. SUBMITTED by Elizabeth Bonner, Monroeville.

EcoWild Outdoor Expo set for May 10-12

Alabama’s natural wonders and diverse ecosystems will be the highlight of the first EcoWild Outdoor Expo, a three-day event to be held at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile May 10-12.

“We want EcoWild to be a family-friendly show that reflects the character of the Gulf Coast,” says Stephen Potts, executive director of EcoWild and assistant publisher of Mobile Bay magazine. “We’ve planned an event that accomplishes that mission. We truly have something for everyone, no matter their activity level, from strolling our well-appointed art gallery to scaling a 26-foot-tall rock wall!”

Additional attractions include kids’ fishing; hunters’ education; axe throwing; raptor shows (Saturday only); dog demonstrations; STEM-based nature challenges; archery; honey harvesting; saltwater touch tanks; walk-through butterfly house; giant alligator slide; BB-gun range; confiscated wild game trailer; campground; and a Sunday-only appearance from the Auburn Eagle.

adds, “including our presenting sponsor, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, along with Outdoor Alabama, the University of South Alabama, Gulf Distributing, Army Bass Anglers, Bellingrath Gardens and Home, The Southern Outdoorsmen, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Quail Forever, Alabama Tourism Department, Montgomery Whitewater, Alabama Audubon, Alabama Black Belt Adventures, Exploreum Science Center, National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Boy Scouts of America Mobile Area Council.”

More information and tickets are available at Speaker topics include “The Wild Places of Alabama,” “Furbearer and Predator Management,” “Sharing the Gulf with Manatees,” and “Cultivating the Beauty of Native Alabama Trillium.”

“Top Alabama organizations will be onsite all weekend,” Potts

Whereville, AL

Identify and place this Alabama landmark and you could win $25! Winner is chosen at random from all correct entries. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. Send your answer with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative, if applicable. The winner and answer will be announced in the June issue.

Submit by email:, or by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124.

Contribute a photo you took 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 chosen will also win $25.

The expo is the only show of its kind on the Gulf Coast, showcasing the area’s natural resources, the best in outdoor lifestyle gear, and conservation initiatives that keep outdoor activities accessible, now and in the future. Organizers expect to host 5,000 attendees.

Find the hidden dingbat!

The hidden dingbat from last month, a golf ball, didn’t roll away from too many of you as we had more than 270 correct entries that told us the ball was perched in the glass display case in the photo of the crew from Southern Pine EC on Page 30. Ada Mae Graham from Spruce Pine, a member of Franklin EC, wrote us, “I am so glad no one is going to use their golf club because swinging at that golf ball would cause a lot of glass to fall.” Elaine Robinson from Brewton said she and her husband look forward to getting the magazine every month. “He likes the crossword puzzle and the recipes were my ‘go to’ until you started the Dingbat Find,” she wrote. “We both enjoy the magazine from cover to cover, always so informative.” Thanks, Elaine and Gary! We also heard from Candy Frazier, who wrote that the Southern Pine employee pictured and whose life was saved is her grandson. “I am so thankful that God didn’t take him from me,” she wrote. “I will be eternally grateful for the men on his crew and all of Southern Pine.” We are, too, Candy.

This month, we are hiding a sombrero to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, so good luck. Our randomly drawn winner from April is Itylene Benedick of Jack, a member of South Alabama EC, who wins a $25 gift card from our sponsor, Alabama One Credit Union. Congratulations!

April’s answer: Judging from the guesses we received, there are apparently many train cabooses all across Alabama! Guesses included Foley, Cullman, Chickasaw, Montgomery, Elkmont and others. But this particular caboose is in the town park in Gilbertown, in Choctaw County, and was recently restored; the town hopes to be able to eventually rent the caboose for events and other purposes. This picture was taken before the new lettering was finished. (Photo contributed by Donna Maten Carney of Gilbertown.) The randomly drawn correct guess winner is Rebecca Roberson of Joe Wheeler EMC.

Find the

Alabama Living PO Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

10 MAY 2024
Spotlight | May

Registration for Alabama State Games continues

The 41st Alabama State Games, scheduled this year for sites in Birmingham and Jefferson County, is an annual amateur multi-sport competition with nearly 5,000 athletes competing in 20-plus sports for gold, silver and bronze medals and opportunities to be awarded academic scholarships.

Registration is open and is continuing for the games, which are June 7-9. Among the more popular sports are soccer, baseball and, for the first time, powerlifting.

The games were founded in 1982 at the request of the U.S. Olympic Committee to encourage academic success, healthy living and community leadership. As part of this year’s games, the nonprofit ASF Foundation, which hosts the Alabama State Games, will award $40,000 in academic scholarships on June 7.

For more information or to register, visit and

Take us along!

Jacob Bright of Arab, a member of Arab EC, visited Baxter State Park in Maine with Louis DiFrederico of Millinocket, ME.

Margaret Taylor from Bryant, a member of Sand Mountain EC, took her magazine on a vacation last year out west, visiting Glacier National Park in Montana and Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. “It was the best vacation and everyone should go see science at work in nature,” she says.

We’ve enjoyed seeing photos from our readers on their travels with Alabama Living! Please send us a photo of you with a copy of the magazine on your travels to: Be sure to include your name, hometown and electric cooperative, and the location of your photo. We’ll draw a winner for the $25 prize each month. Make sure your photo is clear, in focus and not in shadow.

Shane and Jennifer Brown and Kevin and Alanna Twilley from Cullman, members of Cullman EC, have been friends since elementary school and love cruising together. They recently took an Eastern Caribbean cruise and brought Alabama Living out for a picture in Freeport, Bahamas.


Letters to the editor

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

‘Fishmaster’ grateful

I would like to thank you for choosing me for the article featured in the Outdoors section in the April edition of Alabama Living magazine! In all my life, I never really ever thought something like this would happen to me. It has been the honor of my life and I pray that it had a positive effect on all who read it. Thank you again!

Ryan Gunn (“The Fishmaster”)


Sierra’s sees new faces

We can’t thank you enough for the beautiful article and cover (Arab EC edition)! We were pleasantly surprised to see that. We have seen lots of new faces from surrounding communities, thanks to your piece. We appreciate you so much. If you’re in town again please reach out. We’d love to have you for lunch.

Alex, Crystal & staff at Sierra’s


Turkey article informative

I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed the article about the declining turkey population in last month’s magazine.  By coincidence, I was discussing turkey hunting with one of my coworkers earlier in the week, and she too had mentioned the declining population.  Mr. Felsher’s article was extremely informative.

Dave Florey Silverhill

Swinging memories

I just enjoyed reading your “A Swing in the Woods,” (“Cup o’ Joe,” April 2024).  It sure brought back memories.  Ropes were favorite toys  for my brother and me, along with roller skates and bicycles. And the woods started right behind our house, and it was only a short climb to be at the top of Red Mountain where we explored the old iron ore caves.  Those were the days!

Doug Carpenter Mountain Brook

Liked linemen articles

Thank you for the articles written by the two linemen, Jarred Whitaker and Jeff Malone, in your recent issue. Very interesting and informative!  Everyone should read them.

Teri Ingram

Titus, AL

May | Spotlight
Youth soccer is one of the more popular sports team competitions at the Alabama State Games, which this year is June 7-9. Carlene Thornton Fort Mitchell, a member of Tallapoosa River EC, traveled to the Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona. The McDowell Mountains can be seen in the background.
Alabama Living MAY 2024 11

Black Belt bakery aims to nourish community through food Greensboro baker fuses

Egyptian, Southern flavors

Ablock behind the heart of Greensboro, Alabama’s tiny downtown, a small cottage painted pine-tree green is flying a flag that whips in the wind before unfurling to proclaim: “Love each other.” The house was once a home, but today, a small hand-lettered sign near the sidewalk says it’s Abadir’s Cottage, homebase for the food business Abadir’s that Sarah Cole has been building since 2020.

In its kitchen, Cole deftly draws from her family’s Egyptian heritage, stirs in some of her upbringing in nearby Demopolis and blends it with skills gained during some time in Pennsylvania resulting in a Middle East-meets-Alabama cuisine that’s all her own. She dreams up and whips up sweet and savory pastries, cookies, breads, sandwiches, stews, salads and beautiful fresh-flower-festooned cakes for catering gigs, website orders and for sale at farmers markets and pop-up events, and soon, from the Greensboro cottage space.

Her recipes are often her own twists on classics, and not all of her Egyptian treats are strictly traditional. Ingredient lists include usual Southern suspects like tomatoes, okra and molasses but Middle Eastern flavors too, like honey, dates, anise, coriander and rosewater. Her Alabama upbringing and devotion to using seasonal, local ingredients, particularly produce (often from her own garden), are routinely in the mix, exemplified in her cornmeal poundcake with fine-ground coriander seeds and almonds, carrot cake with dried apricots, and her pickled collards stuffed with herbed rice, a nod to Egyptian stuffed grape leaves. Abadir’s roasted carrot dip with turmeric is earthy and smooth. Cake frostings are often laced with cardamom and other spices. A fan favorite, Cole’s toasty tahini cookies are her riff on a sugar cookie that’s lightened and then infused with Arab touches, like nutty sesame seeds and tahini. Her bright yellow sfouf, an Arab cake with coconut and turmeric, is another best-seller. Anytime her menu includes maamoul, an Egyptian take on shortbread stuffed with dates, it sells out. And many of Cole’s creations are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free.

12 MAY 2024
Sarah Cole, founder of Abadir’s. PHOTO BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY

Community at the core

But that flag out front points to the true nature of the nourishment Abadir’s aims to provide. “I love to make and share food, but I want to nurture this community too,” she says. “I think food is just a great way to do that.” Abadir’s is anchored by a mission to improve access to healthy food and food education, like workshops to increase nutritional knowledge and cooking classes to teach basic kitchen skills and simple recipes, while also harnessing food’s power to foster connections.

It’s why every ingredient’s nutritional value is considered before making the cut. Cole uses a sourdough base (instead of yeast) to lift every style bread she makes, even pita. She uses flours made from wholesome grains and opts for less refined sugar, relying on fruits and honey to sweeten treats. And many recipes make vegetables the star. “I’m not preachy about it, but I do hope to help people think about how what they eat affects their bodies,” she says.

It’s also why Cole is proud of Abadir’s becoming one of the first five certified B-corporation businesses in Alabama late last year. The designation means that a business is committed to positive social and environmental impacts and meets standards of performance, accountability and transparency in its efforts. “You can operate a for-profit business and do charitable things with it; B-corps are focused on giving back, and that’s what Abadir’s is,” she says.

raised Cole and her older sister. In 2017, Cole moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she turned a struggling farm market around by adding educational programming and community events. At the beginning of the pandemic, she went to work for a Pittsburgh bakery where her longtime affection for cooking was re-ignited.

During both jobs, thoughts of Abadir’s were simmering in the background. “I’d been thinking about a way to feed others for a while, and I soon figured out that it felt right to come back to Alabama to do what I was envisioning,” Cole says. And once she knew what she wanted to do, there was only one name to give it. “Abadir is my mother’s maiden name, but she and her family changed it to Anton when they moved to the United States so they didn’t stand out as ‘foreign,’” Cole says. “But I’ve always thought it was beautiful. And I love that it is unusual.”

Good taste, good deeds

The B-corp process took a full year and was challenging, but Cole says it was worth it. “For me, having the certification says, ‘I am doing what I say I am.’ This business exists to better my community. And the first four other B-corps are women-owned, too. I think together, we’re making a strong, collective statement about using businesses for good.”

Cole’s vision for improving people’s health and expanding their palates (she gets a thrill watching customers try and enjoy something new) will soon be executed in the new cottage space. “It’s a multi-use gathering and food space, a home for all Abadir’s is and wants to be,” she says.

Before baking

The Abadir’s story is still being written, but it began decades ago when, in 1983, Cole’s 28-year-old mother fled religious persecution in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak was in power, and her Christian mother (and others who shared her faith) were in danger under his rule. She and Cole’s grandparents settled in Demopolis. Cole’s mom met her dad in the local grocery store, they married, and

To implement her many ideas, Cole needed the right infrastructure. Abadir’s Cottage fit the bill; she’s been in the space since last spring and cooking up big plans ever since. “I do want a restaurant, but it’s not the time now, and that’s not what is needed here now,” she says. “A real passion is the food education component, so I now have the room to do classes and workshops, but I also want the cottage to be a place people can come and sit and just be, so I’m trying to make it really homey and comforting.”

It may not be a traditional restaurant, but the cottage will be filled with food. One of the front areas is outfitted with a glassfront fridge to hold frozen pita rounds and talami (a Middle Eastern flatbread), roasted-veggie-stuffed pita pockets, soups and other grab-and-go items like meals people can take home and heat up.

Abadir’s pastries and baked goods, Cole’s spice blends like aromatic za’atar and bold dukkah, and products from other local food makers line shelves, and she hinted that her pickled veggies and fruit jams will join them soon. “People can eat here at the tables if they want, and again, they can just come and sit. They don’t have to buy anything.”

The offerings will change with the seasons, and Cole says she’s getting excited about hosting special events and pop-up ticketed lunches and dinners here and there, some with visiting chefs. “I want offer some free community lunches too, and I’m working up a price-fixed lunch option, like something filling and wholesome that’s always X dollars.” Cole notes that being flexible is key to

Alabama Living MAY 2024 13
Cole has been in Abadir’s Cottage since last spring. It has space for classes and workshops as well as room for those who just want to ‘sit and just be.’ PHOTO BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY

Abadir’s strategy. “I want this to ebb and flow and evolve to always be a community-focused food business and stay true to the way I want to feed people,” she says.

Cole has also been instrumental in getting Greensboro’s new weekly farmer’s market going, which launches in early June and is not far from Abadir’s Cottage. “I’ll have the kitchen open, and we’ll be doing some classes to help people get the most out of the produce they can get at the market.”

Highlighting home

Last fall, Cole visited Egypt for the first time. She made the journey with her mother, who had not set foot in her homeland since leaving more than 40 years earlier. The experience only strengthened the family inspiration in Abadir’s foundation. “Seeing my mom reconnect to the place she grew up, that was huge, because so much of what I am doing in the kitchen is to hang onto these memories of her and my grandparents from my childhood,” she says. “All of that goes into my food. I’m aways thinking about them when I’m creating dishes.”

While it opened her eyes to new things — like the smoky dishes she ate in the Siwa Oasis that had been cooked buried in the surrounding desert’s sand — the trip also underscored some of the principles she holds to in Abadir’s. “Every region had its own different take on the same dish, and that’s true here, too. My mom has her own regional take on Egyptian cuisine because she cooked it here, so it was the Alabama version of the dishes,” she says. “It’s the same with me. I only have access to certain things, and then I blend in my memories, which are of here, so that all shapes my dishes. But that’s the beauty of food; it is personal. We are always making it our own.”

The fact that her food is as much Alabama as anything else makes Cole smile and fuels her determination to continue changing the narrative in her town and her state. “Alabama gets some negative headlines, and when it comes to the Black Belt, I think some people look at us and feel bad for this place, but that’s not how it is,” she says. “This is the most historically rich region in the entire nation. There are good roots and good stories and good people doing great things here. I’m just glad I can be a part of it.”

Many of Cole’s homemade layered cakes are festively decorated with fresh flowers and greenery.
Above, the seasonal sandwiches with housemade bread at Abadir’s are full of color and flavor. This breakfast sandwich features fried onion, local eggs, lemony roasted kale, smoky thin carrots, garlic lemon spread and scallion tahini spread. Below, the Abadir’s salads are packed with seasonal veggies, fruits and herbs, many from local farmers, and finished with homemade dressings. PHOTOS ON THIS PAGE BY SARAH COLE
Get social: abadir’s on Facebook eatabadirs on Instagram
Cole’s tahini cookie is similar to a sugar cookie, but infused with Arab touches like nutty sesame seeds.

Electric cooperatives recognize several with awards

The Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives, which publishes Alabama Living, presented several awards at its 77th Annual Meeting in April. AREA Board Chairman Vince Johnson and President and CEO Karl Rayborn were on hand to present the awards.

Patsy Holmes, near right, who served on the Central Alabama EC board for 30 years, was given the Chairman’s Award for extraordinary service on behalf of Alabama’s cooperatives.

Far right, Kathy Holcomb accepted the Bill Nichols award, given for going beyond the normal call of duty to further the principles and progress of rural electrification, on behalf of her late husband, Lavaughn Holcomb, member of the board at Marshall-Dekalb EC and the AREA board for many years.

Far left, Charles “Ed” Short, longtime manager at Covington EC, received the Eminent Service Award for his outstanding contributions to the rural electrification program at the state, regional and national level.

Tom Stackhouse, near left, president and CEO at Central Alabama EC for nearly 27 years, was given the Ted Jackson Pathfinder Award, bestowed on a person whose life has had a profound and lasting effect on the foundations of the rural electrification program in Alabama or the nation.

William Selby, assistant manager at North Alabama EC, was given the Jack Jenkins Award for his dedication to seeing that highspeed internet service was brought to some 7,000 unserved or underserved members in north Alabama.

The Alabama Media Excellence Award was given to WTVY of Dothan, accepted by General Manager Valerie Russell, far, left, for their downto-earth but professional approach in covering co-op and electric utility issues in the Wiregrass, and to Alabama Public Television, accepted by Government Affairs Director Jack Williams and Deputy Director Melissa Austin, for their support and recognition of cooperatives during the Alabama High School Athletic Association football and basketball championship playoffs broadcast on APT.

Southern Pine Manager Vince Johnson, left, was proud to present the second Chairman’s Award to employees John Paul, Darlene Chavers, Ben Crane and Jimmy Wilson for their quick action which saved the life of a coworker, Devin Collins, when a power line fell on his truck 2023.
Alabama Living

Fairhope inventor aims for a hole-in-one

With a press of a tiny button, an embedded computer chip in a 1.68-inch diameter orb comes to life. Powered by Bluetooth, the little sphere’s electrical sensors gather and send data to a nearby mobile device.

Your golf ball probably does not do that yet. Brian Heaton’s does.

The Fairhope resident invented the PuttLink Smart Golf Ball, which went to market last summer, and along the way, achieved the Best New Product 2023 PGA Show Winner award.

The ball looks, feels, and putts, like any another other golf ball with one distinction. “Ours has a computer in it,” Heaton notes, and he demonstrates.

The Eastern Shore inventor takes a putt at the pristine greens of Fairhope’s Lakewood Golf Club. As it rolls, the ball gathers and reports information. Heaton’s smartphone immediately announces, “7 feet, 6 inches” – the length of the putt.

cluding green conditions, ball speed, cup entry detection, and cup entry speed.

The golf ball registers other datapoints, via mobile device, in-

In addition, the personal putting statistics are stored in the phone’s app and viewed as graphs and charts. Knowledge is power. “This information was not readily available for most golfers before our PuttLink Smart Ball,” Heaton says. “Now it’s accessible as the putt is in progress.”

Such instant data can be beneficial in determining the golfer’s strengths and weaknesses because now, there’s an app for that.

Heaton’s inspiration for this sphere of distinction was his son, Michael, who at age 16 has won state championships. “But like most golfers, Michael disliked putting practice,” noted his father. “I wanted to make putting drills fun for him, so I designed an interactive golf ball that would make a cheering sound, when he did good or made the cup. I thought that was cool.”

“Cool” led to another idea. Heaton recalls, “I realized adding more information to the program running in the golf ball could be beneficial to golfers.” It could be a valuable train-

Brian Heaton displays his creation, the PuttLink Smart Golf Ball, in a discussion at Fairhope’s Lakewood Golf Club. PHOTO BY EMMETT BURNETT The electronic golf ball and the computer circuitry embedded in each PuttLink Smart Golf Ball. PHOTO BY BRIAN HEATON

ing tool if the app recorded the ball’s speed and distance, track statistics, and other putting applications.

“Putting practice is mundane,” he says. “Unlike the instant gratification of hitting a 200-yard drive, watching it in flight, and shouting, ‘Wow, look what I did!’, you’re often alone and rarely receive recognition or statistics. But you should because putting is vital.”

Approximately 40 to 60 percent of a golfer’s strokes are in putting. The putter is the most important club in your golf bag. As Heaton adds, “Almost every golf hole ends in a putt.”

Competition on the green

The ball records data and achievements that can be shared with other golfers anywhere in the world. In addition to making putting practice exciting, it can be competitive as users try to outdo each other’s stats.

Now one would assume hollowing out a small cavity in a 1.68inch orb, inserting a battery, blue tooth transmitter, and sensors, transforming the golf ball into a rolling computer, is a sizable task. One would be correct.

“I worked on a couple of prototypes but two years into it, I knew I needed help on the app. I’m a mechanical engineer by trade, but not a computer software engineer.”

He reached out to three talented men for their expertise: Matt Smith in Nashville and Jeremy Hamilton of Portland, Maine are the computer program designers. Mike Smith of Atlanta is the marketing/ development specialist. Heaton’s duties include overseeing assembly, inventory, distribution and sales.

“Our golf ball must be the same weight (46 grams) and measurements (1.68-inch diameter) as a ‘real’ golf ball, and it is.”

As for production, PuttLink Smart Golf Balls’ circuit assembly is in Canada, the balls are from Louisiana, and final assembly and packaging are done in Brewton, Alabama. Orders are processed in Fairhope. “Everything is done in North America,” Heaton says. “We are proud of that.”

PuttLink officially launched on June 1, 2023. The smart ball products began delivery to customers a few days earlier than the company startup.

But the innovative golf balls were first introduced to the golfing community earlier in the summer at the 2023 PGA Show and scored a hole in one. PuttLink’s smart ball won Best New Product of the Year.

“ There is nothing quite like it,” Mike Smith says, explaining the PuttLink Smart Ball. “Brian’s innovation was unique, but it came with challenges, like how do you get something in a golf ball that doesn’t impact the roll? Also, the timing of the Bluetooth low energy that powers the ball had to be just right. We had to improve the ball’s battery life (two years) too.”

Creation to market covered 5 years. “It took us a year to figure out how to cut the ball precisely,” Heaton recalls. “We developed specialty saws to split the golf ball right down the middle with surgical precision.”

The ball must roll identically to a “real” golf ball, and it does.

“We were honored to receive the award,” Heaton says. “Everybody at the show seemed interested in our product and since then, customer feedback has been good.”

To date, PuttLink has the only smart ball for putting in the world. The PuttLink team emphasizes that the ball is for putting practice, not actual golf games.

Other neat facts: A PuttLink’s ball’s transmitting range is up to 30 feet. It works through a light sensing system. Every time the ball rolls it “sees” light and dark and calculates decisions based on what it sees.

PuttLink Smart Golf Balls support Apple and Android mobile devices and will come soon to smart watches.

One caveat before you divot: The electronic ball is designed to be struck by a putter and no other club.

Currently, PuttLink’s Smart Balls are available through the company website, Other sales venues are being explored, including big box sporting goods stores and internet sales. “I love the potential for this product,” Mike Smith says. “We are taking what the industry calls a ‘crawl, walk, run,’ concept. The product was launched in June and now we are going after the bigger guys to sell it, including major golf retailers.”

An idea born in Fairhope may soon have a world customer base, as PuttLink’s Smart Golf Balls keep rolling along, as they are supposed to, each with an onboard computer, ready to help golfers in need.

More info at

18 MAY 2024
In a demonstration at Fairhope’s Lakewood Golf Club at the Grand Hotel, Brian Heaton putts the PuttLink Smart Ball. As the ball travels, it transmits data to the golfer’s mobile device. PHOTO BY EMMETT BURNETT

The circuitous life of an Alabama storyteller Fred Hunter embarks on the next phase of his storytelling journey

“There’s a story everywhere you look for one,” says Fred Hunter. And he’s always looking.

While viewers of Birmingham television station WBRC have long appreciated his delivery of timely and accurate weather news, it’s not meteorology that Hunter is best known for. People across the state recognize the man under his trademark Stetson hat as the face of the program, “Absolutely Alabama.”

The long-running series took Hunter and his faithful photographer Mike Tucker to all corners of Alabama and everywhere in between, capturing the stories of the people, places, and events that contribute to the state’s character. Originally a 30-minute show when launched in 1997, it was later changed to a series of three- to five-minute pieces that ran as segments in newscasts and as YouTube videos.

“We explored small towns, big cities, and Alabama’s rural countryside to uncover the sometimes hidden but always fascinating stories that comprise our state’s rich cultural tapestry,” says Hunter. “Practically everywhere I go — especially if I’m wearing the Stet-

son — people stop and talk to me about their favorite episodes.”

“Absolutely Alabama” ended its 25-year run in December 2022. Hunter retired from his life as a meteorologist in April, but is quick to point out that a storyteller never retires.

“I’m a product of Alabama,” Hunter says. “I sprouted from the rich soil of Northeast Alabama and was fed and watered across every region of our great state. I’ll be telling her stories until the day they lower me into the Alabama soil.”

Growing up co-op

Hunter was born in Fort Payne and his parents brought him home to the Chavies community near Rainsville, served by Sand Mountain Electric Cooperative. His father’s work in retail took the family to several towns across the state, including two stints in Opp where they lived on the Covington Electric Cooperative system. They returned to Sand Mountain in the 1960s, where Hunter graduated from Fyffe High School.

“To me, the electric cooperative story has always been one of the

20 MAY 2024
Fred Hunter, wearing his trademark Stetson, pauses at the trailhead of the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail during filming of a segment of “Absolutely Alabama” on the Alabama Birding Trail. PHOTO BY MIKEL YEAKLE

greatest examples of neighbors taking care of one another,” says Hunter. “The rural south was so far behind the rest of the country in terms of infrastructure, and the electric cooperative program helped us help ourselves. Some of the finest, hardest-working people I ever met growing up were those linemen and the rest of the folks who ran the co-ops. They were the pillars of the community.”

Although today he lives outside of Tuscaloosa, Hunter and his wife Ivy have continued their cooperative connection. They previously owned property on the Baldwin EMC system and today enjoy their cabin getaway on Lookout Mountain near Mentone, served by Cherokee Electric Cooperative.

Texas and back again

Hunter earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama in the mid-1970s, while taking advantage of distance learning with Mississippi State University to become certified in meteorology. Following roles at TV stations in Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, and Myrtle Beach, Hunter landed a position at KTBC in Austin, Texas. He fell in love with the music, food, history, and people of the city.

It was here that Hunter’s life as a storyteller began in full force. “Shortly after taking on the weather duties, I was called to a meeting with the station’s general manager,” Hunter relates. “He told me that the station — like so many others, even to this day — received numerous viewer complaints about all the negative stories they aired. He wanted me to start a series called ‘Positively Texas.’ I began the series where all great Texas stories begin — at the Alamo.”

For more than two years, Hunter shared positive Texas stories with KTBC viewers. But in the spring of 1997 when he heard of a meteorologist job opening in Birmingham, he knew this was a chance to move back home. “I loved Austin,” he explains, “but as Coach Bryant said when explaining his decision to leave Texas A&M for the head coaching job at the University of Alabama, ‘Momma called.’”

What followed was the most unusual — and shortest — interview of Hunter’s career. “I walked into the news director’s office at WBRC,” he recalls, “where I was greeted by Peggy, a no-nonsense red-haired woman with Texas roots. She said, ‘You’re coming back to Birmingham to be my weekend weatherman, and you’re going to produce a weekly series like ‘Positively Texas.’ We’re going to call it ‘Absolutely Alabama.’ I’ve already spoken to your news director in Austin. You start in two weeks. I can’t give you a raise from what you’re making, but I can get you back home. Do you have any questions?’”

“No ma’am,” was his reply, and the “Absolutely Alabama” journey began.

‘Absolutely Alabama’ and Beyond

For 25 years, Hunter shared stories about people from all walks of life through the popular series. He visited owners of restaurants and small businesses. A specialty sock manufacturer, cracker maker and innkeeper. Craftsmen and entrepreneurs of all ilk. Artists, creators, musicians. From the W.C. Handy Music Festival in Florence to the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Hunter was there showing the world all that is special about his home state.

And he isn’t finished. While he’s not returning to television, Hunter plans to continue telling stories in his retirement. His new project is called, aptly, “Fred Hunter’s Alabama.” It features a website,, along with an email newsletter. At the center of this personal project is a new podcast, which can be found on all major podcast platforms under the name Fred Hunter’s Alabama.

As he begins a new chapter in life, Hunter is excited to share Alabama stories with old friends while introducing a new generation of readers and listeners to the fascinating people, places, and adventures of their state.

“Storytelling is in my blood,” Hunter says. “It’s part of who I am, and something I hope to keep doing for many years to come.”

At left, Hunter visits with innkeeper Cynthia Stinson at the Mentone Inn Bed & Breakfast. At right, the logo for his new project which includes a podcast, “Fred Hunter’ Alabama,” and below, visiting with Chris Richardson of Richardson Axeworks in Bluff Park.


A hip and caféhomey in the heart of the Black Belt

With its exposed brick walls, rough-hewn beams overhead and sleek, bare-bulb light fixtures, The Stable, A Southern Coffee Pub, has all the visual hallmarks of a trendy café.

A sandwich board out front lists its tasty offerings and industrial-looking awnings throw shade over bright red metal café tables on the sidewalk. It often hosts live music shows, some advertised on funky, artsy band posters. This restaurant would be right at home in a metro area like Birmingham or Mobile. But instead, it’s deep in the heart of Alabama’s rural Black Belt region, downtown in tiny Greensboro, population approximately 2,150.

An affection for coffee fueled owner Monique “Mo” Kitchen’s desire to open the spot in 2017, and it was more than the hot, dark energy-inducing drink that she wanted to offer. “I love the relaxed vibe of coffee shops,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed spending time in them wherever I’ve lived or traveled.”

The former vet tech moved to Greensboro from Birmingham two decades ago, and not long after arriving, started thinking about a space she wished the city had. She felt Greensboro needed some high-quality coffee, but also a hip and homey space to hang out in. If she built it, she thought, they would come.

The Stable

1120 Main Street, Greensboro, AL


She was right. If you pop in The Stable around lunchtime on a weekday, you’ll likely find it packed with a diverse range of diners. A father reclining on a leather sofa in a cozy sitting area sips a cappuccino while watching his toddler son flip through a board book. At a corner table, two female friends are laughing over a shared slice of peanut butter cream pie. A large group of older folks dig into the day’s special, a loaded baked potato overflowing with smoky pulled pork.

When it first opened, Kitchen had two partners, and they convinced her to add food to the coffee selections. Despite her name, she doesn’t really enjoy cooking. “But I do it, and we do it all. We make almost everything from scratch here,” she says. “I have a friend who does the pork butts for me, and I get whole-grain sourdough bread from Abadir’s, a local bakery. Customers love that stuff, and I hope to get more from her in the future.”

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Closed Sundays Watch The Stable’s Facebook and Instagram pages for announcements of special events/hours.

The menu is vast, with wraps and sandwiches, salads and pizzas, plus breakfast selections (served all day on Saturdays). The Little Big Town sammy is a big hit, loaded with turkey, cheddar, avocado spread and a tangy chipotle sauce. Any time is a good time to order the Harvest Time salad, a mound of crisp field greens with sliced turkey, feta, tart dried cranberries, crunchy apple chunks and chopped walnuts drizzled with bright lemon vinaigrette. The chicken salad is basic but a beloved best seller. “It’s simple: chicken baked in a convection oven to keep it moist and tender, then shredded and mixed with salt and pepper, a little mayo, some celery and sliced grapes,” Kitchen says. Her usual pick is The Stable Sampler, a scoop each of chicken salad, pimento cheese and cream cheese topped with spicy-sweet pepper jelly with crackers for shoveling it all into your mouth.

24 MAY 2024
Greensboro l The coffee counter at The Stable is the spot to grab a drink from a long list of hot and iced coffee concoctions.
| Worth the drive |
The Harvest Time salad is a satisfying mix of crunchy, tart, sweet and tangy.
Alabama Living MAY 2024 25

And if you save room for dessert, you’re in for a treat. Greensboro’s once-famous but now-defunct Pie Lab isn’t completely gone. The last owner sold the recipes to a local man who now operates Greensboro Pie, and his delights — from chocolate chess and Key Lime to pecan and brown-sugar buttermilk — are available at The Stable.

And what’s a piece of pie without a hot cup of coffee? And not just any ole coffee. Since the original idea for The Stable revolved around the drink, Kitchen sources the good stuff: Revival Coffee, roasted in small batches in Selma. “It’s what we serve, and we sell it by the bag too,” she says. Rich and strong, it doesn’t just taste good; it’s a mission-based business that does good too, donating a portion of proceeds to causes like stopping human trafficking. “I think that’s really cool, and I’m proud to play some small part by supporting them.”

When the lunch crowd dies down, others meander in mainly for a cup of joe – the toasted marshmallow latte is a local favorite. They snag one of the stools at the long, slim tables up against the front windows to watch life on Main Street go by. Such life is ad-

mittedly far less busy and far more leisurely than a larger city, but that’s something else Kitchen hopes to change.

“Even though I’m not a native, I love this town,” she says. “We have a few new restaurants here, like really great Thai food right next door, but I would love to see more spots open up on this street.”

She’s also working to restore the historic 1884 building housing The Stable. In addition to a general store, its past lives include time as an auction house, which dovetails nicely with some fundraising plans. “I’m hoping to do a silent auction of some local artists’ works to raise money for some of the needed repairs and restoration work,” she says. “I want to make sure the place stays comfortable and looking good. It’s a place for everybody.”

Creating a gathering space for the Greensboro community was always part of Kitchen’s plan, and The Stable’s many regulars are rewarding her efforts. “That’s why I still do this and will keep doing it even when it sometimes gets overwhelming,” she says. “People come in here and sit and talk and eat, and I can see that they’re happy here. That’s just cool.”

26 MAY 2024
Clockwise from top left: Outside, a few café tables are perfect perches when the weather is nice; the Stable’s interior welcomes guests with a comfy sitting area for lounging; a glimpse of the Greensboro Pie delights available at The Stable; the street-front window bar is perfect for eating and people watching; owner Mo Kitchen at one of The Stable’s sidewalk tables.

What you can do if you have a Social Security or SSI overpayment

n overpayment occurs when Social Security pays a person more money in Social Security benefits or SSI payments than should have been paid. The amount of the overpayment is the difference between the payment received and the amount that was due.

Social Security is required by law to adjust benefits or recover debts when an overpayment occurs. If you receive an overpayment notice, it will explain why you’ve been overpaid, the overpayment amount, your repayment options, and your appeal and waiver rights.

After receiving an overpayment notice, you can:

• Repay the overpayment in full or through a repayment plan by check, money order, credit card or by monthly reductions from your So-

cial Security benefit. You may be able to make a full or partial repayment using or your bank’s online bill pay option. We offer flexible repayment plans, including payments as low as $10 per month.

• Appeal the overpayment if you don’t agree that you’ve been overpaid, or you believe the amount is incorrect. You can request a non-medical reconsideration online or you can submit a completed SSA-561, Request for Reconsideration, to your local Social Security office.

• Request that we waive the overpayment if you believe you are not at fault for causing the overpayment AND you cannot afford to pay the money back or it is unfair for some other reason. You can ask for a waiver by submitting a completed SSA-632, Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery, to your local office. If your overpayment is $1,000 or less, we may be able to process your waiver request quickly by telephone. You can contact your lo-


cal office or call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

• Request a different repayment amount if you are unable to meet your necessary living expenses due to the current repayment amount. If you are unable to repay the debt within 60 months* due to the negotiated repayment amount, you will be asked to complete form SSA-634, Request for Change in Overpayment Recovery Rate. You can find the form at

*This is a recent policy change. Previous policy required the completion of the SSA-634 if the overpayment could not be repaid within 36 months. To learn more about overpayments and our process, visit our Understanding SSI Overpayments webpage at text-overpay-ussi.htm, read our Overpayments fact sheet at assets/materials/EN-05-10106.pdf, or watch our Overpayment video at youtube. com/watch?v=pxYYcjqkFvM.

Across 1 Beautiful shrub with white flowers 6 Grass around a home 9 Mischievous creature 11 Marks a survey 12 Migratory garden visitors in the Cardinal family of birds 15 Purple perennial 19 Goal 21 Flowering ___ (white flowered tree) 22 Doctor’s title, abbr. 23 Depart 26 A large lot perhaps 28 Alabama state flower 32 Green field 33 Floating like a butterfly 34 Garden shrub 35 Tummy muscles, abbr. 36 Vine supports Down 1 Potting ___ (used to boost young flower growth) 2 Grace ending 3 Modern map 4 E-mail address ending 5 Promise at the altar, 2 words 7 Rhododendron kin 8 Bird’s home 10 Flowering 13 Regret 14 Showy flower which can be pink, white or blue 15 Part of a machine 16 Small recess 1 7 Enriched 18 Set up 20 Alabama state butterflies 24 French for soul
Rises like ivy on a wall 27 Drops from the sky 29 Pool problem 30 Painting stand for an artist 31 Earth
Answers on Page 45
Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at

Bethany Collins will have a solo exhibition, “Accord,” all month at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine

Around Alabama

18 Winfield At the Historic Pastime Theatre, the Alabama Troubadours will celebrate the music of singer/songwriter John Prine. 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the theatre office, Gold Connection, the Kemp Foundation and Winfield City Hall. 205-487-3002 or find the theatre’s page on Facebook.


Scottsboro 23rd annual Catfish Festival, Jackson County Park. 8 a.m., rain or shine. Fun for the whole family, with car, truck and motorcycle shows, arts, crafts, food trucks, vendors, entertainment by the Bowmans, kids’ area, free catfishing for kids, inflatables, train rides and more. 256-609-1409.


Foley Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival, OWA Parks and Resort. Flights showcasing more than 50 balloons from across the nation, plus a festival with food, retail and arts and crafts vendors, live music, free lawn games, a K9 Frisbee show, Gulf Coast Zoo meet and greet, tethered rides, pilot meet and greets and more. Balloon activities are wind and weather permitting. GulfCoastBalloonFestival. com

3-4 Troy Thunder on Three Notch, Pioneer Museum of Alabama, 248 U.S. Highway 231 North. Skilled artisans and craftsmen dressed in period clothing demonstrate folk arts and crafts. Event features daily reenactments of the Battle of Hobdy’s Bridge, which occurred on the Pea River during the Creek War of 1836. Living history from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with battles at 2 p.m. each day.

3-4 Cullman Alabama Strawberry Festival, featuring kids’ rides and inflatables, strawberry delights, artisans and crafters, food and drink vendors and several musical acts, including headliners Eli Young Band and Niko Moon.

4 Wetumpka Central Alabama Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Elmore County Extension office, 3340 Queen Ann Road. Great prices and selections of annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, shrubs, trees, house plants and more. Yard art and a variety of vendors. 334-235-4302.

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

Alabama Living on FB


Pike Road SweetCreek Farm Market Spring Chicken Festival, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 85 Meriwether Road. The largest vendor market ever at the market, with more than 50 Alabamabased makers and vendors. Free. See the event’s page on Facebook.


Guntersville United Cherokee Ani Yun Wiya National Pow Wow, 9 a.m. Saturday, 221 Pleasant Hill Road. Native American dancing and crafts and demonstrations of Indian culture, including archery, tomahawk throwing, flint knapping and more. Food and drinks will be available.


Mobile EcoWild Outdoor Expo, Mobile Convention Center. Meet Conservation enforcement officers, park rangers, biologists and park naturalists. Learn how to become a conservationist and help protect and conserve our natural resources. Hunting and fishing vendors, educational sessions, recreational exhibits, outdoor-themed art gallery, kids’ classroom, cooking demos, specialty marketplace, food trucks and more.


Frisco City 15th annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale, Jones Park, 4326 Bowden St. All proceeds support the projects of Revive Frisco City Inc.


Pisgah second annual Mountain Laurel Arts and Music Festival, CR 374 at Pisgah Civitan Park. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk the mountain trails and view area waterfalls; artists, creators and craftsmen will show their works for purchase. Local musicians will perform, and food vendors will be available. Free, with $5 parking. Find the event’s page on Facebook.


Hartselle second annual benefit concert, “Elvis Remembered,” featuring Michael Dean and Memphis. 7 p.m., Hartselle High School auditorium, 1000 Bethel Road NE. Benefit to send students to nationals in June. Tickets are $15; contact Lisa King at lisa.king@ for more information.


Millbrook Millbrook Mayfest, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Village Green Park. Free, family-friendly event with entertainment, children’s activities, handmade items, arts and crafts and food vendors. See the event’s page on Facebook.

18 Wetumpka Spring Art Show sponsored by Downtown Artists Wetumpka, 9 a.m. Open to the public and free; local artists will showcase their work. See the event’s page on Facebook.

18 Arley Arley Day Festival Parade and Car Show, Hamner Park. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning with a parade through town; activities include a car show with prizes, arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, children’s games, water slides, horseback rides, free hotdogs for kids and more. 3-on-3 basketball tournament and pickleball tournament.

18 Arab Poke Salat Festival, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Featuring a 1980s dance party and costume contest, top dog competition, 5K run, disc golf tournament at Arab City Park, corn hole tournament, line dancing, Zumba, children’s obstacle course, tumble and cheer performances, arts and crafts vendors and more. See the event’s page on Facebook.


West Blocton Cahaba Lily Festival, Lily Center. Featuring shuttled trips to the river and canoes for rent to view the blooms, along with street vendors, children’s play area, presentations by environmental groups and keynote speaker Dr. Larry Davenport, recognized by many as the foremost authority on the Cahaba Lily.

All month

Auburn “Bethany Collins: Accord,” a solo exhibition by the Montgomery-born artist will be on view at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University. “Accord” features Collins’ latest and most recent explorations into Southern and American history through sculpture, music and the written word. Jcsm.

Alabama Living MAY 2024 29
Artist Art at Auburn University.

Why solar is not free

A:Q:I often hear claims you’ll never pay an electric bill again if you go solar. Is that true?

The ability to generate your own renewable energy at home is an amazing thing. It’s pretty cool that the technology is accessible to home and property owners across the country. The concept of free energy from the sun is appealing, but solar power isn’t actually free. There are costs associated with capturing that energy for use in your home.

Installing a residential solar system doesn’t equate to $0 energy bills. Prices for the solar system and installation vary, but adding solar typically comes with a five-figure price tag. Solar systems only provide power when the sun is shining. You still rely on your electric utility for power at night and when the skies are cloudy. Most electric utility rate structures include a set monthly service fee. Unless you plan to disconnect from local electric service completely, you will still have a monthly electric bill.

Solar might be a good investment for you, or it might not. Several factors impact how well the investment pencils out, including where you live, home orientation and shading, electric bill rate structure and cost, available incentives and tax credits, your budget and credit rating.

If you are considering solar on your home, I suggest taking these three steps:

• First, make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. It wouldn’t make sense to put a new motor on a boat with holes in it, so why would you put a solar system on an energy-wasting home? Invest in reducing wasted energy before investing in creating new energy. The efficiency updates I recommend before installing solar include insulating and air sealing your home and upgrading to efficient appliances—especially the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

If your HVAC system is older than 10 years or malfunc-

tioning, make sure replacing it is in the budget. Remember, energy efficiency upgrades might have a better return on investment than installing solar.

A more efficient home means a smaller—and lower-cost— solar energy system. Solar systems are typically designed to produce the amount of energy a home uses in a year, so if you complete energy efficiency improvements before installing a solar system, make sure the solar contractor accounts for those energy savings.

• Second, check with your electric utility about the requirements to install solar and how it will impact your bill. If you decide to install solar panels, working with your utility will be essential, as you will need to take important steps, such as signing an interconnection agreement to ensure the system is properly connected to the electric grid.

• Third, get at least three quotes to compare each contractor’s recommended system design, equipment and cost. It’s a significant investment, so you want to know your options.

There are several ways to pay for a solar system and installation. It can be bought outright with cash or financed by a loan. This allows you to own the system immediately or at the end of the loan term. State and federal tax incentives can help offset the costs.

There is also the option to install a solar system through a lease or power purchase agreement. In this structure, a third party—usually the solar installer—owns the system. They install the system on your property and then sell you the energy produced at a predetermined rate. They are responsible for maintaining the system and own it at the end of the agreement term.

Loans, leases and power purchase agreements can impact the sale of a home. Although a solar system may increase the value of your home, some buyers—or their lenders—are not interested in taking on leases or power purchase agreements.

Investing in solar is one way to support the transition to renewable energy. Before you make the leap, improve your home’s energy efficiency and empower yourself by thoroughly weighing the costs and benefits.

30 MAY 2024 | Consumer Wise |
Miranda Boutelle is the chief operating officer at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. She has more than 20 years of experience helping people save energy at home, and she writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing nearly 900 electric co-ops.

Alabama Bookshelf

In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events, or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to bookshelf@alabamaliving. coop. Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive.

Silent Cavalry: How Union Soldiers from Alabama Helped Sherman Burn Atlanta – And Then Got Written Out of History, by Howell Raines, Crown, $21.99 (Confederate history) Part epic American history, part family saga and part scholarly detective story, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Raines brings to light a piece of submerged history: How an unsung regiment of 2,066 Alabama yeoman farmers, called the First Alabama Cavalry, U.S.A., was the point of the spear that Sherman drove through the heart of the Confederacy.

Unique Eats and Eateries of Alabama: The People and Stories Behind the Food, by Nicole Letts, Reedy Press, $27 (Culinary studies) From Big Bob Gibson’s north Alabama white sauce to the Gulf Coast’s West Indies Salad, the state claims a unique dining culture. Some of the state’s best-known chefs and artisans are highlighted in this culinary cruise from north to south and east to west.

Southern Rivers: Restoring America’s Freshwater

Biodiversity, by R. Scot Duncan, The University of Alabama Press, $34.99 paperback (Environmental studies) Nature writer and Alabama Audubon executive director Duncan looks at the perilous state of the Southeast’s rivers and the urgent need to safeguard their vitality. The region’s rivers are the epicenter of North American freshwater biodiversity and home for a wide array of aquatic animals.

Blood at the Root, by LaDarrion Williams, Labyrinth Road publisher, $18.89 (YA contemporary fantasy) A teenager on the run from his past finds the family he never knew existed and the community he never knew he needed at a historically black college and university (HCBU) for the young, Black and magical. The idea for the book came from a simple question that the author, who is from Helena, posted on social media: “What if Harry Potter went to an HBCU?” The book will be released May 7, 2024.

A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility and Innocence Lost, by Frye Gaillard, NewSouth Books, $25.62 (Civil rights/memoir) Gaillard brings a deeply personal history to this pivotal time in American life. Now in softcover, the 2018 book explores the competing story arcs of tragedy and hope through political and social movement of the times: civil rights, Black power, women’s liberation, the war in Vietnam and the protests against it. Gaillard is a native of Mobile and has served as a writer in residence at the University of South Alabama.

Cold War Alabama, by Melvin G. Deaile, Ph.D., Arcadia Publishing, $24.99 (Alabama history) The 50-year Cold War began following World War II and was a struggle between ideologies, militaries, economies, athletes and each nation’s ability to reach space. Alabama played a key role in that conflict; this work relies heavily on period photos to document the many aspects of Alabama’s role in the Cold War.

Alabama Living MAY 2024 33


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September theme: Corn

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October theme: Spooky Treats

Submit by: July 5

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

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

| Alabama Recipes |
Photos and styling by Brooke Echols Good Morning, Cinco de Mayo

Cook of the Month: Gabe Argo, Cullman EC

Gabe Argo is a pharmacist by trade, but he spends his spare time coming up with new recipes which he tries nearly every week. One of his favorites, Red Enchiladas with Beef, turned out to be a winner for him this month, as it was chosen for May Cook of the Month honors. The recipe calls for chuck roast, but Argo says you can use eye of round or other quality cuts of beef just as well. His recipe is a combination of a couple of recipes which he modified. For example, if onions or jalapenos don’t agree with you, you can substitute onion powder and bell pepper. “What makes this recipe is the homemade enchilada sauce,” he says, which includes tomato sauce, the flavor of browned beef bits and red cooking wine. “This is a good dish for decent size family meal,” he says. Argo estimates he’s been cooking seriously for 10 years, often preparing meals on Sunday that he can use for lunch all week. His coworkers at Anderson Pharmacy in Altoona where he works especially enjoy it when he brings in leftovers to share.

Red Enchiladas with Beef

3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, fat trimmed, cut into 11/2inch cubes

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 sweet or yellow onions, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce

1/4 cup dry red wine

2-3 cups shredded Mexican Blend cheese

12 large flour tortillas

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven. Add half the beef and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate or bowl. Add remaining vegetable oil and repeat with remaining beef. Remove second batch of beef and place with the previously browned beef. Pour off all but one tablespoon of oil from Dutch oven and add onion plus 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, and oregano and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomato sauce and wine, being sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom. Return beef and any juices to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in oven for 2 to 21/2 hours. Transfer beef to a plate. Pour sauce through a fine-mesh strainer. Push on the solids with the back of a spoon to get as much liquid out. Discard the solids. You should have at least 2 cups of sauce. Once meat has cooled some, shred it with 2 forks. Place it in a medium bowl and add 1/4 cup of sauce and 1 cup shredded cheese. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Spread 3/4 cup of sauce in the bottom. Spray the tortillas on both sides with vegetable cooking spray. Bake for 1 minute or until warm and pliable. Place 1/3 cup of beef mixture down the middle of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish.

Pour 1 to 11/4 cups of sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil (spray the underside with cooking spray so the cheese won't stick). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with cilantro. Cook’s note: Substitute one-half green bell pepper for the jalapeno for less spice.

Alabama Living MAY 2024 35
Red Enchiladas with Beef

Fresh and Easy Pico de Gallo is one of my favorite fresh treats. It reminds me of summer’s bounty with fresh onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and lime juice. We soften the cilantro up with a bit of mint. Have this anytime of the year to get that fresh fix! It’s the perfect addition to your Cinco de Mayo celebration! For more recipes, visit thebutteredhome. com.

Party Shrimp Pozole Verde

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 24-ounce jar salsa verde

1 32-ounce carton chicken stock

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 cans yellow hominy, rinsed 1-11/2 pounds medium shrimp, raw, peeled and deveined

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the oil and heat on medium-high. Add the onions and reduce heat to medium, stirring onions about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the garlic and stir about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, then the salsa verde. Add the oregano and the hominy and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When soup is boiling, add the shrimp, then take the soup off the heat (shrimp cooks fast). Serve with tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, grated cheese, sour cream, and sliced radishes. Cook’s note: Be sure not to keep the shrimp at a boil longer than a minute. You may make the soup a day ahead of time, just don't add the shrimp until right before serving. An easy, flavorful take on the authentic dish. Guests may choose their own toppings.

Fresh and Easy Pico de Gallo

5 medium Roma tomatoes

2 small jalapeños

1 sprig of mint

1 whole lime

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup diced red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Chop the red onion into small bits. CAREFULLY open up those small jalapeños and CAREFULLY seed and remove the membrane. Dice about the same size as the onions. Cut tomatoes in half and seed and dice the same size as the peppers. Chop the mint and cilantro. Juice the lime. Add a pinch of salt and pepper as well as the mint and cilantro.

Squeeze the whole lime on top and mix! Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

NOTE: This recipe gets better the longer it sits in the refrigerator. Steep it for at least 30 minutes but overnight is preferred.

Good Morning, Cinco de Mayo

1 pound ground sausage (I used hot venison)

2 14.5-ounce cans chopped tomatoes

2 16-ounce cans pinto beans

1 tablespoon taco seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 8-ounce package mozzarella cheese, shredded

Cook and crumble the sausage in a skillet. Drain off any excess grease. Add the two cans of tomatoes and the two cans of the beans. Do not drain the tomatoes or beans. Add the taco seasoning and salt. Simmer and stir all of this together until the liquid has reduced. Using a big spoon, make 4 pits in the sausage, bean and tomato mixture. Crack one egg in each pit. Place lid on the skillet and simmer/steam on low until the egg whites have set. Sprinkle the whole bag of mozzarella cheese over the cooked dish. Place the lid back on and steam until the cheese is melted. Makes 4 hearty servings and takes about 20-25 minutes to prepare. A great breakfast or brunch recipe.

Mexican Lentil Casserole

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 poblano pepper, chopped

2 stalks celer y, chopped

1 15-ounce can lentils, drained

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1-2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon each smoked paprika and cumin

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup crushed tor tilla chips

1/2 cup Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large ovenproof saucepan, sauté the onion, poblano pepper and celery in oil for 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils, rice, tomato paste and seasonings. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with tortilla chips and cheese and bake another 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Serves 6.

Brooke Burks
36 MAY 2024
Photo by The Buttered Home

How to “go native” in the garden

Native plants are all the rage these days, steadily winning new hearts and gardens, which is great news for gardeners and for the environment.

According to a National Gardening Association survey, 26 percent of U.S. gardeners were using native plants in 2022 compared to 17 percent in 2020, and that number continues to rise as more and more people discover the many benefits provided by native plants.

Native plants — indigenous plant species that have existed and evolved naturally (without human introduction) in a particular region or habitat for millennia — offer all kinds of ecosystem services (pollination, water filtration, erosion control, etc.) vital to life on Earth, including us humans. They are also crucial sources of food and habitat for insects, birds and other

wildlife, which helps keep ecosystems in balance and increases biodiversity.

By the way, May is National Garden for Wildlife Month, a great time to plant natives. And since natives are well adapted to local growing conditions, they are easy to care for and tend to need less additional water, fertilizer and pesticides than many non-native plant species.

So why haven’t more gardeners gone native? In part because they aren’t familiar with the biological and aesthetic benefits of natives, but also because natives can be hard to find. They are rarely, if ever, available at the large retail garden stores where many gardeners shop or through local plant nurseries; for years, most gardeners who wanted to use natives have had to buy them online. While reputable mail order companies can be excellent sources of natives, they lack one of the most important aspects of natives — a local provenance.

To get the most out of natives, it’s best to use natives that were “born and raised” in or near where they will be planted —

the closer a native is to its home range, the better it will perform and serve the local ecosystem. And the very best sources of those plants are local growers who can provide all the other benefits of going local: healthier and more eco-friendly products, access to a knowledgeable and dedicated staff and a chance to keep your dollars in your community.

Lucky for us, several new native-only plant nurseries have opened in Alabama including Nemophily Natives in Auburn, Recreative Natives in Cropwell, The Native Nursery in Fairhope and Blooming Garden in New Hope, all of which are owned and operated by people who are passionate about native plants. Locally grown natives can also be found at seasonal plant sales and swaps sponsored by public gardens and by some conservation and gardening organizations. Regional native nurseries and seed companies also are great sources of native plants suited for Alabama.

Want to learn more about natives? Visit

| Gardens |
Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at
Gulf fritillary butterflies are among the many insects that rely on native plants for food, shelter and breeding habitat. While they use passion flowers (maypops) as their caterpillar hosts, these bright orange butterflies feed on the nectar of many other native plants including this blanket flower (Gaillardia). Providing insects with the proper native plants for their survival is key to the health and balance of ecosystems.
38 MAY 2024

a local grower! You can also search the Alabama Cooperative Extension site,, for information and to learn about upcoming native plant workshops. Also check out the Alabama Wildflower Society and Alabama Native Plant Society on Facebook, both of which post information on native plant retailers, seasonal sales and events.

Another excellent resource of information is the Alabama Plant Atlas at, a comprehensive database of the many plants that occur in Alabama that can be searched by location (county) and by common and scientific plant names. In most cases, it also provides information on growth habits and habitat needs of the plants. The iNaturalist phone app is also great for identifying plants and learning about plants when you’re on the go.

While you’re outside this month, listen out for another native Alabama species — Brood XIX periodical cicadas. These fascinating insects are part of a rare double emergence of 13- and 17-year cicadas underway in parts of the U.S. and they are raising quite a ruckus. To learn more, including where they are likely to be found in Alabama, visit cicadamania. com.


 Plant summer vegetables such as beans, corn, eggplant, melons and tomatoes.

 Plant warm-season annual flowers.

 Divide overcrowded bulbs and perennials.

 Propagate new plants from cuttings or by layering, grafting and division.

 Keep newly planted shrubs, trees and annuals watered.

 Celebrate National Public Garden Day on May 10 and Composting Day on May 29.

Mixing purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) and other native plant species together in a single planting helps create a diverse habitat for wildlife and a stunning tableau of colors and textures for your enjoyment. Make sure to choose seed mixes that contain only species native to your area and suited to your local growing conditions.

Alabama Living MAY 2024 39

Much more than red snapper to catch in the Gulf

While most offshore anglers head into the Gulf of Mexico during the summer to catch red snapper, people might land several other snapper species and many other fish during a day on the water.

The 2024 recreational red snapper season opens May 24 in Alabama and federal waters. The season will continue every Friday through Monday until the state reaches its federal red snapper quota of 591,185 pounds. In early July, the season will remain open from July 1 to July 5 to include the Independence Day holiday.

“We don’t have any problem catching a limit of red snapper,” says Kurt Tillman, who runs Captain Kurt Charters out of Dauphin Island. “We catch a lot of big red snapper, but there are many other fish to catch off Alabama besides red snapper. After we catch our red snapper, we might go to another spot and fish with smaller squid pieces to try for vermilion snapper or something else.”

Also called beeliners, a vermilion snapper looks very similar to a small red snapper. Vermilions average less than one pound and rarely top five pounds. The Alabama state record weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces. Beeliners can provide incredible action on light tackle. Use smaller hooks and squid pieces for bait.

“Vermilion snapper are probably the most common snapper off Alabama after red snapper,” says Scott Bannon, Alabama Marine Resources Division director.

“Many people prefer to catch vermilion snapper because they are easier to clean than red snapper and people can keep more of them. Vermilion snapper frequently stay around the same reef complexes as red snapper, but some reefs might hold more vermilion snapper.”

them to the surface and flip baits to individual fish they see.

“People sometimes catch gray snapper in the Perdido Pass area or Mobile Bay,” Bannon says. “It’s very common to catch mangrove snapper around the nearshore rigs.”

Another small species, lane snapper seldom grow more than about 18 inches long, but the state record weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce. Also called candy snapper, these delicious diminutive fish appear bright rosy red with broken horizontal yellow stripes on their sides.

Rarely caught by recreational anglers, cubera snapper take the title in the family heavyweight division. These ocean leviathans can weigh more than 100 pounds. The world record came in at 124.75 pounds, a fish caught off Louisiana. The Alabama state record weighed 94 pounds, 3 ounces. With a mouthful of extremely sharp canine teeth, they can do serious damage to flesh so handle them carefully.

Also called gray snapper, mangrove snapper look grayish green with a reddish tint ranging from copper to brick red. They rarely top 10 pounds, but the state record weighed 18 pounds.

Mangroves frequently enter water less than 20 feet deep and commonly rise high in the water column. Mangroves sometimes stay around rocky jetties and shallow platforms. Notorious bait stealers, mangroves occasionally hit flies, spoons, soft plastics and other lures, but typically prefer live bait such as small croakers, mullets or menhaden, also called pogies. Many anglers chum

Among the most brightly colored snappers, a yellowtail snapper displays a bright yellow band running from the snout to its tail. It continues to widen to cover the entire tail and tail fins with a bright yellow splash. The rest of the body looks olive to purplish with irregular yellow spots. Rarely seen in the western and northern gulf, yellowtails do appear off Alabama at times. The Alabama state record weighed 9.6 pounds.

In the Gulf, anglers might also catch several other types of snapper. These include mutton snapper, dog snapper, silk snapper and other species.

While dropping baits to the bottom, anglers could also catch amberjack, spadefish, triggerfish, tilefish and various grouper species. Higher in the water column, anglers might land cobia, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, dolphin fish, also called dorado or mahi, and tripletail. Farther offshore, blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, wahoo, blackfin and yellowfin tuna roam.

With more than 10,000 artificial reefs covering more than 1,200 square miles off the coast, Alabama ranks as one of the best places on the Gulf Coast to catch red snapper and other bottom or reef fish. For reef information, visit and hover to saltwater fishing and then click on artificial reefs.

Anglers might catch many other species off Alabama coasts. When people drop baits into the Gulf of Mexico waters, no telling what they might catch. Seasons, daily limits and other regulations vary by species so always check the regulations before keeping anything. Visit and click fishing, then saltwater fishing.

40 MAY 2024
| Outdoors |
John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer who lives in Semmes, Ala. He also hosts an outdoors tips show for WAVH FM Talk 106.5 radio station in Mobile, Ala. Contact him at j. or through Facebook. Whole families can enjoy catching red snapper off the Alabama coast. These two anglers show off part of their catch. PHOTO COURTESY OF CAPTAIN KURT’S CHARTERS


Tu 2 7:42 - 9:42 8:06 - 10:06 2:09 - 3:39 2:33 - 4:03 We 3 8:30 - 10:30 8:54 - 10:54 2:57 - 4:2 7 3:21 - 4:51

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The Moon Clock and resulting Moon Times were developed 40 years ago by Doug Hannon, one of America’s most trusted wildlife experts and a tireless inventor. The Moon Clock is produced by DataSport, Inc. of Atlanta, GA, a company specializing in wildlife activity time prediction. To order the 2023 Moon Clock, go to

Alabama Living MAY 2024 41 7315 County Road 17 • Woodville, AL 35776 256-805-0153 • Serving North AL, Southern TN, and Northwest GA. We o er traditional sandblast and laser etched monuments. Onsite cemetery engraving. Check us out on Facebook.
2024 EXCELLENT TIMES MOON STAGE GOOD TIMES MAY A.M. PM AM PM Fr 17 7:42 - 9:42 8:06 - 10:06 2:09 - 3:39 2:33 - 4:03 Sa 18 8:30 - 10:30 8:54 - 10:54 2:57 - 4:2 7 3:21 - 4:51 Su 19 9:18 - 11:18 9:42 - 11:42 3:45 - 5:15 4:09 - 5:39 Mo 20 10:06 - 12:06 10:30 - 12:30 4:33 - 6:03 4:57 - 6:2 7 Tu 21 10:54 - 12:54 11:18 - 1:18 5:21 - 6:51 5:45 - 7:15 We 22 11:18 - 1:18 11:42 - 1:42 5:48 - 7:18 6:11 - 7:4 1 Th 23 NA 12:06 - 2:06 FULL MOON 6:09 - 7:39 6:33 - 8:03 Fr 24 12:30 - 2:30 12:54 - 2:54 6:57 - 8:2 7 7:21 - 8:51 Sa 25 1:18 - 3:18 1:42 - 3:42 7:45 - 9:15 8:09 - 9:39 Su 26 2:06 - 4:06 2:30 - 4:30 8:33 - 10:03 8:57 - 10:27 Mo 27 2:54 - 4:54 3:18 - 5:18 9:21 - 10:51 9:45 - 11:15 Tu 28
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Payne Land Preparation, LLC is a family owned and operated company. We use a John Deere 333D track loader with a 5’ wide rotating drum mulching head that has carbide teeth for mulching brush, vegetation and up to 6” diameter trees.

Our Services include but are not limited to:

• Clearing over grown fence rows

• Pastures

• Property lines

• Fire breaks

• Right of ways

• Trails

• Shooting lanes

• Hunting areas

• Access roads

• Tree tops left over from property that has been previously logged

• Real estate tracks and future home sites.

Why choose Payne Land Preparation, LLC?

• We treat your land as we do our own!

Using a rotating drum mulcher benefits your land by:

• Clearing down to surface of soil

• Leaving roots intact to hold land and soil structure minimizing ground disturbance and erosion

• Left over mulch helps prevent regrowth and returns nutrients back to soil

• No brush piles, no burning or haul away

• Improve the value and looks of your property We also offer stump grinding and backhoe services.

FREE ONSITE ESTIMATES! Contact us at 423-488-6866
email us at
Located in Jackson County and servicing all of North Alabama Check us out on Facebook Email: Phone: 423-488-6866
Alabama Living MAY 2024 43 TEN YEAR PARTS AND LABOR WARRANTY (FACTORY BACKED) FREE IN-HOME ESTIMATES www. johnsonheatingcooling .com A Division of David Johnson Construction Co., Inc. 256-574-3057 256-437-0303 1-800-523-5816 IN-HOME FINANCING AVAILABLE WITH APPROVED CREDIT* (256) 574-3057 *Call for Details AL Certification #89464 WHY JOHNSON? Because Your Family’s Home Comfort Really Matters DAVID W. JOHNSON, FOUNDER, PRESIDENT and ONLY OWNER FOR 45 YEARS! FINANCING AVAILABLE!* ALL EMPLOYEES HAVE BACKGROUND CHECKED HOME COMFORT

Aquaponics, coding, robotics challenges and more: STEM grants make an impact in Alabama schools

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end of another school year. However, it’s been filled with lots of great opportunities for students and teachers in Alabama and across TVA’s seven-state service territory. During the 2023-24 school year, the Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers Inc. (BVI), a TVA retiree organization, awarded a record $1.5 million in grants to educators in schools to develop science, technology, engineering, and math education projects across the Tennessee Valley region.

The competitive STEM classroom grant program is operated in partnership with the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network managed by the Battelle organization. The program received 715 grant applications this year, and 343 were selected for funding. Of the 343 schools, 69 are in Alabama. Since 2018, TVA/BVI has provided nearly $6.5 million in STEM grants supporting over 600,000 students.

Teachers who received the grant funding worked hard to bring their projects to life. Our team in TVA’s South Region spent the first few months of 2024 visiting the schools to see the projects in action and celebrating with school and commu-

nity leaders in Alabama.

In Lawrence County Schools, teachers created hands-on learning experiences with a robotics search & rescue challenge, work cell manufacturing, and aquaponics. Students at Deshler Middle School in Tuscumbia explored the benefits of soil and how it correlates to food quality, built raised beds, and harvested fruits and vegetables to give to a local food bank. At the Alabama Aerospace and Aviation High School in Bessemer, students practiced coding and solving issues in real-time as a team.

At Hartselle City Schools, teachers added robotics kits, manufacturing design tools, and electrocardiogram (ECG) simulators to expose students to new tools and prepare them for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Educators with Florence City Schools built an outdoor classroom, created a greenhouse, and set up living laboratories for students to explore. These are just a few of the many awesome examples of how the resources were used to inspire young people to learn and pursue careers in STEM.

Our communities across Alabama are different and the grants were awarded to meet those diverse needs. Grants up to $5,000 were awarded in a competitive process, and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic development, and community problem-solving. Any school that receives their power from a local power company served by TVA was eligible to apply.

44 MAY 2024 | Our Sources Say |
Kevin Chandler is the South Region Customer Relations Director for the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA employees celebrate with the teachers and students at 69 schools in Alabama who received STEM classroom grants.

How To Place a Line Ad in Marketplace

Closing Deadlines (in our office): June 2024 Issue by April 25

July 2024 Issue by May 25

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


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Honoring the ones who came home

“Shoot him! Shoot him! Shoot him!” my father yelled at the screen. No one in the movie theatre made a sound. I think that’s because the audience knew the old man in the wheelchair was a veteran. Nevertheless, I was mortified by his outburst. But, I should’ve known something like this might happen when I took Dad to see “Saving Private Ryan.”

The scene that had such an effect on him was a particularly intense one. Many of you will recall it. During a skirmish with the enemy, a GI medic was shot and killed. The Americans took the lone German survivor, and made him dig a grave. Then they planned to put him in it. But Tom Hanks showed mercy and spared his life, which later in the movie would cost him his own.

My father said “Private Ryan” was the most realistic depiction of World War II he’d ever seen. It also had an unusual effect on him: The next day he talked more about the war than he ever had before. As you know, many vets rarely speak about their experiences. Since this was a window that didn’t open often, I began asking a few questions.

Initially, I inquired about a scene in the movie when an American sergeant told his men not to shoot the Nazis jumping from their pillboxes after they were doused with a flamethrower. “Let ‘em burn!” he said.

“Did things like that really happen?” I asked.

He replied directly and honestly. “Yeah, they did.” Then he continued. “And don’t think the Germans were the only bad guys. The Americans did some terrible things, too.”

“Like what?” I asked. To my surprise, he answered my question.

“Well, you know that part of the movie when the Americans were going to shoot that German who killed the medic?”

I nodded. It wasn’t too difficult to remember the scene when he yelled out loud in the theater.

“Well,” he said, “something like that happened to me. I walked up to a bunch of our guys standing over the body of a German. Seems he shot our chaplain in a firefight. So when the GIs captured him, their sergeant walked up to him and without saying a word, stabbed him with his bayonet.”

I sat in sickened, stunned silence. This was too horrible to hear. How much worse would it have been to have actually been there? For Dad, it was no movie. This really happened. What else had he seen, or for that matter, done?

At once, I realized that war dehumanizes you, regardless of what side you are on. In addition, now I understood the price my father paid fighting for our freedom. The conversation ended and we never spoke of it again. But this story has haunted me for years.

My Mom often told me that the man who returned from the war was not the same person who left. I knew physical pain accompanied my father all his life because of the wound he sustained at the Battle of the Bulge. But there were also unseen wounds that manifested themselves - outbursts of anger, excessive drinking, and nightmares. Back then it was called battle fatigue, and those affected by it were left to deal with it themselves. Some drank, some turned to Jesus, some committed suicide. Now it’s called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and we know so much more about it. There are many new treatment options that are helping our Middle East war veterans. Unfortunately, they weren’t available to help the Greatest Generation.

This Memorial Day, when we remember those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, let’s not forget to honor the men who came home with an unscathed body, but a wounded soul. Men like my father, who managed to get through life despite the heavy burden they brought back from the battlefields.

Thank you for your service, Dad.

If you or someone you love needs help, call the Veteran’s Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

46 MAY 2024 | Cup o’ Joe |
a standup
and a
Joe Hobby is
syndicated columnist,
long-time writer for Jay Leno. He’s a member of Cullman Electric Cooperative
is very happy now that he can use Sprout from his little place on Smith Lake. Contact him
Illustration by Dennis Auth

See Page 34

recipe theme: Corn

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