Pioneer Electric COOPERATIVE
Small-town stages showcase local talent Spice up your holiday desserts with peppermint
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EXECUTIVE VP/ GENERAL MANAGER
Terry Moseley CO-OP EDITOR
Casey Rogers 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. AREA cooperative member subscriptions are $3 a year; non-member subscriptions, $6. Alabama Living (USPS 029-920) is published monthly by the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and at additional mailing office. POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to: Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014.
ALABAMA RURAL ELECTRIC ASSOCIATION
AREA PRESIDENT Fred Braswell EDITOR Lenore Vickrey MANAGING EDITOR Allison Griffin CREATIVE DIRECTOR Mark Stephenson ART DIRECTOR Michael Cornelison ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Jacob Johnson ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Brooke Echols
VOL. 68 NO. 12 DECEMBER 2015
6 Inside Annual Meeting
Check out pictures and more from this year’s annual meeting!
34 Peppermint treats
More than any other aroma, the smell of peppermint says “holidays” to many of us. Our readers’ recipes shine the spotlight on peppermint in pies, cakes, cookies and treats that will tingle your tastebuds! Tyson Hall, an alum of the AREA Youth Tours, stars as Wade Hall in the Red Door Theatre’s 2015 production of “Conecuh People.” The Union Springs playhouse is one of dozens of small-town theaters in Alabama that offer locals a chance to shine on stage.
28 Top-rated steaks worth the drive
Big Mike’s in Thomasville has only been open two years, but its steaks are already rated among the tops in the state.
COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR Laura Stewart ADVERTISING & EDITORIAL OFFICES:
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Spotlight Cook of the Month Outdoors Fish & Game Forecast Snapshots
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DECEMBER 2015 3
Contact Information: Business: 1-800-239-3092
A Wonderful Life Terry Moseley
Executive Vice President and General Manager
(Monday-Friday 7 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
Toll Free Outage “Hotline” 1-800-533-0323 (24 hours a day)
Board of Trustees Tommy Thompson • President John Henry • Vice President Melvia Carter • Secretary Carey Thompson • Glenn Branum Tom Duncan • Dave Lyon Melvin Dale • Linda Arnold
Payment Options: By Mail: Pioneer Electric Cooperative P.O. Box 370 Greenville, AL 36037 Bank Draft: Contact a customer service representative for details Credit Card: By phone or in person Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express Night Depository: Available at each office location Online: www.pioneerelectric.com In Person: 7 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Greenville: 300 Herbert Street Selma: 4075 Ala. Highway 41 Authorized Payment Center: First Citizens Bank 40 Lafayette St. Hayneville
In the holiday movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” the lead character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), wishes he had never been born due to financial troubles he is experiencing. Through the help of an Angel, he sees how many lives would have been negatively affected if he didn’t exist. George comes to realize that, even with his problems, he has a wonderful life with great friends and family. So what do you think life would be like if community leaders had not founded Pioneer Electric Cooperative over 78 years ago? Living in the U.S. in 2015, it is nearly impossible to imagine life without electricity. So many of our modern conveniences that improve the quality of our lives are dependent on electricity as the “fuel” to make them work. From the alarm clock that wakes us up, to the refrigerator that keeps our morning milk cold and fresh. From the HVAC unit that keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter, to the vacuum that lets us clean more efficiently and all those kitchen appliances that save us time and physical energy. Of course, so much of our entertainment, whether it comes from the TV, radio or computer, depends on the kilowatthours that your electric co-op provides. Just think, there would be no smartphones or cell phones if there were no electricity. Businesses of all kinds rely on electricity to produce and sell the products we need. So, it is no wonder that many electric coops feel that, while our primary product is electricity, we are really in the quality of life business. Pioneer Electric has been dedicated to improving the quality of life
in the communities we serve since before the first light bulb was energized in 1939. While it is our main focus to provide reliable electricity at the most affordable price for our members, we are also dedicated to serving our membership through community involvement and through various programs made available by Pioneer Electric. As we celebrate the season that reminds us to be thankful for all that we have, it is important to remember the 1.3 billion people in the world that still live without reliable electric service. That is equal to about four times the U.S. population! Many of the things we take for granted living in the U.S. are much harder and more time consuming for people in developing countries around the world. We are proud members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) that is working through their affiliate, NRECA International, and the NRECA International Foundation to help bring power to people in developing countries like Haiti and Liberia. (http://www.nreca.coop/it-starts-with-power/) We are thankful that our community ancestors had the vision and foresight to do for ourselves what needed to be done, gathering our friends and neighbors to form our electric co-op. As the electric business of the 21st century continues to evolve, you can count on Pioneer Electric Cooperative to meet all of your electric energy needs. More importantly, we are here to help improve the quality of your wonderful life.
Holiday Office Closings: Pioneer Electric Cooperative’s offices will be closed on Thursday, December 24 and Friday, December 25 in observance of Christmas. We will resume normal business hours on Monday, December 28. Have a blessed Christmas!
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Pioneer Electric Cooperative
Economic Spotlight :
Typically, if somebody says, “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help you,” you start running the other way. For small business owners, however, there is a governmental agency that really can offer some great assistance to help small businesses survive and thrive. T h e U. S . S m a l l B u s i n e s s Administration, an independent agency of the federal government, was created in 1953 “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interest of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” (www.sba.gov ) . Help from the SBA comes in various forms. If you’re thinking about starting a business, the SBA website will walk you through the various steps including creating a business plan, figuring out how to structure your business (incorporation, LLC, partnership, etc.), offering ideas about what sort of license may be needed,
suggesting how to finance your business, paying taxes and hiring employees. In other words, from A to Z, the SBA.gov website gives a road map for getting new businesses up and running. The SBA is probably best known for its loan programs. Typically, working with a participating bank, the SBA will guarantee a loan, or some percentage of the loan, making the bank more willing to do business with a small business. The loan proceeds can be used for a variety of needs, including purchasing land or business assets, refinancing debt and working capital. SBA guaranteed loans often feature longer terms, lower down payments and more flexibility than traditional bank loans. The SBA has specialized programs for certain potential borrowers, including those living in underserved communities, members of the military and veterans,
and those interested in exporting goods to other countries. One of the greatest tools offered by the SBA is their web-based learning center which offers fifty different on-line courses in such areas as “Taking your High-tech Product to Market,” “Understanding your Customer,” “Introduction to pricing,” and many other courses. In Alabama, the SBA has 31 offices or resource partners, with offices in Mobile, Brewton and Montgomery that are accessible from Pioneer’s service area. For more information regarding the SBA and its programs, visit their website at www.SBA.gov.
VP Economic Development and Legal Aﬀairs
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Inside Pioneer :
Annual Meeting 2015 Pioneer Electric employees joined around 200 members and their families for this year’s annual meeting on October 17, 2015. The trustee election results were: District 1 Tommy Thompson, District 4 Tom Duncan and District 7 John Henry, all with 100 percent of the vote. We would like to thank those of you that attended and congratulate our prize winners!
Pictured: Executive Vice President and General Manager Terry Moseley and grand prize winner of a “year of free electricity,” Carlos Bennett of Greenville.
Pictured: $78 bill credit prize winners (left to right). Front rowElizabeth Duke, Helen Purifoy, Doris Fails, Mary Blackburn, Carlos Bennett (grand prize winner) and Andranette Thompson. Back rowEnio Bullard, Gary Reed, William Arnold, Wayne Till and Deborah Salter.
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Christmas with a White House touch There are a limited number of tickets to meet former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier during the White House Christmas Coffee and Dessert Buffet at the American Village in Montevallo. Beginning at 10 a.m. Dec. 5 at Liberty Hall, Mesnier will greet guests and discuss and sign his new book, The White House in Gingerbread: Memories and Recipes ($39.99 hardback). Mesnier served as pastry chef to five U.S. presidents. Tickets are $100. Call 205-665-3535, or 877-811-1776.
A step back in time for the holidays
Warm up to some holiday hospitality during the annual open house from 1-4 p.m. Dec. 13 at Landmark Park in Dothan. Visitors are invited to sample turn-of-the-century desserts and sip hot chocolate while children make traditional Christmas decorations and enjoy wagon rides. A circuitriding preacher will arrive to deliver a Christmas message in the historic Presbyterian church. Call 334-794-3452.
RTJ courses oﬀer winter memberships Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail will launch a new winter membership, featuring unlimited golf through the end of February at nine RTJ locations. Golfers may purchase winter memberships in monthly increments for up to four months. They’re $150 per month per person, or $225 per couple per month. RTJ Ross Bridge and Lakewood Club aren’t part of the promotion, but will be available for play at discounted rates for winter members. Visit www.rtjgolf.com.
SAFETY TIP! If you plan to set off fireworks this year, note these tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety: Obey all local laws; read cautionary labels before igniting; a responsible adult should supervise all firework activities; wear safety glasses; never relight a “dud” firework; always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby; and never carry fireworks in your pocket. For more tips, visit www.fireworkssafety.org.
Martha Stewart honors Alabama entrepreneur Gina Locklear, owner of Zkano, the successful sock company in Fort Payne, has been honored with the 2015 Martha Stewart American Made Award. A panel of judges selected Zkano’s sister company, the Little River Sock Mill, as one of 10 winners of the award. Locklear and the other winners were invited to New York for a networking event and creative maker lecture series with industry leaders and innovators. They also won a cash prize and an opportunity to be featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine to help promote and grow their businesses.
Want to see more events or submit your own? Alabama Living
Visit www.alabamaliving.coop to submit an event and view our calendar or email an event to email@example.com.
DECEMBER 2015 9
Social Security helps the homeless More than half a million Americans experience homelessness on any given night. Nearly 20 percent of them are “chronically homeless,” meaning they are on the streets regularly. Social Security has several programs that pay benefits to qualified individuals, including those who are homeless. These programs include retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a needs-based program for people who are blind, disabled, or age 65 or older. If you know someone who is homeless, and you want to learn more about how Social Security might help, a good place to get information is at www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness. That page includes a link to the Spot-
light on Homelessness — a website designed to help the homeless apply for SSI. It’s available at www.socialsecurity. gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-homeless.htm. The homelessness page also includes links to information on health care for the homeless, institutionalization, advocacy groups, reports on homeless outreach, and even links to other websites like the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and HUD. You’ll find other information helpful to the homeless on www.socialsecurity. gov. For example, there is a link to our Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool, or BEST. Based on answers to various questions, this tool helps determine the benefits someone might be eligible for and gives information about how to qualify
and apply. Go directly to www.socialsecurity.gov/best. Tell anyone you know who is homeless or threatened with homelessness to use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool and to check out the different types of benefits and assistance they may be eligible to receive. Spread the word about the help available to the homeless. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness to learn more. A
Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by e-mail at kylle. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bo Jackson, Randy Owen among Academy of Honor inductees The Alabama Academy of Honor, established in 1965, recently celebrated its 50th class with a ceremony in the Old House Chamber of the state Capitol. The Alabama Academy of Honor bestows honor and recognition upon Alabamians for accomplishments and service benefiting or reflecting great credit on the state. Gov. Robert Bentley welcomed the honorees and guests, and Richard Arrington Jr., who was the first AfricanAmerican mayor of Birmingham, made remarks on behalf of the incoming class. Arrington was re-elected to four additional terms as mayor, and during his administration the city expanded its limits by 60 square miles and reduced crime to a 25-year low. The other five new members are: Raymond J. Harbert: Harbert has served as chairman and CEO of Harbert Management Corp. since it was organized in 1993. He serves on the board of trustees at Auburn University, the Robert Meyer Foundation and Children’s Hospital of Alabama. Vincent E. “Bo” Jackson: The native 10 DECEMBER 2015
of Bessemer lettered in football, baseball and track at Auburn University and won the Heisman Trophy in 1985. He was selected as an a l l st ar i n t w o s p or t s when he played professionally for the Kansas City Royals and the Los Bo Jackson, left, talks with Gov. Robert Bentley at the Academy of Honor ceremony. PHOTO BY ALLISON GRIFFIN Angeles Raiders. Now, he’s active with several charities, including his annual educating Alabama children. She’s helped Bo Bikes Bama bicycle ride. launch two statewide coalitions, the Charles C. Krulak: Gen. Krulak served Alabama School Readiness Alliance and 35 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, lastly Alabama GRIT – Graduate Ready. Impact as Commandant of the Marine Corps and Tomorrow. as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In Randy Owen: Owen has been the March 2011, he became the 13th president frontman of the country group Alabama of Birmingham-Southern College; he for more than 40 years. He has established retired in June 2015. several organizations and events that Caroline B. Novak: She is the benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research president and cofounder of A+ Education Hospital and the Boys and Girls Ranches partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to of Alabama. A www.alabamaliving.coop
A Christmas memory
Come Christmas, I always think of Taddy. His full name, Tadeusz Klarrman, was too much for the South Alabama tongue. So Taddy is what we called him. He arrived in our little town sometime in 1951. They, the grownups, put him in the 6th grade. By early 1952 he was gone, and today, to me, he would be just another fading picture in an old yearbook. If it weren’t for Christmas. They, the grownups, told us Taddy was a refugee. They didn’t tell us much more. Imagination supplied the rest, and put together a story of how, at the end of World War II, Taddy and his mother were caught behind the Iron Curtain. Then, in the confusion and chaos of postwar Europe they made it across the border and became DPs – Displaced Persons. Sticking together, they survived the camps, found an American sponsor, crossed the ocean, and one day arrived in Grove Hill, Alabama. Since he was a few years older than me, I never really got to know him, never played with him, don’t know if we
ever spoke. All I remember is his riding around town on an old bicycle, alone. And the story my parents told me. It began with his class Christmas party. Students in each room drew names for gift-giving. They don’t do that any more, which is good. The teachers meant well, but name drawing wasn’t fun. Especially for poor kids. I grew up among folks who didn’t have much. Today people look back through rose-tinted glasses and talk about being poor but not knowing it. These children knew it. They were the ones who spent the year collecting the tinfoil from discarded cigarette packages to make shiny balls to decorate their Christmas tree because they could not afford the store-bought kind. It was all their parents could do to buy a Christmas gift for their own children, much less someone else’s. Name drawing reminded them, and us, of their situation. Taddy’s family fell into that category. Mr. Brady owned a hardware store, which during the Christmas season he magically converted into a toyshop where all the delights of childhood could be displayed. Every day after school my friends and I would drop by to see what new wonders had arrived and to stare at the stack of two-gun, double-holster, cappistol sets that were on all our Christmas lists.
NRECA Board names interim CEO The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has named chief operating officer and chief of staff Jeffrey Connor to serve as interim CEO. He has been acting CEO since August, and will fill the interim position in the continued absence of CEO Jo Ann Emerson due to medical reasons. “We have a very talented team at NRECA, and I’m honored to be a part of a
dedicated group of people who work so hard for our membership,” Connor says. “Our strong member focus is the highest priority as we move forward together.” Before coming to NRECA, Connor served as chief of staff to Emerson during her service in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I was probably thinking about those guns when my parents told me what happened. Somehow Mr. Brady had learned of Taddy’s situation. So he went and got him and took him to his store and told him to pick out whatever he wanted to give the name he had drawn. Taddy went straight over to the two-gun, double-holster, cappistol set and said “This.” Mr. Brady wrapped it and handed it to him. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Then Mr. Brady told Taddy, “Now you pick out the gift that you would like to have for yourself.” And Taddy went over and picked up another two-gun, doubleholster, cap-pistol set. And I knew what my parents were telling me. Taddy was what Christmas giving should be all about. At Christmas we should give what we, ourselves, treasure most. Now that happened a long time ago. But come Christmas, I always think of Taddy. A
Letters to the editor
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@ cableone.net.
E-mail us at email@example.com or write us at Letters to the editor P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Thank you for publishing the wonderful article by Emmett Burnett on our crewmen (“Wartime Memories: WWII vets return to USS Alabama,” November 2015). It is a great celebration of these brave men and delightful friends. As they say in the Navy – “Bravo Zulu (job well done)”! Rhonda Davis, Marketing Director USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park I enjoyed the article on the USS Alabama in the latest issue. However, I believe that upon boarding the ship, any former crew members would become like 20-year-old SAILORS, not soldiers. Ed Rowe, North Alabama DECEMBER 2015 11
Community theaters provide cultural opportunities for small towns By Minnie Lamberth
Don Roberts as Scrooge and Cade Wittman go over lines for “A Christmas Carol” at the South Baldwin Community Theatre in Gulf Shores. Showtimes are Dec. 4-6 and 11-13.
12 DECEMBER 2015
www.alabamaliving.coop PHOTO BY MICHELLE ROLLS-THOMAS
he Red Door T h e at re i n Union Springs wraps up its 12th season this December with performances of “Always a Bridesmaid,” a comedy about four The Red Door Theatre’s home is the former Southern women Trinity Episcopal Church in Union Springs. keeping a promise PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RED DOOR THEATRE made on their prom night to be in each other’s weddings. As is common for community theaters in small towns across the state, an all-volunteer cast from the area will perform and the play itself will have a Southern focus. “Community theater is really alive and well in Alabama,” says Xan Morrow, chairperson of the Red Door Theatre Committee. “It’s really amazing how good it is.” In Union Springs, the theater is operated by local folks who had a vision for creating cultural opportunities in this small town – as well as a desire to draw visitors for special events. In the early 2000s, The Tourism Council of Bullock County was seeking a vehicle to pull visitors to the community, Morrow explains. “We decided a community theater would be a way to do that.” To make that happen, organizers needed a location, and they found a beautiful venue in the former Trinity Episcopal Church. Built in 1909, the building was donated to the City of Union Springs through an arrangement made by The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and is used for theatrical performances. The pews and stained glass windows are still there, though upgrades have been made in restroom additions and air conditioning. Organizers also needed the right production. Working in concert with the Troy University Foundation, they were able to commission a play, “Conecuh People,” based on an autobiographical book by Troy graduate and Bullock County native Wade Hall. Barbour County native Ty Adams wrote the play. When the script was completed, Troy’s Department of Theatre and Dance presented the inaugural production. After that, Morrow says, “It became ours for seven years. That became our play.”
Kathryn Adams Wood, left, and Charity Smith in “The Mystery of Miz Arnette” at the Red Door Theatre in July 2015. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RED DOOR THEATRE
The initial presentation was in 2004, and the Red Door continued to produce the play each spring until 2010. After a hiatus, Morrow says, “We did it this year for the first time in five years.” The Red Door puts on four different productions each year. Whether or not “Conecuh People” is in the offerings, all plays have a Southern emphasis. The productions are “celebrating our heritage, our culture, our future,” Morrow says. “Everything is connected to where we live.” 7,000 community theaters across the U.S. Julie Crawford of the American Association of Community Theaters says cultural opportunities of this kind are important in small towns. “There are about 7,000 community theaters across the country,” Crawford says. “Very few are in the big urban areas. They’re in the suburban or rural areas.” Community theaters are often one of few opportunities to participate in the arts, she notes. “People want them and that’s why they support them,” she says. The community theater provides different opportunities – not just for the audience but the opportunity to get involved in the production. Often parents and children participate together. “It’s artistic outlet and a way to give back to the community,” she says. “In a small town, you often know somebody on stage. It’s a neighborly kind of thing, too.” A repurposed building in Red Bay In northwest Alabama, in the small town of Red Bay, the vision for a community theater came in part from local bank officials. In the 1990s, what is now Community Spirit Bank had taken The Bay Tree Council for the possession of a foreclosed Performing Arts theatre is located the Community Spirit Bank’s property in the middle of in Weatherford Centre. town. A six-lane bowling alPHOTO COURTESY OF THE BTPCA ley was on one side, a movie theater on the other. “The bank was trying to do something the community could use,” says Scotty Kennedy of the Bay Tree Council for the Performing Arts. The building was repurposed, and as a result, Community Spirit Bank’s Weatherford Centre became a community gathering place with banquet facilities on one side and live theater on the other. “It’s been wonderful for our community to open the door to live theater,” says Tammy Montgomery, Community Spirit’s chief operating officer. “We’d never had that in Red Bay before.” Her father, Billy Bolton, is the bank’s chairman and was instrumental in the bank’s decision. As former mayor, “He always had a vision for our community,” Montgomery says. Red Bay produces three productions a year, scheduled for a Thursday through Sunday in the months of November, February and April. Local talent runs the show. “The director and ticket coordinator are paid, and so is the carpenter. Everyone else is volunteer,” Kennedy says. Board members help with tickets and concessions, while volunteers work with hair and makeup and paint the set. Given that banquet facilities are just on the other side DECEMBER 2015 13
The cast of “Fruitcakes” in rehearsal at the Bay Tree Council for the Performing Arts in Red Bay, November 2014. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAY TREE COUNCIL FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
of the building, some of these performances come with a meal. “We mainly do comedies,” Kennedy says. “Dramas don’t go over well in our small town. It’s a very family-oriented production that we do.” In Atmore, theater finds home in 100-year-old building In Atmore, the Greater Escambia Council for the Arts holds its theater productions in a 100-year-old building that had previously been the site of a number of businesses, including a feed store, Ford dealership, grocery store and furniture store, before sitting empty for about five years. Again, a local bank, United Bank, made an offer. “The president of the bank contacted us to see if we had any interest in the building,” says Phil Johnson, artistic director for the council. “We said yes.” The theater has been housed in the building for six years now, which has helped provide consistency for a group that for its first 10 years performed wherever a facility was available. “We figured we performed about 75 or 80 shows in about 75 or 75 or 80 locations,” Johnson says. “It got to the point where people couldn’t find us.” The Atmore council produces six primary dramatic or musical performances during the year, Johnson says. “We’ve done everything from ‘I Do, I Do,’ which has a cast of two, to ‘Titanic’ which has a cast of 125.” He adds that council members once tried to count all the individuals who had been involved in casts. “We stopped counting at 400.” Venue for young artists in Baldwin County In Gulf Shores, the South Baldwin Community Theatre was able to build its own building on donated land about 25 The South Baldwin Community years ago. Though Theatre in Gulf Shores. initially located in PHOTO BY MICHELLE ROLLS-THOMAS Foley, the SBCT has been in continuous operation since 1972 and has produced hundreds of plays. All activities are conducted by volunteers. 14 DECEMBER 2015
“We have been very successful in our goal of providing community theater for Baldwin County and have been able to improve the theater facilities over time. This has enabled us to enhance the quality of the programs we offer, such as the YAS,” says Jan Hinnen, SBCT president. The Young Artist Series is a way to give children the opportunity to participate in live theater, he explained. “They get good experience,” Hinnen says. This past season the SBCT has presented eight plays, three of which were in the Young Artist Series. Both genres include musicals and comedies. In addition, the adult shows include romantic comedies and mysteries. Also noteworthy, the SBCT has a local playwright on its board, Laura Pfizenmayer. “We’ve done five of her plays,” Hinnen says. Some of her plays are being performed in other areas as well. A
Alabama’s small town community theaters and organizations include: Auburn Area Community Theatre, Auburn – www.auburnact.org Bay Tree Council for the Performing Arts, Red Bay www.baytreecouncil.com The Canebrake Players, Demopolis – www.facebook.com/The-Canebrake-Players Chickasaw Civic Theatre, Chickasaw – www.facebook.com/ChickasawCivicTheatre Community Actors Studio Theatre, Anniston – www.castalabama.com The Covered Bridge Players, Oneonta – coveredbridgeplayers.com The Greater Escambia Council for the Arts, Atmore – www.gecarts.com Historic Ritz Theatre, Talladega – .com (venue for performing acts and movies) Millbrook Community Players, Millbrook – www.millbrooktheater.com Pastime Theatre/Self Express Productions, Winfield – www.facebook.comThePastimeTheatre (A movie theater, it hosts concert series and some plays) Red Door Theatre, Union Springs – www.reddoortheatre.org The Ritz Theater, Greenville – www.gaac-ritz.com South Baldwin Community Theatre, Gulf Shores – www.sbct.biz Southeast Alabama Community Theatre, Dothan – seact8.wix.com/seact Way Oﬀ Broadway Theatre, Prattville – www.prattvilleal.gov/departments/wayoﬀ-broadway-theatre.html We Piddle Around Theater, Brundidge – www.piddle.org Wetumpka Depot Players, Wetumpka – www.wetumpkadepot.com The Whole Backstage, Guntersville – wholebackstage.com If you don’t see your local theatre group listed, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The sky’s the limit for drone use Technology can benefit farmers, schools, industry By Emmett Burnett
ook, up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s none of the above. “It” is a drone, hovering over Alabama skies. Actually, ‘drone’ is not always the best choice of words. “We prefer ‘unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS,’” says Brandon Reed, a UAS instructor with Huntsville’s EnrGies Inc. “The word ‘drone’ has a bad reputation.” Indeed it does. Drones conjure images of skyspies, the creepy airborne camera controlled by that
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equally creepy next door neighbor. But good drones outweigh bad ones and UAS can enhance lives, and in some cases, save them. Unmanned aircraft may soon be Alabama farmers’ flying tractors. Civil defense will call them to service for hurricane rescue. Forestry operations, wildlife management, bridge repair, and more will benefit from these flying computers. And what better place to learn how to harness the sky than the campus of the War Eagle. www.alabamaliving.coop
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Auburn teaching hands-on skills
vices, or stuff the U.S. military can or cannot confirm nor deny. Au b u r n Un i v e rIt flies without an onsity runs America’s first board human pilot up to FAA-approved Un80 mph, 400 feet high, manned Aircraft Syslegally. And anybody tems Flight School. It can buy one. That is not teaches hands-on skills always good. and beyond. Auburn foCiting drone crashes cuses on federal regulainto electrical substations, legalities and UAS tions, near misses with capabilities. Students learn how to operate a drone at Auburn University’s first FAA-approved airplanes, and launches “We have taught avia- Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight School. PHOTO COURTESY OF AUBURN UNIVERSITY that never return, Owen tion for over 80 years,” adds, “These things are not as easy to fly as says Dr. William ‘Bill’ T. Hutto, director, pending FAA rulings expected in 2016. From Lee to Pike County — 62 miles some may think. You must know what you Auburn University Regional Airport and Aviation Center. “Auburn sees enormous as the drone flies — Troy University has a are doing.” The FAA agrees. In October 2015, U.S. Transportation growth ahead for unmanned aircraft. Of- similar approach. “It is the first Alabama fering a course is a natural extension of school to offer a minor in Unmanned Aer- Secretary Anthony Foxx and the FAA anial Systems,” says Al Allenback, vice presi- nounced that non-commercial drones will what we’ve already done.” Auburn built the course in conjunction dent for airport planning and engineering be registered and regulated just like comwith EnrGies Inc., Huntsville. “There is at Goodwyn Mills Cawood in Montgom- mercial ones. “As far as the FAA is conmuch more to flying remote aircraft than ery. “Troy University prepares future UAS cerned, drones are no different than airtaking it out of the box, charging a bat- operators, policymakers, and CDOs — planes,” says Brandon Reed. “More rulings tery, and pressing the ‘Go’ button,” says Chief Drone Officers.” Having the title will be announced in 2016. Count on it.” More unmanned aircraft are coming, Phil Owen, EnrGies director of UAV (un- ‘Chief Drone Officer,’ is pretty cool too. too. It is good news for Alabama’s farmers, manned aerial vehicles) operations. educators, industry and businesses, who say Owen worked with Dr. Hutto in build- $82 billion impact predicted Allenback claims that by 2025, the UAS bring it on. UAVs are clear for takeoff. A ing the course. They both love flying and preach safety. Owen notes that a UAV industry will have an $82 billion impact weighing 10 pounds, made of carbon fi- across government, military, and commer- Co-ops see help for ber, with props spinning at 17,000 rpms cial operations. It will employ more than maintenance, storm is practically a flying buzz saw. “It is not a 100,000 people. Troy, Auburn, and colleges assessment to follow, want to ensure that Alabama’s toy,” he says. Electric utilities are looking toward UAVs to drone economy takes off — just as Troy’s But the potential is enormous. reduce costs, improve safety, and increase relidrone does. ability and response times across their trans“We’ve had one for the last two years,” mission and distribution systems, according to Saving time and money “In Alabama we see exciting uses ahead,” recalls Cliff Lusk, Troy University spokes- a recent article in Intelligent Utility. UAVs can help with inspections of overadds Dr. Hutto, “especially in precision ag- person. “It’s a great way to keep alumni, head transmission and distribution lines, riculture.” He explained that a UAV flying students, and others connected. However, storm damage assessment, outage manageover 1,000 acre farms can obtain data in the biggest reactions occur when people ment/response, substation inspection, asset minutes from the sky as opposed to hours see the beauty of the campus (UAS photo- monitoring, and even vegetation management, the article noted. from earth. Farmers receive data, pinpoint- graphed) from up high.” The possibilities offered by drones have Awesome aerial photography is impres- attracted the interest of several Alabama elecing areas of concern — more water, less fertilizer, fungus treatments, and more — sive, but saving time sealed the deal for tric co-ops, says Mike Temple, AREA director delivered from an airborne drone via email. John O’Dell, an insurance-building in- of training and risk management. Temple has been asked to serve on an NRECA commitWith aerial applications including sur- spection company owner in Semmes, AL. tee to study the use of UAVs in cooperatives veying, R&D, powerline/pipeline/bridge “It decreases the times I climb ladders to across the country “We have been talking and sharing inforinspections, wildlife management, and sup- roofs,” he says. “With a lot of house tops port to first responders — no pun intended to inspect, I can do in 10 minutes with my mation with several of our neighboring statewide associations who’ve been using UAVs drone what takes hours without it.” — UAVs are looking up. in limited applications,” says Temple, who is Admittedly, unmanned aircraft have a keeping an eye on FAA requirements that Looking ahead, Auburn is considering ways to incorporate unmanned aircraft into wow factor. “It really is amazing technol- may continue to change. Nevertheless, “the potential for cost savings and benefits to our the school’s curriculum, including journal- ogy,” adds Phil Owen. UAVs carry onboard members is definitely there.” ism, engineering and aerospace. As Dr. computers, video/still shot cameras and satellite GPS. And that’s the standard package. For more information: Hutto says, “the sky is the limit.” • www.intelligentutility.com/article/15/ Auburn’s course met FAA approval in Try the deluxe model, implemented with 11utilities-send-drones?utm_source= April 2015 and held its first session the fol- infrared sensors, reconnaissance capabili 2015_11_04 lowing September. The course will evolve, ties, weather-data forecasters, tracking de• remagazine.coop/the-future-of-drones/ 18 DECEMBER 2015
DECEMBER 2015 19
Get your phones ready for better Christmas photos By Allison Griﬃn
f you’re like most of us, your photo albums are filled with photos of Christmas past that had potential, but for whatever reason, just didn’t take: The backlit people. The family that was grouped around the tree, but you wouldn’t know it because the tree isn’t visible. The whitewashed look of a photo subject, who was hit square in the face by a harsh flash. The shots that came out blurry due to low light and shaky arms. These photo flops still exist, but they’re increasingly not finding their way into the photo albums. Now, they’re taken on smartphones or tablets, which are easy to use, extremely portable and always handy – but they have in the past made good photography a challenge.
Rule of thirds: Place subject in one of the intersections.
But even today’s lower-end smartphones can capture some great photos. All you need is to put a little thought and planning into the photos you take, and a little practice with the capabilities of your device. The result? Photos that will make this season a memorable one. For some professional input, we asked Bryan Carter, owner of Carter Photography and Design in Montgomery, for some tips and ideas that even the novice photographer can put to use this Christmas. “No matter what device you have, no matter what your handicap in that area might be, the possibility of a good photo exists,” Carter says. “Just follow the simple principles of good photography.” With that in mind, here are some of Carter’s thoughts:
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Composition. Note the lighting and surroundings of your photo frame – things you’re aware of. Does the person have a harsh shadow on her face? Try to move in to less direct light. Is there a big garbage can in the shot? Scoot everyone over a bit to cover it up. Look for opportunities for unusual, candid shots. At the holiday table, for example, instead of a shot of people standing around it, have a seat and get candids of people talking to each other or passing the food around (don’t tell them you’re taking photos). You could even set the timer on your photo app and put the camera at the end of the table. Perspective, or angle. The tendency with smartphones is to hold the phone at chest level, arms partially extended. But that’s often an unflattering angle. Try getting above or below the subject to create more visual interest, or to be kinder to someone’s body shape. On the subject of camera position, if your arms are extended out from your body holding the smartphone, there’s more possibility of shake. Better to hold the phone as you would hold a camera and steady it, by bringing your arms in and bracing them against your body. Or use a table to steady your arms, or lean up against a wall. And always use two hands to hold the phone. When shooting pets or little kids, get down on their level. You’re more likely to engage with them, and get a better shot. www.alabamaliving.coop
DECEMBER 2015 21
Avoid using your phone’s digital zoom. It’s better to move yourself to get the best image. When you zoom, you’ll struggle with shake and photo quality. Know the rule of thirds. Most smartphones and tablets have the option to display a grid, which breaks the frame into nine equal quadrants. The idea is to place the subject of influence in one of the intersects of the vertical and horizontal lines. Most folks have a tendency to center the photo subject, which is less visually interesting. Be ready. If it’s time to open presents or mealtime, have your phone out of your pocket or purse and in your hand. Capturing a moment can be difficult with a phone, which some folks keep tucked away. Turn oﬀ that flash. The on-camera smartphone flashes are “the worst things ever,” Carter says. The tiny light creates harsh lines on your photo subject, and you can’t control the white balance. Plus, the light hits the subject square in the face. Don’t blind him or her! Most smartphone camera apps have a multishot feature. Just hold the shutter button down and it will take multiple, sequential shots. That’s a good feature to use if you’re trying to capture children playing with their new toys – or anything that is constantly moving. Keep it clean. The lens of your smartphone or tablet needs to be cleaned periodically with a soft, lint-free cloth (the kind used to clean eyeglasses). Women in particular, who often use lotions on their hands, may notice a thin film or residue on their lens. Fingerprints will cloud it up, too.
Posing your subjects. The phrase, “get together for a picture” often leads to a long horizontal line when several people are involved. To avoid the look of a police lineup, take the time to maneuver people for a closer, clearer shot. Larger and taller people should be in the back, shorter and smaller folks in the front. Take time to angle the people to make a flattering composition. And if there are many, make sure you can see every face, and tell them they have to be able to see your face too. When posing, make use of any stairs in the house, or even better, the front porch steps (to take advantage of natural light). It’s easier to compensate for varying heights and body shapes with stairs and steps. Speaking of natural light: “We’ve got the best light source available to us, and that’s the sun,” Carter says. However, smartphone cameras work best with indirect light – a bright overcast day, foggy mornings, partial shade – soft light situations. If you can’t go outside, make use of a large window for good light. Position the photo subject at the far end of the window, looking alongside or toward the window and toward the light. Practice, practice, practice. With the new year ahead, take advantage of one of the “365” projects that many blogs, online programs and social media platforms offer. Take a photo every day, and immerse yourself in smartphone or tablet photography. A
Rather than a posed shot, take a candid photo on your subject’s level.
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DECEMBER 2015 23
DIY holiday gifts, from and for gardeners
f you love to garden, you probably also love to share the gardening experience with others. So why not turn your passion for gardening into holiday gifts? Hundreds — more like thousands — of crafty do-it-yourself ideas for garden gifts and projects abound, some so easy that even the least handy of
Top among my gifting picks is a container filled with an assortment of helpful gardening items, from small, inexpensive goodies to more expensive must-have or didn’t-know-you-wanted-till-you-got-them items. You can buy new containers or use this as the perfect opportunity to repurpose all those old baskets and tins or pots you’ve been collecting. Watering cans, burlap bags, plastic milk crates and even an old (or a new) wheelbarrow — anything that you have on hand or that strikes your fancy — will work. It’s also a great way to pick things that are specific to the recipient’s needs. You can include basic hand tools, seeds and how-to books for a novice gardener (or a child), or you can find more advanced items for someone who has lots of gardening experience. These gift collections can also be tailored to the style of each gardener, from frilly to sensible to even manly. Among the gift goodies that can be included in these containers are books, magazines, sunscreen, bug and poison ivy sprays and lotions, hats, gloves, bird seed and feeders, plant seeds and bulbs, hand tools, water bottles, kneelers, gardening aprons or anything else that catches your eye and fits your budget. Put them in the container, add a little straw or tissue paper, tie it with a ribbon and you’re done. Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@ gmail.com.
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us (that would be me) can make impressive gifts for friends and loved ones. Here are just a few easy ideas, though you can find many more on the Internet, at your local craft store and even in books and publications at your local library. Just spend a little time poking around to find ones that fit your needs and skill level. PHOTOS BY MORIAH EARNEST
A repurposed basket filled with seeds, gloves and other small goodies makes a great DIY gift.
Another easy and fun gift option is to either grow small plants from seeds or cuttings or buy some small potted plants (jade plants, ivy, herbs and orchids for example) that can be used indoors or planted later in the yard. You can embellish those plain little plastic pots with ribbons and tissue paper or slip small potted plants into oversized coffee mugs rather than potting them in more expensive containers to keep the cost down. If you want to make them extra special without spending too much money, use burlap, decorative muffin tin liners (if the pots are small enough), foil or get some heavier-gauge decorative paper (scrapbooking paper works particu-
Decoratively wrapped small potted plants make easy, inexpensive gifts.
larly well) and use Martha Stewart’s pot wrapping technique: set the pot in the middle of a square sheet of decorative paper, fold two opposite sides of the paper up and secure them to the pot’s sides with double-sided tape, then repeat for the other side for a neat wrap. Tie festive cords or ribbons around the pot for a final touch. www.alabamaliving.coop
Use a pre-made plain wooden birdhouse to make an edible gift for bird lovers.
And here is an idea that can be a gift for your bird-loving friends and for the birds—an edible birdhouse! All you need is an unfinished wooden or cardboard birdhouse (available at most craft stores if you’re not into woodworking). Drill or carefully poke holes on either side of the top center the birdhouse, insert a thin rope or strong ribbon or twine through the holes and tie securely to form a loop so it can be hung in a tree or on a stand. Coat the outside of the house with peanut butter, homemade suet or an edible
paste (one recipe I found recommends using 3 cups wheat flour, 2 cups water and ¾ cups honey for the paste). Sprinkle or press birdseed, sunflower seed, millet, etc., on the coating and then add further embellishments. For example, a sprinkling of coconut can look like snow and thin slices of dried oranges or apples can be used as roof shingles. Nuts, cranberries, raisins and other healthful, edible dried foods can be used for further decoration. Of course you can also use large pinecones, gumballs and other natural items to make edible ornaments, too — a great project for kids. And these birdhouses or other items can always be recoated over and over again as the birds peck away all the yummy foods. This is just a small sampling of the many ideas that are out there, so don’t hesitate to find or create fun projects of your own. In fact, I’d love to hear about your creations and ideas, so send photos and messages to me at email@example.com or share them with us on the Alabama Living Facebook page. A
DECEMBER GARDEN TIPS d Wipe dust from the foliage of houseplants and keep them in more humid areas of the house, such as the kitchen or bathrooms. d Transplant trees and shrubs and plant roses, spring-flowering bulbs and hardy annual plant seed. d Protect tender flowering shrubs from freezing weather by covering them with a sheet or blanket. Uncover them when temperatures begin to rise. d Spot-treat weeds in the lawn. d Apply winter-protective mulch to garden beds and around newly planted trees and shrubs. d Prune hardy deciduous and evergreen trees and summerblooming shrubs. d Sow seeds for winter or coolseason vegetables. d Plant cool-season annuals such as pansies, ornamental cabbages and kales and snapdragons. d Water lawns, shrubs and small trees if the weather is dry. d Keep bird feeders and birdbaths clean and full. d Begin planning your 2016 garden.
DECEMBER 2015 25
Worth the Drive
Big Mike’s among top steakhouses Story and photos by Emmett Burnett
uch is at stake for great steaks. Just ask the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. They know a few things about beef, enough to rank Big Mike’s Steakhouse one of the top 10 steakeating restaurants in Alabama. And Mike Cole, Scott Powell, and Caine Conway are three proud stakeholders. “It’s a bit overwhelming but nice to see,” says Mike, the ‘Big Mike’ of Big Mike’s. Referencing accolades received for the Thomasville restaurant he laughingly adds, “It is very gratifying because we work our ever-lovin’ tails off here.” Take a recent Friday night, for example. “We put our hearts and souls into this place,” says “Big Mike” Cole. On this weekend eve, a Demopolis school bus is en route. “Tell the driver to greets 90 percent of the customers every mignon cuts, the same meat awarded by be here as close to 4 p.m. as possible,” Mike day and never forgets a name. “I enjoy the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. It is our guests,” he says, “They are really great rendered into a bun-encased burger large instructs a staffer. It is sage advice. Big Mike’s opens at 4 p.m. on Friday- people.” And he adds, “One of my favorite enough for a zip code. The third spoke of Big Mike’s trio is Saturdays. By 6, there is a waiting list. By 10 times is Wednesday’s and Thursday’s specials. But don’t associate cheap with spe- Caine Conway, who met and worked for p.m., 400 to 500 people have been served. Scott years earlier in a landscaping busi“I believe the key to our success is a cial.” Staffers insist everything is top quality. ness. Caine runs the bar, from training combination,” says Big Mike’s co-operator, learned on the job. “Before Scott Powell. “We offer really good food, great service, and Thomasville restaurant rises to ranks coming here most of my experience came from sitting on the a very clean environment.” He of favorite steakhouses in just 2 years other side of the bar,” he smiles. adds about his friend and res“But customers were patient.” taurateur, Mike, who he has known since their 1990s Livingston Uni- For example, the menu includes a cheese- Caine learned, and today is a Thomasville versity (University of West Alabama) days, burger. Now in many places, a cheeseburger master of mixology. When not working, the three hang out, “When I met Mike I threw away my grill. comes with a scratch-off game card, from a This man can cook your shoe and make golden-arched diner with an adjacent play- socialize, and vacation together. They enground. Not here. joy the rewards of transforming a start-up it good.” The patty is ground ribeye and filet business from nothing to the 8th best steak Scott runs ‘the front.’ He personally house in the state. But they began with a Steaks are hand cut, marinated and rubbed with custom seven-spice seasoning blend and trial by smoke, lots of it. Or as Mike recalls topped with garlic butter. about opening day, “It was horrible.” Big Mike’s Steakhouse debuted in October 2013, to a packed house, much bigger than anyone predicted. In addition to everyone at their new jobs and opening-day jitters, a kitchen vent system shut down, Big Mike’s Steakhouse 33215 Highway 43 Thomasville, AL. 36784 334-636-2260 Hours: Wednesday–Thursday 4:30 pm – 9 pm Friday–Saturday 4 pm–10 pm bigmikessteakhouse.com
26 DECEMBER 2015
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A cheeseburger to die for: A treat made from ground ribeye and filet mignon cuts.
expelling billowing smoke everywhere. And though there was never any danger, Mike recalls, “You could not see me sitting next to you because of the smoke.” They ordered everyone out and locked the doors at 7 p.m. And Mike added, “I went to my truck, sat on the tailgate, and cried.” They credit the good people of Thomasville for getting the restaurant back on its feet after October’s smoky night. Big Mike’s reopened the next week, smoke free, and has never looked back. The once-vacant building is the toast of Thomasville. Mike has culinary experience, gleaned from years working at his in-laws’ restaurant/catering business in Demopolis and Orange Beach. “I drove by this place many times, and saw the ‘For Sale’ sign,” he recalls, about his future 33215 Highway 43, Thomasville location. “My dream was to have a restaurant of my own and this was the place.” Scott and Caine agreed. And the rest is history. The building was acquired in August, 2013. For two months, three restaurateurs, employees, and friends refurbished, remodeled, and reinvigorated. Big Mike’s was and is a big deal. Top Angus beef is hand cut in house, marinated and rubbed with custom 7-spice seasoning blends, wood-fire grilled to customer requests, and completed with garlic herb butter. The ribeye is edible art. The 28 DECEMBER 2015
‘Highway 43’ Strip is their version of the New York strip – same great taste without the subway. And the filet mignon is what mother angels feed teething baby cherubs. Their biggest seller is the 16 oz. ribeye or you can go bold, with a 24 oz. version, ‘The Big Mike.’ The restaurant is a fine dining experience but don’t say it. “Fine dining’ always scares me,” says Mike. “Yes, we have gourmet steaks, fresh Gulf seafood, and an amazing wine selection, but we also have great burgers.” The three consider their venture to be a
working man’s steakhouse, not Ruth’s Chris. “We offer a product every bit as good as theirs,” adds Mike. “But our tables are set with butcher paper instead of linens.” “We want everything perfect,” says Scott. And Mike adds, “This is who we are. My name is on this building. We put our hearts and souls into this place.” And as the Demopolis bus pulls into the driveway, unloading a multitude of beef buddies, Mike looks on and confides, “There is nothing better than seeing someone slice into a great steak, smile, and give a thumbs up.” A
Big Mike’s main men: Mike Cole, Scott Powell and Caine Conway. “This man can cook your shoe and make it good,” jokes Scott about his partner, Mike.
Food runner Brandon Chase with a customer’s order.
fund metastatic breast cancer research. Booth rental contact: Tammy Summers, 334-494-0382.
Bridgeport, Christmas Parade sponsored by CUBB (Citizens United for a Better Bridgeport). Lineup will be at the Masonic Hall on Alabama Avenue. This year’s theme is “Wow! What a Year in Bridgeport!” Information: Dot McDonald, 256-495-2502 or Doris Janney, 256-4952908.
Montgomery Interfaith Nativity Exhibit Arab, 6th Annual Christmas in the Park/ Santa in the Park at Arab City Park and Historic Village, 6-9 p.m. each Friday and Saturday until Christmas. Santa, music, crafts, lights, fun for all. $5 per person over 2 years, no more than $20 per family. Information: 256-586-6397 or 256-5866793. Email: arabhistoricvillage@gmail. com.
South Alabama, shares the stage with Anne E. DeChant, singer-songwriter from Nashville. Limited seating, door prizes and a night of country music as it was in the beginning. Information: 334-376-0064 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jan 2 Theodore, 20th Anniversary of Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens and Home. The 20th anniversary holiday show will include brand new displays and eﬀects across the 65 acres. Magic Christmas in Lights was voted in the Top 10 of USA Today’s Reader’s Choice list for 2014 for the nation’s best holiday light shows. Information: 251-973-2217 or www.bellingrath.org.
12-13 Union Springs, “Always a Bridesmaid,” at the Red Door Theatre. If you’ve ever elbowed a stranger out of the way to catch a bride’s bouquet, seriously questioned the mental stability of the duo saying “I do,” or been forced to wear the world’s ugliest bridesmaid dress, this deliriously funny Jones Hope Wooten comedy is definitely for you. All performances at 7:30 p.m., except Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2:30 p.m. Admission: $15. Information: 334-738-8687 or www. reddoortheatre.org.
Montgomery, 10th Annual Interfaith Nativity Exhibit at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Carter Hill Road, 1-8 p.m. each day. The free event, featuring more than 400 beautifully and artistically displayed table top nativities, aids in promoting the faith of all Christians through their love of the nativities and how each in its own way represents the birth of our Savior. Local school choirs and musicians, church groups, community ensembles and soloists provide Christmas music. For more information, visit www.MontgomeryNativity.com.
Georgiana, Watermelon Wine: The Poetry of Americana Music at Hank Williams’ Boyhood Home and Museum. Award-winning author Frye Gaillard, writer in residence at the University of
Boaz, Boaz Christmas Parade at 5:30 p.m. Parade lineup begins at 4 p.m. on Highway 205 at the Farmers Market and First Baptist Church. Awards will be given to ﬂoats using the parade theme, best decorated horse and ride, and best decorated wagon and team. Judging will begin before the parade.
Montgomery, 45th Annual Montgomery Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show at Garrett Coliseum. Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Dealers will have beads, crystals, geodes, cabochons, gemstones, finished jewelry, tools, supplies and mineral & fossil specimens. Club members will display their individual collections and will give demonstrations on gem and rock cutting, faceting and cabochon making. Admission: $2 adults or weekend
pass for $3. Youths 18 and under free with student ID and paid adult admission. Free parking. www.montgomerygemandmineralsociety.com.
Montevallo, A White House Christmas Coﬀee and Dessert Buﬀet with former White House chef Roland Mesnier. At the elegant Liberty Hall in American Village, beginning at 10 a.m. Guests will have the opportunity to meet the chef who served five U. S. presidents and first ladies. A limited number of tickets are available, $100 per person. Reservations: 205-665-3535 or email christmas@ americanvillage.org.
Grant, Grant Christmas Parade from DAR School to North Marshall Utilities. Float line up begins at 11:30 a.m., parade begins at 1 p.m. with bus parking at Grant Church of Christ. First and second place prizes will be awarded for adult and youth divisions. Information: Raymona Bevel, 256-572-0924 or Grant Town Hall, 256-728-2007.
Hanceville, 26th Annual Cullman County Christmas Parade. Parade starts at 2 p.m. at Wallace State College. There is no entry free. Information: Joann Walls, 256-352-9799 or Deborah at Hanceville City Hall, 256-352-9830, ext. 16.
Ozark, Christmas Bazaar at Antiques, Treasures and More. Enjoy the grand opening inside and the Christmas Bazaar outside where vendors will fill the parking lot with Christmas gifts and décor. All proceeds from rental spaces will go to METAvivor Research and Support to
To place an event, e-mail email@example.com. or visit www.alabamaliving.coop. You can also mail to Events Calendar, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124; Each submission must include a contact name and phone number. Deadline is two months prior to issue date. We regret that we cannot publish every event due to space limitations. Alabama Living
Cullman, Christmas Tour of Homes presented by Share Club of Cullman, 1-5 p.m. Five homes will be featured on the tour, including the home of Sarah Elizabeth and Josh Lambert, built in 1939 and located in the historic area of Cullman known as Quality Hill. Tickets are $15 and proceeds will benefit Hospice of Cullman County and Good Samaritan Clinic. Information: Share Club President Jackie Donovan, 205-908-3555 or jaddonovan@ aol.com.
Elba, Branson on the Road, Christmas-Style. Music, comedy and family fun at Elba High School. Bringing together the fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, upright slap bass, beautiful rhinestone costumes, hilarious comedy and bluegrass, rockabilly and gospel music. Featuring favorite Christmas songs, old country music and the only woman to ever play lead guitar for Johnny Cash. Information: 334-406-2787 or visit www.CoﬀeeCountyArtsAlliance.com.
Frisco City, Christmas Comes Alive. 6th annual 10-station drive-thru event celebrating the birth of Christ, 6-8 p.m. each night. CDs will be available with corresponding narrative and music. Hayrides will load and unload at the Frisco City Fire Department. Conclude the night with a visit to the Hospitality & Pastor’s Tent or the Story Tent for children. Admission is free. Information or questions: Anne Brown, 251-714-0513.
Montgomery, Architreats: Food for Thought lunchtime lecture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, 12 p.m. Edward H. Davis will discuss the new book he co-authored with John T. Morgan, Collards: A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table. Admission is free. www.archives.alabama.gov. Like Alabama Living on facebook Follow Alabama Living on Twitter@Alabama_Living DECEMBER 2015 29
Safe @ Home Send your questions to:
Stay safe driving in wintry weather
e’re fortunate in Alabama to enjoy relatively mild winters – at least compared to other parts of the country. But we still get blasts of bitterly cold, winter weather, especially in the northern part of the state. And with people on the roads this season for Christmas and holiday gatherings, it’s more important to be prepared and be safe this winter.
Hitting the road If you’re traveling this winter, be ready to deal with a winter road emergency with these guidelines from AAA: • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage. • Make certain your tires are properly inflated. • Never mix radial tires with other tire types. • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze up. • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather. • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface. • Always look and steer where you want to go. • Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle. For long-distance travel, always look up weather reports before driving in an isolated area. Let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival. Other tips: • Pack a cellular phone, a blanket, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle. • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It pro-
30 DECEMBER 2015
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vides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of snow. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep your dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you. Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running. If possible, run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
If you’re driving in snow, remember to accelerate and decelerate slowly to avoid skids; don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight or stop sign. Remember these tips: • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to 10 seconds. • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold braking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on a hill. • Most importantly: Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in snow, not everyone else can. A
DECEMBER 2015 31
In this feature, we highlight recent books either about Alabama people or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight bookrelated events. Email submissions and events to bookshelf@ alabamaliving.coop
Among the Swamp People, by Watt Key, University of Alabama Press, September 2015, $29.95 hardcover (memoir/natural history) A collection of colorful personal essays about life in the wilds of Alabama’s MobileTensaw River Delta. Key, a novelist and screenwriter living on the Gulf coast, chronicles the delta’s natural beauty, the difficulty of survival in it and the extraordinary cast of characters that calls it home. Behind Nazi Lines: My Father’s Heroic Quest to Save 149 World War II POWs, by Andrew Gerow Hodges Jr. and Denise George, Berkley Caliber Press, August 2015, $27.95 hardcover (military/memoir) Hodges tells the true story of his father, a Red Cross volunteer, and his brave mission behind enemy lines to negotiate the safety of prisoners in 1944 Germanoccupied France. Both authors make their home in Birmingham. Daniel and the Sun Sword, Sons and Daughters, Book 1,, by Nathan Lumbatis, Ellechor Publishing House, November 2015, $16.99 paperback (young adult Christian fantasy) Daniel is an orphan who’s given up on the world. But when he is adopted by God, he is charged with a quest to save humanity by finding the lost shards of a mystical sword. Will he learn to trust in God’s power before it’s too late? The author lives in Dothan. Visions of the Black Belt,, by Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burnes, University of Alabama Press, October 2015, $39.95 tradecloth (photography/history) In photos and text, the authors bring to life the layers of history that shaped the Black Belt’s tastes, sounds and colors. The book recounts the stories of such communities as Camden, Eutaw and Tuskegee, and offers an illustrated tour of the lands that represent the cultural eﬄorescence of Alabama’s heartland. The Cotton-Picking Centre Warriors, by Randall McCord and Tommy Moon, Whosoever Press, $35 (local history) The authors put 5 ½ years into this 740-page book, which looks at the ties between football and farming. They interviewed players and coaches associated with Cherokee County High School and read personal reminiscences to document their work. “If football is the spirit of CCHS, then cotton is the soul,” the authors say. That He May Raise, by Armond Boudreaux, Livingston Press, $17.95 trade paper (fiction) These linked stories explore the ways in which guilt radiates through time and space, and ask whether the resulting suffering can be redemptive. A husband forces his wife into an impossible choice; a son cannot forgive his father’s sins; a woman tries to atone for betraying her best friend by making her lover pay. Author Boudreaux grew up in southwestern Alabama. 32 DECEMBER 2015
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DECEMBER 2015 33
Peppermint A holiday must-have
Gluten-free Candy Cane Cupcakes PHOTO BY MICHAEL CORNELISON
34 DECEMBER 2015
Cook of the Month
Christie York, Marshall-DeKalb EC An avid cook, Christie loves to make desserts, and she’s been whipping up her Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake for about 20 years, especially around Christmas. “It’s something my family really just expects around the holidays,” she says, “so I always make it then, and it has become part of our holiday tradition.” It’s cool and creamy with a refreshing pop of peppermint, but that’s not the only reason it’s become a mainstay. “It’s so easy to make, and when I have my oven busy cooking so many other things, it’s nice to be able to make this, since it’s really a no-cook recipe.” And while it’s doubtful that there will be any leftovers from this dish, if there are, simply slice individual pieces and wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer. “It’s great to have a few on hand for surprise guests,” Christie says.
Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake 1½ ¼ ¼ 1 1 1 3 2
cups chocolate wafer crumbs cup sugar cup butter, melted 8-ounce package cream cheese 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk cup crushed peppermint candy drops liquid red food coloring cups whipping cream, whipped Garnishes: whipped cream and crushed peppermint candy
Combine first 3 ingredients; firmly press onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Chill. Beat cream cheese at high speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add condensed milk, peppermint candy and food coloring; beat well. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into prepared pan. Cover and freeze until firm. Garnish if desired. Yields one 9-inch cheesecake.
ore than any other aroma or flavor, peppermint says “holidays” to me. The simple sight of candy canes, all lined up in their cellophane-wrapped boxes, sitting on grocery store shelves, screams “childhood memories coming!,” a warning before my emotional floodgates open, and I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia and warm, fuzzy thoughts of Christmas mornings with my brother and parents. An annual tradition in our house was making Christmas cookies together. My mom would pull index cards, their printed lines and inked words faded and corners worn soft, out of her wooden recipe box. We usually made three or four different kinds, but my favorites to eat were my least favorite to make. Candy Cane Cookies were delicious but complicated. I didn’t mind cutting out shapes and tossing on some colored sugars. That didn’t take too long, and it was fun. But Candy Cane Cookies meant making the dough, dividing it and coloring one half red, pinching off little balls, hand-rolling them into ropes, twisting the red and white ropes together and then turning one end down to form a crook. When done, you had the spitting image of red-and-white spiralstriped candy canes. Oh, and then you crushed up peppermint candies and sprinkled them on top. They looked impressive, but I always wanted them mixed, baked and in my mouth, STAT.
Despite my impatience, I pushed through and helped my mom with minimal complaining every year, knowing I’d be proud of the pretty cookies when I was done (and of course, enjoy eating them). I still make them every year, now by myself in my own kitchen, although my husband happily joins me in devouring them long before Christmas ever arrives. Nowadays, stores have Christmas decor and candy canes out before Thanksgiving; some even try to push us into the holiday spirit before Halloween has come and gone. Lots of folks complain about this, but I don’t mind. I feel a gentle wave of pure joy wash over me when I see candy canes for the first time each year. If that happens to be in October, so be it. The longer I can stretch Christmas and everything it means to me, the better. Peppermint may not be so closely linked to the holidays at your house, but I’d be willing to bet there’s at least some connection. That’s why we’re pretty sure you’ll be excited about this month’s recipes, all shining the spotlight on peppermint and highlighting its sweet, exhilarating tingly taste. - Jennifer Kornegay
DECEMBER 2015 35
Peppermint Candy 1 large stick peppermint candy, crushed 1 can Eagle Brand milk ¼-½ cup Crisco 1½-2boxes powdered sugar Almond bark
Mix crushed peppermint candy, milk and Crisco. Blend in powdered sugar. Roll to form balls and dip in melted almond bark. Place on wax paper to harden. Belinda Tillery Cherokee EC
Chocolate Peppermint Ritz 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon peppermint oil (not extract) Chocolate almond bark Ritz crackers
Melt chocolate bark in an 8-inch by 8-inch pan; add peppermint oil. Stir. Lay 4-5 crackers in the melted chocolate. Remove with a spoon and lay on waxed paper to dry. Repeat. Tina Robertson Baldwin EMC
Chocolate Peppermint Ritz
Gluten-Free Candy Cane Cupcakes 1¼ ¼ 1 ¼ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½
cup brown rice flour cup cornstarch cup sugar cup cocoa teaspoon xanthan gum teaspoon baking soda teaspoon salt egg cup milk cup oil cup water teaspoon vanilla
Frosting ingredients: ¼ ¼ 2 3 1
cup shortening cup butter cups powdered sugar tablespoons milk teaspoon vanilla Pinch of salt Crushed candy canes
Combine rice flour, cornstarch, cocoa, soda, and xanthan gum, and salt. In a separate bowl combine milk, egg, oil, water, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix for 2 minutes. Fill paper-lined muﬃn tins 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Meanwhile in mixing bowl, combine shortening, butter, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat for 5 minutes until fluffy. Take half of the frosting and put in a decorators bag and push tip into the top of each cooled cupcake. Squeeze bag to allow a couple teaspoons of frosting in the center for a delectable filling. Take remaining frosting and frost the top on each cupcake. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Esther Briddick Joe Wheeler EMC
36 DECEMBER 2015
PHOTO BY MICHAEL CORNELISON
Peppermint Oreo Balls 1 package regular Oreo cookies, ground fine 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 teaspoon peppermint extract White chocolate chips (or almond bark), melted Crushed peppermints for garnish
Blend cookie crumbs, cream cheese and peppermint extract. Roll into small balls. Dip into the melted white chocolate, set on wax paper and quickly dust with crushed peppermints. Cool for one hour. Janie Whelton Baldwin EMC
Holiday Peppermint Pie 4 cups crispy rice cereal 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, melted 1½ quarts peppermint stick ice cream, softened Chocolate fudge topping Crushed peppermint candies
Combine the cereal and melted chocolate; mix well. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Freeze for 5 minutes. Spoon ice cream into the crust. Freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with the chocolate fudge topping and peppermint candies. Sherry Parker Cherokee EC
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Peppermint Hot Chocolate 3½ cups whole milk 8 squares (1 ounce) white baking chocolate, chopped ¼-½ teaspoon peppermint extract ⁄ cup whipped cream 8 peppermint candies, crushed Chocolate syrup Additional crushed candies as desired
In a saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until hot. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in peppermint extract. In a medium bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in crushed candies. Ladle the hot chocolate mixture into mugs and dollop with whipped cream. Drizzle with chocolate syrup and additional crushed candies. Carolyn Batchelor Covington EC
PHOTO BY MICHAEL CORNELISON
Send us your recipes! Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year. Share a story about your recipe! Whether it’s your grandmother’s best cake or your uncle’s camp stew, every recipe has a story behind it. We’ll pay $50 for the best recipe-related story each month.
Submit: Online: alabamaliving.coop Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
The Power of Peppermint Peppermint-flavored foods get their punch from peppermint oil (or extracts made from peppermint oil), which are derived from a mixture of mint plant species. But did you know that this versatile ingredient can do a lot more than add a burst of invigorating cool to everything from candy and cakes to tea? Peppermint oil is for way more than eating. Check out some of its many benefits and uses.
• Reduce nausea and soothe upset stomachs • Perk you up and provide a natural energy boost • Freshen breath with its antimicrobial properties • Relieve muscle soreness when applied topically • Open sinuses and nasal passages • Relieve stress • Reduce cravings and curb appetite • Stop the itch from bug bites and rashes when applied topically
Upcoming recipe themes and deadlines: February March April
Quick & Easy Garlic Greens
December 15 January 15 February 8
Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe. Alabama Living
DECEMBER 2015 37
Market Place Miscellaneous
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DECEMBER 2015 39
Feathered pursuits Alabama abounds with bird hunting options By John N. Felsher
terns, doves frequently embarrass even ach fall, sportsmen across Alathe best shooters. bama eagerly await cooler days “Agriculture and forestry pracwhen they can pursue King tices greatly enhance the habitat and Bob, the most majestic of all native benefit Alabama mourning dove North American game birds. Better populations,” says Jeff Makemson, an known as bobwhite quail, King Bob ADCNR biologist. “Mourning doves once ranked among the most popular game species in North America, are the most numerous game birds particularly in the South. However, in Alabama. The population is good the regal fowl suffered many setbacks and stable throughout the state with from predators and disappearing or the highest populations in southern changing habitat. Alabama. Localized dove populations “The bobwhite quail population vary depending on the preferred food is poor and declining across most Northern bobwhite quail range across most of eastern source in the area.” of Alabama, except on some private North America from the Midwest to the Southeast, Doves prefer open fields or grasslands punctuated by occasional trees, plantations with intensive habitat including all of Alabama. PHOTO BY JOHN N. FELSHER brush or fencerows where they find management,” says Steve Mitchell, an Mallard Fox Creek, Swan Creek WMAs abundant seeds. They tend to avoid Alabama Department of Conservation swamps and thick forests, but do feed and Natural Resources biologist in Good- and Geneva State Forest. “Positive work is being done on many along timbered edges. water. “Habitat loss has been the main factor in the bobwhite population decline WMAs,” Mitchell says. “Longleaf pine resFor many sportsmen, a new hunting toration on Barbour WMA has whistling season kicks off when dove seasons open across Alabama.” Bobwhites inhabit anything from tall counts trending upward. Quail are also every September. Dove season in the grass prairies and brushy rangeland to showing a positive response to shortleaf North Zone ran from Sept. 12 to Nov. 15 pine savannahs. They prefer grasslands pine restoration on Freedom Hills WMA and returns from Dec. 5-29. In the South and “successional” plant species, those that and Lauderdale WMA. We are also modi- Zone, the late season runs from Nov. 12 to emerge after something disturbs the soil to fying agriculture contracts on many areas Jan. 15. Some of the best hunting occurs create an opening. They don’t do well in that will have a positive impact for quail later in the year. While many birds live thick forests with little undergrowth, but habitat by leaving fallow field borders.” their entire lives in Alabama, others miIn addition, many private property own- grate to the Cotton State as cold weather thrive in some crop fields, as long as they can find edge cover from weeds, grasses, ers also intensively manage their lands to hits. enhance quail habitat. Commercial shootSportsmen can also hunt two other brambles or woody thickets. Fortunately, the state manages some ing preserves supplement the wild popula- largely ignored game birds - snipe and public lands specifically for quail. Some tion by releasing pen-raised birds on their woodcock. Both look similar with small better wildlife management areas for land. The Alabama wild quail season be- bodies and long bills that they use to probe bobwhites include Barbour, Blue Springs, gan Nov. 7 and continues through Feb. 29, soft mud for invertebrates. Both fly swiftly Freedom Hills, Lauderdale, Mulberry Fork, 2016, but the season for pen-raised birds and erratically, making them extremely on commercial preserves runs from Oct. 1 difficult to hit. In fact, the military term through March 31 annually. “sniper” for an expert marksman originally John N. Felsher is a Besides bobwhite quail, Alabama sportsdescribed someone skilled enough to hit a freelance writer and photographer who men can hunt several other game birds, snipe in flight. lives in Semmes, Ala. not to mention turkeys and waterfowl. During the winter, many snipe and He co-hosts a weekly While quail populations have declined, woodcock migrate to the Gulf Coast. outdoors show that is syndicated to stations doves number nearly 500 million birds Snipe season runs from Nov. 14 to Feb. in Alabama. For more across North America. These extremely 28. Woodcock season lasts from Dec. 18 on the show, see www.gdomag.com. Contact him through his website at www. swift and agile fliers can exceed 55 miles until Jan. 31. For more information, see JohnNFelsher.com per hour. With twisting, erratic flight pat- Outdooralabama.com. A 40 DECEMBER 2015
Tables indicate peak fish and game feeding and migration times. Major periods can bracket the peak by an hour before and an hour after. Minor peaks, half-hour before and after. Adjusted for daylight savings time.
a.m. p.m. Minor Major Minor Major
DEC. 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 JAN. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
11:31 -01:16 07:46 09:01 10:01 10:46 11:31 07:16 07:46 08:16 08:46 09:31 10:01 10:31 4:01 12:46 03:01 08:01 09:01 10:01 10:46 11:31 -07:31 08:01 08:31 09:16 09:46 10:31 04:31 05:46 07:31 09:01 10:01 10:46 11:31 -07:16 07:46 08:16 08:31 09:01 09:31 03:01 03:31
04:01 05:01 06:31 03:01 04:16 05:01 05:46 06:31 12:01 12:31 01:01 01:46 02:16 02:46 03:16 11:31 04:46 06:16 04:01 04:46 05:16 05:46 06:16 06:46 12:16 12:46 01:31 02:01 02:46 03:31 11:16 01:16 03:16 04:31 05:16 05:46 06:31 07:01 12:16 12:46 01:16 01:46 02:16 02:31 09:46 10:31
11:01 07:16 01:01 01:46 02:31 03:16 04:01 -12:16 12:46 01:31 02:16 03:16 08:46 10:16 -12:01 12:46 01:31 02:16 03:01 03:46 04:16 12:01 12:46 01:16 02:01 03:01 09:16 11:01 -12:16 01:16 02:16 03:01 03:46 04:31 12:01 12:31 01:16 01:46 02:31 08:31 09:31 11:31 --
06:01 12:16 08:16 09:16 10:01 10:31 11:16 04:46 05:16 06:01 06:31 07:01 07:46 04:16 05:31 07:16 08:01 08:46 09:16 10:01 10:31 11:01 11:31 05:01 05:46 06:31 07:16 08:16 04:01 05:16 06:31 07:46 09:01 09:46 10:31 11:16 11:46 05:16 05:46 06:31 07:01 07:46 03:16 04:01 05:16 06:31
DECEMBER 2015 41
42â€ƒ DECEMBER 2015
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Our Sources Say
Why don’t you like solar?
hy don’t you like solar?” I am often asked that question. Solar power (electricity generated from sunlight) is all the rage, and people want to know why we haven’t joined the party to build solar farms and install solar panels. I don’t have anything against solar power other than you can only use it when the sun is shining, it costs more than traditional electricity generated from fossil fuels and its cost is subsidized. I am always surprised by the number of people who don’t understand that electricity can only be stored in very limited cases and that solar power can only be used when the sun shines. That should be a basic premise. Solar power comes from converting sunlight to electricity through a solar panel – therefore, you need sunshine to make electricity. Why don’t we use batteries to store the electricity until it is needed? We can to a degree, but the cost of bulk storage is very high and would increase your electric bill. Most people don’t want much of that. It is a simple but too often misunderstood concept – if the sun is not shining you don’t get any electricity. Besides, the sun doesn’t always shine at the times we need electricity most. PowerSouth’s normal annual system peak is between 6:00 and 7:00 on a cold winter morning. At that time, the sun is not up yet so there is no solar power available, and the system peak must be met with fossil fuel generation that will run on demand. It is fine if you like solar, but you should also be willing to pay the fixed costs to maintain fossil fuel generation to keep you warm on cold winter mornings. You may have heard that solar is now cheaper than the power you buy from your utility. That is right as far as it goes. On average, normal retail electric service costs approximately $130 per 1,000 kilowatt hours, and the normal customer in Alabama uses about 1,200 kilowatt hours of electricity per month. Therefore, your monthly power bill will be about $200 before taxes. Ads for solar power frequently publicize electricity around $100 per 1,000 kilowatt hours. You can do the math – $100 is cheaper than $130. However, that is only part of the story. The cost you pay for electricity is comprised of many elements. The fixed costs of generation plants, transmission lines, substations, distribution lines, transformers and meters and the variable costs of fuels to run the generators are all bundled into the single retail rate of $130 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.
The cost of solar power does not include any of the fixed costs and is only comparable to the variable cost of fuel to run the generators. PowerSouth’s variable cost of fuel to run its generators averages $36 per 1,000 kilowatt hours. The remainder of your retail bill is to pay the fixed cost to deliver power to you and provide power when it is needed. That math is simple, too – the $36 fuel charge is cheaper than the comparable $100 element for solar power. Everyone should pay their fair share of the cost of service required to provide them electricity. If you have to be served from a generating plant that will run on demand when the sun is not shining, you should be willing to pay the cost for that plant. Unfortunately, payments are due on the plant every month, and you have to pay your share every month and not just the days you need it. If you don’t, someone else will have to pay your share. The final thing I don’t like about solar power is that it is subsidized by the federal government with our tax dollars. That is, for every $100 of investment you or a solar provider makes on your behalf, the federal government will issue an income tax credit of $30. Tax subsidies are very big business, and solar providers are making huge profits from installing solar power systems and receiving subsidies from tax dollars you and I pay. We are subsidizing the profits of Solar City for installing uneconomical solar generation, whether we want to or not. Why don’t I like solar? It is not dependable – it can’t be called on when it is needed. It is not as affordable as a comparable element of fossil-generated electricity by a factor of at least two times and often more. It doesn’t pay its own way, and people who install solar systems are subsidized by other retail customers and by taxpayers. Finally, solar companies are taking advantage of tax subsidies to make huge profits on inefficient generating resources from my federal income taxes. Otherwise, I like solar power. I hope you have a good month. A
Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative
44 DECEMBER 2015
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