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Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative

M A R C H 2012

COVER STORY:

Crafting At the Creek Joe Horne is surrounded by several of his creations. On and around the table are gourd statues, turkey calls, bait buckets, birdhouses and walking sticks. Joe lives west of Wewahitchka at Wetappo Creek, and spends a lot of his free time inside his shop creating all sorts of items. See the story on page 6.

Annual Meeting Upcoming PAGE 4

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Project Helping Hand PAGE 28


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Energy Smarts

Making the Most of Your Electricity

Florida Currents is published monthly by five rural electric cooperatives serving consumers throughout Florida. The publication is made possible by your friends at Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative in an effort to keep you informed of events and issues at your cooperative. Florida Currents is produced with the assistance of Ruralite Services Inc. Formed in 1954, the not-for-profit Oregon-based cooperative corporation serves the communication needs of consumer-owned electric utilities in nine states. Today, Ruralite works with 58 electric utilities in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Postmaster: Please send address changes to Ruralite Services, P.O. Box 558, Forest Grove, OR 97116-0558. HOW TO CONTACT FLORIDA CURRENTS

Have a problem receiving your edition of Florida Currents? Utility members should contact the local utility office listed on the back cover. Nonmembers should contact Ruralite Services, P.O. Box 558, Forest Grove, OR 97116-0558; (503) 357-2105; email info@floridacurrents.com. Extra copies: $2 each, pre-payment required. Supply is limited. Identify edition, month and year. Contact Ruralite Services. Reprint permission: Direct all requests to Ruralite Services. MANUSCRIPTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Please do not send unsolicited materials. If interested in writing for Florida Currents, query first. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for writer’s guidelines. Address requests and queries to Ruralite Services. DISPLAY ADVERTISING INQUIRIES

Contact Russell Green or Brenda Somes Ruralite Services Inc. P.O. Box 558 Forest Grove, OR 97116-0558 (503) 357-2105 PRINTED IN FLORIDA

Trend Offset Printing Services 10301 Busch Drive North Jacksonville, FL 32218 © 2012 Ruralite Services Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.

Slash Electric Bills by Sealing Manufactured Home Air Leaks If energy bills for your manufactured home seem too high, the likely culprits are air leaks. Here are some tips that can help you stop leaks from your home— and your wallet. Manufactured homes, especially those built before 1994, could be plagued by leaking ducts and inadequate insulation. Leaky ductwork can reduce the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent. A good time to check for leaks is on a windy day, when you will be able to find drafty spots. Experts recommend going after big leaks first. That means plugging all holes around chimneys, vents, water pipes and heating system ductwork. Seal any duct leaks with mastic. Avoid the use of duct tape, which can dry out and disintegrate. Adding insulation to floor, walls and ceiling cavities can improve energy efficiency, but may be a job for a professional contractor. Once you have sealed major leaks, look for smaller ones around windows, doors, electrical outlets and light switches. Seal gaps around windows and doors, using caulk on nonmoving parts. And replace any worn weather stripping. Caulk or expanding spray foam are perfect in spots where plumbing, wiring, vents and ducting penetrate through walls. Installing foam outlet gaskets behind electrical outlets and light switches—especially on outside walls—can save energy, too. For safety’s sake, make sure all combustion appliances—such as furnaces, stoves and water heaters—are properly vented.  For other tips on how to save energy—and money—visit www.energysavers.gov or www.TogetherWeSave.com.

Inside

March 2012 Vol. 1, No. 5

Cattle Keepers 12

Ranching has a rich heritage in Florida and continues through the determined people who value it as a way of life. Also In This Issue Side Roads 10 In the Kitchen 16 Florida Gardener 18

Festival Roundup 22 Outdoor Pursuits 24 Parting Shot 30

Your utility pages: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 25, 26, 28, 29, 32

MARCH 2012

3


Meet Your District III Trustees Each year at the annual meeting, Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative members elect three trustees to serve threeyear terms on the board. The trustees are elected from members who are 18 years of age or older and who have been members of the cooperative for at least six months prior to the election. Nominations for the office of trustee are taken from the nominating committee or by petition. A total of nine trustees are charged with establishing basic policies and reviewing activities of your cooperative, thereby promoting a progressive, financially sound operation. If you have a question about the policies of the cooperative, call the trustee in your area. Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative’s District III trustees consist of Rupert Brown, representing Group 1; Jimmy Black, representing Group 2; and Robert Byrd, representing Group 3. District III is composed of Bay County.

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Rupert Brown

Jimmy Black

Robert Byrd

Rupert Brown represents members in the Southport area, bounded on the east by the centerline of North Bay, Deer Point Lake and the Econfina Creek; on the north by the Bay County line; on the west by the extremities of the cooperative lines; and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico. Brown joined the board of trustees in 2002. Retired from Rupert’s Cleaners, his family-owned business, he is a member of the International Fabricare Institute. In 2005, Brown earned his Credentialed Cooperative Director certification. He served on the Alabama Electric Cooperative (PowerSouth Energy Cooperative) board from 2003 until 2006. He was a member of committees for engineering and operations, member relations and strategic planning. Brown has served as vice president of GCEC’s board and currently is president. He also serves on the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association Board of Directors. Brown and his wife, Cindy, have three children and three grandchildren. They are members of Emerald Coast Fellowship Baptist Church. n

Jimmy Black represents members in the Green HillsFountain area, bounded on the west by the centerline of North Bay, Deer Point Lake and the Econfina Creek; on the north and east by the Bay County line; and on the south by the township line dividing Township 2 South and Township 3 South. Black began serving on the board of trustees in 2008. He earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University. Black retired as a major with the U.S. Air Force in 1994, and has been employed by Bay District Schools as a teacher since that time. He has earned his Credentialed Cooperative Director certification. He serves on the GCEC finance committee. Black and his wife, Lorie, have three children. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, specifically umpiring baseball and softball games. He attends Hiland Park Baptist Church. n

Robert Byrd represents members in the Allanton area, bounded on the north by the township line dividing Township 2 South and Township 3 South; on the east by the Bay County line; on the south by the Gulf of Mexico; and on the west by the centerline of North Bay. Byrd began serving on the board of trustees in 2005. He attended Gulf Coast Community College, is retired and is a member of the Callaway Masonic Lodge #369, Shaddai Shrine Temple and Am Vets. Byrd has earned his Credentialed Cooperative Director certification. He has served on the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association board. He was a member of the legislative and public affairs committee. He currently serves on the GCEC finance committee. Byrd and his wife, Sylvia, have four children and five grandchildren. He is Methodist by faith. n


Gulf Coast

Don’t Forget!

Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative 64th Annual Members’ Meeting Saturday, April 14 Headquarters office—722 West Highway 22, Wewahitchka Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. CST

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29 In addition to the business portion of the meeting, enjoy:  Live music  Informative booths  Children’s activities  Complimentary food and beverages  Prizes! Every registered member receives a $10 electric bill credit and the opportunity to win one of many door prizes, including the grand prizes, which are $100 electric bill credits. See you there!

Important Note If you are registering on behalf of an organization, you will need a letter printed on the organization’s letterhead stating you are authorized to register for the organization.

In Memory of Tony ‘T-Bone’ Turner Several members of the Wewahitchka community gathered on the bank of the Apalachicola River on December 24 to honor their beloved friend and family member, Tony “T-Bone” Turner. T-Bone died in a boating accident December 24, 2010. One year later, a group traveled by boat to the accident site to raise a wooden cross in his memory. The cross was built by Jeremy Miles. A group prayer was led by the Rev. Joey Smith of Glad Tidings Assembly of God church. Pictured with the cross are past and present GCEC employees Charlie Little, Jeremy Miles, Charles Borders, Charles Nunery, Michael Slack, Timmy Wade and Byron Whitten.

MARCH 2012

5


Joe Horne works on a gourd statue. This one is going to be a Bob White quail.

Crafting At the Creek Natural materials become works of art By Lindsay Peak

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M A R C H 2 0 12

When Joe Horne is not busy experiencing the “four seasons a year: turkey, bream, mullet and hunting,” as he puts it, you can find him tinkering in his shed just west of Wewahitchka at Wetappo Creek. Joe spends much of his free time inside his shop creating all sorts of items—and he has plenty of creativity to work with. The season determines how much time he has. Seven years ago, Joe retired. Not long after, he planted gourds outside his home, providing a natural canvas on which he can express his artistic talent. With some paint and creativity, they become various characters. This year, Joe grew four types of gourds. Each shape represents something to him. Some might be

a sea turtle or an elephant head, while others may be a fish or bird. The possibilities are limited only by his vision. “I let the gourd tell me what it wants to be,” Joe says. Inspired by his six grandchildren, Joe has created several of the characters from shows and movies they have watched together, such as Nemo and Dory from “Finding Nemo” and a wooden SpongeBob birdhouse with a matching Patrick gourd birdhouse from the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. Joe says his all-time favorite gourd is the mullet, complete with all of the matching facial characteristics of a real mullet. Birdhouses and statues are not the only uses for


Gulf  Coast

Left, these birdhouses were inspired by Joe’s grandchildren. From left, SpongeBob, which is made from wood; Patrick, made from a gourd; and a firefly, made from a gourd.

Above, Joe’s hand-carved wooden strikers and turkey calls made from turtle shells, gourds and wood. Left, wooden walking sticks Joe carves. In honor of the state’s major universities, a Seminole head and gator are carved into them.

Joe’s gourds. He also makes large bait buckets and turkey calls. If an idea strikes him, he is willing to try it out. Joe also enjoys making knives. He carves handles out of deer antlers and attaches them to either a skinner or straight blade. The knives are durable. Because his family and friends are always asking for them, Joe says he has a hard time keeping one of the knives for himself. Joe attaches a piece of slate to small turtle shells he orders to make turkey calls. He carves either a wooden or deer antler striker to hit the slate with. He also carves box turkey calls from wood and attaches slate to parts of his gourds to make the turkey calls. Some gourd pieces can be used to create a

megaphone turkey call. Using white cedar, wild persimmon and red maple, Joe carves walking sticks. A Florida Gator and a Florida State Seminole head are carved into the top of two in his shop. He also enjoys making carpenter bee traps and tomato buckets, and repairs and makes cast nets. Joe has no shortage of creativity. His creations are featured at smaller festivals around Gulf County, including the Tupelo Honey Festival and Christmas at the Creek Craft Fair. He plans to branch out to other festivals as the opportunities present themselves. In the meantime, new creations will continue to emerge from his Wetappo Creek shop. n march 2 0 1 2

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Gulf Coast

Hydropower PowerSouth joins three towns in buying Alabama Water Service Co. property The River Falls Power Co. completed construction of Gantt Dam in 1923 and began engineering a second dam in 1924. It was at a place marked as Point “A” on the survey map. Other sites were marked “B,” “C” and so on. PowerSouth still owns the property at the site of what would have been Point B, where the Covington County Commission later built a boat ramp. A German man, Charles Thesen, came from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to install the turbines and gates on the dam. Construction on Point A was completed in 1926. The River Falls Power Co. thrived until 1929 when “a tremendous rainfall over a period of three months finally overran the wooden spillway and earthen dam at Gantt and washed it out. When this happened, the wall of water that came down into Point A was hardly slowed down by the dam there and both were washed out.” Soon after the flood, the River Falls Power Co. was sold to a New York syndicate, including the holdings of Pea River Power Co. The new owners, General Water Works and Electric Corporation, rebuilt the dams. During their ownership, the holdings became the Alabama Utilities Co., which was purchased by the Alabama Water Service Co. (AWSC) in 1935. After the incorporation in 1941 of PowerSouth—then Alabama Electric Cooperative—the co-op sought to acquire generation and transmission facilities. The Alabama Water Service Co. property was of great interest due to its location in the heart of the service areas of the early member cooperatives. PowerSouth officials agreed buying the AWSC property was

Power rushes through a gate at the Point A Hydroelectric Power Plant.

a move in the right direction. It also was agreed the towns of Opp, Andalusia and Elba would co-purchase the AWSC system. On August 3, 1944, at a special meeting in Montgomery, the PowerSouth board approved acquisition of the AWSC system. PowerSouth’s portion of the purchase was $2,011,244. In today’s dollars, that would equal more than $30 million. PowerSouth officially began generation and transmission operations September 1, 1944, with the existing AWSC system that included three small hydro plants—Point A, Gantt Most people don’t stop to think about this. Electricity has evolved from a luxury to a necessity we and Elba—and diesel gendepend on every day. We expect it to be readily available. On the rare occasions it is not, a phone erating plants at Brundidge, call is made, and right away someone is dispatched to correct the problem. Frisco City and Troy. Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative is one of 20 member-owners of PowerSouth Energy Today, Point A and Gantt Cooperative, a generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Andalusia, Alabama. Hydroelectric Power Plants PowerSouth is owned by 16 distribution electric cooperatives and four municipalities in Alabama combine for a generating and northwest Florida. Together these utilities serve more than 1 million end-users in 39 capacity of 8 megawatts— Alabama and 10 Florida counties. enough to power about 8,000 This month we conclude the story about Point A and Gantt hydroelectric dams. homes. 

Where Does My Power Come From?

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Side Roads

Discoveries Off the Beaten Path

Home Sweet Dome By Adam Porter

Call of the Wild Tarzan, Jane and Cheetah once frolicked in the trees of north Florida. One of the world’s largest and deepest springs, Wakulla Springs was the site of three Tarzan movies starring fivetime Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weismuller. The sound of Tarzan’s famous call no longer echoes through the moss-draped trees, but people continue to flock to this popular destination to stay, swim and tour the springs and its namesake river in glassbottom boats. The “Tarzan tree” where many of Johnny’s treetop scenes were filmed is still a favorite on the river tour. Photo by Curtis Condon

Tucked away down a dusty road, hidden behind sprawling orange groves, custom homes are the centerpieces of tree-lined country estates. Each house is a dream realized, but one of these stands in such stark contrast to the others that they all begin to look the same. From a distance, it appears to be a line of hills rising out of a grassy clearing in a grove of pine trees. A closer look reveals four connected domes—towering earthhued dunes ornamented with arched windows and ornate doors. When Bill and Gerry Merrell bought their property on the outskirts of Winter Haven in 1983, they were buying a retreat—an escape from the crowds and congestion that were overrunning their home in West Palm Beach. They envisioned a quiet country life, the perfect setting to raise their children and, later, enjoy retirement with fresh air and room to breathe. They flirted, briefly, with the idea of a “standard house,” but in their hearts the couple’s dream home was always dome-shaped. “We talked about it for 20 years.” Gerry says, “and even though we watched our neighbors building beautiful traditional homes, that look didn’t interest us.” Initially, the Merrells planned to build a geodesic dome—a popular style that is relatively inexpensive and easy to construct. “The geodesic domes come in kits with simple instructions,” Bill says. “This was way more work.” Bill and Gerry’s dream home is a series of monolithic domes, constructed by spraying concrete into a latticework of rebar lining the interior of an inflated, rubberized “skin.” The process is difficult, time consuming and labor intensive, but Bill and Gerry are confident they made the right decision. The Round House Learning Curve The Merrells began researching monolithic domes with the indirect counsel of three destructive, uninvited guests: Charley, Frances and Jeanne.

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During the 2004 summer of storms, this trio of hurricanes blazed across peninsular Florida. They heavily damaged the manufactured home the Merrells were living in while planning their dream dome. “When those storms came through, we were more convinced than ever to go with strength,” Bill says. “I began researching various dome styles—there is more variety than you might think—and that’s when we discovered the monolithic model.” Bill learned the walls of a monolithic dome are built to withstand hurricane force, much stronger than a geodesic. “And they have the added benefit of being extremely energy efficient,” he notes. But there was a problem. The Merrells could not find a Florida contractor with monolithic construction experience. Finally, Bill made the decision to do the work himself. It was a massive undertaking, but the talented do-it-yourselfer had faith he was up to the task. Gerry supported her husband from their early years when he served in the U.S. Air Force through decades spent building a successful dental laboratory business. She knew they could do it together. With his wife’s blessing, Bill flew to Italy, Texas, for a two-week crash course at the Monolithic Dome Training Center. He came home with a clear plan, and the couple got to work.


An Overhead Crossing Crossing central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River is the state’s premier greenway. The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway occupies much of the land formerly known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. A series of historic events transformed this corridor from one of Florida’s biggest public works projects ever to a world class greenway. Today, this 110-mile corridor traverses a number of natural habitats and offers a variety of trails and recreation areas where visitors can experience the wonders of Florida. The Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge—a landscaped overpass that connects the east and west sides of the greenway—allows trail users and wildlife to safely cross six lanes of Interstate 75 traffic. Anywhere along the greenway, visitors might cross paths with something wild: gopher tortoises, whitetail deer, squirrels, shore birds, waterfowl, alligators or even manatees.

Right, Gerry and Bill Merrell love the size, open space and energy efficiency of their home, which consists of four interconnected domes, above.

Contractors installed the plumbing and electrical lines, and the foam insulation— “that’s a nasty job,” says Bill, who wanted no part of it—but the family did the rest. “We brought in fill dirt and started the foundation in 2005,” Bill says. “We rented all the equipment to level the dirt. That was the fun part.” Son Michael and eldest daughter Shannon helped with the interior construction. Grandson Christian moved tile as his grandparents laid the floor. “We worked on this so long,” Bill says. “Sometimes I just stand here and I think, ‘Wow, how in the world did Gerry and I do all this?’” Dome is Where the Heart Is The Merrells’ home consists of four interconnected domes that curve around a gravel driveway. Nearly a foot thick at the base, the concrete walls taper to roughly four inches thick at the peaks. Natural light pours into the cavernous, palatial interior through huge arched windows. “I wanted big everything: tall counters, big sinks and a good-sized kitchen,” Gerry says. “We didn’t put in enough outlets. Otherwise, it’s perfect.” “Because the dome holds the heat

and air conditioning so well, we have low electric bills for a 5,600-square-foot home,” Bill adds. The home is equipped with two water heaters. When one part of the home is not being used, one heater stays off. “If we built with fewer windows that would save us even more,” Bill says. Bill designed each dome with an independent exterior entryway. He plans to build additional bedrooms in the other domes, potentially for rental income. “At that point we will be living in the central dome and have a fully-enclosed three-bedroom home at one end and a two-bedroom home at the other,” he says. The Merrells savor every new day in their home sweet dome. n

The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway offers safe passage across Interstate 75. It is one of a number of overthe-turnpike animal and recreation crossings. Photo by Brenda Somes

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Cattle Keepers Ranching has a long and rich heritage in Florida, and continues in the old ways By Claudia Shea

A weathered, wooden sign reading “Adams Ranch, established in 1937” serves as notice that one has arrived at the gateway to what some may presume is a bygone era—a place where Florida’s five-century-old tradition of cattle ranching continues in a manner similar to days of old. Upon entering the fourth-generation cattle ranch, visitors are greeted by homegrown Florida cowboys who tip their hats and extend their hands in welcoming gestures. Heading this family-owned and operated cattle business is 85-year-old Alto “Bud” Adams Jr. The passionate cowman and environmentalist sets the tone for the symbiotic natural balance here—maintaining a successful cattle operation, while protecting the native subtropical landscape and thriving wildlife. A flock of sandhill cranes take flight as the sound of lowing cattle reverberates across 17,000

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unspoiled acres of lush grassland, cabbage palm and moss embellished oak tree hammocks. Adams Ranch is one of the 15 largest cattle ranches in the nation in terms of breeding, yet herding and other chores are still done by cowboys on horseback. It is a place where salt-ofthe-earth people value an old-fashioned code of respect for one another, their pristine landscape and their animals. This idyllic setting 17 miles west of downtown Fort Pierce is one of Florida’s last frontiers—precious property spared from the surge of suburban sprawl. With its proud heritage and culture, Adams Ranch is a holdout. “I’ve been raised here practically all my life,” says Bud. “We’re surrounded on four sides by citrus groves. This is the largest track of this hammock and grassland in the Indian River District that hasn’t been bulldozed down or put into citrus, housing or something else.” Bud is a self-made man who is celebrated in these parts for


his innovation and conservation. He is the recipient of numerous awards for environmental stewardship, cattle quality and wildlife management. The ranch depends on nature—not pesticides—for biological control. “We have a plentiful supply of artesian water,” says Bud. “We put the surplus into reservoirs for irrigation when it gets dry. The water is filled with fish. The fish eat the mosquito larvae. Eagles, hawks and bobcats control the ranch rodents and snakes.” The Adams family also owns and operates ranchland in Okeechobee, Osceola and Madison counties, as well as in Georgia. The 10,000-cow herd produces feeder steers, replacement heifers and breeding bulls.  First Cows and First Cowboys Florida enjoys a rich history of cattle ranching. Operations such as Adams Ranch make the Sunshine State a leader in cattle production. Florida cattle ranches are primarily cow-calf operations in which a permanent herd is maintained to produce calves typically sold at weaning and shipped to other states, where they are fattened on grain and eventually harvested. The 300,000-acre Deseret Ranch, located in Kissimmee and owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, produces more calves than any other ranch in the United States. The Seminole Tribe also is a leader in Florida’s cattle industry, consistently ranking as one of the top cow/calf operations. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida beef producers own more than 1.5 million cows, heifers and bulls. The state ranks 12th nationally in the number of beef cows. Florida’s dairy farmers own an estimated 140,000 head of cattle from which milk and other dairy products are produced. Okeechobee County has the highest density of cattle in Florida. Florida’s history of cattle ranching dates back five centuries, giving the state the distinction of having the first cows and first cowboys in what is now the United States. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon introduced cattle to North America in 1521. He unloaded long-horned Andalusians at Charlotte Harbor on Florida’s west coast. Spanish settlers began raising cattle and operated the first ranches in the 1600s. By 1700, settlers established numerous ranches along the St. Johns River and the Florida Panhandle. Most raised the cattle for their beef. Pioneer settlers in search of new pastures slowly moved south, setting up ranches throughout the Kissimmee Valley and near Lake Okeechobee. Seminoles also began accumulating and maintaining large numbers of cattle. By the mid-1800s, ranchers were running large herds on the extensive open range in Central and South Florida. Laws passed in 1949 ended open range grazing. Those laws were initiated by then-Gov. Fuller Warren, who ran on the ticket, “I’ll get the cows off the road.”

Alto “Bud” Adams Jr. sits on the deck of the guesthouse at his fourth-generation ranch. In the late 1940s, Bud crossed Hereford bulls with Brahman cows, establishing the foundation herd for all registered Braford cattle, opposite page.

A cowboy at an open range roundup near Fort McCoy in the early 19th century. The photo is part of a traveling display. See that story on page 14. march 2012

13


History of Adams Ranch In 1937, Alto Adams Sr., a former Fort Pierce lawyer and Florida Supreme Court chief justice, bought the land as an investment. “My father was hunting out on this land and said it ought to be worth something some day,” Bud recalls, “so he bought a large track for $1.50 an acre. Of course, it was a very good investment.” The land deal was an investment in family and the future. Bud married his wife, Dot, in 1949 after serving in the U.S. Navy and graduating from the University of Florida. Together, the couple expanded the ranch. “This was Seminole country,” Bud says. “I asked my wife, ‘Do you want to live in town or on a ranch?’ She said on a ranch. I said, ‘Well, you will be the first white woman to live this far out.’ ” In the late 1940s, Bud created a hybrid breed of cattle capable of tolerating South Florida’s stifling summers and parasites.

A Moo-ving Exhibit Experience Florida’s rich ranching history through a traveling exhibit on display at the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. “Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition” takes visitors on a journey through time, from the 16th century arrival of the first cattle and horses in the New World to the agricultural accomplishments of Spanish settlers, Seminole Indians and English pioneers who blazed the trail for ranching as it exists today. Visitors are greeted at the ranch-style entrance of the exhibit by a full-size taxidermy Cracker cow. The animal serves as more than just an attention grabber; it sets the theme of the display, which explains that Cracker cattle gave birth to Florida’s cattle industry. The expansive multimedia exhibit explores the tumultuous history of Florida cattle ranching and rustling through the eyes of various cultures, including the Seminoles, who rank among the state’s leading cattle producers. Produced by the Florida Folklife Program, the Department of State and Florida Cultural Resources, the exhibit will remain at the South Florida Fairgrounds through December 2012.

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He crossed Hereford bulls with Brahman cows, establishing the foundation herd for all of the registered Braford cattle in America. Brafords were the only cattle raised on Bud’s ranch until 1990, when he created another new breed, ABEEF. “They’re even better than the Braford, and they will eventually feed the tropical world because you can grow them in Africa and Central and South America, where you can’t grow the British breeds,” Bud says. The Future of Florida Ranching According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, an estimated 9 million acres of land in Florida is designated as agricultural. “Lands used for cattle production are important green space for wildlife and native plant habitat, aquifer recharge and carbon recovery,” the department says. Nonetheless, the number and size of farmland decreases every year for several reasons: steep property and inheritance taxes, rising expenses, the lure of payment by developers, and the rising age of farmers and ranchers. Thirty-three percent are 55 or older. This is a concern for the state and federal government, which view ranching as economically and environmentally beneficial to Florida’s health. It also is a source of worry for longtime Florida ranchers who want to preserve their land, culture and traditions. “We’re quite concerned about how this can be preserved for the grandchildren and great grandchildren, but I think we have a plan to do that,” Bud says. For the Adams family, the solution to saving the ranch in Fort Pierce appears to be an arrangement in which the federal government buys an easement, creating a wildlife conservation area on the property. If approved, the family would continue to ranch their land. Future generations would not be allowed to sell it to developers. The family worked out a similar arrangement with the state in which 782 acres of Adams ranchland in Osceola County is protected. Conservation easements may be a lifeline for other ranching and farming families in Florida. Despite the challenges, the future of Florida cattle ranching appears sound because of the determination of the sturdy breed of people who consider ranching their way of life. “Cattle ranching is a strong and complete culture,” says Bob Stone of the Florida Folklife Program. “It’s much more than a business. It’s a full lifestyle with a strong work ethic and strong family values. It’s a parallel universe. If you’re not from it, you may not be aware of it.” That philosophy reigns supreme at Adams Ranch, where Bud’s three sons, grandchildren and close family friends run the day-to-day operations—and he wouldn’t have it any other way. n For more information about cattle ranching in Florida, visit www.floridacattlemen.org or www.freshfromflorida.com/ai.


Florida Crackers a Rare Breed Descendants of Florida’s rugged pioneering families pride themselves as “Crackers”—a moniker that conjures images of cattle drives and round-ups. Eighty-year-old cattle rancher Elwyn Bass fits the bill of a Florida Cracker. His family roots run deeper than the towering oaks rising from his L Bar Ranch in the Okeechobee County town of Basinger. “My grandpa, James Durrance, bought this track of land in 1903 when he was still riding the cattle trails,” explains Elwyn, who lives at the original homestead. Elwyn shares the sprawling spread with a herd of Cracker cattle and Cracker horses—descendants of his grandfather’s original herd. Most Florida Cracker cattle and horses stem from Spanish Andalusian lineage— the breed brought to what is now Florida by Spanish explorers and settlers in the 1500s. The animals flourished on the prairies, swamps and rangeland of Florida. Free-roaming Cracker cattle and horses evolved into hearty breeds, molded and tempered by Florida’s wilderness and tropical climate. By the 1600s, pioneer “cow-hunters” began rounding up and claiming wild cattle and horses for their own. That marked the beginning of ranching in Florida. During the 1800s, purebred northern European cattle arrived in Florida and quickly grew in number and popularity. By the 1930s, crossbreeding Crackers with other cattle—particularly Brahman— became common. As a result, the population of pure Cracker cattle dwindled. Around the same time, ranchers began favoring the stronger and larger quarter

Origin of the Name rustling up the origin of the term “Florida cracker” is as challenging as tracking down a cracker cow in manhattan. Three main theories persist:  The name comes from the sound of the leather whips pioneer cattlemen cracked in the air to drive cattle.  The origin stems from the practice of “corn-cracking” for use as grits and meal, as in the lyrics “Jimmy crack corn.”  cracker comes from a celtic word understood as braggart or loudmouth. regardless of the origin, many of Florida’s descendants of angloamerican pioneers proudly call themselves crackers—a name that has become synonymous with a respect for heritage, home and a heartfelt desire to preserve Florida’s natural landscape for future generations.

horse over the Florida Cracker horse. By the 1960s, pure Cracker horses and cattle were nearly extinct. Alarmed by the prospect of the breed’s demise, members of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association convinced the Florida commissioner of

Elwyn Bass of Basinger with his Cracker cattle, descendants of his grandfather’s original herd.

agriculture to take action. The breed’s survival is attributed to a handful of Florida ranching families— including Elwyn’s—who realized the genetic and historic value of Cracker livestock, and continued to raise the animals for their own. “In 1970, my mother and my aunt gave the state five Cracker cows and a bull to breed, and help bring back the population,” he says. “They brought them up to Tallahassee.” Many regard the Bass family animals “the purest of the pure Cracker cattle,” says Stephen Monroe of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “With this small herd known as the Durrance Line of Florida Cracker cattle, the department was entrusted with the preservation of the breed.” The department used those and other donated cattle to rebuild the Cracker cattle herd, which is now more than 2,000 strong. The state raises and maintains herds at four locations. It also maintains a line of Cracker horses. While the Florida Cracker horse and cattle breeds still are rare, their prospects are brighter than they have been in years. n march 2012

15


In the  Kitchen

Recipes That Satisfy

Nourishing Noshes Snacking is something just about everyone indulges in. Whether it is to calm cravings between meals or for a quick boost of afternoon energy, it is easy to reach for whatever is handy. That can lead to some less than ideal choices, but it doesn’t have to be that way with this assortment of snack recipes. slightly. Stir in oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg whites and vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture; fold in zucchini. Spread into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining ¼-cup morsels over top. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Lift brownies from pan; cut into 16 squares. Store in airtight container for up to five days. Makes 16 squares Courtesy of Nestle'

Apple Peanut Butter Snack Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies 1 cup white whole-wheat flour 1/3 cup baking cocoa 1¼ teaspoons baking soda ½ teaspoon coarse salt 1 cup dark chocolate morsels divided ¼ cup vegetable oil ½ cup packed light brown sugar ½ cup granulated sugar 2 large egg whites 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1½ cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 9-inch square baking pan with foil. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Melt ¾-cup morsels in large microwave-safe bowl on high power for 1 minute; stir until smooth. Cool 16

March 2012

2 apples, sliced ¼ cup natural creamy peanut butter 1/3 cup plain yogurt 1 tablespoon apple juice ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons dry roasted sunflower kernels

Place apple slices on serving plates. Stir together peanut butter, yogurt, apple juice and cinnamon until blended Spoon peanut butter mixture evenly on apples and sprinkle with sunflower kernels. Serves 2

Courtesy of Smuckers

Garlic and Hot Pepper Toasted Almonds 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 2 teaspoons minced garlic ¼ teapoon dried red pepper flakes


least 5 minutes. In medium bowl, combine flour, granola and remaining ½-teaspoon cinnamon. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer light and fluffy. Add flour mixture; beat until crumbly. Reserve ½-cup mixture for topping; press remaining mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven; spread fruit evenly over crust. Add nuts to reserved flour/cereal mixture; mix well. Spread evenly over fruit. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely; cut into bars. Wrap and freeze bars individually so they are ready to go when you are. Makes 32 bars Courtesy of Copco

2 cups whole almonds Salt to taste

In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter together over medium heat until foamy. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and heat for 30 seconds. Add almonds, stirring constantly until coated and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Cool and store in an airtight container. Serves 8

Courtesy of California Almond Board

Little Italy Mozzarella Sticks

On-the-Go Snack Bars

1/4 cup milk 1 egg, slightly beaten 8 sticks pizza string cheese or mozzarella string cheese 1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs 2 cups canola oil 1 cup prepared pizza sauce, warm

½ cup dried tart cherries, chopped ½ cup slivered dried apricots 2/3 cup orange juice 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided 1¾ cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour 1½ cups raisin nut granola 1 cup butter, softened 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 F. Spray 13-by-9-inch baking pan with vegetable pan spray. In a small bowl, combine cherries, apricots, orange juice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; let stand at

Combine milk and egg in shallow bowl; mix well. Dip each string cheese stick in egg mixture; dredge in breadcrumbs. Repeat breading process twice for each stick. Heat oil in skillet; cook each stick evenly for 1 minute or until light golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce for dipping. Serves 4

Courtesy of Dairy Farmers of America Inc. March 2012

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Florida Gardening

Advice From the Front-Yard Farmer

Keep the Sweet in This Year’s Harvest Summer without sweet corn growing in the garden is like the Fourth of July without flags and fireworks. Even if I grow an abundance of other warm season crops, my home garden just isn’t complete without this sugary summertime treat. In North Florida, sweet corn typically is planted in about mid-March through late April. In Central Florida, it is planted a month sooner. In South Florida, sweet corn is cultivated August through March. Sweet corn does best when the soil has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed. So here in Niceville, which is located in northwest Florida, I like to plant sweet corn beginning in early April. Two or three weeks later, I make one more sowing to extend the harvest. The varieties of sweet corn recommended for Florida are Silver Queen, Gold Cup, Guardian, Bonanza, Florida Staysweet, How Sweet It Is and Supersweet. How Sweet

Sweet corn, such as this Gotta Have It Sweet Corn grown in Niceville, grows well in home gardens throughout the state. Photo by Dennis Gilson

It Is and Supersweet are two of the newer super-sweet varieties. The super-sweet hybrids (sh2) are true to their name. Their juicy, sweeter-thansugar kernels are a leap above even the popular high-sugar hybrids (su), such as Silver Queen. The super-sweet corn I grow in my garden is called Gotta Have It. It is also known as That’s Delicious. No matter what you call it, this sweet corn is rich and full tasting, as well as being the sweetest corn I have ever eaten. At 5- to 6-feet tall, the plants are shorter than most, but they produce full-size, 8-inch ears filled with juicy

Dennis Gilson lives and gardens in Niceville. Widely known as the Front-Yard Farmer, Dennis has successfully grown vegetables, fruits and berries in the Florida Panhandle for more than 30 years. He shares his experience and offers timely advice to Florida home vegetable growers at his website, FrontYardFarmer.com.

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yellow and white kernels. And the outstanding flavor remains at its peak for days on end because this sweet corn is extra slow in turning to starch. If you like to put corn away in the freezer, there is no better choice than Gotta Have It. It really holds its sweetness and flavor. We enjoyed it all winter long. To grow most varieties of sweet corn, I plant seeds about 1½ inch deep, spacing them about every 4 to 6 inches, in rows that are 30 to 36 inches apart. The final spacing between plants is generally 12 to 18 inches, though some varieties can be less. Another method is to plant seeds in pairs at the final spacing distance, snipping off the weaker seedling with a pair of scissors. Corn should be planted in blocks of at least four rows. This helps with pollination.

Your corn’s biggest enemy is corn worms. For springplanted corn, one application of Sevin when silks appear, and another a week to 10 days later, usually does the trick. Fertilize with 10-10-10 every three weeks. To help them better stand up to wind, I hill a bit of dirt around the stalks as they grow beginning when they are about 12 inches tall. Do not remove any suckers. This can lead to disease. Most varieties of sweet corn mature in 70 to 90 days. Harvest your sweet corn when the silks are brown and dry, and the kernels are milky when squeezed. Some supersweet varieties are more clear than milky, even when ripe. Most sweet corn is mature two to three weeks after silks first appear. Harvest the ears by twisting them down and away from the stalk. Eat what you grow. 


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Travel Journal

Tips for Affordable Family Adventures

Beachcombing Tips

 Look for seash ells, washed up treasures, artifacts or semiprecious stones. Do not disturb any live marine life.  The best time for beachcombing starts after the high tide begins to recede and ends an hour or two after peak low tide.  Walk at a snail ’s pace and look to the world at your feet.  A fishing vest and comfortable pants with deep pockets allow for hands-free places to hold your treasures.  Treasures are not always visible, so check beneath tangled seaweed, a rock, a pile of sand or underneath driftwood.  Watch out for sneaker waves, and never turn your back to the tide.

Enjoy This Spring Break Without the Crowds Sidestep the spring break hotspots and make your escape to these alternative getaways. Exquisite Tropical Island on Florida’s Southwest Coast Surrounded by hundreds of undisturbed islands, bays, creeks and Gulf waters, Marco Island—the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands—has a number of beachfront resorts, hotels and vacation rentals. At the Olde Marco shopping district, you will find quirky boutiques and restaurants featuring the finest in fresh, gourmet cuisine.

Sandy white beaches, tidal pools and picture-perfect sunsets create the ideal ambience for some serious beach time, or rent a boat or kayak and explore one of the secluded outlying islands. Take in the sights and sounds of the outdoors at one of the many nature centers and preserves. Briggs Memorial Nature Center, Caribbean Gardens and Collier-Seminole State Park are all within a 15- to 30-minute drive. Marco also is the western gateway to the Everglades and a great place to embark on an adventure via air boat or motor boat.

Kris Wetherbee is an author and awardwinning recipe developer. She writes about outdoor living, travel, gardening, natural health and cooking for numerous publications, including Florida Currents. Visit her website at www.kriswetherbee.com.

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Cultural Scene and Family-Oriented Fun South of Tampa Bay Sophisticated, yet playful, Sarasota offers all of the coveted scenes of a sun-drenched beach—white sand, signature sunsets, swaying palm trees and perfect weather—along with world-class shopping and an abundant cultural scene. Downtown, the cultural district offers a host of venues that include the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Asolo Theatre Company, Golden Apple Dinner Theatre and the Sarasota Opera. Engage your wild side at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Mote Aquarium or the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens—a 13-acre tropical oasis featuring more than 20,000 plants. Enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing or strolling along nature trails. And when it comes to shopping, Sarasota has it

all—from the simple to the extravagant. Get Off the Beaten Path Along Scenic Highway 30A The beaches of South Walton are a series of 15 uncrowded towns along Scenic Highway 30A, with 26 miles of coastline to explore by foot, bike, kayak or car. Among the more notable towns are Seaside, a picturesque beach setting and the shooting location for “The Truman Show;” Grayton Beach, a laid-back ambience with old-style beach bungalows; and Rosemary Beach, a frequent celebrity hangout catering to a upscale crowd. There are more than 200 miles of trails and sugar-white beaches. Rare coastal dune lakes give a unique ecological character to the area. Grayton Beach State Park, with its massive dunes, is recognized as one of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in America. 


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Festival  Roundup

Things to See and Do

March 1-3, Sanibel 75th Annual Sanibel Shell Fair and Show The longest running show of its kind in the country will be “shellabrating” its 75th year at the Community House at 2173 Periwinkle Way. www.shellabration2012.com

Send your family-friendly event— with date, town, times, details and a way to get more information—to info@floridacurrents.com.

March 3-4, Bradenton Orange Blossom Festival Arts and crafts booths, food vendors, gem mining, entertainment, bounce houses, water boats and more at the festival at 2525 27th St. Free admission and free parking. www.mixon.com/orangeblossomfestival.com

March 1-4, Palmdale Sabal Palm Country Bluegrass Festival Great food and great music in a beautiful setting. www.sabalpalmrv.co/id7.html

March 1-11, Orlando Central Florida Fair At the Central Florida Fairgrounds, three miles west of downtown Orlando. www.centralfloridafair.com

March 2-11, Miami Miami International Film Festival Produced and presented by Miami Dade College, the festival brings the finest new works from established and emerging filmmakers to Miami. www.miamifilmfestival.com

March 3, Key West 50th Annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest Contestants in several age categories attempt to make “music” on fluted conch shells in the garden of the Oldest House, 322 Duval St. Free and open to all ages. www.oirf.org/event.php?id=10

March 3, Sebring 3rd Agriculture Tour in Highlands County Get a close-up look at agriculture in the county, thanks to the Highlands County Extension Service. (863) 402-6540

March 3, Vernon Holmes Valley Heritage Day The event at 3901 Wilderness Road features antique, garden and children’s tractor pulls; demonstrations of blacksmiths; corn shelling; grinding with a grist mill; and cast-iron pot cooking. Lots of arts and crafts, food, games for the kids and more. (850) 535-2426; tinyurl.com/8a9qhhl.

March 3, Williston Wings and Wheels 2012 Enjoy food and fun with local area businesses and live music from Old Skool from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Williston Airport,1800 SW 19th Ave. tinyurl.com/84evk6p

Photo courtesy of Arlene Taylor

Florida Strawberry Festival Duette native Jay Taylor will perform at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City March 1-11. Jay, who now lives in Nashville, began his singing career at the age of 3 at Dry Prairie Baptist Church. His new country CD—which includes songs he has written—is titled “Plain and Simple.” For more information about the Florida Strawberry Festival, see www.flstrawberryfestival.com.

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March 3, Milton 24th NW Florida Conclave and Lumberjack Festival Bluegrass music, nature and wildlife exhibits, firefighting equipment demonstrations, food and children’s activities are part of the lineup at Pensacola State College’s Milton campus. Forestry competitions include knife throwing, axe throwing, log roll, bow sawing, cross cut and pulpwood toss. www.wfrm.org/docs/psclumber.pdf

March 3-4, Bartow 41st Bloomin’ Arts Festival The event features art vendors, a car show, a quilt show, food vendors and live music. Information booths will be at the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue. www.bartowartguild.com

March 3-4, Palmetto Silver Meteor Train and Model Railroad Expo More than 10,000 square feet of scale, garden, toy and Lego trains, with more than 120 tables in the hobby mart. Kids run trains on a simulator. www.realrail.org

March 3-4, Weeki Wachee Weeki Wachee Swamp Festival Entertainment includes dancers; folk, country and instrumental music. The “Swamp Monster” contest is a crowd favorite. swampfestweekiwachee.com

March 3-4, Floral City Floral City Strawberry Festival Visit more than 150 craft vendors, a rockclimbing wall, children’s activities, food vendors and our strawberry shortcake tent. tinyurl.com/884sz82

March 8-10, Arcadia Bluegrass Family Gathering Crafters, entertainment, activities for the kids and great food, with free admission Thursday. www.bluegrassfamilygathering.com

March 9-11, Brooksville Will McLean Music Festival Enjoy music, workshops, food and more at Sertoma Ranch, 85 Myers Road. The Florida Songwriting Contest winners will be announced. www.willmclean.com

March 9-18, Daytona Daytona Bike Week The 10-day event features hundreds of events for motorcycle enthusiasts to enjoy. www.officialbikeweek.com

March 10, Trenton Suwannee Valley Quilt and Old Time Craft Festival More than 300 quilts will be on display inside and outside historic buildings on Main Street from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Early Ford Antique Auto Club and antique tractors also will be on display. www.suwanneeshops.com/flyer%202012.pdf

March 10 , Panama City Panama City Highland Games Celebrate Scottish and Celtic culture and be thrilled by the sound of the bagpipes and drums. (850) 769-4000; www.panamacityhighlandgames.com


March 10-11, Okeechobee 44th Annual Speckled Perch Festival Enjoy arts and crafts, food, baked goods and vendors in Flagler Park, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. www.mainstreetokeechobee.com

March 10-11, Pensacola Pensacola Maritime and Pirate Festival Plaza de Luna Park will host a celebration of Pensacola’s maritime history. Enjoy nautical themed entertainment, music, tall ships, vessel tours, a treasure hunt, pirates and re-enactments. (727) 322-5217

March 10-11, Marathon 36th Annual Marathon Seafood Festival Live entertainment, children’s play area, 200-plus vendors, beer and wine and seafood caught and cooked by local fishermen. Saturday,10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5; children 10 and under are admitted free. www.marathonseafoodfestival.com

March 15-17, Okeechobee Okeesimee Bluegrass Festival The family fun begins Thursday at 3 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 1 p.m. with music, vendors and camping. www.okeesimmeebluegrass.com

March 17, Lynn Haven Lynn Haven Country Music Festival Enjoy country music stars, entertainment, pony rides, a mechanical bull, line dancing, food and craft vendors at the Lynn Haven Sports Complex,10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (850) 271-3827

March 17, Cape Coral 11th Annual Southwest Florida Seafood Festival and Car/Motorcycle Show Join the Matlacha Mariners and toss a mullet at targets for prizes. Funds benefit local charities. tinyurl.com/7yywq54

March 17, Sebring The 12 Hours of Sebring Sebring International Raceway hosts the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. sebringraceway.com

March 17-18, Punta Gorda Peace River National Art Festival Artists from across the country will gather in Laishley Park on the banks of the Peace River.

Photo courtesy of Kenie Rodriguez

Third Annual Woofstock in Islamorada Join Skippy, the mascot, on March 10 for a pawtastic day filled with pet adoptions, food, music, peace and paws for all. For more information, see www.keyswoofstock.com. March 23-31, New Port Richey 65th Annual Chasco Fiesta The celebration includes a carnival, dance, youth music showcase and street and boat parades. chascofiesta.com

www.shrimpapalooza.com

March 24, Deland Florida Wildflower and Garden Festival The Athens Theatre will host free wildflower and gardening presentations, with hands-on workshops in Chess Park on composting, raised-bed gardening, landscaping, natural pest control and herb and flower gardening. A kids’ art zone will be provided by the Museum of Florida Art. Free admission and parking. www.floridawildflowerfestival.com

March 24, Lynn Haven Emerald Coast Painters Club Spring Sale Buy hand painted art, crafts, baked goods and plants at the Lynn Haven garden club building on the corner of Highway 77 and 4th Street. (850) 773-1628; plower7616@att.net

March 23-25, Oldsmar Oldsmar Days and Nights Fiery foods, collector cars, classic rock music, a carnival and parade. Free admission and parking.

March 24, Sarasota Downtown Sarasota Springfest A 5K family fun walk-run and 12K road race begin at 7:30 a.m., with food, entertainment, exhibits, health screenings, a business expo, youth demonstrations and children’s activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

tinyurl.com/7bcdo45

Sarasotaspringfest.com

tinyurl.com/6qwkj32

March 24, Homosassa Shrimpapalooza Mardi Gras Homosassa Style Enjoy arts and craft vendors, three bands, food vendors and beads for everybody. Entrance is $2 a person; kids under 12 admitted free. March 24, Perdido Key Third Annual Perdido Key Wine and Art Festival Vendors will be along the midway of the Villagio, 13700 Perdido Key Drive, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., with fine arts, entertainment, food and wine. www.PerdidoWineAndArts.com

March 24-25, Punta Gorda Florida International Air Show See death-defying stunts, aircraft exhibits, displays, a kids’ area, and refreshments. www.floridaairshow.com

March 24-25, Osprey Sarasota Folk Festival Enjoy all types of music, crafts, art and kids’ activities at Oscar Scherer State Park on Route 41. sarasotafolkfestival.org

March 28-31, Labelle Big O Birding Festival The Port LaBelle Inn is the starting point for birding trips in an area home to more than 300 species. www.bigobirdingfestival.com

march 2 0 1 2

23


Outdoor Pursuits

Enjoying the Natural World Around Us

Saddle Up And Ride People who ride bicycles in Florida are blessed. The state is criss-crossed with bike routes that provide riders with a uniquely Florida experience. The Shark Valley Trail is one of the best. It lives and breathes Florida from start to finish—literally. The 15-mile paved loop penetrates deep into the Everglades. Wildlife of every kind can be observed along the route or flying overhead. The westernmost leg of the trail is especially rewarding. It runs parallel to a canal, where alligators sun themselves along its banks, and a variety of birds, turtles and other wildlife congregate. The entrance to the trailhead parking area is located along Highway 41, 38 miles east of Ochopee. Cedar Key is another favorite bicycle outing with a distinctly Florida flavor. However, it is more of a destination than a set bike route. It provides a glimpse of a quaint, quiet lifestyle. Bikers can easily log 10 to 15 miles without seeing anything twice. It’s an enjoyable way to shop, dine and experience a slower pace of life. Cedar Key is not close to

Alligators are a common sight while biking or hiking the Shark Valley Trail in the Everglades. It’s not unusual to see dozens of them sunning themselves along the route. As with any wildlife, enjoy their presence, but always maintain a safe distance. Photo by Curtis Condon

anything, which may explain how it retains its charm. It is located three hours north of Tampa and an hour southwest of Gainesville. Locals say their community is the Key West of old, before its fame and change of pace. They point out that bicycles and golf carts are still a part of everyday life at Cedar Key. Shark Valley and Cedar Key are just two bike rides to consider for yourself, or when family or friends come to visit. Stop by your local library or search online for more great ideas. Four Quick and Easy Gun Cleaning Tips • Safety first: Always ensure your gun is unloaded, and wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from errant bore-brush bristles and

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

24

MARCH 2012

solvent spatter. • Have the right tools on hand, beyond the basic gun cleaning kit. For example, a toothbrush, dental picks and cotton swabs get into tight spaces and help remove residue buildup. • Most of us use an oil cloth to do a final wipe of moving and metal parts. Extend the life of the cloth, as well as keeping it from making a mess, by storing it in a sealable plastic bag. • Start the cleaning process before leaving the range. One way to do that is to finish your outing by firing two or three jacketed bullets through the barrel to reduce the amount of leading. Another way is to run a solvent-soaked patch through the barrel while it is still warm, but not hot. Fishing Tip of the Month Everyone has missed their share of hooksets because it was hard to detect the bite. For better feel, hold your rod tip low and at a 45-degree angle to the left or right of

your body. A lighter rod will provide better feel as well, if you don’t mind spending the extra bucks. Be a FWC Volunteer Volunteer opportunities abound at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The FWC has a number of outdoor programs in need of volunteers throughout the state. They include habitat restoration, research assistance, outreach and education programs. You can even volunteer as a reserve officer with the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. For more information, visit www.myfwc.com/getinvolved/volunteer. Did You Know? • A group of alligators is called a congregation. • Florida panthers are not black; they are tan-colored, like other cougars. • Temperature affects not only how long it will take loggerhead sea turtle eggs to hatch, but it also determines the sex of the hatchlings. 


Gulf  Coast Trading Post For Rent Horse barn with five stalls, paddock and about 4 acres of pasture in Wewahitchka, one block from the old courthouse. Lease by the stall with discount for multiple horses. (704) 334-0341. Three-bedroom, two-bath home in Lynn Haven. Has garage and fenced yard. On cul-de-sac in family neighborhood, with many trees. Outside of home just painted. $850/month. (850) 271-0289. Three-bedroom, three-bath new riverfront home with dock in Oak Grove Community on Adams Street. Covered parking, fence, all appliances (including washer and dryer), deck and an open floor plan. Pets allowed with approval. $800/ month. (850) 227-5024 or (850) 647-2564.

For Sale 24-foot Tracker party barge and trailer with 90 Mercury. $5,000. Also, Honda four-wheeler Sportrax 300 EX, $800. (850) 381-6065. Lapidary equipment: graves faceting machine, drill and saw. (850) 535-2957.

Console-type record player and radio. Cabinet in excellent condition; everything works. Includes a collection of records (45s and 331/3s). Best offer. (850) 639-3321. Snapper riding mower, 28-inch, like new, $600. Also, 200-pound anvil, $750; 12x24 storage building (you move), $3,000; many saddles ranging from $75 to $450; and many more items. Call for information. (850) 326-8201. Four PVC Geese pressure washer collector items; M&M peanut dispenser in box; child’s springy horse, all original; all kinds of cookie jars. (850) 265-6376. Beautiful mirror outlined in exotic coral and shells, 42 inches by 27 inches, with matching mirrored table with coral ornament. Retailed for more than $500; will sell for $75. Must see to appreciate. Also, impressive sailfish mount, 110inch in overall length. From the 1960s. In good condition, $125. (850) 784-3546. Two quarter horses and a pony. Ride well on trails, very gentle, good for lessons. (850) 773-1957.

Trading Post is a FREE service to members of Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative. To submit an item, please complete the form below. GCEC reserves the right to reject any and all ads. Due to magazine deadlines, it may take two months from the time of submittal for your ad to appear. PLEASE PRINT LEGIBLY OR TYPE. Please circle the category that applies: For Rent

For Sale

Real Estate

Free

Miscellaneous

Trade

Wanted

Items:

Miniature donkeys. Jacks and Jennys, black, brown, grey and paints. All ages. $300 and up— make great pets. Also standard donkeys. Betty, (850) 899-7424.

Real Estate Three-bedroom, two-bath home on one acre in Fountain. Fenced yard, Quonset building, storage building and gazebo. Covered front porch. Excellent price. (217) 516-0901. Four-bedroom, two-bath 1,600-square-foot home on 2.2 acres near Scotts Ferry in Calhoun County. Loft, garage and seven RV hook-ups. Construction is 90% complete. $150,000, firm. (334) 726-3927. Waterfront in Wewahitchka, 20 minutes to Panama City or Port St. Joe. Two lots totaling 140 feet by 110 feet with access to Dead Lakes, Chipola and Apalachicola rivers. 2010 52x16 Class III, two-bedroom, 1½-bath mobile home. On Mitchell Road just east of Highway 71, south of West Arm Creek Bridge. Will consider low down payment and assume mortgage of lease to own. (850) 742-0046 or (850) 774-5389. Corner lot in Wewahitchka with river view. Across from Gaskin Park boat launch. Cleared and landscaped with garage and carport. Electric, sewer, well, phone lines and three RV hook-ups. $65,000 OBO. (850) 814-2402. 10 acres next to Sunny Hills at the end of two paved roads. One acre is cleared and ready to build. Good for hunting or homestead. $40,000 OBO. (850) 867-9614. Nice, furnished camp or home at Howard Creek. Two 60-foot mobile homes with beautiful addon on two lots with double carport, tool room and outside kitchen. Can finance. (850) 819-4191. Two large lots. Great location between Church and Chipola in Wewahitchka. (602) 989-2655. One-acre lakefront lot in Leisure Lakes gated community. Located on the largest lake. Pete, (850) 722-4886. ½-acre corner lot. (850) 639-2220.

Name: Address: City/State/Zip: Phone: Mail your ad to: The Trading Post; Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative; P.O. Box 8370; Southport, FL 32409; return with your electric payment; or email ad information to tradingpost@gcec.com.

½-acre lot in Youngstown, Florida. Restricted subdivision. All underground utilities, canal front access to Deer Point Lake. Very nice, quiet neighborhood. $49,000. Also, 1¾ acres with county maintained road on three sides. New well and septic installed in September 2009. High and dry. ½ mile off Route 20 and 231. Ready to build or mobile home ready. $39,000. (850) 722-6543 or (850) 303-4446.

Miscellaneous Income tax help. Experienced, professional, compassionate. Located in Dalkeith between Wewahitchka and Port St. Joe. Free pick-up and delivery available. (850) 227-5325. Have dump truck; need full-time work. (850) 773-4654. march 2 0 1 2

25


Capital Credits Our appreciation for your patronage

This year, Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative returned $200,000 to its membership, taking 25 percent of the funds from 1982 and 75 percent from 2010. GCEC Manager of Marketing and Member Services Kristin Evans presented capital credit checks to the following cooperative members, clockwise from top left, Bay District Schools, Ebro Greyhound Park, Northwest Florida Reception Center, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Lewis Bear, Rich’s IGA, Gulf Correctional Institution, Wewahitchka High School and Gulf Coast State College.

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M A R C H 2 0 12


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MARCH 2012

27


Gulf Coast

Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Proposed The electric industry is riddled with acronyms: SO2, CO2, NOx, SCR, CSAPR. Issues surrounding these terms are extremely important to consumers because they can have a major impact on electric bills. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is released when something containing sulfur is burned and the sulfur mixes with oxygen. It is released by volcanoes and from burning hair, rubber, coal and other sulfurrich materials. Sometimes it is used as a preservative for dried apricots, in winemaking and as a refrigerant, but SO2 is harmful in large amounts. It is of concern to electricgenerating utilities because burning coal releases SO2. Through the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets and reviews national air quality standards for SO2. Air quality monitors measure SO2 throughout the country. The EPA, and state and local agencies, use that data to ensure SO2 in the air is

at levels that protect public health and the environment. Nationally, average SO2 concentrations have decreased substantially—from 31,161,000 short tons in 1970 to 18,867,000 short tons in 1999, according to the EPA. PowerSouth, Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative’s wholesale power provider, has operated flue gas desulfurization (scrubber) technology to reduce SO2 emissions at its Charles R. Lowman Power Plant since its construction more than 30 years ago. Between 2007 and 2010, PowerSouth has reduced SO2 emissions at the plant by 59 percent, due in part to a new scrubber added in 2009. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) form when fuel burns at high temperatures, such as in motor vehicle engines. In fact, mobile sources are responsible for more than half of all NOx emissions in the United States. NOx can travel long distances, causing health and environmental problems in locations far from their

emission source. These problems include ozone and smog. According to EPA, national NOx emissions fell 40 percent between 1980 and 2008. They were reduced about 40 percent at PowerSouth’s Lowman plant between 2007 and 2010—a result of selective catalytic reduction systems, which also reduce mercury when used in conjunction with scrubbers. One of EPA’s upcoming rules addresses SO2 and NOx emissions from power plants. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)— scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2012, but delayed by court order—would require 27 states to drastically reduce SO2 and NOx emissions that contribute to air quality issues in other states. The rule would replace EPA’s 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). In response to CAIR, PowerSouth built a $400 million air quality control project at the Lowman plant to accommodate equipment to reduce SO2 and

Co-op Gives to Scholarship Funds

GCEC’s Kristin Evans, right, presents $500 to Karen Turner of the Gulf County Scholarship Program.

28

M A R C H 2 0 12

Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative recently contributed $2,000 to local scholarship funds: $500 to both the Bay Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program and the Gulf County Scholarship Program, and $250 scholarships to one graduating senior each from Altha Public School, Blountstown High School, Chipley High School and Vernon High School. “We are proud to assist local students with the expense of furthering their education,” said Kristin Evans, GCEC manager of marketing and member services.

NOx emissions. Because of PowerSouth’s proactive approach, the Lowman plant already complies with CSAPR. On a national level, the EPA estimates CSAPR will cost $800 million a year by 2014, on top of roughly $1.6 billion a year in capital investments already under way as a result of CAIR. The Brattle Group estimates it could cost up to $120 billion by 2015 and reduce the nation’s power supply by more than 55 gigawatts—almost 4 percent. A National Economic Research Associates analysis found the CSAPR, together with Utility MACT, will result in net employment losses of more than 1.4 million job-years by 2020. The EPA claims the regulations would create jobs, but NERA projects four jobs are lost for every one created. American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity President and CEO Steve Miller warns of job losses totaling 1.4 million during the next eight years and a 23-percent jump in electric rates in states dependent on coal plants. “Through PowerSouth, GCEC is compliant with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, but we are mindful this rule is a starting point for more stringent regulations,” said CEO/ General Manager Michael White. “We urge EPA and Congress to carefully and completely evaluate the economic impact of all regulations before signing them into law.” 


GCEC Boosts Fund Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative recently boosted its Project Helping Hand fund by more than $8,325. The cooperative’s Project Helping Hand program was started in 2004 to assist members who were unable to pay their utility bills. GCEC members have the option of adding $1, $3 or $5 to their bill each month. These funds are deposited into an account for the benefit of members with a temporary need of help in paying their electric bill. In 2011, GCEC members contributed $16,652.12 to the program. While most of those funds were raised through monthly contributions on electric bills, some were raised through special fundraisers organized by GCEC employees throughout the year, including the sale of paper hearts for Valentine’s Day, a booth at the annual meeting in April, a spaghetti dinner in the fall and the sale of paper light bulbs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. To show its appreciation to members, the cooperative decided to match half of what members gave last year and contribute that amount to the fund. In January, GCEC presented a check for $8,326.06 to the Family Service Agency, which partners with the cooperative on the Project Helping Hand program and determines which members will receive assistance. “We are proud to be in partnership with the Family Service Agency on our Project Helping Hand program,” said GCEC Manager of Marketing and Member Services Kristin Evans. “Family Service Agency ensures the funds raised for this program go directly to benefit our members who are truly in need.” To learn how you can donate to the

GCEC Manager of Marketing and Member Services Kristin Evans, right, presents a check to Family Service Agency Executive Director Diane Wise for the Project Helping Hand program.

Project Helping Hand program, call 2653631, 481-1188 or 639-2216. To inquire about receiving assistance from the fund, call 785-1721. Family Service Agency is a nonprofit agency that receives funding from the United Way, private contributions and fundraising projects, as well as in-kind donations. It was founded in 1945 under the Bay County Community Chest, which later became the United Way. Its mission is to socially and economically assist and direct disadvantaged families in resolving immediate problems by providing assistance with food, rent, utilities, medication, clothing and referral to other agencies. All services and goods are distributed without cost to the community. 

H2O

PLUS

H2O Plus, a program available to you from Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative, has the potential to dramatically reduce the demand for electricity. We need your participation! Using energy wisely has never been easier. A device is installed on your electric water heater that allows our power supplier to cycle your unit for short periods. By managing energy use when demand is high—when you and your neighbors are using the most electricity—our supplier can reduce demand when electricity is most expensive, putting off the need to build facilities to generate more power, alleviating or pushing those costs out to the future. An added benefit is reducing the amount of greenhouse gases, thereby helping our environment. You still will have enough hot water for showers and household chores. In fact, you shouldn’t even notice a difference in the amount of hot water available. For more information, please call GCEC’s Member Services Representative Manuela Heyn. She will take down your information and, after ensuring the program is a good fit for your household, schedule someone to come to your home and install the device at no cost to you. In fact, for your participation, GCEC will make a one-time credit of $25 to your electric bill. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Office numbers: Southport—(850) 265-3631; (800) 568-3667 Wewahitchka—(850) 639-2216; (800) 333-9392 Panama City—(850) 481-1188 MARCH 2012

29


Parting  Shot

Readers Share Their Special Photos

We Got It! Who says sandhill cranes can’t read? This well-educated group crosses precisely as directed by the sign near the Osceola County Courthouse in Kissimmee. Florida’s sandhill cranes are a threatened species found in inland shallow freshwater marshes, prairies, pastures and farmlands. During the winter, the population of the birds increases as cranes from northern states spend the winter in Florida. Photo by Brenda Somes. n We pay $25 for one-time use of Parting Shot images. Send your best shots, along with your name, address and details about the photo, to photos@floridacurrents.com.

Adventures in Dressing Dressing can be a challenge for a youngster. Where does the head go? And the arms? It has the makings of a funny photo—and if it makes you laugh, it probably will entertain other readers.

Florida Currents wants your photos! We are looking for your interesting and humorous shots: cute kids, animal antics, funny signs, heartwarming expressions ... something special that says “wow” or puts a smile on your face. Identify the the person pictured and all of the details that tell the story. Include your name, address and phone number. If your photo is printed, we will send you $25.

© Mike

30

march 2012

Te

n egarde

Send your photo and complete caption information to photos@floridacurrents.com.


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REG. PRICE $12.99

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 6 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented instore, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon discount. Valid through 5/31/12. Limit one coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 6 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 5 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon

R ! PE ON SU UP CO

R ! PE ON SU UP CO

R ! PE ON SU UP CO

3 GALLON, 100 PSI OILLESS PANCAKE AIR COMPRESSOR

discount. Valid through 5/31/12. Limit one coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

LOT NO. 95275

SAVE 50%

SAVE 50%

10/2/55 AMP, 6/12 VOLT BATTERY CHARGER/ ENGINE STARTER

2999

3999

$

REG. PRICE $59.99

800 RATED WATTS/ 900 MAX. WATTS LOT NO. PORTABLE 66619 GENERATOR

SAVE $90

LOT NO. 66783

$

REG. PRICE $79.99

discount. Valid through 5/31/12. Limit one coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

89

$

REG. PRICE 99$179.99

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 5 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 4 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 4 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon

R ! PE ON SU UP CO 11

R ! PE ON SU UP CO

R ! PE ON SU UP CO

discount. Valid through 5/31/12. Limit one coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

DRAWER ROLLER CABINET

INCLUDES: • 6 Drawer Top Chest • 2 Drawer Middle Section • 3 Drawer Roller Cabinet

149

$

99

LOT NO. 67421

SAVE $150

LOT NO. 68287

18 VOLT CORDLESS 3/8" DRILL/DRIVER AND FLASHLIGHT KIT

discount. Valid through 5/31/12. Limit one coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

Includes one 18V NiCd battery and charger.

SAVE 50%

REG. PRICE $299.99

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 5 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon Limit one discount. Valid through 5/31/12. coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

370 Stores Nationwide

discount. Valid through 5/31/12. Limit one coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

LOT NO. 91214

1999

$

REG. PRICE $39.99

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 5 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon Limit one discount. Valid through 5/31/12. coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

AUTO DARKENING WELDING HELMET WITH BLUE FLAME DESIGN

SAVE 56%

3499

$

REG. PRICE $79.99

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS - LIMIT 4 This valuable coupon is good anywhere you shop Harbor Freight Tools (retail stores, online, or 800 number). Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store, or with your order form, or entered online in order to receive the coupon

discount. Valid through 5/31/12. Limit one coupon per customer and one coupon per day.

Order Online at HarborFreight.com and We'll Ship Your Order


PRSRT STD US POSTAGE PAID JACKSONVILLE FL PERMIT NO. 1290

FL-154

Offices 722 West Highway 22 P. O. Box 220 Wewahitchka, FL 32465 (850) 639-2216 or (800) 333-9392 9434 Highway 77 P. O. Box 8370 Southport, FL 32409 (850) 265-3631 or (800) 568-3667 6243 East Highway 98 Panama City, FL 32404 Phone: (850) 481-1188 www.gcec.com

CEO/General Manager Michael E. White

Trustees President Rupert Brown Vice President Eddie Jones Secretary Kinneth Daniels Treasurer Waylon Graham Doug Birmingham Jimmy Black Robert Byrd Gary Cox Gus Wise Jr. Trustees normally meet the third Tuesday of each month at 12:30 p.m. CST. The board meets at the Wewahitchka office in even-numbered months (February, April, June, August, October and December) and the Southport office in odd-numbered months (January, March, May, July, September and November). The mission of GCEC is to continually evaluate and implement technologies and seek solutions that fulfill a diversified memberships’ changing expectations for cost-effective, dependable utility services through a dedicated and responsive workforce. 32

m a rc h 2 0 1 2

GCEC President’s Message

Smart Meter Misconceptions In early February, we have activated smart meters in another one of our substations. The national media has covered the installation of smart meters on electric accounts throughout the United States. Some misleading information was distributed about mass meter change-outs that are occurring. I will try to shed some light on the Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative meter change-out. Your electric cooperative is working to replace all of the electric meters in our service territory. We hope to complete this project by sometime in 2013. This meter change-out is Rupert Brown not part of a larger plan initiated by our government, but was the sole decision of the GCEC board. The board has many reasons to authorize meter change-outs. The more prominent reasons are to: •  Replace old meters. •  Provide more accurate meter reads. •  Provide electrical system information that will facilitate a more efficient electrical distribution system. •  Enable timelier outage responses. •  Position GCEC to comply with pending regulatory requirements. •  Role out more programs like Prepayment, H2O Plus, etc. •  Push information to our members about their account to their smart phones or email. •  Increase efficiency and save on transportation costs. The term “smart meter” has gained national prominence for a couple of reasons. A smart meter is claimed to be so smart it can spy on the consumer. Secondly, the meters are alleged to have negative health impacts. So just how smart are the meters GCEC is installing? They do have two-way communications ability with the GCEC offices, but they only communicate general electric use. The meter also can receive commands to be connected or disconnected remotely. These meters also enable us to offer the H2O Plus program, because the signal sent to the switches on the water heaters is sent via smart meters. As for health hazards, we have no evidence there are any health hazards associated with the electric meters GCEC has installed. We have heard the wireless applications of the technology allegedly have harmful health effects, but GCEC is not using a wireless technology. Instead, we are using existing power lines to communicate with the meters. The Electric Power Research Institute has looked at the wireless technologies used in smart meter technologies and has found no harmful health hazards from their use. I hope I have used my allotted space this month to address any concerns you may have had regarding GCEC’s conversion to smart meters. We believe smart meters are yet another way for your cooperative to use the latest technology to bring you quality, reliable service.


Florida Currents March 2012