Connected May/June 2013
Fun, artistic and delicious
Looking for adventure Mentone camp teaches kids life lessons in nature Itâ€™s grillinâ€™ time Stephenson shares BBQ recipes
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Telco groups unify to bring stronger voice and new opportunities to rural subscribers By Stephen V. Smith, Editor
Editor’s Note: In February, America’s leading telecommunications trade groups voted to become one association. The unification of NTCA (National Telecommunications Cooperative Association) and OPASTCO (Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies) created a single group representing the concerns of rural telcos and their customers across the nation. As of March 1, the organization became known as “NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.” In an interview following the vote, we asked Shirley Bloomfield, the CEO of NTCA, about the impact a unified group will have on rural subscribers. Smith: NTCA and OPASTCO were both 50-year-old trade associations comprised of rural telecommunications providers. How were the two groups different? Bloomfield: NTCA had a very strong basis in the cooperative movement, and actually originated as an arm of the NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperation Association). The organization itself was established as a cooperative entity, with control being held by telephone cooperatives. OPASTCO was formed as a home for those companies that were traditionally family-owned. When rural telephone systems were first established, people either got together and created member-owned cooperatives, or a family said “we see a void, let’s fill it,” and they built a telephone company. Smith: What was the driving force behind unifying the two organizations? Bloomfield: Over the past several years, we have found that in this industry the issues are all the same. It doesn’t matter whether you are a cooperative or a family-owned company, the issues facing this industry impact all the carriers. Things that are taking place on the regulatory front, with state utility commission deci2 | May/June 2013
sions, with technology transforming at a daily rate and changing people’s business models ... these things created an opportunity for the two organizations to work more closely together. We all began to realize that if we bring these forces together there is more that we can do as one, as opposed to trying to do the same thing with two separate organizations. Smith: What benefit will rural telcos, and the industry as a whole, gain from the unification? Bloomfield: The first area I would highlight is advocacy. Because there is so much dissension and politicking in Washington, it has become imperative that the message of the rural telecommunications industry find a voice, that we speak a little bit louder. When you have two entities saying the same thing, they diffuse each other. When you put all carriers together, speaking in a definitive voice for the entire industry, it cuts through the clutter. It allows us to move faster and be more powerful, in a day and age where, frankly, this industry is still very heavily dominated by the large carriers. Another area is the business opportunity front. We now have more than 800 companies at the table, and that will give us the ability to go to wireless carriers,
Shirley Bloomfield NTCA CEO go to middle-mile institutions such as hospitals and educational institutions, and form partnerships to offer different kinds of services. Smith: How do these benefits translate to the consumer at the end of the line? Bloomfield: It will give rural telcos the ability to create some scope and scale in order to offer new services. Rural providers have been terrifically innovative, but what could they do if they could get a nationwide presence? What kind of things could they offer their customers? Also, so much of the revenue of these carriers is tied up in the regulatory arena. If we can be successful speaking with one voice, we hope to keep local costs low, to minimize rate increases and to continue universal service support, which makes things like advanced broadband affordable in these rural communities where you don’t have the customer base to offset the costs.
Our interview with Bloomfield continues in the July/August issue, as she talks about how the uncertainty surrounding FCC regulations is threatening the level of service and investment in rural communities.
The truth behind what’s driving up TV subscription costs nationwide Your Telco (Content Providers/Networks)
As a provider of TV service, we are caught in the middle of a tug-of-war. On one side, content providers and networks are demanding more money every year from companies like ours who carry their programming. On the other side, consumers demand quality content but are growing weary of package prices that continue to rise.
hy does my bill keep going up?” It’s a common question consumers nationwide are asking, as they watch the steady climb of TV programming costs. There are two main factors driving these increases.
1) Cable channels charge us a fee to deliver their programming to you — and those fees keep rising.
We work to include as many channels as possible in our lineup. But most channels add an expense to our cost of providing you TV service. According to estimates from analysts SNL Kagan and Barclays Capital, sports programming accounts for four of the top ten channels as ranked by their monthly subscriber fees. ESPN/ESPN HD leads their list at $5.06 per subscriber. The NFL Network comes in at 84¢. Compare that to Nickelodeon’s 52¢, MTV’s 39¢ and Discovery Channel’s 37¢ and you get a clear picture of the dominant driver behind programming price hikes. (Note: These estimates are based on fees paid by the large, nationwide providers, and do not reflect the exact cost we pay for these channels.)
2) Local network affiliates now charge us a fee to deliver their programming to you — and those fees keep rising. There was a time when your “local stations” charged nothing for a carrier to rebroadcast their signals. Not anymore. In order for you to enjoy channels such as ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, we must pay them a fee based on our number of subscribers —
and these fees continue to rise each time we renegotiate what is known as the retransmission consent agreements with them. SNL Kagan reported in November that the revenue TV station owners receive from these fees could reach $5.5 billion by 2017 — an even higher number than was previously projected. Why? “The increased projections are due to the success of a wider range of TV station owners in securing sequentially higher (retransmission) fees from multichannel operators over the last year of negotiated deals,” says the report.
Will this trend continue?
Unfortunately, there is no end in sight. Content providers know that consumers want their channels, and they continue to build fee increases into their contracts with providers like us. Furthermore, sports channels are negotiating huge deals with teams and leagues that are driving up their production costs (for example, in late 2011 ESPN agreed to pay the NFL some 70 percent more to carry Monday Night Football through 2021). They are passing these costs on to providers like us nationwide, who have no choice but to pass the increases on to consumers. The bottom line is that we are committed to providing all our subscribers with the channels they want. And as your local telecommunications company, we are doing everything we can to control our operating costs and keep our prices as low as possible. In the end, however, the reality is that TV rates will continue to move upward as long as content providers keep increasing the fees we must pay and the number of channels we must carry. May/June 2013 | 3
From the General Manager
Investing in a stronger future
For those who put money in the U.S. stock market, the past few years have been like a long ride down a rough road. The same can be said for the real estate market. But as your telco, we are making investments that have guaranteed returns. We are investing in our communities. We are committed to doing more than just providing a basic service to the communities in our area. We understand that quality of life is about more than the basics; it’s about having access to services that create greater opportunities for our families, businesses, schools and other institutions. We are investing the time and resources into making sure you have access to those advanced services. We are investing in technology. Technology is the key that makes those advanced services possible. Just like electricity in the 1930s and 1940s, and reliable telephone service in the 1950s, broadband is the new infrastructure that is driving our community development. We are investing in the equipment and people to deliver broadband technology to everyone in our service area. We are investing in education. Today, children in rural America can have the same opportunities to pursue a top-notch education as their urban counterparts. To take advantage of those opportunities, the systems and the technology must be in place — from Wi-Fi tablets to distance learning. We are partnering with our schools by investing in the broadband network that makes advanced education happen. We are investing in health care. Technology is changing health care faster than perhaps any sector. From electronic medical records to telemedicine, technology is helping people receive better care while helping providers control costs. We are partnering with health care providers by investing in the broadband network that powers these advances. We are investing in business. Local businesses are no longer competing with just the shop next door or in the next town. Now they are competing with companies in other states, and even other countries, thanks to the Internet. We are partnering with our businesses by investing in the broadband network that helps them offer the best local service while competing on a much larger stage. We are investing in the future of this industry. The progress of rural America is directly tied to the success of the rural telecommunications industry. On Page 2 of this issue, you will read how two national rural telco associations have come together to form one voice in order to be more effective in representing your concerns in Washington, D.C. In April, leaders from rural telcos across the country met in our nation’s capital to discuss policy concerns and remind our elected officials that any reforms to this industry must be fair and workable for rural communities. For every proposed law or regulation that comes along, we are there to work on your behalf to protect the progress we have all made together. These are the kinds of investments we are making — and will continue to make. And they are guaranteed to yield a return, because ultimately what we are investing in is a stronger future for you and your family. Fred johnson Executive Vice President and General Manager 4 | May/June 2013
“We Keep You Connected” is a member-owned corporation dedicated to providing communications technology to the people of Northeast Alabama. The company has more than 15,000 access lines, making it the state’s largest telecommunications cooperative.
Board of Trustees Randy Wright, President Flat Rock Exchange Gary Smith, Vice President Fyffe Exchange Danny R. Richey, Secretary Geraldine Exchange Lynn Welden, Treasurer Bryant Exchange Kenneth Gilbert Pisgah Exchange Gregg Griffith Henagar Exchange Randy Tumlin Rainsville Exchange
Connected Vol. 17, No. 3
is a bimonthly magazine published by Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, © 2013. It is distributed without charge to all customers of FTC. Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, Inc. P.O. Box 217 144 McCurdy Ave. N. Rainsville, AL 35986 Telephone: 256-638-2144 www.farmerstel.com Produced for FTC by: www.WordSouth.com On the Cover: Alice Pettyjohn has built a thriving business at her place, Alice Circle, on Highway 35 in Rainsville. See story Page 12.
Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative is required by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to furnish the following information to members prior to the annual meeting BYLAWS – ARTICLE IV TRUSTEE SECTION 2. Election and Tenure of Office. The Trustees shall be elected by secret ballot for a term of three years on a rotating basis with the Trustees from the Pisgah, Bryant, and Geraldine service areas being elected at the annual meeting of the members of the Co-op in August of 1991 and the Trustees from Rainsville and Fyffe service areas being elected at the annual meeting of the members of the Co-op in August of 1992 and the Trustees from the Flat Rock and Henagar service areas being elected at the annual meeting of the members in August of 1993, and after their election the Trustees shall continue to serve until the election of Trustees at the annual meeting of the members of the Co-op at which their term expires or if no election shall be then held, the Trustees shall continue to hold office until their successors shall have been elected and shall have qualified. If an election of Trustees shall not be held on the day designated herein for the annual meeting or at any adjournment thereof, a special meeting of the members shall be held for the purpose of electing Trustees within a reasonable time thereafter. Trustees may be elected by a plurality vote of the members. Trustees shall be nominated and elected as provided hereinafter. The Co-op is divided into seven (7) geographic service areas and from each such service area there shall be elected one Trustee to the Board. Members shall be eligible to vote for every Trustee. The geographic service areas are set forth as follows: Bryant, Flat Rock, Fyffe, Geraldine, Henagar, Pisgah, and Rainsville as the same are shown on the map or plat of the service area on file in the office of the Co-op at Rainsville, Alabama, to which such map or plat thereof reference is here made for a more complete description of said service areas. SECTION 4. Nominations. It shall be the duty of the Board to appoint, not less than forty (40) nor more than seventy (70) days before the date of a meeting of the members at which trustees are to be elected, a committee on nominations consisting of not less than five nor more than eleven members who shall be selected from different sections so as to insure equitable representation. No member of the Board may serve on such committee. The committee, keeping in mind the principle geographic representation, shall prepare and post at the principle office of the Cooperative at least thirty (30) days before the meeting a list of nominations for trustees which shall include at least two candidates for each trustee to be elected. Any fifteen or more members acting together may make other nominations by petition not less than twenty (20) days prior to the meeting and the Secretary shall post such nominations at the same place where the list of nominations made by the committee is posted. The Secretary shall mail with the notice of the meeting or separately, but at least five (5) days before the date of the meeting, a statement of the number of Trustees to be elected and the names and the addresses of the candidates, specifying separately the nominations made by the committee and the nominations made by petition, if any. The ballot to be used at the election shall list the names of the candidates nominated by the committee and the names of the candidates nominated by petition, if any. The chairman shall call for additional nominations from the floor and nominations shall not be closed until at least one minute has passed during which no additional nomination has been made. No member may nominate more than one candidate. Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative
Understanding your rights Important notice to subscribers regarding your Customer Proprietary Network Information FARMERS TELECOMMUNICATIONS COOPERATIVE, INC. FARMERS TELECOMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION FARMERS CELLULAR TELEPHONE, INC. Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, Inc., Farmers Telecommunication Corporation and Farmers Cellular Telephone, Inc. (collectively, “FTC”) want you to understand your rights to restrict the use of, disclosure of and access to your Customer Proprietary Network Information, or CPNI. You have a right and FTC has a duty, under federal law, to protect the confidentiality of your Customer Proprietary Network Information. What is CPNI? It is the information that FTC obtains that relates to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, location, and amount of use of the telecommunications service you subscribe to from FTC. It includes the information that is found in your bills, but it does not include subscriber list information (name, address and telephone number). Examples of CPNI would be the telephone numbers that you call, the times you call them, the duration of your calls or the amount of your bill. Use of your CPNI. CPNI may be used by FTC to market services that are related to the package of services to which you currently subscribe, when providing inside wiring installation, maintenance and repair services, and when marketing “adjunct to basic” services, such as call blocking, call waiting and caller I.D. CPNI may also be used for the provision of customer premises equipment (“CPE”) and services like call answering and voice mail or messaging, and to protect Company property and prevent fraud. A carrier may use CPNI to bill and collect for the services you receive from FTC. FTC offers additional communications-related services. We seek your approval to access your CPNI so that FTC can provide you with information on new services and products that are tailored to meet your needs or may save you money. IF YOU APPROVE OF OUR USE OF YOUR CPNI AS DESCRIBED ABOVE, NO ACTION IS NECESSARY ON YOUR PART. You have the right to disapprove this use of your CPNI by contacting us in writing at P.O. Box 217, 144 McCurdy Avenue North, Rainsville, Alabama 35986, or by telephone at 256-638-2144 or toll-free at 866- 638-2144, within thirty-three (33) days after this notice is sent to you. Our drop box located at 144 McCurdy Avenue North, Rainsville, Alabama, is accessible twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days per week. If you disapprove our use of your CPNI, you may not receive notice of new services or promotions, but your existing services will not be affected. If you do not notify us of your objection within thirty-three (33) days, we will assume you do not object and will use your CPNI for these purposes. You have the right to notify us at any time to object to the use of this information. Your election will remain valid until you notify us otherwise. Thank you for your patronage! May/June 2013 | 5
Keeping students off the summer slide By Brian Lazenby
eading, writing and arithmetic are the last things on kids’ minds during summer vacation. Most are focused on sports, video games and playing with their friends. This educational downtime contributes to what is known as the “summer slide,” when students lose much of the skill, knowledge and motivation acquired during the previous school year. In fact, a 2011 study conducted by the RAND Corporation shows that most students lose a month’s worth of learning by the time school resumes the following year. This phenomenon affects children of all ages and from all economic backgrounds, but it is most harmful to those students already struggling to keep up. However, it can be avoided. Broadband technology provides access to numerous websites and applications that transform computers and Wi-Fi-enabled tablets into tools that make learning fun and will help avoid the summer slide. Let's take a look at a few of the best sites for your kids to visit this summer. FunBrain.com, for example, is a site geared toward children in grades K-8 that offers online activities to boost learning in math, grammar, science, spelling and history.
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E-learningforkids.org is another site that specializes in providing fun, educational activities for children. Others include thekidzpage.com and pbs.org. According to many educators, one of the most valuable things students can do during the summer to avoid the slide is to continue reading. “Just because school is out doesn’t mean students should take a break from reading,” says Dennis Van Roekel, National Education Association president, on the group's website at www.nea.org. “When students return to their classrooms in the fall, we want reading to top the list of what they did this summer.” There are thousands of books available on just about any reading level that can be downloaded to an e-reader or wireless tablet. Farfarfia is an app for your smart tablet that gets kids excited about reading. It includes more than 100 stories in e-book form for kids ages 2 to 9, and new titles are added every week. This app will make reading fun for your child, and will make it easy to carry a whole load of books to the pool, the park or the beach — without lugging a heavy bookbag.
There are many other apps designed to keep your kids entertained all summer (they may not even realize they are learning!). For example: • PBS character apps are for children 6 and under who will love reviewing science and math skills with favorite characters from PBS shows. • Ruckus Reader, another educational app for children, offers a unique series of digital storybooks designed to help your child practice important reading skills. • Motion Math Games is one of the many apps that offers a variety of games focused on fundamental math skills. It provides fun with numbers for students ranging in age from 4 to 14, and studies show children who played the game improved their scores on a fractions test by 15 percent. • iLearnWith is an app that offers a suite of games to encourage children ages 3 to 6 to have fun while learning key developmental skills such as adding, counting, spelling, phonics and meteorology.
Summer vacation doesn’t mean your kids have to take a break from learning. By exploring these tools and the many others that are available, your child can still have fun while staying off the summer slide.
Nationwide, consumers are reporting failed connections and poor call quality when dialing into rural areas By Stephen V. Smith, Editor
called you earlier today, but I couldn’t get through; it never even rang.” If you have heard this or similar complaints from friends, family or business associates, there’s a good chance the problem is not with your local telephone company. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), telephone subscribers in rural areas “are reporting significant problems receiving long distance or wireless calls on their landline phones.” The problem appears to lie in the fact that some long distance and wireless carriers, in an effort to cut costs, are contracting with third-party service providers to route phone calls into rural areas. The FCC in February announced that it plans to adopt rules requiring these carriers to keep records on call attempts to determine and track the rural call failure rate. “Our nation’s telephone network is a valuable asset in part because everyone has access to it,” says Trevor Bonnstetter, CEO of Ben Lomand Connect, WK&T Telecommunications and Ardmore Telephone, serving portions of Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. “These call completion issues are weakening that network, making it less useful to consumers.” Fred Johnson, executive vice president and general manager of Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative in Alabama, agrees. “I’m proud to see the FCC stepping up its efforts to address this issue,” he
says. “Substandard service into America’s rural areas threatens commerce, public safety and consumer convenience. This is an issue that must be resolved.”
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?
On its website (www.fcc.gov), the FCC outlines two problems that are being reported by rural consumers and people who call them: Failure to Complete »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear nothing or “dead air” for 10 seconds or more after they dial your number. If they stay on the line, the call may seem to be dropped or they may eventually hear a busy signal. »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear prolonged ringing on their end after they dial your number (e.g., the callers wait 10-20 rings before they finally hang up). »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear a recording such as “The number you have dialed is not in service” or “Your call cannot be completed as dialed” when they know they’ve correctly dialed your number. Poor Call Quality »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear nothing or
“dead air” for 10 seconds or more before hearing ringing and you answer your phone. »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear prolonged ringing (e.g., 10-20 times or more) before you answer the phone — when you are sure the phone actually rang only a couple of times before you answered. »» Consistently after you answer a call, the voice quality is unacceptable. For example, one person cannot hear the other, the sound is choppy, there are awkward transmission delays after speaking, or there is an echo. »» Fax machines fail to interoperate.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If someone has trouble completing a call to you from a long distance or wireless telephone service provider, the FCC recommends that you encourage them to report the issue to their provider. They will need the following information: • the date and time the call was attempted • the calling and called telephone numbers • the name of the caller’s long distance or wireless telephone service provider Next, call your local phone company and provide the same information so it may work with the caller’s provider to isolate the problem. May/June 2013 | 7
One World Adventure Company: A natural approach to learning By Diana LaChance
Founders Billy and Angie Shugart with their youngest daughter Ellie.
hen Billy Shugart came back home to Fort Payne after graduating from Montreat College in North Carolina with a degree in Outdoor Education and Environmental Science, he learned just how high the dropout rate had risen for DeKalb County schools. He and his wife, Angie, became aware of the vulnerability of low-income youth and families. Instead of turning a blind eye to the problem, however, they decided to do something about it, opening One World Adventure Company in 2008. Based in Mentone, One World Adventure is a non-profit organization for area youth that blends education, life lessons and environmental awareness programs with outdoor activities and recreation. It’s an approach that Angie Shugart says is “effective in multiple ways: for teaching science concepts, supporting positive social-emotional development and moti-
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vating youth to think and act more responsibly as stewards of the environment.” The youth that participate in One World Adventure programs, and in particular the county’s underserved or at-risk youth, also build much-needed self-esteem and learn indispensable tools to confront and overcome life’s many challenges. “We provide a supportive environment teaching kids how to respect themselves, others and their environment,” says Angie. “They take away important skills reminding them they are responsible for everything they do and say.” Already, more and more schools are starting to emphasize this type of character education to help solve behavioral problems and improve academic achievement. Incorporating these components into their programs is something that One World Adventure takes very seriously. “Because character education creates success, we help build an individual’s view of themselves, others or the environment in a positive light,” says Angie. “Through group challenges and outdoor activities designed to make you think outside the box, character education helps you solve problems, make solid decisions and
effect positive change in one another.” It also helps the youth differentiate between perceived risks in an activity, such as rock climbing, and real-life actual risks, and to take charge of their behavior accordingly. “When we are doing an activity such as hiking, climbing, rappelling or kayaking,” Angie says, “we always use the phrase ‘make good steps.’ There are rocks and roots that you can trip on. When you trip, you fall. Falling hurts. Through periods of activity debriefs, we can relate this phrase to real life. We want to teach kids about having fun but being responsible.” And not just responsible for themselves and their actions, but also for the environment. That is a cornerstone of One World Adventure’s mission, to “foster stewardship of the environment and teach appreciation and the importance of the wise use of natural resources,” says Angie. That includes the Little River, which runs past One World Adventure. In 1991, the river was designated an Outstanding Natural Resource Water (ONRW) by the Alabama Environmental Management Commission. Recently, the global water advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance (www.waterkeeper. org) accepted One World Adventure’s Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative
Photos courtesy of Angie Shugart.
Rock climbing teaches important skills and builds confidence.
Adventure Day campers rock climbing at Cherokee Rock Village.
Team building activities like this one teach participants about trust.
As an alternative to traditional field day games, these youth learn team building skills.
Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative
entire family.” Second, fees are set on a sliding scale to make the programs more affordable to the county’s underserved residents. And third, she adds, “several local businesses contribute to a scholarship fund helping provide when there is a need for financial assistance.” Angie says the goal isn’t to make money; it’s to reach children. “We believe participation in outdoor education programs impacts a young person’s personal and social skills,” she says. “Hiking, swimming, paddling and climbing are all great for the body as well as the mind. When you are out in the woods, no one cares if you’re driving a Lexus or wearing Aeropostale. It’s humbling and it’s simple.” It’s also a message that has resonated with One World Adventure’s campers. “We are so fortunate to have such wonderful feedback,” says Angie. Every camper has reported favorable experiences, saying not only did they have a wonderful time, but that they will come back every year. “They also gained a better sense of purpose and understanding of their actions and the environment,” she adds. “Parents and teachers have reported increased confidence and self-esteem, positive relation-
ships among students or siblings, and reduced discipline and behavior problems.” While it would be easy for Angie and her husband to become satisfied with all they have already done for their fellow county residents, their goal instead is to grow and meet even greater challenges across the county and the state. “We hope to see this type of education flourish in our local community, throughout DeKalb County and in the state of Alabama,” she says. “We hope more teachers will take advantage of our programs. In the near future we are looking at a facilities expansion with more to offer.” Even with One World Adventure’s exciting plans for expansion, Angie and her husband remain grounded by — and focused on — the natural beauty that surrounds them. “Staying connected to nature is the most important part of a person’s life; we are nature,” she says. “They don’t call it the great outdoors for nothing!”
application to become the Little River Waterkeeper. “Having our camp on an ONRW makes the river an even greater place to educate youth,” says Angie. “Becoming the Little River Waterkeeper only made sense because of our commitment to children, their future and the natural resources they inherit. The Waterkeeper monitors the quality of Little River and serves citizens, protecting their rights to clean, healthy water.” In the five years since its inception, One World Adventure’s camps have served around 200 campers from the DeKalb County area each summer. These include their Summer Adventure Day Camp, an outdoor adventure education for kids aged 7 to 13, and their Watershed Exploration Team, a five-day science exploration trip for kids aged 14 to 18. Statewide school enrichment programs reach another 200 students and teachers annually. Part of the attraction of the camp is its rates, which are kept relatively low thanks to a combination of factors. “First,” says Angie, “we are a public charity, so we raise funds through grants and annual fundraising events that are fun for the
To learn more about One World Adventure, visit us online at
oneworldadventureco.com May/June 2013 | 9
The Southeastern U.S. is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Whether you're looking for a rugged multi-day hike or an afternoon paddle along a quiet creek, the region has something for everyone. But before packing up, spend some time exploring the Internet to ensure you get the most from your adventure. Congaree National Park
Six outdoor destinations and the technology that can enhance the nature experience By Andy Johns
Canoeists at Congaree National Park
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knife ✔ Pocket tection ✔ Sun pro
Dotted with waterfalls, unusual rock formations and lush gorges, the trails at Savage Gulf State Natural Area in Tennessee have been ranked among the nation’s best by Backpacker magazine. Not all of the park’s 50 miles of trails are as savage as the name states, but there is a good mix of routes from short walks to multi-night backpacking adventures. The area is also popular with rock climbers for features like the Stone Door, a 10-foot wide, 100-foot deep crack in the rock. Located on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau, Savage Gulf offers fantastic views during leaf season in the fall. www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/savage
The Duck River
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Located southeast of Columbia, S.C., the Congaree National Park claims to preserve the biggest section of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the region. What that means is visitors should be prepared to see trees like they’ve never seen before. In fact, to find a “taller” forest you have to travel out west to the famous redwoods and sequoias. One of the nation’s newest national parks, Congaree offers everything from a 2.4-mile boardwalk to the ominously-named, 11-mile King Snake Trail. Rangers say the best way to see the park, however, is by water. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from outfitters in Columbia, or you can register for one of the park’s guided canoe tours. www.nps.gov/cong
The 270-mile Duck River has more species of fish than all of Europe, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. A 37-mile section of the river has been designated a State Scenic River and is a perfect spot for beginning paddlers. The river is mostly moving flat water with only a few easy rapids that can be easily portaged. Paddlers will enjoy a variety of wildlife, along with forested banks, rocky cliffs and even a cave or two. At least three outfitters offer canoe or kayak rentals from Columbia and Chapel Hill, so not having a boat is no excuse to stay on the banks. www.tn.gov/environment/tn_consv/archive/duckriver.htm
Upper Greeter Falls in Savage Gulf
A great blue heron at Congaree National Park
Web-based technology can add to your hiking experience before, during and after your hike. Here are three ways technology can help you on the trails.
Photos courtesy of Tennessee State Natural Areas and Congaree National Park.
A green anole lizard at Congaree National Park
Lower Greeter Falls in Savage Gulf
Zebra swallowtail butterfly at Congaree National Park
Hiker at the Walls of Jericho
The Sheltowee Trace
Running for about 300 miles through East Tennessee and Kentucky, the Sheltowee Trace offers hikers a multi-night long-distance trail experience or a collection of shorter day trips. Some of the highlights along the route include Cumberland Falls, Natural Bridge State Resort Park and Cave Run Lake. For some variety, sections of the trail are open to mountain bikes, horses and some off-road vehicles. www.sheltoweetrace.org
While many trails will wear you out climbing mountains, the North/South Trail at Kentucky's Land Between the Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area is wide and relatively flat, making it easy on hikers. Like other long distance trails, the North/South offers appealing segments for single day hikes or the full 60-mile distance for multi-day trips. The trail offers a few views of nearby Kentucky Lake, but the big attraction to hikers here is the solitude and wildlife. Deer and turkey roam the LBL, and there are even bison in one designated area off the trail. Mountain bikes and horses are allowed, but motor vehicles are prohibited. www.lbl.org/Hiking.html
Walls of Jericho
The Walls of Jericho is a great example of two states working together. Tennessee and Alabama (with the help of private groups) have teamed up to protect 21,000 acres on their border that feature 200-foot cliffs, endangered species and unusually shaped rocks. Getting to the Walls is a 7-mile round-trip hike with several small stream crossings. Hikers need to be sure to wear good boots, bring plenty of water and pay attention to the weather. www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/jericho
Websites like backpacker.com/ destinations and gorp.com (which stands for "Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts," a popular trail snack) offer countless maps, images and user reviews for hikes in your area. Research ahead of time so you don’t miss spectacular side trails — and so you'll be aware of hazards in the area.
During: The Audubon Society and other groups have developed apps for smartphones that can enhance your nature experience. Apps like Audubon Birds give you access to thousands of bird call sound files and photos to help identify species you may run across.
After: Mobile apps like RunKeeper allow you to map your route as you go. Most of them have features that allow you to review your pace, elevation gain and distance covered so you can analyze your trip. Many also allow you to share your route with friends so they can see where you’ve been and try it themselves.
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Alice Pettyjohn describes her place as “Etsy and Pinterest” combined in a shop.
By Kerry Scott
or as long as she can remember, Alice Pettyjohn has had a knack for art. While attending Auburn University she studied industrial and graphic design, learning many of the computer programs favored by the art community. But even before college, she was “designing” signs and breakthrough banners as a member of the Sylvania Rams cheerleading squad. “I jokingly tell people that’s where I got my start,” she says. Until about five years ago, she limited herself to creating gifts for friends and family. She never really charged for her work. “My friends would tell me I could make a living doing this,” says Pettyjohn, “and after a while I started to believe them.” She began offering art lessons and selling paintings and murals. But eventually the art began to take up too much space in her home so she decided to rent a commercial space and do her art full-time. When Pettyjohn first saw the rock house on Highway 35 in Rainsville that would become Alice Circle, she knew it had potential. “It was a place with character and charm,” she explains. Originally, her plan was to use the two front rooms for art lessons and parties with the rest of the house essentially going unused. But it didn’t take long before ideas began popping into her mind about how she could use the rest of the space. “It’s such a cute place,” she says. “I started thinking it would be lonely in here with only the two rooms in use. Then I started visualizing what different displays would look like and how the other rooms could be used.”
12 | May/June 2013
Art lessons, parties and showers are among the activities offered at Alice Circle. Reaching out to her friends first, Pettyjohn began renting space to other artists and craftsmen, giving them an opportunity to show off their handiwork and earn some extra money at the same time. “I’m really glad to have them here,” she says. “Not everyone would stop in just to see my stuff. Because we have so many different items — from clothing and accessories to crocheted items to beauty aids to housewares, and even sandwiches and cupcakes — people may come by to get one thing and see a dozen other items they fall in love with. They really help make the place what it is.” And what exactly is Alice Circle? Pettyjohn describes the shop as “Etsy and Pinterest rolled into a store.” While she says it isn’t possible for everything to be handmade, many things are. “The items sold that aren’t handmade must have some creativity that goes into them in order to be here, and I don’t want to sell items that are overly commercial,” she says. Pettyjohn hopes her place leaves a lasting memory for all who come through. She feels nostalgia when remembering after-school visits to Super D for an Icee as a child. “I would love for kids to say ‘I remember art lessons at Alice Circle’ or ‘I used to get a cupcake every time I went there,’” she says. “I want this to be a fun place that makes people happy.” There’s a lot of work that goes into making the shop the place of her dreams, though. The business is only open three days a week — Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “A lot of people ask why I don’t open through the week but I Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative
just can’t,” she says. “That’s my painting and creating time and I need every bit of it to stay on top of the custom orders that I get. Much of what I do can’t be done while customers are here or food is being prepared.” While Pettyjohn admits to putting in some really long hours at the shop, she says “I always have a smile on my face.”
She believes that those who have a creative side need a way to release it in order to be happy. She also believes they need to be inspired. Many of her inspirations for design come from others. “I see things that I like, then I make my own version of things,” she explains. Most of those creations end up being shared with her more than 1,400 followers on Facebook. Art classes often follow as a result of a Facebook post to teach others how to make their own. Some might say that isn’t good for business, but Pettyjohn doesn’t think so. “I don’t mind teaching anyone how to make something,” she says. She rationalizes that not everyone will want to spend the time and energy to make their own and things trend so quickly that she’s always thinking ahead for the next big thing. While on the lookout for what that might be, Pettyjohn is grateful for what she’s been able to accomplish so far. “I used to dream of a way to do what I love and still pay the bills,” she says. “I’m living a
s d a o Crossr Fest m o d e e Fr
Join us for Crossroads FreedomFest Saturday, June 22 Rainsville City Park
dream. I’m doing something I love. I’m making people happy and I’m earning a living. It’s awesome.”
Art students get to work with several different mediums.
HPerformances by RFBC’sH H.O.P.E. Puppet Ministries (Helping Others Prepare for Eternity)
HEntertainment throughout the dayH Entertainment throughout the day Performances by H.O.P.E. Puppet Team HFreedomFest 10K & 5K RaceH Concessions Pre-register online at Car Show www.rainsvillefreedomfest.racesonline.com Fireworks at dark sponsored by City of Rainsville and FTC
Saturday, June 22 Rainsville City Park HCruise-In Car ShowH All proceeds go to support mission programs at First Baptist Church Rainsville For more information call 256-638-8637
with special guest
Register now for Rainsville FreedomFest 10K & 5K HHUGE FIREWORKS SHOWH After a rewarding solo career in gospel music where he won Sponsored Visit rainsvillefreedomfest.racesonline.com for complete detailsby FTC and the City of Rainsville several Dove awards, English joined the Gaither Vocal Band in 2009. His soulful voice, combined with his gift for connecting with audiences, has kept him in the forefront of the Christian music world. His latest solo album is entitled “Some People Change.”
Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative
For more information call 256-638-8637 May/June 2013 | 13
Southern Kitchens An art fired by passion My dad was never too fond of barbecue. As a result, I really never experienced smoked foods until well beyond my youth. In fact, it wasn’t until I was well into my third decade of life that I not only learned to love barbecue, but also learned there was more to it than I ever knew — all because of an invitation to judge one of the most esteemed of all barbecue competitions, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational. In accepting the invitation, I also took classes to become a certified judge. I went back several years to judge this event and came to discover that barbecue is an art. It’s a sixth sense in many barbecuers who are born to the flame, it seems. As years go on, they become adept at putting on the heat to produce just the right amount of smoke to marry with the juices flowing through the meats. These sons — and daughters — of the South have smoke in their veins. It’s an all-consuming passion, and one shared by many now that it’s gone beyond the back yard to become a global cuisine. Just take a look at Eric Stephenson’s recipes in the adjoining story and see if you don’t become addicted to his fiery passion… if you’re not already.
Smoke runs in his blood
ric Stephenson was just 16 years old when he learned that a little bit of flame, a smoker filled with wood and a careful eye produces incredibly good meat. It was then that his dad, James, opened a barbecue restaurant in Geraldine, Ala., and employed his son to work after school and during his summers off. Soon, Eric became a master of the flame under his father’s watchful eye. Now 32, Eric owns his own barbecue restaurant, Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que in Stephenson Rainsville, Ala. It has a take-out drive learned the art through, as well as a covered front porch of barbecue with a handful of picnic tables where from his father. folks can “eat-in.” “I loved working with my dad growing up,” Eric says. "I was able to see first-hand the pride he took in his work. Before his death, he laid out a blueprint for me through multiple conversations. That’s where the idea for Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que began. It’s in my blood.” His first barbecue hut was a Saturday-only business located next to his house. When that building was destroyed by a tornado in April of 2011, he reopened in a new location along Highway 35 in downtown Rainsville. Now folks can smell the smoke from the hickory pit five days a week. From pork sandwiches to rib plates, Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que reigns in Rainsville. Eric took time out from smoking to answer a few barbecue questions: Q: Do you prefer using gas or charcoal? A: Neither. The best method is to use all wood when smoking meat. It gives it a whole lot better flavor. Q: What are the best woods to use? A: Most all hardwoods are good — pecan, hickory, oak, cherry. Q: How do you get juicy meat? A: Don’t pierce the meat; it creates holes that let the juices escape. Brining the meat is a better option. I brine all of mine, from the chickens and turkeys to pork butts and ribs. Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when smoking meat? A: Allowing the flame to touch the meat or cooking it at too high a temperature. That scorches the meat, and the smoke won’t have time to penetrate the inside of the meat. Q: How do you know when the meat is done? A: I can tell just by touch. But people who are new to smoking meats should use a meat thermometer. I cook my pork butts to at least 175° F. Makes them more tender, too.
FOLLOW THE SMOKE TO... Anne P. Braly Food Editor Email Anne Braly at email@example.com. 14 | May/June 2013
Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que H 832 Main St. East H Rainsville, Ala. Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. H Tuesday – Saturday Phone: 256-717-4080 House special: Pulled pork barbecue plate with coleslaw and baked beans ($6.25-$7.75)
BBQ: A mouth-watering Southern tradition Sweet ’n Savory Rub This rub adds a zesty flair to whatever meat you put on the grill. 1/2 1 2 1 1 1 1
cup brown sugar tablespoon black pepper tablespoons paprika tablespoon salt tablespoon onion powder tablespoon garlic powder tablespoon chili powder
Mix together all ingredients and store in airtight container. May be used as a rub for chicken, beef or pork. Makes about 1 cup rub for 2-3 pounds meat. When ready to use, sprinkle rub onto meat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before grilling. Or, rub onto meat, wrap meat in foil and refrigerate overnight to grill the next day.
Bourbon Smoked Pork Tenderloin
Makes an elegant entree or one that can be served with baked beans and coleslaw for tasty picnic fare. 2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey 2 tablespoons molasses or strong honey 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes 3 cloves garlic, crushed 2 bay leaves, crushed 5 teaspoons dried thyme 5 teaspoons dried sage 3/4 cup oil 1 teaspoon salt Combine the bourbon and molasses. Add the remaining ingredients and roll the pork in the marinade. Refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight, turning occasionally. Remove the pork from the marinade, season with salt, and smoke, basting with marinade for 15-20 minutes. The pork may then continue to cook on a smoker, be finished on a grill, or be roasted in a
Using nothing but wood will give your ribs that distinct smoke flavor that barbecue lovers crave. 350° F oven until reaching an internal temperature of 145-150° F. Remove pork from heating source and let rest 15 minutes before serving.
Stephenson's ribs with spicy barbecue sauce
Ribs with Spicy Barbecue Sauce The sauce tickles these ribs with lots of flavor.
1 3-pound rack of ribs
SAUCE: 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1/2 cup ketchup 1/3 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 teaspoons prepared mustard 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Place ribs in pan. Combine all sauce ingredients and pour over ribs. Cover ribs and refrigerate for 2 hours, turning ribs frequently. Drain sauce from ribs, reserving sauce. Place ribs over medium coals and grill over direct heat for 1 hour, turning ribs and basting often with sauce. May/June 2013 | 15
Presort STD US Postage PAID Permit #21 Freeport OH “We Keep You Connected”
P.O. Box 217• 144 McCurdy Ave. N. Rainsville, AL 35986
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