Connection March/April 2013
P u b l i s h e d f o r t h e m e m b e r s o f We s t Ke n t u c k y & Te n n e s s e e Te l e c o m m u n i c a t i o n s C o o p e r a t i v e
Quilting Queries Broadband helps quilters find ideas and answers
Fiber Network growing
Crews adding 600 members per month
Wet Weather , Web Weather
Observers use Internet to share data
The animated television series "The Jetsons" gave us a glimpse into what life might be like in a high-tech future. While we’re not living in space with robot maids, we do have the technology to control and automate many home functions. A Wi-Fi network, powered by a broadband Internet connection, can put the power to control your home at your fingertips. Here are a few devices to help make that happen:
Use Dropcam to remotely monitor the kids, the pets, a workspace and more. Connect it to your Wi-Fi network, then place the Dropcam anywhere in your home or business. Smartphone apps let you monitor the camera’s 720p HD image, or you can log into your account from a computer. Features include digital zoom, infrared technology for night viewing and two-way audio. Price: $149 Website: www.dropcam.com
Belkin WeMo Switch
Plug a WeMo Switch into a standard electrical outlet, connect it to your Wi-Fi network and you can control whatever you plug into the WeMo Switch. Use it for lamps, fans, curling irons, coffee makers, stereos and more. The WeMo smartphone app lets you turn your connected device on and off from any location. Price: $49 Website: www.belkin.com/us/wemo
Nest learns your patterns and schedules, and adjusts your home’s heating and cooling system to fit your lifestyle. And because it connects to your home Wi-Fi network, you can control it from anywhere using the iOS app. According to the company website, “Nest can lower your heating and cooling bills up to 20%.” Price: $249 Website: www.nest.com
That’s my web Whatever your interest or hobby, there are countless websites with tips and information you may enjoy. Here’s a look at a few of them. (We don’t support or control the content of these sites, so we’re not responsible for what you may or may not find there.) Food www.thekitchn.com This site features more information than you’ll ever be able to digest. Recipes, product reviews, advice, how-tos… you’ll find it all here. Cars www.jalopnik.com Jalopnik is obsessed with the cult of cars. Secret cars, concept cars, flying cars, vintage cars, tricked-out cars… you get the picture. Rural Living www.thepioneerwoman.com How can one woman do so much? Sections include cooking, home and garden, homeschooling, entertainment and confessions.
Technology www.arstechnica.com This site “specializes in original news and reviews, analysis of technology trends” and includes advice on a wide range of technology topics.
See Page 7 for tips on creating a broadband-centric home.
News www.theblaze.com The goal of this news, information and opinion site is “to post, report and analyze stories of interest on a wide range of topics from politics and culture to faith and family.”
And coming soon… This is the light bulb Thomas Edison never even dreamed about. The LIFX bulb connects to your Wi-Fi network, allowing you to remotely turn it on and off, adjust brightness and change colors. Control individual bulbs, rooms or your entire house. Available early to mid-2013. Website: www.lifx.com
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P R O T E C T Y O U R T E L E C O M M U N I C AT I O N S S Y S T E M
Step outside and look up. You may see a valuable system of poles and wires — a system that delivers important telecommunications services to you and your neighbors. Telephone. Internet. And in some cases, even Digital TV. Damage to this network can interrupt critical services to dozens or even hundreds of families in your neighborhood and beyond.
We are asking for your help in protecting this valuable investment.
Please “Look Up!” before doing any of the following:
For a distance of 15 feet in any direction of utility lines, only plant shrubs or trees with a mature height of less than 20 feet. Taller trees can grow into lines, which can create service problems, or their limbs could fall across lines during storms.
Also remember to
Call Before You Dig
When burning brush, make sure you pile it far away from utility lines. The temperature of burning wood can easily reach over 1,000º F — and that is hot enough to melt telecommunications equipment.
When you lift that gun, make sure utility lines are not in your line of sight. When a utility line is broken, it has to be spliced back together — a time-consuming and expensive task.
Spread the word. Look up. Protect your valuable telecommunications system. March/April 2013 | 3
From the CEO
West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative
Speaking with one voice in D.C. Almost every day in our nation’s capital, discussions are held that lead to decisions, which in turn lead to new laws and regulations. The effects ripple out from Washington, D.C., often making a real impact on lives right here in our service area. A good example is the work being done by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restructure the telecommunications industry. The decisions this regulatory body is making are changing the very foundations of how companies like WK&T receive our revenue. There is good reason to fear that these decisions will drive up costs for subscribers in rural areas while limiting the services to which you have access. For these reasons, it has never been more important for cooperative and independent telecommunications companies to speak with one voice. These changes threaten to impact millions of individuals and businesses across America, and Washington needs to hear your concerns. The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, or NTCA, is the group through which WK&T and hundreds of other telcos like us make your voice heard at the national level. NTCA has a staff of professionals who keep a close watch on regulatory and congressional activity. They also engage with officials, educate them on our concerns, file briefs and court cases, and in general make sure that cooperative and independent telcos have a voice in the legislative and regulatory processes. One of the most important NTCA functions will take place toward the end of April when the organization hosts its annual Legislative and Policy Conference. NTCA members from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C., to meet with elected officials and regulators. We will ask questions, provide information and speak with one voice as we share our concerns on your behalf. In the previous issue of this magazine, I discussed the importance of building partnerships and how this regional publication is a great example of those efforts. The NTCA Legislative and Policy Conference is an even broader joint effort, allowing us to make sure the FCC and members of Congress know who you are. We are all fighting these problems, and it’s our job as your telecommunications provider to present your concerns to those making these decisions. Dealing with the federal government can at times be frustrating, to say the least. In the past couple of years in particular, the decisions and mixed signals coming out of Washington have left many people feeling like ours is a lost cause. But we will never give up the fight. We must keep a seat at the table if we hope to have an impact on the laws and regulations affecting the telecommunications industry. And we will do so with a unified voice, working together through NTCA to make sure officials understand that their desire to restructure our industry should not compromise the good work that has already been done to connect people and communities across rural America.
Trevor Bonnstetter Chief Executive Officer 4 | March/April 2013
is your cooperative serving West Kentucky and Northwest Tennessee across more than 15,000 access lines. The company is dedicated to using technology to keep its members connected through local and long-distance calling, high-speed Internet, digital television and beyond.
Board of Trustees Joe Thompson President Jerry Holloway Vice President Beverly Taylor Secretary/Treasurer Bob Barnett Jeff Davis Algene Goatley Tony Goodman Ricky Littleton Delbert Newsome Jerry Stephenson
Vol. 5, NO. 2 March/April 2013
WK&T The WK&T
Connection is published by West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative, © 2013. It is distributed without charge to all members of the cooperative. Send address corrections to:
WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative P.O. Box 649 • 237 N 8th Street Mayfield, KY 42066 Telephone: 877-954-8748 www.wktelecom.coop Produced for WK&T by: www.WordSouth.com On the Cover: Shirley Jackson displays her quilts. Broadband helps her share patterns. See story, Page 12.
Fiber crews connecting 600 members per month The old saying goes that March can come in like a lion, and if that’s the case, WK&T’s fiber project is roaring right along with it. Crews have installed about 1,500 miles of fiber around the service area and are connecting about 600 members per month to the new high-speed network. In January, work began on installing service in the Tennessee portion of WK&T’s territory, starting with Puryear before moving to Yorkville, Trimble and Mason Hall. In Kentucky, much of the work has focused on connecting members in Cunningham, Wingo and Sedalia. Work should be completed in each of these areas by the beginning of April. Mainline construction has begun or will soon begin in Kirksey, Hardin, Cypress, Fairdealing and New Concord. WK&T expects call for work to begin in each of those exchanges by the middle of the year and be completed by the fall. Planners expect to have all broadband subscribers connected to fiber by the end of the year.
Contractors Jerrod Hicks (left) and Daniel Vaughan of MasTec lay fiber lines in Lowes as part of WK&T’s new high-speed network.
Like us on Facebook Go to www.facebook.com and search for WK&T.
Children 14 and younger can participate in Telcom Insurance Group’s art competition. The theme for this year’s competition is “Compassion for Animals” and prizes of up to $100 will be awarded by age group. Deadline for submissions: April 20 Mail submissions on an 8-1/2” x 11” sheet of paper to: Telcom Insurance Group Attn: Spring Art Contest 6301 Ivy Lane, Suite 506 Greenbelt, MD 20770 For official rules and entrance form contact Tina Wynter at 301-220-3206 or TMW@TelcomInsGrp.com.
WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative
Thank you Yorkville! On March 7, WK&T will host a Customer Appreciation and Fiber Launch Party in Yorkville to celebrate our members and our new fiber network. Drop in between 4:30 and 7 p.m. for barbecue, door prizes and demonstrations. We hope to see you there!
What: Customer Appreciation and Fiber Launch Party When: March 7 • 4:30 to 7 p.m. Where: Yorkville Community Center Highway 77, Yorkville, Tenn. March/April 2013 | 5
Are you distracted? Teen’s story highlights dangers of texting behind the wheel By Stephen V. Smith, Editor
t was the middle of May 2009, and Ashley Umscheid had just finished her freshman year at Kansas State University. As the 19-year-old drove down a long, straight stretch of four-lane Kansas highway, she carried on a text message conversation with her sister. Ashley typed “K” to acknowledge a comment from her sister. In the seconds surrounding that one-letter message, the left tires of her small pickup truck dropped off the left shoulder. Reentering the highway, her vehicle began to flip, ejecting Ashley and strewing her belongings – including her cell phone – along the roadway. She died three days later from her injuries. While Ashley’s life was cut so tragically short, her story lives on to warn other students of the dangers of texting while driving. “Distracted: The True Story of Ashley Umscheid” is a DVD produced by Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative (FTC) in Rainsville, Ala. It uses interviews with Ashley’s family and friends, along with former high school classmates and a coach, to reveal a young woman ready to begin an exciting new phase of her life. “We knew it was important for students to see Ashley the way her family and friends saw her,” says Fred Johnson, executive vice president and general manager of FTC. “We wanted them to identify with her and remember her every time they got behind the wheel.” Once complete, Johnson licensed the video to the Foundation for Rural Service, a non-profit group that works with independent telecommunications companies to offer youth-based programs and educa-
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tional materials. FRS sent copies of the DVD to more than 1,000 phone companies and associated firms throughout the U.S. for them to present in their communities and schools. The message, however, went well beyond the telecommunications industry. “We have reached a new audience with this DVD,” says Elizabeth Crocker, executive director of FRS. “We had police officers in Kansas calling us, and a Rotary Club in Texas.” Even U.S. Department of Transportation officials have contacted FRS for copies of the DVD. While interest continues to spread outside the industry, Crocker says the independent telecommunications companies have done a great job in sharing Ashley’s story in schools, through community groups and on their local television channels. “These providers are there, living with the folks they serve in the community,” Crocker says. “This is where they chose to live and work, and it’s important to them that their communities are safe and have access to learning opportunities.” Among those Ashley Umscheid left behind was her uncle, Terry Force. He is board president of his local phone company, Blue Valley Tele-Communications in Kansas, and was recently elected co-president of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA). “It is a blessing to see Ashley’s story touch so many lives across the country,” Force says. “This DVD delivers a strong message for young drivers, and we believe it has helped many other families avoid the tragedy that changed our family forever.”
Watch It If you are interested in showing “Distracted” in your school or community group, contact your local telecommunications company. See Page 4 for contact information.
Learn more FRS awards dozens of scholarships to rural students each year. It also sponsors a youth tour where students across the nation visit Washington, D.C., to learn about rural issues and how government works. Learn more about FRS at their website: www.frs.org/about-frs.
The key to a broadbandcentric home Having a broadband connection in your home opens the door to fast downloads, streaming video and the other benefits of high-speed Internet. But there is much more to broadband than simply browsing the Web.
o help understand this concept, think about broadband in terms of electricity. When electricity first came to the rural regions, residents were excited to light up their evenings with a single light bulb hanging from a cord in the middle of the room. They eventually learned that electricity could bring even more conveniences into their lives when the technology was applied to appliances and gadgets for the kitchen, the living room and the farm. The same holds true for broadband. A fast Internet connection can open a world of opportunities when extended beyond your computer. And Wi-Fi is the key to expanding those capabilities.
What is WI-FI?
Wi-Fi is short for Wireless Fidelity, a set of technical standards that enable devices to transmit and receive information without wires connecting them. It may sound complicated, but the results are empowering. By setting up a wireless network in your home, you can change the way your family enjoys entertainment, makes a living, stays connected and controls the functions of your home.
The heart of your Wi-Fi network is the router. In the early days of home Internet access, a phone line plugged into a modem
while a second line connected the modem to a single computer. Now the line from your telecommunications company can deliver broadband access to a router, creating a wireless network that can connect any number of devices.
Wireless Network Setup
Some telecommunications companies lease or sell wireless routers to their Internet customers, while others ask customers to purchase a router of their choice from a technology vendor. Either way, setup is simple when following the manufacturer’s instructions. Contact your telecommunications company if you need help with this phase. Once your wireless network is established, begin by connecting a laptop or a smartphone. Most devices have easyto-find network settings where you will identify and select your new network then enter your router’s password. It really is that simple.
Your laptop and smartphone are just the beginning. There are many devices on the market today that can use your broadband connection over a wireless network to bring greater convenience to your life. These include: • Tablets and e-readers: Read books, watch videos, browse websites and more.
• Gaming systems: Play video games with and against other enthusiasts from around the world. • Video players: With devices such as a Blu-ray player, Roku or Apple TV, watch streaming video on your television from paid video services, including Apple’s iTunes, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. • Smart TVs: Skip the extra devices and watch streaming video through your television’s built-in ability to connect to paid video streaming services. • Surveillance systems: Monitor the activity and security of your home with a simple single-camera setup or a complex system of surveillance equipment.
There are several household appliances already on the market that take advantage of your broadband Internet connection. These include washing machines that can be controlled remotely and refrigerators that recommend recipes based on the ingredients in them. As prices come down and features improve, it will become more practical for homeowners to connect and control almost every major function of their home. Create a wireless network in your home now, then add devices and appliances as it becomes affordable and practical to make their features available to your family. March/April 2013 | 7
“When the first snowflake falls, someone is tweeting about it.” — Patrick Spoden, science operations officer for the NWS office in Paducah By Andy Johns
Watching weather on the Web Meteorologists and officials use broadband to monitor storms and alert residents
hen changing weather conditions roll into the lower Ohio Valley, meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Paducah check plenty of computer models, weather radars, charts and remote weather stations. But they have also recently started looking in an unconventional spot — social media. “When the first snowflake falls, someone is tweeting about it,” says Patrick Spoden, science operations officer for the NWS office in Paducah. “The weather information on the Internet has increased dramatically over just a few years. Five or 10 years ago we’d have to be making phone calls.” Spoden, along with other meteorologists and emergency officials, is finding ways to harness the power of broadband to both gather and disseminate weather information. For years, the NWS had to rely primarily on its official weather stations and designated storm spotters to monitor the weather. Now, local residents can easily post updates about icy roads or share photos of damage from windstorms through social media. “We’re trying to grasp some of the stuff that’s out there,” Spoden says. And in areas like Western Kentucky and Tennessee, they need all of the help they can get. “We live in a part of the country where we can be affected by almost any kind of weather,” Spoden explains.
New ways to warn
March and April are known for particularly volatile weather, but meteorologists say severe storms could strike year-round. “That’s the major time when we get tornadoes, but it’s important to 8 | March/April 2013
WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative
emphasize that it can happen at any time,” Spoden says. That’s why his team takes weather prediction and notification so seriously. When models, data and on-the-ground reports indicate severe weather is on the way, the NWS office springs into action with watches and warnings. But for those warnings to work, they must reach residents wherever they may be. For years, the weather service and emergency officials used messages on television stations to warn those in harm’s way. Now they are finding new ways to reach out. “Early, quick communication is key, and in today’s information age, that’s getting easier,” says Jamey Locke, the Graves County EMA director. Emergency officials like Locke now have the ability to send emails and texts to some residents notifying them of dangerous weather conditions. Spoden and others at the NWS office post messages for the more than 9,000 people following them on social media. “As an office, we’re pretty active,” Spoden explains. “We find it to be extremely helpful.”
Broadband helps people understand weather, even when it’s not severe. In 1998, the Colorado Climate Center started a system of volunteer weather reporters called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). CoCoRaHS came to Kentucky and Tennessee in 2007. Several people in the WK&T service area participate, including Noel Coplen of Wingo. “I guess it’s a hobby for insomniacs,” he jokes. “I say I’m the biggest nerd in Graves County.” For nearly three years, Coplen has checked his rain gauge almost every morning and submitted a report to the network over his WK&T broadband connection. “I like keeping up with the rain,” he says. “When I heard about CoCoRaHS, I thought that’s kind of a neat way to do it online. It’s better than just writing it in a notebook.” At cocorahs.org, visitors can see a map with rain reports in their area. Coplen says WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative
Meteorologist Chris Noles at the NWS office in Paducah analyzes weather prediction models of a system headed through the region. it can be surprising how much the amounts vary from one area to the next. “I’ll think I have a lot of rain and I’ll look and see somebody in Jackson, Tenn., had twice as much as we did.” That data is then used by meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities, insurance adjusters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, engineers, mosquito control crews, ranchers, farmers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, teachers, students and other community members. “I’m not making it rain for them,” jokes Coplen, Noel Coplen of Wingo checks his rain gauge every who lives within sight of corn morning and logs any rainfall into a national network and soybean fields. “But at that records precipitation. least they know how much it rains.” precipitation if more people got involved. Coplen says his high-speed connection “You know how old men are — they sit from WK&T makes inputting his data around drinking coffee and talking about easy. Soon, he says, things will be even how much it rained,” he says. “It would be faster when he gets a new fiber connection nice if they recorded it.” from the cooperative. If he had to mail in Spoden praised volunteers like Coplen his reports or even wait on dial-up, he’d and says he wished more would join in. have to find another hobby, he says. “I “In order for us to do a good job for the wouldn’t do it at all,” he says. “It’s just so people, we need their participation,” easy to type it in and hit submit.” Spoden says. The volunteer weatherman says the data Thanks to broadband, that participation would provide an even better picture of is easier than it’s ever been. March/April 2013 | 9
N at i o n a l S e v e r e W e at h e r P r e p a r e d n e ss W e e k i s M a r c h 3 - 9
Ready, Set, Survive Be part of the “Weather-Ready Nation” By Tony Laiolo
verybody talks about the weather,” goes the old joke, “but nobody does anything about it.” That may have been true in Mark Twain’s time, but these days people are doing quite a bit about the weather, and with good reason — preparing for violent storms can be the difference between life and death. Our part of the world attracts tornadoes, including some real movers and shakers. According to the Southeast Regional Climate Center, EF-5 storms (winds over 200 mph) were until recently a rarity for us, with only nine on record from 1954 through 2010. Then, in April 2011 alone, four of the giants ravaged the Southeast, accounting for more than a third of the 338 tornadorelated deaths that month. What can you do? Become what NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) calls a “Force of Nature” — taking actions that give yourself, your family and your community a better chance to survive the moment and ride out the aftermath.
The calm voice before the storm
Lisa Spencer, chief meteorologist at Nashville’s WSMV-4, is a big booster Lisa Spencer of storm readiness. She doesn’t just see weather, she sees its effects on people. “The thing we kept hearing at disaster scenes,” she says, “was ‘I just didn’t know what to do.’ We wanted to address that.” Spencer and the station’s weather team created “Surviving the Storm,” a free, fun community outreach road show that teaches the “what, why and how” of severe thunderstorms. Using dramatic video, experiments, games and prizes, the team instructs and inspires, one group at a time. “People do seem to be taking serious weather more seriously, and more and more are preparing for it,” says Spencer, “although some still tend to think ‘it can’t happen to me,’ which of course it can.”
A week of preparation
Any time is a good time to get ready, but March 3-9, 2013 — NOAA’s National Severe Weather Preparedness Week — is all about helping us become a “Weather-Ready Nation.” With the height of the tornado season near at hand, it’s the perfect time to focus the country’s attention on storm safety and help save lives this very year. It is a time to… • Know your risk — Learn the alerts and emergency plans for your community. Know the difference between a “watch” and a “warning,” and how to respond to each. • Make a plan — Decide where you’ll take shelter. Consider your family’s specific medical and assistance needs. Network with neighbors, friends and co-workers. • Build a kit — Assemble enough water, non-perishable food, medicine and supplies to last at least 72 hours. • Buy a NOAA Weather Radio — Equip yourself with a life-saver that activates automatically (even with the audio off) when receiving an alarm tone from the National Weather Service. • Be an example — Once you’ve taken action, share your story with family, with friends and over social media. 10 | March/April 2013
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Your telco is prepared for the threat of bad weather By Stephen V. Smith, Editor
hen severe weather strikes, citizens depend on their telephones, the Internet and television to stay informed and connected. However, the network of your local telecommunications company, who provides many of these services, is often the victim of storm damage as well. Knowing their services are critical to public health and safety, telcos across the country dedicate a great deal of time and resources toward preparing for the storms. “One of our biggest concerns during severe weather is the loss of power,” explains Jason Dandridge, CEO of Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative (Walterboro, S.C.). Being near the Eastern seaboard, the cooperative faces the threat of losing electricity for days when hurricanes hit. “Almost all of our lines are buried, so we don’t catch the effects of downed poles, Dandridge says. “But we have to keep our remote sites powered.” This requires a good supply of generators, a schedule of employees ready to operate them and enough fuel on hand to keep them running for several days if necessary. “Portable and fixed generators are critical in the event of a power outage,” adds Jim Cook, general manager of New Hope Telephone Cooperative (New Hope, Ala.). “Lining up commitments from fuel and service providers in advance can be the difference in being able to keep our network up and running for just a few hours to days and weeks without power.”
In contrast to the flat lands of Palmetto, the service area of Highland Telephone Cooperative (Sunbright, Tenn.) is rocky and hilly. The cooperative’s lines and equipment are therefore almost entirely above ground, attached to poles. “During the winters we can have heavy snows that will take our lines down,” says Mark Pat-
terson, Highland’s general manager. “We have to keep extra materials on hand for our crews to do rebuilds.” While tornadoes are uncommon there, one did pass through Highland’s service area some eight years ago. Patterson says crews had the materials in place to splice many of the lines where they lay on the ground. “We were able to restore telephone service within a day or so, even in areas where the power companies had not set new poles yet,” he says. Part of New Hope’s service area is low and surrounded by mountains, making it susceptible to flooding. “Depending on the type of disaster, low-lying buildings may need to be protected from water intrusion,” Cook says.
Phone and Internet lines brought down by a tornado
Phone and Internet lines destroyed by an ice storm
People are key
Regardless of what disasters may come, the employees of your local telecommunications company are the key to protecting the network and restoring your phone, Internet and TV service quickly and safely in the event of an interruption. “Everyone knows their role when the bad weather comes in,” Dandridge says. “From operating the generators to dealing with electronic issues, every employee knows their role in our response.” “Training is important,” adds Patterson.” We make sure our people have the training they need to do the job quickly and safely when severe weather hits.” “Our employees are our greatest asset, and their safety is our number one priority,” says Cook. “Having a communications plan established so that we can quickly confirm their safety and determine their ability to respond to the recovery efforts is essential.” From hurricanes to floods to tornadoes and beyond, telcos across the region are prepared to restore critical services in the face of damaging weather.
Network equipment threatened by flood waters
Are you prepared? Just like your telecommunications provider, every family should be ready in case of a disaster. Prepare a basic emergency supply kit that includes such items as: • Water • Non-perishable food • NOAA weather radio • Flashlight • Extra batteries • First aid kit • Whistle (to signal for help) • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities • Manual can opener • Cell phone with chargers For more details, visit:
www.ready.gov/build-a-kit March/April 2013 | 11
Sew many ideas Local quilters use broadband to share designs and techniques By Andy Johns
Roxanne Ferguson says she uses WK&T broadband service to shop online for unique fabric and thread.
hen she’s using a needle and thread, Shirley Jackson doesn’t usually get stuck. But when she was making her first t-shirt quilt by stitching together old shirts, the process befuddled her so badly that she didn’t know how to finish the project. “The first time I made a t-shirt quilt, I had trouble,” remembers Jackson, who lives near Murray. “Then I went online and
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found out what I should have done.” The advice from the Internet saved the quilt and convinced her that the Web could be a powerful tool for quilters. “If you search quilting sites, you will get pages and pages,” Jackson says. “All you have to do is put in two or three words and you have a whole encyclopedia. You can find out a wealth of information.”
WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative
West Kentucky is a hotbed for quilters, anchored by the National Quilt Museum and American Quilter’s Society Annual Show in Paducah. And many local artists use WK&T’s broadband to access quilting sites to improve their skills. Roxanne Ferguson said she used to subscribe to four or five quilting magazines and wait for them to arrive to get inspiration and study the latest techniques. Now she searches the Web for images that she downloads and edits to use as patterns. “That allows me to take out any parts of the photo I don’t like,” she says. “I buy very few books because I can find what I need online.”
Shirley Jackson says an online quilting group can be a great resource for both experts and novices.
For several hundred years, quilters had to rely on meeting with other quilters and consulting a limited supply of books. Now, the Internet allows them to share ideas no matter where they are in the world. “It’s just like going to a guild meeting once a month,” Jackson explains. “I can have a guild meeting every day.” Jackson helped start a Web group called “Scrappy Quilters Anonymous.” When Facebook burst onto the scene, she helped start a group there called “The Quilting Room.” “Within the first two days we had 200 people,” she says. Ferguson visits sites such as Quilterscache.com and Quiltville. com. But while broadband is useful in a big quilting area like West Kentucky and Tennessee, it’s the lifeline for quilters in places such as Florida or California where the craft is less common. “A lot of people live where there’s not a guild,” Jackson says. “If someone’s having a problem, a lot of times we’ll video chat with them.” Just like in face-to-face quilting groups, virtual relationships can grow strong. During the American Quilter’s Society Annual Show in Paducah, Jackson has hosted visiting quilters she has met online from Australia and Canada. She has also stayed with online quilting friends during shows in Iowa, Vermont and Virginia. “These people have the same interests I have, so we’ll never run out of things to talk about,” Jackson says. “The Internet has made the world a lot smaller.” Ferguson says the same is true for suppliers. If the local shops are missing a particular thread or fabric Ferguson is looking for, she can go online and order nearly every style, color or pattern that’s produced. “It has opened up new products for us,” she says. “It really has.” Jackson says WK&T’s network gives her and Ferguson an advantage over some other rural quilters who are stuck on dial-up service. “If I post a pattern, they have a hard time getting it,” she explains. “To download a pattern or look at something without broadband, it takes a long time.” Ferguson agrees that a slow connection throws a wet blanket on a quilter’s creativity. “It would be a disadvantage for me because I like to click back and forth and see so many beautiful quilts,” she says. “Beautiful stuff would take forever to download.” WK&T CEO Trevor Bonnstetter says he’s not surprised to see WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative
Ferguson likes to search for images online, edit them and then use them as patterns for her quilts.
quilters enjoying the connection WK&T provides. “The Web provides a way for quilters and other hobbyists to connect with other people around the world who are just as passionate as they are,” he says. “Whether your hobbies are sewing, bass fishing or anything else, access to the Web through a broadband network like WK&T brings a world of resources right here to West Kentucky and Tennessee.” March/April 2013 | 13
Southern Kitchens It's more than just a side dish I was born and raised in the South and have always considered myself a good Southern cook, save one thing: before judging the National Cornbread Cook-Off and seeing the amazing things that could be done with cornbread, it was never on my table. As a cook-off judge though, I’ve witnessed and tasted it prepared in many ways and one thing always stays the same: the cornbread is served as an entrée, not just a piece slathered with butter. One of my favorites was made with shrimp and cream. While it may sound a little strange, it worked and won first place some years ago. In the midst of all the goingson at the National Cornbread Festival, there’s a gathering of cooks committed to wearing the cornbread crown. No small feat, as each cook/finalist has been chosen from thousands of entries by cornbread mix company Martha White, which sponsors the cook-off along with Lodge Manufacturing, maker of cast iron cookware. This year’s festival is lining up to be a great one. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Anne P. Braly Food Editor Email Anne Braly at email@example.com. 14 | March/April 2013
America's best cornbread
ornbread is a favorite in Melanie McCoy’s home. And for good reason: McCoy is an expert at it. So good, in fact, she took first-place honors in last year’s National Cornbread Cook-Off, held annually in the small town of South Pittsburg, Tenn. At the age of 52, McCoy looks back on her childhood days of cooking as inspiration for her win. “I was an adventurous eater, and that’s what you have to be in order to be a good cook.” McCoy’s win came after three previous attempts at being crowned cornbread queen, one of the first three garnering a secondplace win in 2000 for her Shrimp Creole Cornbread. For her 2012 attempt, she decided to add a twist to her favorite shrimp cakes, NATIONAL WINNER— Melanie McCoy of Knoxville, Tenn. (center) won the 2012 National Cornbread Festival cookusing cornmeal rather than bread crumbs and serving it with a dol- off. Pictured on left is Bob Kellermann, chairman and CEO of event co-sponsor Lodge Manufacturing. On right lop of her tried-and-true mango salsa. “So many of my recipes are is Linda Carmen, spokesperson for event co-sponsor Martha White. twists on old favorites,” she says. Her “a-little-of-this-and-a-littleof-that” method won her top honors, a new stove and $5,000. McCoy is a native of Michigan, where cornbread is not a staple as it is in many kitchens of the South. But a Southern grandmother introduced it to her as a child. Since then, she’s found that it goes well beyond a simple bread with dinner. “It’s gone mainstream,” she says, adding that all the new mixes make it a versatile product that can go from side dish to main dish with the addition of a few key ingredients. “It’s really quite amazing,” she says. As a veteran of the National Cornbread Cook-Off, McCoy has seen the competition grow from an event of homespun flavor to one of a more serious, intense nature. “Contestants come from all around the country now,” she says. “It’s a fun time. It’s just amazing to me to see South Pittsburg grow from a few thousand to more than 50,000 on the weekend of the festival. It’s all a community effort. I call South Pittsburg ‘the little town that could.’” And it does. Every year.
If you go...
This year’s festival will be held the weekend of April 27-28. The cook-off will be held on Saturday, April 27, on the town square. For more information, visit www.nationalcornbread.com.
Cornbread: An award-winning treat This winning recipe from the 2012 National Cornbread Festival was created by Melanie McCoy of Knoxville, Tenn. “The judges all worked diligently to select a winner,” says Bob Kellermann, chairman and CEO of event co-sponsor Lodge Manufacturing.
Sweet Cornbread Shrimp Cakes with Mango Salsa Cornbread: 1 (7-ounce) package Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread and Muffin Mix 1/2 cup milk 1 egg, beaten Mango Salsa: 3 cups peeled and chopped mango (2 to 3 mangoes) 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion Juice of 1 large lime Pinch salt 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Shrimp Cakes: 2 tablespoons butter 1 cup finely chopped celery 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped 3 teaspoons seafood seasoning 2 large eggs, beaten 1/3 cup mayonnaise 1/3 cup chopped cilantro Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste Butter for cooking shrimp cakes Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish
Bake cornbread mix according to package directions, using milk and 1 egg. Cool and crumble. Stir together salsa ingredients. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Serve or refrigerate until serving time. Heat butter over medium heat in 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Cook celery and 1⁄2 cup chopped red onion until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer celery and onion to large bowl. Stir in shrimp, seafood seasoning, 2 eggs, mayonnaise, cilantro, salt and pepper. Stir in crumbled cornbread until well
blended. Using about 1⁄3 cup, form mixture into 12 shrimp cakes about 2-1/2 inches in diameter. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Cook shrimp cakes until lightly browned and shrimp turn pink, about 4 minutes on each side. Cook remaining shrimp cakes, adding additional butter as needed. Place cakes on a serving platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Serve with Mango Salsa.
March/April 2013 | 15
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