Upcoming Events

Football Season and Tailgating Parties

Hot wings, nachos, pigs in a blanket, beer, and popcorn, a tailgate party spread.








With the arrival of fall comes football season. What’s more fun than gathering with friends for a tailgating party?

However, don’t let cooler weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to consider the possibility of food-borne bacteria spoiling your party. Be proactive and follow a few simple procedures for safe food handling – then you’ll be sure to go home healthy from a fun day with friends.

* Before, during and after preparing your food, be sure you wash your hands, lathering them with warm soap and scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. Set up a large drink container with a spigot as your water source.

* Include moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for guests to use.

* Keep two separate insulated coolers: one for drinks and one for food. This will keep your food well chilled since the drink cooler is likely to be opened more frequently. Place coolers in the shade and cover them with blankets to help hold in the cold temperature.

* Place cold and frozen foods into coolers. Don’t assume your cooler can chill foods adequately if the food is at room temperature prior to packing.

* Pack foods in reverse order so that the last ones packed will be the first ones used, allowing food at the bottom to stay chilled longer.

* Meat and other similar raw foods should be packed in sealed plastic bags or containers in a chilled, insulated cooler. This will prevent contamination of other foods from leaking juices. Store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods.

* Take meat out of the cooler just in time to place on the grill. Never place cooked meat, fish or poultry back in the container that the raw meat, fish or poultry was in. Use a clean pair of tongs and a clean plastic plate or platter when removing the cooked items from the grill. When marinating meat, fish or poultry, discard the leftover marinade after you place the items on the grill. Never use this marinade on the cooked item.

* Use a meat thermometer to judge the safe internal temperature of meat and poultry over 2 inches thick (145F or higher for steaks and chops and 155F for ground meat, 165F or higher for poultry). For meat or poultry less than 2 inches thick, look for clear juices as signs of being done.

* Use separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination of raw and cooked foods. Wipe them clean with paper towels at the barbecue and toss them in your dishwasher to sanitize when you return home.

* Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, sandwiches with mayonnaise and salads should not be kept at temperatures above 40F for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90F or higher, food should be left out for no longer than one hour.

* If deli or takeout foods such as fried chicken, potato salad or coleslaw are on the menu, make sure they are eaten within two hours of pickup.

* Hot food should be kept at 140F or hotter until served. Try wrapping your hot casserole or other item in several layers of aluminum wrap, followed by newspapers and a towel.

* Cover all food with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or lids, or keep foods and supplies in their original packaging to prevent contamination.

* If you’re not sure if food is still safe to eat, resort to the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.”


Shelby County Regional Extension Agent Food Safety and Quality:

Angela Treadaway

Office: 205-669-6763

Mobile: 205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu



The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Muscadine Season is Here

Red and green muscadine grapes hanging on the vine, surrounded by green leaves.








Alabama muscadine and scuppernong grape lovers are enjoying their sweet taste, with their arrival in grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands and pick your own farms.

Besides their delicious flavor, muscadines are one of the richest sources of antioxidants found above ground.  Research points to significant health benefits associated with this grape.  That’s an added bonus for those who just love the fresh taste of these native grapes.

Unlike many human inhabitants, muscadines love the heat and humidity that is common in the South and thrive here as a result.

The difference in the scuppernong and the muscadine is the color and a little different taste.  The scuppernong grape is a Muscadine grape. It is a green-bronze color and was named because it was found growing near the Scuppernong River in North Carolina (an Indian name) in the 17th century. There are numerous cultivars of muscadines for fresh eating and use in other products.

Muscadines make a healthy addition to diets.  “Not only are these grapes delicious and versatile, but they also contain ellagic acid and resveratrol, which studies say play a key role in preventing heart disease and high cholesterol.  Additionally, they assist in treating ailments like arthritis, topical burns and the flu.

Muscadines are good for making jams, jellies or any dishes using grapes.  Juice from the muscadines can be prepared and frozen or canned also for making jelly or drinking later.  Grape juice made from muscadines is very very tasty.  If you don’t grow them yourself there are a number of muscadine vineyards in the state of Alabama that sell fresh muscadine or allow you to pick your own.   You will need to search the internet to find vineyards in your area that you can go and pick from. They are usually very reasonable in price too.

Here are a few really good recipes using muscadines:

Muscadine “Dump Cake”
½ stick margarine
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup prepared muscadines
¾ cup self-rising flour

To prepare muscadines, remove pulp.  Cook pulp until seeds loosen, then press through sieve to remove seeds.  Add pulp to skins and cook until tender.  Add sugar to taste, some grated lemon peel and a sprinkle of apple-pie spice.  Melt butter in glass pie plate.  Mix flour, sugar and milk in another bowl.  Pour flour mixture over butter.  Carefully pour prepared muscadines over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Do not open oven until baking time is up.  Cake should be brown on top. Yield: 8 servings.

Muscadine or Scuppernong Cobbler

2 lb Muscadine grapes (4 cups)
2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp apple pie spice
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk

Cut grapes in half, remove seeds & squeeze pulp into bowl…Add skins & Cook with 1 cup sugar, lemon rind & apple pie spice in a saucepan over medium heat & bring to boil. Reduce heat & simmer stirring occasionally…5 min or until tender.  Melt butter in a 11 X 7 baking dish in 350 oven. Stir together flour, remaining cup sugar& milk and pour over melted butter. Pour muscadine mix. over batter. Bake @ 350 for 35 min or until golden


For other information on growing or using muscadines please contact your local County Extension Office.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Garden Talk: Allergies gone wild –what’s blowin’ in the wind? By Sallie Lee

Young woman sneezing into tissue.








Question:  My allergies, which normally give me a fit in spring and again to a lesser degree in the fall, seem to have started earlier this year and are driving me crazy!

What is with this allergy season?  I’m not imagining miserable itching watery eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat.  But for late August, this is weird! Is it that Goldenrod plant that seems to grow everywhere?  I’ve heard that’s the culprit in which case my weedeater is going to be wearing out every one of these plants that grow wild on my property.  Is there anything else I can do to get rid of the “guilty” plants?

Answer:  OK, for those who moved to Alabama during the last year or for those who have issues remembering, the word is Ragweed. Botanically known as Ambrosia spp, which sounds like a misnomer if ever there was one, this member of the Aster family becomes a topic of intense negativity about this time of year. Actually in most cases it’s a totally different  plant, Goldenrod (Solidago spp) that gets the bad rap and unfortunate eradication by misinformed homeowners and gardeners.

Why the disconnect and misdirected frustration?  Both Ragweed and Goldenrod bloom this time of year, from mid-August until “late fall.”  In addition to timing, they often grow in the same general conditions; full sun and average to slightly dry soil conditions.  The major difference between the two is that those pretty, yellow goldenrod flowers are insect pollinated while ragweed is wind pollinated.  That means to all allergy sufferers that while goldenrod pollen is heavy and sticky, just right for honeybee pollination, ragweed is wind pollinated. Considering that a single ragweed plant can produce 1 billion (yes, that many) grains of pollen per season, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “the answer IS blowin’ in the wind.” Medical data indicates ragweed causes about 50% of all allergies blamed on pollen in North America.

This year has produced abundant flowers due in part to sufficient rainfall through most of our spring and summer.  Healthy plants produce more flowers, a boon in most gardens. But with ragweed, more flowers equal more pollen and so on, the “benefits” of which we’re currently reaping.

Other than waging war on stands of ragweed (see photos), we can take action to ameliorate ragweed’s impact on our health. Pollen counts are usually highest in the morning until about 10:00 am, so limiting outside activities during those hours can help. Conditions for enjoying the outdoors will be best right after a heavy rainfall. If you must be outdoors during heavy pollen outbursts, a facemask will help reduce exposure to pollen.

Goldenrod is a more noticeable plant so we tend to blame what is readily visible.  Goldenrod’s yellow flowers hold a nectar source that is attractive to bees including the “honey” kind and butterflies, often considered the last strong nectar source of the season for them.

Goldenrod has a fascinating history involving Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and George Washington Carver, but that’s an article for another time.

If you’re not sure which one is growing in your yard, and it could be both, contact your county Extension office for help in determining whether or not you need to take action.


Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie at leesall@auburn.edu or call 205-879-6964 x11.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!


Fall is here and Armyworms are on the move!!










Damaging populations of fall armyworms have been found in 8 Alabama counties. While that is far fewer counties than last summer, it is important to check valuable forage grasses. Armyworm caterpillars are detrimental to cattlemen and forage producers. The damage can seem to appear overnight. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Extension Entomologist, said that the  fall armyworm caterpillar eats the most within its last feeding stage.

“Fall armyworm caterpillars consume around 80 percent of the total amount of food eaten during the last few days of the last feeding stage,” said Flanders. “They then burrow into the ground, and transform into a moth and the life cycle starts all over again.”

It takes about 30 days for a female fall armyworm to develop from an egg to the point where she is ready to lay an egg of her own. This is why early on it appears that the reports of damage come in batches about a month apart.  The moths lay eggs almost every day, and all sizes of fall armyworm caterpillars can be found in any given field.

Control armyworms before they molt into their last stage. If the armyworms are discovered early in the forage cutting cycle,  Flanders said that producers should think about using the insecticides that have the longest residual on the foliage.

“No insecticide lasts forever, but three active ingredients with relatively long residual are Prevathon, Intrepid and Dimilin.  These insecticides work better on small caterpillars,” said Flanders. “Producers should be aware that Dimilin only works when the caterpillar molts. The caterpillar keeps on eating until that time. Therefore, it is essential to apply Dimilin before the caterpillars have molted into their largest stage.”

Scouting for Armyworms

A sweep net is a good inexpensive way to find fall armyworms when they are small. Most Alabama Extension county offices have a sweep net that you can borrow to look for fall armyworm caterpillars. If you find armyworms with a sweep net, follow up by checking to see how many caterpillars are present per square foot. If you find more than two caterpillars per square foot,  consider applying an insecticide, cutting the hay or grazing the affected forage.

The following counties have had reports of fall armyworms:

Lowndes                                          Week of July 16

Pickens, Greene                              Week of August 6

Lee, Houston, Lawrence,               Week of August 13

St. Clair, Elmore

You can find the latest map on where damaging populations of fall armyworms have been found here.

Featured and Article Image: Dr. Kathy Flanders


Here are some publications to help you:

Controlling Fall Armyworms on Lawns and Turf


Management of Fall Armyworm in Pastures and Hayfields



The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Black Bears in Alabama: What to do in an encounter










Black bears populate the Southeast, and Alabama is no exception. Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife scientist and professor in the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, sheds light on the current black bear population and what to do if you encounter one.

“Black bears have always been native to the southeast. They have always been in this area, but the population is in decline obviously due to habitat loss and persecution.”

“Until recently, one of the last strongholds of black bears was in Mobile. At that time we estimated there were about 50 bears in that area,” Armstrong said.

According to Armstrong, the Mobile population of black bears was imperiled because of the city’s development and urbanization. However, they stayed there because the Mobile Tensaw River Delta provided refuge, and eventually they would scatter to the outskirts of the city.

Current black bear population in Alabama

“You might hear estimates ranging from 300 to 1,000. I think 300 might be a little high for resident bears,” said Armstrong.

“We have transient bears that come through the state, and those are the bears people often see. A lot of them are young males dispersing from being pushed out of their home. They can cover a tremendously, large area.”

Georgia has a fairly large bear population, particularly in the North Georgia mountains.

“The bears that we have in north Alabama and even central Alabama are primarily coming in from Georgia. As their population expands outward, we get the bears coming in. Of course, some of those bears coming through may end up staying,” Armstrong added.

Armstrong said a mama bear and her two cubs were recently caught on a game camera. “That’s positive proof of reproduction taking place in Alabama.”

Things that attract black bears to your property

  • Trash cans
  • Dog food left out overnight
  • Deer feeders

“Everybody in Alabama doesn’t need to put out a bear proof trash can, but if you start having bear activity in the area it is something you should be proactive about. It’s much easier to not let the habit form. If the bear gets used to coming on your property and feeding, then you have to break the habit,” Armstrong said.

What to do if you encounter a black bear

In any bear encounter, Armstrong suggests retreating slowly as the best method of preventing conflict with a bear.

“Don’t approach them or try to attract them,” Armstrong said. “There is something about making eye contact with animals that makes them feel threatened. Back away and don’t run because running brings on chasing. When you encounter a black bear, stand up as tall as you can and make yourself look big.”

Armstrong added, “Don’t corner them. Give them a way to get away because they’re just as afraid of you as you are of them. They don’t want to get into a confrontation, but they will if they have to and they will win.”

When asked about an encounter with a mama bear and her cubs, Armstrong said, “definitely don’t get between a mama bear and her cubs. The maternal instinct is strong and she will defend her cubs. Remove yourself from their proximity.”


If you see a bear in your area and are concerned, call the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or the Alabama Black Bear Alliance.


Featured image by NaturesMomentsuk/Shutterstock.com

Bear crossing road image by Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com

Mama bear and cub by Hal Brindley/Shutterstock.com


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Garden Talk: Stinging Caterpillars By Kerry Stober














Question: Which caterpillars can sting me?

Answer: I will start by saying that unless you are 100% certain you know the insect you are seeing is safe to touch, you should not pick it up with your bare hands and expect leave the encounter unharmed. You should not be fearful of caterpillars, but always use caution when you encounter a species with horns or hairs. Most stings produced by these larvae are mild and symptoms go away quickly.

Caterpillars are the larval form of insects in the order Lepidoptera.

There are several thousand species of caterpillars in the Eastern United States and it is estimated that they make up around 10% of the existing described species in the world.

These insects are usually described as having an easily distinguished head and 13 body segments, which have six legs in the front and most of the time have fleshy false legs in the back (the number of these can vary). They come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, but the caterpillars I want to talk about today are the most feared – the ones that sting!

Caterpillars that sting are not using the same apparatus as a bee or ant that stings. Caterpillars that can sting have hollow projections called setae that grow from poisonous glands on their skin. People usually say these caterpillars look “hairy” or “spiky”. Not all caterpillars with setae are venomous, and some are simply trying to appear like a similar more dangerous species. This can make differentiating them a little difficult. Stinging caterpillars do not actively try to sting predators; but when they are touched, their hairy setae break off on the attacker and the poison is released.

The most common family of stinging caterpillars in Alabama are the slug caterpillars. This family includes the saddleback caterpillar, the stinging rose caterpillar, the hag moth caterpillar, and the spiny oak slug. Most of these caterpillars are solitary and can be found from summer to late fall. Almost all the caterpillars in this family have large, easy-to-see projections that bear setae. They are often brightly colored and look quite unique. The saddleback’s sting is the most painful of this group, while the others are described as being relatively mild.

Another group of stinging caterpillars is the giant silkworm. In Alabama, we often see the Io moth caterpillar and the buck moth. Both of these bear short spiny setae all over their bodies and they are some of the largest stinging caterpillars in the state.

The puss caterpillar is another common stinging larvae. It has a unique appearance, in that it is covered in a coat of long fine tan hairs. This furry creature can produce severe reactions (some have required medical attention) and has a fairly wide variety of hosts. Though petting this larvae may seem tempting, stay away!

There are several common species of caterpillars in the state that look dangerous, but are completely harmless to humans. The hickory horned devil, spiny oak worm, and hornworms all have spiky looking horns that can be scary to see, but are not venomous. There are also several hairy species, namely the walnut caterpillar, fall webworm, and sycamore tussock, which are also harmless and commonly found.

I hope that this information can be helpful to you in differentiating between the stinging and non-stinging caterpillars of Alabama, and if you are ever in doubt, don’t touch!


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Beekeeping 101 Workshop: Sept. 19, 2017

Bee and Daisy

Beekeeping 101 Workshop

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

North Shelby County Library

(Alabama Green Industry Training Center)

5521 Cahaba Valley Road

Birmingham, AL 35242


Time: 5:45 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.


The free workshop is for beginner beekeepers.

This workshop will address beekeeping (how to get started), what is special about honeybees; how bees make honey, and why do bees swarm?


Contact Shelby County Extension Office to register by Sept. 15 (205-669-6763).


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome!

Master Gardener Class Schedule for September!

Gardening tools and flowers on the terrace









Shelby County 2017 Regional Master Gardener Course 


September Schedule


9/6/17   Shelby County Extension Office: House Plants    9:30am-12:00n (Trisha Williams)

Vegetables    1:00pm-3:00pm (Phillip Inman)

9/13/17   Meet at Petals:  Plant Pathology    9:30am-12:00n (Austin Hagan)

Plant Propagation    1:00pm-3:00pm (Arlie Powell)

9/20/17   Shelby County Extension Office:  Landscape Design    9:30am-3:00pm (Dr. D. Williams)

9/27/17   Shelby County Extension Office:  Soils & Fertilizers    9:30am-3:00pm (Dr. C. Mitchell)


For more information call:

Shelby County Extension Office #205-669-6763 

Nelson D. Wynn, Regional Agent, wynnnel@aces.edu /205-438-3725

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Shelby County Extension presents Pickling and Fermenting Vegetables on Sept. 26, 2017











Shelby County Extension presents Pickling and Fermenting Vegetables
September 26th 4:00-6:00pm
Fee: $10.00 for supplies
Class will be held at the Shelby County Extension Office


Remember how grandmother and great grandmother use to have crocks setting around with sauerkraut or fermented pickles in them. Or do you remember helping them cut the cabbage up or get the cucumbers ready? Science is proving more and more today that was a good thing for them to eat fermented foods. Its good for our gut health and digestion. We eat so many processed foods and eat out a lot and more and more folks are developing colon cancer and other types of cancers from this. Fermented foods along with our other fruits, vegetables and meats are what we need.
This class will be a little different to what has been taught in food preservation before. We will discuss the proper preservation procedures for processing vegetables and will also discuss canning high and low acid foods. We will make fermented cabbage and other vegetables and talk about the benefits as well as we will make some other type of pickled products. Each person will take a jar of each home. This will be taught by Angela Treadaway – Regional Extension Agent with the Shelby County Extension System.

If you are interested in attending either register with the Shelby County Extension Office at 205-669-6763 or contact Angela at 205-410-3696.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Spice up your child’s lunchbox with these quick but healthy food options










Most parents want to provide healthy food options when packing lunches for their kids, but often fail to realize which nutritious ingredients they are leaving out.(Photo, right: Pexels)

Surprisingly, it does not take an Iron Chef to pack a yummy and nutritious lunch. However, it does take parents who are knowledgeable about the food they are buying and parents who are willing to try new and creative recipes. Teresa Forehand, a regional Extension agent in human nutrition, diet and health, recommends five tips for busy parents to use when packing healthy food options.

Sneak in Vegetables

Parents should always include vegetables in lunches. According to Forehand, they can do this in creative ways that children may not even realize. “Hide veggies in anything from guacamole for sandwich spreads to muffins with carrots or zucchini baked into them,” Forehand said.


“I buy pre-sliced apple wedges for convenience,” Forehand said. “Also, a banana cut in half with the end dipped in Splenda or dry Koolaid is a hit.” These simple tips help save parents time in the morning while still offering creativity. Michelle Floyd, mother of 6-year-old twins, said, “I like to make fruit and vegetable dip on Sunday nights, that way I can quickly add them to my girl’s lunches during the week.”


Some parents believe that packing bags of chips in lunches is too easy to pass up, but according to Forehand, not all chips have to be unhealthy. Parents should opt for a whole grain alternative like Sun Chips. “Veggie chips are crunchy and delicious,” Forehand said. “Cookies are a nice treat but choose whole grain options such as oatmeal.”

Know Your Child

It is important to know what portion size your child will need when packing healthy food options. “One slice of bread is a serving for a preschooler but not for elementary school children,” Forehand said. “Usually 2 ounces of protein, 4 ounces of juice, 8 ounces of fluid milk or yogurt are proper serving sizes.” She also suggests that parents look for artificial coloring that can be added into ingredient lists. These ingredients can be problematic for children with ADHD. For example, the ingredient label will list red #40 or yellow #5.

Be Creative

“Wraps are easy and fun,” Forehand said. She also encourages getting creative with the fillings you put in your wraps. “Ham and cream cheese or taco meat and guacamole or turkey and Swiss are good, but use whole grain tortillas.” Most of the time you can be creative with ingredients you already have, it just takes a little bit of time and imagination. Anna Weeks, a nanny for three kids, says her favorite way to get creative with them is to make a healthy snack called ants on a log. “Since my kids are picky eaters, we like to mix things up at snack time,” Weeks said. “We usually make a treat called ants on a log, where we take a banana and put peanut butter and raisins on top.”


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!