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Wasps Are Building Like Crazy

The last holiday of the summer season is upon us and everyone will have to wait until Thanksgiving to get another one of those long official weekends. Labor Day is one of those holidays I have never really gotten caught up in over the years, other than it being time for a lot of dove hunting in my part of the country. As a child, it usually meant that it was time for school to start back up, but now a days school starts back about the time the ink dries on the kid’s report cards from getting out for summer vacation. I guess that is one reason Labor Day is still sort of on the downhill side of lonesome for me. As a child, it implanted a feeling of dread within my psychological thought patterns knowing that summer was over and school was starting up. That dread is still there when I hear the sound of crickets doing their fall chirping, announcing school start up is near and backwoods fun is over.   
Labor Day has really been around for a while. It was first celebrated on September 5, 1882, with a parade put on by the Central Labor Union in New York City to honor the achievements of the working class, so says the Old Farmers Almanac. The Almanac goes on to say, “The holiday’s popularity spread, and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland made it a federal holiday, to be observed on the first Monday in September. It is thought that the U.S. holiday was inspired by Canada’s labor movement, which was started by Canadian trade unionists in 1872, and resulted in the first official Labor Day in 1894. Although the day’s focus on organized labor has diminished over the years, the legal holiday still marks the end of summer and the traditional time for children to return to school.”  
Most folks today use the holiday to go to the lake, take an extended trip to the mountains, camp, fish or just fire up the grill one more time for the gang before colder temperatures settle in later in the month. And, I promise those temperatures will come a calling before you know it. Just the other day, I saw a solid black wooly worm cross the road and you all know what that means. If he is any sign of what winter may be like, this winter’s cold and snow may be the reverse of what this summer’s heat and rain have been for us the past few months. It wouldn’t hurt to cut a little more firewood and to fluff up that insulation in the attic if you have any confidence in Tennessee wooly worms. Of course, I’ve only seen that one and I’ll have to be watching for more as the season goes on, but the first one out does bare paying special attention to.  
When it comes to weather predictions, I only trust Uncle Sid to give me the real facts. Those guys in Nashville do a great job, but Uncle Sid has experienced more weather changes in his lifetime and his bones than those fellows will ever see on their radar screens.  
Thus, the best predictor of weather in these parts is my Uncle Sid. He has seen his fair share of cold and hot spells, plus being trained by his mother Floramai. She could predict weather by every part of her body, as well as every varmint located in the woods near their farm. All of her talents she passed down to her son and Uncle Sid even has added some of his own.  
I asked him the other day what he thought this winter’s weather would look like and he said, “Tomato skins were extra thick this year at our place which always means a real cold winter.  I think it’s going to be a cold one for sure because the squirrels are growing thick coats of fur and Aunt Sadie has run out of canning jars from stocking up our pantry. And, as of today, Aunt Sadie bought herself a brand new pair of flannel pajamas and that is a sure sign of a cold winter at our house. Yeah, it’s going to be a real snowy and cold one for sure.”  
There you have it! The first winter’s forecast from Uncle Sid and myself. The squirrels have thick coats, Aunt Sadie has done got her some new flannel PJs and the wasps are building like crazy.  Sounds like you had better enjoy this Labor Day holiday because Thanksgiving should be a perfect time to kill hogs this year. Of course, that last sentence will only be understood by you old timers and I suggest you youngsters ask some of them to explain it to you. You do understand that Uncle Sid is also allowed the same error ratio as our TV weather folks of missing it by 95 percent. Have a good fall!    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Where The Farm Waters Flow

On one of those surprising cool summer evenings we had recently, I took my “red-neck” golf cart out for a late evening drive around the back forty just to enjoy the night. Mine is one that was bought on the conservative side but fits my lifestyle perfectly. It doesn’t hold golf clubs, but instead has gun racks, floodlights and army green coloring with a slightly altered gas engine allowing it to do over 20 mph. It’s not what you will see on the back nine, just on my back forty, hauling me around.  
On this particular evening, I was checking the backfields after we had just enjoyed a really good rain and I was following some dry streambeds, which now were overflowing to a nearby sinkhole. Having grown up on a Middle Tennessee dairy farm, I was taught early to respect the groundwater that supplied our rural area of this planet and to understand that it was up to us to keep those waters safe for future generations to come. Our farm contained numerous sinkholes then and still does today. My father informed me regularly, in no uncertain terms, that they led directly to our underground water sources. He stressed we must all be careful to make sure those sinkholes were not places where we discarded anything that could contaminate the groundwater that flowed under them.  In years past, that was not always the case on many other properties, due to the lack of understanding of how our groundwater sources work. Those holes in the ground in earlier years were the perfect source for disposing of anything a person may have wanted to get out of sight, regardless of the nature of its content or makeup, if you know what I mean. But today, with efforts carried out by our land grant universities, governmental departments of agriculture and environment, along with a general education of our population of teaching everyone the importance of protecting our groundwater, we have seen improvement in water quality.  
With most of us getting our water supply today from local utilities and right out of the tap whenever we need it, we often forget that 95 percent of all available freshwater in this country comes from aquifers underground. With most of our surface water bodies connected to the groundwater in some way, it is very important that we all understand we have a stake in maintaining the quality of groundwater supplies. All across Tennessee there are still privately owned wells that provide drinking water for families, along with fresh water for livestock and irrigation to water crops. Safe water will always remain important and protecting the natural resource of groundwater should be a top priority of all of us.  
I have read that it is suggested that Americans are the largest water users, per capita, in the world. With all of the people I see with plastic bottles of water walking the streets everyday just around my part of the country, I would say that is pretty much on target, give or take a drop. As our population continues to increase, so will our water usage, making it even more important for us to protect our water supply.  
There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection listed by the National Groundwater Association: keeping it safe from contamination and using it wisely. That’s pretty simple advice, but very important.  By just maintaining septic systems, preventing improper storage and disposal of hazardous substances such as insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals, we can protect groundwater quality. For years, many have blamed agriculture for groundwater problems, but with the increase of multiple houses in the same location, plus the overuse of chemicals on lawns and landscaping, runoff is also increasing from the suburbs. There is even an increase in the concern for the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products showing up in our water supply. Fingers can no longer be pointed in just one direction. Instead, the effort includes all of us working together to protect groundwater and helping to reduce risks to our water supply.  
For more information on how you can protect our groundwater, along with keeping private wells safe, and just why you have a stake in doing so, go to The things my father taught me all those many years ago are still so important when it comes to protecting our groundwater. Farmers have always known what was at stake when it comes to looking after the water on top and under the ground of their farms. Let’s all do a better job of protecting it each and every day.    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Mark Twain Is Still Quotable

Mark Twain is one individual whose writings and quotes I have always enjoyed, beginning at an early age. After all these years that his pen has been silent, I still run across quotes that are so relevant to today’s events and happenings. He once wrote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” That little statement alone could very easily apply to the current issues facing this country and how we come out of the things that seem to be making the circuit these days. Twain also said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” That quote may be the one many of our folks who run the 24-hour newscasts on TV have taken to heart.  
But there are still those out there who are interested in doing things the right way. A group of folks I have worked with over the years, who enjoy being in the background at times and seem to remain rather humble when it comes to spreading the news about what they do and have accomplished, are starting to learn that to become a part of the agritourism industry, one has to do some marketing or a little bragging at times. A farmer told me one time that he didn’t like to brag about his products and thought it just wasn’t right to do so. He may have remembered what Twain said about bragging. He said, “Bragging and braying were one in the same. The only difference is one came from an animal with longer ears.”   
Mark Twain may have had something there, but if you are going to be successful in today’s agri-marketing business model you will have to become involved in promoting your product, and farmers across this state are doing so everyday. In fact, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, along with the Center for Profitable Agriculture supported by UT Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau, is even teaching them how to do so. They are regularly holding workshops to teach farmers how to brand their products and talk to groups about what they do. They are even taught how to talk about their products at times, and as my granddaddy once said, “If it’s the truth, it ain’t bragging.”  
Agritourism continues to grow around Tennessee with farmers using their farms as a way to make additional income other than the traditional way from farm production.  Many have pick-your-own produce operations, corn mazes, petting farms, trail rides, Christmas tree farms, fall festivals and other activities that invite consumers to visit the farms in their area. There is even a website you can go to that lists numerous farms across the state that are involved in agritourism. The site is and has a lot of information about Tennessee agritourism.  
In a survey that profiled Tennessee agritourism a couple years back, it reported that almost 63 percent of those operators engaged in this type of program had attended an agritourism educational program. The survey news release stated, “On average, operators estimated that these programs influenced their sales in 2012 with an increase of 19.9 percent. The total estimated impact for the industry of educational programs in the last three years is nearly $7.6 million.”  
The news release also went on to say that those involved did not always find success to come easy either. They said that several survey respondents reported they had operated an agritourism operation but were no longer in business. The most commonly given reason for not staying in business was the inability to attract enough customers or make enough sales. While marketing and attracting customers are big challenges, other obstacles include working with family, securing capital, meeting regulatory requirements, zoning issues and more.  
But, if you have made a farmers market recently, you just may be itching to give agritourism a try. I would suggest before you grow long ears and start bragging about your crop, you contact someone who can give you a little advice before your ears get you in trouble. One good place to start is by going to the Center for Profitable Agriculture website at: They can put you on the right trail and help prevent you from dealing with things that can cause ear problems.  
There is a lot in Tennessee agriculture to brag about and the ear length really doesn’t matter.                                                     
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      

And You Still Can’t Make a Mater Saminch

Here we are once again in the glory days of homegrown maters and I’m still finding folks who can’t make a mater saminch. I put out one of those videos a couple of years back, wrote articles, was featured in a few fancy magazines scraping a Miracle Whip jar with a knife and I still have people ask me the proper way to make the correct mater saminch. Let me tell you however, it does my heart good to have those questions since I have become Tennessee’s official apostle of rural living as declared by Joint House resolution number 225 in 2013 and am truly known as an expert mater saminch constructor.  
My claim to fame all began with me looking through one of my late wife’s “country Wanda be” magazines. You know the ones, those that have pictures of old furniture out in the yard with ankle high grass under a tree like a Little House on the Prairie movie set. In fact, I wrote a column a few years ago about seeing that magazine and from that article I became the mater saminch creator of all time.  
The thing that caught my attention in that magazine was a recipe for a tomato sandwich. Mater saminches have been my specialty and I have always been real interested in what trendy folks do to make one. Right off the bat, I knew whoever wrote that recipe never grew a homegrown tomato in Tennessee.  
In the first line as I remember, they suggested using slices of challah or brioche bread with butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. First of all, I really don’t know what those breads are, and second, sea salt was never a staple in my mama’s kitchen cabinet from whom I learned to make mater saminches at an early age. We had that salt in a round blue box with a little girl under an umbrella. And everyone knows it is Miracle Whip on lite bread, not butter, that makes a real mater saminch. I know some of you will tell me it’s these other salad dressings, but Miracle Whip is the tang for my buds.  
So, I guess it is up to me, once again, to repeat the true art of making a Tennessee mater saminch so the influence of the trendy people will not corrupt the mater saminch making process. Butter is really good on a lot of things. It’s great on hot buttermilk biscuits with molasses, fresh roasting ears of corn and other items too numerous to mention here. But butter on a mater saminch is just wrong!         
To those who are not schooled on the correct terminology of what to call those beautiful red juicy fruits, there is a difference between a “tomato” and a “mater” which I will repeat again. A “tomato” by some standards is a fruit grown hundreds of miles away. A “mater” is a bright red, juicy fruit that has had our love and care for several months and is most certainly what you would call a real "homebody."  Homegrown “maters” are what summer is all about.  My summer wouldn’t be complete without a fresh “mater” sandwich every day or so. There are many ways to make one, but there is only one true country way to serve up your garden delights. A few years back, I gave out my "mater" sandwich recipe to help the "mater" novice create the perfect sandwich. Just in case there is another generation of those who have failed to perfect their own "mater" sandwich, here it is again.  
A country “mater” sandwich has to be made in an orderly routine using mayonnaise, white bread (or lite bread as it is called in the country), and a fresh ripe “mater” from the garden.  
You place two slices of fresh lite bread on a plate. Next, take a kitchen knife and spread a good amount of mayonnaise on both slices of bread. Make sure the knife hits the sides of the mayonnaise jar so a click can be heard sounding from the jar. This doesn’t help the taste of the sandwich, but it reminds you to buy more mayonnaise the next time you are at the store.  
Next, slice your homegrown “mater” into several thick slices, avoiding the temptation to swipe a slice for now. You should not be able to read a newspaper through any of the slices. This helps hold in the juice, and besides, if you wanted thin slices you could have gotten a “tomato” at a restaurant in town.  
Add pepper and salt as desired. Place the slices on the lite bread and gently put the pieces of bread together.  Ladies may want to cut the sandwich in a triangle, but real “Tennessee mater eaters” like their sandwiches whole to avoid the losing of any juice. Bite into your sandwich and enjoy what summer is all about.      
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at  
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Watch Your Dog During Dog Days

As summertime begins to go into its hottest period of discomfort for southern man and beast alike, I’m reminded of the days when air conditioning was only found at J.C. Penney’s in town and would give you an ice cream headache due to not being use to it. It also reminds me of one hot July night back in the early ‘60s when Cousin Tom received a phone call at four thirty in the morning from a neighbor down the road. The old white frame farmhouse that he and Mollie had shared for a lifetime didn’t have all the modern day conveniences that we have, and it was always during the “dog days of summer” that they would have a few nights that were not very pleasant. That night was one of those and Tom had spent the night turning his pillow on a regular basis to locate the cool side to rest his head on.  
There was no air conditioning, no central units and the only way they had to move the hot and humid air around the house was with a GE oscillating fan that had been in the family since their now-grown children were babies. With all the windows pushed to the top of their sashes, you could hear the frogs outside croaking in a melody that seemed to make the air even more stagnant. Tom had even moved down to the foot of the bed to get some air from the open window. The sheets of the bed had felt like they had “come in case” just like tobacco hanging in the barn does before you strip it to sell.  
However, around three o’clock, the early morning air had cooled enough for the old man to finally get to sleep. But with the ringing of the huge black dial phone in the hall, his sleep had been broken and he headed to the phone stand table to answer what he assumed would be bad news, which is usually the case that time of the morning.  
With a trembling voice he said, “Hello?”  
Immediately on the other end of the line, Tom’s neighbor Burney Leary spoke with a very loud voice saying, “Your dog has barked all night and I want you to make him stop!”  
Now fully awake, Tom remained totally calm and answered Burney in a low voice, “I’m sorry Burney, thank you for calling and bringing that to my attention. Good-bye.”
After the call and explaining what all the commotion was about to Mollie, Tom went back to bed and slept a fairly restful sleep. But at four thirty he got back up and called Burney, and when Burney answered in somewhat of a frightened voice, Tom said, “You know Burney, I don’t have a dog. Goodnight.”   
Much like Tom and Burney’s long hot night confrontation during the summer’s “dog days,” those hottest and sultry days of summer get a lot of credit for strange things happening. They usually fall in the northern hemisphere between early July and early September, but the actual date is often open for debate.  “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” sets the date for Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11.  It says it coincides with the ancient helical (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star Sirius.  The ancients believed that the star was the cause for hot and sultry weather. They also believed it was an evil time when dogs grew mad, the seas boiled and man turned feverish.  
I’m not to sure when the Dog Star rises around here, but I do know that most folks call the last of July to about the middle of August the Dog Days in Tennessee. It is usually about the hottest time of the year for us. Most dogs during this time become lazy to avoid overheating and man seems to do the same thing. If you work outside, you can become “dog tired” during the Dog Days from the heat. You also learn really fast during this time of the year that you can drive a car with two fingers due to a hot steering wheel and don’t put sunglasses on too fast after first getting in a hot car if they have been setting on the dash.  
There are some good things to do during this hot time of the year. Check out a local Tennessee farm for some great farm raised fresh produce. During the Dog Days there’s nothing like a good fresh Tennessee tomato sandwich or honey straight from a farmer’s bee stand. Your local farmers markets are really going strong right about now, so be sure to make a visit to one.  
Avoid the Dog Star and stay cool. Dog Days will be over before long and fall is just around the corner, and so is the time for some good Tennessee cider and sorghum. I’ve noticed the sorghum fields are growing good right now and it looks like this year could be a good one for both man and beast.           
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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What’s Over The Horizon?

For some reason, the month of July has always been special for me to take in the observation of the moon. No, I’m not involved in some kind of way out there religion or smoke any kind of kooky weeds, but if you have not noticed it, the moon in July is usually extra special. I guess, due to the fact we spend more time outside in the summer we have the opportunity to see it more. Just recently, we had the chance to see the Super Moon, which was a very bright moon for our summertime viewing.  
Even as a small boy, I would stretch out on the porch or on a hillside on July nights and gaze at the moon, wondering about what is out there among the stars and that large bright object. Now as an older boy, a much older boy, I still enjoy doing the gazing bit with the moon, even though I know a lot more now than I did back then.  
The skies have always been amazing to me. On a particularly cool, crisp fall late afternoon in 1957, my father, brother, grandfather and myself were walking from the dairy barn as we had done numerous times before on my grandfather’s dairy farm after the evening milking. The day had been much like any other, except for this evening we noticed a bright ball of light moving across the western sky as the sun was making its final departure for the day. We all stopped, watching its unusual movement and immediately noticed that it was not an airplane. Instead, it was the Russian satellite known as “Sputnik” and the ushering in of a new day of technology, along with a multitude of scientific developments that would change all of our lives forever. And it all began for me with a chance to see something different in the skies.  
Just like I watched the beginning of our country’s race into space as a young child, on the morning of July 21, 2011, at the age of 62, I watched the final landing of the space shuttle, ending an era of takeoffs and landings for the NASA program. I still remember the excitement of John Glenn blasting off into space, the splashdowns in the ocean and watching much of it on black and white TVs at school. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969, and uttered those words which are still the most famous words ever spoken, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” a generation of us knew there was no limit to what we could do if we just put our minds to it. Even though there were those who had doubt and said it was all produced in a movie studio, my generation knew it wasn’t and saw a lot of hope for the future in the space program.  
From the NASA program a lot of things have evolved for all of us. The hand-held vacuum cleaner was born from this program, along with more battery-powered gadgets that we no longer can do without. The firefighter’s breathing apparatus used today is a product adapted from life-support systems used in spacesuits. The personal storm warning systems that detect lightning for boaters, golfers and those flying private airplanes came from the space shuttle. We have better sunglasses, improved car crash technology, plane wing-tip designs, freeze-dried meals, baby foods, heart surgery lasers, life support for patients, plant research, better brakes and much more all because of our space program. I, for one, would have never thought that October evening back in 1957, because of a glow in the western sky, that someday its beginning could mean the difference in me having better health or not.  
Because of our space program, those of us who monitor our blood pressure each day with home blood pressure kits, have those little units. Independent Science reports that when Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space some 37 years ago, NASA scientists had to invent an automatic measuring device to find out how blasting off affected the astronaut's blood pressure. The design of the unit that they used to monitor Shepard and future astronauts later became the design blood pressure kits were based on once they went mainstream.  
Much of the progress we enjoy here on Earth today is because someone somewhere gazed into the skies and wondered what else could be on the horizon of space. I’ll still enjoy my July moons and hopefully there will continue to be other little boys and girls who will also do the same with wonderment about what is over the horizon for the rest of us.    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Do You Know Who You Are

While sitting with a group of friends eating Mexican food recently, we got into a discussion of family names and birthdays. One had just recently found out he had been celebrating his birthday on the wrong date after finding his birth certificate, proving he was older than he claimed. Everyone thought that was funny until they heard my story of not being who I really am.  
No, I’m not in the witness protection program or anything, but a strange happening at birth with a brown copy birth certificate made an interesting problem for me, as well as a story for my Mexican lunch partners.  
For over sixty-five years now, I have used the name Pettus in all of my correspondence, business transactions, public schooling, medical records, publications, and everything that requires my name.  I am very proud of my first name since it was passed down from three generations of those who used Pettus as their first name.  Currently, I am the only one in my family that uses Pettus for their first name, and after checking the Internet just to see how many Pettus Reads there are in the world, I am still the only one out there at the present time.  
I felt fairly secure with my name until 1997, when I discovered an old error and became the person whom I was not.  
That July, I escorted a group on a tour out of this country.  To do this, I needed a passport.  Never having one, I went to my county courthouse to make application for the needed paperwork to get me in and out of this country.  If there is one great fear I have, it is to be in a foreign country not able to get home.  I try not to stray too far from the farmstead, and the last thing I would want to happen is to end up someplace where they don’t know what good fried chicken is, or cornbread.  
After completing all the paperwork, having my picture made, giving the clerk a check for $65 and swearing I am a good citizen of the USA, I handed the clerk my birth certificate.  It is the original copy my mother has used for all these years, which she gave to me when I got married. It is dark brown and what I thought was a certified copy.  However, the clerk informed me, as soon as she saw it, that it was not a certified copy and I would have to get one from the Tennessee Department of Vital Records.           
I found out you can get a short copy of your certificate at any county health department if you were born from the year 1949 and up.  Of course, I was born in 1948.  So, I began to call Nashville. I also found out it is almost impossible to talk to a human when you call the Department of Vital Records. The process to get a certified copy by phone is done by voice-mail.  I punched the numbers one and two over fifteen times to order my certificate.  But, I placed my order and waited the required one working day to receive my copy, thinking all the time that if this works I am a fortunate man.  
I did receive the certified copy of my birth certificate just as I was told, but had a strange feeling of fear, you know, like when you get a letter from the IRS. Removing the certificate from the envelope, I immediately took a quick glance at the legal document from our state government.  Everything seemed to be right, until I looked really close at the top line where my first name was typed.  There in bold letters was the incorrect spelling of my first name.  Instead of it being Pettus, it was Petties.  For all these many years I had been spelling my name wrong, as far as the state government was concerned. I was not who I thought I was.  
After an immediate call to Nashville and the Department of Vital Records, I started again to talk to machines. Finally, after several pushes of the numbers one and two, I reached a human.  She listened politely to my horror story and assured me it could be fixed.  However, I would have to prove who I am.  
My mother, who was still living at that time, had to get an affidavit notarized from her attorney, saying an error was made and I am Pettus, not Petties. We had to go to Nashville with my wife, take our marriage license, our children’s birth certificates, and any other legal proof that showed that I was Pettus.  
I was at the mercy of the State of Tennessee and had to have a hearing before the department to prove that I was Pettus. It seems at the time of my birth, someone made an error on the copy and it never was corrected. The only thing I did wrong was to be born, of course there have been others to suggest that as well.  Either the doctor who delivered me, the county health department, or the 1948 Department of Vital Records failed to correct an error that had made me who I was not.  
Today, I am who I am, which is still under debate and the final conclusion is yet to come.    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at  
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Careful Near The Water

As summer’s soaring temperatures bring out water-lovers to cool themselves by splashing about in local swimming holes, concern also increases about water safety. I enjoy just watching others and avoid the depths of water, but my grandkids love the summer treat of a trip to the swimming hole.  
I can remember as a child, heading to the creek with my favorite inner tube to spend an afternoon floating during the “dog days” of summer.  My swimming ability was not the best, so I floated mainly in areas where the water was only waist deep, but at times that was even dangerous if a water snake decided to join me.  
Water can be fun, but also should be respected. It only takes a few moments for an unattended child or a non-swimmer to drown in the shallowest body of water.  The National Center for Health Statistics reports that over 390 children in the United States lose their lives to drowning accidents each year on the average. This alarming statistic puts drowning as one of the leading causes of unintentional injury-related deaths among children less than 15 years of age.  
As I read these statistics, it brought back the bad memories of the two-day search my family went through many years ago looking for a six-year-old cousin of mine who had wandered off from the family farm. His body was found late in the afternoon in the farm pond, where he had accidentally slipped.  
My wish is that no family should go through that ordeal and the only way to prevent it is to follow safety practices everyday around water. Rural children face the highest danger of drowning, at three times the rate of urban children, due to the availability in the country of farm ponds, irrigation ditches, rivers and lakes.  Children under the age of four and those between 15 and 19 years of age face the most risk of drowning.  
The National Farm Medicine Center reported a few years ago that for every child who dies as a result of drowning, there are three to four children who are hospitalized in near-drowning incidents. Boys seem to be the ones who need extra care when it comes to dangers around water. Among children under the age of 20, one in every 1,098 males will drown and one in 301 will be hospitalized for a near drowning; while one in 3,333 females will drown and one in 913 will be hospitalized for a water-related injury.  
It is very important to supervise children around bodies of water. That includes everything from lakes to bathtubs. Most children who drown are out of sight of supervision for less than five minutes. It is important to always know where your children are. Although the statistics are pretty frightening, parents can help ensure the safety of their children with common sense and by following water safety guidelines.  
Use barriers/fences around pools, ponds and other hazards, such as manure storage structures, to prevent unsupervised child access.  
Supervise children near water and other drowning hazards. Avoid other activities, such as reading or talking on the telephone, when you are supervising.  
Teach your children to swim and learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).  
Avoid swimming in natural bodies of water after dark. Also, use the buddy system when swimming or boating.  
Growing up, I was told a poem about some children asking their mother if they could go swimming. It seems the mother knew the ability of her children, and after saying they could go, the last line of the poem quoted the mother as saying, “Leave your clothes on a hickory limb, but don’t go near the water.” That’s the best advice in the world if you can’t swim.    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at  
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President Adams Said Check Out The Firework Stands

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  – From the Declaration of Independence    

Once again, we prepare to celebrate another July 4th to mark the event that changed our part of the world back in 1776. Those men who made up the Continental Congress, and met in an extremely hot Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, adopted a document that shaped history and their lives forever. All of the 56 signers faced extreme hardships due to their act of courage to secure liberty for this country. In fact, all of those who joined in the fight for America’s independence from that time forward fought against odds way beyond their ability, but not beyond their determination.  

In a recent news report from the The Old Farmer’s website, they quoted John Adams, making a statement to his wife Abigail, about what would be the results from his actions and his fellow signers by putting their name on that document 235 years ago. Besides being an individual with a lot of courage and foresight, he could also even predict the future, because he said we would be selling fireworks in large colorful tents beside the road and cooking hamburgers to celebrate our freedom. Not so much in those words, but he did tell Abigail the day after signing the Declaration of Independence, “This day will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."  

I hope this year you are going to take John Adams’ advice and celebrate July 4th with plenty of pomp and illuminations. We spend all year talking about what is wrong in this country on TV and among ourselves, but I hope at least we use July 4th to celebrate what is right.  

Just as John Adams and the other 55 men saw the need to do something to preserve our liberty, today we have thousands of young men and women in the Armed Forces from our rural communities and cities fighting in distant lands to continue to preserve those freedoms, as well as the freedoms of others. In our celebrations, let’s also take time out to support them this Fourth and salute our flag with dignity when it passes by. Give them your support by saluting a member of the Armed Forces when you meet them on the street and let them know you care, as well as appreciate them for what they do.  

Each day, I see “Support Our Troops” magnets on trucks, SUVs, automobiles and other modes of transportation. It is good to see our citizens backing our troops. Let’s do even more to show our pride this Fourth by flying our flags and placing our hands over our hearts when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played. The Fourth of July is more than a holiday. It is a celebration of freedom, our way of life, and a love for our country. Take time this 4th of July to visit a community event, firework display with patriotic music, or walk through a national cemetery.  

Make your day off more than just a holiday; make it a celebration of pride in community and country. John Adams predicted you would do it 235 years ago and we shouldn’t let our founding father down… especially on the 4th of July.                           


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      

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Scratching Ain’t Polite

There’s a story I heard the other day, over at Sewell’s, about one of our Tennessee cousins having one of our other cousins from Texas to come and visit recently. It seems cousin Tex, who is very well off, climbed into the passenger seat of Cousin Harley’s old rusty pickup truck and headed out to take a look around at what was growing on the Tennessee rock farm that Harley is very proud to call his own. From the very beginning of the trip, Cousin Tex could only expound upon the size of his Texas holdings, and Cousin Harley was soon getting a total "fed-up-ness" of his proudness.  

When the truck went by a field of Jersey dairy heifers, Tex asked, "What are those?"  

Harley said very proudly, "Those are the best Jersey replacement dairy heifers you will find east of the Mississippi River. Their production history will be second to none."  

"Why, we have deer on my ranch bigger than those under-fed things," Tex said, as he puffed on a huge cigar.  

The truck now approached a large pond located between two beautiful green valleys that would be the envy of any good farmer. "What kind of fish do you have in that little mud hole," Tex said with a snicker.  

"That's my spring fed pond that provides water for our entire herd and has some of the largest bass you have ever seen in it," Harley said, trying to out do his cousin.  

"Well, if that is all you can do, you need to build something larger," Cousin Tex said. "If you were in Texas, you would have to fill it in due to it being a mosquito hazard."  

Harley had just about had all that he could take, when, just as he made a turn onto the farm's dirt road, he had to stop for a large snapping turtle sitting in the middle of the road. The turtle was a big one and about as mean looking as anything you had ever seen.  

"What in the world is that?" Tex asked, somewhat in a shocked manner.  

Harley saw his chance to win the "whose is bigger" contest, and said, "Oh, don't worry about that. You act like you have never seen a Tennessee tick before."  

With the current hot and dry weather we are having, Tennessee ticks may not have the chance to grow as large as the one Harley showed to his Texas cousin, but they are really hungry about now and looking for a meal.  Tall grass and weeds are prime places to encounter their presence, so try to remain in paths, lanes and clearings.  Yards can be kept clear of these unwanted visitors by mowing weekly. They carry dangerous diseases, and this time of the year, ticks are no laughing matter, so please take precautions.  

Another group of pests (without legs) gaining a lot of attention these warm days is poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. I have never experienced their itchiness and seem not to be allergic to urushiol oil, the sticky, resin-like substance found inside the plants. But, I do respect them and try to avoid handling them unless I have on gloves and long sleeves.  

Bayer Advanced, a business group of Bayer CropScience LP and part of the Bayer AG family, say that half the U.S. population is allergic to urushiol oil. But, they also say it’s not just the allergy to urushiol that’s a problem — it’s how potent it is.  

They say it only takes 1 billionth of a gram of the oil to cause a rash. That's not much oil to cause the distress that comes from it getting on your skin. One trip in the forest could cause 500 people to itch from the amount that would fit on the head of a pin. And, urushiol oil can stay active on any surface for up to five years, even on dead plants.  

The Bayer group says you can take control of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, before they take over your yard and farms, by keeping your lawn and fence line clear and trimmed, and cut back the undesirable plants to ground level every time you see green growth.  

There are brush killers in concentrate form available from Bayer that is a chemical alternative to chopping, that kills the brush down to the roots so it won’t come back. I have tried it and it does work. Some other brush killers kill back the vines but don't kill the roots. Before you know it, you're back spraying again.  

It even controls kudzu. If it will kill kudzu, the plant that ate the South, it will surely help get rid of the itchy stuff as well.  

Avoid the Tennessee ticks, kill out the plants that contain urushiol and enjoy an itch-free summer. Itching often comes at the most inopportune times and in the strangest places.    


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      

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