December 2013
Howle's Hints

Grits are Good and Kale That Kids will Love

Plus: Time for Dozer Decisions

time of reflection  

As we enter the month of December, it’s a time of reflection. We look back with receipts to see if our farming year was profitable, but there’s a more important question. What did we "change" during the past year?

As Ronald Reagan pointed out, change begins at the dinner table. It starts by changing our own attitude and those of our family before we can expect positive change on a larger scale. Finally, the most important aspect of change is: Did we do anything over the past year to help change people for the better during this time?

Jesus set the example for us to follow if we want real change. His change meant a renewing of our mind for things of spiritual importance. During this spiritual renewal is when we truly change things around us.

Grits make a healthy food choice if prepared properly.

  Grits make a healthy food choice if prepared properly.  

Grits are Good

This December while you are changing things at the dinner table, enjoy one of the best tasting staples of the Southern diet - grits. Made from dried corn where the hull and germ are removed, the resulting product, hominy, is then ground into grits. This dish is becoming more common in other meals besides breakfast.

Many restaurants now serve grits as a side item like green beans or potatoes. Also, who could resist a plateful of shrimp and grits? Either way, grits taste great and they provide substantial energy for the body without much fat.

When you compare grits and oatmeal, grits have less fat, they will make you feel fuller and a typical serving has close to 40 grams of carbohydrates, great for athletes or farmers putting up a new section of fence.

Even though grits served with a lot of butter and a little bacon grease taste good, you are losing a lot of the health benefits when these things are added. I’ve come up with a delicious alternative to greasy grits, which tastes good and is good for you.

First, boil the grits like you would normally. If you read on the side of the box, follow the directions for six servings, which make about two servings for me. Add olive oil, butter buds (a butter substitute), sea salt, black pepper and, for a little zing, some powdered red pepper.

This is a truly healthy way to enjoy grits without sacrificing taste, and the amount you don’t eat can easily be stored in the fridge in a glass bowl. To eat on them for the next couple of days, simply spoon out what you want, heat it in the microwave and, once stirred, they taste fresh again. You can also add chunks of lean ham to the mix to get that extra burst of protein.

Kids Love Kale

Hopefully, you planted winter greens in your garden this past fall and you are now enjoying the fruits of your labor. Greens, especially kale, are high in iron and plenty of other nutrients the body needs. Unfortunately, some kids may not have developed a taste for this healthy side item.

Try this recipe I got from Phylis Lovvorn. Wash the kale thoroughly, but instead of throwing it into the pot with a chunk of fatback to boil, lay the kale out on paper and let it dry. Spray olive oil on both sides of each leaf, and bake the leaves on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. If the leaves haven’t become crunchy, flip them for another five minutes.

The olive oil allows the kale to cook with a slight amount of crispiness. Sprinkle a little sea salt on the baked kale while it’s hot. This is a delicious treat even kids will enjoy. My youngsters like it better than potato chips, but you don’t have to tell them it’s healthy.

The winter rains of December make a great time to check scrapes that have been re-freshened by bucks, or search your fields for flocks of turkeys.  

December Deer

December is a great time to be in the woods, especially after a winter rain. The bucks will be making scrapes in the forest floor leaves. Every time it rains, the scent left by the buck gets washed away and he will revisit these areas regularly to freshen the scrape.

If you can set up downwind of the scrape with a fairly open field of vision to see the buck when he is approaching, you can increase your chances of a harvest. There are products on the market where you can pour scents of buck or doe urine into the scrape to further increase the interest of the buck visiting these scrapes.

During the winter rains of December is also a great time to scout your pastures for turkeys for the upcoming spring. During a light rain, the turkeys will leave the seclusion of the woods for the open pastures.

When you are checking the cattle, also keep your eyes open for buck scrapes and flocks of turkeys.

  Do you need dozer work done on your property this winter? A skilled operator can save you money if the dozer is large enough for the job and the operator has experience.

Dozer Decisions

This winter, you might have watched your access roads turn into gulleys from winter rains, or maybe you want to clear some firebreaks through your property or create a farm pond. It’s not too early to start talking with dozer operators in your area to get estimates on prices.

Some may charge by the hour or by the job, but it’s best to line up the work in the winter before the operators get booked for warm weather. A skilled dozer operator can make improvements to the land in an efficient and safe manner while saving money. Something to look for in a professional operator is: Does he have large enough equipment for your job? If not, you can spend hundreds of extra dollars paying for time and inadequate horsepower on the dozer. Also, make a site visit to an area where the dozer operator is working so you can determine whether he/she is completing the job with efficiency.

This December, as you reflect over the past year, decide what change you really want. As Reagan said, it all begins around the dinner table.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.