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More stars at Bluegrass Museum

Growing a Stocking Family

Guest Opinion: How harvesting numbers helps American farmers

Cedar season

Co-op Postcard: Seasoned staff

More stars at Bluegrass Museum
The International Bluegrass Music Museum in downtown Owensboro features four new exhibits.

Three Hall of Honor exhibits are dedicated to bluegrass pioneers Pete Kuykendall, Lance Leroy, and Bill Vernon.
Another exhibit celebrates the career of Hickory recording artists The McCormick Brothers.

The exhibits contain photos, record contracts, instruments, radio equipment, and clothing that document these forerunners’ contributions to bluegrass music.

The four exhibits will run through the end of March 2008. You can contact the International Bluegrass Museum at (270) 926-7891 or on the Internet at

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Growing a Stocking Family
James and Aileen Adkins of Hawesville feel they are fortunate to have a large family—eight children, 18 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.

Aileen rattled off the numbers, starting over to make sure she had included them all. “Gosh, it’s hard to keep up with the numbers, but we do have 60.”

Today “Momaw and Popaw’s” family— along with all their spouses—have a personalized, handmade Christmas stocking that hangs across the Adkinses’ mantle.

“The first two stockings were made and presented to us one Christmas by my daughter Sherry, who lives in Atlanta.

“Everybody loved the stockings and was so enthusiastic that they came up with the idea to make one for each family member,” says Aileen. “At the time, I wasn’t so excited about it, because I felt it would be an overwhelming project. And at first it was. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything else, because I should be home working on these stockings.”

The project was begun in 2001, taking a full seven years to complete. “When we started out, we needed about 48, but every year we kept adding spouses and babies.”

Eight family members in all made the counted cross-stitch stockings. Along with Aileen, it became the work of daughters Rita Hendry, Donna Chappell, Debbie Keown, Sherry Pirkle, Jamie Huddy, along with her son Scott Adkins, and her daughter-in-law Melanie Adkins.

Aileen sews and finishes each stocking, lining them. “The person who makes it obscurely initials and dates it with the year it was made.” Each stocking is uniquely made from a different kit.

“It’s a project they were excited about from start to finish,” says Aileen, “and they still are excited.”

This year makes the third Christmas that all the stockings will be hung together, just in time for the family’s annual Christmas breakfast in Hawesville. People from the community stop by and see the stockings hung by the chimney with care. Sometimes they ask, “Would you make one for me?” not realizing how time consuming they are to make. “No amount of money….” is her reply.

Still, Aileen says they are definitely proud of their collection of stockings, and it has been worth all the work.

She adds, “We think we are wise. We now have three extras already made in advance to personalize. We’re expecting two more great grandchildren next year and a granddaughter is getting married.”

Does she think they’ll ever make it to 100?

“When you have a large family like this, who’s to say.”

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Guest Opinion: How harvesting numbers helps American farmers
by Leland Brown

The history of collecting data on U.S. agriculture dates back to President George Washington, who was known for keeping meticulous statistical records describing his and other farms. Such information was essential during this time, when nine out of every 10 Americans lived on a farm. They needed to know what crops they should produce to ensure a plentiful bounty for the people to eat.

While much has changed since then, the importance of accurate agricultural data to today’s farmers and ranchers is no different. As a highly technical industry, American agriculture relies heavily on statistical information to feed, fuel, and clothe a growing world. From selecting inputs to determining when to sell their goods, America’s farmers need detailed statistical information to effectively run their businesses. Thankfully, there are tools like the Census of Agriculture that help in this regard.

Taken every five years, the Census of Agriculture is a survey of America’s farms, ranches, and the people that operate them. It is the most complete agricultural data resource available, providing the only source of uniform, comprehensive information for every county in the nation.

Around the first of the year, census forms will be arriving in farm mail boxes across the country, providing agricultural producers a voice in the future of their industry and community.

Not only does the census give the farmers of Kentucky the chance to be heard, but it gives them the valuable opportunity to influence key decisions that will shape the direction of American agriculture and our community for years to come.

Their census response can help determine federal support for crucial services that aid local communities. Policy-makers factor census data into decisions concerning agricultural and rural programs. Community planners use census information when developing local programs and services. Companies factor census data into decisions concerning where to locate their operations. And farmers rely on census data when making critical decisions about their businesses.

The census offers a tremendous value to rural stakeholders, and the time it takes to complete the form pales in comparison to what they get in return. Responding will be even easier this year as producers can fill out the form online via a secure Web site.

So if you receive a census report form, please fill it out accurately and return it. Your responses are required by law and held strictly confidential. But, more importantly, your participation provides you with a voice in shaping your future.

Leland Brown is the Louisville-based director of the Kentucky Field Office of the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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Cedar season
by Joe Burgess

Each autumn, I find myself starting to keep an eye out for a small cedar tree that will become our Christmas tree. I can’t say it’s frugality, because I’m not always frugal. I also can’t say it’s because I possess any interior decorating savvy. It’s simply because I happen to like cedar trees, and I’ll tell you why.

It’s about remembrances that have to do with a special time of the year, but also about seeing the value in things that many times are not assigned that much value.

The Eastern red cedar (juniperus virginiana) is found over the entire state of Kentucky: in the bottomlands along rivers and streams, on mountaintops, and on thousands of hillsides.

As a rule, it’s viewed as a pest. For the most part, the soil where the cedar resides tends to be less than ideal for most farming.

As a teenager blessed to have lived near Lake Cumberland, I tended to have a little different take on this. Having spent quite a bit of time backpacking and camping along streams that wound their way to the lake, I grew to appreciate this tree. The bark of large cedars, peeled off in strips, was used as tinder to get a fire going. If the woods were damp, many times the cedar provided the only dry tinder, as well as the kindling from the small twig-like limbs down low. Many times, when I’d miscalculated the weather, I’d find myself squatted beneath the branches of a large cedar tree, for the most part staying dry. A handy friend on camping trips, indeed.

Then there’s Christmas. Growing up in our home, going out for the annual Christmas tree didn’t mean taking the car and going shopping. It meant donning several layers of clothes, grabbing the saw shaped like one half of a heart, and heading out across fields, often with a skiff or several inches of snow on the ground, clumsily climbing over fences until we’d located The One.

It’s funny how trees in the open get larger as you try to domesticate them and get them to act civil in an 8-foot ceiling house. So there’s inevitably the trip back out into the yard, whack off another 6 to 10 inches. Then it’s back into the house, observe things for another five seconds, grab the snips that my knowing wife has casually laid out on the end table, and fine-tune the top to get the star on that I wished manufacturers would make about half as tall. It’s just a ritual, and I never seem inclined to change.

Then there’s the smell of cedar. Coming into a home with a cedar tree inside transports me immediately back to my childhood and growing up in a house full of love, laughter, and lots of good things to eat.

Folks around here wonder why it can be well into December and we still don’t have our tree up yet. Well, I know a little secret about cedar trees that I learned on those camping trips. When dried out, they burn fantastically. About two weeks into being our guest, it starts to become a point of conversation around the dinner table about how dangerous things are getting. “Okay, no more candles lit in here, this tree’s getting stiff!”

A peculiar ritual our family has developed is keeping the tree up, fire hazard and all, until New Year’s Eve night. That’s when we undecorate it, stash all that stuff back in the attic, and wait for midnight. About 10 or 15 minutes before the new year, we make the solemn journey to the back yard to the spot where we have campfires and set the tree upright in a scene that must look like a sacrifice is being made.

It is the sad farewell to Christmas, the prior year, the time we’ve all been able to be together again. Then there’s the prayer of thanks for the previous year, and a request for another blessed year ahead, safety included.

At the stroke of midnight, as I do the honors of lighting the bottom portion of the tree, we’re all reminded once again just how dangerously we’ve been living this past week. The tree literally explodes, burns for about five fierce seconds, and nothing is left but a blackened skeleton silhouetted against the starry sky, with tendrils of smoke drifting upward. Then in an about-face of the solemn stuff, we all simultaneously bolt toward the house on wooden-feeling legs, because everyone is just about frozen in place.

Who would’ve thought a little cedar tree, not that well thought of nor assigned that much value, could offer so much joy and tradition?

I’m reminded of One who taught us to take joy in the common things and what they can teach us.

As you drive toward relatives’ homes across this beautiful state of ours this Christmas season, I wish you cleared roads, but snow on the hillsides.

Don’t forget to glance upward at the small dark forms dotting the hillsides and “consider the cedar.”

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Co-op Postcard: Seasoned staff

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