It’s severe weather season … Are you ready?

By Kerry Scott

April 27, 2011, is a day that will live in the memories of residents across the area forever. The devastation left by the tornadoes that blew through this area that day have left a grim reminder of how powerless we are against a storm so destructive.

Jackson County EMA Director Mike Ashburn encourages all residents of his county to sign up for CodeRED alerts.

Jackson County EMA Director Mike Ashburn encourages all residents of his county to sign up for CodeRED alerts.

It also serves as a warning that severe weather can strike at any time, and we should all be prepared. “We can’t keep storms from happening, but we can prepare ourselves —and our families — to deal with them,” says Jackson County EMA Director Mike Ashburn. “The time to prepare is now, before a severe weather event occurs.”

His department has spent a significant amount of time informing and educating citizens — from the youngest to the oldest — about just how to prepare themselves and their families.

“We’ve gone to elementary schools, senior centers, churches and civic organizations teaching about preparedness,” says Ashburn.

Ashburn believes the best way for citizens in Jackson County to stay informed about severe weather is with the CodeRED alert system. It telephones citizens notifying them of a tornado, flash flood or severe thunderstorm warning in their vicinity.

Sometimes, people dismiss automatic alert systems because the alerts are county-wide, and for Jackson County that’s a very large area. Instead, CodeRED uses the polygon system established by the National Weather Service which issues warnings for a specific area instead of the entire county. That is why Ashburn encourages all citizens of Jackson County to sign up for CodeRED. “It’s a great system that is helping save lives,” he says. “When people get a call from CodeRED they know the warning is meant for them and their specific area and they need to take immediate action to protect themselves and their family.”

When there is a tornado spotted, each of the 22 sirens located throughout the county sound a warning — but it isn’t always heard indoors. That’s another important reason to sign up for CodeRED. It’s also a good reason why everyone should have a weather radio.

“We also keep citizens informed via our Facebook page,” says Ashburn. There, people can learn beforehand when there’s a threat of severe weather, they can sign up for CodeRED, and they also hear about things like weather spotter classes put on by the National Weather Service.

DeKalb County EMA Director Anthony Clifton says families should be prepared before a severe weather event occurs.

DeKalb County EMA Director Anthony Clifton says families should be prepared before a severe weather event occurs.

In DeKalb County, EMA Director Anthony Clifton says their department takes a multi-pronged approach to informing the public of severe weather events.

Due to the county’s size and shape, DeKalb County EMA recently switched to the polygon alert system for the 26 sirens located throughout the county. “In the past, people in Ider might hear the siren but have blue skies and sunshine while people in Kilpatrick or Collinsville might be facing down a tornado,” he explains. “Now, if you hear the siren in your community, it means the National Weather Service has issued a warning for your specific area.”

The county also recently released a smartphone app. The free app is available by searching “DeKalb County EMA” in the app store for Apple or Android devices. “It will send warnings in the form of a push notification,” says Clifton. “It also has links to our Facebook page and Twitter. It has local weather, school closings, shelter locations, road closings and even has safety tips.”

While these upgrades will make being informed much easier, Clifton says they don’t take the place of preparation. “Every family needs to have an emergency plan. They need to know the plan, and they need to practice that plan,” he says.

Preparation takes very little time, and Clifton recommends visiting FEMA’s website,, to get useful information. “The site tells lots of things to consider when creating a plan, as well as how to make a disaster kit, where to store it and how to maintain it.”

Once a family has a plan, everyone should know it and practice to make sure the entire family can implement it. “It’s also a good idea to have a contingency plan,” Clifton says. “Run different scenarios to make sure you’re prepared for anything — what do you do when parents are at work and kids are at school or daycare when disaster strikes? You need to be prepared for those situations, too, because you might not all be together at home.”

Tornado shelters in DeKalb County

  • bigstock-Storm-Shelter-Sign-18310268Sylvania near Fire Department
  • Crossville near Fire Department
  • Geraldine near Town Hall
  • Fyffe near Town Hall
  • Shiloh near Fire Department
  • Powell near Town Hall
  • Valley Head near Town Hall
  • Rainsville at Plainview School
  • Henagar on Greenbriar Rd near hatchery

Tornado shelters in jackson County

  • Stevenson Elementary School
  • Section High
  • Bryant Elementary School
  • Stevenson Middle School
  • Earnest Pruett Center of Technology

Make a kit

Every family should have an emergency kit of supplies. It is recommended to keep enough food, water and medication to survive without help for 72 hours. Every kit should include:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and a manual can opener
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • iStock_000019942933LargeFlashlight and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

Get more information about what to keep in your kit at



The Truth

Jacob Stiefel and Chance Gray share their Nashville experience

By Kerry Scott

The fever to become a musician hit Jacob Stiefel in the third grade. He was standing backstage, dressed like Elvis, preparing to sing “Hound Dog” in front of parents, students and teachers at a Williams Avenue Elementary School PTO Open House.

Jacob Stiefel talks about his career goals and about changes in the music industry.

Jacob Stiefel talks about his career goals and about changes in the music industry.

“That was the first time I remember thinking I wanted to do that,” he says, laughing.

That exhilarating rush of nerves and excitement kept him pursuing his dream. For the next five years, he took guitar lessons from Chris Roberts. Then, he played bass for a couple of years for the gospel group The Sharps.

During his college years at the University of Alabama, Stiefel reconnected with his cousin, Chance Gray, of Fyffe, who was also enrolled at the university. They shared an apartment and a passion for music. The two soon began writing songs together and playing around Tuscaloosa at fraternity parties and local bars. Gray graduated in 2007 and returned home with plans to put his journalism degree to work. Stiefel graduated two years later with a degree in civil engineering. But he decided to head straight for Nashville.

Music city

He began playing at a bar right away. Not long after, the bar owner asked him about fronting a band for an open slot. Jacob Stiefel & The Truth was formed, and Stiefel was playing his kind of music — which he describes as “country music scattered, covered and smothered with rock ‘n’ roll” — with other musicians that he had handpicked.

By this time, Gray had moved to Nashville and the two were writing songs together. When Gray wasn’t working with other national acts, he was helping promote Stiefel’s band. “I don’t play with the band,” Gray says. “I’m more interested in writing, booking and management.”

Jacob Stiefel (center) describes his style as “country music scattered, covered and smothered in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Jacob Stiefel (center) describes his style as “country music scattered, covered and smothered in rock ‘n’ roll.”

After two years of playing at the same bar, Stiefel set his sights on something grander. “I wanted to be on the road, traveling the southeast or country, playing my music and building a fan base,” he says.

It took nearly six months to get the first show booked. “It’s a tough business,” says Gray. “Your band is competing against hundreds of others and all the bar cares about is whether they can make money or not. They get dozens of emails and calls daily from bands just like Jacob’s all wanting the same thing.”

Apparently Jacob Stiefel & The Truth made an impression. They are still performing regularly in Nashville and in several of the venues where they first played when they went on the road. They are steadily adding new venues and gaining fans across the southeast.

They’ve also been the opening act for some major acts, too. “We’ve opened for Blackberry Smoke, Stoney LaRue, Tyler Farr and Maggie Rose. Hopefully, we’ll continue to have more opportunities to do more of that,” says Stiefel.

The band uses their website,, to keep fans up to date about what’s happening with the band. Stiefel also regularly posts short videos on YouTube called “Episodes of the Truth.” The video clips show where they’ve been and where they’re going and include lots of humor about life on the road.

We Bleed Crimson

Last September, Stiefel and Gray began a project that helped introduce thousands more to their music. “Chance came to me with some lyrics he’d been working on, and I knew this was something special right away,” says Stiefel.

Gray asked Stiefel to come up with the music for the lyrics “We Bleed Crimson,” a song written about their alma mater. Stiefel put something together and while Gray was on the road in Los Angeles, he called him to play it. “I got chills,” recalls Gray.

Chance Gray (left) and his cousin,  Jacob Stiefel, have co-written many songs. One of them, “We Bleed Crimson,” pays tribute to their alma mater.

Chance Gray (left) and his cousin,
Jacob Stiefel, have co-written many songs. One of them, “We Bleed Crimson,” pays tribute to their alma mater.

The two continued to work on the music and lyrics until they were satisfied with the results. “We wanted something classy — not corny or offensive — that Alabama Crimson Tide fans could be proud of without trashing any other school,” says Stiefel.

“Twenty years ago, without a recording label, no one would have ever heard the song,” says Gray. “Thanks to the digital revolution, social media has given artists like us a real platform.”

As an independent artist without a recording contract, Gray knew it was up to Stiefel to do his own promotion for the song. They spent two days on Facebook, email and Twitter pushing the song out to everyone they knew, as well as a lot of folks they didn’t know. Their families also helped promote the song.

“We Bleed Crimson” was an instant hit with fans. It has received more than 15,000 YouTube views to date, and the university even met to consider licensing it. “They chose not to at this time, but we hope they will reconsider,” says Gray.

The success of that song is evidence of the changes taking place throughout the music industry. “Thanks to things like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and iTunes, now independent musicians can get their music out to people,” says Gray. “And we can do it from our living room.”

Dues-Payin’ Blues

While these two may not be rich and famous yet, Stiefel says he’s never been happier.

Jacob Stiefel & The Truth’s second EP, “Volume II,” was released in October 2013. They are available online at for $10. Many of the songs on the album are written by Stiefel and his cousin, Chance Gray.

Jacob Stiefel & The Truth’s second EP, “Volume II,” was released in October 2013. They are available online at for $10. Many of the songs on the album are written by Stiefel and his cousin, Chance Gray.

“It would be great to have fame and fortune, but that isn’t my goal,” he says. “I’ve always said success for myself is being able to make a comfortable living with a career in music.”

Gray feels the same way. “I don’t ever wake up in the morning and complain about having to go to work,” he says. “Some people think it’s a glamorous life — and for some people it is — but that isn’t what this is about for me. It’s about being able to do what I love.”

One of their songs, “Dues-Payin’ Blues,” was written about what it takes to make it in the music industry. “It’s the truest song I’ve ever written,” says Stiefel. “While it’s true that I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world, it ain’t as easy as it looks. It takes a special kind of crazy person to do what I do.”


Find Jacob Everywhere:

  • (@jacobstiefel)
  • @jacobstiefel on Instagram and Vine


‘Gorge’ous views at Pisgah’s Civitan Park

By Kerry Scott

It’s been called one of the best kept secrets in Alabama, a natural wonder and a hidden gem. Most who have visited Pisgah Gorge would agree with those statements.

PG-nikon#5 112In 1967, the Pisgah Civitan Club purchased 40 acres surrounding the gorge. Six acres of that was later given to the city for use as a town park.

Today, hikers, kayakers, birdwatchers and other nature enthusiasts enjoy all that the gorge has to offer. There are three waterfalls, several hiking trails, inspiring vistas and breathtaking overlooks.

In the spring and summertime, native plants including rhododendron, mountain laurel, trillium and oak leaf hydrangeas help create spectacular views throughout the gorge.

Springtime is also when the Civitan Club hosts its annual “Gorge”ous Festival which helps fund park maintenance and scholarships. It’s held the last weekend in April and is a fun, family-friendly weekend.

Hundreds will attend the two-day event where they will enjoy lots of music, a cruise-in car show, artisans showing and selling their handmade crafts, food and more.


Third Annual ‘Gorge’ous Festival

  • Pisgah Civitan Park, 650 County Road 374, Pisgah, Ala.
  • April 26-27
  • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day
  • $1 admission
  • Arts & crafts show, Cruise-in auto show, music, fun & entertainment for kids, food

For more information, call Russell Poe at 256-605-7213 or visit

A life of enthusiastic service

By Fred Johnson
Executive Vice President and General Manager

This past Christmas Eve was marked by the passing of Miss Kay Keith. Kay served FTC for 37 years before retiring in 2006.

Fred Johnson

Fred Johnson

She was a remarkable individual and very special to us. She took great pride in the fact that her family played a unique role in the early history of FTC, being associated with one of the original switchboards that became part of our system. The Keiths provided a wealth of information when we compiled a documentary celebrating our first 50 years of service.

At her memorial service, the minister described Kay as someone who literally gave her life in service to her God and His church, to her family, and to her job. From every observation I made during the 40-some years I knew Kay, he got it absolutely right.

Kay’s spirit to serve was exceptional here. Not to detract from anyone else, I must candidly say that I don’t know of anyone I’ve worked with who had more pride in being a part of FTC. Kay supported this cooperative on and off the job in ways that were absolutely amazing. Many times after her retirement, I spotted her wearing FTC apparel or her service pin and acting as our unofficial ambassador in a way that made us all proud. Kay had a unique and fundamental understanding of how a good communications infrastructure is important to a community. That understanding and her willingness to do anything she could do to help promote our success instilled in me a deep appreciation of, and respect for, Kay.

Thankfully, Kay was not alone in her sense of pride. It is the norm here. There is hardly a week that passes without someone from our workforce expressing gratitude for the opportunity they have or, better yet, demonstrating their commitment to our customers and their pride in a job well done. FTC is not some faceless corporation that advertises the cheapest possible price and tries to offer the worst service it can get away with. We are your friends and neighbors. We are doing our best to deliver on the mission we were first given some 61 years ago. That mission is to make sure you have communications services at your disposal that are second to none. The economic health of our community depends upon it and we intend to deliver on that commitment.

Kay Keith was an example of someone committed to a life of service to others. I am told that on the Sunday before her passing, she spoke publicly, expressing thankfulness for the happiness and fulfillment such a life had brought. May her life and her example continue to inspire us all.

Sweet potatoes get their day in the sun

Sweet potatoes — they’re not just for holiday meals anymore. With the popularity of sweet potato chips and fries, more farmers are growing them than ever before and more consumers are enjoying them year round.

Evelyn Rudd

Evelyn Rudd

Evelyn Rudd has lived her life in Benton, Ky., a town that has an affinity for the once-lowly spud. There was a time when farmers came in droves to sell their sweet potatoes on the town square. Soon, it grew into a huge community event. Now, 170 years later, the folks of Benton roll out the red carpet in honor of sweet potatoes.

“In the past, there was a huge focus on sweet potatoes and people selling them,” Evelyn recalls. Now, she says, it draws vendors selling a variety of food and wares. It’s a festival atmosphere that draws crowds from in town and out. “The whole town shuts down.”

Evelyn grew up eating sweet potatoes. Her mother had a garden, and the family ate them year round. “I’ve always loved them,” she says.

For decades, Americans mainly consumed sweet potatoes in casseroles flowing with butter and marshmallows on Thanksgiving and Christmas, resulting in dishes full of flavor, but also fat and calories. In recent years, however, this mainstay of southern agriculture has charted new territories — on restaurant menus, in healthy drinks and as frozen french fries and tater tots on grocery store aisles.

Sweet potatoes are loaded with nutrition. Just one cup of mashed sweet potatoes gives you healthy doses of vitamin A, critical for eye health, and vitamin B6, needed for heart health. So eating them with as few additives as possible is the healthiest way to go.

“Most of the time I bake them like a regular baked potato, but I top them with butter and cinnamon or nutmeg,” says Evelyn.

Just like any good cook, she has a library of cookbooks, their pages dog-eared and stained through years of use, the mark of any seasoned cook. And it’s her sweet potato recipes that get the most use.

“There’s just something about Kentucky soil that makes our sweet potatoes even sweeter,” she says.

Perfect pies, super soufflés

Sweet potato pie

Sweet Potato Pie photo1/4  cup butter
1/2  cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cream together butter and sugar. Add hot potatoes and eggs. Mix well. Mix in syrup, milk, salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour into a 9-inch unbaked pie crust. Bake 10 minutes at 425º F. Reduce heat to 325º F and bake until done.

Caramel sweet potato soufflé


3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Caramel sauce:

1 1/2 cups white sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter

For soufflé: Mix all soufflé ingredients, pour into soufflé dish or casserole and bake at 350° F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and, while still warm, top with caramel sauce and serve.

To make caramel sauce: Caramelize 1/2 cup sugar by putting in skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring, until sugar is golden brown; set aside. In separate pan, add 1 cup sugar to milk and cook slowly until bubbly; add butter and stir until melted and combined. Mix in caramelized sugar, stirring to combine. Pour over sweet potatoes. 

Sweet Potato Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
2 eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Mix together dry ingredients; add eggs, sweet potatoes, milk and olive oil; mix until thoroughly blended. Stir in nuts, then pour into a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan. Bake in preheated 350° F oven for 1 hour 15 minutes (if using a dark nonstick pan reduce oven heat to 325° F). Check for doneness by inserting toothpick in center of loaf. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Sweet Potato Cobbler

2 cups thinly sliced sweet potatoes
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
Nutmeg, to taste

Bring sweet potatoes and water to boil, cooking until tender; drain potatoes, then add 1 cup sugar and butter; set aside. In separate bowl, mix together oil, 1/2 cup sugar, flour and milk; pour into greased baking dish. Add hot sweet potatoes over batter. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in 350° F oven for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Crust will envelope sweet potatoes as cobbler cooks. 

Tater Day

The Kiwanis Club of Benton, Ky., is gearing up for its biggest event of the year, bigstock-Fresh-Organic-Orange-Sweet-Pot-41406793the annual Tater Day, celebrating the town’s beloved relationship with sweet potatoes. It’s always held on the first Monday in April, which this year falls on April 7. Now in its 170th year, it continues to grow in popularity. Folks from near and far come for a day of old-fashioned fun. The town closes up and the festival opens with a big parade.

It all started when local farmers would bring their sweet potatoes and their potato slips to the court square to sell them. There are still a few vendors who sell sweet potatoes, but these days it’s more about having fun and enjoying horse races, mule pulls and other contests, including the always-popular barbecue cook-off. It’s a day for old-fashioned fun sponsored by the Benton Kiwanis Club. For more information or to see what’s cooking for the 2014 Tater Day, log onto

Coming around to sweet potatoes

By Anne P. Braly
Food Editor


Anne P. Braly

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with sweet potatoes for 10 years. The 40 years before that, it was mostly the latter. I never cared for them. My parents once tried to convince me that a baked sweet potato was just as good as a baked Idaho potato. Never fell for that one. But that’s my bad.

It was about a decade ago, though, that sweet potato fries became trendy in restaurants. And chefs began using them in place of white potatoes when they served roasted vegetables. And of course, there are the bags of sweet potato chips that are hard to resist. Oh, and I can never tire of Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s sweet potato casserole as a side dish or dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They contain lots of fiber and vitamins B6, C and E. They have almost double the amount of potassium as a banana, and are loaded with beta carotene which our bodies convert into vitamin A. Those tubers appear to be health-boosting ninjas.

So if you can eat one without all the fat added through frying or with all the fattening additives used in making a casserole, more power — and good health — to you.

Email Anne Braly at

One piece at a time

Factory tours offer a glimpse of the hard work needed to create the products America loves 

By Patrick Smith

Headlines may say America’s manufacturing base is slowly dwindling, but across the Southeast there are thousands of businesses creating the products that people drive, play, eat and otherwise use everyday.  From the popularization of the assembly line by Henry Ford in the early 1900s to the thousands of robots that help to manufacture today’s vehicles, factories can be one of the best examples of American ingenuity — and fascinating places to visit. Not all of the factories spread throughout the South offer tours, but here are a few that are built to please visitors.

Brochure-OutsideGibson Guitar – Memphis, Tenn.

Long before a man named Les Paul revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, Gibson was creating some of the world’s best musical instruments. Today, Gibson’s instruments are still shaping the world of music, including their signature solid-body Les Paul models. See the wood transform into a musical masterpiece as visitors to Gibson Beale Street Showcase in Memphis, Tenn., watch the skilled luthiers go through the intricate process of binding, neck-fitting, painting, buffing and tuning the classic instruments. If Memphis is too far away, Gibson’s Nashville store in Opry Mills Mall showcases craftsmen building guitars throughout the week.

More information:

Louisville Slugger – Louisville, Ky.

33376_Slugger Factory Tour VideoProduction StillsCelebrating America’s pastime could be difficult without the creation of Bud Hillerich. Along with his partner Frank Bradsby, Hillerich popularized the baseball bat and by 1923 they were selling more bats than any of their competitors. For most familiar with the sport, their creation – known today as the Louisville Slugger – has become as synonymous with the game of baseball as the player’s glove and a fan’s hot dog. Patrons can take a guided tour through the entire process – visitors even receive a free miniature Louisville Slugger bat – at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Ky.

More information:

Mayfield Dairy – Athens, Tenn.

From their humble beginnings in 1910 with 45 Jersey cows, Mayfield has grown into one of America’s treasured dairy brands — all while keeping the family-owned business based in small town Athens, Tenn. The educational, behind-the-scenes tour walks visitors through the history of the brand and the creation of their delicious milk, ice cream and many other products. Didn’t get your fill of ice cream? Just 20 minutes away, travelers can visit Sweetwater Valley Farm and see how a modern dairy farm operates.

More information: and

CTG tea fields and oak treeCharleston Tea Plantation – Wadmalaw Island, S.C.

With the beautiful setting in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, enjoying a cup of tea is practically a bonus rather than the main attraction at the Charleston Tea Plantation in Wadmalaw Island, S.C. During a factory tour, visitors can not only see how American Classic Tea is made, but they can also take a trolley ride through more than 127 acres of farmland with breathtaking Camellia Sinensis tea plants as far as the eye can see.

More information:

Golden Flake – Birmingham, Ala.

Once endorsed by legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Golden Flake snack foods still hold true to their Southern roots at their operation in Birmingham, Ala. Would you believe that more than 1 million pounds of chipping potatoes are processed in a normal week at their factory? Guests can follow the process as potatoes and corn sweep through conveyor belts to create and fill up to 100 bags per minute of finished snack foods, which are then ready to be shipped to convenience stores throughout their 12-state market.

More information:

Toyota – Georgetown, Ky.

Outside of Japan, car enthusiasts can find Toyota’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the Bluegrass state. Employing more than 7,000 workers and producing nearly 2,000 vehicles every day, Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., facility covers 7.5 million square feet of floor space — the equivalent of 156 football fields. Visitors can see the five different vehicles and three engine models being built during the roughly two-hour plant tour.

More information:

Still want to see more? Each of these factories have tours available:

  • Honda Manufacturing in Lincoln, AL
  • Hyundai Manufacturing in Montgomery, AL
  • Blue Bell Ice Cream in Sylacauga, AL
  • George Dickel Tennessee Whisky in Normandy, TN
  • Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN
  • Ale-8-1 soft drink in Winchester, KY
  • Rebecca-Ruth Candies in Frankfort, KY
  • General Motors Corvette Manufacturing in Bowling Green, KY
  • Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY


Looking for a good outdoor project this spring? Plant a tree!

bigstock-Tree-in-hands-55696661As spring arrives, homeowners start thinking about outdoor do-it-yourself projects that will add to the enjoyment of their homes while increasing its value.

One of the best investments a homeowner can make isn’t a swimming pool or a deck. Planting trees, when done correctly, will deliver pleasure — and financial rewards — for years to come.

The secret to tree-planting success, however, is two-fold: planting the right tree in the right location.

The Right Tree

There are many factors to consider when selecting a tree to plant on your property:

  • How tall will it grow?
  • How fast will it grow?
  • How much sun does it need?
  • What shape will it be at maturity?
  • What temperature extremes can it withstand?

Visit and click on your state to learn what hardiness zone you live in and what trees grow well in your area.

The Right Location

If you select the perfect tree but plant it in the wrong spot, you could cause problems for yourself, your neighbors and even utility workers in the future.

bigstock-Isolated-Chickadee-On-A-Stump-47425411The illustration below shows what could be the most important tip in adding trees to your property. Never plant trees near a utility pole if those trees will grow more than 25 feet in height. Limbs growing into telecommunications or electricity lines can interrupt service for you and your neighbors, as well as cause additional work (sometimes dangerous work) for those who maintain the utility lines.

A pick and a shovel will be helpful, but the most important tool when planting trees is information. Your local nursery is often a great place to learn more about the varieties that grow well in your community. Every state has a forestry commission or department. And the Arbor Day Foundation ( is one of the best-known resources to help homeowners make good tree-planting decisions.

Why plant a tree?*

  • Trees can add value to your home — as much as 15% by some estimates.
  • Trees can lower your heating bills by 10-20%.
  • Trees can lower your cooling bills by 15-35%.
  • Trees can provide shelter and food for songbirds and other wildlife.




Before you plant a tree:

  • Look up to make sure the tree you are planting is far enough away from utility lines.
  • Call “811” to have underground utilities located, to ensure you don’t dig into lines. You could interrupt power, broadband, phone, gas or water for you and your neighbors! 

Scam Alert

The National Do Not Call Registry will never call you

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry, hang up immediately.

The National Do Not Call Registry website, found at, allows visitors to register a phone number, verify a registration and submit a complaint against a telemarketer.

The National Do Not Call Registry website, found at, allows visitors to register a phone number, verify a registration and submit a complaint against a telemarketer.

The Federal Trade Commission has posted the following warning on the registry website:

“Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls.”

The website,, allows citizens to register their phone numbers, thereby limiting the telemarketing calls they receive. Telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date a phone number is registered to stop calling.

Tip: To protect themselves and their assets, citizens should never provide information to a caller asking for sensitive data such as date of birth, Social Security number and account numbers.