67-County Alabama Garden Party: Pike County

The Alabama honeysuckle border was inspired by an 18th century, Southern applique quilt. (left) Pike County Perfectly Engineered Golf Club Sandwich (right)

The Cullman Tribune is celebrating the Alabama Bicentennial (1819-2019) with statewide field reporting by Alabama Master Gardener/Botanical Artist Ben Johnson South. This year-long feature, “The 67-County Alabama Garden Party,” will spotlight different counties each week. Each county will get its own “quilt block,” along with a historical profile, and we’ll share a recipe specific to the area. At the end of the year, all 67 counties will be put in a book to commemorate the Bicentennial.

Pike County

“ECO-FRIENDLY GOLF” sounds like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp, tight slacks or a minor miracle. However, eco-friendlier golf is a progressive, PLANTS + PEOPLE idea being explored by engineering, environmental science and other students at Troy University in Pike County. Considering the international impact of this Alabama-based university with 60 teaching sites in the US and 11 other countries, discussions here of a more natural, golfing experience could have a global impact on the game.

Golf course design, engineering and maintenance are not traditionally known for being “eco-sensitive.” The post-World War II boom in golfing popularity meant bulldozers and other landscape-obliterating machines carving play areas and putting plateaus out of the natural terrain. Elaborate, water irrigation systems and vast amounts of plant poisons were the 20th century, American country club norm.

However, many environmentally aware golfers are demanding courses be engineered for a lighter carbon footprint and greater sustainability. Hundreds of golf courses in the U.S. are now listed as plant and wildlife sanctuaries, many certified by the Audubon Society. Here are some ways golf courses are becoming “eco-friendlier”:

*Converting turf to native grasses

*Reducing water use and irrigation systems in areas outside the playing grounds

*Using indigenous plants, not exotics

*Emphasizing walking and opting for solar-powered carts

*Propagating plants and turf on-site to reduce the need to transport

*Reimagining environmental wastelands such as stripped-mined areas to become golf courses

*Designing for fewer water-wasting fountains and unnecessary lighting

*Adding bird nesting boxes

*Mowing less area and providing wildflower meadows for pollinators

*Planting ponds with aquatic vegetation

Many of us agree with the popular quip, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” But, at least so-called “eco-friendly golf” is aiming to make that walk spoil nature less. As the tree-huggers and the tee-uppers in Pike County help us look to the future, here’s a forward-thinking quote from golfing legend, Ben Hogan, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.”

Engineering eco-friendly golf courses and pondering walking such courses, lugging a heavy set of golf clubs, makes one hungry and got us thinking about what to eat after 18 holes of golf. Of course, a club sandwich, but not any ole club sandwich—A PERFECTLY ENGINEERED, ULTIMATE GOLF CLUB SANDWICH.

Here, created especially for “THE 67-COUNTY, ALABAMA GARDEN PARTY,” is the blueprint with exacting specifications for A PERFECTLY ENGINEERED, ULTIMATE GOLD CLUB SANDWICH created by Alabama engineer and cook, Laurie Johnson, and tips on other PLANTS + PEOPLE things to explore in Pike County:

*PIONEER FARMERS’ MARKET- Bicentennial Park, Highway 21 and North Brundidge, Troy, AL 36081; June-November, Saturdays 7-11 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays 5-7 p.m.

*PEANUT BUTTER FESTIVAL- (Brundidge) Last Saturday every October; arts and crafts, carnival foods and a salute to famous plantsman, Dr. George Washington Carver of The Tuskegee Institute; FREE family fun

*JOHNSTON PEANUT BUTTER MILL- (Brundidge) Opened in 1929 in this peanut-growing part of Alabama, the mill, now a museum, produced two million jars of peanut butter each year; FREE, open by appointment and on the last Saturday of October during the Peanut Butter Festival

*PIKE COUNTY FARMSTANDS- Fred Dubose, Banks, AL; Robert Dubose, Banks, AL; Michael Dunn, 160 County Road 7740, Troy, AL 36081, 334-268-1219; peas, butterbeans, okra, corn

*PIONEER MUSEUM OF ALABAMA- This is an ideal place to celebrate the 2019 Alabama Bicentennial; 248 Highway 231 North, Troy, AL 36081, 334-566-3597; one-room schoolhouse, horse-drawn jail, sugarcane mill, 1800s train locomotive; this is where Cortney Daniels of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Pike County) said she would take a landscape photographer to get a nostalgic view.

*THE JOHNSON CENTER FOR THE ARTS- 300 East Walnut St., Troy, AL 36081- Showcases Alabama arts and artists; many works celebrate nature and agrarian life in Alabama; FREE; Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; FREE and open to all

*PLANTING AN IDEA- Explore “edible landscaping.” We could take all the talk in Pike County of “eco-friendly golf” to a higher level. Golf course greens regularly have lots of sunshine and good irrigation. Some of the “playing greens” could be replaced with “edible greens” like herbs. We are living in an era of heightened awareness of ecology when vast swaths of green lawn seem dated to some other century. Today, we want zone-appropriate plantings with a purpose.

Y’ALL COME to Pike County on your 67-County Alabama Garden Party tour, where folks are naturally friendly and eco-friendly.

Many thanks to Alabama engineer and cook, Laurie Johnson, for A PERFECTLY ENGINEERED, ULTIMATE GOLD CLUB SANDWICH and to Cortney Daniels, Pike County, Alabama Cooperative Extension System 334-566-0985.

Building a perfect sandwich, specifically A Perfect Golf Club Sandwich, is all about advance planning and engineering.  When building a house, you can’t just throw bricks, wood and paint together and expect it to be a great home.  When building a set of golf clubs, you can’t just weld a bunch of steel together and expect to execute the perfect drive, chip or putt.  Engineering a perfect sandwich doesn’t mean there aren’t choices – just that you need to think them through, have a blueprint and construct it for your taste and season.

  1. First, consider structure and foundation.  A traditional club sandwich has three slices of bread and two layers of protein, crunchy, fresh ingredients and window dressings.  Choices for bread, include plain white, ciabatta, sourdough, whole wheat, marbled pumpernickel or a whole grain seeded bread. Whatever your other raw materials, make sure to layer them so you don’t have two slippery ingredients adjacent to each other or the structure will slide around while eaten.
  2. Protein! Bread is the foundation of the sandwich, but other building materials determine most of the flavor and style of your architecture.  Traditional protein choices are sliced turkey, ham, chicken, roast beef or bacon.  Two is generally enough!
  3. Now, on to crunchy and garden-fresh building materials.  Lettuce and tomato are the obvious choices.  There are many lettuces, but the reliable iceberg or romaine add the most crunch.  Other “crunchies” include cucumber, apple, onions, peppers or sprouts. 
  4. Finally, choose the finishing touches or window dressings: ingredients that are used sparingly but add flavor and moisture.  For the spread, mayonnaise, mustard or honey mustard are popular. You can pump up flavor with avocado, by adding barbeque, horseradish or pesto sauce to the mayo or using a salsa or seasonal chutney/relish (onion, citrus, cranberry, etc.).  And oh, don’t forget cheese; so many types of cheeses!
  5. Find building combinations that are in season and complement, or are even surprising together, like an accent wall!  All with your favorite bread, lettuce and tomato. 
  • Spring – turkey, ham, cucumber, honey mustard, spring onion, cheddar cheese
  • Summer 1 – turkey, chicken, salsa mayo, avocado, cilantro, pepper jack cheese
    • Summer 2 – chicken, bacon, barbeque mayo, red onion, blue cheese crumbles 
    • Fall – ham, bacon, cranberry chutney, mustard, apple slices, Gouda cheese
    • Winter – roast beef, bacon, pepper strips, horseradish mayo, Swiss cheese

You get the idea – the combinations are endless.  There may not be “The” perfect sandwich, but there is “A” perfect sandwich for you and your season!

Now, that the choices for your perfect golf club sandwich are crystal clear, use this blueprint for engineering your sandwich using fresh, seasonal ingredients.  Enjoy it with crispy chips and a cool drink: Southern sweet tea, lemonade or a cold Alabama craft beer.  By the way, combinations of chips and drinks are endless, but that’s another story!

Pike County – A Blueprint for “A” Perfectly Engineered Golf Club Sandwich (1 sandwich, ~ 2 servings)

Ingredients: Generic ingredient listed first followed by specific choices for “Our Family Favorite”

  • Foundation – 3 slices of whole grain bread
  • Protein – about 6 ounces of thinly shaved deli turkey
  • More protein – 3 slices of thick cut bacon
  • Crunchy – A handful of romaine and leaf lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
  • Fresh – 1 large beefsteak tomato, sliced to 1/2 inch.  Press slices with paper towel to remove excess moisture.  Juicy is good, but too much will make the sandwich soggy and hard to eat. 
  • More fresh –1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • Window dressing, the spreads – mayonnaise and mayonnaise mixed with homemade basil pesto
    • Basil pesto – in a food processor, whirl 2 cups fresh basil leaves, juice from a lemon, 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup pine nuts, salt and pepper into crumbles – followed by  1/2 cup olive oil (refrigerate for a few days or freeze for 3 months)
  • More window dressing – 2 thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Lightly toast the bread in a toaster or an oven.  Cool before constructing the sandwich.
  2. Cut bacon slices in half, fry or bake until crisp and drain on paper towels.
  3. Start with you first foundational piece of bread, spread with mayo and then layer 1/2 each of the turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese (in that order).  Top with the second slice of bread that is spread on its bottom side with pesto mayo and top side with plain mayo.  Repeat the layering.  Top with the third slice of bread with pesto mayo on its bottom side. 
  4. Press down lightly on the sandwich to compress and let the ingredients mesh. Hold it steady and slice with a sharp serrated knife, diagonally, into 4 triangles.  Secure each with a long toothpick.
  5. Enjoy your perfectly engineered and constructed sandwich with our favorites: crisp, ridged potato chips and a refreshing Arnold Palmer drink (a mixture of iced tea and lemonade)!


Also, check out Alabama Bicentennial: 200 ways to save Alabama for the next 200 years.

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Ben South