Saturday, September 30, 2006

Joke: Talking Dog

A guy is driving around Wadsworth, Ohio and he sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog For Sale." He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a Labrador retriever sitting there. "You talk?" he asks.

"Yep," the Lab replies.

"So, what's your story?"

The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA about my gift, and in no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running."

"But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

"Ten dollars," the guy says.

"Ten dollars? This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheaply?"

"Because he's lying, he never did any of that stuff."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Don't Listen To The Committee

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2006 Donna L. Watkins - Wren Fledgling
Many times are recorded in the Bible when Jesus said, "Believe." His instructions to receive were very simple. Only believe! Getting to that place is a challenge since we have been programmed to believe many things that are contrary to what the Bible tells us.

One of the devotionals I read in the mornings mentioned "The Committee" in reference to believing. Believing what the Bible says can move us forward in life and onward to great things and many blessings of which peace and joy are main ingredients. I'm coming to a point where I am certain that what we believe determines what we experience in life. There is no difference between men. God is no respecter of persons ... we all have the same shot at it. It may be a more difficult climb for many than it is for others, but God has no step-children. We are all favorite sons and daughters.

We must focus on that. We are God's favored child! Don't listen to "The Committee" that will tell you otherwise.

The Committee is in your head and it can hold you back. These are the old voices of the past that tell you you're not able or not worthy. They tell you that you can't do it, you can't be it, and you can't have it. Life's blessings are for others, but not for you.

Don't you believe it!

God is for you! Romans 8:31-32 says, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"

He who is for you, God, the Creator of the Universe, is a million times greater than all who can be against you.

Who is against you? Is it yourself? You are the one who can change your life. The opportunities are endless. Healing is available. But you can't continually speak death over your today and your future and expect good things to come to life. You won't see good when your mind is filled with evil, judging thoughts.

Stop trying to be like others!

You were created for a purpose fit to your own natural skills. You came pre-cut to fit a particular slot in this world that nobody else can fill. You may be looking far and wide for your purpose in life when it may be right under your nose. It's those things that come easy to you. God gave your natural talents and skills that will help and serve others as you serve Him by being who He designed you to be.

Leave your weaknesses behind and stop focusing on them. We all have weak areas, but we were designed to operate in our strengths. Don't let old messages continue to play in your mind to make you think you are supposed to be like somebody else. When God said, "my yoke is easy," He meant it. You can walk through life successful by being who you are!

What makes you laugh and feel good? I'm not talking about escape mechanisms we entertain ourselves with like eating and shopping. What do you do daily that brings a smile to other people's faces? Walk in that. Capitalize in that. Don't try to be what you are not. Don't let "The Committee" give you your life's agenda. Look at how God made you and live in it.

Life is a lot simpler than we think ... it's too easy for us to believe it's true. If you're surrounded by people who want you to be somebody you are not ... and they aren't enjoying who you are .... find some others who believe in themselves and add them to your life. Focus on your strengths and natural abilities and find ways to use them and enjoy them.

Overcome "The Committee" with the power of the Word about who you are! Believe that God loves you. Perfect love drives out fear. Read, study and let IJohn 4 permeate your beliefs.

Father, I choose to believe that You love me. I ask You to forgive me for wrong thinking. Help me to replace my wrong thoughts with Your thoughts. Show me in Your Word who You are and how much You love me. Please send the Holy Spirit to remind me of Your love. Show me the way out of my wrong beliefs and into a realm of new friends that I will attract because of my change in thoughts. Thank you for showing Your love to me by sending Your Son to die for me. The Cross is an image of Your love for me, for mankind. I am worthy, just as the prodigal son was always worthy in his father's eyes. Thank you for loving me. Amen

Copyright and Reprint Information

All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins and may not be republished without written permission. You may forward or use this copyrighted article on a website if you include the following credit and an active link back to this site:

© 2000-2007 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author's website,, for more articles and free email subscription.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

American Chestnut Restoration Project

Randal and I were part of a group tour to an American Chestnut Restoration Project over in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chestnut blight is a fungus that has virtually wiped out the American chestnut, as a commercial species, from eastern hardwood forests.

Once there were 4 billion of these useful trees and then the blight hit them. They provided habitat, food for wildlife, and wood that could be used for many things like fences, which are still intact in the Blue Ridge.

We learned a lot in a short time and I hope my memory held well till I got home and titled the photos. Join us on the American Chestnut Restoration Tour via my photo album of the time in Nelson County.

Nelson County is my absolute dream place to live in the whole United States. The views are awesome. One day ...... if not on this earth, then that's my vision of my piece of Heaven.

Visit The American Chestnut Foundation website for more information on their mission and history on these trees.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pet Separation Anxiety - Destructive Behavior

Once again, a new school year begins. Consequently, some parents are dealing with separation anxiety issues with their children. And, with busier school and activity schedules, it’s also the time when pet parents may begin to notice separation anxiety symptoms in their companion animals, too.

The most common definition of separation anxiety is that when left alone, your pet exhibits destructive behaviors. There are differences of opinion among pet professionals regarding the diagnosis and treatment of this complex behavioral issue, but all are trying to achieve the same result – the reduction and/or elimination of these destructive and harmful behaviors. The information presented here is intended to help you identify whether your companion animal might be suffering from your absence, and to provide some idea of available treatment options.

Although more common in canines, separation anxiety can be exhibited in both dogs and cats. In dogs, the destructive behaviors can include: constant barking; destroying furniture; chewing doors or the walls; ripping apart books; urinating and/or defecating in the house; and self-abuse (like chewing their paws raw). In cats, separation anxiety manifests itself in any of the following ways: indoor spraying; urinating or defecating in closets or on clothes; refusing to eat or drink; and hiding from you when you are at home.

Professionals attribute separation anxiety to a wide array of internal or external causes, or a combination of both. External causes range from changes in the environment, a lack of exercise or stimulation, and changes in behavior of the pet parents. Internal causes can include illness, persistent pain, nervousness, being in season and negative physiological changes due to poor diet.

To determine whether your companion animal might be suffering from separation anxiety, ask yourself these questions:

• Does your pet exhibit unusual behavior when you are getting ready to leave the home?

• Does the destructive behavior occur only when you are not at home?

• Does your pet greet you frantically, following closely wherever you go when you are home?

If all of these are true for your pet, you could be dealing with separation anxiety.

Once you have established that your companion might be experiencing separation anxiety, it’s critical that you are aware of the following:

• Do not punish your pet when you arrive home and discover the damage – this will only aggravate the problem.

• Do not bring another pet into your home. Introducing another being at this time will only add additional stress. Although it seems logical (i.e., your anxious pet will now have a companion), the separation anxiety is due to your absence.

• Do not make a big production out of leaving or entering your home. There is strong support for a relationship between your displays of heightened emotion at these times and the destructive behavior of your companion animal.

There are numerous training techniques that can help you deal with this pressing issue. These usually incorporate desensitization strategies as well as changes in your own behavior. We advise consulting a professional trainer or animal behaviorist for the best way to deal with your unique situation.

As with all training, affecting behavioral changes takes time. Here are some short-term solutions that can help to alleviate these symptoms while you are away from home.

• Have a friend or relative care for your pet.
• Place your pet in a day care facility.
• Bring your pet to work.

If none of these options are available to you, there are other stress reducers you can try on your own. When leaving your home, give your dog a toy (be sure it’s one that’s safe for him or her to have without supervision) like a treat ball – this will keep your dog occupied and provide a source of pleasure and gratification that your dog will learn to associate with your absence. For cats, make sure they have unobstructed views through windows, use a water fountain, play soft music or a DVD with birds and butterflies to engage their attention. For both dogs and cats, try leaving a pillowcase or a recently-worn article of clothing in an area where they commonly stay – just the smell of you may bring them some comfort.

The time you spend now addressing this issue could save you and your companion animal grief and distress in the future. If you suspect that your companion animal is experiencing separation anxiety, we strongly recommend you speak with your vet and a trainer with whom you feel comfortable. With patience, persistence and a lot of love, you can help your pet overcome this syndrome.

This article was taken from the Healthy Pet Newsletter, a free monthly email newsletter.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Brazil Fueling Cars on Sugarcane

Latin America’s largest country, Brazil, is the world’s biggest producer of bio-ethanol and one million Brazilian cars already run on the fuel made from sugarcane. The cars, introduced three years ago, can use either gasoline or bioethanol. Get more information

Friday, September 22, 2006

Healthy Pet Newsletter

This free professional monthly newsletter with content from nationally-known veterinarian, Dr. Jane Bicks, is very informative and helpful.

Join the mailing list.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Detoxify Your Soaps and Cleaning Supplies

Sunshine Concentrate is an environmentally-friendly cleaning and washing concentrate with a multitude of uses. We've used it for 15 years for laundry, hand soap, pet baths, soaking produce, dishwasher, cleaning, washing cars, for gardening, and a multitude of other uses. This product has saved us money and health. No more "itch" of chemical soaps. Read more about Sunshine Concentrate.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ways To Be More Green

Building a compost bin is easy, cheap and can drastically reduce the amount of trash you produce. Yard waste accounts for more than 20 percent of all trash in landfills and food scraps make up ten percent of your waste. Compost adds nutrients to your soil that nothing you will find at Lowe's does. Visit this site for more info.

Cut Your Energy Costs
How many times have you heard to replace your lightbulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs? They cost a bit more but last years longer and use 66% less energy. Put it on your shopping list and then unplug energy-hogging devices like TV's, computers, VCR's and stereos. Standby power used in sleep mode accounts for 5% of the U.S. electricity use.

Take Your Own Bag
100 billion plastic shopping bags are consumed every year, none of them biodegradable. Plastic bags break down into small, toxic bits that leach into the soil and water sources. Carrying reusable cloth bags replace thousands of plastic bags over your lifetime. If you have to accept plastic bags, make sure you get the bag full. Too many clerks place only a couple of items in each bag.

Beneficial Wasps

We have certainly been seeing a huge variety of wasps and bees this year. Each year we have more and more blooms and although I used to be afraid of bees, I can now bend my face down into the flowers beside them to pull off some dead leaves or seeds I want to collect. They are amazing little critters and such wonderful examples of diligence.

Here's a bit of information on the benefits of wasps from Creation Moments:

There are several thousand species of wasps that lay their eggs inside crop pests or use the pests for food. These wasps have become a popular form of natural pest control among farmers and gardeners. Researchers have now discovered that the wasps do more than simply feed on the pests or use them as food for their young. Typically the wasps will inject their eggs into worm-like pest larvae.

It has been discovered that the wasp eggs are coated with a virus that holds the pest larvae in the immature stage until the developing young wasps have no more need of the egg. The virus appears to move to an organ inside the pest larva and affects the insect's immune system. It also acts on the larva's endocrine system to take away the larva's appetite.

So the pest larva destroys less crop, and being starved for food, fails to develop into an adult. This gives the wasp eggs plenty of time to develop into young wasps who will finish off the pest.

Researchers are still trying to discover exactly how the virus's carefully orchestrated attack strategy works. However, clearly no creature nor the creation itself invented this strategy. It could only have been conceived and built by a Master Biochemist and Physician!

Reference: Raloff, Janet. 1985. Virus allows wasps to kill crop pests. Science News, v. 128. p. 22.

Keep The Aphids For The Ladybugs

I had quite an entertaining show right outside my kitchen window. Since I took the screens off I am able to stick my head out and every now and then I find something amazing to watch. A couple weeks ago I watched some Ants and Aphids and wrote an article on them. I see aphids all the time in the garden and have learned to leave them alone. If you want the beneficial bugs (such as ladybugs that eat aphids), you will have to let some food around that will attract them and cause them to lay eggs in your garden.

How to Clean Your Cat

There are a variety of reasons why your cat may suddenly be unable to clean itself:

gaining weight
orthopedic problems
a secondary problem to another illness

When your cat stops cleaning itself, clumps develop around your cat's rear, odor develops, and if allowed to persist long enough, raw spots develop on the skin. To prevent such discomfort and health problems, you gain a new responsibility in cleaning your cat yourself.

Here's a how-to article with step-by-step instructions.

Buy Local Produce and Food

Most of the produce and meats on your dinner table were shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold in your grocery store.

That's U.S. produce -- We're not talking about New Zealand beef and Costa Rican bananas and coffee. Shop a farmer's market or find farmers and cut the emissions used to truck food around the country. Visit Local Harvest to find a local source for foods and support the economy in your area and the farmers so they aren't forced to sell their farms.

Nothing tastes better than something picked fresh and ripe.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

American Chestnuts and Groundhogs

We took a tour last week of an American Chestnut Restoration Project in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I'll take any excuse to go to the mountains! We are blessed to be only 45 minutes away. It was an interesting discussion about the blight that virtually eliminated the American Chestnut's importance in our country earlier in the 20th century and how they are working to produce authentic trees without the blight. There is more information about this tree at the American Chestnut Foundation's website and you can learn some things from the photo album of our American Chestnut Tour.

On the way back we stopped in Charlottesville at the Produce Market and not far from the central downtown area we saw a groundhog feeding beside the road. I had my camera with me so I finally got a photo of one of these guys.

We didn't have groundhogs when we lived down south for so many years, so it's been a treat to see them here in Virginia. We see them a lot along the sides of the road but as soon as you slow down they go flying down the hills. This one was obviously used to slower moving traffic since we were in a 25 mph zone. I think he's a real cutie. I had to study a bit on groundhogs after "meeting" this one. For more information, read the post on groundhogs.

Poke Berries For The Birds

Our newly discovered and frequently noticed Gray Catbird has been dining on the Poke Berries and hiding in the Black Willows out front. He has totally cleared most of the berries from the plants.

We have also seen the Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebirds, and Tufted Titmouse on the Poke Berries by our office window. It's been a delight to see them fed by such a simple wild plant that takes care of itself.

The deer have come by to nibble on the young leaves which the fawns seem to be very fond of. I love to discover that what some calls weeds are wild wonders to me. This plant is considered toxic although young leaves have been used for salads. Get more information on poke weed.

Visit Cornell's website to learn more about catbirds and listen to their song which is how they got their name.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ants and Aphids Love Each Other

I took the window screens off the kitchen windows a couple of months ago so I could see the birds and butterflies better. The only problem with that is I can't open those windows for fresh air. I don't want to risk a hummingbird or some other bird flying in. We've had that happen in house and garage and it's not an easy task to get them back out. It drains their energy supplies and right now hummingbirds are storing up for their long migratory flight South.

Now and then I open them just to hang my head out and see what's happening in Smallville. We didn't choose a typical foundation planting for the two windows of our bayed breakfast nook, we planted a holly tree on each side and with a bit of pruning, they have been growing into fine specimens of cover for the songbirds. I have titmice and chickadees and wrens within a foot of the window where I work. The reflection in the glass from the sun seems to block them from viewing me, but I sure do get to enjoy their antics.

A few days ago, I stuck my head out to find a spider on the side. As soon as I went to touch it, it repeled down to the ground. Of more interest than him was some of the holly leaves that had black dots underneath plus a few ants. Being black and on a holly tree I didn't automatically think that they were aphids. I had never seen black ones and had never seen them on a holly.

Flipping the leaf over for more light allowed me to see that they were brown, not black, and definitely aphids after enlarging the size of the photo.

Some species of ants are attracted to aphids and feed on the honeydew they produce. Apparently I had that species only a foot outside my window. Ants protect the aphids from natural enemies and will even carry them to new plants if the current food source is depleted. A few species of aphids have become so dependent on their ants that they won't even excrete honeydew unless stimulated by an ant.

So, you see, this is a relationship in nature that benefits both species. It's called a "symbiotic relationship." The word symbiosis means "the living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms." You might think of it as a win-win situation in nature. I have recently learned that aphids come in many colors such as green, white, yellow, red (pink), brown, black, or mottled.

My photos allowed me to get a close-up view of the ants too. You can see their pinchers on the front of their mouth which are used to carry things. They also have a way to carry food inside their mouths.

Ants have always seemed so commonplace but getting a glimpse into their lives right at my window have made them a bit more personal.

It is said that ants rule the earth because they have colonies in almost every landmass on Earth. They can constitute up to 15% of the total animal biomass of a tropical rainforest. In the Amazon, the combined weight of the ants is said to be four times more than that of the other animals in the same area. Myrmecologists (ant experts) tell us that the total weight of all ants in the world is the same as the total weight of all the humans in the world. That's a lot of ants.

There's a lot to be learned from ants. Proverbs in the Bible tells us to consider the ant and its ways. They are diligent and cooperative, working as leaders and followers, and always willing to lend a hand. They are neat and organized.

I know they can be a problem when they exhibit all these wonderful character qualities inside your home, so here's an article on getting rid of ants that gives you a few non-toxic options. There's more to controlling your indoor environment than simply killing everything that happens inside for food, water or shelter. We can learn so much more about having a symbiotic relationship with the living things around us.

See a Dragonfly Being Transformed

This site has a photographical record of the transformation of a dragonfly. The person has a 1/8 acre residential lot in Texas and has done amazing things with it. This photographic documentation of the dragonfly's birth is priceless.

Keep Bird Feeders Clean

Cleaning your feeders is very important especially with the House Finch eye disease that has been spreading. Some feeders are easier to clean than others. We've been replacing our more difficult feeders with the No-No Feeder. It's metal and very easy to clean. The water or snow goes right through it or drains out quickly so there is no spoiled seed. Get the ones that have an extended roof on them. It makes a difference on moisture getting in.

It's very versatile since it accommodates clinging and perching birds and holds a good amount of sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds attract the most variety of birds than any other single seed, so we like to have plenty on hand. Right now we've got 9 feeders out there with 2 more to add for the winter.

Get details on non-toxic cleaning of feeders at

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stop Chirping and Eat

by Donna L. Watkins

We can be hidden in Christ. God provides a place where the Evil One cannot touch us. A place where Satan dare not enter. If we take time to place ourselves in His care each day, we can escape many troubles. When we spend time with our Father we get a glow that repels the Enemy's attacks. Colossians 3:2-3 says,

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

Set your mind on things above. Heavenly things. Holy things. God invites us to come and share this wonderful hidden place. We can dwell in "the secret place of the Most High" and "abide under the shadow of the Almighty" as Psalm 91 shows us.

If you don't feel like you are being protected, maybe you are not dwelling. Like any place we may travel to so we can get a fresh new look at the world and it's beauty, we have to seek direction to get there. We have to take the time to spend there and we have to sit quietly and absorb it all when we get there.

God offers us a secret place to dwell in. Do we take it? When we are in pain and our health or life's problems seem to overwhelm us, where do we run? To shop? To eat? To whine and wallow in our own self-pity, feeling like we are in solitary confinement because nobody understands? Everybody has problems in this life, so sadly, very often, people don't have time to understand. They are dealing with their own pain.

God always understands and provides a way out if we seek Him. You are regenerated by the power of His Word and it will take out of your illness, or divorce, or loss of a loved one, or job loss, or anything that vows to eat you alive, to a place where it is eaten up in a victorious shout.

If you can see that the devil is out to kill, steal and destroy you, then you will take the time to renew your mind with the precious Word that is all-powerful. Smith Wigglesworth says, "It is in you as an incorruptible force, taking you on from victory to victory until death itself can be overcome, until sin has no authority, until disease could not be in the body. This is a living fact by the Word of God.......If I cannot make a person who is suffering from disease righteously indignant against that condition, I cannot help him. If I can make every sufferer know that suffering, disease, and all these things are the workings of the Devil, I can help him........ Have the reality of this; build upon it by perfect soundness until you are in the place of perfect bliss, for to know Christ is perfect bliss."

I was sitting on our screened porch one day and a young Tufted Titmouse flew up to the screen. It had been out of the nest maybe a few days. It was obvious the parents had scheduled this time for it to be alone to discover life in all of its realities.

It kept chirping. I could hear the longing in that chirp for the days when life was easy in the nest, being fed, being kept warm, with parents keeping the nest clean by carrying off the fecal sacs. Then one day he was forced to move out. Time to fly. A rather scary thing when all you ever knew to do was squat and stretch your neck a bit.

Here, hanging on the screen, the Titmouse was oblivious to the fact that there was a cat on the other side, our Squeek. Surely his instincts would tell it that the cat was not a good thing, but for now, he was chirping and whining for the "good ole days." He kept hopping from the screen to the bush beside the porch, up into the tree, and back down again. "Chirp! Chirp! Where's my mama? Where's the food that papa used to bring me? What a cruel world."

Eventually one parent came with a morsel of food and some comfort. I just knew it was out there watching as its little one tried to cope with the reality of the cruel world. One day birds will live with cats and lions with lambs, but for now it's a struggle for them ..... as it is for us. We chirp and chirp for somebody to feed us when God has said it is time for us to be weaned. Time for us to get our own supply of food from his Word and time to overcome the evil in the world with good.

That Tufted Titmouse made the transition quickly because his life depended on it. Our lives depend on making a transition from allowing the evil to control us to beign victorious and well fed by God's Word. Don't hang around on the screen of life with something lurking on the other side that can eat you up. When you feel tempted to sit and chirp away, fly to the Word of God and feast on it in victory.

You have been born again to be an overcomer! Don't hang on the screen with evil on the other side. Flee and feed on the Word of Life. Until we get to Heaven, it's the only safe place to be.

Copyright and Reprint Information

All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins and may not be republished without written permission. You may forward or use this copyrighted article on a website if you include the following credit and an active link back to this site:

© 2000-2007 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author's website,, for more articles and free email subscription.

Link URL:

Backyard Wildlife Habitat Gardening

Randal and I have been promoting National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat certification. We've had Bluebird Cove certified and the home we lived in before this in Alabama also, which we called The Refuge.

It's a fun program and only costs $15. You can now fill out the form online. All you need is food, water, cover and nesting areas for wildlife. Many people find they already have the requirements and can focus on adding some additional habitat each year in their gardening plans. Gardening for wildlife is such fun.

Find out more about it at this site and get into the fun of knowing you are providing for wildlife in your own backyard.

The fawns here are growing up and losing their spots. They have been such a joy to watch. They always have an eye on Mama to find out whether they should run or stay.

Here in this community we are overcrowded with deer, so they are used to being pretty close to humans and houses.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Monarch Butterfly Waystation

In the early mornings, here in Virginia, you can feel Fall in the air. Some of the leaves are turning yellow and the birds are definitely storing up. Right now we've got tons of Monarch Butterflies coming through.

This year it feels really special to watch them since we got our yard certified as a Monarch Waystation. There are lots of projects that you and your family can do to help the Monarchs. What a lesson for young and old on how we can be transformed by accepting Jesus in our heart as Lord and Savior. If you'd like to know more about butterflies and maybe find a project that fits your time schedules, visit the Monarch Watch website.

Because the deer eat so many of our plants here, we keep some plants on the deck. That's where our Stonecrop Sedums are and we've discovered that the Monarchs enjoy them also. We literally had hundreds of Monarchs flying through. They were all over our butterfly bushes and flowers.

I simply couldn't get much work done that day. Watching them and being outside as they floated around me was mesmerizing.

I thought of my dear friend, Louise, in Alabama, who hasn't been able to walk around for awhile until her leg heals. It's hard to stay sitting or lying down when you are used to being active. She loves butterflies and I pictured her and me sitting in the butterfly bench that her husband made for us. Watching such a show would surely have made her feel as though she was moving with them.

The butterfly bench has been a real blessing to us and oddly to many subscribers who write me and tell me they find peace and rest just by looking at it. I'm sure there's a lot of the Holy Spirit in it since Charlie is not known as being artistic. He relied on the Holy Spirit to direct him every step of the way on making this bench. We saw it in a shop in Charleston, SC, when we met Charlie and Louise there for a visit.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Gray Foxes

We've been seeing gray foxes quite often and our neighbors are also. We had a lot of rabbits this year and it's also the first year that any of us have seen foxes so often. Their normal range of habitat is from one to ten miles and territories overlap, so we're not sure how many we have. They are nocturnal, which means they roam mostly at night, so we're seeing them with headlights in the evening or early in the morning for the sunrise walkers.

When we lived in Alabama, we had a female fox that had a den behind our property and she would come daily to feed on the peanuts we would put out for the wildlife. After filling her tummy, she would lay at a distance close enough to hear if something was wrong at the den, but far enough away to be training the pups for the time they will be on their own.

Grey foxes live in pairs rather than packs like wolves. Their life expectancy can reach 15 years. Although they are called grey, they do have some reddish coloring around the neck and chest, so when the reddish color is seen, some people think they've seen a red fox. Get more information on Gray Foxes.

Groundhogs, Whistle Pigs or Woodchucks

Also known as woodchucks, whistle pigs, and other names, this animal is part of the rodent family tied in with the Squirrel part of that family. Growing up in Pennsylvania we called them groundhogs probably because of PA being the state that has the groundhog nationally known for Groundhog Day. They are actually closely related to ground squirrels, chipmunks, and prairie dogs. They dig burrows which also provide excellent escape and hiding places for other animals in fields and sometimes woods if no other habitat is available. We've never seen any here at the wooded Bluebird Cove, but we have seen one down the street where there are some field habitats.

Their fuzzy little 6-inch tail seems short compared to their 20-26 inch long body. Groundhogs have yellowish-brown to blackish-brown fur. Light-colored hairs in the coat give some individuals a grizzled appearance. Their two front teeth are broad and chisel-shaped like those of rabbits and squirrels, using them to cut vegetation for meals. Those meals are generally found within a half mile of their home range, preferring to stay close to the safety of its burrow. Their dietary preferences don't require it to travel far since they will eat grass, alfalfa, clover, dandelion, and even vegetables such as peas, carrots, fresh corn, beans and will even eat fruits. They use their front paws much like we do our hands to grab stems of a plant or to hold fruit while feeding. They are active mostly during the early morning and late evening, although the little guy mentioned in my comments was feeding both times in late afternoon in downtown Charlottesville.

These cuties have a muscular body, short powerful legs and sturdy claws, so they are an excellent excavator of burrows where they spend much of their time. When they make their burrow they will use the dirt to build a mound at the main entrance to the burrow, similar to the prairie dog. They use their strong forefeet to loosen the soil, then kick the dirt behind them with their hind feet. This is a photo we took of him on the sidewalk, so he's not doing any digging there.

They often dig many side tunnels and two or three back entrances. These "drop holes" are inconspicuous since they are not marked with a mound like the main entrance. Burrows are usually located in well-drained, sloping areas to avoid flooding.

Even with short legs, it can run pretty fast for short distances. Their predators are dogs, foxes and coyotes, although the young ones are prey for hawks and owls. They can climb well and use this to avoid encounters, being able to climb trees and even come down head first. When they are angry or cornered they chatter their teeth. They got the name of whistle pig because their alarm call is a sharp whistle. When feeding, they make a chuck-chuck sound which may be how they got their woodchuck name.

They hibernate in winter so they eat heavily in Summer and early Fall to put on body fat and prepare for Winter's hibernation. At this time their temperature drops from over 90 degrees into the low 40's and their heartbeat slows to 4 beats a minute from the usual 100. In the spring, males emerge from hibernation before females, and during February and March fight aggressively. After a 28-day gestation period, females bear young in April and early May. Litters average 3-4 young with newborns being blind, naked and helpless, so they remain in the underground nest until they're a month old. By mid-June or early July, they are ready to leave the home burrows and establish their own territories.

Skunks, raccoons and foxes remodel vacant burrows and use them to bear and raise young. Foxes may claim a burrow after killing its woodchuck owner. Rabbits often seek shelter in the dens especially during winter while the chucks are hibernating below. Animals pursued by predators or hunters also use the burrows as escape hatches.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Our New Firepit Reminds

We initiated our new fire pit with some friends last weekend. There was a nice chill in the air here in central Virginia, so it was a perfect night for it and we even roasted marshmallows.

Reminded us all of camping when we were young. We cut our own sticks before roasting. It didn't take but a few marshmallows to be pretty sick from the sugar.

Funny how moments like that make our childhoods seem so simple compared to the complexities of being an adult. Wouldn't it be nice if marshmallows and a fire could take away all the complications of life?

Well, it did for that evening. Some friends, some fun, some laughter and a fire to spark some dreaming. Even the short moments in life that create inspiration can be a pivotal point from which our lives can change for the better.

Meet you out back in an hour?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Frugal Life - Living Well With What You Already Have

Living more simply is a great way to effect change in your own personal environment and it helps the planet. The Frugal Life website has lots of ideas on getting back to basics in the home, garden, finances, etc. They also provide a free newsletter and a forum where you can ask questions or search for information.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Responsibilities of Owning a Dog

Since dogs have a life span of 12-14 years, a little planning will prevent your dog from being one of the 4 million dogs entering animals shelters next year.

There's a lot of information being written about the benefit of pets in the home, but before you make that addition to the family, take the time to read about what's involved in owning a dog. They are a big responsibility and knowing how to be a responsible pet owner is your first step to truly being able to enjoy your new addition. Visit this website for a great article and list of resources.

Monday, September 11, 2006

John Muir Quote On Trees

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself. ~ John Muir

Almost Free Animal Food

We have an orchard only a few miles from our home. The couple that owns it moved here the same year we did and planted apple trees. We've seen them growing and this year we've picked a bushel and a half so far.

When I went to pick the second time I asked if I could also fill a couple grocery bags with fallen apples for the wildlife. They allowed me to do so and only charged $2 for both bags. I was so excited. All of our critters have been having a grand time. I put out a buffet one evening of watermelon and apple halves and in the morning there wasn't a scrap left. I couldn't believe it.

Think about some local places that may have "fallen" fruit or vegetables that your backyard wildlife would love to have. This time of year the wildlife are already storing up calories for the long winter, so they will appreciate anything extra you can offer them.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Nature Makes Us Happy and Heals Our Bodies

Intuitively, we know something in us responds to nature, even as most of us live our workaday lives further and further removed from flora and fauna. Learn why contact with animals, plants and nature may be a potent antidote to stress, distracting us from worrisome thoughts, depression, reducing anxiety and lowering blood pressure.

Gathering some facts from these articles will send you running to the nearest green space you can find.

Inviting the Outdoors In
Take Two Hikes and Call Me in the Morning
The Value of Autumn

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Steps to Higher Ground

by Donna L. Watkins

Do you condemn yourself when you do something wrong? God does not, why should you? We are much too hard on ourselves and I believe that's a learned behavior. Many people growing up did not receive any positive encouragement and from that, in our immaturity, we began to believe that we were bad.

Romans 8: 31-33 says, "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?"

We can be our own worst enemy. With the thoughts that some of us play through our minds all day long, who needs enemies?! Have you considered it sin to think badly of yourself. You are a child of God and He created you in goodness. Somewhere along life's path you found Christ and accepted Him as your Savior. You are now born again. You are a child of God and it doesn't matter what was or wasn't said when you were a child.

You can come to grips with your past - all of its failures, losses - but then you must grip the larger fact of God's power, His understanding, and His forgiveness. That power is available to you and so is His protection.

Who can bring a charge against you? Nobody in God's eyes. People may try and your mind may agree, but you have a choice on what you want to believe. Like the song goes, "Who's report will you believe? I will believe the report of the Lord!"

Changing your belief is the basis for changing who you are and it changes others around you. If you are busy trying to change your family, or husband or children, stop now and focus on yourself. Like people who want to do a home improvement project. They want examples and to see the "how-to" of it all. People around you may want to change as much as you want them to, but they need to see an example and then get the "how to" of it all from you.
Smith Wigglesworth says, "Every trial is to bring you to a greater position in God. The trial that tries your faith will take you on to the place where you will know that the faith of God will be forthcoming in the next test...... If you are sure of your ground, if you are counting on the presence of the living Christ within, you can laugh when you see things getting worse. God wants you to be settled and grounded in Christ and to become steadfast and unmoveable in Him."

I admit I have rarely looked at a trial as a step to higher ground in Christ. And there have been few times when I've had the faith to laugh at troubles. Looking back, I saw circumstances as iron doors blocking my chosen path or desire. My stubborn, headstrong will to run my own life prevents me from getting to higher ground very quickly. I tend to wallow in the flood for a bit hoping that a knight in shining armor will whisk me away to fulfillment of my desired goal with a retreat at the castle. Usually this is what I expect of God. The Knight granting my every wish.

Can you imagine what kind of life a child would have if he were given his every wish and desire? We do not know what we ask and certainly don't know the consequences of our choices until it's too late to choose differently, so let's thank God, our Heavenly and perfect Father who is willing to do the choosing for us. But more than mentally thanking Him, let's begin to shout THANK YOU when all around us crumbles. When I have caught a glimpse of doing that, all of life is magical. It's all about what we choose to believe.

If God is for us .... then anything that comes into our lives He will use for good and it will take us to higher and higher ground.

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Paper Towels - Alternatives

Forty percent (40%) of trash in U.S. landfills consists of paper products. We are destroying not only our forests, but the boreal forests that our songbirds breed in. In spite of the digital age, our paper use has increased by 46%.

Paper towels comprise the largest portion of paper waste in landfills. If everyone just switched to 100% recycled paper towels, one million tons of used paper would be kept out of the waste cycle every year! Better yet, use cloth towels and rags.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Back Pain and Deep Tissue Massage

Consumer Reports says that 4 out of 10 people with back pain said deep-tissue massage made them feel "much better." That's more relief than offered by prescription drugs.

Perhaps a massage lotion made from olive oil and some muscle relaxing essential oils would help to ease the pain away. Massage from loving hands can impart more than just the benefits of essential oils. The love of a wife or husband added to the lotion can impart some therapeutic value also.

Lavender Essential Oil is only one thing mentioned in an article about back pain on the Mother Earth News site. There are a lot of articles there on natural alternatives for health problems.

Cat or Kitten - Which Is Best For You

There are few things more adorable than a kitten. Kittens are entertaining and full of fun, but like a puppy, they will have more needs for attention and supervision than adult cats. As a kitten learns about the world by playing, your curtains, couch and flower arrangements can become sacrificed in the process.

An adult cat can settle in faster, and choose to nap in front of the window instead of climbing the window draperies. If you're trying to decide which way to go when you adopt your next feline, read more in this article.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Eating Wild and Natural

Randal and I have been vegetarians for 27 years, but we realize there are people who will never give up their meat. So, the next best alternative is to at least provide information for meat-eaters to choose humane sourced meats, so they won't be buying factory-farmed products.

The Eat Wild website is the most comprehensive website on grass-based farming, providing information about the animal welfare, human health and environmental benefits of grass-fed husbandry. On this website you can also locate grass-based farmers by state from which to buy grassfed beef, veal, bison, poultry, pork, eggs and milk.

Select the "Shop for Meat, Eggs & Dairy" tab on the left side of the page, then your state, for a list of farmers in your area. Some farmers will ship products directly to your door, so look at neighboring states also. Visit Eat Wild.

Site For Children On Farm Animals is a site where children can learn about farm animals, vegetarianism, play games, share writing and artwork and more. Learn about animal behavior, biology and social structures and take quizzes to test knowledge.

Visit the Creation Station, a special place where children can share your stories, drawings, essays, paintings, and poems with other kids who care about animals.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Be Glamorous On A Dime


You look at other women and wonder how do they put it all together? They must spend a fortune to look that way. . . the beautiful clothes, shoes, and make-up. Well the secret to looking gorgeous without breaking the bank is quite simple. It might take a little time, but it is worth it.

How-to Steps

1. Piece your outfits together correctly. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest trends that are going to be out of style in a couple of months anyway. There are three staples in a women's wardrobe: black pants, crisp white shirt, and the little black dress. They can carry you for years. Black pants can be topped off with beautiful dress shirts for a more glamorous look, or with a simple v-neck for a more casual look. Buy classic pieces.

2. Use your imagination. For example, right now embellishment is the big thing for summer. Instead of going into a boutique and paying $50.00, $70.00, or who knows how much more, instead go into your local fabric store. Check for lace, sequins, or anything you can think of. Take a tank top and glitz it up for the fraction of the price, top it off with a pair of jeans and you're good to go. Look through your current wardrobe and try to make it look different. Take a regular solid colored skirt and add a ribbon bow. Imagination is the key.

3. Go thrift shopping. No, it's not a bad word. You would be really surprised what you can find. Purses, dresses, skirts. It may take a little time, but look through the racks, you never know the gem that's waiting for you. If you really don't feel it's for you, buy specials. Clearance sales are good, and buy at the end of every season, the price is marked down quite considerably. But don't just buy something because it's on sale. Try it on and see if you like the way the garment fits.

4. Pluck or wax your eyebrows. This looks clean and gives you an instant new look.

5. Remember that costume jewelry is a frugal girl's best friend. This can change the whole look of an outfit. Remember that simple black dress. Well the right jewelry can take it from office day to fun evening.

6. Know that a little make-up goes a long way. Glamorous women often do not appear to have make-up on, but they do. Being glamourous is looking like you rolled out of the bed looking fabulous. Avoid too much make-up and overly done hair.

7. Get some soft waves or curls for a natural look. If your hair is very straight go with it and have some interesting layers cut so you really can roll out of bed with it.


* Fashion does not have to break the bank. Swap clothes with friends.
* Learn to sew you will save a lot of money.
* Fashion is what suits you, not the model in the magazine. While it is okay to get ideas from a magazine, only fashion victims follow it to the letter. Be an individual.
* Get fit and healthy.
* Be confident, not arrogant.


* Try not to be too trendy. Remember, fashion should be fun. Don't be a slave to it.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Squeek - Our HIV Cat - Natural Alternative

This is our Squeek. She loves the screened porch and we made a little patch of earth for her in a large litter box by filling it with dirt and planting some of her favorite grasses in it. If she liked catnip we'd put some of that in there too, but she's one of those kitties that doesn't care about catnip.

She's an herbal kitty since she was diagnosed with Stage III FIV in February. Prognosis was not good since the vet did not expect her to live out the rest of that week.

That was over six months ago, so we're very happy with what
VS-C and THIM-J and Spirulina are doing for Squeek, and she seems so eager to take her herbs that we sprinkle on her food. She gets a bit of Vitamin C and E also several times a week.

Our friends comment on how healthy she looks and she's more playful than she ever was. We use
Life's Abundance food to ensure her immune system is not weakened by chemicals and bad ingredients that are in many pet foods today. We never know how long we will have our pets, but we're very grateful to be able to make a difference in Squeek's life to keep her around for as long as we can.

Here's some helpful pet links:
Pet Success Stories Using Nature's Remedies
Natural Heartworm Programs
Pet Supplements Catalog by Health Topic
Adopt A Pet - Search For One Near You

Nature Makes Us Happy

Intuitively, we know something in us responds to nature, even as most of us live our workaday lives further and further removed from flora and fauna. When we enter a forest or garden there's a part of us that switches on and we dream.

Learn why contact with animals, plants and nature may be a potent antidote to stress, distracting us from worrisome thoughts, reducing anxiety and lowering blood pressure in this article at National Wildlife Federation website.

Gardening For Monarch Butterflies

We've been enjoying so many butterflies, especially the Monarchs. My auntie mentioned that looking at a Monarch makes you realize where they got the idea for stained glass. That was a great comparison. They are such a work of art.

The Monarch here came from the chrysalis beside it and it's on what we call Butterfly Bank here at Bluebird Cove. The small bank by the mailbox was designated as a butterfly depository of eggs since we transplanted a number of native meadow plants from nearby before they developed the area.

Milkweeds are the only plant that butterfly larvae (caterpillars) will eat, so it's very important to protect such plants. We were grateful that the developer allowed us to take as many plants as we wanted from the field. The exciting part is that these are plants that have been used to making it on their own and that was needed for this area down by the road since it's not easy to get water to it.

Earlier this year we received a cash gift from some dear friends I've mentioned before. Louise and Charlie Allred. Charlie made the steel Butterfly Bench that is such a treasure to us. Louise loves butterflies so it was very appropriate that we used that cash to have Bluebird Cove designated as one of the Monarch Watch certified way stations. The local paper did an article on us with photos and this Monarch photograph was included. Our picture was taken in front of the sign we also purchased with the gift cash.

Hopefully this sign will cause others in our neighborhood to think about not only butterflies but other species that need a little help from us in the crazy world of "progress."

Several of the many walkers that come by have already asked to see the garden and other friends in the community have asked questions.

Enter the word monarch in the search engine of our photo gallery for more Monarch photos.

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