Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scrawny Tail Squirrel

With all the possible critters that come with living by some woods, there is the reality of death also. Each one of the critters that lives on our one acre we call "Bluebird Cove" is special to us.

Recently one little squirrel was especially noticed because its tail dragged on the ground and had absolutely no fluff to it. We named her Scrawny Tail. Then days later I noticed that there was a wound on the tail. When I took photos I could see that it was really bad and several inches long, so we borrowed a humane trap and took her to the nearest wildlife rehab place, The Wildlife Center, in Lyndhurst, Virginia.

There are directories online for wildlife rehabilitators, so if you find a little critter that needs help, search to find one and you can make a difference in the animal's life. We've taken several animals for rehab, but only one has made it, which we picked up to release where we had found it. It was a turtle that had been hit in the road. What a joy to be able to be part of returning it to it's wild life.

Scrawny Tail didn't get to be released. She was sent on to Heaven because the tail had three broken bones that protruded in several places and the wounds were so bad that amputation would've been necessary.

She couldn't survive in the wild without a tail. It's used for balance and in winter they wrap it around themselves to stay warm enough so as not to freeze.

It was hard to let go. I wanted so badly to bring her back to release her here and continue to feed her the little treats she enjoyed. Dried apricots seemed to be her favorite within the handful of nut and dried fruit mix I was throwing out at the time.

I would not have chosen for her to suffer just so I could enjoy her being here. Sometimes love means letting go. Often, we don't get our own way or what we want, since our way isn't always the best way. The hard part about that is recognizing that our way isn't the best way ... it all seems to logical and right in our own minds.

There's so much about life that we don't understand. We need to have Faith to know that Somebody knows more than we do and can see the whole picture that we cannot see. The picture, given me by a dear friend, is my Mom, who is also in Heaven, feeding Scrawny Tail till I arrive.

Our place is full of critters, so I've been well entertained. Flowers are blooming too, and those blooms always make me sniff and smile. Life goes on and being able to adapt and be flexible is a life-long classroom for me.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Joyful Squirrel

Last year a special friend visited and brought me some cute little signs for the yard. One said, "Leap For Joy." A few days ago, I was watching the squirrels play outside and one of them took a liking to the sign, stood up and read it, and then considered whether or not to comply.

Take a moment, slow down, and enjoy the photo story of the joyful squirrel. Click the double arrows to the right to flow through the photos. Be sure to add your own comments or titles as you view. Subscribers love to read the variety of titles displayed and so do I.

What a gorgeous time it's been here on our little acre. I've been converting seeded flower beds into more perennial beds.

Life is too short to make everything difficult and I seem to have had a knack for doing things the hard way over the years. If you can relate to that at all, you will enjoy my article, Life Is Hard.

Take some time off, alone, just you and God. It's okay to get out there in Creation and enjoy it. After all, we were made to live in a garden and fellowship with God. Why do we fill our lives with so much other stuff?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Life Is Hard

by Donna L. Watkins

Does that thought run through your mind? Do you hear yourself thinking and saying these words? For most of us who were raised in a home with a Protestant work ethic, this is a belief system. Without knowing it, our lives are designed and orchestrated around it.

Some of the thoughts that go along with this foundational belief system are:

Life is full of sorrow.

Suffering is worthy.

Pain is a virtue.

This life is unpleasant.

There's no hope for lasting pleasure on earth.

Life will never give me enough.

Pleasure is indulgence.

Wealth is wrong.

It's immoral to have when others have not.

Life is about working and producing.

From these beliefs, we make life choices that are based on continuous hard work with little pleasure.

As Christians, we can really buy into all of this since sacrifice and "sharing in Christ's sufferings" seem so spiritual and holy. The more you suffer, the better you become (in some way).

This causes a lot of judgment of of others, who don't "spin" 24/7, and who appear to be self-indulgent, shallow and strictly fun-loving if they take time for leisure and play. Yet, Christ told us we have to become as children to understand the Kingdom and to see our loving Heavenly Father as He truly is. If we don't play and enjoy life, we get bitter at others doing it. How much more loving could you be if life was fun? How would your influence on others change if you saw life as being good?

Do you remember more of life's difficulties than you do life's pleasures and blessings? Do you focus on the blessings of your days or all that went wrong. Life will be full of challenges for all ... but God doesn't shoot a machine gun full of troubles your way to get glory. He's a loving Papa. The devil's job is to mess up your life and if you're listening to his lies and believing them, you're only helping him.

One dear subscriber sent me a few articles after my last mailing and it reminded me to focus on thankfulness and gratitude and seeking God's face above all else. It's so easy to get wrapped up in your own troubles.

I've been wrapped up in this dis-ease that appears to be taking over my body ... but in reality my thoughts create a lot of what's going on. Have you ever noticed what you were thinking before an "attack" of whatever health issue you deal with? I sure have and I see clearly how much thoughts are involved in whether I am well or sick for the day. Give it a try! It takes awhile since our thoughts are automatic ... we don't even notice them, so to begin to notice them it takes patience and insight and determination.

Have you heard the saying, "Change Your Mind and Change Your World?" That says it all. We tend to create the environment around us that will justify our belief systems.

So ... if we think "Life is Hard" ... we will create enough chaos to make it so. Difficulties will be recited, rehearsed and remembered, while blessings are just a "bit of luck" in a bad day.

As if the present isn't bad enough ... we waste time projecting the past upon the future, expecting more hardship, suffering or poverty.

What if we filled our days and nights with good thoughts. Like when you're dieting and all thoughts turn to food. Why not fill our minds with thoughts like:

I can make life as happy as I want it.

I am worthy of having pleasure.

I am receptive to life's pleasures.

I am kind to myself.

I love myself.

The Golden Rule is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And remember what Christ said the second greatest commandment was (after loving God with all your heart)? It was to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31)

Maybe the reason we're so busy judging everybody and everything around us is because that's all we do to ourselves. If we don't love our own flesh, we will not be able to love others.

We see what we believe. If we believe life is hard ... we will be seeing all the "hardness" in life and miss all the good. God is good and wants good for us. Allow Him to show you His love each and every day in the blessings He gives you daily.

Life is Good!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Japanese Beetles

I like what Bill at Hilton Pond says about Japanese Beetles: "What we like is their metallic color and what is we don't like is everything else."

It's soon time for them to arrive here in Central Virginia and the rest of the East Coast. These persistent leaf-feeders were brought accidentally to New Jersey from the Orient in 1916 and they've not had any predator to keep them in control.

They are a gardening menace. I believe all things work for some good in the natural realm and I do know the grackles like them. We've got more grackles this year so maybe they'll work for their keep ... however, they sure do seem to prefer the feeders.

While I've been transplanting a lot of things in the garden, I come across the grubs that create these beetles. Not one to want to kill anything, I place them in the bird feeder so the grub-eating birds can find a treat amongst their usual fare.

Read the entire article about these pesty bugs at the Hilton Pond site.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Save Money While Vacationing

Vacation is a chance to get away from it all, but while you're gone, the bills keep rolling in. Or do they?

You probably know to put a hold on your newspaper and mail, but temporary service suspensions, which are offered for everything from your landline and wireless phones to your high-speed Internet and cable, allow you to shut down your service (and those monthly bills) while you're away. Setting it up is as simple as calling your providers and asking for a "vacation service," or, alternately, a "temporary suspension."

Read the entire article.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

About American Toads

I'm listening for their mating calls. The American Toad is probably the toad most often noticed here in our central area of Virginia. Forests, lawns and gardens are their preferred habitat so they set up residence in our forested backyard near the pond when they're ready to mate.

They patrol our garden and eat lots of insects, spiders, earthworms, snails, and slugs. They will eat just about anything that fits into their mouths. They lash out with their sticky tongues to grab the prey. If the prey is large, they'll use their arms to stuff it into their mouths. That's not the table manners of somebody you'd like to invite to dinner.

They are large and chubby, growing up to 4-1/2 inches long. The coloration varies within the brown, olive and reddish colored range. Both male and female toads have a spotted belly, but the male has a darker throat as shown in the photo of a male calling for a female on the edge of our small backyard pond.

This toad prefers cool woodland and edge areas with plenty of moisture and insects, but will visit meadow and garden if cover is adequate for protection. I've seen them patroling in the front of the house around the bushy areas.

During daylight hours they generally seek cover beneath porches, rocks, leaf litter, flat stones, boards, logs, wood piles, or any other cover. They primarily lead a terrestrial life but move to ponds and pools to mate and lay eggs. That's when you get to hear their long-winded song.

American Toads are most often seen and heard in the Spring when they are breeding. Toads call from mid-spring to late summer and their call is a long, high-pitched trill that lasts for as long as thirty seconds, making it easy to identify them at night when they are most active. The males find pools of water and begin to call for females. He stretches out his dewlap (the pouch at his throat) to create this unique song that many people mistake for crickets. Crickets sing in the Fall, toads sing in the Spring.

Females, who are attracted to the calls of males, reach the water and mating begins. Males will hug the larger females and the female will lay between 4,000 and 7,000 eggs, in long strings, in the water, and then leave the site in a few days.

Many people are confused between frogs and toads. Toads have warty dry skin since they prefer a drier habitat, but like all amphibians, they need to keep their skin moist so they will remain near water. Frogs have moist or slimy skin preferring a wetter environment and will remain close to their source of water at all times. The bumpy skin on toads helps to camouflage them.

Because their skin is so thin and easily damaged , it's best not to pick them up, but if you have them around as much as we do, I have to give one a hug now and then. There are a few rules if you're going to pick up toads or frogs. First make sure your hands are clean. Amphibians are the species that will first disappear in a toxic environment.

Their skin will absorb the chemicals from hand lotions or anything you may have on your hands, so make sure they are clean AND wet. Their skin is very thin and easy to damage so wet hands are very important so your enjoyment doesn't shorten its life.

By the way, people do not get warts from toads or frogs. Warts come from a human virus.

Tadpoles will hatch from the eggs in about a week. The black tadpoles will steadily grow by eating algae and plant material for over a month and will then emerge from the water as small young toads. They now have lungs to breathe out of water.

Most folks like to have a pond that looks like it's ready for a garden commercial. We keep ours pretty natural which means there's some algae in it and plenty of leaves on the bottom, not only for food but also for the frogs and tadpoles to winter over at the end of the season. It's not crystal clear and certainly not blue. That makes it very appealing to the frogs. We also don't have any fish which would eat the tadpoles but even frogs eat tadpoles, especially bullfrogs.

The main predators of toads include snakes, owls, skunks and raccoons. The toads have paratoid glands behind the eyes which produce a foul-smelling, toxic chemical that will keep some predators from attempting to eat them.

When cold weather comes, these toads will dig backwards into a burrow up to three feet under ground to hibernate. With our clay soil here in Virginia I do wonder how they do that. For now I'm listening for their song which I love to hear as I fall asleep.

How To Know If Your Cat Is Sick

Even with balanced nutrition and a good amount of love and attention, cats can still get sick. By spotting the symptoms, you can try to prevent or cure your cat's illness with the proper medical care.

Here's a wikiHow article to give you some tips and warning signs

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Couple Wants Yellow Jackets, Wasps or Hornets

Yellow jackets are fascinating creatures and Norman and Debbie Patterson truly enjoy and benefit from these critters. While everyone else is running from them, they have a seasonable business in which they seek them out. They remove yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps free of charge for homeowners. The homeowner is thrilled for this free service. And besides money what does the couple get out of this? Read the entire story.

Monday, May 7, 2007

How Do Birds Learn to Sing?

© 2007 Donna L Watkins - Boat-tailed Grackle
FL Welcome Center
In contrast to most animals, songbirds, like humans, learn the vocalizations they make. Studying how they do it may shed light on how people learn to speak. Like a French child raised by English-speaking parents, a young songbird raised by a different species of adult, or with recordings of a different species, will end up learning the “wrong” song, and will produce only an odd, improvised tune if it is raised in isolation.

A vocal non-learner such as a phoebe or a dove, on the other hand, will sing its species’ correct song even if it’s brought up by another kind of bird, or by none at all.

Read the entire article at the NWF website.

Fledged Finches and Empty Lives

by Donna L. Watkins

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out. - Abraham Lincoln

They were recently out of the nest. Two juvenile Purple Finches experiencing life and all that comes with it for a bird from a new fresh viewpoint. After being crammed together with growing siblings pushing you up and over the nest that was comfortable when you first arrived, life looks pretty great and exciting flying about from tree to tree and one discovery to the next.

Finches are social birds so it's common to see nestlings remain together as they learn what life is about. Those of us who are the independent types and less people-oriented would do well to study the benefits of being more socialable. It may not take us as long to learn many of life's lessons that we tend to get from the "school of hard knocks."

I've seen wrens visit our gutters frequently and assumed it to be a good source of bugs. When it rains there must be bugs that get washed out of the skies and onto rooftops, to end up as a tidbit for a bird in the trough. I thought these two still downy-looking finches were too young to know that gutters might have food.

Then they began drinking. They had been attracted by the reflection of standing water in our gutters. Living in a wooded area provides a never-ending supply of leaves in gutters, so now I've seen a benefit to that. Those leaves keep the water from draining and provide water for the friendly visitors of the skies. I tucked that information away for a future excuse for delaying our gutter-cleaning.

After filling up on gutter tea, the one finch jumped down into the gutter as the other looked on seemingly surprised. The adventuresome one tossed a bit of water by shaking itself, but there wasn't enough room to consider it a full-service bird spa, so he hopped out and flew on with the "watcher" following after.

As with people, animals have personalities. Some are more adventuresome than others. Some are leaders, some are followers. Some are fearless, some are cautious. God made us all differently and uniquely to accomplish His purpose in and through us. Do you think that's why we seem to always end up marrying somebody so opposite of ourselves?

So often we are too busy admiring (could we say envying?) somebody else's design that we do not appreciate the skills and talents we have. We want the abilities that somebody else has that we think are important. The results are generally that we never find our own purpose in life while we are thinking "the grass is greener" in somebody else's purpose.

I read an article awhile back entitled, "Purpose: Seventy Five Percent of The Battle, by Ralph Williams." He stated that "life was a constant quest for balance, peace and acceptance. Find these three and all of a sudden, you have virtue and security." He said with all five you end up with purpose. You will never be a whole person without discovering your true purpose for being on this planet. Look around at the millions of people searching for purpose. They're looking for it in their jobs, their role in the family structure, or in their recreational activities. It's like an elusive butterfly darting here and there while we find that it's impossible to catch up to discover who we were meant to be.

That leaves many in a daily state of despair, discouragement, doom and depression. Millions are alleviating their pain with food, clothes, cars, houses, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, shopping or simply becoming numb to life and the world around them. They don't know where to begin to look for their purpose. It seems it may have been misfiled at birth, never to be found.

We run around doing what we have to do, what we think we should do, and don't take the time to find out what we were created to do besides worshiping our Lord and Savior.

Activity works well as blinders, but it ends up back into the same daily state of despair, discouragement, doom and depression. It's the never-ending self-rejection syndrome of never making it over the bar we've set for ourselves.

We'll never find our true self, or love the person we were made to be, if we keep living life trying to be somebody else. Ralph Williams, in his article, provides a rather simple way of discovering purpose. He says, "Assess yourself and put a finger on the things you do almost effortlessly but don't pay much attention to: the thing you do that makes other people sometimes ask, "how did you do that?" and you reply, "oh, it's really nothing."

He says to ask this question: "what do I do that is usually a benefit, help, or blessing to a number of people?" There is a great chance that your purpose is right in front of your face. There is a greater chance that once you accept it, you will find the peace and meaning in your life that you have always chased but never been able to catch."

If we get rid of comparing ourselves and always wanter the "seemingly" greener grass, we're left with all the peace, joy and contentment that God offers if we walk in who He made us to be and not seek what we think or have been told we should be.

Ask others what they think you do well. You've been looking for yourself in all the wrong places ..... discover who you are and fall in love with you. You will find a tremendous feeling of peace and joy that the world cannot give you. Inside there's a knowing of who we were made to be ... we can see it, but we just can't imagine purpose could be that easy.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Animal Funerals

Some biologists have described behavior reactions as "funeral behaviors" although their function is unexplained since their discovery in 1972.

When a Yellow-billed Magpie dies, other magpies may descend on the carcass, hopping and making loud squawking noises for prolonged periods. Could they be expressing grief? Because rarely observed, research has not progressed on this subject.

African elephants take a strong interest in corpses, bawling around them, touching them with their trunks, burying them with tree branches, picking up bones and tusks, and even passing bones to other elephants, or taking them with them when they leave the area.

Chimpanzes are also known to respond to death much like humans by crying out for prolonged periods.

One thing evident is that these "funerals" seem to occur in species that live in groups.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Did You Know? - Nature Facts

Mice sing, but, like bats, at a pitch higher than can be detected by human hearing.

Every night, wasps bite into the stem of a plant, lock their mandibles (jaws) into position, stretch out at right angles to the stem, and, with legs dangling, fall asleep.

Ants stretch when they wake up. They also appear to yawn in a very human manner before taking up the tasks of the day.

Mosquitoes are attracted to the color blue twice as much as to any other color.

A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Dog Constantly Barks

by Cheryl Faulkenburry
Center Hill School

Q: My dog constantly barks all night long and the neighbors are beginning to complain. I go out and yell at him, but he just starts up again after I go back inside. He’s got plenty to do with a fenced in yard, a doghouse, and lots of toys. How can I teach him to be quiet?
A: I get this question a lot, but most people who ask it don’t like my answer --- bring the dog inside! Now, I know people have a million reasons why they can’t do that. Some say the dog is not house-trained, he gets on furniture, he chews things up, or they just don’t want the fur and dirt. The list goes on and on. However, I can come up with a much longer list of reasons why you shouldn’t leave your dog outside --- boredom leading to barking and self mutilation, sunburn, fly strike, heatstroke, frustration from passing dogs and humans leading to aggression, children teasing through fence, poisoning by neighbors, escaping, and theft with the intent on reselling the dog to a laboratory.

I could go on and on as well. Fortunately, there are far more solutions to the dilemma of behavior problems for the dog kept indoors than there are for a dog left outdoors. Training is the key. A dog is far easier to train if he is kept indoors with the family. Training is constantly happening when you interact with your dog on a continual basis instead of just a few moments each day with an outdoor dog.

You have to take the time to teach the dog good manners; they don’t just happen. Start by enrolling in a class to help both you and the dog learn how to communicate with each other. This, however, will not in itself teach the dog good house manners. Classes help give the dog some basic skills to then perfect at home. 

An indoor dog does much better during classes because they spend more time with their humans learning. Dogs also need plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Even though your outside dog may seem like he has plenty of place to run, he probably spends most of his day sleeping. He needs interaction with you - throwing a ball or a stick or taking him for long walks. Then he’ll be much calmer when you bring him inside.

 Keep an eye on your dog when you first introduce him to the house. A tether helps keep the dog near you so you know what he’s up to the whole time. Don’t give the dog too much freedom in the house at first so you can advise him on what is o.k. to do and what is not. Getting up on the counters, for instance, is a no-no. Call him away from the counters, ask for a sit and a down, and give him a nice stuffed Kong to keep him interested for a while. Soon you will have a dog who can come in and enjoy time with the family in the evening instead of barking and disturbing the neighbors.

A word to cat people:
Cats are also much safer indoors too. Many people feel their cat will not be happy if kept indoors, but they can learn to enjoy the comforts of indoor life. With feline diseases of Feline Immunovirus and Feline Leukemia, it’s so much safer to keep your cats inside. Plus there is the danger of other animals, cars, and poisons.

 To convert your cat to an indoor cat, be sure to have plenty of fun things indoor for your cat to do --- lots of climbing places, hiding spots to explore, and some catnip toys. You can even grow some organic catnip for nibbling. Take time to play with your cat every day to stimulate his desire to hunt and chase.

Building an enclosed cat run off the house gives cats a safe outdoor experience. A screened porch is also a fun place for cats to sun themselves. Consider bringing both Fluffy and Fido in for a loving family experience. They will be happier and healthier for it, and you will enjoy the loving companionship of a lifelong furry friend.
Get details on phone and email consultations with Cheryl.

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