Monday, August 27, 2007

Garden Railroad and Koi Pond With Bridge

I recently discovered somebody in the community we live in had a Garden Railroad. I'd never heard of such a thing but grew up loving trains because my Great Grandfather would take me to the station to watch the trains (and to get chicklets from the vending machine :-)

I loved to climb on the caboose and I still love to hear a train whistle. It's one of those sounds that makes me smile.

Besides the garden railroad, the guy had built an enormous pond with a bridge and added koi to it. The small backyard was an oasis. It amazed me at what can be done with a bit of space. You don't need acres to create paradise nearby. View photos of garden railroad and pond.

If Your Life Spinning Out of Control?

Do you ever feel like you're spinning around trying to get into what you want in life and it just stays locked shut?

This isn't what I call a great photo, but it illustrates how we are sometimes determined to control our lives and have our own way ... when God's got another place for us to feed.

This squirrel on our squirrel-proof feeder had a very frustrating time. View the photo album of this story in pictures.

On Labor Day I'll be 57. Birthdays make me reflect a lot. I've been trying for a very long time to dedicate myself to working more on me to find a way around the rheumatoid arthritis. God's mercy and natural remedies have brought me this far for the past 21 years with the disease, but I've sensed the Lord telling me for the past 5 years to switch "careers."

In 1982 I began a home business that God blessed and grew too large for only me, so Randal joined in 1988. I don't seem to be able to separate work and personal time well. I have always been a "do it now" person and enjoy tasks more than taking care of me. Part of my job is to do 17 publications a month. That's been my favorite part of work, but I've argued with God enough on this and since this year marks the 25th anniversary of the corporation, it seems quite an appropriate year to let go.

Why does it take us so long? God's patience is unending .. but we miss out on the better that He has for us in delaying. I don't know what all that "better" will be, but I am excited to finally take the turn off the expressway to arrive where ever He is leading.

This blog is the result of getting out of the business. One place to archive years of information on subjects I have a passion for. As I share what God is challenging me with, there are some of you that are walking the path alongside me. That has put many smiles on my face over the years from your emails. Together we will choose obedience and His path rather than our own. Thanks for all your encouragement!

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:

Hard Times, Easy Times

"I am afraid that all the grace that I have received from my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, my pains and my griefs, is altogether incalculable." -- Charles Spurgeon

Garden Seed Swapping

© Donna L. Watkins - Male American Goldfinch

Our green-headed coneflower are seeding and the American Goldfinches are all over them as you can see from the photo.

It's that time of year when plants are forming seeds to repopulate themselves next year, to feed the birds that are migrating through, and so you have seeds to share with others.

DO NOT deadhead your plants or clear them out of the ground at the end of their bloom time. Leave them to feed the migrating birds. We tidy up our yard in the Spring. The plants also offer cover to overwintering beneficial insects. We've seen praying mantis egg cases and butterflies will winter over in chrysalises to emerge in Spring.

There's something miraculous about seeds. Such a tiny thing and yet it holds the strength and power of what will become a plant that will sustain the lives of wildlife, insects, birds and butterflies. All while providing the visual enjoyment and beauty that flowers bring to our lives.

Swap seeds with other gardeners. Here's a few sites to get you started:,, and Dave's

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Non-Toxic Approach To Yellow Jackets

by Donna L. Watkins

The Eastern Yellow Jacket is the best known wasp here in Virginia where we live. Yellow Jackets can be found in all of North America with the Western version being identified by the first antennal segment being yellow, rather than black in the Eastern species. They are social insects that live in nests in the ground, or at ground level in stumps and fallen logs.

Yellow jackets feed their young large numbers of insects that might otherwise damage trees or crops, so they are considered beneficial to agriculture. They chew up the insects and feed it to the larva. The insects are very important to our ecosystem and gardens since they eat garden pests and play a role in pollination while the adults feed on flower nectar.

If you find yellow jackets where people and pets won't bother them, it's a good idea to leave them alone. If they are in an area that must be dealt with, there are some solutions below that are less toxic to you, your pets, and the water supply.

In the Spring, a mated female (the queen) will build a new nest that is surrounded by a paper envelope underground. They use rodent burrows or other natural openings for sites. The queen begins laying eggs and daily brings food to the larvae until the first brood matures and those females serve as workers, extending the nest and tending young.

All Summer workers increase in number as the nest also increases in size. In late Summer, males develop from unfertilized eggs and then mate. By Fall there can be thousands of yellow jackets in a nest and this is generally the time of year they become a problem. The odors of meat, fish, and sweet substances are particularly attractive to the wasps. In early Fall, the yellow jackets especially prefer sweet things, as shown in the photos. These were attracted to the very overripe apples that we'd purchased from an orchard for the woodland critters in September.

Most Yellow Jackets, other than the queens, die with the first frost and the nest is abandoned and typically not used again as is the case with hornet nests. Most yellow jackets defend their nests vigorously, and being near a nest means you're likely to get stung. The females sting repeatedly with the Eastern Yellow Jackets being the most aggressive. Those that nest above ground seem to be somewhat less touchy.

When our son, Benjamin, was about 13 years old, he was using the weed eater in the front woods to trim along the paths through the woods. We lived in Alabama at the time. He obviously got near a nest because he came running to the house yelling for help and had bees coming out of his pants and t-shirt. Besides the multitude of bites, my husband and I were slapping him all over to try to get the biting bees off of him so he could get inside.

With the large amount of stings (we later counted 41), we knew we had to get some Lobelia Essence on those bites to draw out the poisons topically and take away the pain, while we had him drinking Vitamin C Ascorbates and taking Licorice Root (a natural cortisone) to prevent allergic reactions. Yucca could also be used in place of Licorice Root.

It's certainly a blessing to keep an Herbal Medicine Chest in our home. It would've been an awful experience for him to have to stay in pain all the way to ER and then get shots. By then, he would've absorbed so much of the toxins into the bloodstream that we would've been concerned about him having serious allergic reactions to bee stings in the future.

Do all you can to stay away from their nests. Don't swat at those that approach you since this provokes them to sting in defense. As much as you can, do not fear bees, because your thoughts instantly create a chemical reaction that is evident on your skin and creates an aggressive behavior pattern in the bees.

Avoid wearing perfume, hair spray, or other scented body care products. Don't wear bright red, orange, or yellow clothes which can attract yellow jackets. They can be persistent, clever and difficult to manage, but that doesn't mean you should reach for a spray can to deal with the problem.

When I fell in love with God's Creation, I got over my fear of buzzing, creepy, and crawly things. That's obvious from these photos since I was within a few inches of them to get the detailed close-ups. I focused on their awesome design and diligent work ethic, and they focused on eating. The word 'co-existence' came to mind.

Obviously that can't always be the case if you've got pets and small children running around, but that's all the more reason why you don't want to spray poison, besides considering the birds, earth and water supply.

If you can find the opening at night with a flashlight, you can place a transparent bowl firmly onto the ground. The adults will be confused by their inability to escape and seek food in daylight. They will not dig a new escape hole and will soon starve to death. Not a pretty mental picture, but poisonous chemicals don't create a pretty picture either.

There are other pesticide-free alternatives. If you are doubtful about effectiveness, search for information online about Waterfront Park Baseball Stadium in New Jersey. In only 5 days they emptied the stadium of 70,000 yellow jackets in a non-poisonous way.

Traps can be an effective, pesticide-free method for managing yellow jackets and they can be purchased or homemade. You'll find some examples online at and In some areas of the country there are people who will collect yellow jackets, hornets and other wasps for medical labs who use them for sting allergic patients (see

Dogs Trained As Lifeguards for Swimmer Rescues

With 400 deaths per year resulting from drowning off the Italian coast, officials need all the help they can get. Labrador Retrievers are lending a paw through a new training program for 25 lifeguard dogs that utilizes their natural ability to know when a human is in danger. The dogs are trained at 10 schools around Italy requiring two years of rigorous training. Read ABC news article.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rare Bird Alert In Your State Delivered By Email

Imagine having all the reports of rare birds entered at the eBird website for your home state delivered straight to your desktop. That's what the new eBird Rare Bird Gadget does. They have developed a Google Gadget to deliver rare bird sightings straight to your desktop including important details such as observer information and mapping information.

Any record submitted to eBird that requires the user to click the "Rare species" link on the checklist page will now appear on the rare bird gadget. You'll know within minutes when someone reports a great bird in your region. If you're a birder that keeps a life list (a record of all the birds you've ever seen), you'll want to know if something is nearby that you might be able to add to your life list.

This is a tiny grain of information on what the site actually has available for you, so visit eBird to discover what excites you most.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Faith vs. Control

Source: Word For You - August 22, 2007

When you obsess over problems instead of looking to God for solutions, the enemy will magnify your fears. If he can't get you to worry about the present, he'll remind you of everything that could go wrong in the future!

The last time you checked, wasn't God still bigger than any terrorist attack, financial disaster, illness, accusation, or mess you found yourself in? [actually to think of the way I magnify issues, it appears that God isn't that big at times]

He hasn't changed! David said, "He won't go to sleep ... The Lord is ... at your right side ... will keep you safe ... where ever you go." (Psalm 121:3-8 CEV)

It all comes down to faith vs. control. You can:

a) struggle to handle things on your own or
b) trust your Heavenly Father

It's not about 'blind faith,' it's about believing that God is who He says He is. And it's an issue you need to settle in your mind once and for all, because if you don't believe He wants only the best for you, you'll keep trying to run the show.

Control isn't responsibility. [I always say I'm such a responsible person about things.]

Responsibility is doing your part by praying, obeying, and trusting God. Control is manipulating the circumstances to engineer the outcome you want. Jesus knows how we like holding on to things we're not wise enough to control, so He said, "If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. [Boy, haven't I wanted to save my life just the way I want it and like to have it!] But if you give it up ... for me, you will save it." (Luke 9:24 CEV).

Bottom line: you either trust God or you don't.

Source: Word For You - August 22, 2007

Seeking Peace

by Donna L. Watkins

Photo: Morven Estate
Catherine Marshall writes, "A king once offered a prize to the artist who could paint the best picture of peace. Many tried, but there were only two the king really liked. One was of a calm lake. It was a perfect mirror for the peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.

The other picture had mountains too. But they were rugged and bare. Above them was an angry sky from which fell rain, and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountains tumbled a waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in spite of the rush of angry water, she sat on her nest - in perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Why? 'Because,' explained the king, 'Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the middle of all these things and still be calm in your heart.'"

Do we pass through each day with a calm heart? Peace is not in the absence of troubles, but in the promise of God's presence in your moments. In Him we can trust and rest like the bird on the nest, knowing that all will be well while the angry world around us keeps flowing.

How about a calm mind? That's my downfall! The power of the mind and thoughts rule the day. Our moods, attitudes and behavior are all determined by what we choose to think about.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9

Are you a peacemaker? Generally we think of that as mending relationships and responding to anger with a soft answer, and forgiving offenses. But what about the battle in the mind? Are you a peacemaker there? Do you win the daily battle with the mind? It will determine your peace, joy and state of health.

Matthew 5:23-24 says, "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

Let's take that Scripture inward. Do you settle matters quickly with your negative and condemning thoughts against yourself? Do it "on the way" not later. You can't allow a bad attacking thought to run free rein. It will literally take you into a prison of depression and misery.

Settle it quickly! Because if you don't, your life and health will suffer. In reading "you will not get out until you have paid the last penny" reminds me of how much money we spend trying to find health when so many times, it's found within the strongholds of our mind. The entrenchments we've made with continuous attacks against ourselves and others eat away at our bodies.

If you want some direction, "A More Excellent Way" is a book that relates emotional thoughts and beliefs to specific diseases. There is a ministry that deals with health problems in this manner: Pleasant Valley Church in Thomaston, GA.

Bottom line is to get off your back! The world is tough enough without us condemning ourselves for past failures and not so perfect life choices, but why continue to make the same choice that you're already condemning? Isn't it time to make today the first day of peace and joy by letting the past go. You can't change it, but if you let go of it, God can make it all good if you trust in Him.

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:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Non-toxic Pesticide Solutions For The Garden

Going the natural route with your health carries you into other territories since you begin to think about the chemicals around you. Not only in your foods, but in your home and garden.

Learning more about the natural world outside the home helps us to achieve a more balanced holistic lifestyle. This blog provides articles on various creatures in the natural world. You might find helpful information on Yellow Jackets, Paper Wasps, Japanese Beetles and Cottony Scale, Ants and Aphids and a lot more.

Non-toxic options are available at Gardens Alive, Gardeners Supply, and Beyond Pesticides. Many local garden supply centers are stocking natural alternatives for the home and garden. Inquire and let your requests be known.

You could also choose to make your own non-toxic pesticides.

Related Posts:
Plants That Deter Bees and Wasps
Living With Beneficial Paper Wasps

Dietary Supplements Face Stricter Regulations

For the first time, makers of dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbal pills, will be required to test their products, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which passed in 1994, supplement makers were told they must be able to substantiate the safety of their ingredients. Now, 13 years later, the FDA's announcement represents the actualization of that requirement.

The agency is phasing in the new rule requiring supplement makers to test the purity and composition of their products. Big companies will have to comply by next June, while small companies have until 2010 to start testing their products. Read the entire news story.

Note: Nature's Sunshine (NSP), the brand we have sold for 25 years, has always tested their ingredients and manufactured to pharmaceutical standards. With NSP you don't have to wonder if what's on the label is in the bottle. Law or not, it's a matter of integrity to NSP. They guarantee purity and potency. More details?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Don't Kill Monarch Caterpillars

Monarch CaterpillarIn a newsletter I write, I included a photo of a Monarch caterpillar that we now have on a milkweed plant, which were planted for the Monarchs. We actually have several of them and I'm so excited to watch them grow fat. They start out very tiny and you can hardly see the colors that you see here on this adult.

After posting the photo, somebody emailed me heartbroken because she had just destroyed some of these caterpillars on her milkweed, which she had also planted for the Monarchs, but she was thinking of their final stage of life, not their beginnings.

Most people only think of the butterfly stage of a Monarch's life because it's the one always shown in photos, but the mission of a flying Monarch is to lay eggs for the next generation. The only plant species that they lay their eggs on are milkweeds. When we certified our Monarch Waystation, we already had them growing as a source of food for the caterpillars.

On the milkweed plants, the eggs turn into tiny but fast growing caterpillars until it's time for them to spin a chrysalis from which the butterfly emerges that is seen flying.

There may be others who have killed these caterpillars, so I thought I would include a photo so you could realize what a special caterpillar this one is. The coloring is like no other.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Life Is In The BEING, Not In The Doing

by Donna L. Watkins

Are you tired of all the DOING?

Wouldn't you like a little bit of time just to BE you?

Life is in the BEING....not in the DOING. We mentally agree to that with a huff and a puff and a rebuttle of, "Yeah, but you should see my schedule!"

Never have enough time? Always running from task to task? Desiring to scream, "Stop! I want to get off!" but can't find your voice - or the time to do it?

You can schedule time for you! You are in charge of the schedule you make and there is time in every day for you, if you'll reevaluate life! What do you believe you're here for? To do? To accomplish? To complete tasks? To 'get it all done' -- only to find that most of it needs to be redone again? What's driving you?

If you're really tired of it all --- and I mean really --- you can change your life! Driven people usually believe it's the people around them that require their busyness, but if we look inside, the deep desire is to be noticed and accepted or approved. Why would you ruin your health without something driving you to do so? It's not common sense to burn yourself out. Change can come but it won't be overnight.

You must first realize that your life is not about what you do! I believe we were created to fellowship with our God and the world He created for us. The world has become a rat race of who does the most and who does it best. Do you have conversations with people where you verbally recite the list of things you did the day before? Or have you done it as an answer to a question from somebody who wants you to do something else? The first thing we have to realize is that life will go on without us. That is beyond some people's imaginations. We tend to think everything will fall apart if we're not working the schedule.

Sit down and take an inventory. Write down every task you do - daily, weekly, and monthly. Now that you've got your list, don't let pride take over. It will look like it's impossible for one person to really do all of that!

So, instead of about a good dose of remorse? You'll get a good start on that when you make your second list.

Write down everything that you 'don't have time to do' that you would like to do. Include in that the things your family would put on that list --- after all, why bother to have a family, if you don't want to share life with them? Also list the really important stuff that you think would make life worthwhile.

Now look at the two lists. Pretend that you just moved out of the country and you are going to get a fresh start on deciding what you want your life to include. You'll have to picture yourself out of the country, knowing nobody yet, because we pressure ourselves into doing all kinds of things because of what 'somebody' might think or want.

Circle the things from either list that would make up a "My Life Is....." list.

Now that you can see all the things that you really don't want to be doing (the items that are not circled), how about scheduling a plan to get rid of those tasks or to delegate them to somebody else. You can adopt a frugal lifestyle which would allow you to pay somebody to do the necessary things that you might not really want to do (i.e. cleaning, laundry, yardwork). With a clear mind and some time spent gleaning frugal ideas, you can go a long way towards what you consider real life to be. You can start gathering ideas on site and forum.

It is okay to say "No." You may be the spark that lights somebody else's attempts at being who they really want to be also. Lead by example. Begin to simplify your life. In doing so, you may shuffle around a few friends. Those who still can't believe it can be done, or those who believe that what they do is who they are, will flee. As you change, you will draw unto yourself those who are on the path back to simplicity....those who have a little more peace than you do....those who seem to have found what life is really all about. If you're ready to head down this path, I wouldn't doubt that you can think of somebody that's been led into your path of life to show you there is a better way. Grab hold of their hand and let them take you down another road to a place that doesn't spin and sway from hurry, scurry and worry.

We really are not indispensable. Take hold of your life and schedule Peace and Joy instead of Hurry and Worry.....and imagine what it will do for those around you?

The world will still be okay if you take time to find out who you are and what you've been created for. We often miss our destiny and purpose in life because we get caught up in the "Tyranny of the Urgent." Back off and take charge and decide to be somebody different. Remember that not once in the Bible will you find mentioned that Jesus ever hurried, yet look at the awesome responsibility He had and the short time frame to work with.

Separate yourself and be who you were designed to be....and the first role of that design is to fellowship with God. Adam walked in the Garden with God. Noah walked with God. David was a man after God's own heart. Be a person who knows the Lord. If you plan to spend eternity with Him, why not become intimate now?

This is from "Utmost for His Highest," by Oswald Chambers: "The golden rule for your life and mine is this concentrated keeping of the life open towards God. Let everything else - work, clothes, food, everything on earth - go by the board, saving that one thing. The rush of other things always tends to obscure this concentration on God. We have to maintain ourselves in the place of beholding, keeping the life absolutely spiritual all through.

Let other things come and go as they may, let other people criticize as they will, but never allow anything to obscure the life that is hid with Christ in God. Never be hurried out of the relationship of abiding in Him. It is the one thing that is apt to fluctuate but it ought not to. The severest discipline of a Christian's life is to learn how to keep "beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord."

Martha Washington has been dead for 200 years, but somebody is still dusting her house. You do not have to be responsible for everything!

Copyright and Reprint Information
© 2007 Donna L. Watkins

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 active weblink to the blog:

This article, originally published at
blog, was reprinted with permission. Visit the author's website for more articles and free email subscription.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Only Today

by Donna L. Watkins

What would life be like if all we had to think about was this day, even this very hour? No other long list of issues and tasks, but only what is before us at this very minute.

This Swamp Hibiscus flower you see in the photo only lives a day. But in that day it provides nectar for the hummingbirds and butterflies, pollen for the bees, and beauty to the eyes for all those who take a moment to look and see the detail of God's care for us. He knows the number of hairs on our head.

Do you know some people who seem to go through life one day at a time? There aren't many .. but they're out there. Those of us who are driven to plan it all out, get it all done, and make it all happen, live life too fast to take much notice of these few that lag behind the pace of the real world. If performance and completed tasks is the way we evaluate (should we say 'judge') the value of people, we will discard these kind of folks as simply lazy.

The nation of Israel was under slavery in Egypt and prayed for deliverance. They surely begged God for help throughout their hard days with the taskmasters. Did they feel God had abandoned them? Do you feel like God has abandoned you during the hard seasons of life? We lament .. "If only I could change my circumstances." It brings a feeling of powerlessness to our lives when we get into situations that we can't control.

Not being able to control our circumstances makes it real evident that we are not living a life of "walking by Faith and not by sight." Each generation is more and more challenged with living by Faith because the world brings about solutions and conveniences for problems we haven't even thought of yet. All of these solutions take many into debt thinking they are needs. The advertising campaigns are powerful and big business seems to be running the show. But that's another topic ... and that's not where I'm going right now.

I always like to know which way to go and when to turn. I like for things to run smoothly and when I hit the proverbial brick wall, I begin to doubt that I'm on the right path. But that's not the way God works. Life doesn't flow happily ever after like in the fairy tales. Adam and Eve had some bad circumstances and life has been that way ever since.

Brick walls are very useful tools for God to mold and shape our lives and character. Character is what allows us to live peaceful and joyful lives knowing that all is well within, regardless of how much of a mess we see without.

The devil keeps trying to deceive us into thinking there's a 'perfect' path out there.

God tells us we are loved and that He watches over us and guides us and there is no direction we can take without Him using the experience for good in our lives, IF we love the Lord. (Romans 8:28) We are called to bring about His purposes on the Earth. That can happen in our good and bad experiences, but mostly seems to happen from bad experiences.

Playgrounds are grand and retreats are necessary, but life is about living it well and as Christians we've been given the tools to do that, but we have to choose to use them.

Most days, it's just about taking one step at a time and focusing on that one instead of looking ahead for the footprints that aren't there yet. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matthew 6:34b). Be honest! Doesn't most of your turmoil come from worrying about something that is not part of today? Either the past which is certainly silly since we cannot change it ... or the future, of which we must admit to ourselves we have no control over?

Matthew 6:34a says: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." If you're one of those that says, "Well, somebody needs to be thinking about it!" this verse says "somebody" is. Tomorrow will worry about itself. You aren't assigned to the job.

We are to have faith and trust in God. Trust in our Heavenly Papa. That's hard to do when you had earthly parents and others that you trusted in that didn't do what was right for you. And now what? Do you accuse God of being the same? It's so easy for me to forget all about God's love and grumble about what He's not doing for me here and now. And the emphasis is definitely on 'now.'

Did He not say,

I will never leave you nor forsake you?
You are the apple of My eye and you are engraved on the palm of My hand.
I am for you and not against you?

Do we believe these things? What we believe creates the world around us. What we "see" by our attitudes and personalities makes it so. Haven't you ever been with somebody that is so totally negative they don't see the wonder around them. I've stood in gardens and by flowing streams with negative people and there is no peace to be found in them. Their thoughts and words are painting a different world around them than what I see there.

There must be something we believe about "life is hard" that makes it so. What we think is what we create. We're made in the image of God and God created it all with a few words. The words we're speaking to ourselves are also creating things into being. What are they creating in your life?

The Scripture above, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" is prefaced by very important thoughts and followed by empowering words. Let me give it to you in a form that includes, in parentheses, a deeper Greek meaning of the words:

Hebrews 13:5 - "Let your conversation (manner of life, behavior) be without covetousness (without love of money); and be content (to be satisfied) with such things as ye have (the things which are at present around one, namely, one's circumstances): for he hath said, I will never leave thee (never leave you helpless, never let you sink, never neglect you) nor forsake thee (desert, or abandon you in the midst of a hostile circumstance)."

And what follows that?

Hebrews 13:6 - "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

Doesn't it just stir you to the bottom of your soul? We have a place to live where there is no fear. No fear of past failures making today a failure ... no fear of tomorrow because IF we believe and trust God today, our tomorrows will all be taken care of by His hand that has you engraved on it.

Do you really think you can do better than that? Sit back, soak up His Word, relax and take one moment at a time, unwashed by the past or possible future.

Nothing can satisfy the cry of a child of God but the Word of God! Keep it in you in thought, word and deeds. You'll be a whole lot kinder to yourself and those around you.

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:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hummingbird Moths In The Garden

One of many joys of the summer is the appearance of Hummingbird Moths at our flowers and butterfly bushes. You may have noticed that your flowers attract what looks like a hummingbird with antennae. These are commonly called Hummingbird Moths and unlike most moths that fly only at night, you will see them feeding on nectar from your flowers during the day. Hummingbird Moths live in fields, gardens, and forest edges and can be seen in our area in central Virginia from around April into October.

The most delightful thing about them is that they don't seem to mind you hovering over them as they hover over the flowers. They don't hover long since they move around the bushes and amongst the flowers fast enough to make most of the photos I've taken of them a mere blur.

Hummingbird Moths grow up to two inches long and are green, brown and shades of red. Tufts of hairs from the end of the abdomen look a lot like feathers. The wings of this moth are mostly clear, sometimes with some red near the body, explaining why they are also known as Clearwing Moths, losing the colored scales on their front wings after their first flight.

Their wings resemble leaded stained glass with clear glass in the panels, much like a bee or wasp wing.

After mating, female moths lay eggs on host plants that will feed the caterpillars when they hatch, such as honeysuckle, hawthorns, plum, wild cherry and viburnum. The caterpillars are yellowish-green with darker green lines and reddish spots on the sides. They also have a yellow tail horn.

Within the various species of these moths, you will find the Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms being the caterpillar stage for Sphinx Moths. Hornworms will not hurt you if you handle them since the tails can't pierce your skin or sting you. When a hornworm is alarmed he will tuck in his tiny head and expose his big white teeth that are really harmless suction cups. This makes him intimidating at both ends to predators!

When caterpillars are fully grown, they climb down the host plant and into the soil where they make a coccoon and become a pupa (resting stage). If it's not too late in the summer, the adult moths will hatch in a few weeks. If it is in the Fall, the moths won't come out until the following Spring.

Adult Hummingbird Moths feed on nectar from many flowers, just like hummingbirds. Some of their favorites in our yard are Highbush Blueberry, Blackberries, Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Bee Balm, Milkweed and Phlox.

They use a long, thin, needle-like mouthpart called a proboscis to eat. The proboscis stays coiled up like a garden hose until the moth approaches a flower. It then uncoils it and dips it deep into the flower for nectar as seen in the photo. The nectar is rich in sugar, which fuels the energy required for hovering.

Predators of Hummingbird Moths include birds, mantids (i.e. praying mantis), spiders, and bats, but camouflage is a great defense in avoiding detection by a hungry predator, and looking like a hummingbird works well for them.

Another moth considered to be in the Hummingbird Moth family is the Carolina Sphinx Moth which comes from the Tobacco Hornworm. This hornworm is green or brown with seven diagonal white lines on each side, and a horn arching downward at the end of the abdomen. This horn is commonly, but not always red. It can also be yellow, white, green, orange or the palest blue or. This caterpillar feeds on plants in the nightshade family which includes tomatoes and tobacco.

Adults may feed at flowers such as Moonflower, Morning Glory, and Honeysuckle. In our yard we've seen them mostly on Petunias and Cleomes (Spider Flower), which is the flower this night visitor is feasting on in the last photo.

It's easy to see why people mistake them for hummingbirds from a distance.  They hover and drink nectar in the same way as you can see in this video below of a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth that's feeding on phlox on our deck garden.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth  7-2-10

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Squirrels Are Entertaining and Challenging

Our naughty squirrels are a challenge. They are so entertaining and yet so challenging. They've recently chewed holes in the lid of our trash toter. What could they possible want in the garbage can that usually smells of cat litter?

This year to make it easier to clean out our 5 bird baths, I placed small brushes under a bush nearby each birdbath. In the past two weeks they sent out a search and return mission team and hauled them all off. Did somebody announce a squirrel scavenger hunt?

Did they take them to the head squirrel for some kind of reward or are they buried in the yard somewhere for a nice juicy plastic and bristle sandwich this winter? Earlier this year, I caught one on the front porch trying to haul away a ceramic snail that was as big as the squirrel's head.

My biggest disappointment was the deck planters that had reservoirs below to hold water so they wouldn't need to be watered daily. Our heritage petunias thrived in them. This year, they are not as well watered.

The squirrels chewed those openings down so that the water comes right out as you water. These planters are used by our Eastern Gray Tree Frogs who delighted in using the corners for their balcony to sing to the females.

Inside it was wet and cool ... until the squirrels converted them to hot and dry. The frogs have returned and chosen the planter that still has a bit of a "balcony" on it. They were still crooning to the females during their mating season which has now ended, even though they had a more primitive camp-out than previous years.

Living with the squirrels is a challenge at times, but then living with anybody can be challenging, and it doesn't mean you're willing to kick them out of your domain. It just gives us a chance to learn and grow and adapt. Life will never be perfect. We love our squirrels and they are quite delightful and entertaining. Did you see the squirrel with a hairdo that we had earlier this year? I've never seen anything like it. A ponytail on a squirrel tail. Click the double arrows to the right above the photo to see a closeup of it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Eco-Cemeteries - The Ultimate Recycle

There is a growing movement in England for farmers, local authorities and wildlife charities to establish Woodland or Nature Reserve Burial Grounds, often with a commemorative tree planted for each body there.

For instance, the city of Brighton, England is introducing eco-cemeteries where trees will replace traditional marble headstones. Bodies will be buried in coffins made of recycled cardboard. A three-acre municipal, back-to-nature cemetery with space for 3,000 graves has already been opened. The site will eventually become woodland, covered with winding trails and stocked with wildlife. Read entire article.

The Squirrel, The Feeder and God

I took a 14-photo story of a squirrel determined to get into one of our squirrel-proof feeders. It reminded me of how I can sometimes get determined to have something the way the way I want to have it ... when God already has a provision for me that's more accessible.

I can be very stubborn and hard-headed. Wanting life to go "my way" can make it very frustrating at times. View photo story.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monarch Caterpillars, God's Creation

In the wilderness we return to reason and faith. -- Emerson

We have Monarch caterpillars! I am so thrilled. A couple of years ago I discovered a Monarch that had just emerged from the chrysalis, stretching its wings and warming up for flight. This is the first year we've seen the larva stage of the Monarch in this beautifully colored caterpillar.

Mornings have been beautiful here at Bluebird Cove. So much activity outside our windows and around the porches. Creating a wildlife habitat has added so much joy to our lives and provided more entertainment than a wall full of videos or books.

God's Creation has so much to teach us and it is such an awesome gift to us. His request for us to "tend the garden" is certainly not work, but a labor of love that flows between Him and us as we experience the wonders of all He has created for our pleasure.

May the wonder of nature fill you to overflowing with love for its Creator and a close presence of His love for you!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wildlife Gardening

Native plants and wildlife go hand in hand. Your local plants and animals have evolved together and are dependent upon one another for survival. Plants provide animals with food, nesting sites, cover, and protection from the elements. Animals return the favor by helping to pollinate plants and spreading their seeds.

You can make your yard into a wildlife haven by selecting an array of native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants that are known to attract birds, bees, butterflies, mammals, dragonflies, and more. Many of our natives are outstandingly beautiful and easy to grow and maintain.

Get more how-to information on wildlife gardening.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Buying Green Products - Directory Resource

Check out the National Green Pages, Co-op America's publication to help you find green sources for just about everything on the planet. Visit and search by category or state for products and businesses that are green.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hiding Out

by Donna L. Watkins

[Like this funny squirrel picture? Read the titles people have added for this photo and have a good laugh. Laughter is healing. You can add your own title.]

Life's troubles and bad circumstances provide a great reason to climb into a shell to protect yourself. God tells us He will be our protection and that we are not to fear. We can never protect ourselves from problems even if we limit our involvement in life itself. Sin entered into the world and there is, and always will be until the Lord's return, evil around us.

There but for the grace of God, go I. We are all capable of being evil, but praise God, we chose salvation and we are now in Christ. No longer a resident of this world, but a child of the King. We can live within the Kingdom in the midst of all the evil.

We have promises of God that we can apply to life's injustices. Our human minds would like to have God just take away all the pain and sorrow, but that's not the eternal plan. It will be around us always until we depart from this world. Our mission, as Christians, is to show people there is a spiritual realm of safety and peace, above the earthly realm of bad events.

There is a 'hiding place' under the shadow of His wings. When we dwell in the secret place, we have the promises of Psalm 91. Designed within us is the ability to dwell with God here on earth, so that we can experience miraculous protection and provision amidst the horrors of this world. We can hide out with God, or hide out by ourselves by forming a shell of withdrawal around our hearts and souls.

We have a refuge always. It doesn't change all circumstances, but it can change the way you see them and the way you experience them. Isn't it true that those people you know who always talk about how awful life is, and how everything bad happens to them, are the ones that always have the "bad luck" they daily speak over themselves?

Choices, choices! We have them every second of our lives. Every thought we have triggers a physiological and psychological reaction in our bodies. Different chemical (hormones) are released based on our thoughts. When I'm in the garden, I am next to God. After all, He did create a garden and then place man and woman within it to fellowship with Him. Why wouldn't I be thinking grand thoughts and feel love flowing amidst His created beauty?

I used to have many fears when it came to bugs and buzzing things, but when I fell in love with God's Creation, those fears gradually melted away because "there is no fear in love." (1 John 4:18) I began to look at bugs and creepy crawly things as artwork of God. An amazing thing with a purpose of its own that is connected in some way to benefit our lives on earth.

Now I work amidst the flowers with bees buzzing at my ears and flying in my face and I get a warm glow just thinking about being so close to something that I used to fear so much. Learning more about bees has provided some surprising information. If you'd like to know more, here's a site with some facts about bees:

We miss out on so much of life when we withdraw into ourselves, rather than retreating into the safety that our Father provides for us. We grow as we relate - not isolate. In Him we can heal and move forward. We can find that the pain and torment we experience from attacks against ourselves is often times worse than what we experience in "the real world." We were created for fellowship - with God and with others. Take that step outside and God will carry you through.

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Squirrel Teaches Gardening Class

by Donna L. Watkins
© 2006 Donna L. Watkins - Squirrel Diving Into Popcorn
Are you a gardener? Do you enjoy planting things to see them grow and enjoy their blooms, fragrance or sheer beauty?

God has given us amazing gifts in Creation and within each creature or plant lie mysteries to be discovered. I was watching a squirrel the other day. Most people have watched squirrels at one time in their life. When I was a child, my great grandfather took me to a nearby park to feed squirrels and pigeons. We lived in the city, so our wildlife options were limited.

Although I grew up in the city, God created me with a place in my innermost being that unites with Creation because in reality we are all one with it. God's balance for us contains everything He created. There is nothing wasted. Doctors have thought that tonsils and the appendix are unnecessary organs, but science discovered that they have an important role in the body, being part of the lymphatic system.

My husband and I often discuss the best way to put a plant into the ground. Nursery tags have instructions, garden books have their own methods, and county extension agents have techniques. While watching one of our squirrels the other day, I thought how wonderful a gardener they are.

Our squirrels have planted great oak trees from nuts and beautiful sunflowers for us from feeder seeds.

It's obvious by the large number of oak seedlings that emerge each year, squirrels must be doing something right. They're not watering or fertilizing so how do they get so much to grow so well?

The squirrel digs a hole much bigger and deeper than the nut or seed. To keep it for a later meal, he only needs to get it under ground, so why dig a hole so much larger than the nut? God uses squirrels and other wildlife to plant, so their instincts are not geared only for survival food. The larger space of churned earth for the nut to take root is a need for the young roots and for the absorption of water when it rains.

They also stomp down the earth on top after they have buried it. That's not necessary to store the nut, but for it to take root, the ground needs to be in contact with the sprout that emerges. Then they cover the planting with surrounding leaves. We call that mulching to retain the moisture in the ground.

So, we do the same when we plant because Creation teaches us how to do many things better than a multitude of publications.

We had a wonderful day over in the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley looking at wildflowers, waterfalls, farms, an herb farm, grist mill, and walked a nature trail. View other travel albums.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Nature Crafts

All Free Crafts provides over 50 nature and gardening crafts, amongst all kinds of other craft ideas. The nature crafts use natural materials such as plants, herbs, rocks, twigs, mosses, vines, dried flowers, potpourri, feathers, gourds and seashells. Whether you are hiking, camping, or just ambling around the backyard, keep an eye open for free materials to use in your craft project.

View crafts at their website:

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Don't Buy Bottled Water

Drinking more water is a good thing ... but when it comes to buying bottled water, you may be better off with your own tap water according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

NRDC tested 1,000 bottled water samples from 103 brands, and found that one-third (1/3) contained contaminants that exceeded FDA-mandated levels. They found that one-forth (1/4) of bottled water is actually just tap water.

FDA rules allow bottlers to label their water "spring water" even though it may be treated with chemicals or mechanically pumped to the surface. There's no guarantee that the spring itself is a pure one. One brand of spring water traced to its source by the NRDC came from a spring that bubbled up into an industrial parking lot, adjacent to a hazardous waste site.

Besides the doubts on sources and contamination, it's a definite that bottled water has affected the environment. The production and transport of bottled water uses large amounts of fossil fuels. Fiji-brand water, for example, is transported to the US from Fiji, over 6,000 miles. The plastic water bottles that Americans alone use and toss in one year uses up more than 47 million gallons of oil, the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road and removing 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Sadly, 84% of these bottles are not even recycled. Pause and re-read those numbers for one year. You can make a difference.

Since the late 70's we have been purifying our own water. I'm not talking about a filter you put on the faucet that makes the water taste better but doesn't remove toxins. The best system you can get is reverse-osmosis (RO). I don't say that because Nature's Sunshine sells one. You can search for information on optional methods and RO always comes up high.

Bottled water is expensive for the budget also. The cost of a countertop system even with replacement filters comes out so much lower per gallon and you get to know that you have truly pure water to drink and cook with.

More on the importance of drinking water.

More about bottled water at the NRDC site.

Consider this 4-stage reverse-osmosis unit: Nature's Spring

Fertilizes and Medications In Bottled Water

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