Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unloving Spirit and Fear

Pastor Henry W. Wright -

The Unloving spirit and Fear are linked together side by side. Both are antichrist. An Unloving spirit is deeply rooted in Fear. When you don't like yourself, you are afraid of yourself and what others may think about you. Fear projects possible failures in how you think and how you act and constantly attacks self.

Then there is Self-rejection that accuses you to yourself and says that you are a mistake. Self-hatred and Self-rejection in the Unloving spirit produces one of the strongest evil principalities in mankind because we are hating and rejecting and refusing that which God made in His image and that which Jesus Christ died for. We are special. We are His beloved and we are eternal.

The USA - A No-Kill Nation for Pets

Every once in a while, you come across a very creative person — or two — with the commitment and determination to make a difference for a cause dear to their heart. Marina Dervan and Mark Barone are two such people. Their cause: make the United States the first no-kill nation on earth.

Dog lovers for decades, they are still mourning their 20-year-old dog, Santina, who died last year. Mark and Marina were beside themselves with grief. When they finally decided it was time to adopt a new canine into their lives, they started a search online and contacted shelters and rescue groups.

Through this research, they discovered some facts about homeless pets in the U.S. and were stunned to learn that most shelters have a 60% kill rate — or higher. They decided they had to do something about it.

“We simply asked ourselves…what can we do? We have got to get the truth out there, and stop the outrageous killing,” Marina told me in an email. ”How can we combine our talents to change the status quo, wake people up, so collectively we don’t remain silent about things that matter?”  The next day, Mark — a prolific artist — told Marina Read the entire article.

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Hotspots for Birding

Did you know that a list of great places to see birds is just a click away on the website?

Look for the red bar labeled "hotspots."
Select a state or province from the pull-down menu.
Then click "search."
Informative articles that have appeared in their magazine will appear.

Read "Hotspots Near You."
Read favorite locations for eagles, warblers, hummingbirds, shorebirds, hawks, and owls.

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Berkeley Plantation - Release of Five Eagles

by Donna L. Watkins

We had a very exciting day last week when we made the drive to witness five (5) eagles being released at the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia.  

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Eagle Release at Berkeley Plantation
When we were told that the public was invited to the release of the three eaglets that lost their mother when an airplane hit it, we couldn't resist.  Although it was a two-hour drive each way on a hot day, we knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Originally we only thought they were releasing the three, but we arrived to find out there would be five, which was also a first for The Wildlife Center's 30-year history, so a very special event in that way also.

We have been members of The Wildlife Center of Virginia since we moved here.  They have raptor releases quite often but never nearby and, of course, not always with invitations to the public.  We had been involved with a wildlife rehabilitation center when we lived in Alabama and had seen a Red-tailed Hawk release, but eagles are so majestic, they just give me the chills.

We arrived an hour early so we could stroll the grounds of the plantation, only to find a lot of others had done the same.  We weren't interested in touring the house since we wanted to see any of the gardens that were accessible to us.  After enjoying the field of huge sunflowers and zinnia garden filled with butterflies and a hummingbird moth, we strolled through shaded allees of boxwoods that seemed to speak of ancient times under huge oak trees.

Finally, we settled into the lawn area where the release was to take place.  We had a blanket so we put it under a tree on the shaded side of the lawn so I could go back and forth to photograph each speaker and each eagle release. The experience was a grand one, even though there was a sad note in that the fourth release came back down in a nearby area.

I tell the story in the captions of the photographs.  View photos and story of this grand experience at Berkeley Plantation.

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Clearwing Hummingbird Moths

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Clearwing Hummingbird Moth
This is the time of year that we love watching the hummingbirds in the garden. Flittering about in all their beauty ... and showing their greediness by battling other hummingbirds, convinced that being somewhere first gave them the right to not share.

Human nature is also seen in wild nature. I love walking about and learning from the wild things that reside or visit our wildlife habitat. Sometimes, it is quite refreshing to begin to think an accusation about a particular bird or animal, only to hear the Holy Spirit telling me that I have some of that same negative quality that I need to pay some attention to also.

Most people are familiar with hummingbirds. Here in Virginia, we only get the Ruby-throated Hummingbird on a regular basis. Rufous and Allen's have been spotted in places, especially during migration.

But rather than the hummingbirds we know and love, I wanted to let you know about Hummingbird Moths.  I recently took a video of a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth on the deck and after sharing it with a few friends, most of them said they'd never seen such a thing or even heard of it.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins
Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth
Yes, these are actual moths that feed during the day, and I've seen them feeding on the deck at night also. They really like garden phlox and petunias, but I've seen them on the butterfly bushes and, on an excursion to a plantation garden recently, they were enjoying zinnias along with a multitude of skipper butterflies.

The Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth is much smaller than a hummingbird and could be mistaken for a big bumblebee, especially with the coloring being the same in many ways.

These beautiful creatures come from the hornworm caterpillar. Yep, the same group of species the tomato hornworms are in. Adult stages of hornworms are known as sphinx, hawk, or “hummingbird” moths. So, if you see these big caterpillars with a "horn" at one end, leave them alone if you can.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillar
on Black Nightshade Plant on Deck
Last year we had a 'volunteer' plant come up in one of my deck pots.  A 'volunteer' is a term used for those plants that appear in your garden without being planted by you.

I love to wait and see what they are because I feel like they're a gift from God.  Either to teach me about another invasive plant that we never want to have in our garden ... or to give me the delights of another species and whatever that plant will attract to our habitat.

The plant that came up turned out to be a Black Nightshade.  The nightshade family includes vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, etc.  This family of foods has had some research in relation to inflammation in arthritis.

It produces small black berries for the birds so it was a blessing to get it and it has come back this year.  Although I have not seen a hornworm on the plant to date.  Sure have been hoping and looking.

View variety of hummingbird moth photos that I've taken.
View recent hummingbird moth video on deck.
More information on Clearwing Hummingbird Moths.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Surviving Extreme Heat and Power Outages

We’re to the part of the summer when the heat seems to be one of the big news stories. Conveniently, everyone seems to forget that it gets hot EVERY summer, so it makes good news.

Along with heat comes power outages, primarily from increased air conditioner use. Several cities are experiencing localized and/or regional brownouts and blackouts this week including Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit, and hundreds of smaller cities and towns.

The media loves this time of year. They can interview hot people, talk about where power is out and when it will come back on, and talk about all the people dying and being hospitalized from the heat.

As our population and electrical infrastructure ages, this is going to be a bigger and bigger issue. Throw in a local or regional disaster, and it’s an issue that almost everyone needs to have a plan for.

I want to start with heat related deaths and say that for the most part, they are a creation of the media. It actually makes me mad when I hear talk about people dying from the heat. It’s not only inaccurate, but it plants the idea in people’s heads that they might die simply because it’s hot out. In the majority of cases where people die from the heat in urban areas, the deaths are completely unnecessary and avoidable. It’s much more accurate to say that these people died from a lack of knowledge, rather than from the heat and a power outage.

Do people die when it gets hot out? Yes, but ask anyone who has deployed to the sandbox, done manual labor throughout the summer, or the millions of people who live in Africa and the Middle East without air conditioning and they’ll tell you that hot weather alone won’t kill you. Read the entire article.

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Easy Activities for a Nature Walk with Children

Usually, heading out to the woods or creek to mess around with children is plenty of fun without any special planning. Sometimes, though, it’s worth adding a low-key game or activity to help your kids see something new without “lecturing”, or to persuade them they’ll have fun when they’d rather stay in and watch TV. Get a few ideas for your next adventure.

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For more nature and gardening information, visit The Nature In Us.

Traveling Without Your Pet - What To Do

One of America’s favorite summer pastimes is vacation travel. Often, these trips do not or cannot include our pets, so what do you do with your beloved companion when you cannot take them along?

The most important thing is to not worry - the more we worry the less fun we have. Here are some of Dr. Sarah’s favorite tips to help your animals when you travel. Read the entire article.

Sponsored by Life's Abundance Pet Foods.

Eco Bulbs From Family Business

EcoTulips LLC is a family owned business founded in 2009 by Keriann and Jeroen Koeman who live their green lifestyle in nearby Brightwood, Virginia. Reduce, reuse and recycle is the guiding principle of the business.

It's not only tulips! They offer organic Crocus, Daffodils and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) also.

EcoTulips is the only company offering organic flower bulbs as part of an Eco Friendly Fundraising program. This program has proven to be highly popular among schools, scouting organizations, service clubs, churches, and other non-profits. Wholesale and retail sales of organic tulip, daffodil, crocus, and grape hyacinth bulbs are also available online.

In the news we read more and more about pesticide use and the negative impact on our environment. Together we can make a difference and keep this planet healthy! Buy organic plant materials.

When you plant pesticide free flower bulbs, you support organic farming and help reduce pesticide exposure in our environment. Read more.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Premature Baby Back From Dead After Two Hours

It was a final chance to say goodbye for grieving mother Kate Ogg after doctors gave up hope of saving her premature baby.

She tearfully told her lifeless son - born at 27 weeks weighing 2lb - how much she loved him and cuddled him tightly, not wanting to let him go.

Although little Jamie's twin sister Emily had been delivered successfully, doctors had given Mrs Ogg the news all mothers dread - that after 20 minutes of battling to get her son to breathe, they had declared him dead.

The Australian mother spoke publicly for the first time yesterday to highlight the importance of skin-on-skin care for sick babies, which is being used at an increasing number of British hospitals.

'He started gasping more and more regularly. I thought, "Oh my God, what's going on?" A short time later he opened his eyes. It was a miracle'

In most cases, babies are rushed off to intensive care if there is a serious problem during the birth.

But the 'kangaroo care' technique, named after the way kangaroos hold their young in a pouch next to their bodies, allows the mother to act as a human incubator to keep babies warm, stimulated and fed.

Pre-term and low birth-weight babies treated with the skin-to-skin method have also been shown to have lower infection rates, less severe illness, improved sleep patterns and are at reduced risk of hypothermia. Read the entire article.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Eastern Mennonite University and Eden Arboretum - Harrisonburg, VA

The Eastern Mennonite University is a leader among faith-based universities offering undergraduate, graduate and seminary programs that emphasize peacebuilding, cross-cultural understanding, sustainability and service to others.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Bridge at
Eden Arboretum - Eastern Mennonite University
The university’s Eden Arboretum is located behind the Suter Science Center. The arboretum is a one-acre greenland where ecology, biology education, and international agriculture students put textbook learning into action.

The plantings of natives, perennials, ground covers, and ornamental grasses that offer alternatives to homeowners and landscapers to the use of turf and lawn chemicals.

The bridge that spans connects the arboretum with the Suter Science Center and greenhouse was built in honor of Emma Shetler Brubaker, a great supporter of the arboretum. The bridge was installed as a gift to the university in her memory and dedicated on Nov. 10, 1996, five years after her passing. View photos of our stroll through part of the campus and the arboretum.

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White Oak Lavender Farm and Barnyard Animals - Harrisonburg, VA

White Oak Lavender Farm is owned and operated by Julie and Rick Haushalter in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. They have over 5000 lavender plants with over 30 varieties. The harvesting process extracts the essential oil and florasol through steam distillation and they dry the flowers for buds and bouquets.

White Oak Lavender Farm - Harrisonburg, VA
Julie and Rick first experienced lavender farms in the pacific northwest when visiting family near Sequim, WA. They fell in love with the versatility of this amazing herb. Julie began growing lavender as a hobby on the farm and it wasn't long before she was making products for family and friends. Soon, Julie's parent's, Jim and Jessie Walton, volunteered to start pitching in to harvest and help make bundles for drying and "debudding" so that Jessie could begin sewing items such as lavender eye masks, neck wraps and lavender filled sock monkeys!

The farm has expanded into an agri-tourism venue and is open to the public six days per week offering tours, lectures, classes, a petting area and a lovely lavender gift shop. Julie desires to help counter the effects of stress on the quality of life for children and adults.

Information Source: White Oak Lavender Farm
View Photo Album of White Oak Lavender Farm.
More Info at Nature's Sunshine 100% Pure Lavender Oil.

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Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Gardens - James Madison University - Harrisonburg, VA

The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a 125-acre urban botanical preserve located within the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and the campus of James Madison University (JMU). It provides an ideal combination of naturalized botanical gardens (33 acres) and forest (92 acres), complementing each other and serving the purposes of research, teaching, and demonstration.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Closeup of Thistle Bloom
This green space is home to a diverse ecosystem featuring native plants of the mid-Appalachians (woodland wildflowers, azaleas, and rhododendrons); a collection of non-native trees, shrubs, and bulbs (magnolias, Kousa dogwoods, hollies, daffodils, etc.); an Oak-Hickory Forest; a lowland swale; a shale barren; herb and rose gardens; a pond habitat; and a bog garden. An outdoor amphitheatre, terraced gardens, a Pavilion, a Monarch Way Station, and the Frances Plecker Education Center enhance the complex further.

The Arboretum is a haven in the middle of urban growth and development, a place where nature can be honored, appreciated, protected, and studied. It is a center for the conservation, enjoyment, and interpretation of plants and ecosystems of the Shenandoah Valley, and serves as an outdoor biology laboratory and environmental educational center with tours, lectures, seminars, workshops and other public programs.

The Arboretum's philosophy embodies an appreciation of nature as part of intellectual development. JMU faculty members, in disciplines ranging from the arts to physical education to the biological sciences, use the Arboretum as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for research and study. Students from nearby elementary and secondary schools visit the Arboretum and can enjoy educational tours, designed to progress both their science knowledge and interest in flora and fauna.

Information Source: JMU Website

View the photo album of this visit with my sweet husband and a previous first visit with a friend who now walks in God's Gardens.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

How Will I Cope?

From Seeds of the Kingdom
by Cath Taylor

My son, Isaac, was 5 years old when he suddenly declared to me that he wouldn’t be going to Middle School! When I asked why, he informed me that the days were too long, there was too much homework and he was never ever going to remember where all the classes were!

Isaac had watched his older brother adjust to the change in school and had decided, from his 5 year old perspective, that this was not something that he could cope with. He didn’t seem to understand that there were another 6 years of maturing, growing, developing and preparation that would happen before he would ever have to cope with such a big change.

Basics of Bird-Friendly Yards

From Bird Watching Daily

For most songbirds, the regimen of day-to-day living takes place mostly under cover. The first step in adding cover to your yard is taking stock of what you already have. Think about the trees on your property. Do they produce seeds or fruits for birds to eat? Are they large enough for birds to nest in? Do you notice birds spending time in the trees? If so, you have a good start on providing benefits for birds.

Among deciduous trees, birds especially enjoy maples, hawthorns, oaks, dogwoods, crab apples, mountain ashes, mulberries, serviceberries, and cherries. In the evergreen department, birds seek out hemlocks, spruces, firs, pines, and redcedars. Read more and take this short course in attracting birds to your yard.

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Free Audio Books

Save all those trees .... Save storage space in your home .... Get audiobooks for free from, a worldwide digital library with more than 4,000 unabridged classics in the public domain, plus drama and poetry.

These books are read by volunteers (you can be one too), and can be played on your computer, MP3 player, cellphone or burned to a CD to listen to in your car.

Free audiobooks are also available through and

Friday, July 15, 2011

Newsletter - 7/15/11

Hello Dearest Friends!

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Squeek's 15th Birthday, aka Kitty Girl
Our kitty, Squeek, turned 15 years old yesterday.  For an FIV cat, that's great news!  Her special treat was a hard-boiled egg yolk, mashed and mixed with water.  She gobbled it up.  We keep things rather simple here and she seems to appreciate that also.

The little toy hanging above her head was given to her by my friend, Robin, many years ago.  She still enjoys playing with it.  Each cat has particular "games" they enjoy.  For Squeek, aka Kitty Girl, it's reaching up and batting at something, whether a toy or a string.  I tie a very long shoelace on the back of the porch chaise that she enjoys rolling around with.

After knowing that the Gray Catbirds' nest had been emptied most likely by a snake (the down side to getting an up-close view of nature in our backyard), I wondered where they would try to nest again.  This happened last year also and they do build again.  Such a picture of trusting God and moving on with life, believing that all things happen for good to those who love Him.

Yesterday we were sitting on the screened porch for a morning business meeting and I saw them carrying in twigs and dried grass to the bushes that are alongside our porch.  There are three huge bushes there that the birds love for cover since they're pretty dense.  We planted them as a privacy screen for the porch and they've been grand.  The only problem is that we often see a black rat snake around this area.  Matter of fact I saw one two days before I saw them building the nest.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Gray Catbird Gathering Nest Materials
An interesting thing is that these bushes are on the side of the porch that our kitty loves to lay in the corner.  Shaded by the bushes and the comfort of a blanket I've placed there makes it one of her favorite snoozing spots.  You would think the birds would not want to nest near a cat, but this couple has probably been around here for years and knows the routine of this sleepy cat that isn't allowed outside.

Their choice is a great one for me since the male sings long songs to the female and sometimes she sings them back in a much softer voice.  They remind me of a mockingbird with a nasal allergy.  I love hearing their arias.  Better than some operas we've seen.

What to do!  I don't want to disturb nature. So, I do the only thing left ... pray over the nest and situation.  I will continue to do that daily as I never go a day without being on the screened porch.  I will ask Papa to watch over His birds and provide the snakes meals elsewhere on the property, out of my sight.

Two of this year's baby squirrels must've rehearsed quite a roll and tumble to entertain me one day.  It was priceless laughter!  We have two vinyl Canada Geese in our yard and the squirrels seem to enjoy jumping up on one to eat a nut now and then, which usually causes it to tip back to rest on its tail.  One day these two little ones decided to play "King of the Goose" for quite some time.

After watching for awhile I went on the deck to take a brief video which didn't deter their antics a bit.  They were hilarious pulling each other down and sliding off together with all legs wrapped around the other.  Laughter is great medicine, so view the video and giggle a bit.

Upside Down House for Carpet and Paint - Oh My!
I always work on my photos on a "first in, first out" basis, so I'm not yet to the photos of our day's outing in the Shenendoah Valley, but will get that post up as soon as I do work them.

We've been having our house carpeted and painted and everything is turned upside down, so my energy has been used elsewhere.  I feel like I've moved.  The painting is scheduled to be done by next Wednesday.  I am hoping!  At least it's given me another opportunity to clear out some files and unused items.  I'm not a stuffer so if it's not being used, it goes.  So far my track record has been pretty good on not needing anything I move out.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Two Bullfrogs and a Big Bluffer
The bullfrogs we have seem to both be female.  I've only taken photos of each of them separately and thought we had a male.  However, it seems we may not, which is a huge blessing since bullfrogs are big eaters and don't really belong at a pond our size (5' x 8').  The big pond which is behind the houses across the street had damage and was drained, so I suppose they traveled until they saw ours and decided to camp.

We have a variety of frogs and toads that lay eggs in our frog pond, along with dragonflies and damselflies, and of course a host of insects that I don't even know that live in the pond.  So to keep the pond healthy, we need big eaters to moderate themselves, so we're happy that we've seen no bullfrog eggs or tadpoles.

Speaking of frogs, one evening I was on the screened porch and one of our Eastern Gray Tree Frogs was on the screen watching the moths attracted to it due to the light being on.  These seemingly small tree frogs sure have long legs and when they begin chasing you get to see how long they are.  View video of tree frog and moth.

Our Joe Pye Weed is now 12 feet tall and growing.  It's been budding, so we will have plenty of huge blooms for the butterflies that love it so much.  We planted it at one of the downspouts so it would be a wet area for them.  I also have Creeping Jenny under it.  I guess you'd call it a rain garden since it absorbs the spout runoff so we don't have to use any of those downspout drainers on the ground which divert water away from the house, but still create gullies from the water pouring out from them.  So, we've planted specific wet-loving plants in front of ours to absorb the water naturally .... no more gullies or drainers.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Colorful Mushrooms
On one of our downspouts we had a row of bushes only a foot from it, so Randal dug a trench in front of the bushes and lined it with some rock and then put 12 feet of black plastic tubing with holes that he attached to the downspout, so the water coming out of it would be underground watering those bushes.  That was really cool.  In our area water is expensive so it's also a great frugal and green idea.

Speaking of wet areas, we've had plenty of rain this year and that has brought out a lot of different mushrooms which have been a delight to discover.  Since they just "pop out" all of a sudden, they are always unexpected because they weren't there the day before.

Strolling about our habitat is always an adventure.  So many birds to entertain us and the squirrels always leave evidence of their play times in some way or another.  I work outside and get to catch a lot of what goes on.  Sometimes it's hard to go to bed wondering what sounds I will miss while I'm asleep.  Wednesday night was like that.  I had spent quite a bit of time inside getting the office back in order and when I finally went to brush my teeth, the night sounds poured through the door of the screened porch which is in our bedroom.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Front Porch Retreat
After getting ready for bed, I spent a bit of time with my Father just looking at the night sky and moon that He made to give us light at night.  The heavens declare His handiwork and all Creation praises Him.

I sometimes feel I was created to live outdoors.  I am so alive outside and while I'm inside, there's a part of me that seems to shut off.  Anybody else like that out there!?  Tell me about it in the comments section of the post - at the bottom.

Are you traveling this summer?  To Virginia?  I love to see The Nature In Us friends come by for a stroll through our habitat and a cup of tea.  Visitors are always welcome ... with advanced notice ... we do work at home, but we are good at scheduling play time.  So there's a porch chair waiting for you and a table for tea time.

Well ... until next month's newsletter ...

May you be filled with amazing joy and everlasting peace.

Love and Hugs,

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Posts Since Last Newsletter

Crying Out For Hope (DLW)

Beak Deformities in Birds Rapidly Increasing

Free Fruit For the Picking - Nationwide

Squirrels, Laughter, Good Health and Heaven

Woodpeckers Rapping on Your Home?

Create a Field Guide to Your Yard

EPA Slow to Remove Pesticide Blamed for Honeybee Collapse

Focus on Fleas

Video: Capturing a Honeybee Swarm

Envy and Jealousy

Newsletter - 7/1/11

Previous Posts You May Have Missed

Building Faith  (DLW)

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2011 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from The link to use is:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Crying Out For Hope

by Donna L. Watkins

Sometimes we all need a ray of hope shined into our lives by a friend, into an area that has looked so dark for so long that you wonder if life will ever be good again. Our Friend, Jesus, shines His Light into our hearts and spirits and tells us that life is good. Pain is bad, but in Him we can have peace and joy and wholeness as we rest in His loving arms and allow Him to heal us as He directs our path to wholeness. Don't give up hope. Jesus will send someone if you call unto Him.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Juvenile Cooper's Hawk
In Psalms many times David says he "CRIED OUT" to the Lord. It's not that the Lord doesn't hear our whispers, but it's our own soul that needs to hear our voices shout for the Lord's help. We have to break through the darkness of self-pity and shame and battle to make a hole for that Light to shine straight through to our very soul and spirit breaking off the evil of despair and discouragement the devil wants to bury us in.

There are hundreds of references in the Bible to people crying out to the Lord. It seems our pride keeps the devil elevated on his throne by not crying aloud for our Deliverer.

Giving up is exactly where he wants you to go. Take your last breath if you must, but CRY OUT and you will send the demons fleeing as you see a heavenly host arriving in response to your call.

Beak Deformities in Birds Rapidly Increasing

From Alaska Science Center

Over the past several years, Alaskans have witnessed a startling increase of beak deformities among local birds. Large numbers of Black-capped Chickadees and smaller numbers of many other species of birds have appeared with grossly overgrown and crossed beaks.

We began research in 1999, and have since identified more than 2,000 deformed Black-capped Chickadees in south-central Alaska—the highest concentration of such abnormalities ever recorded in a wild bird population anywhere!

Free Fruit For the Picking - Nationwide

This is a great concept and one that is spreading rapidly across the country. Neighborhood Fruit helps people find and share fruit locally, both backyard bounty and abundance on public lands - 10,000 trees nationwide and counting! Fruit is so good for you and so much better if eaten from local sources.

Here's what they say about themselves:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Squirrels, Laughter, Good Health & Heaven

by Donna L. Watkins

Watching young squirrels delight in play makes me think of the words of Jesus when He said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4).

These squirrels found nothing better in life than to play "king of the goose" for a long period of time. I captured less than three minutes of it on video, but I watched quite some time wondering how many adults are willing to act like children. To abandon the "what will somebody think" mode and just play.

Life becomes much too stressful and driven. Maybe the "child" in us needs to find another "child" and play like nobody's watching. You may find that you will light a spark of laughter in others as these squirrels did for me. Laughter is good for the immune system and the effects last for quite some time. Research shows many benefits of laughter.

So share this link with others (top right corner) who need to slow down a bit, laugh, and add some play time to their lives. Thanks!

Click on the photo to begin the video.

Squirrels Playing King of the Goose  7-7-11

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Woodpeckers Rapping on Your Home?

Are Woodpeckers Giving You a Bad Rap?

At this time of year, the Cornell Lab receives many inquiries from people asking what to do about woodpeckers pounding on their homes. Past studies by Cornell Lab researchers investigated why woodpeckers do this and how to deter them. Read the article.

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Create a Field Guide to Your Yard

The guide can be about birds or butterflies or plants—anything natural you find in your yard. If you don’t have your own green space, visit a local park or a schoolyard.

Outdoor activities include exploring, observing, drawing, or photographing plants and animals. Indoor activities include research, writing, and the creation of your book. You can work on your project for an hour, a day, or throughout the year.

Your pages can be simple or more descriptive to include the time, date, and location you discovered the animal, what it was doing, and information you research on the web or at the library. Get started now with these tips to create your own field guide.

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EPA Slow to Remove Pesticide Blamed for Honeybee Collapse

Mounting evidence, however, points to the role of a particular class of pesticides. The biggest mystery now is why the EPA refuses to act on those clues.

As far back as 1999, France banned the pesticide imidacloprid after it was implicated in a massive die-off of honeybees there. It's one of a class of pesticides known as 'neonicotinoids,' synthetic poisons that mimic nicotine's ability to fatally disrupt insects' nervous systems.

Instead of coating leaves and stems, the pesticide is applied to seeds so that it infuses every part of a plant, including its nectar and pollen.

Ten years after the French ban, Jeffery Pettis, the leading bee researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, showed that bees fed low levels of imidacloprid in a laboratory were more susceptible to the deadly fungus Nosema ceranae-although he notes that these results have not been duplicated in the field.

Germany, Italy, and Slovenia followed France's lead by banning clothianidin, another neonicotinoid pesticide. (Italy's 2009 clothianidin-free corn planting coincided with its first healthy bee season in 10 years.)

When Bayer CropScience introduced it into the United States in 2003, the EPA approved it on the condition that Bayer study its chronic effects. Clothianidin became widely used, and, coincidentally, many U.S. bee colonies decreased by 30 to 90 percent. Read the entire article.

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For more nature and gardening information, visit The Nature In Us.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Focus on Fleas

by Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM

As pet parents know, when summer begins so too does flea season. Learn all about the holistic alternatives to help you provide the best care possible for your companion animals.

Last month, we launched a new series about holistic health care for companion animals. Remember, holistic care entails viewing the body as a whole as well as how every discrete part works in relation to all the other parts. In keeping with a holistic mindset, this month I want to address fleas. Flea season is, or will very soon be, upon us again and the treatment of fleas illustrates how important the holistic approach is.

If you’ve experienced problems with fleas, or if your dog or cat is itchy, ask the following questions in the entire article.

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Video: Capturing a Honeybee Swarm

A swarm of several thousand honeybees settled in a tree outside of Monarch Watch Headquarters. They didn't know where they came from but decided to capture them and put them in a hive. This is a video of the process. I thought it was really amazing and interesting to see how it is done. View the video.

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Envy & Jealousy

by Henry W. Wright

Envy and Jealousy is not just an emotion. It's not just a feeling. The Principality of Envy and Jealousy is an entity. It's a being with a personality. It expresses itself through us and its nature is very destructive. Envy and Jealousy is a spiritual problem that is at the root to many of our diseases. The principality of Envy and Jealousy has a mission. Its mission is to divide. Its desire is to separate and divide the body of Christ, destroy relationships, separate families, split churches, wreck marriages and cause animosity between neighbors. It always goes right to bitterness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Newsletter - 7/1/11

Hello Dearest Friends!

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Red-bellied Woodpecker Fledgling
We've been having an amazing summer here in central Virginia that has been like Spring.  The birds seem to be doing well with it since we're still pumping out bird babies all around our habitat.  They sure love the luxury of our feeders, although this young 'un flew to the feeder after it's mother ate and tried to figure out how to get the food.  It pecked on the plastic for a bit and then flew off to tell one parent that he could not possibly manage feeding himself, so they need to get busy.

We've had plenty of rain for the plants, cool nights (57-67), breezy pleasant days in low 80's here on the screened porch where I work. Right now it's 1:16 PM on June 30th and it's only 80 degrees.

Last night when we sat out on our chaise chairs to watch the birds display their bedtime routines, I grabbed the light blanket on the back of my chair and covered my legs. I'm not a cold-natured person, but last night's low was 57. I suppose those who love the heat are not very happy, but I feel like I'm in Heaven. It's been hard not to dream what it would be like to live in constant 60-80 degree weather. Visions of Costa Rica come to mind often.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins
Sunflower Planted by Gardener Squirrel
The squirrels are a blessing to us. They plant sunflower seeds and now and then the deer leave the buds to grow and mature so we can actually see them bloom. As you can see by this photo, they nibbled off the leaves, but didn't eat the head so it is now blooming and I'm very happy to see it in our garden this year.

There's another smaller one that is just about to bloom also. I find that planting things densely allows for some treasures to be hidden from even the deer if they're amongst plants that they do not like. Salvias are one such plant that they have never touched.

July is upon us and in our area of the mid-Atlantic we see the first brood of immature hummingbirds appearing at our flowers and feeders. I'm already keeping a watchful eye.  Such a tiny bird with miraculous annual journeys that truly display the magnitude of God's creativity and displays to us humans that through Him, we can accomplish all things. Too often we speak the Scripture about being able to do ALL things through Christ which strengthens us (Phil. 4:13), as we launch out headstrong and determined to do it in our own strength. And then we wonder why we fail in such endeavors.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Fawn Visiting Our Backyard
This past week our deck has hosted safflower seeds for a new batch of Carolina Chickadees (or are they Black-capped, I cannot tell).  Not only have continual new fledglings been appearing at our feeders, we've had one of the does bring her fawn around to dine at the area we place our fruit and veggie scraps.

Although Mama was comfortable with me delivering the plate of scraps to her, the baby's instincts were good to leap back into the forest.  What a beautiful little thing.  So precious and innocent.

Speaking of deer, many of you know that the community in which we live, which has 4400 homes, has had a battle between residents going on over the wildlife.  Some people consider their plants more important than animal life and have wanted the deer killed.  We've been fighting that for 8 years and recently been promoting three candidates for the Board here that would be in favor of balancing wildlife and people.  The election took place and last week we were elated to find out our 3 candidates won the 3 open slots.  What a relief!  I hope things will now be different and more educational programs will be forthcoming so we can all live in harmony ... well, all those who enjoy harmony.  I think some people thrive on conflict.

The Trim Color is Called 'Sauteed Mushroom'
Being in this home almost eleven years, we decided we'd do some updating this year in areas that needed some maintenance.  One of those items has been to paint the interior.  We did the walls back in January and began the trim a few weeks back.  I always loved to paint (came by it naturally from my dad) so it's hard for me to just call in a painter.

It's also hard for me to do the painting.  So I compromise (that's what life is all about, right?).  I begin the project and do a bit each day and after a couple of weeks of that I'm ready to call the painter.  She arrived on Monday and worked most of three days and will be back next week.

Then the carpet folks will be coming in.  This is not the kind of thing I call fun.  I'd rather build a new home than to do remodeling and have to live in it while it's going on.  I am so easily distracted. But I do so appreciate it all when it's done and over with!

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - St. John's Wort Bloom
with Four Visitors - Seems Like tiny Bees
Click to view larger photo & add comment if you know.
On our deck we keep a bunch of potted plants that the deer would eat in the ground.  They are all coming into bloom so my view of the deck when I work on the screened porch is beginning to get bright with colors.

There's pink garden phlox that the hummingbirds, wasps and bees enjoy, black-eyed susans that the goldfinches love, heritage petunias with an aroma of old-fashioned gardens, stonecrop sedum that is a bee and butterfly magnet, a couple of young Japanese Maples from Morven Estate, and the glorious morning glories which are a first this year.

The squirrels sometimes get naughty with our deck plants.  Two years ago they thought the black-eyed susans were for them.  When the seed heads began to ripen, they would climb up the stems until they dropped down to the deck from their weight and then chomp off the flower head and sit and eat the seeds.  I saw them just as they began doing this and although one part of me was crying for the plants, another knew there would be plenty of seeds for the goldfinches, and I couldn't help but laugh at them as I grabbed my camera to take a video of the squirrels destroying the plants.  As I watched, I lamented about the fact that when our son, Benjamin, was growing up, I certainly was not entertained by naughty behavior.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Off Duty Guard Squirrel
at Our Front Porch Doorway
Our squirrels appreciate our habitat and they schedule themselves to guard our property since we don't have any dogs, for which they are very appreciative.  So, we find that after they've finished their guarding shift they like to lay about as if they've had a really hard day's work.  Well, we know it's not easy to be greedy.  Squirrels show us a bit of this bad character quality since they don't seem to like to share at all.

All the diversity of these creations show us a tiny part of our Heavenly Father's incredible creativity and majesty.  If He can come up with so much beauty that we can choose to surround ourselves with, imagine how much more He can handle any of our enormous problems.

That's why I love nature so much ... it's a continual reminder to me that I am more important than the lilies of the field arrayed in all their own splendor.  He may not operate in my time table because His focus is on our eternal life, not just this one on earth, and He only allows things into our lives that will turn out for good.  All of God's goodness is portrayed before me in a garden and forest.

BEFORE - November 2000
In case you're lamenting that you live amidst asphalt and concrete, let me assure you that you can create a spot of nature in even the smallest yard or balcony.  Our front yard was bare in the front yard except for some trees.  It didn't take long to fill it with perennials, bushes and more trees, much of which was dropped in by birds or given to us by neighbors.  You can find free plants in many ways.

As our plants multiplied we kept sharing them around the property.  We learned what the deer would and wouldn't eat and focus on those plants they left alone.  The first digital picture I have of our front yard is from June 2006 and the AFTER photo looks like a jungle.

May God's peace over your household.
May you have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Love and Hugs,

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2011 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from The link to use is:

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