Monday, October 31, 2011

Monsanto's Roundup in Rain & Rivers

A recent study discovers high levels of glyphosate, also known as Roundup, in rain and rivers in the Mississippi River watershed.

Even though Monsanto holds the research reins, interested groups are breaking through to study the effects of Monsanto's pesticides and seeds. Read the entire article.

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Halloween - What Makes Bats, Spiders and Owls So Scary?

We don't honor Halloween, due to all the roots of the holiday, however, the holiday brings to attention some of the fears that people have over certain animals such as bats, spiders and owls.

Here's an article from to find out more on these fears.

Halloween means vampires and witches, bats, owls and spiders to most people, especially children. Even the mere mention of these creatures sends shivers through some folks.

Click here to hear a scary Barn Owl’s screech!

What is it about bats, owls, and spiders that makes people associate them with evil?

Get the real story about these misunderstood creatures…

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good News Today for Bats!

Good news! I just received this and am excited they are one step closer to this horrid situation for our bats. They are another critical factor in agriculture.  Saving bats saves billions of agricultural dollars a year.

Now for the news ....

Researchers have reached a major milestone in understanding the disease that is killing North America's bats.

New research by the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center and its partners confirms that the fungus, Geomyces destructions, is the cause of White-nose Syndrome (WNS).

Although the syndrome was named after the telltale white fungus that grows on the faces of many infected bats, scientists were not sure if the fungus was the cause or a symptom of the disease.

The generosity of our members and donors allowed BCI to provide partial support for this USGS research as it was beginning in 2008.

This is a critical accomplishment, but it is only one step toward resolving this crisis. There is still a long road ahead of us and the research that's required is time-consuming and costly.

Please donate to our WNS Emergency Response Fund and other critical bat-conservation issues.

Please visit our website for comprehensive information on this research, WNS and our other conservation programs.

As always, we appreciate your support.
Best Wishes

Nina Fascione
Executive Director of Bat Conservation International

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Scale Insects - Natural Control

by Donna L. Watkins

Creating a bird-friendly garden is not only a treat to watch the beautiful birds and learn more about our lives through what they can teach us, but it sure benefits the gardener also. When you get lots of birds in your yard, they will eat lots of insects.

© Donna L. Watkins - Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Black Willow
I am almost to the point now that I look forward to the cottony scale that comes at the beginning of Fall here in central Virginia. It seems to cover the thin branches of our large pyracantha bushes (aka Fire Thorn).

Of course, seeing any thing on our plants that doesn't really belong there doesn't just thrill me, but since this particular insect feeds not only our resident population, but also migratory ones, it almost feels like looking for a "good harvest" of food for them by watching for the cottony scale infestation.

The year I realized that something ate this stuff was the first year we got it on the pyracantha. We don't get it on anything else. I had looked up some natural methods of getting rid of it but some ingredient didn't make me very comfy about using the recipe, so I was stalling, hoping that God would send in something to take it away. We had already seen infestations bring in a crew of birds that finished the problem off in a week's time, but I admit I wasn't hoping in faith.

Anyway, I was sitting outside with my camera one day and saw a hyper bird hopping around the pyracantha bushes, so I raised my camera to get a picture since I assumed it was a warbler the way it acted and it was Fall migration. When I cropped the photo to enlarge the bird's image I realized its beak was covered in cottony scale, so it must've been eating them. I identified the bird as a Pine Warbler in error at the time.

With its return this year I had been seeing what I thought to be the bird but warblers are small and hyper dancers so I wasn't getting a good look at it or a camera shot that I could blow up to see. Today I was in the garden and one came right up to me on one of the pyracantha bushes. I was trimming the butterfly bush that intertwines with it at this time of year since it's grown so full. It seemed she was telling me that I was in her dining area and did not have reservations.

When I went inside to ID the bird to see if it was a Pine Warbler, I realized it was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, as was the bird that I had mistakenly identified 5 years before. I couldn't find any info on Pine Warblers being interested in cottony scale, but the Ruby-crowned Kinglet was definitely an eater of this stuff.

Doing a bit of study I have found out that there are a number of species that enjoy cottony scale and seven (7) of them are resident in our habitat with two (2) of them migrating through. How exciting to be able to watch the habitat you create working! Sometimes I wonder if we have a particular problem simply because the bird or bug or whatever eats it is in need of more food that particular year, so I watch closely and wait for God's Creation to balance it all out.

Here's a list of birds that feed upon scale insects. The check-marked ones are the ones we have:

√ Hairy woodpecker

√ Northern downy woodpecker

Red-cockaded woodpecker

Arctic three-toed woodpecker

√ Yellow-bellied woodpecker

√ Red-headed woodpecker

√ Blue jay

Orchard oriole

Baltimore oriole

√ Cedar waxwing

Townsend warbler

√ Tufted titmouse

Bridled titmouse

√ Carolina chickadee

√ Ruby-crowned k.mglet

Varied thrush

Is the kinglet migrating through your area now also? Read more information on the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

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Golden Net-Winged Beetle (Dictyoptera aurora)

by Donna L. Watkins

As I was strolling the garden along the walkway to the front door, I saw a bright red bug that certainly stood out even though it was the size of a lightning bug. I had my camera so I took a photo being more concerned about it flying away than getting a good exposure on the photograph.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Golden Net-Winged Beetle
(Dictyoptera aurora)
Wondering if it was a good bug or bad bug, I submitted it to for an ID after searching on their website for one like it. I was surprised to see how many beetles came in the color red, but none that exactly matched this one. I had stopped too soon. It was there. The specific name aurora refers to the Roman Goddess of the Dawn, no doubt for the color of the beetle. This species is widely distributed throughout much of North America and North Europe and Asia.

I'd like to know how it got the name "Golden" Net-Winged Beetle when it's obviously bright red, not golden. The red coloration is used to show predators that it is not at all tasty. Their forewings are often soft and covered in a net-like, reticulate texture, thus the common name. They are closely related to fireflies, but don't have the glowing bottoms, and are also related to Soldier Beetles and the Banded Net-Winged Beetle which I have found in our garden on Poke Weed.

These adult beetles sometimes feed on nectar and pollen from flowering plants. It was on our Heritage Chrysanthemums that were budding but not in bloom. The larvae inhabit the soil and leaf litter or decaying wood where they are thought to be predators and/or feed on fungus. As you know we've had masses of fungus this year with all the mushrooms I've photographed in our yard and backwoods.

So, the conclusion is that it's a good bug since it adds beauty to the garden and in no way harms it.

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Thomas Jefferson's Cut-and-Paste Bible

By Stephen Prothero

The book that the Smithsonian is preparing to put on display is actually one of two Jefferson Bibles. Jefferson produced the first over the course of a few days in 1804. Not long after completing the Louisiana Purchase, he sat down in the White House with two Bibles and one razor, intent on dividing the true words of Jesus from those put into his mouth by 'the corruptions of schismatising followers.

The result was 'The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth': a severely abridged text (now lost) that, like the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, consisted entirely of Jesus' sayings. In this 'precious morsel of ethics,' as Jefferson put it, Jesus prayed to God and affirmed the afterlife, but he was not born in a manger and did not die to atone for anyone's sins.

In 1820, after retiring from public life, Jefferson produced a second scripture by subtraction—the book that is now being restored in D.C. In 'The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,' he again sought to excise passages 'of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, or superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications.' Read the entire article.

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Do Pets Have Psychic Abilities?

Have you ever wondered whether or not your companion animal has psychic abilities? While some might scoff at the idea, many are convinced that this is certainly the case.

Over the years, I’ve heard so many stories of animals exhibiting behaviors that seem as though they might fall within this realm of experience. For example, did you know that during the massive tsunami in December of 2004, scores of elephants in Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Thailand moved to higher ground before the destructive waves struck land?

There were even reports of buffalo grazing by the beach in Thailand who lifted their heads in unison, stared out to sea and then stampeded up into the hills. Most, if not all of the villagers who followed the lead of these animals were saved. How did these elephants and buffalos know what was coming? Did they pick up on slight tremors that seismologists themselves were not able to detect? If so, why was it only the animals in low-lying coastal areas who exhibited strange behavior and not the rest of the animals in Southeast Asia?

There are many other documented incidences of animals sensing earthquakes all over the world. No one really knows how they sense an earthquake, although theories abound, from sensing vibrations, noticing changes in the Earth’s electromagnetic field or smelling released subterranean gases.

Some of these theories could also explain why dogs ‘freak out’ before avalanches, but what about human-made catastrophes? During World War II, families in Britain and Germany relied on their pets’ behavior to warn them of impending air raids while the enemy planes were still hundreds of miles away!

Just how did these pets know what was looming in their immediate futures? Read the entire article.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Laughter Works Like Medicine

Make Sure You're Taking Your Medicine
by Joel Osteen

A lot of the sickness in our world is simply because we don't have the joy that we should. When we live uptight and on edge, it causes headaches, digestive problems, lack of energy. We don't sleep well. Much of this would go away if we would just learn how to deal with the stress properly. One of the greatest stress relievers God has given us is laughter. Laughter is like taking medicine. It not only makes you feel better but it actually releases healing throughout your system. When we laugh it restores and rejuvenates what the pressures of life have taken out.

Proverbs 17:22 puts it like this, "A happy heart is like a good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing." Notice, when we're good-natured and full of joy, taking time to laugh, taking time to play, it's like taking a good medicine. That's what helps us to stay healthy. In fact, medical science tells us that people that laugh, it boosts their immune system.

Laughter reduces blood pressure. People that laugh regularly are 40% less likely to have a heart attack than people that don't laugh regularly. Laughter triggers the right side of the brain, which helps release creativity, helps us to make better decisions. Laughter activates the body's natural tranquilizers that not only help us to calm down but it helps us to sleep better.

I know this one lady, she hadn't slept well in years and years. She was constantly taking tranquilizers. She had taken them so long it hardly even affected her anymore. She had tried everything, different diets, different doctors, different medicines. Nothing seemed to work. But this one doctor gave her a very unusual prescription.

He said, "Every night before you go to bed, you need to watch something funny – a funny movie, a funny video, a funny drama – something that makes you laugh." She started doing that night after night. Month after month she got better and better. Today she is totally off her medications. She can sleep like a baby. What Happened.....

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Shorter Days Of Fall Affect Animals & Plants


Some of us like the change but it seems most folks aren’t too happy to see the days get cooler and nights get longer. Plants and animals are affected too.

Migratory birds are a prime example. A Dark-eyed Junco nesting in northern Canada responds to the first shortening days of summer with a series of physical changes: its reproductive organs become inactive and shrink in size, hormones stimulate the rapid growth of a new set of feathers (its non-breeding plumage), and fat deposits develop to provide fuel for the long migratory flight ahead.

Plants in temperate zones must also set their calendars accurately in order to flower and, for deciduous species, develop and drop leaves at the optimal time. Read the entire article.

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Nest Boxes Provide Winter Retreat

From The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Ever wonder what you should do with your nest boxes during the winter? After you clean out old nesting material, consider leaving them in place throughout the colder months.

© Donna L. Watkins - Chickadee on Holly Tree
Non-migratory birds seek sheltered locations to stay warm during chilly winter weather. Cavity nesters, such as titmice, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and screech-owls, may consider your nest box to be the perfect place to spend a cold night or wait out a storm.

The body heat of birds can keep the air temperature inside nest boxes about 10 degrees warmer than outside. This means that birds burn much less energy sleeping indoors. Some species prefer to roost alone, but others are more social and may roost in groups.

Although not much research has been done to determine preferred specifications of winter roosting boxes, some species seem to like having perches and ledges to sleep on. Wrapping boxes in foam insulation and blocking ventilation holes may help keep them warm.

Also, don’t forget to make sure that the boxes are well protected from predators. You can help your backyard birds maintain their body fat reserves by providing them with suet and keeping your feeders filled with black-oil sunflower seeds. Check out Project FeederWatch for more information about how you can help birds during the winter.

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What Happens When Birds Leave the Nest?

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Red-bellied Woodpecker Fledgling
Tapping on the Plastic Wondering How to Get the Food
It’s happening all around us right now— young birds are leaving their nests and striking out on their own.

But how do they make the transition from fledgling to adult?

A lot of us think that baby birds grow up in a family that stays together and migrates south together. There are some species of birds that stay together after the nesting season, but they are rare.

Most young birds are totally on their own soon after they leave the nest. In fact, in many bird families, the parents migrate south long before their youngsters do.  Read the entire article.

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READ: Halloween Safety Tips For Pets

Attention, animal lovers, it's almost the spookiest night of the year! The ASPCA recommends taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet saying "trick or treat!" all the way to November 1.

Please read these 10 tips for your pet's safety.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Newsletter - 10/15/11

Hello Dear Friends!

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Snuggling Carpenter Bee
Tucked Into Bed
Our mornings and evenings are getting a bit more chilly now that Autumn has arrived, but we've had beautiful days and I'm enjoying them to the maximum.  If I linger into dusk, I can find the bees already tucked in since they require warmth to do their foraging, so this time of year, they are early-to-bed and late-to-rise.

They snuggle themselves into a flower and sleep for the night.  I've always wondered whether they choose the flower and position, or if they just run out of the energy of the sun and just hang on till the sun comes up again to warm the air.  Regardless, they are so cute to see.

I'm glad I have a nice soft and cozy mattress with a pillow.  I'd certainly not sleep a wink if I was hanging onto something.  It reminds me that we need to trust our Heavenly Father when we tuck ourselves in.  There are all kinds of fears we could have at night, but if we meditate on God's Word, He will fill us with His peace and we will sleep well.

David said in Psalm 3:4-5, "I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me."  My favorite verse when I used to have a challenge going to sleep was Psalm 4:8, "In peace I will lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."  I would meditate on that as I got into bed and go to sleep on it.  I wasn't concerned for physical safety, but I had quite the busy mind in my more hyper days, so it reminded me that I didn't need to give my mind over to the devil for the night and that God would cause me to dwell in the safety of His Word, not what the devil would like to whisper in my ear while I slept.

© Donna L. Watkins - Dark-eyed Junco
The Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows return here in Virginia later this month.  That surely makes me think of winter since they're not here the nicer times of the year.

The Junco is a ground dweller and feeds on seeds and small fruits in the open. It also moves through the lower branches of trees and seeks shelter in the tangle of shrubs. Until recently the many geographical forms of this bird were considered separate species, but since they interbreed wherever their ranges meet, they are now considered one species.

The range is shown as:  Breeds from Alaska east across Canada to Newfoundland, south to mountains in Mexico and Georgia. Winters south to Gulf Coast and northern Mexico.

© Donna L. Watkins - White-throated Sparrow
The White-throated Sparrow has already arrived.  I saw my first two this past Thursday.  This very common sparrow is known in the United States primarily as a winter visitor and a migrant.

During the colder months every hedgerow and thicket seems to be filled with White-throats, and on warm days one can readily hear their plaintive song. When evening comes and they gather to roost in dense thickets.  The song always sounded cheery to me on cold winter days.

Maybe you've heard them singing and wondered what it was?  Since they like to forage among dead perennials and in thickets, you sometimes hear them more than see them.  You can listen to their song here.  Their range is shown as:  Breeds from Mackenzie, central Quebec, and Newfoundland south to North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Winters in much of eastern United States and in small numbers in southwestern states.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Male Deer
I made another trip to the local orchard with a friend to pick up a bucket of apples for the wildlife. You get to pick them from the ground for $2.50 a 5-gallon bucket. What a deal! And it's great fun to watch all the wildlife come to visit. Even some species of butterflies like rotting apples. For that reason I always pick up some that already have rotten spots.

We had another visit from two male deer. Seeing the bucks during the day is a real treat. They will soon be mating. I love to see the unique designs of their antlers. I wonder if there's never been two antlers alike? God is like that. He's so creative that every person and every thing is totally unique in some form or fashion. It sure makes me realize what an awesome God we have when you look at His artistic creations. (Related Article: Destroying God's Art)

The latest and greatest news in my spirit results from my Mac crashing at the end of September. It seemed every time I turned around, I'd think of something else that was "only on the computer."

After basically grieving for four days of all the known losses and those I had not even thought of yet, I decided it was ridiculous to put so much concern into data. My life is hid in Christ, so whatever was hidden on the computer should not be so important. I have not enjoyed computers as much as many people so I realized I'd cursed my machine often with my words and rarely ever gave it praise or blessing.

Have you ever thought about the fact that God SPOKE everything into existence?  What amazes me is that on Day One, He said, "Let there be light" and it was so.  But did you ever notice that He didn't create the sun and moon until Day Four?!  WOW!  We are children of an awesome and amazing God.  I love the Scriptures that talk about our mouth, because I've had a hard time keeping mine on a leash.  Here's a few favorites:

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." (Prov. 16:24)

"Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." (Prov. 13:3)

"Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble."  (Prov. 21:23)

and my current favorite that rests on the backsplash of my bathroom sink:

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord."  (Psalm 19:14)

Randal has a super backup system and always encouraged me to backup regularly. He has to backup daily for the business, but when I did backup in earlier years, it didn't seem to have what I needed when I lost something of my own fault. His current system does not have that problem, but my faith in technology didn't change my choice of behavior. My opinions have changed. I will now be faithful to backup. And when I turn my machine off at night, I speak blessings and appreciation over it.

© Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Romans 8:28 promises that if we love God all things will work out for our good, and this one certainly has.

Randal was able to restore my data on to my older computer and I'm going to stick with this one since I am moving a step further into simplicity by removing some things I was doing on the computer and keeping them on paper again. Not only to be sure to have it, but also to have less time on the computer.

I spent quite a bit of time in prayer about how this event would benefit me and the direction I have now means I can dedicate three days a week as "no computer days" rather than the one on Sunday. I still have a certain number of hours for work even though God has revealed ways to accomplish that in less time. It's quite amazing.

I am more focused with less time on the computer, so I've been able to get more done in a more peaceful mode.  No worries, I'm not changing anything to do with the blogs that I do, especially this one.  From all the comments I get I'm very well aware that God is in it and I am humbled to think it makes a difference to anyone since my view of it is that, "I am, therefore, I write."  It's just something I enjoy, like a hobby.

Please don't decline to email me either, since I thoroughly enjoy hearing from my subscriber friends.  It's part of the fun side to being on the computer.  I am no longer anxious about "all the emails" since I can now respond as my time allows. Why do we think NOW is the time for everything? That's a big part of all the anxiety and insomnia people deal with.  It's been more than 10 years that I've gone to bed reviewing what I didn't get done or thinking about what I needed to do the next day.

So, continue to email me, but don't expect a quick response. Quite awhile ago, I realized that staying in touch with somebody doesn't require a daily basis contact, but I'm understanding more of that since this event. It's lovely to stay instantly in touch with good friends, but the reality is that to do that we have to sacrifice something else and generally it's something that, if we were asked about priorities, we would not want to sacrifice. Just because the option to communicate instantly has most of the world in a tizzy trying to keep up, doesn't mean we have to join the "lemmings to the sea."

Lemmings became the subject of a popular misconception that they commit mass suicide when they migrate. Actually, it is not a mass suicide but the result of their migratory behavior. Driven by strong biological urges, some species of lemmings may migrate in large groups when population density becomes too great. Lemmings can swim and may choose to cross a body of water in search of a new habitat. In such cases, many may drown if the body of water is so wide as to stretch their physical capability to the limit. (Source:

© Donna L. Watkins - Hopeland Gardens, Aiken, SC
Adult Male Five-lined Skink in Breeding Color (Orange Head)
Sounds rather like humans being driven by biological urges (to excel - "if it's to be, it's up to me"), migrating in large groups (popularity), sometimes crossing water (meeting everybody's expectations) and may drown if the body of water is such that our physical capability is not able to cope.

In today's world, there's no way to keep up with all that demands our attention, so we have to choose wisely in managing the affairs of life so that we still have a major portion of time to spend with our Father and Jesus, for whom we were created. The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy and today's pace of living is taking its toll on many.

My dilemma is not uncommon.  I hear so many people talking about "having to keep up" with email, text messages, phone calls, etc.  Since we have refused cell phones, I have not had to deal with that realm.  I am delighted with the fact that in my slower response, I will be lessening the load on others with more time between emails.

I love staying in touch with people and all of you, so please don't misunderstand me that I don't value what I get on this wonderful machine.  We are blessed to have the ability to make friends around the world, but we also have to nurture the friends and family that God has surrounded us with outside the computer world.

I managed my time quite well with on and off time with the computer since I love housework and administrative tasks, but the reality is that when the computer is totally off and my mind knows that, my days are totally different, with much more peace and joy and a slower way of looking at life.

I'm loving it, so let me encourage those of you who are looking for another layer of simplicity, it works amazingly well.  You will receive revelation from the Lord on how to actually make it work if your heart so desires to do so.

There are many exciting things in the "real" world and now I have found more time for special moments here and there.  They're available all around us, if we pause to grab them. I also get special moments on the computer since my attitude is different towards it also.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - View From Ravens Roost - Blue Ridge Parkway - Nelson County, Virginia
Nelson County is the most beautiful place I've ever been in the United States and I've been to 48 states. There is a peace and stillness and beauty that simply reminds me of what some of Heaven must be like.

View some Nelson County photo albums at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

• American Chestnut Restoration Project - Lessane Chestnut Forest
• Crabtree Falls, Tyro, VA
• Swannanoa Palace
• Festival at Oak Ridge Estate
• The Wildlife Center Rehabilitation and International Training
• Ravens Roost, Greenstone Overlook & Humpback Rocks Visitor Center
• Miscellaneous Views

Donna at Flippin-Seaman Apple Orchard, Montebello, VA
I went with a friend to get a bushel of apples from Nelson County at Flippin-Seaman Apple Orchards.  Yep!  That's the name.  We were certainly flippin' happy to be there.  This time I didn't pick them from the tree, but instead gleaned from the bins of a variety of flavors.

My choices were Jonathan, Fuji, and Jonagold.  Wish you could come and eat one with me.  I'm having apples every day, just plain.  We don't use them for sauce or pies or fritters - we just like them raw.  An apple a day keeps the doctors away.  There's validity in that phrase.

Apples have a good claim to promote health. They contain Vitamin C, which aid the immune system and phenols, which reduce cholesterol. They also reduce tooth decay by cleaning one's teeth and killing off bacteria. It has also been suggested by Cornell University researchers that the quercetin found in apples protects brain cells against neuro-degenerative disorders like Alzheimer's Disease.  (Source:

So ... anybody ready to visit Virginia for a great locally-grown apple and a cup of herbal tea?

If you enjoy this newsletter ... share the website with somebody else.  Maybe you know of somebody who needs something in this issue.  There's a "Share This" option on the right side.  Thanks!

Love and Hugs,

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Newsletter - 10/1/11

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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:

Drilling Sites in Arctic Near Bird Breeding Areas

The Interior Department has approved Shell Oil's plan to drill in the Arctic Ocean next summer.

Editor Chuck Hagner at writes that the proposed sites, four in all, are located in the Beaufort Sea about 20 miles offshore from a portion of Arctic NWR that hosts thousands and thousands of breeding shorebirds -- so many that the area qualifies easily as a site of international importance.

Read more about Chuck's summary.

Read about the birds a research biologist, with the Alaska Bird Observatory, found during a summer birdwatching and photography trip to Arctic NWR.

Read Kenn Kaufman's descriptions of five shorebirds that breed on the high-arctic tundra around Barrow, Alaska.

Read how a search for caribou in Arctic NWR turned up a wealth of Great Horned, Northern Hawk, Great Gray, and Boreal Owls, from "Birder at Large" by Pete Dunne.

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Finding Wildlife in the Leaves

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Lizard Blends in With Leaves
One of the best things about having a wildlife garden is that you have a natural classroom right outside your door where you can teach children to discover the wonders of nature and get to know the wildlife that lives there.
And, truth be told, they will teach you, too.

By seeing the natural world through the eyes of a child you’ll remember what it feels like to be filled with wonder. You will take delight in the simplest of things. And you’ll discover that you’re never too old to play.

Get a fresh new look into the wonders of nature in Autumn.  Read the entire article.

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Cut Bathroom Faucet Water by 90%

Every Little Dripp Counts
Mark van Baal

These days, instead of gushing jets of water, what comes out of the bathroom faucets at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Hellendoorn, a small town in the eastern part of the Netherlands, are showers of tiny drops.

That’s because the firm has installed 26 Dripps. Invented by three students from Maastricht, Dripps cut water flow by more than 90 percent.

A mechanism inside the faucet attachment converts a stream of water into a spray. When Ode tested a Dripp, hand-washing took a mere fraction longer than with a conventional faucet. (The device isn’t suitable for use in showers.)

So far, just a few hundred standard faucets in businesses and schools have been replaced by Dripps, which cost about $40 each. Still, sometimes the biggest floods start with just a few drops.

Source: Ode Magazine.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Caring For Creation or Presenting the Gospel

Evangelical Christians often resist the efforts of environmental activists to move them toward more effective and responsible behavior regarding the environmental health of the natural world-what we call “the creation.”

by Dean Ohlman, Wonder of Creation

We do this in part because of our perception that most vocal environmental activists are either New Agers, amoral celebrities, or secular humanists. We typically think of these individuals as nature worshippers who believe everything is God, sentimental animal lovers who see no fundamental difference between people and their pets, or atheists whose only god is naturalistic evolution.

Evangelicals are reluctant to become fellow travelers with those who appear to have such unbiblical views about the nature of the earth - even if there is no biblical reason for us to oppose the responsibility of caring for the creation. We hesitate to work shoulder to shoulder with individuals whose connections and motivations are non-Christian - often for fear that our churches, friends, and families will think we’ve been duped by eco-pagans, eco-socialists, pop idols, or godless scientists.

Further, we have been trained to believe that our primary responsibility is to share the gospel with them - to tell them the good news about Jesus, not share a stream-bank clean-up with them. We ask, “Isn’t evangelism more important than caring for the creation?” And to that we typically answer, “of course.” Read the entire article.

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I Am Not a City Gal - My Trip to Baltimore

by Donna L. Watkins

Quite awhile back, our business registered for the Natural Products Expo East which was held in Baltimore this year. Not as an exhibitor, but as an attendee. We made the trip towards the end of September, booking a hotel room downtown. It had great reviews at which has always been reliable.

I guess I had adventure in mind when I decided to book a room in downtown Baltimore. It was a converted row home turned into a Rodeway Inn. I thought it would be nice to park the car for two days and use public transportation or walk since the convention center was only .8 mile away from the hotel. I grew up in Pennsylvania being very familiar with row homes, so I thought it would be quite nostalgic. Hmmm ....

With only 20 rooms, we thought we should check-in as soon as we arrived in the city, even though we wouldn't be able to get into the room till later. We didn't want to get the worst room in the building. I certainly hope we didn't end up with the best room in the building since it wasn't quite what I expected. The sheets were clean so we determined we would not complain. I'm much more fussy than Randal when it comes to bathrooms, but even he wouldn't use the shower. My consolation was that we were gone most of the time, but the nights were noisy with traffic outside and bright lights that shined through the curtain cracks.

I didn't sleep much the first night, but the second night my brain had adjusted some I guess. I kept thinking, "Where is the night music?" For Baltimore or any large city that would've meant boom boxes, nearby bars with music emptying into the street, and cars honking and people shouting. My idea of music was crickets, locusts and tree frogs.

The website said there was free parking across the street. When we arrived there was no parking lot across the street, only a block of row homes. Randal parked in a space with a fire hydrant and I remained in the car. He was informed that all the spaces along the other side of the street for the entire block was free parking. Okay, guess so. But with all those homes, you might imagine there were no empty spaces. He asked for directions to a parking garage and there was one only two blocks away. I think we took one of only three remaining spaces after working our way up to the top level.

We went immediately to the convention center excited to begin our business event. There was a free bus that headed down that way but not knowing what time it might come, we decided walking would be the fastest, since the first speaker we wanted to hear, Patch Adams, was scheduled only 40 minutes later. thing I had wanted to do at the expo was to hear Patch Adams speak and that was to begin in only 40 minutes. There were no uphill streets since we were headed down to the water at Harbor Place.

The day was full with lots of walking not only at the convention center, but back to the parking garage which was slightly uphill. We encountered lots of lonely people along the way. Some homeless folks, some folks that looked like gang members, some businessmen, and plain old regular people that had a look of misery in their eyes. I think it's hard to live in a city. You would have to carry around a lot of fear with all that goes on.

People mostly avoided eye contact, but now and then I could get somebody to look at me and receive a big smile. I sensed a lot of grief and sadness as we passed the many people on our way back to the garage. I would imagine a smile could really make a difference in their life. I pondered how long it had been since some of the people who lived on the street had seen a smile directed totally to them.

I was glad we packed light since we had to walk back to the hotel up a rather steep hill with our bags and computers. Randal hooked our water bottles on his belt, put a computer on each shoulder and his bag over one of them. My bag was a very light backpack so I carried it myself along with my purse. Just getting me up the hill was my greatest challenge, but it's quite amazing how much strength you can feel when you put the Word first in your mind and let Jesus just take over. I truly believe that "we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us" if we let Him who abides in us do it. I used to use my own willpower to make things happen and then pay for it later. I find this newer approach works much better.

The next day we repeated much the same routine except that it was raining when we left the hotel for the convention center. We decided we'd wait for The Circulator (free bus) since it was a direct route to where we were going. As we walked to the stop a little more than a block away without our umbrellas (they were both in the back seat of the car and neither of us thought to take them along. I looked over at Randal and said you don't look like you're a happy camper, so I guess you won't be singing me any romantic love songs.

You see, on one of our early dates, it was raining and when we walked to the car Randal sang me a little song that he's sung a number of times since. We hadn't walked in the rain for quite some time, but he knew exactly what I meant and began the song: "I'll walk in the rain by your side. I'll cling to the touch of your tiny hand. I'll do anything to make you understand, that I love you more than anybody can." By then we arrived at the bus stop with others waiting, so it tickled me silly. I think I turned 3 shades of red, but as always, my eyes teared up too.

By the end of our 8-hour day roaming the expo and hauling bags of samples as we did the first day, we saw that it was pouring outside. No sample umbrellas in our bags, so we decided to just enjoy the rain. After all it was a bit fun and romantic in the morning. Now with the bus stop more than 2 blocks away, my wet clothes were turning soggy and my makeup was running. When we got to the stop there was no cover. Plenty of folks with umbrellas, but you know life in the big city ... nobody talks to nobody, so there was little hope of anybody offering to share any dry space under their umbrella.

We moved under a building that was behind the bus stop being able to look up the street to see it coming. They run every 10-20 minutes we were told, but after 45 minutes, it still had not arrived. Feeling like I'd smoked a few cigarettes after standing beside those who sought cover with one, my joy factor was draining like water in a colander. I definitely felt like limp lettuce too. But eventually the bus arrived and we decided to go back to the parking garage to get our umbrellas.

The bus was late because the traffic was really bad so we stood up on a totally full bus and since I couldn't really hold on to the posts, I hung on to my honey, who had the two big bags full of samples on his shoulders all the time of our walking and waiting. Oh how I wanted to grumble a bit, but I couldn't keep myself from smiling. I was so glad that I worked at home and didn't need to have this kind of an adventure every day. Finally a bright spot in the dreary, cloudy day appeared ... a detour which took the bus right past the garage instead of two blocks away. The driver was more than willing to let us out right at the garage entrance. What a blessing!

We were excited to get to bed that night knowing we would be leaving early the next morning for a family visit in Pennsylvania to be followed by a 5-1/2 hour drive back home later that day with images of our cozy and wonderful mattress and our kitty, Squeek.

But before that we found the door to the parking garage wasn't open, so we went down to where you drive in and walked up towards the car noticing the sign that said they didn't open till 8 AM.  It was 6:50.  Were we going to have to sit there for over an hour and be later than we told our family we'd arrive?  Randal thought they may have an option to use your credit card.  Somehow I didn't think it was that fancy, but there was nobody in the booth to collect our money.

Fortunately when we came down and went towards the exit gate, which didn't have any credit card option, the gate lifted.  Randal was so concerned about where to pay, like a Boy Scout he couldn't seem to hit the gas pedal until we'd handed over the $20.  I told him to move it while the gate was up.  We could send a check when we got back home, which is what we did after calling to find out where to send it.

One piece of great news was that our best mileage for the trip was 39.4 miles per gallon in Randal's Ford Fusion. This is not the hybrid either. We are really excited that it's doing so well with gas mileage since that's been the main qualifying factor for us when we buy a car. We don't put enough miles on to buy an actual green car since we couldn't justify the expense with an average of 6000 miles per year. Working at home leaves our cars in the garage for weeks sometimes without use. It sure cuts the cost of insurance too. So, if anybody's looking at cars with good gas mileage, keep the Ford Fusion in mind.

I bet most of you are wondering where the photos are in this post. Where's the link to the album of Baltimore? Would you believe I didn't take one picture while we were there. I didn't even get the camera out of the car. I knew I wasn't going to take it to the convention center. I didn't even want to carry my purse there. Since it wasn't easy to get things from the car and put them back in, I simply decided I'd skip the photos on this trip. Besides, the hotel wasn't very photogenic and I'm sure city folks don't appreciate having their pictures being taken without consent. So ... that was a new adventure for me too. A trip without a photograph!

However, I do have photos from previous trips to Baltimore, so maybe you would enjoy these:
Baltimore, MD - City and Natural Areas
Baltimore Harbor, MD - New Year's Eve on USS Constellation

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5 Biggest Mistakes New Pet Parents Make

by Dr. Sarah

Few things can bring more joy than adopting a companion animal. Often, we make the decision to open our homes to a new four-footer with our hearts only.

That’s why Dr. Sarah has dedicated this episode of Pet Talk to anyone who’s getting ready to make the leap. Before you make a hasty decision, be sure to watch this episode of Pet Talk!

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Perennial Parties

Here's a cool suggestion from a Birds and Blooms subscriber. It was in their email you can subscribe to.

For a few years now, gardeners in my area have been holding perennial parties. Each spring and fall, different gardeners take turns hosting the gathering in their backyards.

It’s a great time to exchange tips, advice and plants. Roughly 150 gardeners are involved. We organize the plants by light needs and by type, such as herbs, daylilies and hostas. We have thousands of plants!

A few of the ladies involved are master gardeners. They answer questions before the trading begins. Then we take turns picking plants until they’re all gone.

I’ve filled entire flower beds with these free plants. I look forward to the event every autumn. –Connie Baumann, Lino Lakes, Minnesota

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Patch Adams Isn't Just a Movie

When we attended the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, the first event I wanted to see was a speaker named, Patch Adams. I knew he would be inspiring and amazing, besides terrifically funny!

Patch Adams
You probably remember the name Patch Adams from the movie with Robin Williams, but this was the real Patch Adams, the doctor who uses humor and any modality other than drugs that he can to make people well. He created a free hospital over 41 years ago and it's still operating.

He had quite a story to tell. He doesn't own a computer but does reply to EVERY U.S. postal letter he receives. That means he writes 200-600 letters a month by hand. He averages 300 speaking engagements a year. That's astounding enough, but the volume of books he reads in a month's time was also amazing. He's never needed more than 2-5 hours sleep a night since he loves waking up to a wonderful life every day.

His current project is in West Virginia where the Gesundheit Institute (his free hospital) owns 310 acres of land and is building another free clinic open 24/7, and will have a staff of 10 serving the people of West Virginia, in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. The Clinic will provide a model for students and medical professionals to practice medicine with care and compassion amidst a playful, professional team.

A special emphasis will be on prevention, both individual (health behaviors) and institutional (public health). In addition to examination rooms and physician offices, the clinic will have a greenhouse, group kitchen, radiology suite, and arboretum. Read Patch's introduction to the project.

Patch is both a medical doctor and a clown, but he is also a social activist who has devoted 30 years to changing America's healthcare system, a system that he describes as expensive and elitist. He believes that laughter, joy and creativity are an integral part of the healing process and therefore, true health care must incorporate those aspects of life. Doctors and patients in his model relate to each other on the basis of mutual trust and patients receive plenty of time from their doctors. Allopathic doctors and practitioners of alternative medicine will work side by side in Patch's model.

If you think that all sounds like a utopian impossibility, it isn't. Patch and his colleagues practiced medicine at the Gesundheit Institute together in West Virginia that way for 12 years in what Patch refers to as their "pilot project." In that time they saw 15,000 patients without any fees. From that experience onward Patch Adams has devoted his life to the study of what makes people happy. Get more information on Patch Adams and his many humanitarian endeavors, at

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Top 10 Things to Do For The Garden for Winter

From Melinda's Top 10 in Birds and Blooms Magazine.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Purple Bee Balm
• Shred fall leaves and dig them into vacant gardens to help improve the soil for next season.

• Plant pansies, mums, asters and ornamental cabbage for added fall color.

• Bulbs can be planted when night time air temperatures stay between 40-50 degree.

• Safely store fertilizer and garden chemicals in a secure location away from pets and children. (Editor's Note: Better yet, switch to natural products that aren't toxic to you and wildlife. One of our favorite products is Sunshine Concentrate for the garden.)

• Cover vegetables and frost-sensitive flowers with old sheets or floating row covers to extend the growing season. The first few frosts of the season are often followed by several weeks of warm temperatures.

• Let healthy, pest-free perennials stand for winter. They add beauty to the winter landscape, provide food for birds and are winter homes for many good bugs.

• Pick tomatoes that are starting to show color before the first killing frost and ripen them indoors.

• Loosely tie upright arborvitae and juniper with cotton strips or twine. Another option is to wrap the plants in bird netting to prevent snow loads from bending and possibly breaking stems.

• Install wildlife protection before critters start feeding. It is easier to prevent damage than to break a bad habit.

• Store excess seeds in their original packets or clearly marked envelopes. Then place them in airtight jar or old 35mm film canister in the refrigerator for the winter.

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