Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Nature In Us Newsletter - 10/1/14

  The Nature In Us Newsletter - 10/1/14 
  by Donna L. Watkins  

Hello Dear Friends!

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North Gate From Within Fort Monroe
Continuing on with photos from our overnight getaway Labor Day weekend, the next stop was Fort Monroe which was nice since I could pretty much stay in the car and take pictures or get out for a few minutes and come back to the air conditioning.  Even when it was cloudy it was oppressively hot.  Lots to see at Fort Monroe and very interesting for those with historical interest in the Civil War also.  There are 259 buildings and structures at Fort Monroe, 170 of which are historic.

There are 565 acres with nearly 200 acres of natural resources, including 8 miles of waterfront, 3.2 miles of beaches on the Chesapeake Bay, 110 acres of submerged lands and 85 acres of wetlands.  View Fort Monroe Photo Album.

The Casemate Museum was by far the most interesting place (and air-conditioned).  It was incredible all that they had in that building.  Very well done and super informative on all of the many uses Fort Monroe had over the years.  View Casemate Museum Photo Album.

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Black Gum Tree with Fruit for Wildlife
I was picking up acorns to put on trays in the garage so towards the end of winter we can put them out for the wildlife when things are sparse. If we leave them on the ground they just bear roots, the nut rots and we have to dig out small oak trees every few years. Last year we didn't have any acorns at all. It happened in many places here in the East. Some years are better than others, but last year was horrible and it was a year of a very frigid winter here in Virginia and elsewhere.

While doing that I noticed a tree with lots of berries on it.  Looked like one of our Black Gum trees but I'd never seen it with fruit. They bloom around May-June but the flowers are too tiny to notice, yet very attractive to pollinators as a nectar source.If you're looking for a great tree for your wildlife habitat landscaping ... this one is a keeper.

The birds attracted are many.  From a list that I found, we have 15 of them as regular visitors (some migrating through each year) and 6 that we've not seen.  Even mammals enjoy the benefits of these trees:  squirrels, small rodents, gray foxes, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, black bears, and white-tailed deer.

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Juvenile Eastern Towhee - First I've Ever Seen
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Continuing on with new things to see ... the two holly trees (we thought they were bushes when we planted them) at the breakfast area window are busy spots for the birds.  The deck is on the other side of the railing which includes a birdbath and they love to take their bath and then preen and clean while they're hiding in the bushes.  So there's always a lot of activity going on in those "bushes." 

One day I saw something that didn't look familiar so I grabbed the camera and then went to look.  The bird was hopping from here to there in the denseness of the branches but I finally got a few shots to determine what it was.  I was really excited to realize that it was a Juvenile Eastern Towhee.

Sadly, these birds are common victims of the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird that lays eggs in Towhee nests and then leaves the baby birds to be raised buy the Towhees.  Towhees don't seem to have the ability, as some other birds, to recognize or remove the Cowbird's egg.  This could be because the female Cowbird removes the Towhee egg when laying their own, making the switch harder to notice.

This bird is actually part of the sparrow family although they are certainly twice the size of sparrows.  They tend to be solitary, and they use a number of threat displays to tell other towhees they’re not welcome. We've never seen more than one couple here. Studies show that male Towhees usually defend territories many times larger than needed for their food supply.

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Monarch Butterfly Fresh From the Chrysalis
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Those of you who follow monarchs closely are aware that the monarch population has been declining for the last 10 years with significant drops in the population each of the last three years. The number of trees and total area occupied by monarchs in the oyamel fir forests in Mexico was at an all time low last winter - a mere 0.67 hectares. This decline has given rise to a great deal of concern about the future of the monarch migration.  Programs such as the Monarch Waystation, Bring Back the Monarchs, and Milkweed Market programs. These programs are growing but they need to become much, much larger to sustain the monarch migration. Consider making a difference by participating in one of them. 

We have a Certified Monarch Waystation, but our milkweed plants have not been spreading, so this year, we are going to participate in the Milkweed Market Program since we have seed pods of one of the milkweed species needed in Virginia.  Schools and non-profits can get milkweed seeds free.  More info on that here.

There will be a modest increase in the number of monarchs in the migration and at the overwintering sites this winter. All of the factors Chip Taylor, Monarch Watch's Director, researched indicate that there will be more monarchs migrating this fall and at the overwintering locations by mid-December when the colonies are measured. All in all things are looking up for monarchs this year.  Reports from throughout the breeding range indicate an increase in monarch numbers.

On August 26th 2014, The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, The Xerces Society, and Dr. Lincoln Brower submitted a petition to the Secretary of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service requesting that the monarch butterfly be granted threatened status under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.  Read this blog post for more information on that.

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Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)
on Obedience Plant
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A green pest control company in Canada contacted me to promote an article as PR for spiders. I get too many folks contacting me to add an article to the blog, but I'm a sucker for bugs since I overcame my fear many years back after moving to the woods, so here goes ... A fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias among people, and largely irrational given that we are much more likely to kill them than they are to kill us.  Check out these spider facts then take the challenge and read the article.

- There are over 40,000 known species in the world and only a dozen or so which are lethal to humans
- Just one spider in your house will mean around 2,000 fewer bugs each year
- They keep the garden healthy by feeding on a variety of pests that attack flowers and vegetables
- Spiders will generally limit their own numbers and control their own population

If you'd like some steps to overcome your fear of spiders, check out this article at WikiHow.  I wrote an article, Freedom From Fear, quite a few years back and talked about getting over the bug phobia.

My sweet friend and spiritual sister, Elva, in Texas sent me this photo of a double rainbow she took in front of her house.  Amazing!  I'd never seen a double rainbow, so I Googled to find some information.  According to meteorologists:  a ray of sunlight passes through a raindrop, reflecting off the back of the drop at varying angles.  Along with this reflection is refraction of light that causes a spectrum of colors.  Certain angles and "bending" reflect light better for refraction to occur, and the amount of light refraction corresponds to wavelength and color. 

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Double Rainbow
While a primary rainbow is visible when light is reflected once off the back of a raindrop, a secondary and usually dimmer rainbow is spotted when light is reflected twice in a more complicated pattern.  The colors of the second rainbow are inverted, with blue on the outside and red moved to the inside.

The second bow appears dimmer or cloudier because much more light is released from two reflections, and both bows cover a larger portion of the sky.  Many rain droplets of all different sizes, not just one, are responsible for this phenomena. Perhaps billions of water droplets and sunlight reflections make a rainbow visible to the human eye.  The best time to see a rainbow is in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower in the sky. When the sun is in a lower position, a higher bow can be seen.

My instant thought was double blessings and a double reminder of God's promises to us since the rainbow was a sign of His promise in Genesis.  Since I have another sweet friend in Massachusetts whose name is Rainbow, I sent it along to her as a reminder that God is watching over her and still delights in confirming His promises ... as He does for all of us.

One of the things I look forward to each year is getting to pick Concord grapes over in the Shenandoah Valley.  I'll take any excuse to drive over the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy that area.  It reminds me of the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania.  I grew up in a neighboring county.  The Wenger Grape Farm is between Waynesboro and Stuarts Draft, an area that has a large concentration of Mennonite families. Paul L. Wenger, planted the first vineyard in 1938. Since that time the acreage of grapes has expanded to 35 acres.

I had spent 5-1/2 hours on other errands and it was a bit warm, so by the time I got to the vineyard, I decided to buy the grapes already picked. Only $.10 more a pound which made them $1.20 per pound.  What a deal.  The skin is a deep dark color and the flavor is amazing!  They don't keep very long so I like to freeze some and enjoy them as little pop-in-your-mouth icicles.  They taste so rich and juicy and the skin is filled with antioxidants.

At the top of the list of antioxidant research is resveratrol (a phytonutrient present mostly in grape skins, but also in grape seeds and grape flesh). Resveratrol has recently been shown to increase expression of three genes all related to longevity.  I take resveratrol daily in an herbal formula (Super ORAC) that includes other potent antioxidants, but I love to eat the real thing that isn't hybridized for convenience and still contains all the natural nutrients God put it. It's called "heirloom seeds."

Too often we just read through the Bible and don't really focus on anything.  When something seems to hit your heart while you're reading the Bible, STOP reading further. Take the time to stick with that verse.  God wants to show you something.  Reading the Bible isn't supposed to be something we have to do, but something we desire to be taught by the Lord.  God Word is alive and active like a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), so there's a lot in every Word He spoke.

"Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us."  Ephesians 3:20

Notice the last portion of the verse.  Many times only the first part is quoted, but the manifestation of that is 'according to the power that works in us'.  When we accepted Jesus as Lord, all that He did and all that He is was placed inside of us in our spirits, but we have to believe it to bring it out where we can see it.  Science is now discovering that our thoughts and beliefs are what rule our lives.  Whatever we think on becomes the life we live.  Puts a lot of responsibility on us, but how exciting that we can change our lives by changing our thoughts and what we speak. 

You don't magically have life turn around when you get saved.  It's how much you put into the relationship that makes things change.  I have a box with 52 Scripture cards in it (52 Weeks to a Positive Life) and on the back Norman Vincent Peale adds an encouraging word.  The comments on the verse above are powerful, but it takes our active participation and belief to have things manifest into the physical realm from the spiritual.

"Today, remind yourself that nothing is too good to be true.  Your great hopes can be realized.  Your most wonderful dreams can come true. All that you really need, you can have.  An incredible goodness is operating on your behalf.  If you are living a paltry life, resolve to stop it today.  Expect great things to happen.  Confidently receive God's abundant blessings.  Do not think lack.  Instead think prosperity, abundance, the best of everything.  God wants to give to you, His child, every good thing. Don't hinder His generosity."  Norman Vincent Peale

The belief that's being talked about is in our hearts, not our heads.  We can believe facts and information, but if our heart has believed something else, or has a different view of who God is, then it will take time to renew our minds so it can become our heart's belief.

Unconditional love is foreign to us.  As a child we're rewarded for being "good" and disciplined for being "bad."  It continues with school, sports, where we work, and even relationships are based on "what's in it for me?"  All of that programming leaves us with a heart belief that we have to do something to earn God's love or blessings.  It's already been done with Christ.  How could man ever do anything to add to Christ's sacrifice?  Jesus said "It is finished."  You can't add anything to it.  He died to give you .... life abundantly.

Donna on Sandstone Quarry Tour
If you haven't read and/or watched the videos on Renovate Your Mind that was posted last month, check it out and begin your journey to God's abundant life.

Take some of these beautiful Autumn days and spend them with Jesus in a forest, on the beach, by the lake ... He loves to walk and talk with you and delights in having time with you.

Have a blessed time with the Lord THIS week.


P.S. Anything in here that might help somebody you know?
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written by Donna

Posts Since Last Newsletter

What It Means To Believe

Children's Cereals: Sugar by the Pound

Step Away From The Leaf Blower

Cynophobia – The Fear of Dogs

Renovate Your Mind

The Nature In Us Newsletter - 9/15/14  (DLW)

Previous Posts You May Have Missed

Our Life in Him
Swimming Safety for Dogs (Video)
Bad Choices Lead to Toxic Thinking
Duckweed - There Are Some Benefits
The Nature In Us Newsletter - 9/1/14 (DLW)

Do You Really Trust God? (DLW)

Monarch Waystation in Mall

Jogging With Your Dog (Video)

Overcoming Trouble

Slugs - Give Them a Chance to Steal Your Heart

Can We Control Emotions and Feelings?

Lyme Disease - An Emerging Pet Problem

Seeing The Word Alive In Me  (DLW)

Living Near Trees Reduces Stress

Composting Cardboard

Baffling Behaviors of Pets

God Wants YOU Well

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© All photos unless otherwise noted are the property of Donna L. Watkins and cannot be displayed without approval. 

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