Friday, January 1, 2016

The Nature In Us Newsletter - 1/1/16

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The Nature In Us Newsletter
January 1, 2016
By Donna L. Watkins

"I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble." ~~ Rudyard Kipling

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Happy New Year!

Donna At Monticello Estate
Holidays - Here we are in 2016.  I remember how strange it was when we entered into the year 2000.  Now we're a long ways down the road from that year.  I hope you had a wonderful, peaceful and joyful Christmas time ... but I also know that for many it's a time of sadness, bad circumstances or loneliness.

For the New Year, my prayer for you is:

May you celebrate your uniqueness, enjoy God's goodness, and look forward to the plans, purposes, and blessings He holds for you as He fulfills the desires of your heart.

Much love, many hugs and a basketful of blessings!

Tidbit - Preserving Wildlife - The Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, China's richest man and noted conservationist, plans to turn Brandon Reserve in the Adirondack Mountains into a wildlife sanctuary.  This will protect its timber and water from logging and mining operations.  The $28 million dollar bid for 28,000 acres of pristine, American wilderness is an exciting purchase for Mr. Ma and the natural wilderness and all it contains.  View the video about this tract of land.

Trees - The Return of the American Chestnut - The nuts of the American Chestnut tree were large, sweet, and highly desired by people, deer, squirrels, and chipmunks.  The nuts of the American Chestnut were large, sweet, and highly desired by people, deer, squirrels, and chipmunks.  For the people of the southern Appalachians, the American Chestnut was economically important. The reddish-brown wood was lightweight, soft, easy to split, very resistant to decay; and it did not warp or shrink. (Source:

Because of its resistance to decay, industries sprang up throughout the region to use wood from the American Chestnut for posts, poles, piling, railroad ties, and split-rail fences. Its straight-grained wood was ideal for building log cabins, furniture, and caskets. Split-rail fences made from the American Chestnut can still be found along country roads throughout the northeast United States and the southern Appalachians.  (Source:

The fruit that fell to the ground was an important cash crop. Families raked up chestnuts by the bushels and took wagon loads of them to sell in nearby towns. The people even cooked the chestnuts for their own use. The bark and wood were rich in tannic acid which provided tannins for use in the tanning of leather. More than half of the vegetable tannin used by the American leather industry at the turn of the century came from the American Chestnut. So important was the American Chestnut in the southern Appalachians that some of the major timber operations became subsidiaries of leather companies which were organized to harvest other species for lumber on land bought to insure supplies of chestnut tannin extract. In addition, the American Chestnut was a graceful shade tree found in city squares and on the rural homestead.  (Source:

View Enlarged Image
American Chestnut Restoration Project
The tallest Chestnut tree left in North America has been discovered and may give new hope for a species that was nearly wiped out by disease in 1904.  Why this tree was able to survive for 100 years to be 115 feet tall, when billions of others died, is the latest clue for activists and scientists who have been working for decades to save the species.  The American Chestnut tree was once abundant along the U.S. East Coast and Canada.  When it became “functionally extinct” it left ghostly gaps in the landscape.  The problem isn't that the tree won't grow, but that it grows to a certain point and then succumbs to the disease.

This tree, and other survivors, are immune to the disease, so it's DNA could help the American Chestnut Foundation with its 6,000 volunteers to develop a fungus-resistant tree to be reintroduced into the wild.  A team from the University of Maine found the tree during an aerial search.  Chestnut trees flower at this time of year when no other trees do in Maine, so they’re easy to spot from the air with their white blossoms.  Read more here.  We visited one of the American Chestnut Restoration Projects on a field trip and got to take a few pictures.  It was in Nelson County, Virginia, a county that I'm sure looks like heaven - at least as much as earthly eyes can imagine heaven.   I have been following the research and plantings since then.

Pets - Previously, the military working dogs were ineligible for military transport home to the United States.  Soldiers who wanted to adopt their canine colleagues had an extremely difficult time getting them back to America.  The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act changes that giving the dogs’ military handlers first choice of adopting them.  The new law requires that military working dogs be returned to USA soil when they retire, which can make a huge difference to the veterans who need to overcome wartime trauma and readjust to civilian life.  Read the whole story here.

Birds - My aunt in Pennsylvania told me that she's not seeing all the birds that she usually does in winter.  It's been warm there.  I have noticed the same thing here.  We have loads of "resident birds" visiting the feeders, but it seems we don't have the large flocks of birds that are our winter guests.  I rarely see a Dark-eyed Junco and even the White-throated Sparrows seem to be less than when they first arrived.  No Pine Siskins this year and I've not even seen the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that killed our holly trees and firethorn bushes over the years of his girdling them. Do you see any less birds this winter than you normally do?  Leave your comments at the bottom of this post.

Tidbit - Postal Rate Increase - The U.S. Postal Service has proposed a postage rate increase for select mail classes and services in 2016, pending approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).  If approved by the PRC, the new postage rates will start on Sunday, January 17, 2016.  The Priority Mail Express service will see an average increase of 15.6% in postage rates next year.  Check out the highlights on the upcoming rate changes.

Print I Bought With Birthday Money in 1996
Titled "He Is Our Peace"
Critters - Good News for Lions - The Obama administration implemented new measures to protect African lions, placing them on the Endangered Species List in order to curtail the loss of animals from American sport hunters traveling to Africa and India.  Lion populations in Africa have declined by more than 60% since the 1940s.  United States hunting trophies in the last 10 years accounted for 5,600 deaths of the big cats.  That fact received little attention until the recent death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

The lion’s new designation gives American officials the ability to ban the importation of any hunting trophies, such as lion skins, that would be brought back into the country. The importation of live lions also can be regulated under the new legal status.    Read more here about this law.

Another Good News Story is about Animal Defenders International working with police in Colombia and Peru, where animal acts are now illegal , to shut down 10 circuses which will free 33 lions.  They have been sent to the 12,000-acre Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa’s Limpopo province.  Read more here.

Animal Defenders International has been working hard to shut down circuses everywhere.  What people see when attending a circus is not what's going on behind the scenes to provide it.  On another humanitarian airlift of 25 lions, called Operation Lion Ark, included construction of a specially-built 80-acre enclosure at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.  Up until now, all these lions have known is deplorable conditions, neglect and abuse. The cats, including three cubs, were nursed back to health before their long journey to the United States.  Read more here.

Travel - Unusual Places - Furore, Italy - Tucked away in a Fjord is a quaint Italian village, completed with brightly coloured houses decorated with murals. Furore can be discovered in the Campania region of south-western Italy, although it used to be practically hidden from travelers.  Following Furore being dubbed 'the village that doesn't exist,' the mayor decided it was time for action, and sought to put the minuscule commune on the map.  He ordered that the tiny buildings should be painted in vibrant colours so the picturesque village could be viewed from the coastal road.  His goal was to give the place an identity. Furore became 'il Paese Dipinto'; the painted village.  Every September, artists from around the world are invited to a festival to add to the murals now decorating the local buildings.

Investments by the comune and private bodies, as well as co-operation between local business, has given Furore a well-marketed range of enterprises to welcome the visitor: restaurants, pizzerie, and accommodation ranging from farm-based agriturismo to a five-star hotel and spa.  The most attractive thing about this village-non-village is its beautiful setting: the olive trees, the grapevines on terraces going up the mountainside, the bowers of lemons with nets stretched between poles, and more colorful eye candy scenes.  Read more.

View Enlarged Image
Donna at Crabtree Falls, Nelson County, VA
View More Blue Ridge Mountain Photos
Dreams - Looking forward to Springtime!  I was at Crabtree Falls for this photo back in 2012.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to be sitting on a rock by a waterfall right now?  Trees all green and fresh.  The sounds of flowing water.  A trail to the top of the waterfall with each level having another waterfall.

Crabtree Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Virginia, and certainly the tallest. It is commonly referred to as the tallest waterfall in the East, but his is a mistake because it's actually a series of waterfalls, all beautiful and tall but not one distinct drop. Crabtree Creek flows from Crabtree Meadows up by the Blue Ridge Parkway before plunging 1,080 feet to the Tye River.
Waterfalls seem to bring introspection about life.  So peaceful.  Everything just flowing by, no time for bad circumstances to keep the ripples in our lives.  We can purify our troubles and wash them all down the river as we realize that our earthly time is so short compared to the eternity of bliss we will be living in Heaven.  Until then .... dream about what you want your life on earth to be like .... and make them come true!

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." ~~ Eleanor Roosevelt

May You Be Blessed With a Peaceful and Joy-filled New Year!

P.S. See anything in here that might help somebody you know?  Please share! 

Here's a link to the online version of this newsletter.

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