Monday, September 8, 2014
Uh Oh, a Skunk!
I was looking out my kitchen window as I tend to do whenever I’m preparing a meal and saw this white blob under the bird feeders. It looked like a plastic bag had blown against the pole. I debated going out and removing it or letting the wind take it on its way. Then the “bag” moved and I saw it was a skunk! A rather large one, at that. Panic set in.
We frequently smell skunks in the neighborhood so I know that are around but I had hope they weren’t too near. This dispelled that hope. Knocking on the window to scare it off didn’t work. Opening the window (ever so slightly) and yelling “Shoo!” didn’t work either. The skunk looked up for a second, then continued munching on the seeds tossed down by the less than careful birds.
I didn’t know what to do so, other than looking outside several times as dusk turned to evening, I did nothing. The skunk eventually left and did not return the next day or the next. I wondered where it lived in this well-developed suburban neighborhood. I didn’t want to come upon it accidentally should it have a nest in back of our yard.
The thing is, skunks are actually cute. They are also mild-mannered except when threatened. They benefit farmers by eating agricultural and garden pests. And they are mostly nocturnal so they tend not (too often) to interact with people and animals.
Much as I am nervous about its reappearance, the skunk reminded me of the diversity of nature. There are helpful creatures, dangerous creatures, worrisome and delightful creatures. Sort of like us. All of nature has different aspects about it that make life interesting. Some we like, some not. It’s a matter of the good, the bad, and (in this case) the smelly.
If you do get sprayed, try these de-skunking methods:
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Rose Hips and Acadia
I was walking along a path in Acadia National Park at Bar Harbor, Maine, enjoying being out in nature when I heard someone say, “Are those tomatoes?” I looked to where she was pointing and smiled.
She was referring to the rose hips, which are the seeds of roses. They are red and have a slightly flattened roundness that could be mistaken for hefty cherry tomatoes. They are abundant at this time of the season, ripening as autumn approaches.
Rose hips have a long history of usage, from birds and animals to humans. They are edible, though we humans cannot comfortably digest the seeds; they can be easily removed. They are rich in Vitamin C and other vitamins and antioxidants. Fall is a particularly good time to harvest them as they become sweeter after the first frost. They can be used topically to heal skin problems.
But I didn’t let my focus on rose hips distract me from the splendor of Acadia. It is magnificent. The mountain views and seascapes are meditative. Many people, myself included, sat on the rocks just looking outward. Time seems irrelevant in such a setting. It is a place of renewal, something necessary in today’s frenetic world. If you can’t get to Acadia, take a few minutes in your day just to close your eyes and breathe deeply. It really makes a difference.
This is the official Acadia website but Google other sites as well for some additional great photos:
A brief review of rose hips with some recipes:
Monday, August 18, 2014
The hibiscus flowers have been delighting us all summer. They are big, exuberant, brilliant red blossoms that cause comments by anyone who comes to our house. One plant greets visitors at our front door with a gracious floral welcome that is so prominent, it cannot be ignored.
There are seasons for everything, however, and even as buds are still developing, many have already flowered and gone leaving behind the empty leaves that held their glory. There are no more buds forming this season but they were prolific and the promise of each was extraordinary.
The last flower is about to bloom and I feel both sad and exhilarated. I know the plants will be back next year, probably expanded, as they tend to spread their beauty. But I am left with an awareness of how each tightly closed bud starts with potential and grows to be all it is meant to be. I cannot help but think of how it relates to children, how they start off with their potential contained and then blossom into the world, and how the process continues as we grow and mature into the beautiful creations we are all meant to be.
Cultivation and maintenance instructions:http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/flowers/hgic1179.html
Monday, August 4, 2014
Coneflower/Echinacea – Nature’s Balance
The purple coneflower seems to be everywhere this season, gracing gardens and fences, walkways and flowerpots. It adds lovely color wherever it grows and as a bonus, it is a native American plant.
But there is more to this plant than its pretty looks. It is also known as Echinacea purpura and has a long history of medicinal use. Like most things, though, Echinacea has its positive and negative sides. It can help with many things but can be problematic at other times. It has a general anti-inflammatory effect in the body, which helps boost a person’s natural immune system. On the other hand, it can cause reactions in people who are allergic to ragweed, daisies, marigolds and similar plants. It can kill germs and dry up mucous but it is strongly heating so it is not recommended for fever or night sweats.
It’s interesting how nature has a balance in everything. Careful attention helps keep us healthy. We can appreciate the beauty of the cornflower and not necessarily ingest it. Sometimes that works for our emotional health, as well, appreciating and observing to find out what supports us; a balance of beauty and practicality is nature’s way.
Some medical info about Echinacea:
Monday, July 21, 2014
Blueberry Picking is Great!
Ah, blueberries. One of my favorite foods. And this is great blueberry picking time in my area. We are near Hammonton, NJ, which is known for its blueberries. We went picking at an organic farm last week and came home with almost eight pounds of berries. What will we do with so many, you might wonder. Well, I’ve already made two batches of blueberry muffins and plan to bake a blueberry cobbler later this week. We munch on them daily and I’ll freeze some, if any are left in the next day or so. We may go back to the picking farm before the harvest time is over.
Blueberries have lots going for them besides good taste. They are native to North America. They are healthful, loaded with antioxidants. They’re rated as reasonably low on the glycemic index and calories.
I love picking blueberries. Seeing how they grow and choosing which berries to take is a privilege. It is almost a meditative experience, directing your focus berry-by-berry, on the wonder of nature. There is a practical side as well. There is no worry about perhaps getting squished ones in the supermarket container or how long the berries have traveled or been stored before you buy them – there is nothing fresher than pick-your-own berries. Plus, it’s a fun outing for the family. Depending on the farm you go to, you may get to ride on a hay wagon, an activity that never gets old. And to top it all off, the cost is less.
So, I wish you all happy blueberry picking. Perhaps we’ll see each other down a blueberry row. But hurry, the season lasts only a few weeks more!
Yay for blueberries!
Hints about working with blueberries and more:http://www.blueberrycouncil.org/about-blueberries/
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Lake Erie is a Great Lake
Here it is July already. I took a blogcation for a month, enjoying a little road trip, a family visit, and just allowing myself some off time, doing pretty much not much. Isn’t that what summer is for?
One of the things I saw on our road trip was Lake Erie, an incredibly sized body of fresh water. There are five Great Lakes- Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron – that impact Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, and Wisconsin. It was hard to believe that Lake Erie is the smallest of them in volume though the fourth in size. Quite impressive. Lots of people were enjoying the gentle waves and the warm water on this hot day; a serene respite from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday living.
But it wasn’t always this way. The Great Lakes have their problems. Lake Erie is a case in point. The native peoples revered the lake for its purity before the area was colonized. Then things changed with the new settlers. By the late 1960s it was polluted by industries spilling pollutants into it, sewer water being released there, and agricultural runoff. Algae flourished and the fish were all dying. Instead of Great Lake it was called Dead Lake. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River, which feeds into Lake Erie, caught fire. It was time to rethink our use of the lake.
In 1972, the United States and Canada signed The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to establish guidelines for a cleaner Great Lakes environment. The International Joint Commission (IJC), in a final report in 1999 on the Great Lakes, recommended wetlands restoration and water quality research and monitoring. There are still periodic quality warnings issued for beach use but at least Lake Erie has its watchdogs now.
I was saddened when I learned about Lake Erie’s history. I wish I could have seen it in its original state; if it is so impressive now, how incredible it must have once been. We need to think of consequences to nature before we plow ahead with our plans. We aren’t separate from nature – it is us.
Lake Erie – past, present, and future:
A look at the International Joint Commission’s findings:http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/html/finalreport.html
Monday, June 9, 2014
Blackberries and Raspberries – Delicious and Beneficial
We planted two new bushes this season. One is a raspberry bush. It is leafing out nicely with flowers and thorns. The other is a blackberry bush, thornless and self-pollinating and also leafy and green. They both are growing nicely despite not being planted in ideal soil. They like sand and we have marl. We modified the soil as much as we could and hope they can adapt. They are in a sunny spot, which is favorable for their growth, and so far they seem to be doing well.
Berries are full of antioxidants, fiber, and Vitamin C, among other beneficial properties. While these particular berries are not on The Dirty Dozen list (those foods that are the most contaminated by pesticides), organic berries have been shown to have more of the health benefits than non-organic berries.
Dr. Andrew Weil partners with Environmental Working Group (EWG). He advocates eating organic produce but acknowledges that it is not always available and frequently is too expensive. He suggests that we choose as much as we can from the safer foods, or at least choose a mixture of the two.
Our berry bushes are organic because we planted them that way. We also shop at local organic farmstands when possible. I am glad to see that some of the larger supermarkets are including organic fruits and vegetables now as the demand increases. How we shop determines what we can buy. Let’s make our preferences for healthy food known.
Nutrition facts for blackberries:
Nutrition facts for raspberries:
The Dirty Dozen:
Dr, Weil chats about EWG’s guide: