Preparing for 150th

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I'll be at the native plant garden this Thursday evening, June 21, starting at 7 pm to prepare for Saturday's big event.  If you can't come Saturday, consider stopping by to help me weed, put out plant name tags, and otherwise do what we can to make the garden look its best.  Youth needing SSL hours are welcome.  No need to RSVP, just show up.  Hope to see you.

150th Celebration

Pleasant View, June 23, noon to 4 pm

Our native plant gardens are looking good and will be an added attraction during the festivities celebrating Pleasant View's 150th anniversary.  Hope to see you there.

To RSVP visit http://pleasantviewsite.org/junefest/

Photos are from last year's JuneFest at Pleasant View.

Tree Loss at Pleasant View

During the recent heavy rain storm a large section of the one remaining large tree at Pleasant View has fallen.  Jeff and Merikay visited PV on May 19 and saw the damage, reporting it to the PV Trustees.  This has huge implications for our shade garden which we have been installing around this tree.  At a minimum we lose this side of the tree and its shade.  The fallen limb has crushed one of the new redbud trees we planted and some of the small plants nearby.  It's likely we'll have more damage to the garden as arborists cut the damaged limb.  It's even possible that we will lose the entire tree.  This is a HUGE loss.  

You Can Do It

Control flooding, replace lost habitat, remove pollution from our waterways, sequester carbon, moderate local weather:  You can do it!

Replacing lawn (or part of our lawns) with native trees, shrubs and other native plants helps hold water during rain events to control flooding and improve water quality.  Plants are great at holding and breaking down pollutants that would otherwise do harm if washed into streams.  Trees are powerful at capturing carbon and releasing oxygen -- they can also reduce nearby temperatures by 10 - 15 degrees.  Their roots and leaves hold water during rain greatly reducing flooding and during drought their roots can bring water up through their leaves into the atmosphere.  Millions of acres a year in the U.S. are developed -- going from natural habitat to impervious surfaces (roads, roofs, driveways) and lawn -- lots of lawn.  If each of us chooses to we can help moderate the loss of habitat by planting native plants.

Check out this diagram showing the difference between turf grass root depth and other plants.  Think about the difference this has for land use -- when much of our surface in developed areas is either impervious or lawn.  Recent storms and resultant flooding are reminders of the need for better stewardship.

You Can Do It!

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Ninebark (that lovely shrub with very long roots) and black-eyed susans shown above are planted in our Pleasant View garden.  Come check out the various native plants we have there and get ideas for your own home garden.  Check our posts under "Pleasant View" for volunteer dates.

James Baird Tree Planting

James Baird passed away this past February unexpectedly after serving only a relatively short time as President of the Washington DC Stake.  He was much loved, not just by family and friends but throughout our Stake and in the community beyond our faith.  Below is part of a talk given by James Baird to his congregation when he was their bishop.  As I prepared for the native tree planting to honor James, I had the text of this talk in mind.

"One of my weaknesses that I’m aware of, is the fact that I am basically a telestial man. I love this earth. I like to work in the dirt. I love to watch the sunset on warm beaches. I love the taste of a fresh toasted tomato sandwich with mayo, sea salt, and fresh-ground pepper. I love to stand in cold streams and try to outsmart the fish who have a brain the size of a pea. I love all of the physical sensations that my physical body experiences, like the way my stomach feels when you go over a rise too fast in a car. I love so much of what comes into my ears, my mouth, my nose, on my skin. I have spent much of my life pursuing these pleasures, and trying to provide them for others. I justify all this by reading in Genesis that God created all this for the use and benefit of man, to gladden his eye and lighten his heart. Certainly He wants us to appreciate His beautiful creations. While not a complete epicurean, I am well aware of how much I love all that God has placed for me on this earth, and have trouble imagining that it is any better up there.
Maybe there are a few of you who feel this way too. Then why should we work to get off this planet that God placed us on and created for our use and happiness? How can we enjoy all this beauty and still... try to rise above it all?"

James is no longer a telestial man. Knowing how marvelous our natural world is, we can have confidence and complete faith that our loving Heavenly Father has prepared for James joys and experiences beyond our ability to imagine. I feel much as James, that God wants us to appreciate His beautiful creations. To do that we need to spend time in nature, learn more about and show greater care for Creation. We can enjoy all this beauty and in the process, we are often inspired "to rise above it all".

Some of the stalwart volunteers who arrived two hours early to get our trees planted before a major storm hit.  We were joined by about 30 volunteers with others who certainly would have been there except for the storm and change in schedule.

Photos from Merikay Smith and Chalice Leaman.  Thanks to everyone who came to help honor James Baird by planting an area of native redbud trees.  If you missed this activity, join us in the fall as we add native ground cover plants, remove more invasive plants, and continue to make this an area of the DC Stake Center where people will remember James Baird.

Earth Day 2018

We had ten young people join us for our Earth Day project on April 21 at Pleasant View (and 19 adults).  They were all helpful and seemed to enjoy the day.  What an opportunity for the SSL student who got to work side by side with Bill Phillips (Nobel Prize in physics, 1997).  Turns out we're all about equal when it comes to working at Pleasant View.  Even young weeders can recognize and dig out wild onion and teens are great at moving mulch by wheelbarrow.  More details and photos under "Pleasant View".

Click on photo to see more.

Free Native Trees

 Redbud and white pines in Merikay's garden -- mature examples of some of the trees available.

Redbud and white pines in Merikay's garden -- mature examples of some of the trees available.

FREE TREES: Just got word that my order of 350 native trees from the Maryland DNR is available this week. I'll pick up the trees on Thursday and will be distributing them from my house at 14909 Spring Meadows Drive, Germantown, MD on Friday from 9 am to 11 am and Saturday from 10 am to noon and 2 pm to 4 pm (between conference sessions for our time zone). Each person/family can take up to ten. I distribute them on a first-come basis and can't guarantee that I'll have particular trees. 

What I expect to be getting are:

50 white pine
50 willow oak
50 swamp white oak
50 eastern redbud
50 redosier dogwood
50 hazel alder
50 southern magnolia

Please note that these are small bare root seedlings, about one to two feet tall. They should be planted as soon as possible after pickup. Though it has been cold if the ground is not frozen it's a good time to plant the trees. They'll have more time to get established before summer heat arrives. Bring a bucket or plastic bags, also newspaper if you have some -- it helps to wrap trees in wet newspaper for transport.

Some of you live too far away to benefit from this tree give away, but I'd encourage you to check online -- it's likely that your city or county offers some kind of incentive to plant native trees.  You might even consider helping distribute native plants to your community.  It's a great way to meet neighbors as well as to make a positive and lasting impact on your local habitat. 

World Day of Prayer - March 2

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World Day of Prayer

Each year people from 170 countries join in prayer focused on a scriptural theme and with the intent of learning and caring about each other.  This year's theme was chosen by the women of Suriname.  I hope you will join us in prayer, whatever your faith tradition, for inspiration and guidance to care for Creation.

Genesis 1:1-31
A heri grontapu di Gado meki bun doro, dóro!

From the women of Suriname, in preparation for World Day of Prayer on March 2:

As in the beginning, God created from chaos. But everything that was created found its place in creation. All were related to each other – the earth with the light, the waters with the sky, the tree seeds with the living creatures, and the humankind with God. None could exist without the other, and the source of all was God.

There was goodness in that integrated system of relationships. But essential to that was the commitment to care.

Women from Suriname lift up their voices to remind us that we are caretakers of God’s creation! They are bringing to our attention the urgent need for caring at a time when more than 180 countries have signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. A commitment to keep the earth cooler depends on public policies implemented by governments, but also on our personal lifestyle.

“Prayer is rooted in listening to God and to one another.” What is it that we can do to keep God’s creation good?

Learn more at http://worlddayofprayer.net/suriname-2018.html

'Popsicle' Wood Frogs

We've jumped from winter to spring in the past few days. Wood frogs, AKA 'Popsicle' frogs have thawed out and are croaking like crazy. About two dozen have been croaking night and day calling to their mates in my garden pond. It's a case of build it and they will come -- adding a water feature to your garden, especially if you have plentiful native trees, shrubs and ground cover means you'll have lots of wildlife, including frogs. I love how the season unfolds in frog time, first with the wood frogs then the spring peepers and on until fall with a new batch of eggs and tadpoles arriving to the pond just as the last hop out.

When my energy to do earth stewardship starts to fail, I spend some time outside and am awestruck by Creation.  Imagine, these wood frogs create an antifreeze from their body fluids in the fall and are able to stop their hearts and freeze entirely then thaw out again as temperatures rise.

Learn more about wood frogs at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fjr3A_kfspM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLPeehsXAr4

James Baird

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Many of us in the DC area are mourning the sudden loss of James Baird, President of the Washington DC Stake.

Please continue to pray for his family and friends for comfort in the days and months ahead. 

I would like to suggest that our Earth Stewardship East group plant a grove of native trees in honor of James Baird. Later this spring I will contact Lindy Baird to see if this would please her.

I remember in several conversations President Baird telling me how much he loved nature and felt close to God when he could spend time in the woods or looked up at the stars. He loved fishing and spending time camping, hiking or boating. He didn't have time to join our ESE activities but he was aware of us. I treasure the book he gave me as a peace offering. After a difficult interview with him, he surprised me with a gift, the book "Evolving Faith" by BYU evolutionary biologist Steven Peck. From that time on I felt I had a friend in James Baird.

A quote from a talk by James shared by Rachel Klein: “Many people have said they would die for the Lord or for his Gospel. I say, let us live for it. We will all die and that soon enough, until then let's live for our beliefs. Do you love Jesus? Then act like it by following his teachings.” — James Baird, November 2017

President Baird inspires me to be more kind, Spirit-guided and spontaneous, generous, faithful.

Fairy Diddles and Other Surprises

 Photo:  Paula Jean Hallberg

Photo:  Paula Jean Hallberg

Known as fairy diddles in West Virginia, this red squirrel invites you to leave the comfort of home and explore our winter wonderland.  We'll be out picking up trash along the Muddy Branch on Monday, January 15 (see our event post).  It will be cold but satisfying.  Hope you can join us.  If not, venture out and see what you find.  Would love to post your photos here.

Merry Mistletoe

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Did you know there are mistletoes native to the Chesapeake area? 

Mistletoes are flowering plants in the Santalaceae family. Yes, Santalaceae. It seems unlikely, but the family’s name has nothing to do with Kris Kringle. It is derived from the sandalwood genus, Santalum, which is also a member. There are around 1,300 mistletoe species worldwide, and 2 rough groups in North America: American mistletoe and dwarf mistletoe. 

All mistletoes are hemi-parasitic, meaning they parasitize trees but are not fully dependent on them for all functions. Mistletoes attach to stems of live trees and send root-like structures under the bark to tap the tissues for nutrients and water. Mistletoe leaves are green in color and can complete photosynthesis for energy, but would be unable to survive without the tree. 

The berries either fall off and colonize stems below or are dispersed by birds. The sticky seeds can adhere to the plumage, feet, or beaks of birds to be scraped off onto new stems while preening, or get eaten to and later deposited on branches in droppings. Bird droppings are the primary way the plants spread; indeed, the word “mistletoe” means “dung on a twig” in Anglo-Saxon.

Dwarf mistletoe berries are not spread by birds. Instead, water pressure builds up in the berry cells. Eventually, the pressure builds to a point where the berry explodes, expelling the seed at up to 50 miles per hour, with a range of up to 60 feet! 

 A dwarf mistletoe seed being shot out by built-up water pressure. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

A dwarf mistletoe seed being shot out by built-up water pressure. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

Though we often only think of mistletoe at holiday parties, it plays a significant ecological role in our forests. American mistletoes, while toxic to humans, are important food sources for many forest wildlife species. They bear fruit from late fall through early winter, a time when there isn’t much else for resident wildlife to eat. The berries are an important food for birds and small mammals, and the foliage is eaten by porcupines and larger mammals like deer and elk if they can reach it. Dwarf mistletoes are less important for food but the thick, scruffy, “witches’ brooms” that they create are excellent nesting sites for songbirds, red squirrels, flying squirrels, hawks, and owls. Studies in the western US have shown that a whopping 43% of spotted owls and 64% of Cooper’s hawks build their nests in “witches’ broom” tangles resulting from dwarf mistletoe infections.

 Oak mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) berries are very important for wintering wildlife. Photo by Mary Keim.

Oak mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) berries are very important for wintering wildlife. Photo by Mary Keim.

Mistletoe is important for many insects too. Their early-blooming flowers are important nectar sources for bees and other pollinators when not much else is available, and many insects only live on mistletoe foliage. Three butterfly species in the US are mistletoe obligates (meaning their caterpillars can only feed on mistletoes), but only one, the great purple hairstreak (Atlides halesus) is found in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

American mistletoes rarely kill their host tree; their life history strategy is to remain with the host and produce berries as long as possible, so they need their host to survive. 

Like many of our traditions, appreciation for (and yes, kissing under) mistletoe developed and evolved as societies rose and fell. European mistletoe (of the genus Viscum) closely resembles leafy American mistletoe, so European colonists and subsequent immigrants easily transferred their customs over to North America.  

As Christianity swept through Europe the old traditions became muddled, but mistletoe remained an important winter symbol. It was often hung in doorways to deter demons and witches, and was widely thought of as a universal healer. The custom of kissing beneath it may have come from the belief that it stimulated fertility, or perhaps from an ancient Norse myth that resonated through the centuries. In the story, the beloved son of Frigg, the goddess of love and beauty, was killed by an arrow made from mistletoe. The gods all agreed that the plant should never hurt anyone again, but rather be dedicated to happiness and usefulness. Frigg’s tears became the white berries of mistletoe, and the goddess swore that she would kiss anyone who walked beneath it.  

No matter what the origin of the kissing custom is, American mistletoe makes a lovely winter decoration. Rather than an excuse to smooch, it’s a great opportunity to talk to guests about forest ecology and the fascinating biology and cultural history of this strange little parasite. Look up into the empty branches of oaks and sweetgums for a cheery clump of mistletoe this winter. It will likely be too high up to reach, but that’s a good thing; mistletoe is a valuable member of our forests and will do a lot of good up there in the treetops.

Above information is excerpted from:

https://www.allianceforthebay.org/2017/12/mistletoe-a-merry-parasite/

Winter's Beauty

Hope you're enjoying today's snow.  I wanted to share a few photos taken this week by others as a reminder to get outside and enjoy the transition to winter.

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Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.  This photo was taken by Vernon Patterson on December 5.  Thanks to the elliptical orbit o the moon we've had an unusually large and bright moon in this past cycle.  Did you get out to see it?  I would have missed it but Jeff sent me outside.

 Deer on Muddy Branch Trail.  Photo taken this week by Pete Darmody.  We just planted native trees along this trail -- hoping they survive the winter.

Deer on Muddy Branch Trail.  Photo taken this week by Pete Darmody.  We just planted native trees along this trail -- hoping they survive the winter.

Woodpecker, storing food for the winter or is it an afternoon snack?  Photo by Ralph Johnson. Rabbit posted by Teresa Correia.  Another type of snow bunny, Kate Wahlquist photo.

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The trail is begging you to get out your boots and enjoy a walk.  (Photo is from Kate Cummings,)

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Photo taken today -- trees are growing bigger and provide food and protection. Formerly this area was all lawn.

Leap Ahead

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Who's croaking in your neighborhood?  Plan now to be a FrogWatch participant and find out.  Registration for training is now open for Montgomery County (similar programs exist in other areas too).  https://mygreenmontgomery.org/frogwatch/

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 from 6:30pm to 8pm

255 Rockville Pike, suite 120, Rockville, MD 20850

Email or call Ana Arriaza to register:  Ana.arriaza@montgomerycountymd.gov or 240-777-7778.

This can be a great family activity, especially for older children.  For an adult it's great to have a weekly scheduled nature fix.  You select a nearby area likely to provide habitat for frogs then listen once a week at a set time (just after sunset) and record the number and types of frogs heard.  In our area the first frogs can be heard as early as February.

Volunteer data becomes part of a citizen-science database to track trends in the frog populations of our area.  Better, it gets you outside listening to the sounds at dusk and learning about the amphibians living near you.  I was surprised when I did it that the natural pond in the woods near our home had fewer frogs, both in number and diversity, than the system of ponds I've added to our garden.  I think the primary difference is habitat--I have greater diversity of plant material nearby.  Becacuse of deer the woods have little understory beyond invasives. Other factors could be at play too.  This past year I did not do the FrogWatch program but having been attuned to the frogs I noticed that there were changes in the populations of frogs from the previous year.  Fewer spring peepers, for example.  Photos below are a few friend found in our garden.

Why are Frogs and Toads Important?

Frogs and toads are pollution sensitive organisms and are indicators of environmental health. Frogs and toads are both predators and prey, serving an important role in aquatic food webs. As predators, tadpoles help clean waterways by feeding on algae and adult frogs and toads feed on insects that can be pests and transmit diseases, such as mosquitoes. They also serve as a food source for many other organisms.

 From FrogWatch

From FrogWatch

 

 

 

The Nature Fix

Listen to author Florence Williams as she discusses her book, The Nature Fix, for LDS Earth Stewarship.  Her presentation will be broadcast live on Thursday, December 7 at 8 pm Maryland time.  

Here is the link for a live video feed.

https://lawbyu.zoom.us/j/270797274

This link can hold up to 125 people. It will be a wide shot to cover any distance for Ms. Williams’ pacing around, and the sound should be excellent quality (she will have a roaming mic).  The Utah LDS ES group has set up this video so that we can participate.  

We suffer from an “epidemic dislocation from the outdoors,” Williams says, and it’s destructive to our mental and physical health. The therapy is straightforward. “The more nature, the better you feel.”If you're an earth steward you likely know from experience that being in nature is therapeutic.  Scientists are beginning to understand how and why this is so.  

 Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix

Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix

What Next?

Thanks to all who helped on November 18 at Pleasant View.  The native plant garden is ready for winter and I am personally relieved to have a huge job done with the help of many.  A small group of us stayed after the garden event to talk about what next for Earth Stewardship East.  We need your input too.  Please think of ways we can enjoy nature together, inspire better earth stewardship, plan our next big project, and share our message with others.

Thank you for caring about our shared earth.  I'm waiting to hear from you:  What's next?  

--Merikay

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What's Next? 

 

 

We need to hear from you.

Susquehanna River

 Photo:  Susquehanna near New Harmony, PA where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey were baptized.  www.lds.org/scriptures/history-photos/photo-5?lang=eng

Photo:  Susquehanna near New Harmony, PA where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey were baptized. www.lds.org/scriptures/history-photos/photo-5?lang=eng

 The longest river on the East Coast, the Susquehanna River runs 464 miles before draining into the Chesapeake Bay.  I love driving across the Susquehanna bridge near Port Deposit.  Not only is the broad river beautiful but it reminds me of our LDS heritage.  I recently heard a friend describe her feelings of sacred connection as she stood on the banks of this river where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey were baptized. 

In 2015 a new Priesthood Restoration Church History Site was opened in what was historically known as Harmony, Pennsylvania -- now Oakland Township. (The dedication service is available online.  I enjoyed hearing Pres. Nelson share a description of Emma Hale given by her family: "She was a good horsewoman and a canoe on the river was her plaything.") The new Restoration site includes a visitors’ center and meetinghouse, the reconstructed homes of Joseph and Emma Smith and Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, the maple woods where John the Baptist restored the priesthood, the baptismal site at the Susquehanna River, a trail system, and new statuary. 

It was a revelation to me that the Susquehanna is also home to these gracefully powerful bald eagles.

A point of interest to birders is the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna where bald eagles are often found fishing.  Photos above are from Ralph Johnson (LDS member from Virginia) taken at the Conowingo Dam.  Check out this video of the dam:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU0gn9A3lvI

If you're interested in exploring the river, there's a lower Susquehanna water trail, a 53-mile-long paddler’s adventure that begins at the New Market Boat Access near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and ends a few miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line at the Broad Creek Access in Maryland – offering a tremendous diversity of natural and built environments. From the gritty Steelton to the Conejohela Flats—an internationally renowned bird habitat at Washington Boro—the Susquehanna is a contrast of working river and wilderness.  http://susquehannawatertrail.org/ 

Perhaps you, like me, might take time for a local vacation to explore this river and our LDS history.