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.

blackwater fall SP, WV, Vernon Patterson, at Canaan Valley Resort.jpg

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.

snow.jpg

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

20171210_083745.jpg

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

Leap Ahead

frogwatch-banner (1).jpg

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

20171118_110717 (2).jpg

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.  

Feed the Birds

Photo:  Ralph Johnson

Photo:  Ralph Johnson

Buying bird feeders and seeds can augment natural food sources, yet it's better if we create habitat that provides the right mix of foods year round for our feathered friends.  Native plants with berries that persist through the winter is one example.  Plus they can be lovely for us too.

Examples of this at our Pleasant View garden include the native winterberry, Ilex verticillata.  We planted 'Winter Red' though other cultivars are also available.  All require a separate male plant for pollination or the female plants won't set berries.

Please join us on Saturday, Nov. 18 for our last volunteer date of the fall plus our annual Earth Stewardship East meeting at noon (pizza lunch with discussion of plans for next year).  RSVP.  PLEASE.  merikays@verizon.net     

Invite friends to join us online, even if they can't come in person to events.  "Like" us on Facebook too.  Thanks.

Small and Simple Things

If you follow us on Facebook you'll see a weekly challenge of small and simple things we can do to make a difference.  Collectively our individual actions matter.  Here's one example.

I hate to throw away items that are easily recycled.  So recently when I visited my favorite Italian deli I asked if they could get a recycling bin.  I repeated this request on a couple of visits.  This week I was delighted to see that they have added a recycling bin.  I thanked the manager to make sure he knew I noticed and was a very happy customer.  When I left the only thing that had to go into the trash was my napkin!

The next time you're at a church activity, fast food store or other venue where items are going into the trash that could instead be recycled -- speak up.  We can politely encourage better actions.

Gemelli's Italian Deli in Kentlands now has a recycling bin.  A great place to eat.

Gemelli's Italian Deli in Kentlands now has a recycling bin.  A great place to eat.

Opossum

opossum help.jpg

We have opossum living in our yard but I wouldn't have known that without a nighttime video -- kind of fun to see who is prowling around in the dark.  Here's some fun facts about opossum and why you might be glad to have them.  Info from the Opossum Awareness & Advocacy group.  Opossum have a natural resistance to rabies and help reduce tick populations!  They are also the only North American marsupial.  Do you have them in your neighborhood?  Hope so.

opossum.jpg

“Don’t hit opossums if they're playing dead in the road,” said scientist Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.  Ostfield & colleagues tested 6 species — white-footed mice, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums and veerys & catbirds — & found that of the 6, opossums were by far the best at eradicating ticks - killing about 5,000 ticks in one season!   The opossum eat the ticks as they groom themselves.  If they miss a tick their bodies are less susceptible to Lyme than other mammals.  

Photo credit:  Cody Pope

Photo credit:  Cody Pope

In this study, http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/276/1675/3911,  the authors simulate the impact of removing opossums from the environment and show that losing these animals may increase Lyme disease risk.

If you have kids, they might enjoy this article about a mother opossum saving her babies:

https://www.littlethings.com/opossum-mom-saves-babies/

opossummombabies_c-600x800.jpg

From the National Wildlife Federation:  Opossums, sometimes referred to just as possums, are a benefit to ecosystems and a healthy environment beyond eradicating ticks.  They will catch and eat cockroaches, rats and mice – in addition to consuming dead animals of all types (also known as carrion). Gardeners appreciate opossums’ appetite for snails, slugs and for cleaning up over-ripe fruit and berries. And, since they are immune to the venom of poisonous serpents, opossums also eat rattlesnakes.

http://blog.nwf.org/2017/06/opossums-unsung-heroes-in-the-fight-against-ticks-and-lyme-disease/

http://blog.nwf.org/2017/06/opossums-unsung-heroes-in-the-fight-against-ticks-and-lyme-disease/

 

 

A Pleasant View

I recently added one more Viburnum dentatum (commonly known as arrowwood) to our Pleasant View native plant garden.  There are now seven -- all looking like nondescript twiggy shrubs at this point.  But within a few years they will provide habitat similar to this photo by Ralph Johnson of a cardinal eating arrowwood fruit.

Photo taken at Huntley Meadows, Alexandria, Virginia by Ralph Johnson.

Photo taken at Huntley Meadows, Alexandria, Virginia by Ralph Johnson.

There are a number of commonly sold cultivars of this plant including 'Blue Muffin,' and 'Chicago Jazz'.  In my garden I've found it to be a completely no maintenance shrub.  Once established there's no need to water or trim it (if planted with adequate space).  Deer generally leave it alone but it's worth protecting in the first year.  It's not a dramatic bush but pleasing.  Small white flower clusters in June, blue fruit in late summer, some color in fall.  As this photo above shows, it pleases the birds.

As you can see in this photo, the shrub eventually gets quite large.  In my home garden I have two of these shrubs growing along the back of my garage making a green barrier so you only see that part of the garage in the winter.

Thank You

20171028_112901.jpg

Thank you to Celia Paulsen, MaryEllen Rose, Rick Blewett and Jeff Smith for helping to plant our native dogwood trees.  We have three in the ground and two more to plant.  I'e also been planting shrubs, ferns and perennials -- all purchased at half price. 

This is not a perfunctory "thank you."  It really means a lot to me when someone comes to Pleasant View and helps, even if you only have one hour it makes a huge difference in what we can get done. 

Please plan to come on Saturday, November 18, 10 am (or whenever you can).  We'll have mulch to spread and plants to put in the ground. Please share the word about our LDS Earth Stewardship East group.  Anyone is welcome to join us.  On November 18 we will have a pizza lunch (bring a salad or dessert to share if you want).  We'll also hold a brief planning meeting for LDS ESE.  What do you want us to be doing in 2018 and beyond?  How can we be better earth stewards?  Please RSVP to merikays@verizon.net.

Fall for Planting

It's more than just a slogan for nurseries trying to sale plants.  

 Fall is a great time for bargains at the nursery and it's healthier for many of the plants to get them in the ground so the roots can get established prior to the next growing season.

Look around your garden and see if there's space to add a native tree or native shrubs. You can print off coupons from the state and/or from Montgomery County to get an additional $25 or $40 off your native trees. For example, I bought us 3 native dogwoods originally priced at $159 each (ouch!) that were 50% off ($80 each) then $40 off each from the coupons. That means that each tree cost only $40!

http://dnr.maryland.gov/…/Marylander…/Print-Your-Coupon.aspx
http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/…/d…/MoneyGrowsonTrees.pdf

The trees, shrubs and ferns that I bought are for our Pleasant View native plant garden.  I need your help getting them in the ground though.  If you want to learn tricks from an experienced gardener, come help me plant.  I'll be going multiple days and times to the site to plant -- email if you want to help.  merikays@verizon.net.

'Cherokee Princess' is the white dogwood (above) that I bought.  It's considered one of the best for a native white blooming dogwood however it is prone to anthracnose.  If I could have found one of the newer cultivars that is disease resistant I would have purchased it.  The pink blooms are 'Cherokee Brave' which is particularly lovely and considered more drought tolerant than other cultivars.  Ideally I would have bought a tree in the Appalachian series as they are more disease resistant.  Genetically the Appalachian dogwoods come from a tree found in the Catoctins (nearby us) that was observed to be disease free in a stand of otherwise infected trees.

Clean Water Act, 45th Anniversary

This week marks the 45th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  Much progress has been made in that time to clean up our waterways.  Image, at the time this act was passed there were rivers so polluted they burned with fire.  As we learned in our tour of the Anacostia River last fall, pollution from a closed powerplant, improperly capped landfill areas, and massive raw sewage dumps are still causing harm in that local river.  Recent reversals of regulations protecting our waterways have the potential to cause great harm, erasing the past decades' forward progress in protecting water.  

How can you help?  Contact local, state an federal representatives to let them know that clean water matters to you.  Regardless of political party, clean water is something that all should be able to come together on.  Join your local watershed group and learn what needs to be done in your community to protect water.  Set an example and share information with family and friends:  reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, reduce household and garden water consumption, installing rain barrels, install a rain garden or conservation landscaping if appropriate to your property, scoop and properly dispose of pet waste, reduce impervious surfaces on your property.  Help at our Pleasant View project -- w're improving storm water management while creating native plant habitat for the Muddy Branch watershed.  

Please share your ideas and water stewardship with us.  Also, you might check with your local church to see if it has a storm water management plan.  I'm happy to report that our Kentlands Ward LDS chapel has a plan which includes having an area of native trees and other plants where water that drains from our parking lot and church roof is cleaned naturally and then recharges the groundwater.

Worth Celebrating

Eric and Gaylene Raynor celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary with friends at Pleasant View on Sept. 11.  They planted a row of native shrubs which will now be a reminder of their years together serving others.   A huge "thank you" and "congratulations" to this marvelous couple.  They have been stalwart volunteers at Pleasant View, coming to almost every activity and many extra weeding days besides.

IMG_1806.JPG

Matching Grant from The Nature Conservancy

LDS Earth Stewardship has been given a matching grant from the Utah Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  All donations to LDS Earth Stewardship will be matched up to $40,000 -- funds will be used to help grow LDS Earth Stewardship.  Click on the link below to make a tax-deductible donation.  Earth Stewardship East is a regional group of LDS Earth Stewardship.

https://ldsearthstewardship.z2systems.com/np/clients/ldsearthstewardship/donation.jsp?campaign=1&

nature conservancy.jpg

Bugs, Blooms and Blights

ladybug.jpg

From Facebook page:  Bugs, Blooms and Blights

 

This multicolored Asian lady bird beetle found its aphid prey on a goldenrod this morning. One beetle can feed on over a thousand aphids in its lifetime. Lady bird beetles are generalist predators that feed on not only aphids, but many small soft-bodied insects such as scales, psyllids, spider mites, leaf beetle larvae, some insect eggs, and small caterpillars. 

For great photos and information on common local insects, plants and plant problems, visit the new Facebook page hosted by the University of Maryland Extension:  Bugs, Blooms and Blights.

Exponent II on Earth Stewardship

The Summer 2017 issue of the Exponent II magazine features articles, poetry and art on a theme of earth stewardship.  Having just come in from the garden with hands stained from squeezing harlequin bugs, I could relate to editor Margaret Hemming's reflections on the direct personal violence of organic gardening. I learned from essays by LDS women whose professional insights as a biologist, demographer, and climate scientist have connections for our spiritual selves as well. You might also like to read the personal essay, "Inevitable," which is my contribution to this volume. As usual the art and poetry of this Exponent inspire.   Thanks to the LDS women who create each issue of Exponent II.

Merikay

exponent.jpg

Wavyleaf Basketgrass - "Weed from Hell"

I pulled some wavyleaf basketgrass this morning. "So what," you say.  In fact I first noticed this weed last year but wasn't particularly concerned until I learned more about it.  This is a highly invasive alien weed taking over our woodlands. It is new to our area and extremely difficult to eradicate once established.

I have been finding it scattered in my garden this summer. If you don't know it and pull it -- it will get worse each year as it's a perennial. At a recent course at the National Arboretum our instructor referred to wavyleaf basketgrass as "the weed from hell." It joins the ranks of other invaders like mile-a-minute which can grow more than a foot a day. Or stiltgrass which is now almost everywhere in our area, including natural areas. Commonly planted shrubs that are alien invasives include the Japanese barberry and the burning bush. It pays to know invasive plants so you can pull them out before they take hold in your garden/lawn. This protects nearby natural areas. Please share this information as most people are oblivious to this very serious environmental problem. Go to mdflora.org for more info on invasive plants for our area (Maryland Native Plant Society).

Wavyleaf basketgrass pulled from Merikay's garden.

Wavyleaf basketgrass pulled from Merikay's garden.

Small areas of wavyleaf basketgrass can be handpulled. Roots of pulled plants should be hung to dry before disposing so as to kill the plant before putting it out in the county recycling.  I would not compost it on site.  Plants with seeds should be double bagged and disposed or burned. Large infestations might require herbicide applications which is why is important to share this information and get these plants pulled before they spread.

I'm posting some photos and info from Wikipedia: "Accidentally introduced into the United States in Maryland and Virginia, this species spreads quickly and is becoming extremely invasive in forested natural areas in the Mid-Atlantic region across numerous counties in Maryland and Virginia.

The species was first reported in Maryland in 1996, growing around the Liberty Reservoir area and the northern section of the Patapsco River in Howard County. The grass spread quickly into connected natural areas in Baltimore and Carroll counties. By 1999 it was identified in Montgomery County at Wheaton Regional Park.[16] It had crossed into Virginia by 2004 where it was found growing at a 80-acre site in Shenandoah National Park, and in a 20–30-acre site at the Fraser Preserve along the Potomac River in Fairfax County.[17]

Once a population has become established, complete eradication from a site has proven to be extremely difficult due to a long-lived perennial life cycle, a long seed germination season (April–November), and considerable seed mobility of the species."

The photos below show the wavyleaf seeds and an infested Maryland woodland where the native groundcover has been replaced by this invasive.

Phillips Wharf Environmental Center

After our tour of Poplar Island we all stopped at the nearby Environmental Center on Tilghman Island where we were able to learn more as we saw and touched many of the creatures that inhabit the Bay.  Click on the photos below from Natalie Reineke to see more.

Photo of Merikay and Jeff Smith taken by Heidi Hemming

Photo of Merikay and Jeff Smith taken by Heidi Hemming

Jeff and I also stopped by the historic town of Easton and visited the museum and garden there.  Photos below.  We were disappointed in the new historic museum as they have reduced the number of displays significantly.   They hired a national museum display firm which has (to our eyes) destroyed what was a marvelously complex display created over decades and showing hundreds of priceless items of local history.  

Restoration - post by Heidi Hemming

Heidi Hemming (center) with Lucy and Jeremiah Savage on Poplar Island, July 21, 2017

Heidi Hemming (center) with Lucy and Jeremiah Savage on Poplar Island, July 21, 2017

Who knew that sea horses reside in the Chesapeake Bay, that clams get all the nutrients they need just from the water in which they live, or that it is possible to rebuild an island? We learned this and more in our day at Poplar Island on July 22nd. As Latter Day Saints, we throw around the term "restoration" quite a bit. But what does it really mean? Well, in the instance of this small Chesapeake Bay island, it is setting to right the environmental wrongs of the past couple of centuries.

Back in the day, Poplar Island was somewhere around 1100 acres. But settlers in the 1800s cut down all the trees (started a black cat farm too, but that's another story). Without roots to hold soil in place, the island washed away to a mere 5 acres (or was it 3?) in the 1990s. Enter environmental groups and the Army Corps of Engineers. Drawing on new scientific and engineering knowhow, people are using dredge soil from the bottom of the Chesapeake to create what will eventually be a multi-eco system nature preserve for the many wild creatures that inhabit the region. Our tour guides showed us how the project is unfolding in stages, recreating wetlands that include hand planted grasses, as well as forests. They also assured me that the funds to make it happen are already locked up. When the workers pack up and leave, even the roads will be seeded.

Aside from the audacity of the project, probably the thing that I found most heartening was its gaze to the future. This is restoration, but not really for us. The end date is so far out, that Poplar Island is a gift to our children, and hopefully our grandchildren. Tours have to be booked way in advance, but if you haven't been, it's worth your time.

Click on photos below to see a slideshow from Heidi.  The first is a container with thousands of small oysters being grown for aquaculture/restaurant use.

 

 

Sunflowers

From McKee - Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland

From McKee - Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland

Sunflowers are a great addition to any sunny garden:  attractive to us and to pollinators they also provide food for birds and other creatures.  

Most helianthus or sunflowers are native to North America (67 of the ~70 species known). The common name, "sunflower" typically refers to the popular annual species Helianthus annuus, or the common sunflower, whose round flower heads look like the sun.  For a fantastic view of 9 large fields of sunflowers in bloom, visit the McKee - Beshers Wildlife Management Area in late July.

Click below for a slideshow of McKee-Besher sunflowers.