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.


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.

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Bugs, Blooms and Blights


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.



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 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.




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.



Poplar Island

A group of ten of us took a tour of Poplar Island on July 21.  We took a boat from Tilghman Island, a distance of two miles.  Some of the island's fascinating history is recounted by Peter Bailey who lived on the island. Read his account here:  

We tent camped overnight at Tuckahoe State Park but the weather was so oppressive that enjoying the nearby Adkins Arboretum and trails was challenging.  We did enjoy our time together anyway, particularly the kids who were able to interact with a turtle, toad, and insects.

Our island tour was better than expected since we were moved along the island in a cool bus with frequent stops and tour guides to explain the island's history.  Since being settled in 1626 the island has been used as a plantation, farm and fishing village, British campsite in 1812, black cat fur ranch, and as a resort for wealthy democratic politicians including FDR.  After nearly disappearing from erosion, the island is being recreated as a zone of natural habitat using sludge dredged from the shipping lands of the Bay.

Since its reconstruction with dredged material began in 1998, Poplar Island has grown from about 4 acres to more than 1,200 acres with a total of about 1,700 acres expected.  Half of the island's acreage will be wetlands and half wooded uplands. According to wikipedia, the project will use 68 million cubic yards of dredged material protected by 35,000 feet of containment dikes, built with 75% federal funding and 25% state funding. Only "clean" material, dredged from approach channels, is being used on Poplar Island. The Poplar Island restoration project will not use material dredged from close to Baltimore, which may be contaminated with heavy metals.

The island is the home of approximately 175 different species of birds, including terns and osprey. More than 1,000 diamondback terrapins have been reported hatching annually on the island in recent years. Besides giving public tours, other efforts are made to connect people with this project.  Local schools can take one of the young terrapins to raise for later release to the Bay.  Boy and Girl Scout troops have made and installed blue bird and other bird boxes on the island.  Volunteers are also needed for certain planting projects.  

Thanks to Megan DiFatta who set up our tour and was one of our guides.  To schedule a tour contact Megan at or call  410.770.6503 (office).

Click on photo below to see slide show of camping at Tuckahoe State Park and tour of Poplar Island.

Parsley, dill, carrots, fennel -- plant to share

They're not just delicious to us -- these plants in the carrot family are great hosts for butterfly caterpillars including these of the black swallowtail.  This photo was taken by George Willingmyre who says:  

Encourage Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars to visit. Just plant some parsley in a pot or in the ground. We had planned to eat the parsley we had planted in the attached image, but don’t think we will after seeing all the caterpillars there. Here is a nice story about their life cycle  The site says these caterpillars like host plants in the carrot family such as dill, parsley, and fennel.

Native Plant Highlight - Ferns

Click above to see photos from Fern Valley, a native plant collection at the U.S. National Arboretum.  At a half-day training on fern ID by Dr. Sara Tangren I learned a simple but helpful trick for selecting the best ferns for a home garden.  Ferns tend to be either clumping or colony forming.  If you want dense cover in a shady area that will keep out weeds, a colony forming fern like the Ostrich fern is great.  Clumping ferns like the evergreen Christmas fern are best mixed with other shade plants.  They won't spread and compete with their companions.

Fern Valley was created in 1959 by members in local garden clubs who rescued native plants being destroyed by new development in areas such as Tysons Corner in Virginia.  The National Capital Area Federation of Garden Clubs in collaboration with the Arboretum have created a naturally wooded area underplanted with native wildflowers, ferns and shrubs along a stream valley.  Plants are placed in a natural setting to represent plants of the Piedmont, Atlantic coastal plain, Southern mountains, and lowlands.  

A fern is a vascular plant that reproduces by spores rather than seeds.  There are about 10,560 known extant fern species with about 50 native fern species commonly found in our area.

Diagram from the helpful pocket-sized booklet, Fern Finder by Anne C. and Barbara G. Hallowell.  It includes a key to ID common ferns of central and northeastern U.S. and Canadian ferns.   

Diagram from the helpful pocket-sized booklet, Fern Finder by Anne C. and Barbara G. Hallowell.  It includes a key to ID common ferns of central and northeastern U.S. and Canadian ferns.   

 According to Wikipedia: Ferns first appear in the fossil record 360 million years ago in the late Devonian period, but many of the current families and species did not appear until roughly 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous, after flowering plants came to dominate many environments. The fern Osmunda claytoniana is a paramount example of evolutionary stasis; paleontological evidence indicates it has remained unchanged, even at the level of fossilized nuclei and chromosomes, for at least 180 million years.

Osmunda claytoniana is native throughout much of Eastern North America.  I've decided to try to find one for my garden as homage to a plant that has remained unchanged for 180 million years.  Photo below is of this fern which is commonly known as the interrupted fern since it has a section along its rachis (stem) of fertile pinna which drop off leaving an interrupted section mid-blade.  Another native fern which looks similar is the Cinnamon fern, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum.

We'll be including multiple native fern species in the shade garden that we will be planting next spring at Pleasant View.  If you have a native fern you'd like to share let me know and we'll transplant it next spring to Pleasant View.  A reminder -- always buy your native plants from a reputable dealer or transplant from a friend but never dig up native plants from the wild.

Poplar Island Tour

We're looking forward to our tour of Poplar Island this Friday, July 21.  What an opportunity to have a free boat excursion on the Chesapeake Bay and learn about the recreation of this island.  Check out details on our "Events" page.  We still have room if you contact Merikay ASAP.  Children are welcome.   Optional camping at Tuckahoe State Park on Thursday before the tour.  Just $3 per person for the camp site.

SSL Opportunity at Pleasant View

I met Sidharth and his son at Pleasant View today to do weeding. We got two buckets full of weeds out of the bed. What a great parent/child activity for earning SSL hours. They're returning tomorrow to do more. Thank you!

Also thanks to Israel Orellana for working on the beds for four hours last Saturday. Our six waterers (Carolyn Thompson, Melvin Joppy, Angie Ellis, Mary Hlavinka, Celia Paulsen, and Patty Dirlam) continue to watch over and water the beds. It's looking good at the Pleasant View garden. Please let me know if you stop by to weed. Any help is much appreciated.  11800 Darnestown Road.  For more details see "Pleasant View" from the main menu.

June Fest at Pleasant View

Click on the slideshow above to see photos of the 2017 JuneFest at Pleasant View.  Besides featuring a newly restored historic Bible, the Fest showcased our garden as a work in progress.  I was asked to speak briefly about the project -- an opportunity to share a message about native plants.  

A pleasant surprise came when Rev. Green awarded me a "Doers Do" award as a thank you for the work we have done on the site.  So in turn I want to say thank you to each of you who has helped -- planting, watering, weeding.  It's a huge job and we've had help from many, many volunteers.

Native Plant Highlights

On May 23, Tuesday, at 7 p.m. we will have a presentation at the historic school at Pleasant View on native plants for the home garden.  Merikay will share photos and descriptions of a variety of native plants for sun/shade including some of those recently planted at Pleasant View.  This blog highlights Ilex glabra, inkberry.

The cultivar selected for Pleasant View is 'Shamrock' but there are many other choices. This is a lovely evergreen shrub in the holly family that remains compact so it is low maintenance. It's also deer resistant.

Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Adaptable to both light and heavy soils. Tolerates wet soils. Prefers rich, consistently moist, acidic soils in full sun. Good shade tolerance, however. Inkberries are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Female plants need a male pollinator in order to produce the berry-like drupes that are characteristic of the species and cultivars. It is native to the coastal plain from Nova Scotia to Florida to Louisiana. Leaves usually remain attractive in winter unless temperatures dip well below zero.

I'm a beekeeper and have learned that inkberry honey is a highly-rated honey that results from bees feeding on inkberry flowers. This honey is locally produced in certain parts of the Southeastern U.S. in areas where beekeepers release bees from late April to early June to coincide with inkberry flowering time. Dried and roasted inkberry leaves were first used by Native Americans to brew a black tea-like drink, hence the sometimes used common name of Appalachian tea for this shrub.

Historic Q.O. Colored School

To me the most satisfying aspect of the Pleasant View project has been the delightful people we've met.  I feel like I have a new circle of friends.  The volunteers have been great across the spectrum of ages and experience.  My favorite times have been when the work is done and we're relaxing in the school listening to the stories of the old days.  I'm posting a few photos here of that experience.  Click on the photos to see more.

Pleasant View Progress

Native yucca transplanted as a start to the oval bed of native plants at the base of the site's sign.  This type of yucca is hard to find in nurseries but it was used for years to mark gravesites in African American cemeteries.  There are yucca plants in the Pleasant View cemetery.  Thanks to Merikay's neighbors, Kate and Dave Young, for allowing Merikay to dig some of their yucca plants for use at Pleasant View.  Click on photos above to see transplanting progress.

Getting excited about our Earth Day volunteer event this Saturday, April 22.  See you there!

Donations Launch the Project

Dara Ballow-Giffen, a Master Gardener, helped us out by contacting Pope Farm, a facility which grows native plants, to see if they would donate some to our project.  Rochelle Bartolomei of Pope Farm selected 100 plants for us and Dara picked them up today, delivering them to Pleasant View.  

Photos of Dara and Rochelle

Our native beauties

I'm heading out to hike a local trail this morning and expect to find at least a few of our lovely spring native flowers in bloom, though not likely a lady slipper.  To get a peek at this and others, check  There are sites with more information such as the Maryland Native Plant Society or Virginia Native Plant Society, but I like this site because it is simply a list of common native wildflowers and attractive photos of each with interesting background information.  Enjoy!

Stewardship and Creation: No Waste


Brigham Young:  "Never let anything go to waste. Be prudent...and what you get more than what you can take care of yourselves, ask your neighbors to help you consume. . . . Never consider that you have enough around you to suffer your children to waste a crumb of it. If a man is worth millions of bushels of wheat and corn, he is not wealthy enough to . . . sweep a single kernel of it into the fire; let it be eaten by something and pass again into the earth, and thus fulfill the purpose for which it grew. Remember it, do not waste anything, but take care of everything." Brigham Young, Discourses, 292.

"There are many who confuse prosperity with the power to waste.  An oft-spoken rationale for waste is that if people own something, they are entitled to do with it as they pleased....Brigham Young offers a different perspective by reminding us that one can never have enough to be wasteful, that everything that was created was created for a purpose, and that we interfere with God's plan when we waste something that He created for a purpose."

"Brigham Young makes a clear connection between our stewardship over natural capital and over human capital. When we waste the resources provided for us by God, we harm our brothers and sisters. This principle is also emphasized in the 104th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: 'For the earth is full, and there is enough to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment' (D&C 104:17–18)."

Excerpts from Donald L. Adolphson, “Environmental Stewardship and Economic Prosperity,” in Stewardship and the Creation: LDS Perspectives on the Environment, eds. George B. Handley, Terry B. Ball, and Steven L. Peck (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center), 2006.




Brigham Young