Ralph Johnson is a local photographer and member of LDS Earth Stewardship. He is sharing his photography with organ music accompaniment on Suday, March 18 at 7 pm at the Centreville Stake Center. Should be a marvelous experience.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
May your new year be peaceful, joyous and filled with nature's wonders. Some photos from local LDS photographer Ralph Johnson shot this winter in Virginia (fox and tufted titmouse) and Delaware (hooded merganser at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge).
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 (the genus Phoradendron) and dwarf mistletoe (the genus Arceuthobium).
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. The mistletoe’s xylem and phloem (water and nutrient transport, respectively) cells connect with the host plant’s xylem and phloem, forming connections called “sinkers” that the hemi-parasite uses to siphon resources. Mistletoe leaves are green in color and can complete photosynthesis for energy, but would be unable to survive without the tree.
Phoradendron means “tree thief” in Greek; American mistletoes parasitize deciduous trees and are obviously visible in the winter when the host’s leaves have fallen. They develop evergreen foliar growth that can develop into quite large, branching, orb-shaped masses. These leafy growths are what are commonly used as decorations. Phoradendron mistletoes will survive as long as their host tree or the host branch does. They produce berries which contain viscin, a sticky substance that helps the fruit stick to new stems. 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.
Arceuthobium means “juniper-living”; dwarf mistletoes parasitize conifers and must have different life histories to cope with the constant shade of their hosts’ needles. They grow beneath the bark for several years before sending out foliar growth, causing infected branches to swell up or grow into dense tangles called “witches’ brooms”, and can even cause crown die-back in severe infections. Dwarf mistletoe berries also contain viscin, but are not spread by birds. Instead, water pressure builds up in the berry cells, while simultaneously the cells at the base of the berry die. 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!
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.
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. Recall that dwarf mistletoes, on the other hand, die after ejecting their berries. They do not need their host to remain healthy and can weaken their host substantially, increasing the likelihood of mortality. Dead trees are critically important for cavity-nesting birds and roosting bats, and once they fall over, a host of organisms that will live in or consume the log. Dead trees also mean more light to the forest floor, allowing vigorous herbaceous and shrub growth and enabling seedlings and saplings to grow into the next generation of canopy trees. These small canopy gaps are functionally patches of young forest, where the flush of vegetative growth yields more food and cover for wildlife. Many species require canopy gaps to successfully breed, and they are also important cover and food sources to deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, bats, and other forest wildlife.
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. Many European cultures, from the ancient Greeks to the Nordic peoples and the Celts, revered oak trees. Viscum mistletoes grow on oaks and stay green throughout the winter, when the trees have lost their leaves (and, it was possibly thought, their “life forces”). This is likely why mistletoes were imbued with such importance, especially over the winter; they held onto life when even the mighty oak could not. They were seen as vessels of strength and vitality and were often used in ceremonies marking the winter solstice, which of course are mirrored today by Christmas and other traditions and celebrations around that time of year.
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:
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 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.
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.
The trail is begging you to get out your boots and enjoy a walk. (Photo is from Kate Cummings,)
Photo taken today -- trees are growing bigger and provide food and protection. Formerly this area was all lawn.
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.email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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?
We need to hear from you.
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.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Invite friends to join us online, even if they can't come in person to events. "Like" us on Facebook too. Thanks.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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 email@example.com.
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!
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. firstname.lastname@example.org.
'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.
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.
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.