Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nature in New York City Blooms, Crawls and Creeps, Especially in the Eyes of a Child

While this covers New York City, all our Cities offer similar experiences!
By Marcia Anderson
June 25, 2014
To a young child, there’s no such thing as an ant, a bee or a ladybug. They’re all bugs and worth a closer look. Lift a small rock. Often worms, tiny beetles, salamanders, or other critters can be uncovered, to the shear amazement of a child. Colonies of ants found under stones are fascinating to watch as they go about their business marching in rows to and from their anthills.
Most ants found in the northeast are not a serious threat to human health. Ants and other insects are usually found where they can obtain food and water to take back to their nests. Ants provide an ecological cleansing and fertilization service of considerable importance. They aerate the soil outdoors and recycle dead animals and vegetable material, and kill many other pest insects including: fly larvae, fleas, caterpillars and termites.
In spring, wasps are important predators of caterpillars, while others are scavengers, helping to control pests and recycle organic material. They turn more aggressive in late summer and fall when their food preference turns to sweets.
Bugs may be small and easily taken for granted, but they are often a child’s first intimate encounter with a wild animal. How they are taught to deal with these small creatures sets the tone for their relationships with larger wildlife such as reptiles, birds and amphibians. Unfortunately, in their zeal to teach children to be wary of dangerous bugs, many adults do not discern between those which are dangerous and those which aren’t. By showing their disdain for all bugs and killing any that cross their paths, many adults inadvertently teach children that all are to be feared and destroyed at every opportunity.
Ants explore a blade of grass
A gentleness and reverence for all creatures should be taught at an early age. It’s important to remember that the younger child learns by modeling, rather than by verbal instruction. A child who’s shown how to put overturned stones back in place to leave insects undisturbed is more likely to take that much more care than a child who’s simply told to do so.
Here are a few safety tips to help young children observe the tiny creatures in the great outdoors:
  1.  Avoid areas with food left outdoors, such as picnic scraps, uncovered garbage containers or uncovered compost piles. Bees and wasps imprint on these food sources and keep returning to them.
  2. Avoid sweet smelling soaps, lotions, or shampoos on both your child and yourself and do not dress up in bright colors. You do not want stinging insects to think that you are a flower or other food source.
  3. In warm weather, use an insect repellent according to the label directions to protect from ticks and mosquitoes. Other alternatives are the mechanical repellent devices that clip onto pockets or belts and they give off repellents that deter mosquitoes or other insects.
  4. Upon returning home, always inspect your child and yourself for ticks or other hitchhikers.
Every park in New York City, large or small, will have some wildlife encounters but be prepared to go down to your child’s level to see them. Just grab a small jar for temporary collecting and a magnifying glass, then get on the subway or bus and explore New York City. Happy Summer!
To find out more about nature in New York City go to:
The Forever Wild Program is an initiative of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to protect and preserve the most ecologically valuable lands within the five boroughs. These parks encompass 51 Forever Wild Nature Preserves and include over 8,700 acres of forests, wetlands, and meadows. These open spaces are home to thousands of critters, including squirrels, frogs, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys, fish, bald eagles, and countless plants.
About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

13 natural remedies for the ant invasion

Rainy season in South Florida can mean ants moving indoors.  Here’s some ‘natural’ solutions to that problem.
Mar 27, 2012
Ants are making their way into homes this time of year. Thankfully there are natural pest control methods to help you cope with and eliminate the problem. Plus, many of the solutions use what you already have in your cupboard!
Little tiny ants have been spotted in our new home, and many people are suffering the same fate across the country. As much as I love spring, I don't like bugs — especially bugs that can infest a house. Last week I asked for some advice in how to deal with ants naturally as I didn't have time to research it myself since I just moved this weekend. I got such good advice, I had to share it with the readers here at MNN as well. 
Some of these measures are deterrents. That is, they deter the ants from coming in your house. This seems to work well for those with a mild problem. Others found that they needed to use a method that kills the whole colony of ants. I've compiled the comments and suggestions by category, allowing you to compare the different methods a little more easily. 
1. Lemon juice 
Teresa: We just spray around the openings with pure lemon juice … and it always works for us … something about the acid messes up their sense of tracking…
2. Cinnamon 
Shayla: We use ground cinnamon around where there are coming it. It works really well.
Peggy: We spray cinnamon essential oil all around the doors, windowsills, floors, etc. keeps them from coming in. I put the sugar water and borax OUTSIDE!
Letia: Another vote for ground cinnamon. Easy to clean up afterwards and worked great for us!!!
Jean: Cinnamon and cloves. Makes your house smell nice and the ants just hate it sprinkled right in their path.
Patricia: We also use cinnamon oil. We draw borders around everything with a Q-tip dipped in it. They won’t cross it.
3. Peppermint 
Heather: My mother-in-law has success with peppermint essential oil around windows and doors (any entries). Plus her house then smells awesome.
Julie: Dr. Bonner’s liquid soap in the mint aroma. Mix 1 to 1 with water in a spray bottle. Spray on the ant invasion and watch them suffer.
 4. Borax, water and sugar 
Kristi: We use borax, sugar, water and a touch of peanut butter. It takes a couple of weeks but really works. We used it last year in our old house and are implementing it again this spring in our new house. Pesky ants! Here is the site where I found the recipe:
Christy: I second Diana’s comment about borax and sugar. I’ve made a thin paste before with water, sugar and borax, then spread it on little pieces of thin cardboard or stiff cardstock and placed them near where it seems they are coming into the house. They’ll eat it and take it back to their colony (just like the Terro liquid you can buy). The paste will dry up in a couple days, so you’ll have to make more. But I think I only had to do it twice before they were gone.
Chookie: What worked for us was a mixture of borax and sugar in water. Several years ago, we lived in a house where there was an ants nest in the walls. Removing it would have meant virtually demolishing the entire front wall of the house (not practical!), so instead, after a year or two of having flying ants swarm into our bedroom every year we decided to go on an ant killing spree. Conventional ant killers didn’t work. Borax and powdered sugar didn’t work. But adding water to the borax and sugar mix to make a thick sugary borax-y syrup DID work…. the worker ants took it back into the nest and it positioned the queen – result = no more flying ants. OK, so borax does need to be kept away from pets and small children, but it is relatively safe beyond that as it is only toxic if you eat it. my solution was to put it somewhere where the kids and the cats would not reach it but the ants could.
BeverlyC: We live in China and had a HORRIBLE ant problem in our house. Tried cinnamon, black pepper, vinegar, etc. etc. We were concerned about the borax because we have guests in and out regularly and the little children are often, well, naughty and undisciplined. When someone suggested Terro liquid ant bait and we found it was just Borax and sugar, we asked someone to bring us some. We could pick the traps up and put them away when company came and put them back out after they left. They worked wonders!!
5. Boiling water and dish soap 
Jennie: We make sure all of our food is sealed up. The honey jar is usually the biggest ant magnet, so it gets a thorough washing and then is placed on a small water-filled saucer in the cupboard. We use a spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of liquid dish soap (I use Seventh Generation) to kill any visible ants. I also look around outside to try to find their hill; pouring a kettle of boiling water on it solves the problem.
Christy:  I’ve done what Jennie mentioned too – boiling water will destroy an ant colony, or weeds popping up between sidewalk cracks or in mulch. It’s an easy, purely natural way to kill things that we don’t often think about.
6. Diatomaceous earth 
Karen: Yes … diatomaceous earth (DE) works well … use food-grade not swimming pool DE. It should be sprinkled around the perimeter of your new home and you can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see them. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. DE isn’t an instant kill but should resolve the problem within a week or so.
Jami: I have a pretty serious any invasion at my house too. When I moved in last April they had already made themselves at home. I did the cinnamon thing last year and worked ok, but they just kept finding new ways in. My ants weren’t attracted to sugary things, but protein, especially the dog food. This year I made some borax cookies and put them in the old fireplace where I noticed the ants returning a week ago. I also sprinkled DE around the perimeter of my kitchen and that seems to have worked better than anything so far for immediate results.
7. Chalk  
Natalie: Oh! And they will not cross a line drawn in chalk. I drew a line around my window where they were coming in and it kept them at bay. 
Anali: My grandparents had really good results with the line of chalk, they used powder that you can get at home improvement stores. It comes in a squeezey bottle so it’s easy to lay down a line with.
8. Baking soda and powdered sugar 
Jennifer: Ants carry an acidic substance with them always for protection. I do a mix of baking soda and powdered sugar in a plastic lid set in strategic places. I think a little volcanic science experiment happens inside their bodies. Over the course of several days, it has made a huge difference.
9. Coffee grounds
Lea: I have had success with used coffee grounds, I did know where their entry was, after putting it in the cracks they never returned. I also do know it doesn’t kill them, it just makes them move homes, (we have put them on beds outside and we just see them pop up a small distance away.
10. Cornmeal
Jill: One more thing to add to this. I saw somewhere to use corn meal. Well, it worked out since some moths got into my cornmeal, and I felt bad wasting it. That’s when I saw the idea and tried it. I sprinkled a little bit just off the back porch. Every day I would check and every day the same trail of ants was still there. Then I forgot about it. My daughter found another ant nest further out in the yard, and it made me remember to check the last trail. It was gone, completely gone. So, I sprinkled it on the new nest, and less than a week later, it is gone. If you google it there are a ton of places where it mentions it. Here’s just one link, and if you scroll to the Tip there is still another idea using molasses. Although if cornmeal will work I think it’s cheaper, and safer around kids and pets.
11. Cream of Wheat 
Rebecca: Cream of wheat! They eat it & it expands & they explode! Ha! I used it in my garden for ant problems. Kind of makes you wonder what it does to our insides when we eat it too
12. Vinegar 
Kristie: Vinegar! Since we switched to using a vinegar/water solution for mopping the floors and cleaning the counters, our ant problem has vanished.
Mysty: Vinegar is the one sure solution, but you need to pour it where the ants have their nest, not just to where they walk around. If you find their nest just pour about 0.5-1 L of white (cheap) vinegar. I never had ant problems but my grandparents sometimes has as they has a big farm and there is always an ant problem is some corner of the farm.
Cath: We used a mixture of vinegar, washing up liquid (ecover) and peppermint oil last year. Tracked them back to their nest and syringed it into the cracks. They never came back.
13. Equal 
Tea Leaf: We killed our ants by mixing Equal packets with apple juice. It is a neurotoxin to the ants. Scary that people put these in their coffee.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

For a truly ‘green’ garden, forget sprays and try natural predators

This article goes along with the Ladybug article I posted yesterday. 
By far the largest bug in the garden, praying mantis is a serious predator that keeps your food garden pest free. Maureen Gilmer / MCT
By Maureen Gilmer - McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Every month during the growing season I receive a package of Fly Predators in the mail. Inside are hundreds of tiny bugs the size of gnats that prey on fly larvae. I scatter them in my horse corrals and where the dogs do their business to reduce the summer fly population naturally.
This is an example of biological control that is ideal for chicken coops, compost piles and a dozen other problem areas without using chemicals and time-consuming sprays.
You might not have heard of Fly Predators, but you probably know about ladybugs. These popular little red beetles were the first successful bio-control for combating aphids in residential gardens. The predator-prey relationship keeps insect populations in balance naturally.
In the past, the cure for all bug problems was to douse the plant with pesticide. This not only kills the problem bugs, it kills the predator bugs, too. When bug populations are destroyed by pesticides, the predator-prey balance goes out the window. New bugs that either escaped the pesticide or just flew in are free to reproduce prodigiously in the absence of predators. This is the reason we see huge insect infestations in some gardens while they rarely occur in organic ones.
To understand how this relates to your summer garden, consider the predator-prey relationship of ladybugs and aphids. Known as "plant lice," aphids are sucking pests that gather on the soft tips of new growth to feed and breed. Their most dangerous predator: the ladybug. Yes, these little red beetles are ferocious consumers of aphids. With a big ladybug presence in your yard, the aphids never gain a foothold.
Another important predator is the praying mantis. These large, green bugs are voracious feeders that consume all sorts of insects that prey on your plants. They hatch from curious hard egg cases laid on tree bark, walls, shrubs and other less-conventional surfaces. This insect does not have a larval stage, but instead hatches out dozens of nymphs, which are tiny versions of the adult. These nymphs will inhabit your summer garden as they mature by feeding on anything they can catch.
There are other bugs you can buy to add more diversity to your predator population:
• Green lacewing is a heavy feeder that loves the eggs of a wide range of pests, including thrips, mealy bugs and whiteflies.
• The Trichogramma wasp loves to lay her eggs into those of tomato hornworms and other insects just like fly predators do. When the wasp larvae hatch, they immediately begin feeding on the developing grub. Soon, a new crop of predator wasps emerges from the remains of what would have been a damaging caterpillar.
For anyone who needs help keeping bugs at bay in an organic garden, there's a way to boost your predator bug population while having fun with the kids. Purchase live ladybugs, which are carried at some nurseries and home stores, and are also available online. Introduce the ladybugs to your yard, where they'll go directly to the bad bugs and start feeding.
Bringing live predator bugs into your garden is a great way to wow the kids. Just pour ladybugs into their small hands and let them spread the love down your rows and borders.
This is the essence of a truly "green" garden where we can work with Nature herself to harness the age-old dance of predator and prey to keep your plants pest-free.
Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at . Contact her at  or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.
Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Public Works Sustainability Division
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Monday, June 23, 2014

How to attract ladybugs to your garden

Are aphids and other pests wrecking your garden? Partner up with ladybugs to stop the carnage.
By: Melissa Breyer
Fri, Jun 13, 2014
Lucky are those whose backyards boast an abundance of ladybugs; not only are they just ridiculously cute, but they are of tremendous benefit to the garden. In addition to their Beatrix Potter-like charm, ladybugs have a voracious appetite for plant-eating pests like aphids, mealy bugs, leafhoppers, mites, scales and other unsavory characters of the insect world. (OK, we don't mean to judge bugs here, but few gardeners like insects that destroy their plants.) Ladybugs are simply one of the best organic ways to manage pests.
While you can buy ladybugs by the pint if you are naturally deficient in them, it may be better not to introduce wild-caught mail-order insects into your ecosystem; they can come with parasites and diseases, or they might not stick around very long. If you do want to purchase them, look for farm-raised ladybugs. (Yes, there are ladybug farms. What a world we live in.)
Fortunately, whether you have no ladybugs, want more ladybugs, or want new ladybugs to stick around for awhile, there are ways to make your garden more attractive to them. Here’s what to do:
Feed them
First up, food; because just like us, the way to a ladybug’s heart is through its stomach. These plants produce pollen whose flavor the ladybugs favor:
Scented geraniums
Sweet alyssum
Wild carrot
Keep other bugs around
And of course, you need to provide the main dish as well: insects. As hard as it may be, it’s important to tolerate garden pests so that there are enough of them to keep the ladybugs fed. It’s a delicate balance, but it makes sense. You can plant decoy plants that pests love, and that may distract aphids and their ilk from eating the plants that you’re trying to protect; which at the same time, ensures that there are enough aphids for the ladybugs. Plants that aphids love include:
Early cabbage
Water them
Just like any other creature, ladybugs need water, and shallow bowls of water can provide hydration. (But stagnant bowls of water can also attract mosquitoes, so refresh them frequently.)
Give them shelter
While cute, commercial ladybug houses seem to mostly remain vacant, low-growing ground covers can provide a home to protect these beneficial beetles from ladybug-eating birds and toads. Low, rambling plants like oregano or thyme work well, as will mulch or leaves.
Ditch the pesticides
We know that you know this, but we’ll say it anyway: Pesticides and insecticides are not selective; they will kill your beneficial insects as expertly as they will kill your harmful ones. Don't poison the ladybugs! 


Friday, June 20, 2014

Broward County Summer Butterfly Counts this weekend!


North American Butterfly Association (NABA) Summer 2014 Butterfly Counts
South Circle count is on Sunday, June 22 at two locations in Davie. Join the count for a few hours of fascinating butterfly counting and outdoor fun. It is easy to participate. Sign up and bring your binoculars!
Long Key Nature Center (  or 954-599-1082)
Tree Tops Park (  or 954-742-2364)
North Circle count is on Saturday, July 21 at four locations:
Coconut Creek Tamarind Village (  or 954-975-9157)
Birch State Park (  or 954-599-1082)
Hillsboro Pineland ( t or 954-557-3092)
Crystal Lake (  or 954-742-2364)

8 lush green rooftops from around the globe

I’m only highlighting 4 of the 8 roofs this article talks about.  There 4 more great green roofs and a lot more information in the article.  --Gene
Look up
The hills are alive with lush greenery — but so are many rooftops. Green or living rooftops, long popular in Europe, are becoming common with both private and business owners alike. The green roof industry grew by as much as 28 percent in 2010. Why? Green rooftops, which are relatively thin layers of greenery affixed to a roof, can act as effective insulators, thus reducing energy costs. They also last longer and can absorb stormwater, acting as valuable drainage systems. Green rooftops can provide a pleasant escape for inhabitants of an urban jungle. This photo features the Mountain Equipment Coop, a popular outdoor equipment store in Toronto. Who knew a meadow could appear on a skyline? (Text: Katherine Butler)

Chicago City Hall
An intensive rooftop is another kind of green roof. This is more of an elevated park that has been cultivated as any regular park might. According to Discovery, intensive green rooftops “can sustain shrubs, trees, walkways and benches with their complex structural support, irrigation, drainage and root protection layers. Chicago’s 20,300-square-foot City Hall contains more than 20,000 herbaceous plants installed as plugs, including 100 woody shrubs, 40 vines and two trees: a Cockspur hawthorn and prairie crabapple.
Sod roof church, Hof, Iceland
Green rooftops seem like a modern innovation but have in fact been around for hundreds of years. Sod roofs are popular in Iceland and Scandinavia, which have a long tradition of using sod on farm houses and buildings. The ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon may be the first evidence of green rooftops. Around 600 B.C., Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II is thought to have created a series of lush garden terraces that ascended to the sky.
Rogner Bad Blumau Hotel, Styria, Austria
The Rogner Bad Blumau Hotel is a wellness spa offering tranquility in the Austrian forest. And because of its green housetops, it blends into the landscape. Such rooftops can alleviate water runoff and sewage overflows. Further, the vegetation on the roof acts as a natural water filter and serves to cool the surrounding air through evapotranspiration, which Discovery describes as “a natural process that cools the air as water evaporates from plant leaves.”
Coombs Country Market, British Columbia, Canada
Keeping up the traditions of the old world in modern times, the Coombs Country Market in British Columbia was built by the Graaten family, Norwegian immigrants who came to Vancouver Island in the 1950s. Using the sod-roof construction popular in his homeland, Kristian Graaten built the sod roof to celebrate his origins.

For the rest of the roofs and more information on each one go to 8 lush green rooftops from around the globe.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tree Thursday - 9 Reasons Trees are Awesome!

It’s always good to remind ourselves how incredible trees are!
Posted on April 27, 2012 by Cathy
The New York Times recently published a great article, Why Trees Matter.  Here some of my favorite excerpts:
We take [trees] for granted, but they are a near miracle. In a bit of natural alchemy called photosynthesis, for example, trees turn one of the seemingly most insubstantial things of all — sunlight — into food for insects, wildlife and people, and use it to create shade, beauty and wood for fuel, furniture and homes…
What trees do is essential though often not obvious. Decades ago, Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that when tree leaves decompose, they leach acids into the ocean that help fertilize plankton. When plankton thrive, so does the rest of the food chain. In a campaign called Forests Are Lovers of the Sea, fishermen have replanted forests along coasts and rivers to bring back fish and oyster stocks. And they have returned.
Who knew terrestrial trees were so vital to a healthy marine ecosystem!
In Japan, researchers have long studied what they call “forest bathing.” A walk in the woods, they say, reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases natural killer cells in the immune system, which fight tumors and viruses. Studies in inner cities show that anxiety, depression and even crime are lower in a landscaped environment.
Here are my top 9 reasons trees are awesome!
  1. TREES PRODUCE OXYGEN!  Let’s face it, we could not exist as we do if there were no trees. A mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year. What many people don’t realize is the forest also acts as a giant filter that cleans the air we breath. (source:
  2. TREES ARE AIR AND WATER FILTERS!  One acre of trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.  Trees are nature’s water filters, capable of cleaning up the most toxic wastes, including explosives, solvents and organic wastes, largely through a dense community of microbes around the tree’s roots that clean water in exchange for nutrients, a process known as phytoremediation. Tree leaves also filter air pollution.  (sources:  New York Times,
  3. TREES ARE USEFUL!  Thousands of products are made from trees!  From wood and pulp products (like furniture and paper) and food (nuts, syrup, fruit & spices) to chemicals (like natural dies, shoe polish and toothpaste) and cellulose products (like rayon clothing, adhesives and photographic film).  The list goes on and on!  For more info on this, visit
  4. TREE SLOW WATER RUN-OFF & PREVENT EROSION!  Here in Cordova, this is especially important, with all the rain we get in a normal summer.  But this is important all over the world.  Flash flooding can be dramatically reduced by a forest or by planting trees. One Colorado blue spruce, either planted or growing wild, can intercept more than 1000 gallons of water annually when fully grown. Underground water-holding aquifers are recharged with this slowing down of water runoff. They also improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water, as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.  (source: &
  5. TREES KEEP US COOL!  This may not seem so much of a “benefit” for us here in Alaska where we relish every day it’s above 50 degrees, but it’s great for the planet as a whole!  The obvious reason is shade.  Trees protect plants, animals and people from excess UV rays.  They also keep the concrete and asphalt of cities and suburbs 10 or more degrees cooler. Trees also, of course, sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that makes the planet warmer. But trees also have an ever cooler trait (that’s punny!).  A study by the Carnegie Institution for Science also found trees can hold moisture in near the ground, which has been shown to better regulate temperatures over time.  We’ve all heard about “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” as its called in some circles.  Planting trees and grasses may be one of the few things we can do to counter this.
(source:  New York Times)  
  1. TREES MAKE US HEALTHIER!  A study conducted at the University of Delaware showed that surgical patients who had a view of trees and landscaping outside their windows shortened their hospital stays by 8%, received fewer negative comments in nursing reports and took fewer pain killers than patients who had no views. Studies also found that nature and forest scenes tend to decrease stress in drivers and also tend to improve thought processes and problem solving skills.   In a Chicago study focusing on low-income government subsidized housing developments, apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52% fewer total crimes. Proximity to trees also tends to increase levels of exercise in an area and its sense of community.  (source:  Houston Area Urban Forestry Council & Waverley Council)
  2. TREES ARE ECONOMICAL!  As an energy source, they are renewable… much more easily created than our country’s main sources of fuel: oil, coal & gas.  If you live in a part of the country that is warm enough to necessitate air conditioners, you might be interested to know that the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.  If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.  They’re also great for property values.  Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.  Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent.  (source:  Arbor Day Foundation)
  3. TREES CREATE HABITAT FOR WILDLIFE!  It’s almost impossible to name all the insects, birds, rodents, and mammals that live in trees.  Many of these animals are specifically habituated to a particular tree and can be directly affected if that tree population is attacked.  For example, the Willow Flycatcher is a type of bird that almost went extinct when the willows that it called home were almost completely wiped out.  Trees also increase biodiversity.  A variety of trees provides a range of food and habitat, for a myriad of microorganisms that live around the roots in the soil, insects living under bark, birds, lizards and small mammals living in tree hollows and within the canopy. (source:  Waverley Council)
  4. TREES ARE SPIRITUAL!  Trees are included in most religions. Some hold certain trees sacred; other use trees to help teach beliefs. Besides the Garden of Eden story many have heard, there is also a story that Buddha received his enlightment under the wisdom tree.  Trees are also shown to relax you.  In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. Just look at how they are used in movies like Pocahontas, Fern Gully, and Avatar. (source: and Texas A&M University)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pollinator Week will take place June 16 - 22, 2014

Background of Pollinator Week

Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by the Pollinator Partnership.

Seven years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations.  Pollinator Week has now grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. The growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress, but it is vital that we continue to maximize our collective effort.  The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture signs the proclamation every year.

Pollinating animals, including bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and others, are vital to our delicate ecosystem, supporting terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watershed, and more. Therefore, Pollinator Week is a week to get the importance of pollinators’ message out to as many people as possible. It's not too early to start thinking about an event at your school, garden, church, store, etc. Pollinators positively affect all our lives- let's SAVE them and CELEBRATE them!
Pollination Fast Facts For Gardeners
What is pollination?
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Pollination occurs when pollen grains are moved between two flowers of the same species, or within a single flower, by wind or animals that are pollinators. Successful pollination, which may require visits by multiple pollinators to a single flower, results in healthy fruit and fertile seeds, allowing plants to reproduce. Without pollinators, we simply wouldn't have many crops!
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]> About 75% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators and over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals. The rest are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths.
Why are pollinators important to us?
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, pumpkins, vanilla, and almonds. Plants that depend on a single pollinator species, and likewise, pollinators that depend on a single type of plant for food are interdependent. If one disappears, so will the other.
What about bees that sting? What about allergies?
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Most species of bees don't sting. Although all female bees are physically capable of stinging, most bee species native to the U.S. are "solitary bees,” that is, not living in colonies and don't sting unless they are physically threatened or injured. Only honey bees are defensive and may chase someone who disturbs their hive.
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>It is wise, though, to avoid disturbing any bee or insect nest. For instance, if you spot an underground nest of ground-nesting bees, you might want to mark it with a stick so that it can be easily avoided.
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]> Some people are allergic to pollen of various flowering trees, plants and grasses, but not to all pollen. A common misunderstanding is that hay fever is caused by goldenrod pollen. It isn’t! Ragweed is the main offender and should be avoided.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chestnuts making a comeback

In the early 1900s, two men stand amid five American chestnut trees near Townsend, Tenn. Once called "the Redwoods of the East", chestnuts made up 25 percent of Northeastern American forests. (from Sowing The Seeds For A Great American Chestnut Comeback )
Here’s some history on the American Chestnut from  before the current article –
Death of the American Chestnut
American chestnut was once the most important tree of the Eastern North American hardwood forest. One fourth of this forest was composed of native chestnut. According to a historical publication "many of the dry ridge tops of the central Appalachians were so thoroughly crowded with chestnut that, in early summer, when their canopies were filled with creamy-white flowers, the mountains appeared snow-capped."
The Castanea dentata nut was a central part of eastern rural economies. Communities enjoyed eating chestnuts and their livestock was fattened by the nut. And what wasn't consumed was sold. Chestnut was an important cash crop for many Appalachian families. Holiday nuts were railed to New York and Philadelphia and other big cities where street vendors sold them fresh-roasted.
American Chestnut was a major lumber producer. According to The American Chestnut Foundation "It grew straight and often branch-free for fifty feet. Loggers tell of loading entire railroad cars with boards cut from just one tree. Straight-grained, lighter in weight than oak and more easily worked, chestnut was as rot resistant as redwood. It was used for virtually everything - telegraph poles, railroad ties, shingles, paneling, fine furniture, musical instruments, even pulp and plywood."
A chestnut disease was first introduced to North America from an exported tree to New York City in 1904.
The Range of the American Chestnut Tree
The venerable tree, hit hard by blight, is getting some help from a breeding program.
Charles Sowell, Special to The Greenville News
May 24, 2014
Giants once ruled the woodlands of this continent. American chestnuts, once the dominant species here, are largely gone now except for a few remnant trees, and they are a pale shadow of their former glory.
Everyone knows what happened. The blight hit and the beautiful monsters that once dominated the skyline became rotted, leaving only a few sickly trees that made a few nuts.
But the American chestnut is on the way back, with a hearty breeding program that crosses and recrosses species of Chinese and American chestnuts as well as others — all from a single pair of breeding American trees on the edge of the Smokies, said Paul Sisco of the American Chestnut Foundation.
Eventually, these trees will have all but resistance to blight bredout of them, said Sisco, leaving a nearly pure American chestnut.
The breeding program is further along in the woodlands of Virginia than they are in North Carolina, said Sisco.
“Here we will start our breeding program for the most resistant trees this year,” he said. “These will be the trees that breed the next generation.”
Next year, there will thousands of trees planted on old strip mines in West Virginia, he said. These trees will the foundation of what could become a new generation of giants, Sisco said. Whether these will become the tall, straight monsters of centuries gone by will only be told by the passage of time.
It is one of the things that makes the Cataloochee Guest Ranch one of the most scenic in region. This is a place of towering trees, set on a grand scale with thousands of acres of pasture and hardwoods.
Except for the chestnuts. Right now, the tallest trees only reach about 20 feet tall. They quickly succumb to blight. There were about 300 saplings here a few years ago. Now there are mostly stumps.
This is what the horror of blight becomes.
Judy Coker watched the stately older trees die when she was a child more than 80 years ago. All except for a few stumps sprouted new trees from vigorous root stock and those only lived long enough to produce a few seeds.
But it was enough.
Judy Sutton, 53, is Coker’s daughter and she has spent years working the orchard and running the guest ranch.
Judy B, as she is known, has taken the reins from her mom now. She knows the trees almost by name and recognizes each individual quirk.
Judy B has a good idea which trees are likely to make it. Subtle differences in the cankers that blister the trunks will make all the difference in the world a few generations down the road.
Still, all in all, the pure American trees are resilient. They have survived for millions of years and might yet beat the blight were it not for phytophthora, a form of root rot that kills them from the ground down.
Phytophthora is sensitive to cold at higher elevations, above the frost line, but has wiped out American chestnuts in the lowlands of the South.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What is Upcycling?

By Cara Smusiak on June 07, 2014
I know a lot of people who are interested in eco-living, and every time I mention upcycling they ask me: "What's upcycling?" My response: "It's taking something that you would otherwise throw out and finding a way to make it into something else."
But then I started wondering where the term came from and if it was possibly a little more complicated than repurposing things. So I started digging, and this is what I found out about upcycling.
Upcycling is taking waste and making it into something that has equal or greater use or value. "Isn't that the same as recycling?" I asked myself. As it turns out, no. The term was first used by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things". McDonough and Braungart compared upcycling to the "downcycling" of recycling a plastic, for example, into a lesser grade plastic. To put it simply, downcycling reduces the quality of the materials, while upcycling maintains or improves the quality of the materials.
Keen entrepreneurs have built successful businesses on upcycling. Marty Stevens-Heebner founded Rebagz to make handbags out of juice packs and nylon rice sacks. Joey Santley and Steve Cox founded to upcycle broken surfboards into asphalt filler.
On a smaller scale, many of the handmade items sold on are made with upcycled items. There are coin purses made from sweaters, earrings cut out of vinyl records and an old travel case made into a clock, to name just a few.
And you can upcycle at home or at the office. Make an apron with the fabric from an old dress, turn a leaky rubber boot into a cute planter by adding a few extra holes for drainage, or transform a broken stapler into a modern paperweight with a little low-VOC spray paint.