Nourish The Soul

“My spirit was lifted and my soul nourished by my time in the garden. It gave me a calm connection with all of life, and an awareness that remains with me now, long after leaving the garden.”  Nancy Ross

Female monarch butterfly rests on a tropical milkweed plant.

Monarchs overwinter in Mexico, journey north and arrive in Alabama in February and March.  Two beautiful adventurers were spotted in a garden in South Mobile County on February 2. Landing on a bedraggled tropical milkweed, the female deposited her eggs and then continued her journey north.  Learn more about these remarkable Lepidoptera  at the Journey North website.

Make a calm connection with life by  developing a garden attracting pollinators, including the monarch.  The following links will help in making appropriate choices.

Garden Design

Shore Acres Plant Farm 

Shore Acres, located on Bellingrath  Road  in South Mobile County, is a commercial plant farm that welcomes backyard gardeners.  It sells  a huge variety of plants and an excellent potting soil. Plan  a trip to South Mobile County soon.

US Hardiness Zones    Big box stores sometimes sell plants that may not be       suitable for the local climate. Avoid disappointment by referring to a hardiness zone map to determine the zone in which one gardens.

The Greatest Source

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” —David Attenborough

 

 

 

 

 

Lake in North Alabama

 

Salt Marsh in Coastal Alabama

It has been said that Sir David Attenborough is one of the most well traveled people in the whole world, second only to astronauts. Creator and host of award winning natural history programs, this nonagenarian is a perfect example of how the natural world makes life worth living. His example is one worthy of attention.

Exploration of the natural world can begin  right here in the state of Alabama.  Check out the links below for help in planning one’s own documentary journey.  Sir David Attenborough certainly knows how to make a life worth living. So – Ready! Set! Go!

Alabama National Wildlife Refuges

 

Alabama Wilderness Areas          

 

Alabama State Parks

The Household

“The term ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, and means ‘the household.’ Ecological responsibility, then, begins at home and expands to fill the entire planet.” 
— Jeremy Rifkin

 

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ecology as: “the relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area, or the scientific study of this.”  The term, ecological responsibility, was introduced by Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, in 1973.   This responsibility is individual and collective.  Many are expanding  individual choices made  in consideration of the environment to include  how businesses and corporations accept ecological responsibilities. Consumer preferences are given to those making positive steps.  Click  here to read about  an example of positive steps in a recent CNBC article.

A January 15, 2019 article, “A New Tactic In The War Against Plastic Waste,” aired by  NPR (National Public Radio), highlights the work of Filipino community activist,  Froilan Grate.  Years of work to rid his community of plastic trash made him realize that the responsibility to prevent the overwhelming plastic pollution of his community and the oceans (8 million tons per year) lies with the corporations utilizing plastic packaging. The shaming of these global corporations through “brand auditing” or identification of the trash producers led to a summit invitation in Washington DC.  Click on the article title to  read this compelling story.

Ecological responsibility is not just an individual mandate for the future of the planet, it is a corporate mandate as well. Make consumer choices to reinforce that corporate mandate.

Camera Ready

“The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of  those who have not viewed the world.”
― Alexander von Humboldt, Works of Alexander von Humboldt

This petite hummer looks like a chubby little fellow. But looks are deceiving-it weighs less than two pennies! It has fluffed its feathers to capture air to maintain warmth during cold weather.

Most hummingbirds visit feeders during the warmer months,  but a few hardy souls visit during the winter months. Many of these late comers are not commonly seen in the local area. While this encourages hummer fans to keep their feeders out, fans must remember to keep the feeders clean and filled with fresh sugar water.

The feeder pictured is dishwasher safe, and holds about a cup of liquid.  The  guiding factor in choosing a feeder is how easy it is to clean.  Learn everything necessary about feeding hummingbirds at hummingbirds.net.

Camera bugs should hang feeders  in locations for  perfect shots as well as  avoiding disturbance of the subjects. The pictured feeder hangs on an east facing porch. Hummers are known to return to the same feeder every year at the same time of the year.

Click here to learn more about hummer visitors in Alabama.

 

Everyone’s Responsibility

“Environment is no one’s property to destroy; it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect.” Mohith Agadi

Clinging to a snag in a saltmarsh in coastal Mobile County, an egret surveys his kingdom. (Look for  tiny white dot in the middle of the picture.)

Daily choices have consequences for the environment. For example, runoff from lawns and gardens can carry toxic chemicals that harm wildlife in the above saltmarsh.  Herbicides and pesticides should be used judiciously, if at all. Look for environmentally friendly choices and read all labels carefully.

One may say, “I don’t live near a saltmarsh, so what does that have to do with me?”Everyone lives in  an area of land called a watershed, meaning that all water that flows across or under that area  travels to the lowest body of water.  For a large part of Alabama that body of water would be Mobile Bay.  So one doesn’t have to live near Mobile Bay to affect it.

Too many of Alabama’s citizens are not aware of something called non-point source pollution.  NPS is water and air pollution that comes from many sources (diffuse or dispersed)  such as runoff. A more easily identified source of pollution is called single source, such as a pipe from a factory. A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at this article to help identify common non-point sources .

An example of a watershed can be found at this link. It’s not an Alabama watershed, but you’ll get the idea. The next time you’re  out and about, look for those signs that identify the creek or stream to where the water flows in an area. These signs are little reminders that all water travels to larger and larger bodies of water and eventually into saltmarshes, bays, gulfs, and oceans-even the water in storm drains goes there too.  So you see, we all have a responsibility to protect the environment, because we all affect the environment.

The Two Essential Fluids On Which All Life Depends

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”
— Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographer

Fort Gaines, located on the eastern end of Dauphin Island,  guards the entrance to Mobile Bay.

When soldiers occupied Fort Gaines, latrines were emptied daily by the ebb and flow of tides. Over 150 years later, this method of disposal would be considered an abhorrent form of pollution.  Yet,  pollution and abuse of the world’s oceans as well as the atmosphere, continues  daily, in overt and insidious ways. AND, we all take part in this pollution!

Pollutants include: oil, fertilizers, solid garbage, and toxic chemicals.  What can the individual do to help? – Lots of things! As the old saying advises, “Think globally and act locally.”

  • Minimize your carbon footprint and use of fossil fuels
  • Reduce use of plastic products
  • Avoid buying items exploiting marine life
  • Support organizations working to keep bodies of water clean and safe
  • Contact public officials concerning regulations that protect  the environment – over and over and over and over and over……..  Now is not the time to rescind environmental safeguards!

Globs of oil washed ashore on Dauphin Island beaches as a result of the Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Click here  to learn more about personal choices that make a difference.

The Environmental Protection Agency identifies sources of aquatic trash.  Click here and reconsider consumer choices to help eliminate this form of aquatic pollution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees Have No Tongues

Because trees offer their services in silence, and for free,

we take them for granted.” ― Jim Robbins, The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

 

River Birch in School Garden

When contemplating the value of trees,  many  remember the childhood exploits of climbing trees, peeking into birds’ nests, and finding caterpillars and other creatures among the leaves.  Every spring, the above river birch delights kindergarteners  identifying the four stages of metamorphosis of lady bugs  displayed on its leaves and branches.  Value can  be  easily recognized in the cool retreats offered on  hot summer days,  beauty displayed in glorious fall color, and  the fragrance of  winter evergreens overwhelming the senses.

Many  benefits, not as easily seen, are overlooked. Take a deep breath and one of the most important benefits of trees becomes very obvious-trees provide the oxygen you breathe! The following website provides a  short  but extremely important list of benefits.  Click here  for a memory refresher or to learn something new about trees.

Children’s books are good sources for introducing or reinforcing concepts to the young and not so young. Share these tree selections with someone young or young at heart.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Tree in the Ancient Forest by Carol Reed-Jones

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

As Dr. Seuss says in The Lorax ,

“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

He  encourages others to speak as well.

“Unless someone like you cares an awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Share your new found knowledge  from Dr. Seuss with others. Visit a local nursery, seek advice on suitable tree choices for your landscape.   Invite a child to help plant your selections.

Get growing!

 

Halt! Who Goes There?

“There is no waste in functioning natural ecosystems. All organisms, dead or alive, are potential sources of food for other organisms. A caterpillar eats a leaf; a robin eats the caterpillar; a hawk eats the robin. When the plant, caterpillar, robin, and hawk die, they are in turn consumed by decomposers. “
— G. Tyler Miller, Jr.

 

Can you identify this strange object resting on a satsuma leaf?

Bird poop            Snake              Caterpillar

Well, if you thought the object was bird poop or a snake, you have been fooled by Mother Nature. This little creature is the larva of a giant swallowtail butterfly.  As a form of protection, many caterpillars resemble bird poop during some stages or instars of  growth as larvae.  The giant swallowtail mimics bird poop through all five instars. You have to admit this specimen does not look very tasty!

In order to  avoid spoiling someone’s lunch, let’s end with a gorgeous picture of a female giant swallowtail at  a tropical milkweed lunch counter.

Learn more about giant swallowtails by clicking the University of Florida web site.   

Give a citrus tree as a Christmas gift this holiday season and the lucky gift recipient  will not only enjoy citrus fruit but giant swallowtails as well. (Satsumas and kumquats do well in the Mobile area.)

 

 

 

A Bargain

“When I bought my farm, I did not know what a bargain I had in the
bluebirds, daffodils and thrushes; as little did I know what
sublime mornings and sunsets I was buying.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Carolina Wren 

One doesn’t need a farm to secure a bargain. A bird feeder in the backyard is quite a bargain and much less expensive.

Learn more about the Carolina wren at All About Birds.

Garden Experiences

“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while
I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more
distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any
epaulet I could have worn.” 
Henry David Thoreau

Don’t expect this northern cardinal to land on anyone’s shoulder.

But, don’t be surprised when one lands on a old hand pump in the garden.

Male cardinals are donned in brilliant red and females  are predominantly light brown with touches of red.  What the female lacks in color, she makes up in song. While most female birds do not sing, the female cardinal shares a lot of songs with her mate and even surpasses the male in this endeavor.  Now, does that sound familiar?? 

Learn more about this common backyard friend at All About Birds.