Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Tick Article – Thermacell recommendation

April 29, 2013

Demazette article 4/28/13
Ticks the Season

We know spring is officially here now that we’ve pulled the first tick from our overalls.

Ticks do what ticks do. I get that, but I still find a tick’s nature to be highly uncivil, not to mention unsanitary. That’s why I get such great satisfaction when I grind a tick into goo against a rock with another rock.

My mother-in-law had a special hatred for ticks. She scraped pennies together so hard they made sparks, but there was always enough in her meager budget for a little natural gas tick extermination. She’d put the bloodsucking little arachnid in a teaspoon, ignite a burner on the old gas stove and hold it over the flame. First the legs shriveled, and then the thing would burst with a satisfying little pop. She always wore such a malicious expression when she did this.

I caught three ticks climbing on my overalls the opening day of turkey season. Of course, it’s the one I didn’t catch that bedeviled me. I found it Sunday, attached to my leg, and now I hope for the best. This is not an idle concern because I contracted Lyme disease about 10 years ago from a tick while turkey hunting at Lamine River Conservation Area in Missouri.

Literature says a tick has to be attached 10-13 hours to transmit Lyme disease. That’s a myth. The tick that gifted me was attached for only three or four hours.

About 10 days later, I had flu symptoms: achy joints, sniffles, fever and night sweats. They lasted a couple of days and then abated for a week or so before reappearing. This pattern continued for about a month. One day I was washing my hands in the washroom at my office. On the outside of my arm, just up from the wrist, was a bright bull’s-eye rash that glowed like neon in the fluorescent light. I called my doctor, who ordered me right over and put me on a massive 10-day dose of a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

That knocked it out, but I am very wary of ticks. I’m tempted to say respectful of ticks, but that’s not right. I respect bears, snakes and snarling dogs. I don’t respect ticks. I hate them. I don’t respect cottonmouths, either. I hate them, too.

So, after opening day, I hung my overalls across the gate and sprayed them thoroughly with Permanone, a potent insect repellent. I have seen ticks crawl onto clothes treated with Permanone and die. A chemical that potent is too toxic to apply to bare skin. Always spray it on your hunting clothes and let it dry before wearing them. Spray your hunting boots, too, as well as your turkey hunting vest. I don’t spray it on my gloves because I don’t want it contacting my skin. I wear T-shirts and shorts or pants beneath my overalls, so there is always a barrier.

As the weather warms, mosquitoes also will become increasingly hazardous, especially now that West Nile virus appears to be our permanent companion in the Natural State. In my opinion, nothing keeps mosquitoes away better than a ThermaCell. It looks like a walkie-talkie, but it contains a small, butane-fired hotplate. A small citronella wafer slips over the hotplate. As the wafer warms, it emits fumes that repel mosquitoes and gnats. It works in minutes, and it works flawlessly. I have used it while hunting in southeast Arkansas, when mosquitoes hovered in clouds. They leave you alone when the Therma-Cell is running.

Even though you can buy ThermaCell holsters that clip or strap to your clothes, the device works better if you lay it flat because it disperses the repellent more evenly and in a broader column. Just don’t forget it when you leave, and secure it in a zippered vest pocket. Somewhere in a Grant County clearcut is a practically brand new ThermaCell that has spurned all my attempts to find it. Make sure you take an extra butane cartridge and enough wafers to see you through your hunting or fishing trip.

If you want an extra layer of protection against mosquitoes, I recommend OFF! Botanicals Insect Repellent. The active ingredient is p-menthane-3,8-diol, and is said to be derived from the natural repellent found in eucalyptus plants.

It comes in spray or lotion. I prefer the lotion. It smells a little like Coppertone sunscreen. The spray works very well, too, but it is very pungent and very bitter.

Your total outlay for the ThermaCell, wafers and repellent is less than $40. It’s money well spent.


Flowers and Shrubs & the heat of summer!

July 24, 2011

This article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on 7/2/11 – I wanted to capture it here for reference sake so that we might make some intelligent decisions for our backyard garden when we’re ready to plant.

Turn up the heat! These plants will thrive when summer sizzles

You know the saying, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The same goes for an Arkansas garden: If plants can’t take the heat, they shouldn’t be there!
Summer has already been a scorcher, as well as dry in most areas of the Natural State. Rainfall has been spotty at best. Even for gardeners who are diligent in their watering, some plants seem to be faring better than others.
Color in the garden is something most gardeners strive for every season, whether blooming shrubs, perennials or annuals. When choosing plants for the landscape, consider their season of interest and how adaptable they are.
The first step is to look at the USDA climatic zone map, by which plants are rated for their hardiness. We have three such zones in Arkansas. The bulk of the state is Zone 7 (average low winter temperature of zero), while south Arkansas is Zone 8 and north Arkansas is Zone 6. Keep in mind the only piece of information you get from this hardiness zone map is the average low winter temperature. It doesn’t tell you anything about summer heat, rainfall or humidity.
So use this as a guide, not as your gardening bible, because while many plants are rated for our climatic zones, some aren’t as tolerant of summer as others. Still, we do have a wide range of plants that can take the heat. Some require ample water, while others withstand hot and dry conditions.
Few plants are as associated with the South as crape myrtles and most are thriving, even in this summer’s weather. They not only take heat, but do well in dry conditions. The more sunlight they get, the better they like it. While they are drought tolerant, a little extra water can go a long way in helping them with their flowering ability. Deadheading (cutting the spent flowers) can also put more energy into new blooms.
Other shrubs and small trees that are blooming now include Vitex, or chaste tree; Buddleia (also spelled Buddleja), or butterfly bush; Althea, or rose of Sharon; and summerflowering spireas. Abelia has been around for a while, and keeps on blooming regardless of the weather. New varieties give you options on size and foliage color.
Our native Clethra, or summersweet, is blooming now in sun to partial shade and has fragrant flowers which are quite attractive to bees and butterflies.
Speaking of native plants, because they rely on Mother Nature to water them, they have to be tough to survive an average Arkansas summer. Some natives that are blooming now include the spiky perennial Liatris, or gayfeather; the lovely orange butterfly weed, Aesclepias tuberosa, with its strong taproot; and Echinacea, or purple coneflower.
Nativars and improved cultivars of our native species are readily available at many nurseries and garden centers. With Echinacea, if you don’t like the native pink variety, they now come in red, orange, white and yellow. Coupling a little moisture and fertilizer with deadheading encourages them to bloom for months.
Gaillardia, or blanket flower, is a tough Oklahoma native that loves hot, dry weather. So does Gaura, with a summer-long explosion of pink and white flowers. Goldenrod is a long-lived perennial with a long season of flowering — and no one is allergic to it, even though it is often blamed for hay fever instead of the real culprit, ragweed. The hotter and drier it is, the happier the goldenrod is. And don’t forget sunflowers. The native saw-toothed sunflower blooms a long time, but give it room since it can grow quite tall.
Other perennials with long staying power include Ruellia, or Mexican petunia; yarrow, with a wide array of flower colors; old-fashioned Crinum lily, which is also winter hardy in at least half the state; and the long-blooming catmint (Nepeta x faassenii).
Agastache is another great perennial with lots of colors to choose from. It blooms all season, and bees and butterflies love it. Monarda, or bee balm, and almost all of the ornamental grasses tolerate heat and drought.
Succulents are plants that have thick, fleshy leaves. Just by their appearance, you know they can take dry conditions. Some are groundcovers and others grow 2 feet tall. Hens and chicks, Sedums and Euphorbias are proven performers. Yuccas and cactus can also take very dry conditions, but make sure they fit the style of your landscape.
Silver-foliage plants are another group of plants that give you clues to their heat adaptability by their appearance. Lamb’s ears, Artemesia, dusty miller and old-fashioned rose campion prefer poor, dry sites. Too much water and they fade away. They also do very well in hot conditions.
Tropical plants love heat and humidity, so are quite at home in the summer garden in Arkansas. While they won’t survive winter outdoors, they can be protected inside or carried over in a protected garage or storage building.
Or you can simply buy new plants every season. Since they basically bloom from the day you buy them until a killing frost, they are a good source of color, so a great investment, even if just for one season.
Hibiscus, Bougainvillea and Mandevilla are popular and have been around for years but try some of the more unusual ones that grace our markets: Jatropha has clusters of pink flowers, while Ixora has clusters of yellow or orange flowers. Tibouchina has large, velvety purple flowers while Plumeria has fragrant, large flowers in a wide range of colors and esperanza is a sea of yellow all summer. Mandevilla is usually associated with hot pink flowers but now comes in white, red and several shades of pink.
While most tropical flowers do best in full sun, there are some that will take the shade. Chrysothemis, or “Black Flamingo” flower; Plectranthus “Mona Lavender”; butterfly Clereodendron; and bromeliads can add color in the shade. Remember, because most tropical plants are grown in pots, they need regular watering and fertilization because frequent watering leaches nutrition.
Most of our houseplants are also tropical plants, albeit grown more for their foliage than flowers. They can make great accents in the shade garden. Everything from Dracenas and Philodendrons to mother-in-law’s tongues (or Sansevieria), arrowhead plants and Chinese evergreens can be planted in the ground for the season, or their pots can be interspersed in the outdoor landscape.
Croton is a great houseplant for seasonal color in full sun. The more light it gets, the more color the foliage has, and it blends beautifully in fall gardens with its array of orange, yellow and red foliage. And we now have a wide selection of palms, some hardy and some not, that can give a tropical feel to the landscape. Bananas in standard and dwarf sizes are also showstoppers in the summer landscape. New varieties are now winter hardy statewide, but don’t produce bananas.
And last, let’s not forget summer annuals. Annuals have to be planted every season, but they give a great deal of color for relatively little care. Some are more heat tolerant than others, and water needs vary. Some of the most heat-tolerant varieties include Lantana, Pentas, Angelonia (summer snapdragon), Melampodium, periwinkle, Cosmos and sweet potato vine. Coleus and Begonia can take sun or shade, and Impatiens and Caladium thrive all summer if they get ample moisture.
Petunias and Callibrachoa will bloom all summer, if you keep them well fertilized. If you don’t, you won’t have constant color. If summer annuals get leggy, pinch them back, fertilize and water and they should rebound, lasting until a killing frost. If you forget to water and they burn up, replacements are still available at local nurseries.
Visit other gardens or botanical gardens to get ideas. If they are doing well now, think how well they would do in a milder season. Keep a journal or a list of plant ideas. Visit nurseries even in the summer. The great thing about being a gardener is you can never have it all. There is always a new variety or cultivar on the horizon.
To learn more, plan to attend the Aug. 4 Rice Expo at the Rice Research and Extension Center, 2900 Arkansas 130 E. in Stuttgart. “Plants that can take the heat” is the last topic in a jam-packed day of events with everything from rice information to cooking, insects, diseases and plants. It all begins at 9:30 a.m. For more information, contact your local county Extension office.

Althea, or rose of Sharon, a shrub

Bougainvillea, a tropical plant

Asian moon Buddleia, a shrub

Lamb’s ear, a silver-leafed plant

Echinacea, or purple coneflower, native of Arkansas

Butterfly weed, native of Arkansas

Ixora, a tropical plant

Coleus, summer annuals

Pink Cosmos, summer annual

Double purple Althea, a shrub

Bald Eagle Live Cam

March 29, 2011

My longtime friend and Emeralds drummer Don Skiles sent me a link to this great live Eagle Cam out of Norfolk Virginia. If you are a bald eagle fan at all, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Not only is the live cam interesting, there are historical videos available of the activity at the nest showing, for example, the first of the three eaglets being fed…

Click here: Live Bald Eagle Cam

Thanks Don!

actually, sort of after the fact, I learned that Don got the link from Jeanie Green (Jim Green’s wife, and Jim Green is also an Emerald and long-time friend)   so I should give credit where credit is due!! Thanks Jeanie!

update 4-23
The eaglets were banded on 4-21… here’s a great video of the banding: Eaglet Banding Video

Bird Identification site

May 17, 2010

Wow!  Great free website to help identify birds. Recordings of their calls and lots of pictures available for each bird. Nature Instruction

I didn’t register, since I really didn’t want another userid/password set to keep track of, but the guest version seems to be quite adequate and really spiffy!!!