A Touch of Nature – 7/1/04 – The Herbs Place

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Donna L. Watkins, Editor
July 1, 2004 Issue

What’s Happening at Bluebird Cove?

I’ve renamed this segment since there’s so much going on these days at our place, which we named Bluebird Cove when we did a NWF backyard wildlife habitat certification. We had so many bluebirds when we first moved in [November 2000] and it’s right before the cul-de-sac on the street, so we thought of it as a cove.

On Sunday I lifted a wooden duck that sits below a sign that has our name on it along the driveway and was DELIGHTED to find a mama Five-Lined Skink huddled in a corner of a dugout with 7 cute little pale eggs. She looked up at me as if to say, "Do I need to run?" I assured her she didn’t have to run and put the duck back in place totally thrilled to have seen such an awesome sight. It’s going to be hard not to keep checking on them, but it’s nice to know that our gardening for wildlife is truly making a difference.

Learn more about these skinks and see pictures and eggs

If you’re just beginning to think about landscaping for wildlife, be sure to catch the link below in the gardening section for ideas and reasons to be thinking about it 🙂

Take some time to discover what’s in your own backyard! Today!

Critter Facts

Striped Skunks

A fairly large mammal from the Weasel Family. They are black with two white stripes down the back which meet at the head, giving skunks a white cap. They have bushy black tails, usually tipped with white. The color patterns can vary. Striped Skunks have long claws on their front feet for digging.

Males are larger than females, growing up to two and a half feet long and can be found in open woods, grassy fields, and parks. They are never far from water. Striped Skunks are mostly nocturnal, and are therefore very active at night. They build a den in a protected place. A skunk den is usually a burrow with up to five entrances. Inside, the den usually has between one and three chambers. Skunks may use an old fox or woodchuck burrow, or dig their own. Sometimes they den in a hollow log or under a building. One of the chambers is used as a nest, with the skunk adding dried leaves and grass.

Skunks mate in late Winter or early Spring. A litter may have four to seven young. About six weeks after they are born, their mother will take them hunting. Skunks are well-known for the way they defend themselves. They have a special gland in their butts that sprays a foul-smelling liquid. The liquid will cause great pain if it gets in eyes and can temporarily blind. The spray is a type of oil, so it is very hard to get off and will smell bad for a long time.

Skunks only spray as a last resort. If threatened, a skunk will first face its attacker, arch its tail, chatter its teeth, and stomp its feet. If the threat does not go away, then the skunk will turn around and spray. Skunks can spray up to fifteen feet. The smell of the spray can travel a mile.

Skunks are not camouflaged by their fur since most animals don’t mess with them. They only have a few predators, including: owls, hawks, and foxes.

Skunks eat many kinds of animal and vegetable foods, including: beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, ants, bees, wasps, earthworms, millipedes, centipedes, crayfish, snails, slugs, salamanders, frogs, turtle eggs, eggs of ground-nesting birds, mice, shrews, squirrels, young rabbits, fish, small snakes, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, grasses, nuts, and carrion. They will often dig for their food, especially grubs (beetle larvae) and mice.

They are not built to run fast. Their legs are made for digging, so they run with a slow "waddle."

Read more and see a photo of a Striped Skunk

Those Amazing Birds!

Chipping Sparrows

We’ve had two nests so far this year, one in each of our corner arborvitae bushes. The nests seem so tiny to support 4 babies we had in the first one. Our bushes are not very mature either, so we had concerns about them getting wet with all the rain we’ve been having.

This bird breeds from Alaska down into South America. All across the US, except for the southern Great Plains and Florida. It’s a delightful bird that loves to sing as it feeds. Being a ground feeder, you may find them under your feeder and while the parents were feeding their young, they had no problem feeding while we worked in the garden only a few feet away from them.

Get more details and pictures of this bird. Listen to the song on the website and see if you can identify any in your own backyard.

Nature’s Bounty For Us

Nature offers essential oils with potent properties that can be used in many
areas around the home. For health, bath, beauty, and household cleaning
supplies. Here’s our featured recipe for this issue:


Massage the following in a counterclockwise direction over lower abdomen

three times per day:
15 drops Rosemary
10 drops Lemon oil
5 drops Peppermint oil

Dilute the above oils in 2 tbsp. massage or vegetable oil

Read more about the benefits of these oils, find other recipes, and purchase oils

Gardening For Wildlife – Restoring the Balance

Landscaping for Wildlife

Hectic schedules, meetings, soccer practice, there’s no wonder many of us benefit from the joy and relaxation we feel in and around nature. Beautiful landscapes, natural surroundings and wildlife not only do much for property values, but emotional values too. One of the best ways to bring nature into our lives is to welcome it into our own backyards. Planting trees, shrubs and flowers can make your home a more inviting atmosphere not only for you, your family and friends, but also for songbirds, butterflies and other fun little critters.

Their needs are pretty basic:
* Food
* Water
* Breeding & Nesting Space
* Shelter

Meeting these needs will surely attract wildlife to your backyard. But it is important to arrange or spread out these items suitably on an area of land large enough to support a breeding population. Otherwise, your backyard friends will not persist. Each species has its own requirements in terms of the four ingredients, but the following forms the basis for landscaping with wildlife in mind.

Almost all plants provide shelter or food in some way for wildlife. However, planting native plants in your backyard habitat will deliver more benefits to you and wildlife year after year. Native plants naturally adapt providing shelter and food to native wildlife more consistently, even in the most extreme weather climates including drought or freezing conditions.

You’ll find that planting native flowering species will provide an abundance of nectar, whereas non-native, novelty counterparts do not. Native plants are beautiful, hardy, much less expensive and easier to maintain, as well as beneficial to the environment. Once you have established your native habitat you will save time and money, as well as reduce air pollution by eliminating or significantly reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water and lawn maintenance equipment.

Most non-native plants are aggressive and typically do not have any enemies or controls to prevent their spread. As these plants bully their way into complex native plant and wildlife communities things become more simplified. In the end, non-natives usually win the battle and eliminate most native plant species that make up native wildlife habitat.

Do an online search for natives in your own state and learn more about simplifying your outdoor time. Spend more time enjoying your garden, and less time maintaining it. Nature was made to take care of itself!

For those of you in Illinois, here’s a place to start

" Green" Info – Making It a Way of Life!

Use the Dishwasher and Don’t Pre-Rinse Dishes

Running a full load in the dishwasher is more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand, because the tap is usually running for long periods of time. So, don’t feel lazy when you let the machine clean.

Don’t prerinse! According to Consumer Reports study, prerinsing doesn’t make dishes any cleaner after they’ve been run through the dishwasher. Skipping this step (and simply scraping any residual particles into the trash) will save about 20 gallons of water a load. That’s 6500 gallons of water per year….. enough to fill several swimming pools!–

Sunshine Concentrate – Detoxify Your Cleaning!

This environmentally-friendly cleaning and washing concentrate is nothing less than wonderful!! We’ve used this for 15 years and love it for laundry, hand soap, pet baths, soaking produce, dishwasher, cleaning, and a multitude of other uses. This product has saved us hundreds of dollars over the years. Makes life much simpler and takes away the "itch" of chemical soaps.

Sunshine Concentrate for Non-Toxic Cleaning

Musings Of Nature

" Make the most of yourself,
for that is all there is of you."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good News About Our Planet

Four Rescued Ostriches Arrive at Black Beauty Ranch

Recently, four ostriches were rescued by the Houston SPCA and brought to The Fund for Animals’ Black Beauty Ranch in Texas. Neighbors called the Houston SPCA to report that there were animals in a neighboring yard who appeared to be abandoned. No one knows why the animals were being kept there because the owner of the home disappeared and left the animals to fend for themselves.

The rescued ostriches — named Don Juan, Yvette, Yolanda, and Yesenia — now have 50 acres in which to walk, run, play, and nest at Black Beauty Rannch, where they have joined the other ostriches, deer, goats, llamas, and alpacas.

See a photo of the ostriches and read more about their story


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The content, suggestions, and web links in this newsletter are for informational purposes only and not necessarily endorsed by our sponsor "The Herbs Place.com" This is a personal publication by Donna Watkins. The ideas and information expressed in it have not been approved or authorized by anyone either explicitly or impliedly. In no event shall Donna Watkins or" The Herbs Place.com" be liable for any damages whatsoever resulting from any action arising in connection with the use of this information or its publication, including any action for infringement of copyright or defamation.