Got Leaves? 3 Ways to Avoid Raking Leaves

The Cycle of life begins with leaves

The Cycle of life begins with leaves

We love trees, trees provide us with shade, some trees even provide us with food, and come autumn, as trees begin to ready themselves for winter, they often put on a spectacular show of lovely warm colors.

 

If that sentence got you anticipating what comes next, you are not alone!  Raking leaves is homeowners second least favorite yard chore, right behind cutting grass.

It is estimated by the National Wildlife Federation that more then 33 million tons of yard waste are added to US landfills each year, accounting for 13 percent of the solid waste. But the bad news doesn’t stop there.. These leaves, buried without oxygen, are responsible for creating methane (greenhouse  gas) at an alarming rate in our nation’s landfills.

With more than 40 million acres of lawns in the continental US, turf grasses add up to be the single largest irrigated crop in the nation. That is at least three times as much space as irrigated corn.

Before we became obsessed with tidy yards and homeowners’ association rules, we lived in a much healthier habitat, and although a heavy layer of leaves may cause damage to your lawn grasses, there are ways you can help the environment, wildlife and your lawn with out hauling away those leaves.

Three beneficial ways to use leaves

 

1.)  Did you know that leaves can actually impede weed growth? Research done at Michigan State University showed that when leaves are left until dry and crunchy, and then mulched with a mower into little pieces, they reduced dandilions the following spring by up to 80 percent. The added nutritional boost also produces a significant spring greening effect on the turf.

mulching your leaves into your lawn helps control weeds and adds nutrients

mulching your leaves into your lawn helps control weeds and adds nutrients

Leaves are our earth’s food. They are an incredible free resource that begins the food chain in our back yard.

While still on the tree, leaves provide homes for animals  like squirrels and birds and when they fall to the ground,  organisms that live on and in the soil slowly consume them creating the rich soil we find in our native forests. Mulching these leaves back into your lawn helps maintain the natural balance, and reduces the amount of  fertilizers and chemicals needed to keep it healthy.

 

 

2) Leaves feed more then just our soil. Leaves create their own mini ecosystem.
A pile of leaves left at the forest edge can benefit a lot of forest dwellers. Even during our dryest months,  the moisture that is retained under a pile of leaves encourages a food supply of worms and insects, that feeds lizards, toads, chipmunks and even baby turtles. Many moth and butterfly species overwinter as pupae in leaf litter.  If you leave some stickes, branches and stems in with your leaf pile, it will allow for some air circulation, and keep the leaves from packing too quickly,  benefiting all sorts of native wildlife.
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Box turtles rely on leaves for food and shelter

Leaving a pile of leaves at the edge of your property may bring you some welcome forest visitors, like our Eastern Box Turtle who may even choose to hibernate in your pile of leaves. A visiting Box Turtle will help control pests that may attack yard plants like slugs and grubs, and once your yard is discovered as a source for food and shelter, the chances are high that the Box Turtle will visit you again.

 

 

3) Leaves are an affordable easy garden bed mulch.  For finer texture mulch you can mulch them first. (Don’t have a mulcher? Place some leaves in a trash can and use a weed eater to mulch them). You can place leaves around your trees,  shrubs, and perennials, and you can place them over exposed roots.  Leaves are a advantageous winter garden cover,  will help reduce the number of weeds, and can be mixed in with the soil come planting time.13230283_10206168396512883_9168596874038663816_n

You can create compost by combining fallen leaves, grass clippings and other green material. Keeping your compost moist and well mixed will provide you with a nutrient dense mix for your spring garden.  You can also share the leaves with your neighbor or a community center

Need more ideas for your leaves? Check out National Wildlife Federations site at www.nwf.org/gard.

Do you have a good use for leaves? I use a lot of leaves for my Box turtles.. keeps them cool in the summer and well insulated in the winter.. What is your favorite use?

Rappahanock Electric Co-op Destroys Native Habitat

 

Habitat Destroyed?

 

Habitat destroyed for everything..

There are no benefits to clear-cutting except to the land owners pocket.

For me, there is no worse sound in the world then the “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP’ of heavy equipment. It means that something is getting destroyed, and it is usually habitat. Today, as I headed out to do my morning chores on the farm, I noticed a Rappahanock Electric Co-op truck and a good sized tractor, complete with protective cage, and bush-hog, heading down the dirt road that skirts our property and leads to the power line right of way that follows the back property line of our 20 acres. It wasn’t long before I saw the Pick up leave and heard the tell tale; Beep, Beep, Beep… of the tractor
and knew I needed to investigate.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being part of the Co-op that Rappahannock represents. They are quick to respond to issues and generally much more consistent then their counterparts. REC also publishes an adorable monthly magazine that keeps members in the know, shares members photos, and has a lovely calendar of events from far reaches of the state of Virginia. Earlier that morning as I enjoyed my first cup of coffee I mulled over the monthly issue that had arrived just a day before with a very nice article about the monarch butterfly and how we can help them by planting milkweed. So I jumped on the RTV and followed the path that the tractor had taken down the dirt road.

A Very Wet Spring!

Monarch on an Aster

Monarchs rely on milkweed to feed the next generation of caterpillars.

This spring has been and interesting one with more rainy days then sunny ones and we are currently at more then double the normal amount of rain. The back of our property, where the power line runs, also is bordered by a small creek that flows year round and judging by the deep crevasse it has made, has done so for many, many years. Unless you are a deer, one cannot walk the length of the property due to the steepness of the banks, and the briers, ideal habitat for small critters, including snakes and turtles. Besides providing berries, seeds, flowers and foliage for the wildlife to enjoy, many of the plants also provide year round shelter and protection, and help discourage trespassing hunters from using it as a cut-through. The trees that border the REC right of way have been pruned on a regular basis and the saplings that grow here and there are best cut by hand in such a treacherous area. It just so happens to be raining… Again..! The plants that hold the earth together in the back of my little piece of paradise have been cut to the base and the surviving mud is trench thick. I am amazed that the tractor is still upright, and as the gentlemen that watches me approach waves down the driver of the tractor, my heart sinks when I see the condition of my blackberry patch that was in full bloom.

 

Blackberries, brambles, sticker-bushes, call them what you will, but they are a mid summer staple for the box turtles that call the sanctuary home. Once they are ripe, the birds, deer, turtles and myself all vie for a good location to reach as many as we can. The Milkweed and the poke-berries, weeds to some, to me important natural food for the native animals that have lived here before our people knew this country. They are all gone now..

Box turtle awakes from a long winter nap

Box turtles rely on native blackberries for mid summer food

My conversation with the “powers that be” following the destruction of the native forage along the right of way has left me amazed, confused, disappointed and totally frightened for the future of our earth. There will be a day when we will all be accountable for the damage that we have done to our planet. Rappahanock Electric Cooperative evidently does not practice what they preach. REC has a excellent opportunity to improve the areas that they must traverse,  to be proactive by communicating with land owners, educating them about wildlife habitats, planting native perennials, and encouraging the community to participate in efforts to give wildlife a place to live. The apology that was offered was shallow and meaningless. Unless this is acknowledged with-in the higher authority, through planning and education, I am afraid we are doomed.

I am a member of this cooperative, and I will let my thought on this matter be heard.. People, we need to start somewhere.. Please start in your own yards. Please be proactive in the protection that you can provide for any of our native animals, and plants. Stand up for our planet! For goodness sake.. STOP for turtles crossing the roads! ALL LIVES MATTER! If we cannot preserve what was here before we came.. then we cannot preserve ourselves. We are all part of the circle of life on this planet, and if you see someone else disrespect our earth.. Do Something About It!

Shelley

 
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The Eastern Box Turtle’s Spring Arrival

 

Eastern Box Turtles are waiting for the sun.

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soaking up rays!

Some times I wonder if I am the only one that sees them. They march silently from the woods along the road.. recently awakened from a long winter sleep by the warm spring rains… slow in coming this year, but the sun is calling, daylight has increased making the sun warm enough to raise body temperatures enough for the digging to start. Hatchlings, often after staying in their nest all winter are beginning to see sunshine for the first time in their life. The Eastern Box turtle begins a new year in its unique and ancient way of life.

Last spring, as I traveled along a busy road in Western Hanover County, Virginia, I straddled a newly hatched turtle scurrying as fast as he could across the road. By the time I got turned around and back to where the turtle was, the wet spot on the roadway was indistinguishable.There was a lot of traffic that day.. Did anyone else even see the little guy? Did the person who flattened him even know what they had done? Did they care?

 Watching the Roads…

One eyed Sam

One Eyed Sam survived a lawn mower accident.

Often I will see them on the back roads, drive 100 yards, while my inner dialogue tells me it wasn’t a turtle at all.. not being one to get it out of my head, ..I eventually turn back to see the leaf, pine cone or scrap of wood that I was sure was a turtle.. They will be out soon .. the temperature of the days and the rising humidity will bring them out, so be prepared.

I see less and less of them every year. as the community gets developed around me, and the traffic continues to rise, the ones that I had helped crossed the road every year have been lucky to survive. Very few of these survivors are seen now, hopefully they have found more interesting things elsewhere in their habitat of 2-10 football field size areas that are etched in our resident turtles brain. They know every water hole, every berry patch,where the best place to find worms is and where the best place to hibernate is. Like a bird flying south, the uncanny homing instincts in box turtles often puts them in great peril when they are taken away from their territory or their territory is destroyed, and they try to find it. The Eastern Box turtle needs our help now. Land in central Virginia is at a premium, and due to the extensive sprawl and ease of travel, most of the land from DC to Raleigh, NC  is easily accessible  and prime for development. This rare and unique land, which follows the fall line of the Eastern United States, offers a lot to its residents, both four legged and two, and

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What will you do to help?

should be carefully evaluated and preserved for future generations. Humans it seems, have forgotten that these ancient reptiles are dinosaurs and their ancestors lived here 250 million years ago, and  If there is one thing that turtles know how to do, it is being a turtle and surviving. But, if we continue to destroy habitat at the alarming rate that we currently  do, these small relatives of the dinosaurs, will disappear totally from our planet.

The extinction of the Dinosaurs

 

Reptiles and Amphibians are amazing indicators of our planets health, and they are currently suffering from diseases that are thought to be caused by pollutants in their environments. Recent findings are showing that viable populations are being wiped out in the wild from viruses that are not fully understood or treatable.

Recently, I read a post from a friend that listed all the stress factors in her life. The list began with her work, followed by family, pets, and lastly her turtles, whom she commented, actually were responsible for reducing her stress, and the time she spent with them was the happiest and most peaceful of her day. I know we can’t all be turtle caretakers, but I do believe that we all should take time to appreciate the world around us, get out into the woods, notice the harmony of the trees, the rivers, the wind and the earth, and do what we can to protect and preserve this amazing planet for our grandchildren before it is too late, and PLEASE, try to notice the turtles walking along the road, trying to cross, and maybe stop and give them a hand… for these little dinosaurs have seen and survived a lot, I am sure if we take the time, there is so much to be learned from them.

Box Turtles are coming out of Hibernation

Virginia is known for its crazy unpredictable weather

Especially in the spring and fall.. seasons tend to blend together. This fall, winter, spring season certainly has been no exception. It amazes me that any of our native turtles survive these crazy changing temperatures, but hey, they have been around for more than 250 million years, so I guess our weather patterns are mild compared to some that they have endured over the centuries. Interestingly enough, the weather here in Central Virginia, is not the turtles biggest concern.

photo 3Survival of the fittest

Turtles do what they have to do just to survive. A couple of extremely warm days and The Eastern Box turtles begin to poke up out of the dirt. There is no mass exodus from the ground, rather it is about the sun and the heat. Slowly they work their way to the surface after being buried in up to a foot of soil, eyes still shut, seeking out the warmth of the sun and hoping for a warm spring rain to rinse of the caked on mud and to re-hydrate. The middle of March is extremely early for this awakening, and turtle watchers, although excited about the reappearance of their shelled friends, worry about the inconsistent changing of the weather and the turtles ability to dig back into the earth when the weather turns cold again.photo 2The Eastern Box turtle has many threats to its survival in this day and age, one would hope that they have a good grasp on dealing with the weather in a place where they have live for generations, but if an individual turtle goes into hibernation without being in optimum health, being caught in a cold snap can mean the ultimate demise for that turtle.

So many box turtles are relocated by good doers who find them crossing the road in places where there is no longer habitat enough for them to survive. Choices are slim, and often dictate that the best option for these turtles is to relocate them to a nearby park. Box Turtles have an uncanny instinct to return to their native hatching place as they know that territory… if this has been destroyed then survival is dependent solely on luck to find food and water. A Box Turtle can go a long time without food and many of these transient turtles can survive their first lost summer, but when winter approaches if they have not stored up the necessary reserves for hibernation, it may be their last.

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Soon, Turtles will begin marching about, looking for other turtles, food and water. Remember to look out for these amazing reptiles crossing the roads, especially after a warm spring rain, in the early morning hours, and help them across if you can. With all the threats that turtles now have to their very existence, it is so very important that we leave them in the wild whenever possible. Viable populations of turtles are becoming more and more rare in their native habitat so it is up to us to try to save, create and preserve habitat where ever we can.

Have Questions on a found Box Turtle? Leave me a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.. Thanks for helping these amazing gems of the forest!

Shelley.[sgmb id=”1″ customimageurl=”” ]

LOST and FOUND

 

photo 1Dear People of Virginia,

I found one of your residents yesterday. He was narrowly missed by oncoming traffic. You see, he is lost. His eyes are swollen shut, and he seems to have a cold.

I did my best to provide a good summer, lots of rain helped provide moisture for invertebrates and sunshine helped the native plants provide fruit and berries. I really try to provide all my residents the necessary habitat that will sustain them with the food, water and companionship for a long happy life.

I see you cut down his forest. I understand that my natural resources are important to you and of course they are renewable, thank you for letting me re-seed the land. But you took away important resources for many of my residents, and this one, well he was born right by that big oak where you left a stump, near the blackberry patch that you tore out because it was in your way, and he knew every inch of the 10 acres that he called home. He knew where every waterhole was, and he knew when and where to find the mulberries and blackberries, and he knew the best place to find worms and slugs. Now, his habitat is unrecognizable to him and he is lost.  

This native resident is very special to me. He can only be found in the eastern part of the United States, and his descendants go back to more than 200 million years! This guys family has survived mass extinctions, and his body type has changed little over the years due to his successful survival rate.  You see, he is able to hibernate and he can survive for a long time without nourishment, his body essentially shuts down. All of his organs change pace so that they are providing the most minimal output possible while still maintaining life. His heart rate, normally 40 beats a minute, slows to 1 beat for 10 minutes. He is a survivor, but now he has met his match.

Homo Sapiens  now rule the east coast corridor of the United States, and as the population grows so goes the forest. You can see by the map below how little land is preserved by State and Federal programs in Virginia.  And the lands that are protected are mostly difficult to negotiate and best left to the wilds. I appreciate that; as there are incredible habitats in these areas for your native creatures. However, you are missing the boat!New Picture

I am dismayed over the plight of the Elephants in Africa, the Whales deep in the ocean, and every little frog in the rainforest, and I am grateful that there are Homo sapiens that are studying, monitoring, and protecting these creatures the best they can.   You must all know that I stopped making land a long time ago, and once it is destroyed, the habitats and the animals will not readily return, for they depend on the forest and the plants for their survival. Your little resident does not have the option to gallop away to another patch of woods. No… his journey would be a long arduous one, and if he did manage to cross the highway the likelihood of him being able to find food and water is slim.

Virginia,  It is not too late! You need to preserve the land, the trees and the streams that support these amazing animals. Private land ownership is not the answer. Your small people parks are not the answer. Virginia, if you don’t preserve some land soon, you will have wiped out much of the genetic diversity and history that these little residents carry in their DNA.

Before all the animals disappear from the center of your lovely state, where the people live, You need to create a natural area for the wildlife.  An area where your people and their grand children, can come and see the diverse flora and fauna that this state has to offer.  You see, our little disappearing Gem of the Forest is The Eastern Box Turtle.

Habitat lose and destruction is only part of this little survivors  struggle to endure.  The Eastern Box Turtle is one of the most beautiful turtles  in the world and highly sought after for pets.  Poachers  ship turtles for medicinal purposes and consumption all over the world, and your little box turtle is not immune from this illegal and unethical practice. There is so much that Homo Sapiens can learn from this little Turtle. Scientists have barely touched on the amazing abilities of survival that these guys posses.   

Your little Resident will be okay. I have given the Box Turtles in your state an advocate, and I have sent him there. When spring arrives in your lovely state he will be released in the sanctuary with others of his kind, where he can live as a turtle for many more years and teach your children about the amazing world in which he lives and what they can do to help his nation survive.

Thanks for listening

Mother EARTh

Without ART there is no earth

https://boxturtlesanctuaryofcentralva.com