Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year of the Bat

I know. I know.  Bats are not typical New Year topics. And to be fair the article below was published in the Chicago Tribune October 24, 2011.  A much better seasonal article. But it just showed up in the New Orleans Times Picayune in December. So.... given that the United Nations has the Year of the Bat (2 years actually) campaign and given it's a new calendar year and given bats are associated with witches and so beneficial to our environment, I offer William Hageman's article below. 
Do what you can for Bats in 2012.  Even if it is only educating those around you.

Bats - Garden Allies
William Hageman - Chicago Tribune

Let's get the myths out of the way.  Bats are not blind, rabies-infested vermin that will suck your blood and entangle themselves in your hair. What they are, obviously, is misunderstood. And, sadly, threatened.

Rob Mies got interested in bats while a student at Eastern Michigan University almost 20 years ago.
"Over the years I became fascinated with how important bats are and how much people don't know," he says. "If they learn just a little bit of information about them, people become pro-bat. Or just not hate them."

Mies educates folks as founder and director of the Organization for Bat Conservation at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he teaches the importance of bats and dispels those old wives' tales. He has also co-written two books: "Beginner's Guide To Bats" (Little, Brown and Co.) and "Understanding Bats" (Bird Watchers Digest).
"We present at schools, museums, nature centers," he says. "We're focused on educating people."
For the record, he says, bats can see, their rate of rabies is less than half a percent, there are vampire bats but they are small and nothing like you see in the movies, and bats don't dive into your hair.
Here's another fact: They're not just a bunch of pretty faces. Mies says some of the bats OBC uses in its presentations — they are older bats or ones that were injured and rescued but can't be returned to the wild — have learned to recognize certain presenters and will call out, asking to be picked up.
"They're as smart, almost, as some primates," he says. "I know them to be pretty intelligent. They have different personalities as well."
Ask Mies about bats, and he's off and running. Unfortunately, a lot of the news he has isn't good.

The big die-off
North America's bat population is being decimated by white-nose syndrome, a fungus found in 2006 in New York that seems to disrupt bats' hibernation. It has been found in 16 states and three Canadian provinces and is spreading.
"It's going to be devastating," Mies says. "It's going through Pennsylvania, Indiana. In places it has been found — Vermont, New York — we're seeing 90, 95 percent mortality. So, unfortunately, we're going to see a huge die-off."
The disease is largely in the eastern U.S. and Canada right now, but it is slowly spreading west and south. Bat Conservation International (, an organization that sponsors research and education programs, says that the bat population across the U.S. is at risk.
"It's been projected that over the next 16 years, they'll be regionally extinct," Mies says. "There was a cave in Vermont that had 16,000 bats. Now, zero."

And what's bad for bats may be bad for people.
"With millions of bats dying — literally, millions — we don't know what the impact will be. A bat eats 2,000 to 6,000 insects a night, and some of them, certain beetles and moths, are agricultural pests."

Bat facts
There are about 40 species of bats in North America, the most common being the little brown bat. There are more than 1,100 species worldwide, according to Phil Richardson in his excellent book "Bats" (Firefly). Some bats can live 30 years or more in captivity. The biggest bat in the world is the giant flying fox, which can have a 6-foot wingspan, and the smallest is the Kitti's hog-nosed bat, about the size of a large bumblebee. Scientists earlier this year announced the discovery of a plant in the Cuban rain forest that has acoustically shaped leaves that work with a bat's sonar, drawing the bat to it and facilitating pollination.

How important are bats?
Plenty. Bats have three main benefits: insect control, pollination and the spreading of seeds.
Bats eat 50 to 100 percent of their weight in insects each night — mostly mosquitoes — and fruit bats can eat 21/2 times their weight. All that fruit includes seeds, which get scattered when the bat does his business. Even their poop, guano, is valuable as a fertilizer because of its high nitrogen content. Bats also help pollinate plants, eat moths that produce caterpillars that feast on gardens, and are part of the food chain — food for hawks, owls, eagles and snakes, while some eat rodents or scorpions.
A study published this year in Science magazine stated that insect-eating bats saved the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year, with some estimates of more than $50 billion.

Gardeners, take note
A colony of bats will do wonders if you have an insect problem, Mies says. There are a couple of things gardeners can do to encourage bat populations.
Spray as little pesticide as possible. If you have room on your property and it's safe, leave up dead and dying trees; they're the best habitat for bats. And next season, plant night-blooming flowers, such as the evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa), which will attract moths and other insects for your colony's dining pleasure.

Want to be the coolest homeowner in your neighborhood? Or would you like to give your garden a boost? Set up a bat house.
A bat house can be home to a couple hundred bats, females and their offspring usually, from spring through fall. They can be set up on a pole or side of a building — trees generally aren't a good idea — 15 to 20 feet off the ground, in an open location where they get at least 6 hours of sun a day.

"Food, they'll find. But a place for them to live is the key thing," Mies says. "Unfortunately, people often chase them from their house or kill them in the barn, so they need somewhere to go."
Bat houses are readily available, but those sold at home improvement centers often don't meet bats' standards and don't attract the animals. Instead, check out the bat houses sold by the Organization for Bat Conservation, which get up to an 80 percent occupancy rate. Several sizes are available at ($38-$72), or you can buy plans to build your own.

Fear not
Mies says it's adults, not kids, who tend to be spooked by bats.
"There have been a lot of great books, especially children's books, to come out. One, "Stellaluna" (Harcourt Children's Books) by Jannell Cannon, tells a decent story about bats, that they're not bloodthirsty killers. Things like that have really helped kids be less fearful of bats."

Friday, December 23, 2011

8 Decidedly Unromantic Facts About Mistletoe

8 Decidedly Unromantic Facts About Mistletoe from Mental Floss.
The information below is not mine; it is from another blog
But as I've said before so many times I find and link to interesting data on the web only to have it disappear.  At least this way it doesn't get lost.  Think of it a bit like having to copy your own Book of Shadows.  If the links wouldn't disappear I'd be happy to JUST link.  But ... well... you know.

1. Mistletoe, not unlike some you may have smooched beneath it, is a parasite. The plant sucks water and minerals through a sinister-sounding bump called a haustorium that forms on the host tree. It might make you feel better to know that, technically, mistletoe is only partially parasitic: The plant is capable of photosynthesis, unlike true parasites that take all of their nutrients from their hosts. So while mistletoe doesn’t pay rent, it does occasionally do the laundry or whip up a nice soufflĂ©.

2. Candle companies love to peddle holiday scents labeled “Mistletoe” –- you can even buy mistletoe-scented air fresheners for your car—but the plant, says mistletoe expert Jonathan Briggs, has no scent at all. Briggs, who hails from Gloucestershire, England, debunks all manner of mistletoe misinformation in A Little Book About Mistletoe and on his wonderful mistletoe blog.

3. Throughout the ages, mistletoe has been used to treat a battery of ailments, from leprosy, worms and labor pains to high blood pressure. In Europe, injections of mistletoe extract are often prescribed as a complementary treatment for cancer patients.

4. A time-honored southern tradition for fetching mistletoe out of a tall tree is to blast it down with a shotgun. Let’s hope no one’s kissing under it at the time.

5. In medieval times, mistletoe wasn’t just a Christmas decoration, but one perhaps better suited to Halloween: Hung over doors to homes and stables, it was thought to prevent witches and ghosts from entering.

6. According to some accounts, the name mistletoe means “dung branch,” a nod to the seeds’ ability to stick to tree branches when pooped out by birds. The viscous middle layer of the fruit is so sticky that the seeds get glued where they land post-digestion, which starts a new mistletoe plant. Mistletoe goo is so sticky that trappers used to smear it on tree branches to catch birds, which would land and then be unable to fly away.

7. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder told how druids revered mistletoe, recounting a ceremony where they gathered it with a golden sickle, then sacrificed two white bulls. The ceremony still takes place each year, minus the bull-slaying, at the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival in England.

8. In Norse mythology, mistletoe is a god-killer. Balder, the son of Odin and Frigg, was felled by an arrow made of mistletoe, the only material that could hurt him. Oddly, this may have been the origin of the kissing tradition, as some retellings say that Frigg revived Balder and was so happy, she commanded anyone who stood under the plant to kiss as a reminder of how love conquered death

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Soltice.... BEST MESSAGE for a new Solar Year.

Tracy Chapman's Heaven's here on Earth

And again in Italian

You can look to the stars in search of the answers
Look for God and life on distant planets
Have your faith in the ever after
While each of us holds inside the map to the labyrinth
Heaven's here on earth

We are the spirit the collective conscience
We create the pain and the suffering and the beauty in this world
Heaven's here on earth
In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise
Of ordinary people leading ordinary lives
Filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice
Heaven's in our hearts
In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding

Look around
Believe in what you see
The kingdom is at hand
The promised land is at your feet
We can and will become what we aspire to be
Heaven's here on earth

If we have faith in humankind
And respect for what is earthly
And an unfaltering belief that truth is divinity
Heaven's here on earth

I've seen spirits
I've met angels
Touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I've been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven

We are born inside the gates with the power to create life
And to take it away
The world is our temple
The world is our church
Heaven's here on earth

If we have faith in humankind
And respect for what is earthly
And an unfaltering belief
In peace and love and understanding
This could be heaven here on earth

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Solstice Matters

Worthwhile thoughts on solstice...

Give it a read....  I happen to know and trust the source for this one. The blog made it through Katrina and I am counting on it being around for quite some time.

"Anyhow, I am happy to remember and the solstice and celebrate it explicitly. It’s about as universal and natural a holiday as one could ask for. It’s available to everyone, people of every religion or no religion, everywhere on the planet."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brains, energy, magic

Listen to it all... It has amazing ramifications for how we use our brains and our energy to do magic.
See the transcript here.

Below is the video that made me look up the one above. Autotune ruins modern music but this is the most appropriate and amazing use of Autotune.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Now we're talking

It took Katrina to get the people of the region to really stand up to the Corps of Engineers
but finally the RIGHT projects are going through.... we need more...
but at least now there is movement.

See recent article in New Orleans Times Picayune in full below

Coastal restoration projects move forward
Saturday, December 10, 2011 - Times Picayune
By Mark Schleifstein

Construction of a half-dozen major coastal restoration projects in Louisiana took a small step forward Friday with federal and state officials signing an agreement outlining how to design the projects. The agreement frees up the first $20 million appropriated by Congress this year to be spent on pre-construction engineering and design work.
whiskey_island.jpgView full sizeThe Terrebonne Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration project will rebuild marshland, dunes and beaches on Raccoon, Whiskey, Trinity and Timbalier islands in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Whiskey Island was photographed in October 2002, after it had sustained significant damage from Hurricane Lili.
The first six of 15 projects, proposed as part of the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration program, will require an investment of $1.4 billion. The federal government will pay 65 percent and the state will pay the rest.
Traditionally, such projects are financed by appropriations by Congress, which may be sparse during the next few years.
But some of the projects may get funded through fines or mitigation costs levied against BP and other companies found responsible under the federal Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The state also hopes to use part of its share of future revenue from federal offshore oil and gas leases, similar revenue from in-state leases, and from past state budget surpluses to pay its share of construction costs.
“These projects will help to reduce the risk from storm surge of a hurricane by supporting the multiple lines of defense system,” said Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District office.
He was referring to a strategy underlying both the federal restoration plan and the state’s coastal restoration master plan that locates land-building projects in areas where they can help protect populated areas from storm surges.
“The LCA 6 projects utilize the three important coastal restoration methods: barrier island restoration, river diversions, and marsh creation and nourishment,” Fleming said.
The first projects will include:
  • Amite River Diversion Canal Modification, which will improve the flow of water into the cypress swamp and wetlands to the west of Lake Maurepas in Livingston and Ascension parishes.
  • Small Diversion at Convent/Blind River, where about 3,000 cubic feet per second of Mississippi River water will be pumped through a canal near Romeville into the cypress swamp and wetlands west of Lake Maurepas in Ascension and St. James parishes.
  • Medium Diversion at White Ditch will allow up to 35,000 cubic feet per second of Mississippi River water and sediment to be diverted near Phoenix into wetlands on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.
  • Terrebonne Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration will rebuild marshland, dunes and beaches on Raccoon, Whiskey, Trinity and Timbalier islands in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.
  • Convey Atchafalaya River Water to Northern Terrebonne Marshes. This project combines two proposals — routing Atchafalaya water into the Bayou Chene/Gulf Intracoastal Waterway system and designing a gate structure in the Houma Navigation Channel to allow that water to pass into sensitive wetlands.