Nature and Environment

News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

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Scientific Name: Araneus diadematus
Pronunciation: ah-RAY-nee-uhs dy-uh-DEM-uh-tuss

Common names: Orb Spider, European Garden Spider, Cross Spider, Diadem Spider, Garden Spider, Garden Cross Spider, Gartenkreuzspinne (Germany)

Benefits of Spiders

Spiders are beneficial arachnids, meaning they have eight legs. They can be found in or near a home. Relocating spiders to a more appropriate place is a much wiser idea than killing them when they're in our way.

Spiders are beneficial because they eat bugs that can destroy crops such as aphids and caterpillars. Spiders eat fleas, which is a good thing since some fleas carry life-threatening diseases like bubonic plague or typhus. Other disease carrying bugs spiders eat are mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches.

Scientists are experimenting with spider webs able to be used in parachutes and bullet proof vests. Spider web silk is considered one of the strongest of natural fibers especially considering its elasticity. Villages in developing countries have devised ways of using Orb Spiders’ webs as fishing nets. They coax the spider into an oval frame where it naturally spins a web. The fishermen use this web as fishing nets.

Orb Spiders are beneficial in the organic garden since they keep predator insects in check. If your kale has aphids, then spiders are just what you need! If your beans, cabbage, potatoes, or lettuce have flea beetles then spiders are your best friends. If your dahlias have earwigs, spiders can decrease their population.

We often have the Orb Spider just outside our front door, since this area is plentiful of flying insects, the spiders’ main food source. We sometimes leave the spiders alone if they’re not in our way, or we gently capture them and relocate them out in our yard where they can continue with their lives.

The Orb Spider spends its life outside in yards, gardens, orchards, and on farms in North America and Canada. They build their webs a bit off the ground, wherever they believe flying or jumping insects will be captured in their web. When felt threatened, the Orb Spider bounces on it’s web in an effort to appear larger to a prospective predator.

Spider Webs

The Orb Spider’s web is generally large and suspends from plants, trees, or structures by long traverse-like lines which are not sticky like the orb itself. Typically, although not always, the female Orb Spider stays in the center of the web waiting for a wiggling insect to cause the web to jolt and notify her of available food.

If she’s sitting somewhere outside the web, she can easily and quickly traverse to the web and capture her prey. The spider usually eats the web each evening, recycling the proteins and any moisture, using them to re-build a new web the next morning.

Famous Spiders

The Orb Spider is one of the better known spiders around the world and has been studied in scientific research documents time and time again. Quite a famous spider indeed, as in 2010 the Orb Spider was elected “European Spider of the Year”.

Capture and Release


To capture a spider with the intent to relocate it, a small clean sturdy vessel with a secure lid is needed. We keep a basket of small vessels in a basket for spider capturing emergencies. When we have spiders in the house, we always capture and relocate them safely outside.


If a spider is in an orb, try to visually locate the traverse lines suspending the web, there should be several going out in different directions. These lines are not sticky and you can easily detach them if you need to in order to get the capturing vessel closer to the spider.

It is in the spider’s interest to capture them in the evening when they would be eating their web soon and retiring for the night. Then you haven’t interrupted their intent to find food for the day and causing them to need to begin a new web all over again. This may sound extreme but if you have ever watched spiders in their natural habitat, they are fascinating creatures and have their own rhythm of life you can learn as you observe.


Once you can approach the spider’s orb closely, carefully hold the small plastic container behind the web and quickly, because the spider will try to escape as soon as she see’s what you’re doing, draw up the container and put on the container top simultaneously so as to capture the spider in the vessel without harming it.

Verify you indeed have the spider in your vessel. Carry the vessel to a pre-determined location where there are plants and the prospect of bugs for food. Tip the vessel as you carefully remove the top and give the vessel a gentle shake to encourage the spider to crawl out assisted by gravity. Watch for a moment, or as long as you want, to make sure the spider has quickly adapted to its new surroundings.

Voila! You have successfully lead an arachnid release project! Congratulations!

Mary Ann Reese is a certified mentor in designing, building, and operating food bank farms. She has also been certified to teach cooking classes to low-income families. As an organic grower, Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator and is happy to share years of wiser living advice with her readers. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



Fellow intelligent being reading you. Photo by Shreve Stockton 

Time spent speaking with our communities is a part of my work I very much enjoy as a Conservation Biologist. Members of the community get to ask questions they have never had the opportunity to ask before, and share experiences with coyotes they didn’t always understand.  The discussions that follow enrich all that are present.

The final portion of my Coyote presentations, I entitle “Coyote and Us.” Here, I will often ask anyone if they have had an “encounter” with a particular coyote. And just this past week, a member of the audience shared hers:

She was taking a walk down a path and she came upon a coyote that had been napping, tucked away in the shrubbery. Her presence awakened the coyote, who sprung to her feet and trotted off down the path ahead of the woman. Then the coyote stopped, turned around and gazed at the woman. They both stood there looking at each other for several moments. Then the coyote turned around and trotted off.

Many people do not understand what coyotes are about when they stop…turn around….and look at you for awhile. First of all, this is true coyote behavior. Coyotes, like other highly intelligent animals, see us as fellow intelligent beings. And as they stand there and stare at us, they are “reading us.” And they are very good at reading us! All of you who are reading this blog post, and have dogs….may I ask... “Do your dogs read you?”  And “Do you read your dogs?” You know the answer.

This same woman spoke about the coyotes that live in her area as “tame.” Oh no! Oh no! They should not be tame you say! But what is “tame” and what is what she observed?

And what she observed was not that the coyotes were tame (meaning domesticated) but that they were “at ease” in the presence of humans. Is this normal coyote behavior? Yes! But remember that “being at ease” and “being habituated,” are two different behaviors. “Habituated” starts leaning toward dependence on humans for food. And that is not wild coyote behavior!

Fellow intelligent being. Photo by Shreve Stockton

In his book The Ohlone Way author Malcolm Margolin wrote:

The white man changed the relationship that the wild ones had with us [having no fear to having great fear…and distancing themselves from us]. Today, we are the heirs of that distance, and we take it entirely for granted that animals are naturally secretive and afraid of our presence. But for the Indians who lived here before us this was simply not the case. Animals and humans inhabited the very same world, and the distance between them was not very great.

In my conversations with some of our farmers, they have shared with me their experiences with coyotes in which “the distance between them was not very great.” And I found it very interesting, that in their stories the coyotes on their farm “read” the farmer. They knew that it was safe for them to hunt for mice during the daytime. They knew they were safe on that farm. They trusted the farmers, and you know, these farmers trusted the coyote.

Coyotes have lived among our human species for over 15,000 years and they have been at ease in doing so. So I think that an aspiration for our generation would be to start learning how to be at ease with coyotes, begin learning how to read them…as they are excellent in reading us. And in doing so, we will learn the appropriate behaviors to respond to them.

Dr Gordon Haber, esteemed biologist who has spent his entire career among wolves in Alaska has shared in his writings that the natural state of wild canines is to be bold and unafraid. So our dictionary describes bold as daring, brave courageous, intrepid — all positive descriptions we give to our own species.

So in closing, I would encourage you to leave fear out of our growing relationship with this amazing, intelligent species.

Let us not fear them, let us not cause fear in them. Let us live in peace.

Geri Vistein is a conservation biologist whose work focuses on carnivores and our human relationships with them. In addition to research and collaboration with fellow biologists in Maine, she educates communities about carnivores and how we can coexist with them. You can find her at Coyote Lives in Maine, and read all of Geri's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



2015 was a record year for the damaging impacts of climate change all across the globe. Mankind is now looking at a present with weather conditions and rising sea levels that have never before been seen. It’s evident we must take the appropriate measures to curb the detrimental effects that have resulted from misuse and abuse of our planet’s resources.

2015 Was the Warmest Year on Record Since the 1800s

In the recent report, State of the Climate, scientists and environmental experts reported that the Earth had the highest temperatures since the mid-19th century — and not just because of the Sun. These temperatures were influenced by the effects of global warming and the most intense El Niño weather phenomenon since 1950. Not only was it the hottest year in over 100 years, but greenhouse gases and sea levels also reached record highs.

The Earth also saw more strange and intense weather anomalies than ever before — and not simply in isolated areas. This interactive map shows them scattered all across the globe, illustrating the all-encompassing effects that climate change has on the world population.

We Can No Longer Be Silent

The argument by some conservatives that climate change is a myth can hardly be supported by any type of fluff evidence anymore.

Leading climatologist, Michael Mann, told the Guardian in an interview, “The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out for us in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.” While there is a positive to implausible deniability that climate change is real, the danger in his statement reflects the urgent pace at which world leaders must adapt in the coming months and years to combat the negative impact humans have had on the planet.

The World Is Literally at a Crossroads

This is no joking matter — regardless of what critics of climate change might have to say now. Last year, India and Pakistan saw a record of more than 1,000 people die as a result of heat waves. California also suffered a drought at levels not seen in a millennium, and walruses in Alaska were forced to shore in mass numbers.

Perhaps even more alarming, though, is that last year, James Hansen, a leading NASA climatologist, discovered a new feedback mechanism that predicted sea levels to rise much faster than originally thought — 10 feet by 2065 — and there is almost nothing that can be done to prevent it.

So Are We Past the Point of No Return?

As harrowing as these recent findings are, climatologists like Hansen remain optimistic — that is if mankind takes the steps necessary to cap and reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, the historic COP21 agreement in Paris this past November shows that governments around the world are beginning to wake up and see that action must be taken now.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels in transportation, power and industry to renewable energies is an absolute necessity if mankind wants to make a significant effort at lowering the overall temperature of the globe.

The Paris agreement historically resulted in 186 countries pledging the formulation of action plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and even review those plans every five years. Moreover, the meeting encouraged involvement from not only governments, but the private sector as well.

Specifically in the United States, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released its guidance and recommendations for agencies to combat both direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. However, the longevity of this policy will also depend on who takes office in November — the document was still met with heavy criticism by Republicans.

It remains to be seen if the U.S. will finally step up and take a leadership role in combating climate change, or if it will be left behind. There is a chance yet this year, with the COP22 in Morocco, but the lasting impact of involvement in this meeting will depend largely on the 2016 election.

One thing is for certain: The climate is simply an issue that can no longer be ignored. The information contained in the State of the Climate is proof of that. Mankind must continue to commit time and energy to solving this global problem as quickly as possible if we wish to see an inhabitable planet for our children and our children’s children.

Photos by NASA

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


This summer two different farmers here in Maine approached me regarding concerns for the safety of their chickens. And both their concerns were about “mesopredator release,” but they didn’t fully realize it at the time.

So what is “mesopredator release?”  Let me tell you their real life stories, and it will become very clear.


Coyote family by Pierre Giard

The first farm is surrounded by forest, and on one side of her land she hears coyotes howling from quite a distance away, but never sees them. On the other side of her farm, a neighbor from out of state, who comes to his land from time to time, has made it a point to kill the coyotes that live in and around his land. In between these two coyote territories (each one on different sides of the farmer’s property) is a fox’s territory.

Try to imagine a sandwich, coyote territories on each side and fox territory in the middle.  It is a very ordered world in nature, whether we are able to visually see it or not.

This farmer has never had issues with the coyotes, but she has with the fox. But this year, the fox is near wiping out her chickens. So she came to me for help…and she is getting help.

But why is this year such a devastating year for her? Well the answer is: The neighbor next door killed all members of the coyote family that live on one side of  her farm, with the exception of the female that had just given birth a few weeks before. The female was alone, trying to feed herself and her pups — something unheard of in coyote social life. The mother is always supported by the rest of the family and would never be forced to hunt at this time. The farmer saw her once, and never again. So it appears that she and her pups were killed as well.

Did the fox know this? You bet the vixen did!  As long as the coyote family is there, she would tread lightly, not showing herself in their territory.  Now she knew she had free reign, so she hunted what her mother taught her to hunt: chickens.

As long as the coyotes are present, the fox’s behavior is controlled, but when the coyote ceases to be there, then the mesopredator (the fox) is “released.” So when humans kill predators, they disrupt the very complex ordered system that nature has created for tens of thousands of years.


Fox with wild prey by KeithWilliams 

Why does the fox always seem to be connected with the “hen house?” A bit of history helps us to understand this.

Here in the East, our wolves and cougars were killed, with none remaining by the end of the 19th century. But that never happened to the fox. If a fox was caught stealing chickens, it was shot. That did not teach that fox anything. But the foxes that remained alive continued to raid the hen house with ease, because farmers at that time did not in any way protect their chickens from predation.

And so, from generation to generation, the vixens have taught their kits what to eat and where to find it: chickens in the hen house. With coyotes present, the fox will be forced to hunt their wild prey once more.

The second farmer shared with me that the foxes think nothing of coming right into their open barn and walking off with her chickens. She told me that this year especially, all the farmers are losing many of their chickens to the fox, and it has not been this way before.

Why? An individual in their neighborhood shot what she described as most probably the coyote father of his family. “Mesopredator release!”

Farming is a community affair.  So I suggested to this second farmer that somehow these farmers communicate with this individual how important it is to leave the coyotes alone.  The reason I suggested this is because there are a few amazing farmers here in Maine who have done just that.  And it was the how they did it that made a difference. And many times the individual’s answer has been (but not always) “Oh, I didn’t know.”

Farming is all about nurturing the community of all life.

Geri Vistein is a conservation biologist whose work focuses on carnivores and our human relationships with them. In addition to research and collaboration with fellow biologists in Maine, she educates communities about carnivores and how we can coexist with them. You can find her at Coyote Lives in Maine, and read all of Geri's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Joseph sawmilling at the university.

The Harvest-to-Use Initiative was started at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with an idea that was seemingly overlooked within fine arts academia. Growing up in Elk County, Pennsylvania, I was immersed in the forest. I was always cultured to comprehend the significance of a tree, no matter what type, it had a place in our day-to-day lives.

My name is Joseph Lovenduski, I am the Shop Technician for Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Art Department, primarily within The Center for Turning and Furniture Design. One of my most significant roles within our community is the operation and maintenance of our portable sawmill at our campus location.

It Started With a Wood-Mizer

The Wood-Mizer sawmill came to IUP in 2004 as a vital piece of the puzzle to get the Center for Turning and Furniture Design off and moving. Most importantly, it was an enormous part of the Harvest to Use Initiative. At that phase, Professor Chris Weiland had the key element to go into campus once a tree had come down and mill right on location.

This harvesting sequence brought a distinctive feature to IUP’s campus and was the first time a “collective” action was engaged to give downed trees a new life.

Loading a log onto the portable sawmill.

Thanks in part to the Allegheny Arboretum, a community of like-minded folks brought together with a vision to safeguard these “historic” trees among us, our local community was able to bring the tree through every step – from reason for the tree coming down, all the way to the finished piece of furniture.

Trees are brought down for a variety of reasons at IUP such as natural issues deeming it a hazard to public safety or disrupting the vision of growth and improvement, but a new tree is often times established in a nearby area for future growing.

Harvest to Use

When a tree must come down, faculty and staff at the Woodworking Facility meet with the Facilities Management Team to plan how the tree will be felled as well as how it will be cut into sections. From there, the sections are transported to our milling location on campus. Upon arrival at the site, we label each one with a detailed tag and date which allows us to preserve histories of the trees’ campus location as well as the period it was received or cut down.

We seal the ends and allow it to correctly season before sawing. After seasoning, we saw the trees into boards that vary in size and cut type depending on future plans and place them in our drying shed until they are ready for use.

Harvesting a campus tree

Based on the projects they are planning, students are able to choose from the wood we have in the drying shed. During that time, students learn about things such as grain pattern, board feet, species and how all that will relate to their detailed projects.

The boards are then brought to the basement of the Art Department where the Center for Turning and Furniture Design is located. In the Center we have a full arsenal of tools and machines, which means students have the potential to make just about anything they can think of.

Finding Purpose in Each Tree

From trees, to the finishing room, students partake in the entire cycle, thus the Harvest to Use and its full circle method to woodworking. Since the commencement of the Harvest to Use program, the Allegheny Arboretum has worked with us to approach areas of IUP with ideas to create.

An amazing example of that was a bench project for the Lively Arts at IUP. An oak tree had to come down due to the construction of a new campus building. The tree was then turned into benches for the lobby inside the new building.

A bench made from salvaged campus trees.

The bench project allowed the school to still have a connection with the oak tree that once stood there, one of the first great examples of the true meaning behind the program. It gives us, and the students, the ability to have a closer relationship with the cycle and see the tree being used artistically instead of taken away to the dump or turned into mulch.

The Harvest to Use Program is reusing the wood and understanding the historical value of the tree during the process. We aren’t recycling wood, we are finding purpose in each tree.

Integrating Campus Education

A great example came recently during BA Harrington’s advanced woodworking class in which students were asked as groups to design a bench that would endure within the Art Department. All of the benches were considered with the idea of using campus harvested oak trees.

With the Harvest to Use Program now becoming a full part of the curriculum, BA’s advanced class got to hand pick their rough lumber from our drying shed. They got a chance to see grain patterns and different sawing techniques, then select based on what was best for their benches. The completed benches can really show just what we are capable of at IUP in both the conceptual and technical aspects involved in the cycle of tree to finished creation.

Finger joint box made in a woodworking class by Heather Tabacchi.

It doesn’t stop there however, because even our introductory students benefit from the Harvest to Use Program. The intro classes conclude the semester by designing and creating a finger joint box out of rough sawn oak. Each student hand selects and processes a section of quarter sawn or unique grain patterned oak, depending on what wood characteristics they want in their projects.

The amazing thing about the culture here is the sense of community and how everyone benefits from it. We are able to teach students who come from different academic backgrounds. They come into the intro class knowing little or nothing about woodworking and leave with an incredible understanding of the process thanks to BA and the Harvest to Use Program.

BA Harrington and Chris Weiland discussing their next cuts

The projects created from introductory to graduate really prove a collective understanding of the creative features that wood can hold, while still referencing its traditional use.

BA puts it all in perspective by saying, "IUP's Harvest to Use Program provides a unique teaching opportunity, as we are one of only a few university wood programs in the country with the capability of harvesting local lumber in-house with a portable bandsaw mill. In addition to teaching the comprehensive cycle of tree-to-lumber, I see this as a crucial situation for incorporating ideas around the meaning of materials, renewable resources, community sustainability, and collaboration into the art curriculum."

Influencing the Community

Not only has Harvest to Use become a staple for the current curriculum, but it has been brought to the rest of the university and neighboring community’s attention. Prior to the program, no one really knew where the wood was taken, or why a tree had to come down. Shedding new light on the whole procedure gives IUP the unique opportunity to expand the founding principles of Harvest to Use to everyone.

We are creating a better community that can exchange ideas and form a more sustainable future for IUP and its upcoming projects. By raising mindfulness, we can show that any tree has a purpose and can be used.

The program also shows that trees are not just turned into construction lumber or mulch. They can be used to create something stunning and evocative of the tree’s initial beauty.

IUP Residential Revival

IUP is continually evolving, with that, the Harvest to Use will grow with it. More trees are being established for every one that comes down. The curriculum grows as well, educating students and the community about the importance of repurposing trees and planting new ones.

With these goals in mind, we are able to have a very positive future planned for IUP and its surrounding community. It also helps us to continually pay back by educating others and creating a better sense of our mutual surroundings.

By Joseph Lovenduski, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Photography by Heather Tabacchi and Steve Loar 

The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs, and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their websiteFacebookInstagramYouTubePinterest andTwitter. Read all of the team’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



To completely understand The Cranberry Glades of West Virginia, you’ll have to go back about 12,000 years to the end of the last Ice Age, and envision yourself as a prehistoric caveperson.

Things are starting to warm up a bit and the ice is retreating. The times they are a changing.

Now, most folks hear the word “glade” and think of a wet area. Not so! A glade is a bright opening in a dense forest. A “bog” is a wet area and we’ll be chatting about both further down the page — I just wanted to get the nomenclature out of the way.

OK, back to the Ice Age:

It seems that when the ice came down from what we, nowadays, call Canada, it brought with it much of the vegetation that is native to those northern climes. When the ice retreated, it magically left those plants behind to thrive. There are many species of plants, trees and shrubs that are at their southernmost limit in “The Glades.”

Plants of the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area

The Cranberry Glades are situated within the Monongahela National Forest, which comprises almost 1 million acres of land, making it the third largest national forest east of the Rocky Mountains. Within The Glades are many natural areas and attractions such as the “Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.” This 750-acre preserve is home to many unusual plants, and this is where you’ll find “the bogs.”

Bogs, acidic wetlands typically found in Canada and the northern U.S., are home to several species of Carnivorous plants, like Drosera rotundifolia, aka the “Sundew Plant” and Sarracenia purpurea, the “Pitcher Plant”.  You can stroll along the half-mile boardwalk as you gaze at these happy little plants gobbling up insects as you walk by.

There are many, many species of native orchids in the preserve, and this was the first place that I experienced the sweet vanilla fragrance of Spiranthes cernua f. odorata, the “Nodding Ladies Tresses.  You’ll also find Aplectrum hymale, the “Adam and Eve” or “Putty Root” orchid, so named because Native Americans crushed the mucilaginous tubers and used the exudates to mend pottery.

Goodyera pubescens, the “Rattlesnake Orchid,” is easy to identify by its strikingly metallic, striped foliage, and who could miss the beautiful Trillium undulatum, aptly named the “Painted Trillium” another acid-loving bog plant.

It’s also hard to miss the large stands of Veratrum viride, aka “False Hellebore,” a 6-foot-tall member of the Lily family with very sexy, robust, pleated foliage that just loves having its feet in muck.

Alongside the Veratrum, lives a close relative of Arisaema triphyllum, “Jack in The Pulpit.” I’m speaking about Symplocarpus foetidus, a plant with a rather unpleasant fragrance should you bruise the foliage — hence the moniker “Skunk Cabbage.” If you get there early enough in late winter/early spring, before the snow retreats, you just may see the “Skunk Cabbage” melting the snow, as a thermal reaction within the plant generates heat during sex.

How to Get to the Cranberry Glades

No matter what the season, there’s always something to arouse the nature lover in you, although early to mid-spring is the most exhilarating time to experience this botanical paradise.

Cranberry Nature Center. From Lewisburg, W.V., it’s just a short, 33-mile jaunt up 219 North to Mill Point, where you make a left on 39 West and in 6 miles, you’re at the Cranberry Nature Center. The center is open from mid-April to mid-October and is staffed by my friend, Diana Stull. Diana’s been there for many years and is super knowledgeable on every aspect of the area and always eager to inform and assist.

Highland Scenic Highway. By the way, just across from the nature center, you’ll see a sign for WV Route 150, a 22-mile, meandering stretch of road known as the “Highland Scenic Highway”. This adventurous route will bring you back to US 219 just north of Marlinton.

Along the way, you’ll climb up to over 4,500 feet and catch some awesome views of The Glades. I’ve seen some breathtaking stands of Lilium superbum, our native ‘Turks Cap’ Lily along the highway, and there are plenty of areas to pull off the road and do some botanizing.

Hills Creek Falls. If you continue your journey west on Route 39, you’ll come to another of The Glades natural areas, Hills Creek Falls. The Falls are a series of 3 waterfalls, the Upper, Middle and Lower. The Lower Falls just happens to be the second highest waterfall in WV at 63 feet and the other two are nothing to sneeze at, the middle falls being 45 feet and the upper, 25 feet.

The Cranberry Shindig. Oh yeah, Diana asked me to remind my readers about the Center’s most popular event, the Cranberry Shindig, held each year the last Sunday in September. It’s a long-standing event, in its 29th year, and is a 1-day celebration of Appalachian heritage.

They feature traditional music and dancing, artisans demonstrating their craft, and an arts and craft show, all on the lawn of the nature center. In addition, they’re planning on adding a summer concert series on the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center stage with local Mountain Music Trail musicians in 2016, one Saturday a month in June, July and August.

There is way too much to share about The Glades in a 1,000-word article, I haven’t even mentioned the wildlife, so I suggest that you go experience the forest for yourself.

I guess by now, you’re wondering why they call the Cranberry Glades, the Cranberry Glades? I’ll answer that question with another question: Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?

Barry Glick founded Sunshine Farm and Gardens in 1972 on 60 acres in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. His plant collection now numbers more than 10,000 taxa, many unknown to cultivation. Several of these plants have been introduced to gardening in recent years. Barry exchanges seeds and plants with people at arboretums, botanic gardens, nurseries and private gardens in virtually every country in the world. Peruse Barry’s speakers series here and read the rave reviews here. If you have any questions, would like to chat about any plants that Barry offers, send an email to his personal email address. Read all of Barry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Common pack rat or wood rat.

Packrats Can Disable a Vehicle

Even though we live remotely in the mountains with bear, coyote, mountain lion, deer, elk, and bobcats, the lowly little packrat may be the most dangerous critter we face. Packrats, or also called woodrats, are numerous in our area with good habitat and, hence, we have to deal with them about this time each year.

The packrat seeks out nesting areas to raise its young and be safe throughout the winter during hibernation. They especially seem to like closed areas, like under the hood of vehicles. We, therefore, prop the hood up so it is somewhat open.

In the 20 years we have lived here, only once did I neglect to prop the hood up, and when I remembered the next morning and went to look under the hood, sure enough, there was a packrat nest under the hood with vacuum hoses chewed up and part of the nest. Most often, they will chew up wiring or the wiring harness which can be very costly to have repaired.

Using Live Traps

I prefer to trap them alive in a live trap similar to the one in the photo. We also have field mice and voles that can go into the live trap, eat all the bait and then slip out through the crack in the trap door. That makes catching rats more difficult and takes longer.

I do not like killing animals — even destructive ones like the packrat. Occasionally, I will have to utilize a snap trap when the packrat is skilled in raiding the live trap and keeps escaping successfully.

Be Proactive

Having this much experience, I have developed a technique that, once explained, may benefit others with packrat problems: We store our firewood 70 yards from the house, so they have to cross an open area and expose themselves to owls to access our home.

We are also on the lookout for packrat signs like scat and their urine residue which is brown and smells badly. When we see those signs, it it time to get the live trap out.

Live trap

Modifying a Live Trap

Our live trap is in the photo with a modification I have used to make it more efficient. These small animals are smart and figure out how to wedge twigs, dried toad stools under the trip plate to rob the bait and leave without being caught. I, therefore, put a bait container in the trap that forces them to trip the plate.

In this photo, I have used an old 35mm film container that I had laying around. I cut a small piece of metal coat hanger and heated the end of the cut wire with a butane lighter and then ran the wire through the plastic cap at the bottom.

Then, I wire the cap to the top rear of the trap so it is hanging upside down (see photo). That forces the animal to stand on the trip plate to reach the peanut butter in the cap. Mice and voles can’t reach that high, so their tripping the trap is eliminated or greatly reduced.

Live Trap Bait

Before I go to bed, I’ll bait the trap with a gob of peanut butter pushed into the very bottom of the film canister. Almost any cap can be used from a paint spray can cap to a plastic bottle cap.

I try to keep the cap that holds the bait to no larger than 1 ½ inches. The deeper the bait container, the better, as the animal gets so focused on getting the bait out of the bottom of the canister they forget about the trip plate.

Rats like to run along walls so placing it against the wall, making certain to have the arming wire where it can spring out and then placing the trap against the wall will generally produce results.

Relocating Packrats

The next morning, there will be a packrat in the trap in all likelihood. When you catch one, it is best to keep the trap baited and set for a few more days, because there is usually a mate nearby.

I have learned to release the rats far from our house. They seem to have an uncanny ability to find their way back again if they are not released far away. I had one rat with a deformed tail that I would take 300 yards from our home to release, and it appeared to me the rat was making a game of seeing who could get home first. After I caught and released the rat several times (deformed tail), I finally took it for a drive and let it out in a meadow where no other homes were located, and then I didn’t see it again.

Packrats are destructive, smelly and persistent. The good thing is they love peanut butter and are relatively easy to trap. I have found the film canister wired into the back of the trap improves the performance of the live trap considerably. While these little guys are cute, they can be very destructive and need to be relocated to areas where they can’t do damage.

The most I have caught and relocated was 27 packrats in one year. I strongly suspect that I was re-trapping rats that others had already caught and released near our home, because we usually average six to eight per year.

Perhaps this technique will assist others to successfully trap destructive rodents.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lives in the Sangre de Christo mountains of southern Colorado, go to their blog site: They live in a small cabin with their four German Shepherd Dogs at 9,800 feet elevation. Read all of Bruce's remote-living blog posts for MOTHER EARTH NEWS here.

Photo of pack rat courtesy of Google Images.  

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