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

Bird and Butterfly Paradise in Your Garden


Monarch butterfly.

Photo by Kurt Jacobson

As I watch an adult American Goldfinch feed a fluttering-demanding fledgling on my sunflowers, I recall when there were no such birds in my garden. Monarch and Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies often visit my flowers and help pollinate my crops. All of these beautiful winged marvels have descended in my yard since learning how to attract them.

I’ve been gardening in my backyard in Perry Hall, Maryland, for 11 years and learn so much with each passing year. I cringe at the thought that I used to peel caterpillars off my carrot tops and parsley then toss them in the field out back, not knowing they would become Swallowtail butterflies. Thanks to the Mother Earth News Facebook Group, I was informed the pesky caterpillars were one of my favorite butterflies. From then on, I learned to plant their favorite foods, dill, parsley, and carrots to attract them.

Early this season I was into my fourth year of treating the caterpillars well, then discovered several of my swallowtail caterpillars disappeared. I posted my sadness on the FB group and was told I could buy a butterfly tent to house my caterpillars that would get them through the caterpillar stage, chrysalis stage, and on to a winged beauty to set free to do as nature intended.

Swallowtail butterfly.

Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Two members of the FB group chimed in with their tips for raising caterpillars. Sarah Hiley has been raising swallowtails she finds in her garden for three years and tells me, “It fascinating to watch them grow from a tiny caterpillar to the chrysalis stage then emerge as a butterfly and fly away.”

Since receiving this support, I’ve raised about a dozen Swallowtails this year. I’ve even seen a swallowtail lay eggs about the size of a poppy seed on my dill and later seen the eggs just after hatching. The thrill of watching them emerge from the chrysalis and fly away is breathtaking. And this excitement doesn’t stop with Swallowtail butterflies.

Swallowtail chrysalisby.

Photo by Sarah Hiley.


While browsing the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog two years ago, I noticed Asclepias tuberosa-Butterfly Weed-and ordered seeds. I hoped this type of milkweed would attract Monarch butterflies. After starting these seeds indoors in February, I transferred them to my flower and veggie beds and waited. Some two months later, I spied the first Monarch feeding on the milkweed flowers and was ecstatic.

Milkweed plants came up again this year and grew bigger than last year. Several types of butterflies would land on the milkweed, but the real fun was when I discovered nine Monarch caterpillars munching away on one plant. After a few days, I took four of them off and placed them in my butterfly tent. They all formed chrysalis pods, and over the next five weeks each one emerged and flew away to freedom.

Monarch butterflies were in the news recently. I heard on NPR that we have lost 85 percent of the monarch population. They aren’t even eligible to receive “endangered” status until some three years from now. If home gardeners plant milkweed in and collect the caterpillars that appear on the milkweed to raise in protective tents, we can lend this magnificent butterfly a hand in surviving the onslaught of chemicals, habitat reduction, climate change, and predators.

Birds of Prey

I’ve been adamant that no chemicals touch my veggie or flower beds. My garden has done quite well most years but after watching an online webinar by the National Audubon Society about planting a native bird garden, I learned how to have a naturally balanced backyard eco-system. In late July 2020, I bought several of the Audubon recommended plants selected for our growing area - zone 7a - for a native garden bed.

Not much happened that first year, but this year the native garden went wild. The coneflowers attracted American Goldfinches and other native birds. I saw and heard Carolina Wrens hunting insects throughout my garden beds. Thanks to planting the correct species to attract native birds and pollinators, this summer my garden had the least amount of insect damage yet. I harvested lots of green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and peppers with little or no bug bites marring the veggies.

We also picked over a hundred flowers for colorful bouquets to light up our dining room and living room. I don’t know for sure that my Audubon recommended plants are the source of such a successful gardening year, but I do know it’s been great fun to see all the native insects and birds benefit my garden.


To have similar results, I recommend contacting your local Audubon Society and see what plants they recommend to attract native birds. Native birds have been in the news lately as their numbers dwindle from habitat loss, harmful chemicals, feral cats, and climate change. We can help the birds out by planting crops that support their food and nesting needs.

Try planting dill, parsley, and carrots to attract Swallowtails and milkweed for Monarchs. Last September, I even went so far as to find native milkweed in a field near my home and gathered seeds for my garden. When I came home last week from a 12-day road trip, I was happy to see five Monarch caterpillars munching the native milkweed grown from those foraged seeds.

If you conduct an internet search about Monarch Butterflies in danger, several websites proclaim this majestic butterfly could disappear without our help. It’s not difficult to help butterflies and native birds survive. Why not join the club and be part of the solution?


Audubon guides on what to plant.

Mother Earth News Facebook Group

Vegetables Love Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler in books or Kindle

Kurt Jacobson writes about travel, food, wine, organic gardening, and most anything else from his varied professional life. His articles appear in Alaska magazine, Fish Alaska magazine, Metropolis Japan magazine, Edible Delmarva magazine, North West Travel and Life magazine, and MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Kurt lives in the Baltimore, Md., area with his wife, dog and cats. Kurt’s articles also appear on several websites, such as:,,,, and several others. Kurt is a regular contributor to writing about Alaska, Colorado, New Zealand, Japan, and the Mid-Atlantic areas. Read all of his 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.

Homestead Disaster Preparedness: Considerations for Water, Animals, Fuel and More


Ensuring clean, accessible water during times of duress is essential.

Photo by Tobias Bjørkli from Pexels 

There is nothing like waking up to another peaceful morning spent on the homestead. As the sun rises, the beauty of a brand new day is ushered in and along with it, a fresh supply of energy to power us through our day. A good deal of satisfaction can be derived from watching our homestead progress along as planned. Like that first cup of piping hot coffee, so much can be taken for granted that each day will go exactly as planned. But what if Mother Nature has a few plans of her own? Naturally, she holds the upper hand and would likely get her way. As a result, our plans become altered, and we may have to resort to a plan A, B or C, or maybe even all three!

At its core, a homestead is mired in self-sufficiency. Which is probably one of the many reasons that we have chosen the homestead lifestyle in the first place. Most homesteaders quickly come to realize just how critical their back-up plans are to overall self-sufficiency. Never is this more critical than when a natural disaster strikes. Realizing how critical a homestead disaster plan is, it is always a good idea to update and review these plans periodically. What better time than the present to review viable plans which could greatly affect the positive outcome of your homestead during a natural disaster?

Since no two homesteads are alike and each may be located in a different climate area, with varied concerns, each homestead will have to consider its own unique needs during a natural disaster. This blog is not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive in addressing any one homestead's needs. It is intended to review those common areas which may deserve further consideration when it comes to general homestead disaster planning and preparedness.

Starting with two of the most critical elements ofk most life forms, we should first take a look at hydrogen and oxygen, which when properly combined, form what is otherwise known as water. So often when a disaster strikes, we immediately shift our attention to food, clothing and shelter. But actually when it comes tolife preservation, water deserves our fullest attention. We can survive for considerably longer periods of time without food, than we can without water. Water is our most sustaining life force.Yet, at the same time, water is often the most damaging force of all;in times of natural disasters, it is responsible for causing the most damage to life, limb and property.


Water, when clean, pure and flowing freely, it is a good thing. But when contaminated, stuck, or frozen in a pipe, it is not such a good thing. Ideally, water should stay as fresh and free-flowing as possible. Water pumps relying on electricity, cisterns and other catchment systems, such as rain barrels, may need adjusting during times of natural disasters, when water shortages or overflow concerns may become a factor in water accessibility.

You can get a handle on your daily water supply needs during a natural disaster by learning what your typical daily water requirements are. During disaster planning stages, take a look at all areas of the homestead and it's daily water usage. Try to get at least an approximate idea of how much water is being used in each area over a 24 hour period. Once you have taken this figure into account, you will have some idea of how much water is needed to keep your homestead running smoothly. You will gain the benefit of knowledge in identifying areas with the most and least water consumption. With this information at hand, you may be able to better manage water usage in certain areas of the homestead.


You may be able to direct or re-direct water to and from planted crops. Consider also the water requirements of plants sheltered inside hoop houses or greenhouses, especially if they are reliant upon automatic irrigation systems. Where possible, take advantage of using rain water by opening louvers of greenhouses or uncovering certain hoop housed crops.

Animals require special planning consideration.
Photo by Lucas Hartmann on Pexels

Animal Drinking Water

Make every reasonable attempt to provide animals with clean, accessible drinking water. Be especially careful that the water container is very secure and not subject to being knocked or blown over. Keep in mind that freezing conditions, if not handled properly, will essentially leave your animals with no water at all. There are a few things that you can do to prevent your animals' water from freezing.

1. Put the water in a large container or trough, as smaller buckets will freeze quicker.

2. You may insulate a water trough by completely surrounding it with a thick layer of hay or other insulation material. Secure the insulation well with cardboard or other lightweight, wind-resistant material.

3. Move the water to a place where it will receive full sun during the day. This will help keep the water from freezing.

4. Place smaller water containers, such as that used for hens, behind an old window or sturdy sheet of glass. Make sure that the window or glass is braced securely and turned towards the sun. The reflected light will act as a greenhouse as it warms the water. The hens will also enjoy warming up behind the window or glass.

Animal Food

Ideally, during a disaster try to provide for at least 3 days of food for all animals. Try to keep animal feed or food from getting wet. Consider moving the food or the animals to an adequately covered area. In certain cases, and for certain animals, you may be able to quickly erect a small cover over the food, but still allowing access for the animals to feed. For best usability and portability, consider switching to different types or forms of food during natural disasters.  An automatic or on-demand feeding system may be a temporary solution when you must vacate the homestead for short periods. Also, during natural disasters, if at all possible, consider using smaller amounts of food for certain animals.


If possible, move animals to higher ground sooner rather than later. Waiting until the last minute, as the land becomes slippery, wet and marshy, may make it difficult and dangerous to move heavily loaded trailers.


It can not be stressed highly enough the importance of developing several shelter plans for both people and animals. You should start now to come up with places in and out of town which may be able to provide adequate shelter. Shelters have size and operational constraints which make their availability highly unpredictable. This is especially true during times of natural disasters, when evacuation orders may affect all. If the situation allows, you may be able to create a temporary or shelter-in-place environment for certain animals using a tent or taurpalin material. In many cases, the most critical climate protection is keeping animals from the adverse effects of blowing snow or wind. Before moving certain animals or livestock, consider whether permanent shelters are absolutely necessary or if a temporary solution on the property can be devised.


One of the safest places to store fuel is in the vehicle's fuel tank. That may sound odd or obvious, but it may be used to your advantage when it comes to your fuel storage needs. Many homesteaders have reason to store fuel during normal operations, this is even more so during times of natural disasters. When storing fuel, it should be stored in safe, approved containers. Fuel should never be stored inside the home, due to the dangerous fumes it emits. Fuel should be stored in a cool, protected place, away from direct flames or sunlight, such as a garage, tool shed or barn. The storage locations apply to both gasoline and diesel fuels. It is also good practice to keep your vehicle at least half-full, in the event you need to evacuate.

You may not be able to safely store all of your fuel for your homestead's needs without the proper tanks or amount of storage, but to get an idea of how much fuel that you would need during short emergency periods or natural disasters, take an average weekly account of the fuel usage around your homestead.This amount may vary depending upon heavy use factors and the time of year. But it will give you an estimate of the amount of fuel needed to sustain, perhaps, even some of your homestead's most critical fuel needs. Ideally, try to plan for the types and amount of fuels needed to continue operating for 72 hours. Consider switching to an alternate fuel source, where practicable. If a battery or electric powered chainsaw can be utilized, use that type of powered equipment to conserve fuel and vice-versa.

Solar Power

Address any solar panel issues, adjustments or battery concerns well beforehand. Many electric companies across the country have adopted net metering programs. Those companies  participating, allow solar customers to accrue energy credit during those times when a surplus of energy is produced versus the actual energy used. The energy surplus results in energy credit. The energy credit accrued may then be used during periods of low sun or rain.

It is said that the best laid plans are paved with good intentions. Make sure that your plans are shared and reviewed often with all who need to know. With homestead disaster planning, no plan is perfect, but with a few well-thought out plans, your homestead stands a much better chance against whatever plans Mother Nature may have.

Monica White is a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she's growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on her outdoor lifestyle blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 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.


A Homesteader Grapples with Climate Anxiety and Finds Self-Sufficiency

Jordan envisions this balsam trunk as a squared post.         

Photo by Jo deVries

Ever since the beginning, man has messed up. We are told not to do things, and we do them anyway. In many ways, nothing has changed. It has always been only a tiny minority that seek the truth and who practise self-control. I’m just as guilty as the next person of being stupid and doing things I darn well know I shouldn’t. If that’s the case, then I have to forgive everyone else of being stupid, on occasion. But the mass of stupidity on this planet is staggering. That’s because it’s not stupidity that is driving humans to negative behavior. Many of the actions are intentional. It’s greed. It’s pride. It’s selfishness.

We are destroying our planet at an alarming rate. The words “climate change” were too easy for detractors to dismiss; the climate always changes, as they say. How about the cold, hard truth? Or, would that be too inconvenient?

Joseph Jenkins, brave forerunner of simple living and author of Humanure, brings to our attention the similarity between humanity and pathogenic organisms. A pathogen kills its host, not caring that the result is in fact, a slow suicide. We are killing Mother Earth, the very fabric from which we were made and eyeing other planets to inhabit and conquer. We have been warned and warned of our need to change. The result of that apathy toward clear scientific evidence is now being suffered by many and witnessed globally. Will even that make us change?

The Climate Truth Has Become Clear

Scientists and Believers are apparently aligned in their thinking, these days. They are both using the word “apocalyptic”. They believe, based on decades of study, that destructive weather patterns, floods, fires, droughts, earthquakes, disease, pestilence and suffering, injuries and death as a result of these, are not only becoming more frequent, but going to get worse. Our circumstances reflect our conduct; a simple case of action and reaction. There should be no mystery as to why we are in the state we are in.

So, knowing that, how can we remain not only hopeful and positive, but downright happy? Believers have something tangible: written documentation of what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what is going to happen in the future. We are never alone.

We were put on this plane and asked to take care of it. We were told to love our neighbours as ourselves, and it was made clear that everyone is our neighbour; in fact, we are really just one big family. We were warned not to be greedy or selfish, but to have a simple eye towards earthly treasures. If we had listened to that practical, wise, Fatherly advice, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Jordan’s first attempt at squaring logs was a great success!
Photo by Jo deVries

Shifting Away from a Mindset of Wastefulness

But we didn’t, and now we are facing the consequences. A proper parent disciplines their child; it is an act professing love. No good parent wants their kid to turn out to be an idiot. The advice we had been given thousands of years ago remains as solid today. It is for our own good. That makes no difference to a pathogenic organism or a self-serving human.

It is very clear, that those who have more, consume more and waste more. The more spoiled we are, the lazier and more demanding we become. In North America, we package, handle, transport, bury and process tons of garbage on an ongoing basis. We waste clean water to flush away anything we don’t want to deal with. We think everything is disposable. Most of us don’t recognize it, because consumption has become the norm, and our waste is hidden from site. As long as the weekly garbage collection runs smoothly, our buildings can be tidy, and our streets are clean.

Imagine your garbage not being picked up for a month… six months… a year. How would your life look if all your waste was staring you in the face? That’s our problem: We lie to ourselves about our participation in climate change. We pretend recycling works and have little interest in studying garbage and poop, anyway. We consume fuels and materials as if there’s endless stock. We talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk.

In Joseph Jenkins book, we learn that we could be composting everything organic through the simple yet magical process of thermophilic composting. If we used every bit of natural material that leaves our bodies, our houses, our chicken coops and barns, to create new healthy, rich soil, we will have completed the natural cycle of life. There is no waste in Nature.

Homesteaders Share Their Knowledge in a Community of Solutions

I have recently done a great deal of research on “sustainability” by watching a lot YouTube videos on my phone. I am extremely grateful to those who are willing to pass on what they have learned, be it videos, books or magazines. There is a wealth of information out there! Somebody, somewhere has already faced what we are facing, and is sharing their trials, and more importantly, their solutions.

One thing back-to-the-landers have in common is their general satisfaction in their decision to separate themselves from the rat race, and embrace nature and the simple things in life. Good food and hard work results in a healthier body and a good night’s sleep. Knowing that you’re on the right path helps raise one’s spirit when the trials come, and come they will.

The state of things in the world has made me get far more serious about living as simply as possible as soon as possible. I’ve been living without electricity for 21 years but still have a long way to go. I’m working on designing earth-integrated homes: small structures with high ceilings and plenty of light that can withstand tornadoes, are fire-resistant, remain at a constant temperature even when empty, integrate a successful greenhouse and root cellar, are heated with a simple, wood-burning boiler system, and possibly boast a small therapeutic pool.

My pilot project, is a tiny greenhouse adjacent to my chicken coop. Excavation is well under-way.

Excavation (by hand) for a tiny, earth-integrated greenhouse
Photo by Jo deVries

In the late 1800s, John Ruskin wrote, “What we think or what we know or what we believe is in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”

Let’s tackle the day with a positive attitude, counting our blessings if we have fresh air, water, shelter and food, and doing our best to make sure our brothers and sisters, near and far, enjoy the same.

In all the great stories, we know that while there were many struggles for the characters to endure and suffering that broke your heart. The heroes held a light inside them that could not be extinguished. And in the really, really, great books, there was always the hope of a better life, in Round Two.

In the words of J. R. R. Tolkien, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time we’ve been given.”

May your efforts be blessed in making positive changes in your life, and in preparing for the changes that lay ahead. We’re all in this together.

Jo deVries (Jo of the Woods) designed and helped build her off-grid Ontario home, where she and her son have enjoyed a pioneer-type life-style without electricity. She is the author of Does Your House Know Where South Is? and generously shares what she has learned during her on-going journey of turning a piece of bush land in to a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Jo of the Woods and read all of Jo’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.

Sunflower Pollen: For the Bees


Olsen Farm sunflower opening up. Photo by Kristen Tool

Is there anything better than the bright and beautiful, sunny faces of a field of sunflowers? There are many benefits to adding sunflowers to your garden.

Sunflowers, or Helianthus, are native to North America and have been cultivated by Indigenous farmers for thousands of years. Our farm is in Western Massachusetts, on Mohican land. A planting technique we learned from Indigenous growers who stewarded this land before us is to plant sunflowers along with corn, squash and beans. Sunflowers provide support for climbing beans, shade for squash, help to build and loosen the soil, bring in pollinators and help keep birds away from corn by providing sunflower seeds to eat. 

While sunflower seeds can be used to make oil and are a great food source for humans, sunflowers are also greatly beneficial for pollinators as well. Recent studies have shown that pollen from sunflowers can be effective in treating parasites in both native bumble bees, Bombus, as well as European honeybees, Apis mellifera. These parasites and viruses are one of the many factors contributing to bee population decline, along with monoculture, pesticide use, climate change and loss of habitat. 

Pollen is a plant based protein and an essential food for bees. When bees collect pollen from sunflowers it is like they are giving themselves a ‘booster shot’ against parasites, Crithidia bombi in bumblebees and Nosema ceranae in honeybees. 

Olsen Farm honeybee and bumblebee on sunflower. Photo by Kristen Tool

Nosema is a fungus causing viruses that weaken the honeybees immune system, leading to dysentery and making it harder for bees to survive through the long winters here in New England. Crithidia can cause a strange symptom in bumblebees, causing them to lose their ability to distinguish between nectar producing plants and non-nectar producing plants, leading to starvation. 

By planting sunflowers on our farms, in home gardens we can provide bees with the medicine they need to treat themselves, leading to stronger and healthier colonies and hives. Planting sunflowers along with crops like corn, squash and beans, can help to recreate healthy ecosystems known by Indigenous farmers for generations before us. 

When selecting sunflower seeds for your garden, make sure they are open pollinated or are heirloom seeds. All heirloom seeds are open pollinated- meaning they will produce pollen and then seeds. Some commercial sunflower varieties have been hybridized not to produce pollen, these varieties were designed for cut flowers and the wedding industry. While still beautiful, these non-pollen producing sunflowers are not nutritionally beneficial to pollinators as they do not produce pollen for food or medicine. 

Olsen Farm sunflower facing the sun. Photo by Kristen Tool

Sunflowers bring sunshine and joy wherever they are planted. Pollinator plants are most beneficial when they are planted in patches, as large as possible. Why not add a nice, big patch of sunflowers to your next garden? They provide both food and medicine- you can feel extra good knowing your sunflowers can help keep the bees healthy. 

Kristen Tool is co-owner of Olsen Farm in Lanesborough, Mass., where she works with her husband to revive 28 acres of a four-generation family farm by keeping bees, growing fruit, vegetables and herbs without the use of pesticides, raising poultry, cultivating mushrooms, leading workshops, and preparing plant remedies. She is the Secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association and manages a crew of incredible teens who run the local farmers market through a nonprofit program, Roots Rising. Connect with Kristen at Olsen Farm on Facebook, on Instagram @olsen_farm, and 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.

Bats in Our Belfry

longnosebat resize 

No, this lesser long-nosed bat doesn’t have yellow fur. It’s covered in pollen after a busy night of drinking nectar.

Photo by National Park Service.

Yet again, I peer out the window in the early morning to see if my little hummingbird friends have arrived for breakfast and, yet again, no hummingbirds and all the nectar is gone. I think, “Hummingbirds aren’t nocturnal, are they? There was plenty left when we went to bed.” I decide to go on our NextDoor website and see if any local people have a clue. We’ve only been here 4 months and I’m the one who hasn’t a clue!

Almost immediately someone responds and says, “Oh, yes, this is BAT season!  Every night the nectar eating bats fly in from wherever they roosting and drain the hummingbird feeders.” Some people advise to cover the feeder or bring it in at night but others like me are happy to let the bats finish off whatever nectar the hummers haven’t gotten in the daytime. In the morning we bring in the feeder, wash it off, fill it and replace it for the day. No waste here! These are the Lesser Long Nose bats, the great pollinators of the desert southwest.

For some people bats conjure up scary images of rabies and vampires and it’s true they can carry rabies but I’m glad they’re here. Bats are voracious eaters of insects including mosquitoes and it’s far more likely that I could get bitten by a West Nile carrying mosquito than get bitten by a rabid bat.

We put out a night vision video camera and look what we got! Thrilling!

Lesser Long Nose bats are very common in the desert southwest. They drink nectar and are great pollinators.

Here’s what the U.S Department of the Interior says about “our” night visitors: Small but mighty, the lesser long-nosed bat is the unsung hero in maintaining fragile desert ecosystems. Measuring about 3 inches long and with a brush-tipped tongue that is as long its body, this species is the perfect pollinator. Every year, it migrates from its winter home in Mexico, following the “nectar trail” of blooming cacti and agave flowers to southern Arizona and New Mexico. Along the way as it drinks the sweet nectar, the lesser long-nosed bat picks up pollen, spreading it from flower to flower. Both the saguaro cactus and agave depend on it for pollination. When it was listed as an endangered species in 1988, there were fewer than 1,000 of these nectar-feeding bats. Today, there are an estimated 200,000 bats at 75 roosts in the Southwest and Mexico. Thanks to a three-decade-long conservation partnership, the bat was saved from extinction and delisted in 2018 -- making the lesser long-nosed bat a conservation success story.

Here are some other kinds of bats that live in the United States.

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A Pallid bat enjoys a tasty scorpion snack. They also feast on spiders, cicadas and occasionally small lizards or mice. They are found in semi-arid regions across most of the American West.

Photo by Richard Jackson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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With a range from Alaska to central Mexico the little Brown bat is one of the most common bats in North America.

Photo by Ann Froschauer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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The Mexican Free Tailed Bat is found in large numbers near Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Photo by Ann Froschauer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Big Eared bats can be found in Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Photo by Craig Stihler, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

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California leaf-nosed bats have short, broad wings that aren’t suited for long-distance flying. They are found in Southern California, Southern Nevada and parts of Arizona.

Photo by National Park Service.

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Indiana bats are found throughout the Eastern United States but more than half of their population hibernates in caves in Southern Indiana.

Photo by R. Andrew King, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Do your part to help bats by building a bat house. These structures are a win for both bats and humans. They can hold up to 100 bats, providing them with much need roosts while the bats keep the pests at bay around your house.

Bat house plans from Mother Earth News

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

A Winning Business Plan Brews Up Community and Kombucha

Neighborhood Kombuchery Growlers

Neighborhood Kombuchery Growlers
Photo courtesy of Alex Heflin

Kombucha fans who had dabbled in homebrewing, Andrew Rhodes, aerospace engineering student and Carissa Herman working in marketing, discovered a co-op that sold kombucha on tap while traveling. That sparked the idea that Morgantown, WV needed a venue that brewed and served kombucha on tap. The downtown area of this college town is filled with cafes, restaurants, a farmers’ market, and monthly art walks that now host pop ups of the Neighborhood Kombuchery tents and restaurants with taps of their own for refilling growlers or complementing the meals they serve.

 Andrew Rhodes and Carissa Herman of Neighborhood Kombuchery

Andrew Rhodes and Carissa Herman of Neighborhood Kombuchery
Photo by Joel Wolpert

Andrew, a PHD candidate at West Virginia University at the time, submitted his business plan to the West Virginia Business Plan Competition and was one of the winners. Open to West Virginia high school and college students, the competition is hosted by WVU John Chambers College of Business & Economics and the Enova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Winners of the competition are given cash prizes and the expertise of the institution and seasoned professionals across the country to bring their business plans to life. Rhodes used the resources to write the business plan and received assistance in editing and finetuning his plan from the business incubator at WVU, Launch Lab, staff. After two previous attempts at a winning business plan, Rhodes won on his third try. After winning the competition and starting the business, Rhodes returned to present to subsequent competitors to share his experience of launching a business from his winning plan.

 Neighborhood Kombuchery Taproom

Neighborhood Kombuchery Taproom
Photo courtesy of Alex Heflin

From choosing local graphic designer, Tara Smith, to hiring a local woodworker to make their taps with Smith’s logo design, Rhodes and Herman’s business plan had one guiding principle: to use local businesses whenever possible. Using locally grown seasonal and sourced ingredients as much as possible and focusing on beneficial herbs, Andrew and Carissa have been brewing and serving since 2019. Kombucha, a fermented and fizzy drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast has gained popularity as consumers look for probiotics and fermented foods for their positive effects on gut health. The sober curious and those looking to limit alcohol and searching for substitutes are also part of the kombucha crowd. While the fermentation process does leave residual alcohol and is not for those avoiding alcohol entirely, those looking for a refreshing, interesting, and potential health boosting beverage are lining up to have their growlers and glasses filled in Morgantown.

 Neighborhood Kombuchery Brewing

Neighborhood Kombuchery Brewing  Photo courtesy of Alex Heflin

Known for their seasonal and innovative combinations, past flavors have included herbs and seasonal fruits like the popular blueberry lavender, strawberry spearmint, juniper fenugreek, cucumber lime mint, as well as seasonal fruits like watermelon and Pink Lady apple. Jalapeno mango and pomegranate, pineapple ginger, and blood orange cacao are also on the menu throughout the year. The brewing process can take up to 6 weeks for each batch before they bottled and put into kegs.

 Kombucha flavored with seasonal and local fruit, herbs and vegetables

Kombucha flavored with seasonal and local fruit, herbs and vegetables
Photo courtesy of
Alex Heflin

Their mid-2019 launch and plans to become a brewery that sold kegs and bottled kombucha to restaurants was turned upside-down by the pandemic and its impact on the restaurant business that was to be their main customer base. To weather the pandemic, they pivoted to direct to consumer sales at farmers’ markets and pop up tents, which had been Phase 3 of the business plan, not phase one. The benefit of the markets has been to facilitate relationships with local producers with local ingredients to incorporate in their kombucha. The increased contact with the public has allowed them to encourage the efforts of home brewers with tips on how to flavor and tailor the brews to the brewer’s taste. They even hold small workshops at the markets to teach brewing techniques.  As restaurants in the area have reopened and their taps are flowing again, Neighborhood Kombuchery is back on plan to supply kegs to sell on tap.

Future plans include more fermented foods and beverages as they have begun to get requests for their kombucha from all over the state. While both partners have full time jobs and Andrew is now Dr. Rhodes, they have grown enough to hire employees to help with the sales and brewing. The tap room is now open limited hours with the hope that ‘normal’ life may return in the coming year and hours can be extended for enjoying a glass of kombucha with friends and enjoying the local art that lines the walls of the taproom. Raising awareness about fermented products and the history and benefits of functional food and drinks is a passion that guides them and provides inspiration for future. As trailblazers in the state as kombucha brewers with on tap sales to markets and restaurants, they also hope to inspire and encourage others to try brewing their own or launching a business.

Find Neighborhood Kombuchery on Instagram

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer recently relocated to the home of her ancestors in West Virginia and exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’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.

The Story of Taylor, a Shelter Dog, Continues

Taylor. Photo by Bruce McElmurray

I recently wrote about Taylor, a shelter dog and the San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society where he has been a resident for almost one year. Taylor’s story was a sad one. We wanted to adopt him to give him a loving forever home. Taylor is now 11 years old and his back legs just would not work well enough for him to get up the numerous steps to our home. We were terribly disappointed that adopting him would not work.  We did not want to leave him to spend his final days in the shelter, never knowing a loving home. It was highly unlikely that he would have another chance due to his age and disability.  

Subsequent Shelter Visit: 

I had visited the shelter and Taylor one other time after having him brought to our cabin. Taylor had followed me to the vehicle wanting to go home with me at that time. My heart was broken again as we still could not accommodate him due to those steps. The shelter staff had to lead him back so I could even leave. I could see the disappointment and rejection in his eyes, and again it broke my heart. We needed a plan of some kind to pursue the adoption of Taylor. 

We Needed A Workable Plan: 

Carol and I put our heads together about Taylor to determine if there was any way we could take Taylor into our home. We finally arrived at a plan that could work where he could get into our house without using those steps.  Taylor weighs around 100 pounds and we couldn’t lift him up those stairs several times a day so we needed a really good alternative method. 


We finally came up with a plan that we thought would work but it would require costly renovation to the back of our house. We decided to take a window out and install a door in its place. He could then walk right out the door onto level ground. We would have to do some additional framing but it looked like a possibility. The exterior of our cabin is faced with actual stone to protect us against wildfire. 

Can A Senior Handle Heavy Renovation: 

We would have to remove a large portion of that stone facia plus level off the backyard, at least enough where he could walk around and not trip over large rocks. We took out several large rocks that we had been reluctant to tackle earlier because of their size. Now was the time to get them removed and out of the yard. We could use the dirt and stones to build a long ramp along the side of the house where he would not have to navigate any steps. 

Finally A Forever Home: 

We are now excited for Taylor to have his forever home where the time he has left will be with people who will love, pamper and spoil him. There are many senior dogs like Taylor who spend their final days at shelters. They still have so much love, loyalty and entertainment to give it is a shame they don’t find forever homes. I find it very sad that more senior dogs in shelters aren’t adopted and just passed by.  

Changing Places: 

As I studied Taylor’s situation I wondered if the situation were reversed and it was us humans in kennels and dogs like Taylor were the ones to visit to adopt us how that would go. Would we be dismissed because we are of mixed ancestry or from a certain ethnic group. Maybe we would be passed over due to our color or shape.   Or our excitability, fearfulness or size. Maybe we would be rejected because of a disability or our senior status. Yes, this reversal is a pretty weird visualization but it points out the many reasons why shelter dogs are not adopted - especially seniors. 

Adopting Senior Dogs - The Rewards: 

In any case, we were able to put in some real imaginative brain power and arrived with a workable plan to benefit Taylor. All that brain power doesn’t come easy for us seniors. The sweat, bruises, aches and pain will be worth it for Taylor to have a forever home. We had previously adopted two other senior dogs and I must admit that even though we didn’t have them for their entire lifetime, giving them a forever loving home for their remaining years was such a reward for us. We found the pain of saying that final goodbye was no less than if we would have had them all their lives. 

No Kill Shelters: 

Our attitude is that if we can make a difference in a dog's life, even for just a few months or years, it is worth the opportunity. Thankfully there are ‘no kill’ shelters like the San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society where other dogs like Taylor can live out their lives when no one adopts them. 

Dogs Make Us Better People:

I simply can’t imagine my life without having dogs in it. Dogs make my life more complete and in the process make me a better person; especially senior dogs who are so often hard to adopt due to their age. We now have Taylor home and everything is working as we had prepared for and he is constantly smiling and giving doggy kisses. We have made his life better and his happiness is our reward. He will realize soon that there is much more spoiling and attention to be given and then he will be happy beyond his wildest expectations; then we will have our big reward. 

Bruce and Carol live in the mountains in S. Colorado with their canine family and take measures to protect them from the wild predators that are around. They lead a somewhat different lifestyle and for more on them and their canine family visit their blog site at: You can read all of Bruce'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.

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