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

Top Travel Spots to Visit in 2019


One of the best ways to have an escape and create new memories with your loved ones is to spend time traveling throughout the year. Traveling offers the opportunity to discover new locations and try new activities in a beautiful setting. Here are a few of the top travel spots to consider visiting in 2019 when you're looking to book your next vacation.

Savannah, Georgia

Known as a big small town, Savannah is a charming location to explore for its contemporary design and Southern roots. The coastal city sits next to the Savannah River and offers many historic sites that include Bonaventure Cemetery, Wormsloe Historic Site, and the Savannah Historic District. The cobblestone squares, manicured parks, and horse-drawn carriages allow it to feel magical as you spend time in a friendly location where the locals will make you feel welcome.


Singapore is increasing in popularity after the film Crazy Rich Asians became one of the top movies in 2018. The small-nation state features stunning architecture and a lush tropical setting with plenty of palm trees. One of the top places to visit in the city is the Marina Bay Sands Singapore hotel, which features an infinity pool on the roof and overlooks the city. When you want to continue exploring at night, consider taking a night safari at the night zoo where tram rides are available. You can spend time in the lush rainforest while getting a firsthand look at tigers, elephants, and leopards.

Petra, Jordan

According to Architectural Digest, the Petra Museum is scheduled to open in 2019 and offers a look at the rich history of the city. More people are choosing to travel to the Middle East to explore architectural sites and learn more about the history of each country. Petra can be accessed by traveling through a narrow canyon where tombs and temples are carved into the rock and are visually stunning. According to, most of the sites are best accessed by foot although camels, horse buggies, and donkeys are also available. "Petra by Night" is also a must-see for the visual effects that it offers to locals and tourists in the city.

St. Barth's

Known as one of the top destinations in the world that is frequented by the rich and famous, St. Barth's boasts beautiful views of the water with luxury resorts and white sand on its beaches. Visitors can find many different designer shops when you're looking to own a new piece of jewelry or handbag. If you're looking for cruises to the Bahamas, St. Barth's is one of the top locations to explore and offers a laid back culture that makes it easy to feel like you're in paradise.

Some of the top sites to visit in St. Barth's includes Shell Beach where millions of shells have washed onto the shore. Colombier, Saint Barthélemy is also a common place to unwind on the northwestern part of the island where it's surrounded by lush greens. Those who are interested in snorkeling and sailing can visit Île Fourchue, which is an island between Saint-Barthélemy and Saint Martin. It's a quiet location where you can escape the crowds and enjoy a bit of isolation from the rest of the world while lounging in the sun or swimming underwater with colorful schools of fish.

Alsace, France

According to, Alsace is home to romantic villas where some of the finest wines in the world are produced. Maison Trimbach and Domain Winebach can be visited to enjoy world-class Gewürztraminers and Rieslings. The city can even be explored by boat with private cruises that are available.

There are plenty of places in the world to visit when you want to have an adventure and learn more about different countries. By knowing the top hot spots in 2019, you can become more worldly and cultured due to your experiences.

Photo credit: Pexels

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Sustainable Transportation and Mobility with Electric Vehicles, Present and Future

Byton M-Byte Concept Electric Vehicle

Nearly every major automotive company is exploring ways to try to catch up with Tesla’s dominance of the luxury electric vehicle category, clearly evident at the annual CES, or Consumer Electronics Show, held every year in Las Vegas, Nevada. I discovered an entire hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center largely devoted to everything auto, or as a growing list of companies like to say, the mobility business.

While tech gadgets and electronic devices are everywhere at CES, the world’s largest electronics trade show has become de facto an auto show – stealing some thunder from the long-standing Detroit Auto Show held the following week. This is largely due to the explosive integration of myriad technologies like cameras, sensors, AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning – plus the connectivity revolution soon to be brought upon by the widespread availability of the 5G network that is touted to increase data flow and information communication by an estimated magnitude of more than 20 times of what’s currently possible with 4G.

So, what’s here and now, and what’s on the not-so-distant horizon? The following are a few of my mobility discoveries, some familiar to many, others still in prototype or displayed as concepts. As an early tech adopter, along with my wife, Lisa Kivirist, we’ve moved to a Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, as our primary and only car used to get around; our Prius Prime is completely recharged with a 10.8 kW photovoltaic system on site. In reviewing the latest from CES, I’ve focused on the larger transportation tech, since electric assist bicycles and e-scooters have largely become commonplace, especially in many urban areas around the country.

Nissan Leaf e+ Plug-in Electric Car

Present: Nissan Leaf e+

The next generation of Nissan’s Leaf, the Leaf e+ (e-plus), unveiled on the tradeshow floor, featuring an expanded EPA-estimated range of 226 miles, thanks to a new powertrain and 62 kWh battery. With a more powerful 160 kW motor comes greater acceleration than found with the current Nissan Leaf model, still the world’s best-selling electric vehicle. Recharging for the new Leaf e+ is faster, too, with a 70-kWh (100 kW peak) Quick Charging system. The Nissan Leaf e+ is expected to be in showrooms by summer.

Harley Davidson LiveWire Electric Motorcycle

Present: Harley-Davidson LiveWire Electric Motorcycle

Given the interest in building your own electric motorcycle at some Mother Earth News Fairs over the years, perhaps it’s no surprise that Harley-Davidson is going for the green with their new electric LiveWire motorcycle, available later in 2019. Drawing on their expertise, building on their reputation, and leveraging their technology, including their H-D Connect Service which pairs motorcycle riders with their bikes through LTE-enabled Telematics Control Unit coupled with cloud services and connectivity, Harley’s LiveWire electrifies two-wheel mobility like never before. The Harley-Davidson App will display locations to the nearest charging station.

I took my stationary test drive of the Harley LiveWire -- going from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds -- at CES. The bike is sleek and fast, all electric and, therefore, uncharacteristically quiet for a Harley motorcycle. For perhaps the first time ever, you won’t hear this Harley coming down the road from a half mile away. And it’s perfect for new riders since electric power requires no clutch or gear shifting. The 110-mile estimated range on urban roads is enhanced by regenerative breaking.

Present:  Lyft’s Fleet of Self-Driving Vehicles

From autonomous, or self-driving, Lyft vehicles in partnership with Aptiv shuttling passengers around Las Vegas to their visible presence in advertising banners around the city, ride sharing is here to stay, even in taxi-dominated Las Vegas. The Lyft partnership with Aptiv, formerly known as Delphi Automotive, is the largest public commercial self-driving network operating to date, with over 30,000 self-driving rides provided in a BMW 540i, hailed with the Lyft app. Lyft estimates that self-driving vehicles may reduce accidents by as much as 90-percent and reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 80-percent. Since safety remains top priority with Aptiv’s 360-degrees of safety which can see as far as two football fields away, an Aptiv safety driver and operator also sits up front to monitor the vehicle and provide any assistance for those lucky enough to secure a ride in the self-driving car.

Of course, there were plenty of regular ride-sharing services offered at a fraction of the cost of commercial taxis, with private vehicle owners shuttling people around the city, including tech writer Liam Kivirist and myself. We would have jumped at a chance to try out the self-driving vehicle but we’re more than happy to wait until the vehicle itself was all-electric, not the internal combustion engine powered BMW 540i. A bonus: there’s no tip for a self-driving vehicle ride.

Near Future: Byton's Mobile Digital All-electric Lounge on Wheels

The all-electric M-Byte SUV and K-Byte sedan (lead photo), both from Chinese EV start-up Byton, inched closer to reality as a “mobile digital lounge.” Still a concept with yet a vehicle to roll off the assembly line for a customer, Byton’s M-Byte and K-Byte are seemingly designed for those who love touch screens and voice assistants. Byton envisions the all-electric vehicle as “the next generation smart device.”

The luxurious, digital-wonderland of Byton’s K-Byte sedan is matched in terms of performance by a 71 kWh battery with an estimated electric range of up to 325 miles. Despite all the high tech bells and whistles, however, the anticipated MSRP for the K-Byte is $45,000 and expected to be available later in 2019. The vehicles have Level III autonomous functionality, while possessing readiness for Level VI self-driving in 2020.

Bell Nexus Flying Taxi on Display at CES

More Distant Future:  Bell Nexus Flying Vehicle

For Bladerunner movie fans, there are more than the Nexus name to conjure up images of aerial transportation systems free of traffic jams with a vehicle that can go just about anywhere and not require airport security or a runway to get off the ground. We learned long ago, the most efficient and quickest route is usually a straight line between two points. Bell, formerly Bell Helicopters, delivered with its full-size, concept version of a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), 5-seat taxi, able to lift off and land on a 40-foot square landing pad.

With six, 90-degree tilting rotors, the Bell Nexus pulls power from a Safran turbine for its hybrid-electric propulsion. “As space at the ground level becomes limited, we must solve transportation challenges in the vertical dimension – and that’s where Bell’s on-demand mobility vision takes hold,” says Mitch Snyder, President and CEO of Bell, in a release. To cut down on noise accompanying traditional helicopters, the propellers are placed inside a tilting duct. With improved battery storage capabilities, the vehicle is expected to eventually be all-electric. The earliest you might catch a glimpse of a Bell Nexus actually in the air wouldn’t be until the mid-2020s.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural RenaissanceHomemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Both are speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, a 10.8-kW solar power station and millions of ladybugs. Read all of John’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.

Bringing Nature (Mealworms) to the Classroom

 “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature (p.159, 2005)." This is one of my favorite quotes from, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv. This book is an important reminder of what many of us have come to accept as fact; the idea that our country’s children are losing touch with the simple wonders of our world. Children are the future of this planet, so their escalating detachment from nature is of great concern—especially in light of the current insect crisis indicating a massive decline in numbers. If we truly aim to help this planet, we must endeavor to connect our youngest population with nature to build a bridge to a future filled with hope.

With this in mind, as the creator of Serendipity (FB Group), I am vested in our members who bring nature to the classroom. We commend the teachers who raise caterpillars with their students; the ones who share the magical world of insects. We are grateful to the teachers who awaken the imagination of the children; the ones who tell the tale of the Monarch butterflies’ long journey to Mexico. Moreover, we are heartened by the educators who create school butterfly gardens; the ones who show students that seeds sprout into plants and hope. With this in mind, today's blog will focus on one group member’s inspirational story; a story of how the somewhat lowly mealworm is able to provide a unique and engaging learning environment, offer amazing therapeutic opportunities—and connect children to the natural world.

Michele Morgan is an Occupational Therapist and Transition Coordinator.  She works directly with elementary and high school students at Warren Woods Public Schools. The vision of their Special Services Department is to create a collaborative environment where all educators embrace every learner to successfully reach their full potential. As a self-described advocate for environmental education, Michele first became interested in mealworms in 2013. The mealworm, Tenebrio molitor, is actually the larval form of a flour beetle. The life cycle is as follows: Egg, larvae (mealworm), pupae, and imago (adult beetle).   

 life cycle

Photo by Michele Morgan depicting the life-cycle of the mealworm.

After introducing mealworms, as an organic food for her own chickens and quail, Michele realized that these creatures could also be used as part of an engaging treatment modality for students with special needs. Mealworms are a good choice for schools: They are cold tolerant, they are easy to breed, and they do not require elaborate care. Moreover, mealworms have the unique ability to digest non-biodegradable expandable polystyrene foam (what we often call Styrofoam). This is a truly fascinating environmental concept well-worth exploring within an educational setting. Armed with her knowledge and several donated plastic bins, the mealworms headed to school with Michele.


Photo by Michele Morgan of the mealworm setup.

Mealworms Transform Styrofoam into Nutrient-Rich Fertilizer

The students began to sort and breed mealworms and they gained many unique learning opportunities in the areas of science, math, and pre-vocational skill development. Through the combined efforts of Michele, and her students, grant money was awarded to support the purchase of technology-driven insect hives (Livinfarms). A 3-D printer has also become part of the mealworm program and has been used to create tools that fit the needs of the students. The mealworm program results in skill-set growth with students reaping numerous therapeutic benefits including sensory stimulation. Also, of great importance is the connection the students form with the insects; and the hands-on knowledge they gain about environmental issues and creative solutions. One example: The students transfer Styrofoam from the cafeteria to the mealworm habitat as food. Days later, the children see that the Styrofoam has been consumed and has become nutrient-rich fertilizer in the form of frass (excrement of insect larvae). 

Mealworms feasting on Styrofoam

Photo by Michele Morgan of mealworms feasting on Styrofoam.

Mealworms Provide Therapeutic Benefits

At an elementary level, students in special education develop upper body strength and stability, as they kneel to explore the mealworm habitat. They gain fine motor-skill dexterity as they sift through the bedding; and sort the beetles, mealworms, and pupae. The high school students gain important real-life experience as they prepare to navigate the transition from school to adulthood and real-world employment. The high school students collect the mealworm frass, monitor habitat conditions, feed, sort, weigh, and package the insects for local feed and pet stores. The mealworms the students raise serve as food for reptiles, hedgehogs, and chickens. The mealworms also become food for many species of songbirds; like the ones that frequent our own backyard habitats. Without doubt, the program teaches students about the viable side-businesses, or micro-enterprise, associated with mealworm farming.


Photo by Michele Morgan of a custom 3-d printed sorting tool made to use with students with sensory issues and to help accurately size and sort worms.

Environmental Education: Changing the Way Children Think & Connecting Them With Nature

When Michele Morgan brought her mealworms to school, she offered children a very important gift. Not only do these students have unique opportunities to acquire academic learning, gain life skills, and make therapeutic strides—they also gain an understanding and lasting respect for the environment. At this time, in addition to mealworm farming, Michele’s students are breeding night crawlers (Lumbricus terrestris) in a commercial wigwam. The students in pre-vocational classes use the worm castings to fertilize houseplants at multiple buildings throughout the district. The worms are fed scraps from the commercial foods department. Furthermore, the students are growing herbs and managing an aquaponics system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics for a reduced-cost alternative to indoor gardening. Like many of us, Michele has her eyes on the future and continues to look for new ways to bring nature to school. Currently, Michele is planning to work with students to start native nectar and milkweed plants from seeds. Her goal is to add these beneficial pollinator plants to district garden beds; and to share the plants with families and other interested gardeners.

When I created Serendipity, my goal was to encourage others to connect with nature and discover the simple joys of a garden. I believe we cherish and save the things we love, so I hope others discover the beauty of insects, pollinators, birds, plants, and wildlife.  As a group we encourage others to become involved in their own unique way. I am optimistic that Michele’s story will inspire positive change, raise awareness, and remind us of the importance of sharing nature with others—and most importantly remind us that connecting children with nature benefits the child’s health and well being—and provides great hope for our planet’s future.  

Join us at Facebook to learn more about creating backyard habitat for wildlife, the benefits of native plants, host plants to attract butterflies , water features for the garden, planting for regional birds, and many other interesting topics.  

References and Additional Resources

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.

7 Tips for Winter on the Homestead


Photo Credit

The colder months aren't kind to those who don't prepare. Throughout the winter, you have to ensure your homestead is safe, secure and protected while preserving your own health and happiness. Balancing these responsibilities is often challenging, but with a little help, and some simple advice, you can weather any storm.

In this article, we'll provide seven tips for winter on the homestead, including ways to manage inclement conditions so you can maintain both your property and positive attitude. As you implement some of the suggestions below, you'll find that winter isn't an obstacle to overcome, but an opportunity for growth and self-exploration.

1. Use Free Time to Improve Your Web Presence

Today's social media platforms allow users to connect with other likeminded individuals who share their passions and interests. Sites like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook provide a place where you can meet new people. More than that, they serve as avenues to diversify your income and make money on the side.

When you share your skills and abilities in video format or blog about your daily life on your homestead, it catches the attention of those with a curiosity for your niche brand of content. Over time, as you develop your web presence and gain a following, you'll enjoy passive income from advertisements and donations.

2. Purchase Clothing on the Basis of Materials

The price of clothing isn't always indicative of its practicality. You might pay more for expensive clothing, but if it's composed of mid-quality materials, you should purchase something else. As a general rule, it's always better to buy clothing based on the materials rather than the perceived value of more expensive items.

To provide an example, a standard pair of socks made from alpaca fleece is superior to more expensive, "high-quality" socks made from sheep's wool. Before you purchase your winter clothing, it's best to assess the benefits of the material instead of deciding on the pricier option with an assumption of its value.

3. Plan Alternative Routes for Safe Transportation

You likely have one or two routes you travel to enter and leave your homestead. In the event of a snowstorm or heavy rain, these routes can freeze over, and if the weather is persistent, you could find yourself trapped. These not-so-uncommon situations endanger your safety and the safety of your family.

To prepare for a winter off the grid, you have to account for any and every potential risk. Take time to learn your area and scout any alternative routes of transportation you can depend on in the event of an emergency. Find ways to access supplies without your primary vehicle, and plan ahead.

4. Create Additional Storage Space for Supplies

On the subject of emergency procedures, it's advisable to create more storage space to keep additional supplies. If snow or ice makes your standard routes of travel inaccessible and you have no alternatives, you'll have to depend on what you've stored in the weeks before the blizzard passed through.

The advantage of having extensive acreage is the available space you have at your disposal. Consider constructing a storage shed to shelter the wood you've chopped, fuel for your generator and other necessities that will keep you secure through long periods of isolation when communication is compromised.

5. Rent Heavy-Duty Snow Equipment Like Skid Steers

With the size of your property, shoveling your walkways and driveway of accumulated snow is a labor-intensive task. It's nearly impossible without access to the proper equipment, but purchasing machinery like skid steers is often expensive. Fortunately, you can choose to rent them on a day-by-day basis.

The average rental costs of skid steers in 2019 will likely fall within the limitations of your budget, and you should browse the available rental services in your area. Skid steers rentals cost between $150 to $500 per day, though pricing is liable to change depending on the attachments you choose.

6. Educate Yourself on New Topics and Pursue Interests

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, it's easy to fall into a pattern of inactivity. You might struggle to rouse yourself from bed in the morning, and simple chores that never troubled you could feel frustrating and bothersome. Winter is taxing on mental health, and it's essential to stay occupied.

To make the most of your time, engage in different activities to keep yourself alert and productive. Educate yourself on new topics, refine your skills and pursue interests and hobbies. You can learn to cook recipes you've never tried before, try your hand at creating herbal remedies or make your own soaps or lotions.

7. Take a Well-Deserved Vacation

If you can't remember the last time you took a vacation, you deserve a vacation. You likely spend most of your time on your homestead, tending to your plants and animals, and while this is necessary to sustain your lifestyle, there's an enormous world you've only seen a fraction of. Everyone needs a little rest and relaxation.

In truth, acknowledging when you need a break is just as important as working. Among all the ways you can spend your winter, you might find that a vacation is the most conducive to your productivity. After you've returned to your property, you'll approach your tasks with renewed vigor and energy, ready to take on anything.

Stay Warm Throughout the Winter

You can make the most of the colder months by following any of the suggestions above. Whether you decide to improve your web presence, create extra storage space on your property or embrace new hobbies and interests, you'll ensure you're spending your free time in a positive way.

Just remember to stay warm and remain optimistic. When spring flowers begin to bloom, you'll feel grateful for everything you've learned and enjoyed over winter.

Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including Mother Earth News. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on

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.

Homes and Walls

A new home that is built to look old. (photo unknown)

There is an old spirit that lingers in the air of an older home. Especially hand- hewn logs milled from the sweat and soul of pioneers long gone, the craftsmanship and passion of workers who labored for dignity more than money.

We live in a log home. The picture you see here is not our home, but I can imagine the laughter and the life stories these log walls could tell. Those stories cling to the walls like a ghost, always there always silent but always speaking.

When I first found my log home, sitting on a hill surrounded by seven acres of woods and rich Kentucky land, I stood silent when I entered the first time. I could almost hear the laughter of the child that grew up there, the breakfast talk over coffee between the original owners. The joy and the sadness of the life this home nurtured.

I wrote a song about the stories the log walls held in that cabin, now my home, preparing to absorb my life and my stories. If you're interested, you can hear the song:

New homes don’t have that spirit. New homes are built for the convenience of the builder and not the families who will live there. New homes are built for money not for dignity.

If I was ever to build a new home I would want it to look old.

Among the throngs of artists in the music world, few have elevated “dreaming” to such a high art form as folksinger Michael Johnathon. He has a successful career as a touring songwriter, author of four published book, playwright of the Walden Play performed in 42 countries, composer of the opera, Woody: For the People, organizer of the national association of front porch musicians called SongFarmers, and as the host of the live audience broadcast of the WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour with a radio audience with over two million listeners each week on 500 public radio stations, public television coast-to-coast, American Forces Radio Network in 173 nations and now on the RFD-TV Network nationwide. His latest album release is DAZED & CONFUZED and his fourth book will be released June 2019.

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.

The Role of Native Plants in a Backyard Habitat: Hop Tree (Ptelea Trifoliate) and the Giant Swallowtail


Ptelea Trifoliate, photo by Shannon Mach

As my butterfly garden continues to expand, so does my vision to provide larval host plants, preferably native, to support a wide-array of butterflies and moths. Just a few years back  I knew very little about the importance of native plants, shrubs, and trees. Over time this changed and my plans grew; and in the process I created Serendipity (Facebook group). As a group, we promote learning about native plants and we inspire others to plant gardens. We recognize that wildlife is losing natural habitat at an alarming rate. Many species of moths, butterflies, and bees face the very real risk of extinction. With this in mind, Serendipity encourages others to share their space with the pollinators and to create backyard habitats. Big or small every garden matters; and mixing in native plants is especially beneficial.

Why are native plants, trees, and shrubs so important?

 Natives play a significant role in turning a typical garden into a diverse and thriving backyard habitat; an ecosystem filled with fascinating diversity. Native plants are those that occur naturally in your region; they are the ones that co-evolved with the local bees, butterflies, birds, and insects. Think of it like this: When you include natives in your garden you are providing a living support system; a home for innumerable unique creatures who need a place to eat. You are setting the table for native bees, butterflies and moths. A backyard habitat with native plants is a busy place. Caterpillars will be munching on leaves, bees will be buzzing, and feathered friends will set up shop in your backyard. Birds will build nests, raise families – and feed their young on the many insects provided by your garden. Before you know it, you will have created an amazing space complete with a natural system of checks and balances.   

Terri Sims

Giant Swallowtail, photo by Terri Sims

For someone like me, a butterfly gardener on a mission, I am always looking for a new native plant to expand my backyard habitat; or a new butterfly to attract. The Giant Swallowtail had long topped my goal list. It is the largest butterfly in North America; a butterfly with a far-reaching range and a reputation for its stunning grace and beauty. I had planted Rue, a non-native herb and larval host for the Giant, but they stubbornly refused to visit my garden. I decided it was time to revisit my host plant options; thus began my quest to locate a Hop Tree (Ptelea Trifoliate) for my butterfly buffet. 


 Giant caterpillar, photo by Shannon Mach

This lovely tree is native throughout much of the United States, but I quickly learned that it is  all but non-existent in the local plant aisles. Current interest, and demand by butterfly gardeners, often exceeds availability of many natives. Sometimes acquiring that dream-native-plant will mean online ordering or a lengthy car trip to a native nursery, but the rewards will make the effort well-worthwhile. 

Giant chrysalis

Chrysalis, Photo by Shannon Mach

Long story short, my new hop tree made the journey home from the native nursery and was planted with much anticipation. The rest as they say is butterfly history. It was like I had rolled out a swallowtail welcome mat. Within a matter of days, I spotted my first Giant. The magnificent butterfly swooped in like a kite and was gone before I could even manage to take one single photo.


Newly eclosed, photo by Shannon Mach

Over the course of the next week, I began to see Giant Swallowtails nectaring in my garden. Then it happened, I spotted a female ovipositing on the Hop Tree. It was not long before tiny caterpillars began to emerge from the lovely amber eggs clinging to the leaves. The glorious Giants became regular visitors – and best of all – caterpillars made chrysalises in my garden habitat and new butterflies eclosed to continue the life cycle. All of this was made possible by one native Hop Tree sapling planted in a backyard habitat.

Learn more about backyard habitats, butterfly gardening, ponds, and garden projects at Serendipity.

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.

Top Tips for Regenerative Living Part 7: Using Appropriate Technologies at Home


Kyle and the kids heading downtown for a swim in the River

When I was living at the Possibility Alliance in Missouri (check out this article in the Technoskeptic about the PA) I heard a tale told of some local Amish who decided against putting lightning rods on their barns.  They weren’t pro barn fires but they were pro-community and realized that losing the occasional barn to a fire is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of their community.  Similarly, when I asked an Amish man I was working with why they didn’t own cars  I expected his answer to include reasons promoting simple living but Instead he said cars made it too easy for their community to fracture. They decided that horses and buggies were more appropriate for their goals as a group. Both of these stories point to a level of consideration and wisdom usually absent from the average American discussion around community. 

The term “Appropriate Technology” was coined by EF Schumacher in his seminal work, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered back in 1973 to describe technologies that promote the values of health, beauty, and permanence.  And Gandhi is seen as one of the original purveyors of this idea with his work on small-scale, village-centered economies in early 20th century India.  For Gandhi, it was a means of providing dignified work for while maintaining cultural values amidst the crushing weight of British imperialism.

On our urban homestead in Reno, NV where we’re interested in good living and concerned about our impact on the planet, I ask myself, “What are the appropriate technologies we can use to meet our needs in a conscientious manner?”  Here’s a list of several we employ:

Passive solar design for light and heat
Bicycles and trailers
Sun Oven
Mass in our buildings for heat retention
Greywater systems
Solar wall heaters
Solar food dehydrators
Masonry heater (heats, cooks, entertains, dries clothing, dries fruit, heats water)
Root cellar
Natural building (and using natural materials for art and beautification)
People, in numbers

Much on our list appropriately involves solar because we live in the high desert with year-round sunshine.  But, deciding what’s appropriate for you will involve considering location and environment as much as rethinking technology and how you seek to meet your needs.  Here are my tips:

Simplify your understanding of technology:

Look around, where can you simplify, change, improve with technologies that meet all of your needs

Move away from thinking that focuses on objects (or nouns) and towards means (or verbs): 

“I need a means of getting into town” instead of “I need a car”.  Maybe this leads to walking, biking, living closer to town, sharing a car, choosing an electric vehicle...

“I need a way to clean my clothes” instead of “I need a washing machine”.  This doesn’t have to mean that you boil your clothes in water heated by your rocket stove fueled by your neighbor’s cow patties (which would be rad). It could mean that your rethinking leads you to use a laundromat, to sharing your neighbor’s machine and it’s costs, to being more mindful of how you wear your clothes…

Friend Conrad Rogue uses this language for designing buildings better: “I need a sleeping place” instead of a “I need a bedroom”....

Consider People Power Before Machines

Need a big hole dug, walls built or demolished, soil moved to your garden beds?  Get a group of people together, add some grub and beverages, maybe some music, and Voila!  Jobs done, fun had, memories made, community strengthened all at the same time.

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