- Author: Betsy Buxton
As I sit here at the computer, there is a neighborhood confab going on across the street between three men and a single woman. They are earnestly discussing the latest scourge to hit the neighborhood! I watch as there is much gesturing here and there in the side and backyard of the house there. What could it be? Vandalism or trespassing at night? What could be the reason for the 20 minute meeting? I ask him when he returns to grab a flashlight and prepares to journey back across the street to rejoin the fray. “It's a skunk”, he replies. Apparently a skunk has taken up residence somewhere in the backyard and is “going off” nightly. What will the committee do, I wonder. . .
A little lesson in skunkology is in order here. There are 2 varieties of skunks in our area, the Spilogale gracilis or Spotted skunk and the Mephitis mephitis or Striped skunk. Some folks in Vallejo have had the spotted variety stop by, but in Suisun City, I've only had the dubious honor of meeting the striped variety. Both varieties are most active at dawn, dusk and at night BUT can be seen during the day especially in areas that humans use also. They have a diverse diet which included insects, grubs (they will dig up the lawn), earthworms, small rodents, snakes, lizards, frogs, mushrooms, berries and fruit, PET FOOD, and garbage left out and about. Unfortunately, skunks will also eat eggs from nests on the ground or in low growing shrubs.
February and March are the breeding time for the striped skunks – when the smell around my neighborhood is an almost constant! Living quarters are burrows which have been dug and abandoned by ground squirrels, foxes or coyotes. If a ready-made den isn't available, then culverts, brush piles or hollow logs will do quite nicely; that includes under decks, porches, or beneath buildings and houses (I had squatters under the house for several breeding seasons). A last resort for housing will be self-dug burrows where skunks can congregate in communal dens over winter!
Okay, you say, I've got them living with me, how to make them move? One thing you must check BEFORE trying to get rid of varmints is to check the California Fish and Game Code to see how the varmint is classified; skunks are classified as non-game animals which basically gives permission to remove them in any legal manner. However, note THAT THE CODE ALSO STATES THAT SKUNKS AND OTHER WILDLIFE CANNOT BE RELOCATED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION OF FISH & GAME. Thus the best way is to hire a pest control company to do the job!
You can however modify your living space to keep them from re-entering under decks and porches by waiting until you are sure the nesting animals are gone and block all entryways to the desired area. Plug all spaces under fences to deny entry; use wood, big rocks that the skunks can't move, put up an electric fence at the base of your fence, or use wire screening to achieve the same purpose. Skunks like other wild animals go where the food is, so make sure not to leave dog or cat food out as tasty snacks or even just water bowls. Be sure to ask the neighbors to do the same and soon the skunks won't be coming for food. Be sure to clean up spilled bird seed and fruit that have fallen from trees in the yard. Place garbage in to containers with tight fitting lids and use the “hot” composting method instead of the “cold” method to discourage skunks.
Remember that although skunks are cute, they are still wild animals and feeding them is a dangerous practice for them; they may be trapped and/or killed if they go to other yards looking for the treats you left out.
The upshot of the discussion today, was the neighbor is welcome to the skunk and smell – nobody else wants it! Read an old blog (poem) Ode to a Skunk
The information I used and more on skunks is available online at -http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74118.html
- Author: Trisha E Rose
- Author: Martha White
Do you remember where you got your most recent drink of water? Your kitchen faucet? A public drinking fountain at work or school? Maybe a personal water bottle you filled at home? In the late 1800's, people found it hard to believe that invisible germs and bacteria in water caused germs. If the water looked clean, it must be clean, they thought! An amazing chemist, Ellen Swallows Richards, set out to teach people how to live healthier lives. I'd like to tell you about this early pioneer in public health.
As a child, Ellen wanted to learn all she could about math and science. She loved to measure things! She would even sneak into the cellar in her home to weigh herself. Most people then believed that girls had smaller brains than boys. Ellen's parents feared she would not be successful if she did not learn more traditional subjects. In high school, Ellen saved money for college by tutoring math at a rate of $5/month. She applied to MIT, and was the first woman to be admitted. The college admitted her for free, because the board did not believe she would be successful in their program. They did not want her poor scores to reflect badly on their records. In June, 1873, Ellen became the first woman in America to earn a degree in chemistry.
After graduation, a fellow scientist, Robert Hallowell Richards, asked Ellen to marry. She said he must quit smoking first. It took two years, but they finally married. Ellen put her ideas for healthy living into practice in their first home. She put living green plants in their windows, rather than fashionable heavy drapes. She pulled up the heavy dusty carpets, saying they were harmful to one's health, full of dust and germs. Ellen designed a hood for their stove, to pull polluted air out of their house. She had a gas meter installed in her home, because she wanted to know how much energy was needed to cook different foods. Once, Ellen decided to analyze a sack of groceries. She found that the package of sugar was loaded with sand, and that yellow dye was added to the container of milk to make it look like it had more cream. There were no laws to stop people from doing this!
Ellen's specialty became improving people's lives by using chemistry. In 1884, she became an instructor at MIT's new sanitary chemistry lab. The Massachusetts Board of Health wanted to test all the water in their state. This was the first statewide study of water pollution in the United States. The board needed a scale or way to judge water against a standard of purity. The old method was to inject a sample of water under the skin of a rabbit. If the water was infected, the rabbit got sick! Ellen wanted to analyze water chemically, and came up with a chart using chlorine. She tested water from every lake and river in Massachusetts, analyzing over 40,000 samples. Her testing produced the “Normal Chlorine Map”, the first standard for fresh water anywhere.
Ellen had become one of the top chemists in the country. She tested water at schools, orphanages, and factories. In 1885, Boston asked her to plan a balanced, healthy meal for all students in Boston. Her motto was,”You are what you eat!” After the first year, over 5,000 students were eating a healthy, filling meal at school, replacing the cakes and candies that the school janitors had been selling.
During her entire life, Ellen worked for the public good, encouraging clean water, fresh air, and pure food. Every letter she wrote ended with the words,”keep thinking”! In 1908, Ellen was elected the first President of the American Home Economics Association. She is credited with founding the home economics movement, characterized by applying chemistry to study nutrition.
As I return to my question to you from earlier, about drinking water, I am struck by the creative intelligence of Ellen Swallow Richards, so many years ago. She offered the public a completely new way of thinking about healthy living, healthy foods, and fresh air. Will you join me and enjoy a big drink of clean, cold water? I am grateful that Ellen Swallow Richards persevered with her interest in math and science, helping all of us to lead happier, healthier lives.
- Author: Karen Metz
- Author: Michelle Davis
Lavender has for as long as I can remember been one of my favorite scents and favorite plants. I enjoy brushing my hand through the blossoms when I walk by just to stir up the scent. Bees and butterflies are attracted as much as I am. I have at least 6 different types in my own garden, but I would have a long way to go to get one of each of the 39 different species of lavender.
The history of the plant, which is in the mint family, can be traced back 2500 years to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and India. The essential oil from the plant has been used as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, a tension reliever and sleep-inducer, a food and beverage flavoring, a mosquito-repellent and a perfume to list just a few. Our veterinarian for years has been warming a few drops of the essential oil in her hands and rubbing it on my dog's face and body to help our cattle dog relax and be receptive to treatment. I make my own scented bath salts mixing Epsom salt and sea salt with the essential oil. Dried blossoms also have many uses. Try adding just a few dried buds to a cake mix: it doesn't take much to flavor the cake. Lavender tea made from the dried buds is delicious and commercially available. I have added the dried flowers to small cloth bags to make sachets for my clothes drawers. A friend has been making lavender wands weaving the fresh flower stems with purple ribbon - a bit of work! In Victorian times the fresh flowers were used to make tussie-mussies, tiny bouquets ladies would wear around their necks. The clean scent of the lavender smelled better than some of the odors present in the society of the time.
These shorter-lived perennials like drier soil and lots of sun. Water thoroughly and deeply when the soil is dry or nearly dry. Plant species vary in size from 6 to 24 inches tall and when in bloom from 12 to almost 40 inches. Cut the plants back early in spring or after they have flowered. They have a tendency to get woody if they are not cut back and sometimes even if they are. I have never tried growing them from seed. I prefer to go to Morningsun Herb Farm to check out new varieties and to discover old gems.