Fungi in Every Breath You Take Tuesday, Jul 13 2021 

The topic of fungus may not be the most entertaining one you read about today, but it is fascinating. And if you read this post through to the end, you’ll find fungi can also be scary.

Fungi include microorganisms such as yeasts, molds, mushrooms, rusts, smuts, and mildews. They are not plants or animals. They belong to their own kingdom. However, they are more like animals than plants because they gather their food. Most fungi are so small they are invisible to the human eye, yet they play a significant role in our health as well as the environment’s.

Although often thought to be interchangeable with the word mushrooms, mushrooms are actually a small percentage of fungi. Fungi live everywhere including soil, sand, air, on rocks, and on plants. It’s estimated that there are more than 5 million species of fungi. They are adaptable little things, sitting dormant for decades and growing when exposed to prime conditions.

Fungi play an important role in medications such as antibiotics, anticancer drugs, and cholesterol inhibitors. They are significant in cleaning up the environment, decomposing carbon-based materials that have died. In addition, they can absorb and digest environmental contaminants such as petroleum and pesticides. Fungi also are used to make yeasts for alcohol, bread, and cheeses and can be consumed as a meat substitute and protein source.

Depending on our location, we may breathe in up to four spores with every breath and as many as 92,000 each day. This can be a problem for people like me who are allergic to several forms of fungi.

One type of fungi is the stuff of horror movies. The zombie fungi, fungal genus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, can infect ants and take over their behavior. It directs the ants to move to a location that is best for the fungus and then consumes the ant from the inside out while spreading spores to infect more ants so that the cycle continues.

For more information see this page on the University of Oklahoma’s website where much of this information comes from.

*Help your caregiver friends with loved ones with dementia with the books that will answer their daily questions: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Have you read my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Eat Well. Live Well“?

*Photos: 1. Giant Puffball, 2. ?

Lily of the Water Thursday, Jun 24 2021 

Impressionist painter Claude Monet loved water lilies so much he painted more than 250 works of art featuring this aquatic plant. The delicate blossoms transform a pond, shallow and still freshwater, and slow-moving streams into fragrant, colorful gardens.

Water lilies are important symbolically for several reasons. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions they represent resurrection because many of the lilies close their flowers at night and reopen at sunlight. The bright aquatic flowers rising from the dirty mud symbolize enlightenment. Their association with water is also symbolic of birth.  

There are more than 50 types of water lilies found in a wide range of colors including white, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue. Tropical varieties typically have brighter shades. They also have variations of leaves including star-shaped, cup-shaped, smooth, and jagged.

Although water lilies are in the same family (Nymphaeceae) as lotus, they are somewhat different. Mainly, the leaves and flowers of water lilies (Nymphaea species) float on the water’s surface. The leaves and flowers of the lotus (Nelumbo species) rise above the water’s surface.

These aquatic plants are an important player in the ecosystem. The flowers and leaves provide shade which keeps the water cooler and prevents algae from growing. They also offer fish beneath the lily pads refuge from the hot sun and covered shelter from predatory birds.

*See “Visiting Memory Care Homes” on my other blog.

Do you know that I’ve written books on caregiving for loved ones with dementia, how our faith changes as we age, the rosary, praying with Mary in times of grief, and Saint Theodora/Saint Mother Theodore Guerin? You can see all of my books on my website or Amazon.

Killdeer Pair Tuesday, Jun 15 2021 

I’m working on the most enjoyable book. It consists of poetry and nature photos. I’m shooting photos of wildlife and writing poems inspired by what I see.

Keeping my eye out for interesting creatures and plants is making me more aware of the environment. I love walking through woods and fields and noticing what’s going on around me. I had no idea how much was literally in my backyard.

This photo is too blurry for publication because of the distance I had to zoom in. But I wanted to show you these adorable birds. Aren’t they cute together?

The photo is of two killdeers, one of the many birds I’m newly discovering. The killdeer is considered an upland shorebird, although they don’t live at the shore. Killdeers have two black bands around the neck, a brown back, and white belling. They are known for their broken wing impression which draws intruders away from the nest.

Wherever you live, you’re likely to find new species, as well. Keep your eyes open. You’ll be surprised how many fascinating plants and creatures are right underfoot!

*Who Do You Want Your Children to Follow?

You can see all of my books on my website, Marykdoyle.com.

Summer-Fresh Herbs Thursday, Jun 3 2021 

One of the prime factors in cooking the tastiest dishes is to use fresh, quality ingredients–fresh herbs being particularly important in most recipes.

Purchasing herbs in your local grocery store offers a convenient but expensive option. However, these herbs are only as fresh as the harvesting and transporting allows and are handled by multiple people. Also, we typically only use a portion of the packet and toss the rest.

The best alternative is for us to grow our own herbs. We then know the quality of the soil and seed, especially when choosing organic products, and likely are the only ones to touch these herbs. Most significantly, we can pick the exact quantity we need for a dish.

In the Midwest, cilantro grows best in spring conditions. However, most others grow well throughout the summer. Rosemary is said to be the easiest herb of all to grow.

A sunny window can offer space for a mini-indoor garden, if your herbs can get at least four to six hours of direct sunlight. Use pots with drainage holes to avoid over-watering.

I have limited garden space, so my herbs are planted in pots on outdoor shelves. I prefer purchasing small plants rather than starting my herbs from seed. This allows me to beginning harvesting within a couple of weeks. This year my herb garden consists of the end of the cilantro and lavender, mint, parsley, basil, rosemary, and sage. These are ones I know that I will use and work within my allotted space, but there are so many more from which to choose.

In addition to cooking with herbs, I also toss a few leaves in my iced and hot tea, lemon and limeade, and water. The hint of flavor and fragrance of the herbs transforms a normal beverage into a special treat. They also offer numerous health benefits. For example, sage and rosemary can improve brain function and memory. Peppermint relieves IBS pain and reduces nausea.

*

Inspired Caregiving was written for the caregivers in your life. It’s a gift book with lovely photos and manageable bits of information and inspiration.

You can see all my books on my website.

Have you seen my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books? Posts relate to my published books.

Minnie, Mighty Chipmunks Friday, May 21 2021 

They’re back! Some find them a nuisance, even destructive. Chipmunks dig holes throughout our gardens and take bites out of our plants.

The busy small, striped rodents can also be quite entertaining. Last summer, my resident chipmunk enjoyed dining on my back step. She’d select one of the nearby cherry tomatoes, find a comfy spot, and nibble away.

Chipmunks are the smallest members of the squirrel family. They diet primarily on seeds, nuts, buds, and fruits, but they’ll also munch on small frogs, worms, and bird eggs. They carry their food in cheek pouches into their burrows where they dine–unless they find a safe location, like my patio. Those burrows can be more than 11 feet in length and are kept quite neat. Shells and feces are stored in separate refuse tunnels.

Western chipmunks breed only once a year. However, Eastern chipmunks mate in early spring and again in early summer producing litters of four or five and hibernate through the winter. Newborn chipmunks are 2 1/2 inches long and weigh only .1 ounce! They are toothless, blind, and furless. The wee creatures typically live about three years.

Chipmunks are integral to forest ecosystems as their activities help establish seedlings. These small mammals also consume fungi and disperse spores of truffles which cannot do this on their own. In addition, they are a food source for other mammals and larger birds.

*Do you have a loved one with dementia symptoms? You may enjoy playing Memory Games with them.

*Check out my website and author Facebook page.

Heavenly Arboretum Friday, May 14 2021 

Escape to a botanical garden and it as if we are in another dimension. We are carried away from our earthly problems into a heavenly land.

That is how I felt when my boyfriend, Paul, took me to The Morton Arboretum. Paul presented me with an early birthday gift of membership, and took me away for the day. I’ve been in a lot of pain recently, but while at the arboretum, I was submerged in peace and beauty, distracted from inner thoughts.

The total number of Botanic Gardens recorded in the U. S. ranges anywhere from 296 to 1014 depending on the criteria used. The approximate number of living plants recorded in these gardens is around 600,000.

The Morton Arboretum is located in Lisle, Illinois. This arboretum is internationally recognized as containing one of North America’s most comprehensive collections of trees and shrubs with 220,000 labeled pants. And where there is flora, there is fauna. The area is alive with land and water creatures.

Walk, run, hike, or bike across these grounds and explore the surrounding glory. Each garden and path offers differing treasures. And of course, everything changes with the seasons. God’s paint brush works wonders year round.

(Here is a list of botanical gardens and arboretums in our country.)

Give the gift of hope and peace to your favorite caregiver, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders.

Have you seen my latest post on my other blog, “Honoring Mary, Our Blessed Mother?”

The Cicadas Are Coming Thursday, Apr 15 2021 

Brace yourself for the inundation of cicadas. As many as 1.5 million of the creatures per acre are due to emerge from the earth very soon. No need to worry about missing their appearance. We’ll hear them a mile away, see them covering foliage, and feel the crunch of their exoskeletons beneath our feet.

There are two main types of the 3,000 cicada species—annual and periodical. Annual cicadas emerge every year in late June or August, while periodical cicadas emerge in cycles of 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. A group of periodicals that emerge at the same time is called a brood. There are 15 different brood cycles. More than one type of brood may emerge simultaneously in the same area depending on their development. The group that we will see this year is known as Periodical Cicada Brood X (10) and rise from the earth when the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees for a depth of 8 inches.

The states gifted with this year’s presence of the insects include Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York (extinct or nearly so), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Brood X cicadas are one to two inches long with a wingspan of three to four inches. They have black bodies, clear wings, and bold red eyes. They breathe through two spiracles on the thorax and eight on the abdomen. Their antennae are short and bristly.

Cicadas are harmless to humans. They may prick our skin if held but do not bite. In fact, people around the world, including Native Americans, once dined on them. They are said to taste like corn and can be grilled, steamed, boiled, or sautéed. Rodents, moles, squirrels, birds, lizards, spiders, killer wasps, snakes, and fish eagerly feast on the delicacies.

Our dogs may nibble on them, as well. However, we should deter them from doing so. Too many cicadas can make dogs sick. The bugs also may be contaminated with pesticides or cause choking in small dogs.

Unlike locus that can result in extensive agricultural damage, cicadas do not harm trees or shrubs. We may notice some leaf loss but not enough to cause lasting damage. According to the Department of Agriculture, molting cicadas eat twigs while adults do not even feed. In addition, their nutrient-rich exoskeleton will enrich the soil and plant growth.

The cicada has the longest life cycle of any insect. They live underground for 17 years while feeding on sap from tree roots. Once mature, they emerge from the ground, lose their exoskeleton, and sprout wings. They then mate, lay eggs in twigs of trees and branches, and die. Eggs hatch in about four weeks and then burrow underground for the next 17 years before repeating the cycle.

The creature’s vast emergence is believed to be a method of survival. So many cicadas arrive at once that predators cannot destroy the entire population. It’s also thought that predator birds tend to have lower density when it’s time for the cicadas to emerge.

Cicadas are among the loudest insects with male mating calls typically ranging from 90 to 100 decibels. That’s louder than a hair dryer or lawn mower but may be as loud as 120 decibels and heard up to one mile away. If you are one who enjoys the music of cicadas, you have three to four weeks to tune in.

*

Cicada photo credits: Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., Mount St. Joseph University

See my last post on my other blog, “Forgive Yourself” and my website.

Natural Humidifiers and Air Filters Friday, Feb 12 2021 

With the frigid winds fiercely blasting across the Midwest, inside air quality tends to be shockingly dry. Houseplants offer a natural way to not only humidify but clean the air, as well. They increase humidity through transpiration acting as organic antibacterial humidifiers.

Researchers found that plants can remove dust, mold, and allergens in our homes. In fact, rooms with plants have 50-60% less mold spores and bacteria than rooms that do not.

Dr. Bill Wolverton, the principle investigator of the NASA Clean Air Study, proved the ability of houseplants to filter waste products produced by humans. In an attempt to protect themselves, plants release phytochemicals which likely repel irritants. When we are near these plants, we also are protected from the mold spores and bacteria they fend off.

In addition, they make us happier. The greenery produces a calming effect, improving mental and physical well-being. Plants also are found to improve sleep when placed in bedrooms.

When choosing a plant for the home, it’s a good idea to consider the following:

  • Where will this plant be placed?
  • Is there enough room for the plant to grow?
  • How much light does this plant require?
  • How often do we want to water the plant?
  • Is this plant harmful to children or pets if ingested?

Most plants require little care. We tend to overwater which breeds gnats in the soil and promotes root rot. Many plants can go weeks or even months without water. A little dead-heading and dead leaf cleanup, proper watering, and sunlight goes a long way.  

***

See the post, “Price of Protection from COVID in Memory Care Homes.”

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Wish Big on This Bright Star Friday, Dec 18 2020 

One of the gifts of 2020 is a star so bright it lights up the night sky. Known as the “Christmas Star,” a planetary conjunction will culminate on December 21 and be especially vibrant and easily visible after dusk, particularly from Southern locations.

Approximately every 20 years, Jupiter and Saturn become aligned and appear to pass each other in the solar system in what is called a great conjunction. A conjunction is an apparent passing of two or more celestial bodies while a great conjunction refers only to Jupiter and Saturn. What makes this astronomical event so important is that it is the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623 but that one took place during the daytime making it nearly impossible to witness at that time. This one is also the first conjunction (not great conjunction) to be easily observable since March 4, 1226.

Henry Throop, an astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explains the phenomena. “You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium. From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month, and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

We can spot this “star” by looking toward the southwest just after sunset. Jupiter will appear to be the brighter planet. We can find Saturn slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21. The planets will appear very close together, but they really are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

With binoculars or a small telescope, we may also be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting around it. However, visibility will be minimized the farther north we are located. For example, those in our southern states will have a better viewpoint than those in the northern ones. Cloud coverage, city lights, and geographical obstructions will also impact visibility.

Astronomers such as Johannes Kepler, believe the Christmas Star that announced the birth of the Messiah, also was a conjunction. In 1603 Kepler stated that the Christmas Star actually was a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun that appeared to go backwards for several weeks. Other astronomers believe that the conjunction was between Venus and Jupiter, not Saturn and Jupiter.

The Christmas Star is a sign of hope and promise. Let’s pray this great conjunction brings us a hefty dose of both.

PS

If the star wasn’t visible in your location, check out some of these photos. I believe you can make your wish on these virtual images because we are in a virtual kind of year.

***

Check NASA’s website and follow them on Facebook from more astrological information.

Have you read, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” or “Pet a Pet to Ease the COVID Blues” on my other blog?

My newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Boosters, is the perfect gift for overworked parents, teachers, and other caregivers.

(Stock Image)

Nature Escape Monday, Oct 12 2020 

The Midwest is popping with color. One of my favorite escapes is a walk through nature. With the change of seasons in this area of the U.S., the scenery is never stagnant. A surprise awaits at every time of year, and this autumn is not letting us down.

This past weekend, my boyfriend, Paul, and I walked along the Batavia Riverwalk along the Fox River in Batavia, Illinois. The path is gorgeous at any time of year but autumn offers a feast for the senses. The meandering river, active wildlife, vibrant plant growth, and rustling, falling leaves participate in a well-orchestrated dance that can be seen, heard, and smelled.

An American Goldfinch, in its winter coat, calmly posed for us in a bed of wildflowers.

Geese lazily glided down the river.

A gull feasted on fresh fish.

And ducks basked in the October sun.

The river leapt over the little dam.

But the greatest surprise of the day was what I believe to be jasmine. It’s delightful fragrance announced its presence before we spotted the lush growth attracting hungry bees.

The Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk is a joint project of the Batavia Plain Gardeners Organization and the Batavia Park District in cooperation with the City of Batavia and the Riverain Apartment complex. Volunteers initiated the project in 1991 and continue to maintain it.

A short retreat to this sanctuary, or your closest park, forest, or prairie can offer well-needed respite. Join the volunteers or simply escape into nature for a boost of peace and happiness.

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Do you know that October is the month of the rosary?

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