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?”

Hello Spring Tuesday, Apr 27 2021 

Spring

the awakening                        

of tulips in bloom.

the morning hymn

of doves in chorus,

the light, fragrant whiff      

of bright hyacinths,

the gentle caress

of fresh, warm breezes

the vibrant colors

of young life anew.

*

God is Love

Have you seen my website?

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.

Luck and Faith of the Shamrock Monday, Mar 15 2021 

Oh The Shamrock

Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Chosen leaf
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!

  -Thomas Moore

See a shamrock, think of Ireland. The most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle since the 18th century, shamrocks are used in emblems of state organizations, clubs, flags, and companies such as Aer Lingus airline. It’s even a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.

The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic Seamrog, meaning little clover. Clover is commonly referred to as any number of plants belonging to the genus Trifolium in reference to their three leaves. Most botanists agree that the white clover is the original shamrock of Irish heritage. However, white, red, and hop clovers, and the clover-like black medick, are often used as shamrocks, all of which are members of the pea family. The sprigs are believed to have been consumed by the Irish people in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The four-leaf clover is a mutation rarely found in nature, which lends itself to the universal connotation of being lucky. The plant, oxalis deppei with its four leaflets is widely sold as shamrocks, but in reality, it is not clover.

The plant’s religious connotation has ancient roots. Celtic holy men, known as Druids, believed the clover to be powerful against evil spirits, and the number three found in clover to be mystical. Surrounded in legend, Eve is said to have carried a four-leaf clover out from the Garden of Eden. Most notably is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the teaching of the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.

The three leaflets of the shamrock also represent faith, hope, and love. When a fourth smaller one is present, it represents luck due to its rarity.

Today, clover is considered a nuisance when it pops up in our lawns but once was included in lawn seed mixes. Until the 1950s, clover was considered a beneficial addition to the overall look and feel of a lawn as it is inexpensive and maintenance-free. Clover is easy to mow, fills in thin spots, tolerates compacted soil better than grass, doesn’t require fertilizing as it captures nitrogen from the air, and attracts honeybees. It is also soft to walk on.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever)

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

* Take a dose of self-care with my newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Moral Builders.

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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