Lifestyle

Creature Feature: OH! Opossums (They’re the Rodent You Love to Hate)

An Opossum hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is the bigness of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein shee lodgeth, carrieth and sucketh her young
— Captain John Smith
Via Unsplash

Via Unsplash

Yes, they’re ugly and they hiss like cats and dash out in the middle of the road and made you almost swerve into a tree that one time because they decided to play dead. We’ve all got that story.

But really, you have it all wrong. For one thing, they’re good to have around. Honestly. You’ll see why in a minute. And they’re opossums, not possums. Possums are a completely different animal that live down under. Opossums aren’t even rodents. They’re marsupials. 

There are actually several dozen different species of opposums, but the one we are used to seeing is the Virginia opossum, or common opossum. They were dubbed “opossum” by Captain John Smith of Jamestown Colony, Virginia, from the Algonquin name “apasum”, which means “white animal”. Captain Smith wrote that “An Opossum hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is the bigness of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein shee lodgeth, carrieth and sucketh her young".

Opossums are originally from South America, but they migrated north about 3 million years ago during the Great American Interchange when previously isolated North and South American species migrated across the newly formed Isthmus of Panama. Genetic research suggests that all of today’s living marsupials actually originated in South America--the opposum is just the only marsupial one to have thrived in the United States and Canada.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

In case you’ve forgotten your middle school life science lessons, Google’s dictionary says a marsupial is “a mammal of an order whose members are born incompletely developed and are typically carried and suckled in a pouch on the mother's belly.” So opossums are one of the animals who carry around their babies in a pouch like kangaroos. Baby opossums are born after a mere 11-13 day gestational period. Mothers give birth to as many as 20 babies at one time that are so small, all 20 of them could fit into a teaspoon! Fewer than half of them typically survive, many never even reaching the pouch. As the babies get older, they start to move in and out of their mother’s pouch and will often ride on her back as she hunts.

Let’s talk about that playing dead thing real fast, before we get into why opossums are so great, since that’s the one thing everyone “knows” about them. “Playing possum” is actually an involuntary defense mechanism on the part of the opossum. When it becomes extremely afraid, it enters a catatonic state, making it appear dead, and less appealing for predators. But opossums actually have no control over when it happens.

Okay. So why do we like opposums? Besides the fact that they’ve been around since the dinosaurs, have a prehensile tail that they can use to wrap around tree limbs (though it is a misconception that they hang upside down), and have more teeth than any other North American land mammal--50 to be exact. 

If you’re still not swayed, here are the reasons why opossums really are good guys. First, they’re little tick vacuums. They eat the ticks that try to feed on them and they eat the ticks that try to feed on us. One opossum can eat as many as 5,000 ticks each season. And ticks aren’t the only pest opossums take care of for us. They eat cockroaches, snails, rats, mice, dead animals, over-ripe fruit, and snakes (including venomous ones like copperheads and rattlers). They’re pretty much Mother Nature’s yard exterminator.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

“But what about rabies”, you ask? “I saw one foaming at the mouth--it was clearly sick”. Any mammal can get rabies. However, it’s extremely rare for an opossum to contract rabies. It is believed that their lower body temperatures, between 94 and 97 degrees, makes it difficult for the virus to survive. While it is possible to contract other diseases from an opossum, as long as you do not attempt to pet or get too close to an opossum (or any wild animal for that matter), and you do not handle any dead opossums directly, your likelihood of contracting a disease is extremely slim. (Oh, and the foaming at the mouth thing? That’s another of the opossum’s natural defense mechanisms. By excreting excess saliva, other animals think it is sick and will leave it alone). 

And if all of that is not enough to convince you, how about the fact that their blood contains a peptide that can neutralize snake venom? With further research, their blood might help scientists develop a universal anti-venom, saving lives all over the world.

If that doesn’t change your opinion of opossums from despised, rodent, road-kill to beloved, potential super-hero, yard exterminator, I don’t know what will. 

 
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Easy Actions for Sustainability

It’s hot and I’m bothered. 

Why?  Because I’m an unabashed, unapologetic tree-hugger.  I like big trees and I cannot lie! Because I’m a Central Carolinas Master Naturalist, National Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward and Habitat Host and Habitat Ambassador, and Audubon Ambassador, and Mecklenburg County Master Composter, and have  certificate in Native Plant Studies from UNCC I get a lot, repeat, a lot, of feeds to my Facebook account on all things environmental.

And folks, let me tell you, we’re in a mess.  Between habitat loss, mass tree-cuttings, use of exotic plants instead of natives, loss of environmental legislation, climate change, and the huge issue of plastic use (just to name a few), we’re in a big mess.

The question is, what the heck can we do about it???? As individuals we can’t set policy, single-handedly control elections, change the behavior of manufacturers.  But we can still take action and make a difference.

I’m going to be sharing a variety of ideas in the coming weeks.  What I’m hoping is that you find a few of them that you will commit to.

Let’s start with straws.

Let’s start with straws.  I’ve seen some articles that said straws are not a big problem in the overall scheme of things.  But straws are an easy thing for us to control, so let’s start there.

First, just say no.  When you’re eating out and a server gives you a straw, smile and give it back.  I always do it at the beginning of the meal so that it doesn’t get wet or dirty, and I don’t know what happens to unused straws at the end of the meal.  Are they put back into the box or thrown out because they’ve been on the table?

If you really want to use a straw, take your own.  There are so many options to choose from.  I’m including some pictures.  I found all these online.  They’re cheap and durable.

No more plastic water bottles

The next step?  No more plastic water bottles.  According to www.earthday.org humans purchase 1,000,000 plastic bottles per MINUTE.  The really horrible thing is that the US only recycles about 23% of theirs. 

Butts don’t swim

Final idea for today: if you’re a smoker, please don’t throw your butts on the beach or in our bodies of water.  Please don’t toss them on the ground where they can be swept into our storm drain system, ultimately ending up in our streams and rivers.  Chemicals that leach from the cigarette are often toxic and harm wildlife, bodies of water, and the ecosystem.

Here’s a visual for you:  in 2018 the Ocean Conservancy’s annual clean-up resulted in 2,412,151 cigarette butts being collected.  According to oceanconservancy.org those butts would line the distance of five marathons!

 If you’re someone who loves going to the beach, pick up trash while you’re there.  You’ll do a good deed and get some exercise.  Get your kids involved, too.

I was with a group of friends at a local coffee shop recently.  I always have a reusable straw in my purse, but I was really happy to see a friend pull one out.  Another friend questioned her about it and she replied that she only uses it on Thursday afternoons at the coffee shop.

Room for improvement?  Sure.  But it’s a starting point.  It’s a change and it’s moving in the right direction.

2810[high]5:Continuing Education Classes You Should Take at the Levine CPCC Campus this Fall

Plumbing 1-2-3 - Understanding the intricacies of your commode and how it works is probably the best party trick you could pull out of your pocket this fall-especially in the case of a flushing emergency. In 3 extended Saturday sessions, this class will teach you basic plumbing methods as well as the tools and materials you will need to install plumbing pipe work and fixtures. No book is required. Class is held on Saturdays 10/5-10/19 from 8 am to 5 pm.

Sewing I, II, & III -  Can’t quite find the perfect blouse to go with your outfit? Or have a vision of some throw pillows for your living room, but can’t find a match at Target? Sewing I & II at CPCC has you covered. Sewing I will teach you the basics of fabrics, patterns, and tools and is offered 9/3-10/1 on Tuesdays from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm or 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Once you’ve mastered the basics, Sewing II will help you master your proficiency and take your needle and thread artistry to the next level. Picking up where Sewing I left off, Sewing II is offered 10/2-10/30 on Wednesdays at the same times as its predecessor. Finally, round out the series with Sewing III, on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm during 11/6-12/11, where you where you will learn to create professional results by learning to understand and make adjustments to your patterns. 

The Art of Decluttering: Clutter Intervention - Are you a fan of the Art of Tidying Up and Marie Kondo, but just don’t know where to get started. CPCC’s the Art of Decluttering can help. Learn the basics of organization in class, then travel to your fellow student’s home and help organize as a group. Class goes from 10/1 to 10/29 and will meet on Tuesdays from 6:30 pm to 8:30 am and on two Saturdays from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Microsoft Office Boot Camp - Are your Excel skills far from excellent? Powerpoint presentations less than powerful? Microsoft Office Boot Camp can help your brush up on your Word, Excel, and Powerpoint skills in this two week intensive training from 9/17-9/26. Class meets on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm.

Retirement Planning Today - You know that it’s never too early to start thinking about funding your retirement. But has anyone told you the same goes for thinking about how you will be livin? In Retirement Planning Today, you will begin to create a plan for that chapter of your life. The class is appropriate for all ages and career levels - whether you are just starting out or considering retirement in the near future. Two sessions will be offered this fall, one from 9/26-10/3 and the other 10/1-10/8. Both sessions meet on Tuesdays from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

 
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Hats off to summer

Hats off to summer
To the creaking slap
Of screen doors
To fly-swatters
Once in reserve
Now on active duty
To the 1812 overture
On the Fourth of July
Accompanied by thunder

To fireworks
That make a
Black summer’s night
A kaleidscope of colors
To rainbows
That surprise you
After a thunderstorm

To white sheets
On clothes-lines
That flap
Like birds wings
To seagulls standing
By the shore
Watching waves like surfers

To making sandcastles
And finding hermit-crabs
To the sand in your shoes
When you arrive home

 To finding a homemade
Lemonade stand
On a hot day
To the smile
Upon the faces
Of the children
That serve you

 To front porches
With rocking chairs
Occupied
To strangers
Who nod hello

To earlier sunrises
And later sunsets
For lazy times ahead

To summer
To all
It unfolds.

 

By Lorraine Stark

Via Unsplash

Via Unsplash

What is a Tension headache? (And what to do about it)

via Unsplashed

via Unsplashed

If you have ever experienced pain behind the eyes, pressure and/or throbbing in the head, the feeling like you have a band wrapped tightly around your noggin, then you have likely experienced a tension headache. While these headaches are less severe, they tend to be more chronic in nature, and those who suffer from them feel these symptoms most or all the time. What can happen when not accurately diagnosed is a tragic cycle of overmedication and frustration for the patient.

via Unsplashed

via Unsplashed

When a patient complains of chronic headaches, they have usually tried over-the-counter medication, which helps for a while but doesn’t last. Then, depending on how bad their symptoms are, they are either prescribed a stronger medication or referred to a Neurologist for a consultation. If the patient is never referred to a conservative care provider like a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, or Massage Therapist, then they are likely prescribed a migraine preventative and migraine treatment medication which will not reduce any tension causing the symptoms in the first place. It should be noted that this is referring only to patients with a diagnosis of tension headaches. Headaches are broad in presentation and can have multiple contributing factors and patients that truly suffer from migraine headaches receive benefit from the more pharmaceutical interventions. But if the diagnosis is inaccurate, then the patient is started down a course of care that is ineffective.

What actually is a Tension Headache?

via Unsplashed

via Unsplashed

“Tension headache” is the common name for the medical diagnosis “cervicogenic headache.” This term indicates that the headache originates from the neck or Cervical region of the body. Specifically, the musculature in the back of the neck are chronically tight, which compresses the joints of the cervical spine and puts tension on the Occipital Nerves. The Occipital Nerves travel up the back of the head and are responsible for the throbbing and pressure that are common symptoms of tension headaches. One quick way to test for this is to apply steady pressure to the base of the skull along the back of the neck. If pressure there relieves the headache symptoms, then you likely are having a tension headache.

What can help?

Conservative care is the most effective treatment for tension headaches. Chiropractic care has been shown to reduce intensity and frequency of tension headaches. Other alternatives like Massage Therapy and Acupuncture have also shown to be successful in treating the symptoms of this condition. These methods focus on correcting the cause of the condition by reducing the tension of the neck musculature which reduces the compression and tightness that causes the tension headaches.

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2810[high]5: A dog-gone good time

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A Barking Boutique: Looking to pamper your pooch? Treat them to a spa day at the Barking Boutique where they offer services ranging from a full groom, mini groom, or nail trim. Once Fido is clean and beautiful, treat them to a delicious snack from the “Barkery Buffet”, with doggie-safe, human-grade decorated treats.

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Bruster’s Ice Cream: We all know the dog days of summer are coming, and our 4-legged friends deserve a break from the heat as well. Bring Fido by Bruster’s Ice Cream for a free doggie sundae, complete with a dog treat on top.

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Neighborhood Feed and Tack: Don’t let the name fool you, Neighborhood Feed and Tack is for more than just your barnyard companion. They offer popular and healthy pet food and supplies for your dog, cat, or rabbit. Prefer the company of a more exotic animal? Neighborhood Feed and Tack can order specialty food for your elephant or earth worm.

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Seaboard: With ample outdoor space, you and your well-behaved pupper are always welcome on the massive patio at Seaboard. Ask for a refreshing bowl of water, and you and man’s best friend can both enjoy a cold one.

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VeloPops: Matthew’s newest dessert locale also offers a delicious frozen snack for your puppy pal: PupPops! Made with a rawhide stick, dogs can enjoy their PupPop from end to end.



2810[high]5: A Walk in Purser-Hulsey Park

If you haven’t been to Purser-Hulsey Park (13201 Phillips Rd ), one of the newest additions to the Matthews parks system, we have the low down on what to expect. PurSey Park (because let’s face, it, I can’t say the name correctly to save my life) consists of a community garden and a wooded bike and hiking trail. Future build-out may include an upgrade to the entrance and parking lot, the addition of a dog park, a pond and pier for fishing, as well as a possible expansion to the community garden.

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Getting lost in the woods: You’ll forget you’re in the suburbs. Be prepared to get lost in your thoughts.

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Wear walking shoes: You’ll want to keep going, but you can’t do it if you don’t have good shoes. The walk has some hills but it’s the tree roots you have to watch out for.

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You’re walking through Matthews history: You’re first greeted by the community garden shed, a relocated outbuilding from property on Idlewild Road. Along the trails you’ll see rusty metal and worn down fences; a reminder that this property used to be a farm.

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Examine the flora: You’ll see natives like club moss, wild ginger, and wild grapes, as well as

invasives (there’s no shortage of kudzu.)

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Take your cell phone and go rock hunting: If you’re a member of Matthews Rocks, post your finds!

 

Gardening: Sweetening the Soil with Calcium

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Calcium is one of those things we don't usually talk about in terms of garden nutrients, right? I mean, you buy a bag of soil amendments and the big numbers are NPK, but what about the little guys? The minerals and micronutrients that feed soil health? I'm no soil scientist, I don't purport to be an expert, but I can recognize an improperly formed fruit when I see one. (Blossom end rot, anyone?) Funky lookin' fruits can be a sign of calcium deficiency.

Calcium is vital for sugar production in plants, it's part of what keeps your vegetables from being bitter.  

To boost my soil with a bit of calcium I fill empty milk and dairy containers with water to rinse them, but instead of pouring the water down the drain I'll pour it on a garden bed. Working in homemade compost will add micro nutrients, and the addition of bone meal should add a little extra something, too. 

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We also have a plenitude of eggshells. After a Sunday of cooking snacks for the week ahead I generally have a small pan full.

Now, if you've ever thrown eggs in the compost bin you know they break down very slowly. When added directly to a garden bed they break down even more slowly, so they don't directly provide much calcium to your plants; something like soft rock phosphate is better suited for that.

This past winter I've been saving the shells from hard boiled eggs and grinding them up. I've also been taking the shells from other eggy exploits and sticking them in the oven to bake when I'm cooking dinner. My theory is to kill off unwanted bacteria and dry the shells out for storage. Next I grind them up in the food processor. In the end, I have something that looks like this: 

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The texture ranges from a fine dust to gritty bits that look like pulverized shells on the beach. If you want an even finer texture just process them a little longer. The powder will be more readily available to the plants and the larger grit will slowly break down and give the earthworms a healthy treat.

It's not revolutionary, but I get a little excited about free garden solutions. Do you save your eggshells? What's your favorite free soil amendment?

Avoid the Summer Injuries

More injuries occur during the summer months than at other times of the year.

With the warm weather approaching, people are getting outdoors and becoming more active. Accordingly, the health care profession is gearing up to start treating summer-related injuries. Adults and children are both getting outdoors and being active more with the changing of the seasons and whenever people are more active, the more likely they are to get hurt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “More injuries occur during the summer months than at other times of the year. In addition, injuries are much less frequently reported near the end of the calendar year.”

One of the reasons for Spring and Summer injuries is the quick transition from being indoors and inactive to being outside and exercising. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not used to producing and transmitting force which can result in either traumatic injury (like a sprain) or an overuse injury (like shin splints). Either way, you could be trading your summer of fun in for a summer of Physical Therapy.

Here are two ways you can do to help avoid summer injuries:

Warm-up

This is the #1 way to help avoid injury during activity. It doesn’t matter if it is yard work or a pick-up game of basketball, spending five minutes could save you weeks of recovery. Warm-ups not only prepare your muscles to contract better, they also improve your nervous system function, cardiovascular health, and will actually help you perform your task at a higher level. So if you are looking for a leg up in your backyard ultimate frisbee game, take the time to warm up If you are unsure about what a proper warm-up routine looks like, here is a good instructional video from YouTubers TheLeanMachines.

Spend 3 weeks going slow

If you are trying to get back into shape over the summer months and have been inactive for a long time, then you should spend the first three to four weeks doing lighter weight and lower intensity during your workouts. This may sound like a long time, but the biggest threat of injury comes with going to hard too soon. It is better to take three weeks and let your body accommodate to the workload. Remember, health is cooked in a crockpot, not a microwave.

Summer should be about fun, vacations, and activities. Avoid a trip to your local doctor by taking the time to avoid injuries before they happen!

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Dr. Jeremiah Morgan is a licensed Chiropractic Physician as well as a Certified Active Release Technique provider. He currently practices in Downtown Matthews at Pro Active Chiropractic.

2810[high]5: Volunteerism Builds Community

One of the many things that makes Matthews great is the community spirit, the space where volunteerism thrives. We today we give a High[5] to five volunteer opportunities.

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Brace YMCA: The Y needs volunteers for all sorts of things, from administration duties to helping at Camp Boomerang, giving your time helps others thrive.

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Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity: With Habitat the volunteeer needs abound. Work on the build sites, in the ReStore, or with the administrative team. If you feel more comfortable working from home, sometimes there are opportunities to provide meals for the builders.

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Matthews Community Farmer’s Market: Show up early and buy your weekly groceries, then fill in a volunteer slot. The Market needs help with the Community House, morning set up, noontime take down, and more.

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Matthews Fire Department: Certainly more demanding than the other volunteer roles, but volunteers for the fire department are essential for the safety of Matthews.

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Matthews Police Department: Another essential role for the safety of Matthews, Citizen Volunteers for the police department are trained for directing traffic, security patrols, and resource support to officers. If that’s too much action, you can help at the front desk or data entry.

2810[high]5: Places to Practice Yoga

Matthews may not have a dedicated yoga studio, but there are plenty of opportunities to get your Savasana fix. We’ve rounded up a few, but if you know of more, share them in the comments!

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Matthews Community Center: Fit a work out in over your lunch break with Chris Robertson on Mondays from noon to 1 p.m. 100 E McDowell St, Matthews

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Lifetime Fitness: Join Mandi Murrow Brown on Tuesday evening at 7:15 p.m. for heated Vinyasa yoga. Email Mandi for more info. 9915 E Independence Blvd, Matthews

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Stumptown Park: Elinor Edvi Miller will guide you through Vinyasa and deep stretch yoga Fridays at 9:30 a.m. on the stage in the park. 120 S Trade St, Matthews

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Brace YMCA: With classes for every skill level every single day, there’s bound to be a class for everyone. You’ll have to have a monthly Y membership, though. 3127 Weddington Rd, Matthews

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McDowell Arts Center: Practice yoga while surrounded in art, Katrina Whelchel leads slow flow yoga in the arts center on Thursdays from 6 to 7:15 p.m. 123 E McDowell St, Matthews

Spring Plant Sales: Creating your native garden

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

If you're a gardener this time of the year is like Christmas all over again!  Lots and lots of native plant sales where you can get your fix.

Two of my very favorite sale are at Wing Haven and UNCC at the McMillan Greenhouse.  Both have excellent selections of plants and, great for beginners, knowledgeable people to answer your questions. Both have a Membership Day the day before the sale opens to the public.  Believe me, it's worth it to join!  Just show up the day before and pay the membership fee.

Wing Haven's sale started Thursday, April 4th and runs through Saturday, April 6th.  Hours are 9-5.

UNCC is next week, from Thursday, April 11th (12-3) through Saturday, April 13th (9-3). 

You'll see perennials, groundcovers, vines, shrubs and trees, along with annuals.  And there will be plants for sun and plants for shade.

Get there early and follow signs for parking at each location.

See ya there!

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

Chicken Keeping: The Rules and Regulations

Photo by Debbie Chopas

Photo by Debbie Chopas

In the age of DIY everything, the popularity of small-scale homesteading, and a reflection on simpler pastimes, chicken-keeping has been gaining popularity over the past decade. Chickens are funny birds, and watching their fluffy waddles can make for a relaxing afternoon. If you’re thinking about getting poultry this spring, though, familiarize yourself with the Town regulations. Knowing the process will save you a lot of headache if your neighbors aren’t on board with your fowl friends.

First, know where to build your coop and how large to make the structure. According to Town Ordinance 91A - Animals, § 91A-42. PERMITS FOR FOWL, EQUINE, CLOVEN-HOOFED ANIMALS, ETC, before purchasing or adopting your chickens, you need an inspection by Animal Control, a division of the Matthews Police Department. Only one permit is required per household, no matter how many birds you have, and that permit must be renewed annually. Animal Control will check to make sure your new hobby won’t make your neighbors sick or unreasonably unhappy. Many of the guidelines are good to follow just because they will keep your birds healthy.

For your neighbors’ sake: Your coop and run must be at least twenty-five feet from the adjoining property line.
Build a castle: The chicken house must be at least 18-inches in height and well-ventilated. You can have up to 20 chickens per acre, but you must have a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space per chicken.
No piles of poop: The run must be well-draining, kept clean, and free from objectionable odors.
No free-ranging: Your chickens must always be confined within the run.
You’ve got to bag it up: The town is specific about handling poop. All droppings and body excretion shall be placed in a fly-proof container and double-bagged in plastic bags.

All in all, it’s a relatively easy process to get the permit, then it’s up to you to stay on top of following the rules. The reward of fresh eggs makes the small hassle at the front-end well worth it.

Creating a Wildlife Habitat, Part V: Sustainable Practices and Certification

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Hope you've enjoyed this series on how to create wildlife habitats in your yard, school, place of worship and business.

Let's add one more requirement - sustainable gardening practices. This means being aware of what you're using and under what conditions. Some people will choose to go the all organic route, while others may have a problem that may need to be addressed strategically with a chemical.

Choose the most environmentally-friendly tool for the job and follow directions carefully. Avoid spraying on a windy day because you might contaminate your food and water sources.


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Now we’ve covered the essentials.

Food, water, cover, places to raise young, sustainable gardening practices? Check!

There's just one thing left to discuss: how to certify your wildlife habitat; it's incredibly easy. Visit the National Wildlife Federation Certify page and fill out the simple application form. There is a one-time fee of $20 which goes to National Wildlife Federation. You'll receive a personalized certificate with a number for your site, a subscription to the Garden for Wildlife e-newsletter, a one-year membership to NWF, a subscription to National Wildlife magazine, 10% off NWF catalog merchandise (great for items for your yard and gifts for nature lovers), and an option to purchase a sign designating your yard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat with National Wildlife Federation.

Speaking of the signs, I highly recommend purchasing one. It's a great way to help educate your neighbors, clients, and anyone else who happens to pass by on how easy it is to provide habitat for wildlife. Prices range from $30 to $99. Check out the joint NC Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation sign below with Ranger Rick! I also added a picture of the higher-end sign.

Here's hoping that I see lots more of these signs sprouting up all over Matthews as more people jump on board!

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Signs are a great way to help educate your neighbors, clients, and anyone else who happens to pass by on how easy it is to provide habitat for wildlife.

2810[top]5: Spring Flowers

By now we’ve had enough of the February and March showers (fewer April showers, please) and the gardening bug is itching. Today we have five pretty spring flowers to brighten the waning winter landscape.

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Azaleas: Though the knockout roses have displaced the popularity of the azalea, there’s nothing more southern than a fiery hedge of azaleas in full bloom.

Try a native variety such as Flame, Pinxter, Smoothleaf, and the rare Plumleaf, which blooms long after other varieties have faded.

Carolina Heritage Nursery has several types and is often at the Matthews Community Farmers Market.

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Geraniums: Actually pelargoniums and not true geraniums, these colorful flowers popularly adorn front porches from early spring to summer.

Make sure to cover them when a hard frost is coming.

Scented geraniums have edible flowers and leaves and range from chocolate and nutmeg to orange and lemon. Dry the leaves for homegrown potpourri.

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Irises: Native flag irises are popping up to greet the spring, with other non-native varieties trailing behind. The deepest purple varieties are nearly black, offering serious drama for those who enjoy a little bit of edge.

Have a low-lying wet area in your yard? The native Flag and Louisiana varieties don’t mind wet toes.

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Snapdragons: Not only do snapdragons add color and character to the garden, but the flowers make a gorgeous addition to bouquets for indoor arrangements.



Why Grow Them? Snapdragon puppet shows are a favorite pastime for the Burke family, move their “mouths” and make them talk!

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Violets: We’ve already professed a love for the Violaceae family (violas, pansies, Johnny jump-ups) but right now the wild violets are putting on a spectacular show.

Pro Tip: If you don’t spray your yard or have dogs peeing on them, go out and collect the leaves and flowers for a wonderful addition to fresh salads.