Can Can Holster Review

As a female, conceal carry can be rather difficult. Women’s clothing fits differently than men’s clothing. It’s generally much more fitted and has thinner material. Dresses and the lack of pockets just add more levels of difficulty. Finding the right holster makes it a lot easier. I have several holsters that I use. I prefer a Kydex IWB for days that I am wearing jeans. And I have a Marilyn Bra Holster for when I wear sundresses.

While it is true that it is important to “dress to carry” sometimes that means getting a bit creative with layers and sizes. Many women resort to only ever carrying in their purse. This is handy, it is not recommended. If an attacker comes up to you and takes your purse – he then will have your weapon. Also, carrying in your purse is most often not as fast to draw from.

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Two holsters that I use frequently are by Can Can Concealment (https://www.cancanconcealment.com/) In this article I’ll be giving my personal review on the Garter and the Hip Hugger holsters.

Can Can Hip Hugger Holster

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The Can Can Hip Hugger was one of my first holsters. I wanted a holster that could be multi-functional. It can be worn with skirts, shorts, jeans, or even tunic tops with leggings. There are three sizes to choose from: micro, classic, or big she-bang. The width size you choose is based on the size of your conceal carry weapon. I initially made the mistake of buying the big she-bang, because I thought that a wider band would be more comfortable. But I noticed that my firearm would slip down too low in it to where it wasn’t a fast draw.

While holsters don’t have to be pretty to function – it is nice having a pretty holster. I went with the red details. They have several colors to choose from. You can choose tan or black for the base and details can be red, hot pink, black, or blue.

One feature that caused me to go with Can Can over some of the competition was the hook and eye closures. I abhor velcro. It is thick, loud, and I can never get it perfectly lined up; so it ends up scratching me or pulling at my clothing. The hook and eye closures, though it takes a couple of more seconds to attach, is a HUGE draw for me.

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There are little soft little tabs on the edges of the pockets. These are to pull the pocket out so you can holster your weapon. That way you are not fumbling for the edge. I like that the edge of the pocket does not line up with the top of the band.

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Wearing the Hip Hugger Holster is very comfortable. I have not had any issues with it riding up from my hip to my waist.  I do have to adjust it slightly when sitting in my car for an extended amount of time – but the same can be said for wearing a cardigan in the car, you don’t want it pulling from sitting on it. It doesn’t add a lot of extra bulges either, which is nice.

When I measured to purchase my Hip Hugger Holster, I measured around my natural waist and then purchased an extender if I wanted to wear it lower on my hips. This way I can wear it high one day and low the next – whichever is most convenient to draw based on the type of clothing I am wearing. A few years ago, Can Can was offering an extender that was also a pouch for your cell phone, I purchased one and LOVE it. I really hope they bring it back (hint-hint Can Can Concealment!)

Can Can Garter Holster

Sometimes, a waistband holster isn’t an option. I like to wear swing dresses – and while a waistband holster MAY work, it isn’t as fast of a draw as I would like. This is where the Garter Holster is an excellent option. I have worn it with and without leggings under it.

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Like the Hip Hugger Holster, the Garter Holster comes in several width sizes based upon the size firearm you will be concealing. The Micro is for pistols under 4.5″ long, the Classic is for firearms that are  4.5-6.5″ long, and the Big She-bang is for pistols over 6.5″ long.

For my Garter Holster, I went with the hot pink (because the red happened to be sold out that day and I needed it for a trip so I couldn’t wait an extra week.)  Garter Holsters also come in the black and blue detailing or with a tan background.

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I highly recommend going ahead and purchasing the Garter Belt. It comes in a pretty lace pattern, either black or tan. While it isn’t absolutely necessary, I like knowing for certain that it won’t be slipping down too far. The only time I had a little bit of slipping is when I was wearing pantyhose. Since then, I have learned to adjust the hook and eye closures depending not upon only how it feels but also if I am wearing anything under it or not.  The Garter Belt stays securely attached to the Garter Holster with hooks.

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Wearing the Garter Holster isn’t quite as comfortable as the Waist Band Holster, and a bit more cumbersome to put on. Especially when rotating it to get it in just the right place for the garter belt to be worn. But once it is on – its great! I have talked to other women who wear it and they don’t find it cumbersome to put on at all, it may just be me. (I have a lot of nerve damage on the leg I prefer to wear it on because I was attacked by a leopard years ago, so I am sure that is clouding my judgment.)

About Can Can Concealment

Can Can Holsters uses compression holsters. The material is thick enough to prevent printing, and still very breathable. The back of the holsters has built-in silicone grips to prevent slipping. They also have their very own (patent pending) reholstering grip tabs with Neodymium rare earth magnets to help with firearm retention.

I really love getting to tell others about this fantastic company. Not only are their products of phenomenal quality, AND made in the USA, but their customer service is top notch. I have had to call them a few times with questions about sizing, and to send back the wrong size that I ordered. Their customer service is so personable and they really go out of their way to help you find just the right holster for your body shape – even if it means doing a custom order. You can tell they truly believe in their product!

I would love to review their Corset Holster but have not purchased one yet.

If you have any suggestions for any holsters that you would like for me to review – send me a message!

Aspergers and Pandas: The First Three Years of Our Holistic Health Journey

Autism Clues

I had everything ready: my detailed birth plan, the Bradley Method book, my calming piano hymns music, Clary Sage and Lavender oils, ice packs, heat rags, birthing ball, honey straws, Vitamin K drops, and a doula who would encapsulate my placenta.  Much to my doctor’s frustration, I was determined to utilize a holistic health approach to giving birth. After a very smooth, natural labor and delivery, the nurse handed me my newborn baby girl.

I had looked forward to that moment of first getting to meet her – cuddling close, looking at her tiny features, counting her little fingers and toes. That moment finally arrived! But Emma would recoil her hands abruptly at the touch of my fingers. Her face would grimace in agitation – almost as if she was in pain –  when anyone touched her, especially her hands and feet. I knew right away that something was amiss. By the end of the day, I had noticed a stork bite on her neck and a sacral dimple – signs to look out for with the MTHFR gene mutation that ran through my family.

Soon, we noticed that she would become inconsolable if more than three separate people held her. Or if a store was too busy, or the tv was too loud. Or if we were gone from home more than a couple of hours. Or when she was placed in the car seat. She was constantly alert and on edge, stiff as a board when held. All of these things I noted and tucked away for further observation and research. When I would bring them up to the pediatrician or in conversation socially, I was told not to worry. She simply was a sensitive baby. Nothing was wrong.

But I knew that she was different in a special way – because I am different too.

Emma didn’t nurse well and refused to take a bottle. It was a rough first few months. Thankfully some Mommy Friends in a private Facebook group told me to look into tongue and lip ties, then told me about their own experiences. Many of whom warned me about how frightfully uneducated so many are in the medical field about the impact ties have on breastfeeding.

She began having meltdowns. It took a while to learn what was a meltdown and what was a temper tantrum – there ARE differences. But occasionally a temper tantrum can go on so long that she works herself into a meltdown. During meltdowns, she would stop making eye contact and it was as if she couldn’t hear or see me. During meltdowns, she could not be pacified. We learned that we had to take her away from the stimulus, preferably to a dark quiet room and just hold her and rock. Emma never would take a paci and she didn’t want toys or a Lovey of any kind.

Sleep Deprivation

After going through four doctors, three lactation consultants, and a local Le Leche League leader (say that three times fast!) – I found a doctor who believed me and told me that my assessment of a Stage 3 lip tie and a posterior tongue tie were correct and were contributing to the difficult nursing experience. A quick lasering of the ties and we were on our way to a more successful and pain-free nursing relationship.

By four months, I knew that she had Aspergers (like I do). Her sensitivity to various stimuli was escalating at a rapid pace. Then, she stopped sleeping. Almost completely. I knew that the Four Month Sleep Regression was supposed to be a hard one – but after a month she wasn’t back to a semblance of a routine at all. Emma was waking up every 15 minutes and not going back to sleep unless she nursed herself to sleep. Once a week she would sleep for 45-60 minutes before waking. My husband and I tried everything. Literally everything. Her pediatrician was baffled but did send us to a specialist for the autism diagnosis. We had an eight-month weight until our first appointment.

The meltdowns increased, her sensitivity increased. I was not able to go to the bathroom or to grab a cup of water without her going into a meltdown because I wasn’t holding her. Emma would panic if she didn’t feel completely safe and secure. It wasn’t her just demanding attention – she would lose the ability function. If anything was different or new – she felt insecure.

Meanwhile, Emma continued to wake up every 15 minutes, just like clockwork. Regardless of what we tried to do – regardless of how consistent we were with habits or what supplements we tried or how her environment was. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture – I legitimately thought I was going to die from sleep deprivation. My husband suggested we try co-sleeping so I at least wouldn’t have to walk to the next room every 15 minutes to nurse.

Alternative Health Care and an Autism Diagnosis

Finally, after seven months of no one sleeping, we went to a friend of mine for help (why we didn’t go earlier I have no idea!) She has a health food store and uses Autosomal Reflexive Testing (which is a variation of Applied Kinesiology – more on this in an upcoming article!) Emma was put on some Homeopathy supplements. She needed Hylands Nerve Tablets, Ignatia Amara, and Ferem Phosphates to eliminate a virus she was battling. I gave her the first dose immediately. She slept the whole thirty-minute drive home – which had never happened before. Emma would scream from the moment she was placed in a car seat to the moment we took her out. After three days she was sleeping for three hours before waking. After a week she was sleeping for five hours before waking and would go right back to sleep.

With the exception of one episode of Strep Throat, Emma was very healthy and didn’t get sick apart from seasonal allergies. Granted, she was quite low on the growth charts – but we were seeing consistent growth. (Little did we know the damage that Strep bacteria did. She was so young we couldn’t see a massive amount of difference before and after the illness in her behavior.)

Being proponents of Self Led Weaning (she weaned at 14 months) and Delaying Solids, it was around 8 months of age when we would allow Emma to taste new foods. But she showed absolutely no interest to anything other than the baby melts. By 10 months she finally wanted to try a food – a lemon of all things. After that, she didn’t want to try any foods at all until she was just shy of a year old. That’s when her Nana convinced her to eat – a Cheese Puff. My heart sank, of course, the first actual food she likes would be something terribly unhealthy…

Emma was considered a Non-Verbal. That is, she spoke 5 words with any consistency. She used Jargon a lot – gibberish sounds in lieu of words. She could say: Mama, Daddy, Biscuit (our cat), Nana (my mom), and No. She could sign for “more” and displayed that she fully understood what we told her. Eventually, in her therapies she was tested – at 24 months she had the cognition of a 4-year-old. Her “output” and her social skills were delayed considerably. She would randomly say words – and say them correctly and display that she understood what they meant and how to use them in context, like the word Octagon. She could point to all the correct shapes, colors, numbers, letters, and over 50 animals. She would make animal noises – and knew appropriate noises for a great many animals.

Finally, her appointment with the child psychologist arrived – and to utter dismay it would be a series of visits over the next few months with various nurses, nurse practitioners and finally a ten minute visit with the actual doctor – and we received her diagnosis of Autism Spectrum, and what would have been called Aspergers (oh the frustrating changes in the DSM IV!) This opened the door to various therapies such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and food therapy.

Her meltdowns were intense. They could last HOURS. She would not be able to hear or see us, and she would not feel any pain. We would do everything that we could to keep her from hurting herself or others – and she would try her best to do just that. Emma would bang her head on surfaces, throw herself down – or worse off things. She would scratch her eyes and pull her face – or do the same to others. She would scream and thrash about like a wild animal caught in a cage. It was terrifying to behold – and even more so terrifying to realize that there was nothing that I could do to help her. She was hurting. She was afraid.

Being overstimulated sometimes feels like thousands of fingernails scratching at you – at every fiber of your entire being. All your senses are affected – sound becomes deafening and incomprehendible. Light becomes too bright while simultaneously your vision becomes blurred and tunneled. For a few brief moments its barely tolerable, and then when your body can’t handle any more – your systems crash into a meltdown.

A meltdown would make Emma “teeter-totter” to where it was as if her emotions were fragile and sitting on the edge of a blade. It would take the slightest bump to knock them off in either direction – either for calmness or for another meltdown. A major meltdown could send her nerves into such a state of agitation that she was affected by it for up to five weeks later – the entire five weeks be a series of meltdown chains. During a meltdown recovery period, we could do nothing except sit and rock, or sit and nurse, or sleep.

We wanted to partner up with professionals who viewed Emma the way we did – as a capable, brilliant child who has a great many strengths. We wanted to partner up with people who didn’t view Autism as a disease but as a unique way of processing information. Aspergers does indeed tend to have a great many pitfalls – but a great many blessings too. We just need to help Emma to learn how to navigate her sensory awareness and sensitivity, and how to understand that her emotions and thoughts do not necessarily convey what is true and real – though emotions are a great indicator of the heart.

After researching and trying out various therapies – we found an Occupational Therapist who eschewed ABA therapy (to our relief) and conducted Floor Time Play Therapy. She was such a great fit for our family – and so supportive of our passion for natural health care. She saw Emma as the brilliant child we saw too.

She displayed a large number of autism signs during the first year and a half. She would hand flap, squeeze her hands and shake all over when excited, and didn’t ever play with toys. Emma loved to organize things – she would spend HOURS taking the clothes out of her drawers and arranging them into piles. She loved to draw – but only a single shape – a Circle with a squiggly tail. If she was given grid paper, she would cover each square with this shape. She could sit and draw this shape for hours with fierce attention, the very action consumed her entire being.

Pandas and What We Have Found

Over a series of months, we noticed that there was a correlation between Emma’s very difficult weeks and her bowel. Research led me to be concerned about Pandas, but I had a hard time finding enough information about a child so young to be sure. I knew that we had a leaky gut issue, yeast overgrowth in the gut and that there was such a direct correlation between gut health and Autism.

But with her severe food sensory issues – I had no idea how to overcome her sensory issues. At this point, Emma only ate 12 things: Fruit melts, Goldfish, Club Crackers, Cheese Puffs, Fritos, Grapes, Blueberries, Apples, Banana, Strawberry, Chickfila Chicken Nuggets, and Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets. Regardless of our tactics to introduce healthy foods – even going so far as to refusing the yeast feeding GMO laden processed crackers and only offering healthy versions… but Emma could recognize even a change in Brand name by the taste. And she, unlike most children, will not give in and eat anything when hungry enough. We have tried. Her food therapist even noted that in her entire career she had only seen a COUPLE of other children who had the stubbornness to where they would rather starve themselves than eat something out of their comfort level.

As is typical with Pandas, the bowel will take on a chalky appearance. It becomes watery and very clay like in color. The odor is fouler than any “normal” diaper previously – it smells like a rotting carcass. During this attack, these watery diapers come out in a discharge so profuse and in such large quantity that no diaper is able to contain it all. Cloth or disposable – regardless of the brand. During these bouts, she becomes extremely violent and full of rage over the slightest sensory stimulus.

It was just after one of these episodes that Emma got a rather severe UTI. She refused to drink anything. I used a medicine syringe and would syringe her with water and Gatorade every 10 minutes. My Mom took her through the night and continued. We were trying to keep her from having to go to the hospital. But the next morning her diaper count was still terribly low and she was becoming lethargic. The hospital had to give her a catheter – and a dose of anxiety medicine because the stimulus was causing a massive meltdown. Twice in two months, we had this happen. Once, the hospital messed up and gave her a double dose of anxiety medicine – and had to watch her for a while to make sure she continued to breathe. Each time she was more and more traumatized by the catheter. It was so emotionally damaging that she would have meltdowns if we tried to change her diaper.

We decided the psychologist who had given the diagnosis was not a good fit for our family, so thanks to our wonderful occupational therapist we found a psychological counselor who has a heart for people with autism grow and flourish. He listened to our story and said that he is quite certain Emma had Pandas – especially with the way her violence correlated with the diapers. He was also very knowledgeable about MTHFR gene mutation, Pyroleuria, PTSD, and Porphyria – and other numerous issues that are in our family. What a tremendous relief it was to talk to a medical professional who understood these issues!  We discussed our options, and he was sympathetic to our desire to pursue holistic health care.

It was around this time that I had finished my Master Herbalist degree and was beginning my internship at the health food stores on the weekends with training in Autosomal Reflexive Therapy.

Therapy went well for the most part – food therapy was a bit disappointing, as Emma did not acquire many new foods. She did gain the confidence to try new foods occasionally (though not consistently) and she learned that she likes gummy bears and carrots. Occupational therapy is still going – and she is having a lot of fun playing games where she learns about taking turns, experiencing new textures, change in direction of play etc.  Speech therapy was helpful – having a new friend to interact with and play speech games with, a friend who wasn’t a parent or grandparent also seemed to make the game more appealing. Around the time she graduated, Emma had begun to use around 100 words consistently.

When her little sister, Faith, became big enough to play – this was transformational in Emma’s life. Faith taught Emma how to pretend and play with toys. Now, getting to be the “big sister” and help baby Faith has given her tremendous confidence and has encouraged her to push beyond her previous boundaries.

Over the last few months, I have been testing her consistently and finding out what nutritionally her body is needing. We have had such a remarkable turnaround in a short amount of time! Her vocabulary has blossomed – and so has her sentence structure. While we do still need to be mindful of what can overstimulate – her tolerance level has dramatically increased, as has her bravery in insecure situations.

She also has blossomed in her social skills – now she tries talking with other children, instead of completely oblivious to any game structure or social construct. She happily chatters with adults too and loves to create stories. She still is unsure of how to interact with children her own age, but she loves to watch them and in very confident situations will attempt to join in playing with them.

Unfortunately, the trauma from being catheterized has had lasting effects. She still panics during diaper changes – though considerably calmer than before. If we calmly talk to her about what is happening she handles it much better – but it is still terrifying for her. This has caused her to refuse to attempt any potty training. Which is frustrating – but we are patiently encouraging her growth and confidence. Maybe potty training Faith first will be helpful…

One other area we are still struggling in is in sleeping. She sleeps well – but she still relies on me to go to sleep and to stay in bed. We are in the process of transferring Faith to a big bed – after we get her used to sleeping in her own bed we will then be able to work more on helping Emma to learn. We are hoping that she will want to once she sees that Faith is doing it. And I have to remain in bed with her – if she wakes and can’t find me, she will panic. Panicking can QUICKLY turn into a meltdown.

She has come such a long way! But there is still such a long way to go – we still have to navigate our life based around her sensory needs, be extra cautious about how many activities or outings we do in a day, and with what could potentially trigger a meltdown. Meltdowns no longer affect us for many weeks at a time – now it is just hours at their most severe. We have not had any return of the massive and foul diaper episodes. When I notice her bowl SLIGHTLy become paler, I test her and find she is requiring an increase in dosing. Her behavior may be SLIGHTLY more agitated – but she IS HEALING. We praise God for His blessings in this, and for His provision of nutrients and Homeopathies to help her strengths shine. I am so excited to see how she progresses over the next few months.

I will elaborate on all the herbal supplements, vitamins, and homeopathic remedies I am giving her (in an upcoming article) 

I write this so that if you have a loved one who is on the spectrum or has Pandas to know that you are not alone in your experiences and that there is Hope. God is completely Sovereign over His Creation – even in Autism. There is nothing that happens that is outside the realm of His control, and He will allow only that which is for our sanctification and His Glory. We can rest in that!

 

Lamentations 3: 22-23 “The LORD’S loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”

 

 

 

When being a mother isn’t as you imagined it would be

 

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I dreamed that as a mother…

  • I would have children that loved vegetables
  • They would wear adorable vintage clothing that I made by hand
  • I dreamed that I would churn my own butter and cook every meal from scratch
  • I’d keep a spotless house and have a massive garden with some hens
  • I would do elaborate crafts every day with the kids (that would go just as planned) and write my own homeschool curriculum
  • They would go to bed at an early hour and sleep through the night
  • Everyone would be joyful and happy all the time.

So fast forward several years later…

  • I have a brilliant, three-and-a-half-years-old daughter who refuses to touch a vegetable (Aspergers + sensory issues)  and is terrified of the potty. I have a two years old daughter who thinks its ok to try to scale the rock fireplace and is so enthusiastic about life that she tends to make massive amounts of mess with … well… everything she does.
  • Their clothes are well loved and used and are by no means anything that I have made by hand.
  • Food …. well … I do try to make it all from scratch, but frankly most days we grab something quick from the freezer or Taco Bell.
  • My house is barely in the tidy category. Our grass gets in pitiful condition before it ever gets mowed, much less a garden planted or a place for hens created.
  • Crafts are rather infrequent and never go as planned. The girls are just now liking me to read to them so we are not getting very far with homeschooling preschool
  • My husband and I are co-sleeping with the babies in separate beds because its the only thing that works for us at the moment, therefore no one goes to bed at a decent time or sleeps through the night.
  • I am just now coming out of a 3-year Chronic Post Partum Depression battle. So between a wife of a seminary student, a mother, a family member, a church member, a writer, an artist etc – stress is pretty high, so “happy all the time” is rather laughable

But we ARE joyful. We are so immensely grateful and blessed. My little family by no means resemble the Von Trapp family, all smiling, and lined up in a row – but we can say that this is God’s best for us. This is His perfect plan to help us grow in holiness and for His glory.

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I have had the opportunity to discuss this very topic with a group of 650 women. And astonishingly enough, everyone had virtually the same story: motherhood is ridiculously difficult. Nothing prepared me for how physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting it is. The vast majority of the group said that they struggle with feeling like a failure, that they are going through a serious struggle with guilt, and shame.

According to this Gallup Poll,  Stay at Home Moms are slightly more likely than moms employed outside the home to feel negative emotions on a daily basis and to have been diagnosed with clinical depression.

The discussion with the group of women continued on for some time. Everyone was asking “Why? Why is this so common? Why is staying at the home to raise up children for the Lord so closely connected with failure, guilt, and shame? Why is such a noble and honorable calling bringing so many women into clinical depression?”

Shame and Guilt are not from God. They are the result of sin. We first see these emotions in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve sinned, they did not trust God is who He says He is. And in doing so, were filled with shame and guilt and tried to hide from God. Guilt and Shame drive us away from God. It makes us want to hide. When we as believers sin, God loves us enough to discipline us – which makes us feel Convicted. Conviction drives us TOWARDS him in repentance, not away from Him to hide.

Maybe, we get focused on what we think is best, instead of trusting God to give us His best.  We want a life that is easy and comfortable. But God wants us to become more like Christ, which most likely won’t be easy or comfortable – but it will be more beautiful than any scenario we can dream up. All because we will be able to see and reflect the beauty of Christ.

Maybe, we think that we have to do good in order to be loved instead of trusting God and obeying as a response to His love. We can never be good enough. One tiny sin against the All-Holy, Creator of Everything deserves eternity in Hell. We cannot do penance enough to pay for the price of even ONE sin.

Perhaps, we forget that we are not the Holy Spirit. How easy it is to want to bring conviction to our children – instead of trusting God with their souls. How quickly we get angry when they sin. How often do we worry about what they are turning out to be – when in fact, we are not responsible for their choices. We will be held accountable for training them, not for the choices they make.

 

We can trust God with the souls of our children. We do not have to mold our kids into what God wants them to be – He will do that. God knows exactly what He has created these children to be, and what their futures will hold. He knows every hair on their head. He will arrange everything to be exactly like it needs to be for their sanctification too. We don’t have to worry about creating the Fruit of the Spirit in their hearts – that’s the role of the Holy Spirit.

This mindset of having to work-work-work will lead to unbearable guilt and fear. How many times have we as mothers laid awake at night, going over every tiny mistake we made, and being absolutely obsessed over own every failure? Worrying that we are scaring our children for life? How quickly we fail to trust God’s Faithfulness!

Maybe, it’s because we have forgotten the Gospel. I am a wretched sinner, who deserves Hell, but God in His Grace and Mercy paid the penalty for my sins on the cross so that I might repent and believe in Him and be reconciled to Him.

Trusting God quietens our fears and places our focus on Him instead of at our own selves. Trusting God brings peace, joy, and hope. It is only when we trust God that we can do our children any good at all. God is doing more good than I could ever imagine (Eph. 3:20. God has promised to exalt the humble (Jam. 4:10) and to reward our faithfulness (Col. 3:23-24.).

 

God has chosen ME to be the mother of my children. I can trust that He is doing good TO ME, passionately, actively – He wants to sanctify me (Heb. 12:10.) And though I don’t understand it all – I have to trust that I am the best choice for them, and they are the best choice for me.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13”

We are commanded to “Train up our children in the way they should go…” (Prov. 22:6.) Which is living out part of the Great Commission in our very homes. There is not a more significant calling than to pass on the legacy of our faith to the next generation! So even when things are chaotic and not at all the way we imagined it would be – we can cling to joy, and hope, knowing with full assurance of God’s sovereign goodness.

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The Nursery Dilemma

“No, thank you, we would rather not put our kids in the nursery…”

 

It’s a line that my husband and I almost dread having to say when we visit a different church and even occasionally at our own church. It’s usually followed by a well-meaning, but a rather critical question – posed by someone just double checking us, just to make sure.

– Yes, we are sure.

Then comes the real test – the church service. Will our kids behave?! At least somewhat?!

What if my toddler (who happens to have autism) has a massive meltdown because of being over stimulated from the extra long car ride, or the new smells, or sounds?

What if my baby (who is struggling with her molars coming in) just won’t be pacified or distracted?

At every little noise that the children make during the service – my husband and I flinch. The tension from the well-meaning church member is almost palatable. I felt their eyes burning holes in the back of my head. I am glad that we don’t have to visit other churches often.

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This is a very strong personal conviction my husband and I have. After all, we will be held accountable on Judgement Day for what we taught them – and we want to teach them to love Jesus and His Bride. For us, that means keeping them in church with us and not in the nursery or children’s church.

We want our children to be in the entire church service with us. We want them to hear the worship service and the sermon.  Even though they won’t understand all of what is being said. They are taking everything in.

Those little eyes are watching. They are watching us worship. They are watching their church family worship. They are seeing lives changed, their loved ones cry out to God with heavy burdens, the whole church family rejoicing at a sinner repenting. Why would I want to take them away from all of that and stick them in the nursery?

Our babies will see if we are scrolling through Facebook or are really paying attention to the sermon. We want them to see how important church is – how important being with the body of believers is.

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We want them to see that we don’t go to church just because its fun,  or just because we get something out of it – but because we love Jesus and He died for the church, so we want to obey Him by “not forsaking our own assembling together… but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:25.)

Keeping babies in the church service is HARD. They wiggle, cry, fidget, try to wander around, get dirty diapers… it is a REALLY hard thing to do. Not to mention the just-before-nap-time-fussiness that tends to occur around 11 am.  I don’t get to hear very much of the sermon at all, I’m too busy wrestling with kids and trying to make sure they don’t find someone’s purse to rummage through. It is so easy to get discouraged, to think that it would be so much simpler if I stayed home or put them in the nursery.

 

A few weeks ago, my toddler mentioned she was scared of the monsters in the shadows (thanks Scooby-Doo.) I told her there were no monsters and not to worry. I had all planned out to remind her about the God is Bigger than the Boogie Man song. She interrupted me to say “Jesus will keep me safe! He loves me!” with that she rolled over and fell right asleep.

Yes, its dreadfully hard – but so worth it.

We are blessed to have friends who truly love our babies and often help with them during the service. I snapped this picture of one of my dearest friends holding my youngest. If you see a family struggling with their babies – instead of insisting that they put the babies in the nursery or children’s service, why not ask to sit with them and love on their babies?

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When I Stopped Writing… Lessons learned in the shadows

I have always dreamed of being a writer.

When I was four, I wrote my first book – complete with construction paper cover and illustrations. I was an avid reader before entering Kindergarten. The more I read, the more I felt compelled to write. I filled journals cover to cover with my thoughts, ramblings, heart-pourings, and poems. By the time I was ten, I wrote a short novel, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish the last chapter (knowing the fate my hero would face was too painful.) And here I am now – 32 years old, and the burning desire to write is stronger than ever.

Several years ago, I stopped writing for a time. Here is why and what I have learned.

Since childhood, writing has been cathartic – even therapeutic.  I use it as a method of putting my thoughts in order. It was a tool to help me learn to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b) by taking inspiration from Davids style of writing.

Many of the Psalms written by David follow a pattern. He uses writing to pour out his heart and find expression of the pain, frustration, fear, and depression he is facing. And then he focuses his thoughts – and pen – towards God: His character and statutes. By doing so, he is able to find solace and emotional healing in resting in God’s Sovereignty.

But even good things can be marred and tainted because of sin… even something as seemingly innocent as writing in a journal. 

During a particularly dark period of my adult life, my writing became increasingly self-focused. I poured my heart out on paper, each line dripping with the intense sorrow that comes from a deep depression. It felt good to empty out the emotional torment. I thought I would burst if I didn’t.  I trusted that feeling and relied on my emotions to determine the truth of my situation, believing the lie my sinful heart spoke.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

In doing so, I allowed my focus to be inward instead of focusing on Christ. It was hard – it is such a discipline to stay focused. Our sin nature constantly is driving us to focus on our self – driving us towards self-idolatry.  Focusing inward made the darkness of depression all the more unbearable. Which turned into a vicious cycle – of needing to write all the more and being driven deeper and deeper inward. I was spiraling out of control.

The Lord placed several things in my life then that drove my writing to a screeching halt. I bucked against it – I was even bitter about it. But various circumstances would arise to keep me from sitting down and writing.

I was so focused on my pain that I couldn’t see God’s mercy in the moment.

God is safe to trust but I didn’t believe it was true for me. So I wallowed in the muck and mire of self-idolatry. The Lord was so merciful and patient with me. I wanted to hold on to my pain and find comfort in the shadows of depression – but God wanted me to find comfort, rest, and solace in Him. He wanted me to understand that the suffering was for my good, my very sanctification, and for His glory.  Even though I don’t always understand why, I can trust Him.

So five years ago I started writing again. Writing is still a balm to my soul. And now I write so that I can help others know Him more – because that is all that matters anyway.

A Guide on Plants Poisonous to the Touch

Plants can ruin your day

Spending time in the woods is a wonderful way to help eliminate stress. There is not hardly anything so peaceful as the cold earth under your feet and the first light of dawn peaking over the ridge and through the trees. One horrible experience for many hunters is to get good and nestled in a hide of undergrowth waiting on a buck to walk by and to leave with only a terribly itchy rash caused by unidentified poisonous plants. This guide is meant to help you prevent that from happening. The old adage of “leaf of three let it be; hairy vine no friend of mine” can be helpful – but if you go solely by that then you’ll be avoiding many safe plants needlessly.

Poison Ivy & Poison Oak

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak are plants that are often confused. They are both a part of the Toxicodendron genus and Anacardiaceae family. Both have three leaf sets that join together at a central reddish point and alternate on either side of the stem. The middle leaf is often slightly longer (this is more noticeable in Poison Ivy) than the two side leaves. Poison Oak is not quite as common as Poison Ivy as it prefers sandy soil. It seems to be most common in the East and Northwest.

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Poison Oak’s leaves can sometimes have rounded lobes – those that look rather similar to an oak leaf. Poison Oak leaves are not always lobed like oak. They can also be rounded, or scalloped, or toothed. Sometimes they are shiny and other times dull.  Sometimes serrated and sometimes not. Poison Oak can grow like a shrub, on stalks close to the ground, or on a vine. It’s not hard to see why this plant is so easily misidentified. These toxic plants will imitate the leaf shapes of the plants around it. If the plant gets full sun, it tends to grow like a shrub. If it is in the shade in the woods it tends to be a vine or on short stalks.

Poison Oak also has hairs on both sides of the leaves, whereas Poison Ivy only has hairs on one side. It can grow six feet tall and can have yellow, white, or green berries. In the fall, the leaves turn bright red and in the winter the leaves fall off. Poison Oak has leaves that are 2-8″ long and  1-5″ wide.

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Poison Oak and Poison Ivy lack thorns – which is a key feature in distinguishing it from wild blackberries (which can have three to five leaves per stem.) The vine can get up to 2″ in diameter and 40 feet long. The vine appears “hairy” from all the tiny roots sprouting from it. They are also often confused with the Box Elder. The Box Elder has leaves that are arranged opposite each other along the stem instead of alternating like on Poison Ivy. Climbing Hydrangea vines are also hairy, but their leaves only have a couple of shallow teeth or are smooth. The Climbing Hydrangea also has leaves positioned opposite on the stem.

Poison Ivy grows in all the US states except Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and California. It can grow 4′ tall as ground cover on stems or as a hairy vine. Its berries tend to be a greyish white. Poison Ivy can grow in shady areas but tends to prefer more sunlight, so you’ll find it more often on the edges of the woods. The leaves can be 1-4″ long, but in great conditions can double that. Poison Ivy’s leaf shapes are just about as variable as that of Poison Oak.

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Poison Oak and Ivy Plants actually have quite a number of useful purposes. It can survive in fairly toxic soil that can’t sustain a lot of other plant life. This provides habitat and brush in which to hide for small critters and bugs. Over 50 native bird species use Poison Oak and Poison Ivy for shelter, nesting materials or the berries for food. Many insects consume the stalks and leaves. Deer, bear, elk, raccoons, horses, rats and squirrels will eat the leaves.

Many Native Americans utilized Poison Oak and Poison Ivy Plants. The Chumash Indians consumed the leaves, stems, and roots. They were able to do so by building up an immunity. Only 15% of the population is immune to the Urushiol Oil, their T-Lymphocyte cells simply do not recognize Urushiol. I built up an immunity to it over the years too. However, many people are extremely allergic to Urushiol, so I don’t recommend you trying to become immune. Many people report the opposite effect – overexposure causes them to be more sensitive, their T-cells recognize it very quickly and formulate an immune response quickly.

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When the skin comes in contact with Urushiol, it causes a chemical reaction with your skin that can develop into an allergy response. This can be as simple as redness or a patch of tiny, itchy, clear, blisters. For some, this goes away in a couple of days. For others, it can become a problem for weeks. These lesions can pop up within minutes to up to 21 days after initial exposure. Severe reactions include fever and difficulty breathing and occurs in 10-15% of individuals and these reactions require medical treatment usually in the form of steroids.

When you come in contact with Poison Oak or Poison Ivy Plants a great way to prevent an immune response is to remove the Urushiol. Changing your clothes and washing with dish soap (scrubbing for several minutes) and then rinsing with rubbing alcohol removes a great deal of the toxic oil.

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If you start to notice a bit of redness, then you can apply Lavender Essential Oil. Jewelweed (also known as Impatiens or Touch Me Not) is a native plant whose juices neutralize Urushiol. The Homeopathy remedy Rhus Tox in is made from extremely diluted Poison Ivy and can be helpful in alleviating the rash. Also after the rash sets in witch hazel can help in drying up the blisters. Aloe can help heal the damaged skin and apple cider vinegar can help alleviate the itching.

Poison Sumac

Another Toxicodendron is Poison Sumac. It grows like a small shrub or a small tree and branches out at the base. Poison Sumac Plants prefers wetlands and higher pH soil. It has berries that look similar to Poison Ivy’s, that are greyish white. Its leaves and bark are smooth. Poison Sumac has 7-15 leaflets per stem. The leaves are oblong with pointy tips and have red veins. It is a very pretty leaf! Each leaf is 1’4″ long and up to 2″ wide. They are arranged in pairs along the stem.

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Many people confuse Virginia Creeper with young Poison Sumac. While people who tend to be highly sensitive to Toxicodendron may find themselves slightly sensitive to Virginia Creeper, the Virginia Creeper is not generally considered a toxic plant. There are non-toxic varieties of Sumac. These prefer well-drained soil and have red berries in the fall.

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Poison Sumac berries grow in clusters at the base of the stem that hang down like grapes. Staghorn Sumac and Winged Sumac have red berries that grow at the tip of the stip in clusters that point up. Poison Sumac also has smooth and hairless stems whereas the non-toxic varieties tend to be fuzzy.

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Poison Sumac has very high concentrations of Urushiol and many people consider it one of the most toxic plants in America. Its prevention and treatment are the same as with Poison Ivy and Poison Oak. It is not as commonly found as Poison Ivy or Poison Oak because of its preference for wetlands. There are connections between certain food allergies to severe Urushiol allergies. So if you have a bad reaction to pistachios, mangos or cashews, it probably would be best for you to avoid Toxicodendron!

Poisonwood & Manchineel

Is not a tree that is very often encountered by hunters – unless you’re in southern Florida. It is in the family Anacardiaceae, which is the family to which Sumacs and Cashews belong. The Poisonwood Tree is an evergreen flowering tree that produces Urushiol oil like Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.

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Poisonwood Tree grows to be 25-35 feet tall. The tree has a short trunk with long arching branches.  Its bark can vary in color from a greyish hue to dark reddish-brown, depending on the age of the tree and the habitat. Older trees tend to flake off the bark in patches. Poisonwood Tree bark also looks like it has oily patches, which is actually sap. The leaves are green and very glossy with the underside being duller. Each leaf has a bright yellow central vein. They grow in groups of about 5, but the number can vary a bit. It grows a cluster of yellowish orange fruit that hangs. This fruit is food to a large number of local and migratory birds. The endangered White Crowned Pigeon particularly seemed to be fond of this fruit.

Even the rainwater dripping off the leaves can contain enough Urushiol to cause an allergic contact dermatitis. In fact, only one billionth of a gram of Urushiol is sufficient to cause a reaction in most people. The Urushiol content in the Poisonwood trees leaves, bark and sap are 100 times more potent than other native plants like Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.

Another plant native to Florida is the Manchineel Tree, also known as Beach Apple. It’s also known by the Spanish name manzanilla de la muerte, which translates to “little apple of death”  Ingesting the fruit can be fatal. Every part of the tree is highly poisonous.

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Manchineel is in the family Euphorbia, which makes it related to the Poinsettia. The Poinsettia is toxic to consume, but the Manchineel is toxic even to touch. Many Outdoorsmen have mistakenly walked under this tree and the leaves simply brushing against their face was enough to cause temporary blindness. The milky white sap leaves burns on the skin. Hippomane mancinella, which translates to “little apple that makes horses mad.”

It grows amongst Mangos and its root system helps to stabilize the sand erosion. It can grow up to 49 feet tall. The leaves are about 2-4″ long and are shiny green.  Unfortunate individuals claim that the fruit is very sweet, but soon after swallowing it starts to burn your throat until you feel your throat starting to swell. Interestingly enough, the black-spined iguana is able to consume the fruit where many other birds and animals are not able to. Even more baffling, the iguana is not native whereas the native species are unable to consume its fruit.

Though there are no deaths recorded in modern literature, historically there are numerous accounts of the fatalities from this toxic tree. The Caribs were known to poison the water of their enemies with the leaves from the Manchineel tree. Famous explorer Ponce de Leon supposedly died from an arrow coated in Manchineel sap.

Parsnips & Hogweed

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Several plants mentioned in this section closely resemble one another. Wild Parsnip, Queens Anne Lace, Giant Hogweed, Poison Hemlock, Elderberry, and Angelica plants all have wide leaves with a tall stem and a cluster of pale flowers. Most act as biennials – meaning the first summer is spent growing their leaves and the second is for flowering. Several of those plants can be seen here.

Wild Parsnip, Cow Parsnip, and Hogweed plants are very toxic and very problematic when they come in contact with your skin.  Their sap contains toxins that cause severe burns when exposed to sunlight.  Giant Hogweed has the most severe reaction of the three and can even cause blindness.

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Wild Parsnips are found in most of the United States and are the only one on the list that can have yellow flowers. It is an invasive species. It prefers sunny areas and calcareous soil but is easily adaptable to the environment. The stem is grooved and hollow. Its leaves have saw-tooth edges and resemble celery. Parsnip is a root vegetable closely related to carrots. In fact, Parsnip looks like a pale carrot. It becomes very sweet if left in the ground until after the winter frost.  Parsnip root can be consumed raw or cooked and is very high in minerals particularly potassium. Wild parsnip can have yellow or sometimes white flowers in rosettes. It can grow 2-5 feet tall and has hairless, grooved stems. Great care must be taken in harvesting – proper identification and wearing gloves.

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Cow Parsnip, or Common Hogweed, is endangered in the state of Kentucky and is considered a special concern species in Tennessee. It can grow typically between 4-10 feet tall and has fuzzy, grooved stems. Cow Parsnip has thorns along its stem. Its leaves grow to be typically 1-1.5 feet wide and serrated. The palm-shaped, fuzzy leaves radiate at the end of the stalk in a semi-circle and are divided into three segments. Cow Parsnip blooms in May. It has white lacey flowers that grow in a flat top cluster and can be nearly 1 foot wide. There will be 15-30 rays per cluster of flowers. For most people, just touching the leaves of the Cow Parsnip will not result in any blisters – it takes getting the “juice” of the stems and leaves on your skin.

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Giant Hogweed is an invasive species that is native to Asia. It grows regularly to 6′ tall and can reach up to 18′. The stems are thick, hollow, have ridges and purple spots. Contact with the leaves causes phytophotodermatitis, which means burns and blisters when the area is exposed to sunlight. Its leaves can grow up to five feet in width. The smooth leaves have deeply incised lobes. Giant Hogweed has umbrella-shaped flower clusters that can grow over two feet in width. There can be 50 or more rays per flower cluster.

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The other plants that look very similar need to be mentioned. Angelica is not toxic to touch and is only toxic when consuming extremely high doses of the root or essential oil. Its stems and roots are edible. It actually is very helpful medicinally for menstrual issues as well as digestive and respiratory, but great care needs to be taken in harvesting since it so closely resembles Poison Hemlock. Angelica can grow up to 9 feet tall and has a smooth, waxy, purple stem up to 2.5″ in diameter. The leaves are compound and can be up to 2 feet wide. Angelica has softball sized flower white flower clusters.

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Poison Hemlock is deadly even if only a small amount is ingested. Its toxins can suffocate the victim in as little as 15 minutes. Native American’s once used Hemlock to poison the tips of their arrows. It typically grows between 3-8 feet tall and has a hollow, hairless, waxy stem. The stems have many branches and have ridges and purple spots. Poison Hemlock smells musty, almost like a mouse. Its leaves are bright, shiny and fern-like. Poison Hemlock leaves can be a foot long and 4″ wide. The white flower clusters are loose and lack the purple heart at the center. They are flat topped and are on all branches.

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There are a few varieties of Hemlock. Spotted Water Hemlock grows about the same height and has smooth, hollow stems. It also can have purple spots or stripes. Water Hemlock has toothed, oval leaflets. Its white lacey flowers branch off the main stem.

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Queens Anne Lace is an invasive species. Some people are sensitive and have similar burns and blisters as with the other species mentioned. Queens Anne Lace is very toxic when consumed. It grows up to 4 feet high. Queens Anne Lace has feathery leaves with fine hairs on them. Its stems are branched and hairy. Its dense, white flowers can be 5″ across. What is most helpful is locating the dark “heart” at the center of the flower cluster. This helps to differentiate it from Poison Hemlock.

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Black Elderberry looks much more like a woody shrub than any of the others. It too has a white cluster of flowers. These flowers can grow up to 8″ across and the shrub can grow up to 8 feet high. The leaves are compound and can have up to eleven elliptical leaflets. Syrup made from the berries is a phenomenal tonic and immune booster. Its leaves are serrated and form on opposite ends of the stem, unlike the alternating leaf pattern of the Water Hemlock.  The berry clusters droop where they connect to their woody stems. This is helpful in differentiating it from the Dwarf Elderberry whose berry clusters stand upright.

Nettles & Stinging Flowers

The Common Nettle (also known as the Stinging Nettle)  and the Wood Nettle are two other native plants to look out for. The leaves and stems are covered in tiny hairs. Many of these hairs are soft and do not sting. But these Nettles also have many hairs whose tip breaks off and acts as a needle injecting multiple chemicals into the skin causing a painful sting. The beautiful green leaves can grow from one to six inches long. They are widely oval with coarsely toothed edges.

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Nettle grows up to 3-4 feet tall in the summer and dies down in the winter. Stinging Nettle tends to be slightly taller than Wood Nettle and is found throughout the US. Its flowers can be yellow, green, white, or purple. Stinging Nettle has leaves that are opposite each other whereas Wood Nettle has leaves that alternate. Wood nettle has flowers on the top of the plant and Stinging Nettle has flowers on the sides of its stems.

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Nettle is a frequently foraged herb. It tastes very similar to spinach and is high in nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, Manganese and can be up to 25% protein. By soaking the leaves in water the stinging chemical are removed. They should not be harvested after the plant starts flowering as it changes chemically and can cause digestive issues. Medicinally, Stinging Nettle has been harvested to treat kidney and cardiovascular issues among other things.

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The False Nettle, Snakeroot, and Clearweed VERY closely resemble Stinging and Wood Nettle but lack the stinging hairs. Being able to tell the difference is very important when you are out in the woods.  Their leaves are very similar in shape. Clearweed is more smooth than Wood Nettle, False Nettle, or Stinging Nettle. And Snakeroot is somewhere in the middle as far as roughness.

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Later in the year, the stem of Clearweed becomes rather translucent and flexible, which makes it more easy to distinguish it from its counterparts. Snakeroot has flowers at the top and Clearwood and False Nettle have flowers along the sides of the stems. When the Snakeroots flowers are fully opened, they resemble actual flowers much more so than any of these – but before they are fully opened it can be a little hard to tell!

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False Nettle, Snakeroot, and Clearweed lack the stinging hairs and their leaves are paired in opposites along the stem. False Nettles leaves are slightly fuzzy and have a rough appearance. Other plants that rather resemble these are Self Heal, Marsh Hedge Nettle, Horehound, White Deadnettle, and Hemp Nettle.

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Scorpionweed is found primarily in desert regions. It is a beautiful small purple flower. It got its name not because of the sting it leaves, but because the flower is top heavy and curls over much like a scorpion tail. Poodle-dog Bush is found in California. It stinks, but it has really pretty purple flowers on a long stalk. It also has tiny hairs that cause stinging blisters. Stinging Lupine also grows along the coastal region in California. It has tiny purple or dark pink flowers shaped in a whirl and stiff hairs that sting the skin. It will also cause birth defects if eaten by cattle.

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Tread-softly, also known as Finger-rot or bull-nettle, is primarily found in Florida but is all over the Southeast. The beautiful white five-lobed, trumpet-shaped flower sits on stalks covered in large spiky hairs. The seeds come in small spike covered pods that bob-white quail and other songbirds love. Its leaves are lobed and similar to an oak leaf. The roots are edible – but they can be four feet deep underground.  The leaves too when cooked are edible. They are harvested for many uses: insomnia, scorpion stings, brain function, diabetes etc.

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Alabama Forestry Commission: An Interview with Robert Brown

First published here

By M. Ashley Evans

Conservation is a Lifestyle

As a kid, I dreamed of being a writer and an artist when I grew up. Now, I am very blessed to be able to stay home with my kids, write about subjects I am passionate about, and sell my art. I only know of one other kid I grew up with who was able to become what he wanted to be back then – and that person is Robert Brown, who now works for the Alabama Forestry Commission.  Recently, Robert and I sat down to discuss a topic that we are both passionate about, the vital role of hunters in conservation and proper land management.

Robert is the Etowah County Forester. He graduated in 2009  from Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Science where he got a Bachelor of Science in Forestry, later he took an exam to become a Licensed Registered Forester.

Robert Brown

“I grew up in Valley Head, Alabama on a 2,500-acre farm where we specialized in growing timber and wildlife via hunting leases on our property. This is a 2,500-acre tract of land that runs north from Valley Head through the railroad valley and alongside Lookout Mountain towards Chattanooga, TN is where it all began for me. Being fortunate enough to grow up on a farm, hunting since childhood, developed a deep love of the land the way I did sparked a fuel inside me that ignited the drive to choose my career. A career that is far more of a lifestyle than a job.”  Roberts family was so passionate about land management and educating others that one year in elementary school, he brought enough pine seed for every kid in class to grow their own tree and we were able to learn a little about tree farming, pine crop, and reforestation.

This little corner of Northeast Alabama that he talks about is one of the most special places in the world to me. Not only is it full of Appalachian countryside beauty, but my family, like his, were some of the first settlers there – so our love of that valley is many generations deep. This farm he spoke of is stunning – his sister Mandy and I explored the woods and fields as kids. We grew up picking wild blackberries; fishing in the creek; exploring the old mining caves; watching the beavers, deer, and inevitably finding a snake on every trail in the woods.

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The Alabama Forestry Commission is a state ran organization that differs from the Federal Department of Game and Wildlife and from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. In Alabama, the AFC primarily helps private landowners. They also manage the three state forests: Choccolocco, Little River, and Geneva. The AFC’s motto is Protect, Sustain, and Educate, and really, it should be the motto of every hunter.

Alabama Forestry Commission

“The first of these three areas is Protect. We strive to help Alabama’s forests from all harmful agents. The most apparent and one of our main focuses is wildfires. If you have ever been burning leaves in your backyard and it got away from you and then caught the woods on fire you have likely crossed paths with our organization. Becuase the person operating the dozer to suppress the fire is one of our wildland firefighters. As wildfire suppression is one of the major parts of protection we also conduct annual aerial surveillance flights for southern pine beetles and help assist landowner’s with invasive species problems on their property.”  The southern pine beetle is one of the most destructive pests for pine in the southeast. They kill pine trees on a massive scale and spread rapidly.

“The next area we can touch on is sustain. This is the area where we directly help forest landowners conduct responsible forest management on their property. This is done on different levels which may be as simple as a stand management recommendation or as complex as a forest management plan for their entire property. Where our entire focus is based on multiple use sustainable forestry practices. We also like to promote and recognize landowners that are excelling in managing their properties through certification programs such as Tree Farm, Stewardship Forest, and TREASURE Forest Award.”

Tree Farming is not just about cutting down timber – it’s about proper stewardship of the land and sustainable production and reforestation. The Stewardship Program requires the landowner to meet numerous stewardship principals, maintain 10+ acres of land, and actively practice proper land management.  To actively manage a forest means providing sustainable timber crop with reforestation, providing wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and other practices. Getting landowners involved in protecting the land by using it wisely ensures that their forests will remain intact for future generations. TREASURE is an acronym for Timber, Recreation, Environment, and Aesthetics for a Sustained, Useable, REsource and characterizes the multiple-use ethic.  To be a TREASURE Forest Owner is a title of honor, it only comes through dedication to proper land management and a lot of time invested.

About 45% of the forestland in America is privately owned. It is imperative that the land is properly conserved for future generations. By getting landowners involved in these programs helps to ensure that their forests will remain intact for our children and grandchildren.

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“The last area that we can touch on is Educate. This is the area where we educate the general public about the value of our forests here in Alabama. This can be from conducting Smokey Bear programs in schools to landowner workshops and tours. We try to help educate all ages of the general public in several different ways.  Most people have no idea what I do on a daily basis and to be honest, when I took this job I had no idea what I would be doing from day to day. I just knew that working to protect the land for future generations was important to me. Educating the general public about the importance of the Alabama Forestry Commission and all the wonderful services we offer is very important. Being able to conduct interviews like the one you and I are doing right now is a great way to reach a different portion of the public that probably did not know that our agency even existed or let alone what services we provide.”

The Forestry Commission is here to help landowners. Invite them out to your property – they can assess the value of your timber, help you farm timber more sustainably, and help you create the ideal environment to bring in more game species.

Are you interested in a career with the Forestry Department? Many schools with a focus on agriculture and biology have a Forestry degree. They also have entry-level positions such as Forester, Forest Ranger/Technician, and Police Communications Officer.

Conservation

“In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen,” said Theodore Roosevelt, “The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality, the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.” Hunting is not only a thoroughly enjoyable pastime, but it is a very effective wildlife management tool. Hunters provide information that the wildlife managers need and also help to promote healthy species.

Robert said, “Sad isn’t when a hunter takes the life of a deer – sad is when you have hundreds of deer in an area, riddled with disease, and starving because of overpopulation.” By wisely harvesting game species like deer, hunters are protecting the land. In 1900, only 500,000 whitetail deer remained. Due to hunters conservation work, today there are more than 32 million.

Hunters also provide the bulk of the monetary resources for land preservation. Through state licenses and fees, hunters pay around $796 million a year for conservation programs.*

Data gathered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its most recent (2006) National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, show that only five percent of Americans—which is about 12.5 million individuals—consider themselves hunters today, this number is down from nine percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1996. Only 5% of the US are paying for the bulk of the upkeep of the state forests, that citizens get to hike for free.

It is vital that we pass down the sport of hunting and therefore the love of proper wildlife and land management to our children.  My family hunts – does yours? Are you doing your part to pass down the forests to the next generation?

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financial info via America’s Sporting Heritage: Fueling the American Economy (January 2013) & Hunting in America: An Economic Force for Conservation (January 2013)

What are Duck Bands?

First published here

One unique treasure for duck hunters is the duck bands. It as much trophy to wear on a lanyard as it is a badge of status. Not only does it show off your harvest, and possibly earned you a monetary reward, but it also shows you played a vital role in waterfowl conservation.

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Duck Banding

Duck banding started back in 1899. Hans Mortensen placed aluminum rings around the legs of a few different species of ducks, including Pintails. He carved his name and address on the ring so that the birds would be returned to him. This system of banding is almost identical to how ducks are banded today. In 1909, Jack Miner banded a mallard to see if he could learn how far it flew during migration. All his duck bands were also inscribed with his Canadian wildlife sanctuary address as well as a verse from the Bible. Five months later, this mallard was discovered in South Carolina. This event went down in history as the first ever successful duck banding. Jack banded over 90,000 ducks and geese in his lifetime. His descendants still band birds from the same sanctuary – and the bands are considered collectibles.

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In the United States, the bird banding is primarily the responsibility of the Bird Banding Laboratory of the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, in Laurel, Maryland. It is a joint effort between our Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, various state wildlife management agencies, and nongovernment research organizations such as Ducks Unlimited among others. And they don’t just band ducks; many species are banded using a variety of bands, collars, and even GPS trackers.

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In order to participate in banding, you have to have a federal banding permit since banding laws are controlled by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In late summer through early fall, migratory waterfowl are captured and banded. Their species, gender, age, and location of banding are recorded. Each bird is outfitted with an aluminum band that has a unique number assigned to each bird as well as the phone number for the laboratory in Maryland. However, many organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and California Waterfowl Associations offer volunteer opportunities for their banding projects.

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Duck Conservation & Hunting

On rare occasions, a hunter will be lucky enough to harvest a bird with a double band – one regular aluminum band and one colored. This most often signifies that it is a special reward duck. The monetary reward is typically anywhere from $25-100, and in rare cases even higher. These are usually placed on species that are being specially monitored. The hunter will call in and report the band, and he receives a certificate with the bird’s information and occasionally a check too.

The information gathered from hunters has proven to be of tremendous value. Monitoring the migratory bird’s flight patterns and population numbers is a daunting task – especially when you consider how many thousands of miles these birds travel. Biologists analyze the information gathered, such as the timing and distribution of the bands. This shows a more complete picture of the health of each of migratory birds species. The wintering areas and exact migration routes are able to be pinpointed with greater accuracy. These numbers not only help the biologists to know more about how to ensure healthy breeding populations but also helps to determine the bag numbers for each species every year.  This will safely ensure the health of the species year after year.

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Many hunters refuse to report the band information because of false beliefs that it guarantees the government to put greater restrictions on waterfowl hunting.  But this simply isn’t true. The more information that is collected, the more the biologists are certain of the accuracy of the data and the sustainability of the species, and this can actually lead to longer harvesting seasons. So please, report your bands. An easy way to do this is to go to www.reportband.gov

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20 of the Best Hunting Quote of All Time

First published here

A good quote resonates in your soul.

It sticks with you. Some of these quotes are from people you have heard of, and some will be from names new to you. A few of the names are repeated, as they are from individuals who had a plethora of knowledge about the outdoors that is worth remembering. I have gathered a list of great hunting quotes that every outdoorsman should know. They speak to the art of hunting, the deep commitment to conservation, the love for proper land management, and the respect for the animals harvested that non-hunters will never fully understand.

20 of the Best Hunting Quotes of All Time

  • Henry David Thoreau – “When some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered yes – remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education – make them hunters.”

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  • Aldo Leopold – “A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”
  • Donald Trump, Jr. – “Hunting forces a person to endure, to master themselves, even to truly get to know the wild environment. Actually, along the way, hunting and fishing make you fall in love with the natural world. This is why hunters so often give back by contributing to conservation.”

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  • Saxton Pope – “The real archer when he goes afield enters a land of subtle delight. The dew glistens on the leaves, the thrush sings in the bush, the soft wind blows, and all nature welcomes him as she has the hunter since the world began. With the bow in his hand, his arrows softly rustling in the quiver, a horn at his back, and a hound at his heels, what more can a man want in life?”

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  • Archibald Rutledge – “It has always seemed to me that any man is a better man for being a hunter. This sport confers a certain constant alertness and develops a certain ruggedness of character… Moreover, it allies us to the pioneer past. In a deep sense, this great land of our was won for us by hunters.”

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  • Henry David Thoreau – “You must not only aim right but draw the bow with all your might.”

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  • Theodore Roosevelt – “The great body of our citizens shoot less as time goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes…”

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  • Pete Dunne – “When I was young, I was a hunter, walking wooded hillsides with confident steps and a gun in my hand. I knew the blur of wings, the rocketing form, and the Great Moment that only hunters know when all existence draws down to two points and a single line. And the universe holds its breath. And what may be and what will be meet and become one – before the echo returns to its source.”

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  • John James Audobon – “Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I know not, and cared naught about them.”

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  • Henry David Thoreau – “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
  • Fred Bear – “Nothing clears a troubled mind like shooting a bow.”

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