Dogs – Part One

“Until one has loved a dog a part of ones soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

By Ellen Levy Finch / en:User:Elf (uploaded by TBjornstad 14:51, 17 August 2006 (UTC)) -, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Ellen Levy Finch / en:User:Elf (uploaded by TBjornstad 14:51, 17 August 2006 (UTC)) –, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The dog, so varied in appearance, yet so innately loving and responsive to all creatures. Dogs and humans have been helping each other get through life for thousands of years.  They have hunted with their human companions, protected their flocks and families, served as police and in the military, helped us see, hear, comforted us, the list goes on and on.  Lately I have noticed dogs playing new roles in our lives.

My first subject is the Border Collie, a hard working, energetic, and affectionate dog.  The Border Collie was developed on the hilly border between Scotland and England (perhaps the origin of its name – Border) for the express purpose of herding sheep. They are high energy, highly trainable, intelligent dogs  so  sensitive to their handler’s instructional cues that sometimes it is the tone of a whistle, a raised eyebrow or a hand signal that gives them direction. Loving their people they will play with you rain or shine, snow or sleet. For overall health the Border Collie needs constant mental and physical stimulation…they are not for the faint of heart.

This brings us to a very special Border Collie, K-9 Piper. K-9 Piper works for the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, MI as a Wildlife Control Dog.

One would think with the comings and goings of airplanes, helicopters, and motor vehicles wildlife would be discouraged  from seeking out airports as their landing areas or home. On the contrary, the wide open spaces of an airport are very attractive to all sorts of wildlife – deer, rodents, reptiles and a great many birds. These animals present a great danger to aircraft especially during take-offs and landings. Birds are one of the greatest hazards although I did see a deer caught in the landing gear of a plane. Birdstrikes, bird ingestion, bird hit, or BASH – Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard are a few of the names for this unfortunate event. Birds flying in the path of a jet may hit the windscreen or  can be sucked into the engine dislodging the fan blades and shutting the engine down. Damage can be done by a single bird or a flock.

Gregory Lam
Gregory Lam

The first known birdstrike was in 1905 when Orville Wright was chasing a flock of birds through a corn field. On October 4th, 1960 a Lockheed L-188 Electra flying out of Boston hit a flock of starlings knocking out all four engines. The plane went down in Boston Harbor.  Of the 72 passengers only ten survived. I believe most of us remember the January 15th, 2009 aircraft landing in the Hudson River…all passengers and crew survived.

The FAA requires all airports to have a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan. The purpose of this plan is to deter wildlife from using the airport grounds and airspace. This is done through habitat modification, harassment technology and research. Habitat modification might include mowing of tall grasses or the redirection of storm waters. Research includes becoming knowledgeable about ecosystems  and endangered species. My favorite, harassment technology (never realized this was an area of study just thought is was an event I experienced as a middle school teacher :)) might include sirens, lights, traps, pyrotechnics and dogs. DOGS…..a win – win solution. Sirens, lights, pyrotechnics and traps are all pollutants while the dog is Mother Nature’s answer to air safety.

The Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, MI is the only airport in Michigan to have a Wildlife Control Canine. It is estimated that there are less then ten airports in the country using dogs for Wildlife Control. Let’s meet K-9 Piper.

Brian Edward, Cherry Capital Airport Operations Supervisor, adopted Piper in 2012 as a two year old pup. K-9 Piper, now seven, has become a highly trained Wildlife Control Dog. Being one of the first K-9  wildlife patrol dogs Piper and Brian are developing the craft and setting some standards. K-9 Piper has been on the job for a little more than a  year working forty hour weeks. When not working both Brian and Piper continue to train. Brian has used several approaches with K-9 Piper, the first being obedience training, then off the leash training and finally on-the-job training.

An airport wildlife control dog has three main responsibilities: to patrol regularly, respond to wildlife reports, and to chase birds off the taxiways and runways. When K-9 Piper patrols he is looking for wildlife that might attract birds to the airport. Rodents, small mammals and reptiles are all attractive bird food. When wildlife is spotted it is reported to Brian and K-9 Piper. The dynamic duo jump into the SUV, report to the “target area”, make a visual and out flies K-9 Piper to chase off the intruders. Perimeter patrols are also in K-9 Piper’s job description. He is looking for breaches in the fencing….animals sneaking in and out. Telling the new breaches from the old is not difficult for this intelligent dog.

To do this job effectively K-9 Piper requires gear.

1. Eye Protection – mandatory year around day and night. He uses 100% UV protective goggles. Not only do these goggles protect K-9 Piper from the sun and light but shield him from the debris kicked up by the planes and helicopters.

2.  Ear Muffs – also mandatory as air traffic noise is deafening particularly for the keen ears of a dog.

3.  Footwear – these highly fashionable shoes protect against hot runways and natural debris though out the airport such as rocks, snow and ice.

4.  Aerial Insertion Vest – my favorite, it sounds like the equipment my son used as a Marine. The purpose of this vest is to safely lift K-9 Piper in and out of the SUV, lift him over obstacles, and hang onto him when necessary. Attached to the vest is a Tracking/ID harness. The harness has a beacon used to see K-9 Piper’s position day and night. This marvelous vest was made possible through the support of Spikes K-9 Fund.

Sadly, on one leap out of the SUV to chase a Snowy Owl K-9 Piper broke his leg. It was hard to hold him back even with the cast. Hopefully this vest will make this a one time event.

5. K-9 Trauma Kit- mandatory. Donated by K-9 Defender Fund. This kit goes everywhere K-9 Piper goes.

Much of K-9 Pipers equipment is donated or purchased with funds raised selling merchandise. Check out K-9 Piper’s website:

A continuing theme through out my blogs is that nature has it all taken care of, this is another example.  Although airports were not part of Mother Nature’s plan K-9 Piper was made for the job of Wildlife Management Control. It satisfies K-9 Piper’s need to be active, to think, to herd and to please. It takes care of the Cherry Capital Airports need to keep its passengers and crews safe. The wildlife is not harmed…..just harassed or encourage to hang out elsewhere. Last but not least….the centuries old bond between man and dog (Brian and K-9 Piper) has been greatly enriched.

Enjoy the video below and google K-9 Piper for much more.





Lavender Not Just A Color

By Zeynel Cebeci - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
By Zeynel CebeciOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Lavender is not just a color but a glorious plant enjoyed by people for centuries. Serenely colorful, fragrant and easy to grow lavender was first domesticated ( I never think of plants as such but alright) by the people of Arabia. It slowly made its way around the world coming to the Americas in the 1600s. It is hard to know where to start or stop this discussion as lavender has entered our lives and those before us in so many ways.

By Bjoertvedt - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
By BjoertvedtOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

First the plant. Lavender is part of the mint family with close ties to rosemary, sage and thyme. The most common type of lavender is  Lavandula angustiflolis Vera or Old Fashion English Lavender. As a perennial this shrub like plant will bloom in the summer and  increases in size each year. Its small dark lavender flowers grow in whorls around its stem. Small  hairy pointed leaves collect the sun. It is within these hairs the essential oils ( oils made by nature not manufactured) are carried. Rabbits and deer do not care for lavender, however bees and butterflies love it.


Lavender grows best in well drained, gravely, sandy soil. (Wow do I have that.) It does not care for fertilizer or mulch as too much moisture will be held and cause root rot. Lavender also requires good air circulation and full sun.  As you can see, lavender fields are true works of art.

So what has caused this worldwide admiration for lavender? This plant can play many natural roles in your life. It may be used in gardens, landscapes, as a culinary herb, as an essential oil, and for medicinal purposes.

Historically lavender has been documented as long ago as 2,500 years. The Egyptians, Phoenicians and Arabians used its essential oil as perfume. Shrouds used in mummification were dipped in lavender water. The Romans gave lavender the root for its name, lavare – to wash as the lavender was used to scent the water in the Roman baths. Lavender was also used by the Romans as insect repellent and in smoking mixtures. The Romans may have been onto something thinking of lavender as an insect repellent. Much later in London during the Black Plague people would tie bunches of lavender to each wrist to ward off the disease. We now know the plague was spread by fleas which the lavender may have repelled. The Greeks felt lavender was a cure-all, curing everything from insomnia to insanity. A bit like ketchup. During the Renaissance lavender was scattered on stone floors as a disinfectant and deodorant. In the United States lavender water was used during WWI to bathe soldier’s wounds. It was the Shakers, a celibate religious group from England, who began to commercialize lavender after moving to the United States and Canada. Today a great many lavender products are produced world-wide but not by the Shakers. Being celibate ended the order in no time.

Today lavender’s essential oil is considered antiseptic, an astringent and an analgesic. Many perfumes, bath oils, salves and balms are lavender based. Loaded with nectar the bees spend a great deal of time making lavender honey which is delicious and at times used to coat uninfected wounds.

Gastronomically, lavender has a very sweet floral flavor with a hint of lemon. It is considered a condiment in salads and dressings. The flowers can be candied and used to decorate pastries, and cakes. I had a piece of  lavender cake at a wedding, delicious. Scones, marshmallows and chocolate are especially good with lavender.  When cooking with lavender it is said to go best with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage and savory. The French like to have their lambs graze in fields of lavender to make the meat fragrant and tender.

Aromatherapy makes good use of lavender which is said to help you relax and sleep.   Potpourri is often packed with lavender. I remember a time when mothers wanted to put bags of lavender in their son’s hockey skates. Not a bad idea but the boys would never stand for it.

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

Old Mission Peninsula has its own Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm run by Bret, Sonja, Hannah and Cody. As with many agricultural endeavors on the Peninsula the farm has been family owned and operated since 1993.  A little bit of everything can be found here. There are a variety of plants, lavender products, a Rieser favorite – mulch, and a lot of learning to be had.

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

Here are the uses for lavender and one cautionary warning listed on their website.

“Stress A few drops of E.O. in the tub, some of the methods listed for headaches, running your hand over a blooming plant – it comes in many forms. Maybe a sachet in your car or desk that you can squeeze and sniff when needed.
Sleep Try our linen spray or sachet first and graduate if needed to stronger, more concentrated items, like an eye pillow or E.O.
Headaches  Apply a drop of E.O. to your temples or forehead. You can also try squeezing dried lavender, as in a sachet, and breathing slowly and deeply, using a heated or cooled neck wrap or eye pillow, or getting a massage with a carrier oil mixed with lavender, such as our body oil. Sometimes burning a lavender candle can work, too. It comes in many forms, so you may have to experiment to find what works for you.
Immunity *
Digestion * Try loose leaf tea or lavender honey.
Blood circulation and hypertension *
Muscle aches and cramps* Try a lavender bath with E.O., a massage with lavender body oil, or a heated neck wrap.
Skin conditions such as psoriasis  and eczema Try our body butter, body oil, or E.O.
Minor burns www.mayo   Try E.O. straight or mixed with a carrier, as in our body oil. (For open, or third degree burns, see a doctor!)
Blisters, Minor cuts and scrapes. Try E.O., our body butter, or body oil.
Acne Try E.O., our lavend Try E.O., our lavender soap (liquid or bar).
Bug repellent mosquitoes, moths (keep dried lavender – bouquets or sachets –  in your off season clothes or closets), wasps, fleas, house flies. For you and your pets, try our Bug Off!
Dry skin *  Our body butter is the best! Many also like our body oil right after the bath/shower.
Lice prevention  Mix a few drops of E.O. with coconut oil, apply to dry hair, wrap in a towel or shower cap and wash out after a few hours. Our daughter is in 8th grade and always has had dark, thick hair at least to the middle of her back – never had lice!!
Cleaning agent (Laundry)  www.mindfulyogaheal Try our dryer bags and all-natural lavender laundry detergent! Your clothes will smell like the fresh outdoors!
Other general related links:    *  (This one is great – it discusses many uses for lavender, including as a topical fungicide.)
Warning: there has been some evidence that shows lavender can increase estrogen in some pre-pubescent boys when used daily and directly on the skin, so while young boys can smell lavender, can be around it in the garden, and can even eat it, daily use should be monitored (occasional use, as for bug bites, burns, etc should be fine). Also, many say that pregnant or nursing women should avoid most essential oils. If you develop a headache or rash after using lavender, you may have a sensitivity to it (but again, be sure your sensitivity is not to fragrance oils). ”


Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

I love my three lavender plants. I dry the flowers and mix them with the dried wildflower pedals I collect from my yard. I put this collection in a large glass bowl on my coffee table for the winter. It is a reminder that the snow and cold really isn’t most of the year. I also have bouquets here and there throughout the house. They just make me smile.

If you are visiting the Peninsula to enjoy the local wine tasting or to visit the Old Mission Lighthouse, do stop by Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm or order through their website. (As a disclaimer, I am not part of this operation, I just love the farm and hope you enjoy it too!)

Do check out their website at:



Grab some lavender and make it part of your life in as many ways as you can.





Three Sisters Plus One

Public Domain,
Public Domain,

When I think of those whose beliefs, life, and love are closest to nature I think of the Native American. Native Americans live through out the Americas from Alaska to the tip of South America. Although their cultures differed each culture was intertwined with the ecosystem that surround them. These cultures had a great interruption, Europeans who later called themselves Americans. I have a great interest in the Native American connection with the Earth and wish to learn more. Today Native Americans are working very hard to instill their culture back into their lives and youth, I yearn to be part of that. My family carries Mestizo DNA not that your would know it by looking at me, my cousins, a different story. Perhaps this is the source of my love and belief in nature…I would like to think so.

Today I wish to discuss the Three Sisters garden. This companion planting technique was used by many Native American Tribes, the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois among them. According to legend maize or corn, beans and squash are inseparable sisters given as gifts from the Great Spirit. Planting the sisters creates a circle of independence founded on giving and receiving. The sisters provide fertile soil and a healthy diet. This method of planting was used by the Native Americans successfully for hundreds of years and most likely kept the Europeans alive.

Painting by Karen Rieser
Painting by Karen Rieser

The first step in creating a Three Sisters garden is to know when to begin planting. Nature was looked too… wait for the Canada Geese to return or the Dogwood leaves to be the size of squirrel’s ear.  Now create a mound. If the soil is poor bury several rotted fish or eel as fertilizer. The oldest sister, maize is the first to be planted. After the maize has grown several inches plant the third sister, beans.  Squash, the second sister is planted at the edge of the mound. The fourth sister, not often mentioned as she provides no food directly is Cleome Serrulata, a bee flower.

Each of the sisters has a job. The maize provides a pole to support the beans. The beans add nitrogen to the soil keeping it fertile. The squash with its shallow roots acts like mulch and shades the soil preventing water loss. The Cleome Serrulata or bee flower attracts pollinators guaranteeing fruit.

For the people the plants provide a very healthy diet. Maize provides carbohydrates thus energy. The squash is full of vitamins and their seeds contain oil. Beans are protein packed. What more can you ask for.

Nature provides for our needs if we listen and perhaps dig into the wisdom of  past generations. I do not have a Three Sisters garden but maybe I will someday . For now I have painted a Three Sisters garden on a piece of drift wood. The painting will be put in the yard as a piece of yard art.