Earthshine Nature Programs Newsletter 2020

1 Dec

Note: I apologize in advance for the bizarre formatting in the following post. I have tried everything to rectify the issues – yet they persist.

It has been a very strange year but we are still here.  Although we lost close to 100% of our nonprofit income this year due to not being able to present our outreach programming to the public in schools, camps, festivals, special events, and birthday parties – it was your support that kept us above water…but only just.

Even with the global pandemic we still managed to accomplish amazing things this year!

Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation

In the spring of 2020 we rescued a family of young Opossum joeys who lost their mother. They were close to the age where they would have left the warm home of their mother’s pouch to strike out on their own so we gave them a few days to build their strength, fed them tasty natural treats, and released them in a remote forest. (See them in the Virtual Leaf Festival video linked later in this document).  We rescued only one Eastern box turtle this year. Strangely, it was found in the bathroom of a motel in a nearby town.  There was no suitable box turtle habitat near the motel so our hypothesis is that a visitor to the motel may have picked it up during a local forest excursion on a local highway or byway, it may have come from out of state, it may have been a “pet,” that was forgotten when its “owner” departed – or it may have been left intentionally.  Whatever the case, we have no idea on its origins and therefore, due to its questionable origins, it cannot be released into the wild for fear of vectoring a disease to the local box turtle population – so it is now in our quarantine facility.  Come spring of 2021, if it checks out health wise, it will join our small population of non-releasable education ambassadors in our newly improved box turtle habitat. 

Yes, that’s right, one of this year’s major projects was to improve and enlarge our outdoor box turtle habitat.  The students of Trails Momentum worked very hard over the summer to increase the habitat’s size by over 2x its original footprint.  They also built a newer and better shelter/overwintering structure for our 9 non-releasable resident Eastern box turtles and our two Red-footed tortoises who share the habitat during the warmer months of the year.  The students also built a very nice stone shelter structure in the box turtle habit and named it “Turtlehenge” – so cool!  

This year we also relocated several Copperheads, a dozen hatchling Common snapping turtles, and one massive Timber rattlesnake.  These beautiful and very misunderstood animals were discovered in areas that are highly used by humans therefore, for the safety of all parties, they needed to be moved to new habitats.  While the trans-location of reptiles is not the ideal option – it is far better than the other option of death. I moved these animals to remote locations in protected areas with excellent habitat and resources that will hopefully serve to meet their needs for the rest of their lives.

A New Recruit!

In the fall we adopted a female opossum from the wonderful folks at Appalachian Wildlife Refuge.  They had rescued her after she was hit by a car and lost an eye.  She also has some neurological trauma and therefore, due to her injuries, is non-releasable.  She will spend the rest of her days with us where she will live in our awesome ‘possum palace as an education ambassador for her kind. 

Opossum facts: The Virginia Opossum, or ‘possum, is North America’s only native marsupial.  Female Opossums have a pouch on their belly where they can carry up to 13 joeys.  When the joeys are old enough they climb onto their mother’s back and cling to her soft fur and watch everything she does – this is their “home schooling” time where they learn all there is to know about being an Opossum.  When they are too heavy to hold on, they fall off and start their lives as mostly solitary, mostly nomadic, most important members of the forest community.  Opossums have 50 teeth – that is more than any land mammal in North America! Opossums are omnivores and will use all those teeth to eat just about anything including carrion.  Some of their favorite foods are wild berries, grapes, persimmons, strawberries, bananas, and any insect they can catch including all the pest species that would invade your home and garden as well as small rodents such as mice, moles, voles, and rats.  They will even eat lizards and snakes including venomous snakes such as Copperheads and rattlesnakes!  Opossums have a very strong resistance to the venoms of these snakes and therefore, if bitten by their meal, they just shrug it off and continue on with their serpentine lunch.  Opossums are also highly resistant to the Rabies virus so it is extremely rare for an Opossum to catch, carry, or transmit rabies.  Opossums are nocturnal so you will usually not see them during the day as this is the time they are comfortably sleeping in whatever warm place they have found to call home for the night.  Opossums do not hibernate so they may be seen at almost any time of the year – but not usually during the coldest times when they just stay home, roll over, and sleep in until it gets warmer.  They are not equipped for excavating burrows so they will often use the abandoned burrows of other animals such as Groundhogs, skunks, foxes, and sometimes the crawl space under your house.  Opossums have very dexterous toes and opposable thumbs on their hind feet – just like we have on our hands.  These adaptations help them hold onto tree branches when they are searching for some of their favorite foods – birds and their eggs, rodents, and fruit.  Opossums also have a prehensile tail that helps stabilize them when navigating in the tree branches and it also allows them to carry bedding materials back to their den to make a soft nest to sleep in as in this photo of Potter some of you may remember from almost a decade ago. 

When frightened and/or cornered, Opossums will snarl, growl, and show their wide toothy grin, but they rarely bite.  If the threat does not abate the Opossum will “play ‘possum” – it will go into a self-induced, involuntary comatose state where it will fall over, often defecate and urinate on itself, stiffen, – and for all intents and purposes – appear dead.  This incredible tactic serves to deter the would-be attacker from feeding upon what looks like a possibly sick animal and it departs to find a better meal.  After a time, the Opossum reanimates, grooms itself, and continues on about its day as if nothing happened.  Opossums are amazing and wonderful creatures that help us far more than we will ever know.  While they are misunderstood by many, they deserve our respect and admiration for the special and vital role they play in helping to keep nature in balance.    

Outreach

Photo: Our volunteers are AMAZING and make it all possible!

Unlike every year during the decade since our founding, due to the pandemic in 2020 we were only able to present one in-person public nature education program this year in February.  We did however, adapt to the situation and present several virtual programs for private family groups, one science museum program, and one virtual festival. Please feel free to watch two of these via the following links. 

Virtual LEAF Festival video

Asheville Museum of Science Ask a Scientist Series

Sadly, until the pandemic subsides and things start to get back to some kind of “normal,” we will not be able to physically take our animal ambassadors and our outreach programming classes into any classrooms, summer camps, festivals, or special events.  However, we will continue to introduce and educate thousands of people to the wonder and beauty of wildlife, nature, and our deep interconnectedness to our shared environment via our virtual programming and via our YouTube channel. These online platforms allow us to offer alternative and safe ways for you to learn and support nature, live alongside and respect wildlife, and be better stewards of our shared environmental life support system with the adoption of cleaner, more energy secure, renewable energy and transportation technologies such as our focus – solar energy and electric vehicles.

Speaking of vehicles, September 29th, 2020 was our one year anniversary of driving the ENP Chevy Bolt EV – The “Mighty Bolt” as we lovingly call her – as our dedicated outreach education and wildlife rescue vehicle. 

Photo: Mighty Bolt meets young Rat snake.

Keep reading for some mighty cool “Mighty Bolt” stats from the first year of driving the ENP Mighty Bolt EV:

14,356 miles driven.      

That is an average of: 1,196.33 miles per month.     299.08 miles per week.     42.72 miles per day.

Electric fuel used: 4,330.17 kWh      Avg. miles/kWh: 3.2      Avg. kWh/100 miles: 31      Avg. MPG Electric: 110.3

Estimated Gallons of Hydrocarbon Fuel Saved: 613        Estimated CO2 Avoided: 12,153 lbs.

Fuel costs:  For the 14,356 total miles traveled: $176.71 – or, $14.71 per month.     $3.68 per week.     $.52 per day.

So that breaks down to an average of $0.012 cents per mile for the Mighty Bolt’s electron fuel.

$0.1 cents per mile! I will let that sink in for a moment. 

The math: 176.71(fuel cost)/14,356(miles driven) = .0123 (cost/mile)

Photo: Mighty Bolt meets Box turtle.

I have calculated that if ENP were still using a gasoline powered vehicle for our work, its fuel costs would have been around .13 cents per mile which would add up to around $1,800 for one year of use – and that is not including repairs, ”tune ups,” and maintenance costs!  The ENP outreach EV is over 75% solar charged so its operational costs are lower than if it were to be charged only on grid power.  Even if we had charged the Mighty Bolt EV on grid power alone it would have only increased our operational costs to: $433.017 – wow!  Still a much better deal than anything powered by fossil fuels. The math: 4,330.17(kWh used to fuel EV) x .10(energy cost/kWh) = 433.017 

Driving electric over the last year has given ENP an operational cost savings of over $1,600! No matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you have to burn – you must logically agree the choice is mighty clear: the Mighty Bolt EV is the best choice for ENP in getting from point A to point B!

A very revealing energy use chart for year one with the Mighty Bolt EV.

The ENP Bolt EV is truly Mighty, it is over 75% solar charged and therefore costs ENP only .01 cents/mile to drive, it has a very small environmental footprint, and it serves as a wonderful energy education teaching tool inspiring the next generation to think above and beyond the status quo.

SO COOL!

Photo: The Mighty Bolt after a canoeing expedition on a local lake.

The ENP EV Motto: Drive electric to preserve nature, wildlife, and wild places. Drive electric for the health of you and your family.  Drive electric for freedom from dependence on expensive, polluting fossil fuels.  Drive electric for energy independence.  Drive electric for a better future for all.

Learn more about driving electric at: www.blueridgeevclub.com

(ENP Executive Director Steve O’Neil co-founded this club)

This EV is owned by ENP and is used primarily as the ENP company outreach vehicle.  It is charged and fueled mostly with cleanly generated electricity provided by the ENP/Trails student-built classroom solar array.  It also serves as an outstanding teaching tool for our Trails students, ENP outreach program participants, and everyone we meet.

Organic Garden and Chickens

YUM!

2020 was the fourth year for our student organic garden project.  This year, after letting the chickens free range in the garden and turn and fertilize the soil over the fall and winter months, we decided to plant our garden in the soil again. This no-till all-natural fertilization and planting method worked surprisingly well.  It allowed us to produce almost as many tasty organic vegetables as we produced in the 2019 straw bale garden experiment.  We also noticed more vigorous plants and far less pests this year and it may be due to the chickens scratching up and eating many of the pests overwintering in the soil.  We believe the only way to have a truly organic garden is to not use any toxic chemicals or fossil fuels in the preparation and tending of the garden so, as in past years, this year the students and I prepared the garden using only human and chicken power and fertilized it with composted food scraps and composted animal waste from our chickens and education animals and a few local horses. 

Photo: Garden Goodness!

The students planted and tended the garden throughout its growing season and we never used any toxic insecticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers!   I am happy to say that our fourth year of the garden project was a great and tasty success with over 100 yummy squash, endless bunches of green beans, countless tomatoes, Peruvian black corn, red and yellow carrots, and several varieties of peppers – and this year our Passion fruit vine produced dozens of tasty fruits! All of this wonderful organic produce was shared among the students, staff, chickens, turtles, and tortoises! We also constructed a new grape arbor and planted six apple trees – so next year we hope to have an even more fruitful harvest.

Photo: Happy birds basking in the summer sun 🙂

Our small flock of friendly laying hens had a slow start but grew to over 25 birds this year!  Several of the new recruits stayed with us and several more were adopted by chicken people in the community.  Our chickens are free-range, organically fed, and have been hand-raised by our students as pets.  They are wonderful therapy animals – with the great side benefits of giving us tasty organic, free-range eggs, no-cost organic fertilizer, and toxin and pesticide-free pest control for our student organic garden project!

Photo: Moonlight with her chicks. She is nesting in the coop-car – a salvaged EV converted into a chicken nesting coop.

Just in case you missed it, ENP was featured in The Laurel of Asheville

Read the story at this TinyURL link: https://tinyurl.com/yb7zxhdp

Or just search online for “Laurel of Asheville Earthshine Nature”

The ENP Renewable Energy Program

Photo: A drone’s eye view of the ENP office/classroom/science lab/organic gardens.

On November 8th 2020 we celebrated three full years of producing clean, renewable, “locally grown” solar electricity for our classroom and electron fuel for the ENP outreach EV! With the generous support of Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute, Pisgah Forest resident Jim Hardy, Lake Toxaway Charities, Trails Carolina, Trails Momentum, and our many other wonderful project supporters – maybe you were one of them – and all of my amazing Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum students, ENP interns, and volunteers – this project has been an phenomenal success!  As of the writing of this document our student-built solar array has produced over 22 megawatt-hours of clean, renewably produced, electricity! Since the classroom solar array became fully operational on July 04th 2019 (our Energy Independence Day) it has consistently, quietly, and without any harmful toxic pollution or emissions, produced close to 4 times the power we need to meet the daily needs of our classroom building, education animal habitats, our all-electric outreach vehicle’s electron fuel needs – all this and with power to share!  We produce so much electricity that we send the surplus out to the local energy grid giving our closest neighbors on the campus of Trails Momentum renewable energy.  Some of that excess power even goes to our nearby off-campus neighbors.  Over the course of the entire year that excess has totaled close to 10 mWh – so our classroom has now become a renewable energy power plant not only for the campus and students of Trails Momentum but also for the local community!!  Due to all that excess energy production, we have built up so much energy credit with Duke Energy that we could turn off the array and run on solar credits for several months without paying anything for energy!  

Photo: An even higher drone’s eye view

With the completion of Phase 2 last year, the most complex portion of our classroom solar array project is now complete. We are now continuing with fundraising for Phase 3 – the final Phase of our classroom energy project.  This will consist of a “secure power” off-grid circuit that will allow us to use energy direct from the solar array – this backup power system is almost finished and when online it will allow us to harvest electricity directly from the solar array when our grid connection is offline, giving us power as long as the sun shines.  The final components of Phase 3 is a “plug and play” battery storage system that will store excess electricity produced during the day and will then supply that stored solar energy to all our building’s systems at night and during power outages. We will then only use our grid connection to Duke Energy as a back-up power source during long periods of dark/rainy/stormy weather.  Isn’t science amazing!  To make the remaining portion of the 3rd and final Phase of this amazing student energy project a reality for our classroom, our students, and our animal ambassadors, we need your continued support in this final push to the end.

 

Photo: Steve and a student place the first solar module (panel) on Phase Two of the Classroom Solar Array

Please consider making a year-end gift to Earthshine Nature Programs and help us reach our renewable energy-powered goals. Read on for several other unique ways you can support us later in this document.

Watch this short time-lapse video of Phase Two of the solar array’s construction!

Supporter Spotlight – Jewell and Joe Mimms

My mother-in-law Jewell Mimms was born in 1939 in the beautiful, wild, mountains of Western North Carolina in a small log cabin without electricity or running water.  She spent her life dedicated to her family and friends, her religion, reading almost anything, and to her music.  She was an accomplished musician and could play the piano and guitar, and she had a beautiful voice and loved to sing with friends and with her daughter, my wife Marian.  Jewell’s husband Joe Mimms was born in 1928 in southern Georgia and, like his wife, he grew up on a remote farm without electricity or running water.  Joe joined the Navy when he was a teenager where he became a master radio operator/electrician and later focused on the new and quickly evolving fields of computers and radar.  Joe’s mastery of these technologies led him to serve in all branches of the armed services save for the Marines and Coast Guard.  After leaving the service Joe worked as a communications and computer specialist for NASA during the Apollo era.  Joe was one of the specialists responsible for keeping the massive deep space network tracking/communications antennas at the Pisgah Tracking Station (now the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) locked on the Apollo spacecraft as they journeyed to and from the moon!   Joe loved nature and spent much of his off time hamming it up on his amateur radio set, in the forest hunting deer, or on the lakes and rivers fishing for catfish – his favorite.  Jewell and Joe supported Earthshine Nature Programs with generous donations for many years because they had a very close connection with nature when they were young and felt that kids today were drifting away from this most important connection with nature.  They understood that Earthshine Nature Programs’ education programs and projects serve to connect people of all ages with the natural world and how important that is in today’s world.  Jewell and Joe left us over the last few years but their legacy lives on in all of the projects and programs they supported with their donations over the past decade.  Thank you Jewell and Joe for your love, wisdom, knowledge, and for your support of ENP – you are both so greatly missed by so many.

Photo: Steve and Joe fishing a few years ago.

Our Wildlife Conservation Programs: Turtle Tracks, Snake Tracks and Snake Trails

Our wildlife tracking programs have ended and we are now focusing all our energy on our classroom and environmental education outreach programming, wildlife rehabilitation, and renewable energy education programs as well as on reporting our findings from the reptile conservation projects we conducted over the last decade of following misunderstood reptiles. What we learned while tracking these wild reptiles is far too much to fit into the pages of this newsletter so we have decided to write it all down and share it with you in three very special publications.  The first of these three publications – The Rattlesnakes of the Blue Ridgecontains a naturalist’s perspective on everything we have learned by following the secret lives of Utsanati and Zoe – the two wild Timber rattlesnakes we followed in their native habitats for four years in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of WNC.  Within the pages you will find an overview of the natural history of the Timber rattlesnake, a consolidation of my field observations and personal reflections, tracking and activity maps, and many high-quality photographs.  This document, and the others that will follow on our Eastern box turtle and Black rat snake conservation projects, will grant fascinating insight into the lives of these unique, wonderful, and very misunderstood creatures as well as useful information on coexisting with these animals and other native wildlife species on your lands.  All proceeds from the sale of this, and the future documents in this series will be 100% directed toward our continuing nonprofit wildlife conservation, rehabilitation, and environmental education missions.

Photo: Ben Franklin – a rescue turtle from many years ago.

To purchase a copy of The Rattlesnakes of the Blue Ridge, and/or Turtle Tracks: Box Turtles of the Blue Ridge or Snake Trails: The Rat Snakes That Live Among Us at the special price of $30.00 each – please contact us via our email address or via the contact link on our website http://www.earthshinenature.com/contact

There Are So Many Ways to Support Our Work

We welcome your support in keeping our unique programming alive – especially now with the pandemic greatly reducing our nonprofit outreach income. There are many ways you can choose to help us make our programs and projects a reality.  During the pandemic the best and safest way to support us isthrough direct donations of funds and supplies and there are several ways to do so;

  • Donate on our website www.earthshinenature.com/donate via the PayPal link – while you are there please take a look at our website wish list for more detailed information on our current needs.
  • Send us a donation to our “snail mail” address – contact us for more information. 
  • Visit our GoFundMe campaign www.gofundme.com/enpsolartrails and/or Patreon pages www.patreon.com/earthshinenature and support us with one-time or ongoing monthly donations. 
  • Visit our Amazon Wish List at this TinyURL Amazon link: https://preview.tinyurl.com/y6mvwzm5 or by searching Amazon for the Earthshine Nature Programs Wish List.
  • An easy way to support us – at no cost to you – is via Amazon Smile donations. Just visit: smile.amazon.com and sign up to support Earthshine Nature Programs and every time you make a purchase on Amazon using your Amazon smile account, a portion of Amazon’s profits will be donated to ENP!  
  • Support us with a Legacy Donation.  This is a gift from you to ENP in your will.  It could be monetary, land, or even a vehicle donation. For more details please visit: www.earthshinenature.com/donate
  • After the pandemic subsides you may donate time and energy by volunteering with us as we always have many opportunities available from working festivals, in the garden, cleaning animal habitats, etc.
  • Due to the pandemic we are exploring new ways of conducting our outreach programming outside of the classroom.  To that end we are now looking for a hard shell mini-camper to use as a portable outreach classroom.  A camper donation of any size or age will be considered but our best fit would be a small unit we could pull behind our outreach EV such the smallest versions of the Scamp, Casita, Lil Snoozy, or Happier Camper mini-campers. If you choose to donate a used or new mini-camper to ENP we will be sure to put it to good use as a mobile outreach education classroom that will benefit all our program participants on the road at schools, camps, festivals, and all of our Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum students. 
Photo: Steve teaching in the Trails/ENP classroom.

However you choose to support us, your support will have a lasting positive impact on our ability to bring our nature, wildlife conservation, and science literacy messages to the hundreds of young naturalists, scientists, and thinkers that we encounter each year via our outreach programming in the local and regional community, and through our wonderful partnership with Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum where Steve works as naturalist to provide nature knowledge, science education, curiosity, and inspiration to their populations of outstanding youth. Learn more at: Trailscarolina.com and Trailsmomentum.com

All donations to ENP are tax deductible. Receipts available upon request.                               

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT

Photo: 2019 intern Abby and friends at a local river festival.

Without your continued support, Earthshine Nature Programs would not function.  Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, end of year, or legacy gift to us today and in the future.  Earthshine Nature Programs is a 501c3, donation-funded, volunteer operated, wildlife conservation and rehabilitation, environmental stewardship, science education and communication, not for profit organization.

At ENP we are passionate about sharing our love, respect, and curiosity for nature, wildlife and wild places, environmental stewardship, science literacy, and reason with everyone we meet – especially our classroom and outreach programming students.  It is the students of today who will make the big wildlife and nature conservation, science, and energy decisions of the future, and it is our goal to communicate to our students the most up to date, unbiased, peer-reviewed evidence, practices, technologies, and environmental ethics so they will be better informed and ready to take on the world and will be the change that will guide us all forward. We feel that by sharing the facts and evidence, demonstrating working models of what is possible, respectfully coexisting with each other, and by working together toward the common goal of creating and maintaining a better world for all living things today and into the future, we will bring the changes that will make all of our dreams come true.

Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) is supported primarily through monetary, resource, and time donations from caring, concerned individuals just like you.  We work hard to fundraise and acquire grants and donations from any and all sources that would like to support us. With your help with a one-time donation of equipment or funds, a year-end gift, a legacy gift, and/or your continuing patronage, and eventually – post pandemic – we will get back to hands-on volunteering.  With our help, together we will continue to create something truly unique and wonderful that will serve to educate and inspire the thousands of students, summer campers, knowledge seekers, and others we meet each year with a newfound curiosity, a greater respect, an evidence-supported understanding, and a powerful conservation ethic for caring for the natural environment that supports us all and gives us all life.

Steve and Ashley by Evan Kafka www.evankafka.com

THANK YOU ALL

Sincerely, Steve O’Neil

Executive Director of Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3)

Email: earthshine.nature@gmail.com

Website:  www.earthshinenature.com

Nature Blog: www.earthshinenature.wordpress.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/snakesteve68

EV Blog:  bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com

Give your mother a gift.

27 Apr
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I would like to recommend a great nature and wildlife conservation organization to support for mothers day (or anytime) in Rainforest Trust.
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The wonderful team at RT work very hard to locate, purchase, protect, and conserve our mother earth’s most imperiled wild creatures and fragile and unique wild places from development and destruction humans.
Some of these places include the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests,  remote parts of the Himalayas and so much more.  Here is a list of their current projects and the many protected projects from all over planet earth.
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RT works with local conservationists to acquire lands that are in danger of being developed for logging, fossil fuel exploration and mining, palm oil plantations, livestock farming and overfishing etc. By helping RT acquire these lands you become part of the solution by helping to preserve some of the most imperiled habitats and endangered animals on planet earth.
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For the cost of one of those expensive coffee drinks/smoothies you love so much, you can choose to make a real and lasting difference each month, week, or day  to save rare habitats and wildlife from destruction and extinction.  Please consider giving our shared mother earth a gift by supporting Rainforest Trust today!
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I am not a “bunny hugger” or “tree hugger” but I have been known to hug bunnies and trees. What I am is a person who loves nature, wildlife, science, and understands that we human animals are only one of the many parts of the intricate web of life on this wet space rock we call earth.
What we do the web, we do to ourselves.
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It is our duty to be good stewards and protect and preserve nature in any way and every way possible. Unless we do this, those without morals, and without a care for anything other than personal profit – will poach all the wildlife, cut all the trees, strip, pump, mine and burn all the fossil fuels, and do their best to turn all of nature onto money – leaving a polluted, dead, overheated, flooded, desert of a wasteland in their wake.
This is why it is up to us, those who are informed, those who understand, cherish and respect our intricate connections to all life – it is up to us to do everything in our power to stop those greedy, selfish, soulless, individuals, governments, and mega-corporations who do not care at all about nature, wildlife, us, our children, or the children of the future.
At a personal level, we must also be aware of our ecological footprints and we must get creative to offset our carbon impact on our mother earth. We can, relatively easily, install solar panels on our homes and businesses, drive an electric or hybrid vehicle, stop using single-use plastics, reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, rethink, resist, refuse, ride bikes, walk more, plant trees, grow, hunt and fish for our own food, eat and buy locally, work for/support companies that take measures to protect the environment, pull your money out of markets/organizations/companies that support extractive/destructive/polluting practices, vote for science literate, forward-thinking decision makers who put the environment first.
We can do all these things and more at home and in our communities.  However,  when it comes to protecting far away habitats and exotic rare wildlife that we may never see in person – that is where we need RT to help us make a difference.
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We all have a carbon footprint.
If we live in giant houses, fly frequently, and drive big gas guzzling vehicles long distances – our carbon footprints will be larger therefore our impact on nature will be larger.  Another great service provided by RT is carbon offsetting. By making a donation to RT you can  offset the carbon footprint of your long distance air or vehicle travel so instead of driving and flying all over the place without a care for the massive carbon footprints of those activities, we all can offset our carbon pollution with a donation to RT and in turn, protect habitats, wildlife, and indigenous lands in the process.
I have been supporting RT with donations for the last few years, not only to protect rare wildlife and wild places, but also to offset my carbon footprint from my impacts on our shared planet.
How big is your carbon footprint?
Calculate your personal Carbon Footprint using these carbon calculators:
Carbon Footprint.com’s Carbon Calculator
The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Calculator
The EPA’s Carbon Calculator
When it comes time to buy my mother a gift on Mother’s Day, or friends and family a gift on any other day, – instead of buying more useless flowers that will only wilt and die, balloons that will float away and become litter, or cheap plastic junk that will soon break and be thrown away, – I choose to buy them rare and important habitat from RT.
You can do the same so please consider visiting Rainforest Trust and do your part to be part of the solution.
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“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” (Baba Dioum, 1968.)

A new set of wheels for ENP

10 Feb
Photo courtesy of GM, Detroit

Darwinian Evolution is defined as: “descent with modification from preexisting species cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from preexisting forms through successive generations” – From Merriam-Webster

In Automotive Evolution we might say the following: automotive technologies descend with modification and enhancement from earlier preexisting forms and technologies cumulative inherited change of traits occur within a population of automobiles/automakers through time leading to the appearance of new and often more evolved/advanced automotive forms the process by which new automotive systems and/or collections of systems – as dictated by necessity and/or markets – lead to novel and more advanced automotive systems and/or collections of systems developed from preexisting forms through successive generations often (but not always) leading to more superior technological adaptations : those forms and technologies deemed inferior by function/markets are quickly weeded out of the population by the process that drives both automotive and Darwinian evolution – Natural Selection. Those forms and technologies deemed superior and that perform at or above their design will survive and their technological traits will be passed down to future populations.

Recently, I made the EVolutionary choice and I EVolved my automotive system.

In late September 2019 I purchased a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt to be the new ENP outreach vehicle.

Yep. The days of the Nissan Leaf are over.

My trusty old 2012 LEAF “Elektra” served me well as the ENP outreach vehicle for a little over six years but due to her failing battery chemistry and resulting limited driving range of only around 45-50 miles – natural selection prevailed and I was forced to automotively EVolve.

Yesterday meets today.

The old LEAF found a new home with a wonderful couple in a nearby town. Since they only drive around 25 miles per day I believe it will serve them well for many years to come.

For my ENP outreach vehicle needs, I require a vehicle that will travel more than 50 miles per day and sometimes upwards of 200 miles at a time. I also needed a vehicle that I can afford to fuel, maintain, and pay for as a company vehicle. Now that we have EV’s I feel that it is not logical nor is it a good use of funds for a small nonprofit organization to pay large amounts of money for fossil fuel powered vehicles and their fuels and maintenance. Essentially, using a fossil fuel powered vehicle for a nonprofit – or any business for that matter – is like lighting generously donated and/or hard earned money on fire, then tossing it out the window. It is not only a garish waste of funds but it also pollutes the environment – the very thing my organization is working so hard to protect, conserve, understand, and share.

So, after extensive research and planning, I decided to purchase a new 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV – Premier edition – as a replacement outreach vehicle for Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) – www.earthshinenature.com

I have owned the Bolt EV now for 4.5 months and during that time I have driven the little EV close to 6500 miles! It is a remarkable car that makes the old LEAF seem, well, – like ancient technology – or, in keeping with the EVolutionary theme – an earlier form of life.

The last solar charge for Elektra.

I really loved my LEAF EV but the primary reason I decided to go with a Chevrolet over another Nissan was mainly due to the ongoing terrible experience I had with Nissan HQ. Despite my detailed record keeping, sticking with the car’s dealer defined maintenance/warranty schedule, countless service visits/inquiries/emails/phone calls with Nissan HQ about my LEAF’s battery degradation issue, and even working tirelessly to promote the LEAF to many people online via this blog and in person via my nonprofit programming through EV education classes, and through the Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club at EV car shows during National Drive Electric week – all of these things lead up to many people I knew and many I did not who then purchased Nissan LEAF’s for themselves. Despite all this Nissan still refused to stand by their product and would not offer to replace my car’s degrading battery. Then, to make matters worse – just when I was about to consider the purchase of a new battery for my LEAF – Nissan raised the price by thousands of dollars as if trying to force owners of the first generation LEAF’s to upgrade to a newer car!

On top of all this madness, Nissan opted to forgo the implementation of an active battery management system that would extend the useful life of their EV batteries in favor of keeping the costs down so they could then sell more new LEAF’s using an out-dated technology while making a higher profit.

All these reasons pushed me over the edge so I decided that I was finished with Nissan and chose to look elsewhere. I looked at Tesla, Hyundai, Kia and then Chevrolet. Chevrolet already had several years of EV experience with the Volt and the Bolt’s technology was a few years old therefore giving them some time to weed out any major issues with the newer Bolt. Chevrolet also opted to go with a battery management system similar to Tesla’s that would keep the battery at the optimum operating temperature extending its driving range and its useful life. The bolt also has amazing driving range second only to Tesla (at the time) – at 238 it was a massive improvement over the old gen one LEAF which would only travel 73 miles before needing a charge. Another big deciding factor for me was the fact that at the time I was shopping there were some really nice end of model year deals on the Bolt so, for all these reasons, I chose the Bolt EV.

Taking ownership of the new “MIGHTY BOLT” from Walker Chevrolet in Franklin, Tennessee…interestingly enough only a few miles from where I purchased the Nissan Leaf in 2013.
With the new Bolt at the Nissan HQ saying goodbye Nissan!

So far I love the little EV – although, it does have a few odd issues that need mentioning. These are issues that I believe need some real attention from Chevrolet – so let us get those out of the way first.

1: Ultra reflective dashboard deck. The windshield facing side of the dashboard (in my car) is light colored so it reflects sunlight onto the underside of the windshield making it almost impossible to drive without visual discomfort from the “flashing” reflections. This creates an unsafe and uncomfortable driving experience. During the test drive I did not notice this phenomenon – possibly due to the sun angle at the time – or I would have chosen a vehicle with a dark colored dashboard. To remedy the situation I purchased a custom fit charcoal black, non-reflective dash cover from Covercraft.com and the problem was solved.

2: Thin driver’s seat bottom cushion. I am a relatively thin person so the narrowness of the seats do not bother me as they do for some people. However, the thin cushion and adjacent plastic framework of the seat near the seat adjusting levers puts pressure on my left outer thigh region as I exit the vehicle. Over time this fact began to cause my left upper leg to ache. I fixed the issue with a simple pool noodle slipped over the plastic piece. It worked for me but GM should really work to remedy this problem as it may be a deal breaker for some buyers especially those who do not want a pool noodle flopping about in their new car.

This added pool noodle cushion ended all discomfort and is removable if need be.

3: Cargo space. For many people the Bolt will be perfect in size for town runs etc but I needed more carying capacity so I opted to install a roof basket.

This allows me to carry much more cargo when I take long trips and even lumber 🙂

Or bales of straw for the chickens 🙂

And even more lumber and conduit 🙂 !

Things I LOVE about this little car.

238 miles of range – and more depending on conditions! WOW! It is a real car!!

Range anxiety is a thing of the past!

Cool UI. I love all the data and functionality the UI provides and it is pretty.

One pedal driving – SO COOL!!! (and the brakes will last MUCH longer!)

Awesome stereo system with the option of SiriusXM.

Roof rack ready.

The three level cargo area.

Arm rest/drink holder in the rear seat.

Heated seats and steering wheel.

USB charging ports everywhere.

Qi/wireless phone charger.

Wonderful windshield wipers that really work well.

Deep, multi-level storage in center console.

Sliding sun visors.

Built-in rear-view mirror backup camera.

Surround view camera.

Automatic headlights.

Automatic Emergency Braking.

Lane keep assist.

Android Auto.

The hulkingly huge 60 kWH battery that lets me go for days without needing to charge.

The insanely low cost to fuel and operate.

In fact, lets look at some numbers on that last topic.

I am not bragging but I feel that I need to share this very revealing automotive data with you should you be considering EVolving up to a Bolt or other EV.

I have calculated the fuel costs to drive the car the 6500 miles I have traveled up to this point.

Are you ready for this?

Are you sitting down?

Here it is.

$119.71

Those costs come primarily from the five “quick charge” sessions I needed during these first four months of ownership. Those sessions resulted in a total charge of $77.95 or and average of $15.59 per charge.

The remaining $41.76 comes from multiple “Level 2” charge sessions on the road and from several overnight “Level 1” and “Level 2” charging sessions at home.

In summary, during the last four months, I have driven an average of

1,625 miles per month.
406.25 miles per week.
58.03 miles per day.

At a cost of –

$32.60 per month.
$8.15 per week.
$1.16 per day.

119.71/6500 = .0184

So that breaks down to be $0.0184 cents per mile for the Mighty Bolt’s electron fuel.

$0.2 cents per mile! I will let that sink in for a moment.

Those numbers are accurate as I keep detailed notes on all charge sessions/energy costs.

My EV’s electric fuel costs are much lower than many EV drivers since I am able to use locally generated renewably produced solar electricity as my EV’s primary fuel source. The largest percentage of my Bolt EV’s electron fuel comes from the classroom solar array my students, interns, volunteers and I installed on the ENP office/classroom.

For the average US homeowner without solar who is charging their EV at home using the local power utility energy mix (US average @ .12/kWh), their costs would be a bit higher than my numbers.

My stats.

Regional Energy Grid Data from: https://www.eia.gov/state/

Arcadia Power: https://www.arcadia.com/

The fact remains that no matter an EV’s fuel source – fueling, maintaining, and driving an EV will always be much lower than anything powered by dirty, toxic, nature, life, earth, and future polluting fossil fuels.

It is very interesting and revealing to note that if I had driven those 6500 miles in my only remaining gas guzzler – a 2013 Honda Pilot – I would have needed to stop maybe 15 – 20 times to refill the gas tank (and change the oil and oil filter one and possibly the air filter once) and therefore my gasoline fuel bill (maybe we should call it a conveyance convenience cost) would have been a massive $812.50 or around 0.13/mile! …then add in the cost of the oil/filter change of around $50 and that’s $862.50!!

I do not care who you are, where you are from, or how much money you have to burn but you must logically agree with me – that is a CRAZY STUPID expense for anyone to spend just to get from point A to point B!

In fact, below is a photo of the gas pump the last time I filled up the Honda’s fuel tank…YIKES!

That $47 will push the Honda Pilot around 360 miles but it will also push the Chevy Bolt EV over 2300 miles!!!

Some Maths

6500 miles at an average of 20mpg = 325 gallons x $2.50 (per gasbuddy.com) = $812.50

Or
812.50/6500 = .125 (per mile)

(812.50 (gas) – 119.71(electricity))

That is a fuel only cost savings of $692.79!!

No one can deny the fuel savings of driving electric – but what about all those grossly unacceptable downsides of driving EV’s:

THE DIRTY DOWNSIDES OF DRIVING ELECTRIC

Charging: What about the horrible inconvenience of charging my EV while I sleep…It is just so difficult and time-consuming to need to remember to plug in the car before going on to other things…oh the horror!

First quick charge!

Stopping: The painfully needling fact that when on a road trip I always need to stop driving every 200 miles or so to plug in my car while I take a break, read a book, surf the net, take a nap, graze on food, have a cold one, get some exercise, go shopping, fish for lunch, fly a drone, watch a movie, spend time with friends and family, ride a zipline, pet a dog, pick some fruit, or just smell the flowers (these are just a few of the terribly inconvenient things I have been forced to do or could do while waiting for my EV to charge)…I just can’t take this intolerable electric car life of any longer!

Gas Stations: What about the hot insanity of never ever again needing to stop at dirty gas stations*? I so greatly miss the ritual of waiting in line for a pump, grasping the infectious germ and “booger” covered gas nozzle, shoving it into my legacy vehicle’s fuel port, engaging the trigger, inhaling deeply of the toxic and highly flammable hydrocarbon fumes while watching other oil addicted users doing the very same – oh and sometimes some of them leave their engines running and/or are even smoking while fueling – WTF!!! All this time our tanks fill up and our bank accounts drain…oh and let’s not forget the great fun of shopping in the station’s store for low quality overly processed foodstuffs…oh how I miss those days. *Ok, so I do occasionally stop at filling stations – but only if they have EV charging stations and/or to use their bathrooms or squeegee my EV’s windshield 🙂 (Read one of my earlier posts about an earlier and most unusual filling station experience.)

Fueling up on electrons at a Dandridge, Tennessee Exxon station – maybe one day the pump locations will be reversed 🙂

Cash Flow: How about the fact that driving electric means you will never again be forever stuck in the endless “subscription to dependency” that owning and driving petroleum-powered vehicles truly is. Therefore, I will be FORCED to stop endlessly paying out loads and loads of cash for gas/oil only to just burn it up over and over again harming our individual lungs and our shared environment. Whatever will I do with all this extra cash???

Health: When my asthma and the seasonal ozone/fossil fuel pollution-induced respiratory inflammation and distress go away – I will shed a great and lonely tear of loss. What will I ever do with all this improved health I just do not know…

Maintenance: Then there is the unbelievable madness of having virtually no maintenance costs/repair downtime on the EV’s motor, battery, brakes, and drive systems…like the LEAF before it, this BOLT EV (and all EV’s) are virtually maintenance-free. I am going to really miss the time-honored ritual of raising the hood and/or crawling under my vehicle on the side of a busy road – in the rain, mud, ice, snow, and boiling summer heat (been there done all that many, many times) – to fix some failing component such as a faulty belt/hose/fuel line/fuel tank/plug wire/radiator/thermostat/clutch/carburetor/alternator/exhaust/intake manifold/”johnson rod” and on an on…and/or wiring up a broken exhaust pipe/muffler…and/or adjusting some broken or maladjusted linkage/shaft in 20-degree weather then bashing my knuckles on a cross member etc…or having my old beater car towed to a repair shop and then waiting hours or days for it to be professionally repaired and then receiving the huge charge $$$$$$ for all those frequent repair/labor costs…again, what will I ever do with all this extra money and time? Note: I really do love working on older, classic cars – especially with my dad. However, working on a classic car at home in the garage or in the driveway/yard on a nice day is a totally different animal than what I described above – which is a fresh hell I would not wish on anyone.

Efficiency: Oh, and what about the insanely stupid fact that EVs produce a portion of their own electron fuel through the process of regenerative braking thereby extending their driving range by hundreds to thousands of free driving miles each year and therefore lowering my fuel costs even more…how will I ever adapt to all this egg-headed science nerd tech geek madness saving me loads of money and making my life easier, faster, stronger, better?!

The first road trip from Franklin, TN to Chattanooga, TN – a Bolt and a Tesla Model 3 – so cool! Photo by Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute

Sound of silence: How about the unbearable and unbelievably smooth, quiet ride? I just cannot handle all this calmness, comfort, and serenity. Oh, how I miss the endless internal combustion engine drone drowning out the silence and/or the nuances of my favorite songs, audiobooks, and podcasts. Then there are the random noises, sudden jerks, squeaks, rattles, bangs, parts falling off (yes, that really happened), and body wrenching lurches that used to assault my ears, muddle my thought processes, and often torque my spine in all my previous legacy vehicles…

…all this EVolved silence is just so unbearable – oh, the humanity!

Convenience: What about that ridiculous one pedal driving thing! It is just so bizarre and inconvenient to only need to use one pedal instead of two. Not having to step on the brake all the time means my brake pads may last over one hundred thousand miles – how will I ever adapt to all this efficient madness? What will I ever do with all the extra money that I would have spent on bake jobs? My foot really misses stepping on the brake all the time so sometimes I do it out of nostalgia.

High above my EV’s fuel refinery. Note how clean the air is 🙂

Safety: I am not at all comfortable with the increased safety of this car. It will automatically and without asking me to authorize it – put on the brakes to avoid a collision!! What a HUGE compromisation of my freedoms to stop whenever I want to and under my own power and control!!! …oh and then there are all the airbags – they wrap around me on all sides – and then there’s the seatbelts holding me down keeping me from flying through the windshield in an accident – I feel so invaded!! …and what about all the CAMERAS!!! Giving over control to the machines – we all know where that leads!! It all must be a conspiracy…a plot fabricated by the Russians or maybe the Chinese…NO it is the greenies working with the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans and the DUTCH!!!! (To be clear: I am not racist and this was not a racial slur – it was a cheezy reference to an obscure comedy movie series staring Mike Myers.)

Furthermore!

I will not stand for all the EV safety madness!!!!

Give me back my 1969 Vista Cruiser!!

That 70’s Show photo courtesy of Carsey-Warner.

Fuel: How about the garishly un-American ability to charge an EV’s traction battery with home-grown electron fuel made on my own soil – be that electron fuel renewably generated by sun, wind, water, landfill gas, cow farts, or even the dirtiest hulking coal-fired power plant.

It is all domestically produced American made energy that does not require dirty deals, endless wars, and the terrible loss of our brave loved ones in the service just to keep it flowing into our tanks.

Nor does all this locally grown renewable energy destroy the very environment that gives all of us clean air, clean water, healthy food, diverse wildlife, our own lives, and a healthy future.

Source: NASA https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2159.html

Driving electric vehicles powered by renewable energy is obviously such an un-American, un-patriotic sacrilege that our founding fathers must be spinning like oil-soaked V8 crankshafts in their graves!

__________________________________________

Ok, so for those of you that somehow missed it – I absolutely LOVE my Chevrolet Bolt EV and I absolutely LOVE driving electric. I was attempting to be overly and intentionally sarcastic and humorous with my previous outline of EV shortcomings. From my point of view and over six years of EV driving experience – there really are no EV shortcomings.

Driving electric is simply a better way to drive.

Despite my sarcastic attempts at humor aside and despite all the mostly manufactured EV shortcomings you may encounter from the deniers, doubters, Luddites, and FUD generators – and those with money/politics tied up in the legacy automakers and fossil fuel economy – I fail to see how anyone can rationally dispute the massive cost savings of driving electric vehicles as daily driver commuter vehicles and soon, much, much, more…and all this before we have even looked at the significant reductions to toxic air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions saved by driving electric vehicles especially when they are charged by locally grown renewably generated 100% energy secure electricity – but that is another long-winded data-rich topic for yet another blog posting on yet another day.

Final Question:

How much does it cost you to drive your fossil burner 6500 miles?

Charging with my cousin the Chevy Volt

So, suffice it to say that I absolutely LOVE my Chevrolet Bolt EV.

I will keep you posted on my newly EVolved EV life with the “Mighty Bolt” EV and hopefully I will be able to offer you some insight into the world of the Electric Vehicle, renewable energy, and maybe, if you have not already, you will take the necessary steps toward your own automotive EVolution.

GREAT AND SPECIAL THANKS to Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute, Jim and Alice Hardy, Catherine O’Neil, Marian O’Neil, and the Blue Ridge EV Club, my awesome students, and everyone who worked with me to make this possible – you know who you are!

Note: I do not work for, receive compensation from, or own stock in GM, Chevrolet, Tesla, or any electric vehicle or electric vehicle supply equipment company or renewable energy technology or company. I do however support all of these technologies, companies, and ways of life as long as they stay focused on their goals and work to help more than harm and because they are all working toward a better, cleaner, more energy secure, lower ecological footprint, science-focused way of life that supports everyone everywhere.

!THANK YOU!THANK YOU!THANK YOU!

29 Nov

turtle

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN 2019

This year you helped us make the following amazing things possible –

and so much more!

Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation – In 2019 we rescued 9 young Opossum joeys that lost their mother while crossing a road. They were very close to the age where they would have left the warm home of their mother’s pouch to strike out on their own so we gave them a few days to build their strength, fed them all kinds of tasty natural treats, and released them in the forest near the classroom.

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We also rescued five Eastern box turtles. All were injured while attempting to crossroads and after some shell splints and recovery time all but one were released back into their home habitats. The remaining turtle has an injured eye so it will continue to reside with us until it recovers from its injuries and starts eating on its own and we hope to be able to release it into its home habitat next spring.

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Update on the Black rat snake with terrible oral infection (aka “mouth rot”) that we rescued last year.  He fully recovered, was eating very well, and was released this past spring.  Take a look at his release day video on our YouTube channel via this link: https://youtu.be/1b5HrXXRouY 

Outreach – We teamed up with our crew of wonderful volunteers to take our animal ambassadors, our wildlife, and environmental conservation message, our didgeridoo music, and our renewable energy, EV, and science advocacy programming into many local and regional classrooms, summer camps, festivals, and special events, introducing thousands of people to the wonder and beauty of wildlife, nature, and our interconnectedness to our shared earth.  We offered great ways to support nature, respect and live alongside wildlife, and to be better stewards of our environmental life support system with the adoption of renewable energy and transportation technologies such as solar power and electric vehicles.  The above photo was taken at our spring fundraiser at Oscar Blues in Brevard, NC where many folks came out to meet our education animals, experience several electric vehicles, and some (including me) even tried out an awesome One Wheel electric skateboard!

volunteers

A new set of wheels for ENP 

Over the last 6 years we used our Nissan Leaf fully Electric Vehicle (EV) in most of our outreach classes and programs, wildlife rescue calls, and in the monitoring of Eastern box turtles, Black rat snakes, Timber rattlesnakes, bats, and Black vultures.  It was a wonderful vehicle but sadly, due to a design flaw in the battery chemistry of 1st generation LEAF’s, its driving range degraded to the point where it was no longer useful to us for our outreach programming needs.  In September of 2019, with generous support from some of our primary benefactors, we acquired a new outreach vehicle – a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV.  It is 100% electric and has a driving range of 238 miles per charge – although we are often getting closer to 250 miles. The Bolt is the perfect vehicle for our mission as its battery is charged primarily from our classroom solar array making it truly zero-emission so it does not pollute the precious environment that we strive so hard to understand, preserve, protect, and share with you. This new outreach vehicle will allow us to expand our service area bringing our programming to a much larger audience.  The ENP EV Motto: Drive electric to protect and preserve nature, wildlife and wild places. Drive electric for the health of your family, drive electric for freedom from dependence on toxic, polluting fossil fuels. Drive electric for energy independence.  Drive electric for a better future for all. Drive electric for fun!

boltandsnakeI took this photo a few days after acquiring the new Bolt.  I was on the way home from work and stopped to assist a Rat snake across the road.

*This new EV is owned by ENP and will be used as a dedicated company outreach vehicle and it is charged primarily by local renewable energy sources. It will serve as an outstanding teaching tool for our Trails students, ENP outreach program participants, and everyone we meet.   Learn more about driving electric at: www.blueridgeevclub.com

 

Organic Garden

2019 was the third year for our organic/heirloom student garden project.  After the very successful straw bale squash garden experiment of 2018, this year we decided to plant the entire garden using straw bales as the substrate.  This experiment worked surprisingly well allowing us to produce many more tasty organic vegetables from our little garden than in previous years.

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We believe the only way to have a truly organic garden is to not use any toxic chemicals or fossil fuels in the preparation and tending of the garden in any way so this year the students and interns prepared the garden using only human power and fertilized it with composted food scraps and waste from our education animals.  The students planted and tended the garden throughout its growing season and amazingly we had virtually no “pests” on our garden vegetables and we never used any toxic insecticides or herbicides!   I am happy to say that our third year of the garden project was a great and tasty success with over 150 yummy squash, big bunches of green beans, countless tomatoes, Peruvian black corn, purple and red sweet potatoes, several varieties of peppers, and for the first time our Passion fruit vine produced several tasty fruits – all of this wonderful organic produce was then shared among the students and staff! 

CLUCK CLUCK

Our small flock of friendly laying hens grew to over 25 birds this year!  Several of the new recruits were adopted by Trails employees or found homes with chicken people in the community.  Our flock of chickens are free-range, organically fed, and have been hand-raised by our students as pets, and are wonderful therapy animals – with the great side benefits of wonderful organic, free-range eggs, no-cost organic fertilizer, and free pest control for our organic garden!

henandchick

Our rescue hen Midnight and her new chick in the “Coop Car.”

 Just in case you missed it – last year ENP was featured in The Laurel of Asheville

Read the story at this TinyURL link: https://tinyurl.com/yb7zxhdp

(or just Google “Laurel of Asheville Earthshine Nature”)

 

   The ENP Renewable Energy Program

On November 8th, 2019 our student-built classroom solar array project celebrated two full years of producing clean, renewable, “locally grown” solar-produced electricity for our classroom and electron fuel for our outreach EV! Add to all that awesome the incredible accomplishment this year of the completion of Phase Two of the solar array!  That’s right, with your help we have completed Phase One and Phase Two of this amazing classroom energy project and the array is now complete!!

placingpanel

Steve and one of his awesome students installing the first solar module in Phase Two of our classroom solar array.

This time last year our student-built solar array had produced over 6.5 megawatts of clean solar produced electricity. With the completion of Phase Two, the now complete and fully functioning array has produced well over 12-megawatt hours – and that is just since mid-summer when the completed array went online full time!  With the generous support of Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute, Pisgah Forest resident Jim Hardy, Lake Toxaway Charities, Trails Carolina, Trails Momentum, and our many other wonderful project supporters – maybe you were one of them – and all of my amazing Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum students, ENP interns, and volunteers – this classroom renewable energy project has been an outstanding success!

studentsmovemods

Since the completed classroom solar array went online on July 04th, 2019 (our Energy Independence Day) it has consistently, quietly, and without any harmful toxic emissions – produced close to 4 times the power we need to meet the daily needs of our classroom building, education animal habitats, and our all-electric outreach vehicle’s electric fuel needs – all this entirely on 100% clean, “homegrown,” solar power!

finishedarray19

We produce so much electricity that we send the surplus out to the local energy grid giving our closest neighbors on the campus of Trails Momentum some “locally grown” on-campus renewable energy.  We are now producing an excess of around 823kWh of electricity each month and sending this out to the local grid. Over the course of the entire year that excess has totaled around 9.8 mWh – so our classroom has now become a renewable energy power plant for the campus of Trails Momentum and for the local community!!  Due to our excess energy production, we have built up so much energy credit with Duke Energy that we could turn off the array and run on the solar credits for several months without paying a cent for energy!  With the completion of Phase 2, the most complex portion of our classroom solar array project is now complete. We are now moving forward with fundraising for Phase 3 – the final Phase of our classroom energy project.  This will consist of a “plug and play” battery storage system that will store excess electricity produced during the day that will then be used to keep all systems online at night and during power outages. We will then only use our grid connection to Duke Energy as a back-up power source during longer periods of dark/rainy/stormy weather – isn’t science amazing!

Watch a short time-lapse video of Phase Two of the solar array’s construction via this link: https://youtu.be/12wtCSldnKc

To make the 3rd and final Phase of this amazing student energy project a reality for our classroom, our students, and our animal ambassadors – we need your continued support in this final push to the end.  Please consider making a year-end gift to Earthshine Nature Programs and help us reach our renewable energy powered goals.

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Cute little Jumping spider says it is time for everyone to GO SOLAR!

Supporter Spotlight — Bob Harris and Jim Hardy

ENP would not be possible without all of our amazing supporters – including you.  Two of our biggest supporters are also two of the most outstanding and most generous people on earth – Bob Harris and Jim Hardy.  Jim and Bob have donated countless hours of their time, expertise, skills, and resources to make things happen for ENP, and for the students of Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum.

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Jim Hardy is the master carpenter who has donated hundreds of hours of his valuable time and expertise as he has overseen, directed, and worked with our students and me on the construction of the solar array, our theater-style seating, the new fire escape steps, building electrical and other key building upgrades, many of the tables in the classroom and our “‘Possum Palace” Opossum habitat.

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Bob is the incredible electrical engineer who designed the solar array, installed the wiring for the array, upgraded the classroom power grid, and donated countless technical and educational components and support to our classroom and outreach EV.  All of these things have contributed immensely to the wonderful educational environment we are working to create for our students at ENP and Trails Science.

bobandjim

THANK YOU Bob Harris and Jim Hardy for your wonderful and most generous support – you are true HEROES!

Wildlife Conservation Programs

Turtle Tracks, Snake Tracks and Snake Trails

meandapollo

The Turtle Tracks and Timber Rattlesnake Tracks programs have ended and we have now decided to focus our energies on our classroom and environmental education outreach programming, wildlife rehabilitation, and on reporting our findings from the reptile conservation projects we conducted over the last decade of tracking misunderstood reptiles. What did we learn while tracking wild reptiles? – waaaay too much to fit into the pages of this newsletter – so we have decided to write it all down and share it with you!  The stories and the answers are in the works in the form of three private publications currently available only to ENP supporters – namely you.   The first of these three publications – The Rattlesnakes of the Blue Ridge – is ready now!  It contains a naturalist’s perspective on everything we have learned by following the secret lives of Utsanati and Zoe – the two wild Timber rattlesnakes we followed in their native habitats for a four year period in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of WNC.  Within the pages you will find an overview of the natural history of the Timber rattlesnake, a consolidation of my field observations and personal reflections, tracking and activity maps, and many high-quality photographs from the field.  benfranklin.jpg

This document and the others that will follow on the Eastern box turtle and Black rat snake will grant fascinating insight into the lives of these unique, wonderful and very misunderstood creatures as well as useful information on coexisting with these animals and other native wildlife species on your lands.  All proceeds from the sale of this and the future documents in this series will be 100% directed toward our nonprofit wildlife conservation, rehabilitation, and environmental education mission.

zoe2

Zoe – By Steve Atkins

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Rattlesnakes of the Blue Ridge, and/or Turtle Tracks: Box Turtles of the Blue Ridge or Snake Trails: The Rat Snakes That Live Among Us at the discounted price of $25.00 each – please contact me via the links at the end of this newsletter.

opie

Opie D. Opossum – by Evan Kafka

Clean Air Carolina Blue Sky Award

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Photo by Clean Air Carolina

On November 07, 2019 ENP was honored to receive the Clean Air Carolina Blue Sky Award at a very special awards ceremony in Charlotte, NC.  This award was presented to us by Clean Air Carolina for our volunteer work with the Clean Air Carolina Air Keepers project which is working to install air quality monitors in all 100 counties of North Carolina.  We will continue to work with Clean Air Carolina and other organizations and individuals who value clean air, clean water, diverse wildlife, and energy independence for people, wildlife, and our shared environment.

In case you missed it last year ENP/Trails Science was featured in a Clean Air Carolina video clip with Miles O’Brien: https://youtu.be/mhQ4Kk3oq9o

Learn more about Clean Air Carolina: www.cleanaircarolina.org

Your Support

We welcome your continued support in keeping our unique programming alive. There are many ways you can choose to help us make our programs and projects a reality.

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Donate time and energy by volunteering at our Science and Nature Center classroom – we always have loads of projects from working in the garden, cleaning animal habitats, yard work, etc; so if you like to get your hands dirty for a good cause then just contact us at earthshine.nature@gmail.com or call Steve at (828) 606-8939 to set up a time to give us a hand around the classroom/farm.   Another great way to support us is through the donation of much-needed supplies – our wish list can be found on Amazon by searching for the Earthshine Nature Programs Wish List or by visiting this tinyURL link: https://tinyurl.com/yahlsvnp   Another easy way to support us is through Amazon Smile. Simply visit: smile.amazon.com and sign up to support Earthshine Nature Programs.  Then, every time you make a purchase on Amazon using your smile.amazon.com account, a portion of Amazon’s profits will be donated to ENP at no cost to you! Yes, it really is that easy to support us!  If you would like to directly support our projects and programs there are several ways to do so.  We have an ongoing GoFundMe campaign where you may donate to our solar project and more – visit: www.gofundme.com/enpsolartrails

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We also now have a Patreon page where you can choose to support us with ongoing monthly donations of any size.  Visit our Patreon Page: www.patreon.com/earthshinenature

Lastly, you may also donate to us via the PayPal link on our website at www.earthshinenature.com/donate or mail a donation to our address below. All donations to ENP are tax-deductible. Receipts available upon request.                                                                                    

 THANK YOU SO MUCH

Without your continued support, Earthshine Nature Programs would not function.  Please consider making a tax-deductible donation or end of year gift to us now and in the future.  Earthshine Nature Programs is a 501c3, donation-funded, volunteer owned and operated, wildlife conservation and rehabilitation, environmental stewardship, and science education charity organization.

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We have a wonderful partnership with Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum to provide nature knowledge, science education, curiosity, and inspiration to their populations of outstanding youth.

Learn more at:

Trailscarolina.com

and

Trailsmomentum.com

 

A note from naturalist Steve O’Neil

I am passionate about sharing my love, respect, and curiosity for nature, wildlife and wild places, environmental stewardship, science literacy, and reason with everyone I meet – especially my classroom and outreach programming students.  It is the students of today who will make the big wildlife and nature conservation, science, and energy decisions of the future, and it is my goal to communicate to my students the most up to date, unbiased, peer-reviewed evidence, practices, technologies, and environmental ethics so they will be better informed and ready to take on the world and be the change that will guide us all forward. I feel that by demonstrating working models of what is possible, respectfully coexisting with each other, and by working together toward the common goal of creating and maintaining a better world for all living things today and into the future, we will bring the changes that will make all of our dreams come true.

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Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) is supported primarily through monetary, resource, and time donations from caring, concerned individuals just like you.  I work hard to fundraise and acquire grants and donations from any and all sources that would like to support us. With your help with hands-on volunteering, a one-time donation of equipment or funds, a year-end gift, or your continuing patronage – together we will continue to create something unique and wonderful that will serve to educate and inspire thousands of students with a new curiosity, a greater respect, an evidence-supported understanding, and a powerful conservation ethic for caring for wildlife, nature, and the environment that supports us all.  Your support will assist us in sharing with others the value of adopting responsible, secure, clean energy and transportation resources we can all work to bring to our homes, businesses, and to the roads, thereby lowering our impacts on our shared environment and in the process, become better stewards of the earth and empower our shared futures through the findings, methods, and tools of science.

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Photo by Evan Kafka

THANK YOU ALL

Sincerely, Steve O’Neil

Executive Director of Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3)

Email: earthshine.nature@gmail.com

Website:  www.earthshinenature.com

Nature Blog: www.earthshinenature.wordpress.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/snakesteve68

EV Blog:  bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com

enplogolarge

High Elevation Air Monitoring

21 Oct

This is a story about why it is important to be persistent.

This is a story about why it is important to be patient.

This is a story about citizen science.

This is a story about clean air.

This is a story about clean cars.

This is a story about Clean Air Carolina.

It all began almost exactly one year ago as I write this.

I was at the LEAF festival in Black Mountain, NC chatting with Kat, a naturalist friend of mine.  As nature nerds often do we bounced around from one environmental topic to another and soon we found ourselves focusing on air quality.  I knew Kat worked hard every day to impart nature, wildlife, and environmental knowledge to people of all ages so I brought up the Clean Air Carolina Air Keepers project.  As an Air Keeper, I am working with Clean Air Carolina to install air quality monitors that measure particulate matter in every county in North Carolina.  These crowd science powered devices allow citizens to monitor their air quality in real-time keeping us more aware of what is in our air so we can take action when needed to keep our air clean and healthy.  Kat’s position as a naturalist at a unique high elevation community – located not that far from Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Rockies – put her in an excellent position to monitor particulate matter at higher elevations in WNC and share that knowledge with her clients.  She liked the idea of installing an air monitor in her community but to do this she would need to get clearance from the POA.

This took a while.

By spring 2019 clearance had been granted so I mailed her an air monitor and she and her IT guy attempted to install it.  The install failed.  I suspected at the time that the IT guy was not familiar with the install process – which can be a bit tricky.

Summer came with all its fun, hard work, and mayhem and the high elevation air monitor installation at Kat’s place was forced to the back burner.

Late summer rolled in and the schedule thinned so in mid-August my good friend Jim and I jumped into his Honda Clarity PHEV and headed out on the road to meet Kat and see what we could do about the air monitor.

When we arrived on-site we attempted to get the air monitor to connect to the internet – no luck. I tried several monitors I had brought with me as backups – none of them would connect.

I knew the monitor had worked before I had sent it to her so I did not believe it was faulty so we decided to go ahead and mount the air monitor at its permanent location in a gazebo on the top of a nearby knob.  I also had high hopes that this location would have less internet traffic than the main building so therefore might be a little easier for us to connect and get the device online.

We journeyed up to the site, a beautiful, rustic gazebo overlooking the valley below – words just do not do it justice so here is a photo of the view.

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We installed the air monitor in a sheltered location with good airflow then attempted to connect it up to the internet.  At first, it looked like it was connected so we departed the site.  Upon getting back home and checking on the recently connected monitor I discovered that it was in fact not connected.

I contacted Kat again and asked her to check to be sure the monitor was in fact plugged in – it was.  Bizarre.

A few weeks later I made another 65-mile trip back to the site and checked the monitor again.  It did, in fact, have power but despite my efforts, I could not get it to connect to the internet.  I called the community internet provider only to find out that their wifi system was 5ghz – the air monitors only work with 2.4ghz networks.  At least we now knew the problem.

I asked the IT guys what my options were and they had a solution – they could tweak the system on their end and remotely add a dedicated 2.4ghz network – amazing technology!

After they adjusted a few things I made yet another trip back to the site – this time in my new 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

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NOTE: If you are wondering how electric cars fit into this story well, that is simple – they do not emit toxic fossil fuel emissions into our shared atmosphere so they help to keep our air clean and healthy – especially when they are charged by renewable energy sources. 

This time I was able to connect the air monitor to the network in less than 10 minutes and all was good to go!  We were now online and fully operational!

The Slickrock Mountain air monitor has been online for a few weeks now and the big picture shows us the air quality at the State’s highest air monitor is so far very clean with an average EPA PM2.5 AQI of 7.9.

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Overall ENP has worked with Clean Air Carolina and eleven different non-profit, for-profit, educational organizations and private individuals to install Purple Air air monitors at 11 different locations in Western Noth Carolina.  Monitors we have installed include the following.

ENP/Trails Science (east side of DuPont Forest)

Pisgah Forest

PARI

Walnut Branch (Almond)

Cherokee (currently offline but will be replaced in mid-November 2019)

Highlands Biological Station

Hendersonville

Western Carolina University

Green Hill

Wildcat Mountain (Murphy)

Slickrock Mountain (Burnsville)

Coming soon: Tusquittee, NC.

Below is a map of many of our WNC area installed air monitors

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The view from Slickrock Mountain – look close and you will see the newest Clean Air Carolina Air Monitor.

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If you are interested in becoming an Air Keeper with Clean Air Carolina please visit the Clean Air Carolina website and help us all become more air aware!

 

 

 

Earthshine Nature Programs Update 2019

4 Jul

It has been a very busy 2019 at Earthshine Nature Programs!  In the pages of this posting, I offer an update to catch you up on the happenings over the first half of 2019 at ENP!

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Adventure News

Early in the year, I journeyed to that outstanding nexus of all geekdom the wonderful nerd incubator that is Kennedy Space Center in Florida!

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I was on a pilgrimage of adventure, awe, wonder and it was an information gathering mission for the science classes I teach to the brilliant youth of today (and I was on a mission to check this off my bucket list since I was a 4-year-old kid watching the last of the Apollo moon landings on a black and white cathode ray tube console TV way back in the early 1970’s!)

While at KSC I was in my element and felt the need to share a small part of my experience with my students and with you so I made an educational “teaser” video for anyone interested in learning about NASA’s out of this world space exploration history – check it out below- then get yourself to Kennedy Space Center!

While on this spaced-out star trek I also completed another amazing life milestone even bigger than my nerdy space quest – I connected with my biological father!  Yes, you read that right – through the marvels methods and tools of science I was able to have my DNA sequenced, then a few weeks later I was touring Kennedy Space Center with one of the people who brought me into existence – my biological father!

WOW!

What an amazing journey it has been – to the historic past of US space exploration and into my own history! Here’s a photo of my absolutely awesome father and I visiting in Florida.  Isn’t science, life, the universe, and everything – just amazing!

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Public Service News

Early in the year, I produced a new video documenting Asheville NC’s adoption of Proterra all-electric city busses! Check it out below!

Then, while visiting an NC beach in May, I became very frustrated (again) with the way we human animals are mistreating the planet so, like I always do, I picked up others people’s carelessly cast-off litter and produced a short Public Service Announcement about littering – view it below.

PLEASE DO NOT LITTER!

and

please work to keep our home planet clean by picking up the litter/pollution carelessly cast aside by others onto our shared earth, air, and waters.

Remember to always Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Rethink, Refuse, Resist

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Outreach News

The amazing ENP volunteers and I have presented several reptile and wildlife outreach programs to many local schools and organizations and events.

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Reptiles, wildife, nature, local ale, One Wheels, electric vehicles and renewable energy – yes, it is a thing because we at ENP make it a thing and you should too 🙂

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Abby and crew at the Upper French Broad Riverfest on June 22nd!

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Wildlife News

It is summer and the reptiles are on the move.

A few weeks ago I was on my way to the office when I encountered this cute little Rat snake crossing the road.

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I tried to lend him a hand and he was not very cooperative but eventually, with some gentle coaxing, I was able to encourage him to move along into the forest where he would be out of danger from humans and our machines.

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Then a few days later Abby and I were on the way to the classroom to work on the solar array and we discovered a young Timber rattlesnake making her way across the road – so we gave her a bit of a “hand” in getting to the other side.

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I carefully used my tongs to gently lift her and move her off the road to the safety of the forest – she quickly moved off rattling all the way – such an amazing encounter!!

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Upon arriving at the office Abby spotted a young Rat snake moving across the chicken yard in the direction of the chicken coop car where a mother hen had just hatched out three new chicks!

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I decided to move this cute little chicken thief to the other side of the building in the hopes that he would move off and not come back for a chicken dinner!

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While working on the classroom solar array we discovered this cute little Jumping spider out for a stroll – isn’t she just soooo cute!!

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Here’s a close-up:-)

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Wildlife Rehabilitation News

We have successfully rehabilitated one once very sick Rat snake (black snake) who lived with us since the fall of 2018 and have released him back into his home habitat.

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What a grand success story – check out his release video below!

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Charlie, one of our Red-footed tortoises, has laid eggs!!

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We are incubating them now and hope to hatch them by late summer –

more on this later as things develop 🙂

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We have fostered 9 orphaned young Opossums, who lost their mother in an incident with a motor vehicle – and released them into the forest near our classroom. (In the pic you only see five but the others are underneath…)

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Opossums help us so much yet they are so mistrusted and misunderstood.  Watch this amazing video on the Opossum and learn how awesome they truly are!

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In April, May, and June several of our hens hatched 10 new chicks!!

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Everyone loves spending time with the chicks!

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Clean Air Carolina Air Keeper Project News

With all of our other projects taking up most of our time we have not had much time as we would like to devote to getting more air monitors installed in the WNC area.  However, we were able to successfully install one monitoring station in Murphy, NC thereby filling in the big gap in coverage in the far western part of NC.

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Are you air aware?  How is the air quality in your area?  Take a look at the map and find out.  In the coming weeks, I hope to install two more air monitors in the WNC area and close in the remaining gaps in the far western part of the state as well as in the area north of Asheville.  If you are interested in hosting an Air monitor in NC (or anywhere) feel free to contact me for more details on how you can become an Air Keeper or if you are in NC please check out Clean Air Carolina and find out how you can become an NC Air Keeper and be part of the solution.

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ENP Crew News

We have an awesome new ENP intern! Let’s welcome Abby M. to the crew!

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Abby loves animals and nature, is very capable in everything she sets her mind to, is focused and passionate about science and environmental conservation, she has studied abroad in the rainforests of Peru, and is great with animals, people, and power tools which is always a big plus.

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The ENP/Trails Science organic garden is doing great!!

This year the students and I planted the entire garden in straw bales and if the amazing growth is any indication we will have a wonderful harvest!

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Solar Project News

We have been working very hard on bringing the western portion of Phase Two of our classroom solar array online and as of 5/24/19 we made it so!

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On May 24th we threw the switch on an additional 7.2 kW of solar that, with your support, we have added to the existing 4.8 kW Phase One array (the blue one).

That is solar hero Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute and I throwing the switch on the new western array!

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This new increase in solar capacity means our science and nature center classroom and the ENP all-electric outreach vehicle are now fully powered/fueled* by the sun!!

*When the ENP EV is charged on-site.  My recent energy audit study on the ENP EV revealed that, as of the date of the study, the ENP outreach EV was 48% solar charged – however, that number has undoubtedly increased with our addition of more solar generation capability as well as the continued “greening” of the energy mix in the area in which I live.  I will complete another energy audit after the completion of the eastern segment of Phase Two and report the results here and on my EV blog.

Next, I offer a series of mostly chronologically arranged photos of the construction of the western segment of the Phase Two classroom solar array starting about 3 months ago.

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ENP long-time intern Pierce and his girlfriend Erin gave us a hand one day on the solar array support structure and much more – THANK YOU PIERCE AND ERIN!

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Solar Hero Jim Hardy installing a support beam.

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The support structure taking shape, as well as our straw bale garden experiment!

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Jim and Abby cutting steel support beams for the Eastern array.

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The students all worked very hard to help make this amazing project happen for their classroom!

THANK YOU ALL FOR WORKING SO HARD ON YOUR SOLAR ARRAY!!!!

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The completed Zilla Rac solar support framework ready to receive solar modules!

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The students and I moving the new SolarWorld solar modules into place!

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Bolting it all together!

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Putting the final solar modules in place!

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Bob wiring the modules into the system.

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Connecting the SMA SunnyBoy inverter*!

*A wonderful benefit of using SMA Inverters is if/when grid power goes out the Secure Power Circuits from the solar inverters will – when the sun is shining – provide us with up to 6 kW of emergency power to run key habitat, lighting, education support systems, and the entire campus internet system – very cool indeed!

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Bob Harris and Jim Hardy – heroes for renewable energy, the environment, education, our students, and our little log cabin classroom!

THANK YOU JIM AND BOB 

WE COULD NEVER HAVE DONE ANY OF THIS WITHOUT YOU!!!

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After we powered up the western array, Bob worked his magic and networked the new inverter with the original unit so we could visualize the energy output from anywhere in the world – check it out HERE!

As you can see from the first partial day of operation both solar arrays together were putting out over 9.8 kW!

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On the first full day of operation, we put out over 1.6 times as much power as the original Phase One array alone – circled in red!

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We produced a total of 58.16 kWh of electricity for the first full day of operation – that is  33.16 kWh above our average daily usage of around 25 kWh per day.  On the second full day of operation, we produced a total of 56.49 kWh and at midday hit a peak of 10,044 watts of clean solar produced electricity!!  Our best production to date on the Western Segment of Phase Two has been on a cloudless cool spring day when we generated a bit over 63 kWh of clean solar electricity – that is well over twice our average daily use!  Then, about two weeks later, on a very overcast, rainy, and gray day, the array produced 25.50 kWh of solar-generated electricity!! So what this means is that our array produced enough electricity to cover all of our needs even on a cloudy day – without even seeing the sun itself !!!WOW!!! If this trend keeps up we will not be paying for and using fossil fuel generated power for much longer – especially after the eastern segment of the Phase Two array comes online very soon.

For those of you interested in how much money we are saving by going solar – the answer, for now, is – all of it.  Our power bill for May 2019 was only $3 above the standard grid connection fee charged by Duke Energy!  Before going solar, our monthly energy cost to operate our classroom/ENP office averaged over $200.  Add in the all-electric outreach vehicle and that would be another $15.  But now, with our amazing student-built classroom solar array we have almost dropped our facilities and transportation energy use costs to zero!  Once the eastern segment of Phase Two goes online – it will be well below zero and far into the positive.

The Eastern Segment 

 After we completed the Western segment of the Phase Two array we started work on the Eastern Segment.  Below I offer photos of that project.

I took the following photo a few weeks ago of Jim, Abby, and her boyfriend Mitch from high on the roof while we were working on the eastern array.

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Bob and Jim working with me to put one of the eastern array’s frame pieces in place.

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Moving more solar modules

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Bob, Abby, and I showing off one of the solar modules that will soon be producing fuel for the ENP/Trails classroom and the ENP all-electric outreach vehicle – a 2012 Nissan LEAF.  I find it simply amazing that several very thin pieces of modified and purified silicon (sand) and a few other unique compounds fused together and sealed under another flat piece of glass (more sand) with a few wires connecting everything together and then pointed at the sun – produces clean fuel for our outreach vehicle and electricity to run the entire classroom/office building for zero operational costs, without any moving parts – and from my own “backyard!”

Why aren’t more people doing this?!?!?

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The Eastern array starting to take shape while my little pup Tange looks on.

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Abby and I moving a solar module up onto the frame.

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Careful…

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Success!!!

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Building a solar array means tapping into your inner monkey!

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Peace – through teamwork, cooperation, perseverance, some monkeying around – and lots of SCIENCE and ENGINEERING!

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The very last primary solar module goes into place!

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WOO HOO!!! It is DONE!!

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Tightening a hold down bracket

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Bob tightening another hold down

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Bob running more electrical conduit

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SUCCESS!!

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As of June 06, 2019 the primary construction on the Earthshine Nature Programs/Trails Science student-built classroom solar array is officially complete!!

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Throughout the entire project, the students have left their mark on the project and left their signatures on the support structure 🙂

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Over the next 10 days, we worked on wiring up the Eastern Array, installing the safety fencing, and completing the classroom building’s new power grid wiring project that we started in the fall of 2018.

The photo below shows two of the new electrical boxes in the process of being installed.

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Bob Harris installing the new main breaker box.

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Now, compare those top of the line, incredibly safe electrical box units to what we had before pictured below and you can see why this electrical evolution upgrade project was so important for the safety of our students, our classroom, and our education animals.

Trails Old Main Electrical Panel Closeup

Before this electrical system upgrade, many of the building’s power outlets had failed and a few of the circuit breakers would get uncomfortably warm to the touch thereby requiring us to resort to using many extension cords to keep systems in operation.  After we powered on the majority of the new system I removed most of the extension cords and took this photo as a reference of what once was – yikes!

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This new power grid is not only higher quality, a magnitude safer, and more energy efficient than what we previously used, it has also allowed us to interconnect the easternmost segment of the Phase Two solar array into the new power grid.

As the sun was setting on June 15, 2019, Bob Harris made the final connections and threw the switch on the Eastern segment of the array bringing the entire Classroom Solar Array online and ready to produce power.

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As I write these words on June 16th, 2019 the first rays of the morning sun has just started hitting all 60 modules of the array and by midday, we will see what this amazing student, volunteer, and community constructed and donation supported solar powered renewable energy generation facility is capable of!

Below is a photo of “first light” hitting the newly completed ENP/Trails Science Classroom Solar Array on June 16th – Father’s Day!  I took this photo using the ENP/Trails Science BloomSky weather camera – follow the link and view our completed classroom solar array in real-time anytime you like 🙂

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At the end of the day the newly completed Classroom Solar Array had produced over 67 kWh of clean, “locally grown” renewable energy – and it was even partly cloudy/hazy mid-day as evidenced by the solar production curve from the newly networked SunnyBoy inverters.

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Even with the clouds and haze our array produced more than enough electricity to power all our classroom/office systems, fill our Duke Energy net metering “credit bucket” to overflowing, and it also become a small scale local energy generating station providing cleanly generated electricity not only for our classroom and outreach vehicle’s needs – but also for the campus energy grid thereby “greening” the other buildings on the campus of Trails Momentum!

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Now that the Eastern segment (on the right) of the Phase Two Array is complete, online, and producing electricity alongside the Western segment (on the left) of the Phase Two Array and the original Phase One Array (the middle one) – it will bring the total system capacity up to 19.2 kW of solar produced electricity!!  Due to environmental factors and system losses, our maximum output on perfect days could reach upwards of 18 kW and possibly hit production targets of over 80 kWh – only time will tell!

UPDATE: On the first day of Summer 2019 the array produced an astonishing total of 83.34 kWh of electricity!!! That is over 3 times our energy needs – truly amazing!!!

Take a look at the beautifully perfect power curve from that day…

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A few more amazing stats…

Now the same curve showing the inverter output.bestsolardaytodate7

The below graph shows our to-date monthly production numbers for 2019 – outstanding!

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Now let’s compare the solar output for

June of 2017…

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…and June of 2018…

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And now, June of 2019

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WOW

Now take a look at our annual solar electricity production since day one of almost exactly three years ago.  Our 2019 levels will soon surpass all of 2018 and 2017 combined – and as I write it is only now the fourth of July – now that is some amazing homegrown energy independence and freedom!  In fact, to mark this special day, from now forward  I will forever refer to July 4th as the ENP/Trails Science classrooms

Energy Independence Day! 

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And now our energy production numbers to date.

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The key numbers to notice here are the following:

Total energy produced since going online in late June of 2017:

11.184-megawatt hours!!!

That is enough solar-generated electricity to offset the energy needs of

1.55 average American homes for one year!! 

This may not seem like much but until a month ago we were using almost all of the energy produced by the 4.8 kW Phase One array – and we still managed to generate a  small surplus.   Now that we have all of Phase 2 complete and online we will generate much, much more!

How did I come up with those numbers you may ask:

According to the UCS the average American home uses 7,200kWh/year.

1 (MWh) / 7.2 (MWh) = 0.13889 Homes per MWh

0.13889 (Homes per MWh) x 11.184 (MWh) = 1.553 homes

Data Sources:

http://blackbearsolarinstitute.org/

https://www.seia.org/initiatives/whats-megawatt

https://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/how-is-electricity-measured.html

Now that we have completed Phase 2 and the entire array is now complete, online, and producing loads of electricity, it will be very interesting to see how long it takes us to blow the top off of those numbers.

Science and evidence tell us that burning things (fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, etc.) for energy/fuel releases toxic air pollution and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into our shared atmosphere.  These compounds, directly and indirectly, harm our health, our planetary life support system, and all our futures. By going solar we at ENP and Trails Science are no longer using toxic fossil fuels to power our classroom and outreach vehicle.  We have avoided releasing 8.6 tonnes of CO2 into our shared atmosphere as well as all of the associated pollution – and that is a very good thing!

The average American is responsible for releasing 19.8 tonnes of CO2 annually.  By installing our classroom solar array we have reduced our classroom’s carbon footprint from 19.8 to 11.2 tonnes.  Adding in the 6 tonnes of CO2 removed by driving an all-electric solar-charged EV outreach vehicle and we reduce our CO2 output down to 5.2 tonnes!  We are well on our way to net zero!

That is most impressive!

Calculate your own carbon footprint using the following websites and work to reduce your impact on our shared earth.

https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

https://www.conservation.org/act/carboncalculator/calculate-your-carbon-footprint.aspx#/

https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/consider-your-impact/carbon-calculator/

https://www.c2es.org/content/calculate-your-carbon-footprint/

https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/

Our amazing new solar capacity will produce loads of surplus power, far above and beyond what we use.  This surplus power will, at first, go toward filling the overflowing net-metering “credit bucket” for our classroom that we will then pull from at night and during periods of low light/rainy/wintery weather.  This large output of power and overflowing electron filled credit bucket will effectively remove our Duke Energy power bill for the classroom building and most of the electric fuel bill for the ENP all-electric Nissan LEAF outreach vehicle – WOO HOO!!

Eventually, when we bring online the third and final Phase of our classroom solar energy project – the “plug and play” battery storage bank* – we will then channel a portion of any excess power produced during the day into those batteries for later use at night and during periods of dark weather.  At that time, our connection to the Duke Energy power grid will remain as a backup – just in case – and it will act as an emergency “generator” in the event of a major power outage coinciding with a long period of dark/rainy/wintery weather (if we ever see wintery weather again…)

However, if over time, we discover that we are able to make enough power for all of our needs and if the system operates without issue in all weather through all seasons – we hope to eventually unplug from the grid entirely thereby making our science classroom and ENP office 100% off-grid, self-sufficient, energy secure, and net zero.

Now that is what I call true freedom!!

Freedom from all the problems of burning toxic fossil fuels – freedom from the insanely high human and environmental health costs, the endless war, and dirty politics connected to and feeding upon the acquisition, transport, and use of fossil fuels.

*We are now raising funds to support the Phase Three battery bank and associated battery inverter system.  If you are interested in supporting the third and final phase of this awesome classroom renewable energy project, please follow the links at the end of this blog post for more information on how you can support us. 

THANK YOU!

All donations to ENP are tax deductible.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SUPPORTED US IN MAKING THIS HAPPEN!!!!!

YOU ARE ALL HEROES OF THE HIGHEST ORDER!!!!!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Above all of the obvious awesomeness of producing clean, “locally grown,” energy-secure, renewable energy from the sun to power our classroom building and outreach vehicle – our primary reason for all the time, effort, classroom, and community teamwork, fundraising, and focus on this multi-year-long project is the continuing STEM  education of our students, visitors, and outreach program participants and you reading this blog post.  To put it simply – our students, visitors, and outreach program participants and you are the future of science-supported nature, wildlife, and environmental conservation of their futures and of our planetary life support system.  By introducing all of you to the most up to date, scientifically accurate, and unbiased, nature, wildlife, environmental, energy, climate, and renewable energy-focused peer-reviewed science, as well as to these functional projects that they work together to create in class that directly benefit their classroom and learning environment and education – we are hopefully planting great seeds of curiosity in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), nature, ecology, clean energy, and clean transportation systems as well as forward-thinking progress that works to benefit all of us, our shared environment,  and of everything moving forward.

————————————————————————————-

BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD

AND THE WORLD WILL CHANGE

—————————————————————————————–

Speaking of change, today* was monumental for us in more ways than one.

*much of this post was written on 5/24/19.

While we were powering on the Western segment of our new solar array in support of using clean, “locally grown” renewable energy (instead of – toxic and expensive – in more ways than your bank account – fossil fuels) to power our classroom, outreach vehicle, and our future – over a 1.5 million school-age students, many of their teachers, supporting parents and other adults, and scientists from all disciplines from all around the planet, in thousands of cities and hundreds of countries – were walking out of their classrooms, offices and laboratories to protest their government’s inaction on fighting the most challenging environmental and social issue of our time:

Anthropogenic climate change.

I stand in support and solidarity with the students, scientists and others who are attacking this most urgent issue head-on with peer-reviewed evidence, science supported solutions, and peaceful action such as but not limited to;  the adoption of energy-secure “homegrown” renewable energy sources, zero-emission electric transportation, and the election of policymakers who understand and support the findings of science and will choose to deny the status quo and work very hard to make the needed changes in the system that will be most beneficial for everything and everyone moving forward.

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In support of these goals I attended the March 15th, 2019 Fridays For Future event and plan to attend the September 20th Global Climate Strike event as well. I encourage all of you reading this to join me from wherever you are and to attend, organize, band together with your classmates, teachers, professors, and co-workers, and peacefully walk out of your school, laboratory, office, home, church, place of business or other institution to show your support for ending our toxic addiction to fossil fuels and adopting clean, energy-secure, “locally grown,” renewable energy systems and electric vehicles to power, transport, and and empower a better, more prosperous future for us all.

Learn more about this planetwide movement for positive change at: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

______________________________________________________

Earthshine Nature Programs* (ENP) is a volunteer operated wildlife and environmental education and conservation and renewable energy outreach education nonprofit (501c3) based out of Pisgah Forest, NC. It is operated by its founder and Executive Director Steve O’Neil.  Steve is on a mission to connect people with nature and wildlife and in doing so he works to foster a renewed curiosity in the natural world that supports us all.  

Through his hands-on wildlife, nature, indigenous music, renewable energy and science outreach programming at camps, schools, birthday parties and special events in local area and in the WNC region, to his unique experiential citizen science-based projects and experiences in his Trails Science classes, Steve strives to educate and inspire his students and people of all ages to get excited about nature, wildlife, the sciences, and above all else – caring for, and becoming better stewards of the fragile natural environment that supports us all.

Steve is also a full-time naturalist and environmental science educator at Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum near Brevard, NC where he and his students and interns care for a menagerie of animal ambassadors, most of which are ex-pets and non-releasable wildlife.  Some of these animals were once wild but after surviving run-ins with cars, dogs and habitat loss, were rehabilitated by Steve (an NC licensed wildlife rehabilitator), his students, and volunteer staff.  

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Gollum the Eastern Hellbender – one of Steve’s animal ambassadors.

These animals are housed in the rustic log cabin Science and Nature Education Center classroom that is also the office of Steve’s nonprofit 

Earthshine Nature Programs 

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High above the ENP/Trails Science Classroom cabin (Note: This photo was taken in 2017 – before Phase Two of the classroom solar array had been started).

Steve is an avid supporter of renewable energy – especially solar – and he supports the great need for trusting the findings of science to facilitate the final goal of transitioning our society away from polluting fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and renewably powered electric vehicles for the sake of our health, the health of our shared environment, and future generations of life on Planet Earth.

Questions? Contact Steve at earthshine.nature@gmail.com

The ENP website: www.earthshinenature.com

The ENP Blog: www.earthshinenature.wordpress.com

The ENP Youtube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/snakesteve68 

Facebook: Earthshine Nature Programs and The Blue Ridge EV Club 

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Steve and a Snapping turtle friend he rehabilitated and released into its native habitat. 

A history lesson: Steve O’Neil founded Earthshine Nature Programs (ENP) when he was working as an outdoor guide and naturalist at Earthshine Lodge in Lake Toxaway in 2010.  In 2013 ENP incorporated as a 501c3 and became a separate business entity from Earthshine Lodge yet ENP kept the name Earthshine as a reminder of its humble beginnings at the wonderful Earthshine Lodge.  The name Earthshine is foremost in our mission because we believe that stewardship of the EARTH, and all the life contained within this fragile oasis of life in space, should SHINE brightly above all other issues because without clean air, water, and environmental balance  – we have nothing.

There are several ways you can support us. 

1. Monthly Patreon support via our Patreon page.

2. Direct donation of materials/funding via one of the following links.

If you would like to donate anonymously, please visit our donate page at www.earthshinenature.com/donate or donate to our GoFundMe campaign or support us on our new Patreon Page.  Yet another option for supporting us is our new Solar Sponsorship program – read more about it below. 

or

Snail mail your donation to 

Earthshine Nature Programs 

134 E. Dogwood Ln. 

Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

3. Sponsorship of a solar module (aka solar panel).

How the solar sponsorship program works.

You may choose to sponsor (donate) one or more solar modules at the donation level of $500 each.* 
*Your sponsorship covers the cost of the solar module, its support structure, and the electronic components needed to tie Phase 2 into the existing & operational classroom solar array. 

After your donation is complete – your name/company name (or the name of your choosing) will be permanently affixed to the frame of your sponsored solar module(s) and/or inscribed on a nearby commemorative plaque listing all classroom solar project supporters. (you may opt out of any of these perks)

Sponsors will also receive a certificate of sponsorship, a donation receipt, and the following private web links that will allow you to check in anytime & see your donation in action supporting our classroom, our students, our education animals, and the future!

– A unique web address and private login/password that will allow you to directly access our classroom solar array’s real-time energy production status.

– A unique web address to a private live web camera providing a birds-eye view of our classroom solar array in action! (and organic garden during the growing season)*

– A web address to our weather camera that provides yet another unique view of our classroom solar array in action and a daily time-lapse video of the weather at our site.*
*No students/staff will be identifiable to protect their privacy. 

And if you choose: A set of one of a kind “solar earrings” or a “solar pendant.” Handmade of remnants of solar cells by Naturalist Steve O’Neil and his interns.  These unique items do not generate any power but they are all one of a kind, unique, and beautiful. 

To sponsor one or more solar modules please contact Steve at earthshine.nature@gmail.com

4. Support us by shopping on Amazon with Amazon Smile by following this link: smile.amazon.com and under the Supporting Link choose Earthshine Nature Programs and Amazon will donate funds to ENP each time you make a purchase – at no cost to you!

THANK YOU!!

Without your continued support, Earthshine Nature Programs and the Trails Science program would not function.  Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to ENP now and in the future.  Earthshine Nature Programs is a 501c3, donation funded, volunteer owned and operated, wildlife conservation and rehabilitation, environmental stewardship, and science education charity organization.

__________________________________________________

ENP has a wonderful partnership with Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum to provide nature and science education and inspiration to their populations of outstanding youth.  Learn more at:

Trailscarolina.com

and

Trailsmomentum.com 

_____________________________________________________

A note from naturalist

Steve O’Neil

I am passionate about sharing my love, respect, and curiosity for nature, wildlife and wild places, environmental stewardship, science, and reason with everyone I meet, especially my classroom and outreach programming students.  It is the students of today who will make the big nature and wildlife conservation, science, and energy decisions of the future, and it is my goal to give my students the best possible unbiased exposure to the most up to date, peer-reviewed evidence, ethics, practices, and technologies so they will be better informed and ready to take on the world and be the change that will guide us all forward. I feel that by demonstrating working models of what is possible, respectfully coexisting with each other, and by working together toward the common goal of creating and maintaining a better world for all living things today and into the future, we will make all of our dreams come true.

Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) is supported primarily through monetary, resource, and time donations from caring, concerned individuals just like you.  I work hard to fundraise and acquire grants and donations from any and all sources that would like to support us. With your help with hands-on volunteering, a one-time donation of equipment or funds, a year-end gift, or a continuing patronage – together we will create something wonderful that will serve to educate and inspire thousands of students with a new curiosity, greater respect, passionate understanding, and conservation ethic for caring for wildlife, and nature, and the adoption of responsible, secure, clean energy and transportation resources that we can all work to bring to our homes, businesses, and on the roads, thereby lowering our impacts on our shared environment and in the process become better stewards of nature and empower our shared futures through the findings, methods, and tools of science. 

THANK YOU ALL

Sincerely,

Steve O’Neil

Executive Director of Earthshine Nature Programs(501c3)

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 Steve and Ashley – By Evan Kafka

Learn more about us:  www.earthshinenature.com

Follow our Nature Blog:  www.earthshinenature.wordpress.com

Find us on Facebook at:

“Earthshine Nature Programs”

Watch our nature video series on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/user/snakesteve68

Follow our Electric Vehicle Blog:  bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com

Earthshine Nature Programs

earthshine.nature@gmail.com

 

 

JOIN US for our SPRING BENEFIT EVENT!

17 Mar

Date: April 16, 2018 

Location: Oskar Blues Brewery – Brevard, NC

Time: 5-8:30 PM

Earthshine Nature Programs* (ENP) is a volunteer operated wildlife and environmental education and conservation and renewable energy outreach education nonprofit (501c3) based out of Pisgah Forest, NC. It is operated by its founder and Executive Director Steve O’Neil.  Steve is on a mission to connect people with nature and wildlife and in doing so he works to foster a renewed curiosity in the natural world that supports us all.  

Through his hands-on wildlife and nature outreach programming at camps, schools, birthday parties and special events in the region, to his unique experiential citizen science-based projects and experiences in his classes, Steve strives to educate and inspire his students and people of all ages to get excited about nature, wildlife, the sciences, and above all else – caring for, and becoming better stewards of the fragile natural environment that supports us all.

Steve is also a full-time naturalist and environmental science educator at Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum near Brevard, NC where he and his students and interns care for a menagerie of animal ambassadors, most of which are ex-pets and non-releasable wildlife.  Some of these animals were once wild but after surviving run-ins with cars, dogs and habitat loss, were rehabilitated by Steve (an NC licensed wildlife rehabilitator), his students, and volunteer staff.  These animals are housed in the rustic log cabin Science and Nature Education Center classroom that is also the office of Steve’s nonprofit. 

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Gollum the Eastern Hellbender – one of Steve’s animal ambassadors.

Steve is an avid supporter of renewable energy – especially solar – and he supports the great need for trusting the findings of science to facilitate the final goal of transitioning of our society away from polluting fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and renewably powered electric vehicles for the sake of our health, the health of our shared environment, and future generations of life on Planet Earth.

Working toward that grand goal, over the last few months Steve and his students, and Pisgah Forest resident and environmental hero Jim Hardy, finished Phase One of the construction of a grid-tied solar power station that now provides 5.3 kW of clean solar produced electricity for Steve’s log cabin classroom and the ENP nonprofit office. 

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This array was constructed from donated components and in-kind donations from generous local individuals and businesses as well as great support and expertise from Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute in Townsend, Tennessee.  

View the construction of our solar array in the video below. 

Phase One of this student-built solar array is now complete and online; however, it provides only around 5.3 kW of electricity or 50-60% of the power needed to operate the building.  To provide 100% of the power needed for all our daily needs we are now working on Phase Two of our classroom solar project.  Phase Two consists of 10 more solar modules, their support frame and wiring totaling around 3.0 kW of solar.  To date, we have raised around 35% of the funds needed to complete Phase Two and it is for this reason that we will be holding a fundraiser on April 16th at: 

ob

Bring the family and friends and join us as Oskar Blues hosts their Making a Difference Monday fundraiser for

Earthshine Nature Programs 

Between the hours of noon and 8:00pm Oskar Blues will donate a percentage of taproom sales to Earthshine Nature Programs!  Proceeds from this fundraiser will support Phase Two of the construction of our student built and maintained classroom solar array project. Learn more about this community supported renewable energy project by reading the full story on my previous blog post linked below:

https://earthshinenature.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/update-enptrails-classroom-solar-project-phase-one-is-complete/

Watch a video of the day we first activated our classroom solar array last summer!

Now that you know how and why we did it, please come out in support of making it even better with Phase Two of our classroom solar project!

At our benefit event you will learn all about our wildlife education, rehabilitation and outreach programming and interact with many of our friendly education animals including Rosie, Rex, and Charlie the Red-foot Tortoises, Ashley the Red Tailed Boa Constrictor, Fiona the Ball Python and Piggy the Western Hognose snake.

We are working on having several Special Guests!

(these could change but may include) 

Peter Kipp of Curtis Wright Falconry with his birds of prey!  Get your photo made with a bird of prey sitting on your hand!

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Meet Walter Kidd of Serpentarium Magic and Peewee the 22 foot long python!

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Meet members of the Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club and learn all about and possibly take a ride in an electric car! The Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle club will have several sleek, fast, EVs on display including the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S & X, BMW i3, Chevrolet Volt, and Bolt EV, all new Honda Clarity and the much anticipated Tesla Model 3!

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Browse local nature and wildlife themed art, photography, and jewelry for sale by Steve AtkinsKathy Wright HardyChristina Ramsey and Chance Feimster.

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Find out how you can do more to conserve and protect our fragile environment when you chat with representatives from Clean Air Carolina, Sundance Power Systems, Joyce Pearsall of Monarch Watch, Alan Cameron – a volunteer with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and Friends of Dupont State Forest – Alan will have a Green Salamander for you to learn all about and much more!  

Explore our fundraiser table of unique items and if you have any items you would like to donate to the sale table please do contact us or just bring them the day of. 

Fun!

Live Music!

Local Beer!

Great Eats provided by the

  Oskar Blues Chubwagon! 


If you are unable to attend or would like to donate anonymously, please visit our donate page at 
www.earthshinenature.com/donate or donate to our GoFundMe campaign or support us on our new Patreon Page.  Yet another option for supporting us is our new Solar Sponsorship program – read more about it at the end of this blog post. 

or

Snail mail your donation to 

Earthshine Nature Programs 

134 E. Dogwood Ln. 

Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

All proceeds from this fundraiser will support the completion of our classroom solar project and are tax deductible. 

Questions? Contact Steve at earthshine.nature@gmail.com

The ENP website: www.earthshinenature.com

The ENP Blog: www.earthshinenature.wordpress.com

The ENP Youtube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/snakesteve68 

Facebook: Earthshine Nature Programs and The Blue Ridge EV Club 

steveandsnapper1.305162240_large

Steve and a Snapping turtle friend he rehabilitated and released in its native habitat. 

*Steve O’Neil founded Earthshine Nature Programs when he was working as outdoor guide and naturalist at Earthshine Discovery Center in Lake Toxaway in 2010.  In 2013 ENP incorporated as a 501c3 and became a separate business entity from Earthshine Discovery Center yet ENP kept the name Earthshine as a reminder of its humble beginnings at the wonderful Earthshine Discovery Center.  The name Earthshine is foremost in our mission because we believe that stewardship of the EARTH, and all the life contained within this fragile oasis in space, should SHINE brightly above all other issues because without clean air, water, and environmental balance  – we have nothing.

There are several ways you can support our Classroom Solar Energy Project

1. Monthly Patreon support via our Patreon page.

2. Direct donation of components/funding via one of the links above.

3. Sponsorship of a solar module (aka solar panel).

How the solar sponsorship program works.

You may choose to sponsor (donate) one or more solar modules at the donation level of $500 each.* 
*Your sponsorship covers the cost of the solar module, its support structure, and the electronic components needed to tie Phase 2 into the existing & operational classroom solar array. 

Solar Sponsorship spaces are limited to 18.

Of those 18 spaces – five are already taken as of April 8, 2018. 

After your donation is complete – your name/company name (or the name of your choosing) will be permanently affixed to the frame of your sponsored solar module(s) and inscribed on a nearby commemorative plaque listing all classroom solar project supporters. (you may opt out of any of these perks)

Sponsors will also receive a certificate of sponsorship, a donation receipt, and the following private web links that will allow you to check in anytime & see your donation in action supporting our classroom, our students, our education animals, and the future!

– A unique web address and private login/password that will allow you to directly access our classroom solar array’s real-time energy production status.

– A unique web address to a private live web camera providing a birds-eye view of our classroom solar array in action! (and organic garden during the growing season)*

– A web address to our weather camera that provides yet another unique view of our classroom solar array in action and a daily time-lapse video of the weather at our site.*
*No students will be identifiable to protect their privacy. 

And if you choose: A set of one of a kind “solar earrings” or a “solar pendant.” Handmade of remnants of solar cells by Naturalist Steve O’Neil and his students.  These unique items do not generate any power but they are all one of a kind, unique, and beautiful. 

To sponsor one or more solar modules please contact Steve at earthshine.nature@gmail.com

ENP Air Keepers Project

4 Mar
ENP is now working with Clean Air Carolina on the Air Keepers Project!

Follow me in my newest video as I work to install Purple Air particulate pollution air monitors in several locations in Western North Carolina.

Let’s work together to clean the air!

Learn more about Clean Air Carolina: https://www.cleanaircarolina.org

Become an Air Keeper today:  https://cleanaircarolina.org/airkeepers

If you live outside NC you may install your own PurpleAir air monitor by visiting:  https://www.purpleair.com

THANK YOU to all of my supporters and Patrons who have helped make this and all ENP projects possible!

Visit us on our website:  www.earthshinenature.com  

Support us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/earthshinenature

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/enpsolartrails

One Year Ago Today

20 Jan

One year ago today an amazing milestone was reached – after almost two years of work, my Trails students, friends, volunteers, supporters, and I completed the primary construction on Phase One of the Earthshine Nature Programs/Trails Science classroom solar array!

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THANK YOU to my Trails Carolina and Academy students, to Trails Carolina and Academy, to Bob Harris and Black Bear Solar Institute, Jim Hardy, David Thompson, Ron Griffin , Rachel Bisker, Jewell Mimms, Meredith and Mary Beth, Fred Bahnson, Alan Cameron, Marian O’Neil, Mom, ENP Volunteers, members of the Blue Ridge EV Club, and to everyone else who supported us with the time, energy, component, and monetary support that all came together to make this amazing renewable energy and Electric Vehicle project possible – we could not have done it without all of you!

Watch our classroom solar array’s construction time lapse video 

Watch our Solar Array’s activation video.

Watch highlights from our garden from the summer of 2017 (why, because there is some great imagery of our new solar array in the video!).

Read our blog post about the day.

Please consider supporting Phase Two of our solar project on  Patreon.

THANK YOU ALL!!!

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Rat Snake Tracks Field Report for Summer 2016 and 2017

25 Sep

Video footage in this edition of Rat Snake Tracks was filmed in August 2016 and September 2017.

The Snake Tracks project is an ongoing Rat snake habitat use and movement study using radio telemetry techniques and UAV’s (drones) for canopy surveys and monitoring.

If you were a student at Trails Carolina or the Academy at Trails Carolina during the 2015 season you may have helped “Science Steve” locate Apollo the Black rat snake and you may be in this movie, in front of or behind the camera, learning and living 🙂

This project is supported by in part by Trails Carolina, The Academy at Trails Carolina, Trails Momentum , our donors, and people just like you. If you would like to support our projects and programs with a donation and learn more about us please visit our website.

Earthshine Nature Programs is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation, rehabilitation, science, and renewable energy education and awareness.

NOTE: The parents of the student(s) appearing in this video granted permission for us to record their special moments sharing time with our educators and the Apollo the rat snake.

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