Electric car charging station attracts passing motorists

This article appeared in the June issue of Ripples, our internal publication on The Center at Donaldson.

Electric car charging station attracts passing motorists

When we received a grant from the Marshall County Community Foundation to install an electric car charging station, we had three goals: offer charging as a service to co-workers, use the infrastructure for our own fleet, and provide some electrons for visitors as well.

I was walking by the other day and saw a new car plugged in at the station, a Chevy Bolt with out-of-state plates.

Curious, I snapped a photo and left my card on the windshield. The next day I got an e-mail from Stacey, the driver:

Thanks for letting us stop and charge!  We met the nicest people during our visit at the center.  Sister Mary bought my husband and I lunch and Rachel and Matthew at MoonTree showed us around the campus, gallery, and art studios. What a cool place that you guys have! Our visit exceeded our expectations and we stayed much longer than we expected just because we were having a good time.” 

It turns out that Stacey had found our charging station on a smartphone app and made a pitstop here on her way back from Chicago. Matthew later explained to me,

They were quite pleasant people, a former army serviceman and artist and his wife, an architect.  They had talked about how they are moving out of the Chicago and onto a farm.  We talked about agri-tourism and eco-tourism and how we had prime location and resources for both and how his family farm ended up making enough money to keep the farm profitable doing fall-time agritourism (corn maze and pumpkin patch).  All in all, quite the serendipitous encounter and a testament to something as simple as an electric charging port attracting certain type of people with similar values and ecological considerations.”

Sometimes, all it takes is a little “spark.” Here’s a big THANK YOU to all the departments and co-workers who make The Center at Donaldson a place of ministry and hospitality.

Some great design work by our communications department!

One year later… how’s the blog doing?

After one year on the job, I started a blog. It’s been a year already! Let’s see where we are at.

My inaugural post promised 3 blogs a month. I’m proud to say I only failed once on that account, in January (2 posts). Hopefully I made up by averaging 1 post per week, for 53 total. Ok… a few were just advertisements for local events and such, but hopefully I’m getting you something to really chew on at least once a month.

The top three posts have been:
1) a post on the latest research about the diversity of macrofungi in Indiana (237 views)

2) my summary of what it was like to live with a used electric vehicle for a year (115 views)

3) our press release announcing our solar energy installation (81 views)

There are 48 subscribers, more than I had hoped! Six have joined in the last 6 months. Unfortunately, the majority of posts have fewer total views than I have subscribers… which suggests maybe people are getting the e-mail notification of a new post but never opening or reading it. Maybe I need to create more sensational (“click-bait”) titles! 🙂

As for the investment of time and energy into the site, I like the steady (and light) pressure of having to publish something regularly. It pushes met to keep communicating and writing. It’s part of what I’m supposed to do (and besides, I enjoy it! Shhh…).

Moving into the second year, I don’t particularly have any new goals or objectives. I like the balance I’ve struck so far.

But… you are the readers. What would YOU like to see over the next year? Longer posts? Shorter ones? Less scientific lingo? More? Guest writers? Leave a note in the comments section. Thanks for reading, please share!

Now, since this is my blog, I’m going to post two pictures for no particular reason other than I think they are beautiful.

3 fat Monarch caterpillars on a single Butterfly weed plant, Plymouth, IN


One really adorable child! Growing up far too fast.

Pollinator patches abuzz with activity

Last year, we established half a dozen pollinator patches across our campus.

We have a lots of landscaped (mowed) ground here. Mowed areas provide space for recreation and walking, and give a sense of openness that we all enjoy in landscapes around our buildings. However, there’s eventually a limit to the space we need. We found several nooks and crannies of mowed lawn that were better served as wildflower patches. Together, they amount to about 2/3 of an acre.

The benefits of replacing small patches of lawn are several: less labor and fuel spent on mowing, more visually interesting space (varied texture and color changing over time), pollinator habitat, carbon sequestration, and water infiltration, to name a few. Mowed lawns are not ecological dead zones – far from it – but they don’t match the ecological services provided by a biodiverse mix of native plants.

All that is true, but I still think the highest benefit is beauty. As Emily Dickenson wrote, “The only Commandment I ever obeyed — ‘Consider the Lilies.”

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is an annual or biennial plant that bursts into bloom in the early stages of a restoration.

Also, there are all kinds of mysteries hidden in the many connections between the soil, plants, insects, and air. Just today I read about spiders flying on balloons of silk, lifted by electrostatic forces when wind is absent, flying thousands of feet up in the air. WHAT???! What other wonders might we be neglecting or harming in our ignorance?

As Pope Francis noted in Laudato si,

It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place… But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.


I’ll be doing some more formal plant surveys later, but today at midday I simply went to poke around the flowers and snap photos. (Please excuse the poor photo quality… I didn’t take a nice camera out, just my smartphone). The prominent pink/purple flowers are Wild Bergamont, aka Beebalm, aka Monarda fistulosa. For scale, the flower heads average about 2″ diameter. I was struck by the diversity of life just within a small space.