Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ohio Gets a New License Plate to Benefit the Monarch Butterfly (and I helped!)

Today was a special day for me and for Ohio monarch enthusiasts. Many didn't even know it was a special day until it got here. Today was the first day that citizens with a vehicle registered in the state of Ohio could purchase a specialized license plate that will directly benefit the monarch butterfly.

Here's how it happened:

Thanks, Illinois

In March of last year, I saw an online news article from The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, IL) about a specialized license plate being planned for the state of Illinois.

I wondered if Ohio had such a plate and made a search on the website of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. No such plate existed.

There was a plate benefiting Ohio's Nature Preserves, featuring a monarch butterfly nectaring on a coneflower, but the funds collected for that plate don't specifically go toward the monarch. I looked further on the site to see what needed to be done in order to have a new organizational plate created. It didn't seem too difficult, so I made a phone call to the BMV in Columbus to find out if they were aware of anyone else already working on one for the monarch. There were no efforts in progress that they were aware of.

First things first

Rep. Tony Burkley
There were several steps required to create an organizational plate, with the first one being to get a state legislator to introduce a bill. My husband and I knew our state representative, Tony Burkley, personally, since we went to high school with both him and his wife. I contacted him in April and explained what I was wanting to do.

It was late in the session, with only a few days left to get the bill introduced, but Representative Burkley got the job done. It was passed by the 131st General Assembly and on June 16th, Governor John Kasich signed the bill; 90 days later, on September 14th it would officially become law.

Collecting signatures

The next step was to collect at least 150 signatures on a special petition - signatures of those who had registered vehicles in the state of Ohio, who potentially could purchase the license plate. This made me a tiny bit uncomfortable, because I'm not someone who likes to be approached to sign anything myself. But it's amazing how assertive you can be when you're passionate about something, like I am about the monarch.

Though a few were not willing to give their driver's license number (a requirement), so many more were enthusiastic about helping make this a reality. I posted about it on my Facebook page and in the Facebook monarch forums and several people stepped forward and offered to help collect signatures: Sarah Roney Dalton, Don Byrne, Sandy Cobb, Kara Fritz, Janet Denning, Jamie Walters, Melinda Huseby Krick, Richard Moore, Lori Gogolin, Debbie Hartwig Tope, Ashley Tope, Roman Baumle, Brandi Eberle, Karla Erford Treece, and Melissa Downs Moser. (I hope I haven't forgotten anyone who sent me some!)

Since I wanted to be sure to have more than enough verified signatures (yes, they DO check each and every one), I submitted 250, instead of the minimum 150.

Where will the money go?

The license plate costs an extra $25, of which $15 goes to the benefiting organization and the remaining $10 to the Ohio BMV. I wanted the monies collected to remain in the state of Ohio, so I began investigating possible organizations that could make good use of it.

I chose Monarch Wings Across Ohio, which is a part of the national organization, The Pollinator Partnership. Several locations across Ohio are participants in the monarch studies being conducted, in fact, Ohio is the first state to be a part of the national program Monarch Wings Across the U.S. Included in the program are such sites as Holden Arboretum, Cleveland Metroparks, and many others.

The recipient organization had to provide an affidavit to the BMV as well as the logo that goes on the license plate.


I procured all the necessary documents and sent them off to the BMV in Columbus on September  12 by Certified Mail.


My part was now finished and it was up to the BMV to take the baton and finish the race.


I got an email on December 8th, giving me the good news that enough signatures had been verified, the license plate design had been finalized, and the plate would be available for purchase on January 11, 2017. And here we are:

Photo by Lacinda Conley
This is a graphic image of what my own personalized license plate will look like. Since we had just bought a new (to us) car in December, I had to go to the license bureau in person to register it and order my plates. It can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to receive the actual plates once the order is placed.

Current license plate fees in Ohio as listed on the BMV website are:

  • New registration/standard plates & registration/plate renewal:
    • Passenger vehicle: $34.50.
    • Motorcycle: $28.50.
    • House vehicle/moped: $24.50.
    • Non-commercial trailer: Fee is based on weight.
  • Replacements:
    • 1 license plate: $10.50.
    • 2 license plates: $11.75.
    • Decals: $4.50.
  • Plate transfer: $4.50.

The extra fee for the monarch license plate is $25, with $15 of that going to Monarch Wings Across Ohio. If you do want to personalize it, that will cost another $50. Besides providing funds that will help the monarch butterfly and by proxy, other pollinators, the license plate will help create awareness for the plight the monarch faces.

Once again, thank you to all who worked together to make this possible. I've been asked by several others how to go about doing the same thing in their state and since each state is different, my suggestion would be to go to your state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles website (some states call it the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV) and find out what your state requires for the creation of a specialized or organizational license plate.

In many cases, all it takes is one ordinary citizen being willing to do what it takes to make it happen. You will be providing a means for many people to help the cause through the purchase of the plates. I encourage vehicle owners in Ohio to purchase one of these plates. Even though the sale of only 25 plates per year are required to keep the monarch plate in production, we can do better than that.

Do it for the monarchs.

Friday, December 9, 2016

When It Snows, Make Snow Cream!

We got our first real snow of the season Sunday night. There was that day a couple of weeks ago where you could see some snowflakes if you looked real hard, but this was a snow that accumulated. We got not quite two inches before it tapered off.

I was sitting on the couch, working on reviewing some of the edits on my new book that will be out in April, THE MONARCH: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly, and I had a light bulb moment.


This is something that has taken me over 59 years to experience. That's just crazy. I hadn't even heard of it until a couple of years ago and I just kept forgetting about doing it until tonight. So I jumped up and quickly mixed up the first part, then went outside to gather up some fresh snow.

This was the perfect snow for making Snow Cream!

It couldn't have taken more than five minutes, start to finish. Now I'm not a vanilla ice cream lover, nor do I particularly like homemade ice cream, so this is isn't something I'd crave, but it was sure fun to do and we'll be doing it the next time we have the grandkids here and we've got fresh snow on the ground.

Here's what you do:


1 cup milk
⅓ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Mix up the ingredients in a mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer. Mix until well blended. Put the bowl with the mixture into the freezer while you go get the ice cream. Gather up about 8 cups of fresh snow.
From this point on, you have to work fast, because it will melt fairly quickly. Add the snow to the mixture in the bowl and whip it. It should be thick enough that you can use an ice cream scoop to form a ball.

Scoop into bowls and add sprinkles, chocolate syrup, or whatever your favorite topping is. Eat and enjoy!

My chocoholic husband added Hershey's Syrup on top.


*I would give credit to whomever came up with this recipe if I only knew. I looked up several recipes online and they were all the same, with no credit given, so this is undoubtedly older than I am and may be in the "public domain" by now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

There's been a lot of yaying and naying lately about the issue of decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Like most things in life, there are various reasons why people choose when to do their Christmas decorating and how they do it. I like to have my tree up by Thanksgiving, and here's why.

I'm a procrastinator. In fact, I'm The Queen of Procrastination and while you might think putting up a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving is contrary to procrastinating, it's actually my way of trying to overcome my affliction. If my house is already in the Christmas spirit, then I'm much more likely to be in the spirit too and get my shopping done before Christmas Eve. It's supposed to work that way in theory anyway.

Now, let's get this whole "celebrating one holiday at a time" thing out of the way. I love Thanksgiving. LOVE. IT. Family, good food, Macy's parade, football (I can't believe I even said that), and relaxing with no guilt about doing it. But of course, Thanksgiving is also all about being grateful for your blessings and our family sure has plenty of those to be thankful for. Just thinking about them puts me in a festive mood.

Christmas decorations put me in a festive mood, too, and as a Christian, the birth of Christ is a blessing to be thankful for. So Thanksgiving is the perfect way to usher in the Christmas season by being first thankful and then celebrating by sharing with others in the form of gifts. Having Christmas decorations up at Thanksgiving just isn't a conflict of interest for me. It's all just one big, long lovefest.

Part of what makes this early decorating possible is that we don't put up a real tree. This year will make the 41st Christmas my husband and I have celebrated as man and wife and in all those years, the only time we had a real tree was our first Christmas. I saved a pine cone from that tree, framed it, and it sits out all year long on a bookshelf.

 I have a fear of a dried-out real Christmas tree going up in flames due to some sort of lighting malfunction and I don't need that kind of stress. Not when there are perfectly lovely artificial trees that give the same effect. I understand the whole experience of shopping for the tree and making that an event in itself, but I'm willing to forgo that for safety's sake.

If you're a real tree kind of person, let me help you keep your cut tree as safe as possible by giving you some tips:

  • Firs, pines, and spruces will hold onto their needles equally well, but the biggest factor for this will be how long it's been since the tree was cut. Unless you cut the tree yourself, you probably have no way of really knowing this. If the tree is losing more than a few needles when you shake it or pull your hand along one of its branches, pick another tree.

  •  Just before you put your Christmas tree in its stand, make a fresh cut straight across, at the base of the trunk, removing at least a half-inch of wood. Sap begins to seal off the cut so making a fresh cut will allow the tree to better absorb water.
  • Do NOT whittle away any of the wood on the sides of the trunk to make it fit in the stand, because it's the outer layer of the trunk (the cambium) just under the bark that transfers the water up into the rest of the tree. Drilling a hole up into the middle of the tree trunk won't help the tree take up water, so don't bother.
  • Water temperature won't affect uptake and there's no proof that adding substances to the water really helps prolong freshness, so don't waste your time doing that either. Check your water level every day to make sure you keep the base of the trunk submerged. 
  • Keep your tree well away from any heat source, and the cooler you keep the room, the longer the tree will last before drying out.
  • Choose low energy lights, such as LED lights or in the case of incandescent lighting, the miniature ones give off less heat, lowering chances of causing dry needles to ignite. Of course, if your tree is that dry and brittle, it shouldn't be in your house anyway. 

The holidays hold special meaning for each of us, so let's all enjoy them in our own way and pray for peace. I think we can all agree we need more of that, no matter what time of year it is.

A similar version of "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree" first appeared in my In the Garden weekly column in the Paulding Progress newspaper on December 2, 2015.

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