A Special Sanctuary

Acres and acres to explore and thrive

By Sue Baldani

Elephants are magnificent, intelligent creatures that are all too often taken from their natural habitats to be exploited in carnivals and circuses. Due to their unique needs, the care they receive isn’t always up to par.

At the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, these animals have a place to live out their lives in beautiful, natural habitats where all their needs are met. The sanctuary currently houses nine elephants on its 3,060 acres and has taken in a total of 28 elephants since it opened in 1995.

“Our elephants come to us from all over North America,” says Education Manager, Laura Roddy. “The majority of them were circus elephants, while some were confiscated by the government for violations against the Animal Welfare Act. Others were zoo elephants or privately-owned elephants.”

At the sanctuary, elephants receive individualized care for life. “Every elephant comes with a different history and different needs,” she says. “Shirley came to the sanctuary at the age of 51 after 20 years as a lone elephant in a zoo in Louisiana. Before that, her leg was injured in a circus. We had to learn how to work with her different ability. When Shirley passed away in 2021, she was 72 years old and the second oldest elephant in North America at that time.” On average, elephants live between 45 and 50 years.

Their current elephants range in age from 37 to 60: Billie just celebrated her 60th birthday; Sissy has been at the sanctuary the longest, arriving in January of 2000; and their most recent occupant, Nosey, came to them in 2017.

Historically, the Asian elephants and African elephants were always kept separate, but they have been doing introductions between an African and Asian elephant recently through a fence line. “They are completely different species from one another,” says Laura. “One of my favorite fun facts to tell students is that Asian elephants are actually more closely related to woolly mammoths than they are to African elephants. They also speak somewhat different languages.”

The sanctuary has a full-time veterinarian and veterinarian technician, one part-time veterinarian, plus on-site caregivers. They ensure all the elephants get plenty to eat and also have enjoyable enrichment activities, which helps keep them both mentally and physically stimulated. Sometimes it’s a rope toy that they hide snacks in and hang up.

Elephants eat between 200 and 300 pounds of food every day. In the summertime they’re out there eating as much vegetation as they want, but the sanctuary does supplement their diet with a specialized feed. They also love fruits and vegetables.

Overall, the Elephant Sanctuary has a two-part mission. “The first is to provide captive elephants with a safe haven dedicated to their wellbeing, and the second is educating the public on the complex needs of elephants and the crises facing elephants in the world,” she says. “We’re trying to talk about living in a sustainable place where both elephants and humans alike can thrive.”

A majority of their educational mission is done through distance learning. “We talk virtually to different schools all over the country and world on a daily basis,” says Laura. “Outreach is a way to hopefully change things in the future.”

Visitors are not allowed to see the elephants in person. “We are a true sanctuary, which means we are closed to the public,” she says. “Our elephants have worked all of their lives. They’ve been in circuses or show business or on exhibition in some way, shape or form, so we want to give them the retirement they’ve earned and not have to worry about guests. They’re just free to be elephants and live their lives.”

People can watch them on live-streaming EleCams, which are available 24/7. “We try to make sure there’s a view of an elephant, but because we have over 3,000 acres, sometimes there are no elephants on screen,” says Laura. “But, we think that’s okay because that means they’re out exploring and being elephants.”

People can also visit the Elephant Discovery Center at 27 East Main Street in Hohenwald. Here, visitors can learn about elephants and how the elephants are cared for at the sanctuary without actually being on site.

The sanctuary appreciates any and all donations in order to continue helping these exploited elephants live out their lives in peace and tranquility where they have the freedom to roam. “We are a nonprofit, so donations are always beneficial,” she says. “I really love the idea of being able to ‘adopt’ an elephant and feel like you’re attached to that elephant. It’s a wonderful way to create that symbolic connection between people and animals.”

Volunteers are also needed at its downtown Elephant Discovery Center. Even though people cannot work directly with the elephants, says Laura, they’re still helping and benefiting those elephants in some way. Another way to assist is by spreading the word about the crises facing elephants, such as poaching and declining habitats, and talking about ways to help.

To find out more, go to https://www.elephants.com/ or follow the Elephant Sanctuary on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.


Rustic Luxury

All-inclusive destination offers something for everyone

By Sue Baldani

Nestled in the gorgeous valley between the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains in Western Montana lies a sanctuary for those looking to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate their bodies and minds. Triple Creek Ranch welcomes about 10,000 guests per year from all over the United States and around the world.

 “We’re all here for the hospitality and the enjoyment of sharing what we love and what we’re passionate about with our guests,” says General Manager, Kristen Snavely.

The 25 one, two and three bedroom luxurious, sun-infused cabins have every amenity guests may crave such as master suites with en suite bathrooms featuring steam showers and back decks with hot tubs. In warmer weather, each comes with its own golf cart so guests can freely explore the expansive property.

“Every cabin is also filled with original paintings from the owners’ private collection,” she says. This Western art, which is rotated out on a regular basis, can be found in every building on the ranch.

Triple Creek offers a wide array of activities all year round including horseback riding, bike riding, fly-fishing, skiing and dog sledding. “We also offer a logging camp experience, where you and a partner can try your hand at using a crosscut, a two-man saw,” says Kristen. The cut wood is then turned into a trivet, coaster or some other item that guests get to brand with the Triple Creek Ranch name and bring home as a souvenir.

Other good, clean fun includes archery, hatchet tossing and fire building. “It’s just sticks and friction, and has been such a huge hit over the last couple of years,” she says. When someone does manage to start a fire, they get a t-shirt and their picture taken in front of the Wall of Flame. In the summer, take part in a cattle drive – what an unforgettable experience!

Another very unique offering is sapphire panning. “Sapphire Mountains are so named because they actually have sapphires,” she says. “We teach guests the art of sifting for sapphires, and some send them off to be fired and cut and made into beautiful jewelry.”

Guests can also go on a fun excursion to Triple Creek’s sister ranch five miles down the road. CB Ranch is an actual working ranch on 26,000 acres and is home to more than 150 bison and 150 cows. There’s also some fascinating wildlife. And here’s a fun fact: The popular television show Yellowstone is filmed right down the road!

For those who prefer to spend more time indoors, or who just need some pampering, the Mountain Wellness spa offers an incredible 60-minute massage that can be done in the spa itself or in the privacy of a cabin. It also offers full body wraps, facials and everything else one could expect from a luxury spa.

Of course, no vacation is complete without delicious meals and beverages. “Our executive chef has been here over 15 years and is so passionate about what he does,” says Kristen. “With free rein to be creative, there’s no repetition in our menus.” To go along with those meals, there are award-winning wines and two sommeliers to help choose the perfect accompaniment to any entrée.

Reserve the Chef’s Table and get a behind the scenes look into the kitchen, while exploring  a variety of flavors throughout the five-course menu. Each course is matched with an  award-winning wine, and a luscious dessert concludes this gourmet extravaganza.

Anyone over age 16 is welcome, and an average stay is between four to five nights; meals, drinks and most activities are included. Weekend events this spring and summer include a Stave jigsaw puzzle weekend, artist workshop weekends and local vintner experiences.

“Guests can come and do as much or as little as they want, so even though we have all of these amazing things to offer, this is also a great place to just decompress,” she says. “You can come and hang out in a cabin, and we’ll bring you wine and all your meals and you can sit out in the hot tub on the back deck and look at the stars. Sometimes the beauty is just enjoying the quiet.”

To find out more or to book a stay, go to https://www.triplecreekranch.com/.

Written for Grosse Pointe Lifestyle magazine in Michigan.

Give Blood, Give Life

Critical shortages are happening right now

By Sue Baldani

Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to help others survive traumas, have access to the operations they need, and save lives when their own bodies cannot produce enough to sustain them. It’s simply a matter of making an appointment, visiting a blood bank or blood drive, and receiving a quick and tiny prick in the arm. Then, just lay back and relax.

Now, it’s more important than ever to give. According to the Red Cross, there always seems to be a blood shortage, not just here but everywhere, but it’s been more extreme now than in the past. This is partly due to COVID eliminating many potential donors, as well as staffing shortages to host the drives. Yet, the need for blood remains constant.

“I’ve never seen a shortage like this,” says Dr. Lynn Samuel, pathologist and Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center medical director. “It’s been so severe and there was a point where our usual inventory was significantly diminished.”

Plasma and platelets are also needed. “I know the platelets we’ve been getting have been very short dated, so we get them in and they sometimes can expire that day,” says laboratory administrative director at Fauquier Health, Kelly Yoder. “Samuel Mukasa, a clinical blood bank specialist, told me that in his 30 years of blood banking experience, this is the lowest point he’s ever seen.” This has also led to a limit on elective surgeries.

Donations are used for a multitude of reasons in addition to operations and injuries. “A patient may have a chronic anemia problem, or another may need platelets because his own body isn’t able to make them or has been consuming them at a rapid rate.”

Dave Russell is one of these patients, and he has been severely affected by the shortage of blood. “He has multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood marrow,” says his wife, Angie. “In the month of December alone, Dave received eight units of blood, and during this last week in the hospital [in March], he has had at least that, plus another eight or so units of platelets.”

She says there have been times when there just wasn’t any blood available to give him, which has had significant negative impacts on his health. “And it’s not just Dave – how many other people need blood that they just can’t have?” says Angie. “I don’t think people realize that there is a blood shortage. They’re thinking, ‘Well we’re not in a war,’ or ‘No big catastrophes have happened.’ That’s when people think it’s the time to give.”

She encourages people to donate now and donate as often as they can, because  blood is needed all the time. “It’s scary to hear ‘Sorry, Mr. Russell, but we’re not able to do your transfusion because we don’t have any blood,’” she says. “He needs blood to sustain his body and platelets to prevent bleeding.”

“Since everyone can accept O negative blood, which is the universal donor type, that’s our go-to for an emergency, and that was the blood type that was particularly short during this recent crisis,” says Dr. Samuel.

The Red Cross is quick and efficient and tries to get donors in and out as fast as possible, and Rapid Pass helps the process go ever faster. “I used it the last time I donated and it saved a lot of time,” says Yoder. People aged 16 and up, who are in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds, can donate blood every 56 days, or up to 6 times a year. Platelets can be donated every 7 days, or up to 24 times per year.

Appointments are required and people can visit redcrossblood.org and follow these steps:

  • Type in your zip code in the top right corner to find a drive near you and make your appointment to donate. 
    • Under the ‘Donate Blood’ tab, find ‘Eligibility Requirements’ to learn if you are eligible. Some of these have changed over the years so if you have not been able to donate before for any reason, you are encouraged to check again and see if you are now eligible.
    • Under the ‘Donate Blood’ tab, find “What to Do Before, During, and After Your Donation” to ensure you are prepared for your appointment and have a lower risk of deferral. 

So, take the time to schedule an appointment and donate. You’ll be helping patients like Dave and many others, and you never know when you or one of your family members will also benefit from this selfless act.

Written for Warrenton Lifestyle Magazine in Virginia.

Picture Perfect Designs

Wallpaper that wows!

By Sue Baldani

Painted walls are fine, but why not liven them up with prints that will turn them into works of art? Robert Malmberg can help you do just that.

A professional photographer for 17 years, Robert started supplying limited-edition prints to interior designers in 2012. “I was getting requests from more and more interior designers because photographs are very versatile,” he says.

His studio in Brooklyn, NY, was thriving. In addition to working with designers, he was doing commercial work and had a video production studio. Then COVID hit, and he had to close his doors. “I was still paying rent, and after six months, I asked myself, ‘What’s another thing I could offer to the design trade specifically?’ And I thought, ‘Well, what about wallpaper?’”

This concept had already been in the back of his mind for a couple of years, but he never had the time to pursue it. Now, he had plenty of it. “With no end in sight, I decided to take the year and really develop a wallpaper collection,” says Robert. The wallpaper line launched in March 2021 and the response has been amazing.

“Every month I’m getting three or four new orders from designers that are well known and established in the industry.” His wallpaper has also been featured in Architectural Digest, Forbes, and The Washington Post.

Very meticulous about quality and printmaking, he works only with the highest-quality paper in which to render his photographs. “Using photography as a medium for the design process really makes it one of a kind,” he says. “Each one is a unique collage with different subject matters woven together to make these patterns. It’s a mash-up of still life, landscape and mixed media, and the repeats are a little bit larger than most wallpaper, so they’re all completely different.”

Instead of having blank walls, Robert says that people are seeking something bolder and fun. “We’re in a different culture now and we’re spending way more time at home. We don’t want to just be around a bunch of beige walls all day. My wallpaper adds so much interest and detail and really finishes a room.”

One of his most popular prints include his Rorschach Butterflies. “You’re getting a sense of flight, and I’ve done a couple master bedrooms where it’s on the ceiling and it just looks so cool,” he says.

Another popular and fun print is Sunken Garden. “That was shot in St. Petersburg, FL, and is comprised of probably 90 or so still-life images of flowers and insects,” says Robert. “But, there are hidden things in there, so if you look closely, you’ll see a flamingo, mating butterflies and a lizard.”

He’s also currently working on an African mask wallpaper print. “These are handcrafted masks that were on loan from a museum,” he says. “I photographed about 50 of them and those will be made into a pattern. I’m really excited about it.”

And Robert is not stopping at wallpaper. “I’m expanding into textiles this year, so designs that you see on my site can also be made into fabric.”

To see the entire collection of Malmberg Wallpaper, go to RobertMalmberg.com/Wallpaper.

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.