When I see the mowing down native plants pollinators I get angry. My husband and I have just completed a driving loop from Minneapolis to Chicago and back through Iowa. We have traveled Interstate East 94, West Interstate 80 and Interstate 35 North. The entire road trip I surveyed the status of mowing and blooming plants. The shoulders of most of the interstates are not over-mowed, but they are mowing the center median which doesn’t make sense? The best plants can grow in the median if allowed to survive. Some farmers are mowing along the interstates and they do get a little extreme with their mowers. Educating, educating and educating is what we need to continue to do, and it does make a difference. Below is a sample letter I sent to my rural town road crew. I hope you can modify it and send to your local and state government.
Dear local government road crew,
Pollinators, (bees, butterflies and birds) are in trouble in the United States. They have faced serious habitat loss. Last year and the past few years their numbers seemed smaller compared to the years before. Bees and butterflies need the nectar and pollen from flowers for their survival. The Obama Administration is working to plant pollinator plants along our interstate highways to improve bird, bee and butterfly habitat. The plants along the roadways in our town are a natural habitat for birds, butterflies and bees. Now as the daisies, lupine and other wild plants bloom we have beautiful roadways for residents and food for butterflies and bees.
I am writing to ask you to not mow the entire right-a-way along our town roads until maybe late August or even better would be September. I know you need to mow for safety, and that is important. Could you please not mow every flower down until early fall? Maybe mow just a strip along the roads leaving plant food for our pollinators. The bees, butterflies, birds and humans would thank you for the needed nectar, and fabulous summer beauty.
If I can get a commitment from you to mow a little later, I will spread milkweed seeds along the town roads creating more butterfly and bee habitat.
Wisconsin energy co-ops to create monarch butterfly habitat
A Climatarian diet involves choosing what you eat based on the carbon footprint of the food, and using your power as a consumer to drive down the production of beef and lamb which have the biggest impact on our climate. A climatarian is about eating local food to reduce transportation and reducing food waste.
My easy suggestions on being a Climatarian:
Walk or take the bus to purchase groceries.
Participate in Meatless Monday, and go meatless other days, also!
Eliminate beef and reduce cheese consumption.
Work to reduce all food waste and compost any food waste you have.
Choose minimal packaging, and recycle as much as possible.
Use real dishes, and reuse jars and products.
I love “clean out” the refrigerator stir fry and ideas from Tom Colicchio
It’s raining this week where I live. How can we use all this water rushing into the storm drains and at the same time improve the quality of the water runs from our roofs, sidewalks, driveways and streets? This water picks up many pollutants as it races to our lakes and rivers. There are things we can do to lessen this pollution such as sweeping our driveways and sidewalks and not using chemicals on our lawns. A good way to clean this polluted run-off is to direct the water into a garden, a rain garden. Today as it rains I can see the water rush into my rain gardens where my deep-rooted plants help clean this water as it drains into the earth below. This past week I have been part of a team that installed two rain gardens. Both gardens captured water that would run into the Mississippi River. We had fun, and were thrilled we helped to “plant for clean water.”
What is a rain garden?
The water that runs off our houses sidewalks, driveways and streets contains pollutants that run directly into our streams and lakes. A rain garden captures this water and the plants in the garden actually purify the water filtering out the pollutants. Like a friend said, “It’s like magic!”
An aspect of climate change is we can go for months without any precipitation then watch out…. inundation, too much rain. Rain gardens are a valuable tool to use and manage the water that falls on our properties. The plants should not need to be watered so we conserve water
Advantages of rain gardens:
1. They conserve water by managing rainfall
2. Rain gardens filter out pollutants
3. Blooming plants add beauty to your yard
4. Rain gardens often use native plants that bees, birds and butterflies love.
Simple steps to creating a rain garden:
1. Remove the sod and dig a hole. It must be at least 10 feet from your house and where you can direct a drain-spout, driveway or sidewalk to drain rain water. Most rain garden holes are about 12 inches deep with wide 3 feet slanted sides surrounding the garden. The bottom of the garden should be flat.
2. Mix in about one inch of compost to the bottom and sides of your new garden
3. Cover the garden with a layer of several inches of double or triple shredded mulch.
4. Plant deep-rooted plants. Most of the plants you love will work matching the degree of sun and shade. Also, always work to have a variety of plants that bloom at different times for the bees and butterflies.The bottom plants need to be water tolerant. Some bottom plants I have used are: liatris, swamp milkweed, turtlehead, Culver’s root, blue flag iris, sensitive fern, cardinal-flower, blue lobelia and many kinds of sedges.
5.. Water–If it is dry, you need to water the new plants for the first couple of months.
Why are we so fascinated with hummingbirds? Is it their tiny size, incredible energy or maybe it is that we can really observe them close up in comparison to other birds?Hummingbirds love red and bright pink flowers,, and as in this video they will visit absolutely every bloom of a plant they love.
My local newspaper did two stories on hummingbirds this week and I had to share thoughts about these amazing little pollinators. 1. The female raises and feeds the babies all on her own. After June male ruby-throats in the north country, become almost non-existent. 2. Amazing, she builds her nests to expand as her babies grow. Read Val Cunningham’s article and see hummingbird nest pictures here
What can you do to attract hummingbirds to your yard and neighborhood?
1. Put up a feeder, and make your own nectar** 2. Never use chemicals on your plants, and purchase neonicotinoid free plants. 3. Plant colorful flowers like cardinal-flower, and red bee balm.
**From Nature Notes and Jim Gilbert: “Their food consists of nectar and small insects. They will come to sugar-water feeders. I like to use a mixture of one part granulated white sugar dissolved in four parts water to lure them close enough so we can hear the humming sound from their rapid wing beats. Rinse your feeder with water and scrub with a stiff brush to remove any dirt or sticky spots to help halt fermentation and mold growth. Do not add food coloring, some of which is not safe, or honey. Hummers are drawn to colors, so use a feeder made with colorful materials.” Link to the entire article on hummingbirds.
Spring is slow to crawl out of winter next to the big lake, but early June brings hope that warmer weather and summer is coming.
The trees are filled with singing warblers, many are building nests, and a female red start has worked for days pulling threads from last years swamp milkweed stalks for her nest. It’s amazing how hard they work creating their nests!
Forget-me-nots and dandelions are the flowers the bees and butterflies depend on at this time, but the hummingbirds and bees attack each wild geranium flower that starts to bloom. Also, lupine is just beginning to bloom.
Carpets of bunch berries cover the forest floor
Butterfly watching is at some of it’s best with the American Lady, Monarchs, tiger swallow-tail, spring azure, and dusty wings. What are your outside joys for June?
The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, and the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!
I would add several more:
1. Rain gardens are excellent for capturing harmful water runoff.
2. Keep leaves and trash out of streets and storm drains-Adopt a storm drain!
3. Never use cleaning products or hand sanitizer with triclosan.
4. Reduce all plastic use–If you must use plastic bags and bottles, be sure you recycle them. 5. Pick up all liter.