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Life and Death on Lake Superior

August 2017

Many bees on the native plants.

I had just seen a hawk fly along Lake Superior, but was surprised when two large birds came crashing into a window where was sitting. This created a 45 minute ordeal below my window. The flicker cried, fought and cried some more, but the talons of the hawk had a firm grip. Blue jays and crows came to watch the commotion. The persistence of the hawk ruled and she was too strong and determined for the flicker. An unusual number of hawks in our neighborhood this August have changed the lives of chipmunks, squirrels, and the birds.

On a happier note, A a fresh bright monarch was drying her wings after emerging from her cocoon, and a monarch caterpillar was weaving herself into a cocoon and will hopefully evolve into a new monarch in two weeks.

The great south migration has started with groups of night-hawks and yellow-rump warblers migrating through, and in another week the hummingbirds will be gone, also.  Harbingers of fall.

Common Wood-nymph

The flowers are at their peak and the bees are crazy for bee balm and anise hyssop. The wood-nymph butterflies have been plentiul, but they too are at the end of their life cycle to be replaced by white admirals, cabbage whites, and fritillaries.

The Ugly Face of Plastic

Bring your own shopping bag

Plastic came into being about 1950. It is lightweight and easy to make into many things. Unfortunately, plastic is awful for our wildlife and waterways. Both are choking on this ubiquitous plastic pollution.
What are microplastics? They are tiny pieces of plastic that come from our clothes, plastic litter, and synthetic fibers. Read or listen to the entire story at MPR.
At the present these plastic particles are too small to be strained out of our water treatment plants so they end up polluting our waterways, lakes and oceans. There is a new laundry bag you can purchase (see below) that will filter the microfiber when you wash your clothes.

I love this list from MPR:

5 things you can do to reduce microplastic pollution

  1. Cut back on consuming single-use plastic products such as shopping bags, Starbucks cups and plastic utensils. Replace them with reusable items like travel mugs, silverware
    Microplastic in fleece is causing water pollution!

    and cloth bags.

  2. Buy only facial scrubs, toothpaste and other personal care products made with natural exfoliants, such as oatmeal and salt.
  3. Buy clothing made of organic or natural materials rather than synthetic fibers. Buy only what you need, and invest in higher-quality items so you don’t need to replace them as often.
  4. Don’t wash your clothes as often, especially items made from synthetic fabrics like fleece jackets.
  5. Invest in a mesh laundry bag, guppy friend, designed to capture shedding fibers during the washing cycle. Read about guppy friend here.

 

 

 

Lake Superior Day

Keep Lake Superior Beautiful!

Lake Superior is an amazing beautiful lake. It is the largest and coldest of the Great Lakes.

Today is a typical sunny summer Lake Superior Day with cool winds blowing across the lake from the Northeast.   I am celebrating Lake Superior Day by picking up trash along the roadside, not driving and loving the birds, plants and butterflies that are part of the big lake’s habitat. The eagles, sand-hill cranes, humming birds, red-starts, and white-throated sparrows are a total joy. This morning we saw lots of skippers, common wood-nymphs and white admirals.

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 a few more:

  1. Plastics have become a big problem for our waterways.  Reduce plastic use and be sure any plastic-use is recycled. Also remember to say, “No straw please!”
  2. Micro-fibers in our clothes also are polluting our waterways. As of yet there isn’t a good solution. Read about micro-fibers here.
  3. Always pick up litter, and recycle it if possible.
NASA picture of Lake Superior

What causes all that algae?

The substances that turn our lakes and rivers green each summer come from our lawns and yards. We think of leaves as waste, but to a lake they are food. The algae in lakes love leaves and fertilizers, and when we feed lakes too many chemicals and leaves, algal blooms turn our lakes and rivers green and smelly. Protecting water is everyone’s job What can you do? Simple–remember the land/water connection! What we do to the land we do to the water. Reduce chemicals, clean your streets when the leaves fall from the trees, and when you mow the grass clean your streets and sidewalks. Keep our lakes and rivers clean.

June on Lake Superior

Magnificent skies

June is a month of variety, fresh green plants, and interesting skies. As the month ends, I reflect on the beauty of Lake Superior and the landscape that surrounds it. The length of the days and natural beauty is energizing. Everyday differs with the direction of the wind, and the big lake is usually part of this equation.
The birds are secretly nesting and raising their young, but I watch an unaware flicker fly in and out of her nest hole with food.

Wild geranium, easy to grow, is loved by bees and butterflies.

 

White Admiral Butterfly
Lupine on Lake Superior

 

 

 

 

 

The lupine, wild geraniums, Canada anemone, thimbleberry, and raspberries bloom while the milkweed takes over the garden path.

And.. everyday enjoys a new butterfly.

 

A Simple Idea to Improve Water

How can you keep rainwater in your yard?

It’s raining where I live. Do you ever wonder where all that rainwater goes? Our earth naturally manages rainwater, drainage, and wetlands, and it is able to naturally purify and clean our water. Unfortunately, we created an impossible situation with our concrete urbanization and all the chemicals we use. Instead of allowing the rain to fall and soak into the ground we get it away from our houses and buildings as fast as we can sending water rushing down our storm drains into our lakes and rivers. As this water cascades over concrete and asphalt it picks up chemicals, pollutants, trash, lawn clippings and leaves which wash into our lakes, rivers, and oceans.

This is a classic example if everyone were to do just a bit to give some of this natural cleaning back to the earth, it would make a big difference in our water quality.

No one wants a wet basement, so always keep water 10 feet from your house or apartment, but beyond the 10 feet you can do many water managements things with a few flexible downspout extensions which you can purchase at hardware stores.

Below is an excellent blog from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization on a very simple way to use some of the water running off your home, and making a big difference for water quality.

 

From the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization : “Your goal, as an eco-friendly house-dweller, is to soak as much of that water into the ground as possible. The soil will filter out the pollutants and the water will move downward until it reaches the water table. As a bonus, any plants, trees or other vegetation in the area will soak up a portion of the water to use as fuel.”  Read the entire blog here.

The Mississippi River Shed drains much of the United States

The same thing can be accomplished on agricultural land that uses buffer strips of trees and deep-rooted plants along ponds and streams.   These buffer strips absorb the chemicals!  The Gulf of Mexico thanks you! Read at Gulf