A Magical Time on Lake Superior

swallow tail butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly

June can be the best time of the year for pollinators. In northern Wisconsin and Minnesota it is an awesome time for seeing bees, and butterflies! Within two minutes I observed monarchs, swallowtails, sulphurs, northern crescents, painted ladies, dragon flies, and many skippers and bees on a small patch of hawkweed and daisies.

Hawkweed
Orange Hawkweed

Everyone comments about the beautiful lupine near Lake Superior, and it is beautiful to human eyes. If you look closely, very few butterflies and bees crave lupine like they crave Canadian anemone, blooming chives, wild geraniums, blooming trees, forget-me-nots or daisies. The blooming plant that has surprised me the most this year is the orange hawkweed. It is not a native plant, but the butterflies love it.

Female American Redstart

It’s not the best time of the year to see birds, but if you can recognize their songs they bring constant musical joy. The song sparrow, chestnut sided warbler, and a pair of red starts joyfully sing all day.

Lupine on Lake Superior

As long as the sun shines the birds, bees and butterflies seem oblivious to the battle taking place on the big lake. The cold lake ties to dominate the warm tropical winds from the south, and the temperature can fluctuate from 60 degrees to 80 degrees every few minutes. It’s fascinating and refreshing!
The days are long in these northern climes with the sun setting past 9pm and twilight lasting beyond 10pm. No matter where you live get outside and enjoy the marvelous butterflies of summer, in a few weeks they will be gone!

See a Tree

Trees on bodies of water help to keep water clean.

May is Arbor Month. Do you have a favorite tree? When I was a child I had a young  basswood tree growing in my back yard. It was a little tree, but it had enormous leaves. I loved watching that tree grow and change! 

Jane Goodall

The tree I had in the garden as a child, my beech tree, I used to climb up there and spend hours. I took my homework up there, my books, I went up there if I was sad, and it just felt very good to be up there among the green leaves and the birds and the sky” Jane Goodall

Before being logged pine trees originally covered northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Find a tree on your walk, in your yard, or neighborhood to enjoy. Observe it everyday. Watch how it changes, notice the shade it gives, the texture of its bark and leaves What kind of seeds does it have? Watch for new growth. How does it help wildlife? What attracted you to it? What beauty and diversity does it add to your environment? Give it a name.

I have a cedar in my backyard full of mysterious activity. All the birds that fly in and out of its secretive branches intrigues me. Cardinals have built a nest hidden in its branches, but it is too busy an environment to raise a family. It does feels like a friendly place, and all the birds love its shelter. I would love to hide in its branches to find out all that goes on within this cedar tree. Unfortunately, the cats in my neighborhood also sit and watch this tree full of bird activity. Please keep your cats inside!

May is a perfect month to plant trees, but always plant something native to your area, and please plant trees friendly to wildlife. Here is the National Wildlife Federation’s list of best trees for wildlife. Oaks are especially good for wildlife.

Trees are beautiful and add so much to make our environment special, but “Foremost might be trees’ role in purifying the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Of course, they also play a vital role in creating habitats for wild animals, providing food, water and shelter.” Jim Gilbert 

How do trees help keep water clean? Trees improve water quality by slowing rain as it falls to the Earth, and helping it soak into the soil. They also prevent soil from eroding into our waterways, reduce storm water runoff, and lessen flood damage.

Earth Day Wonder

On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day let’s celebrate our Earth.  We ate all in this together, and it’s a wonder how interconnected we all are. Who would think the entire planet could work in solidarity for one thing, healing! Our forced isolation has begun to heal the Earth. The air is clearing, the waterways resting, and wildlife is happy to have quiet and some of their habitat back.

Our Earth is an amazing place, and on this Earth Day think about the wonders of our beautiful planet.

what a Wonderful World
Wonders of our Earth

There’s wonder everywhere, if only you look for it. Look for it. It might be in a tree outside your window, in the patch of sky you can see if you crane your neck, in the herbs you’re growing, in the nest the swans are building on that open stretch of marsh across the street.” Sam Sifton NYT

All these wonders are connected. We can make the world a better place when we work together in solidarity. Can something good come of this awful crisis? May science, justice and kindness transform our world into a new beginning. Take 3 breaths for peace, and celebrate wonder on this Earth Day!

11 actions for the planet during a pandemic

 

Earth Day Kindness

earth dayNature is not cancelled, pollinators are not cancelled, blooming trees and plants are not cancelled. There is a whole world of beauty outside our homes and from our windows. On this fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, celebrations are going virtual, but as individuals I hope we can each think about what our wonderful world means to us. We are all connected and our collective action against Coronavirus is working.  Let the healing of our Earth and our people begin, and lets put our collective action together to make a better world. Because we are all connected let’s come out of this crisis stronger as a people and stronger as a society.  Our resilience will get us through this.
I have a daily activity for everyday as we celebrate and count down to Earth Day. I hope you will join me. Please have fun, connect to nature, experience the hope of spring, be kind, and be part of a healing world!


Meatless Monday

vegan food
Quinoa Vegetable Stew

Collective action to reduce our meat consumption*** can make a big difference. Monday is a good day to try a new vegetarian dish. Find a recipe for Lentil Cacciatore here.  It has been amazing how popular beans have been in this crisis. The grocery store shelves for beans are still empty, and I hope we are cooking and making healthy food choices. Enjoy a meatless day!

 

Plastic-free/Zero waste Tuesday

end food waste
Help the environment by reducing food waste

Spending the day at home makes it easy to be plastic-free. Always use real dishes, utensils and glasses/cups. Make Tuesday the day to use up food left-overs from the week. Create wraps, soups or a stew from your left overs. Before the Coronavirus  40% of food was wasted in the United States. With so many hanging out at home I suspect that number is now lower. Let’s save water, labor and energy and continue to reduce food waste.

 
Water Wednesday

poster for clean water
What can we do to keep our water clean?

Clean water and water use have become crucial  topics. Flooding and droughts are happening everyday, and we all have a right to clean drinking water. Become aware of your water usage and how lucky you are to have inexpensive clean drinking water. Water Wednesday is to concentrate on our water usage. It is a day to pick up litter, sweep our sidewalks, and clean debris from our storm drains. Redirect your drainspouts onto your lawn, and figure where you could plant a raingarden?Is there a place in your yard or porch/balcony you could add some native plants the bees and butterflies love?  Collective positive energy works!


Thoughtful Thursday
Everyday should be kind and thoughtful, but make a special effort today. Our collective actions for kindness can make a difference. Put water in your bird baths, fill your bird feeders, check-in with someone you haven’t seen or heard from in awhile. Be kind and smile.


Friday Fun

Common Wood-nymph

Become totally engaged in your surroundings. Create a scavenger hunt: look for sidewalk art, a butterfly, a beautiful tree. Look for blooming flowers, a bird building a nest, something that surprises you or a special cloud. Everyone that finds something new wins!


Singing Saturday
What sounds of nature catch your attention? I have birds singing outside my window. Ducks are flying overhead, frogs and crickets will sing soon. Maybe the wind or a rushing creek give you peace.  Listen for an enjoyable sound, or maybe listen for complete quiet. Find peace in nature.

Spiritual Sunday

find beauty
Collective action can create a healthier and happier world.

What ever your spiritual practice, nature can heal us. Today find beauty and love whether through the gospel, through a poem or picture, time outside or a meditation. Dare to dream. Spend the day focusing on what you love and finding beauty in your day. If the weather permits go for a long walk. What do you love, how can you have more of what you love in your life? Find quiet beauty from your walk or from your window. Wishing you peace.

***”Now is the time to try out any plant-based recipes you’ve saved. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that keep your immune system strong, and they have a lower carbon footprint, too. For example, beef is about 34 times more climate pollution–intensive than beans and lentils, pound for pound. If you’re finding it hard to keep your produce fresh given your newly limited shopping habits, get creative. Whir brown bananas into smoothies, or simmer soft tomatoes into sauce. There are plenty of ways to salvage fruits and veggies slightly past their prime. So boost your repertoire. Share recipes with friends. And come out on the other side of this crisis a climate-friendly chef.” NRDC

Plastic bags are choking our Earth

Target Petition Urges Retailer To Ban Plastic Bags

Dear Target. Please ban plastic bags, or charge 25 cents per bag. Putting a cost on bags would make individuals value them, and hopefully reuse them, not just let them fly onto the streets and landscapes.

I get so tired of seeing plastic bags blowing on the street and fields, hanging from trees, left in bus shelters, and stuck in street gutters. These bags can last for hundreds of years, and then might only break into tiny pieces of plastic. They are made to last! It is time corporate America, Target and others, to step up and take leadership on our plastic problem. Also, each of us needs to take responsibility and always bring reusable bags shopping.

Retailers think they are doing enough by offering recycling of plastic bags. In fact only 5% of plastic bags are recycled, but according to my local recycler there isn’t much of a market for the recycling of plastic bags.

The best thing you can do is bring your own reusable bags!

health4earth
Bring your own reusable bags.

 

Some states and cities have banned single-use plastic. Read more here

 

24 inches of snow!

Lake Superior in December
A December Lake Superior

December 1, is the beginning of meterological winter, and it showed its true winter colors by stiking the south shore of Lake Suprerior with a massive snowfall.  Yikes, have you tried to shovel 24 inches of snow? Never have we seen so much snow. It’s beautiful, but some people haven’t managed to get shoveled out 4 days later. Snow plows, trucks and snow blowers have broken down. A strong back/legs and a good snow shovel needed, and many help their neighbors.  I am so thankful for our snow plower who faithfully cleared our 600 foot driveway. Read about the snow here.

Heavy snow hangs on branches
Many balsam trees wear a snow skirt.

With such heavy snow I worry about the survival of wildlife. For a few days I only saw crows, but today the chickadees are back singing. They are at the feeder with their friends the nuthatches, and blue jays and wood peckers are now out looking for food. The deer had to contend with deer hunting last week, and now they have to forge for food in almost impossible conditions. Deer tracks can be spotted in driveways so some have survived hunting and a major snowstorm, but the winter food find will be tough for them. See tracking animals

LAke Superior bank
Water from the lake covers the trees

 

What are you doing Today for the Future?

PROTECT                               RESTORE                          FUND!

Greta is an awesome spokesperson for the world, and she has a global audience.  I focus locally. What can each of us do to make a difference? So instead of getting depressed, make an effort everyday to help the Earth: Take public transport, buy less, reduce plastic use and food waste, plant native plants and native trees, and reduce the amount of meat you eat. Each one of us can make a big difference!

And the letter from scientists to the world. “Mankind is still facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population,” they warned. And “scientists, media influencers and lay citizens” aren’t doing enough to fight against it, If the world doesn’t act soon, there will be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery,” they wrote. Read the full report by thousands of scientists here.

More on amazing trees: https://www.treepeople.org/tree-benefits

Thriving Pollinators

The August yard
Cardinal flowers pop-up everywhere in my yard!

What joy to look out the window and see monarch butterflies and ruby throated hummingbirds enjoying the plants in my yard. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds thrive on native plants. Hummingbirds are especially crazy about the cardinal flowers, and because cardinal flowers are a pop-up flower* and I am a pop-up gardener they are everywhere one looks in our yard. Where ever you look you see a hummingbird enjoying a native plant. Native plants are now at their peak and bees and butterflies are happy. Because the rainfall has been so heavy this year, many plants are taller with more blossoms than usual. Thriving plants attract thriving pollinators.

Plant and they will come!

Loving monarch butterflies
A monarch on swamp milkweed

Every yard should have purple cone flowers
Many pollinators like purple cone flowers.

 

 

hummingbirds love cardinal flowers
Cardinal flowers pop-up everywhere.

*pop-up flower -You never know where they will re-seed and pop-up.  I let them grow where they are happy!

 

Suggestions for easy to raise native plants: 1. Never use chemicals, native plants like compost, but not chemicals. 2. Strive to have plants that bloom in different seasons. 3. Work for plant diversity, and you get a variety of happy pollinators. 4. Native plants are very easy to grow if you put them in a place that meets their needs for sun and moisture. There are natives that will thrive in almost every condition. 5. Native plants are a process, we weren’t born knowing this, it takes time, and you will be surprised by their energy and persistence. 6. Whatever you do to add plants to your yard, be sure to add some milkweed.

https://health4earth.com/add-fun-pollinators-to-your-yard/

Superior Views, The Longest Days

Picture of Lake Superior
Lake Superior

As I sit and listen to the waves, I can tell this is no ordinary lake. The sound of the waves tell of a deep cold big lake, and this year it is colder than usual making for a late spring and summer.

hummingbid sits at feeder
Female ruby-throat hummingbird

Song sparrows have built a nest on the ground a short distance from my window. Building a ground nest is surprising to me, but these sparrows know more about nests than I do. Any outside activity near the nest is off limits for us, and I am thrilled I have such a good view from my window.

painted lady butterfly
Painted lady butterfly

Along with the song sparrow the common yellow throat, red-eyed vireo, red start, oven bird, mourning warbler and chestnut sided warbler sing their hearts out and bring joy. The painted butterfly, monarch, and yellow swallow-tail are searching for host plants for their eggs. I hope the lateness of plants this year doesn’t harm the butterflies.

Lupine on Lake Superior

During these long days the sun rises at 5:10am, and sets at 9:03pm giving us lots of daylight to enjoy the big lake, the birds, the butterflies, and new blooming flowers.

 

Buffer strips
Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality, would they keep the shoreline from collapsing?

Run-off from the rivers and high-water levels are making the big lake brown. The dirt banks are wearing away.  The wet climate of the last few years has really changed the lake! And a local news article about powerful Lake Superior grabbing land as the lake levels rise. Lake Superior is always changing and renewing itself in every season, including the shoreline that surrounds it.