Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Have a Dream

I've decided to start my very own club/organization. Though I'm not sure how formal it's going to be yet. I'm gearing this towards environmentalists, scientists, and avid hobbyists of all things nature. Basically I want to take what Doug Tallamy has written in his book "Bringing Nature Home" and use it as the underlining philosophy for a gardening club. I don't want to target life long gardeners because these are stereotypical grandmother-ish people who really buy into the ornamental industry. Because I know it's hard for people to change old habbits I think traditional gardeners might not appreciate certain undertones I've been known to emphasise.

Here's an example. The ornamintial industry has been promoting a landscape that is starving nature to death. Plants that are sold as Pest Free are the most useless plants in the world. It doesn't matter if bees are pollinating the flowers, or birds are eating the barries or even nesting in the branches; If it isn't native to US soil it's part of the problem. The fact that bees love the flowers to some of these plants and birds are spreading the seeds around are exactly why. This is a nonnative plant that our native insects can't eat or control, occasionally they'll be brought in with a disease our native varieties don't have an immunity to. We don't need these plants in America because we already have natives that do this alread. Far to often do we see a forest destroyed to make way for development, and when they find erosion to be the problem instead of planting native varieties that were doing the job towns turn to the ornimental industry and plant nonnative weeds.

Somewhere along the way Native plants were seen as ugly. I have no idea where this notion came from. The beauty of plants will vary no matter what part of the world you're in. It's our native plants that are targeted by butterflies and used as host plants. The damage these caterpillars do can be extensive but I've never seen this kill a tree. Our native trees are well adept to regrowing all their leaves. When people see a gypse moth tent they tend to spray them on sight. But I say let them be. Think about how much money is wasted putting birdseed into birdfeeders every year. In a healthy environment we have perfectly good controles for most pests. People look at the epidemics happening to farms (a very fradgile and unhealthy environment due to it's monocrop) and think it could happen to their backyard too.

The club I intend to found will be one to promote hearloom trading of native plants. I plan to grow them in my yard, collect the seeds, and grow them over the winter. Club members should attempt to do the same and we can trade and share what we grow. Maybe even sell them as a fund raiser, though I don't know what we'll be using the money for. I don't believe charging money will be nessessary either. This brings me to my second gripe.

Charaty organizations! I don't want to say they're bad, no no no. By all means a lot of them do good. But I don't believe what any of them are doing is enough. I'm sure the money going to plant a tree is doing some good somewhere but it's kind of faceless when you think about it. You're giving money to a website and in good faith this is doing some good ... somewhere. I think it would be a better method if people were to take this into their own hands. Instead of paying someone else to plant a tree, Why not plant one yourself? A native one of course. This way you can enjoy it! You can make a home for a bird, you can save an endangered species of butterfly, you can beautify your landscape is so many ways if you'd just do some research. If you went well out of your way to plant Milkweed in your landscape you could easily produce a Monarch Butterfly. I planted 4 plants myself two years ago and both years I've had a Monarch hatch out.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Berries slow the Development of Cancer

Strawberries, Raspberries Halt Cancer in Rats

This is from 2002 but I found it to be a good read. Makes me happy I have a few Raspberry plants out in the yard. The thing is though that of 8 plants and only 4 of them producing readily I'd say I only get a hand full from them a week. That's not a whole lot and many I toss away because of slugs and a certain type of fly that feeds on them. They're not real pests and don't really harm much but I still with I got more.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Winter Caterpillars

Woolly Bear caterpillars are on the move. Pyrrharctia isabella is one of the more commonly seen over wintering caterpillars. They're one of the few caterpillars that can eat virtually anything, but oddly enough only take short nibbles here and there. Much of their time is spent wondering aimlessly.

Once winter occurs they will hibernate usually under logs, in leaf litter, or under the bark of trees. Come spring time they can be seen wondering again but are less common than in the fall time. The resulting moth is just brown and doesn't really seem very special.

Hypercompe scribonia, or the Giant Leopard Moth as it's called, is probably the second most common one crawling around now. They're also mistaken for Woolly Bears because they almost look the same. The difference is that Leopard Caterillars are a little bit bigger and don't have the red/brown stripes we see on Woolly Bears.

Giant Leopard Moths are actually very pretty. You've probably seen them if you're living in the easter US and Canada. They're an all white moth, somewhat furry or feathery, and have black spots all over. They're worth googling.