Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Backyard/Schoolyard Habitat

Life without nature can have serious repercussions for children. An article from ej, a magazine for environmental journalism at MSU says so. A syndrome was informally named called nature deficit syndrome. For more, go to ejmagazine.com fall 2006 issue. Sarah Kozicki wrote the article.

I am thinking of a grow zone at church, maybe to stop mowing there, see what happens and keep a diary with the kids. I planted some Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) with them out on the grounds as well as in a plastic container. They loved playing with the gossamer.

We stopped mowing in the back forty, down the hill 15 years ago maybe? We got a lot of Buckthorn there, I noticed several years later. I need to reconstruct the time line. When was it that the FOTR sent a mailing to each and every riparian land owner in the Rouge and had an event for us. I met Barbara there. She had pictures of Buckthorn . I checked. Sure enough, Buckthorn ( Common Buckthorn- Rhamnus cathartica and Glossy Buckthorn- Rhamnus frangula) had begun a little colony under the Willow, under the Maple. Under the Buckthorn, nothing grew.

When I really looked at things in the Buckthorn Thicket, it was spooky, not like the thickets of my childhood. Usually there is undergrowth. In a thicket of shrubbery, often children will make paths, but here nothing grew and no one went there. It was empty underneath and spreading on all sides. We cut it down. I began putting leaves there in the fall, to create a layer of mulch to keep the side shoots from growing. It turns out that Buckthorn is very clever, it gets the birds to spread seeds by eating the black fruit (though it causes digestive upsets) and it also spreads by rhizome. Fortunately, it is very easy to pull when it is young. I get it in many of my beds, even out front, far the major seed sources.

"Invaders don't simply consume or compete with native species - they change the rules of existence for all species by altering ecosystem processes such as primary productivity, decomposition, hydrology, geomorphology, nutrient cycling or natural disturbance regimes."
-P.M. Vitousek et al. American Scientist, Sept.- Oct 1996

Notes on the Backyard/Schoolyard workshop at UofM Dearborn Environmental Interpretive Center: Bill Craig, who has a grow zone at his house and is active at Buchanan Oasis Garden at Buchanan Elementary School , Livonia, Michigan had some wonderful photos of areas he stewards. One photo was of a Spicebush Caterpillar. Add Spicebush (Lindera benzoin to my list of must grow for my planned hedgerow. There is a Swallowtail that is dark and comes from the caterpillar. The berries are good for culinary use. It is a must grow shrub for me.

Many presenters recommended the book Last Child in the Woods -Saving Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.

There were other presenters. Sharon Oliver-Merchant from Adler Elementary School in Southfield, Dan Ballnik of Dearborn, Susan Erhardt from Greening of Detroit showed slides of the Tree Keepers Kids garden at Neinas Elementary School, Detroit ; Dorothy McLeer from the Environmental Interpretive Center at U-M Dearborn; Rick Plecha, Plymouth-Canton Schools had a list possible fund and grant sights. There were some fine gardens, and many ways of going native and promoting diversity in the environment, were presented.

There was a hand out on making service projects with children. If I have to quantify and document, I will, but I see it as a nuisance. I suppose the paperwork is one way of communicating and working with groups.


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