Help Document Global Biodiversity in the Great Nature Project

Red Admiral butterfly resting on the flowers of a False Indigo plant.

Red Admiral butterfly resting on the flowers of a False Indigo plant.

 

Join the Great Nature Project

National Geographic and the enthusiastic nature lovers working at iNaturalist.org have partnered to host a ten day international celebration of biodiversity. The goal of their “Great Nature Project” is to is to create a database of records that can be accessed by scientists, decision makers and the general public when questions arise about where and when different species occur.

Ultimately, the organizers’ goal is to is to create a database of records that can be accessed by scientists, decision makers and the general public when questions arise about where and when different species occur.

You can be a part of the fun by documenting the plants and animals you see between now and May 25, 2015 and posting them online at the Great Nature Project website.

The details:

1) Go outside and take photos of the wild plants, animals and fungi in your area.  The organizers ask that the photos be clear enough and close enough so that others can identify the species in question.  “Even if you do no know what it is, other people might know!” they write in their press release.

2) Upload your photos to greatnatureproject.org or the iNaturalist.org. You will be asked to include information about where and when you saw it.

3) Check out the photos others are posting and help others identify “unknowns.”

 

Hives in the City Awarded Silver Medal

I’ve just been notified that Hives in the City, my book about urban beekeepers working hives in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, won a silver medal in the 2015 Independent Book Publisher Awards contest.

Each year thousands of books are entered into the contest; this year the finalists included books from across the globe.  My book’s medal was earned in the category of the Environment/Ecology/Nature.

(To view the other winners in my category, scroll down to number 47 on the list.)

HivesInTheCity cover scaled to fit FB

 

 

 

Hey DC: Seen any rabbits lately?

Photo courtesy of the USFWS.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. Photo courtesy of the USFWS.

For some gardeners, rabbits seem as voracious and as ever-present as that other garden gobbling mammal, the white-tailed deer. They run across streets at dusk flitting out from under shrubs to eat every newly planted flower to the ground.

But in other neighborhoods, the Eastern Cottontails have all but vanished from the landscape, remaining only as a character in Easter storybooks.

Rabbits are, in fact, listed as a “species of greatest conservation need” in the city. Their uneven population is troubling land managers here on the east coast, who want to know more about these animals and what role they play in the urban ecosystem.

The Fisheries and Wildlife Division of the District Department of the Environment is asking the public to help monitor the local rabbit population in the District.  You can become a Citizen Scientist by recording your rabbit sightings and sharing them with DDOE biologists.

“By getting people to help we’re able to get a better handle on their numbers,” DDOE’s Lindsay Rohrbaugh told me last week.

If you see a rabbit in D.C., you can record your sighting online here.

Welcoming Wildlife to an Urban Garden

Old iron fences like these make great garden trellises!

Old iron fences like these make great garden trellises!

Welcoming Wildlife to Your Urban Garden

Join me tomorrow, April 18, 2015 @ 2pm at Community Forklift in Edmonston, Maryland for a workshop about urban gardening for wildlife. FREE!

City lots and balconies may be small, but the actions taken in our tiny backyards can add up to a big difference for creatures like dragonflies, bees, butterflies, migratory birds and many other creatures. Plus, providing a space for wildlife in your urban gardening can make city living more rewarding for humans.

This workshop will include practical advice on the basics of providing for creatures large and small, and ways to avoid attracting unwanted visitors, such as rats.

I will be giving away a limited number of common milkweed seeds for attendees at this event.  Common milkweed is the one favored by monarchs; you can read more about it in my past posts on the topic, here.

I will also be giving away one copy of my book, Hives in the City: Keeping Honey Bees Alive in an Urban World, as a door prize.  (More copies will available for sale from 3-3:15pm.)

If you have never been there before, Community Forklift is a very cool salvage yard that aims to recycle leftover building materials and put usable items back to work in people’s homes.  You never know what you might find when you visit: a box of cool antique tile, a perfectly good gas range ready to take home, or a whole barrel of glass door knobs.  One time I arrived on a Saturday morning to find an entire pallet of gorgeous river rocks left from someone else’s ritzy landscaping job — priced  at a dollar each!!

FREE Seat Reservations are available via Eventbrite:
http://www.eventbrite.com/e/welcoming-wildlife-to-your-urban-garden-tickets-16250892858?aff=efbevent

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ReCycling Bike Wheels to Make Music in the Garden

The beginning of March is a frustrating time. I am done with winter now, and want it to go away.  I have been trying to find indoor garden projects that allow me to dream and be creative while the cold weather hangs on.  Two weeks ago that meant heading over to Wilson High School to attend RootingDC and catch some classes about gardening, food, fun, and family.

One of my favorite workshops was “reCycle: Repurposing Old Bike Wheels in the Garden,” taught by Sarah Baker, a garden educator at City Blossoms.

Sarah Baker demonstrating how to recycle bike wheels at RootingDC

Sarah Baker demonstrating how to recycle bike wheels at RootingDC

City Blossoms emphasizes kid-driven community engagement at both their Girard Street and Marion Street gardens in the District.  Bringing music into an urban garden, Sarah told the class on Saturday, can provide space where kids can interact with the landscape in a positive, safe, joyful and highly physical way.

Sarah noted that she and her co-workers often host kid-friendly classes in their gardens on topics like planting seeds, weeding, and cooking. Residents from the local neighborhoods are invited to help tend the garden with the casual agreement that those who help with the planting and tending can help themselves to the harvest.  In City Blossom’s gardens you’ll find all kinds of tasty foods being grown in raised beds and on trellises, and you’ll often see kids enthusiastically joining in or even leading garden maintenance with their parents or other adults.

 

But some kids, Sarah explained, have shorter attention spans and aren’t as interested in learning how to do some of the activities being offered. The City Blossoms staff thought it would be great to provide a space where those children could safely play and have a good time without damaging anything growing in the garden beds.  So she and her coworkers began building musical instruments  that could withstand the elements and the kid’s musical enthusiasm.  (See Sarah’s full list of “Considerations When Making Garden Art, below.)

Sarah Baker at the City Blossoms Girard Street Garden last fall, showing visitors the bucket drums and PVC xylophone.

Sarah Baker at the City Blossoms Girard Street Garden last fall, showing visitors the bucket drums and PVC xylophone.

 

To keep everything within budget and environmentally conscious, the City Blossoms’ crew also tried to also make their musical garden installations out of recycled materials, found either around the neighborhood, provided through donations from friends, or bought at Community Forklift, the nonprofit scrap yard located in nearby Bladensburg, MD.

Sarah also highly recommends a visit to Scrap DC, where all kinds of textiles and other colorful soft items can be found for re-purposing.

 

Among City Blossoms’ garden instruments:

-PVC tubes made into a rainbow-colored xylophone

-5 gallon buckets turned upside down and painted to make drums

-bike wheels suspended overhead and hung with old silverware to make wind chimes

Securing the plastic tubing using the engineering ties.

Securing the plastic tubing using the engineering ties.

 

 

Last Saturday, those who attended Sarah’s RootingDC workshop also got to make bike wheels into circular noise makers, similar to fence-mounted macracas or rainsticks, a project that Sarah has done with children several times in the City Blossoms’ gardens.

 

 

 

Supply list:

  • an old bike wheel with the tire and the center axle removed.  It is okay if the wheel rim is rusty, bent or warped, but avoid using those with sharp edges.

  • a bolt (and corresponding nut) that is long enough to fit through the center of the wheel plus a few inches.  You will use this to mount you wheel to a fence or wall.

  • tubing the same diameter as the wheel rim and cut to a length that is only slightly longer than the circumference of the wheel

  • engineering ties

  • about 1/2 cup of dry rice, seeds, beads or old bolts and nuts to make noise inside the tubing when the wheel is turned

  • small plastic flange or a small piece of PVC solid piping cut to a two inch segment.  The diameter of the flange or PVC tubing should be the same diameter as the tubing, as you will use this to close up the tube into a circle around the bike wheel.

  • optional: a piece of small scrap lumber to help stabilize the wheel on your fence.

STEP 1: Secure flange/PVC piping piece to one end of the tubing.  You may need to use heavy duty plastic glue.

This group, working at the City Blossoms Girard Street garden last fall, chose to weave fabric scraps into their wheel.

This group, working at the City Blossoms Girard Street garden last fall, chose to weave fabric scraps into their wheel.

STEP 2: Attach tubing to wheel using engineering ties.  You can get creative here by using brightly colored ties, or by adding beads before you close the ties around the tubing.

STEP 3: Before closing the piping into a circle around the wheel, pour rice (or the other small objects) into the tubing.  It does not take a large amount to make noise.  Test to see if you like the sound, add or subtract as desired before closing up the loop and securing the flange with glue.  Then add final engineering ties, as needed.

STEP 4: Secure to a fence post with a long bolt and nut.  You may need to use the piece of scrap lumber for stability.

 

Sarah notes that you and the children who use your garden can weave scrap fabrics into the spokes of the wheel to make it colorful. Old t-shirts are especially good for this purpose, but even plastic bags can be used if they are more plentiful in your environment.

CONSIDERATIONS WHEN MAKING GARDEN ART

A helpful list from Sarah Baker at City Blossoms in Washington, DC

  • Does it promote play?
  • Does it use recycled and/or or organic material?
  • Is it educational?
  • How does it relate back to the garden?
  • Is it safe?
  • Is it weather-proof?
  • Can little hands make it?
  • Can it be collaborative?
  • How does it engage the community?
  • Is it culturally-sensitive?
  • How does it reflect neighborhood context?

    This wind chime was made from scrap lumber and bottle caps.

    This wind chime was made from scrap lumber and bottle caps.