Dec. 6, 1947 - Everglades National Park, Florida dedicated by President Harry S Truman

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country." With these words, Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. For a fascinating and comprehensive history of this amazing wetland, check out Michael Grunwald's The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise. Thinking of visiting the park? Check out Hidden Florida Keys and Everglades or Adventure guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades National Park.

Edible Estates, Community and Sustainability

front yard garden
(Above: A local Ann Arbor front yard replaced with more diverse vegetation)

Avalon Housing kicks off 5 days of sharing ideas on innovation in sustainability and community building today. Many of the events feature architect and artist Fritz Haeg, who started the project and book called Edible Estates. The series includes a talk and book signing at AADL on Monday Nov, 10th at 7pm with Fritz Haeg.

The Project

The edible estates project consisted of tearing up the manicured front lawns of several households and replacing it with plants that produced edible food. The goal was both to make a statement and to be practical. This is remenicient of Victory Gardens during the World Wars where thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt even the White House lawn had some vegetable production. Similar ideas are also implemented in community gardens, but this project specifically picked the front yard as the area to attack, making the garden front and center. Here's a video of one of the gardens to give you an idea:

Here's a video interview with Fritz Haeg about the project:

The Book

The book consists of the plans for these gardens, homeowner stories, the drive behind the project and a few guides of what you can grow in your zone. What most homeowners were worried about, as can be expected, was what would the neighbors think? However, in most cases there were positive attitudes from the community and even a closer relationship between people in the neighborhood. The front yard was no longer a buffer zone between people but an active center of activity. The book also includes a few tidbits to think about:

  • Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 13 are probable carcinogens, 14 are linked with birth defects, 18 with reproductive effects, 20 with liver or kidney damage, 18 with neurotoxicity and 28 are irritants - National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns
  • Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The book also includes a forward by Michael Pollan, close to his article Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns, which is worth reading in full:

"Suits fly against the national lawn-care companies, and interest is kindled in ''organic'' methods of lawn care. But the problem is larger than this. Lawns, I am convinced, are a symptom of, and a metaphor for, our skewed relationship to the land. They teach us that, with the help of petrochemicals and technology, we can bend nature to our will. Lawns stoke our hubris with regard to the land. What is the alternative? To turn them into gardens. I'm not suggesting that there is no place for lawns in these gardens or that gardens by themselves will right our relationship to the land, but the habits of thought they foster can take us some way in that direction.

Gardening, as compared to lawn care, tutors us in nature's ways, fostering an ethic of give and take with respect to the land. Gardens instruct us in the particularities of place. They lessen our dependence on distant sources of energy, technology, food and, for that matter, interest."

So be sure to check out the many events this week including the talk and book signing at AADL on Monday.

Plants In The News

Pulp Tree

So when you bring the green indoors this winter the plants may say "thank you".

Maybe you heard about Midori the blogging houseplant. Midori lives in Donburi Cafe in Kamakura Japan.

Just as plants are finding a voice in Japan the government of Switzerland has placed a ban on the humiliation of plants.

Read about the botanical interface that makes plant blogging possible and check out a product that will help you listen to your own plant.

Interested in this topic, check out these books: Plantwatching: how plants remember, tell time, form partnerships, and more / Malcolm Wilkins and Natural affairs: a botanist looks at the attachments between plants and people / Peter Bernhardt

The Chicken Ordinance

Interested in raising your own chickens? If you live in Ann Arbor you can keep up to four hens...with the consent of your adjacent neighbors.

Check out these library materials for more information about raising chickens...
How to Raise Chickens
The Complete Handbook of Poultry Keeping
and for the kids,
From Chick to Chicken
and The Joy of Chickens

Check out the cool chicken coops at Back Yard Chickens and My Pet Chicken.

Bandemer Park -- More Than Just Trees

Bandemer ParkBandemer Park

Bandemer Park, on the north side of town, is a hidden gem of Ann Arbor. This forty acre park borders a beautiful turn of the Huron River and provides access to a paved bike path on the west side of the river, and a wooden bridge on the east side of the river. With ample parking and convenient access off Route 14 or Barton Road, getting there is easy. Once you've arrived, take advantage of the opportunities for adventure, including a dirt bike jump course, a nine hole disc golf course, the Ann Arbor Rowing Club, and canoeing and kayaking on the river. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the Argo livery, just a mile away. For a relaxing afternoon, there are picnic benches, pavilions (must be reserved), fishing spots, scenic walking paths, and pleasant vistas for observing wildlife. For more activities on the river, check out the Huron River Report, and The Fly Fisher's Huron available at the AADL.

Rowing on the River

paddlepaddle

What a great way to spend a fall day: paddling down the Huron at the River Ecology Paddle this Saturday, Sept. 27, 12:30 p.m. ~ 4 p.m. The tour starts at Dexter-Huron Metropark and includes a stop at the Dexter Cider Mill, home of the greatest donuts in the world and the oldest continuously operating Cider Mill in Michigan. To register for the paddle call 1-800-477-3191 or 734-426-8211.

Autumn

If you have looked at the woods next to the Traverwood branch parking lot lately, you can't help but notice that some of the leaves are already changing color. These are highly motivated trees, as the autumnal equinox is not until September 22nd. If you enjoy the season, you may be interested in planning some activities to celebrate the official start of Fall. The library carries books on fun fall activities, such as gourd crafts, fall gardening, pumpkin decorating, and how to make your own scarecrows.

Chronic Wasting Found in Michigan Deer

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and DNR confirmed the first known case of chronic wasting in deer in Michigan at a private deer facility. There is no evidence that it has spread to the wild population yet but DNR is asking hunters this fall to take their deer to check stations for sampling so the wild population can be better studied.

Chronic Wasting Disease affects deer, elk and moose and is believed to be caused by prions. You may have heard of prions before as the cause of Mad Cow Disease. Unlike Mad Cow Disease which has been shown to carry over into humans, there are no known human infections of chronic wasting. For more information about prion diseases you may be interested in the book The pathological protein : Mad Cow, Chronic Wasting, and other deadly prion diseases

For those interested in the Michigan side of things, the Michigan government has a site devoted to chronic wasting disease in Michigan along with information on other emerging diseases such as Bovine TB.

I'm Thirsty

oaktreeoaktree

If your trees could talk, they'd tell you they need a lot of watering right now. The bright sunny days and lack of rain are testing the timber of Tree Town trees ~ even mature trees will nees some help this year. The city's Tree Planting Guide has a good review on watering trees. When you mulch, remember to keep the mulch from touching the tree trunk or piling too high.

Suburban Wildlife with a South American Twist

When school ended, the 10-year-old classroom degu (South American rat) came home with us. The teacher told us that Cedar, named for her reddish fur, might not survive the summer, given her advanced age, in which case we should freeze her (near the cool-pops?) until fall, when she would get a proper school funeral. I did not fall immediately in love with this creature, despite her being cute, caged, fairly clean, and friendly. Instead, I clicked into the Oxford English Dictionary, to learn that a degu is “a rat-like animal, rather smaller than the Water Vole, the head and body measuring from seven and a half to eight inches in length.” A definition often makes me fonder. Now I like Cedar, sort of, and having her around has made me curious about the new book Central Park in the Dark: More mysteries of urban wildlife. Who knows, maybe Cedar has dozens of cousins in New York City.

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