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  • 04/11/2023 3:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Bring Nature Home- Sue's Sunny Garden

    by Sue Van Baerle

    For Parts 1 and 2, please see previous blog entries

    Part 3- Planning, Design, Maps And Plants

    Click for Part 4- May Maps and Tips

    Click for Part 5- June Prep & Planting

    Create a Top-Down Map: You do not need to create a map of your yard to make decisions about your new garden. However, a map might help you create a plan. For example, you might want to add one hundred square feet of native plants every year for the next few years. Before you plant your first year, you want to have an idea of the overall direction you are headed. Having a top-down plan will help you visualize how your garden will look in several years. You can plan how traffic will flow around the yard or map the mature size of trees to plan for sun and shade areas in years to come.

    Most landscape plans you see are created by professionals to communicate and sell their ideas to the client. They can be very detailed and beautifully executed. Since you don’t need to communicate with or sell to anyone, you may be fine without one or with a simple design plan. A more accurate map of the planting area may help you think about where to place various species and calculate how many of each you want. You don’t need perfect drawings, computer drawings or beautiful colors but you probably want the relative sizes to be close to accurate.

    For years, I went without a plan. I kept expanding the garden but after four or five years I had to tear out edging and paths because the overall garden wasn’t expanding in a coherent fashion. If I had created an overall plan before I started, I could have saved myself hours of labor. Then again, when I started, I had no idea how big my garden would become.

    In the past I have used simple sketches to design; moving forward, I will use my new maps to design and record ideas. For example, one idea involves seeing my little bluestem backlit in the fall. I mark on the map where the sun sets in October and where I would need to plant little bluestem to see them backlit from our chairs. I might make note of how many plants I want but I do not map the exact location of each plant. The following spring, I know how many plants to purchase, and I have a good idea where to plant.

    Overview - Creating Your Top-Down Map: To create the top down map you will create a rough sketch of the points you need; make a point list; go outside and take measurements; and then transfer the point list measurements to graph paper. You can photocopy the final map and try out new designs on the photocopy or you can use tracing paper to design on top of the map. If you design on your original map, you will have to redraw the map every time you sketch a design.

    Rough Sketch (not to scale) Points Labeled: Create a rough sketch of the existing features you need to measure. You can create a sketch of just your new garden area, or you could include a large part of the yard around your new garden. The upside of a smaller area is there are fewer points to locate and draw on graph paper; the downside is you may forget about something that could impact the design. For example, the water from the downspout on your house or the shade from a neighbor’s tree. The upside of including a larger area is that you will have a reminder of how other features impact / interact with your new garden; the downside of a larger area, the longer it takes to collect the measurements and transfer them to graph paper. Just ask yourself how much information you need and how much time you have.

    Your preliminary sketch will not be to scale. Label the points you want to locate and create a list of those points. When you go outside and measure the distances, you will use your point list to record the distances. In this simple example, I labeled the corners of the house, House1 and House2; the corners of the porch, Porch1 and Porch 2; etc. My point list leaves space for me to calculate and record the X, Y coordinates for each point. You can opt for fewer points at first and go back and get more points if you need them.

    Measuring Your Physical Space: First, a short reminder about high school geometry. To create a top-down map with all positive values, you will put the 0 value for x (horizontal axis of your drawing) and the 0 value for y (vertical axis) in the lower left-hand corner of your graph paper. Then all the numbers for both X and Y will be positive. Knowing that you want 0,0 near the lower left-hand corner of your graph paper; go outside and place a stake / flag (or other marker) in the ground at the point that will be the physical 0,0 of your yard. Most often maps have North at the top of the page but it doesn’t have to be North. For example, I draw my map as if I am looking at the property from the street. In my case, East is to the top of the paper. Be sure to label the compass directions; it will help you remember where the shadow from a house or tree will be located.

    It helps to have two people when you measure the area. One person can hold the end of the tape measure and the other can pull the tape measure and write the distances on your point list. The longer the tape measure, the quicker it is to measure. Don’t forget that your yard may not be square and your house might not sit square to the street. You can get a general overview of the property lines on zillow.com and more accurate property information from county records (web search for your county "property map.")

    Graphing: If you measure the X and Y distances from 0,0 to point House2 and then from point House2 to point House1, you will have to do some addition to figure out the X,Y coordinates of House1. After you take all your measurements, calculate the largest final X and largest Y distance you want on your map. You will use the largest distances to determine if your graph paper will have Landscape (X is larger) orientation or Portrait (Y is larger) orientation. On the graph paper, count the number of squares you have available from the 0,0 point in the lower left corner to upper right corner of your drawing area. Based on the real-world distance and the number of graph paper squares you have available, you can decide the scale of each square. For example, each square might represents one foot or each square might represents 5 feet. Then plot your points on the graph paper and connect with lines to create the House, Porch etc. DON’T draw your new design on the graph paper. Put a piece of tracing paper over your graph paper and sketch your new design or photocopy your original map and draw on the photocopy. This way you can easily get back to your original map.

    Designing The Shape: After you make a few sketches, look at both the positive and negative shape. Do you like the shape of the garden and do you like the shape of the area (perhaps lawn) that is not the garden. You want the lawn area to be easy to mow so check that there are no areas that are too small or curves that are too sharp for a mower. You can try shapes based on rectangles, circles, curves or combinations.

    There are usually community rules about the height of your lawn grass. If you plant a meadow without borders, it might be mistaken for an unkept lawn. The plants could fall over a sidewalk, street or into your neighbor’s yard. If you make the shape of your new garden intentional, you will be less likely to have problems with neighbors thinking you have an unkept lawn. You will want to check with your community for the exact rules in your area. A few communities have updated their rules to allow for more native meadow style plantings.

    Garden Size: This information is for a city or suburban style planting, a large meadow or prairie style planting is maintained with mowing and sometimes fire. For a smaller garden, you will want to be able to reach into your garden to weed, water or replant. You can do that from the sidewalk, lawn, driveway, and paths or you can wander in as you would a large prairie. Generally speaking in a city or suburban yard, a bed that is less than three feet deep feels narrow, and a 16’ deep bed is hard to maintain without stepping on plants. Some people keep their beds smaller so that they don’t have to step into them to reach the majority of the plants. Traditional gardeners often recommend a bed that is 7 to 8 feet deep.

    Path Design: One of the great things about mulched paths is that they dry out early and you don’t have to worry about stepping on plants or compacting soil. Paths most often start at a right angle to the garden bed line. If I run a 3’ wide path down the center of a 23’ wide bed that is surrounded by lawn, I divide the garden into a path and two beds that are each 10’ wide. I can take one step off the path or one step off the lawn and reach about 5’ or to the center of the 10’ wide bed. Of course, I want my path to be a bit more interesting. First it encourages me to look this way, then curve and view the garden from another direction, then maybe curve around to reveal a focal point. I don’t want the path to be so curved that I can’t move a wheelbarrow along it or so unpredictable that I have to focus on where I am stepping.

    Sue’s Garden: This month one of my first chores will be finishing a more accurate map of the two new garden areas; one on each side of the front yard. I am confident in the width of the two new gardens because the width is a refinement of the area that I planted the past two years. I may eventually change how close to the street I want to plant. I acknowledge that I will have to change the paths if I change the size of the garden.

    It does not take much to greatly increase the number of points you need to measure and graph. My current sketch has 11 garden bed points, 6 trees with the associated canopy diameter, 5 baby oak tree locations, house, porch step and sidewalk points. After I finalize the path shape, I will add location points for the center of the paths and sketch them in. Location of other details (water spigot, shrubs etc.) easily double these input numbers. So, I need to consider how much detail I need and how much time I have to create my map. I know that my final drawing will be helpful for years to come. I know that in my physical yard the two beds are much farther apart than they are on my rough sketch. I want to see how the proportion and spacing of the two beds looks when drawn to scale.

    I plan to gather X,Y for:

    House H1 H2

    Porch P1, P2, P3, P4

    Sidewalk S1, S2, S3, S4

    Garden G1, G2, G3, G4, G5, G6, G7, G8, G9, G10, G11

    Trees T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6

    Baby Quercus Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, Q5

    If this looks like too much work, you may be able to map a smaller area or leave out detail.

    My New Garden for 2023: For the entire new garden, I would need to remove the lawn and plant 940 square feet. This is more of a commitment in both time and money than I want to make in one year. I plan to do one third each year over the next 3 years. One third of 940 is 313 square feet. At approximately $6 a square foot my maximum budget is $1878. I estimate that 33 square feet will be path, so I need plants for (313 - 33 = 280) 280 square feet. I’m hoping I can spend less money because I can transplant some plants from the backyard, and I can use pollinator friendly annuals started from seeds. For 280 square feet I estimate that I need 140 plants but calculating for transplants and annuals, I’m going to order 100 plant plugs.

    What I’m Behind On: We haven’t talked about the third dimension – “hills and valleys” or how they change water flow and plant selection. You’ll want to make note of high and low spots on your map and select plants accordingly.

    My final plant selection list is not complete but here are some selections

    • Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum is low and I’ll put some near the path (photo)
    • White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba is a favorite but it gets taller than I want 4’- I’m thinking a group or three peaking above the rest of the garden would add interest.
    • Cream Wild Indigo Baptisia bracteata struggles a bit in the back yard but it might do better with full sun - 2’ tall.
    •  I will get a few of these asters and see if the deer eat them.
    • Aromatic Aster Symphyotrichum oblongifolium full sun 2’
    • Silky Aster Symphyotrichum sericeum full part sun 12”
    • I read that one of the Liatris - Liatris ligulistylis is deer resistant but it is 5’ tall. I’ll plant it near the house near an existing Switch Grass Panicum virgatum.
    • Amethyst Shooting Star Dodecatheon amethystinum full part or shade 12” - I currently have it in part shade in the back yard. It is still there so the deer haven’t eaten all of it. This year I will try it in full sun.
    • I will try a few of each of these spiderworts - I can move Ohio spiderwort from the back yard.
    • Western Spiderwort Tradescantia occidentalis full sun 2’
    • Ohio Spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis full or part sun 3’
    • Prairie Spiderwort Tradescantia bracteata full sun 1’
    • Prairie Onion Allium stellatum full or part sun 14”
    • Multiple Little bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium Planted so it is has backlight in the fall. I’m tempted to get cultivars which are 2’ rather than 3’ tall. Perhaps mixing Carousel and Smoke Signal. But the true native is lovely and well…. native.

    I have annual salvia started from seeds in my basement and next week I’ll start Lilliput Zinnia and Mexican Sunflower which are all pollinator favorites. In my back vegetable garden, I run short of sunny, deer protected areas; so, I’ll plant basil and sage in the front yard. More plant decisions yet to come.

    Garden Chores For This Month:

    1. Before you dig you should have your utilities located. It’s good to know what is right below the surface of your new garden. This is especially true if you are planting a tree or bringing in heavy digging equipment. https://www.gopherstateonecall.org/. They recommend that you always call before you dig.

    After you make arrangements with Gopher One, several people may come to your property, one person might mark the water line, someone else may mark the gas lines, etc. They will place color coded flags over the various buried utilities in the area you specify. You will need to wait the amount of time specified by Gopher One to make sure all the utilities have been marked at your house.

    They will not locate private utilities. For example, a friend once cut a buried plastic gas line that went from the gas meter to an outdoor grill. Luckily, they could smell that something was wrong. The gas line had been installed by the previous homeowner and neither the new homeowner nor the utility company had a record of it. Another time, a friend cut a cable TV wire in half while outlining a new garden bed. The wire had been laid on top of the ground and then covered with sod. I don’t know if Gopher One would have known about it and marked that cable location.

    2. I try not to walk on really wet soils because I may compact them. Having said that, I’ll admit I do walk around on my lawn to pick up sticks and watch for what is coming up. Pick up sticks from your lawn but don’t clean up last year’s native plant stems yet. You want to leave them until the insects nesting inside have emerged. More about that in May.

    3. This info is for a garden style rather than for a prairie or meadow style garden - Cut back bunch grasses before the new leaves grow very long. This is the right time to cut back cool season grasses but because late spring is so full of other chores; I hand cut both cool and warm season bunch grasses in early to mid-April.

    4. Creeping Charlie turns green right after the snow melts making it easy to spot and pull. In my wet sandy soil, it comes out with lots of its roots. It won’t solve the creeping Charlie issue but I feel triumphant when a long chain of creeping Charlie pulls out with roots intact.

    Happy start to the 2023 gardening season!

    Part 4- May Maps and Tips

    In February, I covered questions to ask yourself before you start designing your new sunny native plant garden; how to calculate the cost in terms of time and money; how to start looking for native plants, and how to start sketching ideas for your garden. In March I covered options for mulch, edging, paths, plant selection and garden size. In April I covered the basics of creating a top down map of your garden and discussed how you can use maps to help design your new garden. It is very possible that with a smaller project, you did not need to create a map.

    My Top Down Map: I decided to make a top down map of my front yard. When I started inputting points I discovered that I needed more points than I originally anticipated. I added points for the driveway and side yard trees; points for the front door, and the light pole. Of course it took longer than I anticipated because some of my measurements were not square or exactly accurate. I ended up measuring a number of things twice.

    I drew my base map (house, garage, sidewalk, and existing trees) on a 11” x 17” graph paper. This allowed me to scale the drawing so that each grid line represented two feet. The 11” x 17” paper was too large for my home scanner / copier so I scanned and photocopied the base map at FedEx Office. I drew my new design on a photocopy of the original base map. Once I saw the new design drawn to scale; I made a few changes to the garden size and path shape. I wanted the front door of the house to have a clear view to the street and I wanted the entire design to feel balanced. I wanted to be able to reach most of the garden with only one step into the garden from either the lawn or a path. I wanted the path to let you look in various directions, to be winding but not create trip hazards.

    About 1/3 of this garden was planted in the past three years. From my design map drawn to scale, I was able to calculate the exact unplanted area by counting the graph squares. In the larger garden I have 544 square feet to plant and the smaller garden I have 312 feet left to plant.

    Plants: Last month I decided to plant 280 square feet this year and I will stick to that number for now. When I went to order plants in late April, some of the selections, particularly the garden kits were sold out. I was able to place an order to be delivered to the May 20 Burnsville Native Plant Market. I did not order all the species but I did order 84 plants for a total (with taxes) of $215.00.

    The species included:

    • Thimbleweed (Anemone Virginiana),
    • Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata),
    • Midland Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia),
    • Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida),
    • Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum),
    • Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis),
    • Large-Flowered Beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus)
    • Smooth Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve),
    • Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium),
    • Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense),
    • June Grass (Koeleria macrantha).

    I plan to move some plants from my backyard and purchase between 16 and 40 more plants this spring. I will be keeping my eye out for the following species. Some of these are shade tolerant, I will try them under the crabapple tree:

    • Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda),
    • Pasque Flower (Anemone patens),
    • Prairie Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta),
    • Wild White Indigo (Baptisia alba),
    • Cream White Indigo (Baptisia bracteata),
    • Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea),
    • White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida),
    • Cream Gentian (Gentiana flavida),
    • Prairie Allumroot (Heuchera richardsonii),
    • Upland White Goldenrod (Oligoneuro album),
    • Fragile Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia fragilis),
    • Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea),
    • Prairie Spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata),
    • Long-Beaked Sedge (Carex sprengelii),
    • Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis).

    Removing your lawn: There are a number of ways to remove your lawn. Many of them are covered here .  An internet search will also bring up video instructions.

    Removing my lawn: I opted to use two methods to remove my lawn. On one section, I will remove my lawn by renting a manual sod cutter also known as a sod kicker. On a second section, I will use the sheet mulching technique with paper / cardboard. I will place the turf grass that I remove with the sod cutter on top of the paper / cardboard section. That way, I have a section that is ready to plant now and a section that will be ready to plant later. The paper will not blow away and the topsoil I removed with the sod cutter will not be wasted.

    Getting Started: Before you dig, don’t forget that you should contact https://www.gopherstateonecall.org/ to have your underground utilities located.

    I hope you feel ready to create your new sunny garden. You can follow my February, March, April and May blog to complete your: time and money budget; top down plan with bed design; plant list with vendors and locations; edging and mulch selection.

    Planting: The plants should be planted at ground level never deeper. The mulch can be pulled away from the base of the plants if the plants are small. I recommend 1” to 2” of mulch. Be sure to keep the young plants watered because they do not yet have deep roots. Watch out for weeds. One of the advantages of planting a group of the same species together is that the planting pattern can help you tell your baby plants from your baby weeds.

    Garden Chores:

    1. Now that the weather is consistently warm you can clean up your leaves and stems from last year. I let mine lay where they land or I move them to our compost pile.
    2. Plant your herbs and veggies
    3. Plant your annual seeds. For example I plant sunflowers, Mexican sunflower and zinnia for the butterflies. (And the people)

    Good Luck!

    Part 5- June Prep & Planting

    Preparing the beds: Last month, I mentioned that I planned to remove 280 square feet of sod using a rented sod kicker. Things did not go as smoothly as I imagined; it was more difficult to kick the blade forward than it was 20 years ago. I felt it in my knees and hips. I removed over 100 square feet of sod in just over 2 hours. Over the next three weeks, I continued to remove sod a little at a time, with a shovel. I placed the sod on top of the layered paper to smoother the next section of lawn.

    Plants: On May 20, I picked up my 84 pre-ordered plants at the Burnsville Native Plant Market. I also purchased 2 each of Meadow Blazing Star Liatris ligulistylis; Fringed Puccoon Lithospermum incisum; and Hoary Puccoon Lithospermum canescens. I placed all the plants in the shade of a tree and kept them watered.

    Working a few hours a day, it took over two weeks to get everything planted. It was slow because I was removing lawn as I planted and I was spending time planting vegetables and weeding in other garden areas. After almost 3 weeks, all the plants look great with the exception of the whorled milkweed. I might have overwatered it or a critter gave it a taste test. I thought I was down to 5 out of 8 plants but now I see some of them are starting to regrow.

    Planting: While laying out the new path through my existing bed, I needed to transplant about a dozen plants. Some of the plants were split in two others in to four. The transplanted pale purple coneflower Echinacea pallida and little bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium are not responding well to being transplanted. But, it has been hot so I will give them more time to rebound.

    I lined the edge of the smaller bed with brick and got good feedback from neighbors and friends. I will probably continue edging with bricks but I am not sure when the edging will be completed. My friend who was going to rent a chipper shredder does not have time to do that now; so, I need to find an alternate source of mulch or plant cover. We have a very small chipper that chips branches up to about a one inch diameter. I used chips from that machine for the path but I don’t have enough small material to chip to finish all the paths and beds. Due to jumping worms, which I mentioned in an earlier blog, bringing dirt or mulch into our yard makes me very nervous. I have not yet decided on a solution. The downside to not putting mulch down right away is weeds. Hoeing can take care of a good portion of the weeds but that is only a temporary solution.

    New bed in the foreground. Smothering sod with paper weighted down with sod pieces in the background.


    Plants $215.00 plus $48

    Sod kicker rental $25


    Plastic pots: Now that the plants are in, I have a pile of plastic pots. I can wash and sterilize them to use next year or I can recycle them. According to the company websites, both Home Depot and Lowe’s recycle plastic pots. I took mine to the Bloomington Home Depot on American Blvd. actual address is 400 West 79th street. I drove around the Garden side of the building and the recycling location was not obvious. I was told to leave my pots on the empty racks on the side of the building. As more people leave pots to be recycled, the location should become more obvious.

    Garden Chores for June and July:

    1. Weed

    2. Water

    3. Mulch or plant ground cover plants

    4. Recycle pots

    5. Add additional plants; as needed, as an experiment, or just for fun

    Wishing everyone a great gardening summer!

  • 02/14/2023 4:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A Soft Landings Planting Beneath a Keystone Tree

    Connecting Habitat Neighbor-to-Neighbor

    by Vicki Bonk

    Part 1- February 2023   Part 2- March 2023  Part 3-April 2023 Part 4-May 2023

    Part 1- February 2023

    Now, is a very good time to consider spring planting plans. First, you can momentarily transport yourself to the spring greening and warming of the landscape. Secondly, you can get ready to make the most of the growing season soon to arrive.

    We all begin our gardening plans at different places. I’ll relay our small, urban home plans to enhance our native plantings. We began growing native habitat in the late 90s. This year we’ve decided to do another Soft Landings Project, like the one pictured. For a wealth of valuable information about this inspirational vision of two Minnesota locals, working alongside Douglas Tallamy*, please visit https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/softlandings.html. Succinctly, the idea is to plant native species beneath keystone trees (those that support a significant number of butterfly and moth larvae), in order to allow these insects the opportunity to complete their life cycle. This shady planting also attracts and helps sustain a diversity of native pollinators, beneficial insects, and birds, throughout the year.

    Here is our Northside Soft Landings Project site in May and September. The plantings are under a Pin Oak and an Autumn Blaze Serviceberry (cultivar). Plants were chosen to offer blooms throughout the season.

    The spring bloomer list includes: Solomon’s Seal, Wild Columbine, Wild Geranium, Jacob’s Ladder, Meadow Rue, Jack-in-the Pulpit, Violets, Woodland Strawberry, Pennsylvania Sedge, Blood Root, Wild Ramps, Bellwort, Wild Ginger and Wild Blue Phlox.

    Later in the year, Heart-leaved Aster, Big-leaved Aster and Zig-zag Goldenrod show up among the present Lady Ferns, Maiden Hair Ferns and sedge varieties.

    These plants thrive in our increasingly shady yard. The same plant species are prevalent in nearby wild areas along the Mississippi River. I have found this selection works quite well so the plan is to extend more on the increasingly shady southside that lies heavily shaded under our neighbor’s Sugar Maple. Since the neighbor is on board, we’ll plant in her yard too! This location of our next Soft Landings project is indeed, connecting and growing habitat!

    Watch a Douglas Tallamy video about native keystone plants.


    A photo shows the Soft Landings pictured previously. In front, is a sloped rock retaining wall, constructed with local limestone. Importantly, there is signage that tell passersby what this landscape is about - HABITAT! We maintain clean but natural edges.

    We also have a GROW HABITAT Free Info Box, conveniently located next to the sidewalk.

    Here’s the lay of the land:

    • We have no lawn, basically “green mulch” is provided by low groundcovers including Blue and Canada Violets, Woodland Strawberries and Wild Ginger.
    • Fallen leaves are left as mulch to rebuild the soil, help retain moisture and provide insect habitat.
    • Future plantings will be additionally mulched by oak leaves from nearby, as well as the maple.
    • Log habitat features are in this area, now hidden under the snow.
    • Native plants, preferring part-shade to shade growing conditions, here now include: Heart-leaved Aster, Zig-Zag Goldenrod, Elm-leaved Goldenrod, American Bellflower, Thimbleweed, Oval Sedge, Alumroot, Poke Milkweed, Lady’s Fern, Jack-in-the Pulpit, Wild Ramps. Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle is on a sunnier edge.
    • A number of plants requiring more sun are here but not thriving. This area received more sun in earlier days before the maple shade grew. The species include Wild Bergamot, Culver’s Root, Brown-eyed Susan, New England Aster, and Common Milkweed. There was a Red-twigged Dogwood with changing conditions so we reluctantly removed last fall. We will eventually relocate plants not doing well.
    • We are seeking native species to plant here that can tolerate drier soil conditions. Our soil is a little sandy and droughtier conditions have prevailed the last few years. Climate change is happening and we’re going to plant accordingly.
    • We are looking for an understory tree or shrub to plant. Being considered at the moment, is the native Witch Hazel that is tolerant to a range of sun and soil conditions. It has ornamental value and the yellow flowers bloom in late fall, attracting the few remaining pollinators. Nice to end the season on a colorful bloom note!
    • We did some Winter Sowing in containers this year that included Short’s Aster, a shady aster new to our yard and to be planted here.
    • Next step is looking for plants to add diversity. A go-to resource is Prairie Moon Nursery catalog and is also online. https://www.prairiemoon.com We’ll be ordering their Bellwort for a dormant bare roots delivery. Their catalog helps me document and select our list of yard plants. We are fortunate to have many native plant nurseries in the area and we seek their offerings often. Wild Ones Twin Cities has many resources including a nursery guide and design templates. http://www.wildonestwincities.org
    • Additional resources, including planting templates and plant lists, can be found on BWSR's Lawns to Legumes website
    • During the next month, will be making further plans and selections!


    If there is interest, we could do an in-person workshop on design and plant selection. Please email Sue if you are interested in attending a workshop at our chapter.

    Part 2- March 2023

    Recap: This is the second article on the habitat gardening plans to augment a shady understory area beneath our neighbor’s Sugar Maple that extends into our bit of Minneapolis urban land. It’s a process! To learn more about Soft Landings and the project refer to the March blog.

    A 2023 native plant catalog arrived in the mailbox today, and brought with it, a refreshed outlook. The cover photo featured American Bellflower (Campanula americana), whose deep blue blooms were being visited by the federally endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis). Double wow! This bellflower is not to be confused with the highly invasive Creeping Bellflower, (Campanula rapunculoides), seen throughout our area and zeroing in right next door. The captivating cover resonated on two opposing fronts. First, the American Bellflower does well in shade and is a welcome addition to a Soft Landings planting. Secondly, the Creeping Bellflower persists in my neighbor’s yard and managing this ecologically troublesome plant, is difficult and time consuming. * A job for the pitchfork, then down on your hands and knees, to dig through soil searching for every last remnant of the plant. (Our Chapter Caretaker, Paul Erdmann has renamed Creeping Bellflower- Creeping “Hellflower” and notes that it is one of the worst weeds at the Chapter, and it was likely planted by some good intentioned, but clueless, person). In that one glance at the catalog cover, I went through the glory and the pain of stewarding land. Yet not to be discouraged by creeping bellflower but encouraged by the potential our bit of land connecting with neighbor’s has now and can hold in the future.

    Plant Considerations

    With plant selection, I look into four main areas: what to keep, what to add, what to manage (reduce or remove) and what do we especially wish to see take place at our place. What plants to keep are often those that are thriving. Why are they doing so well? What are the plant requirements in terms of light and soil conditions? How are they part of a developing plant community and what wildlife are they inviting? What plants to add, looks at the present plant community with an eye to what is realistically possible and then asks what is missing in seasonal blooms, in wildlife benefit, in canopy level (groundcover, plant heights, shrubs, tree) and design interest. What plants to reduce or remove, considers what over-zealous plants might be hindering a more biodiverse plant community and whether invasive plants are present that require management. Finally, a heartfelt look at what you enjoy having around your homeland, serves to inspire the planning process and encourage your curiosity to learn more. Ask yourself, “what do I love and want to see unfold on my bit of land”?

    The Central Keystone Tree

    This project centers on a Soft Landings planting beneath an existing mature Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), a keystone species, a native plant all-star, as in highly significant (and often critical) to their food web. How is the sugar maple ecologically valuable? Beginning with the indigenous people, many North Americans, have a long history of harvesting and enjoying maple syrup. We easily recognize the awesome value of the Sugar Maple’s spectacular fall color. Yet, many of the ecological services aren’t so obvious. Bees, butterflies, and birds also drink in the energy-giving sap. Maples flower in early spring, attracting a variety of bee species including mining, sweat, cellophane and mason. The leafy foliage serves as the host plant food for over 220 moth and butterfly species in our area alone. This is vital to these lepidoptera insects AND to the food web. The National Wildlife Fund states that 96% of U.S. terrestrial birds rely on insects supported by keystone plants. These birds require a fatty, protein-rich food source to feed their young and nothing tops juicy caterpillars. The maple fruit is eaten by adult songbirds. Many birds like to nest in the trees, right alongside their food sources. The fruit, buds and twigs are eaten by several mammals including deer, chipmunks, and squirrels. Decomposing maple leaves enrich the surrounding soil by raising the soil’s mineral content and making it less acidic. This gives plant roots increased access to nutrients and water. Maples help prevent erosion sequester carbon and help manage storm water runoff - all with their expansive root system. Much of this done, all in a day, quite quietly.

    The Soft Landings project aims to plant specific natives, surrounding this tree, so that beneficial insects that begin their life cycle in the upper tree canopy, can complete their life cycle below. This planting will also build a healthier soil, provide moisture-retaining green mulch, give food and shelter for a variety of pollinators, beneficial insects and birds, and further carbon sequestration.

    Plant Stories

    More diverse and effective habitats have varying height levels where wildlife can interact to find food and shelter. The Sugar Maple is providing the tallest level. In our spatially limited setting, there is room for one understory tree or a tall shrub, a bit past the Maple canopy dripline and also for several short shrubs nearby. Within the dripline area, plants of various heights and shorter ground covers will complete the layered stories. Small seedlings only will be planted within the dripline, to avoid digging into the ground too deeply and disturbing the maple roots.

    Understory Trees and Shrubs

    Our site specifics of partial shade to full shade and medium to medium/dry soil, plus wildlife value, narrow plant selection choices. At this time, a strong contender for a larger attractive shrub is Round-leaved Dogwood (Cornus rugosa), which does well in drier soil and less sun while offering strong wildlife and ecological value. Here is Prairie Moon’s write-up “This woodland understory tree-like-shrub has full-season interest: lovely white clusters of flowers in spring, bushy green foliage in summer, attractive berry-like drupe clusters in fall, and yellow-green branches with reddish-purple markings that are striking against the white winter snow. Round-leaved Dogwood prefers thin canopies with dappled sunlight and woodland edges. Sometimes this Dogwood will grow from one branch, appearing more like a tree. Other times it will grow from multiple stems, appearing more like a shrub. Pruning will encourage a more dense, shrubby appearance.

    The Round-leaved Dogwood is a great plant for insects and wildlife. It is one of the host species for the Spring Azure butterfly and Gossamer Wing butterfly. The fruits are eaten by multiple species of grouse, and the twigs are eaten by mammals like deer and rabbit. In some Eastern states, Round-leaved Dogwood is rare or endangered.”

    We currently have one shorter shrub variety in this area, Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), an easy-to-grow shrub adaptable to many soil types and all light levels plus is drought tolerant. The flowers attract bumble bees, butterflies, moths and butterflies. Considering adding two more but need to factor growing spatial width since they are suckering plants. That could be an advantage on the sloped area. I bought this shrub at a new nursery in our Minneapolis neighborhood, The Agrarian, who have a good selection of natives.

    Understory Forbs, Ferns, Sedges and Groundcovers

    Awaiting the highly anticipated arrival of spring in our yard, means looking for the emergence of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria candensis), one of the first Minnesota native plants to bloom. The love of this plant influences some further understory planting deliberations. As the weather warms, we faithfully check the bloodroot progress from their leafy bed, happening anytime from late March to late April, depending on that year’s weather. Bloodroot has a sweet spot in our front rock garden’s north corner, nestled between Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) and Maidenhair Fern (Adiatum pedatum). The newly inspired gardening plan is for the trio to have a spot on the south corner of the rock garden, which extends into the Maple Soft Landing’s location. These plants could attractively bookend our urban lot. No rigidity but a continuity that could help organize the small space. The plan is to gently dig-up, then divide some of the wild ginger and maidenhair fern, just as they break soil in the spring, their best time to transplant. We’ll wait to transplant Bloodroot, their best transplant time is early summer, when the plant is starting to go dormant.

    By propagating and transplanting natives that are growing well here, we are planting species that are suited to the site while saving money and avoiding plastic pot waste from purchased plants. There are other spring bloom plants that will be part of this plan. Wild Geranium and Solomon’s Seal will be divided and transplanted this spring. Jack-in-the Pulpit is better propagated from ripe seed gathered in early September. While Wild Columbine often produces seedlings, they don’t often transplant successfully, so will wait to collect seeds and winter sow for next year.

    There is more on the Soft Landings plant wish list that will be either ordered bare root or purchased at a native plant nursery** or at one of the plant sales offered in the Twin Cities metro area this spring.*** I decided to see if a bare root, spring bloomer would be available now from Prairie Moon. Perusing their online catalog, I narrowed down to the best options that fit our site specifics, making good use of their filtering system (as Susan suggests, in her companion blog article). Plants were selected for our specifics: part-shade and shade, medium and medium-dry soil moisture, Minnesota native range, bloom time April - June, a range of heights, attractive to pollinators and birds, and finally, growing zone 4. Thirty-six plants presented themselves, but the choice narrowed to one - Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora), an early spring bloomer, is shipped as a barre root plant, i.e. a dormant live root, packed in peat moss. This is what Prairie Moon had to say “Bellwort is an excellent early-blooming native shade plant for the woodland garden, shaded border front, wildflower garden or naturalized area. It spreads slowly by rhizomes so you can achieve a mass planting look under shade trees or along wood margins in a relatively short amount of time. The Bellwort flowers and leaves have an overall droopy appearance when in bloom. However, after seeds are set, the leaves of Uvularia take on a different look, somewhat like a needle threading the stem through the leaves…..Bumblebees, Mason bees, Halictid bees, and Andrenid bees feed from the nectar and collect pollen from the flowers which bloom April to May. Uvularia grandiflora is easily grown in average, well-drained soil in partial to full shade.” Our yard is home to several Bellworts on the northside Soft Landings. Now to introduce to the southside.

    Several low-growing ground covers make their way around our yard, and I am grateful for their multiple ecological services. Common Blue Violet, Canada Violet, Pennsylvania Sedge, Ivory Sedge and Wild Strawberry stand out. These plants are valuable as insect host plants, wildlife food resources, green mulch, garden edging and more. This spring, I’ll be helping them meander to select spots, including to the Sugar Maple Soft Landings.

    These are the current Soft Landings planting plans, top-to-bottom. More to grow on next month!

    * The University of Wisconsin Extension has a pdf that offers several ways of managing creeping bellflower including the non-chemical method by thorough removal of all rhizomes and perennial roots.

    ** Most native plant nurseries are located outside of the city. I suggest taking this opportunity to visit natural areas near them, and to experience evolved native plant communities. Inspirational and educational! A visit to Outback Nursery then entails a trip to Grey Cloud Dunes, Landscape Alternatives then visit Interstate Park, Prairie Restorations on to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge - you get the idea!

    *** At the Landscape Revival on June 10th, you can meet a number of growers, native plant experts and purchase plants in one place. 

    Part 3-April 2023

    Native Plant Gardening is Habitat Gardening

    The April Fool’s Day winter storm of 8.5” of heavy, wet snow probably didn’t take many Twin City natives - plants and people - by surprise. The clean, white blanket of snow decorating the landscape was beautifully awesome and increased water tables suffering from a few years of drought. Unfortunately, the weight of the thick snow coating was too much for many tree and shrub limbs. The neighbor Sugar Maple lost a couple of large limbs yet should weather the damage.

    The storm-downed tree limbs in the neighborhood did offer the opportunity to find a few sculptural tree limbs to add to the new Soft Landings site. Besides adding natural interest, the wood is a beneficial insect habitat feature.

    On March 28th, 2023, my son took this photo of a newly eclosed Black Swallowtail, seen at his Rushford MN farm, an hour’s drive from the TC area. Insects over-winter in a variety of forms and ways. The Black Swallowtail, shown here, overwinters as a chrysalis and could be hidden among plant stems & branches, under an eave or another protected spot. Please, Do Not Disturb!

    The juxtaposition of these two MN occurrences underscores a vital habitat point in spring gardening. As far as hands-on-gardening goes, take it slow & easy until mid-May. April and early May are good times to observe what is coming up in your yard and think further about the landscape you envision. Don’t rake and tromp around on wet soil. Prune with caution, looking for hidden chrysalis and more. Maintaining a native garden is like traditional gardening in some ways but has essential differences that place us within nature. How to care for plantings in a way that recognizes leaf litter, stems, and grass clumps as homes for beneficial wildlife and still have a tended, manageable landscape? How to encourage a local ecology to thrive? How to know when to step aside, observe what is happening and let the process unroll?

    This is a Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillar that overwinters as a tiny caterpillar on or near violets, their only host plant. No violets=no fritillaries. So don’t mess with the violets in the spring! Photo by Sara Bright, Alabama Butterfly Atlas, used with permission.

    Useful PDFs: a US Forest Service colorful habitat garden diagram “Attracting Pollinators to Your Yard Using Native Plants” and an article written by me, "Spring and Fall Habitat Garden Care for Pollinator Conservation” for the Nokomis Naturescape. 

    Further Plant Considerations

    Planning early helps one mull the choices. As stated last month, we will make use of plants proliferating and what flourishes. This will add a nice continuity joining our yard with our neighbor’s. We’ll see what the next month brings in transplanting from our yard to next door.

    When choosing plants for within the maple tree’s dripline, it is vital to plant small seedlings so tree root disturbance is minimal - use a trowel and plant 3 feet away from the trunk (more info on Soft Landings).

    We will also enjoy spreading something newer to the landscape, such as Bellwort (commonly called “Merry Bells” which you give you the idea they are delightful plants). The bare root plants are expected to arrive from Prairie Moon soon.

    In the next month, I’m envisioning a couple of native plant nursery trips, to Outback Nursery for shrubs and a wildflower hike in nearby Grey Cloud Dunes to look for Pasque flowers and also to Prairie Restoration in Princeton with a jaunt to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge’ s Wildlife Drive.

    Sue Van Baerle and I will both have tables at Wild Ones Twin Cities “Spring Native Plant Resource Fair” at the Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, on April 18th, 6-8pm. Come by and say “hi” and see all that the gathering has to offer. Bush Lake Izaak Walton will be represented too! Click here for more info. 

    Part 4 - May 2023

    One of the biggest perks of being a native plant habitat gardener is welcoming back the overwintering plants, seeing who’s there, how they fared and observing who is visiting them. What’s not to love about this time of fresh greenery, early bloomers, arriving insect life and migrating birds?

    At our home front, the existing Soft Landings (SL), is doing wonderfully and looking like the established, dynamic native plant community we intended. This SL acts as a template and a plant resource center for the new planting. In the rock garden along the public sidewalk, we added plant ID signs and also have a Habitat Garden Info box. This week we learned that a couple on the block is adding a pollinator native plant boulevard and were influenced by our yard and available info. Now that’s encouraging! 

    The new shady Soft Landings is of special interest with the goal of documenting the existing plant life, further consider new additions and design options. The area under the maple in our neighbor’s yard is returning nicely. Plants from our yard were allowed to spread in previous years, either on their own or with a little two-legged help. There is the expected meandering of wild ginger, wild geranium, zig-zag goldenrod, heart-leaved aster, and common blue violets. The ostrich fern had spread, surprisingly more this year. They are delightful in spring/early summer yet tend to dry out as the season progresses. This may not be the best place for them but they’re staying put now. The unwanted creeping Charlie and tree seedlings were sparse and easily manageable. Notably, the sloped area with west sun exposure, had a thriving population of migrated and robust thimbleweed.

    The early May plan included augmenting this area with several species of early spring blooming transplants from our garden; Wild Ginger, Wild Geranium and Solomon’s Seal. I planted about thirty small starts that would require little digging and maple root disturbance. The Solomon’s Seal will stand tall next to the tree trunk, the Wild Ginger went to a bare “mound” and the Wild Ginger at base of slope near the log and rail tie border, that also serves as a narrow gardening walkway.

    When transplanting the wild geranium, I heard a familiar buzz and immediately knew this had to be a queen bumble bee. Sure enough, there she was and I had the opportunity to take a photo with the handy-dandy cellphone. How reaffirming! Our garden areas are effective queen overwintering sites. One suspected site was where I was - the rail tie and small log border that is acts as a fallen leaf catch basin. I will tread carefully here and was reminded to add a few stepping stones to make that easier. Knowing the life cycle of garden inhabitants helps one learn what to look for and then find ways to safeguard their homes. 

    Weaving throughout and showcased on the edges of the Soft Landings planting, are species that serve beautifully as Green Mulch, a term to signify a low-growing planting that holds moisture and soil in place. Click here to learn about Green Mulch. Our SL sites will hold about a half dozen plant varieties including woodland sedges. 

    The search continues for a smaller variety understory tree or shrub, a keystone species that is either a dogwood or serviceberry. This will be a focal point of the Soft Landings edge that extends into our yard. We are looking for a 2 gallon size shrub or 5 - 7 gallon tree, larger size for more immediate presence. There is something to be said for planting smaller/younger, as to allow the plant to mature in place, yet have to admit, I am looking forward to having a bit of show here. For now, am in a holding pattern, since native plant nursery options are very limited at this time.

    The week ahead holds a few opportunities to research and to add plant selections. First, Wild Ones Twin Cities is offering a program on Tuesday May 16th, is “A - Z on Sourcing Minnesota Plants”. This program may attended in-person, watched in zoom or taken in later via YouTube. Then, on Saturday, May 20th, will head to Burnsville Native Plant Market to explore possibilities and then on to Sogn Valley native plant sale to pick up a preorder, maybe be persuaded by a few more plants and then on to Nerstrand Woods State Park for inspiration.

  • 02/14/2023 3:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Bring Nature Home- Sue's Sunny Garden

    by Sue Van Baerle

    Part 1- Garden Planning & Design (Feb. 2023)
    Part 2- Mulch, Edging, Paths, And Plant Selection (March 2023)

    Part 1- Garden Planning & Design

    How to Plan the size of your new garden and guesstimate costs

    How many plants and the size of a new garden depends on the amount of time, energy and money you want to put into your project. If you plan for just plant plugs and mulch you can guesstimate $6/square foot in costs. If you want to include high cost species, new trees, concrete, natural stone edging, stepping stones, bird bath, fountain, sculpture or tool rental you will have those items as additional costs.

    Time required can vary greatly. You could spend days or weeks researching and selecting plants, and days designing your bed lines. Or, you could purchase a kit where the plant selection and design layout have already been selected for you. Depending on your situation, you may need time to smother or remove existing vegetation, perhaps trench and install edging, transport your plants home, dig plant holes, plant and possibly add mulch or plant labels that document the species locations. After planting, you will need time to clean and recycle the plastic containers. And last, but not least, you will need time to water and weed into late fall. You may also want to take the time to collect and clean seeds so that you can expand your garden and trade seeds with friends for next year.

    Plants: You don’t need to decide how big your garden will be right now but to give you an idea about garden size, we will look at two garden kits. This is one of several companies that sells garden kits. https://www.prairiemoon.com/garden-kits.

    There are other nurseries closer to the Twin Cities with garden kits available and there will be resources for finding them later in this article.

    Example 1 Garden Kit- Pollinator Patch Garden Kit - 18 plants for $119.00 plus shipping

    Covers 40 to 50 square feet (Example: 7’ by 7’ garden bed which is about the floor space in a small bathroom or walk-in closet.) https://www.prairiemoon.com/pollinator-patch

    Example 2 Garden Kit- The Colossal Pollinator Garden Kit - 50 plants for $189.00 plus shipping

    Covers 120 to 150 square feet (Example 11’ x 13’ garden bed or about the floor space in a dining room or guest bedroom.)


    If you opt to purchase Individual plants, they are generally between $4.50 and $7.00 each. Depending on the species an individual plant might take less than 1 square foot or it might take 4 or more square feet. You can generalize at about 2 or 2.5 square feet per plant.

    Create a rough sketches of your garden area

    At this point, you do not need an accurate drawing of your new garden. Some quick sketches and an idea of your budget will help get you started. You can look up your address on Google Maps, zoom in and create a quick sketch your house and garden area. Make a graphic to show North, South, East and West. As you plan your garden, it is better to start small, learn and add more plants next year. If you find you do not have enough time to water or weed, you may end up with more weeds than desired plants.

    Designing your bed: Think of your early sketches not as a final design but as a way to figure out what you want. There is plenty of time to finalize garden size, shape and plants. Keep your money and time budget in mind as you decide on size. The size will also help you decide how many species you want to research.  Additional resources, including planting templates and plant lists, can be found on BWSR's Lawns to Legumes website

    Thinking about what you want / need:

    • Here are just a few common questions to ask yourself.
    • Where do you currently walk to get to your shed, garage, patio etc?
    • Do you want straight bed lines, curved bed lines or a mixture?
    • What garden bed shape goes best with your home’s architecture?
    • Do you want to add: a tree, large shrub, sitting area, sculpture, or bird bath?
    • Do you want room for a vegetable garden?
    • Will you view the garden from a particular window?
    • Do you know where your underground utilities are? (More info later)
    • Does your new garden shape create a lawn area that would be difficult to mow?
    • Will the dog or your kids basketball end up in your garden?
    • Is your garden inside a fenced area?
    • Do you have problems with deer or rabbits?
    • What area is in sun and what area is in shade?

    Sue’s garden plan: My garden needs to pass the "neighbor test" in an area of well manicured lawns. I want to be able to see over my plants to the street, so I am looking for shorter full sun plants with a few taller species to add variety.

    I had two mature trees removed in 2019. The stumps were ground up and garden soil brought in to fill the low spots. (I will say more in another article about the current dangers of bringing in soil.) I started to transplant plants to the open ground without any plan; simply because it was easy. I had the plants and I did not have to remove lawn.

    Sue’s tree sketches: In 2019, I created a sketch of where I might add trees. They are grouped together on the north side of the yard leaving a sunny area on the south side of the yard. I decided this sketch had too many trees and would shade the neighbor's yard. Instead, I chose to add two dwarf fruit trees and three native trees spread over the entire area.

    In 2020, four oak trees sprouted in the open soil and an additional oak started in the spring of 2021. I decided to leave all five and change the design to accommodate them. In 2022, I wanted an unobstructed view from the front porch to the street. I also noticed that the prairie coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata) was spreading rapidly. I created another design to accommodate the young oaks, open the view, and move the coreopsis to the other side of the yard. The linear perimeter shape should make the garden look intentional and the rounded corners will make it easier to mow around. (See below for more sketches). 

    Sue’s Garden size and costs: I do not plan to use a garden kit this year because I already have many of the species offered in the garden kits. I am planning on adding between 50 and 200 square feet of garden space. So, I will need 20 to 100 plants at about $6.00 each plus tax or approximately $120 to $600 in plants. I may rent a chipper and create mulch with a friend of mine who will transport the chipper. Rental is between $125 and $250 depending on hours / days rented. I will use the chips on new and old paths and beds. I plan to continue using bricks on the walkway.

    Sue’s $ Price tag: For 50 square feet of garden the total estimated cost for plants, mulch and walkway bricks is a wishful thinking low of $270.00 ($120 plants + $125 chipper rental + $25 bricks with no edging). It would be less expensive to purchase bags of mulch but I will use additional mulch to refresh other paths and gardens.

    For 200 square feet with extras, the high estimated cost is $1,200 ($600 plants + $250 chipper rental + $50 bricks plus $300 extras - tree or shrubs, bird bath, edging outside perimeter of garden.) I can now use these estimated costs to decide how much larger I want to make the garden this year.

    Time and energy Price tag: (this is a giant guesstimate)

    The amount of time and physical energy depends in part on how I decide to kill / remove the lawn, how much buckthorn I mulch, and if I decide to add edging. It also depends on how long I research plants, how far I drive to pick them up. I will need to lay bricks, lay out the plants, plant, mulch, create labels, clean and recycle empty containers. The lawn removal, plant installation, mulching and clean up will hopefully take 3 hours a day for 3 (50 sq feet) to 12 days (200 sq. Feet).

    Look at Plant Catalogs:

    Bush Lake is USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4B which is often simplified to Zone 4. There are many great nurseries with websites in our area. I chose to use Prairie Moon as an example because it has a large offering and extensive search filters.

    A list of other native plant nurseries can be found at the Wild Ones Twin Cities website http://www.wildonestwincities.org/p/resources_20.html

    Bluethumb https://bluethumb.org/plants/ is another good search engine for plant species information. Additional local resources can be found at the Wild Ones Prairie Edge website. https://www.wildonesprairieedge.org/resources.html

    To have a native plant garden, you will want to double check that a plant is native to our area. At the Prairie Moon website, you can open up the range map on each species to see where in Minnesota each species is native. There are filters for Sun Exposure, Soil Moisture, Native Range (with a dropdown for Minnesota), Bloom Time, Bloom Color, Height, Advantages, and USDA Zone. You will not need the Germination Code unless you plan to purchase seeds.

    Sue’s search filters example: https://www.prairiemoon.com/plants/

    • Category - no selection or 3 Packs (no selection includes species available as seeds only)
    • Sun Exposure - Full
    • Soil Moisture - Medium Dry (I want minimum watering and I have sandy loam and a slope)
    • Native Range - Midwest (with a dropdown select Minnesota),
    • Bloom Time - no selection
    • Bloom Color - no selection
    • Height - zero to 3’
    • Advantages - the house with the heart (recommended for home gardens) and the Deer with the line through it. (Deer are less likely to eat)
    • USDA Zone - 4

    The results from this filtered search give me a great place to start looking at the shorter plant species that will work in my front yard. I’ll change search criteria, for example, I’ll select Bird Favorite and Bee Favorite. Don’t forget to click on the species and open up the Range Map for each species. You may want to start by looking up the species that come in a kit. The kits will familiarize you with some of the most popular natives for home gardens. Learning everything about all the natives can be very time consuming. Keep in mind the amount of space, time and money you want to budget. How many species do you want to add this year?

    Good Luck and Happy Garden Planning


    If there is interest, we could do an in person workshop on design and plant selection in March or April. Please email Sue if you are interested in attending a workshop at our chapter.

    Rough Sketches of Bed Lines and Paths 

    Sketch- Curved single bed with path

    Sketch- Island design with lawn paths

    Sketch- Linear design

    Sketch- More complete Linear design with curved paths

    Sketch- Unobstructed view, Making room for oaks, intentional look, round corners for easier mowing

    Part 2- Mulch, Edging, Paths, And Plant Selection

    Mulch: You may want to mulch your new garden, or you could add a layer of ground cover plants to help stop weeds. Mulch also helps retain moisture, which helps your new plants. You can transport bags of mulch in a car. To transport larger quantities (by the cubic yard) you would use a pickup truck or pay to have mulch delivered. Unless you are ordering multiple cubic yards of mulch, delivery greatly increases the price per cubic foot. One popular mulch option is shredded bark mulch because the long strands tend to stay in place on a slopes when small chips would wash out of the bed. A bag of mulch generally holds 1.5 to 2 cubic feet and sells in box stores and garden centers for about $4.00 and up. A cubic foot of mulch is 1’ wide, 1’ deep and 1’ tall. One cubic foot of mulch applied 12 inches (1’) deep would cover one square foot of ground. If you apply mulch 4” or 1/3 of a foot deep; one cubic foot would cover 3 square feet, a 2 cubic foot bag would cover 6 square feet. Applied 2” deep or 1/6 of a foot; one cubic foot would cover 6 square feet, and a 2 foot cubic bag of mulch would cover 12 square feet. In general, most native plant gardeners do not add mulch after plants are established. Plants will fill in and die back, creating their own mulch. We also have many ground nesting pollinators, and adding mulch year after year can make it difficult for them to nest. Avoid dyed mulch or treated mulch- the dye usually washes off in the first rain and can contain other things that are bad for our environment. With mulch, the more natural, the better.

    Cubic Yard of Mulch: One cubic yard of mulch is 3’ wide x 3’ deep x 3’ tall (3 x 3 x 3 = 27) so 1 cubic yard of mulch equals 27 cubic feet of mulch.

    Example: A 10’ x 12’ garden has 120 square feet of space. Covered 4” deep in mulch, it would need (120 / 3 = 40) 40 cubic feet of mulch. To convert from cubic feet to cubic yards, 40 cubic feet / 27 cubic feet per cubic yard = 1.48 cubic yards of mulch. You would purchase 1.5 cubic yards of mulch.

    Edging: If you want to add plastic, bricks, or aluminum edging, you will have to add that cost. Plastic edging lasts a long time but takes effort to dig the trench and install. You can purchase it coiled or in long straight pieces. If you are doing lots of long straight borders, straight pieces are easier to work with. If you want a long continuous curve, the coiled edging comes in much longer pieces. When you want to remove edging from your garden, it pulls out but can have permanent bends making it hard to reuse and hard or impossible to recycle. Sunny beds surrounded by lawn are more likely to need edging than shady gardens, due to the speed the lawn will spread into your garden. You can go without any edging if you have the time to dig / repair a small trench between the garden and lawn two or three times a summer. Prices for plastic edging vary greatly as does the size and thickness of the plastic. Prices start at about $.65 a running foot and go up over $1.50 a running foot. Bricks and concrete edging start at a similar price per running foot. Prices for natural stone are much higher.

    Sue’s mulch plan: Ground cover plants will be added, but I’m not yet sure which species. I currently have native strawberry which is spreading quickly through the bed and right out into the lawn. I am OK with that, but my neighbor may not be happy about that. In planting areas where I decide to use mulch, I will apply it 2” deep. It only needs to stop the weeds until the plants fill in and shade the ground. I will also apply mulch to the garden path. I plan to rent a chipper and chip a friend’s buckthorn to use as mulch. I plan to only use the buckthorn mulch in the paths, as that nasty buckthorn is allelopathic, which means it exudes chemicals that prevent other plants from growing. Buckthorn mulch may have the same effect. My cost will be the expenses of renting a chipper and my time to chip and move the mulch. See my caution about jumping worms at the end of this month’s entry.

    Sue’s edging plan: I have tried plastic edging, bricks laid on top of my sandy loam soil, edging and bricks laid together, and digging a small trench around the garden beds. Sometimes the bricks look terrible because critters dig beneath and move them around. I generally re-lay them the second year and sometimes again after 4 or 5 years. The plastic edging and brick laid together stays in place much longer but is harder to change. I no longer want to purchase plastic that may end up in a landfill, so I will continue to build the walking path with bricks. I can easily pick the bricks up and change the paths. I also use the bricks (or a garden hose) to help me think through where the path will go next year.

    I already have garden cloth to put under the mulch to slow down the weeds. If I needed to purchase garden cloth this year, I would try natural burlap. This website has garden tools and supplies including burlap. I don’t know how long it will last.

    About 15 years ago, I decided on a smaller red and black brick that would be easy for me to move well into old age. I went with a standard brick from Patio Town in the hopes that I would be able to match it for years to come. 

    I just checked and Patio Town still offers the same 6.25” x 3” brick at $.58 cents each, or with sales tax $1.25 per linear foot. The new extended walkway will be 10’ to 20’ long. To edge both sides, I will need 20 to 40 running feet of brick costing a total of $25 to $50.00. I can fit 100 bricks in my SUV, so I do not need to pay for delivery.

    Plant Selection: Last month, I covered how to do a plant species search with the Prairie Moon website, and I pointed to websites that list additional suppliers. Some of these vendors are closer to, or they travel to the Twin Cities for native plant markets. Prices will vary and you would not have to pay for shipping.

    The Burnsville Native Plant Market is on May 20. Their website includes links to vendors that will be at that market.  Each vendor website has a list of species and prices. Most, but not every species is native to the Twin Cities. These sales tend to be crowded and plants can sell out, so you may want to pre-order. Not all vendors offer the ability to pre-order.

    At the Blazing Star Gardens website,  I also found dates for native plant markets in Edina and Oakdale. These sales will have multiple vendors but I could not yet find websites for those plant markets.

    The size of the plugs/pots may vary. The smaller the plug, the less expensive it is, but the more care (watering) it may require in the first few weeks. The later the sale, the longer the plant has had to grow and develop roots, but the more likely the selection will be picked over.

    Sue’s Plant Selection Plan: From the results of my search, I have started a list of species for my garden. My list is too long, so I will scratch some species off after more research. My reasons to delete a species include being a favorite of rabbits, needing acidic soil (which I do not have), getting too tall, spreading too fast, or not being able to find a supplier. My reason to keep a species include that it is good for birds or pollinators, blooms for a long period of time, is well behaved, and I like the way it looks.

    I am trying to fit my native plants into a front yard surrounded by well-manicured lawns, so I will try to make it look more like a garden bed and less like a wild prairie. I will group multiple plants of each species together. I need to decide how many of each species makes a nice size grouping. Because Prairie Moon has a huge plant selection, I will likely purchase some plugs from them.

    I have been to several local native plant markets and really enjoy the energy but find them crowded and probably not the place to decide what you want. I plan to pre-order additional plugs, most likely from a vendor that will be at the Burnsville Plant Market where I will go pick them up.

    Jumping Worms - Mulch, Compost, Soil and Plant Exchanges: An invasive species called jumping worms is now in our area. Jumping worms are terrible and you don’t want them. They eat everything and will turn your soil to loose coffee grounds. They can be brought to your yard as adult worms or as tiny eggs in soil, compost, or mulch. Plant exchanges in our area are being curtailed because jumping worms can be spread in the soil of plants you exchange. The plugs you purchase will likely be grown in a greenhouse where you are less likely to get jumping worms. You may want to ask the vendor about their materials and process. The most common control is heat treating the material. For example, making sure that compost or soil reaches a temperature that will kill the jumping worms and their eggs.

    More info on jumping worms:

    MN DNR

    University of Minnesota Extension

    Video example of jumping worm - U of M project website

    Sue’s Mulch, Compost, Soil and Plant Exchange Plan: Because of jumping worms, I do not plan to bring compost or soil into my yard. I will purchase plugs from well-known growers, and I will make my own mulch from an area that has no known jumping worms. I stopped exchanging plants with friends several years ago, but I continue to exchange seeds.

    For next month - Some decisions - to order plugs in April, or pick them up in May or June, you will want to know the number of plants you need. After the snow melts, you will want to tape measure or step off the size of your garden area. Keep in mind that things may still change. For example, you may have underground utilities marked and decide not to plant on top of them; you may run into concrete or a boulder just below the soil surface; or the plant vendors may sell out of one of the species you want. Then you create Plan B because lots of options will work out well.

  • 01/16/2023 12:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since 2014, the Bush Lake Chapter has participated in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), the longest running survey of American bird populations ever conducted. Chapter members and friends head out a week before Christmas and count all birds heard and seen around Bush Lake, Tierney's Woods, and area parks.  

    2022 CBC

    'Twas a slow day for birding, but a few hearty Chapter members ventured out on Saturday, December 17th, for our Annual Christmas Bird Count. Highlights included 4 barred owls, 1 Great horned owl, 96 chickadees, and 91 Canada geese!

    Few birds, but the scenery was beautiful due to recent snow. Thanks to everyone that came out and those that submitted photos. Below is the summary of the 2022 Excelsior Area CBC, which Bush Lake is a part of.  Courtesy Howard T., Excelsior Area CBC coordinator. 

    "The 71st edition of the Excelsior Christmas Bird Count was held on December 17, 2022, under weather conditions that were quite normal for this time of year. Apparently, we were quite lucky in picking a day between a snow event and the start of an arctic blast. Seventy-six field counters and 14 feeder watchers participated, including 24 counters working at Carver Park under the direction of Park Naturalist Kirk Mona, 12 counters from the Bush Lake Chapter of the Izaak Walton League coordinated by Paul Erdmann, and five counters from the West Metro Chapter of the Minnesota Master Naturalist organized by Mary Beth Pottratz. The combined efforts of all resulted in a total of 55 species and 7,562 individuals being observed. The 55 species was nearly identical to the 20-year average of 57 species for our count and considering the almost complete absence of winter finches is a respectable total. The 7,562 individuals counted was a strong total for a year when Lake Minnetonka is frozen, sending large numbers of Common Mergansers that stage there on their way south. By comparison, last year’s total was 5,758 individuals.

    Some of the more notable sightings and other observations from this year’s count:

    · Our total of 55 species was greatly aided by 15 waterfowl species made possible by continued open water at the Blue Lake Water Treatment Facility and Shakopee Mill Pond. We are grateful for the folks at the Blue Water facility for allowing access to our counters. Among the more unusual waterfowl species observed this year: a single Green-winged Teal for the second year in a row following a gap of ten years without a sighting; a single Wood Duck at the Mill Pond, the seventh in the past 20 years; and two Ruddy Ducks that were only the fifth in the past 20 years.

    · A new record for our circle was an eBird report of a Common Raven flying over Purgatory Creek in Eden Prairie. Although new to the count, this was not a particularly surprising find, as ravens have been steadily moving south in the state over the past 10-15 years and are now quite regular at Crow-Hassan and Lake Rebecca Park Reserves.

    · Another species which seems to be increasing on the Excelsior count, Merlin, was observed in two areas. This marks the fourth consecutive winter for spotting this falcon, but there were only four sightings in the previous 67 years of the count.

    · Another rarity for the Excelsior CBC was a Chipping Sparrow visiting the feeders of Chris and Laurie Pelton in Minnetonka. This was only the second occurrence for this species in our count’s history, the previous sighting being from 2008. Song Sparrows were observed for the twelfth time in the past 20 years, but we struck out on White-throated Sparrows for only the third time in the same period.

    · For the third consecutive year, only one Ring-necked Pheasant was found, again by the Carver Park crew. Pheasants used to be quite abundant on the count (301 were tallied in 1978), but they have been steadily decreasing in the past 15-20 years with increased urbanization in the circle. We’ve never totally missed on them, but I suspect it will happen in the near future.

    · The only species on this year’s count that set record high numbers was Ring-necked Duck with a total of 86, exceeding the previous high of 68 from 2012. Trumpeter Swans continued to have strong showings with 312 individuals and reports from 10 areas; the high for this species was 323 in 2017, but before 1994 there were virtually no reports.

    · The highest number for any species was 1,733 Mallards, which must have been finding enough open water to keep them happy. Among the passerines Black-capped Chickadees, not surprisingly, led the way 757 individuals. Cedar Waxwings had a decent showing with 474 being the highest total since 2015 when 768 were counted, and 24 Purple Finches was the highest total since 2002 when 36 were recorded.

    · Near misses: only a single Rough-legged Hawk and a single Sharp-shinned Hawk were found by the Carver Park crew. Likewise, only a single Belted Kingfisher was located along the Minnesota River by Renner Anderson’s group. A single Common Grackle was found in the Hopkins area by Avery and Jon Blumenthal, the fourth in the past 10 years. And we barely scraped up two Pine Siskins, which was better than last year’s zero.

    · Misses: every year there a few birds that don’t cooperate. Common Mergansers had all passed through, only the third time in 20 years we missed on this species. In 2015, over 13,000 were counted on Lake Minnetonka. Winter finches were not cooperative this year. We had no Common Redpolls at all, a species that we record on about 50% of our counts. And as mentioned above, we zipped on White-throated Sparrow for only the second time in the past 15 years.

    I hope that everyone enjoyed the time spent helping on the count. The efforts of everyone are important and greatly appreciated. The CBCs are not primarily about finding rare birds; they’re about censusing birds in our environment over the years. A count like the Excelsior CBC with its history going back over 70 years provides important information about the changes occurring over time in our increasingly urbanized area. Thank you for participating and I hope you will join us again next year!"

    2021 CBC

    In 2021, the highlights of the Bush Lake count were a Red-shouldered hawk (likely one of a pair that nests here in the summer) and a Northern shrike, which was spotted in the prairie on the south side of the lake.  Steph also spotted Common redpolls on the south side of the lake.  If you feed birds, keep an eye out for these sporadic visitors from Canada.  Thanks to the brave souls that participated! 

    Below is the summary of the 2021 Excelsior Area CBC, which Bush Lake is a part of.  Courtesy Howard T., Excelsior Area CBC coordinator. 

    "The 70th edition of the Excelsior Christmas Bird Count was held on December 18, 2021, under weather conditions that were quite normal for this time of year. Seventy-four field counters and 14 feeder watchers participated, including 25 counters working at Carver Park under the direction of Park Naturalist Kirk, ten counters from the Bush Lake Chapter of the Izaak Walton League coordinated by Paul, and nine counters from the West Metro Chapter of the Minnesota Master Naturalist organized by Mary Beth. The combined efforts of all resulted in a total of 56 species and 5,758 individuals being observed during the day. While 56 species fell far short of last year’s record-tying and state-leading 68 species, it was almost identical to the 20-year average of 57 species for our count. The 5,758 individuals counted was quite typical of years when Lake Minnetonka is frozen, sending large numbers of Common Mergansers that stage there on their way south. By comparison, last year’s total was 15,991 individuals, the second highest total ever for this count. This year there were a total of 20 Common Mergansers compared to last year’s total of 2,810; there were 146 Canada Geese compared to last year’s total of 2,012; and there were 1,863 Mallards, far less than last year’s total of 4,495.

    Some of the more notable sightings and other observations from this year’s count:

    · Renner and Martha found two Green-winged Teal south of the Minnesota River near Shakopee. These were the first on the count since 2010.

    · The count’s only American Coot was found by the team of Dick, Charlie and Bonnie who have been doing the count together since Noah’s ark landed – well almost. Coots have been found on the count every year since 1991, so having only a single bird was noteworthy.

    · Speaking of single birds, only one Ring-necked Pheasant was reported for the second year in a row by the Carver Park crew. Pheasant used to be quite abundant on the count (301 were tallied in 1978), but they have been steadily decreasing in the past 15-20 years with increased urbanization in the circle. We’ve never totally missed on them, but I suspect it will happen in the near future.

    · For the third consecutive year, only a single Red-shouldered Hawk was seen, this one by the Izaak Walton group. This species has been seen on 10 of the past 20 years, but never more than one or two birds. The Izaak Walton crew also found the count’s only Common Redpolls, a group of 10.

    · A Northern Saw-Whet Owl was found by Michelle and Rod  at Carver Park, only the third one found in the past 20 years on count day. These cuties are probably more common than those figures would indicate at Carver, but their small size and reclusive nature make them a tough find.

    · One of the most remarkable observations on the count came from feeder watcher Sue who photographed a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in her yard. This was only the second sighting in the 70 years of the Excelsior count. Although a few sapsuckers linger in Minnesota every winter, they have been avoiding our count assiduously.

    · Another uncommon bird on the Excelsior count, the Merlin, was observed by Nathan and Barb in the Chaska area. This marks the third consecutive winter for spotting this falcon, but only the sixth in the past 20 years.

    · A Carolina Wren that has been seen nearly daily at the feeders of Bruce and Lori  in Minnetonka cooperated on count day, providing only the third record in the past 20 years. With the warming climate in Minnesota, expect to see more and more of this southern species.

    · A group of four Eastern Bluebirds seen at Carver Park was the fourth record in the past ten years. This is another species that we’re likely to see more and more of in Minnesota winters with milder conditions. The counts only Red-winged Blackbirds also were found at Carver Park.

    · Two late White-throated Sparrows seen at the feeders of Paul in Chanhassen were the only reported on the count. We’ve only missed this species three times in the past 20 years, as a few usually stick around at feeders long enough for our CBC.

    · A single Common Grackle was located by Ken in the Big Willow Park area, only the third in the past ten years.

    · Another remarkable observation from a feeder watcher came from Denny and Barb, but unfortunately a day late for the official count. They observed and photographed a Rusty Blackbird in their Shorewood yard on Sunday, making it a ‘count-week’ bird. The last Rusty Blackbird on the count was also a ‘count-week’ bird seen in 1999. The last one with the sense to show up on count day was 30 years ago in 1990.

    · No species on this year’s count set record high counts (which is a bit unusual), but Trumpeter Swan came close with a total of 310, the second highest number to 323 in 2017. Four Cooper’s Hawk observations equaled the highest count set six different times in the past 20 years. This is a species that seems to be adapting well to increased urbanization and urban feeders.

    · Misses: every year there a few birds that don’t cooperate. No Northern Shovelers were spotted in the usually reliable Blue Lake area after a run of eight consecutive years. Buffleheads were missed for the first time in nine years. Note that part of the problem stems from our not accessing the Blue Lake water treatment facility during Covid times. Pine Siskins were conspicuously missing, although this is a species that we only find on about 75% of counts. No Song Sparrows were noted, a species that is seen on about 50% of counts.

    And whether your name appears above or not, please realize that your efforts are important and appreciated. The CBCs are not primarily about finding rare birds; they’re about censusing birds in our environment over the years. A count like the Excelsior CBC with its history going back 70 years provides important information about the changes occurring over time in our increasingly urbanized area. Thank you for participating and I hope you will join us again next year!"

  • 10/11/2022 4:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since 2017 we have been giving out awards to our members and others for their outstanding contributions to the Chapter and conservation. Below is a list of the awards, the award winners, and their contributions.

    Bush Lake Chapter IWLA Awards 2022

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2022. 

    Susan Van Baerle has been a member of our Chapter and on our Board of Directors for several years. Paul E. "I can’t remember when I first met Sue, but it was years ago, and we immediately hit it off with our shared interest of plants and wildlife. I finally got her to join the Chapter- and shortly after that, our board. In the last few years, she has been indispensable in our efforts to restore the Chapter property, as well as our education and outreach events. She is always quick to volunteer and contribute when asked. Sue and her husband, Robin, constructed new mallard hen houses after the other ones were destroyed by flooding- something that had been on the list of things to do for some time. They risked life and limb installing them in East Bay Pond this past spring, and there may have been some breaking through the ice and into the muck during the installation. We thank Robin, for his efforts and for the support he gives to Sue. For her outstanding contributions to the Chapter, the Volunteer of the Year Award goes to Sue Van Baerle. Thank you, Sue, for all of your great work!"

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- This award is named after our old neighbor, Gordy Bratsch, who was the “unofficial caretaker”- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean and the Chapter running smoothly. This award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year. 

    No two individuals have contributed more to the ongoing viability and betterment of the Bush Lake Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America during the last decade than Elizabeth and Paul Erdmann. The Erdmanns have been our Chapter’s caretakers for the last 12 years. During that time, they helped transition our Chapter from an emphasis on the beach to a focus on environmental sustainability. For the last 12 years they have been the eyes, ears, and heart of our property.

    Through the years Liz and Paul have organized a host of member work projects. They have led buckthorn removal and the painstaking replacement of invasive plants with thousands of native plants. They set up the Chapter fall and spring clean ups, supervised Eagle Scout projects, and led and participated in workshops, such as aquatic invasive species identification. Paul and Liz perform water sampling on Bush Lake every 10 days, spring-fall. Recently they went beyond the call of duty to remove a concrete block from the bottom of the lake, which had detached from the swim raft.

    Paul has been the Chapter board secretary for many years. He authors the Chapter newsletter, Lake Winds. He manages our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Paul handles new member orientation and manages lodge reservations. Paul’s responsibilities extend well beyond the Chapter’s borders. He has served as a delegate for the Minnesota Division Izaak Walton League for many years. Paul’s career is also conservation related, working for the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

    Liz has also chosen a life of service. She is a high school English teacher at Jefferson High School in Bloomington. There she started and continues to advise the Jefferson HS Earth Corps. The group received the Bush Lake Chapter 2021 Youth Conservation Award.

    We thank Liz and Paul for all of their hard work on behalf of our Chapter and their courageous forward-looking leadership in saving this planet. And they are just really great people!

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to non-profit, city or public staff or elected officials for their outstanding contributions to water quality, conservation, and the environment. 

    This year’s Public Good Award goes to Bill Grant

    Jill C.: "It has been my pleasure to know Bill and support his work to advance our government’s renewable energy policy and action from dependency on polluting and climate warming fossil fuels to embracing energy efficiency and wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Getting legislation such as the Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air Acts passed was a challenging first step. Climate Change solutions demand action!

    Bill Grant has been a strategical mastermind at taking on the daunting tasks to identify the barriers (such as Utilities and Fossil Fuel Companies) and develop the infrastructure of colleague organizations and allies with MEP member organizations, scientists, and other Taskforces working on a Clean Air agenda and facilitate their collaboration. Success required setting priorities, making hard decisions that impacted disgruntled colleagues, recognizing that funding sources were finite and focusing on efforts that would yield the most return to establish renewable standards, programs and goals. Sounds like days of heartburn!

    An essential part of this daunting challenge was 10 years of negotiations with decision-makers at Xcel Energy.

    Internally within the Izaak Walton League Bill ran the Midwest Office out of St. Paul, hired exceptional staff, and worked with Chapters and the National staff and Ike leadership. As the Windsource program was made available to allow Xcel Energy consumers to sign up for renewable sources for their electricity, Eric Jensen, Midwest Office Staff, participated in a program to ensure there actually was a new independent wind source for each person who signed up. This was critical to document the program’s accountability.

    Bill gained the trust of MN legislators and worked with them to push for state legislation. These relationships were key to advancing Renewable Standards in MN.

    Education to raise awareness and address the perceived barriers from utility companies was ramped up through Windustry Conferences in early 2000s, The Utility Companies felt it was impossible to predict and integrate variable energy sources into the grid as well as for consumer and business demand. The Conferences brought presentations by experts reporting on solutions in calculating those probabilities. CERT (Clean Energy Resource Teams) Conferences educated interested members of the public and enabled students to be engaged and talk about ways they reduced energy. Several MN Ikes attended these two-day informative bi-annual conferences. At other events Tribal nation members told their stories of the mercury impacts on their health from eating mercury contaminated fish, a staple of their diet. Another important partner was MN CEE (MN Clean Energy and Environment) with knowledgeable staff to work with businesses to add energy efficiency and become LEED buildings.

    Bill was a major contributor to the Prairie Island negotiation which helped advance renewable energy options in MN. He secured $300,000 to fight the building of the Big Stone II coal power plants and supported litigation to prevent importation of energy into MN from coal plant sources. He secured approval from the National IWLA office to accomplish this.

    He enlisted the help of Ikes to testify at hearings and fight proposed coal plants in their communities. He helped chapters like Bush Lake Ikes to draft resolutions to build IWLA renewable energy policy and provide a basis for his work on the State and National levels."

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Brad Pierson is a waterfowl expert, especially, a wood duck expert. He was a huge help to the Chapter when we decided to install 17 wood duck houses on Normandale Lake- replacing houses that were supposed to be there but were lost to neglect many years ago. Brad found the wood duck house kits for us, and Brad and several of us gathered together in this very spot, during peak Covid- masks outdoors and all- to put the houses together. There’s now a bunch of wood duck houses on Normandale Lake, providing nesting opportunity for wood ducks for years to come. Brad is also a major volunteer with the Three Rivers Park District. He has updated and installed hundreds of wood duck boxes while following the latest box design and management protocols. Since 2013, he has been the primary volunteer responsible for the installation, maintenance and reporting of wood duck boxes in the Park District.  It is one thing to just put up a bird house- it is another thing- a conservation thing- to monitor and maintain a bird house for success. For example, in 1968 Three Rivers reported that of the 60 wood duck boxes that had been placed in the parks, only five of them were successful- an 8% success rate. Thanks to the efforts of Brad and other volunteers, this has turned around. In a recent year- they checked 115 boxes. Seventy-six boxes were successfully used – a 66% success rate. This is a great improvement over the 8% success rate in 1968. We want to thank Brad for his commitment to conservation and the great work he has done for wood ducks and other birds through the years. Brad couldn’t be with us today; he is on a fishing trip in Canada- but you can honor his great work by purchasing a Duck Stamp which provides funding for waterfowl habitat- or get involved with our wood duck house monitoring program.

    5) Youth Conservation Award- Awarded to youth for their outstanding contributions to the Chapter, conservation, or the environment.

    2 Awards 

    The Kennedy RoboSharks solar boat regatta team designed, purchased, configured, and raced a solar powered boat that won 3rd place in the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society’s 30th annual solar boat regatta at Riley Lake on May 21st 2022…. One of the coldest May days on record.

    The team members include Halima Girled, Amber Balczewski, Zhoujinyi Wen, and Emily Kwon. They competed against 9 other teams in a sprint, a slalom, and a 1-hour long endurance race. The girls took turns running the boat. What made it very impressive was that 3 of the 4 girls had never steered a boat before our test run on Bush Lake a couple nights before the competition.

    All of these girls are veterans of the Kennedy Robotics Team, which consists of kids from both Kennedy and Jefferson. They finished 13th in the state robotics competition in 2022. The solar boat team advisors are Ron Balczewski, Paul Lindemann, Sharon Rauenhorst, Pdon Pinkham, and John Crampton.

    Ron Balczewski was our real leader. He provided the 14 ft. Alumacraft boat and the electric motor. The Bush Lake Chapter provided the money to buy the solar panels, controller, and brackets designed to tilt and turn the solar panels directly at the sun.

    In 2023, the Robosharks may again compete with the goals of build the boat from scratch and also integrating many robotic functions in these solar boats that these girls are so skilled at designing.

    The Kennedy Green Club designed, dug, planted, and maintained a huge rain garden located in an area between the school back door and the Kennedy Activity Center. In this process they worked with the school administration and building and grounds staff. The design process went on throughout the winter and spring of 2022. The digging and planting of the rain garden took place on Saturdays May 7th and May 14th. It took place on some very hot days…. It involved over 50 students from both Kennedy and Jefferson working in 2-hour shifts.

    The rain garden was funded by Nine Mile Creek Watershed District under the leadership of Gael Zembel. Other funding came from the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter.

    Bush Lake Chapter IWLA Awards 2021

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2021. 

    Nancy Carlson has been a member of our Chapter and on our Board of Directors for several years. She is a go-getter and can always be counted on to lend a hand and contribute to improving the Chapter. As our Youth Activity Director, Nancy has put together several fun educational programs for kids. During this pandemic time, with help from Paul Raymaker, she starred in the “Nature Drawing With Nancy” video series, where she demonstrated how to draw and conserve some of our most treasured wildlife species. She recently put together our Little Free Nature Library, which can be found in the lodge. She also helps with member canoe rack storage, a job nobody wants but Nancy does it with spirit. Nancy is also an accomplished and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who has published more than 60 books. Nancy believes that life should be fun for everyone, but especially for children. This optimistic message permeates her books and her work here at the Chapter, and we are very lucky to have her. The Bush Lake Chapter thanks Nancy for her excellent work!

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- This award is named after our old neighbor, Gordy Bratsch, who was the “unofficial caretaker”- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean and the Chapter running smoothly. This award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year. 

    Gregg Thompson became caretaker here in the early 2000s. Gregg, along with John Crampton and Jill Crafton, found a conservation organization that was not so much a conservation organization as it was a private beach club. They worked together to turn the Chapter around and get us back to our conservation mission. As John Crampton says “Our chapter was mowing down to the water’s edge and many of us didn’t know the difference between garlic mustard and lady slippers.” Gregg quit mowing many areas to protect the water quality of Bush Lake and leave some more room for nature and wildlife. He started our restoration work by removing buckthorn and planting native plants. He worked to stabilize the shoreline that was eroding due to all the mowing. He started implementing water smart landscaping practices and taught others on how to do the same in their yards. Over the years, he’s educated hundreds of people on how to save water, money, time and actually help the environment with their home landscaping practices. He also does this great work at his day job with the City of Eagan, where he works to protect and restore the water resources there. Gregg also spearheaded our communication efforts with a new website and social media presence. Because of his work and the work of others, our Chapter has, by far, the best online presence of any IKE chapter in Minnesota. This has helped us attract members who really care about the environment. Gregg was also involved on the state level with the Minnesota Division, where he served as secretary and brought new ideas and new blood to the organization. He also helped Jill and others in getting the annual Watershed Summits at Normandale College off the ground in 2007. Gregg’s work continues today serving on our Board and as Membership Director, Website Administrator, and helps manage the canoe racks. We thank Gregg for all his efforts in bringing our organization into the 21st century, and for his commitment to conservation these many years. We would also like to thank his wife Rachael and children, Addie and Luca, for all of the support they give Gregg.

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to non-profit, city or public staff or elected officials for their outstanding contributions to water quality, conservation, and the environment. 

    The City of Bloomington Water Resources Department works to protect and improve Bloomington’s surface waters- the Minnesota River, Nine Mile Creek, and our many lakes, ponds, and wetlands. They work collaboratively with Watershed Districts, residents, and others to ensure water and the many ecosystems it supports stay healthy. In recent years, the Water Resources Department has collaborated with the Bush Lake Chapter on a number of projects, including the installation of wood duck houses on Normandale Lake. The Department also replaced the outlet structure that connects East Bay Pond to Bush Lake with the installation of a beaver-proof structure. This project protects Bush Lake’s water quality and allows beavers to inhabit the area. The Department also implemented water quality best management practices in West Bush Lake Park to further protect the lake. They also provide funding to maintain native vegetation around Bush Lake, and we are excited they are now planning to manage the invasive cattail around the lake- a win for wildlife, water quality, and recreation. All of this, in addition to the many water quality projects and initiatives the Department is working on throughout Bloomington, makes the Department deserving of this Award. The Bush Lake Chapter would like to thank the Water Resources Department staff- Bryan Gruidl, Steve Gurney, Jack Distel, Dave Gunderson, and Derek Cable- for all their great work!

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Carrol Henderson served as the Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor from 1977 to 2018 when he retired. The work he has done for wildlife in our state and beyond is too extensive to list here today, but here are some highlights. He launched the “Loon Checkoff”- the nongame wildlife checkoff on Minnesota tax forms. Since 1981, state taxpayers have contributed more than $30 million to support projects to benefit native nongame species, such as songbirds and butterflies, frogs and toads, minnows and mussels, snakes and turtles, loons and ospreys. He helped many other states start non-game wildlife programs, and also helped them with endangered and threatened species. Here in Minnesota, when you hear the loud honk of a trumpeter swan, see a peregrine falcon or bald eagle fly overhead, or see river otters frolicking in the Minnesota River, you can thank Carrol for the work he did to reestablish these once endangered species. He also worked to reestablish common loons, bluebirds, blue herons, egrets, sandhill cranes, purple martins, frogs, turtles, bats, ospreys, snakes, and many other species. He also facilitated the acquisition of thousands of acres of land for wildlife and outdoor recreation. Carrol has authored 13 books and donated the proceeds to the non-game program. His work and his books Woodworking for Wildlife and Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality have inspired all of the work we have done here at the Bush Lake Chapter.

    Carrol’s work continues today advocating as a private citizen for wildlife, including working to Get the Lead Out of hunting and fishing and leading bird trips around the world.

    Carrol will be our featured speaker at our Get the Lead Out virtual program on October 6th, 2021, we hope that you can join us. The Bush Lake Chapter would like to thank Carrol for his commitment to conservation and for all his is outstanding work!

    5) Youth Conservation Award- Awarded to youth for their outstanding contributions to the Chapter, conservation, or the environment.

    The Bloomington Jefferson High School Earth Corps, founded in 2019, is a student-led environmental club. The primary goal of Earth Corps is to take meaningful actions to raise climate awareness, reduce solid waste, and encourage members of the school and city to live more sustainably. This year, during the pandemic, the Earth Corps went through many trials and tribulations and spent hundreds of hours to successfully install the Unity Garden on the grounds of Jefferson High School. This beautiful native plant garden was installed in a sea of turfgrass, and now provides habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, improves water quality, and serves as an outdoor classroom and a place for peace and reflection, to be enjoyed by the entire community. In just a couple of years, the Earth Corps has also worked to improve composting and recycling at the school, and to reduce waste. They have been active in advocating for real solutions to climate change by meeting with legislators and attending climate action events. Perhaps most importantly, they have worked to engage the student body and the community on environmental issues and getting students outdoors in nature. Special recognition goes to Maya Hidalgo, Yan Yan Zeng, Katrina Moberg for their work on the Unity Garden, as well as this year’s leaders, Kelsey Bechtold, Amal Mohamed, Micah Draxler, and Megan Zeng. Additionally, we must thank their advisor, our very own Elizabeth Erdmann. The Bush Lake Chapter would like to thank the Earth Corps for their dedication and commitment to improving our shared Earth. Keep fighting the good fight!

    Chapter Awards 2020

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2020.

    Duayne Wincell, with help from his wife Cindy, spent numerous hours repairing the Chapter’s informational kiosks by constructing new roofs for them. He donated all his time, materials, labor, and travel costs. This was a significant donation and contribution by Duayne and Cindy. The kiosks look better than ever, and Duayne plans to continue improving them. Duayne and Cindy are long time members of the Chapter, and frequently attend our events and support the Chapter. In the past, Duayne made some pollinator houses for the Chapter and has helped with other Chapter improvement and activities, such as the canoe race. He is also the undefeated (in modern times) Annual Canoe Race champion. Due to Covid, we are not having the canoe race this year- so we are happy to give Duayne this award instead! Thank you Duayne for all of your great work, and Cindy, for your support.

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- named after our old neighbor Gordy Bratsch that was the unofficial caretaker- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean- this award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    John Crampton has been involved with the Bush Lake Chapter for many years. He, Jill, and Gregg were part of the “new guard” that came to the Chapter some 20 years ago to find a board of directors that didn’t recite the pledge/our commitment to conservation “because they didn’t believe in it.” Through John’s determination and leadership, the Bush Lake Chapter became a conservation organization again.

    John has advanced our conservation mission in many ways. In recent years, his focus has been on climate change, and he came up with the Clean Energy Grant for the Minnesota Division Izaak Walton League that is used by Chapters to implement practices that help combat climate change. He has been an integral part of our Annual Watershed Summit and helps with planning and videography. In 2019 he and Jill Crafton put together the Watershed & Climate Summit, which brought together people from around the state and beyond to discuss protecting our water resources while also combatting climate change. John is also active with environmental advocacy at his church, Oak Grove Presbyterian, creating environmental programs and implementing green infrastructure such as solar panels and raingardens. Thanks to John, the Church has hosted several Izaak Walton League events and a semi-annual Electric Vehicle Expos.

    John is always quick to volunteer and help the Chapter and our cause. He comes to most of our volunteer events, and last year he put on our first KidsWind event- which brough kids out to the Chapter to build mini-wind turbines and taught them all about renewable energy. The current board considers John as an “honorary board member” as he attends many of our long meetings and helps to remind of us our mission and what is at stake. John is also good at spreading our environmental message to the public that he does with both passion and a sense of humor. He has a “fire in the belly” that is contagious with all that interact with him. John has served as both Chapter president as well as Division president. We thank John for his commitment to the Izaak Walton League and our environment. We would also like to thank John’s wife, Mary, for all the support she provides John to allow him to do these things- and for keeping him from going off the rails!

    Paul Raymaker Thanks to Nancy Carlson, Paul and his family joined the Chapter a few years ago. Also, thanks to Nancy, Paul soon joined our board of directors and has been an integral part of our Chapter ever since! Paul is our official chapter photographer- his incredible images have allowed us to spread our conservation message more effectively on social media and beyond. He runs our Instagram page that is full of awesome content about nature and why it is important to protect. Along with Nancy, Paul plans and manages most of our youth programming, and getting kids outdoors in nature is more important than ever. Paul also put together an excellent virtual Chapter orientation video that we will be unveiling soon. He attends most Chapter events and is not afraid of getting his hands dirty. A busy husband and father of two boys- Paul is always quick to lend a hand and has been a tremendous help to Paul Erdmann the caretaker, and the Chapter in recent years. We thank Paul for his dedication and all his great work! We of course also thank his wife Jackie, and sons Wesley and Waylon for all the support they give Paul!

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to non-profit, city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Patty Acomb represents Minnetonka, Plymouth, and Woodland in the Minnesota House of Representative. She is the leader of the Minnesota House Climate Action Caucus which has 59 members. As chair she has led the drive to pass 100% Clean Energy in Minnesota by 2050 mandate along with other clean energy transportation, renewable energy, carbon sequestration, and public health initiatives in the 2020 and now the 2021 Minnesota House of Representatives. Patty has served on the Park Board and City Council of Minnetonka as a staunch advocate for sustainable land and water conservation practices. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in natural resources. Patty presented at our Watershed and Climate Summit back in March. We thank Patty for her contributions to conservation and the great state of Minnesota!

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Lisa McEntire is a one-woman army, defending Tierney’s Woods, Hyland Park, and other Bloomington parks and open spaces from alien invaders. Each year, Lisa spends countless hours pulling and managing garlic mustard, narrow leaf bittercress, and other invasive plants to ensure they do not take over our most important wildlife habitat areas. She also reports new invasions of invasive plants, so the proper authorities are aware. She also educates the public on invasive species issues and collaborates with others to protect our natural areas. She monitors bluebird houses and helps wildlife and our natural world in numerous other ways. We thank Lisa for all her great work!

    5) Youth Conservation Award- awarded to youth under the age of 21 for their outstanding contribution to the Chapter, conservation, or the environment.

    Yanyan (Xiaoxin Zeng) (pronounced “Yan Yan Zeng”) is a co-founder and president of the newly re-envisioned Jefferson High School Earth Corps. This was once called HOPE (Help Our Planet Earth) Club, but the group said it is too late for hope--that people need to actually get to work. Yanyan is not afraid to do the work. She has continued to serve on the City of Bloomington Sustainability Commission, focusing on climate, getting youth involved, and asking the hard questions. Yanyan's interest in the environment is thoughtful and passionate. She spends her time fighting for climate justice and social justice, behind the screen of her computer or with boots on the ground, even in a pandemic. She practices what she preaches in her diet and daily routines. She was recently recognized as an Earth Action Hero and featured in a City video. She continues this work as she plans for college and her future. She wants her future to be healthy and happy, and she is not going to wait for someone else to make the world a better place. She is going to change the world for herself.

    Bush Lake Chapter IWLA Awards 2019

    Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2019.

    1- Paul Cress- Paul has been a member for several years and has been a huge asset to the Chapter. He built the paddleboard rack several years ago and always turns out for volunteer events and takes on special projects. He almost single-handedly prepped the South Woodland Restoration in 2019- as others have said “He’s a beast!” He’s been an integral member of the Dock Team as well as the Beaver Dam Team! His attitude, skills, and demeanor are exemplary, and we thank him for all of his great work!

    2- Bush Lake Board of Directors- for their outstanding contributions and volunteering the last several years. Special recognition should go to: Paul Raymaker (photos, signs, Kids Crafts, Instagram- Check It Out!), Nancy Carlson (Canoes, Kids Crafts, Graphic Design), Rafael Bustos (signs and lodge/grounds help), Gregg Thompson (website, membership, Canoes, outlet, caretaker assistance/therapy and more), Louise Segreto (newsletter articles, history research, advocacy), Jill Crafton (treasurer, advocacy, watershed summit), Doug Claycomb (AIS monitoring, advocacy, education) Rick Wheeler (leadership, calming the ship, Chapter work), Tim Olish (Neighborhood Watch) and Paul Erdmann (misc).

    Gordy Bratsch Award- named after our old neighbor Gordy Bratsch that was the unofficial caretaker- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean- this award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    Marilynn and Tom Torkelson. They have been members of the Chapter for a few years and are always willing to help. Marilynn has been active with our Plant Posse, this summer she helped out in the South Woodland Restoration, single-handedly removing a patch of non-native/invasive lily of the valley. Marilynn is the President of the Wild Ones Prairie Edge Chapter in the west Metro. Wild Ones works to educate others on native plant landscapes and gardening. Marilynn and Tom have a beautiful yard in Eden Prairie that is almost entirely (if not entirely) native plants that also features rain gardens to improve water quality. They frequently hold tours to educate others on how they can implement environmental practices in their own yards. They are active in their community, advocating for conservation. Marilynn is also a Master Water Steward who works to improve water quality in her community. She is also on the Citizens Advisory Committee at the Riley Purgatory Creek Watershed District, where she has been working on a restoration project at the Scenic Heights Elementary School, involving students and community members in this process. Tom, I'm sure, helps Marilynn with all of this stuff and provides great support! There are also probably quite a few other great things that they do that we don’t know about. Please thank them for being great Defenders and all they do for conservation!

    Public Good Award- Award given to non-profit, city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Three Rivers Park District Natural Resource Staff and Richardson Nature Center Staff who are involved with restoration activities and prairie maintenance at Hyland Park/Richardson Nature Center as well as environmental education in our community. Our Chapter caretakers frequently hike and bike in the park (as a nice get away from work at the Chapter) and are always excited and inspired by the beauty and diversity of the prairie and other lands in the park. They have been especially impressed with and happy to see lots of work being done in the woodlands and with buckthorn removal in recent years. Other Chapter members enjoy Hyland and the Nature Center as well. The Bush Lake Chapter is fortunate to have this wonderful oasis of habitat not far from the Chapter, as it acts as anchor and conservation corridor for wildlife and helps to protect water quality. Additionally, Nature Center staff provide excellent nature and natural resources education to our community year-round, another very important asset for conservation! We thank them for all of their great work!

    Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Ron Erdmann He has played a huge role in restoring the Chapter property, from removing buckthorn and tree work and building and maintaining wildlife structures. For our Chapter’s wildlife he has built and donated bluebird houses, Great crested flycatcher houses, wren houses, bat houses, and even woodpecker bongos! In the summer he works for the MN DNR doing similar work at St. Croix State Park, and has worked throughout the state restoring the land, putting conservation in the ground, and creating wildlife habitat. He’s planted thousands of trees, shrubs, and native plants, and has killed just as many invasive plants. We often offer to pay him for his great work at the Chapter, but he always refuses and says that he is working for “Ike”- Izaak Walton. Ron has been an inspiration to his brother, Paul, our caretaker, and without Ron, Paul would probably be an accountant or shoveling coal somewhere, and not our caretaker. Let’s all thank Ron for his great contributions to the Chapter and to conservation!

    Youth Conservation Award- awarded to youth under the age of 21 for their outstanding contribution to the Chapter, conservation or the environment.

    Sam Hodges, whose family belongs to the Chapter, who repaired and renovated the Chapter playground for this Boy Scout Eagle Scout Project. He has been a good communicator and took the initiative to approach the board and propose the idea. This project was really, really needed. He and his crew have did an excellent job on the playground in a very expedient fashion. We thank Sam for his contributions and hope that he remembers the Chapter and conservation in his future plans. Thank you, Sam!

    Claire Carlson- Claire is a recent Jefferson High School graduate. She served on the Bloomington Sustainability Commission and recently worked to revive Jefferson's Environmental Club. She came to our planting day and brought friends with! She worked on recycling and solid waste issues at both the Commission and at Jefferson, making some cool videos that teach people the importance of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose. She is a good communicator and has a contagious passion that makes others want to get involved in environmental issues. It’s encouraging to know that there are young people that are working to protect our planet and all of its creatures. Let’s thank Claire for her great work!

    Bush Lake Chapter IWLA Awards 2018

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2018.

    Rafael Bustos- he is a new member, but was quick to offer a hand and work on tasks around the chapter.

    Worked on bathouses- woodpeckers had pecked holes in all of them, he put aluminum sheeting on all of them.

    This is good because Paul and Liz counted 30 bats come out of 1 bathouse this year!

    (DOCK STORY)- Paul

    He’s more than happy to help any time we ask. Members that are always willing to help and spring into action is exactly what we need!

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- named after our old neighbor Gordy Bratsch that was the unofficial caretaker- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean- this award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    Louise Segreto- Kick started our fundraising campaign, serves as delegate to the State Division, serves as State Director alternate, is our Chapter historian, has written many great articles for our blog/newsletter, serves as our Wilderness advocate- has been working on the Utah Red Rocks Wilderness issue, and has put together a great Ikes Green Reads Book Club.

    Donated the historic sign.

    Jill Crafton- Jill Crafton is the treasurer of the Minnesota Division-Izaak Walton and Bush Lake Izaak Walton in which she has served for 15 years....hundreds and hundreds of hours every year.

    She is a National Director in the National Izaak Walton League. She served on the Executive Board E-Board of National for several years. And she is a leader in the "progressive" wing of the IKES (the people who actually believe in conservation) .

    She is on the board of the UMRI Upper Mississippi River Initiative, funded by MN IKEs and McKnight Foundation.

    She is the organizer and champion of the annual Izaak Walton Watershed Summit held every year at Normandale College, which attract the region's top ag water quality experts as presenters.

    She serves on the boards of the Riley Purgatory Watershed District in W. Bloomington and Eden Prairie, and BWSR, Minnesota Bureau of Water and Soil Resources, a state agency that has done much to protect Minnesota's waters.

    Jill is on the board of the Great Lakes Committee which is fighting against the introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes.

    She also serves on the board of Green Step Cities, a coalition of over 130 Minnesota cities that are pledged to becoming more sustainable. She is also in the leadership of the Minnesota Division Energy and Climate Committee.

    Jill has a beautiful prairie in her front yard, and is working on restoring her backyard to provide habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife. She has solar panels on the roof of her house, and drives a Prius. She walks the talk and leads by example.

    From John Crampton- Above all, she is a warm and loving grandmother of beautiful grandkids in Michigan, the oldest of which she took to Camp Izaak Walton at Deep Portage a year ago. And Jill is a dear friend of mine and has been since we urged the Bush Lake board to say the Izaak Walton pledge at the meeting many years ago..... When they refused, we got rid of them. And Jill went on to replace them all by her work ethic and tremendous passion for protecting our earth.

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Bloomington Sustainability Commission- (being accepted by Steve Flagg who is on the commission and is a member of our chapter) this is a new commission for the City of Bloomington that has made great strides within the city on sustainability issues (Energy, Solid Waste, Water Quality/Conservation, and Ecological Land Stewardship). Here’s a few of the commission’s initiatives it has worked on in less than 2 years-

    Created the organics dropoff system- residents of Bloomington are able to drop off their organics at 3 sites across the city- this material is recycled into mulch instead of going to the landfill or being incinerated.

    Created an Energy Action Plan- this is a plan that works to reduce energy consumption across the City and reduce our carbon emissions

    Working on Water Conservation and Water Quality- the Commission is working to reduce water use across the City- because Bloomington’s water is too great to waste! They are also working to improve water quality in our lakes, creek, wetlands and ponds.

    Working on restoring the MN River Valley and other parks and open spaces within the City.

    The Bush Lake Chapter would like to thank the Bloomington Sustainability Commission for all of their great work!

    Commission Members:

    Mary Hurliman- City Staff Liaison

    Rob Bouta, Claire Carlson, Paul Erdmann, Steve Flagg, John Jaimez, Dwayne Lowmann, Bob Reid, Tim Sandry, Joe Strommen, and Deanna White.

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Heather and Brent Holm- Heather is an author and educator that has educated hundreds across the country on native pollinator decline and conservation. Her two books have won awards and are revered by both experts and newbies alike. She leads our pollinator field days and has helped us with our pollinator habitat restoration. She has identified several unique pollinator species that live at our chapter. She is one of the founding members of Wild Ones, Prairie Edge chapter, which is a native plant landscaping advocacy group in the West Metro. Heather of course couldn’t do all of this great work without a great partner- Brent was just here for our planting event last weekend. Heather and Brent are members of our chapter and have helped us kill buckthorn and restore habitat. They also volunteer on their own time to restore forgotten City parks in Minnetonka- (story about big hill and other project). Over the last 10 years, Heather and Brent have restored their home landscape by removing invasive species and impervious surface and planting native plants and creating habitat for wildlife. We thank Heather and Brent for their Commitment to Conservation!

    2017 Chapter Awards

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2017.

    Esau Underhill, for his work on the lodge, commitment to the board, and other activities

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    Dick Duerre- Dick has turned out for many events, has worked on the lodge, and has worked on his own to protect the environment

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Nine Mile Creek Watershed District- (Erica Sniegowski, Gael Zembal, Randy Anhorn)

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Bill Bartodziej- Bill is one of the leading restoration ecologists in the metro, has played a leading role in the Lake Phalen shoreline restoration and numerous other restoration and water quality improvement projects (and is a potential new member!)

    5) Youth Conservation Award- awarded to youth for their outstanding contribution to conservation or the environment.

    Camille Jones- Camille is one of the few young people that regularly turn out for volunteer events. She is on the Environmental Club at Jefferson High School

  • 12/07/2021 5:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Izaak Walton League resolutions process is about more than setting the League’s policy—it is a function that unites us in our mission. League policies also influence national and international environmental policy—policies vetted and approved by the League’s diverse membership provide a barometer for policies that are likely to pass muster with the American people.

    Each year, League members draft resolutions outlining the steps they would like the organization to take to address natural resource problems. Resolutions that are formally adopted at the national convention become official policy and, together with the body of policies developed in the past, provide guidance to League staff, officers, and members as they seek solutions at the local, state, and national levels. The process also serves to educate members about critical natural resource issues.

    In 2021, Chapter Member and former Chapter & Division President, John Crampton, submitted 5 resolutions that address climate change.  The Bush Lake Chapter Board of Directors approved the following 5 resolutions in December, 2021.  They will now go to the Minnesota Division and, if passed by the Division, the National Izaak Walton League. 

    Funding for Rural Electric Co-ops to Make a Rapid Transition to Renewable Energy

    Background: Throughout the US rural cooperatives built during the Depression by New Deal programs are particularly reliant on coal powered power plants, in large part because they owe billions of dollars on plants that are increasingly uneconomic (the cost of wind and solar is now lower than the cost of coal generation). One can see this by driving through rural areas with large wind farms and solar gardens, only to realize that the power they generate goes to homes and factories in urban areas and not to local communities.

    The US Department of Agriculture administers many loans for these rural co-ops, through its Rural Utilities Service (RUS). In the past these loans supported the construction of power plants - mostly fueled by coal. To operate at the lowest possible costs, the cooperatives signed many long term contracts that locked in the supplies of coal for decades at costs that are now higher than the current costs of wind, solar and battery storage.

    Electric cooperatives and generation and transmission associations across the country owe billions of dollars in debt on coal plants, many of which in recent years have become more expensive to run than the cost of building new renewable energy projects. Instead of investing in new clean energy projects, many rural electric co-ops are stuck spending money to repay the debt owed on older coal plants - even when closing those plants would actually reduce energy costs for co-op members.

    Now therefore, the Bush Lake Chapter Izaak Walton League of America, approves on this 2nd of December 2021, a request of Congress to approve the funding and authorizations necessary for the Dept. of Agriculture Rural Utility Services, including:

    1.) a doubling of the annual finance authority for the Rural Utility Service (RUS) to provide low-cost financing for zero-carbon generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity, including distributed renewable energy assets as well as broadband infrastructure for smart grid solutions, and other technologies.

    2. Offering debt relief to allow rural electric cooperatives to write down or restructure loans for stranded coal plants and other fossil fuel assets in order to redirect billions of dollars from cooperative members’ bills toward modern clean energy assets, both in front of and behind customer meters.

    3. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will support electric cooperatives with technical assistance to make full use of the financing available through the RUS. This includes expanded funding for energy-efficiency upgrades and on-site solar energy and local battery storage investments that lower members’ utility bills and expand economic opportunity, including access to affordable housing in rural areas.

    Ban the Sale of Internal Combustion Engines in Minnesota by 2035

    Background: Transportation is the largest source of Greenhouse Gas emissions in the US, accounting for approximately 1/3 of all emissions.  In addition, the refining of gasoline is the largest source of industrial emissions.  Taken together, transportation and gasoline refining generate approx. 1/2 of all US emissions. The most effective way to cut those emissions is to electrify the transportation sector through the sales of BEV (battery electric vehicles) and PHEVs (plug in hybrid vehicles) which all major automakers worldwide (except possibly Toyota) are committed to doing in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The logical step is to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles as quickly as possible in order to reduce and stop this major source of CO2e emissions, NOx emissions (smog) and particulate matter.  

    The UN IPC estimates that we need to reduce all our GHG emissions by half before the early 2030s if we want to have a chance to hold global warming increases to 1.5 degrees C. 

    In addition, stopping the burning of gasoline in ICE cars will help prevent diseases and premature deaths from asthma, lung and heart diseases that cost thousands of lives ever year, especially in disadvantaged communities.    

    In combination with the greening of the electrical grid, this move to EVs will help stop the flow of billions of dollars to North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Alberta Tar Sands, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and it will preclude the need for pipelines such as Line 3.   It will help build the local economies of communities throughout Minnesota that will be generating the renewable energy used by our electrified transportation sector. 

    Now therefore, the Bush Lake Chapter Izaak Walton League of America, approves on this 2nd of December, 2021 as a first step in moving away from automobiles towards more sustainable modes of transportation that starting on January 1, 2035, the sale of new vehicles that are powered by an internal combustion engine, which includes gasoline, diesel and hybrid electric (non-plug-in) vehicles, be banned in Minnesota.

    Links and graphics:






    Electric Vehicles and Clean Car Standards, Jukka Kukkonen, Plug-In-Connect, Shift2Electric and MN EV Owners Association   https://vimeo.com/403847275

    100% Clean Energy for Electricity in Minnesota by 2040    

    Background: Electrical generation in the US is the second largest source of Greenhouse gases (GHG) that are causing a rapidly acceleration of climate change.  They presently represent 22% of the GHG in the US. 

    In Minnesota, approx. 25% of MN electricity is generated from renewables, 23% nuclear, 12% natural gas and 39% from coal, for a total of 51% from fossil fuel sources.

    Minnesota needs to stop generating power from coal and natural gas as quickly as possible in order to reduce our Greenhouse gas emissions.   The UN IPC estimates that we need to reduce all our GHG emissions by half before the early 2030s if we want to have a chance to hold global warming increases to 1.5 degrees C. 

    A 100% clean energy mandate in Minnesota is necessary to quickly stop burning fossil fuels, stop the building of fossil fuel powered electrical plants, and to promote the building of more solar, wind and battery storage capabilities- generating sources that are now the cheapest forms of energy on the market.

    Stopping the burning of fossil fuels will prevent diseases and premature deaths from asthma, lung and heart diseases.    

    In addition, solar, wind and battery storage capabilities are abundant in Minnesota, and transitioning to renewables will stop the flow of billions of dollars annually that are spent in other states and countries. In turn, this will help build the local economies of communities throughout Minnesota.

    Now therefore, the (Bush Lake Chapter) Izaak Walton League of America, approves on this 2nd of December 2021, a request that the MN State Senate pass and the Governor sign the 100% clean energy by 2040 bill passed by the Minnesota House in 2021 requiring all utilities operating in our state to be 100% carbon-free in their electric generation and sales to Minnesota customers by January 1, 2040.








    100% Campaign and Minnesota House Climate Action Caucus  Chris Conry, Campaign Director, 100% Campaign & Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL) District: 44B, MN House of Representatives, Chair of Climate Action Caucus  Length = 29:00


    Rural Minnesota Electric Vehicle Charging Study     

    Background:  Electric vehicle corridors depend on DC fast chargers that enable EV owners to charge in 10-20 minutes.  Commercial charging networks are putting DC fast chargers on major routes (I-35, I-94, I-90, 169) aimed at EV owners who are passing through and travelling long distances.  However, this leaves major parts of the state dependent on slower home charging (level 1, level 2).  This limits the adoption of EVs by people travelling between regional centers that are not on the major corridors. 

    At the same time, there are many locations in rural Minnesota that could support DC fast charging- farmers with heavy duty grain driers, state parks that are not using their electrical infrastructure during long periods of the year, technical colleges that are not being fully utilized during periods of time.  All these could support high speed DC charging for long periods of time, and their availability could be assessed through the use of broadband communications on screens in the EVs.  These chargers could represent an important revenue stream for these property owners and institutions. 

    This resolution is to commission a study by Minnesota Dept. of Commerce to study these possible EV charging networks that could be vital to Minnesota in achieving its climate goals and to the long-term economic development of rural Minnesota. 

    Now therefore, the Bush Lake Chapter, Izaak Walton League of America, approves on this 2nd of December 2021, requests that the Minnesota Legislature and Governor commission the Minnesota Dept. of Commerce to appropriate resources to study the potential for DC fast  chargers in rural corridors, based on farms, state parks, technical colleges   and other properties that have access to high-capacity electrical sources. 






    Electric School Buses by 2030    

    Background: Internal combustion engine powered school buses are a danger to our students and communities because of their emissions that are pumping Greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.  They also emit NOx (smog), particulate matter, carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.  We are setting a terrible example for our children who will have to live in a world that is being devastated by our addiction to fossil fuels.  It is time to stop.

    Converting our school bus fleets to electric vehicles offers many benefits:

    Climate mitigation through a dramatic reduction/elimination of Greenhouse gases.

    Improved health outcomes and lower healthcare costs treating asthma, lung and heart diseases caused by burning fossil fuels, especially among children in disadvantaged neighborhoods that line many of the major highway corridors.

    -   Electric school buses are cheaper to charge than gasoline costs, and they can be charged with 100% clean energy utility programs such as WindSource (Xcel) or Wellspring (Great River Energy).  They can be charged at night when the demand of electricity and costs are low. 

    Electric school buses are cheaper to maintain because they have very few moving parts…. No need for tune-ups, oil changes, engine overhauls, etc.  When batteries are no longer suitable for EV use, they can be used for battery storage for many years.  Recycling of batteries is also available.  (The same cannot be said for Greenhouse gases that will be in the atmosphere for thousands of years)

    Electric school buses are available during summer periods of hot weather and high humidity so they can feed power into the grid at times of peak load (V2G).  This will enable the school bus companies to charge the utility money to offset and/or eliminates costs of charging throughout the year.  In effect, they can be a major source or battery storage to offset the intermittency of some renewable sources.  This will be important because of the strains that climate change is putting on our electrical grid in terms of high temperatures/high humidity, massive wildfires and polar vortex events that require increased use of micro-grids and distributed electrical generation.  

          Now therefore, the Bush Lake Chapter, Izaak Walton League of America,    approves on this 2nd of December 2021, a request that the Minnesota          Legislature and Governor require that all school buses for public schools in   Minnesota be electric battery powered vehicles by 2030.







  • 07/01/2021 2:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto and Paul Erdmann

    Watching fireworks on the 4th of July seems as American as apple pie. It’s a tradition shared by countless millions across the United States. Debating about where to go each year to view a nearby fireworks display to celebrate the Holiday has been my family tradition for years. Perhaps it was our 125 lb., 10-year-old, beloved Newfoundland dog who is reduced to an anxious shivering wreck when the explosions begin, or maybe it was reading about people suffering from PTSD who are similarly triggered by the loud noises and smells of detonated explosives, but this year I came to think about our fireworks tradition more critically.

    Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to my own environmental ethics and how we share our earth with other living creatures. Can you just imagine how a mother bird in a nest of baby birds or other creatures that live near a fireworks display area are affected? There is some science that you can read online about how fireworks are extremely disruptive to birds and wildlife. However, there is really not enough of science to argue the issue. And, please understand that my goal is not to advocate a ban on what some will argue is our patriotic right to celebrate the Holiday as we always have. My hope is only to raise awareness and share a personal story:

    It is a few minutes past 10 PM on July 4th and my daughter and I decide to hike up the ski hill at Hyland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington. From the top of where the chairlift drops skiers and snowboarders in winter, there is a panoramic view of the Southdale Area clear to the Mississippi River. We search in the darkness for the narrow-trodden path through the long grass leading to the top. The night is muggy and still, perfect for the voracious mosquitos and gnats to swarm us despite the DEET that I slathered on before I left home. With my eyes trained on the horizon, I am thrilled to see the sky lit up with brilliant light explosions from the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Edina’s Southdale Show, Richfield and other communities south along the Mississippi River. I can feel the thump, bang and whistle from miles away.

    Looking down to swat a biting bug on my leg, I notice that we are surrounded by thousands of fireflies creating their own private light show. It is a magical and spectacular sight!

    Also known as lightning bugs or glowworms, fireflies’ tails contain chemicals and enzymes that, when mixed with oxygen, allow them to glow (bioluminescence). Minnesota fireflies are most often yellow, but in other parts of the country and world you may see green, orange, or blue fireflies. Fireflies start displaying their light show in late May and peak in late June and early July.

    Fireflies communicate with their light display. Males fly and flash to find females, who are usually sitting on vegetation signaling males that they like with their own display. They also emit light to defend territories and to say to predators “don’t eat me, I taste bad.”

    Populations of fireflies are decreasing due to habitat loss and increased light pollution. Here are a few tips to help fireflies and other insects:

    • Keep your yard dark by turning off exterior and garden lights and closing the blinds at night, making it easier for them to find one another to mate.
    • Plant native trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers to provide habitat fireflies love.
    • Leave some space for nature. Let some logs, leaves, and tree debris accumulate. Firefly larvae grow up in rotten logs and leaf litter (they glow too!)
    • Avoid using pesticides and lawn chemicals. Good for wildlife and water quality.

    As we approach the 4th of July, keep your eyes out at night for nature’s fireworks. You can find them on the edge of woods and marshy areas. Hyland Park is a great spot. Quietly blinking in the night with a rhythm only lightning bugs can understand, they steal the show. Their natural light show reminds me that subtle and quiet displays of beauty can far surpass what we are taught to enjoy. We stand in awe of the power of nature and its resilience to continue its fight for survival despite awful odds.

    Learn more at http://www.xerces.org/endangered-species/fireflies

    and https://www.firefly.org/

    Photos: Fireflies over East Bay Pond by Paul Raymaker

    Adult Firefly on Compass Plant by Paul Erdmann

  • 05/21/2021 12:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Paul Erdmann, Conservation Director

    Road mortality is a serious threat to many different species of wildlife. As temperatures warm, turtles, frogs, snakes, and other amphibians and reptiles begin stirring, sunning themselves, and moving across roads. Turtles are especially vulnerable to injury or death by automobile. You can help turtles and other wildlife, but remember- SAFETY FIRST!

    In late May and June, female turtles look for open sunny areas to lay their eggs, sometimes up to a mile away from their aquatic home. Males and non-breeding turtles seek out temporary or new habitats. Turtles migrate back to waterbodies in the late summer and early fall. All of this movement puts turtles in danger from our many roads, cars, and distracted drivers. Scientists estimate that painted turtles can live as long as 40 years in the wild, while Blanding’s and snapping turtles can live more than 70! Isn’t it a shame to see one killed by our cars? In 2015, one volunteer logged over 100 dead turtles on the roads around Bush Lake (Bloomington) alone. But she also helped many turtles safely cross the road. The volunteer collected data using a new mapping tool, called HerpMapper, sanctioned by the MN DNR. Collected data on both live and dead turtles can be provided to natural resource managers and city and highway departments, as innovative "turtle tunnels" are now being built in areas of high mortality. Check out all of the cool wildlife the Washington County turtle tunnel has saved on the MDNR Nongame Wildlife Program Facebook page (and lots of other cool wildlife photos): https://www.facebook.com/pg/MinnesotaNongameWildlifeProgram/photos/?tab=albums

    How Can You Help Turtles?

    • Never put yourself or others in danger! If you are driving, safely park and turn on hazard lights to alert others to slow down. Be aware of your surroundings and traffic.
    • Allow turtles to cross on their own, unassisted, if there is no traffic.
    • If you need to speed it up, grasp all turtles, EXCEPT snapping turtles, gently along the edge of the shell near the mid-point of the body. Turtles may be excited and use the bathroom, don't drop it!
    • Snapping turtles should NEVER be picked up by the tail (it damages their spinal cord). Use a branch, broomstick, or snow shovel to prod it along from behind. If it bites the object, use it to drag the animal to the other side of the road.
    • Maintain direction of travel. Move the turtle to low ground, in a direct line, in the same direction it was traveling. Do NOT remove it from its area of habitat.
    • Protect turtle nests you find in your yard with a cage or plate. Protecting nests for a few weeks (until the scent of the nest subsides) from predators gives them a better chance at being successful. Moving turtle nests is rarely successful.
    • Advocate for amphibians and reptiles! Support the MN DNR Nongame Wildlife Program and contribute with the Loon Checkoff on your taxes. Contact local and elected officials and let them know you care about protecting them.
    • Do a turtle project at your Ike chapter or with a local group. Contact Paul Erdmann at pwerdmann@yahoo.com for ideas

    More information:

    "Turtles On The Move" video by the City of Bloomington





  • 04/16/2021 6:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Paul Erdmann, Conservation Director

    Most people are familiar with buckthorn, a non-native invasive plant that has taken over many acres of land in Bloomington and beyond. Another invasive plant to be wary of is garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata. This invader arrived with European settlers in the 1800s, likely for food and medicinal purposes. It is an early season biennial herb that thrives in many conditions, including woodlands, floodplains, and people’s yards. It spreads by seeds which are disbursed by ripe seed pods that can propel seeds several feet away, and by water, animals, and people. Because of its aggressive nature and prolific seeding, and lack of parasites and diseases, it alters ecosystems and chokes out beneficial native plants that pollinators and other wildlife depend on. Garlic mustard exudes chemicals into the soil that suppress native plants. Deer and other animals do not eat this plant. It is edible for people, and you can find pesto and other recipes online. When the leaves are crushed it emits a strong garlic smell. Garlic mustard often moves in after buckthorn removal or other disturbances, so monitoring for this plant and stopping its spread is critical.

    The good news is that garlic mustard is more easily managed than buckthorn, especially if caught early, which is important as one plant can become hundreds in just a few years. In the Spring, before seed set, adult plants pull easily, especially when soil is moist. Be sure to pull the entire tap root, or it can re-sprout. Plants that are pulled and left on the ground may still flower and set seed. Flowering plants or plants with seed pods should be removed from the site and properly disposed of to prevent seeding. Since it is a biennial (plants flower under the right conditions, set seed, and die- usually a 2-year life cycle) preventing it from seeding is critical. Seeds may remain viable in the soil for 5 to 10 years. In addition to hand pulling, cutting, herbicide, spot burning, and prescribed fires are used to manage garlic mustard. Many animals, pollinators, and native plants such as wild geranium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, columbine, and wild ginger will be grateful for your efforts! Garlic mustard is a Restricted Noxious Weed in Minnesota, which means it is illegal to intentionally grow it or sell it, and landowners are strongly encouraged to manage it on their properties in order prevent its spread.

    For more info, go to: 

    Controlling Garlic Mustard Video by the City of Bloomington



    Photos by Minnesota Department of Agriculture (top- flowers and seed pods,  and bottom- infestation) and Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org (middle- first year seedlings)

  • 12/23/2020 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise M. Segreto

    We have much to learn from Native Americans regarding our relationship with nature. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet with several Ojibwe and Dakota elders. All told stories about humans’ place in the natural world. They spoke quietly with a sense of reverence, respect and humility. Most Native peoples have an oral tradition, and it is through these stories that wisdom is passed from generation to generation. Additionally, art, dance, ceremony and rituals are other traditional ways of passing down knowledge and cultural norms. These traditional ways of teaching can convey a far deeper sense of spirituality than the mere written word. Listen carefully, and you will begin to understand the natural world and our place in it from a Native American Perspective.

    Creation stories of many Native peoples begin with Nanabozho, the first Man-Spirit Being. It is taught that Nanabozho was the last of all living beings to be created in the world. He was introduced into a fully formed world of animals, plants, water, fire, wind, water and sky. Before Nanabozho’s arrival, the ancient world was in perfect balance and harmony. The Creator instructed Nanabozho to “walk through the world in such a way such that each step was a greeting to Mother Earth”. Nanabozho’s steps were to be gentle so as not to hurt the earth upon which he trod. Nanabozho spoke to the animals that he encountered. He learned how to survive in the world from his animal brothers and sisters. For example, wolves and foxes gave him tips on how to hunt, spiders taught him how to weave fishing nets, bears explained how to get through winter. The Creator expected that Nanabozho learn the names of all living beings. The Creator further guided Nanabozho to observe the animals and plants in order to learn both how-to live-in harmony and survive. It was in this way, that Nanabozho discovered the abundance of “gifts” that the natural world could provide to meet his needs.

    It is a Native American perspective that humans play just a small role in the greater web of life. This belief fostered the belief that we, therefore, should live in kinship with other living creatures and the physical world. This perspective was foreign to early European settlers. In stark contrast, the fur traders, loggers, and white settlers brought with them a mindset of exploitation to this vast and seemingly endless bountiful land.

    After these two very different cultures collided, our Native American perspective was almost totally lost. The removal and cultural genocide of Native Americans in Minnesota occurred over a relatively short period of time. Three generations of Native American children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools where they were prohibited from speaking their Native languages or participating in traditional Native American cultural rituals, ceremonies, dances and arts. By the early 1900s, Native Americans had lost their lands through a series of dishonorable Federal treaties and discriminatory Native American federal acts & policies. The Ojibwe and Dakota lost their tribal lands and were pushed into Reservations. Compounding this tragic history, life on the reservation was hard and isolated. Poverty, combined with limited economic opportunities and broken families, led to deep social problems. Native American perspectives were largely invisible to most Minnesotans for many years.

    Native Americans have a deep sense of connection to the place where they live. Even today, Native Americans will identify what Tribal Band and Reservation they are from when they introduce themselves. But this connectedness goes beyond self-identification. Traditional Native Americans are said to be “indigenous to place”. This means in large part that they possess a heightened understanding and awareness of the natural world that surrounds them. For example, Native wisdom on how to track animals is legendary. And we are just now beginning to catch up with what Native Americans have known about the medicinal value of plants. Tinctures and poultices for treating sickness have been passed on from generation to generation of Native American medicine men. Scientists now know that there is in fact a chemical communication of sorts that occurs between trees. No surprise to Native Americans, they have long known that trees talk to one another. Even how Native Americans name plants and animals reveals a sense of familiarity and connection: chipmunk berries, partridge berry, trout leaves. Compare these descriptive Native American names to the two-part clinical scientific Latin genus and species taxonomic names that Westerners use for the same plants and animals. Naming practice belies the stark contrast between Native American perspective on nature compared to Westerners.

    Native Americans lived sustainably off the land for generations before the European settlers arrived. Prior to European settlement, Native Americans lived an inextricably intertwined existence with wildlife, plants, and their natural world. Native Americans’ survival depended upon animals, plants, trees and natural resources being available year after year to sustain them. There was a rhythmic seasonality to their hunter-gatherer subsistence existence. Spring meant a move to “sugar camp” to tap maple trees for syrup and sugar. Birch bark pails were fashioned and used to pour sap into large shallow log troughs hollowed from basswood trees to freeze and cooked down to produce sugar and syrup. Fall was a time to harvest “Mahnomen”- sacred wild rice. Wild rice has always been sacred to Native Americans. Its sustainable harvest was central to their survival in Minnesota. This sustainable way of living was in stark contrast to the exploitive practices of the harvest and extraction of natural resources by the fur trappers, buffalo hunters, loggers, miners, white settlers and farmers.

    Prior to the arrival of settlers, food was not purchased by Native Americans from a store. Instead, it was harvested by hunting, fishing, and gathering- wild berries in summer, nuts and wild rice in the fall and maple syrup in the spring. These foods were regarded as “gifts” from Mother Earth. Making use of these “gifts” demanded a harvester’s obligation not only to receive, but also to reciprocate. An “honorable harvest” is based on accountability to both the physical and metaphysical worlds. This “take only what you need” mentality is in sharp contrast to our economic mindset “take everything you can get”.

    It was not until recently that Native American culture and perspective have been rediscovered and embraced by Western culture and science. Scientists now acknowledge the complex ecological connections between all life on earth, and the important role that diversity plays in creating a stable and healthy environment. And, finally, there seems to be a growing sense of collective conscience of Native Americans’ contributions and perspectives across the United States.

    We would all benefit to incorporate a Native American perspective into our relationship with nature. The next time you look up at the dark sky to star gaze, view the sky as a Native American and try to find Big Bear, Wolf or Loon. In the Spring, when out walking our Minnesota woods searching for the delicate blooms of ephemeral wildflowers, pause and admire the shapes and colors that inspired Native American weaving and beading. Walk gently upon Mother Earth. Honor and respect nature and all its inhabitants. I think that our lives would not only be richer, but the world would be a better place if we remember Native Americans and their perspectives on nature.

    Miigwech! (“Thank You”) for reading!

    *Note: Louise M. Segreto, the author of this article, is not Native American

    Minnesota River Valley photo by Paul Raymaker

    Hyland Prairie at Sunset by Paul Erdmann

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